The House by the Church-Yard
by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
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These sly fellows agreed that they must not go to Belmont by Chapelizod-bridge, which would lead them through the town, in front of the barrack, and under the very sign-board of the Phoenix. No, they would go by the Knockmaroon-road, cross the river by the ferry, and unperceived, and unsuspected, enter the grounds of Belmont on the further side.

So away went the amorous musicians, favoured by the darkness, and talking in an undertone, and thinking more than they talked, while little Puddock, from under his cloak, scratched a faint little arpeggio and a chord, ever and anon, upon 'the inthrument.'

When they reached the ferry, the boat was tied at the near side, but deuce a ferryman could they see. So they began to shout and hallo, singly, and together, until Cluffe, in much ire and disgust, exclaimed—

'Curse the sot—drunk in some whiskey-shop—the blackguard! That is the way such scoundrels throw away their chances, and help to fill the high roads with beggars and thieves; curse him, I sha'n't have a note left if we go on bawling this way. I suppose we must go home again.'

'Fiddle-thtick!' exclaimed the magnanimous Puddock. 'I pulled myself across little more than a year ago, and 'twas as easy as—as—anything. Get in, an' loose her when I tell you.'

This boat was managed by means of a rope stretched across the stream from bank to bank; seizing which, in both hands, the boatman, as he stood in his skiff, hauled it, as it seemed, with very moderate exertion across the river.

Cluffe chuckled as he thought how sold the rascally boatman would be, on returning, to find his bark gone over to the other side.

'Don't be uneathy about the poor fellow,' said Puddock; 'we'll come down in the morning and make him a present, and explain how it occurred.'

'Explain yourself—poor fellow, be hanged!' muttered Cluffe, as he took his seat, for he did not part with his silver lightly. 'I say, Puddock, tell me when I'm to slip the rope.'

The signal given, Cluffe let go, entertaining himself with a little jingle of Puddock's guitar, of which he had charge, and a verse or two of their last song; while the plump little lieutenant, standing upright, midships in the boat, hauled away, though not quite so deftly as was desirable. Some two or three minutes had passed before they reached the middle of the stream, which was, as Puddock afterwards remarked, 'gigantically thwollen;' and at this point they came to something very like a stand-still.

'I say, Puddock, keep her head a little more up the stream, will you?' said Cluffe, thinking no evil, and only to show his nautical knowledge.

'It's easy to say keep her head up the stream,' gasped Puddock who was now labouring fearfully, and quite crimson in the face, tugging his words up with a desperate lisp, and too much out of breath to say more.

The shades of the night and the roar of the waters prevented Cluffe observing these omens aright.

'What the plague are you doing now? cried Cluffe, arresting a decorative passage in the middle, and for the first time seriously uncomfortable, as the boat slowly spun round, bringing what Cluffe called her head—though head and tail were pretty much alike—toward the bank they had quitted.

'Curse you, Puddock, why—what are you going back for? you can't do it.'

'Lend a hand,' bawled Puddock, in extremity. 'I say, help, seize the rope; I say, Cluffe, quick, Sir, my arms are breaking.'

There was no exaggeration in this—there seldom was in any thing Puddock said; and the turn of the boat had twisted his arms like the strands of a rope.

'Hold on, Puddock, curse you, I'm comin',' roared Cluffe, quite alive to the situation. 'If you let go, I'm diddled but I'll shoot you.'

'Catch the rope, I thay, Thir, or 'tith all over!'

Cluffe, who had only known that he was slowly spinning round, and that Puddock was going to commit him to the waves, made a vehement exertion to catch the rope, but it was out of reach, and the boat rocked so suddenly from his rising, that he sat down by mistake again, with a violent plump that made his teeth gnash, in his own place; and the shock and his alarm stimulated his anger.

'Hold on, Sir; hold on, you little devil, I say, one minute, here—hold—hollo!'

While Cluffe was shouting these words, and scrambling forward, Puddock was crying—

'Curth it, Cluffe, quick—oh! hang it, I can't thtand it—bleth my thoul!

And Puddock let go, and the boat and its precious freightage, with a horrid whisk and a sweep, commenced its seaward career in the dark.

'Take the oars, Sir, hang you!' cried Cluffe.

'There are no oarth,' replied Puddock, solemnly.

'Or the helm.'

'There'th no helm.'

'And what the devil, Sir?' and a splash of cold water soused the silken calves of Cluffe at this moment.

'Heugh! heugh!—and what the devil will you do, Sir? you don't want to drown me, I suppose?' roared Cluffe, holding hard by the gunwale.

'You can thwim, Cluffe; jump in, and don't mind me,' said little Puddock, sublimely.

Cluffe, who was a bit of a boaster, had bragged, one evening at mess, of his swimming, which he said was famous in his school days; 'twas a lie, but Puddock believed it implicitly.

'Thank you!' roared Cluffe. 'Swim, indeed!—buttoned up this way—and—and the gout too.'

'I say, Cluffe, save the guitar, if you can,' said Puddock.

In reply, Cluffe cursed that instrument through his teeth, with positive fury, and its owner; and, indeed, he was so incensed at this unfeeling request, that if he had known where it was, I think he would have gone nigh to smash it on Puddock's head, or at least, like the 'Minstrel Boy,' to tear its chords asunder; for Cluffe was hot, especially when he was frightened. But he forgot—though it was hanging at that moment by a pretty scarlet and gold ribbon about his neck.

'Guitar be diddled!' cried he; ''tis gone—where we're going—to the bottom. What devil possessed you, Sir, to drown us this way?'

Puddock sighed. They were passing at this moment the quiet banks of the pleasant meadow of Belmont, and the lights twinkled from the bow-window in the drawing-room. I don't know whether Puddock saw them—Cluffe certainly did not.

'Hallo! hallo!—a rope!' cried Cluffe, who had hit upon this desperate expedient for raising the neighbourhood. 'A rope—a rope! hallo! hallo!—a ro-o-o-ope!'

And Aunt Becky, who heard the wild whooping, mistook it for drunken fellows at their diversions, and delivered her sentiments in the drawing-room accordingly.



'We're coming to something—what's that?' said Puddock, as a long row of black stakes presented themselves at some distance ahead, in the dusky moonlight, slanting across the stream.

''Tis the salmon-weir!' roared Cluffe with an oath that subsided into something like a sickening prayer.

It was only a fortnight before that a tipsy fellow had been found drowned in the net. Cluffe had lost his head much more than Puddock, though Cluffe had fought duels. But then, he really could not swim a bit, and he was so confoundedly buckled up.

'Sit to the right. Trim the boat, Sir!' said little Puddock.

'Trim the devil!' bawled Cluffe, to whom this order of Puddock's, it must be owned a useless piece of marinetism in their situation, was especially disgusting; and he added, looking furiously ahead—''Tisn't the boat I'd trim, I promise you: you—you ridiculous murderer!'

Just then Puddock's end of the boat touched a stone, or a post, or something in the current, and that in which Cluffe sat came wheeling swiftly round across the stream, and brought the gallant captain so near the bank that, with a sudden jerk, he caught the end of a branch that stretched far over the water, and, spite of the confounded tightness of his toilet, with the energy of sheer terror, climbed a good way; but, reaching a point where the branch forked, he could get no further, though he tugged like a brick. But what was a fat fellow of fifty, laced, and buckled, and buttoned up, like poor Cluffe—with his legs higher up among the foliage than his head and body—to do, and with his right calf caught in the fork of a branch, so as to arrest all progress, and especially as the captain was plainly too much for the branch, which was drooping toward the water, and emitting sounds premonitory of a smash.

With a long, screaking crash the branch stooped down to the water, and, so soon as the old element made itself acquainted with those parts that reached it first, the gallant captain, with a sort of sob, redoubled his efforts, and down came the faithless bough, more and more perpendicularly, until his nicely got-up cue and bag, then his powdered head, and finally Captain Cluffe's handsome features, went under the surface. When this occurred, he instantaneously disengaged his legs with a vague feeling that his last struggle above water was over.

His feet immediately touched the bottom; he stood erect, little above his middle, and quite out of the main current, within half-a-dozen steps of the bank, and he found himself—he scarcely knew how—on terra firma, impounded in a little flower-garden, with lilacs and laburnums, and sweet-briars, and, through a window close at hand, whom should he see but Dangerfield, who was drying his hands in a towel; and, as Cluffe stood for a moment, letting the water pour down through his sleeves, he further saw him make some queer little arrangements, and eventually pour out and swallow a glass of brandy, and was tempted to invoke his aid on the spot; but some small incivilities which he had bestowed upon Dangerfield, when he thought he cherished designs upon Aunt Rebecca, forbade; and at that moment he spied the little wicket that opened upon the road, and Dangerfield stept close up to the window, and cried sternly, 'Who's there?' with his grim spectacles close to the window.

The boyish instinct of 'hide and seek' took possession of Cluffe, and he glided forth from the precincts of the Brass Castle upon the high road, just as the little hall-door was pushed open, and he heard the harsh tones of Dangerfield challenging the gooseberry bushes and hollyhocks, and thrashing the evergreens with his cane.

Cluffe hied straight to his lodgings, and ordered a sack posset. Worthy Mrs. Mason eyed him in silent consternation, drenched and dishevelled, wild, and discharging water from every part of his clothing and decorations, as he presented himself without a hat, before her dim dipt candle in the hall.

'I'll take that—that vessel, if you please, Sir, that's hanging about your neck,' said the mild and affrighted lady, meaning Puddock's guitar, through the circular orifice of which, under the chords, the water with which it was filled occasionally splashed.

'Oh—eh?—the instrument?—confound it!' and rather sheepishly he got the gray red and gold ribbon over his dripping head, and placing it in her hand without explanation, he said—'A warming-pan as quickly as may be, I beg, Mrs. Mason—and the posset, I do earnestly request. You see—I—I've been nearly drowned—and—and I can't answer for consequences if there be one minute's delay.

And up he went streaming, with Mrs. Mason's candle, to his bed-room, and dragged off his clinging garments, and dried his fat body, like a man coming out of a bath, and roared for hot water for his feet, and bellowed for the posset and warming-pan, and rolled into his bed, and kept the whole house in motion.

And so soon as he had swallowed his cordial, and toasted his sheets, and with the aid of his man rolled himself in a great blanket, and clapped his feet in a tub of hot water, and tumbled back again into his bed, he bethought him of Puddock, and ordered his man to take his compliments to Captain Burgh and Lieutenant Lillyman, the tenants of the nearest lodging-house, and to request either to come to him forthwith on a matter of life or death.

Lillyman was at home, and came.

'Puddock's drowned, my dear Lillyman, and I'm little better. The ferry boat broke away with us. Do go down to the adjutant—they ought to raise the salmon nets—I'm very ill myself—very ill, indeed—else I'd have assisted; but you know me, Lillyman. Poor Puddock—'tis a sad business—but lose no time.'

'And can't he swim?' asked Lillyman, aghast.

'Swim?—ay, like a stone, poor fellow! If he had only thrown himself out, and held by me, hang it, I'd have brought him to shore; but poor Puddock, he lost his head. And I—you see me here—don't forget to tell them the condition you found me in, and—and—now don't lose a moment.'

So off went Lillyman to give the alarm at the barrack.



When Cluffe sprang out of the boat, he was very near capsizing it and finishing Puddock off-hand, but she righted and shot away swiftly towards the very centre of the weir, over which, in a sheet of white foam, she swept, and continued her route toward Dublin—bottom upward, leaving little Puddock, however, safe and sound, clinging to a post, at top, and standing upon a rough sort of plank, which afforded a very unpleasant footing, by which the nets were visited from time to time.

'Hallo! are you safe, Cluffe?' cried the little lieutenant, quite firm, though a little dizzy, on his narrow stand, with the sheets of foam whizzing under his feet; what had become of his musical companion he had not the faintest notion, and when he saw the boat hurled over near the sluice, and drive along the stream upside down, he nearly despaired.

But when the captain's military cloak, which he took for Cluffe himself, followed in the track of the boat, whisking, sprawling, and tumbling, in what Puddock supposed to be the agonies of drowning, and went over the weir and disappeared from view, returning no answer to his screams of 'Strike out, Cluffe! to your right, Cluffe. Hollo! to your right,' he quite gave the captain over.

'Surrendhur, you thievin' villain, or I'll put the contints iv this gun into yir carcass,' shouted an awful voice from the right bank, and Puddock saw the outline of a gigantic marksman, preparing to fire into his corresponding flank.

'What do you mean, Sir?' shouted Puddock, in extreme wrath and discomfort.

'Robbin' the nets, you spalpeen; if you throw them salmon you're hidin' undher your coat into the wather, be the tare-o-war—'

'What salmon, Sir?' interrupted the lieutenant. 'Why, salmon's not in season, Sir.'

'None iv yer flummery, you schamin' scoundrel; but jest come here and give yourself up, for so sure as you don't, or dar to stir an inch from that spot, I'll blow you to smithereens!'

'Captain Cluffe is drowned, Sir; and I'm Lieutenant Puddock,' rejoined the officer.

'Tare-an-ouns, an' is it yerself, Captain Puddock, that's in it?' cried the man. 'I ax yer pardon; but I tuk you for one of thim vagabonds that's always plundherin' the fish. And who in the wide world, captain jewel, id expeck to see you there, meditatin' in the middle of the river, this time o' night; an' I dunna how in the world you got there, at all, at all, for the planking is carried away behind you since yistherday.'

'Give an alarm, if you please, Sir, this moment,' urged Puddock. 'Captain Cluffe has gone over this horrid weir, not a minute since, and is I fear drowned.'

'Dhrownded! och! bloody wars.'

'Yes, Sir, send some one this moment down the stream with a rope—'

'Hollo, Jemmy?' cried the man, and whistled through his crooked finger.

'Jemmy,' said he to the boy who presented himself, 'run down to Tom Garret, at the Millbridge, and tell him Captain Cluffe's dhrownded over the weir, and to take the boat-hook and rope—he's past the bridge by this time—ay is he at the King's House—an' if he brings home the corpse alive or dead, before an hour, Captain Puddock here will give him twenty guineas reward.' So away went the boy.

''Tis an unaisy way you're situated yourself, I'm afeard,' observed the man.

'Have the goodness to say, Sir, by what meanth, if any, I can reach either bank of the river,' lisped Puddock, with dignity.

''Tis thrue for you, captain, that's the chat—how the divil to get you alive out o' the position you're in. Can you swim?'

'No, Thir.'

'An' how the dickens did you get there?'

'I'd rather hear, Sir, how I'm to get away, if you please,' replied Puddock, loftily.

'Are you bare-legged?' shouted the man.

'No, Sir,' answered the little officer, rather shocked.

'An' you're there wid shoes on your feet.

'Of course, Sir,' answered Puddock.

'Chuck them into the water this instant minute,' roared the man.

'Why, there are valuable buckles, Sir,' remonstrated Puddock.

'Do you mane to say you'd rather be dhrownded in yer buckles than alive in yer stockin' feet?' he replied.

There were some cross expostulations, but eventually the fellow came out to Puddock. Perhaps the feat was not quite so perilous as he represented; but it certainly was not a pleasant one. Puddock had a rude and crazy sort of banister to cling to, and a rugged and slippery footing; but slowly and painfully, from one post to another, he made his way, and at last jumped on the solid, though not dry land, his life and his buckles safe.

'I'll give you a guinea in the morning, if you come to my quarterth, Mr. —— Thir,' and, without waiting a second, away he ran by the footpath, and across the bridge, right into the Phoenix, and burst into the club-room. There were assembled old Arthur Slowe, Tom Trimmer, from Lucan, old Trumble, Jack Collop, Colonel Stafford, and half-a-dozen more members, including some of the officers—O'Flaherty among the number, a little 'flashy with liquor' as the phrase then was.

Puddock stood in the wide opened door, with the handle in his hand. He was dishevelled, soused with water, bespattered with mud, his round face very pale, and he fixed a wild stare on the company. The clatter of old Trimmer's backgammon, Slowe's disputations over the draftboard with Colonel Stafford, Collop's dissertation on the points of that screw of a horse he wanted to sell, and the general buzz of talk, were all almost instantaneously suspended on the appearance of this phantom, and Puddock exclaimed—

'Gentlemen, I'm thorry to tell you, Captain Cluffe ith, I fear, drowned!'

'Cluffe?' 'Drowned?' 'By Jupiter!' 'You don't say so? and a round of such ejaculations followed this announcement.

Allow me here to mention that I permit my people to swear by all the persons of the Roman mythology. There was a horrible profanity in the matter of oaths in those days, and I found that without changing the form of sentences, and sacrificing idioms, at times, I could not manage the matter satisfactorily otherwise.

'He went over the salmon weir—I saw him—Coyle's—weir—headlong, poor fellow! I shouted after him, but he could not anthwer, so pray let's be off, and—'

Here he recognised the colonel with a low bow and paused. The commanding officer instantaneously despatched Lieutenant Brady, who was there, to order out Sergeant Blakeney and his guard, and any six good swimmers in the regiment who might volunteer, with a reward of twenty guineas for whoever should bring in Cluffe alive, or ten guineas for his body; and the fat fellow all the time in his bed sipping sack posset!

So away ran Brady and a couple more of the young fellows at their best pace—no one spared himself on this errand—and little Puddock and another down to the bridge. It was preposterous.

By this time Lillyman was running like mad from Cluffe's lodgings along Martin's Row to the rescue of Puddock, who, at that moment with his friends and the aid of a long pole, was poking into a little floating tanglement of withered leaves, turf, and rubbish, under the near arch of the bridge, in the belief that he was dealing with the mortal remains of Cluffe.

Lillyman overtook Toole at the corner of the street just in time to hear the scamper of the men, at double-quick, running down the sweep of the road to the bridge, and to hear the shouting that arose from the parade-ground by the river bank, from the men within the barrack precincts.

Toole joined Lillyman running.

'What the plague's this hubbub and hullo?' he cried.

'Puddock's drowned,' panted Lillyman.

'Puddock! bless us! where?' puffed Toole.

'Hollo! you, Sir—have they heard it—is he drowned?' cried Lillyman to the sentry outside the gate.

'Dhrownded? yes, Sir,' replied the man saluting.

'Is help gone?'

'Yes, Sir, Lieutenant Brady, and Sergeant Blakeney, and nine men.'

'Come along,' cried Lillyman to Toole, and they started afresh. They heard the shouting by the river bank, and followed it by the path round the King's House, passing the Phoenix; and old Colonel Stafford, who was gouty, and no runner, standing with a stern and anxious visage at the door, along with old Trumble, Slowe, and Trimmer, and some of the maids and drawers in the rear, all in consternation.

'Bring me the news,' screamed the colonel, as they passed.

Lillyman was the better runner. Toole a good deal blown, but full of pluck, was labouring in the rear; Lillyman jumped over the stile, at the river path; and Toole saw an officer who resembled 'poor Puddock,' he thought, a good deal, cross the road, and follow in Lillyman's wake. The doctor crossed the stile next, and made his best gallop in rear of the plump officer, excited by the distant shouting, and full of horrible curiosity and good-nature.

Nearly opposite Inchicore they fished up an immense dead pig; and Toole said, to his amazement, he found Puddock crying over it, and calling it 'my brother!' And this little scene added another very popular novelty to the doctor's stock of convivial monologues.

Toole, who loved Puddock, hugged him heartily, and when he could get breath, shouted triumphantly after the more advanced party, 'He's found, he's found!'

'Oh, thank Heaven!' cried little Puddock, with upturned eyes; 'but is he really found?'

The doctor almost thought that his perils had affected his intellect.

'Is he found—are you found?' cried the doctor, resuming that great shake by both hands, which in his momentary puzzle he had suspended.

'I—a—oh, dear!—I don't quite understand—is he lost? for mercy's sake is Cluffe lost?' implored Puddock.

'Lost in his bed clothes, maybe,' cried Lillyman, who had joined them.

'But he's not—he's not drowned?'

'Pish! drowned, indeed! unless he's drowned in the crock of hot water he's clapt his legs into.'

'Where is he—where's Cluffe?'

'Hang it!—he's in bed, in his lodging, drinking hot punch this half-hour.'

'But are you certain?'

'Why, I saw him there myself,' answered Lillyman, with an oath.

Poor little Puddock actually clasped his hands, looked up, and poured forth a hearty, almost hysterical, thanksgiving; for he had charged Cluffe's death altogether upon his own soul, and his relief was beyond expression.

In the meantime, the old gentlemen of the club were in a thrilling suspense, and that not altogether disagreeable state of horror in which men chew the cud of bitter fancy over other men's catastrophes. After about ten minutes in came young Spaight.

'Well,' said the colonel, 'is Cluffe safe or—eh?'

'Cluffe's safe—only half drowned; but poor Puddock's lost.'


'Drowned, I'm afraid.'

'Drowned! who says so?' repeated the colonel.


'Why, there it is!' replied the colonel, with a great oath, breaking through all his customary reserve and stiffness, and flinging his cocked-hat on the middle of the table, piteously, 'A fellow that can't swim a yard will go by way of saving a great—a large gentleman, like Captain Cluffe, from drowning, and he's pulled in himself; and so—bless my soul! what's to be done?'

So the colonel broke into a lamentation, and a fury, and a wonder. 'Cluffe and Puddock, the two steadiest officers in the corps! He had a devilish good mind to put Cluffe under arrest—the idiots—Puddock—he was devilish sorry. There wasn't a more honourable'—et cetera. In fact, a very angry and pathetic funeral oration, during which, accompanied by Doctor Toole, Lieutenant Puddock, in person, entered; and the colonel stopped short with his eyes and mouth very wide open, and said the colonel very sternly.

'I—I'm glad to see, Sir, you're safe: and—and—I suppose, I shall hear now that Cluffe's drowned?' and he stamped the emphasis on the floor.

While all this was going on, some of the soldiers had actually got into Dublin. The tide was in, and the water very high at 'Bloody Bridge.' A hat, near the corner, was whisking round and round, always trying to get under the arch, and always, when on the point, twirled round again into the corner—an image of the 'Flying Dutchman' and hope deferred. A watchman's crozier hooked the giddy thing. It was not a military hat; but they brought it back, and the captive was laid in the guard-room—mentioned by me because we've seen that identical hat before.



Mrs. Nutter and Mrs. Sturk, the wives of the two men who most hated one another within the vicinage of Chapelizod—natural enemies, holding aloof one from another, and each regarding the other in a puzzled way, with a sort of apprehension and horror, as the familiar of that worst and most formidable of men—her husband—were this night stricken with a common fear and sorrow.

Darkness descended on the Mills and the river—a darkness deepened by the umbrageous trees that grouped about the old gray house in which poor Mrs. Nutter lay so ill at ease. Moggy carried the jingling tray of tea-things into Nutter's little study, and lighted his candles, and set the silver snuffers in the dish, and thought she heard him coming, and ran back again, and returned with the singing 'tea-kitchen,' and then away again, for the thin buttered toast under its china cover, which our ancestors loved.

Then she listened—but 'twas a mistake—it was the Widow Macan's step, who carried the ten pailfuls of water up from the river to fill the butt in the backyard every Tuesday and Friday, for a shilling a week, and 'a cup o' tay with the girls in the kitchen.'

Then Moggy lighted the fire with the stump of a candle, for the night was a little chill, and she set the small round table beside it, and laid her master's pipe and tobacco-box on it, and listened, and began to wonder what detained him.

So she went out into the sharp still air, and stood on the hall-door step, and listened again. Presently she heard the Widow Macan walking up from the garden with the last pail on her head, who stopped when she saw her, and set down the vessel upon the corner of the clumsy little balustrade by the door-step. So Moggy declared her uneasiness, which waxed greater when Mrs. Macan told her that 'the masther, God bless him, wasn't in the garden.'

She had seen him standing at the river's edge, while she passed and repassed. He did not move a finger, or seem to notice her, and was looking down into the water. When she came back the third or fourth time, he was gone.

At Moggy's command she went back into the garden, though she assured her, solemnly—''twas nansince lookin' there'—and called Mr. Nutter, at first in a deferential and hesitating way; but, emboldened and excited by the silence, for she began to feel unaccountably queer, in a louder and louder a key, till she was certain that he was neither in the garden nor in the orchard, nor anywhere near the house. And when she stopped, the silence seemed awful, and the darkness under the trees closed round her with a supernatural darkness, and the river at the foot of the walk seemed snorting some inarticulate story of horror. So she locked the garden door quickly, looking over her shoulder for she knew not what, and ran faster than she often did along the sombre walk up to the hall door, and told her tale to Moggy, and begged to carry the pail in by the hall-door.

In they came, and Moggy shut the hall-door, and turned the key in it. Perhaps 'twas the state in which the poor lady lay up stairs that helped to make them excited and frightened. Betty was sitting by her bedside, and Toole had been there, and given her some opiate, I suppose, for she had dropped into a flushed snoring sleep, a horrid counterfeit of repose. But she had first had two or three frightful fits, and all sorts of wild, screaming talk between. Perhaps it was the apparition of Mary Matchwell, whose evil influence was so horribly attested by the dismal spectacle she had left behind her, that predisposed them to panic; but assuredly each anticipated no good from the master's absence, and had a foreboding of something bad, of which they did not speak; but only disclosed it by looks, and listening, and long silences. The lights burning in Nutter's study invited them, and there the ladies seated themselves, and made their tea in the kitchen tea-pot, and clapped it on the hob, and listened for sounds from Mrs. Nutter's chamber, and for the step of her husband crossing the little court-yard; and they grew only more nervous from listening, and there came every now and then a little tapping on the window-pane. It was only, I think, a little sprig of the climbing-rose that was nailed by the wall, nodding at every breath, and rapping like unseen finger-tops, on the glass. But, as small things will, with such folk, under such circumstances, it frightened them confoundedly.

Then, on a sudden, there came a great yell from poor Mrs. Nutter's chamber, and they both stood up very pale. The Widow Macan, with the cup in her hand that she was 'tossing' at the moment, and Moggy, all aghast, invoked a blessing under her breath, and they heard loud cries and sudden volleys of talk, and Biddy's voice, soothing the patient.

Poor Mrs. Nutter had started up, all on a sudden, from her narcotic doze, with a hideous scream that had frightened the women down stairs. Then she cried—

'Where am I?' and 'Oh, the witch—the witch!'

'Oh! no, Ma'am, dear,' replied Betty; 'now, aisy, Ma'am, darling.'

'I'm going mad.'

'No, Ma'am, dear?—there now—sure 'tis poor Betty that's in it—don't be afear'd, Ma'am.'

'Oh, Betty, hold me—don't go—I'm mad—am I mad?'

Then in the midst of Betty's consolations, she broke into a flood of tears, and seemed in some sort relieved; and Betty gave her her drops again, and she began to mumble to herself, and so to doze.

At the end of another ten minutes, with a scream, she started up again.

'That's her step—where are you, Betty?' she shrieked, and when Betty ran to the bedside, she held her so hard that the maid was ready to cry out, leering all the time over her shoulder—'Where's Charles Nutter?—I saw him speaking to you.'

Then the poor little woman grew quieter, and by her looks and moans, and the clasping of her hands, and her upturned eyes, seemed to be praying; and when Betty stealthily opened the press to take out another candle, her poor mistress uttered another terrible scream, crying—

'You wretch! her head won't fit—you can't hide her;' and the poor woman jumped out of her bed, shrieking 'Charles, Charles, Charles!'

Betty grew so nervous and frightened, that she fairly bawled to her colleague, Moggy, and told her she would not stay in the room unless she sat up all night with her. So, together they kept watch and ward, and as the night wore on, Mrs. Nutter's slumbers grew more natural and less brief, and her paroxysms of waking terror less maniacal. Still she would waken, with a cry that thrilled them, from some frightful vision, and seem to hear or see nothing aright for a good while after, and muttering to the frightened maids—

'Listen to the knocking—oh!—breathing outside the door—bolt it, Betty—girls, say your prayers—'tis he,' or sometimes, ''tis she.'

And thus this heavy night wore over; and the wind, which began to rise as the hours passed, made sounds full of sad untranslatable meaning in the ears of the watchers.

Poor Mrs. Sturk meanwhile, in the House by the Church-yard, sat listening and wondering, and plying her knitting-needles in the drawing-room. When the hour of her Barney's expected return had passed some time, she sent down to the barrack, and then to the club, and then on to the King's House, with her service to Mrs. Stafford, to enquire, after her spouse. But her first and her second round of enquiries, despatched at the latest minute at which she was likely to find any body out of bed to answer them, were altogether fruitless. And the lights went out in one house after another, and the Phoenix shut its doors, and her own servants were for hours gone to bed; and the little town of Chapelizod was buried in the silence of universal slumber. And poor Mrs. Sturk still sat in her drawing-room, more and more agitated and frightened.

But her missing soldier did not turn up, and Leonora sat and listened hour after hour. No sound of return, not even the solemn clank and fiery snort of the fiend-horse under her window, or the 'ho-lo, ho-la—my life, my love!' of the phantom rider, cheated her with a momentary hope.

Poor Mrs. Sturk! She raised the window a few inches, that she might the better hear the first distant ring of his coming on the road. She forgot he had not his horse that night, and was but a pedestrian. But somehow the night-breeze through the aperture made a wolfish howling and sobbing, that sounded faint and far away, and had a hateful character of mingled despair and banter in it.

She said every now and then aloud, to reassure herself—'What a noise the wind makes to be sure!' and after a while she opened the window wider. But her candle flared, and the flame tossed wildly about, and the perplexed lady feared it might go out absolutely. So she shut down the window altogether; for she could not bear the ill-omened baying any longer.

So it grew to be past two o'clock, and she was afraid that Barney would be very angry with her for sitting up, should he return.

She went to bed, therefore, where she lay only more feverish—conjecturing, and painting frightful pictures, till she heard the crow of the early village cock, and the caw of the jackdaw wheeling close to the eaves as he took wing in the gray of the morning to show her that the business of a new day had commenced; and yet Barney had not returned.

Not long after seven o'clock, Dr. Toole, with Juno, Caesar, Dido, and Sneak at his heels, paid his half-friendly, half-professional visit at the Mills.

Poor little Mrs. Nutter was much better—quiet for her was everything, packed up, of course, with a little physic; and having comforted her, as well as he was able, he had a talk with Moggy in the hall, and all about Nutter's disappearance, and how Mrs. Macan saw him standing by the river's brink, and that was the last anyone near the house had seen of him; and a thought flashed upon Toole, and he was very near coming out with it, but checked himself, and only said—

'What hat had he on?'

So she told him.

'And was his name writ in it, or how was it marked?'

'Two big letters—a C and an N.'

'I see; and do you remember any other mark you'd know it by?'

'Well, yes; I stitched the lining only last month, with red silk, and that's how I remember the letters.'

'I know; and are you sure it was that hat he had on?'

'Certain sure—why, there's all the rest;' and she conned them over, as they hung on their pegs on the rack before them.

'Now, don't let the mistress be downhearted—keep her up, Moggy, do you mind. I told her the master was with Lord Castlemallard since yesterday evening, on business, and don't you say anything else; keep her quiet, do ye mind, and humour her.'

And away went Toole, at a swift pace, to the town again, and entered the barrack, and asked to see the adjutant, and then to look at the hat the corporal had fished up by 'Bloody Bridge;' and, by Jupiter! his heart gave a couple of great bounces, and he felt himself grow pale—they were the identical capitals, C N, and the clumsy red silk stitching in the lining.

Toole was off forthwith, and had a fellow dragging the river before three-quarters of an hour.

Dr. Walsingham, returning from an early ride to Island Bridge, saw this artist at work, with his ropes and great hooks, at the other side of the river; and being a man of enquiring mind, and never having witnessed the process before, he cried out to him, after some moments lost in conjecture—

'My good man, what are you fishing for?'

'A land-agent,' answered Isaac Walton.

'A land-agent?' repeated the rector, misdoubting his ears.

The saturnine angler made no answer.

'And has a gentleman been drowned here?' he persisted.

The man only looked at him across the stream, and nodded.

'Eh! and his name, pray?'

'Old Nutter, of the Mills,' he replied.

The rector made a woeful ejaculation, and stared at the careless operator, who had a pipe in his mouth the while, which made him averse from conversation. He would have liked to ask him more questions, but he was near the village, and refrained himself; and he met Toole at the corner of the bridge who, leaning on the shoulder of the rector's horse, gave him the sad story in full.



Dangerfield went up the river that morning with his rod and net, and his piscatory fidus Achates, Irons, at his elbow. It was a nice gray sky, but the clerk was unusually silent even for him; and the sardonic piscator appeared inscrutably amused as he looked steadily upon the running waters. Once or twice the spectacles turned full upon the clerk, over Dangerfield's shoulder, with a cynical light, as if he were on the point of making one of his ironical jokes; but he turned back again with a little whisk, the jest untold, whatever it was, to the ripple and the fly, and the coy gray troutlings.

At last, Dangerfield said over his shoulder, with the same amused look, 'Do you remember Charles Archer?'

Irons turned pale, and looked down embarrassed as it seemed, and began plucking at a tangled piece of tackle, without making any answer.

'Hey? Irons,' persisted Dangerfield, who was not going to let him off.

'Yes, I do,' answered the man surlily; 'I remember him right well; but I'd rather not, and I won't speak of him, that's all.'

'Well, Charles Archer's here, we've seen him, haven't we? and just the devil he always was,' said Dangerfield with a deliberate chuckle of infinite relish, and evidently enjoying the clerk's embarrassment as he eyed him through his spectacles obliquely.

'He has seen you, too, he says; and thinks you have seen him, hey?' and Dangerfield chuckled more and more knowingly, and watched his shiftings and sulkings with a pleasant grin, as he teased and quizzed him in his own enigmatical way.

'Well, supposing I did see him,' said Irons, looking up, returning Dangerfield's comic glance with a bold and lowering stare; 'and supposing he saw me, so long as we've no business one of another, and never talks like, nor seems to remember—I think 'tisnt, no ways, no one's business—that's what I say.'

'True, Irons, very true; you, I, and Sturk—the doctor I mean—are cool fellows, and don't want for nerve; but I think, don't you? we're afraid of Charles Archer, for all that.'

'Fear or no fear, I don't want to talk to him nor of him, no ways,' replied the clerk, grimly, and looking as black as a thunder-cloud.

'Nor I neither, but you know he's here, and what a devil he is; and we can't help it,' replied Dangerfield, very much tickled.

The clerk only looked through his nearly closed eyes, and with the same pale and surly aspect toward the point to which Dangerfield's casting line had floated, and observed—

'You'll lose them flies, Sir.'

'Hey?' said Dangerfield, and made another cast further into the stream.

'Whatever he may seem, and I think I know him pretty well,' he continued in the same sprightly way, 'Charles Archer would dispose of each of us—you understand—without a scruple, precisely when and how best suited his convenience. Now doctor Sturk has sent him a message which I know will provoke him, for it sounds like a threat. If he reads it so, rely on't, he'll lay Sturk on his back, one way or another, and I'm sorry for him, for I wished him well; but if he will play at brag with the devil I can't help him.'

'I'm a man that holds his tongue; I never talks none, even in my liquor. I'm a peaceable man, and no bully, and only wants to live quiet,' said Irons in a hurry.

'A disciple of my school, you're right, Irons, that's my way; I never name Charles except to the two or three who meet him, and then only when I can't help it, just as you do; fellows of that kidney I always take quietly, and I've prospered. Sturk would do well to reconsider his message. Were I in his shoes, I would not eat an egg or a gooseberry, or drink a glass of fair water from that stream, while he was in the country, for fear of poison! curse him! and to think of Sturk expecting to meet him, and walk with him, after such a message, together, as you and I do here. Do you see that tree?'

It was a stout poplar, just a yard away from Irons's shoulder; and as Dangerfield pronounced the word 'tree,' his hand rose, and the sharp report of a pocket-pistol half-deafened Irons's ear.

'I say,' said Dangerfield, with a startling laugh, observing Irons wince, and speaking as the puff of smoke crossed his face, 'he'd lodge a bullet in the cur's heart, as suddenly as I've shot that tree;' the bullet had hit the stem right in the centre, 'and swear he was going to rob him.'

Irons eyed him with a livid squint, but answered nothing. I think he acquiesced in Dangerfield's dreadful estimate of Charles Archer's character.

'But we must give the devil his due; Charles can do a handsome thing sometimes. You shall judge. It seems he saw you, and you him—here, in this town, some months ago, and each knew the other, and you've seen him since, and done likewise; but you said nothing, and he liked your philosophy, and hopes you'll accept of this, which from its weight I take to be a little rouleau of guineas.'

During this speech Irons seemed both angry and frightened, and looked darkly enough before him on the water; and his lips were moving, as if in a running commentary upon it all the while.

When Dangerfield put the little roll in his hand, Irons looked suspicious and frightened, and balanced it in his palm, as if he had thoughts of chucking it from him, as though it were literally a satanic douceur. But it is hard to part with money, and Irons, though he still looked cowed and unhappy, put the money into his breeches' pocket, and he made a queer bow, and he said—

'You know, Sir, I never asked a farthing.'

'Ay, so he says,' answered Dangerfield.

'And,' with an imprecation, Irons added, 'I never expected to be a shilling the better of him.'

'He knows it; and now you have the reason why I mentioned Charles Archer; and having placed that gold in your hand, I've done with him, and we sha'n't have occasion, I hope, to name his name for a good while to come,' said Dangerfield.

Then came a long refreshing silence, while Dangerfield whipt the stream with his flies. He was not successful; but he did not change his flies. It did not seem to trouble him; indeed, mayhap he did not perceive it. And after fully twenty minutes thus unprofitably employed, he suddenly said, as if in continuation of his last sentence—

'And, respecting that money you'll use caution; a hundred guineas is not always so honestly come by. Your wife drinks—suppose a relative in England had left you that gold, by will, 'twould be best not to let her know; but give it to Dr. Walsingham, secretly, to keep for you, telling him the reason. He'll undertake the trust and tell no one—that's your plan—mind ye.'

Then came another long silence, and Dangerfield applied himself in earnest to catch some trout, and when he had accomplished half-a-dozen, he tired altogether of the sport, and followed by Irons, he sauntered homewards, where astounding news awaited him.



As Dangerfield, having parted company with Irons at the corner of the bridge, was walking through the town, with his rod over his shoulder and his basket of troutlings by his side, his attention was arrested by a little knot of persons in close and earnest talk at the barrack-gate, nearly opposite Sturk's house.

He distinguished at a glance the tall grim figure of Oliver Lowe, of Lucan, the sternest and shrewdest magistrate who held the commission for the county of Dublin in those days, mounted on his iron-gray hunter, and holding the crupper with his right hand, as he leaned toward a ragged, shaggy little urchin, with naked shins, whom he was questioning, as it seemed closely. Half-a-dozen gaping villagers stood round.

There was an indescribable something about the group which indicated horror and excitement. Dangerfield quickened his pace, and arrived just as the adjutant rode out.

Saluting both as he advanced, Dangerfield asked—

'Nothing amiss, I hope, gentlemen?'

'The surgeon here's been found murdered in the park!' answered Lowe.

'Hey—Sturk?' said Dangerfield.

'Yes,' said the adjutant: 'this boy here says he's found him in the Butcher's Wood.'

'The Butcher's Wood!—why, what the plague brought him there?' exclaimed Dangerfield.

''Tis his straight road from Dublin across the park,' observed the magistrate.

'Oh!—I thought 'twas the wood by Lord Mountjoy's,' said Dangerfield; 'and when did it happen?'

'Pooh!—some time between yesterday afternoon and half an hour ago,' answered Mr. Lowe.

'Nothing known?' said Dangerfield. ''Twill be a sad hearing over the way;' and he glared grimly with a little side-nod at the doctor's house.

Then he fell, like the others, to questioning the boy. He could tell them but little—only the same story over and over. Coming out of town, with tea and tobacco, a pair of shoes, and a bottle of whisky, for old Mrs. Tresham—in the thick of the wood, among brambles, all at once he lighted on the body. He could not mistake Dr. Sturk; he wore his regimentals; there was blood about him; he did not touch him, nor go nearer than a musket's length to him, and being frightened at the sight in that lonely place he ran away and right down to the barrack, where he made his report.

Just then out came Sergeant Bligh, with his men—two of them carrying a bier with a mattress and cloaks thereupon. They formed, and accompanied by the adjutant, at quick step marched through the town for the park. Mr. Lowe accompanied them, and in the park-lane they picked up the ubiquitous Doctor Toole, who joined the party.

Dangerfield walked a while beside the adjutant's horse; and, said he—

'I've had as much walking as I can well manage this morning, and you don't want for hands, so I'll turn back when I've said just a word in your ear. You know, Sir, funerals are expensive, and I happen to know that poor Sturk was rather pressed for money—in fact, 'twas only the day before yesterday I myself lent him a trifle. So will you, through whatever channel you think best, let poor Mrs. Sturk know that she may draw upon me for a hundred pounds, if she requires it?'

'Thank you, Mr. Dangerfield; I certainly shall.'

And so Dangerfield lifted his hat to the party and fell behind, and came to a stand still, watching them till they disappeared over the brow of the hill.

When he reached his little parlour in the Brass Castle, luncheon was upon the table. But he had not much of an appetite, and stood at the window, looking upon the river with his hands in his pockets, and a strange pallid smile over his face, mingling with the light of the silver spectacles.

'When Irons hears of this,' he said, 'he'll come to my estimate of Charles Archer, and conclude he has had a finger in that pretty pie; 'twill frighten him.'

And somehow Dangerfield looked a little bit queer himself, and he drank off two small glasses, such as folks then used in Ireland—of Nantz; and setting down the glass, he mused—

'A queer battle life is; ha, ha! Sturk laid low—the wretched fool! Widow—yes; children—ay. Charles! Charles! if there be a reckoning after death, your score's an ugly one. I'm tired of playing my part in this weary game of defence. Irons and I remain with the secret between us. Glasscock had his fourth of it, and tasted death. Then we three had it; and Sturk goes next; and now I and Irons—Irons and I—which goes first?' And he fell to whistling slowly and dismally, with his hands in his breeches' pockets, looking vacantly through his spectacles on the ever-running water, an emblem of the eternal change and monotony of life.

In the meantime the party, with Tim Brian, the bare-shanked urchin, still in a pale perspiration, for guide, marched on, all looking ahead, in suspense, and talking little.

On they marched, till they got into the bosky shadow of the close old whitethorn and brambles, and there, in a lonely nook, the small birds hopping on the twigs above, sure enough, on his back, in his regimentals, lay the clay-coloured image of Sturk, some blood, nearly black now, at the corners of his mouth, and under his stern brows a streak of white eye-ball turned up to the sky.

There was a pool of blood under his pomatumed, powdered, and curled head, more under his right arm, which was slightly extended, with the open hand thrown palm upwards, as if appealing to heaven.

Toole examined him.

'No pulse, by Jove! Quiet there! don't stir!' Then he clapped his ear on Sturk's white Marseilles vest.

'Hush!' and a long pause. Then Toole rose erect, but still on his knees, 'Will you be quiet there? I think there's some little action still; only don't talk, or shift your feet; and just—just, do be quiet!'

Then Toole rose to his knees again, with a side glance fixed on the face of Sturk, with a puzzled and alarmed look. He evidently did not well know what to make of it. Then he slipped his hand within his vest, and between his shirt and his skin.

'If he's dead, he's not long so. There's warmth here. And see, get me a pinch or two of that thistle-down, d'ye see?'

And with the help of this improvised test he proceeded to try whether he was still breathing. But there was a little air stirring, and they could not manage it.

'Well!' said Toole, standing this time quite erect, 'I—I think there's life there still. And now, boys, d'ye see? lift him very carefully, d'ye mind? Gently, very gently, for I tell you, if this haemorrhage begins again, he'll not last twenty seconds.'

So on a cloak they lifted him softly and deftly to the bier, and laid covering over him; and having received Toole's last injunctions, and especially a direction to Mrs. Sturk to place him in a well-warmed bed, and introduce a few spoonfuls of warm port wine negus into his mouth, and if he swallowed, to continue to administer it from time to time, Sergeant Bligh and his men commenced their funereal march toward Sturk's house.

'And now, Mr. Adjutant,' said Lowe, 'had not we best examine the ground, and make a search for anything that may lead to a conviction?'

Well, a ticket was found trod into the bloody mud, scarcely legible, and Sturk's cocked hat, the leaf and crown cut through with a blow of some blunt instrument. His sword they had found by his side not drawn.

'See! here's a foot-print, too,' said Lowe; 'don't move!'

It was remarkable. They pinned together the backs of two letters, and Toole, with his surgical scissors, cut the pattern to fit exactly into the impression; and he and Lowe, with great care, pencilled in the well-defined marks of the great hob-nails, and a sort of seam or scar across the heel.

'Twas pretty much after this fashion. It was in a slight dip in the ground where the soil continued soft. They found it in two other places coming up to the fatal spot, from the direction of the Magazine. And it was traceable on for some twenty yards more faintly; then, again, very distinctly, where—a sort of ditch interposing—a jump had been made, and here it turned down towards the park wall and the Chapelizod road, still, however, slanting in the Dublin direction.

In the hollow by the park wall it appeared again, distinctly; and here it was plain the transit of the wall had been made, for the traces of the mud were evident enough upon its surface, and the mortar at top was displaced, and a little tuft of grass in the mud, left by the clodded shoesole. Here the fellow had got over.

They followed, and, despairing of finding it upon the road, they diverged into the narrow slip of ground by the river bank, and just within the park-gate, in a slight hollow, the clay of which was still impressible, they found the track again. It led close up to the river bank, and there the villain seemed to have come to a stand still; for the sod just for so much as a good sized sheet of letter-paper might cover, was trod and broken, as if at the water's edge he had stood for a while, and turned about and shifted his feet, like a fellow that is uneasy while he is stationary.

From this stand-point they failed to discover any receding foot-print; but close by it came a little horse track, covered with shingle, by which, in those days, the troops used to ride their horses to water. He might have stepped upon this, and following it, taken to the streets; or he might—and this was Lowe's theory—have swam the river at this point, and got into some of those ruffian haunts in the rear of Watling and St. James's streets. So Lowe, who, with a thief or a murderer in the wind, had the soul of a Nimrod, rode round to the opposite bank, first telling Toole, who did not care to press his services at Sturk's house, uninvited, that he would send out the great Doctor Pell to examine the patient, or the body, as the case might turn out.

By this time they were carrying Doctor Sturk—that gaudy and dismal image—up his own staircase—his pale wife sobbing and shivering on the landing, among whispered ejaculations from the maids, and the speechless wonder of the awe-stricken children, staring through the banisters—to lay him in the bed where at last he is to lie without dreaming.



So pulse or no pulse, dead or alive, they got Sturk into his bed.

Poor, cowed, quiet little Mrs. Sturk, went quite wild at the bedside.

'Oh! my Barney—my Barney—my noble Barney,' she kept crying. 'He's gone—he'll never speak again. Do you think he hears? Oh, Barney, my darling—Barney, it's your own poor little Letty—oh—Barney, darling, don't you hear. It's your own poor, foolish Letty.'

But it was the same stern face, and ears of stone. There was no answer and no sign.

And she sent a pitiful entreaty to Doctor Toole, who came very good-naturedly—and indeed he was prowling about the doorway of his domicile in expectation of the summons. And he shook her very cordially by the hand, and quite 'filled-up,' at her woebegone appeal, and told her she must not despair yet.

And this time he pronounced most positively that Sturk was still living.

'Yes, my dear Madam, so sure as you and I are. There's no mistaking.'

And as the warmth of the bed began to tell, the signs of life showed themselves more and more unequivocally. But Toole knew that his patient was in a state of coma, from which he had no hope of his emerging.

So poor little Mrs. Sturk—as white as the plaster on the wall—who kept her imploring eyes fixed on the doctor's ruddy countenance, during his moments of deliberation, burst out into a flood of tears, and thanksgivings, and benedictions.

'He'll recover—something tells me he'll recover. Oh! my Barney—darling—you will—you will.'

'While there's life—you know—my dear Ma'am,', said Toole, doing his best. 'But then—you see—he's been very badly abused about the head; and the brain you know—is the great centre—the—the—but, as I said, while there's life, there's hope.'

'And he's so strong—he shakes off an illness so easily; he has such courage.'

'So much the better, Ma'am.'

'And I can't but think, as he did not die outright, and has shown such wonderful endurance. Oh! my darling, he'll get on.'

'Well, well, Ma'am, there certainly have been wonderful recoveries.'

'And he's so much better already, you see, and I know so well how he gets through an illness, 'tis wonderful, and he certainly is mightily improved since we got him to bed. Why, I can see him breathe now, and you know it must be a good sign; and then there's a merciful God over us—and all the poor little children—what would become of us?' And then she wiped her eyes quickly. 'The promise, you know, of length of days—it often comforted me before—to those that honour father and mother; and I believe there never was so good a son. Oh! my noble Barney, never; 'tis my want of reliance and trust in the Almighty's goodness.'

And so, holding Toole by the cuff of his coat, and looking piteously into his face as they stood together in the doorway, the poor little woman argued thus with inexorable death.

Fools, and blind; when amidst our agonies of supplication the blow descends, our faith in prayer is staggered, as if it reached not the ear of the Allwise, and moved not His sublime compassion. Are we quite sure that we comprehend the awful and far-sighted game that is being played for us and others so well that we can sit by and safely dictate its moves?

How will Messrs. Morphy or Staunton, on whose calculations, I will suppose, you have staked L100, brook your insane solicitations to spare this pawn or withdraw that knight from prise, on the board which is but the toy type of that dread field where all the powers of eternal intellect, the wisdom from above and the wisdom from beneath—the stupendous intelligence that made, and the stupendous sagacity that would undo us, are pitted one against the other in a death-combat, which admits of no reconciliation and no compromise?

About poor Mrs. Nutter's illness, and the causes of it, various stories were current in Chapelizod. Some had heard it was a Blackamoor witch who had evoked the foul fiend in bodily shape from the parlour cupboard, and that he had with his cloven foot kicked her and Sally Nutter round the apartment until then screams brought in Charles Nutter, who was smoking in the garden; and that on entering, he would have fared as badly as the rest, had he not had presence of mind to pounce at once upon the great family Bible that lay on the window-sill, with which he belaboured the infernal intruder to a purpose. Others reported 'twas the ghost of old Philip Nutter, who rose through the floor, and talked I know not what awful rhodomontade. These were the confabulations of the tap-room and the kitchen; but the speculations and rumours current over the card-table and claret glasses were hardly more congruous or intelligible. In fact, nobody knew well what to make of it. Nutter certainly had disappeared, and there was an uneasy feeling about him. The sinister terms on which he and Sturk had stood were quite well known, and though nobody spoke out, every one knew pretty well what his neighbour was thinking of.

Our blooming friend, the handsome and stalworth Magnolia, having got a confidential hint from agitated Mrs. Mack, trudged up to the mills, in a fine frenzy, vowing vengeance on Mary Matchwell, for she liked poor Sally Nutter well. And when, with all her roses in her cheeks, and her saucy black eyes flashing vain lightnings across the room in pursuit of the vanished woman in sable, the Amazon with black hair and slender waist comforted and pitied poor Sally, and anathematised her cowardly foe, it must be confessed she looked plaguy handsome, wicked, and good-natured.

'Mary Matchwell, indeed! I'll match her well, wait a while, you'll see if I don't. I'll pay her off yet, never mind, Sally, darling. Arrah! Don't be crying, child, do you hear me. What's that? Charles? Why, then, is it about Charles you're crying? Charles Nutter? Phiat! woman dear! don't you think he's come to an age to take care of himself? I'll hold you a crown he's in Dublin with the sheriff, going to cart that jade to Bridewell. And why in the world didn't you send for me, when you wanted to discourse with Mary Matchwell? Where was the good of my poor dear mother? Why, she's as soft as butter. 'Twas a devil like me you wanted, you poor little darling. Do you think I'd a let her frighten you this way—the vixen—I'd a knocked her through the window as soon as look at her. She saw with half an eye she could frighten you both, you poor things. Oh! ho! how I wish I was here. I'd a put her across my knee and—no—do you say? Pooh! you don't know me, you poor innocent little creature; and, do ye mind now, you must not be moping here. Sally Nutter, all alone, you'll just come down to us, and drink a cup of tea and play a round game and hear the news; and look up now and give me a kiss, for I like you, Sally, you kind old girl.'

And she gave her a hug, and a shake, and half-a-dozen kisses on each cheek, and laughed merrily, and scolded and kissed her again.

Little more than an hour after, up comes a little billet from the good-natured Magnolia, just to help poor little Sally Nutter out of the vapours, and vowing that no excuse should stand good, and that come she must to tea and cards. 'And, oh! what do you think?' it went on. 'Such a bit a newse, I'm going to tell you, so prepare for a chock;' at this part poor Sally felt quite sick, but went on. 'Doctor Sturk, that droav into town Yesterday, as grand as you Please, in Mrs. Strafford's coach, all smiles and Polightness—whood a bleeved! Well He's just come back, with two great Fractions of his skull, riding on a Bear, insensible into The town—there's for you. Only Think of poor Mrs. Sturk, and the Chock she's got on sight of Him: and how thankful and Pleasant you should be that Charles Nutter is not a Corpes in the Buchar's wood, and jiggin Home to you like Sturk did. But well in health, what I'm certain shure he is, taken the law of Mary Matchwell—bless the Mark—to get her emprisind and Publickly wiped by the commin hangman.' All which rhapsody conjured up a confused and dyspeptic dream, full of absurd and terrific images, which she could not well comprehend, except in so far as it seemed clear that some signal disaster had befallen Sturk.

That night, at nine o'clock, the great Doctor Pell arrived in his coach, with steaming horses, at Sturk's hall-door, where the footman thundered a tattoo that might have roused the dead; for it was the family's business, if they did not want a noise, to muffle the knocker. And the doctor strode up, directed by the whispering awestruck maid, to Sturk's bed-chamber, with his hands in his muff, after the manner of doctors in his day, without asking questions, or hesitating on lobbies, for the sands of his minutes ran out in gold-dust. So, with a sort of awe and suppressed bustle preceding and following him, he glided up stairs and straight to the patient's bedside, serene, saturnine, and rapid.

In a twinkling the maid was running down the street for Toole, who had kept at home, in state costume, expecting the consultation with the great man, which he liked. And up came Toole, with his brows knit, and his chin high, marching over the pavement in a mighty fuss, for he knew that the oracle's time and temper were not to be trifled with.

In the club, Larry the drawer, as he set a pint of mulled claret by old Arthur Slowe's elbow, whispered something in his ear, with a solemn wink.

'Ho!—by Jove, gentlemen, the doctor's come—Doctor Pell. His coach stands at Sturk's door, Larry says, and we'll soon hear how he fares.' And up got Major O'Neill with a 'hey! ho—ho!' and out he went, followed by old Slowe, with his little tankard in his fist, to the inn-door, where the major looked on the carriage, lighted up by the footman's flambeau, beneath the old village elm—up the street—smoking his pipe still to keep it burning, and communicating with Slowe, two words at a time. And Slowe stood gazing at the same object with his little faded blue eyes, his disengaged hand in his breeches' pocket, and ever and anon wetting his lips with his hot cordial, and assenting agreeably to the major's conclusions.

'Seize ace! curse it!' cried Cluffe, who, I'm happy to say, had taken no harm by his last night's wetting; 'another gammon, I'll lay you fifty.'

'Toole, I dare thay, will look in and tell us how poor Sturk goes on,' said Puddock, playing his throw.

'Hang it, Puddock, mind your game—to be sure, he will. Cinque ace! well, curse it! the same throw over again! 'Tis too bad. I missed taking you last time, with that stupid blot you've covered—and now, by Jove, it ruins me. There's no playing when fellows are getting up every minute to gape after doctors' coaches, and leaving the door open—hang it, I've lost the game by it—gammoned twice already. 'Tis very pleasant. I only wish when gentlemen interrupt play, they'd be good enough to pay the bets.'

It was not much, about five shillings altogether, and little Puddock had not often a run of luck.

'If you'd like to win it back, Captain Cluffe, I'll give you a chance,' said O'Flaherty, who was tolerably sober. 'I'll lay you an even guinea Sturk's dead before nine to-morrow morning; and two to one he's dead before this time to-morrow night.'

'I thank you—no, Sir—two doctors over him, and his head in two pieces—you're very obliging, lieutenant, but I'll choose a likelier wager,' said Cluffe.

Dangerfield, who was overlooking the party, with his back to the fire, appeared displeased at their levity—shook his head, and was on the point of speaking one of those polite but cynical reproofs, whose irony, cold and intangible, intimidated the less potent spirits of the club-room. But he dismissed it with a little shrug. And a minute after, Major O'Neill and Arthur Slowe became aware that Dangerfield had glided behind them, and was looking serenely, like themselves, at the Dublin doctor's carriage and smoking team. The light from Sturk's bed-room window, and the red glare of the footman's torch, made two little trembling reflections in the silver spectacles as he stood in the shade, peering movelessly over their shoulders.

''Tis a sorry business, gentlemen,' he said in a stern, subdued tone. 'Seven children and a widow. He's not dead yet, though: whatever Toole might do, the Dublin doctor would not stay with a dead man; time's precious. I can't describe how I pity that poor soul, his wife—what's to become of her and her helpless brood I know not.'

Slowe grunted a dismal assent, and the major, with a dolorous gaze, blew a thin stream of tobacco-smoke into the night air, which floated off like the ghost of a sigh towards the glimmering window of Sturk's bed-room. So they all grew silent. It seemed they had no more to say, and that, in their minds, the dark curtain had come down upon the drama of which the 'noble Barney,' as poor Mrs. Sturk called him, was hero.



Two or three minutes later, the hall-door of Sturk's mansion opened wide, and the figure of the renowned doctor from Dublin, lighted up with a candle from behind, and with the link from before, glided swiftly down the steps, and disappeared into the coach with a sharp clang of the door. Up jumps the footman, and gives his link a great whirl about his head. The maid stands on the step with her hand before the flaring candle. 'The Turk's Head, in Werburgh Street,' shouts the footman, and smack goes the coachman's whip, and the clang and rattle begin.

'That's Alderman Blunkett—he's dying,' said the major, by way of gloss on the footman's text; and away went the carriage with thundering wheels, and trailing sparks behind it, as if the wild huntsman had furnished its fleet and shadowy team.

'He has ten guineas in his pocket for that—a guinea a minute, by Jove, coining, no less,' said the major, whose pipe was out, and he thinking of going in to replenish it. 'We'll have Toole here presently, depend upon it.'

He had hardly spoken when Toole, in a halo of candle-light, emerged from Sturk's hall-door. With one foot on the steps, the doctor paused to give a parting direction about chicken-broth and white-wine whey.

These last injunctions on the door-steps had begun, perhaps in a willingness to let folk see and even hear that the visit was professional; and along with the lowering and awfully serious countenance with which they were delivered, had grown into a habit, so that, as now, he practised them even in solitude and darkness.

Then Toole was seen to approach the Phoenix, in full blow, his cane under his arm. With his full-dressed wig on, he was always grand and AEsculapian, and reserved withal, and walked with a measured tread, and a sad and important countenance, which somehow made him look more chubby; and he was a good deal more formal with his friends at the inn-door, and took snuff before he answered them. But this only lasted some eight or ten minutes after a consultation or momentous visit, and would melt away insensibly in the glow of the club-parlour, sometimes reviving for a minute, when the little mirror that sloped forward from the wall, showed him a passing portrait of his grand wig and toggery. And it was pleasant to observe how the old fellows unconsciously deferred to this temporary self-assertion, and would call him, not Tom, nor Toole, but 'doctor,' or 'Doctor Toole,' when the fit was upon him.

And Devereux, in his day, won two or three wagers by naming the doctor with whom Toole had been closeted, reading the secret in the countenance and by-play of their crony. When it had been with tall, cold, stately Dr. Pell, Toole was ceremonious and deliberate, and oppressively polite. On the other hand, when he had been shut up with brusque, half-savage, energetic Doctor Rogerson, Tom was laconic, decisive, and insupportably ill-bred, till, as we have said, the mirage melted away, and he gradually acquiesced in his identity. Then, little by little, the irrepressible gossip, jocularity, and ballad minstrelsy were heard again, his little eyes danced, and his waggish smiles glowed once more, ruddy as a setting sun, through the nectarian vapours of the punch-bowl. The ghosts of Pell and Rogerson fled to their cold dismal shades, and little Tom Toole was his old self again for a month to come.

'Your most obedient, gentlemen—your most obedient,' said Toole, bowing and taking their hands graciously in the hall—'a darkish evening, gentlemen.'

'And how does your patient, doctor?' enquired Major O'Neil.

The doctor closed his eyes, and shook his head slowly, with a gentle shrug.

'He's in a bad case, major. There's little to be said, and that little, Sir, not told in a moment,' answered Toole, and took snuff.

'How's Sturk, Sir?' repeated the silver spectacles, a little sternly.

'Well, Sir, he's not dead; but, by your leave, had we not better go into the parlour, eh?—'tis a little chill, and, as I said, 'tis not all told in a moment—he's not dead, though, that's the sum of it—you first, pray proceed, gentlemen.'

Dangerfield grimly took him at his word; but the polite major got up a little ceremonious tussle with Toole in the hall. However, it was no more than a matter of half-a-dozen bows and waves of the hand, and 'after you, Sir;' and Toole entered, and after a general salutation in the style of Doctor Pell, he established himself upon the hearth-stone, with his back to the fire, as a legitimate oracle.

Toole was learned, as he loved to be among the laity on such occasions, and was in no undue haste to bring his narrative to a close. But the gist of the matter was this—Sturk was labouring under concussion of the brain, and two terrific fractures of the skull—so long, and lying so near together, that he and Doctor Pell instantly saw 'twould be impracticable to apply the trepan, in fact that 'twould be certain and instantaneous death. He was absolutely insensible, but his throat was not yet palsied, and he could swallow a spoonful of broth or sack whey from time to time. But he was a dead man to all intents and purposes. Inflammation might set in at any moment; at best he would soon begin to sink, and neither he nor Doctor Pell thought he had the smallest chance of awaking from his lethargy for one moment. He might last two or three days, or even a week—what did it signify?—what was he better than a corpse already? He could never hear, see, speak, or think again; and for any difference it could possibly make to poor Sturk, they might clap him in his grave and cover him up to-night.

Then the talk turned upon Nutter. Every man had his theory or his conjecture but Dangerfield, who maintained a discreet reserve, much to the chagrin of the others, who thought, not without reason, that he knew more about the state of his affairs, and especially of his relations with Lord Castlemallard, than perhaps all the world beside.

'Possibly, poor fellow, he was not in a condition to have his accounts overhauled, and on changing an agency things sometimes come out that otherwise might have kept quiet. He was the sort of fellow who would go through with a thing; and if he thought the best way on going out of the agency was to go out of the world also, out he'd go. They were always a resolute family—Nutter's great uncle, you know, drowned himself in that little lake—what do you call it?—in the county of Cavan, and 'twas mighty coolly and resolutely done too.'

But there was a haunting undivulged suspicion in the minds of each. Every man knew what his neighbour was thinking of, though he did not care to ask about his ugly dreams, or to relate his own. They all knew what sort of terms Sturk and Nutter had been on. They tried to put the thought away, for though Nutter was not a joker, nor a songster, nor a story-teller, yet they liked him. Besides, Nutter might possibly turn up in a day or two, and in that case 'twould go best with those who had not risked an atrocious conjecture about him in public. So every man waited, and held his tongue upon that point till his neighbour should begin.



The next day the Sabbath bell from the ivied tower of Chapelizod Church called all good church-folk round to their pews and seats. Sturk's place was empty—already it knew him no more—and Mrs. Sturk was absent; but the little file of children, on whom the neighbours looked with an awful and a tender curiosity, was there. Lord Townshend, too, was in the viceregal seat, with gentlemen of his household behind, splendid in star and peruke, and eyed over their prayer-books by many inquisitive Christians. Nutter's little pew, under the gallery, was void like Sturk's. These sudden blanks were eloquent, and many, as from time to time the dismal gap opened silent before their eyes, felt their thoughts wander and lead them away in a strange and dismal dance, among the nodding hawthorns in the Butcher's Wood, amidst the damps of night, where Sturk lay in his leggings, and powder and blood, and the beetle droned by unheeding, and no one saw him save the guilty eyes that gleamed back as the shadowy shape stole swiftly away among the trees.

Dr. Walsingham's sermon had reference to the two-fold tragedy of the week, Nutter's supposed death by drowning, and the murder of Sturk. In his discourses he sometimes came out with a queer bit of erudition. Such as, while it edified one portion of his congregation, filled the other with unfeigned amazement.

'We may pray for rain,' said he on one occasion, when the collect had been read; 'and for other elemental influence with humble confidence. For if it be true, as the Roman annalists relate, that their augurs could, by certain rites and imprecations, produce thunder-storms—if it be certain that thunder and lightning were successfully invoked by King Porsenna, and as Lucius Piso, whom Pliny calls a very respectable author, avers that the same thing had frequently been done before his time by King Numa Pompilius, surely it is not presumption in a Christian congregation,' and so forth.

On this occasion he warned his parishioners against assuming that sudden death is a judgment. 'On the contrary, the ancients held it a blessing; and Pliny declares it to be the greatest happiness of life—how much more should we? Many of the Roman worthies, as you are aware, perished thus suddenly, Quintius AEmilius Lepidus, going out of his house, struck his great toe against the threshold and expired; Cneius Babius Pamphilus, a man of praetorian rank, died while asking a boy what o'clock it was; Aulus Manlius Torquatus, a gentleman of consular rank, died in the act of taking a cheese-cake at dinner; Lucius Tuscius Valla, the physician, deceased while taking a draught of mulsum; Appius Saufeius, while swallowing an egg: and Cornelius Gallus, the praetor, and Titus Haterius, a knight, each died while kissing the hand of his wife. And I might add many more names with which, no doubt, you are equally familiar.'

The gentlemen of the household opened their eyes; the officers of the Royal Irish Artillery, who understood their man, winked pleasantly behind their cocked hats at one another; and his excellency coughed, with his perfumed pocket-handkerchief to his nose, a good deal; and Master Dicky Sturk, a grave boy, who had a side view of his excellency, told his nurse that the lord lieutenant laughed in church! and was rebuked for that scandalum magnatum with proper horror.

Then the good doctor told them that the blood of the murdered man cried to heaven. That they might comfort themselves with the assurance that the man of blood would come to judgment. He reminded them of St. Augustan's awful words, 'God hath woollen feet, but iron hands;' and he told them an edifying story of Mempricius, the son of Madan, the fourth king of England, then called Britaine, after Brute, who murdered his brother Manlius, and mark ye this, after twenty years he was devoured by wild beasts; and another of one Bessus—'tis related by Plutarch—who having killed his father, was brought to punishment by means of swallows, which birds, his guilty conscience persuaded him, in their chattering language did say to one another, that Bessus had killed his father, whereupon he bewrayed his horrible crime, and was worthily put to death. 'The great Martin Luther,' he continued, 'reports such another story of a certain Almaigne, who, when thieves were in the act of murdering him, espying a flight of crows, cried aloud, "Oh crows, I take you for witnesses and revengers of my death." And so it fell out, some days afterwards, as these same thieves were drinking in an inn, a flight of crows came and lighted on the top of the house; whereupon the thieves, jesting, said to one another, "See, yonder are those who are to avenge the death of him we despatched t'other day," which the tapster overhearing, told forthwith to the magistrate, who arrested them presently, and thereupon they confessed, and were put to death.' And so he went on, sustaining his position with strange narratives culled here and there from the wilderness of his reading.

Among the congregation that heard this sermon, at the eccentricities of which I have hinted, but which had, beside, much that was striking, simply pathetic, and even awful in it, there glided—shall I say—a phantom, with the light of death, and the shadows of hell, and the taint of the grave upon him, and sat among these respectable persons of flesh and blood—impenetrable—secure—for he knew there were but two in the church for whom clever disguises were idle and transparent as the air. The blue-chinned sly clerk, who read the responses, and quavered the Psalms so demurely, and the white-headed, silver-spectacled, upright man, in my Lord Castlemallard's pew, who turned over the leaves of his prayer-book so diligently, saw him as he was, and knew him to be Charles Archer, and one of these at least, as this dreadful spirit walked, with his light burning in the noon-day, dogged by inexorable shadows through a desolate world, in search of peace, he knew to be the slave of his lamp.



After church, Dr. Toole walking up to the Mills, to pay an afternoon visit to poor little Mrs. Nutter, was overtaken by Mr. Lowe, the magistrate who brought his tall, iron-gray hunter to a walk as he reached him.

'Any tidings of Nutter?' asked he, after they had, in the old world phrase, given one another the time of day.

'Not a word,' said the doctor; 'I don't know what to make of it; but you know what's thought. The last place he was seen in was his own garden. The river was plaguy swollen Friday night, and just where he stood it's deep enough, I can tell you; often I bathed there when I was a boy. He was consumedly in the dumps, poor fellow; and between ourselves, he was a resolute dog, and atrabilious, and just the fellow to make the jump into kingdom-come if the maggot bit: and you know his hat was fished out of the river a long way down. They dragged next morning, but—pish!—'twas all nonsense and moonshine; why, there was water enough to carry him to Ringsend in an hour. He was a good deal out of sorts, as I said, latterly—a shabby design, Sir, to thrust him out of my Lord Castlemallard's agency; but that's past and gone; and, besides, I have reason to know there was some kind of an excitement—a quarrel it could not be—poor Sally Nutter's too mild and quiet for that; but a—a—something—a—an—agitation—or a bad news—or something—just before he went out; and so, poor Nutter, you see, it looks very like as if he had done something rash.'

Talking thus, they reached the Mills by the river side, not far from Knockmaroon.

On learning that Toole was about making a call there, Lowe gave his bridle to a little Chapelizod ragamuffin, and, dismounting, accompanied the doctor. Mrs. Nutter was in her bed.

'Make my service to your mistress,' said Toole, 'and say I'll look in on her in five minutes, if she'll admit me.' And Lowe and the doctor walked on to the garden, and so side by side down to the river's bank.

'Hey!—look at that,' said Toole, with a start, in a hard whisper; and he squeezed Lowe's arm very hard, and looked as if he saw a snake.

It was the impression in the mud of the same peculiar foot-print they had tracked so far in the park. There was a considerable pause, during which Lowe stooped down to examine the details of the footmark.

'Hang it—you know—poor Mrs. Nutter—eh?' said Toole, and hesitated.

'We must make a note of that—the thing's important,' said Mr. Lowe, sternly fixing his gray eye upon Toole.

'Certainly, Sir,' said the doctor, bridling; 'I should not like to be the man to hit him—you know; but it is remarkable—and, curse it, Sir, if called on, I'll speak the truth as straight as you, Sir—every bit, Sir.'

And he added an oath, and looked very red and heated.

The magistrate opened his pocket-book, took forth the pattern sole, carefully superimposed it, called Toole's attention, and said—

'You see.'

Toole nodded hurriedly; and just then the maid came out to ask him to see her mistress.

'I say, my good woman,' said Lowe; 'just look here. Whose foot-print is that—do you know it?'

'Oh, why, to be sure I do. Isn't it the master's brogues?' she replied, frightened, she knew not why, after the custom of her kind.

'You observe that?' and he pointed specially to the transverse line across the heel. 'Do you know that?'

The woman assented.

'Who made or mended these shoes?'

'Bill Heaney, the shoemaker, down in Martin's-row, there—'twas he made them, and mended them, too, Sir.'

So he came to a perfect identification, and then an authentication of his paper pattern; then she could say they were certainly the shoes he wore on Friday night—in fact, every other pair he had were then on the shoe-stand on the lobby. So Lowe entered the house, and got pen and ink, and continued to question the maid and make little notes; and the other maid knocked at the parlour door with a message to Toole.

Lowe urged his going; and somehow Toole thought the magistrate suspected him of making signs to his witness, and he departed ill at ease; and at the foot of the stairs he said to the woman—

'You had better go in there—that stupid Lynn is doing her best to hang your master, by Jove!'

And the woman cried—

'Oh, dear, bless us!'

Toole was stunned and agitated, and so with his hand on the clumsy banister he strode up the dark staircase, and round the little corner in the lobby, to Mrs. Nutter's door.

'Oh, Madam, 'twill all come right, be sure,' said Toole, uncomfortably, responding to a vehement and rambling appeal of poor Mrs. Nutter's.

'And do you really think it will? Oh, doctor, doctor, do you think it will? The last two or three nights and days—how many is it?—oh, my poor head—it seems like a month since he went away.'

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