Infomotions, Inc.The Dead Boxer The Works of William Carleton, Volume Two / Carleton, William, 1794-1869



Author: Carleton, William, 1794-1869
Title: The Dead Boxer The Works of William Carleton, Volume Two
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): lamh laudher; lamh; laudher; meehaul; nell; nell m'collum; dead boxer; boxer; meehaul neil; ellen; neil; laudher oge; lamh laudher's; nanse m'collum; young lamh; ellen neil
Contributor(s): Flanery, M. L. [Illustrator]
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 31,168 words (really short) Grade range: 9-11 (high school) Readability score: 64 (easy)
Identifier: etext16007
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Title: The Dead Boxer
       The Works of William Carleton, Volume Two

Author: William Carleton

Illustrator: M. L. Flanery

Release Date: June 7, 2005 [EBook #16007]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE DEAD BOXER ***




Produced by David Widger





THE DEAD BOXER.


By William Carleton




CHAPTER I.

One evening in the beginning of the eighteenth century--as nearly as we
can conjecture, the year might be that of 1720--some time about the end
of April, a young man named _Lamh Laudher_ O'Rorke, or Strong-handed
O'Eorke, was proceeding from his father's house, with a stout oaken
cudgel in his hand, towards an orchard that stood at the skirt of a
country town, in a part of the kingdom which, for the present, shall be
nameless. Though known by the epithet of _Lamh Laudher_, his Christian
name was John; but in those time(s) Irish families of the same name
were distinguished from each other by some indicative of their natural
position, physical power, complexion, or figure. One, for instance,
was called _Parra Ghastha_, or swift Paddy, from his fleetness of foot;
another, _Shaun Buie_, or yellow Jack, from his bilious look; a third,
_Micaul More_, or big Michael, from his uncommon size; and a fourth,
_Sheemus Ruah_, or red James, from the color of his hair. These
epithets, to be sure, still occur in Ireland, but far less frequently
now than in the times of which we write, when Irish was almost the
vernacular language of the country. It was for a reason similar to those
just alleged, that John O'Rorke was known as _Lamh Laudher_ O'Rorke;
he, as well as his forefathers for two or three generations, having been
remarkable for prodigious bodily strength and courage. The evening was
far advanced as O'Rorke bent his steps to the orchard. The pale, but
cloudless sun hung over the western hills, and sun upon the quiet gray
fields that kind of tranquil radiance which, in the opening of summer,
causes many a silent impulse of delight to steal into the heart. Lamh
Laudher felt this; his step was slow, like that of a man who, without
being capable of tracing those sources of enjoyment which the spirit
absorbs from the beauties of external nature, has yet enough of
uneducated taste and feeling within him, to partake of the varied feast
which she presents.

As he sauntered thus leisurely along he was met by a woman rather
advanced in years, but still unusually stout and muscular, considering
her age. She was habited in a red woollen petticoat that reached but
a short distance below the knee, leaving visible two stout legs, from
which dangled a pair of red garters that bound up her coarse blue hose.
Her gown of blue worsted was pinned up, for it did not meet around her
person, though it sat closely about her neck. Her grizzly red hair,
turned up in front, was bound by a dowd cap without any border, a
circumstance which, in addition to a red kerchief, tied over it, and
streaming about nine inches down the back, gave to her _tout ensemble_
a wild and striking expression. A short oaken staff, hooked under the
hand, completed the description of her costume. Even on a first glance
there appeared to be something repulsive in her features, which had
evidently been much exposed to sun and storm. By a closer inspection one
might detect upon their hard angular outline, a character of cruelty and
intrepidity. Though her large cheek-bones stood widely asunder, yet her
gray piercing eyes were very near each other; her nose was short and
sadly disfigured by a scar that ran tranversely across it, and her chin,
though pointed, was also deficient in length. Altogether, her whole
person had something peculiar and marked about it--so much so, indeed,
that it was impossible to meet her without feeling she was a female of
no ordinary character and habits.

Lamh Laudher had been, as we have said, advancing slowly along the
craggy road which led towards the town, when she issued from an
adjoining cabin and approached him. The moment he noticed her he stood
still, as if to let her pass and uttered one single exclamation of
chagrin and anger.

"_Ma shaughth milia mollach ort, a calliagh!_ My seven thousand curses
on you for an old hag," said he, and haying thus given vent to his
indignation at her appearance, he began to retrace his steps as if
unwilling to meet her.

"The son of your father needn't lay the curse upon us so bitterly all
out, Lamh Laudher!" she exclaimed, pacing at the same time with vigorous
steps until she overtook him.

The young man looked at her maimed features, and as if struck by some
sudden recollection, appeared to feel regret for the hasty malediction
he had uttered against her. "Nell M'Collum," said he, "the word was
rash; and the curse did not come from my heart. But, Nell, who is there
that doesn't curse you when they meet you? Isn't it well known that to
meet you is another name for falling in wid bad luck? For my part I'd go
fifty miles about rather than cross you, if I was bent on any business
that my heart 'ud be in, or that I cared any thing about."

"And who brought the bad luck upon me first?" asked the woman. "Wasn't
it the husband of the mother that bore you? Wasn't it his hand that
disfigured me as you see, when I was widin a week of bein' dacently
married? Your father, Lamh Laudher was the man that blasted my name, and
made it bitther upon tongue of them that mintions it."

"And that was because he wouldn't see one wid the blood of Lamh Laudher
in his veins married to a woman that he had reason to think--I don't
like to my it, Nelly--but you know it is said that there was darkness,
and guilt, too, about the disappearin' of your child. You never cleared
that up, but swore revenge night and day against my father, for only
preventin' you from bein' the ruination of his cousin. Many a time, too,
since that, has asked you in my own hearing what became of the boy."

The old woman stopped like one who had unexpectedly trod with bare foot
upon something sharp enough to pierce the flesh to the bone, and even
to grate against it. There was a strong, nay, a fearful force of anguish
visible in what she felt. Her brows were wildly depressed from their
natural position, her face became pale, her eyes glared upon O'Rorke as
if he had planted a poisoned arrow in her breast, she seized him by the
arm with a hard pinching grip, and looked for two or three minutes in
his face, with an appearance of distraction. O'Rorke, who never feared
man, shrunk from her touch, and shuddered under the influence of what
had been, scarcely without an exception, called the "bad look." The
crone held him tight, however, and there they stood, with their eyes
fixed upon each other. From the gaze of intense anguish, the countenance
of Nell M'Collum began to change gradually to one of unmingled
exultation; her brows were raised to their proper curves, her color
returned, the eye corruscated with a rapid and quivering sense of
delight, the muscles of the mouth played for a little, as if she strove
to suppress a laugh. At length O'Rorke heard a low gurgling sound
proceed from her chest; it increased; she pressed his arm more tightly,
and in a loud burst of ferocious mirth, which she immediately subdued
into a condensed shriek that breathed the very luxury of revenge, she
said--

"_Lamh Laudher Oge_, listen--ax the father of you, when you see him,
what has become _of his own child_--of the first that ever God sent him;
an' listen again--when he tells me what has become of mine, I'll tell
him what has become of his, Now go to Ellen--but before you go, let
me _cuggher_ in your ear that I'll blast you both. I'll make the _Lamh
Laudhers, Lamh Lhugs_. I'll make the strong arm the weak arm afore I've
done wid 'em."

She struck the point of her stick against the pavement, until the iron
ferrule with which it was bound dashed the fire from the stones, after
which she passed on, muttering threats and imprecations as she left him.

O'Rorke stood and looked after her with sensations of fear and
astonishment. The age was superstitious, and encouraged a belief in the
influence of powers distinct from human agency. Every part of Ireland
was filled at this time with characters, both male and female, precisely
similar to old Nell M'Collum.. The darkness in which this woman walked,
according to the opinions of a people but slightly advanced in knowledge
and civilization, has been but feebly described to the reader. To meet
her, was considered an omen of the most unhappy kind; a circumstance
which occasioned the imprecation of Lamh Laudher. She was reported
to have maintained an intercourse with the fairies, to be capable
of communicating the blight of an evil eye, and to have carried on a
traffic which is said to have been rather prevalent in Ireland at the
time we speak of--namely, that of kidnapping. The speculations with
reference to her object in perpetrating the crimes were strongly
calculated to exhibit the degraded state of the people at that period.
Some said that she disposed of the children to a certain class of
persons in the metropolis, who subsequently sent them to the colonies,
when grown, at an enormous profit. Others maintained that she never
carried them to Dublin at all, but insisted that, having been herself
connected with the fairies, she possessed the power of erasing, by
some secret charm, the influence of baptismal protection, and that she
consequently acted as agent for the "gentry" to whom she transferred
them. Even to this day it is the opinion in Ireland, that the "good
people" themselves cannot take away a child, except through the
instrumentality of some mortal residing with them, who has been
baptized; and it is also believed that no baptism can secure children
from them, except that in which the priest has been desired to baptize
them with an especial view to their protection against fairy power.

Such was the character which this woman bore; whether unjustly or not,
matters little. For the present it is sufficient to say, that after
having passed on, leaving Lamh Laudher to proceed in the direction he
had originally intended, she bent her steps towards the head inn of the
town. Her presence here produced some cautious and timid mirth of which
they took care she should not be cognizant. The servants greeted her
with an outward show of cordiality, which the unhappy creature easily
distinguished from the warm kindness evinced to vagrants whose history
had not been connected with evil suspicion and mystery. She accordingly
tempered her manner and deportment towards them with consummate skill.
Her replies to their inquiries for news were given with an appearance
of good humor; but beneath the familiarity of her dialogue there lay an
ambiguous meaning and a cutting sarcasm, both of which were tinged with
a prophetic spirit, capable, from its equivocal drift, of being applied
to each individual whom she addressed. Owing to her unsettled life, and
her habit of passing from place to place, she was well acquainted with
local history. There lived scarcely a family within a very wide circle
about her, of whom she did not know every thing that could possibly be
known; a fact of which she judiciously availed herself by allusions
in general conversations that were understood only by those whom they
concerned. These mysterious hints, oracularly thrown out, gained her the
reputation of knowing more than mere human agency could acquire, and of
course she was openly conciliated and secretly hated.

Her conversation with the menials of the inn was very short and
decisive.

"Sheemus," said she to the person who acted in the capacity of waiter,
"where's Meehaul Neil?"

"Troth, Nell, dacent woman," replied the other, "myself can't exactly
say that. I'll be bound he's on the _Esker_, looking afther the sheep,
poor crathurs, durin' Andy Connor's illness in the small-pock. Poor
Andy's very ill, Nell, an' if God hasn't sed it, not expected; glory be
to his name!"

"Is Andy ill?" inquired Nell; "and how long?"

"Bedad, going on ten days."

"Well," said the woman, "I knew nothin' about that; but I want to see
Meehaul Neil, and I know he's in the house."

"Faix he's not, Nelly, an' you know I wouldn't tell you a lie about it."

"Did you get the linen that was stolen from your masther?" inquired Nell
significantly, turning at the same time a piercing glance on the waiter;
"an' tell me," she added, "how is Sally Lavery, and where is she?"

"It wasn't got," he replied, in a kind of stammer; "an' as to Sally, the
nerra one o' me knows any thing about her, since she left this."

"Sheemus," replied Nell, "you know that Meehaul Neil is in the house;
but I'll give you two choices, either to bring me to the speech of him,
or else I'll give your masther the name of the thief that stole his
linen; ay! the name of the thief that resaved it. I name nobody at
present; an' for that matther, I know nothin'. Can't all the world tell
you that Nell M'Cullum knows nothin'!"

"_Ghe dhevin_, Nelly," said the waiter, "maybe Meehaul is in the house
unknownst to me. I'll try, any how, an' if he's to the fore, it won't be
my fault or he'll see you."

Nell, while the waiter went to inform Meehaul, took two ribbons out of
her pocket, one white and the other black, both of which she folded into
what would appear to a bystander to be a simple kind of knot. When the
innkeeper's son and the waiter returned to the hall, the former asked
her what the nature of her business with him might be. To this she made
no reply, except by uttering the word husht! and pulling the ends, first
of the white ribbon, and afterwards of the black. The knot of the first
slipped easily from the complication, but that of the black one, after
gliding along from its respective ends, became hard and tight in the
middle.

"_Tha sha marrho!_ life passes and death stays," she exclaimed. "Andy
Connor's dead, Meehaul Neil; an' you may tell your father that he must
get some one else to look afther his sheep. Ay! he's dead!--But that's
past. Meehaul, folly me; it's you I want, an' there's no time to be
lost."

She passed out as she spoke, leaving the waiter in a state of wonder
at the extent of her knowledge, and of the awful means by which, in his
opinion, she must have acquired it.

Meehaul, without uttering a syllable, immediately walked after her. The
pace at which she went was rapid and energetic, betokening a degree of
agitation and interest on her part, for which he could not account.
As she had no object in bringing him far from the house, she availed
herself of the first retired spot that presented itself, in order to
disclose the purport of her visit. "Meehaul Neil," said she, "we're now
upon the Common, where no ear can hear what passes between us. I ax have
you spirit to keep your sister Ellen from shame and sorrow?" The young
man started, and became strongly excited at such a serious prelude to
what she was about to utter.

"_Millia diououl!_ woman, why do you talk about shame or disgrace comin'
upon any sister of mine?" What villain dare injure her that regards his
life? My sisther! Ellen Neil! No, no! the man that 'ud only think of
that, I'd give this right hand a dip to the wrist in the best blood of
his heart."

"Ay, ay! it's fine spakin': but you don't know the hand you talk of.
It's one that you had better avoid than meet. It's the strong hand, an'
the dangerous one when vexed. You know Lamh Laudher Oge?"

Meelmul started again, and the crone could perceive by his manner that
the nature of the communication she was about to make had been already
known to him, though not, she was confident, in so dark and diabolical a
shape as that in which she determined to put it.

"Lamh Laudher Oge!" he exclaimed; "surely you don't mane to say that he
has any bad design upon Ellen! It's not long since I gave him a caution
to drop her, an' to look out for a girl fittin' for his station. Ellen
herself knows what he'll get, if we ever catch him spakin' to her again.
The day will never come that his faction and ours can be friends."

"You did do that, Meehaul," replied Nell, "an' I know it; but what 'ud
you think if he was so cut to the heart by your turnin' round upon
his poverty, that he swore an oath to them that I could name, bindin'
himself to bring your sister to a state of shame, in order to punish you
for your words? That 'ud be great glory over a faction that they hate."

"Tut, woman, he daren't swear such an oath; or, if he swore it fifty
times over on his bare knees, he'd ate the stones off o' the pavement
afore he'd dare to act upon it. In the first place, I'd prepare him
for his coffin, if he did; an' in the next, do you think so inanely
of Ellen, as to believe that she would bring disgrace an' sorrow upon
herself and her family? No, no, Nell; the old _dioul's_ in you, or
you're beside yourself, to think of such a story. I've warned her
against him, and so did we all; an' I'm sartin' this minute, that
she'd not go a single foot to change words with him, unknownst to her
friends."

The old woman's face changed from the expression of anxiety and
importance that it bore, to one of coarse glee, under which, to those
who had penetration sufficient to detect it, lurked a spirit of hardened
and reckless ferocity.

"Well, well," she replied, "sure I'm proud to hear what you tell me.
How is poor Nanse M'Collum doin' wid yez? for I hadn't time to see her
a while agone. I hope she'll never be ashamed or afraid of her aunt,
any how. I may say, I'm all that's left to the good of her name, poor
girshah."

"What 'ud ail her?" replied Meehaul; "as long a' she's honest an'
behaves herself, there's no fear of her. Had you nothing elsa to say to
me, Nell?"

The same tumultuous expression of glee and malignity again lit up the
features of the old woman, as she looked at him, and replied, with
something like contemptuous hesitation, "Why, I don't know that. If
you had more sharpness or sinse I might say--Meehaul Neil," she added,
elevating her voice, "what do you think I could say, this sacred moment!
Your sister! Why she's a good girl!--true enough that: but how long she
may be so's another affair. Afeard! Be the ground we stand on, man dear,
if you an' all belongin' to you, had eyes in your heads for every day in
the year, you couldn't keep her from young Lamh Laudher. Did you hear
anything?"

"I'd not believe a word of it," said Meehaul calmly, and he turned to
depart.

"I tell you it's as true as the sun to the dial," replied Nell; "and I
tell you more, he's wid her this minnit behind your father's orchard!
Ay! an' if you wish you may see them together wid your own eyes, an'
sure if you don't b'lieve me, you'll b'lieve them. But, Meehaul,
take care of him; for he has his fire-arms; if you meet him don't go
empty-handed, and I'd advise you to have the first shot."

"Behind the orchard," said Meehaul, astonished; "where there?"

"Ay, behind the orchard, where they often war afore. Where there? Why,
if you want to know that, sittin' on one of the ledges in the Grassy
Quarry. That's their sate whenever they meet; an' a snug one it is for
them that don't like their neighbors' eyes to be upon them. Go now an'
satisfy yourself, but watch them at a distance, an', as you expect to
save your sister, don't breathe the name of Nell M'Collum to a livin'
mortal."

Meehaul Neil's cheek flushed with deep resentment on hearing this
disagreeable intelligence. For upwards of a century before there had
subsisted a deadly feud between the Neils and Lamh Laudhers, without
either party being able exactly to discover the original fact from
which their enmity proceeded. This, however, in Ireland, makes little
difference. It is quite sufficient to know that they meet and fight upon
every possible opportunity, as hostile factions ought to do, without
troubling themselves about the idle nonsense of inquiring why they
hate and maltreat each other. For this reason alone, Meehaul Neil was
bitterly opposed to the most distant notion of a marriage between his
sister and young Lamh Laudher. There were other motives also which
weighed, with nearly equal force, in the consideration of this subject.
His sister Ellen was by far the most beautiful girl of her station in
the whole country,--and many offers, highly advantageous, and far above
what she otherwise could have expected, had been made to her. On the
other hand, Lamh Laudher Oge was poor, and by no means qualified in
point of worldly circumstances to propose for her, even were hereditary
enmity out of the question. All things considered, the brother and
friends of Ellen would rather have seen her laid in her grave, than
allied to a comparatively poor young man, and their bitterest enemy.

Meehaul had but little doubt as to the truth of what Nell M'Collum told
him. There was a saucy and malignant confidence in her manner, which,
although it impressed him with a sense of her earnestness, left,
nevertheless, an indefinite feeling of dislike against her on his mind.
He knew that her motive for disclosure was not one of kindness or regard
for him or for his family. Nell M'Collum had often declared that "the
wide earth did not carry a bein' she liked or loved, but one--not even
excepting herself, that she hated most of all." This however was not
necessary to prove that she acted rather from the gratification of some
secret malice, than from the principle of benevolence. The venomous
leer of her eye, therefore, and an accurate knowledge of her character,
induced him to connect some apprehension of approaching evil with the
unpleasant information she had just given him.

"Well," said Meehaul, "if what you say is true, I'll make it a black
business to Lamh Laudher. I'll go directly and keep my eye on them; an'
I'll have my fire-arms, Nell; an' by the life that's in me, he'll taste
them if he provokes me; an Ellen knows that." Having thus spoken he left
her.

The old woman stood and looked after him with a fiendish complacency.

"A black business, will you?" she exclaimed, repeating his words in
a soliloquy;--"do so--an' may all that's black assist you in it! Dher
Chiernah, I'll do it or lose a fall--I'll make the Lamh Laudhers the
Lamh Lhugs afore I've done wid 'em. I've put a thorn in their side this
many a year, that'll never come out; I'll now put one in their marrow,
an' let them see how they'll bear that. I've left _one_ empty chair at
their hearth, an' it 'll go hard wid me but I'll lave another."

Having thus expressed her hatred against a family to whom she attributed
the calamities that had separated her from society, and marked her as
a being to be avoided and detested, she also departed from the Common,
striking her stick with peculiar bitterness into the ground as she went
along.




CHAPTER II.

In the mean time young Lamh Laudher felt little suspicion that the
stolen interview between him and Ellen Neil was known. The incident,
however, which occurred to him on his way to keep the assignation,
produced in his mind a vague apprehension which he could not shake off.
To meet a red-haired woman, when going on any business of importance,
was considered at all times a bad omen, as it is in the country parts
of Ireland unto this day; but to meet a female familiar with forbidden
powers, as Nell M'Collum was supposed to be, never failed to produce
fear and misgiving in those who met her. Mere physical courage was no
bar against the influence of such superstitions; many a man was a
slave to them who never knew fear of a human or tangible enemy. They
constituted an important part of the popular belief! for the history of
ghosts and fairies, and omens, was, in general, the only kind of lore
in which the people were educated; thanks to the sapient traditions of
their forefathers.

When Nell passed away from Lamh Laudher, who would fain have flattered
himself that by turning back on the way, until she passed him, he had
avoided meeting her, he once more sought the place of appointment, at
the same slow pace as before. On arriving behind the orchard, he found,
as the progress of the evening told him, that he had anticipated the
hour at which it had been agreed to meet. He accordingly descended the
Grassy Quarry, and sat on a mossy ledge of rock, over which the brow of
a little precipice jutted in such a manner as to render those who sat
beneath, visible only from a particular point. Here he had scarcely
seated himself when the tread of a foot was heard, and in a few minutes
Nanse M'Collum stood beside him.

"Why, thin, bad cess to you, Lamh Laudher," she exclaimed, "but it's a
purty chase I had afther you."

"Afther me, Nanse? and what's the commission, _cush gastha_
(lightfoot)?"

"The sorra any thing, at all, at all, only to see if you war here. Miss
Ellen sent me to tell you that she's afeard she can't come this evenin',
unknownst to them."

"An' am I not to wait, Nanse?"

"Why, she says she--_will_ come, for all that, if she can; but she
bid me take your stick from you, for a rason she has, that she'll tell
yourself when she sees you."

"Take my stick! Why Nanse, _ma colleen baun_, what can she want with my
stick? Is the darlin' girl goin' to bate any body?"

"Bad cess to the know _I_ know, Lamh Laudher, barrin' it be to lay on
yourself for stalin' her heart from her. Why thin, the month's mether o'
honey to you, soon an' sudden, how did you come round her at all?"

"No matter about that, Nanse; but the family's bitther against me?--eh?"

"Oh, thin, in trogs, it's ill their common to hate you as they do; but
thin, you see, this faction-work will keep yees asundher for ever. Now
gi' me your stick, an' wait, any way, till you see whether she comes or
not."

"Is it by Ellen's ordhers you take it, Nanse?"

"To be sure--who else's? but the divil a one o' me knows what she means
by it, any how--only that I daren't go back widout it."

"Take it, Nanse; she knows I wouldn't refuse her my heart's blood, let
alone a bit of a kippeen."

"A bit of a kippeen! Faix, this is a quare kippeen! Why, it would fell a
bullock."

"When you see her, Nanse, tell her to make haste, an' for God's sake not
to disappoint me. I can't rest well the day I don't meet her."

"Maybe other people's as bad, for that matter; so good night, an' the
mether o' honey to you, soon an' sudden! Faix, if any body stand in my
way now, they'll feel the weight of this, any how."

After uttering the last words, she brandished the cudgel and
disappeared.

Lamh Laudher felt considerably puzzled to know what object Ellen could
have had in sending the servant maid for his staff. Of one thing,
however, he was certain, that her motive must have had regard to his
own safety; but how, or in what manner, he could not conjecture. It is
certainly true some misgivings shot lightly across his imagination,
on reflecting that he had parted with the very weapon which he usually
brought with him to repel the violence of Ellen's friends, should he be
detected in an interview with her. He remembered, too, that he had
met unlucky Nell M'Collum, and that the person who deprived him of his
principal means of defence was her niece. He had little time, however,
to think upon the subject, for in a few minutes after Nanse's departure,
he recognized the light quick step of her whom he expected.

The figure of Ellen Neil was tall, and her motions full of untaught
elegance and natural grace. Her countenance was a fine oval; her
features, though not strictly symmetrical, were replete with animation,
and her eyes sparkled with a brilliancy indicative of a warm heart and a
quick apprehension. Flaxen hair, long and luxuriant, decided, even at a
distant glance, the loveliness of her skin, than which the unsunned snow
could not be whiter. If you add to this a delightful temper, buoyant
spirits, and extreme candor, her character, in its strongest points, is
before you.

On reaching the bottom of the Grassy Quarry, as it was called, she
peered under the little beetling cliff that overhung the well-known
ledge on which Lamh Laudher sat.

"I declare, John," said she, on seeing him, "I thought at first you
weren't here."

"Did you ever know me to be late!--" said John, taking her by the hand,
and placing her beside him; "and what would you a' done, Ellen, if I
hadn't been here?"

"Why, run home as if the life was lavin' me, for fear of seein'
something."

"You needn't be afeard, Ellen, dear; nothing could harm you, at all
events. However, puttin' that aside, have you any betther tidin's than
you had when we met last?"

"I wish to heaven I had, John! but indeed I have far worse; ay, a
thousand times worse. They have all joined against me, an' I'm not to
see or speak to you at all."

"That's hard," replied Lamh Laudher, drawing his breath tightly; "but
I know where it comes from. I think your father might be softened a
little, ay, a great deal, if it wasn't for your brother Meehaul."

"Indeed, Lamh Laudher, you're wrong in that; my father's as bitther
against you as he is. It was only on Tuesday evenin' last that they told
me, one an' all they would rather see me a corpse than your wife. Indeed
an' deed, John, I doubt it never can be."

"There," replied John, "I see plain enough that they'll gain you over
at last. That will be the end of it: but if you choose to break the vows
and promises that passed between us, you may do so."

"Oh! Lamh Laudher," said Ellen, affected at the imputation contained in
his last observation; "don't you treat me with such suspicion. I suffer
enough for your sake, as it is. For nearly two years, a day has hardly
passed that my family hasn't wrung the burnin' tears from my eyes on
your account. Haven't I refused matches that any young woman in my
station of life ought to be I proud to accept?"

"You did, Ellen, you did; but still I know how hard it is for you to
hould out against the persecution you suffer at home. No, no, Ellen
dear, I never doubted you for one minute. All I wondher at is, that such
a girl as you ever could think of one so humble as I am, compared to
what you'd have a right to expect an' could get."

"Well, but if I'm willin' to prefer you, John?" said Ellen, with a
smile.

"One thing I know, Ellen," he replied, "an' that is, that I'm far from
bein' worthy of you; an' I ought, if I had a high enough spirit, to try
to turn you against me, if it was only that you might marry a man that
'ud have it in his power to make you happier than ever I'll be able to
do; any way, than ever it's likely I'll be able to do."

"I don't think, John, that ever money or the wealth of the world made a
man an' wife love one another yet, if they didn't do it before; but it
has often put their hearts against one another."

"I agree wid you in that, Ellen; but you don't know how my heart sinks
when I think of your an' my own poverty. My poor father, since the
strange disappearance of little Alice, never was able to raise his head;
and indeed my mother was worse. If the child had died, an' that we knew
she slept with ourselves, it would be a comfort. But not to know what
became of her--whether she was drowned or kidnapped--that was what
crushed their hearts. I must say that since I grew up, we're improvin';
an' I hope, God willin', now that my father laves the management of the
farm to myself, we'll still improve more an' more. I hope it for their
sakes, but--more, if possible, for yours. I don't know what I wouldn't
do to make you happy, Ellen. If my life could do it, I think I could lay
it down to show the love I bear you. I could take to the highway and rob
for your sake, if I thought it would bring me means to make you happy."

Ellen was touched by his sincerity, as well as by the tone of manly
sorrow with which he spoke. His last words, however, startled her, when
she considered the vehement manner in which he uttered them.

"John," said she, alarmed, "never, while you have life, let me hear a
word of that kind out of your lips. No--never, for the sake of heaven
above us, breathe it, or think of it. But, I'll tell you something, an'
you must hear it, an' bear it too, with patience."

"What is it, Ellen! If it's fair an' manly, I'll be guided by your
advice."

"Meehaul has threatened to--to--I mane to say, that you musn't have any
quarrel with him, if he meets you or provokes you. Will you promise
this?"

"Meenaul has threatened to strike me, has he? An' I, a Lamh Laudher, am
to take a blow from a Neil, an' to thank him, I suppose, for givin' it."

Ellen rose up and stood before him.

"Lamh Laudher," said she, "I must now try your love for me in earnest.
A lie I cannot tell no more than I can cover the truth. My brother has
threatened to strike you, an' as I said afore, you must bear it for his
sister's sake."

"No, _dher Chiernah_, never. That, Ellen, is goin' beyant what I'm able
to bear. Ask me to cut off my right hand for your sake, an' I'll do it;
ask my life, an' I'll give it: but to ask a Lamh Laudher to bear a
blow from a Neil--never. What! how could I rise my face afther such a
disgrace? How could I keep the country wid a Neil's blow, like the stamp
of a thief upon my forehead, an' me the first of my own faction, as your
brother is of his. No--never!"

"An' you say you love me, John?"

"Betther than ever man loved woman."

"No, man--you don't," she replied; "if you did, you'd give up something
for me. You'd bear that for my sake, an' not think it much. I'm
beginin' to believe, Lamh Laudher, that if I was a poor portionless
girl, it wouldn't be hard to put me out of your thoughts. If it was only
for my own sake you loved me, you'd not refuse me the first request I
ever made to you; when you know, too, that if I didn't think more of you
than I ought, I'd never make it."

"Ellen, would you disgrace me? Would you wish me to bear the name of a
coward? Would you want my father to turn me out of the house? Would you
want my own faction to put their feet upon me, an' drive me from among
them?"

"John," she replied, bursting into tears, "I do know that it's a sore
obligation to lay upon you, when everything's taken into account; but
if you wouldn't do this for me, who would you do it for? Before heaven,
John, I dread a meetin' between you an' my brother, afther what he tould
me; an' the only way of preventin' danger is for you not to strike him.
Oh, little you know what I have suffered these two days for both your
sakes! Lamh Laudher Oge, I doubt it would be well for me if I had never
seen your face."

"Anything undher heaven but what you want me to do, Ellen."

"Oh! don't refuse me this, John. I ask it, as I said, for both your
sake, an' for my own sake. Meehaul wouldn't strike an unresistin' man.
I won't lave you till you promise; an' if that won't do, I'll go down on
my. knees an' ask you for the sake of heaven above, to be guided by me
in this."

"Ellen, I'll lave the country to avoid him, if that'll plase you."

"No--no--no, John: that doesn't plase me. Is it to lave your father
an' family, an' you the staff of their support? Oh, John, give me your
promise. Here on my two knees I ask it from you, for my own, for your
own, and for the sake of God above us! I know Meehaul. If he got a blow
from you on my account, he'd never forgive it to either you or me."

She joined her hands in supplication to him as she knelt, and the tears
chased each other like rain down her cheeks. The solemnity with which
she insisted on gaining her point staggered Lamh Laudher not a little.

"There must be something undher this," he replied, "that makes you set
your heart on it so much. Ellen, tell me the truth; what is it?"

"If I loved you less, John, an' my brother too, I wouldn't care so much
about it. Remember that I'm a woman, an' on my knees before you. A
blow from you would make him take your life or mine, sooner than that I
should become your wife. You ought to know his temper."

"You know, Ellen, I can't at heart refuse you any thing. I will not
strike your brother."

"You promise, before God, that no provocation will make you strike him."

"That's hard, Ellen; but--well, I do; before God, I won't--an' it's for
your sake I say it. Now, get up, dear, get up. You have got me to do
what no mortal livin' could bring me to but yourself. I suppose that's
what made you send Nanse M'Collum for my staff?"

"Nancy M'Collum! When?"

"Why, a while ago. She tould me a quare enough story, or rather no story
at all, only that you couldn't come, an' you could come, an' I was to
give up my staff to her by your ordhers."

"She tould you false, John. I know nothing about what you say."

"Well, Ellen," replied Lamh Laudher, with a firm seriousness of manner,
"you have brought me into danger. I doubt, without knowin' it. For my
own part, I don't care so much. Her unlucky aunt met me comin' here this
evenin', and threatened both our family and yours. I know she would sink
us into the earth if she could. Either she or your brother is at the
bottom of this business, whatever it is. Your brother I don't fear; but
she is to be dreaded, if, all's true that's said about her."

"No, John--she surely couldn't have the heart to harm, you an' me. Oh,
but I'm light now, since you did what I wanted you. No harm can come
between you and Meehaul; for I often heard him say, when speakin'
about his faction fights, that no one but a coward would, strike an
unresistin' man. Now come and see me pass the Pedlar's Cairn, an'
remember that you'll thank me for what I made you do this night. Come
quickly--I'll be missed."

They then passed on by a circuitous and retired path that led round the
orchard, until he had conducted her in safety beyond the Pedlar's Cairn,
which was so called from a heap of stones that had been loosely piled
together, to mark the spot as the scene of a murder, whose history, thus
perpetuated by the custom of every passenger casting a stone upon the
place, constituted one of the local traditions of the neighborhood.

After a tender good-night, given in a truly poetical manner under the
breaking light of a May moon, he found it necessary to retrace his steps
by a path which wound round the orchard, and terminated in the public
entrance to the town. Along this suburban street he had advanced but a
short way, when he found himself overtaken and arrested by his bitter
and determined foe, Meehaul Neil. The connection betwixt the promise
that Ellen had extorted from him and this rencounter with her brother
flashed upon him forcibly: he resolved, however, to be guided by her
wishes, and with this purpose on his part, the following dialogue took
place between the heads of the rival factions. When we say, however,
that Lamh Laudher was the head of his party, we beg to be understood as
alluding only to his personal courage and prowess; for there were in it
men of far greater wealth and of higher respectability, so far as mere
wealth could confer the latter.

"Lamh Laudher," said Meehaul, "whenever a Neil spakes to you, you may
know it's hot in friendship."

"I know that, Meehaul Neil, without hearin' it from you. Spake, what
have you to say?"

"There was a time," observed the other, "when you and I were enemies
only because our cleaveens were enemies but now there is, an' you know
it, a blacker hatred between us."

"I would rather there was not, Meehaul; for my own part, I have no
ill-will against either you or yours, all you know that; so when you
talk of hatred, spake only for yourself."

"Don't be mane, man," said Neil; "don't make them that hates you despise
you into the bargain."

Lamh Laudher turned towards him fiercely, and his eye gleamed with
passion; but he immediately recollected himself, and simply said--

"What is your business with me this night, Meehaul Neil?"

"You'll know that soon enough--sooner, maybe, than you wish. I now ask
you to tell me, if you are an honest man, where you have been?"

"I am as honest, Meehaul, as any man that ever carried the name of Neil
upon him, an' yet I won't tell you that, till you show me what right you
have to ask me."

"I b'lieve you forget that I'm Ellen Neil's brother: now, Lamh Laudher,
as her brother, I choose to insist on your answering me."

"Is it by her wish?"

"Suppose I say it is."

"Ay! but I won't suppose that, till you lay your right hand on your
heart, and declare as an honest man, that--tut, man--this is nonsense.
Meehaul, go home--I would rather there was friendship between us."

"You were with Ellen, this night in the! Grassy Quarry."

"Are you sure of that?"

"I saw you both--I watched you both; you left her beyond the Pedlar's
Cairn, an' you're now on your way home."

"An' the more mane you, Meehaul, to become a spy upon a girl that
you know is as pure as the light from heaven. You ought to blush for
doubtin' sich a sister, or thinkin' it your duty to watch her as you
do."

"Lamh Laudher, you say that you'd rather there was no ill-will between
us."

"I say that, God knows, from my heart out."

"Then there's one way that it may be so. Give up Ellen; you'll find it
for your own interest to do so."

"Show me that, Meehaul."

"Give her up, I say, an' then I may tell you."

"Meehaul, good-night. Go home."

They had now entered the principal street of the town, and as they
proceeded in what appeared to be an earnest, perhaps a friendly
conversation, many of their respective acquaintances, who lounged in the
moonlight about their doors, were not a little surprised at seeing them
in close conference. When Lamh Laudher wished him good night, he
had reached an off street which led towards his father's house, a
circumstance at which he rejoiced, as it would have been the means, he
hoped, of terminating a dialogue that was irksome to both parties. He
found himself, however, rather unexpectedly and rudely arrested by his
companion.

"We can't part, Lamh Laudher," said Meehaul seizing him by the collar,
"'till this business is settled--I mane till you promise to give my
sister up."

"Then we must stand here, Meehaul, as long as we live--an' I surely
won't do that."

"You must give her up, man."

"Must! Is it must from a Neil to a Lamh Laudher? You forgot yourself,
Meehaul: you are rich now, an' I'm poor now; but any old friend can tell
you the differ between your grandfather an' mine. Must, indeed!"

"Ay; must is the word, I say; an' I tell you that from this spot you
won't go till you swear it, or this stick--an' it's a good one--will
bring you to submission."

"I have no stick, an' I suppose I may thank you for that."

"What do you mane?" said Neil; "but no matter--I don't want it.
There--to the divil with it;" and as he spoke he threw it over the roof
of the adjoining house.

"Now give up my sister or take the consequence."

"Meehaul, go home, I say. You know I don't fear any single man that ever
breathed; but, above all men on this earth, I wish to avoid a quarrel
with you. Do you think, in the mean time, that even if I didn't care a
straw for your sister, I could be mane enough to let myself be bullied
out of her by you, or any of your faction? Never, Meehaul; so spare your
breath, an' go home."

Several common acquaintances had collected about them, who certainly
listened to this angry dialogue between the two faction leaders with
great interest. Both were powerful men, young, strong, and muscular.
Meehaul, of the two, was taller, his height being above six feet,
his strength, courage, and activity, unquestionably very great. Lamh
Laudher, however, was as fine a model of physical strength, just
proportion, and manly beauty as ever was created; his arms, in
particular, were of terrific strength, a physical advantage so peculiar
to his family as to occasion the epithet by which it was known. He had
scarcely uttered the reply we have I written, when Meehaul, with his
whole! strength, aimed a blow at his stomach, which the other so far
turned aside, as to bring it I higher up on his chest. He staggered
back, after receiving it, about seven or eight yards, but did not fall.
His eye literally blazed, and for a moment he seemed disposed to act!
under the strong impulse of self-defence. The solemnity of his promise
to Ellen, however, recurred to him in time to restrain his uplifted
arm. By a strong and sudden effort he endeavored to compose himself, and
succeeded. He approached Meehaul, and with as much calmness as he could
assume, said--

"Meehaul, I stand before you an' you may strike, but I won't return your
blows: I have reasons for it, but I tell you the truth."

"You won't fight?" said Meehaul, with mingled rage and scorn.

"No," replied the other, "I won't fight you."

A murmur of "shame" and "coward" was heard from those who had been drawn
together by their quarrel.

"_Dher ma chorp_," they exclaimed with astonishment, "but Lamh Laudher's
afeard of him!--the _garran bane's_ in him, now that he finds he has met
his match."

"Why, hard fortune to you, Lamh Laudher, will you take a blow from a
Neil? Are you goin' to disgrace your name?"

"I won't fight him," replied he to whom they spoke, and the uncertainty
of his manner was taken for want of courage.

"Then," said Meehaul, "here, before witnesses, I give you the coward,
that you may carry the name to the last hour of your life."

He inflicted, when uttering the words, a blow with his open hand on Lamh
Laudher's cheek, after which he desired the spectators to bear witness
to what he had done. The whole crowd was mute with astonishment, not a
murmur more was heard; but they looked upon the two rival champions, and
then upon each other with amazement. The high-minded young man had but
one course to pursue. Let the consequence be what it might, he could
not think for a moment of compromising the character of Ellen, nor
of violating his promise, so solemnly given; with a flushed cheek,
therefore, and a brow redder even with shame than indignation, he left
the crowd without speaking' a word, for he feared that by indulging in
any further recrimination on the subject, his resolution might give way
under the impetuous resentment which he curbed in with such difficulty.

Meehaul Neil paused and looked after him, equally struck with surprise
and contempt at his apparent want of spirit.

"Well," he exclaimed to those who stood about him, "by the life within
me, if all the parish had sworn that Lamh Laudher Oge was a coward, I'd
not a b'lieved them!"

"Faix, Misther Neil, who would, no more, than yourself?" they replied;
"devil the likes of it ever we seen! The young fellow that no man could
stand afore five minutes!"

"That is," replied others, "bekase he never met a man that would fight
him. You see when he did, how he has turned out. One thing any how is
clear enough--after this he can never rise his head while he lives."




CHAPTER III.

Meehaul now directed his steps homewards, literally stunned by the
unexpected cowardice of his enemy. On approaching his father's door, he
found Nell M'Collum seated on a stone bench, waiting his arrival.
The moment she espied him she sprang to her feet, and with her usual
eagerness of manner, caught the breast of his coat, and turning him
round towards the moonlight, looked eagerly into his face.

"Well," she inquired, "did he show his fire-arms? Well? What was done?"

"Somebody has been making a fool of you, Nell," replied Meehaul; "he
had neither fire-arms, nor staff, nor any thing else; an' for my part, I
might as well have left mine at home."

"Well, but, _douol_, man, what was done? Did you smash him? Did you
break his bones?"

"None of that, Nell, but worse; he's disgraced for ever. I struck him,
an' he refused to fight me; he hadn't a hand to raise.

"No! _Dher Chiernah_, he had not; an' he may thank Nell M'Collum for
that. I put the weakness over him. But I've not done wid him yet. I'll
make that family curse the day they crossed Nell M'Collum, if I should
go down for it. Not that I have any ill will to the boy himself, but the
father's heart's in him, an' that's the way, Meehaul, I'll punish the
man that was the means of lavin' me as I am."

"Nell, the devil's in your heart," replied Meehaul, "if ever he was in
mortal's. Lave me, woman: I can't bear your revengeful spirit, an' what
is more, I don't want you to interfere in this business, good, bad, or
indifferent. You bring about harm, Nell; but who has ever known you to
do good?"

"Ay! ay!" said the hag, "that's the cuckoo song to Nell; she does harm,
but never does good! Well, may my blackest curse wither the man that
left Nell to hear that, as the kindest word that's spoke either to her
or of her! I don't blame you. Meehaul--I blame nobody but him for it
all. Now a word of advice before you go in; don't let on to Ellen that
you know of her meetin' him this night;--an' reason good,--if she thinks
you're watchin' her, she'll be on her guard--'ay, an' outdo you in spite
of your teeth. She's a woman--she's a woman. Good night, an' mark him
the next time betther."

Meehaul himself--had come to the same determination and from the same
motive.

The consciousness of Lamh Laudher's public disgrace, and of his
incapability to repel it, sank deep into his heart. The blood in his
veins became hot and feverish when he reflected upon the scornful and
degrading insult he had just borne. Soon after his return home, his
father and mother both noticed the singularly deep bursts of indignant
feeling with which he appeared to be agitated. For some time they
declined making any inquiry as to its cause, but when they saw at length
the big scalding tears of shame and rage start from his flashing eyes,
they could no longer restrain their concern and curiosity.

"In the name of heaven, John," said they, "what has happened to put you
in such a state as you're in?"

"I can't tell you," he replied; "if you knew it, you'd blush with
burnin' shame--you'd curse me in your heart. For my part, I'd rather be
dead fifty times over than livin', after what has happened this night."

"An' why not tell us, Lamh Laudher?"

"I can't father; I couldn't stand upright afore you and spake it. I'd
sink like a guilty man in your presence; an' except you want to drive me
distracted, or perjured, don't ask me another question about it. You'll
hear it too soon."

"Well, we must wait," said the father; "but I'm sure, John, you'd
not do anything unbecomin' a man. For my part, I'm not unasy on your
account, for except to take an affront from a Neil, there's nothing you
would do could shame me."

This was a' fresh stab to the son's wounded pride, for which he was not
prepared. With a stifled groan he leaped to his feet, and rushing from
the kitchen, bolted himself up in his bed-room.

His parents, after he had withdrawn, exchanged glances.

"That went home to him," said the father; "an' as sure as death, the
Neils are in it, whatever it is. But by the crass that saved us, if he
tuck an affront from any of them, without payin' them home double, he is
no son of mine, an' this roof won't cover him another night. Howsomever
we'll see in the morn-in', plase God!"

The mother, who was proud of his courage and prowess, scouted with great
indignation the idea of her son's tamely putting up with an insult from
any of the opposite faction.

"Is it he bear an affront from a Neil! arrah, don't make a fool of
yourself, old man! He'd die sooner. I'd stake my life on him."

The night advanced, and the family had retired to bed; but their son
attempted in vain to sleep. A sense of shame overpowered him keenly.
He tossed and turned, and groaned, at the contemplation of the disgrace
which he knew would be heaped on him the following day. What was to be
done? How was he to wipe it off? There was but one method, he believed,
of getting his hands once more free; that was to seek Ellen, and gain
her permission to retract his oath on that very night. With this purpose
he instantly dressed, himself, and quietly unbolting his own door,
and that of the kitchen, got another staff, and passed out to seek her
father's inn.

The night had now become dark, but mild and agreeable; the repose of man
and nature was deep, and save his own tumultuous thoughts every thing
breathed an air of peace and rest. At a quick but cautious pace he soon
reached the inn, and without much difficulty passed into the garden,
from which he hoped to be able to make himself known to Ellen. In this,
to his great mortification, he was disappointed; the room in which she
slept, being on the third story, presented a window, it is true, to the
garden; but how was he to reach it, or hold a dialogue with her, even
should she recognize him, without being overheard by some of the family?
All this might have occurred to him at home, had he been sufficiently
cool for reflection. As it was, the only method of awakening her that he
could think of was to throw up several handsful of small pebbles against
the window. This he tried without any effect. Pebbles sufficiently large
to reach the window would have broken the glass, so that he felt himself
compelled to abandon every hope of speaking to her that night. With
lingering and reluctant steps he left the garden, and stood for some
time before the front of the house, leaning against an upright stone,
called the market cross. Here he had not been more than two minutes,
when he heard footsteps approaching, and on looking closely through
the darkness, he recognized the figure of Nell M'Collum, as it passed
directly to the kitchen window. Here the crone stopped, peered in, and
with caution gave one of the panes a gentle tap. This was responded
to by one much louder from within, and almost immediately the door was
softly opened. From thence issued another female figure, evidently that
of Nanse M'Collum, her niece. Both passed down the street in a northern
direction, and Lamh Laudher, apprehensive that they were on no good
errand, took off his shoes, lest his footsteps might be heard, and
dogged them as they went along. They spoke little, and that in whispers,
until they had got clear of the town, when, feeling less restraint, the
following dialogue occurred to them:--

"Isn't it a quare thing, aunt, that she should come back to this place
at all?"

"Quare enough, but the husband's comin' too--he's to folly her."

"He ought to know that he needn't come here, I think."

"Why, you fool, how do you know that? Sure the town must pay him fifty
guineas, if he doesn't get a customer, and that's worth comin' for. She
must be near us by this time. Husht! do you hear a car?"

They both paused to listen, but no car was audible.

"I do not," replied the niece; "but isn't it odd that he lets her carry
the money, an' him trates her so badly'?"

"Why would it be odd? Sure, she takes betther care of it, an' puts it
farther than he does. His heart's in a farden, the nager."

"Rody an' the other will soon spare her that trouble, any way," replied
the niece. "Is there no one with her but the carman?"

"Not one--hould you tongue--here's the gate where the same pair was to
meet us. Who is this stranger that Rody has picked up? I hope he's the
thing."

"Some red-headed fellow. Rody says he is honest. I'm wondherin', aunt,
what 'ud happen if she'd know the place."

"She can't, girshah--an' what if she does? She may know the place, but
will the place know her? Rody's friend says the best way is to do for
her; an' I'm afeard of her, to tell you the truth--but we'll settle that
when they come. There now is the gate where we'll sit down. Give a cough
till we try if they're------whist! here they are!"

The voices of two men now joined the conversation, but in so low a tone,
that Lamh Laudher could not distinctly hear its purport.

[Illustration: PAGE 91-- With stealthy pace he crept over]

The road along which they traveled was craggy, and full of ruts, so that
a car could be heard in the silence of night at a considerable distance.
On each side the ditches were dry and shallow; and a small elder hedge,
which extended its branches towards the road, afforded Lamh Laudher
the obscurity which he wanted. With stealthy pace he crept over and sat
beneath it, determined to witness whatever incident might occur, and to
take a part in it, if necessary. He had scarcely seated himself when the
car which they expected was heard jolting about half a mile off along
the way, and the next moment a consultation took place in tones so low
and guarded, that every attempt on his part to catch its purport was
unsuccessful. This continued with much earnestness, if not warmth, until
the car came within twenty perches of the gate, when Nell exclaimed--

"If you do, you may--but remimber I didn't egg you on, or put it into
your hearts, at all evints. Maybe I have a child myself livin'--far from
me--an' when I think of him, I feel one touch of nature at my heart in
favor of her still. I'm black enough there, as it is."

"Make your mind asy," said one of them, "you won't have to answer for
her."

The reply which was given to this could not be heard.

"Well," rejoined,Nell, "I know that. Her comin' here may not be for my
good; but--well, take this shawl, an' let the work be quick. The carman
must be sent back with sore bones to keep him quiet."

The car immediately reached the spot where they sat, and as it passed,
the two men rushed from the gate, stopped the horse, and struck the
carman to the earth. One of them seized him while down, and pressed
his throat, so as to prevent him from shouting. A single faint shriek
escaped the female, who was instantly dragged off the car and gagged by
the other fellow and Nanse M'Collum.

Lamh Laudher saw there was not a moment to be lost. With the speed
of lightning he sprung forward, and with a single blow laid him who
struggled with the carman prostrate. To pass then to the aid of the
female was only the work of an instant. With equal success he struck
down the villain with whom she was struggling. Such was the rapidity of
his motions, that he had not yet had time even to speak; nor indeed did
he wish at all to be recognized in the transaction. The carman, finding
himself freed from his opponent, bounced to his legs, and came to the
assistance of his charge, whilst Lamh Laudher, who had just flung Nanse
M'Collum into the ditch, returned in time to defend both from a second
attack. The contest, however, was a short one. The two ruffians, finding
that there was no chance of succeeding, fled across the fields; and our
humble hero, on looking for Nanse and her aunt, discovered that they
also had disappeared. It is unnecessary to detail the strong terms in
which the strangers expressed their gratitude to Lamh Laudher.

"God's grace be upon you, whoever you are, young man!" exclaimed the
carman; "for wid His help an' your own good arm, it's my downright
opinion that you saved us from bein' both robbed an' murthered."

"I'm of that opinion myself," replied Lamh Laudher.

"There is goodness, young man, in the tones of your voice," observed the
female; "we may at least ask the name of the person who has saved our
lives?"

"I would rather not have my name mentioned in the business," he replied;
"a woman, or a devil, I think, that I don't wish to cross or provoke,
has had a hand in it. I hope you haven't been robbed?" he added.

She assured him, with expressions of deep gratitude, that she had not.

"Well," said he, "as you have neither of you come to much harm, I would
take it as the greatest favor you could do me, if you'd never mention a
word about it to any one."

To this request they agreed with some hesitation. Lamh Laudher
accompanied them into the town, and saw them safely in a decent
second-rate inn, kept by a man named Luke Connor, after which he
returned to his father's house, and without undressing, fell into a
disturbed slumber until morning.

It is not to be supposed that the circumstances attending the quarrel
between him and Meehaul Neil, on the preceding night, would pass off
without a more than ordinary share of public notice. Their relative
positions were too well known not to excite an interest corresponding
with the characters they had borne, as the leaders of two bitter and
powerful factions: but when it became certain that Meehaul Neil had
struck Lamh Laudher Oge, and that the latter refused to fight him, it
is impossible to describe the sensation which immediately spread through
the town and parish. The intelligence was first received by O'Rorke's
party with incredulity and scorn. It was impossible that he of the
Strong Hand, who had been proverbial for courage, could all at once turn
coward, and bear the blow from a Neil! But when it was proved beyond the
possibility of doubt or misconception, that he received a blow tamely
before many witnesses, under circumstances of the most degrading insult,
the rage of his party became incredible. Before ten o'clock the next
morning his father's house was crowded with friends and relations,
anxious to hear the truth from his own lips, and all, after having heard
it, eager to point out to him the only method that remained of wiping
away his disgrace, namely, to challenge Meehaul Neil. His father's
indignation knew no bounds; but his mother, on discovering the truth,
was not without that pride and love which, are ever ready to form an
apology for the feelings and errors of an only child.

"You may all talk," she said; "but if Lamh Laudher Oge didn't strike
him, he had good reasons for it. How do you know, an' bad cess to your
tongues, all through other, how Ellen Neil would like him after weltin'
her brother? Don't ye think she has the spirit of her faction in her as
well as another?"

This, however, was not listened to. The father would hear of no apology
for his son's cowardice but an instant challenge. Either that or to be
driven from his father's roof the only alternatives left him.

"Come out here," said the old man, for the son had not left his humble
bed-room, "an' in presence of them that you have brought to shame
and disgrace, take the only plan that s left to you, an' send him a
challenge."

"Father," said the young man, "I have too much of your own blood in me
to be afraid of any man--but for all that, I neither will nor can fight
Meehaul Neil."

"Very well," said the father, bitterly, "that's enough. _Dher Manim_,
Oonagh, you're a guilty woman; that boy's no son of mine. If he had
my blood in him, he couldn't act as he did. Here, you intherloper, the
door's open for you; go out of it, an' let me never see the branded
face of you while you live." The groans of the son were audible from his
bed-room.

"I will go, father," he replied, "an' I hope the day will come when
you'll all change your opinion of me. I can't, however, stir out till I
send a message a mile or so out of town."

The old man in the mean time, wept as if his son had been dead; his
tears, however, were not those of sorrow, but of shame and indignation.

"How can I help it," he exclaimed, "when I think of the way that the
Neils will clap their wings and crow over us! If it was from any other
family he tuck it so inanely, I wouldn't care so much; but from them!
Oh, Chiernah! it's too bad! Turn out, you villain!"

A charge of deeper disgrace, however, awaited the unhappy young man.
The last harsh words of the father had scarcely been uttered, when three
constables came in, and inquired if his son were at home.

"He is at home," said the father, with tears in his eyes, "and I never
thought he would bring the blush to my face as he did by his conduct
last night."

"I am sorry," said the principal of them, "for what has happened, both
on your account and his. Do you know this hat?"

"I do know it," replied the old man; "it belongs to John. Come out
here," said he, "here's Tom Breen wid your hat."

The son left his room, and it was evident from his appearance that he
had not undressed at all during the night. The constables immediately
observed these circumstances, which they did not fail to interpret to
his disadvantage.

"Here is your hat," said the man who bore it; "one would think you were
travelin' all night, by your looks."

The son thanked him for his civility, got clean stockings, and after
arranging his dress, said to his father--

"I'm now ready to go, father, an' as I can't do what you want me to do,
there's nothing for me but to leave the country for a while."

"He acknowledged it himself," said the father, turning to Breen; "an' in
that case, how could I let the son that shamed me live undher my roof?"

"He's the last young man in the country I stand in," said Breen, "that
any one who knew him would suspect to be guilty of robbery. Upon my
soul, Lamh Laudher More, I'm both grieved an' distressed at it. We're
come to arrest him," he added, "for the robbery he committed last
night."

"Robbery!" they exclaimed with one voice.

"Ay," said the man, "robbery, no less--an' what is more, I'm afraid
there's little doubt of his guilt. Why did he lave his hat at the place
where the attempt was first made? He must come with us."

The mother shrieked aloud, and clapped her hands like a distressed
woman; the father's brow changed from the flushed hue of indignation,
and became pale with apprehension.

"Oh! no, no," he exclaimed, "John never did that. Some qualm might come
over him in the other business, but--no, no--your father knows you're
innocent of robbery. Yes, John, my blood is in you, and there you're
wronged, my son. I know you too well, in spite of all I've said to you,
to believe that, my true-hearted boy."

He grasped his son's hand as he spoke.

And his mother at the same moment caught him in her arms, whilst both
sobbed aloud. A strong sense of innate dignity expanded the brow of
young Lamh Laudher. He smiled while his parents wept, although his
sympathy in their sorrow brought a tear at the same time to his
eye-lids. He declined, however, entering into any explanation, and the
father proceeded--

"Yes! I know you are innocent, John; I can swear that you didn't leave
this house from nine o'clock last night up to the present minute."

"Father," said Lamh Laudher, "don't swear that, for it would not be
true, although you think it would. I was out the greater part of last
night."

His father's countenance fell again, as did those of his friends who
were present, on hearing what appeared to be almost an admission of his
guilt.

"Go," said the old man, "go; naburs, take him with you. If he's guilty
of this, I'll never more look upon his face. John, my heart was crushed
before, but you're likely to break it out an' out."

Lamh Laudher Oge's deportment, on hearing himself charged with robbery,
became dogged and sullen. The conversation, together with the sympathy
and the doubt it excited among his friends, he treated with silent
indignation and scorn. He remembered that on the night before, the
strange woman assured him she had not been robbed, and he felt that the
charge was exceedingly strange and unaccountable.

"Come," said he, "the sooner this business is cleared up the better.
For my part, I don't know what to make of it, nor do I care much how it
goes. I knew since yesterday evening, that bad luck was before me, at
all events, an' I suppose it must take its course, an' that I must bear
it."

The father had sat down, and now declined uttering a single word in
vindication of his' son. The latter looked towards him, when about to
pass out, but the old man waved his hand with sorrowful impatience,
and pointed to the door, as intimating a wish that he should forthwith
depart from under his roof. Loaded with twofold disgrace, he left his
family and his friends, accompanied by the constables, to the profound
grief and astonishment of all who knew him.

They then conducted him before a Mr. Brooldeigh, an active magistrate of
that day, and a gentleman of mild and humane character.




CHAPTER IV.

On reaching Brookleigh Hall, Lamh Laudher found the strange woman, Nell
M'Collum, Connor's servant maid, and the carman awaiting his arrival.
The magistrate looked keenly at the prisoner, and immediately glanced
with an expression of strong disgust at Nell M'Collum. The other female
surveyed Lamh Laudher with an interest evidently deep; after which
she whispered something to Nell, who frowned and shook her head, as if
dissenting from what she had heard. Lamh Laudher, on his part surveyed
the features of the female with an earnestness that seemed to absorb all
sense of his own disgrace and danger.

"O'Rorke," said the magistrate, "this is a serious charge against you. I
trust you may be able effectually to meet it."

"I must wait, your worship, till I hear fully what it is first," replied
Lamh Laudher, "afther that I'm not afraid of clearin' myself from it."

The woman then detailed the circumstances of the robbery, which it
appeared took place at the moment her luggage was in the act of being
removed to her room, after which she added, rather unexpectedly--"And
now your worship, I have plainly stated the facts; but I must, in
conscience, add, that although this woman," turning to Nell M'Collum,
"is of opinion that the young man before you has robbed me, yet I cannot
think he did."

"I'll swear, your worship," said Nell, "that on passin' homewards last
night, seein' a car wid people about it, at Luke Connor's door, I stood
behind the porch, merely to thry if I knew who they wor. I seen this
Lamh Laudher wid a small oak box in his hands, an' I'll give my oath
that it was open, an' that he put his hands into it, and tuck something
out."

"Pray, Nell, how did it happen that you yourself were abroad at so
unseasonable an hour?" said the magistrate.

"Every one knows that I'm out at quare hours," replied Nell; "I'm not
like others. I know where I ought to be, at all times; but last night,
if your worship wishes to hear the truth, I was on my way to Andy
Murray's wake, the poor lad that was shepherd to the Neils."

"And pray, Nell," said his worship, "how did you form so sudden an
acquaintance with this respectable looking woman?"

"I knew her for years," said Nell; "I've seen her in other parts of the
country often."

"You were more than an hour with her last night--were you not?" said his
worship.

"She made me stay wid her," said Nell, "bekase she was a stranger, an'
of coorse was glad to see a face she know, afther the fright she got."

"All very natural, Nell; but in the mean time, she might easily have
chosen a more respectable associate. Have you actually lost the sum of
six hundred pounds, my good madam?"

"I have positively lost so much," replied the woman, "together with the
certificate of my marriage."

"And how did you become acquainted with Nell M'Collum?" he inquired.

The stranger was silent, and blushed deeply at this question; but Nell,
with more presence of mind, went over to the magistrate, and whispered
something which caused him to start, look keenly at her, and then at the
plaintiff.

"I must have this confirmed by herself" he said in reply to Nell's
disclosure, "otherwise I shall be much more inclined to consider you the
thief than O'Rorke, whose character has been hitherto unimpeachable and
above suspicion."

He then beckoned the woman over to his desk, and after having first
inquired if she could write, and being replied to in the affirmative,
he placed a slip of paper before her, on which was written--"Is that
unhappy woman called Nell M'Collum, your mother?"

"Alas! she is, sir," replied the female, with a deep expression
of sorrow. The magistrate then appeared satisfied. "Now," said he,
addressing O'Rorke, "state, fairly and honestly what you have to say in
reply to the charge brought against you."

"Please your worship," said the young man, "you hear the woman say that
she brings no charge against me; but I can prove on oath, that Nell
M'Collum and her niece, Nanse M'Collum, along with two men that I don't
know, except that one was called Rody, met at Franklin's gate, with an
intention of robing, an' it's my firm belief, of murdering this woman."

He then detailed with great earnestness the incidents and conversation
of the preceding night.

"Sir," replied Nell, with astonishing promptness, "I can prove by two
witnesses, that, no longer ago than last night, he said he would take to
the high-road, in ordher to get money to enable him to marry Ellen Neil.
Yes, you villain, Nanse M'Collum heard every word that passed between
you and her in the grassy quarry; an' Ellen, your worship, can prove it
too, if she's sent for."

This had little effect on the magistrate, who at no time placed any
reliance on Nell's assertions; he immediately, however, dispatched a
summons for Nanse M'Collum.

The carman then related all that he knew, every word of which strongly
corroborated what Lamh Laudher had said. He concluded by declaring it
to be his opinion, that the prisoner was innocent, and added, that,
according to the best of his belief, the box was not open when he left
it in the plaintiff's sleeping-room above stairs.

The magistrate again looked keenly and suspiciously towards Nell. At
this stage of the proceedings, O'Rorke's father and mother, accompanied
by some of their friends, made their appearance. The old man, however,
declined to take any part in the vindication of his son. He stood
sullenly silent, with his arms folded and his brows knit, as much in
indignation as in sorrow. The grief of the mother was louder, for she
wept audibly.

Ere the lapse of many minutes, the constable returned, and stated that
Nanse was not be found.

"She has not been at her master's house since morning," he observed,
"and they don't know where she is, or what has become of her."

The magistrate immediately despatched two of the constables, with strict
injunctions! to secure her, if possible.

"In the mean time," he added, "I will order you, Nell M'Collum, to be
strictly confined, until I ascertain whether she can be produced or not.
Your haunts may be searched with some hope of success, while you are in
durance; but I rather think we might seek for her in vain, if you were
at liberty to regulate her motions. I cannot expect," he added, turning
to the stranger, "that you should prosecute one so nearly related to
you, even if you had proof, which you have not; but I am almost certain,
that she has been someway or other concerned in the robbery. You are a
modest, interesting woman, and I regret the loss you have sustained. At
present there are no grounds for committing any of the parties charged
with the robbery. This unhappy woman I commit only as a vagrant, until
her niece is found, after that we shall probably be able to see somewhat
farther into this strange affair."

"Something tells' me, sir," replied the stranger, "that this young man
is as innocent of the robbery as the child unborn. It's not my intention
ever to think of prosecuting him. What I have done in the matter was
against my own wishes."

"God in heaven bless you for the words!" exclaimed the parents of
O'Rorke, each pressing her hand with delight and gratitude. The woman
warmly returned their greetings, but instantly felt her bosom heave
with a hysterical oppression under which she sank into a state of
insensibility. Lamh Laudher More and his wife were proceeding to bring
her towards the door for air, when Nell M'Collum insisted on a prior
right to render her that service. "Begone, you servant of the devil,"
exclaimed the old man, "your wicked breath is bad about any one else;
you won!t lay a hand upon her."

"Don't let her, for heaven's sake!" said his wife; "her eye will kill the
woman!"

"You are not aware," said the magistrate, "that this woman is her
daughter?"

"Whose daughter, please your honor," said the old man indignantly.

"Nell M'Collum's," he returned.

"It's as false as hell!" rejoined O'Rorke, "beggin' your honor's pardon
for sayin' so. I mean it's false for Nell, if she says it. Nell, sir,
never had a daughter, an' she knows that; but she had a son, an' she
knows best what became of him."

Nell, however, resolved not to be deterred from getting-the stranger
into her own hands. With astonishing strength and fury she attempted to
drag the insensible creature from O'Rorke's grasp; but the magistrate,
disgusted at her violence, ordered two of the persons present to hold
her down.

At length the woman began to recover.

She sobbed aloud, and a copious flow of tears drenched her cheeks. Nell
ordered her to tear herself from O'Rorke and his wife:-- "Their hands
are bad about you," she exclaimed, "and their son has robbed you, Mary.
Lave them, I say, or it will be worse for you."

The woman paid her no attention; on the contrary, she laid her head on
the bosom of O'Rorke's wife, and wept as if her heart would break.

"God help me!" she exclaimed with a bitter sense of her situation, "I am
an unhappy, an' a heart-broken woman! For many a year I have not known
what it is to have a friendly breast to weep on."

She then caught O'Rorke's hand and kissed it affectionately, after which
she wept afresh;

"Merciful heaven!" said she'--"oh, how will I ever be able to meet my
husband! and such a husband! oh, heavens pity me!"

Both O'Rorke and his wife stood over her in tears. The latter bent her
head, kissed the stranger, and pressed her to her bosom. "May God bless
you!" said O'Rorke himself solemnly; "trust in Him, for he can see
justice done to you when man fails."

The eyes of Nell glared at the group like those of an enraged tigress:
she stamped her feet upon the floor, and struck it repeatedly with her
stick, as she was in the habit of doing, when moved by strong and deadly
passions.

"You'll suffer for that, Mary," she exclaimed; "and as for you, Lamh
Laudher More, my debt's not paid to you yet. Your son's a robber, an
I'll prove it before long; every one knows he's a coward too."

Mr. Brookleigh felt that there appeared to be something connected with
the transactions of the preceding night, as well as with some of the
persons who had come before him, that perplexed him not a little. He
thought that, considering the serious nature of the charge preferred
against young O'Rorke, he exhibited an apathy under it, that did not
altogether argue innocence. Some unsettled suspicions entered his mind,
but not with sufficient force to fix with certainty upon any of those
present, except Nell and Nanse M'Collum who had absconded. If Nell
were the woman's mother, her anxiety to bring the criminal to justice
appeared very natural. Then, again, young O'Rorke's father, who seemed
to know the history of Nell M'Collum, denied that she ever had a
daughter. How could he be certain that she had not, without knowing her
private life thoroughly? These circumstances appeared rather strange, if
not altogether incomprehensible; so much so, indeed, that he thought
it necessary, before they separated, to speak with O'Rorke's family in
private. Having expressed a wish to this effect, he dismissed the
other parties, except Nell, whom he intended to keep confined until the
discovery of her niece.

"Pray," said he to the father of our humble hero, "how do you know,
O'Rorke, that Nell M'Collum never had a daughter?"

"Right well, your honor. I knew her since she was a child; an' from that
day to this she was never six months from this town at a time. No, no--a
son she had, but a daughter she never had."

"Let me ask you, young man, on what business were you abroad last night?
I expect you will answer me candidly?"

"It's no matther," replied young Lamh Laudher gloomily, "my character's
gone. I cannot be worse, an' I will tell no man how I spent it, till I
have an opportunity of clarin' myself."

"If you spent it innocently," returned the magistrate, "you can have no
hesitation in making the disclosure we require."

"I will not mention it," said the other; "I was disgraced, an' that is
enough. I think but little of the robbery."

Brookleigh understood him; but the last assertion, though it exonerated
him in the opinion of a man who knew something about character, went far
in that of his friends who were present to establish his guilt.

They then withdrew; and it would have been much to young Lamh Laudher's
advantage if this private interview had never taken place.




CHAPTER V.

The next morning O'Rorke and his wife! waited upon Mr. Brookleigh to
state, that in their opinion it would be more judicious to liberate
Nell M'Collum, provided he kept a strict watch upon all her motions.
The magistrate instantly admitted both the force and ingenuity of the
thought; and after having appointed three persons to the task of keeping
her under surveillance, he set her at large.

This was all judicious and prudent; but in the mean time, common rumor,
having first published the fact of young Lamh Laudher's cowardice, found
it an easy task to associate his name with the robbery. His very father,
after their last conference with the magistrate, doubted him; his
friends, in the most sympathetic terms, expressed their conviction of
his guilt, and the natural consequence resulting from this was, that he
found himself expelled from his paternal roof, and absolutely put out
of caste. The tide of ill-fame, in fact, set in so strongly against
him, that Ellen, startled as she had been by his threat of taking to
the highway, doubted him. The poor young man, in truth, led a miserable
life. Nanse M'Collum had not been found, and the unfavorable rumor was
still at its height, when one morning the town arose and found the walls
and streets placarded with what was in those days known as the fatal
challenge of the DEAD BOXER!

This method of intimating his arrival had always been peculiar to that
individual, who was a man of color. No person ever discovered the
means by which he placarded his dreadful challenge. In an age of
gross superstition, numerous were the rumors and opinions promulgated
concerning this circumstance. The general impression was, that an evil
spirit attended him, by whose agency his advertisements were put up at
night; A law, it is said, then existed, that when a pugilist arrived in
any town, He might claim the right to receive the sum of fifty guineas,
provided no man in the town could be found to accept his challenge
within a given period. A champion, if tradition be true, had the
privilege of fixing only the place, not the mode and regulations of
battle. Accordingly the scene of contest uniformly selected by the Dead
Boxer was the church-yard of the town, beside a new made grave, dug at
his expense. The epithet of the Dead Boxer had been given to him, in
consequence of a certain fatal stroke by which he had been able to kill
every antagonist who dared to meet him; precisely on the same principle
that we call a fatal marksman a dead shot; and the church-yard was
selected, and the grave prepared, in order to denote the fatality
incurred by those who went into a contest with him. He was famous, too,
at athletic sports, but was never known to communicate the secret of
the fatal blow; he also taught the sword exercises, at which he was
considered to be a proficient.

On the morning after his arrival, the town in which we have laid the
scene of this legend felt the usual impulse of an intense curiosity to
see so celebrated a character. The Dead Boxer, however, appeared to be
exceedingly anxious to gratify this natural propensity. He walked
out from the head inn, where he had stopped, attended by his servant,
merely, it would appear, to satisfy them as to the very slight chance
which the stoutest of them had in standing before a man whose blow was
so fatal, and whose frame so prodigiously Herculean.

Twelve o'clock was the hour at which he deemed proper to make his
appearance, and as it happened also to be the market-day of the town,
the crowd which followed him was unprecedented. The old and young, the
hale and feeble of both sexes, all rushed out to see, with feelings of
fear and wonder, the terrible and far-famed Dead Boxer. The report
of his arrival had already spread far and wide into the country,
and persons belonging to every class and rank of life might be seen
hastening on horseback, and more at full speed on foot, that they might,
if possible, catch an early glimpse of him. The most sporting
characters among the nobility and gentry of the country, fighting-peers,
fire-eaters, snuff-candle squires, members of the hell-fire and
jockey clubs, gaugers, gentlemen tinners, bluff yeomen, laborers,
cudgel-players, parish pugilists, men of renown within a district of ten
square miles, all jostled each other in hurrying to see, and if possible
to have speech of, the Dead Boxer. Not a word was spoken that day,
except with reference to him, nor a conversation introduced, the topic
of which was not the Dead Boxer. In the town every window was filled
with persons standing to get a view of him; so were the tops of the
houses, the dead walls, and all the cars, gates, and available eminences
within sight of the way along which he went. Having thus perambulated
the town, he returned to the market-cross, which, as we have said, stood
immediately in front of his inn. Here, attended by music, he personally
published his challenge in a deep and sonorous voice, calling upon the
corporation in right of his championship, to produce a man in ten clear
days ready to undertake battle with him as a pugilist, or otherwise to
pay him the sum of fifty guineas out of their own proper exchequer.

Having thus thrown down his gauntlet, the musicians played a dead march,
and there was certainly something wild and fearful in the association
produced by these strains of death and the fatality of encountering
him. This challenge he repeated at the same place and hour during three
successive days, after which he calmly awaited the result.

In the mean time, certain circumstances came to light, which not only
developed many cruel and profligate traits in his disposition, but also
enabled the worthy inhabitants of the town to ascertain several facts
relating to his connections, which in no small degree astonished them.
The candid and modest female whose murder and robbery had been planned
by Nell M'Collum, resided with him as his wife; at least if he did not
acknowledge her as such, no person who had an opportunity of witnessing
her mild and gentle deportment, ever for a moment conceived her capable
of living with him in any other character, his conduct to her, however,
was brutal in the extreme, nor was his open and unmanly cruelty lessened
by the misfortune of her having lost the money which he had accumulated.
With Nell M'Collum he was also acquainted, for he had given orders that
she should be admitted to him whenever she deemed it necessary. Nell,
though now at large, found her motions watched with a vigilance which no
ingenuity on her part, could baffle. She knew this, and was resolved by
caution to overreach those who dogged her so closely. Her intimacy with
the Dead Boxer threw a shade of still deeper mystery around her own
character and his. Both were supposed to be capable of entering into
evil communion with supernatural beings, and both, of course, were
looked upon with fear and hatred, modified, to be sure, by the
peculiarity of their respective situations.

Let not our readers, however, suppose that young Lamh Laudher's disgrace
was altogether lost in the wide-spread fame of the Dead Boxer. His high
reputation for generous and manly feeling had given him too strong a
hold upon the hearts of all who know him, to be at once discarded by
them from public conversation as an indifferent person. His conduct
filled them with wonder, it is true; but although the general tone of
feeling respecting the robbery was decidedly in his favor, yet there
still existed among the public, particularly in the faction that was
hostile to him, enough of doubt, openly expressed, to render it a duty
to avoid him; particularly when this formidable suspicion was joined to
the notorious fact of his cowardice in the rencounter with Meehaul Neil.
Both subjects were therefore discussed with probably an equal interest;
but it is quite certain that the rumor of Lamh Laudher's cowardice would
alone have occasioned him, under the peculiar circumstances which drew
it forth, to be avoided and branded with contumely. There was, in
fact, then in existence among the rival factions in Ireland much of the
military sense of honor which characterizes the British army at this
day; nor is this spirit even yet wholly exploded, from our humble
countrymen. Poor Lamh Laudher was, therefore, an exile from his father's
house, repulsed and avoided by all who had formerly been intimate with
him.

There was another individual, however, who deeply sympathized in all he
felt, because she knew that for her sake it had been incurred; we allude
to Ellen Neil. Since the night of their last interview, she, too, had
been scrupulously watched by her relations. But what vigilance can
surpass the ingenuity of love? Although her former treacherous confidant
had absconded, yet the incident of the Dead Boxer's arrival had been the
means of supplying her with a friend, into whose bosom she felt that she
could pour out all the anxieties of her heart. This was no other than
the Dead Boxer's wife; and there was this peculiarity in the interest
which she took in Ellen's distress, that it was only a return of
sympathy which Ellen felt in the unhappy woman's sufferings. The conduct
of her husband was indefensible; for while he treated her with shameful
barbarity, it was evident that his bad passions and his judgment were at
variance, with respect to the estimate which he formed of her character.
In her honesty he placed every confidence, and permitted her to manage
his money and regulate his expenses; but this was merely because her
frugality and economic habits gratified his parsimony, and fostered one
of his strongest passions, which was avarice. There was something about
this amiable creature that won powerfully upon the affections of Ellen
Neil; and in entrusting her with the secret of her love, she she felt
assured that she had not misplaced it. Their private conversations,
therefore, were frequent, and their communications, unreserved on both
sides, so far as woman can bestow confidence and friendship on the
subject of her affections or her duty. This intimacy did not long escape
the prying eyes of Nell M'Collum, who soon took means to avail herself
of it for purposes which will shortly become evident.

It was about the sixth evening after the day on which the Dead Boxer had
published his challenge, that, having noticed Nell from a window as she
passed the inn, he dispatched a waiter with a message that she should be
sent up to him. Previous to this the hag had been several times with
his wife, on whom she laid serious injunctions never to disclose to her
husband the relationship between them. The woman had never done so, for
in fact the acknowledgement of Nell, as her mother, would have been
to, any female whose feelings had not been made callous by the world, a
painful and distressing task. Nell was the more anxious on this point,
as she feared that such a disclosure would have frustrated her own
designs.

"Well, granny," said he, when Nell entered, "any word of the money?"

Nell cautiously shut the door, and stood immediately fronting him, her
hand at some distance from her side, supported by her staff, and her
gray glittering eyes fixed upon him with that malicious look which she
never could banish from her countenance.

"The money will come," she replied, "in good time. I've a charm near
ready that'll get a clue to it. I'm watchin' him--and I'm watched
myself--an' Ellen's watched. He has hardly a house to put his head in;
but _nabockish!_ I'll bring you an' him together--ay, _dher manim_, an'
I'll make him give you the first blow; afther that, if you don't give
him one, it's your own fau't."

"Get the money first, granny. I won't give him the blow till _it_ is
safe."

"Won't you?" replied the beldame; "ay, _dher Creestha_, will you, whin
you know what. I have to tell you about him an'--an'----"

"And who, granny?"

"_Diououl_, man, but I'm afeard to tell you, for fraid you'd kill me."

"Tut, Nelly; I'd not strike an Obeah-wo-man," said he, laughing.

"I suspect foul play between him an'--her."

"Eh? Fury of hell, no!"

"He's very handsome," said the other, "an' young--far younger than you
are, by thirteen--"

"Go on--go on," said the Dead Boxer, interrupting her, and clenching
his fist, whilst his eyes literally glowed like live coals, "go on--I'll
murder him, but not till--yes, I'll murder him at a blow--I will; but
no--not till you secure the money first. If I give him the blow--THE
BOX--I might never get it, granny. A dead man gives back nothing."

"I suspect," replied Nell, "_arraghid_--that is the money--is in other
hands. Lord presarve us! but it's a wicked world, blackey."

"Where is it!" said the Boxer, with a vehemence of manner resembling
that of a man who was ready to sink to perdition for his wealth. "Devil!
and furies! where is it?"

"Where is it?" said the imperturbable Nell; "why, manim a yeah, man,
sure you don't think that I know where it is? I suspect that your
landlord's daughter, his real sweetheart, knows something about it; but
thin, you see, I can prove nothing; I only suspect. We must watch an'
wait. You know she wouldn't prosecute him."

"We will watch an' wait--but I'll finish him. Tell me, Nell--fury of
hell, woman--can it be possible--no--well--I'll murder him, though;
but can it be possible that she's guilty? eh? She wouldn't prosecute
him--No--no--she would not."

"She is not worthy of you, blackey. Lord save us! Well, troth, I
remimber whin you wor in Lord S--'s, you were a fine young man of your
color. I did something for the young lord in my way then, an' I used to
say, when I called to see her, that you wor a beauty, barrin' the face.
Sure enough, there was no lie in that. Well, that was before you tuck
to the fightin'; but I'm ravin'. Whisper, man. If you doubt what I'm
sayin', watch the north corner of the orchard about nine to-night, an'
you'll see a meetin' between her an' O'Rorke. God be wid you! I must
go."

"Stop!" said the Boxer; "don't--but do get a charm for the money."

"Good-by," said Nell; "_you_ a heart wid your money! No; _damnho sherry_
on the charm ever I'll get you till you show more spunk. You! My curse
on the money, man, when your disgrace is consarned!"

Nell passed rapidly, and with evident indignation out of the room; nor
could any entreaty on the part of the Dead Boxer induce her to return
and prolong the dialogue.

She had said enough, however, to produce in his bosom torments almost
equal to those of the damned. In several of their preceding dialogues,
she had impressed him with a belief that young Lamh Laudher was the
person who had robbed his wife; and now to the hatred that originated in
a spirit of avarice, she added the deep and deadly one of jealousy. On
the other hand, the Dead Boxer had, in fact, begun to feel the influence
of Ellen Neil's beauty; and perhaps nothing would have given him greater
satisfaction than the removal of a woman whom he no longer loved, except
for those virtues which enabled him to accumulate money. And now, too,
had he an equal interest in the removal of his double rival, whom,
besides, he considered the spoliator of his hoarded property. The
loss of this money certainly stung him to the soul, and caused his
unfortunate wife to suffer a tenfold degree of persecution and misery.
When to this we add his sudden passion for Ellen Neil, we may easily
conceive what she must have endured. Nell, at all events, felt satisfied
that she had shaped the strong passions of her savage dupe in the way
best calculated to gratify that undying spirit of vengeance which she
had so long nurtured against the family of Lamh Laudher. The Dead Boxer,
too, was determined to prosecute his amour with Ellen Neil, not more to
gratify his lawless affection for her than his twofold hatred of Lamh
Laudher.

At length nine o'clock arrived, and the scene must change to the
northern part of Sheemus Neil's orchard. The Dead Boxer threw a cloak
around him, and issuing through the back door of the inn, entered the
garden, which was separated from the orchard only by a low clipped hedge
of young whitethorn, in the middle of which stood of a small gate. In a
moment he was in the orchard, and from behind its low wall he perceived
a female proceeding to the north side muffled like himself in a cloak,
which he immediately recognized to be that of his wife. His teeth became
locked together with the most deadly resentment; his features twitched
with the convulsive spasms of rage, and his nostrils were distended
as if his victims stood already within his grasp. He instantly threw
himself over the wall, and nothing but the crashing weight of his tread
could have saved the lives of the two unsuspecting persons before him.
Startled, however, by the noise of his footsteps, Lamh Laudher turned
round to observe who it was that followed them, and immediately the
massy and colossal black now stripped of his cloak--for he had thrown it
aside--stood in their presence. The female instinctively drew the cloak
round her face, and Lamh Laudher was about to ask why he followed them,
when the Boxer approached him in an attitude of assault.

With a calmness almost unparalleled under the circumstances, Lamh
Laudher desired the female by no means to cling to him.

"If you do," said he, "I am murdered where I stand."

"No," she shrieked, "you shall not. Stand back, man, stand back, if you
murder him I will take care you shall suffer for it. Stand back. Lamh
Laudher never injured you."

"Ha!" exclaimed the Boxer, in reply; "why, what is this! Who have we
here?"

Ellen, for it was she, had already thrown back the cloak from her
features, and stepped forward between them.

"Well, I am glad it is you," said the black, "and so may he. Come, I
shall conduct you home."

He caught her arm as he spoke, and drew her over to his side like an
infant.

"Come, my pretty girl, come; I will treat you tenderly, and all I shall
ask is a kiss in return. Here, young fellow," said he to Lamh Laudher,
with a sense of bitter triumph, "I will show you that one black kiss is
worth two white ones."

Heavy, hard, and energetic was the blow which the Dead Boxer received
upon the temple, as the reply of Lamh Laudher, and dead was the crash
of his tremendous body on the earth. Ellen looked around her with
amazement.

"Come," said she, seizing her lover's arm, and dragging him onward:
"gracious heavens! I hope you haven't killed him. Come, John, the time
is short, and we must make the most of it. That villain, as I tould you
before, is a villain. Oh! if you knew it! John, I have been the manes of
your disgrace and suffering, but I am willing to do what I can to remedy
that. In your disgrace, Ellen will be ready, in four days from this,
to become your wife. John, come to meet me no more. I will send that
villain's innocent wife to your aunt Alley's, where you now live'. I
didn't expect to see you myself; but I got an opportunity, and besides
she was too unwell to bring my message, which was to let you know what I
now tell you."

John, ere he replied, looked behind him at the Dead Boxer, and appeared
as if struck with some sudden thought.

"He is movin'," said he, "an' on this night I don't wish to meet him
again; but--yes, Ellen, yes--God bless you for the words you've said;
but how could you for one minute doubt me about the robbery?"

"I did not, John--I did not; and if I did, think of your own words at
our meetin' in the Quarry; it was a small suspicion, though--no more.
No, no; at heart I never doubted you."

"Ellen," said John, "hear me. You never will become my wife till my
disgrace is wiped away. I love you too well ever to see you blush for
your husband. My mind's made up--so say no more. Ay, an' I tell you that
to live three months in this state would break my heart."

"Poor John!" she exclaimed, as they separated, and the words were
followed by a gush of tears, "I know that there is not one of them, in
either of the factions, so noble in heart and thought as you are."

"Ill prove that soon, Ellen; but never till my name is fair and clear,
an' without spot, can you be my wife. Good night, dearest; in every
thing but that I'll be guided by you."

They then separated, and immediately the Dead Boxer, like a drunken man,
went tottering, rather crest-fallen, towards the inn. On reaching his
own room, his rage appeared quite ungovernable; he stormed, stamped, and
raved on reflecting that any one was able to knock him down. He called
for brandy and water, with a curse to the waiter, swore deeply between
every sip, and, ultimately dispatched another messenger for Nell
M'Collum.

"That Obeah woman's playing on me," he exclaimed; "because my face is
black, she thinks me a fool. Furies! I neither know what she is, nor who
the other is. But I will know."

"Don't be too sure of that," replied Nell, gliding into the
apartment--"You can say little, blackey, or think little, avourneen,
that I'll not know. As to who she is, you needn't ax--she won't be long
troublin' you; an' in regard to myself, I'm what you see me. Arra, _dher
ma chuirp_, man alive, I could lave you in one night that a boy in his
first _breestha_ (small clothes) could bate the marrow out of you."

"Where did you come from now, granny?"

"From her room; she's sick--that was what prevented her from meetin'
Lamh Laudher."

"Granny, do you know who she is? I'm tired of her--sick of her."

"You know enough about her to satisfy you. Wasn't she a beautiful
creature when Lady S------ tuck her into the family, an' reared her till
she was fit to wait upon herself. Warn't you then sarvant to the ould
lord, an' didn't I make her marry you, something against her will, too;
but she did it to plase me. That was before 'buildin' churches' druv you
out of the family, an' made you take to the fightin' trade."

"Granny, you must bring this young fellow across me. Blood! woman, do
you know what he did? He knocked me down, granny--struck me senseless!
Fury of hell! Me! Only for attempting to kiss his sweetheart!"

"Ha!" said Nell, bitterly, "keep that to yourself, for heaven's sake!
_Dher ma chuirp_, man, if it was known, his name would be higher up than
ever. Be my sowl, any how, that was the Lamh Laudher blow, my boy, an'
what that is, is well known. The devil curse him for it!"

"Granny, you must assist me in three things. Find a clue to the
money--bring this fellow in my way, as you promised--and help me with
the landlord's daughter."

"Is there nothin' else?"

"What?"

"She's sick."

"Well, let her die, then; I don't care."

"In the other things I will help you," said Nell; "but you must clear
your own way there. I can do every thing but that. I have a son myself,
an' my hands is tied against blood till I find him out. I could like to
see some people withered, but I can't kill."

"Well, except her case, we understand one another. Good night, then."

"You must work that for yourself. Good night."




CHAPTER VI.


In the mean time a circumstance occurred which scarcely any person who
heard it could at first believe. About twelve o'clock the next day the
house of Lamh Laudher More was surrounded with an immense crowd, and the
whole town seemed to be in a state of peculiar animation and excitement.
Groups met, stood, and eagerly accosted each other upon some topic that
evidently excited equal interest and astonishment.

LAMH LAUDHER OGE HAD CHALLENGED THE DEAD BOXER.

True. On that morning, at an early hour, the proscribed young man waited
upon the Sovereign of the town, and requested to see him. Immediately
after his encounter with the black the preceding night, and while Ellen
Neil offered to compensate him for the obloquy she had brought upon his
name, he formed the dreadful resolution of sending him a challenge. In
very few words he stated his intention to the Sovereign, who looked upon
him as insane.

"No, no," replied that gentleman; "go home, O'Rorke, and banish the idea
out of your head; it is madness."

"But I say yes, yes, with great respect to you, sir," observed Lamh
Laudher. "I've been banished from my father's house, and treated with
scorn by all that know me, because they think me a coward. Now I'll let
them know I'm no coward."

"But you will certainly be killed," said,the Sovereign.

"That's to be seen," observed the young man; "at all events, I'd as soon
be killed as livin' in disgrace. I'll thank you, sir, as the head of the
town, to let the black know that Lamh Laudher Oge will fight him."

"For heaven's sake, reflect a moment upon the----"

"My mind's made up to fight," said the other, interrupting him. "No
power on earth will prevent me, sir. So, if you don't choose to send the
challenge, I'll bring it myself."

The Sovereign shook his head, as if conscious of what the result must
be.

"That is enough," said he; "as you are fixed on your own destruction,
the challenge will be given; but I trust you will think better of it."

"Let him know, if you please," added Lamh Laudher, "that on to-morrow at
twelve o'clock we must fight."

The magistrate nodded, and Lamh Laudher immediately took his leave. In a
short time the intelligence spread. From the sovereign it passed to his
clerk, from the clerk to the other members of the corporation, and, ere
an hour, the town was in a blaze with the intelligence.

"Did you hear what's reported?" was the general question.

Lamh Laudher Oge has challenged the Dead Boxer!

The reader already knows how bitterly public opinion had set in against
our humble hero; but it would be difficult to describe, in terms
sufficiently vivid, the rapid and powerful reaction which now took place
in his favor. Every one pitied him, praised him, remembered his former
prowess, and after finding some palliative for his degrading interview
with Meehaul Neil, concluded with expressing a firm conviction that he
had undertaken a fatal task. When the rumor had reached his parents, the
blood ran cold in their veins, and their natural affection, now roused
into energy, grasped at an object that was about to be violently removed
from it. Their friends and neighbors, as we have stated, came to their
house for the purpose of dissuading their son against so rash and
terrible an undertaking.

"It musn't be," said they, "for whatever was over him wid Meehaul Neil,
we know now he's no coward, an' that's enough. We musn't see him beat
dead before our eyes, at all events, where is he?"

"He's at his aunt's," replied the father; "undher this roof he says
he will never come till his name is cleared. Heavens above! For him to
think of fighting a man that kills every one he fights wid!"

The mother's outcries were violent, as were those of his female
relations, whilst a solemn and even mournful spirit brooded upon the
countenances of his own faction. It was resolved that his parents and
friends should now wait upon, and by every argument and remonstrance in
their power, endeavor to change the rashness of his purpose:

The young man received them with a kind but somewhat sorrowful, spirit.
The father, uncovered, and with his gray locks flowing down upon his
shoulders, approached him, extended his hand, and with an infirm voice
said--

"Give me your hand, John. You're welcome to your father's heart an'
your father's roof once more."

The son put his arms across his breast, and bowed his head respectfully,
but declined receiving his father's hand.

"Not, father--father dear--not till my name is cleared."

"John," said the old man, now in tears, "will you refuse me? You are my
only son, my only child, an' I cannot lose you. Your name is cleared."

"Father," said the son, "I've sworn--it's now too late. My heart,
father, has been crushed by what has happened lately. I found little
charity among my friend's. I say, I cannot change my mind, for I've
sworn to fight him. And even if I had not sworn, I couldn't, as a man,
but do it, for he has insulted them that I love better than my own life.
I knew you would want to persuade me against what I'm doin'--an' that
was why I bound myself this mornin' by an oath."

The mother, who had been detained a few minutes behind them, now
entered, and on hearing that he had refused to decline the battle,
exclaimed--

"Who says that Lamh Laudher Oge won't obey his mother? Who dare say it?
Wasn't he ever and always an obedient son to me an' his father? I won't
believe that lie of my boy, no more than I ever believed a word of' what
was sed against him. _Shawn Oge aroon_, you won't refuse me, _avillish_.
What 'ud become of me, _avich ma chree_, if you fight him? Would you
have the mother's heart broken, an' our roof childless all out? We
lost one as it is--the daughter of our heart is gone, an' we don't know
how--an' now is your father an' me to lie down an' die in desolation
widout a child to shed a tear over us, or to put up one prayer for our
happiness?"

The young man's eyes filled with tears; but his cheek reddened, and he
dashed them hastily aside.

"No, my boy, my glorious boy, won't refuse to save his mother's heart
from breakin'; ay, and his gray-haired father's too--he won't kill us
both--my boy won't,--nor send us to the grave before our time!"

"Mother," said he, "if I could I--Oh! no, no. Now, it's too late--if I
didn't fight him, I'd be a perjured man. You know," he added, smiling,
"there's something in a Lamh Laudher's blow, as well as in the Dead
Boxer's. Isn't it said, that a Lamh Laudher needn't strike two blows,
when he sends his strength with one."

He stretched out his powerful arm, as he spoke, with a degree of pride,
not unbecoming his youth, spirit, and amazing strength and activity.

"Do not," he added, "either vex me, or sink my spirits. I'm sworn, an'
I'll fight him. That's my mind, and it will not change."

The whole party felt, by the energy and decision with which he spoke
the last words, that he was immovable. His resolution filled them with
melancholy, and an absolute sense of death. They left him, therefore, in
silence, with the exception of his parents, whose grief was bitter and
excessive.

When the Dead Boxer heard that he had been challenged, he felt more
chagrin than satisfaction, for his avarice was disappointed; but when he
understood from those members of the corporation who waited on him,
that Lamh Laudher was the challenger, the livid fire of mingled rage and
triumph which blazed in his large bloodshot eyes absolutely frightened
the worthy burghers.

"I'm glad of that," said he--"here, Joe, I desire you to go and get
a coffin made, six feet long and properly wide--we will give him room
enough; tehee! tehee! tehee!--ah! tehee! tehee! tehee! I'm glad,
gentlemen. Herr! agh! tehee! tehee! I'm glad, I'm glad."

In this manner did he indulge in the wild and uncouth glee of a savage
as ferocious as he was powerful.

"We have a quare proverb here, Misther Black," said one of the worthy
burghers, "that, be my sowl, may be you never heard!"

"Tehee! tehee! agh! What is that?" said the Boxer, showing his white
teeth and blubber lips in a furious grin, whilst the eyes which he
fastened on the poor burgher blazed up once more, as if he was about to
annihilate him.

"What is it, sar?"

"Faith," said the burgher, making towards the door, "I'll tell you
that when I'm the safe side o' the room--devil a ha'porth bar-rin' that
neither you nor any man ought to reckon your chickens before they
are hatched. Make money of that;" and after having discharged this
pleasantry at the black, the worthy burgher made a hasty exit down
stairs, followed at a more dignified pace by his companions.

The Dead Boxer, in preparing for battle, observed a series of forms
peculiar to himself, which were certainly of an appalling character. As
a proof that the challenge was accepted, he ordered a black flag,
which he carried about with him, to wave from a window of the inn, a
circumstance which thrilled all who saw it with an awful certainty of
Lamh Laudher's death. He then gave order for the drums to be beaten,
and a dead march to be played before him, whilst he walked slowly up
the town and back, conversing occasionally with some of those who
immediately surrounded him. When he arrived nearly opposite the
market-house, some person pointed out to him a small hut that stood in a
situation isolated from the other houses of the street.

"There," added his informant, "is the house where Lamh Laudher Oge's
aunt lives, and where he himself has lived since he left his father's."

"Ah!" said the black, pausing, "is he within, do you think?"

One of the crowd immediately inquired, and replied to him in
affirmative.

"Will any of you," continued the boxer, "bring me over a half-hundred
weight from the market crane? I will show this fellow what a poor chance
he has. If he is so strong in the arm and active as is reported, I
desire he will imitate me. Let the music stop a moment."

The crowd was now on tiptoe, and all necks were stretched over the
shoulders of those who stood before them, in order to see, if possible,
what the feat could be which he intended to perform. Having received
the half-hundred weight from the hands of the man who brought it, he
approached the widow's cottage, and sent in a person to apprize _Lamh
Laudher_ of his intention to throw it over the house, and to request
that he would witness this proof of his strength. Lamh Laudher delayed a
few minutes, and the Dead Boxer stood in the now silent crowd, awaiting
his appearance, when accidentally glancing into the door, he started as
if stung by a serpent. A flash and a glare of his fierce blazing eyes
followed.

"Ha! damnation! true as hell!" he exclaimed, "she's with him! Ha!--the
Obeah woman was right--the Obeuh woman was right. Guilt, guilt, guilt!
Ha!"

With terror and fury upon his huge dark features, he advanced a step or
two into the cottage, and in a voice that resembled the under-growl
of an enraged bull, said to his wife, for it was she--"You will never
repeat this--I am aware of you; I know you now! Fury! prepare yourself;
I say so to both. Ha!" Neither she nor Lamh Laudher had an opportunity
of replying to him, for he ran in a mood perfectly savage to the
half-hundred weight, which he caught by the ring, whirled it round him
two or three times, and, to the amazement of the mob who were crowded
about him, flung it over the roof of the cottage.

Lamh Laudher had just left the cabin in time to witness the feat, as
well as to observe more closely the terrific being in his full strength
and fury, with whom he was to wage battle on the following day. Those
who watched his countenance, observed that it blanched for a moment, and
that the color came and went upon his cheek.

"Now, young fellow," said the Boxer, "get behind the cabin and throw
back the weight."

Lamh Landher hesitated, but was ultimately proceeding to make the
attempt, when a voice from the crowd, in tones that were evidently
disguised, shouted--

"Don't be a fool, young man; husband your strength, for you will want
it."

The Dead Boxer started again--"Ha!" he exclaimed, after listening
acutely, "fury of hell! are you there? ha! I'll grasp you yet, though."

The young man, however, felt the propriety of this friendly caution.
"The person who spoke is right," said he, "whoever he is. I will
husband, my strength," and he passed again into the cabin.

The boxer's countenance exhibited dark and flitting shadows of rage.
That which in an European cheek would have been the redness of deep
resentment, appeared, on his, as the scarlet blood struggled with the
gloomy hue of his complexion, rather like a tincture that seemed to
borrow its character more from the darkness of his soul, than from the
color of his skin. His brow, black and lowering as a thunder-cloud, hung
fearfully over his eyes, which he turned upon Lamh Laudher when entering
the hut, as if he could have struck him dead with a look. Having desired
the drums to beat, and the dead march to be resumed, he proceeded along
the streets until he arrived at the inn, from the front of which the
dismal flag of death flapped slowly and heavily in the breeze. At this
moment the death-bell of the town church tolled, and the sexton of the
parish bustled through the crowd to inform him that the grave which he
had ordered to be made was ready.

The solemnity of these preparations, joined to the almost superhuman
proof of bodily strength which he had just given, depressed every heart,
when his young and generous adversary was contrasted with him. Deep
sorrow for the fate of Lamh Laudher prevailed throughout the town; the
old men sighed at the folly of his rash and fatal obstinacy, and the
females shed tears at the sacrifice of one whom all had loved. From
the inn, hundreds of the crowd rushed to the church-yard, where they
surveyed the newly made grave with shudderings and wonder at the
strangeness of the events which had occurred in the course of the day.
The death music, the muffled drums, the black flag, the mournful tolling
of the sullen bell, together with the deep grave that lay open before
them, appeared rather to resemble the fearful pageant of a gloomy dream,
than the reality of incidents that actually passed before their eyes.
Those who came to see the grave departed with heaviness and a sad
foreboding of what was about to happen; but fresh crowds kept pouring
towards it for the remainder of the day, till the dusky shades of a
summer night drove them to their own hearths, and left the church-yard
silent.

The appearance of the Dead Boxer's wife in the house where Lamh Laudher
resided, confirmed, in its worst sense, that which Nell M'Collum had
suggested to him. It is unnecessary to describe the desolating sweep of
passion which a man, who, like him, was the slave of strong resentments,
must have suffered. It was not only from motives of avarice and a
natural love of victory that he felt anxious to fight: to these was now
added a dreadful certainty that Lamh Laudher was the man in existence
who had inflicted on him an injury, for which nothing but the pleasure
of crushing him to atoms with his hands, could atone. The approaching
battle therefore, with his direst enemy, was looked upon by the Dead
Boxer as an opportunity of glutting his revenge. When the crowd had
dispersed, he called a waiter, and desired him to inquire if his
wife had returned. The man retired to ascertain, and the Boxer walked
backwards and forwards in a state of mind easily conceived, muttering
curses and vows of vengeance against her and Lamh Laudher. After some
minutes he was informed that she had not returned, upon which he gave
orders that on the very instant of her appearance at the inn, she should
be sent to him. The waiter's story in this instance was incorrect;
but the wife's apprehension of his violence, overcame every other
consideration, and she resolved for some time to avoid him. He had, in
fact, on more than one occasion openly avowed his jealousy of her and
O'Rorke, and that in a manner which made the unhappy woman tremble for
her life. She felt, therefore, from what had just occurred at Widow
Rorke's cabin, that she must separate herself from him, especially as
he was susceptible neither of reason nor remonstrance. Every thing
conspired to keep his bad passions in a state of tumult. Nell M'Collum,
whom he wished to consult once more upon the recovery of his money,
could not be found. This, too, galled him; for avarice, except
during the whirlwind of jealousy, was the basis of his character--the
predominant passion of his heart. After cooling a little, he called for
his servant, who had been in the habit of acting for him in the capacity
of second, and began, with his assistance, to make preparations for
to-morrow's battle.




CHAPTER VII.


Nothing now could exceed the sympathy which was felt for young Lamh
Laudher, yet except among his immediate friends, there was little
exertion made to prevent him from accelerating his own fate. So true
is it that public feeling scruples not to gratify its appetite for
excitement, even at the risk or actual cost of human life. His parents
and relations mourned him as if he had been already dead. The grief
of his mother had literally broken down her voice so much, that from
hoarseness, she was almost unintelligible. His aged father sat and wept
like a child; and it was in vain that any of their friends attempted to
console them. During the latter part of the day, every melancholy stroke
of the death bell pierced their hearts; the dead march, too, and the
black flag waving, as if in triumph over the lifeless body of their only
son, the principal support of their declining years, filled them with
a gloom and terror, which death, in its common shape, would not have
inspired. This savage pageant on the part, of the Dead Boxer, besides
being calculated to daunt the heart of any man who might accept his
challenge, was a cruel mockery of the solemnities of death. In this
instance it produced such a sensation as never had been felt in that
part of the country. An uneasy feeling of wild romance, mingled with
apprehension, curiosity, fear, and amazement, all conspired to work upon
the imaginations of a people in whom that quality is exuberant, until
the general excitement became absolutely painful.

Perhaps there was not one among his nearest friends who felt more
profound regret for having been the occasion of his disgrace, and
consequently of the fate to which he had exposed him, than Meehaul Neil.
In the course of that day he sent his father to old Lamh Laudher, to
know if young O'Rorke would grant him an interview, the object of which
was to dissuade him from the battle.

"Tell him," said the latter, with a composure still tinged with a
sorrowful spirit, "that I will not see him to-day. To-morrow I may,
and if I don't, tell him, that for his sister's sake, he has my
forgiveness."

The introduction of the daughter's name shortened the father's visit,
who left him in silence.

Ellen, however, had struggles to endure which pressed upon her heart
with an anguish bitter in proportion to the secrecy rendered necessary
by the dread of her relations. From the moment she heard of Lamh
Laudher's challenge, and saw the funeral appendages with which the Dead
Boxer had darkened the preparations for the fight, she felt her heart
sink, from a consciousness that she had been indirectly the murderess of
her lover. Her countenance became ghastly pale, and her frame was seized
with a tremor which she could hardly conceal. She would have been glad
to have shed tears, but tears were denied her. Except the Boxer's wife,
there was no one to whom she could disclose her misery; but alas! for
once, that amiable creature was incapable of affording her consolation.
She herself, felt distress resulting from both the challenge, and her
husband's jealousy, almost equal to that of Ellen.

"I know not how it is," said she, "but I cannot account for the interest
I feel in that young man. Yes, surely, it is natural, when we consider
that I owe my life to him. Still, independently of that, I never heard
his voice, that it did not fall upon my heart like the voice of a
friend. We must, if possible, change his mind,", she added, wiping away
her tears; "for I know that if he fights that terrible man, he will be
killed."

At Ellen's request, she consented to see Lamh Laudher, with a view of
entreating him, in her name, to decline the fight. Nor were her own
solicitations less urgent. With tears and grief which could not be
affected, she besought him not to rush upon certain death--said that
Ellen could not survive it--pleaded the claims of his aged parents,
and left no argument untouched that could apply to his situation and
conduct. Lamh Laudher, however, was inexorable, and she relinquished an
attempt that she felt to be ineffectual. The direction of her husband's
attention so unexpectedly to widow Rorke's I cabin, at that moment,
and his discovery of her interview with Lamh Laudher, determined her,
previously acquainted as she had been with his jealousy, to keep out of
his reach, until some satisfactory explanation could be given. Ellen,
however, could not rest; her grief had so completely overborne all
other considerations, that she cared little, now, whether her friends
perceived it or not. On one thing, she was fixed, and that was, to
prevent Lamh Laudher from encountering the Dead Boxer. With this purpose
she wrapped herself in a cloak about ten o'clock, and careless whether
she was observed or not, went directly towards his aunt's house. About
two-thirds of the way had probably been traversed, when a man, wrapped
up in a cloak, like herself, accosted her in a low voice, not much above
a whisper.

"Miss Neil," said he, "I don't think it would be hard to guess where you
are going."

"Who are you that asks?" said Ellen. "No matter; but if you happen to
see young O'Rorke to-night, I have a message to send him that may serve
him."

"Who are you?" again inquired Ellen. "One that cautions you to beware of
the Dead Boxer; one that pities and respects his unfortunate wife; and
one who, as I said, can serve O'Rorke."

"For God's sake, then, if you can, be quick; for there's little time to
be lost," said Ellen.

"Give him this message," replied the man, and he whispered half a dozen
words into her ear.

"Is that true?" she asked him; "and may he depend upon it?"

"He may, as there's a God above me. Good night!" He passed on at a rapid
pace. When Ellen entered his aunt's humble cabin, Lamh Laudher had just
risen from his knees. Devotion, or piety if you will, as it is in many
cases, though undirected by knowledge, may be frequently found among
the peasantry associated with objects that would appear to have little
connection with it. When he saw her he exclaimed with something like
disappointment:--

"Ah! Ellen dear, why did you come? I would rather you hadn't crossed me
now, darling."

His manner was marked by the same melancholy sedateness which we have
already described. He knew the position in which he stood, and did not
attempt to disguise what he felt. His apparent depression, however, had
a dreadful effect upon Ellen, who sat down on a stool, and threw back
the hood of her cloak; but the aunt placed a little circular arm-chair
for her somewhat nearer the fire. She declined it in a manner that
argued something like incoherence, which occasioned O'Rorke to, glance
at her most earnestly. He started, on observing the wild lustre of her
eye, and the woebegone paleness of her cheek.

"Ellen," said he, "how is this? Has any thing frightened you? Merciful
mother! aunt, look at her!"

The distracted girl sank before him on her knees, locked her hands
together, and while her eyes sparkled with an unsettled light,
exclaimed--

"John!--John!--Lamh Laudher Oge--forgive me, before you die! I have
murdered you!"

"Ellen love, Ellen"--

"Do you forgive me? do you? Your blood is upon me, Lamh Laudher Oge!"

"Heavens above! Aunt, she's turned! Do I forgive you, my heart's own
treasure? How did you ever offend me, my darling? You. know you never
did. But if you ever did, my own Ellen, I do forgive you."

"But I murdered you--and that was because my brother said he would do
it--an' I got afraid, John, that he might do you harm, an' afraid to
tell you too--an'--an' so you promise me you won't fight the Dead Boxer?
Thank God! thank God! then your blood will not be upon me!"

"Aunt, she's lost," he exclaimed; "the brain of my _colleen dhas_ is
turned!"

"John, won't you save me from the Dead Boxer? There's nobody able to do
it but you, Lamh Laudher Oge!"

"Aunt, aunt, my girl's destroyed," said John, "her heart's broke!
Ellen!"

"But to-morrow, John--to-morrow--sure yo' won't fight him
to-morrow?--if you do--if you do he'll kill you--an' 'twas I
that--that"----

O'Rorke had not thought of raising her from the posture in which
she addressed him, so completely had he been overcome by the frantic
vehemence of her manner. He now snatched her up, and placed her in the
little arm-chair alluded to; but she had scarcely been seated in it,
when her hands became clenched, her head sank, and the heavy burthen of
her sorrows was forgotten in a long fit of insensibility.

Lamh Laudher's distraction and alarm prevented him from rendering
her much assistance; but the aunt was more cool, and succeeded with
considerable difficulty in restoring her to life. The tears burst in
thick showers from her eyelids, she drew her breath vehemently and
rapidly, and, after looking wildly around her, indulged in that natural
grief which relieves the heart by tears. In a short time she became
composed, and was able to talk collectedly and rationally.

This, indeed, was the severest trial that Lamh Laudher had yet
sustained. With all the force of an affection as strong and tender as
it was enduring and disinterested, she urged him to relinquish his
determination to meet the Dead Boxer on the following day. John soothed
her, chid her, and even bantered her, as a cowardly girl, unworthy of
being the sister of Meehaul Neil, but to her, as well as to all others
who had attempted to change his purpose, he was immovable. No; the
sense of his disgrace had sunk too deep into his heart, and the random
allusions just made by Ellen herself to the Dead Boxer's villainy, but
the more inflamed his resentment against him.

On finding his resolution irrevocable, she communicated to him in a
whisper the message which the stranger had sent him. Lamh Laudher,
after having heard it, raised his arm rapidly, and his eye gleamed with
something like the exultation of a man who has discovered a secret that
he had been intensely anxious to learn. Ellen could now delay no longer,
and their separation resembled that of persons who never expected to
meet again. If Lamh Laudher could at this moment have affected even a
show of cheerfulness, in spite of Ellen's depression it would have given
her great relief. Still, on her part, their parting was a scene of
agony and distress which no description could reach, and on his, it
was sorrowful and tender; for neither felt certain that they would ever
behold each other in life again.

A dark sunless morning opened the eventful day of this fearful battle.
Gloom and melancholy breathed a sad spirit over the town and adjacent
country. A sullen breeze was abroad, and black clouds drifted
slowly along the heavy sky. The Dead Boxer again had recourse to his
pageantries of death. The funeral bell tolled heavily during the whole
morning, and the black flag flapped more dismally in the sluggish blast
than before. At an early hour the town began to fill with myriads of
people. Carriages and cars, horsemen and pedestrians, all thronged in
one promiscuous stream towards the scene of interest. A dense multitude
stood before the inn, looking with horror on the death flag, and
watching for a glimpse of the fatal champion. From this place hundreds
of them passed to the house of Lamh Laudher More, and on hearing that
the son resided in his aunt's they hurried towards her cabin to gratify
themselves with a sight of the man who dared to wage battle with the
Dead Boxer. From this cabin, as on the day before, they went to the
church-yard, where a platform had already been erected beside the grave.
Against the railings of the platform stood the black coffin intended for
Lamh Laudher, decorated with black ribbons that fluttered gloomily in
the blast. The sight of this and of the grave completed the wonder and
dread which they felt. As every fresh mass of the crowd arrived, low
murmurs escaped them, they raised their heads and eyes exclaiming--

"Poor Lamh Laudher! God be merciful to him!"

As the morning advanced, O'Rorke's faction, as a proof that they were
determined to consider the death of their leader as a murder, dressed
themselves in red ribbons, a custom occasionally observed in Ireland
even now, at the funerals of those who have been murdered. Their
appearance passing to and fro among the crowd made the scene with all
its associations absolutely terrible. About eleven o'clock they went
in a body to widow Rorke's, for the purpose of once more attempting
to dissuade him against the fight. Here most unexpected intelligence
awaited them--_Lamh Laudher Oge_ had disappeared. The aunt stated that
he had left the house with a strange man, early that morning, and that
he had not returned. Ere many minutes the rumor was in every part of the
town, and strong disappointment was felt, and expressed against him in
several round oaths, by the multitude in general. His father, however,
declared his conviction that his son would not shrink from what he had
undertaken, and he who had not long before banished him for cowardice,
now vouched for his courage. At the old man's suggestion, his friends
still adhered to their resolutions of walking to the scene of conflict
in a body. At twenty minutes to twelve o'clock, the black flag was
removed from the inn window, the muffled drums beat, and the music
played the same dead march as on the days of uttering the challenge.
In a few minutes the Dead Boxer, accompanied by some of the neighboring
gentry, made his appearance, preceded by the flag. From another point,
the faction of Lamb Laudher fluttering in blood-red ribbons, marched at
a solemn pace towards the church-yard. On arriving opposite his
aunt's, his mother wept aloud, and with one voice all the females
who accompanied her, raised the Irish funeral cry. In this manner,
surrounded by all the solemn emblems of death, where none was dead,
they slowly advanced until they reached the platform. The Dead Boxer,
attended by his own servant, as second, now ascended the stage, where he
stood for a few minutes, until his repeater struck twelve. That moment
he began to strip, which having done, he advanced to the middle of
the stage, and in a deep voice required the authorities of the town to
produce their champion. To this no answer was returned, for not a man of
them could account for the disappearance of Lamh Laudher. A wavy motion,
such as passes over the forest top under a low blast, stirred the
whole multitude; this was the result of many feelings, but that which
prevailed amongst them was disappointment. A second time the Dead Boxer
repeated the words, but except the stir and hum which we have described,
there was not a voice heard in reply. Lamh Laudher's very friends felt
mortified, and the decaying spirit of Lamh Laudher More rallied for a
moment. His voice alone was heard above the dead silence,--

"He will come, back," said he, "my son will come; and I would now rather
see him dead than that he should fear to be a man."

He had scarcely spoken, when a loud cheer, which came rapidly onward,
was heard outside the church-yard. A motion and a violent thrusting
aside, accompanied by a second shout, "he's here!" gave intimation of
his approach. In about a minute, to the manifest delight of all present,
young Lamh Laudher, besmeared with blood, leaped upon the platform.
He looked gratefully at the crowd, and in order to prevent perplexing
inquiries, simply said--

"Don't be alarmed--I had a slight accident, but I'm not the worse of
it."

The cheers of the multitude were now enough to awaken the dead beneath
them; and when they had ceased, his father cried out--

"God support you, boy--you're my true son; an' I know you'll show them
what the Lamh Laudher blood an' the Lamh Laudher blow is."

The young man looked about him for a moment, and appeared perplexed.

"I'm here alone," said he; "is there any among you that will second me?"

Hundreds immediately volunteered this office; but there was one who
immediately sprung upon the stage, to the no small surprise of all
present--it was Meehaul Neil. He approached Lamh Laudher and extended
his hand, which was received with cordiality.

"Meehaul," said O'Rorke, "I thank you for this."

"Do not," replied the other; "no man has such a right to stand by you
now as I have. I never knew till this mornin' why you did not strike me
the last night we met."

The Dead Boxer stood with his arms folded, sometimes looking upon the
crowd, and occasionally glaring at his young' and fearless antagonist.
The latter immediately stripped, and when he "stood out erect and
undaunted upon the stage, although his proportions were perfect, and his
frame active and massy, yet when measured with the Herculean size of the
Dead Boxer, he appeared to have no chance.

"Now," said he to the black, "by what rules are we to fight?"

"If you consult me," said the other, "perhaps it is best that every man
should fight as he pleases. You decide that. I am the challenger."

"Take your own way, then," said O'Rorke; "but you have a secret,
black--do you intend to use it?"

"Certainly, young fellow."

"I have my secret, too," said Lamh Laudher; "an' now I give you warning
that I will put it in practice."

"All fair; but we are losing time," replied the man of color, putting
himself in an attitude. "Come on."

Their seconds stood back, and both advanced to the middle of the stage.
The countenance of the black, and his huge chest, resembled rather
a colossal statue of bronze, than the bust of a human being. His eye
gleamed at Lamh Laudher with baleful flashes of intense hatred. The
spectators saw, however, that the dimensions of Lamh Laudher gained
considerably by his approximation to the black. The dusky color of the
Boxer added apparently to his size, whilst the healthful light which lay
upon the figure of his opponent took away, as did his elegance, grace,
and symmetry, from the uncommon breadth and fulness of his bust.

Several feints were made by the black, and many blows aimed, which Lamh
Laudher, by his natural science and activity, parried; at length a blow
upon the temple shot him to the boards with great violence, and the
hearts of the spectators, which were all with him, became fearfully
depressed.

O'Rorke, having been raised, shook his head as if to throw off the
influence of the blow. Neil afterwards declared that when coming to the
second round, resentment and a sense of having suffered in the opinion
of the multitude by the blow which brought him down, had strung his
muscular power into such a state of concentration, that his arms became
as hard as oak. On meeting again he bounded at the Boxer, and by a
single blow upon the eye-brow felled him like an ox. So quickly was
it sent home, that the black had not activity to guard against it; on
seeing which, a short and exulting cheer rose from the multitude. We are
not now giving a detailed account of this battle, as if reporting it for
a newspaper; it must suffice to say, that Lamh Laudher was knocked down
twice, and the Dead Boxer four times, in as many rounds. The black, on
coming to the seventh round, laughed, whilst the blood trickled down his
face. His frame appeared actually agitated with inward glee, and indeed
a more appalling species of mirth was never witnessed.

It was just when he approached Lamh Laudher, chuckling hideously, his
black visage reddened with blood, that a voice from the crowd shouted--

"He's laughing--the blow's coming--O'Rorke, remember your instructions."

The Boxer advanced, and began a series of feints, with the intention of
giving that murderous blow which he was never known to miss. But before
he could put his favorite stratagem in practice, the activity of O'Rorke
anticipated his _ruse_, for in the dreadful energy of his resentment he
not only forgot the counter-secret which had been, confided to him, but
every other consideration for the moment. With the spring of a tiger he
leaped towards the black, who by the act was completely thrown off his
guard. This was more than O'Rorke expected. The opportunity, however,
he did not suffer to pass; with the rapidity of lightning he struck the
savage on the neck, immediately under the ear. The Dead Boxer fell,
and from his ears, nostrils, and mouth the clear blood sprung out,
streaking, in a fearful manner, his dusky neck and chest. His second ran
to raise him, but his huge woolly head fell from side to side with an
appearance of utter lifelessness. In a few minutes, however, he rallied,
and began to snort violently, throwing his arms and limbs about him with
a quivering energy, such as, in strong men who die unwasted by disease,
frequently marks the struggle of death. At length he opened his eyes,
and after fastening them upon his triumphant opponent with one last
glare of hatred and despair, he ground his teeth, clenched his gigantic
hands, and stammering out, "Fury of hell! I--I--damnation!" This was his
last exclamation, for he suddenly plunged again, extended his shut fist
towards Lamh Laudher, as if he would have crushed him even in death,
then becoming suddenly relaxed, his head fell upon his shoulder, and
after one groan, he expired on the very spot where he had brought
together the apparatus of death for another.




CHAPTER VIII.


When the spectators saw and heard what had occurred, their acclamations
rose to the sky; cheer after cheer pealed from the graveyard over a
wide circuit of the country. With a wild luxury of triumph they seized
O'Rorke, placed him on their shoulders, and bore him in triumph through
every street in the town. All kinds of mad but good-humored excesses
were committed. The public houses were filled with those who had
witnessed the fight, songs were sung, healths were drank, and blows
given. The streets, during the remainder of the day, were paraded by
groups of his townsmen belonging to both factions, who on that occasion
buried their mutual animosity in exultation for his victory.

The worthy burghers of the corporation, who had been both frightened
and disgusted at the dark display made by the Dead Boxer previous to
the tight, put his body in the coffin that had been intended for Lamh
Laudher, and without any scruple, took it up, and went in procession
with the black flag before them, the death bell again tolling, and the
musicians playing the dead march, until they deposited his body in the
inn.

After Lamh Laudher had been chaired by the people, and borne throughout
every nook of the town, he begged them to permit him to go home. With a
fresh volley of shouts and hurras they proceeded, still bearing him in
triumph towards his father's house, where they left him, after a last
and deafening round of cheers. Our readers can easily fancy the pride of
his parents and friends on receiving him.

"Father," said he, "my name's' cleared. I hope I have the Lamh Laudher
blood in me still. Mother, you never doubted me, but you wor forced to
give way."

"My son, my son," said the father, embracing him, "my noble boy! There
never was one of your name like you. You're the flower of us all!"

His mother wept with joy and pressed him repeatedly to her heart;
and all his relations were as profuse as they were sincere in their
congratulations.

"One thing troubles us," observed his parents, "what will become of his
wife? John dear," said his mother, "my heart aches for her."

"God knows and so does mine," exclaimed the father; "there is goodness
about her."

"She is freed from a tyrant and a savage," replied their son, "for he
was both, and she ought to be thankful that she's rid of him. But you
don't know that there was an attempt made on my life this mornin'."

On hearing this, they were all mute with astonishment.

"In the name of heaven how, John?" they inquired with one voice.

[Illustration: PAGE 110-- He made a stab at my neck]

"A red-haired man came to my aunt's," he continued, "early this mornin',
an' said if I wanted to hear something for my good, I would follow him.
I did so, an' I observed that he eyed me closely as we went along. We
took the way that turns up the Quarry, an' afther gettin' into one of
the little fir groves off the road, he made a stab at my neck, as I
stooped to tie my shoe that happened to be loose. As God would have it,
he only tore the skin above my forehead. I pursued the villain on the
spot, but he disappeared among the trees, as if the earth had swallowed
him. I then went into Darby Kavanagh's, where I got my breakfast; an'
as I was afraid that you might by pure force prevent me from meetin' the
black, I didn't stir out of it till the proper time came."

This startling incident occasioned much discussion among his friends,
who of course were ignorant alike of the person who had attempted his
assassination, and of the motives which could have impelled him to such
a crime. Several opinions were advanced upon the circumstance, but as
it had failed, his triumph over the Dead Boxer, as unexpected as it was
complete, soon superseded it, and many a health was given "to the best
man that ever sprung from the blood of the Lamh Laudhers!" for so
they termed him, and well had he earned the epithet. At this moment an
incident occurred which considerably subdued their enjoyment. Breen, the
constable, came to inform them that Nell McCollum, now weltering in her
blood, and at the point of death, desired instantly to see them.

Our readers have been, no doubt, somewhat surprised at the sudden
disappearance of Nell. This artful and vindictive woman had, as we have
stated, been closely dogged through all her turnings and windings, by
the emissaries of Mr. Brookleigh. For this haunt where she was in the
habit of meeting her private friends. The preparations, however, for the
approaching fight, and the tumult it excited in the town, afforded her
an opportunity of giving her spies the slip. She went, on the evening
before the battle, to a small dark cabin in one of the most densely
inhabited parts of the town, where, secure in their privacy, she found
Nanse M'Collum, who had never left the town since the night of the
robbery, together with the man called Rody, and another hardened ruffian
with red hair.

"_Dher ma chuirp_," said she, without even a word of precious
salutation, "but I'll,lay my life that Lamh Laudher bates the black. In
that case he'd be higher up wid the town than ever. He knocked him down
last night."

"Well," said Rody, "an' what if he does? I would feel rather satisfied
at that circumstance. I served the black dog for five years, and a more
infernal tyrant never existed, nor a milder or more amiable woman than
his wife. Now that you have his money, the sooner the devil gets himself
the better."

"To the black _diouol_ wid yourself an' your Englified _gosther_,"
returned Nell indignantly; "his wife! _Damno' orth_, don't make my blood
boil by speaking a word in her favor. If Lamh Laudher comes off best,
all I've struv for is knocked on the head. _Dher Chiernah_, I'll crush
the sowl of his father or I'll not die happy."

"Nell, you're bittherer than soot, and blacker too," observed Rody.

"Am I?" said Nell, "an' is it from the good crathur that was ready, the
other night, to murdher the mild innocent woman that he spakes so well
of, that we hear sich discoorse?"

"You're mistaken there, Nelly," replied Body; "I had no intention of
taking away her life, although I believe my worthy comrade here in the
red hair, that I helped out of a certain gaol once upon a time, had no
scruples."

"No, curse the scruple!" said the other.

"I was in the act of covering her eyes and mouth to prevent her from
either knowing her old servant or making a noise,--but d---- it, I was
bent to save her life that night, rather than take it," said Rody.

"I know this friend of yours, Rody, but a short time," observed Nell;
"but if he hasn't more spunk in him than yourself, he's not worth his
feedin'."

"Show me," said the miscreant, "what s to be done, life or purse--an'
here's your sort for both."

"Come, then," said Nell, "by the night above us, we'll thry your
mettle."

"Never heed her," observed Nanse; "aunt, you're too wicked an'
revengeful."

"Am I?" said the aunt. "I tuck an oath many a year ago, that I'd never
die till I'd put sharp sorrow into Lamh Laudher's sowl. I punished him
through his daughter, I'll now grind the heart in him through his son."

"An' what do you want to be done inquired the red man.

"Come here, an' I'll tell you that," said Nell.

A short conversation took place between them, behind a little partition
which divided the kitchen from two small sleeping rooms, containing a
single bed each.

"Now," said Nell, addressing the whole party, "let us all be ready
to-morrow, while the whole town's preparin' for the fight, to slip away
as well disguised as we can, out of the place; by that time you'll have
your business done, an' your trifle o' money earned;" she directed the
last words to the red-haired stranger.

"You keep me out of this secret?" observed Body.

"It's not worth knowin'," said Nell; "I was only thryin' you, Rody. It's
nothing bad. I'm not so cruel as you think. I wouldn't take the wide
world an' shed blood wid my own hands. I tried it once on Lamh Laudher
More, an' when I thought I killed him hell came into me. No; that I may
go _below_ if I would!"

"But you would get others to do it, if you could," said Rody.

"I need get nobody to do it for me," said the crone. "I could wither any
man, woman, or child, off o' the earth, wid one charm, if I wished."

"Why don't you wither young Lamh Laudher then?" said Rody.

"If they fight to-morrow," replied Nell; "mind I say if they do--an' I
now tell you they won't--but I say if they do--you'll see he'll go home
in the coffin that's made for him--an' I know how that'll happen. Now at
eleven we'll meet here if we can to-morrow."

The two men then slunk out, and with great caution proceeded towards
different directions of the town, for Nell had recommended them to keep
as much asunder as possible, least their grouping together might expose
them to notice. Their place of rendezvous was only resorted to on urgent
and necessary occasions.

The next morning, a little after the appointed hour, Nell, Rody, and
Nanse McCollum, were sitting in deliberation upon their future plans of
life, when he of the red hair entered the cabin.

"Well," said Nell starting up--"what was done? show me?"

The man produced a dagger slightly stained with blood.

"_Damno orrum!_" exclaimed the aged fury, "but you've failed--an' all's
lost if he beats the black."

"I did fail," said the miscreant. "Why, woman if that powerful active
fellow had got me in his hands, I'd have tasted the full length of the
dagger myself. The d----l's narrow escape I had."

"The curse of heaven light on you, for a cowardly dog!" exclaimed Nell,
grinding her teeth with disappointment. "You're a faint-hearted villain.
Give me the dagger."

"Give me the money," said the man.

"For what? no, consumin' to the penny; you didn't earn it."

"I did," said the fellow, "or at all evints attempted it. Ay, an' I must
have it before I lave this house, an' what is more, you must lug out my
share of the black's prog."

"You'll get nothing of that," said Rody; "it was Nell here, not you, who
took it."

"One hundred of it on the nail, this minnit," said the man, "or I bid
you farewell, an' then look to yourselves."

"It's not mine," said Rody; "if Nell shares it, I have no objection."

"I'd give the villain the price of a rope first," she replied.

"Then I am off," said the fellow, "an' you'll curse your conduct."

Nell flew between him and the door, and in his struggle to get out,
she grasped at the dagger, but failed in securing it. Rody advanced to
separate them, as did Nanse, but the fellow by a strong effort attempted
to free himself. The three were now upon him, and would have easily
succeeded in preventing his escape had it not occurred to him that by
one blow he might secure the whole sum. This was instantly directed at
Rody, by a back thrust, for he stood behind him. By the rapid change of
their positions, however, the breast of Nell M'Collum received the stab
that was designed for another.

A short violent shriek followed, as she staggered back and fell.

"Staunch the blood," she exclaimed, "staunch the blood, an' there may be
a chance of life yet."

The man threw the dagger down, and was in the act of rushing out, when
the door opened, and a posse of constables entered the house. Nell's
face became at once ghastly and horror-stricken, for she found that the
blood could not be staunched, and that, in fact, eternity was about to
open upon her.

"Secure him!" said Nell, pointing to her murderer, "secure him, an' send
quick for Lamh Laudher More. God's hand is in what has happened! Ay,
I raised the blow for him, an' God has sent it to my own heart. Send,
too," she added, "for the Dead Boxer's wife, an' if you expect heaven,
be quick."

On receiving Nell's message the old man, his son, wife, and one or two
other friends, immediately hurried to the scene of death, where they
arrived a few minutes after the Dead Boxer's wife.

Nell lay in dreadful agony; her face was now a bluish yellow, her
eye-brows were bent, and her eyes getting dead and vacant.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, "Andy Hart! Andy Hart! it was the black hour you
brought me from the right way. I was innocent till I met you, an' well
thought of; but what was I ever since? an' what am I now?"

"You never met me," said the red-haired stranger, "till within the last
fortnight."

"What do you mean, you unfortunate man?" asked Rody.

"Andy Hart is my name," said the man, "although I didn't go by it for
some years."

"Andy Hart!" said Nell, raising herself with a violent jerk, and
screaming, "Andy Hart! Andy Hart! stand over before me. Andy Hart! It is
his father's voice. Oh God! Strip his breast there, an' see if there's a
blood-mark on the left side."

"I'm beginnin' to fear something dreadful," said the criminal,
trembling, and getting as pale as death; "there is--there is a
blood-mark on the very spot she mentions--see here."

"I would know him to be Andy Hart's son, God rest him!" observed Lamh
Laudher More, "any where over the world. Blessed mother of heaven!--down
on your knees, you miserable crature, down on your knees for her pardon!
You've murdhered your unfortunate mother!"

The man gave one loud and fearful yell, and dashed himself on the
floor at his mother's feet, an appalling picture of remorse. The scene,
indeed, was a terrible one. He rolled himself about, tore his hair, and
displayed every symptom of a man in a paroxysm of madness. But among
those present, with the exception of the mother and son, there was not
such a picture of distress and sorrow, as the wife of the Dead Boxer.
She stooped down to raise the stranger up; "Unhappy man," said she,
"look up, I am your sister!"

"No," said Nell, "no--no--no. There's more of my guilt. Lamh Laudher
More, I stand forrid, you and your wife. You lost a daughter long ago.
Open your arms and take her back a blameless woman. She's your child
that I robbed you of as one punishment; the other blow that I intended
for you has been struck here. I'm dyin'."

A long cry of joy burst from the mother and daughter, as they rushed
into each other's arms. Nature, always strongest in pure minds, even
before this denouement, had, indeed, rekindled the mysterious flame of
her own affection in their hearts. The father pressed her to his bosom,
and forgot the terrors of the sound before him, whilst the son embraced
her with a secret consciousness that she was, indeed, his long-lost
sister.

"We couldn't account," said her parents, "for the way we loved you
the day we met you before the magistrate; every word you said, Alice
darling, went into our hearts wid delight, an' we could hardly ever
think of your voice ever since, that the tears didn't spring to our
eyes. But we never suspected, as how could we, that you were our child."

She declared that she felt the same mysterious attachment to them, and
to her brother also, from the moment she heard the tones of his voice on
the night the robbery was attempted.

"Nor could I," said Lamh Laudher Oge, "account for the manner I loved
you."

Their attention was now directed to Nell, who again spoke.

"Nanse, give her back the money I robbed her of. There was more of my
villainy, but God fought against me, an'--here--. You will find, it
along with her marriage certificate, an' the gospel she had about her
neck, when I kidnapped her, all in my pocket. Where's my son? Still,
still, bad as I am, an' bad as he is, isn't he my child? Amn't I his
mother? put his hand in mine, and let me die as a mother 'ud wish!"

Never could there be a more striking contrast witnessed than that
between the groups then present; nor a more impressive exemplification
of the interposition of Providence to reward the virtuous and punish the
guilty even in this life.

"Lamh Laudher More," said she, "I once attempted to stab you, only for
preventin' your relation from marryin' a woman that you knew Andy Hart
had ruined. You disfigured my face in your anger too; that an' your
preventing my marriage, an' my character bein' lost, whin it was known
what he refused to marry me for, made me swear an oath of vengeance
against you an' yours. I may now ax your forgiveness, for I neither dare
nor will ax God's."

"You have mine--you have all our forgiveness," replied the old man;
"but, Nell, ax God's, for it's His you stand most in need of--ax God's!"

Nell, however, appeared to hear him not.

"Is that your hand in mine, avick?" said she, addressing her son.

"It is--it is," said the son. "But, mother, I didn't, as I'm to stand
before God, aim the blow at you, but at Rody."

"Lamh Laudher!" said she, forgetting herself, "I ax your forgive----."

Her head fell down before she could conclude the sentence, and thus
closed the last moments of Nell M'Collum.

After the lapse of a short interval, in which Lamh Laudher's daughter
received back her money, the certificate, and the gospel, her brother
discovered that Rody was the person who had, through Ellen Neil,
communicated to him the secret that assisted him in vanquishing the
Dead Boxer, a piece of information which saved him from prosecution. The
family now returned home, where they found Meehaul Neil awaiting their
arrival, for the purpose of offering his sister's hand and dowry to
our hero. This offer, we need scarcely say, was accepted with no sullen
spirit. But Lamh Laudher was not so much her inferior in wealth as our
readers may suppose. His affectionate sister divided her money between
him and her parents, with whom she spent the remainder of her days in
peace and tranquility. Our great-grandfather remembered the wedding,
and from him came down to ourselves, as an authentic tradition, the fact
that it was an unrivalled one, but that it would never have taken place
were it not for the terrible challenge of the Dead Boxer.





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