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The Midnight Mass, a fiction by William Carleton

Part 4

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_ It was now dark, but the night was calm and agreeable. M'Kenna's family felt the keen affliction which we have endeavored to describe; the dinner was put hastily aside, and the festive spirit peculiar to this night became changed into one of gloom and sorrow. In this state they sat, when the voice of grief was heard loud in the distance; the strong cry of men, broken and abrupt, mingled with the shrieking wail of female lamentation.

The M'Kennas started, and Frank's countenance assumed an expression which it would be difficult to describe. There was, joined to his extreme paleness, a restless, apprehensive, and determined look; each trait apparently struggling for the ascendancy in his character, and attempting' to stamp his countenance with its own expression.

"Do you hear that?" said his father. "Oh, musha, Father of heaven, look down an' support that family this night! Frank if you take my advice, you'll lave their sight; for surely if they brain you on the spot, who could blame them?"

"Why ought I lave their sight?" replied Frank. "I tell you all that I had no hand in his death. The gun went off by accident as he was crassin' a wreath o' snow. I was afore him, and when I heard the report, an' turned round, there he lay, shot an' bleedin'. I thought it mightn't signify, but on lookin' at him closely, I found him quite dead. I then ran home, never touchin' the gun at all, till his family and the neighbors 'ud see him. Surely, it's no wondher I'd be distracted in my mind; but that's no rason you should all open upon me as if I had murdhered the boy!"

"Well," said the father, "I'm glad to hear you say even that much. I hope it maybe betther wid you than we all think; an' oh! grant it, sweet mother o' Heaven, this day! Now carry yourself quietly afore the people. If they abuse you, don't fly into a passion, but make allowance for their grief and misery."

In the mean time, the tumult was deepening as it approached M'Kenna's house. The report had almost instantly spread through in the village which Reillaghan lived; and the loud cries of his father and brothers, who, in the wildness of their despair, continually called upon his name, had been heard at the houses which lay scattered over the neighborhood. Their inmates, on listening to such unusual sounds, sought the direction from which they proceeded, for it was quite evident that some terrible calamity had befallen the Reillaghans, in consequence of the son's name being borne on the blasts of night with such loud and overwhelming tones of grief and anguish. The assembly, on reaching M'Kenna's, might, therefore, be numbered at thirty, including the females of Reillaghan's immediate family, who had been strung by the energy of despair to a capability of bearing any fatigue, or rather to an utter insensibility of all bodily suffering.

We must leave the scene which ensued to the reader's imagination, merely observing, that as neither the oath which young Frank had taken on the preceding night, nor indeed the peculiar bitterness of his enmity towards the deceased, was known by the Reillaghans, they did not, therefore, discredit the account of his death which they had heard.

Their grief was exclamatory and full of horror: consisting of prolonged shrieks on the part of the women, and frantic howlings on that of the men. The only words they uttered were his name, with epithets and ejaculations. Oh a Vichaul dheelish--a Vichaul dheelish--a bouchal bane machree--wuil thu marra--wuil thu marra? "Oh, Michael, the beloved--Michael, the beloved--fair boy of our heart--are you dead?--are you dead?" From M'Kenna's the crowd, at the head of which was Darby More, proceeded towards the mountains, many of them bearing torches, such as had been used on their way to the Midnight Mass. The moon had disappeared, the darkness was deepening, and the sky was overhung with black heavy clouds, that gave a stormy character to scenery in itself re wild and gloomy.

Young M'Kenna and the pilgrim led them to the dreary waste in which the corpse lay. It was certainly an awful spectacle to behold these unhappy people toiling up the mountain solitude at such an hour, their convulsed faces thrown into striking relief by the light of the torches, and their cries rising in wild irregular cadences upon the blast which swept over them with a dismal howl, in perfect character with their affliction, and the circumstances which produced it.

On arriving within view of the corpse, there was a slight pause; for, notwithstanding the dreadful paroxysms of their grief, there was something still more startling and terrible in contemplating the body thus stretched out in the stillness of death, on the lonely mountain. The impression it produced was peculiarly solemn: the grief was hushed for a moment, but only for a moment; it rose again wilder than before, and in a few minutes the friends of Reillaghan were about to throw themselves upon the body, under the strong impulse of sorrow and affection.

The mendicant, however, stepped forward "Hould back," said he; "it's hard to ax yez to do it, but still you must. Let the neighbors about us here examine the body, in ordher to see whether it mightn't be possible that the dacent boy came by his death from somebody else's hand than his own. Hould forrid the lights," said he, "till we see how he's lyin', an' how the gun's lyin'."

"Darby," said young Frank, "I can't but be oblaged to you for that. You're the last man livin' ought to say what you said, afther you seein' us both forget an' forgive this day. I call upon you now to say whether you didn't see him an' me shakin' hands, and buryin' all bad feelin' between us?"

"I'll spake to you jist now," replied the mendicant. "See here, neighbors, obsarve this; the boy was shot in the breast, an' here's not a snow wreath, but a weeshy dhrift that a child 'ud step acrass widout an accident. I tell you all, that I suspect foul play in this."

"Hell's fire," exclaimed the brother of the deceased, "what's that you say? What! Can it be--can it--can it--that you murdhered him, you villain, that's known to be nothin' but a villain? But I'll do for you!" He snatched at the gun as he spoke, and would probably have taken ample and fearful vengeance upon Frank, had not the mendicant and others prevented him.

"Have sinse," said Darby; "this is not the way to behave, man; lave the gun lyin' where she is, till we see more about us. Stand back there, an' let me look at these marks: ay, about five yards--there's the track of feet about five yards before him--here they turn about, an' go back. Here, Savior o' the world! see here! the mark, clane an' clear, of the butt o' the gun! Now if that boy stretched afore us had the gun in his hand the time she went off, could the mark of it be here? Bring me down the gun--an' the curse o' God upon her for an unlucky thief, whoever had her! It's thrue!--it's too thrue!" he continued--"the man that had the gun stood on this spot."

"It's a falsity," said Frank; "it's a damnable falsity. Rody Teague, I call upon you to spake for me. Didn't you see, when we went out to the hills, that it was Mike carried the gun, an' not me?"

"I did," replied Rody. "I can swear to that."

"Ay," exclaimed Prank, with triumph; "an' you yourself, Darby, saw us, as I said, makin' up whatsomever little differences there was betwixt us."

"I did," replied the mendicant, sternly; "but I heard you say, no longer ago than last night--say!--why you swhore it, man alive!--that if you wouldn't have Peggy Gartland, he never should. In your own stable I heard it, an' I was the manes of disappointin' you an' your gang, when you thought to take away the girl by force. You're well known too often to carry a fair face when the heart under it is black wid you."

"All I can say is," observed young Reillaghan, "that if it comes out agin you that you played him foul, all the earth won't save your life; I'll have your heart's blood, if I should hang for it a thousand times."

This dialogue was frequently interrupted by the sobbings and clamor of the women, and the detached conversation of some of the men, who were communicating to each other their respective opinions upon the melancholy event which had happened.

Darby More now brought Reillaghan's father aside, and thus addressed him:--

"Gluntho! (* Listen)--to tell God's thruth, I've sthrong suspicions that your son was murdhered. This sacred thing that I put the crass upon people's breast wid, saves people from hangin' an' unnatural deaths. Frank spoke to me last night, no longer ago, to come up an' mark it an' him to-morrow. My opinion is, that he intinded to murdher him at that time, an' wanted to have a protection agin what might happen to him in regard o' the black deed."

"Can we prove it agin him?" inquired the disconsolate father: "I know it'll be hard, as there was no one present but themselves; an' if he did it, surely he'll not confess it."

"We may make him do it maybe," said the mendicant; "the villain's asily frightened, an' fond o' charms an' pisthrogues,* an' sich holy things, for all his wickedness. Don't say a word. We'll take him by, surprise; I'll call upon him to touch the corpse. Make them women--an' och, it's hard to expect it--make them stop clappin' their hands an' cryin'; an' let there be a dead silence, if you can."

During this and some other observations made by Darby, Frank had got the gun in his possession; and, whilst seeming to be engaged in looking at it, and examining the lock, he actually contrived to reload it without having been observed.

"Now, neighbors," said Darby, "hould your tongues for a weeshy start, till I ax Frank M'Kenna a question or two. Frank M'Kenna, as you hope to meet God, at Judgment, did you take his life that's lyin' a corpse before us'?"

"I did not," replied M'Kenna; "I could clear myself on all the books in Europe, that he met his death as I tould you; an' more nor that," he added, dropping upon his knees, and uncovering his head, "may I die widout priest or prayer--widout help, hope, or happiness, upon the spot where he's now stretched, if I murdhered or shot him."

"I say amin to that," replied Darby; "Oxis Doxis Glorioxis!--So far, that's right, if the blood of him's not an you. But there's one thing more to be done: will you walk over undher the eye of God, an' touch the corpse? Hould back, neighbors, an' let him come over alone: I an' Owen Reillaghan will stand here wid the lights, to see if the corpse bleeds."

"Give me, too, a light," said M'Kenna's father; "my son must get fair play, anyway: must be a witness myself to it, an' will, too."

"It's but rasonable," said Owen Reillaghan; "come over beside Darby an' myself: I'm willin' that your son should stand or fall by what'll happen."

Frank's father, with a taper in his hand, immediately went, with a pale face and trembling steps, to the place appointed for him beside the corpse, where he took his stand.

When young M'Kenna heard Darby's last question he seemed as if seized by an inward spasm: the start which he gave, and his gaspings for breath, were visible to all present. Had he seen the spirit of the murdered man before him, his horror could not have been greater; for this ceremony had been considered a most decisive test in cases of suspicion of murder--an ordeal, indeed, to which few murderers wished to submit themselves. In addition to this we may observe, that Darby's knowledge of the young man's character was correct; with all his crimes he was weak-minded and superstitious.

He stood silent for some time after the ordeal had been proposed to him; his hair became literally erect, with the dread of this formidable scrutiny, his cheeks turned white, and the cold perspiration fell from him in large drops. All his strength appeared to have departed from him; he stood, as if hesitating, and even energy necessary to stand seemed to be the result of an effort.

"Remember," said Darby, pulling out the large crucifix which was attached to his heads, "that the eye of God is upon you. If you've committed the murdher, thrimble; if not, Frank, you've little to fear in touchin' the corpse."

Frank had not uttered a word; but, leaning himself on the gun, he looked wildly around him, cast his eyes up to the stormy sky, then turned them with a dead glare upon the corpse and the crucifix.

"Do you confiss the murdher?" said Darby.

"Murdher!" rejoined Frank: "no! I confess no murdher: you villain, do you want to make me guilty;--do you want to make me guilty, you deep villain?"

It seemed as if the current of his thoughts and feelings had taken a new direction, though it is probable that the excitement which appeared to be rising within him was only the courage of fear.

"You all wish to find me guilty," he added: "but I'll show you that I'm not guilty."

He immediately walked towards the corpse, and stooping down, touched the body with one hand, holding the gun in the other. The interest of that moment was intense, and all eyes were strained towards the spot. Behind the corpse, at each shoulder--for the body lay against a small snow-wreath, in a recumbent position--stood the father of the deceased and the father of the accused, each wound up by feelings of a directly opposite character to a pitch of dreadful excitement over them, in his fantastic dress and white beard, stood the tall mendicant, who held up his crucifix to Frank, with an awful menace upon his strongly marked countenance. At a little distance to the left of the body stood other men who were assembled, having their torches held aloft in their hands, and their forms bent towards the corpse, their laces indicating expectation, dread, and horror The female relations of the deceased nearest his remains, their torches extended in the same direction, their visages exhibiting the passions of despair and grief in their wildest characters, but as if arrested by some supernatural object immediately before their eyes, that produced a new and more awful feeling than grief. When the body was touched, Frank stood as if himself bound by a spell to the spot. At length he turned his eyes to the mendicant, who stood silent and motionless, with the crucifix still extended in his hand.

"Are you satisfied now?" said he.

"That's wanst," said the pilgrim: "you're to touch it three times."

Frank hesitated a moment, but immediately stooped again, and touched it twice in succession; but it remained still and unchanged as before! His father broke the silence by a fervent ejaculation of thanksgiving to God for the vindication of his son's character which he had just witnessed.

"Now!" exclaimed M'Kenna, in a loud, exulting tone, "you all see that I did not murdher him!"

"You did!" said a voice, which was immediately recognized to be that of the deceased.

M'Kenna shrieked aloud, and immediately fled with his gun towards the mountains, pursued by Reillaghan's other son. The crowd rushed in towards the body, whilst sorrow, affright, exultation, and wonder, marked the extraordinary scene which ensued.

"Queen o' Heaven!" exclaimed old M'Kenna, "who could believe this only they hard it?"

"The murdher wouldn't lie?" shrieked out Mrs. Reillaghan--"the murdher wouldn't lie!--the blood o' my darlin' son spoke it!--his blood spoke it; or God, or his angel, spoke it for him!"

"It's beyant anything ever known!" some exclaimed, "to come back an' tell the deed upon his murdherer! God presarve us, an' save us, this night! I wish we wor at home out o' this wild place!"

Others said they had heard of such things; but this having happened before their own eyes, surpassed anything that could be conceived.

The mendicant now advanced, and once more mysteriously held up his crucifix.

"Keep silence!" said he, in a solemn, sonorous voice: "Keep silence, I say, an' kneel I down all o' yez before what I've in my hand. If you want to know who or what the voice came from, I can tell yez:--it was the crucifix THAT SPOKE!!"

This communication was received with a feeling of devotion too deep for words. His injunction was instantly complied with: they knelt, and bent down in worship before it in the mountain wilds.

"Ay," said he, "little ye know the virtues of that crucifix! It was consecrated by a friar so holy that it was well known there was but the shadow of him upon the earth, the other part of him bein' night an' day in heaven among the archangels. It shows the power of this Crass, any way; an you may tell your frinds, that I'll sell bades touched wid it to the faithful at sixpence apiece. They can be put an your padareens as Dicades, wid a blessin'. Oxis Doxis Glorioxis--Amin! Let us now bear the corpse home, antil it's dressed and laid out dacently as it ought to be."

The body was then placed upon an easy litter, formed of great-coats buttoned together, and supported by the strongest men present, who held it one or two at each corner. In this manner they advanced at a slow pace, until they reached Owen Reillaghan's house, where they found several of the country-people assembled, waiting for their return.

It was not until the body had been placed in an inner room, where none were admitted until it should be laid out, that the members of the family first noticed the prolonged absence of Reillaghan's other son. The moment it had been alluded to, they were seized with new alarm and consternation.

"Hanim an diouol!" said Reillaghan, bitterly, in Irish, "but I doubt the red-handed villain has cut short the lives of my two brave sons! I only hope he may stop in the country: I'm not widout friends an' followers that 'ud think it no sin in a just cause to pay him in his own coin, an' to take from him an' his a pound o' blood for every ounce of ours they shed."

A number of his friends instantly volunteered to retrace their way to the mountains, and search for the other son. "There's little danger of his life," said a relation; "it's a short time Frank 'ud stand him particularly as the gun wasn't charged. We'll go, at any rate, for 'fraid he might lose himself in the mountains, or walk into some o' the lochs on his way home. We had as good bring some whiskey wid us, for he may want it badly."

While they had been speaking, however, the snow began to fall and the wind to blow in a manner that promised a heavy and violent storm. They proceeded, notwithstanding, on their search, and on whistling for the dog, discovered that he was not to be found.

"He went wid us to the mountains, I know," said the former speaker; "an' I think it likely he'll be found wid Owen, wherever he is. Come, boys, step out: it's a dismal night, any way, the Lord knows.

"Och, och!" And with sorrowful but vigorous steps they went in quest of the missing brother.

Nothing but the preternatural character of the words which Were so mysteriously pronounced immediately before Owen's pursuit of M'Kenna, could have prevented that circumstance, together with the flight of the latter, from exciting greater attention among the crowd. His absence, however, now that they had time to reflect on it, produced unusual alarm, not only on account of M'Kenna's bad character, but from the apprehension of Owen being lost in the mountains.

The inextinguishable determination of revenge with which an Irishman pursues any person who, either directly or indirectly, takes the life of a near relation, or invades the peace of his domestic affections, was strongly illustrated by the nature of Owen's pursuit after M'Kenna, considering the appalling circumstances under which he undertook it. It is certainly more than probable that M'Kenna, instead of flying would have defended himself with the loaded gun, had not his superstitious fears been excited by the words which so mysteriously charged him with the murder. The direction he accidentally took led both himself and his pursuer into the wildest recesses of the mountains. The chase was close and desperate, and certainly might have been fatal to Reillaghan, had M'Kenna thought of using the gun. His terror, however, exhausted him, and overcame his presence of mind to such a degree, that so far from using the weapon in his defence, he threw it aside, in order to gain ground upon his pursuer. This he did but slowly, and the pursuit was as yet uncertain. At length Owen found the distance between himself and his brother's murderer increasing; the night was dark, and he himself feeble and breathless: he therefore gave over all hope of securing him, and returned to follow those who had accompanied him to the spot where his brother's body lay. It was when retracing his path that the nature of his situation occurred to him: the snow had not began to fall, but the appearance of the sky was strongly calculated to depress him.

Every person knows with what remarkable suddenness snow storms descend. He had scarcely advanced homewards more than twenty minutes, when the gray tempest spread its dusky wings over the heavens, and a darker shade rapidly settled upon the white hills--now becoming indistinct in the gloom of the air, which was all in commotion, and groaned aloud with the noise of the advancing storm. When he saw the deep gloom, and felt the chilling coldness pierce his flesh so bitterly, he turned himself in the direction which led by the shortest possible line towards his father's house. He was at this time nearly three miles from any human habitation; and as he looked into the darkness, his heart began to palpitate with an alarm almost bordering on hopelessness. His dog, which had, up till this boding' change, gone on before him, now partook in his master's apprehensions, and trotted anxiously at his feet.

In the meantime the winds howled in a melancholy manner along the mountains, and carried with them from the upper clouds the rapidly descending sleet. The storm-current, too, was against him, and as the air began to work in dark confusion, he felt for the first time how utterly helpless a thing he was under the fierce tempest in this dreadful solitude.

A length the rushing sound which he first heard in the distance approached him in all its terrors; and in a short time he was staggering, like a drunken man, under the incessant drifts which swept over him and about him. Nothing could exceed the horrors of the atmosphere at this moment. From the surface of the earth the whirlwinds swept immense snow-clouds that rose up instantaneously, and shot off along the brows and ravines of the solitary wild, sometimes descending into the valleys, and again rushing up the almost perpendicular sides of the mountains, with a speed, strength, and noise, that mocked at everything possessing life; whilst in the air the tumult and the darkness continued to deepen in the most awful manner. The winds seemed to meet from every point of the compass, and the falling drifts flew backward and forward in every direction; the cold became intense, and Owen's efforts to advance homewards were beginning to fail. He was driven about like an autumn leaf, and his dog, which kept close to him, had nearly equal difficulty in proceeding. No sound but that of the tempest could now be heard, except the screaming of the birds as they were tossed on sidewing through the commotion which prevailed. In this manner was Owen whirled about, till he lost all knowledge of his local situation, being ignorant whether he advanced towards home or otherwise, His mouth and eyes were almost filled with driving sleet; sometimes a' cloud of light sandlike drift would almost bury him, as it crossed, or followed, or opposed his path; sometimes he would sink to the middle in a snow-wreath, from which he extricated himself with great difficulty; and among the many terrors by which he was beset, that of walking into a lake, or over a precipice, was not the least paralyzing. Owen was a young man of great personal strength and activity, for the possession of which, next to his brother, he had been distinguished among his companions; but he now became totally exhausted; the chase after M'Kenna, his former exertion, his struggles, his repeated falls, his powerful attempts to get into the vicinity of life, the desperate strength he put forth in breaking through the vortex of the whirlwind, all had left him faint, and completely at the mercy of the elements.

The cold sleet scales were now frozen to ice on his cheeks; his clothes were completely incrusted with the hard snow, which had been beating into them by the strength of the blast, and his joints were getting stiff and benumbed. The tumult of the tempest, the whirling of the snow-clouds, and the thick snow, now falling, and again tossed upwards by sudden gusts to the sky, deprived him of all power of reflection, and rendered him, though not altogether blind or deaf, yet incapable of forming any distinct opinion upon what he saw or heard. Still, actuated by the unconscious principle of self preservation, he tottered on, cold, feeble, and breathless, now driven back like a reed by the strong rush of the storm, or prostrated almost to suffocation under the whirlwinds, that started up like savage creatures of life about him.

During all this time his faithful dog never abandoned him; but his wild bowlings only heightened the horrors of his situation. When he fell, the affectionate creature would catch the flap of his coat, or his arm, in his teeth, and attempt to raise him; and as long as his master had presence of mind, with the unerring certainty of instinct, he would turn him, when taking a wrong direction, into that which led homewards.

Owen was not, however, reduced to this state without experiencing sensations of which no language could convey adequate notions. At first he struggled heroically with the storm; but when utter darkness threw its impervious shades over the desolation around him, and the fury of the elements grew so tremendous, all the strong propensities to life became roused, the convulsive throes of a young heart on the steep of death threw a wild and corresponding energy into his vigorous frame, and occasioned him to cling to existence with a tenacity rendered still stronger by the terrible consciousness of his unprepared state, and the horror of being plunged into eternity unsupported by the rites of his church, whilst the crime of attempting to take away human life lay on his soul. Those domestic affections, too, which in Irishmen are so strong, became excited; his home, his fireside, the faces of his kindred, already impressed with affliction for the death of one brother, were conjured up in the powerful imagery of natural feeling, the fountains of which were opened in his heart, and his agonizing cry for life rose wildly from the mountain desert upon the voice of the tempest. Then, indeed, when the gulf of a twofold death yawned before him, did the struggling spirit send up its shrieking prayer to heaven with desperate impulse. These struggles, however, as well as those of the body, became gradually weaker as the storm tossed him about, and with the chill of its breath withered him into total helplessness. He reeled on, stiff and insensible, without knowing whither he went, falling with every blast, and possessing scarcely any faculty of life except mere animation.

After about an hour, however, the storm subsided, and the clouds broke away into light, fleecy columns before the wind; the air, too, became less cold, and the face of nature more visible. The driving sleet and hard, granular snow now ceased to fall; but were succeeded by large feathery flakes, that descended slowly upon the still air.

Had this trying scene lasted much longer, Owen must soon have been a stiffened corpse. The child-like strength, however, which just enabled him to bear up without sinking in despair to die, now supported him when there was less demand for energy. The dog, too, by rubbing itself against him, and licking his face, enabled him, by a last effort, to recollect himself, so as to have a glimmering perception of his situation. His confidence returned, and with a greater degree of strength. He shook, as well as he could, the snow from his 'clothes, where it had accumulated heavily, and felt himself able to proceed, slowly, it is true, towards his father's house, which he had nearly reached when he met his friends, who were once: more hurrying out to the mountains in quest of him, having been compelled to return in consequence of the storm, when they had I first set out. The whiskey, their companionship, and their assistance soon revived him. One or two were despatched home before them, to apprise the afflicted family of his safety; and the intelligence was hailed with melancholy joy by the Reillaghans. A faint light played for a moment over the gloom Which had settled among them, but it was brief; for on ascertaining the safety of their second son, their grief rushed back with renewed violence, and nothing could be heard but the voice of sorrow and affliction.

Darby More, who had assumed the control of the family, did everything in his power to console them; his efforts, however, were viewed with a feeling little short of indignation.

"Darby," said the afflicted mother, "you have, undher God, in some sense, my fair son's death to account for. You had a dhrame, but you wouldn't tell it to us. If you had, my boy might be livin' this day, for it would be asy for him to be an his guard."

"Musha, poor woman," replied Darby, "sure you don't know, you afflicted crathur, what you're spakin' about. Tell my dhrame! Why, thin, it's myself towld it to him from beginning to ind, and that whin we wor goin' to mass this day itself. I desired him, on the paril of his life, not to go out a tracin' or toards the mountains, good or bad."

"You said you had a prayer that 'ud keep it back," observed the mother, "an' why didn't you say it?"

"I did say it," replied Darby, "an' that afore a bit crassed my throath this mornin'; but, you see, he broke his promise of not goin' to the mountains, an' that was what made the dhrame come thrue."

"Well, well, Darby, I beg your pardon, an' God's pardon, for judgin' you in the wrong. Oh, wurrah sthrue! my brave son, is it there you're lyin' wid us, avourneen machree!" and she again renewed her grief.

"Oh, thin, I'm sure I forgive you," said Darby: "but keep your grief in for a start, till I say the De Prowhinjis over him, for the pace an' repose of his sowl. Kneel down all of yez."

He repeated this prayer in language which it would require one of Edward Irving's adepts in the Unknown Tongues to interpret. When he had recited about half of it, Owen, and those who had gone to seek him, entered the house, and after the example of the others, reverently knelt down until he finished it.

Owen's appearance once more renewed their grief. The body of his brother had been removed to a bed beyond the fire in the kitchen; and when Owen looked upon the features of his beloved companion, he approached, and stooped down to kiss his lips. He was still too feeble, however, to bend by his own strength; and it is also probable that the warm air of the house relaxed him. Be this, however, as it may, he fell forward, but supported himself by his hands, which were placed upon the body; a deep groan was heard, and the apparently dead man opened his eyes, and feebly exclaimed--"A dhrink? a dhrink!"

Darby More, had, on concluding the De profundus, seated himself beside the bed on which Mike lay; but on hearing the groan, and the call for drink, he leaped rapidly to: his legs and exclaimed, "My sowl to hell an' the divil, Owen Reillaghan, but your son's alive!! Off wid two or three of yez, as the divil can dhrive yez, for the priest an' docthor!! Off wid yez! ye damned spalpeens, aren't ye near there by this! Give us my cant! Are yez gone? Oh, by this and by that--hell--eh--aren't yez--" But ere he could finish the sentence, they had set chit.

"Now," he exclaimed in a voice whose tremendous tones were strongly at variance with his own injunctions--"Now, neighbors, d--n yez, keep silence. Mrs. Reillaghan, get a bottle of whiskey an' a mug o' wather. Make haste. Hanim an diouol! don't be all night!"

The poor mother, however, could not stir; the unexpected revulsion of feeling which she had so suddenly experienced was more than she could sustain. A long fainting-fit! was the consequence, and Darby's commands were obeyed by the wife of a friendly neighbor.

The mendicant immediately wetted Mike's lips, and poured some spirits, copiously diluted with water, down his throat; after which he held the whiskey-bottle, like a connoisseur, between himself and the light. "I hope," said he, "this whiskey is the raal crathur." He put the bottle to his mouth as he spoke, and on holding it a second time before his eye, he shook his head complacently--"Ay," said he, "if anything could bring the dead back to this world, my sowl to glory, but that would. Oh, thin, it would give the dead life, sure enough!" He put it once more to his lips, from which it was not separated without relinquishing a considerable portion of its contents.

"Dhea Grashthias!" he exclaimed; "throth, I find myself, the betther o' that sup, in regard that it's good for this touch 'o' configuration that I'm throubled wid inwardly! Doxis Doxis Glorioxis? Amin!" These words he spoke in a low, placid voice, lest the wounded man might be discomposed by his observations.

The rapidity with which the account of Mike's restoration to life spread among the neighbors was surprising. Those who had gone for the priest and doctor communicated to all they met, and these again to others: that in a short time the house was surrounded by great numbers of their acquaintances, all anxious to hear the particulars more minutely.

Darby, who never omitted an opportunity of impressing the people with a belief in his own sanctity, and in that of his crucifix came out among them, and answered their inquiries by a solemn shake of his head, and a mysterious indication of his finger to the crucifix, but said nothing more. This was enough. The murmur of reverence and wonder spread among them, and ere long there were few present who did not believe that Reillaghan had been restored to life by a touch of Darby's crucifix; an opinion which is not wholly exploded until this day.

Peggy Gartland, who fortunately had not heard the report of her lover's death until it was contradicted by the account of his revival, now entered, and by her pale countenance betrayed strong symptoms of affection and sympathy. She sat by his side, gazing mournfully on his features, and with difficulty suppressed her tears.

For some time before her arrival, the mother and sisters of Mike had been removed to another room, lest the tumultuous expression of their mingled joy and sorrow might disturb him. The fair, artless girl, although satisfied that he still lived, entertained no hopes of his recovery; but she ventured, in a low, trembling voice, to inquire from Darby some particulars of the melancholy transaction which was likely to deprive her of her betrothed husband.

"Where did the shot sthrike him, Darby?"

"Clane through the body, avillish; jist where Captain Cramer was shot at the battle o' Bunker's Hill, where he lay as good as dead for twelve hours, and was near bein' berried a corp, an' him alive all the time, only that as they were pullin' him off o' the cart, he gev a shout, an' thin, a colleen dhas, they began to think he might be livin' still. Sure enough, he was, too, an' lived successfully, till he died wid dhrinkin' brandy, as a cure for the gout; the Lord be praised!"

"Where's the villain, Darby?"

"He's in the mountains, no doubt, where he had thim to fight wid that's a match for him--God, an' the dark storm that fell awhile agone. They'll pay him, never fear, for his thrachery to the noble boy that chastised him for your sake, acushla oge! (* my young pulse) sthrong was your hand, a Veehal, an' ginerous was your affectionate heart; an' well you loved the fair girl that's sitting beside you! Throth, Peggy, my heart's black with sarrow about the darlin' young man. Still, life's in him; an' while there's life there's hope; glory be to God!"

The eulogium of the pilgrim, who was, in truth, much attached to Mike, moved the heart of the affectionate girl, whose love and sympathy were pure as the dew on the grass-blade, and now as easily affected by the slightest touch. She remained silent for a time, but secretly glided her hand towards that of her lover, which she clasped in hers, and by a gentle and timid pressure, strove to intimate to him that she was beside him. Long, but unavailing, was the struggle to repress her sorrow; her bosom heaved; she gave two or three loud sobs, and burst into tears and lamentations.

"Don't cry, avourneen," whispered Darby--"Don't cry; I'll warrant you that Darby More will ate share of your weddin' dinner an' his, yit. There's a small taste of color comin' to his face, which, I think, undher God, is owin' to my touchin' him wid the cruciwhix. Don't cry, a colleen, he'll get over it an' more than it, yit, a colleen bawn!"

Darby then hurried her into the room where Mike's mother and sisters were. On entering she threw herself into the arms of the former, laid her face on her bosom, and wept bitterly. This renewed the mother's grief: she clasped the interesting girl in a sorrowful embrace; so did his sisters. They threw themselves into each other's arms, and poured forth those touching, but wild bursts of pathetic language, which are always heard when the heart is struck by some desolating calamity.

"Husht!" said a neighboring man who was present; "husht! it's a shame for yez, an' the boy not dead yit."

"I'm not ashamed," said Peggy: "why should I be ashamed of bein' sarry for the likes of Mike Reillaghan? Where was his aquil? Wasn't all hearts upon him? Didn't the very poor on the road bless him whin he passed? Who ever had a bad word agin him, but the villain that murdhered him? Murdhered him! Heaven above! an' why? For my sake! For my sake the pride of the parish is laid low! Ashamed! Is it for cryin' for my betrothed husband, that was sworn to me, an' I to him, before the eye of God above us? This day week I was to be his bride; an' now--now--Oh, Vread Reillaghan, take me to you! Let me go to his mother! My heart's broke, Vread Reillaghan! Let me go to her: nobody's grief for him is like ours. You're his mother, an' I'm his wife in the sight o' God. Proud was I out of him: my eyes brightened when they seen him, an' my heart got light when I heard his voice; an' now, what's afore me?--what's afore me but sorrowful days an' a broken heart!"

Mrs. Reillaghan placed her tenderly and affectionately beside her, on the bed whereon she herself sat. With the corner of her handkerchief she wiped the tears from the weeping girl, although her own flowed fast. Her daughters, also, gathered about her, and in language of the most endearing kind, endeavored to soothe and console her.

"He may live yet, Peggy, avourheen," said his mother; "my brave and noble son may live yet, an' you may be both,happy! Don't be cryin' so much, asthore galh machree (* The beloved white (girl) of my heart); sure he's in the hands o' God avourneen; an' your young heart won't be broke, I hope. Och, the Lord pity her young feelins!" exclaimed the mother affected even by the consolation she herself offered to the betrothed bride of her son: "is it any whundher she'd sink undher sich a blow! for, sure enough, where was the likes of him? No, asthore; it's no wondher--it's no wondher! lonesome will your heart be widout him; for I know what he'd feel if a hair of your head was injured."

"Oh, I know it--I know it! There was music in his voice, an' grah and. kindness to every crathur on God's earth; but to me--to me--oh, no one knew his love to me, but myself an' God. Oh, if I was dead, that I couldn't feel this, or if my life could save his! Why didn't the villain,--the black villain, wid God's curse upon him--why didn't he shoot me, thin I could never be Mike's wife, an' his hand o' murdher might be satisfied? If he had, I wouldn't feel as I do. Ay! the warmest, an' the best, an' the dearest blood of my heart, I could shed for him. That heart was his, an' he had a right to it. Our love wasn't of yistherday: afore the links of my hair came to my showldhers I loved him, an' thought of him; an many a time he tould me that I was his first! God knows he was my first, an' he will be my last, let him live or die."

"Well, but, Peggy achora," said his sister, "maybe it's sinful to be cryin' this way, an' he not dead."

"God forgive me, if it's a sin," replied Peggy; "I'd not wish to do anything sinful or displasin' to God; an' I'll sthrive to keep down my grief: I will, as well as I can."

She put her hands on her face, and by all effort of firmness, subdued the tone of her grief to a low, continuous murmur of sorrow.

"An' along wid that," said the sister, "maybe the noise is disturbin' him. Darby put us all out o' the kitchen to have pace an' quietness about him."

"An' 'twas well thought o' Darby," she replied; "an' may the blessin' o' God rest upon him for it! A male's mate or a nights lodgin' he'll never want under my father's roof for that goodness to him. I'll be quiet."

There was now a short pause, during which those in the room heard a smack, accompanied by the words, "Dheah. Grashthias! throth I'm the betther o' that sup, so I am. Nothin' keeps this thief of a configuration down but it. Dheah Grashthias for that! Oh, thin, this is the stuff! It warms the body to the top o' the nails!"

"Don't spare it, Darby," said old Reillaghan, "if it does you good."

"Avourneen," said Darby, "it's only what gives me a little relief I ever take, jist by way of cure, for it's the only thing does me good, when I am this-a-way."

Several persons in the neighborhood were, in the mean time, flocking to Reillaghan's house. A worthy man, accompanied by his wife, entered as the pilgrim had concluded. The woman, in accordance with the custom of the country, raised the Irish cry, in a loud melancholy wail, that might be heard at a great distance.

Darby, who prided himself on maintaining silence, could not preserve the consistency of his character upon this occasion, any more than on that of Mike's recent symptoms of life.

"Your sowl to the divil, you faggot!" he exclaimed, "what do you mane? The divil whip the tongue out o' you! are you going to come here only to disturb the boy that's not dead yet? Get out o' this, an' be asy wid your skhreechin', or by the crass that died for us, only you're a woman, I'd tumble you wid a lick o' my cant. Keep asy, you vagrant, an' the dacent boy not dead yet. Hell bellows you, what do you mane?"

"Not dead!" exclaimed the woman, with her body bent in the proper attitude, her hands extended, and the crying face turned with amazement to Darby. "Not dead! Wurrah, man alive, isn't he murdhered?"

"Hell resave the matther for that!" replied Darby. "I tell you he's livin' an' will live I hope, barrin' your skirlin' dhrives the life that's in him out of him. Go into the room there to the women, an' make yourself scarce out o' this, or by the padareens about me, I'll malivogue you."

"We can't be angry wid the dacent woman," observed old Reillaghan, "in regard that she came to show her friendship and respect."

"I'd be angry wid St. Pettier," said Darby, "an' 'ud not scruple to give him a lick o' my c---- Lord presarve us! what was I goin' o say! Why, throth, I believe the little wits I had are all gone a shaughran! I must fast a Friday or two for the same words agin St. Pether. Oxis Doxis Glorioxis--Amin."

Hope is strong in love and in life. Peggy, now that grief had eased her heart of its load of accumulated sorrow, began to reflect upon Darby's anecdote of Captain Cramer, which she related to those about her. They all rejoiced to hear that it was possible to be wounded so severely and live. They also consoled and supported each other, and expressed their trust that Mike might also recover. The opinion of the doctor was waited for with such anxiety as a felon feels when the foreman of the jury hands down the verdict which consigns him to life or death.

Whether Darby's prescription was the result of chance or sagacity we know not. We are bound, however, to declare that Reillaghan's strength was in some degree restored, although the pain he suffered amounted to torture. The surgeon (who was also a physician, and, moreover, supplied his own medicines) and the priest, as they lived in the same town, both arrived together. The latter administered the rites of his church to him; and the former, who was a skilful man, left nothing undone to accomplish his restoration to health. He had been shot through the body with a bullet--a circumstance which was not known until the arrival of the surgeon. This gentlemen expressed much astonishment at his surviving the wound, but said that circumstances of a similar nature had occurred, particularly on the field of battle, although he admitted that they were few.

Darby, however, who resolved to have something like a decided opinion from him, without at all considering whether such a thing was possible, pressed him strongly upon the point.

"Arrah, blur-an-age, Docthor Swither, say one thing or other. Is he to live or die? Plain talk, Docthor, is all we want, an' no feasthalagh (* nonsense)."

"The bullet, I am inclined to think," replied the Doctor, "must either not have touched a vital part, or touched it only slightly. I have known cases similar, it is true; but it is impossible for me to pronounce a decisive opinion upon him just now."

"The divil resave the yarrib* ever I'll gather for you agin, so long as my name's Darby More, except you say either 'life' or 'death,'" said Darby, who forgot his character of sanctity altogether.

* Herb-Men of Darby's cast were often in the habit of collecting rare medicinal plants for the apothecaries; and not bad botanists some of them were.

"Darby, achora," said Mrs. Reillaghan, "don't crass the gintleman, an' him sthrivin' to do his best. Here, Paddy Gormly, bring some wather till the docthor washes his hands."

"Darby," replied the Doctor, to whom he was well known, "you are a good herbalist, but even although you should not serve me as usual in that capacity, yet I cannot say exactly either life or death. The case is too critical a one; but I do not despair, Darby, if that will satisfy you."

"More power to you, Docthor, achora. Hell-an-age, where's that bottle? bring it here. Thank you, Vread. Docthor, here's wishin' you all happiness, an' may you set Mike on his legs wanst more! See, Docthor--see, man alive--look at this purty girl here, wid her wet cheeks; give her some hope, ahagur, if you can; keep the crathur's spirits up, an' I'll furnish you wid every yarrib in Europe, from the nettle to the rose."

"Don't despair, my good girl," said the Doctor, addressing Peggy. "I hope, I trust, that he may recover; but he must be kept easy and quiet."

"May the blessing of God, sir, light down on you for the same words," replied Peggy, in a voice tremulous, with gratitude and joy.

"Are you done wid him, Docthor?" said old Reillaghan.

"At present," replied the Doctor, "I can do nothing more for him; but I shall see him early to-morrow morning."

"Bekase, sir," continued the worthy man, "here's Darby More, who's afflicted with a comflamboration, or some sich thing, inwardly, an' if you should ase him, sir, I'd pay the damages, whatever they might be."

The Doctor smiled slightly. "Darby's complaint," said he, "is beyond my practice; there is but one cure for it, and that is, if I have any skill, a little of what's in the bottle here, taken, as our prescriptions sometimes say, 'when the patient is inclined for it.'"

"By my sou--sanctity, Docthor," said Darby, "you're a man of skill, any how, an' that's well known, sir. Nothin', as Father Hoolaghan says, but the sup of whiskey does this sarra of a configuration good. It rises the wind off o' my stomach, Docthor!"

"It does, Darby, it does. Now let all be peace and quietness," continued the Doctor: "take away a great part of this fire, and don't attempt to remove him to any other bed until I desire you. I shall call again tomorrow morning early."

The Doctor's attention to his patient was unremitting; everything that human skill, joined to long experience and natural talent, could do to restore the young man to his family was done; and in the course of a few weeks the friends of Keillaghan had the satisfaction of seeing him completely out of danger.

Mike declared, after his recovery, that though incapable of motion on the mountains, he was not altogether insensible to what passed around him. The loud tones of their conversation he could hear. The oath which young M'Kenna uttered in a voice so wild and exalted, fell clearly on his ear, and he endeavored to contradict it, in order that he might be secured and punished in the event of his death. He also said; that the pain he suffered in the act of being conveyed home, occasioned him to groan feebly; but that the sobs, and cries, and loud conversation of those who surrounded him, prevented his moans from being heard. It is probable, after all, that were it not for the accidental fall of Owen upon his body, he might not have survived the wound, inasmuch as the medical skill, which contributed to restore him, would not have been called in.

Though old Frank M'Kenna and his family felt an oppressive load of misery taken off their hearts by the prospect of Reillaghan's recovery, yet it was impossible for them to be insensible to the fate of their son, knowing as they did, that he must have been out among the mountains during the storm. His unhappy mother and Rody sat up the whole night, expecting his return, but morning arrived without bringing him home. For six days afterwards the search for him was general and strict; his friends and neighbors traversed the mountain wastes until they left scarcely an acre of them unexplored. On the sixth day there came a thaw, and towards the close of the seventh he was found a "stiffened corpse," upon the very spot where he had shot his rival, and on which he had challenged the Almighty to stretch him in death, without priest or prayer, if he were guilty of the crime with which he had been charged. He was found lying with a, circle drawn round him, his head pillowed upon the innocent blood which he had shed with the intention of murder, and a bloody cross marked upon his breast and forehead. It was thought that in the dread of approaching death he had formed it with his hand, which came accidentally in contact with the blood that lay in clots about him.

The manner of his death excited a profound and wholesome feeling among the people, with respect to the crime which he attempted to commit. The circumstances attending it, and his oath upon the spot where he shot Reillaghan, are still spoken of by the fathers of the neighboring villages, and even by some who were present at the search for his body, it was also doubly remarkable on account of a case of spectral illusion which it produced, and which was ascribed to the effect of M'Kenna's supernatural appearance at the time. The daughter of a herdsman in the mountains was strongly affected by the spectacle of his dead body borne past her father's door. In about a fortnight afterwards she assured her family that he appeared to her. She saw the apparition, in the beginning, only at night; but ere long it ventured, as she imagined, to appear in day-light. Many imaginary conversations took place between them; and the fact of the peasantry flocking to the herd's house to satisfy themselves as to the truth of the rumor, is yet well remembered in the parish. It, was also affirmed, that as the funeral of M'Kenna passed to the churchyard, a hare crossed it, which some one present struck on the side with a stone. The hare, says the tradition, was not injured, but the sound of the stroke resembled that produced on striking an empty barrel.

We have nearly wound up our story, in which we have feebly endeavored to illustrate scenes that were, some time ago, not unusual in Irish life. There is little more to be added, except that Mike Reillaghan almost miraculously recovered; that he and Peggy Gartland were happily married, and that Darby More lost his character as a dreamer in that parish, Mike, with whom, however, he still continued a favorite, used frequently to allude to the speaking crucifix, the dream aforesaid, and his bit of fiction, in assuring his mother that he had dissuaded him against "tracing" on that eventful day.

"Well, avourneen," Darby would exclaim, "the holiest of us has our failins; but, in throth, the truth of it is, that myself didn't know what I was sayin', I was so through other (* agitated); for I renumber that I was badly afflicted with this thief of a configuration inwardly at the time. That, you see, and your own throubles, put my mind ashanghran for 'a start. But, upon my sanctity,--an' sure that's a great oath wid me--only for the Holy Carol you bought from me the night before, an' above all touchin' you wid the blessed Cruciwhix, you'd never a' got over the same accident. Oh, you may smile an' shake your head, but it's thruth whether or not! Glory be to God!"

The priest of the parish, on ascertaining correctly the incidents mentioned in this sketch, determined to deprive the people of at least one pretext for their follies. He represented the abuses connected with such a ceremony to the bishop; and from that night to the present time, the inhabitants of Kilnaheery never had, in their own parish, an opportunity of hearing a Midnight Mass.

William Carleton's Book: Midnight Mass


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