Friday, 31 October 2014

Ken's Mystery ~ Julian Hawthorne

Julian Hawthorne (1846 ~ July), the only son of Nathaniel Hawthorne (one of the most well-known writers of the nineteenth century), was an American journalist and writer of sensational fiction. He had an active writing career and produced a number of novels, essays and short stories, often turning to the supernatural for inspiration. He was consistently strapped for cash, the quest for which landed him with a conviction for stock fraud and a four-month prison term in 1908, resulting in him becoming a vocal advocate for prison reform. In November 1883, Harper's Magazine published 'Ken's Mystery', probably Hawthorne's best short story, about a young banjo-playing artist who is lured into the arms of an Irish vampire on All Hallows' Eve. It was later republished in 1888 in a collection of short stories entitled David Poindexter's Disappearance. Vampires have been a bit absent from this blog, so I thought I'd share the tale here on this spooky Hallowe'en night.

by Julian Hawthorne
First published in Harper’s Magazine
November 1883

One cool October evening - it was the last day of the month, and unusually cool for the time of year - I made up my mind to go and spend an hour or two with my friend Keningale. Keningale was an artist (as well as a musical amateur and poet), and had a very delightful studio built on to his house, in which he was wont to sit of an evening. The studio had a cavernous fire-place, designed in imitation of the old-fashioned fire-places of Elizabethan manor-houses, and in it, when the temperature out-doors warranted, he would build up a cheerful fire of dry logs. It would suit me particularly well, I thought, to go and have a quiet pipe and chat in front of that fire with my friend.

I had not had such a chat for a very long time - not, in fact, since Keningale (or Ken, as his friends called him) had returned from his visit to Europe the year before. He went abroad, as he affirmed at the time, “for purposes of study,” whereat we all smiled, for Ken, so far as we knew him, was more likely to do anything else than to study. He was a young fellow of buoyant temperament, lively and social in his habits, of a brilliant and versatile mind, and possessing an income of twelve or fifteen thousand dollars a year; he could sing, play, scribble, and paint very cleverly, and some of his heads and figure-pieces were really well done, considering that he never had any regular training in art; but he was not a worker. Personally he was fine-looking, of good height and figure, active, healthy, and with a remarkably fine brow, and clear, full-gazing eye. Nobody was surprised at his going to Europe, nobody expected him to do anything there except amuse himself, and few anticipated that he would be soon again seen in New York. He was one of the sort that find Europe agree with them. Off he went, therefore; and in the course of a few months the rumour reached us that he was engaged to a handsome and wealthy New York girl whom he had met in London. This was nearly all we did hear of him until, not very long afterward, he turned up again on Fifth Avenue, to every one’s astonishment; made no satisfactory answer to those who wanted to know how he happened to tire so soon of the Old World; while as to the reported engagement, he cut short all allusion to that in so peremptory a manner as to show that it was not a permissible topic of conversation with him. It was surmised that the lady had jilted him; but, on the other hand, she herself returned home not a great while after, and though she had plenty of opportunities she has never married to this day.

Be the rights of that matter what they may, it was soon remarked that Ken was no longer the careless and merry fellow he used to be; on the contrary, he appeared grave, moody, averse from general society, and habitually taciturn and undemonstrative even in the company of his most intimate friends. Evidently something had happened to him, or he had done something. What? Had he committed a murder? or joined the Nihilists? or was his unsuccessful love affair at the bottom of it? Some declared that the cloud was only temporary, and would soon pass away. Nevertheless, up to the period of which I am writing it had not passed away, but had rather gathered additional gloom, and threatened to become permanent.

Meanwhile I had met him twice or thrice at the club, at the opera, or in the street, but had as yet had no opportunity of regularly renewing my acquaintance with him. We had been on a footing of more than common intimacy in the old days, and I was not disposed to think that he would refuse to renew the former relations now. But what I had heard and myself seen of his changed condition imparted a stimulating tinge of suspense or curiosity to the pleasure with which I looked forward to the prospects of this evening. His house stood at a distance of two or three miles beyond the general range of habitations in New York at this time, and as I walked briskly along in the clear twilight air I had leisure to go over in my mind all that I had known of Ken and had divined of his character. After all, had there not always been something in his nature - deep down, and held in abeyance by the activity of his animal spirits - but something strange and separate, and capable of developing under suitable conditions into - into what? As I asked myself this question I arrived at his door; and it was with a feeling of relief that I felt the next moment the cordial grasp of his hand, and his voice bidding me welcome in a tone that indicated unaffected gratification at my presence. He drew me at once into the studio, relieved me of my hat and cane, and then put his hand on my shoulder.

“I am glad to see you,” he repeated - with singular earnestness - “glad to see you and to feel you; and to-night of all nights in the year.”

“Why to-night especially?”

“Oh, never mind. It’s just as well, too, you didn’t let me know beforehand you were coming; the unreadiness is all, to paraphrase the poet. Now, with you to help me, I can drink a glass of tamarind-water and take a bit draw of the pipe. This would have been a grim night for me if I’d been left to myself.”

“In such a lap of luxury as this, too!” said I, looking round at the glowing fireplace, the low, luxurious chairs, and all the rich and sumptuous fittings of the room. “I should have thought a condemned murderer might make himself comfortable here.”

“Perhaps; but that’s not exactly my category at present. But have you forgotten what night this is? This is November-eve, when, as tradition asserts, the dead arise and walk about, and fairies, goblins, and spiritual beings of all kinds have more freedom and power than on any other day of the year. One can see you’ve never been in Ireland.”

“I wasn’t aware till now that you had been there, either.”

“Yes, I have been in Ireland. Yes -” He paused, sighed, and fell into a reverie, from which, however, he soon roused himself by an effort, and went to a cabinet in a corner of the room for the liquor and tobacco. While he was thus employed I sauntered about the studio, taking note of the various beauties, grotesquenesses, and curiosities that it contained. Many things were there to repay study and arouse admiration; for Ken was a good collector, having excellent taste as well as means to back it.But, upon the whole, nothing interested me more than some studies of a female head, roughly done in oils, and, judging from the sequestered position in which I found them, not intended by the artist for exhibition or criticism. There were three or four of these studies, all of the same face, but in different poses and costumes. In one the head was enveloped in a dark hood, overshadowing and partly concealing the features; in another she seemed to be peering duskily through a latticed casement, lit by a faint moonlight; a third showed her splendidly attired in evening costume, with jewels in her hair and ears, and sparkling on her snowy bosom. The expressions were as various as the poses; now it was demure penetration, now a subtle inviting glance, now burning passion, and again a look of elfish and elusive mockery. In whatever phase, the countenance possessed a singular and poignant fascination, not of beauty merely, though that was very striking, but of character and quality likewise.

“Did you find this model abroad?” I inquired at length. “She has evidently inspired you, and I don’t wonder at it.”

Ken, who had been heating the tamarind-water, and had not noticed my movements, now looked up, and said: “I didn’t mean those to be seen. They don’t satisfy me, and I’m going to destroy them; but I couldn’t rest till I’d made some attempts to reproduce - What was it you asked? Abroad? Yes - or no. They were all painted here within the last six weeks.”

“Whether they satisfy you or not, they are by far the best things of yours I have ever seen.”

“Well, let them alone, and tell me what you think of this beverage. To my thinking, it goes to the right spot. It owes its existence to your coming here. I can’t drink alone, and those portraits are not company, though, for aught I know, she might have come out of the canvas to-night and sat down in that chair.” Then, seeing my inquiring look, he added, with a hasty laugh, “It’s November-eve, you know, when anything may happen, provided it’s strange enough. Well, here’s to ourselves.”

We each swallowed a deep draught of the smoking and aromatic liquor, and set down our glasses with approval. The punch was excellent. Ken now opened a box of cigars, and we seated ourselves before the fire-place.

“All we need now,” I remarked, after a short silence, “is a little music. By-the-bye, Ken, have you still got the banjo I gave you before you went abroad?”

He paused so long before replying that I supposed he had not heard my question. “I have got it,” he said at length, “but it will never make any more music.”

“Got broken, eh? Can’t it be mended? It was a fine instrument.”

“It’s not broken, but it’s past mending. You shall see for yourself.”

He arose as he spoke, and going to another part of the studio, opened a black oak coffer, and took out of it a long object wrapped up in a piece of faded yellow silk. He handed it to me, and when I had unwrapped it, there appeared a thing that might at once have been a banjo, but had little resemblance to one now. It bore every sign of extreme age. The wood of the handle was honey-combed with the gnawings of worms, and dusty with dry-rot. The parchment head was green with mould, and hung in shrivelled tatters. The hoop, which was of solid silver, was so blackened and tarnished that it looked like dilapidated iron. The strings were gone, and most of the tuning-screws had dropped out of their decayed sockets. Altogether it had the appearance of having been made before the Flood, and been forgotten in the Forecastle of Noah’s Ark ever since.

“It is a curious relic certainly,” I said. “Where did you come across it? I was no idea that the banjo was invented so long ago as this. It certainly can’t be less than two hundred years old, and may be much older than that.”

Ken smiled gloomily. “You are quite right,” he said; “it is at least two hundred years old, and yet it is the very same banjo that you gave me a year ago.”

“Hardly,” I returned, smiling in my turn, “since that was made to my order with a view to presenting it to you.”

“I know that; but the two hundred years have passed since then. Yes, it is absurd and impossible, I know, but nothing is truer. That banjo, which was made last year, existed in the sixteenth century, and has been rotting ever since. Stay. Give it to me a moment, and I’ll convince you. You’ll recollect that your name and mine, with the date, were engraved on the silver hoop?”

“Yes; and there was a private mark of my own there also.”

“Very well,” said Ken, who had been rubbing a place on the hoop with a corner of the yellow silk wrapper; “look at that.”

I took the decrepit instrument from him, and examined the spot which he had rubbed. It was incredible, sure enough; but there were the names and the date precisely as I had caused them to be engraved; and there, moreover, was my own private mark, which I had idly made with an old etching point not more than eighteen months before. After convincing myself that there was no mistake, I laid the banjo across my knees, and stared at my friend in bewilderment. He sat smoking with a kind of grim composure, his eyes fixed upon the blazing logs.

“I’m mystified, I confess,” said I. “Come; what is the joke? What method have you discovered of producing decay of centuries on this unfortunate banjo in a few months? And why did you do it? I have heard of an elixir to counteract the effects of time, but your recipe seems to work the other way - to make time rush forward at two hundred times his usual rate, in one place, while he jogs on at his usual gait elsewhere. Unfold your mystery, magician. Seriously, Ken, how on earth did the thing happen?”

“I know no more about it than you do,” was his reply. “Either you and I and all the rest of the living world are insane, or else there has been wrought a miracle as strange as any in tradition. How can I explain it? It is a common saying - a common experience, if you will - that we may, on certain trying or tremendous occasions, live years in one moment. But that’s a mental experience, not a physical one, and one that applies, at all events, only to human beings, not to senseless things of wood and metal. You imagine the thing is some trick or jugglery. If it be, I don’t know the secret of it. There’s no chemical appliance that I ever heard of that will get a piece of solid wood into that condition in a few months, or a few years. And it wasn’t done in a few years, or a few months either. A year ago to-day at this very hour the banjo was as sound as when it left the maker’s hands, and twenty-four hours afterward - I’m telling you the simple truth - it was as you see it now.”

The gravity and earnestness with which Ken made this astounding statement were evidently not assumed. He believed every word that he uttered. I knew not what to think. Of course my friend might be insane, though he betrayed none of the ordinary symptoms of mania; but, however that might be, there was the banjo, a witness whose silent testimony there was no gainsaying. The more I meditated on the matter the more inconceivable did it appear. Two hundred years - twenty-four hours; those were the terms of the proposed equation. Ken and the banjo both affirmed that the equation had been made; all worldly knowledge and experience affirmed it to be impossible. What was the explanation? What is time? What is life? I felt myself beginning to doubt the reality of all things. And so this was the mystery which my friend had been brooding over since his return from abroad. No wonder it had changed him. More to be wondered at was that it had not changed him more.

“Can you tell me the whole story?” I demanded at length.

Ken quaffed another draught from his glass of tamarind-water and rubbed his hand through his thick brown beard. “I have never spoken to any one of it heretofore,” he said, “and I had never meant to speak of it. But I’ll try and give you some idea of what it was. You know me better than any one else; you’ll understand the thing as far as it ever can be understood, and perhaps I may be relieved of some of the oppression it has caused me. For it is rather a ghastly memory to grapple with alone, I can tell you.”

Hereupon, without further preface, Ken related the following tale. He was, I may observe in passing, a naturally fine narrator. There were deep, lingering tones in his voice, and he could strikingly enhance the comic or pathetic effect of a sentence by dwelling here and there upon some syllable. His features were equally susceptible of humorous and of solemn expressions, and his eyes were in form and hue wonderfully adapted to showing great varieties of emotion. Their mournful aspect was extremely earnest and affecting; and when Ken was giving utterance to some mysterious passage of the tale they had a doubtful, melancholy, exploring look which appealed irresistibly to the imagination. But the interest of his story was too pressing to allow of noticing these incidental embellishments at the time, though they doubtless had their influence upon me all the same.

“I left New York on an Inman Line steamer, you remember,” Ken began, “and landed at Havre. I went the usual round of sight-seeing on the Continent, and got round to London in July, at the height of the season. I had good introductions, and met any number of agreeable and famous people. Among others was a young lady, a country-woman of my own - you know whom I mean - who interested me very much, and before her family left London she and I were engaged. We parted there for the time, because she had the Continental trip still to make, while I wanted to take the opportunity to visit the north of England and Ireland. I landed at Dublin about the first of October, and, zigzagging about the country, I found myself in County Cork about two weeks later.

“There is in that region some of the most lovely scenery that human eyes ever rested on, and it seems to be less known to tourists than many places of infinitely less picturesque value. A lonely region, too: during my rambles I met not a single stranger like myself, and few enough natives. It seems incredible that so beautiful a country should be so deserted. After walking a dozen Irish miles you come across a group of two or three one-roomed cottages, and, like as not, one or more of those will have the roof off and the walls in ruins. The few peasants whom one sees, however, are affable and hospitable, especially when they hear you are from that terrestrial heaven whither most of their friends and relatives have gone before them. They seem simple and primitive enough at first sight, and yet they are as strange and incomprehensible a race as any in the world. They are as superstitious, as credulous of marvels, fairies, magicians, and omens, as the men whom St. Patrick preached to, and at the same time they are shrewd, skeptical, insensible, and bottomless liars. Upon the whole, I met with no nation on my travels whose company I enjoyed so much, or who inspired me with such kindness, curiosity, and repugnance.

“At length I got to a place on the seacoast, which I will not further specify than to say that it is not many miles from Ballymacheen, on the south shore. I have seen Venice and Naples, I have driven along the Cornice Road, I have spent a month at our own Mount Desert, and I say that all of them together are not so beautiful as this glowing, deep-hued, soft-gleaming, silvery-lighted, ancient harbor and town, with the tall hills crowding round it and the black cliffs and headlands planting their iron feet in the blue, transparent sea. It is a very old place, and has had a history which it has outlived ages since. It may once have had two or three thousand inhabitants; it has scarce five or six hundred to-day. Half the houses are in ruins or have disappeared; many of the remainder are standing empty. All the people are poor, most of them abjectly so; they saunter about with bare feet and uncovered heads, the women in quaint black or dark blue cloaks, the men in such anomalous attire as only an Irishman knows how to get together, the children half naked. The only comfortable-looking people are the monks and the priests, and the soldiers in the fort. For there is a fort there, constructed on the huge ruins of one which may have done duty in the reign of Edward the Black Prince, or earlier, in whose mossy embrasures are mounted a couple of cannon, which occasionally sent a practice-shot or two at the cliff on the other side of the harbour. The garrison consists of a dozen men and three or four officers and noncommissioned officers. I suppose they are relieved occasionally, but those I saw seemed to have become component parts of their surroundings.

“I put up at a wonderful little old inn, the only one in the place, and took my meals in a dining-saloon fifteen feet by nine, with a portrait of George I (a print varnished to preserve it) hanging over the mantel-piece. On the second evening after dinner a young gentleman came in - the dining-saloon being public property, or course - and ordered some bread and cheese and a bottle of Dublin stout. We presently fell into talk; he turned out to be an officer from the fort, Lieutenant O’Connor, and a fine young specimen of the Irish soldier he was. After telling me all he knew about the town, the surrounding country, his friends, and himself, he intimated a readiness to sympathize with whatever tale I might choose to pour into his ear; and I had pleasure in trying to rival his own outspokenness. We became excellent friends; we had up a half-pint of Kinahan’s whiskey, and the lieutenant expressed himself in terms of high praise of my countrymen, my country, and my own particular cigars. When it became time for him to depart I accompanied him - for there was a splendid moon abroad - and bade him farewell at the fort entrance, having promised to come over the next day and make the acquaintance of the other fellows. ‘And mind your eye, now, going back, my dear boy,’ he called out, as I turned my face homeward. ‘Sure ‘tis a spooky place, that grave-yard, and you’ll as likely meet the black woman there as anywhere else!’

“The grave-yard was a forlorn and barren spot on the hill-side, just the hither side of the fort; thirty or forty rough head-stones, few of which retained any semblance of the perpendicular, while many were so shattered and decayed as to seem nothing more than irregular natural projections from the ground. Who the black woman might be I knew not, and did not stay to inquire. I had never been subject to ghostly apprehensions, and as a matter of fact, though the path I had to follow was in places very bad going, not to mention a hap-hazard scramble over a ruined bridge that covered a deep-lying brook, I reached my inn without any adventure whatever.

“The next day I kept my appointment at the fort, and found no reason to regret it; and my friendly sentiments were abundantly reciprocated, thanks more especially, perhaps, to the success of my banjo, which I carried with me, and which was as novel as it was popular with those who listened to it. The chief personages in the social circle besides my friend the lieutenant were Major Molloy, who was in command, a racy and juicy old campaigner, with a face like a sunset, and the surgeon, Dr. Dudeen, a long, dry, humorous genius, with a wealth of anecdotical and traditional lore at his command that I have never seen surpassed. We had a jolly time of it, and it was the precursor of many more like it. The remains of October slipped away rapidly, and I was obliged to remember that I was a traveller in Europe, and not a resident in Ireland. The major, the surgeon, and the lieutenant all protested cordially against my proposed departure, but as there was no help for it, they arranged a farewell dinner to take place in the fort on All-halloween.

“I wish you could have been at that dinner with me! It was the essence of Irish good-fellowship. Dr. Dudeen was in great force; the major was better than the best of Lever’s novels; the lieutenant was overflowing with hearty good-humour, merry chaff, and sentimental rhapsodies anent this of the other pretty girl of the neighbourhood. For my part I made the banjo ring as it had never rung before, and the others joined in the chorus with a mellow strength of lungs such as you don’t often hear outside of Ireland. Among the stories that Dr. Dudeen regaled us with was one about the Kern of Querin and his wife, Ethelind Fionguala - which being interpreted signifies ‘the white-shouldered.’ The lady, it appears, was originally betrothed to one O’Connor (here the lieutenant smacked his lips), but was stolen away on the wedding night by a party of vampires, who, it would seem, were at that period a prominent feature among the troubles of Ireland. But as they were bearing her along - she being unconscious - to that supper where she was not to eat but to be eaten, the young Kern of Querin, who happened to be out duck-shooting, met the party, and emptied his gun at it. The vampires fled, and the Kern carried the fair lady, still in a state of insensibility to his house. ‘And by the same token, Mr. Keningale,’ observed the doctor, knocking the ashes out of his pipe, ‘ye’re after passing that very house on your way here. The one with the dark archway underneath it, and the big mullioned window at the corner, ye recollect, hanging over the street, as I might say - ’

“ ‘Go ‘long wid the house, Dr. Dudeen, dear,’ interrupted the lieutenant; ‘sure can’t you see we’re all dyin’ to know what happened to sweet Miss Fionguala, God be good to her, when I was after getting her safe upstairs - ’

“ ‘Faith, then, I can tell ye that myself, Mr. O’Connor,’ exclaimed the major, imparting a rotary motion to the remnants of the whiskey in his tumbler. ‘Tis a question to be solved on general principles, as Colonel O’Halloran said that time when he was asked what he’d do if he’d been the Dook o’ Wellington, and the Prussians hadn’t come up in the nick o’ time at Waterloo. ‘Faith,’ says the colonel, ‘I’ll tell ye - ’

“ ‘Arrah, then, major, why would ye be interruptin’ the doctor, and Mr. Keningale there lettin’ his glass stay empty till he ehars - The Lord save us! the bottle’s empty!’

“In the excitement consequent upon this discovery, the thread of the doctor’s story was lost; and before it could be recovered the evening had advanced so far that I felt obliged to withdraw. It took some time to make my proposition heard and comprehended; and a still longer time to put it into execution; so that it was fully midnight before I found myself standing in the cool pure air outside the fort, with the farewells of my boon companions ringing in my ears.

“Considering that it had been rather a wet evening in-doors, I was in a remarkably good state of preservation, and I therefore ascribed it rather to the roughness of the road than to the smoothness of the liquor, when, after advancing a few rods, I stumbled and fell. As I picked myself up I fancied I had heard a laugh, and supposed that the lieutenant, who had accompanied me to the gate, was making merry over my mishap; but on looking round I saw that the gate was closed and no one was visible. The laugh, moreover, had seemed to be close at hand, and even to be pitched in a key that was rather feminine than masculine. Of course I must have been deceived; nobody was near me: my imagination had played me a trick, or else there was more truth than poetry in the tradition that Halloween is the carvival-time of disembodied spirits. It did not occur to me at the time that a stumble is held by the superstitious Irish to be an evil omen and had I remembered it it would only have been to laugh at it. At all events, I was physically none the worse for my tumble, and I resumed my way immediately.

“But the path was singularly difficult to find, or rather the path I was following did not seem to be the right one. I did not recognize it; I could have sworn (except I knew the contrary) that I had never seen it before. The moon had risen, though her light was as yet obscured by clouds, but neither my immediate surroundings nor the general aspect of the region appeared familiar. Dark, silent hill-sides mounted up on either hand, and the road, for the most part, plunged downward, as if to conduct me down into the bowels of the earth. The place was alive with strange echoes, so that at times I seemed to be walking through the midst of muttering of voices and mysterious whispers, and a wild, faint sound of laughter seemed ever and anon to reverberate among the passes of the hills. Currents of colder air sighing up through narrow defiles and dark crevices touched my face as with airy fingers. A certain feeling of anxiety and insecurity began to take possession of me, though there was no definable cause for it, unless that I might be belated in getting home. With the perverse instinct of those who are lost I hastened my steps, but was impelled now and then to glance back over my shoulder, with a sensation of being pursued. But no living creature was in sight. The moon, however, had now risen higher, and the clouds that were drifting slowly across the sky flung into the naked valley dusky shadows, which occasionally assumed shapes that looked like the vague semblance of gigantic human forms.

“How long I had been hurrying onward I know not, when, with a kind of suddenness, I found myself approaching a grave-yard. It was situated on the spur of a hill, and there was no fence around it, nor anything to protect it from the incursions of passers-by. There was something in the general appearance of this spot that made me half fancy I had seen it before; and I should have taken it to be the same that I had often noticed on my way to the fort, but that the latter was only a few hundred yards distant there-from, whereas I must have traversed several miles at least. As I drew near, moreover, I observed that the head-stones did not appear so ancient and decayed as those of the other. But what chiefly attracted my attention was the figure that was leaning or half sitting upon one of the largest of the upright slabs near the road. It was a female figure draped in black, and a closer inspection - for I was soon within a few yards of her - showed that she wore the calla, or long hooded cloak, the most common as well as the most ancient garment of Irish women, and doubtless of Spanish origin.

“I was a trifle startled by this apparition, so unexpected as it was, and so strange did it seem that any human creature should be at that hour of the night in so desolate and sinister a place. Involuntarily I paused as I came opposite her, and gazed at her intently. But the moonlight fell behind her, and the deep hood of her cloak so completely shadowed her face that I was unable to discern anything but the sparkle of a pair of eyes, which appeared to be returning my gaze with much vivacity.

“ ‘You seem to be at home here,’ I said at length. ‘Can you tell me where I am?’

“Hereupon the mysterious personage broke into a light laugh, which, though in itself musical and agreeable, was of a timbre and intonation that caused my heart to beat rather faster than my late pedestrian exertions warranted; for it was the identical laugh (or so my imagination persuaded me) that had echoed in my ears as I arose from my tumble an hour or two ago. For the rest, it was the laugh of a young woman, and presumably of a pretty one; and yet it had a wild, airy, mocking quality, that seemed hardly human at all, or not, at any rate, to be characteristic of a being of affections and limitations like unto ours. But this impression of mine was fostered, no doubt, by the unusual and uncanny circumstances of the occasion.

“ ‘Sure, sir,’ said she, ‘you’re at the grave of Ethelind Fionguala.’

“As she spoke she rose to her feet, and pointed to the inscription on the stone. I bent forward, and was able, without much difficulty, to decipher the name, and the date which indicated that the occupant of the grave must have entered the disembodied state between two and three centuries ago.

“ ‘And who are you?’ was my next question.

“ ‘I’m called Elsie,’ she replied. ‘But where would your honor be going November-eve?’

“I mentioned my destination and asked her whether she could direct me thither.

“ ‘Indeed, then, ‘tis there I’m going myself,’ Elsie replied; ‘and if your honor’ll follow me, and play me a tune on the pretty instrument, ‘tisn’t long we’ll be on the road.’

“She pointed to the banjo which I carried wrapped up under my arm. How she knew that it was a musical instrument I could not imagine; possibly, I thought, she may have seen me playing on it as I strolled about the environs of the town. Be that as it may, I offered no opposition to the bargain, and further intimated tat I would reward her more substantially on our arrival. At that she laughed again, and made a peculiar gesture with her hand above her head. I uncovered my banjo, swept my fingers across the strings, and struck into a fantastic dance measure, to the music of which we proceeded along the path, Elsie slightly in advance, her feet keeping time to the airy measure. In fact, she trod so lightly, with an elastic, undulating movement, that with a little more it seemed as if she might float onward like a spirit. The extreme whiteness of her feet attracted my eye, and I was surprised to find that instead of being bare, as I had supposed, they were encased in white satin slippers quaintly embroidered with gold thread.

“ ‘Elsie,’ said I, lengthening my steps so as to come up with her, ‘where do you live, and what do you do for a living?’

“ ‘Sure, I live by myself,’ she answered; ‘and if you’d be after knowing how, you must come and see for yourself.’

“ ‘Are you in the habit of walking over the hills at night in shoes like that?’

“ ‘And why would I not?’ she asked, in her turn. ‘And where did your honor get the pretty gold ring on your finger?’

“The ring, which was of no intrinsic value, had struck my eye in an old curiosity shop in Cork. It was an antique of very old-fashioned design, and might have belonged (as the vendor assured me was the case) to one of the early kings or queens of Ireland.

“ ‘Do you like it?’ said I.

“ ‘Will your honor be after making a present of it to Elsie?’ she returned, with an insinuating tone and turn of the head.

“ ‘Maybe I will, Elsie, on one condition. I am an artist; I make pictures of people. If you will promise to come to my studio and let me paint your portrait, I’ll give you the ring, and some money besides.’

“ ‘And will you give me the ring now?’ said Elsie.

“ ‘Yes, if you’ll promise.’

“ ‘And will you play the music to me?’ she continued.

“ ‘As much as you like.’

“ ‘But maybe I’ll not be handsome enough for ye,’ said she, with a glance of her eyes beneath the dark hood.

“ ‘I’ll take the risk of that,’ I answered, laughing, ‘though, all the same, I don’t mind taking a peep beforehand to remember you by.’ So saying, I put forth a hand to draw back the concealing hood. But Elsie eluded me, I scarce know how, and laughed a third time, with the same airy, mocking cadence.

“ ‘Give me the ring first, and then you shall see me,’ she said, coaxingly.

“ ‘Stretch out your hand, then,’ returned I, removing the ring from my finger. ‘When we are better acquainted, Elsie, you won’t be so suspicious.’

“She held out a slender, delicate hand, on the forefinger of which I slipped the ring. As I did so, the folds of her cloak fell a little apart, affording me a glimpse of a white shoulder and a dress that seemed in that deceptive semidarkness to be wrought of rich and costly material; and I caught, too, or so I fancied, the frosty sparkle of precious stones.

“ ‘Arrah, mind where ye tread!’ said Elsie, in a sudden, sharp tone.

“I looked round, and became aware for the first time that we were standing near the middle of a ruined bridge which spanned a rapid stream that flowed at a considerable depth below. The parapet of the bridge on one side was broken down, and I must have been, in fact, in imminent danger of stepping over into empty air. I made my way cautiously across the decaying structure; but when I turned to assist Elsie, she was nowhere to be seen.

“What had become of the girl? I called, but no answer came. I gazed about on every side, but no trace of her was visible. Unless she had plunged into the narrow abyss at my feet, there was no place she could have concealed herself - none at least that I could discover. She had vanished, nevertheless; and since her disappearance must have been premeditated, I finally came to the conclusion that it was useless to attempt to find her. She would present herself again in her own good time, or not at all. She had given me the slip very cleverly, and I must make the best of it. The adventure was perhaps worth the ring.

“On resuming my way, I was not a little relieved to find that I once more knew where I was. The bridge that I had just crossed was none other than the one I mentioned some time back; I was within a mile of the town, and my way lay clear before me. The moon, moreover, had now quite dispersed the clouds, and shone down with exquisite brilliance. Whatever her other failings, Elsie had been a trustworthy guide; she had brought me out of the depth of elf-land into the material world again. It had been a singular adventure, certainly; and I mused over it with a sense of mysterious pleasure as I sauntered along, humming snatches of airs, and accompanying myself on the strings. Hark! what light step was that behind me? It sounded like Elsie’s; but no, Elsie was not there. The same impression or hallucination, however, recurred several times before I reached the outskirts of the town - the tread of an airy foot behind or beside my own. The fancy did not make me nervous; on the contrary, I was pleased with the notion of being thus haunted, and gave myself up to a romantic and genial vein of reverie.

“After passing one or two roofless and moss-grown cottages, I entered the narrow and rambling street which leads through the town. This street a short distance down widens a little, as if to afford the wayfarer space to observe a remarkable old house that stands on the northern side. The house was built of stone, and in a noble style of architecture; it reminded me somewhat of certain palaces of the old Italian nobility that I had seen on the Continent, and it may very probably have been built by one of the Italian or Spanish immigrants of the sixteenth or seventeenth century. The moulding of the projecting windows and arched doorway was richly carved, and upon the front of the building was an escutcheon wrought in high relief, though I could not make out the purport of the device. The moonlight falling upon this picturesque pile enhanced all its beauties, and at the same time made it seem like a vision that might dissolve away when the light ceased to shine. I must often have seen the house before, and yet I retained no definite recollection of it; I had never until now examined it with my eyes open, so to speak. Leaning against the wall on the opposite side of the street, I contemplated it for a long while at my leisure. The window at the corner was really a very fine and massive affair. It projected over the pavement below, throwing a heavy shadow aslant; the frames of the diamond-paned lattices were heavily mullioned. How often in past ages had that lattice been pushed open by some fair hand, revealing to a lover waiting beneath in the moonlight the charming countenance of his high-born mistress! Those were brave days. They had passed away long since. The great house had stood empty for who could tell how many years; only bats and vermin were its inhabitants. Where now were those who had built it? and who were they? Probably the very name of them was forgotten.

“As I continued to stare upward, however, a conjecture presented itself to my mind which rapidly ripened into a conviction. Was bot this the house that Dr. Dudeen had described that very evening as having been formerly the abode of the Kern of Querin and his mysterious bride? There was the projecting window, the arched doorway. Yes, beyond a doubt this was the very house. I emitted a low exclamation of renewed interest and pleasure, and my speculations took a still more imaginative, but also a more definite, turn.

“What had been the fate of that lovely lady after the Kern had brought her home insensible in his arms? Did she recover? and were they married and made happy ever after? or had the sequel been a tragic one? I remembered to have read that the victims of vampires generally became vampires themselves. Then my thoughts went back to that grave on the hill-side. Surely that was unconsecrated ground. Why had they buried her there? Ethelind of the white shoulder! Ah! why had not I lived in those days? or why might not some magic cause them to live again for me? Then I would seek this street at midnight, and standing here beneath her window, I would lightly touch the strings of my bandore until the casement opened cautiously and she looked down. A sweet vision indeed! And what preventing my realizing it? Only a matter of a couple of centuries or so. And was time, then, at which poets and philosophers sneer, so rigid and real a matter that a little faith and imagination might not overcome it? At all events, I had my banjo, the bandore’s legitimate and lineal descendant, and the memory of FIonguala should have the love ditty.

“Hereupon, having retuned the instrument, I launched forth into an old Spanish love song, which I had met with in some mouldy library during my travels, and had set to music of my own. I sang low, for the deserted street re-echoed the lightest sound, and what I sang must reach only my lady’s ears. The words were warm with the fire of the ancient Spanish chivalry, and I threw into their expression all the passion of the lovers of romance. Surely Fionguala, the white-shouldered, would hear, and awaken from her sleep of centuries, and come to the latticed casement and look down! Hist! see yonder! What light - what shadow is that that seems to flit from room to room within the abandoned house, and now approaches the mullioned window? Are my eyes dazzled by the play of the moonlight, or does the casement move - does it open? Nay, this is no delusion; there is no error of the sense here. There is simply a woman, young, beautiful, and richly attired, bending forward from the window, and silently beckoning me to approach.

“Too much amazed to be conscious of amazement, I advanced until I stood directly beneath the casement, and the lady’s face, as she stooped toward me, was not more than twice a man’s height from my own. She smiled and kissed her fingertips; something white fluttered in her hand, then fell through the air to the ground at my feet. The next moment she had withdrawn, and I heard the lattice close.

“I picked up what she had let fall; it was a delicate lace handkerchief, tied to the handle of an elaborately wrought bronze key. It was evidently the key of the house, and invited me to enter. I loosened it from the handkerchief, which bore a faint, delicious perfume, like the aroma of flowers in an ancient garden, and turned to the arched doorway. I felt no misgiving, and scarcely and sense of strangeness. All was as I had wished it to be, and as it should be; the medieval age was alive once more, and as for myself, I almost felt the velvet cloak hanging from my shoulder and the long rapier dangling at my belt. Standing in front of the door I thrust the key into the lock, turned it, and felt the bolt yield. The next instant the door was opened, apparently from within; I stepped across the threshold, the door closed again, and I was alone in the house, and in darkness.

“Not alone, however! As I extended my hand to grope my way it was met by another hand, soft, slender, and cold, which insinuated itself gently into mine and drew me forward. Forward I went, nothing loath; the darkness was impenetrable, but I could hear the light rustle of a dress close to me, and the same delicious perfume that had emanated from the handkerchief enriched the air that I breathed, while the little hand that clasped and was clasped by my own alternately tightened and half relaxed the hold of its soft cold fingers. In this manner, and treading lightly, we traversed what I presumed to be a long, irregular passageway, and ascended a staircase. Then another corridor, until finally we paused, a door opened, emitting a flood of soft light, into which we entered, still hand in hand. The darkness and the doubt were at an end.

“The room was of imposing dimensions, and was furnished and decorated in a style of antique splendor. The walls were draped with mellow hues of tapestry; clusters of candles burned in polished silver sconces, and were reflected and multiplied in tall mirrors placed in the four corners of the room. The heavy beams of the dark oaken ceiling crossed each other in squares, and were laboriously carved; the curtains and the drapery of the chairs were of heavy figured damask. At one end of the room was a broad ottoman, and in front of it a table, on which was set forth, in massive silver dishes, a sumptuous repast, with wine in crystal beakers. At the side was a vast and deep fire-place, with space enough on the broad hearth to burn whole trunks of trees. No fire, however, was there, but only a great heap of dead embers; and the room, for all its magnificence, was cold - cold as a tomb, or as my lady’s hand - and it sent a subtle chill creeping to my heart.

“But my lady! how fair she was! I gave but a passing glance at the room; my eyes and my thoughts were all for her. She was dressed in white, like a bride; diamonds sparkled in her dark hair and on her snowy bosom; her lovely face and slender lips were pale, and all the paler for the dusky glow of her eyes. She gazed at me with a strange, elusive smile; and yet there was, in her aspect and bearing, something familiar in the midst of strangeness, like the burden of a song heard long ago and recalled among other conditions and surroundings. It seemed to me that something in me recognized her and knew her, had known her always. She was the woman of whom I had dreamed, whom I had beheld in visions, whose voice and face had haunted me from boyhood up. Whether we had ever met before, as human beings meet, I knew not; perhaps I had been blindly seeking her all over the world, and she had been awaiting me in this splendid room, sitting by those dead embers until all the warmth had gone out of her blood, only to be restored by the heat with which my love might supply her.

“ ‘I thought you had forgotten me,’ she said, modding as if in answer to my thought. ‘The night was so late - out one night of the year! How my heart rejoiced when I heard your dear voice singing the song I know so well! Kiss me - my lips are cold!’

“Cold indeed they were - cold as the lips of death. But the warmth of my own seemed to revive them. They were now tinged with a faint color, and in her cheeks also appeared a delicate shade of pink. She drew fuller breath, as one who recovers from a long lethargy. Was it my life that was feeding her? I was ready to give her all. She drew me to the table and pointed to the viands and the wine.

“ ‘Eat and drink,’ she said. ‘You have travelled far, and you need food.’

“ ‘Will you eat and drink with me?’ said I, pouring out the wine.

“ ‘You are the only nourishment I want,’ was her answer. ‘This wine is thin and cold. Give me wine as red as your blood and as warm, and I will drain a goblet to the dregs.’

“At these words, I know not why, a slight shiver passed through me. She seemed to gain vitality and strength at every instant, but the chill of the great room struck into me more and more.

“She broke into a fantastic flow of spirits, clapping her hands, and dancing about me like a child. Who was she? And was I myself, or was she mocking me when she implied that we had belonged to each other of old? At length she stood still before me, crossing her hands over her breast. I saw upon the forefinger of her right hand the gleam of an antique ring.

“ ‘Where did you get that ring?’ I demanded.

“She shook her head and laughed. Have you been faithful?’ she asked. ‘It is my ring; it is the ring that unites us; it is the ring you gave me when you loved me first. It is the ring of the Kern - the fairy ring, and I am your Ethelind - Ethelind Fionguala.’

“ ‘So be it,’ I said, casting aside all doubt and fear, and yielding myself wholly to the spell of her inscrutable eyes and wooing lips. ‘You are mine, and I am yours, and let us be happy while the hours last.’

“ ‘You are mine, and I am yours,’ she repeated, nodding her head with an elfish smile. ‘Come and sit beside me, and sing that sweet song again that you sang to me so long ago. Ah, now I shall live a hundred years.’

“We seated ourselves on the ottoman, and while she nestled luxuriously among the cushions, I took my banjo and sang to her. The song and the music resounded through the lofty room, and came back in throbbing echoes. And before me as I sang I saw the face and form of Ethelind Fionguala, in her jewelled bridal dress, gazing at me with burning eyes. She was pale no longer, but ruddy and warm, and life was like a flame within her. It was I who had become cold and bloodless, yet with the last life that was in me I would have sung to her of love that can never die. But at length my eyes grew dim, the room seemed to darken, the form of Ethelind alternately brightened and waxed indistinct, like the last flickering of a fire; I swayed toward her, and felt myself lapsing into unconsciousness, with my head resting on her white shoulder.”

Here Keningale paused a few moments in his story, flung a fresh log upon the fire, and then continued:

“I awoke, I know not how long afterward. I was in a vast empty room in a ruined building. Rotten shreds of drapery depended from the walls, and heavy festoons of spiders’ webs gray with dust covered the windows, which were destitute of glass or sash; they had been boarded up with rough planks which had themselves become rotten with age, and admitted through their holes and crevices pallid rays of light and chilly draughts of air. A bat, disturbed by these rays or by my own movement, detached himself from his hold on a remnant of mouldy tapestry near me, and after circling dizzily round my head, wheeled the flickering noiselessness of his flight into a darker corner. As I rose unsteadily from the heap of miscellaneous rubbish on which I had been lying, something which had been resting across my knees fell to the floor with a rattle. I picked it up, and found it to be my banjo - as you see it now.

“Well, that is all I have to tell. My health was seriously impaired; all the blood seemed to have been drawn out of my veins; I was pale and haggard, and the chill - Ah, that chill,” murmured Keningale, drawing nearer to the fire, and spreading out his hands to catch the warmth - “I shall never get over it; I shall carry it to my grave.”

Thursday, 30 October 2014

A Gruesome Hallowe'en Joke

Scare a Patchogue Household
New York Times, Friday 2nd of November 1900

PATCHOGUE, L.I., Nov. 1 - When Ira B. Terry awoke this morning and looked out of his window he saw a sight that astonished him. Tombstones were to be seen in every direction. He called his wife, and when she saw what appeared to be a graveyard outside the house she gave a cry of alarm. A number of school teachers board with Mrs. Terry, and they joined in a chorus of screams and ejaculations when they saw the spectacle.

Mr. Terry was inclined to be angry at first, but when he recalled the fact that last night was Halloween, a night devoted to pranks of all kinds, he laughed, and his wife and the young teachers joined in.

Mr. Goldsmith, the owner of the marble yard from which the tombstones had been taken during the night, was not so much inclined to regard the matter in the light of a joke. His men had a busy day carrying back the stock to the yard. He says boys could not have perpetrated the joke, as the work of removing some of the tombstones would have been far too much for their strength.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

A Hallowe'en Wraith ~ William Black

Snap Apple Night, or All Hallows' Eve, by Daniel Maclise, painted in 1832.

William Black (1841 ~ 1898) was an immensely popular nineteenth-century Glasgow-born novelist and journalist. He trained as a landscape painter before turning to journalism, and his artistic training greatly influenced his writing. Nowadays, he is little known, but in his day he was celebrated for his atmospheric, painterly descriptions of landscapes - something which is very evident in his story 'A Hallowe'en Wraith', which appeared in The Magic Ink and Other Tales in 1892. And it is that tale that I offer here, on this cold, dark night in the run up to Hallowe'en.

by William Black
Taken from The Magic Ink and Other Tales
Published by Sampson Low, Marston & Company, 1892


THE vast bulk of Ben Clebrig was dark in shadow, but the wide waters of Loch Naver shone a soft silver-gray in the moonlight, as Hector MacIntyre, keeper and forester in the far solitudes of Glengorm, came striding along the road toward Inver-Mudal. As he approached the little hamlet - which consists merely of the inn and its surroundings and one or two keepers’ cottages - certain small points of red told him of its whereabouts among the black trees; and as he drew still nearer he thought he would let the good people there know of his coming. Hector had brought his pipes with him, for there were to be great doings on this Hallowe’en night; and now, when he had inflated the bag and tuned the drones, there sprang into the profound silence reigning everywhere around the wild skirl of the “Hills of Glenorchy.” Surely the sound would reach, and carry its message? If not, here was “Gillie, a Drover,” played still more bravely; and again the proud strains of “The Glen’s Mine!” By which time he had got near to the inn, and was about to turn down from the highway by the semicircular drive passing the front door.

But here he suddenly encountered a fearful sight. From out of the dusk of the wall surrounding the front garden there came three luminous objects - three globes of a dull saffron hue; and on each of these appeared the features of a face - eyes, mouth, and nose - all flaming in fire. On beholding this terrible thing the tall, brown-bearded forester turned and fled; and the pipes told of his dismay; for they shrieked and groaned and made all sorts of indescribable noises, as if they too were in mortal alarm. Then Mrs. Murray’s three children, with victorious shouts of laughter, pursued the tall forester, and kept waving before them the hollowed-out turnips with the bit of candle burning within. When he had got up to the corner of the road, Hector turned and addressed the children, who had come crowding round him, holding up their flaming turnips to cause him still further consternation.

“Well, now,” said he, in the Gaelic, “that is a fearful thing to alarm any poor person with. Were you not thinking I should die of fright? And the pipes squealing as well, for they never saw anything like that before. But never mind, we are going down to the house now; and, do you know, Roland, and Isabel, and you, little Shena - do you know, I have brought you some of the fir tops that grow in Glengorm. For it is a wonderful place, Glengorm; and the fir tops that grow on the larches there are not as the fir tops that grow anywhere else. They are very small, and they are round, and some are pink, and some are blue, and some are black and white, and some others - why, they have an almond inside them! Oh, it is a wonderful place, Glengorm! - but it is not always you can get the fir tops from the larches; it is only on some great occasion like the Hallowe’en night; and let me see, now, if I put any of them in my pocket. Here, Ronald, take the pipes from me, and hold them properly on your shoulder - for one day you will be playing ‘Miss Ramsay’s Strathspey’ as well as any one - and I will search my pockets, and see if I put any of those wonderful fir tops into them.”

The children knew very well what all this preamble meant; but neither they nor their elders could have told how it was that Hector MacIntyre, ever time he came to Inver-Mudal, brought with him packages of sweetmeats, though he lived in one of the most inaccessible districts in Sutherland, Glengorm being about two-and-twenty miles away from anywhere. However, here were the precious little parcels; and when they had been distributed, Hector took his pipes again, and, escorted by his small friends, went down to the inn.

Well, Mr. Murray, the innkeeper, had also heard the distant skirl of the pipes, and here he was at the door.

“How are you, Hector?” he asked, in the Gaelic. “And what is your news?”

‘There is not much news in Glengorm,” was the answer.

“And when is your wedding to be?” Mr. Murray said. “We will make a grand day of that day, Hector. And I have been thinking I will get some of the lads to kindle a bonfire on the top of Ben Clebrig - a fire that they will see down in Ross-shire. And there’s many a pistol and many a gun will make a crack when you drive up to this door and bring your bride in. For I am one who believes in the old customs; and whether it is a wedding, or the New-Year, or Hallowe’en night, I am for the old ways, and the Free Church ministers can say what they like. Now come away in, Hector, my lad, and take a dram after your long walk; there is plenty of hard work before you this evening; for Johnnie has broken his fiddle; and the lasses have not been asked to stand up to a reel for many a day.” And then he paused, and said: “And how is Flora Campbell, Hector? Have you any news of her?”

“No,” said the forester, in something of an undertone, and his face looked troubled. “I have had no letter for a while back; and I do not know what it means. Her sister that lives in Greenock was taken ill; and Flora said she must go down from Oban to see her; and that is the last I have heard. If I knew her sister’s address in Greenock, I would write and ask Flora why there was no letter for so long; but if you send a letter to one called Mary Campbell in such a big place as Greenock, what use is it?”

“But no news is good news, Hector,” said Mr. Murray, cheerfully. And therewith he led the way through a stone corridor into the great kitchen, where a considerable assemblage of lads and lasses were already engaged in noisy merriment and pastime.

The arrival of the tall forester and his pipes was hailed with general satisfaction; but there was no call as yet for the inspiriting music; in fact, this big kitchen was given over to the games of the children and the youngest boys and girls, a barn having been prepared for supper, and for the celebration of occult Hallowe’en rites when the time came for their elders to take part in the festivities. At present there was a large tub filled with water placed in the middle of the floor; and there were apples in it; and the youngsters, with their hands behind their backs, were trying to snatch out an apple with their teeth. There was many a sousing of heads, of course - an excellent trial of temper; while sometimes a bolder wight than usual would pursue his prize to the bottom, and try to fasten upon it there; or some shy young damsel would cunningly shove the apple over to the side of the tub, and succeed by mother-wit where masculine courage had failed. Then from the roof, suspended by a cord, hung a horizontal piece of wood, at one end of which was an apple, at the other a lighted tallow candle; and when the cord had been twisted up and then set free again, causing the transverse piece of wood to whirl around, the competitor was invited to snatch with his mouth at the apple, failing to do which secured him a rap on the cheek from the guttering candle. There were all sorts of similar diversions going forward (the origin and symbolism of them little dreamt of by these light-hearted lads and lasses) when little Isabel Murray came up to the big, handsome, good-natured-looking forester from Glengorm.

“Will you burn a nut with me, Hector?” she said, kindly.

“Indeed I will, Isabel, if you will take me for your sweetheart,” said he, in reply; “and now we will go to the fire, and see whether we are to be at peace and friendship all our lives.”

They went to the hearth; they put the two nuts among the blazing peats; and awaited the response of the oracle. Could any augury have been more auspicious? The two nuts lay together, burning steadily and quickly - a soft love-flame - no angry sputtering, no sudden explosion and separation.

“Now do you see that, lamb of my heart? said the tall forester, using a familiar Gaelic phrase.

And no doubt the little lass was very highly pleased. However, at this moment up came Mrs. Murray with the announcement that the children might continue at their games some time longer, but that the grown-up folk were wanted in the barn, where supper was awaiting them.

It was a joyous scene. The huge peat fire was blazing brightly; the improvised chandelier was studded with candles; there were a couple of lamps on the long table, which was otherwise most sumptuously furnished. And when Hector MacIntyre, in his capacity of piper, had played the people in to the stirring strains of “The Marchioness of Tweeddale’s Delight,” he put the pipes aside, and went and took the seat that had been reserved for him by the side of the fair-haired Nelly, who was very smartly dressed for this great occasion, as befitted the reigning beauty of the neighbourhood.

“You’ll be sorry that Flora is not here to-night,” said the fair-haired damsel, rather saucily, to her brown-haired companion; “and no one will take her place. I suppose there was no one in Sutherland good enough for you, Hector, that you must take up with a lass from Islay. And there is little need for you to dip your sleeve in the burn and hang it up to dry when you go to bed, so that the fire may show you tour sweetheart, for well you know already who that is. Well, well, you will have no heart for the merrymaking to-night; for a lad that his sweetheart away in the south has no heart for anything.”

“You’ll just mind this, Nelly,” said the forester, “not to carry your merrymaking too far this night. Alastair Ross,” he continued, glancing down the table toward a huge, rough, red-bearded drover who was seated there, “is not the man to be made a fool of; and if that young fellow Semple does not take heed, he will find himself gripped by the waist some fine dark evening and flung into Loch Naver.”

“Oh, you are like all the rest, Hector!” said the coquettish Nelly, with some impatience. “Every one of you is jealous of Johnnie Semple, because he is neatly dressed and has good manners and is civil spoken -”

“What is he doing here at all?” said Hector, with a frown. “Is it a fine thing to see a young man idling about a place with his hands in his pockets just because his uncle is the land-lord? If he has learned his fine manners in the towns, why does he not earn his living in the towns? He is no use here.”

“Oh no,” said Nelly, with a toss of her head; “perhaps he is not much use on the hill; perhaps he could not set traps or shoot hawks. But he knows all the new songs from the theatres, and he can dance more steps than any one in Sutherland.”

“Well, this is what I am telling you, Nelly,” her companion said, with some firmness. “I do not know what there is between you and Alastair Ross. If there is anything, as people say, then do not make him an angry man. Let Semple alone. An honest lass should beware of a town dandy like that.”

Here this private little conversation was interrupted by Mr. Murray, who rose at the head of the table and called upon the company to fill their glasses. He wished to drink with them, and they did not seem loath. When Hector and his pretty companion found opportunity to resume their talk, he discovered that Nelly was in quite a different mood.

“Well, now, it is a good thing, Hector, that every one knows that you and Flora are to be married; for I can talk to you without Alastair getting red in the face with rage. And when we go out to pull the cabbage stalks, will you go with me? I know the way into the garden better than you; and we can both go blindfold if you will take my hand.”

“But what need is there for you to pull a cabbage stalk, lass?” said he. “Do you not know already what like your husband is to be?”

Again the pretty Nelly tossed her head. “Who can tell what is to happen in the world?”

“And maybe you would rather not pull a stalk that was tall and straight and strong - that would mean Alastair?” said her companion, glancing at her suspiciously. “Maybe you would rather find you had got hold of a withered old stump with a lot of earth at its root - a decrepit old man with plenty of money in the bank? Or maybe you are wishing for one that is slim and supple and not so tall - for one that might mean Johhnie Semple?”

“I am wishing to know who the man is to be, and that is all,” said Nelly, with some affectation of being offended. ‘And what harm can there be in doing what every one else is doing?”

However, not all Nelly’s blandishments and petulant coquetries could induce Hector MacIntyre to take part in this appeal to the divination of the kale-yard; for when, after supper, the lads and lasses went away blindfold to pull the “custock” that was to reveal to them the figure and circumstances of their future spouse, the big forester remained to have a quiet smoke with the married keepers and shepherds, who had no interest in such matters. It was noticed that he was unusually grave - he who was ordinarily one of the lightest of the light-hearted. Naturally they put it down to the fact that among all the merrymaking and sweethearting and spying into the future of the younger people he alone had no companion, or rather not the companion whom he would have wished to have; for Flora, the young girl whom he was to marry, had left Inver-Mudal for the south in the preceding autumn. And when they had asked in Flora was quite well, and when he answered “Oh, yes,” there was nothing further to be said.


NOW on All-Hallows Eve there is one form of incantation which is known to be extremely, nay terribly potent, when all others have failed. You go out by yourself, taking a handful of hemp-seed with you. You get to a secluded place, and begin to scatter the seed as you walk along the road. You say, “Hemp-seed, I sow thee; hemp-seed, I sow thee; he who is to be my true love, appear now and show thee.” And if you look furtively over your shoulder you will behold the desired apparition following you.

When Nelly came back from consulting the oracle of the kale-yard, it appeared that she had received what oracles generally vouchsafe - a doubtful answer.

“What kind of custock did you pull, Nelly?” Hector asked of her.

“Well,” said she, “it is not much one way or the other. No, I cannot tell anything by it. But I am going out now to sow the hemp-seed, Hector; and I know I shall be terribly frightened - I shall be far too frightened to look over my shoulder; and this is what I want you to do for me: you will stop at the door of the inn and hide yourself; and I will go up the road and sow the hemp-seed; and if anything appears, you will see it. Will you do that, Hector? It is a clear night; you will be sure to see it if there is anything.”

He did not seem to be in the mood for taking part in these superstitious observances; but he was good-natured, and eventually followed her to the door. The little walled garden in front of the Inver-Mudal inn is shaped like a horseshoe, the two ends of the semicircle touching the main highway at some distance apart. He saw Nelly go up toward the main road, and looked after her absently and without interest. Nay, he was so little thinking of his promised watch that, as she was some time over the sowing of the hemp-seed, he left the shadow of the inn door, and strolled away up to the main road by the other fork of the semicircular drive. It was a beautiful clear moonlight night; his thoughts were far away from these Hallowe’en diversions; he was recalling other evenings long ago, when Clebrig, as now, seemed joining earth and heaven, and when there was no sound but the murmuring of the burns through the trackless heather. The highway up there was white before him; on the other side was a plantation of young firs, black as jet. Not even the cry of a startled bird broke this perfect stillness; the wide world of mountain and loch and moor was plunged in sleep profound.

All at once his pipe, that he happened to be holding in his hand, dropped to his feet. There before him in the white highway, and between him and the black belt of firs, stood Flora Campbell, regarding him with eyes that said nothing, but only stared in a somewhat sad way, as it seemed. He was not paralyzed with terror at all. He had no time to ask himself what she was doing there, or how she had come there. Flora Campbell standing there in the road, and looking at him in silence. But the horror came when suddenly he saw that the white highway was empty. He began to shake and shiver as if with extremity of cold. He did not move; he could not move. He knew what had happened to him now. Flora Campbell’s wraith had appeared to him. And with what message? The steady gaze of her eyes had told him nothing. If they were anything, they were mournful. Perhaps it was a token of farewell; perhaps it was an intimation of her death. Hardly knowing what he did, and trembling in every limb, he advanced a step or two, so that he could command the whole length of the highway. There was no sign of any living thing there. He could not recall how it was she first appeared; he could not tell in what manner she had gone away; he only knew that a few moments before Flora had been regarding him with steady, plaintive eyes, and that now he was alone with this moonlit road and the black plantation, and Clebrig rising far into the silent heavens.

Then there arose in his heart a wild resolve that, whatever this thing might portend, he must instantly make away for the south, to seek out Flora Campbell herself. She had something to say to him, surely, though those mournful eyes conveyed no intelligible message. Nay, if she were dead, if this were but a mute farewell, must he not know? Dazed, bewildered, filled with terrible misgivings of he knew not what, he slowly went back to the inn. He had some vague instinct that he must ask Mr. Murray for the loan of a stick if he were to set out now to cross the leagues of wild and mountainous country that lie between Inver-Mudal and the sea. Mr. Murray, as it chanced, was at the door.

“God’s sake, Hector, what is the matter with you?” he exclaimed, in alarm, for there was a strange look in the man’s face.

“I have seen something this night,” was the answer, spoken slowly and in an undertone.

“Nonsense! nonsense!” the innkeeper said. “The heads of young people are filled with foolishness on Hallowe’en, as everyone knows; but you - you are not to be frightened by their stories.”

“It has naught to do with Hallowe’en,” said Hector, still with his eyes fixed on the ground, as if seeking to recall something. “Do you know what I have seen this night?” I have seen the wraith of Flora Campbell - ay, as clear as daylight.”

“I will not believe it, Hector,” said Mr. Murray. “You have been hearing all those stories of the witches and fairies on Hallowe’en until your own head has been turned. Why, where did you see the wraith?”

“Up there in the road, and as clear as daylight, for that is the truth. It was Flora herself,” the tall forester made answer, not argumentatively, but as merely stating a fact that he knew.

“And did she come forward to you, or did she go away from you?” Mr. Murray asked, curiously.

“I - I am not sure,” Hector said, after a little hesitation. “No, I could not say. Perhaps I was not thinking of her. But all at once I saw her between me and the plantation, in the middle of the road; and for a moment I was not frightened; I thought it was Flora herself; then she was gone.”

“For you know what they say, Hector,” Mr. Murray continued. “When a wraith appears, it is to tell you of a great danger; and if it comes forward to you, then the danger is over; but if it goes away from you, the person is dead.”

“Ay, ay; I have heard that too,” Hector murmured, as if in sombre reverie. Then he looked up, and said: “I am going away to the south.”

“Well, now, that is unfortunate, Hector,” the good-natured innkeeper said to him. “For tomorrow the mail comes north, and you will have to wait till the next day for the mail going south, to take you in to Lairg to catch the train.”

“I will not wait for the mail,” answered the forester, who, indeed, knew little about travelling by railway. “To-morrow is Wednesday: it is the day the big steamer starts from Loch Inver; perhaps I may be in time.”

“Loch Inver!” the other exclaimed. “And how are you going to get to Loch Inver from here, Hector?”

“Across the forest,” was the simple reply.

“Across the Reay Forest and down by Loch Assynt? That will be a fearful journey through the night!”

“I cannot rest here,” Hector said. “You will make some excuse for me to the lads and lasses. I will leave my pipes; Long Murdoch will do very well with them. And I will thank you to lend me a stick, Mr. Murray, for it will be a rough walk before I have done.”

Mr. Murray did more than that; he got his wife to make up a little packet of food, to which he added a flask of whiskey; and these he took out to the young man, along with a shepherd’s staff of stout hazel.

“Good-by, Hector!” said he. “I hope you will find all well in the south.”

“I do not know about that,” the forester answered, in an absent sort of fashion; “but I must go and see. There will be no peace of mind for me - there would not be one moment’s peace for me - otherwise. For who knows what Flora wanted to say to me?”


IT was an arduous task he had set before him; for nine men out of ten it would have been an impossible one; but this young forester’s limbs knew not what fatigue was; and in his heart there burned a longing that could not be assuaged. Nor in ordinary circumstances would the loneliness of this night’s journey have mattered to him; but his nerves had been unstrung by the strange thing that had happened; and now, as he followed the shepherd’s track that led away into the higher moorlands south of the Mudal River, he was conscious of some mysterious influence surrounding him that was of far more immediate concern than the mere number of miles - some forty or fifty - he had to accomplish before noon the next day. These vast solitudes into which he was penetrating were apparently quite voiceless and lifeless; and yet he felt as if they knew of his presence, and were regarding him. A white stone on a dark heather-covered knoll would suddenly look like a human face; or again, he would be startled by the moonlight shining on a small tarn set among the black peat hags. There was no moaning of wind; but there was a distant murmuring of water; the rills were whispering to each other in the silence. As for the mountains - those lone sentinels, Ben Loyal and Ben Hope and Ben Hee - they also appeared to be looking down upon the desolate plain; but he did not heed them, they were too far away; it was the objects near him that seemed to know he was here, and to take sudden shapes as he went by.

Soon he was without even a shepherd’s track to guide him; but he knew the lay of the land; and he held on in a line that would avoid the lochs, the deeper burns, and the steep heights of Meall-an-amair. The moonlight was a great help; indeed, at this period of his long through-the-night tramp he was chiefly engaged in trying to recall how it was he first became sensible that Flora Campbell’s wraith appeared before him.  He saw again - surely he would never forget to his dying day the most insignificant feature of the scene - the stone wall of the garden, the white road, the wire fence on the other side, and the black plantation of spruce and pine. What had he been thinking about? Not about Nelly; she was some distance in another direction, busy with her charms and incantations. No; he could not tell. The sudden apparition had startled him out of all memory. But what he was most anxious to convince himself was that the phantom had come toward him, rather than gone away from him, ere it disappeared. Mr. Murray’s words had sunk deep, though he himself had been aware of the familiar superstition. But now all his endeavours to summon up an accurate recollection of what had taken place were to no avail. He knew not how he first became conscious that the wraith was there - Flora Campbell herself, as it seemed to him - nor how it was he suddenly found himself alone again. He had been terrified out of his senses; he had no power of observation left. This phantasm that looked so like a human being, that regarded him with pathetic eyes, that had some mysterious message to communicate, and yet was silent, had vanished as it had appeared, he could not tell how.

The hours went by; the moon was sinking towards the western hills. And still he toiled on through this pathless waste, sometimes getting into treacherous swamps, again having to ford burns swollen by the recent rains. He was soaked through to the waist; but little he heeded that; his thoughts were of the steamer that was to leave Loch Inver the next day. With the moon going down, darkness was slowly resuming her reign, and it became more difficult to make out the landmarks; but, at all events, the heavens remained clear, and he had the guidance of the stars. And still steadily and patiently and manfully he held on, getting, without much serious trouble, across the streams that feed Loch Fhiodaig, until eventually he struck the highway running northward from Loch Shin, and knew that so far at least he was in the right direction.

Leaving the Corrykinloch road again, he had once more to plunge into the trackless wilderness of rock and swamp and moorland; and the further he went through the black night the less familiar was he with the country. But he had a general knowledge; and what mattered half a dozen miles one way or the other, if only the dawn would show him Ben More on his left, and away before him the silver-gray waters of Loch Assynt? He was less conscious now of the sinister influences of these lonely solitudes; his nervous apprehension had to give way before his dogged resolve to get out to the western shores in time to catch the steamer; all his attention was given to determining his course by the vague outlines of the higher hills. A wind had arisen, a cold, raw wind it was; but he cared nothing for that, unless, indeed, it should bring a smurr of rain and obliterate the landmarks altogether. How anxiously he prayed for the dawn! If this wind were to bring driving mists of rain, blotting out both earth and heaven,  and limiting his vision to the space of moorland immediately surrounding him, where would be his guidance then? He could not grope his way along the slopes that lie beneath Loch nan Searir, nor yet across the streams that fall into Loch Fionn. So all the more resolutely he held on while as yet he could make out something of the land, dark against the tremulous stars.

Again and again he turned his head and scanned the east, with a curious mingling of impatience and hope and longing; and at length, to his unspeakable joy, he was able to convince himself that the horizon there was giving faint signs of the coming dawn. He went forward with a new confidence, with a lighter step. The horror of these awful solitudes would disappear with the declaring day; surely, surely, when the world had grown white again, he would behold before him, not this terrible black loneliness of mountain and mere, but the pleasant abodes of men, and trees, and the western ocean, and the red-funnelled steamer with its welcome smoke. The gray light in the east increased. He began to make out the features of the ground near him; he could tell a patch of heather from a deep hole; and could choose his way. The world seemed to broaden out. Everything, it is true, was as yet wan and spectral and ill-defined; but the silence was no longer awful; he had no further fear of the mists coming along to isolate him in the dark. By slow degrees, under the widening light of the sky, the various features of this wild country began to take more definite shape. Down there in the south lay the mighty mass of Ben More. On his right rose the sterile altitudes of Ben Uidhe. And at last, and quite suddenly, he came in view of the ruffled silvery surface of Loch Assynt, and the cottages of Inchnadamph, and the gray ruins of Ardvreck Castle on the promontory jutting out into the lake. The worst of the sore fight with solitude and the night was over. He gained the road, and his long swinging stride now stood him in good stead. Loch Assynt was soon left behind. He followed the windings of the river Inver. Finally he came in sight of the scattered little hamlet facing the western seas, with its bridge and its church and its pleasant woods and slopes, looking all so cheerful and home-like; and there also was the red-funnelled Clansman that was to carry him away to the south.


THAT long and difficult struggle to get out to the western coast in time had so far demanded all his energy and attention; but now, in enforced idleness, as the heavy steamer ploughed her way right across the blue waters of the Minch, his mind could go back upon what had happened the preceding night, and could also look forward with all sorts of dark, indefinite forebodings. He began to recall his first association with Flora Campbell, when she came to Auchnaver Lodge to help the old house-keeper there. He remembered how neat and trim she looked when she walked into Strathie Free Church of a Sunday morning; and how shy she was when he got to know her well enough to talk a little with her when they met, in their native tongue. Their courtship and engagement had the entire approval of Flora’s master and mistress; for the old house-keeper at the lodge was now past work; and they proposed to install Hector’s wife in her place, and give her a permanent situation. The wedding was to be in February or March; in April the young wife was to move into the lodge, to get it ready for the gentlemen coming up for the salmon-fishing. When the fishing and shooting of the year were over, Flora could return to her husband’s cottage, and merely look in at the lodge from time to time to light a fire or two and keep the place aired. Meanwhile, for this present winter, she had taken a situation in Oban (she was a West Highland girl), and had remained there until summoned away to Greenock by the serious illness of her sister. Such was the situation; but who could tell now what was to become of all those fair prospects and plans? Was it to bid a last farewell to them an to him that the young Highland girl had appeared - saying good-by with such mournful eyes? The small parlour in his cottage - was she never to see the little adornments he had placed there, all for her sake? Well, then, if what he feared had come true, no other woman should enter and take possession. There were dreams of Canada, or Cape Colony, of Australia in his brain as he sat there with bent brow and heavy heart, taking hardly any heed of the new shores they were now nearing.

This anguish of brooding became at length insupportable; in despair he went to the stevedore, and said he would be glad to lend a hand with the cargo as soon as the steamer was alongside the quay in Stornoway Harbor. And right hard he worked, too, hour after hour, feeding the steam crane that was swinging crates and boxes over and down into the hold. The time passed more easily in this fashion. His chum was a good-natured young fellow who seemed rather proud of his voice; at times he sang snatches of Gaelic songs - “Máiri bhinn mheall shuileach” (Mary of the bewitching eyes), or “C’aite ‘n caidil an ribhinn?” (Where sleepest thou, dear maiden?). They were familiar songs; but there was one still more familiar that woke strange echoes in his heart; for Flora Campbell was a west-country girl, and of course her favourite was the well-known “Fear a bhata”:

“I climb the mountains and scan the ocean
For thee, my boatman, with fond devotion,
When shall I see thee? - to-day? - to-morrow?
Oh, do not leave me in lonely sorrow!
O my boatman, na horo ailya,
O my boatman, na horo ailya,
O my boatman, na horo ailya,
A hundred farewells to you, wherever you
may be going.”

That is how it begins in the English; but it was the Gaelic phrases that haunted his brain, and brought him remembrance of Flora’s crooning voice, and of a certain autumn evening when he and she and some others went all the way down Loch Naver to Inver-Mudal, Flora and he sitting together in the stern of the boat, and all of them singing “Fear a bhata.”

The Clansman left Stornoway that same night, groaning and thundering through the darkness on her way to Skye. Hector did not go below into the fore-cabin. He remained on deck, watching the solitary ray of some distant lighthouse, or perhaps turning his gaze upon the great throbbing vault overhead, where Cassiopeia sat, throned upon her silver chair. More than once an aerolite shot swiftly across the clear heavens, leaving a faint radiance for a second or so in its wake; but he took no heed of these portents now. In other circumstances they might mean something; but now a more direct summons had come to him from the unknown world; the message had been delivered, though he had been unable to understand it; and he knew that what was to happen had now happened in that far town of Greenock. And as the slow hours went by, his impatience and longing increased almost to despair. The dark loom of land in the south appeared to come no nearer. The monotonous throbbing of the screw seemed as if it were to go on forever. And as yet there was no sign of the dawn.

By the new day, which promised to be quite insupportable in its tedium and in its fears, in reality brought him some distraction, and that was welcome enough. At Portree there came on board a middle-aged man of rather mean aspect, with broken nose, long upper lip, and curiously set small gray eyes. He carried a big bag which apparently held all his belongings, and that he threw on to the luggage on the forward deck.

“Where’s this going to?” called the stevedore.

“Sure ‘tis bound for the same place as mesilf,” said the new-comer, facetiously; “and that’s Philadelphia, begob!”

“We don’t call there,” retorted the stevedore, drily; “and you’d better stick your bundle if you want to see it at Greenock.”

And very soon it became apparent that the advent of this excited and voluble Irishman had brought new life into the steerage portion of the ship. He had had a glass or two of whisky. He talked to everybody within hearing about himself, his plans, his former experiences of the United States; and when gravelled for lack of matter, he would fall back on one invariable refrain: “Aw, begob! the Americans are the bhoys!” And in especial were his confidences bestowed on Hector MacIntyre, the shy and reserved Highlander listening passively and without protest to Paddy’s wild asseverations.

“Aw, the Americans are the divils, and no mistake!” he exclaimed. “But let me tell you this, sorr, that there’s one that’s cliverer than them, and that’s the Irish bhoy, begob! Sure they talk about the German vote - aw, bather-shin! ‘Tis the Irish vote, sorr, that’s the masther; and we’ve got the newspapers. And where would the Republicans or the Dimocrats be widout us? - tell me that av ye plaze! In this - ould counthry the Irishman is a slave; in Americay he’s the masther; and ever mother’s son of them knows it! Aw, begob, sorr, that’s the place for a man! This - ould counthry isn’t fit for a pig to live in! Americay’s the place; you may bet your life on it, sorr!”

And suddenly it occurred to Hector that he might gain some information, even from this blathering fool. His thoughts had been running much on emigration during those lonely hours he had passed. If what he dreaded had really taken place, he would return no more to the lone moorlands and hills and lakes of Sutherlandshire. He would put the wide Atlantic between himself and certain memories. For him it would be “Soraidh slàn le tir mo ghràidh” - a long farewell to Fiunary!

But at present the Irishman would not be questioned; the outflowing of his eloquence was not to be stopped. He was not dealing with the various classes and the various institutions of Great Britain, on each of which he bestowed the same epithet - that of “bloody.” The Government, the newspaper editors, the House of Lords, the House of Commons, the clergy, the judges, the employers of labour, all were of the same ensanguined hue; and all were equally doomed to perdition, as soon as Ireland had taken up her proper and inevitable position in America. Moreover, the tall and silent Highlander, as he sat and gazed upon this frothing creature as if he were some strange phenomenon, some incomprehensible freak of nature, could not but see that the man was perfectly in earnest.

“Look what they did to John Mitchel! Look at that, now! John Mitchel!”

Hector had, unfortunately, never heard of John Mitchel, so he could not say anything.

“Dying by the road-side! - John Mitchel - to be left to die by the road-side! Think of that, now! What d’ye say to that, now? John Mitchel being left to die by the road-side!”

There were sudden tears in the deep-sunken gray eyes; and the Irishman made no concealment as he wiped them away with his red cotton handkerchief.

“Well, I’m very sorry,” Hector MacIntyre replied, in answer to this appeal, “whoever he was. But what could they have done for the poor man?”

“They could have given him a place,” the other retorted, with a sudden blaze of anger. “All that John Mitchel wanted was a place. But the” (ensanguined) “Government, would they do it? No, sorr! They let him die by the road-side! - John Mitchel - to die by the road-side!”

“Well, I am thinking,” said the forester, slowly (as was his way when he had to talk in English), “that if the Government wass to give places to ahl them that would like a place, why, the whole country would be in the public service, and there would be no one left to till the land. And do they give you a place when you go to America?”

“Aw, begob, sorr,” said the Irishman, with a shrewd twinkle in his eye, “we get our share!”

Hector could not make out whether his new acquaintance had been to Portree to say good-by to some friends before he crossed the Atlantic, or whether he had been engaged in the crofter agitation which was then attracting attention in Skye. On this latter subject Paddy discoursed with a vehement volubility and a gay and audacious ignorance; but here Hector was on his own ground, and had to interfere.

“I am thinking you will not be knowing much about it,” he observed, with a calm frankness. “The great Highland clearances, they were not made for deer at ahl, they were not made for sportsmen at ahl, they were made for sheep, as many a landlord knows to his cost this day, when he has the sheep farms on his lands and cannot get them let. And the deer forests, they are the worst land in a country where the best land is poor; and if they were to be cut up into crofts to-morrow, there is not one crofter in twenty would be able to earn a living, even if he was to get the croft for no rent at ahl. Oh yes, I am as sorry as any one for the poor people when they increase in their families on such poor land; but what would be the use of giving them more peat hags and rocks? Can a man live where neither deer nor black cattle can live? - and even the deer came down in the winter and go wandering for miles in search of a blade of bent-grass.”

However, the Irishman would not accept these representations in any wise. He suspected this grave, brown-bearded Highlander of being an accomplice and hireling of the (ensanguined) landlords; and he might have gone on to denounce him, or even to provoke an appeal to fisticuffs (which would have been manifestly imprudent) had it not suddenly occurred to him that they might go down below and have a glass of whisky together. Hector saw him disappear into the fore-cabin by himself, and was perhaps glad to be left alone.

Steadily the great steamer clove her way onward, by the islands of Raasay and Scalpa, through the narrows of Kyle Akin and Kyle Rhea, past the light-house and opening into Isle Ornsay, and down toward the wooded shores of Armadale. The day was fair and still; the sea was of an almost summer-like blue, with long swathes of silver calm; the sun shone on the lower green slopes that seemed so strangely voiceless, and on the higher peaks and shoulders of the hills, where every corrie and watercourse was a thread of azure among the ethereal rose-grays of the far-reaching summits. Even the wild Ardnamurchan (“The Headland of the Great Waves”) had not a flake of cloud clinging to its beetled cliffs; and the long smooth roll that came in from the outer ocean was almost imperceptible. Toward evening the Clansman sailed into Oban Bay. The world seemed all on fire, so far as sea and sky were concerned; but Kerrera lay in shadow, a cold and livid green; while between the crimson water and the crimson heavens stood the distant mountains of Mull; and they had grown to be of a pale, clear, transparent rose-purple, so that they seemed a mere film thinner than any isinglass.


THERE was abundance of time for him to go ashore and make inquiries; but nothing had been heard of Flora Campbell since she had left. However, he managed to get the Greenock address of her sister, Mary Campbell, and with that in his possession he returned on board. Thereafter the monotonous voyage was resumed - away down by the long peninsula of Cantyre and round the Mull, up again through the estuary of the Clyde, until, at four o’clock on the Friday afternoon, the Clansman drew in to Greenock quay; and Hector MacIntyre knew that within a few minutes he would learn what fate had in store for him, for good or irretrievable ill.

He found his way to the address that had been given him - a temperance hotel at which Mary Campbell was head laundry-maid. But Mary Campbell was no longer there. She had been removed when she was taken ill; and as she would not go into a hospital, according to a prejudice familiar amongst many of her class, lodgings had been found for her. Thither Hector went forthwith, to a sunny little by-street, where, after many inquiries, he found the :land” and the “close” that he sought. He ascended the grimy and dusky stone stairs. When he had nearly reached the top floor he was met by a short, stout, elderly man, who had just shut a door behind him.

“Is there one Mary Campbell luvvin’ here?” he made bold to ask in English.

“Ay, that there is,” said the stranger, fixing keen eyes on him. “Are you come for news of her? I am the doctor.”

“Yes, yes,” Hector said; but he could say no more; his heart was beating like to choke him. He fixed his eyes on the doctor’s face.

“Ye’ll be one of her Highland cousins, eh? Ye dinna look like a town-bred lad,” said the brusque and burly doctor, with a sort of facetious good-humour. “Well, well, Mary is getting on right enough. Ye might as well go in and cheer her up a bit. The twa lasses dinna seem to have many freens.”

“But - but - Flora?” said the forester, with his hungry, haggard eyes still watching every expression of the doctor’s face.

“The other one? Indeed, she has had the fever worse than her sister. I wasna sure one night but that she would go - ”

MacIntyre seemed to hear no more. Flora was alive - was within a few yards of him. He stood there quite dazed. The doctor looked at him for a moment or two.

“Maybe it’s the sister you’re anxious about?” said he, bluntly. “Weel, she is no out o’ the wood yet, but she has a fair chance. What, man, what’s the matter wi’ ye? It’s not such ill news -”

“No, no; it’s very good news,” Hector said, in an undertone, as if to himself. “I wass - fearing something. Can I see the lass? I wass not hearing from her for a while -”

But he could not explain what had brought him hither. He instinctively knew that this south countryman would laugh at his Highland superstition, would say that his head had been stuffed full of Hallowe’en nonsense, or that at most what he had imagined he had seen and the fact that Flora Campbell had fallen seriously ill formed but a mere coincidence.

“Oh yes, you cans see her,” the doctor said, with rough good-nature. “But I’ll just go in beforehand to gie her a bit warning. You can talk to her sister for a minute or two. She is sitting up noo, and soon she’ll have to begin and nurse her sister, as her sister did until she took the fever. Come away, lad - what’s your name, did ye say?”

“Hector MacIntyre. Flora will know very well where I am from.”

The doctor knocked at the door, which was presently opened by a young girl; and while he left Hector to talk to the elder sister, who was lying propped up on a rude couch in a rather shabby little apartment, he himself went into an inner room. When he came out he again looked at Hector curiously.

“Now I understand why you were so anxious,” said he, with a familiar smile. “But how came ye to hear she was ill? She says she did not want ye to ken anything about it until she was on the high-road to getting better.”

Hector did not answer him. He only looked toward the door that had been partially left open.

“Go in, then,” said the doctor; “and dinna stay ower lang, my lad, for she has little strength to waste in talking as yet.”

Timidly, like a school-boy, this big strong man entered the sick-room; and it was gently and on tiptoe (lest his heavily nailed boots should make any noise) that he went forward to the bedside. Flora lay there pale and emaciated; but there was a smile of surprise and welcome in the dark-blue Highland eyes; and she tried to lift her wasted hand to meet his. What they had to say to each other was said in the Gaelic tongue.

“It is sorry I am to see you like this,” said he, sitting down, and keeping her hand in his own. “But the doctor says you are now in a fair way to get better; and it is not from this town I am going until I take you with me, Flora, girl of my heart. The Sutherland air will be better for you than Greenock air. And your sister Mary will come with you for a while; and both of you will take my little cottage; and Mrs. Matheson will give me a bed at Auchnaver Lodge. I am sure Mr. Lennox would not object to that.”

“But, Hector, how did you know that I was ill? the sick girl said, and her eyes did not leave his eyes for a moment. “I was not wishing you to know I was ill - to give you trouble - until I could write to you that I was better.”

“How did I know?” he answered, gravely. “It was you yourself who came to tell me.”

“What is it that you say, Hector?” she asked, in some vague alarm.

“On Hallowe’en night,” he continued, in the same serious, simple tones, “I was at Inver-Mudal. Perhaps I was not caring much for the diversions of the lads and lasses. I walked up the road by myself; and there your wraith appeared to me as clear as I see you now. When I went back and told Mr. Murray, he said, ‘Did she come forward to you, Hector, or did she go away? She is in great danger. It is a warning; and if she went away from you, you will see her no more; but if she came forward, she is getting better - you will see Flora again.’ I knew that myself; but I could not answer him; and my heart said to me that I must find out for myself; that I must go to seek you; and I set out that night and walked across the Reay Forest to Loch Inver, and caught the steamer there. What I have been thinking since I left Loch Inver until this hour I cannot tell to you or to any one living.”

“Hector,” she asked, “what night was Hallowe’en night? I have not been thinking of such things.”

“It was the night of Tuesday,” he answered.

“And that,” she said, in a low voice, “was the night that the fever took the turn. Mary told me they did not expect me to live till the morning.”

“We will never speak of it again, Flora,” said he, “for there are things that we do not understand.” And then he added: “But now that I am in Greenock, it is in Greenock I mean to remain until I can take you away with me, and Mary too; for Sutherland air is better than Greenock air for a Highland lass; and sure I am that Mr. Lennox will not grudge me having a bed at Auchnaver Lodge. And you will get familiar with the cottage, Flora, where I hope you will soon be mistress; and then there will be no more occasion for a great distance between you and me; or for the strange things that sometimes happen when people are separated the one from the other.”