A Note on the Text
Spelling and punctuation have been kept as in the original stories with obvious typos corrected, and a few works retain racist or otherwise objectionable terms, especially Charles W. Chesnutt's rigorously realistic 1889 story "The Sheriff's Children." Ancillary editorial materials have been Americanized.
"But oft he thought, 'mid holy strains,
Upon that lovely woman;
For oh, the blood within his veins
Was warm, and young, and human.
He told his nightly beads in vain,
Sleep never came so slowly.
And all that night young Kevin's brain
Was filled with dreams unholy."
Gerald Griffin must have sympathized with the mixed feelings of poor Kevin, the tormented protagonist of his poem "The Fate of Cathleen: A Wicklow Story." Griffin's psyche seems to have been a cocktail of mixed feelings, tormented by his febrile religious views, especially by what he construed as a struggle between spirit and flesh.
Gearoid O Griofa was born in Limerick, grew up by the banks of the Shannon, lived for several years in a house called Fairy Lawn, and died in Cork. He had thirteen siblings. Griffin lived only a busy thirty-six years, during which self-doubt prompted frequent new beginnings. He read slush- pile manuscripts at a publishing house and translated works from Spanish and French. He began attending law school. He tried his hand at all sorts of writing, from journalism to the stage. Like many beginning writers, however, he was ill-paid, not as lucky as he hoped to be, and perhaps not as talented as he imagined.
Disappointed by the struggles of life, he turned ever more toward religion. "His imagination," wrote Griffin's brother in a biography of him, had "a strong tendency to be affected by the supernatural." At the age of thirty-four he declared that literature had been a waste of time and a distraction from more useful contributions to society. "I do not know any station in life," Griffin wrote to his father, "in which a man can do so much good, both to others and to himself, as in that of a Catholic priest." He burned his unpublished manuscripts and joined, not the priesthood, but an associated lay clergy organization called the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools. This group promoted the education of poor children, but throughout its history—already reported by Griffin's time and documented as recently as a 2014 British government inquiry—its mission was sabotaged by men who sexually abused boys they were meant to guard and teach.
Two years after joining the Brothers, Griffin died of typhus. He left behind quite an array of poetry and drama and fiction, from the story collection 'Tales of the Jury-Room' to the novel 'The Collegians,' the story of the investigation and trial following the murder of a young woman. Renowned actor and playwright Dion Boucicault adapted this novel as the successful play 'The Colleen Bawn', since filmed more than once and revived in Belfast theater as recently as 2018. In Ireland Gerald Griffin is remembered in literature, in street names, and in the names of some Irish football clubs. Considering his frustrations with his literary endeavors, he might have found these other connections to his name more satisfying, but they too are a byproduct of his writing.
"The Hand and Word" was published in Griffin's 1827 collection '"Holland-Tide'"'; or, Munster Popular Tales', and was reprinted in a two- volume 1830 anthology (anonymously, like the other stories in it) entitled 'The Storyteller'. Apparently it has not been reprinted anywhere else in the intervening two centuries. The following version, taken from Griffin's original, retains his curious punctuation, spelling, parenthetical definitions of Irish terms, and occasional footnotes. The story has its own atmospheric weirdness and melodrama of bloody murder. But it also demonstrates the impressive difference between the discursive, less structured stories of the early nineteenth century, which seem festooned with antique trappings as if barely fighting their way out of the Middle Ages—especially in this story of isolated islanders desperately clinging to cliffsides like the lesser black- backed gull called in these remote islands, as Griffin says, "horse gulls"—and the lighter touch, smoother pacing, and more realistic dialogue of the later stories herein.
THE HAND AND WORD
De mi venganza tome
Vengarme de mi procuro
Buscando desde esa torre
En al ancho mar sepulchro|
Vengeance is here the right of none—
My punishment be mine alone!
In the broad waves that heave and boom
Beneath this tower I seek my tomb."
—Calderon's 'El Mayor Monstruo los Zelos'
The village of Kilkee, on the south-western coast of Ireland, has been for many years to the city of Limerick (on a small scale) that which Brighton is to London. At the time, however, when the events which form the subject of the following little history took place, it had not yet begun to take precedence of a watering-place somewhat farther to the north on the same coast, called Miltown Malbay, which had been for a long time, and still was, a favourite summer resort with the fashionables of the county, such as they were. The village itself consists merely of six or eight streets, or straggling rows of houses, scattered irregularly enough over those waste banks of sand in which the land terminates as it approaches the Atlantic.
Those banks, or sandhills, as they are called, do not in this place slope gradually to the marge of the sea, but form a kind of abrupt barrier or natural terrace around the little bay, descending with such suddenness that the ledges on the extreme verge completely overhang the water, and with their snow- white fronts and neat green lattices, produce a sufficiently picturesque effect when the tide is at the full.
The little inlet which has been dignified with the title of a bay, opens to the north-west by a narrow mouth, rendered yet narrower in appearance by the Duggara rocks, which stretch more than half-way across from the southern extremity. A bed of fine hard sand reaches as far as low-water mark, and when the retiring waves have left it visible, affords a pleasant promenade to the bathers. Winding on either side toward the opening of the bay and along the line of coast, are seen a number of broken cliffs, which, rising to a considerable height, form to the north a precipitous headland called Corballagh, and to the southward they stretch away behind Duggara in a thousand fantastic shapes. Closest to the mouth or opening, on this side, is the Amphitheatre, which has been so named in later years, from the resemblance which instantly suggests itself to the beholder. Here the rocks lift themselves above the level of the sea in regular grades, bearing a kind of rude similitude to the benches of such a theatre as that above-named, to the height of two or three hundred feet. In the bathing season this place is seldom without a few groups or straggling figures, being turned to account in a great many different ways, whether as a resting-place to the wanderers on the cliffs, or a point of rendezvous to the numerous pic-nic parties who come here to enjoy a dinner 'al fresco', and luxuriate on the grand and boundless ocean-prospect which lies beneath and beyond them.
A waggish host of the village with whom I had the honour to domiciliate during a brief sojourn in the place a few years hence, informed me that a number of serious accidents had rendered the visitors to the Amphitheatre somewhat more cautious of suffering themselves to become entangled among the perils of the shelving and disjointed crags of which it was composed. Among many anecdotes of warning he mentioned one which occurred to a meditative guest of his own, for which I at first gave him credit for a poetical imagination, though I afterwards found he had spoken nothing more than a real fact.
"To take out his book" (he said in answer to a question from me, as to the manner of the occurrence), "and to sit down as it might be this way on a shelving rock, and the sea to be roaring, and he to be thinking of nothing, only what he was reading, when a swell riz and took him out a distins, as it might be good to give him a good sea- view of the cliffs and the place, and turning again the same way it came, laid him up on the same stone, where, I'll be your bail, he was mighty scarce in less than no time".
Beyond the Amphitheatre, the cliff rises to a still greater height, forming an eminence called the Look-out. Shocking as the tale may appear to modern readers, it has been asserted, and but too many evidences remain to give weight and colour to the supposition, that in those barbarous (though not very distant) times, this place was employed as an observatory by the wild fishermen of the coast and neighboring hamlets, the principal portion of whose livelihood was derived from the plunder of the unfortunate men who happened to be wrecked on this inhospitable shore; and it is even recorded, and generally believed, that fires were, on tempestuous nights, frequently lighted here, and in other dangerous parts of the coast, in order to allure the labouring vessel, already hardly set by the roar of winds and waves, to a more certain and immediate destruction on the rocks and shoals beneath, a practice, it is said, which was often successful to a fearful extent.
The most remarkable point of scenery about the place, and one with which we shall close our perhaps not un-needful sketch of the little district, is the Puffing-hole, a cavern near the base of the cliff last-mentioned, which vaults the enormous mass of crag to a considerable distance inland, where it has a narrow opening, appearing to the eyes of a stranger like a deep natural well. When the tremendous sea from abroad rolls into this cavern, the effect is precisely the same as if water were forced in an inverted tunnel, its impetus of course increasing as it ascends through the narrow neck, until at length reaching the perpendicular opening, or Puffing-hole, it jets frequently to an immense height into the air, and falls in rain on the mossy fields behind.
At a little distance from this singular phenomenon stood a rude cottage. It was tenanted by an aged woman on the place, the relict of one of the most daring plunderers of the coast, who was suspected to have been murdered by one of his own comrades a good many years before. The interior of the little building bore sufficient testimony to the unlawful habits of its former master. All, even the greater proportion of the domestic utensils, were formed of ship timbers: a rudder had been awkwardly hacked and hewed up into something bearing a resemblance to a table, which stood in the middle of the principal apartment; the rafters were made from the spars of boom, peek, and yard; a 'settle-bed' at the further end had been constructed from the ruins of a gallant ship; and the little boarded parlour inside was furnished in part from the same materials. A number of planks carelessly fastened together by way of a dresser, stood against the wall, shining forth in all the glory of burnished pewter, wooden-platter, and gaudily painted earthenware the heir-looms of the house of Moran.
Terrified and shocked to the soul by the sudden fate of her late spouse, Mrs. Moran, the proprietress of the cottage, resolved that their boy, an only child, should not follow the dangerous courses of his father. In this she happened to be seconded by the youth's own disposition, which inclined to a quietude and gentleness of character. He was, at his sixteenth year, far beyond his compeers of the village in point of education, and not behind in beauty of person, and dexterity at all the manual exercises of 'goal', single- stick, etc., etc., accomplishments, however, which were doomed not to be wasted in the obscurity of his native wilderness, for before he had completed his seventeenth year, he was laid by the heels, one morning as he sat at breakfast, and pressed to sea.
One day was allowed him to take leave of old friends, and prepare to bid a long adieu to his native home. This day was a painful one, for more reasons than one.
Of course it is not to be supposed that so smart, handsome, clever, and well disposed a lad as Charlie Moran, would be unappreciated among the maidens of the district in which he vegetated. He had in short a lover; a fine flaxen- haired girl, with whom he had been intimate from infancy up to youth, when the wars (into the service of which he suspected he was betrayed by the agency of the girl's parent, a comfortable 'Palatine' in the neighbourhood) called him away from his boyish sports to the exercise of a premature manhood. Their parting was by no means more agreeable to little Ellen Sparling than to himself, seeing that they were more fondly and deeply attached to one another, than is frequently the case with persons of their age and rank in life, and moreover that it would not have been the easiest matter possible to find a pair so well matched in temper and habits, as well as in personal loveliness (just then unfolding itself in each with a promise of perfect maturity) anywhere about the country-side.
The father of the girl, however, who, to say the truth, was indeed the contriver of Moran's impressment, looked forward to his absence with a great deal of joy. The old Palatine, who possessed all the prudence of parents in every soil and season, and all the natural obstinacy of disposition inherent in the national character of the land of his forefathers, had on this occasion his prejudices doubly strengthened, and rendered at last inveterate, by the differences of religion and education, as well as by that eternal, reciprocal, and indomitable hatred which invariably divides the usurping and favoured immigrant from the oppressed indigenous disinherited inheritor of the soil. Fond of his little girl, yet hating her friend, he took the part of weaning them asunder by long absence, a common mistake among more enlightened parents than Mr. Sparling.
On the day preceding that of young Moran's departure, when the weeping girl was hanging on his neck, and overwhelming him with conjurations to "prove true", an advice, to follow which, he assured her over and over again in his own way, he needed no exhortations, her lover proposed her to walk (as it might be for the last time) towards a spot which had been the usual limit to their rambles, and their general rendezvous whenever her father thought proper to forbid their communing in his house, which was only done at intervals, his vigilance being a sort of chronic affection, sometimes rising to a height which seemed dangerous to their hopes, sometimes relapsing into a state of almost perfect indifference. To this spot the lovers now repaired.
It was a recess in the cliff that beetled over the caverns, and was so formed as to hold no more than three or four persons, who, when they occupied the rude seats naturally formed in the rock, were invisible to any human eye which might be directed otherwhere than from the sea. The approach to it was by a narrow footway, in ascending or descending which, one seemed almost to hang in air, so far did the cliff-head project over the water, and so scanty was the path of the descent on either side. Custom, however, had rendered it a secure footing to the inhabitants of the village, and the lovers speedily found themselves within the nook, secluded from every mortal eye.
It was a still autumn evening: there was no sunshine, but the fixed splendour of the sky above and around them, on which the lines, or rather waves, of thin vapour extending from the north-west, and tinged on one side by the red light of the sun, which had just gone down, presented the similitude of a sea frozen into a brilliant mass in the act of undulation. Beyond them lay Bishop's Island, a little spot of land, shooting up from the waves in the form of a gigantic column, about three hundred feet in height, the sides barren and perpendicular, and the plain above covered with verdure to the marge itself. Immediately above their heads was a blighted elder tree (one of the most remarkable phenomena[*] of this woodless district) which now hung, like a single gray hair, over the bare and barren brow of the aged cliff.
The wanderers sat here in perfect security, although by a step forward they might look upon a tremendous in-slanting precipice beneath, against the base of which, at times, the sea lashed itself with such fury, as to bound in huge masses over the very summit, and to make the cliff itself shake and tremble to a considerable distance inland.
"I have asked you to come here, Ellen", said her lover, as he held her hand in one of his, while the other was passed round her waist, "for a very solemn purpose. It is a belief amongst us, and many have seen it come to pass, that those who pledge themselves to any promise, whether of hate or love, and who, with their hands clasped together as ours are now, plight their faith and troth to perform that promise to one another—it is our belief, I say, that whether in the land of the living or the dead, they can never enjoy a quiet soul until that promise is made good. I must serve five years before I obtain my discharge; when I get that, Ellen, I will return to this place, and let you know, by a token, that I am in the neighborhood. Pledge me your hand and word, that when you receive the token, whether you are married or unmarried, whether it be dark, moon- light, or stormy, you will come out alone to meet me where I shall appoint, on the night when I shall send it".
Without much hesitation the young girl solemnly pledged herself to what he required. He then unbound from her hair a ribbon by which it was confined, kissed it, and placed it in his bosom, after which they ascended the cliff and separated.
After the departure of young Moran, his mother, to relieve her loneliness, opened a little place of entertainment for the 'fish- jolters', whose trade it was (and is) to carry the fish taken on the coast to the nearest market-town for sale, as also for the fishmen of the village and chance passengers. By this means she had accumulated a very considerable sum of money in a few years. Ellen Sparling observed this with satisfaction, as she felt it might remove the greatest bar that had hitherto opposed itself to her union with Charles Moran.
Five years and some months had rolled away since his departure, and he had not been heard of during that time in his native village. All things remained very nearly in the same state in which he had left them, with the exception of the increased prosperity of his mother's circumstances, and the matured beauty of Ellen, who was grown into a blooming woman, the admiration of all the men, and it is said, though I don't vouch for the fact, of all the women too, of her neighbourhood. There are limits of superiority beyond which envy cannot reach, and it might be said, perhaps, that Ellen was placed in this position of advantage above all her female acquaintances. It is not to be supposed that she was left untempted all this while, or at least unsought. On the contrary, a number of suitors had directly or indirectly presented themselves, with one of whom only, however, I have any business at present.
He was a young fisherman, and one of the most constant visitors at the elegant 'soirées' of the widow Moran, where, however, he was by no means a very welcome guest, either to the good woman or her customers. He held, nevertheless, a high place at the board, and seemed to exercise a kind of dominion over the revellers, perhaps as much the consequence of his outward appearance, as of his life and habits. He was powerfully made, tall, and of a countenance which, even in his hours of comparative calmness and inaction, exhibited in the mere arrangement of its features, a brutal violence of expression which was exceedingly repugnant. The middle portion of his physiognomy was rather flat and sunken, and his mouth and forehead projecting much, rendered this deformity disgustingly apparent. Deep black, large glistening eyes glanced from beneath a pair of brows, which so nearly approached each other, as, on every movement of passion or impulse of suspicion, to form in all appearance one thick shaggy line across, and the unamiable effect of the countenance altogether was not improved by the temper of the man, who was feared throughout the neighbourhood, as well for his enormous strength, as for the violence, the suspicious tetchiness, and the habitual gloominess of his character, which was never more visible than when, as now, he affected the display of jollity and hearty good-fellowship. It was whispered, moreover, that he was visited, after some unusual excitement, with fits of wildness approaching to insanity, at the accession of which he was wont to conceal himself from all human intercourse for a period, until the evil influence (originating, as it was asserted privately among his old associates, in the remorse with which the recollection of his manifold crimes was accompanied) had passed away—a circumstance that seemed to augur a consciousness of this mental infirmity. At the end of those periods of retirement, he was wont to return to his companions with a haggard and jaded countenance, a dejected demeanour, and a sense of shame manifested in his address, which, for a short space only, served to temper the violence of his conduct. Robbers and murderers, as all of his associates were, this evil- conditioned man had gone so far beyond them in his total recklessness of crime, that he had obtained for himself the distinguished appellative (like most nicknames in Irish low life, ironically applied) of Yamon Macauntha, or Honest Ned; occasionally varied (after he had reached the estate of manhood, and distinguished himself among the smugglers, over whom he acquired a speedy mastery, by his daring spirit, and almost invariable success in whatever he undertook) with that of Yamon Dhu, or Black Ned, a name which applied as well to his dark complexion, long, matted, coal-black hair and beard, as to the fierce and relentless energy of his disposition.
One anecdote, which was told with suppressed breath and involuntary shuddering, even among those who were by his side in all his deeds of blood, may serve to illustrate the terrific and savage cruelty of the man. A Dutch vessel had gone to pieces on the rocks beneath the Look-out. The waves rolled in like mountains, and lashed themselves with such fury against the cliffs, that very speedily nearly all those among the crew who clung to the drifting fragments of the wreck, were dashed to atoms on the projecting granite. A few only, among whom was the captain of the vessel, who struggled with desperate vigour against the dreadful element, succeeded in securing themselves on a projecting rock, from whence, feeble and exhausted as they were, the poor mariners endeavoured to hail a number of people, who were looking out on the wreck from the cliff above them. They succeeded in attracting their attention, and the spectators prepared to lower a rope for their relief, which, as they were always provided against such accidents, they were not long in bringing to pass. It was first girded around the waist of the captain, and then fastened around that of his two companions, who, on giving a signal, were drawn into the air, the former holding in one hand a little casket, and with the other defending himself against the pointed projection of the cliff as he ascended. When very near the summit, which completely overhung the waves, he begged, in a faint tone, that some one would take the casket from his hands, as he feared it might be lost in the attempt to secure his own hold. Yamon was but too alert in acceding to the wretched man's request; he threw himself forward on the sand, with his breast across the rope, and took the casket from his uplifted hand.
"God's blessing on your souls, my deliverers—" cried the poor man, wringing his clasped hands, with a gesture and look of fervent gratitude, "the casket is safe, thank God! and my faith to my employers——" he was yet speaking, when the rope severed under Black Yamon's breast, and the three men were precipitated into the yawning waters beneath. They were hurried out by the retiring waves, and the next moment their mangled bodies were left in the recesses of the cliff.
A cry of horror and of compassion burst even from the savage hearts of a crew of smugglers, who had been touched by the courage and constancy which was displayed by the unfortunates. Yamon alone remained unmoved (and hard must the heart have been which even the voice of gratitude, unmerited though it was, could not soften or penetrate). He gave utterance to a burst of hoarse, grumbling laughter, as he waved the casket in triumph before the eyes of his comrades.
"Huh! huh!" he exclaimed, "she was a muthaun—why didn't she keep her casket till she drew her painther ashore?"
One of the men, as if doubting the possibility of the inhuman action, advanced to the edge of the cliff. He found the rope had been evidently divided by some sharp instrument; and observing something glittering where Yamon lay, he stepped forward and picked up an open clasp-knife, which was presently claimed by the unblushing monster. However shocked they might have been at the occurrence, it was no difficult matter for Yamon to persuade his companions that it would be nowise convenient to let the manner of it transpire in the neighbourhood; and in a very few minutes the fate of the Dutchmen seemed completely banished from their recollection (never very retentive of benevolent emotions), and the only question held regarded the division of the booty. They were disappointed, however, in their hopes of spoil, for the casket which the faithful shipman was so anxious to preserve, and to obtain which his murderer had made sacrifice of so many lives, contained nothing more than a few papers of bottomry and insurance, valueless to all but the owners of the vessel. This circumstance seemed to touch the villain more nearly than the wanton cruelty of which he had been guilty; and his gang, who were superstitious exactly in proportion to their want of honesty and all moral principle, looked upon it as a supernatural occurrence, in which the judgment of an offended Deity was made manifest.
This amiable person had a sufficiently good opinion of himself to make one among the admirers of Ellen Sparling. It is scarcely necessary to say that his suit was unsuccessful. Indeed the maiden was heard privately to declare her conviction that it was impossible there could be found anywhere a more ugly and disagreeable man, in every sense.
One fine frosty evening, the widow Moran's was more than usually crowded. The fire blazed cheerfully on the hearth, so as to render any other light unnecessary, although the night had already begun to close in. The mistress of the establishment was busily occupied in replenishing the wooden 'noggins', or drinking vessels, with which the board was covered; her glossy white hair turned up under a clean kerchief, and a general gala gladness spreading an unusual light over her shrivelled and attenuated features, as by various courtesies, addressed to the company around her, she endeavoured to make the gracious in her own house. Near the chimney-corner sat Dora Keys, a dark featured, bright eyed girl, who on account of her skill on the bagpipe, a rather unfeminine accomplishment, and a rare one in this district (where, however, as in most parts of Ireland, music of some kind or another was constantly in high request) filled a place of high consideration among the merry-makers. The remainder of the scene was filled up with fishermen, smugglers, and fish-jolters; the latter wrapt in their blue frieze coats, and occupying a more unobtrusive corner of the apartment, while Yamon, as noisy and imperious as usual, sat at the head of the rude table, giving the word to the whole assembly.
A knocking was heard at the slight hurdle-door. The good woman went to open it, and a young man entered. He was well formed, though rather thin and dark skinned, and a profusion of black curled hair clustered about his temples, corresponding finely with his glancing, dark, fiery eye. An air of sadness, or of pensiveness, too, hung about him, which gave an additional interest to his appearance and impressed the spectator with an involuntary respect. Mrs. Moran drew back with one of her lowest curtsies. "Don't you know me, mother?" he asked. The poor woman sprung to his neck with a cry of joy.
All was confusion in an instant. "Charles"—"Charlie"—"Mr. Moran"— was echoed from lip to lip in proportion to the scale of intimacy which was enjoyed by the several speakers. Many a rough hand grasped his, and many a good-humoured buffet and malediction he had to endure before the tumultuous joy of his old friends had subsided. At length after all questions had been answered, and all old friends, the dead, the living, and the absent, had been tenderly inquired for, young Moran took his place among the guests; the amusements of the evening were renewed, and Yamon, who had felt his importance considerably diminished by the entrance of the young traveller, began to resume his self-constituted sovereignty.
Gambling, the great curse of society in all climes, classes, ages, and states of civilization, was not unknown or unpractised in this wild region. Neither was it here unattended with its usual effects upon the mind, heart, and happiness of its votaries. The eager manifestation of assent which passed round the circle, when the proposition of just "a hand o' five-and-forty" was made, showed that it was by no means an unusual or unacceptable resource to any person present. The young exile, in particular, seemed to catch at it with peculiar readiness; and, in a few minutes, places and partners being arranged, the old woman deposited in the middle of the table a pack of cards, approaching in shape more to the oval than the oblong square, and in colour scarcely distinguishable from the black oaken board on which they lay. Custom, however, had rendered the players particularly expert at their use, and they were dealt round with as much flippancy as the newest pack in the hands of a demon of St. James's in our own time. One advantage, certainly, the fashionable gamesters possessed over these primitive gamblers: the latter were perfectly ignorant of the useful niceties of play, so much in request among the former. 'Old gentlemen', 'stags', 'bridges', etc., were matters totally unknown among our coast friends, and the only necessary consequences of play, in which they (perhaps) excelled, were the outrageous violence, good mouth-filling oaths, and the ferocious triumph which followed the winnings or the losses of the several parties.
After he had become so far acquainted with the dingy pieces of pasteboard in his hand, as to distinguish the almost obliterated impressions upon them, the superior skill of the sea-farer became apparent. Yamon, who played against him, soon began to show symptoms of turbulence, which the other treated with the most perfect coolness and indifference, still persevering in his good play, until his opponent, after lavishing abundance of abuse on every body around him, especially on his unfortunate partner in the game, acknowledged that he had no more to lose. The night had now grown late, and the guests dropping off one by one, Moran and his mother were left alone in the cottage.
"Mother", said the young man, as he threw the little window-shutter open, and admitted a gush of moonlight which illumined the whole room, "will you keep the fire stirring till I return: the night is fine, and I must go over the cliffs".
"The cliffs! to-night, child!" ejaculated the old woman. "You don't think of it, my heart?"
"I must go", was the reply; "I have given a pledge that I dare not be false to".
"The cliffs!" continued the old woman. "The way is uncertain even to the feet that know it best, and sure you wouldn't try it in the night, and after being away till you don't know, may be, a foot o' the way".
"When I left Ellen Sparling, mother", said the young man, "I pledged her my faith, that I would meet her on the night on which she should receive from me a token she gave me. She, in like manner, gave me hers. That token I sent to her before I entered your doors this evening, and I appointed her father's ould house, where he lived in his poor days, and where I first saw her, to meet me. I must keep my word on all hazards". And he flung the cottage-door open as he spoke.
"Then take care, take care", said the old woman, clasping her hands and extending them toward him, while she spoke in her native tongue. "The night, thank God! is a fine night, and the sea is still at the bottom of the cliffs, but it is an unsure path. I know the eyes that will be red, and the cheeks that will be white, and the young and fair ones too, if anything 'contrary' should come to you this holy evening".
"I have given her my hand and word", was Moran's reply as he closed the door, and took the path over the sand hills.
The moon was shining brightly when he reached the cliffs, and entered on the path leading to the old rendezvous of the lovers, and from thence to the ruined building, where he expected to meet Ellen. He trudged along in the light-heartedness of feeling inspired by the conviction he felt, that the happiness of the times, which every object he beheld brought to his recollection, had not passed away with those days, and that a fair and pleasant future yet lay before him. He turned off the sand-hills while luxuriating in those visions of unchecked delight.
Passing the rocks of Duggara, he heard the plashing of oars, and the rushing of a canoe through the water. It seemed to make towards a landing- place further down, and lying almost on his path. He pursued his course, supposing, as in fact proved to be the case, that it was one of the fishermen drawing his canoe near to the caverns which were to be made the scene of a seal-hunt on the following day. As the little vessel glided through the water beneath him, a wild song, in the language of the country, rose to the broken crag on which he now rested, chaunted by a powerful masculine voice, with all the monotonous and melancholy intonation to which the construction of the music is peculiarly favourable. The following may be taken as a translation of the stanzas:—