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The Haunters and the Haunted edited by Ernest Rhys online

The Haunters and the Haunted edited by Ernest Rhys


As she ceased speaking the piercing eye of the strange woman became riveted on her with a glare, which, whilst it startled Mrs Sullivan, seemed full of an agony that almost abstracted her from external life. It was not, however, so wholly absorbing as to prevent it from expressing a marked interest, whether for good or evil, in the woman who addressed her so hospitably.

"Husht, now--husht," she said, as if aside--"husht, won't you--sure I may speak _the thing_ to her--you said it--there now, husht!" And then fastening her dark eyes on Mrs Sullivan, she smiled bitterly and mysteriously.

"I know you well," she said, without, however, returning the _blessing_ contained in the usual reply to Mrs Sullivan's salutation--"I know you well, Mary Sullivan--husht, now, husht--yes, I know you well, and the power of all that you carry about you; but you'd be better than you are--and that's well enough _now_--if you had sense to know--ah, ah, ah!--what's this!" she exclaimed abruptly, with three distinct shrieks, that seemed to be produced by sensations of sharp and piercing agony.

"In the name of goodness, what's over you, honest woman?" inquired Mrs Sullivan, as she started from her chair, and ran to her in a state of alarm, bordering on terror--"Is it sick you are?"

The woman's face had got haggard, and its features distorted; but in a few minutes they resumed their peculiar expression of settled wildness and mystery. "Sick!" she replied, licking her parched lips; "_awirck, awirck!_ look! look!" and she pointed with a shudder that almost convulsed her whole frame, to a lump that rose on her shoulders; this, be it what it might, was covered with a red cloak, closely pinned and tied with great caution about her body--"'tis here!--I have it!"

"Blessed mother!" exclaimed Mrs Sullivan, tottering over to her chair, as finished a picture of horror as the eye could witness, "this day's Friday: the saints stand betwixt me an' all harm! Oh, holy Mary, protect me! _Nhanim an airh_," in the name of the Father, etc., and she forthwith proceeded to bless herself, which she did thirteen times in honour of the blessed virgin and the twelve apostles.

"Ay, it's as you see!" replied the stranger bitterly. "It is here--husht, now--husht, I say--I will say _the thing_ to her, mayn't I? Ay, indeed, Mary Sullivan, 'tis with me always--always. Well, well, no, I won't I won't--easy. Oh, blessed saints, easy, and I won't!"

In the meantime Mrs Sullivan had uncorked her bottle of holy water, and plentifully bedewed herself with it, as a preservative against this mysterious woman and her dreadful secret.

"Blessed mother above!" she ejaculated, "the _Lianhan Shee_!" And as she spoke, with the holy water in the palm of her hand, she advanced cautiously, and with great terror, to throw it upon the stranger and the unearthly thing she bore.

"Don't attempt it!" shouted the other, in tones of mingled fierceness and terror; "do you want to give _me_ pain without keeping _yourself_ anything at all safer? Don't you know _it_ doesn't care about your holy water? But I'd suffer for it, an' perhaps so would you."

Mrs Sullivan, terrified by the agitated looks of the woman, drew back with affright, and threw the holy water with which she intended to purify the other on her own person.

"Why thin, you lost crathur, who or what are you at all?--don't, don't--for the sake of all the saints and angels of heaven, don't come next or near me--keep your distance--but what are you, or how did you come to get that 'good thing' you carry about wid you?"

"Ay, indeed!" replied the woman bitterly, "as if I would or could tell you that! I say, you woman, you're doing what's not right in asking me a question you ought not let to cross your lips--look to yourself, and what's over you."