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The Haunters and the Haunted edited by Ernest Rhys online
XV THE LIANHAN SHEE
The simple woman, thinking her meaning literal, almost leaped off her seat with terror, and turned up her eyes to ascertain whether or not any dreadful appearance had approached her, or hung over her where she sat.
"Woman," said she, "I spoke you kind an' fair, an' I wish you well--but----"
"But what?" replied the other--and her eyes kindled into deep and profound excitement, apparently upon very slight grounds.
"Why--hem--nothin' at all sure, only----"
"Only what?" asked the stranger, with a face of anguish that seemed to torture every feature out of its proper lineaments.
"Dacent woman," said Mrs Sullivan, whilst the hair began to stand with terror upon her head, "sure it's no wondher in life that I'm in a perplexity, whin a _Lianhan Shee_ is undher the one roof wid me. 'Tisn't that I want to know anything at all about it--the dear forbid I should; but I never hard of a person bein' tormented wid it as you are. I always used to hear the people say that it thrated its friends well."
"Husht!" said the woman, looking wildly over her shoulder, "I'll not tell: it's on myself I'll leave the blame! Why, will you never pity me? Am I to be night and day tormented? Oh, you're wicked and cruel for no reason!"
"Thry," said Mrs Sullivan, "an' bless yourself; call on God."
"Ah!" shouted the other, "are you going to get me killed?" and as she uttered the words, a spasmodic working which must have occasioned great pain, even to torture, became audible in her throat; her bosom heaved up and down, and her head was bent repeatedly on her breast, as if by force.
"Don't mention that name," said she, "in my presence, except you mean to drive me to utter distraction. I mean," she continued, after considerable effort to recover her former tone and manner--"hear me with attention--I mean, woman--you, Mary Sullivan--that if you mention that holy name, you might as well keep plunging sharp knives into my heart! Husht! peace to me for one minute, tormentor! Spare me something, I'm in your power!"
"Will you ate anything?" said Mrs Sullivan; "poor crathur, you look like hunger an' distress; there's enough in the house, blessed be them that sent it! an' you had betther thry an' take some nourishment, any way"; and she raised her eyes in a silent prayer of relief and ease for the unhappy woman, whose unhallowed association had, in her opinion, sealed her doom.
"Will I?--will I?--oh!" she replied, "may you never know misery for offering it! Oh, bring me something--some refreshment--some food--for I'm dying with hunger."
Mrs Sullivan, who, with all her superstition, was remarkable for charity and benevolence, immediately placed food and drink before her, which the stranger absolutely devoured--taking care occasionally to secrete under the protuberance which appeared behind her neck, a portion of what she ate. This, however, she did, not by stealth, but openly; merely taking means to prevent the concealed thing from being, by any possible accident, discovered.
When the craving of hunger was satisfied, she appeared to suffer less from the persecution of her tormentor than before; whether it was, as Mrs Sullivan thought, that the food with which she plied it appeased in some degree its irritability, or lessened that of the stranger, it was difficult to say; at all events, she became more composed; her eyes resumed somewhat of a natural expression; each sharp ferocious glare, which shot from them with such intense and rapid flashes, partially disappeared; her knit brows dilated, and part of a forehead, which had once been capacious and handsome, lost the contractions which deformed it by deep wrinkles. Altogether the change was evident, and very much relieved Mrs Sullivan, who could not avoid observing it.