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The Haunters and the Haunted edited by Ernest Rhys online
XV THE LIANHAN SHEE
"It's not that I care much about it, if you'd think it not right o' me, but it's odd enough for you to keep the lower part of your face muffled up in that black cloth, an' then your forehead, too, is covered down on your face a bit. If they're part of the _bargain_,"--and she shuddered at the thought,--"between you an' anything that's not good--hem!--I think you'd do well to throw thim off o' you, an' turn to thim that can protect you from everything that's bad. Now, a scapular would keep all the divils in hell from one; an' if you'd----"
On looking at the stranger she hesitated, for the wild expression of her eyes began to return.
"Don't begin my punishment again," replied the woman; "make no allus----don't make mention in my presence of anything that's good. Husht--husht--it's beginning--easy now--easy! No," said she, "I came to tell you, that only for my breaking a vow I made to this thing upon me, I'd be happy instead of miserable with it. I say, it's a good thing to have, if the person will use this bottle," she added, producing one, "as I will direct them."
"I wouldn't wish, for my part," replied Mrs Sullivan, "to have anything to do wid it--neither act nor part"; and she crossed herself devoutly, on contemplating such an unholy alliance as that at which her companion hinted.
"Mary Sullivan," replied the other, "I can put good fortune and happiness in the way of you and yours. It is for you the good is intended; if _you_ don't get both, _no other_ can," and her eyes kindled as she spoke like those of the Pyrhoness in the moment of inspiration.
Mrs Sullivan looked at her with awe, fear, and a strong mixture of curiosity; she had often heard that the _Lianhan Shee_ had, through means of the person to whom it was bound, conferred wealth upon several, although it could never render this important service to those who exercised direct authority over it. She therefore experienced something like a conflict between her fears and a love of that wealth, the possession of which was so plainly intimated to her.
"The money," said she, "would be one thing, but to have the _Lianhan Shee_ planted over a body's shouldher--och! the saints preserve us!--no, not for oceans of hard goold would I have it in my company one minnit. But in regard to the money--hem!--why, if it could be managed without havin' act or part wid _that thing_, people would do anything in reason and fairity."
"You have this day been kind to me," replied the woman, "and that's what I can't say of many--dear help me!--husht! Every door is shut in my face! Does not every cheek get pale when I am seen? If I meet a fellow-creature on the road, they turn into the field to avoid me; if I ask for food, it's to a deaf ear I speak; if I am thirsty, they send me to the river. What house would shelter me? In cold, in hunger, in drought, in storm, and in tempest, I am alone and unfriended, hated, feared, an' avoided; starving in the winter's cold, and burning in the summer's heat. All this is my fate here; and--oh! oh! oh!--have mercy, tormentor--have mercy! I will not lift my thoughts _there_--I'll keep the paction--but spare me _now_!"
She turned round as she spoke, seeming to follow an invisible object, or, perhaps, attempting to get a more complete view of the mysterious being which exercised such a terrible and painful influence over her. Mrs Sullivan, also, kept her eye fixed upon the lump, and actually believed that she saw it move. Fear of incurring the displeasure of what it contained, and a superstitious reluctance harshly to thrust a person from her door who had eaten of her food, prevented her from desiring the woman to depart.