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The Haunters and the Haunted edited by Ernest Rhys online

The Haunters and the Haunted edited by Ernest Rhys


In a moment her manner changed again, and her eyes blazed out once more, as she asked her alarmed hostess,--

"Again, Mary Sullivan, will you take the gift that I have it in my power to give you? ay or no? speak, poor mortal, if you know what is for your own good."

Mrs Sullivan's fears, however, had overcome her love of money, particularly as she thought that wealth obtained in such a manner could not prosper; her only objection being to the means of acquiring it.

"Oh!" said the stranger, "am I doomed never to meet with anyone who will take the promise off me by drinking of this bottle. Oh! but I am unhappy! What it is to fear--ah! ah!--and keep _His_ commandments. Had _I_ done so in my youthful time, I wouldn't now--ah--merciful mother, is there no relief? kill me, tormentor; kill me outright, for surely the pangs of eternity cannot be greater than those you now make me suffer. Woman," said she, and her muscles stood out in extraordinary energy--"woman, Mary Sullivan--ay, if you should kill me--blast me--where I stand, I will say the word--woman--you have daughters--teach them--to fear----" Having got so far, she stopped--her bosom heaved up and down--her frame shook dreadfully--her eyeballs became lurid and fiery--her hands were clenched, and the spasmodic throes of inward convulsion worked the white froth up to her mouth; at length she suddenly became like a statue, with this wild supernatural expression intense upon her, and with an awful calmness, by far more dreadful than excitement could be, concluded by pronouncing in deep husky tones the name of God.

Having accomplished this with such a powerful struggle, she turned round with pale despair in her countenance and manner, and with streaming eyes slowly departed, leaving Mrs Sullivan in a situation not at all to be envied.

In a short time the other members of the family, who had been out at their evening employments, returned. Bartley, her husband, having entered somewhat sooner than his three daughters from milking, was the first to come in; presently the girls followed, and in a few minutes they sat down to supper, together with the servants, who dropped in one by one, after the toil of the day. On placing themselves about the table, Bartley as usual took his seat at the head; but Mrs Sullivan, instead of occupying hers, sat at the fire in a state of uncommon agitation. Every two or three minutes she would cross herself devoutly, and mutter such prayers against spiritual influences of an evil nature as she could compose herself to remember.

"Thin, why don't you come to your supper, Mary," said the husband, "while the sowans are warm? Brave and thick they are this night, any way."

His wife was silent, for so strong a hold had the strange woman and her appalling secret upon her mind, that it was not till he repeated his question three or four times--raising his head with surprise, and asking, "Eh, thin, Mary, what's come over you--is it unwell you are?"--that she noticed what he said.

"Supper!" she exclaimed; "unwell! 'tis a good right I have to be unwell,--I hope nothing bad will happen, any way. Feel my face, Nannie," she added, addressing one of her daughters; "it's as cowld an' wet as a limestone--ay, an' if you found me a corpse before you, it wouldn't be at all strange."

There was a general pause at the seriousness of this intimation. The husband rose from his supper, and went up to the hearth where she sat.

"Turn round to the light," said he; "why, Mary dear, in the name of wondher, what ails you? for you're like a corpse sure enough. Can't you tell us what has happened, or what put you in such a state? Why, childhre, the cowld sweat's teemin' off her!"