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The Haunters and the Haunted edited by Ernest Rhys online
XV THE LIANHAN SHEE
The poor woman, unable to sustain the shock produced by her interview with the stranger, found herself getting more weak, and requested a drink of water; but before it could be put to her lips, she laid her head upon the back of the chair and fainted. Grief, and uproar, and confusion followed this alarming incident. The presence of mind, so necessary on such occasions, was wholly lost; one ran here, and another there, all jostling against each other, without being cool enough to render her proper assistance. The daughters were in tears, and Bartley himself was dreadfully shocked by seeing his wife apparently lifeless before him.
She soon recovered, however, and relieved them from the apprehension of her death, which they thought had actually taken place. "Mary," said the husband, "something quare entirely has happened, or you wouldn't be in this state!"
"Did any of you see a strange woman lavin' the house a minute or two before ye came in?" she inquired.
"No," they replied, "not a stim of anyone did we see."
"Wurrah dheelish! No?--now is it possible ye didn't?" She then described her, but all declared they had seen no such person.
"Bartley, whisper," said she, and beckoning him over to her, in a few words she revealed the secret. The husband grew pale and crossed himself. "Mother of Saints! childhre," said he, "a _Lianhan Shee_!" The words were no sooner uttered than every countenance assumed the pallidness of death; and every right hand was raised in the act of blessing the person, and crossing the forehead. "_The Lianhan Shee!!_" all exclaimed in fear and horror--"This day's Friday; God betwixt us an' harm!"
It was now after dusk, and the hour had already deepened into the darkness of a calm, moonless, summer night; the hearth, therefore, in a short time, became surrounded by a circle, consisting of every person in the house; the door was closed and securely bolted;--a struggle for the safest seat took place; and to Bartley's shame be it spoken, he lodged himself on the hob within the jamb, as the most distant situation from the fearful being known as the _Lianhan Shee_. The recent terror, however, brooded over them all; their topic of conversation was the mysterious visit, of which Mrs Sullivan gave a painfully accurate detail; whilst every ear of those who composed her audience was set, and every single hair of their heads bristled up, as if awakened into distinct life by the story. Bartley looked into the fire soberly, except when the cat, in prowling about the dresser, electrified him into a start of fear, which sensation went round every link of the living chain about the hearth.
The next day the story spread through the whole neighbourhood, accumulating in interest and incident as it went. Where it received the touches, embellishments, and emendations, with which it was amplified, it would be difficult to say: every one told it, forsooth, _exactly_ as he heard it from another, but indeed it is not improbable that those through whom it passed were unconscious of the additions it had received at their hands. It is not unreasonable to suppose that imagination in such cases often colours highly without a premeditated design of falsehood. Fear and dread, however, accompanied its progress; such families as had neglected to keep holy water in their houses borrowed some from their neighbours; every old prayer which had become rusty from disuse was brightened up--charms were hung about the necks of cattle, and gospels about those of children--crosses were placed over the doors and windows;--no unclean water was thrown out before sunrise or after dusk--
"E'en those prayed now who never prayed before,