Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 5/How the O'Donnells first went to Spain - Part 1
HOW THE O’DONNELLS FIRST WENT TO SPAIN.
A CELTIC LEGEND OF MAGIC AND WITCHCRAFT.
“Ah! then is it really true that Marshal O’Donnell has been made a grandee of Spain?” said an old farmer to me a few days ago, whilst walking along the high-road, which runs parallel with the railway between Ross-sina and Kilmacow, in the county Kilkenny.
“Yes,” I replied. “I believe the fact to be so, for such an announcement has appeared in all the newspapers. But why do you ask the question?”
“Why do I ask the question?” responded the farmer. “Why? Because I am deeply and personally interested in it.”
“Indeed! then, perhaps, you are a relation of the Marshal’s?”
“Me! a relation of the Marshal’s? There isn’t one drop of his blood in my veins.”
“Then how come you to be deeply and personally interested in the elevation to a Spanish dignity of a person who must be a complete stranger to you?”
“It is easy answering that question,” said the farmer. “The reason I take an interest in the matter is, that simple and humble as I may appear, yet it was from my house the first of the O’Donnells ever left Ireland to go to Spain; and it was by the merest accident I did not inherit an immense fortune by their doing so.”
“That is a strange story you are telling,” I ventured to remark.
“Strange! it is the most wonderful story ever you heard, and as the sun is shining brightly, and there is an old trunk of a tree for you to sit upon if you are tired, and if you have half-an-hour to spare, and will listen to me, I will tell you the whole narration from the beginning to the end—and a better spot for telling it than this there could not be, as I can point out to you the several places I have to mention in my history.”
“Go on with your story,” I observed, “you will find me a patient and attentive listener.”
The old man lighted his pipe, and, seating himself by my side, he pointed to the hills, a couple of miles distant from the high-road, and directly opposite to where we were seated, and thus expressed himself:
“You know that the dark, dull, gloomy-looking mountain to the right, and which is all over rocks and furze-bushes, is called ‘Tory Hill,’ and you know that the hill that is facing us, and is tilled, is called ‘Rahar’ (but its right name is ‘Rath-ar’), and you know there is a valley that runs between the two, in which you may be sure, at all times of the year, to find more stones than potatoes, and more weeds than turnips. Now, all this you know as well, and may be better, than myself that is telling it to you; but there is one thing about the two places that, may be, you do not know; and that is, that in the ancient times both Tory Hill and Rahar were great huge fortifications of those thieving, murdering, inhuman, and unchristian pagans, the Danes. Well! there is another thing that, perhaps, you did not know before, and that is, that between Tory Hill and Rahar the Danes had constructed a subterranean passage; and they had two reasons for making it—first, because it was easier for them to make; caves under ground at Rahar than at Tory Hill, by reason of the latter being nothing from its base to its top but a solid rock; and next because, whichever of the two places should come to be attacked by the Irish, the Danes could bring together to the same spot the fighting men of both fortifications; and, then, if they were to be beaten in the one fort, they had still another to retreat to. Oh! it’s they—the Danes—that were the cunning, artful set of villains! and it is no wonder—they were so ’cute—that they were able to hold out for so many centuries against the poor innocent Irish who, in their simplicity, could do nothing but knock out Danish brains when they had an opportunity, and never stop cursing them when either beaten or bamboozled by them.
“Well, now, seeing how Tory Hill and Rahar are situated in regard to one another, you will easily understand that, though Tory Hill was the most conspicuous-looking of the two fortifications, and that the cunning Danes seemed to think a deal more of its possession than of the other, still the fact was that the place that was really important to them was Rahar, because it was there they had stored not only the best part of their provisions for both fortifications, in case of their being besieged, but also because it was there they preserved all their plunder—the gold and silver and diamonds and emeralds and pearls, with all the gold crosses, chalices, and priests’ vestments, they had robbed out of every Irish church, monastery, and convent they ever got inside of. There was, in fact, no end to the wealth, grandeur, and riches these thieves of the world had stored up in the caves of Rahar. And, only think of their artifices and ’cuteness! the better to conceal this wealth, they did not hide it in trunks, but put it in places that an honest pious Irishman would never think of seeking after it—and that is—in stone coffins! It’s the truth I am telling you—as you will find when I come to the end of my story. And what is more—the diabolical villains! as I know to my cost—they buried their gold and silver with such powerful enchantments cast around them, that if by any chance they came to be discovered in the day-time the contents of the coffins would appear to be—what they were not—bones, stones, and ashes; and would never appear to be—what they really are—the finest of yellow gold, and the brightest of purest silver. My curse upon the Danes!—dead and alive! here and hereafter!—for it is I that am the heavy loser by their vile witchcraft.
“And, now, after all this long preamble, I am coming to the pith of my story, and as to how the O’Donnells first went to Spain.
“You see just near to the top of Rahar Hill there is a small white house—as white as snow—so white, you would fancy it was whitewashed every Monday morning in the year. Not at all. It is made of white stones, and as it looks now, so did it appear fifty years ago, when I first went to live in it. That is my house, and it was from that very house the first O’Donnell ever went to Spain. And the way that it all happened was this—just as I am going to tell you.
“For hundreds upon hundreds of years the Danes and the Irish were fighting with one another. The Danes were trying to hold their grip on the country, and the Irish were trying to drive them out of it. At last the Irish succeeded. The Danes were broken, horse and foot, and all that the remnant of them could do, to save their lives, was to sail away to Denmark as fast as they were able. They could not take with them the plunder they had stored in Rahar; but, in order to conceal from the Irish the treasures they were leaving, they first of all stopped up the subterranean passage between Tory Hill and Rahar. They left the walls standing in the one place, and destroyed them in the other; and in lieu of them built up that white house, and put into it an old Danish woman and her young grand-daughter, well knowing that the Irish were too polite, kind-hearted, and good-natured, ever to molest an old woman that was too ugly for any one to wish to look twice at her, and a little girl that already promised to be so pretty that a king might, in time, pay court to her.
“Now, do you know the reason for the Danes doing this? Of course you don’t, and therefore I will tell you. Once a Dane has laid his hand upon anything—no matter what it is—a guinea, a shilling, a silver spoon, or an acre of land, he reckons that it is his—his alone—and belongs to him from the first clutch he has made of it until the Day of Judgment; and, supposing the rightful owner takes it away from him, still the Dane never forgoes his claim on it, but acts in such a way as if he believed that if he does not live to get it, still his son or grandson or some one descending from him, though it was centuries from the present time, will again come into possession of it. That I may never sin! but I am told there are Danes now living in Copenhagen who can show you what they call ‘their title-deeds’ to lands that belong to Captain Bryan of Jenkinstown, and Mr. Tighe of Woodstock, and the Marquis of Ormonde in Kilkenny, time out of mind—aye! and to lands that have been confiscated three times over, and have had forty different owners—Normans, Anglo-Irish, Cromwellians, English, Scotch, and Welsh, and Lord knows what besides!—since the Danes were in this country.
“Well! that being the way of thinking with the Danes, so far as concerns anything, and everything they have once laid their unlucky paws upon; it is easy seeing, they would do their best, if they could not get at it themselves, to keep, for some of their own people to come after them, all the plunder they had heaped together in the caves of Rahar. They, therefore, built up that white house, and they put into it, as a care-taker for themselves, old Moyra Olliffe and her grand-daughter Aileen. And why do you think they selected old Moyra Olliffe, for such a post? For many reasons. First of all, because she was a pagan, hated the very name of a Christian, and detested the sight of an Irishman. Next, because she was an old witch, knew all sorts of enchantments, had sold herself right out as a dead bargain to the devil, and had got a power of boiling up in an iron skillet, which she always carried about with her, a certain drug, which if she got an opportunity of throwing at a person before he had time to say a prayer, or bless himself, would turn him into a dog, an ass, a goat, a cat, or a wolf, and that figure he must ever retain so long as he remained in Ireland, or within two hundred miles of the Irish coast. Last of all they appointed Moyra Olliffe to be the ostensible owner of Rahar because they knew that spite alone would make her true to her trust; for her brother King Olaf of the Iron-fist, or Olaf-ironfist as he was commonly called, was killed by the Irish when engaged on a plundering excursion with a few followers into the O’Carroll district. Moyra Olliffe was then fixed at Rahar to watch over its concealed treasures, to guard them by her enchantments, to rear up her grand-daughter to be, like herself, a witch; so that when the old woman died, she might succeed as the care-taker of all the silver and gold that belonged to herself as a king’s grand-daughter, as well as to the Danish tribe of which she was a member.
It was a lucky thing for the young princess Aileen, that her grand-mother, Moyra Olliffe, was so busily engaged in contriving plans for guarding the treasures buried in the caves of Rahar; the old woman had not time to misinstruct her, to corrupt her morals, to poison her mind, or to instil into the child’s heart her own prejudices against and malignant hatred of the Irish. Whilst the old witch was picking weeds and dead men’s bones out of church-yards, to boil up into charms in her magic skillet, the young girl was running, as wild as a colt, hither and thither; wherever she liked, about the country. One day she would be, perhaps, wandering through the deep woods that then covered the mountains from this spot for miles up beyond Kilmacthomas; and, another day, she would be fishing all alone by herself in the waters of the little Blackwater, over there beyond, at first for pinkeens, and then, at last, for trout—and an able hand she was, by all accounts, with the rod, and in making flies, and spearing eels. But the most lucky thing of all that ever happened Aileen was her straying one day into the old church at Park. That church has disappeared, and its foundation stones are now covered with the railroad before us. In the church, Aileen met with the parish-priest, and the parish-priest, when he first saw her, thought from her being a strange child in the country, and so wonderfully beautiful, that she must be an angel come down from heaven to pray before his altar; but—I give you my word! he did not long labour under that delusion, once he entered into conversation with her. All that poor little Aileen knew of religion, at that time, was to swear like a trooper; and what was still worse, she did not even know how to curse like a Christian; for all her oaths were in the names of heathen deities, such as Thor, and Odin, and Woden, and Frigga, and Saxnot, and such other demoniacal Danish idols. Lucky it was for Aileen, that meeting with the parish-priest of Park; for he never stopped teaching her day after day, and week after week, until she had “Butler’s Catechism” so completely off by heart, that she could defy an archbishop to puzzle her in it; and when she knew her catechism, of course, she never rested easy until the parish priest had baptised her as a Christian—and once being baptised, she was for ever afterwards secure against the diabolical mis-teachings of her grandmother. And so she went on for a few years, every year becoming more beautiful, and every year becoming a better Christian.
“I suppose that never before, nor since she herself was alive, was there seen or heard of a more beautiful creature than Aileen Olliffe at the age of eighteen. She was neither a tall, lanky, nor a fat, dumpy girl; but she was something between the two, with a step as light as a fairy, hair that was as yellow as flax, and finer than silk; a skin as white as milk, cheeks as pink as a young budding rose, eyes that were as blue as the sky, and that sparkled with light when you gazed into them; and a mouth that appeared to be made for no other purpose than to smile sweetly and to speak softly. When she walked abroad the sun seemed to shine more brightly, and the grass to grow greener, and even the humble daisies perked up their star-covered heads as if they were conscious there was in the midst of them something that made themselves and all around them look more entrancing than they ever did before. No wonder that young Phelim O’Neal O’Donnell, the first time he saw Aileen fishing for trout in the Blackwater, fell in love with her, and wished himself to be a little fish, in order that he might have the happiness of feeling her fair, taper, rosy-tipped fingers tenderly taking a rough hook out of his enamoured gills.
“Love of sport—having nothing to do—and the peace that had prevailed for some years in all parts of Ireland, from the time of the Danes being driven out of the country, had been the reasons for young Phelim O’Neal O’Donnell leaving his own principality, in the land of Tirconnell, to go and seek adventures in various parts of Ireland. Except knocking the head off a cruel magician at Cappoquin, and killing two giants that were overholding possession of the castle of Lismore, nothing worth mentioning had occurred to Phelim O’Neal O’Donnell from the day he left Tirconnell until the eventful morning that he beheld the princess Aileen fishing for trout under the churchyard wall, below the hill of Scart, in the county Kilkenny.
Phelim|“Phelim|nodash}} O’Neal O’Donnell fell in love with Aileen at first sight; and Aileen Olliffe returned the compliment; for she knew, she never, until then, saw, and never, from that time forth, expected to see a young man half as fine-looking as Phelim. He had the dark, bronzed skin, jet black hair, and large black eyes of a genuine Milesian—he had the face of a patriarch—it was so noble, so grand, and dignified, and with that he was mighty cleverly made, and in height about six feet two inches. He wore a yellow velvet hat, with a ruby in front, which fastened together two heavy hanging black plumes, a chain of triple gold was around his neck, and his body, arms, and legs, were covered with a tight-fitting, yellow-coloured dress. There was a jewelled dagger in the red silk scarf at his waist. A short sword hung to his side, and in his right hand he bore a hunting-spear.
“‘If I could fancy my old grandmother to have ever spoken a word of truth,’ said Aileen to herself, as she looked across the narrow stream at Phelim, ‘I should suppose this handsome stranger to be the valiant Woden, who had come down from his Walhalla to pay me a visit.’
“‘If I was to believe,’ said Phelim, at the same time, to himself, ‘what the pagan poets prate about the goddesses of former times, I would suppose that beautiful creature yonder to be the celestial charmer, Venus, who was amusing herself this fine morning with one of the occupations of the chaste Diana.’
“To make a long story short, they were over head and ears in love with one another in less than no time, and as they were both young, and innocent, and never supposed there was the slightest harm in letting the truth be known, they very soon came to a right understanding with each other upon a point so material to their mutual happiness.
“Phelim O’Neal O’Donnell asked Aileen Olliffe if she would marry him; and she replied at once, ‘With the greatest pleasure in life;’ but at the same time she gave him to understand that there were some difficulties in the way.
“‘Difficulties, indeed!’ said Phelim O’Neal O’Donnell. ‘I laugh at difficulties! A young Irishman with a sword in his hand, and the girl that he loves by his side, derides difficulties, and will jump over, if he cannot cut through, impossibilities. Phew! show me the difficulty that dares to terrify you, and in half a minute I will wring its head off.’
“‘It is not so easy as you think, my beautiful hero,’ observed Aileen, ‘to wring the head off an old woman.’
“‘An old woman!’ replied Phelim, astonished.
“‘Yes,’ continued Aileen, ‘and an old woman that is a witch.’
“‘As an Irishman,’ replied Phelim, ‘I should be ashamed of myself, if I were to lay an unkind hand on a female; but if she is a witch, then all I can say is—show her to me—I will not strike her with my fist, because she is a woman; but I give you my word of honour, I will never stop walking on her until she is as flat as a pancake.’
“‘But this old woman, who is also a witch, is my grandmother,’ answered Aileen.
“‘Your grandmother!’ replied Phelim. ‘Then all I can say, my charming angel, is, I wish, for your own sake, as well as mine, your family was a little more respectable.’
“‘Respectable! enagh!’ answered Aileen, a little nettled. ‘A good deal more respectable than yours, I am inclined to think. Why, my grandfather was a king, and my grand-uncle was the celebrated Olaf-ironfist, who used to pound Irish spalpeens into sparables.’
“‘Not a doubt of it!’ replied Phelim. ‘There never was a more celebrated ruffian that Olaf-ironfist. But your grandfather, my beautiful maiden, you say, was a king, and your grandmother is no better than she ought to be. Oh! faix! that is a common case enough. There is no family that I ever yet knew of, no matter how high, exalted, or respectable it might be, but had some relation attached to it, that all the rest had right good reason to be ashamed of. Well, now, how is your grandmother, that is a witch, a difficulty in the way of yourself and myself being married, when we have both determined to become husband and wife?”
“‘Because she has all my fortune in her keeping, and I know well she will never let me handle it, if she knows I wish to give it and myself to a Christian husband,’ answered Aileen.
“‘A fortune!” said the astonished and delighted Phelim. ‘Why this is good luck and more of it! Ah! then, is it possible, such an enchanting beauty as you are can have a fortune? But, you are so handsome, it must be something very trifling; not worth troubling one’s head about.’
“‘All I will say about it is this,’ replied Aileen. ‘Since the O’Donnells were a sept, they never had, individually and collectively, half the fortune that I am entitled to; and that is now hidden in the caves of Rahar.’
“‘What! what is that you say, my beautiful enchantress?’ answered Phelim, becoming still more enamoured of Aileen when he heard her boasting of her wealth. ‘You don’t mean to say now, you have a fortune of ten thousand pounds—in ready money?’
“‘Ten thousand pounds!’ replied Aileen; ‘who ever heard of the grand-daughter of a Danish king having such a paltry fortune as ten thousand pounds?’
“‘Well, my celestial beauty! say twenty thousand pounds—in ready money.’
“‘Pho! mean! beneath mentioning!’ answered Aileen.
“‘Well, my adorable and transcendantly divine beauty! say forty thousand pounds—in ready money.’
“‘Contemptible!—not worth speaking about!’
“‘Well, my intensely divine, most beautiful, and ecstatically attractive charmer! say eighty thousand pounds—in ready money.’
“‘Bah!’ said Aileen, ‘your imagination cannot soar to the height or fly to the extent of my riches. There are four large iron hat-boxes crammed with nothing but diamonds and precious stones; there are six big iron trunks stuffed with nothing but gold; and there are twenty-four huge iron chests filled with nothing but bars of silver. That is my fortune. Are you still willing to marry me?’
“‘I am willing to die for you, seraphic and supremely lovely Aileen!’ answered Phelim.
“‘Better to live and marry me,’ responded Aileen. ‘And now to contrive how to get my fortune out of the hands of my grandmother. See if you can think of any plan for attaining that object.’
“‘I am greatly afraid,’ replied Phelim, ‘that the only plan that will ever suggest itself to my mind is the simple one—of knocking out her brains.’
“‘Remember she is my grandmother,’ said Aileen.
“‘Ah! yes!’ sighed Phelim, ‘that is the awkward circumstance in the way of the execution of my simple plan.’
“‘Remember, also, she is a witch, and not so easily disposed of as you may fancy,’ said Aileen. ‘I must see if I cannot contrive something easier and more humane than your project. In two days from this time meet me here again. Meanwhile let me know where a messenger may find you, in case I desired to see you.’
“‘I am stopping in Waterford,’ answered Phelim. ‘I was on the point of starting for Spain, in search of adventures, when the sight of you changed my destiny. I have hired the state-cabin on board the Granvaile, which sails from Waterford for Cadiz this day week, under the command of the skilful and pious captain, Joseph O’Leary.’
“‘Farewell, my six-foot hero!’ sighed the lovely Aileen.
“‘Farewell!—rose of Rahar!—beauty of the Blackwater!—topaz of Kilkenny county!—pride of Park!—diamond of Scart!—concentration of female beauty and perfection!’ exclaimed the enamoured Phelim O’Neal O’Donnell, as he touched with his gold spur the sable side of his coal-black steed, and rode rapidly down the very road by the side of which we are now sitting, on his way to Waterford.
“With all the thrilling raptures of a first youthful and true love, Aileen and Phelim O’Neal O’Donnell parted from each other that fine, bright day, on the banks of the Blackwater. Their hearts beat with hope and joy; but how different would have been their feelings, if they had known that the whole of their conversation had been listened to by the wicked witch, Moyra Olliffe?
“By a most unlucky chance, that old villain of a woman was told that there had been buried, a few days previously, in the graveyard adjoining Park Church, the body of an unbaptised infant; and as she wanted the right thigh-bone of the child to boil up into a broth for one of her incantations, she was busy in grubbing for it amongst the graves, when she heard the noise made by O’Donnell’s horse as its hoofs came down upon the stony road outside. The wall of the churchyard overhung the bank of the river, and, squatting behind the wall, the old woman could hear every word the two lovers had spoken.
“This wicked, abominable, and horrid ugly old woman had but one tooth in her head, and that was in the upper jaw, from which it stood out like a pig’s tusk. When Aileen began to speak, the witch caught hold of this long, villanous tooth, and she never let it go until the two lovers separated, when, starting up, and dragging it out by the root, she cast it upon the earth, and then, as her mouth filled with blood, she spurted forth these words:
“‘My curse upon her! the audacious minx! As I tear out this tooth from my head, so do I tear her, the last of my race, from my heart! Ah! ha! so! she wants to marry an Irishman! and a Christian too! She would sink the name of Olliffe to become a dirty O’Donnell! and to give him, too, all the wealth which her grandfather won by his sword, and her valiant grand-uncle, Olaf-ironfist, squeezed out of the blood and bones of the Irish! She would throw not only all that away upon a stranger she did not know yesterday! Ay—would she! and if she knew the secret as to the wealth of all the Danes that I have, until now, protected from the gaze of mortals by my witchcraft, she would fling all that away with her own fortune! Oh! the renegade and the rapscallion! Why! by the thunderbolts of Thor! she must herself have turned Christian! If that is so; and if, since her baptism, she has never committed a sin, then I am powerless against her! I can do her no mischief. I will try. I can but fail. And if I do not succeed with her, why then I must see what my arts can effect, first to bewilder this outrageously tall Irishman; and if I am baffled there also, then to try the most powerful of my charms against him. Oh! all ye holy, ruthless, blood-loving, brain-scattering valkyries, come and help me! I go now to seek for the most rancid poisons. Ah! Aileen! if you are a Christian, and have lost your baptismal innocence, then this very night you shall be a corpse! and to-morrow your dainty body will be given over as a banquet to the worms in the churchyard of Park.’
“All that day the witch was busy with her magic skillet concocting a most deadly poison. It was not until evening she had completed her task; and then, when she met her grandchild, at supper, she presented her with a bowl of milk which she pretended she had herself taken that minute from the cow. The unsuspecting, innocent, darling Aileen accepted the deadly gift—at once swallowed it; and the moment she did so fell senseless and motionless on the earth!
“The wicked witch, with a tearless eye and an unshaken hand, had presented the poison to her grandchild; and when she saw the poor young girl fall, she looked at her with eagerness in the hope she might behold the lovely creature’s limbs quivering in the agonies of death.
“‘Curses! a hundred thousand curses upon her! I cannot hurt her!” cried the witch. “She is a baptised Christian, and her soul is unstained by mortal sin. All that my poor art can do against her is to throw her into a deep sleep for forty-eight hours; and even that much I could not have accomplished had she but blessed the poisoned milk or said one word of a prayer before swallowing it. My skill as a witch can do no hurt to her. I must then try what can be done against the youth, who has fallen in love with her. I have full forty-eight hours, whilst this deep sleep continues to bewilder and bewitch him, without the chance of being molested or interfered with by her.’
“Of all the inhuman, unfeeling, mean, nasty, low, rascally, diabolical and infernally wicked animals that ever was formed, there never yet was anything so inhuman, so unfeeling, so mean, so nasty, so low, so rascally and so diabolical as a witch! I am sure you will agree in so thinking with me when I tell you of the plan which old Moyra Olliffe adopted for misleading, bewildering, and misguiding poor young Phelim O’Neal O’Donnell when he came, true to the appointment between them, to meet as he thought his darling little true love, the princess Aileen, on the bank of the Blackwater stream.
“Little did the unhappy young man know that the person he saw fishing for trout was, not his own Aileen (who was then sleeping in her own bed in that white house upon the hill before you) but her abominable old ugly, toothless, withered and wicked grandmother, who had assumed the outward form of Aileen.
“Phelim O’Neal O’Donnell was not a little astonished as he rode up to the place where the supposed Aileen was fishing to see that the moment she took a trout out of the stream she bit its head off between her snow-white teeth, and then threw the headless fish into the basket beside her.
“‘Well,’ said Phelim to himself, ‘of all the inhuman sport I ever saw in my born days that is the ugliest and the dirtiest way of putting a fish out of pain that ever I witnessed. Ah! but the poor young creature knows no better. It was her cruel old grandmother, I suppose, that taught her that nasty trick. Wait a while—and so soon as she is married to me, I will be after instructing her in what is the height of good manners when one undertakes to be an angler.’
“‘The top of the morning to you, my bouchal,’ cried the sham Aileen, as she saw Phelim O’Neal O’Donnell reining in his horse, and on the point of dismounting. ‘I hope you’re brave and hearty, and as full of fun and friskiness as Mooney’s goose.’
“‘The Lord preserve us,’ said Phelim to himself; ‘but those are strange words to be in the mouth of a princess. Upon my veracity, the first thing I shall have to do after making a wife of Aileen is to send her to school to learn how to behave herself.’
“‘Why don’t you talk, you big overgrown bosthoon?’ said the sham Aileen. ‘Why, you are as silent as a stuck pig, and are just looking at me this minute as if I had two heads on me.’
“‘And no wonder for me,’ thought Phelim to himself. ‘Oh! murder! murder! but this beautiful young creature does not at all improve upon acquaintance.’
“‘What’s the matter with you?’ asked the sham Aileen; ‘why don’t you speak out like a man? Have you lost the use of your tongue? I thought that what brought you here this morning in such a hurry, was to make love to me. Ah! if you were one of the decent Danes, instead of being what you are, a low, mean, nasty, dirty O’Donnell, that is not the way in which you would be conducting yourself.’
“‘Phew! it is worse and worse she is getting every instant,’ thought Phelim to himself. ‘Ah! that I may never kill a giant, but if she was fifty times as rich as she was bragging the other morning, I wouldn’t submit to her abusing the O’Donnells. I say, Miss Aileen Olliffe,’ continued Phelim, as he took off his yellow velvet cap with the black plumes. ‘Before this love affair between me and you goes any further I would like to have a word of explanation with you.’
“‘You would like to have an explanation,’ repeated the Sham Aileen.
“‘Yes, I would,’ replied Phelim.
“‘Very well, then, my bouchal, you shan’t have it.’
“‘And why not?’
“‘Because it was a favourite saying with my grand-uncle Olaf-ironfist, who killed forty-five men in forty-five duels, that explanations always made matters worse; and instead of peace always led to new and worse quarrels,’ answered the sham Aileen.
“‘And the reason you have for not coming to an explanation is, because you would not like to quarrel with me,’ said Phelim.
“‘Exactly so,’ replied the sham Aileen, casting her line into the stream.
“‘Very good,’ thought Phelim to himself, ‘she is at last returning to reason. That is the only sensible word that has come from her pretty lips this morning.’
“‘And do you know,’ continued the sham Aileen, ‘why I would not like to quarrel with you?’
“‘No, I do not; but I should like to hear it,’ replied Phelim, feeling that he was again beginning to be very fond of her.
“‘Why, then,’ replied the sham Aileen, ‘the only reason that I would not like to quarrel with you is, that I want to get married.’
“‘You want to get married?’ exclaimed the astounded Phelim.
“‘By Dad, I do,’ answered the sham Aileen; ‘I am dying to be married, and I don’t much care to whom—so that my husband is a tall, stout, slaughtering young man, six feet two in height, and able to box his corner. All is fish that comes to my net. If I cannot get a trout, why then I am content to be biting the head off a gudgeon’—(and as she said this, she unhooked a poor little gudgeon, crunched its head between her teeth, and cast it into the basket by her side). ‘If I have not the good luck to meet with a rollicking, roystering, skull-splitting Dane, like my brave old grand-uncle Olaf of the Iron-fist, why then I must content myself with one of the low skulking Irish; and as I cannot meet with any other, why I am ready to give my hand and fortune to one of the low, mean, mongrel, dirty O’Donnells.’
“‘The O’Donnells ought to feel very much obliged to you for the fine compliments you pay them,’ said Phelim, in a state of great indignation.
“‘It is they that ought,’ said the sham Aileen. ‘It is little one of such a low-born crew could ever have supposed that the honour would befall him of being married to the kitchen-maid of a Danish king, much less to a Danish king’s granddaughter.’
“‘Oh! this poor, beautiful, young creature must be as mad as a March hare,’ thought Phelim to himself. “But I will not leave her in this way, without trying to discover the cause of what seems to me to be incomprehensible.’
“‘So you are again as mute as a fish!’ said the sham Aileen. ‘A penny for your thoughts, you overgrown omathaun.’
“‘Why, then, Miss Aileen,’ said Phelim, ‘I would like to ask you a civil question, if you will promise to give me a civil answer?’
“‘Good manners and you might be married, for you are not in the least degree akin to one another,’ replied the sham Aileen. ‘Sure, if you were not as ignorant as a donkey you ought to know that a pretty girl of eighteen can never be anything but civil to a well-dressed youngster. Ask your question like a man, and I’ll answer you as becomes a lady, who has more money in her pocket than ever belonged to your whole seed, breed, and generation.’
“‘Then the question I have to ask you is this,’ said Phelim, becoming very much disgusted with the Danish beauty before him, ‘what in the world is the reason that both your manners and your language are so very different this morning from what they were two days ago?’
“‘Oh, oh!’ said the sham Aileen; ‘so, my bright youth, you do not think me as agreeable this morning as the day you first saw me?’
“‘By no manner of means,’ gruffly replied Phelim.
“‘Tell the truth, and shame the devil, is an old Danish proverb,’ observed the sham Alieen; ‘and as you asked a civil question, I will give you a civil and candid answer. The only reason for a difference between my manners and language upon this and that occasion—if there is any real difference between them—is the slight difference that is caused by a small drop of drink.’
“‘A small drop of drink!’ exclaimed Phelim, utterly confounded by this confession. ‘You don’t mean to say that you drink?’
“‘Drink! Don’t I, indeed! Does a duck swim?’ answered the sham Aileen.
“‘What! drink spirits?’ cried the horrified Phelim.
“‘Yes, the real stuff! the only good thing that ever was made in or ever went out of Ireland—genuine Irish whiskey!’
“‘Oh! impossible, impossible! you slander yourself, hapless Aileen!’ cried the heart-broken Phelim.
“‘Impossible! Ah! then listen to the poor gommilew, how little he knows of the ways of us women!’ said the pretended Aileen. ‘Did you ever know a good sportsman who ventured out in the hunting-field with the dogs, or by the river-side with a rod, and yet was seen in either place without a well-filled pocket-pistol of strong drink? Look here, my bouchal,’ added the sham Aileen, as she drew forth a pint-bottle from her pocket, which appeared to be half-filled with whiskey.
“‘Oh! there is no standing this,’ cried Phelim, bounding over the stream. ‘Nothing now but the evidence of my own senses will convince me you are telling the truth to your own dishonour.’
“As Phelim thus spoke, he snatched the bottle from the hand of the witch, uncorked it, smelled the contents, tasted them, and, spitting out the fairy liquid on the earth, he exclaimed:
“‘Miserable young woman! your wicked grandmother must have laid some damnable spell upon you this morning; you are bewitched by some of her hellish charms.’
“He could say no more. He had imbibed a particle of the witch’s noxious potion.
“‘Ah! as I have got you within arm’s length of me,’ cried the sham Aileen, her fingers now clammy with enchanting ointments, ‘I cannot refrain from embracing you. Kiss me, my bouchal!’
“The old woman’s lips, moistened with a powerful charm, pressed the lips of the young man, and her baleful breath was exhaled upon him.
“‘Oh! murder, murder! I am poisoned entirely!’ said Phelim to himself. ‘Oh! this creature must have been feeding for a century upon onions, leeks, garlic, and assafœtida! Oh! this cannot be a young woman at all! Ah!’ exclaimed Phelim, as he perceived the smooth features of Aileen shrivel up into the withered, wrinkled face of Moyra Olliffe. ‘Ah! you accursed hag! I knew well that my darling could never have spoken nor acted in the horrid way that you, when disguised as her, were going on. I will have you burned, you atrocious, mischief-making—’
“Phelim could say no more; the fearful necromantic charm had done its work, and he fell without sense or motion at the feet of the malignant Danish witch.