The Purcell Papers, Volume 1
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Part 2 out of 3

indemnify himself for his public and
apparent servitude and self-denial, he in
private exacted a degree of respectful
homage from his so-called master, totally
inconsistent with the relation generally
supposed to exist between them.

This man's personal appearance was, to
say the least of it, extremely odd; he was
low in stature; and this defect was
enhanced by a distortion of the spine, so
considerable as almost to amount to a hunch;
his features, too, had all that sharpness and
sickliness of hue which generally accompany
deformity; he wore his hair, which
was black as soot, in heavy neglected ringlets
about his shoulders, and always without
powder--a peculiarity in those days. There
was something unpleasant, too, in the
circumstance that he never raised his
eyes to meet those of another; this fact
was often cited as a proof of his being
something not quite right, and said to
result not from the timidity which is
supposed in most cases to induce this habit,
but from a consciousness that his eye
possessed a power which, if exhibited, would
betray a supernatural origin. Once, and
once only, had he violated this sinister
observance: it was on the occasion of Sir
Robert's hopes having been most bitterly
disappointed; his lady, after a severe and
dangerous confinement, gave birth to a
dead child. Immediately after the intelligence
had been made known, a servant,
having upon some business passed outside
the gate of the castle-yard, was met by
Jacque, who, contrary to his wont, accosted
him, observing, 'So, after all the pother,
the son and heir is still-born.' This
remark was accompanied by a chuckling
laugh, the only approach to merriment
which he was ever known to exhibit.
The servant, who was really disappointed,
having hoped for holiday times, feasting and
debauchery with impunity during the
rejoicings which would have accompanied a
christening, turned tartly upon the little
valet, telling him that he should let Sir
Robert know how he had received the
tidings which should have filled any faithful
servant with sorrow; and having once
broken the ice, he was proceeding with
increasing fluency, when his harangue was
cut short and his temerity punished, by
the little man raising his head and treating
him to a scowl so fearful, half-demoniac,
half-insane, that it haunted his imagination
in nightmares and nervous tremors
for months after.

To this man Lady Ardagh had, at first
sight, conceived an antipathy amounting to
horror, a mixture of loathing and dread so
very powerful that she had made it a
particular and urgent request to Sir Robert,
that he would dismiss him, offering herself,
from that property which Sir Robert had
by the marriage settlements left at her own
disposal, to provide handsomely for him,
provided only she might be relieved from
the continual anxiety and discomfort
which the fear of encountering him induced.

Sir Robert, however, would not hear of
it; the request seemed at first to agitate
and distress him; but when still urged in
defiance of his peremptory refusal, he burst
into a violent fit of fury; he spoke darkly
of great sacrifices which he had made, and
threatened that if the request were at any
time renewed he would leave both her and
the country for ever. This was, however,
a solitary instance of violence; his general
conduct towards Lady Ardagh, though at
no time uxorious, was certainly kind and
respectful, and he was more than repaid
in the fervent attachment which she bore
him in return.

Some short time after this strange
interview between Sir Robert and Lady
Ardagh; one night after the family had
retired to bed, and when everything had
been quiet for some time, the bell of Sir
Robert's dressing-room rang suddenly and
violently; the ringing was repeated again
and again at still shorter intervals, and
with increasing violence, as if the person
who pulled the bell was agitated by the
presence of some terrifying and imminent
danger. A servant named Donovan was
the first to answer it; he threw on his
clothes, and hurried to the room.

Sir Robert had selected for his private
room an apartment remote from the bed-
chambers of the castle, most of which lay
in the more modern parts of the mansion,
and secured at its entrance by a double
door. As the servant opened the first of
these, Sir Robert's bell again sounded with
a longer and louder peal; the inner door
resisted his efforts to open it; but after
a few violent struggles, not having been
perfectly secured, or owing to the inadequacy
of the bolt itself, it gave way, and
the servant rushed into the apartment,
advancing several paces before he could
recover himself. As he entered, he heard
Sir Robert's voice exclaiming loudly--
'Wait without, do not come in yet;'
but the prohibition came too late. Near
a low truckle-bed, upon which Sir Robert
sometimes slept, for he was a whimsical
man, in a large armchair, sat, or rather
lounged, the form of the valet Jacque, his
arms folded, and his heels stretched
forward on the floor, so as fully to exhibit his
misshapen legs, his head thrown back, and
his eyes fixed upon his master with a look
of indescribable defiance and derision, while,
as if to add to the strange insolence of his
attitude and expression, he had placed upon
his head the black cloth cap which it was
his habit to wear.

Sir Robert was standing before him, at
the distance of several yards, in a posture
expressive of despair, terror, and what
might be called an agony of humility.
He waved his hand twice or thrice, as if
to dismiss the servant, who, however,
remained fixed on the spot where he had
first stood; and then, as if forgetting
everything but the agony within him, he pressed
his clenched hands on his cold damp brow,
and dashed away the heavy drops that
gathered chill and thickly there.

Jacque broke the silence.

'Donovan,' said he, 'shake up that
drone and drunkard, Carlton; tell him
that his master directs that the travelling
carriage shall be at the door within half-

The servant paused, as if in doubt as to
what he should do; but his scruples were
resolved by Sir Robert's saying hurriedly,
'Go--go, do whatever he directs; his
commands are mine; tell Carlton the

The servant hurried to obey, and in
about half-an-hour the carriage was at the
door, and Jacque, having directed the
coachman to drive to B----n, a small
town at about the distance of twelve
miles--the nearest point, however, at
which post-horses could be obtained--
stepped into the vehicle, which accordingly
quitted the castle immediately.

Although it was a fine moonlight night,
the carriage made its way but very slowly,
and after the lapse of two hours the travellers
had arrived at a point about eight miles
from the castle, at which the road strikes
through a desolate and heathy flat, sloping
up distantly at either side into bleak
undulatory hills, in whose monotonous sweep
the imagination beholds the heaving of
some dark sluggish sea, arrested in its
first commotion by some preternatural
power. It is a gloomy and divested spot;
there is neither tree nor habitation near it;
its monotony is unbroken, except by here
and there the grey front of a rock peering
above the heath, and the effect is rendered
yet more dreary and spectral by the
exaggerated and misty shadows which the
moon casts along the sloping sides of the

When they had gained about the
centre of this tract, Carlton, the coachman,
was surprised to see a figure standing
at some distance in advance, immediately
beside the road, and still more so when,
on coming up, he observed that it was no
other than Jacque whom he believed to
be at that moment quietly seated in the
carriage; the coachman drew up, and
nodding to him, the little valet exclaimed:

'Carlton, I have got the start of you;
the roads are heavy, so I shall even take
care of myself the rest of the way. Do
you make your way back as best you can,
and I shall follow my own nose.'

So saying, he chucked a purse into the
lap of the coachman, and turning off at a
right angle with the road, he began to
move rapidly away in the direction of the
dark ridge that lowered in the distance.

The servant watched him until he was
lost in the shadowy haze of night; and
neither he nor any of the inmates of the
castle saw Jacque again. His disappearance,
as might have been expected, did not cause
any regret among the servants and dependants
at the castle; and Lady Ardagh
did not attempt to conceal her delight;
but with Sir Robert matters were different,
for two or three days subsequent to this
event he confined himself to his room, and
when he did return to his ordinary
occupations, it was with a gloomy indifference,
which showed that he did so more from
habit than from any interest he felt in
them. He appeared from that moment
unaccountably and strikingly changed, and
thenceforward walked through life as a
thing from which he could derive neither
profit nor pleasure. His temper, however,
so far from growing wayward or
morose, became, though gloomy, very--
almost unnaturally--placid and cold; but
his spirits totally failed, and he grew silent
and abstracted.

These sombre habits of mind, as might
have been anticipated, very materially
affected the gay house-keeping of the
castle; and the dark and melancholy
spirit of its master seemed to have
communicated itself to the very domestics,
almost to the very walls of the mansion.

Several years rolled on in this way, and
the sounds of mirth and wassail had long
been strangers to the castle, when Sir
Robert requested his lady, to her great
astonishment, to invite some twenty or
thirty of their friends to spend the Christmas,
which was fast approaching, at the
castle. Lady Ardagh gladly complied,
and her sister Mary, who still continued
unmarried, and Lady D---- were of
course included in the invitations. Lady
Ardagh had requested her sisters to set
forward as early as possible, in order that
she might enjoy a little of their society
before the arrival of the other guests;
and in compliance with this request they
left Dublin almost immediately upon
receiving the invitation, a little more than
a week before the arrival of the festival
which was to be the period at which the
whole party were to muster.

For expedition's sake it was arranged
that they should post, while Lady D----'s
groom was to follow with her horses,
she taking with herself her own maid and
one male servant. They left the city
when the day was considerably spent, and
consequently made but three stages in
the first day; upon the second, at about
eight in the evening, they had reached the
town of K----k, distant about fifteen
miles from Castle Ardagh. Here, owing
to Miss F----d's great fatigue, she having
been for a considerable time in a very
delicate state of health, it was determined
to put up for the night. They, accord-
ingly, took possession of the best sitting-
room which the inn commanded, and Lady
D----remained in it to direct and urge
the preparations for some refreshment,
which the fatigues of the day had rendered
necessary, while her younger sister
retired to her bed-chamber to rest there
for a little time, as the parlour commanded
no such luxury as a sofa.

Miss F----d was, as I have already
stated, at this time in very delicate health;
and upon this occasion the exhaustion of
fatigue, and the dreary badness of the
weather, combined to depress her spirits.
Lady D---- had not been left long to
herself, when the door communicating
with the passage was abruptly opened,
and her sister Mary entered in a state of
great agitation; she sat down pale and
trembling upon one of the chairs, and it
was not until a copious flood of tears had
relieved her, that she became sufficiently
calm to relate the cause of her excitement
and distress. It was simply this. Almost
immediately upon lying down upon the
bed she sank into a feverish and unrefreshing
slumber; images of all grotesque
shapes and startling colours flitted before
her sleeping fancy with all the rapidity and
variety of the changes in a kaleidoscope.
At length, as she described it, a mist
seemed to interpose itself between her
sight and the ever-shifting scenery which
sported before her imagination, and out
of this cloudy shadow gradually emerged
a figure whose back seemed turned
towards the sleeper; it was that of a lady,
who, in perfect silence, was expressing
as far as pantomimic gesture could, by
wringing her hands, and throwing her
head from side to side, in the manner of
one who is exhausted by the over indulgence,
by the very sickness and impatience
of grief; the extremity of misery. For a
long time she sought in vain to catch a
glimpse of the face of the apparition, who
thus seemed to stir and live before her.
But at length the figure seemed to move
with an air of authority, as if about to
give directions to some inferior, and in
doing so, it turned its head so as to
display, with a ghastly distinctness, the
features of Lady Ardagh, pale as death,
with her dark hair all dishevelled, and
her eyes dim and sunken with weeping.
The revulsion of feeling which Miss
F----d experienced at this disclosure--
for up to that point she had contemplated
the appearance rather with a sense of
curiosity and of interest, than of anything
deeper--was so horrible, that the shock
awoke her perfectly. She sat up in the
bed, and looked fearfully around the
room, which was imperfectly lighted by a
single candle burning dimly, as if she
almost expected to see the reality of her
dreadful vision lurking in some corner of
the chamber. Her fears were, however,
verified, though not in the way she
expected; yet in a manner sufficiently
horrible--for she had hardly time to
breathe and to collect her thoughts, when
she heard, or thought she heard, the
voice of her sister, Lady Ardagh, sometimes
sobbing violently, and sometimes
almost shrieking as if in terror, and
calling upon her and Lady D----, with the
most imploring earnestness of despair, for
God's sake to lose no time in coming to
her. All this was so horribly distinct,
that it seemed as if the mourner was
standing within a few yards of the spot
where Miss F----d lay. She sprang from
the bed, and leaving the candle in the
room behind her, she made her way in the
dark through the passage, the voice still
following her, until as she arrived at the
door of the sitting-room it seemed to die
away in low sobbing.

As soon as Miss F----d was tolerably
recovered, she declared her determination
to proceed directly, and without further
loss of time, to Castle Ardagh. It was
not without much difficulty that Lady
D---- at length prevailed upon her to
consent to remain where they then were,
until morning should arrive, when it was
to be expected that the young lady would
be much refreshed by at least remaining
quiet for the night, even though sleep
were out of the question. Lady D----
was convinced, from the nervous and
feverish symptoms which her sister
exhibited, that she had already done too
much, and was more than ever satisfied of
the necessity of prosecuting the journey
no further upon that day. After some
time she persuaded her sister to return to
her room, where she remained with her
until she had gone to bed, and appeared
comparatively composed. Lady D----
then returned to the parlour, and not
finding herself sleepy, she remained sitting
by the fire. Her solitude was a second
time broken in upon, by the entrance of
her sister, who now appeared, if possible,
more agitated than before. She said that
Lady D---- had not long left the room,
when she was roused by a repetition of
the same wailing and lamentations, accom-
panied by the wildest and most agonized
supplications that no time should be lost
in coming to Castle Ardagh, and all in her
sister's voice, and uttered at the same
proximity as before. This time the voice
had followed her to the very door of the
sitting-room, and until she closed it,
seemed to pour forth its cries and sobs at
the very threshold.

Miss F----d now most positively
declared that nothing should prevent her
proceeding instantly to the castle, adding
that if Lady D---- would not accompany
her, she would go on by herself.
Superstitious feelings are at all times more or
less contagious, and the last century
afforded a soil much more congenial to
their growth than the present. Lady
D---- was so far affected by her sister's
terrors, that she became, at least, uneasy;
and seeing that her sister was immovably
determined upon setting forward immediately,
she consented to accompany her
forthwith. After a slight delay, fresh
horses were procured, and the two ladies
and their attendants renewed their journey,
with strong injunctions to the driver to
quicken their rate of travelling as much as
possible, and promises of reward in case of
his doing so.

Roads were then in much worse condition
throughout the south, even than
they now are; and the fifteen miles which
modern posting would have passed in little
more than an hour and a half, were not
completed even with every possible exertion
in twice the time. Miss F----d had
been nervously restless during the journey.
Her head had been constantly out of
the carriage window; and as they ap-
proached the entrance to the castle
demesne, which lay about a mile from the
building, her anxiety began to communicate
itself to her sister. The postillion
had just dismounted, and was endeavouring
to open the gate--at that time a
necessary trouble; for in the middle of
the last century porter's lodges were not
common in the south of Ireland, and locks
and keys almost unknown. He had just
succeeded in rolling back the heavy oaken
gate so as to admit the vehicle, when a
mounted servant rode rapidly down the
avenue, and drawing up at the carriage,
asked of the postillion who the party were;
and on hearing, he rode round to the
carriage window and handed in a note,
which Lady D---- received. By the
assistance of one of the coach-lamps they
succeeded in deciphering it. It was
scrawled in great agitation, and ran

BOTH,--In God's name lose no time, I am
frightened and miserable; I cannot explain
all till you come. I am too much terrified
to write coherently; but understand
me--hasten--do not waste a minute. I
am afraid you will come too late.
'E. A.'

The servant could tell nothing more
than that the castle was in great confusion,
and that Lady Ardagh had been crying
bitterly all the night. Sir Robert was
perfectly well. Altogether at a loss as to
the cause of Lady Ardagh's great distress,
they urged their way up the steep and
broken avenue which wound through the
crowding trees, whose wild and grotesque
branches, now left stripped and naked by the
blasts of winter, stretched drearily across
the road. As the carriage drew up in the
area before the door, the anxiety of the
ladies almost amounted to agony; and
scarcely waiting for the assistance of their
attendant, they sprang to the ground, and
in an instant stood at the castle door.
From within were distinctly audible the
sounds of lamentation and weeping, and
the suppressed hum of voices as if of those
endeavouring to soothe the mourner.
The door was speedily opened, and when
the ladies entered, the first object which
met their view was their sister, Lady
Ardagh, sitting on a form in the hall,
weeping and wringing her hands in deep
agony. Beside her stood two old, withered
crones, who were each endeavouring in
their own way to administer consolation,
without even knowing or caring what the
subject of her grief might be.

Immediately on Lady Ardagh's seeing
her sisters, she started up, fell on their
necks, and kissed them again and again
without speaking, and then taking them
each by a hand, still weeping bitterly, she
led them into a small room adjoining the
hall, in which burned a light, and, having
closed the door, she sat down between
them. After thanking them for the haste
they had made, she proceeded to tell them,
in words incoherent from agitation, that
Sir Robert had in private, and in the most
solemn manner, told her that he should die
upon that night, and that he had occupied
himself during the evening in giving minute
directions respecting the arrangements of
his funeral. Lady D---- here suggested
the possibility of his labouring under the
hallucinations of a fever; but to this Lady
Ardagh quickly replied:

'Oh! no, no! Would to God I could
think it. Oh! no, no! Wait till you
have seen him. There is a frightful calmness
about all he says and does; and his
directions are all so clear, and his mind so
perfectly collected, it is impossible, quite
impossible.' And she wept yet more

At that moment Sir Robert's voice was
heard in issuing some directions, as he
came downstairs; and Lady Ardagh
exclaimed, hurriedly:

'Go now and see him yourself. He is
in the hall.'

Lady D---- accordingly went out into
the hall, where Sir Robert met her; and,
saluting her with kind politeness, he said,
after a pause:

'You are come upon a melancholy mission--
the house is in great confusion, and
some of its inmates in considerable grief.'
He took her hand, and looking fixedly in
her face, continued: 'I shall not live to
see to-morrow's sun shine.'

'You are ill, sir, I have no doubt,'
replied she; 'but I am very certain we shall
see you much better to-morrow, and still
better the day following.'

'I am NOT ill, sister,' replied he. 'Feel
my temples, they are cool; lay your finger
to my pulse, its throb is slow and
temperate. I never was more perfectly in
health, and yet do I know that ere three
hours be past, I shall be no more.'

'Sir, sir,' said she, a good deal startled,
but wishing to conceal the impression which
the calm solemnity of his manner had, in
her own despite, made upon her, 'Sir, you
should not jest; you should not even speak
lightly upon such subjects. You trifle
with what is sacred--you are sporting with
the best affections of your wife----'

'Stay, my good lady,' said he; 'if when
this clock shall strike the hour of three, I
shall be anything but a helpless clod, then
upbraid me. Pray return now to your
sister. Lady Ardagh is, indeed, much to
be pitied; but what is past cannot now be
helped. I have now a few papers to
arrange, and some to destroy. I shall see
you and Lady Ardagh before my death;
try to compose her--her sufferings distress
me much; but what is past cannot now be

Thus saying, he went upstairs, and Lady
D---- returned to the room where her
sisters were sitting.

'Well,' exclaimed Lady Ardagh, as she
re-entered, 'is it not so?--do you still
doubt?--do you think there is any hope?"

Lady D---- was silent.

'Oh! none, none, none,' continued she;
'I see, I see you are convinced.' And she
wrung her hands in bitter agony.

'My dear sister,' said Lady D----,
'there is, no doubt, something strange in
all that has appeared in this matter; but
still I cannot but hope that there may be
something deceptive in all the apparent
calmness of Sir Robert. I still must
believe that some latent fever has affected
his mind, or that, owing to the state of
nervous depression into which he has been
sinking, some trivial occurrence has been
converted, in his disordered imagination,
into an augury foreboding his immediate

In such suggestions, unsatisfactory even
to those who originated them, and doubly
so to her whom they were intended to
comfort, more than two hours passed; and
Lady D---- was beginning to hope that
the fated term might elapse without the
occurrence of any tragical event, when Sir
Robert entered the room. On coming in,
he placed his finger with a warning gesture
upon his lips, as if to enjoin silence; and
then having successively pressed the hands
of his two sisters-in-law, he stooped sadly
over the fainting form of his lady, and
twice pressed her cold, pale forehead, with
his lips, and then passed silently out of
the room.

Lady D----, starting up, followed to the
door, and saw him take a candle in the hall,
and walk deliberately up the stairs. Stimulated
by a feeling of horrible curiosity, she
continued to follow him at a distance. She
saw him enter his own private room, and
heard him close and lock the door after him.
Continuing to follow him as far as she
could, she placed herself at the door of the
chamber, as noiselessly as possible, where
after a little time she was joined by her
two sisters, Lady Ardagh and Miss F----d.
In breathless silence they listened to what
should pass within. They distinctly heard
Sir Robert pacing up and down the room
for some time; and then, after a pause, a
sound as if some one had thrown himself
heavily upon the bed. At this moment
Lady D----, forgetting that the door had
been secured within, turned the handle for
the purpose of entering; when some one from
the inside, close to the door, said, 'Hush!
hush!' The same lady, now much alarmed,
knocked violently at the door; there was
no answer. She knocked again more vio-
lently, with no further success. Lady
Ardagh, now uttering a piercing shriek,
sank in a swoon upon the floor. Three or
four servants, alarmed by the noise, now
hurried upstairs, and Lady Ardagh was
carried apparently lifeless to her own
chamber. They then, after having knocked
long and loudly in vain, applied themselves
to forcing an entrance into Sir Robert's
room. After resisting some violent efforts,
the door at length gave way, and all
entered the room nearly together. There
was a single candle burning upon a table at
the far end of the apartment; and stretched
upon the bed lay Sir Robert Ardagh. He
was a corpse--the eyes were open--no
convulsion had passed over the features, or
distorted the limbs--it seemed as if the
soul had sped from the body without a
struggle to remain there. On touching
the body it was found to be cold as clay--
all lingering of the vital heat had left it.
They closed the ghastly eyes of the corpse,
and leaving it to the care of those who
seem to consider it a privilege of their age
and sex to gloat over the revolting spectacle
of death in all its stages, they
returned to Lady Ardagh, now a widow.
The party assembled at the castle, but the
atmosphere was tainted with death. Grief
there was not much, but awe and panic
were expressed in every face. The guests
talked in whispers, and the servants walked
on tiptoe, as if afraid of the very noise of
their own footsteps.

The funeral was conducted almost with
splendour. The body, having been conveyed,
in compliance with Sir Robert's last
directions, to Dublin, was there laid within
the ancient walls of St. Audoen's Church
--where I have read the epitaph, telling
the age and titles of the departed dust.
Neither painted escutcheon, nor marble
slab, have served to rescue from oblivion
the story of the dead, whose very name
will ere long moulder from their tracery

'Et sunt sua fata sepulchris.'[1]

[1] This prophecy has since been realised; for the
aisle in which Sir Robert's remains were laid has been
suffered to fall completely to decay; and the tomb
which marked his grave, and other monuments more
curious, form now one indistinguishable mass of rubbish.

The events which I have recorded are
not imaginary. They are FACTS; and
there lives one whose authority none would
venture to question, who could vindicate
the accuracy of every statement which I
have set down, and that, too, with
all the circumstantiality of an eye-

[2] This paper, from a memorandum, I find to have
been written in 1803. The lady to whom allusion is
made, I believe to be Miss Mary F----d. She never
married, and survived both her sisters, living to a very
advanced age.


Being a third Extract from the legacy of the late Francis
Purcell, P. P. of Drumcoolagh.

There is something in the decay
of ancient grandeur to interest
even the most unconcerned
spectator--the evidences of greatness, of
power, and of pride that survive the wreck
of time, proving, in mournful contrast with
present desolation and decay, what WAS in
other days, appeal, with a resistless power,
to the sympathies of our nature. And
when, as we gaze on the scion of some
ruined family, the first impulse of nature
that bids us regard his fate with interest
and respect is justified by the recollection
of great exertions and self-devotion and
sacrifices in the cause of a lost country and
of a despised religion--sacrifices and
efforts made with all the motives of faithfulness
and of honour, and terminating in
ruin--in such a case respect becomes
veneration, and the interest we feel amounts
almost to a passion.

It is this feeling which has thrown
the magic veil of romance over every
roofless castle and ruined turret throughout
our country; it is this feeling that,
so long as a tower remains above
the level of the soil, so long as one scion
of a prostrate and impoverished family
survives, will never suffer Ireland
to yield to the stranger more than the
'mouth honour' which fear compels.[3] I
who have conversed viva voce et propria
persona with those whose recollections
could run back so far as the times previous
to the confiscations which followed the
Revolution of 1688--whose memory could
repeople halls long roofless and desolate,
and point out the places where greatness
once had been, may feel all this more
strongly, and with a more vivid interest,
than can those whose sympathies are
awakened by the feebler influence of what
may be called the PICTURESQUE effects of
ruin and decay.

[3] This passage serves (mirabile dictu) to corroborate a
statement of Mr. O'Connell's, which occurs in his
evidence given before the House of Commons, wherein
he affirms that the principles of the Irish priesthood
'ARE democratic, and were those of Jacobinism.'--See
digest of the evidence upon the state of Ireland, given
before the House of Commons.

There do, indeed, still exist some
fragments of the ancient Catholic families of
Ireland; but, alas! what VERY fragments!
They linger like the remnants of her
aboriginal forests, reft indeed of their
strength and greatness, but proud even in
decay. Every winter thins their ranks,
and strews the ground with the wreck of
their loftiest branches; they are at best
but tolerated in the land which gave them
birth--objects of curiosity, perhaps of
pity, to one class, but of veneration to

The O'Connors, of Castle Connor, were
an ancient Irish family. The name recurs
frequently in our history, and is generally
to be found in a prominent place whenever
periods of tumult or of peril called forth
the courage and the enterprise of this
country. After the accession of William
III., the storm of confiscation which
swept over the land made woeful havoc
in their broad domains. Some fragments
of property, however, did remain to them,
and with it the building which had for
ages formed the family residence.

About the year 17--, my uncle, a
Catholic priest, became acquainted with the
inmates of Castle Connor, and after a time
introduced me, then a lad of about fifteen,
full of spirits, and little dreaming that a
profession so grave as his should ever
become mine.

The family at that time consisted of but
two members, a widow lady and her only
son, a young man aged about eighteen. In
our early days the progress from acquaintance
to intimacy, and from intimacy to
friendship is proverbially rapid; and young
O'Connor and I became, in less than a
month, close and confidential companions--
an intercourse which ripened gradually into
an attachment ardent, deep, and devoted--
such as I believe young hearts only are
capable of forming.

He had been left early fatherless, and
the representative and heir of his family.
His mother's affection for him was intense
in proportion as there existed no other
object to divide it--indeed--such love as
that she bore him I have never seen
elsewhere. Her love was better bestowed
than that of mothers generally is, for
young O'Connor, not without some of the
faults, had certainly many of the most
engaging qualities of youth. He had all the
frankness and gaiety which attract, and
the generosity of heart which confirms
friendship; indeed, I never saw a person
so universally popular; his very faults
seemed to recommend him; he was wild,
extravagant, thoughtless, and fearlessly
adventurous--defects of character which,
among the peasantry of Ireland, are
honoured as virtues. The combination of
these qualities, and the position which
O'Connor occupied as representative of an
ancient Irish Catholic family--a peculiarly
interesting one to me, one of the old faith--
endeared him to me so much that I have
never felt the pangs of parting more keenly
than when it became necessary, for the
finishing of his education, that he should
go abroad.

Three years had passed away before I
saw him again. During the interval,
however, I had frequently heard from him,
so that absence had not abated the warmth
of our attachment. Who could tell of the
rejoicings that marked the evening of his
return? The horses were removed from
the chaise at the distance of a mile from
the castle, while it and its contents were
borne rapidly onward almost by the pressure
of the multitude, like a log upon a
torrent. Bonfires blared far and near--
bagpipes roared and fiddles squeaked; and,
amid the thundering shouts of thousands,
the carriage drew up before the

In an instant young O'Connor was upon
the ground, crying, 'Thank you, boys--
thank you, boys;' while a thousand hands
were stretched out from all sides to grasp
even a finger of his. Still, amid shouts of
'God bless your honour--long may you
reign!' and 'Make room there, boys! clear
the road for the masther!' he reached the
threshold of the castle, where stood his
mother weeping for joy.

Oh! who could describe that embrace,
or the enthusiasm with which it was
witnessed? 'God bless him to you, my lady--
glory to ye both!' and 'Oh, but he is a fine
young gentleman, God bless him!'
resounded on all sides, while hats flew up in
volleys that darkened the moon; and
when at length, amid the broad delighted
grins of the thronging domestics, whose
sense of decorum precluded any more
boisterous evidence of joy, they reached
the parlour, then giving way to the fulness
of her joy the widowed mother kissed and
blessed him and wept in turn. Well
might any parent be proud to claim as son
the handsome stripling who now represented
the Castle Connor family; but to
her his beauty had a peculiar charm, for it
bore a striking resemblance to that of her
husband, the last O'Connor.

I know not whether partiality blinded
me, or that I did no more than justice to
my friend in believing that I had never
seen so handsome a young man. I am
inclined to think the latter. He was rather
tall, very slightly and elegantly made; his
face was oval, and his features decidedly
Spanish in cast and complexion, but with
far more vivacity of expression than
generally belongs to the beauty of that nation.
The extreme delicacy of his features and
the varied animation of his countenance
made him appear even younger than his
years--an illusion which the total absence
of everything studied in his manners
seemed to confirm. Time had wrought no
small change in me, alike in mind and
spirits; but in the case of O'Connor it
seemed to have lost its power to alter.
His gaiety was undamped, his generosity
unchilled; and though the space which
had intervened between our parting and
reunion was but brief, yet at the period of
life at which we were, even a shorter
interval than that of three years has
frequently served to form or DEform a

Weeks had passed away since the return
of O'Connor, and scarce a day had elapsed
without my seeing him, when the
neighbourhood was thrown into an unusual state
of excitement by the announcement of a
race-ball to be celebrated at the assembly-
room of the town of T----, distant scarcely
two miles from Castle Connor.

Young O'Connor, as I had expected,
determined at once to attend it; and
having directed in vain all the powers of
his rhetoric to persuade his mother to
accompany him, he turned the whole
battery of his logic upon me, who, at that
time, felt a reluctance stronger than that
of mere apathy to mixing in any of these
scenes of noisy pleasure for which for
many reasons I felt myself unfitted. He
was so urgent and persevering, however,
that I could not refuse; and I found myself
reluctantly obliged to make up my
mind to attend him upon the important
night to the spacious but ill-finished building,
which the fashion and beauty of the
county were pleased to term an assembly-

When we entered the apartment, we
found a select few, surrounded by a crowd
of spectators, busily performing a minuet,
with all the congees and flourishes which
belonged to that courtly dance; and my
companion, infected by the contagion of
example, was soon, as I had anticipated,
waving his chapeau bras, and gracefully
bowing before one of the prettiest girls in
the room. I had neither skill nor spirits to
qualify me to follow his example; and as
the fulness of the room rendered it easy to
do so without its appearing singular, I
determined to be merely a spectator of
the scene which surrounded me, without
taking an active part in its amusements.

The room was indeed very much
crowded, so that its various groups, formed
as design or accident had thrown the
parties together, afforded no small fund
of entertainment to the contemplative
observer. There were the dancers, all
gaiety and good-humour; a little further
off were the tables at which sat the card-
players, some plying their vocation with
deep and silent anxiety--for in those days
gaming often ran very high in such places
--and others disputing with all the
vociferous pertinacity of undisguised ill-
temper. There, again, were the sallow,
blue-nosed, grey-eyed dealers in whispered
scandal; and, in short, there is scarcely a
group or combination to be met with in
the court of kings which might not have
found a humble parallel in the assembly-
room of T----.

I was allowed to indulge in undisturbed
contemplation, for I suppose I was not
known to more than five or six in the
room. I thus had leisure not only to
observe the different classes into which the
company had divided itself, but to amuse
myself by speculating as to the rank and
character of many of the individual actors
in the drama.

Among many who have long since
passed from my memory, one person for
some time engaged my attention, and that
person, for many reasons, I shall not soon
forget. He was a tall, square-shouldered
man, who stood in a careless attitude,
leaning with his back to the wall; he
seemed to have secluded himself from the
busy multitudes which moved noisily and
gaily around him, and nobody seemed to
observe or to converse with him. He was
fashionably dressed, but perhaps rather
extravagantly; his face was full and
heavy, expressive of sullenness and
stupidity, and marked with the lines of
strong vulgarity; his age might be somewhere
between forty and fifty. Such as I
have endeavoured to describe him, he
remained motionless, his arms doggedly
folded across his broad chest, and turning
his sullen eyes from corner to corner of
the room, as if eager to detect some object
on which to vent his ill-humour.

It is strange, and yet it is true, that one
sometimes finds even in the most commonplace
countenance an undefinable something,
which fascinates the attention, and
forces it to recur again and again, while it
is impossible to tell whether the peculiarity
which thus attracts us lies in feature or
in expression. or in both combined, and
why it is that our observation should be
engrossed by an object which, when
analysed, seems to possess no claim to
interest or even to notice. This
unaccountable feeling I have often experienced,
and I believe I am not singular. but never
in so remarkable a degree as upon this
occasion. My friend O'Connor, having
disposed of his fair partner, was crossing
the room for the purpose of joining me, in
doing which I was surprised to see him
exchange a familiar, almost a cordial,
greeting with the object of my curiosity.
I say I was surprised, for independent of
his very questionable appearance, it struck
me as strange that though so constantly
associated with O'Connor, and, as I
thought, personally acquainted with all
his intimates, I had never before even
seen this individual. I did not fail
immediately to ask him who this gentleman
was. I thought he seemed slightly
embarrassed, but after a moment's pause he
laughingly said that his friend over the
way was too mysterious a personage to
have his name announced in so giddy a
scene as the present; but that on the
morrow he would furnish me with all the
information which I could desire. There
was, I thought, in his affected jocularity a
real awkwardness which appeared to me
unaccountable, and consequently increased
my curiosity; its gratification, however, I
was obliged to defer. At length, wearied
with witnessing amusements in which I
could not sympathise, I left the room, and
did not see O'Connor until late in the next

I had ridden down towards the castle
for the purpose of visiting the O'Connors,
and had nearly reached the avenue leading
to the mansion, when I met my friend.
He was also mounted; and having
answered my inquiries respecting his mother,
he easily persuaded me to accompany him
in his ramble. We had chatted as usual
for some time, when, after a pause,
O'Connor said:

'By the way, Purcell, you expressed
some curiosity respecting the tall,
handsome fellow to whom I spoke last

'I certainly did question you about a
TALL gentleman, but was not aware of his
claims to beauty,' replied I.

'Well, that is as it may be,' said he;
'the ladies think him handsome, and their
opinion upon that score is more valuable
than yours or mine. Do you know,' he
continued, 'I sometimes feel half sorry
that I ever made the fellow's acquaintance:
he is quite a marked man here, and they
tell stories of him that are anything but
reputable, though I am sure without
foundation. I think I know enough about
him to warrant me in saying so.'

'May I ask his name?' inquired I.

'Oh! did not I tell you his name?'
rejoined he. 'You should have heard
that first; he and his name are equally
well known. You will recognise the
individual at once when I tell you that
his name is--Fitzgerald.'

'Fitzgerald!' I repeated. 'Fitzgerald!
--can it be Fitzgerald the duellist?'

'Upon my word you have hit it,' replied
he, laughing; 'but you have accompanied
the discovery with a look of horror more
tragic than appropriate. He is not the
monster you take him for--he has a good
deal of old Irish pride; his temper is
hasty, and he has been unfortunately
thrown in the way of men who have not
made allowance for these things. I am
convinced that in every case in which
Fitzgerald has fought, if the truth could
be discovered, he would be found to have
acted throughout upon the defensive. No
man is mad enough to risk his own life,
except when the doing so is an alternative
to submitting tamely to what he considers
an insult. I am certain that no man ever
engaged in a duel under the consciousness
that he had acted an intentionally aggressive

'When did you make his acquaintance?'
said I.

'About two years ago,' he replied. 'I
met him in France, and you know when
one is abroad it is an ungracious task
to reject the advances of one's countryman,
otherwise I think I should have
avoided his society--less upon my own
account than because I am sure the
acquaintance would be a source of
continual though groundless uneasiness to
my mother. I know, therefore, that you
will not unnecessarily mention its existence
to her.'

I gave him the desired assurance, and

'May I ask you. O'Connor, if, indeed, it
be a fair question, whether this Fitzgerald
at any time attempted to engage you in
anything like gaming?'

This question was suggested by my
having frequently heard Fitzgerald
mentioned as a noted gambler, and sometimes
even as a blackleg. O'Connor seemed, I
thought, slightly embarrassed. He answered:

'No, no--I cannot say that he ever
attempted anything of the kind. I
certainly have played with him, but never
lost to any serious amount; nor can I
recollect that he ever solicited me--indeed
he knows that I have a strong objection to
deep play. YOU must be aware that my
finances could not bear much pruning
down. I never lost more to him at a
sitting than about five pounds, which you
know is nothing. No, you wrong him if
you imagine that he attached himself to
me merely for the sake of such contemptible
winnings as those which a broken-down
Irish gentleman could afford him. Come,
Purcell, you are too hard upon him--you
judge only by report; you must see
him, and decide for yourself.--Suppose we
call upon him now; he is at the inn, in the
High Street, not a mile off.'

I declined the proposal drily.

'Your caution is too easily alarmed,'
said he. 'I do not wish you to make this
man your bosom friend: I merely desire
that you should see and speak to him, and
if you form any acquaintance with him, it
must be of that slight nature which can
be dropped or continued at pleasure.'

From the time that O'Connor had
announced the fact that his friend was no
other than the notorious Fitzgerald, a
foreboding of something calamitous had
come upon me, and it now occurred to me
that if any unpleasantness were to be
feared as likely to result to O'Connor from
their connection, I might find my attempts
to extricate him much facilitated by my
being acquainted, however slightly, with
Fitzgerald. I know not whether the idea
was reasonable--it was certainly natural;
and I told O'Connor that upon second
thoughts I would ride down with him to
the town, and wait upon Mr. Fitzgerald.

We found him at home; and chatted
with him for a considerable time. To my
surprise his manners were perfectly those
of a gentleman, and his conversation, if
not peculiarly engaging, was certainly
amusing. The politeness of his demeanour,
and the easy fluency with which he
told his stories and his anecdotes, many of
them curious, and all more or less
entertaining, accounted to my mind at once for
the facility with which he had improved
his acquaintance with O'Connor; and
when he pressed upon us an invitation to
sup with him that night, I had almost
joined O'Connor in accepting it. I determined,
however, against doing so, for I
had no wish to be on terms of familiarity
with Mr. Fitzgerald; and I knew that
one evening spent together as he proposed
would go further towards establishing an
intimacy between us than fifty morning
visits could do. When I arose to depart,
it was with feelings almost favourable to
Fitzgerald; indeed I was more than half
ashamed to acknowledge to my companion
how complete a revolution in my opinion
respecting his friend half an hour's
conversation with him had wrought. His
appearance certainly WAS against him; but
then, under the influence of his manner,
one lost sight of much of its ungainliness,
and of nearly all its vulgarity; and, on
the whole, I felt convinced that report
had done him grievous wrong, inasmuch
as anybody, by an observance of the
common courtesies of society, might easily
avoid coming into personal collision with
a gentleman so studiously polite as
Fitzgerald. At parting, O'Connor requested
me to call upon him the next day, as he
intended to make trial of the merits of a
pair of greyhounds, which he had thoughts
of purchasing; adding, that if he could
escape in anything like tolerable time
from Fitzgerald's supper-party, he would
take the field soon after ten on the next
morning. At the appointed hour, or
perhaps a little later, I dismounted at
Castle Connor; and, on entering the hall,
I observed a gentleman issuing from
O'Connor's private room. I recognised
him, as he approached, as a Mr.
M'Donough, and, being but slightly
acquainted with him, was about to pass
him with a bow, when he stopped me.
There was something in his manner which
struck me as odd; he seemed a good
deal flurried if not agitated, and said, in a
hurried tone:

'This is a very foolish business, Mr.
Purcell. You have some influence with
my friend O'Connor; I hope you can
induce him to adopt some more moderate
line of conduct than that he has decided
upon. If you will allow me, I will return
for a moment with you, and talk over the
matter again with O'Connor.'

As M'Donough uttered these words, I
felt that sudden sinking of the heart which
accompanies the immediate anticipation of
something dreaded and dreadful. I was
instantly convinced that O'Connor had
quarrelled with Fitzgerald, and I knew
that if such were the case, nothing short
of a miracle could extricate him from the
consequences. I signed to M'Donough to
lead the way, and we entered the little
study together. O'Connor was standing
with his back to the fire; on the table lay
the breakfast-things in the disorder in
which a hurried meal had left them; and
on another smaller table, placed near the
hearth, lay pen, ink, and paper. As soon
as O'Connor saw me, he came forward and
shook me cordially by the hand.

'My dear Purcell,' said he, 'you are the
very man I wanted. I have got into an
ugly scrape, and I trust to my friends to
get me out of it.'

'You have had no dispute with that
man--that Fitzgerald, I hope,' said I,
giving utterance to the conjecture whose
truth I most dreaded.

'Faith, I cannot say exactly what
passed between us,' said he, 'inasmuch
as I was at the time nearly half seas
over; but of this much I am certain, that
we exchanged angry words last night. I
lost my temper most confoundedly; but,
as well as I can recollect, he appeared
perfectly cool and collected. What he said
was, therefore, deliberately said, and on
that account must be resented.'

'My dear O'Connor, are you mad?' I
exclaimed. 'Why will you seek to drive
to a deadly issue a few hasty words,
uttered under the influence of wine, and
forgotten almost as soon as uttered? A
quarrel with Fitzgerald it is twenty
chances to one would terminate fatally
to you.'

'It is exactly because Fitzgerald IS such
an accomplished shot,' said he, 'that I
become liable to the most injurious and
intolerable suspicions if I submit to
anything from him which could be construed
into an affront; and for that reason
Fitzgerald is the very last man to whom I
would concede an inch in a case of

'I do not require you to make any, the
slightest sacrifice of what you term your
honour,' I replied; 'but if you have
actually written a challenge to Fitzgerald,
as I suspect you have done, I conjure you
to reconsider the matter before you
despatch it. From all that I have heard
you say, Fitzgerald has more to complain
of in the altercation which has taken place
than you. You owe it to your only surviving
parent not to thrust yourself thus
wantonly upon--I will say it, the most
appalling danger. Nobody, my dear
O'Connor, can have a doubt of your
courage; and if at any time, which God
forbid, you shall be called upon thus to
risk your life, you should have it in your
power to enter the field under the
consciousness that you have acted throughout
temperately and like a man, and not, as I
fear you now would do, having rashly and
most causelessly endangered your own life
and that of your friend.'

'I believe, Purcell, your are right,' said
he. 'I believe I HAVE viewed the matter
in too decided a light; my note, I think,
scarcely allows him an honourable alternative,
and that is certainly going a step
too far--further than I intended. Mr.
M'Donough, I'll thank you to hand me
the note.'

He broke the seal, and, casting his eye
hastily over it, he continued:

'It is, indeed, a monument of folly. I
am very glad, Purcell, you happened to
come in, otherwise it would have reached
its destination by this time.'

He threw it into the fire; and, after a
moment's pause, resumed:

'You must not mistake me, however.
I am perfectly satisfied as to the propriety,
nay, the necessity, of communicating with
Fitzgerald. The difficulty is in what tone
I should address him. I cannot say that
the man directly affronted me--I cannot
recollect any one expression which I could
lay hold upon as offensive--but his
language was ambiguous, and admitted
frequently of the most insulting construction,
and his manner throughout was
insupportably domineering. I know it
impressed me with the idea that he presumed
upon his reputation as a DEAD SHOT, and
that would be utterly unendurable'

'I would now recommend, as I have
already done,' said M'Donough, 'that if
you write to Fitzgerald, it should be in
such a strain as to leave him at perfect
liberty, without a compromise of honour,
in a friendly way, to satisfy your doubts as
to his conduct.'

I seconded the proposal warmly, and
O'Connor, in a few minutes, finished a
note, which he desired us to read. It was
to this effect:

'O'Connor, of Castle Connor, feeling
that some expressions employed by Mr.
Fitzgerald upon last night, admitted of a
construction offensive to him, and injurious
to his character, requests to know whether
Mr. Fitzgerald intended to convey such a
'Castle Connor, Thursday morning.'

This note was consigned to the care of
Mr. M'Donough, who forthwith departed
to execute his mission. The sound of his
horse's hoofs, as he rode rapidly away,
struck heavily at my heart; but I found
some satisfaction in the reflection that
M'Donough appeared as averse from extreme
measures as I was myself, for I
well knew, with respect to the final result
of the affair, that as much depended upon
the tone adopted by the SECOND, as upon
the nature of the written communication.

I have seldom passed a more anxious
hour than that which intervened between
the departure and the return of that
gentleman. Every instant I imagined I heard
the tramp of a horse approaching, and
every time that a door opened I fancied
it was to give entrance to the eagerly
expected courier. At length I did hear the
hollow and rapid tread of a horse's hoof
upon the avenue. It approached--it
stopped--a hurried step traversed the
hall--the room door opened, and
M'Donough entered.

'You have made great haste,' said
O'Connor; 'did you find him at home?'

'I did,' replied M'Donough, 'and made
the greater haste as Fitzgerald did not let
me know the contents of his reply.'

At the same time he handed a note to
O'Connor, who instantly broke the seal.
The words were as follow:

'Mr. Fitzgerald regrets that anything
which has fallen from him should have
appeared to Mr. O'Connor to be intended
to convey a reflection upon his honour
(none such having been meant), and begs
leave to disavow any wish to quarrel
unnecessarily with Mr. O'Connor.
'T---- Inn, Thursday morning.'

I cannot describe how much I felt
relieved on reading the above communication.
I took O'Connor's hand and pressed
it warmly, but my emotions were deeper
and stronger than I cared to show, for I
was convinced that he had escaped a most
imminent danger. Nobody whose notions
upon the subject are derived from the
duelling of modern times, in which matters
are conducted without any very sanguinary
determination upon either side, and with
equal want of skill and coolness by both
parties, can form a just estimate of the
danger incurred by one who ventured to
encounter a duellist of the old school.
Perfect coolness in the field, and a steadiness
and accuracy (which to the unpractised
appeared almost miraculous) in the
use of the pistol, formed the characteristics
of this class; and in addition to this there
generally existed a kind of professional
pride, which prompted the duellist, in
default of any more malignant feeling,
from motives of mere vanity, to seek the
life of his antagonist. Fitzgerald's career
had been a remarkably successful one, and
I knew that out of thirteen duels which
he had fought in Ireland, in nine cases he
had KILLED his man. In those days one
never heard of the parties leaving the field,
as not unfrequently now occurs, without
blood having been spilt; and the odds
were, of course, in all cases tremendously
against a young and unpractised
man, when matched with an experienced
antagonist. My impression respecting the
magnitude of the danger which my friend
had incurred was therefore by no means

I now questioned O'Connor more
accurately respecting the circumstances of
his quarrel with Fitzgerald. It arose
from some dispute respecting the application
of a rule of piquet, at which game
they had been playing, each interpreting
it favourably to himself, and O'Connor,
having lost considerably, was in no mood
to conduct an argument with temper--an
altercation ensued, and that of rather a
pungent nature, and the result was that
he left Fitzgerald's room rather abruptly,
determined to demand an explanation in
the most peremptory tone. For this
purpose he had sent for M'Donough, and had
commissioned him to deliver the note,
which my arrival had fortunately intercepted.

As it was now past noon, O'Connor
made me promise to remain with him to
dinner; and we sat down a party of three,
all in high spirits at the termination of
our anxieties. It is necessary to mention,
for the purpose of accounting for what
follows, that Mrs. O'Connor, or, as she was
more euphoniously styled, the lady of
Castle Connor, was precluded by ill-health
from taking her place at the dinner-table,
and, indeed, seldom left her room before
four o'clock.[4] We were sitting after
dinner sipping our claret, and talking,
and laughing, and enjoying ourselves
exceedingly, when a servant, stepping into
the room, informed his master that a
gentleman wanted to speak with him.

[4] It is scarcely necessary to remind the reader, that
at the period spoken of, the important hour of dinner
occurred very nearly at noon.

'Request him, with my compliments, to
walk in,' said O'Connor; and in a few
moments a gentleman entered the room.

His appearance was anything but
prepossessing. He was a little above the
middle size, spare, and raw-boned; his
face very red, his features sharp and bluish,
and his age might be about sixty. His
attire savoured a good deal of the SHABBY-
GENTEEL; his clothes, which had much of
tarnished and faded pretension about
them, did not fit him, and had not
improbably fluttered in the stalls of
Plunket Street. We had risen on his
entrance, and O'Connor had twice requested
of him to take a chair at the table, without
his hearing, or at least noticing, the
invitation; while with a slow pace, and
with an air of mingled importance and
effrontery, he advanced into the centre of
the apartment, and regarding our small
party with a supercilious air, he said:

'I take the liberty of introducing
myself--I am Captain M'Creagh, formerly
of the--infantry. My business here is
with a Mr. O'Connor, and the sooner it is
despatched the better.'

'I am the gentleman you name,' said
O'Connor; 'and as you appear impatient,
we had better proceed to your commission
without delay.'

'Then, Mr. O'Connor, you will please
to read that note,' said the captain, placing
a sealed paper in his hand.

O'Connor read it through, and then

'This is very extraordinary indeed.
This note appears to me perfectly unaccountable.'

'You are very young, Mr. O'Connor,'
said the captain, with vulgar familiarity;
'but, without much experience in these
matters, I think you might have anticipated
something like this. You know
the old saying, "Second thoughts are
best;" and so they are like to prove, by

'You will have no objection, Captain
M'Creagh, on the part of your friend, to
my reading this note to these gentlemen;
they are both confidential friends of mine,
and one of them has already acted for me
in this business.'

'I can have no objection,' replied the
captain, 'to your doing what you please
with your own. I have nothing more to
do with that note once I put it safe into
your hand; and when that is once done, it
is all one to me, if you read it to half the
world--that's YOUR concern, and no affair
of mine.'

O'Connor then read the following:

'Mr. Fitzgerald begs leave to state, that
upon re-perusing Mr. O'Connor's communication
of this morning carefully, with
an experienced friend, he is forced to
consider himself as challenged. His
friend, Captain M'Creagh, has been empowered
by him to make all the necessary
'T---- Inn, Thursday.'

I can hardly describe the astonishment
with which I heard this note. I turned to
the captain, and said:

'Surely, sir, there is some mistake in all

'Not the slightest, I'll assure you, sir.'
said he, coolly; 'the case is a very clear
one, and I think my friend has pretty well
made up his mind upon it. May I
request your answer?' he continued, turning
to O'Connor; 'time is precious, you

O'Connor expressed his willingness to
comply with the suggestion, and in a few
minutes had folded and directed the following

'Mr. O'Connor having received a
satisfactory explanation from Mr.
Fitzgerald, of the language used by that
gentleman, feels that there no longer exists
any grounds for misunderstanding, and
wishes further to state, that the note of
which Mr. Fitzgerald speaks was not
intended as a challenge.'

With this note the captain departed; and
as we did not doubt that the message which
he had delivered had been suggested by
some unintentional misconstruction of
O'Connor's first billet, we felt assured that
the conclusion of his last note would set
the matter at rest. In this belief, however,
we were mistaken; before we had left the
table, and in an incredibly short time, the
captain returned. He entered the room
with a countenance evidently tasked to
avoid expressing the satisfaction which a
consciousness of the nature of his mission
had conferred; but in spite of all his efforts
to look gravely unconcerned, there was a
twinkle in the small grey eye, and an
almost imperceptible motion in the corner
of the mouth, which sufficiently betrayed
his internal glee, as he placed a note in
the hand of O'Connor. As the young
man cast his eye over it, he coloured
deeply, and turning to M'Donough, he

'You will have the goodness to make
all the necessary arrangements for a meeting.
Something has occurred to render
one between me and Mr. Fitzgerald
inevitable. Understand me literally, when
I say that it is now totally impossible that
this affair should be amicably arranged.
You will have the goodness, M'Donough,
to let me know as soon as all the particulars
are arranged. Purcell,' he continued,
'will you have the kindness to accompany
me?' and having bowed to M'Creagh, we
left the room.

As I closed the door after me, I heard
the captain laugh, and thought I could
distinguish the words--'By ---- I knew
Fitzgerald would bring him to his way of
thinking before he stopped.'

I followed O'Connor into his study, and
on entering, the door being closed, he
showed me the communication which had
determined him upon hostilities. Its
language was grossly impertinent, and it
concluded by actually threatening to 'POST'
him, in case he further attempted 'to be
OFF.' I cannot describe the agony of
indignation in which O'Connor writhed under
this insult. He said repeatedly that 'he
was a degraded and dishohoured man,'
that 'he was dragged into the field,' that
'there was ignominy in the very thought
that such a letter should have been directed
to him.' It was in vain that I reasoned
against this impression; the conviction
that he had been disgraced had taken
possession of his mind. He said again and
again that nothing but his DEATH could
remove the stain which his indecision had
cast upon the name of his family. I
hurried to the hall, on hearing M'Donough
and the captain passing, and reached the
door just in time to hear the latter say, as
he mounted his horse:

'All the rest can be arranged on the
spot; and so farewell, Mr. M'Donough--
we'll meet at Philippi, you know;' and
with this classical allusion, which was
accompanied with a grin and a bow, and
probably served many such occasions, the
captain took his departure.

M'Donough briefly stated the few
particulars which had been arranged. The
parties were to meet at the stand-house,
in the race-ground, which lay at about an
equal distance between Castle Connor and
the town of T----. The hour appointed
was half-past five on the next morning,
at which time the twilight would be
sufficiently advanced to afford a distinct view;
and the weapons to be employed were
PISTOLS--M'Creagh having claimed, on the
part of his friend, all the advantages of the
CHALLENGED party, and having, consequently,
insisted upon the choice of 'TOOLS,' as he
expressed himself; and it was further
stipulated that the utmost secrecy should
be observed, as Fitzgerald would incur
great risk from the violence of the
peasantry, in case the affair took wind.
These conditions were, of course, agreed
upon by O'Connor, and M'Donough left
the castle, having appointed four o'clock
upon the next morning as the hour of his
return, by which time it would be his
business to provide everything necessary
for the meeting. On his departure,
O'Connor requested me to remain with
him upon that evening, saying that 'he
could not bear to be alone with his
mother.' It was to me a most painful
request, but at the same time one which I
could not think of refusing. I felt,
however, that the difficulty at least of the
task which I had to perform would be in
some measure mitigated by the arrival
of two relations of O'Connor upon that

'It is very fortunate,' said O'Connor,
whose thoughts had been running upon
the same subject, 'that the O'Gradys will
be with us to-night; their gaiety and
good-humour will relieve us from a heavy
task. I trust that nothing may occur to
prevent their coming.' Fervently concurring
in the same wish, I accompanied
O'Connor into the parlour, there to await
the arrival of his mother.

God grant that I may never spend such
another evening! The O'Gradys DID come,
but their high and noisy spirits, so far from
relieving me, did but give additional gloom
to the despondency, I might say the despair,
which filled my heart with misery--
the terrible forebodings which I could not
for an instant silence, turned their laughter
into discord, and seemed to mock the smiles
and jests of the unconscious party. When
I turned my eyes upon the mother, I
thought I never had seen her look so
proudly and so lovingly upon her son
before--it cut me to the heart--oh, how
cruelly I was deceiving her! I was a
hundred times on the very point of start-
ing up, and, at all hazards, declaring to
her how matters were; but other feelings
subdued my better emotions. Oh, what
monsters are we made of by the fashions of
the world! how are our kindlier and nobler
feelings warped or destroyed by their baleful
influences! I felt that it would not be
HONOURABLE, that it would not be ETIQUETTE,
to betray O'Connor's secret. I sacrificed a
higher and a nobler duty than I have since
been called upon to perform, to the dastardly
fear of bearing the unmerited censure
of a world from which I was about to
retire. O Fashion! thou gaudy idol,
whose feet are red with the blood of human
sacrifice, would I had always felt towards
thee as I now do!

O'Connor was not dejected; on the
contrary, he joined with loud and lively
alacrity in the hilarity of the little party;
but I could see in the flush of his cheek,
and in the unusual brightness of his eye,
all the excitement of fever--he was making
an effort almost beyond his strength, but
he succeeded--and when his mother rose
to leave the room, it was with the impression
that her son was the gayest and most
light-hearted of the company. Twice or
thrice she had risen with the intention of
retiring, but O'Connor, with an eagerness
which I alone could understand, had
persuaded her to remain until the usual hour
of her departure had long passed; and
when at length she arose, declaring that
she could not possibly stay longer, I alone
could comprehend the desolate change
which passed over his manner; and when
I saw them part, it was with the sickening
conviction that those two beings, so dear
to one another, so loved, so cherished,
should meet no more.

O'Connor briefly informed his cousins of
the position in which he was placed,
requesting them at the same time to accompany
him to the field, and this having
been settled, we separated, each to his own
apartment. I had wished to sit up with
O'Connor, who had matters to arrange
sufficient to employ him until the hour
appointed for M'Donough's visit; but he
would not hear of it, and I was forced,
though sorely against my will, to leave him
without a companion. I went to my room,
and, in a state of excitement which I cannot
describe, I paced for hours up and
down its narrow precincts. I could not--
who could?--analyse the strange, contradictory,
torturing feelings which, while I
recoiled in shrinking horror from the scene
which the morning was to bring, yet forced
me to wish the intervening time annihilated;
each hour that the clock told seemed
to vibrate and tinkle through every nerve;
my agitation was dreadful; fancy conjured
up the forms of those who filled my
thoughts with more than the vividness of
reality; things seemed to glide through
the dusky shadows of the room. I saw
the dreaded form of Fitzgerald--I heard
the hated laugh of the captain--and again
the features of O'Connor would appear
before me, with ghastly distinctness, pale
and writhed in death, the gouts of gore
clotted in the mouth, and the eye-balls
glared and staring. Scared with the
visions which seemed to throng with
unceasing rapidity and vividness, I threw
open the window and looked out upon the
quiet scene around. I turned my eyes in
the direction of the town; a heavy cloud
was lowering darkly about it, and I, in
impious frenzy, prayed to God that it
might burst in avenging fires upon the
murderous wretch who lay beneath. At
length, sick and giddy with excess of
excitement, I threw myself upon the bed
without removing my clothes, and endeavoured
to compose myself so far as to
remain quiet until the hour for our
assembling should arrive.

A few minutes before four o'clock I stole
noiselessly downstairs, and made my way
to the small study already mentioned. A
candle was burning within; and, when I
opened the door, O'Connor was reading a
book, which, on seeing me, he hastily
closed, colouring slightly as he did so.
We exchanged a cordial but mournful
greeting; and after a slight pause he said,
laying his hand upon the volume which he
had shut a moment before:

'Purcell, I feel perfectly calm, though I
cannot say that I have much hope as to
the issue of this morning's rencounter. I
shall avoid half the danger. If I must
fall, I am determined I shall not go down
to the grave with his blood upon my
hands. I have resolved not to fire at
Fitzgerald--that is, to fire in such a direction
as to assure myself against hitting him.
Do not say a word of this to the O'Gradys.
Your doing so would only produce fruitless
altercation; they could not understand my
motives. I feel convinced that I shall not
leave the field alive. If I must die to-
day, I shall avoid an awful aggravation of
wretchedness. Purcell,' he continued, after
a little space, 'I was so weak as to feel
almost ashamed of the manner in which I
was occupied as you entered the room.
Yes, _I--I_ who will be, before this evening,
a cold and lifeless clod, was ashamed to
have spent my last moment of reflection in
prayer. God pardon me! God pardon
me!' he repeated.

I took his hand and pressed it, but I
could not speak. I sought for words of
comfort, but they would not come. To
have uttered one cheering sentence I must
have contradicted every impression of my
own mind. I felt too much awed to
attempt it. Shortly afterwards, M'Donough
arrived. No wretched patient ever underwent
a more thrilling revulsion at the first
sight of the case of surgical instruments
under which he had to suffer, than did I
upon beholding a certain oblong flat


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