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Good night! Good night!
For thou art in the churchyard mold,
The bright eye dimmed-the kind heart cold;
Yet the deeds thou hast done
Will outlast thy breath,
And the love thou hast won
Is with us till death:
Good night! Good night!
Oh! a dearer presence never crost
I AM now coming to narrate one of the darkest sorrows of my life, which was the illness and the death of my sister Madeline, and which took place about a year after the stirring events recorded in the last chapter. To me this cloud, which burst at last on my uncle and Montfort in a thunder storm of grief, had been perceptibly gathering for a long time; and I well recollect one day in summer, when my sister and I had returned from a ride together, her saying to me at our hall door, "Walter, lift me down, for I feel someway unaccountably tired and weak."
She flushed up as she spoke, and after I had taken her from the saddle I said, "How light you have become, Madeline; I trust you are well!"
"Oh quite well," was the answer, "save for this pain in my left side, which robs me of my sleep, and that causes the fatigue I speak of; but, Walter, breathe not a word to my uncle or to John." For Madeline was always thinking of others, and like many of her sex who have the still heart,' and the mind of gentle dignity, she concealed her illness till it had mounted to a degree which reached beyond medical skill. She
VOL. XLVIII.-NO. CCLXXXIII.
Good night!-The Keen of Moycarna.
had been much confined all this year by her attendance on Montfort, and though he would beseech her to leave him, and go out, and have her ride, yet she would not do it, but kept constantly to the house, or only took exercise in walking beside his bath chair up and down the avenue. When he was so far recovered as to be enabled to drive his own ponies in the phaeton, she would accompany him in his favorite excursion through the great oak wood road up to the waterfall; or get down to the beach, where Montfort would sit and drink in health and vigour from the fresh cool breezes, that came in around him revivingly along the bright and heaving plain of the green Atlantic. But his limbs were too weak as yet to admit of his mounting a horse; and Madeline would seldom ride except she had him for a companion. In the beginning of the year my uncle took her to Dublin for advice, where C. pronounced her disease to be organic affection of the heart, but said that with care she might live for many years. Meanwhile Montfort's brother, Sir Philip, had died; and he was now a baronet, with a large fortune, and a beautiful place in Shrop
shire. From these combining circumstances their marriage was deferred; and we all hoped that the coming spring with its balm and its scented airs would greatly restore both our dear invalids. But while Montfort rapidly improved, my sister as visibly declined; and alas, alas,
woman's share of the constitutional fearlessness of our race. I had gone
to bed late, leaving a good fire in the grate, and a nightlight burning on my toilet; I certainly felt unwellthis poor heart of mine nervously beating, and giving me pain; however, I fell asleep, but awoke again in an hour or so, as I should think, for I heard the great clock from the farmyard striking two. It was beginning to blow, although the night had been as still as the grave when I had fallen asleep. The windows were rattling along the corridor, and presently I heard a far door clap, and I thought of the stories of the Admiral's ghost, and I smiled; and then, I know not why, all that dreadful business of Ahern's death, and John's share in it, floated up in my mind, and I became agitated and wept. I was roused from this train of sad thought, by distinctly hearing the steps of some one advancing along the gallery, and approaching my door; the wind had fallen, and the house was quite still; the steps sounded nearer and nearer, and presently I heard the handle of my door gently turned, and I was aware that some one was in the room along with me. I saw it plainly by the double light of the nightlamp and the fire, dim, indeed, but sufficient for vision and recognition. It seemed a tall form in grey garments, something like a woman's faded night dress. It came straight on to the foot of the bed, and then I saw it was our dear mother. I could not speak; I felt choking, and if palsy stricken. Presently I saw the figure stooping down, and removing the bed clothes; it seized my two feet in its hands, and their touch was colder than the coldest ice, pervading my whole frame like a dead clasp then it spoke, and my mother's sweet tones brought back the life warmth to my heart again, "My child," it said, "you are very ill: you will soon come to me; and to oh such happiness." Then the icy hands slowly passed up to my ancles, and then the figure turned again to the door, and I saw it and heard it no more, for the wind suddenly rose again with a violent plash of rain against my windows, and the old accustomed noises began to sound through the house, and I fell off into deep sleep, and did not wake up till
even now in the lengthening shadow of the grave. I was deeply attached to Madeline, and her death dried up the sweetest and brightest fountain that ever leaped up through my being.
During her sickness, which came on fast and fatally as the summer advanced, and when she was confined to her apartment, it was my pride and sad pleasure to bring to her dressing room, when she would come. there each afternoon to lie on the sofa, the choicest and most beautiful bouquet I could procure from our gardens and conservatories. Montfort spent all his evenings by her side; even the cherished cigar was forsaken for her, and his presence seemed to almost check her disease for the time; for, though so beneath her in refinement and in culture, he loved her well in his own manly and truthful way, and his delicacy of health gave him an additional lustre and interest in her true womanly heart. She saw visitors beyond our home circle, except our little curate, who, indeed, was one of the best of men, living to work, and working to live. His visits, which were judiciously timed, she greatly enjoyed; and her thoughts and conversation would now often wander forward amongst the scenes and landscapes of the other world, towards which her spirit was setting, with a calmness which astonished and affected us all. One evening, when I was sitting alone with her, she told me of a curious dream which had, as it were, heralded in her illness.
"That it was a dream," she said, "I now believe; but, indeed, Walter, at the time, and for many weeks afterwards, I thought it must have really happened, and it greatly depressed my spirits. It occurred last January. You know my bedroom, and how it lies at the very end of the long corridor, and how it is entered by three steps from the gallery. Well, Walter, you know too that I never was troubled with superstitious fears, and that I have at least a
eight in the morning when I found the door of the room locked, which I had done on first entering it the night before. But what seemed unaccountable, Walter, was, that I saw that the clothes at the bottom of the bed had indeed been lifted during the night, and not replaced. But though I could not but believe that I had seen my mother for some weeks afterwards, yet on mentioning the matter to Margaret Joyce, whom I at once took to be my companion at night, and my kind nurse, her matter of fact and sensible mind refused to admit such an idea, and she persuaded me that it had been night-mare, or that I had removed the bed-clothes in my sleep, and in this I now concur. What think you of the matter, Walter?
I confess that I had listened with the deepest interest and most lively credence to Madeline's recital, but I was saved from giving an answer by the entrance of my uncle; and perhaps it was all the better; for the interpretation of the vision according to what my imaginative temperament would have decided, might have disturbed and unsettled my sister's mind. The poor thing now sunk rapidly, and her feet and ancles were much swoln, which I connected with the coldness she had felt in her dream; if, indeed, it were a dream. God only knoweth; the physical ailment of the part might have produced the idea or notion of spiritual causality, as we all know it often does in dreams, and thus confused together cause and effect. I do not believe, however, that this question troubled her or occupied her mind; that was set on loftier things, and her peace and joy knew no measure. The week before she died the General had a long interview with her; he left the room with his face all bathed in tears, while her's wore a look of triumph I had never seen there before, and her smile was of superhuman beauty, as if she had caught and retained some of the strange high light of the upper world which was soon to shine around her; as the loftiest peaks are seen to sparkle with the beams of the coming morn, while the valleys below are all dark. I must pass on now, and rapidly; for lingering over each well remembered event of the last week is like coming back to weep at her grave. She died,
and we buried her by torch light, an old custom in our family; and early as it was-about three in the morning -a vast multitude, chiefly of peasantry, filled the whole area of the lawn, and were dimly seen by the red light of the moving torches waxing duller and duskier, as the crimson of the East flushed up more vividly each moment from the horizon,-reminding me of the bright draperies with which hope had decked her own gentle spirit of late; paling all earthly lights. As the long cavalcade streamed up the avenue, there arose the wild melodious Keen, swelling across the fields, and seeming at times to sink, and die among the hills, only to be taken up again-louder and more wailingly still, in all its shrill and passionate notes of thrilling sorrow. Nor did it cease, till the procession had reached the churchyard gate; to me it was inexpressibly soothing, seeming to echo the sweetness of the memories which mingled with my sad feelings, while it expressed the bursting and vehement grief I could not speak. We laid her in the family vault in the village. My uncle and Montfort both attended. The former wept abundantly, and many a sob from the surrounding poor gave back the expression of his sorrow; but Montfort stood an image of stone-a man without a tear -till we had returned home, when he called me into the old drawing room, where were her piano, and music stand, and harp; and flinging himself into my arms, the strong man broke down, and gave way to the most heart-bursting and terrible gush of sobs, cries, and sorrow I have ever witnessed. "Oh! dearest Walter" he would exclaim, "I have lost an angel," and then his tears would choke his voice and he would weep and lament in my arms for hours. I know not how it was, but I felt strong to comfort him, as well as my uncle, whose grief was more measured, and of a gentler description; but poor Montfort's sorrow was for ever breaking out, and I think he was ashamed that men should see it; and so before two months had elapsed, to our great regret and surprise, he had left us, utterly unable to stay, having sold his property to McClintock, resigned his commission of the peace, and disposed of all his stud
and dogs in Dublin by sale. And that was the last I saw of Sir John Montfort, till after some weary and eventful time had passed away; for he was bent on going on a long sea Voyage to complete the restoration of his health, and to try and forget his sorrow; and accordingly, before two months had elapsed, he had sailed from Liverpool in a Baltimore packet for the United States. After his departure my uncle had a long illness, in which I nursed him day and night: his grief for Madeline had shaken him greatly, and Montfort's somewhat abrupt departure had tried him more than he was willing to allow. Even the loss of Becky's rough familiar face was felt by him; for the faithful creature, overwhelmed with sorrow at my sister's death, had gone to her grandfather's house, and her own people, in the North of Ireland. My uncle's plans, too, for bettering the condition of his people he considered to have signally failed, except in a few instances; and so these things threw his generous nature back upon itself, and into inaction, and hurt his health. His physician, however, said that the next winter's hunting would restore his constitution, and this gave us a happy hope. He had not now the same charm he once had round his hearth; the gentle, graceful Madeline was gone, "the cheer and comfort of his eye," the ornament of his table, and the light of his household; and her place was imperfectly supplied by a Mrs. Sandford, who had been Madeline's governess, and who being well stricken in years, and of regular and quiet habits, the General had made his housekeeper, and set over the menage.
My cousin Gilbert had now come to live with us, and his attention to the General knew no bounds; but it seemed to me to be overstrained; and the old man, so high bred and dignified, did not appear to relish all the fuss his affectionate nephew was ever making about his every movement. Yet Gilbert no doubt was sincerely attached to us all; and if it be true that love begets love, I should have warmly affected Kildoon; for his expressions of regard, oral and practical, by speech as well as by show, were to me as constant and as regular, though rather less refreshing than my daily meals.
I was now an undergraduate of Trinity College, and had obtained classical honors more than once, yet I was but imperfectly educated for one who was to inherit a good property and transmit an ancient name. The imaginative faculty was an impediment to my acquisition of solid knowledge of men or things. I was too busy with my own thoughts to concern myself with what others might be thinking of; I was utterly unsuspicious; I would have scorned to have thought evil of any one unless his evil were forced upon me; I loved books, solitary walks, and wild scenery: I loved, too, observation of character, drawing, and musick. I disliked shooting, except for the long walks; and I eschewed fishing unless for the boating sake; but I dearly loved hunting, and when mounted on "the Highflier," I believe that no ditch, no wall, or double drain could check the happy ardour which animated me in a hard run after a caitiff fox. My horse and myself seemed actuated by the one feeling; and rider and quadruped to have but the one heart, and almost the one body between them on such occasions. The General was a splendid rider to the hounds, magnificently mounted his Yorkshire bay, which took everything coolly but successfully, and after a day's heavy run appeared as fresh and as little blown as if he had been cantering in Hyde Park. My cousin Kildoon was a forward but not a good horseman. On one occasion he and his hunter had rolled into a ditch, after an unsuccessful jump, and while he was there, I had gone clear over him on the Highflier, much to the amusement of "the Field;" but not to his satisfaction I fear, for I never can forget the look he gave me, as I leaped across him and his struggling horse. It might have been fright, or contortion of face from his awkward position, but it struck me for the moment that it was like the angry glare of hate. Gilbert was sole agent now of the Darragh estates, and he certainly looked to me to be more at his ease when mounted on a stool, and his ledger before him in his quiet little office behind the house, than when he had attained a similar elevation on an unstuffed saddle, a hot horse under him, the hounds in full cry before him, and at least twenty
loose stone walls to surmount before "the kill" took place.
A great change came over the spirit of our life now, by the arrival at the Darragh of a Mrs. Carndonald, who was a near relation of the General's. She came to stay a week, but sojourn ed a year. She resided generally at Cheltenham, but being summoned to Dublin by some law business, she had come on now to visit her "honoured kinsman," my uncle. She was a silken perfumed mass of good nature, vanity, egoism, and thorough worldliness, with the affectation of supersuperlative refinedness; so soft and sleek was she in skin, and voice, and hand, and habiliment, that she appeared more like an incarnation of chinchilli fur, or an animation of Genoa velvet, than one of Eve's bone-sinew-and-muscle daughters.
She had been a beauty some thirty years ago, and if dress, care, and cosmetics could have preserved her flowers from fading, no one could had found fault with her as a skilful gardiner. Not content with bodily comeliness, she aimed also at the beauty of the mind, and affected literature, of which she absolutely knew nothing; her whole stock in trade consisting of a few trite expressions, such as, "The sweet Bard of Avon," "The Spenserian Stanza," "The Magician of the North," with half a dozen hacknied quotations, such as "the feast of reason and the flow of soul;" and the "Cups that cheer but not inebriate," &c., and others equally profound and rare. Her mind, indeed, had nothing intellectual in it, her only talent being the art of talking incessantly without expressing any idea. Her dress was the perfection of richness and taste, for she had an ample jointure, which she generously spent on herself, on the principle of charity beginning at home; nay, she enlarged the proverb, by making it end at home also, for no one ever knew her to bestow on others that which she could possibly or profitably expend upon herself; and when "herself" was to be no more, her fortune reverted to her son, who was a smug Somerset parson, who kept his flock, not on the "Grampian hills," but amidst the grassy slopes and blushing orchards of the sleepy diocese of W; and with which ecclesiastick we very
soon discovered she was not on the happiest terms. She appeared to us to be in excellent health, and in what poor Montfort could have called "prime condition;" yet was she a professed valetudinarian, always labouring under some invisible bronchitis, or oppressed with an apocrypal influenza: yet sailing down each day to dinner in a sort of semi-nude Musidora condition, and as lightly clad as the youngest nymph in the country.
She was accompanied by her daughter Isabella, who was still young and very fair and unlike her mother in mind--having more sense; and equally unlike her in manner-having more reserve. She had been fashionably educated; or, in other words, she was an accomplished woman, and played, sung, and rode well.
I do not pretend to say what ambitious dreams might have crossed the meridian of Mrs. Cardonald's brain respecting the General, whom she always called her "honoured kinsman;" but whatever they might have been, they were soon and effectually dissipated by my uncle's sustained coldness of manner, which although always courteous and even kind, did not however hold forth the fragment of a saliest angle for vanity to hang a hope on. Still, the lady was charmed with "The Darragh ;" and after passing a whole month under our roof, she declared that the Atlantic breezes, "tempered by sweet mountain air," had so braced and renewed her system, and banished her "extreme delicacy," that if the General would permit her, she would become his tenant for the summer and autumn months, at Woodmancote, which was the name of the handsome cottage he had built in the wood behind our house. To this unexpected proffer the General could only give a gratified assent, expressing himself in conventional parlance as "most happy," &c.; and the next day Mrs. Cardonald and he were busy in ordering down furniture from Dublin; the lady gladly assenting to remain as our guest, till such time as we could say, in the Corporal's language, "All's right" at Woodmancote.
It was now spring, and as yet we had not had any continuance of fine or genial weather; a whole week's rain had kept our ladies within doors,