The Dillosk Girl by Anonymous

I'm a bad hand at describing a beauty, but I'll try my best to give you an idea how Norah Cavanagh looked when she was twenty. The nose is a part of a woman's face that few people spake of in reckoning over her charms; but, in my mind, it's worthy of notice, as well as the eyes. Norah's nose was neither long nor short; too thick, nor otherwise; turned up nor down;—but just delicate, fine, and growing straight from her brow, in a way that it was beautiful to behould, but next akin to impossible to describe. There wasn't much colour in her cheek, but the lips made up for it: you may talk of cherries for a twelvemonth,—but there never was cherries so temptingly red as the lips of young Norah; and when she opened them, you saw two rows of teeth,—not so white as the inside of an oysther, but of a colour you loved better; for they was just exactly as a healthy and handsome young woman's should be;—and they sparkled and seemed to laugh, every one of them, when their owner did. Her eyes wasn't blue nor black; no, nor grey; nor hazel; but a mixture of all, and not a bit the less beautiful. When you gazed into them, they was like a picture; for there seemed to be a little view of some place in each of them. But this wasn't noticed at a distance; and it's few knew of it, but those who had dandled Norah when a child; for she kept the boys off when she grew up, and, if anything, was thought to value herself a little too much, considering she'd nothing. Norah's hair wasn't so white as to make her look silly:—it had a dash of light auburn upon the ends of the curls; and when the sun shone upon them, they had a gloss that dazzled the eyes of all the boys about. Was I but younger that time, I think I'd have been in love with little Norah myself;—and won her, perhaps, away from them all:—who knows?—

Norah was as nate in her dress as she well could be,—with the little she got for the dillosk she gathered: and on a Sunday—faith! then, who but she!—She'd her stockings and shoes, and a clane cap, as well as the best to be seen at Mass. Miss Honor, and James Dingle's other two sisters,—next to the great lady at The Beg,—are the finest folks in these parts; for their aunt's a great farmer, by the two-mile-stone from this: and they would often be saying,—them curls, that came out in clusters under her cap, didn't become a Dillosk-girl; and tould her she'd have more friends, if she'd comb them back, smooth and sleek away behind her ears: but Norah said, she couldn't; for curl they would, whether she wished them or no. This wasn't believed by the young ladies; they couldn't credit that a Dillosk-girl's hair would curl up in that way, without as much time being spent about it, as there was upon their own long, black, horse-tail locks; and they said,—Norah Cavanagh had better be at her devotions (though they themselves wasn't Catholics) than to be wasting time twisting up her tresses to allure the young men at Mass. And after that, when Norah wint, for a day or two now and then, to help their aunt's maids at a busy time, and they got convinced, by living under the same roof with her, and watching her closely, that Nature was Norah's frizeur, they tould her, she ought to cut off her locks if she'd wish to look dacent and get respected. But though Norah wasn't obstinate in anything else, she was in this; and wouldn't do as they bid her. You'll say she ought, perhaps: but, faith! there's many things we ought to do, though we don't do them; and there's many a beggar-man's daughter wouldn't barter her hair for a silk bonnet if you doubt what I say, try two or three, and you'll see.

Norah was little, but nate and well-made hasn't it ever struck you, that Nature often finishes off the little folks better than the big ones?—Whether it has or no matters but little; for if there never was another that was at once little and nate, Norah herself was; and even those that disliked her never denied it;—and she had her enemies, and not a few, I promise you. The girls hated her, for stealing away the boys' hearts from them all; and the boys, after a bit, wouldn't give her a good word, because she'd refused them.

Now you'll think, after this, Norah got married to some great lord;—but she hadn't the luck. The fairest bird in the air gets caught for its plumage; while the owl, and birds like him, go through the world with little danger; and just so, beauty, that always adorns, too often destroys, them that has it:—but that you've heard before, no doubt, in them same or other words, and a great deal more, to the back of it, which I could spake, if I liked, but I won't. It will answer every purpose, I hope, if I say plainly, that it got whispered Norah had met with a misfortune. I won't tell you how the girls giggled at this; that's needless;—nor who it was that pretended to pity her, and tried to worm out of her who'd been the destruction of her,—but they couldn't:—that would be making a story that's too long already, longer than it is, wouldn't it?—so I won't. You'll be satisfied, and, may be, a little vexed, to know that, after a time, when Norah wint out to gather the dillosk, there was a baby at her back.

It was a little thing,—very little,—not much bigger than a fairy; but quite strong and healthy, and as handsome as a mother need wish. It was a little picture of Norah, but not like any one else that ever was seen in these parts: so nobody could tell, by a feature or look, who had a call to it; and no power or persuasion could make No rah say whose it was. Mistress Doolan, that time, it was thought, used to follow Paddy, her husband, slily, when he wint out sometimes after dusk for anything, to see would he be going the way to little Norah's cabin; for it's said of her, she had some little suspicion,—or fear, may be,—that Pat might have been backsliding, and playing the same sort of trick that, at last and in the long run, brought him under the thumb. But she was disappointed intirely: for Pat never had the misfortune to turn the way she feared he would,—no, not even by chance.

Norah got paler and much thinner, and her lips lost their colour, and her eyes sunk; but she was just as tidy as before, and held up her head bouldly, in spite of the sneers of her neighbours; so that the few half-friends she had left was obliged to confess she was a bit too barefaced. But, musha! then, was it a soul in the barony—that is, boy or man—that dared leer at her, or try to be upon terms with her that wasn't respectful?—Her nature was changed; and when she repulsed them that made up to her, it wasn't with scorn as before, but downright rage: indeed, at last, though she was mild with such as behaved themselves, a man might as well think of kissing a tigress as Norah.

Big Jack Dax,—he that's my lady's steward at The Beg,—had a nephew, one Misther Millet, a small bit of a man, mighty puny and spruce, with a white face, and pimples on his chin, but no beard; you'd think a breath would blow him away; and about the time I'm spaking of, he came over from Liverpool,—where he was something of a clerk,—on a visit here to his uncle, for a couple of months,—to get his health, as you'd think if you looked at him;—but, as he said, to enjoy "the rude romantic beauties of the coast:"—them were his words. He wrote verses, and picked up bits of shells and sea-weed, and amused himself in ways sensible people wouldn't dream of. Some of us thought he was so-so in his senses; but his uncle said it was no such thing,—he was only a genius. Above all things in this world, what should small Misther Millet do, but attack little Norah, after meeting her two or three times, while he was poking about with a long stick, for shells, on the beach where she got her dillosk! He had heard of her misfortune, but didn't know of her deportment to them that attempted to bill and coo with her: so, one day, he struck up to her, quite confident of himself, and began to be familiar. But he got such a rebuff from the little Dillosk-woman, that he gave up shell-gathering, and took to digging for things in the hills, which, he said, was carried away there at the time of the great deluge; and just that day se'nnight after his talking to Norah, Misther Millet didn't come home to dinner,—no, nor supper; and all night they saw no sight of him,—though they sat up in hopes of his coming; wid, at last, big Jack Dax gave up his nephew as lost,—no one knew where. It happened rather unluckily for Misther Millet to mislay himself just then, for there was great goings-on at The Beg:—you'll hear, by-and-by, what they were about.

It was Norah herself that poor Tommy Maloe offered to marry; and from that, and his doing her a good turn, and saying a kind word for her when he could, some of us thought it was he seduced her. But though he was a fine fellow, and well to do, she wouldn't listen to him. With that, we changed opinions again, and couldn't determine among ourselves, or in our own minds even, how to settle the question. And what bothered us more than all was, that though Norah said downright "nay" to his offers, it's often she begged him to take Bat Boroo's advice, and not go for a souldier: however, he wouldn't heed her. And when news came of his being killed abroad, Norah wint and wept with his poor father, and did all she could to comfort the childless ould crature in his sorrow.

Now we'll go on:—As I tould you, no one could guess who Norah had been ruined by,—and we'd given it up, thinking time would tell us. She never missed passing my door at the turn of the tide, to go gathering the dillosk; and was always the last home,—working, as she did, till the flow again, and going back, step by step, before the rising waters, until they drove her dear off the shore. If industry's a virtue, Norah had it in perfection: and she didn't want, nor ever took bawbee that wasn't earned, from any man,—and that too, honestly.

Away to the west, about a mile below my cabin, there's a ridge of rocks, which runs far out into the sea: that was Norah's favourite spot; for the dillosk was plenty there, and few frequented it. At low water, the very end of it stood high and dry; and I may say the same too, when the waters was half up, during the neap tides; for it rose above the rest of the ridge, and when the floods came, it was barely covered about two foot, or two foot and a half. We call it O'Connor's land-mark:—why, I don't know; but so it was called before I was born, or my father before me,—at least, so he said; and if I, that's his son, wouldn't credit him, who would?

One morning,—it was the day after big Jack Dax lost his small nephew, as I tould you,—Norah wint away to the ridge, as usual, and laid down her child on the rock, with its face looking up to the heavens, and laughing at the clouds, as they sailed along in all sorts of forms. This she did daily while gathering the dillosk, for the baby loved to have the clouds for its playthings. It wasn't a fine lady's child, you know, or it couldn't sleep there upon O'Connor's land-mark, among the sea-weeds and so forth, without taking harm; but the place was natural to it: and Norah left Faddy Doolan's daughter to watch it, and look to it, and bring it to her if it 'woke and wanted anything; and then she began working. After a time, she had well nigh picked up as much as she could carry,—though she wasn't lucky that day, for the weed lay wide, and she was long gathering it, and some sad thoughts she had that morning didn't help to hurry her. At last, she turned back to get the baby and go home; and that moment she heard a shriek from Paddy Doolan's daughter, who had wandered away from the baby, picking the little fish out of the pools in the rock. It didn't seem more than a minute to Norah since she looked round, and saw the girl by her child; and she had heard her singing, up to the time when the shriek came; but more than a minute it must have been,—but it's true, little more would be enough; for between Paddy Doolan's daughter, and, of course, between Norah herself, who was more ashore, and O'Connor's land-mark, where the baby was sleeping, the sea had rose, and flowed over a dent, or steep descent, in the ridge, from the lowest part of which the rock rose up again quite abruptly, till it ended in the peak at the end. You know how fast the tide comes up sometimes just after the ebb, especially when the wind's with it; and you'll not be surprised to hear that, though poor Norah, distracted as she was, nearly flew over the ridge, yet as she was a full stone's throw off, or more, a couple of big waves had got in; and if it was fordable when Paddy Doolan's daughter shrieked, it wasn't so by the time Norah got to the water's edge.

Now it's fit I should tell you, that the shriek Paddy Doolan's daughter gave, when she saw the water betuxt herself and the baby, wasn't a sound, if you heard it, you'd whistle at; it wasn't the scream of a young miss at seeing a cockroach:—it gave tidings of death, and spread dismay all over the ridge, and even beyond it, among the Dillosk-women that was there. Few of them but had children playing about, or picking up little bits of burthens of the weed,—them that was big enough,—near the ridge, and every one ran to the place whence the sound came. Three or four was much nearer than Norah, and cutting across to the place almost as quickly as herself,—none of them knowing but harm had happened their own,—they got to the brink of the water before her. When they saw whose baby it was on the ridge, they set up a wail, which, if possible, increased poor Norah's speed down the ridge. They felt as mothers,—all of them did,—and knowing well enough, by their own hearts, what the mother of the baby would do, they made ready to stop Norah as she came:—for swim, they knew she couldn't,—it was too late for wading, and if she bate through the incoming waves, the water was so deep in the middle, that drown she must. So they all threw their arms about her, and held her for a second; but the baby 'woke then, and its cry came to her ear. That gave her such sudden strength, that she broke away from them, and burst into the water. Just then, as luck would have it, an unbroken wave was rolling in; Norah met it in its full strength, and was dashed to the shore again; but it would have carried her back with it, hadn't ould Ileen, whom just got up to the place, rushed in, with Peg Dwyer and another woman, knee-deep, and clutched a hould of her, and kept her fast, in spite of her struggling, and telling them they were murderers, and calling down curses upon them in her agony. The child wailed again; and Norah, it's thought, would have escaped from them a second time; but Ileen as soon as she heard the baby begin, clenched her big fist, and, with one blow on the forehead, knocked poor Norah senseless into the arms of Peg Dwyer.

There was a moment of silence, and every one cast an eye of reproach upon Heen, but no one durst utter a word. "Don't be looking so at me," says she, to them; "wouldn't you suffer a little, any of ye, to save all?—Many's the fine fellow lost his life for want of less than Norah has got! Better a blow on the head, no matter how big the bump that comes after it,—better that, I say, than be drowned. You've seen a boy in a fit, and six couldn't hould him;—and could a fit, think you, give a boy more strength, than the cry of a child where that one is, would give to a mother that loves it?"

All this while,—and it wasn't long,—Ileen was busy tying poor Norah hand and foot.

"Oh! for young Paudrigg, now, or any one that could swim!" cried one of the women; "there's not a boy or a man,—no, nor a bit of a boat even, within sight. What will we do, Ileen?"

"All of you join with me in a loud wail, children and all," replied Heen; "may be, Jimmy Fitzgerald's boys, or some of the neighbours near him, isn't gone out, and may hear us."

"Is it a tide any of the fishermen would lose such weather as this, think you, Heen?" asked Peg Dwyer.

"Who knows," says Heen, "what good God may send us? One of them may be kept back to save that poor baby."

So then they set up such a wail, all of them, that it came to me here, where I was dozing; and if anything could have given me the use of my limbs, it would have been that. I tried to stir, but it was of no use:—so, without losing time, in making more efforts, I pulled open the door with my crutch, and hallooed, and cried "Murder!" five or six times, at the top of my voice. Ileen reckoned upon my doing that; for, as soon as the wail was over, says she, "If that does no good, nothing will;—if one of us ran off for help, before she got near any men and they got back again, the sea would be over the child; and the only chance we'd then have, would be in the wave that floated it bringing it ashore: but that's a poor hope; for every moment the tide drives us back, and leaves it farther away from us. But a scream travels faster than a bird. If no one else heard us, Jimmy Fitzgerald must; for he's always at home:—he's an ould sailor, and won't fail to repeat the signal of distress; it's sure to bring somebody to him, and he'll send every one that comes, away here to us:—so that we save the time of running as far as his cabin, by the wail; and there's hope yet the child won't be lost."

Within a minute or two after I'd done calling out, as I said, there came running in Mick Maguire, and Bat Boroo, and all the lazy-bones of the place: and after them followed Paddy Doolan, ould Malachi Roe, and a power more of landsmen, with women and children at their heels; but not a fisherman, good or bad, ould or young, was ashore. I tould them of the wail I'd heard from the Dillosk-women, and the point it bore from; and off they wint, one following another, as fast as they came in; and it wasn't long before all the place was in arms, and not a soul but me left in it, far or near.

All this didn't take more than the time I'm telling it. Meanwhile Norah recovered: she was now so weak, that Ileen unbound her, but the women still kept a hould of her; and there they were—wailing about her, and she sitting on a stone, with her hands clasped, gazing at the waters, that were just rising towards the top of the land-mark, where the child, that had now cried itself asleep again, lay without knowing its danger. Now and then she turned her eyes along the shore to the men that were running down to the ridge as fast as they well could: though they were landsmen, there was more than one among them that could swim; and Norah, as well as the women about her, had rason to hope bad wouldn't be the end of it.

A man tires, but the rising tide don't, and the waters still kept their pace; but the men slackened, and just as the foremost of them got up,—and that was Mick Maguire, out of breath, and who'd no heart, though his legs was the best,—just as he got up to the women, a great wave came in, and they all saw it a way off, for it was taller, and might be seen above those before it:—it came on slowly, but strongly; and instead of breaking and being divided in two by the land-mark, it swept in a full body above it, and Norah's baby was afloat!

Just then, all set up a shriek; and it was answered by one they little expected: what was it but the scream of the great eagle himself, that came down from the clouds a'most, and gripped up the baby in his mighty claws!—so saving it from one death, for another that was more frightful, and that too, a thousand-fold! He didn't rise at once, but skimmed along the face of the sea for some time, so that the baby dipped in the tops of the waves, and scattered a foam round itself and the bird now and then; and it was thought he'd drop it more than once: but no,—he soon began to get higher and higher, and rose, at last, on his strong wings, above the cliffs themselves; and then, making a half circle, wheeled round, and wint over the heads of the women, right away to his nest in the mountain. And all that while, the women looked up silently, and them that was running along the beach stood still, and nobody, breathed; so that the flap of the eagle's wing was heard plainly, far as he was above them.

It would have been well for poor Norah had she swooned off again; but she didn't. When the eagle was gone out of sight, the people turned to look at her; and there she was, standing on tip-toe, with arms stretched out, and her eyes fixed in the air, as though she still saw the bird and her baby, long after they had disappeared to every one else. No one spoke to her,—for what could they say in the way of comfort?—but as soon as they got over the shock of the sight a little,—and it was just as though they had all been stunned,—they began to ask one another if anything could be done.

"There's but one hope in the world," says Ileen, "and that's to scale the crag."

"And who'll do it?" asked many, but nobody answered. Every one, who'd the heart, had tried before he was twenty, or betuxt that and twenty-five; but no one had ever succeeded. Many of them that was on the beach, had got terrible falls, and two of them broken limbs, in the attempt, and given it up as fruitless. Luke Fogarty was too ould, and Rory too young; Paddy Doolan hadn't the courage to try at twenty; and how could it be asked of him then that he was forty?—Mick Maguire wouldn't venture himself; but he'd go get his gun, and lend it to any one freely that would. One man pointed to his grey locks; another to his lame leg; and a third to his brats of little ones, and seemed to think, that it wouldn't be well of him to risk his life for another man's child, when he'd six or eight of his own dependent upon him. Bat Boroo flourished about his big stick, and said he'd scale the rock with all the pleasure in life, if it would do any good: "But where would be the use?" says he; "for by this time the poor child is torn to pieces; and if I reached the nest and conquered the eagles that's in it, I'd have nothing but the child's torn limbs to bring back."

"I think," says Malachi Roe,—the ould one, I mane; he didn't spake before, and hadn't been known for a long time to open his lips until a question was asked him;—"I think," says he, "there's no fear of that. Daddy Gahagan, the shepherd, has been telling me, that one of his grandsons came to him 'while ago, with news of the eagle's mate having just carried off a lamb from the flock he tended. She'll get to the nest first with her prey; and there's a chance—what do I say?—it wouldn't be foolish to lay odds,—no harm comes to the child these two hours."

Every one stared, and wondered if it was indeed Malachi himself that spoke such a speech; they took it, however, for Gospel, and set up a shout: but Bat had turned on his heel, and didn't listen to it. Then all of them began to move off to the foot of the crag, but still nobody offered to venture.

While they wint sorrowfully, but speedily, along,—as though getting near the place would do any good,—they met Misther James Dingle trotting towards them. Two or three—and Mick Maguire was among'em—had got a-head of the rest; and before they could speak, James Dingle pulled up his horse, and said to them,—"God save ye, boys! I've just seen the big eagle carrying off that in his claw, which I'm sure is a child, by the clothes. Whose it is, I haven't heard; he may have brought it miles; but I'll give any of you two sparkling yellow boys, that will climb the crag and get it down from him, dead or alive."

Upon this, Mick Maguire tould him the whole story, whose child it was, and how the eagle got it; and before he'd done, the whole cavalcade of them were round him, crying, "Oh! Misther James! what'll we do?" For, next to the Priest, and the lady at The Beg, every one looked up to young Dingle for advice in the day of distress. And such wailing and bothering there was about him, that he couldn't be heard for a minute and more: at last, Father Killala, who had joined the people, got silence for him. The colour had left his cheek, and his lips looked hard and dry; but he spoke out coolly and distinctly, and said, "Though we're tould that the crag has been climbed, and the eagle's nest reached, yet no one was ever known, or reported in tradition, to have got down from it again. Now, Malachi Roe, do you take my horse and ride off to the beach with the best speed you can, and bring a roll of cord back with you, and ropes, if you can get them: but bring the cord away at once, if there's any delay with the ropes; for they may be got after. I'd go for it, but I wouldn't make myself a bit more fatigued than I now am, for that's need-less; and while you're gone, I'll be getting ready. Should I reach the nest, I can lower the child to you, if I never come back myself."

"And is it you that's going, sir?" says Mick Maguire.

"It is, Mick," he answered; "no one else will, and so I suppose I must."

And then all of them, that a minute before was dying to meet with any one that would go, began moaning in an under tone, and seemed sorry, and half inclined to persuade James Dingle not to make the attempt. One fellow muttered—and it wasn't well of him—"A man's life is worth more than a child's."

"I don't know that," said James Dingle; "and what if it was?—We were all children once, and not able to help ourselves; but there was then men about, who had strength given them to protect us. Now we're men, we ought to do by the children, the same that others, whose heads lie low, did for us,—or would have done for us, if need was,—when we were babies."

"Mr. Dingle," said Father Killala, coming up to him, "we can but ill afford to lose you:—I'd rather another wint who had a heart and body equal to your own; but as no one else offers, go, and God bless you!"

Dingle shook the ould man's hand, and wint on towards the mountain, with all the people following him, and praying blessings on his head.

Malachi Roe this while was far on his way to the fishermen's cabins: he wasn't a man to lose time, or spare horse-flesh when need was; so he came galloping down like a racer, and got back again, with all that was wanted with him, long before he was expected by any but James Dingle, who knew what Malachi was, and what his own horse could do; and, besides that, was impatient to begin. While he was gone, Luke Fogarty, and two or three more that had tried to get at the nest, gave Dingle what advice they could, how to avoid the mishaps they'd met with. Bat Boroo lent him his stick, and offered him a few short instructions in the way of attack and defence with it. But James Dingle silenced him, by saying,—"Bat Boroo, I thank you, but a shillala isn't a broad sword. I've been fool enough to carry a twig to a fair with me, when I was younger and wilder than I've been these seven years past: it was said I knew how to use it then; and though I've had no practice since, I don't think I've forgot which way to flourish it best."

And sure enough there was few that ever could stand up long to James Dingle before he got steady, even while only a stripling. In this place, if I'd a mind to do it, I might keep playing with your feelings, and tell you how young Dingle parted from the people, and what they thought and said, while he was climbing; and how one minute they had rason to hope, and the next to fear for him:—but I won't do this, for you may imagine it all without any word of mine. I'll come to the point at once:—it was long before James made much way; for the lowest part of the peak was the worst; and when he got higher, he had often to crawl along the ledges a great way to find resting-places above for his feet: but he got on better than he did at the beginning; and after being often lost sight of, behind the pieces of rock that shot up like towers, he appeared again in places where he wasn't expected; and in less than an hour, the people below saw him in the branches of the tree, behind which it was known the eagle's aŽrie was built. Even then he hadn't done his work:—but you'll hear how he got on.

The eagle's nest rested partly on the tree I spoke of, which grew out of a crevice of the rock, and partly on the floor of a natural cave: it was made of big sticks, and among them was many a white bone of bird and beast, that had served the eagles for prey, years and years before. James Dingle put aside the branches, quietly as he could, and in no small trepidation, to see what was doing, before he got in:—and he did right, I think; for look before you leap, is a saying that has sense in it, especially when you're going to get into an eagle's nest. So far, all went well; but no sooner had he put his head through the leaves, than he saw a sight that struck him motionless!—Most men have been amazed some time or other; but there never was a man so amazed as James Dingle was. At one corner of the little hollow in the rock,—making himself look less than he was,—who do you think sat then but small Misther Millet?—Misther Millet himself, whiter than the wall,—who had been lost since the day before, as I tould you,—shivering like a mouse within reach of the claws of a cat, with both the eagles opposite, on the brink of the nest, staring at the crature, and seeming to wonder what he was at, and how he got there!—There was two young eagles in the nest full-fledged, and looking mighty frightened at their new friend, Misther Millet. The lamb wasn't touched, though killed; and by its side lay the child, with one of the young eagles' wings over the little darling's face. It seemed as though the birds had all been afraid to begin their meal, with Millet where he was, and hadn't yet made up their minds how to get rid of him. I may as well tell you now, as by-and-by, how he came there, for I dare say you'd like to know.—

Well, then, the little man, by his own story, had wandered away the day before, an hour after breakfast, to fetch a romantic walk among the hills, and gather pebbles, and catch butterflies, and draw trees, and make poetry, and do them things he was fond of: but by the time his stomach tould him it was getting on fast for dinner-time, he made a discovery that wasn't singular, considering what he'd been at, and which way he wint. You'll guess he lost his way,—and so he did; and every step he took made matters worse. Night came upon him, in a place where he could see nothing but a few rocks and wild shrubs about, and the sky speckled with stars above him. He chose out the clanest and softest bed he could, took off his coat and turned it inside out; then putting it on again, he lay down, and to his own great surprise soon found himself falling asleep. He had no bad dreams from indigestion that night, you may be sure; but he didn't wake very well in the morning, for all that. At day-break, he began walking again; and, in about an hour's time, upon looking through a few bushes, he got sight of a hole in the rock, which had light at the other end of it. He crawled in upon all-fours, and soon found himself cheek-by-jowl with a pair of young eagles!

Now we knew, from tradition, that there certainly was a long, but not a difficult way to the eagle's nest, through the hills; but though many had tried that was born and bred near them, none could ever find it out; and then comes Misther Millet, piping hot from a Liverpool 'counting-house, and discovers it without trying, and much against his own will, to boot!—His wonder wasn't well over, before home came the great hen-eagle, with a lamb; and from that time, he didn't dare stir; for she never ceased eyeing him, as though she was only waiting until he made a move, to dart at his face. By-and-by, home came her mate too; and the sight of him didn't make Misther Millet feel a morsel more aisy, I take lave to suppose; especially when he saw that the bird had a child in its clutch:—and there sat the little man, half dead with hunger, and cold, and fear, when James Dingle looked in upon him.

It was then only, that the birds appeared to know of the approach of another intruder: they stretched forth their wide wings, and each of them, at the same moment, seized the lamb with one foot, and stood fluttering on the other, at the edge of the nest. Dingle reached out his left hand and dragged the child to him; and with his right, before you'd breathe, struck the bird that was nearest him—it was the cock—a blow on the head, with Bat Boroo's oaken cudgel, that knocked him over the edge of the nest; and down he fell, in a way that made those below think he was killed; but after falling many yards, he fluttered his wings, and soon recovered enough to fly to a resting-place. The hen, at the moment her mate got the blow, screamed so that the rocks rung with it, and got upon the wing. She wheeled round in the air, and rose, to all appearance, for the purpose of making a terrible stoop upon her enemy. There wasn't any time to be lost:—James Dingle pushed both the young eagles out of the nest; they were able to keep themselves up; and the ould hen, instead of making a descent upon James, altered her course, flew towards her young, and kept close to them, until they had reached, and were safe perched upon, the point of one of the peaks, that grew up by the side of the crag.

While this was doing, Dingle got into the nest, bid Millet crawl back through the hole with the child, and in a short time followed. He had made up his mind to explore his way through the hills; for, thinks he, Misther Millet never could have got here, if the road's difficult; unless, indeed, the eagles carried him up; but that's not likely:—so I'll try; and it's odd, from this height, if I can't discover the way down, whatever may be said of its being impossible. The hen-eagle, too, kept hovering about, and would, no doubt, soon be joined by her mate; and—do you mark?—if he pulled up the rope by the cord he had, and let down the baby, the great chance was, whether one of the ould birds—to say nothing of the fear he had of its getting hurt against the rocks,—wouldn't pounce upon and destroy it, as it swung mid-way in the air. So he determined to try his luck, and began descending. Misther Millet amused him by his story as they wint: but the gentleman couldn't remember one inch of the way he came; and if Norah Cavanagh's child hadn't been carried off the way I tould you, Jack Dax would have lost a nephew, and the world Misther Millet: for I can't but think he'd have died somewhere about the hills, or been killed by the eagles; and so, one way or other, met with the same fate as the boy did that was seen in the nest long ago, and never got back.

When the people below saw that James Dingle waved his stick triumphantly,—as he did before he left the nest,—and had disappeared for some time, though the eagles hadn't harmed him, they reminded one another of the way to the crag over the hills, and thought he was trying to find it. And when they asked Malachi Roe, he made a speech again,—that is, a speech for the likes of such a one as him:—says he, "I've no doubt but he is; he'd be a fool if he didn't; for look at the eagles above, between this and the nest."

"True," says Mick Maguire; "that didn't occur to us, whin he wint up. Any how, he might have killed them both,—and then there'd be no danger in letting down the baby,—he might have done that, if he'd taken my gun. And I'm thinking that Bat Boroo's stick—"

"What's your opinion, Malachi?" said Father Killala, interrupting Mick;—and it's the only fault he has: for he'd never hear one of my stories half through, without asking two or three hundred questions; and then, may be, he'd go off in the middle of it. But he's a fine man, and that's his only fault, or, I'd rather say, it's a way he has that's not pleasant to some people, though Mick didn't mind it. "What's your opinion, Malachi?" says Father Killala; "do you think James Dingle will find his way back?"

"With the blessing of Providence, I've no doubt of it," replied Malachi;—"no one ever came back from it yet, it's true; but there never was such a man as James Dingle got into the nest before."

"He knows the country as well as any one here, I suppose," observed the Priest.

"Better, Father Killala," said Malachi.

With this, most of the people came back, bringing poor Norah with them; and she was comforted in a great degree. Still she'd terrible fears, and a multitude of bad fancies; but every one strove to console her: those who wouldn't spake to her before, wept for her now; and Norah Cavanagh was grateful to them for it. A few watched the crag; but most of the people, as I said, came away: and they might be seen hanging together in knots about the place, doing nothing the rest of the morning but watch in hopes of seeing James Dingle appear. Some wint up among the hills to scout for him; though that wasn't much use, for nobody knew which way he'd come back.

Hours and hours passed on, but still no news of James Dingle! And his aunt, who heard of what had been done, was almost frantic at the foot of the hill, beyond The Beg. It was long she waited, and often she looked up the crags, but still there was no sign of her nephew:—it was past mid-day, and all the people got round her, and every body began to despair but Malachi.

At last two men was seen coming down from above; and who should they be, as you'll guess, but James Dingle and small Misther Millet! Young Dingle had Norah Cavanagh's child in his arms, and Millet was helping himself on as well as he could by Bat Boroo's big stick.

I won't describe what big Jack Dax,—who was there,—said on seeing his nephew again; I'll rather take up your time by telling you what a better man, and that's Father Killala, did:—though Misther Dax is a good soul, and much liked; but, of course, not to be mentioned with the Priest. And the truth is, big Jack Dax didn't waste much time in words but, with little or no ceremony, hoisted his poor worn-out little nephew on his own broad shoulders, and so hoiked him off home to The Beg. It was himself—I mane the Priest,—that took the child out of James Dingle's arms, and when he'd seen it was alive and well, he motioned all the people about him to be silent: then, turning to young Dingle, he said, in a tone that those who heard it won't soon forget, "James Dingle, you're the father of this child!"

Every soul stood amazed, and nobody spoke but Dingle himself. "What makes you say so, sir?" said he.

"What?" exclaimed Father Killala: "what but that we've all witnessed to-day?—Your humanity made you offer money to any one that would scale the crag, when you merely knew that a child had been carried off by the eagle; but as soon as you heard the child was Norah Cavanagh's, you prepared to go yourself. None but the father of this babe would have ventured as much for it as you have to-day;—you are that father, James Dingle. In the face of Heaven above us,—before your countrymen,—in the sight of that lost young woman,—and with this unhappy being on your bosom,"—and he placed the child in young Dingle's arms as he spoke,—"with this in your bosom, you cannot—dare not deny it!"

"I don't deny it, Father Killala," replied James Dingle.

It's said the Priest himself looked a little surprised at this; but he wint on:—"Then, Mr. Dingle, as you're a man, I trust it's your intention to follow up this great day's work, by doing right to her that you've wronged."

"He never wronged me, Father Killala,—blessings on him!" said Norah Cavanagh.

Well! how all this would end, no soul could guess. The good Priest looked more astonished than before, and not a little angry at Norah. "And are you so lost to shame," said he to her—"has vice made you so abandoned—"

"She never was lost to shame, and don't know vice;" interrupted James Dingle, rather warmly: "I'll uphould her to be as pure and virtuous as any here."

James Dingle's aunt, who had stood mute with amazement all this time, now broke silence. "What's all this I hear?" exclaimed she:—"Why, he'll say next she's an honest man's wife, and himself her husband."

"That's just how it is, aunt," replied James.

Without repeating more of that part of their discourse, word for word, I may as well tell you, that Dingle owned to his enraged aunt, he'd married Norah secretly, under a promise of getting the aunt's forgiveness within a month or so; but as Norah was a Catholic, and the Dingles were Protestants, and the ould woman herself was as proud as them that was her betters, and so adverse to a Catholic for her nephew's wife, that she'd as soon have done any thing as agree to such a thing;—as, I say, all this was the case,—and James should have thought of it before, shouldn't he?—though his heart was a stout one, he hadn't the courage to mention his marriage to her. When his wife—for so I'll call her now—found he broke his promise, and wouldn't save her from the shame that was fast coming upon her, she resolutely refused to have any—even the slightest—communication with him, and scorned to accept the smallest mite of assistance from his hand: but worked hard and supported herself, and by-and-by her baby too;—bowing, down before her bad luck, and taking it as a penance for doing wrong, as she had, by such a marriage; but under all, trusting to Providence for better days.

James Dingle freely confessed how bad he'd acted; and Norah repeated over and over, it wasn't his wish she should work as she had;—but she would. The only excuse he could make was, the situation of his sisters; who, as every one knew, like himself, were quite dependent on his aunt for support. "And though," says he, "I'm strong and able, and could well keep them by the sweat of my brow, they'd break their hearts in a month, after being brought up the way they have; and I was sure my aunt would turn them out, the day I owned to marrying Norah. But that's but a poor plea for me:—I should have looked to my wife first;—I feel it here!" says he, striking his breast, "I'm a good-for-nothing scoundrel, and them that doesn't despise me is a'most as bad as myself. I made up my mind how I'd act, coming down the crags, with the child smiling up like an angel of goodness in my face, and so telling me, in that mute way, to repent and do right, without more delay. I determined on this, before Father Killala spoke to me;—believe it or no, which way you please.—Norah, I'll go home with you, and in your own little cabin ask your forgiveness; next, I'll beg that of my sisters, who, I suppose, will be sent to me at once;—I begged it from above long ago. Aunt, after the poor return I've made to you for all you did for me and mine before now, it's useless to ask grace of you for myself, I suppose; but my knees wouldn't be stiff, if I thought I could, by entreating, obtain a continuance of your bounty to them who hav'n't offended you;—of course, I mane my sisters. Whether or no, aunt, I'll always be grateful; and do as you will, I'll not repine."

But James Dingle's aunt didn't mind what her nephew said, and wouldn't even listen to Father Killala, but raved and stormed with such violence, that every one thought her passion must soon blow over; but the more she blustered, the better she seemed to be for it. Bat Boroo got his big stick and retired to the rear, seemingly a little frightened or so; Duck Davie rubbed the palms of his hands together, and felt delighted to see the ould lady in such a pucker,—no doubt he did; Mick Maguire stood leaning upon the muzzle of his gun, staring with wonder at her chin going up and down at such a rate; and Luke Fogarty poked his bull's horn as near as he well could to her mouth, to pick up as much of her discourse as his deafness would let him.

At last, as all things must have an end, young Dingle's aunt stopped talking; but without being a bit more contented than when she began. Just then, little Norah knelt down before her, and with tears in her eyes asked, would she forgive her nephew, if she (Norah) left the place for everwith her baby, and wint away to such parts, that none who knew her should ever see sight of her more.

But James Dingle and Ileen stepped up to the little Dillosk-woman as soon as the words were out of her mouth; and one at one side, and one at the other, they raised her up.

"I can't agree to that," says James Dingle.

"No; nor I,—nor any woman here," says Ileen.

"I don't reproach you, Norah," continued James, "for offering to leave me;—but I won't allow it. It's now, perhaps for the first time, I feel how very dear you are to me. I'll give up all for you,—all, Norah; and it's much I shall be in your debt even then."

"The whole that I've to say about the matter, Mrs. Dingle, is this," quoth Ileen; "you've no right to look down upon Norah though she's poor and a Catholic, bekase you're rich and a Protestant: for you were poor yourself, before your husband, that's dead, turned tithe-proctor; and your own uncle is now Coadjutor to the Parish-Priest of Ballydalough. There's not one belonging to you can say his grandfather ever had two chimneys to his house, or more than would buy a day's dinner in his pocket:—that I needn't tell you though, for you know it well enough, Mrs. Dingle. The buttermilk blood will shew itself; but you sha'n't trample upon Norah Cavanagh, while I, that's her own mother's second cousin, can get within a mile of her. She comes of a good family, Mrs. Dingle, and if you won't be a mother to her, I will!—I couldn't look upon her while every one had a right to think she'd disgraced herself; but now she's proved to be what she ought, I restore her to my heart."

"Ah! why not be good humoured thin at once?" says Mick Maguire to the aunt; "make no more wry faces at the pill; but, though it's bitter, swallow it at once: why not thin, eh?—and don't be a fool!—If you make any more noise about it, I'll fire away all the powder I have to drown your voice."

"I'll not have my aunt insulted, Mick," says James Dingle: "neither by you, nor any one:—and I'd be better pleased with Heen had she said less."

"I'm not one for asking lave what I shall say, before I spake, or begging pardon for what I've spoke, James Dingle;" replied Ileen.

"That's true," observed her husband, ould Malachi Roe, in a remarkably positive tone.

Mrs. Dingle seemed to have a mind to begin again, when who should walk up to the place where the people were standing, but my lady from The Beg, leaning upon the arm of Pierce Veogh!—Mick Maguire let off his gun for joy at the sight; the piper played a merry jig; Father Killala and James Dingle shook hands with Pierce, and welcomed him heartily; and almost every body felt delighted: for Pierce, with all his faults, was much loved for many things;—chiefly, though, because he was born among us, and had been unfortunate.

"Thank God!" says he, as soon as he was let speak; "Thank God! I'm here among my people once more; and able to stand a free man on my own ground again. For clearing me of all my miseries,—for recalling me to the right path,—for restoring me to the house of my forefathers,—I am indebted to my wife." The beautiful lady who still kept her arm in his, blushed, and held down her head, as he spoke these words. "My last creditor," continued Pierce, "that rascally mushroom, Mick Purcell, was forced to give me a full acquittance this morning; an hour after that we were married: but it's only since Mr. Dax returned to The Beg with his nephew, that I heard what had happened; and it grieves me to find any one about me wretched at such a time as this. Mrs. Dingle, I don't like to boast of my few good deeds; but, I believe, on one occasion, I had it in my power to grant you an important favour;—did I refuse?"

Mrs. Dingle burst into tears, but made no reply.

"I understand you object to your nephew's choice, little Norah here, because she's a Catholic. My wife," continued Pierce, "was a Protestant; I, as you know, am not: but, with her, the difference of our creeds was no bar to our union."

Well—as I often say—to make a long story short, at last and in the long run, what with Father Killala's preaching, and Pierce Veogh's entreating, and his beautiful lady's winning smiles, and the tears of proud little Norah, James Dingle's aunt agreed to make it up with her nephew. Instead of going home with Norah that night to her own little mud cabin, he took her away to his aunt's house; and she has ever since lived upon good terms with the ould woman, and her nieces to boot.

Pierce Veogh had intended to have made no noise about his wedding that day; but to have kept open house at The Beg, from the next morning, for a whole week. However, as he'd shewn himself to the people, and reconciled his richest tenant to the marriage of her nephew with one of the poorest on the whole domain,—though there never was a better, except my lady, and few so good, upon it as little Norah,—he couldn't but ask every body to come home with him and make merry a little.

And it's merry enough they made themselves, as I can bear witness, for I was among them. They couldn't well get on without me; so Mick Maguire, and Bat Boroo, with Corney Carolan, and a whole fratarnity of them, came down to fetch me up to The Beg in pomp. But, bad luck to them!—they would have broke my neck if I hadn't a little thought for myself; for they'd a cup of the crature inside them before they started, and what should they propose but to knock out the head of a large empty cask that had been washed ashore close to my cabin that day week, and, as I couldn't walk, to roll me in it, over and over, right up to The Beg! This, of course, I couldn't allow; but, as there was no other vahicle to be had, I consented,—if they'd born square holes through the two ends of the cask, and get a pole to fit them,—to bestride it. So they did as I hinted, and away I wint, with the piper playing before me, and two or three o' them, under Bat Boroo's command, carrying me, straight off to The Beg; where I emptied so many piggins o' pothien to the health of my neighbours, that I know no more how or when I got home, than the man in the moon.