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Sick was the sun, the owl forsook his bower,
The return of the heir of Castle Carra had been expected for some time, and a letter, stating that he was on his way from London, had been received. Two years had elapsed since the father and son had last parted, and the imagination of the parent was employed in fancying the alteration likely to have been effected in the manners and appearance of his absent boy. The curiosity of the visiters was equally intense ; they wished to see one of whose personal accomplishments every tongue was prodigal. The minds of both were sceptical as to the truth of the high-wrought colours with which the name of Henry O'Hara was emblazoned.
6 Could it be possible that this sequestered Castle had given birth and education to one in whose character and appearance romance might find colouring for her hero, and graces for the love-ditty of a Troubadour ?”
“ Impossible,” said the younger lady, with something like a sneer. “Who are these O'Hara’s eulogists? That old, noisy savage, whose screams wakened us this morning, who has been (God knows how long) huntsman to the clan; he, forsooth, reckons him a prodigy, because he could ride vicious horses, and leap break-neck fences; and then he is head of a horde of half-clad mountaineers, and knows them and their sons, and their daughters, and jabbers Irish better, I suppose, than he can speak English. Pshaw! I fear I shall be miserably disappointed.”
“ But his father,” rejoined the Matron
“ Ay, Lady Sarah; but consider the difference of opportunity—the one educated in those bleak turrets with a die-away Mamma, and encircled by a collection of drunken Squires or crazy Doctors; the other schooled in the world; and a soldier from his boyhood. Well, we
shall soon see with what justice his praises have been trumpeted over hill and dale."
While these and such conjectures amused the ennui of the secluded fashionables, the object of their curiosity arrived. It was one of those bright and placid nights which are not unfrequent during the winter in Ireland. Binnian and Slieve Donard were capped with snow, and contrasted their blanched summits with the dark hue of the ridges stretched beneath their towering heights. The night was clear and strong, and the young moon, peeping over a little hill, shed a gentle side-light on the lake below her. Every thing looked with something endearing in it to the returning Irishman; every heath he passed, and every hillock his eye traced, were intimately remembered. When he approached nearer to his home, each recollection became more vivid, each feeling an agony ;—there were the towers of his youth, and there the scenes of all his first joys and sorrows; there sat his parent expecting him, and there the “ mille fealtha"* waiting to receive him. The carriage stopped, and leaving it to pursue its more circuitous road, he
.* Thousand welcomes.
took a nearer path through the plantations which skirted the Castle Park. He passed rapidly through the well-known inclosures, when turning suddenly into a little vista, he started at seeing a human figure seated on a stone, muttering, in low and hollow tones, sounds which, although not intelligible to the ear, had something in them unearthly and terrific. The light was dim, for the moonbeams were excluded by the fir-trees which surrounded this lonely dell, and superstition had not failed to seize on a spot so favourable for her traditions, and people “Glan Dullogh” with fays and spectres; an ancient barrow was its boundary, and, of course, added to the terror of this gloomy hollow. Henry O'Hara was brave, but he had some slight taint of that superstition which so generally imbues the character of the Irish of even the higher ranks. That a spot so lonely and desolate, should be chosen for the ordinary purpose of resting in, was unlikely, for the most çourageous of the peasantry avoided it even in the noontide. He stood, irresolute to advance, but yet scorning to retire, while a well-known voice addressed him-“ Welcome, Henry
O'Hara_Welcome ! said I? Oh! that I could bid you one, but never did man return under worse omens than yourself.”
“ In the name of God, what do you here, Alice More?” cried O'Hara, advancing and recognising the speaker; “ why sit you here, like a night raven, to damp my happy return with your croaking and foreboding—and how is it that first of all I light upon you, Alice ? None count it fortunate to meet you; and never did I see you in my father's house but in time of sorrow and distress."
« Ask me not, Henry O'Hara, how I knew that I should meet you—nothing earthly sent me here—the • Far a Knuick' (the man of the hills) has screamed the live-long night round the old towers-he has screamed over the place where your forefathers are sleeping—not a hill or valley, but has echoed with his cries.”
O'Hara felt unusual alarm as he listened to Alice More; his native gallantry of spirit, however, conquered his latent superstition, as he boldly continued, “ And what care I for the Far a Knuick-what care I for his cries—I tell you it is all rank superstition; you have been