Cuddio Rhestr Erthyglau

11 erthygl ar y dudalen hon

| j The Widows' Right.








THIRD SERIES. NEW SHORT TALES. Twice Confessed. By E. S. DREWRY, Author of "On Dangerous Ground," "Only an Actress," etc. Faith, mavourneen, and he'd need to iook sad and worn then, for isn't it just breaking his heart his riverence is about his brother's disappearance ?' Och, now, see that exclaimed the younger of the two women, and it's months since his brother that he loved so started from this." This being a remote village in the West of Ireland, and the two old women had met by chance at the churchyard gate one Friday evening, just about the time Father O'Brien would be going to the con- fessional in the church, ready to hear and minister to the spiritual needs of his little flock. For this purpose the good priest was always to be found in the right place after vespers on Fridays, and now even as the two dames stood Father Patrick came up from his cottage hard by. He was a tall, powerful man. about five and forty, good- looking, with a face at once kind, shrewd, and resolute—nut the man to be easily fooled or gainsaid—who could be the "Church militant as well as the Church spiritual when the cause of right required. He looked very grave and sorrowful, for hia heart was heavy enough, and when old Kathleen Macartney asked anxiously lk if his riverence had heard any news of Misther Terence 1" he shook Ins head sadly. No, Kattie, 1 can'c make it out at all, and miserably anxious and troubled I am. He must be ill or something have happened to him. He promised to write from Dublin to give me his address, and even if he did not get employment at once, sure and it's not waiting tor that he would be I'm think- ing—but for two long months Now I must go." Still that was a possible solution, though not one to draw much comfort from. But a minute ai'er those words he had passed into gche church, and entered his side of the confessional with its partitions and grating between priest and penitent. Once within that: sanctum the man was put aside —it was the priest only who sat there "in patience possessing his soul." Sometimes there would be a many penitents, at other times very few, in the whole two hours allotted, and this evening there werellOt many—only four at first, who followed each other by turn, as usual. Then there was a gap of time before one more, the last, as it proved, entered the confessional—a man's step and a man's deep voice that spoke on the other side of the grating. Then there came a half-hour, which to the confessor was surely as a thousand years of purgatorial tires. Patrick O'Brien got back to his cottage, to his own little room, and flung himself to his knees in a passsion of horror and agony that tore body and soul from head to foot. Was that last hair-hour a hideous dream or a. still more hideous reaiity of revenge and crime crowned by the blasphemy of a con- ression that was none of penitence, but a mockery, a deliberate refinement of revenge igainst himself, for an act three years ag" that had been his duty—the giving of evi- dence that had sent to prison a ruffian whose attempted deed of dastard violence deserved t in truth a pistol buiiet even more than four walls. That was reality enough to the memory of the tortured man who knelt with arms ilung out over the pallet bed and head bowed ou them. He had at once recog- nised the rough voice of Donovan Rorke as with simulated anguish and penitence he confessed himself as a murderer the victim was a man whom he had waylaid one even- ing at a certain place, and shot him in the back, then thrown the dead man and weapon into a deep, dry old well overgrown by thick bushes, of which the assassin knew. His motive was revenge, which he had nursed for three years, and killed this man because that he had found out would best have it out of the spalpeen he hated, since this one loved the dead man—there Rorke had paused, and the priest, with blood growing ice-cold in an awful suspicion that was creep- ing over him, asked sternly where was the scene of the crime ? who was the murdered man 1 Then there had come a low, jeering laugh through the grating. £ < "Shure,thin,your riverence's awn brother, Terence and now ye know it, bun under the seal of confession, father, so ye can't inform on me." Too true was the maddening taunt-too perfect and secure the cruelly devilish revenge and well both murderer and priest knew that the former must go free for all the latter could do the canon is absolute— the sacred seal inviolate of that told to the priest in confession, and the assassin of Terence O'Brien must go free in the full knowledge of the living brother—which was the very revenge Rorke meant, and now gloated over. He had not told the where- abouts of the crime either, lest possibly some clue might be got from that. Ifc might possibly, the priest thought, when he could think at all calmly—be open to question whether canonically such a con- fession, made not in penitence but avowedly in revenge, a blasphemy of the sacrament surely, was a true confession at all, but that, of course, only his ecclesiastical superiors could consider, and even then how was a poor parish priest buried in a remote district to get at such distances very quickly ? Meanwhile the man could escape. But Rorke did not leave the village at once—not he he hung about just for the devilish pleasure of constantly throwing him- self in the priest's way, with a leer and grin of low triumph, and after a mocking the top o' the morning to your [riverence, sure it's ill ye're looking." Father O'Brien, stern and pale, never took the slightest notice of the fellow, who was more often at the whisky shop than any- where else and looked upon askance by most of the villagers as a rather hang-dog spalpeen—a stranger to whom no one took. Two or three weeks from that terrible Friday passed in this way, and then one afternoon a farmer at a distance "sent for Father Patrick to come over—his son was very ill. Of course the priest went at once, borrowing from one of his flock who actually possessed such riches an old but strong mare and little low-built cart—a primitive equipage boasting even for the reins only two very long pieces of rope which coiled down in the cart. "I mayn't be back to-night, Norah, Father Patrick told the old dame who waited on him, and off he drove with the small boy who had brought the message. Nor was the good priest back that night, for the farmer would hot hear of it and it was not till the next morning, therefore, that Father 0 Brlen started off again for a jog- trot home over fifteen miles of rough roads —socalledby courtesy—tracks our American cousins would have more correctly termed them, for most of the way. We'll go round by the cross-roads, acushla macree," said Father Patrick, stoop- ing forward to pat the mare. It's a trifle longer, but it's a better road, and when; we're there only five miles from home, honey." The old mare doubtless quite understood, and jogged on contentedly enough, till the cross-roads, in a scattered sort of wood- ing, were reached. The priest pulled up where the four roads met and got down. '■ Sure, aileen, it's a rest and a bit of grass that • ye'll have here, said he. There it is, old honey, as fresh as a daisy, bedad." Whilst he was talking to the mare, a rough head, guiltless of even a corbeen, was lifted from behind a mass of under- wood, just beyond the roadside, towards which the priest's back was turned, as he stood nearly in the centre of the cross-roads; then a man's figure reared itself up, moving forwards, an evil leer on the fellow's coarse face, as the other, hearing footsteps, turned quickly to see Donovan Rorke before him. He-he-he the top o' the morning to yer riverence" said he, grinning, just enough on to be a trifle off his guard in the gloating insolence of his brutal triumph. If in that very moment the priest's very blood and heart turned with a sudden, rieree passion, that almost mastered him in the maddened impulse to crush the life out of the wretch before him—his brother's murderer — who dare blame him 1 Surely lieaven itself would count such wrath with 'he anger that sins not." But he did keep sU-inaatery, and made neither answer r nor movement, though his teeth were set, and those handsome Irish grey eyes steadily, if slowly, bore down the insolent stare of the vengeful assassin before him. This calm dignity, that disdained to show even the loathing, incensed the brutish animal nature that thirsted for some sign of the torture it so gloated over inflicting. Rorke had taken just enough whisky to be incautious and over-confident altogether, and was, besides, too ignorant to see the vital antithesis of their mutual position of to-day and that of the Friday. He could not now resist the jeering taunt, which he knew must cut z!1 deeper than ever, because of the seal of silence, which bound the priest in such terrible impotence cowards his brother's murderer. Maybe," said he, chuckling, he—he— he—maybe yer honours riverence will be plaised to know that jist near where the auld mare's grazin' is the d:ried-up well and the ground ye'se standic.* on is where yer honour's brother Terence tell when I shot him dead !—thrue for ye. I kill't him entirely and pitched him into the well, and-ocii-- help-murther It was a sudden strangled yell of terror, like a wild beast's, for in that moment Patrick O'Brien had ilung himself on the murderer, hurling him backwards, crashing to the ground, and knelt on his chest with a grip like steel on his throat. "You divil," the man said through his teeth, his eyes ablaze with the fierce passion of wrath so long pent up, "foresworn murderer before the God you blasphemed, you're my prisoner this day till I hand you over to justice." Let go-I'll choke -ve daren't inform;" gasped the wretch, struggling to fling off hi" powerful captor, half-choking, half-stunned by the back fall. Was confession—" Be silent, Donovan Rorke, and keep still or its down the well I'll fling you, till I'll get the police. What was told to me in the confessional was told to the priest, and I've kept the seal unbroken. But here under the open heavens we two stood simnly man to man, and it's now that you have confessed your crime to the man, Patrick O'Brien, who's going to bind ye hand and foot." Ye divil—never—the curse o' Cromwell be—" with a frantic struggle against this iron grip that held his throat', half-strangled, the wretch gave a wrench up of head I and shoulders, but his captor dashed him back again with a force which this time stunned him. Then sreru and swift the mur- dered man's brother and 2,venger rose, cub the rope reins of his Iio.rse and bound the senseless murderer hand and foot, got him into the cart, and mounting the mare him- self drove his prisoner av/a.y to the village, there to keep him bound, under close guard, til) the police were fetched from the nearest town. It was useless for Donovan Rorke to deny the murder the body of bis victim and the pistol were found in the old well, and one piece of evidence led to another, and in corroboration of Father O'Brien's damning evidence of the open avowal to taunt him of the murder. Of the first confession of it he, of course, never breathed a word. In the end the murderer Rorke was condemned and hanged amidst the execrations of the crowd outside the gaol. [The facts of the above actually took place some years -igo in "Ire'ar.JL] [The

-"""-"I"'....,,'1 -----------YANKEE…