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CHAPTER 11. A pedlar crossed the bridge one day, and stopped to show his goods to the carpenter’s wife, she being always ready to spy any passer-by, and delighted at the chance of chaffering, if not getting a bargain. He had just come down from Windy Hill, he said, having sold nothing up at the cottage, however—little wonder ! The moment he had clapped his eyes on Mistress Daly and her dumb little girl he had recognised them, and on his saying so, the widow had been so vexed, she had shut the door in his face.

Thc carpenter’s wife could not contain her curiosity at that. With eager lips she inquired more, and with itching pars listened to a strange sad story, told with equal relish by the pedlar. Widow Daly’s late husband had been hanged for murder a year ago ! —ay, for murder : no less ! They lived down in the West at the time when he was said to have done the deed, and was taken and tried for his life. And his own child—this same child, little Mary—was brought up as a witness and swore the evidence that caused her poor innocent father fo swing. “ Ah ! innocent ” —repeated the pedlar with unction. Who would doubt it, for did not her tongue turn black in her mouth the moment after she said it, and she was carried in a fit out of the court and never spoke another word after; as those he knew, who were bystanders, could affirm. “Never?—no never!” cried the carpenter’s wife. And the pedlar, in reward of his

marvellous! tale, was asked to spend the night in the cottage, and after supper repeated his story to several more eager listeners. And each time he told it, it grew by help 'of additions, till at last it seemed as if the pedlar had himself been in the court-house and seen all the sad scene between father and child; whilst an impression began to gain upon himself and his hearers, first begun by the idle surmise of one among them, that the widow must have been at enmity with her husband, else how could she have allowed her child fo swear away his life. ; 7 This was certainly the supposition only of the most ignorant ''im&ag***** Widow Daly’s neighbors. Some few ■ were found to take her part, in fairness —all this being still unknown to the poor woman. , But, nevertheless, the story, after it had passed from mouth to mouth for a month through the country, ran somewhat thus: that the widow was shrewdly suspected of knowing who had done the murderous deed, and had taught her child to help in screening the guilty, thus bringing about the death of its father.

At last all the neighborhood around Windy Hill thought so fiercely of the unsuspecting lonely mother and child, ; that some mutterings of the black storm brewed by slander against them, alarmed poor Mrs Daly. The grocer’s wife told the widow, kindly enough, that there was ill gossip going which ; she herself would not entirely believe. Nevertheless, unless Mistress Daly could contradict it, it might be better to keep away from the shop. For,- ■ : though a good customer, and one who ,: paid with the most careful exactness, still other customers objected, to her presence. . ; / In alarm and grief poor widow Daly j went straight to the minister of the parish, and, entreating him to take Her part, at last told out all the sad story which till then had never crossed her , lips. , She said—what he found out to be . •) the truth—that her husband had been, ,j----indeed guilty, and the grief of knowing that she must bear to her grave ! t But poor little Mary had in nowise been even the innocent cause ol her un- |' happy father’s execution; since the * child, although examined, could tell : but little. It was the evidence of others which had been damning, : and ’could not be disproved.

The awful misery of mind felt by the tender child, who haJ Taeen much attached to its father, was,-however, so’ intense beforehand and during the* trial, that when it came to her own share in the latter she fell into convulsions, and in this state had to be removed, as the pedlar said. 1 Instead of recovering, the little creature grew only the more ill, and no one knew rightly what ailed her. She ; would hardly ever speak, scarcely eat, , ? and in a last attack of her nerves ftlje: f;| power of speech seemed altogether to leave her. A good Samaritan, a doctor, -I saved her life, and said he believed * ’ that any great shock would give her back the use of her tongue, and she would then speak as well as ever again. But, alas ! meanwhile, the child remained dumb. = - The minister took up the cause'of the widow and the fatherless and spoke sternly to many : so that after a while those in the cottage were again better thought of, and the scandal came to' die, or at least it hushed, and no more harsh human clamours reached the ears of the lonely dwellers on the . hilt-top, , who seemed to themselves nearer the , ‘ sky there—more beneath the very £ye ! of God.

Two or three years had passed, and one there was who thought well of both- k mother and daughter—the young far- ’ raer below the hill. ‘ ; • Mary Daly, the dumb girl, had grown , up so fair of face and slender of figure that she was, though little seen, sometimes the talk of the country-side. The jealous raked up at times the old story * •»* but young Ryan thought he could. judge best. Who, of course, so 'unprejudiced, he thought, as a young man judging of a pretty girl. He was no relation, and impartial; not a woman, therefore not jealous; not an old manj therefore not indifferent.

So many a dusk and many a glpaming, when Mary Daly came otit to search for the calves to house them, t she would see young Ryan come up I. the narrow dark path lined with tall ashes that led up the hill, to tell her how the calves had broken into his young , . corn on the right-hand field here, or had strayed down to his meadow yonder—not that he minded the damage done a bit. Then he would help her to bring them up to the bleak hill-top, and stop to lean over the gate at the lane end to say some parting words, and watch Mary’s pretty gestures answering him back, and her “ speaking face.” At last young Dennis told Mary he would rather have whatever her facesaid to him than any other woman’s sweetest words. So it was settled, and soon known in the country that these two were going to be married. Many a mother had wanted Ryan and his rich farm for her own girl They wished the widow to her face joy of having got so good a son-in-law, but behind backs they talked bitterly of how she must have entrapped him. The malice broke out afresh.

But young Mary Daly became like a new creature; she that never laughed, nor hardly smiled—the timid girl who ' ’ seemed just stepping out of a joyless childhood with regret, as if fearing older years meant addedsorrow, seemed f | suddenly to have seen the sun and be * glad! She was like a young] bijrd • fluttering happily out in the great green world—like a fresh opening flower. 1 ler mother trembled lest it was too , wonderful and blessed a change in their “ : t lives to last. And indeed too soon came up a small cloud in their clear blue sky, for - the mother fell ill; so that till she - f grew better the wedding must wait a - bit. They said it was all for; the best ; since a black-edged letter came, from , America telling young Ryan of the ? / money left him there, which he must go out and claim. So he sailed out in - r the next vessel westward, and his last.. ’ words to his sweetheart were; “ Now, ' ] Mary, lass, don’t ye be carrying on with _.]] ] any other man, for it would break my t ? .- heart.” ‘ ~/■ Days passed, and other young men ; 1 truly enough saw Mary Daly, and to get her to walk with them, and quarrelled together about ,-

never heeded them. The carpen.c. wife watched for gossip against the gir' like a cat fora mouse; and v.-heiuv any young man seemed to admire dumb Mary, if the lass only gave him, in passing by, the smile of acquaintance, that was put down to her discredit in the old gossip’s memory as in a black book. But young Mary knew nothing of all this, and walked innocent of harm to others or malice from them. She was happy. Her childhood, if lonely, speechless and delicate, had yet been altogether sad. Gleams of mother’s love had brightened it; mother’s constant care and support had kept free from the worst fears and trials of orphaned childhood, although childhood’s keenest joys had likewise been uhknowa Hers had been a tender twilight existence, like that of Kelmeny, who was brought up by the faries, in their land, whose day is lit by the moon; so the maiden’s ,4 Beauty was fain to see, > But still and steadfast was her e'e ! . . . She loved to rake the lonely glen," Arid keepit afar frae the haunts of men.” Now the sunlight had uprisen, flooding all the heaven of Mary’s young existence. ' She was utterly, unutterably happy during these months, nigh a year ! Too happy ! For when Ryan had been gone some weeks there came a dark day for the poor young soul he had left behind in Ireland. [To be continued.')

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Bibliographic details

THE WITCH OF WINDY HILL., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 291, 12 March 1881

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THE WITCH OF WINDY HILL. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 291, 12 March 1881

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