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CHAPTER 111. “ Oh, richly fell the flaxen hair Over the maiden’s shoulders fair ! On erery feature of her face Sat radiant modesty and grace ; Her tender eyes were mild and bright, And through her robes of shadowy white The delicate outline of her form Shone like an iris through a storm. It was fair-day at the little town, or rather village, that lay nearest to Windy Hill. Fair-day, coming only once in the summer, was a great event in the neighborhood. All the girls, far and near, put on their best bravery and went off to the fair gaily, to have a pleasant day with their sweethearts, after business was over, and to be given presents or “fairings”—all but Mary Daly. Several young men had come and asked her to go, but she smilingly shook her head with a pretty refusing gesture at them all and stayed. Had her mother even been well, Mary did not care to go in Ryan’s absence to any gaiety; it was always fair-day to her only to think of him. But her mother, who had been ill since before Ryan’s absence, was not better, even rather worse that day, although the dumb girl knew it not; the mother being always anxious not to frighten her. Towards mid-day the Widow Daly called gently to her daughter, who was busy at some household work, and who was never far from the great straw chair in which the invalid dozed away her time. “ Mary dear,” she said, “ I am vexed, after all, that ye did not go to’ the fair and have a little fun like the other girls. For I see just now that my medicine-bottle is nearly empty, arid I would like to have it filled again before night.” Should she go still—and hurry;

dumb girl asked in eagetnessj' by expressive signs. “ Yes, dear, I wish you would go; apd ask the dbctor to stop and see me as he drives past the hill this afternoon —bul there is no need to hurry. Don’t go too quickly and lire yourself,” said the sick woman. And as Mary quickly put on her common straw bonnet and left the house,, the last words she heard was the affectionate entreaty again in her mother’s loving voice called “ Mind—there is no need to hurry, now, my dear one.” ’. • • ' * How could poor. there was need indegd,^ o *hs feared; that the message, about the medicine' was, j_qnly\ pretence in order to get the 'aocjrolV but above all things, the ■ 'loving ( Jplfre behind there feared frightening ■ the-® young creature, or that she anxiety qver-exert herself ? ’ less, in her eagerness to .get down to the village soon and -get the sooner . home again, Mary sped quiqldy'^feh^ fr the road. She had some fears.^or' the 1 dear good mother behind there, who

was half her world of- love,- Dennis ,r Ryan being the other half ; she was not very uneasy, but still a misgiving at times seized her. 1 ' The dumb girl walked so fast thatm little, more than an hour she was c105e. .../, to the village. Most of the people were already in the fair; still she now- - overtook one of the young men who* were reckoned among her, admirers,, and the best and truest among; thefbj John McConnell, theblacksmith,. On his surprised enquiryshe told, by r .^ 0 a few gestures, pointing homewards - and showing her medicine|bottle,|what she sought. Mary’s ways . were Indeed full of speech,, as Dennis said often. But for this) and the ex- '** treme beauty of her blue beseeching *;) eyes, and the raven’s-wing gloss of her dark hair, the dumb girl would have stood a poor chance among ; her niany/ rivals. Nevertheless, perhaps, xd&Wf the men may have thought,'with shidtfrcT; and caustic reasoning, that her affli(>’_ tion might be none to a husband, since Silence in woman is like spec chin man, " 1 ’ Deny’t who can. The crowd at the entrance to the T fair was so great that, naturally. enough/'. I MaryjDaly was glad when the blacksmith offered to escort .her safely through it.

Who should see them both together just then, however, hut, the carpenter's,— wife ! “ Ho,, ho ! ” thought the .crope,- “ so that young witch has come dowt( to the fair on the sly, after all, and is,, - f keeping company with John McCon- " nell while Ryan is away. And yet her mother said yesterday she nevercated' , to go anywhere till Dennis came back. , Wait now, if I don’t tell him !” , : - To Mary’s sorrow the doctor was found to be absent when she enquired ri ? at his door, and not expected back tillr the afternoon ; so what ; could be dbh£ ‘ *- but wait. McConnell tried to conafoyt- 3her, saying she must only be patient,. and her mother would be none the worse for waiting, he was sure. 'And to spend the time he proposed that they niight just look into the show opposite. “ There’s a snake ladv who* :t ; charms three big J " them about her, and shure Sucfi a' 1 sight as a snake hasn’t been seen in Ireland’ since St. Patrick banished thef last big wan ! All the world is seeing her,” he. pleaded. Mary Daly was strongly tempted to see the great sight; and why not go ? She could ,do no good to her sick :! mother by keeping away from it. - , -, f So they, too, joined the crowd, when the carpenter’s wife spied them again, and followed them close to see whatj. fun they werd after. •- > - f)\ | The afternoon came on, and lfye pef- t v formance was just, ended,* when agig‘ | drove by. It was that of, the doctpr I i\x and on seeing Mary he stopped his horse, while she came up eagerly toasJfj him, by signs, for the physic. “ Go home, my poor girl, -as fast-tHf®*** you can,” said the doctor,} Lf?‘ lJe¥W mind the medicine. As I- drove by the— Windy Hill an hour ago I went up to see your mother, and found her very ill. Hurry back to see hefj ■there’fr'St s '.y good lass ; it’s all ye can do."’ “She’s dyin’, and ye’ve left her’lone. Shame on ye—shame upon ye,”, cried the carpenter’s wife, who was standing by. But Mary seemed hot to hear the f_-_ cruel, thoughtless words. only at the doctor’s face,' and gave a * /’ strange hoarse cry —the cry of a dumb person —then turned and ran- /vIA She heard calls behind and noises* .. r but she never stopped. , . On and on swiftly, out into the 1 ' 1 country by the steep path up young Mary sped. Thunder muttered in the distance; then a stbrixi came orf. : McConnell had foreseen this, andht asked leave to go with-Jier; now he

followed but lost sight of her at tunes . in the hills, for this track was seldom used, being dangerous froth' shaking bogs. Sometimes, bewildered, the dumb girl got among these, and had to jump from grass tussock to tussock, but her steps seemed guided by some — blessed higher Power. Slipping, ing, wet to the skin, she yet ran : 6ri < under the driving deluge, that seemed; as if it would beat to tlie ground this young thing that defied it. Jagge4 lightnings leaped down before her,, | thunder crashed through the dun sky above her head; but the terror in her mind was worse —far more awful! . . . r Would her darling, her blessed mother, be living? Would-she- hSU *-“f speak —still know her ? rrt Now Mary dragged her way by the | ’ water ditches in Ryan’s meadows, |he ** only living creature to be seen out mi. that wild weather. The Hill rose ) before her, and she tried to climb it, and twice fell flat with her face in tbp , wet grass, with exhaustion, and ;. again rose and clenched her teeth and I • t caught by bushes and branches to help herself along by the lee of the. steep hedge. At last she reached the cottage/ and stumbled wildly in over the / threshold. ; All was dark and very silent ' * *•' She gave a loving litde.dutolr.) and stopped panting. No other sound ! • Then she crept over like atJiief to' the straw arm-chajr, seeing tier mother’s figure in it; felt in the half darkness fdrfjP her hands; put her , ftthefc..J. r : quiet face. Her ■ mother wasisitting*. h dead 1 : ' r; Ah ! silent misery, r voiceless, ? dumb despair! That night, wbga the stdrrii ->• clouds rolled shone out, it looked upon a desperate . *

oung heart on the top of Windy hu., watching the beloved dead, ns V believing it would yet move an ! spv.-r again to her; a girl laying her warn; cheek to a stone cold one, or writhing in dumb agony on the floor. Then, with her poor voiceless soul, Mary was crying for the two she loved to come back and comfort her—on Dennis, on her mother ! She thought her heart was broken. But she knew no better; it was not broken—-yet. There came someone and knocked at the door. Why should Mary be frightened any more now, she herself knew not, but she sprang up from the floor l straight and white, and trembled like an aspen leaf. But it was only McCopnell, who had taken shelter till thei (Stpun was welt past, and now came out of his way to see if he could help. He sat up with her through that awful night, to wake the'dead, silent as herself , The news of the death went through the country none knew how, and by cock-crow the carpenter's wife was up to have a sight of the corpse, and more followed her. And some said, when they left, McConnell was kind and good to have stayed by the lone young creature on such an awful night. But the carpenter’s wife said it was queer he had been with her at the fair too, and wondered would Ryan like it, and thought of her own rich niece who had a fancy for Ryan. (To be continued. )

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Bibliographic details

THE WITCH OF WINDY HILL., Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 292, 14 March 1881

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THE WITCH OF WINDY HILL. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 2, Issue 292, 14 March 1881

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