The House by the Church-Yard, by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Chapter 39

Telling How Lilias Walsingham Found Two Ladies Awaiting Her Arrival at the Elms.

When Lilias Walsingham, being set down in the hall at the Elms, got out and threw back her hood, she saw two females sitting there, who rose, as she emerged, and bobbed a courtesy each. The elder was a slight thin woman of fifty or upwards, dark of feature, but with large eyes, the relics of early beauty. The other a youthful figure, an inch or two taller, slim and round, and showing only a pair of eyes, large and dark as the others, looking from under her red hood, earnestly and sadly as it seemed, upon Miss Walsingham.

‘Good-evening, good neighbours,’ said Miss Lily in her friendly way; ‘the master is in town, and won’t return till tomorrow; but may be you wish to speak to me?’

‘’Tis no place for the like of yous,’ said old John Tracy, gruffly, for he knew them, with the privilege of an old servant. ‘If you want to see his raverence, you must come in the morning.’

‘But it may be something, John, that can’t wait, and that I can do,’ said Lily.

‘And, true for you, so it is, my lady,’ said the elder woman, with another bob; ‘an’ I won’t delay you, Ma’am, five minutes, if you plaze, an’ it’s the likes of you,’ she said, in a shrewish aside, with a flash of her large eyes upon John Tracy, ‘that stands betune them that’s willin’ to be good and the poor — so yez do, saucepans and bone-polishers, bad luck to yez.’

The younger woman plucked the elder by the skirt; but Lily did not hear. She was already in the parlour.

‘Ay, there it is,’ grinned old John, with a wag of his head.

And so old Sally came forth and asked the women to step in, and set chairs for them, while Lily was taking off her gloves and hood by the table.

‘You’ll tell me first who you are,’ said Lily, ‘my good woman — for I don’t think we’ve met before — and then you will say what I can do for you.’

‘I’m the Widdy Glynn, Ma’am, at your sarvice, that lives beyant Palmerstown, down by the ferry, af its playsin’ to you; and this is my little girl, Ma’am, av you plaze. Nan, look up at the lady, you slut.’

She did not need the exhortation, for she was, indeed, looking at the lady, with a curious and most melancholy gaze.

‘An’ what I’m goin’ to say, my lady, if you plase, id best be said alone;’ and the matron glanced at old Sally, and bobbed another courtesy.

‘Very well,’ said Miss Walsingham. ‘Sally, dear, the good woman wants to speak with me alone: so you may as well go and wait for me in my room.’

And so the young lady stood alone in presence of her two visitors, whereupon, with a good many courtesies, and with great volubility, the elder dame commenced —

‘’Tis what we heerd, Ma’am, that Captain Devereux, of the Artillery here, in Chapelizod, Ma’am, that’s gone to England, was coortin’ you my lady; and I came here with this little girl, Ma’am, if you plaze, to tell you, if so be it’s thrue, Ma’am, that there isn’t this minute a bigger villian out iv gaol — who brought my poor little girl there to disgrace and ruin, Ma’am?’

Here Nan Glynn began to sob into her apron.

‘’Twas you, Richard Devereux, that promised her marriage — with his hand on the Bible, on his bended knee. ’Twas you, Richard Devereux, you hardened villian — yes, Ma’am, that parjured scoundrel —(don’t be cryin’, you fool)— put that ring there, you see, on her finger, Miss, an’ a priest in the room, an’ if ever man was woman’s husband in the sight of God, Richard Devereux is married to Nan Glynn, poor an’ simple as she stands there.’

‘Stop, mother,’ sobbed Nan, drawing her back by the arm; ‘don’t you see the lady’s sick.’

‘No — no — not anything; only — only shocked,’ said poor Lilias, as white as marble, and speaking almost in a whisper; ‘but I can’t say Captain Devereux ever spoke to me in the way you suppose, that’s all. I’ve no more to say.’

Nan Glynn, sobbing and with her apron still to her eyes, was gliding to the door, but her mother looked, with a coarse sort of cunning in her eye, steadily at the poor young lady, in some sort her victim, and added more sternly —

‘Well, my lady, ’tis proud I am to hear it, an’ there’s no harm done, at any rate; an’ I thought ’twas only right I should tell you the thruth, and give you this warnin’, my lady; an’ here’s the atturney’s writin’, Ma’am — if you’ll plaze to read it — Mr. Bagshot, iv Thomas Street — sayin’, if you’ll be plazed to look at it — that ’tis a good marriage, an’ that if he marries any other woman, gentle or simple, he’ll take the law iv him in my daughter’s cause, the black, parjured villian, an’ transport him, with a burnt hand, for bigamany; an’ ’twas only right, my lady, as the townspeople was talking, as if it was as how he was thryin’ to invagle you, Miss, the desaver, for he’d charrum the birds off the trees, the parjurer; and I’ll tell his raverence all about it when I see him, in the morning — for ’tis only right he should know. Wish the lady good-night, Nan, you slut — an the same from myself, Ma’am.’

And, with another courtesy, the Glynns of Palmerstown withdrew.

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Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 16:49