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ABRAHAM STOKER is the second son of the late Abraham Stoker, of the Chief Secretary's Office, Dublin Castle, and was educated at Rev. W. Wood's school, Dublin, and at Trinity College. At the university he was Auditor and President of the Historical and the Philosophical Societies, and athletic champion.
He is a barrister of the Inner Temple, and holds the medal of the Royal Humane Society for life-saving. He entered the Civil Service in 1866, where he became Inspector of Petty Sessions. While thus engaged he was critic and reviewer for several papers, and editor of an evening newspaper. In 1878 Mr. Stoker threw in his fortunes with those of Sir Henry Irving in his management of the Lyceum Theater. He has published' Under the Sunset,' 'The Snake's Pass,' 'The Watter's Mou,' 'The Shoulder of Shasta,' 'Dracula,' and Miss Betty.'
THE GOMBEEN MAN.
From The Snake's Pass.'
In the midst of the buzz of conversation the clattering of hoofs was heard. There was a shout, and the door opened again and admitted a stalwart stranger of some fifty years of age, with a strong, determined face, with kindly eyes, well-dressed, but wringing wet and haggard, and seemingly disturbed in mind. One arm hung useless by his side.
"Here's one of them!" said Father Peter.
Room was made for him at the fire. He no sooner came near it and tasted the heat than a cloud of steam arose from him.
"Man! but ye're wet," said Mrs. Kelligan. "One'd think ye'd been in the lake beyant!"
"So I have," he answered, "worse luck! I rid all the way from Galway this blessed day to be here in time, but the mare slipped coming down Curragh Hill, and threw me over the bank into the lake. I wor in the wather nigh three hours before I could get out, for I was forninst the Curragh Rock, an' only got a foothold in a chink, an' had to hold on wid me one arm, for I fear the other is broke." "Dear! dear! dear!" interrupted the woman. "Sthrip yer coat off, acushla, an' let us see if we can do anythin'." He shook his head as he answered:
I must get
"Not now; there's not a minute to spare. up the Hill at once. I should have been there be six o'clock. But mayn't be too late yit. The mare has broke down entirely. Can any one here lend me a horse?"
There was no answer till Andy spoke:
"Me mare is in the shtable, but this gintleman has me 'an her for the day, an' I have to lave him at Carnaclif tonight."
Here I struck in:
"Never mind me, Andy. If you can help this gentleman, do so. I'm better off here than driving through the storm. He wouldn't want to go on with a broken arm if he hadn't good reason."
The man looked at me with grateful eagerness.
"Thank yer honor kindly. It's a rale gintleman ye are! An' I hope ye'll never be sorry for helpin' a poor fellow in sore trouble."
"What's wrong, Phelim?" asked the priest. "Is there anything troubling you that any one here can get rid of?"
"Nothin', Father Pether, thank ye kindly. The trouble is me own intirely, an' no wan here could help me. But I must see Murdock to-night."
There was a general sigh of commiseration; all understood the situation.
"Musha!" said old Dan Moriarty, sotto voce. is that the way of it? An' is he, too, in the clutches iv that wolf-him that we all thought was so warrum? Glory be to God! but it's a quare wurrld, it is; an' it's few there is in it that is what they seems. Me poor frind, is there any way I can help ye? I have a bit iv money by me that yer wilkim to the lend iv av ye want it."
The other shook his head gratefully.
"Thank ye kindly, Dan, but I have the money all right; it's only the time I'm in trouble about!"
"Only the time, me poor chap! It's be time that the divil helps Black Murdock an' the likes iv him, the most iv all! God be good to ye if he has got his clutch on yer back, an' has time on his side, for ye'll want it!"
"Well, anyhow, I must be goin' now. Thank ye kindly, neighbors all. When a man's in throuble, sure the goodwill of his frinds is the greatest comfort ye can have."
"All but one, remember that-all but one!" said the priest.
"Thank ye kindly, Father, I shan't forget. Thank ye, Andy, an' you, too, young sir; I'm much beholden to ye. I hope some day I may have it to do a good turn for ye in return. Thank ye kindly again, and good-night." He shook my hand warmly, and was going to the door, when old Dan said:
"An' as for that black-jawed ruffian, Murdock-" He paused, for the door suddenly opened, and a harsh voice said:
"Murtagh Murdock is here to answer for himself!" It was my man at the window.
There was a sort of paralyzed silence in the room, through which came the whisper of one of the old women: "Musha! talk iv the divil!"
Joyce's face grew very white; one hand instinctively grasped his riding-switch, the other hung uselessly by his side. Murdock spoke:
"I kem here expectin' to meet Phelim Joyce. I thought I'd save him the throuble of comin' wid the money." Joyce said in a husky voice:
"What do ye mane? I have the money right enough here. I'm sorry I'm a bit late, but I had a bad accident -bruk me arrum, an' was nigh dhrownded in the Curragh Lake. But I was goin' up to ye at once, bad as I am, to pay ye yer money, Murdock." The Gombeen Man interrupted him:
"But it isn't to me ye'd have to come, me good man. Sure, it's the sheriff himself that was waitin' for ye', an' whin ye didn't come "-here Joyce winced; the speaker smiled-" he done his work."
"What wurrk, acushla?" asked one of the women. Murdock answered, slowly:
"He sould the lease iv the farrum known as the Shleenanaher in open sale, in accordance wid the terrums of his notice, duly posted, and wid warnin' given to the houldher iv the lease."
There was a long pause. Joyce was the first to speak: "Ye're jokin', Murdock. For God's sake, say ye're jokin'! Ye tould me yerself that I might have time to git An' ye tould me that the puttin' me farrum
up for sale was only a matther iv forrum to let me pay ye back in me own way. Nay, more, ye asked me not to tell any iv the neighbors, for fear some iv them might want to buy some iv me land. An' it's niver so, that whin ye got me aff to Galway to rise the money, ye went on wid the sale, behind me back-wid not a soul by to spake for me or mine-an' sould up all I have! No, Murtagh Murdock, ye're a hard man, I know, but ye wouldn't do that! Ye wouldn't do that!"
Murdock made no direct reply to him, but said, seemingly to the company generally:
"I ixpected to see Phelim Joyce at the sale to-day, but as I had some business in which he was consarned, I kem here where I knew there'd be neighbors-an', sure, so there is."
He took out his pocket-book and wrote names: "Father Pether Ryan, Daniel Moriarty, Bartholomew Moynahan, Andhrew McGlown, Mrs. Katty Kelligan-that's enough! I want ye all to see what I done. There's nothin' undherhand about me! Phelim Joyce, I give ye formil notice that yer land was sould an' bought be me, for ye broke yer word to repay me the money lint ye before the time fixed. Here's the sheriff's assignment, an' I tell ye before all these witnesses that I'll proceed with ejectment on title at wanst."
All in the room were as still as statues. Joyce was fearfully still and pale, but when Murdock spoke the word "ejectment" he seemed to wake in a moment to frenzied life. The blood flushed up in his face, and he seemed about to do something rash; but with a great effort he controlled himself and said:
"Mr. Murdock, ye won't be too hard. I got the money to-day-it's here but I had an accident that delayed me. I was thrown into Curragh Lake and nigh dhrownded, an' me arrum is bruk. Don't be so close as an hour or two; ye'll never be sorry for it. I'll pay ye all, and more, and thank ye into the bargain all me life. Ye'll take back the paper, won't ye, for me children's sake-for Norah's sake?"
He faltered; the other answered with an evil smile: "Phelim Joyce, I've waited years for this moment. Don't ye know me betther nor to think I would go back on
meself whin I have shtarted on a road? I wouldn't take yer money, not if every pound note was spread into an acre and cut up in tin-pound notes. I want yer land—I have waited for it, an' I mane to have it! Now don't beg me any more, for I won't go back; an' tho' it's many a grudge I owe ye, I square them all before the neighbors be refusin' yer prayer. The land is mine, bought be open sale; an' all the judges an' coorts in Ireland can't take it from me! An' what do ye say to that now, Phelim Joyce?"
The tortured man had been clutching the ash sapling which he had used as a riding-whip, and from the nervous twitching of his fingers I knew that something was com ing. And it came; for, without a word, he struck the evil face before him-struck as quick as a flash of lightningsuch a blow that the blood seemed to leap out round the stick, and a vivid welt rose in an instant. With a wild, savage cry the Gombeen Man jumped at him; but there were others in the room as quick, and before another blow could be struck on either side both men were grasped by strong hands and held back.
Murdock's rage was tragic. He yelled, like a wild beast, to be let get at his opponent. He cursed and blasphemed so outrageously that all were silent, and only the stern voice of the priest was heard:
"Be silent, Murtagh Murdock! Aren't you afraid that the God overhead will strike you dead? With such a storm as is raging as a sign of his power, you are a foolish man to tempt him."
The man stopped suddenly, and a stern, dogged sullenness took the place of his passion. The priest went on:
As for you, Phelim Joyce, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Ye're not one of my people, but I speak as your own clergyman would if he were here. Only this day has the Lord seen fit to spare you from a terrible death; and yet you dare to go back of his mercy with your angry passion. You had cause for anger-or temptation to it, I know—but you must learn to kiss the chastening rod, not spurn it. The Lord knows what he is doing for you as for others, and it may be that you will look back on this day in gratitude for his doing, and in shame for your own anger. Men, hold off your hands-let those two