Shiana/Chapter 12

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Nora.—Listen, Peg; surely Shiana was not bound not to marry.
Peg.—I think, Nora, he was bound not to do what was wrong.
Nora.—That was not what Short Mary understood from him, but that there was a special obligation upon him before God, like the vow of a nun or of a monk.
Peg.—How do you or I know that he didn't take some vow or obligation of that sort upon himself before he went to speak to her that day?
Nora.—That was how Mary understood the thing, at all events.
Peg.—You are quite right, Nora.

She was talking to Michael's mother a couple of days afterwards, and this is how she spoke to her:—

"Hannah," said she, "isn't it a great wonder that Shiana didn't tell you the other day that he was a Céile Dé,[1] and not let us be under a false impression, as he did?"

Sheila.—What is a Céile Dé, Peg? Surely nobody could be a spouse to God,—praise and thanks be to Him!
Kate.—Oh, indeed, Peg, I heard my grandfather say that there used to be people long ago who wouldn't marry any woman, because they used to be married to the God of Glory Himself; and that was the name he called them, Céile Dé.
Sheila.—Why, how could they be married like that? Sure that isn't a marriage.
Kate.—If they were not married how could they be called Céile? Isn't Céile a married man or a married woman? Isn't it, Peg?
Peg.—It is, of course.
Sheila.—But then, Peg, how could a man be married to God? Why, a man couldn't be married except to a woman. Did anybody ever hear the like!
Abbie.—Oh, Sheila, how sharp you are! Who told you that a man couldn't be married except to a woman?
Sheila.—Peg told me the other day when she was teaching me the seven Sacraments. And see how you didn't tell me that, Peg that there used to be people long ago that were married to God Almighty.
Kate.—There used to be, indeed. I heard my grandfather say it seven times—no, but seven and thirty times.
Sheila.—Oh, indeed it is easy for Kate Buckley to talk. It isn't everybody that has a grandfather. I had a grandfather too for a while, but he died. The fever carried him off—health be where it is told!
Kate.—Hush, Sheila dear! See now, I didn't think what I was saying till I had said it. Oh dear, I never yet failed to do the wrong thing! Hush, Sheila darling, like a good girl. I remember your grandfather right well. I was very fond of him.
Peg.—You were, Kate, and he was very fond of you. He was fonder of you than of anybody else except Sheila herself. I remember well when you used to be here, and when he put Sheila on his knee, she wasn't satisfied and she wouldn't give us quiet or peace, young as she was, until you were put on the other knee. Then you never saw such fun as he used to have, pretending to be nodding asleep while you two were trying to kiss each other unknown to him.
Abbie.—Oh, indeed, Peg, she gave a kiss to Kate now!
Sheila.—I will, and another! Look!
Abbie.—Oh, give her as many as you like, my dear child!
Nora.—You haven't told us yet, Peg, how a person could be a Céile Dé?
Peg.—What used your grandfather to say, Kate?
Kate.—He used to say that they gave up to God the love that a man gives to his wife.
Peg.—That is just it.
Sheila.—Upon my word, Peg, it was not for love of God praise for ever to Him!—but for fear of the Black Man, that Shiana made a Céile Dé of himself.
Peg.—The Black Man was not to come until the thirteen years should be spent, and there was nothing to prevent him from marrying her in the meantime.
Sheila.—Isn't that what I say? When he came perhaps he would carry them both away with him.
Abbie.—And wouldn't that show, Sheila, that it was for love of Short Mary herself that he would not marry her?
Peg.—Exactly so, Abbie. And if he gave up to God the love that he had for her, when he couldn't give it to herself without putting her into the power of the Black Man, isn't that the very thing that would make a Céile Dé of him, just as your grandfather said, Kate?
Abbie.—I suppose so.
Peg.—It is not supposing; it is a certainty, Abbie. But still I don't think Short Mary understood that view of the matter. If she had understood it, it is not likely she would have said what she did say to Michael's mother.
"Isn't it a great wonder," said she, " that he didn't tell us he was a Céile Dé, and not let us be under a false impression?"

"He didn't say a word to me, ma'am," said Hannah, "but that it would be better for you to die the worst death anybody ever died than that he himself should marry you."

"He was west at our house a couple of days ago," said Short Mary, "that day that Michael was there; and he said to myself that he was bound before God never to marry. Think of it, Hannah," said she, "of all men in the great wide world, who would think of Shiana being under such a bond? I never was so much surprised in my born days. I tell you," said she, "that he opened my eyes for me. That man, of whom people say that he has no religion, to have such an obligation upon him in the sight of God; and I, who have the reputation of such great piety, to be breaking my heart trying to come between him and God! Isn't that a nice thing, Hannah? I don't know in the earth, or the world either, what took me, or what blinded me, or what dulled my mind and my faculties, that I should do such a thing. What will the neighbours say?"

"Never fear, ma'am, for that part of it. They have settled it already that it was Shiana himself that went west to ask you, and that you refused on the spot, and that then the poor man went out of his mind."

"Dear me," said Mary, "weren't they a short time settling it? What does Shiana himself say to that settlement?"

"Not a word out of his mouth," said Hannah. "And I can tell you there is no fear that anyone will ask him a question; or if anyone does, and he looks that person in the eyes, cut off my ear if he asks a second question."

"He is the most extraordinary man I ever met," said Mary. "It was a long time before I could make out whether he was a bad man or a good one. The first time I saw that look of his, I thought that the Evil One—the sign of the Cross between us and him!—was in his heart, so that I didn't like to meet him on the road, or to speak a word to him. But one night I was coming home from the town, and as I was going along the Broad Road, I had a touch of faintness, and I sat down on a stone in a bend of the fence of the road. I fell asleep, and when I woke up, the little faintness was gone, but it was the very dead of night. I jumped up and set out for home, and I promise you there was no numbness in my feet. It was a fine, sky-bright[2] night. When I was about twenty yards from the cross-roads, who should come up Bohar na Bro[3] but John of the Moon, the cut-throat of a thief!"

Sheila.—Who was he, Peg?
Peg.—He was an evil spirit that used to show himself there, and he used to kill people.

"When I saw him," said she, "I thought at once that I was done for. With that I heard somebody walking behind me. I looked over my shoulder. Who should be there but Shiana, with his two eyes blazing, and holding a drawn knife in his hand, a black-handled knife. He passed by me and faced the spirit. At the same moment I saw a flash of flame, and immediately after I saw Shiana in the place, alone.

"'Well, Mary,' said he, 'you have had a great escape to-night. I saw you coming this way, and I wondered what caused you to be out so late. I followed you for fear of this spot. Come away now, and I will see you home safe.'

"I hadn't the strength to speak, and I was hardly able to walk. He did not part from me till he left me west at my father's door. From that day to this no one, old or young, has heard a word from his lips about the affair. The next morning there was found at the cross-roads a lump of jelly the size of my fist, with a black-handled knife stuck in it. And I don't think anyone has seen John of the Moon since in the place. I thought it was a great deed on Shiana's part to put his own life into that danger for my sake, and I began to feel a very great regard for him. Indeed, Hannah, I can't tell you what a state my mind was in from that night until that day that he went west to tell me that there was some bond or obligation between himself and God, and that it was impossible for him to marry. I thought then that probably it was that bond that gave him the power over the evil spirit. I have always heard that people who were altogether given up like that to God had power to defeat the Evil One. When he told me that he was bound before God never to marry, I took the same vow upon myself in the sight of God. And do you know, Hannah, no sooner had I taken it, than it seemed to me that whatever evil thing it was that was in my mind, it went from me at that moment. You saw yourself the state I was in that day that I asked you to do a certain thing for me. When I think of it now I fancy I must really have been out of my senses to some degree. Whatever it was that was wrong with me, it is clean gone—great thanks be to the God of Glory for it!"

"Amen, O Lord!" said Hannah.

Sheila.—Whisper, Peg, wasn't "John of the Moon" a very funny name for a ghost? Was it that he was never seen except by moonlight?
Peg.—The night Short Mary saw him was a sky-bright night.
Sheila.—That's just it. And then, why was he called "John of the Moon," if he used to be seen when the moon was not up at all?

Peg.—He was a mortal man at first, and he was a thief, and he used to be out at night stealing, by moonlight. His name was John, and they called him John of the Moon as a nickname, because of the stealing. He used to be in Bohar na Bro at night, watching the people who would be coming along the road late in the night, and he used to rob them. At last he killed a man there on a dark night, and after a while he killed another. Then those people's friends came and hid themselves near the road, and when it was pretty late in the night one of them went out on the road and pretended to be drunk. John was watching too, and when he saw the drunken man, as he thought he was, he jumped out and attacked him. Then they all jumped out, and John of the Moon was killed. And from that time onward the ghost used to be seen in Bohar na Bro, and "John of the Moon" stuck to the ghost as its name.

  1. "Spouse of God," the name of an order of monks in very early Christian times in Ireland; usually anglicised "Culdee."
  2. i.e., bright by reflection, the moon itself not being visible.
  3. Bóṫar na Bró, "the road of the big flat stone."