Shiana/Chapter 2

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CHAPTER II.

THE BARGAIN CONCLUDED.

Nora.—Well Peg! We are here—again. I am out of breath I was running. I was afraid—that the story would be going on before I came, and that I should have lost some of it.
Peg.—Indeed, Nora dear, we would wait for you. It is not long since Abbie came.
Abbie.—No, for we were doing a churning, and I had to go west with the butter to Ballinyarra; and when I was coming home by the short cut, the night fell, and I promise you I got a start. I was thinking of Shiana, and of the gold, and of the Black Man and of the sparks that were coming out of his eyes, while I was running, so that I might not be late, when I raised my head, and what should I see but something standing right opposite me—the gollaun![1] At the first look I gave at it I could have sworn it had horns!
Nora.—Oh, nonsense, Abbie, be quiet, and don't be bothering us with your gollauns and your horns. Horns on a gollaun! Think of it!
Abbie.—Perhaps if you'd been there yourself you wouldn't have been so ready with your fun.
Sheila.—See now, who is stopping the story! Maybe Kate Buckley would say it was I?
Kate.—I won't, Sheila. You are a good girl to-night, and I am very fond of you, my darling, my heart's darling!
Sheila.—Oh, yes indeed! Wait till you are vexed, and maybe then you won't say "my darling!"
Abbie.—Now, now, stop, girls. I and my gollaun are the cause of all this trouble. Put away that stocking, Peg, and let us have the story. Did Shiana get the purse? Many a person has been near getting a purse and then didn't get it.

Peg.—As soon as Shiana said the words: "by the virtue of the Holy Things!" a change came over the appearance of the Black Man. He showed his teeth, both above and below, and they were tightly clenched. A sort of crooning sound came from his mouth, but Shiana could not make out whether he was laughing or growling. But when he looked up into the Black Man's eyes, the same terror was near coming upon him that he had felt at first. He saw well enough that the fellow was not laughing. He had never seen a worse pair of eyes, nor a more malignant look than the look that was in them, nor a brow so hard and forbidding as the brow that was above them; so he did not speak, and he did his best to pretend that he did not notice the growling. At the same time the Black Man let the gold out again upon his hand, and counted it.

"Here," said he. "Shiana, there are a hundred pounds for you for the first shilling you gave away to-day. Are you paid?"

"It is a big return," said Shiana. "It is only right that I should be."

"Right or wrong," said the Black Man, "are you paid?" and the growling became sharper and quicker.

"Oh, I am paid, I am paid," said Shiana, "my thanks to you."

"Here, then," said he. "There is another hundred for you, for the second shilling you gave away today."

"That is the shilling I gave to the woman who was bare-footed."

"That is the shilling you gave to the same lady."

"If she was a lady, how did she come to be bare-footed? And what made her take my shilling from me, when I had only one other shilling left?"

"If she was a lady! If you only knew! She is the Lady that ruined me!"

While he was saying those words he began to tremble, hand and foot. The growling ceased. His head fell back upon his neck. He gazed up into the sky. A death-like appearance came over him, and the look of a corpse upon his face.

When Shiana saw this change of colour he was very much surprised.

"This," said he, carelessly, "cannot be the first time that you have heard tell of that Lady."

The Black Man jumped. He struck a blow with his hoof upon the ground, so that the sod under Shiana's foot trembled.

"Maiming to you!" said he. "Shut your mouth or you will be hurt!"

"I beg your pardon, sir," said Shiana, meekly.

"I thought that perhaps you had taken a little drop, seeing that you gave me a hundred pounds in exchange for a shilling."

"I would give you that, and seven hundred, if I could take away anything from the good that that same shilling did; but since you gave it away for the Saviour's sake, it is for ever impossible to spoil the good it has done."

"And," said Shiana, "what need is there to spoil the good? May you not as well leave alone the good that was done by that shilling?"

"You talk too much; too much altogether. I told you to shut your mouth. Here! There is the whole purse for you," said the Black Man.

"I suppose there is no fear, sir," said Shiana, "that there wouldn't be enough in it to last the time? There is many a day in thirteen years. A man would have made many a shoe during that length of time, and there's many a way in which he would need a shilling."

"Don't be uneasy," said the Black Man, giving a little laugh. "Draw out of it as hard as ever you can. It will be as plump the last day as it is to-day. After that you won't have much use for it."

Shiana was satisfied.

"Thirteen years!" he said to himself. "And power to draw out of it as hard as I can. He made me swear by the virtue of the Holy Things, but I swear by every oath and vow to you, little purse, that you will be made to play music!—Good-bye to you," said he to the Black Man.

He turned on his heel to go home, but when he turned, on went the Black Man beside him. He quickened his pace. The other quickened his too.

"What shall I do?" said Shiana to himself. "The neighbours will see him."

"Never fear," said the Black Man. "Nobody will see me but yourself. I must escort you home, and learn the way there, and get a look at that soogaun chair of yours, and at the malvogue and at the apples."

"Bad luck to them for a chair and a malvogue and an apple-tree! Three beautiful things have been spoilt for me to-day because of them," said Shiana.

"That is not the worst part of the story," said the Black Man; "but if a neighbour comes in and sits in the chair, you will have to give him house-room, free of rent, because you won't be able to put him out when you have got him stuck in the chair."

"Good gracious me! What shall I do if there are three people stuck at home before me now? " said Shiana. "Perhaps, sir, you would be able to release them. Come along. You are welcome a thousand times."

"Patience, patience, Shiana! " said the Black Man. "There is nobody stuck yet. You were churlish a while ago, and now 'I am welcome a thousand times.' Ah! Shiana, that is a welcome for your own good."

"Well, the way the case stands, sir" said Shiana, and he looked up at the horns and down at the hoof.

"Oh, I see," said the Black Man. "You don't like the make of this shoe, nor the kind of ornament that is on my head. Never mind that. When you get used to them you will find no fault with them at all."

"Why, indeed and indeed now, sir," said Shiana, "believe me, I was not thinking of them. But if the neighbours were to see you they would be frightened, and harm might be done perhaps."

"The very thing! Haven't I just told you there was no fear that anybody would see me but yourself?" said the Black Man.

"Very well," said Shiana. "Come along."

Sheila.—Oh, goodness, Peg! I think if I were to see him the life would go out of me there and then.
Kate.—What's the good of your talking like that? Didn't he say that no one could see him but Shiana himself?
Sheila.—Ah, Kate dear, how do you know he was telling the truth? I wouldn't believe a word from the rogue.
Kate.—Didn't he give the money to Shiana all right?
Abbie.—How do you know it was really money? I heard somebody say that old Michael Redmond was in a public-house one day in Millstreet, and that he owed the landlady two and eightpence, and that she was keeping his hat in pledge for the money. Michael went out into the yard and picked up four or five little bits of slate, and after doing some sort of devilment over them, he took them in to her, and when she looked at them she thought they were lawful money, and she gave him his hat. They used to say that Michael learned "Freemashun" from the Knight, and that he could make a goat of you, but that if the wind changed while you were a goat, he could not turn you back.
James Buckley.—God save you all here!
Peg.—Oh, God and Mary be with you, James. It is your sister you want, I suppose.
James.—Yes, she is told to come home at once. Nell has come.
Kate.—Oh, nonsense, James! When did she come?
James.—Just a little while ago.
Kate.—God give a good night to you, Peg, and to you all.
Peg.—May you go safe, Kate.
Kate.—You won't tell any more to-night, Peg?
Peg.—Very well, I won't, Kate.

  1. gollán, a pillar-stone.