“That is,” replied others, “bekase he never met a man that would fight him. You see when he did, how he has turned out. One thing any how is clear enough—after this he can never rise his head while he lives.”
Meehaul now directed his steps homewards, literally stunned by the unexpected cowardice of his enemy. On approaching his father’s door, he found Nell M’Collum seated on a stone bench, waiting his arrival. The moment she espied him she sprang to her feet, and with her usual eagerness of manner, caught the breast of his coat, and turning him round towards the moonlight, looked eagerly into his face.
“Well,” she inquired, “did he show his fire-arms? Well? What was done?”
“Somebody has been making a fool of you, Nell,” replied Meehaul; “he had neither fire-arms, nor staff, nor any thing else; an’ for my part, I might as well have left mine at home.”
“Well, but, douol, man, what was done? Did you smash him? Did you break his bones?”
“None of that, Nell, but worse; he’s disgraced for ever. I struck him, an’ he refused to fight me; he hadn’t a hand to raise.
“No! Dher Chiernah, he had not; an’ he may thank Nell M’Collum for that. I put the weakness over him. But I’ve not done wid him yet. I’ll make that family curse the day they crossed Nell M’Collum, if I should go down for it. Not that I have any ill will to the boy himself, but the father’s heart’s in him, an’ that’s the way, Meehaul, I’ll punish the man that was the means of lavin’ me as I am.”
“Nell, the devil’s in your heart,” replied Meehaul, “if ever he was in mortal’s. Lave me, woman: I can’t bear your revengeful spirit, an’ what is more, I don’t want you to interfere in this business, good, bad, or indifferent. You bring about harm, Nell; but who has ever known you to do good?”
“Ay! ay!” said the hag, “that’s the cuckoo song to Nell; she does harm, but never does good! Well, may my blackest curse wither the man that left Nell to hear that, as the kindest word that’s spoke either to her or of her! I don’t blame you. Meehaul—I blame nobody but him for it all. Now a word of advice before you go in; don’t let on to Ellen that you know of her meetin’ him this night;—an’ reason good,—if she thinks you’re watchin’ her, she’ll be on her guard—’ay, an’ outdo you in spite of your teeth. She’s a woman—she’s a woman. Good night, an’ mark him the next time betther.”
Meehaul himself—had come to the same determination and from the same motive.
The consciousness of Lamh Laudher’s public disgrace, and of his incapability to repel it, sank deep into his heart. The blood in his veins became hot and feverish when he reflected upon the scornful and degrading insult he had just borne. Soon after his return home, his father and mother both noticed the singularly deep bursts of indignant feeling with which he appeared to be agitated. For some time they declined making any inquiry as to its cause, but when they saw at length the big scalding tears of shame and rage start from his flashing eyes, they could no longer restrain their concern and curiosity.