|Newspaper Title||Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||Outwitted; Or, Diamond Cut Diamond|
Or, Diamond Cut Diamond.
BY MRS. ROBERT HARRIS
(Author of "From Shadow Land," "The
Blakes of Ballinescrasy.")
[SECOND PRIZE IN OUR CHRISTMAS STORY
On the morning on which my story opens Alexander Macpherson, the excise- man, was leaning over his gate, outwardly calm and undisturbed, but inwardly filled with wrath, auger, aud all uncharitable- ness against Irishmen in general and in- formers and guides in particular. Only the day before, acting on what he believed to be reliable information, he had, accom- panied by two of the police, started out in search of an illicit-still reported to be in a secluded nook in the hills ; but, owing either to the ignorance or treachery of the bare-legged gossoon, who acted as guide, they never reached their destination, but, instead, just at nightfall, found them- selves in an apparently limitless bog, from which they had, with difficulty, extricated themselves, reaching home in an ex- hausted condition. Now, this morning another informer in the person of Andy Flynn had just told him that, during his absence from Frenonars, " A n-te little cart, wid a jewel of a donkey a-drawin' it, passed yer door wid the potheen snug at the bottom of it and an illigant load of rushes on top."
Sandy eyed his informant wrathfully.
" Do ye ken the man who drove it ?" he demanded.
" Divil a bit of me, but the bhoys was sayin' down at Mike Hogan's, as there was a big bet t'wixt ' Black Ben ' and ' Long Jim' as to which on 'em wud cart the biggest lot to Limerick afore Christmas."
A muttered curse escaped the exciseman. " If ye can tell mi whaur I could see ' Black Ben' I wud made it worth yer
"Troth it's little I know about him, barrin' he's a divil to foight ; but its Patsy Doolan maybe as moight be tellin' ye, for it's mesilf as 'ave heard he had a fall out wid Ben over a matter of money, an', as ye knows, it's often he's seein' Nancy, yer housekeeper. Folks do say it's cortin' her he is, though its cousins they are. Any- how, I'll mention it to him." And, with a parting nod, Andy passed on in the direc- tion of Ballymore, disappearing amongst the scattered cottages which formed the village.
Patsy Doolan, whom Andy Flynn had mentioned as likely to know Black Ben's whereabouts, was in the habit of dropping in of an evening to chat with the excise- man's housekeeper, and, whilst warming himself at the peat fire, regaling her with news, real or imaginary. Nancy liked company, and consequently encouraged his visits. She had on more than one occasion unwittingly given him information con- cerning Macpherson's movements, which
had been invaluable to the shebeeners of
the " Eagle's Nest." Patsy having ascer- tained, a few days after Macpherson's interview with Andy Flynn, that the exciseman had gone to Limerick, paid a visit to Nancy, and hung over the fire with the air of a man oppressed with thought.
" What ails ye, Patsy machree ?" Nancy exclaimed, impatiently. " Whisky itself wouldn't wake a laugh out of ye."
Patsy roused his head, disclosing his set
mouth and drawn brows.
"It's a sacret. Nancy. I dursn't spake of it, or may be the bhoys would be puttin'
me aff the walk."
"Arrah, thin, it's a fool ye are, how's the bhoys to know—it's mesilf as wu'd be as quiet as the grave. Ain't it cousins we are ? An' ye not trustin' me ; just be help- ing yersilf to a drap of the crature, Patsy, agra, that will put new life in ye."
Patsy helped himself to a stiff glass of the fragrant amber-coloured potheen and testing it critically, he remarked oracularly, " It's divil a bit of duty dew 'ave paid. Sandy's the bhoy to kape a drop of what he saizes, Nancy avick."
" Hoult yer tongue, ye spalpeen."
" It's gran' stuff, but t'won't be long afore whisky is as common as water."
"Common as water! an' how moight that be ? I'm thinkin' the drop 'ave got in yer head."
" Divil a bit, an' it's mesilf as knows how Sandy moight be takin, the biggest lot the bhoys 'ave iver made, an' it's a great min' I have to turn informer, jist to be aven wid that thafe of a Ben, the raskil. It's a matter between oursilves Nancy me gurl, but I don't min' tellin' ye, it's twenty shillings he's owin' me, the chate, an' niver a pinny can I git from him, but bad
words. It t'wus kickin' me out he wus threatenin' me if I put me fut inside his cabin agin', but it's avin I'd be wid him if Sandy put his fut inside," and Patsy laughed dryly.
The saints presarve us, and is it in- form in' ye'd be ?"
" Niver a bit ; it's jist to ease me feelin's? that I'm tellin' yer. An' it's yersilf as will be as quiet as the grave ?" Andy chuckled audibly, but hid it under a cough.
" Shure now, is it doubtin' me ye'd be ?" Nancy answered reproachfully.
"Well, thin, I'm thinkin' Sandy's a fool if he don't be takin' two of the polis an'
be bribin' 'Witless Jimmy ' to show thim the way to the ' Eagle's Nest,' for it's hid that cunning that the divil hisself couldn't
find it widout he wus shown."
" Jimmy," exclaimed Nancy tartly, " it's
twistin' his neck Ben would be."
" Whist gabbin,' and don't ye be tellin' folks whit I toult ye; as for Ben a-touchin' Jimmy, the divil hissiIf wouldn't be after harmin' him—the poor natural—but it's himsilf as knows ivery turu of thc road. Bedad now 'tis bite it's gettin' an' I must be footin' it, so good-night to ye, Nancy machree," and lighting his pipe Patsy took his departure, confident that Nancy would keep the secret till Macpherson returned home—but no longer.
When Macpherson returned late that night, morose and ill-tempered, Nancy met him with ill-concealed triumph in her manner, which irritated the exciseman, and he inquired tartly.
" What ails ye, woman ?"
" Och ! bedade thin, it's news I 'ave for ye, for shure I'm toult that whisky will soon be as plentiful as water."
" What do ye ken aboot it ? "
This was the question Nancy wished Macpherson to ask—the floodgates of her eloquence were opened, and in five minutes
he knew all she had to tell him.
Macphersons small eyes gleamed vin- dictively from under his bushy brows, as, taking the long clay pipe from his mouth, he slowly knocked out the ashes.
"Hoot, noo; I muckle doot him, but ye'll no be tellin' folks what ye have telt me ; I'll no be licked this time."