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Title: Leixlip Castle
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Leixlip Castle
Charles Maturin

THE incidents of the following tale are not merely founded on fact,
they are facts themselves, which occurred at no very distant period in
my own family. The marriage of the parties, their sudden and
mysterious separation, and their total alienation from each other
until the last period of their mortal existence, are all facts.
Icannot vouch for the truth of the supernatural solution given to all
these mysteries; but I must still consider the story as a fine
specimen of Gothic horrors, and can never forget the impression it
made on me when I heard it related for the first time among many other
thrilling traditions of the same description.


The tranquillity of the Catholics of Ireland during the disturbed
periods of 1715 and 1745, was most commendable, and somewhat
extraordinary; to enter into an analysis of their probable motives, is
not at all the object of the writer of this tale, as it is pleasanter
to state the fact of their honour, than at this distance of time to
assign dubious and unsatisfactory reasons for it. Many of them,
however, showed a kind of secret disgust at the existing state of
affairs, by quitting their family residences and wandering about like
persons who were uncertain of their homes, or possibly expecting
better from some near and fortunate contingency.

Among the rest was a Jacobite Baronet, who, sick of his uncongenial
situation in a Whig neighbourhood, in the north--where he heard of
nothing but the heroic defence of Londonderry; the barbarities of the
French generals; and the resistless exhortations of the godly Mr
Walker, a Presbyterian clergyman, to whom the citizens gave the title
of 'Evangelist';--quitted his paternal residence, and about the year
1720 hired the Castle of Leixlip for three years (it was then the
property of the Connollys, who let it to triennial tenants); and
removed thither with his family, which consisted of three daughters--
their mother having long been dead.

The Castle of Leixlip, at that period, possessed a character of
romantic beauty and feudal grandeur, such as few buildings in Ireland
can claim, and which is now, alas, totally effaced by the destruction
of its noble woods; on the destroyers of which the writer would wish
'a minstrel's malison were said'.--Leixlip, though about seven miles
from Dublin, has all the sequestered and picturesque character that
imagination could ascribe to a landscape a hundred miles from, not
only the metropolis but an inhabited town. After driving a dull mile
(an Irish mile)(1) in passing from Lucan to Leixlip, the road--hedged
up on one side of the high wall that bounds the demesne of the Veseys,
and on the other by low enclosures, over whose rugged tops you have no
view at all--at once opens on Leixlip Bridge, at almost a right angle,
and displays a luxury of landscape on which the eye that has seen it
even in childhood dwells with delighted recollection.--Leixlip Bridge,
a rude but solid structure, projects from a high bank of the Liffey,
and slopes rapidly to the opposite side, which there lies remarkably
low. To the right the plantations of the Vesey's demesne--no longer
obscured by walls--almost mingle their dark woods in its stream, with
the opposite ones of Marshfield and St Catherine's. The river is
scarcely visible, overshadowed as it is by the deep, rich and bending
foliage of the trees. To the left it bursts out in all the brilliancy
of light, washes the garden steps of the houses of Leixlip, wanders
round the low walls of its churchyard, plays, with the pleasure-boat
moored under the arches on which the summer-house of the Castle is
raised, and then loses itself among the rich woods that once skirted
those grounds to its very brink. The contrast on the other side, with
the luxuriant walks, scattered shrubberies, temples seated on
pinnacles, and thickets that conceal from you the sight of the river
until you are on its banks, that mark the character of the grounds
which are now the property of Colonel Marly, is peculiarly striking.

Visible above the highest roofs of the town, though a quarter of a
mile distant from them, are the ruins of Confy Castle, a right good
old predatory tower of the stirring times when blood was shed like
water; and as you pass the bridge you catch a glimpse of the waterfall
(or salmon-leap, as it is called) on whose noon-day lustre, or moon-
light beauty, probably the rough livers of that age when Confy Castle
was 'a tower of strength', never glanced an eye or cast a thought, as
they clattered in their harness over Leixlip Bridge, or waded through
the stream before that convenience was in existence.

Whether the solitude in which he lived contributed to tranquillize Sir
Redmond Blaney's feelings, or whether they had begun to rust from want
of collision with those of others, it is impossible to say, but
certain it is, that the good Baronet began gradually to lose his
tenacity in political matters; and except when a Jacobite friend came
to dine with him, and drink with many a significant 'nod and beck and
smile', the King over the water--or the parish-priest (good man) spoke
of the hopes of better times, and the final success of the right
cause, and the old religion---or a Jacobite servant was heard in the
solitude of the large mansion whistling 'Charlie is my darling', to
which Sir Redmond involuntarily responded in a deep bass voice,
somewhat the worse for wear, and marked with more emphasis than good
discretion--except, as I have said, on such occasions, the Baronet's
politics, like his life, seemed passing away without notice or effort.
Domestic calamities, too, pressed sorely on the old gentleman: of his
three daughters the youngest, Jane, had disappeared in so
extraordinary a manner in her childhood, that though it is but a wild,
remote family tradition, I cannot help relating it:---

The girl was of uncommon beauty and intelligence, and was suffered to
wander about the neighbourhood of the castle with the daughter of a
servant, who was also called Jane, as a nom de caresse. One evening
Jane Blaney and her young companion went far and deep into the woods;
their absence created no uneasiness at the time, as these excursions
were by no means unusual, till her playfellow returned home alone and
weeping, at a very late hour. Her account was, that, in passing
through a lane at some distance from the castle, an old woman, in the
Fingallian dress, (a red petticoat and a long green jacket), suddenly
started out of a thicket, and took Jane Blaney by the arm: she had in
her hand two rushes, one of which she threw over her shoulder, and
giving the other to the child, motioned to her to do the same. Her
young companion, terrified at what she saw, was running away, when
Jane Blaney called after her--'Good-bye, good-bye, it is a long time
before you will see me again.' The girl said they then disappeared,
and she found her way home as she could. An indefatigable search was
immediately commenced--woods were traversed, thickets were explored,
ponds were drained--all in vain. The pursuit and the hope were at
length given up. Ten years afterwards, the housekeeper of Sir Redmond,
having remembered that she left the key of a closet where sweetmeats
were kept, on the kitchen table, returned to fetch it. As she
approached the door, she heard a childish voice murmuring--'Cold--
cold--cold how long it is since I have felt a fire!'--She advanced,
and saw, to her amazement, Jane Blaney, shrunk to half her usual size,
and covered with rags, crouching over the embers of the fire. The
housekeeper flew in terror from the spot, and roused the servants, but
the vision had fled. The child was reported to have been seen several
times afterwards, as diminutive in form, as though she had not grown
an inch since she was ten years of age, and always crouching over a
fire, whether in the turret-room or kitchen, complaining of cold and
hunger, and apparently covered with rags. Her existence is still said
to be protracted under these dismal circumstances, so unlike those of
Lucy Gray in Wordsworth's beautiful ballad:

Yet some will say, that to this day
She is a living child--
That they have met sweet Lucy Gray
Upon the lonely wild;
O'er rough and smooth she trips along.
And never looks behind;
And hums a solitary song
That whistles in the wind.

The fate of the eldest daughter was more melancholy, though less
extraordinary; she was addressed by a gentleman of competent fortune
and unexceptionable character: he was a Catholic, moreover; and Sir
Redmond Blaney signed the marriage articles, in full satisfaction of
the security of his daughter's soul, as well as of her jointure. The
marriage was celebrated at the Castle of Leixlip; and, after the bride
and bridegroom had retired, the guests still remained drinking to
their future happiness, when suddenly, to the great alarm of Sir
Redmond and his friends, loud and piercing cries were heard to issue
from the part of the castle in which the bridal chamber was situated.

Some of the more courageous hurried up stairs; it was too late--the
wretched bridegroom had burst, on that fatal night, into a sudden and
most horrible paroxysm of insanity. The mangled form of the
unfortunate and expiring lady bore attestation to the mortal virulence
with which the disease had operated on the wretched husband, who died
a victim to it himself after the involuntary murder of his bride. The
bodies were interred, as soon as decency would permit, and the story
hushed up.

Sir Redmond's hopes of Jane's recovery were diminishing every day,
though he still continued to listen to every wild tale told by the
domestics; and all his care was supposed to be now directed towards
his only surviving daughter. Anne, living in solitude, and partaking
only of the very limited education of Irish females of that period,
was left very much to the servants, among whom she increased her taste
for superstitious and supernatural horrors, to a degree that had a
most disastrous effect on her future life.

Among the numerous menials of the Castle, there was one withered
crone, who had been nurse to the late Lady Blaney's mother, and whose
memory was a complete Thesaurus terrorum. The mysterious fate of Jane
first encouraged her sister to listen to the wild tales of this hag,
who avouched, that at one time she saw the fugitive standing before
the portrait of her late mother in one of the apartments of the
Castle, and muttering to herself--'Woe's me, woe's me! how little my
mother thought her wee Jane would ever come to be what she is!' But as
Anne grew older she began more 'seriously to incline' to the hag's
promises that she could show her her future bridegroom, on the
performance of certain ceremonies, which she at first revolted from as
horrible and impious; but, finally, at the repeated instigation of the
old woman, consented to act a part in. The period fixed upon for the
performance of these unhallowed rites, was now approaching--it was
near the 31st of October--the eventful night, when such ceremonies
were, and still are supposed, in the North of Ireland, to be most
potent in their effects. All day long the Crone took care to lower the
mind of the young lady to the proper key of submissive and trembling
credulity, by every horrible story she could relate; and she told them
with frightful and supernatural energy. This woman was called Collogue
by the family, a name equivalent to Gossip in England, or Cummer in
Scotland (though her real name was Bridget Dease); and she verified
the name, by the exercise of an unwearied loquacity, an indefatigable
memory, and a rage for communicating, and inflicting terror, that
spared no victim in the household, from the groom, whom she sent
shivering to his rug,(2) to the Lady of the Castle, over whom she felt
she held unbounded sway.

The 31st of October arrived--the Castle was perfectly quiet before
eleven o'clock; half an hour afterwards, the Collogue and Anne Blaney
were seen gliding along a passage that led to what is called King
John's Tower, where it is said that monarch received the homage of the
Irish princes as Lord of Ireland and which was, at all events, the
most ancient part of the structure.(3)

The Collogue opened a small door with a key which she had secreted,
about her, and urged the young lady to hurry on. Anne advanced to the
postern, and stood there irresolute and trembling like a timid swimmer
on the bank of an unknown stream. It was a dark autumnal evening; a
heavy wind sighed among the woods of the Castle, and bowed the
branches of the lower trees almost to the waves of the Liffey, which,
swelled by recent rains, struggled and roared amid the stones that
obstructed its channel. The steep descent from the Castle lay before
her, with its dark avenue of elms; a few lights still burned in the
little village of Leixlip--but from the lateness of the hour it was
probable they would soon be extinguished.

The lady lingered--'And must I go alone?' said she, foreseeing that
the terrors of her fearful journey could be aggravated by her more
fearful purpose.

'Ye must, or all will be spoiled,' said the hag, shading the miserable
light, that did not extend its influence above six inches on the path
of the victim. 'Ye must go alone--and I will watch for you here, dear,
till you come back, and then see what will come to you at twelve

The unfortunate girl paused. 'Oh! Collogue, Collogue, if you would but
come with me. Oh! Collogue, come with me, if it be but to the bottom
of the castlehill.'

'If I went with you, dear, we should never reach the top of it alive
again, for there are them near that would tear us both in pieces.'

'Oh! Collogue, Collogue--let me turn back then, and go to my own
room--I have advanced too far, and I have done too much.'

'And that's what you have, dear, and so you must go further, and do
more still, unless, when you return to your own room, you would see
the likeness of some one instead of a handsome young bridegroom.'

The young lady looked about her for a moment, terror and wild hope
trembling at her heart--then, with a sudden impulse of supernatural
courage, she darted like a bird from the terrace of the Castle, the
fluttering of her white garments was seen for a few moments, and then
the hag who had been shading the flickering light with her hand,
bolted the postern, and, placing the candle before a glazed loophole,
sat down on a stone seat in the recess of the tower, to watch the
event of the spell. It was an hour before the young lady returned;
when her face was as pale, and her eyes as fixed, as those of a dead
body, but she held in her grasp a dripping garment, a proof that her
errand had been performed. She flung it into her companion's hands,
and then stood, panting and gazing wildly about her as if she knew not
where she was. The hag herself grew terrified at the insane and
breathless state of her victim, and hurried her to her chamber; but
here the preparations for the terrible ceremonies of the night were
the first objects that struck her, and, shivering at the sight, she
covered her eyes with her hands, and stood immovably fixed in the
middle of the room.

It needed all the hag's persuasions (aided even by mysterious
menaces), combined with the returning faculties and reviving curiosity
of the poor girl, to prevail on her to go through the remaining
business of the night. At length she said, as if in desperation, 'I
will go through with it: but be in the next room; and if what I dread
should happen, I will ring my father's little silver bell which I have
secured for the night--and as you have a soul to be saved, Collogue,
come to me at its first sound.'

The hag promised, gave her last instructions with eager and jealous
minuteness, and then retired to her own room, which was adjacent to
that of the young lady. Her candle had burned out, but she stirred up
the embers of her turf fire, and sat, nodding over them, and smoothing
the pallet from time to time, but resolved not to lie down while there
was a chance of a sound from the lady's room, for which she herself,
withered as her feelings were, waited with a mingled feeling of
anxiety and terror.

It was now long past midnight, and all was silent as the grave
throughout the Castle. The hag dozed over the embers till her head
touched her knees, then started up as the sound of the bell seemed to
tinkle in her ears, then dozed again, and again started as the bell
appeared to tinkle more distinctly--suddenly she was roused, not by
the bell, but by the most piercing and horrible cries from the
neighbouring chamber. The Cologue, aghast for the first time, at the
possible consequences of the mischief she might have occasioned,
hastened to the room. Anne was in convulsions, and the hag was
compelled reluctantly to call up the housekeeper (removing meanwhile
the implements of the ceremony), and assist in applying all the
specifics known at that day, burnt feathers, etc., to restore her.
When they had at length succeeded, the housekeeper was dismissed, the
door was bolted, and the Collogue was left alone with Anne; the
subject of their conference might have been guessed at, but was not
known until many years afterwards; but Anne that night held in her
hand, in the shape of a weapon with the use of which neither of them
was acquainted, an evidence that her chamber had been visited by a
being of no earthly form.

This evidence the hag importuned her to destroy, or to remove: but she
persisted with fatal tenacity in keeping it. She locked it up,
however, immediately, and seemed to think she had acquired a right,
since she had grappled so fearfully with the mysteries of futurity, to
know all the secrets of which that weapon might yet lead to the
disclosure. But from that night it was observed that her character,
her manner, and even her countenance, became altered. She grew stern
and solitary, shrunk at the sight of her former associates, and
imperatively forbade the slightest allusion to the circumstances which
had occasioned this mysterious change.

It was a few days subsequent to this event that Anne, who after dinner
had left the Chaplain reading the life of St Francis Xavier to Sir
Redmond, and retired to her own room to work, and, perhaps, to muse,
was surprised to hear the bell at the outer gate ring loudy and
repeatedly--a sound she had never heard since her first residence in
the Castle; for the few guests who resorted there came, and departed
as noiselessly as humble visitors at the house of a great man
generally do. Straightway there rode up the avenue of elms, which we
have already mentioned, a stately gentleman, followed by four
servants, all mounted, the two former having pistols in their
holsters, and the two latter carrying saddle-bags before them: though
it was the first week in November, the dinner hour being one o'clock,
Anne had light enough to notice all these circumstances. The arrival
of the stranger seemed to cause much, though not unwelcome tumult in
the Castle; orders were loudly and hastily given for the accommodation
of the servants and horses--steps were heard traversing the numerous
passages for a full hour--then all was still; and it was said that Sir
Redmond had locked with his own hand the door of the room where he and
the stranger sat, and desired that no one should dare to approach it.
About two hours afterwards, a female servant came with orders from her
master, to have a plentiful supper ready by eight o'clock, at which he
desired the presence of his daughter. The family establishment was on
a handsome scale for an Irish house, and Anne had only to descend to
the kitchen to order the roasted chickens to be well strewed with
brown sugar according to the unrefined fashion of the day, to inspect
the mixing of the bowl of sago with its allowance of a bottle of port
wine and a large handful of the richest spices, and to order
particularly that the pease pudding should have a huge lump of cold
salt butter stuck in its centre; and then, her household cares being
over, to retire to her room and array herself in a robe of white
damask for the occasion. At eight o'clock she was summoned to the
supper-room. She came in, according to the fashion of the times, with
the first dish; but as she passed through the ante-room, where the
servants were holding lights and bearing the dishes, her sleeve was
twitched, and the ghastly face of the Collogue pushed close to hers;
while she muttered 'Did not I say he would come for you, dear?' Anne's
blood ran cold, but she advanced, saluted her father and the stranger
with two low and distinct reverences, and then took her place at the
table. Her feelings of awe and perhaps terror at the whisper of her
associate, were not diminished by the appearance of the stranger;
there was a singular and mute solemnity in his manner during the meal.
He ate nothing. Sir Redmond appeared constrained, gloomy and
thoughtful. At length, starting, he said (without naming the
stranger's name), 'You will drink my daughter's health?' The stranger
intimated his willingness to have that honour, but absently filled his
glass with water; Anne put a few drops of wine into hers, and bowed
towards him. At that moment, for the first time since they had met,
she beheld his face--it was pale as that of a corpse. The deadly
whiteness of his cheeks and lips, the hollow and distant sound of his
voice, and the strange lustre of his large dark moveless eyes,
strongly fixed on her, made her pause and even tremble as she raised
the glass to her lips; she set it down, and then with another silent
reverence retired to her chamber.

There she found Bridget Dease, busy in collecting the turf that burned
on the hearth, for there was no grate in the apartment. 'Why are you
here?' she said, impatiently.

The hag turned on her, with a ghastly grin of congratulation, 'Did not
I tell you that he would come for you?'

'I believe he has,' said the unfortunate girl, sinking into the huge
wicker chair by her bedside; 'for never did I see mortal with such a

'But is not he a fine stately gentleman?' pursued the hag.

'He looks as if he were not of this world,' said Anne.

'Of this world, or of the next,' said the hag, raising her bony fore-
finger, 'mark my words---so sure as the--(here she repeated some of
the horrible formularies of the 31st of October)--so sure he will be
your bridegroom.'

'Then I shall be the bride of a corpse,' said Anne; 'for he I saw
tonight is no living man.'

A fortnight elapsed, and whether Anne became reconciled to the
features she had thought so ghastly, by the discovery that they were
the handsomest she had ever beheld--and that the voice, whose sound at
first was so strange and unearthly, was subdued into a tone of
plaintive softness when addressing her or whether it is impossible for
two young persons with unoccupied hearts to meet in the country, and
meet often, to gaze silently on the same stream, wander under the same
trees, and listen together to the wind that waves the branches,
without experiencing an assimilation of feeling rapidly succeeding an
assimilation of taste;--or whether it was from all these causes
combined, but in less than a month Anne heard the declaration of the
stranger's passion with many a blush, though without a sigh. He now
avowed his name and rank. He stated himself to be a Scottish Baronet,
of the name of Sir Richard Maxwell; family misfortunes had driven him
from his country, and forever precluded the possibility of his return:
he had transferred his property to Ireland, and purposed to fix his
residence there for life. Such was his statement. The courtship of
those days was brief and simple. Anne became the wife of Sir Richard,
and, I believe, they resided with her father till his death, when they
removed to their estate in the North. There they remained for several
years, in tranquility and happiness, and had a numerous family. Sir
Richard's conduct was marked by but two peculiarities: he not only
shunned the intercourse, but the sight of any of his countrymen, and,
if he happened to hear that a Scotsman had arrived in the neighbouring
town, he shut himself up till assured of the stranger's departure. The
other was his custom of retiring to his own chamber, and remaining
invisible to his family on the anniversary of the 31st of October. The
lady, who had her own associations connected with that period, only
questioned him once on the subject of this seclusion, and was then
solemnly and even sternly enjoined never to repeat her inquiry.
Matters stood thus, somewhat mysteriously, but not unhappily, when on
a sudden, without any cause assigned or assignable, Sir Richard and
Lady Maxwell parted, and never more met in this world, nor was she
ever permitted to see one of her children to her dying hour. He
continued to live at the family mansion and she fixed her residence
with a distant relative in a remote part of the country. So total was
the disunion, that the name of either was never heard to pass the
other's lips, from the moment of separation until that of dissolution.

Lady Maxwell survived Sir Richard forty years, living to the great age
of ninety-six; and, according to a promise, previously given,
disclosed to a descendent with whom she had lived, the following
extraordinary circumstances.

She said that on the night of the 31st of October, about seventy-five
years before, at the instigation of her ill-advising attendant, she
had washed one of her garments in a place where four streams met, and
peformed other unhallowed ceremonies under the direction of the
Collogue, in the expectation that her future husband would appear to
her in her chamber at twelve o'clock that night. The critical moment
arrived, but with it no lover-like form. A vision of indescribable
horror approached her bed, and flinging at her an iron weapon of a
shape and construction unknown to her, bade her 'recognize her future
husband by that.' The terrors of this visit soon deprived her of her
senses; but on her recovery, she persisted, as has been said, in
keeping the fearful pledge of the reality of the vision, which, on
examination, appeared to be incrusted with blood. It remained
concealed in the inmost drawer of her cabinet till the morning of the
separation. On that morning, Sir Richard Maxwell rose before daylight
to join a hunting party--he wanted a knife for some accidental
purpose, and, missing his own, called to Lady Maxwell, who was still
in bed, to lend him one. The lady, who was half asleep, answered, that
in such a drawer of her cabinet he would find one. He went, however,
to another, and the next moment she was fully awakened by seeing her
husband present the terrible weapon to her throat, and threaten her
with instant death unless she disclosed how she came by it. She
supplicated for life, and then, in an agony of horror and contrition,
told the tale of that eventful night. He gazed at her for a moment
with a countenance which rage, hatred, and despair converted, as she
avowed, into a living likeness of the demon-visage she had once beheld
(so singularly was the fated resemblance fulfilled), and then
exclaiming, 'You won me by the devil's aid, but you shall not keep me
long,' left her--to meet no more in this world. Her husband's secret
was not unknown to the lady, though the means by which she became
possessed of it were wholly unwarrantable. Her curiosity had been
strongly excited by her husband's aversion to his countrymen, and it
was so--stimulated by the arrival of a Scottish gentleman in the
neighbourhood some time before, who professed himself formerly
acquainted with Sir Richard, and spoke mysteriously of the causes that
drove him from his country--that she contrived to procure an interview
with him under a feigned name, and obtained from him the knowledge of
circumstances which embittered her after-life to its latest hour. His
story was this:

Sir Richard Maxwell was at deadly feud with a younger brother; a
family feast was proposed to reconcile them, and as the use of knives
and forks was then unknown in the Highlands, the company met armed
with their dirks for the purpose of carving. They drank deeply; the
feast, instead of harmonizing, began to inflame their spirits; the
topics of old strife were renewed; hands, that at first touched their
weapons in defiance, drew them at last in fury, and in the fray, Sir
Richard mortally wounded his brother. His life was with difficulty
saved from the vengeance of the clan, and he was hurried towards the
seacoast, near which the house stood, and concealed there till a
vessel could be procured to convey him to Ireland. He embarked on the
night of the 31st of October, and while he was traversing the deck in
unutterable agony of spirit, his hand accidentally touched the dirk
which he had unconsciously worn ever since the fatal night. He drew
it, and, praying 'that the guilt of his brother's blood might be as
far from his soul, as he could fling that weapon from his body,' sent
it with all his strength into the air. This instrument he found
secreted in the lady's cabinet, and whether he really believed her to
have become possessed of it by supernatural means, or whether he
feared his wife was a secret witness of his crime, has not been
ascertained, but the result was what I have stated.

The separation took place on the discovery:--for the rest.

I know not how the truth may be.
I tell the Tale as 'twas told to me.


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