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p. 86

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ERY many years ago, during the period when that redoubtable warrior William the Norman was following up his successful battle of Hastings, and making good his possession of the good land of England, there was a certain Irish chieftain named BRODAR MERUNE, who, being a regular "broth of a boy," fond of the best of good living, and keeping open house, found himself, at the period of our story, like many more of his hospitable and improvident countrymen of these degenerate days, a trifle short of cash; and it being long prior to the invention of loan societies, limited banks, or even bill-stamps, he had none of the facilities for obtaining accommodation or "flying a kite" that are now enjoyed by his descendants.

Money, however, Brodar Merunc must have by some means or other, for his needs were pressing, so going to his strong chest, he brought forth the family jewels--real Irish diamonds--and determined on them to negotiate a loan. But, unfortunately, none of his countrymen were in a position to assist him; every one was as hard up as he was himself. Among his retainers was one Crorty, who had frequently visited the neighbouring island of Man when engaged in fishing expeditions, and he informed his

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master that at the foot of Grebah Mountain, not very far from the port of Peel in that island, there resided a rich old curmudgeon of a jarl named Haco, who, not being possessed of the same amount of personal courage and daring as his brother nobles, thought it better to remain quietly at home when they went forth on their marauding and piratical expeditions. Jarl Haco, though fond of quiet and of a timorous disposition, was, if not hot-headed, very long-headed, and the talents that his neighbours employed in planning and carrying out predatory expeditions to the neighbouring coasts of England and Wales, he devoted to mercantile matters, and as he was careful, cunning, and a smart man of business, he soon became the richest man in Ellan Vannin.

Always ready to lend his more valiant and pugnacious friends money when they required the sinews of war for the fitting out of some fresh for taking good care always to have ample security in hand--Jan Haco, of Grebah Castle, was, in fact, an Attenboronian baron--a medieval moneylender.

On hearing of the Lord of Grebah, Brodar Merune determined to take his family jewels and set sail for the Isle of Man, for the purpose of obtaining a supply of the necessary means of keeping open house a little longer, by raising a loan. The winds were propitious, and he soon arrived at Peel, where he landed without delay, and set forth in quest of Jarl Haco, who he found at his castle at the foot of Grebah Mountain. He showed him a specimen of the glittering jewels, and had no difficulty in coming to terms for the much-required advance, being, like many others in a similar strait, not over particular as to conditions so long as he could actually get the cash.

It was agreed that Jan Haco should send down the sum required by one of his own servants to the ship of Brodar Merune at Peel, where, on receiving from him the remainder of the jewels, he was to hand over the bags of coin.

On arriving at Peel with the money in his possession, Jan Haco's messenger, Quiggar by name, proceeded to the vessel of the Irish baron,

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who, seeing that he was alone (for the old Manx money-lender had not for one moment suspected treachery on the part of his Celtic client), was suddenly tempted to try and possess himself of the money without parting with his family jewels. Inviting the messenger on board, he very obsequiously handed him down into the cabin, and bidding the attendants bring refreshments, the table was soon laden with flagons, cups, and all the concomitants for brewing potteen.

"Are ye dhry?" said Brodar Merune, giving the messenger a seat and helping to place the money-bags on the cabin table. "Sit down, man, and be asy. Its time enough to do business when ye’ve washed your throat and got breath, for it's a smart bit of a walk ye have had, and carrying thim heavy bags too. Here, boy! be sharp now and bring the hot wather, and mind it boils. Don't ye see the gentleman's exhausted with fatague? and well he may be, carrying such a weight on him. All goold too. Sure it's lucky the folks are honest in these parts, or ye might have had throuble on the road. Faith! ye would in my counthry if it was known what it was ye were carrying."

It was not long before a jorum of hot strong whiskey-punch was brewed and placed before the Baron and his guest, who enjoyed it famously, for it was but little of the good things of this life he ever saw or tasted at Grebah Castle.

Brodar Merune, who had a hard and well-seasoned head himself, and could drink enough to wash a horse, saw that his guest's bowl was frequently replenished, and after a little time produced the jewels and proposed to count out the contents of the money-bags.

The table was soon covered with little piles of coin and the Irish diamonds, which latter shone and sparkled most brilliantly, like twinkling stars of the first magnitude, before the eyes of the unwary Manxman, who was emptying his goblet as fast as it was replenished, for the liquor was good.

By the time the fifth brewing was disposed of, the gold and the jewels all seemed to be dancing on the board together, and Quiggar found it difficult to distinguish which was which. He had long since lost all count

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of the reckoning, as the Baron told over and piled up the golden coins before him, till at length, being completely overpowered with the too seductive liquor, his head fell forward on his bosom, and presently a loud snorting snore informed his host that the potteen had done its work.

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Calling several of his crew he bid them carefully carry the prostrate Quiggar upon deck, and, hoisting him over the side, they laid him comfortably

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in a snug place on the shore, when Brodar gave orders to prepare for immediate departure.

The vessel had been lying for some days in Peel Harbour while Brodar Merune was negotiating his business with the Jarl of Grebah, and the crew had been engaged in refitting and setting up the rigging and other repairs requisite to be done in port. Such was now the hurry to get the ship to sea, with the money Brodar Merune had so dishonestly secured, before Jarl Haco's messenger could recover from his drunken fit and get to his master with the news of his loss, or obtain assistance from his countrymen in Peel to stop the vessel's departure, that neither he nor his companions had paid any heed to the warning given to them by some of the crew of a Manx ship laying alongside, who told them to kindle a fire and carry a burning brand all over the vessel to drive out the fairies, bugganes, witches, and other spirits that may be hidden on board before sailing, and which could only be done by fresh kindled fire and while the ship was still in contact with the shore. Such has been, and is indeed now, the custom with Manx sailors and fishermen from time immemorial.

Brodar Merune just then heeded nothing of fairies, witches, or bugganes, and thought only of making off as quickly as he could with the money-bags of the Jarl of Grebah, which he had so cleverly, as he thought, succeeded in getting possession of.

The anxiety of Brodar Merune to get to his own country across the sea was so great, he could pay no attention to anything but getting his vessel under weigh, and his only thought was to hurry on his departure.


Next: Chapter II