"Will you tell - yes or no - is my cousin in the coach?" screamed the plump young lady, stamping her stout black boot, in a momentary lull.Yes, I was there, sure."And why the puck don't you let her out, you stupe, you?""Run down, Giblets, you never do nout without driving, and let Cousin Maud out. You are very welcome to Bartram."
I was slogging my way through a disappointingly tedious read of Sheridan Le Fanu's Uncle Silas: A Tale of Bartram-Haugh when I was gobsmacked to encounter this sentence. A Google search of "why the puck" was contaminated by references to the physics of ice hockey, and after subtracting -hockey I could find no relevant information.
The novel is from the Victorian era, so I turned my attention to the OED. "Puck/pook/pooka etc" as a noun typically refers to an evil malicious spirit, goblin, mischievous child, or the ice-hockey and bandy "ball" - none of which seems relevant to the usage here. And I can't see it being related to "pukka" (genuine) as in "pukka sahib." So I'm left without an explanation, unless this is a Bowlderisation of "why the fuck," since the f-word dates back centuries before the Victorians, and would be used here as an intensifier (or "vexation interrogative") for the question. I would be delighted to see any informed commentary from readers.
I was disappointed not to find any descriptions in the book of the phenomenon of sleep paralysis since Le Fanu was said to be haunted by persistent dreams of a crumbling old mansion that was threatening to fall and crush him ("This unrelenting nightmare had become painful, and he often struggled and screamed in his sleep.") He died with an expression of horror on his face and his personal doctor said "I feared this - that house fell at last."
I only skimmed the book, so I found only two other interesting word usages. "Sometimes, when the curate calls, he has me up - for he's as religious as six, he is..." presumably means as religious as six normal people (?). And "... we got at last into a picturesque dingle: the grey rocks peeped from among the ferns and wildflowers..." ("a deep dell or hollow, esp closely wooded").