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Title: Mount Music
Author: Ross, Martin, 1862-1915, Somerville, E. Oe. (Edith Oenone), 1858-1949
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mount Music" ***

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MOUNT MUSIC

by

E. OE. SOMERVILLE and MARTIN ROSS

Authors of _The Real Charlotte_, _Some Experiences of an Irish R.M._,
_All on the Irish Shore_, etc., etc.

1920



By the same Authors

Some Experiences of An Irish R.M.
Further Experiences of An Irish R.M.
In Mr. Knox's Country
All On The Irish Shore
Some Irish Yesterdays
An Irish Cousin
The Real Charlotte
The Silver Fox
Irish Memories



PREFACE

This book was planned some years ago by Martin Ross and myself. A
few portions of it were written, and it was then put aside for other
work.

Without her help and inspiration, it would not have been begun, and
could not have been completed. I feel, therefore, that to join her
name with mine on the title-page is my duty, as well as my pleasure.

E. OE. SOMERVILLE.



CHAPTER I


"Christian, dost them see them?" sang an elder brother, small enough
to be brutal, large enough to hurt, while he twisted Christian's arm
as though it were indeed the rope that it so much resembled.

"I won't say I saw them, because I didn't!" replied Christian, who had
ceased to struggle, but was as far as ever from submission; "but if I
had, you might twist my arm till it was like an old pig's tail and I
wouldn't give in!"

Possibly John realised the truth of this defiance. He administered a
final thump on what he believed to be Christian's biceps, and released
her.

"Pretty rotten to spoil the game, and then tell lies," he said, with
severity.

"I don't tell lies," said Christian, flitting like a gnat to the open
window of the schoolroom. "You sang the wrong verse! It ought to have
been '_hear_ them,' and I _do_!"

Having thus secured the last word, Miss Christian Talbot-Lowry, aged
nine in years, and ninety in spirit, sprang upon the window-sill,
leapt lightly into a flower-bed, and betook herself to the resort most
favoured by her, the kennels of her father's hounds.

What person is there who, having attained to such maturity as is
required for legible record, shall presume to reconstruct, either from
memory or from observation, the mind of a child? Certain mental
attitudes may be recalled, certain actions predicated in certain
circumstances, but the stream of the mind, with its wayward currents,
its secret eddies, flows underground, and its course can only be
guessed at by tokens of speech and of action, that are like the
rushes, and the yellow king-cups, and the emerald of the grass, that
show where hidden waters run. Nothing more presumptuous than the
gathering of a few of these tokens will here be attempted, and of
these, only such as may help to explain the time when these children,
emerging from childhood, began to play their parts in the scene
destined to be theirs.

This history opens at a moment for Christian and her brethren when,
possibly for the last time in their several careers, they asked
nothing more of life. This was the beginning of the summer holidays;
the sky was unclouded by a governess, the sunny air untainted by the
whiff of a thought of a return to school. Anything might happen in
seven weeks. The end of the world, for instance, might mercifully
intervene, and, as this was Ireland, there was always a hope of a
"rising," in which case it would be the boys' pleasing duty to stay at
home and fight.

"Well, and Judith and I would fight, too," Christian would say,
thinking darkly of the Indian knife that she had stolen from the
smoking-room, for use in emergencies. She varied in her arrangements
as to the emergency. Sometimes the foe was to be the Land Leaguers,
who were much in the foreground at this time; sometimes she decided
upon the English oppressors of a down-trodden Ireland, to whose
slaughter, on the whole, her fancy most inclined. But whatever the
occasion, she was quite determined she was not going to be outdone by
the boys.

At nine years old, Christian was a little rag of a girl; a rag, but
imbued with the spirit of the rag that is nailed to the mast, and
flaunts, unconquered, until it is shot away. She had a small head,
round and brown as a hazel-nut, and a thick mop of fine, bright hair,
rebellious like herself, of the sort that goes with an ardent
personality, waved and curled over her little poll, and generally
ended the day in a tangle only less intricate than can be achieved by
a skein of silk. Of her small oval face, people were accustomed to say
it was all eyes, an unoriginal summarising, but one that forced itself
inevitably upon those who met Christian's eyes, clear and shining, of
the pale brown that the sun knows how to waken in a shallow pool in a
hill-stream, set in a dark fringe of lashes that were like the rushes
round the pool. Before she could speak, it was told of her eyes that
they would quietly follow some visitor, invisible to others, but
obvious to her. Occasionally, after the mysterious power of
speech--that is almost as mysterious as the power of reading--had come
to her, she had scared the nursery by broken conversation with
viewless confederates, defined by the nursery-maid as "quare turns
that'd take her, the Lord save us!" and by her mother, as "something
that she will outgrow, and the less said about it the better,
darlings. Remember, she is the youngest, and you must all be very wise
and kind--" (a formula that took no heed of punctuation, and was
practically invariable).

But as Christian grew older the confederates withdrew, either that, or
the protecting shell of reserve that guards the growth of
individuality, interposed, and her dealings with things unseen ceased
to attract the attention of her elders. It was John, her senior by two
years, who preserved an interest, of an inquisitorial sort, in what he
had decided to call the Troops of Midian. There was a sacerdotal turn
about John. He had early decided upon the Church as his vocation, and
only hesitated between the rôles of Primate of Ireland and Pope of
Rome. He had something of the poet and enthusiast about him, and
something also of the bully, and it was quite possible that he might
do creditably in either position, but at this stage of his development
his ecclesiastical proclivities chiefly displayed themselves in a
dramatic study, founded upon that well-known Lenten hymn that puts a
succession of searching enquiries, of a personal character, to a
typical Christian. A missionary lecture on West Africa had supplied
some useful hints as to the treatment of witches, and Christian's
name, and the occult powers with which she was credited, had indicated
her as heroine of the piece.

On this particular afternoon the game had begun prosperously, with
Christian as the Witch of Endor, and John as a blend of the Prophet
Samuel and the Head Inquisitor of Spain. A smouldering saucer of
sulphur, purloined by the witch herself from the kennels
medicine-cupboard, gave a stimulating reality to the scene, even
though it had driven the fox terriers, who habitually acted as the
Witch's cats, to abandon their parts, and to hurry, sneezing and
coughing indignantly, to the kitchen. The twins, Jimmy and Georgy,
however, obligingly took their parts, and all was going according to
ritual, when one of the sudden and annoying attacks of rebellion to
which she was subject, came upon the Witch of Endor. The orthodox
conclusion involved a penitential march through the kitchen regions,
the Witch swathed in a sheet, and carrying lighted candles, while she
was ceremonially flagellated by the Prophet with one of his father's
hunting crops. This crowning moment was approaching, Christian had but
to reply suitably to the intimidating riddles of the hymn, and the
final act would open in all its solemnity. For, as has been said, the
spirit of revolt whispered to her, and ingeniously persuaded her that
the required recantation committed her to a falsehood.

As she told John, when the formal inquisition had passed through acrid
dispute to torture, she didn't tell lies.



CHAPTER II


In the days when Christian Talbot-Lowry was a little girl, that is to
say between the eighties and nineties of the nineteenth century, the
class known as Landed Gentry was still pre-eminent in Ireland. Tenants
and tradesmen bowed down before them, with love sometimes, sometimes
with hatred, never with indifference. The newspapers of their
districts recorded their enterprises in marriage, in birth, in death,
copiously, and with a servile rapture of detail that, though it is not
yet entirely withheld from their survivors, is now bestowed with equal
unction on those who, in many instances, have taken their places,
geographically, if not their place, socially, in Irish every-day
existence. There is little doubt but that after the monsters of the
Primal Periods had been practically extinguished, a stray reptile,
here and there, escaped the general doom, and, as Mr. Yeats says of
his lug-worm, may have-sung with "its grey and muddy mouth" of how
"somewhere to North or West or South, there dwelt a gay, exulting,
gentle race" of Plesiosauridæ, or Pterodactyli. Even thus may this
record be regarded; as partial, perhaps, but as founded on the facts
of a not wholly to be condemned past.

Christian's father, Richard Talbot-Lowry, was a good-looking,
long-legged, long-moustached Major, who, conforming beautifully to
type, was a soldier, sportsman, and loyalist, as had been his
ancestors before him. He had fought in the Mutiny as a lad of
nineteen, and had been wounded in the thigh in a cavalry charge in a
subsequent fight on the Afghan Frontier. Dick, like Horatius, "halted
upon one knee" for the rest of his life, but since the injury gave him
no trouble in the saddle, and did not affect the sit of his trousers,
he did not resent it, and possibly enjoyed its occasional exposition
to an enquirer. When his father died, he left the Army, and, still
true to the family traditions, proceeded to "settle down" at Mount
Music, and to take into his own hands the management of the property.

Of the Talbot-Lowrys it may be truly said that the lot had fallen to
them in a fair ground. Their ancestor, the Gentleman Adventurer of
Queen Elizabeth's time, had had the eye for the country that, in a
slightly different sense, had descended to his present representative.
Mount Music House stood about midway of a long valley, on a level
plateau of the hill from which it took its name, Cnocán an Ceoil
Sidhe, which means the Hill of Fairy Music, and may, approximately, be
pronounced "Knockawn an K'yole Shee." The hill melted downwards--no
other word can express the velvet softness of those mild, grassy
slopes--to the shore of the River Broadwater, a slow and lordly
stream, that moved mightily down the wide valley, became merged for a
space in Lough Kieraun, and thence flowed onwards, broad and brimming,
bearded with rushes, passing like a king, cloaked in the splendours of
the sunset, to its suicide in the far-away Atlantic. The demesne of
Mount Music lay along its banks; in woods often, more often in
pastures; with boggy places ringed with willows, lovely, in their
seasons, with yellow flags, and meadowsweet, kingcups, ragwort and
loosestrife. Its western boundary was the Ownashee, a mountain stream,
a tributary of the great river, that came storming down from the
hills, and, in times of flood, snatching, like a border-reiver, at
sheep, and pigs, and fowl, tossing its spoils in a tumble of racing
waves into the wide waters of its chieftain.

Mount Music House was large, intensely solid, practical, sensible, of
that special type of old Irish country-house that is entirely remote
from the character of the men that originated it, and can only be
explained as the expiring cry of the English blood. How many
Anglo-Irish great-great-grandfathers have not raised these monuments
to their English forbears, and then, recognising their obligations to
their Irish mothers' ancestry, have filled them, gloriously, with
horses and hounds, and butts of claret, and hungry poor relations unto
the fourth and fifth generations? That they were a puissant breed, the
history of the Empire, in which they have so staunchly borne their
parts, can tell; their own point of view is fairly accurately summed
up in Curran's verse:--

  "If sadly thinking, with spirits sinking,
    Could more than drinking my cares compose,
  A cure for sorrow from sighs I'd borrow,
    And hope to-morrow would end my woes.
  But as in wailing there's nought availing,
    And Death unfailing will strike the blow,
  Then for that reason, and for a season,
    Let us be merry before we go."

For Dick Talbot-Lowry, however, and many another like him, the
merriment of his great-grandfather was indifferent compensation for
the fact that his grandfather's and his father's consequent borrowings
were by no means limited to cures for sorrow. Mortgages, charges,
younger children (superfluous and abhorrent to the Heaven-selected
Head of a Family)--all these had driven wedges deep into the Mount
Music estate. But, fortunately, a good-looking, long-legged, ex-Hussar
need not rely exclusively on his patrimony, while matrimony is still
within the sphere of practical politics. When, at close on forty-one
years of age (and looking no more than thirty), Dick left the Army,
his next step was to make what was universally conceded to be "a very
nice marriage," and on the whole, regarding it from the impartial
standpoint of Posterity, the universe may be said to have been
justified in its opinion.

Lady Isabel Christian was the daughter of an English Earl, and she
brought with her to Mount Music twenty thousand golden sovereigns,
which are very nice things, and Lady Isabel herself was indisputably a
nice thing too. She was tall and fair, and quite pretty enough (as
Dick's female relatives said, non-committally). She was sufficiently
musical to play the organ in church (which is also a statement
provided with an ample margin); she was a docile and devoted wife, a
futile and extravagant house-keeper, kindly and unpunctual, prolific
without resentment; she regarded with mild surprise the large and
strenuous family that rushed past her, as a mountain torrent might
rush past an untidy flower garden, and, after nearly fourteen years of
maternal experience, she had abandoned the search for a point of
contact with their riotous souls, and contented herself with an
indiscriminate affection for their very creditable bodies. Lady Isabel
had--if the saying may be reversed--"_les qualités de ses défauts_,"
and these latter could have no environment less critical and more
congenial than that in which it had pleased her mother to place her.
It was right and fitting that the wife of the reigning Talbot-Lowry of
Mount Music, should inevitably lead the way at local dinner-parties;
should, with ladylike inaudibleness, declare that "this Bazaar" or
"Village Hall" was open. It was no more than the duty of Major
Talbot-Lowry (D.L., and J.P.) to humanity, that his race should
multiply and replenish the earth, and Lady Isabel had unrepiningly
obliged humanity to the extent of four sons and two daughters. Major
Dick's interest in the multiplication was, perhaps, more abstract than
hers.

"Yes," he would say, genially, to an enquiring farmer, "I have four
ploughmen and two dairymaids!"

Or, to a friend of soldiering days: "Four blackguard boys and only a
brace of the Plentiful Sex!"

A disproportion for which, by some singular action of the mind, he
took to himself considerable credit.

Miss Frederica Coppinger (who will presently be introduced) was
accustomed to scandalise Lady Isabel by the assertion that paternal
affection no more existed in men than in tom-cats. An over-statement,
no doubt, but one that was quite free from malice or disapproval.
Undoubtedly, a father should learn to bear the yoke in his youth, and
Dick was old, as fathers go. It cannot be denied that when the Four
Blackguards began to clamour for mounts with the hounds, and the
representatives of the Plentiful Sex outgrew the donkey, Major
Talbot-Lowry had moments of resentment against his offspring, during
which his wife, like a wise doe-rabbit, found it safest to sweep her
children out of sight, and to sit at the mouth of the burrow, having
armed herself with an appealing headache and a better dinner than
usual. The children liked him; not very much, but sufficient for
general decency and the Fifth Commandment. They loved their mother,
but despised her, faintly; (again, not too much for compliance with
the Commandment aforesaid). Finally, it may be said that Major Dick
and Lady Isabel were sincerely attached to one another, and that she
took his part, quite frequently, against the children.

If, accepting the tom-cat standard of paternity, Dick Talbot-Lowry had
a preference for one kitten more than another, that kitten was,
indisputably, Christian.

"The little devil knows the hounds better than I do!" he would say to
a brother M.F.H. at the Puppy Show. "Her mother can't keep her out of
the kennels. And the hounds are mad about her. I believe she could
take 'em walking-out single-handed!"

To which the brother M.F.H. would probably respond with perfidious
warmth: "By Jove!" while, addressing that inner confidant, who always
receives the raciest share of any conversation, he would say that
_he'd_ be jiggered before he'd let any of _his_ children
mess the hounds about with petting and nonsense.

In justice to Lady Isabel, it should be said that she shared the
visiting M.F.H.'s view of the position, though regarding it from a
different angle.

"Christian, my dearest child," she said, on the day following the
Puppy Show that had coincided with Christian's eighth birthday, when,
after a long search, she had discovered her youngest daughter, seated,
tailor-wise, in one of the kennels, the centre of a mat of hounds.
"This is not a _not_ a place for you! You don't know _what_
you may not bring back with you--"

"If you mean fleas, Mother," replied Christian, firmly, "the hounds
have none, except what _I_ bring them from Yummie." (Yummie was
Lady Isabel's dog, a sickly and much despised spaniel). "The Hounds!"
Christian laughed a little; the laugh that is the flower of the root
of scorn. Then her eyes softened and glowed. "Darlings!" she murmured,
kissing wildly the tan head of the puppy who, but the day before, had
been rest from her charge.



CHAPTER III


There are certain persons who are born heralds and genealogists; there
are many more to whom these useful gifts have been denied. With
apologies to both classes, to the one for sins of omission, to the
other in the reverse sense, I find that an excerpt from the
Talbot-Lowry pedigree must be inflicted upon them.

With all brevity, let it be stated that Dick Talbot-Lowry possessed a
father, General John Richard, and General John Richard had an only
sister, Caroline. Caroline, fair and handsome, like all her family,
was "married off," as was the custom of her period, at the age of
seventeen, to elderly Anthony Coppinger, chiefly for the reason that
he was the owner of Coppinger's Court, with a very comfortable
rent-roll, and a large demesne, that marched, as to its eastern
boundaries, with that of Mount Music, and was, as it happened, divided
from it by no more than the Ownashee, that mountain river of which
mention has been made. It was, therefore, exceedingly advisable that
the existing friendly relations should be cemented, as far as was
practicable, and the fair and handsome Caroline was an obvious and
suitable adhesive. To Anthony and Caroline, two children were born;
Frederica, of whom more hereafter, and Thomas. By those who lay claim
to genealogic skill, it will now be apparent that these were the first
cousins of Dick Talbot-Lowry. Thomas went into the Indian Army, and in
India met and married a very charming young lady, Theresa Quinton, a
member of an ancient Catholic family in the North of England, and an
ardent daughter of her Church. In India, a son was born to them, and
Colonel Tom, who adored his wife, remarking that these things were out
of his line, made no objection to her bringing up the son, St.
Lawrence Anthony, in her own religion, and hoped that the matter would
end there. Mrs. Coppinger, however, remembering St. Paul's injunctions
to believing wives and unbelieving husbands, neither stopped nor
stayed her prayers and exhortations, until, just before the birth of a
second child, she had succeeded in inducing Tom Coppinger--(just "to
please her, and for the sake of a quiet life," as he wrote,
apologetically, to his relations and friends, far away in Ireland) to
join her Communion. She then died, and her baby followed her. Colonel
Tom, a very sad and lonely man, came to England and visited St.
Lawrence Anthony at the school selected for him by his mother; then he
returned to his regiment in India, and was killed, within a year of
his wife's death, in a Frontier expedition. He left Larry in the joint
guardianship of his sister, Frederica, and his first cousin, Dick
Talbot-Lowry, with the request that the former would live with the boy
at Coppinger's Court, and that the latter would look after the
property until the boy came of age and could do so himself; he also
mentioned that he wished his son's education to continue on the lines
laid down by his "beloved wife, Theresa."

It must, with regret, be stated, that the relatives and friends in
far-away Ireland, instead of admiring "poor Tom's" fidelity to his
wife's wishes, murmured together that it was very unfortunate that
"poor Theresa" had not died when Larry was born, as, in that case,
this "disastrous change of religion" would not have taken place.
Taking into consideration the fact that Larry was to live among his
Irish cousins, it is possible that from the point of view of
expediency, the relations and friends were in some degree justified.

Ireland, it is almost superfluous to observe, has long since decided
to call herself The Island of Saints, an assertion akin to the
national challenge of trailing the coat-tails, and believers in
hereditary might, perhaps, be justified in assuming a strictly
celibate sainthood. Be that as it may, Irish people have ever been
prone to extremes, and, in spite of the proverb, there are some
extremes that never touch, and chief among them are those that concern
religion. Religion, or rather, difference of religion, is a factor in
every-day Irish life of infinitely more potency than it is, perhaps,
in any other Christian country. The profundity of disagreement is such
that in most books treating of Ireland, that are not deliberately
sectarian, a system of water-tight compartments in such matters is
carefully established. It is, no doubt, possible to write of human
beings who live in Ireland, without mentioning their religious views,
but to do so means a drastic censoring of an integral feature of
nearly all mundane affairs. This it is to live in the Island of
Saints.

In this humble account of the late Plesiosauridæ and their
contemporaries, it is improbable that any saint of any sect will be
introduced; one assurance, at least, may be offered without
reservation. Those differing Paths, that alike have led many wayfarers
to the rest that is promised to the saints, will be treated with an
equal reverence and respect. But no rash undertakings can be given as
touching the wayfarers, or even their leaders, who may chance to
wander through these pages. Neither is any personal responsibility
accepted for the views that any of them may express. One does not
blame the gramophone if the song is flat, or if the reciter drops his
h's.

After this exhaustive exordium it is tranquillising to return to the
comparative simplicities of the existence of the young Talbot-Lowrys.
Those summer holidays of the year 1894 were made ever memorable for
them by the re-inhabiting of Coppinger's Court. Mount Music was a
lonely place; it lay on the river, about midway between the towns of
Cluhir and Riverstown, either of which meant a five or six mile drive,
and to meet such friends and acquaintances as the neighbourhood
afforded, was, in winter, a matter confined to the hunting-field, and
in summer was restricted, practically, to the incidence of lawn-tennis
parties. Possibly the children of Mount Music, thus thrown upon their
own resources, developed a habit of amusing themselves that was as
advantageous to their caretakers as to their characters. It certainly
enhanced very considerably their interest in the advent of Master St.
Lawrence Coppinger. He became the subject of frequent and often heated
discussions, the opinion most generally held, and stated with a fine
simplicity, being that he would prove to be "a rotter."

"India," John said, "had the effect of making people effemeral."

"Effeminate, ass!" corrected Richard, shortly.

"Anyhow," said a Twin, charitably, "we can knock that out of him!"

"Anyhow," said Judith, next to Richard in age and authority, "if he
_is_ a rotter, he can go into the Brats' band. You want someone
decent," she added, addressing the Twin, whose remark she felt to have
savoured of presumption.

This family had, for purposes of combat and of general entertainment,
divided itself into two factions, that fought endlessly among the
woods and shrubberies. A method had been recently introduced by
Richard of utilising the harmless, necessary pocket-handkerchief as a
sling for the projection of gravel, and its instant popularity had
resulted in the denuding of the avenues of ammunition, and in arousing
a great and just fury in the bosom of the laundress. "God knows it
isn't me has all the hankershiffs holed this way!" she pointed out.
"Thim children is the divil outlawed. Thim'd gallop the woods all the
night, like the deer!"

The assortment of the family had been decided rather on the basis of
dignity, than on that of a desire to equalise the sides, and thus it
befel that Richard, Judith, and John, with the style and title of The
Elder Statesmen, were accustomed to drive before them the junior
faction of The Brats, consisting of the Twins, Christian, and the
dogs, Rinka and Tashpy, with a monotony of triumph that might have
been expected to pall, had not variety been imparted by the invention
of the punishments that were inflicted upon prisoners. There had been
a long and hot July day of notable warfare. The Twins, if small,
were swift and wily; even Christian had justified her adoption by
a stealthy and successful raid upon the opposition gravel heap. A
long and savage series of engagements had ensued, that alternated
between flights, and what Christian, blending recollections of
nursery doctoring with methods of Indian warfare, designated
"stomach-attacks." It was while engaged in one of the latter forms
of assault that Christian was captured, and, being abandoned by her
comrades, was haled by the captors before Richard, the Eldest
Statesmen. A packed Court-martial of enemies speedily found the
prisoner guilty, and the delicious determining of the punishment
absorbed the attention of the Court. John, with a poet's fancy,
suggested that the criminal should be compelled to lick a worm.
Judith, more practical, advocated her being sent to the house to
steal some jam. "I forgot to," she said.

The Court was held in the Council Chamber, a space between the birches
and hazels on the bank of the Ownashee; a fair and green room, ceiled
with tremulous leaves, encircled and made secret by high bracken, out
of which rose the tarnished-silver stems of the birch trees and the
multitudinous hazel-boughs, and furnished with boulders of limestone,
planted deep in a green fleece of mingled moss and grass. On one side
only was it open to the world, yet on that same side it was most
effectively divided from it, by the swift brown stream, speeding down
to the big river, singing its shallow summer song as it sped.

Richard, Eldest Statesman, gazed in dark reflection upon the prisoner,
meditating her sentence; the prisoner, young enough to tremble in the
suspense, old enough to enjoy the nerve-tension and the moment of
drama, gazed back at him. Her hair lay in damp rings, and hung in
rats'-tails about her forehead. Her small face, with the silver-clear
skin, stippled here and there with tiny freckles, was faintly flushed,
and moist with the effort of her last great but unavailing run for
freedom; her wide eyes were like brown pools scooped from the brown
flow of the Ownashee.

"I adjudge," said Richard, in an awful voice, "that the prisoner shall
amass three buckets of the best gravel. The same to be taken from the
shallow by the seventh stepping-stone."

The prisoner's little brown arm, with a hand thin and brown as a
monkey's, went up; the recognised protest.

"Not the seventh, most noble Samurai," she said, anxiously; "Won't it
do from the strand?"

"I have spoken," replied the Eldest Statesman, inflexibly.

"Then I won't!" exclaimed Christian; "I--I couldn't! The river giddys
me so awfully when I stand still on the stones--"

"Prisoner!" returned Richard, "once the law is uttered, it can't be
unuttered! Off you go!"

"Well then, and I _will_ go!" said Christian, with a wriggle so
fierce and sudden that it loosed the grip of her guards. It is even
possible that the ensuing lightning dart for freedom might have
succeeded, but for the unfortunate fidelity of her allies, Rinka and
Tashpy. The one sprang at her brief skirt and caught it, the other got
between her legs. She fell, and was delivered again into the hands of
the enemy.

Richard was not a bully, but Mrs. Sarah Battle was not more scrupulous
than he in observing the rigour of the game. Christian was manacled
with the belt of her own overall, and was hauled along the golden, but
despised, gravel of the river strand, to the spot whence the
stepping-stones started.

"I'll do this much for you," said the Eldest Statesman, relaxing a
little, "I'll go first and carry the bucket."

He dragged Christian on to the first of the big, flat, old
stepping-stones, Judith assisting from the rear, and, with increasing
difficulty, two more stones were achieved. Then they paused for
breath, and a sudden whirlwind of passion came upon the captive. She
began to struggle and dance upon the flat stone, madly endeavouring to
free her hands, while she shrieked to the dastard Twins to come to her
rescue.

"Cowards! Cowards! I hate you all--"

"Better let her go," whispered Judith, who knew better than her Chief
what Christian's storms meant.

Richard hesitated, and, as in a mediaeval romance, at this moment a
champion materialised.

Not the Twins, lying like leopards along the higher boughs of a
neighbouring alder, deeply enjoying the spectacle, but a boy, smaller
than Richard, who came crashing through the bushes on the Coppinger's
Court side of the Ownashee. Arrived, at the ford, he stayed neither
his pace nor his stride, and before the Eldest Statesman, much
hampered by his prisoner and the bucket, could put up any sort of
defence, the unknown rescuer had sprung across the stepping-stones,
and, catching him by the shoulders, had, by sheer force of speed and
surprise, hurled him into the river.

Thus did Larry Coppinger, informally but effectively, introduce
himself to his second-cousins, the Talbot-Lowrys.



CHAPTER IV


A fortnight or so after the moving incidents that have just been
recited, Miss Frederica Coppinger, and her nephew, St. Lawrence of
that ilk, were spending a long and agreeable Sunday afternoon with
their relatives at Mount Music, elders and youngsters being
segregated, after their kind, and to their mutual happiness.

Major Talbot-Lowry, very well pleased with himself, very tall and
authoritative, was standing, from force of habit, on the rug in front
of the fire-place in the Mount Music drawing-room, and was
cross-examining Miss Coppinger on her proposed arrangements for
herself and her nephew, while he drank his tea in gulps, each
succeeded by burnishing processes, with a brilliant silk bandanna
handkerchief, such as are necessitated by a long and drooping
moustache.

All good-looking people are aware of their good looks, but the gift of
enjoying them, that had been lavishly bestowed on Dick, is denied to
many; on the other hand, the companion gift, of realising when they
are becoming pleasures of memory, had been withheld from him. Dick was
of the happy temperament that believes in the exclusive immortality of
his own charms, and he was now enjoying his conversation with his
cousin none the less for the discovery that Miss Coppinger, who was
younger than he, had preserved her youth very much less successfully
than he had done.

The cross-examination had moved on to the subject of Larry's religion,
and the combative fervour of Major Dick's Protestantism might have
edified John Knox.

"But look here, Frederica," he said, putting down his cup and saucer,
with a crash, on the high mantelpiece, "you don't mean to tell me that
the boy has to go to Mass with the servants--on the cook's lap, I
suppose--on the outside car! Good Heeavens! Poor old Tom! Talk about
turning in his grave! I should think he was going head over heels in
it by this time!"

This referred to the late Colonel Coppinger, the genuineness of whose
conversion to his wife's Church had never been accepted by Major
Talbot-Lowry.

"My _dear_ Dick!" said Lady Isabel.

Miss Coppinger closed her lips tightly with an air of high
self-control.

"That is a matter of opinion!" she said blandly. "Tom was perfectly
aware of what changing his religion involved, in this country--though
it's probably quite different in India. In any case, the thing is
done, and as I believe it to be my Duty to send Larry to his chapel,
to his chapel he shall go!"

Unimaginative people, or those of limited vocabulary, affixed to Miss
Coppinger the ancient label: "A typical old maid," and considered that
no further definition was required; and, since her appearance
conformed in some degree with stage traditions, there is something to
be said for them. If labels are to be employed, even the least complex
of human beings would suggest a much-travelled portmanteau, covered
with tags and shreds from hotels and railways. Frederica shall not be
labelled; let it suffice to say that she was tall and thin, and nearer
fifty than forty (which was a far greater age thirty years ago than it
is now), and that she had a sense of fair play that was proof against
her zeal as an Irish Church-woman. It is true that she mentioned what
she regarded as the disaster of Larry's religion in her prayers, but
she did so without heat, leaving the matter, without irreverence, to
the common sense of Larry's Creator, who, she felt must surely
recognise the disadvantages of the position as it stood.

"I cannot possibly interfere with Larry's religion," pursued Miss
Coppinger, with a defiant eye on her cousin, "and as soon as we are a
little more settled down I shall ask the priest to lunch. Farther than
that I don't feel called upon to go."

"Draw the line at dinner, eh?" said Major Dick, with large and
humorous tolerance: "_I_ know very little about the feller--he's
newly come to the parish--he mayn't be a bad sort for all I know--I'm
bound to say he's got a black-muzzled look about him, but we might go
farther and fare worse. I should certainly have him to lunch if I were
you. Have a good big joint of roast beef, and don't forget to give him
his whack of whisky!"

"I never have whisky in the house," said Miss Coppinger repressively.
"Claret, I _could_ give him--?"

Major Talbot-Lowry looked down at his cousin with the condescending
amusement that he felt to be the meed of female godliness especially
when allied with temperance principles.

"Well, claret might do for once in a way," he conceded, shaking his
long legs to take the creases out of his trousers, "and you mightn't
find Father Sweeny so anxious to repeat the dose--and that mightn't be
any harm either! I daresay you wouldn't object to that, Frederica!
Well, good-bye, ladies! I'm going down to the kennels--"

Lady Isabel's and Miss Coppinger's eyes followed him, as he swung,
with that light halt in his leisurely stride, down the long
drawing-room, trolling in the high baritone, that someone had pleased
him by likening to a cavalry trumpet,

  "Oh, Father McCann was a beautiful man,
    But a bit of a rogue, a bit of a rogue!
  He was full six feet high, he'd a cast in his eye,
    And an illigant brogue, an illigant brogue!"

In both his wife's and his cousin's faces was the same look, the look
that often comes into women's faces when, unperceived, they regard the
sovereign creature. Future generations may not know that look, but in
the faces of these women, born in the earlier half of the nineteenth
century, there was something of awe, and of indulgence, of
apprehension, and of pity. Dick was so powerful, so blundering, so
childlike. Miss Frederica expressed something of their common thought
when she said:

"Dick seems to forget that he is Larry's guardian as well as I. Also
that Larry is a Roman Catholic, and it is not only useless but
dishonourable to ignore it!"

It has been said that Lady Isabel had _les qualitiés de ses défauts_;
in Miss Coppinger's case the words may be restored to their rightful
sequence. She had the inevitable _défauts de ses qualités_. The sense
of duty was as prominent a feature of her soul as a hump on her long
straight back would have been, but toleration was inconspicuous. She
ran straight herself, and though she could forgive deviations on the
part of others, she could not forget them. She was entirely and
implacably Protestant, a typical member of that Church that expects
friendship from its votaries, but leaves their course of action to
their own consciences. It was a very successful example of the malign
humour of Fate that Miss Coppinger's ward should belong to the other
Church, that exacts not only obedience, but passion, and it was a
master-stroke that Frederica's sense of duty should compel her to
enforce her nephew to compliance with its demands.

"Dear Frederica, Dick will leave all religious things to you, I
know--" warbled Lady Isabel, in her gentle, musical voice, that
suggested something between the tones of a wood pigeon and an ocarina.
"And they couldn't be in better hands!"

"But my dear Isabel, that is precisely what I complain of! Dick's
solitary suggestion has been that we should send Larry to Winchester,
which is perfectly impracticable! I entirely agree with him, but,
unfortunately, _I_ know that it is our duty to send him to one of
those--" Miss Coppinger hesitated, swallowed several adjectives, and
ended with Christian tameness--"one of those special schools for Roman
Catholics."

"Well, dear, I daresay it won't make very much difference," consoled
Lady Isabel. "I have always heard that Monkshurst was a charming
school, and dear Larry will be _so_ well off--I don't suppose his
religion will interfere in _any_ way. It seldom does, does it?"

"Not, I admit, unless he wanted a job in this country!" began Miss
Coppinger grimly, and again remembered that intolerance was not to be
encouraged. "The end of it is that I shall endeavour to do _my
duty_--which is, apparently, to do everything that I most entirely
disapprove of--and that on the day Larry is twenty-one, I shall march
out of Coppinger's Court, and dance a jig, and then he may have the
Pope to stay with him if he likes!"

While Miss Coppinger was thus belabouring and releasing her conscience
in the drawing-room, quite another matter was engaging the attention
of her ward, and of his entertainers at the school-room tea-table.
This was no less a thing than the dissolving of the existing Bands,
and the formation of a new society, to be known as "The Companions of
Finn."

Larry Coppinger's entrance, literally at a bound, into the
Talbot-Lowry family group, had landed him, singularly enough, into the
heart of their affection and esteem. He was now the originator of this
revolutionary scheme, and having in him that special magnetic force
that confers leadership, the scheme was being put through.

"The point is," he said, eagerly, "that when we are split up into two
bands, we can do nothing much, but the lot of us together might--might
make quite a difference."

"Difference to what?" said Richard, ex-chief of the Elder Statesmen,
unsympathetically. Like his father before him, he disliked change.

"Well, hold on!" said Larry, quickly, "wait just one minute, and I'll
tell you. I got the notion out of a book I found in the library. I
don't expect I'd have thought of it myself--" Larry's transparent
sky-blue eyes sought Richard's appealingly. "It's--it's only poems,
you know, but it's most frightfully interesting--I brought it with
me--"

"Oh--poems!" said Richard, without enthusiasm. "Are they long ones?"

"I don't seem to care so awfully much about poetry," abetted Judith,
late Second-in-command.

John looked sapient, and said, neutrally, that some poetry wasn't bad.

The Twins, who were engaged in a silent but bitter struggle for the
corpse of a white rabbit, recently born dead, made no comment. Only
Christian, her small hands clenched together into a brown knot, her
eyes fastened on Larry's flushed face, murmured:

"Go on, Larry!"

Larry went on.

"It's called the Spirit of the Nation," he said. "It's full of
splendid stuff about Ireland, and the beastly way England's treated
her. It sort of--sort of put the notion into my head that we might
start some sort of a Fenian band, and that some day we might--well,"
he turned very red, and ended with a rush, "we might be able to strike
a blow for Ireland!"

"Moy oye!" said Richard, intensifying his favourite invocation in his
surprise, "but what's wrong with Ireland?"

The position wanted but the touch of opposition. Larry rather well bet
Richard that there was plenty wrong with her! Penal laws! Persecution!
Saxon despots grinding their heels into a down-trodden people!
Revolution! Liberation! Larry had a tongue that was hung loosely in
his head and was a quick servant to his brain.

"Of course I know we're rather young--well, you're nearly fourteen,
Richard, and I'm thirteen and three months, that's not so awfully
young. Anyway, everything's got to have a beginning--" He glowed
upon his audience of six, his fair hair in a shock, his eyes and his
cheeks in a blaze, and one, at least, of that audience caught fire.

The Revolutionary or Reformer, who hesitates at becoming a bore, is
unworthy of his high office; and Larry, like most of his class,
required but little encouragement. He produced a large book, old and
shabby, the green and gold of its covers stained and faded, but still
of impressive aspect.

"There are heaps of them, and they're all jolly good. It's rather hard
to choose--" began the Revolutionary with a shade of nervousness.
Then he again met Christian's eyes, shining and compelling, and took
heart from them.

"Well, there's 'Fontenoy,' of course that's a ripper--Well, I don't
know what _you'll_ all think, but _I_ think this is a jolly
good one," he said with a renewal of defiance, and began to read, at
first hurriedly, but gathering confidence and excitement as he went
on:

  "Did they dare, did they dare, to slay Owen Roe O'Neill?
  Yes, they slew with poison, him they feared to meet with steel.
  May God wither up their hearts! May their blood cease to flow!
  May they walk in living death, who poisoned Owen Roe!
  We thought you would not die--we were sure you would not go,
  And leave us in our utmost need to Cromwell's cruel blow--
  Sheep without a shepherd, when the snow shuts out the sky--
  Oh! Why did you leave us, Owen? Why did you die?"

The Elder Statesmen listened in critical silence, while Larry, not
without stumbles, stormed on through the eight verses of the poem.
When he had finished it, there was a pause. The audience was
impressed, even though they had no intention of admitting the fact.
Christian gave a tremendous sigh. The contest for the defunct rabbit,
that had been arrested, broke out again, fiercely, but with caution.
Then Richard said, dubiously:

"Well, that's all right, Larry--I meant it's jolly sad, and awfully
good poetry, I'm sure--but how on earth are you going to work a show
out of it? I can't see--"

"Unless," interrupted Judith, thoughtfully, "unless we sort of acted
it--?"

John, who loved "dressing up," woke to life; even Richard began to see
daylight.

"That's not a bad notion, Judy!" he said briskly: "bags I Cromwell!
Larry, you can be Owen what's-his-name."

Larry came down like a shot bird from the sphere of romance to which
the poem had borne him.

"I hadn't thought of any scheme," he said, pulling himself together;
"I only wanted to give you a kind of notion of the rotten way
England's always treated Ireland--"

"But let's!" cried Christian; "let's act the whole book!"

Truisms are of their essence dull, but they must sometimes be
submitted to, and the truism as to a book's possible influence on the
young and impressionable cannot here be avoided. What it is that
decides if the book is to stamp itself on the plastic mind, or if the
mind is to assert itself and stamp on the book, is a detail that
admits less easily of dogmatism. The Companionage of Finn remained in
being for but two periods of holiday. Before the boys had returned to
school, it had seen its best days; the scheme for an armed invasion of
England had been abandoned, even the more matured project of storming
Dublin Castle was set aside; by the end of the Christmas holidays it
had been formally dissolved.

It is not easy to understand, it is still harder to explain what it
was in those fierce denunciations and complaints, outcome of that time
of general revolt, the "Roaring Forties" of the nineteenth century,
that made them echo in Larry's heart, nor why the restless, passionate
spirit that inspired them should have remained with him, a perturbing
influence from which he never wholly escaped. His young soul burned
with hatred of England, borrowed from the Bards of "The Nation"
Office; he lay awake at nights, stringing rhymes in emulation of their
shouts of fury, or picturing rebellions, of which he was to be the
leader and hero. Larry's enthusiasms were wont to devour not him only,
but also his friends. It is impossible to escape from the conclusion
that the career of the Companionage of Finn was abbreviated by Larry's
determination to recite to the Companions of the Order, in season and
out of season, the poems by which, during his first Irish summer, he
was possessed. There came a time when he had, as he believed, put away
childish things, that, returning to these venerable trumpet-blasts, he
asked himself, in the arrogance of youth, how these stale metaphors,
these conventional phrases, these decorations as meretricious as stage
jewellry, and metres that cantered along, as he told himself, like
solemn old circus-horses, could have had the power to shake his voice
and fill his eyes with tears, as he spoke them to Christian, who had
so soon become his sole audience.

The strange thing was, as he acknowledged to himself, that while he
could mock at them as poetry, he could not ignore their power. The
intensity of their hatred, and of their sincerity, made itself felt,
as the light of the sun will shine through the crude commonness of a
vulgar stained-glass window.



CHAPTER V


There was one person who viewed the enthusiastic intimacy that had
sprung up between the houses of Coppinger and Talbot-Lowry, with a
disapproval as deep as it was prejudiced. It was a person whose
opinion might, by the thoughtless, be considered unimportant, but in
this the thoughtless would greatly err. Robert Evans was the butler at
Mount Music. He had held that position since the year 1859, from which
statement a brief and unexacting calculation will establish the fact
that he had taken office when his present master was no more than
twenty-one years old and, it being now 1894, he had so continued for
35 years. Possibly a vision of an adoring and devoted retainer may
here present itself. If so, it must be immediately dispelled. In Mr.
Evans' opinion, such devotion and adoration as the case demanded, were
owed to him by the House on which he had for so long a time bestowed
the boon of his presence, and those who were privileged with his
acquaintance had no uncertainty in the matter, since his age, his
length of service, his fidelity, and the difficulties with which he
daily contended, formed the main subjects of his conversation.

In the palmier days of the Irish gentry there were many households in
which the religion of the servants was a matter of considerable
importance, and those who could afford exclusiveness, were accustomed
to employ only Protestants as indoor servants. This may seem like an
unwarrantable invasion of the inner fortress of another individual,
making his views spiritual responsible for his fortunes temporal. But
in Ireland, in the earlier half of the troubled nineteenth century,
such differentiation was inspired not by bigotry, but by fear. When a
man's foes might be, and often were, those of his own household, that
his servants should be of his own religion was almost his only
safeguard against espionage. There is somewhat to be said on both
sides; it will not be said here, but that there have been times in
Ireland when such precautions were required, cannot be ignored.

Robert Evans was a survivor of such a period. Time was when he
strutted, autocratic and imperious as a turkey-cock, ruler of a flock
of lesser fowl, all of his own superior creed; brave days when he and
Mrs. Dixon, the housekeeper, herded and headed, respectively, a bevy
of "decent Protestant maids" into Family Prayers every morning, and
packed "the full of two covered cars" off to the Knockceoil Parish
Church on Sundays. Evans rarely went to church, believing that such
disciplines were superfluous for one in a state of grace, but the
glory of the House of Talbot-Lowry demanded a full and rustling pew of
female domestics, while the coachman, and a footman or a groom, were
generally to be relied on to give a masculine stiffening to the party.
With Lady Isabel's _régime_ had come a slackening of moral fibre,
a culpable setting of attainments, or of convenience, above creed, in
the administration of the household. Once had Lady Isabel been
actually overheard by Evans, offering to a friend, in excuse for the
indifferent show made by her household in the parish church, the
offensive explanation that "R.C.'s were so sympathetic, and so easy to
find, while Protestants were not only scarce, but were so proud of
being Protestants, and expected so much admiration"--here she had
perceived the presence of Evans, and had unavailingly begun upon the
weather, but Evans' deep-seated suspicions as to the laxity of the
English Church had been confirmed.

It is possible that the greatest shock that Evans was capable of
sustaining was administered when he heard of the secession to the
enemy of Colonel Tom Coppinger. Only second to it was the discovery
that Colonel Tom's poisoned offspring was to be received at Mount
Music and admitted to the fellowship of its children.

"No!" Evans said to Mrs. Dixon, standing on the hearthrug in the
sanctuary of the housekeeper's room, one wet afternoon, shortly after
the Coppinger return: "I see changes here, better and worse, good and
bad, but I didn't think I'd live to see what I seen to-day--the
children of this house consorting with a Papist!"

"Fie!" said Mrs. Dixon, without conviction. She was fat and
easy-tempered, and though ever anxious to conciliate him whom she
respected and feared as "Mr. Eevans," her powers of dissimulation
often failed at a pinch of this kind.

Mr. Evans looked at his table-companion with a contempt to which she
had long been resigned. He was a short, thin, bald man, with a sharp
nose curved like a reaping-hook, iron-grey whiskers and hair, and
fierce pale blue eyes. Later on, Christian, in the pride of her first
introduction to Tennyson, had been inspired by his high shoulders and
black tailed coat to entitle him "The many-wintered crow," and the
name was welcomed by her fellows, and registered in the repository of
phrases and nicknames that exists in all well-regulated families.

"'Fie!'" he repeated after Mrs. Dixon, witheringly. "I declare before
God, Mrs. Dixon, if I was to tell you the Pope o' Rome was coming to
dinner next Sunday, it's all you'd say would be 'Fie!'"

Mrs. Dixon received this supposition of catastrophe with annoying
calm, and even reverted to Mr. Evans' earlier statement in a manner
that might have bewildered a less experienced disputant than he.

"Well, indeed, Mr. Eevans," she said, appeasingly, "I'd say he was a
nice child enough, and the very dead spit of the poor Colonel. I dunno
what harm he could do the children at all?"

The Prophet Samuel could scarcely have regarded Saul, when he offered
those ill-fated apologies relative to King Agag, with a more sinister
disfavour than did Evans view Mrs. Dixon.

"I'll say one thing to you, Mrs. Dixon," he said, moving to the door
with that laborious shuffle that had inspired one of the hunted and
suffering tribe of his pantry-boys to the ejaculation: "I thank God,
there's more in his boots than what's there room for!"--"and I'll say
it once, and that's enough! As sure as God made little apples, trouble
and disgrace will follow jumpers!"

Mrs. Dixon, no less than Evans, disapproved of those who changed their
religion, but this denunciation did not seem to her to apply.

"That poor child's no jumper!" she called after her antagonist;
"'twasn't his fault he was born the way he was!"

Evans slammed the door.

Mrs. Dixon dismissed the controversy from her easy mind, looked at the
clock, and laid down her knitting.

"Miss Christian'll be looking for her birthday cake!" she said to
herself, hoisting her large person from her chair. Even as she did so,
there came a rapping, quick and urgent, at the window. "Look at that
now!" said Mrs. Dixon. "I wouldn't doubt that child to be wanting the
world in her pocket before it was made!"

"Dixie! Dixie! Open the window! Hurry! I want you!"

Christian's face, surmounted by a very old hunting-cap, and decorated
with a corked moustache, appeared at the window.

"The Lord save us, child! What have you done to yourself? And what are
you doing out there in the wet?" answered Mrs. Dixon, reprovingly;
"sure the cake won't be baked for ten minutes yet."

"I don't want the cake. I only want some biscuits, _please_.
Dixie, and hurry! Amazon's bolted, and Cottingham's asked _me_ to
catch her! If you _had_ a bone, Dixie, she'd simply--"

Mrs. Dixon was gone. She disapproved exceedingly of Christian's rôle
as kennel-boy, but as, since Christian's first birthday, she had never
refused her anything, she was not prepared on her tenth to break so
well-established a habit.

"I dunno in the world why Mr. Cottingham should make a young lady like
you do his business!" she said, putting the requisition bait into
Christian's eager, up-stretched hands, "and if your Mamma could see
you--"

"Oh, well done, Dixie! What a lovely bone! Oh, thank you most
awfully!" interrupted Christian, snatching at the dainties provided,
and flitting away through the grey veils of the rain, a preposterous
little figure, clad in a ragged kennel-coat, that had been long since
discarded by the huntsman, a pair of couples slung round her neck, and
a crop in her hand.

It was a chilly, wet August afternoon. It had rained for the past
three days, and was, by all appearances, prepared to continue to do so
for three more. Christian ran across the fields to the kennels,
regardless of wet overhead or underfoot, and oblivious of the corked
moustache, which ran too, almost as fast as she did. She had made a
_détour_ to avoid the schoolroom windows. Her birthday party was
toward, and charades (accounting for her moustache) were in full
swing. But the message from Cottingham, secretly conveyed together
with the couples, by the pantry boy, transcended in importance all
other human affairs. She had slipped away from her fellows, and having
endured the hunting cap and the kennel coat, as the wear suitable to
such an occasion, she had not lost a minute in coming to the horn.

Cottingham, Major Talbot-Lowry's First Whip and kennel huntsman, a
single-souled little Devonshire man, whose dyed hair was the solitary
indication of the age it was intended to conceal, awaited her outside
the kennels.

"Well, Missie, I knew you'd come," he said, approvingly. "It's Amazon
that's away--that little badger-pye bitch we got last week--I 'ad to
give 'er a bit of a 'iding--she tried to run a sheep when we was
walkin' out last evening--she's a revengeful sort, she is, and very
artful, and when we gets near kennels, her took an' bolted past Jimmy
over the 'ill, an' I says to Jimmy, 'Why you fool' I says--"

The tale continued at length, and with those repetitions and
recapitulations peculiar to the simple, but by no means short annals
of the poor, and especially of the English poor. Yet, Christian, the
impatient, the ardent, stood and listened with respectful and absorbed
interest. Cottingham might be elderly, egotistic, long-winded, but at
this period of her career, Christian's hot heart beat throb for throb
with his, and the thought, as he said, of "that pore little bitch
stoppin' out, and maybe spoilt, so that there'd be nothin' for us but
to shoot her, through learnin' to run sheep," had precisely the same
horror for her as for him.

"I couldn't, so to speak, lay me 'and on 'er now; her wouldn't let me
go anear 'er, nor she wouldn't let Jimmy neither, but she ain't far
away, and she'd 'ave what I might call cawnfidence in you, Missie--"
Cottingham had at length concluded: "Her's that sly we mightn't never
see 'er again! But you take and go up that 'ill, Missie, that's where
I seen 'er last, I'll lay you get 'er if anyone can!"

Christian, "still," as Rossetti says, "with the whole of pleasure,"
received these instructions reverently, and with the pockets of the
kennel-coat further loaded with broken biscuit, "took and went"
according to instructions. She climbed the fence behind the kennels,
and addressed herself lightly to the ascent of the hill. It was a long
hill, that began with pasture fields, that were merged imperceptibly
into moorland, heather and furze. There were sheep, and donkeys and
goats on it, and a melancholy old kennel-horse or two, all feeding
peacefully. Amazon could not be accused in connection with them, so
Christian reflected, and prepared herself to rebut any such slander.
The rain was lighter, and the soaking mist that had all day filled the
valley, was slowly thinning, and revealing the mighty scroll of silver
that was the river, while the woods and hillsides came and went,
illusive as the grey hints of landscape in a Japanese water-colour.
But at the mature age of ten years, Christian cared for none of these
things. She saw the smoke from the Mount Music kitchen chimney
blending bluely with the mist, and thought with a momentary pang of
the birthday cake. She wondered if the Companions of Finn would so far
forget honour and fidelity as to devour it without her. She thought of
the ten candles that would gutter to their end, untended by the
heroine of the celebration; she wondered if Cottingham would tell
Papa, and if Papa would tell Mother (thus did this child of the
'eighties speak of her parents, the musical abbreviations of a later
day, "Mum," and "Dad," not having penetrated the remoteness in which
her home was placed); she also wondered if there would be a row about
her getting wet. All these things seemed but too probable, but she was
in for it now.

Near a ridge of the hill, in one of the shallow valleys that furrowed,
like ploughshares, its long slant, there was a dolmen, three huge
stones, with a fourth poised on it. Their grey brows rose over the
billows of bracken, and briers, laden with the promise of fruit, made
garlands for their ancient heads. Christian's straying advance brought
her along the lip of the little valley in which they reposed, and
quite suddenly there rose in her the conviction that her quest was
nearing success. She was of that mysteriously-gifted company to whom
the lairs of things lost are revealed. She "found things"; she was
"lucky." She was regarded by the servants as one enfolded in the cloak
of St. Anthony, that inestimable saint, whose mission it is to find
and protect the lost. It had become a household habit to appeal to
Christian when one of every day's most common losses occurred. She
would hearken; her little thin body would stiffen, like a dog setting
his game, a spark would light in her brown eyes, and--how led who can
say?--she would fly like a wireless message to the thing sought for.

So it was now, on the furzy side of Cnocán an Ceoil Sidhe; she knew
that the moment had come. She sat down on a ledge of rock, and waited,
throbbing with anticipation, and had not long to wait. A brown shadow
moved in the bracken near the dolmen, a brown face peered with
infinite caution, round a flank of the great stones.

"Yoop! the little bitchie!" said Christian to the horizon. Christian
was an apt scholar, and Cottingham's tone and idiom were alike
accurately rendered.

The lady thus addressed gazed with a greater intensity, but did not
move. Christian took a piece of dog-biscuit from the ragged pocket of
the kennel-coat, and, still walking closely in Cottingham's steps, bit
it, ate a part of it, and carelessly flung the remainder in the
direction of the shadow. This stole forth, and, having snapped up the
biscuit, sank back into the covert. Christian did not move.

"Amazon!" she crooned, in tones in which a doting wood-pigeon might
apostrophise a sickly fledgling; "Amazon, my darling!"

Another piece of biscuit accompanied the apostrophe, and poor Amazon,
who was indeed very lonely and very hungry, capitulated, and came
sidling up to the charmer, with propitiatory smiles, and deprecating
stern wagging, beneath her, and in advance of her hind legs, instead
of above her and behind them.

"'Olding the buckle in the right 'and," said Christian to herself, in
faithful quotation from the great ensample, as with a swiftness and
decision that were creditable to her training, she put the couples on
Amazon.

Then she produced the bone that had been "Dixie's" bright achievement,
and it was while, in contentment and friendship, Amazon was crunching
it, that Larry Coppinger appeared.

He rose from behind a spur of rock and furze, and came towards
Christian.

"Oh, good for you!" he said, admiringly, "I was afraid to show up till
you had got her."

Christian was not sure that she was pleased at this intervention.

"How did you know where I was?"

"The servants told me you had gone to the kennels, and Jimmy showed me
the hill, and then I spotted your white coat--not that it's so awfully
white!--I thought it was rather rotten to let you go alone."

"And why not, pray?" enquired Christian, haughtily. Male assumption of
the duties of guardianship was a thing she found highly offensive; "I
always go about alone!"

"Well, I wanted to come, anyway," said Larry, with a placating grin.
"I say, that _is_ an awful nice dog!"

"You never call foxhounds '_dogs_'!" said Christian, still with
hauteur; "Larry, you _are_ an owl!"

But she enjoyed the consciousness of knowing more than he did; she
even forgave him his superfluousness. She thought it was rather decent
of him to have come, and she let him lead Amazon for a part of the
way, only reserving to herself the entry into the presence of
Cottingham, bringing her sheaf with her.



CHAPTER VI


Are childhood and youth indeed Vanity? When Christian looks back upon
her childhood at Mount Music, it seems to her that the World, and
Life, and Time, could hardly have bettered it for her, however they
might have put their heads together over the job.

All her memories are steeped in sunlight. It was all fun and fights,
and strawberries and dogs, and donkey-riding, and hot evenings on the
big river, with the hum of flies in her ears, and Larry, hailing her
from the farther bank of the Ownashee, across the stepping-stones. And
whenever she thought about the schoolroom, it was always warm and
rather jolly, especially in the Christmas holidays. They used to have
drawing competitions, of which Larry was, of course, the promoter, in
the old schoolroom, during the long winter evenings. Larry always had
a pencil in his hand, and was renowned as an artist of horses and
hounds, and Finn's wolf-dog, Bran, besides wielding a biting pen as a
caricaturist. Christian could only compete in architectural designs
that demanded neatness and exactness, but Georgy, the elder twin, had
some skill in marine subjects, and, since he was going to the
"Britannia," arrogated to himself the position of being an authority
on shipping; so much so, indeed, that general satisfaction was felt
when he was, one evening, worsted by Christian. The subject selected
for competition was "A Haunted Ship."

"Where shall I put the ghost?" Georgy debated, chewing the end of his
pencil, with his head on one side.

"In the shrouds, of course!" said Christian.

"Funny dog!" sneered Georgy, who considered that his artistic efforts
were no fit subject for jesting. "You'd better come and shove in one
of your Midianites for me!"

Then Christian, with the disconcerting swiftness of action, mental and
physical, that was peculiarly hers, snatched, in a flash, the mug of
painted-water from Larry's elbow, and poured its contents over
Georgy's fair bullet-head; with which, and with a triumphing cry
(learnt from a County Cork kitchenmaid, and very fashionable in the
schoolroom) of "A-haadie!" she fled, "lighter-footed than the fox,"
and equally subtle and daring.

Christian was not easily roused to wrath, but when this occurred,
youngest of the party though she was, it was but rarely that victory
did not rest with her. Two subjects were marked dangerous among these
children, during the combative years of "growing-up," and were
therefore specially popular; of these, the one was Christian's reputed
occult power, coupled with gibes based on that hymn to which reference
has been made; the other was Larry's religion.

To the Talbot-Lowry children, their own religion was largely a matter
of fetishes, with fluctuating restrictions as to what might or might
not be done on Sundays, but they found Larry's a more stimulating
subject. It was impossible for them to refrain from speculations as to
what Larry said when he went to confession; equally impossible not to
propose to the prospective penitent an assortment of sins to be avowed
at his next shriving, even though the suggestions seldom failed to
provoke conflict of the intensity usually associated with religious
warfare.

Lady Isabel, confronted with these problems, fell back on the manuals
of her own youth, with their artless pronouncements on the Righteous,
the Wicked, their qualifications, their prospects; and, since the
manuals had an indisputable _flair_ for the subjects most likely
to seize the attention of the young, Lady Isabel was generally able to
divert her offspring's attention from the Errors of Rome, with
digested narratives of "Adamaneve" (pronounced as one word) and the
Serpent, Balaam's Ass, Jonah's Whale, and similar non-controversial
matters.

"Wiser people than you and me, darlings," she would say, with a slight
stagger in grammar, but none in orthodoxy, "have explained it all for
us--"

"Larry's papa and mamma didn't quite think the same as we do, but we
needn't think about that, my pet!"

"But, mother, Evans says that the Pope--" appalling prognostications
as to the future of that dignitary would probably follow.

Unfortunate Lady Isabel! But parents and guardians have, at least, the
power of the closure.

"We needn't talk about it now," says the hard-pressed mother, "when
you're grown up you will understand it all better--"

With Christian, however, this formula was less efficacious than with
her elder brothers and sister. Her questioning, analysing, unwearying
brain ignored the closure, and evaded poor Lady Isabel's evasions. Her
religious life had been singularly vivacious, and the scope and
variety of the petitions that she nightly offered caused considerable
embarrassment to her mother. What was any good Church of England, or
Ireland, mamma to do when an infant of four years implores its Deity:

"Make me to have a good, fat, lively conscience, and even if God
curses me, help me not to mind a bit!"

The scandalised mamma decided that extempore prayer must be
discouraged, and seeking out in one of the manuals a form of prayer of
strictly limited range, repressed all additions and emendations.

Obedient to the traditions of her own youth, Lady Isabel, as her
children successively attained the mature age of six years, bestowed
Bibles upon them, but it was Christian, alone of the family, that
applied herself with any diligence to the study of the Scriptures. She
began with the Book of Esther (in which she found a satisfaction that
in after life remained something of a bewilderment to her), and
thence, but this was a year or two later, for no reason that can be
assigned, she passed lightly to the Book of Revelation. With it, it
may be said, the artistic side of her, that had leaped to sympathy
with Larry's emotion over "Dark Rosaleen" and "The Spirit of the
Nation," awakened, and her artistic life began. That glittering,
prismatic chapter, that tells of the rainbow round about the Throne,
in sight like unto an emerald, and the Sea of glass, like unto
crystal, that was before the Throne, and the thunderings and the
voices, and the Voice as it were a trumpet talking. Christian read the
chapter over and over again, for the sheer glory of the beautiful
words. She, also, knew of Voices, and Music, that other people did not
seem to hear. She could understand, and could tremble to those strange
shouts, and trumpet-blasts, and thunderings.

The Pale Horse that happened after the Fourth Seal was broken!

She would sit as still as if she were frozen, while she thought of the
Pale Horse coming crashing through Dharrig Wood, with Death on his
back, and Hell following with him--she always thought of him in that
black wood of pine trees--

"Wake up, Christian!" Miss Weyman, the governess, would say.

One of the Twins would hiss between his teeth: "Christian, dost thou
see them?"

Christian would feel a spiritual bump, as though she had been flung
off her chair on to the schoolroom floor, and Miss Weyman (always
enviously spoken of by adjacent mammas as "that most sensible little
Englishwoman") would say:

"I wonder how much you heard of what I was reading! I wish I could see
you learning to have a little more concentration!"

Whereas, did the excellent Miss Weyman only know it, a very little
more concentration on Christian's part, and it is possible that she,
and Judith, and the Twins, might all have seen the Pale Horse
thundering past the schoolroom windows. Stranger things have happened.
The Indian rope and basket trick, for instance.

"A most curious child--a perfect passion for animals, and so _dreamy_,
if you know what I mean," Miss Weyman would say to a comrade visitor.
"And the things that she seems to have learnt from the huntsman! But
really a nice little thing, and clever, too, though a _most_ erratic
worker! Now, Judith--" Miss Weyman felt there was some satisfaction
in teaching Judith. _She_ could concentrate, if the comrade visitor
liked! Nothing was a difficulty to her! And her memory! And her
energy--Miss Weyman freely admitted that Judith was three years older
than Christian, but still--

In short, Judith was a credit to any sensible little Englishwoman, but
Christian had a way of knowing nothing (as touching arithmetic, for
example), or too much (as touching Shakespeare and the Book of
Revelation), that implied considerable independence as to the
instructions of Miss Weyman, and no sensible little Englishwoman could
be expected to enjoy that.



CHAPTER VII


It is not peculiar to Irish incomes to fail to develop in response to
increasing demands upon them. It was, however, a distinctive feature
of the incomes of those who were Irish landlords during the latter
years of the Victorian era, to shrink in steady response to the
difficulties of English government in Ireland. Only Irish people can
understand the complicated processes of erosion to which Dick
Talbot-Lowry's resources were subjected, or can realise the tests of
fortitude and endurance to a man of spirit, that were involved by the
visitations of "Commissioners," with their fore-ordained mission of
lowering Dick's rents, rents that, in Dick's opinion, were already
philanthropically low. Major Talbot-Lowry, like many of his tribe,
though a pessimist in politics, was an optimist in most other matters,
and found it impossible to conceive a state of affairs when he would
be unable to do--approximately--whatever he had a mind for. At the age
of fifty-eight, fortitude and endurance are something of a difficulty
for a gentleman unused to the exercise of either of these fine
qualities, and after keeping the Broadwater Vale Hounds, for seventeen
years, as hounds should be kept, regardless of the caprices of the
subscription list, Major-Talbot-Lowry felt that he had deserved better
of his country than that he should now have to institute minor
economies, such as putting his men into brown breeches, foregoing the
yearly renewal of their scarlet coats, and other like humiliations.
Farther than details such as these, his sense of right and wrong did
not permit him to go.

"There are some things that they can't expect a gentleman to do," he
would say to his cousin, Miss Coppinger, "and as long as I keep the
hounds--"

"Then, my dear Dick, if you can't afford them, why keep them?"
Frederica would rejoin, with unsparing common-sense.

Unmarried ladies of mature age, have, as a rule, learned not only
fortitude and endurance, but have also mastered the fact that ways are
governed by means. Those processes of erosion, however, to which
reference has been made, were, comparatively speaking, slow in
operation, and there remained always Lady Isabel's twenty thousand
golden sovereigns, as safe and secluded in the hands of trustees (who
had a constitutional disbelief in Irishmen), as if they were twenty
thousand nuns under the rule of a royal abbess.

Therefore did Major Talbot-Lowry, M.F.H., and the Broadwater Vale
Hounds, make a creditable show, brown breeches and last season's pink
coats notwithstanding, at the meet at Coppinger's Court, on December
26th of the year 1897. The weather was grey and silver, with a light
southeast wind and a rising glass. Sunshine was filtering down, as it
were through muslin curtains that might at any moment be withdrawn;
some crocuses and snowdrops had appeared in the grass round the wide
gravel sweep in front of the house; there was a perplexed primrose or
two, deceived by the sun as to the date; the scent of the violets in
the bed under the drawing-room windows, came in delicate whiffs round
the corner of the house. It would have been impossible to believe that
but twenty-four hours ago, Christmas hymns had been shouted, and
Christmas presents presented, had not a group of "Wran-boys" offered
irrefutable testimony that this was indeed the Feast of Stephen.
These, a ragged and tawdry little cluster of mummers, shabby survivors
of mediæval mysteries, were gathered round their ensign holly-bush in
front of the hall-door steps. From the holly-bush swung the corpse of
the wren, and from the throats of the Wran-Boys came the song that
recounts the wicked wren's pursuit and slaughter:

  "The Wran, the Wran, the King of all birds,
  On Stephenses' Day was cot in the furze,
  And though he is little, his family is great,
  Rise up, good gentlemen, and give us a thrate--Huzzay!"

Wherever in South Munster two or three boys were gathered together,
that song was being sung, and Major Talbot-Lowry and his staff had
already met so many of such companies on their way to the Meet, that
their horses' indignation at finding a further collection of
nightmares at Coppinger's Court was excusable.

On the high flight of hall-door steps, stood Larry and Miss Coppinger,
the former pale with excitement, the latter doggedly resigned to the
convention that compelled her to offer intoxicating drinks to people
who, as she said, had but just swallowed their breakfasts. Larry had
learned many things since that day of abysmal ignorance when he had
spoken of Amazon as a "nice dog." Among his many enthusiasms he now
included a passion for the chase, and all that appertains to its
elaborate cult, that complied with Christian's, and even Cottingham's,
sense of what was becoming, and, having dedicated a shelf in the
library to books on hunting, he had read them all, with the same
ardour that, four years earlier, he had brought to bear on The Spirit
of the Nation and Irish history.

Major Talbot-Lowry looked down, from the top of his tall, white-faced
chestnut, on his young cousin, and accepted the glass of port that
Larry reverently offered to him, with a pleased appreciation of the
reverence. Cousin Dick was not invariably pleased with his young
cousin. He had gathered, hazily, from his wife, such of the tenets of
the Companions of Finn as she, instructed by Miss Weyman, had been
able to impart, and had not approved of them, nor of Larry's part in
introducing them to his young; also it was annoying (especially when
he remembered the brown breeches, etc.) to think of a young cub of a
boy having more money than he knew what to do with; and, finally, and
all the time, there was that almost unconscious, inbred distrust of
Larry's religion.

Nevertheless, it has been said that "wise men live in the present, for
its bounties suffice them," and Dick, if not very wise, was very
good-natured, and was wise enough to realise that the fine weather,
and the good horse under him, and even Larry's homage, were bounties
sufficient unto the day.

"Got a fox for me, Larry? That's right. Good boy. Where d'ye think
we'll find him?"

"He's using the Quarry Wood earth, Cousin Dick," said Larry,
breathlessly, with the anxiety of the owner of the coverts alight in
his eyes. "I'm certain he's there. I went round with Sullivan myself
last night, and we stopped the whole place. I bet he'll not get in
anywhere!"

"Good! I'll draw the Quarry Wood first," said Cousin Dick, with royal
benignity. "You get away outside at the western end, and keep a
look-out for him."

A heavy man, on an enormous grey horse, had approached the Master,
having edged his way through the hounds with ostentatious care. He was
of a type sufficiently common among southern Irishmen, with thick,
strong-growing, black hair, a large, black moustache, and heavy brows,
over-shadowing eyes of precisely the same shade of blunted blue as his
shaven chin.

"He's a credit to his breeding, Major!" said the heavy man, indicating
Larry with a sandwich from which he had taken a bite of the size of
one of his horse's hoofs; "I wish we had a few more lads coming on in
the country like him!"

"What good are they going to do?" responded the Master, reverting to
the pessimistic mood that was daily becoming more frequent with him;
"what chance is there for a gentleman in this damned country? You
might as well have a mill-stone round your neck as an Irish property
these times! What do you suppose will be left to us after the next
'Revision of Rents,' as they call it?"

"Well, deuce a much indeed," returned Doctor Mangan, equably, "but it
mightn't be so bad as that altogether! I have my little girl out for
the first time to-day, Major. I wonder might I ask your man, that's
looking after your young ladies, to have an eye to her, too?"

Doctor Mangan withdrew with the required permission, and with his
daughter at his heels, proceeded through the assembling riders and
carriages, distributing greetings as he went.

Doctor Francis Aloysius Mangan was one of the leading doctors in the
district of which the towns of Cluhir and Riverstown each felt itself
to fill the most important place. Ireland grows doctors and clergymen
with almost equal success and profusion. There is in the national
character a considerable share of the constituents that are valuable
in both professions. Power of sympathy, good-nature, intuition,
adroitness, discernment of character, and a gift for taking every man
in his humour. Qualities that are perhaps beside the specialised
requirements, but are equally indispensable.

In what degree these attributes were bestowed upon Doctor Mangan may
gradually be ascertained by the patient reader, but in the case of
Father David Hogan, P.P., of Riverstown, at this juncture in lively
converse with the Misses Talbot-Lowry, the reader may be spared the
exercise of that tiresome virtue, and may feel confident that Father
Hogan failed in none of the qualities that have been enumerated.
Father David was, indeed, the most popular man in the country with all
classes and creeds; he was universally known as the Chaplain of the
B.V.H., and was accounted one of the chiefest glories of the hunt.
Major Talbot-Lowry was accustomed to boast, in places where such as he
congregate, that He, in His country, had the best priest in Ireland! A
real good man. Kept the farmers civil and friendly. Managed a district
for the Fowl Fund. And a topper to ride--always at the top of the
hunt!

"Trust a priest to have a good horse!" is the rejoinder prescribed in
such cases, and Major Dick's fellows seldom failed to comply with the
ritual.

Father David, stout, jolly, and, like his namesake, of a ruddy
countenance, mounted upon a black mare as stout and sporting-looking
as himself, was, as Doctor Mangan drew near to the Misses
Talbot-Lowry, beaming upon these two lambs from another fold, and
having congratulated Miss Judith on the appearance of the grey mare
that she was riding (reft from Lady Isabel and the victoria), was
endearing himself to Miss Christian by tales of the brace of hound
puppies that he was walking for the hunt.

The advantage of being the youngest member of a large family is one
that takes a considerable time to mature. Christian was thirteen years
old before what was left of one of the Hunt horses, after seven
strenuous seasons of official work, was placed at her sole disposal.
This residue, battered though it was, and a roarer of remarkable power
and volume, was incapable of falling, and with anything under eight
stone on its piebald back (piebald from incessant and sedulously
concealed saddle-galls) could always be trusted to keep within
reasonable distance of hounds when they ran. It was fortunate for
Christian that Judith, now sixteen, and far from a feather-weight, had
renounced her share in "Harry," and had established a right in the
grey mare. Judith was a buccaneer. Charles, the coachman, (in
connection with the commandeering of the grey mare, which he resented)
had said of her to his respected friend, Mr. Evans: "Ah, ah! That's
the young lady that'll get her whack out of the world!"

And Mr. Evans' reaping-hook nose had sniffed assent.

Yet, though Judith was averted, the Christmas holidays always held the
menace of brothers to be reckoned with as rival claimants for Harry.

"The boys, darling!" "Unselfishness, darling!" "After the holidays, my
child!"

Lady Isabel was of the school that inculcated self-denial for its
daughters, but never for its sons; (whether from a belief that such
was inherent in the male sex, or from a fear that the effort would be
misplaced, it is difficult to say). Christian was ever quick to
respond to the call for martyrdom, but that the Twins should both
maltreat and despise the venerable Harry, added a poignancy to
renunciation that placed it almost beyond attainment. On this day of
festival, happily, renunciation was not exacted; other attractions had
absorbed the Twins, and Christian's rights were unchallenged.

Therefore, it was that the youngest Miss Talbot-Lowry, perched on old
Harry's broad back, and looking of about the same size in relation to
it as the "Wran" to the holly-bush, was now blissfully discussing
hound-puppies with her trusted friend, Father David, and was asking
nothing more that life could offer.

Dr. Mangan, meantime, waited, with a permissive smile, for the moment
to make his "little girl" known to the young ladies from Mount Music,
and to their cousin, young Larry Coppinger. He was in no hurry, and he
had often had occasion to agree with Milton (though he had been quite
unaware of so doing) in thinking that they also serve who only stand
and wait.



CHAPTER VIII


It may be permissible to introduce a meet of hounds at or about the
end of a chapter, but I feel sure that the ensuing run must be given
elbow-room. Alarming to many though this statement may be, yet it may
be said that its foundations are laid in truth and equity, and in the
necessities of this history may be found the justification of the
chapter.

The Quarry Wood had not failed. Larry's fox had been in it. To Larry,
seated on his stout, bay cob, with a heart banging against his ribs,
and a soul absorbed into a single supplication, had come, suddenly and
beautifully, the answer to prayer, the ineffable spectacle of a large
and lovely fox, sliding quietly away, at the right place, at the right
moment. Life could offer Larry no more; not then, at all events.

"_My_ coverts--_my_ fox!"

Not many boys of sixteen, enthusiasts, endowed with just that touch of
the poetic temperament that can set the brain reeling, could know a
more wondrous moment.

Then to see Cousin Dick, blazing and splendid, charging out of the
wood, "like the man on the red horse in Revelation," as Christian said
afterwards--(Christian had sneaked away from Charles, the coachman,
and had followed Larry)--with the hounds flashing around and ahead of
him, and Cottingham's rasping "Forrad! Forrad!" from the wood behind,
like the blast of a bellows upon flames!

Larry had been past speech when that apocalyptic vision had
materialised in response to his halloa. He had waved his hat and
cheered the hounds to the line of the fox, but it had been
unnecessary; they had not had an instant's uncertainty, and had taken
hold on their own account without reference to anyone.

That the hold taken by the hounds was a firm and assured one was due,
not only to their own virtues, but also to the fact that where the fox
had broken, a tract of turf bog met the wood, and carried a scent of
entire efficiency. What, however, it was incapable of carrying were
the horses. The hounds, uttering their ecstasy in that gorgeous chorus
of harmonious discordance called Full Cry, sped across the bog like a
flock of seagulls; but for the riders, a narrow track between deep
ditches left by the turf-cutters for their carts, was the sole hope,
and a string of horses, galloping in single file, was soon following
hard on the heels of the Master. Foremost of them all were Christian
and Larry, filled with an elation beyond the power of words to convey.
The hounds were holding steadily right-handed across the bog, and were
ever widening the distance between them and the riders, but it was
enough for these two children to be able to keep their proud place,
next after the Master, and to know that no one, not even Cottingham,
could deprive them of it. It may gravely be questioned if Tommy, the
stout bay cob, and Harry, the residue of a hunt horse, appreciated a
position to which they were so little accustomed. Harry, whose heart,
indisputably in the right place, was possibly the only sound item in
his outfit, pounded gallantly on, roaring as he went, like a lion
seeking after his prey; but Tommy, whose labours were, as a rule,
limited to mild harness-work, was kept going mainly by stress of
circumstances, in which category Larry's spurs took a prominent part.
The bog-track at length became merged in a rushy field, and then
indeed did the pent waters of the hunt break forth. Major Dick's tall
chestnut had gradually increased his lead, and by the time the track
was clear of riders, he was two fields ahead, with Cottingham not far
behind, and a few indignant young men riding like maniacs to overtake
them. To have been held back by a schoolboy and a little girl is an
indignity not easily to be borne. The Broadwater Vale field was a
hard-going one, including a strengthening of young soldiers from the
regiment quartered at Riverstown, and it was not long before Tommy and
Harry were beginning to find themselves in a more familiar and less
exigent position. Judith, on the grey mare, went by them like a flash;
Doctor Mangan overtook them heavily, and heavily passed them. Father
David, riding a little wide of the crowd, waved a friendly hand to
Christian, as the black mare, composed and discreet, as became a
daughter of the Church, dwelt for an instant on the top of a wide
bank, before she struck off into the next field. Worst indignity of
all, Charles, the coachman, on the elderly carriage horse, drew
alongside, and presumed to offer directions and admonitions. "As if,"
thought Christian, as she drove Harry at the bank in the wake of the
black mare, "I cared a pin what he says!"

Gone for poor Charles were the days when Miss Christian had revered
him above all other created things; days such as the one on which,
after a ride round the yard on an unharnessed carriage horse,
Christian, in gratitude too great for words, had attempted to kiss
him. Charles had repelled the embrace, saying tactfully: "No pleasures
in Lent, Miss!" and Christian had accepted the excuse. Then Miss
Christian had been three years old, now she was thirteen, and Charles
had, in the interval, married a cook, and lost his figure, and with
it, had departed his nerve, and the reverance of Miss Christian, and
he knew it.

Close behind Charles came Dr. Mangan's "little girl," who had been
confided with a lubricating half-crown, to his care. Miss Letitia
Mangan was far from considering herself a little girl. She was sixteen
and a half, and conceived herself to be of combatant rank, even though
her thick, dark hair banged on her back in a ponderous pigtail, and
her education at the Cluhir Convent School was still uncompleted. The
fat, piebald pony that she was riding would have a sore back before
she got home. Christian, perched wren-like on her ancient steed (but a
wren placed with mathematical accuracy of directness with relation to
the steed's ears), noted with disfavour the crooked seat, the heavy
hand on the curb. Larry, hot and pink, with hat hanging by its guard,
his fair hair looking like storm-tossed corn-stooks, noted nothing,
being wholly engrossed in bitter conflict with Tommy. The art of
keeping a good start with hounds is not given to many, and least of
all to the young and inexperienced. From having been first of the
first, it had fallen to Larry and Christian to find themselves last,
and last in the despised company of Charles and "the Mangan girl."

The unexacting position of being at the heel of the hunt may have a
charm for the philosophic or unambitious, but so black a continuation
of so great a start was a trial quite beyond the endurance of a young
gentleman possessed of the artistic temperament. And then the
abominable Mangan girl came into play, and joined in the circling
performance at the big bank. Always, when Larry felt that this time
the cob was going to "have it," that cow-like red and white beast
would jam itself in the way, so he thought, raging. In this matter of
hunting, Dr. Mangan had not been well advised in his scheme for his
little girl's social advantage.

In the meantime the hounds had run their fox into Drumkeen Wood, and
the riders, arriving in small and breathless companies, thanked God
for a check, and tightened their girths and took courage. The latter
would undoubtedly be needed if the run continued; Drumkeen Wood was
hung like a cloak upon the side of a steep hill, and was the
invariable prelude to the worst going within the bounds of the hunt.

"If he's into the big earth here, I'm afraid it's good-bye to him!"
said Dr. Mangan, taking courage in a liquid form. "It was a sweet
gallop while it lasted! Sweet and short, like this toothful of cherry
brandy I'm after drinking!"

"Ah, that's poor stuff, Doctor," said Mr. Hallinan, proprietor of
Hallinan's Hotel, a prosperous hostelry, much patronised by
salmon-fishers. "Give me a sup of good old John Jameson in its
purity!"

"'Twas for Tishy I brought this out," replied the Doctor,
apologetically; "but I lost sight of her. She's back somewhere with
little Christian Lowry and young Coppinger."

"What sort of a lad is that?" asked Mr. Hallinan. "Is he as big a pup
as them young Lowrys?"

"Ah, they're not so bad altogether," said Dr. Mangan, indulgently.
"Young sprigs like them are none the worse for a little _tashpy_,
as the people say!" The Doctor's heavy voice relaxed a little over the
world _tashpy_ (which, it should perhaps be explained, is Irish,
and implies a blend of impudence and high spirits). He was quite aware
that his friend Hallinan and he regarded the Talbot-Lowrys from a
different standpoint.

"I was having a bit of lunch there the other day," he went on, "and I
thought they were nice boys enough."

"I hope you got enough to eat!" said Mr. Hallinan, disagreeably; "I'm
told that their butcher's sick and tired trying to get what he's owed,
out of them! There should be drink enough, anyway! I'm just after
sending in a case of whisky there. God knows when I'll be ped for it!"

At this moment the two gentlemen, whose horses were nibbling the grass
of the bank that surrounded the wood, were shaken by the sudden
appearance of the white nose of the Master's chestnut on the other
side of the bank.

"I'd be obliged if there was less noise!" said the Master's voice,
with threatening in it.

Mr. Hallinan's jaw dropped unaffectedly.

"Merciful God!" he murmured; "did he hear me, d'ye think?"

"Ah, no fear, man!" whispered the Doctor, encouragingly. "And if he
did itself, maybe you'd get your cheque a bit quicker!"

In the silence that followed, a whimpering whistle from a hound,
invisible, yet near at hand, sent a thrill through the waiting riders.
There followed the rustling rush of hounds through the undergrowth, as
they gathered to enquire into the whimper. Then another whimper,
merging into a squeal, and Cottingham's voice:

"Hark to Dulcet! Forrad to Dulcet!"

"Begad, they have him again," said Dr. Mangan, without enthusiasm. "I
wonder where is Tishy gone to? I suppose they'll run these blasted
hills now--"

The big grey horse, and his seventeen stone rider, moved off in the
opposite direction to the tread of the hunt, which was slowly and
steadily pushing upwards through the wood. Dr. Mangan was one of the
select company of followers of hounds who know when they have had
enough.

A narrow, stony passage, more resembling a drain than a lane, ran
round the wood; the riders hustled along it, like a train in a
cutting, too tightly packed for the most vindictive kicker to injure
his neighbour, too hampered by impeding rocks to make more speed than
can be accomplished by a jog. The drain ended at a V-shaped fissure
between two slants of rock, and, by the time the last horse had
clattered and scrambled up it, the hounds were away again, steering
up, across heathery fields, enclosed by fences and stone walls of all
sorts and sizes, for a great double-headed hill on the sky-line, three
or more miles away.

"Carrigaholt as usual!" said Major Dick, over his shoulder, to the
Hon. Sec., young Kirby of Castle Ire. "If you get a chance, try and
head him off the western rocks--and Bill! Tell those infernal
children of mine they're to keep with Charles and look out for bogs!"

His conscience as a parent thus appeased, the Master applied himself
to the no small task of keeping his hounds in sight, and of evading
the equal difficulties presented by rocks and bog holes. The offspring
in question were now, with Larry, in comparative and undesired safety
beneath the fluttering wing of Charles, and Bill Kirby, having
faithfully delivered his message, found himself immediately adopted as
an alternative protector, and repented him of his fidelity.

The hounds stormed on through the hills, running hard across the
frequent boggy tracts, more slowly, and with searchings, over the
intervening humps of rock and furze. The fox was making a well-known
point, and running a well-known line, but the fences in their infinite
variety, defied the staling force of custom, and the difficulties of
the going were intensified by the pace. The hounds gained at length
the ridge of the high country, and as they flitted along the skyline,
the riders, labouring among the rocks, skirting the bogs, pounding at
the best pace they could raise over the intervals of heather and
grass, felt that their hold on the hunt had become distinctly
insecure.

"'Christian dost thou see them?'" quoted Larry, kicking his heels into
the bay cob's well-covered ribs without effect, "for I don't!"

"They'll check at Carrigaholt," called back Bill Kirby; "that'll be
our chance--"

They were far up on the slope of the hills now; the country swung in
long, dipping lines, down to the Vale of the Broadwater, and spread,
in great and generous curves, away to the far range of the Mweelin
Mountains, that brooded, in colour a deep and sullen sapphire, on the
horizon. The town of Cluhir, a little puff of smoke, cut in two by the
wide river, lay below. The spires of the two churches rose above the
smoke, one on either side of the bridge that spanned the river. The
sound of bells, faintly rising from one of them, summoned the faithful
to the mid-day Mass in honour of St. Stephen.

Larry, pushing Tommy along at a dogged canter, lifted his bowler hat
as he heard the bells, and Christian and Judith looked at each other.
The tradition of the Protestant, "No demonstrations!" with its
singular suspicion and distrust of manifestations of reverence or
poetry, had been early implanted in them, and Judith murmured to
Christian: "How on earth does he remember?"

"I know I couldn't," admitted Christian; yet some feeling that, though
crushed, had survived the heavy feet of Lady Isabel's trusted manuals,
stirred in her in accord with the faint clash of the chapel bells,
making her envy Larry his accredited salutation, making her feel
something of the beauty, if not of holiness, of, at least, the
recognition that there were holy things in the world.

On the nearer head of Carrigaholt the check, predicted by Bill Kirby,
came. A narrow and level plateau ran between the twin crests; above it
on both sides, rose successive shelves of cliff, with swathes of
russet bracken muffling their fierce outline. Flung about on the
shelves, looking like tumbled piles of giant books in a neglected
library, were immense rectangular rocks; one would say that only the
grey and knotted cords of the ivy that had crept over them, held them
in their place upon those rugged shelves. At one end of the level
place the ground fell steeply to a wild stream, the Feorish, from
whose farther bank another hill, but little less formidable than
Carrigaholt, rose like an enemy tower, threatening its defences. The
hounds swarmed like bees among the rocks, jumping or falling from
shelf to shelf, burrowing and thrusting through the bracken, their
heads appearing suddenly in quite improbable places, with glowing eyes
and glistening pink tongues, demanding from their huntsman the
information that no one but themselves could give.

It was a place in which not one, but a hundred places of safety
presented themselves to a fox, but this good fox had despised them
all, and, of all the hounds, it was Amazon, Christian's beloved
foundling, who was first to recognise the fact. Far down, from the
bottom of the gorge, she called to her fellows, and it was Christian,
of all the riders, who first heard her voice. If Larry had had his
great moment, when the fox broke, it was Christian's turn now, when
Amazon fresh-found him. I suppose there are not very many people who,
as well as being perfectly happy, are conscious of their perfect
happiness. This little girl was of that privileged company, as, in
answer to her call, her father threw the pack over the edge of the
plateau and cheered them to Amazon.

In two minutes, a frenzied chorus was filling the narrow gorge, the
cry of the hounds, the hurrying reiterated notes of the horn, the
shouts of the Whips rating on stragglers, echoing and re-echoing from
cliff to cliff. Before the riders had committed themselves to the
descent, the leading hounds were straining up the opposite cliff face;
slithering, and slipping, the horses were hurried down a track that
goats had made between rocks and bracken, and, at the base, found
themselves confronted with the problem of the river. The River Styx
could hardly look less attractive than did the Feorish, as it swirled,
swollen and foaming, among its rocks, its dark torrent plunging from
steep to steep in roaring waterfalls. Some country men, high on the
cliffs, howled directions, and the Master, his eye on his hounds
struggling with the fierce stream, went on down the gorge until the
howls changed their metre, thus indicating to the experienced that the
moment had come to cross the river. The ford, such as it was,
permitted some half dozen of the horses to cross it, splashing and
floundering, wobbling perilously from the round and slimy back of one
sunken rock to another.

Judith and the grey mare, following close on Bill Kirby's heels, got
over neatly, and were away after him over the top of the hill before
Christian's turn came. The ancient and skilled Harry addressed himself
to the task with elderly caution, feeling his way with suspicion,
creeping across with slow-poised feet, and was so delicate over the
effort, that Larry's cob, following too close on him, was checked at a
critical moment. He struggled, slipped, recovered, found himself still
hindered by Harry, and, with a final stagger, lost footing altogether,
and rolled over.

Cottingham, subsequently recounting the incident, declared that
_he_ thought, he did, that the young genel'm was done for; but
"that little Miss Christeen--she's a nummer she is!--she off'n 'er
'oss before I fair sees what's 'appened, and she ketches the young
chap by the 'ed, and pulls 'im clear! Her did indeed! A lill' gurl
like what she is too! Her's wuth more than ten big men!"

What a singular encomium, "a nummer" might mean, was a fact known only
to Cottingham, but it was incontrovertibly Christian's eel-like
swiftness of action that had saved Larry from a worse accident. Small
and slender though she was, she was wiry, and she had the gift of
being able instantly to concentrate every force of mind and body upon
a desired point--a rare gift and a precious one.

But when she and Larry, dripping and hatless, were hauled into safety
by other helpers, less swift but more powerful, it was found that
Larry had not come out of the Feorish unscathed. His left hand was
hanging, helpless, with a broken wrist.



CHAPTER IX


The hunt swept on after the manner of hunts, full of sympathy, having,
as to one man, contributed a silver cigarette case, with which
another, a resourceful medical student, had improvised a splint, but
feeling, not without relief, that they could do nothing more; feeling
also, with depression, that the Lord only knew where the devils had
run to by this time, but that that couldn't be helped; with which
philosophic reflection and many valedictory shouts of commiseration,
the last of them had vanished over the hill.

The unfortunate Charles restored to guardianship, now found himself
with Miss Judith, lost; Miss Christian soaked to the skin, eight miles
or more from her home; Master Larry ditto, in much pain, no nearer to
his, and unable to mount his horse, which latter would have to be led
over a succession of fences to the nearest road; (and no matter with
what distinction an elderly coachman can drive a pair of horses on a
road, it is very far from being the same thing to get a pair of horses
across a country). It was, therefore, a very gloomy party that set
face for the nearest highway. The intricacies of procedure at each
jump need not here be dealt with, but it may be said that a more
thankful man than Charles, when he again felt the good macadam under
his feet, is not often met with. He would at that moment have said
that he could not have felt an intenser gratitude than suffused him as
he saw his convoy safe off the hills; but there he would have
over-stated the case, since, scarcely five minutes after the road had
been reached, an even more supreme thankfulness was his. Coming
rapidly towards him, he beheld Dr. Mangan's outside car, and upon it
was the large person of Dr. Mangan himself.

"Well," said Charles that evening, to Mr. Evans, "if it was the Angel
Gabriel I seen flying down to me, I wouldn't be as glad as what I was
when I seen the Big Doctor on the side-car!"

And Mr. Evans had caustically rejoined: "It'll be the funny day when
you'll see wings on _him_!" meaning Dr. Mangan, of whom he had a
low opinion.

Wings or no wings, no angel of mercy and succour was ever more welcome
or more needed than was the Big Doctor at this moment. Larry, very
white, shivering with pain and cold, was lifted on to the car;
Christian was told to gallop away home as fast as she could, and
Charles was directed to let Miss Coppinger know that her nephew would
be put up for the night at the Doctor's own house at Cluhir.

"You can say to her that I met the Hunt, and one of them told me what
happened," said the Big Doctor, "and I knew then what to do."

It might, indeed, habitually be said of Dr. Mangan that he knew very
well what to do. There were, indeed, but two occasions on record when
it might have seemed that he had not so known. The first of these was
when he had abandoned an improving practice in Dublin to work as his
father's partner in his native Cluhir, the second, when, preliminary
to that return, he had married a lady, alleged, by inventive and
disagreeable people, to have been his cook. The disagreeable people
had also said disagreeable things as to the nature of the stress that
had prompted the marriage. But it was now twenty years since the
Mangans had been established at Number Six, The Mall, Cluhir; the
Doctor had come in for his father's money as well as his practice, and
was respected as "a warm man"; the disagreeable ones had grown old,
and people who are both old and disagreeable cannot expect to command
a large audience. Mrs. Mangan, on the contrary, was neither the one
nor the other, being, at this time, but little over forty, and as
kindly, lazy, and handsome a creature as ever lived down spiteful
gossip by good-nature. When "The Dawkthor" (as she called him, with a
drowsy drag on the first syllable) had galloped in at one o'clock to
command Barty's room to be got ready at once, Mrs. Mangan was still in
what she called "dishable," and was straying between her bedroom and
the kitchen, pleasurably involved in the cares of both.

"They say young Coppinger fell in the river, and he's broken his
wrist," said the Doctor rapidly, stamping into his wife's room,
bringing the wind of the hills with him. "I'll bring him here as soon
as I can get hold of him."

"The creature!" replied Mrs. Mangan, sympathetically.

"Well, don't be waiting to pity him now!" said her husband, stuffing
bandages into his pocket, "but hurry and put hot jars into the
bed--and clean sheets. Don't forget now, Annie!"

He lumbered in his long boots and spurs, down to the surgery, still
issuing directions.

"Tishy'll be back directly--she'll give you a hand--and Annie! tell
Hannah to have some hot soup ready. Now, hurry, for God's sake!"

The front door into the Mall, Cluhir's most fashionable quarter,
banged.

"Well, well!" said Mrs. Mangan, still sympathetic, while she removed
the curling-pins from her bison fringe; "wasn't it the will of God
that I had a headache this morning and couldn't go to Mass! I'll have
something to say to Father Greer now if he draws it up to me that I
was backward in my duty!"

Much fortified by this reflection, Mrs. Mangan hurriedly proceeded
with her toilette, squalling meanwhile to her bench-woman in the
kitchen a summary of the Doctor's orders. She had no more than
achieved what she called her "Sunday dress," a complimentary effort to
be equally divided between Saint Stephen and young Mr. Coppinger, when
the back-door into the yard from the house slammed, and her daughter's
voice announced her return.

"Come up, Tishy, till I talk to you!" shouted Mrs. Mangan, slinging a
long gold watch-chain over her head and festooning it upon her ample
bosom: "Did you meet Pappy?" she continued, as her daughter's steps
drew near.

"I did to be sure," returned Miss Letitia, coming into her mother's
room and flinging herself into an armchair, "when I was crossing the
bridge it was. He roared to me to hurry you and Hannah. Holy Mary
Joseph! How stiff I am! That old horn on the saddle has the right leg
cut off me!"

"Well, never mind your legs now," replied Mrs. Mangan, peremptorily,
"what I want to know is what sort is this young man that Pappy's
bringing in on top of us? In God's name, why couldn't he be let go
home to his own?"

"'Young man' is it!" retorted Tishy; "he's nothing but a boy at
school, and a cross boy too! Such beating of his pony as he had when
he wouldn't jump for him! Didn't I try and make poor Zoé go before
him, and th' eye he cast at her! I thought he'd beat me, too!"

"Oh, and is a boy all he is then?" said Mrs. Mangan, with relief in
her voice: "you'd think by the work your father had 'twas the Lord
Leftenant was in it! Run away now, Tishy, like a good girl, and get
those clothes off you, and help Hannah with Barty's room. Boy or man
or whatever he is, he must have a bed under him!"

It was a very deplorable boy who presently arrived at No. 6, The Mall,
Cluhir, and was practically lifted off the car by the Big Doctor.
Francis Aloysius Mangan had many aspects of character of an
undesirable kind, but they were linked with one virtue, the Irish
gift, of a good-natured heart. With his enormous thick hands, that
made Larry think of a tiger's paws, he undressed the boy as cleverly
and gently as he had set the broken bones of his wrist. Mrs. Mangan
and Hannah had not failed; the soup and the jars were, as the latter
authority had pronounced, "as hot as love," similarly passioned was
the ardour of the whisky-punch, with which the proceedings had opened.
Combined with a subsequent sleeping-draught, it conferred the boon of
sleep, and for some hours, at all events, Larry forgot his
recently-acquired knowledge of what pain was. But not for many hours.
In the long darkness of the winter morning he lay with a fast mounting
temperature, while he made the discovery, common to all in his case,
that upon the particular bone that has been broken, the entire
existence pivots. And, in addition to the broken bone, by the time
that Miss Frederica had driven in from Coppinger's Court, there was
but little doubt that what Dr. Mangan called, lightly, "a touch of
pneumonia," would keep young Mr. Coppinger in Barty's room for a time
unspecified.

Miss Frederica drove home again in a seriously perturbed frame of
mind, and with indignation against the decrees of Providence hot
within her.

"I wired for a nurse for him!" she said to Lady Isabel, "I could not
plant myself upon them! It's all _most_ uncomfortable and
unavoidable. Of course they've been extremely kind--"

At the back of Miss Coppinger's mind was the wish, that she trampled
on whenever it stirred, that the Mangans had been less unexceptionally
kind and Good Samaritan-like. "Such an obligation!" she groaned;
"they've turned their own son out of the house to make room for Larry!
But oh, my dear Isabel, if you could imagine what the house is like!
The untidiness! The dirt! Of course they're unspeakably kind, and Dr.
Mangan is certainly very clever, and has managed Larry wonderfully,"
went on Frederica, repenting her of her evil speaking, "and I must say
I can't help liking Mrs. Mangan, but the girl--!" Miss Coppinger
shut her mouth so tightly that her lips became thin, white lines.
"Keep the door of your lips" was a text which she had in her youth
illuminated for herself. She often found that nothing save a sudden
and violent slam would keep that door shut, and, to do her justice,
the slams, when the conversation turned on the Mangan household, were
both frequent and violent.

This was later, when Larry was getting better, and when his aunt had
begun to find the daily drive to Cluhir something of a strain. It was
not until he was practically convalescent that he was permitted to
receive other visitors. Even the daughter of the house, and that
unknown son, into whose bedroom he had been thrust, were, for him,
beneath the surface, and their presence only inferential. Barty was
domiciled at a friend's, and Miss Tishy held aloof, the hushed voices,
and general restraint imposed by illness, being not at all to her
taste. Lady Isabel came once, with his aunt, and Christian crept shyly
in behind them. Christian was wont to be silent in the presence of her
elders. That great and admirable maxim, once widely instilled into the
young, whose purport is that children should seldom be seen and never
heard, had early been accepted by Christian, without resentment, even,
as she grew older, with gratitude. Having diffidently taken Larry's
listless and pallid paw, she had slipped into the background, and
waited silently, while her eager brain absorbed and stored every
detail for future meditation. Long after Larry had lightly forgotten
all save the large facts of his illness and incarceration, Christian
could describe the Pope, whose highly-coloured presentment beatified
(rather than beautified) the wall over Larry's bed, and could imitate,
with the accuracy of a phonograph, the voice of Mrs. Mangan, as she
issued her opinions on the state of the weather to her distinguished
visitors.



CHAPTER X


The "touch of pneumonia," prophesied by Dr. Mangan, had proved to be a
sufficiently emphatic one. Larry's recovery was slow, and during his
languid convalescence, he found himself becoming sincerely attached to
the Big Doctor and Mrs. Mangan, and their high place in his affections
was shared by the nurse provided by Miss Coppinger. The bond of a
common faith was one that, at this stage of his development, had but
little appeal to Larry, but he was, at all events, spared any
possibility of suffering from the feelings of sub-friction, if not of
antagonism, that inevitably stirred in his aunt's breast, if she found
herself brought into relation closer than that of employer and
employed with those of the older creed.

His sense of beauty, now beginning to acquire consciousness, and
sorely afflicted by the decorative scheme that had been adopted in
Barty's bedroom, found solace in the faces of these two women. Even
the lazy consideration of the contrast between their types, was a
comfort to Larry, and distracted his mind from the wall-paper (which
suggested the contents of Dr. Mangan's surgery, rhubarb, and
mustard-leaves predominating), and from Barty's taste in art, which in
its sacred and profane aspects was alike deplorable.

Nurse Brennan, slight and fair, with the clearest of blue eyes, and a
Dresden china complexion--Larry was already artist enough to study and
adore the shadow of her white coif, with its subtle, reflected lights,
on her pink, rose-leaf cheek--and Mrs. Mangan, just a little
over-blown, but heavily, darkly handsome, with deep-lidded shadowy
eyes, and--as Master Coppinger pleased himself by discovering--a
slight suggestion of a luxurious Chesterfield sofa, upholstered in
rich cream velvet. When he was getting better, and the rigours of the
sick room were relaxing, these two provided him with interest and
entertainment of which they were delightfully unaware.

"Well, and what will I give him for his dinner to-day,
Norrse?"--(impossible to persuade the English alphabet to disclose
Mrs. Mangan's pronunciation of this word)--his hostess would say,
drifting largely into Larry's room, and seating herself on the side of
his bed.

"Don't be making an invalid of him at all, Mrs. Mangan!" Nurse Brennan
would rejoin briskly; "I'm just telling him I'd be sorry to get a
thump from that old wrist of his, he and the Doctor think so much
about! And he hasn't as much as a point of temperature those three
days!"

"Oh, I say, Nurse!" Larry would protest, "then why won't you let me
get up?"

"Be quite now"--(in Ireland the "e" in "quiet" is not infrequently
thus transposed)--"and don't be bothering me, like a good child!"
Nurse would reply, with a sidelong flash of her charming eyes, a
recognition of Larry's age and sex that atoned for the opprobrious
epithet.

"Would he like a bit of fish now? I'm going down the town, and I might
meet one of the women in from Broadhaven." Thus Mrs. Mangan,
coaxingly.

"Oh, Mrs. Mangan, please don't bother!" says Larry.

"Ah, no bother at all! Sure I was going down anyway to the chapel to
get a sup of holy water. I declare the house is bone dry! Not a drop
in it!"

After dreary winter mornings spent in reading, by the light of a
misplaced window, or age-long afternoons, drowsed through in that
torpor, mental as well as physical, that overwhelms the victim of a
prolonged sojourn in bed, Larry used to find himself looking forward
to the conversations between Nurse Brennan and Mrs. Mangan that arose
at tea-time, and followed, stimulated by the early darkness of
January, in the firelight; the southern voices rising and falling like
the flickering flames, becoming soon self-engrossed, and forgetful of
the silent listener in the bed. Sometimes sleep would lap him in slow,
stealthy peace, and the voices would die away, or come intermittently,
as the sound of a band marching through a town fades and recurs at the
end of a street. But without being aware of it, he was absorbing
knowledge, learning a new point of view, breathing a new atmosphere
that was to influence him more deeply than he could have any
conception was possible.

One evening the talk fell on the congenial topic of illness, doctors
and patients, nurses and nuns, all spinning in the many-coloured
whirlpool of talk, now one and now another cresting the changing wave.
The fact that Larry was of their own religion, counterbalanced his
belonging to an alien class, and if their consciences sometimes hinted
at a lack of discretion, they quieted them with the assurance that
"the poor child was asleep!"

"Ah, the nuns are wonderful!" said Mrs. Mangan, languishingly. "Look
how lovely they have the Workhouse Infirmary! I was taking some
flowers to Reverend Mother, and she was telling me what a beautiful
death old Catherine Macsweeny made. Reverend Mother rained tears when
she told me."

Nurse Brennan sniffed.

"Reverend Mother's a sweet woman, and the nuns are very attentive when
a person'd be dying, but indeed Mrs. Mangan, if you ask _me_, I'd
say 'twas the only time they were much use to their patients! Up at
that infirmary what have patients at night to look after them only an
old inmate, and she 'wanting' maybe!"

Larry began to giggle, and was moved to try his wit.

"Nurse! What's the difference between a stale mate and an old inmate?
And what does it want?"

"It wants the very same as yourself--brains!" returned Nurse, swiftly.
"Now may be!" She wagged her head at him triumphantly, turning aside
to hide the smile of victory, and Larry thought how lovely was her
profile, as the firelight etched it in incandescent lines on the smoky
background.

"Well, indeed, the Poor have a deal to put up with!" said Mrs. Mangan,
lazily, leaning back in her basket-chair, with her big grey cat
purring like an aeroplane engine on her knee. "The Doctor says no one
but himself knows the way he's dragged all over the country, patching
up after some of them young fellows that get dispensaries before
they're fit to doctor the cat!"

The reformer, that underlay the artist in Larry, awoke.

"But, Mrs. Mangan," he said, hotly, sitting up in bed, and glaring
into the gloom at Mrs. Mangan's half-seen face, "why do they give
dispensaries to chaps that can't doctor a cat?"

"Because their fathers can spend four or five hundred pounds to buy
votes!" returned Mrs. Mangan, laughing at him. "Is that news to you?
Lie down child, and don't be looking at me like that! _I_ haven't
a vote to sell!"

Larry subsided with vague splutterings. Nurse came to his bedside and
smoothed the clothes.

"Listen to me now," she said impressively, "and _I'll_ tell you
something to make you angry, if you like!"

She leaned against the foot of the bed, with her hands in the pockets
of her apron, looking down at him. "I was in charge of th' infirmary
at Mellifont one time, and late one evening a young farm-boy was
brought in to me with a dislocated foot and a 'Pott's Fracture'--"

"In the name o' God, what's that?" enquired Mrs. Mangan.

"Fracture of the fibula, but the case I'm speaking of had the two
bones broken at the ankle," explained Nurse Brennan, in her most
professional manner; "sure I thought anyone'd know that! And I can
tell you," she leaned towards Larry, striking the palm of her left
hand with her little clenched right fist, as if to hammer the words
into him, "I can assure _you_, that as bad as you thought you
were, you don't know what pain _is_ beside what that boy
suffered! Well, I sent for the doctor--a young brat of a fella that
hadn't but just left college. 'He'll want an anaesthetic,' says he,
'I'll send down for Doctor ----' (I'll not tell you his name--Smith,
I'll call him!) 'Do you give him some brandy, nurse,' says he, 'Dr.
Smith'll be here soon.' Sure enough he was, and glad I was to see him,
for the patient was suffering greatly, and the leg swelling every
minyute. It was a long ward he was in, and no one at all in it but
himself. At the far end there was a table and a lamp, and down at the
table me gentlemen sat, and commenced to talk."

Nurse Brennan paused, and Mrs. Mangan gave the fire a well-directed
poke, that set the flames branching upwards. The tale was resumed, in
those cool and equable tones that express a more perfected indignation
than any heat or haste could convey.

"Well, that was nine o'clock, and they talked there for two hours, and
I giving the patient brandy, and expecting every minyute he'd
collapse. And what do you suppose they were talking about? Fighting
they were! Disputing which of them would perform the operation, and
which would administer the chloroform!"

Mrs. Mangan laughed lightly, and said: "I wouldn't at all doubt it!"

"Impossible!" exclaimed Larry.

"Not a bit impossible!" said Nurse Brennan, "and how d'ye think they
settled it in the end? They arranged one of them would begin th'
operation and go on for five minutes, and then he should stop and give
the anaesthetic, and the other would go on with the leg! Oh, it's the
case, I assure you! It was twelve o'clock at night before they were
done!"

She paused, laughing a little at the hot questions with which Larry
assailed her, but he could see the unshed tears gleaming in her eyes.
"I was summoned to a private case next day; I don't know what happened
to the unfortunate poor creature of a patient."

"A stiff leg he has, I'll be bound!" said Mrs. Mangan.

Larry lay silent. He saw it all. The long, dark ward, the white angel
figure (he thought, romantically) bending over the tortured creature
on the bed, and, far away, the pool of yellow light and in it those
two--he sought in vain for adjectives to express what he thought of
Dr. I'll-not-tell-you-his-name, and his young colleague.



CHAPTER XI


In the years that followed, "Larry's cads" came to be, for the young
Talbot-Lowrys, a convenient designation for the friends into whose
bosom Providence had seen fit to fling their cousin. But Larry never
either approved or accepted it. He was entirely pleased with his new
friends, and especially with that son of the house whose position he
had usurped, Mr. Bartholomew Mangan.

Barty was a lengthy, languid, gentle youth, of nearly nineteen,
darkly, pallidly handsome, sweet natured, and slovenly, like his
mother, and, unlike her, poetical, idealistic, unpractical, shy, and
self-conscious. He was, at this period, working in the office of one
of the two solicitors, who, with the aid of a branch of a bank, a
Petty Sessions Court, and the imposing, plate-glass bow-windows of
Hallinan's hotel, enabled Cluhir to convince itself of its status as a
town. Further proof of the civic importance of Cluhir was found in the
existence of a debating club of very advanced political views among
its young men, of which Barty Mangan was secretary. Its membership, if
small, was select, since its Republican principles did not compel it
to admit to its privileges shop-assistants, or artisans, while they
automatically excluded members of the class that were usually referred
to in the club discussions as "Carrion Crows," or if the orator's mood
was mild, "the garrison." In Ireland the attitude of mind that is
termed, alternately, Disloyalty or Patriotism, is largely a matter of
class, and Barty Mangan's introduction of Master St. Lawrence
Coppinger, as an honorary member of the club, partook of the nature of
a shock to those of the faithful who were present at his first
appearance in the club room, a severely plain apartment, that offered
no impediment in the matter of luxury to high thinking. But the
faithful of the "Sons of Emmet" Club had nothing to fear from this
half-fledged young Carrion Crow. The English school to which Larry had
been sent had dulled the fire lit by the poems of The Spirit of the
Nation, but it had not extinguished it. It had flickered for a time,
during which Hunting had superseded Patriotism, and Mr. Jorrocks had
reigned alone; but the oratory of the Sons of Emmet, to which Larry
was now privileged to listen, had had the effect of restoring to life
and vigour the long-neglected, half-forgotten tenets of the
Companionage of Finn. Larry's store of enthusiasm was quite equal to
supplying motive power for running two engines; hunting still held its
own, and after a club debate in which he had taken an energetic part,
even the most exclusive of the Sons of Emmet admitted that Barty's
importation was worthy of the privilege that had been extended to him.

A spell of cold weather had compelled a postponement of Larry's return
to his own home. When snow and frost visit a country unused to their
attentions, they are treated with a respect that they do not receive
elsewhere. The Doctor's orders were strict, and Larry spent the last
days of his stay at No. 6, The Mall, seated in semi-invalid state by
the dining-room fire, occupied, mainly, in the consumption of
literature provided by his new friend, Mr. Barty Mangan, that
consisted of poems, books, and pamphlets of precisely that shade of
politics of which his family most thoroughly disapproved, and
absorbing what would be, in their opinion, the most entirely poisonous
points of view.

The Big Doctor, smoking a comfortable evening pipe over the fire,
would join in the discussions between his son and his visitor,
offering just as much opposition to Larry's revolutionary flights as
was stimulating, and flattering his sense of youth and daring.

"We mustn't send him back to his auntie too much of a rebel
altogether!" The Doctor would say, grinning at the enthusiast with his
pipe wedged under a tooth; "isn't it good enough for you to be a poor
decent old Nationalist like myself? I'm sure there's no one would
disapprove of _me_, is there, Annie?"

"Don't be too sure of that at all!" Mrs. Mangan would reply
coquettishly, trying to look as if she did not agree with him; "wait
till his auntie hears the notions Larry's taking up with, and she'll
think we're all the worst in the world! And the Major! The Major'll go
cracked-mad!"

"It doesn't matter where he goes!" says Larry, defiantly, "I've had
these 'notions,' as you call them, for ages and ages!"

"Ah, God help you, child!" Mrs. Mangan would probably say, "keep quiet
now, till I get you a glass of hot milk!"

Politics did not form the only point of contact that had been
established between Larry and the Mangan household. Since his
promotion to comparative convalescence, Tishy, daughter of the house,
had entered more actively into his scheme of life, and the point of
entrance was music. Some divergence in view as to music is more easily
condoned, on both sides, than in the other realms of the spirit. It
matters not from how far countries the travellers may come, or how
widely sundered may be their ideals, there are rest-houses at which
they can draw rein and find agreement. One of these, possibly the
greatest of them, is folk song. Ireland, whose head is ever turned
over her shoulder, looking to the past, has, in her folk song, at
least, reason and justification for her preoccupation with what has
been in her music, rather than with what is, or is to come. It is
difficult to reconcile the eternal beauty of traditional Irish melody
with the lack of musical interest and feeling that distinguishes the
mass of modern Irish life. But, here and there, a string of the harp
that has hung, mute, on Tara's walls for so many centuries, utters a
sigh of sweet sound, and at Number 6, The Mall, Cluhir, the soul of
music had still some power of inspiration.

This is, perhaps, a rather elaborate method of intimating that Dr.
Mangan played the violin, moderately as to technique, but soundly as
to intonation, and that he and his family sang, as a quartet, not only
at charity concerts, but also for their own pleasure, in their own
home. Music, more than the other arts, demands sympathy, and an
audience. In Larry, the Mangan Quartet recognised that both
requirements were supplied, together with a glorifying enthusiasm of
appreciation--though this they scarcely recognised--that gilded for
him their achievements, as the firelight had edged the profile of
Nurse Brennan with pure gold. Larry, it has already been said, had the
artistic temperament; he had also a generous heart, and he was of an
age when appreciation is spontaneous, and criticism is either unborn,
or is only an echo of some maturer mind. Therefore, as he lay on the
Mangan blue rep-covered drawing-room sofa, with a satin cushion
adorned with Tishy's conception of roses, in water-colour, under his
head, while pretty Nurse Brennan gently massaged his wrist, and the
Mangan Quartet warbled: "O, believe me if all those endearing young
charms," or "When thro' life unblest we rove," Larry passed into
ecstasy, that, had he been one degree less of a schoolboy, might have
been exhaled in tears; even as the sun draws water from the sea, in a
mist of glory, and returns it to the world again in rain.

Tishy was accompanist, and sang alto; her mother, who knew nothing of
notation, and sang by ear, sang treble; Barty had a supple and
pleasing tenor, and the Doctor possessed a solemn bass, deep and dark
as a thundercloud, yet mellow as the hum of a hive of honey-bees on a
summer morning; a rare voice and a beautiful one, that had its
counterpart in the contralto that already, at sixteen and a half, had
given Tishy power and distinction among her fellows.

At this time, Miss Letitia Mangan's views, and those of her parents,
as to her future, musical or otherwise, were entirely divergent. Hers
held as central figure a certain medical student, with an incipient
red moustache, and a command of boxes of chocolate that was
bewildering to those acquainted with his income. Quite other were Dr.
Mangan's intentions with regard to his daughter, but he was satisfied
to keep them out of sight; he was aware that, in all solid buildings,
the deeper and farther out of sight the foundation, the more assured
is the result.

It is possible that the idea of a farewell entertainment in Larry's
honour emanated from the Big Doctor; if so, he had erased his tracks
very thoroughly, and it was regarded by Mrs. Mangan's intimates as a
final brandishing of her trophy before she was forced to relinquish
it. Larry was indisputably a trophy, and Heaven was considered to have
exercised a very undue discrimination in Mrs. Mangan's favour when it
threw him into her house and her hands. It was a very select party,
only a score or so of boys and girls, with the elders appertaining to
them. Nurse Brennan had departed, taking with her Larry's young
affections, and a gift, costly and superfluous, of a silver-mounted
mirror, which was accompanied by some chaste lines, expressive of
Master Coppinger's desire to share its privileges, whose composition
had kept him happy throughout a long, wet afternoon.

The party, having opened with lemonade, tea and innumerable cakes,
moved on through "a little music," (contributed exclusively by the
Mangan Quartet) to games. Larry, afflicted by the discovery that he
had, during his illness, outgrown his evening clothes, found himself
fated to do conspicuous things in the centre of a space, cleared as
for a prize-fight, in the Mangan drawing-room. Problems in connection
with a ship that came from China. Exhausting efforts in guessing
absurdities, that usually necessitated withdrawal to the landing
outside the door with a giggling schoolgirl, and collaboration with
her in a code of complicated signals. And, blackest feature of all,
mistakes in any of these arduous matters entailed "forfeits," and the
process entitled "paying the forfeits," meant a concentration of
attention upon a young gentleman, conscious to agony of the fact that
his trousers left his ankle-bones unshielded from the public gaze.

It was sufficiently distressing to lie at full length on the carpet,
and declare oneself to be the length of a looby, and the breadth of a
booby, but what was that as compared with sitting, blindfolded, on a
chair, and guessing, among many kisses, which had been bestowed by
"the girl he loved best?" As if he loved any of them! These pert and
blowsy schoolgirls, with hideous voices, and arrogant curls, or
crimped lion-manes of aggressive hair! He, with "his heart set all
upon a snowy coif!" (as he chose to wrest Mr. Yeats' line to his own
purposes).

It was singular in how many of these exercises, of which the greater
number included kissing, he found himself involved with Tishy Mangan.
Tishy was in a bad temper. The red-headed medical student had not been
honoured with an invitation. Dr. Mangan had struck his name from the
list of guests saying that they had enough without him, and Tishy knew
her father too well to protest. Dr. Mangan was in the habit of saying
that he always left all household affairs "in the hands of the
ladies." He did not add, as he might have done, that these hands lay
within his, and that their owners had long since realised that it was
advisable to respond to any indication of pressure. His daughter,
however, while she submitted to the inevitable, saw no reason why she
should deny herself the solace of sulking, nor of avenging herself of
his tyranny on "his fine pet," as she, in high indignation, described
Larry to herself. Master Coppinger might be a man of property and the
owner of Coppinger's Court, yes, or Dublin Castle, for all she cared!
Pappy might say what he liked, but _she_ wouldn't be bothered
with a boy like that! And there was Ned Cloherty--(this was the
medical student)--that she had as good as asked to come--and what
could she say to him now, she wondered? So Tishy sulked, and resented
the Hidden Hand, that so inevitably linked her with the owner of
Coppinger's Court, as much as did that man of property himself.

The evening wore on; with romping, with screaming, with enormous
consumption of various foods, and with an ever-heightening
temperature, that was specially noticeable among those seniors who had
not disdained the brew of punch that had coincided with the
announcement of midnight, made, with maddening deliberation, by Mrs.
Mangan's cuckoo-clock. The usual delirium of cracker-head-dresses had
befallen the company. Larry, decorated with a dunce's cap, placed upon
his yellow head by a jovial matron, found himself fated, by a final
effort of penalising fancy on the part of another matron, to select "a
young lady," to conduct her to the topmost step of the staircase, and
there, on his knees, to kiss either her shoe-buckle or her lips;
"whichever he likes best!" decreed the matron, archly.

It is strange how the reserves and reticences of childhood, the things
that offend, the things that bring agony, are forgotten by so many of
those who have left childhood behind. In extenuation of this lively
and kindly lady, it may be said that the manners and customs of her
early youth were not those to which Larry was habituated. Yet, one
might have thought that a glance at Larry's face would have sufficed
to induce Rhadamanthus himself to remit the penalty. Not so Mrs.
Whelply, the arbitrator.

"Oh, look at the pout on him! What a naughty boy! If you don't take
care, I'll put a worse task on you!"

Larry, oblivious of the dunce's cap, feeling himself in the grip of a
social machine that was too strong for him, looked round upon the
company. Hot, pink faces, shining eyes and teeth, Moenad hair, on all
sides. Then he caught sight of Tishy's eyes, scornful and amused,
regarding him as he stood irresolute, and his spirit responded to the
spur of contempt. He crossed the open space of floor to where she was
seated on the blue rep sofa, took off the dunce's cap with a flourish,
and, with a low bow, offered her his arm.

A chorus of approval, weighted by the Big Doctor's big laugh, greeted
the action. Tishy, cornered, accepted the arm, the door was swung open
for them, and ostentatiously slammed behind them.

Larry, silent, and very angry, mounted the stairs quickly, and Tishy
perforce, her hand gripped by his elbow, followed him. At the highest
step but one, Larry stood aside, and Tishy ascended, and turning,
faced him from the top. They looked at each other for a moment in
silence. Both were furiously angry, resenting the compulsion that had
forced them into an absurd position.

Then Tishy said insolently: "Well! Which will you have? My shoe-buckle
or my lips? Take your choice!"

She poked her foot out over the edge of the step confidently.

A spark shot from Larry's angry heart to his blue eyes. He looked up
at Tishy, and something suddenly masterful awoke in him. Confound her!
He wouldn't have her laughing at him!

"I'll have your lips, please!" he said, mounting to the step beside
her.

With schoolboy roughness he flung his arm round her shoulders. She was
a little taller than he, but she did not withdraw herself; she was
curiously aware that her point of view was changing. She looked for an
instant in his eyes, and then she laid her lips on his.

Larry found, with surprise, that they returned the pressure of his own
as he kissed her. The spark that had been in his eyes seemed to have
flown to his lips, and met another spark in hers.

There was a moment of silence. Larry found himself a little out of
breath, and somehow bewildered. There was more in it than he thought.
He didn't quite know what to do next.

"Thank you very much," he said, stiffly, and offered his arm.

In silence they walked down the stairs again. The piano had begun, and
"Sir Roger de Coverley" was being thundered forth. At the door they
met the Doctor. Larry released Tishy's arm.

"If you don't mind," he said to the Doctor, "I think I'll go up to
bed. I'm tired."

After he had got to his room he shook himself, much as a dog renews
its vitality by shaking its ears. Then he poured some water into the
basin and washed his hot face, scrubbing his lips with the sponge.

Yet, to his infinite annoyance, he seemed still to feel the pressure
of Tishy's warm mouth on his.



CHAPTER XII


It is, or should be, superfluous to say that Miss Frederica Coppinger
viewed with disfavour, that was the more poignant for its
helplessness, Larry's adoption and assimilation by the Mangan family.

"Disastrous!" she said in a tragic voice, to the Rector of Knockceoil
parish. "If he were a Protestant it wouldn't matter so much; but, as
things are, for _him_ to be thrown among these second-rate,
Nationalistic, Roman Catholics--!"

The intensity of Miss Coppinger's emotions silenced him. She had
indeed beaten her biggest drum, and she knew it.

The Rector, the Reverend Charles Fetherston, nodded his head with
solemnity, and made a conscientious effort to remember what she was
speaking of. He was not much in the habit of attending to what was
said to him, finding his own thoughts more interesting than those of
his parishioners. The parishioners, being aware of this peculiarity,
put it down, very naturally, to eccentricity for which he was rather
to be pitied than condemned, and his popularity was in no way abated
by it. Mr. Fetherston was unmarried, in age about sixty; tall, stout,
red-faced, of good family, a noted woodcock shot and salmon fisher, a
carpenter, and an incessant pipe-smoker. These being his leading
gifts, it will probably, and with accuracy, be surmised by persons
conversant with the Irish Church, that he was a survival of its
earliest days, when it was still an avocation suitable for gentlemen,
and one in which they could indulge without any taint of
professionalism being laid to their charge. He was immensely respected
and admired by the poor people of the parish (none of whom were
included in his small and well-to-do congregation), the fact that he
was what is known as "old stock," giving him a prestige among the
poorer Roman Catholics, that they would have denied to St. Peter. He
shared with Major Talbot-Lowry the position of consultant in feuds,
and relieving officer in distress, and, being rich, liberal, easily
bored, and not particularly sympathetic to affliction, he was
accustomed to stanch the flow of tears and talk alike, with a form of
solace that rarely failed to meet the case, and was always acceptable.
With Miss Coppinger, he felt, regretfully, that five shillings could
in no way be brought to bear upon her problem, and with an effort he
withdrew his mind from a new hinge that he thought of fitting to a
garden-gate, and applied it to Larry.

"How old is the boy now? Sixteen last October? He doesn't look as
much--you'll see he'll outgrow all that nonsense of Nationalism! Send
him to Oxford as soon as you can. He'll soon get hold of some other
tomfoolery there, and forget this. Seven devils worse than the first,
in fact!"

The Reverend Charles laughed, wheezily, and began, automatically, to
fill a pipe, an indication of a change of mental outlook.

"Worse?" cried Miss Frederica, ardently; "no indeed, Mr. Fetherston!
Better! Far better! _Any_thing is preferable to this--this
Second-rate Sedition!"

When Frederica perorated, and this remark partook of the nature of
peroration, it was as though she took a header into deep water. By the
time she had again risen to the surface of her emotions, the Reverend
Charles Fetherston had returned to the hinge of the garden-gate, and
Miss Coppinger, knowing her man, made no attempt to recall him. She
had a very special regard for her rector, of a complex sort that is
not quite easy to define. There was veneration in it, the veneration
that was inculcated in her youth for the clergy; there was the
compassion that many capable and self-confident women bestow upon any
man to whom Providence has denied a feminine protector; there was a
regretful pity for his shortcomings--(but half-acknowledged, even to
herself)--as a Minister of the Word, counterbalanced by respect for
his worldly wisdom; above all, there was the deep, peculiar interest
that was excited in her by any clergyman, merely in virtue of his
office, a person whose trade it was to occupy himself with the art and
practice of religion, which was a subject that had, quite apart from
its spiritual side, the same appeal for her that the art and practice
of the theatre has for many others. (It is hard to imagine any simile
that would have shocked Frederica more than this; in all her years of
strenuous, straightforward life, she had never, as she would have
said, set foot in a theatre.)

Frederica had been born at Coppinger's Court, and she had passed her
childhood there, but her youth had been spent in Dublin, in the hot
heart of a parish devoted to good works, and to a pastor whose power
and authority was in no degree less absolute than that of any of the
"Romish priests" whom he so heartily denounced. She was brought up in
that school of Irish Low Church Protestantism that makes more severe
demands upon submission and credulity than any other, and yet more
fiercely arraigns other creeds on those special counts. It is quite
arguable that Irish people, like the Israelites who so ardently
desired a king, enjoy and thrive under religious oppression, and it is
beyond dispute that among the oppressed, of both the rival creeds, are
saints whose saintliness has gained force from the systems to which
they have given their allegiance. To Frederica the practice of her
cult both inwardly in her heart, and outwardly in the work of St.
Matthew's Parish, was the mainspring of her existence. It was also her
pastime. She would analyse a sermon, as Dick Lowry would discuss a
run, and with the same eager enjoyment. She assented with enthusiasm
to the Doctrine of Eternal Damnation, and a gentler-hearted creature
than she never lived. She would have gone to the stake for the Verbal
Inspiration of the Bible; she was as convinced that the task of
Creation was completed in a week, as she was that she paid the
Coppinger's Court workmen for six days' work every Saturday evening.
In short, the good Frederica was a survival of an earlier and more
earnest period, and her religious beliefs were only comparable, in
their sincerity and simplicity, with those of the Roman Catholic poor
people, whose spiritual prospects were to her no less black
(theoretically) than were hers to them.

Those who know Ireland will have no difficulty in believing that Miss
Coppinger had no warmer sympathisers in her feelings concerning Larry
and the Mangan household than the Coppinger's Court retainers, despite
the fact that none of them were of her communion, nor did they share
her political views. And no less will those who know Ireland,
recognise that in the Irish countryside it is the extremes that touch,
and that there is a sympathy and understanding between the uppermost
and the lowest strata of Irish social life, which is not extended, by
either side, to the intervening one. Thus, it was that Frederica
could, and did converse with her work-people and her peasant
neighbours, with a freedom and an implicit confidence in their good
breeding, that it is to be feared she was incapable of extending to
Larry's new acquaintances in Cluhir. Possibly the outdoor life, and
the mutual engrossment in outdoor affairs, explain, in some degree,
this sympathy, but at the root of it is the certainty on both sides,
that the well-bred, even the chivalrous point of view, will govern
their intercourse.

It may seem somewhat excessive to use the word chivalry in connection
with Mrs. Twomey, the Coppinger's Court dairy-woman. Yet, I dare to
say that as great a soul filled the four feet four inches that
comprised her excessively plain little person, as ever inspired
warrior or fighting queen in the brave days of old. Bred and born
under the Talbot-Lowrys, she had crossed the river when she married
one of the Coppinger's Court workmen, and for close on thirty-five
years she had milked the cows and ruled the dairy according to her own
methods, which were as rigorous as they were remarkable, and altered
not with modern enlightenment, or conformed with hygienic laws. Her
husband was a feeble creature, whose sole claim to distinction was his
inability to speak English. At the time that "The Family," (which is,
say, Frederica and Larry) returned, he had become quite blind, and he
passed a cloistered existence in a dark corner of his little cottage,
sitting, with his hat always upon his head, a being seemingly as
withdrawn from the current of life as one of the smoky brown and white
china dogs on the shelf above the wide hearth.

The legend ran that when he was young, a marriage had been arranged
for him. On the appointed wedding-day he had gone to the chapel, the
priest was there, and the wedding-guests, but no bride came. Michael
Twomey therefore, after a fruitless exercise of patience, left the
chapel in deep wrath and humiliation, and proceeded to walk home
again. On the road he was faced by a string of laughing girls, and
among them there was little Mary Driscoll. Mary had then, no doubt,
such grace as youth can give, and that she had, at least, good teeth,
was obvious to the disgruntled Michael Twomey, as she was grinning at
him from ear to ear. Also, possibly, his sight may not even then have
been of the best. Be that as it may, Michael caught at Mary's arm.

"Come on to the chapel, Mary!" he shouted at her, in the Irish that
was a more common speech in those days than it is now; "The priest is
there yet, and the money is in my pocket. I'll marry you!"

Michael had made a luckier hit than he knew. Little Mary Driscoll
recognised the sporting quality of the suggestion, and being a girl of
spirit acceded to it.

Mary had been to America. She was one of the many of her class who put
forth fearlessly for the United States, adventuring upon the unknown
without any of the qualms that would beset them were the bourne
London, or even one of the cities of their native land. Wasn't Mary's
mother's sisther's daughter, and Maggie Brian from Tullagh, and the
dear knows how many more cousins and neighbours, before her in it?
Didn't her brother that was marrit in it, send her her ticket, and
wasn't there good money to be airned in it?

These queries, that, as may be seen by anyone with half an eye,
answered themselves, having been propounded by little Mary Driscoll,
she, roaring crying, and keened by all her relatives to the
coach-door--no railway being within thirty miles of her home--departed
to America, and was swallowed up by "Boyshton" for the space of five
years, during the passage of which, since she could neither read nor
write, no communication passed between her and her parents, save only
the postal orders that, through an intermediary, she unfailingly sent
them. Then there was a month that the postal order came not, and while
the old father and mother were wondering was Mary dead, or what ailed
her, Mary walked in, uglier than ever in her Boyshton clothes, and it
was gloriously realised that not only was not Mary dead at all, but
that she had as much saved as would bury the old people, or maybe
marry herself.

Mary had not enjoyed America. She wouldn't get her health in it, she
said.

("Ye wouldn't see a fat face or a red cheek on one o' thim that comes
back," assented Mary's mother); and for as little as she was, Mary
continued, she'd rather bring her bones home with herself to
Cunnock-a-Ceoil. (A cryptic phrase signifying that though she
recognised, humorously, her own unworthiness, she still attached
sufficient importance to her person to wish to bestow it upon the
place of her birth.) Not long after her return and restoration to
health, the episode of her marriage had occurred, and she had settled
down into the soil of Ireland again, with, possibly, a slightly
increased freedom of manner, but, saving this, with no more token on
her of her dash into the new world, than has the little fish that lies
and pants on the river bank for a moment, before the angler
contemptuously chucks him into the stream again.

Michael and Mary Twomey had been on the staff of Coppinger's Court for
a full thirty years when, in the fullness of time, Frederica returned
to her ancient home, bringing with her the young heir to it, and all
its accessory tenanted lands. Not Green Dragon or The Norreys
King-at-Arms, or any other pontiff of pedigrees, could attach a higher
importance to gentle blood than did little elderly Mary Twomey,
elderly, but still as indomitably nimble and resolute as when in
Frederica's childhood she would catch the donkey for her, and run
after it, belabouring it in its rider's interest, for half an
afternoon.

In spite of the fact that Miss Coppinger's youth had been spent,
chiefly, in a town, the love of the country, ingrained during her
first years, was merely dormant, and it revived with her return to
Coppinger's Court. The garden, the farm, the hens, the cattle, the
dairy, were all interests to which she returned with that renewal of
early passion, that has in it the fervour of youth as well as the
depth of maturity. She read agricultural papers insatiably, and
believed all that she read, accepting the verbal inspiration of their
advertisements with the enthusiasm of her religious beliefs. She was a
doctrinaire farmer, and she applied to the garden, the farm and the
poultry-yard, the same zeal and intensity that had made her in earlier
days the backbone of committees, and the leading exponent of the godly
activities of St. Matthew's. She was regarded by the heretofore rulers
of these various provinces with a mixture of respect, contempt, and
apprehension. She was an incalculable force, with a predisposition
towards novelty, and novelty, especially if founded on theory, is
abhorrent to such as old Johnny Galvin the steward, or Peter Flood the
gardener, or, stiffest in her own conceit of all, Mrs. Twomey of the
dairy.

"Master Larry's coming home from Cluhir tomorrow, Mary," Miss
Coppinger announced, with satisfaction, to the peculiar confection of
grey hair and black chenille net that represented the back of Mrs.
Twomey's head, her forehead being pressed against the side of the cow
that she was milking.

"Thang-aade!" replied Mrs. Twomey fervently, expressing in this
concise form her gratitude to her Creator for what she considered to
be Larry's release from a very vile durance "He's long enough in it
already!"

"The Doctor wouldn't let me move him any sooner," replied Miss
Coppinger, apologetically.

"The divil doubt him, what a fool he'd be!" said Mrs. Twomey with a
bitter laugh. "Aren't they all sayin' as sure as gun is iron it's what
he wants that he'll see his daughter in Coppinger's Court before he
dies!"

"What nonsense!" said Miss Coppinger, warmly; "I should like to know
who is saying it!"

Mrs. Twomey, milking ceaselessly, slewed her head a little and looked
at her employer out of the corner of an eye as bright and as cunning
as a hen's, and said: "As rich as your Honour is, you couldn't put a
penny into the mouth of every man that's sayin' it!"

"I'm surprised at you, Mary," said Frederica, indignantly, "You ought
to have more sense than to repeat such rubbish!"

To this reproach, Mrs. Twomey responded with a long and jubilant crow
of laughter.

"Yerra, gerr'l alive--!" she corrected herself quickly. "My lady
alive, I should say--sure a little thing like me'd tell lies as fast
as a hen'd pick peas!"

The modesty, as well as the accuracy, of this statement silenced Miss
Coppinger for a moment.

"Then you ought to be ashamed of yourself!" she resumed with much
severity. "It is amazing to me how a decent, respectable little woman
like you can not only tell lies, but boast of it!"

"Ah ha! I'm the same owld three and fourpince, an' will be till I
die!" triumphed Mrs. Twomey, with another screech of laughter,
removing her tiny person, her milk-pail, and her stool from under the
cow. "An' I won't be long dyin'!" another screech; "an' it won't take
many to carry me to Cunnock-a-Ceoil Churchyard!"

A final and prolonged burst of mirth succeeded this announcement,
during which the unrepentant Three and Fourpence swung the pail on to
the hook of the swinging-balance for weighing the milk that was Miss
Coppinger's latest and most detested innovation.

"Look at that now what she has for you, Miss! Shixteen pints! An' I'll
engage I'll knock thirteen ounces o' butther out of it! That's the
little bracket cow that yourself and Johnny Galvin wanted to sell, an'
I withstood ye!"

This was of the nature, jointly, of a counter-attack and of a truckle
to the system of milk-records, but Frederica heeded it not As a matter
of fact, she was still somewhat discomposed by the insinuations that
were more numerous than the pennies she was believed to possess.

"I hope, Mary," she said, repressively, "that if you should hear any
more talk of that kind about Dr. Mangan, you will do your best to
contradict it. He has been extremely kind to Master Larry, and it
annoys me very much that such things should be said."

Mrs. Twomey's supple mind was swift to realise that a change of
attitude was advisable.

"Why then, upon my truth and body, I'd blame no one that wanted Master
Larry! That little fella is in tune with all the world!" she declared;
"but those people do be always gibbing and gabbing! Give them a smell,
and they're that suspeecious they'll do the rest! Sure I said to that
owld man below, Mikey Twomey"--thus dispassionately was Mrs. Twomey
wont to speak of her husband--"I says to him, that your Honour was
satisfied to leave Master Larry back in Cluhir till he'd be well agin.
They were all sayin' the child wouldn't be said by ye to come back!
Didn't I have to put the heighth o' the house o' curses to it before
he'd believe me!"

"Intolerable nonsense!" said Frederica, hotly.



CHAPTER XIII


People have said, retrospectively, that the rise of the Mangan family
dated from the fall of Larry Coppinger into the Feorish River. This
may, or may not have been the case but it is certain that Mrs.
Mangan's way through the world took at about this time an upward
trend, and one of the most perceptible ascending jerks was the result
of Lady Isabel Talbot-Lowry's Sale of Work.

This function had been ordained with, for object, the provision of a
fund for the renovation of the parish church of Knock Ceoil, and was
obviously a matter without interest for persons of another
denomination. Lady Isabel, and Miss Coppinger, and others of their
friends and neighbours slaved at the provision of munitions for it, as
good women will slave at such enterprises, squandering energy on the
construction of those by-products of the rag-bag that wen specially
consecrated to charitable purposes by the ladies of their period.

"No one will want to buy this rubbish," said Miss Coppinger, who never
tried to deceive even herself, "but people will have to spend their
money on something, and _we're_ not going to raffle bottles of
brandy--as they did at that R.C. Bazaar in Riverstown!"

Frederica could be just, but when a question of religion intervened,
she found it hard to be generous.

The Sale of Work took place during the September that followed the
winter of Larry's disaster, and it was indisputable that the Mangan
family contributed materially to its success. Mrs. Mangan was of a
class that is accustomed to get its money's worth, and was herself
known and respected as an able and inveterate haggler. Yet, at the
Mount Music Sale, she was content to hide her talent beneath
innumerable chair-backs and night-dress cases, purchased,
uncomplainingly, at the prices marked on them, and to permit the
contents of an apparently inexhaustible purse to flow in a golden
stream from stall to stall. Her family were no less in evidence, the
Big Doctor offering himself a cheerful victim on the shrine of
raffles, even attaching himself to Christian as a coadjutor in the
sale of tickets for the disposal of one of Rinka's latest progeny.
Mrs. Mangan's son and daughter, something subdued by unfamiliar
surroundings, were, on the disposal of the puppy-tickets, taken in
hand by their father, and were, with an eloquence that seemed meant
for a larger audience, made acquainted with the notable objects of the
house.

"If I could get hold of your mother, now," the Big Doctor would say,
"I'd like her to see this," or "Look at that picture, Tishy! That's a
lovely woman! The Major's grandmother, I believe. We'll ask Miss
Judith--'pon my honour, it might have been done of herself!"

Miss Judith, with a fruit and flower stall near the portrait in
question, coldly admitted the relationship, and ignored the question
of the likeness. Judith was of the age of intolerance; moreover, she
was at that moment in the act of selling a button-hole to Bill Kirby,
and the Doctor's enthusiasm was undesired.

The little family party moved on, while Dr. Mangan, with the ease of
an _habitué_, indicated to his son and daughter the ancestral
portraits in the dining-room, the Cromwellian arms on the staircase,
the coats-of-arms, the Indian weapons, the foxes' masks in the hall.
The son and daughter received the information coldly. It was their
first introduction to the interior of Mount Music, and while Tishy was
filled with a great resolve to be impressed by nothing, Barty was
silenced by those tortures that unfamiliar surroundings have power to
inflict upon the shy.

In his determination to instruct his young in all the possible objects
of interest, Dr. Mangan strolled away from the crowded scene of the
sale, and led them down the long passage, dedicated to sporting
prints, that led to the library.

"There's a picture there that's worth seeing, of a Meeat Coppinger's
Court in the time of Larry's grandfather," he announced impressively,
as he opened the door. "The Talbot-Lowrys and the Coppingers were
always fine sports men--"

A tall old screen stood between the door and the fireplace from behind
it a hunted voice said:

"Who the devil's there now?"

Dr. Mangan thought, complacently: "My diagnosis was correct!" Aloud he
said to his son and daughter, in a tone of hoarse consternation: "To
think of our blundering in on the Major like this! Here! Away now, the
pair of you!"

He advanced from behind the screen.

"Major! My most humble apologies! I never thought of you being here! I
was showing that boy and girl of mine some of your beautiful things."

Major Talbot-Lowry was unlike his daughter Judith in many things, and
not least in his easy sufferance of those whom she, in youthful
arrogance, called cads.

"Come in, Doctor, and have a cigar in peace," he said, hospitably,
putting on one side the novel he was reading. "I thought you were
Evans, or one of the maids, coming to bother me. This damned show has
turned the house upside down!"

"Well, it seems a great success," said Dr. Mangan cordially.

"Very good of you to come," responded his host, "more especially when
it's--er--it's--er--such a purely local affair--"

Dr. Mangan understood that he was receiving the meed of religious
tolerance.

"Well, Major," he said, expansively, "I lived long enough one time in
England to learn that we mustn't give in too much to the clerical
gentlemen! My own instinct is to be neighbourly, and to let my friends
mind their own religion."

"Quite so, quite so," said Major Dick, magnanimously, forgetting, for
the moment, those epithets that, in his more heated moments, he was
accustomed to apply to the ministers of the Church to which he did not
belong. "Quite so, Doctor. I'm all for toleration, and let the parsons
fight it out among 'em! Busy men, like you and me, haven't time to
worry about these affairs--we've other things to think about!" He
stretched a long arm for a box of cigars, and handed it to his
visitor; "sit down for a bit. There's no hurry. The ladies can have it
all their own way for a while!"

Dr. Mangan lowered his huge person into an armchair of suitable
proportions, and for some moments smoked his cigar in appreciative
silence. As a matter of fact, he was planning an approach to the
subject that had instigated his visit to the library, but he was in no
hurry to begin upon it, remembering that the longest way round is
often the shortest way home.

"By the way, Major," he said, taking the cigar from his mouth, and
regarding it with affection, "did some one tell me that you were
looking for a farming horse?"

"If they didn't, they might have," replied Dick. "McKinnon's at me to
get another. I was going to ask you if you knew of anything?"

"Well, now, that's funny. I was wondering to myself this morning what
I'd do with that big brown horse of mine. He'll not go hunting again,
he never got the better of that hurt he got. But he's the very cut of
a farm-horse. You see, the poor devil had to carry _me_!" ended
the Big Doctor, with a laugh at himself.

"I'll tell McKinnon of him. He wants a horse that will--" a recital of
the accomplishments exacted by Dick's steward followed.

Dr. Mangan listened with attention.

"Tell McKinnon he'd better have him over on trial. I know him and his
requirements! The horse mightn't be able to play the piano for him!"
said the Doctor, facetiously. "I'm not afraid of _you_, Major,
but I've a great respect for Mr. McKinnon!"

"Oh, I'll tell old Mack he'll be lucky to get him," said Dick, with
his pleasant laugh; "you and I will strike the bargain!"

The approach had been pegged out, and Dr. Mangan turned, for the
moment, to other subjects.

It was a damp and sodden day near the beginning of September, and a
comfortable turf fire centralised and gave point to the room, as a
fire inevitably does. Major Talbot-Lowry was in the habit of saying
that the day of the month never warmed anybody yet, and if it was only
for the sake of the books--the truth being that the library fire at
Mount Music had never, in the memory of housemaid, been extinguished
save only when "the Major was out of home." Dick, like most
out-of-door men, considered that fresh air should be kept in its
proper place, outside the walls of the house, and an ancient
atmosphere, in which the varied scents of turf, tobacco, old books,
and old hound-couples, all had their share, filled the large, dingy
old room. Dusty and composite squirrel-hoards of objects that defy
classification, covered outlying tables, and lay in heaps on the
floor, awaiting that resurrection to useful life that Major
Talbot-Lowry's faith held would some day be theirs, and were, in the
meantime, the despair and demoralisation of housemaids.

Deep in the bearskin rug in front of the fire (a trophy of one of the
rifles that filled a glass-fronted case over the mantel-shelf) lay the
two little fox-terriers, Rinka and Tashpy, in moody and determined
repose. For a brief period of suffering they had attempted to cleave
to Christian; but as the throng grew, and the time for tea lingered,
they had, in high offence, betaken themselves to their ultimate
citadel, the library.

"I suppose it was her pup I was raffling awhile ago," remarked Dr.
Mangan, presently, as Rinka languidly rose, and having stretched
herself, and yawned, musically and meretriciously, put her nose on his
broad knee, deliberating as to whether the distinction of a human lap
outweighed the lowly comfort of the bearskin.

"Doggie! Poor doggie! Down, now, down!" Dr. Mangan had no idea how to
talk to dogs, and he did not wish Rinka to sit on his best grey
trousers.

"Hit her a smack!" said Major Dick; "don't let her bother you.
Christian has spoilt these dogs till they're perfect nuisances! Yes,
it's her pup. Who won it? It ought to be a clinker; it was the best of
the lot--"

"I d'no did they draw for it yet. I took three tickets for it myself,"
said the Doctor. "I want it for a sort of a cousin of me own--a very
sporting chap that's coming to Cluhir; he asked me could I get him a
dog."

"What's he going to do in Cluhir?" asked Dick, carelessly.

The approach was now clear, and Dr. Mangan began to advance.

"Well, he's just taken his degree. He's a doctor, and he's coming here
for a while. He can give me a help while he's looking out for a
dispensary. He'd like some place where he'd get a little hunting now
and then. I expect you know his father, Major--old Tom Aherne, of
Pribawn--"

Major Talbot-Lowry became more interested.

"You don't say old Tom's son is a doctor! By Jove! That's very
creditable to him--a decent old fellow Tom was--and you say he wants
to hunt? That's the right sort of doctor! Look here!"

Dick sat up, the light of inspiration woke in his ingenuous blue eyes,
he wrinkled his forehead with the super-intelligent concentration of a
not very brilliant intellect. "Didn't I hear that old Fogarty is
giving up the Dispensary here? Why don't you run him for that?"

The shepherding of Dick Lowry was really an affair of a simplicity
unworthy of preparation made by that _rusé_ old collie, the Big
Doctor. Nevertheless, being an artist, he continued to play the game.

"Knock Ceoil! Begad, that's a great notion! Now I come to think of it,
I did hear something of old Fogarty giving up, but somehow I never
thought of young Danny Aherne in connection with it. I thought I was
as well able as any man to put two and two together, but I declare I
might never have thought of it if it hadn't been for you! They say, if
you're too close to a thing, you can't see it!"

Thus did the collie yap, while the sheep (who was a member of the
Dispensary Committee) gratified, and pleasantly conscious of
originality, trotted up the path and into the fold that had been
prepared for it.

Meanwhile, in what house-agents call the reception-rooms, the Sale of
Work raged on, with auctions, with raffles, with card-fortunes, told
in a cave of rugs by a devoted sorceress, in a temperature that would
inure her to face with composure the witch's destiny at the stake;
with "occasional music," that fell upon the turmoil of talk more
softly than any petals from blown roses on the grass, and was just
sufficiently perceptible to impart the requisite flavour of festivity.
One item of the musical programme had indeed had power to still the
storm, but since it was contributed by the Mangan Quartet, it must be
admitted that, charming though it was, it owed something of its
success to surprise. The countryside had rallied to Lady Isabel with a
response that did credit to her as to them, yet, thronged though the
rooms were the Mangan family shone with a unique lustre as alone
representing the mighty Church of Rome.

"Wonderful of them to come!" said the Church of Ireland ladies
approvingly; "the only R.C.'s here!"

Yet the Mangan family was not quite alone in this representative
position; young Mr. Coppinger, their (as it were) inventor and
patentee, shared it with them, and was, moreover, beginning, for the
first time, and not without displeasure, to realise something of the
social complications that are involved by the difference of creed. It
was a matter of atmosphere; quite intangible, and quite perceptible.
Larry was discovering that he was something of an anomaly. "Only an
R.C. by accident," as he had heard someone say, in apparent
extenuation (a benevolence that he found irritating). He was learning
the meaning of the sudden silences, the too obvious changes of the
course of conversation, that seemed to occur when he drew near. He had
not, as yet, formulated these things to himself, but, on this
turbulent afternoon, it was possibly some livelier apprehension of
them that made him gravitate towards Barty Mangan, as towards a fellow
pariah, and induced him to seek with him the far asylum of the
schoolroom. There, save for the schoolroom cat, they were alone, and
they sat for some minutes in grateful silence, looking out, across
misty stretches of grass, to the river, and beyond it to the dense
green of the trees of Coppinger's Court. The sky was very low and
grey; by leaning out of the window a little, a far-off reach of river,
at the western end of the valley, could be descried; above it there
was a narrow slit in the clouds, and through it a faint and lovely
primrose light fell, like a veil, that hid, while it told of the
deathbed repentance of the dying day. Larry dragged his chair into the
corner of the window, and watched the growing glory of the sunset with
all his ardent soul in his eyes.

Whatever this boy did, he did vividly, and to Barty Mangan, seated on
the shadow side, watching him, he was, as ever, a pageant, a being of
incalculable impulse, of flashing intensity and splendour.

"Where on earth did you go, Barty? I looked about for you for ages
before I found you; but there was such an awful crowd of women--I'm
jolly glad to get out of it!" Larry leaned back in his chair and
proceeded to light a cigarette, as an assertion of the rights of a man
of nearly seventeen.

"My father was taking Tishy and me about, showing us the house,"
replied Barty, apologetically. (As a matter of fact, he said "me
fawther," but if this, and similar details of pronunciation, are not
known by nature, it is labour in vain to attempt to indicate them by
means of the wholly inadequate English alphabet.) "Larry," he went on,
with the candour that made a gentleman of him, "I never was in a house
like this before. I declare to you it frightens me! I feel like a rat
gone astray! I was in the dining-room by myself, looking at the
pictures, and that old fella' of a butler came in and frightened the
heels off me! He kept an eye on me that was like a flame from a
blow-pipe! You'd say he thought I was going to steal the house!"

"I expect he did, too," said Larry, "especially if he thought that you
were a pal of mine. He hates me like blazes. He's one of those damned
Orangemen. I say, do you remember that thing in The Spirit of the
Nation, 'Orange and Green will carry the Day'? I bet old Evans would
rather lose, any day, than be 'linked in his might' with a Papist like
you or me! It's a most extraordinary thing how religion plays the
devil with Ireland!"

There are certain standard truisms that must be rediscovered by each
successive generation (possibly because they have bored the preceding
one to extinction), and Larry was of the age at which truisms reveal
themselves as new ideas, and sing and shine with the radiancy of
morning stars. He was also young enough, and just sufficiently
interested in religion, to find it exciting to denounce it. The
fervour of his indictment lifted him from his chair, and he stood,
with the evening light on his hot face, enjoying his theme, and his
audience.

"I stayed with some people in England last holidays, friends of my
people's; Protestants they were, too--Sour-faces,' as the 'Leader'
calls them!--and they didn't give a blow what religion I was! That was
_my_ affair, they thought--and so it was, too! Not like this
crowd here--I don't mean my _own_ people, you know," he added
hastily, "they're all right!"

"Oh, I'm sure!" said Barty, in instant assent.

"I hate England, of course," continued the student of The Spirit of
the Nation, hurriedly, "but I must say I get sick of this eternal
blackguarding of Catholics by Protestants, and Protestants by
Catholics--"

"Ah, they don't mean it half the time!" put in Barty, pacifically;
"it's just a trick they have!"

"Well, I don't care," said Larry, who didn't like being interrupted,
with a fling of his head; "they shouldn't do it! I hear people
shutting up when I come into the room--just as if I didn't jolly well
know they were abusing the priests or something like that. And if they
only knew it, _I_ don't care a curse how much they abuse them!"

He took an angry pull at his cigarette, glaring at the unoffending
Barty. "''Tisn't the man I respects, 'tis the office!' That's what
Mrs. Twomey said, when I was chaffing her for dragging gravel up from
the river to put in front of her house, because the priest, whom she
loathes, was going to have a 'station' there!"

The orator paused for breath, as well as for the duty of keeping his
cigarette alight.

"Well, and isn't she quite right, too?" said Barty. "I've no great
fancy for Father Greer, but that doesn't affect my feeling for the
Church."

He rose, and resting his elbows on the window-sill, leaned out into
the still air.

"By Jingo! You don't often see the beat o' that for a sky! Look at it,
Larry. There's Orange and Green for you, if you like! God! I wish
_we_ could get them to work together like that!"

One of those transformation scenes that sometimes follow on an
overcast and rainy day, was happening in the west. The sun had sunk
behind the hills, the grey clouds had vanished; the higher heaven was
green, clear and pale, but low in the west, long and fleecy rollers of
golden cloud lay in a sea of burning orange.

At about the same time, the golden stream that had flowed so
generously from Mrs. Mangan's purse, had failed, and Mrs. Mangan, her
arms full of the fruit of those Christian graces of Faith, Hope and
Charity, that are indispensable to the success of a _bazaar_, was
asking Evans to order for her her "caw," by which term she indicated
the vehicle that had conveyed her to the scene of her triumph.

For it was evident to the meanest capacity that Mrs. Mangan had now
paid her footing in society.



CHAPTER XIV


"Go away from me, Miss Christian!" shouted Mrs. Twomey (but this was
merely an ejaculation of pleased surprise, not to be taken literally).
"Go-to-God-he-did-not!"

"He did, indeed, Mrs. Twomey!" replied Christian, rooting at her habit
pocket, and extracting her purse. "He said that he'd won the
scholarship, and he knew you were praying hard for him or he wouldn't
have got it, and he said I was to give you this, with his love."

"This" was a golden sovereign, a coin that did not often in its beauty
and entirety come Mrs. Twomey's way.

She curtseyed so low that since--as has been said--she was but little
over four feet, Christian had to lean low over Harry's withers in
order to drop the sovereign into her hand.

"That the sun may shine on his soul, my lovely gentleman! That he may
never want crown, pown', nor shi'n, nor you nayther! The Kingdom o'
Heaven is your due, the pair of yee, and may yee be long going there!
Amin!"

A silent and prayerful moment followed on the benedictions, and Mrs.
Twomey's bright little eyes rolled devoutly heavenwards. This
concession to the solemnity of the occasion disposed of, the
beneficiary became normal again.

"Look!" she resumed, while she bestowed the sovereign in an incredibly
old bag-purse with a brass rim; "tell him there's always one foolish
in a family, and what it is with Masther Larry, he's too give-ish!
That's what he is!"

"You can tell him so yourself," replied Christian. "He'll be home in a
week."

"Very good, faith! There's a welcome before him whatever time he'll
come! Sure I thought he'd be kept back in England till the Christmas?"

"He's finished with school now," said Christian. "He's going abroad
for a bit after Christmas, and then he's going to Oxford!"

The glory in Christian's voice conveyed more to Mrs. Twomey than any
statement of fact could achieve.

"Well, well! I'm proud out of him, the poor child! But I wisht it was
home in his own house he was to be," she replied, raising her skirt,
and stuffing the purse into a large pocket that hung round her waist
over a red flannel petticoat; "han't he lessons enought learnt?"

"Oh, but he _loves_ going to Oxford, Mrs. Twomey," said
Christian; "he's looking forward to it awfully; and _I'm_ going
to France to do lessons, too! I'll be talking French to you, Mrs.
Twomey, when I come back!"

Mrs. Twomey uttered a screech of well-simulated horror.

"For God's sake, child, do not!" she exclaimed; "didn't I know one o'
thim in Boyshton, a docther he was, and a German. He had as many
slishes and sloshes as'd fill a book! Sure I thought I'd lose me life
thrying could I make off at all what he said to me!"

"Well, I shall be slishing and sloshing to you when I come home, Mrs.
Twomey!" said Christian, who was skilled in converse with such as Mrs.
Twomey; "but it will be in French. I suppose you talked German to your
Boston doctor?"

"H'th indeed! Little enough I said to him! I never had anny wish for
thim docthors at all. Look at the little rakeen that's after gettin'
the Dispinsary at Cunnock-a-Ceoil! Three hundred pound the father ped
for it for him! A low, hungry little fella, that'd thravel the
counthry for the sake of a ha'penny--God!"

The flow of Mrs. Twomey's eloquence ceased in shock, as Major
Talbot-Lowry and Miss Coppinger emerged from the dairy behind her.

"Well, Mary," said Dick, "who is it who's so hard up for ha'pence?"

Mrs. Twomey's equanimity was not slow to re-establish itself. She and
the Major were "the one age," and they had grown up together.

"Why then, your Honour knows him well, and too well!" she snapped at
him, looking up his long length to his handsome, good natured face,
much as a minute female cur-dog might look and snap, presuming on her
sex, at a Great Dane. "It's the new little docthor, Danny Aherne, that
your Honour is afther putting in the Dispinsary!"

"Oh, that poor little fellow?" said Dick, laughing, but with a touch
of discomposure; "_I_ didn't put him there. What's the matter
with him, any how? Why, he hasn't been at the job three months! Give
the man time, Mary, give him time! I'll engage you'll all be in love
with him by this time next year!"

Mrs. Twomey glanced at Miss Coppinger, and replied with decorous
piety:

"God grant it!"

She then, with an admirable assumption of respect for her superiors,
and zeal for her office, moved past her visitors into the dairy.

Dick Talbot-Lowry hesitated a moment or two, then he laughed again,
and strode after her into the dark dairy; Miss Coppinger followed him.
Mrs. Twomey, a tiny and almost imperceptible bundle, was already on
her knees in a corner, scrubbing a glistening metal churn, and so
engrossed in her task as to be unaware of her visitors.

"Look here, Mary," began the Major, with a touch of severity; "what's
all this about Doctor Aherne?"

Mrs. Twomey rose from her knees, dried her little scarlet claws in her
apron, and stood to attention. Having opened the debate by calling
fervently upon her God to witness that she knew nothing of the matter,
she proceeded, like a solo pianist, to run her fingers, as it were,
lightly over the keys. Passing swiftly from her own birth, upbringing,
invincible respectability, and remoteness from all neighbours, or
knowledge of neighbours, she coruscated in a cadenza in which the
families of Talbot-Lowry and Coppinger, and her devotion to both, were
dazzlingly blended, and finished in a grand chord on the apparently
irrelevant fact that she would die dead before she would put down any
dirty stain before the Major's honour.

"But Mary," interposed Frederica, with an inartistic directness that
was in painful contrast to the cadenza, "what has the Major got to say
to Doctor Aherne?"

The question was ignored; the artist dashed on into a presto movement,
in which, as far as any direct theme was discernible, Dr. Mangan, his
cupidity, his riches, the riches of Dr. Aherne's parents were the
leading motives. Also, parenthetically, that Danny Aherne was without
shoe or stocking to his foot when he was going to school in Pribawn
with her own poor little boy. "And look at him now!" continued Mrs.
Twomey, on a high reciting note, and still presto, "with his car and
his horse, and his coat with an owld cat skin for a collar on it, and
his Tommy-shirts without tails!"

There was an instant of pause, and Frederica breathed the words
"'Dicky' shirt-fronts!" to her bewildered cousin.

"Himself and the Big Docthor walking the streets of Cluhir like two
paycocks!" went on Mrs. Twomey with ever-increasing speed and fury.
"Ha! Ha! Didn't I meet him back in Pribawn ere yistherday. 'How great
you are in yourself!' says I to him. 'It done _you_ no harm to
kill a woman!' says I. 'Mind your own business!' says he to me.
'Throth then, an' I _will_ mind it!' says I, 'an' I'll have
plenty to mind it without you! I'll have plenty to mind it without
yourself! Dannileen alay!'"

"What on earth are you talking about?" Dick broke in impatiently.

Mrs. Twomey flung a glance to the doorway. Christian was no longer
there. On a lower key, and directed to Miss Coppinger, a fresh stream
flowed. A young woman had died; a young woman who had been privileged
to marry a relative, of a degree of relationship obscure, but still
honoured, of Mikey Twomey's; "and she afther having a young son, and
the boy that marrit her as proud!--and a very good baby, and what
misfortune came to her no one'd know, only the Lord God Almighty, but
she died on them. And she a fine, hard, hearty, blushy, big lump of a
gerr'l. And 'tis true what they said--"

The details that followed were hissed, prestissimo, into the ear of
Miss Coppinger, but that Dr. Aherne was to be blamed, was made as
clear to Dick Talbot-Lowry as to his cousin.

The tale was concluded in tears.

"Look! I has to cry when I thinks of it!"

It is impossible with Mrs. Twomey, and her like, to argue a point, or
to attempt an appeal to reason. A flat and dictatorial contradiction
may have some temporary effect, and Major Talbot-Lowry adopted this
method, for lack of better, in defence of his nominee. Mrs. Twomey,
however, continued to weep.

"But Mary," urged Frederica, "there isn't a doctor in the world who
doesn't lose a patient sometimes. It may not have been this
unfortunate young man's fault in the least--"

"'Tisn't that I'm crying for at all," sobbed Mrs. Twomey, a deplorable
little figure, her head bent down, while she wiped violently and
alternately her nose and her eyes in her sacking apron. "But it is
what the people is sayin' on the roads about" (sob) "about"
(sniff)--

"About _what_?' said Dick, who was being bored.

"About your Honour!" returned Mrs. Twomey, in a sort of roar.

"And what the devil are they saying about me?"

"God forbid that I'd put down any dirty stain before your Honour,"
sobbed Mrs. Twomey, recurring to her earlier metaphor; "it's that big
horse that ye're afther buyin' from Docthor Mangan; they say that he
gave him to ye too cheap on the head of it--"

"On the head of what, woman?" shouted Dick, now passing, by the
well-worn channel of anxiety, from boredom to anger.

"On the head of the Dispinsary! Sure they says 'twas your Honour gave
it to Danny Aherne!"

It is unnecessary to record Major Talbot-Lowry's indignation on
hearing this charge. The dairy, with its low ceiling and paven floor,
echoed, submissively, his well-justified strictures on the lies and
evil speaking of his humbler neighbours, and Mrs. Twomey dried her
eyes (much as she would scrub out one of her milk-pans) and hearkened.

Who shall say if she believed him? There is a standard of honour,
rigid and stern, for gentlemen, just as there is quite another
standard for those who do not, in the opinion of a people, Austrian in
their definition of what is or is not gentle birth, merit that title.
Dick Talbot-Lowry was a gentleman, and, in her own words, no "dirty
stain" would ever be attributed to him by Mary Twomey, but even she
knew that the ethics of buying and selling a horse apply to no other
transaction, and she knew also that in the disposal of a "place," more
may occur than meets the eye. She resented the slur on her chieftain,
but, in spite of her wrath, she could not feel quite certain that the
accusation was entirely unfounded.



CHAPTER XV


The town of Cluhir had more features than those that have already been
enumerated, to entitle it to respect. There was, primarily, the great
river, that moved majestically in its midst, bearing a church,
impartially, on its either bank, and hiding and nourishing in its
depths the salmon that gave the town its reason for existence. There
was the tall and noble bridge that spanned the river, and joined the
rival churches together (a feat of which it is safe to say no other
power in Ireland was capable). It was made of that blue-grey limestone
that builds bridges, and churches, and houses, with an equal success,
and it was the equivalent of a profession for many of the inhabitants
of the town, who were accustomed to spend long, meditative hours upon
it, criticising the fishermen on the bank below, watching the fish,
talking of fish, thinking of fish, without haste, and with a good deal
of rest. There was also Hallinan's Hotel, that was very far from being
a mere country hotel. The stately bow-windows of its coffee-room have
already been mentioned, but its wide verandah must not be forgotten,
stone-paven, glass-roofed, umbrageous with tropic vegetation, beneath
whose shade, on the sunny days that are enjoyed by the lesser world of
men, sad anglers, in ancient tweed suits, lolled, broken-heartedly, in
basket-chairs. And, finally, on the town's highest level, was The
Mall, reserved, dignified, with a double row of great beech-trees, and
behind them, on both sides of the wide roadway, the reserved and
dignified houses of the magnates of Cluhir. Eminent in both these
qualities was No. 6; almost too much so, Mrs. Mangan thought
sometimes. On a wet day she would say, it would be as good for you to
be in the Back of Beyond itself, as here, where you might be
flattening your nose all day and not see as much as a bike going by.

Dr. Mangan, however, fully recognised the value of this seclusion. His
surgery was at the back of the house, and its unbroken quiet was
grateful to a man who had much to do, and plenty to think of. He was
seated in it, one mild February evening, some months after the
election of Dr. Aherne. It had been market-day in Cluhir; patients had
been many, and fees satisfactory. The Doctor reclined in front of a
good turf and wood fire, and smoked a mellow pipe, and reviewed the
run of events. Danny Aherne had been in, to speak to him about a case,
that afternoon, and Dr. Mangan's thoughts ran back to that little
affair of the Knock Ceoil Dispensary, and of Major Talbot-Lowry's part
in the matter. Danny had just nipped in before the Local Government
Bill took the power away from the old Dispensary Committees. Dam' luck
for Danny. The Major had been useful enough. It hadn't been his vote,
so much as his influence, that had got the boy the job. The affair, as
far as the Doctor was concerned, was of quite minor importance, but it
had been useful in promoting the feeling of intimacy between the
houses of Mangan and Talbot-Lowry. That omniscient composite
authority, "The people on the roads," whose views had been quoted by
Mrs. Twomey, had not been wrong in hinting that the Doctor had
permitted the Major to have the best of the bargain about the big
brown horse. Old Tom Aherne had made it well worth his while to do so,
so everyone had come comfortably out of the transaction. Nor had Dr.
Mangan, in diagnosing Major Talbot-Lowry, been wrong in his assumption
that Dick, generous, and elated by his success in bargaining, would
wish to indemnify his opponent for having had the worst of it, and
would consider the support of Danny Aherne as a suitable expression of
the wish.

The Big Doctor's intimacy with Dick had progressed of late with
remarkable rapidity. During one of those friendly talks over the Mount
Music library fire, that had latterly been recurring with increasing
frequency, an opportunity had risen for the Doctor--"a warm man," as
has been said--to offer to the Major a tangible proof of his
friendship.

"After all, there's the money lying idle at my bank," the Doctor had
said, breezily.

Dick, in a moment of irritation and perplexity, had expatiated on the
expenses consequent on launching sons into professions, and also on
the pig-headed determination of annuitants to "hang on," regardless of
the inconveniences occasioned to a heavily burdened property by this
want of consideration.

"Three half-sisters of my father's," says Dick, "as old as three men
each of 'em, and not a notion of dying among 'em! They'll see
_me_ out, I'll swear!"

It was then that that idle money had been tactfully referred to.

"I'll knock better interest out of you, Major, than the bank'll give
me!" said the Big Doctor, jovially. "I want no security from
_you_! Your word--"

"Oh, that will never do, my dear fellow," Dick had replied, as he was
meant to reply. "Of course it must be a _pukka_ business deal.
I'll give you--"

In his relief, Dick was ready to give to this kind William of
Deloraine any security that he would suggest. It was, of course, a
purely nominal affair--but still--what about a mortgage on the house
and demesne? How would that do?

The Doctor thought it would do very well.

It should be established, while it was still possible to induce the
reader to accept such a statement, that the Big Doctor was, as he
himself might have said, "not too bad a fellow altogether!" In public
life, a fighter, wily and skilled; compassionate to the poor, yet
exacting, implacably, practical recognition of his compassion. In his
own house, easy-going and autocratic; in his Church, a slave; a
confidential slave, whose gladiatorial gifts were valued, and whose
idiosyncrasies might be humoured, but none the less, a slave. He was
like an elephant in his hugeness, and suppleness, his dangerousness,
and his gentleness. His head was not crowned with the bald benevolence
that an elephant wears, but seated on his neck was a mahout, and the
mahout was Father Greer, the Parish Priest of Cluhir.

Now, on this quiet evening, he sat and smoked by the fire, and,
touching "the tender stops of various quills," his eager thought
paused longest on the note that stood for Tishy. Tishy was, in her own
way, as sound an asset as any that he possessed, a thoroughly
well-made article, a right-down handsome girl, the Big Doctor thought
complacently, good enough for any position, and for any man.

"But she's not for any man, I can tell them!" thought Tishy's father;
"that's just where the difference of it is! I'll see to that, you may
take your oath!"

Then he began to consider his son. He could not feel the same
confidence in Barty that Tishy inspired. Where Barty got hold of all
his dam-silly notions was more than anyone, least of all his father,
could imagine. Nevertheless, they had had their uses, and might still
justify themselves "in a sense," he thought; "if not in one way, maybe
in another." He moved on to his wife. How could she contribute to the
Great Ideas? Ideas were not much in her line, but if you told her what
to do, she'd do it. After all, that was the main thing. Women's own
notions were often more bother than they were worth. Poor Annie! His
big mouth, under the coarse black moustache, spread into a smile, and
his blue-grey eyes smiled with it. "I was a fool once about her, and
b' Jove, I think I'm not much better now!" he said to himself,
indulgently. The handsomest woman this minute in the barony, and she
had never so much as looked crooked at any man since the day he
married her. After all, she had been a credit at that Mount Music
show. There wasn't a woman to touch her in the place; she had held her
own with them; she had spent his money as he had told her to spend it.
Like a lady. "I like that; how much? Here's your money!" That was what
he had told her to say, and she had said it all right. No damned
huxterings. And those women whom he wished her to get on with, she
_had_ got on with. They liked her. It was easy to see that; and
Lady Isabel had often come in to see her since the show, and had
stayed for tea, as friendly as you please. Annie was all right.

The gossip of Cluhir had been as mistaken in the matter of the Mangans
as gossip often is. Francis Mangan had married his wife for the
entirely unjudicious reason that her beauty had mastered his common
sense. After his marriage his common sense, having regained the upper
hand, was satisfied that, even though her

  "Charms were to change by to-morrow
  And fleet in his arms,"

she would still be the only wife in the world for him. None the less
he did not pretend indifference to the knowledge that his wife was the
handsomest woman in Cluhir, and there was, indeed, no reason why he
should do so. And thus the Big Doctor had a double triumph.

There came a fumbling tap on the door, it opened a little, and
Hannah's head came twisting round it.

"Docthor!" spoke the head, like a Teraph, "the Misthress says to have
ye come in. The supper's ready, and the priest is in it."

This remarkable statement was accepted by the Doctor with composure,
as expressing the fact that Father Greer had arrived.

"Tell her I'm coming this minute," he said, rising ponderously to his
feet; "say to them to go down without me."

He locked up the fees that were lying on the table, being a careful
man, and washed his huge, pale hands with the particularity that a
doctor brings to that task. Huge though they were, they had the
sensitiveness that is the gift of music, and is also part of the
endowment of the surgeon.

"Ah, here he is now!" said Mrs. Mangan, as the Doctor came,
enormously, into the small dining-room. "For shame for you, Francis,
to be so late."

"Ah, don't scold him, Mrs. Mangan!" said the priest simpering
conventionally. "Wasn't it ministering to the afflicted that delayed
him! Doctors mustn't be subjected to the rules that bind ordinary
people!"

"That's right, Father," said the Doctor, beginning to carve a large,
cold goose, with the skill that his trade bestows; "stand up for me
now! Don't let her bully me--though indeed I might be used to it by
this time!"

"Doesn't he look like it, the poor fella!" scoffed Mrs. Mangan,
directing a melting look at her husband; "starved and pairsecuted!
That's what he is!"

Father Greer smiled permissively over the rim of his glass of whisky
and water; it was strong and good, and the food was good also, and
abundant. Mrs. Mangan's suppers were as generous as her own contours,
and were noted for their excellence. She herself was not so much to
the priest's taste. He was celibate by nature as well as by
profession. Women were antagonistic to him, and Mrs. Mangan, godly
matron though she was, seemed to him to symbolize a very different
ordering of life to that which he approved; but the Big Doctor was an
asset of the Church who must be simpered upon, and for whose sake a
little social boredom must be unrepiningly endured. He was an older
man, by a good many years, than the Doctor, and was nearer sixty than
fifty, but his figure was slight and active, and his scant hair was
dark and silky, though there was a light dust of grey in it over the
ears, which were thin and outstanding, and shared with his nostrils
and eyelids the tinge of red that was denied to the rest of his face.
He had the wide, brains-carrying forehead of a fox, as well as a fox's
narrow jaw, but his eyes were small and black, and as quick as a
bird's.

Barty and Tishy, who were not agreed in many things, were agreed in
being afraid of him. They sat in perfect silence, while their mother
occupied herself with directions to Hannah, who hovered,
indeterminately, near the door, and their father discoursed the
visitor. Father Greer was something of a traveller, and he was now
giving an instructive account of a recent visit to Switzerland, and of
the "winter sports" that had occupied the energies of all in the hotel
save himself.

"I found the air as bracing and as serviceable to me as you had led me
to expect," he said to his host, "but the sports seemed to me to make
a toil of pleasure, and the dancing that went on every night--'twas
impossible to sleep! Well! Youthful frivolity, I suppose, must be
condoned, but I may say I was greatly annoyed at an incident that
occurred at a neighbouring hotel. Mostly English, the visitors were,
and they held a Protestant service on Sunday in the saller-mongy."

Barty looked secretly at his sister. His expression said: "And why
shouldn't they?"

Father Greer ignored the look, and continued his recital: "As was
quite right and proper for them to do."

There was a blink of the black eyes, and Barty recognised that he had
not been unobserved.

"There was what is called a Reading-party of young min, with a tutor,
at the hotel," went on the priest. "Protestants they were--so far as
they had any religion--but only wun of them attended that service. It
was said he was the wun and only person able to play the piano in the
hotel. Some English ladies requested him to play--I believe there was
some very unsuitable joking about it--and he consented. He attended
that service; he played their English hymns," Father Greer paused, and
gathered up the table with a glance before his climax. "That young
man, I regret to say, was an Irish Catholic, one whom you all
know--young Mr. St. Lawrence Coppinger!"

Mrs. Mangan, who had been too much harassed by Hannah's failure to
decode her signals, to attend, heard the name only, and said lovingly:

"The dear boy! How nice for him and you to meet so far away from home,
Father!"

Barty's satisfaction at his mother's unexpected comment took the form
of kicking his sister, heavily. Tishy, who sang in the chapel choir,
and was at this time inclined to regard herself as a pillar of the
Church, returned the kick with a viciousness that indicated a hostile
point of view, and said loftily:

"But to think they'd ask him! The English are very lax. Don't you
think so, Father?"

Dr. Mangan laughed apologetically.

"Well, it's a wonder that a party of sheep would let a poor goat into
their fold at all!" he said, in a voice that asked for forgiveness for
the erring goat. "I suppose the young ladies got him in a corner, and
'twas hard for him to refuse. You'd hardly blame him for that!"

Father Greer looked bleakly down his nose and said nothing.

Barty scowled, considering that his hero stood in no need of apology.
Dr. Mangan continued his endeavour to save the situation.

"But there's no understanding of Protestants!" he resumed,
good-humouredly; "I met an old fellow on the train th' other day, old
William Henderson of Glen Brickeen, and he was telling me of a row he
had with his clergyman, the Reverend Wilson. 'Oh,' says he, 'I gave up
going to church on the head of it!' 'And isn't that a great sin for
you,' says I, 'to give up going to church?' 'Oh,' says he, 'I explain
that to God every Saturday. He understands well what Mr. Wilson done
to me, and why I wouldn't go to church as long as he was in it.'
'Maybe,' said I, funning him, 'some day he might be before you in
Heaven with his story, and what'll you do then?' 'Oh,' said he, I'll
make out a place for myself, never fear! There's places of all sorts
in it!' says he. 'I suppose it's the many mansions you're thinking
of!' said I. 'You think the poor Roman Catholics don't know their
Bibles, but I know that much!'"

"Well, Francis," said Mrs. Mangan, admiringly, "I never knew you that
you'd be without an answer, no matter what anyone'd say to you! 'Many
mansions,' says you! I declare I'd never have thought of that! Father,
wouldn't you say he answered him well!"

Father Greer, having made his point, smiled indulgently, and, as he
was deeply involved in a mouthful of tough goose, the smile, blended
with the act of mastication, made him look more than ever like a fox,
a fox in a trap, gnashing at his captors.

"I always knew the Doctor could be trusted to 'give a knave an
answer,' as Shakespeare says," he said, when the power of speech was
restored to him; "I'm often surprised at the liberty, I might almost
say the licence, that is met with in Protestants in connection with
their religion. Take the case of young Mr. Coppinger that I was
speaking of. That was a melancholy instance of evil communications
corrupting good manners. I may say that I regard with anxiety a too
great freedom, what I may call an unrestrained intercourse, between
members of the two churches--that is, indeed, if I am justified in
describing as a church that which I have heard stigmatised as 'a
fortuitous concourse of atheistic atoms'!"

Father Greer's nose came down over his upper lip, the corners of his
mouth went up, and a succession of sniffs indicated that he was
laughing.

"That may be rather severe," he conceded, "but I may say that, for my
part, I consider that Catholics have a sufficiency of pleasing society
within their own communion, without striving to go beyond it!"

Father Greer paused, looked round the table as if to receive the
general assent, and put his sharp nose into the tumbler of brown
whisky and water, to whose replenishing the Doctor had not failed to
attend.

A rather stricken silence followed. Mrs. Mangan's large and handsome
brown eyes turned guiltily to her husband, and moved on from his face
to one of the many trophies of the Mount Music Sale, a Protestant
chair back, now flaunting itself on a Catholic chair, under the very
eyes of the Parish Priest!

Barty glowered at his plate; Tishy, who had not enjoyed herself at the
Sale, felt, in consequence, that she was now justified in doing so at
the expense of her family, and held up her head, and looked at her
father. It was plain to see that the elephant had felt the prick of
the Mahout's _ankus_. The Big Doctor's face was perturbed. Tishy
saw him look at the little priest's glass, and knew that he wished it
were empty, in order that he might pour into it a propitiatory
oblation. He cleared his throat once or twice before he spoke.

"Very true, Father, very true. I used to think the same thing in
England. The chaps I used to meet there--no one would know what
religion they belong to, no more than if they were heathens. That
young lad that you weren't pleased with--young Coppinger--I believe
he's as good a Catholic as any of us, but he happens to be thrown
mostly among Protestants. I often think it's no more than our duty as
Catholics to try and see as much as we can of him. He and Barty here,
got to be very great with each other the time he was with us, but it's
only an odd time now that we get a sight of him."

"I was talking to him a long while, the last time he was home," said
Barty, looking up, with something smouldering in his voice, "he told
me he was going to Oxford next October. It's well to be him!" he ended
defiantly.

"Now, I wouldn't be too sure of that at all!" said Father Greer, with
a smoothness that implied the laying aside of the _ankus_; "I
think, my young friend, that your good father's house is as safe and
happy a place for you as you could wish for!" He turned to the Doctor.
"I may say that there is a belief among certain classes that no one is
properly edjucated without they've been sent to England. I thought my
friend Barty, was a better Irishman than it seems he is!"

"I'm as good an Irishman as any man!" said Barty, in a sudden blaze,
"and may-be better than some!"

His face had turned white, and his eyes, that were as large and dark
as his mother's, met those of Father Greer with the courage of anger.

"What harm is it to want to get a better education than what I have? I
don't see why I shouldn't want to go to Oxford, or Switzerland either,
for the matter o' that--as well as another!"

Father Greer, as Dr. Mangan remarked subsequently, took Barty's making
a fool of himself very well. He put his head on one side, his black
eyebrows went up, and he again uttered that succession of sniffs that
served him for a laugh.

"It seems that I have made a railing accusation without meaning it,
and brought down fire from heaven, like the Prophet Elijah, only to
find that I am myself to forrum the burnt offering!" he said,
pleasantly. "Well, well, Barty, don't consume me entirely in your just
indignation, and I'll promise you to make no insinuendoes in future as
to whether you're a good or bad Irishman!"

I am unable to determine if Father Greer deliberately devised this
felicitous amalgamation of the two words that were in his mind, or if
it was unintentional, and an indication that Barty's brief flare of
revolt had flustered him a little. I am inclined to the latter theory.
In any case, the word is a useful one.



CHAPTER XVI


Christian was in the kennels, in their innermost depths. She was, in
fact, seated on the bench of "the ladies" lodging-house, on the dry
and rustling cushion of bracken on which Major Talbot-Lowry bedded his
pack.

Yearning to her, sitting all over her, covering her with their
ponderous affection, were the hounds. Two large ladies had each a head
on each of her shoulders; two more had laid their chins on her knees,
and were gazing raptly into her face. The less favoured stood, and
squeezed, and pushed, and panted, with glowing eyes and waving sterns,
in as close a circle round her as it was possible to form.

"Dearest things!" apostrophised Christian, "I feel like Nero--I wish
you had only one lovely head, so that I might kiss you all at once!"

"Rot!" said Larry, who was leaning against the wall, facing her, and
saying: "Down, you brute!" at intervals, to hounds, who, having failed
to force their way to Christian, were directing their attention to
him, to the detriment of his grey flannel trousers. "And look at your
dress from their filthy paws!"

"Good Gawd, Mr. Larry Sir! Don't say paws! 'Ounds 'ave _feet_"
responded Christian, whose imitation of Cottingham was no less
accurate now than it had been some eight years earlier; "and I don't
care a pin for this old skirt anyway--"

"I'm as fond of hounds as anyone," said Larry, reprovingly, "but I
must say I should draw the line at their licking my face!"

"They don't!" said Christian, indignantly; "that's the beauty of them,
They never lick--except perhaps my darling Nancy, because I nursed her
when she had pneumonia."

"If I were you, Cottingham, I wouldn't let Miss Christian into the
kennels," said Larry, with severity, "she makes lap-dogs of the
hounds!"

Cottingham had joined the party, and was leaning on the half-door of
the kennel, watching his hounds with the never-failing interest of a
good kennel-huntsman.

"I couldn't be too 'ard on Miss Christeen, sir," replied Cottingham;
"her's the best walk I have. That there Nancy was a sickly little
thing enough when I sent 'er to Miss Christeen, and look at 'er now! A
slapping fine bitch!"

Christian turned a slow and expressionless eye upon her accuser,
indicating triumph.

"It's like this with that Nancy," continued Cottingham, with whom the
preaching habit, fostered by years of laying down the law on
subservient fields, was inveterate. "Her got that fond of Miss
Christeen, her follered 'er about, the way the ole lamb followed Mary,
as they say. And that artful she got! Wouldn't try a yard! An' she 'ad
the 'ole o' the young entry like 'erself. Any sort of a check, and
back they all comes an' looks at me, wi' their 'eads a one side, and
their sterns agoin' like this," he wagged a stubby fore-finger to and
fro in so precisely the right rhythm, that, stubby as it was, no magic
wand could evolve more instantly the scene to be presented; "an'
that's 'ow it'd be, th' old 'ounds workin' 'ard, and the young uns
lookin' like they 'as nothin' to do only admire of me!"

"Quite right, too!" truckled Christian.

"Ah, Miss Christeen, I'm too used to soft soap, I am!"

"Well, you know, Cottingham, it was _I_ cured Nancy when she took
to following _me_ about." She turned to Larry. "Luckily, I broke
my wrist, and by the time I was able to ride again she had given me up
and taken to hunting."

"That's what you says, Miss," said Cottingham; "but I reckon what her
wanted was what her got from _me_--a good 'idin'!"

Having made his point, Cottingham, a true artist, departed at the
little toddling run that in kennels indicates devotion to duty,
combined with a slippery floor.

"I had forgotten about your breaking your wrist--I remember about my
own, right enough!" said Larry. "What rotten luck!"

"Oh, it's dead sound now," said Christian. "Look!" She stood up, and
held out both her slender hands to him across the intervening hounds'
backs. "I bet you don't know which is which!"

Larry took a hand in each of his, and flexed the wrists. "The left,
wasn't it?" he said, without releasing them. "Not that I see any
difference, only I remember now that I heard you had smashed the same
one that I did."

"It did hurt--horribly! I expect you know. It hurts still a little,
sometimes." She looked at him for sympathy. She was nearly eighteen
now, and had caught him up in height, so that her brown eyes looked
straight into his blue ones.

"Poor little paw!" said Larry patronizingly; he was going to be
twenty-one in a week, and felt immeasurably older than Christian. "Oh,
by the way, I forgot! I mustn't say paw. Must I call it 'foot'? I'll
make it well, anyhow!" he ended, and, in what he felt to be the manner
of a kind uncle, he kissed the injured wrist.

"_Quite_ well now, thank you!" said Christian, mockingly,
withdrawing her hands. "If I had only thought of it, I could have got
Nancy to lick it! It might have done just as well!" Her colour had
risen a little. "Let's come out; it's rather stuffy in here."

At a little distance from the kennel precincts were waiting two small,
smooth, white dogs, daughters of the adored companions of Christian's
childhood, themselves scarcely less adored than were their parents.
Seated, as was their practice, in a well-chosen position, that
combined seclusion with a commanding view of the detested hounds, they
had not ceased (as was also their practice) from loud and desolate
barking, an exercise that in the case of Dooley, the younger and more
highly-strung of the couple, was accustomed to develop into a
sustained contralto wail. As Christian and Larry left the kennel yard,
this moment had been reached. Dooley's nose was in the air, her mouth
was as round as the neck of a bottle, her white throat looked as long
as a swan's throat, and the bark was softening into sobs. Christian
flung herself down, and gathered her and her sister, the second Rinka,
into her arms.

"Let's sit down here," she said, sending her hat spinning down the
grassy slope; "it's too lovely to go in, and I want a cigarette."

"Haven't got one," said Larry. "Sorry. I gave them up in Lent, and now
I'm doing as well without 'em."

"Nerve gone already," said Christian. "That's what comes of missing a
season!" She laughed up at him.

"Don't know," said Larry, dropping down beside her on the dry, sun-hot
grass; "quite likely; but it wasn't that. The fact was"--he
hesitated--"I met a very decent Padre at Mürren. We used to talk a lot
about--oh, no end of things! When he found I was Irish he was awfully
pleased. He congratulated me on belonging to the Old Faith--he's Irish
himself, but he's never lived over here. He said it was such a
wonderful link with the people and the past--such a romantic religion!
And so it is, you know. It hadn't struck me, somehow, till Father
Nugent talked of it. I'm sorry for you, Christian! Don't you feel
being a Protestant is a bit--well--stodgy--and respectable--no sort of
poetry?"

"I like stodge," said Christian, serenely.

Larry paid this frivolity no attention. He had only recently
discovered that he possessed a soul, and he was as much pleased with
it as he had been with his first watch, and he found much the same
enjoyment in producing and examining it, that had been afforded to him
by the watch.

"It was Father Nugent's suggestion to give up smoking," he said,
unable to eliminate from his voice a touch of pride, "I knocked off
whiskies and sodas, too--but that was off my own bat."

"'Smite them by the merit of the Lenten Fast!'" murmured Christian.
Unlike Larry, she evaded personalities and especially those that
involved a discussion of religion. "Larry do you remember the awful
rags we used to have over that hymn! What ages it is since you were at
home! Not since I've had my hair up!"

"By Jove, I hardly knew you when I saw you first!" responded Larry,
his sails filling on a fresh tack with characteristic speed. "It's not
as light as it used to be. I'm not sure that I like it up."

He looked at her critically. Her hair, thick and waving lay darkly on
her forehead, and was stacked in masses upon her small head on a
system known only to herself.

"That's a pity," said Christian, coolly, "and I hate it, too. But
unluckily, whether you and I hate it or not, it's got to stay up
now--that's to say, when it will. I am supposed to be 'out.' I'm
nearly eighteen, you know. I never thought I'd live to such an age."

"Oh, wait till you're 'of age,' like me!" said Larry, impressively.
"Then you'll know the horrors of longevity. I've got to take over the
show--the tenants and all the rest of it--from your father, and Aunt
Freddy, next week! An awful job it's going to be! Cousin Dick says
that these revisions of rent have played the deuce all round. I shall
make old Barty Mangan my agent. He's a solicitor now all right. He can
run the show. I like old Barty, don't you?"

"I hardly ever see him," said Christian, cautiously. "He has rather
nice looks--more like a poet than a solicitor."

"You see, I want to go abroad, and do some music, and paint," said
Larry, pressing on with his own subject. "Take painting on seriously,
you know--"

"I know," said Christian, thoughtfully, "I don't envy Barty Mangan! I
know Papa's having botheration with our people--"

"All the more reason for me to earn my living by painting!" responded
Larry cheerfully.

They were sitting at the edge of a patch of plantation. It was the
middle of May, and the young larches behind them were clad in a cloud
of pale emerald; the clumps of hawthorn, that were dotted about the
park, between the kennels and the river, were sending forth the
fragrance of their whiteness; the new green had come into the grass,
though it was almost smothered in the snow of daisies; primroses and
wild hyacinths had strayed from the little wood, and straggling down
the hillside, had joined hands and agreed, the first, to linger, the
latter, to hasten into blow, and so to share the month between them.
Just below, on the turn of the hill, was a big thicket of furze
bushes, more golden than gold, sweeter also than honey and the
honeycomb. From Larry's woods across the Ownashee, the cuckoo's voice
came, as melodiously monotonous and as full of associations as the
bell of a village church. Silvery clouds were sailing very high in a
sky of thinnest, sweetest blue; little jets of sparkling sound, rising
and falling in it, bespoke the invisible, rapturous larks, tireless as
a playing fountain; and the sun blazed down on the boy and the girl
and the two little dogs seated there in the full of it.

Larry rolled over and over on the grass like a young colt.

"Oh, murder-in-Irish!" he groaned, in sheer ecstasy, "isn't it
gorgeous! I always forget how entirely stunning Ireland is, till I
come back to it!"

He could say no more, as both dogs had sprung from Christian's arms,
and were feverishly licking his face.

"Your own fault!" said Christian, answering his expostulations. "Kind
little things, they thought you asked for it."

"I repeat," said Larry, lying on his back, and holding off his
assailants with difficulty, "eliminating badly brought-up dogs, that
Ireland is the finest country in the world, and--listen to this,
Christian!--the Irish are the finest people, _and_ the worst
governed!"

"'The foinest pisanthry in Europe'!" said Christian, in gibing
exaggeration. "Larry, you've got awfully English!" Larry rolled over
and came into play again, sitting bolt upright; "I'm a Home Ruler!"

"Don't be absurd," said Christian, tranquilly.

"I'm not the least absurd," returned Larry. "I _mean_ it. If not
a Republican!" he added, ostentatiously, and began to chant:

  "And Ireland shall be free,
  From the centre to the sea,
  And huzza for Libertee,
  Says the Shan Van Voght!"

"I say, you remember the old companions of Finn? Well they're rolling
up again! I've started them at Oxford. Six members already! Two men in
my college, and--"

"English, of course!" interrupted Christian, with an effective tone of
elderly superiority. "People like yourself, who know nothing about
it!"

This was an insult not easily to be tolerated; the gage of battle did
not lie long at Larry's feet, and it may be admitted that the
challenger would have been ill pleased had it been ignored.

In the five years that had passed since the curtain of this narrative
went down on Christian, she had changed more than had Larry. It was as
though that extra-worldly endowment of her childhood having ceased to
manifest in external ways, had turned its light inwards. The power of
hearing what others could not hear, had faded, but a subtlety of mind,
a clarity, a sort of pondering, intellectual self-consciousness (that
had no kinship with that other form of self-consciousness that is only
inverted self-conceit) had taken the place of those voices that she
had once refused to deny to the inquisitorial John.

The battle, with regard to the resurrected Companions of Finn, having
waxed and waned in a course that need not here be followed, the
argument took on another phase.

"You know, Larry," Christian said, half-absently twisting and
arranging Dooley's little tan ears, in order to express, on Dooley's
behalf, with them, various emotions, "it seems to me that all these
political revolutions that you are so anxious to start, for the good
of Ireland, are like putting the cart before the horse."

"What do you mean?" asked Larry, eyeing her with undisguised surprise.

"Well," said Christian, slowly, gazing across the valley with eyes
more than ever like the clearest brown stream, "you've got to begin
with the individual. After all, Ireland is made up of individuals, and
each of them contributes in some way to the big result. It seems to me
that the real Spirit of the Nation is--is--"

Her gaze at the far woods became fixed, and her hands ceased to play
with the soft, tan ears.

"Is what?" said Larry, rather impatiently. He was bewildered by this
grave, young debater, and was trying to reconcile her with the child
he had left behind him last year, or even with the child who, five
minutes ago, had wished to impress a comprehensive kiss on all the
hounds at once. Moreover, a young gentleman on the imminent verge of
official manhood, is justified in resenting ideas, in opposition to
his own, being offered to him by a little girl, with her hair only
just "up," whom he regards as no more than a niece, or thereabouts.

"Well," said Christian, still more slowly, her eyes lifting from the
woods and resting on a shining snowball of a cloud, "it's Religious
Intolerance, I think! That seems to me the Spirit of the Nation--my
side as bad as yours, and yours as bad as mine--"

"Oh, the parsons and the priests," said Larry, airily. "Oh you wait,
Christian! You don't know! You've been stuck down here in a hole. If
you met Father Nugent--"

"But I don't mean them only," said Christian, standing to her guns; "I
mean the individual--you and me! Just anybody--we're all the same. The
Shan van Voght has got to free us from each other before she takes on
England!" She looked at Larry; the seriousness left her face, and she
shook back the dark hair from her forehead with just the same gay,
mutinous toss of the head that a young horse will give when the rider
picks up the reins. "I may have been stuck down here in a hole!" said
Christian, mocking him; "but anyhow, I haven't lived in England and
lost my eye!"

"What about seeing from a distance, and seeing the whole and not the
part?" retorted Larry. "What about a bird's eye view?" He had risen to
his feet and was looking down at her, feeling the moral support of
physical elevation.

"That depends on the bird!" said Christian. "Now, if it were a goose,
for example! Like--Hi! Dogs! Look, Larry! Look! Down by the furze
bushes! A _huge_ rabbit!"

The discussion closed abruptly, as such discussions will, when the
disputants are at the golden age, and views and opinions are winged,
and have not yet become ballast, or, which is worse, turned to
mooring-stones.



CHAPTER XVII


The origin of the Coppinger's Court picnic was complicated and has
remained obscure. Whether its author had been Mrs. Mangan, or her
friend, Mrs. Whelply, or young Mr. Coppinger himself, was uncertain,
but the fact remained that a picnic, with indirect reference to the
blossoming of the bluebells (_i.e._, the wild hyacinths) was
decided upon, and that Larry, in the course of the visit that he never
failed to pay to the Mangan household, had placed the demesne of
Coppinger's Court at the disposal of the ladies of Cluhir, as a scene
for the entertainment.

Larry's fidelity to the Mangans was a matter that was undoubtedly
something of a trial to his Aunt Freddy. She was too inflexibly
conscientious to attempt to deny, even to Lady Isabel, still less to
herself, that such fidelity was creditable, but she felt justified in
considering it superfluous; when, as now, it took the form of inviting
a party of unknown size, under the patronage of Mrs. Mangan, to accept
the Ownashee as its washpot, and (as it were) to cast forth its shoe
over Coppinger's Court, Aunt Freddy may be forgiven the manoeuvre that
arranged a _séance_ with her Dublin dentist for the date decided
upon for the picnic, and may be felt to deserve the sympathy of those
who can appreciate the inwardness of her position. And this last,
improbable though it may seem to some people, was made immensely more
difficult by the simple and irrelevant fact that she, on Sundays,
betook herself to the Knock Ceoil Protestant church, while Larry went
to the white chapel on the hill. It was to the grey, stone Protestant
church that Larry's forbears had gone for one hundred and fifty years
or more, even since the then reigning Coppinger had fallen in love
with an English heiress, and, agreeing with Henri Quatre, that Paris
was well worth a Mass, had 'verted to marry her. Never in living
memory had the congregations that filled full the white chapel on the
hill, included in their dutiful ranks any being of higher degree than
might have been found in those other congregations, that, some
nineteen hundred years earlier, were gathered in the hills of Galilee;
those humble crowds who came to hear Christ preach, of whom it was
said that they were of the common people, and that they heard Him
gladly. Miss Frederica was as good a Christian--in some ways probably
a better one--as might have been found in the white chapel, but it was
impossible for her not to feel, what was, indeed, felt, with a
singular mixture of satisfaction and disapproval, by the majority of
the white chapel's congregation, that Larry's parents had, socially,
been ill-advised when they "made a Roman of him." In the creed of Mary
Twomey, and her fellows, it was only in conformity with natural law in
the spiritual world that ginthry should go to church, and the like of
herself to chapel. She, no more than Frederica, could subdue the
feeling of incongruity imparted by the fact of Master Larry and
herself worshipping together; it was as though, if she had run into
the kitchen to get a sup of hot water, or the wetting of her mouth o'
tay, she had found him sitting among the maids in the servants' hall.
Mary Twomey, and her fellows, would have indignantly repudiated the
idea of taking service with one of their own church. "No! Thank God! I
never sank to that!" Mary had once said, when such had been imputed to
her. There was no question of religion in it. Merely of fitness. So
inveterate in the older Ireland is, or was, what Christian might have
considered to be the outcome of The Spirit of the Nation, but that, in
this special connection, may with, perhaps, greater accuracy, be
ascribed to the aristocratic instinct.

Something like a sheet of thin ice had come into existence between
Larry's life and that of his aunt. It had come gradually, almost
imperceptibly. There had been a time, after his First Communion, when
Larry had confided in Frederica. He had even told her of the anxieties
he had felt before his first Confession, and of how difficult he had
found it to decide upon the sins that he could, without arrogance lay
to his own charge. He told her that he had invented several crimes, in
order to dignify the occasion. Frederica wondered secretly how that
charming Jesuit Father, to whom, at Monkshurst, she had been
introduced as her nephew's spiritual director, had dealt with the
sinner; but this, Larry had not divulged. There were, from that time
forward, an increasing number of things that Larry did not divulge to
his Aunt Freddy, and the sheet of ice slowly became thicker. It was
"the religious aspect of the case," as Miss Coppinger complained to
Mr. Fetherston, that made it so impossible for her to speak her mind
to Larry about the Mangans.

"Do you remember you advised us to send him to Oxford?" she reproached
him. "I'm afraid it has only had the effect of making him take his
religion more seriously--for which, I suppose, one _ought_ to be
thankful--"

"And why not?" the Reverend Charles had replied. "They say all roads
lead to Rome, so no doubt the converse holds good, and out of Rome
some road must lead to Heaven!"

The Reverend Charles was pleased with his aphorism, but Frederica
could not enjoy it. Not even Mr. Fetherston could console her on this
matter.

"His very niceness and simplicity make him a prey for undesirables,"
she mourned, "and he has that peculiar gift of making every one fond
of him. I suppose it is his looks--"

"Then you cannot blame the undesirables," her rector responded.

Larry's looks had, certainly, a spell that was something in excess of
what may be called their "face-value." Though legal manhood was so
soon to be his status, he had still some of the radiance of childhood
about him. His hair was of the same pure and infantine gold that it
had been when he charged down on the Eldest Statesman on the
stepping-stones of the Ownashee; his blue eyes had lost none of their
candour; the touch of gilding on his upper lip was effective only at
short range, but, when taken in connection with a very white and even
set of teeth, and a beaming and ever-ready smile, it carried
considerable weight. His fair skin had not yet taken on its summer
scorch of carmine, and its soft and babyish pinkness softened the
salience of his short nose, and induced the critic to condone the want
of decision in his chin.

"Not a _handsome_ boy, exactly," people said, "but," and here
people would smile relentingly, "if he had been a girl, one would
certainly _quite_ have said 'pretty'--so attractive-looking, and
so--so clean!" which might seem to be the condemnation of faint
praise, but was, in reality, merely the tribute that Larry's
new-minted goldenness of aspect startled from the beholder.

He was no more than five foot nine in height, which was a trial that
at times he felt deeply, but there are practical advantages for a
young man who rides, in being able to do so at something considerably
under eleven stone. At boxing, rowing, and games, what he lost in
weight and reach, he made up for in speed and elasticity and
endurance. Finally, it may be said that his figure had the gift of
making old clothes like new, and new clothes look unaggressive, and
when to these attributes is added a faculty for wearing hunting kit
with accuracy and finish, it will be understood that Larry had early
achieved standing in his college.

The Cluhir picnic, that had so justifiably perturbed Miss Frederica,
debouched, like a mighty river, from its wagonettes and outside cars,
upon the lawns of Coppinger's Court, at about four of the clock, of a
beautiful, balmy May afternoon, and to Larry fell the task of deciding
upon its course of procedure. Clad in very white flannels and a
prismatic blazer, and looking, as his most tepid supporter would have
to allow, a picture of cleanliness, he advanced upon Mrs. Mangan's
wagonette, and proffered an arm, fortunately of steel, to facilitate
her descent. The five years that had elapsed since Larry was her
guest, had effected less change in her than in him. Save that the
bisonian fringe now held a grey hair or two in its dark depths, and
the curves, that had suggested a Chesterfield sofa to her young
friend, were now something more opulent than they had been, Mrs.
Mangan's progress along the corridor of eternity had made no
perceptible mark on her. Still, in assisting her descent from a high
wagonette, an arm of steel was not out of place.

Larry was at the age that, believing itself critical to the point of
extinction of the rejected, yet accepts with enthusiasm any female
creature that can wear a smart hat with assurance, and wag a
flattering tongue with address. The Cluhir ladies were proficient in
these arts. Mr. Coppinger was congratulated on his weather; arranged
by his skill, poured forth of his benevolence! On his demesne, so
green with young leaves, so gay with spring flowers! Kind Mr.
Coppinger to have created them in such profusion! And what warmth was
there in the Coppinger's Court sun! The second rate luminary dedicated
to Cluhir was no more than a candle to it! Mr. Coppinger's Ant was
enquired for (this, it should, perhaps, be explained, referred to
Frederica, and had no entomological application) suitable regrets at
her absence from home were expressed, with a delicate implication that
with such a host, and in such weather, the loss was the Ant's, and was
practically negligible, so far as the ladies of Cluhir were concerned.
And who were these, coming up the path from Mr. Coppinger's lovely
river? Ah, yes, the youngest Miss Talbot-Lowry, of course, and which
brother was it? Oh, the youngest one? Mrs. Cassidy had thought the
youngest of Lady Isabel's family was a twins--or _were_ a twins?
Which ought she to say?

"Well, this is half of it, anyhow!" says young Mr. Coppinger,
facetiously, with which Mrs. Cassidy, like the Miss Flamboroughs,
thought she would have died with laughing.

With the arrival of the youngest Miss Talbot-Lowry, and half the
twins, a slight change fell upon Mr. Coppinger's voluble guests. A
stiffening faint, almost imperceptible, yet electric, enforced the
circle round Larry. Even Mrs. Whelply's confluent simper, that
suggested an incessant dripping from the tap of loving kindness,
failed a little. A young Mr. Coppinger was a simple affair, but a Miss
Talbot-Lowry, however young, might want watching.

The youngest Miss Talbot-Lowry was, happily for herself, quite unaware
of the estimation in which she was held. She had, like Larry, that
quality of selflessness that is so rare and so infinitely engaging;
what was she (she would have thought) that respect should be paid to
her? It was a tenet of her eccentric creed that age was not only
honourable but was also pathetic, so, when the picnic at large had
begun its leisurely advance through the woods to the promised land,
Christian selected the oldest and least promising of the Cluhir
matrons for her special attention, and made herself so agreeable to
her, that Barty Mangan, "mooching" (as his mother afterwards
reproached him) solitary, in the rear of the procession, found himself
in the remarkable position of wishing that he were his own great-aunt,
Mrs. Cantwell.

Barty Mangan's opportunities for meeting Christian had been but few,
but they had sufficed to light a fatal star in his sky, and to induce
in him, when, as now, he found himself in her vicinity, an attitude
towards the rest of the world that justified his mother's employment
of the verb to "mooch" (a word that may be taken as implying a moody
and furtive aloofness).

There was, Mrs. Mangan was pleased to observe, no mooching about her
daughter. On the launching of the picnic, Tishy had immediately
assumed the lead, with an _aplomb_ and assurance justified by her
family's special intimacy with young Mr. Coppinger, and all who knew
Tishy, knew also that she meant to keep it. Dr. Mangan had not
over-stated the case when, three years earlier, he had said to himself
that she was a right-down handsome girl. Now, at twenty-one and a
half, his paternal pride was well justified. Like him, she was tall
and strongly built, tall, that is to say, for a class that rarely
excels in height, and Tishy's five and a half feet enabled her to look
down on most of her friends. Her broad, dark eyebrows grew straight
and low over brilliant grey eyes, and were nearly reached by thick
upward curled black eyelashes. If her mouth was large, it was
well-shaped, and if her nose did not possess the classic severity of
her brother's, its challenging tilt was not unattractive. To these
charms must be added shining masses of dark hair, and a complexion of
so vivid a tone, that it seemed sometimes as though a fog of carmine
coloured the very atmosphere about her glowing face. She radiated
vitality, the richness and abundance of high summer; she suggested a
darkly gorgeous peacock-butterfly, and in the delicate radiance of the
spring woods, she seemed out of key with their slender elegance of
leaf and spray the soft reticence of their faint greens and greys.

It is indeed hardly fair to expect of Tishy Mangan that she should be
worthy of such a setting as southern Irish woods can offer in the
month of May. It is the month of the Mother of God, and in the fair
demesne of Coppinger's Court, Heaven had truly visited the earth, and
was chiefly and specially manifest in the Wood of the Ownashee. The
trees stood with their feet bathed in the changeful, passionate blue
of the wild hyacinths, a blue that lay sometimes in deep pools,
sometimes in thin drifts, like the azure of far skies; the pale ferns
rose in it, "like sweet thoughts in a dream"; the grey stems of the
beeches were chequered with the sunlight that their thin branches and
little leaves tried in vain to baffle and keep at bay. From the unseen
river came varying voices; sometimes a soft chuckle that had the
laughing heart of the spring in it, sometimes a rich and rushing
harmony, that told of distant heights and the wind on the hills. There
was a blackbird who was whistling over and over again the opening bar
of the theme of a presto, that, only last week, Larry had heard,
whipped out with frolic glee by the violins of a London orchestra. He
wondered if, with such themes, it is the blackbirds who inspire the
musicians, or if both have access to the same secret well of music, in
which each can dip his little bucket, and bring listeners in the outer
world a taste of the living water of melody. But since (in spite of
the Artistic Temperament) he was a normal boy, what he said was:

"Stunning! Isn't it!" while he stood still, waiting, for the hidden
artist to favour them with another flourish of that gay string of
jewels. "He's 'recapturing' it all right, eh?"

The much-quoted quotation passed by Tishy as the idle wind. Even had
she recognised the allusion, she would have considered the
professional raptures of a blackbird a rather dull subject of
conversation. The gallants of Cluhir did not deal in such matters in
_tête à tête_ with her, and she thought, as she had thought at
the children's party, long ago, that Larry, if not quite a bore,
might, in spite of Coppinger's Court, rather easily become one.

"Oh, he's stunning enough!" she replied, with her full-throated,
contralto laugh; "It must be his first cousin we have in the garden
behind Number Six! Dad says he doesn't know, does him or me sing the
loudest!"

By Jove! She sings! thought Larry (as he was meant to think). Of
course! What a fool he was to have forgotten it! And as, at this
period of his career, of the three arts, who were always riding a pace
in his soul, Music, Painting, and Literature, Music happened to be the
leading horse, Larry looked upon Tishy with eyes in which a new ardour
had awakened, and proceeded with his accustomed speed to mature the
details of the concert upon which he had, during the last sixty
seconds, enthusiastically decided.

Old Mrs. Cantwell, although unpromising of aspect, was by no means as
deplorable, socially, as Christian had assumed her to be. The fact
that she was the untrammelled owner of a soundly-invested fifteen
thousand pounds, that she was the aunt whom Dr. Mangan delighted to
honour, combined with the allied fact that she had paid for the hiring
of the picnic-bearing wagonette, gave her an importance that could be
undervalued only by one as ignorant of the greater concerns of life as
was Christian. Mrs. Cantwell accepted the companionship of the
youngest Miss Talbot-Lowry as no more than her due, and the thought
that compassion had prompted its bestowal, was very far from her mind.
None the less, the Noah's Ark principles that governed implicitly, if
not ostensibly Cluhir entertainments of this nature, were firmly
embedded in her being, and she was entirely aware of the furtive
presence of Barty, at the rear of the procession of which she and
Christian formed the last couple.

"Now, my dear," she observed, while she and Christian paced side by
side, along the river path, "you shouldn't be wasting time on an old
woman like me! When I was young, we'd have called this a Two and Two
party, and I promise you that the likes o' you and me wouldn't have
been reckoned a proper couple at all! Not when _I_ was a girl!"

"_I_ should have said that you and I were irreproachably proper,
Mrs. Cantwell," responded Christian, gaily; "it isn't very kind of you
to say that we aren't behaving as we should!" She laughed into Mrs.
Cantwell's old face, and she, being quite unused to girls who took the
trouble to flirt with her, began to think that Frankie Mangan (thus
she designated her nephew, the doctor) was right when he said that the
youngest of the Talbot-Lowrys was the best of the bunch.

"Ho! Ho! Ho!" she said, with a laugh like the whinny of an old horse;
"it's a long time since I kicked my heels over anything higher than a
hearth-rug! But I can tell you, my dear, I was a good warrant for a
play-boy when I was your age! There wasn't a young girl, no, nor a
young man either, that I couldn't dance down if I gave my mind to it!"

Christian's response was satisfactory, and Mrs. Cantwell, moved to
give a sample of her bygone prowess, executed a hippopotamus-like hop
and shuffle among the rustling, orange beech leaves of last year.

"Polkas and Mazoorkas!" she exclaimed. "Them was all the go in my
time! Come on here, Barty, ye omadhaun! I believe I could dance you
off those long legs of yours this minute, if I was to give me mind to
it!"

Barty, thus adjured by his great-aunt, drew near. Mrs. Cantwell was
not a person to be lightly disobeyed, but his dark eyes were full of
apprehension. What might Aunt Bessie not say! She was incalculable,
terrible.

There are old people who appear to find an indemnity for their lost
youth in permitting to themselves, in dealing with later generations,
a scarifying freedom of humour in connection with subjects which once
they held sacred (for there are few souls that have not at some time
enshrined a tender emotion).

Barty had suffered before now from Aunt Bessy, and he thought that if
she made of him an offence to Miss Talbot-Lowry, he would straightway
rush into the river and drown himself. Aunt Bessy, however,
potentially Rabelaisian though she might be, was perfectly aware of
the fact that there is a time to speak and a time to keep silence.

"See here, Barty," she said, "let you go on now, and tell your mother
not to be waiting tea for me. I'll take me own time. Tell her never
fear I'll turn up, only I like to go me own pace!" She turned to
Christian. "Go on you too, my dear; I'm well enough pleased with me
own company, and I hate to be delaying you. I'll sit down for a while
and admire the scenery."

Thus did Aunt Bessy, as she complacently told herself, watch over the
interests of her great-nephew, and though her method was crude, it
indisputably achieved its object.

Christian and Barty Mangan walked on in silence that was made
companionable by the gurgling whisper of the river behind its screen
of hazels and alders; a whisper broken now and again by the tittering
laugh of the flying water over a shallow place, like someone with a
good story that he cannot quite venture to tell out loud.

Barty was saying to himself, distractedly: "What'll I say to her?
What'll I talk to her about?" with each repetition winding himself,
like a cocoon, deeper in webs of shyness.

Christian's social perceptions were hypersensitive, and the _cris de
coeur_ of her suffering companion were only too audible to her
spiritual ear. At eighteen, the quality of mercy has seldom developed;
the young demand mercy, they expect to receive, not to bestow it; but
in this girl was something that made her different from her fellows.
It was as though a soul more tempered, more instructed, more subtle
and refined, had been given to her, than is vouchsafed to the majority
of the poor creatures who are sent into this difficult world with an
equipment that rarely meets its demands.

This is a long-winded way of saying that Christian realised that she
had to restore confidence in Larry's young friend, and that she
proceeded forthwith to do so. She would have laughed at the thought
that anyone could be afraid of her, but she felt instinctively that a
soothing monologue, a sort of cradle-song, was what the occasion
demanded; so she began to speak of the bluebells, the woods, the
weather, saying with a sort of languid simplicity, the things that the
moment suggested; "babbling," as she subsequently assured Judith, "of
green fields," until she had so lulled and bored him, that in
self-defence he produced an observation.

"D'you read, Miss Christian?" said Barty, bringing forth his mouse
with an abrupt and mountainous effort.

Christian repressed the reply that she had possessed the
accomplishment for some years, and asked for further information.

"Poetry," said Barty, largely; "it's--it's the only reading I care
for. I thought you might like it--" he added, hurriedly, and was again
wrapped in the cocoon.

"Oh, I do, very much," said Christian, trying hard not to quench the
smoking flax; "I've learnt quantities by heart, and Larry is always
lending me new books of poetry. He says that you and he discuss it
together."

"I never knew one like him!" said Barty, with sudden energy. "There's
no subject at all that he's not interested in!" In the heat of his
enthusiasm for Larry, the cocoon wrappings were temporarily
shrivelled. He turned his dark short-sighted eyes on Christian, and
took up his parable with excitement.

"Did he tell you he's learning Irish? I'll engage it'll be no trouble
to _him_!"

"He's always getting hold of new ideas," said Christian; "I wish
_I_ could learn Irish."

"There's a branch of the Gaelic League in Cluhir," said Barty,
eagerly. "There are a lot learning Irish. I suppose you wouldn't be
disposed to become a member, Miss Christian?" He gazed at her
imploringly.

"I don't know if I should be allowed," said Christian, hesitatingly.
"You see I've only just come home. I've been at school in Paris for
the last two years--"

A memory of a ferocious denunciation of the Gaelic League by her
father came to her; she wondered what Barty would do if she offered
him one of the profane imitations of the Major that had earned for her
the laurels of the schoolroom.

"Oh, I'm quite sure I mightn't become a Gaelic Leaguer!" she repeated,
beginning to laugh, while samples of her father's rhetoric welled up
in her mind.

Barty thought he had never seen anything so enchanting as her face, as
she looked at him, laughing, with wavering lights, filtered through
young beech leaves, in her eyes. He felt a delirious desire to show
her that he was not a tongue-tied fool; that he also, like Larry, was
a man of ideas.

"I wish to God!" he said, with the disordered violence of a shy man,
"that there was anny league or society in Ireland that would override
class prejudice, and oblitherate religious bigotry!"

He had snatched a paragraph from his last address to the Gaelic
Leaguers of Cluhir, and with it was betrayed into the pronunciation
that mastered him in moments of excitement.

Christian said to herself that she thanked heaven Judith wasn't there
to make her laugh.

"I don't _think_ I'm a religious bigot," she said, with a faint
tremor in her voice, "but one never knows!" Her head was bent down,
the brim of her large hat hid her face.

Barty was stricken. What devil had possessed him? She was hurt! She
was a Protestant, and in his cursed folly he had made her think he was
reproaching her for Bigotry. Good God! What could he do?

Two emotions, hung, as it were, on hair-triggers, held the stage. In
Christian, the fiend of laughter held sway, in poor Barty, the angel
of tears. It was perhaps well for them both that their next step in
advance took them round a bend in the path, and brought them face to
face with the picnic.



CHAPTER XVIII


Young Mr. Coppinger had been well inspired in his selection of a site
for the entertainment. The trees along the river's bank had ceased for
a space, leaving a level ring of grass, whereon certain limestone
boulders had scattered themselves, with the deliberate intention, as
it would seem, of providing seats for picnickers. Across that fairy
circle of greenness a small vassal-stream bore its tribute waters to
the Ownashee, with as much dignity as it had been able to assume in
the forty level yards that lay between its suzerain and the steep glen
down which it had flung itself. Not only had young Mr. Coppinger been
so gracious as to provide this setting for the revel, but he was even
now sacrificing a spotless pair of white flannel trousers to the needs
of the company, and had concentrated on the cajolery of the fire,
which, obedient to the etiquette that rules picnic fires, refused to
consume any fuel less stimulating than matches. Other of the young
gentlemen of the party, including the half-twin, Mr. George
Talbot-Lowry (now a sub-lieut. R.N.) were detailed to gather sticks, a
duty that was so arranged as to involve, with each load of firewood,
the jumping of the vassal-stream, and thus gave opportunity for a
display akin to that of the jungle-cocks, who, naturalists inform us,
leap emulatively before their ladies. Prominent among these was that
youth who, as a medical student, had inspired Miss Mangan in
flapperhood, with an admiration for his gifts, intellectual and
physical, that was only equalled by his own appreciation of these
advantages. His opinion remained unchanged, but he was beginning to
fear that Tishy's taste was deteriorating. None sprang more lightly
across that little stream, or commented more humorously on men and
things, than Captain Edward Cloherty, R.A.M.C.; yet Miss Mangan, to
whom these exercises were dedicated, remained oblivious of them and
aloof, apparently wholly absorbed by Martha-like attentions with
regard to the public welfare, and particularly those connected with
the fire. It was not for nothing that Tishy had had to rise early on
many a winter morning to see that her father should go forth to his
work suitably warmed and fed. Now, with scathing criticisms of the
methods of Mr. Coppinger, she swept him from his position as stoker,
and, as by magic, or so it seemed to him, the sticks blazed, the
kettle began to sing. Miss Mangan's skill was not limited to the
prosaic lighting of material fires only. With the two most
distinguished young men of the party at her feet, she rose to the
height of all her various powers. The fire roared and crackled, the
kettle bubbled, and Tishy's grey and gleaming glances through the
smoke were like a succession of boxes of matches, cast upon the
responsive fires of Larry's and Georgy's holiday hearts.

The young May moon has often been a factor in affairs of the heart
whose importance cannot be ignored. It is true that on this especial
afternoon the mischief might seem to have been begun before she could,
strictly, have been held responsible; none the less her madness must
have been in the air, otherwise it is difficult to account for the
joint and simultaneous overthrow of two young gentlemen of taste and
quality, by Miss Tishy Mangan.

Georgy, aged but 19, just home from far and forlorn seas, with, as the
poet says, a heart for any fate, might have been excused for
swallowing any good provided for him by the gods, whole, and without
criticism, but for Mr. St. Lawrence Coppinger, lately come of age, a
man of taste, endowed with special _finesse_ of feeling, it might
have been expected that a highly-coloured peacock butterfly would have
had but scant appeal. In fact, one is driven back upon the young May
Moon as the sole plausible explanation of the fact that, on that
afternoon of bewitchment, Tishy Mangan went to Larry's head.

These temporary aberrations are afflictions for which the most refined
young men must occasionally be prepared, and Larry's overthrow was not
without justification. Quite apart from her looks--and anyone would
have been forced to admit that they were undeniable--there was her
voice, the true contralto _timbre_, thick and mellow, dark and
sweet, like heather honey, he thought, while he and Georgy sprawled on
the grass at her feet (and she had good feet) making very indifferent
jokes, in that exaggerated travesty of an Irish brogue which is often
all that an English school will leave with Irish boys, and vicing with
each other in the folly proper to such an occasion.

"I don't see your shoe-buckles!" Larry said, looking from her feet to
her lips, with a meaning and impudent lift of his blue eyes. "Have you
given up wearing them?"

Tishy's colour deepened; she remembered instantly what she was meant
to remember.

"You're regretting the choice you made, are you?" she said, with a
toss of her head. "Never fear! The buckles will be there when they're
wanted!"

"Don't trouble about them!" says Larry, tremendously pleased with his
success as a flirtatious man of the world; "I don't think they will be
required!"

It is necessary to have attained to a reasonably advanced age to be
able to recognise pathos in the fatuities that so frequently form a
feature of love's young dream. Christian, listening with one ear to
her brother and cousin, while into the other the genuine idiom of her
native land flowed, ardently, from the now unsealed lips of Barty
Mangan, began to wonder why the boys were talking like stage Irishmen;
Georgy, she knew, was idiot enough for anything, but she had to admit
to herself that Larry, also, was rather overdoing it. Christian was
able to feel amused, but she also felt, quite illogically, that what
had been distaste for Tishy Mangan was rapidly deepening into dislike.

The picnic raged on, with prodigious eatings and drinkings, with
capsizings of teapots in full sail, with disastrous slaughterings of
insects (disastrous to plates and tablecloths rather than to the
insects) with facetious doings with heated tea-spoons and pellets of
bread, with, in short, all that Mrs. Mangan and her fellow hostesses
expected of a truly prosperous picnic.

Captain Cloherty, alone, of all the company, failed to contribute his
share to the sum of success. He sat silent, a thing of gloom, the
lively angle of whose waxed, red moustache only accentuated the
downward droop of the mouth beneath it. But the skeleton at the feast
has its uses, if only as a contrast, and Mrs. Mangan, who was more
observant than she appeared to be, noted the gloom with a gratified
eye, and being entirely aware of its cause, said to herself with
satisfaction:

"Ha, ha, me young man!"

This picnic was, in truth, made ever memorable in the circle of Mrs.
Mangan's friends by reason of the triumph of Tishy.

"Ah, that was the day she cot the two birds under the one stone!"
Great-Aunt Cantwell (who did not care for her great-niece) was
accustomed to say. "Well! Such goings-on! And after all, Tishy's
nothing so much out of the way, for all Frankie Mangan thinks the
world should die down before her!"

The two birds referred to were still fluttering round their captor,
when a new element was added to the party in the large presence of
"Frankie Mangan" himself. The Big Doctor approached slowly,
elephant-like in his noiseless, rolling gait, impressive, as is an
elephant, in size, in the feeling he imparted of restrained strength,
of intense intelligence, masked, as in an elephant, with benevolence,
and held watchfully in reserve.

He now advanced upon the scene of festivity with purpose in his
manner.

"Now, ladies! Let me tell you I'm come on a very unpopular errand! To
apply the closure! I think you're all sitting out here long enough for
the time of year. Remember it's only May!"

"We're more likely to remember it's Mayn't!" retorted Mrs. Whelply,
who was a recognised wit, and opponent of the Big Doctor. "Isn't it
enough for him to bully us when we're sick, but he comes tormenting us
when we're well, too!"

Thus she appealed to her fellow-matrons, looking round upon them for
support with a festive eye.

"You'll none of you be well long, if you don't mind yourselves!"
answered, with equal spirit, the Doctor, with a quiet eye on his
daughter and her attendant swains.

"Why then I have a sore throat this minute with scolding Mr. Coppinger
for the nonsense he's talking!" declared Mrs. Whelply. "Asking me to
sing a cawmic at the concert he says he's going to have! There's no
fear but whatever _I_ sing will be cawmic enough!"

"I'm sure I'll have great pleasure in cauterising you!" responded the
Doctor, gallantly; "but if you'll take my advice now, you won't want
so much of it later on!"

"I thought you were going to take me on the river," said Tishy in a
low voice to Larry, looking resentfully at her father.

"I'll tell you what we'll do," said Larry, quickly; "much better than
the river--we'll go back to the house and dance! I'll fix it up with
your father!"

"Good egg!" said Sub-Lieut. Talbot-Lowry, with seaman-like decision,
"Miss Mangan will kindly note all waltzes are reserved for use of
naval officers!"

"Miss Mangan will kindly do no such thing!" returned that young lady,
dealing a flash from between her curled eyelashes that put the naval
officer temporarily out of action, so devastating was its effect.

Had not Frederica Coppinger, resting in her club in Dublin, after a
severe afternoon with her dentist, some intuition, some
spirit-warning, of what was befalling at the home of her ancestors? I
believe that those spear-thrusts of nerve-pain that assailed her just
before dinner, must have been the result of the wireless summons of
distress sent forth to her by her upper-housemaid.

"What next, I wonder, will Master Larry be asking for?" said the upper
housemaid to the cook. "The drawing-room carpet pitched into the
study, and Miss Coppinger's own room turned upside down for the
riff-raff of Cluhir to be powdering their noses in! 'Haven't she no
powder?' says they. 'No matter,' says the Doctor's daughter, 'sure I
have a book of it in me little bag!'"

"I wouldn't at all doubt her!" said the cook, saturninely, "But what's
the drawn'-room carpet to conjuring a supper out of me pocket in five
minutes? I ask you that, Eliza Hosford!"

None the less, with that deep loyalty to the honour of the house that
is a feature in Irish domestic life as wonderful as it is touching,
the staff of Coppinger's Court were resolved that--as they say in
China--the face of Master Larry should not be blackened, and The
Riff-Raff of Cluhir were served with a ceremony and a success that
left nothing to be desired.

Dr. Mangan sat in a very large armchair in front of a big fire of
logs, in the hall, and smoked meditatively, and was seemingly quite
unaware of the couples who moved past him between the dances, passing
out through the open hall-door into the moon-lit May night. He did not
even raise an eyelid when his daughter sailed by him, as she did many
times, with the ostentation of the young lady who is aware that her
prowess is the subject of comment, in company, alternately, with the
two captives of her bow and spear who had offered so feeble a
resistance to those weapons. Tishy and her father alike ascribed her
victory to that redoubtable and already creditably battle-scarred bow
and spear; they neither of them recognised the acknowledgments that
were due to a certain powerful ally, the May moon. She had stolen up
the sky at the back of the woods. The first Larry knew of her was the
vast, incredible, pale disc behind the topmost boughs of the pine
trees, so near that it seemed to him as though the crooked black
branches alone were holding her back, and that her white fire that was
pouring through them must consume them, "and then it will be our
turn," he said, seriously, and without preamble, to Tishy.

"Our turn for what?" asked Tishy, very naturally.

"Our turn to be resolved into moonshine. You'll see me fading away
into silver smoke in a minute," replied Larry. "Let's get out of this,
I'm getting frightened! Hold my hand tight!"

"Go on with your nonsense!" said Tishy. "And will you tell me how can
I hold your hand when it's round my waist?"

Which was reasonable enough, and may be taken as a sufficient
indication of what the moon was already responsible for.

A point of red light moved in the darkness above the seat under the
laurels, to which they were repairing, and the scent of a Virginian
cigarette was wafted to them.

"Who's that?" Tishy whispered, pressing nearer to Larry; but she was
agreeably certain that it was the gloomy and misanthropic Captain
Cloherty, whose place of refuge they had invaded.

Christian, meanwhile, unlike Captain Cloherty, was conscientiously
endeavouring to enjoy herself, and was finding that the wheels of the
chariot of pleasure drave heavily. That Barty Mangan was a good dancer
was an alleviation, but among those stigmatised by Eliza Hosford as
the riff-raff of Cluhir, those now forgotten measures of the first
years of this century, the prancing barn-dance, the capering
_pas-de-quatre_, lent themselves to a violence that, even at the
uncritical age of eighteen, Christian found overpowering. "They danced
like the Priests of Baal," she told Judith. "One expected to see them
cut themselves with knives!"

The information that the dog-cart had come for her was of the nature
of a release. Barty put her into it. The May moon shone on his pale
face as he looked up at Christian, and reverently took her hand in
farewell. She had begun to find his dark and humble devotion
oppressive; she liked him, which did not prevent her from thanking
heaven when he released her hand from a pressure that had lasted
longer than he knew. He stood on the gravel and watched the departing
dog-cart vanish, like a ghostly thing, into the elusive mist of
moonlight. The May moon, now sailing full overhead, looked with a
broad satisfaction on the hardest hit of her victims.



CHAPTER XIX


At intervals in all histories there comes a pause, in which the
moralities proper to the occasion are assembled, expounded and
expanded. Such a moment might now seem to have arrived, its theme
being the grain-of-mustard-seed-like character of the Cluhir picnic,
as compared with the events that subsequently dwelt in its branches,
nesting there, and raising up other events that flew far and wide,
farther and wider than they can here be followed. But since moralities
appeal only to the moral (to whom they are superfluous) it seems
advisable to proceed at once to the primary result, which was the
concert, that sprang like a Phoenix from the ashes of that fire on
which the picnic kettle was boiled.

The scheme had various appeals for its two chief promoters, young Mr.
Coppinger and Sub. Lieut. Talbot-Lowry, R.N. Immanent in it was the
necessity for frequent, almost for daily, visits to No. 6, The Mall,
Cluhir. For the former of these gentlemen, whose acquaintance with the
Mangan family was now of long, if of intermittent, familiarity, these
visits afforded a less thrilling emotion than they held for the
latter, who found himself honoured and welcomed in a degree to which
he was quite unaccustomed at home. Larry was not quite sure that he
approved of this blaze of social success for his young cousin. It is
one thing to receive, languidly, the adulation of those in whom such
adulation may be regarded as an indication of a widening horizon; but
when an equal veneration is lavished upon the junior and disdained
play-fellow of earlier years, the result is often a reconsideration of
values. The May madness that rose like a mist from the bluebells in
the woods of the Ownashee, and culminated in the magical light of the
full moon, began to lift from the spirit of young Mr. Coppinger,
leaving him, as he formulated it to himself (and found much
satisfaction in the formula) bereft, bored, and benignant. He was
quite prepared to retire gracefully in favour of Georgy, and was
pleased with the thought that his interest in Tishy had been merely
the outcome of a mood--_l'après-midi d'un faune_--so to speak.
There was something artistic in these transient emotions, and his
future, as at present determined, was to be devoted to art; certainly
not to Tishy Mangan. Yes, he would leave Tishy to Georgy; all but her
voice; in that, as an artist, he still retained an interest, the
interest of the _impresario_, whose search for stars is as
absorbing as is that of the astronomer in pursuits of new worlds.

The passion and energy of the promoter are, it may be supposed, born
in human beings in a certain proportion to those who are to become
their victims. In Larry, both qualities were highly developed, and in
no way did he prove the genuineness of his heaven-given _flair_
more surely than in his discovery and annexation of Christian, as that
rare and precious thing, a sympathetic and capable accompanist.

But although the thought of dwelling upon this and other of the
details of the Cluhir concert, is appealing, it must be dismissed. So
much has already been said in the hope that some further indications
as to the character and conduct of some of our young friends may have
been deduced; but now, certain glossings upon the household of Mount
Music must be inflicted, since it is with it, rather than with the
capabilities of young Mr. Coppinger's troupe, that we are mainly
occupied.

It is not easy to say whether the process of emergence from the sheath
of childhood, a condition that has characteristics more or less common
to us all, is more interesting to feel than to observe. In Christian's
case, the interest was felt exclusively by herself, her family being
healthily absorbed in the conjugation of the three primary verbs, to
be, to do, and to have, in relation, exclusively, to themselves, and
that merely from the skin outwards. Soul-processes and developments
were unknown to them in life, and were negligible in books. Lady
Isabel pursued her blameless way, doing nothing in particular,
diligently and unpunctually, and spending much time in writing long
and loving letters to those of her family who were no longer beneath
her wing, in that particular type of large loose handwriting whose
indefinite spikes stab to the heart any hope of literary interest. Who
shall say that she did not do her duty according to her lights? But
she was certainly quite unconscious of such matters as soul-processes.

Alone of the Mount Music children, Christian was aware of an inner
personality to be considered, some spirit that heard and responded to
those voices and intimations that, as a little child, she had accepted
as a commonplace of every day. By the time that she was sixteen the
voices had been discouraged, if not stilled, their intimations dulled;
but she had discovered her soul, and had discovered also, that it had
been born on the farther side of the river of life from the souls of
her brethren, and that although, for the first stages, the stream was
narrow, and the way on one bank very like that on the other, the two
paths were divided by deep water, and the river widened with the
passing years.

Richard, pursuing the usual course of Irish eldest sons, had adopted
the profession least adapted for young men of small means, and large
spending capacity, and had gone into his father's old regiment. John,
the zealot of an earlier day, was at Oxford, considering the Church;
Georgy's career has been announced, and the remaining twin had, with
the special predisposition of his family towards financial failure,
selected the profession of land-agent, in a country in which
peasant-proprietorship was already in the air, and would soon become
an accomplished fact.

There remains, to complete the family history, Judith, and she, now
aged twenty-one, was possibly the sole member of the house of
Talbot-Lowry for whom a successful future might confidently be
anticipated. Judith, a buccaneer by nature and by practice, was
habitually engaged in swash-bucklering it on a round of visits. She
was good-looking, tall, talkative, and an able player of all the games
proper to the state of life to which she had been called. She was a
competent guest, giving as much entertainment as she received, being
of those who contribute as efficiently indirectly, as directly, to
conversation, and are normally involved in one of those skirmishes of
the heart, that cannot be described as engagements, but that, none the
less, invest their heroines with an atmosphere of respect, and provide
hostesses with subjects of anxiety and interest. At an early age,
Christian was promoted by her elder sister to the position of
confidante, and justified the promotion by the happy mixture of
sympathy and cynicism with which she received the confidences. She was
now well versed in the brief passions that, beginning at the second or
third dance of a regimental ball, would, like some night-flowering
tropic blossom, arrive at full splendour by supper time, and would
expire languorously, to the strains of "God save the King." Christian,
though young, was, as had been said, a capable audience. She could
listen, with the severe and youthful grace that seemed to set her a
little apart from others of her standing, to the feats of Judith and
her fellow-blackguards, savouring and appraising the absurdities, and
her comments upon them were offered with a sympathetic and skilled
comprehension that excused her in Judith's eyes for her lack of
ambition to emulate them.

Dick Talbot-Lowry had ceased to boast of the predominance of the
masculine gender among his offsprings, and rarely alluded to his sons
without coupling with their names a vigorous statement of how far in
excess of their value was their cost, usually ending with an enquiry
into the dark rulings of Providence, who had bestowed an expensive
family with one hand, and with the other had taken away the means of
supporting it. Dick was sixty-four now, an unhappy moment in a dashing
and artless career, with the shadow of advancing old age blighting and
reproving the still ardent enjoyment of the pleasures of youth.

"I'm an old man now!" Dick would say, without either feeling or
meaning it, and would bitterly resent the failure of his sons to
contradict a statement with which they were in complete agreement.
Only Christian, "of all his halls had nursed," tried to maintain her
father in a good conceit of himself, and to "rise his heart"; but
there are few hearts for which it is more difficult to perform that
office than the heart of a man, who, having ever (as King David says)
taken pleasure in the strength of horses, and delighted in his own
legs, is beginning to find that the former have become too strong, and
the latter too weak for either comfort or confidence.

And not these things only were troubling Dick. The common lot of Irish
landlords, and Pterodactyli, was upon him, and he was in process of
becoming extinct. It was his fate to see his income gradually
diminishing, being eaten away, as the sea eats away a bulwark-less
shore, by successive Acts of Parliament, and the machinery they
created, "for the purpose," as old Lord Ardmore was fond of
fulminating, of "pillaging loyal Peter in order to pamper rebel Paul!"
The opinion of very old, and intolerant, and indignant peers cannot
always be taken seriously, but it is surely permissible to feel a
regret for kindly, improvident Dick Talbot-Lowry, his youth and his
income departing together, and the civic powers that he had once
exercised, reft from him. Such power as he had had, he had exercised
honourably and with reverent confidence in precedent, and when he had
damned Parnell, and had asserted, in stentorian tones, that Cromwell
was the only man who had ever known how to govern Ireland, and he,
unfortunately, was now in hell; where, the Major would add, he was
probably better off, his contribution to constructive politics had
ended. He and his generation, reactionary almost to a man, instead of
attempting to ride the waves of the rising tide, subscribed their
guineas to construct breakwaters that were pathetic in their futility.
Gallant in resistance, barren in expedient, history may condemn the
folly of the. Old Guard of the "English Garrison," but it cannot deny,
even though it may deride, its fidelity.



CHAPTER XX


Lady Isabel Talbot-Lowry had invited what is concisely spoken of as
"people" to tea and tennis. The month was June, but the weather was
March, or at best, a sullen and overcast April. The purport of the
entertainment had been the exhibition, to rival amateurs, of the Mount
Music herbaceous borders, which, though "not looking quite their
best," were as nearly approximating to that never-achieved ideal, as
is ever the case with either gardens or children; but showers of chill
rain had marred the display, and the lawn tennis was fitful, and
subject to frequent interruption. In these circumstances, a fire of
turf and logs did not need apologies for its presence, and Lady Isabel
and her companion Heads of Households sat with it as their focal
point, and thought, as they saw the players flitting to and fro
between the showers, and the house, and the lawn tennis grounds, that
middle age had privileges that were not to be despised.

The long and lofty drawing-room of Mount Music was a pleasant place
enough, even on this showery day. Some five or six generations of
Talbot-Lowrys had lived in it, and left their marks on it, and though
the indelible hand of Victoria, in youthful vigour, had had, perhaps,
the most perceptible influence on it as a whole, the fancies and
fashions of Major Dick's great-grandmother still held their places. An
ottoman, large as a merry-go-round at a fair, immovable as an island,
occupied, immutably, the space in the centre of the room immediately
under a great cut-glass chandelier. Facing it was the fireplace, an
affair of complicated design, with "Nelson ropes" and knots, and
coils, in worked and twisted brass, and deep hobs, in whose
construction the needs of a punch-kettle had not been forgotten. Above
it, a high, delicately-inlaid marble mantelpiece, brought from Italy
by Dick's great-grandfather, was surmounted by a narrow ledge of
marble, just wide enough to support the base of a Georgian mirror of
flamboyant design, in whose dulled and bluish depths were reflected
the row of old white china birds, that were seated, each on its own
rock, on the shelf in front of it. Family portraits in frames whose
charm of design and colour made atonement for the indifference of the
painting, alternated with brown landscapes in which castles, bridges,
and impenetrable groves were dimly to be discovered through veils of
varnish; flotillas of miniatures had settled, like groups of flies,
wherever on the crowded walls foothold could be found, and
water-colours, pencil-drawings, and photographs, rilled any remaining
space. There were long and implacable sofas, each with its
conventional sofa-table in front of it; Empire _consoles_, with
pieces of china incredibly diverse in style, beauty, and value,
jostling each other on the marble slabs; woolwork screens, worked by
forgotten aunts and grandmothers, chairs of every known breed, and
tables, tables everywhere, and not a corner on one of them on which
anything more could be deposited. The claims of literature were
acknowledged, but without enthusiasm. A tall, glass-fronted cupboard,
inaccessibly placed behind the elongated tail of an early grand piano,
was filled with ornate miniature editions of the classics, that would
have defied an effort--had such ever been made--to remove them from
their shelves, whereon they had apparently been bedded in cement, like
mosaic. It was a room that, in its bewildering diversity, might have
broken the hearts of housemaids or decorators; untidy, without plan,
with rubbish contending successfully with museum-pieces, with the past
and present struggling in their eternal rivalry; yet, a human place, a
place full of the magnetism that is born of past happiness, a place to
which all its successive generations of sons and daughters looked back
with that softening of the heart that comes, when in, perhaps, a
far-away country, memories of youth return, and with them the thought
of home. The ladies who, constant to the saner pleasures of
conversation and tea, had disposed themselves round and about Lady
Isabel's tea-table, were of the inner circle of the friends of the
house, and owned, as is usually the case where habits and environment
are practically identical, a common point of view, and no more
diversity of opinion than is enough to stimulate conversation. Such of
them as had compelled husbands or sons to accompany them, had shaken
them off at the lawn tennis ground, and though loud cawings from the
hall indicated that certain of the more elderly males had congregated
there, the ladies in the drawing-room had, so far, been "unmolested by
either the young people or the men."

Thus, Miss Frederica Coppinger phrased it to those of her allies with
whom she was now holding sweet communion. The allies, albeit separated
by intervals of from five to ten miles of rough and often hilly road,
met with sufficient frequency to keep touch, yet not often enough to
crush the ultimate fragrance from the flower of gossip. Their most
recent meeting had taken place at the concert, which had been Larry's
last achievement before his return to Oxford, and although they had
not been oppressively hampered by the convention of silence at such
entertainments, conversation had been necessarily somewhat thwarted.

"They made quite a useful little sum at Larry's concert," said
Frederica. "Local charities--which meant the Fowl Fund, of course--and
Mr. Cotton and Father Greer. Dick said he would not support it if his
old women were not helped--abominable cheats though most of them are!"

"I _feel_ for them!" said Mrs. Kirby, intensely. "_No_ one
knows the misery and the beggary inflicted on me by the foxes that
Bill encourages about the place!"

A sympathetic imagination enabled her friends to realise the misery
and beggary which Mrs. Kirby's exceedingly cheerful and prosperous
appearance concealed. Both groaned appropriately, and Miss Coppinger
made the sweeping statement that she detested hunting in _all_
its ramifications. "We are always told that its great merit is that it
brings all classes together," she continued. "In _my_ opinion
that is a very dubious advantage, if, indeed, it is not a draw-back!"

Mrs. Kirby permitted her glance to commune for a brief instant with
that of the third lady, Mrs. St. George.

"Like mixed concerts!" said Mrs. St. George, in a deep and awful
voice.

"Mixed pickles!" murmured Mrs. Kirby, and chuckled at her jest.

Miss Frederica flushed.

"My dear Louisa," she said, resentfully, "I am perfectly aware of
their disadvantages, but I should be obliged to you if you would tell
me what I am to do! It is the difference in religion that makes me
powerless. Powerless!" she repeated looking almost with triumph upon
her companions, so irrefutable was her case.

"I hope I'm not a bigot," said Mrs. St. George impressively; "but I
thank God I'm not a Roman Catholic!"

"'Not as other men are'!" quoted Miss Coppinger, with some acidity.
Even though she agreed with the sentiment, she could not forget that
Larry was her nephew.

"Oh, it isn't the actual _religion_ I was thinking of," said Mrs.
St. George, rather hurriedly, Larry's disadvantages having temporarily
escaped her memory. "It was rather--well--"


"For boys it doesn't matter so much," broke in Mrs. Kirby, "but I
really _did_ dislike seeing Christian on the platform with that
party!"

"She was only playing accompaniments," said Miss Coppinger still
resentful.

"That only made it worse! If she had sung a solo it would have been
less humiliating," replied Mrs. Kirby, with a masterly change of
front. "I was indignant! Christian, with her charming voice, only
playing accompaniments and singing in the glees, and that unendurable
Mangan girl posing as the Prima Donna, and oh! her clothes!"

"Or her want of them!" interposed Mrs. St. George, on a profound bass
note.

"And her songs! I don't profess to know much about music, but I
_do_ know what I like!" continued Mrs. Kirby with the finality
and decision that usually accompany the admission. "People may tell me
she has a fine voice, but I _detest_ enormous contralto voices!
_What_ I suffered during the last thing she sang as an encore!
And that final yell of 'Asthore'! at least an octave below her voice!
I could only think of the bellow of the cow that jumped over the
moon!"

"What made _me_ indignant," said Mrs. St. George, in emulous
depreciation, ignoring this flight of fancy, "was their not having
'God save the King'! A cowardly concession to the Gaelic League, of
course! I really think that Georgy, who is in the Navy, might have
insisted upon it!"

"They did discuss it," said Frederica, forced by her friend into the
position of devil's advocate, "but they were afraid of the sixpenny
seats. The Mangans said that there would inevitably be rows. They have
had to give up having it at anything now."

This was unanswerable, and Mrs. St. George tacitly accepted defeat.

"I believe that young Mangan is simply a _Rebel_" resumed Mrs.
Kirby, portentously. "Bill thinks he'll go too far some day, and the
police will _have_ to take notice of him. But with the Government
yielding and pandering--"

Here, at least, was a subject on which all three disputants were in
complete agreement. Wolfe Tone or Robert Emmet could hardly have
abhorred the Government of England more heartily than did these three
respectable, law-abiding, unalterably-Unionist ladies, and for some
time the more recent enormities of the rule upon which they
theoretically bestowed their unshakable, allegiance, took precedence
of Miss Mangan as a subjct of disapproval.

"Nevertheless," summed up Mrs. St. George gloomily at the end of a
sweeping condemnation, "we must submit. We can do nothing. As Courtney
says, _we_ can't cut off cows' tails and shoot our tenants for
not paying their rent! _He_ says--"

Colonel St. George's further views were lost in the entrance of the
lawn tennis players, rain-sprinkled, heated, bringing with them a
lively aroma of trodden grass and wet flannel, and convinced of their
superiority to those who had sought shelter, and were now (to quote
Miss Talbot-Lowry) soddenly eating all the hot cakes. Judith had
recently returned from one of her forays, and had not spared her
family her views on the _rapprochement_ with the musical world of
Cluhir that the concert had involved. She was now seated with Bill
Kirby on a secluded sofa in a corner of the long drawing-room, and was
entertaining that deeply-enamoured young man with her accustomed
fluency.

Mr. Kirby, having petted and patronised Judith in her youth, when he
was still nine years older than she, had, since her recent return,
awakened to the fact that this difference in age had been mysteriously
obliterated, and that at present, Judith was not only his superior in
intelligence, but also in all those subsidiary matters in which age is
generally and erroneously believed to confer an advantage.

"If it had even been a good concert," Judith remarked, gobbling tea
and cake with a heartiness that, taken in connection with an admirable
complexion and very clear blue eyes, was in itself attractive to a
hungry young man, "I could have borne it better. But it was absolutely
deadly--all but just our own people's turns, of course--a sort of
lyrical geography--the map of Ireland set to music! Bantry Bay,
Killarney, the Mountains of Somewhere, the Waters of Somewhere else,
all Irish, of course! I get so sick of Ireland and her endearing young
charms--and all the entreaties to Erin to remember! As if she ever
forgot!"

"She remembers her enemies, all right," rejoined Bill Kirby, gloomily,
"but she forgets her friends! I know someone who hasn't got any
enemies to remember, but she's just like Ireland in one way!"

"What way?" demanded Judith, "and who do you mean?"

"You know very well who I mean! And the reason she is like Ireland is
that she forgets her friends! People who use to give her leads out
hunting when she was a little girl and never forgot _her_!"

"In the first place, I deny it, and in the second place, serves them
right if she does forget them," replied Judith tranquilly; "I don't
know the injured beings you refer to but I _do_ know my own
family. I take my eye off them for five minutes, and I come home to
find they have not only forgotten my existence, but they have plunged
into the heart of that appalling Cluhir crowd, and are indignant with
me--at least the boys and papa are--because I don't do the same!
Strange as it may appear, _I_ like nice people!"

"I wasn't talking of your family," said Bill Kirby morosely, "Hang it
all. _I'm_ quite a nice person, and haven't plunged into the
heart of Cluhir, but it's only by sort of accident, like this, that
you will ever say a word to me!"

"You'd better insure against accidents of this kind!" said Judith, who
was frankly enjoying herself; "and if you choose to renounce the
charms of Cluhir, you needn't make a virtue of it! Perhaps they don't
want you! They mayn't realise what a nice person you are! Would you
like me to explain to Tishy Mangan--"

Bill Kirby, who was possessed of good brown eyes and a profile like a
handsome battle-axe, was a young man of no special intellectual gifts,
but the sound judgment that distinguished him in the hunting-field was
wont to stand his friend in other emergencies. He was entirely aware
that he was no match for Judith in debate, but he was also aware that
deeds sometimes speak louder than words. He attempted no spoken reply,
but after a wary glance round the room, he permitted his large, brown
hand to descend upon and envelop Judith's, that rested on the sofa
beside him.

"You know you're talking rot," he murmured, cautiously. "No, don't
struggle. If you say things like that, you've got to be punished. Are
you sorry?"

"Not in the least!" replied Judith, with an equal caution; "but you
will be, soon! Mrs. St. George is looking at you!" The battle-axe
profile of Mr. Kirby betrayed no hint of the situation.

"Keep quiet, and say you're sorry! _I_ don't mind sitting here
all the afternoon--like this," he added, with a slight additional
pressure.

"I shall count three," said Judith suavely, "and then I shall ask you
in a loud, clear voice to get me another cup of tea. One--"

Further developments of the situation need not be attempted, the more
so as at this juncture the entrance of two uninvited guests caused a
redistribution of seats, whose most marked feature was the creation of
a desert space round the new arrivals and their hostess.

It would perhaps be irregular to say that the Reverend Matthew and
Mrs. Cotton were the incumbents of the parish church of Cluhir (and
had been profanely described as "the incumbrance of Cluhir"); even to
speak of them as, respectively, its curate and its rector, might,
though more accurate, be, perhaps, considered flippant. It would also
be open to the reproach of lack of originality. Yet, unoriginal though
the dominant clergywoman of fiction may be, it cannot be denied that
St. Paul's injunctions in connection with the subjection of wives did
not commend themselves to Mrs. Cotton. It may be, indeed, that her
views on matrimony, being more instructed, were sounder than those of
St. Paul, and she could at least argue that had he been acquainted
with Mr. Cotton he might have modified them. In any case, whatever St.
Paul might think about it, Mrs. Cotton was quite sure that she was
better fitted than was her husband to deal with the matter that had
brought them to Mount Music.

She did not, however, as becomes a sound tactician, approach the point
with undue directness. Lady Isabel had sent her daughters to school in
Paris; Lady Isabel had, on a bygone occasion, been goaded by Mrs.
Cotton into a declaration that her servants' religion was a matter
with which she only concerned herself if they neglected their
religious duties. Mrs. Cotton, remembering these things and being ever
filled to brimming with what Christian has called The Spirit of the
Nation, opened with a general attack upon the Church of Rome, and
narrowed to a tale of "a friend of mine and Mr. Cotton's. A clergyman.
A man of private means." After this stimulating prelude, the tale
ceased for a moment, while Mrs. Cotton blinked her small black eyes at
her hostess, several times, as was her practice. "Oh, a very wealthy
man!" she continued, imposingly, "and he bought a lovely house, with a
garden; a lovely garden!" The thought of a garden was a fortunate one,
and enlisted Lady Isabel's wandering attention. "But at the end of the
garden what was there but a Nunnery. And the clergyman found that his
daughters were always slipping out into the garden, and what was it
but the nuns that were getting hold of the girls! Very refined women
they were, and well able to deceive young girls!" The tale was flowing
swiftly now, but Mrs. Cotton paused dramatically, and continued on a
lower key. "The clergyman had had bookshelves made to fit the study,
and a splendid antique sideboard to fitanitch--" Mrs. Cotton spoke
fast, and the last three words ran bewilderingly into one. "But he
sold the house AT ONCE! Yes, indeed, Lady Isabel! Weren't his
daughters' souls more to him than bookshelves?"

Lady Isabel, who was still wrestling with the apparently Russian
problem in connection with the antique sideboard, attempted no reply
to this inquiry, and Mrs. Cotton, considering that her hostess' mind
was now sufficiently prepared, did not wait for her opinion, and swept
on to her objective, which was the denunciation of the conduct of the
recent concert, and more especially of the disposition of the
proceeds. "Of course, _I_ don't know in whose hands it lay, Lady
Isabel," she said, raising her tea cup to her lips, and in order to do
so curtaining it behind her ample veil, "but the Roman Catholics
seemed to consider that it was _all_ to go to them, and the
paltry sum I have mentioned was all they gave Mr. Cotton and me for
_our_ charities!" Her black eyes snapped nenacingly at Lady
Isabel over the rim of the veiled tea cup.

Lady Isabel uttered a soothing and indefinite murmur, and the
indictment proceeded.

"Considering that _your_ family, Lady Isabel, took a leading part
in the programme, and that I may say the greater number of the
half-crown seats were Protestants, I _do_ think that _our_
Church--"

It avails not to follow Mrs. Cotton's diatribes further. Lady Isabel
had lived for some five and twenty years in Ireland, but they had not
sufficed to expound to her the intricacies of the web of jealousies,
hatreds, fears, and stupidities, that has been spun by that intolerant
Spirit of the Nation, in order to separate, as far as may be, the two
Churches who divide the kindly people of the Island of Saints between
them. Lady Isabel might see that in the distribution of the spoils
Mrs. Cotton had possibly a lawful grievance, but she could not, even
after five and twenty years, quite understand how solacing to the soul
of Mrs. Cotton was the consideration of the wrongs endured by her
Church.

"Yes, indeed, Lady Isabel! Not one penny more! And then Dr. Mangan to
say to Mr. Cotton when I sent him to complain about it, that it was
better than a poke in the eye with a blunt stick! That was by the way
of making a joke of it! And that the Hunt wanted it more than we did!
I wonder how much Father Greer left the Hunt!"

Again Mrs. Cotton's beady eyes snapped several times, in an emotion
that was not far from enjoyment. The iniquities of Father Greer were
very dear to her, and she was confident that in this matter of
dividing the spoil he had not disappointed her.

Passing on from the concert, Mrs. Cotton dealt with many subjects in a
harangue that turned the seamy side of Cluhir to the sun, with the
skill of a buyer of old clothes. Lady Isabel, behind the prisoning
tea-table, after a hopeless, helpless glance round an assembly that
was either preoccupied or wilfully blind, relapsed into the brain
stupor that was sometimes sent, like an anodyne, to those whom fate
had consigned to Mrs. Cotton's keeping. The Reverend Matthew, in whom
a prolonged course of his wife had developed a condition, when in her
society, of semi-hypnotic trance, sat in silence at his hostess' side,
devouring cake, and swallowing cups of tea, until what had apparently
been starvation was averted; he then dreamily withdrew, and joined
himself vaguely, to the group of which Miss Coppinger formed one.
Frederica's early training had, as has been said, implanted in her an
ineradicable interest in the Church. Even the dulled, almost
obliterated personality of Mr. Cotton still held for her some of the
magic of his cloth. She moved her chair to admit him to the fellowship
of which she was one, and offered him the seat that had been hastily
vacated by Mrs. Kirby on his approach, with a darkling eye of reproof
at that experienced lady.

Conversation with Mr. Cotton resembled conversation with his wife, in
that it was apt to be one-sided, life having taught him to take the
side not patronised by Mrs. Cotton. When, however, severed from her,
he was capable of imparting rudimentary fragments of fact, and one of
these he now offered to Miss Coppinger.

"I hear your nephew is the candidate chosen by the Nationalists here
for the next election, Miss Coppinger," he said, his pale eyes
regarding her drearily over the top of his spectacles.

Frederica sat erect in her chair with a jerk, and a hot red sprang,
like a danger-signal, to her face.

"I've heard nothing of it," she said stoutly, but with a leaping heart
of horror. "How do you know it is the case?"

"It is commonly reported in the town," replied Mr. Cotton, "One hears
these things--"

"I can't believe it--I can't believe it," said Frederica; the colour
had left her cheeks, and her eyes hurried from Mr. Cotton's face to
Mrs. St. George's, and roved on to Mrs. Kirby, who was seated near,
and had evidently felt the wind of the shot.

"Why, the boy is only just twenty-one!" said Mrs. Kirby, rolling
herself and her chair back into action to the support of her friend.
"With all deference to you, Mr. Cotton, I don't believe a word of it!
Of course, Larry would have told you, Frederica! I can well believe
that those Gaelic League people would like to have him if they can get
him! Depend upon it, the wish is father to the thought!"

Frederica made no reply; her lips were tightly compressed, and her
unseeing eyes, though they appeared to be fixed on Mrs. Kirby's broad
and friendly face, were looking along the paths of memory to the time
when that barrier of ice had not arisen between her and Larry.

"I understand that the suggestion emanated from Dr. Mangan," went on
Mr. Cotton, faintly stimulated by his unaccustomed success. "I am not
aware if young Mr. Coppinger has made any reply."

Mrs. Kirby put her plump white hand on Frederica's narrow knee. "I
shouldn't distress myself if I were you, my dear," she said in a low
voice. "Quite possibly it's all a mistake--" She turned to Mr.
Cotton, who was relapsing into trance; his eyes had followed the
movement of her hand, and were being held, hypnotically, by the
sparkle of the diamonds in her rings. "At all events," went on Mrs.
Kirby, "a general election now is very unlikely, and our valued
member--upon my word, I don't even remember his name!--isn't likely to
resign in Larry's favour, so we needn't discuss it now! I am sure, Mr.
Cotton, that you will agree with me, that the less said about it the
better; most probably the whole thing will die out and come to
nothing!" She glanced at Mrs. St. George, and perceiving that the news
had shattered her in only less degree than Frederica, she continued to
address Mr. Cotton, "Such weather! Isn't it? How does your garden like
all this rain, Mr. Cotton? Our strawberries _won't_ ripen, and as
for the poor hay--! You really ought to have prayers for fine
weather for us next Sunday!"

Mr. Cotton recalled his eyes from the diamonds with an effort. "I
will, if you like, Mrs. Kirby!" he said, looking at her, like an old
horse, down his long, deplorable nose, "but I fear they will be not of
much use, as the glawss is remorkably low!"

Prayers for the modification of the weather are often treated as a
permissible subject for mirth, and Mrs. Kirby availed herself of the
convention; even Frederica and Mrs. St. George, stricken though they
were, smiled wanly.



CHAPTER XXI


At about this time, that imposing spectacle, once described by Mrs.
Twomey as "The Big Doctor and little Danny Aherne walking the streets
of Cluhir like two paycocks," was vouchsafed to the town rather more
frequently than was usually the case. Dr. Aherne had sent a patient,
who was no less a person than the priest of the parish of Pribawn, to
the private ward of the Infirmary in Cluhir, where he would, among
other advantages, receive daily visits from Dr. Mangan. Father Sweeny
was suffering from a broken leg, and other damages; a midnight drive
to a dying parishioner had ended, disastrously, in an unguarded
road-side ditch, and Dr. Aherne had thought it best to consign a
patient of such importance to the care of hands less occupied, as well
as of higher renown, than his own.

Thus it was that the Big Doctor and his kinsman saw more of each other
than is often possible for men whose work is as widespread and
incessant as is that of Irish Dispensary Doctors. On this windy June
morning they had met in the dreary yard of the Workhouse, to which the
Infirmary was attached, and together they paced the long, whitewashed,
slate-paven passages that led to the Infirmary, pausing at intervals
to talk of matters quite unconnected with their patients, but, if the
frequency of the pauses, filled by the sibilant whispers of the little
doctor, and the deep growls of the big one, was any criterion, none
the less absorbing.

"His name's been accepted," ended the Big Doctor, after the lengthiest
of these, "and it would be no harm for you to be slipping in a word,
now and again, with the people through the country, according as you'd
get the chance, Danny."

"I will, I will," replied the little doctor, as he opened the door of
Father Sweeny's room.

"You're doing very well, Father," said Dr. Mangan, his inspection of
the patient ended. "I consider you couldn't be progressing more
satisfactorily." He seated himself by Father Tim Sweeny's bedside,
while the Nursing Sister-in-Charge rolled up bandages, and conferred
in lowered tones with Dr. Aherne, on the subject of what he called the
patient's "dite."

"You'll be going as strong as ever you did in a few weeks' time,"
continued Dr. Mangan, encouragingly.

Father Sweeny returned the Doctor's look morosely.

"I'm sick and tired of being here as it is," he said, gloomily, "and
you talk to me of weeks!"

"Ah, they'll pass, never fear they'll pass!" said the Big Doctor,
cheerfully. "I never saw the weeks yet that didn't pass if you waited
long enough! And I wouldn't say but that you mightn't go home before
you're out of our hands entirely."

Father Sweeny received these consolations with an unpropitiated grunt.
His large face, with its broad cheeks and heavy double-chins, that was
usually of a sanguine and all pervasive beefy-red, now hung in pallid
purple folds, on which dark bristles, that were as stiff as those on
the barrel of a musical box, told that the luxury of shaving had
hitherto been withheld. There are some professions that tend more than
others to grade the men that follow them into distinct types. The Sea
is one of these, the Church, and pre-eminently the Church of Rome, is
another. The ecclesiastical types vary no less than the nautical ones,
and neither need here be enumerated. It is sufficient to say that
Father Sweeny, when in his usual robust health, in voice, in
appearance, and in manner, provoked, uncontrollably, a comparison with
a heavy and truculent black bull.

"'Tis highly inconvenient to me to be boxed up in bed this way, at
this time," said Father Sweeny, with a small hot eye upon his
attendant nun that would have said instantly to any one less entirely
kind, religious, and painstaking, that he had no immediate need of her
services; "Sister Maria Joseph, I wonder would you be so kind as to
bring me the paper? I didn't see it to-day at all."

Sister Maria Joseph turned her amiable, unruffled face, with that pure
complexion that would seem to be one of the compensations for the
renunciation of the world, towards her patient, and said,
obsequiously:

"I beg your pordon, Fawther?"

The little eyes had a hotter sparkle as Father Sweeny repeated his
request.

"It's a wonder to me," he growled to Dr. Mangan, after Sister Maria
Joseph had left the room, having taken, in her anxiety to show
respect, quite half a minute in closing the door with suitable
noiselessness, "why people can't attend to what's said to them! If
there's a thing I hate, it's being bothered repeating an entirely
trivial matter, which--"--here Father Tim's voice began to take on
the angry, high tenor of one of his prototypes--"she had a right to
have heard at the first offer! I declare I'm beside meself sometimes
with the annoyance I get!"

Dr. Mangan laid his spatulate fingers upon the sufferer's hairy wrist.

"We'll have to give his Reverence a sedative, Danny," he said, winking
at his colleague. "I'd be sorry to see you that way, Father; the bed's
narrow enough for you as it is, without having you beside yourself in
it!"

Father Sweeny's mood was one to which chaff did not commend itself. He
snatched his hand from beneath the Doctor's fingers, and picked up
some letters that lay beside him.

"Look at this, I ask you! From Mary Murphy, saying her husband is
quite well, and that he took the turn for good from the minute he was
anointed! And me lying here crippled!"

"'The dog it was that died!'" quoted Dr. Mangan, smoothly.

"What dog?" demanded Father Sweeny, with indignation, "I d'no what
you're talking about!"

"Ah, nothing, nothing," said the Big Doctor, with a lift of the spirit
at the thought of his superior culture, "but surely it wasn't to show
me Mary Murphy's letter that you sent poor Sister Maria Joseph on a
fool's errand?"

"Why a fool's errand?" demanded the now incensed Father Sweeny. "What
d'ye mean?"

"Look at the newspaper on the floor here," returned the Doctor.
"You'll have her back in a minute, begging your pardon again, to tell
you so."

Father Sweeny glared, speechless, at his tormentor for an instant;
then, rinding the Big Doctor unmoved "in the furnace of his look," he
fell back on his pillows.

"Lock the door!" he commanded angrily. He pushed a letter into the
Doctor's hand. "Read that!"

"Hullo! The Major! What's _he_ got to say to you, Father Tim?"

"Read it, I tell you!"

Dr. Mangan did so, with attention, and read it a second time before he
replaced it in its envelope and handed it back to the priest.

"That's a nice letter!" said Father Sweeny, with a snort that he
believed to be a laugh. "What d'ye think of that now, you that are so
fond of Protestants!"

"I think the man is justified," said the Doctor, stoutly. "There's no
such great hurry, and anyhow, his authority is at an end. He couldn't
give you as much as'd sod a lark now--"

"Nor he wouldn't if he could!" broke in Father Sweeny. "And there
_is_ hurry, and great hurry! How will I build my chapel without
the land to put it on? Will you tell me that?"

"Ah, you haven't the money gathered yet. The delay isn't worth
exciting yourself about!" said the Doctor, soothingly. Father Tim
amused him, and he liked him, being well aware that if his temper was
hot, his heart was correspondingly warm. "You'll see the young chap
will give you the site as soon as look at you."

"And how do I know the young chap will be any easier than the old one?
Isn't he there at Mount Music all day and every day, at their
tea-parties and their dinner-parties? Won't they have him married up
to one of the daughters before you can look around? He may call
himself a Catholic, but them English Catholics--COME IN!"

Sister Maria Joseph's faint tap at the door had as instant an effect
as a squib, planted in the mane of the monarch of the bull-ring, might
produce.

"I cannt--the door's locked, Fawther!" came Sister Maria Joseph's
gentle voice, in mild protest. "I couldn't find the--"

"Never mind it! I have it myself--_I have it_, I tell you!"
shouted Father Tim; in his voice the appeal to a merciful Heaven to
grant patience was unmistakable.

Sister Maria Joseph, recognising with trembling her superfluousness,
withdrew.

"It's Barty will have that job we were speaking of just now, before
you were coaxing Sister Maria Joseph to go away from you," resumed Dr.
Mangan. "Maybe you didn't hear he's got the Coppinger's Court Agency?
Young Coppinger offered it to him yesterday."

"It's a good thing it's out of Talbot-Lowry's hands anyhow," growled
Father Sweeny.

"Larry's up at my house every day now, about a concert they're to
have," went on the Doctor, tranquilly. "Tishy's helping him. He's very
fond of music. I think you're mistaken in thinking he'll be married to
one of the Major's daughters in such a hurry!"

"The first thing he'll want to do is to tidy up his property and
pacify the tenants," said Dr. Aherne, in his small, piping voice.
"They're not too pleased with the way they are now. The Major was
rather short with some of them, now and again. There was Herlihy, and
two of the Briens, was talking to me and saying what would they do at
all with Father Tim here, away. They were thinking would Father
Hogan--"

"Br-r-r-r-r-h!"

As a bull shakes his head, with a reverberating roar at the foes he
cannot reach, so did Father Tim Sweeny, crippled and furious, roll his
big head, growling, on his pillows. His dark hair lay in tight rings
on his broad and bulging forehead, and curled in strength over his
head back to the tonsure. His eyes were congested with the unavailing
rage that possessed him, as he thought of his parish left leaderless.

Had the "Ballad of the Bull" then been written, and had Dr. Mangan
been acquainted with it (which seems unlikely) he might have again
proved his culture by remembering the injunction to pity "this fallen
chief," as he saw the impotent wrath in Father Tim's bovine
countenance.

"Don't worry yourself now, Father," he said, consolingly, "I'll
undertake to say it will be all right about the site for the chapel,
and what's more, I'll undertake to say there'll be nothing done about
it, or the tenants, or anything else, till you're well. The people
will do nothing without you!"

He looked at his huge, old-fashioned gold watch.

"Oh, b' Jove, I must be off! Tell me, did you hear they have Larry
Coppinger chosen to be the candidate, when Prendergast retires, as he
says he will, before the next election? There won't be much talk of
tea-parties for Larry at Mount Music then! Any tea-party there that
he'd go to once he was a Nationalist M.P., I think he'd be apt to get
'his tay in a mug!'"

The Doctor got up and moved towards the door.

"I'll support him, so!" Father Sweeny called after him.



CHAPTER XXII


There are families, as there are nations, that are like those ships
that, launched under a lucky star, sail their appointed courses ever
serenely and eventlessly, and though they may indeed look on tempests,
yet are never shaken by them. But of such was not, it must regretfully
be said, the family of Talbot-Lowry. It can only be supposed that the
gods had preordained its destruction, for on no other assumption can
the dementia of its chief representative be comprehended. It would be
out of place, even, if not impertinent, absurd, to discuss here the
Act of Parliament that in the year nineteen hundred and three, made
provision to change the ownership of Irish land, and to transfer its
possession from the landlords to the tenants. It is sufficient to say
that those of both classes who were endowed with the valuable quality
of knowing on which side of a piece of bread the butter had been
applied, lost as little time as was possible in availing themselves of
the facilities that the Act offered them. The ceremony of Hari Kiri,
even if entered upon with the belief that it will lead to another and
a better world, is not an agreeable one, but it was obvious to most
Irish landlords that, with bad or good grace, sooner or later, that
grim rite had to be faced, and that the hindmost in the transaction
need expect only the fate proverbially promised to such. It is,
possibly, superfluous to say that of the company of the hindmost was
our poor friend, well-meaning and stupid Dick Talbot-Lowry, and also
that his fate, as such, was sedulously pointed out to him by those
friends of his own class, who, like the fabled fox, having lost their
brushes, were eager in explanation of the superiority of their
position.

"I don't own a stick outside my own demesne wall!" says Colonel St.
George. "Of all the hundreds of acres of mountain that my father had,
there isn't as much as one patch of bog left that I could cut a sod of
turf in!"

This whisk of a vanished brush was a gesture well calculated to enrage
Major Dick. It was senseless of St. George to boast of his
limitations, and yet no one better than Dick knew what must be the
feeling of emancipation that prompted the boast.

Autocracy dies hard, and it is probable that long after Leagues of
Nations have decreed the abolition of all Rulers, the Autocrat of the
Breakfast Table will still, in the most inveterate Republics, issue,
unquestioned, his unalterable edicts, with his coat-tails monopolising
the dining-room fire, and the family income concentrated in his cheque
book. Dick Talbot-Lowry's pigheadedness was at the root of the
downsliding of Mount Music. Having faced, undaunted, deputations of
his tenants; deputations of public bodies; ("Damned interfering
blackguards, who ought to be taught to mind their own business!"),
having made light of advice from his friends, and of anonymous
threatening letters from, presumably, his enemies, he still held fast,
and refused to sell the property that had come to him from the men
whose portraits had looked down on him from the old walls of Mount
Music, all the days of his life. It was, perhaps, the solitary strand
of romance in his nature, the feudal feeling that the Mount Music
tenants were his, as they had been his ancestors', to have and to
hold, to rule, to arbitrate for, and to stand by, as a fond and
despotic husband rules and stands by an obedient wife, loving her and
bullying her (but both entirely for her good). He had, moreover, the
desire to disparage and to disprove new ideas, that is a sign of a
mind incapable of originality, and anxious to assert itself
negatively, since it must otherwise remain silent.

"But Dick," his friends would say, "there isn't a property this side
of the county that isn't sold, except your own!"

"What's that to me?" says Dick, as stubborn and stupid a King Canute
as ever sat with the tide nearing the tops of his hunting-boots; "I
don't care a damn what anybody else does! And what's more," he would
add, gloomily, "_I_ can't afford to sell at seventeen years'
purchase. Anyhow, what's mine's my own! I'll be shot if I'll be
bullied!"

"I wouldn't be at all surprised if you were!" the friends would reply
darkly.

To sell at seventeen years' purchase, was what Mr. St. Lawrence
Coppinger had done, following the advice of his agent and solicitor,
Mr. Bartholomew Mangan, and his cousin, and late guardian, Major
Talbot-Lowry, had found it hard to forgive him. The business had been
arranged while Larry was in Paris, and the expostulations that might
have prevailed if delivered _viva voce_, failed of their effect
when presented on foreign paper, in Cousin Dick's illegible scrawl. It
was all very fine for Larry, ran the illegible scrawl, to talk of
selling at such a price, but he ought to see what a hole his doing so
put his neighbours in! Larry hadn't a squad of incumbrances, and
charges, and mortgages, hung round his neck like leeches (and no fault
of the Major's). He had had to find money in a hurry to pay off one of
these cursed things only the other day, and if he hadn't had the luck
to mention it to a friend, who was kind enough to come to the rescue
(of course on good security) the Major would have been in a hat, or a
hole, Larry couldn't quite read which.

These grievances, and much more, illegibly scrawled on foreign paper,
with a quill pen. Larry, swallowed up in the absorbing, isolating life
of a Paris studio, would put the letters half-read, in his pocket, and
would immediately forget all about them. After all, he couldn't
interfere with Barty; he was the man at the helm, and mustn't be
talked to. Also it was idiotic to keep a dog and bark yourself.
Proverbial philosophy is a recognised sedative; Larry gave himself a
dose or two, and straightway forgot Cousin Dick, forgot Ireland,
forgot even that gratifying nomination of himself as Nationalist
candidate for the Division, and plunged back into the burning
atmosphere of art, wherein models and professors, cliques and cabals,
glow, and seethe, and exist intensely, and with as little reference to
the affairs of the outside world, as if they were the sole occupants
of a distant and much over-heated star.

There are many people who have been endowed with one master-passion,
that "like Aaron's serpent swallows up the rest," but Larry's
ingenuous breast harboured a nest of such serpents. During his three
years at Oxford, he had stormed from one enthusiasm to another; he had
rowed, and boxed, and spouted politics, and, beginning with music, had
stormed on through poetry and the drama, to painting.

Having taken a moderate degree, he had rushed in pursuit of this
latest charmer to Paris, and the waters of the Quartier Latin then
closed over him. Occasionally a bubble would rise from those clouded
deeps, and a letter to Aunt Freddy, or to Barty Mangan, would briefly
announce his continued existence. Sometimes he wrote to Christian, and
would expand a little more to her; telling her of how one Professor
had remarked of his work that it was now _presque pas mal_, and
that this dizzying encomium had encouraged him to begin a _Salon_
(its subject described at length, with elucidatory sketches); further,
that he had taken a very jolly _atelier_, and "dear old Chose"
was "on the Jury," and would try and get him accepted, with much more
to the same effect, music, politics, horses and hounds, forgotten as
though they had never been.

Christian received these effusions with a characteristic mixture of
respect for the artistic effort that they described, and of amused,
almost pitying comprehension of the enthusiasm that they revealed. It
was three years since Larry had left Oxford and gone to France, and
during those years Christian had learned more of life than Larry had
acquired, or would ever acquire, in spite of the three years' start of
her with which he had begun the world.

Judith had been induced to close her brilliant career as a buccaneer,
by a perfectly, even--from the buccaneering point of view--depressingly
satisfactory marriage with Mr. William Kirby, and her departure had
forced her younger sister into the front rank of domestic combatants.
At Mount Music, where once the milk and honey had flowed with
effortless abundance, each year brought increasing stress. The rents
grew less, the expenses greater, that large and omnivorous item, known
as "keeping up the place," was as exacting as ever, the minor problems
of household existence more acute. There had been a time when the
Mount Music tenants had vied with one another in the provision of sons
and daughters for service in the Big House, when bonfires had blazed
for the return of "the young gentlemen," and offerings of eggs had
greeted "the young ladies." Now the propitiatory turkey that heralded
a request, the goose that signalised a success, gained with the help
of the hereditary helpers, had all ceased. Alien influences had
poisoned the wells of friendship. Such rents as were paid were
extracted by the hard hand of the law, and the tenants held
indignation meetings against the landlord who refused to resign to
them what they believed to be theirs, and he was equally convinced was
his. Major Dick still shot and fished, as was his right, over the
lands and waters that were still in his name, but the tenants, whose
fathers had loved him, had renounced the old allegiance. The
partridges were run down by the greyhounds that had killed off the
hares; the salmon were poached; worst of all, Derrylugga Gorse, the
covert that Dick had planted twenty-five years ago, on Carmody's farm,
in the middle of the best of the Broadwater Vale country, was burned
down, and a vixen and her cubs had perished with it.

Dick gave up the hounds at the end of the season.

"I've done my best to show sport for five and twenty years," he said,
"and I'm not going to spoil it now!"

It is impossible to deny that for Dick's wife this sacrifice had its
consolatory aspects. It was a long time now since there had been quite
enough money for anything at Mount Music. Those far-sighted guardian
angels who had compelled the investment of Lady Isabel's dowry in
gilt-edged securities, had placed the care of these in the hands of
hide-bound English trustees (the definition is Major Dick's) and the
amiable reader need therefore have no anxieties that starvation
threatened this well-meaning family, but, as Lady Isabel frequently
said, "what with the Boys, and Judith's trousseau, and the Wedding,
and One-Thing-and-Another" (which last is always a big item in the
domestic budget) the more common needs of every day had to submit to
very drastic condensation, and it was indisputable that the
Talbot-Lowry family-coach was running on the down-grade.

The law of averages is a stringent one, and it may be assumed with
reasonable certainty, that when one ancient and respectable
family-coach runs down hill, another vehicle, probably of more modern
equipment, will go up. In the case under consideration, the operations
of this principle were less obscure than is sometimes the way with
them. As Mount Music descended, so did No. 6, The Mall, Cluhir, rise,
and Dr. Mangan's growing prosperity compensated Fate for the decline
in Major Talbot-Lowry's affairs, with a precision that, to a person
interested in the statistics of averages, might have seemed beautiful.
The Big Doctor was now the leading man in Cluhir, leader in its
councils and its politics. On his professional side, his advice and
ministrations were in demand even beyond the range of his motor car,
and the measure of his greatness may be best estimated when it is
mentioned that his motor had been the first to startle the streets of
his native town.

Major Talbot-Lowry was of the Old Guard, who, in those now far away
times, swore never to surrender to what he held to be so thoroughly
unsportsmanlike an innovation as a motor car, and the Doctor was
accustomed to offer facetious apologies when he and his car drew up at
the Mount Music hall door. This had become a fairly frequent
occurrence. Dick was not the man he had been. When his hounds went,
old age came, and it came like an illness, bewilderingly,
unexpectedly. Dick's long, straight legs began to give at the knees,
and his square shoulders learned the hollow curve of the back of his
armchair, and submitted to it. His long sight, that had outlived the
infliction of spectacles for reading, was failing him; he had twice
tally-ho'd away a yellow cur-dog, at less than a field's distance.

"No, Mangan, I'll be damned if I go out to make a fool of myself and
the hounds!" he said, when reproached by the Doctor for staying at
home. "The sooner I'm put down like an old hound, the better!"

Dr. Mangan had been equal to the occasion, and had assured Dick that
Bill Kirby was "lost altogether" for want of his counsels, and that
the whole field were saying the Major was the only man to show sport,
and that he knew the way a fox'd run, as well as if he was inside him!

"In company with another old gander, I suppose!" says poor Dick, with
tears in his eyes, being both moved and cheered by his own jest.

The Doctor's presence was partly a reassurance and partly a menace, to
Major Dick. There had been, from time to time, further opportunities
for the investment of the Doctor's "spare ha'pence" in "something
solid and safe, like land." Aunt Bessie Cantwell's money, for
instance, had, on her demise, all come Dr. Mangan's way. There was no
need for the Major to think there was any obligation, he might call it
a mutual advantage, if he liked, anyhow, why shouldn't the money go
where it was wanted? The security was all right.

"Oh yes," says Dick, "that's right enough, and whenever I can come to
terms with the tenants--"

"No hurry!" the Big Doctor would answer; "five per cent. is good
enough for me!"

The Doctor, alone of all Dick's friends, sympathised with Major
Talbot-Lowry in the matter of the tenants, and he condemned the
conduct of his own son, Barty, as heartily as did Dick that of his
nephew, in their dealings with the Coppinger estate.

"'Tis impossible to hold these young fellows," he said, severely,
while he and Dick strolled slowly round the weedy flower garden of
Mount Music, one sunny August afternoon, four years after Larry's
coming of age; "You may be sure that I pointed out to Barty that he
and Larry were playing the deuce with you over the sale, but what
could I do? After all, Barty had to obey the orders he got from his
boss!"

"I know, I know," responded Dick. "My dear fellow, I don't blame
_you_, my own cousin's a different pair of shoes! Richard may
fight it out with the tenants when I'm gone. He'll have to marry
money. Why, my God! If I sold at these fellows' price, the property
would hardly clear itself! At least," Dick cleared his throat and
picked himself up with a guilty jerk, as does a horse who stumbles
from carelessness, "at least, it would cover the charges, and--and the
mortgages of course--but not much more--"

Dr. Mangan looked straight in front of him, as became a mortgagee of
delicate feeling, and said with some elaborateness, "No man need be
anxious about money whose security is Irish land, nowadays. 'Tis daily
appressiating in value."

"To every man except the owner!"

Dick struck hard with his ash-plant at a tall weed as he spoke, and
decapitated it with the grace and dexterity of the old cavalryman. He
put force enough into the cut to have felled a tougher foe.

"This place is turned into a wilderness--" he went on and then,
staggering, caught at the Doctor's thick arm.

In an instant the Big Doctor had his other arm round Dick's shoulders,
and held him firm.

"Stand still, Major, it's nothing! You'll be all right in a minute!"
he said, meeting Dick's frightened eyes with reassuring steadiness.
"The sun's very hot. It's only a touch of giddiness--"

He stood, a great rock of support, uttering leisurely words of
consolation, while he quietly slipped one hand down the Major's arm,
until his broad, perceptive finger-tips could feel the faint pulse
jerking under their pressure.

Dick's colour crept back, and the veins, that had shown blue on the
sudden yellow of his cheek, began to lose their vividness.

"That's more like it!" said the Doctor, tranquilly. "Do you sit quite
here for a minute, now, and I'll go get you a drop of something from
our friend, Mr. Evans, that'll do you no harm!"

He established his patient on a garden seat, and left him, moving
slowly until he knew he was no longer in sight; then he swung into the
house, with swift strides that would have compelled a smaller man to
run, if he were to keep level with him.

"Poor old lad!" he thought, compassionately; yet, blended with the
compassion, was the half-unconscious triumph of strong middle-age at
sight of the failure of a senior. "That's the first knock. He'll want
to mind himself from this out--the next one might hit him harder."



CHAPTER XXIII


The back stairs at Mount Music were old and precipitous. To descend
them at high noon demanded circumspection at night, when the armies of
the cockroaches were abroad; and marauding rats came flopping up and
down them, upon their unlawful occasions, only that man of iron,
Robert Evans, was proof to their terrors. Christian, even though
inured from childhood to the backstairs, held her habit skirt high,
and thanked, heaven for her riding-boots, as she made her way down the
worn stone steps, at some half-past four of a September morning.

Mount Music was one of the many houses of its period that, with, to
quote Mrs. Dixon, "the globe of Ireland to build over," had elected to
bestow its menials in dark and complex basements. Christian and her
candle traversed the long maze of underground passages. The smell of
past cooking was in the air, the black and evil glitter of cockroaches
twinkled on the walls on either hand. This was the horrible part of
subbing, thought Christian, and told herself that nothing but the
thought of seeing the _début_ of Dido, the puppy that she had
walked, would compensate her for facing the cockroaches.

As she opened the kitchen door she was surprised to find a lighted
lamp on the table. In the same glance she caught a glimpse of a
figure, retreating hastily, with slippered shuffle, followed by the
trailing tappings of braces off duty. On one end of the long kitchen
table was seated a cat, in motionless meditation, like a profile in an
Egyptian hieroglyphic; at the other end was a steaming cup of cocoa
and plateful of bread and butter.

"Long life to Evans!" thought Christian, seating herself, like the
cat, on the edge of the table, and entering upon the cocoa.

"Miss Christian!" a raven-croak came through a slit of the
pantry-door; "keep off the Carmodys' land! Mind now what I'm tellin'
you!" The slit ceased.

"Thank you for the cocoa, Evans, but why must I?" called Christian,
in a breath.

A lower croak, that seemed to end with the words "black papishes,"
came through the closed door.

"Old lunatic!" thought Christian; she drank the cocoa, and putting out
the lamp, groped her way to the back-door. It opened on a shrieking
hinge, and she was out into a pale grey dawn, pure and cold, with the
shiver and freshness of new life in it.

The Mount Music stable yard was an immense square, with buildings
round its four sides, and a high, ivy-covered battlemented wall
surrounding and overlooking all. In the middle of the yard was an
island of grass, on which grew three wide-armed and sombre Irish yews,
dating, like the walls, from the days of Queen Elizabeth. Weeds were
growing in the gravel of the wide expanse; more than one stable-door
dropped on broken hinges under its old cut-stone pediments; the
dejection of a faded and remembered prosperity lay heavy on all things
in the thin, cold air of that September dawn.

The clatter of a horse's hoofs came cheerfully from a stable, and, as
Christian crossed the yard, a dishevelled young man, with a large red
moustache, put his head over the half-door.

"I'm this half-hour striving to girth her, Miss," he complained, "she
got very big entirely on the grass; the surcingle's six inches too
short for her, let alone the way she have herself shwoll up agin me!"

Charles, once ruler and lawgiver, was dead, and, with the departure of
the hounds, Major Dick's interest in the stables had died too; his
tall, grey horse was ending his days in bondage to the outside car;
the meanest of the underlings who had grovelled beneath Charles'
top-boots, was now in sole charge, and had grown a moustache,
unchecked; and Christian's only mount was a green four-year-old filly,
in whom she had invested the economies of a life-time, with but a
dubious chance of their recovery.

"Can't you get a bit of string and tie up the surcingle Tommy?"
suggested Christian, who was now too well used to these crises in the
affairs of the stable to be much moved by them.

"Sure, I'm after doing it, Miss. T'would make a cat laugh the ways I
have on it! She's a holy fright altogether with the mane and the tail
she have on her! I tried to pull them last night, and she went up as
straight as a ribbon in the stable!"

The flushed face and red moustache were withdrawn, and with
considerable clattering and shouting, the holy fright was led forth.
She was a small and active chestnut mare, with a tawny fleece, a mane
like a prairie fire, and a tail like a comet. Her impish eyes
expressed an alarm that was more than half simulated, and the task of
manoeuvring her into position beside the mounting block, was
comparable only to an endeavour to extract a kitten from under a bed
with the lure of a reel of cotton. An apple took the place of the reel
of cotton, and its consumption afforded Christian just time enough to
settle herself in her saddle. Since the days of Harry the Residue
Christian had ridden many and various horses, and she had a reputation
for making the best of a bad job that had often earned her mounts from
those who, wishing to sell a horse as a lady's hunter, were anxious to
impart some slight basis of fact into the transaction.

Tommy Sullivan watched her admiringly.

"Where's the meet, Miss?" he said, quickly, as she started, and as if
he were struck by a sudden thought.

"Nad Wood."

"If they run the Valley, Miss, mind out for wire!" called Tommy after
her, as she rode out of the yard. "Carmody's fences are strung with
it!"

He ran to the gate to watch the mare as she capered and lunged
sideways along the drive, and thanked God, not for the first time, for
the heavy hands that preserved him from the duty of riding Miss
Christian's horses.

Christian rode past the long ivy-covered lace of the house, that
stared at her with the wall-eyed glare of shuttered windows, and down
the long avenue, that curved submissive to the windings of the
Onwashee, now black and brimming after a week of rain. Young cattle,
that had slept, according to their custom, on the roadway, scrambled
up as she came near, and crashed away through the evergreens, whose
bared lower branches bore witness to their depredations. They were a
sight hateful to Christian, who, in spite of her resignation to the
methods of her groom, cherished a regard for tidiness that she had
often found was more trouble than it was worth.

She let Nancy, the chestnut mare, have her head, a privilege that made
short work of the remaining half-mile of avenue, and soon the stones
and mud of the high road were flying behind her, as the little mare,
snatching at her bridle, and neglecting no opportunity for a shy,
fretted on towards the sunrise, and the covert that lay, purple, on a
long hill, three miles away.

Bill Kirby's foible was not punctuality; when Christian arrived at
the appointed cross-roads in the middle of Nad Wood she found a
patient little group of three or four men, farmers, all of them, she
thought, waiting under the dewy branches of the beeches for the
arrival of the hounds. One of them rode quickly from the group to meet
her. A young man, with a slight figure and square shoulders, who was
riding a long-legged bay horse, that, like its rider, was unknown to
Christian. The light under the beech trees was dim and green, and such
faint illumination as the grey and quiet sky afforded, was coming,
like this rider, to meet Christian. He was close to her before he
spoke, then he caught his cap off his head and waved it, and shouted:
"Hurrah, Christian! Here I am! Home again! Don't pretend you never saw
me before, because I won't stand swagger from you!"

"Larry! Not you? Not really?"

He had her hand by this time, and was shaking it wildly despite the
resentment of the chestnut mare, at the sudden proximity of the bay
horse.

"Yes! Me all right! _Moi qui vous parle_--as we say in French
Paris! I only got home last night. I bought this chap at Sewell's on
my way through. He's a County Limerick horse. I bet he's a goer! How
do you like him?"

It was like Larry to require, instantly, praise and recognition for
his new purchase, but Christian wasn't thinking of the horse. Her
wide, clear eyes were fixed on his rider, her mind was a hustle of
questions.

Had he changed? Would he stay? Did he know that he was "in black
books" with her father? Would he care if he did know? What ages it
seemed--! Four years, wasn't it? Her brain was working too hard to
remember, but she certainly remembered that he had not had a moustache
when he was last at home; such a fanciful little French scrap of a
moustache as it was too, made of pure gold!

"I rather like it, Larry!" she said, beaming at him; "_quite_
nice!"

"What? What's quite nice?" says Larry, beaming back; "oh,
_this_?" He gave the moustache an extra upward twist. "Yes,
rather so! Beats the Kaiser's to fits, I flatter myself! I'm glad you
like it, but I don't see how you could help it!"

Yes! This was the old Larry, the right one; Christian felt very glad.
It might so easily have been some one else, some one not half so nice
as her own old Larry.

"Why on earth didn't you say you were coming? Cousin Freddy told us
that you were painting at Étaples."

"So I was till one fine day I 'took the notion for to cross the raging
ocean,' and I'm jolly glad I did too! Oh, by Jove! Look at old Bill
and the hounds! What a swell! Christian, do you know I haven't seen a
hound for four years! Do you mind if I call them 'dogs,' just till I
get used to them a bit?"

There are few bonds more enduring than those that are woven round the
playmates of childhood. In how many raids had Larry not been
Christian's trusted leader! What stolen dainties had they not shared,
what punishments not endured together! Larry's three years of
seniority had only deepened the reverence and loyalty that he had
inspired in his youngest follower; he had never presumed upon them; he
had been a chieftain worthy of homage, and he had Had all Christian's.
There are some people who appear to change their natures when they
grow up. They may have been pleasing as little boys or girls; they may
be equally agreeable as men and women, but there is no continuity and
no development. They have become new creatures. Christian, alone of
her family, was essentially as she had ever been, and, being of those
whose inward regard is as searching as their outward observation, she
knew it. Now, Larry had come back again, and in half-a-dozen sentences
she knew that neither had he changed, and that with him her ancient
leader had returned.

The Wood of Nad (which, being interpreted, means a nest) filled a
pocket on the side of Lissoughter Hill, and had thence spread over the
crest of the hill, and ended near the cross-roads at which the hounds
had met.

"Don't holloa away an old fox. I want to kill a cub if I can. I'll let
you know if the hounds get away below. You needn't be afraid I won't!
Open the gate!"

Thus, magisterially, the Master, standing at the gate into the wood,
with the hounds crushing round his horse's heels, "Leu in there!"

With a squeal or two of excitement from Dido and her brethren-puppies,
the hounds squeezed through the narrow gateway, and were swallowed up
by the wood.

Larry returned to Christian's side.

"I hate not seeing Cousin Dick out," he began; "what a pity he gave
'em up! Why did he? You know, Christian, you were pretty rotten about
writing to me! Aunt Freddy never tells me a thing about the Hunt! I
didn't even know Cousin Dick had chucked till I saw it in _The
Field_."

Larry was staring at Christian as he spoke. He, like her was searching
for his former comrade; but, unlike her, was doing so unconsciously,
as Larry did most things: What he believed himself to be doing was
appraising her appearance from a painter's point of view. He found he
had forgotten her eyes. He tried to think of them in terms of paint;
_Brun de Bruxelles_, and a touch of cadmium, or was it _Verte
Émeraude_? Hang it! How can paint do more than suggest the colours of
a sunlit moorland pool? Was it the white hunting-tie that gave that
special "value" to her face He had forgotten how delicious in tone was
the faint colour that just tinted her cheek; so hopeless a word as
pink was not to be thought of; just a hint of _Rose Garance doré_,
might do it. And to get the drawing of those subtle outlines the
ineffable refinement of all her features. Larry put his head on one
side, and screwed up his eyes (remembering faithfully the injunctions
of "dear old Chose," _en clignant bien les yeux_) and said to himself
that she would put dear old Chose himself to his trumps, and then
maybe he wouldn't get her right!

Aloud he said, peremptorily and professionally:

"Christian, I'm going to paint you! Eight o'clock at the studio
to-morrow morning, _Ma'mselle, s'il vous plaît_!"

Christian's response was closured by a wild outcry from the wood,
hounds and horn lifting up their voices together in sudden delirium.
Old horses pricked their ears, and young ones, and notably, Nancy,
began to fret and to fidget. Some one said, unnecessarily: "That's
him!" A man, farther down the road, turned his horse, and standing in
his stirrups, stared over the wall into the thick covert, rigid as a
dog setting his game. Then he held up his hat, and, a moment later,
something brown glided, with the fluent swiftness of a fish in a
stream, across the road and over the opposite wall. The scream that
followed him was not needed; was, indeed, hardly heard in the
crashing, clashing clamour of the back, as they came pitching headlong
over the wall of the wood, and hurling themselves at the opposite
wall. It was high, and had a coped, top, and the yelling hounds broke
against it, and fell, like waves against a cliff. A couple achieved
it, and the anguish of their comrades, as they heard them go away,
full-cry, on the line, redoubled. In the same instant, Larry was off
his tall bay. He flung his reins to Christian, and was into the
struggling pack. It is no easy matter to heave a hound over a high
wall, but Larry and a young farmer had somehow shoved over four
couple, before Bill Kirby and his whipper-in came and swept the
remainder to a place of possible entrance a little further on.

Larry snatched his plunging horse from Christian, and started to
gallop before he was fairly in the saddle, kicking his right foot into
the stirrup as he went, and shouting gratitude to Christian for having
held the horse. It had not been easy. Nancy had proved the accuracy of
her groom's statement by again "going up as straight as a ribbon" when
the hounds crossed the road, and the bay had not been backward in
emulating her efforts. Bill Kirby had had luck; the fox had run
left-handed under the wall, and the leading hounds met the Master,
with the body of the pack, at the verge of the wood on its farther
side. A bank, pitted with rabbit-holes, a space of stony lane with a
pole at its farther end, and Nad Wood was a thing of the past.

Outside, a fair stretch of grass presented itself, falling in mild
gradients to the banks of the Broadwater, sprinkled with cattle,
dotted with groups of trees clustering round white farm houses, from
whose chimneys the thin, blue lines of the smoke of morning fires were
just beginning to ascend.

But few are able to spare much thought for others during a first burst
out of covert, their strictly personal affairs being as sufficient for
them as is the day's share of good and evil for the day; but Larry,
looking often over his shoulder as he galloped, did not fail to note,
despite his engrossment in his new purchase, the ease and competence
that marked Christian's dealings with the chestnut mare, to whom the
twin gifts of imagination and invention had been lavishly granted. It
has been ingeniously said that the enemy of the aboriginal horse was a
creature of about the size of a dinner-plate, that lay hidden in
grass; nothing less than a concealed dinner-service would have
sufficed to account for the mysterious alarms that repeatedly swept
Nancy from her course; wafting her, like a leaf, sideways from a
stream, impelling her to swing, from the summit of a bank, back to the
field from which she had wildly sprung; suggesting to her that safety
from the besetting dangers could alone be secured by following the bay
horse (whom, after the manner of young horses, she had adopted as a
father) so closely, and at such a rate of speed, that a live torpedo
attached to his tail could hardly have been a less desirable
companion.

At a momentary check, an elderly farmer, many of whose horses had owed
to Christian their first introduction to a side saddle, spoke to her.

"For God's sake, Miss Christian," he said, fervently, "go home with
that mare! She's very peevish! I wouldn't like to be looking at her!
She has that way of jumping stones her nose'd nearly reach the ground
before her feet!"

"Never fear that young lady's able for her!" struck in another farmer,
the former owner of Nancy. "How well yourself'd be asking her to be
riding nags that couldn't see the way that little mare'd go! Didn't I
see her go mountains over the stone gap awhile ago? And yourself seen
the same, John Kearney!"

"If it was mountains and pressy-pices that was in it itself," returned
John Kearney, severely, "I'd say the same, Michael Donovan. Miss
Christian knows me, and I'm telling her--"

At this point, however, Christian's attention was absorbed by Dido,
who was comporting herself with precocious zeal, and, an instant
after, the dispute was ended by the shriek with which she proclaimed
her success. For some fifteen minutes the hounds ran hard and fast;
Nancy began to settle down, and to realise that her adopted parent
invariably changed feet on a bank, and never jumped stones as if he
were a cork bursting perpendicularly from a bottle of champagne. The
fox was taking them through the best of the Broadwater Vale country;
pasture-field followed pasture-field, in suave succession, the banks
were broad and benevolent, the going clean and firm. The sun had just
risen, and was throwing the long blue shadows of the hedge-row trees
on the dew-grey grass. The river valley was full of silver mists,
changing and thinning, like the visions of a _clairvoyant_,
yielding slowly the beauty of the river, and of its garlanding trees,
to those who had eyes to see. The sky became bluer each instant as the
sun rushed up, and Bill Kirby said to himself that the hunt was too
good to last, and the scent would soon be scorched out.

Not long afterwards came the check. The fox had run through a strip of
plantation, and in the succeeding field the scent failed. It was a
wide pasture-field, in which a number of young cattle were running,
snorting, bellowing, and gathering themselves into defensive groups at
the unwonted sight of hounds.

"That's a nice little plan of a mare!" said the young farmer who had
helped Larry with the hounds, drawing up beside Christian, "and you
have her in grand condition, Miss; she's as round as a bottle! She has
a great jump in her!" he went on. "She fled the last fence entirely;
she didn't leave an iron on it! She was hopping off the ground like a
ball!"

"That was no credit to her!" said John Kearney, eyeing the mare and
her rider gloomily.

"'Twas a sweet gallop altogether," said Nancy's former owner,
addressing Christian, and ignoring Mr. Kearney's challenge, "and the
mare carried you to fortune! But sure it'd be as good for you to take
her home now, Miss Christian, she has enough done. The fences from
this out aren't too good at all." He cast a glance at Kearney.

"Faith, and that's true for you," said Kearney quickly, "Be said by us
now, Miss Christian, and go home. The road isn't but two fields back.
The hounds'll do no more good, sure the sun's too strong."

"Where are we?" broke in Larry, joining the group; "I've lost my
bearings."

"Them's the Carmodys' bounds, sir," said Michael Donovan in a
colourless voice, indicating the next fence.

"Carmody's?" said Larry. "Then isn't the Derrylugga gorse somewhere
hereabouts? I see he's casting them ahead."

"It's burnt down," said Christian, hurriedly. Something in her face
checked Larry's exclamation. In Ireland people learn to be silent on a
very imperceptible hint.

The farmers moved away. Said Michael Donovan in a low voice to John
Kearney:

"Will she go back, d'ye think?"

"I d'no. Har'ly, I think!"

"It'd be a pity anything'd happen her. She's a lovely girl to ride!"

"You may say that, Michael! The father gave her the sate, but it was
the Lord Almighty gave her the hands!" said old Kearney, devoutly.

"Maybe He'll mind her, so!" responded Michael Donovan, without
irreverence.

The shifting of responsibility brought some ease of mind.

"God grant it!" said John Kearney.

Christian was ordinarily possessed of an innate reasonableness that
responded to reason, but fear was not in her, and an appeal to reason
was least potent with her when she was in the saddle. The veiled hints
of danger, by which from, Evans onwards, she had been beset, only woke
the spirit of revolt that slept in her but little less lightly than it
had slept in her childhood, and were as fuel on the flame the run had
kindled.

"Larry," she said, with a light in her eyes, and a flush in her
cheeks, "do _you_ think I ought to go back?"

"Go back? Why should you?"

Larry, having received a hasty sketch of the position, gave his advice
with all the assurance of complete ignorance. "Your father has the
sporting rights--anyhow, I don't believe they'll stop you. Irishmen
are--"

Dissertation as to what Irishmen were or were not, attractive though
it was to a young man who knew nothing of the subject, was checked by
the success of Bill Kirby's cast ahead. Half way across the big field,
the hounds, who had been industriously spreading themselves, and
examining blades of grass and fronds of bracken with the intentness of
botanists, came, with a sudden rush, to a deep note from old Bellman,
and, as suddenly, broke into full-cry, with the unanimity of an
orchestra when the baton comes down. They headed for "Carmody's
bounds," and were over that solid barrier, and running hard across the
succeeding field, before most of the riders had realised what had
happened. The bounds fence was an honest jump--big, but safe. Nancy,
at the heels of the bay horse, came up on to it with a perfection that
banished all other thoughts from Christian's mind. On the landing
side, under the bank, was a strong-running stream, and two or three of
the horses, at sight of it, checked on the wide top of the bank, and
tried to turn. Not so Nancy. It was enough for her that her father by
adoption had not hesitated. She slid her forefeet a little way down
the grassy side and went out over the water as if the bank had been a
springboard. It was only then, at the gorgeous moment of successful
landing, that Christian was aware of a young man running towards the
riders, bawling, and demonstrating with something that might be a gun.

"That's one of the Carmodys, Miss," said old Kearney, galloping near
her. "Don't mind him! It's as good for you to go on now. That's the
house below--"

"Come on, Christian!" shouted Larry; "he'll do no harm!"

The thought crossed Christian's mind that it might be better to
disregard these counsels, and to stop and speak to the assailant, but
Nancy had views of her own, and such arguments as a snaffle could
offer were quite unavailing. "I might as well go on," thought
Christian, "we shall be off his land in a minute."

A very high bank, crowned with furze and thorn bushes, divided them
from the next field; there was but one gap in it, near the farm-house,
and this was filled with a complicated erection of stones and sods,
built high, with light boughs of trees laid upon them; not a nice
place, but the only practicable one. Bill Kirby and his whipper-in
jumped it; some of the farmers drew back, but Larry's bay horse
charged it unhesitatingly, and soared over it with the whole-souled
gallantry of a well-bred horse. Nancy, pulling hard, followed him.
Christian heard Larry shout, and, looking round, saw him turn in his
saddle and strike with his crop at something unseen. At the last
instant, as the mare was making her spring, a second man appeared on
the farther side of the jump, yelling, and brandishing a wide-bladed
hay-knife. To stop was impossible; Christian could only utter a sharp
cry of warning, as Nancy, baulked by the suddenness of the attack, but
unable to stop herself, went up almost straight into the air, and came
down on the boughs, with her hindlegs on one side of them and her
forelegs on the other. Then she fell forward on to her knees, and
rolled on to her off shoulder, her hind legs still entangled in the
boughs. Christian fell with her, and as the mare's shoulder came to
the ground, her rider was thrown a little beyond her on the off side.
The man, having saved himself by a leap to one side, had instantly
taken to his heels.

Christian was on her feet before even Larry, quick as he was in
stopping his horse and flinging himself from his back, could reach
her.

"Are you hurt?" The question, so fraught with fear, and breathless
with remembered disasters, was answered almost before it was uttered.

"Not a scrap! Absolutely all right; but I don't know about Nancy--"

One of the mare's hind feet was wedged in the fork of a bough; she
struggled fiercely, and in a second or two she had freed both her hind
legs from the tangle of twigs, and lay prone at the foot of the
barricade.

"She's all right! He didn't touch her," said Larry, catching her by
the bridle. "Come, mare!"

Nancy made an effort, attempting to get on to her feet, and rolled
over again on to her side.

"Oh, get the mare up, one of you!" shouted Larry, wild with the rage
that had gathered force from the terror by which it had first been
strangled. "I want to go after that damned coward--"

He caught his horse's bridle from a man who had climbed over the bank,
leaving his own horse on the farther side.

"Why the devil did none of you stop the brute?" he stormed at the
little group, now standing on the bank, looking down upon the
prostrate mare, while he tried to steady his plunging horse in order
to mount.

"It's no good for you, sir!" called John Kearney to him; "he's away
back of the house, ye'll never get him!"

"Don't go, Larry," said Christian, who was kneeling by Nancy,
caressing her and murmuring endearments. "I'm afraid she's badly
hurt."

The mare was lying still. Michael Donovan, who had bred her, slipped
his hand under her, and drew it out, red with blood.

"Go after him, if ye like, the bloody ruffian!" he said, furiously,
"but the mare will never rise from this! Oh, my lovely little mare!"

"What do you mean?" Larry let his horse go, and flung himself on his
knees beside Donovan. Christian, colourless continued to try and
soothe Nancy, who lay without moving, though her frightened eye turned
from one to another, and her ears twitched.

"Staked she is!" roared Donovan; "that's what I mean! Look at what's
coming from her!"

He broke into a torrent of crude statements, made, if possible, more
horrible by curses.

Larry struck him on the mouth with his open hand.

"Shut your mouth! Remember the lady!"

Michael Donovan took the blow as a dog might take it, and without more
resentment.

Christian quickly put her hand on his shoulder.

"Don't mind, Michael. Let me see what has happened to her--"

Nancy's eye rolled back at Christian, as she stooped over her, leaning
on Donovan. Already, a dark pool was forming beside her.

"You couldn't see where the branch bet her, Miss," said Donovan,
quieted by Christian's touch, "but there's what done it!" He pointed
to the sharp, jagged end of one of the branches, red with blood.

"The Vet--" said Christian, trying to think, speaking steadily.
"Couldn't someone fetch Mr. Cassidy?"

"No good, my dear," said old Kearney, wagging his head; "No good at
all! There's no medicine for her now but what'll come out of a gun!"

Christian looked up into the faces of the little knot of men round
her.

"Is that true?" she said, watching them.

And all the time a voice in her mind said to her that it was true.

"God knows I wouldn't wish it for the best money ever I handled," said
one man, and looked aside from her eyes.

Another shook his head, and muttered something about the Will o' God.
A third said it was the sharp end of the branch that played hammock
with her; he lost a cow once himself the same way. Old Kearney summed
up for the group.

"There is no doubt in it, Miss Christian, my dear child--"

Christian leaned hard on Larry's shoulder as she rose to her feet.

"I'm going to get Carmody's gun," she said, beginning to walk away.
"He had one. I saw it. I don't suppose he'll mind lending it to me."



CHAPTER XXIV


There are illnesses that take possession of their victims slowly and
quietly, with an imperceptible start, and a gradual crescendo of
envelopment; others there are, that strike, sudden as a hawk, or a
bullet. And this is true also of that other illness, the fever of the
mind and heart that is called Love. An old song says, and says, for
the most part, truly,

  "I attempt from Love's sickness to fly in vain."

Larry Coppinger did not attempt to fly, even though he knew as
precisely the moment when the fever struck him, as did Peter's wife's
mother when her fever left her. Perhaps he might then have tried to
escape; he knew it was too late now. That fatal rapturous moment had
been when he saw Christian setting forth, a lonely, piteous figure, to
fetch Carmody's gun. He had followed her, and his entreaties to her to
let him deal with the matter had prevailed. She had turned back, and
kneeling down again, kissed the white star on Nancy's forehead,
murmuring something to her that Larry could not hear. He had put her
saddle on his own horse; when he mounted her, she had stooped down
from the tall horse's back, and had whispered: "'That thou hast to do,
do quickly.'" He went over it all in his mind; that was all she had
said, and he had not seen her since.

On that afternoon as he moved about the room he had chosen for his
studio, and unpacked the monster cases he had brought from Paris, he
remembered how, long ago, Mrs. Twomey had laughed at him when he told
her he was never going to marry.

"Wait awhile!"' mocked Mrs. Twomey, "one day it'll sthrike ye all in
the minute--the same as a pairson'd get a stitch when they'd be
leaning-over a churn!"

Well, it had so struck him, and struck him hard, and he was reeling
from the blow.

Her courage, oh God! her courage! How she had ridden that little mad
devil of a mare! There wasn't a man out who would have got her over
that big country as she had! And then, when that cur had done his
dirty work and bolted, was there a whimper or a cry from her? She had
faced the music; she had started off to get the gun herself. He knew,
just a little, just dimly, he told himself humbly, what the sight of
suffering was to her, and she had stood up to it. She, with her
passion for animals; she, with her tender, tender heart! Larry, who
believed himself to be profoundly introspective, did not know that it
was his own flawless physical courage, finding and recognising its
fellow in Christian, that had first lit the flame. He thought it was
her face, with its delicate charm, its faint, elusive loveliness, that
had felled him, laid him low, devastated him. He pleased himself in
reiterating his overthrow, in enumerating its causes, while he banged
bundles of canvases on to the floor, and pitched clattering
sketching-easels and stools into corners, and covered tables and
chairs with the myriad colour-boxes, sketch-books, palettes of every
shape and variety, brushes, bottles, all the snares that the ingenious
_marchand à couleurs_ spreads in the sight of the bird, and into
which the bird, especially if he be, like Larry, a rich amateur,
cheerfully hops. He hardly was aware of what he was doing, his hot
thoughts raced in his brain. It seemed to him now to have been years
ago that he saw her, in the grey light, riding towards him on Nancy.
She had said that he might paint her; that was all that he had thought
of then. Much had happened since then; the supreme thing had happened
since then! Nothing else really mattered, he thought, sitting down on
the edge of a half-empty packing case, and lighting a cigarette, not
even the shooting of Nancy. He would give her a dozen Nancys if she
wanted them! The first and most important thing in the world was to
see her again; and he had to arrange how, and when, and where he
should paint her. Obviously he must at once proceed to Mount Music.

There is a saying among Larry's countrymen: "If a man want a thing he
_mus'_ have it!" Fortune had, so far, been kind to Larry, and
those things that he had wanted sufficiently, he had had. It now
remained to be proved if the rule were to have an exception.

"I'm going over to Mount Music just now," he said to Frederica at tea
time. "I want to see them all. Will you come, Aunt Freddy?"

Aunt Freddy looked perturbed.

"You haven't seen Cousin Dick yet, have you?"

"No. How could I? He wasn't out. I've seen no one yet but Christian."

His voice lingered on the beloved name, beloved, consciously, since so
few hours.

But Aunt Freddy was not apt to perceive fine shades, and she was,
moreover, occupied with the framing of a warning.

"You know that Cousin Dick is a good deal changed since you saw him?"
she began. "He had a sort of heart attack about a year ago--Dr. Mangan
was with him, luckily. They have to try and keep him very quiet, and
the worst of it is that so little puts him out."

"Well, I shan't put him out, shall I?" said Larry, confidently,
beginning on a third slice of cake, love not having, so far, impaired
his appetite.

"He was fearfully put out about your selling to the tenants. He said
young Mangan had no right to advise you to sell so low. He told me
that even Dr. Mangan was quite against his doing so."

Miss Coppinger regarded her nephew with anxiety. After four years of
absence, one never knew exactly how much a young man might not have
changed. That little, upturned, golden moustache might not by any
means be the whole of it. The ice barrier had been forgotten in the
excitement of his return, but even though she understood--and tried
not to feel that the fact had its mitigations--that all young men in
France were atheists, that other fact remained, that next Sunday, when
she started for Knock Ceoil church, Larry, if he went anywhere, would
go to the white chapel on the hill. Aunt Freddy was afraid of no one
where she believed herself to be right (and the Spirit of the Nation
had long since assured her of this in matters of religion); least of
all was she afraid of "a brat of a boy," whom, as she boasted, she had
often whipped soundly when he deserved it. But, unfortunately, the
brat had her heart in his hands, and her heart was softer than Aunt
Freddy knew; and this gave the brat an unfair advantage.

"Then you know, Larry," she continued, her eyes showing what her firm
mouth did not admit; "you know, my dear boy, it was rather--well,
rather a shock to us to see in the papers your name proposed as the
Nationalist candidate here. It upset Dick very much, and, I must say,"
she added, unflinchingly, "me too!"

Larry put down the third piece of cake, half-finished, and went round
the tea-table, and sitting on the arm of Frederica's chair, put his
arm round her thin shoulders.

"I'm so sorry!" he said, knowing his power, and using it, "dear Auntie
Fred! I ought to have written to you. I forgot all about the beastly
thing. But you wouldn't want me to go back of my word? As for the
property--well, I thought that was only my own affair. I've come all
right out of it; why shouldn't I give the tenants the best terms I
could?"

"Cousin Dick says--" began Frederica, standing to her guns.

"And that other show," went on Larry, disregarding what Cousin Dick
might have said. "Goodness knows when there'll be an election--"

"That doesn't alter the fact," said Frederica, firmly.

"Yes, I know. Of course I must hold by my own convictions, but let's
put off the row until the time comes! One is bound to have rows at
elections! I don't want to fight now!"

He pressed a kiss upon her forehead. He was feeling in love and
charity with all men. To wheedle Aunt Freddy into forgiveness was the
first outlet that presented itself for the excitement that was
consuming him.

Larry walked to Mount Music through the Wood of the Ownashee, alone.
Miss Coppinger said she disliked the short way across the river by the
stepping stones, and preferred to drive the now venerable Tommy round
by the road; in her heart, brave as she was, she trusted that Larry
would have got through his meeting with Dick before she arrived.
Therefore did Larry step along the pebbly path by the river, under the
dense canopy of beechen boughs, with, for companions, only the two
hound puppies that Bill Kirby did not fail to foist annually upon all
amenable friends. These lumbered after Larry's quick foot, with all the
engaging absurdity of their kind; tripping over their own enormous
feet, chewing outlying portions of one another, as ill-brought-up
babies chew their blankets; sitting down abruptly and unpremeditatedly,
and watching with deep dubiety the departing form of their escort, as
though a sudden and shattering doubt of his identity had paralysed
them, until some contrary wind of doctrine blew them into action again,
and they hurled themselves upon his trail, filled with the single
intention to rush between his legs. Nothing but that instinct of
self-preservation that operates independent of the reason, preserved
Larry from frequent and violent overthrow. His head was in the clouds;
he was abandoning himself to dreams, with the very same headlong
enthusiasm that Scandal and Steersman brought to bear upon the problems
of existence. He strode past the glade that had been the scene of the
Cluhir picnic without so much as a thought of Tishy Mangan. Had you or
I reminded him of that brief, yet moving, episode, he would probably
have regarded us with wide, bewildered, blue eyes, and asked for
details. Then, as memory awakened, he would have laughed delightedly,
and said: "Yes! By Jove! So I was! But Georgy cut me out, didn't he?"
And he might have added that there had been scores of them since Tishy,
he had forgotten half of them--but this, THIS! Larry would then,
inevitably, have lapsed into rhapsody, as would be no more than was
decent and right in a young man of artistic temperament, and you or I,
our malign intention baffled, would have retired in deserved confusion.

Old Evans was in the hall as Larry walked in through the open door. He
received Larry's hand-shake coldly; the four years that had passed
since Larry had seen him had withered and greyed him; Larry, something
dashed by the reception, remembered the title given him long ago by
Christian--"the many-wintered crow,"--and found satisfaction in
deciding that the crow was a scald-crow, and a sour old divil at that;
anyhow, Evans had always had a knife into him, so it made no
difference.

In the drawing-room things went well enough, even though there was an
unexplainable chill in the atmosphere. Cousin Isabel was as kind and
gentle and vague as ever; Judith was there, very handsome and
prosperous, not overenthusiastic in welcome, rather inclined to
patronise a very young man, quite two months younger than a married
lady of position and importance. Nevertheless, there was something
unregenerate about her eye, that, taken in connection with the two
subalterns in whose car she had come to call at Mount Music, suggested
that Bill Kirby might at times find life stirring. John, recently
ordained, now a very decorative curate in a London church, was there,
even more patronising than Judith, and undecided whether to regard
Larry with suspicion, as a brand still smouldering from the fires of
secularist France, or affectionately, as a member of what, in one of
his earlier sermons, he had described as "Our ancient Mother Church,
dear Peopul! Beloved, but in some matters, that I will presently
indicate to you, mistaken!"

The subalterns were remote, not approving of the style of Larry's tie
(which he had bought in Paris, and differed from theirs) and Cousin
Dick was not there.

"You must go and see him, dear Larry," says Cousin Isabel, "he's in
the study."

"And Christian? Though, of course, I met her this morning--" says
Larry.

Christian, poor child, went out for a little walk with the dogs just
now. Christian (poor child) had felt that wretched business this
morning so terribly. The wretched business was gone into, thoroughly
and exhaustively, and yet Larry felt that across one corner of it
there was a fold of curtain drawn. He said he would go and see Cousin
Dick. There was always a chance that Christian, also, might be in the
study. The axiom that "If a man want a thing he _mus'_ have it,"
should, in Larry's case, have the corollary that he must have it at
once.

The Major was standing by the chimney piece in the study, warming one
foot after the other at the fire that Evans had just replenished.
Larry met the scald-crow at the door, and Evans passed him "as if,"
thought Larry, disgustedly, "he had been seeing me every day for a
year! The old beast always hated me!" Larry did not like being hated.

Cousin Dick's greeting was more like old times. Dick was one of those
people whose wrath has a tendency to intermit and get cold, even to
perish, temporarily, from forgetfulness. On the other hand, in
compensation, perhaps, for this failing, it was a fire easily
rekindled. He was still shaking Larry's hand, and looking him up and
down, affectionately, and withal, with the inevitable patronage of a
long-legged man for one from whom Nature has withheld similar
advantages, when Larry discovered the large presence of Dr. Mangan
uplifting itself from the chair facing Cousin Dick's, by the fire.
(But Christian was not there. He resigned himself.) There was no want
of warmth in the Big Doctor's reception. He was quite aware of this
himself, and was artist enough to know how useful an asset was the
fact that he was genuinely fond of Larry. He had indeed proposed to
exhibit his affection in pleasing contrast to the coolness of Larry's
Protestant relatives, and that the Major had forgotten the rôle
assigned to him, was a little disappointing. "But wait awhile!"
thought the Big Doctor, who, among his other elephantine qualities,
possessed that of patience.

The Major seated himself in front of the fire, and Larry pulled up a
chair, wondering in his heart what these old boys wanted with a fire
this lovely afternoon, and delivered himself to the old boys and to
conversation. This, naturally, set with a single movement towards the
event of the morning. "A real likely little mare, and shaping well,
I'm told," says Dick, "and by the bye, Larry, that's a dev'lish nice
horse of yours that Christian came back on. Where did you get him?"

These hunting men were incorrigible, the Doctor thought, seeing the
Carmody question in danger of being side-tracked.

"Things have come to a funny way in this country," he observed, "when
a fellow will deliberately chance killing a young lady, rather than
let her ride over his land--and she having a right to ride over it
into the bargain!"

It needed but little to start Major Talbot-Lowry again on the topic
that had occupied him unceasingly since Christian's return that
morning. Beginning with the burning of the Derrylugga gorse covert,
and moving on through threatening letters, and rents deliberately
withheld, he lashed himself into one of the quick furies that Larry
remembered well. What Larry was less prepared for than was his friend,
Dr. Mangan, was the sudden turn that the storm took in his direction.

"The blackguards think they can frighten me into selling on their own
terms!" shouted Dick, "and that damned priest of theirs--I beg your
pardon, Mangan, but the fellow doesn't behave like a clergyman, and
it's impossible to think of him as one--is backing them up, and I may
say"--here it was that the heart of the storm was revealed--"I may say
that I'm very little obliged to your son, or to his principal here,
for the part they have played in the affair! That was the beginning of
the whole thing!" He turned fiercely upon Larry, his tenor voice
pitched on a higher key. "How could I, with my property loaded with
charges, that were no fault of mine, sell at the price you could
afford to take? Look at the price that fellow--what's his damned
name?--Brady, got for his farm, for the tenant-right alone, mind you!
Forty years' purchase! And I'm offered seventeen for the fee simple!"

Dick was standing up on the hearthrug, towering over the Doctor and
Larry in their low chairs. Larry noticed how thin he had become, and
how the well-cut grey clothes, that he always wore, hung loosely on
his shrunken figure. "You're a young fellow now, Larry; wait till
you've been for thirty years doing your best for your property and
your country, and getting no thanks! Thanks!" Dick gave a brief and
furious laugh. "I've kept the hounds for them. I've slaved on the
Bench and on Grand Juries. I've got them roads and railways, and God
knows what else--whatever they wanted--I've sat at the Board of
Guardians, and done my best to keep down the rates, till they kicked
me out to make room for men who would sell their souls for a sixpence,
and made their living out of bribes!"

"Oh, come, come, Major, it's not so bad as all that!" said the Big
Doctor, soothingly, as Dick stopped, panting for breath. "Don't mind
it now!"

"But I _must_ mind it!" shouted Dick. "When I think of how I've
been treated, and plenty more like me, loyal men who run straight and
do their best, I declare to God I feel I don't know which I hate
worst, the English Government, that pitches its friends overboard to
save its own skin, or my own countrymen, that don't know the meaning
of the word gratitude!"

He turned again upon Larry: "And upon my word and honour, Larry, I
didn't think that your father's son would have been tarred with that
brush, anyhow!"

"Now, Major," broke in Dr. Mangan, again, "you know we agreed that
there was no use in attaching too much importance to that transaction.
Barty and Larry here were in a very difficult position, and even
though you and I might not have approved entirely of their action--"

"But, Doctor," interrupted Larry, bewildered, and dismayed, "You--I
thought you had advised Barty--"

The Big Doctor frowned at him, and winked too, while he laid his huge
white hand on his watch-pocket, tapping with his middle finger on the
spot which, as he knew, the average layman dedicated to the heart. He
trusted to Larry's quickness, and did not trust in vain.

"A sort of heart attack," Aunt Freddy had said.

"I'm most frightfully sorry, Cousin Dick," Larry began, hurriedly,
before a worse thing happened. "Somehow, I never thought--you see I
was out of the country--it seemed to me that--" he was going to
repeat those comforting sedatives about leaving the man at the helm to
bark for you--(Heavens! He had been on the point of saying that! Was
he going to laugh?)--but he couldn't give Barty away. He rushed into
apology, regret, abuse of his own ignorance, and imbecility, and the
Big Doctor, at each pause in the penitence, poured a little oil and
wine into the wounds for which Larry and the Carmodys were jointly
responsible, and Dick's anger, like the red that had flared to his
face, fell like a spent flame.

"Say no more, boy, say no more," he said, dropping into the chair from
which he had leaped in the course of his _apologia pro vita sua_;
"I daresay you knew no better--anyhow, you didn't mean to do me a bad
turn--"

Larry took his hand. "You know that, Cousin Dick," he said, in
profound distress. "Of all people in the world--the very last. If
there was anything I could do now--"

"Well now, I'll tell you what you could do!" cut in Dr. Mangan,
jovially, "you could tell our friend Evans to bring in the Major's
tumbler of hot milk and whisky, and to look sharp about it too! I
ordered he was to have it at six o'clock--"

He looked hard at Larry, who realised that his disturbing presence was
to be removed, and forthwith removed it.

He delivered his message, and strayed back to the big, empty hall. A
sense of aloofness, of having no place nor part in this
well-remembered house, was on him. None of them wanted him; he could
see that easily enough, and he had done Cousin Dick a bad turn. He had
said so. If it came to that, he supposed he had done Christian a bad
turn, too--Christian and Cousin Dick, the only two of the whole crowd
who had been really glad to see him. He thought of her face as she
came riding through the dusky wood to meet him. "The dawn was in it!"
he said to himself; again he saw it, lit with the light that the hunt
had kindled; and then he thought of her stricken eyes, as she looked
from one man to another, asking for the hope that they had to refuse
her. It had been all his fault, or--here the inner apologist, that is
always quick to console, interposed--not quite exactly his fault. How
was he to have known? A remembrance of Cousin Dick's undeciphered
letters came to him; even the inner apologist hung his head. In any
case--Larry's active mind resumed its deliberations--it was quite
clearly his business to find Christian and to explain to her, as far
as was possible, how things stood.

He left the house. A garden-boy had seen Christian "going west the
avenue"; Larry collected Scandal and Steersman from the ash-pit, and
followed her "west the avenue." He walked slowly, noting how neglected
was the general aspect, how badly the avenue was in need of gravel,
remembering how in the old days, the bands of slingers had never
failed of ammunition, wondering if the Major were really as hard up as
he thought he was; wondering if they had all turned against him, and
if they would set Christian against him too. He came to the turn near
the river that led to the stepping stones, and stood, in deepening
depression, waiting, in the hope that she might come. It was seven
o'clock, the sun was setting, the sky was warming to its last
loveliness of rose and amber, and amethyst, colours with names almost
as beautiful as themselves. The long stretches of grass on either side
of the avenue were a fierce green, the brakes of bracken were burning
orange, the long shadows of the trees that fell across the roadway
were purple. The grove of yew trees, that hid the course of the river
from him, had the sharpness of a silhouette cut out of dark velvet.

"Not really black," Larry told himself, screwing up his eyes. He moved
on to the grass, and kneeling, framed with his hands as much as seemed
good to him. In a moment, in the intoxication of beauty, he had
forgotton his troubles; Cousin Dick, singing the swan-song of the
Irish landlords; Dr. Mangan, and his bewildering change of front; even
Christian, and her views as to his responsibility for the tragedy of
the morning, stood aside to make way for the absorbing problems of
colour and composition.

The hound puppies strolled on, side by side, heads up, and high-held
sterns, steering for nowhere in particular, oblivious as Larry of all
save the moment as it passed. A rush of rooks came like a tide across
the sky; they flew so low that the drive and rustle of their wings
scared the puppies and startled Larry. He stood up and watched the
multitudinous host swing westward to his own woods, and just then, a
couple of hundred yards ahead, at the turn where the avenue plunged
into the velvet gloom of the yew-trees, he saw Christian coming
towards him, alone, save for a retinue of dogs.

If that old saying (already quoted with reference to Dick
Talbot-Lowry) be true, when it asserts that "wise men live in the
present, for its bounty suffices them," then was Larry Coppinger, like
his cousin, indeed a wise man. Remorse, anxiety, the wonder of the
sunset, were swept from his mind, and Christian filled it like a
flood. She looked very tired, and he told her so, eyeing her so
closely that she turned her face from him.

"I won't be stared at and scolded! Why shouldn't I be tired if I
like?"

"If it were only tiredness--" said Larry, with more tenderness in
his voice than he knew. "Christian, they've been telling me that it
was my fault--the rows with the tenants, and that devil coming at you
this morning--and--and everything!"

He could not speak directly of Nancy's death; he knew what Christian
felt for her horses and dogs. "I've been looking for you everywhere. I
wanted to try and tell you what I felt--but since I've seen your
father and old Mangan, I feel too abject to dare to say I'm sorry--"

"Why should they think it was your fault? It was my own fault. I ought
to have gone back when Kearney warned me--"

"They meant the whole show. Beginning with Barty's selling to my
tenants, and then your father's people making trouble, and the
Carmodys burning the covert, and all the rest of it! They're quite
right! It's all my rotten fault! Christian, I'm going back to France!
I can't face you after what I've brought on you!"

In the bad moments of life, when the bare and shivering soul stands
defenceless, waiting for evil tidings, or nerving itself to endure
condolence, Christian had ever a gentle touch; and she knew too, when
it comforted wrong-doers to be laughed at.

"Oh, Larry! And you pretended you wanted to paint my picture!" she
said, looking at his miserable face with eyes that shone as the Pool
of Siloam might have shone after the Angel had troubled it; there were
tears in them, but there was healing, too.

Larry took her hand and held it tight.

"You don't mean it--how could you bear to look at me?"

"But I shan't look at you! You will have to look at me--that is, if
you can bear it! You must try and brace yourself to the effort!"

This, it may be admitted, was provocation on Christian's part, but, as
she told herself afterwards, desperate measures were necessary, or
they would both have burst into tears.



CHAPTER XXV


The resolution to return to France, announced, as has been set forth,
by Mr. St. Lawrence Coppinger, was not adhered to. In the first place,
there was Barty Mangan and the various affairs that he represented; in
the second place, there was the portrait; in the third place--which
might as well, if not better, have come first--the resolve had
expired, like the flame of a damp match, in the effort that gave it
birth.

Aunt Freddy welcomed the suggestion of the portrait with enthusiasm.
She had had four years of peace, "careing" Coppinger's Court for the
reigning Coppinger; to "care" the reigning Coppinger himself, was, she
felt, a far less peaceful undertaking. She agreed entirely with the
well-worn adage relative to idle hands, and had no illusions as to her
own capacity to offer alternative attractions.

"I felt," she remarked to Lady Isabel, "exactly as if someone had
deposited a half-broken young horse in the drawing-room, and had told
me to exercise it! My dear, Christian's portrait is a Godsend! But I
may tell you, in strict confidence, that, so far, it's far too clever
for an ignoramus like me to make head or tail of it!"

"It certainly fills their mornings very thoroughly," responded Lady
Isabel, rather dubiously; "Christian vanishes from breakfast time till
lunch. I suppose _you_ see more of them?"

Aunt Freddy's reply was less distinct and definite than was usual with
her. Oh, well--occasionally--yes, generally--at least, always
sometimes--he was painting her in the garden, on that seat by the yew
hedge--so sheltered and sunny, and the weather was so perfect; she was
working in the garden herself every morning. Thus did the righteous
Frederica wriggle and prevaricate, causing Lady Isabel to assume that
the full rigours of chaperonage were complied with, while to herself,
Aunt Freddy thought that it would be perfectly ideal. But what "it"
was, she did not particularise to anyone.

Mr. St. Lawrence Coppinger was not a great artist, but it had been
conceded to him, even in the studio, that he had pretty colour (which
was quite without reference to his own complexion) and a knack of
catching a likeness. Added to these gifts he possessed a third, in
being able to talk without hindering the activities of his brush. They
talked a great deal to each other during those long, delightful
mornings in the sunny corner by the yew-hedge; idle, intimate talk,
that wandered back to the days of the Companions of Finn, and on,
through stirring tales of the _Quartier Latin_ into the future,
and what it was to hold for them. Larry knew what his future must hold
if it was to satisfy him. Since the moment when "Love's sickness" had
laid hold of him (the same as a person would get a stitch leaning over
a churn) he had known it. While he painted her, staring deep and hard,
appraising, carefully, with his outer soul, the curve of her cheek,
the delicate drawing of her small ear, the tender droop of her dark
eyelashes, all the subtle values of light and shade, all the problem
of inherent colour, and the colour that was lent by the sky and the
green things round her, his inner soul was repeating the old saying:
"I love my eyes for looking at you!"

Sometimes he thought he would stand it no longer, he would throw down
his palette and his brushes, and let the portrait go to blazes, and
kneel at her feet, telling her, over and over again, that he loved
her, until she would have to believe him. Yet, for there is something
inhuman about the artist, he refrained. The portrait was going so
well--the best head he had ever done--out of sight better than
anything he had done at the studio (what wouldn't he give to have a
lesson on it from old Chose!). He wouldn't break the spell of
successful work until he could carry the picture no farther. Then, he
thought to himself, oh then, he would be strong to speak!

And, did he but know it, there was no need to speak; not any need at
all. For Christian knew. Not enough has been said about her if it has
not been made clear that, for her spirit, the barriers and coverings
that other spirits take to themselves wherewith to build hiding-places
and shelters were "of little avail. Motives and tendencies, the hidden
forces that underlie action, were perceptible to her as are to the
water-diviner the secret waters that bend and twist his hazel rod.
Well she knew that Larry loved her; he was not the first in whom she
had divined it, but he was the first whose heart, crying to her,
voicelessly, had wakened the answering chime in hers; the first, she
said to herself, and the last. She wondered, sometimes, if he knew; it
seemed incredible that he could be with her, watching her, studying
her least look, and not know. Yet, she loved him for not knowing, for
his boyishness, his babyishness, his simplicity. She wondered if she
were a fairy-woman, who by her arts had beguiled a mortal. She had met
an extraordinary woman once, in London, where anyone, however
extraordinary, is possible, and this being, so she told Larry, had
gazed at her, raptly, had then assured her that she saw her aura (blue
shot with gold) and had told her that she had a very aged soul..

"I felt as if I were an old boot!" said Christian.

"Old idiot herself!" Larry said hotly; "what else did she pretend to
know about you?"

"She said she had met me before, in a previous incarnation. She
couldn't believe that I didn't remember her. But I couldn't."

"I'm glad you couldn't," said Larry, still angry. "I won't have you
remembering lives that I wasn't in! Anyhow, I don't believe they were
half as good as this one. I call this a thundering good life. _I_
don't want to have been Julius Caesar or Queen Anne."

"Oh, I daresay you weren't," said Christian, consolingly; "you don't
remind me of either of them. What would be more to the point would be
to know what you were going to be. In this life, I mean."

"Oh, a painter first," said Larry, responding with alacrity, as do
most people, to the stimulus of discussing himself; "but not
exclusively. I shouldn't mind having the hounds for a bit, and I
should like to travel--the gorgeous East, you know--that sort of
thing. And I must say," he hesitated, "I'm rather keen to have a shot
at politics."

He put down his palette and brushes and began to roll a cigarette,
while he walked backwards away from his easel, staring alternately at
his canvas and his model.

"Have you forgotten that I'm the prospective candidate for this
constituency? The Home Rule ticket, you know!" He looked at his
audience with a touch of defiance; "I don't know what _you_ may
think--_my_ notion is--"

The prospective candidate launched forth into a statement of his
notions; what, precisely, they were, is a matter that may here be
omitted. The kaleidoscope of Irish politics has made many new patterns
since Larry outlined his views for Christian, and the pattern of 1907
interests us no more. The affinity that exists between politics and
eggs is not limited to the function of the latter in emphasising
criticism of the former; it also extends to individual characteristics.
The morning newspaper and the morning egg should be equally recent.
Larry's political notions, when he stated them, had at least the merit
of freshness, and it shall be left to them.

Christian, listening to his ambitions, felt herself older than ever.

"I think I should be a painter all the time, and let Bill keep the
hounds for me," she said, indulgently, "and I certainly should
_not_ play with politics--I'm certain you'd hate them."

"Well, but I'm pledged, you know! I'm absolutely in honour bound to
play up if I'm wanted--"

"Whether you know the game or no?" said Christian, mockingly. "Very
sporting! I'm _not_ a Home Ruler, as it happens. I've no breadth
of outlook! _I_ haven' been in France for four years!"

"You're a reactionary!" declared Larry; "I tell you Self-Government is
in the air!"

With all her suppleness of mind, Christian had in her something of the
inbred obstinacy of fidelity that often goes with long descent. Her
colour rose.

"_We_ have always stood for the King!" she said, holding up her
head, and looking past Larry to the high, sailing clouds.

Larry began to laugh.

"Christian! It's awfully becoming to you to talk politics! Keep quite
quiet and I'll make a study of you as Britannia--or Joan of Arc--"

It was characteristic of these young people, that in the heat of
political argument they joined battle as freely as if no other point
of contact existed for them. This it is to be born and bred in
Ireland, where people live their opinions, and everyone is a patriot
with a different point of view, and politics are a hereditary disease,
blatant as a port-wine mark, and persistent as a family nose.

Miss Frederica, with a guilty remembrance of Lady Isabel's enquiries,
had established her weeding apparatus at a bed near the yew-hedge. She
heard the voices raised in discussion, and, catching words here and
there, felt that if these were the topics that occupied her charges,
Isabel need not have inflicted upon her the abominable nuisance of
poking in her nose where it was not wanted. Thus did Miss Coppinger
summarise the duties of a chaperon; but it must be remembered that she
had never been broken to the work, and in any case she had been out of
harness for four years.

The luncheon gong sounded to her across the Michaelmas daisies, and
the tall scarlet lobelias, and the gorgeous dahlias of the September
garden; she gathered her tools together and projected a shriek in the
direction of the yew hedge.

"Children! Lunch!"

As, dizzy with stooping, she slowly reared herself to be full height,
she saw a black, moving blur on the drive beyond the garden. She
rubbed her eyes; the blur defined itself as a man in priestly black.
Not Mr. Fetherston, a she had first believed, but Father Sweeny.

"A wolf in sheep's clothing!" thought Frederica, using as was her
wont, the well-worn phrase with guileless zest. She held that although
it might not, primarily, have been intended to describe the Roman
Catholic Priesthood, its application in a later age was obvious.

With a cautious eye on the wolf, she approached the yew hedge.

"Larry! Father Sweeny's at the hall door. You must ask him in to
lunch!"

To herself she thought: "He's Larry's affair, thank goodness! And I'll
see that my young man does his duty!"

When Frederica spoke of, or to, her nephew, as "my young man," it was
generally in connection with what she felt to be his duty, and felt
also that it was her duty to see that his was not shirked.

Father Tim Sweeny, at lunch, at the house of his chief parishioner,
was a very different being from the damaged and ferocious bull in
hospital. Conscious of his priestly dignity and of the need of
supporting it, but shaken by the minor stresses of the situation, the
senseless multiplicity of forks and spoons, the bewildering
restrictions by which he felt himself to be webbed about, hampered,
mastered, Father Tim was as a wild bull in a net, and was even
pathetic in his unavailing efforts to prove himself equal to his
surroundings. He cleared his throat at intervals, with an authority
that seemed to prelude something more epoch-making than an assent to
one of Frederica's industrious platitudes; he snuffled and fidgeted,
eating scarcely at all, and repelling the reverential assiduities of
the servants with shattering abruptness.

"Christian saved the situation," Frederica said, in subsequent
conversation with the Reverend Charles Fetherston; she absolutely
'charmed him to a smile.' She said afterwards that the smile made her
think of a Druidic stone circle, slightly imperfect from age! She
always thinks of absurd things; but I was grateful to her! She has an
amazing gift for setting people at their ease."

"I'm not sure that our respected friend might not be more tolerable
when he was _not_ at his ease!" said the Reverend Charles.

"Larry simply sulked," continued Miss Coppinger; "I'm afraid Paris
life does not inculcate much respect for religion."

"Very possibly!" said the Reverend Charles, non-committally. "I feel
for poor Sweeny! He knows now what Purgatory is like!"

"I assure you I was as civil as I knew how to be," asserted Frederica.

"I'm sure you were!" said the Reverend Charles, stuffing a pipe as he
spoke, and sniggering into the bowl.

Miss Coppinger was justified in believing that Christian had been a
success with Father Sweeny.

"I declare I could like that gerr'l, Christian Lowry," he said to
Father Greer. "She's a good gerr'l enough. Decent! Civil!" Each
adjective of approval was launched on a snort that indicated some
co-existing irritation; "but I have me own opinion of young
Coppinger!"

"A good one?" simpered Father Greer.

"The reverrse!" said Father Tim, and a least four r's rang and rolled
in the word.



CHAPTER XXVI


The portrait of that civil and decent girl, Christian Talbot Lowry,
was finished; it had been conveyed to Mount Music and was there
established on an easel in the billiard-room The artist and the model,
having raised and lowered blinds and arranged curtains to their
liking, or as nearly to that unattainable ideal as circumstances
permitted, were now recovering from the criticism of their relations
on the completed work.

The artist who works in the bosom of his own family has much to bear,
and, so the family consider, much to learn. Neither in endurance, nor
in the docile assimilation of instruction, had Mr. Coppinger been
conspicuously successful, and his model, on whom had rested the
weighty responsibility of keeping the peace, or, at least, of averting
open warfare between the painter and the critics, was now, albeit much
spent by her efforts, engaged in binding up the wounds inflicted on
the former by the latter.

"If you hadn't argued with them, they would have liked it very much;
you took them the _absolutely_ wrong way! But they _really_
are deeply impressed by it."

"I don't care what they think; I know jolly well it's the best thing
I've ever done!" said Larry, whose temperature was still considerably
above normal. "Your mother is the only one of the lot with a soul to be
saved. _She_ didn't harangue about what she doesn't understand! _She_
said: 'It makes me think of when she was a little child, and used to
say she saw things, and the other children used to tease her so
dreadfully'!"

"Quite true," said Christian. "So they did! And now they're going for
you! But you never teased me, Larry."

"Thank God, I didn't!" said Larry; he had been glowering at his
picture, but as he spoke he wheeled round, and sat down beside
Christian on the long billiard-room sofa. "Christian, you know--" he
began, stammering, and hesitating in a way that was unlike himself.

Christian interrupted him quickly.

"What shall you call the picture? I met Barty Mangan the other day,
and he was asking me all sorts of questions about it."

"I shall call it 'Christian, dost thou hear them?'" said Larry,
telling himself that the moment had come. "I was feeling that about
you all the time--I mean when I was painting. Christian, you
_did_ hear them, didn't you? What were they saying? Did they say
anything about me?"

He caught her hand and leaned to her, compelling her eyes to meet his;
"Let her see into my heart!" he thought; "she will find only herself
there!"

And just then the door opened, and old Evans appeared.

Larry released Christian's hand, and went red with rage up to the
roots of his fair hair. What he thought of Evans' incursion was
written so plainly on his face, that Christian, in that impregnable
corner of her mind where dwelt her sense of humour, felt a bubble of
laughter rise.

"You asked Mrs. Dixon, Miss, to see the picture," said Evans, with a
sour look at Larry. "She's outside now."

"Come in, Dixie," called Christian, with a sensation of reprieve.
Suspense had been trembling in the air round her; it trembled still,
but Dixie would bring respite, if not calm.

Mrs. Dixon, ceremonially clad in black silk, sailed up the long
billiard room, majestic as a full-rigged ship. Time had treated her
well; the increase of weight that the years had brought had done
little more than help to keep the wrinkles smoothed; her love for
Christian, having survived the depredations of the larder that had
once tried it, had triumphed over the enforced economies that marked
Christian's rule as housekeeper and was now her consolation for them.
To apprehend the intention of a painting is not given to all and is a
matter that requires more experience than is generally supposed. To
find a landscape has been reversed by the hand that wields the duster,
so that the trees stand on their heads, and the sky is as the waters
that are beneath the firmament, is an experience that has been denied
to few painters, and Mrs. Dixon would have found many to sympathise
with her, as she stood in silent stupefaction before the portrait.
Larry had been justified in his belief in it, but for such as Mrs.
Dixon, its appeal was inappreciable. Christian's face was in shade,
the brown darkness of her loosened hair framed it, and blended with
the green darkness of the yew hedge. Faint reflected lights from her
white dress, touches of sunlight that came through the leaves of the
surrounding trees gave the shadowed face life. In the clear stillness
of the eyes, something had been caught of the wonder that was latent
in Christian's look, the absorption in things far away, seen inwardly,
that in childhood had set her in a place apart; rarer now, but still
there for those to see who could give confidence to her shy spirit to
forget the limitations of this world, and to stray forth to meet
invisible comrades from other spheres. Sometimes it has been given to
an artist to rise, not by his conscious volition, above his wonted
power; to portray one beloved face with the force of his emotion
rather than that of his capacity, transcending the limits of his
ordinary skill, just as a horse will put forth his last ounce of
effort in response to the magnetism of one rider, and may never again
touch the same level of achievement.

But although the very fact that in this canvas something had lifted
Larry's art to greatness, made it for Mrs. Dixon a mystery and a
bewilderment, she had no intention of admitting defeat. After a moment
or two of silence, she cast up her eyes in an appeal to what seemed to
be a familiar near the ceiling, and said in impassioned tones:

"Well, well, isn't that lovely?"

The familiar apparently confirmed the opinion, for she repeated, with
a long sigh: "Wonderful altogether! I could be looking at it all day!"
She turned to Christian with profound deference. "And what might it be
intended to represent, Miss?"

Larry, who had picked up a cue, and was knocking the balls about, gave
a short and nettled laugh.

"Oh, Dixie!" said Christian, suffering equally with artist and critic,
"don't you see, it's a picture of me!"

Mrs. Dixon took the blow gallantly.

"Well, wasn't I the finished fool to forget my specs! I that couldn't
see the harp on a ha'penny without them!"

"Don't worry, Dixie," said Larry, smacking a ball into a pocket; "I'm
not surprised you didn't recognise it--it's not half good enough."

"Master Larry, my dear," returned Mrs. Dixon, whose social perceptions
were more acute than her artistic ones, "I'll go bail there isn't one
could take Miss Christian's picture the way you could, you that was
always her companion!" She moved away from the easel, and murmuring;
"and, please God, always will be!" she rustled away down the long
room. Mrs. Dixon, indomitable Protestant though she was, did not share
Evans' opinion of Larry.

Larry threw down the cue and opened the high French window into the
garden at the back of the house.

"Christian, for heaven's sake come out! I can't stand this stinking
room any longer! I feel as if all the imbecilities that I've had to
endure this afternoon were hanging in a cloud over the billiard table.
Come up to the old stone on the hill, and have some fresh air."

He stepped out into the garden, and Christian followed him, smiling
within herself at his impatience, the absurd impatience that she loved
because it was his. It wouldn't be Larry if he suffered fools, or
anything else that he disliked, gladly or peaceably. The feeling that
she was immeasurably older than he was was always at its most
convincing when his painting was in question; even she could not quite
realise what it meant to him to have rude hand laid upon the child of
his soul.

The garden was dank and heavy with overgrown, dying things, as
ill-cared-for gardens are wont to be at the end of September, but the
tall bush of sweet-scented verbena, that grew by the door in the south
wall, was still as green and sweet as in high summer. Christian broke
off some sprays and drew them through her hands before she put one
into the front of her shirt.

"Here, Larry," she said, giving him one, "this will help you to forget
the billiard room!"

Larry gave her a long look as he took it; "I don't altogether want to
forget it," he said. "I daresay good old Dixie was a useful
discipline."

Had Christian heard Mrs. Dixon's final aspiration she would have
realised that with it Dixie had covered her failure as an art critic.

Outside the garden was a wide belt of fir trees, and beyond and above
the trees, stretched the great hill, Cnochán an Ceoil Sidhe, the Hill
of Fairy Music, that gave its name to the house and demesne. Christian
and Larry passed through the shadowy grove, walking side by side along
the narrow track, their footsteps made noiseless by its thick covering
of pine needles. It was dark in the wood; the fir trees towered in
gloom above them; here and there in the deep of the branches there was
the stir of a wing, as a pigeon settled to its nest; from beyond the
wood came a brief, shrill bicker of starlings; all things beside these
were mute, and in the silent dusk, spirit was sensitive to spirit, and
the air was tense with the unspoken word.

The sun was low in the west when they came out on to the open
hillside, and went on up the path, through the heather, that led to
the Druid stone beside the Tober an Sidhe, the fairies' well. The
mist, golden and green, that comes with an autumn sunset, half hid,
half transfigured the wide distances of the valley of the Broadwater;
the darkness of the woods, blended from this aspect into one, of Mount
Music and Coppinger's Court, was softened by its veils; the far hills
were transparent, as if the light had fused them to clearest brown,
and topaz, and opal glass. The hill side, above and beneath them,
glowed and smouldered with the ruby-purple of heather.

Christian and Larry stood in the path beside the ancient stone and
looked out over the valley; the vastness and the glory of the great
prospect whelmed them like a flood, the sense of imminence that was
over them strung their nerves to vibrating and held them silent.

"My God!" sighed Larry, at last, trembling, turning to her who had
never failed to understand him, "Christian! it's too beautiful--the
world is too big--I can't bear it alone--" He caught her arm.
"You've got to help me. Oh Christian!--"

Christian turned her face from him.

"I believe I could," she said in a very low voice.

Even as she spoke, the truth broke out of her soul and ran through
her, running from her soul to his, like the flame of oil spilled upon
clear water. A voice cried a warning in her heart. "Too late!" she
answered it with triumph.

"Darling!" said Larry, holding her close.

       *       *       *       *       *

    The sunset

                  "bloomed and withered on the hill
    Like any hill-flower";

but long those two stood by the Druid stone, knowing, perhaps, the
best moment that life could give them, facing the dying radiance with
hearts that were full of sunrise.



CHAPTER XXVII

Doctor Francis Mangan, driving his car at something even more than his
usual high rate of speed, to the Parochial House, a mile or so from
the town of Cluhir, what time the sun's last rays were falling upon
the Druid stone on Cnochán an Ceoil Sidhe, would have been far from
pleased had he seen what the sun then saw. On their knees by the Tober
an Sidhe, Larry and Christian were looking into the tiny cave in which
the fairy water rose, and were giving each to each their plighting
word, the old word that they had known since they were children:

  "While water stands in Tubber an shee,
  My heart in your hands, your heart in me,"

and, observing scrupulously the prescribed rite, were drinking a
mouthful of the water, each from the other's hand.

Dr. Mangan would probably have said that it was all children's
nonsense, and that it was easier to break a promise than to keep it,
but it may be asserted with tolerable certainty that he would not have
been pleased.

He was a strong and able driver, and his big car whirled up Father
Greer's neat and narrow drive, holding undeviatingly the crown of the
high-cambered track, and stopped dead at the front door of the
Parochial House.

That Spirit of the Nation to whom allusion has occasionally been made
in these pages, was by now well accustomed to the discouragement that
she had ever received from the two young lovers whose betrothal she
had been powerless to forbid. She had fled from the benign fairy
influences of the Tober an Sidhe; but now, full of hope, she was
hovering with wide-spread wings over the Parochial House, and, as its
door was opened by Father Greer's elderly and ugly housekeeper, the
Spirit folded her wings and slipped past her, as by a familiar path,
into the priest's sitting-room.

Father Greer was "inside," the elderly and ugly housekeeper said;
"would the Doctor sit in the parlour a minute and he'd come down?"

The Doctor "sat" as requested, in the parlour, noting, as he had often
noted before, its arid asceticism, wondering how any man could stand
the life of a priest, respecting the power that could enable a man to
dispense with all the things that, in his opinion--which, by the way,
he pronounced "oping-en"--made life worth living.

Father Greer came imperceptibly into the room while the Doctor was
still pondering upon the hardness of the black horsehair-covered
armchair in which he was seated.

"Why, Doctor, this is an unexpected pleasure! I heard you were away,"
the priest said, laying a limp hand in the Doctor's big fist.

"So I was too. I was summoned to a consultation. That's what I'm come
to you about, Father. It's old Prendergast. I'm thinking he won't last
much longer."

"D'ye mean Daniel? The Member?"

"I do."

Father Greer took his thin nose, with the nostrils edged with red,
between his finger and thumb, and pinched it slowly downwards several
times.

"Well, what then?" he said at length.

"That's the point," said the Big Doctor, looking at the priest's pale
and bumpy forehead, and trying in vain to catch his eye. "You know
that young Coppinger's name was sent up by our local Committee four
years ago, and the Party approved it."

"I wonder were they in the right!" said Father Greer, still pinching
his nose, and looking up at the Doctor over his knuckles.

"I don't see who we could find that'd do better," said Dr. Mangan,
apologetically. "He's well off, and he holds strong Nationalist
oping-ens; and then, of course, he's a Catholic."

"I'm told he didn't go to Mass since he came home"; Father Greet let
the statement fall without expression.

"Ah well, he's only just back from France. Give him a little time, and
he'll come to himself," said the Doctor, still apologetic.

"I understand he's been painting Miss Christian Talbot-Lowry's
portrait," pursued Father Greer, with limpid simplicity. "I'm told
she's as pretty a young girl as there is in this neighbourhood."

Whether this slight prod of the mahout's _ankus_ was, or was not,
intentional, it is not easy to say, but it took instant effect upon
the Big Doctor.

"There are other pretty young girls in the neighbourhood besides
Christian Lowry," he said sharply. "And maybe prettier! I don't think
it would give us much trouble to find one that Larry Coppinger would
be well satisfied with, and one that's in the bosom of the Church,
too!"

"I greatly deplore mixed marriages," said Father Greer; permitting his
eyes to meet those of Dr. Mangan. "I had hoped that in the case of
this young man beneficial influences might have been brought to
bear--"

"If you want to put a spoke in that wheel," interrupted the Doctor
with eagerness, "you'll support his nomination. I'll undertake to say
there won't be much talk of mixed marriages then!"

Father Greer's small eyes again rested for a second on the Doctor's
broad face, with its strong, overhanging brows and heavy under-jaw,
and drew his own conclusions from the confident smile that showed the
white teeth under the drooping, black moustache that had still
scarcely a grey hair in it.

"I was thinking that might be what he was after!" thought Father
Greer. "Well, he's a good warrant to play his hand well, and more
unsuitable things have occurred before now. Yet, didn't I hear
something--!" Even in thought Father Greer observed a studied
mildness and moderation, and there were contingencies which might
remain unformulated until they crystallised into certainty.

"I'll think it over, Doctor," he said. "I'm inclined to your view, of
the case, and I might be disposed to advocate the candidature of your
nominee. But,"--here Father Greer sniffed several times, indicating
that a humorous aspect of the case had occurred to him, "what will we
do if he turns 'sour-face,' as they say, on us?"

This euphuism, which had been adopted by some of the more extreme of
the Nationalist party to indicate members of the opposing communion,
was received by Dr. Mangan as an apt and entertaining quotation on the
part of his clergyman.

"No fear, no fear!" he said, laughing jovially, "but if you'll allow
me to say so, I think a good deal depends on this business going
through."

The Spirit of the Nation smiled also; it was evident to her that these
ministers of hers were conscientiously intent on doing her pleasure,
and, leaving them with confidence, she spread her wide wings and
followed the broad stream of the river down the valley in the
direction of Mount Music.

Dr. Mangan drove home as swiftly and capably as was his wont. It had
been fair-day in Cluhir, and the people from the country were slowly
and reluctantly forsaking the enjoyments of the town. Large women
piled voluminously on small carts, each with a conducting little boy
and a labouring little donkey somewhere beneath her; men in decent
blue cloth garments, whose innate respectability must have suffered
acutely from the erratic conduct of the limbs inside them; wandering
knots of cattle, remotely attended by the wearers of blue cloth
aforesaid; horses carting themselves and their owners home, with
entire self-control and good sense; and, anchored in the tide of
traffic, the ubiquitous beggar-women, their filthy hands proffering
matches, green apples, bootlaces, their strident tongues mastering the
noises of the street, their rapacious, humorous eyes observant of all
things. All these did Dr. Mangan encounter and circumvent, frustrating
their apparent determination to commit suicide by those diverse
methods of abuse, cajolery, and, on the part of the car, mechanical
activity, that formed an important part of the necessary equipment of
an Irish motorist of the earlier time. Nevertheless, the more intimate
portion of his brain was deeply engaged in those labyrinths of minor
provincial intrigue in which so many able intellects spend themselves,
for want of wider opportunity.

Mrs. Mangan was in the kitchen, where, indeed, she was not
infrequently to be found, when the Doctor came in by the back-door
from the yard.

"I want you, Annie," he said, shouldering his enormous bulk along the
narrow passage, and treading heavily on the cat, who, her mystic
meditations thus painfully interrupted, vanished in darkness, uttering
the baleful cry of her kind, that is so inherently opposed to the
blended forgiveness and apology that give poignancy to a dog's
reproach for a similar injury.

"Look here, Annie. Before I forget it, I want you to take the car on
Saturday--I'll want it myself to-morrow--and call upon Miss Coppinger.
Barty can drive you. I got a wire awhile ago, and I have to go on the
nine o'clock to-night to Broadhaven. It's that unfortunate Prendergast
the Member. There's nothing can be done for the poor fellow, but
whether or no, I must go."

"They'll not be satisfied till they have you dead, too, dragging at
you!" protested Mrs. Mangan. "What nonsense they have, and you there
only this morning! On earth, what can you do more for him?"

"They think more of me, my dear, than you do!" said the Doctor,
cheerfully. "Be listening, now, to what I'm saying. You're to be as
civil as be damned to old Frederica, and tell Barty he's to fix up
with Larry to come here--what day is this to-day is? Thursday?--Tell
him I'll be in on Sunday afternoon, and I want to talk to him on very
special business. Now, will you remember that?"

He repeated his commands, as people will who have learnt, as most
Doctors must learn, the fallibility of the human memory and its
infinite powers of invention and substitution.

Mrs. Mangan listened obediently and promised attention. Although in
matters to which she attached slight importance, such as the
proportions of a prescription, her memory was liable to betray her, in
other affairs, it had the cast-iron accuracy of the peasant, and
without having been privileged with the Doctor's full confidence, she
was probably deeper in it than he was aware.

While still these intentions with regard to young Mr. St. Lawrence
Coppinger were whirling in the air above him, as a lasso swirls and
circles before it secures its victim, that young man was, it is no
exaggeration to say, staggering home under the weight of his
happiness. After the sacrament at the Tober an Sidhe he and Christian
had gone from the hill, hand in hand, like two children. In silence
they had gone through the dark wood, and almost in silence had made
their mutual farewells in the fragrant shadow of the pines.

When the soul is tuned to its highest it cannot find an interpreter.
The lips can utter only broken sounds, pathetically inadequate to
express emotions that may, in some future sphere, make themselves
known in terms other than are permitted to us. There is an inner
radiance that is beyond thought, that might conceivably utter itself
in music or in colour, but that can no more be translated into words
than can the radiance of the mid-day sun be more than indicated by
earthly painters with earthly pigments.

So it was with Larry and Christian. It chances now and then on this
old, and prosaic, and often tearful earth that some kindly spirit
leaves the door of Paradise a little open, and two happy
people--though sometimes it is only one--are caught inside for a time,
and come out, as Larry did, bewildered, dazzled, wandering back to
earth, he scarcely knew how, saying, drunkenly, to himself:

"Good Lord! She is so bright to-night!" as the blackbird said, who was
"blowing his bugle to one far bright star."



CHAPTER XXVIII


Old, prosaic, and often tearful, though this earth may be, few are
anxious to hasten their departure from it, and Daniel Prendergast,
Esq., M.P., abetted by the ministrations of that able consultant, Dr.
Mangan, "hung on," as his friends put it, with unexpected tenacity to
his share of the world. And, so far reaching are the etheric cords
that are said to bind us all together, Mr. Prendergast's grip of his
sorry and suffering life bestowed upon Larry and Christian three days
to be spent within the confines of Paradise.

This may seem an over-statement when it is recorded that their next
meeting was at 7 a.m. at a cubbing meet of the hounds, which occurred
on the morning following on Larry's discovery that the _entrée_
to Paradise had been his for the asking; it is, however, no more than
the truth. Christian had exacted a promise from him that no word was
to be said to any other of the high contracting parties until Monday,
and, as they rode in at the Castle Ire gates, the matter was still
under debate.

"Three days we must have, just three, with this secret hidden between
us like a pearl in an oyster-shell! Larry, you know _I_ can keep
a secret!"

"And you think I can't!" said Larry, affronted.

"I don't think, I know it! But you must try! Don't forget I've got to
week-end at the--" she named people who lived in the next county.
"No one shall be told until I come home!"

This was when they were riding to the meet. Larry had brought over
Joker, the bay horse, for her and he was himself riding a small grey
four-year-old mare, on whose education as a hunter he was entering. It
was one of those gorgeous mornings of late September, when everything
is intense in colour and in sentiment. A light white frost was
melting, in the first rays of the sun, to a silver dew, that twinkled
on grass and bush and twig. Now and then a beech leaf, prematurely
gold, came spinning down in the still air; from high places of heaven
a tiny gabble of music, cold, and shrill, and sweet, told of the songs
of the larks at those heavenly gates within which Larry's and
Christian's spirits were dwelling.

"Yes!" Christian repeated, as they rode tranquilly along on the grass
beside one of the long Castle Ire avenues, "it shall remain a secret
as long as possible, unprofaned by the vulgar! It's like this morning;
the dew's on it still. Larry, you've got to try!"

"Got to try, have I?" said Larry, beaming at her fatuously.

The horses were sidling close to one another after the manner of
stable companions; Larry put his hand on the bay horse's withers and
gazed into Christian's laughing eyes, while the blue of the southern
Irish sky uttered its strong, splendid note of colour behind the pale
rose of her face, and the ineffable freshness of the morning thrilled
in him.

"If you look at me like that in general society," he declared, "I
shall either give it away on the spot--or burst! Look here, here's the
measured-mile gallop; I'll race you to the hall door! If I get in
first, I shall tell everyone we're engaged!"

"Done!" said Christian, instantly shortening her reins; "but I back
Joker!"

She touched Joker with her heel and the big horse sprang, at the hint,
into a gallop. Quickly as he started, Rayleen, the grey mare (whose
name, being interpreted, is Little Star), being ever concentrated for
instant effort, as is the manner of small and well-bred
four-year-olds, was up to his shoulder in a couple of bounds, even in
the flame of her youth and enthusiasm, she drove ahead of Joker's
ordered strides, and led him for awhile. Larry's laugh of triumph,
that the wind tossed back to her, was not needed to rouse Christian to
emulation. Any hint of a race, any touch of a contest, appealed to her
as instantly as to Rayleen, and she was racing for that secret that
was like a pearl. Sitting very still she touched Joker again with her
heel and spoke to him. There was in her the magnetism that can fire a
horse to his best, by some mystery, compound of sympathy and
stimulation, that has no outward manifestation. Joker's great
shoulders worked under her as he lengthened and quickened his
beautiful, rhythmic stride. The wind of the pace whistled in her ears
and snatched at her hair. She crammed her hat over her forehead,
laughing with the joy of battle. She was level with Larry now. Now she
was passing him, and the little grey strove in vain to hold her place.
Gallant as she was, what could she do against a raking, trained
galloper, well over sixteen hands, and nearly thoroughbred?

The smooth mile of shining grass was annihilated, wiped out in a few
whirling minutes. Joker had but just fairly settled down to go when
the end of the race was at hand. Had he been a shade less of a
gentleman than he was, Christian, and the snaffle in which she was
riding him, would hardly have stopped him, as did their joint efforts,
on the gravel in front of the goal that Larry had given her.

Hunts come, and hunts go, and are forgotten. Horses, the best and
dearest of them, fade, in some degree, from remembrance; where are the
snows of yester year, and where the great gallops that we rode when we
were young? But here and there something defies the mists of memory,
and remains, bright and imperishable as a diamond. I believe that for
Christian that mile of sun and wind and speed and flight, with her
lover thundering at her heels, will remain ever vivid, one of the
moments that are of the incalculable bounty of Chance; moments that
earth can never equal, nor Heaven better.

The hounds and staff were waiting at the farther end of the long front
of Castle Ire, when Larry and Christian made their somewhat
sensational entrance upon the scene.

"Joker wins, by a length and a half," said Bill Kirby, judicially,
"and a very pretty race. I never saw a prettier, on any sands, on any
jackasses, on any Bank Holiday! I suppose this is how people always
fetch up at meets in France? It's not come in in this benighted
country yet."

"His fault!" said Christian, breathless and glowing. "He dar'd me!
Where are you going to draw?"

"The ash-pit and the fowl-houses," replied Bill, picking up his reins.
"Then the backstairs, and the kitchenmaid's bedroom. Judith and Mrs.
Brady say he's taking all the fowl, and they're going to lay poison--I
don't mean the fowl--"

"Isn't he bright this morning?" said Judith, looking down upon the
party from an upper window, effectively arrayed in one of those lacy
and lazy garments that invite, while they repudiate, society. "No, I'm
not coming out. Too early for me. Come in and eat something--breakfast
or lunch, anything--when you've done enough."

The hounds moved on and were soon busy in the screens of glossy laurel
round the house. Other riders arrived. A fox was found, if not in the
kitchenmaid's bedroom in some spot of almost equal intimacy, and the
Hunt surged in and through yards, and haggards, outhouses, and
gardens, the hounds over-running all the complicated surroundings of
an Irish country-house, while every grade of domestic, forsaking his
or her lawful occupation, joined in the chase.

Christian had betaken herself to a point on the avenue remote from the
fray. A run, she told herself, would have tranquillised her, and made
things seem more normal, but there was no prospect of one. "I'll wait
till this rat-hunt is over," she thought, letting Joker stroll across
the park towards a little lake, shining amidst bracken and bushes, a
jewel dropped from heaven. A couple of stiff-necked swans floated in
motionless trance upon it; black water-hens flapped in flashing,
splashing flight to safety as Christian came near; a string of
patchwork coloured mandarin-ducks propelled themselves in jerks
towards her, confident that any human being meant food. Two gigantic
turquoise dragon-flies rose, with a dry crackle of talc-like wings,
from a dead log under Joker's feet. One of them swung round the
horse's head, and lit on his shaven neck. It brooded there, apparently
unperceptive of the difference of this resting place from the one that
it had abandoned; its dull globes of eyes looked as if sight was the
last purpose for which they were intended. Joker stretched his long
neck to nibble a willow twig, and the blue mystery, rising, remained
poised over him for another moment of meditation, before it sailed
away, sideways, on its own obscure occasions.

Christian sat in the sunshine, and thought about Larry, and wondered.
She knew now that what she felt for him was no new thing. It had been
with her always, not merely since the painting of her portrait, but
always, unacknowledged yet implicit, ever since that first day when he
had rescued her from Richard. Her intensely criticising, analytic
brain refused to surrender to vague emotion. She was resolved to
understand herself, to rationalise her overthrow. It was the
difference, for which that half-hour of sunset was responsible, in the
degree of what she felt, that bewildered her. Yesterday, she told
herself, it was a deep, but well-controlled and respectable little
stream. To-day it was a flood. "I must keep my feet," she thought; "I
must not be swept away!" The thought of him was sometimes
overwhelming, like the fire of a summer noon; sometimes meditative,
and wound about with memories, like twilight, and the song of the
thrush; even at its least, it had been the glow that lives behind the
northern horizon in midsummer, witnessing to the hidden glory, during
darkness, or the wistful glimmer of stars. Now, while the sun went
higher, and all the hum of life rose, and the cries of the
water-birds, the buzz of insects over the bright lake, became more
insistent, and the blue and lovely morning spread and strengthened
round her, criticism and analysis failed. She could only think of him,
helplessly, saying to herself what she had once heard a peasant woman
say: "My heart'd open when I thinks of him."

Across the park came repeated notes from the horn, the baying of
hounds, and the screams that celebrate with orthodox excitement the
death of a fox. The rat-hunt was over. Joker lifted his spare,
aristocratic head from the grass, and listened, with a wisp of dewy
green stuff in his mouth. Christian looked at her watch. It was early
still, not eight o'clock. A grey horse and its rider came forth from
the dark grove of laurels. Larry was looking for her. She sighed; she
did not know why. She thought of the old Mendelssohn open-air
part-song:

  "The talk of the lovers in silence dies,
  They weep, yet they know not why tears fill their eyes."

The old, absurd words, that she had so often laughed at. She laughed
again, but at herself, and sat still, watching the grey mare coming
lightly over the sunny grass to her.

"They got him!" Larry shouted, as he came near. "The brute wouldn't
run for 'em! Too full of hen, I suppose! They're going on now to the
gorse in the high paddock. Why did you come away here?"

"Because I'm illogical. I like hunting, and I hate catching what I
hunt. Besides, I wanted to think."

"Rotten habit," said Larry. "I won't have you changing your mind!"

Christian looked at him, and sighed again. He was on her right, and
she took her hunting-crop in her left hand, with the reins, and
stretched out her right hand to him. He caught it, and kissed her
slender wrist above the glove. There came back to Christian, with a
rush, the remembrance of the May morning at the kennels when he had
kissed her wrist. That had been the left wrist. The kiss had meant
more to her than it had to him. Now, as she met his eyes she knew that
she and he stood on level ground.

Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel? Those even, who pin it down, and
set it up in a glass case in the cause of science and for the
edification of an inquisitive public, are not wholly to be commended,
praiseworthy though their intentions may be. Let a rule of silence,
therefore be observed, as far as may be. What this boy and girl said
to each other, is their secret, not ours.

The gorse in the high paddock held a fox; several, in fact, a lady
having reared a fine young family there without any anxieties as to
their support, thanks to the votive offerings of crows and rabbits,
obsequiously laid on her doorstep, by her best friend, and her most
implacable enemy, Mr. William Kirby, M.F.H. In recognition, no doubt,
of these attentions, the lady in question permitted one of her sons to
afford a little harmless pleasure to her benefactor, and this, having
included a lively gallop of some three miles, ceased in a plantation
where was the place of safety that had been indicated to the beginner,
and ceased appositely, at an hour that made a late breakfast at Castle
Ire a matter obvious, even imperative, for those who were not prepared
to await, in patient starvation, that very inferior repast, an early
lunch.

Young Mrs. Kirby had not lost, with matrimony, the habit of having her
own way.

"No, Christian, you're not going home. You haven't seen Baby, and he
really looks _rather_ sweet in his new--" (a negligible matter,
whatever the attire the formulae being unvaried)--"and, besides,"
continued young Mrs. Kirby, with decision, "I want to talk to you."

Being talked to by Judith was an adequate modern equivalent for an
interview with the "Jailer's Daughter," as a method of obtaining
information.

Christian trembled for the secret of the pearl.

"Bill tells me," began Judith, after the late breakfast had been
disposed of, settling herself luxuriously in an armchair in the round
tower-room which she had made her own sitting-room and lighting a
cigarette, "that our tenants--I mean Papa's people--are getting rather
nasty. Of course, there was that disgraceful business when your mare
was killed but I don't mean that--Bill thinks old Fairfax was right in
advising Papa to do nothing about that--but about this archaic
nonsense of feudal feeling and not selling the property. Of course
he's bound to lose by the sale, but the longer he waits the worse it
gets."

"I don't think it's only feudal feeling--he says he can't afford to
sell," began Christian.

"Oh, I know all that, my dear," interrupted Judith; "'the infernal
mortgagees, and the damned charges, and that blackguard rebel, young
Mangan, who cut the ground from under his feet,' and so on. I've heard
it all from Papa, exactly five thousand times. But the point is that
there was a meeting at Pribawn, with the priest in the chair, and
there were furious speeches, and they talked of boycotting Papa, and
some steps _ought_ to be taken. It's an intolerable nuisance
being boycotted, if it's nothing else, and most expensive. I was with
the O'Donnells that time when they were boycotted--up at five every
morning to milk the cows and light the kitchen fire, and having to get
every earthly thing by post from London!"

"I'll take as many steps as you like," said Christian, "if you'll only
tell me where to take them."

Judith took her cigarette out of her mouth, and blew a ring of smoke,
regarding her younger sister the while with a shrewd and wary blue
eye.

"I've often said to you, my dear child," she began, in a voice that
seemed intended to usher in a change of subject, "that if you _won't_
take an interest in men, _they_ won't take an interest; in you."

"Then why repeat the statement?" said Christian, wondering what Judith
was working up to, and girding herself for battle; "true and beautiful
though it is!"

"Because, my dear--and I may say I speak as one having authority and
not as the scribes--in _my_ opinion, and judging by what I
perceived with about a quarter of one eye at breakfast, you have only
to hold up your little finger, in a friendly and encouraging manner,
and our young friend and relative, Mr. Coppinger, will--I admit I
don't quite know what people do with little fingers in these cases,
something affectionate, no doubt!"

"I thought your authority would have extended to little fingers!"
broke in Christian, sparring for wind, and wishing she were not facing
the window; "in any case, I fail to see what mine, in this instance,
has to say to our being boycotted?"

"My dear girl," said Judith, leaning forward, and speaking with
solemnity, "the priests won't want to fall foul of anyone with as much
money as Larry!"

Christian was silent; she had not anticipated quite so direct an
intervention in her personal affairs as was now being discovered, and
she felt that her pearl was melting in the fierce solvent of Judith's
interest and curiosity.

"I know it's a bore about his religion, and his politics are
_more_ than shaky, but you know, in a way, it's rather lucky, in
view of the mess Papa's got everything into, to have someone on that
side," went on Judith, who was far too practical to be influenced by
that malign Spirit of the Nation who had so persistently endeavoured
to establish herself as one of the family at Mount Music. "All I'm
afraid of is that Papa may begin to beat the Protestant drum and wave
the Union Jack! Such nonsense! The main thing is that Larry himself is
quite all right!"

"I'm sure he would be gratified by your approval!" Judith's patronage
was somewhat galling; Judith, who was quite pleased with Bill
Kirby!--Good, excellent Bill, but still! Christian's colour betrayed
her, and she knew it, and knowing also the remorseless cross-examination
that the betrayal would immediately provoke, she decided to anticipate
it.

"As a matter of fact," she went on, "he--we--" she hated the crudity
of the statement.

"You're engaged!" swooped Judith, with the speed of a hawk. "Excellent
girl!"

Christian found the commendation offensive.

"I assure you it's quite without either political or religious bias!"
she said defiantly. She had failed to keep her secret, but she went
down with her flags flying.



CHAPTER XXIX


Barty Mangan fulfilled his father's behests, and on Saturday, he drove
his mother to Coppinger's Court.

He drove a motor well; not brilliantly, like Larry, because Barty did
nothing brilliantly, but capably and gently, with consideration for
donkey-carts, with respect for horses, with kindness towards
pedestrians, even without animosity towards cur-dogs. The surprising
aspect of the fact was that he should be able, in any degree, to
handle a car, the control of energy being an effort foreign to his
nature. What in his mother was laziness, was with him transmuted to
languor; his father's vigour and decision became in Barty a sort of
tepid obstinacy, and the Doctor's fierce and fighting allegiance to
his Church reappeared in his son as a peevish conscientiousness, that
had provoked a friend of the family to say: "Barty's a dam' bad
solicitor! He'll take up no case but what pleases him, and he'll touch
nothing if he thinks he'll make money out of it!"

"Ah! He was always a fool for himself!" replied, heartily, Barty's
great-aunt, Mrs. Cantwell, to whom the comment had been offered.

One aspect of the practical affairs of life, and one only, had power
to rouse Barty from the dreamy passivity which had excited Great-Aunt
Cantwell's contempt. Where Ireland and Irish politics came into
question, some deep spring of sentiment and enthusiasm in him was
touched, and all the force that he was capable of became manifest. All
the strength and tenacity that were in him were concentrated in the
cause of Nationalism; Ireland was his religion, and he felt himself to
be one of her priesthood.

There are some gentle natures, with deep affections, but without much
brain-power in whom an idea, a mental attitude, and especially a
personal liking or disliking, is very easily implanted; yet, easily as
it is introduced, once it has taken hold it can never be dislodged.
The intellect has not energy enough for reconstruction; it accepts too
readily, and, once saturated, the stain is indelible, because there is
no power of growth.

Behold, then, Barty, gentle and obstinate, timid and an enthusiast,
loving, yet implacable, seated in Larry's studio, regarding with
submissive adoration the being compact of the antithesis of his
qualities, and ready, for that being's sake, to make any sacrifice
save that of renouncing him.

The being in question, wholly and feverishly absorbed in his own
affairs of the heart, while bound by his oath to say nothing about
them, brought himself with difficulty to attend to the retrospect of
financial operations, hitherto postponed, but now insisted upon, by
his man of business.

"Oh, first-rate, old chap--quite all right--good business!--" With
these, and similar interjections, did the employer ratify and approve
of his agent's transactions. Barty's legal training abetted his
conscientiousness, and in his mild and monotonous brogue he laid
before Larry a statement of his money matters that was as unsparing in
detail as it was accurate.

"So now you see," he concluded, "I didn't act without careful
consideration, and I consulted me fawther, besides others of
experience in such matters. I believe there are people who are saying
we sold too cheap to the tenants. But, on the other hand, the money's
good and safe now; you have a certain and secure income, and you're in
a very favourable position in the eyes of the people."

Larry pulled himself from reverie to ejaculate further general
approval; then he rose from the table, upon which Barty's books had
been displayed, and drawing forward an easel on which was a framed
canvas covered by some vivid oriental drapery, he arranged it
carefully with regard to the light. Then he caught away the drapery,
stepping back, quickly, from the easel.

"What do you think of that, Barty?"

Barty, who was short-sighted, stood up and adjusted his eye-glasses,
while he endeavoured to readjust his ideas, and to abandon the realms
of business for those of art.

"But you know, Larry," he apologised, "I know nothing about paintings.
You wouldn't know what tomfoolery I mightn't--" The apology broke
off abruptly.

"Oh, God!" he muttered, feeling, in the shock of meeting her eyes, as
if a sudden wind had swept his mind bare of business, of Larry, of all
things save Christian, "it's herself!"

His sallow face had turned a dull red. He moved back a step or two,
and then went forward again. The easel was low, and Barty was very
tall; he went on his knees, and gazed, speechless.

Thus might a devout Russian have greeted a lost icon, and worshipped,
silently, a re-found saint. Larry, equally absorbed, as any painter
will understand, in the contemplation of his work, took no heed of its
effect upon Barty.

"By Jove!" he murmured, drawing a big breath, "I wonder if I did it! I
don't feel as if I had--something outside me--" He stopped; he felt
as if Christian herself were there; he felt as if her arms were round
him, his head upon her bosom. He was giddy with emotion. Scarcely
knowing what he did he walked across the room, and stared out of the
window, looking across his own woods to the woods of Mount Music.

That morning he had said good-bye to her for three long days. She had
met him at the old stepping stones across the Ownashee, and she had
made him renew his promise of silence until her return; he was sorry
he couldn't tell old Barty; but no matter, nothing mattered, except
the marvel that she was his. He whispered adoration to her, breathing
her name again and again, crowning it, as with a wreath, with those
old, familiar adjectives that had so lately become intense with new
meaning for him; he forgot Barty, forgot even her portrait, as he
thought of herself.

Barty came over to him; the two young men, with their common secret,
suspected by neither, a secret that for one was a living ecstasy, and
for the other an impossible ideal, stood silent, full of their own
thoughts. Barty spoke first.

"It's a wonder to me! I didn't think you could paint like that, Larry!
I didn't think anyone could!"

"Well, no more I can, really. This was a sort of a miracle and it
painted itself."

The same impulse moved them both, and they returned to the easel on
which was the picture, but with a quick movement Larry flung the
drapery over the frame again and hid the picture.

"Didn't you say you had a message for me from your father?"

Barty accepted the change of subject with his accustomed resignation
to Larry's moods.

"I have. He said he'd be at home to-morrow afternoon--that's
Sunday--and he wanted to see you on very special business."

"Do you know what about?" Larry asked, without interest, while he
arranged the many-coloured silken drapery in effective folds over the
picture.

"I believe old Prendergast's dying."

Barty hesitated; then, remembering that his father had not enjoined
secrecy, he rushed into his subject. "Larry, I believe the chance
we've been waiting for is come--or as good as come!"

"Do you mean that it's Prendergast the Member who's dying? Do you mean
my getting into Parliament?"

Larry swung round on Barty, and fired the questions at him, quick as
shots from a revolver.

The colour rose again in Barty's face. His dark, shortsighted eyes,
that were set on Larry, had a sudden glow in them. He nodded.

"He's likely dead by now! Oh Larry!" he cried, panting in his
eagerness. "May be the chance has come at last! I believe you might be
the man Ireland wants! I believe you might take Parnell's place! Me
fawther says you're certain to be nominated, and there's no
opposition, of course. Anyhow, if there were, itself, you'd go in
flying, just the same! You're the man we're all waiting for! Larry,
old cock! The day will come when I'll be bragging that I was the one
first gave you the notion to go into politics!"

Larry was gazing at his man of business, whose aspect, it may be
conceded, was at this moment singularly at variance with the usual
conception of such a functionary. The man of business gazed back at
him, the glow intensifying behind his eye-glasses and gathering energy
from the answering gleam in Larry's eyes.

"The Bloody Wars!" uttered Larry, slowly and quite irrelevantly, and
with great emphasis. "By all the crosses in a yard of check! Let me
hold on to something and think! This is a game and a half! I must
think furiously!"

"Do not!" exclaimed Barty; "don't think at all! Don't be wasting time
like that! No man ever had a greater chance than this! Lep at it,
Larry, old lad! Give me the word I want, and I'll wire the Doctor
to-night--a message he'll understand, and no one else. Oh Larry!" he
implored, "don't cry off now! You've pots of money; you can do any
damn thing you like! If you refuse this chance now you'll only regret
it the once, and that'll be all your life!"

Then did that mysterious and mighty agency, the warp that a mind has
received in childhood, come to reinforce the enthusiasms and ambitions
of youth, and urge Larry to assent. That other and nobler Spirit of
the Nation woke, and the passionate, irreconcilable voice, that had
first spoken to him when he was a little boy, woke and uttered itself
again, shouting to him its wild summons at a moment when the tide of
life was running fiercest in him, when every emotion was at highest
pressure and calling for great adventure.

"All right, Barty, my son, I'm for it!" said Larry, with the
assumption of outward calm, when heart and pulses are pounding, that
has been claimed as one of the assets of a public school education,
and is, even without that advantage, the birthright of such as young
Mr. Coppinger.



CHAPTER XXX


Larry bicycled up to the white chapel on the hill, to Second Mass, on
the following morning. He rode fast through the converging groups of
people, on foot, on outside cars, in carts, on horseback. It was four
years since he had last attended a service there, and to many of the
assembled congregation he had become a stranger. None the less there
was no hesitation in any man's mind in identifying him; these were
people who knew a gentleman when they saw one, and the young owner of
Coppinger's Court was the only gentleman ever to be seen at the white
chapel on the hill.

Therefore it was that Larry's right hand was seldom on his handle-bar,
as he skimmed through the people, decent and dark-dressed in their
Sunday best, who saluted with a long-established friendship and
respect this solitary representative of their traditional enemies, the
landlords.

There cannot be in the world a people more unfailingly church-going
than those sons and daughters of Rome who are bred in Southern
Ireland. Larry looked down, from his pew in the gallery, at the close
ranks of kneeling figures, and thought with compunction how long it
was since he had been in a church, and thanked God that he had come
home to his own people, and that their religion was his. He followed
the words of the service with a new realisation of their ancient
beauty. He trembled with an unfamiliar emotion, as, in the charged
silence of the crowded chapel, the bell tinkled and the censer
clashed, sounds that have in them at such moments a heart-shaking
power, magnetic, mystical. He heard nothing of the sermon; in his
eager mind two thoughts raced side by side, now one, now the other,
leading. These two marvels that had befallen. That Christian should
love him; this had the mastery, irradiating all; but with the vivid
sense of fellowship and communion that the service brought the other
thought, the old dream that was coming true of standing for these
people, of making their interests his, their welfare his care, moved
him profoundly.

Outside in the chapel yard, after the service, the congregation was in
no hurry to disperse. Larry looked about him, and found many friendly
eyes set on him. Larry, too, had a friendly heart, and he bethought
him that, as a future M.P., he should lose no opportunity of
intercourse with his constituents. He recognised the solid presence of
John Herlihy, an elderly farmer who had been one of the largest of his
own late tenants, and he went across the yard to where he stood and
shook hands with him.

"Fine day, John! Good and hot for the harvest! Got your threshing done
yet?"

"'Tis very warm, sir," answered John Herlihy, correcting, as is
invariable, Larry's employment of the vulgar adjective "hot"; "very
warm entirely, and sure I have my corn threshed this ten days, the
same as yourself!"

"Nothing like taking time by the fetlock, is there, John!" chaffed
Larry (who, until that moment, had been unaware that he possessed any
corn); "it's a good harvest all round, isn't it?"

"Well, pretty fair, thank God!"

"And the country's quiet?"

"Never better, sir, never better!" responded John Herlihy, weightily;
but something in his cool eyes, grey and wise as a parrot's, impelled
Larry, in his new-born sense of responsibility, to further
questioning.

Mr. John Herlihy was a man of the order to whom the label
"respectable" inevitably attaches itself (that adjective which acts as
a touch-stone in the definition of class, and is a compliment up to a
certain point, an offence higher up the scale); one of those sound and
sensible and thrifty farmers who are the strength of Ireland, and are
as the stones of a break-water, over which the storm-froth of the
waters of politics sweeps unheeded.

"Well," Larry went on, "it wasn't a very nice way that those Carmodys
up at Derrylugga treated Miss Christian Talbot-Lowry the other day!
Killing her mare under her, the cowardly blackguards!"

The grey parrot eyes scanned Larry, summing him up, determining how
far he might be trusted, deciding that an oblique approach might be
most advisable.

"Major Lowry's a fine gentleman," said John Herlihy, largely; "a fine,
easy, _grauver_ man! I declare I was sorry to me heart when he
gave up the hounds! If it was to be only a scold or a curse from him,
ye'd rather it, and to have he be goin' through the country!"

"Then what have people against him? Good God!" cried Larry, hotly.
"It's too easy he is! _I_ wouldn't have let those devils off as
easy as he did!"

"I heard the Priest and a few more, was above at Mount Music ere
yesterday," said John Herlihy, in a slightly lowered voice, "about the
sale of the property they were, I b'lieve. You done well, Master
Larry, you got quit o' the whole kit of us!"

Having thus shelved the controversial subject, Mr. Herlihy, laughing
heartily at his own jest, moved towards his horse and car, that were
hitched to the chapel gate, and let down the upturned side of the car.

"Come! Get up, woman! Get up!" he called to his wife, a prosperous
lady, in a massive, blue, hooded cloak, who had been standing by the
gate, patiently waiting his pleasure; "don't be delaying me this way!"

He winked at Larry, scrambling on to the car.

"What _tashpy_ he has!" remarked Mrs. Herlihy, benignantly, as
Larry shook hands with her.

"Ah, you spoil him, Mrs. Herlihy! You should dock his oats!" said
Larry, laughing into her jolly, round, red face, that was glistening
with heat under the heavy cloth hood. "It's a grand hot day, isn't
it?"

"'Tis very warm, sir, indeed," corrected Mrs. Herlihy, as she mounted
the car with an agility as competent, and as unexpected, as that of a
trespassing cow confronted with a stone-faced bank.

Larry went home, and continued a letter to Christian that he had begun
over night. He told her of Barty's visit, and of all that it was
likely to involve. He said that he was very lonely, and he believed
she had been gone a year. Even Aunt Freddy had bolted off to Dublin,
on urgent private affairs, which meant the dentist, as usual. He would
go over to see Cousin Dick, only that he was absolutely bound to go
into Cluhir. At this point he entered anew upon the subject of his
political future, and what it meant to him. Of the fun he would have
canvassing the electors. Christian would have to come round with him,
and in very obdurate cases there was always the classical method of
the Duchess of Devonshire to be resorted to! Already, he said, he was
frightfully interested in the whole show, and he meant--several pages
were devoted by Larry to his intentions.

Christian, far away in the County Limerick, received the letter with
her early cup of tea, and, as she read it, felt her soul disquieted
within her. The conjunction of the stars of Love and Politics
presaged, she felt, disaster--as if the question of religion had not
been complicating enough! Even had her gift of envisaging a situation
by the light of reason failed her, that spiritual aneroid, which,
sensitive to soul-pressure, warned her intuitively of coming joy or
sorrow, ill luck or good fortune, had fallen from set fair to stormy.
She had gone to sleep with sunshine in her heart; she awoke in clouds,
dark and threatening. She read Larry's letter, and knew that the
foreboding would come true.

It is probable that no human being was ever less the prey of
intuitions or presentiments than was young Mr. Coppinger, as he
bicycled lightly into Cluhir along the solitary steam-rolled road of
the district, a typical effort of Irish civilisation, initiated by Dr.
Mangan, that had proposed to link Cluhir with the outer world, but had
died, like a worn-out tramp, at the end of a few faltering miles, on
the steps of the work-house hospital at Riverstown. The road ran along
the bank of the great river, with nothing save a low fence and a
footpath between it and the water. The river was still and gleaming.
Masses of dove-coloured cloud, with touches of silver-saffron, where
their lining showed through, draped the wide sky, in over-lapping
folds. The planes of distance up the broad valley were graduated in
tone by a succession of screens of luminous vapour that parcelled out
the landscape, taking away all colour save that bestowed by the
transparent golden grey of the mist. The roofs of Cluhir made a dark
profile in the middle distance, the lower part of the houses hidden in
the steaming mist, and the beautiful outline of the twin crests of
Carrigaholt was like a golden shadow in the sky above them. The spire
and the tower of the two churches of Cluhir, rose on either side of
the pale radiance of the river, with the slender arch of the bridge
joining them, as if to show in allegory their inherent oneness, their
joint access to the water of life. Religion counted for but little
with Larry in those days, yet as the wonder of beauty sank into his
soul, that was ever thirsty for beauty, the thought of what it would
mean for Ireland if the symbol of the linking bridge had its
counterpart in reality sprang into his eager mind. Then he thought of
himself and Christian, and knew that religion could never come between
him and her, and, as the close-followed thought of what these last
days had brought, rose in his mind, the wonder of it overwhelmed him.
He told himself that the only possible explanation of her caring for
such as he, was that Narcissus-like, she had seen her own image
reflected in his heart, and had fallen in love with it. The fancy
attracted him; he rode on, his mind set on a sonnet that should fitly
enshrine the thought, and politics and religion, symbols and ideals,
faded, as the stars go out when the sun comes.

For the last couple of miles before Cluhir was reached the road and
the river ran their parallel course in a line that was nearly direct,
and, from a long way off, Larry was aware of the figure of a man and
woman and a dog, preceding him towards the town. He noted presently
that the dog had passed from view, and then he saw the man and the
woman hurry across the road and pass through the gateway of a field.
He was soon level with the gate. There was a little knot of people
just within the field, and in the moment of perceiving that the woman
was Tishy Mangan, he also saw that a fierce fight was in progress
between two dogs.

"Oh, stop them, stop them!" Tishy was screaming. "That's my father's
dog, and he'll be killed!"

She belaboured the dogs, futilely, with her parasol.

The man who was with her, a tall and elaborately well-dressed young
gentleman with a red moustache, confined himself, very wisely, to loud
exhortations to the remainder of the group, who were lads from the
town, to call off their dog; and the remainder of the group, with
equal wisdom and greater candour, were unanimously asserting that they
would be "in dhread" to touch the combatants. The dogs were well
matched--strong, yellow-red Irish terriers; each had the other by the
side of the throat, and each, with the deep, snuffling gurgles of
strenuous combat, was trying to better his hold on his enemy.

Larry, swift in action as in thought, was off his bicycle and into the
ring without a second of hesitation.

"Catch your dog by the tail," he shouted to the boys, while he
performed the like office for the Doctor's dog. "Now then! Into the
river with them!"

The two dogs, fast in each other's jaws, were lifted, and were borne
across the road to the edge of the footpath, below which the river
ran, deep and strong.

"Now then!"

The two rough, yellow bodies were swung between Larry and his
coadjutor.

"Now! Let 'em go!"

The dogs flew like chain-shot through the air, and, with a tremendous
splash disappeared from view in the river. They rose to the surface
still keeping their hold of one another, and sank again. A second time
they rose without having loosened their grip, but at their third
appearance they were apart.

"Now boys! Cruisht them well, or they'll be at it again when they
land!"

The "cruishting," which means pelting with stones, succeeded. The
enemies landed at different points. Miss Mangan's charge was
recaptured, his antagonist was stoned by his owners until out of
range, and the incident closed.

It was not, however, without result.

"I think you never met Captain Cloherty, Mr. Coppinger?" said Tishy,
with a glance at Captain Cloherty that spoke disapproval. "He's not as
useful in a fight as you are, though he _is_ in the Army!"

"My branch of the service mends wounds, it doesn't go out of its way
to get them!" returned Captain Cloherty, composedly, "and I haven't
any use for getting bitten."

"Mr. Coppinger wasn't so nervous!" retorted Miss Mangan, scorchingly,
"and it's well for me he wasn't! What'd I say to the Doctor if I had
to tell him his pet dog was dead?"

"Something else, I suppose!" suggested Captain Cloherty, his red
moustache lifting in a grin that Miss Mangan found excessively
exasperating; "it wouldn't be the best time to tell the truth at all!"

"How funny you are!" said Tishy, with a blighting glance. "It's easy
to joke now, when Mr. Coppinger has done the work!"

She swept another glance of her grey eyes at Larry, very different
from that that she had bestowed upon the callous Cloherty.

Few young men object to exaltation at the expense of another,
especially if that other has two or three inches the advantage in
height, and they are themselves not unconscious of deserving. Larry
led his bicycle and walked beside Tishy, and found pleasure in meeting
her again after four years of absence. For one thing, she had become
even better-looking than he remembered her--turned into a thundering
handsome young woman, he thought--and it became him, as an artist, to
be a connoisseur in such matters.

"Oh, so you're going to see the Doctor, are you?" she said, "I know he
was expecting you." She hesitated. "I told him I thought I'd be at
Mrs. Whelply's this afternoon. He--he might be surprised if he thought
I had Tinker out, and that he was in a fight--"

"I'll keep it dark," Larry said, reassuringly, while he wondered if
the protecting darkness were also to envelop Captain Cloherty,
R.A.M.C. He thought, on the whole, perhaps, yes.



CHAPTER XXXI


Major Talbot-Lowry had been in a passion for three days, and Lady
Isabel, who had borne the storm alone, longed for Christian's return,
as the lone keeper of a lighthouse might long for the support of his
comrade during a gale.

Judith came to visit her parents on Monday, but Judith was very far
from being Christian, and could be relied on merely as far as a
counter-irritant might prove of service.

"Well, of course, it was abominable impertinence of the priest to come
up with the tenants to try and bully you, Papa, but you know, I see
their point." Thus, Judith, annoyingly, and with pertinacity.

"You do, do you!" interjected Judith's progenitor, his once ruddy face
now a congested purple. "It seems to me, Judith, you're always deuced
ready to see any one's point but mine!"

"After all," went on Judith, with all the self-confidence and
intolerance of five and twenty, "it's in your interest to sell, just
as much as theirs to buy! With this detestable Government in power it
will be a case of the Sibylline Books. You'll see the Nationalists
will have it all their own way, and the next Act--"

"Nationalists!" roared the Major, sitting upright in his chair, and
panting, his utterance temporarily checked by the sheer pressure of
all that he wished to say. "Don't talk to me of Nationalists! Common
thieves! That's all they are! There's no Nationalism about
_them_! Call it Socialism, if you like, or any other name for
robbery! They'd look very blue if _we_ took to shouting 'Ireland
a Nation!' and expecting to come in at the finish! They mightn't be
able to call us English invaders and to steal our property then!
English! I've got Brian Boroihme in my pedigree and that's more than
they can say! A pack of half-bred descendants of Cromwell's soldiers!
That's what they are, and the best of them, too! That's the best drop
of blood they've got!" Dick shouted, veering in the wind of his own
words like a rudderless ship in a storm. "That's what gives them
tenacity and bigotry! Look at the old places that they're squeezing
the old families out of! It's the Protestant farmers and the Religious
Orders that are getting them, swarming into them like rats! Don't tell
me that I and my family aren't a better asset to any country than a
lot of fat, lazy Monks and Nuns!"

"But, Papa, they're not all fat!" said Judith, beginning to laugh.

"Deuce a many of them's thin for want of plenty to eat!" returned
Dick, with the confidence of a man whose faith in his theories has
never been interfered with by investigation. He was recovering his
temper, having enjoyed the delivery of his diatribe; and the fact that
he had not only silenced Judith but had tickled her to a laugh,
restored his sense of domination.

Poor old King Canute, with the tide by this time well above the tops
of his hunting-boots, and all the familiar landmarks becoming
submerged, one after the other! It may be easy to deride him, but it
is hard not to pity him.

This was on Monday, and Christian returned from her week-end visit
that evening. Judith stayed, and went with Christian to her room.

"Well, my dear," she began, eagerly, as the door closed, "when are you
going to announce it?"

Christian sat down on her bed. She was looking very tired.

"Never, I think!"

Without paying attention to Judith's exclamation she took a newspaper
out of the pocket of her top-coat, and handed it to her sister.

"This is this evening's paper. I got it at the Junction. Read that."
She pointed to a paragraph.

Judith read it; then she dropped the paper, and gazed at Christian
with dramatic consternation.

"The idiot!" she said, at length. "Couldn't you stop him?"

"He had promised years ago. I didn't try. He couldn't break his word."

"Oh, rot!" said Judith, briefly.

"You know he couldn't, Judy."

"Well, you know, this will finish him with Papa," said Judith,
gloomily. "He's bad enough as it is about the sales to the tenants,
and I was prepared for rows over the religious business, of course,
but this! Can't you"

"I can't do anything," interrupted Christian, getting up. "I heard
from him this morning, fearfully keen about it, but he didn't know
then if the Party were going to adopt him. Evidently they have."

"Trust them for that!" said Judith, with a heavy groan. "I suppose
Larry thinks we shall all be delighted! What fools men are! Bill did
say once that it had been suggested--oh, ages ago, when Larry came of
age; Ma-in-law told him--but we thought it had died out."

Christian hardly heard what she said. She was standing at the open
window, in the stillness that tells of intense mental engrossment.
Self-deception was impossible for her; her mind was too acute for
tolerance of subterfuge; and for her, also, away and beyond the
merciless findings of intellect was the besetment of presentiment,
intuition, inward convictions that can override logical conclusions,
words that are breathed in the soul as by a wind, and, like the wind,
are born and die in mystery.

The last of the daylight had gone; there was a touch of frost; the sky
was clear and hard, the stars shone with sharp brilliance, some of
them had long, slanting rays on either hand that looked like wings of
light; a new moon glittered among them, keen and clean, and vindictive
as a scimitar; in the quiet, the low murmur of the Broadwater pervaded
the night. Judith watched her sister with unconsciously appraising
eyes, noting the straight slenderness of her figure, the small,
high-held, dark head.

"Old people are intolerable!" she thought; "she shall _not_
sacrifice herself to Papa's prejudices! If she likes Larry she shall
have him!"

But she was too wise to argue with Christian.

Dick Talbot-Lowry, though now arrived at the age of sixty-nine, was as
unconvinced as ever of the fact that time had got the better of him,
and that its despotism was daily deepening. He admitted that he had
become something of an invalid, but that his elder daughter should
have classified him as an old person would have appeared to him as
absurd and offensive. There are minds that keep this inveterate
youthfulness; that learn nothing of age, and forget nothing of youth.
It is an attitude sometimes charming, sometimes undignified, always
pathetic. Christian saw old age as a tragedy, a disaster, to alleviate
which no effort on the part of the young could be too great; the
pathos and the pity of it were ever before her eyes. In contest with
her father, if contest there were to be, she would go into the arena
with her right hand tied behind her back.

Without any definite admission of failure, Major Talbot-Lowry had been
brought to submit to having his breakfast in bed, and Robert Evans, a
sour and withered Ganymede, was the bearer of it. He was also the
bearer of any gossip that might be available, and seldom failed to
provide his master with a stimulant and irritant. On the morning
following on Christian's return it was very evident that intelligence
of unusual greatness seethed in the cauldron wherein fermented Mr.
Evans' brew of news. His rook-like eye sparkled, his movements, even
that walk for whose disabilities it may be remembered that the pantry
boy had thanked his God, were alert and purposeful.

"Ye didn't see the _Irish Times_ yet, I think?" he began,
standing over his master, and looking down upon him with an expression
as triumphant and malign as that of a carrion-crow with a piece of
stolen meat. He rarely bestowed the usual honorifics upon Dick,
considering that his five years' seniority relieved him of such
obligations. "I wouldn't believe all I'd read in the papers, but this
is true, anyway!"

"What's true?" said Major Dick, irritably; "you've forgotten the salt
again, Evans! How the devil can I eat an egg without salt? Send one of
the maids for it--don't go yourself," he added, as Evans left the
room. "The old fool'd be all day getting it," he said to himself, with
an old man's contempt for old age in another. "Now, then," as Evans
returned, "what's your wonderful bit of news?"

"Ye can read it there for yourself," replied Evans, coldly; he was
ruffled by the episode of the salt.

"Damn it, man, I can't read the paper and eat an egg!" snapped the
Major. "Out with your lie, whatever it is!"

"Master Larry's chosen for the Member in place of Prendergast," said
Evans, sulkily.

If Evans had been unfortunate in the way in which his sensation had
been led up to, its reception left him nothing to desire. Dick was
stricken to an instant of complete silence. Then he roared to Evans to
take the damned tray out of his way, and to give him the (otherwise
qualified) paper.

It would serve no purpose, useful or otherwise, to attempt to record
Dick Talbot-Lowry's denunciations of Larry, of his religion, and of
his politics; of, secondarily, his ingratitude; his treachery, and his
lack of the most rudimentary elements of a gentleman. They lasted
long, and lacked nothing of effect that strength of lung and vigour of
language could bring to them. And Evans, the many-wintered crow,
hearkened, and rejoiced that he was seeing his desire of his enemy.

"No! I won't eat it! Take it away--I don't want it, I tell you! Curse
you, can't you do as you're bid?" Thus spake Dick Talbot-Lowry,
flinging himself back on his pillows, and shoving the breakfast-tray
from him. The hot purple colour that had flooded his face was fading;
his voice was getting hoarse and weak. Evans, with an apprehensive eye
on his master's changed aspect, carried the tray out of the room.

There was a quick step on the stairs, and Larry came lightly along the
landing.

"The Major up, Evans? No? Oh, all right! May I come in, Cousin Dick?"

He swung into the room.

Old Evans carefully shut the door behind him.

"Now me laddy-o!" he whispered, rubbing his hooked grey beak with one
finger, and chuckling low and wheezily: "Now, maybe! Me fine young
Papist! Ye'll be getting your tay in a mug! Hot and strong! Hot and
strong!"

He moved away from the door with the tray of untouched breakfast
things.



CHAPTER XXXII


Lady Isabel was returning from her accustomed housekeeping morning
visit to Mrs. Dixon, when she was startled by the sharp outcry of an
electric bell.

"Dick's room!" she said to herself, beginning to hurry; she hardly
knew why.

A housemaid ran down the long passage in front of her, flying to the
summons. Through the open door of the dining-room Lady Isabel saw
Christian giving the dogs their breakfast.

"Papa's bell is ringing, dear," said Lady Isabel, breathing hard.

"I heard someone go up to his room just now," said Christian,
languidly; "I haven't seen him this morning; I was in the yard with
the dogs--"

Someone came down the stairs, headlong, two steps at a time. Larry's
voice shouted:

"Christian! Cousin Isabel! Anyone--!"

There was urgency and alarm in the voice.

Lady Isabel and Christian were in the hall in an instant, and met
Larry at the foot of the stairs.

"Cousin Dick's ill! A heart attack, I think--I didn't know what to do
for him--"

"I do!" said Christian, speeding upstairs.

Her mother followed her, and Larry remained in the hall. Of one thing
he was quite certain, that he had better keep out of Cousin Dick's
sight. His nerves were quivering from the interview that had been so
shatteringly abbreviated. Had the friendly old setter, whose head at
this moment was on his knee, while her limpid eyes swore to him that
all her love was his, suddenly turned and rent him, it would scarcely
be a shock worse than that he had received. He had been undeterred by
the ominous gloom of the Major's greeting; few young men have very
keen perception of mood, and Larry, deeply self-engrossed, wildly
happy, had flung at once into his theme, which, it need hardly be
said, was Christian. Then the storm broke, and the lightning blazed,
and the thunders of the house uttered their voice, while Larry,
amazed, horrified, gradually, as the invective gathered volume and
venom, becoming angry, stood in silence, and received in a single
cloud-burst the bitter flood of long-pent prejudice, jealousy, and
sense of injury.

"Dead!" Dick had roared; "I'd rather see her dead in her coffin than
married to--"

The epithets that a hoarded hatred finds ready to hand when its pent
force is released, come horribly from the lips of an old man. Yet,
almost more horrible than the full tide of rage, was to see its ebb,
as "the sick old servant" in Major Dick's bosom failed him, and his
heart staggered and fainted in its effort to abet him in denouncing
the young cousin who he thought had wronged him.

Larry sat, fondling the old setter's chestnut head, thinking it all
over, flaming again at the remembered insults, quailing at the
possibilities as they concerned Christian. Once she had appeared at
the top of the stairs, and said the single word, "Better!" before she
vanished.

One half of Larry's mind said "Better? What do I care? Better if he
dies, if he comes between me and her!" The other, which was his deeper
self, preserved the memory of Dick's greying face and frightened eyes,
and was glad that relief had come.

At last Christian came to him, slowly and with a dragging step, down
the wide staircase. Her face was white, her eyes were set in shadows.

"How is he?"

"Round the corner, I think. We've wired for Mangan."

"Christian, I want to explain--I said nothing--I never meant to annoy
him, I began about you, and that--that we loved each other. For we do,
Christian, don't we?" He had her hands in his, he crushed them in his
anxiety, his eyes implored her. "Then suddenly he began to abuse me
like a madman! My religion, my politics, my treachery to my class--I
can't tell you what he didn't say! And then he swore he'd rather see
you dead than married to me. I don't know what I said--nothing, I
think; he began to look as if he were dying himself, and I rang the
bell and bolted for you."

"Poor boy!" said Christian.

He thought that her face as she looked at him was as it were the face
of an angel, but the sorrow in it frightened him.

"Come into the study," she said, freeing her hands from his grasp; "we
can't talk here."

The study door was open; he followed her in silence, and, shutting the
door, sat down beside her on the sofa.

"Larry, we've got to face it, you know; we've got to face it," she
began, and gave back to him her slender sensitive hand, as if to heal
the wound of what the words implied.

"Face what?" said Larry, stubbornly, girding himself for resistance.

"Face delay--opposition--"

"I'll face opposition as much as you like, but I won't face delay! Why
should we? We're of age. There's nothing against me!"

Christian smiled faintly.

"Dear child, I know that. It's not the facts that are against us, it's
the fancies--"

"I won't be patronised!" said Larry, vehemently. "I'm not your dear
child! I'm the man you've promised to marry! No one's fancies have a
right to interfere with us!"

His arm was round her, and he felt her tremble. He loosed her hand,
and with his hand that had held it he turned her face to his. Then he
kissed her, many times, with an ever-growing abandonment as he felt
the response that she tried in vain to withhold.

At length, in spite of him, she hid her face in his shoulder.

"No, Larry, no!" she gasped, her breath coming short. "Dearest, don't
be cruel to me! How can I keep that promise! If you had seen Papa just
now and Mother--her terror and her helplessness! How could I leave
them? Supposing that I defied him, and married you, and that he died
in one of these furies! Just think what that would be for us!"

"He wouldn't die!" said Larry, obstinately. "People don't die as easy
as all that!" he added, with a fierce thought of regret that Dick had
not gone out in this latest storm.

"Listen," said Christian, beseechingly. "Don't let us be in such a
hurry. Everything needn't be settled at once. We'll ask Dr. Mangan how
Papa is, and if there is real danger for him in these rages. He was
nearly as bad on Saturday after the Priest and the tenants had been
here."

Larry's face was dark; he was not used to opposition. His guardians
and his spiritual directors had alike found that while he was easy to
lead, he was a difficulty and a danger to drive. He was stirred to the
depths now. The strain of receiving Dick's onslaught in silence, the
shock of his collapse, and now the fire that Christian's nearness and
dearness had lit in him, all broke his self-control. He held her to
him.

"I will never let you go! Never--!" His lips were on hers again, life,
with all its difficulties, was again forgotten, the rhyme of the
Fairies' Well galloped in his hot brain:

  "My heart in your hands, your heart in me."

The sound of the hall door opening, and the grinding roar of a motor
engine running down, recalled them both to this troublesome world.

But in Christian's heart, whether from within or from without, a voice
had spoken, telling the kisses, one by one, as though they were the
petals of a flower. "This year, next year, sometime, never!" If the
last word had been "sometime," or "never," she knew not; she knew only
that if what before her was the way of renunciation, she would find it
a hard way to walk in.

Dr. Mangan stood, a massive presence, at the top of the stairs, and
talked massively to Lady Isabel of Dick's condition.

"Very critical--no worries--nourishment--would he have a nurse?"

To which Lady Isabel, a poor, shaken, pallid Lady Isabel, with no more
backbone than the shape of blancmange, which, it must be said, she
somewhat resembled, replied: "_Nothing_ would induce him!"

"Then I should like to have a little talk with Miss Christian," said
the Big Doctor, beginning to walk downstairs, slowly, solemnly,
solidly, like a trick-elephant at a circus.

Christian's quick ears had heard his voice on the stairs, and she met
him in the hall. Larry stood irresolute at the door of the study. His
eyes met those of the Doctor, and something during the interchange of
glances suggested that his presence was not desired. He returned to
the study and shut the door, and wished that he could have a word
alone with the Doctor, just to put him up to what to say to Christian.
He could hear the heavy rumble of the Doctor's bass voice, and the
soft alto murmur of Christian's replies. She had the Irish voice,
pitched on a low note, an instrument more apt for pathos than for
gaiety, which is, perhaps, what gives to its gaiety so special a
charm.

Larry stood by the window with his hands in his pockets, trying to
steady himself. Deep under his panic uncertainty as to the strength of
his hold on Christian, was the anger that Dick's denunciation had
roused in him, and momently, as his mind went back over the interview,
remembrance of the insults became more unendurable. Abuse from the old
to the young, and from a sick man to a sound one, cannot fail to
rankle, since it cannot be flung back. Generosity may impose silence,
but it cannot obliterate an insult or heal a wound.

Christian came into the room; he heard her come, but he would not look
round. She slid her hand into his arm.

"Larry! Dear! Listen to me; there's no way out of it but patience! Dr.
Mangan says he _must_ be kept absolutely quiet, and have nothing
to annoy him. He says he might die in an instant in one of those
attacks. He's not himself now, Larry--so little makes him lose
self-control--" She paused, but Larry did not speak. "You couldn't
want me to sacrifice the little share of life left to him to our
happiness; I know you couldn't! Larry, he's an old man; it can't be
for very long--"

"I don't see that that follows," said Larry, implacably. "He had
strength enough to blackguard me very thoroughly, and it hasn't done
him any harm. It seems to me, _I'm_ the one to be sacrificed!"

"He spoke to Mother about us--about what you said to him. He began
about it the instant he could speak. She--" Christian hesitated,
"she could only quiet him by saying there was no engagement between
us."

"Then she said what wasn't true!"

"Oh, it _must_ be true!" said Christian, desperately; "it's got
to be true--"

"Very well," said Larry, moving away, so that her hand fell from his
arm. "If it's got to be true I suppose there's no more to be said. I
may as well go. After all, I daresay you're well quit of me. Your
father says I'm a damned Papist and--"

"I won't listen to you!" broke in Christian. "What's the use of
hurting me and hurting yourself like this? Larry, I'll wait for you
for ever--you know that--time will make no difference. Don't make it
harder for me than it must be!"

"You don't seem to think much about _me_" said Larry, with a
still rage that was a new thing with him. He left her side, and walked
steadily to the door; then he turned, and in a few quick steps came
back to her. He put his hands on her shoulders; he was not much taller
than she, and his eyes looked straight into hers.

"Then it's true, is it? You're off it? You've given me the chuck?"

He spoke roughly, and gripped her harder than he knew, and in the
tension of her nerves, the roughness of the words and action cut her
like the stroke of a whip. Almost as if he had struck her, a splash of
colour came in her face.

Larry was blind to the torture in her eyes, but he saw the quick red,
and knew he had hurt her high spirit, and was glad.

"If you like to put it in that way!" said Christian, her head up, her
mood answering his, "apparently it is the only thing to be done!"

There came a tap at the door. Dr. Mangan's voice said: "I'm going back
to Cluhir now. Haven't you to meet Father Greer at twelve o'clock,
Larry? I could give you a lift if you like--"

       *       *       *       *       *

From an early work on the Fauna of the Indian Forest the following
extract may be quoted:

"The elephant's trunk then encircled the young man's body, and placing
him gently upon its back, the huge creature ambled away with its prize
to the depths of the jungle."



CHAPTER XXXIII


Little Mary Twomey, footing it into Cluhir on a misty Saturday
morning, with a basket of fowl under her brown and buff shawl, was not
sorry when, from a side road on the line of march, a donkey-cart,
driven by an acquaintance, drew forth at the instant of her passing.

"God bless ye, John Brien," she said, when the suitable salutations
and comments on the weather had been exchanged, with the rigorous
courtesy observed by such as Mary Twomey and John Brien with one
another, "this basket is very weighty on me--"

"Put it up on the butt, ma'am," responded John Brien. "Put it up, for
God's sake, and let you sit up with it. Sure the ass is able for more
than yourself!"

This referred, with polite facetiousness, to Mrs. Twomey's stature,
and was taken by her in excellent part.

She uttered a brief screech. "Isn't it what they say they puts the
best of goods in the small passels?" she demanded; "but for all, I
wouldn't wish it to be too small altogether! 'Look!' I says to that
owld man I have, 'Look! When I'll be dead, let ye tell the
car-pennther that he'll make the coffin a bit-een too long, the way
the people'll think the womaneen inside in it wasn't altogether too
small entirely!'"

"Arrah, don't talk of dyin' for a while, ma'am!" said John Brien,
gallantly. "Aren't you an' me about the one age, and faith, when
you're dyin' I'll be sending for the priest for meself!"

"Well, please God, the pair of us'll knock out a spell yet!" responded
Mrs. Twomey, cheerfully; "for as little as I am, the fly itself
wouldn't like to die!"

John Brien did not question this assertion. "The 'fluenzy is very
raging these times," he remarked.

"'Tis a nassty, dirty disease altogether, God help us!" said Mrs.
Twomey, with feeling.

"It is, and very numerous," replied John Brien. "There's people dying
now that never died before."

This statement presented no difficulty to Mrs. Twomey, since she had
no desire to exult over Mr. Brien as being what is often called a
typical Irishman, and was able to accept its rather excessive emphasis
in the sense in which it was intended.

"I'm told Major Lowry is sick enough," went on John Brien; "an
impression like, on the heart, they tells me."

"He have enough to trouble him," said Mrs. Twomey, portentously; "and
I wouldn't wish it to him. A fine man he was. Ye'd stand in the road
to look at him! The highest gentleman of the day!"

"Well, that's true enough," said John Brien, cautiously. "There's some
says the servants in the house didn't get their hire this two years."

"Dirty little liars!" said Mrs. Twomey, warmly. "Divil mend them, and
their chat! There isn't one but has as many lies told as'd sicken an
ass! Wasn't I selling a score of eggs to the Docthor's wife a'
Saturday, and she askin' me this an' that, and 'wasn't it said young
Mr. Coppinger was to marry Miss Christhian Lowry'? Ah ha! She was dam'
sweet, but she didn't get--" Mrs. Twomey swiftly licked and exhibited
a grey and wrinkled finger--"_that_ much from me!"

"Ha, very good, faith!" said John Brien; "them women wants to know too
much!"

"And if they do itself," retorted Mrs. Twomey, instant in defence of
her sex, "isn't it to plase the min that's follyin' them for the news!
Yis! An' they too big fools to hear it for theirselves!"

John Brien, somewhat stupefied by this home thrust, made no reply, but
smote the donkey heavily, provoking it to a jog that temporarily
jolted conversation to death.

At the next incline, however, Mrs. Twomey took up her parable again.

"Tell me now awhile, John, what day is this th' election is?"

"I d'no if it isn't Choosday week it is," replied John Brien, without
interest. "There's two o' them up for it now. Young Coppinger, that
was the first in it, and a chap from T'prairy. What's this his name
is?--Burke, I think it is. Sure they had two meetin's after chapel at
Riverstown last Sunday. Roaring there they were out o' mothor-cars.
But it's little I regard them and their higs and thrigs!"

"Why wouldn't ye wote for Larry Coppinger, John?" said Mrs. Twomey,
persuasively "and him 'All-for-Ireland'! A strong, cocky young boy he
is too; greatly for composhing he is, an' painting, an' the like o'
that. Sure didn't I tell him it was what it was he had a rag on every
bush! 'Well,' says he, 'Mrs. Twomey,' says he, 'I'll have another rag
on another bush soon,' says he. 'Sir,' says I to him, 'that much would
not surpass your honour!' But faith, they're tellin' me now Burke'll
have him bet out, and I'm sorry to me heart for it."

John Brien looked from one side of the road to the other, and ahead,
between his donkey's ears. The mist was close round the cart as the
walls of a room; the only sound was the thin wind singing in the
telegraph wires.

"Mrs. Twomey," murmured John Brien, "the Clergy is agin him!"

"Oh, great and merciful Lord God!" said Mrs. Twomey. She said it
without either irreverence or reverence. She merely wished to express
to John Brien her comprehension of the importance of his statement.

Larry had flung himself into electioneering as an alternative to
drink. That was how he put it to himself. He took rooms at Hallinan's
Hotel, in Cluhir, in order to be on top of the railway station, and
the situation generally, and he had, moreover, a standing invitation
to No. 6, The Mall, for any meal, at any hour of the day or night,
that he found suitable. The district to be canvassed was a wide one,
and day after day Larry and the faithful Barty went forth to interview
"People of importance"; darkly-cautious publicans, with wives lurking
at hand to make sure that "Himself" should do nothing rash;
uninterested farmers, who "had their land bought," and were left cold
by the differences 'twixt Tweedledum and Tweedledee; and visits to
"The Clergy" of all denominations, productive of much artificially
friendly converse and no very definite promises.

Of Larry's own Communion, Father Tim Sweeny alone announced himself,
unhesitatingly, as being of Larry's camp. Father Tim's hostility had
not been proof against Larry's charms, more especially since these
were combined with a substantial proof of the young candidate's
interest in the decoration of the new chapel; and, at the gate of that
chapel, (the site of which he did not forget that he owed to Larry) he
attended one of Larry's meetings, and shook his bovine head at his
flock, and bellowed ferocious commendation of the young man, who, he
thundered, had not failed in his duty by the Church and the people.
There was a downright, fighting quality in Father Sweeny that was
large and stimulating. Larry felt that he had, at least, his own
parish firmly at his back, and wished that he had a few more such as
Father Tim to stand by him.

The Rev. Matthew Cotton (stiffened by Mrs. Cotton) said that to enter
a hustings for a Home Ruler, of any variety, would be for him an
unauthorised bowing down in the House of Rimmon, a simile that
conveyed little to Larry, and nothing at all, allegorically, to his
agent, Barty Mangan, though its practical interpretation presented no
difficulties to either of them.

The Reverend Mr. Armstrong, Pastor of the Methodists, admitted to a
preference for an "All-for-Irelander," as opposed to an Official
Nationalist; but evaded the responsibility of a promise by saying that
he would lay the matter before the Lord, and would write later.

Neither did young Mr. Coppinger receive much encouragement from his
own class. Bill Kirby, indeed, undertook to support him and even
volunteered to go round with him on his canvassing expeditions, but
this was considered by Larry's Committee as being of questionable
advantage, even, possibly, affording to the enemy an occasion to
blaspheme, and the offer (made, it may be said, at Judith's
instigation) was declined.

Nor, as a matter of fact, was Larry himself disposed to take Bill
Kirby's proffered hand. He told himself that he was done with that
lot. He was bitterly angry with Christian. He said to himself that he
would never forgive her; would never, if he could help it, see one of
them again. At a word from her father she had chucked him; without a
moment of hesitation, without a word to show that she was even sorry
for her father's treatment of him. "Apparently it's the only thing to
do!" she had said. That was all she thought of keeping a promise! What
about leaving father and mother and sticking to your husband, he would
like to know! These Protestants who talked such a lot about reading
the Bible! It was quite true what old Mangan had said: "When all comes
to all, a man must stick to his own Church!" All these others, these
St. Georges, and Westropps, and old Ardmore, and the rest of them, had
only been waiting to jump on him as soon as he put a foot out of the
rut they all walked in. They had waited for the chance to make him a
pariah. Now they had it. All right! He could face that. They should
soon see how little he thought of them!

He pitched himself headlong into the contest. The weather had fallen
from grace. October, having been borne in on the wings of a gale, was
storming on through wind and wet, and the game of canvassing, that had
seemed, on that sunny day when he had written to Christian, so
"frightfully interesting," was beginning to pall. Boring as were the
personal interviews, and exhausting the evening oratory in town halls
and school-houses, the Sunday meetings at the gates of the chapels
were still more arduous. On each Sunday, during the period between the
death of Daniel Prendergast and the election of his successor, did
young Mr. Coppinger, with chosen members of his "Commy-tee"--he had
learnt to accept the inflexible local pronunciation--splash from
chapel to chapel, to meet the congregations, and to shout platitudes
to them. Larry began to feel that no conviction--however fervently
held--could survive the ordeal of being slowly yelled to a bored crowd
from the front seat of a motor car. He told himself that he had become
a gramophone, and a tired gramophone, badly in want of winding up, at
that.

It would be of little avail to attempt to define the precise shade of
green of young Mr. Coppinger's political flag; whether, as a facetious
supporter put it, it was "say-green, pay-green, tay-green, or bottle."
It is enough to say that it varied sufficiently from that of Mr. Burke
to provide their respective followers with a satisfactory _casus
belli_. The shades of political opinion in Ireland change, and melt
and merge into each other as the years pass, even as the colours of
her surrounding seas vary, deepening and paling with the changing
clouds, yet affecting only the surface, leaving the sullen depths
unchanged. Larry knew no more of Ireland than a boy can learn in his
school holidays; it was only by degrees that he realised that in
Ireland, as he now found it, the single element of discord that
remained ever unchanged was Religion. He had spent the four most
recent and most receptive years of his life in an atmosphere in which
religion had no existence. The hem of its raiment might, perhaps, have
been touched, when, as sometimes happened, the subject of a studio
composition was taken from the Bible, or the Apocrypha. Then,
possibly, would the young pagans of Larry's circle discover as much
acquaintance with the Scriptures as would point a jest, and give an
agreeable sensation of irreverence in discussing the details of the
subject.

"There," thought Larry, "no one thought about your religion. No one
cared if you had one, and the presumption was that you hadn't." But
here, in these little Irish towns, the question of a man's private
views on a matter that might be supposed to concern only himself,
appeared of paramount importance. He listened to denunciations of
Protestants until he felt, as he told the faithful Barty, that "for
tuppence" he would change over himself; just as in some sections of
the rival camp, he would have heard to weariness of the bigotry and
errors of Romanism. He was brought, as many people more God-fearing
than he have been brought, to debate the question as to whether a
common atheism were not the only panacea for the mutual hatreds that,
as appeared to him from his present point of view, ruled the Island of
Saints. He and Barty would sit up over the dying embers of the
dining-room fire of No. 6, The Mall, talking; wrangling, in a sort of
country-dance of argument, in which they advanced and retired, and
joined hands, and flung away from each other again; ending, generally,
in such agreement as might be found in a common determination to lay
all the blame for all the malice and uncharitableness at the door of
the clergy of the two creeds; a comprehensive decision, and a
consoling one, from the point of view of two laymen.

Larry, in his loneliness, had fallen into the habit of frequenting No.
6; of "taking pot-luck," of "dropping in," or of "turning in," all of
which courses had been urged upon him by his captor, Dr. Mangan. Those
great and special gifts of the Mangan family, the love of music, and
the habit of it (which are not always allied) bestowed upon the
household a charm that was almost more potent for Larry than any other
could have been. At the end of a long day of canvassing, spent with
companions who, he felt, only half trusted him, and were incapable of
being amused by the things that amused him (a factor in friendship
that cannot be valued too highly) it was comforting to "drop in" to
the hospitable, untidy house, where, thanks to Mrs. Mangan's early
experiences, there was always good luck in the pot, and to spend a
peaceful evening over the fire, smoking, and listening to the famous
Mangan Quartet. Music was the initial point of contact between Larry
and these people among whom he had once more been cast, and the Big
Doctor was not unaware of the fact. Singly, or united, the Mangan
voices, mellow, tuneful, singing songs of Ireland with artless grace
and charm, wrought more in Larry's soul than he was aware of. Not only
to his ears, but to his eyes also, the Mangan Quartet brought artistic
satisfaction. The Big Doctor, with his sombre face and overhanging
brow, looking, in the lamplight, like a Rembrandt burgomaster; Barty
and his mother, pale and dark-eyed, recalling Southern Italy rather
than Southern Ireland; and Tishy--Larry's eyes used to dwell longest
on Tishy, her face lit by her most genuine feeling, the love of music,
while her voice of velvet (of purple velvet, he decided) mourned for
Patrick Sarsfield, or lamented with Emer for Cuchulain, or thrilled
her listener with the sudden glory of "The Foggy Dew." Larry's own
voice was habitually exhausted by the cart-tail oratory in which he
daily expended it; it was enough for him to listen and look, shutting
his mind to the past, living, as ever, in the present, like a wise
man, because its bounty sufficed him.



CHAPTER XXXIV


At a little before this time a sufficiently epoch-making scene had
taken place between Dr. Mangan and his daughter, following not long on
that day when the elephant had conveyed his captive to the depths of
the jungle.

"Tishy!" said the Big Doctor, looming large at the door of the
dining-room where his daughter was engaged in trimming a hat, "come
down to the surgery a minute; I want you."

The feather to which Miss Mangan had just imparted the correct "set,"
was only fixed in position with a precarious pin, none the less,
Tishy, albeit vexed, did not delay. She had a well-founded respect for
the Fifth Commandment, as far, at all events, as her father was
concerned. She abandoned the hat, and followed the Doctor through the
narrow hall-passage and into the surgery, with a promptness that she
was not wont to exhibit in obeying an order that was not convenient.

Dr. Mangan had seated himself at his desk, and was writing. Tishy
stood by the seat dedicated to patients; she wished to imply that she
had been interrupted in her work, and that her time was of value.

"There now," said Dr. Mangan, thumping the envelope that he had just
closed and directed, on the blotting-paper, with his big fist, "I want
you to run round to Hallinan's with this for me."

"Is it a hurry?" asked Tishy, unwillingly.

"It is. It's to order rooms for Larry Coppinger. He's coming to stay
in town till the election's over. Sit down there a minute."

Tishy obeyed, and the Doctor surveyed her attentively. The position
that is assigned to patients in a doctor's consulting room is one that
faces the light, pitilessly, inescapably; but for Tishy, this was a
negligible disadvantage. A peacock butterfly looks its best in
sunlight, and Tishy's dark bloom, and intent eyes of luminous grey,
faced the glare of October sunlight with confident unconcern.

"A right-down handsome girl!" he had called her, to himself, more
than-once; now, he thought, she had good looks enough for any man in
Europe. It was not his habit to betray his feelings; but as he sat
there, appraising her, weighing her beauty, as a jeweller might
appraise some rich-hued ruby that a kind fate had placed in his hands,
sheer pride in her made him smile, and he was hard put to it to keep
up the severity that he believed the occasion exacted.

"I've a couple of things to say to you," he resumed, "and you know as
well as I do that I've no fancy for saying things twice. I've seen Ned
Cloherty sneaking about the Mall very often lately--like as if he was
waiting for somebody. I'm not saying it's for you or me he's waiting;
you might know that better than I do. But he's no great ornament to
the view there, or anywhere else, as far as I can see!"

Tishy put her strong, rounded chin in the air, and said, "I suppose
other people have a right to use the roads as well as us!"

The Doctor was glad that his face was shadowed, as he noted the
arrogant tilt of her head, and the smooth, cream-white pillar of her
neck that it revealed, since the smile of paternal pride would not be
denied. He didn't blame Ned Cloherty to be sneaking about after her;
there wasn't her like in the county. But she very certainly was too
good for the likes of Ned Cloherty. "Now, Babsey," he said, and Tishy
knew that the old pet name denoted a satisfaction with her that might
not otherwise betray itself, "you're a sensible girl, and I needn't go
out of my way to tell you things that you're smart enough to see for
yourself. You're 'pert enough without Latin'--as they say! Well, I'll
just say one other thing to you, and it's this. Larry Coppinger's up
for this election, and I've told him to use this house, like his own,
as much as he wants to," the Doctor stood up and took a pocket-book
from the breast-pocket of his coat. "You're to make it agreeable for
him to come here. Mind that! And more than agreeable! I'll think very
little of you if you don't have him at your feet before you're done
with him!" he went on, selecting something from among the papers in
the pocket-book as he spoke. "There's not a girl in Ireland that
wouldn't half hang herself for the chance you'll have! And there's not
a girl in Cluhir but will be gibeing you if you lose it!" He took a
step towards where Tishy was sitting, and put his hand under his chin.

Her bright water-grey eyes were alight with mutiny; she laughed
defiantly.

"Suppose I don't want it!"

Her father looked steadily at her; he saw, as clearly as if she had
spoken, that the suggestion had excited her.

"Well, Babs," he said, with the laugh that always seemed an octave
higher than matched with his voice, "if you're able to bring him to
your feet--and I'm not saying you will! You might find it a bit of a
job too!--you'll want a dandy pair of shoes on them! Put this in your
pocket."

He had taken a ten-pound note out of his pocket-book, and he pushed it
into Tishy's strong and supple white hand.



CHAPTER XXXV


Great pain paralyses the mind, as the torture of a limb makes the limb
faint and helpless. When the heart-pain can be dealt with as a
separate thing, it is no longer supreme.

This was the difference between Christian and Larry. Her love was
herself, indivisible, a condition of her being. When it ceased, it
would mean that the creature that called herself Christian
Talbot-Lowry had ceased also. During the long, bright morning, after
Larry and Dr. Mangan had departed together, she felt that this had
happened; that the part of her that knew and suffered had gone away,
or was lying dead in her. There was a weight in her breast, she could
feel it, but she scarcely felt pain, only a great bewilderment, an
incredulity that this thing, of whose reality her mind told her, but
without conviction, should have happened to her, just precisely to
her, out of all the people in the world. People have felt this when
that iron shutter that is called Death has fallen between them and
that one who was their share of the world. A part of them, some
plausible imitation of them, can speak and act, and be extolled,
perhaps, for facing the music stoutly; while the stricken thing that
is themselves, is lying prone before the iron shutter; beating on it
with broken hands, calling, and hearing no answer.

It was nearly a month now since Dick Talbot-Lowry had asserted his
paternal rights, and had, following various classic and biblical
precedents, sacrificed his daughter to his own particular formulæ of
religion and politics. He would never know that it had been the appeal
that weakness makes to strength that had given him his victory. When
he spoke to Lady Isabel of his scene with Larry, he told her that he
had nipped the thing in the bud. The damned puppy of a fellow took for
granted that Christian was in love with him; but here she was, going
about as usual, as jolly as a sandboy; "in fact," Dick would say,
plastering up with bromidic mortar the windows of the narrow dwelling
wherein dwelt Lady Isabel's soul, "all's well that ends well!" With
which valuable aphorism, sanctioned by a long and respectable past,
the Major contentedly fed his heart, and tranquillised that of his
wife.

Judith was less confident of the satisfactory end of all things. She
was, in fact, exceedingly indignant that an engagement so entirely
advantageous from all practical points of view should be broken off;
"simply to gratify Papa's imbecile prejudices!" she declared, with her
usual emphasis. "Christian, you were a fool to mind what he said or
did. _He_ wouldn't have died! Not a bit of him! Of course, Mother
has got to agree with him--that's what he married her for!"

"Don't tire me, Judy, please," Christian would say, serenely. "It's
all over now. These discussions only weary me. I assure you my
philosophy is quite equal to the strain!"

"If that's the case, I don't know why you should look like a dying
ghost!"

Judith had never entirely comprehended her younger sister, and she
found her, as she said with indignation to the concurring Bill,
absolutely dark and inscrutable over the whole affair.

"I know it's hit her hard, but nothing will make her admit it. I
detest Spartan Boys!" said Judith.

The Spartan Boy in question, though aware of her sister's ardent
desire to investigate her wounds, had no intention of removing the
cloak that covered them. She wrapped it close about her, so close that
Lady Isabel, while unable to stifle a motherly regret for the wedding
that might have been, thanked heaven that Christian had not "really
cared"; so close that even Judith said that, since Christian had not
been hit too hard, though she regretted the _coup manqué_ she
personally found some consolation in the fact that she would not be
called upon to make apologies for the political aberrations of her
brother-in-law.

The polling day came, and passed with but little excitement.

"You wouldn't har'ly know it," said a voter, who had returned to his
normal avocations after a morning wasted, as he considered, in the
task of recording his vote. "There was a few men drunk in the town.
Which won is it? Bedad, they dunno yet. Father Sweeny it was marched
in the Pribawn boys. Faith, he had them well regulated. Very nate they
marched, very nate entirely. They never were in such rotation!"

The voter bent melancholy and slightly bloodshot eyes upon Christian,
and awaited her reply.

Christian, with her usual miscellaneous company of dogs, was on her
way to visit a woman whose husband had died not long before. Her way
took her along the banks of the Broadwater, and during one of the
frequent pauses, necessitated by the investigations into the private
affairs of water-rats and others, made by her companions, she and
Peter Callaghan had exchanged greetings. He and Christian had fallen
into talk, with the absence of formality that is, perhaps, peculiar to
intercourse between his class and hers. He leant upon his scythe, and
discoursed seriously and courteously. He wore a soft, slouched black
hat, that did not wholly conceal his thick and curly hair, in which
there was scarcely a grey strand, though he was, as he told Christian,
the one age with her father. His white flannel jacket was wrapped
round him, its skirts pushed under the band of his brown frieze
trousers. A red wisp of rag was knotted round his middle, and held all
together. His pale grey and wistful eyes looked at Christian from
above a tangled thicket of grizzled moustache and beard. He suggested
almost equally, a conventional Saint Joseph and a stage-brigand--a
brigand, as it might be, who had joined the Salvation Army. "As old as
I am," he returned, dreamily, to the affair of the morning, "I stepped
it away with them!"

He turned his eyes from Christian's face to the large and sliding
brightness of the river.

There followed a moment of silence that was filled by the yelps of the
little dogs who had marked a water-rat to ground, and the
hobble-de-hoy shouts of the hound puppies, uttered with no definite
idea of the cause of their enthusiasm, but none the less enthusiastic
for that reason.

"Are you the youngest young lady, I beg your pardon?" Peter Callaghan
asked presently. "It's long since I seen you. Your father knows me
well. I remember of one time when the hounds was crossing my land, and
I seen yourself and your sisther taking the hur'ls. I cries out to ye
'me heart'd rise at ye, my darlins!' and the Major, he laughs!"

"I remember jumping the hurdles," said Christian; "I'll tell my father
I met you."

"He gave me permission to cut the 'looha' in these fields," resumed
Peter Callaghan. "I'm thankful to him. I have a good sop of it cut."

He waved a hand; Christian saw, at a little distance, a heap of
rushes, and, seated on it, a girl, of whose presence she had been
unaware. She was very pale, and there was a fixity of sadness about
her. Christian spoke to her, but she did not appear to notice.

"She's my daughter," said Peter Callaghan in his quiet voice. "She
wouldn't know it was to her you spoke. She's dark, the creature.
Blinded she is. She's not long that way."

"How did it happen?" said Christian, in a low voice.

"You could not say," said Peter Callaghan; his dreamy eyes roved again
over the broad river; "God left a hand on her," he said.

Christian went on her way, and the words stayed with her. "God left a
hand on her." There had been no resentment in the father's voice, only
a profound and noble gravity.

"And here am I," thought Christian, "angry and whimpering--"

Mrs. James Barry lived a mile or so farther down the river. Christian
gathered up her pack of terriers, hound puppies, and red setters, with
the farm collie to complete its absurdity, and walked fast. October
was just ending; the willows along the river-bank were yellow, the
reeds in the ditches that ran beneath each fence were greying and
withering. The successive profiles of wood and hill, down the valley
of the river went from orange and brown to a reddish purple, until, in
the large serenity of the autumn evening, they softened to the
universal blue of distance.

Mrs. Barry's farm-house stood a little back from the river. A stream
that widened to a pond, and narrowed again to a stream, divided the
house from the fields that ran between it and the river; the decent
thatched roofs and whitewashed walls of the farm, and the elm trees
that grew beside it, were mirrored in the pond. A flotilla of geese
and ducks paraded, in stately fatuity, to and fro across the mirror. A
battered little wooden bridge, painted green, enabled the people of
the farm to reach the banks of the river. Christian crossed it, and
went up to the open door of the house.

In the kitchen a red-haired woman was seated, rocking a wooden cradle
with her foot while she stitched at a child's frock. Hens, with their
alert and affected reserve of manner, stepped in and out of the
doorway, sometimes slowly, with poised claw, sometimes headlong, with
greedy speed. Christian watched them and the hound puppies (in whose
power of resistance to temptation she had no confidence), while she
talked to the woman of the house, and heard the story of her trouble.

Her husband had been "above in the hospital at Riverstown. He was in
it with a fortnight," said the red-haired woman in the idiom of her
district, the noise of the rocker of the cradle on the earthen floor
beating through her words; "he had a bunch, like, undher his chin, and
they were to cut it." She paused, and the wooden bump of the cradle
filled the pause.

"When they had it cut, he rose up on the table, and all his blood went
from him; only one little tint, I suppose, stopped in him. Afther a
while, the nurse seen the life creeping back in him. 'We have him
yet!' says she to the Docthor. 'I thought he was gone from us!' says
the Docthor." The voice ceased again. The speaker slashed the frock in
her hand at an over-bold hen, who had skipped on to the table beside
her and was pecking hard and sharp at some food on a plate.

"They sent him home then. We thought he was cured entirely. He pulled
out the summer, but he had that langersome way with him through all."

She was silent a moment, then she looked at Christian, with grief,
crowned and omnipotent, on her tragic brow.

"As long as he was alive, I had courage in spite of all, but when I
thinks now of them days, and the courage I had, it goes through me!"
Her red-brown eyes stared through the open door at the path twisting
across the field to the high road.

"Ye'll never see him on that road again, and when I looks up it me
heart gets dark. Sure, now when he's gone, I thinks often, if he'd be
lyin' par'lysed above in the bed, I'd be runnin' about happy!"

When Christian went home Mrs. Barry walked with her to the little
green bridge, and stood there until her visitor reached the bend of
the river where the path passed from her sight.

At the turning Christian looked back and saw the lonely figure
standing at the bridge-head, and again she said to herself: "Here am
I, angry and whimpering!"



CHAPTER XXXVI


Doctor Mangan told himself that he had never laid out a ten-pound note
to better advantage than the one he had pushed into the heel of
Tishy's fist. It had, as he thought it would, clinched the matter. He
had never been unaware of the menace of Cloherty, R.A.M.C., but he was
confident in the three forces that he had at his command--authority,
bribery, and propinquity.

"If I know my young lady," he said cheerfully to himself, "she'll
think more of Larry at her elbow, than of that foxy devil back at
Riverstown" (which was the present scene of Captain Cloherty's
professional labours). "And what's more, if Tishy will only give her
mind to it, it'll take a stiffer lad than Master Larry to be man
enough for her! She downed him once, and she'll do it again, in spite
of Christian Lowry!"

Even as the Big Doctor thought, there were many more that fought for
him in this matter than against him. Potent had been his suggestion to
his daughter that there wasn't a girl in Cluhir that wouldn't "be
gibeing at her" if she lost so golden an opportunity, nor one that
would believe she had not half hanged herself to secure it. (And
though it has not been possible to include them in this chronicle, it
may be accepted that there were many girls in Cluhir of the lively
malevolence of whose gibes Tishy was entirely sensible.) Even more
potent was the pull of Larry's position, the _prestige_ of his
money, of his "place," of his good looks; most potent of all, the fact
of his nearness, the mere primary fact that he was a young man, in
whose company she was daily thrown, whose unattached status (the
Doctor had kept his own counsel as to that interview with Christian,
and his deductions therefrom) was a continual challenge to her charms,
whose mere presence was an excitement an a stimulus.

As the polling day approached, and effort became more strenuous, Larry
fell ever more gratefully into the habit of No. 6, The Mall. Of coming
in, in the gloom of the wet afternoon, and finding Tishy mending her
gloves, or stitching something all lace and ribbons, something that
would obviously blossom into a "Sunday blouse," but that, with flash
of her grey eyes, she would tell him was "poor-clothes,' that the Nuns
had asked her to make. Of sitting on the big sofa beside her, and
teasing her about Captain Cloherty and the adventure in which Tinker
took a leading part.

"If you go telling tales to the Doctor, you'll be sorry!"

"How can you make me sorry?"

"Wait awhile and you'll find out! There are plenty ways to teach
little boys manners! Oh, look now what you've done! You've made me
pull the thread out o' me needle. Thread it now, you!"

Then Larry, with his quick eye and steady hand, would annoy her by
threading it as deftly as she herself could have done, would possibly
contribute some enormous stitches to the confection, and, by the time
its construction was seriously resumed, the collaborators on the big
sofa would have advanced a stage further on the road through the
jungle, that had, with so much foresight and patience, been prepared
for them.

Young Mr. Coppinger's hopes and fears as to his prospects of becoming
a Member of Parliament varied no more than was suitable in the
possessor of the artistic temperament, but Barty, his agent in chief,
maintained an attitude of unbroken pessimism. That whisper of the
secret and late-declared antagonism of the Church had reached him, and
in the secure seclusion of his own office he inveighed against
clerical interference with all the fierceness of a dog chained in his
kennel, who knows that his adversaries are as unable to touch him as
he is to injure them. Only, in Barry's case, he was quite sure that
his barkings were unheard, and he would have been exceedingly alarmed
had he thought otherwise.

"I declare to God I don't care what way it goes!" Larry had said many
times, but most often when fatigue and discouragement had together
taken control.

Such times had come more often during the last week Before the
election, and they reached their climax on the evening of the polling
day. The two young men, mentally and physically demoralised by
fatigue, had at length, at an hour considerably past midnight, escaped
from their colleagues, and, having gained the sanctuary of Barty's
office, were drearily reviewing the position by the light of a smoky
lamp and over the ashes of a dead fire; counting possible votes,
making unconvincing calculations based on supposition, wading
hand-in-hand ever deeper into the Slough of Despond.

"I was talking to your father this evening," said Larry, lighting a
cigarette and letting himself fall into an ancient rocking-chair. "He
wouldn't give me an opinion one way or the other, but it's my belief
he thinks it's a bad chance."

"I believe he's done his best for you," said Barty, dubiously; "but
the way he's situated, he doesn't like to come out too strong one way
or the other."

"Quite right too; I'm a rotten proposition," said Larry, "and this
dam' cigarette won't draw!"

"I could stand getting licked," went on Barty, too preoccupied to
consider the plaints of his principal, "if I thought the Clergy had
played fair. Father Hogan and Father Sweeney stood to us well, and I
know Father Greer was for you at the first go-off; but God knows what
way he and the rest o' them went, after. I wouldn't trust them--"
His dark and mournful eyes rested dejectedly upon Larry. "And what's
more, they don't trust you!"

"They're perfectly right," said Larry; "shows their sense! You and I
are what Father Greer and the rest of them would consider rotten bad
Catholics, and I believe they know it!" He got up from the limping old
rocking-chair and stretched himself, with a yawn that prolonged itself
into a howl. "Oh Dark Rosaleen!--or Kathleen-ni-Houlihan--or anything
else you like to call yourself--if you only knew how really and
sincerely devoted I am to you! I believe I'm a perfectly single-minded
Irish patriot, and ye you won't believe in me, and no more will any
one else except this bloody old fool of a Barty here! Barry my hearty,
I'm going to bed! I'm done! Don't wake me till the news comes in--"
He gave vent to another heart-broken yawn.

"Well, for God's sake stop howling like a banshee, and go!" replied
the hard-pressed Barty, "I'm about done myself!"

The opening Meet of the Broadwater Vale Hounds chanced to take place
at Cluhir Bridge, on the day after the election. Larry, finishing a
late breakfast at Hallinan's Hotel, heard the beloved sounds of the
hunt, the pistol-cracks of the whips, the clatter of horse-hoofs, the
jingle of bits, and the steady paddling of hounds' feet in the muddy
street. Joined with these was the clamour of the town curs and the
thunder of the following rush of town boys along Cluhir's narrow
pavements. Larry ran to the window, and opening it, found himself
practically face to face with young Georgy Talbot-Lowry, riding a
horse of Bill Kirby's.

The sight of the hounds drove from his mind the resolve to have no
dealings more with the house of Talbot-Lowry.

"Hullo, Georgy!" he shouted: "I didn't know you were home--"

Georgy gave a quick look at the window, and directed his gaze between
his horse's ears; save that his face had turned as red as his coat,
there was nothing, as he jogged on, to indicate that he had either
seen or heard.

Larry banged down the window, in a state of conflagration, every
strained nerve vibrating. What need to attempt to recount what he said
or thought? Dark Rosaleen has made trouble often enough between nearer
and dearer than Larry and his young cousin. She will send brothers to
fight each other to the changing music of her harp, crowned and
uncrowned; she will gather her sons under the sign of the Cross, and
encourage them to hate one another for the love of God. This was only
a trivial bit of mischief hardly worthy of our attention, were it not
that it had its share in the macadamising of that jungle road in
which, as is frequent in such routes, the preliminary labour had been
undertaken by an elephant, under the direction of a skilful mahout.

It was dark when the news came to Cluhir, six o'clock of a wet night.
The counting of the votes had taken place elsewhere, and the word was
to come by wire. Barty and Larry, with others of the rival
"Commy-tees," had hung about between the post-office, and their
respective offices, and houses of call, all day. Many drinks had been
drunk, many bets been laid; before the news came through, Larry's
proclaimed indifference as to the result had worn so thin as to be
imperceptible. It seemed to him, during the tedious hours of that dark
and wet afternoon, that success in this enterprise was the only thing
left in life worth having. To triumph, secretly, over that secret
clerical opposition, to snap his fingers, openly, at Georgy
Talbot-Lowry's impudence and all that it implied of hostility and
contempt. These were the great objects of life, the things that
justified all the double dealing, and the lies, and the humbug of the
past weeks. There was no such thing as patriotism, and ideals were
rot. He had claimed last night to be a single-minded patriot, but
to-day he knew better; he had become a man, and had put ideals away,
with love, and other childish things. The main thing was to have your
desire of your enemy.

He was standing in the heavy downpour on the outskirts of the group
that waited outside the post-office; he was sick with suspense and
fatigue, and hardly troubled to move as a motor came slowly nosing its
way through the crowd. It passed within a few inches of him and
stopped. He heard the Big Doctor's voice.

"Get into the car out of the rain," it commanded. "D'ye want to be ill
on my hands again? I'll run you down to No. 6. Let Barty 'phone the
news to you. Isn't that what he's for?"

Larry was alone in the dining-room of No. 6 when the telephone
summoned him. He had eaten nothing since breakfast; his hand shook
with cold and excitement, and he could scarcely hold the switch
firmly.

"Burke, 1047; Coppinger, 705;" Barty's voice sounded flat and without
emotion. "Majority against us, 342. Can you hear? Adverse majority,
342! They've beaten us to babby-rags!" The voice ceased.

Larry said: "All right, old chap. Thanks!" and hung up the receiver.

He returned to the dirty, comfortable old sofa by the fire.

Beaten! and Larry was used to victory. In all his twenty-five years of
life, he had never been thwarted. What he wished to do, that he did,
in games, in sport, in art. He might have said, with Beatrice: "There
was a star danced, and under that was I born!"

The first defeat he could remember was the one he had suffered at
Christian's hands, and here he was, turned down again, twice in a
month!

"My luck's out!" he said, staring at the flickering, whispering fire,
and feeling that ebbing of life which will befall, even at five and
twenty, when exhaustion, that has been held at bay by excitement and
hope, comes to its own.

The door burst open, and Tishy came swiftly into the room.

"I've just heard!" she said. "Dad got it on the other 'phone. It's a
wicked shame and a disgrace! That's what it is!" Her voice was hot
with wrath and sympathy; she flung across the room and caught Larry's
hand and shook it vehemently. "The fools!" she cried, furiously. "You
were too good for them, that's what it was! The dirty, low,
common--Oh, there's no words bad enough for them!" Her eyes blazed;
she looked exceedingly handsome. She was moved by a perfectly genuine
emotion of indignation; Larry was Mangan property, and it was not
fitting that the leading family of Cluhir should be defeated.

"You look half dead this minute!" she cried, pushing him down on to
the sofa by the hand that she had taken. "Sit down for gracious sake!"

Again the door opened, and from without the Doctor's deep voice said:

"Tishy! Come here a minute, I want you."

Larry, sitting on the sofa, watching his wet boots steaming, was
conscious of a sense of consolation. It was something to know that
these kind people cared. He heard the light chink of glasses, and
looked round, and saw Tishy coming into the room, bearing a tray, on
which were a cake, and wineglasses, and a bottle of champagne.

"Dad says he prescribes a little stimulant!" said Tishy, gaily, "the
wire's cut--"

She took the cork out of the bottle with a strong, capable hand, and
filled two glasses. "Drink that at once now! And I'll drink one drop
myself--just for luck! Here now! Here's to the next time, and you at
the top of the poll!"

"Sounds as if I were a bear!" said Larry, with a pale smile at her, as
he lifted the glass, "Clink!" He touched her glass, and then drank the
wine thirstily.

"I was just about cooked," he said apologetically. "Awfully good of
you and the Doctor--"

"Ah, don't be talking nonsense!" interrupted Tishy. "Here, show me
your glass--"

The glasses were very large and old fashioned; she refilled his,
brimmingly. "Now, sit down, and drink that, and eat a bit of cake. Not
a word out of you now! Only do as you're told!"

Then, as he obeyed her, she suddenly knelt beside him, and before he
realised what she was doing she began to unlace his boots. Larry
started up, horrified and protesting.

"Sit down at once and be good!" said Tishy, holding firmly to the foot
on which she had begun operations, and with a vigorous jerk compelling
him to obedience. "I'll do what I choose, I always do!"

Her nimble, white fingers made short work of the task that she had set
herself; Larry's remonstrances availed him nothing. She had insisted
on refilling his glass a third time, and the wine had begun to take
away from him the feeling of reality, and to make everything seem hazy
and indefinite, but quite agreeable.

"There now!" said Tishy, pushing the boots under the sofa, "aren't you
obliged to me? I often did that for the Doctor, but I never saw such
lovely green silk socks on _him_, I can tell you!"

The champagne had made her eyes very bright; there was a look in them
that spoke to a dim memory in Larry's cloudy mind. She was still
kneeling beside him, and as she prepared to rise, she rested one hand
on his knee to help herself. Larry put his hand on hers, and leaned
forward. Her brilliant, challenging face was very near his. His memory
cleared in a flash, and he thought of the night, long ago, when they
had played at forfeits.

"'My shoe buckle or my lips'? Do you remember?" he said, with an
unsteady laugh, answering the challenge. "It's my turn now--which will
you have?"

He did not wait for an answer, but looking straight into her eyes, he
bent down and kissed her laughing, red lips.

The situation had not materially changed when Dr. Mangan's large
presence was suddenly developed at the end of the sofa. He had come
noiselessly in, and was surveying his daughter and guest with a
benedictory smile.

"So that's the way, is it?" he said quietly.

The hot dream that held Larry, melted and reeled a little. He released
Tishy from his enfolding arms, and wondered if he had better risk
standing up. He wished old Mangan hadn't come bothering in. He had
only just begun to find out how much he liked Tishy.

But he stood up, and met the Doctor's smile with a guilty and foolish
grin, holding on with one hand to the end of the sofa. Tishy continued
to hold his other hand; he felt as if he should fall if she
relinquished it.

"Well, I suppose I may draw my own conclusions from what I see?" went
on the Big Doctor, in a voice that oozed fatherliness at every
syllable. "Eh, Larry?"

Larry swayed a little; his yellow hair was ruffled, his blue eyes
shone, he looked like a child who had just been awakened.

"Oh quite so, sir," he said, laughing. "Apparently it's the only thing
to do!" which was indisputable.

The bottle of champagne which had played its part so ably was finished
later on, and the engagement was ratified and celebrated with the pomp
that was its due.



CHAPTER XXXVII


Miss Letitia Mangan was a young woman of dauntless courage, who, as
has been said of the sect spoken of by detractors as The Black
Prozbytarians, feared neither God nor divil. To this rule there were,
however, in Tishy's case, two exceptions admitted, and of these, one
was her father, the other Father Greer. If, therefore, during the days
that followed, when the streets of Cluhir were, as it were, mined with
congratulations that exploded round her wherever and whenever she went
abroad, any shade of doubt, any tenuous memory of the foxy devil back
in Riverstown assailed her, she made haste to banish such with the
thoughts of Father Greer's pontifical approval, and of the warmth of
the paternal sunshine that now shone upon her and her _fiancé_.

Cluhir said that it was a very nice engagement, and a great match;
there were not wanting those who said also that it was wonderful
promotion for that Tishy Mangan. A tactless ex-charwoman had even
referred to young Mr. Coppinger as being Miss Mangan's "up-raiser,"
and having enquired, with incredulity, of Mrs. Mangan ("and this
before a crowd in Egan's shop, if you please!" as Mrs. Mangan
reported) "Ma'am! are they in bonds?" she had so fervently thanked God
on hearing that such was the case, that Mrs. Mangan said she could
never enter Egan's again without she'd feel they were all laughing at
her!

Of the _fiancé_ and of his frame of mind, what shall be said? He,
at all events, said as little to himself as was possible, but, in the
circumstances, it was no more than could be expected that a lively
fancy would not wholly be denied, and that occasional vagrant visions
would present themselves uninvited. He pictured to himself a meeting
with Christian, all in the clouds, of course; he told himself he had
no wish to meet her, nor, if he did, was he at all likely to discuss
the matter with her; still he thought that he would rather enjoy
telling her that he had acknowledged his engagement with Tishy, to
Tishy's father, in the very same words in which she, Christian, had
broken hers with him. They had somehow stuck in his head. He would
tell her that. He had certainly been rather screwed (but that there
would be no necessity to mention); it was just a curious chance that
he should have used them. He dramatised the interview in his mind. It
would serve Christian right; it would be a rather jolly instance of
retributive justice--only he wished that the Christian whom he
visualised was not always that shadowed, ethereal Christian whom he
had painted, with, as Rossetti said, the wonder not yet quite gone
from that still look of hers. Bother Rossetti, anyway! What did it
matter what he said? The main point was what Larry himself had said,
and the result was that he was engaged to Tishy Mangan, solidly and
seriously.

There was nothing fatiguingly ethereal about Tishy anyhow; she was
just about as good-looking a girl as he had ever met in his life. He
would take her to Paris some day, and would see what his pals would
say to her. He thought there wouldn't be two opinions about her there.
He and she would travel about a bit. He didn't feel as if he would
care about settling down at Coppinger's Court at once. Anyhow he would
have to fix up about Aunt Freddy. She hadn't written him much of a
letter about his engagement; she seemed to like it just about as well
as she had liked his excursion into politics.

"Of course Tishy's a Papist!" he thought, mockingly, accounting to
himself for the chill of the congratulations. "That's enough for Aunt
Freddy! But, hang it all, so am I! She ought to see how suitable it
is! I'd like to lay on Father Greer to talk to her!"

There is no need to attempt to record in detail the comments of the
wider circle of Larry's acquaintances, but it may be said that his
friends of all ranks had one point in common, a sincere admiration for
Dr. Mangan. Bill Kirby, who had supported him politically, now fell
away from him. Judith had not refrained from admitting him to the
secret which she had extracted from her younger sister, and Bill's
references to young Mr. Coppinger and to Doctor, Mrs., and Miss
Mangan, would have been very helpful to those ladies, of whom there
were many, who took the matter to heart.

The unpopularity of the engagement was considerably aggravated by the
extreme magnificence of the furs, presented by the bridegroom elect to
his _fiancée_, and worn by her at a meet of the hounds, which she
attended in her father's motor.

It might have been some consolation to the neighbourhood had it known
that those grey furs had been of the nature of a peace-offering, after
a rather acute difference of opinion on that point of settling down at
Coppinger's Court as opposed to going abroad. Larry had shelved it for
the present, and had, as he told himself, made good by the dint of the
furs. That had come out all right, but now, Larry, mounted on Joker,
and led in chains at Tishy's motor-wheel, found that among his former
allies of the hunt things were not as they once had been, and was not
pleased. Singularly enough, Judith alone was faithful found among the
faithless. She declared that Larry had been brutally and idiotically
treated, and that this engagement was the result, and justified all
that she had been saying for many past ages. When Larry appeared at
the Meet, his scalp-lock prominent among Miss Mangan's furs, Judith
alone of his former intimates met him with cordiality, condoled with
him over his election defeat with sympathy, and congratulated him on
his engagement with decorum.

"I felt it was only decent," she said later, to the friend to whom she
complacently recounted her effort, "after he had been kicked
downstairs by Papa, and booted out of the house by Christian, quite
without justification. I congratulated him warmly! I absolutely rode
up to the gorgeous Tishy and said civil things there too!"

"It was perfectly angelic of you!" said the friend.

"Quite the reverse, my dear!" said Judith, proudly. "But you see Bill
has the hounds, and anyhow, I like to prepare for all contingencies!"

For the rest, a chilly neutrality reigned at the Meet. Larry was
finding his official position of captive decidedly irksome. He wished
that Tishy would not call him by his name every time she spoke to him;
that she would not speak so loud; that this eternal jog to the covert
would end before the Day of Judgment; finally, that he had stayed at
home. He saw the red-headed Cloherty, and, failing more congenial
society, joined him. But the red-headed Cloherty was crosser than any
of them, and what the devil was it to him what Larry's politics or his
matrimonial intentions were? Confound Cloherty, anyway! He was a
sufficiently common object of the Cluhir scene--and infernally common
at that. Hardly a day that you didn't meet him loafing about the town.
Larry hadn't the smallest wish to talk to Cloherty. When, some brief
time before the Day of Judgment, they reached the covert, it was drawn
blank, and Bill Kirby took quite a month to get the hounds out.
Hunting rabbits, of course. Larry never knew them so out of hand. And
then another rotten jog along the road to the next draw. Why on earth
couldn't Bill get into the country and let them have a school at
least, and get away from these damned motors? He was hoarse from
shouting replies to Tishy's airy nothings, all winged with his name,
and all, he felt, addressed as much to the public as to him. She
looked stunning, of course, and he was glad he had given her those
furs, but three miles trying to keep a suspicious fool of a horse up
to the elbow of a car roaring along at half speed, was--!

It matters not what Larry thought it was, the point is that Tishy
thought it wasn't, and, suddenly realising his views, turned in one of
those instantaneous furies of hers, to the cavalier at the other elbow
of the car, who happened to be the red-headed Cloherty.

Larry, neglected, fell back, and presently found himself beside an old
friend, Father David Hogan, the priest of Riverstown. It was nearly
ten years since the great days of Father David's black mare; she had
passed into legend, and Father David, something heavier than he was
but no less keen, now followed hounds in more leisurely fashion on the
back of the black mare's son, a portly and careful bay cob.

"I'm very pleased to see you out, Mr. Coppinger," Father David began,
the kindly little blue eyes twinkling deep in his red face, confirming
the assurance imparted by his extensive smile, that his friendship was
still unshaken, "You've been missing some nice hunts."

"I've been too hard worked to get out, Father," apologised Larry.

"Ah, otherwise engaged, maybe?" said Father David, with a facetious
stress on the word engaged. "I was greatly put out over the election,"
he continued. "Tell me now, why didn't the Unionists support you? I
noticed that our worthy M.F.H. came to record his vote, but your
cousin, the late M.F.H., was, as they say, conspicuous by his
absence."

"He's quite an invalid now," said Larry shortly.

"Indeed? Indeed? And is that the case? I'm grieved to hear it!" Father
David pressed the stout cob nearer to Joker, and murmured very
confidentially. "I've known you since your boyhood I may say, Mr.
Coppinger, and you will not consider me impertinent speaking to you.
But could you tell me is it a fact what I'm 'hearing about the good
Major--you, no doubt, have prior information--"

"I think that's very unlikely," said Larry, sulkily, flushing as he
spoke.

Father David eyed Larry cautiously, and began to wonder if something
he had been told not long since were true.

In Ireland, it may confidently be said, all things are known to the
poor people, and a brief consideration of this position will show,
that this being so, there is but little that is unknown to the Church.

"Well, Mr. Coppinger," Father Hogan resumed, "I'm told--only told,
mind you--that the Major had Mount Music and the demesne advertised on
the English papers--"

"Good God!" exclaimed Larry, startled out of his sulk; "to sell?"

Father David, like other gentlemen of his age and cloth, had the
Baboo's predilection for a well-worn quotation. "As to that I cannot
say," he said portentously. "''Tis whispered in Heaven, 'tis muttered
in Hell' that the encumbrances are very heavy--mortgages and
debts--. The good Major had a long family, Mr. Coppinger; fine,
dashing young min they are too, but we all know that expenses do not
tend to diminish as families grow up! Children may be a heritage that
comes from the Lord, but unless other heritages accompany them--!"
Father David put his head on one side, and, beaming at Larry, laid his
little professional joke, so to speak, at his feet.

"Well, well," he resumed, "'What business is it of yours?' says you!"

"Not at all, Father," said Larry, still shaken by what he had heard.
"Thank you for speaking to me--it's the first I've heard of it."

The procession of the hunt halted, the hounds left the road by the
direct method of a high stone "gap," and Father David and the bay cob
melted away to betake themselves to those secret equivalent routes
known to those who have come to years of discretion in the
hunting-field.

The second draw seemed at first as if it were to be no more fortunate
than its predecessor. The covert was a patch of scrubby woodland at a
little distance below the road, at the head of one of the long deep
glens that were the terrors of the Broadwater country. The wind blew
from the west, across the wide cleft of Gloun Kieraun, and the hounds
were thrown into the wood in which the upper end of the glen was
masked, and were encouraged to work downwards. An unaccustomed wave of
misanthropy had assailed Larry, and instead of following with the
crowd the course of the hounds, he moved onwards along the road,
scarcely considering where he was going. He was thinking with
consternation of what Father Hogan had told him. Larry was not of
those who nurse their wrath to keep it warm, and the thought of Dick's
misfortunes swept away the recollection of his insults. Joker had, of
his own initiative, soon turned aside from the high road into a grassy
lane, and he moved along it in the relentless manner in which many
horses will decline to stand still while Larry, deep in thought,
allowed the reins to lie on the horse's neck while he lit a cigarette
and tried to fix in his memory Father David's exact words. He thought
he would talk to Dr. Mangan about it. Things might be better than the
old priest thought. From the thought of the doctor his mind passed on
to that of his wedding. Was it possible that he was to be married next
week? A distinct physical drop of the heart accompanied the
realisation. "Nerves!" he told himself, and hurried on to reflect upon
his bride. She certainly looked stunning in those grey furs; he was
glad he had given them to her; she knocked spots off any other girl in
the country. He impressed this thought on his mind. And she had sung
jolly well last night, and had accompanied him quite decently. They
would get on all right once they were married. She had been a bit
edgey these last few days, but--some under-self warned him off the
pursuit of this topic. He began to formulate excuses for her that
inculpated himself. Larry "came of a gentle kind," and had the
generous temper that finds it easier to bear than to ascribe blame.

A note of the horn was wafted sweetly across the glen, and he came to
the surface of his thoughts. By Jove! Where had Joker got him to? The
lane they had wandered down ran parallel with Gloun Kieraun, and a gap
in the fence on his left made him aware that he was now moving abreast
with the hunt, but was divided from his fellows by the chasm of the
glen.

A second touch of the horn came; Larry checked his horse; Bill Kirby
had seen him and was shouting to him.

"Head him back if he breaks your side! I want him his way!"

All jolly fine for old Bill, but where did young Mr. Coppinger come
in? He held up his hand to show he had heard, and stood still.

One hound spoke, sharply, in the depths of the woody glen. Another and
another joined in. In a moment, the echoing glen was full of voices;
it was impossible to tell what was happening. A couple and a half
emerged on the farther side in the heather above the trees, working a
line upwards, and speaking to it as they went. Larry saw the Master
force his horse down near them, and heard him cheering them and
doubling his horn. Another couple joined them, and Larry swore
heartily. Here he was on the wrong side, and the fox away to the east!
The cry redoubled; it sounded as if twice the pack were engaged, yet
the two and a half couple were not being reinforced. By some chance
Larry withdrew his eyes from them, and just then, about a hundred
yards further on, on his side of the glen, something like a brown
feather floated up into view.

"A second fox, by the living Jingo!" whispered Larry, thrilling to
that sight that never fails to thrill.

He held up his hat. Bill saw the signal, and acknowledged it by
redoubled efforts to get the hounds away with the fox that had broken
to the east. The chorus of sound grew and grew, and as Joker and his
rider, tense with an equal excitement, listened, it became plain that
the cry was drawing nearer to them. Joker's sensitive ears were
twitching, his heart thumped; the storm of sound was just below them
now, and then, hound by hound, Larry counted them as they came,
fourteen couples struggled up over the lip of the glen where that
brown feather had so lightly lifted into view, and drove ahead, on the
way it had gone, with a rush and a cry that Larry could no more have
checked than he could have stemmed and driven back the wild stream in
the glen below.

It may be said at once that he made no such futile effort. With a
single glance at the frenzied party on the farther side, already
galloping distractedly for a possible pass lower down the glen, Larry
released his feelings in a maniac howl to the fleeting pack, and let
Joker--who had already stood up on his hind legs twice, in legitimate
protest--follow them.

The fox, having begun by running west, away from the glen, had then
turned right-handed, and was heading north over the mountain whose
lower slopes were cleft by Gloun Kieraun. The scent served well; the
gurgling music with now and then a sharper note, like a fife among
flutes and 'cellos, flowed on, and Larry and Joker, two happy
creatures, the world forgetting (though by no means by their world
forgot) galloped and rejoiced.

The little mountain sheep with their black, speckled faces sprang
before them, quick as rabbits; green plover flopped up from the grassy
places, wheeling and squealing; a woodcock whirred out of a furze bush
so near Larry that he could have struck it down with his crop.
Long-legged mountain hares fled right and left of the driving pack,
unheeded. Great spaces of the mountain were bare of fences, but in
those tracts where the grass had mastered the heather, it was
"striped" with broad banks, sound, and springy, and bound, as with
wire, by the heather roots. To feel Joker quicken his big stride and
leap at the banks out of his gallop, to realise the perfect precision
of his method, as he changed feet and flicked off into the next field,
to race him at the walls of smooth round stones, weathered in the long
centuries, and grey with lichen, and to know that if they were three
times their height Joker would have sailed over them with the same
ease--whatever might have been Larry's burden of care, it would have
fallen from him, forgotten, in the pure glory of that ride.

The hounds ran hard for nearly a half hour before they checked, and
Larry bethought him of those unfortunates between whom and himself
that great gulf had been fixed. Apparently they had not found, any
more than the rich man in the parable, a means of crossing it. He was
high above the valley; the splendid landscape lay in broad undulating
ribbons of brown and green and amethyst and blue, with the Broadwater
dividing it--a silver belt, with a band of green on its either side;
but within the great circle that was spread beneath his eyes were none
of those toiling specks that tell of a Hunt in labour. The check was
brief; the hurrying hounds, busy as ants, cast themselves right and
left forward, combining in fussy groups, that would suddenly
disintegrate as if by an access of centrifugal force; crowding each
other jealously along the top of a bank, flopping into the patches of
bog, snuffing greedily at the orange stems of the bracken. Soon,
reiterated squeals from a leading lady told that the clue was found
again, and they began to run, hard as before, but downwards this time,
as though the fox despaired of finding refuge among the high places of
heather and rock. Larry had lost his bearings; his eyes on the hounds,
his thoughts on his horse, he had not even tried to place himself. But
as the hounds ran on, south and west, he began to recognise familiar
features. Away there to the south, surely were the trees of
Coppinger's Court; could it be the Mount Music earths for which the
fox was heading? The hounds were running now down hill, through crisp,
upland meadows. Farmhouses began to reappear, thatched and
whitewashed, tucked snugly in among low bunches of trees; fences were
changing in character; the amber streams ran less fiercely, and found
time to loiter in pools and quiet reaches. The hounds had begun to
hunt more slowly, and Larry looked at his watch.

"Forty-five minutes since they left the glen! Bill's just about mad
enough for the asylum by this time!" he thought "If we could only
catch this lad!"

But this particular "lad" was not to gratify young Mr. Coppinger by
dying, classically, in the open, "on the top of the ground." Five
minutes after Larry had taken the time he took it again, this time at
the mouth of one of many holes in a sandpit, wherein, as was announced
by a country boy, "the lad" had saved himself, with "the dogs snapping
at his tail."

"He earned it well," said Larry, ungrudgingly, even though the mask
that was to have hung so carelessly from his saddle was panting deep
and safe in the sandpit, listening warily for a possible eviction
notice from the hunt-terrier (left, alas hunting rabbits in the heart
of Gloun Kieraun) thanking its own wits for the recollection of the
city of refuge.

"Ye're on the lands of Finnahy now," said the boy. "Folly on that way
down, and ye'll meet the road. That's the near way."

"Come on, you, and show it to me," said Larry.

Amazing were the ramifications of the near way. The bed of a stream
had a share, and a well-trodden path along the wide top of a bank; a
brace of wheels had to be trundled out of one gap, a toothless harrow
dragged from another. Then they were on heather again.

"Carry on now," said the guide, "and ye'll meet a pat--"

Larry needed no more leading; he was on the hill above Mount Music,
Cnocán an Ceoil Sidhe, and the "pat" that was to meet him was the
narrow track that led by the Druid Stone and the Well of the Fairies.

The December afternoon was darkening to its close; the sun had made
its farewell appearance, coming forth for a moment, a half-circle of
clear flame, above the long grey cloud that barred the head of the
valley. Larry rode past the great grey stone, and hardly turned his
eyes toward it. The hounds, trooping meekly round his horse, went
aside to the well, and drank long and thirstily. He did not wait for
them. He put from his mind the memory of the last time he had seen
from that hill-side the sun go down. Rather he set his thoughts,
resolutely, on that other last time, in the library of Mount Music.
And he called up Tishy's brilliant face, framed in the furs that he
had given her, that it might help him to drive away other memories. He
was very fond of Tishy, he told himself; anyway, he was booked to
marry her next week.



CHAPTER XXXVIII


The small town of Cluhir, ever avid, as are all small towns, of
sensation, was, did it only know it, about to enjoy a week that would
long be remembered in its history. Miss Mangan's marriage, which alone
would have made an epoch, was fixed for Thursday, December 12th; but
this, it need scarcely be said, was a matter that, though
soul-stirring, was devoid of the element of surprise. Not so, however,
was the sudden evacuation of Mount Music. Father Hogan's indefinite
information was as much as was generally known, but much that was not
generally known was confided to the discreet ears of Father Greer, and
he, almost alone of the inhabitants of Cluhir, was not surprised when
the news went abroad that the Mount Music carriage had conveyed Major
Dick and Lady Isabel to the station, and that so vast a mass of
luggage had accompanied them as to betoken a prolonged absence.

That the news should, in the first instance, have been communicated to
Father Greer by Dr. Mangan, was not remarkable, since Dr. Mangan's
professional advice had usefully reinforced his unofficial advocacy of
the move, and Father Greer was rarely ignorant for long of matters
that were found interesting by the Big Doctor.

Not merely for the sake of Major Talbot-Lowry's health had this
upheaval taken place; an even more imperious factor had been the state
of the family finances. The cloud of debt that had so long brooded
over Mount Music was lower and darker than ever it had been before.
Dick had at length been coerced into opening negotiations for the sale
of his property to his tenants, but although, in the fullness of time,
these might be expected to bear fruit, they were of no more immediate
assistance to this over-weighted survivor of a prehistoric species,
than is the suggestion to a horse to live in order that he may get
oats.

There was pressure in the air over Mount Music. Tradesmen, whose
suffering had been as long as their bills, began to turn, in what had
seemed like the sleep of exhaustion, and to talk about solicitors'
letters. Even Dr. Mangan had surprised and pained his friend, the
Major, by forgetting his wonted delicate reticence, and hinting, with
what struck Dick as singularly doubtful taste, at a repayment of those
loans that he had volunteered, offering as an excuse for doing so the
expenses consequent on his daughter's marriage. In addition to these
irritations, Major Talbot-Lowry had received what he justly considered
to be very annoying letters from a firm of Dublin solicitors, in
connection with various charges and mortgages on the Mount Music
property, which so they, informed him, had been "acquired" by them for
"a client," and were now to be called in. Alternatively, it was
suggested, an arrangement might be proposed, whereby the house and
demesne of Mount Music might be accepted in settlement of the sums in
question. The firm had been in communication with another creditor,
Dr. Mangan of Cluhir, and it was hoped that all Major Talbot-Lowry's
liabilities might be arranged for by the method they suggested.

Dick Talbot-Lowry received this announcement with the mixture of
indignation and contempt that might have been anticipated from an
old-established Pterodactyl, who has been warned that his hereditary
wallow in the Primeval Ooze is about to be wrested from him. Having
expressed these sentiments in suitable language, he said, lightly,
that Fairfax must raise as much on the property as would keep these
Dublin sharks quiet, and in the meantime he would shut up the house at
once and go to London. Temporary retrenchment was all that was
required. He would let the place. Some rich Englishman would jump at
the chance--

Major Dick had that optimism about his own affairs that is often
combined with a tranquil pessimism about the affairs of others. He
said that all he wanted was to get clear of the blood-sucking swarm of
hangers-on that infested the place. He wondered at his own folly in
having endured them for so long. And it would do Christian good to get
away. She had been looking rather pulled down--she missed the hunting,
of course. London would do her good--would be a change.

This, approximately, was what Dick said. What Lady Isabel said, being
an attenuated echo of Dick's observations, is negligible. What
Christian said was known only to Rinka, the eldest of the fox
terriers, who had a habit of sitting in the chair at which Christian,
knelt to say her prayers, and would then, with her bland and balmy
smile, extort confidences denied to any other living creature.

On Christian fell the brunt of the arrangements, the decisions, worst
of all, the dismissals. The house (pending the materialisation of the
Rich Englishman) was to be shut up, so also were all external
departments, with their workers, most of whom Christian had known from
her childhood; it was her hand that had to cut the knot of these old
friendships. Her father and mother had preceded her, and she was left,
alone in the big, old house, with old Evans, and his down-trodden old
wife, to be her ministers, with Rinka to be her companion, and with
the obliteration of her past life to be her task.

An immense fire of logs and turf blazed in the hall fireplace, a
funeral pyre, on which Christian cast one basketful after another of
letters, papers, ball-cards, hunt cards, pamphlets, old school-room
books, stray numbers of magazines, all the accumulated rubbish that
life, like the leader in a paper-chase, strews in its trail; all
valueless, yet all steeped in the precious scent of past happiness, of
good times that were over and done with. She spent those short, dark
days in desolation and destruction, and Rinka trotted after her, up
and downstairs, in and out of the shuttered bedrooms, and the gaunt,
curtainless, carpetless rooms downstairs, wondering what it all
portended, vowing, in her little faithful, cunning heart, not to let
Christian out of her sight for a single instant.

The darkness and shortness of the days was intensified by the
onslaught of a great storm; one of those giant overwhelmings when it
seems that the canopy of heaven is being crushed down upon one's own
little corner of this earth, and that all the winds and all the waters
of the universe are gathered beneath it to annihilate one
insignificant segment of the world. On Monday morning, Christian saw
her father and mother start, too agitated by their coming journey to
have a spare thought for sentiment; too much beset by the fear of what
they might lose, their keys, their sandwiches, their dressing-boxes,
to shed a tear for what they were losing, and had lost. And on Monday
afternoon with the early darkness the storm began. There came first a
little run of wind round the house, like a cavalry patrol spying out
the land. There followed complete stillness; then a few scattered
drops of rain fell, and ceased; and then, with a heavy, travelling
roar, the wind came rushing up the valley. It thundered in the
cavernous chimneys of Mount Music; it bawled and whooped at the
windows, and shook them with a human fury, as though it were life or
death to it to get in, as though it were maddened by the failure of
its surprise attack. Christian and her ancient servitors ran from room
to room, barring shutters, fastening doors, the draughts down the long
passages snatching at the candle flames, the old man and woman full of
forebodings and of reminiscences of former storms, that came to
Christian in broken scraps, through the rattle of windows and the
shaking clatter of doors within the house, and the shrieking rage of
the wind outside. She sat up late, sorting and arranging things in her
room. She had none of the fears that might, for another, have filled
the empty house with visitants from another world, and might have
taught her to listen for footsteps in the echoing passages and knocks
on the shaking doors. She had always lived on the borderland, and was
naturalised in both spheres, but to-night, the voices that had so
often given her help, were, when she most needed help, silent.

"I have nothing left now," she said to herself, "but memories,
hungering memories--"

She was to leave Mount Music on Wednesday, and on Thursday, Larry was
to be married to Tishy Mangan. What room was there for phantom fears
when these things were certainties? What spectre from the other world
has power to break a heart?

Deep in the night there was a lull, a strange moment of arrest, that
endured for scarcely as long as that one could count ten, and then,
with the returning tempest, the rain that had been pent behind it, was
hurled upon the world. All that night, and all the following day, the
rain was like a wall about the house. It was flung in masses against
the windows, as buckets of water are flung on a deck. To look forth was
as though one looked through a dense sheet of moving ice. Gutters,
eave-shoots, tanks, overflowed. The sorely-tried roof was mastered, and
in all its angles and valleys yielded entrance to the enemy. Up in the
top story hurrying drips beat, like metronomes, all the _tempi_, from a
ponderous _adagio_ to a racing _prestissimo_. Buckets and jugs and
baths filled, and were emptied, and filled again, the old Evans pair
waddling to and fro, elated, almost gratified, by the magnitude of
their task. And in the middle of the uproar, late in the afternoon, a
new sound joined in the chorus of the storm, the coarse and ugly
summons of a motor-horn. Old Evans spied at the car through the hall
window, and contrived to signal a command to go round to the back of
the house.

"If I let dhraw the bolts," he said to Barty Mangan at the kitchen
entrance, "the door would fall flat on me!"

"I wouldn't be surprised at all," Barty replied. "Hardly I could force
the car into the storm."

Christian was sitting on the floor by the fireplace in the hall, in
the last of the daylight, examining and burning the contents of a
drawer full of miscellaneous papers, as the visitor made his
unexpected entrance from the back, and Barty, recognising his own
improbability and unsuitability on such a day and at such a time, fell
to confused apologies that were as incoherent, and seemed as unlikely
ever to end, as the buzzing of an imprisoned bee on the window-pane.
The fact at length, however, emerged, that there was a map of the
Mount Music estate hanging in the library, and that the Major having
promised to lend it to Dr. Mangan, had forgotten to do so.

"Some question of boundaries--a little grazing form m' fawther
has--" Barty said, nervously.

The map was found, was rolled, and wrapped up, and yet Barty sat on.
He talked incessantly, feverishly. He talked so fast, in his low
voice, that, in the clamour of the storm, Christian could only
distinguish an occasional word. She had a nightmare feeling as if a
train were roaring through an endless tunnel, and that she and Barty
were the sole passengers, and would never see daylight or know quiet
again. His long, lean body was hooped into a very low and deep
armchair, his thin hands clasped his knees; his immense dark eyes,
fixed on Christian's face, gave her the impression that what he was
saying was without relation to what he was thinking. In the direful
gloom of the hall, with the rain and wind threshing on the
half-shuttered windows, and the inconstant light of the burning logs
the sole illuminant, his pale face, with the wing of black hair on his
forehead, looked like the face of a strayed occupant of another sphere
who had resumed such an aspect as he had worn in his coffin.

"Ireland's a queer old place just now, Miss Christian," Barty hurried
on. "Everything's changing hands, and everyone's changing sides. You
don't know what'll happen next!"

"I wish I were not changing sides too," said Christian, catching at a
sentence, in a momentary lull of the roaring in the chimney. "Sides of
the Channel, I mean--I prefer this side!"

"Do you? Do you?" said Barty, intensely. "I'm glad you do! I feel
often as if no one cared for this miserable country except for what
they could get out of it! At the election it would have sickened you,
the bargaining, and the humbugging, and the lies. Larry was the only
man that ran straight, and they jockeyed him--"

"I'm sure _you_ ran straight," said Christian, with sympathy in
her voice. Piercing her weariness and preoccupation was the feeling
that he had something to say that lay under this babble of
conversation. He was wrapping himself in a cloak of verbiage, but
above the cloak his tormented eyes met hers, and the pain in them hurt
her.

"Me? Oh, I only ran after Larry. I thought it was a shabby thing of
the Unionists not to have supported him--" he stopped abruptly,
remembering Major Talbot-Lowry's abstention, remembering also the
feud, of which he knew only that he had never wholly divined its
origin, between Coppinger's Court and Mount Music. He cursed himself
for a fool. He had not meant to talk politics, but what he had come
through the storm to say was so difficult. He looked at Christian with
agony. Had she minded what he said about the Unionists? He began to
talk again, very fast and incoherently.

"Miss Christian, I said awhile ago everything was changing in Ireland.
There's big changes coming, even hereabouts, things I couldn't believe
would ever happen. I've recently learned a--a fact--a statement that
I'm not at liberty to repeat. I was--I may say that I was shocked--but
Miss Christian--" the agony in his eyes was in his voice. "Oh! Miss
Christian, for God's sake, believe that I knew nothing of it till this
day!"

He stood up, steadying himself with a hand on one of the high marble
pillars of the mantelpiece.

"Knew nothing of what?" said Christian, thinking she had mistaken what
he had said.

"I can't tell you--you'll know soon enough--only I'm just asking you
to believe that I had neither part nor lot in it!"

Christian had risen, and was standing up; he came a step nearer.

"I just want you to understand, Miss Christian, that in this world
there is no one I regard like you--no one, nor ever was, nor ever will
be--but don't mind that, I only want to say that if there is anything
in this earthly world that it's in my power to do for you, or that I
could help you in anny shape or form, you will be showing the kindness
and mercy of God if you will let me do it for you."

He was trembling, and his voice shook, but his nervousness was gone.
"The kindness and mercy of God!" he said again. "I would feel it to be
that--oh, God! I would!" The tortured spirit in his eyes had given
place to another spirit, whose emotion Christian could neither mistake
nor respond to, yet its kinship with the immutable fidelity that was
in her heart made an appeal that she could not refuse.

"Be sure I will ask you," she said, with the pity that her own
heart-loneliness had taught her in her voice. "I can't understand what
it is that you think may happen; it seems to me as if--" She broke
off, held by the thought that disaster could hardly have another arrow
in its quiver for her. "You may be sure if I think you can help me, I
will ask you. I know I could rely on you," she said, pushing back her
own trouble, meeting his wild eyes with hers, steadfast and
compassionate.

"I'm more than thankful--grateful--you've only to speak--" he
stumbled and stammered with words that were all inadequate to his
feeling. "I won't detain you; I'm taking your time too long as it
is--and I'll have a job to get home too, the river's rising every
minute, and so is the storm--" He somehow talked himself out of the
room.

Christian returned to her work of destruction. The situation in
general had not been made easier for her by Barty's tragic offer of
assistance in some mysterious and advancing stress, or by the
certainty that she tried to shake, but could not, of what his eyes had
said to her.

But Barty, as he drove home through the storm, felt himself to be a
new man, consecrate and apart, ennobled by her promise to rely on him,
glorified by her look; and thanked God that, when the trouble came,
she would remember that he had had neither part nor lot in it.



CHAPTER XXXIX


The storm, and the preparations for the wedding, raged on with almost
equal violence, within and without the walls of No. 6, The Mall. From
the moment that daylight began on the fateful Wednesday, the day
before the wedding, and until it ceased, Mrs. Mangan's face recurred
at the window of the dining room, full of protest, primarily against
the arbiter of the weather, who had sent so supreme a hindrance to all
her preparations, secondarily, against the shops of Cluhir, whose
dilatoriness in matters of the highest importance "had her," so she
affirmed frequently, "that much distracted, that it would be a comfort
and a consolation to her if she were stretched cold in her grave."

At intervals during the feverish day, beings would come rushing
through the torrents, like trout in a swirling brook, and would fling
themselves and their parcels in through the door that Mrs. Mangan was
generally ready to open for them. Frantic messages from bridesmaids
about their costumes, belated wedding presents, all the surf and foam
that is flung up by the waves of a wedding, broke upon No. 6. The
bride elect, pale and preoccupied, ("pale," that is to say, "for
Tishy," as one of her compeers observed, "flushed for any one else!")
wrote notes, and exhibited presents, and packed clothes, and rode the
tempest with a fortitude that was worthy of the Big Doctor's daughter.
But even Tishy began to fail as darkness drew in.

"I can't stand this house any more," she said to her mother, "rain or
no rain, I'm going out! I didn't see Mrs. Whelply about Kathleen's"
wreath that she wrote about--"

"You'll be drowned," said Mrs. Mangan, doomfully; "and sure if Larry
comes over, what'll I say to him?"

"_He'll_ not come!" said Tishy, scornfully. "What a fool he is, a
day like this!"

"And they say the river's up in the houses down at the end of the
town," went on Mrs. Mangan. "In the name of pity why wouldn't you be
satisfied to stay at home for this once, and you leaving me for good
to-morrow!"

"Well, I'll die if I stay in this messed-up hole any longer!" said
Tishy. "I don't care how wet I get--"

Presently the front door slammed behind her; her mother said to
herself that of all the headstrong pieces--! And, further, that she
trusted in God Larry Coppinger would be able to make a hand of her;
she then, with the resignation that experience teaches to defeated
mothers, went to the kitchen, and prepared a tray with tea, and
carried it herself up to the Doctor's surgery.

"Francis, may I come in? I have tea for you and meself."

"Come in to be sure," replied Francis, hospitably. "I'll be glad of a
cup. Wait and I'll light the gas."

The Big Doctor was a faithful man, and loved his wife. He treated her
as a slave, but it was thus that she not only expected, but preferred
to be treated, and the position of a favourite slave may not be
without its compensations. He established her in the Patients' chair,
arranging it so that the crude flare of the incandescent gas should
not be in her eyes, and then sat down in his own huge chair, in
comfortable proximity to her and the tea-tray.

"Well, Annie, me girl," he said. "You're looking tired enough, but
there isn't one will touch you in looks to-morrow for all that! Your
own daughter included!"

"Go on out of that, Francis, with your nonsense!" replied Mrs. Mangan,
with a coquettish slap on the Doctor's great round knee, "you ought to
be learning sense for yourself by this time!"

"Maybe I'm not so wanting in sense as you might think, Annie!" he
answered, his watchful, grey-blue eyes under the over-hanging, musical
brows, softening as he looked at her. I think one way and another, I
haven't made altogether such a bad fist of things!"

"Darling lovey!" cried Mrs. Mangan, adoringly. "How would you think I
meant it!"

"Well, I didn't either!" said the Doctor, with a satisfied laugh, "but
I'm inclined to think that I've done better than you're aware of, or
that you might give me credit for either!"

"All _I'm_ aware of," said Mrs. Mangan, sitting erect, with a
look of defiance, "is that there's nothing in this world, no, nor in
Ireland neither, that you couldn't do if you chose to put your mind to
it! So now! You needn't be talking to _me_ like that! Pretending
I don't know you after all those years!"

"Well, listen to me now," said the Doctor, well pleased, 'Tell me what
d'ye think of this marriage of Tishy's?"

"You know well what I think of it, Francis, and what everybody thinks
of it, too! The smartest and the richest--"

"Well, that's all right," interrupted the Doctor, "but for a woman
like yourself, that sets out to be fond of her children, its
surprising that you didn't make a match yet for your son!" He looked
at her with indulgent fondness, laughing at her, and she gazed back at
him with her heart in her eyes, and thought him the king of men.
"Well, what have you got to say to that, Mrs. Mangan? It's well for
the poor boy that his father isn't so neglectful of him!"

"What do you mean, Francis? What are you talking of?"

"I'm talking of poor Barty, my dear!" said the Doctor, enjoying
himself intensely, and watching his wife's handsome face with eyes
that lost no shade of its quick-changing expression. "You've a high
opingen of him, I know! Would you think Miss Christian Talbot-Lowry
was good enough for him?"

Mrs. Mangan's mouth opened, in sheer stupefaction. She opened and shut
it two or three times before speech came to her.

"Barty!" she panted; "Miss Christian Lowry! Sweet and Blessed Mother
of God! Francis, you're raving! Is it my poor Barty! They'd never look
at him!"

The Doctor watched her with triumph in his face. "Don't be too sure of
that! I might have an argument up my sleeve--" he checked himself as
a nervous knock was heard at the door. "Who's there? Come in! Come in,
can't ye?"

A telegram, the orange envelope dark with wet, was handed to him. He
read it.

"No answer," he said, getting up quickly. "Well, bad manners to the
woman! Such a day to choose!"

"What _is_ it, lovey? _Don't_ tell me it's a sick call! You couldn't
_possibly_ go _annywhere_ this evening!" cried Mrs. Mangan,
italicising, in her indignation, every second word, "and for goodness'
sake, go on and tell me what was the argument you said you had?"

"My dear, I couldn't go into it properly now. I'll tell you another
time. I'm bound to go, and as quick as I can too! Run now, like a good
girl, and tell Barty or Mike to get the car ready in a hurry. That
wire was from Hannigan that lives below Riverstown. He says his
wife'll die--she's very bad, I'm afraid--I'm booked for the job this
long time--"

Mrs. Mangan, loudly expostulating, though wise in obedience from
experience, flew from the room with her message, and speedily returned
to find the Big Doctor still hurrying about the surgery, making his
preparations, and talking as he went.

"I mightn't be back till morning, but I'll not miss the wedding, don't
be afraid! I'll come as soon as I can, I promise you that!"

"Oh, Francis, love, I hate to see you go out this awful night," wailed
Mrs. Mangan, following him into the little hall, and dragging his
fur-lined coat off a peg, and holding it for him; "and this scorf, my
darling, put it on you before you ketch your death. Will you take Mike
with you?"

"I will not. He'll be wanting here. Don't delay me now. Good-bye,
girlie!" He kissed her. Then he opened the door, and with a roar, the
wind and the rain hurled in, with a force that staggered him, big as
he was.

"Well, such a night!" lamented Mrs. Mangan, for the twentieth time,
clinging to the door; "I wish to God the telegraph wires were down
before they could send for you! Oh, will you take care of yourself
now, Francis?"

"Of course I will! Go in out of the wet--" he pushed himself in under
the low hood of the car, and glided into the darkness.

A doctor is a dedicated man. He accepts risks with a laugh, and toil
with, perhaps, a grumble, but he does not flinch. Obscure and
inglorious perils are his, and hardships that only himself can gauge.
Be sure that they are not unrecorded. They shine, and their splendour
is hidden, like those lanterns that were hidden under the coats of the
lantern-bearers. But there is, very surely, some screen, sensitive to
its rays, on which that light is thrown, that will some day show us
what we have been too self-centred to realise, and will dazzle us with
the devotion to which we are now too much habituated to admire.



CHAPTER XL


It was Barty who had brought out the car, and, on his father's
departure, he released the grip of the railings that had enabled him
to keep his footing, and was, literally, blown into the house.

"Shut the door, my Pigeon-pie!" said his mother, "the wind's too
strong for me."

Barty was too well accustomed to this expression of his mother's
affection to resent it, and having done her bidding, he followed her
into the Doctor's room, which alone had a fire in it.

"Nothing would please Tishy only to go down to the Whelplys,"
complained Mrs. Mangan, poking the fire, and seating herself in front
of it with a long, groaning sigh of exhaustion; "some nonsense about a
wreath. A wreath indeed! Any one'd be lucky that kept their hair on
their heads in this wind, let alone a wreath! You'll have to go fetch
her, my poor boy! I'll not be easy till I see her and Pappy home
again! I thought maybe Larry might have come over, but I declare now
I'm glad he did not."

"Larry's not like himself lately," said Barty, sitting down in his
father's chair, and taking from his pocket a paper packet and
extracting a crushed cigarette from it. "I think the loss of th'
election disappointed him greatly."

"'Twas well he had Tishy to console him," said Mrs. Mangan, "it was in
the nick of time she cot him!"

"It was," replied Barty, tepidly. "I think also," he went on, "he's
put out about his aunt not coming down for the wedding, and even young
Mrs. Kirby away. It's funny to think Coppinger's Court and Mount Music
are empty now, the two of them--or will be after to-morrow. Miss
Christian went to-day."

("See now how he's talking of her!" thought his mother. "I wonder did
Francis say anything to him?") Aloud she said: "It's a pity she's
gone, but it mightn't be for long."

"I saw her yesterday. The Doctor sent me there for a map," said Barty,
with elaborate unconcern.

("Look at that now!" again commented Mrs. Mangan to herself. "How well
they never told me he'd gone to see her! Aren't men a fright the way
they'll hide things!")

"She's a sweet girl, my Pidgie," she resumed, to her son, "And Pappy's
always said the same thing."

Barty looked at her like a horse prepared to shy. Had his father said
anything to her? The longing to speak of Christian had mastered him,
but if his mother knew--

"I think I'd better go for Tishy now," he said abruptly, "It might be
a job to get down the town later on."

He left the room, and Mrs. Mangan, in her husband's big chair, by his
big fire, fell into tired yet peaceful ease of body and mind. How
wonderful was Francis! Who but he would have dared to aspire for his
children as he had? He had secured for Tishy the very pick of the
country; and now, her own darling Barty! Was it possible? Yes! It was,
if Francis said so! But _what_ was "the argument he had up his
sleeve?" Never mind! Francis would tell her when he came home. There
was no hurry. But again, how wonderful was Francis!

She fell asleep. Barty woke her, coming into the room, dripping and
shining in oilskins and sou'wester, like a lifeboat man.

"I couldn't get further than West Street, Mammie," he said, still
breathless. "I had on my waders, but the water was up over them. They
had boats going about, I believe, but I couldn't get hold of one.
Tishy'll have to stay the night at the Whelplys'. I met a man that
told me there was a big flood in the river, and haystacks, and cattle,
and all sorts, coming down in it. It was up over the line, and the
train hardly got out. It was near putting out the engine fires."

"Oh, my God!" said Mrs. Mangan, with her big eyes that were so like
Barty's fixed on his, "the Riverstown road! Oh! Francis!--" she
groped at the front of her blouse for her Rosary, her lips moving in
hasty supplication, her eyes wild, roving from her son's face to the
blackness of the window. Suddenly she thrust back the Rosary.

"Why do you tell me these things?" she cried, furiously, "you great
_omadhaun_! Is it to frighten me into my grave you want? Is it
nothing to you that your father's out alone? Oh God! Oh God! Why
couldn't he think of me as well as of that damned woman away at
Riverstown!" She began to cry, wildly, her forehead pressed against
one of the streaming panes of the window. "Oh Francis, Francis!--"

There were many more than Mrs. Mangan and her son that sat up all
through that night in the Valley of the Broadwater. Trembling people
in little low-lying cottages, with thatched roofs held in place with
ladders, and ropes, and stones, with doors and windows barricaded
against the wind. But of what avail are barricades against the
creeping white lip of water, crawling in under the doors over the
earthen floors, soaking in, through mud-built walls, coming against
them at first as a thief in the night, falling upon them later as a
strong man armed?

From the lower side-streets of Cluhir the people fled before the flood
to any shelter that the upper parts of the town could offer them.
Ghastly stories were told of drowned cattle that were swept against
the closed doors, and came pushing and banging at the windows, carried
there by their conqueror as it were with mockery, to entreat for the
succour that was too late.

When the pale dawn looked out through wind-torn clouds, it saw a
half-mile breadth of racing water where had been pasture-fields; the
yellow, foam-laced river was half way up the tall, slender arches of
Cluhir Bridge, lapping ever higher, as if in envy, to hide the sole
beauty of the ignoble town. Trees, and hayricks, broken boats, and
humble pieces of cottage furniture, jostled each other between the
piers, tossing and dancing in grotesque gaiety, like drunken
holiday-makers on their way to the sea. The great river that is
credited with exacting six lives each year, was claiming its toll. How
many it took that December night does not now concern us, save,
indeed, where one sad house was in question, where a wife and a son
waited a long night through for the man who would not return to them.

       *       *       *       *       *

Down below Cluhir, at Mount Music, old Evans crept out of the
shuttered house, and fought his way in the wind, amid fallen trees,
down to the big river, to see what still stood of the boathouse. The
boathouse had weathered out the night. Its roof had held, its door
stood firm. Old Evans surveyed it with pride.

"Aha! Protestant building!" he said, old inveterate that he was.

Then he saw on the submerged bank, amid a _débris_ of broken
rushes, and clots of foam, and branches, something that he knew
instantly for what it was. The drowned body of a man.

Cautiously, and holding by shrubs and tree-stems, he reached the
place, where, half ashore, half lying in thin flood through which
tufts of grass were showing, with arms stretched out, grasping at the
shore, the intruder lay. Old Evans knew well that fur-collared coat.
Often enough he had held it for the Big Doctor. He had no need to turn
the defeated face from its pillow in the broken reeds. He stared down
at the man whom he had hated, with something of pity, more of
cynicism.

"Well, ye wanted Mount Music!" he said, at last. "How d'ye like it now
ye've got it?"

       *       *       *       *       *

The things that a man has accomplished we sum him up by, and the
things of which he was capable, and did not accomplish, are of no
account, and the net that held him is of a mesh beyond the vision of
most.

Who shall pity the Big Doctor, or blame him over-much? He died in the
fullness of his powers, with his ambitions, as he believed, attained.
He knew himself to be a good son of the Church, a faithful husband, a
successfully-scheming father. What his priest thought of him is known
only to his priest, but we may be sure he regretted him. A jury of his
peers would have approved him in his every action. If the paths that
he had followed were sometimes tortuous, along many of them he had
been guided by the _ankus_ of that mahout in whose directions his
faith had taught him to confide. He had lived according to the light
that he had received, and in his last act he took his life in his
hand, and gave it for another.

For my part, I believe that the Big Doctor viewed with a justified
composure

                        " ... that last
  Wild pageant of the accumulated past
  That clangs and flashes for a drowning man."



CHAPTER XLI


In that same wind-wild dawn, Larry awoke, and tried to believe that he
was a bridegroom, and was going to espouse Tishy Mangan in the course
of the next few hours.

"_C'est toujours l'imprévu qui arrive_!" he told himself. That
ancient ditty, "The Yeoman's Wedding," that he had often heard Dr.
Mangan sing, attacked him like an illness, and enforced its galloping
metres on all he did.

    "Through the valley we'll haste,
    For we've no time to waste!
  For it is my wedding morning, my wedding morning!"

The housemaid (that same Upper Housemaid who had spoken of the
riff-raff of Cluhir) heard him, in the bathroom, loudly announcing his
intentions.

"Ding dong! We'll gallop along!" Larry sang, and the Upper Housemaid
said to her subordinate, "What a hurry he's in! Well! Bright's his
fancy!"

The Upper Housemaid was rash in thus giving her opinion. Larry's fancy
was far from bright, but he was of those unfortunates who, when
obsessed by a tune, must yield to its importunity, even though it
followed him to the steps of the scaffold.

It is not insinuated that Larry was now, metaphorically, or otherwise,
in such a case. He was, as he told himself, quite prepared to go
through with the job, but, he likewise told himself, it was a rotten
sort of business dressing for your wedding with not a soul, bar the
servants, to say good morning to, and even they looked as sour as
lemons and hadn't a smile among the lot of them. Larry drank some
coffee, and crumbled some toast, and brutally and wastefully broke
into a poached egg, turning what had been a triumph of snow, into a
yellow peril, and gave its attendant bacon to Aunt Freddy's old
Pomeranian, and found that he had finished his breakfast, and that it
was no more than ten o'clock. The rain was coming down in torrents; he
could not go out, not even to the stables. What on earth was he to do
from now till one o'clock? The blooming wedding was at two.

He thought of it as some one else's, and realised that he so thought
of it, and then just tripped himself up in the middle of the further
reflection that he wished it were.

"Probably getting married is always a bore," he said to himself,
consolingly. "'E's all right when you know 'im, but you've got to know
'im fust'! Why do these rotten old songs stick in my head like this?
Because I'm a fool, no doubt, and always was!"

He walked into the hall, and there surveyed his luggage, packed and
ready, and appallingly new.

"It'll give the show away, even if they let us off confetti," he
thought.

He wished he hadn't given in to this High Nuptial Mass business, and a
big wedding, and all the rest of it, but the Doctor and Tishy were
dead keen on it, and he had been sat on.

He and Tishy were going to London, and if this gale lasted, they would
have a devil of a crossing. He wondered if Tishy were a good sailor.
He wasn't, anyhow. He would warn her that he would be no more use to
her than a sick headache, which she would probably have, to start
with, and she wouldn't want another. The Mount Music people were
across the Channel by this time, ahead of the gale too. Luck for them!
Old Mrs. Twomey had told him they were gone, and she said they would
never come back again. Silly old ass, what did she know about it?

He had wandered into his studio; now, without his own volition, almost
as if he were hypnotised, he took the canvas on which he had painted
Christian, from where it was leaning, face inwards, against the wall,
and put it on an easel. He had not looked at it since the day of
conflict, and he told himself that he was now regarding it with the
frigid rye of the art critic.

Yes, it was good. Better than he thought. The technique was jolly
good, slick, and unworried, and the likeness was all right too. He had
somehow just got hold of that ethereal look she always had had. She
was hearing those voices they used to chaff her about. How she had
gone for John one day, when he began ragging her about that old hymn!
She always had the pluck of the devil! He frowned. She hadn't had
pluck enough to stand up to her father! He would look at her picture
no longer. He wouldn't think of her. She had chucked him. But his eyes
were held by the eyes that he had painted; with a rush, the thought of
her possessed him. She was everywhere, penetrating his very being,
"his heart in her hands"; he shook in the grip of remembrance, almost
of realisation, of her presence. For a moment, Time stood still for
him; he hung, like a ship that has been flung up into the wind,
trembling. Then the sails filled, the present re-asserted itself. He
was going to marry Tishy Mangan, and Christian had chucked him. He
turned the canvas again.

Why had he thought of that beastly hymn? It had got hold of him now!
The measured tramp of the tune fitted itself to the tick of the
clattering little tin clock on the studio chimney-piece.

  "How the troops of Mid-ian,
  Prowl, and prowl around!
  Christian! Up and at them--"

No, that was what the Duke of Wellington said to the Guards at--Oh,
_damn_ the clock, anyhow! He caught it up, and pitched it across
the room on to a sofa, and hurled a bundle of draperies after it and
on top of it. But the tune would not stop, and the muffled, unbaffled
tick of the clock went on. He swung out of the studio, and went back
to the hall.

The house had its back to the storm, and it was only when he looked
down the Cluhir avenue, that he realised with what fury the rain was
falling. The wind had moderated a little, but the barograph-needle was
still almost off the paper it had gone so low. It was only eleven
o'clock. Two hours before the motor was to come for him. He felt, as
he told himself, using the adjective that has had to undertake the
duties of so many others, rotten. Empty and rather sick, and, well,
generally beastly--a sort of vague funk. Yes, by Jove! He was in a
regular blue funk! That was what was wrong with him. (But he certainly
felt sick too.)

What on earth was he afraid of? The service couldn't last for ever,
and he had barred speeches at the Collation (as Mrs. Mangan insisted
on calling it). His thoughts took a twist. Surely he wasn't afraid of
the Mangans? He liked Mrs. Mangan; he was quite fond of her, quite a
good sort of mother-in-law she'd make. And Barty, his best man, good
old Barty! And the Doctor--Of course he wasn't afraid of the Doctor
either. He had always liked him. There only remained Tishy. Hang it
all! He wasn't afraid of the girl he was going to marry! She might
have a bit of a temper--she certainly had been rather rattled these
last few days, but you couldn't blame her for that. The very last time
he had seen her--the evening before the big storm began, wasn't
it?--he had overtaken her in the dark in the Mall, going home after
shopping, and that long-legged cad of a fellow, Cloherty, carrying her
parcels for her. By Jove! She had let drive at him after Cloherty had
gone and they were in the house! By Jove, yes! He laughed a little at
the remembrance. She had said it was a nice time of day for him to be
coming over. She had jolly nearly cried, she was so mad with him. For
the life of him he didn't know why. But, after all, that wasn't
exactly temper.--Blowed if he knew what it was. He supposed it was
temperament--quite a different thing! He laughed and had a look at a
large and splendid photograph of Miss Mangan, that had been a sort of
corollary of the Dublin trousseau. Tishy was all right. Tishy was a
topper! He said it aloud, and, with that, another tune, the old
nigger-tune, "Nelly was a Lady," fitted itself absurdly to the words.

"Tishy was a topper!" he sang. "Last night she--No, she didn't! By
Jove, there's the motor! What's it coming at this hour for?"

He watched the car turn into the wide sweep in front of the house, and
wheel round it, and draw up at the foot of the hall-door steps. It
looked like the car he had hired, he knew the shover's face, but there
was someone in it. He saw, with pleasure, that it was Barty who was in
the car. Good old Barty, come over early to buck him up a bit. Larry
sprang to the door, and as he opened it, Barty was coming up the
steps. He stood still on the top step. He was very pale, Barty always
had a pasty face, Larry thought, but this whiteness was different, and
there was a look in his eyes that made Larry, over-strung, tuned to
vibrate to ill tidings, catch his arm, and say:

"What is it? Tell me quick!"

Barty did not answer at once. He seemed as if he could not speak. He
came into the hall and shut the door behind him and leaned against it,
one hand still on the handle, his breath coming short and fast.

"My father was drowned last night!" he said at last, in a low, hurried
voice. "He drove into the river. The flood was up on the road. Wait,
Larry! That isn't all--" he went on quickly, holding up his other
hand to keep Larry from speaking. "That's bad enough, God knows! But
this other thing is Disgrace!"

Larry waited.

"It isn't easy to tell you," said Barty, moistening his dry lips.
"There's just one good thing about it, my father didn't know--"

"What _is_ it? Look sharp!"

Larry was shaking with the strain of waiting for this withheld horror.

"Tishy was caught out by the flood last night; she didn't come home--"

"What! She also--?" stammered Larry.

"I wish to God she were!" said Barty, fiercely. "No. But while my
father was going to his death, maybe when he was drowning itself, she
bolted with Ned Cloherty! They went to Dublin on the mail--a porter at
the station saw them--there's no doubt about it!"

Larry sat down by a table, and put his head on his arms and tried to
think. His brain was whirling. He had covered his eyes, because he
knew if he saw Barty's tragic face again he would laugh, and if he
began to laugh, he said to himself, God only knew when he would stop.
It was a fatal trick of his nerves, he could never make Barty
understand. He would be shocked and scandalised for ever.

The Doctor drowned! He must fix his mind on that. He mustn't think of
Tishy; if he did, he knew that this horrible, inhuman surge of joy
that was pulsing in him would betray itself in his face, would
overwhelm him, like the flood in the river, would sweep away all
decency, sympathy, would leave him bare of all that he ought to feel
and express. (But to think that he hadn't to get married to-day! Oh,
blessed, beautiful Cloherty!) He was going to be very angry with
Cloherty, as soon as he had pulled himself together. Cloherty had
behaved like a blackguard; he had blackened Larry's face; he had
shamed him; had stolen his girl--(but, for all that, oh, Blessed and
Beautiful--!)

Larry and Barty sat for awhile and talked, saying, as people will, at
such moments, dull things over and over again, uninspired,
conventional, stupid things. Both were equally afraid to say the
things that were in their minds about Tishy and Cloherty; Barty,
because he was so angry with her that he feared he might hurt Larry;
Larry, because he told himself he would have to sit down to the thing
squarely, and think it out, before he knew what to say about it. He
tried to concentrate on the death of Barty's father, but here,
strangely enough, Barty seemed equally unable to respond without
restraint.

"I've got to go on to Mount Music. They say the flood's down, and you
can get there now," he said, presently, in the voice from which all
the colour and life had died, "I've arranged for a hearse. I had a
wire, early, telling me what--what had happened. I was wondering,
Larry, would you come with me? I've no right, now, to ask you,
but--" His tired voice died on the sentence, his mournful eyes
sought Larry's and said what his lips failed to say.

"My dear old chap," said Larry, ardently, grateful for the chance of
showing Barty that he bore no ill will to him, "Of course I will!
Anything I could do to help you, I'd be only too glad--you mustn't
think anything will make a difference--"

They said little to each other as the motor splashed along the flooded
road. Each was absorbed in the effort to envisage the profound changes
that had befallen himself in a single night. More than once Barty
turned to Larry as if he were about to speak, and then turned away;
they came to the Mount Music entrance, and as the car turned in
through the gateway, Barty suddenly put his bony and pallid hand on
Larry's knee.

"There's a thing no one here knows but myself, and I didn't hear it
till two days ago, but I can't bear the weight of it any longer. I
can't give you all the details, but you may rely on what I say being
correct." He looked away from Larry out of the window. The car was
running swiftly up the smooth levels of the long avenue; he knew he
had no time for circumlocution. "My father told me," he began, "that
in some way, between himself and the Major a lot of money had passed.
The Major was greatly pressed for money--he wasn't getting his rents,
and there were many liabilities--my father got hold of them all. I
think he lent him a lot of money too--" He paused an instant, then he
rushed on with his story. "Anyway, whatever was between them, the
Major gave my father the title-deeds of this house and the demesne in
security for what he had borrowed. My father has them now, I mean," he
corrected himself, "they're in my office. He said they were for me--he
as good as gave them to me." Barty slowly turned a dusky red. He
thought of what his father had said of Mount Music, of Christian; the
arrogance, the hateful facetiousness; he had felt as if brutal hands
had been laid on a saint; even now, he shuddered in spirit as
remembrance came to him.

"Good God! Was that why they went away?" Larry said, with a horror
that scarcely permitted of speech. "Do you mean the place isn't theirs
any more?" He thought: "I wish he'd take his hand off my knee! Thank
God, I'm out of it!"

"It" meant marriage with the daughter and the sister of men who could
do such things.

Perhaps some telepathic vibration from that wave of repulsion reached
Barty.

"You needn't think I had anything to do with it," he muttered,
withdrawing his hand, "or ever will!" he added, as if to himself.

Larry remained silent; the car ground into the heavy river-gravel on
the sweep in front of the house, and ceased at the door that he had
not seen since that day of wrath when he had cast his cousins behind
him for ever.



CHAPTER XLII


Dr. Mangan's body was still lying on the door on which it had been
carried up from the river-bank. Kitchen chairs now supported it where
it lay, with its burden, between the high windows, in the desolate,
sheeted dining-room, surrounded by portraits of Talbots, and Lowrys,
and their collaterals, who would surely have considered the presence
of Francis Aloysius Mangan, dead or alive, as something of an
intrusion, not to say a liberty.

Old Evans opened the hall door, and silently led the two young men
through the hall, and opening the dining-room door, left them there.
They stood looking down on the Big Doctor in silence. The strong,
coarse face had taken on that aloof dignity, even splendour of
expression, that death can confer. The servants had covered all else
with a sheet; the soaked fur collar of the coat was turned up, and
made a pillow for the big, iron-grey head.

With a shaking hand Barty turned back the sheet. His father's thick,
powerful hands were crossed on his broad breast. The son stooped and
kissed them, humbly; then he replaced the sheet, and kissed the heavy
brow, from which all the marks of the turmoil of life had been
smoothed.

"I believe he is near us," he whispered; he took a prayer-book from
his pocket and knelt, his head resting on the covered form.

Larry knelt also. If only Barty had not told him that abhorrent thing.
He tried to forget it, to pray for the soul of the man who had, as he
believed, always been kind to him, and a good friend. Larry was
undevout, careless, thinking little of spiritual things, so little,
that he had scarcely troubled himself either to question or to accept
what he had been taught, but he was quick to respond to emotion of any
kind; now he listened, with an unaccustomed reverence, to Barty's
voice, brokenly whispering the prayers of his Church. Their unfamiliar
beauty stirred his imagination, their appeal for mercy wakened his
heart, and made him ask himself what was he that he should refuse
mercy! He felt the anger, that had only been roused in him within the
last few minutes, dying, merged in pity and in awe.

"By the multitude of Thy mercies, ever compassionate to human frailty,
deliver him, O Lord!" Barty's husky, shaking voice murmured. "Give
him, O Lord, eternal rest, and let perpetual light shine upon him--"

The door was opened and Evans said:

"The police are here, and are asking for Mr. Mangan."

Barty rose from his knees; without a word, he placed the prayer book
in Larry's hands, and left the room.

Larry had risen also, but instead of following Barty he knelt again by
the Big Doctor's still figure, and began to speak to him in the low
voice that is the mark of recognition of the great mystery of death,
and tells of that singular, sudden reverence that is bestowed on the
body when the spirit has left it; a reverence that seems to imply a
belief in the nearness of the freed spirit, which is unsupported by
the immeasurable remoteness of the expression of the mask that it once
wore.

"Doctor," said Larry, "I don't know if you can hear me, but I'll
chance it. I want to tell you that it's not my fault about Tishy, and
the wedding not coming off. She bolted with Ned Cloherty last night--"
he checked himself, and felt he ought to apologise for talking slang,
and then thought that if it were the Doctor, himself, he wouldn't
mind. "Tishy liked Cloherty best," he hurried on, "and she was
probably quite right, but I want you to know that I would have played
up all right." Then he said, hesitating, that Barty had told him a
thing that he didn't quite understand the rights of. "You must forgive
me if I felt angry. I daresay there's a lot to be said on your side if
I only knew it. But I don't and you can't tell me now--" He stood
up, and touching the cold brow, smoothed back the damp hair. "You were
always awfully good to me," he said, and, stooping, kissed the
forehead, as Barty had done, and found that his eyes were full of
tears.

As he stood erect again, he saw he was not alone in the room. A girl
was standing just behind him with a basket of Christmas roses in her
hand, a girl who had come quietly in while he was speaking, and had
waited, watching, with eyes that saw more than Larry's kneeling figure
beside the dead man, listening, with senses that were perceptive of a
fellow-listener, in whom were newly-learnt impulses of self-reproach
and penitence.

"Christian!" said Larry, trembling, as he had trembled when he spoke
to her by the Druid Stone on Cnocán an Ceoil Sidhe.





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