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Title: Some Experiences of an Irish R.M.
Author: Somerville, E. Oe. (Edith Oenone), 1858-1949, Ross, Martin, 1862-1915
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 "Some Experiences of an Irish R.M." ***

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SOME EXPERIENCES OF AN IRISH R.M.


by

E. OE. SOMERVILLE

and

MARTIN ROSS



THOMAS NELSON & SONS LTD

LONDON EDINBURGH PARIS MELBOURNE

TORONTO AND NEW YORK



  Reprinted by permission of
  Messrs. Longmans Green & Co., Ltd.



CONTENTS

    I. GREAT-UNCLE MCCARTHY
   II. IN THE CURRANHILTY COUNTRY
  III. TRINKET'S COLT
   IV. THE WATERS OF STRIFE
    V. LISHEEN RACES, SECOND-HAND
   VI. PHILIPPA'S FOX-HUNT
  VII. A MISDEAL
 VIII. THE HOLY ISLAND
   IX. THE POLICY OF THE CLOSED DOOR
    X. THE HOUSE OF FAHY
   XI. OCCASIONAL LICENSES
  XII. "OH LOVE!  OH FIRE!"



SOME EXPERIENCES OF AN IRISH R.M.



I

GREAT-UNCLE McCARTHY

A Resident Magistracy in Ireland is not an easy thing to come by
nowadays; neither is it a very attractive job; yet on the evening when
I first propounded the idea to the young lady who had recently
consented to become Mrs. Sinclair Yeates, it seemed glittering with
possibilities.  There was, on that occasion, a sunset, and a string
band playing "The Gondoliers," and there was also an ingenuous belief
in the omnipotence of a godfather of Philippa's--(Philippa was the
young lady)--who had once been a member of the Government.

I was then climbing the steep ascent of the Captains towards my
Majority.  I have no fault to find with Philippa's godfather; he did
all and more than even Philippa had expected; nevertheless, I had
attained to the dignity of mud major, and had spent a good deal on
postage stamps, and on railway fares to interview people of influence,
before I found myself in the hotel at Skebawn, opening long envelopes
addressed to "Major Yeates, R.M."

My most immediate concern, as any one who has spent nine weeks at Mrs.
Raverty's hotel will readily believe, was to leave it at the earliest
opportunity; but in those nine weeks I had learned, amongst other
painful things, a little, a very little, of the methods of the artisan
in the West of Ireland.  Finding a house had been easy enough.  I had
had my choice of several, each with some hundreds of acres of shooting,
thoroughly poached, and a considerable portion of the roof intact.  I
had selected one; the one that had the largest extent of roof in
proportion to the shooting, and had been assured by my landlord that in
a fortnight or so it would be fit for occupation.

"There's a few little odd things to be done," he said easily; "a lick
of paint here and there, and a slap of plaster----"

I am short-sighted; I am also of Irish extraction; both facts that make
for toleration--but even I thought he was understating the case.  So
did the contractor.

At the end of three weeks the latter reported progress, which mainly
consisted of the facts that the plumber had accused the carpenter of
stealing sixteen feet of his inch-pipe to run a bell wire through, and
that the carpenter had replied that he wished the divil might run the
plumber through a wran's quill.  The plumber having reflected upon the
carpenter's parentage, the work of renovation had merged in battle, and
at the next Petty Sessions I was reluctantly compelled to allot to each
combatant seven days, without the option of a fine.

These and kindred difficulties extended in an unbroken chain through
the summer months, until a certain wet and windy day in October, when,
with my baggage, I drove over to establish myself at Shreelane.  It was
a tall, ugly house of three storeys high, its walls faced with
weather-beaten slates, its windows staring, narrow, and vacant.  Round
the house ran an area, in which grew some laurustinus and holly bushes
among ash heaps, and nettles, and broken bottles.  I stood on the
steps, waiting for the door to be opened, while the rain sluiced upon
me from a broken eaveshoot that had, amongst many other things, escaped
the notice of my landlord.  I thought of Philippa, and of her plan,
broached in to-day's letter, of having the hall done up as a
sitting-room.

The door opened, and revealed the hall.  It struck me that I had
perhaps overestimated its possibilities.  Among them I had certainly
not included a flagged floor, sweating with damp, and a reek of cabbage
from the adjacent kitchen stairs.  A large elderly woman, with a red
face, and a cap worn helmet-wise on her forehead, swept me a
magnificent curtsey as I crossed the threshold.

"Your honour's welcome----" she began, and then every door in the house
slammed in obedience to the gust that drove through it.  With something
that sounded like "Mend ye for a back door!" Mrs. Cadogan abandoned her
opening speech and made for the kitchen stairs.  (Improbable as it may
appear, my housekeeper was called Cadogan, a name made locally possible
by being pronounced Caydogawn.)

Only those who have been through a similar experience can know what
manner of afternoon I spent.  I am a martyr to colds in the head, and I
felt one coming on.  I made a laager in front of the dining-room fire,
with a tattered leather screen and the dinner table, and gradually,
with cigarettes and strong tea, baffled the smell of must and cats, and
fervently trusted that the rain might avert a threatened visit from my
landlord.  I was then but superficially acquainted with Mr. Florence
McCarthy Knox and his habits.

At about 4.30, when the room had warmed up, and my cold was yielding to
treatment, Mrs. Cadogan entered and informed me that "Mr. Flurry" was
in the yard, and would be thankful if I'd go out to him, for he
couldn't come in.  Many are the privileges of the female sex; had I
been a woman I should unhesitatingly have said that I had a cold in my
head.  Being a man, I huddled on a mackintosh, and went out into the
yard.

My landlord was there on horseback, and with him there was a man
standing at the head of a stout grey animal.  I recognised with despair
that I was about to be compelled to buy a horse.

"Good afternoon, Major," said Mr. Knox in his slow, sing-song brogue;
"it's rather soon to be paying you a visit, but I thought you might be
in a hurry to see the horse I was telling you of."

I could have laughed.  As if I were ever in a hurry to see a horse!  I
thanked him, and suggested that it was rather wet for horse-dealing.

"Oh, it's nothing when you're used to it," replied Mr. Knox.  His
gloveless hands were red and wet, the rain ran down his nose, and his
covert coat was soaked to a sodden brown.  I thought that I did not
want to become used to it.  My relations with horses have been of a
purely military character, I have endured the Sandhurst riding-school,
I have galloped for an impetuous general, I have been steward at
regimental races, but none of these feats have altered my opinion that
the horse, as a means of locomotion, is obsolete.  Nevertheless, the
man who accepts a resident magistracy in the south-west of Ireland
voluntarily retires into the prehistoric age; to institute a stable
became inevitable.

"You ought to throw a leg over him," said Mr. Knox, "and you're welcome
to take him over a fence or two if you like.  He's a nice flippant
jumper."

Even to my unexacting eye the grey horse did not seem to promise
flippancy, nor did I at all desire to find that quality in him.  I
explained that I wanted something to drive, and not to ride.

"Well, that's a fine raking horse in harness," said Mr. Knox, looking
at me with his serious grey eyes, "and you'd drive him with a sop of
hay in his mouth.  Bring him up here, Michael."

Michael abandoned his efforts to kick the grey horse's forelegs into a
becoming position, and led him up to me.

I regarded him from under my umbrella with a quite unreasonable
disfavour.  He had the dreadful beauty of a horse in a toy-shop, as
chubby, as wooden, and as conscientiously dappled, but it was
unreasonable to urge this as an objection, and I was incapable of
finding any more technical drawback.  Yielding to circumstance, I
"threw my leg" over the brute, and after pacing gravely round the
quadrangle that formed the yard, and jolting to my entrance gate and
back, I decided that as he had neither fallen down nor kicked me off,
it was worth paying twenty-five pounds for him, if only to get in out
of the rain.

Mr. Knox accompanied me into the house and had a drink.  He was a fair,
spare young man, who looked like a stable boy among gentlemen, and a
gentleman among stable boys.  He belonged to a clan that cropped up in
every grade of society in the county, from Sir Valentine Knox of Castle
Knox down to the auctioneer Knox, who bore the attractive title of
Larry the Liar.  So far as I could judge, Florence McCarthy of that ilk
occupied a shifting position about midway in the tribe.  I had met him
at dinner at Sir Valentine's, I had heard of him at an illicit auction,
held by Larry the Liar, of brandy stolen from a wreck.  They were
"Black Protestants," all of them, in virtue of their descent from a
godly soldier of Cromwell, and all were prepared at any moment of the
day or night to sell a horse.

"You'll be apt to find this place a bit lonesome after the hotel,"
remarked Mr. Flurry, sympathetically, as he placed his foot in its
steaming boot on the hob, "but it's a fine sound house anyway, and lots
of rooms in it, though indeed, to tell you the truth, I never was
through the whole of them since the time my great-uncle, Denis
McCarthy, died here.  The dear knows I had enough of it that time."  He
paused, and lit a cigarette--one of my best, and quite thrown away upon
him.  "Those top floors, now," he resumed, "I wouldn't make too free
with them.  There's some of them would jump under you like a spring
bed.  Many's the night I was in and out of those attics, following my
poor uncle when he had a bad turn on him--the horrors, y' know--there
were nights he never stopped walking through the house.  Good Lord!
will I ever forget the morning he said he saw the devil coming up the
avenue!  'Look at the two horns on him,' says he, and he out with his
gun and shot him, and, begad, it was his own donkey!"

Mr. Knox gave a couple of short laughs.  He seldom laughed, having in
unusual perfection, the gravity of manner that is bred by
horse-dealing, probably from the habitual repression of all emotion
save disparagement.

The autumn evening, grey with rain, was darkening in the tall windows,
and the wind was beginning to make bullying rushes among the shrubs in
the area; a shower of soot rattled down the chimney and fell on the
hearthrug.

"More rain coming," said Mr. Knox, rising composedly; "you'll have to
put a goose down these chimneys some day soon, it's the only way in the
world to clean them.  Well, I'm for the road.  You'll come out on the
grey next week, I hope; the hounds'll be meeting here.  Give a roar at
him coming in at his jumps."  He threw his cigarette into the fire and
extended a hand to me.  "Good-bye, Major, you'll see plenty of me and
my hounds before you're done.  There's a power of foxes in the
plantations here."

This was scarcely reassuring for a man who hoped to shoot woodcock, and
I hinted as much.

"Oh, is it the cock?" said Mr. Flurry; "b'leeve me, there never was a
woodcock yet that minded hounds, now, no more than they'd mind rabbits!
The best shoots ever I had here, the hounds were in it the day before."

When Mr. Knox had gone, I began to picture myself going across country
roaring, like a man on a fire-engine, while Philippa put the goose down
the chimney; but when I sat down to write to her I did not feel equal
to being humorous about it.  I dilated ponderously on my cold, my hard
work, and my loneliness, and eventually went to bed at ten o'clock full
of cold shivers and hot whisky-and-water.

After a couple of hours of feverish dozing, I began to understand what
had driven Great-Uncle McCarthy to perambulate the house by night.
Mrs. Cadogan had assured me that the Pope of Rome hadn't a betther bed
undher him than myself; wasn't I down on the new flog mattherass the
old masther bought in Father Scanlan's auction?  By the smell I
recognised that "flog" meant flock, otherwise I should have said my
couch was stuffed with old boots.  I have seldom spent a more wretched
night.  The rain drummed with soft fingers on my window panes; the
house was full of noises.  I seemed to see Great-Uncle McCarthy ranging
the passages with Flurry at his heels; several times I thought I heard
him.  Whisperings seemed borne on the wind through my keyhole, boards
creaked in the room overhead, and once I could have sworn that a hand
passed, groping, over the panels of my door.  I am, I may admit, a
believer in ghosts; I even take in a paper that deals with their
culture, but I cannot pretend that on that night I looked forward to a
manifestation of Great-Uncle McCarthy with any enthusiasm.

The morning broke stormily, and I woke to find Mrs. Cadogan's
understudy, a grimy nephew of about eighteen, standing by my bedside,
with a black bottle in his hand.

"There's no bath in the house, sir," was his reply to my command; "but
me A'nt said, would ye like a taggeen?"

This alternative proved to be a glass of raw whisky.  I declined it.

I look back to that first week of housekeeping at Shreelane as to a
comedy excessively badly staged, and striped with lurid melodrama.
Towards its close I was positively home-sick for Mrs. Raverty's, and I
had not a single clean pair of boots.  I am not one of those who hold
the convention that in Ireland the rain never ceases, day or night, but
I must say that my first November at Shreelane was composed of weather
of which my friend Flurry Knox remarked that you wouldn't meet a
Christian out of doors, unless it was a snipe or a dispensary doctor.
To this lamentable category might be added a resident magistrate.
Daily, shrouded in mackintosh, I set forth for the Petty Sessions
Courts of my wide district; daily, in the inevitable atmosphere of wet
frieze and perjury, I listened to indictments of old women who plucked
geese alive, of publicans whose hospitality to their friends broke
forth uncontrollably on Sunday afternoons, of "parties" who, in the
language of the police sergeant, were subtly defined as "not to say
dhrunk, but in good fighting thrim."

I got used to it all in time--I suppose one can get used to anything--I
even became callous to the surprises of Mrs. Cadogan's cooking.  As the
weather hardened and the woodcock came in, and one by one I discovered
and nailed up the rat holes, I began to find life endurable, and even
to feel some remote sensation of home-coming when the grey horse turned
in at the gate of Shreelane.

The one feature of my establishment to which I could not become inured
was the pervading sub-presence of some thing or things which, for my
own convenience, I summarised as Great-Uncle McCarthy.  There were
nights on which I was certain that I heard the inebriate shuffle of his
foot overhead, the touch of his fumbling hand against the walls.  There
were dark times before the dawn when sounds went to and fro, the moving
of weights, the creaking of doors, a far-away rapping in which was a
workmanlike suggestion of the undertaker, a rumble of wheels on the
avenue.  Once I was impelled to the perhaps imprudent measure of
cross-examining Mrs. Cadogan.  Mrs. Cadogan, taking the preliminary
precaution of crossing herself, asked me fatefully what day of the week
it was.

"Friday!" she repeated after me.  "Friday!  The Lord save us!  'Twas a
Friday the old masther was buried!"

At this point a saucepan opportunely boiled over, and Mrs. Cadogan fled
with it to the scullery, and was seen no more.

In the process of time I brought Great-Uncle McCarthy down to a fine
point.  On Friday nights he made coffins and drove hearses; during the
rest of the week he rarely did more than patter and shuffle in the
attics over my head.

One night, about the middle of December, I awoke, suddenly aware that
some noise had fallen like a heavy stone into my dreams.  As I felt for
the matches it came again, the long, grudging groan and the
uncompromising bang of the cross door at the head of the kitchen
stairs.  I told myself that it was a draught that had done it, but it
was a perfectly still night.  Even as I listened, a sound of wheels on
the avenue shook the stillness.  The thing was getting past a joke.  In
a few minutes I was stealthily groping my way down my own staircase,
with a box of matches in my hand, enforced by scientific curiosity, but
none the less armed with a stick.  I stood in the dark at the top of
the back stairs and listened; the snores of Mrs. Cadogan and her nephew
Peter rose tranquilly from their respective lairs.  I descended to the
kitchen and lit a candle; there was nothing unusual there, except a
great portion of the Cadogan wearing apparel, which was arranged at the
fire, and was being serenaded by two crickets.  Whatever had opened the
door, my household was blameless.  The kitchen was not attractive, yet
I felt indisposed to leave it.  None the less, it appeared to be my
duty to inspect the yard.  I put the candle on the table and went forth
into the outer darkness.  Not a sound was to be heard.  The night was
very cold, and so dark, that I could scarcely distinguish the roofs of
the stables against the sky; the house loomed tall and oppressive above
me; I was conscious of how lonely it stood in the dumb and barren
country.  Spirits were certainly futile creatures, childish in their
manifestations, stupidly content with the old machinery of raps and
rumbles.  I thought how fine a scene might be played on a stage like
this; if I were a ghost, how bluely I would glimmer at the windows, how
whimperingly chatter in the wind.  Something whirled out of the
darkness above me, and fell with a flop on the ground, just at my feet.
I jumped backwards, in point of fact I made for the kitchen door, and,
with my hand on the latch, stood still and waited.  Nothing further
happened; the thing that lay there did not stir.  I struck a match.
The moment of tension turned to bathos as the light flickered on
nothing more fateful than a dead crow.

Dead it certainly was.  I could have told that without looking at it;
but why should it, at some considerable period after its death, fall
from the clouds at my feet.  But did it fall from the clouds?  I struck
another match, and stared up at the impenetrable face of the house.
There was no hint of solution in the dark windows, but I determined to
go up and search the rooms that gave upon the yard.

How cold it was!  I can feel now the frozen musty air of those attics,
with their rat-eaten floors and wall-papers furred with damp.  I went
softly from one to another, feeling like a burglar in my own house, and
found nothing in elucidation of the mystery.  The windows were
hermetically shut, and sealed with cobwebs.  There was no furniture,
except in the end room, where a wardrobe without doors stood in a
corner, empty save for the solemn presence of a monstrous tall hat.  I
went back to bed, cursing those powers of darkness that had got me out
of it, and heard no more.

My landlord had not failed of his promise to visit my coverts with his
hounds; in fact, he fulfilled it rather more conscientiously than
seemed to me quite wholesome for the cock-shooting.  I maintained a
silence which I felt to be magnanimous on the part of a man who cared
nothing for hunting and a great deal for shooting, and wished the
hounds more success in the slaughter of my foxes than seemed to be
granted to them.  I met them all, one red frosty evening, as I drove
down the long hill to my demesne gates, Flurry at their head, in his
shabby pink coat and dingy breeches, the hounds trailing dejectedly
behind him and his half-dozen companions.

"What luck?" I called out, drawing rein as I met them.

"None," said Mr. Flurry briefly.  He did not stop, neither did he
remove his pipe from the down-twisted corner of his mouth; his eye at
me was cold and sour.  The other members of the hunt passed me with
equal hauteur; I thought they took their ill luck very badly.

On foot, among the last of the straggling hounds, cracking a carman's
whip, and swearing comprehensively at them all, slouched my friend
Slipper.  Our friendship had begun in Court, the relative positions of
the dock and the judgment-seat forming no obstacle to its progress, and
had been cemented during several days' tramping after snipe.  He was,
as usual, a little drunk, and he hailed me as though I were a ship.

"Ahoy, Major Yeates!" he shouted, bringing himself up with a lurch
against my cart; "it's hunting you should be, in place of sending poor
divils to gaol!"

"But I hear you had no hunting," I said.

"Ye heard that, did ye?"  Slipper rolled upon me an eye like that of a
profligate pug.  "Well, begor, ye heard no more than the thruth."

"But where are all the foxes?" said I.

"Begor, I don't know no more than your honour.  And Shreelane--that
there used to be as many foxes in it as there's crosses in a yard of
check!  Well, well, I'll say nothin' for it, only that it's quare!
Here, Vaynus!  Naygress!"  Slipper uttered a yell, hoarse with whisky,
in adjuration of two elderly ladies of the pack who had profited by our
conversation to stray away into an adjacent cottage.  "Well,
good-night, Major.  Mr. Flurry's as cross as briars, and he'll have me
ate!"

He set off at a surprisingly steady run, cracking his whip, and
whooping like a madman.  I hope that when I also am fifty I shall be
able to run like Slipper.

That frosty evening was followed by three others like unto it, and a
flight of woodcock came in.  I calculated that I could do with five
guns, and I despatched invitations to shoot and dine on the following
day to four of the local sportsmen, among whom was, of course, my
landlord.  I remember that in my letter to the latter I expressed a
facetious hope that my bag of cock would be more successful than his of
foxes had been.

The answers to my invitations were not what I expected.  All, without
so much as a conventional regret, declined my invitation; Mr. Knox
added that he hoped the bag of cock would be to my liking, and that I
need not be "affraid" that the hounds would trouble my coverts any
more.  Here was war!  I gazed in stupefaction at the crooked scrawl in
which my landlord had declared it.  It was wholly and entirely
inexplicable, and instead of going to sleep comfortably over the fire
and my newspaper as a gentleman should, I spent the evening in
irritated ponderings over this bewildering and exasperating change of
front on the part of my friendly squireens.

My shoot the next day was scarcely a success.  I shot the woods in
company with my gamekeeper, Tim Connor, a gentleman whose duties mainly
consisted in limiting the poaching privileges to his personal friends,
and whatever my offence might have been, Mr. Knox could have wished me
no bitterer punishment than hearing the unavailing shouts of "Mark
cock!" and seeing my birds winging their way from the coverts, far out
of shot.  Tim Connor and I got ten couple between us; it might have
been thirty if my neighbours had not boycotted me, for what I could
only suppose was the slackness of their hounds.

I was dog-tired that night, having walked enough for three men, and I
slept the deep, insatiable sleep that I had earned.  It was somewhere
about 3 A.M. that I was gradually awakened by a continuous knocking,
interspersed with muffled calls.  Great-Uncle McCarthy had never before
given tongue, and I freed one ear from blankets to listen.  Then I
remembered that Peter had told me the sweep had promised to arrive that
morning, and to arrive early.  Blind with sleep and fury I went to the
passage window, and thence desired the sweep to go to the devil.  It
availed me little.  For the remainder of the night I could hear him
pacing round the house, trying the windows, banging at the doors, and
calling upon Peter Cadogan as the priests of Baal called upon their
god.  At six o'clock I had fallen into a troubled doze, when Mrs.
Cadogan knocked at my door and imparted the information that the sweep
had arrived.  My answer need not be recorded, but in spite of it the
door opened, and my housekeeper, in a weird _déshabille_, effectively
lighted by the orange beams of her candle, entered my room.

"God forgive me, I never seen one I'd hate as much as that sweep!" she
began; "he's these three hours--arrah, what, three hours!--no, but all
night, raising tallywack and tandem round the house to get at the
chimbleys."

"Well, for Heaven's sake let him get at the chimneys and let me go to
sleep," I answered, goaded to desperation, "and you may tell him from
me that if I hear his voice again I'll shoot him!"

Mrs. Cadogan silently left my bedside, and as she closed the door she
said to herself, "The Lord save us!"

Subsequent events may be briefly summarised.  At 7.30 I was awakened
anew by a thunderous sound in the chimney, and a brick crashed into the
fireplace, followed at a short interval by two dead jackdaws and their
nests.  At eight, I was informed by Peter that there was no hot water,
and that he wished the divil would roast the same sweep.  At 9.30, when
I came down to breakfast, there was no fire anywhere, and my coffee,
made in the coachhouse, tasted of soot.  I put on an overcoat and
opened my letters.  About fourth or fifth in the uninteresting heap
came one in an egregiously disguised hand.

"Sir," it began, "this is to inform you your unsportsmanlike conduct
has been discovered.  You have been suspected this good while of
shooting the Shreelane foxes, it is known now you do worse.  Parties
have seen your gamekeeper going regular to meet the Saturday early
train at Salters Hill Station, with your grey horse under a cart, and
your labels on the boxes, and we know as well as _your agent in Cork_
what it is you have in those boxes.  Be warned in time.--Your
Wellwisher."

I read this through twice before its drift became apparent, and I
realised that I was accused of improving my shooting and my finances by
the simple expedient of selling my foxes.  That is to say, I was in a
worse position than if I had stolen a horse, or murdered Mrs. Cadogan,
or got drunk three times a week in Skebawn.

For a few moments I fell into wild laughter, and then, aware that it
was rather a bad business to let a lie of this kind get a start, I sat
down to demolish the preposterous charge in a letter to Flurry Knox.
Somehow, as I selected my sentences, it was borne in upon me that, if
the letter spoke the truth, circumstantial evidence was rather against
me.  Mere lofty repudiation would be unavailing, and by my infernal
facetiousness about the woodcock I had effectively filled in the case
against myself.  At all events, the first thing to do was to establish
a basis, and have it out with Tim Connor.  I rang the bell.

"Peter, is Tim Connor about the place?"

"He is not, sir.  I heard him say he was going west the hill to mend
the bounds fence."  Peter's face was covered with soot, his eyes were
red, and he coughed ostentatiously.  "The sweep's after breaking one of
his brushes within in yer bedroom chimney, sir," he went on, with all
the satisfaction of his class in announcing domestic calamity; "he's
above on the roof now, and he'd be thankful to you to go up to him."

I followed him upstairs in that state of simmering patience that any
employer of Irish labour must know and sympathise with.  I climbed the
rickety ladder and squeezed through the dirty trapdoor involved in the
ascent to the roof, and was confronted by the hideous face of the
sweep, black against the frosty blue sky.  He had encamped with all his
paraphernalia on the flat top of the roof, and was good enough to rise
and put his pipe in his pocket on my arrival.

"Good morning, Major.  That's a grand view you have up here," said the
sweep.  He was evidently far too well bred to talk shop.  "I thravelled
every roof in this counthry, and there isn't one where you'd get as
handsome a prospect!"

Theoretically he was right, but I had not come up to the roof to
discuss scenery, and demanded brutally why he had sent for me.  The
explanation involved a recital of the special genius required to sweep
the Shreelane chimneys; of the fact that the sweep had in infancy been
sent up and down every one of them by Great-Uncle McCarthy; of the
three ass-loads of soot that by his peculiar skill he had this morning
taken from the kitchen chimney; of its present purity, the draught
being such that it would "dhraw up a young cat with it."
Finally--realising that I could endure no more--he explained that my
bedroom chimney had got what he called "a wynd" in it, and he proposed
to climb down a little way in the stack to try "would he get to come at
the brush."  The sweep was very small, the chimney very large.  I
stipulated that he should have a rope round his waist, and despite the
illegality, I let him go.  He went down like a monkey, digging his toes
and fingers into the niches made for the purpose in the old chimney;
Peter held the rope.  I lit a cigarette and waited.

Certainly the view from the roof was worth coming up to look at.  It
was rough, heathery country on one side, with a string of little blue
lakes running like a turquoise necklet round the base of a firry hill,
and patches of pale green pasture were set amidst the rocks and
heather.  A silvery flash behind the undulations of the hills told
where the Atlantic lay in immense plains of sunlight.  I turned to
survey with an owner's eye my own grey woods and straggling plantations
of larch, and espied a man coming out of the western wood.  He had
something on his back, and he was walking very fast; a rabbit poacher
no doubt.  As he passed out of sight into the back avenue he was
beginning to run.  At the same instant I saw on the hill beyond my
western boundaries half-a-dozen horsemen scrambling by zigzag ways down
towards the wood.  There was one red coat among them; it came first at
the gap in the fence that Tim Connor had gone out to mend, and with the
others was lost to sight in the covert, from which, in another instant,
came clearly through the frosty air a shout of "Gone to ground!"
Tremendous horn blowings followed, then, all in the same moment, I saw
the hounds break in full cry from the wood, and come stringing over the
grass and up the back avenue towards the yard gate.  Were they running
a fresh fox into the stables?

I do not profess to be a hunting-man, but I am an Irishman, and so, it
is perhaps superfluous to state, is Peter.  We forgot the sweep as if
he had never existed, and precipitated ourselves down the ladder, down
the stairs, and out into the yard.  One side of the yard is formed by
the coach-house and a long stable, with a range of lofts above them,
planned on the heroic scale in such matters that obtained in Ireland
formerly.  These join the house at the corner by the back door.  A long
flight of stone steps leads to the lofts, and up these, as Peter and I
emerged from the back door, the hounds were struggling helter-skelter.
Almost simultaneously there was a confused clatter of hoofs in the back
avenue, and Flurry Knox came stooping at a gallop under the archway
followed by three or four other riders.  They flung themselves from
their horses and made for the steps of the loft; more hounds pressed,
yelling, on their heels, the din was indescribable, and justified Mrs.
Cadogan's subsequent remark that "when she heard the noise she thought
'twas the end of the world and the divil collecting his own!"

I jostled in the wake of the party, and found myself in the loft,
wading in hay, and nearly deafened by the clamour that was bandied
about the high roof and walls.  At the farther end of the loft the
hounds were raging in the hay, encouraged thereto by the whoops and
screeches of Flurry and his friends.  High up in the gable of the loft,
where it joined the main wall of the house, there was a small door, and
I noted with a transient surprise that there was a long ladder leading
up to it.  Even as it caught my eye a hound fought his way out of a
drift of hay and began to jump at the ladder, throwing his tongue
vociferously, and even clambering up a few rungs in his excitement.

"There's the way he's gone!" roared Flurry, striving through hounds and
hay towards the ladder, "Trumpeter has him!  What's up there, back of
the door, Major?  I don't remember it at all."

My crimes had evidently been forgotten in the supremacy of the moment.
While I was futilely asserting that had the fox gone up the ladder he
could not possibly have opened the door and shut it after him, even if
the door led anywhere, which, to the best of my belief, it did not, the
door in question opened, and to my amazement the sweep appeared at it.
He gesticulated violently, and over the tumult was heard to asseverate
that there was nothing above there, only a way into the flue, and any
one would be destroyed with the soot----

"Ah, go to blazes with your soot!" interrupted Flurry, already half-way
up the ladder.

I followed him, the other men pressing up behind me.  That Trumpeter
had made no mistake was instantly brought home to our noses by the reek
of fox that met us at the door.  Instead of a chimney, we found
ourselves in a dilapidated bedroom full of people.  Tim Connor was
there, the sweep was there, and a squalid elderly man and woman on whom
I had never set eyes before.  There was a large open fireplace, black
with the soot the sweep had brought down with him, and on the table
stood a bottle of my own special Scotch whisky.  In one corner of the
room was a pile of broken packing-cases, and beside these on the floor
lay a bag in which something kicked.

Flurry, looking more uncomfortable and nonplussed than I could have
believed possible, listened in silence to the ceaseless harangue of the
elderly woman.  The hounds were yelling like lost spirits in the loft
below, but her voice pierced the uproar like a bagpipe.  It was an
unspeakably vulgar voice, yet it was not the voice of a countrywoman,
and there were frowzy remnants of respectability about her general
aspect.

"And is it you, Flurry Knox, that's calling me a disgrace!  Disgrace,
indeed, am I?  Me that was your poor mother's own uncle's daughter, and
as good a McCarthy as ever stood in Shreelane!"

What followed I could not comprehend, owing to the fact that the sweep
kept up a perpetual undercurrent of explanation to me as to how he had
got down the wrong chimney.  I noticed that his breath stank of
whisky--Scotch, not the native variety.

      *      *      *      *      *

Never, as long as Flurry Knox lives to blow a horn, will he hear the
last of the day that he ran his mother's first cousin to ground in the
attic.  Never, while Mrs. Cadogan can hold a basting spoon, will she
cease to recount how, on the same occasion, she plucked and roasted ten
couple of woodcock in one torrid hour to provide luncheon for the hunt.
In the glory of this achievement her confederacy with the stowaways in
the attic is wholly slurred over, in much the same manner as the
startling outburst of summons for trespass, brought by Tim Connor
during the remainder of the shooting season, obscured the unfortunate
episode of the bagged fox.  It was, of course, zeal for my shooting
that induced him to assist Mr. Knox's disreputable relations in the
deportation of my foxes; and I have allowed it to remain at that.

In fact, the only things not allowed to remain were Mr. and Mrs.
McCarthy Gannon.  They, as my landlord informed me, in the midst of
vast apologies, had been permitted to squat at Shreelane until my
tenancy began, and having then ostentatiously and abusively left the
house, they had, with the connivance of the Cadogans, secretly returned
to roost in the corner attic, to sell foxes under the ægis of my name,
and to make inroads on my belongings.  They retained connection with
the outer world by means of the ladder and the loft, and with the house
in general, and my whisky in particular, by a door into the other
attics--a door concealed by the wardrobe in which reposed Great-Uncle
McCarthy's tall hat.

It is with the greatest regret that I relinquish the prospect of
writing a monograph on Great-Uncle McCarthy for a Spiritualistic
Journal, but with the departure of his relations he ceased to manifest
himself, and neither the nailing up of packing-cases, nor the rumble of
the cart that took them to the station, disturbed my sleep for the
future.

I understand that the task of clearing out the McCarthy Gannon's
effects was of a nature that necessitated two glasses of whisky per
man; and if the remnants of rabbit and jackdaw disinterred in the
process were anything like the crow that was thrown out of the window
at my feet, I do not grudge the restorative.

As Mrs. Cadogan remarked to the sweep, "A Turk couldn't stand it."



II

IN THE CURRANHILTY COUNTRY

It is hardly credible that I should have been induced to depart from my
usual walk of life by a creature so uninspiring as the grey horse that
I bought from Flurry Knox for £25.

Perhaps it was the monotony of being questioned by every other person
with whom I had five minutes' conversation, as to when I was coming out
with the hounds, and being further informed that in the days when
Captain Browne, the late Coastguard officer, had owned the grey, there
was not a fence between this and Mallow big enough to please them.  At
all events, there came an epoch-making day when I mounted the Quaker
and presented myself at a meet of Mr. Knox's hounds.  It is my belief
that six out of every dozen people who go out hunting are disagreeably
conscious of a nervous system, and two out of the six are in what is
brutally called "a blue funk."  I was not in a blue funk, but I was
conscious not only of a nervous system, but of the anatomical fact that
I possessed large, round legs, handsome in their way, even admirable in
their proper sphere, but singularly ill adapted for adhering to the
slippery surfaces of a saddle.  By a fatal intervention of Providence,
the sport, on this my first day in the hunting-field, was such as I
could have enjoyed from a bath-chair.  The hunting-field was, on this
occasion, a relative term, implying long stretches of unfenced moorland
and bog, anything, in fact, save a field, the hunt itself might also
have been termed a relative one, being mainly composed of Mr. Knox's
relations in all degrees of cousinhood.  It was a day when frost and
sunshine combined went to one's head like iced champagne; the distant
sea looked like the Mediterranean, and for four sunny hours the Knox
relatives and I followed nine couple of hounds at a tranquil footpace
along the hills, our progress mildly enlivened by one or two scrambles
in the shape of jumps.  At three o'clock I jogged home, and felt within
me the newborn desire to brag to Peter Cadogan of the Quaker's doings,
as I dismounted rather stiffly in my own yard.

I little thought that the result would be that three weeks later I
should find myself in a railway carriage at an early hour of a December
morning, in company with Flurry Knox and four or five of his clan,
journeying towards an unknown town, named Drumcurran, with an
appropriate number of horses in boxes behind us and a van full of
hounds in front.  Mr. Knox's hounds were on their way, by invitation,
to have a day in the country of their neighbours, the Curranhilty
Harriers, and with amazing fatuity I had allowed myself to be cajoled
into joining the party.  A northerly shower was striking in long spikes
on the glass of the window, the atmosphere of the carriage was blue
with tobacco smoke, and my feet, in a pair of new blucher boots, had
sunk into a species of Arctic sleep.

"Well, you got my letter about the dance at the hotel to-night?" said
Flurry Knox, breaking off a whispered conversation with his amateur
whip, Dr. Jerome Hickey, and sitting down beside me.  "And we're to go
out with the Harriers to-day, and they've a sure fox for our hounds
to-morrow.  I tell you you'll have the best fun ever you had.  It's a
great country to ride.  Fine honest banks, that you can come racing at
anywhere you like."

Dr. Hickey, a saturnine young man, with a long nose and a black torpedo
beard, returned to his pocket the lancet with which he had been
trimming his nails.

"They're like the Tipperary banks," he said; "you climb down nine feet
and you fall the rest."

It occurred to me that the Quaker and I would most probably fall all
the way, but I said nothing.

"I hear Tomsy Flood has a good horse this season," resumed Flurry.

"Then it's not the one you sold him," said the Doctor.

"I'll take my oath it's not," said Flurry with a grin.  "I believe he
has it in for me still over that one."

Dr. Jerome's moustache went up under his nose and showed his white
teeth.

"Small blame to him! when you sold him a mare that was wrong of both
her hind-legs.  Do you know what he did, Major Yeates?  The mare was
lame going into the fair, and he took the two hind-shoes off her and
told poor Flood she kicked them off in the box, and that was why she
was going tender, and he was so drunk he believed him."

The conversation here deepened into trackless obscurities of
horse-dealing.  I took out my stylograph pen, and finished a letter to
Philippa, with a feeling that it would probably be my last.

The next step in the day's enjoyment consisted in trotting in cavalcade
through the streets of Drumcurran, with another northerly shower
descending upon us, the mud splashing in my face, and my feet coming
torturingly to life.  Every man and boy in the town ran with us; the
Harriers were somewhere in the tumult ahead, and the Quaker began to
pull and hump his back ominously.  I arrived at the meet considerably
heated, and found myself one of some thirty or forty riders, who, with
traps and bicycles and footpeople, were jammed in a narrow, muddy road.
We were late, and a move was immediately made across a series of grass
fields, all considerately furnished with gates.  There was a glacial
gleam of sunshine and people began to turn down the collars of their
coats.  As they spread over the field I observed that Mr. Knox was no
longer riding with old Captain Handcock, the Master of the Harriers,
but had attached himself to a square-shouldered young lady with
effective coils of dark hair and a grey habit.  She was riding a
fidgety black mare with great decision and a not disagreeable swagger.

It was at about this moment that the hounds began to run, fast and
silently, and every one began to canter.

"This is nothing at all," said Dr. Hickey, thundering alongside of me
on a huge young chestnut; "there might have been a hare here last week,
or a red herring this morning.  I wouldn't care if we only got what'd
warm us.  For the matter of that, I'd as soon hunt a cat as a hare."

I was already getting quite enough to warm me.  The Quaker's
respectable grey head had twice disappeared between his forelegs in a
brace of most unsettling bucks, and all my experiences at the
riding-school at Sandhurst did not prepare me for the sensation of
jumping a briary wall with a heavy drop into a lane so narrow that each
horse had to turn at right angles as he landed.  I did not so turn, but
saved myself from entire disgrace by a timely clutch at the mane.  We
scrambled out of the lane over a pile of stones and furze bushes, and
at the end of the next field were confronted by a tall, stone-faced
bank.  Everyone, always excepting myself, was riding with that furious
valour which is so conspicuous when neighbouring hunts meet, and the
leading half-dozen charged the obstacle at steeplechase speed.  I
caught a glimpse of the young lady in the grey habit, sitting square
and strong as her mare topped the bank, with Flurry and the redoubtable
Mr. Tomsy Flood riding on either hand; I followed in their wake, with a
blind confidence in the Quaker, and none at all in myself.  He refused
it.  I suppose it was in token of affection and gratitude that I fell
upon his neck; at all events, I had reason to respect his judgment, as,
before I had recovered myself, the hounds were straggling back into the
field by a gap lower down.

It finally appeared that the hounds could do no more with the line they
had been hunting, and we proceeded to jog interminably, I knew not
whither.  During this unpleasant process Flurry Knox bestowed on me
many items of information, chiefly as to the pangs of jealousy he was
inflicting on Mr. Flood by his attentions to the lady in the grey
habit, Miss "Bobbie" Bennett.

"She'll have all old Handcock's money one of these days--she's his
niece, y' know--and she's a good girl to ride, but she's not as young
as she was ten years ago.  You'd be looking at a chicken a long time
before you thought of her!  She might take Tomsy some day if she can't
do any better."  He stopped and looked at me with a gleam in his eye.
"Come on, and I'll introduce you to her!"

Before, however, this privilege could be mine, the whole cavalcade was
stopped by a series of distant yells, which apparently conveyed
information to the hunt, though to me they only suggested a Red Indian
scalping his enemy.  The yells travelled rapidly nearer, and a young
man with a scarlet face and a long stick sprang upon the fence, and
explained that he and Patsy Lorry were after chasing a hare two miles
down out of the hill above, and ne'er a dog nor a one with them but
themselves, and she was lying, beat out, under a bush, and Patsy Lorry
was minding her until the hounds would come.  I had a vision of the
humane Patsy Lorry fanning the hare with his hat, but apparently nobody
else found the fact unusual.  The hounds were hurried into the fields,
the hare was again spurred into action, and I was again confronted with
the responsibilities of the chase.  After the first five minutes I had
discovered several facts about the Quaker.  If the bank was above a
certain height he refused it irrevocably, if it accorded with his ideas
he got his forelegs over and ploughed through the rest of it on his
stifle-joints, or, if a gripe made this inexpedient, he remained poised
on top till the fabric crumbled under his weight.  In the case of walls
he butted them down with his knees, or squandered them with his
hind-legs.  These operations took time, and the leaders of the hunt
streamed farther and farther away over the crest of a hill, while the
Quaker pursued at the equable gallop of a horse in the Bayeux Tapestry.

I began to perceive that I had been adopted as a pioneer by a small
band of followers, who, as one of their number candidly explained
"liked to have some one ahead of them to soften the banks," and
accordingly waited respectfully till the Quaker had made the rough
places smooth, and taken the raw edge off the walls.  They, in their
turn, showed me alternative routes when the obstacle proved above the
Quaker's limit; thus, in ignoble confederacy, I and the offscourings of
the Curranhilty hunt pursued our way across some four miles of country.
When at length we parted it was with extreme regret on both sides.  A
river crossed our course, with boggy banks pitted deep with the
hoof-marks of our forerunners; I suggested it to the Quaker, and
discovered that Nature had not in vain endued him with the hindquarters
of the hippopotamus.  I presume the others had jumped it; the Quaker,
with abysmal flounderings, walked through and heaved himself to safety
on the farther bank.  It was the dividing of the ways.  My friendly
company turned aside as one man, and I was left with the world before
me, and no guide save the hoof-marks in the grass.  These presently led
me to a road, on the other side of which was a bank, that was at once
added to the Quaker's black list.  The rain had again begun to fall
heavily, and was soaking in about my elbows; I suddenly asked myself
why, in Heaven's name, I should go any farther.  No adequate reason
occurred to me, and I turned in what I believed to be the direction of
Drumcurran.

I rode on for possibly two or three miles without seeing a human being,
until, from the top of a hill I descried a solitary lady rider.  I
started in pursuit.  The rain kept blurring my eye-glass, but it seemed
to me that the rider was a schoolgirl with hair hanging down her back,
and that her horse was a trifle lame.  I pressed on to ask my way, and
discovered that I had been privileged to overtake no less a person than
Miss Bobbie Bennett.

My question as to the route led to information of a varied character.
Miss Bennett was going that way herself; her mare had given her what
she called "a toss and a half," whereby she had strained her arm and
the mare her shoulder, her habit had been torn, and she had lost all
her hairpins.

"I'm an awful object," she concluded; "my hair's the plague of my life
out hunting!  I declare I wish to goodness I was bald!"

I struggled to the level of the occasion with an appropriate protest.
She had really very brilliant grey eyes, and her complexion was
undeniable.  Philippa has since explained to me that it is a mere male
fallacy that any woman can look well with her hair down her back, but I
have always maintained that Miss Bobbie Bennett, with the rain
glistening on her dark tresses, looked uncommonly well.

"I shall never get it dry for the dance to-night," she complained.

"I wish I could help you," said I.

"Perhaps you've got a hairpin or two about you!" said she, with a
glance that had certainly done great execution before now.

I disclaimed the possession of any such tokens, but volunteered to go
and look for some at a neighbouring cottage.

The cottage door was shut, and my knockings were answered by a
stupefied-looking elderly man.  Conscious of my own absurdity, I asked
him if he had any hairpins.

"I didn't see a hare this week!" he responded in a slow bellow.

"Hairpins!" I roared; "has your wife any hairpins?"

"She has not."  Then, as an after-thought, "She's dead these ten years."

At this point a young woman emerged from the cottage, and, with many
coy grins, plucked from her own head some half-dozen hairpins, crooked,
and grey with age, but still hairpins, and as such well worth my
shilling.  I returned with my spoil to Miss Bennett, only to be
confronted with a fresh difficulty.  The arm that she had strained was
too stiff to raise to her head.

Miss Bobbie turned her handsome eyes upon me.  "It's no use," she said
plaintively, "I can't do it!"

I looked up and down the road; there was no one in sight.  I offered to
do it for her.

Miss Bennett's hair was long, thick, and soft; it was also slippery
with rain.  I twisted it conscientiously, as if it were a hay rope,
until Miss Bennett, with an irrepressible shriek, told me it would
break off.  I coiled the rope with some success, and proceeded to nail
it to her head with the hairpins.  At all the most critical points one,
if not both, of the horses moved; hairpins were driven home into Miss
Bennett's skull, and were with difficulty plucked forth again; in fact,
a more harrowing performance can hardly be imagined, but Miss Bennett
bore it with the heroism of a pin-cushion.

I was putting the finishing touches to the coiffure when some sound
made me look round, and I beheld at a distance of some fifty yards the
entire hunt approaching us at a foot-pace.  I lost my head, and,
instead of continuing my task, I dropped the last hairpin as if it were
red-hot, and kicked the Quaker away to the far side of the road, thus,
if it were possible, giving the position away a shade more generously.

There were fifteen riders in the group that overtook us, and fourteen
of them, including the Whip, were grinning from ear to ear; the
fifteenth was Mr. Tomsy Flood, and he showed no sign of appreciation.
He shoved his horse past me and up to Miss Bennett, his red moustache
bristling, truculence in every outline of his heavy shoulders.  His
green coat was muddy, and his hat had a cave in it.  Things had
apparently gone ill with him.

Flurry's witticisms held out for about two miles and a half; I do not
give them, because they were not amusing, but they all dealt ultimately
with the animosity that I, in common with himself, should henceforth
have to fear from Mr. Flood.

"Oh, he's a holy terror!" he said conclusively; "he was riding the
tails off the hounds to-day to best me.  He was near killing me twice.
We had some words about it, I can tell you.  I very near took my whip
to him.  Such a bull-rider of a fellow I never saw!  He wouldn't so
much as stop to catch Bobbie Bennett's horse when I picked her up, he
was riding so jealous.  His own girl, mind you!  And such a crumpler as
she got too!  I declare she knocked a groan out of the road when she
struck it!"

"She doesn't seem so much hurt?" I said.

"Hurt!" said Flurry, flicking casually at a hound.  "You couldn't hurt
that one unless you took a hatchet to her!"

The rain had reached a pitch that put further hunting out of the
question, and we bumped home at that intolerable pace known as a
"hound's jog."  I spent the remainder of the afternoon over a fire in
my bedroom in the Royal Hotel, Drumcurran, official letters to write
having mercifully provided me with an excuse for seclusion, while the
bar and the billiard-room hummed below, and the Quaker's three-cornered
gallop wreaked its inevitable revenge upon my person.  As this process
continued, and I became proportionately embittered, I asked myself, not
for the first time, what Philippa would say when introduced to my
present circle of acquaintances.

I have already mentioned that a dance was to take place at the hotel,
given, as far as I could gather, by the leading lights of the
Curranhilty Hunt.  A less jocund guest than the wreck who at the
pastoral hour of nine crept stiffly down to "chase the glowing hours
with flying feet" could hardly have been encountered.  The dance was
held in the coffee-room, and a conspicuous object outside the door was
a saucer bath full of something that looked like flour.

"Rub your feet in that," said Flurry; "that's French chalk!  They
hadn't time to do the floor, so they hit on this dodge."

I complied with this encouraging direction, and followed him into the
room.  Dancing had already begun, and the first sight that met my eyes
was Miss Bennett, in a yellow dress, waltzing with Mr. Tomsy Flood.
She looked very handsome, and, in spite of her accident, she was
getting round the sticky floor and her still more sticky partner with
the swing of a racing cutter.  Her eye caught mine immediately, and
with confidence.  Clearly our acquaintance that, in the space of twenty
minutes, had blossomed tropically into hair-dressing, was not to be
allowed to wither.  Nor was I myself allowed to wither.  Men, known and
unknown, plied me with partners, till my shirt cuff was black with
names, and the number of dances stretched away into the blue distance
of to-morrow morning.  The music was supplied by the organist of the
church, who played with religious unction and at the pace of a
processional hymn.  I put forth into the mêlée with a junior Bennett,
inferior in calibre to Miss Bobbie, but a strong goer, and, I fear,
made but a sorry début in the eyes of Drumcurran.  At every other
moment I bumped into the unforeseen orbits of those who reversed, and
of those who walked their partners backwards down the room with faces
of ineffable supremacy.  Being unskilled in these intricacies of an
elder civilisation, the younger Miss Bennett fared but ingloriously at
my hands; the music pounded interminably on, until the heel of Mr.
Flood put a period to our sufferings.

"The nasty dirty filthy brute!" shrieked the younger Miss Bennett in a
single breath; "he's torn the gown off my back!"

She whirled me to the cloak-room; we parted, mutually unregretted, at
its door, and by, I fear, common consent, evaded our second dance
together.

Many, many times during the evening I asked myself why I did not go to
bed.  Perhaps it was the remembrance that my bed was situated some ten
feet above the piano in a direct line; but, whatever was the reason,
the night wore on and found me still working my way down my shirt cuff.
I sat out as much as possible, and found my partners to be, as a body,
pretty, talkative, and ill dressed, and during the evening I had many
and varied opportunities of observing the rapid progress of Mr. Knox's
flirtation with Miss Bobbie Bennett.  From No. 4 to No. 8 they were
invisible; that they were behind a screen in the commercial-room might
be inferred from Mr. Flood's thundercloud presence in the passage
outside.

At No. 9 the young lady emerged for one of her dances with me; it was a
barn dance, and particularly trying to my momently stiffening muscles;
but Miss Bobbie, whether in dancing or sitting out, went in for "the
rigour of the game."  She was in as hard condition as one of her
uncle's hounds, and for a full fifteen minutes I capered and swooped
beside her, larding the lean earth as I went, and replying but
spasmodically to her even flow of conversation.

"That'll take the stiffness out of you!" she exclaimed, as the organist
slowed down reverentially to a conclusion.  "I had a bet with Flurry
Knox over that dance.  He said you weren't up to my weight at the pace!"

I led her forth to the refreshment table, and was watching with awe her
fearless consumption of claret cup that I would not have touched for a
sovereign, when Flurry, with a partner on his arm, strolled past us.

"Well, you won the gloves, Miss Bobbie!" he said.  "Don't you wish you
may get them!"

"Gloves without the _g_, Mr. Knox!" replied Miss Bennett, in a voice
loud enough to reach the end of the passage, where Mr. Thomas Flood was
burying his nose in a very brown whisky-and-soda.

"Your hair's coming down!" retorted Flurry.  "Ask Major Yeates if he
can spare you a few hairpins!"

Swifter than lightning Miss Bennett hurled a macaroon at her retreating
foe, missed him, and subsided laughing on to a sofa.  I mopped my brow
and took my seat beside her, wondering how much longer I could live up
to the social exigencies of Drumcurran.

Miss Bennett, however, proved excellent company.  She told me artfully,
and inch by inch, all that Mr. Flood had said to her on the subject of
my hair-dressing; she admitted that she had, as a punishment, cut him
out of three dances and given them to Flurry Knox.  When I remarked
that in fairness they should have been given to me, she darted a very
attractive glance at me, and pertinently observed that I had not asked
for them.

  As steals the dawn into a fevered room,
  And says "Be of good cheer, the day is born!"

so did the rumour of supper pass among the chaperons, male and female.
It was obviously due to a sense of the fitness of things that Mrs.
Bennett was apportioned to me, and I found myself in the gratifying
position of heading with her the procession to supper.  My impressions
of Mrs. Bennett are few but salient.  She wore an apple-green satin
dress and filled it tightly; wisely mistrusting the hotel supper, she
had imported sandwiches and cake in a pocket-handkerchief, and, warmed
by two glasses of sherry, she made me the recipient of the remarkable
confidence that she had but two back teeth in her head, but, thank God,
they met.  When, with the other starving men, I fell upon the remains
of the feast, I regretted that I had declined her offer of a sandwich.

Of the remainder of the evening I am unable to give a detailed account.
Let it not for one instant be imagined that I had looked upon the wine
of the Royal Hotel when it was red, or, indeed, any other colour; as a
matter of fact, I had espied an inconspicuous corner in the entrance
hall, and there I first smoked a cigarette, and subsequently sank into
uneasy sleep.  Through my dreams I was aware of the measured pounding
of the piano, of the clatter of glasses at the bar, of wheels in the
street, and then, more clearly, of Flurry's voice assuring Miss Bennett
that if she'd only wait for another dance he'd get the R.M. out of bed
to do her hair for her--then again oblivion.

At some later period I was dropping down a chasm on the Quaker's back,
and landing with a shock; I was twisting his mane into a chignon, when
he turned round his head and caught my arm in his teeth.  I awoke with
the dew of terror on my forehead, to find Miss Bennett leaning over me
in a scarlet cloak with a hood over her head, and shaking me by my coat
sleeve.

"Major Yeates," she began at once in a hurried whisper, "I want you to
find Flurry Knox, and tell him there's a plan to feed his hounds at six
o'clock this morning so as to spoil their hunting!"

"How do you know?" I asked, jumping up.

"My little brother told me.  He came in with us to-night to see the
dance, and he was hanging round in the stables, and he heard one of the
men telling another there was a dead mule in an outhouse in Bride's
Alley, all cut up ready to give to Mr. Knox's hounds."

"But why shouldn't they get it?" I asked in sleepy stupidity.

"Is it fill them up with an old mule just before they're going out
hunting?" flashed Miss Bennett.  "Hurry and tell Mr. Knox; don't let
Tomsy Flood see you telling him--or any one else."

"Oh, then it's Mr. Flood's game?" I said, grasping the situation at
length.

"It is," said Miss Bennett, suddenly turning scarlet; "he's a disgrace!
I'm ashamed of him!  I'm done with him!"

I resisted a strong disposition to shake Miss Bennett by the hand.

"I can't wait," she continued.  "I made my mother drive back a
mile--she doesn't know a thing about it--I said I'd left my purse in
the cloak-room.  Good-night!  Don't tell a soul but Flurry!"

She was off, and upon my incapable shoulders rested the responsibility
of the enterprise.

It was past four o'clock, and the last bars of the last waltz were
being played.  At the bar a knot of men, with Flurry in their midst,
were tossing "Odd man out" for a bottle of champagne.  Flurry was not
in the least drunk, a circumstance worthy of remark in his present
company, and I got him out into the hall and unfolded my tidings.  The
light of battle lit in his eye as he listened.

"I knew by Tomsy he was shaping for mischief," he said coolly; "he's
taken as much liquor as'd stiffen a tinker, and he's only half-drunk
this minute.  Hold on till I get Jerome Hickey and Charlie
Knox--they're sober; I'll be back in a minute."

I was not present at the council of war thus hurriedly convened; I was
merely informed when they returned that we were all to "hurry on."  My
best evening pumps have never recovered the subsequent proceedings.
They, with my swelled and aching feet inside them, were raced down one
filthy lane after another, until, somewhere on the outskirts of
Drumcurran, Flurry pushed open the gate of a yard and went in.  It was
nearly five o'clock on that raw December morning; low down in the sky a
hazy moon shed a diffused light; all the surrounding houses were still
and dark.  At our footsteps an angry bark or two came from inside the
stable.

"Whisht!" said Flurry, "I'll say a word to them before I open the door."

At his voice a chorus of hysterical welcome arose; without more delay
he flung open the stable door, and instantly we were all knee-deep in a
rush of hounds.  There was not a moment lost.  Flurry started at a
quick run out of the yard with the whole pack pattering at his heels.
Charley Knox vanished; Dr. Hickey and I followed the hounds, splashing
into puddles and hobbling over patches of broken stones, till we left
the town behind and hedges arose on either hand.

"Here's the house!" said Flurry, stopping short at a low entrance gate;
"many's the time I've been here when his father had it; it'll be a
queer thing if I can't find a window I can manage, and the old cook he
has is as deaf as the dead."

He and Doctor Hickey went in at the gate with the hounds; I hesitated
ignobly in the mud.

"This isn't an R.M.'s job," said Flurry in a whisper, closing the gate
in my face; "you'd best keep clear of house-breaking."

I accepted his advice, but I may admit that before I turned for home a
sash was gently raised, a light had sprung up in one of the lower
windows, and I heard Flurry's voice saying, "Over, over, over!" to his
hounds.

There seemed to me to be no interval at all between these events and
the moment when I woke in bright sunlight to find Dr. Hickey standing
by my bedside in a red coat with a tall glass in his hand.

"It's nine o'clock," he said.  "I'm just after waking Flurry Knox.
There wasn't one stirring in the hotel till I went down and pulled the
'boots' from under the kitchen table!  It's well for us the meet's in
the town; and, by-the-bye, your grey horse has four legs on him the
size of bolsters this morning; he won't be fit to go out, I'm afraid.
Drink this anyway, you're in the want of it."

Dr. Hickey's eyelids were rather pink, but his hand was as steady as a
rock.  The whisky-and-soda was singularly untempting.

"What happened last night?" I asked eagerly as I gulped it.

"Oh, it all went off very nicely, thank you," said Hickey, twisting his
black beard to a point.  "We benched as many of the hounds in Flood's
bed as'd fit, and we shut the lot into the room.  We had them just
comfortable when we heard his latchkey below at the door."  He broke
off and began to snigger.

"Well?" I said, sitting bolt upright.

"Well, he got in at last, and he lit a candle then.  That took him five
minutes.  He was pretty tight.  We were looking at him over the
banisters until he started to come up, and according as he came up, we
went on up the top flight.  He stood admiring his candle for a while on
the landing, and we wondered he didn't hear the hounds snuffing under
the door.  He opened it then, and, on the minute, three of them bolted
out between his legs."  Dr. Hickey again paused to indulge in
Mephistophelian laughter.  "Well, you know," he went on, "when a man in
poor Tomsy's condition sees six dogs jumping out of his bed he's apt to
make a wrong diagnosis.  He gave a roar, and pitched the candlestick at
them, and ran for his life downstairs, and all the hounds after him.
'Gone away!' screeches that devil Flurry, pelting downstairs on top of
them in the dark.  I believe I screeched too."

"Good heavens!" I gasped, "I was well out of that!"

"Well, you were," admitted the Doctor.  "However, Tomsy bested them in
the dark, and he got to ground in the pantry.  I heard the cups and
saucers go as he slammed the door on the hounds' noses, and the minute
he was in Flurry turned the key on him.  'They're real dogs, Tomsy, my
buck!' says Flurry, just to quiet him; and there we left him."

"Was he hurt?" I asked, conscious of the triviality of the question.

"Well, he lost his brush," replied Dr. Hickey.  "Old Merrylegs tore the
coat-tails off him; we got them on the floor when we struck a light;
Flurry has them to nail on his kennel door.  Charley Knox had a
pleasant time too," he went on, "with the man that brought the
barrow-load of meat to the stable.  We picked out the tastiest bits and
arranged them round Flood's breakfast table for him.  They smelt very
nice.  Well, I'm delaying you with my talking----"

Flurry's hounds had the run of the season that day.  I saw it admirably
throughout--from Miss Bennett's pony cart.  She drove extremely well,
in spite of her strained arm.



III

TRINKET'S COLT

It was Petty Sessions day in Skebawn, a cold, grey day of February.  A
case of trespass had dragged its burden of cross summonses and cross
swearing far into the afternoon, and when I left the bench my head was
singing from the bellowings of the attorneys, and the smell of their
clients was heavy upon my palate.

The streets still testified to the fact that it was market day, and I
evaded with difficulty the sinuous course of carts full of soddenly
screwed people, and steered an equally devious one for myself among the
groups anchored round the doors of the public-houses.  Skebawn
possesses, among its legion of public-houses, one establishment which
timorously, and almost imperceptibly, proffers tea to the thirsty.  I
turned in there, as was my custom on court days, and found the little
dingy den, known as the Ladies' Coffee-Room, in the occupancy of my
friend Mr. Florence McCarthy Knox, who was drinking strong tea and
eating buns with serious simplicity.  It was a first and quite
unexpected glimpse of that domesticity that has now become a marked
feature in his character.

"You're the very man I wanted to see," I said as I sat down beside him
at the oilcloth-covered table; "a man I know in England who is not much
of a judge of character has asked me to buy him a four-year-old down
here, and as I should rather be stuck by a friend than a dealer, I wish
you'd take over the job."

Flurry poured himself out another cup of tea, and dropped three lumps
of sugar into it in silence.

Finally he said, "There isn't a four-year-old in this country that I'd
be seen dead with at a pig fair."

This was discouraging, from the premier authority on horse-flesh in the
district.

"But it isn't six weeks since you told me you had the finest filly in
your stables that was ever foaled in the County Cork," I protested:
"what's wrong with her?"

"Oh, is it that filly?" said Mr. Knox with a lenient smile; "she's gone
these three weeks from me.  I swapped her and £6 for a three-year-old
Ironmonger colt, and after that I swapped the colt and £19 for that
Bandon horse I rode last week at your place, and after that again I
sold the Bandon horse for £75 to old Welply, and I had to give him back
a couple of sovereigns luck-money.  You see I did pretty well with the
filly after all."

"Yes, yes--oh rather," I assented, as one dizzily accepts the
propositions of a bimetallist; "and you don't know of anything
else----?"

The room in which we were seated was closely screened from the shop by
a door with a muslin-curtained window in it; several of the panes were
broken, and at this juncture two voices that had for some time carried
on a discussion forced themselves upon our attention.

"Begging your pardon for contradicting you, ma'am," said the voice of
Mrs. McDonald, proprietress of the tea-shop, and a leading light in
Skebawn Dissenting circles, shrilly tremulous with indignation, "if the
servants I recommend you won't stop with you, it's no fault of mine.
If respectable young girls are set picking grass out of your gravel, in
place of their proper work, certainly they will give warning!"

The voice that replied struck me as being a notable one, well-bred and
imperious.

"When I take a barefooted slut out of a cabin, I don't expect her to
dictate to me what her duties are!"

Flurry jerked up his chin in a noiseless laugh.  "It's my grandmother!"
he whispered.  "I bet you Mrs. McDonald don't get much change out of
her!"

"If I set her to clean the pig-sty I expect her to obey me," continued
the voice in accents that would have made me clean forty pig-sties had
she desired me to do so.

"Very well, ma'am," retorted Mrs. McDonald, "if that's the way you
treat your servants, you needn't come here again looking for them.  I
consider your conduct is neither that of a lady nor a Christian!"

"Don't you, indeed?" replied Flurry's grandmother.  "Well, your opinion
doesn't greatly distress me, for, to tell you the truth, I don't think
you're much of a judge."

"Didn't I tell you she'd score?" murmured Flurry, who was by this time
applying his eye to a hole in the muslin curtain.  "She's off," he went
on, returning to his tea.  "She's a great character!  She's
eighty-three if she's a day, and she's as sound on her legs as a
three-year-old!  Did you see that old shandrydan of hers in the street
a while ago, and a fellow on the box with a red beard on him like
Robinson Crusoe?  That old mare that was on the near side--Trinket her
name is--is mighty near clean bred.  I can tell you her foals are worth
a bit of money."

I had heard of old Mrs. Knox of Aussolas; indeed, I had seldom dined
out in the neighbourhood without hearing some new story of her and her
remarkable ménage, but it had not yet been my privilege to meet her.

"Well, now," went on Flurry in his slow voice, "I'll tell you a thing
that's just come into my head.  My grandmother promised me a foal of
Trinket's the day I was one-and-twenty, and that's five years ago, and
deuce a one I've got from her yet.  You never were at Aussolas?  No,
you were not.  Well, I tell you the place there is like a circus with
horses.  She has a couple of score of them running wild in the woods,
like deer."

"Oh, come," I said, "I'm a bit of a liar myself--"

"Well, she has a dozen of them anyhow, rattling good colts too, some of
them, but they might as well be donkeys for all the good they are to me
or any one.  It's not once in three years she sells one, and there she
has them walking after her for bits of sugar, like a lot of dirty
lapdogs," ended Flurry with disgust.

"Well, what's your plan?  Do you want me to make her a bid for one of
the lapdogs?"

"I was thinking," replied Flurry, with great deliberation, "that my
birthday's this week, and maybe I could work a four-year-old colt of
Trinket's she has out of her in honour of the occasion."

"And sell your grandmother's birthday present to me?"

"Just that, I suppose," answered Flurry with a slow wink.

A few days afterwards a letter from Mr. Knox informed me that he had
"squared the old lady, and it would be all right about the colt."  He
further told me that Mrs. Knox had been good enough to offer me, with
him, a day's snipe shooting on the celebrated Aussolas bogs, and he
proposed to drive me there the following Monday, if convenient.  Most
people found it convenient to shoot the Aussolas snipe bog when they
got the chance.  Eight o'clock on the following Monday morning saw
Flurry, myself, and a groom packed into a dogcart, with portmanteaus,
gun-cases, and two rampant red setters.

It was a long drive, twelve miles at least, and a very cold one.  We
passed through long tracts of pasture country, fraught, for Flurry,
with memories of runs, which were recorded for me, fence by fence, in
every one of which the biggest dog-fox in the country had gone to
ground, with not two feet--measured accurately on the handle of the
whip--between him and the leading hound; through bogs that
imperceptibly melted into lakes, and finally down and down into a
valley, where the fir-trees of Aussolas clustered darkly round a
glittering lake, and all but hid the grey roofs and pointed gables of
Aussolas Castle.

"There's a nice stretch of a demesne for you," remarked Flurry,
pointing downwards with the whip, "and one little old woman holding it
all in the heel of her fist.  Well able to hold it she is, too, and
always was, and she'll live twenty years yet, if it's only to spite the
whole lot of us, and when all's said and done goodness knows how she'll
leave it!"

"It strikes me you were lucky to keep her up to her promise about the
colt," I said.

Flurry administered a composing kick to the ceaseless strivings of the
red setters under the seat.

"I used to be rather a pet with her," he said, after a pause; "but mind
you, I haven't got him yet, and if she gets any notion I want to sell
him I'll never get him, so say nothing about the business to her."

The tall gates of Aussolas shrieked on their hinges as they admitted
us, and shut with a clang behind us, in the faces of an old mare and a
couple of young horses, who, foiled in their break for the excitements
of the outer world, turned and galloped defiantly on either side of us.
Flurry's admirable cob hammered on, regardless of all things save his
duty.

"He's the only one I have that I'd trust myself here with," said his
master, flicking him approvingly with the whip; "there are plenty of
people afraid to come here at all, and when my grandmother goes out
driving she has a boy on the box with a basket full of stones to peg at
them.  Talk of the dickens, here she is herself!"

A short, upright old woman was approaching, preceded by a white woolly
dog with sore eyes and a bark like a tin trumpet; we both got out of
the trap and advanced to meet the lady of the manor.

I may summarise her attire by saying that she looked as if she had
robbed a scarecrow; her face was small and incongruously refined, the
skinny hand that she extended to me had the grubby tan that bespoke the
professional gardener, and was decorated with a magnificent diamond
ring.  On her head was a massive purple velvet bonnet.

"I am very glad to meet you, Major Yeates," she said with an
old-fashioned precision of utterance; "your grandfather was a dancing
partner of mine in old days at the Castle, when he was a handsome young
aide-de-camp there, and I was----you may judge for yourself what I was."

She ended with a startling little hoot of laughter, and I was aware
that she quite realised the world's opinion of her, and was indifferent
to it.

Our way to the bogs took us across Mrs. Knox's home farm, and through a
large field in which several young horses were grazing.

"There now, that's my fellow," said Flurry, pointing to a fine-looking
colt, "the chestnut with the white diamond on his forehead.  He'll run
into three figures before he's done, but we'll not tell that to the old
lady!"

The famous Aussolas bogs were as full of snipe as usual, and a good
deal fuller of water than any bogs I had ever shot before.  I was on my
day, and Flurry was not, and as he is ordinarily an infinitely better
snipe shot than I, I felt at peace with the world and all men as we
walked back, wet through, at five o'clock.

The sunset had waned, and a big white moon was making the eastern tower
of Aussolas look like a thing in a fairy tale or a play when we arrived
at the hall door.  An individual, whom I recognised as the Robinson
Crusoe coachman, admitted us to a hall, the like of which one does not
often see.  The walls were panelled with dark oak up to the gallery
that ran round three sides of it, the balusters of the wide staircase
were heavily carved, and blackened portraits of Flurry's ancestors on
the spindle side stared sourly down on their descendant as he tramped
upstairs with the bog mould on his hobnailed boots.

We had just changed into dry clothes when Robinson Crusoe shoved his
red beard round the corner of the door, with the information that the
mistress said we were to stay for dinner.  My heart sank.  It was then
barely half-past five.  I said something about having no evening
clothes and having to get home early.

"Sure the dinner'll be in another half-hour," said Robinson Crusoe,
joining hospitably in the conversation; "and as for evening clothes----
God bless ye!"

The door closed behind him.

"Never mind," said Flurry, "I dare say you'll be glad enough to eat
another dinner by the time you get home."  He laughed.  "Poor Slipper!"
he added inconsequently, and only laughed again when I asked for an
explanation.

Old Mrs. Knox received us in the library, where she was seated by a
roaring turf fire, which lit the room a good deal more effectively than
the pair of candles that stood beside her in tall silver candlesticks.
Ceaseless and implacable growls from under her chair indicated the
presence of the woolly dog.  She talked with confounding culture of the
books that rose all round her to the ceiling; her evening dress was
accomplished by means of an additional white shawl, rather dirtier than
its congeners; as I took her in to dinner she quoted Virgil to me, and
in the same breath screeched an objurgation at a being whose matted
head rose suddenly into view from behind an ancient Chinese screen, as
I have seen the head of a Zulu woman peer over a bush.

Dinner was as incongruous as everything else.  Detestable soup in a
splendid old silver tureen that was nearly as dark in hue as Robinson
Crusoe's thumb; a perfect salmon, perfectly cooked, on a chipped
kitchen dish; such cut glass as is not easy to find nowadays; sherry
that, as Flurry subsequently remarked, would burn the shell off an egg;
and a bottle of port, draped in immemorial cobwebs, wan with age, and
probably priceless.  Throughout the vicissitudes of the meal Mrs.
Knox's conversation flowed on undismayed, directed sometimes at me--she
had installed me in the position of friend of her youth, and talked to
me as if I were my own grandfather--sometimes at Crusoe, with whom she
had several heated arguments, and sometimes she would make a statement
of remarkable frankness on the subject of her horse-farming affairs to
Flurry, who, very much on his best behaviour, agreed with all she said,
and risked no original remark.  As I listened to them both, I
remembered with infinite amusement how he had told me once that "a pet
name she had for him was 'Tony Lumpkin,' and no one but herself knew
what she meant by it."  It seemed strange that she made no allusion to
Trinket's colt or to Flurry's birthday, but, mindful of my
instructions, I held my peace.

As, at about half-past eight, we drove away in the moonlight, Flurry
congratulated me solemnly on my success with his grandmother.  He was
good enough to tell me that she would marry me to-morrow if I asked
her, and he wished I would, even if it was only to see what a nice
grandson he'd be for me.  A sympathetic giggle behind me told me that
Michael, on the back seat, had heard and relished the jest.

We had left the gates of Aussolas about half a mile behind when, at the
corner of a by-road, Flurry pulled up.  A short squat figure arose from
the black shadow of a furze bush and came out into the moonlight,
swinging its arms like a cabman and cursing audibly.

"Oh murdher, oh murdher, Misther Flurry!  What kept ye at all?  'Twould
perish the crows to be waiting here the way I am these two hours----"

"Ah, shut your mouth, Slipper!" said Flurry, who, to my surprise, had
turned back the rug and was taking off his driving coat, "I couldn't
help it.  Come on, Yeates, we've got to get out here."

"What for?" I asked, in not unnatural bewilderment.

"It's all right.  I'll tell you as we go along," replied my companion,
who was already turning to follow Slipper up the by-road.  "Take the
trap on, Michael, and wait at the River's Cross."  He waited for me to
come up with him, and then put his hand on my arm.  "You see, Major,
this is the way it is.  My grandmother's given me that colt right
enough, but if I waited for her to send him over to me I'd never see a
hair of his tail.  So I just thought that as we were over here we might
as well take him back with us, and maybe you'll give us a help with
him; he'll not be altogether too handy for a first go off."

I was staggered.  An infant in arms could scarcely have failed to
discern the fishiness of the transaction, and I begged Mr. Knox not to
put himself to this trouble on my account, as I had no doubt I could
find a horse for my friend elsewhere.  Mr. Knox assured me that it was
no trouble at all, quite the contrary, and that, since his grandmother
had given him the colt, he saw no reason why he should not take him
when he wanted him; also, that if I didn't want him he'd be glad enough
to keep him himself; and finally, that I wasn't the chap to go back on
a friend, but I was welcome to drive back to Shreelane with Michael
this minute if I liked.

Of course I yielded in the end.  I told Flurry I should lose my job
over the business, and he said I could then marry his grandmother, and
the discussion was abruptly closed by the necessity of following
Slipper over a locked five-barred gate.

Our pioneer took us over about half a mile of country, knocking down
stone gaps where practicable and scrambling over tall banks in the
deceptive moonlight.  We found ourselves at length in a field with a
shed in one corner of it; in a dim group of farm buildings a little way
off a light was shining.

"Wait here," said Flurry to me in a whisper; "the less noise the
better.  It's an open shed, and we'll just slip in and coax him out."

Slipper unwound from his waist a halter, and my colleagues glided like
spectres into the shadow of the shed, leaving me to meditate on my
duties as Resident Magistrate, and on the questions that would be asked
in the House by our local member when Slipper had given away the
adventure in his cups.

In less than a minute three shadows emerged from the shed, where two
had gone in.  They had got the colt.

"He came out as quiet as a calf when he winded the sugar," said Flurry;
"it was well for me I filled my pockets from grandmamma's sugar basin."

He and Slipper had a rope from each side of the colt's head; they took
him quickly across a field towards a gate.  The colt stepped daintily
between them over the moonlit grass; he snorted occasionally, but
appeared on the whole amenable.

The trouble began later, and was due, as trouble often is, to the
beguilements of a short cut.  Against the maturer judgment of Slipper,
Flurry insisted on following a route that he assured us he knew as well
as his own pocket, and the consequence was that in about five minutes I
found myself standing on top of a bank hanging on to a rope, on the
other end of which the colt dangled and danced, while Flurry, with the
other rope, lay prone in the ditch, and Slipper administered to the
bewildered colt's hindquarters such chastisement as could be ventured
on.

I have no space to narrate in detail the atrocious difficulties and
disasters of the short cut.  How the colt set to work to buck, and went
away across a field, dragging the faithful Slipper, literally
_ventre-à-terre_, after him, while I picked myself in ignominy out of a
briar patch, and Flurry cursed himself black in the face.  How we were
attacked by ferocious cur dogs, and I lost my eyeglass; and how, as we
neared the River's Cross, Flurry espied the police patrol on the road,
and we all hid behind a rick of turf, while I realised in fulness what
an exceptional ass I was, to have been beguiled into an enterprise that
involved hiding with Slipper from the Royal Irish Constabulary.

Let it suffice to say that Trinket's infernal offspring was finally
handed over on the high-road to Michael and Slipper, and Flurry drove
me home in a state of mental and physical overthrow.

I saw nothing of my friend Mr. Knox for the next couple of days, by the
end of which time I had worked up a high polish on my misgivings, and
had determined to tell him that under no circumstances would I have
anything to say to his grandmother's birthday present.  It was like my
usual luck that, instead of writing a note to this effect, I thought it
would be good for my liver to walk across the hills to Tory Cottage and
tell Flurry so in person.

It was a bright, blustery morning, after a muggy day.  The feeling of
spring was in the air, the daffodils were already in bud, and crocuses
showed purple in the grass on either side of the avenue.  It was only a
couple of miles to Tory Cottage by the way across the hills; I walked
fast, and it was barely twelve o'clock when I saw its pink walls and
clumps of evergreens below me.  As I looked down at it the chiming of
Flurry's hounds in the kennels came to me on the wind; I stood still to
listen, and could almost have sworn that I was hearing again the clash
of Magdalen bells, hard at work on May morning.

The path that I was following led downwards through a larch plantation
to Flurry's back gate.  Hot wafts from some hideous caldron at the
other side of a wall apprised me of the vicinity of the kennels and
their cuisine, and the fir-trees round were hung with gruesome and
unknown joints.  I thanked Heaven that I was not a master of hounds,
and passed on as quickly as might be to the hall door.

I rang two or three times without response; then the door opened a
couple of inches and was instantly slammed in my face.  I heard the
hurried paddling of bare feet on oilcloth, and a voice, "Hurry,
Bridgie, hurry!  There's quality at the door!"

Bridgie, holding a dirty cap on with one hand, presently arrived and
informed me that she believed Mr. Knox was out about the place.  She
seemed perturbed, and she cast scared glances down the drive while
speaking to me.

I knew enough of Flurry's habits to shape a tolerably direct course for
his whereabouts.  He was, as I had expected, in the training paddock, a
field behind the stable-yard, in which he had put up practice jumps for
his horses.  It was a good-sized field with clumps of furze in it, and
Flurry was standing near one of these with his hands in his pockets,
singularly unoccupied.  I supposed that he was prospecting for a place
to put up another jump.  He did not see me coming, and turned with a
start as I spoke to him.  There was a queer expression of mingled guilt
and what I can only describe as divilment in his grey eyes as he
greeted me.  In my dealings with Flurry Knox, I have since formed the
habit of sitting tight, in a general way, when I see that expression.

"Well, who's coming next, I wonder!" he said, as he shook hands with
me; "it's not ten minutes since I had two of your d--d peelers here
searching the whole place for my grandmother's colt!"

"What!" I exclaimed, feeling cold all down my back; "do you mean the
police have got hold of it?"

"They haven't got hold of the colt anyway," said Flurry, looking
sideways at me from under the peak of his cap, with the glint of the
sun in his eye.  "I got word in time before they came."

"What do you mean?" I demanded; "where is he?  For Heaven's sake don't
tell me you've sent the brute over to my place!"

"It's a good job for you I didn't," replied Flurry, "as the police are
on their way to Shreelane this minute to consult you about it.  _You_!"
He gave utterance to one of his short diabolical fits of laughter.
"He's where they'll not find him, anyhow.  Ho! ho!  It's the funniest
hand I ever played!"

"Oh yes, it's devilish funny, I've no doubt," I retorted, beginning to
lose my temper, as is the manner of many people when they are
frightened; "but I give you fair warning that if Mrs. Knox asks me any
questions about it, I shall tell her the whole story."

"All right," responded Flurry; "and when you do, don't forget to tell
her how you flogged the colt out on to the road over her own bounds
ditch."

"Very well," I said hotly, "I may as well go home and send in my
papers.  They'll break me over this----"

"Ah, hold on, Major," said Flurry soothingly, "it'll be all right.  No
one knows anything.  It's only on spec the old lady sent the bobbies
here.  It you'll keep quiet it'll all blow over."

"I don't care," I said, struggling hopelessly in the toils; "if I meet
your grandmother, and she asks me about it, I shall tell her all I
know."

"Please God you'll not meet her!  After all, it's not once in a blue
moon that she--" began Flurry.  Even as he said the words his face
changed.  "Holy fly!" he ejaculated, "isn't that her dog coming into
the field?  Look at her bonnet over the wall!  Hide, hide for your
life!"  He caught me by the shoulder and shoved me down among the furze
bushes before I realised what had happened.

"Get in there!  I'll talk to her."

I may as well confess that at the mere sight of Mrs. Knox's purple
bonnet my heart had turned to water.  In that moment I knew what it
would be like to tell her how I, having eaten her salmon, and capped
her quotations, and drunk her best port, had gone forth and helped to
steal her horse.  I abandoned my dignity, my sense of honour; I took
the furze prickles to my breast and wallowed in them.

Mrs. Knox had advanced with vengeful speed; already she was in high
altercation with Flurry at no great distance from where I lay; varying
sounds of battle reached me, and I gathered that Flurry was not--to put
it mildly--shrinking from that economy of truth that the situation
required.

"Is it that curby, long-backed brute?  You promised him to me long ago,
but I wouldn't be bothered with him!"

The old lady uttered a laugh of shrill derision.  "Is it likely I'd
promise you my best colt?  And still more, is it likely that you'd
refuse him if I did?"

"Very well, ma'am."  Flurry's voice was admirably indignant.  "Then I
suppose I'm a liar and a thief."

"I'd be more obliged to you for the information if I hadn't known it
before," responded his grandmother with lightning speed; "if you swore
to me on a stack of Bibles you knew nothing about my colt I wouldn't
believe you!  I shall go straight to Major Yeates and ask his advice.
I believe _him_ to be a gentleman, in spite of the company he keeps!"

I writhed deeper into the furze bushes, and thereby discovered a sandy
rabbit run, along which I crawled, with my cap well over my eyes, and
the furze needles stabbing me through my stockings.  The ground shelved
a little, promising profounder concealment, but the bushes were very
thick, and I laid hold of the bare stem of one to help my progress.  It
lifted out of the ground in my hand, revealing a freshly-cut stump.
Something snorted, not a yard away; I glared through the opening, and
was confronted by the long, horrified face of Mrs. Knox's colt,
mysteriously on a level with my own.

Even without the white diamond on his forehead I should have divined
the truth; but how in the name of wonder had Flurry persuaded him to
couch like a woodcock in the heart of a furze brake?  For a full minute
I lay as still as death for fear of frightening him, while the voices
of Flurry and his grandmother raged on alarmingly close to me.  The
colt snorted, and blew long breaths through his wide nostrils, but he
did not move.  I crawled an inch or two nearer, and after a few seconds
of cautious peering I grasped the position.  They had buried him.

A small sandpit among the furze had been utilised as a grave; they had
filled him in up to his withers with sand, and a few furze bushes,
artistically disposed round the pit, had done the rest.  As the depth
of Flurry's guile was revealed, laughter came upon me like a flood; I
gurgled and shook apoplectically, and the colt gazed at me with serious
surprise, until a sudden outburst of barking close to my elbow
administered a fresh shock to my tottering nerves.

Mrs. Knox's woolly dog had tracked me into the furze, and was now
baying the colt and me with mingled terror and indignation.  I
addressed him in a whisper, with perfidious endearments, advancing a
crafty hand towards him the while, made a snatch for the back of his
neck, missed it badly, and got him by the ragged fleece of his
hind-quarters as he tried to flee.  If I had flayed him alive he could
hardly have uttered a more deafening series of yells, but, like a fool,
instead of letting him go, I dragged him towards me, and tried to
stifle the noise by holding his muzzle.  The tussle lasted engrossingly
for a few seconds, and then the climax of the nightmare arrived.

Mrs. Knox's voice, close behind me, said, "Let go my dog this instant,
sir!  Who are you----"

Her voice faded away, and I knew that she also had seen the colt's head.

I positively felt sorry for her.  At her age there was no knowing what
effect the shock might have on her.  I scrambled to my feet and
confronted her.

"Major Yeates!" she said.  There was a deathly pause.  "Will you kindly
tell me," said Mrs. Knox slowly, "am I in Bedlam, or are you?  And
_what is that_?"

She pointed to the colt, and that unfortunate animal, recognising the
voice of his mistress, uttered a hoarse and lamentable whinny.  Mrs.
Knox felt around her for support, found only furze prickles, gazed
speechlessly at me, and then, to her eternal honour, fell into wild
cackles of laughter.

So, I may say, did Flurry and I.  I embarked on my explanation and
broke down; Flurry followed suit and broke down too.  Overwhelming
laughter held us all three, disintegrating our very souls.  Mrs. Knox
pulled herself together first.

"I acquit you, Major Yeates, I acquit you, though appearances are
against you.  It's clear enough to me you've fallen among thieves."
She stopped and glowered at Flurry.  Her purple bonnet was over one
eye.  "I'll thank you, sir," she said, "to dig out that horse before I
leave this place.  And when you've dug him out you may keep him.  I'll
be no receiver of stolen goods!"

She broke off and shook her fist at him.  "Upon my conscience, Tony,
I'd give a guinea to have thought of it myself!"



IV

THE WATERS OF STRIFE

I knew Bat Callaghan's face long before I was able to put a name to it.
There was seldom a court day in Skebawn that I was not aware of his
level brows and superfluously intense expression somewhere among the
knot of corner-boys who patronised the weekly sittings of the bench of
magistrates.  His social position appeared to fluctuate: I have seen
him driving a car; he sometimes held my horse for me--that is to say,
he sat on the counter of a public-house while the Quaker slumbered in
the gutter; and, on one occasion, he retired, at my bidding, to Cork
gaol, there to meditate upon the inadvisability of defending a friend
from the attentions of the police with the tailboard of a cart.

He next obtained prominence in my regard at a regatta held under the
auspices of "The Sons of Liberty," a local football club that justified
its title by the patriot green of its jerseys and its free
interpretation of the rules of the game.  The announcement of my name
on the posters as a patron--a privilege acquired at the cost of a
reluctant half-sovereign--made it incumbent on me to put in an
appearance, even though the festival coincided with my Petty Sessions
day at Skebawn; and at some five of the clock on a brilliant September
afternoon I found myself driving down the stony road that dropped in
zigzags to the borders of the lake on which the races were to come off.

I believe that the selection of Lough Lonen as the scene of the regatta
was not unconnected with the fact that the secretary of the club owned
a public-house at the cross roads at one end of it; none the less, the
president of the Royal Academy could scarcely have chosen more
picturesque surroundings.  A mountain towered steeply up from the
lake's edge, dark with the sad green of beech-trees in September; fir
woods followed the curve of the shore, and leaned far over the
answering darkness of the water; and above the trees rose the toppling
steepnesses of the hill, painted with a purple glow of heather.  The
lake was about a mile long, and, tumbling from its farther end, a
fierce and narrow river fled away west to the sea, some four or five
miles off.

I had not seen a boat race since I was at Oxford, and the words still
called up before my eyes a vision of smart parasols, of gorgeous
barges, of snowy-clad youths, and of low slim outriggers, winged with
the level flight of oars, slitting the water to the sway of the line of
flat backs.  Certainly undreamed-of possibilities in aquatics were
revealed to me as I reined in the Quaker on the outskirts of the crowd,
and saw below me the festival of the Sons of Liberty in full swing.
Boats of all shapes and sizes, outrageously overladen, moved about the
lake, with oars flourishing to the strains of concertinas.  Black
swarms of people seethed along the water's edge, congesting here and
there round the dingy tents and stalls of green apples; and the club's
celebrated brass band, enthroned in a wagonette, and stimulated by the
presence of a barrel of porter on the box-seat, was belching forth "The
Boys of Wexford," under the guidance of a disreputable ex-militia
drummer, in a series of crashing discords.

Almost as I arrived a pistol-shot set the echoes clattering round the
lake, and three boats burst out abreast from the throng into the open
water.  Two of the crews were in shirt-sleeves, the third wore the
green jerseys of the football club; the boats were of the heavy
sea-going build, and pulled six oars apiece, oars of which the looms
were scarcely narrower than the blades, and were, of the two, but a
shade heavier.  None the less the rowers started dauntlessly at
thirty-five strokes a minute, quickening up, incredible as it may seem,
as they rounded the mark boat in the first lap of the two-mile course.
The rowing was, in general style, more akin to the action of beating up
eggs with a fork than to any other form of athletic exercise; but in
its unorthodox way it kicked the heavy boats along at a surprising
pace.  The oars squeaked and grunted against the thole-pins, the
coxswains kept up an unceasing flow of oratory, and superfluous little
boys in punts contrived to intervene at all the more critical
turning-points of the race, only evading the flail of the oncoming oars
by performing prodigies of "waggling" with a single oar at the stern.
I took out my watch and counted the strokes when they were passing the
mark boat for the second time; they were pulling a fraction over forty;
one of the shirt-sleeved crews was obviously in trouble, the other,
with humped backs and jerking oars, was holding its own against the
green jerseys amid the blended yells of friends and foes.  When for the
last time they rounded the green flag there were but two boats in the
race, and the foul that had been imminent throughout was at length
achieved with a rattle of oars and a storm of curses.  They were clear
again in a moment, the shirt-sleeved crew getting away with a distinct
lead, and it was at about this juncture that I became aware that the
coxswains had abandoned their long-handled tillers, and were standing
over their respective "strokes," shoving frantically at their oars, and
maintaining the while a ceaseless bawl of encouragement and defiance.
It looked like a foregone conclusion for the leaders, and the war of
cheers rose to frenzy.  The word "cheering," indeed, is but an
euphuism, and in no way expresses the serrated yell, composed of
epithets, advice, and imprecations, that was flung like a live thing at
the oncoming boats.  The green jerseys answered to this stimulant with
a wild spurt that drove the bow of their boat within a measurable
distance of their opponents' stroke oar.  In another second a
thoroughly successful foul would have been effected, but the cox of the
leading boat proved himself equal to the emergency by unshipping his
tiller, and with it dealing "bow" of the green jerseys such a blow over
the head as effectually dismissed him from the sphere of practical
politics.

A great roar of laughter greeted this feat of arms, and a voice at my
dogcart's wheel pierced the clamour--

"More power to ye, Larry, me owld darlin'!"

I looked down and saw Bat Callaghan, with shining eyes, and a face
white with excitement, poising himself on one foot on the box of my
wheel in order to get a better view of the race.  Almost before I had
time to recognise him, a man in a green jersey caught him round the
legs and jerked him down.  Callaghan fell into the throng, recovered
himself in an instant, and rushed, white and dangerous, at his
assailant.  The Son of Liberty was no less ready for the fray, and what
is known in Ireland as "the father and mother of a row" was imminent.
Already, however, one of those unequalled judges of the moral
temperature of a crowd, a sergeant of the R.I.C., had quietly
interposed his bulky person between the combatants, and the coming
trouble was averted.

Elsewhere battle was raging.  The race was over, and the committee boat
was hemmed in by the rival crews, supplemented by craft of all kinds.
The "objection" was being lodged, and in its turn objected to, and I
can only liken the process to the screaming warfare of seagulls round a
piece of carrion.  The tumult was still at its height when out of its
very heart two four-oared boats broke forth, and a pistol shot
proclaimed that another race had begun, the public interest in which
was specially keen, owing to the fact that the rowers were stalwart
country girls, who made up in energy what they lacked in skill.  It was
a short race, once round the mark boat only, and, like a successful
farce, it "went with a roar" from start to finish.  Foul after foul,
each followed by a healing interval of calm, during which the crews,
who had all caught crabs, were recovering themselves and their oars,
marked its progress; and when the two boats, locked in an inextricable
embrace, at length passed the winning flag, and the crews, oblivious of
judges and public, fell to untrammelled personal abuse and to doing up
their hair, I decided that I had seen the best of the fun, and prepared
to go home.

It was, as it happened, the last race of the day, and nothing remained
in the way of excitement save the greased pole with the pig slung in a
bag at the end of it.  My final impression of the Lough Lonen Regatta
was of Callaghan's lithe figure, sleek and dripping, against the yellow
sky, as he poised on the swaying pole with the broken gold of the water
beneath him.

Limited as was my experience of the Southwest of Ireland, I was in no
way surprised to hear on the following afternoon from Peter Cadogan
that there had been "sthrokes" the night before, when the boys were
going home from the regatta, and that the police were searching for one
Jimmy Foley.

"What do they want him for?" I asked.

"Sure it's according as a man that was bringing a car of bogwood was
tellin' me, sir," answered Peter, pursuing his occupation of washing
the dogcart with unabated industry; "they say Jimmy's wife went roaring
to the police, saying she could get no account of her husband."

"I suppose he's beaten some fellow and is hiding," I suggested.

"Well, that might be, sir," asserted Peter respectfully.  He plied his
mop vigorously in intricate places about the springs, which would, I
knew, have never been explored save for my presence.

"It's what John Hennessy was saying, that he was hard set to get his
horse past Cluin Cross, the way the blood was sthrewn about the road,"
resumed Peter; "sure they were fighting like wasps in it half the
night."

"Who were fighting?"

"I couldn't say, indeed, sir.  Some o' thim low rakish lads from the
town, I suppose," replied Peter with virtuous respectability.

When Peter Cadogan was quietly and intelligently candid, to pursue an
inquiry was seldom of much avail.

Next day in Skebawn I met little Murray, the district inspector, very
alert and smart in his rifle-green uniform, going forth to collect
evidence about the fight.  He told me that the police were pretty
certain that one of the Sons of Liberty, named Foley, had been
murdered, but, as usual, the difficulty was to get any one to give
information; all that was known was that he was gone, and that his wife
had identified his cap, which had been found, drenched with blood, by
the roadside.  Murray gave it as his opinion that the whole business
had arisen out of the row over the disputed race, and that there must
have been a dozen people looking on when the murder was done; but so
far no evidence was forthcoming, and after a day and a night of search
the police had not been able to find the body.

"No," said Flurry Knox, who had joined us, "and if it was any of those
mountainy men did away with him you might scrape Ireland with a
small-tooth comb and you'll not get him!"

That evening I smoked an after-dinner cigarette out of doors in the
mild starlight, strolling about the rudimentary paths of what would, I
hoped, some day be Philippa's garden.  The bats came stooping at the
red end of my cigarette, and from the covert behind the house I heard
once or twice the delicate bark of a fox.  Civilisation seemed a
thousand miles off, as far away as the falling star that had just drawn
a line of pale fire half-way down the northern sky.  I had been nearly
a year at Shreelane House by myself now, and the time seemed very long
to me.  It was slow work putting by money, even under the austerities
of Mrs. Cadogan's _régime_, and though I had warned Philippa I meant to
marry her after Christmas, there were moments, and this was one of
them, when it seemed an idle threat.

"Pether!" the strident voice of Mrs. Cadogan intruded upon my
meditations.  "Go tell the Major his coffee is waitin' on him!"

I went gloomily into the house, and, with a resignation born of
adversity, swallowed the mixture of chicory and liquorice which my
housekeeper possessed the secret of distilling from the best and most
expensive coffee.  My theory about it was that it added to the illusion
that I had dined, and moreover, that it kept me awake, and I generally
had a good deal of writing to do after dinner.

Having swallowed it I went downstairs and out past the kitchen regions
to my office, a hideous whitewashed room, in which I interviewed
policemen, and took affidavits, and did most of my official writing.
It had a door that opened into the yard, and a window that looked out
in the other direction, among lanky laurels and scrubby hollies, where
lay the cats' main thoroughfare from the scullery window to the rabbit
holes in the wood.  I had a good deal of work to do, and the time
passed quickly.  It was Friday night, and from the kitchen at the end
of the passage came the gabbling murmur, in two alternate keys, that I
had learned to recognise as the recital of a litany by my housekeeper
and her nephew Peter.  This performance was followed by some of those
dreary and heart-rending yawns that are, I think, peculiar to Irish
kitchens, then such of the cats as had returned from the chase were
loudly shepherded into the back scullery, the kitchen door shut with a
slam, and my retainers retired to repose.

It was nearly half-an-hour afterwards when I finished the notes I had
been making on an adjourned case of "stroke-hauling" salmon in the
Lonen River.  I leaned back in my chair and lighted a cigarette
preparatory to turning in; my thoughts had again wandered on a
sentimental journey across the Irish Channel, when I heard a slight
stir of some kind outside the open window.  In the wilds of Ireland no
one troubles themselves about burglars; "more cats," I thought, "I must
shut the window before I go to bed."

Almost immediately there followed a faint tap on the window, and then a
voice said in a hoarse and hurried whisper, "Them that wants Jim Foley,
let them look in the river!"

If I had kept my head I should have sat still and encouraged a further
confidence, but unfortunately I acted on the impulse of the natural
man, and was at the window in a jump, knocking down my chair, and
making noise enough to scare a far less shy bird than an Irish
informer.  Of course there was no one there.  I listened, with every
nerve as taut as a violin string.  It was quite dark; there was just
breeze enough to make a rustling in the evergreens, so that a man might
brush through them without being heard; and while I debated on a plan
of action there came from beyond the shrubbery the jar and twang of a
loose strand of wire in the paling by the wood.  My informant, whoever
he might be, had vanished into the darkness from which he had come as
irrecoverably as had the falling star that had written its brief
message across the sky, and gone out again into infinity.

I got up very early next morning and drove to Skebawn to see Murray,
and offer him my mysterious information for what it was worth.
Personally I did not think it worth much, and was disposed to regard it
as a red herring drawn across the trail.  Murray, however, was not in a
mood to despise anything that had a suggestion to make, having been out
till nine o'clock the night before without being able to find any clue
to the hiding-place of James Foley.

"The river's a good mile from the place where the fight was," he said,
straddling his compasses over the Ordnance Survey map, "and there's no
sort of a road they could have taken him along, but a tip like this is
always worth trying.  I remember in the Land League time how a man came
one Saturday night to my window and told me there were holes drilled in
the chapel door to shoot a boycotted man through while he was at mass.
The holes were there right enough, and you may be quite sure that chap
found excellent reasons for having family prayers at home next day!"

I had sessions to attend on the extreme outskirts of my district, and
could not wait, as Murray suggested, to see the thing out.  I did not
get home till the following day, and when I arrived I found a letter
from Murray awaiting me.

"Your pal was right.  We found Foley's body in the river, knocking
about against the posts of the weir.  The head was wrapped in his own
green jersey, and had been smashed in by a stone.  We suspect a fellow
named Bat Callaghan, who has bolted, but there were a lot of them in
it.  Possibly it was Callaghan himself who gave you the tip; you never
can tell how superstition is going to take them next.  The inquest will
be held to-morrow."

The coroner's jury took a cautious view of the cause of the
catastrophe, and brought in a verdict of "death by misadventure," and I
presently found it to be my duty to call a magisterial inquiry to
further investigate the matter.  A few days before this was to take
place, I was engaged in the delicate task of displaying to my landlord,
Mr. Flurry Knox, the defects of the pantry sink, when Mrs. Cadogan
advanced upon us with the information that the Widow Callaghan from
Cluin would be thankful to speak to me, and had brought me a present of
"a fine young goose."

"Is she come over here looking for Bat?" said Flurry, withdrawing his
arm and the longest kitchen-ladle from the pipe that he had been
probing; "she knows you're handy at hiding your friends, Mary; maybe
it's he that's stopping the drain!"

Mrs. Cadogan turned her large red face upon her late employer.

"God knows I wish yerself was stuck in it, Master Flurry, the way ye'd
hear Pether cursin' the full o' the house when he's striving to wash
the things in that unnatural little trough."

"Are you sure it's Peter does all the cursing?" retorted Flurry.  "I
hear Father Scanlan has it in for you this long time for not going to
confession."

"And how can I walk two miles to the chapel with God's burden on me
feet?" demanded Mrs. Cadogan in purple indignation; "the Blessed Virgin
and Docthor Hickey knows well the hardship I gets from them.  If it
wasn't for a pair of the Major's boots he gave me, I'd be hard set to
thravel the house itself!"

The contest might have been continued indefinitely, had I not struck up
the swords with a request that Mrs. Callaghan might be sent round to
the hall door.  There we found a tall, grey-haired countrywoman waiting
for us at the foot of the steps, in the hooded blue cloak that is
peculiar to the south of Ireland; from the fact that she clutched a
pocket-handkerchief in her right hand I augured a stormy interview, but
nothing could have been more self-restrained and even imposing than the
reverence with which she greeted Flurry and me.

"Good-morning to your honours," she began, with a dignified and
extremely imminent snuffle.  "I ask your pardon for troubling you,
Major Yeates, but I haven't a one in the counthry to give me an adwice,
and I have no confidence only in your honour's experiments."

"Experience, she means," prompted Flurry.  "Didn't you get advice
enough out of Mr. Murray yesterday?" he went on aloud.  "I heard he was
at Cluin to see you."

"And if he was itself, it's little adwantage any one'd get out of that
little whipper-shnapper of a shnap-dhragon!" responded Mrs. Callaghan
tartly; "he was with me for a half-hour giving me every big rock of
English till I had a reel in me head.  I declare to ye, Mr. Flurry,
after he had gone out o' the house, ye wouldn't throw three farthings
for me!"

The pocket-handkerchief was here utilised, after which, with a heavy
groan, Mrs. Callaghan again took up her parable.

"I towld him first and last I'd lose me life if I had to go into the
coort, and if I did itself sure th' attorneys could rip no more out o'
me than what he did himself."

"Did you tell him where was Bat?" inquired Flurry casually.

At this Mrs. Callaghan immediately dissolved into tears.

"Is it Bat?" she howled.  "If the twelve Apostles came down from heaven
asking me where was Bat, I could give them no satisfaction.  The divil
a know I know what's happened him.  He came home with me sober and
good-natured from the rogatta, and the next morning he axed a fresh egg
for his breakfast, and God forgive me, I wouldn't break the score I was
taking to the hotel, and with that he slapped the cup o' tay into the
fire and went out the door, and I never got a word of him since, good
nor bad.  God knows 'tis I got throuble with that poor boy, and he the
only one I have to look to in the world!"

I cut the matter short by asking her what she wanted me to do for her,
and sifted out from amongst much extraneous detail the fact that she
relied upon my renowned wisdom and clemency to preserve her from being
called as a witness at the coming inquiry.  The gift of the goose
served its intended purpose of embarrassing my position, but in spite
of it I broke to the Widow Callaghan my inability to help her.  She did
not, of course, believe me, but she was too well-bred to say so.  In
Ireland one becomes accustomed to this attitude.

As it turned out, however, Bat Callaghan's mother had nothing to fear
from the inquiry.  She was by turns deaf, imbecile, garrulously candid,
and furiously abusive of Murray's principal witness, a frightened lad
of seventeen, who had sworn to having seen Bat Callaghan and Jimmy
Foley "shaping at one another to fight," at an hour when, according to
Mrs. Callaghan, Bat was "lying sthretched on the beddeen with a sick
shtomach" in consequence of the malignant character of the porter
supplied by the last witness's father.  It all ended, as such cases so
often do in Ireland, in complete moral certainty in the minds of all
concerned as to the guilt of the accused, and entire impotence on the
part of the law to prove it.  A warrant was issued for the arrest of
Bartholomew Callaghan; and the clans of Callaghan and Foley fought
rather more bloodily than usual, as occasion served; and at intervals
during the next few months Murray used to ask me if my friend the
murderer had dropped in lately, to which I was wont to reply with
condolences on the failure of the R.I.C. to find the Widow Callaghan's
only son for her; and that was about all that came of it.

Events with which the present story has no concern took me to England
towards the end of the following March.  It so happened that my old
regiment, the ----th Fusiliers, was quartered at Whincastle, within a
couple of hours by rail of Philippa's home, where I was staying, and,
since my wedding was now within measurable distance, my former
brothers-in-arms invited me over to dine and sleep, and to receive a
valedictory silver claret jug that they were magnanimous enough to
bestow upon a backslider.  I enjoyed the dinner as much as any man can
enjoy his dinner when he knows he has to make a speech at the end of
it; through much and varied conversation I strove, like a nervous
mother who cannot trust her offspring out of her sight, to keep before
my mind's eye the opening sentences that I had composed in the train; I
felt that if I could only "get away" satisfactorily I might trust the
Ayala ('89) to do the rest, and of that fount of inspiration there was
no lack.  As it turned out, I got away all right, though the sight of
the double line of expectant faces and red mess jackets nearly
scattered those precious opening sentences, and I am afraid that so far
as the various subsequent points went that I had intended to make, I
stayed away; however, neither Demosthenes, nor a Nationalist member at
a Cork election, could have been listened to with more gratifying
attention, and I sat down, hot and happy, to be confronted with my own
flushed visage, hideously reflected in the glittering paunch of the
claret jug.

Once safely over the presentation, the evening mellowed into frivolity,
and it was pretty late before I found myself settled down to whist, at
sixpenny points, in the ancient familiar way, while most of the others
fell to playing pool in the billiard-room next door.  I have played
whist from my youth up; with the preternatural seriousness of a
subaltern, with the self-assurance of a senior captain, with the
privileged irascibility of a major; and my eighteen months of
abstinence at Shreelane had only whetted my appetite for what I
consider the best of games.  After the long lonely evenings there, with
rats for company, and, for relaxation, a "deck" of that specially
demoniacal American variety of patience known as "Fooly Ann," it was
wondrous agreeable to sit again among my fellows, and "lay the longs"
on a severely scientific rubber of whist, as though Mrs. Cadogan and
the Skebawn Bench of Magistrates had never existed.

We were in the first game of the second rubber, and I was holding a
very nice playing hand; I had early in the game moved forth my trumps
to battle, and I was now in the ineffable position of scoring with the
small cards of my long suit.  The cards fell and fell in silence, and
Ballantyne, my partner, raked in the tricks like a machine.  The
concentrated quiet of the game was suddenly arrested by a sharp,
unmistakable sound from the barrack yard outside, the snap of a
Lee-Metford rifle.

"What was that?" exclaimed Moffat, the senior major.

Before he had finished speaking there was a second shot.

"By Jove, those were rifle-shots!  Perhaps I'd better go and see what's
up," said Ballantyne, who was captain of the week, throwing down his
cards and making a bolt for the door.

He had hardly got out of the room when the first long high note of the
"assembly" sang out, sudden and clear.  We all sprang to our feet, and
as the bugle-call went shrilly on, the other men came pouring in from
the billiard-room, and stampeded to their quarters to get their swords.
At the same moment the mess sergeant appeared at the outer door with a
face as white as his shirt-front.

"The sentry on the magazine guard has been shot, sir!" he said
excitedly to Moffat.  "They say he's dead!"

We were all out in the barrack square in an instant; it was clear
moonlight, and the square was already alive with hurrying figures
cramming on clothes and caps as they ran to fall in.  I was a free
agent these times, and I followed the mess sergeant across the square
towards the distant corner where the magazine stands.  As we doubled
round the end of the men's quarters, we nearly ran into a small party
of men who were advancing slowly and heavily in our direction.

"'Ere he is, sir!" said the mess sergeant, stopping himself abruptly.

They were carrying the sentry to the hospital.  His busby had fallen
off; the moon shone mildly on his pale, convulsed face, and foam and
strange inhuman sounds came from his lips.  His head was rolling from
side to side on the arm of one of the men who was carrying him; as it
turned towards me I was struck by something disturbingly familiar in
the face, and I wondered if he had been in my old company.

"What's his name, sergeant?" I said to the mess sergeant.

"Private Harris, sir," replied the sergeant; "he's only lately come up
from the depôt, and this was his first time on sentry by himself."

I went back to the mess, and in process of time the others straggled
in, thirsting for whiskies-and-sodas, and full of such information as
there was to give.  Private Harris was not wounded; both the shots had
been fired by him, as was testified by the state of his rifle and the
fact that two of the cartridges were missing from the packet in his
pouch.

"I hear he was a queer, sulky sort of chap always," said Tomkinson, the
subaltern of the day, "but if he was having a try at suicide he made a
bally bad fist of it."

"He made as good a fist of it as you did of putting on your sword,
Tommy," remarked Ballantyne, indicating a dangling white strap of
webbing, that hung down like a tail below Mr. Tomkinson's mess jacket.
"Nerves, obviously, in both cases!"

The exquisite satisfaction afforded by this discovery to Mr.
Tomkinson's brother officers found its natural outlet in a bear fight
that threatened to become more or less general, and in the course of
which I slid away unostentatiously to bed in Ballantyne's quarters, and
took the precaution of barricading my door.

Next morning, when I got down to breakfast, I found Ballantyne and two
or three others in the mess room, and my first inquiry was for Private
Harris.

"Oh, the poor chap's dead," said Ballantyne; "it's a very queer
business altogether.  I think he must have been wrong in the top
storey.  The doctor was with him when he came to out of the fit, or
whatever it was, and O'Reilly--that's the doctor y' know, Irish of
course, and, by the way, poor Harris was an Irishman too--says that he
could only jibber at first, but then he got better, and he got out of
him that when he had been on sentry-go for about half-an-hour, he
happened to look up at the angle of the barrack wall near where it
joins the magazine tower, and saw a face looking at him over it.  He
challenged and got no answer, but the face just stuck there staring at
him; he challenged again, and then, as O'Reilly said, he 'just oop with
his royfle and blazed at it.'"  Ballantyne was not above the common
English delusion that he could imitate an Irish brogue.

"Well, what happened then?"

"Well, according to the poor devil's own story, the face just kept on
looking at him and he had another shot at it, and 'My God Almighty,' he
said to O'Reilly, 'it was there always!'  While he was saying that to
O'Reilly he began to chuck another fit, and apparently went on chucking
them till he died a couple of hours ago."

"One result of it is," said another man, "that they couldn't get a man
to go on sentry there alone last night.  I expect we shall have to
double the sentries there every night as long as we're here."

"Silly asses!" remarked Tomkinson, but he said it without conviction.

After breakfast we went out to look at the wall by the magazine.  It
was about eleven feet high, with a coped top, and they told me there
was a deep and wide dry ditch on the outside.  A ladder was brought,
and we examined the angle of the wall at which Harris said the face had
appeared.  He had made a beautiful shot, one of his bullets having
flicked a piece off the ridge of the coping exactly at the corner.

"It's not the kind of shot a man would make if he had been drinking,"
said Moffat, regretfully abandoning his first simple hypothesis; "he
must have been mad."

"I wish I could find out who his people are," said Brownlow, the
adjutant, who had joined us; "they found in his box a letter to him
from his mother, but we can't make out the name of the place.  By Jove,
Yeates, you're an Irishman, perhaps you can help us."

He handed me a letter in a dirty envelope.  There was no address given,
the contents were very short, and I may be forgiven if I transcribe
them:--


"My dear Son, I hope you are well as this leaves me at present, thanks
be to God for it.  I am very much unaisy about the cow.  She swelled up
this morning, she ran in and was frauding and I did not do but to run
up for torn sweeney in the minute.  We are thinking it is too much
lairels or an eirub she took.  I do not know what I will do with her.
God help one that's alone with himself I had not a days luck since ye
went away.  I am thinkin' them that wants ye is tired lookin' for ye.
And so I remain,

"YOUR FOND MOTHER."


"Well, you don't get much of a lead from the cow, do you?  And what the
deuce is an eirub?" said Brownlow.

"It's another way of spelling herb," I said, turning over the envelope
abstractedly.  The postmark was almost obliterated, but it struck me it
might be construed into the word Skebawn.

"Look here," I said suddenly, "let me see Harris.  It's just possible I
may know something about him."

The sentry's body had been laid in the dead-house near the hospital,
and Brownlow fetched the key.  It was a grim little whitewashed
building, without windows, save a small one of lancet shape, high up in
one gable, through which a streak of April sunlight fell sharp and
slender on the whitewashed wall.  The long figure of the sentry lay
sheeted on a stone slab, and Brownlow, with his cap in his hand, gently
uncovered the face.

I leaned over and looked at it--at the heavy brows, the short nose, the
small moustache lying black above the pale mouth, the deep-set eyes
sealed in appalling peacefulness.  There rose before me the wild dark
face of the young man who had hung on my wheel and yelled encouragement
to the winning coxswain at the Lough Lonen Regatta.

"I know him," I said, "his name is Callaghan."



V

LISHEEN RACES, SECOND-HAND

It may or may not be agreeable to have attained the age of
thirty-eight, but, judging from old photographs, the privilege of being
nineteen has also its drawbacks.  I turned over page after page of an
ancient book in which were enshrined portraits of the friends of my
youth, singly, in David and Jonathan couples, and in groups in which I,
as it seemed to my mature and possibly jaundiced perception, always
contrived to look the most immeasurable young bounder of the lot.  Our
faces were fat, and yet I cannot remember ever having been considered
fat in my life; we indulged in low-necked shirts, in "Jemima" ties with
diagonal stripes; we wore coats that seemed three sizes too small, and
trousers that were three sizes too big; we also wore small whiskers.

I stopped at last at one of the David and Jonathan memorial portraits.
Yes, here was the object of my researches; this stout and earnestly
romantic youth was Leigh Kelway, and that fatuous and chubby young
person seated on the arm of his chair was myself.  Leigh Kelway was a
young man ardently believed in by a large circle of admirers, headed by
himself and seconded by me, and for some time after I had left Magdalen
for Sandhurst, I maintained a correspondence with him on large and
abstract subjects.  This phase of our friendship did not survive; I
went soldiering to India, and Leigh Kelway took honours and moved
suitably on into politics, as is the duty of an earnest young Radical
with useful family connections and an independent income.  Since then I
had at intervals seen in the papers the name of the Honourable Basil
Leigh Kelway mentioned as a speaker at elections, as a writer of
thoughtful articles in the reviews, but we had never met, and nothing
could have been less expected by me than the letter, written from Mrs.
Raverty's Hotel, Skebawn, in which he told me he was making a tour in
Ireland with Lord Waterbury, to whom he was private secretary.  Lord
Waterbury was at present having a few days' fishing near Killarney, and
he himself, not being a fisherman, was collecting statistics for his
chief on various points connected with the Liquor Question in Ireland.
He had heard that I was in the neighbourhood, and was kind enough to
add that it would give him much pleasure to meet me again.

With a stir of the old enthusiasm I wrote begging him to be my guest
for as long as it suited him, and the following afternoon he arrived at
Shreelane.  The stout young friend of my youth had changed
considerably.  His important nose and slightly prominent teeth
remained, but his wavy hair had withdrawn intellectually from his
temples; his eyes had acquired a statesmanlike absence of expression,
and his neck had grown long and bird-like.  It was his first visit to
Ireland, as he lost no time in telling me, and he and his chief had
already collected much valuable information on the subject to which
they had dedicated the Easter recess.  He further informed me that he
thought of popularising the subject in a novel, and therefore intended
to, as he put it, "master the brogue" before his return.

During the next few days I did my best for Leigh Kelway.  I turned him
loose on Father Scanlan; I showed him Mohona, our champion village,
that boasts fifteen public-houses out of twenty buildings of sorts and
a railway station; I took him to hear the prosecution of a publican for
selling drink on a Sunday, which gave him an opportunity of studying
perjury as a fine art, and of hearing a lady, on whom police suspicion
justly rested, profoundly summed up by the sergeant as "a woman who had
th' appairance of having knocked at a back door."

The net result of these experiences has not yet been given to the world
by Leigh Kelway.  For my own part, I had at the end of three days
arrived at the conclusion that his society, when combined with a
note-book and a thirst for statistics, was not what I used to find it
at Oxford.  I therefore welcomed a suggestion from Mr. Flurry Knox that
we should accompany him to some typical country races, got up by the
farmers at a place called Lisheen, some twelve miles away.  It was the
worst road in the district, the races of the most grossly unorthodox
character; in fact, it was the very place for Leigh Kelway to collect
impressions of Irish life, and in any case it was a blessed opportunity
of disposing of him for the day.

In my guest's attire next morning I discerned an unbending from the
role of cabinet minister towards that of sportsman; the outlines of the
note-book might be traced in his breast pocket, but traversing it was
the strap of a pair of field-glasses, and his light grey suit was smart
enough for Goodwood.

Flurry was to drive us to the races at one o'clock, and we walked to
Tory Cottage by the short cut over the hill, in the sunny beauty of an
April morning.  Up to the present the weather had kept me in a more or
less apologetic condition; any one who has entertained a guest in the
country knows the unjust weight of responsibility that rests on the
shoulders of the host in the matter of climate, and Leigh Kelway, after
two drenchings, had become sarcastically resigned to what I felt he
regarded as my mismanagement.

Flurry took us into the house for a drink and a biscuit, to keep us
going, as he said, till "we lifted some luncheon out of the Castle Knox
people at the races," and it was while we were thus engaged that the
first disaster of the day occurred.  The dining-room door was open, so
also was the window of the little staircase just outside it, and
through the window travelled sounds that told of the close proximity of
the stable-yard; the clattering of hoofs on cobble stones, and voices
uplifted in loud conversation.  Suddenly from this region there arose a
screech of the laughter peculiar to kitchen flirtation, followed by the
clank of a bucket, the plunging of a horse, and then an uproar of
wheels and galloping hoofs.  An instant afterwards Flurry's chestnut
cob, in a dogcart, dashed at full gallop into view, with the reins
streaming behind him, and two men in hot pursuit.  Almost before I had
time to realise what had happened, Flurry jumped through the
half-opened window of the dining-room like a clown at a pantomime, and
joined in the chase; but the cob was resolved to make the most of his
chance, and went away down the drive and out of sight at a pace that
distanced every one save the kennel terrier, who sped in shrieking
ecstasy beside him.

"Oh merciful hour!" exclaimed a female voice behind me.  Leigh Kelway
and I were by this time watching the progress of events from the
gravel, in company with the remainder of Flurry's household.  "The
horse is desthroyed!  Wasn't that the quare start he took!  And all in
the world I done was to slap a bucket of wather at Michael out the
windy, and 'twas himself got it in place of Michael!"

"Ye'll never ate another bit, Bridgie Dunnigan," replied the cook, with
the exulting pessimism of her kind.  "The Master'll have your life!"

Both speakers shouted at the top of their voices, probably because in
spirit they still followed afar the flight of the cob.

Leigh Kelway looked serious as we walked on down the drive.  I almost
dared to hope that a note on the degrading oppression of Irish
retainers was shaping itself.  Before we reached the bend of the drive
the rescue party was returning with the fugitive, all, with the
exception of the kennel terrier, looking extremely gloomy.  The cob had
been confronted by a wooden gate, which he had unhesitatingly taken in
his stride, landing on his head on the farther side with the gate and
the cart on top of him, and had arisen with a lame foreleg, a cut on
his nose, and several other minor wounds.

"You'd think the brute had been fighting the cats, with all the
scratches and scrapes he has on him!" said Flurry, casting a vengeful
eye at Michael, "and one shaft's broken and so is the dashboard.  I
haven't another horse in the place; they're all out at grass, and so
there's an end of the races!"

We all three stood blankly on the hall-door steps and watched the wreck
of the trap being trundled up the avenue.

"I'm very sorry you're done out of your sport," said Flurry to Leigh
Kelway, in tones of deplorable sincerity; "perhaps, as there's nothing
else to do, you'd like to see the hounds----?"

I felt for Flurry, but of the two I felt more for Leigh Kelway as he
accepted this alleviation.  He disliked dogs, and held the newest views
on sanitation, and I knew what Flurry's kennels could smell like.  I
was lighting a precautionary cigarette, when we caught sight of an old
man riding up the drive.  Flurry stopped short.

"Hold on a minute," he said; "here's an old chap that often brings me
horses for the kennels; I must see what he wants."

The man dismounted and approached Mr. Knox, hat in hand, towing after
him a gaunt and ancient black mare with a big knee.

"Well, Barrett," began Flurry, surveying the mare with his hands in his
pockets, "I'm not giving the hounds meat this month, or only very
little."

"Ah, Master Flurry," answered Barrett, "it's you that's pleasant!  Is
it give the like o' this one for the dogs to ate!  She's a vallyble
strong young mare, no more than shixteen years of age, and ye'd sooner
be lookin' at her goin' under a side-car than eatin' your dinner."

"There isn't as much meat on her as 'd fatten a jackdaw," said Flurry,
clinking the silver in his pockets as he searched for a matchbox.
"What are you asking for her?"

The old man drew cautiously up to him.

"Master Flurry," he said solemnly, "I'll sell her to your honour for
five pounds, and she'll be worth ten after you give her a month's
grass."

Flurry lit his cigarette; then he said imperturbably, "I'll give you
seven shillings for her."

Old Barrett put on his hat in silence, and in silence buttoned his coat
and took hold of the stirrup leather.  Flurry remained immovable.
"Master Flurry," said old Barrett suddenly, with tears in his voice,
"you must make it eight, sir!"

"Michael!" called out Flurry with apparent irrelevance, "run up to your
father's and ask him would he lend me a loan of his side-car."

Half-an-hour later we were, improbable as it may seem, on our way to
Lisheen races.  We were seated upon an outside-car of immemorial age,
whose joints seemed to open and close again as it swung in and out of
the ruts, whose tattered cushions stank of rats and mildew, whose
wheels staggered and rocked like the legs of a drunken man.  Between
the shafts jogged the latest addition to the kennel larder, the
eight-shilling mare.  Flurry sat on one side, and kept her going at a
rate of not less than four miles an hour; Leigh Kelway and I held on to
the other.

"She'll get us as far as Lynch's anyway," said Flurry, abandoning his
first contention that she could do the whole distance, as he pulled her
on to her legs after her fifteenth stumble, "and he'll lend us some
sort of a horse, if it was only a mule."

"Do you notice that these cushions are very damp?" said Leigh Kelway to
me, in a hollow undertone.

"Small blame to them if they are!" replied Flurry.  "I've no doubt but
they were out under the rain all day yesterday at Mrs. Hurly's funeral."

Leigh Kelway made no reply, but he took his note-book out of his pocket
and sat on it.

We arrived at Lynch's at a little past three, and were there confronted
by the next disappointment of this disastrous day.  The door of Lynch's
farmhouse was locked, and nothing replied to our knocking except a
puppy, who barked hysterically from within.

"All gone to the races," said Flurry philosophically, picking his way
round the manure heap.  "No matter, here's the filly in the shed here.
I know he's had her under a car."

An agitating ten minutes ensued, during which Leigh Kelway and I got
the eight-shilling mare out of the shafts and the harness, and Flurry,
with our inefficient help, crammed the young mare into them.  As Flurry
had stated that she had been driven before, I was bound to believe him,
but the difficulty of getting the bit into her mouth was remarkable,
and so also was the crab-like manner in which she sidled out of the
yard, with Flurry and myself at her head, and Leigh Kelway hanging on
to the back of the car to keep it from jamming in the gateway.

"Sit up on the car now," said Flurry when we got out on to the road;
"I'll lead her on a bit.  She's been ploughed anyway; one side of her
mouth's as tough as a gad!"

Leigh Kelway threw away the wisp of grass with which he had been
cleaning his hands, and mopped his intellectual forehead; he was very
silent.  We both mounted the car, and Flurry, with the reins in his
hand, walked beside the filly, who, with her tail clasped in, moved
onward in a succession of short jerks.

"Oh, she's all right!" said Flurry, beginning to run, and dragging the
filly into a trot; "once she gets started--"  Here the filly spied a
pig in a neighbouring field, and despite the fact that she had probably
eaten out of the same trough with it, she gave a violent side spring,
and broke into a gallop.

"Now we're off!" shouted Flurry, making a jump at the car and
clambering on; "if the traces hold we'll do!"

The English language is powerless to suggest the view-halloo with which
Mr. Knox ended his speech, or to do more than indicate the rigid
anxiety of Leigh Kelway's face as he regained his balance after the
preliminary jerk, and clutched the back rail.  It must be said for
Lynch's filly that she did not kick; she merely fled, like a dog with a
kettle tied to its tail, from the pursuing rattle and jingle behind
her, with the shafts buffeting her dusty sides as the car swung to and
fro.  Whenever she showed any signs of slackening, Flurry loosed
another yell at her that renewed her panic, and thus we precariously
covered another two or three miles of our journey.

Had it not been for a large stone lying on the road, and had the filly
not chosen to swerve so as to bring the wheel on top of it, I dare say
we might have got to the races; but by an unfortunate coincidence both
these things occurred, and when we recovered from the consequent shock,
the tire of one of the wheels had come off, and was trundling with
cumbrous gaiety into the ditch.  Flurry stopped the filly and began to
laugh; Leigh Kelway said something startlingly unparliamentary under
his breath.

"Well, it might be worse," Flurry said consolingly as he lifted the
tire on to the car; "we're not half a mile from a forge."

We walked that half-mile in funereal procession behind the car; the
glory had departed from the weather, and an ugly wall of cloud was
rising up out of the west to meet the sun; the hills had darkened and
lost colour, and the white bog cotton shivered in a cold wind that
smelt of rain.

By a miracle the smith was not at the races, owing, as he explained, to
his having "the toothaches," the two facts combined producing in him a
morosity only equalled by that of Leigh Kelway.  The smith's sole
comment on the situation was to unharness the filly, and drag her into
the forge, where he tied her up.  He then proceeded to whistle
viciously on his fingers in the direction of a cottage, and to command,
in tones of thunder, some unseen creature to bring over a couple of
baskets of turf.  The turf arrived in process of time, on a woman's
back, and was arranged in a circle in a yard at the back of the forge.
The tire was bedded in it, and the turf was with difficulty kindled at
different points.

"Ye'll not get to the races this day," said the smith, yielding to a
sardonic satisfaction; "the turf's wet, and I haven't one to do a
hand's turn for me."  He laid the wheel on the ground and lit his pipe.

Leigh Kelway looked pallidly about him over the spacious empty
landscape of brown mountain slopes patched with golden furze and seamed
with grey walls; I wondered if he were as hungry as I.  We sat on
stones opposite the smouldering ring of turf and smoked, and Flurry
beguiled the smith into grim and calumnious confidences about every
horse in the country.  After about an hour, during which the turf went
out three times, and the weather became more and more threatening, a
girl with a red petticoat over her head appeared at the gate of the
yard, and said to the smith:

"The horse is gone away from ye."

"Where?" exclaimed Flurry, springing to his feet.

"I met him walking wesht the road there below, and when I thought to
turn him he commenced to gallop."

"Pulled her head out of the headstall," said Flurry, after a rapid
survey of the forge.  "She's near home by now."

It was at this moment that the rain began; the situation could scarcely
have been better stage-managed.  After reviewing the position, Flurry
and I decided that the only thing to do was to walk to a public-house a
couple of miles farther on, feed there if possible, hire a car, and go
home.

It was an uphill walk, with mild generous raindrops striking thicker
and thicker on our faces; no one talked, and the grey clouds crowded up
from behind the hills like billows of steam.  Leigh Kelway bore it all
with egregious resignation.  I cannot pretend that I was at heart
sympathetic, but by virtue of being his host I felt responsible for the
breakdown, for his light suit, for everything, and divined his
sentiment of horror at the first sight of the public-house.

It was a long, low cottage, with a line of dripping elm-trees
overshadowing it; empty cars and carts round its door, and a babel from
within made it evident that the race-goers were pursuing a gradual
homeward route.  The shop was crammed with steaming countrymen, whose
loud brawling voices, all talking together, roused my English friend to
his first remark since we had left the forge.

"Surely, Yeates, we are not going into that place?" he said severely;
"those men are all drunk."

"Ah, nothing to signify!" said Flurry, plunging in and driving his way
through the throng like a plough.  "Here, Mary Kate!" he called to the
girl behind the counter, "tell your mother we want some tea and bread
and butter in the room inside."

The smell of bad tobacco and spilt porter was choking; we worked our
way through it after him towards the end of the shop, intersecting at
every hand discussions about the races.

"Tom was very nice.  He spared his horse all along, and then he put
into him--"  "Well, at Goggin's corner the third horse was before the
second, but he was goin' wake in himself."  "I tell ye the mare had the
hind leg fasht in the fore."  "Clancy was dipping in the saddle."
"'Twas a dam nice race whatever----"

We gained the inner room at last, a cheerless apartment, adorned with
sacred pictures, a sewing-machine, and an array of supplementary
tumblers and wineglasses; but, at all events, we had it so far to
ourselves.  At intervals during the next half-hour Mary Kate burst in
with cups and plates, cast them on the table and disappeared, but of
food there was no sign.  After a further period of starvation and of
listening to the noise in the shop, Flurry made a sortie, and, after
lengthy and unknown adventures, reappeared carrying a huge brown
teapot, and driving before him Mary Kate with the remainder of the
repast.  The bread tasted of mice, the butter of turf-smoke, the tea of
brown paper, but we had got past the critical stage.  I had entered
upon my third round of bread and butter when the door was flung open,
and my valued acquaintance, Slipper, slightly advanced in liquor,
presented himself to our gaze.  His bandy legs sprawled
consequentially, his nose was redder than a coal of fire, his prominent
eyes rolled crookedly upon us, and his left hand swept behind him the
attempt of Mary Kate to frustrate his entrance.

"Good-evening to my vinerable friend, Mr. Flurry Knox!" he began, in
the voice of a town crier, "and to the Honourable Major Yeates, and the
English gintleman!"

This impressive opening immediately attracted an audience from the
shop, and the doorway filled with grinning faces as Slipper advanced
farther into the room.

"Why weren't ye at the races, Mr. Flurry?" he went on, his roving eye
taking a grip of us all at the same time; "sure the Miss Bennetts and
all the ladies was asking where were ye."

"It'd take some time to tell them that," said Flurry, with his mouth
full; "but what about the races, Slipper?  Had you good sport?"

"Sport is it?  Divil so pleasant an afternoon ever you seen," replied
Slipper.  He leaned against a side table, and all the glasses on it
jingled.  "Does your honour know O'Driscoll?" he went on irrelevantly.
"Sure you do.  He was in your honour's stable.  It's what we were all
sayin'; it was a great pity your honour was not there, for the likin'
you had to Driscoll."

"That's thrue," said a voice at the door.

"There wasn't one in the Barony but was gethered in it, through and
fro," continued Slipper, with a quelling glance at the interrupter;
"and there was tints for sellin' porther, and whisky as pliable as new
milk, and boys gain' round the tints outside, feeling for heads with
the big ends of their blackthorns, and all kinds of recreations, and
the Sons of Liberty's piffler and dhrum band from Skebawn; though
faith! there was more of thim runnin' to look at the races than what
was playin' in it; not to mintion different occasions that the
bandmasther was atin' his lunch within in the whisky tint."

"But what about Driscoll?" said Flurry.

"Sure it's about him I'm tellin' ye," replied Slipper, with the
practised orator's watchful eye on his growing audience.  "'Twas within
in the same whisky tint meself was, with the bandmasther and a few of
the lads, an' we buyin' a ha'porth o' crackers, when I seen me brave
Driscoll landin' into the tint, and a pair o' thim long boots on him;
him that hadn't a shoe nor a stocking to his foot when your honour had
him picking grass out o' the stones behind in your yard.  'Well,' says
I to meself, 'we'll knock some spoort out of Driscoll!'

"'Come here to me, acushla!' says I to him; 'I suppose it's some way
wake in the legs y'are,' says I, 'an' the docthor put them on ye the
way the people wouldn't thrample ye!'

"'May the divil choke ye!' says he, pleasant enough, but I knew by the
blush he had he was vexed.

"'Then I suppose 'tis a left-tenant colonel y'are,' says I; 'yer mother
must be proud out o' ye!' says I, 'an' maybe ye'll lend her a loan o'
thim waders when she's rinsin' yer bauneen in the river!' says I.

"'There'll be work out o' this!' says he, lookin' at me both sour and
bitther.

"'Well indeed, I was thinkin' you were blue moulded for want of a
batin',' says I.  He was for fightin' us then, but afther we had him
pacificated with about a quarther of a naggin o' sperrits, he told us
he was goin' ridin' in a race.

"'An' what'll ye ride?' says I.

"'Owld Bocock's mare,' says he.

"'Knipes!' says I, sayin' a great curse; 'is it that little staggeen
from the mountains; sure she's somethin' about the one age with
meself,' says I.  'Many's the time Jamesy Geoghegan and meself used to
be dhrivin' her to Macroom with pigs an' all soorts,' says I; 'an' is
it leppin' stone walls ye want her to go now?'

"'Faith, there's walls and every vari'ty of obstackle in it,' says he.

"'It'll be the best o' your play, so,' says I, 'to leg it away home out
o' this.'

"'An' who'll ride her, so?' says he.

"'Let the divil ride her,' says I."

Leigh Kelway, who had been leaning back seemingly half asleep, obeyed
the hypnotism of Slipper's gaze, and opened his eyes.

"That was now all the conversation that passed between himself and
meself," resumed Slipper, "and there was no great delay afther that
till they said there was a race startin' and the dickens a one at all
was goin' to ride only two, Driscoll, and one Clancy.  With that then I
seen Mr. Kinahane, the Petty Sessions clerk, goin' round clearin' the
coorse, an' I gethered a few o' the neighbours, an' we walked the
fields hither and over till we seen the most of th' obstackles.

"'Stand aisy now by the plantation,' says I; 'if they get to come as
far as this, believe me ye'll see spoort,' says I, 'an' 'twill be a
convanient spot to encourage the mare if she's anyway wake in herself,'
says I, cuttin' somethin' about five foot of an ash sapling out o' the
plantation.

"'That's yer sort!' says owld Bocock, that was thravellin' the
racecoorse, peggin' a bit o' paper down with a thorn in front of every
lep, the way Driscoll 'd know the handiest place to face her at it.

"Well, I hadn't barely thrimmed the ash plant----"

"Have you any jam, Mary Kate?" interrupted Flurry, whose meal had been
in no way interfered with by either the story or the highly-scented
crowd who had come to listen to it.

"We have no jam, only thraycle, sir," replied the invisible Mary Kate.

"I hadn't the switch barely thrimmed," repeated Slipper firmly, "when I
heard the people screechin', an' I seen Driscoll an' Clancy comin' on,
leppin' all before them, an' owld Bocock's mare bellusin' an'
powdherin' along, an' bedad! whatever obstackle wouldn't throw _her_
down, faith, she'd throw _it_ down, an' there's the thraffic they had
in it.

"'I declare to me sowl,' says I, 'if they continue on this way there's
a great chance some one o' thim 'll win," says I.

"'Ye lie!' says the bandmasther, bein' a thrifle fulsome after his
luncheon.

"'I do not,' says I, 'in regard of seein' how soople them two boys is.
Ye might observe,' says I, 'that if they have no convanient way to sit
on the saddle, they'll ride the neck o' the horse till such time as
they gets an occasion to lave it,' says I.

"'Arrah, shut yer mouth!' says the bandmasther; 'they're puckin' out
this way now, an' may the divil admire me!' says he, 'but Clancy has
the other bet out, and the divil such leatherin' and beltin' of owld
Bocock's mare ever you seen as what's in it!' says he.

"Well, when I seen them comin' to me, and Driscoll about the length of
the plantation behind Clancy, I let a couple of bawls.

"'Skelp her, ye big brute!' says I.  'What good's in ye that ye aren't
able to skelp her?'"

The yell and the histrionic flourish of his stick with which Slipper
delivered this incident brought down the house.  Leigh Kelway was
sufficiently moved to ask me in an undertone if "skelp" was a local
term.

"Well, Mr. Flurry, and gintlemen," recommenced Slipper, "I declare to
ye when owld Bocock's mare heard thim roars she sthretched out her neck
like a gandher, and when she passed me out she give a couple of grunts,
and looked at me as ugly as a Christian.

"'Hah!' says I, givin' her a couple o' dhraws o' th' ash plant across
the butt o' the tail, the way I wouldn't blind her; 'I'll make ye
grunt!' says I, 'I'll nourish ye!'

"I knew well she was very frightful of th' ash plant since the winter
Tommeen Sullivan had her under a sidecar.  But now, in place of havin'
any obligations to me, ye'd be surprised if ye heard the blaspheemious
expressions of that young boy that was ridin' her; and whether it was
over-anxious he was, turnin' around the way I'd hear him cursin', or
whether it was some slither or slide came to owld Bocock's mare, I
dunno, but she was bet up agin the last obstackle but two, and before
ye could say 'Schnipes,' she was standin' on her two ears beyond in th'
other field!  I declare to ye, on the vartue of me oath, she stood that
way till she reconnoithered what side would Driscoll fall, an' she
turned about then and rolled on him as cosy as if he was meadow grass!"

Slipper stopped short; the people in the doorway groaned
appreciatively; Mary Kate murmured "The Lord save us!"

"The blood was dhruv out through his nose and ears," continued Slipper,
with a voice that indicated the cream of the narration, "and you'd hear
his bones crackin' on the ground!  You'd have pitied the poor boy."

"Good heavens!" said Leigh Kelway, sitting up very straight in his
chair.

"Was he hurt, Slipper?" asked Flurry casually.

"Hurt is it?" echoed Slipper in high scorn; "killed on the spot!"  He
paused to relish the effect of the _dénouement_ on Leigh Kelway.  "Oh,
divil so pleasant an afthernoon ever you seen; and indeed, Mr. Flurry,
it's what we were all sayin', it was a great pity your honour was not
there for the likin' you had for Driscoll."

As he spoke the last word there was an outburst of singing and cheering
from a carload of people who had just pulled up at the door.  Flurry
listened, leaned back in his chair, and began to laugh.

"It scarcely strikes one as a comic incident," said Leigh Kelway, very
coldly to me; "in fact, it seems to me that the police ought----"

"Show me Slipper!" bawled a voice in the shop; "show me that dirty
little undherlooper till I have his blood!  Hadn't I the race won only
for he souring the mare on me!  What's that you say?  I tell ye he did!
He left seven slaps on her with the handle of a hay-rake----"

There was in the room in which we were sitting a second door, leading
to the back yard, a door consecrated to the unobtrusive visits of
so-called "Sunday travellers."  Through it Slipper faded away like a
dream, and, simultaneously, a tall young man, with a face like a
red-hot potato tied up in a bandage, squeezed his way from the shop
into the room.

"Well, Driscoll," said Flurry, "since it wasn't the teeth of the rake
he left on the mare, you needn't be talking!"

Leigh Kelway looked from one to the other with a wilder expression in
his eye than I had thought it capable of.  I read in it a resolve to
abandon Ireland to her fate.

At eight o'clock we were still waiting for the car that we had been
assured should be ours directly it returned from the races.  At
half-past eight we had adopted the only possible course that remained,
and had accepted the offers of lifts on the laden cars that were
returning to Skebawn, and I presently was gratified by the spectacle of
my friend Leigh Kelway wedged between a roulette table and its
proprietor on one side of a car, with Driscoll and Slipper,
mysteriously reconciled and excessively drunk, seated, locked in each
other's arms, on the other.  Flurry and I, somewhat similarly placed,
followed on two other cars.  I was scarcely surprised when I was
informed that the melancholy white animal in the shafts of the leading
car was Owld Bocock's much-enduring steeplechaser.

The night was very dark and stormy, and it is almost superfluous to say
that no one carried lamps; the rain poured upon us, and through wind
and wet Owld Bocock's mare set the pace at a rate that showed she knew
from bitter experience what was expected from her by gentlemen who had
spent the evening in a public-house; behind her the other two tired
horses followed closely, incited to emulation by shouting, singing, and
a liberal allowance of whip.  We were a good ten miles from Skebawn,
and never had the road seemed so long.  For mile after mile the
half-seen low walls slid past us, with occasional plunges into caverns
of darkness under trees.  Sometimes from a wayside cabin a dog would
dash out to bark at us as we rattled by; sometimes our cavalcade swung
aside to pass, with yells and counter-yells, crawling carts filled with
other belated race-goers.

I was nearly wet through, even though I received considerable shelter
from a Skebawn publican, who slept heavily and irrepressibly on my
shoulder.  Driscoll, on the leading car, had struck up an approximation
to the "Wearing of the Green," when a wavering star appeared on the
road ahead of us.  It grew momently larger; it came towards us apace.
Flurry, on the car behind me, shouted suddenly--

"That's the mail car, with one of the lamps out!  Tell those fellows
ahead to look out!"

But the warning fell on deaf ears.

  "When laws can change the blades of grass
  From growing as they grow----"

howled five discordant voices, oblivious of the towering proximity of
the star.

A Bianconi mail car is nearly three times the size of an ordinary
outside car, and when on a dark night it advances, Cyclops-like, with
but one eye, it is difficult for even a sober driver to calculate its
bulk.  Above the sounds of melody there arose the thunder of heavy
wheels, the splashing trample of three big horses, then a crash and a
turmoil of shouts.  Our cars pulled up just in time, and I tore myself
from the embrace of my publican to go to Leigh Kelway's assistance.

The wing of the Bianconi had caught the wing of the smaller car,
flinging Owld Bocock's mare on her side and throwing her freight
headlong on top of her, the heap being surmounted by the roulette
table.  The driver of the mail car unshipped his solitary lamp and
turned it on the disaster.  I saw that Flurry had already got hold of
Leigh Kelway by the heels, and was dragging him from under the others.
He struggled up hatless, muddy, and gasping, with Driscoll hanging on
by his neck, still singing the "Wearing of the Green."

A voice from the mail car said incredulously, "_Leigh Kelway!_"  A
spectacled face glared down upon him from under the dripping spikes of
an umbrella.

It was the Right Honourable the Earl of Waterbury, Leigh Kelway's
chief, returning from his fishing excursion.

Meanwhile Slipper, in the ditch, did not cease to announce that "Divil
so pleasant an afthernoon ever ye seen as what was in it!"



VI

PHILIPPA'S FOX-HUNT

No one can accuse Philippa and me of having married in haste.  As a
matter of fact, it was but little under five years from that autumn
evening on the river when I had said what is called in Ireland "the
hard word," to the day in August when I was led to the altar by my best
man, and was subsequently led away from it by Mrs. Sinclair Yeates.
About two years out of the five had been spent by me at Shreelane in
ceaseless warfare with drains, eaveshoots, chimneys, pumps; all those
fundamentals, in short, that the ingenuous and improving tenant expects
to find established as a basis from which to rise to higher things.  As
far as rising to higher things went, frequent ascents to the roof to
search for leaks summed up my achievements; in fact, I suffered so
general a shrinkage of my ideals that the triumph of making the
hall-door bell ring blinded me to the fact that the rat-holes in the
hall floor were nailed up with pieces of tin biscuit boxes, and that
the casual visitor could, instead of leaving a card, have easily
written his name in the damp on the walls.

Philippa, however, proved adorably callous to these and similar
shortcomings.  She regarded Shreelane and its floundering, foundering
ménage of incapables in the light of a gigantic picnic in a foreign
land; she held long conversations daily with Mrs. Cadogan, in order, as
she informed me, to acquire the language; without any ulterior domestic
intention she engaged kitchen-maids because of the beauty of their
eyes, and housemaids because they had such delightfully picturesque old
mothers, and she declined to correct the phraseology of the
parlour-maid, whose painful habit it was to whisper "Do ye choose
cherry or clarry?" when proffering the wine.  Fast-days, perhaps,
afforded my wife her first insight into the sterner realities of Irish
housekeeping.  Philippa had what are known as High Church proclivities,
and took the matter seriously.

"I don't know how we are to manage for the servants' dinner to-morrow,
Sinclair," she said, coming in to my office one Thursday morning;
"Julia says she 'promised God this long time that she wouldn't eat an
egg on a fast-day,' and the kitchen-maid says she won't eat herrings
'without they're fried with onions,' and Mrs. Cadogan says she will
'not go to them extremes for servants.'"

"I should let Mrs. Cadogan settle the menu herself," I suggested.

"I asked her to do that," replied Philippa, "and she only said she
'thanked God she had no appetite!'"

The lady of the house here fell away into unseasonable laughter.

I made the demoralising suggestion that, as we were going away for a
couple of nights, we might safely leave them to fight it out, and the
problem was abandoned.

Philippa had been much called on by the neighbourhood in all its shades
and grades, and daily she and her trousseau frocks presented themselves
at hall-doors of varying dimensions in due acknowledgment of
civilities.  In Ireland, it may be noted, the process known in England
as "summering and wintering" a newcomer does not obtain; sociability
and curiosity alike forbid delay.  The visit to which we owed our
escape from the intricacies of the fast-day was to the Knoxes of Castle
Knox, relations in some remote and tribal way of my landlord, Mr.
Flurry of that ilk.  It involved a short journey by train, and my
wife's longest basket-trunk; it also, which was more serious, involved
my being lent a horse to go out cubbing the following morning.

At Castle Knox we sank into an almost forgotten environment of
draught-proof windows and doors, of deep carpets, of silent servants
instead of clattering belligerents.  Philippa told me afterwards that
it had only been by an effort that she had restrained herself from
snatching up the train of her wedding-gown as she paced across the wide
hall on little Sir Valentine's arm.  After three weeks at Shreelane she
found it difficult to remember that the floor was neither damp nor
dusty.

I had the good fortune to be of the limited number of those who got on
with Lady Knox, chiefly, I imagine, because I was as a worm before her,
and thankfully permitted her to do all the talking.

"Your wife is extremely pretty," she pronounced autocratically,
surveying Philippa between the candle-shades; "does she ride?"

Lady Knox was a short square lady, with a weather-beaten face, and an
eye decisive from long habit of taking her own line across country and
elsewhere.  She would have made a very imposing little coachman, and
would have caused her stable helpers to rue the day they had the
presumption to be born; it struck me that Sir Valentine sometimes did
so.

"I'm glad you like her looks," I replied, "as I fear you will find her
thoroughly despicable otherwise; for one thing, she not only can't
ride, but she believes that I can!"

"Oh come, you're not as bad as all that!" my hostess was good enough to
say; "I'm going to put you up on Sorcerer to-morrow, and we'll see you
at the top of the hunt--if there is one.  That young Knox hasn't a
notion how to draw these woods."

"Well, the best run we had last year out of this place was with
Flurry's hounds," struck in Miss Sally, sole daughter of Sir
Valentine's house and home, from her place half-way down the table.  It
was not difficult to see that she and her mother held different views
on the subject of Mr. Flurry Knox.

"I call it a criminal thing in any one's great-great-grandfather to
rear up a preposterous troop of sons and plant them all out in his own
country," Lady Knox said to me with apparent irrelevance.  "I detest
collaterals.  Blood may be thicker than water, but it is also a great
deal nastier.  In this country I find that fifteenth cousins consider
themselves near relations if they live within twenty miles of one!"

Having before now taken in the position with regard to Flurry Knox, I
took care to accept these remarks as generalities, and turned the
conversation to other themes.

"I see Mrs. Yeates is doing wonders with Mr. Hamilton," said Lady Knox
presently, following the direction of my eyes, which had strayed away
to where Philippa was beaming upon her left-hand neighbour, a
mildewed-looking old clergyman, who was delivering a long dissertation,
the purport of which we were happily unable to catch.

"She has always had a gift for the Church," I said.

"Not curates?" said Lady Knox, in her deep voice.

I made haste to reply that it was the elders of the Church who were
venerated by my wife.

"Well, she has her fancy in old Eustace Hamilton; he's elderly enough!"
said Lady Knox.  "I wonder if she'd venerate him as much if she knew
that he had fought with his sister-in-law, and they haven't spoken for
thirty years! though for the matter of that," she added, "I think it
shows his good sense!"

"Mrs. Knox is rather a friend of mine," I ventured.

"Is she?  H'm!  Well, she's not one of mine!" replied my hostess, with
her usual definiteness.  "I'll say one thing for her, I believe she's
always been a sportswoman.  She's very rich, you know, and they say she
only married old Badger Knox to save his hounds from being sold to pay
his debts, and then she took the horn from him and hunted them herself.
Has she been rude to your wife yet?  No?  Oh, well, she will.  It's a
mere question of time.  She hates all English people.  You know the
story they tell of her?  She was coming home from London, and when she
was getting her ticket the man asked if she had said a ticket for York.
'No, thank God, Cork!' says Mrs. Knox."

"Well, I rather agree with her!" said I; "but why did she fight with
Mr. Hamilton?"

"Oh, nobody knows.  I don't believe they know themselves!  Whatever it
was, the old lady drives five miles to Fortwilliam every Sunday, rather
than go to his church, just outside her own back gates," Lady Knox said
with a laugh like a terrier's bark.  "I wish I'd fought with him
myself," she said; "he gives us forty minutes every Sunday."

As I struggled into my boots the following morning, I felt that Sir
Valentine's acid confidences on cub-hunting, bestowed on me at
midnight, did credit to his judgment.  "A very moderate amusement, my
dear Major," he had said, in his dry little voice; "you should stick to
shooting.  No one expects you to shoot before daybreak."

It was six o'clock as I crept downstairs, and found Lady Knox and Miss
Sally at breakfast, with two lamps on the table, and a foggy daylight
oozing in from under the half-raised blinds.  Philippa was already in
the hall, pumping up her bicycle, in a state of excitement at the
prospect of her first experience of hunting that would have been more
comprehensible to me had she been going to ride a strange horse, as I
was.  As I bolted my food I saw the horses being led past the windows,
and a faint twang of a horn told that Flurry Knox and his hounds were
not far off.

Miss Sally jumped up.

"If I'm not on the Cockatoo before the hounds come up, I shall never
get there!" she said, hobbling out of the room in the toils of her
safety habit.  Her small, alert face looked very childish under her
riding-hat; the lamp-light struck sparks out of her thick coil of
golden-red hair: I wondered how I had ever thought her like her prim
little father.

She was already on her white cob when I got to the hall-door, and
Flurry Knox was riding over the glistening wet grass with his hounds,
while his whip, Dr. Jerome Hickey, was having a stirring time with the
young entry and the rabbit-holes.  They moved on without stopping, up a
back avenue, under tall and dripping trees, to a thick laurel covert,
at some little distance from the house.  Into this the hounds were
thrown, and the usual period of fidgety inaction set in for the riders,
of whom, all told, there were about half-a-dozen.  Lady Knox, square
and solid, on her big, confidential iron-grey, was near me, and her
eyes were on me and my mount; with her rubicund face and white collar
she was more than ever like a coachman.

"Sorcerer looks as if he suited you well," she said, after a few
minutes of silence, during which the hounds rustled and crackled
steadily through the laurels; "he's a little high on the leg, and so
are you, you know, so you show each other off."

Sorcerer was standing like a rock, with his good-looking head in the
air and his eyes fastened on the covert.  His manners, so far, had been
those of a perfect gentleman, and were in marked contrast to those of
Miss Sally's cob, who was sidling, hopping, and snatching unappeasably
at his bit.  Philippa had disappeared from view down the avenue ahead.
The fog was melting, and the sun threw long blades of light through the
trees; everything was quiet, and in the distance the curtained windows
of the house marked the warm repose of Sir Valentine, and those of the
party who shared his opinion of cubbing.

"Hark! hark to cry there!"

It was Flurry's voice, away at the other side of the covert.  The
rustling and brushing through the laurels became more vehement, then
passed out of hearing.

"He never will leave his hounds alone," said Lady Knox disapprovingly.

Miss Sally and the Cockatoo moved away in a series of heraldic capers
towards the end of the laurel plantation, and at the same moment I saw
Philippa on her bicycle shoot into view on the drive ahead of us.

"I've seen a fox!" she screamed, white with what I believe to have been
personal terror, though she says it was excitement; "it passed quite
close to me!"

"What way did he go?" bellowed a voice which I recognised as Dr.
Hickey's, somewhere in the deep of the laurels.

"Down the drive!" returned Philippa, with a pea-hen quality in her
tones with which I was quite unacquainted.

An electrifying screech of "Gone away!" was projected from the laurels
by Dr. Hickey.

"Gone away!" chanted Flurry's horn at the top of the covert.

"This is what he calls cubbing!" said Lady Knox, "a mere farce!" but
none the less she loosed her sedate monster into a canter.

Sorcerer got his hind-legs under him, and hardened his crest against
the bit, as we all hustled along the drive after the flying figure of
my wife.  I knew very little about horses, but I realised that even
with the hounds tumbling hysterically out of the covert, and the
Cockatoo kicking the gravel into his face, Sorcerer comported himself
with the manners of the best society.  Up a side road I saw Flurry Knox
opening half of a gate and cramming through it; in a moment we also had
crammed through, and the turf of a pasture field was under our feet.
Dr. Hickey leaned forward and took hold of his horse; I did likewise,
with the trifling difference that my horse took hold of me, and I
steered for Flurry Knox with single-hearted purpose, the hounds,
already a field ahead, being merely an exciting and noisy accompaniment
of this endeavour.  A heavy stone wall was the first occurrence of
note.  Flurry chose a place where the top was loose, and his
clumsy-looking brown mare changed feet on the rattling stones like a
fairy.  Sorcerer came at it, tense and collected as a bow at full
stretch, and sailed steeply into the air; I saw the wall far beneath
me, with an unsuspected ditch on the far side, and I felt my hat
following me at the full stretch of its guard as we swept over it,
then, with a long slant, we descended to earth some sixteen feet from
where we had left it, and I was possessor of the gratifying fact that I
had achieved a good-sized "fly," and had not perceptibly moved in my
saddle.  Subsequent disillusioning experience has taught me that but
few horses jump like Sorcerer, so gallantly, so sympathetically, and
with such supreme mastery of the subject; but none the less the
enthusiasm that he imparted to me has never been extinguished, and that
October morning ride revealed to me the unsuspected intoxication of
fox-hunting.

Behind me I heard the scrabbling of the Cockatoo's little hoofs among
the loose stones, and Lady Knox, galloping on my left, jerked a
maternal chin over her shoulder to mark her daughter's progress.  For
my part, had there been an entire circus behind me, I was far too much
occupied with ramming on my hat and trying to hold Sorcerer, to have
looked round, and all my spare faculties were devoted to steering for
Flurry, who had taken a right-handed turn, and was at that moment
surmounting a bank of uncertain and briary aspect.  I surmounted it
also, with the swiftness and simplicity for which the Quaker's methods
of bank jumping had not prepared me, and two or three fields, traversed
at the same steeplechase pace, brought us to a road and to an abrupt
check.  There, suddenly, were the hounds, scrambling in baffled silence
down into the road from the opposite bank, to look for the line they
had overrun, and there, amazingly, was Philippa, engaged in excited
converse with several men with spades over their shoulders.

"Did ye see the fox, boys?" shouted Flurry, addressing the group.

"We did! we did!" cried my wife and her friends in chorus; "he ran up
the road!"

"We'd be badly off without Mrs. Yeates!" said Flurry, as he whirled his
mare round and clattered up the road with a hustle of hounds after him.

It occurred to me as forcibly as any mere earthly thing can occur to
those who are wrapped in the sublimities of a run, that, for a young
woman who had never before seen a fox out of a cage at the Zoo,
Philippa was taking to hunting very kindly.  Her cheeks were a most
brilliant pink, her blue eyes shone.

"Oh, Sinclair!" she exclaimed, "they say he's going for Aussolas, and
there's a road I can ride all the way!"

"Ye can, Miss!  Sure we'll show you!" chorussed her cortège.

Her foot was on the pedal ready to mount.  Decidedly my wife was in no
need of assistance from me.

Up the road a hound gave a yelp of discovery, and flung himself over a
stile into the fields; the rest of the pack went squealing and jostling
after him, and I followed Flurry over one of those infinitely varied
erections, pleasantly termed "gaps" in Ireland.  On this occasion the
gap was made of three razor-edged slabs of slate leaning against an
iron bar, and Sorcerer conveyed to me his thorough knowledge of the
matter by a lift of his hind-quarters that made me feel as if I were
being skilfully kicked downstairs.  To what extent I looked it, I
cannot say, nor providentially can Philippa, as she had already
started.  I only know that undeserved good luck restored to me my
stirrup before Sorcerer got away with me in the next field.

What followed was, I am told, a very fast fifteen minutes; for me time
was not; the empty fields rushed past uncounted, fences came and went
in a flash, while the wind sang in my ears, and the dazzle of the early
sun was in my eyes.  I saw the hounds occasionally, sometimes pouring
over a green bank, as the charging breaker lifts and flings itself,
sometimes driving across a field, as the white tongues of foam slide
racing over the sand; and always ahead of me was Flurry Knox, going as
a man goes who knows his country, who knows his horse, and whose heart
is wholly and absolutely in the right place.

Do what I would, Sorcerer's implacable stride carried me closer and
closer to the brown mare, till, as I thundered down the slope of a long
field, I was not twenty yards behind Flurry.  Sorcerer had stiffened
his neck to iron, and to slow him down was beyond me; but I fought his
head away to the right, and found myself coming hard and steady at a
stonefaced bank with broken ground in front of it.  Flurry bore away to
the left, shouting something that I did not understand.  That Sorcerer
shortened his stride at the right moment was entirely due to his own
judgment; standing well away from the jump, he rose like a stag out of
the tussocky ground, and as he swung my twelve stone six into the air
the obstacle revealed itself to him and me as consisting not of one
bank but of two, and between the two lay a deep grassy lane, half
choked with furze.  I have often been asked to state the width of the
bohereen, and can only reply that in my opinion it was at least
eighteen feet; Flurry Knox and Dr. Hickey, who did not jump it, say
that it is not more than five.  What Sorcerer did with it I cannot say;
the sensation was of a towering flight with a kick back in it, a
biggish drop, and a landing on cee-springs, still on the downhill
grade.  That was how one of the best horses in Ireland took one of
Ireland's most ignorant riders over a very nasty place.

A sombre line of fir-wood lay ahead, rimmed with a grey wall, and in
another couple of minutes we had pulled up on the Aussolas road, and
were watching the hounds struggling over the wall into Aussolas demesne.

"No hurry now," said Flurry, turning in his saddle to watch the
Cockatoo jump into the road, "he's to ground in the big earth inside.
Well, Major, it's well for you that's a big-jumped horse.  I thought
you were a dead man a while ago when you faced him at the bohereen!"

I was disclaiming intention in the matter when Lady Knox and the others
joined us.

"I thought you told me your wife was no sportswoman," she said to me,
critically scanning Sorcerer's legs for cuts the while, "but when I saw
her a minute ago she had abandoned her bicycle and was running across
country like----"

"Look at her now!" interrupted Miss Sally.  "Oh!--oh!"  In the interval
between these exclamations my incredulous eyes beheld my wife in
mid-air, hand in hand with a couple of stalwart country boys, with whom
she was leaping in unison from the top of a bank on to the road.

Every one, even the saturnine Dr. Hickey, began to laugh; I rode back
to Philippa, who was exchanging compliments and congratulations with
her escort.

"Oh, Sinclair!" she cried, "wasn't it splendid?  I saw you jumping, and
everything!  Where are they going now?"

"My dear girl," I said, with marital disapproval, "you're killing
yourself.  Where's your bicycle?"

"Oh, it's punctured in a sort of lane, back there.  It's all right; and
then they"--she breathlessly waved her hand at her attendants--"they
showed me the way."

"Begor! you proved very good, Miss!" said a grinning cavalier.

"Faith she did!" said another, polishing his shining brow with his
white flannel coat-sleeve, "she lepped like a haarse!"

"And may I ask how you propose to go home?" said I.

"I don't know and I don't care!  I'm not going home!"  She cast an
entirely disobedient eye at me.  "And your eye-glass is hanging down
your back and your tie is bulging out over your waistcoat!"

The little group of riders had begun to move away.

"We're going on into Aussolas," called out Flurry; "come on, and make
my grandmother give you some breakfast, Mrs. Yeates; she always has it
at eight o'clock."

The front gates were close at hand, and we turned in under the tall
beech-trees, with the unswept leaves rustling round the horses' feet,
and the lovely blue of the October morning sky filling the spaces
between smooth grey branches and golden leaves.  The woods rang with
the voices of the hounds, enjoying an untrammelled rabbit hunt, while
the Master and the Whip, both on foot, strolled along unconcernedly
with their bridles over their arms, making themselves agreeable to my
wife, an occasional touch of Flurry's horn, or a crack of Dr. Rickey's
whip, just indicating to the pack that the authorities still took a
friendly interest in their doings.

Down a grassy glade in the wood a party of old Mrs. Knox's young horses
suddenly swept into view, headed by an old mare, who, with her tail
over her back, stampeded ponderously past our cavalcade, shaking and
swinging her handsome old head, while her youthful friends bucked and
kicked and snapped at each other round her with the ferocious humour of
their kind.

"Here, Jerome, take the horn," said Flurry to Dr. Hickey; "I'm going to
see Mrs. Yeates up to the house, the way these tomfools won't gallop on
top of her."

From this point it seems to me that Philippa's adventures are more
worthy of record than mine, and as she has favoured me with a full
account of them, I venture to think my version may be relied on.

Mrs. Knox was already at breakfast when Philippa was led, quaking, into
her formidable presence.  My wife's acquaintance with Mrs. Knox was, so
far, limited to a state visit on either side, and she found but little
comfort in Flurry's assurances that his grandmother wouldn't mind if he
brought all the hounds in to breakfast, coupled with the statement that
she would put her eyes on sticks for the Major.

Whatever the truth of this may have been, Mrs. Knox received her guest
with an equanimity quite unshaken by the fact that her boots were in
the fender instead of on her feet, and that a couple of shawls of
varying dimensions and degrees of age did not conceal the inner
presence of a magenta flannel dressing-jacket.  She installed Philippa
at the table and plied her with food, oblivious as to whether the
needful implements with which to eat it were forthcoming or no.  She
told Flurry where a vixen had reared her family, and she watched him
ride away, with some biting comments on his mare's hocks screamed after
him from the window.

The dining-room at Aussolas Castle is one of the many rooms in Ireland
in which Cromwell is said to have stabled his horse (and probably no
one would have objected less than Mrs. Knox had she been consulted in
the matter).  Philippa questions if the room had ever been tidied up
since, and she endorses Flurry's observation that "there wasn't a day
in the year you wouldn't get feeding for a hen and chickens on the
floor."  Opposite to Philippa, on a Louis Quinze chair, sat Mrs. Knox's
woolly dog, its suspicious little eyes peering at her out of their
setting of pink lids and dirty white wool.  A couple of young horses
outside the windows tore at the matted creepers on the walls, or thrust
faces that were half-shy, half-impudent, into the room.  Portly pigeons
waddled to and fro on the broad window-sill, sometimes flying in to
perch on the picture-frames, while they kept up incessantly a hoarse
and pompous cooing.

Animals and children are, as a rule, alike destructive to conversation;
but Mrs. Knox, when she chose, _bien entendu_, could have made herself
agreeable in a Noah's ark, and Philippa has a gift of sympathetic
attention that personal experience has taught me to regard with
distrust as well as respect, while it has often made me realise the
worldly wisdom of Kingsley's injunction:

  "Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever."


Family prayers, declaimed by Mrs. Knox with alarming austerity,
followed close on breakfast, Philippa and a vinegar-faced henchwoman
forming the family.  The prayers were long, and through the open window
as they progressed came distantly a whoop or two; the declamatory tones
staggered a little, and then continued at a distinctly higher rate of
speed.

"Ma'am!  Ma'am!" whispered a small voice at the window.

Mrs. Knox made a repressive gesture and held on her way.  A sudden
outcry of hounds followed, and the owner of the whisper, a small boy
with a face freckled like a turkey's egg, darted from the window and
dragged a donkey and bath-chair into view.  Philippa admits to having
lost the thread of the discourse, but she thinks that the "Amen" that
immediately ensued can hardly have come in its usual place.  Mrs. Knox
shut the book abruptly, scrambled up from her knees, and said, "They've
found!"

In a surprisingly short space of time she had added to her attire her
boots, a fur cape, and a garden hat, and was in the bath-chair, the
small boy stimulating the donkey with the success peculiar to his
class, while Philippa hung on behind.

The woods of Aussolas are hilly and extensive, and on that particular
morning it seemed that they held as many foxes as hounds.  In vain was
the horn blown, and the whips cracked, small rejoicing parties of
hounds, each with a fox of its own, scoured to and fro: every labourer
in the vicinity had left his work, and was sedulously heading every fox
with yells that would have befitted a tiger hunt, and sticks and stones
when occasion served.

"Will I pull out as far as the big rosy-dandhrum, ma'am?" inquired the
small boy; "I seen three of the dogs go in it, and they yowling."

"You will," said Mrs. Knox, thumping the donkey on the back with her
umbrella; "here!  Jeremiah Regan!  Come down out of that with that
pitchfork!  Do you want to kill the fox, you fool?"

"I do not, your honour, ma'am," responded Jeremiah Regan, a tall young
countryman, emerging from a bramble brake.

"Did you see him?" said Mrs. Knox eagerly.

"I seen himself and his ten pups drinking below at the lake ere
yestherday, your honour, ma'am, and he as big as a chestnut horse!"
said Jeremiah.

"Faugh!  Yesterday!" snorted Mrs. Knox; "go on to the rhododendrons,
Johnny!"

The party, reinforced by Jeremiah and the pitchfork, progressed at a
high rate of speed along the shrubbery path, encountering _en route_
Lady Knox, stooping on to her horse's neck under the sweeping branches
of the laurels.

"Your horse is too high for my coverts, Lady Knox," said the Lady of
the Manor, with a malicious eye at Lady Knox's flushed face and dinged
hat; "I'm afraid you will be left behind like Absalom when the hounds
go away!"

"As they never do anything here but hunt rabbits," retorted her
ladyship, "I don't think that's likely."

Mrs. Knox gave her donkey another whack, and passed on.

"Rabbits, my dear!" she said scornfully to Philippa.  "That's all she
knows about it.  I declare it disgusts me to see a woman of that age
making such a Judy of herself!  Rabbits indeed!"

Down in the thicket of rhododendron everything was very quiet for a
time.  Philippa strained her eyes in vain to see any of the riders; the
horn blowing and the whip cracking passed on almost out of hearing.
Once or twice a hound worked through the rhododendrons, glanced at the
party, and hurried on, immersed in business.  All at once Johnny, the
donkey-boy, whispered excitedly:

"Look at he!  Look at he!" and pointed to a boulder of grey rock that
stood out among the dark evergreens.  A big yellow cub was crouching on
it; he instantly slid into the shelter of the bushes, and the
irrepressible Jeremiah, uttering a rending shriek, plunged into the
thicket after him.  Two or three hounds came rushing at the sound, and
after this Philippa says she finds some difficulty in recalling the
proper order of events; chiefly, she confesses, because of the wholly
ridiculous tears of excitement that blurred her eyes.

"We ran," she said, "we simply tore, and the donkey galloped, and as
for that old Mrs. Knox, she was giving cracked screams to the hounds
all the time, and they were screaming too; and then somehow we were all
out on the road!"

What seems to have occurred was that three couple of hounds, Jeremiah
Regan, and Mrs. Knox's equipage, amongst them somehow hustled the cub
out of Aussolas demesne and up on to a hill on the farther side of the
road.  Jeremiah was sent back by his mistress to fetch Flurry, and the
rest of the party pursued a thrilling course along the road, parallel
with that of the hounds, who were hunting slowly through the gorse on
the hillside.

"Upon my honour and word, Mrs. Yeates, my dear, we have the hunt to
ourselves!" said Mrs. Knox to the panting Philippa, as they pounded
along the road.  "Johnny, d'ye see the fox?"

"I do, ma'am!" shrieked Johnny, who possessed the usual field-glass
vision bestowed upon his kind.  "Look at him over-right us on the hill
above!  Hi!  The spotty dog have him!  No, he's gone from him!  _Gwan
out o' that_!"  This to the donkey, with blows that sounded like the
beating of carpets, and produced rather more dust.

They had left Aussolas some half a mile behind, when, from a strip of
wood on their right, the fox suddenly slipped over the bank on to the
road just ahead of them, ran up it for a few yards and whisked in at a
small entrance gate, with the three couple of hounds yelling on a
red-hot scent, not thirty yards behind.  The bath-chair party whirled
in at their heels, Philippa and the donkey considerably blown, Johnny
scarlet through his freckles, but as fresh as paint, the old lady blind
and deaf to all things save the chase.  The hounds went raging through
the shrubs beside the drive, and away down a grassy slope towards a
shallow glen, in the bottom of which ran a little stream, and after
them over the grass bumped the bath-chair.  At the stream they turned
sharply and ran up the glen towards the avenue, which crossed it by
means of a rough stone viaduct.

"'Pon me conscience, he's into the old culvert!" exclaimed Mrs. Knox;
"there was one of my hounds choked there once, long ago!  Beat on the
donkey, Johnny!"

At this juncture Philippa's narrative again becomes incoherent, not to
say breathless.  She is, however, positive that it was somewhere about
here that the upset of the bath-chair occurred, but she cannot be clear
as to whether she picked up the donkey or Mrs. Knox, or whether she
herself was picked up by Johnny while Mrs. Knox picked up the donkey.
From my knowledge of Mrs. Knox I should say she picked up herself and
no one else.  At all events, the next salient point is the palpitating
moment when Mrs. Knox, Johnny, and Philippa successively applying an
eye to the opening of the culvert by which the stream trickled under
the viaduct, while five dripping hounds bayed and leaped around them,
discovered by more senses than that of sight that the fox was in it,
and furthermore that one of the hounds was in it too.

"There's a sthrong grating before him at the far end," said Johnny, his
head in at the mouth of the hole, his voice sounding as if he were
talking into a jug, "the two of them's fighting in it; they'll be
choked surely!"

"Then don't stand gabbling there, you little fool, but get in and pull
the hound out!" exclaimed Mrs. Knox, who was balancing herself on a
stone in the stream.

"I'd be in dread, ma'am," whined Johnny.

"Balderdash!" said the implacable Mrs. Knox.  "In with you!"

I understand that Philippa assisted Johnny into the culvert, and
presume that it was in so doing that she acquired the two Robinson
Crusoe bare footprints which decorated her jacket when I next met her.

"Have you got hold of him yet, Johnny?" cried Mrs. Knox up the culvert.

"I have, ma'am, by the tail," responded Johnny's voice, sepulchral in
the depths.

"Can you stir him, Johnny?"

"I cannot, ma'am, and the wather is rising in it."

"Well, please God, they'll not open the mill dam!" remarked Mrs. Knox
philosophically to Philippa, as she caught hold of Johnny's dirty
ankles.  "Hold on to the tail, Johnny!"

She hauled, with, as might be expected, no appreciable result.  "Run,
my dear, and look for somebody, and we'll have that fox yet!"

Philippa ran, whither she knew not, pursued by fearful visions of
bursting mill-dams, and maddened foxes at bay.  As she sped up the
avenue she heard voices, robust male voices, in a shrubbery, and made
for them.  Advancing along an embowered walk towards her was what she
took for one wild instant to be a funeral; a second glance showed her
that it was a party of clergymen of all ages, walking by twos and
threes in the dappled shade of the over-arching trees.  Obviously she
had intruded her sacrilegious presence into a Clerical Meeting.  She
acknowledges that at this awe-inspiring spectacle she faltered, but the
thought of Johnny, the hound, and the fox, suffocating, possibly
drowning together in the culvert, nerved her.  She does not remember
what she said or how she said it, but I fancy she must have conveyed to
them the impression that old Mrs. Knox was being drowned, as she
immediately found herself heading a charge of the Irish Church towards
the scene of disaster.

Fate has not always used me well, but on this occasion it was
mercifully decreed that I and the other members of the hunt should be
privileged to arrive in time to see my wife and her rescue party
precipitating themselves down the glen.

"Holy Biddy!" ejaculated Flurry, "is she running a paper-chase with all
the parsons?  But look!  For pity's sake will you look at my
grandmother and my Uncle Eustace?"

Mrs. Knox and her sworn enemy the old clergyman, whom I had met at
dinner the night before, were standing, apparently in the stream,
tugging at two bare legs that projected from a hole in the viaduct, and
arguing at the top of their voices.  The bath-chair lay on its side
with the donkey grazing beside it, on the bank a stout Archdeacon was
tendering advice, and the hounds danced and howled round the entire
group.

"I tell you, Eliza, you had better let the Archdeacon try," thundered
Mr. Hamilton.

"Then I tell you I will not!" vociferated Mrs. Knox, with a tug at the
end of the sentence that elicited a subterranean lament from Johnny.
"Now who was right about the second grating?  I told you so twenty
years ago!"

Exactly as Philippa and her rescue party arrived, the efforts of Mrs.
Knox and her brother-in-law triumphed.  The struggling, sopping form of
Johnny was slowly drawn from the hole, drenched, speechless, but
clinging to the stern of a hound, who, in its turn, had its jaws fast
in the hind-quarters of a limp, yellow cub.

"Oh, it's dead!" wailed Philippa, "I _did_ think I should have been in
time to save it!"

"Well, if that doesn't beat all!" said Dr. Hickey.



VII

A MISDEAL

The wagonette slewed and slackened mysteriously on the top of the long
hill above Drumcurran.  So many remarkable things had happened since we
had entrusted ourselves to the guidance of Mr. Bernard Shute that I
rose in my place and possessed myself of the brake, and in so doing saw
the horses with their heads hard in against their chests, and their
quarters jammed crookedly against the splashboard, being apparently
tied into knots by some inexplicable power.

"Some one's pulling the reins out of my hand!" exclaimed Mr. Shute.

The horses and pole were by this time making an acute angle with the
wagonette, and the groom plunged from the box to their heads.  Miss
Sally Knox, who was sitting beside me, looked over the edge.

"Put on the brake!  the reins are twisted round the axle!" she cried,
and fell into a fit of laughter.

We all--that is to say, Philippa, Miss Shute, Miss Knox, and I--got out
as speedily as might be; but, I think, without panic; Mr. Shute alone
stuck to the ship, with the horses struggling and rearing below him.
The groom and I contrived to back them, and by so doing caused the
reins to unwind themselves from the axle.

"It was my fault," said Mr. Shute, hauling them in as fast as we could
give them to him; "I broke the reins yesterday, and these are the
phaeton ones, and about six fathoms long at that, and I forgot and let
the slack go overboard.  It's all right, I won't do it again."

With this reassurance we confided ourselves once more to the wagonette.

As we neared the town of Drumcurran the fact that we were on our way to
a horse fair became alarmingly apparent.  It is impossible to imagine
how we pursued an uninjured course through the companies of horsemen,
the crowded carts, the squealing colts, the irresponsible led horses,
and, most immutable of all obstacles, the groups of countrywomen, with
the hoods of their heavy blue cloaks over their heads.  They looked
like nuns of some obscure order; they were deaf and blind as ramparts
of sandbags; nothing less callous to human life than a Parisian
cabdriver could have burst a way through them.  Many times during that
drive I had cause to be thankful for the sterling qualities of Mr.
Shute's brake; with its aid he dragged his over-fed bays into a crawl
that finally, and not without injury to the varnish, took the wagonette
to the Royal Hotel.  Every available stall in the yard was by that time
filled, and it was only by virtue of the fact that the kitchenmaid was
nearly related to my cook that the indignant groom was permitted to
stable the bays in a den known as the calf-house.

That I should have lent myself to such an expedition was wholly due to
my wife.  Since Philippa had taken up her residence in Ireland she had
discovered a taste for horses that was not to be extinguished, even by
an occasional afternoon on the Quaker, whose paces had become harder
than rock in his many journeys to Petty Sessions; she had also
discovered the Shutes, newcomers on the outer edge of our vast visiting
district, and between them this party to Drumcurran Horse Fair had been
devised.  Philippa proposed to buy herself a hunter.  Bernard Shute
wished to do the same, possibly two hunters, money being no difficulty
with this fortunate young man.  Miss Sally Knox was of the company, and
I also had been kindly invited, as to a missionary meeting, to come,
and bring my cheque-book.  The only saving clause in the affair was the
fact that Mr. Flurry Knox was to meet us at the scene of action.

The fair was held in a couple of large fields outside the town, and on
the farther bank of the Curranhilty River.  Across a wide and
glittering ford, horses of all sizes and sorts were splashing, and a
long row of stepping-stones was hopped, and staggered, and scrambled
over by a ceaseless variety of foot-passengers.  A man with a cart
plied as a ferry boat, doing a heavy trade among the applewomen and
vendors of "crubeens," _alias_ pigs' feet, a grisly delicacy peculiar
to Irish open-air holiday-making, and the July sun blazed on a scene
that even Miss Cecilia Shute found to be almost repayment enough for
the alarms of the drive.

"As a rule, I am so bored by driving that I find it reviving to be
frightened," she said to me, as we climbed to safety on a heathery
ridge above the fields dedicated to galloping the horses; "but when my
brother scraped all those people off one side of that car, and ran the
pole into the cart of lemonade-bottles, I began to wish for courage to
tell him I was going to get out and walk home."

"Well, if you only knew it," said Bernard, who was spreading rugs over
the low furze bushes in the touching belief that the prickles would not
come through, "the time you came nearest to walking home was when the
lash of the whip got twisted round Nancy's tail.  Miss Knox, you're an
authority on these things--don't you think it would be a good scheme to
have a light anchor in the trap, and when the horses began to play the
fool, you'd heave the anchor over the fence and bring them up all
standing?"

"They wouldn't stand very long," remarked Miss Sally.

"Oh, that's all right," returned the inventor; "I'd have a dodge to
cast them loose, with the pole and the splinter-bar."

"You'd never see them again," responded Miss Knox demurely, "if you
thought that mattered."

"It would be the brightest feature of the case," said Miss Shute.

She was surveying Miss Sally through her pince-nez as she spoke, and
was, I have reason to believe, deciding that by the end of the day her
brother would be well on in the first stages of his fifteenth love
affair.

It has possibly been suspected that Mr. Bernard Shute was a sailor, had
been a sailor rather, until within the last year, when he had tumbled
into a fortune and a property, and out of the navy, in the shortest
time on record.  His enthusiasm for horses had been nourished by the
hirelings of Malta, and other resorts of her Majesty's ships, and his
knowledge of them was, so far, bounded by the fact that it was more
usual to come off over their heads than their tails.  For the rest, he
was a clean-shaved and personable youth, with a laugh which I may,
without offensive intention, define as possessing a what-cheeriness
special to his profession, and a habit, engendered no doubt by long
sojourns at the Antipodes, of getting his clothes in large hideous
consignments from a naval outfitter.

It was eleven o'clock, and the fair was in full swing.  Its vortex was
in the centre of the field below us, where a low bank of sods and earth
had been erected as a trial jump, with a yelling crowd of men and boys
at either end, acting instead of the usual wings to prevent a swerve.
Strings of reluctant horses were scourged over the bank by dozens of
willing hands, while exhortation, cheers, and criticism were freely
showered upon each performance.

"Give the knees to the saddle, boy, and leave the heels slack."
"That's a nice horse.  He'd keep a jock on his back where another'd
throw him!"  "Well jumped, begor!  She fled that fairly!" as an
ungainly three-year-old flounced over the bank without putting a hoof
on it.  Then her owner, unloosing his pride in simile after the manner
of his race,

"Ah ha! when she give a lep, man, she's that free, she's like a hare
for it!"

A giggling group of country girls elbowed their way past us out of the
crowd of spectators, one of the number inciting her fellows to hurry on
to the other field "until they'd see the lads galloping the horses," to
which another responding that she'd "be skinned alive for the horses,"
the party sped on their way.  We--_i.e._ my wife, Miss Knox, Bernard
Shute, and myself--followed in their wake, a matter by no means as easy
as it looked.  Miss Shute had exhibited her wonted intelligence by
remaining on the hilltop with the "Spectator"; she had not reached the
happy point of possessing a mind ten years older than her age, and a
face ten years younger, without also developing the gift of scenting
boredom from afar.  We squeezed past the noses and heels of fidgety
horses, and circumnavigated their attendant groups of critics, while
half-trained brutes in snaffles bolted to nowhere and back again, and
whinnying foals ran to and fro in search of their mothers.

A moderate bank divided the upper from the lower fields, and as every
feasible spot in it was commanded by a refusing horse, the choice of a
place and moment for crossing it required judgment.  I got Philippa
across it in safety; Miss Knox, though as capable as any young woman in
Ireland of getting over a bank, either on horseback or on her own legs,
had to submit to the assistance of Mr. Shute, and the laws of dynamics
decreed that a force sufficient to raise a bower anchor should hoist
her seven stone odd to the top of the bank with such speed that she
landed half on her knees and half in the arms of her pioneer.  A group
of portentously quiet men stood near, their eyes on the ground, their
hands in their pockets; they were all dressed so much alike that I did
not at first notice that Flurry Knox was among them; when I did, I
perceived that his eyes, instead of being on the ground, were surveying
Mr. Shute with that measure of disapproval that he habitually bestowed
upon strange men.

"You're later than I thought you'd be," he said.  "I have a horse
half-bought for Mrs. Yeates.  It's that old mare of Bobby Bennett's;
she makes a little noise, but she's a good mare, and you couldn't throw
her down if you tried.  Bobby wants thirty pounds for her, but I think
you might get her for less.  She's in the hotel stables, and you can
see her when you go to lunch."

We moved on towards the rushy bank of the river, and Philippa and Sally
Knox seated themselves on a low rock, looking, in their white frocks,
as incongruous in that dingy preoccupied assemblage as the dreamy
meadow-sweet and purple spires of loosestrife that thronged the river
banks.  Bernard Shute had been lost in the shifting maze of men and
horses, who were, for the most part, galloping with the blind fury of
charging bulls; but presently, among a party who seemed to be riding
the finish of a race, we descried our friend, and a second or two later
he hauled a brown mare to a standstill in front of us.

"The fellow's asking forty-five pounds for her," he said to Miss Sally;
"she's a nailer to gallop.  I don't think it's too much?"

"Her grandsire was the Mountain Hare," said the owner of the mare,
hurrying up to continue her family history, "and he was the grandest
horse in the four baronies.  He was forty-two years of age when he
died, and they waked him the same as ye'd wake a Christian.  They had
whisky and porther--and bread--and a piper in it."

"Thim Mountain Hare colts is no great things," interrupted Mr. Shute's
groom contemptuously.  "I seen a colt once that was one of his stock,
and if there was forty men and their wives, and they after him with
sticks, he wouldn't lep a sod of turf."

"Lep, is it!" ejaculated the owner in a voice shrill with outrage.
"You may lead that mare out through the counthry, and there isn't a
fence in it that she wouldn't go up to it as indepindent as if she was
going to her bed, and your honour's ladyship knows that dam well, Miss
Knox."

"You want too much money for her, McCarthy," returned Miss Sally, with
her little air of preternatural wisdom.

"God pardon you, Miss Knox!  Sure a lady like you knows well that
forty-five pounds is no money for that mare.  Forty-five pounds!"  He
laughed.  "It'd be as good for me to make her a present to the
gentleman all out as take three farthings less for her!  She's too
grand entirely for a poor farmer like me, and if it wasn't for the long
weak family I have, I wouldn't part with her under twice the money."

"Three fine lumps of daughters in America paying his rent for him,"
commented Flurry in the background.  "That's the long weak family!"

Bernard dismounted and slapped the mare's ribs approvingly.

"I haven't had such a gallop since I was at Rio," he said.  "What do
you think of her, Miss Knox?"  Then, without waiting for an answer, "I
like her.  I think I may as well give him the forty-five and have done
with it!"

At these ingenuous words I saw a spasm of anguish cross the countenance
of McCarthy, easily interpreted as the first pang of a life-long regret
that he had not asked twice the money.  Flurry Knox put up an eyebrow
and winked at me; Mr. Shute's groom turned away for very shame.  Sally
Knox laughed with the deplorable levity of nineteen.

Thus, with a brevity absolutely scandalous in the eyes of all
beholders, the bargain was concluded.

Flurry strolled up to Philippa, observing an elaborate remoteness from
Miss Sally and Mr. Shute.

"I believe I'm selling a horse here myself to-day," he said; "would you
like to have a look at him, Mrs. Yeates?"

"Oh, are you selling, Knox?" struck in Bernard, to whose brain the
glory of buying a horse had obviously mounted like new wine; "I want
another, and I know yours are the right sort."

"Well, as you seem fond of galloping," said Flurry sardonically, "this
one might suit you."

"You don't mean the Moonlighter?" said Miss Knox, looking fixedly at
him.

"Supposing I did, have you anything to say against him?" replied Flurry.

Decidedly he was in a very bad temper.  Miss Sally shrugged her
shoulders, and gave a little shred of a laugh, but said no more.

In a comparatively secluded corner of the field we came upon
Moonlighter, sidling and fussing, with flickering ears, his tail
tightly tucked in and his strong back humped in a manner that boded
little good.  Even to my untutored eye, he appeared to be an uncommonly
good-looking animal, a well-bred grey, with shoulders that raked back
as far as the eye could wish, the true Irish jumping hindquarters, and
a showy head and neck; it was obvious that nothing except Michael
Hallahane's adroit chucks at his bridle kept him from displaying his
jumping powers free of charge.  Bernard stared at him in silence; not
the pregnant and intimidating silence of the connoisseur, but the
tongue-tied muteness of helpless ignorance.  His eye for horses had
most probably been formed on circus posters, and the advertisements of
a well-known embrocation, and Moonlighter approximated in colour and
conduct to these models.

"I can see he's a ripping fine horse," he said at length; "I think I
should like to try him."

Miss Knox changed countenance perceptibly, and gave a perturbed glance
at Flurry.  Flurry remained impenetrably unamiable.

"I don't pretend to be a judge of horses," went on Mr. Shute.  "I dare
say I needn't tell you that!" with a very engaging smile at Miss Sally;
"but I like this one awfully."

As even Philippa said afterwards, she would not have given herself away
like that over buying a reel of cotton.

"Are you quite sure that he's really the sort of horse you want?" said
Miss Knox, with rather more colour in her face than usual; "he's only
four years old, and he's hardly a finished hunter."

The object of her philanthropy looked rather puzzled.  "What! can't he
jump?" he said.

"Is it jump?" exclaimed Michael Hallahane, unable any longer to contain
himself; "is it the horse that jumped five foot of a clothes line in
Heffernan's yard, and not a one on his back but himself, and didn't
leave so much as the thrack of his hoof on the quilt that was hanging
on it!"

"That's about good enough," said Mr. Shute, with his large friendly
laugh; "what's your price, Knox?  I must have the horse that jumped the
quilt!  I'd like to try him, if you don't mind.  There are some
jolly-looking banks over there."

"My price is a hundred sovereigns," said Flurry; "you can try him if
you like."

"Oh, don't!" cried Sally impulsively; but Bernard's foot was already in
the stirrup.  "I call it disgraceful!"  I heard her say in a low voice
to her kinsman--"you know he can't ride."

The kinsman permitted himself a malign smile.  "That's his look-out,"
he said.

Perhaps the unexpected docility with which Moonlighter allowed himself
to be manoeuvred through the crowd was due to Bernard's thirteen stone;
at all events, his progress through a gate into the next field was
unexceptionable.  Bernard, however, had no idea of encouraging this
tranquillity.  He had come out to gallop, and without further ceremony
he drove his heels into Moonlighter's sides, and took the consequences
in the shape of a very fine and able buck.  How he remained within even
visiting distance of the saddle it is impossible to explain; perhaps
his early experience in the rigging stood him in good stead in the
matter of hanging on by his hands; but, however preserved, he did
remain, and went away down the field at what he himself subsequently
described as "the rate of knots."

Flurry flung away his cigarette and ran to a point of better
observation.  We all ran, including Michael Hallahane and various
onlookers, and were in time to see Mr. Shute charging the least
advantageous spot in a hollow-faced furzy bank.  Nothing but the grey
horse's extreme activity got the pair safely over; he jumped it on a
slant, changed feet in the heart of a furze-bush, and was lost to view.
In what relative positions Bernard and his steed alighted was to us a
matter of conjecture; when we caught sight of them again, Moonlighter
was running away, with his rider still on his back, while the slope of
the ground lent wings to his flight.

"That young gentleman will be apt to be killed," said Michael Hallahane
with composure, not to say enjoyment.

"He'll be into the long bog with him pretty soon," said Flurry, his
keen eye tracking the fugitive.

"Oh!--I thought he was off that time!" exclaimed Miss Sally, with a
gasp in which consternation and amusement were blended.  "There!  He
_is_ into the bog!"

It did not take us long to arrive at the scene of disaster, to which,
as to a dog-fight, other foot-runners were already hurrying, and on our
arrival we found things looking remarkably unpleasant for Mr. Shute and
Moonlighter.  The latter was sunk to his withers in the sheet of black
slime into which he had stampeded; the former, submerged to the waist
three yards farther away in the bog, was trying to drag himself towards
firm ground by the aid of tussocks of wiry grass.

"Hit him!" shouted Flurry.  "Hit him! he'll sink if he stops there!"

Mr. Shute turned on his adviser a face streaming with black mud, out of
which his brown eyes and white teeth gleamed with undaunted
cheerfulness.

"All jolly fine," he called back; "if I let go this grass I'll sink
too!"

A shout of laughter from the male portion of the spectators
sympathetically greeted this announcement, and a dozen equally futile
methods of escape were suggested.  Among those who had joined us was,
fortunately, one of the many boys who pervaded the fair selling
halters, and, by means of several of these knotted together, a line of
communication was established.  Moonlighter, who had fallen into the
state of inane stupor in which horses in his plight so often indulge,
was roused to activity by showers of stones and imprecations but
faintly chastened by the presence of ladies.  Bernard, hanging on to
his tail, belaboured him with a cane, and, finally, the reins proving
good, the task of towing the victims ashore was achieved.

"He's mine, Knox, you know," were Mr. Shute's first words as he
scrambled to his feet; "he's the best horse I ever got across--worth
twice the money!"

"Faith, he's aisy plased!" remarked a bystander.

"Oh, do go and borrow some dry clothes," interposed Philippa
practically; "surely there must be some one----"

"There's a shop in the town where he can strip a peg for 13_s._ 9_d._,"
said Flurry grimly; "I wouldn't care myself about the clothes you'd
borrow here!"

The morning sun shone jovially upon Moonlighter and his rider, caking
momently the black bog stuff with which both were coated, and as the
group disintegrated, and we turned to go back, every man present was
pleasurably aware that the buttons of Mr. Shute's riding breeches had
burst at the knee, causing a large triangular hiatus above his gaiter.

"Well," said Flurry conclusively to me as we retraced our steps, "I
always thought the fellow was a fool, but I never thought he was such a
damned fool."

It seemed an interminable time since breakfast when our party, somewhat
shattered by the stirring events of the morning, found itself gathered
in an upstairs room at the Royal Hotel, waiting for a meal that had
been ordained some two hours before.  The air was charged with the
mingled odours of boiling cabbage and frying mutton; we affected to
speak of them with disgust, but our souls yearned to them.  Female
ministrants, with rustling skirts and pounding feet, raced along the
passages with trays that were never for us, and opening doors released
roaring gusts of conversation, blended with the clatter of knives and
forks, and still we starved.  Even the ginger-coloured check suit,
lately labelled "The Sandringham.  Wonderful value, 16_s._ 9_d._" in
the window of Drumcurran's leading mart, and now displayed upon Mr.
Shute's all too lengthy limbs, had lost its power to charm.

"Oh, don't tear that bell quite out by the roots, Bernard," said his
sister, from the heart of a lamentable yawn.  "I dare say it only
amuses them when we ring, but it may remind them that we are still
alive.  Major Yeates, do you or do you not regret the pigs' feet?"

"More than I can express," I said, turning from the window, where I had
been looking down at the endless succession of horses' backs and men's
hats, moving in two opposing currents in the street below.  "I dare say
if we talk about them for a little we shall feel ill, and that will be
better than nothing."

At this juncture, however, a heavy-laden tray thumped against the door,
and our repast was borne into the room by a hot young woman in creaking
boots, who hoarsely explained that what kept her was waiting on the
potatoes, and that the ould pan that was in it was playing Puck with
the beefsteaks.

"Well," said Miss Shute, as she began to try conclusions between a
blunt knife and a bullet-proof mutton chop, "I have never lived in the
country before, but I have always been given to understand that the
village inn was one of its chief attractions."  She delicately moved
the potato dish so as to cover the traces of a bygone egg, and her
glance lingered on the flies that dragged their way across a melting
mound of salt butter.  "I like local colour, but I don't care about it
on the tablecloth."

"Well, I'm feeling quite anxious about Irish country hotels now," said
Bernard; "they're getting so civilised and respectable.  After all,
when you go back to England no one cares a pin to hear that you've been
done up to the knocker.  That don't amuse them a bit.  But all my
friends are as pleased as anything when I tell them of the pothouse
where I slept in my clothes rather than face the sheets, or how, when I
complained to the landlady next day, she said, 'Cock ye up!  Wasn't it
his Reverence the Dean of Kilcoe had them last!'"

We smiled wanly; what I chiefly felt was respect for any hungry man who
could jest in presence of such a meal.

"All this time my hunter hasn't been bought," said Philippa presently,
leaning back in her chair, and abandoning the unequal contest with her
beefsteak.  "Who is Bobby Bennett?  Will his horse carry a lady?"

Sally Knox looked at me and began to laugh.

"You should ask Major Yeates about Bobby Bennett," she said.

Confound Miss Sally!  It had never seemed worth while to tell Philippa
all that story about my doing up Miss Bobby Bennett's hair, and I sank
my face in my tumbler of stagnant whisky-and-soda to conceal the colour
that suddenly adorned it.  Any intelligent man will understand that it
was a situation calculated to amuse the ungodly, but without any real
fun in it.  I explained Miss Bennett as briefly as possible, and at all
the more critical points Miss Sally's hazel-green eyes roamed slowly
and mercilessly towards me.

"You haven't told Mrs. Yeates that she's one of the greatest
horse-copers in the country," she said, when I had got through somehow;
"she can sell you a very good horse sometimes, and a very bad one too,
if she gets the chance."

"No one will ever explain to me," said Miss Shute, scanning us all with
her dark, half-amused, and wholly sophisticated eyes, "why horse-coping
is more respectable than cheating at cards.  I rather respect people
who are able to cheat at cards; if every one did, it would make whist
so much more cheerful; but there is no forgiveness for dealing yourself
the right card, and there is no condemnation for dealing your neighbour
a very wrong horse!"

"Your neighbour is supposed to be able to take care of himself," said
Bernard.

"Well, why doesn't that apply to card-players?" returned his sister;
"are they all in a state of helpless innocence?"

"I'm helplessly innocent," announced Philippa, "so I hope Miss Bennett
won't deal me a wrong horse."

"Oh, her mare is one of the right ones," said Miss Sally; "she's a
lovely jumper, and her manners are the very best."

The door opened, and Flurry Knox put in his head.  "Bobby Bennett's
downstairs," he said to me mysteriously.

I got up, not without consciousness of Miss Sally's eye, and prepared
to follow him.  "You'd better come too, Mrs. Yeates, to keep an eye on
him.  Don't let him give her more than thirty, and if he gives that she
should return him two sovereigns."  This last injunction was bestowed
in a whisper as we descended the stairs.

Miss Bennett was in the crowded yard of the hotel, looking handsome and
overdressed, and she greeted me with just that touch of Auld Lang Syne
in her manner that I could best have dispensed with.  I turned to the
business in hand without delay.  The brown mare was led forth from the
stable and paraded for our benefit; she was one of those inconspicuous,
meritorious animals about whom there seems nothing particular to say,
and I felt her legs and looked hard at her hocks, and was not much the
wiser.

"It's no use my saying she doesn't make a noise," said Miss Bobby,
"because every one in the country will tell you she does.  You can have
a vet. if you like, and that's the only fault he can find with her.
But if Mrs. Yeates hasn't hunted before now, I'll guarantee Cruiskeen
as just the thing for her.  She's really safe and confidential.  My
little brother Georgie has hunted her--_you_ remember Georgie, Major
Yeates?--the night of the ball, you know--and he's only eleven.  Mr.
Knox can tell you what sort she is."

"Oh, she's a grand mare," said Mr. Knox, thus appealed to; "you'd hear
her coming three fields off like a German band!"

"And well for you if you could keep within three fields of her!"
retorted Miss Bennett.  "At all events, she's not like the hunter you
sold Uncle, that used to kick the stars as soon as I put my foot in the
stirrup!"

"'Twas the size of the foot frightened him," said Flurry.

"Do you know how Uncle cured him?" said Miss Bennett, turning her back
on her adversary; "he had him tied head and tail across the yard gate,
and every man that came in had to get over his back!"

"That's no bad one!" said Flurry.

Philippa looked from one to the other in bewilderment, while the
badinage continued, swift and unsmiling, as became two hierarchs of
horse-dealing; it went on at intervals for the next ten minutes, and at
the end of that time I had bought the mare for thirty pounds.  As Miss
Bennett said nothing about giving me back two of them, I had not the
nerve to suggest it.

After this Flurry and Miss Bennett went away, and were swallowed up in
the fair; we returned to our friends upstairs, and began to arrange
about getting home.  This, among other difficulties, involved the
tracking and capture of the Shutes' groom, and took so long that it
necessitated tea.  Bernard and I had settled to ride our new purchases
home, and the groom was to drive the wagonette--an alteration ardently
furthered by Miss Shute.  The afternoon was well advanced when Bernard
and I struggled through the turmoil of the hotel yard in search of our
horses, and, the hotel hostler being nowhere to be found, the Shutes'
man saddled our animals for us, and then withdrew, to grapple
single-handed with the bays in the calf-house.

"Good business for me, that Knox is sending the grey horse home for
me," remarked Bernard, as his new mare followed him tractably out of
the stall.  "He'd have been rather a handful in this hole of a place."

He shoved his way out of the yard in front of me, seemingly quite
comfortable and at home upon the descendant of the Mountain Hare, and I
followed as closely as drunken carmen and shafts of erratic carts would
permit.  Cruiskeen evinced a decided tendency to turn to the right on
leaving the yard, but she took my leftward tug in good part, and we
moved on through the streets of Drumcurran with a dignity that was only
impaired by the irrepressible determination of Mr. Shute's new trousers
to run up his leg.  It was a trifle disappointing that Cruiskeen should
carry her nose in the air like a camel, but I set it down to my own bad
hands, and to that cause I also imputed her frequent desire to stop, a
desire that appeared to coincide with every fourth or fifth
public-house on the line of march.  Indeed, at the last corner before
we left the town, Miss Bennett's mare and I had a serious difference of
opinion, in the course of which she mounted the pavement and remained
planted in front of a very disreputable public-house, whose owner had
been before me several times for various infringements of the Licensing
Acts.  Bernard and the corner-boys were of course much pleased; I
inwardly resolved to let Miss Bennett know how her groom occupied his
time in Drumcurran.

We got out into the calm of the country roads without further incident,
and I there discovered that Cruiskeen was possessed of a dromedary
swiftness in trotting, that the action was about as comfortable as the
dromedary's, and that it was extremely difficult to moderate the pace.

"I say!  This is something like going!" said Bernard, cantering hard
beside me with slack rein and every appearance of happiness.  "Do you
mean to keep it up all the way?"

"You'd better ask this devil," I replied, hauling on the futile ring
snaffle.  "Miss Bennett must have an arm like a prize-fighter.  If this
is what she calls confidential, I don't want her confidences."

After another half-mile, during which I cursed Flurry Knox, and
registered a vow that Philippa should ride Cruiskeen in a cavalry bit,
we reached the cross-roads at which Bernard's way parted from mine.
Another difference of opinion between my wife's hunter and me here took
place, this time on the subject of parting from our companion, and I
experienced that peculiar inward sinking that accompanies the birth of
the conviction one has been stuck.  There were still some eight miles
between me and home, but I had at least the consolation of knowing that
the brown mare would easily cover it in forty minutes.  But in this
also disappointment awaited me.  Dropping her head to about the level
of her knees, the mare subsided into a walk as slow as that of the
slowest cow, and very similar in general style.  In this manner I
progressed for a further mile, breathing forth, like St. Paul,
threatenings and slaughters against Bobby Bennett and all her
confederates; and then the idea occurred to me that many really
first-class hunters were very poor hacks.  I consoled myself with this
for a further period, and presently an opportunity for testing it
presented itself.  The road made a long loop round the flank of a hill,
and it was possible to save half a mile or so by getting into the
fields.  It was a short cut I had often taken on the Quaker, and it
involved nothing more serious than a couple of low stone "gaps" and an
infantine bank.  I turned Cruiskeen at the first of these.  She was
evidently surprised.  Being in an excessively bad temper, I beat her in
a way that surprised her even more, and she jumped the stones
precipitately and with an ease that showed she knew quite well what she
was about.  I vented some further emotion upon her by the convenient
medium of my cane, and galloped her across the field and over the bank,
which, as they say in these parts, she "fled" without putting an iron
on it.  It was not the right way to jump it, but it was inspiriting,
and when she had disposed of the next gap without hesitation my waning
confidence in Miss Bennett began to revive.  I cantered over the ridge
of the hill, and down it towards the cottage near which I was
accustomed to get out on to the road again.  As I neared my wonted
opening in the fence, I saw that it had been filled by a stout pole,
well fixed into the bank at each end, but not more than three feet
high.  Cruiskeen pricked her ears at it with intelligence; I trotted
her at it, and gave her a whack.

Ages afterwards there was some one speaking on the blurred edge of a
dream that I was dreaming about nothing in particular.  I went on
dreaming, and was impressed by the shape of a fat jug, mottled white
and blue, that intruded itself painfully, and I again heard voices,
very urgent and full of effort, but quite outside any concern of mine.

I also made an effort of some kind; I was doing my very best to be good
and polite, but I was dreaming in a place that whirred, and was
engrossing, and daylight was cold and let in some unknown
unpleasantness.  For that time the dream got the better of the
daylight, and then, _apropos_ of nothing, I was standing up in a house
with some one's arm round me; the mottled jug was there, so was the
unpleasantness, and I was talking with most careful, old-world
politeness.

"Sit down now, you're all right," said Miss Bobby Bennett, who was
mopping my face with a handkerchief dipped in the jug.

I perceived that I was asking what had happened.

"She fell over the stick with you," said Miss Bennett; "the dirty
brute!"

With another great effort I hooked myself on to the march of events, as
a truck is dragged out of a siding and hooked to a train.

"Oh, the Lord save us!" said a grey-haired woman who held the jug,
"ye're desthroyed entirely, asthore!  Oh, glory be to the merciful will
of God, me heart lepped across me shesht when I seen him undher the
horse!"

"Go out and see if the trap's coming," said Miss Bennett; "he should
have found the doctor by this."  She stared very closely at my face,
and seemed to find it easier to talk in short sentences.

"We must get those cuts looking better before Mrs. Yeates comes."

After an interval, during which unexpected places in my head ached from
the cold water, the desire to be polite and coherent again came upon me.

"I am sure it was not your mare's fault," I said.

Miss Bennett laughed a very little.  I was glad to see her laugh; it
had struck me her face was strangely haggard and frightened.

"Well, of course it wasn't poor Cruiskeen's fault," she said.  "She's
nearly home with Mr. Shute by now.  That's why I came after you!"

"Mr. Shute!" I said; "wasn't he at the fair that day?"

"He was," answered Miss Bobby, looking at me with very compassionate
eyes; "you and he got on each other's horses by mistake at the hotel,
and you got the worst of the exchange!"

"Oh!" I said, without even trying to understand.

"He's here within, your honour's ladyship, Mrs. Yeates, ma'am," shouted
the grey-haired woman at the door; "don't be unaisy, achudth; he's
doing grand.  Sure, I'm telling Miss Binnitt if she was his wife
itself, she couldn't give him betther care!"

The grey-haired woman laughed.



VIII

THE HOLY ISLAND

For three days of November a white fog stood motionless over the
country.  All day and all night smothered booms and bangs away to the
south-west told that the Fastnet gun was hard at work, and the sirens
of the American liners uplifted their monstrous female voices as they
felt their way along the coast of Cork.  On the third afternoon the
wind began to whine about the windows of Shreelane, and the barometer
fell like a stone.  At 11 P.M. the storm rushed upon us with the roar
and the suddenness of a train; the chimneys bellowed, the tall old
house quivered, and the yelling wind drove against it, as a man puts
his shoulder against a door to burst it in.

We none of us got much sleep, and if Mrs. Cadogan is to be
believed--which experience assures me she is not--she spent the night
in devotional exercises, and in ministering to the panic-stricken
kitchen-maid by the light of a Blessed candle.  All that day the storm
screamed on, dry-eyed; at nightfall the rain began, and next morning,
which happened to be Sunday, every servant in the house was a messenger
of Job, laden with tales of leakages, floods, and fallen trees, and
inflated with the ill-concealed glory of their kind in evil tidings.
To Peter Cadogan, who had been to early Mass, was reserved the crowning
satisfaction of reporting that a big vessel had gone on the rocks at
Yokahn Point the evening before, and was breaking up fast; it was
rumoured that the crew had got ashore, but this feature, being
favourable and uninteresting, was kept as much as possible in the
background.  Mrs. Cadogan, who had been to America in an ocean liner,
became at once the latest authority on shipwrecks, and was of opinion
that "whoever would be dhrownded, it wouldn't be thim lads o' sailors.
Sure wasn't there the greatest storm ever was in it the time meself was
on the say, and what'd thim fellows do but to put us below entirely in
the ship, and close down the doors on us, the way theirselves'd leg it
when we'd be dhrownding!"

This view of the position was so startlingly novel that Philippa
withdrew suddenly from the task of ordering dinner, and fell up the
kitchen stairs in unsuitable laughter.  Philippa has not the most
rudimentary capacity for keeping her countenance.

That afternoon I was wrapped in the slumber, balmiest and most
profound, that follows on a wet Sunday luncheon, when Murray, our D.I.
of police, drove up in uniform, and came into the house on the top of a
gust that set every door banging and every picture dancing on the
walls.  He looked as if his eyes had been blown out of his head, and he
wanted something to eat very badly.

"I've been down at the wreck since ten o'clock this morning," he said,
"waiting for her to break up, and once she does there'll be trouble.
She's an American ship, and she's full up with rum, and bacon, and
butter, and all sorts.  Bosanquet is there with all his coastguards,
and there are five hundred country people on the strand at this moment,
waiting for the fun to begin.  I've got ten of my fellows there, and I
wish I had as many more.  You'd better come back with me, Yeates, we
may want the Riot Act before all's done!"

The heavy rain had ceased, but it seemed as if it had fed the wind
instead of calming it, and when Murray and I drove out of Shreelane,
the whole dirty sky was moving, full sailed, in from the south-west,
and the telegraph wires were hanging in a loop from the post outside
the gate.  Nothing except a Skebawn car-horse would have faced the
whooping charges of the wind that came at us across Corran Lake;
stimulated mysteriously by whistles from the driver, Murray's yellow
hireling pounded woodenly along against the blast, till the smell of
the torn sea-weed was borne upon it, and we saw the Atlantic waves come
towering into the bay of Tralagough.

The ship was, or had been, a three-masted barque; two of her masts were
gone, and her bows stood high out of water on the reef that forms one
of the shark-like jaws of the bay.  The long strand was crowded with
black groups of people, from the bank of heavy shingle that had been
hurled over on to the road, down to the slope where the waves pitched
themselves and climbed and fought and tore the gravel back with them,
as though they had dug their fingers in.  The people were nearly all
men, dressed solemnly and hideously in their Sunday clothes; most of
them had come straight from Mass without any dinner, true to that Irish
instinct that places its fun before its food.  That the wreck was
regarded as a spree of the largest kind was sufficiently obvious.  Our
car pulled up at a public-house that stood askew between the road and
the shingle; it was humming with those whom Irish publicans are pleased
to call "Bonâ feeds," and sundry of the same class were clustered round
the door.  Under the wall on the lee-side was seated a bagpiper,
droning out "The Irish Washerwoman" with nodding head and tapping heel,
and a young man was cutting a few steps of a jig for the delectation of
a group of girls.

So far Murray's constabulary had done nothing but exhibit their
imposing chest measurement and spotless uniforms to the Atlantic, and
Bosanquet's coastguards had only salvaged some spars, the debris of a
boat, and a dead sheep, but their time was coming.  As we stumbled down
over the shingle, battered by the wind and pelted by clots of foam,
some one beside me shouted, "She's gone!"  A hill of water had
smothered the wreck, and when it fell from her again nothing was left
but the bows, with the bowsprit hanging from them in a tangle of
rigging.  The clouds, bronzed by an unseen sunset, hung low over her;
in that greedy pack of waves, with the remorseless rocks above and
below her, she seemed the most lonely and tormented of creatures.

About half-an-hour afterwards the cargo began to come ashore on the top
of the rising tide.  Barrels were plunging and diving in the trough of
the waves, like a school of porpoises; they were pitched up the beach
in waist-deep rushes of foam; they rolled down again, and were swung up
and shouldered by the next wave, playing a kind of Tom Tiddler's ground
with the coastguards.  Some of the barrels were big and dangerous, some
were small and nimble like young pigs, and the bluejackets were up to
their middles as their prey dodged and ducked, and the police lined out
along the beach to keep back the people.  Ten men of the R.I.C. can do
a great deal, but they cannot be in more than twenty or thirty places
at the same instant; therefore they could hardly cope with a scattered
and extremely active mob of four or five hundred, many of whom had
taken advantage of their privileges as "bonâ-fide travellers," and all
of whom were determined on getting at the rum.

As the dusk fell the thing got more and more out of hand; the people
had found out that the big puncheons held the rum, and had succeeded in
capturing one.  In the twinkling of an eye it was broached, and fifty
backs were shoving round it like a football scrummage.  I have heard
many rows in my time: I have seen two Irish regiments--one of them
Militia--at each other's throats in Fermoy barracks; I have heard
Philippa's water spaniel and two fox-terriers hunting a strange cat
round the dairy; but never have I known such untrammelled bedlam as
that which yelled round the rum-casks on Tralagough strand.  For it was
soon not a question of one broached cask, or even of two.  The barrels
were coming in fast, so fast that it was impossible for the
representatives of law and order to keep on any sort of terms with
them.  The people, shouting with laughter, stove in the casks, and
drank rum at 34° above proof, out of their hands, out of their hats,
out of their boots.  Women came fluttering over the hillsides through
the twilight, carrying jugs, milk-pails, anything that would hold the
liquor; I saw one of them, roaring with laughter, tilt a filthy zinc
bucket to an old man's lips.

With the darkness came anarchy.  The rising tide brought more and yet
more booty: great spars came lunging in on the lap of the waves, mixed
up with cabin furniture, seamen's chests, and the black and slippery
barrels, and the country people continued to flock in, and the drinking
became more and more unbridled.  Murray sent for more men and a doctor,
and we slaved on hopelessly in the dark, collaring half-drunken men,
shoving pig-headed casks up hills of shingle, hustling in among groups
of roaring drinkers--we rescued perhaps one barrel in half-a-dozen.  I
began to know that there were men there who were not drunk and were not
idle; I was also aware, as the strenuous hours of darkness passed, of
an occasional rumble of cart wheels on the road.  It was evident that
the casks which were broached were the least part of the looting, but
even they were beyond our control.  The most that Bosanquet, Murray,
and I could do was to concentrate our forces on the casks that had been
secured, and to organise charges upon the swilling crowds in order to
upset the casks that they had broached.  Already men and boys were
lying about, limp as leeches, motionless as the dead.

"They'll kill themselves before morning, at this rate!" shouted Murray
to me.  "They're drinking it by the quart!  Here's another barrel; come
on!"

We rallied our small forces, and after a brief but furious struggle
succeeded in capsizing it.  It poured away in a flood over the stones,
over the prostrate figures that sprawled on them, and a howl of
reproach followed.

"If ye pour away any more o' that, Major," said an unctuous voice in my
ear, "ye'll intoxicate the stones and they'll be getting up and
knocking us down!"

I had been aware of a fat shoulder next to mine in the throng as we
heaved the puncheon over, and I now recognised the ponderous wit and
Falstaffian figure of Mr. James Canty, a noted member of the Skebawn
Board of Guardians, and the owner of a large farm near at hand.

"I never saw worse work on this strand," he went on.  "I considher
these debaucheries a disgrace to the counthry."

Mr. Canty was famous as an orator, and I presume that it was from long
practice among his fellow P.L.G.'s that he was able, without apparent
exertion, to out-shout the storm.

At this juncture the long-awaited reinforcements arrived, and along
with them came Dr. Jerome Hickey, armed with a black bag.  Having
mentioned that the bag contained a pump--not one of the common or
garden variety--and that no pump on board a foundering ship had more
arduous labours to perform, I prefer to pass to other themes.  The
wreck, which had at first appeared to be as inexhaustible and as
variously stocked as that in the "Swiss Family Robinson," was beginning
to fail in its supply.  The crowd were by this time for the most part
incapable from drink, and the fresh contingent of police tackled their
work with some prospect of success by the light of a tar barrel,
contributed by the owner of the public-house.  At about the same time I
began to be aware that I was aching with fatigue, that my clothes hung
heavy and soaked upon me, that my face was stiff with the salt spray
and the bitter wind, and that it was two hours past dinner-time.  The
possibility of fried salt herrings and hot whisky and water at the
public-house rose dazzlingly before my mind, when Mr. Canty again
crossed my path.

"In my opinion ye have the whole cargo under conthrol now, Major," he
said, "and the police and the sailors should be able to account for it
all now by the help of the light.  Wasn't I the finished fool that I
didn't think to send up to my house for a tar barrel before now!
Well--we're all foolish sometimes!  But indeed it's time for us to give
over, and that's what I'm after saying to the Captain and Mr. Murray.
You're exhausted now the three of ye, and if I might make so bold, I'd
suggest that ye'd come up to my little place and have what'd warm ye
before ye'd go home.  It's only a few perches up the road."

The tide had turned, the rain had begun again, and the tar barrel
illumined the fact that Dr. Hickey's dreadful duties alone were
pressing.  We held a council and finally followed Mr. Canty, picking
our way through wreckage of all kinds, including the human variety.
Near the public-house I stumbled over something that was soft and had a
squeak in it; it was the piper, with his head and shoulders in an
overturned rum-barrel, and the bagpipes still under his arm.

I knew the outward appearance of Mr. Canty's house very well.  It was a
typical southern farm-house, with dirty whitewashed walls, a slated
roof, and small, hermetically-sealed windows staring at the morass of
manure which constituted the yard.  We followed Mr. Canty up the filthy
lane that led to it, picked our way round vague and squelching spurs of
the manure heap, and were finally led through the kitchen into a
stifling best parlour.  Mrs. Canty, a vast and slatternly matron, had
evidently made preparations for us; there was a newly-lighted fire
pouring flame up the chimney from layers of bogwood, there were whisky
and brandy on the table, and a plateful of biscuits sugared in white
and pink.  Upon our hostess was a black silk dress which indifferently
concealed the fact that she was short of boot-laces, and that the boots
themselves had made many excursions to the yard and none to the
blacking-bottle.  Her manners, however, were admirable, and while I
live I shall not forget her potato cakes.  They came in hot and hot
from a pot-oven, they were speckled with caraway seeds, they swam in
salt butter, and we ate them shamelessly and greasily, and washed them
down with hot whisky and water; I knew to a nicety how ill I should be
next day, and heeded not.

"Well, gentlemen," remarked Mr. Canty later on, in his best Board of
Guardians' manner, "I've seen many wrecks between this and the Mizen
Head, but I never witnessed a scene of more disgraceful ex-cess than
what was in it to-night."

"Hear, hear!" murmured Bosanquet with unseemly levity.

"I should say," went on Mr. Canty, "there was at one time to-night
upwards of one hundhred men dead dhrunk on the strand, or anyway so
dhrunk that if they'd attempt to spake they'd foam at the mouth."

"The craytures!" interjected Mrs. Canty sympathetically.

"But if they're dhrunk to-day," continued our host, "it's nothing at
all to what they'll be to-morrow and afther to-morrow, and it won't be
on the strand they'll be dhrinkin' it."

"Why, where will it be?" said Bosanquet, with his disconcerting English
way of asking a point-blank question.

Mr. Canty passed his hand over his red cheeks.

"There'll be plenty asking that before all's said and done, Captain,"
he said, with a compassionate smile, "and there'll be plenty that could
give the answer if they'll like, but by dam I don't think ye'll be apt
to get much out of the Yokahn boys!"

"The Lord save us, 'twould be better to keep out from the likes o'
thim!" put in Mrs. Canty, sliding a fresh avalanche of potato cakes on
to the dish; "didn't they pull the clothes off the gauger and pour
potheen down his throath till he ran screeching through the streets o'
Skebawn!"

James Canty chuckled.

"I remember there was a wreck here one time, and the undherwriters put
me in charge of the cargo.  Brandy it was--cases of the best Frinch
brandy.  The people had a song about it, what's this the first verse
was--

  "One night to the rocks of Yokahn
  Came the barque _Isabella_ so dandy,
  To pieces she went before dawn,
  Herself and her cargo of brandy.
  And all met a wathery grave
  Excepting the vessel's car_pen_ther,
  Poor fellow, so far from his home."


Mr. Canty chanted these touching lines in a tuneful if wheezy tenor.
"Well, gentlemen, we're all friends here," he continued, "and it's no
harm to mention that this man below at the public-house came askin' me
would I let him have some of it for a consideration.  'Sullivan,' says
I to him, 'if ye ran down gold in a cup in place of the brandy, I
wouldn't give it to you.  Of coorse,' says I, 'I'm not sayin' but that
if a bottle was to get a crack of a stick, and it to be broken, and a
man to drink a glass out of it, that would be no more than an
accident.'  'That's no good to me,' says he, 'but if I had twelve
gallons of that brandy in Cork,' says he, 'by the Holy German!' says
he, saying an awful curse, 'I'd sell twenty-five out of it!'  Well,
indeed, it was true for him; it was grand stuff.  As the saying is, it
would make a horse out of a cow!"

"It appears to be a handy sort of place for keeping a pub," said
Bosanquet.

"Shut to the door, Margaret," said Mr. Canty with elaborate caution.
"It'd be a queer place that wouldn't be handy for Sullivan!"

A further tale of great length was in progress when Dr. Hickey's
Mephistophelian nose was poked into the best parlour.

"Hullo, Hickey!  Pumped out? eh?" said Murray.

"If I am, there's plenty more like me," replied the Doctor
enigmatically, "and some of them three times over!  James, did these
gentlemen leave you a drop of anything that you'd offer me?"

"Maybe ye'd like a glass of rum, Doctor?" said Mr. Canty with a wink at
his other guests.

Dr. Hickey shuddered.

I had next morning precisely the kind of mouth that I had anticipated,
and it being my duty to spend the better part of the day administering
justice in Skebawn, I received from Mr. Flurry Knox and other of my
brother magistrates precisely the class of condolences on my "Monday
head" that I found least amusing.  It was unavailing to point out the
resemblance between hot potato cakes and molten lead, or to dilate on
their equal power of solidifying; the collective wisdom of the Bench
decided that I was suffering from contraband rum, and rejoiced over me
accordingly.

During the next three weeks Murray and Bosanquet put in a time only to
be equalled by that of the heroes in detective romances.  They began by
acting on the hint offered by Mr. Canty, and were rewarded by finding
eight barrels of bacon and three casks of rum in the heart of Mr.
Sullivan's turf rick, placed there, so Mr. Sullivan explained with much
detail, by enemies, with the object of getting his licence taken away.
They stabbed potato gardens with crowbars to find the buried barrels,
they explored the chimneys, they raided the cow-houses; and in every
possible and impossible place they found some of the cargo of the late
barque _John D. Williams_, and, as the sympathetic Mr. Canty said, "For
as much as they found, they left five times as much afther them!"

It was a wet, lingering autumn, but towards the end of November the
rain dried up, the weather stiffened, and a week of light frosts and
blue skies was offered as a tardy apology.  Philippa possesses, in
common with many of her sex, an inappeasable passion for picnics, and
her ingenuity for devising occasions for them is only equalled by her
gift for enduring their rigours.  I have seen her tackle a moist
chicken pie with a splinter of slate and my stylograph pen.  I have
known her to take the tea-basket to an auction, and make tea in a
four-wheeled inside car, regardless of the fact that it was coming
under the hammer in ten minutes, and that the kettle took twenty
minutes to boil.  It will therefore be readily understood that the rare
occasions when I was free to go out with a gun were not allowed to pass
uncelebrated by the tea-basket.

"You'd much better shoot Corran Lake to-morrow," my wife said to me one
brilliant afternoon.  "We could send the punt over, and I could meet
you on Holy Island with----"

The rest of the sentence was concerned with ways, means, and the
tea-basket, and need not be recorded.

I had taken the shooting of a long snipe bog that trailed from Corran
Lake almost to the sea at Tralagough, and it was my custom to begin to
shoot from the seaward end of it, and finally to work round the lake
after duck.

To-morrow proved a heavenly morning, touched with frost, gilt with sun.
I started early, and the mists were still smoking up from the calm,
all-reflecting lake, as the Quaker stepped out along the level road,
smashing the thin ice on the puddles with his big feet.  Behind the
calves of my legs sat Maria, Philippa's brown Irish water-spaniel,
assiduously licking the barrels of my gun, as was her custom when the
ecstasy of going out shooting was hers.  Maria had been given to
Philippa as a wedding-present, and since then it had been my wife's
ambition that she should conform to the Beth Gelert standard of being
"a lamb at home, a lion in the chase."  Maria did pretty well as a
lion: she hunted all dogs unmistakably smaller than herself, and
whenever it was reasonably possible to do so she devoured the spoils of
the chase, notably jack snipe.  It was as a lamb that she failed;
objectionable as I have no doubt a lamb would be as a domestic pet, it
at least would not snatch the cold beef from the luncheon-table, nor
yet, if banished for its crimes, would it spend the night in scratching
the paint off the hall door.  Maria bit beggars (who valued their
disgusting limbs at five shillings the square inch), she bullied the
servants, she concealed ducks' claws and fishes' backbones behind the
sofa cushions, and yet, when she laid her brown snout upon my knee, and
rolled her blackguard amber eyes upon me, and smote me with her
feathered paw, it was impossible to remember her iniquities against
her.  On shooting mornings Maria ceased to be a buccaneer, a glutton,
and a hypocrite.  From the moment when I put my gun together her
breakfast stood untouched until it suffered the final degradation of
being eaten by the cats, and now in the trap she was shivering with
excitement, and agonising in her soul lest she should even yet be left
behind.

Slipper met me at the cross roads from which I had sent back the trap;
Slipper, redder in the nose than anything I had ever seen off the
stage, very husky as to the voice, and going rather tender on both
feet.  He informed me that I should have a grand day's shooting, the
head-poacher of the locality having, in a most gentlemanlike manner,
refrained from exercising his sporting rights the day before, on
hearing that I was coming.  I understood that this was to be considered
as a mark of high personal esteem, and I set to work at the bog with
suitable gratitude.

In spite of Mr. O'Driscoll's magnanimity, I had not a very good
morning.  The snipe were there, but in the perfect stillness of the
weather it was impossible to get near them, and five times out of six
they were up, flickering and dodging, before I was within shot.  Maria
became possessed of seven devils and broke away from heel the first
time I let off my gun, ranging far and wide in search of the bird I had
missed, and putting up every live thing for half a mile round, as she
went splashing and steeple-chasing through the bog.  Slipper expressed
his opinion of her behaviour in language more appallingly picturesque
and resourceful than any I have heard, even in the Skebawn Courthouse;
I admit that at the time I thought he spoke very suitably.  Before she
was recaptured every remaining snipe within earshot was lifted out of
it by Slipper's steam-engine whistles and my own infuriated bellows; it
was fortunate that the bog was spacious and that there was still a long
tract of it ahead, where beyond these voices there was peace.

I worked my way on, jumping treacle-dark drains, floundering through
the rustling yellow rushes, circumnavigating the bog-holes, and taking
every possible and impossible chance of a shot; by the time I had
reached Corran Lake I had got two and a half brace, retrieved by Maria
with a perfection that showed what her powers were when the sinuous
adroitness of Slipper's woodbine stick was fresh in her mind.  But with
Maria it was always the unexpected that happened.  My last snipe, a
jack, fell in the lake, and Maria, bursting through the reeds with
kangaroo bounds, and cleaving the water like a torpedo-boat, was a
model of all the virtues of her kind.  She picked up the bird with a
snake-like dart of her head, clambered with it on to a tussock, and
there, well out of reach of the arm of the law, before our indignant
eyes crunched it twice and bolted it.

"Well," said Slipper complacently, some ten minutes afterwards, "divil
such a bating ever I gave a dog since the day Prince killed owld Mrs.
Knox's paycock!  Prince was a lump of a brown tarrier I had one time,
and faith I kicked the toes out o' me owld boots on him before I had
the owld lady composed!"

However composing Slipper's methods may have been to Mrs. Knox, they
had quite the contrary effect upon a family party of duck that had been
lying in the reeds.  With horrified outcries they broke into flight,
and now were far away on the ethereal mirror of the lake, among strings
of their fellows that were floating and quacking in preoccupied
indifference to my presence.

A promenade along the lake-shore demonstrated the fact that without a
boat there was no more shooting for me; I looked across to the island
where, some time ago, I had seen Philippa and her punt arrive.  The
boat was tied to an overhanging tree, but my wife was nowhere to be
seen.  I was opening my mouth to give a hail, when I saw her emerge
precipitately from among the trees and jump into the boat; Philippa had
not in vain spent many summers on the Thames, she was under way in a
twinkling, sculled a score of strokes at the rate of a finish, then
stopped and stared at the peaceful island.  I called to her, and in a
minute or two the punt had crackled through the reeds, and shoved its
blunt nose ashore at the spot where I was standing.

"Sinclair," said Philippa in awe-struck tones, "there's something on
the island!"

"I hope there's something to eat there," said I.

"I tell you there _is_ something there, alive," said my wife with her
eyes as large as saucers; "it's making an awful sound like snoring."

"That's the fairies, ma'am," said Slipper with complete certainty;
"sure I known them that seen fairies in that island as thick as the
grass, and every one o' them with little caps on them."

Philippa's wide gaze wandered to Slipper's hideous pug face and back to
me.

"It was not a human being, Sinclair!" she said combatively, though I
had not uttered a word.

Maria had already, after the manner of dogs, leaped, dripping, into the
boat: I prepared to follow her example.

"Major," said Slipper, in a tragic whisper, "there was a man was a
night on that island one time, watching duck, and Thim People cot him,
and dhragged him through Hell and through Death, and threw him in the
tide----"

"Shove off the boat," I said, too hungry for argument.

Slipper obeyed, throwing his knee over the gunwale as he did so, and
tumbling into the bow; we could have done without him very comfortably,
but his devotion was touching.

Holy Island was perhaps a hundred yards long, and about half as many
broad; it was covered with trees and a dense growth of rhododendrons;
somewhere in the jungle was a ruined fragment of a chapel, smothered in
ivy and briars, and in a little glade in the heart of the island there
was a holy well.  We landed, and it was obviously a sore humiliation to
Philippa that not a sound was to be heard in the spell-bound silence of
the island, save the cough of a heron on a tree-top.

"It _was_ there," she said, with an unconvinced glance at the
surrounding thickets.

"Sure, I'll give a thrawl through the island, ma'am," volunteered
Slipper with unexpected gallantry, "an' if it's the divil himself is in
it, I'll rattle him into the lake!"

He went swaggering on his search, shouting, "Hi, cock!" and whacking
the rhododendrons with his stick, and after an interval returned and
assured us that the island was uninhabited.  Being provided with
refreshments he again withdrew, and Philippa and Maria and I fed
variously and at great length, and washed the plates with water from
the holy well.  I was smoking a cigarette when we heard Slipper
addressing the solitudes at the farther end of the island, and ending
with one of his whisky-throated crows of laughter.

He presently came lurching towards us through the bushes, and a glance
sufficed to show even Philippa--who was as incompetent a judge of such
matters as many of her sex--that he was undeniably screwed.

"Major Yeates!" he began, "and Mrs. Major Yeates, with respex to ye,
I'm bastely dhrunk!  Me head is light since the 'fluenzy, and the
docthor told me I should carry a little bottle-een o' sperrits----"

"Look here," I said to Philippa, "I'll take him across, and bring the
boat back for you."

"Sinclair," responded my wife with concentrated emotion, "I would
rather die than stay on this island alone!"

Slipper was getting drunker every moment, but I managed to stow him on
his back in the bows of the punt, in which position he at once began to
uplift husky and wandering strains of melody.  To this accompaniment
we, as Tennyson says,

    "moved from the brink like some full-breasted swan,
  That, fluting a wild carol ere her death,
  Ruffles her pure cold plume, and takes the flood
  With swarthy web."

Slipper would certainly have been none the worse for taking the flood,
and, as the burden of "Lannigan's Ball" strengthened and spread along
the tranquil lake, and the duck once more fled in justifiable
consternation, I felt much inclined to make him do so.

We made for the end of the lake that was nearest Shreelane, and, as we
rounded the point of the island, another boat presented itself to our
view.  It contained my late entertainer, Mrs. Canty, seated bulkily in
the stern, while a small boy bowed himself between the two heavy oars.

"It's a lovely evening, Major Yeates," she called out.  "I'm just going
to the island to get some water from the holy well for me daughter that
has an impression on her chest.  Indeed, I thought 'twas yourself was
singing a song for Mrs. Yeates when I heard you coming, but sure
Slipper is a great warrant himself for singing."

"May the divil crack the two legs undher ye!" bawled Slipper in
acknowledgment of the compliment.

Mrs. Canty laughed genially, and her boat lumbered away.

I shoved Slipper ashore at the nearest point; Philippa and I paddled to
the end of the lake, and abandoning the duck as a bad business, walked
home.

A few days afterwards it happened that it was incumbent upon me to
attend the funeral of the Roman Catholic Bishop of the diocese.  It was
what is called in France "_un bel enterrement_," with inky flocks of
tall-hatted priests, and countless yards of white scarves, and a repast
of monumental solidity at the Bishop's residence.  The actual interment
was to take place in Cork, and we moved in long and imposing procession
to the railway station, where a special train awaited the cortège.  My
friend Mr. James Canty was among the mourners: an important and active
personage, exchanging condolences with the priests, giving directions
to porters, and blowing his nose with a trumpeting mournfulness that
penetrated all the other noises of the platform.  He was condescending
enough to notice my presence, and found time to tell me that he had
given Mr. Murray "a sure word" with regard to some of "_the
wreckage_"--this with deep significance, and a wink of an inflamed and
tearful eye.  I saw him depart in a first-class carriage, and the odour
of sanctity; seeing that he was accompanied by seven priests, and that
both windows were shut, the latter must have been considerable.

Afterwards, in the town, I met Murray, looking more pleased with
himself than I had seen him since he had taken up the unprofitable task
of smuggler-hunting.

"Come along and have some lunch," he said, "I've got a real good thing
on this time!  That chap Canty came to me late last night, and told me
that he knew for a fact that the island on Corran Lake was just stiff
with barrels of bacon and rum, and that I'd better send every man I
could spare to-day to get them into the town.  I sent the men out at
eight o'clock this morning; I think I've gone one better than Bosanquet
this time!"

I began to realise that Philippa was going to score heavily on the
subject of the fairies that she had heard snoring on the island, and I
imparted to Murray the leading features of our picnic there.

"Oh, Slipper's been up to his chin in that rum from the first," said
Murray.  "I'd like to know who his sleeping partner was!"

It was beginning to get dark before the loaded carts of the salvage
party came lumbering past Murray's windows and into the yard of the
police-barrack.  We followed them, and in so doing picked up Flurry
Knox, who was sauntering in the same direction.  It was a good haul,
five big casks of rum, and at least a dozen smaller barrels of bacon
and butter, and Murray and his Chief Constable smiled seraphically on
one another as the spoil was unloaded and stowed in a shed.

"Wouldn't it be as well to see how the butter is keeping?" remarked
Flurry, who had been looking on silently, with, as I had noticed, a
still and amused eye.  "The rim of that small keg there looks as if it
had been shifted lately."

The sergeant looked hard at Flurry; he knew as well as most people that
a hint from Mr. Knox was usually worth taking.  He turned to Murray.

"Will I open it, sir?"

"Oh! open it if Mr. Knox wishes," said Murray, who was not famous for
appreciating other people's suggestions.

The keg was opened.

"Funny butter," said Flurry.

The sergeant said nothing.  The keg was full of black bog-mould.
Another was opened, and another, all with the same result.

"Damnation!" said Murray, suddenly losing his temper.  "What's the use
of going on with those?  Try one of the rum casks."

A few moments passed in total silence while a tap and a spigot were
sent for and applied to the barrel.  The sergeant drew off a mugful and
put his nose to it with the deliberation of a connoisseur.

"Water, sir," he pronounced, "dirty water, with a small indication of
sperrits."

A junior constable tittered explosively, met the light blue glare of
Murray's eye, and withered away.

"Perhaps it's holy water!" said I, with a wavering voice.

Murray's glance pinned me like an assegai, and I also faded into the
background.

"Well," said Flurry in dulcet tones, "if you want to know where the
stuff is that was in those barrels, I can tell you, for I was told it
myself half-an-hour ago.  It's gone to Cork with the Bishop by special
train!"


Mr. Canty was undoubtedly a man of resource.  Mrs. Canty had mistakenly
credited me with an intelligence equal to her own, and on receiving
from Slipper a highly coloured account of how audibly Mr. Canty had
slept off his potations, had regarded the secret of Holy Island as
having been given away.  That night and the two succeeding ones were
spent in the transfer of the rum to bottles, and the bottles and the
butter to fish boxes; these were, by means of a slight lubrication of
the railway underlings, loaded into a truck as "Fresh Fish, Urgent,"
and attached to the Bishop's funeral train, while the police, decoyed
far from the scene of action, were breaking their backs over barrels of
bog-water.  "I suppose," continued Flurry pleasantly, "you don't know
the pub that Canty's brother has in Cork.  Well, I do.  I'm going to
buy some rum there next week, cheap."

"I shall proceed against Canty," said Murray, with fateful calm.

"You won't proceed far," said Flurry; "you'll not get as much evidence
out of the whole country as'd hang a cat."

"Who was your informant?" demanded Murray.

Flurry laughed.  "Well, by the time the train was in Cork, yourself and
the Major were the only two men in the town that weren't talking about
it."



IX

THE POLICY OF THE CLOSED DOOR

The disasters and humiliations that befell me at Drumcurran Fair may
yet be remembered.  They certainly have not been forgotten in the
regions about Skebawn, where the tale of how Bernard Shute and I stole
each other's horses has passed into history.  The grand-daughter of the
Mountain Hare, bought by Mr. Shute with such light-hearted enthusiasm,
was restored to that position between the shafts of a cart that she was
so well fitted to grace; Moonlighter, his other purchase, spent the two
months following on the fair in "favouring" a leg with a strained
sinew, and in receiving visits from the local vet., who, however
uncertain in his diagnosis of Moonlighter's leg, had accurately
estimated the length of Bernard's foot.

Miss Bennett's mare Cruiskeen, alone of the trio, was immediately and
thoroughly successful.  She went in harness like a hero, she carried
Philippa like an elder sister, she was never sick or sorry; as Peter
Cadogan summed her up, "That one 'd live where another 'd die."  In her
safe keeping Philippa made her début with hounds at an uneventful
morning's cubbing, with no particular result, except that Philippa
returned home so stiff that she had to go to bed for a day, and arose
more determined than ever to be a fox-hunter.

The opening meet of Mr. Knox's foxhounds was on November 1, and on that
morning Philippa on Cruiskeen, accompanied by me on the Quaker, set out
for Ardmeen Cross, the time-honoured fixture for All Saints' Day.  The
weather was grey and quiet, and full of all the moist sweetness of an
Irish autumn.  There had been a great deal of rain during the past
month; it had turned the bracken to a purple brown, and had filled the
hollows with shining splashes of water.  The dead leaves were slippery
under foot, and the branches above were thinly decked with yellow,
where the pallid survivors of summer still clung to their posts.  As
Philippa and I sedately approached the meet the red coats of Flurry
Knox and his whip, Dr. Jerome Hickey, were to be seen on the road at
the top of the hill; Cruiskeen put her head in the air, and stared at
them with eyes that understood all they portended.

"Sinclair," said my wife hurriedly, as a straggling hound, flogged in
by Dr. Hickey, uttered a grievous and melodious howl, "remember, if
they find, it's no use to talk to me, for I shan't be able to speak."

I was sufficiently acquainted with Philippa in moments of enthusiasm to
exhibit silently the corner of a clean pocket-handkerchief; I have seen
her cry when a police constable won a bicycle race in Skebawn; she has
wept at hearing Sir Valentine Knox's health drunk with musical honours
at a tenants' dinner.  It is an amiable custom, but, as she herself
admits, it is unbecoming.

An imposing throng, in point of numbers, was gathered at the
cross-roads, the riders being almost swamped in the crowd of traps,
outside cars, bicyclists, and people on foot.  The field was an
eminently representative one.  The Clan Knox was, as usual, there in
force, its more aristocratic members dingily respectable in black coats
and tall hats that went impartially to weddings, funerals, and hunts,
and, like a horse that is past mark of mouth, were no longer to be
identified with any special epoch; there was a humbler squireen element
in tweeds and flat-brimmed pot-hats, and a good muster of farmers, men
of the spare, black-muzzled, West of Ireland type, on horses that
ranged from the cart mare, clipped trace high, to shaggy and leggy
three-year-olds, none of them hunters, but all of them able to hunt.
Philippa and I worked our way to the heart of things, where was Flurry,
seated on his brown mare, in what appeared to be a somewhat moody
silence.  As we exchanged greetings I was aware that his eye was
resting with extreme disfavour upon two approaching figures.  I put up
my eye-glass, and perceived that one of them was Miss Sally Knox, on a
tall grey horse; the other was Mr. Bernard Shute, in all the flawless
beauty of his first pink coat, mounted on Stockbroker, a well-known,
hard-mouthed, big-jumping bay, recently purchased from Dr. Hickey.

During the languors of a damp autumn the neighbourhood had been much
nourished and sustained by the privilege of observing and diagnosing
the progress of Mr. Shute's flirtation with Miss Sally Knox.  What made
it all the more enjoyable for the lookers-on--or most of them--was,
that although Bernard's courtship was of the nature of a proclamation
from the housetops, Miss Knox's attitude left everything to the
imagination.  To Flurry Knox the romantic but despicable position of
slighted rival was comfortably allotted; his sole sympathisers were
Philippa and old Mrs. Knox of Aussolas, but no one knew if he needed
sympathisers.  Flurry was a man of mystery.

Mr. Shute and Miss Knox approached us rapidly, the latter's mount
pulling hard.

"Flurry," I said, "isn't that grey the horse Shute bought from you last
July at the fair?"

Flurry did not answer me.  His face was as black as thunder.  He turned
his horse round, cursing two country boys who got in his way, with low
and concentrated venom, and began to move forward, followed by the
hounds.  If his wish was to avoid speaking to Miss Sally it was not to
be gratified.

"Good-morning, Flurry," she began, sitting close down to Moonlighter's
ramping jog as she rode up beside her cousin.  "What a hurry you're in!
We passed no end of people on the road who won't be here for another
ten minutes."

"No more will I," was Mr. Knox's cryptic reply, as he spurred the brown
mare into a trot.

Moonlighter made a vigorous but frustrated effort to buck, and
indemnified himself by a successful kick at a hound.

"Bother you, Flurry!  Can't you walk for a minute?" exclaimed Miss
Sally, who looked about as large, in relation to her horse, as the
conventional tomtit on a round of beef.  "You might have more sense
than to crack your whip under this horse's nose!  I don't believe you
know what horse it is even!"

I was not near enough to catch Flurry's reply.

"Well, if you didn't want him to be lent to me you shouldn't have sold
him to Mr. Shute!" retorted Miss Knox, in her clear, provoking little
voice.

"I suppose he's afraid to ride him himself," said Flurry, turning his
horse in at a gate.  "Get ahead there, Jerome, can't you?  It's better
to put them in at this end than to have every one riding on top of
them!"

Miss Sally's cheeks were still very pink when I came up and began to
talk to her, and her grey-green eyes had a look in them like those of
an angry kitten.

The riders moved slowly down a rough pasture-field, and took up their
position along the brow of Ardmeen covert, into which the hounds had
already hurled themselves with their customary contempt for the
convenances.  Flurry's hounds, true to their nationality, were in the
habit of doing the right thing in the wrong way.

Untouched by autumn, the furze bushes of Ardmeen covert were darkly
green, save for a golden fleck of blossom here and there, and the
glistening grey cobwebs that stretched from spike to spike.  The look
of the ordinary gorse covert is familiar to most people as a tidy
enclosure of an acre or so, filled with low plants of well-educated
gorse; not so many will be found who have experience of it as a rocky,
sedgy wilderness, half a mile square, garrisoned with brigades of furze
bushes, some of them higher than a horse's head, lean, strong, and
cunning, like the foxes that breed in them, impenetrable, with their
bristling spikes, as a hedge of bayonets.  By dint of infinite leisure
and obstinate greed, the cattle had made paths for themselves through
the bushes to the patches of grass that they hemmed in; their
hoofprints were guides to the explorer, down muddy staircases of rock,
and across black intervals of unplumbed bog.  The whole covert slanted
gradually down to a small river that raced round three sides of it, and
beyond the stream, in agreeable contrast, lay a clean and wholesome
country of grass fields and banks.

The hounds drew slowly along and down the hill towards the river, and
the riders hung about outside the covert, and tried--I can answer for
at least one of them--to decide which was the least odious of the ways
through it, in the event of the fox breaking at the far side.  Miss
Sally took up a position not very far from me, and it was easy to see
that she had her hands full with her borrowed mount, on whose temper
the delay and suspense were visibly telling.  His iron-grey neck was
white from the chafing of the reins; had the ground under his feet been
red-hot he could hardly have sidled and hopped more uncontrollably;
nothing but the most impassioned conjugation of the verb to condemn
could have supplied any human equivalent for the manner in which he
tore holes in the sedgy grass with a furious forefoot.  Those who were
even superficial judges of character gave his heels a liberal allowance
of sea-room, and Mr. Shute, who could not be numbered among such, and
had, as usual, taken up a position as near Miss Sally as possible, was
rewarded by a double knock on his horse's ribs that was a cause of
heartless mirth to the lady of his affections.

Not a hound had as yet spoken, but they were forcing their way through
the gorse forest and shoving each other jealously aside with growing
excitement, and Flurry could be seen at intervals, moving forward in
the direction they were indicating.  It was at this juncture that the
ubiquitous Slipper presented himself at my horse's shoulder.

"'Tis for the river he's making, Major," he said, with an upward roll
of his squinting eyes, that nearly made me sea-sick.  "He's a Castle
Knox fox that came in this morning, and ye should get ahead down to the
ford!"

A tip from Slipper was not to be neglected, and Philippa and I began a
cautious progress through the gorse, followed by Miss Knox as quietly
as Moonlighter's nerves would permit.

"Wishful has it!" she exclaimed, as a hound came out into view, uttered
a sharp yelp, and drove forward.

"Hark! hark!" roared Flurry with at least three r's reverberating in
each "hark"; at the same instant came a holloa from the farther side of
the river, and Dr. Hickey's renowned and blood-curdling screech was
uplifted at the bottom of the covert.  Then babel broke forth, as the
hounds, converging from every quarter, flung themselves shrieking on
the line.  Moonlighter went straight up on his hind-legs, and dropped
again with a bound that sent him crushing past Philippa and Cruiskeen;
he did it a second time, and was almost on to the tail of the Quaker,
whose bulky person was not to be hurried in any emergency.

"Get on if you can, Major Yeates!" called out Sally, steadying the grey
as well as she could in the narrow pathway between the great gorse
bushes.

Other horses were thundering behind us, men were shouting to each other
in similar passages right and left of us, the cry of the hounds filled
the air with a kind of delirium.  A low wall with a stick laid along it
barred the passage in front of me, and the Quaker firmly and
immediately decided not to have it until some one else had dislodged
the pole.

"Go ahead!" I shouted, squeezing to one side with heroic disregard of
the furze bushes and my new tops.

The words were hardly out of my mouth when Moonlighter, mad with
thwarted excitement, shot by me, hurtled over the obstacle with
extravagant fury, landed twelve feet beyond it on clattering slippery
rock, saved himself from falling with an eel-like forward buck on to
sedgy ground, and bolted at full speed down the muddy cattle track.
There are corners--rocky, most of them--in that cattle track, that
Sally has told me she will remember to her dying day; boggy holes of
any depth, ranging between two feet and half-way to Australia, that she
says she does not fail to mention in the General Thanksgiving; but at
the time they occupied mere fractions of the strenuous seconds in which
it was hopeless for her to do anything but try to steer, trust to luck,
sit hard down into the saddle and try to stay there.  (For my part, I
would as soon try to adhere to the horns of a charging bull as to the
crutches of a side-saddle, but happily the necessity is not likely to
arise.)  I saw Flurry Knox a little ahead of her on the same track,
jamming his mare into the furze bushes to get out of her way; he
shouted something after her about the ford, and started to gallop for
it himself by a breakneck short cut.

The hounds were already across the river, and it was obvious that, ford
or no ford, Moonlighter's intentions might be simply expressed in the
formula "Be with them I will."  It was all down-hill to the river, and
among the furze bushes and rocks there was neither time nor place to
turn him.  He rushed at it with a shattering slip upon a streak of
rock, with a heavy plunge in the deep ground by the brink; it was as
bad a take-off for twenty feet of water as could well be found.  The
grey horse rose out of the boggy stuff with all the impetus that pace
and temper could give, but it was not enough.  For one instant the
twisting, sliding current was under Sally, the next a veil of water
sprang up all round her, and Moonlighter was rolling and lurching in
the desperate effort to find foothold in the rocky bed of the stream.

I was following at the best pace I could kick out of the Quaker, and
saw the water swirl into her lap as her horse rolled to the near-side.
She caught the mane to save herself, but he struggled on to his legs
again, and came floundering broadside on to the farther bank.  In three
seconds she had got out of the saddle and flung herself at the bank,
grasping the rushes, and trying, in spite of the sodden weight of her
habit, to drag herself out of the water.

At the same instant I saw Flurry and the brown mare dashing through the
ford, twenty yards higher up.  He was off his horse and beside her with
that uncanny quickness that Flurry reserved for moments of emergency,
and, catching her by the arms, swung her on to the bank as easily as if
she had been the kennel terrier.

"Catch the horse!" she called out, scrambling to her feet.

"Damn the horse!" returned Flurry, in the rage that is so often the
reaction from a bad scare.

I turned along the bank and made for the ford; by this time it was full
of hustling, splashing riders, through whom Bernard Shute, furiously
picking up a bad start, drove a devastating way.  He tried to turn his
horse down the bank towards Miss Knox, but the hounds were running
hard, and, to my intense amusement, Stockbroker refused to abandon the
chase, and swept his rider away in the wake of his stable companion,
Dr. Hickey's young chestnut.  By this time two country boys had, as is
usual in such cases, risen from the earth, and fished Moonlighter out
of the stream.  Miss Sally wound up an acrimonious argument with her
cousin by observing that she didn't care what he said, and placing her
water-logged boot in his obviously unwilling hand, in a second was
again in the saddle, gathering up the wet reins with the trembling,
clumsy fingers of a person who is thoroughly chilled and in a violent
hurry.  She set Moonlighter going, and was away in a moment, galloping
him at the first fence at a pace that suited his steeple-chasing ideas.

"Mr. Knox!" panted Philippa, who had by this time joined us, "make her
go home!"

"She can go where she likes as far as I'm concerned," responded Mr.
Knox, pitching himself on his mare's back and digging in the spurs.

Moonlighter had already glided over the bank in front of us, with a
perfunctory flick at it with his heels; Flurry's mare and Cruiskeen
jumped it side by side with equal precision.  It was a bank of some
five feet high; the Quaker charged it enthusiastically, refused it
abruptly, and, according to his infuriating custom at such moments,
proceeded to tear hurried mouthfuls of grass.

"Will I give him a couple o' belts, your Honour?" shouted one of the
running accompaniment of country boys.

"You will!" said I, with some further remarks to the Quaker that I need
not commit to paper.

Swish!  Whack!  The sound was music in my ears, as the good,
remorseless ash sapling bent round the Quaker's dappled hind-quarters.
At the third stripe he launched both his heels in the operator's face;
at the fourth he reared undecidedly; at the fifth he bundled over the
bank in a manner purged of hesitation.

"Ha!" yelled my assistants, "that'll put the fear o' God in him!" as
the Quaker fled headlong after the hunt.  "He'll be the betther o' that
while he lives!"

Without going quite as far as this, I must admit that for the next
half-hour he was astonishingly the better of it.

The Castle Knox fox was making a very pretty line of it over the seven
miles that separated him from his home.  He headed through a grassy
country of Ireland's mild and brilliant green, fenced with sound and
buxom banks, enlivened by stone walls, uncompromised by the presence of
gates, and yet comfortably laced with lanes for the furtherance of
those who had laid to heart Wolsey's valuable advice: "Fling away
ambition: by that sin fell the angels."  The flotsam and jetsam of the
hunt pervaded the landscape: standing on one long bank, three
dismounted farmers flogged away at the refusing steeds below them, like
anglers trying to rise a sulky fish; half-a-dozen hats, bobbing in a
string, showed where the road riders followed the delusive windings of
a bohereen.  It was obvious that in the matter of ambition they would
not have caused Cardinal Wolsey a moment's uneasiness; whether angels
or otherwise, they were not going to run any risk of falling.

Flurry's red coat was like a beacon two fields ahead of me, with
Philippa following in his tracks; it was the first run worthy of the
name that Philippa had ridden, and I blessed Miss Bobby Bennett as I
saw Cruiskeen's undefeated fencing.  An encouraging twang of the
Doctor's horn notified that the hounds were giving us a chance; even
the Quaker pricked his blunt ears and swerved in his stride to the
sound.  A stone wall, a rough patch of heather, a boggy field, dinted
deep and black with hoof marks, and the stern chase was at an end.  The
hounds had checked on the outskirts of a small wood, and the field,
thinned down to a panting dozen or so, viewed us with the disfavour
shown by the first flight towards those who unexpectedly add to their
select number.  In the depths of the wood Dr. Hickey might be heard
uttering those singular little yelps of encouragement that to the
irreverent suggest a milkman in his dotage.  Bernard Shute, who neither
knew nor cared what the hounds were doing, was expatiating at great
length to an uninterested squireen upon the virtues and perfections of
his new mount.

"I did all I knew to come and help you at the river," he said, riding
up to the splashed and still dripping Sally, "but Stockbroker wouldn't
hear of it.  I pulled his ugly head round till his nose was on my boot,
but he galloped away just the same!"

"He was quite right," said Miss Sally; "I didn't want you in the least."

As Miss Sally's red gold coil of hair was turned towards me during this
speech, I could only infer the glance with which it was delivered, from
the fact that Mr. Shute responded to it with one of those firm gazes of
adoration in which the neighbourhood took such an interest, and
crumbled away into incoherency.

A shout from the top of a hill interrupted the amenities of the check;
Flurry was out of the wood in half-a-dozen seconds, blowing shattering
blasts upon his horn, and the hounds rushed to him, knowing the "gone
away" note that was never blown in vain.  The brown mare came out
through the trees and the undergrowth like a woodcock down the wind,
and jumped across a stream on to a more than questionable bank; the
hounds splashed and struggled after him, and, as they landed, the first
ecstatic whimpers broke forth.  In a moment it was full cry,
discordant, beautiful, and soul-stirring, as the pack spread and sped,
and settled to the line.  I saw the absurd dazzle of tears in
Philippa's eyes, and found time for the insulting proffer of the clean
pocket-handkerchief, as we all galloped hard to get away on good terms
with the hounds.

It was one of those elect moments in fox-hunting when the fittest alone
have survived; even the Quaker's sluggish blood was stirred by good
company, and possibly by the remembrance of the singing ash-plant, and
he lumbered up tall stone-faced banks and down heavy drops, and across
wide ditches, in astounding adherence to the line cut out by Flurry.
Cruiskeen went like a book--a story for girls, very pleasant and safe,
but rather slow.  Moonlighter was pulling Miss Sally on to the sterns
of the hounds, flying his banks, rocketing like a pheasant over
three-foot walls--committing, in fact, all the crimes induced by youth
and over-feeding; he would have done very comfortably with another six
or seven stone on his back.

Why Bernard Shute did not come off at every fence and generally die a
thousand deaths I cannot explain.  Occasionally I rather wished he
would, as, from my secure position in the rear, I saw him charging his
fences at whatever pace and place seemed good to the thoroughly
demoralised Stockbroker, and in so doing cannon heavily against Dr.
Hickey on landing over a rotten ditch, jump a wall with his spur
rowelling Charlie Knox's boot, and cut in at top speed in front of
Flurry, who was scientifically cramming his mare up a very awkward
scramble.  In so far as I could think of anything beyond Philippa and
myself and the next fence, I thought there would be trouble for Mr.
Shute in consequence of this last feat.  It was a half-hour long to be
remembered, in spite of the Quaker's ponderous and unalterable gallop,
in spite of the thump with which he came down off his banks, in spite
of the confiding manner in which he hung upon my hand.

We were nearing Castle Knox, and the riders began to edge away from the
hounds towards a gate that broke the long barrier of the demesne wall.
Steaming horses and purple-faced riders clattered and crushed in at the
gate; there was a moment of pulling up and listening, in which
quivering tails and pumping sides told their own story.  Cruiskeen's
breathing suggested a cross between a grampus and a gramophone;
Philippa's hair had come down, and she had a stitch in her side.
Moonlighter, fresher than ever, stamped and dragged at his bit; I
thought little Miss Sally looked very white.  The bewildering clamour
of the hounds was all through the wide laurel plantations.  At a word
from Flurry, Dr. Hickey shoved his horse ahead and turned down a ride,
followed by most of the field.

"Philippa," I said severely, "you've had enough, and you know it."

"Do go up to the house and make them give you something to eat," struck
in Miss Sally, twisting Moonlighter round to keep his mind occupied.

"And as for you, Miss Sally," I went on, in the manner of Mr.
Fairchild, "the sooner you get off that horse and out of those wet
things the better."

Flurry, who was just in front of us, said nothing, but gave a short and
most disagreeable laugh.  Philippa accepted my suggestion with the
meekness of exhaustion, but under the circumstances it did not surprise
me that Miss Sally did not follow her example.

Then ensued an hour of woodland hunting at its worst and most
bewildering.  I galloped after Flurry and Miss Sally up and down long
glittering lanes of laurel, at every other moment burying my face in
the Quaker's coarse white mane to avoid the slash of the branches, and
receiving down the back of my neck showers of drops stored up from the
rain of the day before; playing an endless game of hide-and-seek with
the hounds, and never getting any nearer to them, as they turned and
doubled through the thickets of evergreens.  Even to my limited
understanding of the situation it became clear at length that two foxes
were on foot; most of the hounds were hard at work a quarter of a mile
away, but Flurry, with a grim face and a faithful three couple, stuck
to the failing line of the hunted fox.

There came a moment when Miss Sally and I--who through many
vicissitudes had clung to each other--found ourselves at a spot where
two rides crossed.  Flurry was waiting there, and a little way up one
of the rides a couple of hounds were hustling to and fro, with the
thwarted whimpers half breaking from them; he held up his hand to stop
us, and at that identical moment Bernard Shute, like a bolt from the
blue, burst upon our vision.  It need scarcely be mentioned that he was
going at full gallop--I have rarely seen him ride at any other
pace--and as he bore down upon Flurry and the hounds, ducking and
dodging to avoid the branches, he shouted something about a fox having
gone away at the other side of the covert.

"Hold hard!" roared Flurry; "don't you see the hounds, you fool?"

Mr. Shute, to do him justice, held hard with all the strength of his
body, but it was of no avail.  The bay horse had got his head down and
his tail up, there was a piercing yell from a hound as it was ridden
over, and Flurry's brown mare will not soon forget the moment when
Stockbroker's shoulder took her on the point of the hip and sent her
staggering into the laurel branches.  As she swung round, Flurry's whip
went up, and with a swift backhander the cane and the looped thong
caught Bernard across his broad shoulders.

"O Mr. Shute!" shrieked Miss Sally, as I stared dumfoundered; "did that
branch hurt you?"

"All right!  Nothing to signify!" he called out as he bucketed past,
tugging at his horse's head.  "Thought some one had hit me at first!
Come on, we'll catch 'em up this way!"

He swung perilously into the main ride and was gone, totally unaware of
the position that Miss Sally's quickness had saved.

Flurry rode straight up to his cousin, with a pale, dangerous face.

"I suppose you think I'm to stand being ridden over and having my
hounds killed to please you," he said; "but you're mistaken.  You were
very smart, and you may think you've saved him his licking, but you
needn't think he won't get it.  He'll have it in spite of you, before
he goes to his bed this night!"

A man who loses his temper badly because he is badly in love is
inevitably ridiculous, far though he may be from thinking himself so.
He is also a highly unpleasant person to argue with, and Miss Sally and
I held our peace respectfully.  He turned his horse and rode away.

Almost instantly the three couple of hounds opened in the underwood
near us with a deafening crash, and not twenty yards ahead the hunted
fox, dark with wet and mud, slunk across the ride.  The hounds were
almost on his brush; Moonlighter reared and chafed; the din was
redoubled, passed away to a little distance, and suddenly seemed
stationary in the middle of the laurels.

"Could he have got into the old ice-house?" exclaimed Miss Sally, with
reviving excitement.  She pushed ahead, and turned down the narrowest
of all the rides that had that day been my portion.  At the end of the
green tunnel there was a comparatively open space; Flurry's mare was
standing in it, riderless, and Flurry himself was hammering with a
stone at the padlock of a door that seemed to lead into the heart of a
laurel clump.  The hounds were baying furiously somewhere back of the
entrance, among the laurel stems.

"He's got in by the old ice drain," said Flurry, addressing himself
sulkily to me, and ignoring Miss Sally.  He had not the least idea of
how absurd was his scowling face, draped by the luxuriant
hart's-tongues that overhung the doorway.

The padlock yielded, and the opening door revealed a low, dark passage,
into which Flurry disappeared, lugging a couple of hounds with him by
the scruff of the neck; the remaining two couple bayed implacably at
the mouth of the drain.  The croak of a rusty bolt told of a second
door at the inner end of the passage.

"Look out for the steps, Flurry, they're all broken," called out Miss
Sally in tones of honey.

There was no answer.  Miss Sally looked at me; her face was serious,
but her mischievous eyes made a confederate of me.

"He's in an _awful_ rage!" she said.  "I'm afraid there will certainly
be a row."

A row there certainly was, but it was in the cavern of the ice-house,
where the fox had evidently been discovered.  Miss Sally suddenly flung
Moonlighter's reins to me and slipped off his back.

"Hold him!" she said, and dived into the doorway under the overhanging
branches.

Things happened after that with astonishing simultaneousness.  There
was a shrill exclamation from Miss Sally, the inner door was slammed
and bolted, and at one and the same moment the fox darted from the
entry, and was away into the wood before one could wink.

"What's happened?" I called out, playing the refractory Moonlighter
like a salmon.

Miss Sally appeared at the doorway, looking half scared and half
delighted.

"I've bolted him in, and I won't let him out till he promises to be
good!  I was only just in time to slam the door after the fox bolted
out!"

"Great Scott!" I said helplessly.

Miss Sally vanished again into the passage, and the imprisoned hounds
continued to express their emotions in the echoing vault of the
ice-house.  Their master remained mute as the dead, and I trembled.

"Flurry!" I heard Miss Sally say.  "Flurry, I--I've locked you in!"

This self-evident piece of information met with no response.

"Shall I tell you why?"

A keener note seemed to indicate that a hound had been kicked.

"I don't care whether you answer me or not, I'm going to tell you!"

There was a pause; apparently telling him was not as simple as had been
expected.

"I won't let you out till you promise me something.  Ah, Flurry, don't
be so cross!  What do you say?----  Oh, that's a ridiculous thing to
say.  You know quite well it's not on his account!"

There was another considerable pause.

"Flurry!" said Miss Sally again, in tones that would have wiled a
badger from his earth.  "Dear Flurry--"

At this point I hurriedly flung Moonlighter's bridle over a branch and
withdrew.

My own subsequent adventures are quite immaterial, until the moment
when I encountered Miss Sally on the steps of the hall door at Castle
Knox.

"I'm just going in to take off these wet things," she said airily.

This was no way to treat a confederate.

"Well?" I said, barring her progress.

"Oh--he--he promised.  It's all right," she replied, rather
breathlessly.

There was no one about; I waited resolutely for further information.
It did not come.

"Did he try to make his own terms?" said I, looking hard at her.

"Yes, he did."  She tried to pass me.

"And what did you do?"

"I refused them!" she said, with the sudden stagger of a sob in her
voice, as she escaped into the house.

Now what on earth was Sally Knox crying about?



X

THE HOUSE OF FAHY

Nothing could shake the conviction of Maria that she was by nature and
by practice a house dog.  Every one of Shreelane's many doors had, at
one time or another, slammed upon her expulsion, and each one of them
had seen her stealthy, irrepressible return to the sphere that she felt
herself so eminently qualified to grace.  For her the bone, thriftily
interred by Tim Connor's terrier, was a mere diversion; even the
fruitage of the ashpit had little charm for an accomplished _habitué_
of the kitchen.  She knew to a nicety which of the doors could be burst
open by assault, at which it was necessary to whine sycophantically;
and the clinical thermometer alone could furnish a parallel for her
perception of mood in those in authority.  In the case of Mrs. Cadogan
she knew that there were seasons when instant and complete
self-effacement was the only course to pursue; therefore when, on a
certain morning in July, on my way through the downstairs regions to my
office, I saw her approach the kitchen door with her usual
circumspection, and, on hearing her name enunciated indignantly by my
cook, withdraw swiftly to a city of refuge at the back of the hayrick,
I drew my own conclusions.

Had she remained, as I did, she would have heard the disclosure of a
crime that lay more heavily on her digestion than her conscience.

"I can't put a thing out o' me hand but he's watching me to whip it
away!" declaimed Mrs. Cadogan, with all the disregard of her kind for
the accident of sex in the brute creation.  "'Twas only last night I
was back in the scullery when I heard Bridget let a screech, and there
was me brave dog up on the table eating the roast beef that was after
coming out from the dinner!"

"Brute!" interjected Philippa, with what I well knew to be a simulated
wrath.

"And I had planned that bit of beef for the luncheon," continued Mrs.
Cadogan in impassioned lamentation, "the way we wouldn't have to
inthrude on the cold turkey!  Sure he has it that dhragged, that all we
can do with it now is run it through the mincing machine for the
Major's sandwiches."

At this appetising suggestion I thought fit to intervene in the
deliberations.

"One thing," I said to Philippa afterwards, as I wrapped up a bottle of
Yanatas in a Cardigan jacket and rammed it into an already apoplectic
Gladstone bag, "that I do draw the line at, is taking that dog with us.
The whole business is black enough as it is."

"Dear," said my wife, looking at me with almost clairvoyant
abstraction, "I could manage a second evening dress if you didn't mind
putting my tea-jacket in your portmanteau."

Little, thank Heaven! as I know about yachting, I knew enough to make
pertinent remarks on the incongruity of an ancient 60-ton hireling and
a fleet of smart evening dresses; but none the less I left a pair of
indispensable boots behind, and the tea-jacket went into my portmanteau.

It is doing no more than the barest justice to the officers of the
Royal Navy to say that, so far as I know them, they cherish no mistaken
enthusiasm for a home on the rolling deep when a home anywhere else
presents itself.  Bernard Shute had unfortunately proved an exception
to this rule.  During the winter, the invitation to go for a cruise in
the yacht that was in process of building for him hung over me like a
cloud; a timely strike in the builder's yard brought a respite, and, in
fact, placed the completion of the yacht at so safe a distance that I
was betrayed into specious regrets, echoed with an atrocious sincerity
by Philippa.  Into a life pastorally compounded of Petty Sessions and
lawn-tennis parties, retribution fell when it was least expected.
Bernard Shute hired a yacht in Queenstown, and one short week
afterwards the worst had happened, and we were packing our things for a
cruise in her, the only alleviation being the knowledge that, whether
by sea or land, I was bound to return to my work in four days.

We left Shreelane at twelve o'clock, a specially depressing hour for a
start, when breakfast has died in you, and lunch is still remote.  My
last act before mounting the dogcart was to put her collar and chain on
Maria and immure her in the potato-house, whence, as we drove down the
avenue, her wails rent the heart of Philippa and rejoiced mine.  It was
a very hot day, with a cloudless sky; the dust lay thick on the white
road, and on us also, as, during two baking hours, we drove up and down
the long hills and remembered things that had been left behind, and
grew hungry enough to eat sandwiches that tasted suspiciously of roast
beef.

The yacht was moored in Clountiss Harbour; we drove through the village
street, a narrow and unlovely thoroughfare, studded with public-houses,
swarming with children and poultry, down through an ever-growing smell
of fish, to the quay.

Thence we first viewed our fate, a dingy-looking schooner, and the hope
I had secretly been nourishing that there was not wind enough for her
to start, was dispelled by the sight of her topsail going up.  More
than ever at that radiant moment--as the reflection of the white sail
quivered on the tranquil blue, and the still water flattered all it
reproduced, like a fashionable photographer--did I agree with George
Herbert's advice, "Praise the sea, but stay on shore."

"We must hail her, I suppose," I said drearily.  I assailed the _Eileen
Oge_, such being her inappropriate name, with desolate cries, but
achieved no immediate result beyond the assembling of some village
children round us and our luggage.

"Mr. Shute and the two ladies was after screeching here for the boat
awhile ago," volunteered a horrid little girl, whom I had already twice
frustrated in the attempt to seat an infant relative on our bundle of
rugs.  "Timsy Hallahane says 'twould be as good for them to stay
ashore, for there isn't as much wind outside as'd out a candle."

With this encouraging statement the little girl devoted herself to the
alternate consumption of gooseberries and cockles.

All things come to those who wait, and to us arrived at length the gig
of the _Eileen Oge_, and such, by this time, were the temperature and
the smells of the quay that I actually welcomed the moment that found
us leaving it for the yacht.

"Now, Sinclair, aren't you glad we came?" remarked Philippa, as the
clear green water deepened under us, and a light briny air came coolly
round us with the motion of the boat.

As she spoke, there was an outburst of screams from the children on the
quay, followed by a heavy splash.

"Oh stop!" cried Philippa in an agony; "one of them has fallen in!  I
can see its poor little brown head!"

"'Tis a dog, ma'am," said briefly the man who was rowing stroke.

"One might have wished it had been that little girl," said I, as I
steered to the best of my ability for the yacht.

We had traversed another twenty yards or so, when Philippa, in a voice
in which horror and triumph were strangely blended, exclaimed, "She's
following us!"

"Who?  The little girl?" I asked callously.

"No," returned Philippa; "worse."

I looked round, not without a prevision of what I was to see, and
beheld the faithful Maria swimming steadily after us, with her brown
muzzle thrust out in front of her, ripping through the reflections like
a plough.

"Go home!" I roared, standing up and gesticulating in fury that I well
know to be impotent.  "Go home, you brute!"

Maria redoubled her efforts, and Philippa murmured uncontrollably--

"Well, she _is_ a dear!"

Had I had a sword in my hand I should undoubtedly have slain Philippa;
but before I could express my sentiments in any way, a violent shock
flung me endways on top of the man who was pulling stroke.  Thanks to
Maria, we had reached our destination all unawares; the two men,
respectfully awaiting my instructions, had rowed on with disciplined
steadiness, and, as a result, we had rammed the _Eileen Oge_ amidships,
with a vigour that brought Mr. Shute tumbling up the companion to see
what had happened.

"Oh, it's you, is it?" he said, with his mouth full.  "Come in; don't
knock!  Delighted to see you, Mrs. Yeates; don't apologise.  There's
nothing like a hired ship after all--it's quite jolly to see the
splinters fly--shows you're getting your money's worth.  Hullo! who's
this?"

This was Maria, feigning exhaustion, and noisily treading water at the
boat's side.

"What, poor old Maria?  Wanted to send her ashore, did he?  Heartless
ruffian!"

Thus was Maria installed on board the _Eileen Oge_, and the element of
fatality had already begun to work.

There was just enough wind to take us out of Clountiss Harbour, and
with the last of the out-running tide we crept away to the west.  The
party on board consisted of our host's sister, Miss Cecilia Shute, Miss
Sally Knox, and ourselves; we sat about in conventional attitudes in
deck chairs and on adamantine deck bosses, and I talked to Miss Shute
with feverish brilliancy, and wished the patience-cards were not in the
cabin; I knew the supreme importance of keeping one's mind occupied,
but I dared not face the cabin.  There was a long, almost imperceptible
swell, with little queer seabirds that I have never seen before--and
trust I never shall again--dotted about on its glassy slopes.  The
coast-line looked low and grey and dull, as, I think, coast-lines
always do when viewed from the deep.  The breeze that Bernard had
promised us we should find outside was barely enough to keep us moving.
The burning sun of four o'clock focussed its heat on the deck; Bernard
stood up among us, engaged in what he was pleased to call "handling the
stick," and beamed almost as offensively as the sun.

"Oh, we're slipping along," he said, his odiously healthy face glowing
like copper against the blazing blue sky.  "You're going a great deal
faster than you think, and the men say we'll pick up a breeze once
we're round the Mizen."

I made no reply; I was not feeling ill, merely thoroughly disinclined
for conversation.  Miss Sally smiled wanly, and closing her eyes, laid
her head on Philippa's knee.  Instructed by a dread freemasonry, I knew
that for her the moment had come when she could no longer bear to see
the rail rise slowly above the horizon, and with an equal rhythmic
slowness sink below it.  Maria moved restlessly to and fro, panting and
yawning, and occasionally rearing herself on her hind-legs against the
side, and staring forth with wild eyes at the headachy sliding of the
swell.  Perhaps she was meditating suicide; if so I sympathised with
her, and since she was obviously going to be sick I trusted that she
would bring off the suicide with as little delay as possible.  Philippa
and Miss Shute sat in unaffected serenity in deck chairs, and stitched
at white things--teacloths for the _Eileen Oge_, I believe, things in
themselves a mockery--and talked untiringly, with that singular
indifference to their marine surroundings that I have often observed in
ladies who are not sea-sick.  It always stirs me afresh to wonder why
they have not remained ashore; nevertheless, I prefer their tranquil
and total lack of interest in seafaring matters to the blatant
Vikingism of the average male who is similarly placed.

Somehow, I know not how, we crawled onwards, and by about five o'clock
we had rounded the Mizen, a gaunt spike of a headland that starts up
like a boar's tusk above the ragged lip of the Irish coast, and the
_Eileen Oge_ was beginning to swing and wallop in the long sluggish
rollers that the American liners know and despise.  I was very far from
despising them.  Down in the west, resting on the sea's rim, a purple
bank of clouds lay awaiting the descent of the sun, as seductively and
as malevolently as a damp bed at a hotel awaits a traveller.

The end, so far as I was concerned, came at tea-time.  The meal had
been prepared in the saloon, and thither it became incumbent on me to
accompany my hostess and my wife.  Miss Sally, long past speech,
opened, at the suggestion of tea, one eye, and disclosed a look of
horror.  As I tottered down the companion I respected her good sense.
The _Eileen Oge_ had been built early in the sixties, and headroom was
not her strong point; neither, apparently, was ventilation.  I began by
dashing my forehead against the frame of the cabin door, and then,
shattered morally and physically, entered into the atmosphere of the
pit.  After which things, and the sight of a plate of rich cake, I
retired in good order to my cabin, and began upon the Yanatas.

I pass over some painful intermediate details and resume at the moment
when Bernard Shute woke me from a drugged slumber to announce that
dinner was over.

"It's been raining pretty hard," he said, swaying easily with the swing
of the yacht; "but we've got a clinking breeze, and we ought to make
Lurriga Harbour to-night.  There's good anchorage there, the men say.
They're rather a lot of swabs, but they know this coast, and I don't.
I took 'em over with the ship all standing."

"Where are we now?" I asked, something heartened by the blessed word
"anchorage."

"You're running up Sheepskin Bay--it's a thundering big bay; Lurriga's
up at the far end of it, and the night's as black as the inside of a
cow.  Dig out and get something to eat, and come on deck----  What! no
dinner?"--I had spoken morosely, with closed eyes--"Oh, rot! you're on
an even keel now.  I promised Mrs. Yeates I'd make you dig out.  You're
as bad as a soldier officer that we were ferrying to Malta one time in
the old Tamar.  He got one leg out of his berth when we were going down
the Channel, and he was too sick to pull it in again till we got to
Gib!"

I compromised on a drink and some biscuits.  The ship was certainly
steadier, and I felt sufficiently restored to climb weakly on deck.  It
was by this time past ten o'clock, and heavy clouds blotted out the
last of the afterglow, and smothered the stars at their birth.  A wet
warm wind was lashing the _Eileen Oge_ up a wide estuary; the waves
were hunting her, hissing under her stern, racing up to her, crested
with the white glow of phosphorus, as she fled before them.  I dimly
discerned in the greyness the more solid greyness of the shore.  The
mainsail loomed out into the darkness, nearly at right angles to the
yacht, with the boom creaking as the following wind gave us an
additional shove.  I know nothing of yacht sailing, but I can
appreciate the grand fact that in running before a wind the boom is
removed from its usual sphere of devastation.

I sat down beside a bundle of rugs that I had discovered to be my wife,
and thought of my whitewashed office at Shreelane and its bare but
stationary floor, with a yearning that was little short of passion.
Miss Sally had long since succumbed; Miss Shute was tired, and had
turned in soon after dinner.

"I suppose she's overdone by the delirious gaiety of the afternoon,"
said I acridly, in reply to this information.

Philippa cautiously poked forth her head from the rugs, like a tortoise
from under its shell, to see that Bernard, who was standing near the
steersman, was out of hearing.

"In all your life, Sinclair," she said impressively, "you never knew
such a time as Cecilia and I have had down there!  We've had to wash
_everything_ in the cabins, and remake the beds, and _hurl_ the sheets
away--they were covered with black finger-marks--and while we were
doing that, in came the creature that calls himself the steward, to ask
if he might get something of his that he had left in Miss Shute's
'birthplace'! and he rooted out from under Cecilia's mattress a pair of
socks and half a loaf of bread!"

"Consolation to Miss Shute to know her berth has been well aired," I
said, with the nearest approach to enjoyment I had known since I came
on board; "and has Sally made any equally interesting discoveries?"

"She said she didn't care what her bed was like; she just dropped into
it.  I must say I am sorry for her," went on Philippa; "she hated
coming.  Her mother made her accept."

"I wonder if Lady Knox will make her accept _him_!" I said.  "How often
has Sally refused him, does any one know?"

"Oh, about once a week," replied Philippa; "just the way I kept on
refusing you, you know!"

Something cold and wet was thrust into my hand, and the aroma of damp
dog arose upon the night air; Maria had issued from some lair at the
sound of our voices, and was now, with palsied tremblings, slowly
trying to drag herself on to my lap.

"Poor thing, she's been so dreadfully ill," said Philippa.  "Don't send
her away, Sinclair.  Mr. Shute found her lying on his berth not able to
move; didn't you, Mr. Shute?"

"She found out that she was able to move," said Bernard, who had
crossed to our side of the deck; "it was somehow borne in upon her when
I got at her with a boot-tree.  I wouldn't advise you to keep her in
your lap, Yeates.  She stole half a ham after dinner, and she might
take a notion to make the only reparation in her power."

I stood up and stretched myself stiffly.  The wind was freshening, and
though the growing smoothness of the water told that we were making
shelter of some kind, for all that I could see of land we might as well
have been in mid-ocean.  The heaving lift of the deck under my feet,
and the lurching swing when a stronger gust filled the ghostly sails,
were more disquieting to me in suggestion than in reality, and, to my
surprise, I found something almost enjoyable in rushing through
darkness at the pace at which we were going.

"We're a small bit short of the mouth of Lurriga Harbour yet, sir,"
said the man who was steering, in reply to a question from Bernard.  "I
can see the shore well enough; sure I know every yard of wather in the
bay----"

As he spoke he sat down abruptly and violently; so did Bernard, so did
I.  The bundle that contained Philippa collapsed upon Maria.

"Main sheet!" bellowed Bernard, on his feet in an instant, as the boom
swung in and out again with a terrific jerk.  "We're ashore!"

In response to this order three men in succession fell over me while I
was still struggling on the deck, and something that was either
Philippa's elbow, or the acutest angle of Maria's skull, hit me in the
face.  As I found my feet the cabin skylight was suddenly illuminated
by a wavering glare.  I got across the slanting deck somehow, through
the confusion of shouting men and the flapping thunder of the sails,
and saw through the skylight a gush of flame rising from a pool of
fire, around an overturned lamp on the swing-table.  I avalanched down
the companion and was squandered like an avalanche on the floor at the
foot of it.  Even as I fell, McCarthy the steward dragged the strip of
carpet from the cabin floor and threw it on the blaze; I found myself,
in some unexplained way, snatching a railway rug from Miss Shute and
applying it to the same purpose, and in half-a-dozen seconds we had
smothered the flame and were left in total darkness.  The most striking
feature of the situation was the immovability of the yacht.

"Great Ned!" said McCarthy, invoking I know not what heathen deity, "it
is on the bottom of the say we are?  Well, whether or no, thank God we
have the fire quinched!"

We were not, so far, at the bottom of the sea, but during the next ten
minutes the chances seemed in favour of our getting there.  The yacht
had run her bows upon a sunken ridge of rock, and after a period of
feminine indecision as to whether she were going to slide off again, or
roll over into deep water, she elected to stay where she was, and the
gig was lowered with all speed, in order to tow her off before the tide
left her.

My recollection of this interval is but hazy, but I can certify that in
ten minutes I had swept together an assortment of necessaries and
knotted them into my counterpane, had broken the string of my
eye-glass, and lost my silver matchbox; had found Philippa's
curling-tongs and put them in my pocket; had carted all the luggage on
deck; had then applied myself to the manly duty of reassuring the
ladies, and had found Miss Shute merely bored, Philippa
enthusiastically anxious to be allowed to help to pull the gig, and
Miss Sally radiantly restored to health and spirits by the cessation of
movement and the probability of an early escape from the yacht.

The rain had, with its usual opportuneness, begun again; we stood in it
under umbrellas, and watched the gig jumping on its tow-rope like a dog
on a string, as the crew plied the labouring oar in futile endeavour to
move the _Eileen Oge_.  We had run on the rock at half-tide, and the
increasing slant of the deck as the tide fell brought home to us the
pleasing probability that at low water--viz. about 2 A.M.--we should
roll off the rock and go to the bottom.  Had Bernard Shute wished to
show himself in the most advantageous light to Miss Sally he could
scarcely have bettered the situation.  I looked on in helpless respect
while he whom I had known as the scourge of the hunting field, the
terror of the shooting party, rose to the top of a difficult position
and kept there, and my respect was, if possible, increased by the
presence of mind with which he availed himself of all critical moments
to place a protecting arm round Miss Knox.

By about 1 A.M. the two gaffs with which Bernard had contrived to shore
up the slowly heeling yacht began to show signs of yielding, and, in
approved shipwreck fashion, we took to the boats, the yacht's crew in
the gig remaining in attendance on what seemed likely to be the last
moments of the _Eileen Oge_, while we, in the dinghy, sought for the
harbour.  Owing to the tilt of the yacht's deck, and the roughness of
the broken water round her, getting into the boat was no mean feat of
gymnastics.  Miss Sally did it like a bird, alighting in the inevitable
arms of Bernard; Miss Shute followed very badly, but, by innate force
of character, successfully; Philippa, who was enjoying every moment of
her shipwreck, came last, launching herself into the dinghy with my
silver shoe-horn clutched in one hand, and in the other the tea-basket.
I heard the hollow clank of its tin cups as she sprang, and appreciated
the heroism with which Bernard received one of its corners in his
waist.  How or when Maria left the yacht I know not, but when I applied
myself to the bow oar I led off with three crabs, owing to the devotion
with which she thrust her head into my lap.

I am no judge of these matters, but in my opinion we ought to have been
swamped several times during that row.  There was nothing but the
phosphorus of breaking waves to tell us where the rocks were, and
nothing to show where the harbour was except a solitary light, a
masthead light, as we supposed.  The skipper had assured us that we
could not go wrong if we kept "a westerly course with a little northing
in it;" but it seemed simpler to steer for the light, and we did so.
The dinghy climbed along over the waves with an agility that was safer
than it felt; the rain fell without haste and without rest, the oars
were as inflexible as crowbars, and somewhat resembled them in shape
and weight; nevertheless, it was Elysium when compared with the
afternoon leisure of the deck of the _Eileen Oge_.

At last we came, unexplainably, into smooth water, and it was at about
this time that we were first aware that the darkness was less dense
than it had been, and that the rain had ceased.  By imperceptible
degrees a greyness touched the back of the waves, more a dreariness
than a dawn, but more welcome than thousands of gold and silver.  I
looked over my shoulder and discerned vague bulky things ahead; as I
did so, my oar was suddenly wrapped in seaweed.  We crept on; Maria
stood up with her paws on the gunwale, and whined in high agitation.
The dark objects ahead resolved themselves into rocks, and without more
ado Maria pitched herself into the water.  In half a minute we heard
her shaking herself on shore.  We slid on; the water swelled under the
dinghy, and lifted her keel on to grating gravel.

"We couldn't have done it better if we'd been the Hydrographer Royal,"
said Bernard, wading knee-deep in a light wash of foam, with the
painter in his hand; "but all the same, that masthead light is some
one's bedroom candle!"

We landed, hauled up the boat, and then feebly sat down on our
belongings to review the situation, and Maria came and shook herself
over each of us in turn.  We had run into a little cove, guided by the
philanthropic beam of a candle in the upper window of a house about a
hundred yards away.  The candle still burned on, and the anæmic
daylight exhibited to us our surroundings, and we debated as to whether
we could at 2.45 A.M. present ourselves as objects of compassion to the
owner of the candle.  I need hardly say that it was the ladies who
decided on making the attempt, having, like most of their sex, a
courage incomparably superior to ours in such matters; Bernard and I
had not a grain of genuine compunction in our souls, but we failed in
nerve.

We trailed up from the cove, laden with emigrants' bundles, stumbling
on wet rocks in the half-light, and succeeded in making our way to the
house.

It was a small two-storied building, of that hideous breed of
architecture usually dedicated to the rectories of the Irish Church; we
felt that there was something friendly in the presence of a pair of
carpet slippers in the porch, but there was a hint of exclusiveness in
the fact that there was no knocker and that the bell was broken.  The
light still burned in the upper window, and with a faltering hand I
flung gravel at the glass.  This summons was appallingly responded to
by a shriek; there was a flutter of white at the panes, and the candle
was extinguished.

"Come away!" exclaimed Miss Shute, "it's a lunatic asylum!"

We stood our ground, however, and presently heard a footstep within, a
blind was poked aside in another window, and we were inspected by an
unseen inmate; then some one came downstairs, and the hall-door was
opened by a small man with a bald head and a long sandy beard.  He was
attired in a brief dressing-gown, and on his shoulder sat, like an
angry ghost, a large white cockatoo.  Its crest was up on end, its beak
was a good two inches long and curved like a Malay kris; its claws
gripped the little man's shoulder.  Maria uttered in the background a
low and thunderous growl.

"Don't take any notice of the bird, please," said the little man
nervously, seeing our united gaze fixed upon this apparition; "he's
extremely fierce if annoyed."

The majority of our party here melted away to either side of the
hall-door, and I was left to do the explaining.  The tale of our
misfortunes had its due effect, and we were ushered into a small
drawing-room, our host holding open the door for us, like a nightmare
footman with bare shins, a gnome-like bald head, and an unclean spirit
swaying on his shoulder.  He opened the shutters, and we sat decorously
round the room, as at an afternoon party, while the situation was
further expounded on both sides.  Our entertainer, indeed, favoured us
with the leading items of his family history, amongst them the facts
that he was a Dr. Fahy from Cork, who had taken somebody's rectory for
the summer, and had been prevailed on by some of his patients to permit
them to join him as paying guests.

"I said it was a lunatic asylum," murmured Miss Shute to me.

"In point of fact," went on our host, "there isn't an empty room in the
house, which is why I can only offer your party the use of this room
and the kitchen fire, which I make a point of keeping burning all
night."

He leaned back complacently in his chair, and crossed his legs; then,
obviously remembering his costume, sat bolt upright again.  We owed the
guiding beams of the candle to the owner of the cockatoo, an old Mrs.
Buck, who was, we gathered, the most paying of all the patients, and
also, obviously, the one most feared and cherished by Dr. Fahy.  "She
has a candle burning all night for the bird, and her door open to let
him walk about the house when he likes," said Dr. Fahy; "indeed, I may
say her passion for him amounts to dementia.  He's very fond of me, and
Mrs. Fahy's always telling me I should be thankful, as whatever he did
we'd be bound to put up with it!"

Dr. Fahy had evidently a turn for conversation that was unaffected by
circumstance; the first beams of the early sun were lighting up the rep
chair covers before the door closed upon his brown dressing-gown, and
upon the stately white back of the cockatoo, and the demoniac
possession of laughter that had wrought in us during the interview
burst forth unchecked.  It was most painful and exhausting, as such
laughter always is; but by far the most serious part of it was that
Miss Sally, who was sitting in the window, somehow drove her elbow
through a pane of glass, and Bernard, in pulling down the blind to
conceal the damage, tore it off the roller.

There followed on this catastrophe a period during which reason
tottered and Maria barked furiously.  Philippa was the first to pull
herself together, and to suggest an adjournment to the kitchen fire
that, in honour of the paying guests, was never quenched, and,
respecting the repose of the household, we proceeded thither with a
stealth that convinced Maria we were engaged in a rat hunt.  The boots
of paying guests littered the floor, the debris of their last repast
covered the table; a cat in some unseen fastness crooned a war song to
Maria, who feigned unconsciousness and fell to scientific research in
the scullery.

We roasted our boots at the range, and Bernard, with all a sailor's
gift for exploration and theft, prowled in noisome purlieus and emerged
with a jug of milk and a lump of salt butter.  No one who has not been
a burglar can at all realise what it was to roam through Dr. Fahy's
basement storey, with the rookery of paying guests asleep above, and to
feel that, so far, we had repaid his confidence by breaking a pane of
glass and a blind, and putting the scullery tap out of order.  I have
always maintained that there was something wrong with it before I
touched it, but the fact remains that when I had filled Philippa's
kettle, no human power could prevail upon it to stop flowing.  For all
I know to the contrary it is running still.

It was in the course of our furtive return to the drawing-room that we
were again confronted by Mrs. Buck's cockatoo.  It was standing in
malign meditation on the stairs, and on seeing us it rose, without a
word of warning, upon the wing, and with a long screech flung itself at
Miss Sally's golden-red head, which a ray of sunlight had chanced to
illumine.  There was a moment of stampede, as the selected victim,
pursued by the cockatoo, fled into the drawing-room; two chairs were
upset (one, I think, broken), Miss Sally enveloped herself in a window
curtain, Philippa and Miss Shute effaced themselves beneath a table;
the cockatoo, foiled of its prey, skimmed, still screeching, round the
ceiling.  It was Bernard who, with a well-directed sofa-cushion, drove
the enemy from the room.  There was only a chink of the door open, but
the cockatoo turned on his side as he flew, and swung through it like a
woodcock.

We slammed the door behind him, and at the same instant there came a
thumping on the floor overhead, muffled, yet peremptory.

"That's Mrs. Buck!" said Miss Shute, crawling from under the table;
"the room over this is the one that had the candle in it."

We sat for a time in awful stillness, but nothing further happened,
save a distant shriek overhead, that told the cockatoo had sought and
found sanctuary in his owner's room.  We had tea _sotto voce_, and
then, one by one, despite the amazing discomfort of the drawing-room
chairs, we dozed off to sleep.

It was at about five o'clock that I woke with a stiff neck and an
uneasy remembrance that I had last seen Maria in the kitchen.  The
others, looking, each of them, about twenty years older than their age,
slept in various attitudes of exhaustion.  Bernard opened his eyes as I
stole forth to look for Maria, but none of the ladies awoke.  I went
down the evil-smelling passage that led to the kitchen stairs, and,
there on a mat, regarding me with intelligent affection, was Maria; but
what--oh what was the white thing that lay between her forepaws?

The situation was too serious to be coped with alone.  I fled
noiselessly back to the drawing-room and put my head in; Bernard's
eyes--blessed be the light sleep of sailors!--opened again, and there
was that in mine that summoned him forth.  (Blessed also be the light
step of sailors!)

We took the corpse from Maria, withholding perforce the language and
the slaughtering that our hearts ached to bestow.  For a minute or two
our eyes communed.

"I'll get the kitchen shovel," breathed Bernard; "you open the
hall-door!"

A moment later we passed like spirits into the open air, and on into a
little garden at the end of the house.  Maria followed us, licking her
lips.  There were beds of nasturtiums, and of purple stocks, and of
marigolds.  We chose a bed of stocks, a plump bed, that looked like
easy digging.  The windows were all tightly shut and shuttered, and I
took the cockatoo from under my coat and hid it, temporarily, behind a
box border.  Bernard had brought a shovel and a coal scoop.  We dug
like badgers.  At eighteen inches we got down into shale and stones,
and the coal scoop struck work.

"Never mind," said Bernard; "we'll plant the stocks on top of him."

It was a lovely morning, with a new-born blue sky and a light northerly
breeze.  As we returned to the house, we looked across the wavelets of
the little cove and saw, above the rocky point round which we had
groped last night, a triangular white patch moving slowly along.

"The tide's lifted her!" said Bernard, standing stock-still.  He looked
at Mrs. Buck's window and at me.  "Yeates!" he whispered, "let's quit!"

It was now barely six o'clock, and not a soul was stirring.  We woke
the ladies and convinced them of the high importance of catching the
tide.  Bernard left a note on the hall table for Dr. Fahy, a beautiful
note of leave-taking and gratitude, and apology for the broken window
(for which he begged to enclose half-a-crown).  No allusion was made to
the other casualties.  As we neared the strand he found an occasion to
say to me:

"I put in a postscript that I thought it best to mention that I had
seen the cockatoo in the garden, and hoped it would get back all right.
That's quite true, you know!  But look here, whatever you do, you must
keep it all dark from the ladies----"

At this juncture Maria overtook us with the cockatoo in her mouth.



XI

OCCASIONAL LICENSES

"It's out of the question," I said, looking forbiddingly at Mrs.
Moloney through the spokes of the bicycle that I was pumping up outside
the grocer's in Skebawn.

"Well, indeed, Major Yeates," said Mrs. Moloney, advancing excitedly,
and placing on the nickel plating a hand that I had good and recent
cause to know was warm, "sure I know well that if th' angel Gabriel
came down from heaven looking for a license for the races, your honour
wouldn't give it to him without a charackther, but as for Michael!
Sure, the world knows what Michael is!"

I had been waiting for Philippa for already nearly half-an-hour, and my
temper was not at its best.

"Character or no character, Mrs. Moloney," said I with asperity, "the
magistrates have settled to give no occasional licenses, and if Michael
were as sober as----"

"Is it sober!  God help us!" exclaimed Mrs. Moloney with an upward
rolling of her eye to the Recording Angel; "I'll tell your honour the
truth.  I'm his wife, now, fifteen years, and I never seen the sign of
dhrink on Michael only once, and that was when he went out o'
good-nature helping Timsy Ryan to whitewash his house, and Timsy and
himself had a couple o' pots o' porther, and look, he was as little
used to it that his head got light, and he walked away out to dhrive in
the cows and it no more than eleven o'clock in the day!  And the cows,
the craytures, as much surprised, goin' hither and over the four
corners of the road from him!  Faith, ye'd have to laugh.  'Michael,'
says I to him, 'ye're dhrunk!'  'I am,' says he, and the tears rained
from his eyes.  I turned the cows from him.  'Go home,' I says, 'and
lie down on Willy Tom's bed----'"

At this affecting point my wife came out of the grocer's with a large
parcel to be strapped to my handlebar, and the history of Mr. Moloney's
solitary lapse from sobriety got no further than Willy Tom's bed.

"You see," I said to Philippa, as we bicycled quietly home through the
hot June afternoon, "we've settled we'll give no licenses for the
sports.  Why even young Sheehy, who owns three pubs in Skebawn, came to
me and said he hoped the magistrates would be firm about it, as these
one-day licenses were quite unnecessary, and only led to drunkenness
and fighting, and every man on the Bench has joined in promising not to
grant any."

"How nice, dear!" said Philippa absently.  "Do you know Mrs. McDonnell
can only let me have three dozen cups and saucers; I wonder if that
will be enough?"

"Do you mean to say you expect three dozen people?" said I.

"Oh, it's always well to be prepared," replied my wife evasively.

During the next few days I realised the true inwardness of what it was
to be prepared for an entertainment of this kind.  Games were not at a
high level in my district.  Football, of a wild, guerilla species, was
waged intermittently, blended in some inextricable way with Home Rule
and a brass band, and on Sundays gatherings of young men rolled a heavy
round stone along the roads, a rudimentary form of sport, whose
fascination lay primarily in the fact that it was illegal, and, in
lesser degree, in betting on the length of each roll.  I had had a
period of enthusiasm, during which I thought I was going to be the
apostle of cricket in the neighbourhood, but my mission dwindled to
single wicket with Peter Cadogan, who was indulgent but bored, and I
swiped the ball through the dining-room window, and some one took one
of the stumps to poke the laundry fire.  Once a year, however, on that
festival of the Roman Catholic Church which is familiarly known as
"Pether and Paul's day," the district was wont to make a spasmodic
effort at athletic sports, which were duly patronised by the gentry and
promoted by the publicans, and this year the honour of a steward's
green rosette was conferred upon me.  Philippa's genius for hospitality
here saw its chance, and broke forth into unbridled tea-party in
connection with the sports, even involving me in the hire of a tent,
the conveyance of chairs and tables, and other large operations.

It chanced that Flurry Knox had on this occasion lent the fields for
the sports, with the proviso that horse-races and a tug-of-war were to
be added to the usual programme; Flurry's participation in events of
this kind seldom failed to be of an inflaming character.  As he and I
planted larch spars for the high jump, and stuck furze-bushes into
hurdles (locally known as "hurrls"), and skirmished hourly with people
who wanted to sell drink on the course, I thought that my next summer
leave would singularly coincide with the festival consecrated to St.
Peter and St. Paul.  We made a grand stand of quite four feet high, out
of old fish-boxes, which smelt worse and worse as the day wore on, but
was, none the less, as sought after by those for whom it was not
intended, as is the Royal enclosure at Ascot; we broke gaps in all the
fences to allow carriages on to the ground, we armed a gang of the
worst blackguards in Skebawn with cart-whips, to keep the course, and
felt that organisation could go no further.

The momentous day of Pether and Paul opened badly, with heavy clouds
and every indication of rain, but after a few thunder showers things
brightened, and it seemed within the bounds of possibility that the
weather might hold up.  When I got down to the course on the day of the
sports the first thing I saw was a tent of that peculiar filthy grey
that usually enshrines the sale of porter, with an array of barrels in
a crate beside it; I bore down upon it in all the indignant majesty of
the law, and in so doing came upon Flurry Knox, who was engaged in
flogging boys off the Grand Stand.

"Sheehy's gone one better than you!" he said, without taking any
trouble to conceal the fact that he was amused.

"Sheehy!" I said; "why, Sheehy was the man who went to every magistrate
in the country to ask them to refuse a license for the sports."

"Yes, he took some trouble to prevent any one else having a look in,"
replied Flurry; "he asked every magistrate but one, and that was the
one that gave him the license."

"You don't mean to say that it was you?" I demanded in high wrath and
suspicion, remembering that Sheehy bred horses, and that my friend Mr.
Knox was a person of infinite resource in the matter of a deal.

"Well, well," said Flurry, rearranging a disordered fish-box, "and me
that's a church-warden, and sprained my ankle a month ago with running
downstairs at my grandmother's to be in time for prayers!  Where's the
use of a good character in this country?"

"Not much when you keep it eating its head off for want of exercise," I
retorted; "but if it wasn't you, who was it?"

"Do you remember old Moriarty out at Castle Ire?"

I remembered him extremely well as one of those representatives of the
people with whom a paternal Government had leavened the effete ranks of
the Irish magistracy.

"Well," resumed Flurry, "that license was as good as a five-pound note
in his pocket."

I permitted myself a comment on Mr. Moriarty suitable to the occasion.

"Oh, that's nothing," said Flurry easily; "he told me one day when he
was half screwed that his Commission of the Peace was worth a hundred
and fifty a year to him in turkeys and whisky, and he was telling the
truth for once."

At this point Flurry's eye wandered, and following its direction I saw
Lady Knox's smart 'bus cleaving its way through the throng of country
people, lurching over the ups and downs of the field like a ship in a
sea.  I was too blind to make out the component parts of the white
froth that crowned it on top, and seethed forth from it when it had
taken up a position near the tent in which Philippa was even now
propping the legs of the tea-table, but from the fact that Flurry
addressed himself to the door, I argued that Miss Sally had gone inside.

Lady Knox's manner had something more than its usual bleakness.  She
had brought, as she promised, a large contingent, but from the way that
the strangers within her gates melted impalpably and left me to deal
with her single-handed, I drew the further deduction that all was not
well.

"Did you ever in your life see such a gang of women as I have brought
with me?" she began with her wonted directness, as I piloted her to the
Grand Stand, and placed her on the stoutest looking of the fish-boxes.
"I have no patience with men who yacht!  Bernard Shute has gone off to
the Clyde, and I had counted on his being a man at my dance next week.
I suppose you'll tell me you're going away too."

I assured Lady Knox that I would be a man to the best of my ability.

"This is the last dance I shall give," went on her ladyship,
unappeased; "the men in this country consist of children and cads."

I admitted that we were but a poor lot, "but," I said, "Miss Sally told
me----"

"Sally's a fool!" said Lady Knox, with a falcon eye at her daughter,
who happened to be talking to her distant kinsman, Mr. Flurry of that
ilk.

The races had by this time begun with a competition known as the "Hop,
Step, and Lep"; this, judging by the yells, was a highly interesting
display, but as it was conducted between two impervious rows of
onlookers, the aristocracy on the fish-boxes saw nothing save the
occasional purple face of a competitor, starting into view above the
wall of backs like a jack-in-the-box.  For me, however, the odorous
sanctuary of the fish-boxes was not to be.  I left it guarded by
Slipper with a cart-whip of flail-like dimensions, as disreputable an
object as could be seen out of low comedy, with some one's old white
cords on his bandy legs, butcher-boots three sizes too big for him, and
a black eye.  The small boys fled before him; in the glory of his
office he would have flailed his own mother off the fish-boxes had
occasion served.

I had an afternoon of decidedly mixed enjoyment.  My stewardship
blossomed forth like Aaron's rod, and added to itself the duties of
starter, handicapper, general referee, and chucker-out, besides which I
from time to time strove with emissaries who came from Philippa with
messages about water and kettles.  Flurry and I had to deal
single-handed with the foot-races (our brothers in office being
otherwise engaged at Mr. Sheehy's), a task of many difficulties,
chiefest being that the spectators all swept forward at the word "Go!"
and ran the race with the competitors, yelling curses, blessings, and
advice upon them, taking short cuts over anything and everybody, and
mingling inextricably with the finish.  By fervent applications of the
whips, the course was to some extent purged for the quarter-mile, and
it would, I believe, have been a triumph of handicapping had not an
unforeseen disaster overtaken the favourite--old Mrs. Knox's bath-chair
boy.  Whether, as was alleged, his braces had or had not been tampered
with by a rival was a matter that the referee had subsequently to deal
with in the thick of a free fight; but the painful fact remained that
in the course of the first lap what were described as "his galluses"
abruptly severed their connection with the garments for whose safety
they were responsible, and the favourite was obliged to seek seclusion
in the crowd.

The tug-of-war followed close on this _contre-temps_, and had the
excellent effect of drawing away, like a blister, the inflammation set
up by the grievances of the bath-chair boy.  I cannot at this moment
remember of how many men each team consisted; my sole aim was to keep
the numbers even, and to baffle the volunteers who, in an ecstasy of
sympathy, attached themselves to the tail of the rope at moments when
their champions weakened.  The rival forces dug their heels in and
tugged, in an uproar that drew forth the innermost line of customers
from Mr. Sheehy's porter tent, and even attracted "the quality" from
the haven of the fish-boxes, Slipper, in the capacity of Squire of
Dames, pioneering Lady Knox through the crowd with the cart-whip, and
with language whose nature was providentially veiled, for the most
part, by the din.  The tug-of-war continued unabated.  One team was
getting the worst of it, but hung doggedly on, sinking lower and lower
till they gradually sat down; nothing short of the trump of judgment
could have conveyed to them that they were breaking rules, and both
teams settled down by slow degrees on to their sides, with the rope
under them, and their heels still planted in the ground, bringing about
complete deadlock.  I do not know the record duration for a tug-of-war,
but I can certify that the Cullinagh and Knockranny teams lay on the
ground at full tension for half-an-hour, like men in apoplectic fits,
each man with his respective adherents howling over him, blessing him,
and adjuring him to continue.

With my own nauseated eyes I saw a bearded countryman, obviously one of
Mr. Sheehy's best customers, fling himself on his knees beside one of
the combatants, and kiss his crimson and streaming face in a rapture of
encouragement.  As he shoved unsteadily past me on his return journey
to Mr. Sheehy's, I heard him informing a friend that "he cried a
handful over Danny Mulloy, when he seen the poor brave boy so
shtubborn, and, indeed, he couldn't say why he cried."

"For good-nature ye'd cry," suggested the friend.

"Well, just that, I suppose," returned Danny Mulloy's admirer
resignedly; "indeed, if it was only two cocks ye seen fightin' on the
road, yer heart'd take part with one o' them!"

I had begun to realise that I might as well abandon the tug-of-war and
occupy myself elsewhere, when my wife's much harassed messenger brought
me the portentous tidings that Mrs. Yeates wanted me at the tent at
once.  When I arrived I found the tent literally bulging with
Philippa's guests; Lady Knox, seated on a hamper, was taking off her
gloves, and loudly announcing her desire for tea, and Philippa, with a
flushed face and a crooked hat, breathed into my ear the awful news
that both the cream and the milk had been forgotten.

"But Flurry Knox says he can get me some," she went on; "he's gone to
send people to milk a cow that lives near here.  Go out and see if he's
coming."

I went out and found, in the first instance, Mrs. Cadogan, who greeted
me with the prayer that the divil might roast Julia McCarthy, that
legged it away to the races like a wild goose, and left the cream
afther her on the servants' hall table.  "Sure, Misther Flurry's gone
looking for a cow, and what cow would there be in a backwards place
like this?  And look at me shtriving to keep the kettle simpering on
the fire, and not as much coals undher it as'd redden a pipe!"

"Where's Mr. Knox?" I asked.

"Himself and Slipper's galloping the counthry like the deer.  I believe
it's to the house above they went, sir."

I followed up a rocky hill to the house above, and there found Flurry
and Slipper engaged in the patriarchal task of driving two brace of
coupled and spancelled goats into a shed.

"It's the best we can do," said Flurry briefly; "there isn't a cow to
be found, and the people are all down at the sports.  Be d----d to you,
Slipper, don't let them go from you!" as the goats charged and doubled
like football players.

"But goats' milk!" I said, paralysed by horrible memories of what tea
used to taste like at Gib.

"They'll never know it!" said Flurry, cornering a venerable nanny;
"here, hold this divil, and hold her tight!"

I have no time to dwell upon the pastoral scene that followed.  Suffice
it to say, that at the end of ten minutes of scorching profanity from
Slipper, and incessant warfare with the goats, the latter had
reluctantly yielded two small jugfuls, and the dairymaids had exhibited
a nerve and skill in their trade that won my lasting respect.

"I knew I could trust _you_, Mr. Knox!" said Philippa, with shining
eyes, as we presented her with the two foaming beakers.  I suppose a
man is never a hero to his wife, but if she could have realised the
bruises on my legs, I think she would have reserved a blessing for me
also.

What was thought of the goats' milk I gathered symptomatically from a
certain fixity of expression that accompanied the first sip of the tea,
and from observing that comparatively few ventured on second cups.  I
also noted that after a brief conversation with Flurry, Miss Sally
poured hers secretly on to the grass.  Lady Knox had throughout the day
preserved an aspect so threatening that no change was perceptible in
her demeanour.  In the throng of hungry guests I did not for some time
notice that Mr. Knox had withdrawn until something in Miss Sally's eye
summoned me to her, and she told me she had a message from him for me.

"Couldn't we come outside?" she said.

Outside the tent, within less than six yards of her mother, Miss Sally
confided to me a scheme that made my hair stand on end.  Summarised, it
amounted to this: That, first, she was in the primary stage of a deal
with Sheehy for a four-year-old chestnut colt, for which Sheehy was
asking double its value on the assumption that it had no rival in the
country; that, secondly, they had just heard it was going to run in the
first race; and, thirdly and lastly, that as there was no other horse
available, Flurry was going to take old Sultan out of the 'bus and ride
him in the race; and that Mrs. Yeates had promised to keep mamma safe
in the tent, while the race was going on, and "you know, Major Yeates,
it would be delightful to beat Sheehy after his getting the better of
you all about the license!"

With this base appeal to my professional feelings, Miss Knox paused,
and looked at me insinuatingly.  Her eyes were greeny-grey, and very
beguiling.

"Come on," she said; "they want you to start them!"

Pursued by visions of the just wrath of Lady Knox, I weakly followed
Miss Sally to the farther end of the second field, from which point the
race was to start.  The course was not a serious one: two or three
natural banks, a stone wall, and a couple of "hurrls."  There were but
four riders, including Flurry, who was seated composedly on Sultan,
smoking a cigarette and talking confidentially to Slipper.  Sultan,
although something stricken in years and touched in the wind, was a
brown horse who in his day had been a hunter of no mean repute; even
now he occasionally carried Lady Knox in a sedate and gentlemanly
manner, but it struck me that it was trying him rather high to take him
from the pole of the 'bus after twelve miles on a hilly road, and
hustle him over a country against a four-year-old.  My acutest anxiety,
however, was to start the race as quickly as possible, and to get back
to the tent in time to establish an alibi; therefore I repressed my
private sentiments, and, tying my handkerchief to a stick, determined
that no time should be fashionably frittered away in false starts.

They got away somehow; I believe Sheehy's colt was facing the wrong way
at the moment when I dropped the flag, but a friend turned him with a
stick, and, with a cordial and timely whack, speeded him on his way on
sufficiently level terms, and then somehow, instead of returning to the
tent, I found myself with Miss Sally on the top of a tall narrow bank,
in a precarious line of other spectators, with whom we toppled and
swayed, and, in moments of acuter emotion, held on to each other in
unaffected comradeship.

Flurry started well, and from our commanding position we could see him
methodically riding at the first fence at a smart hunting canter,
closely attended by James Canty's brother on a young black mare, and by
an unknown youth on a big white horse.  The hope of Sheehy's stable, a
leggy chestnut, ridden by a cadet of the house of Sheehy, went away
from the friend's stick like a rocket, and had already refused the
first bank twice before old Sultan decorously changed feet on it and
dropped down into the next field with tranquil precision.  The white
horse scrambled over it on his stomach, but landed safely, despite the
fact that his rider clasped him round the neck during the process; the
black mare and the chestnut shouldered one another over at the hole the
white horse had left, and the whole party went away in a bunch and
jumped the ensuing hurdle without disaster.  Flurry continued to ride
at the same steady hunting pace, accompanied respectfully by the white
horse and by Jerry Canty on the black mare.  Sheehy's colt had clearly
the legs of the party, and did some showy galloping between the jumps,
but as he refused to face the banks without a lead, the end of the
first round found the field still a sociable party personally conducted
by Mr. Knox.

"That's a dam nice horse," said one of my hangers-on, looking
approvingly at Sultan as he passed us at the beginning of the second
round, making a good deal of noise but apparently going at his ease;
"you might depind your life on him, and he have the crabbedest jock in
the globe of Ireland on him this minute."

"Canty's mare's very sour," said another; "look at her now, baulking
the bank! she's as cross as a bag of weasels."

"Begob, I wouldn't say but she's a little sign lame," resumed the
first; "she was going light on one leg on the road a while ago."

"I tell you what it is," said Miss Sally, very seriously, in my ear,
"that chestnut of Sheehy's is settling down.  I'm afraid he'll gallop
away from Sultan at the finish, and the wall won't stop him.  Flurry
can't get another inch out of Sultan.  He's riding him well," she ended
in a critical voice, which yet was not quite like her own.  Perhaps I
should not have noticed it but for the fact that the hand that held my
arm was trembling.  As for me, I thought of Lady Knox, and trembled too.

There now remained but one bank, the trampled remnant of the furze
hurdle, and the stone wall.  The pace was beginning to improve, and the
other horses drew away from Sultan; they charged the bank at full
gallop, the black mare and the chestnut flying it perilously, with a
windmill flourish of legs and arms from their riders, the white horse
racing up to it with a gallantry that deserted him at the critical
moment, with the result that his rider turned a somersault over his
head and landed, amidst the roars of the onlookers, sitting on the
fence facing his horse's nose.  With creditable presence of mind he
remained on the bank, towed the horse over, scrambled on to his back
again and started afresh.  Sultan, thirty yards to the bad, pounded
doggedly on, and Flurry's cane and heels remained idle; the old horse,
obviously blown, slowed cautiously coming in at the jump.  Sally's grip
tightened on my arm, and the crowd yelled as Sultan, answering to a
hint from the spurs and a touch at his mouth, heaved himself on to the
bank.  Nothing but sheer riding on Flurry's part got him safe off it,
and saved him from the consequences of a bad peck on landing; none the
less, he pulled himself together and went away down the hill for the
stone wall as stoutly as ever.  The high-road skirted the last two
fields, and there was a gate in the roadside fence beside the place
where the stone wall met it at right angles.  I had noticed this gate,
because during the first round Slipper had been sitting on it,
demonstrating with his usual fervour.  Sheeny's colt was leading, with
his nose in the air, his rider's hands going like a circular saw, and
his temper, as a bystander remarked, "up on end"; the black mare, half
mad from spurring, was going hard at his heels, completely out of hand;
the white horse was steering steadily for the wrong side of the flag,
and Flurry, by dint of cutting corners and of saving every yard of
ground, was close enough to keep his antagonists' heads over their
shoulders, while their right arms rose and fell in unceasing
flagellation.

"There'll be a smash when they come to the wall!  If one falls they'll
all go!" panted Sally.  "Oh!----  Now!  Flurry!  Flurry!----"

What had happened was that the chestnut colt had suddenly perceived
that the gate at right angles to the wall was standing wide open, and,
swinging away from the jump, he had bolted headlong out on to the road,
and along it at top speed for his home.  After him fled Canty's black
mare, and with her, carried away by the spirit of stampede, went the
white horse.

Flurry stood up in his stirrups and gave a view-halloa as he cantered
down to the wall.  Sultan came at it with the send of the hill behind
him, and jumped it with a skill that intensified, if that were
possible, the volume of laughter and yells around us.  By the time the
black mare and the white horse had returned and ignominiously bundled
over the wall to finish as best they might, Flurry was leading Sultan
towards us.

"That blackguard, Slipper!" he said, grinning; "every one'll say I told
him to open the gate!  But look here, I'm afraid we're in for trouble.
Sultan's given himself a bad over-reach; you could never drive him home
to-night.  And I've just seen Norris lying blind drunk under a wall!"

Now Norris was Lady Knox's coachman.  We stood aghast at this "horror
on horror's head," the blood trickled down Sultan's heel, and the
lather lay in flecks on his dripping, heaving sides, in irrefutable
witness to the iniquity of Lady Knox's only daughter.  Then Flurry said:

"Thank the Lord, here's the rain!"

At the moment I admit that I failed to see any cause for gratitude in
this occurrence, but later on I appreciated Flurry's grasp of
circumstances.

That appreciation was, I think, at its highest development about
half-an-hour afterwards, when I, an unwilling conspirator (a part with
which my acquaintance with Mr. Knox had rendered me but too familiar)
unfurled Mrs. Cadogan's umbrella over Lady Knox's head, and hurried her
through the rain from the tent to the 'bus, keeping it and my own
person well between her and the horses.  I got her in, with the rest of
her bedraggled and exhausted party, and slammed the door.

"Remember, Major Yeates," she said through the window, "you are the
_only_ person here in whom I have any confidence.  I don't wish _any_
one else to touch the reins!" this with a glance towards Flurry, who
was standing near.

"I'm afraid I'm only a moderate whip," I said.

"My dear man," replied Lady Knox testily, "those horses could drive
themselves!"

I slunk round to the front of the 'bus.  Two horses, carefully rugged,
were in it, with the inevitable Slipper at their heads.

"Slipper's going with you," whispered Flurry, stepping up to me; "she
won't have me at any price.  He'll throw the rugs over them when you
get to the house, and if you hold the umbrella well over her she'll
never see.  I'll manage to get Sultan over somehow, when Norris is
sober.  That will be all right."

I climbed to the box without answering, my soul being bitter within me,
as is the soul of a man who has been persuaded by womankind against his
judgment.

"Never again!" I said to myself, picking up the reins; "let her marry
him or Bernard Shute, or both of them if she likes, but I won't be
roped into this kind of business again!"

Slipper drew the rugs from the horses, revealing on the near side Lady
Knox's majestic carriage horse, and on the off, a thick-set brown mare
of about fifteen hands.

"What brute is this?" said I to Slipper, as he swarmed up beside me.

"I don't rightly know where Misther Flurry got her," said Slipper, with
one of his hiccoughing crows of laughter; "give her the whip, Major,
and"--here he broke into song:

  "Howld to the shteel,
  Honamaundhiaoul; she'll run off like an eel!"


"If you don't shut your mouth," said I, with pent-up ferocity, "I'll
chuck you off the 'bus."

Slipper was but slightly drunk, and, taking this delicate rebuke in
good part, he relapsed into silence.

Wherever the brown mare came from, I can certify that it was not out of
double harness.  Though humble and anxious to oblige, she pulled away
from the pole as if it were red hot, and at critical moments had a
tendency to sit down.  However, we squeezed without misadventure among
the donkey carts and between the groups of people, and bumped at length
in safety out on to the high-road.

Here I thought it no harm to take Slipper's advice, and I applied the
whip to the brown mare, who seemed inclined to turn round.  She
immediately fell into an uncertain canter that no effort of mine could
frustrate; I could only hope that Miss Sally would foster conversation
inside the 'bus and create a distraction; but judging from my last view
of the party, and of Lady Knox in particular, I thought she was not
likely to be successful.  Fortunately the rain was heavy and thick, and
a rising west wind gave every promise of its continuance.  I had little
doubt but that I should catch cold, but I took it to my bosom with
gratitude as I reflected how it was drumming on the roof of the 'bus
and blurring the windows.

We had reached the foot of a hill, about a quarter of a mile from the
racecourse; the Castle Knox horse addressed himself to it with
dignified determination, but the mare showed a sudden and alarming
tendency to jib.

"Belt her, Major!" vociferated Slipper, as she hung back from the pole
chain, with the collar half-way up her ewe neck, "and give it to the
horse, too!  He'll dhrag her!"

I was in the act of "belting," when a squealing whinny struck upon my
ear, accompanied by a light pattering gallop on the road behind us;
there was an answering roar from the brown mare, a roar, as I realised
with a sudden drop of the heart, of outraged maternal feeling, and in
another instant a pale, yellow foal sprinted up beside us, with shrill
whickerings of joy.  Had there at this moment been a boghole handy, I
should have turned the 'bus into it without hesitation; as there was no
accommodation of the kind, I laid the whip severely into everything I
could reach, including the foal.  The result was that we topped the
hill at a gallop, three abreast, like a Russian troitska; it was like
my usual luck that at this identical moment we should meet the police
patrol, who saluted respectfully.

"That the divil may blisther Michael Moloney!" ejaculated Slipper,
holding on to the rail; "didn't I give him the foaleen and a halther on
him to keep him!  I'll howld you a pint 'twas the wife let him go, for
she being vexed about the license!  Sure that one's a March foal, an'
he'd run from here to Cork!"

There was no sign from my inside passengers, and I held on at a round
pace, the mother and child galloping absurdly, the carriage horse
pulling hard, but behaving like a gentleman.  I wildly revolved plans
of how I would make Slipper turn the foal in at the first gate we came
to, of what I should say to Lady Knox supposing the worst happened and
the foal accompanied us to her hall door, and of how I would have
Flurry's blood at the earliest possible opportunity, and here the
fateful sound of galloping behind us was again heard.

"It's impossible!" I said to myself; "she can't have twins!"

The galloping came nearer, and Slipper looked back.

"Murdher alive!" he said in a stage whisper; "Tom Sheehy's afther us on
the butcher's pony!"

"What's that to me?" I said, dragging my team aside to let him pass; "I
suppose he's drunk, like every one else!"

Then the voice of Tom Sheehy made itself heard.

"Shtop!  Shtop thief!" he was bawling; "give up my mare!  How will I
get me porther home!"


That was the closest shave I have ever had, and nothing could have
saved the position but the torrential nature of the rain and the fact
that Lady Knox had on a new bonnet.  I explained to her at the door of
the 'bus that Sheehy was drunk (which was the one unassailable feature
of the case), and had come after his foal, which, with the fatuity of
its kind, had escaped from a field and followed us.  I did not mention
to Lady Knox that when Mr. Sheehy retreated, apologetically, dragging
the foal after him in a halter belonging to one of her own carriage
horses, he had a sovereign of mine in his pocket, and during the
narration I avoided Miss Sally's eye as carefully as she avoided mine.

The only comments on the day's events that are worthy of record were
that Philippa said to me that she had not been able to understand what
the curious taste in the tea had been till Sally told her it was
turf-smoke, and that Mrs. Cadogan said to Philippa that night that "the
Major was that dhrinched that if he had a shirt between his skin and
himself he could have wrung it," and that Lady Knox said to a mutual
friend that though Major Yeates had been extremely kind and obliging,
he was an uncommonly bad whip.



XII

"OH LOVE!  OH FIRE!"

It was on one of the hottest days of a hot August that I walked over to
Tory Lodge to inform Mr. Flurry Knox, M.F.H., that the limits of human
endurance had been reached, and that either Venus and her family, or I
and mine, must quit Shreelane.  In a moment of impulse I had accepted
her and her numerous progeny as guests in my stable-yard, since when
Mrs. Cadogan had given warning once or twice a week, and Maria, lawful
autocrat of the ashpit, had had--I quote the kitchen-maid--"tin battles
for every male she'd ate."

The walk over the hills was not of a nature to lower the temperature,
moral or otherwise.  The grassy path was as slippery as glass, the
rocks radiated heat, the bracken radiated horseflies.  There was no
need to nurse my wrath to keep it warm.

I found Flurry seated in the kennel-yard in a long and unclean white
linen coat, engaged in clipping hieroglyphics on the ears of a young
outgoing draft, an occupation in itself unfavourable to argument.  The
young draft had already monopolised all possible forms of remonstrance,
from snarling in the obscurity behind the meal sack in the
boiler-house, to hysterical yelling as they were dragged forth by the
tail; but through these alarms and excursions I denounced Venus and all
her works, from slaughtered Wyandottes to broken dishes.  Even as I did
so I was conscious of something chastened in Mr. Knox's demeanour, some
touch of remoteness and melancholy with which I was quite unfamiliar;
my indictment weakened and my grievances became trivial when laid
before this grave and almost religiously gentle young man.

"I'm sorry you and Mrs. Yeates should be vexed by her.  Send her back
when you like.  I'll keep her.  Maybe it'll not be for so long after
all."

When pressed to expound this dark saying, Flurry smiled wanly and
snipped a second line in the hair of the puppy that was pinned between
his legs.  I was almost relieved when a hard try to bite on the part of
the puppy imparted to Flurry's language a transient warmth; but the
reaction was only temporary.

"It'd be as good for me to make a present of this lot to old Welby as
to take the price he's offering me," he went on, as he got up and took
off his highly-scented kennel-coat; "but I couldn't be bothered
fighting him.  Come on in and have something.  I drink tea myself at
this hour."

If he had said toast and water it would have seemed no more than was
suitable to such a frame of mind.  As I followed him to the house I
thought that when the day came that Flurry Knox could not be bothered
with fighting old Welby things were becoming serious, but I kept this
opinion to myself and merely offered an admiring comment on the roses
that were blooming on the front of the house.

"I put up every stick of that trellis myself with my own hands," said
Flurry, still gloomily; "the roses were trailing all over the place for
the want of it.  Would you like to have a look at the garden while
they're getting tea?  I settled it up a bit since you saw it last."

I acceded to this almost alarmingly ladylike suggestion, marvelling
greatly.

Flurry certainly was a changed man, and his garden was a changed
garden.  It was a very old garden, with unexpected arbours madly
overgrown with flowering climbers, and a flight of grey steps leading
to a terrace, where a moss-grown sundial and ancient herbaceous plants
strove with nettles and briars; but I chiefly remembered it as a place
where washing was wont to hang on black-currant bushes, and the kennel
terrier matured his bones and hunted chickens.  There was now rabbit
wire on the gate, the walks were cleaned, the beds weeded.  There was
even a bed of mignonette, a row of sweet pea, and a blazing party of
sunflowers, and Michael, once second in command in many a filibustering
expedition, was now on his knees, ingloriously tying carnations to
little pieces of cane.

We walked up the steps to the terrace.  Down below us the rich and
southern blue of the sea filled the gaps between scattered fir-trees;
the hillside above was purple with heather; a bay mare and her foal
were moving lazily through the bracken, with the sun glistening on it
and them.  I looked back at the house, nestling in the hollow of the
hill, I smelled the smell of the mignonette in the air, I regarded
Michael's labouring back among the carnations, and without any
connection of ideas I seemed to see Miss Sally Knox, with her
golden-red hair and slight figure, standing on the terrace beside her
kinsman.

"Michael!  Do ye know where's Misther Flurry?" squalled a voice from
the garden gate, the untrammelled voice of the female domestic at large
among her fellows.  "The tay's wet, and there's a man over with a
message from Aussolas.  He was tellin' me the owld hairo beyant is
givin' out invitations----"

A stricken silence fell, induced, no doubt, by hasty danger signals
from Michael.

"Who's 'the old hero beyant'?" I asked, as we turned toward the house.

"My grandmother," said Flurry, permitting himself a smile that had
about as much sociability in it as skim milk; "she's giving a tenants'
dance at Aussolas.  She gave one about five years ago, and I declare
you might as well get the influenza into the country, or a mission at
the chapel.  There won't be a servant in the place will be able to
answer their name for a week after it, what with toothache and
headache, and blathering in the kitchen!"

We had tea in the drawing-room, a solemnity which I could not but be
aware was due to the presence of a new carpet, a new wall-paper, and a
new piano.  Flurry made no comment on these things, but something told
me that I was expected to do so, and I did.

"I'd sell you the lot to-morrow for half what I gave for them," said my
host, eyeing them with morose respect as he poured out his third cup of
tea.

I have all my life been handicapped by not having the courage of my
curiosity.  Those who have the nerve to ask direct questions on matters
that do not concern them seldom fail to extract direct answers, but in
my lack of this enviable gift I went home in the dark as to what had
befallen my landlord, and fully aware of how my wife would despise me
for my shortcomings.  Philippa always says that she never asks
questions, but she seems none the less to get a lot of answers.

On my own avenue I met Miss Sally Knox riding away from the house on
her white cob; she had found no one at home, and she would not turn
back with me, but she did not seem to be in any hurry to ride away.  I
told her that I had just been over to see her relative, Mr. Knox, who
had informed me that he meant to give up the hounds, a fact in which
she seemed only conventionally interested.  She looked pale, and her
eyelids were slightly pink; I checked myself on the verge of asking her
if she had hay-fever, and inquired instead if she had heard of the
tenants' dance at Aussolas.  She did not answer at first, but rubbed
her cane up and down the cob's clipped toothbrush of a mane.  Then she
said:

"Major Yeates--look here--there's a most awful row at home!"

I expressed incoherent regret, and wished to my heart that Philippa had
been there to cope with the situation.

"It began when mamma found out about Flurry's racing Sultan, and then
came our dance----"

Miss Sally stopped; I nodded, remembering certain episodes of Lady
Knox's dance.

"And--mamma says--she says----"

I waited respectfully to hear what mamma had said; the cob fidgeted
under the attentions of the horseflies, and nearly trod on my toe.

"Well, the end of it is," she said with a gulp, "she said such things
to Flurry that he can't come near the house again, and I'm to go over
to England to Aunt Dora, next week.  Will you tell Philippa I came to
say good-bye to her?  I don't think I can get over here again."

Miss Sally was a sufficiently old friend of mine for me to take her
hand and press it in a fatherly manner, but for the life of me I could
not think of anything to say, unless I expressed my sympathy with her
mother's point of view about detrimentals, which was obviously not the
thing to do.

Philippa accorded to my news the rare tribute of speechless attention,
and then was despicable enough to say that she had foreseen the whole
affair from the beginning.

"From the day that she refused him in the ice-house, I suppose," said I
sarcastically.

"That _was_ the beginning," replied Philippa.

"Well," I went on judicially, "whenever it began, it was high time for
it to end.  She can do a good deal better than Flurry."

Philippa became rather red in the face.

"I call that a thoroughly commonplace thing to say," she said.  "I dare
say he has not many ideas beyond horses, but no more has she, and he
really does come and borrow books from me----"

"Whitaker's Almanack," I murmured.

"Well, I don't care, I like him very much, and I know what you're going
to say, and you're wrong, and I'll tell you why----"

Here Mrs. Cadogan came into the room, her cap at rather more than its
usual warlike angle over her scarlet forehead, and in her hand a
kitchen plate, on which a note was ceremoniously laid forth.

"But this is for you, Mrs. Cadogan," said Philippa, as she looked at it.

"Ma'am," returned Mrs. Cadogan with immense dignity, "I have no
learning, and from what the young man's afther telling me that brought
it from Aussolas, I'd sooner yerself read it for me than thim gerrls."

My wife opened the envelope, and drew forth a gilt-edged sheet of pink
paper.

"Miss Margaret Nolan presents her compliments to Mrs. Cadogan," she
read, "and I have the pleasure of telling you that the servants of
Aussolas is inviting you and Mr. Peter Cadogan, Miss Mulrooney, and
Miss Gallagher"--Philippa's voice quavered perilously--"to a dance on
next Wednesday.  Dancing to begin at seven o'clock, and to go on till
five.--Yours affectionately, MAGGIE NOLAN."

"How affectionate she is!" snorted Mrs. Cadogan; "them's Dublin
manners, I dare say!"

"P.S.," continued Philippa; "steward, Mr. Denis O'Loughlin; stewardess,
Mrs. Mahony."

"Thoughtful provision," I remarked; "I suppose Mrs. Mahony's duties
will begin after supper."

"Well, Mrs. Cadogan," said Philippa, quelling me with a glance, "I
suppose you'd all like to go?"

"As for dancin'," said Mrs. Cadogan, with her eyes fixed on a level
with the curtain-pole, "I thank God I'm a widow, and the only dancin'
I'll do is to dance to my grave."

"Well, perhaps Julia, and Annie, and Peter----" suggested Philippa,
considerably overawed.

"I'm not one of them that holds with loud mockery and harangues,"
continued Mrs. Cadogan, "but if I had any wish for dhrawing down talk I
could tell you, ma'am, that the like o' them has their share of dances
without going to Aussolas!  Wasn't it only last Sunday week I wint
follyin' the turkey that's layin' out in the plantation, and the whole
o' thim hysted their sails and back with them to their lovers at the
gate-house, and the kitchen-maid having a Jew-harp to be playing for
them!"

"That was very wrong," said the truckling Philippa.  "I hope you spoke
to the kitchen-maid about it."

"Is it spake to thim?" rejoined Mrs. Cadogan.  "No, but what I done was
to dhrag the kitchenmaid round the passages by the hair o' the head!"

"Well, after that, I think you might let her go to Aussolas," said I
venturously.

The end of it was that every one in and about the house went to
Aussolas on the following Wednesday, including Mrs. Cadogan.  Philippa
had gone over to stay at the Shutes, ostensibly to arrange about a
jumble sale, the real object being (as a matter of history) to inspect
the Scotch young lady before whom Bernard Shute had dumped his
affections in his customary manner.  Being alone, with every prospect
of a bad dinner, I accepted with gratitude an invitation to dine and
sleep at Aussolas and see the dance; it is only on very special
occasions that I have the heart to remind Philippa that she had neither
part nor lot in what occurred--it is too serious a matter for trivial
gloryings.

Mrs. Knox had asked me to dine at six o'clock, which meant that I
arrived, in blazing sunlight and evening clothes, punctually at that
hour, and that at seven o'clock I was still sitting in the library,
reading heavily-bound classics, while my hostess held loud
conversations down staircases with Denis O'Loughlin, the red-bearded
Robinson Crusoe who combined in himself the offices of coachman,
butler, and, to the best of my belief, valet to the lady of the house.
The door opened at last, and Denis, looking as furtive as his prototype
after he had sighted the footprint, put in his head and beckoned to me.

"The misthress says will ye go to dinner without her," he said very
confidentially; "sure she's greatly vexed ye should be waitin' on her.
'Twas the kitchen chimney cot fire, and faith she's afther giving Biddy
Mahony the sack, on the head of it!  Though, indeed, 'tis little we'd
regard a chimney on fire here any other day."

Mrs. Knox's woolly dog was the sole occupant of the dining-room when I
entered it; he was sitting on his mistress's chair, with all the air of
outrage peculiar to a small and self-important dog when routine has
been interfered with.  It was difficult to discover what had caused the
delay, the meal, not excepting the soup, being a cold collation; it was
heavily flavoured with soot, and was hurled on to the table by Crusoe
in spasmodic bursts, contemporaneous, no doubt, with Biddy Mahony's
fits of hysterics in the kitchen.  Its most memorable feature was a
noble lake trout, which appeared in two jagged pieces, a matter lightly
alluded to by Denis as the result of "a little argument" between
himself and Biddy as to the dish on which it was to be served.  Further
conversation elicited the interesting fact that the combatants had
pulled the trout in two before the matter was settled.  A brief glance
at my attendant's hands decided me to let the woolly dog justify his
existence by consuming my portion for me, when Crusoe left the room.

Old Mrs. Knox remained invisible till the end of dinner, when she
appeared in the purple velvet bonnet that she was reputed to have worn
since the famine, and a dun-coloured woollen shawl fastened by a
splendid diamond brooch, that flashed rainbow fire against the last
shafts of sunset.  There was a fire in the old lady's eye, too, the
light that I had sometimes seen in Flurry's in moments of crisis.

"I have no apologies to offer that are worth hearing," she said, "but I
have come to drink a glass of port wine with you, if you will so far
honour me, and then we must go out and see the ball.  My grandson is
late, as usual."

She crumbled a biscuit with a brown and preoccupied hand; her claw-like
fingers carried a crowded sparkle of diamonds upwards as she raised her
glass to her lips.

The twilight was falling when we left the room and made our way
downstairs.  I followed the little figure in the purple bonnet through
dark regions of passages and doorways, where strange lumber lay about;
there was a rusty suit of armour, an upturned punt, mouldering
pictures, and finally, by a door that opened into the yard, a lady's
bicycle, white with the dust of travel.  I supposed this latter to have
been imported from Dublin by the fashionable Miss Maggie Nolan, but on
the other hand it was well within the bounds of possibility that it
belonged to old Mrs. Knox.  The coach-house at Aussolas was on a par
with the rest of the establishment, being vast, dilapidated, and of
unknown age.  Its three double doors were wide open, and the guests
overflowed through them into the cobble-stoned yard; above their heads
the tin reflectors of paraffin lamps glared at us from among the
Christmas decorations of holly and ivy that festooned the walls.  The
voices of a fiddle and a concertina, combined, were uttering a polka
with shrill and hideous fluency, to which the scraping and stamping of
hobnailed boots made a ponderous bass accompaniment.

Mrs. Knox's donkey-chair had been placed in a commanding position at
the top of the room, and she made her way slowly to it, shaking hands
with all varieties of tenants and saying right things without showing
any symptom of that flustered boredom that I have myself exhibited when
I went round the men's messes on Christmas Day.  She took her seat in
the donkey-chair, with the white dog in her lap, and looked with her
hawk's eyes round the array of faces that hemmed in the space where the
dancers were solemnly bobbing and hopping.

"Will you tell me who that tomfool is, Denis?" she said, pointing to a
young lady in a ball dress who was circling in conscious magnificence
and somewhat painful incongruity in the arms of Mr. Peter Cadogan.

"That's the lady's-maid from Castle Knox, yer honour, ma'am," replied
Denis, with something remarkably like a wink at Mrs. Knox.

"When did the Castle Knox servants come?" asked the old lady, very
sharply.

"The same time yer honour left the table, and----Pillilew!  What's
this?"

There was a clatter of galloping hoofs in the courtyard, as of a troop
of cavalry, and out of the heart of it Flurry's voice shouting to Denis
to drive out the colts and shut the gates before they had the people
killed.  I noticed that the colour had risen to Mrs. Knox's face, and I
put it down to anxiety about her young horses.  I may admit that when I
heard Flurry's voice, and saw him collaring his grandmother's guests
and pushing them out of the way as he came into the coach-house, I
rather feared that he was in the condition so often defined to me at
Petty Sessions as "not dhrunk, but having dhrink taken."  His face was
white, his eyes glittered, there was a general air of exaltation about
him that suggested the solace of the pangs of love according to the
most ancient convention.

"Hullo!" he said, swaggering up to the orchestra, "what's this
humbugging thing they're playing?  A polka, is it?  Drop that, John
Casey, and play a jig."

John Casey ceased abjectly.

"What'll I play, Masther Flurry?"

"What the devil do I care?  Here, Yeates, put a name on it!  You're a
sort of musicianer yourself!"

I know the names of three or four Irish jigs; but on this occasion my
memory clung exclusively to one, I suppose because it was the one I
felt to be peculiarly inappropriate.

"Oh, well, 'Haste to the Wedding,'" I said, looking away.

Flurry gave a shout of laughter.

"That's it!" he exclaimed.  "Play it up, John!  Give us 'Haste to the
Wedding.'  That's Major Yeates's fancy!"

Decidedly Flurry was drunk.

"What's wrong with you all that you aren't dancing?" he continued,
striding up the middle of the room.  "Maybe you don't know how.  Here,
I'll soon get one that'll show you!"

He advanced upon his grandmother, snatched her out of the donkey-chair,
and, amid roars of applause, led her out, while the fiddle squealed its
way through the inimitable twists of the tune, and the concertina
surged and panted after it.  Whatever Mrs. Knox may have thought of her
grandson's behaviour, she was evidently going to make the best of it.
She took her station opposite to him, in the purple bonnet, the
dun-coloured shawl, and the diamonds, she picked up her skirt at each
side, affording a view of narrow feet in elastic-sided cloth boots, and
for three repeats of the tune she stood up to her grandson, and footed
it on the coach-house floor.  What the cloth boots did I could not
exactly follow; they were, as well as I could see, extremely
scientific, while there was hardly so much as a nod from the plumes of
the bonnet.  Flurry was also scientific, but his dancing did not alter
my opinion that he was drunk; in fact, I thought he was making rather
an exhibition of himself.  They say that that jig was twenty pounds in
Mrs. Knox's pocket at the next rent day; but though this statement is
open to doubt, I believe that if she and Flurry had taken the hat round
there and then she would have got in the best part of her arrears.

After this the company settled down to business.  The dances lasted a
sweltering half-hour, old women and young dancing with equal and
tireless zest.  At the end of each the gentlemen abandoned their
partners without ceremony or comment, and went out to smoke, while the
ladies retired to the laundry, where families of teapots stewed on the
long bars of the fire, and Mrs. Mahony cut up mighty "barm-bracks," and
the tea-drinking was illimitable.

At ten o'clock Mrs. Knox withdrew from the revel; she said that she was
tired, but I have seldom seen any one look more wide awake.  I thought
that I might unobtrusively follow her example, but I was intercepted by
Flurry.

"Yeates," he said seriously, "I'll take it as a kindness if you'll see
this thing out with me.  We must keep them pretty sober, and get them
out of this by daylight.  I--I have to get home early."

I at once took back my opinion that Flurry was drunk; I almost wished
he had been, as I could then have deserted him without a pang.  As it
was, I addressed myself heavily to the night's enjoyment.  Wan with
heat, but conscientiously cheerful, I danced with Miss Maggie Nolan,
with the Castle Knox lady's-maid, with my own kitchenmaid, who fell
into wild giggles of terror whenever I spoke to her, with Mrs. Cadogan,
who had apparently postponed the interesting feat of dancing to her
grave, and did what she could to dance me into mine.  I am bound to
admit that though an ex-soldier and a major, and therefore equipped
with a ready-made character for gallantry, Mrs. Cadogan was the only
one of my partners with whom I conversed with any comfort.

At intervals I smoked cigarettes in the yard, seated on the old
mounting-block by the gate, and overheard such conversation about the
price of pigs in Skebawn; at intervals I plunged again into the
coach-house, and led forth a perspiring wallflower into the scrimmage
of a polka, or shuffled meaninglessly opposite to her in the long
double line of dancers who were engaged with serious faces in executing
a jig or a reel, I neither knew nor cared which.  Flurry remained as
undefeated as ever; I could only suppose it was his method of showing
that his broken heart had mended.

"It's time to be making the punch, Masther Flurry," said Denis, as the
harness-room clock struck twelve; "sure the night's warm, and the men's
all gaping for it, the craytures!"

"What'll we make it in?" said Flurry, as we followed him into the
laundry.

"The boiler, to be sure," said Crusoe, taking up a stone of sugar, and
preparing to shoot it into the laundry copper.

"Stop, you fool, it's full of cockroaches!" shouted Flurry, amid
sympathetic squalls from the throng of countrywomen.  "Go get a bath!"

"Sure yerself knows there's but one bath in it," retorted Denis, "and
that's within in the Major's room.  Faith, the tinker got his own share
yestherday with the same bath, sthriving to quinch the holes, and they
as thick in it as the stars in the sky, and 'tis weeping still, afther
all he done!"

"Well, then, here goes for the cockroaches!" said Flurry.  "What
doesn't sicken will fatten!  Give me the kettle, and come on, you Kitty
Collins, and be skimming them off!"

There were no complaints of the punch when the brew was completed, and
the dance thundered on with a heavier stamping and a louder hilarity
than before.  The night wore on; I squeezed through the unyielding pack
of frieze coats and shawls in the doorway, and with feet that momently
swelled in my pumps I limped over the cobble-stones to smoke my eighth
cigarette on the mounting-block.  It was a dark, hot night.  The old
castle loomed above me in piled-up roofs and gables, and high up in it
somewhere a window sent a shaft of light into the sleeping leaves of a
walnut-tree that overhung the gateway.  At the bars of the gate two
young horses peered in at the medley of noise and people; away in an
outhouse a cock crew hoarsely.  The gaiety in the coach-house increased
momently, till, amid shrieks and bursts of laughter, Miss Maggie Nolan
fed coquettishly from it with a long yell, like a train coming out of a
tunnel, pursued by the fascinating Peter Cadogan brandishing a twig of
mountain ash, in imitation of mistletoe.  The young horses stampeded in
horror, and immediately a voice proceeded from the lighted window
above, Mrs. Knox's voice, demanding what the noise was, and announcing
that if she heard any more of it she would have the place cleared.

An awful silence fell, to which the young horses' fleeing hoofs lent
the final touch of consternation.  Then I heard the irrepressible
Maggie Nolan say: "Oh God!  Merry-come-sad!" which I take to be a
reflection on the mutability of all earthly happiness.

Mrs. Knox remained for a moment at the window, and it struck me as
remarkable that at 2.30 A.M. she should still have on her bonnet.  I
thought I heard her speak to some one in the room, and there followed a
laugh, a laugh that was not a servant's, and was puzzlingly familiar.
I gave it up, and presently dropped into a cheerless doze.

With the dawn there came a period when even Flurry showed signs of
failing.  He came and sat down beside me with a yawn; it struck me that
there was more impatience and nervousness than fatigue in the yawn.

"I think I'll turn them all out of this after the next dance is over,"
he said; "I've a lot to do, and I can't stay here."

I grunted in drowsy approval.  It must have been a few minutes later
that I felt Flurry grip my shoulder.

"Yeates!" he said, "look up at the roof.  Do you see anything up there
by the kitchen chimney?"

He was pointing at a heavy stack of chimneys in a tower that stood up
against the grey and pink of the morning sky.  At the angle where one
of them joined the roof smoke was oozing busily out, and, as I stared,
a little wisp of flame stole through.

The next thing that I distinctly remember is being in the van of a rush
through the kitchen passages, every one shouting "Water!  Water!" and
not knowing where to find it, then up several flights of the narrowest
and darkest stairs it has ever been my fate to ascend, with a bucket of
water that I snatched from a woman, spilling as I ran.  At the top of
the stairs came a ladder leading to a trap-door, and up in the dark
loft above was the roar and the wavering glare of flames.

"My God!  That's sthrong fire!" shouted Denis, tumbling down the ladder
with a brace of empty buckets; "we'll never save it!  The lake won't
quinch it!"

The flames were squirting out through the bricks of the chimney,
through the timbers, through the slates; it was barely possible to get
through the trap-door, and the booming and crackling strengthened every
instant.

"A chain to the lake!" gasped Flurry, coughing in the stifling heat as
he slashed the water at the blazing rafters; "the well's no good!  Go
on, Yeates!"

The organising of a double chain out of the mob that thronged and
shouted and jammed in the passages and yard was no mean feat of
generalship; but it got done somehow.  Mrs. Cadogan and Biddy Mahony
rose magnificently to the occasion, cursing, thumping, shoving; and
stable buckets, coal buckets, milk pails, and kettles were unearthed
and sent swinging down the grass slope to the lake that lay in
glittering unconcern in the morning sunshine.  Men, women, and children
worked in a way that only Irish people can work on an emergency.  All
their cleverness, all their good-heartedness, and all their love of a
ruction came to the front; the screaming and the exhortations were
incessant, but so were also the buckets that flew from hand to hand up
to the loft.  I hardly know how long we were at it, but there came a
time when I looked up from the yard and saw that the billows of
reddened smoke from the top of the tower were dying down, and I
bethought me of old Mrs. Knox.

I found her at the door of her room, engaged in tying up a bundle of
old clothes in a sheet; she looked as white as a corpse, but she was
not in any way quelled by the situation.

"I'd be obliged to you all the same, Major Yeates, to throw this over
the balusters," she said, as I advanced with the news that the fire had
been got under.  "'Pon my honour, I don't know when I've been as vexed
as I've been this night, what with one thing and another!  'Tis a
monstrous thing to use a guest as we've used you, but what could we do?
I threw all the silver out of the dining-room window myself, and the
poor peahen that had her nest there was hurt by an entrée dish, and
half her eggs were----"

There was a curious sound not unlike a titter in Mrs. Knox's room.

"However, we can't make omelettes without breaking eggs--as they say--"
she went on rather hurriedly; "I declare I don't know what I'm saying!
My old head is confused----"

Here Mrs. Knox went abruptly into her room and shut the door.
Obviously there was nothing further to do for my hostess, and I fought
my way up the dripping back staircase to the loft.  The flames had
ceased, the supply of buckets had been stopped, and Flurry, standing on
a ponderous crossbeam, was poking his head and shoulders out into the
sunlight through the hole that had been burned in the roof.  Denis and
others were pouring water over charred beams, the atmosphere was still
stifling, everything was black, everything dripped with inky water.
Flurry descended from his beam and stretched himself, looking like a
drowned chimney-sweep.

"We've made a night of it, Yeates, haven't we?" he said, "but we've
bested it anyhow.  We were done for only for you!"  There was more
emotion about him than the occasion seemed to warrant, and his eyes had
a Christy Minstrel brightness, not wholly to be attributed to the dirt
on his face.  "What's the time?--I must get home."

The time, incredible as it seemed, was half-past six.  I could almost
have sworn that Flurry changed colour when I said so.

"I must be off," he said; "I had no idea it was so late."

"Why, what's the hurry?" I asked.

He stared at me, laughed foolishly, and fell to giving directions to
Denis.  Five minutes afterwards he drove out of the yard and away at a
canter down the long stretch of avenue that skirted the lake, with a
troop of young horses flying on either hand.  He whirled his whip round
his head and shouted at them, and was lost to sight in a clump of
trees.  It is a vision of him that remains with me, and it always
carried with it the bitter smell of wet charred wood.

Reaction had begun to set in among the volunteers.  The chain took to
sitting in the kitchen, cups of tea began mysteriously to circulate,
and personal narratives of the fire were already foreshadowing the
amazing legends that have since gathered round the night's adventure.
I left to Denis the task of clearing the house, and went up to change
my wet clothes, with a feeling that I had not been to bed for a year.
The ghost of a waiter who had drowned himself in a boghole would have
presented a cheerier aspect than I, as I surveyed myself in the
prehistoric mirror in my room, with the sunshine falling on my unshorn
face and begrimed shirt-front.

I made my toilet at considerable length, and, it being now nearly eight
o'clock, went downstairs to look for something to eat.  I had left the
house humming with people; I found it silent as Pompeii.  The sheeted
bundles containing Mrs. Knox's wardrobe were lying about the hall; a
couple of ancestors who in the first alarm had been dragged from the
walls were leaning drunkenly against the bundles; last night's dessert
was still on the dining-room table.  I went out on to the hall-door
steps, and saw the entrée-dishes in a glittering heap in a nasturtium
bed, and realised that there was no breakfast for me this side of lunch
at Shreelane.

There was a sound of wheels on the avenue, and a brougham came into
view, driving fast up the long open stretch by the lake.  It was the
Castle Knox brougham, driven by Norris, whom I had last seen drunk at
the athletic sports, and as it drew up at the door I saw Lady Knox
inside.

"It's all right, the fire's out," I said, advancing genially and full
of reassurance.

"What fire?" said Lady Knox, regarding me with an iron countenance.

I explained.

"Well, as the house isn't burned down," said Lady Knox, cutting short
my details, "perhaps you would kindly find out if I could see Mrs.
Knox."

Lady Knox's face was many shades redder than usual.  I began to
understand that something awful had happened, or would happen, and I
wished myself safe at Shreelane, with the bedclothes over my head.

"If 'tis for the misthress you're looking, me lady," said Denis's voice
behind me, in tones of the utmost respect, "she went out to the kitchen
garden a while ago to get a blasht o' the fresh air afther the night.
Maybe your ladyship would sit inside in the library till I call her?"

Lady Knox eyed Crusoe suspiciously.

"Thank you, I'll fetch her myself," she said.

"Oh, sure, that's too throuble----" began Denis.

"Stay where you are!" said Lady Knox, in a voice like the slam of a
door.

"Bedad, I'm best plased she went," whispered Denis, as Lady Knox set
forth alone down the shrubbery walk.

"But is Mrs. Knox in the garden?" said I.

"The Lord preserve your innocence, sir!" replied Denis, with seeming
irrelevance.

At this moment I became aware of the incredible fact that Sally Knox
was silently descending the stairs; she stopped short as she got into
the hall, and looked almost wildly at me and Denis.  Was I looking at
her wraith?  There was again a sound of wheels on the gravel; she went
to the hall door, outside which was now drawn up Mrs. Knox's
donkey-carriage, as well as Lady Knox's brougham, and, as if overcome
by this imposing spectacle, she turned back and put her hands over her
face.

"She's gone round to the garden, asthore," said Denis in a hoarse
whisper; "go in the donkey-carriage.  'Twill be all right!"  He seized
her by the arm, pushed her down the steps and into the little carriage,
pulled up the hood over her to its furthest stretch, snatched the whip
out of the hand of the broadly-grinning Norris, and with terrific
objurgations lashed the donkey into a gallop.  The donkey-boy grasped
the position, whatever it might be; he took up the running on the other
side, and the donkey-carriage swung away down the avenue, with all its
incongruous air of hooded and rowdy invalidism.

I have never disguised the fact that I am a coward, and therefore when,
at this dynamitical moment, I caught a glimpse of Lady Knox's hat over
a laurustinus, as she returned at high speed from the garden, I slunk
into the house and faded away round the dining-room door.  "This minute
I seen the misthress going down through the plantation beyond," said
the voice of Crusoe outside the window, "and I'm afther sending Johnny
Regan to her with the little carriage, not to put any more delay on yer
ladyship.  Sure you can see him making all the haste he can.  Maybe
you'd sit inside in the library till she comes."

Silence followed.  I peered cautiously round the window curtain.  Lady
Knox was looking defiantly at the donkey-carriage as it reeled at top
speed into the shades of the plantation, strenuously pursued by the
woolly dog.  Norris was regarding his horses' ears in expressionless
respectability.  Denis was picking up the entrée-dishes with decorous
solicitude.  Lady Knox turned and came into the house; she passed the
dining-room door with an ominous step, and went on into the library.

It seemed to me that now or never was the moment to retire quietly to
my room, put my things into my portmanteau, and----

Denis rushed into the room with the entrée-dishes piled up to his chin.

"She's diddled!" he whispered, crashing them down on the table.  He
came at me with his hand out.  "Three cheers for Masther Flurry and
Miss Sally," he hissed, wringing my hand up and down, "and 'twas
yerself called for 'Haste to the Weddin'' last night, long life to ye!
The Lord save us!  There's the misthress going into the library!"

Through the half-open door I saw old Mrs. Knox approach the library
from the staircase with a dignified slowness; she had on a wedding
garment, a long white burnous, in which she might easily have been
mistaken for a small, stout clergyman.  She waved back Crusoe, the door
closed upon her, and the battle of giants was entered upon.  I sat
down--it was all I was able for--and remained for a full minute in
stupefied contemplation of the entrée-dishes.


Perhaps of all conclusions to a situation so portentous, that which
occurred was the least possible.  Twenty minutes after Mrs. Knox met
her antagonist I was summoned from strapping my portmanteau to face the
appalling duty of escorting the combatants, in Lady Knox's brougham, to
the church outside the back gate, to which Miss Sally had preceded them
in the donkey-carriage.  I pulled myself together, went down stairs,
and found that the millennium had suddenly set in.  It had apparently
dawned with the news that Aussolas and all things therein were
bequeathed to Flurry by his grandmother, and had established itself
finally upon the considerations that the marriage was past praying for,
and that the diamonds were intended for Miss Sally.

We fetched the bride and bridegroom from the church; we fetched old
Eustace Hamilton, who married them; we dug out the champagne from the
cellar; we even found rice and threw it.

The hired carriage that had been ordered to take the runaways across
country to a distant station was driven by Slipper.  He was shaved; he
wore an old livery coat and a new pot hat; he was wondrous sober.  On
the following morning he was found asleep on a heap of stones ten miles
away; somewhere in the neighbourhood one of the horses was grazing in a
field with a certain amount of harness hanging about it.  The carriage
and the remaining horse were discovered in a roadside ditch, two miles
farther on; one of the carriage doors had been torn off, and in the
interior the hens of the vicinity were conducting an exhaustive search
after the rice that lurked in the cushions.



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to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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