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´╗┐Title: An Isle in the Water
Author: Tynan, Katharine, 1861-1931
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 "An Isle in the Water" ***

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  Isle in the Water

  (Mrs. H.A. Hinkson)





1. THE FIRST WIFE                                                    1

2. THE STORY OF FATHER ANTHONY O'TOOLE                              12

3. THE UNLAWFUL MOTHER                                              28

4. A RICH WOMAN                                                     49

5. HOW MARY CAME HOME                                               67

6. MAURYEEN                                                         84

7. A WRESTLING                                                     102

8. THE SEA'S DEAD                                                  112

9. KATIE                                                           122

10. THE DEATH SPANCEL                                              136

11. A SOLITARY                                                     148

12. THE MAN WHO WAS HANGED                                         168

13. A PRODIGAL SON                                                 184

14. CHANGING THE NURSERIES                                         201

15. THE FIELDS OF MY CHILDHOOD                                     209



The dead woman had lain six years in her grave, and the new wife had
reigned five of them in her stead. Her triumph over her dead rival was
well-nigh complete. She had nearly ousted her memory from her
husband's heart. She had given him an heir for his name and estate,
and, lest the bonny boy should fail, there was a little brother
creeping on the nursery floor, and another child stirring beneath her
heart. The twisted yew before the door, which was heavily buttressed
because the legend ran that when it died the family should die out
with it, had taken another lease of life, and sent out one spring
green shoots on boughs long barren. The old servants had well-nigh
forgotten the pale mistress who reigned one short year; and in the
fishing village the lavish benefactions of the reigning lady had quite
extinguished the memory of the tender voice and gentle words of the
woman whose place she filled. A new era of prosperity had come to the
Island and the race that long had ruled it.

Under a high, stately window of the ruined Abbey was the dead wife's
grave. In the year of his bereavement, before the beautiful brilliant
cousin of his dead Alison came and seized on his life, the widower had
spent days and nights of stony despair standing by her grave. She had
died to give him an heir to his name, and her sacrifice had been vain,
for the boy came into the world dead, and lay on her breast in the
coffin. Now for years he had not visited the place: the last wreaths
of his mourning for her had been washed into earth and dust long ago,
and the grave was neglected. The fisherwives whispered that a
despairing widower is soonest comforted; and in that haunted Island of
ghosts and omens there were those who said that they had met the dead
woman gliding at night along the quay under the Abbey walls, with the
shape of a child gathered within her shadowy arms. People avoided the
quay at night therefore, and no tale of the ghost ever came to the
ears of Alison's husband.

His new wife held him indeed in close keeping. In the first days of
his remarriage the servants in the house had whispered that there had
been ill blood over the man between the two women, so strenuously did
the second wife labour to uproot any trace of the first. The cradle
that had been prepared for the young heir was flung to a fishergirl
expecting her base-born baby: the small garments into which Alison had
sewn her tears with the stitches went the same road. There was many an
honest wife might have had the things, but that would not have pleased
the grim humour of the second wife towards the woman she had

Everything that had been Alison's was destroyed or hidden away. Her
rooms were changed out of all memory of her. There was nothing,
nothing in the house to recall to her widower her gentleness, or her
face as he had last seen it, snow-pale and pure between the long
ashen-fair strands of her hair. He never came upon anything that could
give him a tender stab with the thought of her. So she was forgotten,
and the man was happy with his children and his beautiful passionate
wife, and the constant tenderness with which she surrounded every hour
of his life.

Little by little she had won over all who had cause to love the dead
woman,--all human creatures, that is to say: a dog was more faithful
and had resisted her. Alison's dog was a terrier, old, shaggy and
blear-eyed: he had been young with his dead mistress, and had seemed
to grow old when she died. He had fretted incessantly during that year
of her husband's widowhood, whimpering and moaning about the house
like a distraught creature, and following the man in a heavy
melancholy when he made his pilgrimages to the grave. He continued
those pilgrimages after the man had forgotten, but the heavy iron gate
of the Abbey clanged in his face, and since he could not reach the
grave his visits grew fewer and fewer. But he had not forgotten.

The new mistress had put out all her fascinations to win the dog too,
for it seemed that while any living creature clung to the dead woman's
memory her triumph was not complete. But the dog, amenable to every
one else, was savage to her. All her soft overtures were received with
snarling, and an uncovering of the strong white teeth that was
dangerous. The woman was not without a heart, except for the dead, and
the misery of the dog moved her--his restlessness, his whining, the
channels that tears had worn under his faithful eyes. She would have
liked to take him up in her arms and comfort him; but once when her
pity moved her to attempt it, the dog ran at her ravening. The husband
cried out: 'Has he hurt you, my Love?' and was for stringing him up.
But some compunction stirred in her, and she saved him from the rope,
though she made no more attempts to conciliate him.

After that the dog disappeared from the warm living-rooms, where he
had been used to stretch on the rug before the leaping wood-fires. It
was a cold and stormy autumn, with many shipwrecks, and mourning in
the village for drowned husbands and sons, whose little fishing boats
had been sucked into the boiling surges. The roar of the wind and the
roar of the waves made a perpetual tumult in the air, and the creaking
and lashing of the forest trees aided the wild confusion. There were
nights when the crested battalions of the waves stormed the hill-sides
and foamed over the Abbey graves, and weltered about the hearthstones
of the high-perched fishing village. When there was not storm there
was bitter black frost.

The old house had attics in the gables, seldom visited. You went up
from the inhabited portions by a corkscrew staircase, steep as a
ladder. The servants did not like the attics. There were creaking
footsteps on the floors at night, and sometimes the slamming of a door
or the stealthy opening of a window. They complained that locked doors
up there flew open, and bolted windows were found unbolted. In storm
the wind keened like a banshee, and one bright snowy morning a
housemaid, who had business there, found a slender wet footprint on
the floor as of some one who had come barefoot through the snow;--and
fled down shrieking.

In one of the attics stood a great hasped chest, wherein the dead
woman's dresses were mouldering. The chest was locked, and was likely
to remain so for long, for the new mistress had flung away the key.
From the high attic windows there was a glorious view of sea and land,
of the red sandstone valleys where the deer were feeding, of the black
tossing woods, of the roan bulls grazing quietly in the park, and far
beyond, of the sea, and the fishing fleet, and in the distance the
smoke of a passing steamer. But none observed that view. There was not
a servant in the house who would lean from the casement without
expecting the touch of a clay-cold finger on her shoulder. Any whose
business brought them to the attic looked in the corners warily, while
they stayed, but the servants did not like to go there alone. They
said the room smelt strangely of earth, and that the air struck with
an insidious chill: and a gamekeeper being in full view of the attic
window one night declared that from the window came a faint moving
glow, and that a wavering shadow moved in the room.

It was in this cold attic the dog took up his abode. He followed a
servant up there one morning, and broke out into an excited whimpering
when he came near the chest. After a while of sniffing and rubbing
against it he established himself upon it with his nose on his paws.
Afterwards he refused to leave it. Finally the servants gave up the
attempt to coax him back into the world, and with a compunctious pity
they spread an old rug for him on the chest, and fed him faithfully
every day. The master never inquired for him: he was glad to have the
brute out of his sight: the mistress heard of the fancy which
possessed him, and said nothing: she had given up thinking to win him
over. So he grew quite old and grizzled, and half blind as summers and
winters passed by. It grew a superstition with the servants to take
care of him, and with them on their daily visits he was so
affectionate and caressing as to recall the days in which some of them
remembered him when his mistress lived, and he was a happy dog, as
good at fighting and rat-hunting and weasel-catching as any dog in the

But every night as twelve o'clock struck the dog came down the attic
stairs. He was suddenly alert and cheerful, and trotted by an
invisible gown. Some said you could hear the faint rustle of silk
lapping from stair to stair, and the dog would sometimes bark sharply
as in his days of puppyhood, and leap up to lick a hand of air. The
servants would shut their doors as they heard the patter of the dog's
feet coming, and his sudden bark. They were thrilled with a
superstitious awe, but they were not afraid the ghost would harm them.
They remembered how just, how gentle, how pure the dead woman had
been. They whispered that she might well be dreeing this purgatory of
returning to her dispossessed house for another's sake, not her own.
Husband and wife were nearly always in their own room when she
passed. She went everywhere looking to the fastenings of the house,
trying every door and window as she had done in the old days, when her
husband declared the old place was only precious because it held her.
Presently the servants came to look on her guardianship of the house
as holy, for one night some careless person had left a light burning
where the wind blew the curtains about, and they took fire, and were
extinguished, by whom none knew; but in the morning there was the
charred curtain, and Molly, the kitchenmaid, confessed with tears how
she had forgotten the lighted candle.

The husband was the last of all to hear of these strange doings, for
the new wife took care that they should never be about the house at
midnight. But one night as he lay in bed he had forgotten something
and asked her to fetch it from below. She looked at him with a disdain
out of the mists of her black hair, which she was combing to her knee.
Perhaps for a minute she resented his unfaithfulness to the dead.
'No,' she said, with deliberation, 'not till that dog and his
companion pass.' She flung the door open, and looked half with fear,
half with defiance, at the black void outside. There was the patter of
the dog's feet coming down the stairs swiftly. The man lifted himself
on his elbow and listened. Side by side with the dog's feet came the
swish, swish of a silken gown on the stairs. He looked a wild-eyed
inquiry at his second wife. She slammed the door to before she
answered him. 'It has been _so_ for years,' she said; 'every one knew
but you. She has not forgotten as easily as you have.'

       *       *       *       *       *

One day the dog died, worn out with age. After that they heard the
ghost no longer. Perhaps her purgatory of seeing the second wife in
her place was completed, and she was fit for Paradise, or her
suffering had sufficed to win another's pardon. From that time the new
wife reigned without a rival, living or dead, near her throne.



On the wall of the Island Chapel there is a tablet which strangers
read curiously. The inscription runs:

                    FATHER ANTHONY O'TOOLE

                           HIS FLOCK

                   _Died 18th December 1812_
                        Aged 80 years.

    'He will avenge the blood of his servants, and will be
          merciful unto his land, and to his people.'

Many a time has a summer visitor asked me the meaning of the Old
Testament words on the memorial tablet of a life that in all
probability passed so quietly.

Any child in the Island will tell you the story of Father Anthony
O'Toole. Here and there an old man or woman will remember to have seen
him and will describe him--tall despite his great age, with the frost
on his head but never in his heart, stepping down the cobbles of the
village street leaning on his gold-headed cane, and greeting his
spiritual children with such a courtesy as had once been well in place
at Versailles or the Little Trianon. Plainly he never ceased to be the
finest of fine gentlemen, though a less inbred courtesy might well
rust in the isolation of thirty years. Yet he seems to have been no
less the humblest and simplest of priests. Old Peter Devine will tell
you his childish memory of the old priest sitting by the turf fire in
the fisherman's cottage, listening to the eternal complaint of the
winds and waters that had destroyed the fishing and washed the
potato-gardens out to sea, and pausing in his words of counsel and
sympathy to take delicately a pinch of the finest snuff, snuff that
had never bemeaned itself by paying duty to King George.

But that was in the quite peaceful days, when the country over there
beyond the shallow water lay in the apathy of exhaustion--helpless and
hopeless. That was years after Father Anthony had flashed out as a man
of war in the midst of his quiet pastoral days, and like any Old
Testament hero had taken the sword and smitten his enemies in the name
of the Lord.

Father Anthony was the grandson of one of those Irish soldiers of
fortune who, after the downfall of the Jacobite cause in Ireland, had
taken service in the French and Austrian armies. In Ireland they
called them the Wild Geese. He had risen to high honours in the armies
of King Louis, and had been wounded at Malplaquet. The son followed in
his father's footsteps and was among the slain at Fontenoy. Father
Anthony, too, became a soldier and saw service at Minden, and carried
away from it a wound in the thigh which made necessary the use of that
gold-headed cane. They said that, soldier as he was, he was a fine
courtier in his day. One could well believe it looking at him in his
old age. From his father he had inherited the dashing bravery and gay
wit of which even yet he carried traces. From his French mother he had
the delicate courtesy and _finesse_ which would be well in place in
the atmosphere of a court.

However, in full prime of manhood and reputation, Father Anthony, for
some reason or other, shook the dust of courts off his feet, and
became a humble aspirant after the priesthood at the missionary
College of St. Omer. He had always a great desire to be sent to the
land of his fathers, the land of faith and hope, of which he had heard
from many an Irish refugee, and in due time his desire was fulfilled.
He reached the Island one wintry day, flung up out of the teeth of
storms, and was in the Island thirty years, till the _reveille_ of his
Master called him to the muster of the Heavenly host.

Father Anthony seems to have been innocently ready to talk over his
days of fighting. He was not at all averse from fighting his battles
over again for these simple children of his who were every day in
battle with the elements and death. Peter Devine remembers to have
squatted, burning his shins by the turf fire, and watching with
fascination the lines in the ashes which represented the entrenchments
and the guns, and the troops of King Frederick and the French line, as
Father Anthony played the war-game for old Corney Devine, whose
grass-grown grave is under the gable of the Island Chapel.

Now and again a fisherman was admitted by special favour to look upon
the magnificent clothing which Father Anthony had worn as a colonel of
French Horse. The things were laid by in lavender as a bride might
keep her wedding-dress. There were the gold-laced coat and the
breeches with the sword-slash in them, the sash, the belt, the plumed
hat, the high boots, the pistols, and glittering among them all, the
sword. That chest of Father Anthony's and its contents were something
of a fairy tale to the boys of the Island, and each of them dreamt of
a day when he too might behold them. The chest, securely locked and
clamped, stood in the sacristy; and Father Anthony would have seen
nothing incongruous in its neighbourhood to the sacred vessels and
vestments. He generally displayed the things when he had been talking
over old fighting days, to the Island men mostly, but occasionally to
a French captain, who with a cargo, often contraband, or wines and
cigars, would run into the Island harbour for shelter. Then there were
courtesies given and exchanged; and Father Anthony's guest at parting
would make an offering of light wines, much of which found its way to
sick and infirm Island men and women in the days that followed.

Father Anthony had been many placid years on the Island when there
began to be rumours of trouble on the mainland. Just at first the
United Irish Society had been quite the fashion, and held no more
rebellious than the great volunteer movement of a dozen years earlier.
But as time went by things became more serious. Moderate and fearful
men fell away from the Society, and the union between Northern
Protestants and Southern Catholics, which had been a matter of much
concern to the Government of the day, was met by a policy of goading
the leaders on to rebellion. By and by this and that idol of the
populace was flung into prison. Wolfe Tone was in France, praying,
storming, commanding, forcing an expedition to act in unison with a
rising on Irish soil. Father Anthony was excited in these days. The
France of the Republic was not his France, and the stain of the blood
of the Lord's Anointed was upon her, but for all that the news of the
expedition from Brest set his blood coursing so rapidly and his pulses
beating, that he was fain to calm with much praying the old turbulent
spirit of war which possessed him.

Many of the young fishermen had left the Island and were on the
mainland, drilling in secrecy. There were few left save old men and
women and children when the blow fell. The Government, abundantly
informed of what went on in the councils of the United Irishmen, knew
the moment to strike, and took it. The rebellion broke out in various
parts of the country, but already the leaders were in prison. Calamity
followed calamity. Heroic courage availed nothing. In a short time
Wolfe Tone lay dead in the Provost-Marshal's prison of Dublin; and
Lord Edward Fitzgerald was dying of his wounds. In Dublin,
dragoonings, hangings, pitch-capping and flogging set up a reign of
terror. Out of the first sudden silence terrible tidings came to the

At that time there was no communication with the mainland except by
the fishermen's boats or at low water. The Island was very much out of
the world; and the echoes of what went on in the world came vaguely as
from a distance to the ears of the Island people. They were like
enough to be safe, though there was blood and fire and torture on the
mainland. They were all old and helpless people, and they might well
be safe from the soldiery. There was no yeomanry corps within many
miles of the Island, and it was the yeomanry, tales of whose doings
made the Islanders' blood run cold. Not the foreign soldiers--oh no,
they were often merciful, and found this kind of warfare bitterly
distasteful. But it might well be that the yeomanry, being so busy,
would never think of the Island.

Father Anthony prayed that it might be so, and the elements conspired
to help him. There were many storms and high tides that set the Island
riding in safety. Father Anthony went up and down comforting those
whose husbands, sons, and brothers were in the Inferno over yonder.
The roses in his old cheeks withered, and his blue eyes were faded
with many tears for his country and his people. He prayed incessantly
that the agony of the land might cease, and that his own most helpless
flock might be protected from the butchery that had been the fate of
many as innocent and helpless.

The little church of gray stone stands as the vanguard of the village,
a little nearer to the mainland, and the spit of sand that runs out
towards it. You ascend to it by a hill, and a wide stretch of green
sward lies before the door. The gray stone presbytery joins the church
and communicates with it. A ragged boreen, or bit of lane, between
rough stone walls runs zigzag from the gate, ever open, that leads to
the church, and wanders away to the left to the village on the rocks
above the sea. Everything is just the same to-day as on that morning
when Father Anthony, looking across to the mainland from the high
gable window of his bedroom, saw on the sands something that made him
dash the tears from his old eyes, and go hastily in search of the
telescope which had been a present from one of those wandering

As he set his glass to his eye that morning, the lassitude of age and
grief seemed to have left him. For a few minutes he gazed at the
objects crossing the sands--for it was low water--in an attitude tense
and eager. At last he lowered the glass and closed it. He had seen
enough. Four yeomen on their horses were crossing to the island.

He was alone in the house, and as he bustled downstairs and made door
and windows fast, he was rejoiced it should be so. Down below the
village was calm and quiet. The morning had a touch of spring, and the
water was lazily lapping against the sands. The people were within
doors,--of that he was pretty well assured--for the Island was in a
state of terror and depression. There was no sign of life down there
except now and again the barking of a dog or the cackling of a hen.
Unconsciously the little homes waited the death and outrage that were
coming to them as fast as four strong horses could carry them.
'Strengthen thou mine arm,' cried Father Anthony aloud, 'that the
wicked prevail not! Keep thou thy sheep that thou hast confided to my
keeping. Lo! the wolves are upon them!' and as he spoke his voice rang
out through the silent house. The fire of battle was in his eyes, his
nostrils smelt blood, and the man seemed exalted beyond his natural
size. Father Anthony went swiftly and barred his church doors, and
then turned into the presbytery. He flashed his sword till it caught
the light and gleamed and glanced. 'For this, for this hour, friend,'
he said, 'I have polished thee and kept thee keen. Hail, sword of the
justice of God!'

There came a thundering at the oaken door of the church. 'Open, son of
Belial!' cried a coarse voice, and then there followed a shower of
blasphemies. The men had lit down from their horses, which they had
picketed below, and had come on foot, vomiting oaths, to the church
door. Father Anthony took down the fastenings one by one. Before he
removed the last he looked towards the little altar. 'Now,' he said,
'defend Thyself, all-powerful!' and saying, he let the bar fall.

The door swung open so suddenly that three of the men fell back. The
fourth, who had been calling his blasphemies through the keyhole of
the door, remained yet on his knees. In the doorway, where they had
looked to find an infirm old man, stood a French colonel in his battle
array, the gleaming sword in his hand. The apparition was so sudden,
so unexpected, that they stood for the moment terror-stricken. Did
they think it something supernatural? as well they might, for to their
astonished eyes the splendid martial figure seemed to grow and grow,
and fill the doorway. Or perhaps they thought they had fallen in an

Before they could recover, the sword swung in air, and the head of the
fellow kneeling rolled on the threshold of the church. The others
turned and fled. One man fell, the others with a curse stumbled over
him, recovered themselves, and sped on. Father Anthony, as you might
spit a cockroach with a long pin, drove his sword in the fallen man's
back and left it quivering. The dying scream rang in his ears as he
drew his pistols. He muttered to himself: 'If one be spared he win
return with seven worse devils. No! they must die that the innocent
may go safe,' and on the track of the flying wretches, he shot one in
the head as he ran, and the other he pierced, as he would have
dragged himself into the stirrups.

In the broad sunlight, the villagers, alarmed by the sound of
shooting, came timidly creeping towards the presbytery to see if harm
had befallen the priest, and found Father Anthony standing on the
bloody green sward wiping his sword and looking about him at the dead
men. The fury of battle had gone out of his face, and he looked gentle
as ever, but greatly troubled. 'It had to be,' he said, 'though, God
knows, I would have spared them to repent of their sins.'

'Take them,' he said, 'to the Devil's Chimney and drop them down, so
that if their comrades come seeking them there may be no trace of
them.' The Devil's Chimney is a strange, natural _oubliette_ of the
Island, whose depth none has fathomed, though far below you may hear a
subterranean waterfall roaring.

One of the dead men's horses set up a frightened whinnying. 'But the
poor beasts,' said Father Anthony, who had ever a kindness for
animals, 'they must want for nothing. Stable them in M'Ora's Cave
till the trouble goes by, and see that they are well fed and watered.'

An hour later, except for some disturbance of the grass, you would
have come upon no trace of these happenings. I have never heard that
they cast any shade upon Father Anthony's spirit, or that he was less
serene and cheerful when peace had come back than he had been before.
No hue and cry after the dead yeomen ever came to the Island, and the
troubles of '98 spent themselves without crossing again from the
mainland. After a time, when peace was restored, the yeomen's horses
were used for drawing the Island fish to the market, or for carrying
loads of seaweed to the potatoes, and many other purposes for which
human labour had hitherto served.

But Father Anthony O'Toole was dead many and many a year before that
tablet was set up to his memory. And the strange thing was that Mr.
Hill, the rector, who, having no flock to speak of, is pretty free to
devote himself to the antiquities of the Island, his favourite study,
was a prime mover in this commemoration of Father Anthony O'Toole,
and himself selected the text to go upon the tablet.

In a certain Wicklow country-house an O'Toole of this day will display
to you, as they display the dead hand of a martyr in a reliquary, the
uniform, the sword and pistols, the feathered hat and the riding
boots, of Father Anthony O'Toole.



In the Island the standard of purity is an extraordinarily high one,
and it is almost unheard of that a woman should fall away from it.
Purity is the unquestioned prerogative of every Island girl or woman,
and it only comes to them as a vague far-off horror in an unknown
world that there are places under the sun and the stars where such is
not the case. The punishment is appalling in the very few cases where
sin has lifted its head amongst these austere people. The lepers' hut
of old was no such living death of isolation as surrounds an Island
girl who has smirched her good name. Henceforth there is an atmosphere
about her that never lifts--of horror for some, of tragedy for
others, according to their temperament. There she stands lonely for
all her days, with the seal set upon her that can never be broken, the
consecration of an awful and tragic destiny.

I knew of such an one who was little more than a child when this
horror befell her. She has dark blue eyes and thick black lashes, and
very white skin. The soft dark hair comes low on her white forehead.
With a gaily-coloured shawl covering her head, and drawn across her
chin, as they wear it in the Island, she looks, or looked when I last
saw her, a hidden, gliding image of modesty. And despite that sin of
the past she is modest. It was the ignorant sin of a child, and out of
the days of horror and wrath that followed--her purging--she brought
only the maternity that burns like a white flame in her. The virtuous
were more wroth against her in old days that she carried her maternity
so proudly. Why, not the most honourable and cherished of the young
Island mothers dandled her child with such pride. No mother of a young
earl could have stepped lighter, and held her head higher, than
Maggie when she came down the fishing street, spurning the very
stones, as it seemed, so lightly she went with the baby wrapped in her
shawl. She did not seem to notice that some of the kindly neighbours
stepped aside, or that here and there a woman pulled her little
daughter within doors, out of the path of the unlawful mother. Those
little pink fingers pushed away shame and contempt. The child was her

She was the daughter of a fisherman who died of a chest complaint soon
after she was born. Her mother still lives, a hard-featured honest old
woman, with a network of fine lines about her puckered eyes. Her hair
went quite white the year her daughter's child was born, but I
remember it dark and abundant with only a silver thread glistening
here and there. She has grown taciturn too; she was talkative enough
in the old days when I was a child in the Island, and, often and
often, came clattering in by the half-door to shelter from a shower,
and sat till fine weather on a stool by the turf ashes, gravely
discussing the fishing and the prospects of pigs and young fowl that

There are three sons, but Jim was married and doing for himself before
the trouble befell the family. Tom and Larry were at home, Tom, gentle
and slow-spoken, employed about the Hall gardens. Larry, a fisherman
like his father before him. Both were deeply attached to their young
sister, and had been used to pet and care for her from her cradle.

There is yet a tradition in the island of that terrible time when
Maggie's mother realised the disgrace her daughter had brought on an
honest name. There had been a horrified whisper in the Island for some
time before, a surmise daily growing more certain, an awe-stricken
compassion for the honest people who never suspected the ghastly
shadow about to cross their threshold. People had been slow to accept
this solution of Maggie's pining and weakness. This one had suggested
herb-tea, and that one had offered to accompany Maggie to see the
dispensary doctor who came over from Breagh every Tuesday. But Maggie
accepted none of their offices, only withdrew herself more and more in
a sick horror of herself and life, and roamed about the cliffs where
but the gulls and the little wild Island cattle looked on at her
restless misery.

Her mother was half-fretted and half impatient of her daughter's
ailing. She was a very strong woman herself, and except for a pain in
the side which had troubled her of late, she had never known a day of
megrims. She listened chafing to the neighbours' advice--and every one
of them had their nostrum--and heeded none of them. She had an idea
herself that the girl's sickness was imaginary and could be thrown off
if she willed it. When the neighbours all at once ceased offering her
advice and sympathy she felt it a distinct relief. She had not the
remotest idea that she was become the centre of an awe-stricken
sympathy, that her little world had fallen back and stood gaping at
her and hers as they might at one abnormally stricken: if their
gabble ceased very suddenly and no more idlers came in for a chat by
the fireside she was not the one to fret; she had always plenty to do
without idle women hindering her, and, now the girl had her sick fit
on her, all the work fell to the mother's share.

The girl's time was upon her before the mother guessed at the blinding
and awful truth. She was a proud, stern, old woman, come of a race
strong in rectitude, and she would scarcely have believed an angel if
one had come to testify to her daughter's dishonour. But the time came
when it could no longer be hidden, when the birth-pains were on the
wretched girl, and in the quietness of the winter night, her sin stood
forth revealed.

Some merciful paralysis stiffened the mother's lips when she would
have cursed her daughter. She lifted up her voice indeed to curse, but
it went from her; her lips jabbered helplessly; over her face came a
bluish-gray shade, and she fell in a chair huddled with one hand
pressed against her side.

The two men came in on this ghastly scene. The girl was crouched on
the floor with her face hidden, shrinking to the earth from the
terrible words she expected to hear. The men lifted the sister to her
bed in the little room. They forced some spirit between their mother's
lips, and in a few minutes the livid dark shade began to pass from her
face. Her lips moved. 'Take her,' she panted, 'take that girl and her
shame from my honest house, lest I curse her.'

The two men looked at each other. They turned pale through their hardy
brownness, and then flushed darkly red. It flashed on them in an
instant. This was the meaning of the girl's sickness, of a thousand
hints they had not understood. Tom, with characteristic patience, was
the first to bend his back to the burden.

'Whisht, mother,' he said, 'whisht. Don't talk about cursing. If
there's one black sin under our roof-tree, we won't open the door to
another.' He put his arm round her in a tender way. 'Come, achora,' he
said, as if he were humouring a child, 'come and lie down. You're not
well, you creature.'

'Oh Tom,' said the mother, softening all at once, 'the black shame's
on me, and I'll never be well again in this world.'

She let him lift her to her bed in one of the little rooms that went
off the kitchen. Then he came back to where Larry stood, with an acute
misery on his young face, looking restlessly from the turf sods he was
kicking now and again to the door behind which their young sister lay
in agony.

'There's no help for it, Larry,' said Tom, touching him on the
shoulder. 'We can't trust her and the mother under one roof. We must
take her to the hospital. It's low water to-night, and you can get the
ass-cart across the sand. You'll take her, Larry, an' I'll stay an'
see to the mother.'

They wrapped the girl in all the bedclothes they could find and lifted
her into the little cart full of straw. The Island lay quiet under the
moon, all white with snow except where a black patch showed a ravine
or cleft in the rocks. In the fishing village the doors were shut and
the bits of curtains drawn. It was bitterly cold, and not a night for
any one to be abroad. The ass-cart went quietly over the snow. The two
men walked by it, never speaking; a low moaning came from the woman in
the cart. They did not meet a soul on their way to the shore.

At that point the Island sends out a long tongue of rock and sand
towards the mainland. At very low water there is but a shallow pool
between the two shores; over this they crossed. Sometimes the ass-cart
stuck fast in the sand. Then the men lifted the wheels gently, so as
not to jerk the cart, and then encouraging the little ass, they went
on again. When they had climbed up the rocky shore to the mainland,
and the cart was on the level road, they parted. Before Tom turned his
face homewards he bent down to Maggie. 'You're goin' where you'll be
taken care of, acushla. Don't fret; Larry'll fetch you home as soon as
you can travel,' he said. And then, as if he could scarcely bear the
sight of her drawn face in the moonlight, he turned abruptly, and went
striding down the rocky shore to the strand.

Because Tom and Larry had forgiven out of their great love, it did not
therefore follow that the shame did not lie heavily on them. Tom went
with so sad a face and so lagging a step that people's hearts ached
for him; while young Larry, who was always bright and merry, avoided
all the old friends, and when suddenly accosted turned a deep painful
red and refused to meet the eyes that looked their sympathy at him.

A few weeks passed and it was time for the girl to leave the hospital.
There had been long and bitter wrangles--bitter at least on one
side--between the mother and sons. She had sworn at first that she
would never live under the roof with the girl, but the lads returned
her always the same answer, 'If she goes we go too.' And by degrees
their dogged persistence dulled the old woman's fierce anger. Maggie
came home, and the cradle was established beside the hearth. At first
the brothers had whispered together of righting her, but when she had
answered them a question--a dull welt of shame tingling on their
cheeks and hers as though some one had cut them with a whip--they knew
it was useless. The man had gone to America some months before, and
was beyond the reach of their justice.

But the child throve as if it had the fairest right to be in the
world, and was no little nameless waif whose very existence was a
shame. He was a beautiful boy, round and tender, with his mother's
dark-blue eyes, and the exquisite baby skin which is softer than any
rose-leaf. From very early days he crowed and chuckled and was a most
cheerful baby. Left alone in his cradle he would be quietly happy for
hours; he slept a great deal, and only announced his waking from sleep
by a series of delighted chuckles, which brought his mother running to
his side to hoist him in her arms.

He must have been about a year old when I first saw him. Maggie
intruded him on no one, though people said that if any one admired
her baby it made her their lover for life. I happened to be in the
Island for a while, and one evening on a solitary ramble round the
cliffs I came face to face with Maggie,--Maggie stepping high, and
prettier than ever with that rapt glory of maternity in her face which
made ordinary prettiness common beside her.

I saw by the way she wisped the shawl round her full white chin that I
was welcome to pass her if I would. But I did not pass her. I stopped
and spoke a little on indifferent topics, and then I asked for the
baby. A radiant glow of pleasure swept over the young mother's
healthily pale face. She untwisted the shawl and lifted a fold of it,
and stood looking down at the sleeping child with a brooding
tenderness, almost divine. He was indeed lovely, with the flush of
sleep upon him and one little dimpled hand thrust against her breast.
'What a great boy!' I said. 'But you must be half killed carrying
him.' She laughed out joyfully, a sweet ringing laughter like the
music of bells. 'Deed then,' she said, ''tis the great load he is
entirely, an' any wan but meself 'ud be droppin' under the weight of
him. But it 'ud be the quare day I'd complain of my jewel. Sure it's
the light heart he gives me makes him lie light in my arms.'

But Maggie's mother remained untouched by the child's beauty and
winsomeness. Mother and daughter lived in the same house absolutely
without speech of each other. The girl was gentleness and humility
itself. For her own part she never forgot she was a sinner, though she
would let no one visit it on the child. I have been told that it was
most pathetic to see how she strove to win forgiveness from her
mother, how she watched and waited on her month after month with never
a sign from the old woman, who was not as strong as she had been. The
pain in her side took her occasionally, and since any exertion brought
it on she was fain at last to sit quietly in the chimney-corner a good
deal more than she had been used to. She had seen the doctor, very
much against her will, and he had said her heart was affected, but
with care and avoiding great excitement, it might last her to a good
old age.

Maggie was glad of the hard work put upon her. She washed and swept
and scrubbed and polished all day long, with a touching little air of
cheerfulness which never ceased to be sad unless when she was crooning
love-songs to the baby. She made no effort to take up her old friends
again, though she was so grateful when any one stopped and admired the
baby. She quite realised that her sin had set her apart, that nothing
in all the world could give her back what she had lost, and set her
again by the side of those happy companions of her childhood.

As the time passed she never seemed to feel that her mother was hard
and unrelenting. She bore her dark looks and her silence with amazing
patience. Usually the old woman seemed never to notice the child; but
once Maggie came in and saw her gazing at the sleeping face in the
cradle with what seemed to her a look of scorn and dislike. She gave a
great cry, like the cry of a wounded thing, and snatching the child,
ran out with him bareheaded, carrying him away to the high cliffs
covered with flowers full of honey, and there she crooned and cried
over him till the soothing of the sweet wind and the sunshine eased
her heart, and the blighting gaze that had fallen upon her darling had
left no shadow.

For her two brothers she felt and displayed a doglike devotion and
gratitude. The big fellows were sometimes almost uneasy under the love
of her eyes, and the thousand and one offices she was always doing for
them to try to make up to them for her past. They had come to take an
intense interest, at first half shamefaced, in the baby. But as he
grew older and full of winning ways, one could not always remember
that he was a child of shame, and he made just as much sunshine as any
lawful child makes in a house. More indeed, for in all the Island was
never so beautiful a child. The sun seemed to shed all its rays on his
head; his eyes were blue as the sea; his limbs were sturdy and
beautiful, and from the time he began to take notice he sent out
little tendrils that gathered round the hearts of all those who looked
upon him. So kind is God sometimes to a little nameless child.

But to see Maggie while her brothers played with the boy, tossing him
in their arms, and letting him spring from one to the other, was
indeed a pretty sight. You know the proud confidence with which an
animal that loves you looks on at your handling of her little
ones--her anxiety quite swallowed up in her pride and confidence and
her benevolent satisfaction in the pleasure she is giving you. That is
how Maggie watched those delightful romps. But the old woman in the
chimney-corner turned away her head; and never forgot that Maggie had
stolen God's gift, and that the scarlet letter was on the boy's white

As the years passed and the boy throve and grew tall, I heard of
Maggie becoming very devout. 'A true penitent,' said Father Tiernay to
me, 'and I believe that in return for the patience and gentleness with
which she has striven to expiate her sin God has given her a very
unusual degree of sanctity.' In the intervals of her work she was
permitted as a great privilege to help about the altar linen, and keep
the church clean. She used to carry the boy with her when she went to
the church, and I have come upon him fast asleep in a sheltered
corner, while his mother was sweeping and dusting, with a radiant and
sanctified look on a face that had grown very spiritual.

But still the old mother remained inexorable. I am sure in her own
mind she resented as a profanation her daughter's work about the
church. She herself had never entered that familiar holy place since
her daughter's disgrace. Sunday and holiday all these years she had
trudged to Breagh, a long way round by the coast, for mass. All
expostulations have been vain, even Father Tiernay's own. Whatever
other people may forget, the sin has lost nothing of its scarlet for

It was the last time I was on the Island that I was told of Maggie's
marriage. Not to an Island man: oh no, no Island man would marry a
girl with a stain on her character, not though she came to be as high
in God's favour as the blessed Magdalen herself. He was the mate of a
Scotch vessel, a grave, steady, strong-faced Highlander. He had come
to the Island trading for years, and knew Maggie's story as well as
any Islander. But he had seen beyond the mirk of the sin the woman's
soul pure as a pearl.

Maggie could not believe that any man, least of all a man like
Alister, wanted to marry her. 'I am a wicked woman,' she said with hot
blushes, 'and you must marry a good woman.'

'I mean to marry a good woman, my lass,' he said, 'the best woman I
know. And that is your bonny self.' Maggie hesitated. He smoothed back
her hair with a fond proprietary touch. 'We'll give the boy a name,'
he said, 'and before God, none will ever know he's not my own boy.'

That settled it. Jack was a big lad of six now, and would soon begin
to understand things, and perhaps ask for his father. It opened before
her like an incredible exquisite happiness that perhaps he need never
know her sin. She put her hand into Alister's and accepted him in a
passion of sobbing that was half joy, half sorrow.

The brothers were all in favour of the marriage. They loved her too
much not to want her to have a fair chance in a new life. Here on the
Island, though she were a saint, she would still be a penitent. It
came hardest on Tom,--for Larry was soon to bring home a wife of his
own, but neither man talked much of what he felt. They put aside their
personal sorrow and were glad for Maggie and her boy.

But Maggie's mother was consistent to the last. No brazen and
flaunting sinner could have seemed to her more a lost creature than
the girl who had been so dutiful a daughter, so loving a sister, so
perfect a mother, all those years. Tom told her the news. 'I wash my
hands of her,' she said. 'Let her take her shame under an honest man's
roof if she will. I wish her neither joy nor sorrow of it.' And more
gentle words than these Tom could not bring her to say.

So Maggie was married, the old woman preserving her stony silence and
apparent unconcern. She only spoke once,--the day the girl was made a
wife. It was one of her bad days, and she had to lie down after an
attack of her heart. Maggie dressed to go to the church and meet her
bridegroom. She was not to return to the cottage, and her modest
little luggage and little Jack's were already aboard the Glasgow brig.
At the last, hoping for some sign of softening, the girl went into the
dim room where her mother lay, ashen-cheeked. The mother turned round
on her her dim eyes. 'What do you want of me?' she asked, breaking the
silence of years. The girl helplessly covered her eyes with her hands.
'Did you come for my blessing?' gasped the old woman. 'It is liker my
curse you'd take with you. But I promised Tom long ago that I would
not curse you. Go then. And I praise God that Larry will soon give me
an honest daughter instead of you, my shame this many a year.'

That was the last meeting of mother and daughter. They say Alister is
a devoted husband, but he comes no more to the Island. He has changed
out of his old boat, and his late shipmates say vaguely that he has
removed somewhere Sunderland or Cardiff way, and trades to the North
Sea. Tom is very reticent about Maggie, though Miss Bell, the
postmistress, might tell, if she were not a superior person, and as
used to keeping a secret at a pinch as Father Tiernay himself, how
many letters he receives with the post-mark of a well-known seaport

Poor Maggie! Said I not that in the Island the way of transgressors is



Margret Laffan was something of a mystery to the Island people. Long
ago in comparative youth she had disappeared for a half-dozen years.
Then she had turned up one day in a coarse dress of blue and white
check, which looked suspiciously like workhouse or asylum garb, and
had greeted such of the neighbours as she knew with a nod, for all the
world as if she had seen them yesterday. It happened that the henwife
at the Hall had been buried a day or two earlier, and when Margret
came asking a place from Mrs. Wilkinson, the lord's housekeeper, the
position was yet unfilled and Margret got it.

Not every one would have cared for the post. Only a misanthropic
person indeed would have been satisfied with it. The henwife's
cottage and the poultry settlement might have been many miles from a
human habitation, so lonely were they. They were in a glen of red
sandstone, and half the wood lay between them and the Hall. The great
red walls stood so high round the glen that you could not even hear
the sea calling. As for the village, it was a long way below. You had
to go down a steep path from the glen before you came to an open
space, where you could see the reek of the chimneys under you. Every
morning Margret brought the eggs and the trussed chickens to the Hall.
But no one disturbed her solitude, except when the deer, or the wild
little red cattle came gazing curiously through the netting at Margret
and her charges. There, for twenty-seven years, Margret lived with no
company but the fowl. On Sundays and holidays she went to mass to the
Island Chapel, but gave no encouragement to those who would have gone
a step of the road home with her. The Island women used to wonder how
she could bear the loneliness.--'Why, God be betune us and harm!'
they often said, 'Sure the crathur might be robbed and murdhered any
night of the year and no wan the wiser.' And so she might, if the
Island possessed robbers and murderers in its midst. But it is a
primitively innocent little community, which sleeps with open doors as
often as not, and there is nothing to tempt marauders or even beggars
to migrate there.

By and by a feeling got about that Margret must be saving money. Her
wage as a henwife was no great thing, but then, as they said, 'she
looked as if she lived on the smell of an oil-rag,' and there was
plenty of food to be had in the Hall kitchen, where Margret waited
with her eggs and fowl every morning. Certainly her clothes, though
decent, were worn well-nigh threadbare. But the feelers that the
neighbours sent out towards Margret met with no solid assurance. Grim
and taciturn, Margret kept her own counsel, and was like enough to
keep it till the day of her death.

Jack Laffan, Margret's brother, is the village carpenter, a sociable
poor man, not the least bit in the world like his sister. Jack is
rather fond of idling over a glass with his cronies in the
public-house, but, as he is well under Mrs. Jack's thumb, the habit is
not likely to grow on him inconveniently. There are four daughters and
a son, a lad of fifteen or thereabouts. Two of the daughters are
domestic servants out in the big world, and are reported to wear
streamers to their caps and fine lace aprons every day. Another is
handmaiden to Miss Bell at the post office, and knows the contents of
all the letters, except Father Tiernay's, before the people they
belong to. Fanny is at home with her father and mother, and is
supposed to be too fond of fal-lals, pinchbeck brooches and cheap
ribbons, which come to her from her sisters out in the world. She
often talks of emigration, and is not sought after by the young men of
the Island, who regard her as a 'vain paycocky thing.'

Mrs. Jack has the reputation of being a hard, managing woman. There
was never much love lost between her and Margret, and when the latter
came back from her six years' absence on the mainland, Mrs. Jack's
were perhaps the most ill-natured surmises as to the reasons for
Margret's silence and the meaning of that queer checked garb.

For a quarter of a century Margret lived among her fowl, untroubled by
her kin. Then the talk about the money grew from little beginnings
like a snowball. It fired Mrs. Jack with a curious excitement, for she
was an ignorant woman and ready to believe any extravagant story. She
amazed Jack by putting the blame of their long ignoring of Margret
upon his shoulders entirely, and when he stared at her, dumb-founded,
she seized and shook him till his teeth rattled. 'You great stupid
omadhaun!' she hissed between the shakes, 'that couldn't have the
nature in you to see to your own sister, an' she a lone woman!'

That very day Jack went off stupidly to try to bridge over with
Margret the gulf of nearly thirty years. He got very little help from
his sister. She watched him with what seemed like grim enjoyment
while he wriggled miserably on the edge of his chair and tried to talk
naturally. At length he jerked out his wife's invitation to have a bit
of dinner with them on the coming Sunday, which Margret accepted
without showing any pleasure, and then he bolted.

Margret came to dinner on the Sunday, and was well entertained with a
fat chicken and a bit of bacon, for the Laffans were well-to-do
people. She thoroughly enjoyed her dinner, though she spoke little and
that little monosyllabic; but Margret was taciturn even as a girl, and
her solitary habit for years seemed to have made speech more difficult
for her. Mrs. Jack heaped her plate with great heartiness and made
quite an honoured guest of her. But outside enjoying the dinner
Margret did not seem to respond. Young Jack was brought forward to
display his accomplishments, which he did in the most hang-dog
fashion. The cleverness and good-looks and goodness of the girls were
expatiated upon, but Margret gave no sign of interest. Once Fanny
caught her looking at her with a queer saturnine glance, that made
her feel all at once hot and uncomfortable, though she had felt pretty
secure of her smartness before that. Margret's reception of Mrs.
Jack's overtures did not satisfy that enterprising lady. When she had
departed Mrs. Jack put her down as 'a flinty-hearted ould maid.' 'Her
sort,' she declared, 'is ever an' always sour an' bitther to them the
Lord blesses wid a family.' But all the same it became a regular thing
for Margret to eat her Sunday dinner with the Laffans, and Mrs. Jack
discovered after a time that the good dinners were putting a skin and
roundness on Margret that might give her a new lease of life--perhaps
a not quite desirable result.

The neighbours looked on at Mrs. Jack's 'antics' with something little
short of scandal. They met by twos and threes to talk over it, and
came to the conclusion that Mrs. Jack had no shame at all, at all, in
her pursuit of the old woman's money. Truth to tell, there was
scarcely a woman in the Island but thought she had as good a right to
Margret's money as her newly-attentive kinsfolk. Mrs. Devine and Mrs.
Cahill might agree in the morning, with many shakings of the head,
that 'Liza Laffan's avarice and greed were beyond measure loathsome.
Yet neither seemed pleased to see the other a little later in the day,
when Mrs. Cahill climbing the hill with a full basket met Mrs. Devine
descending with an empty one.

For all of a sudden a pilgrimage to Margret's cottage in the Red Glen
became the recognised thing. It was surprising how old childish
friendships and the most distant ties of kindred were furbished up and
brought into the light of day. The grass in the lane to the glen
became trampled to a regular track. If the women themselves did not
come panting up the hill they sent the little girsha, or wee Tommy or
Larry, with a little fish, or a griddle cake, or a few fresh greens
for Margret. The men of the Island were somewhat scornful of these
proceedings on the part of their dames; but as a rule the Island wives
hold their own and do pretty well as they will. All this friendship
for Margret created curious divisions and many enmities.

Margret, indeed, throve on all the good things, but whether any one
person was in her favour more than another it would be impossible to
say. Margret got up a way of thanking all alike in a honeyed voice
that had a queer sound of mockery in it, and after a time some of the
more independent spirits dropped out of the chase, 'pitching,' as they
expressed it, 'her ould money to the divil.' Mrs. Jack was fairly
confident all the time that if any one on the Island got Margret's
nest-egg it would be herself, but she had a misgiving which she
imparted to her husband that the whole might go to Father Tiernay for
charities. Any attempt at getting inside the shell which hid Margret's
heart from the world her sister-in-law had long given up. She had also
given up trying to interest Margret in 'the childher,' or bidding
young Jack be on his best behaviour before the Sunday guest. The young
folk didn't like the derision in Margret's pale eyes, and kept out of
her way as much as possible, since they feared their mother too much
to flout her openly, as they were often tempted to do.

Two or three years had passed before Margret showed signs of failing.
Then at the end of one very cold winter people noticed that she grew
feebler. She was away from mass one or two Sundays, and then one
Sunday she reappeared walking with the aid of a stick and looking
plainly ill and weak. After mass she had a private talk with Father
Tiernay at the presbytery; and then went slowly down to Jack's house
for the usual dinner. Both Jack and Mrs. Jack saw her home in the
afternoon, and a hard task the plucky old woman found it, for all
their assistance, to get back to her cottage up the steep hill. When
they had reached the top she paused for a rest. Then she said quietly,
'I'm thinkin' I'll make no more journeys to the Chapel. Father
Tiernay'll have to be coming to me instead.'

'Tut, tut, woman dear,' said Mrs. Jack, with two hard red spots coming
into her cheeks, 'we'll be seein' you about finely when the weather
gets milder.' And then she insinuated in a wheedling voice something
about Margret's affairs being settled.

Margret looked up at her with a queer mirthfulness in her glance.
'Sure what wud a poor ould woman like me have to settle? Sure that's
what they say when a sthrong-farmer takes to dyin'.'

Mrs. Jack was too fearful of possible consequences to press the
matter. She was anxious that Margret should have Fanny to look after
the house and the fowl for her, but this Margret refused. 'I'll be
able to do for myself a little longer,' she said, 'an' thank you
kindly all the same.'

When it was known that Margret was failing, the attentions to her
became more urgent. Neighbours passed each other now in the lane with
a toss of the head and 'a wag of the tail.' As for Mrs. Jack, who
would fain have installed herself altogether in the henwife's cottage,
she spent her days quivering with indignation at the meddlesomeness of
the other women. She woke Jack up once in the night with a fiery
declaration that she'd speak to Father Tiernay about the pursuit of
her moneyed relative, but Jack threw cold water on that scheme. 'Sure
his Riverince himself, small blame to him, 'ud be as glad as another
to have the bit. 'Twould be buildin' him the new schoolhouse he's
wantin' this many a day, so it would.' And this suggestion made Mrs.
Jack look askance at her pastor, as being also in the running for the

It was surprising how many queer presents found their way to Margret's
larder in those days. They who had not the most suitable gift for an
invalid brought what they had, and Margret received them all with the
same inscrutability. She might have been provisioning for a siege.
Mrs. Jack's chickens were flanked by a coarse bit of American bacon;
here was a piece of salt ling, there some potatoes in a sack; a slice
of salt butter was side by side with a griddle cake. Many a good woman
appreciated the waste of good food even while she added to it, and
sighed after that full larder for the benefit of her man and the weans
at home; but all the time there was the dancing marsh-light of
Margret's money luring the good souls on. There had never been any
organised robbery in the Island since the cattle-lifting of the kernes
long ago; but many a good woman fell of a tremble now when she thought
of Margret and her 'stocking' alone through the silent night, and at
the mercy of midnight robbers.

There was not a day that several offerings were not laid at Margret's
feet. But suddenly she changed her stereotyped form of thanks to a
mysterious utterance, 'You're maybe feeding more than you know, kind
neighbours,' was the dark saying that set the women conjecturing about
Margret's sanity.

Then the bolt fell. One day a big, angular, shambling girl, with
Margret's suspicious eyes and cynical mouth, crossed by the ferry to
the Island. She had a trunk, which Barney Ryder, general carrier to
the Island, would have lifted to his ass-cart, but the new-comer
scornfully waved him away. 'Come here, you two gorsoons,' she said,
seizing upon young Jack Laffan and a comrade who were gazing at her
grinning, 'take a hoult o' the thrunk an' lead the way to Margret
Laffan's in the Red Glen. I'll crack sixpence betune yez when I get
there.' The lads, full of curiosity, lifted up the trunk, and preceded
her up the mile or so of hill to Margret's. She stalked after them
into the sunny kitchen where Margret sat waiting, handed them the
sixpence when they had put down the trunk, bundled them out and shut
the door before she looked towards Margret in her chimney-corner.

The explanation came first from his Reverence, who was walking in the
evening glow, when Mrs. Jack Laffan came flying towards him with her
cap-strings streaming.

'Little Jack has a quare story, yer Riverince,' she cried out panting,
'about a girl's come visitin' ould Margret in the glen, an' wid a
thrunk as big as a house. Him an' little Martin was kilt draggin' it
up the hill.'

His Reverence waved away her excitement gently.

'I know all about it,' he said. 'Indeed I've been the means in a way
of restoring Margret's daughter to her. You never knew your
sister-in-law was married, Mrs. Laffan? An odd woman to drop her
married name. We must call her by it in future. Mrs. Conneely is the

But Mrs. Jack, with an emotion which even the presence of his
Reverence could not quell, let what the neighbours described
afterwards as a 'screech out of her fit to wake the dead,' and fled
into her house, where on her bed she had an attack which came as near
being hysterical as the strong-minded woman could compass. She only
recovered when Mrs. Devine and Mrs. Cahill and the widow Mulvany,
running in, proposed to drench her with cold water, when her heels
suddenly left off drumming and she stood up, very determinedly, and
bade them be off about their own business. She always spoke afterwards
of Margret as the robber of the widow and orphan, which was satisfying
if not quite appropriate.

We all heard afterwards how Margret had married on the mainland, and
after this girl was born had had an attack of mania, for which she was
placed in the county asylum. In time she was declared cured, and it
was arranged that her husband should come for her on a certain day and
remove her; but Margret, having had enough of marriage and its
responsibilities, left the asylum quietly before that day came and
made her way to the Island. She had been well content to be regarded
as a spinster till she felt her health failing, and then she had
entrusted to Father Tiernay her secret, and he had found her daughter
for her.

Margret lived some months after that, and left at the time of her
death thirty pounds to the fortunate heiress. The well-stocked larder
had sufficed the two for quite a long time without any recourse to
'the stocking.' There was very little further friendship between the
village and the Red Glen. Such of the neighbours as were led there at
first by curiosity found the door shut in their faces, for Mary had
Margret's suspiciousness many times intensified. After the Laffan
family had recovered from the first shock of disappointment Fanny made
various approaches to her cousin when she met her at mass on the
Sundays, and, unheeding rebuffs, sent her a brooch and an apron at
Christmas. I wish I could have seen Margret's face and Mary's over
that present. It was returned to poor Fanny, with a curt intimation
that Mary had no use for it, and there the matter ended.

I once asked Mary, when I knew her well enough to take the liberty,
about that meeting between her and her mother, after the door was shut
on young Jack's and little Martin's departing footsteps. 'Well,' said
Mary, 'she looked hard at me, an' then she said, "You've grown up
yalla an' bad-lookin', but a strong girl for the work. You favour
meself, though I've a genteeler nose." And then,' said Mary, 'I turned
in an' boiled the kettle for the tay.'

The money did not even remain in the Island, for as soon as Margret
was laid in a grave in the Abbey--with a vacant space beside her, for,
said Mary, 'you couldn't tell but I'd be takin' a fancy to be buried
there myself some day,'--Mary fled in the early morning before the
neighbours were about. Mary looked on the Island where so many had
coveted her money as a 'nest of robbers,' and so she fled, with 'the
stocking' in the bosom of her gown, one morning at low tide. She
wouldn't trust the money to the post office in the Island, because her
cousin Lizzie was Miss Bell's servant. 'Divil a letther but the
priest's they don't open an' read,' she said, 'an' tells the news
afterwards to the man or woman that owns it. The news gets to them
before the letter. An' if I put the fortune in there I'm doubtin'
'twould ever see London. I know an honest man in the Whiterock post
office I'd betther be trustin'.

And that is how Margret's 'stocking' left the Island.



The Island people seldom marry outside the Island. They are
passionately devoted to each other, but as a rule look coldly upon the
stranger. Swarthy Spanish sailors put in sometimes, and fair-skinned,
black-eyed Greeks, and broad-shouldered Norwegians, all as ripe for
love as any other sailor, but that they should carry away an Island
girl to their outlandish places over sea is a thing almost unheard of.
The Island girls are courted by their own blue-jerseyed
fisher-lads--and what a place for love-making, with the ravines and
caves in the cliff-sides, and the deep glens in the heart of the
Island, so lonely except for the lord's red deer and little fierce
black cattle. Why, if one of those foreign sailors attempted
love-making with an Island lass, just as likely as not a pair of
little brown fists would rattle about his amazed ears; the girls there
know how to defend their dignity.

But one spring there was a sensation little short of a scandal when it
became known that Mary Cassidy, the handsomest girl of the Island, was
keeping company with a Spanish sailor who had come into harbour on a
Glasgow barque. The stage of keeping company was not long. So violent
was the passion that flamed up between the two that there was no
gainsaying it. Mary was the one girl in a family of five tall
fishermen. Father and mother were dead--the father drowned in a wild
night while trying to make the treacherous mouth of the inadequate
harbour, the mother dead of her grief. Mary had known fathering and
mothering both from the brothers. She was the youngest of them all,
and their pride and glory.

She was tall and generously proportioned, with ropes of red gold hair
round her small head, and her face had the colour of the sea-shell. In
her large brown eyes, sleepily veiled by long lashes, smouldered a
hidden fire: her step was proud and fearless, and she was as strong as
a beautiful lithe young animal. The brothers brought her gay prints
and woollens and rows of beads when they came home with the fishing
fleet, and with these she adorned her beauty--a beauty so brilliant
that it glittered of itself.

There was no use opposing her once she had fallen in love with Jacopo.
He was a handsome, dark fellow, with insinuating manners, and a voice
like a blackbird. When the two were together there was no one else in
the world for them. He had flamed up with the fierceness of his
southern nature: she with the heat of a heart slow to love, and once
fired slow to go out.

When Jacopo had settled things with Father Tiernay and had gone on his
last trip before he should come to make Mary his wife, the girl walked
the Island like one transfigured. The light burned steadily in her
deep eyes, her cheeks flamed scarlet, her lips were red as coral. She
went about her household duties with her head in the air and her eyes
far away. The brothers when they came home of an evening sat silent
in a ring, for the grief was on them: but if the girl knew she did not
seem to know. Of the five brothers not one had thought of marrying.
What any one might do as soon as the golden thread that held them
together was snapped no one could say; but they were grizzled or
grizzling men, and had long ago been put down by the Island folk as
confirmed bachelors.

Father Tiernay had talked with Jacopo about his religion, and had
declared him an excellent son of Mother Church, so there was nothing
against him on that ground. The captain of his ship gave him a good
character, and Jacopo had been with him three seasons. He had a tidy
little house near Greenock, and a bit of money saved. Yet the brothers
were not satisfied. 'Why couldn't she have fancied a lad of the kindly
neighbours?' grumbled William, the eldest. And the youngest, Patrick,
answered in the same strain, 'Wasn't the Island good enough for her
but she must go to foreign lands?' And then five melancholy heads
shook in the twilight.

They had a cold, awkward, insular distrust and shyness of the
Spaniard. They made no response to his professions of goodwill and
brotherhood, poured out fluently in his yet difficult Scots-English.
They noticed and commented afterwards upon his contemptuous shrug,
when one feast night he was invited to join the family at its
Rosary,--for they are devout people, the Islanders.

Yet, distrust or no distrust, the girl must go to him. He came back
one summer day with a fine rig-out for his wedding, and a bonnet and
cloak for the bride such as were never dreamt of in the Island. She
was an impassioned bride, and as she came down the church with her
husband, her eyes uplifted and shining like stars, she seemed rather
to float like a tall flame than to walk like a mortal woman.

Five men watched her then with melancholy and patient faces. The five
went with her to the boat on which she was to cross to the mainland to
take the Glasgow steamer. As the little ferry plied away from the pier
it was at her husband she looked, not at them and the Island, though
it stood up purple and black, and she had well loved the rocks and
glades of it, and though they had fostered her.

The five men went back to their lonely cottage and began to do for
themselves. They were handy fellows, as good at frying a fish as
catching it, and they were not minded to put a woman in Mary's place.
They kept the cottage tidy enough, yet it was a dreary tidiness. The
fire generally went out when it was no longer required for meals, and
as the brothers came in one after the other, from smoking a pipe on
the quay, they went to bed in the dark, or by the shaft of moonlight
that came in through the window overlooking the old Abbey and its
graves. They were always silent men, and now they grew more taciturn.
Even when at first letters came from Mary full of her husband and her
happiness, they spelt them out to themselves and did not take the
neighbours into their confidence. And more and more they came to be
regarded as 'oddities' by the Island people.

About a year after Mary's marriage there came a letter from Jacopo
announcing that she was the mother of a son. That child formed a
tremendous interest to his five uncles. They did not talk much about
it, but a speech from one or another told what was in all their minds.

'The lad'll be fine and tall by this,' one would say. 'Ay,' the other
would respond, 'he'll be maybe walking by now.' 'He'll have the looks
of his mother,' suggested James. 'Ay: he was a fair child from the
beginning,' Thomas would agree.

Seeing the child was so much in their minds it was strange none of
them had ever seen it. At first after she was married Mary had been
fond of pressing them to come to the Clyde, if it was only for a look
at her. But little by little the invitations had dropped off and
ceased. They had been shy of going in the early days. It was not that
they feared the journey, for some of the brothers had fared much
further afield than Scotland; but in their hearts, though they never
complained, they remembered how she had not looked back on them as the
ferry swung from the pier, and feared that they might be but
half-welcome guests in the house of her husband.

At first Jacopo often wrote for his wife, but after a time this too
ceased. Then the praises of him by degrees grew spasmodic. There were
often two or three letters in which his name found no place. The
brothers with the keenness of love noted this fact, though each of
them pondered it long in his mind before one evening Patrick spoke of
his fear, and then the others brought theirs out of its hiding-place.

Mary had been going on for four years married, when in a wild winter
David and Tom were drowned. They were laid with many another drowned
fisherman in the Abbey graveyard. Mary wrote the other brothers
ill-spelt, tear-stained letters, which proved her heart had not grown
cold to them; and the three brothers went on living as the five had

It was a bitter, bitter spring when Mary's letters ceased altogether.
They had had a short letter from her early in January, and then no
word afterwards. February went by gray and with showers of sleet: no
word came. In the first week of March there came a great storm, with
snow pelting on the furious wind. All the fishing boats were drawn
high on the land, and the fishers sat in their cottages benumbed,
despite the fires on the hearth, for the wind roared through doors and
windows and often seemed minded to take up the little houses and smash
them on the rocks as an angry child smashes a flimsy toy. No one went
out of doors, and the Cassidys sat with their feet on the turf embers
and smoked. The sky was lurid green all that March day, and in the
little cottage there was hardly light for the men to see each other's
brooding faces. If they spoke it was only to say, 'God betune us and
all harm!' or, 'God help all poor sowls at say!' when the wind rattled
with increasing fury the stout door and windows.

It was some time in the afternoon that William spoke out of his
meditations. 'Boys,' he said, 'if the ferry goes to-morrow, and
they'll be fain to put out, for there isn't much food on the Island,
I'll start wid her in the name of God, and take the Glasga' boat.
It's on my mind there's something wrong wid our Mary.'

The other two breathed a sigh of relief. 'The same was on my tongue,'
said one and the other, and almost simultaneously both cried, 'Why
should you go? Let me go.'

'Stay where yez are, boys!' said the other authoritatively, 'an' get
what comfort yez can about the house. I'm thinkin' I'll be bringin'
the girsha home.'

He gave no reason for this supposition, and they asked none. That
night the storm subsided, and though the sea was churned white as
wool, and no fishing boats would put out for days to come, the tiny
steam ferry panted its way through the trough of waters to bring
stores from the mainland. Will Cassidy was the only passenger, and he
carried with him small provision for himself, but at the last moment
Patrick had come running after him with a bundle of woollens.

'It'll be fine and cold travelling back,' he panted, 'so I run over to
Clancy's (Clancy's was the village shop) and got a big shawl for her,
an' a small one for the child. The things'll be no worse for your
keeping them warm on the way over.'

But William did not keep them warm in his brother's sense. He hugged
them under his big _cotamor_, and now and again he took them out and
regarded them with interest. Once he said aloud, 'Well, to think of
Patrick havin' the thought, the crathur'; and then put them hurriedly
back because a big wave was just sousing over the deck.

The next evening he was in the streets of the unfriendly Scotch town
that was covered with snow. The green sky of the day of the storm had
fulfilled its prophecy and spilt its burden on the earth. As he passed
on, inquiring his way from one or another, there were few passengers
to enlighten him, and his footsteps fell with a muffled sound on the
causeways. At last he came to where the houses grew thinner, and found
the place he sought, a little cottage not far from the water's edge.

There was a light in the window, but when he had knocked no one came
in answer. He knocked two or three times. Then he lifted the latch
and went in. There was a woman sitting by the fireless grate. Her arms
were round a child on her bosom, and a thin shawl about her shoulders
trailed over the child's face. She did not turn round as he came in,
but he saw it was Mary's figure. He had to speak to her before she
looked up. Then she gave a faint cry and her frozen face relaxed. She
held out the child to him with an imploring gesture: it reminded him
of her running to him with a wound when she had fallen down in her
babyhood. He took the child from her and felt it very heavy. The
mother came to him gently and put her head on his rough coat. 'O
William,' she cried, 'he's dead; my little Willie's dead and cold. It
was at three o'clock the breath went out of him, and no one ever came

He looked at the child then and saw that he was indeed dead. He put
her back gently in her chair, and laid the child's little body on the
bright patchwork quilt of the bed. He remembered that quilt: it was
part of Mary's bridal gear. Then he came again to the mother and
soothed her, with her bright head against his rough coat.

'Whisht, acushla,' he said, 'sure you're famished. Aisy now, till I
make a bit of fire for you.'

The girl watched him with wide dry eyes of despair. He gathered the
embers on the hearth and set a light to them. He lit a candle and
extinguished the smoking lamp, which had apparently been burning all
day. Then he went here and there gathering the materials for a meal.
The kettle was soon boiling, and he made some tea and forced her to
drink a cup. He was very glad of its warmth himself, for he was weary
with long fasting. Afterwards he sat down beside her and asked for

'Him,' turning away her head, 'he's wid another woman.' She said no
more, and William asked no more. Instead, he said gently, 'Well,
acushla, you'll be putting together the few things you'll take with
you. There's a cattle boat going at six in the mornin', an' we can get
a passage by that.'

She looked up at him. 'But the child?' she said.

'He'll go wid us,' the man replied. 'He'll sleep sweeter on the Island
than in this sorrowful town.'

'May God reward you, William,' she said. 'You're savin' more than you
know. For if he'd come back I wouldn't answer for it that I wouldn't
have kilt him as he slep'.'

The morning rose green and livid, with a sky full of snow though the
world was covered with it. Now and again the snow drifted in their
faces as they trudged through the streets before daybreak, and it came
dryly pattering when they were out on the waste of green waters
cleaving their way under the melancholy daylight. William had found a
corner for the woman under shelter of the bridge, and there she sat
through the hours with the dead child wrapped in her shawl, and the
cold of it aching at her heart. The snow came on faster, and the deck
passengers huddled in for shelter. 'God save you, honest woman,' said
a ruddy-faced wife to her. 'Give me the child, and move yourself
about a bit. You'll be fair frozen before we're half way across.' Mary
shook her head with a gesture that somehow disarmed the kind woman's
wrath at the rejection of her overtures. 'That crature looks to me,'
she said to her husband, 'fair dazed wid the sorrow. Maybe it's the
husband of her the crature's after buryin'.' There were a great many
curious glances at Mary in her corner, but no one else had the
temerity to offer her help.

William brought her a cup of tea at mid-day, which she drank eagerly,
still holding the child with one arm, but she pushed away the food he
offered with loathing.

In the evening they disembarked, and from a pier swept by the north
wind were huddled into a train, ill lit and cold as the grave. Mary
crouched into a corner with her face bent over the dead child. 'A
quiet sleeper, ma'am,' said a cheerful sea-faring man. Mary looked at
him with lack-lustre eyes and turned away her head.

Presently she began to sing, a quaint old Island lullaby, which rang
weird and melancholy. William looked at her in alarm, but said
nothing, and the other passengers watched her curiously, half in fear.
She lifted her child from her knee to her breast, and held it there
clasped a moment. 'I can't warm him,' she said, looking helplessly at
all the wondering faces. 'The cold's on him and on me, and I doubt
we'll ever be warm again.'

Presently they drew up at a bleak way-side station for the ferry, and
the brother and sister without a word stepped out in the night and the
snow. The man did not offer to carry the child. He knew it was no use.
But he put a strong arm round the woman and her burden, where the snow
was heaviest, and the wind from the sea blew like a hurricane.

They were the only passengers by the ferry, and neither the ferryman
nor his mate knew Mary Cassidy, with the shawl drawn over her eyes.
But as they stepped ashore and touched the familiar rock on which she
and hers for many a forgotten generation had been born and cradled,
the piteous frozen madness melted away from her face. She turned to
her brother--

'Tis the sad home-coming,' she said, 'but I've brought back all I
prized.' She snatched the ring from her finger suddenly and hurled it
out in the tossing waters, on which even in the dark they could see
the foam-crests. 'Now I'm Mary Cassidy again,' she said, 'and the
woman that left you is dead.' She lifted her shawl and kissed the
little dead face under it. 'You've no father, avic,' she said
passionately. 'You're mine, only mine. Never a man has any right in
you at all, but only Mary Cassidy.'



Against Con Daly's little girl there was never a word spoken in the
Island. Con had been well liked, God rest his soul!--but the man was
drowned nigh upon twenty years ago. There was some old tragic tale
about it, how he had volunteered to swim with a rope round his waist
to a ship breaking up a few yards from the rocks in a sea that a
gannet could scarcely live upon. He had pushed aside the men who
remonstrated with him, turning on them a face ghastly in the
moonlight. 'Stand aside, men,' he cried, 'and if I fail, see to the
girsha!' He was the strongest man in all the Island, and as much at
home in the water as a porpoise. They saw his sleek head now and again
flung out of the trough of the waves, and his huge shoulders
labouring against the weight of the storm. Then suddenly the rope they
were holding fell slack in their hands,--they said afterwards it had
snapped on a jagged razor of rock,--and the man disappeared. A day or
two later his battered and bruised body was flung up on the bathing
strand, where in summer the city ladies take their dip in the sea. He
was buried with some of the drowned sailors he had tried to rescue,
and an iron cross put at his head by the fishermen. But for a long
time there was a talk that the man had gone to meet his death gladly,
had for some reason or another preferred death to life; but people
were never quite sure if there was anything in it.

The Islanders had looked askance at Ellen Daly, Con's wife, before
that, though to her husband she was the apple of his eye. She had been
a domestic servant on the mainland when Con Daly met and married her,
and she had never seemed to have any friends. She had been handsome in
her day, at least so some people thought, but there were women on the
Island who said they never could abide her, with her pale face and
sneering smile, and her eyes that turned green as a cat's when she was
angry. However, she never tried to ingratiate herself with the women:
if the men admired her it was as much as she asked. When she liked she
could be fascinating enough. She bewitched Mrs. Wilkinson, the
housekeeper at the Hall, into taking her on whenever his Lordship
filled the house with gentlemen and an extra hand was needed. She was
deft and clever, and could be insinuating when it served her purpose.
But the friendship of the Island women she had never desired, and when
her husband was drowned there was not a fisher-wife to go and sit with
her in the desolate house. As the years went by her good looks went
with them. She yellowed, and her malevolent eyes took on red rims
round their greenness; while her dry lips, parted over her snarling
teeth, were more ill than they had been when they were ripe and ruddy.

The neighbours were kind by stealth to Con's girsha. Those were long
days of her childhood when her mother was at work in the Hall, and
the child was locked in the empty cottage; but many was the kind word
through the window, from the women as they passed up and down, and now
and again a hot griddle-cake, or some little dainty of the kind, was
passed through to the child as she sat so dull and lonely on her
little creepy stool.

Poor little Mauryeen! She was a child with social instincts, and
often, often she used to wonder in those lonely hours why she might
not be out with the other children, playing at shop in the crevices of
the rocks, or wading for cockles, or dancing round in a ring to the
sing-song of 'Green Gravel,' or playing at 'High Gates.' Her mother
coldly discouraged any friendship with the children of her foes; and
little Mauryeen grew up a silent child, with something more delicate
and refined about her than the other children,--with somehow the air
of a little lady.

But Mauryeen was not her mother's child to be without a will of her
own. As she grew from childhood to girlhood she began to assert
herself, and though her mother tried hard to break her spirit she did
not succeed. After a time she seemed to realise that here was
something she had not counted upon, and to submit, since she could not
hope to fight it. All the same she hated the girl whom she could not
rule, hated her so furiously that the glitter of her eyes as she
looked at her from the chimney-corner was oftentimes murderous. For,
little by little Mauryeen grew to be friends with all the fishing

Even though she asserted herself the girl did her duty bravely and
humbly. Any mother of them all would have been proud to own Mauryeen.
When her mother had employment at the Hall Mauryeen took care of the
house, and having cleaned and tidied to her heart's content, sat in
the sun at her knitting till Ellen Daly came home to find a
comfortable meal prepared for her. The woman's one good quality was
that she had always been a good housewife, and the girl took after
her. Then when her mother was at home Mauryeen went out sewing to the
houses of the few gentry who lived on the hill; and the house was
well kept and comfortable, though an unnatural hatred sat beside the

The neighbours pitied and praised Mauryeen all the more. They used to
wonder how long it would last, the silent feud between mother and
daughter, especially since Mauryeen was so capable and clever that she
might for the asking join even Mrs. Wilkinson's chosen band of

The girl meanwhile throve as happily as though she lived in the very
sunshine of love rather than in this malignant atmosphere. She saw
little of her mother. The hours when they were under one roof were
few; and across the threshold she found abundant kindness and praise.
Mauryeen was small and graceful, with the olive-tinted fairness which
had been her mother's in her best days. But Mauryeen's blue eyes were
kindly and her lips smiled, and her soft voice was gentle; she had a
pretty way of decking herself which the fisher-girls could never come
by. Mauryeen in a pink cotton frock, with a spray of brown seaweed in
her belt, might have passed for one of the young ladies who visited at
the Hall. If the other girls copied her pretty tricks of decoration
they carried the tame air of the mere copyist. But no one grudged
Mauryeen her charm; she was so kind and gentle, and she had always the
tragedy of that ghastly old mother of hers to stir pity for her. Then
too she always seemed so anxious that the other girls should look
well, and so willing to take trouble to this end, that no one could
envy her her own prettiness.

There came a time when a young man of the Island, Randal Burke by
name, declared to Mauryeen that her voice could coax the birds off the
trees, and that her head when she listened was like the prettiest
bird's head, all covered with golden feathers. She had indeed a very
pretty way of listening, with her head on one side and her eyes bright
and attentive. Mauryeen was used to compliments, and could usually
hold her own in a bit of light love-making; but it was remarkable
that at this speech of Randal Burke's she went pale. She always turned
pale when another girl would have blushed.

Mauryeen's was a sudden and rapid wooing. The young fellow was fairly
independent, possessing as he did a little bit of land with his
cottage, as well as a boat. His mother was one of the most prosperous
women of the Island, and had been in days gone by Ellen Daly's
bitterest enemy. But for all that she welcomed Mauryeen tenderly as a

There was a terrible to-do when Mauryeen told her mother of her
intentions. She turned so livid that Mauryeen for all her brave heart
was frightened, and faltered. The old woman choked and gasped with the
whirlwind of passion that possessed her. As soon as she could speak
she hissed out:--

'The day you marry him I curse you, and him, your house, your
marriage, and every child born of you.'

Mauryeen's anger rose and shook her too like a whirlwind, but it drove
out fear.

'And if you do, you wicked woman,' she said, 'it's not me it'll harm.
Do you think God will listen to the like of you or let harm befall me
and mine because of your curse?'

For a day or two after Mauryeen's defiance her mother brooded in
quietness, only now and again turning on her daughter those terrible
green eyes. No word passed between the two, and meanwhile Randal Burke
was hastening the preparations for the marriage by every means in his
power. Father Tiernay had 'called' them at the mass three Sunday
mornings. The priest was greatly pleased with the marriage. Mauryeen
was a pet lamb of his flock, and he deeply disliked and distrusted her

It was the feast day of the year on the Island, a beautiful bright
sunny June day. On a plateau the men played at the hurley and putting
the stone; and there was a tug of war for married men and single, and
after that for the women, amid much jollity and laughter. Above the
plateau the hill sloped, and that long sunny slope was the place from
which the girls and women looked on at the prowess of their male kind.
That day out of all the year there was a general picnic on the hill,
and meals were eaten and the long day spent out of doors, till the
dews came on the grass.

Now one of the events was a rowing contest, and the course was right
under the hill-slope. Father Tiernay every year gave a money prize for
the winner, and the distinction in itself was ardently coveted. Randal
Burke was rowing against another young fisherman, and it was not easy
to forecast the winner, both men were so strong, so practised, and so
eager in the contest.

The race had begun, and the people on the hillside were standing up in
their excitement watching the boats, which were nearly dead level.
Mauryeen stood by Randal's mother, with one hand thrust childishly
within her arm, and the other shading her eyes from the bright sun.
Suddenly the people were startled by the sound of running feet, and
all looking in one direction they saw Mauryeen's mother coming
without bonnet or cloak, her face working with passion and her hands
clenched. The people fell back before her. She had an evil reputation,
and for a minute or two they thought she had gone mad. Mauryeen, who
did not fall back with the others, found herself standing in the
centre of an empty space, while her mother panted before her,
struggling for words. All the women-folk behind pressed together and
craned over each other's shoulders, half alarmed and half curious.

At last the woman found her breath. She pointed a yellow finger at the
girl, who stood before her with her head proudly lifted, and her eyes
amazed but fearless.

'Look at her,' shrieked the beldame, 'all of you, and you, Kate Burke,
that boasts your family's the oldest on the Island. Look well at her!
Och, the good ould ancient blood! Look at _her_, for her blood's
ancienter still. Do you see anything of Con Daly in her?'

The girl looked round with a forlorn sense of being held up to public
scorn, but the women were huddling together, and the fear kept any
one from coming to stand by her side.

'Look at her,' again shrieked the hoarse voice. 'D'yez know where she
gets her pride and the courage to dare me? She gets it from her
father, th' ould lord. Con Daly had never act nor part in her.'

A scream, the like of which the Island had never heard, broke from
Mauryeen's lips. It was such a cry as if body and soul were tearing
asunder. With that scream she flung her arms above her head. The
little group, closing round her awe-stricken, looked to see her fall
face downward to the ground. But with a wild movement of her arms, as
if she swept the whole world out of her path, she fled down the hill
towards the village. Ellen Daly had vanished. No one had seen her go.
And down in the dancing bay at their feet Randal Burke proudly shot
ahead of his opponent and won the race.

The girl meanwhile had fled on and on, with only the blind instinct to
hide her disgrace. The village was empty of all but the sick and the
bed-ridden. There was not an eye on Mauryeen Daly as she fled by the
open doors. With a mechanical instinct she turned in at the door of
her mother's house. The cool darkness of it after the glare outside
was grateful to her. She closed the door and barred it. Then she
turned into a room off the kitchen, her own little room, where there
was a picture of the Mother of Sorrows with seven swords through her
heart, and dropped on the floor before the picture with an
inarticulate moaning.

She lay there half unconscious, and only feeling her misery dumbly. On
the wall hung her blue cashmere dress, in which she was to have been
married a day or two later. On the chest of drawers was a box
containing the little wreath and veil her mother-in-law had presented
her with. But she saw none of these things, with her mouth and eyes
against the floor.

She came back to life presently, hearing her name called. The voice
had called many times before she heard it. Now it was imperative,
almost sharp in its eagerness. 'Open, acushla, open, or I burst the
door.' It was Randal's voice; and she answered it, advancing a step or
two, groping with outstretched hands, and a wild look of fear in her
dilated eyes. Then she heard the door straining and creaking, and a
man panting, striving outside. In a little while, almost before she
had time to stand clear of it, the door rattled on the floor, and her
lover leapt into the cabin.

She put out her hands to fence him off, swaying blindly towards the
wall. He sprang to her with a murmur of pity, and was just in time to
catch her as her senses left her, and she lay a limp and helpless
thing in his arms.

Father Tiernay was standing at his window gazing over a surpassingly
fair plain of sea, dotted with silver green islands. He was glad the
people had so fine a day for their sports. In the afternoon he would
be with them to distribute the prizes and congratulate the winners,
and to add to the general enjoyment by his presence; but this morning
he was alone, except for his deaf old housekeeper, and Jim the
sacristan, who was too dignified to be out on the Fair Hill with the
others. The priest's look of perplexity deepened as he watched some
one climbing the steep hill to his house. 'It looks like Cody's ghost
carrying his wife's body,' he muttered to himself. The figure or
figures came nearer. At last his Reverence took in what he saw, and
made but one or two steps to the hall door. 'Come in here,' he said,
asking no questions, like a practical man; and indeed for a few
minutes the young fisherman was incapable of answering any. It was not
until the priest had forced some brandy between the girl's lips, when
they had laid her on a sofa, and her breath came fluttering back, that
Father Tiernay drew the lover aside into the window recess and learnt
in a few words what had happened.

'She's so proud, my little girl,' pleaded the lover. 'She won't live
under the shame of it unless your Reverence 'ud help us out of it.
Couldn't your Reverence say the words over us? We've been called three
times, and I've the ring in my pocket. Oh, 'twas well that unnatural
woman calculated her time when our happiness was at the full. Couldn't
your Reverence do it for us?' he said again in a wheedling tone.

His Reverence looked at him thoughtfully. Then he drew out his watch.
'Yes,' he said, 'there's time enough, and I think you're right, my
lad. Just step outside while I speak to her, for I see she's coming

The young man whispered: 'God bless you, Father! If I waited till
to-morrow I'd never put the ring on her. I know the pride of her.' And
then he went out obediently.

No one knew how Father Tiernay persuaded Mauryeen. But a little while
later a very pale bride stood up at the altar of Columb Island Chapel,
and was married, with Father Tiernay's housekeeper and the sacristan
for witnesses.

When they were married Father Tiernay said to the bridegroom: 'Take
her home by the back road. You won't meet a soul, and I'll tell the
people when I join them what has been done. But above all, impress on
her that the story is a wicked lie.'

So Mauryeen went home with her husband to his little cottage on the
cliffs. And in the afternoon, when Father Tiernay came to distribute
the prizes and to merry-make with his people, he raised his hand for
silence and addressed them.

'Children,' he said, 'I hear there has been a grave scandal among you,
and a great sin committed before you this day. The wicked sought to
crush the innocent, as I believe, by bearing false witness, but the
wicked has not triumphed. A few hours ago I made Randal Burke and
Mauryeen Daly man and wife. And I give you solemn warning that the one
who gives ear and belief to the story of the miserable woman who
dishonoured herself to crush her innocent flesh and blood, shares in
that unnatural guilt.'

So after a time Mauryeen crept back to the sunshine, and let herself
be persuaded that her mother was mad. No one on the Island saw Ellen
Daly again; they said she had crossed to the mainland by the
afternoon ferry. She never came back, and there were some in the
Island who believed she had sold her soul to the devil, and that he
had claimed her fulfilment of the compact. But Mauryeen is an honest
man's wife, and whatever people may conjecture in their inmost hearts
as to the truth or falsity of her mother's tale, they say nothing, for
did not Father Tiernay declare such gossip to be a sin? But for all
that Mauryeen's ways are finer and gentler than those of any woman in
the Island.



Mike Sheehan tossed awake in the moonlight. The gulls were quiet, and
there was no noise in the night save the sound that had rocked his
cradle--the Atlantic foaming up the narrow ravine before his door, and
withdrawing itself with a loud sucking noise. The cabin was perched on
a bleached hillside. A stony, narrow path went by the door and climbed
the ravine to the world; a bed of slaty rock slanted sheer below it to
the white tossing water. A dangerous place for any one to pass unless
he had his eyes and his wits well about him; but Mike Sheehan was such
a one, for he had the eye of the eagle over Muckross, he could climb
like the mountain goat, and could carry his drink so well that no man
ever saw him less than clear-headed.

Mike, with his six-feet-six of manhood, was well in request at the
country gatherings. But of late, said the folk, the man had turned
queer: in that melancholy, stately country by the sea,
madness--especially of the quiet, melancholic kind--is a thing very
common. A year ago a wrestling match between him and Jack Kinsella had
gathered two counties to see it. No man could say which was the
champion. Now one was the victor, again the other. They kept steady
pace in their victories. Jack was captain of the Kilsallagh team of
hurlers, Mike of the Clonegall. No one could say which captain led his
team oftenest to victory. The men had begun by being friends, and their
equality at first had only made them genial laughter. The wrestling was
on Sunday, after mass, in a quiet green place at the back of the
churchyard. The backers of the two champions took fire at the rivalry
long before the men themselves. That would be a great day for the men
and women of his following, when either champion should decisively
lead. But the day seemed ever receding in the future, and no one could
say which was the better man. June came, when not only the hurling, but
the wrestling, had its thin fringe of female spectators perched on the
low wall of the churchyard--girls mainly, with little shawls over their
soft hair, and their little bare feet tucked demurely under their

The country people scarcely guessed at the time their two champions
became enemies. Indeed, it was a secret locked in their own breasts,
scarcely acknowledged even when in his most hidden moments each man
looked at the desires of his heart. It only showed itself in a new
fierceness and determination in their encounters. Each had sworn to
himself to conquer the other. The soreness between them came about
when by some sad mischance they fell in love with the same girl. Worse
luck, she wanted neither of them, for she was vowed to the convent:
the last feminine creature on earth for these two great fighters to
think of, with her soft, pure eyes, her slender height, and her pale
cheeks. Any girl in the country might have jumped at either man, and
she, who wanted neither, had their hearts at her feet. She was shy and
gentle, and never repelled them so decisively as to make them give up
hope. In the long run one or the other might have tempted her to an
earthly bridal; but she made no choice between them; and each man's
chance seemed about equal when she slipped from them both into
Kilbride churchyard. When she lay there neither man could say she had
distinguished him by special kindness from the other. And their
rivalry waxed more furious with the woman in her grave.

But six months later, and their battles still undecided, Jack Kinsella
fell sick and followed Ellen to Kilbride. Then Mike Sheehan was
without an equal for many miles. But little comfort it was to him,
with the girl of his heart dead, and the one man he had desired to
overthrow dead and unconquered. He secluded himself from the sports
and pastimes, and lived lonely in his cabin among the gulls, eating
out his unsatisfied heart. Somehow it seemed to him that at the last
his rival had cheated him, slipping into the kingdom of souls hard on
the track of those slender feet he had desired to make his own. At
times he hated him because he had died unconquered; yet again, he had
a hot desire upon him, not all ungenerous, for the old days when he
met those great thews and sinews in heavy grips--when the mighty hands
of the other had held him, the huge limbs embraced him; and his eyes
would grow full of the passion of fight and the desire of battle. None
other would satisfy him to wrestle with but his dead rival, and indeed
he in common with the country people thought that no other might be
found fit for him to meet.

Kilbride churchyard is high on the mainland, and lies dark within its
four stone walls. The road to it is by a tunnel of trees that make a
shade velvety black even when the moon is turning all the sea silver.
The churchyard is very old, and has no monuments of importance: only
green headstones bent sideways and sunk to their neck and shoulders in
the earth. A postern gate, with a flight of stone steps, opens from
Kilbride Lane. Here every night you may see the ghost of Cody the
murderer, climbing those steps with a rigid burden hanging from his

But as Mike Sheehan ascended the steps out of the midnight dark he
felt no fear. He clanged the gate of the sacred quiet place in a way
that set the silence echoing. The moon was high overhead, and was
shining straight down on the square enclosure with its little heaped
mounds and ancient stones. Some mad passion was on Mike Sheehan
surely, or he would not so have desecrated the quiet resting-place of
the dead. There by the ruined gable of the old abbey was a fresh mound
unusually great in size. Mike Sheehan paused by it. 'Jack!' he cried
in a thunderous voice, hoarse with its passion. 'Come! let us once for
all see which is the better man. Come and fight me, Jack, and if you
throw me let Ellen be yours now and for ever!'

The blood was in his eyes, and the sea-mist curling in from sea. His
challenge spoken, he swayed dizzily a moment. Then his eyes saw. The
place seemed full of the sea-mist silvered through with the moon. As
he looked to right and left substantial things vanished, but he saw
all about him in a ring long rows of shadowy faces watching him. Many
of them he knew. They were the boys and girls, the men and women, of
his own village who had died in many years. Others were strange, but
he guessed them ghosts from Kilsallagh, beyond Roscarbery, the village
where Jack used to live. He looked eagerly among the folk he
remembered for Ellen's face. There was one who might be she, the ghost
of a woman veiled in her shadowy hair, whose eyes he could not see.
And then Jack was upon him.

That was a great wrestling in Kilbride churchyard. The dead man wound
about the living with his clay-cold limbs, caught him in icy grips
that froze the terrified blood from his heart, and breathed upon him
soundlessly a chill breath of the grave that seemed to wither him.
Yet Mike fought furiously, as one who fights not only to satisfy a
hate, but as one who fights to gain a love. He had a dim knowledge of
the fight he was making, a dim premonition that the dead man was more
than his match. The ghostly spectators pressed round more eagerly,
their shadowy faces peered, their shadowy forms swayed in the mist.
The ghost had Mike Sheehan in a death-grip. His arms were imprisoned,
his breath failed, his flesh crept, and his hair stood up. He felt
himself dying of the horror of this unnatural combat, when there was a
whisper at his ear. Dimly he seemed to hear Ellen's voice; dimly
turning his failing eyes he seemed to recognise her eyes under the
veil of ashen fair hair. 'Draw him to the left on the grass,' said the
voice, 'and trip him.' His old love and his old jealousy surged up in
Mike Sheehan. With a tremendous effort he threw off those paralysing
arms. Forgetting his horror he furiously embraced the dead, drew him
to the left on the grass, slippery as glass after the summer heats,
for a second or two swayed with him to and fro; then the two went down
together with a great violence, but Mike Sheehan was uppermost, his
knee on the dead man's breast.

When he came to himself in the moonlight, all was calm and peaceful.
An owl hooted from the ruined gable, and from far away came the bark
of a watch-dog, but the graveyard kept its everlasting slumber. Mike
Sheehan was drenched with the dews as he stood up stiffly from Jack
Kinsella's grave, upon which he had been lying. It was close upon
dawn, and the moon was very low. He looked about him at the quietness.
Another man might have thought he had but dreamt it; not so Mike
Sheehan. He remembered with a fierce joy how he had flung the ghost
and how Ellen had been on his side. 'You're mine now, asthoreen,' he
said in a passionate apostrophe to her, 'and 'tis I could find it in
my heart to pity him that's lying there and has lost you. He was the
fair fighter ever and always, and now he'll acknowledge me for the
better man.' And then he added, as if to himself, 'Poor Jack! I wish
I'd flung him on the broken ground and not on the slippery grass. 'Tis
then I'd feel myself that I was the better man.'



In Achill it was dreary wet weather--one of innumerable wet summers
that blight the potatoes and blacken the hay and mildew the few oats
and rot the poor cabin roofs. The air smoked all day with rain mixed
with the fine salt spray from the ocean. Out of doors everything
shivered and was disconsolate. Only the bog prospered, basking its
length in water, and mirroring Croghan and Slievemore with the smoky
clouds incessantly wreathing about their foreheads, or drifting like
ragged wisps of muslin down their sides to the clustering cabins more
desolate than a deserted nest. Inland from the sheer ocean cliffs the
place seemed all bog; the little bits of earth the people had
reclaimed were washed back into the bog, the gray bents and rimy
grasses that alone flourished drank their fill of the water, and were
glad. There was a grief and trouble on all the Island. Scarce a cabin
in the queer straggling villages but had desolation sitting by its
hearth. It was only a few weeks ago that the hooker had capsized
crossing to Westport, and the famine that is always stalking
ghost-like in Achill was forgotten in the contemplation of new graves.
The Island was full of widows and orphans and bereaved old people;
there was scarce a window sill in Achill by which the banshee had not

Where all were in trouble there were few to go about with comfort.
Moya Lavelle shut herself up in the cabin her husband Patrick had
built, and dreed her weird alone. Of all the boys who had gone down
with the hooker none was finer than Patrick Lavelle. He was brown and
handsome, broad-shouldered and clever, and he had the good-humoured
smile and the kindly word where the people are normally taciturn and
unsmiling. The Island girls were disappointed when Patrick brought a
wife from the mainland, and Moya never tried to make friends with
them. She was something of a mystery to the Achill people, this small
moony creature, with her silver fair hair, and strange light eyes, the
colour of spilt milk. She was as small as a child, but had the gravity
of a woman. She loved the sea with a love unusual in Achill, where the
sea is to many a ravening monster that has exacted in return for its
hauls of fish the life of husband and son. Patrick Lavelle had built
for her a snug cabin in a sheltered ravine. A little beach ran down in
front of it where he could haul up his boat. The cabin was built
strongly, as it had need to be, for often of a winter night the waves
tore against its little windows. Moya loved the fury of the elements,
and when the winter storms drove the Atlantic up the ravine with a
loud bellowing, she stirred in sleep on her husband's shoulder, and
smiled as they say children smile in sleep when an angel leans over

Higher still, on a spur of rock, Patrick Lavelle had laid the clay for
his potatoes. He had carried it on his shoulders, every clod, and
Moya had gathered the seaweed to fertilise it. She had her small
garden there, too, of sea-pinks and the like, which rather encouraged
the Islanders in their opinion of her strangeness. In Achill the
struggle for life is too keen to admit of any love for mere beauty.

However, Patrick Lavelle was quite satisfied with his little wife.
When he came home from the fishing he found his cabin more comfortable
than is often the case in Achill. They had no child, but Moya never
seemed to miss a child's head at her breast. Daring the hours of his
absence at the fishing she seemed to find the sea sufficient company.
She was always roaming along the cliffs, gazing down as with a fearful
fascination along the black sides to where the waves churned hundreds
of feet below. For company she had only the seagulls and the bald
eagle that screamed far over her head; but she was quite happy as she
roamed hither and thither, gathering the coloured seaweeds out of the
clefts of the rocks, and crooning an old song softly to herself, as a
child might do.

But that was all over and gone, and Moya was a widow. She had nothing
warm and human at all, now that brave protecting tenderness was gone
from her. No one came to the little cabin in the ravine where Moya sat
and moaned, and stretched her arms all day for the dear brown head she
had last seen stained with the salt water and matted with the
seaweeds. At night she went out, and wandered moon-struck by the black
cliffs, and cried out for Patrick, while the shrilling gusts of wind
blew her pale hair about her, and scourged her fevered face with the
sea salt and the sharp hail.

One night a great wave broke over Achill. None had seen it coming,
with great crawling leaps like a serpent, but at dead of night it
leaped the land, and hissed on the cottage hearths and weltered gray
about the mud floors. The next day broke on ruin in Achill. The bits
of fields were washed away, the little mountain sheep were drowned,
the cabins were flung in ruined heaps; but the day was fair and sunny,
as if the elements were tired of the havoc they had wrought and were
minded to be in a good humour. There was not a boat on the Island but
had been battered and torn by the rocks. People had to take their
heads out of their hands, and stand up from their brooding, or this
wanton mischief would cost them their dear lives, for the poor
resources of the Island had given out, and the Islanders were in grips
with starvation.

No one thought of Moya Lavelle in her lonely cabin in the ravine. None
knew of the feverish vigils in those wild nights. But a day or two
later the sea washed her on a stretch of beach to the very doors of a
few straggling cabins dotted here and there beyond the irregular
village. She had been carried out to sea that night, but the sea,
though it had snatched her to itself, had not battered and bruised
her. She lay there, indeed, like that blessed Restituta, whom, for her
faith, the tyrant sent bound on a rotting hulk, with the outward tide
from Carthage, to die on the untracked ocean. She lay like a child
smiling in dreams, all her long silver hair about her, and her wide
eyes gazing with no such horror, as of one who meets a violent death.
Those who found her so wept to behold her.

They carried her to her cottage in the ravine, and waked her. Even in
Achill they omit no funeral ceremony. They dressed her in white and
put a cross in her hand, and about her face on the pillow they set the
sea-pinks from her little garden, and some of the coloured seaweeds
she had loved to gather. They lit candles at her head and feet, and
the women watched with her all day, and at night the men came in, and
they talked and told stories, subdued stories and ghostly, of the
banshee and the death-watch, and wraiths of them gone that rise from
the sea to warn fishermen of approaching death. Gaiety there was none:
the Islanders had no heart for gaiety: but the pipes and tobacco were
there, and the plate of snuff, and the jar of poteen to lift up the
heavy hearts. And Moya lay like an image wrought of silver, her lids
kept down by coins over her blue eyes.

She had lain so two nights, nights of starlit calm. On the fourth day
they were to bury her beside Patrick Lavelle in his narrow house, and
the little bridal cabin would be abandoned, and presently would rot to
ruins. The third night had come, overcast with heavy clouds. The group
gathered in the death chamber was more silent than before. Some had
sat up the two nights, and were now dazed with sleep. By the wall the
old women nodded over their beads, and a group of men talked quietly
at the bed-head where Moya lay illumined by the splendour of the four
candles all shining on her white garments.

Suddenly in the quietness there came a roar of wind. It did not come
freshening from afar off, but seemed to waken suddenly in the ravine
and cry about the house. The folk sprang to their feet startled, and
the eyes of many turned towards the little dark window, expecting to
see wild eyes and a pale face set in black hair gazing in. Some who
were nearest saw in the half-light--for it was whitening towards
day--a wall of gray water travelling up the ravine. Before they could
cry a warning it had encompassed the house, had driven door and
window before it, and the living and the dead were in the sea.

The wave retreated harmlessly, and in a few minutes the frightened
folk were on their feet amid the wreck of stools and tables floating.
The wave that had beaten them to earth had extinguished the lights.
When they stumbled to their feet and got the water out of their eyes
the dim dawn was in the room. They were too scared for a few minutes
to think of the dead. When they recovered and turned towards the bed
there was a simultaneous loud cry. Moya Lavelle was gone. The wave had
carried her away, and never more was there tale or tidings of her

Achill people said she belonged to the sea, and the sea had claimed
her. They remembered Patrick Lavelle's silence as to where he had
found her. They remembered a thousand unearthly ways in her; and which
of them had ever seen her pray? They pray well in Achill, having a
sure hold on that heavenly country which is to atone for the cruelty
and sorrow of this. In process of time they will come to think of her
as a mermaid, poor little Moya. She had loved her husband at least
with a warm human love. But his open grave was filled after they had
given up hoping that the sea would again give her up, and the place by
Patrick Lavelle's side remains for ever empty.



The little house where Katie lived was over the fields. She was a
dimpled, brown child, as soft as the yellow ducklings she used to
carry in her pinafore. Her little fat shoulders were bare as I
remember them, and you could see the line where the sunburn ended with
her frock and the whiteness began. She was the late child of a
long-married couple, vouchsafed long after they had given up hopes of
a living child.

Her mother was an angular woman who walked a little crookedly,
throwing one hip into ungainly prominence as she went. Her face, too,
was brown as a russet apple, with a pleasant hard redness on the
cheeks. She had white teeth, brown eyes, and an honest expression.
But people said she was a difficult woman to live with. She had
extreme ideas of her own importance, especially since the honest
fellow she was married to had become steward to his master, a 'strong
farmer,' as they say in Ireland, and the owner of broad acres. She
expected a certain deference from the folk she had grown up amongst,
and who were often not quite inclined to yield it. In a sense she was
a fortunate woman, for her good man was as much a lover as in the days
when he had come whistling his lover's signal, like any blackbird, to
call her out from her mother's chimney-corner. She told me about those
days herself when I was but a callow girl. I don't know why, except
from some spirit of romance in her, which she could not reveal to folk
of her own age and circumstances. She was the mother of many dead
babies, for never a one had lived but Katie; but the romance of her
marriage was still new. I remember one summer evening, when the low
sun shone between the slats of her dairy window, and I, on a creepy
stool by the wall, alternately read _The Arabian Nights_ and talked
to her while she gathered the butter from the churn, that her man came
in, and, not seeing me in the shadow, drew her head back and kissed
her brown face and head with a passion not all common after courting

The house was by the roadside, only shut off by its own garden-wall
and a high gate, which it was comfortable to lock of winter evenings.
There were two small rooms in it beside the kitchen and the dairy, and
a loft reached by a ladder, wherein to store many a sack of potatoes,
or wood for the winter firing. The kitchen was very pleasant, with its
two square windows full of geraniums in bloom, the pictures of saints
on its white-washed walls, the chimney-piece with its china
shepherdesses and dogs, and the dresser with a very fine show of
crockery. There was always a sweet smell of cream there from the
dairy, which opened on one side. The two rooms went off each side of
the fire-place. The walls were cleanly white-washed, the tiled floor
ochred; altogether it was a charming little house for love to build a
home in.

Little Katie, precious as she was, roamed at her own sweet will. No
harm could come to her in the fields where she strayed. She was
home-keeping, and never went far from her own doorstep; nor need she
for variety. On one side of the field there was a violet bank, mossy,
and hung over with thorn trees. Under the thorns it was possible to
hide as within a greenhouse, and children love such make-believe. On
the other side of the bank was a steep descent to a tiny stream
prattling over shining stones; and fox-gloves grew in the water with
the meadow orchis, and many other water-loving flowers. That field was
a meadow every year, and once hidden between the hedge and the
meadow-grasses a child was invisible to all but the bright-eyed birds,
who themselves have a taste for such mysteries, and the corn-crake,
which one thinks of as only half bird, that scuttled on Katie's
approach down one of a million aisles of seeding brown grasses.

Then on the other side of the field there was a deep, dry ditch under
great curtains of blackberry bushes, which in autumn bore luscious
fruit. And by Katie's door, if she would sit in the sun, was a
primrose bank, about which the hens stalked and clucked with their
long-legged chickens or much prettier ducklings. Katie did not want
for playmates. She had none of her own kind, but was sociable to the
fowl and the pig in his stye, and the white and red cattle that
browsed in the pastures. She held long colloquies with the creatures
all day, and if it rained would fetch her stool into an out-house
which the hens frequented.

But her grand playmate, the confidant and abettor of all her games,
was a placid motherly cat, which had grown up with Katie. A
good-natured workman had fetched the pretty brindled kitten from the
city, and had made an offering of it at the baby's cradle. Katie with
almost her first words called the cat after him. Pussy Hogan was the
brindle's name to her dying day. When I hear people say that cats have
no attachment for people I always make a mental reservation in Pussy
Hogan's favour. No dog could have shown a more faithful and moving
devotion. Katie's instincts in the direction of cleanliness led her to
wash Pussy Hogan in her kittenish days, till she was come to an age
for performing her own ablutions with the requisite care. Many a time
have I seen the child washing the kitten in soap-suds, and setting her
to dry on the primrose bank, which was in the face of the southern
sun, and there with admirable patience the creature would lie, paws
extended, till her little mistress deemed she was dry enough to get up
from her bleaching.

But Pussy Hogan grew a handsome, stately, well-furred cat, despite her
washings; and it was pretty to see her stalking at the child's heels
everywhere, with much the same responsible air that a serious dog
might assume. For all her gravity, she was not above understanding and
enjoying those games under the hedgerows, when Katie set up house, and
made banquets with broken bits of crockery, to which she entertained
her admiring friend. Even in the winter the cat trotted about over
snow and leaped roaring gullies, in attendance on her hardy little
mistress; as in summer she followed her to the evening milking, where
as a special favour Katie was permitted, with her dimpled fingers, to
draw a few spirts of the sweet-smelling milk.

They were beginning to discuss Katie's schooling when she fell ill.
The grown people thought school would come hard upon her, she had been
so used to a life in the open air. She was very babyish too, even for
her age, though there were many younger than she perched on that
platform of steps in the Convent Infant School--pupils, so little and
drowsy-headed that two or three special couches had to be retained
close by to receive those who from time to time toppled off their
perch. I remember asking if Katie would take the cat to school, after
the manner of Mary and her lamb in the rhyme. I make no doubt Pussy
Hogan would have attempted the Irish mile of distance to the school
every day, if there were not pressure brought to bear to keep her at
home. However, the child was attacked by that horrible dread of
mothers, the croup. She was just the one to succumb, being a little
round ball of soft flesh. She only fought it a day and night, lifting
up her poor little hands to her straining throat incessantly. In less
than thirty-six hours Katie was dead.

Her mother took it in a blank stupor. She scarcely seemed to heed the
friends who came and went, the Sisters of Mercy, in their black
bonnets and cloaks, the priest with his attempts at comfort. Her
husband sat by her those days, his eyes turning from the
heart-breaking face of his wife to the brown baby on the bed, as
piteous as a frozen robin. After the funeral the mother went about her
usual occupations. She milked the cow, fed the hens, churned, swept,
and baked as of old. Yet she did all those things as with a broken
heart, and it would have been less dreadful in a way to see her
sitting with folded hands. She was incessantly weeping in those months
that followed Katie's death. One would have thought that her eyes
would be drained dry, but still the tears followed each other all day
long, and no one seemed able to comfort her. It was wretched enough
for her husband, poor fellow, coming home of an evening from his work,
but he did all unwearying patience could do to comfort her.

The only desire she seemed to have in those days was that she might
keep Katie's pussy with her, but that was not gratified. The cat had
moped and fretted greatly during the child's short illness, and had
cried distressingly about the house when Katie lay dead. Then after
the funeral had gone she had turned her back on the desolate house,
and had walked across the couple of fields that separated it from the
farmhouse. She came into the big airy kitchen that July day with so
evident an intention of remaining that no one disputed her right. Once
she had a sudden impulse to go and seek her little mistress, and went
running and leaping over the long pastures to the low white house.
They said it was the thing that wakened Katie's mother from the first
merciful stupor of her bereavement, the cat running in and moaning
piteously about the empty rooms, and the places where they had played
their jolly games. They said she inspected every possible place where
the child might be hiding, turning again and again, after moments of
disappointed bewilderment, to a new search. At last she gave it up,
and seemed to realise that Katie was gone. She turned then and trotted
back quickly to the farmhouse, from whence no one's coaxing afterwards
could bring her. Every one wanted that the poor mother should have her
as she seemed to crave, but the cat would not; she escaped over and
over from her captors, and at last we gave up trying to constrain her,
though her desertion seemed a new cruelty to the stricken woman across
the fields.

I don't know how many months the mother's weeping went on. It was a
day close upon Christmas when I opened the half-door and went in and
saw, for the first time since the child's death, that her eyes were
dry. She was making bread at a table under the window, and her face
had grown wonderfully calm since I had last seen her. I made no
remark, but she led up to the subject herself, with a pathetic,
wintry smile.

'You remember the poem you read to me one day, miss,' she said, 'about
the dead child that couldn't be glad in heaven because its mother's
crying wet its fine dress?' I remembered perfectly; it was my poor
little way of trying to insinuate some comfort, for like many of her
class in Ireland, she loved poetry. 'Well,' she went on, 'I've been
thinking a power over it since. Who knows but that there might be the
truth behind it?' I nodded assent. 'Now there's Christmas coming,' she
said, 'and I think that would be a fine time for the children in
heaven, so I'm not going to spoil Katie's glory among them.'

She didn't say much more after this curious little bit of confidence,
but it was a comfort to every one when she left off crying. Her
husband was rejoiced at the change. He began to build on it that
presently she would be cheerful once more, and they would be quite
happy again; for a man doesn't miss a child as a woman does, and, dear
as his little Katie was, the love of his boyhood was yet spared to
him, and could still make earth paradise if she would.

However, there was a new cause for apprehension in those latter days.
I remember that the women shook their heads and looked gloomy when it
came to be known that Katie's mother was likely to have a baby in the
spring. She had been very ill before, and after this long interval and
all the trouble things were not likely to go easier with her. I know
the old doctor, who was kind and fatherly, and had been full of sorrow
about Katie, seemed vexed at the new turn of affairs. I heard him
telling a matron much in his confidence that he wouldn't answer for
the woman's life.

She herself plucked up heart from the time she was certain that the
baby was coming. I don't think now that she expected to live through
it. She probably thought that through that gate she would rejoin
Katie. She was very sweet to her husband in those days, very gentle
and considerate to the neighbours, to whom she had often been peevish
and haughty in old times. Many a one changed their former opinion of
her that winter, and her kindness made kindness for her. This
neighbour would often help her at the washing-tub, and that would send
her grown boy in at dinner-time to see if Katie's mother wanted wood
chopped or water carried. I am always glad to think of those four or
five months, when a great calm, as it seems to me, settled down on the
little house in the fields.

The baby was born in April--dead, as people had feared. It was a boy,
and had died in being born. They said the little waxen image bore
traces of a pathetic struggle for life. As for the mother, she never
rallied at all; I think she would not. She passed away quite calmly,
with not a flutter of the eyelids to answer her husband, who prayed
for a parting word from her.

They sleep together, mother and children, in Kilbride, in the shadow
of a great thorn-bush, and not far from St. Brigid's Tower. Lonely and
far as the churchyard is, there is not a Sunday in the year that the
husband and father does not find his way there after mass, trudging
along that solitary way, between bare hedges or blooming, as
faithfully as the day comes round. All those things were over a dozen
years ago, and he is married again, to a spare, unattractive woman,
who looks after his food and clothes, and makes him in her way a very
excellent wife. She was long past middle age when he married her and
took her out of service. But there was no pretence of love-making
about it. She would be the first herself to tell you that her man's
heart was in Kilbride. She said to me once: 'He's a good man to me,
and I'm glad to do my duty by him; but if you talked to him about his
wife he'd think you meant Kitty, God rest her! Men's seconds, miss,
don't count.'

She said it in a simple, open-faced way, but I thought there was a
homely tragedy concealed behind it. I am sure that in the heaven, of
which those Irish peasants think as confidently as of the next room,
he will forget all about poor hard-working Margaret, and will look
with eager eyes for the love of his youth.



High up among the dusty rafters of Aughagree Chapel dangles a thin
shrivelled thing, towards which the people look shudderingly when the
sermon is of the terrors of the Judgment and the everlasting fire. The
woman from whose dead body that was taken chose the death of the soul
in return for a life with the man whom she loved with an unholy
passion. Every man, woman, and child in that chapel amid gray miles of
rock and sea-drift, has heard over and over of the unrepentant
deathbed of Mauryeen Holion. They whisper on winter nights of how
Father Hugh fought with the demons for her soul, how the sweat poured
from his forehead, and he lay on his face in an agony of tears,
beseeching that the sinner whom he had admitted into the fold of
Christ should yet be saved. But of her love and her sin she had no
repentance, and the servants in Rossatorc Castle said that as the
priest lay exhausted from his vain supplications, and the rattle was
in Dark Mauryeen's throat, there were cries of mocking laughter in the
air above the castle, and a strange screaming and flapping of great
wings, like to, but incomparably greater than, the screaming and
flapping of the eagle over Slieve League. That devil's charm up there
in the rafters of Aughagree is the death-spancel by which Dark
Mauryeen bound Sir Robert Molyneux to her love. It is of such power
that no man born of woman can resist it, save by the power of the
Cross, and 'twas little Robert Molyneux of Rossatorc recked of the
sweet Christ who perished that men should live--against whose Cross
the demons of earth and the demons of air, the malevolent spirits that
lurk in water and wind, and all witches and evil doctors, are
powerless. But the thought of the death-spancel must have come
straight from the King of Fiends himself, for who else would harden
the human heart to desecrate a new grave, and to cut from the helpless
dead the strip of skin unbroken from head to heel which is the
death-spancel? Very terrible is the passion of love when it takes full
possession of a human heart, and no surer weapon to the hand of Satan
when he would make a soul his own. And there is the visible sign of a
lost soul, and it had nearly been of two, hanging harmlessly in the
rafters of the holy place. A strange thing to see where the lamp of
the sanctuary burns, and the sea-wind sighs sweetly through the door
ever open for the continual worshippers.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sir Robert Molyneux was a devil-may-care, sporting squire, with the
sins of his class to his account. He drank, and gambled, and rioted,
and oppressed his people that they might supply his pleasures; nor was
that all, for he had sent the daughter of honest people in shame and
sorrow over the sea. People muttered when they heard he was to marry
Lord Dunlough's daughter, that she would be taking another woman's
place; but it was said yet again that it would be well for his tenants
when he was married, for the lady was so kind and charitable, so
gentle and pure, that her name was loved for many a mile. She had
never heard the shameful story of that forlorn girl sailing away and
away in the sea-mist, with her unborn child, to perish miserably, body
and soul, in the streets of New York. She had the strange love of a
pure woman for a wild liver; and she thought fondly when she caressed
his fine, jolly, handsome face that soon his soul as well as his dear
body would be in her keeping: and what safe keeping it would be.

Sir Robert had ever a free way with women of a class below his own,
and he did not find it easy to relinquish it. When he was with the
Lady Eva he felt that under those innocent, loving eyes a man could
have no desire for a lesser thing than her love; but when he rode
away, the first pretty girl he met on the road he held in chat that
ended with a kiss. He was always for kissing a pretty face, and found
the habit hard to break, though there were times when he stamped and
swore great oaths to himself that he would again kiss no woman's lips
but his wife's--for the man had the germ of good in him.

It was a fortnight to his wedding day, and he had had a hard day's
hunting. From early morning to dewy eve they had been at it, for the
fox was an old one and had led the dogs many a dance before this. He
turned homeward with a friend, splashed and weary, but happy and with
the appetite of a hunter. Well for him if he had never set foot in
that house. As he came down the stairs fresh and shining from his
bath, he caught sight of a girl's dark handsome face on the staircase.
She was one of the servants, and she stood aside to let him pass, but
that was never Robert Molyneux's way with a woman. He flung his arm
round her waist in a way so many poor girls had found irresistible.
For a minute or two he looked in her dark splendid eyes; but then as
he bent lightly to kiss her, she tore herself from him with a cry and
ran away into the darkness.

He slept heavily that night, the dead sleep of a man who has hunted
all day and has drunk deep in the evening. In the morning he awoke
sick and sorry, a strange mood for Robert Molyneux; but from midnight
to dawn he had lain with the death-spancel about his knees. In the
blackness of his mind he had a great longing for the sweet woman, his
love for whom awakened all that was good in him. His horse had fallen
lame, but after breakfast he asked his host to order out a carriage
that he might go to her. Once with her he thought all would be well.
Yet as he stood on the doorstep he had a strange reluctance to go.

It was a drear, gray, miserable day, with sleet pattering against the
carriage windows. Robert Molyneux sat with his head bent almost to his
knees, and his hands clenched. What face was it rose against his mind,
continually blotting out the fair and sweet face of his love? It was
the dark, handsome face of the woman he had met on the stairs last
night. Some sudden passion for her rose as strong as hell-fire in his
breast. There were many long miles between him and Eva, and his desire
for the dark woman raged stronger and ever stronger in him. It was as
if ropes were around his heart dragging it backward. He fell on his
knees in the carriage, and sobbed. If he had known how to pray he
would have prayed, for he was torn in two between the desire of his
heart for the dark woman, and the longing of his soul for the fair
woman. Again and again he started up to call the coachman to turn
back; again and again he flung himself in the bottom of the carriage,
and hid his face and struggled with the curse that had come upon him.
And every mile brought him nearer to Eva and safety.

The coachman drove on in the teeth of the sleet and wondered what Sir
Robert would give him at the drive's end. A half-sovereign would not
be too much for so open-handed a gentleman, and one so near his
wedding; and the coachman, already feeling his hand close upon it,
turned a brave face to the sleet and tried not to think of the warm
fire in the harness-room from which they had called him to drive Sir

Half the distance was gone when he heard a voice from the carriage
window calling him. He turned round. 'Back! Back!' said the voice.
'Drive like hell! I will give you a sovereign if you do it under an
hour.' The coachman was amazed, but a sovereign is better than a
half-sovereign. He turned his bewildered horses for home.

Robert Molyneux's struggle was over. Eva's face was gone now
altogether. He only felt a mad joy in yielding, and a wild desire for
the minutes to pass till he had traversed that gray road back. The
coachman drove hard and his horses were flecked with foam, but from
the windows Robert Molyneux kept continually urging him, offering him
greater and greater rewards for his doing the journey with all speed.

Half way up the cypress avenue to his friend's house a woman with a
shawl about her head glided from the shadow and signalled to the
darkly flushed face at the carriage window. Robert Molyneux shouted to
the man to stop. He sprang from the carriage and lifted the woman in.
Then he flung the coachman a handful of gold and silver. 'To
Rossatorc,' he said, and the man turned round and once more whipped up
his tired horses. The woman laughed as Robert Molyneux caught her in
his arms. It was the fierce laughter of the lost. 'I came to meet
you,' she said, 'because I knew you must come.'

From that day, when Robert Molyneux led the woman over the threshold
of his house, he was seen no more in the usual places of his
fellow-men. He refused to see any one who came. His wedding-day passed
by. Lord Dunlough had ridden furiously to have an explanation with the
fellow and to horsewhip him when that was done, but he found the great
door of Rossatorc closed in his face. Every one knew Robert Molyneux
was living in shame with Mauryeen Holion. Lady Eva grew pale and
paler, and drooped and withered in sorrow and shame, and presently her
father took her away, and their house was left to servants. Burly
neighbouring squires rode up and knocked with their riding-whips at
Rossatorc door to remonstrate with Robert Molyneux, for his father's
sake or for his own, but met no answer. All the servants were gone
except a furtive-eyed French valet and a woman he called his wife, and
these were troubled with no notions of respectability. After a time
people gave up trying to interfere. The place got a bad name. The
gardens were neglected and the house was half in ruins. No one ever
saw Mauryeen Holion's face except it might be at a high window of the
castle, when some belated huntsman taking a short-cut across the park
would catch a glimpse of a wild face framed in black hair at an upper
window, the flare of the winter sunset lighting it up, it might be, as
with a radiance from hell. Sir Robert drank, they said, and
rack-rented his people far worse than in the old days. He had put his
business in the hands of a disreputable attorney from a neighbouring
town, and if the rent was not paid to the day the roof was torn off
the cabin, and the people flung out into the ditch to rot.

So the years went, and folk ever looked for a judgment of God on the
pair. And when many years were over, there came to Father Hugh,
wringing her hands, the wife of the Frenchman, with word that the two
were dying, and she dared not let them die in their sins.

But Mauryeen Holion, Dark Mauryeen, as they called her, would not to
her last breath yield up the death-spancel which she had knotted round
her waist, and which held Robert Molyneux's love to her. When the
wicked breath was out of her body they cut it away, and it lay twisted
on the ground like a dead snake. Then on Robert Molyneux, dying in a
distant chamber, came a strange peace. All the years of sin seemed
blotted out, and he was full of a simple repentance such as he had
felt long ago when kneeling by the gown of the good woman whom he had
loved. So Father Hugh absolved him before he died, and went hither and
thither through the great empty rooms shaking his holy water, and
reading from his Latin book.

And lest any in that place, where they have fiery southern blood in
their veins, should so wickedly use philtres or charms, he hung the
death-spancel in Aughagree Chapel for a terrible reminder.



There was a difference of twenty years between the brothers, yet, to
look at them, it might have been more. Patrick, the younger, was
florid and hearty; the elder, James, was unpopular--a gray, withered
old churl, who carried written on his face the record of his life's
failure. His conversation, when he made any, was cynical. When he came
into a room where young people were enjoying themselves, playing cards
or dancing, his shadow came before him and lay heavily on the
merry-makers. Fortunately, he did not often so intrude; he was happier
in his room at the top of the fine house, where he had his books and
his carpenter's tools. If one of those young people whom his cynicism
withered could have seen him at his carpentry, how different he would
have seemed! They would have seen him with his grimness relaxed, and
his gray face lit up with interest, and would have been amazed to hear
his low, cheery whistle, full and round as the pipe of a bullfinch; at
night, when his telescope swept the stars, and he trembled with the
delight of the visionary and the student, he was a new man. He was a
clever man, born out of his proper sphere, and with only so much
education as he had contrived to get at during a hard life. What came
to him he assimilated eagerly, and every one of those books in his
cupboard, rare old friends, had been read over a hundred times.

He ought to have had a chance in his youth, but his father was the
last man in the world to encourage out-of-the-way ambitions in his
sons. Father and mother were alike--hard, grasping, and ungracious.
The father, on the whole, was a pleasanter person than the mother,
with her long, pale, horse-face and ready sneer; he was only
uncompromisingly hard and ungenial to all the world.

There were other children besides these two, all long since dead or
scattered. Two of the boys had run away and gone to America; their
first letters home remained unanswered, and after one or two attempts
they ceased to write. The one girl had slipped into a convent, after a
horrified glimpse at the home-life of her parents when she had
returned from her boarding-school. She had been sent away to a convent
in a distant town while still a mere child. She had come and gone in
recurring vacations, still too childish to be more than vaguely
repelled by the unlovely rule of her home. But at sixteen she came
home 'for good'; very much for evil, poor little Eily would have said,
as she realised in its full sordidness the grinding manner of life
which was to be hers. No wonder she wet her pillow night after night
with her tears for the pure and gentle atmosphere of the convent, for
the soft-voiced and mild-eyed nuns, and the life of the spirit which
shone ideally fair by this appalling life of the world. So, after a
time, she had her will and escaped to the convent.

James could never understand why he, too, had not broken bounds, and
run off to America with Tom and Alick. Perhaps he was of a more
patient nature than they. Perhaps the life held him down. It was,
indeed, such a round of hard, unvarying toil that at night he was
content to drop down in his place like a dead man, and sleep as the
worn-out horses sleep, dreaming of a land of endless green pastures,
beyond man's harrying. Alick and Tom were younger. They had not had
time to get broken to hardship like him, and Patrick was yet a baby.
Friends or social pleasures were beyond their maddest dreams. Their
parents' idea of a life for them was one in which hard work should
keep them out of mischief. James could never remember in those days a
morning when he had risen refreshed; he was always heavy with sleep
when following the plough-horses, or feeding the cattle. Food of the
coarsest, sleep of the scantiest, were the rule of the house. Joy, or
love, or kindness, never breathed between those walls.

Meanwhile, the father was getting old, and a time came when he sat
more and more by the fire in winter, sipping his glass of grog and
reading the country papers, or listening to his wife's acrid tattle.
Mrs. Rooney hated with an extreme hatred all the good, easy-going
neighbours who were so soft with their children, and encouraged
dancing, and race-going and card-playing--the amusements of the Irish
middle classes. She had a bitter tongue, and once it was set agoing no
one was safe from it--not the holiest nor purest was beyond its

It was about this time that the labourers began to think the young
master rather more important than the old one; but for their
connivance, James Rooney could never have been drawn into Fenianism.
The conspiracy was just the thing to fascinate the boy's
impressionable heart. The poetry, the glamour of the romantic devotion
to Mother Country fed his starved idealism; the midnight drillings
and the danger were elements in its attraction. James Rooney drilled
with the rest, swore with them their oaths of fealty to Dark Rosaleen,
was out with them one winter night when the hills were covered with
snow, and barely escaped by the skin of his teeth from the capture
which sent some of his friends into penal servitude.

Mrs. Rooney's amazed contempt when she found that her eldest son was
among 'the boys' was a study in character. The lad was not compromised
openly; and though the police had their suspicions, they had nothing
to go upon, and the matter ended in a domiciliary visit which put Mrs.
Rooney in a fine rage, for she had a curious subservient ambition to
stand well with the gentry.

However, soon after that, as she was pottering about the fowl-yard one
bitter day--she would never trust anybody to collect the eggs from the
locked henhouse but herself--she took a chill, and not long afterwards
died. If she had lived perhaps James would never have had the courage
to assert himself and take the reins of management as he did. But
with her going the iron strength of the old man seemed to break down.
He fulfilled her last behest, which was that her funeral was to take
place on a Sunday, so that the farm hands should not get a day off;
and then, with some wonder at the new masterful spirit in his son, he
gave himself up to an easy life.

This independence in James Rooney was not altogether the result of his
Fenianism. As a matter of fact, he had fallen in love, with the
overwhelming passion of a lad who had hitherto lived with every
generous emotion repressed. The girl was a gay, sweet, yet impassioned
creature who was the light of her own home. At that home James Rooney
had first realised what a paradise home may be made; and coming from
his own gloomy and horrid surroundings, the sunshine of hers had
almost blinded him. In that white house among the wheatfields love
reigned. And not only love, but charity, hospitality, patriotism, and
religion. There was never a rough word heard there; even the
household creatures, the canary in the south window, the comfortable
cats, the friendly dogs, partook of the general sunniness.

They were rebels of the hottest type. The one son had been out with
the Fenians and was now in America. His exile was a bitter yet proud
grief to his father and mother; but their enthusiasm was whetted
rather than damped by the downfall of the attempted rebellion. At
night, when the curtains were drawn and the door barred against all
fear of 'the peelers,' the papers that had the reports of the Dublin
trials were passed from hand to hand, or read aloud amid intense
silence, accompanied by the flushing cheek, the clenching hand, often
the sob, that told of the passionate feeling of the hearers.

Sometimes Ellen would sing to them, but not the little gay songs she
trilled so delightfully, now when their friends were in prison or the
dock. Mournful, impassioned songs were hers, sung in a rich voice,
trembling with emotion, or again a stave of battle and revenge, which
set hearts beating and blood racing in the veins of the listeners. At
such moments Ellen, with her velvety golden-brown eyes, and the bronze
of her hair, was like the poet's 'Cluster of Nuts.'

    I've heard the songs by Liffey's wave
        That maidens sung.
    They sang their land, the Saxon's slave,
        In Saxon tongue.
    Oh, bring me here that Gaelic dear
        Which cursed the Saxon foe.
    When thou didst charm my raptured ear
        _Mo craoibhin cno!_

Among those admitted freely to that loving circle, James Rooney was
one held in affectionate regard. The man who had been the means of
bringing him there, Maurice O'Donnell, was his Jonathan, nay more than
his Jonathan, for to him young Rooney had given all his hero-worship.
He was, indeed, of the heroic stuff, older, graver, wiser than his

James Rooney spoke to no one of his love or his hopes. For he had
hopes. Ellen, kind to every one, singled him out for special kindness.
He had seen in her deep eyes something shy and tender for him. For
some time he was too humble to be sure he had read her gaze aright,
but at last he believed in a flood of wild rapture that she had chosen

He did not speak, he was too happy in dallying with his joy, and he
waited on from day to day. One evening he was watching her singing,
with all his heart in his eyes. Among people less held by a great
sincerity than these people were at the time, his secret would have
been an open amusement. But the father and mother heard with eyes dim
with tears; the young sisters about the fire flushed and paled with
the emotion of the song; the hearts of the listeners hung on the
singer's lips, and their eyes were far away.

Suddenly James Rooney looked round the circle with the feeling of a
man who awakes from sleep. His friend was opposite to him, also gazing
at the singer; the revelation in his face turned the younger man cold
with the shock. When the song was done he said 'good-night' quietly,
and went home. It was earlier than usual, and he left his friend
behind him; for this one night he was glad not to have his company;
he wanted a quiet interval in which to think what was to be done.

Now, when he realised that Maurice O'Donnell loved her, he cursed his
own folly that he had dared to think of winning her. What girl with
eyes in her head would take him, gray and square-jawed, before the
gallant-looking fellow who was the ideal patriot. And Ellen--Ellen, of
all women living, was best able to appreciate O'Donnell's qualities.
That night he sat all the night with his head bowed on his hands
thinking his sick thoughts amid the ruin of his castles. When he stood
up shivering in the gray dawn, he had closed that page of his life. He
felt as if already the girl had chosen between them, and that he was
found wanting.

That was not the end of it, however. If he had been left to himself he
might have carried out his high, heroic resolve to go no more to the
house which had become Paradise to him. But his friend followed him,
with the curious tenderness that was between the two, and with an arm
on his shoulder, drew his secret from him. When he had told it he put
his face down on the mantelpiece by which they were standing, ashamed
to look O'Donnell in the face because they loved the same woman. There
was a minute's silence, and then O'Donnell spoke, and his voice, so
far from being cold and angry, was more tender than before.

'So you would have taken yourself off to leave me a clear field, old

'Oh, no,' said the other humbly, 'I never had a chance. If I had had
eyes for any one but her, I would have known your secret, and should
not have dared to love her.'

'Dear lad!' said O'Donnell. 'But now you must take your chance. If she
chooses you rather than me--and, by heavens! I'm not sure that she
won't--it will make no difference, I swear, between us. Which of us
shall try our luck first?'

They ended by drawing lots, and it fell to O'Donnell to speak first. A
night or two later he overtook James Rooney as the latter was on his
way to Ellen's house. He put his arm through Rooney's and said,
'Well, old fellow, I've had my dismissal. I'm not going your way
to-night, but I believe your chance is worth a good deal. Presently I
shall be able to wish you joy, Jim.'

They walked on together in a silence more full of feeling than speech
could be. At the boreen that turned up to the white house they parted
with a hand-clasp that said their love was unchanging, no matter what
happened. That night James Rooney got his chance and spoke. The girl
heard him with a rapt, absent-minded look that chilled him as he went
on. When he had done she answered him:--

'I can never be your wife, Jim. I have made my choice.'

'But----' stammered the lad.

'I know what you would say,' she answered quietly. 'I gave the same
answer to Maurice O'Donnell. Why did two such men as you care for me?
I am not worth it, no girl is worth it. 'Tis the proud woman I ought
to be and am, but I can't marry the two of you, and perhaps I can't
choose.' She laughed half sadly. 'Put me out of your head, Jim, and
forgive me. I'm away to the Convent at Lady Day.'

And from this resolve it was impossible to move her. Whether she had
really resolved before on the conventual life, or whether she feared
to separate the two friends, no one knew. From that time neither
O'Donnell nor Jim Rooney was seen at the white house, and in the
harvest-time Ellen, as she said she would, entered St. Mary's Convent.
Jim Rooney never loved another woman, and when, in the following year,
Maurice O'Donnell went to New Orleans to take up a position as the
editor of a newspaper, Jim Rooney said good-bye to friendship as
lastingly as he had to love.

The old father died, and left what wealth he had to be divided between
his two sons. For all the pinching and scraping it was not much; there
seemed something unlucky about the farm, poor, damp, and unkindly as
it was. Jim was a good brother to the young lad growing up. He kept
him at a good school during his boyhood, and nursed his share of the
inheritance more carefully than he did his own. They had the
reputation of being far wealthier than they were, and many a girl
would have been well pleased to make a match with Jim Rooney. But he
turned his back on all social overtures, and by and by he got the name
of being a sour old bachelor, 'a cold-hearted naygur,' going the way
of his father before him. But the rule on the farm was very different,
every one admitted; to his men James Rooney was not only just but

Presently the young fellow came home from school, gay and
light-hearted. He was a tall young giant, who presently developed a
fine red moustache, and had a rollicking gait well in keeping with his
bold blue eyes. He was soon as popular as James was the reverse, and
his reputation of being 'a good match' made him welcome in many a
house full of daughters.

One day the youth came to his brother with a plan for bettering
himself. He wanted to draw out his share from the farm and to invest
it in a general shop which was for sale in the country town, close
by. Now Jim Rooney had a queer pride in him that made the thought of
the shop very distasteful. The land was quite another thing, and
farming, to his mind, as ennobling an occupation as any under heaven.
But he quite understood that he could not shape the young fellow to
his ways of thinking. He said, gently: 'And why, Patrick, are you bent
on leaving the farm and bettering yourself?'

The young fellow scratched his head awkwardly, and gave one or two
excuses, but finally the truth came out. He had a fancy for little
Janie Hyland, and she had a fancy for him, but there was a richer man
seeking her, and, said the young fellow simply, 'I'm thinking if the
father knew how little came to my share he'd be showing me the door.'

'Does Janie know, Patrick?' asked the elder brother.

'Oh, divil a thing!' said the younger, with a half-shamed laugh. 'I
don't trust women with too much; but if I had Grady's, I'd soon be a
richer man than they think me. Old Grady cut up for a lot of money,
and he was too old for business. It's a beautiful chance for a young

'Well, Patrick,' said the other at last, with a sigh, 'your share
won't buy Grady's, but yours and mine together will. I'll make it over
to you, and you can keep your share in the farm too. I'll work the
farm for you if you won't ask me to have anything to do with the shop.
Tut, tut, man!' he said, pushing away Patrick's secretly delighted
protests, 'all I have would come to you one day, and why not now, when
you think it will make you happy?'

So Patrick bought Grady's and brought home Janie Hyland. He has
prospered exceedingly, and makes the lavish display of his wealth
which is characteristic of the Irishman. They have added to the old
house, thrown out wings and annexe, planted it about with shrubberies,
and made a carriage drive. Young Patrick, growing up, is intended for
the University and one of the learned professions, and Mrs. Patrick
has ideas of a season in Dublin and invitations to the Castle. Her
house is very finely furnished, with heavy pile carpets and many
mirrors, and buhl and ormolu everywhere.

She feels her brother-in-law to be the one blot in all her splendour
and well-being. When Patrick first brought her home, she took a
vehement dislike to James, which has rather waxed than waned during
the years. He minds her as little as may be, working on the farm
during the day-time, and in the evening departing, with his slow,
heavy step, to his sanctum upstairs, where he has his books, his
carpenter's tools, and his telescope. Yet her words worry him like the
stinging of gnats, and the nagging of years has made him bitter.

He turns out delightful bits of carving and cabinet-making from time
to time, and he mends everything broken in the house with infinite
painstaking. Up there in his garret-room the troubles fall away from
him, and he forgets the lash of Mrs. Patrick's tongue. The hardest
thing is that she discourages the children's friendship for him, and
he would dearly love the children if only he might.

The other women are rather down on Mrs. Patrick about it; indeed, Mrs.
Gleeson told her one day that the creature was worth his keep if it
was only for his handiness about the house. Patrick has grown used to
his wife's gibes and flings, which at first used to make him red and
uncomfortable. He has half come to believe in the secret hoard his
wife says old Jim is accumulating.

Meanwhile, the land is as poor as ever, for James has no money to
spend in the necessary drainage that should make it dry and sweet. His
share scarcely pays for his keep, and his money for clothes and books
and tools is little indeed. His shabbiness is another offence to Mrs.
Patrick. She has declared to some of her intimates that she will force
James yet to take his face out of her house, and go live on his money
elsewhere. She expresses her contempt to her husband for his brother's
selfishness in holding his share in the farm, when he must be
already, as she puts it, 'rotten with money.' Patrick is too much
afraid of his wife to tell her now what he has so long kept a secret
from her.

But James, in his high attic, looks upon the mountains and the sky,
and shakes off from him with a superb gesture the memory of her



It was outside the town of Ballinscreen, on the country side of the
bridge over the Maeve, that Mr. Ramsay-Stewart was shot at in the
League days, and that the shot struck a decent boy, Larry Byrne, a
widow's only son, and killed him stone dead. The man that fired the
shot would rather have cut off his right hand than hurt an innocent
creature like Larry,--but there, when you go meddling with sin and
wickedness, as often as not you plunge deeper into it than you could
ever have foreseen. Anyhow the old women, who turn out everything to
show the Lord's goodness, said it was plain to see that Larry was
fitter to go than his master, and that was why the shot glanced by Mr.
Stewart's ear to lodge in the poor coachman's brain as he leant
forward, whipping up his horse with all his might, to get out of reach
of that murderous shower of shot.

Now a few months later all you comfortable people that sit reading
your newspapers by an English fire, and thinking what a terrible place
Ireland must be to live in, were comforted by the news that the man
who shot Larry Byrne was swinging for it in the county jail at
Ballinscreen. But you never made such a mistake in your born lives.
That man was out on the mountains in the bleak, bitter winter weather,
was in hiding all day in the caves up there in the clouds on top of
Croghan, and by night was coming down to the lonely mountain
farmhouses to beg what would keep the life in his big hungry body. The
man that swung for the murder was as innocent as yourself, and more
betoken, though he was great on war and revolutions, would no more
fire on a man out of the dark night than you would yourself. He had
little feeling for sin and crime, always barring the secret societies,
by some considered a sin.

It was beautiful to hear Murty Meehan,--that was his name, God rest
his soul!--having it out with old Father Phil on that same question.
Why, he told the priest that he himself belonged to a secret society,
for the matter of that, and the most powerful secret society of them
all. Father Phil used to end it up with a laugh, for he was fond of
Murty. He nearly broke his heart over the man when he was in jail,
waiting to go to the gallows, and wouldn't open his lips to clear
himself. Murty had been in every 'movement' from the '48 onwards. But
like all the other old Fenians, he thought worse of the League than
Mr. Ramsay-Stewart himself. His ideas were high-flown ones, and he
could put them in beautiful language, about freeing his country, and
setting her in her rightful place among the nations. But not by the
League methods. There was a bit of poetry of Davis he was fond of

    For Freedom comes from God's right hand,
        And needs a godly train,
    And righteous men must make our land
        A Nation once again.

Many a time he hurled it at the Leaguers' heads, but they bore him no
malice; the worst they did was to call him a crank. I often think that
when Murty died on the gallows for a crime he hated, it was a
sacrifice of more than his life. Well, God be good to him!

Murty hadn't a soul in the world belonging to him. His father and
mother died in the black '47, and the little girl he had set his heart
on sailed in a coffin-ship for New York with her father and mother in
the same bitter year, and went down somewhere out on the unkindly
ocean. She had hung round Murty's neck imploring him to go with her,
but Murty was drilling for the rising of the following year, and could
see no duty closer than his duty to his country. He promised to follow
her and bring her back if there were happier days in Ireland, but the
boat and its freight were never heard of after they left Queenstown
quay in that September of blight and storm. And so Murty grew with the
years into a pleasant, kindly old bachelor, very full of whimsies and
dreams, and a prophet to the young fellows.

Now Mr. Ramsay-Stewart, though he kept himself and his tenants in hot
water for a couple of years, wasn't a bad kind of gentleman, and now
that things have settled down is well-esteemed and liked in the
country. But when he came first he didn't understand the people nor
they him, and there's no doubt he did some hard things as much out of
pure ignorance, they say, as for any malice. He'd put his bit of money
in the estate and meant to have it out of it, and he didn't like at
all the easy-going ways he found there. The old Misses Conyers who
preceded him were of a very ancient stock, and would rather turn out
themselves than turn out a soul of their people. They had enough money
to keep them while they lived; and 'pay when you can,' or 'when you
like,' was the rule on the estate. Every man, woman and child was
Paddy and Biddy and Judy to them. Oh, sure it was a bad day for the
tenants when they went; and more betoken, they had laid up trouble
for the man that was to succeed them.

The people never gave Mr. Ramsay-Stewart a chance when he came. They
disliked him, and he was an upstart and a _gombeen_ man and a usurper,
and such foolishness, in the mouths of every one of them. As if it was
his fault, poor gentleman, that the Misses Conyers never married, and
so let Coolacreva fall to strangers.

Now there was a widow and her daughter, Mrs. Murphy and little Fanny,
that had a big patch of land on the estate, and the memory of man
couldn't tell when they'd paid a penny of rent for it. It was so
overgrown with weeds and thistles, and so strewn with big boulders,
that it was more like a boreen than decent fields. Well, it vexed Mr.
Ramsay-Stewart, who was accustomed to the tidy Scotch fields,
amazingly, and he got on his high horse that the widow should pay or

She couldn't or wouldn't pay, and she wouldn't go. She never thought
the crow-bar brigade would be set on her cabin; but, sure, the new
landlord wasn't a man to stop short of his word, and one bleak, bitter
November day he was out with the police and bailiffs. Before the
League could put one foot before another the roof was off Mrs.
Murphy's cabin, the bits of furniture out in the road, and the pair of
women standing over them shaking their fists at the Scotchman, and
whimpering out the revenge they'd have, till Lanty Corcoran, a strong
farmer, took them home, and set them up snug and easy in one of his

Fanny was a pretty little girl, a golden-ringleted, blue-eyed slip of
a _colleen_, with a sturdy and independent will of her own, that
belied the soft shy glances she could cast at a man. She was promised
to a boy over the seas, who was making a home for her and her mother
in America, and there was another boy in the parish, John Sullivan, or
Shawn Dhuv, as they usually called him because of his dark complexion,
was fairly mad about her. Shawn was well off. He was the cleverest
farmer that side of the country, just the kind of man Mr.
Ramsay-Stewart wanted and was prepared to encourage when he got him.
His land was clean and well-tilled, and he had a fine stock of cattle
as well as horses, and hay, and straw, and machines that had cost a
handful of money, for he was quick to take up new-fangled notions.
People used to say Shawn would be a rich man one day, for he was
prudent, drank little, and was a silent man, keeping himself to
himself a good deal.

Well, little Fanny had a hard time with the mother over her steady
refusals to have anything to say to Black Shawn. She was an
aggravating old woman, one of the whimpering sort; and sorely she must
have tried poor Fanny often with her coaxing and crying, but the
little girl was as stout as a rock where her absent boy was concerned.

Shawn Dhuv heard in time of the eviction, and in a bad moment for
himself thought he'd press his suit once more; he knew he had the old
woman on his side, and he thought he might find the young one in such
a humour that she'd be glad to accept his hand and heart, and the
cover of his little farmhouse. He had an idea too that he'd only to
ask Mr. Ramsay-Stewart for the Murphys' farm and he'd get it, and he
thought this would be a fine lever to work with.

But he never made such a mistake, for little Fanny turned on him like
the veriest spitfire.

'You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Black Shawn,' she cried, with
her eyes flashing, 'to keep persecuting a girl that's as good as wife
to another man. Why, if he was never in the world, do you think I'd
take one like you, that's plotting and planning to take our bit of
land before the ashes of our roof-tree are gone gray? If he was here
he'd know how to avenge us, and not till he had done it would he look
the girl he loved in the face.'

She was holding forth like this, her words tripping each other up in
her anger; but sure, the poor little girl didn't mean what she was
saying about revenge; it was likely some hot words she'd picked up out
of the newspapers that came into her head in her passion, and tripped
off her tongue without her knowing a word of what they meant.

But Black Shawn heard her, turning first the deep red with which one
of his complexion blushes, and then falling off as gray as the dead.
Before she'd half said her say he took up his _caubeen_, put it on his
head, and walked out of the place with an air as if he were dreaming.

Now he had an old carbine to frighten the crows, a crazy old thing
that was as likely to hurt the man who fired it as the thing that was
fired at. Black Shawn sat up all night cleaning it, and the grim mouth
of the man never relaxed, nor did the colour come back to his ashy

The next night he lay in wait for Mr. Ramsay-Stewart as he came home
from the county club-house in Ballinscreen, and shot at him, killing
poor Larry Byrne. It was only the length of the bridge from the police
barracks, and as it was but nine o'clock at night, Ballinscreen people
were up and about. So there wasn't much time for Black Shawn to see
what mischief the blunderbuss had done. He saw at the first glance
that one man was down in the dogcart, and another man swinging on by
his arms to the mouth of the terrified horse. But already people were
running across the bridge and shouting, and the dark quay seemed alive
with lights.

Luckily for Shawn the road away from the town was black as a tunnel.
It runs between the two stone walls that shut out Lord Cahirmore's
deer and black cattle from the public gaze. Down this black tunnel
raced Shawn, sobbing like a child, for the black fit was gone over and
the full horror of his crime was upon him. He was a quick runner, and
he got the advantage, for the police in their flurry stopped for a
minute or two debating whether to take the river banks or the road.
But in Shawn's head the pursuing footsteps beat, beat, while he was
yet far beyond them, and the trumpets of the Day of Judgment rang in
his miserable ears. He had the smoking gun in his hands, for he
hadn't the wit to get rid of it. And yet the man was safe, if he had
had his wits about him, for he was the last man for Mr. Ramsay-Stewart
to suspect or allow suspicion to fall upon.

Well, he raced on blindly, and all of a sudden, as he turned a corner,
a man flung up his arms in front of him, and then caught him by both
wrists. It was Murty Meehan, and more betoken, he was on his way to a
drilling of the Fenian boys in a quiet spot in Alloa Valley. Murty was
wiry, despite his years, and his grip seemed to Black Shawn like the
handcuffs already upon him. There was little struggle left in Shawn,
and he just stood sobbing, while his gun smoked up between him and

'What black work is this, my fine fellow?' said Murty quietly.

Black Shawn came to himself, seeing he was stopped by a man and no

'Let me go, for God's sake,' he sobbed out. 'I've shot Ramsay-Stewart
below at the bridge, and the police are after me.' Just then the moon
rolled from behind a cloud, and Murty Meehan saw his prisoner, saw
that he was young, and would be handsome if his face were not so
distorted by emotion. Now there came a sudden sound of footsteps
pelting along the road, and Shawn was taken with a tremor, though,
mind you, he was a brave man, and it was horror of his sin was on him
more than a fear of the rope. Murty Meehan made up his mind.

'Give me the gun,' he said. 'I'm old and worn-out, and I might have
had a son of your age.'

Shawn, hardly understanding, fled on the moment he was released. A bit
further the lord's wall gave way to iron palings, and not far beyond
was the open country and the road to the hills. Once in the hills
Black Shawn was safe.

But they found Murty Meehan with the smoking gun in his hand, and what
more evidence could be wanted? He was tried for the murder, and
pleaded 'Not guilty'; and the number of witnesses called to testify to
his character was enough to fill the court-house, but then, he
couldn't or wouldn't explain the gun, and the judge declared it was
the clearest case that had ever come before him. He was very eloquent
in his charge over such a crime being committed by an old man, and
expressed his abhorrence of poor Murty in a way that might have seared
the face of a guilty man, though it didn't seem to come home very
closely to the prisoner.

A month later Murty was hanged in Ballinscreen jail. He was many a day
in his quicklime grave before Black Shawn heard how another man had
suffered for his crime. After long wandering he had escaped to the
coast, and coming to a seaport town had been engaged by the captain of
a sailing vessel, short of hands, who was only too glad to give him
his grub and his passage in exchange for his work, and ask no
questions. But it was a time of storms, and the ship was blown
half-way to the North Pole, and as far south again, and arrived at New
York long after all hope of her safety had been given up. If Black
Shawn had known he would never have let an innocent man die in his
place. So said the neighbours, who had known him from his boyhood.

They will tell you this story in Munster, as they told it to me,
sitting round the open hearth in the big farmhouse kitchens of winter
nights. Down there there is not a man that won't lift his hat
reverently when they name Murty.

For long enough no one knew what became of Black Shawn, and when the
League was over and its power broken, and a better spirit was coming
back to men's hearts, many a poor boy was laid by the heels through
the use of that same name. Many in Munster will tell you of the
stranger that used to come to the farmhouses begging a rest by the
fire and a meal in the name of Black Shawn, and sitting there quietly
would listen to the rash and trustful talk of the young fellows about
fighting for their dear Dark Rosaleen, the country that holds men's
hearts more than any prosperous mother-land of them all. His name is a
name never mentioned in Ireland without a black, bitter curse, for he
was a famous informer and spy, own brother to such evil spawn as
Corydon, Massey, and Nagle. But 'tis too long a story to tell how the
spy masqueraded as Black Shawn, and I think I'll keep it for another



Mrs. Sheehy was blest with two sons. Of the elder she had seen little
since his early boyhood, when his love for handling tarry ropes and
sails, and his passion for the water-side, had resulted in his
shipping as cabin-boy on a China-bound ship. There was undoubted
madness in the Sheehy blood, but in this sailor son, so long as he
kept sober, there was no manifestation of it except it might be in a
dreaminess and romanticism uncommon to his class. He was an
olive-skinned, brown-eyed fellow, with such a refined face as might
have belonged to an artist or musician. He had the mellow colour
Murillo loved. The mad strain which, in the case of greatly gifted
people, has often seemed to be the motive power of genius, in him
took the form of a great cleverness,--an esoteric cleverness and
ingenuity added to the sailor's dexterity.

But it is not with Willie I have to deal, though the story of his
marriage is a little romance in itself. It was Mick was the prodigal
son. Every one about the country knew and liked Mick. He was a bit of
an omadhaun, that is to say a simpleton,--but quite unlike the
shambling idiots of whom every village possessed one, who was a sort
of God's fool to the people, till some new legislation locked them all
up in the work-houses, poor things!

Mick was a rosy-cheeked, innocent-looking lad, touched in the mind,
certainly, but exceedingly harmless, likeable and entertaining. He was
a strong fellow and when he 'took a hate (_i.e._ heat) o' work' he was
as good or better than the best in harvest or hayfield. His softness
procured for him a certain delightful immunity from responsibility. He
worked when in the humour, but race, or fair, or cock-fight, or
football match drew Mick irresistibly from his labours. He was off to
every bit of 'divarsion' in the country, and when there were big races
at a distance Mick generally took the road a day beforehand, sleeping
out in the soft spring night if it was dry weather, trusting to a
convenient haystack or barn if it wasn't. He was known so widely that
at every farmhouse along the road he was sure of a bite. And on the
race-course every one was his friend; and the various parties
picnicking were greeted by Mick with uproarious shouts and a flinging
of his _caubeen_ in the air, to signify his delight at meeting his
friends so far from home.

Mick had the privileges of 'the natural,' as they call an idiot in
Ireland, with only a few of his disabilities. He was even known to
leave the church during a very tedious sermon of Father O'Herlihy's
and smoke a pipe outside while awaiting the rest of the congregation.
When he was tackled about this flagrant disrespect by his pastor, Mick
replied unblushingly, 'Sure, I didn't lave durin' the mass, your
Reverence: 'twas all over but a thing of nothing.' 'What do you mean
by that?' asked his Reverence severely. 'Sure, your Reverence's
sermon, I mane, what else?' responded Mick.

Mick could be violent too in his cups, but somehow even his violence
was humorous. The village butcher once was imprudent enough to
remonstrate with him for drinking, while the drink was yet in him, and
Mick acknowledged the good advice by unhooking a leg of mutton and
belabouring him soundly, to the detriment of himself and his mutton,
till the police interfered. On another occasion he addressed his
energies to the Sisyphus-like task of endeavouring to roll a very
large water-barrel through his mother's very small door, all one
winter night, while his mother alternately coaxed and threatened.
Mick's pranks were endless, but lest they meet with a severer judge
than Mick ever met with, I spare you the recital of them.

Now Mrs. Sheehy was far less tolerated and tolerable than either of
her peccant sons. She had a little withered face, with hard red
cheeks and bright, rather mad black eyes, set in a frame of crinkly
black hair. You might meet her on the road of a sweet summer morning,
trapesing, to use the expressive Irish word, along, with a sunshade
over her battered bonnet. Her attire was generally made up of very
tarnished finery,--a befrilled skirt trailing in the dust behind her,
and a tattered lace shawl disposed corner-wise over her shoulders. She
seemed always to wear the cast-off garments of fine ladies, and we had
an explanation of this fact. It was supposed that Mrs. Sheehy
represented herself to pious Protestant ladies, for about a radius of
twenty miles, as a Papist, who might easily be brought to see the
error of her ways, and as one who for her liberal tendencies was much
in disfavour with the priests. I know that to her co-religionists she
complained that Protestant charities were closed to her because she
had become a Catholic. There was a legend that Mrs. Sheehy came from a
Protestant stock, but I do not know whether this were true or merely
invented for convenience when the lady went asking alms.

It was from some of these Protestant ladies the suggestion came that
Mick should go to America under some precious emigration scheme. They
are always, with their mistaken philanthropy, drafting away the boys
and girls from Ireland, to cast them, human wreckage, in the streets
of New York; always taking away the young life from the sweet glens
over which the chapel bell sends its shepherding voice, and casting it
away in noisome places, while at home the aged folk go down alone the
path to the grave.

Now we always thought that Mrs. Sheehy must have suggested Mick as an
emigrant, for he was distinctly not eligible. But it was very easy to
puff up poor Mick's mind with pictures of America as a Tom Tiddler's
ground, and the mother did this in private, while in public she wrung
her hands over the wilful boy that would go and leave her lonesome in
her old age. Pretty soon the matter was settled, and Mick went about
as vain as any young recruit when he has taken the Queen's shilling
and donned the scarlet, and has not yet realised that he has been a
fine fat goose for the fox-sergeant's plucking.

But if Mick was full of the spirit of adventure, and looked forward to
that spring Wednesday when he should leave for Queenstown, his mother
made up for his heartless joy by her lugubriousness. As the time drew
near she would buttonhole all and sundry whom she could catch to pour
out her sorrows. The trailing gown and ragged lace shawl became a
danger signal which we would all flee from, an it were not sprung upon
us too suddenly. We had a shrewd suspicion that the tears Mrs. Sheehy
shed so freely were of the variety known as crocodile. Rumour had it
that Mick once out of the way she was to be accommodated comfortably
for life as a lodgekeeper to one of those emigrating ladies. Sometimes
she used to follow us to our very doors to weep, and on such occasions
would be so overcome with grief that it took a little whisky and water
and the gift of an old dress or some broken victuals to prepare her
for the road again.

On the Tuesday of the week Mick was to start he made a farewell
progress round all the houses of the neighbourhood. We were called
into the big farmhouse kitchen about five of the afternoon to bid him
good-bye. Mick sat forward on the edge of his chair, thrusting now and
then his knuckles into his eyes, like a big child, and trying to wink
away his tears. We all did our best to console him, and after a time
from being very sad he grew rather uproariously gay. Mick was no
penman, but for all that he made the wildest promises about writing,
and as for the gifts he was to send us, the place should be indeed a
Tom Tiddler's ground if he were to fulfil his rash promises. Meanwhile
we all pressed our parting gifts on him; some took the form of money,
others were useful or beneficial, as we judged it. Mick added
everything to the small pack he was carrying, which had indeed already
swollen since he left home, and was likely to be considerably more
swollen by the time he had concluded his round.

Mick had got over the parting with his mother. The emigrants' train
started in the small hours, and the emigrants were to rendezvous at a
common lodging-house close by the big terminus. We inquired about poor
Mrs. Sheeny with feeling. Mick responded with a return of tears that
he'd left her screeching for bare life and tearing her hair out in
handfuls. The memory caused Mick such remorse at leaving her that we
hastened to distract his mind to his fine prospects once more.

He delayed so long over his farewells to us that we began to fear he'd
never catch up with the other emigrants, for the road to the city was
studded with the abodes of Mick's friends, whom he had yet to call
upon. However, at last he really said good-bye, and we accompanied him
in a group to the gate of the farmyard, from which, with a last
distracted wave of his hands, the poor fellow set off, running, as if
he could not trust himself to look back, along the field-path. It was
a dewy May evening after rain, and the hawthorn was all in bloom, and
the leaves shaking out their crumpled flags of tender green. The
blackbird was singing as he only sings after rain, and the fields were
covered with the gold and silver dust of buttercup and daisy. It was
sad to see the poor fellow going away at such a time, and from a place
where every one knew and was kind to him, to an unknown world that
might be very cruel. Once again as we watched him we anathematised the
emigration which has so steadily been bleeding the veins of our poor

We all thought of Mick the next morning, and imagined him on the
various stages of his journey to Queenstown, and the big liner. For a
week or so we did not see Mrs. Sheehy, but heard piteous accounts of
her prostration. The poor woman seemed incapable of taking comfort.
Report said that she could neither eat nor drink, so great was her
grief. We felt rather ashamed of our former judgments of her, and were
very full of good resolutions as to our future treatment of her. Only
Mary, our maid, disbelieved in this excessive grief; but then Mary is
the most profound cynic I have ever known, and we always discount her

Anyhow, when Mrs. Sheehy reappeared in our kitchen she looked more
wizened, yellow, and dishevelled than ever, and at the mention of
Mick's name she rocked herself to and fro in such paroxysms of grief
that we were quite alarmed. As for the benevolent ladies interested in
the schemes of emigration, their eyes would have been rudely opened if
they could have heard Mrs. Sheehy's denunciations of them. She called
them the hard-hearted ould maids who had robbed her of her one child,
who had persecuted her boy--her innocent child, and driven him out in
the cold world, who had left her to go down a lone woman to the grave.
Nor was this all, for she was an adept at eloquent Irish curses, and
she sprinkled them generously on the devoted heads of the ladies
aforesaid. It was really rather fine to see Mrs. Sheehy in this tragic
mood, and we were all touched and impressed by her. We comforted her
with the suggestion that a letter from Mick was nearly due, and with
assurances, which we scarcely felt, that Mick was bound to do well in
America and prove a credit to her; and we finally got rid of her, and
were rejoiced to see her going off, with her turned-up skirt full as
usual of heterogeneous offerings.

Well, a few days after this, some one brought us the surprising story
that Mick had returned or was on the way to return. One of the carters
had given him a lift on the first stage of his journey from Dublin,
and had left him by his own request at one of the houses where he had
had such a sorrowful parting a little while before. The man had told
Mick of his mother's grief, a bit of intelligence which somewhat
dashed the radiant spirits with which he was returning home. However,
he cheered up immediately: 'Tell th' ould woman,' he said, 'that I
wasn't such a villain as to leave her at all, at all, an' that I'll be
home by evenin'. She'll be havin' a bit o' bacon in the pot to welcome
me.' The man told us this with a dry grin, and added, ''Tis meself
wouldn't like to be afther bringin' the poor ould woman the good news.
It might be too much joy for the crathur to bear.' This ironic speech
revived all our doubts of Mrs. Sheehy.

Mick took our house on the way across the fields to his mother's
cottage. We received him cordially, though with less _empressement_
than when we had parted from him, for now we were pretty sure of
seeing Mick often during the years of our natural lives. We too told
him of his mother's excessive grief, as much, perhaps, with a selfish
design of hastening him on his way as anything else, for we had our
misgivings about Mick's reception.

There were plenty of people to tell us of the prodigal's welcome. The
village had buzzed all day with the dramatic sensation of Mick's
return, but no one had told Mrs. Sheehy--though every one was on
tiptoe for the hour of Mick's arrival. He came about six in the
evening, and having passed through the village was escorted by a band
of the curious towards his mother's cottage.

Mrs. Sheehy lives in a by-road. On one side are the woods, on the
other the fields, and at this hour of the May evening the woods were
full of golden aisles of glory. Now Mrs. Sheehy had come out of her
house to give a bit to the pig, when she saw a group of people
advancing towards her down the sunshine and shadow of the road. She
shaded her eyes and looked that way. For a minute or two she could not
make out the advancing figures, but from one in the midst broke a
yell, a too-familiar yell, for who in the world but Mick could make
such a sound? Then her prodigal son dashed from the midst of the
throng and flew to her with his arms spread wide.

Mrs. Sheehy seemed taken with a genuine faintness. She dropped the
'piggin,'--the little one-handled tub in which she was carrying the
rentpayer's mess of greens,--and fell back against the wall. The
spectators, and it seemed the whole village had turned out, came
stealing in Mick's wake. They were safe from Mrs. Sheehy's dreaded
tongue, for the lady had no eyes for them. As soon as she realised
that it was Mick, really her son, come back to her, she burst into a
torrent of abuse, the like of which has never been equalled in our
country. The listeners could give no idea of it: it was too continuous
and too eloquent. It included not only Mick, 'the villain, the thief
of the world, the base unnatural deceiver,' but ourselves, and all to
whom Mick had paid those farewell visits. Mick heard her with a grin,
and when she had exhausted herself she suddenly clutched him by his
mop-head, dragged him indoors, and banged the door to.

She had apprehended the true state of the case. The potations at some
houses, the gifts at others, had been the causes of the failure of
Mick as an emigrant. When his round of visits was concluded he had
slept comfortably in a hay-stack till long after the hour when his
fellow emigrants were starting from Kingsbridge. The next morning he
had gaily set out for 'a bit of a spree' in Dublin, and having sold
his passage ticket and his little kit, had managed, with the proceeds
and our gifts, to make the spree last a fortnight. For a little while
we deemed it expedient to avoid passing by Mrs. Sheehy's door, though
Mick assured us that it was 'the joy of the crathur had taken her wits
from her, so that she didn't rightly know what she was saying.'

There was one more attempt made to emigrate Mick, but it was futile,
Mick declaring that 'he'd deserve any misfortune, so he would, if he
was ever to turn his back on the old woman again.' Mrs. Sheehy has
forgiven us our innocent share in keeping Mick at home with her. The
mother and son still live together, with varying times, just as the
working mood is on or off Mick. I believe his favourite relaxation of
an evening, when he stays at home, is to discover in the wood embers
the treasures which would have fallen to him if his love for his
mother hadn't kept him from expatriating himself. The Hon. Miss
Ellersby's vacant gate-lodge has been filled up by Kitty Keegan, who
is Mrs. Sheehy's special aversion out of all the world.



To-day the fiat has gone forth, and we are already deep in
consultation over paper and paint, chintz, and carpeting. How many
years I have dreaded it; how many staved off, beyond my hope, the
transformation of those two dear rooms! They have been a shabby corner
in my big, stately house for many a day--a corner to which in the
long, golden afternoons I could steal for an hour and shut out the
world, and nurse my sorrow at my breast like a crying child. You may
have heard Catholics talk about a 'retreat,' a quiet time in which one
shuffles off earthly cares, and steeps one's soul in the silence that
washes it and makes it strong. Such a 'retreat' I have given my heart
in many and many an hour in the old nurseries. I have sat there with
my hands folded, and let the long-still little voices sound sweet in
my ear--the voices of the dead children, the voices of the grown
children whose childhood is dead. The voices cry to me, indeed, many a
time when I have no leisure to hear them. When I am facing my dear man
at the other end of our long dining-table, when I am listening to the
chatter of callers in my drawing-room, at dinner-parties and balls, in
the glare of the theatre, I often hear the cries to which I must not

A mother has such times, though her matronhood be crowned like mine
with beautiful and dear children, and with the love of the best
husband in the world. I praise God with a full heart for His gifts;
but how often in the night I have wakened heart-hungry for the little
ones, and have held my breath and crushed back my sobs lest the dear
soul sleeping so placidly by my side should discover my inexplicable
trouble. In the nurseries that I shall have no more after to-day, the
memories of them have crowded about my knees like gentle little
ghosts. There were the screened fire-place and the tiny chairs which
in winter they drew near the blaze, and the window overlooking the
pleasance and a strip of the garden, where the wee faces crowded if I
were walking below. Things are just as they were: the little beds
huddled about the wall; the cheap American clock, long done ticking,
on the mantelshelf; the doll's house, staring from all its forlorn
windows, as lonely as a human habitation long deserted; the cupboard,
through the open doors of which you may see the rose-bedecked cups
that were specially bought for the nursery tea. Am I the same woman
that used to rustle so cheerfully down the nursery corridor to share
that happy afternoon tea? From the door, half denuded of its paint,
peachy little faces used to peep joyfully at my coming; while inside
there waited my little delicate one, long gone to God, who never ran
and played with the others. I can see her still, with the pleasure
lighting up her little, thin face, where she sat sedately, her scarlet
shoes to the blaze and her doll clasped to a tenderly maternal

They will tear down the wall paper to-morrow, and the pictures of
Beauty and the Beast, and those fine-coloured prints of children and
doggies and beribboned pussy-cats that the children used to love.
There is one of a terrier submitting meekly to be washed by an
imperious small mistress. One of my babies loved that terrier so
tenderly that he had to be lifted morning and night to kiss the black
nose, whence the oily shine of the picture is much disfigured at that
point. He is grown now and a good boy, but less fond of kissing, and
somehow independent of his father and of me. There on the window
shutter is a drawing my baby, Nella, made the year she died, a strange
and wonderful representation of a lady and a dog. I have never allowed
it to be washed out, and perhaps only mothers will understand me when
I say that I have kissed it often with tears.

I shall miss my nurseries bitterly. No one ever came there but myself
in those quiet afternoon hours, and my old Mary, my nurse, who nursed
them all from first to last. She surprised me once as I sat strangling
with sobs amid the toys I had lifted from their shelves, the
dilapidated sheep, the Noah's Ark, the engine, which for want of a
wheel lies on its side, and a whole disreputable regiment of battered
dolls and tin soldiers. On my lap there were dainty garments of linen
and wool, every one of which I kissed so often with a passion of
regret. I have kept my baby clothes selfishly till now, hidden away in
locked drawers, sweet with lavender. To-day I have parted with them.
They are gone to dress the Christmas babies at a great maternity
hospital. Each one I set aside to go tore my heart intolerably. May
the Christmas Babe who lacked such clothing in the frost and snow,
love the little ones, living or dead, to whom those tiny frocks and
socks and shirts once belonged! Giving them away, I seem to have
wrenched my heart from the dead children; each gift was a separate
pang. The toys, too, go to-morrow to the Sisters of Charity, who have
a great house near at hand. A Sister, a virginal creature whom I have
seen holding the puny babies of the poor to a breast innocently
maternal, has told me of the children who at Christmastide have no
toys. This year they shall not go without; so I am sending them
all--the doll's house and the rocking-horse, and all the queer
contents of the nursery shelves, and the fairy stories well thumbed,
with here and there a loose page, and the boxes of bricks and the
clockwork mouse--all, all my treasures.

Yet, if the children had all lived, I might yet have had my nurseries.
The three youngest died one after another: my smallest boy, whom I
have not ceased yet to regard as my baby, I kept in the nurseries as
long as I could. He has not yet outgrown his guinea-pigs, and his
bantams, his squirrels, and his litter of puppies. When he went to
school he commended each to my care, with tears he in vain tried
manfully to wink away. Dear little sweetheart, he gave way at last,
and we cried together passionately. But I wish he need not have gone
for another year. He was more babyish than the others, more content to
remain long my baby. His first letters from school were tear-stained
and full of babyish thoughts and reminiscences. But he is growing
ashamed of the softness, I can see, and talks of 'fellows,' and
'fielding,' and 'runs,' and 'wickets' in a way that shows me that my
baby has put on the boy.

It was not fair, I see, to have kept the nurseries so long. The boys
at the University, the girls, enjoying their first introduction to the
gay world, have wanted rooms for their friends, and generous as the
big house is, it does not do much more than hold its own happy brood.
The nurseries are to be made into a couple of charming rooms, the one
with a paper of tea-roses on a white satin ground, and yellow and
white hangings, and paint and tiles in the pretty grate. The other is
to be green and pink, with a suite of green furniture and rosy
hangings. I entered into it with zest as my girls debated it. But all
the time my heart cried out against the devastation of its dreams.
To-morrow, when they begin to dismantle my nurseries, I do not know
how I shall bear it. I feel to-night as if they were going to turn the
gentle inhabitants out into the night and rain, the shades of my
little children who used to sit round the fire of winter evenings, or
by the window in the long, exquisite summer days. It is like long,
long ago, when Nella and Cuckoo and Darling died.



They lie far away, gray with the mists of memory, under a veil of
distance, half-silver, half-gold, like the gossamer, so far that they
might never have been save only in dreams. They are not nearly so real
as the Eastern world of the stories I read yesterday, but I know where
they lie--common fields nowadays, and seldom visited. Yet, there was a
child once who knew every inch of them as well as the ant her anthill,
or the silvery minnow her brown well under the stone cover, to which
one descends by ancient water-stained steps.

The fields are there, but their face somewhat changed, as other things
are changed. We were little ones when we came to live among them, in a
thatched house full of little nests of rooms, the walls of which were
run over by flowery trellises that made them country-like even by
candle-light. Of candle-light I have not much memory, for we went to
bed in the gloaming, when the long, long day had burned itself out and
the skies were washed with palest green that held the evening star;
and we slept dreamlessly till the golden day shot through the chinks
of the shutters, and we leapt to life again with a child's zest for
living. At the back of the house there was an overgrown orchard, a
dim, delicious place where the gnarled boughs made a roof against
heaven. It was our adventure, time and again, to escape through our
windows and wash our feet in the May dew before we were discovered.
One whole summer, indeed, these revels were hindered by a bull which
was pastured on the lush herbage. But how entrancing it was to hear
him roar at night, close by our bed's head, or to see his great shadow
cross the chink of moonlight in the shutter! Sometimes he ate the
rose-bushes that wreathed our window, and, rubbing his gigantic
flanks against the house-wall, bellowed, while we shook in bed in
delicious tremors, and imagined our cosy nest a tent in the African
desert, with lions roaring outside. I remember the rooms so well: the
chilly parlour, only used when we had grown-up visitors, for we were
there in charge of a nurse; the red-tiled kitchen, with its settle and
its little windows opening inward; the door that gave on a grass-grown
approach; and the stone seat outside, where we sat to shell peas, or
made 'plays' with broken bits of crockery and the shreds of shining
tin pared by the travelling tinker when he mended the porringers. I
remember the very cups and saucers from which we drank our rare
draughts of tea--delicate china, with sea-shells on it in tones of
gray, the varied shapes of which gave us ever-new interest.

As I look back, I can never see that house in unwinking daylight,
though it was perpetual summer then, and never a rainy day. Rooms and
passages are always dim with a subdued green light, the reflection, I
suppose, through the narrow windows wreathed with verdure, and from
the grass and the plaited apple-boughs. But the spirit of improvement
has laid all waste, has thrown the wee rooms into ample ones, has
changed the narrow windows for bays and oriels, has thinned the
apple-trees for the sake of the grass. There was once a pond, long and
green, with a little island in the midst, where a water-hen had her
nest. I always thought of it as the pond in Hans Andersen's _Ugly
Duckling_, and never watched the ducks paddling among the reeds that I
did not look to the sky to see the wild geese, that were
contemptuously friendly with the poor hero, flecking the pearl-strewn
blue. The pond is filled up now with the macadam of a model farmyard.
Iron and stone have replaced the tumble-down yellow sheds, where we
drank sheep's milk in a gloom powdered with sun-rays; the two
shrubberies have gone, and the hedge of wild roses that linked the
trees in the approach to the house. Naught remains save the thatched
roof, many feet deep, the green porch over the hall door, the stone
seat round the streaky apple-tree at the garden gate, and the garden
itself, where the largest lilies I have ever seen stand in the sun,
and the apple-trees are in the garden-beds, the holly-hocks elbow the
gooseberries, and the violets push out their little clumps in the

But the fields. It is only to the ignorant all fields are the same; as
there are some who see no individualities in animals because they have
no heart for them. Here and there hedges have been levelled and dykes
filled, and now their places are marked by a long dimple in the land's
face. The well in the midst of one has been filled up, despite the
warning of an old mountain farmer that ill-luck would surely follow
whosoever demolished the fairy well. Over it grew a clump of briar and
thorn-trees, where one found the largest, juiciest blackberries; that
too is gone, but, practically, the fields remain the same. There is
the Ten Acre field, stretching so far as to be weirdly lonely at the
very far end. Every part of it was distinct. You turned to the left as
you entered by a heavy hedge of wild-rose and blackberry. There the
wild convolvulus blew its white trumpet gloriously and violets ran
over the bank under the green veil, and stellaria and speedwell made
in May a mimic heaven. I remember a meadow there, and yet again a
potato-digging, where we picked our own potatoes for dinner and grew
sun-burnt as the brown men and women who required so many cans of
well-water to drink at their work. Where the hedge curved there was a
little passage, through which the dyke-water flowed into the next
field. It was delightful to set little boats of leaf and grass upon
the stream, and to see them carried gaily by the current down that
arcade of green light. Some of the inquisitive ones waded after them,
and emerged wet and muddy in the next field. I preferred to keep the
mystery of the place, and to believe it went a long, long way. For
half the length of the field the water flowed over long grass that lay
face downward in it. To see it you had to lift the grass and the
meadow flowers. Once we were startled there in a summer dusk before
the hay was cut, when all the corn-crakes were crying out that summer
was in the land. As we threaded the meadow aisles, a heavy, dark body
leapt from its lair and into the dyke. It was a badger, we learnt
afterwards, and its presence there gave the place an attractive
fearsomeness. Half-way down, where a boundary hedge had once made two
fields of the Ten Acres, the low hedge changed to a tall wall of
stately thorn trees. Below their feet the stream ran, amber, pellucid,
over a line of transformed pebbles. By this we used to lie for hours,
watching the silver-scaled minnows as they sailed on. At the far end
there was watercress, and over the hedge a strange field, good for
mushrooms, but which bore with us a somewhat uncanny reputation.

Across it you saw the gray house-chimneys of the lonely house reputed
to be haunted. Opposite its door stood an old fort on a little hill, a
noted resort of the fairies. Any summer gloaming at all, you might see
their hundreds of little lamps threading a fantastic measure in and
out on the rath. I never heard that any one saw more of them than
those lights, which floated away if any were bold enough to approach
them, like glorified balls of that thistledown of which children
divine what's o'clock.

At the other side of the Ten Acres was a fantastic corner of grass,
which was always a miniature meadow. There swung the scarlet and black
butterflies which have flown into Fairyland, and there the corn-crake
built her nest in the grass. It was a famous corner for
bird's-nesting, which with us took no crueller form than liking to
part the thick leaves to peep at the pretty, perturbed mother-thrush
on her clutch. Sometimes we peeped too often, and she flew away and
left the eggs cold. We saw the world from that corner, for one could
see through the hedge on to the road by lying low where the roots of
the hedge-row made a thinness. We should not have cared about this if
it were not that we could look, unseen ourselves, at the infrequent
passer-by, for the hedge grew luxuriantly. Further down it became
partly a clay bank, and there on the coarse grass used to hang
snail-shells of all sizes, and, as I remember them, of shining gold
and silver. The inhabitant was the drawback to all that beauty, yet
when we found an empty house, it was cold, dull, and with the sheen

Across the road was the moat-field, the great fascination of which was
in the wild hill that gave it its name. What the moat originally was I
know not. I think, now, it must have been a gravel-hill, for it was
full of deep gashes, of pits and quarries, run over by briar, alight
with furze-bushes. It must have been long disused, for the hedge that
was set around it--to keep the cattle out, perhaps--was tall and
sturdy, and grew up boldly towards the trees that studded it at
intervals. There was no other entry to it except by gaps we made in
the close hedge, and, wriggling through these, we climbed among briars
and all kinds of vegetation that made a miniature jungle overhead.
Near the top we emerged on stunted grass, with the wide sky over us,
and before us the champaign country stretching to the plains of
Meath, and the smoke of the city, and the misty sea. Southwards there
were the eternal hills which grow so dear to one, yet never so
intimate that they have not fresh exquisite surprises in store. We
threaded the moat by paths between the furze, on the golden
honey-hives of which fluttered moths like blue turquoise. The
dragon-fly was there, and the lady-bird and little beetles in emerald
coats of mail. And over that the lark soared in a wide field of air to
hail God at His own very gates. Bitter little sloes grew on the moat,
and blackberries in their season; and if you had descended into one of
the many cups of the place, even long before the sun had begun to
slant, you liked to shout to your companions and be answered cheerily
from the human world. The moat had an uncanniness of its own; it was
haunted by leaping fires that overran it and left no trace. You might
see it afar, suffused by a dull glare, any dim summer night. So have I
myself beheld it when I have crept through the dews on a nocturnal
expedition: and though one of the commonplace suggested that it might
have been the new moon rising scarlet behind the luxuriant vegetation
of the moat, that was in the unimaginative next day, and not when we
discussed the marvel in the scented darkness that comes between summer
eve and dawn.

Then there was the well-field, where a little stream that fed the well
clattered over pebbles, made leaps so sudden down tiny inclines that
we called the commotion a waterfall, and widened under a willow-tree
into a pool, brown and still, where, tradition said, had once been
seen a trout. For sake of this glorious memory we fished long with
squirming worms and a pin, but caught not even the silliest little
minnow. This small game we used to bag, by the way, at will, by simply
lowering a can into the green depths of the well, where there was
always a tiny silver fin a-sailing. Once we kept a pair three days in
the water-jug, and finally restored them to their emerald dark. The
well-field was in part marshy and ended in a rushy place, where
water-cresses grew thick, and a little bridge led into the
neighbour's fields. There we found yellow iris, and the purple bee
orchis, and fox-gloves.

Hard by was Nano's Field, which we affected only in the autumn, for
then we gathered crab-apples, of a yellow and pink, most delightful to
the eye. And also the particular variety of blackberry which ripens
first, and is large and of irregular shape, but, to the common
blackberry, what purple grapes are to the thin, green variety. And
again, there was the front lawn, where the quicken-berry hung in
drooping scarlet clusters above us, as we sat on a knoll, and a sea of
gold and white washed about us in May. But the fields make me
garrulous, and if I were to go on they that never tired the children
might weary the grown listener. Said I not they were seldom visited?
Yet their enchantment is still there for happy generations unborn. The
children and the fields and the birds we have always with us. I would
that for every child there might be the fields, to make long after a
dream of green beauty, though the world has grown arid. Because the
dream seems so sweet to me I have gossiped of it, but have not named
half its delicate delights, nor some of the great ones: as the romps
in the hay fields, the voyage of discovery after hens' nests, the
mysteries of that double hedge that is the orchard boundary, and the
hidden places in gnarled boughs, where you perched among the secrets
of the birds and the leaves, and saw the crescent moon through a
tender veil of enchantment while yet the orange of the sunset was in
the west.


    Some of these stories have made their first appearance in the
    pages of _The Pall Mall Gazette_, _The Speaker_, _The
    Englishwoman_, _The Monthly Packet_, _Black and White_, and _The
    Family Circle_, to the Editors of which I am indebted for their
    courteous permission to reproduce them here.

_Printed by_ R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, _Edinburgh_.

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    | Typographical errors corrected in text:                   |
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    | Page 133: reremember replaced with remember               |
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    | The sentence on page 47 really does say:                  |
    | "The mother turned round on her her dim eyes."            |
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