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Title: Love of Brothers
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 "Love of Brothers" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



LOVE OF BROTHERS


BY

KATHARINE TYNAN



Author of "The Middle Years," "The Years of the Shadows," "The West
Wind," "Miss Gascoigne," etc., etc.



LONDON

CONSTABLE & COMPANY LTD.

1919



CONTENTS


  CHAP.

      I  O'GARAS OF CASTLE TALBOT
     II  PATSY REMEMBERS
    III  A TEA PARTY
     IV  FROM THE PAST
      V  THE HAVEN
     VI  STELLA
    VII  BRADY'S BULL
   VIII  SIR SHAWN SEES A GHOST
     IX  THE LETTER
      X  MRS. WADE
     XI  THE ONLY PRETTY RING-TIME
    XII  MOTHER-LOVE
   XIII  THE OLD LOVE
    XIV  STELLA GOES VISITING
     XV  THE SHADOW
    XVI  THE DEAD HAND
   XVII  MISS BRENNAN
  XVIII  THE DAUGHTER
    XIX  ANGER CRUEL AS DEATH
     XX  SIR SHAWN HAS A VISITOR
    XXI  STELLA IS SICK
   XXII  A SUDDEN BLOW
  XXIII  THE HOME-COMING
   XXIV  THE SICK WATCHERS
    XXV  IN WHICH TERRY FINDS A DEAD MAN
   XXVI  MOTHER AND DAUGHTER
  XXVII  THE STORY IS TOLD
 XXVIII  THE VIGIL
   XXIX  THE LAKH OF RUPEES



INTRODUCTORY

It was a night of bright moonlight that made for pitchy shadows under
wall or tree.

Patsy Kenny was looking for the goat, she having broken her tether.  He
had been driven forth by his fierce old grandfather with threats of the
most awful nature if he should return without the goat.

The tears were not yet dry on Patsy's small face.  He had kneaded them
in with his knuckles, but the smears caused by the process were not
visible in the moonlight, even if there had been any one to see them.
It was not only the hardship of being driven out when the meal of hot
potatoes was on the table, to search for that "ould divil" of a goat,
and his sense of the injustice which had put the blame of the goat's
straying on to his narrow shoulders.  The old, in Patsy's knowledge of
them, were crabbed and unjust.  That was something for the young to
take in the day's work.  It was Patsy's fears of the supernatural that
kept him creeping along in the shadow of the hedge, now and again
stopping to weep a little over his troubles, or to listen fearfully
like a frightened hare before going on again.

Why, close to the road by which he must go to seek the goat there was
the tomb in which Captain Hercules O'Hart lay buried.  People about
Killesky did not take that road if they could help it.  The tomb was a
terror to all those who must pass the road by night, and to their
horses if they were riding or driving.  It was well known that no horse
would pass by the tomb without endeavouring to avoid it, and if forced
or cajoled into accomplishing the passage, would emerge trembling and
sweating.  Some unimaginative person had suggested that the terror of
the horses was due to the thunder of the invisible waterfall where the
river tumbled over its weir, just below the Mount on which old Hercules
had chosen to be buried.  The horses knew better than that.  Nothing
natural said the people would make a horse behave in such a way.  The
dumb beast knew what it saw and that was nothing good.

The anguish of Patsy's thoughts caused him suddenly to "bawl" as he
would have put it himself.

"Isn't it an awful thing?" he asked, addressing the quiet bog-world
under the moon, "to think of a little lad like me havin' to be out in
the night facin' all them ghosts and that ould heart-scald of a man
burnin' his knees at home be the fire?  What'll I do at all if that
tormint of a goat is up strayin' on the Mount?  It would be like what
the divil 'ud do to climb up there, unless it was to be the churchyard
below, and all them ould bones stickin' up through the clay.

"There isn't wan out this night but meself," he went on.  "It's awful
to think of every wan inside their houses an' me wanderin' about be me
lone.  It isn't wan ghost but twinty I might meet betune this an' the
cross-roads, let alone fairies and pookas.  Won't I just welt the divil
out o' the oul' goat when I ketch her?"

A little whinny close to him made him look round with a fearful hope.
He saw neither pooka nor fairy, but the long horns of the animal he was
in search of.

He snatched joyfully at her chain, forgetting all his anger.  Indeed
none knew better than the goat Patsy's gentleness with all living
creatures.  Her mouth was full of grass.  He remembered his
grandfather's speech as he tethered the little goat on the bare
hillside above the house.

"My poor girl," he had said, "you've got little enough to ate, but then
you've a beautiful view."

"Sure she strayed," said Patsy in extenuation, "because she was hungry,
the creature."

So he had not had to leave the brightly lit bog-road for that black
tunnel of trees just beyond which led to old Hercules' tomb, and the
well where the woman fell in and the fields where old Michael Halloran,
who had been steward and general overseer to the O'Harts, was reputed
to be seen night after night--hedging and fencing the lands and he
years dead.

"You was a good little goat," said Patsy in his great relief.  "Come
home now and I'll milk you: and maybe that cross ould man would let me
have a sup o' tay for my supper."

He had pulled the goat down the bank into the dry ditch.  It was a good
thing he had stopped to "bawl," else maybe he'd have missed the goat
who had been having her fill of Mrs. McEnroe's after-grass.  Still he
wondered now at his temerity since the bawlin' might have brought
_them_ upon him disturbin' their sleep that way.

He suddenly caught the sound of horses' feet coming along the bog-road
towards him.  He stopped and listened, holding firmly on to the goat.
The bog-road was light as day.  Two people were walking their horses
side by side, a dog at their heels.  "It'll be Mr. Terence Comerford,
an' Sir Shawn O'Gara, comin' home together," Patsy said to himself.
"What at all would be keepin' them out till this hour of the night,
unless it was to be talkin' to Bridyeen Sweeney?  Quare ways young
gentlemen has that they'd be talkin' to a poor girl an' maybe turnin'
her head, let alone settin' the neighbours to talkin' about her.  God
help her."

In this musing, be it said, Patsy was but repeating the talk of his
elders, although he was naturally what is called an old-fashioned child.

He crouched low in the ditch while the horses came on at a walking
pace.  The riders were talking, one in a low voice, so low that Patsy
could not make out what he said.  This one was slender and young.  The
other, young also, but big and burly, was riding a horse which
apparently did not like the walking pace.  She--it was a mare--curveted
and caracoled in the road, which was one reason why Patsy could not
hear what was being said.  The boy peered out, with fear in his heart.
The knowledge of horses was born in him.  His father had been
stud-groom to Mr. Comerford of Inch.  By and by Patsy meant to escape
from his old tyrant and become a stable-boy at Inch or at Castle
Talbot.  Perhaps in time he might come to be stud-groom, though that
was a dizzy height towards which as yet his imagination hardly carried
him.

"Mr. Terence has drink taken," said Patsy, in his own mind.  "He's not
steady in the saddle.  An', glory be to goodness, it's Spitfire he's
ridin'."  Patsy was at home in many stables where the grooms and
stable-helpers condescended to accept his willing aid in running
messages or the like.  "What would the Misthress or Miss Mary say if
they was to see him now?  Look well to him, Sir Shawn, look well to
him, or it's killin' himself he'll be!"

This apostrophe was unspoken.  Mr. Terence Comerford had brought
Spitfire under control and she walked more soberly.  The talk had
ceased for moment.  It broke out again.  As the riders went on their
way Sir Shawn's voice sounded as though he was pleading hard with his
friend.  They had always been the most attached and devoted friends
from boyhood.

Terence Comerford's laugh came back borne upon a little wind.

"It'll be," said Patsy in his thoughts, "that Sir Shawn'll be biddin'
Mr. Terence to have sinse.  A quare thing it is, and he all but
promised to Miss Mary that he'd be down at Dowd's every night since she
and the Misthress went to Dublin, talking to poor Bridyeen.  'Tis
sorrow the crathur'll have, no less, if she goes listenin' to Mr.
Terence.  'Tis a wonder Sir Shawn wouldn't be givin' him better advice.
Unless it was to be--there's some do be sayin' he's fond of Miss Mary
too."

All gossip of his elders, told round the turf-fire at night when Patsy
was supposed to be fast asleep in the settle bed, instead of "cockin'
his ears" for grown people's talk.

He peered out with wide eyes in the direction the riders had taken.
His small bullet head and narrow shoulders threw a shadow on the
moonlit road.

"Sir Shawn 'ud have a right to be seein' Mr. Terence home to Inch
itself," he thought.  "It isn't alone ould Hercules an' the river
tumblin' over the weir an' the terrible dark road, but there's ould
Halloran's ghost on the long avenue to Inch, and there's the ghost of
the minister's wife by the churchyard.  And Spitfire, that would take
fright at a pinkeen much less a ghost, under him, and Mr. Terence be
the way of him none too steady."

Mr. Terence's laughter came back on the wind, and was caught up and
repeated by something that lurked in the Wood of the Echoes, as the
people called it, which grew on a spit of solid land that reached out
into the bog.  Those echoes were difficult to explain.  Why should a
little wood of slender trees within a low wall catch and fling back
human voices?

The echo repeating that mocking laughter, out there in the bog, was a
new element of terror to Patsy.  He had better be getting away from
this queer unlucky place before the riders were out of hearing.  The
little old grandfather, with his blazing eyes of wrath and the stick
concealed somewhere behind his coat-tails, his most familiar aspect to
Patsy, was better than this solitude, with that old Echo across the bog
there cackling in that unchancy way.  Soon, very soon, the lower road,
overhung with trees, pitch-black, where one had to pass by old
Hercules' tomb, just above the fall of the river over its weir, would
swallow Mr. Terence, while Sir Shawn's way would wind upwards towards
the mountains.  Unless indeed Sir Shawn was to go home to Inch with Mr.
Terence, seeing he was riding Spitfire and so many perils to be passed,
and him not too steady by the look of him.

Patsy trotted along in the wake of the riders, his bare feet making a
soft padding noise in the dust of the road.  His way was Sir Shawn's
way.  The wealth of the world would not have induced Patsy to go down
under the black shade of the trees into the assemblage of all the
ghosts.

The little goat followed with docility at his heels, uttering now and
again a plaintive bleat of protest at the pace.

Suddenly there came a sound which, filling Patsy's heart with a
concrete terror, banished all the shadowy terrors.  It was the sharp
slash of a whip, followed by the sound of a horse in mad flight.

"It's Spitfire, it's Spitfire!" cried Patsy to the moon and the stars.
"She'll kill Mr. Terence.  The world knows she'd never take the whip."

It seemed to him as though there were two horses in the headlong
flight, but he could not be sure.  He stumbled along, sobbing in his
haste and calling out inarticulate appeals to Heaven, to Sir Shawn, to
save Mr. Terence, while the clatter of the horses' feet died in the
distance.  He even forgot his terror of the dark road which closed
about him as he followed on Spitfire's track.  It might be that Sir
Shawn was catching up with the runaway horse, ready to snatch at the
bridle if only he could be in time.

Suddenly Patsy, sobbing and shaking, cannoned into some one, something,
in the darkness of the trees.  A man's voice cursed him low and
deep,--no ghostly voice, nor that of the countryside, an unfamiliar
voice and speech to Patsy.  His slender little body was caught in a
fierce grip.  He was lifted and dashed on to the road.  If it had been
a stony road, instead of the yielding bog, there would have been an end
of Patsy's story.  As it was he lay very quietly, while the little goat
went home without him.



CHAPTER I

O'GARAS OF CASTLE TALBOT

Patsy Kenny, stud-groom to Sir Shawn O'Gara, a quiet man, devoted to
his horses and having a wonderful way with them, sometimes allowed his
mind to wander back to the night Mr. Terence Comerford was killed and
the days that followed.

He could recall the inquest on poor Mr. Terence, himself, with a
bandaged head, keeping the one eye he had available fixed on the
gentleman who asked him questions.  He knew that Sir Shawn O'Gara was
present, his face marble pale and his eyes full of a strange anguish.
Well, that was not to be wondered at.  The gentleman who asked the
questions made sympathetic references to the unusual friendship between
Sir Shawn and Mr. Comerford.  Patsy had been aware of the nervous
tension in Sir Shawn's face, the occasional quiver of a nostril, "Like
as if he was a horse, a spirity one, aisy frightened, like Spitfire,"
Patsy had thought.

He remembered that tense anguish of Sir Shawn's face now, as he sat on
the trunk of a fallen tree in the paddock of the foals at Castle
Talbot.  The foals were running with their mothers, exquisite
creatures, of the most delicate slenderness.  The paddock was full of
the lush grass of June.  The mares were contentedly grazing.  Now and
again one lifted her head and sniffed the air with the wind in her
mane, as if at the lightest sound she would take fright.

Patsy had had a hard tussle that morning with an ill-tempered horse he
was breaking, and he felt tired out.  He had no idea of compelling a
horse with a whip.  Sir Shawn had bought this horse at a fair a short
time before.  He was jet-black and they had called him Mustapha.  That
was Master Terry's name for him, a queer heathenish name to Patsy's
mind, but all Master Terry did and all the mistress, Master Terry's
mother did, was right in Patsy's eyes, so Mustapha the horse was called.

He was certainly an ill-tempered brute, with a lot of the devil in him,
but Patsy Kenny was never angry with a horse; it was an invaluable
quality in a stud-groom.  Patsy was wont to say that when he found a
horse wicked he looked for the man.  There was no evidence of the man
so far as their record of Mustapha went.  He had been bought from a
little old man as pink as a baby and with a smiling innocence of
aspect, so small that when Mustapha tossed his head the little man,
hanging on by the rope-bridle, was lifted in the air and dropped again.

"That crathur," said Patsy to himself, "would never have done the horse
a wrong.  I wonder where he got him from an' who had the rearin' of
him.  I'm surprised the master cared to handle him.  He's as like as
two pins to Spitfire.  Where was it they said Spitfire went?  Some
mountainy man bought her for a five-pound note I've heard tell."

He pulled out a fine red handkerchief and mopped his forehead with it.
He'd had two hours of it trying to "insinse some rayson" into
Mustapha's head.  He had not made much progress.  Mustapha was still
kicking and squealing in his loose-box.  The sounds reached Patsy Kenny
where he sat on his log and made him sad.  Gentle as he was he thought
he had an understanding of even Mustapha.  The ears back, the whites of
the eyes showing, the wild nostrils, the tense muscles under the skin
of black satin, were something of an unhappiness in his mind.  Some
time or other Mustapha must have been ill-treated.

He put his head down on his hand.  He was really tired out.  So he was
unaware of the approach over the grass towards him of two people till
their shadows fell upon him and he looked up.

"That brute has taken it out of you, Patsy," said the elder man, who
had a curious elegance of face and figure.  Years had not coarsened Sir
Shawn O'Gara.  He was still slight and active.  His white hair was in
almost startling contrast with the darkly foreign face, the small black
moustache, the dark eyes, almost too large and soft and heavily lashed
for a man's eyes.

The boy who was with him was very unlike his father.  He had taken
after his mother, who had once been Mary Creagh, of whom some one had
said she had the colour of the foxes.  The boy had his mother's reddish
brown eyes and hair, something of the same colour underlying his fair
skin as it did hers.  He had the white, even teeth, the flashing and
radiant smile.  Mary Creagh had been a beautiful girl, with a look of
motherliness even in her immature girlhood.  As a wife and mother that
aspect of her beauty had developed.  Many a strange confidence had been
brought to Mary Creagh, and later to Lady O'Gara.  She had a way of
opening hearts and lips with that soft, steadfast glance of hers.  Her
full bosom looked as though it were made for a child's head or a man's
to rest upon.

"He'll come round, he'll come round," said Patsy.  "He'll have been
hurted some time or another.  Whin he gets to know me he'll be biddable
enough."

"Oh, I know your theories," Sir Shawn said, a smile breaking over the
melancholy of his face.  "You'll never give in that a horse could be
cursed with a natural ill-temper.  But there are ill-tempered people:
why not ill-tempered horses?"

"Bedad, I dunno!" said Patsy, scratching his head thoughtfully.  He
stood up with a jerk.  It had occurred to him suddenly that he was
sitting while the gentlemen were standing.  "I never could see inside a
human.  I don't know how it is at all that I can see the mind of a
horse."

"You're a wonderful man, Patsy," said the boy gaily.  "You are wasted
as our stud-groom.  The scientific beggars would like to get hold of a
man who could see into the mind of a horse.  Only we couldn't spare
you.  I'm afraid Mustapha would only listen to reason from you, and
I've set my heart on riding him this Autumn."

"You won't do that, Master Terry, till I've had a good many more talks
with the horse.  I'd be sorry to see you ridin' him yet, sir."

Terry O'Gara, brilliant in white flannels,--he had been playing tennis
with his mother's distant young cousin, Eileen Creagh--seemed to draw
the afternoon sun on to his spotlessness.  Patsy Kenny, a little dazed
with fatigue, blinked at his whiteness against the green grass.

A mare came trotting up to them with her foal.  The mare allowed
herself to be fondled, but the little foal was very wild and cantered
away when they tried to stroke him.

The big paddock was a pleasant sight with the mares and their foals
wandering over the young grass.  The trees surrounding the paddock had
not yet lost their first fresh green: and the white red-roofed
stabling, newly built to accommodate the racing stud, made a vivid high
light against the coppices.

The three wandered on from one mare and foal to another.  Patsy,
chewing a straw, offered the opinion that Magda's foal was the best of
the lot.  Magda belonged to her Ladyship.

"There won't be a foal in it like that little wan," said Patsy, looking
at a tall chestnut foal, the slender legs of which seemed as though
they might break with a little pressure, so delicate were they.  "The
filly won't be in it, Master Terry, wid your Mamma's horse.  I've never
seen a better foal.  He'll win the Derby yet.  Woa, Magda, woa, my
beauty."

He was trying to get close to the mare, she being restive.  Suddenly
she uttered a joyous whinny and started off down the field, the little
foal at her heels, the long manes of both flying in the wind.

"She knows her Ladyship has sugar for her.  An' there's Miss Eileen.  I
never knew a young lady as much afraid of a horse as Miss Eileen.  You
should tache her better, Master Terry."

They stood by a gate to look at the horses which at a little distance
beyond a small enclosure hung their long sleek noses across a five-foot
paling.  The points of the horses had to be discussed.  Patsy had quite
forgotten his fatigue.  He opened the gate and they crossed the narrow
strip between that and the paling.  A second gate was opened and they
passed through.

While they were looking at the horses they were joined by Lady O'Gara
and Miss Creagh, the latter, a delicately fair girl with a mass of fine
golden hair caught up with many hairpins a-top of her small head,
keeping close to Lady O'Gara.

Lady O'Gara was laughing.  Her husband sometimes called her the
Laughing Goddess.  She had two aspects to her beauty--one when she was
soft and motherly, the other when she rallied those she loved and
sparkled with merriment.  Her still beautiful copper-coloured hair had
hardly a white thread in it.  She was very charming to look at in her
matronly beauty.

"I've had to defend poor Eileen from the mares," she said.  "They were
impudent, crowding around me for sugar and sticking their noses in my
pocket.  Magda and Brunette nearly came to blows.  I had to push them
off with my whip.  Poor Eileen!"

"I'm so sorry you were frightened," Terry O'Gara said, drawing a little
nearer to the girl and looking into her blue eyes.

The others had gone on.

"You won't be afraid with me," said the boy, who had just passed out of
Sandhurst; and was feeling immensely proud of his commission and his
sword and all they betokened, although he talked lazily about "cutlery"
and the pleasure of getting into mufti, making his mother's eyes dance.

"If you like, we will keep behind," he said.  "If you are not
accustomed to it, it is rather alarming to be caught into a herd of
horses.  My mother is so used to them that she cannot imagine any one
being afraid."

The horses were coming in a long string from the other end of the
paddock, whinnying and neighing, shaking the ground as they came.  The
girl drew back towards the hedge.

"It's only rough love," the boy said.  "Patsy Kenny can do anything
with the horses.  They quarrel if he takes more notice of one than
another."

"They won't hurt your mother?" the girl said anxiously.  "There she is
in the midst of them.  Is it safe?"

"Quite safe.  Nothing will happen to Mother while Father and Patsy
Kenny are there.  What a frightened child you are!"

Miss Creagh's soft red mouth widened into a smile which had amusement
in it.  She was six years older than the boy who called her a
frightened child.  The smile was gone before he could see it.

"I'm afraid I'm rather a coward," she said meekly.  "Father has always
said that it was absurd for a soldier's daughter to be alarmed of so
many things."

Terry O'Gara thought at the moment that it was the most beautiful and
appealing thing in the world for a girl to be frightened of many
things, when the girl happened to be as pretty as Eileen Creagh, and he
was the valiant youth who was to protect her from her terrors.
Although he liked the feeling of protecting her he fell in with her
suggestion that they should go back and talk to the foals.  Miss Creagh
was certainly a coward, for she cried out when a horse showed any
evidence of friendliness; but when Terry suggested that they should go
to the garden and look for strawberries she did not fall in with the
suggestion.

"Let us wait for your mother here," she said, having gained the safe
shelter of the space between the palings and the gate.  "You are sure
she is quite safe?  Just look at her among those wild horses!  There
couldn't be ... an accident?"

He laughed at her terrors.

"Mother was born in a stable, so to speak," he said.  "She has a way
with the horses.  But how fond you are of her!  I am so grateful to you
for appreciating my mother as she deserves."

"She is an angel," said the girl fervently.

"Well, I think so."  He laughed rather shyly.  "It would not be easy
for a boy to have better parents.  Father is quite unlike Mother, of
course ... but ... I have a tremendous admiration for him, all the
same.  I'll tell you a secret.  I believe up to this time I have wanted
more than anything else to please my father.  When I had to work for
exams. I hated, or any stunt of that kind, when I--oh, I oughtn't to be
talking about myself.  It isn't that I love Mother less, but Mother is
so happy.  She would always find something good in my failures.
But--to see Father's face light up...!"

"He looks rather sad," Miss Creagh said wistfully.

"Yes, though he can be uncommonly jolly.  We have had such rags
together in London.  Why, here is Shot."  He stooped to fondle the head
of a beautiful red setter.  "He must have got shut up in the garden.
What I can't understand about Shot is his indifference to you."

"He knows that in my secret heart I'm afraid of dogs,--a dreadful
admission, isn't it?  I think it was our old nurse.  I can always
remember her driving a dog out of the nursery.  'Nasty thing!' she used
to say.  'You shall not come near my baby.'  I suppose I got the idea
quite in babyhood that a dog was something noxious.  Not that the
others minded.  The house was always full of dogs."

"Oh, you'll get over that.  Won't she, Shot?  Do you think his hair and
eyes are like my Mother's?"

"Like?"  Miss Creagh was puzzled.  "Oh, surely not!  How could a dog's
hair and eyes be like a person's.  Your beautiful mother!  It seems
such an odd comparison."

"Oh, well--Shot is beautiful too."

Despite his infatuation Terry felt a little disappointed in Miss Creagh.

Sir Shawn and Lady O'Gara had gone on into the next paddock, which
belonged to the young mares.  There was a momentary excitement.  One of
the horses had got through after them and was racing up and down
between the hurdles whinnying loudly.  By the time he was secured and
put back in his proper quarters the young people were out of sight.



CHAPTER II

PATSY REMEMBERS

"Shot's a good dog," Patsy Kenny was wont to observe in his slow way,
"an' his father before him was a good dog.  Yet I wouldn't be sayin'
but what ould Shot, the grandfather, wasn't the pick o' the basket."

Old Shot had lived for five years after Sir Shawn O'Gara's marriage to
Mary Creagh, which had sorely offended and alienated Mrs. Comerford,
who had brought up the girl from childhood and loved her like a
daughter.  When he had died it was by Lady O'Gara's wish that the dog
was buried in the grass-plot just outside the drawing-room window.  She
could see the mound from the window recess, where she sat to write her
letters, in which she kept her work-table, the book she was reading,
and various other belongings; she had screened it off so that the deep
recess was like a little room to itself.

"When I look up and see the mound instead of Shot it always hurts me,"
she had said in early days.  "But then I feel that he likes to be near."

"He was so fond of you, Mary," her husband often said, "fonder even, I
believe, than he was of me."

"Oh, no, Shawn, not that.  No one could take your place with Shot.  But
he accepted me, dear old dog, and I am very proud of it."

That was before Shot's son had aspired to take his father's place,
while he was still indeed one of a likely litter of puppies in the
stable-yard, just beginning to be cast off by Judy who had other things
to do in a sporting Autumn besides looking after a lot of sprawling,
big-pawed puppies, who were quite independent of her and becoming
rather unmanageable.

It was also before old Shot had begun to return to his friends as
nothing more tangible than a padding of soft paws on the stairs, a
movement under the dining-table, where he had been accustomed to lie in
life, a sound of a dog lying down with a sigh, or getting up from the
hearthrug before the billiard-room fire.

These manifestations had sometimes perturbed visitors to Castle Talbot;
but intimates at the house had come to accept as its owners did these
sounds of a presence that was never seen.  No one was any longer
incommoded by it except young Shot, who would get up uncomfortably and
lie at a distance, his nose on his paws, regarding with a wistful
melancholy the place from which he had been driven forth.

"Meself an' ould Shot'll never lave the Master till we have to," Patsy
Kenny had said to Lady O'Gara, to whom he was as much attached as old
Shot had been.

"Me an' Shot'll stick by the Master," he had often said in his own
mind, and sometimes aloud, when he was out in the paddocks with the
horses and there was no human ear to listen to him.  Then he would have
a vision of a young man in a grey suit, slender and elegant, face
downward on the grass and he calling out to some one to forgive him.
"Sure God help him, he has suffered," he would add as the memory came
to him.

Patsy, who had been taking a short cut by the wood to the stable-yard
when he had come upon that sight,--it was long ago--had gone away
terrified and aching with pity for the misery he had surprised.  Sir
Shawn O'Gara had interfered once to save little Patsy from a beating
and had been rewarded disproportionately by a silent ardent devotion,
at which no one,--he himself least of all,--had ever guessed.  Patsy
had liked Mr. Terence Comerford too.  He was handsomer, the people
thought, than Sir Shawn, being golden-haired, blue-eyed and ruddy, and
very big and broad-shouldered, with a jolly greeting for every one.
Many a time he had let Patsy hold his horse and flung him a sixpence
for it.  The peasants had no eye for the beauty and distinction of Sir
Shawn O'Gara's looks, his elegant slenderness, the somewhat mournful
depths of his eyes which were of so dark a grey that they were almost
black.  Too foreign looking, the people pronounced him, their idea of
foreigners being bounded by their knowledge of a greatly-daring Italian
organ-grinder who had once come over the mountains to Killesky with a
little red-coated monkey sitting a-top of the organ, to the great joy
of the children.  That had been a record rainy season, and the
organ-grinder and the monkey had both sickened for the sun, and would
have died if old Lady O'Gara, who was half-Italian herself, had not
heard the tale and sent the man back to his own country.

"He'd be askin' Mr. Terence to forgive him because maybe he was vexed
wid him about poor Bridyeen," Patsy had often thought since.  "An'
maybe because Miss Mary Creagh had always liked him better than Mr.
Terence, though she was too much afraid of Mrs. Comerford, to say it.
Or maybe 'twas that he couldn't save him from Spitfire.  Not but what
she was kind enough, the crathur, if he hadn't took to floggin' her."

Very rarely Patsy thought on the man who had cursed him in the ditch
that night long ago.  He was only an accidental terror of the night
crowded with terrors, from which Patsy had reached his grandfather's
door and tumbled in "about the flure" in a fainting condition.  He had
queer hazy memories that the old man was kind, that the two little eyes
which had often blazed fury at him, were dim with tears.  He did not
know if he dreamt it or not that he had heard his grandfather telling
the other old men around the turf fire that he, Patsy, was a good
little lad, but that he had to be strict with him to keep him good.

When he had got about again he had heard that Sir Shawn O'Gara had been
very ill, that the shock of his friend's death had been too much for
him.  Then one day the old Lady O'Gara had come to the cottage on the
edge of the bog to ask for him.  It had got out that Patsy had seen
something of the terrible happening of that night, and she had been
very gentle and friendly with him, and had asked him if he would not
like to go to school; and afterwards what he would like to do.

He could see her delicate profile now if he closed his eyes, the olive
skin, the deep velvety eyes, the red lips.  Even the country people did
not deny Lady O'Gara beauty, of a foreign sort.  Though they would
never admire her as they admired Miss Mary Creagh.

Soon after Patsy had gone to school Lady O'Gara died, and a year later
Sir Shawn and Miss Mary Creagh were married.  By this time Patsy had
become a favourite pupil with Mr. O'Connell, at the National Schools,
who thought that in time he might qualify for a "vit," seeing his love
for animals; but perhaps Mr. O'Connell's liking for Patsy was only
because he found in him an equal mind with his own about animals, Mr.
O'Connell's attachment to his dog, Sambo, being a cause of laughter to
most of his pupils.  Patsy had a happy time with Mr. O'Connell; but the
necessary education for the veterinary profession in the matter of mere
book-learning he seemed either unable or unwilling to acquire, so he
went in time to the stables at Castle Talbot to qualify as he had
coveted for the hereditary position of stud-groom.  Sir Shawn, since he
had married Miss Creagh, had taken to keeping racehorses; and Patsy
Kenny had a way with horses.  He was a natural solitary as regarded his
kind.  Many a pretty girl had looked Patsy's way invitingly, seeing in
him a steady, sober boy who might be trusted not to spend his wages in
drink, whose dreamy eyes and soft slow voice promised gentleness with a
woman; but Patsy never thought of the girls apparently.  He was very
fond of his master, but his great devotion was for Lady O'Gara who, as
Miss Mary Creagh, had dazzled him when she came and went at Castle
Talbot, not forgetting if she met Patsy to stop and speak with him.
That devotion to Miss Mary, continued to Lady O'Gara, had perhaps
spoilt Patsy's chances of being happy after the manner of other men.
He would have said himself, perhaps, that with the horses to think of
he had no time to think about getting married.  Certainly he did not
seem to find his bachelor state amiss.  His little house, in the new
block of stabling, white walled, red-roofed, painted with cross beams
to its pointed gable, was kept with meticulous care.  Patsy did his own
work.  Lady O'Gara was right perhaps when she called him a natural
celibate.

Long, long ago old Judy Dowd and her granddaughter, Bridyeen, had left
Killesky,--for America.  They had not gone away with the drafts of boys
and girls who went week after week during the Spring weather, leaving
Beragh station on their way to Liverpool with a great send-off from
friends and relatives, ending, as the train went, with cries of
lamentation that brought the other passengers to their carriage
windows, curious or sympathetic, according to their natures.

No: Judy Dowd and Bridyeen had gone off in an underhand manner, leaving
Mr. Casey, the solicitor, to dispose of the public-house and effects.
The neighbours had been rather indignant about it, and had made up
their minds as to the reason of this unsportsmanlike flitting.  But by
the time they were saying to each other that Judy Dowd had a right not
to be spoiling her grand-daughter, making her pretty for the eyes of
gentlemen; that what could a girl want more than Barney Killeen, who
had a farm and an outside car, if he was sixty itself? that there was
no use humouring the fancies of girls: that they'd always known how it
would end: finally that it was well Bridyeen should be taken away
before she made a scandal in the parish--by that time the Dowds were no
more than a name and a memory.

Few people now remembered the old unhappy far-off things.  Judy Dowd's
public-house in Killesky, which had been a very small affair, had made
way for Conneely's Hotel.  There was not much hotel about it, but there
was quite a thriving shop, divided into two parts--one, general store,
the other public.  If you were a person of importance and called at
Conneely's for refreshment you had it in "the drawing-room" upstairs,
where the Misses Conneely's drawings in chalk hung on the walls, and
their photographs adorned the chimney-piece, while their school prizes
were arranged neatly on the round table in the middle of the room,
flanking the wax flowers under a glass shade which made the centre
piece.

The Miss Conneelys had done well in the Intermediate.  Their elder
brother was a priest.  Father Tom's photograph was in the centre of the
chimney-piece a-top of the clock.  They could play the piano and violin
and had fortunes when the time came for them to marry.  Their mother
would never have permitted them to serve in the bar nor even behind the
drapery counter.  They were black-haired, rosy, buxom girls, who set
the fashions in Killesky.  There had been a sensation when Nora
Conneely came back from Dublin with a walking-stick, but after an
amazed pause Killesky--the young ladies of it,--broke out in
walking-sticks.

There was enough positive about the Conneelys, the priest, the
prosperous self-satisfied girls, the managing capable mother, to make
people feel that there had always been Conneely's Hotel in Killesky.
If the old people remembered Julia Dowd's little public-house with its
thatched roof, the low ceiling and the fire of turf to which you could
draw a chair while you had your drink, the little parlour beyond which
was reserved for customers of a superior station, they did not talk
about it.

Inch too was shut up.  Mrs. Comerford had gone away after Mary Creagh's
engagement to Sir Shawn O'Gara.  She had taken it very ill,--as a slur
to her dead son's memory.  She had always been an austere, somewhat
severe woman, but she had taken Mary Creagh from her dying mother's
arms, a child of a few weeks old, had reared her as her own and been
tender to her, with the surprising precious tenderness of a reserved,
apparently cold nature.  Mrs. Comerford had gone to Italy and had never
since returned.  Perhaps she would never come now, although the place
was kept from going to rack and ruin by James Clinch, the butler, and
Mrs. Clinch, who had been cook and had married the butler after Mrs.
Comerford had gone away.

All these things came back to Patsy Kenny in his solitary hours.  He
was very fond of sitting on a log or a stone between his strenuous
working times, going over old days in his mind.

This June afternoon, rather wearied still by his struggle with
Mustapha, he was sitting on a block in front of his little house in the
stable-yard.  Judy, a half-bred setter--the names of the animals at
Castle Talbot were hereditary--was lying at his feet.  The pigeons were
pecking about him daintily.  Only Judy's watchful, jealous eye
prevented their flying on to his knee or his shoulder.

The memories unfolded themselves like the scenes of a cinematograph,
slipping past his mind.  He remembered Bridyeen Sweeney, whose delicate
beauty used to draw the gentlemen to Dowd's long ago.  He contrasted
her in his mind with Nora Conneely whom he had met that morning as he
went to the post-office, wearing what he had heard called a Merry Widow
hat, and a tight skirt, displaying open-work stockings and high-heeled
shoes, a string of pearls about a neck generously displayed by the low
blouse she was wearing, her right hand twirling the famous
walking-stick.

"I dunno what at all came to Bridyeen," he murmured to himself.  "She
was as pretty as a picture,--like a little rose she was, and so modest
in all her ways.  Even my grandfather used to say there was nothing
against Bridyeen.  I wouldn't have thought it of Mr. Terence either
that he'd be tryin' to turn the little girl's head and he the
Mistress's cousin an' they as good as promised.  I only hope Master
Terence had time to repent, if the stories were true itself that the
people told.  Sure maybe there was nothin' in it."

He had perhaps dozed off.  He came awake suddenly to Judy's snarling.
Judy never gave the alarm for nothing.  A man had come into the
stable-yard, quite obviously a tramp.  Behind him came a woman and a
child of the same fraternity.  The woman stood humbly in the wake of
the man, and the boy kept close to her.  The man was a bad-looking
fellow, Patsy said to himself.  Half-consciously he noticed the man's
hands, wicked-looking hands, covered with hair, the nails stubby and
broken.  The long arms were like the arms of a monkey.  His tattered
coat was velveteen.  Patsy remembered to have seen the material on the
game-keepers of a big estate in the next county.

"'Ullo, matey," said this uninviting person, with an attempt at
jocularity.  "'Ave you anythink to give a poor man out of a job?"

The truculent voice, with its attempt at oiliness, the small red eyes
under the shock of hair, the thick purple lips, had an extraordinary
effect on Patsy.  He hated the tramp, yet he felt a queer sick fear of
him.  Once, when Sir Shawn had taken him to England for a big race, he
had seen a dog destroy an adder, with the same mixture of
half-terrified rage and loathing he was feeling now.

"There's nothing for you here," he said gruffly.  "You don't look as if
you had much taste for work."

Then he looked beyond the tramp to the woman and child.  She was
decent, the poor creature, he thought.  Her poor rags were clean and
mended.  She had a shrinking, suffering air.  The boy, who was about
nine years old, seemed to cling to her as though in terror of the burly
ruffian.  He was pale and thin and even on this beautiful June day he
looked cold.

Patsy was suddenly gentle.  He saw the glare in the tramp's eyes.

"Here's a shillin' for you," he said.  "I've no job you'd care about.
But the woman and the child might like a cup of tay."

"All right," said the tramp, placated.  "Tea's not in my way.  I'll be
back in 'arf a mo'.  Don't you be makin' love to my ol' woman."

He flicked his thumb and finger at the woman with an ugly jocularity:
then went, with the tramp's shambling trot, out of the stable-yard the
way he had come, down the back avenue which opened on to the road to
Killesky.



CHAPTER III

A TEA PARTY

"I've seen that man of yours before," said Patsy, turning round and
gazing at the woman.

He felt the most extraordinary pity for her.  She must have been a
pretty girl once, he thought, noticing the small pure outlines of the
face.  The child was like her, not like the ruffian who had just set
off in the direction of Conneely's Hotel.  A pretty boy, with soft,
pale silken hair and blue eyes that looked scared.  Patsy remembered
his own childhood with the terrible old grandfather, and his heart was
soft with compassion.

"I don't think so, sir," said the woman.  She was English by her voice.
"He hasn't been in these parts before."

Patsy noticed with the same sharp pity which seemed to hurt him, that
she trembled.  She was tired and hungry, perhaps; not cold, surely, in
this glorious June sunshine.

"Sit down," he said, "sit down."  He indicated a stone seat by the open
door of the house.  "You are tired, my poor girl.  I've put the kettle
on.  It'll be boilin' by this time.  I'll wet the cup of tay and it'll
do you good."

There was no one in the stable-yard to observe the strange sight of the
stud-groom giving a meal to the tramping woman and her child.  He
brought out a little cloth and spread it on the stone seat.  Then he
fetched the cups and saucers, one by one.

"Let me help you, sir," said the woman.  "I was a servant in a good
house before I had the misfortune to marry."

There had been some strange delicacy in Patsy's mind which had induced
him to have the outdoor tea rather than a less troublesome arrangement
within doors.  Perhaps he had an instinctive knowledge of what the
woman's husband might be capable of in the way of thought or speech.

"Sit down there, Georgie," said the woman to the child, with a kind of
passionate tenderness.  "He's too little, so he is," she addressed
Patsy Kenny, "for the load o' cans and pots he has to carry.  His bones
are but soft yet."

"Cans and pots?"

"There, beyond the gate.  We sell them as we go along.  When they're
sold we buy more.  We had a donkey-cart, but ... we had to sell it.  We
only take now what Georgie and me can carry."

"And your husband?"

"He carries nought.  He doesn't hold with a man carrying things."

Patsy said nothing.  What was the matter with him that he felt such a
pain of pity and such a rage of anger?  He had felt the like before for
an ill-treated animal.  Ill-treated humans had not often entered his
experience, since he lived so much to himself.

He went to the gate leading to the back avenue and looked out.  Hidden
by the gate-post were a number of pots and pans and bright glittering
new cans.  A little away lay another heap.  He stooped.  There was a
contrivance, something like a yoke for the shoulders, to which the cans
were attached.  He had seen, also in England, gipsy carts covered with
such wares.  He had not known that human shoulders could be adapted to
this burden.

"God help ye," he said, coming back.  "'Tis too much for you, let alone
the child.  The polis should see to it."

"He takes the load from the boy before we come to a village," she said,
nodding her head the way the man had gone.

It was wonderful to see how quickly and deftly the woman set out the
tea-things, made the tea, using much less than Patsy's liberal
allowance, and cut bread and butter.  Patsy found a few new-laid eggs
and put them on to boil.  The child sat in the shade: Patsy had found
him a chair, made of ropes of straw, to rest on instead of the cold
stone.  He sat in a relaxed way as though all his muscles were limp,
taking no heed of the dog that sniffed about him.  Dead-tired, Patsy
thought, and loathed the muscular ruffian who went free while a child
and a woman bore the burdens.

It was pretty to see the woman coaxing the child to eat, forgetting
herself.  Patsy looked about the familiar place and saw it strange with
an appearance of domesticity.  The creature was very gentle, he said to
himself, and she was decent.  Her poor clothes were tidy, and the boy's
likewise.  Their boots caused a queer pang in Patsy's heart.  They were
disgraceful boots, bulging at the sides, broken: he had noticed that
the boy shuffled as he walked.

The woman sat holding her tea-cup in her hand, looking around the yard.
Patsy's house had a little yard to itself off the stable-yard proper.
In the middle was a bed in which there was a rose-tree with pinks and
pansies growing about its roots, Patsy's garden, of which he was very
proud.

"It's a nice little spot you have here," she said, with a sigh.  The
canary, which hung by the door in a cage, sent out a hard bright runlet
of song.  The dog lay on her side with one brown eye fixed on her
master.  One of the big cats, which kept the stables free of rats and
made company for the horses in winter, came delicately and rubbed
himself against Patsy's blue hand-knitted stockings.  Her eyes roved
enviously about, taking in the quiet peacefulness of the scene.

"I'll be washin' up for you before I go," she said.

"Sure I'm used to doin' for myself," returned Patsy.

"You've no wife?" she said; and looked down at the boy where he lay
back wearily in the straw chair.

"I'm a bachelor boy," said Patsy.

Her eye considered her host in a way that caused Patsy a curious
internal shyness, not altogether unpleasant.

"A pity," said she.  "It would be a nice little place for a woman and a
child."

Then she straightened herself and stood up.  She had made a very good
meal.

"I saw where the basin was in the scullery," she said.  "Don't you
trouble.  It's a woman's work, not a man's.  You stay here and talk to
Georgie."

He carried in the tray when she had piled it with cups and saucers.
Otherwise he obeyed her.  Better if that ruffian came back he should
find him talking to Georgie rather than helping the woman to wash up.

But Georgie was very uncommunicative.  He seemed too tired to talk.  He
too had not done so badly with the meal once he had begun.  After a
while his head fell a little to one side and he slept.

Patsy sat where he was.  He could hear the noise of water flowing
inside the house and the chink of cups and saucers in process of
washing up.  Not for worlds would he have entered the house.  He was
thinking strange thoughts.  For the first time he was touched by a
woman, this poor, ill-clad, tramping woman, the wife of an evident
scoundrel, touched to the heart for her and her child.  The happy,
pretty girls who had looked shy invitation at him had not appealed.
They had, one by one, put him down as a dry old bachelor and taken
their charms elsewhere.  Patsy had never missed wife or child.  He
would have said himself that he had enough to think of, with her
Ladyship and the Master and Mr. Terry, enough to fill his heart.

Not that he felt anything beyond an immense compassion for these poor
victims of man's cruelty.  Perhaps with such a person as Patsy Kenny
compassion would serve for love always.  "The creatures!" he said to
himself, "the creatures!  Sure it isn't the hard ways of the world
they're fit for at all."

The woman emerged from the cottage, moving with a gentle softness.
There was nothing of the tramp about her beyond the broken boots, the
hat which had obviously been under the weather, the poor clothes.  She
sat down beside Patsy Kenny and spoke in a low voice for fear of waking
the sleeping child.

"It is a hard road he has to travel for one so young," she said, and he
noticed that she looked quickly towards the gate.

"It is," said Patsy Kenny.  "Too hard.  He had no right to be carryin'
all that tinker's stuff.  That man of yours, my girl, oughtn't to be
let do it."

A little colour came to the woman's cheek.

"We've run away from him over and over," she said.  "He's always
tracked us down.  Time and time again I was doin' well and Georgie at
school, but he always found us: I used to say my prayers to be
delivered from him, but I never was: I don't suppose I ever will be
now.  I can't hide from him.  I wouldn't mind for myself, if it wasn't
for Georgie.  He'll kill Georgie."

"How long have you been at it?" Patsy Kenny asked quietly.

"This sort of life?  He found us in Leicestershire three months ago.  I
was in a place with one lady.  She was kind and let me have Georgie.
She always said she'd never have known there was a child in the house.
Georgie went to school and came home of afternoons.  It was a quiet,
peaceful spot.  Baker found me again.  It wasn't the first time by many
he dragged us out on the road.  He sold all my clothes as well as
takin' my savin's.  He said there was money for him over here.  I don't
see no sign of it.  The life will kill Georgie.  We tramped from
Dublin: with the last of my money Baker bought the tins to keep us
goin' on the road.  It was bad in the cold, wet weather last month."

"Have you no one at all belongin' to you?" Patsy asked in a low voice.

"Sisters and brothers, all respectable.  My parents are dead.  When I
took Baker I turned my back on them all."

Patsy's mind was working hard.  There must be some help for the woman's
case.  It could not be law that this ruffian should have the power to
drag his wife and child after him, loading them with burdens they were
not fit to carry.  The creature knew no better than to yield to him.
The Master was a magistrate and a kindly one.  He was always settling
disputes of one kind or another.  Patsy thought of bidding her wait
where she was till the Master could be found.

He looked up from his thoughts and saw that Mr. Baker had come back.
His face was very red and shiny.  He wore a truculent look.

"'Ullo!" he said thickly.  "'Ere's quite a family party.  'Ope you've
been enjoyin' of yourselves as I 'ave, subjec' to _re_strictions.  A
bob don't go fur in liquor now-a-days.  You might ha' made it two."

"One seems to have been quite enough for you," said Patsy, with a light
of battle in eyes no longer dreamy.

"I don't deny as I 'ad a bob myself to spend," said the ruffian.
"'Ere, you, Georgie!  You wake up, you lazy young devil!  'Tis time we
was on the road."

Patsy stepped between the man and the child who had come out of his
sleep with a cry of fear.  He put a open hand on Mr. Baker's chest and
pushed him backward.  Somewhat contrary to his expectations the man did
not resent his action, beyond remarking that no one had the right to
interfere between a man and his kid.

"Now it comes to that," he said, with a sudden change to jocularity,
"if so be as you've a fancy for 'er I'd sell her for five quid an'
throw in the kid.  It's no catch draggin' 'em round an' me 'avin' to
carry the cans 'arf the time because o' your blasted coppers."

The full enormity of the speech seemed to reveal itself only gradually
to Patsy's mind.  He turned red and then pale.  The poor woman was
quivering as though a lash had struck her.

"You're a bad brute," said Patsy quietly.  "The woman's too good for
you."

"You can 'ave her for nothink if you like.  She never was much good to
me."

He sat down suddenly in the chair Georgie had left empty.

"I want to see your boss," he said: and his tone was bullying.

"I was thinkin' about that myself," said Patsy.

"You go along the road an' wait for me," he said with a sudden ferocity
which made the woman start.  "Off with ye now.  I'll come up with ye:
unless this gentleman 'ud make it a matter of a five-pun' note."

"Hold your dirty tongue," said Patsy, and landed Mr. Baker one in the
chest.

The man rushed at him with his head down, a shower of foul words coming
from his lips.  Before anything could happen some one
intervened,--Terry O'Gara, dazzlingly clean as he always looked.

"Here, you keep quiet, you ruffian!" he said, delivering a very neat
blow just under the man's chin.  "What is it all about, Patsy?  Hadn't
I better send for the police?"

Mr. Baker had fallen back against the stone bench and subsided on to
it, feeling his jaw bone.

"I'll make you pay for this yere conduck to an 'armless man wot was
doin' nothink," he growled.

Something floated into Patsy's mind, vague, terrible.  Before he could
grasp it another person joined the group,--Sir Shawn O'Gara.

"What's the matter?" he asked.  "Who is this person?"

His face changed.  Patsy Kenny, who was watching him, saw the change.
He had grown livid, his lips blue.  Was he ill?  Was he going to fall?

Before Patsy could do anything he recovered himself and spoke.

"You have business with me?" he said to the tramp.

"Yes, sir."  Mr. Baker was suddenly cringingly respectful.  "I came
'ere to talk business an' was set upon by this yere man o' yourn
somethink crool.  I'd sack him if I was you.  Your 'orses wouldn't be
safe with 'im, 'im bein' so 'ot-tempered."

Sir Shawn still looked very ill.  Patsy had once seen a person in a bad
heart-seizure.  Was Sir Shawn's heart affected?  Small mottled patches
of a purple colour had come out on the smooth darkness of his skin.
Angina.  That was what the doctor called it in the case of that other
person.  Had that mysterious, terrible disease laid hold on the Master?
He had not looked well for many a day.  Patsy had wondered that the
Mistress did not see it, was not disturbed by it, seeing how fond a
wife she was.  His heart sank with fear for the Master.

"Let me deal with him, father," said Terry, looking like a young god in
contrast with the unpleasant Mr. Baker.

"I know this man," Sir Shawn said, quietly.  "He once rendered me a
service."

"When I were gamekeeper over to Ashbridge 'All," said Mr. Baker
eagerly, "you'd a bin shot but for me.  Some gents will never learn 'ow
'to 'old their guns.  I knocked the barrel up just in the nick.  That
Mr. Lascelles, 'e weren't safe."

Ashbridge!  Oh--so the man had been employed at Ashbridge Hall, Lord
Trentham's place, some thirty miles away on the edge of Lough Aske.
How long ago?  Patsy kept asking himself the question.  He looked after
Sir Shawn and Mr. Baker as they went away in the direction of the
house.  Sir Shawn had an official room with a door opening out on to
the grounds, so that the many people who came to consult him on one
business or another need not enter through the house.

"That fellow's face would hang him anywhere," said Terry O'Gara.  "I
wonder what amount of villainy lies between a gamekeeper's place at
Ashbridge and the brute he is to-day?"

"God help them that are in his power," Patsy Kenny said fervently.
Then he went to the gate and looked out.  The pots and pans and cans
had disappeared.  Down the long straight road there was no one in
sight.  The woman and child had vanished.

Oddly enough he was disturbed by the noise Mustapha was still making in
his box-stall.

"I shouldn't be surprised now if he was to be a foal of Spitfire," he
said.  "I did hear she was bought by a man somewhere about Lewy
mountain.  The little man we bought him from was a mountainy man, if he
wasn't a fairy."



CHAPTER IV

FROM THE PAST

The morning after these happenings Lady O'Gara, turning over the pile
of letters on the breakfast table, changed colour at the sight of one
which bore an Italian postmark.  It was addressed in a large firm
handwriting in which only very keen observation could have discovered
any sign of weakening.  After that momentary glance she laid away the
letter with the superscription turned downwards while she read the rest
of her correspondence.

When she had finished breakfast she followed her husband into his
office, as that special room was called.  The windows had not been
opened--they were French windows and they served as a door out on to
the gravel sweep which ran around the house--and she thought she
detected a faint disagreeable smell, as of drugs.  She unbolted a
window and flung it wide and the warm June air came flowing in,
banishing the unpleasant sharp odour.

"You haven't been taking anything, Shawn?" she asked, looking at him a
little anxiously.  "I thought I smelt something peculiar.  You are not
looking well."

"I am very well, Mary," he answered.  "Perhaps it was the person I had
here yesterday evening.  I believe I closed the window after he went
out.  He had been drinking.  There was a horrible smell."

"I came to the door while you were talking to him and I heard you say,
'What do you mean by coming here?'  Who was he, Shawn?"

Again Sir Shawn was suddenly pale.  She was looking down at the letter
she had extracted from the pile, and he turned his back to the window,
so that when she looked at him again with her frank ingenuous gaze, his
face was in shadow.

"He was a man who saved my life, or thinks he did, at a shooting-party
at Ashbridge.  There was a fellow there who had never handled a gun
before.  He would have put a whole charge of shot into me if this chap,
Baker, hadn't knocked up his gun in time.  I don't think it would have
killed me, although it might have been rather unpleasant.  Baker likes
to think, for his own purposes,"--he spoke with a weary air,--"that he
saved my life.  He may have saved my beauty.  He considers himself my
pensioner."

"Ah!"  Lady O'Gara was satisfied with the explanation.  "What a pity he
should drink!  Can we do nothing for him?"

"I'm afraid not.  He would like to be my game-keeper, but that is out
of the question.  He had not much character when he left Ashbridge.  He
has had more than one job in England since then, and has lost them all.
He has come down very much in the world even since I saw him last."

"A pity," said Lady O'Gara, "since he rendered you a service."

"I gave him some money and got rid of him: it was the only thing to do."

Once again Lady O'Gara's frank eyes turned upon her husband.

"I don't think you ever told me about that thing before," she said.  "I
should have remembered if you had told me."

"No," he said with an averted face.  "It happened--the winter you were
in Florence.  I came home and was met by the news that you were away.
The sun dropped out of my skies."

She blushed suddenly and brightly.  Her husband had turned from his
gloomy contemplation of the lawn outside, on which a tiny Kerry cow was
feeding.  He said to himself that she was more beautiful in her mature
womanhood than the day he married her.  She had been soft and flowing
even in her girlhood, with a promise of matronly beauty.  Now, with a
greater amplitude, she was not less but more gracious.  Her bronze hair
which had the faintest dust upon it went back from her temples and ears
in lovely waves which no art could have produced.  It was live hair,
full of lights and shadows.  Her husband had said that it was like a
brown Venetian glass with powdered gold inside its brownness.  There
were a few brown freckles on the milk-white neck.  Her eyes were kind
and faithful and set widely apart: her nose straight and short: and she
had a delightful smile.

She came now and put her arms about his neck.  They were in curious
contrast, she so soft, fair and motherly: he slender and dark, with
weary eyes and a look as though he had suffered.

"Shawn!" she said, "Shawn!" and there was a passionate tenderness in
her voice, as she pressed his head against her heart.

Then she let her arms fall and turned away, looking as though some
sadness had clouded her joy.

"Poor Terence!" she said.

There was the same thought between them, but they left it unspoken.
She had chosen Shawn O'Gara in her own heart even while she was
expected to marry Terence Comerford.

"Why do you talk of Terence now?" he asked.

"I have had a letter from Aunt Grace after all these years."  She held
the letter towards him.

"She has forgiven you?" he asked, making no movement to take the letter.

"She is coming back to Inch.  She writes that Stella, her adopted
daughter, is growing up.  She has forgiven us.  She is pleased that we
named our son after poor Terence.  You remember you were rather opposed
to it, Shawn."

"I did not wish to be reminded of the loss of my friend at every
moment," he said.  "The tragedy was too new."

Still he showed no indication of taking the letter from her hand.

"Read it to me," he said, in his weary voice.  "I wonder how Stella
will like Inch after Italy.  There is so much rain and cloud.  One has
to be born to it to like it."

"When I was in Italy I simply longed for a day of Irish rain," Mary
O'Gara said: "it is good for us.  We need it.  We grow parched in the
dry climates."

"It has held the secret of perpetual youth and beauty for you, Mary,"
her husband said, looking at her with loving admiration.

She laughed and blushed.  She was not beyond blushing at a compliment
even from her husband.

"We must make things as gay for the child as possible," she said.  Then
she added:

"I wonder if Aunt Grace realizes that Terry is now a young man.  He
seems _épris_ with Eileen, so I suppose he will not fall in love with
Stella?"

Sir Shawn looked startled.

"I hope not," he said.  "Eileen seems to have him very securely in her
chains."

Lady O'Gara frowned ever so slightly.  "I wish our children did not
grow away from us so soon," she said.  "Terry might have continued a
little longer being in love only with his mother."

Sir Shawn lifted his eyebrows in a manner which accentuated his foreign
look.

"Jealous, Mary?" he asked.

"Not of Eileen.  She allures him, but, I come first."

"You would always have your place.  You are of the women who are adored
by their sons.  You would not care for Eileen for a daughter-in-law,
though she has been almost your adopted daughter these ten years back?"

"She would not suit Terry."

"She is very fond of you."

"Yes, I think she is fond of me."  Her voice was cold.

"I hardly know you, Mary, in this mood towards Eileen.  You are usually
so sweetly reasonable."

"It is the privilege of a woman to be unreasonable sometimes."

The sunshine came back to her face, laughed in the depths of her eyes
and brought a dimple to either cheek.

"I suppose I am a little jealous of Terry," she said.  "You see he is
very like you, Shawn.  And I am fond of Eileen, really.  Only, I
suppose all mothers are critical of the girls their sons fall in love
with, especially if it is an only son.  It is odd how it has come
suddenly to Terry that Eileen is a pretty girl.  Of course he has only
seen her in her vacations.  Sit down now, Shawn, and I will read you
Aunt Grace's letter."

He sat down obediently in the revolving chair in front of his desk and
she came and stood by him.  Her voice was a little disturbed as she
read the letter.


"MY DEAR MARY,--You will be surprised to hear that I am coming back
again to Inch.  The years bring their dust, as some poet says: they
certainly soften griefs and asperities.  When I left Inch I was
broken-hearted for my one boy.  It was a poisoning of the grief at that
time to know that you and Shawn O'Gara were going to be married.  I
felt that you had forgotten my beautiful boy, that his friend had
forgotten him: but that I acknowledge now to have been a morbid and
unreasonable way of looking at things.  My boy never thought of any
girl but you, yet I could not expect you to go unmarried for his sake:
indeed I would not have wished it.  You and Shawn must forgive that old
unreasonable bitterness of mine, the bitterness of a mother distraught
by grief.

"I have left you alone all these years, but I have not been without
knowledge of you.  I know that your son is called Terence after my son.
I appreciate that fact, which indicates to me that you keep him in
loving remembrance.

"After all these years I am suddenly weary for home, so weary that I
wonder now how I could have kept away so long.  Whether I shall end my
days at Inch depends on Stella.  My wild experiment of adopting this
child, as some of my friends thought it at the time, has turned out
very well.  Stella is a dear child.  I send you a photograph which
hardly does her justice.  As she is entirely mine she goes by my name,
although her father was French.  I should like to say to you that
though I shall provide for Stella it will not be to your detriment.  I
have a sense of justice towards my kin.

"I trust to you to receive Stella and me in a manner which will prove
that you have blotted out any memories of the past that are otherwise
than happy.

"Your affectionate cousin-aunt,
  "GRACE COMERFORD.

"PS.--Stella has something of your colouring."


"Here is the photograph," said Lady O'Gara, handing it to her husband.
"Stella is very pretty, is she not?"

He twisted his chair so that the light from the window might fall on
the photograph.  The face was in profile.  It was tilted delicately
upwards.  There was a little straight nose, a round chin, a mouth
softly opened, one of those mouths which do not quite close.  The large
eyes looked upward; the hair was short and curled in little rings.

He looked at it and said nothing, but his eyes were tragic in the
shadow.

"The profile is quite French," said Lady O'Gara.  "I remember the young
man who I think must have been Stella's father.  He was a lieutenant of
Chasseurs.  He was killed in Algiers--afterwards.  I saw it in a
newspaper about four years after our marriage.  He was going to be
married when he came to Inch.  His mother, who was as poor as a church
mouse, had written a bitter complaint to Aunt Grace that Gaston was
about to marry a poor Irish girl, a governess, whose part he had taken
when he thought her unfairly treated.  I think Stella must be Gaston de
St. Maur's child."

"Odd, not leaving the child her own name," Sir Shawn said, handing back
the photograph.

"Aunt Grace would want her so entirely for her own.  She always had a
fierce way of loving.  If she had loved me more reasonably and less
jealously she would not have quarrelled with me as she did.  She was
always rather terrible in anger."

She gathered together a bundle of letters which she had laid down on
the table.

"I must go and write to Aunt Grace," she said.  "She must not wait for
a letter telling her how glad I shall be to see her back at Inch, how
glad we shall all be.  She was very good to me, Shawn."  She sent a
wistful look towards her husband who sat with his back to her.  "If she
had been the aunt she called herself, instead of a somewhat remote
cousin, she could not have been kinder.  She treated us very
generously, despite her anger at our marriage."

"You brought me too much," said Shawn O'Gara, not turning his head,
"and it has prospered.  You should have brought me nothing but
yourself.  You were a rich gift enough for any man."

Lady O'Gara looked well-pleased as she came and kissed the top of her
husband's head, dusted over its darkness with an effect of powder as
contrasted with the dark moustache and dark eyes.

"I am glad for Terry's sake I did not," she said; and went out of the
room.

"Mr. Kenny wishes to see your Ladyship," said a servant, meeting her in
the hall.  Patsy, perhaps by reason of his friendly aloofness, had come
to be treated with unusual respect by the other servants.  "He is at
the hall-door.  He would not come inside."

She found Patsy, playing with Shot's son and daughter--they were the
fourth generation from "Ould Shot" on the gravel sweep.

"Come in, Patsy," she said, and led the way into an octagonal room, lit
by a skylight overhead and walled around with ancient books which were
very seldom taken from their shelves.

"Sit down," she said, "and tell me what is troubling you."

Patsy sat down on the extreme edge of one of the chairs, which were
upholstered in scarlet damask.  He looked up at her with blinking eyes
of worship, like the eyes of the dogs.  The room, painted white above
the bookshelves, was full of light.  He turned his cap about in his
hands.  Obviously there was something more here than the business on
which he usually consulted Lady O'Gara.

"'Tis," he began, "a little bit of a woman, an' a child, no bigger nor
a robin an' as wake as a wran...."

With this opening he began the story of the woman and child, who had
come with the disreputable person the afternoon before.  It appeared
that Mr. Baker had deserted his wife and son, flinging them the pots
and pans with a scornful generosity.  He had apparently arrived at the
possession of money some way or other, and overtaking them on the road
at some considerable distance away he had bidden them, with threats, to
take themselves out of his sight, since he had no further use for them.

"He was full of drink," Patsy said, looking down.  "Your Ladyship, his
tratement of them was something onnatural.  She said she'd run away
from him often, but he'd always found her when she was doin' well an'
earnin' for herself an' the child.  The people she lived with were
often kind and ready to stand by her, but sure, as she says, the
kindest will get tired out.  He'd broken the spirit in her, maybe, for
she showed me his marks on the poor child.  She said nothin' about
herself, but I could guess, the poor girl!  The man that could lay his
heavy hand on a woman or a child is a black villain.  I wouldn't be
comparin' him to the dumb bastes, for they've nature in them.  The poor
little woman, she's dacent.  It would break your heart to see how thin
she is an' how fretted-lookin' an' the little lad wid the scare in his
eyes."

"Has the woman come back?"

"Wasn't that what I was tellin' your Ladyship?  Lasteways, she didn't
come back exactly.  I found her on the road an' she not knowin' where
to turn to, in a strange country.  There they were, when I found them,
hugging aich other an' cryin'.  And the cans beside them in the ditch."

"What cans?"

"Wasn't I tellin' your Ladyship--the pots and pans and the few little
bright cans among them, and not a penny betune the two poor souls, nor
they knowing where to turn to!"

"Where are they now?" Lady O'Gara asked quietly.

"They're in my house, your Ladyship.  I brought them back there last
night an' I gev it up to them.  I slep' in the loft over the stables
myself."

"Oh, but, Patsy, they can't stay in your house!  The people would talk."

"Sure I know they'd talk--if it was an angel in Heaven.  That's why I
kem to your Ladyship."

"I'll come and see the woman, Patsy, and we'll decide what is best to
be done."

Patsy's face cleared amazingly.

"I knew you'd come," he said.  "It'll be all right when your Ladyship
sees them, God help them."



CHAPTER V

THE HAVEN

Lady O'Gara came in by way of a little-used gate a few days later.  She
had been to Inch, where the house was being turned out of doors and
everything aired and swept and dusted and repolished, for a home-coming
so long delayed that people had forgotten to look for it.  Castle
Talbot had six entrance gates, each with its lodge: and this one was
rarely used.

Susan--as Mrs. Baker preferred to be called, Susan Horridge: she seemed
to wish to drop the "Mrs. Baker"--came out with a key to open the gate,
which was padlocked.

Such a different Susan!  The old Susan might have been dropped with
"Mrs. Baker."  She had been just ten days at the South lodge, and now,
in her neat print dress, her silken hair braided tidily, her small face
filling out, she looked as she dropped a curtsey just as might the
Susan Horridge of a score years earlier.

"You keep the gate padlocked, Susan?" Lady O'Gara asked, with a little
surprise.  "This is a quiet, honest place.  I hardly think you need
fear any disagreeable visitors."

"Oh, but, m'lady, you never know."  Susan had admitted her by this
time.  "A lone woman and a little boy, and him that nervous through
being frightened!"  She hurried on as though she did not wish to make
any reference to the cause of Georgie's fright.  "I heard men singin'
along the road the night before last it was.  It fair gave me the
jumps.  Glad I was to have that gate between me and them and the strong
padlock on it."

"This lodge is perhaps a little lonely for you.  It's a very quiet
road.  The people don't use it much.  It runs down to a road where they
think there's a ghost.  You're not afraid of ghosts?"

"No, m'lady.  If but they'd keep the people from the road."

"Ah! you will find the people friendly and kindly after a time.  You're
new to the place."

"Maybe so, m'lady.  I always was one for keeping myself to myself.  My
Granny brought me up strict.  I wish I hadn't lost her when I did."
She heaved a deep sigh.  "We had a sweet little place at home in
Warwickshire.  Such a pretty cottage, _and_ an orchard, _and_ the roses
climbin' about my window."

What matter that she said "winder"!  Her eyes, the pale large eyes, had
light in them as though she beheld a vision.

"'Twere all peace with my Granny and me," she went on.  "And her
Ladyship at the Court,--Mr. Neville was our Squire and her Ladyship was
Lady Frances Neville--used to drop in to see Granny, and she used to
say what a good girl I was, always busy with my needle and my book.
And our Rector's wife, Mrs. Farmiloe, she gave me a silver thimble when
I was nine--a prize for needlework.  Lady Frances used to say, 'Don't
you keep her too close to work, Mrs. Horridge.  A child must play with
other children.'  But my Granny she'd up and say: 'She's all I have,
and I'd rather bury her than see her trapesin' about with boys like
some I know.'  And there was Miss Sylvia peepin' at me from behind her
Ladyship and me peepin' at her from behind my Granny.  I went to the
Court at sixteen as sewing maid, and at twenty I was Miss Sylvia's own
maid.  She married Lord Southwater, and I'd have gone with her only I
couldn't leave my Granny.  She was failin', poor old soul!"

She paused and again she heaved the deepest of sighs.

"Beggin' your pardon, m'lady, for talkin' so much.  You'd maybe take a
look at the little place?" she said.

Lady O'Gara turned aside.  She was in no great hurry home and she was
interested in Susan.  Susan had padlocked the gate again and held the
key swinging from her finger, while she looked up at Lady O'Gara as
though her saying "yes" or "no" meant a great deal to her.

"I wonder what would happen if we wanted to get in or out by that gate
at night time," Lady O'Gara said.  "We don't use it much.  Still we
might want to and you might be in bed."

"I'd get up at any hour, m'lady," Susan said eagerly.  "I'm a light
sleeper: and it would only be to throw on something in a hurry."

She looked scared, as though her peace of mind was threatened, and Lady
O'Gara felt a pity for such manifest nervousness.  Susan would forget
her terror presently as she got further and further away from the bad
days.  Obviously she was very nervous.  Her eyes dilated and her breath
came and went as she gazed imploringly at Lady O'Gara.

"Don't look like that, Susan," Lady O'Gara said, almost sharply.  "You
look as though I were judge and executioner.  You shall keep your
padlocked gate.  After all it is a bad road, I don't think Sir Shawn
will want to take it, though it is the shortest way to Inch.  You did
not find the gate padlocked when you came?"

"No, m'lady.  'Twas Mr. Kenny.  He guessed I'd be frightened, so he
brought the padlock and put it on himself."

The finest little line showed itself in Lady O'Gara's smooth forehead.
Her skin was extraordinarily unfretted for her forty-five years of
life.  But now the little crease came, deepened and extended itself to
a line, where its presence had been unsuspected.

"Patsy is very kind," she said, with a penetrating glance at Susan.
What a pretty girl Susan must have been, so soft and pale and
appealing, a little human wood-anemone!  She would be very pretty again
when she had got over the scared look and the thinness which was almost
emaciation.  And how well that print suited her!  Lady O'Gara had sent
down a bundle of things to the South lodge, so that Susan might not
appear as a scarecrow to the people.  The print had pale green leaves
sprinkled over a white surface.  It suggested a snowdrop, perished by
the winter, as a comparison for Susan rather than the wood-anemone one.

"Indeed he's very kind," said Susan; and dropped a curtsey.  "The
clothes fitted Georgie as though they were made for him.  I'll be able
to use all you sent, m'lady, I'm such a good needlewoman.  I hope I may
mend your Ladyship's lace or any fine embroideries.  Once we're
settled--with Georgie away at school all day--I'll have a deal o' time
on my hands.  I'd like to do something for you, m'lady."

"So you shall, Susan.  Margaret McKeon, who has been with me since I
was a child, is no longer able for work that tries the eyes.  I promise
I'll keep you busy as soon as you get settled in here."

"Oh, m'lady!  Thank you, m'lady!" said Susan, colouring as though Lady
O'Gara had promised her something very delightful.  "I do love fine
needle-work, m'lady.  Any fine damask cloths or the like I'll darn so
you'd hardly know.  I'm never happier than when I'm sewin' an' my
Georgie reads a bit to me.  He's a good scholar, is my Georgie,
although he's but nine."

"You've made a pretty place of it," Lady O'Gara said, looking round the
lodge with satisfaction.  "I was afraid it was going to be a grimy
place for you, for it had been empty since old Mrs. Veldon died.  You
see we didn't know you were coming.  You've had it whitewashed."

"Yes, m'lady.  Mr. Kenny came and whitewashed it.  He was very good,
better than ever I can repay.  He cleaned out the little place for me.
The pots and pans turned in well.  And he lent me a few things
till,--maybe--I could earn a bit, washin' or mendin' or sewin'; I'm a
good dressmaker.  Maybe I could get work that way."

"There hasn't been a dressmaker in the village since the last one went
to America.  I'll ask the parish priest and the nuns to tell the women
you can dressmake.  You'll have your hands full."

Again Susan flushed delicately.

"I'm never so happy as when I've no time for thinkin'," she said.  "Any
work pleases me, but fine work best of all.  I can do lovely work
tuckin' and veinin'.  When I'm at it I'm happy.  'Tis like what drink
is to some people; it makes me forget."

The lodge was indeed altered from what Lady O'Gara remembered it, when
Mrs. Veldon lived there.  Mrs. Veldon had been so piteously sure than
any washing or whitewashing would kill her with rheumatism that she had
been left to her murky gloom.  Now, with a few gaily coloured pictures
of the Saints and Irish patriots on the walls, the dresser filled with
bright crockery, including a whole shelf of lustre jugs, the pots and
pans set out to advantage, to say nothing of the cans, a clean scrubbed
table, a few chairs, a strip of matting in front of the fireplace,
flowers in a jug on the table which also bore Susan's few implements of
sewing and a pile of white stuff, the place was homelike and pretty.

Lady O'Gara decided that Susan was one of the women who have the gift
of creating a home wherever they may be.  So much the worse, she added
in her own mind, not particularizing what it was that was so much the
worse.  Round Susan, standing meekly by the table while her Ladyship
sat, floated the mysterious aura which draws men and children as to a
warm hearth-fire.

So much the worse, thought Lady O'Gara, and commented to herself that
Patsy must have stripped his own house bare.  Those jugs were his, the
gay crockery, and the pictures of the Saints and patriots--she wondered
what appeal these might have for Susan--and that shelf of books in the
corner.  Patsy had a taste, laughed at by his fellows, for book-buying,
whenever the occasion arose.  He was well-known at auctions round about
the country, where he bought miscellaneous lots of books, with some few
ornaments as well.  She could see the backs of two books Patsy had a
great admiration for, "Fardarougha the Miser" and "Charles O'Malley";
and, on the chimney-piece, there were two large pink shells and a
weather house which she had often seen on Patsy's chimney-piece.  The
more solid pieces of furniture and some of the plain crockery had been
sent down from Castle Talbot.

"I see Patsy's been lending you his treasures," she said.

"Yes, indeed, m'lady.  I asked him not to, but he wouldn't take any
notice of me.  He said he'd no use for the things.  He's stripped
himself bare, m'lady.  I didn't know men were like that.  Small wonder
the dumb beasts love him.  I wonder he has anything left to give."

She spoke with such fervour that Lady O'Gara was touched.

"You've had a sad experience of men, my poor Susan," she said.  "But
you are quite right about Patsy.  There are few men as gentle as he is.
We all look on Patsy as a dear and valued friend.  I must find him some
other things to keep him from missing these.  Not books--I know his
house is piled with books.  He won't miss those, though he has given
you the ones he like best.  I wonder whether I could find pictures like
those.  I think I have seen that Robert Emmet, or something like it, in
a shop-window in Galway."

"I don't know who the gentlemen are," Susan said, looking from one
patriot to another, "and I didn't want to have them taken from his
walls.  I expect they've left a mark on the wall-paper where they were
taken down, for he said he'd got to do some papering for himself."

It was on Lady O'Gara's tongue to utter a gentle warning that Patsy
must not be too much about the South lodge, but the warning remained
unspoken.

"He's the best man I ever knew," said Susan, "I didn't know there was
his like in the world.  It's a strange thing, m'lady, that men can be
so different.  Listen, m'lady,--if Baker was to come back--you wouldn't
let him claim me?  The Master wouldn't let him claim me?  I'd drown
myself and the child before we'd go back to him.  He did knock us about
something cruel.  And my Georgie, so gentle that he'd move a heart of
stone.  I frightened Baker from laying a hand on Georgie; I told him
I'd kill him if I was to be hanged for it."

The woman's eyes, no longer gentle, blazed at Lady O'Gara.

"Hush!  Hush!" she said.  "He shall not trouble you.  If he should come
back..."

"He's found us out no matter where we've been.  Even good Christians
got tired at last of Baker comin' and askin' for his wife and son and
makin' a row and the police fetched, and it gettin' in the papers.
They give us up.  Oh, Lord, if they knew what they was givin' us up to!
They'd better have shot us."

"If he comes back he will be prosecuted for deserting you.  We shall
not give you up to him.  You may be sure of that.  Here is my hand on
it."

She held out a firm white hand which showed a couple of beautiful
rings.  Susan looked at it for a moment in amazement before she took
it.  The colour flooded back into her face.  Her eyes became quieter.
Then she took the hand and kissed it, hard.

"Thank you, m'lady," she said.  "I trust you."

Lady O'Gara walked to the door and paused to ask for news of Georgie,
who was already at school.  He was doing very well.  It was so easy for
him to reach the school by this gate, and he was beginning to get on
well with the boys; and Mr. McGroarty, Mr. O'Connell's successor, gave
a very favourable report of him.

"We feel so safe inside the big wall, me and Georgie," said Susan
Horridge.  "It isn't likely he'd come on us from the Park."  She looked
a little apprehensively over the beautiful prospect of trees in their
early Summer beauty, and the shining greensward; with the hills beyond.
Through an opening in the trees there was a glimpse of a deer feeding.

"No one here associates you with that man.  Patsy and I have taken care
of that," Lady O'Gara assured her.  "If he came back looking for you no
one could tell him where you were.  Would you like a dog for company?
There is a litter of puppies of Shot's breed in the stable-yard.  You
shall have one, if you like it."

"Is it like it?" asked Susan, her face lighting up,--"I should be very
pleased to have it.  So would Georgie.  That boy's fair gone on
animals."

"Those dogs make very good watch-dogs, though they are so gentle.  You
should see how Shot keeps walking before and behind me if he thinks he
sees a suspicious character when we are out walking!  I shall send down
a puppy, then."

Susan Horridge stood in her doorway shading her eyes with her hand, as
she looked after Lady O'Gara.  There were tears in her eyes.  "The Lord
didn't forget us," she said to herself.

"I shall have to speak to Patsy," Lady O'Gara was thinking as she
hurried along.  She was a little late for lunch.  "Poor Patsy!  It
would be a thousand pities if his heart should open to that poor
creature for the first time."



CHAPTER VI

STELLA

Mrs. Comerford and Stella arrived unexpectedly.  They found Lady O'Gara
at Inch.  She had gone over, taking Susan with her, to give the
finishing touch to the preparations.  There was a new staff of servants
under Clinch and Mrs. Clinch.  There were things the new servants might
have forgotten: and Mrs. Clinch was old and rheumatic now--not equal to
much climbing of stairs.  Lady O'Gara remembered many things which most
people would have forgotten, little things about the arrangement of
rooms and furniture, the choice of flowers, the way Mrs. Comerford had
liked the blinds drawn, all the trifling things which mean so much to
certain orderly minds.

She was in the bedroom which had been Mrs. Comerford's, was to be hers
again.  The room which had been Mary Creagh's was prepared for Stella.
The pink curtains which she remembered as faded had been laid away and
new pink curtains hung up.  The old ones were riddled with holes.  She
hoped Aunt Grace--she went back to the familiar name--would not miss
them, would be satisfied with the room, which looked so fresh with its
clean white paper and the pink carpet and cushions and curtains.  She
was filling bowls and vases with red and white roses, setting them
where the tired eyes of the travellers might rest upon them when they
came.  Probably they would arrive about ten o'clock.

The room looked over the lawns and paddocks at the back of the house.
She had not heard any sounds of arrival,--but--the bedroom door opened
suddenly and Mrs. Comerford came in.

"Clinch told me I should find you here, Mary," she said: and the two
who had loved each other and parted, with cold resentment on one side,
tears on the other, were looking into each other's eyes.

Lady O'Gara had often wondered,--she had been wondering, wondering,
during the last few days--how they should greet each other, what should
be the first words to pass between them.  The half-dreaded,
half-looked-for moment had come, and the greeting was of the tritest.

"We have arrived, you see," said Mrs. Comerford.  "We caught the Irish
Mail last night instead of staying the night in London."

"Oh,--did no one meet you?"

"We left the luggage and came up on Farrell's car.  It _was_ Farrell's
car, just as muddy and disreputable as I remember it.  It was driven by
old Johnny's son.  I am sorry Johnny is dead.  Perhaps the car is not
the same--but there is nothing to choose between that and the old one."

The meeting had taken place.  The great moment had come and gone: and
there was Aunt Grace talking about Farrell's car as though all that lay
between them had been but a dream.

Lady O'Gara's eyes suddenly filled with tears.

"Ah, you are tired," she said with soft tenderness, "you are tired!"

The change the years had wrought in the tall handsome woman who had
been queenly to her young mind overwhelmed her.  She forgot the dread
she had had of the meeting, which had destroyed any happy anticipation.
"Come and sit down," she said.  "Let me help you off with your cloak.
You will have breakfast?  What a long journey for you!"

Mrs. Comerford allowed herself to be put into the softest of the easy
chairs.  A look of gratification, of pleasure, came to her face.  She
allowed Lady O'Gara to take off her hat and long travelling cloak, to
unlace her shoes.

"You were always a kind creature," she said, "and it is nice to be home
again.  How beautiful the cloudy skies are!  Many and many a time
during those years I have wanted grey skies.  I've been sick even for a
whole wet day.  Do you think, Mary, that if we Westerners get to Heaven
we will want a wet day now and again?"

So the old resentment had gone.  How strange it was after all the grief
and estrangement to have Aunt Grace talking like this.  It encouraged
Lady O'Gara, sitting on the floor at Mrs. Comerford's feet, to pat the
foot from which she had drawn off the shoe, with a tender furtive
caress.

"You'd better get up, Mary.  I hear Clinch coming.  You have hardly
changed from the girl of twenty-five years ago.  Of course you are
plumper, more matronly.  You have a boy of twenty-one."

Clinch came in with the bag, followed by Mrs. Clinch with a tea-tray,
smiling broadly.

"The young lady said she'd have a bath before her breakfast, ma'am,"
she said, and there was a radiance about her old face which had not
been there for many a day.

"Breakfast--we had breakfast in the train.  Miss Stella cannot want
breakfast."  Mrs. Comerford smiled as she said it.  "She made a very
good breakfast in the train."

"She's young and the young want food.  'Tis a good day that's in it,
ma'am, to see you home again--with such a beautiful young lady too.
She'll make the house lively.  The first thing she did was to fling her
arms about Shot's neck,--Lady O'Gara's dog, ma'am.  For all he's a
proud, stand-off dog, he licked her face."

"Now, don't spoil Miss Stella.  Every one spoils her, so I suppose
there's no use expecting you to be the exception."

"She brings her love with her," said Mrs. Clinch.  "She's so delighted
with all she sees, and making friends with every one.  They'll be won
over by her: even old Tom Kane will give her the key of his garden, as
he calls it, before she's an hour in the place.  She'll be into his
strawberry beds that he's so jealous about, you'll see."

Mrs. Clinch went off.  Lady O'Gara poured out a cup of tea,
remembering, over all the years, that Mrs. Comerford liked only a
little sugar.  She found her slippers and put them on and brought a
footstool for feet to rest upon.  She was thinking that this Stella,
the young adopted daughter, explained the change in the woman before
her.  Mrs. Comerford had grown much softer.  She was still a
remarkable-looking woman, the wreck of stately beauty.  In her black
garments, which fell about her in flowing lines, she had the air of a
priestess.  Her age showed in her thinness, which was almost
emaciation, and her face was wrinkled and heavily lined.  Yet her smile
was more ready than Lady O'Gara remembered and her eyes quieter.  They
had been very blue eyes once upon a time--her son had had such blue
eyes--now, they had faded almost to lavender, and they were almost
gentle.  Yet there was something in the face, some suggestion of
burnt-out fires, which forbade the idea of a gentle nature, and the
lips were too thin for softness.

"Am I a wreck, Mary?" she asked.  "Yes, I know I am.  Some one took me
for a Duchess the other day, addressing me as 'Your Grace.'  Italy has
dried up my skin.  It will hardly revive at my time of life.  But I am
happy: you cannot imagine how Stella makes for happiness.  Stella and
age between them have broken me down.  A child could play with me."

She laughed as she said it.  Grace Comerford had not laughed much in
the old days.  Mary had adored her, with an adoration tinged with awe.
She had always felt in those days that it would be an awful thing to
offend Aunt Grace.  She had offended her and it had been awful.

"I am longing to see Stella," she said.

"She is very joyous.  I was becoming morose when I found her--like a
rogue elephant.  I was wrong, Mary, to make such a grievance of your
marriage.  You were a good child to me, and you would have pleased me
if you could.  I know better now than to be angry with you for caring
more for Shawn O'Gara than for my son.  You should have told me at the
time.  You shouldn't have let me believe that you cared for Terence.
Was I an ogre?  Perhaps I was.  I must have been."

"I wanted to please you _dreadfully_ in those days.  You had been
everything to me."

"You and Terence were everything to me.  Still--I should not have been
so unreasonable as to expect you to marry Terence to please me when you
liked Shawn O'Gara better.  I ought to have known that love does not
grow up like that.  You and Terence were almost brother and sister."

"Yes," said Lady O'Gara.  "We were so used to each other.  I was
eighteen when I first saw Shawn and we fell in love at first sight."
She blushed, with a startling effect of youth.  "Terence and I were
like brother and sister.  It would not have worked.  We were very fond
of each other, but no more than that.  You were wrong when you thought
Terence would have cared."

She had expected some disclaimer, remembering Mrs. Comerford's bitter
anger because her son had been supplanted by his friend, even while he
was yet in the world; but no disclaimer came.

"Yes, I was wrong.  I see it now.  I ought to have come back long ago
and said I was wrong.  I could not bring myself to do it, and--there
were other reasons.  It is very good to come back and to see you so
bonny, Mary, and to feel that we may live in love and peace as long as
I am here."

She drank her tea and looked round the room, with a sigh as though her
heart rested on what she saw.

"You have made the old room very sweet, Mary," she went on, "and you
have remembered my tastes.  Dear me, see those old things on the
chimney-piece!  Those crockery dogs,--how fond Terence was of them when
he was a child!  And that piece of agate, and the Rockingham lambs!  I
had almost forgotten them."

"You, had better come over to Castle Talbot to lunch," Lady O'Gara
said.  "I want you to see my boy.  He has just passed out of Sandhurst."

"A soldier?  How strange that I should have had to ask!  I left your
letters unanswered, but I always read them.  That was how I knew that
you had called your boy after my son."

"Yes, Terence has chosen to be a soldier, for some years, at least.
There is not very much doing now.  After a few years his father thinks
he might take to politics."

"I want to see him.  And I want you to see my girl."

She glanced towards the door as though she expected it to open.

"Eileen Creagh is with us.  You remember her father, Anthony Creagh.
He came here once or twice in old days.  She has lived with us for a
long time.  Terry was always at school.  It would have been lonely for
me without Eileen."

"Yes, I remember I did not like Anthony Creagh because I thought he
came for your sake.  He married a fair girl, very unlike you.  I've
forgotten her name."

"Eileen is very pretty, like her mother.  Beautiful soft silver-gold
hair and greyish blue eyes: she is very gentle."

"Characterless?"

Lady O'Gara smiled ever so slightly.  "Oh, she has character, I think."

"No one will look at her when Stella is by.  You will see.  She has no
animation; I know her kind.  By the way, you have Patsy Kenny still
with you?  You told me about Patsy in the letters I did not answer."

"Still with us.  He is an institution--like the Shots.  I have a Shot
still--the great-grandson of old Shot.  I don't know what we should do
without Patsy.  He has such a wonderful way with the horses,--with all
animals, indeed."

"He'll adore Stella.  She's so fearless with animals.  Many a fright
she gave me when she was a child.  But the animals, even when they were
savage with others, never hurt her.  There was an awful day when we
found her with the boarhound puppies at Prince Valetti's Villa in her
arms, and the mother looking on well-pleased.  She was a savage brute
to other people.  The Prince was ready to shoot her if she had turned
nasty with Stella: but there was no occasion.  Stella scrambled through
the barrier when we called her name."

"Is she like a French girl?"

"No: why should she be?"

"I suppose I was wrong.  I thought she was the child of Gaston de St.
Maur, who used to visit us here."

"Her mother was Irish," Mrs. Comerford said.

"And she is like her mother?"

Before Mrs. Comerford could answer there came a knocking as of knuckles
on the door.

"Come in, my darling," Mrs. Comerford said, her face lighting up.

A charming girlish face looked in at the open door.

"May I?  Is it Lady O'Gara whom my dearest Mamma so greatly loves?"

There was the slightest foreign intonation in the voice,--something of
deliberate utterance, as though English was not the language of the
speaker.

The girl came into the room and towards them.  She was charming.  Her
hair curled in rings of reddish brown on her little head.  Her eyes
were grey with something of brown in the iris: her eyebrows strongly
marked.  She had a straight beautiful little nose, lips softly opening,
a chin like that of the Irish poet's "Mary Donnelly," "round as a china
cup."  There was something softly graceful about her as she came into
the room.  She looked down, then up again.  Her eyes,--were they grey?
They were brown surely, almost gold.  Her little head was held as
though she courted a caress.

"I am so glad you have come back, Stella," Lady O'Gara said, fascinated
straight off by this charming vision.

"I wonder how Mamma stayed away so long," Stella returned.  "The sweet
house, the beautiful grey country."  She took Lady O'Gara's hand and
kissed it lightly; yet with an air of reverence,--"the beloved people."

"The country will not prove too grey for you, I hope, Stella," Lady
O'Gara said, feeling touched and pleased by the girl's air of homage.
"My husband's mother, who was an Italian, said that the grey skies made
her weep when first she came to Ireland.  They were so unlike Italian
skies."

"I must be Irish then," said the girl, "for I adore them.  Even when it
rains I shall not weep."

"She has something of your colouring, Mary; don't you think so?" Mrs.
Comerford asked.

"Yes, perhaps--more golden."

She was feeling surprised at herself.  This girl made more appeal to
her than Eileen Creagh whom she had had with her from childhood.  This
girl touched some motherly chord in her which Eileen had never
awakened.  She wanted to stroke her dear curls, to be good to her.  Yet
she had been telling herself all those years, that she had no need for
a daughter, having Terry.



CHAPTER VII

BRADY'S BULL

The meeting between Eileen Creagh and Stella Comerford brought the
flying dimple to Lady O'Gara's cheek.  She watched them as though they
were young children meeting in the shy yet uncompromising atmosphere of
the nursery.

Stella was inclined to be friendly and then drew back, chilled by
something she detected in Eileen's manner.  Eileen was indifferently
polite.

Terry and his father were out when the party arrived for luncheon, but
they returned very soon afterwards.  Lady O'Gara's attention was
otherwise absorbed so that she did not notice the sudden delighted
friendliness in Terry towards Stella nor the quick withdrawal into
sullenness which spoilt Eileen's looks for the luncheon-hour.

Lady O'Gara was wondering about her husband.  Why should he have looked
so startled when his eye fell on Stella?  He had known that she was
coming.  To Lady O'Gara's anxious eye Sir Shawn looked pale.  He had
been pale of late, with curious shadows about his face, but when she
had asked him if he was not feeling well he had answered with an air of
lightness that he felt as well as ever he had felt.

At the luncheon table he sat with his back to the light.  The
persistence of those shadows in his face worried her loving heart.  She
wondered if Mrs. Comerford saw a great change in him.  It ought to have
been a very happy occasion.  Mrs. Comerford had met Shawn with an air
of affection mingled with deprecation, as though she asked pardon for
the old unreason.  If she saw that the years had changed him she made
no sign.

"I have stayed away a long time from you and Mary," she said.  "I had
made it difficult for myself to come back: but I have wanted to come
back.  Now I hope we shall remain neighbours to the end."

Sir Shawn had not responded as he ought to have done.  He had worn a
queer look.  After a while his wife had found the proper adjective for
it: his eyes were haunted.  He might have seen a ghost.  It distracted
her from her talk across the table with Mrs. Comerford, happy talk of
friends long parted and re-united, full of "Don't you remember?" and
"Have you forgotten?": arrears of talk in which so much had to be
explained, so many fates elucidated.  It might have been so happy if
only Shawn had not worn that odd look.

Once Lady O'Gara thought she caught his eyes fixed with a gloomy
intentness on the group of young people at the other end of the table.
She glanced that way, and the ready smile came.  Terry was making
himself very agreeable to the two pretty girls.  It was obvious, even
at a glance, that Eileen had little chance against the new-comer's
vivacity.  She sat with her lips pursed a little and something of gloom
on her face.  Terry, between his sallies with Stella, who was at once
shy and bright, full of those charming glances out of the eyes which
were grey at one moment, golden brown at another,--sent now and again a
tenderly apologetic look Eileen's way, trying to draw the sulking
beauty into the conversation.  There was nothing for Shawn to be gloomy
about in this little comedy.  Terry was always so sweetly amiable.

In the days that followed the comedy unfolded itself.  Stella was very
often at Castle Talbot, or they were at Inch.  Terry was evidently
drawn towards Stella, while loyally endeavouring to keep up his former
attitude towards Eileen.  If Eileen wished to keep him she went the
worst possible way about it, for she sulked, and sulkiness did not
become her.  Her fair skin took on a leaden look.  She repulsed
Stella's advances till Stella was hurt and vexed.

"Eileen will not be friends with me," she complained to Lady O'Gara.
"She is so cold.  That lovely pale hair of hers I took it in my hands
one day when it was undone, and it was cold as ice.  Her heart is like
her hair.  Why will she not like me?"

Why not, indeed?  Apart from the fact that Stella chattered, pretty
chatter like the singing of a bird, and was so quickly intelligent
about everything, and so interested in the new life that the slower
Eileen was rather left out of things, her attitude towards Eileen was
most disarming.  She admired her greatly and was evidently quite
unaware of her own good looks.  She tried to win her over with gifts,
which Eileen accepted, while she was not propitiated.

"She will not like me," Stella complained with a flash of tears in her
eyes, "if I was to give her my heart she would not like me."

"You should not have given her your seed-pearls," said Lady O'Gara.
"It is too valuable a gift to pass from one girl to another."

It was beginning to dawn on her that Eileen was greedy and selfish.
Perhaps she had had intuitions of it when Eileen had disappointed her.
Eileen was only friendly to Stella when she wanted something.  Once she
had obtained it she relapsed into her former coldness.  Lady O'Gara
realized that Eileen had always been greedy.  She had laid Terry under
heavy toll for small attentions and such gifts as he might give her.
Eileen's incessant eating of chocolate had made Lady O'Gara wonder how
she could give so good an account of herself at meal-times.  She
smoked--it was a new fashion of which Lady O'Gara did not altogether
approve--a cigarette now and again and Terry supplied the gold-tipped,
scented kind which Eileen took from a cigarette case of platinum with
her name in turquoise at the corner.  The cigarette case was a new
possession.  Lady O'Gara supposed that it came from Terry.  She had not
asked.  A violet scent, so good that on its first introduction Lady
O'Gara had cried out that some one was wearing wet violets, now always
heralded Miss Creagh's coming into a room.

There were some things which had not come from Terry.  When Lady O'Gara
had noticed them Eileen had said carelessly that they were given her by
Robin Gillespie, the son of the doctor at Inver, and a doctor himself
in the Indian Army.  Anthony Creagh and his wife had an overflowing
quiverful.  Lady O'Gara made excuses for the girl who must have had it
in her blood to do without.  Still, Robin Gillespie, the doctor's son
at Inver, could not have much to spare, but apparently he had given
Eileen a good many trinkets.

"When does Terry join his regiment?" Sir Shawn asked his wife one day
with a certain sharpness.

"Not till September."

"And it is now August.  A pity he should waste his time philandering."

"Does he philander?"

Lady O'Gara's voice had a hurt sound in it.  She found nothing amiss in
her one child.

"He philandered with Eileen till Stella came.  Now apparently he
inclines to Stella.  He mustn't play fast and loose with girls."

"It sounds so ugly, Shawn.  Terry is incapable of such a thing,--as
incapable as you yourself.  He is not the flirting sort.  He is just a
simple boy."

There was something piteous in her voice.

Her husband lifted her face by the chin till he looked down into her
eyes.

"If he were like me he would only have one love," he said.  "You made
your own of me, Mary, altogether, from the first moment I saw you."

Stella had made friends with every one round about her.  She was in and
out of the cottages.  She knew all about the old people's ailments and
nursed all the children.  Eileen complained with a fastidious disgust
that Stella did not seem to know whether the children were dirty or
clean.  She kissed and hugged them all the same.  In likewise she loved
and petted the animals and so commended herself hugely to Patsy Kenny.

"She's worth twenty of Miss Eileen," he said.  "All I'm afeard of is
she'll run herself into danger.  She doesn't know what fear is.  She
ups and says to me the other day whin I bid her not make too free with
the mares that the only rayson the crathurs ever was wicked was that
men wasn't good to them."

"I've heard you say the same yourself, Mr. Kenny," said Susan Horridge,
over the half-door of whose lodge he was leaning.  He often paid Susan
a visit in this uncomfortable fashion, refusing a chair in the kitchen
or even one outside.

"So you have," Patsy acknowledged, and made as if to go; but lingered
to ask what Mrs. Horridge thought of Miss Stella.

"I like fair hair best myself," he said, with a shy glance at Susan's
hair, neatly braided around a face that began to have soft, even plump,
contours once more.

"Miss Eileen has a lovely head of hair," Susan acknowledged.

"And yet," said Patsy, "Miss Stella's my choice.  Did you ever take
notice of her side-face?  It's the purtiest, softest thing I ever seen.
I think I seen somethin' like it wance, but where I disremimber."

"Which of the young ladies is Mr. Terry sweet on, Mr. Kenny?"

"Bedad, I don't know, ma'am."  Patsy scratched his head.  "I wouldn't
be sure he's not sweet on the two o' them."

A day came when the two girls, crossing the fields by a short cut,
found themselves face to face with a very fine bull.  They had not
noticed him till they came quite near him.  Their path wound round by a
little wood which, since it belonged to the paddock of the mares, was
surrounded by high hurdles.  The bull must have broken into the field,
for he had no right to be there.  The piece of rope hanging from his
neck showed that he had escaped from bondage.

The path curved gently by the edges of the coppice.  They came upon the
bull unawares.  He was grazing when they first saw him, his fine curled
head half-buried in the long grass.

"It is Brady's bull," Eileen said in a whisper.  "He is not to be
trusted.  And--he sees your red cloak."

The bull lifted his head and stared at them.  Eileen had slipped behind
Stella and had begun to retreat backwards.

The bull stamped with his foot and emitted a low roar.  Stella did not
seem to feel afraid.  She kept her eye steadily on the bull.  The day
was chilly and Lady O'Gara had wrapped the girls up in Connemara cloaks
of red and blue flannel.  She had put the blue one about Eileen's
shoulders, remarking that it matched her eyes.

"Run, Eileen, run," Stella said quietly without taking her eyes from
the bull.  "Keep the gate open for me."

Eileen ran with a will, never looking back to see what was happening.

Stella took off the red cloak.  The bull had put his head to the earth
as though about to charge.  He roared, a roar that seemed to shake the
ground.  As he came on she flung the offending garment on to his horns
and stepped to one side.

She did not wait to see the result.  She could run like Atalanta.  It
was a pretty good sprint to the gate, which closed and opened by an
iron switch.  As she ran, the roars of the bull followed her.  He was
rending Lady O'Gara's Connemara cloak.  Presently he would discover
that the perpetrator of this outrage upon his dignity was yet in sight.

She was some distance from the gate when she heard the thudding of the
bull behind her.  For a second or two she did not discover that Eileen
was not holding the gate open for her.  It was apparently shut to.
Would she have time to open it before the bull came up!  The switch,
which was new, took some pressure to move.  Would she have time?

She had just a wild hope that Eileen might have left the gate
unfastened.  She flung herself against it.  No, the switch had fallen
into its place: there was no time, no time even to climb the gate.  The
bull was upon her with a rush.  She felt the wind of his approach.  She
closed her eyes and clung to the gate.  Her mind was never clearer.
She saw herself trampled and gored, flung in the air and to earth again
a helpless thing for the bull to wreak his wrath upon.

Suddenly there was a shout, close at hand, almost at her ear.
Something hurtled through the air, a stone flung with an unerring aim
which struck the bull in the forehead.  The gate opened with her and
she felt herself drawn through the opening while the switch fell with a
sharp click.

"I say, that was a near thing!" said Terry O'Gara.  "You're not going
to faint, are you?  Just look at that chap tearing up my old football
blazer.  Thank God, it isn't you."

"Where is Eileen?" she asked.  "She was terribly frightened."

"I know," he answered, somewhat grimly.  "I dare say she has done a
faint.  I left her over there by the stile.  She was sitting down,
recovering herself.  Lucky I heard the roars of the bull and was so
close at hand.  I suppose it was Eileen who shut the gate.  She made
some sort of explanation, but there was no time to listen.  What a
fright you've had, you poor child!"

The bull, having reduced the blazer to rags like the Connemara cloak,
had trotted away and was grazing quietly, some of the tattered pieces
still hanging to his horns, with an odd effect of absurdity.

"I never thought an animal could be so alarming," said Stella.

"You must be more careful in future," he answered.  "Not that I want
you to be afraid--like Eileen.  This brute had no business here.  He
must have broken through the hedge.  He might have got into the foals'
paddock.  There's a way in for anything very determined where the water
runs in that far ditch."

"Oh, I'm glad he didn't get in among the pretty foals."

"It would have been a horrible thing, but better the foals than you."

He looked at her with a simple boyish tenderness.  There was something
childish about her beauty, something boyish about the slight figure and
the curly head, borne out by her frank gaze.

"I wish I had killed the brute," he said, with a vengeful glance in the
direction of the quietly-feeding bull.

"You probably cut him with that stone, poor beast."

"Yes: it had a good sharp edge.  How lucky I found it just there!"

He noticed that she turned very pale.  Quickly his arm went round her
to give her support.

"You poor little thing!" he said.  "I am so sorry.  Are you better now?"

The colour came back to her face.  She withdrew gently from his arm.

"I am all right," she said.  "It was splendid how you came to my
rescue."

Her frank eyes thanked him in a way he found bewildering.  He was very
goodly in his flannels, with his alert slender darkness and his bright
eyes, softened now as his gaze rested upon her.

"It won't make you afraid?" he asked anxiously.  "I mean, of course,
you must be cautious; but any one would be afraid of Brady's bull.
Don't be timid like Eileen, who screams if a foal trots up to her, and
is afraid even of Shot."

He had quite forgotten the time when he had found Eileen's timidity
pleasing.

"Oh, I shall not be afraid of Shot, or the foals," she said, and
laughed.  "After all," she lifted her eyes to him as though she asked
for pardon--"any one might be afraid of a bull.  I'm not a coward for
that."

"Of course you're not," he answered, with a sound in his voice as
though she was very pleasant to him.  "Bulls are treacherous brutes."

They went back slowly to where Eileen sat watching their approach
gloomily.

"Well!" she said.  "You've been a long time.  Wasn't that a horrid
brute?  I never ran such danger in my life before."

"Stella ran a greater because you had taken care to slam the gate after
you," Terry said, with young condemning eyes.  "I was only just in time
to save her from that brute."

"Oh well, I was frightened.  I only thought of getting away as far as I
could from him.  I shan't walk in the fields again in a hurry.  If it
isn't horses, it's bulls."

Eileen's face kept its unbecoming gloom on the homeward way, even
though she pressed very close to Terry for protection whenever they
came near the feeding horses, or one of them trotted up to be petted
and stroked.  She knew she was disapproved of, and the knowledge was
unpleasant to her, although it did not cause her any searchings of
conscience.  Eileen always took the line of least resistance, as her
clever sister, Paula, who was a B.A. of Dublin University, had said.



CHAPTER VIII

SIR SHAWN SEES A GHOST

"There's a blast o' talk goin' through the place like an earthquake,"
said Patsy Kenny to Sir Shawn, "that the little cottage down by the
waterfall is took by a stranger woman."

There was "a blast of talk" even about trifles among the
country-people, from whom Patsy kept his distance with an abhorrence of
gossip and curiosity about other people's business.  Many a one had
tried to pump Patsy,--the people had an inordinate curiosity about
their "betters"--and of late tongues had been very busy with the return
of Mrs. Comerford and the reconciliation with Lady O'Gara: also with
Miss Stella and her parentage.  Those who tried to pump Patsy Kenny
about these matters embarked, and they knew it, on perilous seas.
Patsy's stiff face as he repelled the gossips was a sight to see.  He
had also to keep at bay many questions about Susan Horridge and her
boy, in doing which he showed some asperity and thereby gave a handle
to the gossips.

"I should have thought the cottage by the waterfall a damp place," said
Sir Shawn, indifferently.  He was not much interested in the petty
happenings of the neighbourhood.

"She won't stay," Patsy went on with a shake of his head.  "They'll get
at her about ould Hercules.  A lone woman like that will be scared out
of her life.  I saw her in Dunphy's shop buyin' her little bits of
food.  She's not the common sort.  She was all in black, with a veil
about her face.  She'll have no truck with them long-tongued people
about here."

"Oh, a superior class?" said Sir Shawn, now faintly interested.  The
Waterfall Cottage was his property.  He supposed Norman, who lived in
the town and did his legal business, had let it.

"Not to say a lady," said Patsy, "but nigh hand one.  She have the
little place rale snug and comfortable.  She'll keep herself to
herself.  There's two lone women in it now, herself and Mrs. Horridge.
Mrs. Horridge do be drawin' the water from the well behind the
Waterfall Cottage, and this Mrs. Wade kem out an' spoke to her.  She
took great notice of Georgie.  The schoolmaster's well contint with
Georgie.  He takes to the Irish like a duck to water.  The master do be
sayin' he's better at the language nor them that should be spakin' it
be rights.  He'll have him doin' a trifle o' poetry in it by the
Christmas holidays."

"Oh!  So the two lonesome women have made friends with each other.
Between them they'll be a match for Hercules' ghost," Sir Shawn said,
faintly smiling.

By this time Terry had joined his regiment, and Eileen had gone for a
time to her parents.  She usually went home rather unwillingly,
complaining of the discomfort of the tightly packed house.  Apparently
she did not add to the joy of her family during those periodic visits
and she made no pretence of eagerness about going.  But this time, for
some reason, she was quite pleased to go.  She even set about
refurbishing her wardrobe, and was not above accepting help from
Stella, who was very quick with her needle and possessed a
Frenchwoman's art in making excellent use of what materials came her
way.  These preparations somewhat mystified Lady O'Gara, for usually
Eileen took only her less reputable garments when she went home,
because she had to live in her trunk, or share a wardrobe with two
sisters, who would hang their roughest garments over her evening frocks
if she were to bring them.

Lady O'Gara sometimes wondered if she had chosen wisely in selecting
Eileen from Anthony Creagh's quiverful to be her companion during the
years Terry was at school and college.  The others had been tumbling
over each other like frolicsome young puppies when the choice was made;
Eileen had been sitting placidly eating bread and honey.  She
remembered that Anne Creagh had said that Eileen would always get the
best of things!  To Lady O'Gara's eyes, the demure little girl, with a
golden plait hanging down each side of her face, and the large blue
eyes, had looked like a little Blessed Mary in the Temple of Albrecht
Dürer.

Perhaps she had not chosen.  Perhaps Eileen had chosen her, when she
said to Anne Creagh, "Dear Anne, you have so many girls.  Lend me one
for company.  I shall be very good to her and shall only keep her
during your pleasure."

Eileen had heard the speech, and had seized on Lady O'Gara, not to be
detached.  When it had come to longer and longer visits, so that Eileen
was oftener at Castle Talbot than at home, Anne Creagh had said, "Ah,
well, Eileen knows what is good for her.  The others don't.  They've no
worldly wisdom.  There is Hilary, who runs away from every school we
send him to.  They are all like Hilary, except Eileen.  She's a
changeling."

With Terry gone, Eileen had put off her sulkiness.  Lady O'Gara came on
the two girls one day at work on a pink billowy stuff, which was
evidently going to be an evening-frock.  At least Stella was at work,
and Eileen was looking on.  Eileen usually commandeered some one to her
service when any sewing was to be done.  She had confessed that she
could not endure to have her forefinger pricked by the needle.

"You are going to be very smart, Eileen," Lady O'Gara said.  "This
looks like gaieties at Inver."

"There may be some," answered Eileen, colouring slightly.  "There are
some soldiers under canvas at Inver Hill."

Lady O'Gara referred to Eileen's preparations a little later in talking
with her husband.  Sir Shawn had got a bee in his bonnet about Terry
and Eileen.  For the first time during all their years of love he had
been irritable with his wife about Terry--Terry, who had given them so
little trouble in his twenty years of life.

"I am glad she has the spirit," he said.  "A pretty girl like Eileen
need not go wasting her charms on a young ass who doesn't know his own
mind."

"Oh, Shawn!  Poor Terry!"

"Terry has been playing fast and loose with Eileen."

"He would not like to hear you say so," Lady O'Gara said, with a proud
and wounded air.

"There you go, Mary, getting your back up!  Your one son can do no
wrong.  Do you deny that he was philandering after Eileen before Stella
came, and that he has been philandering after Stella since?"

"Do you know, Shawn," Lady O'Gara said, with sudden energy, "that, fond
as I am of Eileen, I think she has not the stuff in her to hold a boy
like Terry.  There is something lethargic in her.  I'm afraid she is a
little selfish.  She can be very sweet when she likes, but I think at
heart she is cold."

"This is a late discovery, Mary."

Lady O'Gara laughed, a little ruefully.

"I think it is a very old discovery," she said.  "Anne said to me
once--she never pretended that she loved Eileen as well as some of the
others--that Eileen had a way of looking at her when she was in high
spirits or something of the sort that was like a douche of cold water.
I have had the lame experience myself.  Eileen said something the other
day about 'at your age.'  I felt ninety, all of a sudden."

"Nonsense, Mary!  Eileen adores you."

Lady O'Gara said no more.  She let pass, with a shrug of her shoulders,
her husband's accusation that she was fickle like Terry, putting away
the old love for the new.

Suddenly Sir Shawn asked a direct question.

"Are you quite certain about Stella's parentage, Mary?  She _is_ the
child of that French soldier, St. Maur, was it? and the Irish
governess?"

"Of course, Shawn."

It had never occurred to Lady O'Gara to doubt it.

She looked at her husband with wondering eyes.  The lights in her brown
eyes were as deep and quiet now as when she was in her young beauty.
She had a sudden illumination.  Was _that_ the bee in Shawn's bonnet?
There had been a certain silence about Stella's parentage.  She thought
she understood it.  Mrs. Comerford had always been jealous of her
loves.  She did not wish it recalled that Stella, whom she adored, had
not belonged to her by any tie of blood.  Shawn must have got it into
his head that the mystery might cover something disgraceful.

"You may be quite sure, Shawn," she said, her candid eyes fixed on him:
"There was nothing to conceal.  Aunt Grace has told me _everything_."

His face cleared.  "Then I confess," he said almost gaily, "that Stella
is a young angel.  Perhaps I was too hard on Terry."

The evenings began to draw in.  Sir Shawn missed his boy.  The hunting
season was at hand.  The opening meet was to be at Dunmara Cross-Roads
in a fortnight's time.  Lady O'Gara went out perhaps once a week.  The
other days Sir Shawn would miss Terry jogging along beside him, on the
way to the meet in the morning, full of cheerful anticipation; riding
homewards, tired and happy, in the dusk.  Stella had never ridden to
hounds.  She had done little riding, indeed, since the days at the
advanced Roman Convent when the girls went out on the Campagna in a
flock, in charge of a discreet riding master, of unimpeachable age and
plainness.

He was thinking as he rode home one evening, with the dusk closing in,
that it would be pleasant to have Stella with him when Mary was not
available.  It was one tangible thing against Eileen that she did not
like horses.  Anthony Creagh's daughter!  It seemed incredible to Sir
Shawn, as it did to Patsy Kenny, that any one should not like horses.

There was a little mare not quite up to racing standard which he
thought would just do for Stella.  Indeed, though he did not know it,
Patsy Kenny had put the idea into his head.

"That wan 'ud carry a lady in less than no time," Patsy had said, "A
lady about the size of Miss Stella.  She'd take the ditches like a
bird."

But Patsy was always talking in his slow way, and Sir Shawn was not
always listening to him, or he seemed not to listen.  He had a way of
forgetting his surroundings and travelling off to a distance where even
she who loved him best could not follow.  But sometimes he heard when
he did not seem to hear and was unconscious of having heard.  He was
going to ride Mustapha this Winter as soon, he said with his slow
smile, as Patsy Kenny would permit it.  Mustapha, although a beautiful
creature to look at, had not yet been "whispered" by Patsy.  He had
still an uncommonly nasty temper, and indeed most of the tricks a horse
could possess.  Sir Shawn thought some hard work would improve
Mustapha's temper, but Patsy remained oddly unwilling.  "Give me a week
or two longer to get over him," he would say when Sir Shawn proposed to
ride Mustapha.

He had lunched one day with Sir James Dillon, fourteen miles off, and
had waited for tea, and on the way home his horse had lost a shoe.  He
hoped Mary would not be anxious.  He had said he would be home by five,
and had meant it; but Lady Dillon, who was, her friends said, the
wittiest woman in Ireland, had so beguiled the time in the
billiard-room after lunch that he had not noticed it passing.  And,
since he was not the man to ride a horse who had lost a shoe, he had
walked the last six Irish miles of the road.

Very seldom did he take the road on which Terence Comerford had been
killed, more than twenty years back.  One could avoid it by a détour,
so he had only taken it when necessity called for the short road, and
he had always found it an ordeal.  But he was not going to put an extra
mile on to the tired horse because of his own feelings.

He had come near the dreaded spot where Terence Comerford had been
flung on to the convenient heap of shingle.  Already he could hear the
roar of the water where it tumbled over the weir like long green hair.
Above it on either side the banks of the river rose steeply.  On the
side nearest to him was the Mount, in the heart of which Admiral
Hercules O'Hart had chosen to be buried.  It was covered thickly with
trees.  In Spring it was beautiful with primroses which showed not a
leaf between, a primrose sea which seemed in places as though a wave
had run forward into the lower slopes of green grass and retreated
leaving a foam of primroses behind.

The horse pulled up sharply at the sound of the waterfall and stood
quivering in the darkness.  There was a glimmer of light overhead, but
because of the thick trees this road was very dark.

"It is only the water falling over the weir, you foolish thing!" he
said, caressing the long brown nose of the little horse.

The horse answered with a whinny and, talking to him to distract his
attention, Sir Shawn got him along.  Perhaps the horse knew that his
master's heart was cold.  It was a well-nigh unendurable pain to Sir
Shawn to pass the place where the friend of his youth and boyhood had
been killed.

Suddenly the horse jibbed again.  A long ray of light had streamed out
on to the darkness of the road.  At first Sir Shawn thought it was a
hooded lantern.  Few came this road, unless it might be a stranger who
did not know the countryside traditions.  But the light was steady; it
did not move as a lantern carried in the hand would have done.

It flashed upon him what it was.  The woman in the Waterfall Cottage
must have lit her lamp, forgetting to shutter her window which looked
upon the road.  The cottage turned a gable to the road, from which a
paling divided it.  Otherwise the little place was hidden away behind a
wall, approached by a short avenue from a gate some distance away.  A
pretty place, with a garden that looked on to the fields, but very
lonely for one woman, and too near the water.

The light remained steady.  As though it gave him confidence, the horse
went on quietly, feeling his master's hand upon him.  Just opposite the
gable of the cottage a wall of loose stones led into the O'Hart park.
The house had been long derelict and was going to be pulled down, now
that the Congested Board, as the people called it, had acquired the
O'Hart property.

Any one who wanted to go that way knocked down a stone from the wall.
There was a little cairn there always, though the employees of the
Board were constantly putting back the stones.

The light from the cottage fell full on the cairn.  Sir Shawn's eyes
rested on it and were quickly averted.  There the heap of stones for
mending the road had lain that night long ago when Spitfire, had run
away with Terence Comerford and thrown him.  There had been blood on
the stones--blood and ... and ... brains.  Horrible!

Sir Shawn had come level now with the long ray of light.  At the edge
of it he paused.  He could see plainly the interior of the room.  The
unshaded lamp threw its bright light into every corner of the room.  It
was comfortable and homelike.  The furniture had belonged to the
previous tenant of the cottage and had been taken over by the estate.
It was good, old-fashioned furniture of a certain dignity.  The
grandfather clock by the wall, the tall mahogany bookcase, the sofa and
chairs covered in red damask, were all good.  There was a round convex
mirror above the fireplace and some pictures on the wall.  The fire
burned brightly, toning down somewhat the hard unshaded lamplight.

A woman was sitting by the fire.  She was in black with a white collar
and cuffs.  Her hair was braided about her head.  She sat with her
cheek resting in her hand, a pensive figure.

As though she knew she was being watched she started, turning her face
sharply towards the window.  Evidently she had forgotten to pull down
the blind.  As she turned, her face was in the full lamplight.

"My God!" Sir Shawn said to himself.  "My God!"

He stood for a few seconds as though in pain, leaning against the
horse's side, before he went on.  When he lifted his head darkness had
come again.  The window had been shuttered.



CHAPTER IX

THE LETTER

From the pile of her letters one morning a month or so later, Lady
O'Gara picked out one and eyed it with distaste.  It looked mean.  The
envelope of flimsy paper was dirty.  Some emanation came from the thing
like a warning of evil: she laid it on one side, away from her honest
respectable letters.

While she read through one or two of these the disreputable letter
awaiting her attention worried her.  It was something importunate,
disagreeable, like a debased face thrust in at her door.  With a sigh
she turned to it, to get it out of the way before she opened Terry's
letter, clean and dandyish, written on the delicate paper the Regiment
affected.

She held the thing gingerly by the edge, and, going away from the
table, she stood by the fire while she opened it.  A smell of
turf-smoke came out of it,--nothing worse than that.  Perhaps, after
all, it was only one of the many appeals for help which came to her
pretty constantly.


"HONOURED MADAM,--This is from one who wishes you no harm, but onley
good.  There is a woman lives in the Waterfall Cottage your husband
goes to see often.  Such doins ought not to be Aloud.

"From your sinceer Well-Wisher,
  XXX."


If it had been a longer letter she would not have read it.  It was so
short and written so legibly that the whole disgraceful thing leaped at
her in a single glance.

As though it had been a noxious reptile which had bitten her she flung
it from her into the heart of the brightly burning fire of wood and
turf.  A little flame sprang up and it was gone, just as Sir Shawn came
into the room.

They had the breakfast room to themselves now that there were no
visitors, but Lady O'Gara hesitated to speak.  She had no intention of
keeping the matter of the anonymous letter from her husband, but she
wanted to let him eat his breakfast in peace, and to talk later on,
secure from possible interruptions.

She gave him scraps of news from her letters, and from _The Times_ of
the preceding day, which reached them at their breakfast table.  She
felt disturbed and agitated, but only as one does who has received an
insult.  She would be better when she had told Shawn about the horrid
thing.

Her restlessness, so unlike her usual benign placidity, at last
attracted her husband's notice.

"Any disturbing news, Mary?" he asked.

"Nothing."  Her hand hovered over Terry's letter.  "Terry thinks he can
get a few days' leave next week for the pheasants and bring a couple of
brother-officers with him."

"H'm!" Sir Shawn said, a little grimly.  "He hasn't been away very
long.  I suppose Eileen is coming back."

"She comes on Monday."

"I expect he knows it."

"Perhaps he does.  Have you finished, Shawn?  Another cup of tea?  No?
I want to talk to you, dear.  Will you come out to the Robin's Seat.
It is really a beautiful morning."

"Let me get my pipe."

Unsuspiciously he found his pipe and tobacco pouch and followed her.
The Robin's Seat was a wooden seat below a little hooded arch, under a
high wall over which had grown all manner of climbing wall-plants.  The
arbour and the seat were on the edge of a path which formed the
uppermost of three terraces: below the lowest the country swept away to
the bog.  The wall, made to copy one in a famous Roman garden, was
beautiful at all times of the year, with its strange clinging and
climbing plants that flourished so well in this mild soft air.  In
Autumn it was particularly beautiful with its deep reds and golds and
purples and bronzes.  The Robin's Seat was a favourite resting-place of
these two married lovers, who fed the robins that came strutting about
their feet, and even perched on their knees, asking a crumb.

Despite the disturbance of her mind Lady O'Gara had not forgotten her
feathered pensioners.  She threw crumbs to them as she talked, and the
robins picked them up and flirted their little heads and bodies
daintily, turning a bright inquiring eye on her when the supply ceased.

"Well, Mary?"

"I hate to tell you, Shawn."  She brushed away the last crumbs from her
lap.  "I did not tell you the truth when I said there was nothing
disturbing among my letters."

"I knew there was something.  We have not lived so long together for me
not to know you through and through.  And you are as open as the day."

"It was a horrid thing, a creeping, lying thing."

"An anonymous letter."  His eyes fluttered nervously under the droop of
the long lashes.  "You should have put it in the fire, darling."

"I did.  There was so little of it that unfortunately I saw it all at a
glance.  It is horrid to think that any one about here could do such a
thing."

Suddenly she laughed.  She had a peculiarly joyous laugh.

"They,--whoever wrote it--should have said something more likely to be
believed.  They said--I beg your pardon for telling you, Shawn--that
you were visiting a lady at the Waterfall Cottage."

She was looking at him and suddenly she saw the shadows come in his
face which had had the power to disturb her before: or she thought she
did.  The upper part of his face was in shadow from the balsam that
dropped its trails like a fringe over the arch.

"You did not believe it, Mary?"

"What do you think?  Would you believe such a story of me?"

"Don't!" he said, and there was something sharp, like a cry, in the
protest.  "No reptile would be base enough to spit at you."

They were alone together.  Below them the terraces fell to the coloured
bogs.  A river winding through the bog showed as a darkly blue ribbon,
reflecting the cloud of indigo which hung above the bog.  Beyond was
the Wood of the Echoes, the trees apparently with their feet in the
water in which other trees showed inverted.  Not a creature to see
them, but the robins.

Suddenly he put his head down on her shoulder, with the air of a tired
child.

"Your correspondent was not a liar, Mary," he said.  "I have visited
Mrs. Wade at Waterfall Cottage, at night too, and only not by stealth
because I thought that Hercules' ghost--" he shivered a little--"would
have kept spies and onlookers from that place."

Lady O'Gara shifted his head slightly with the greatest gentleness, so
that she might caress him, stroking his hair with her fingers.

"Well, and why not?" she asked, with her air of gaiety.

"There never was such a wife as you, Mary," he said.  "Go on stroking
my hair.  It draws the pain out."

"You have neuralgia?" she asked with quick alarm.

"No: it is a duller pain than that.  It is a sort of congestion caused
by keeping secrets from you."

"Secrets!"  Her voice was quite unsuspicious.  "You could not keep them
long."

He sat up and looked at her, and she saw that there was pain in his
eyes.

"I have been keeping secrets from you all our wedded life together,
Mary."

She uttered a little sound of dismay--of grief.  Then she said, with an
assumption of an easy manner:

"And if you have, Shawn, well--they must be things I had no right to
know.  There are reticences I can respect.  Other people's secrets
might be involved...."

"That was it," he said eagerly.  "There was another person's secret
involved.  I kept it back when it would have rested my heart to tell
you."

"I shall not ask you to tell me now unless the time has come to tell.
I can trust you, Shawn."

"The time may have come," he answered, drawing down her caressing hand
to kiss it.  "Another man might have told it to win you the more
completely, Mary.  He might have found justification for betraying his
friend.  I thought at one time you must have cared for Terence
Comerford and not for me.  It was the strangest thing in the world that
you should have cared for me.  Terence was so splendid, so big, so
handsome and pleasant with every one.  How could you have preferred me
before him?  And I knew he wasn't fit for you, Mary.  I knew there was
another girl,--yet I held my peace.  It tortured me, to keep silence.
And there was the other girl to be thought of.  He owed reparation to
the other girl.  But his mother had her heart set on you for a
daughter-in-law.  I believe he would have done the right thing if he
had lived,--in spite of all it would have meant to his mother.  He had
a good heart,--but--oh, my God!--he should not have lifted his eyes to
you when there was that other poor girl!"

He spoke in a voice as though he were being tortured, and her caressing
hand felt the cold sweat ooze out on his forehead.  How sensitive he
was!  How he grieved for his friend after all those years!

"He did not really lift his eyes to me as you say," she said.  "His
mother wanted it.  He never did.  A woman is not deceived."

"But you cared for him--to some extent?" he asked jealously.

"I never cared for any man but one," she answered.  "I used to think
you would never ask me.  Perhaps you never would have only that I came
to you when you were so broken down after your illness; and you had not
strength enough to resist me."

She finished with a certain pathetic gaiety.  With all his deep love
for her she had not brought him joyfulness.  Many people had noticed
it.  Her own well-spring of Joy had never run dry.  It had survived
even his sadness, and had made the house bright for their one child,
but there had been moments, hours, when she had felt oddly exhausted,
as though she had to bear a double strain of living.

"You saved me from utter despair,--'an angel beautiful and bright.'
That is what you seemed to me when you showed me your exquisite pity."

"Poor Terence!" she said softly.  "Do you know, Shawn, I believe he was
often on the edge of telling me his secret.  Over and over again he
began and was interrupted, or he drew back."

"Hardly, Mary.  Men do not tell such things to the ladies of their
family."

"Oh!"  She coloured like a girl.  "It was,--that.  I thought it was ...
a lady ... some one he knew in Dublin perhaps."

"It was a girl in Killesky.  Her grandmother kept a little
public-house.  She looked like an old Gipsy-Queen, the grandmother.
And the girl--the girl was like a dark rose.  All the men in the county
raved about her--the gentlemen, I mean.  It was extraordinary how many
roads led through Killesky.  The girl was as modest as she was
beautiful.  Terence was mad about her.  He knocked down a Connaught
Ranger man who made a joke about her.  That last leave--before he was
killed--he was never out of the place.  She had been at a convent
school--the old woman had brought her up well--and she used to go on
visits to school friends in Dublin.  Terence told me he met her in
Dublin when we were at the Royal Barracks.  I implored him to let her
alone, but he was angry and told me to mind my own business.  That last
time it was more serious.  Poor little Bridyeen!  I told him he ought
to marry her.  I think he knew it.  It made him short-tempered with me.
But ... I hope ... I hope...--" the strange anguish came back to his
voice--"that he would have married her."

"I remember now," Lady O'Gara said.  "I remember the girl.  Aunt Grace
thought very well of her; she told the old woman she ought not to have
Bridyeen serving in the bar.  She was a beautiful little creature, like
a moss rosebud, such dark hair and the beautiful colour and the ardent
look in her eyes.  Old Mrs. Dowd answered Aunt Grace with a haughtiness
equal to her own.  Aunt Grace was very angry: she said the old woman
was insolent.  I did not learn exactly what Mrs. Dowd had said, but I
gathered that she said she knew how to keep her girl as well as Aunt
Grace did."

"I sometimes thought the old woman was ambitious," Sir Shawn went on,
dreamily.  "She used to watch Bridyeen while all those fellows were
hanging about her and paying her compliments.  I have sometimes thought
she meant Bridyeen to marry a gentleman.  Several were infatuated
enough for that.  The old woman was always about watching and
listening.  I don't think any of them was ever rude to the little girl.
She was so innocent to look at.  If any man had forgotten himself so
far he would have had to answer to the others."

"What became of them--afterwards?  Killesky seldom came in my path.  I
did not know that the picturesque old woman and the little
granddaughter had gone till after we were married, when I drove that
way and saw the garish new shop going up.

"It was like the old woman to carry off poor Bridyeen from all the
scandal and the talk.  You remember how ill I was.  I thought that as
soon as I was well enough I would go and see them--the old woman and
the poor child.  I would have done what I could.  They were gone.  No
one knew what had become of them.  They had gone away quietly and
mysteriously.  The little place was shut up one morning.  You remember
how pretty it was, the little thatched house behind its long garden.
They had gone to America.  Fortunately the people had not begun to
talk."

"That poor little thing!" Lady O'Gara said softly.  "She looked as shy
as a fawn.  I wonder what became of her."

"Don't you understand, Mary?  She has come back.  She is ... Mrs. Wade."

"Oh!  She married then?  Of course you would want to be kind to her.  I
suppose she is a widow!"

"I don't think she married.  I don't know what brings her back here,
unless it is the desire to return which afflicts the Irish wherever
they go.  She has fixed herself in such a lonely spot.  After all, she
is my tenant.  It is my business to see that she wants for nothing.  I
recognized her one night I came that way--when I was late and had to
take that road.  I saw her through the unshuttered window with a strong
light on her face.  I went back there in daylight and came upon her
drawing water from the well.  She was frightened at first, but
afterwards she seemed glad to see me.  She is very lonely.  No one goes
to see her but Mrs. Horridge,--a good creature--but Bridyeen is a
natural lady.  I must not go there again though she is a grey-haired
woman older than her years--it was strange that I recognized her after
twenty years; there are beasts who will talk."

"I shall come with you, Shawn," said Lady O'Gara.  "That will be the
best way to prevent their talking."



CHAPTER X

MRS. WADE

A friendship had sprung up between Mrs. Horridge and Mrs. Wade, as Sir
Shawn had said--a curious friendship, not altogether equal, for Mrs.
Wade had a certain amount of education and was curiously
refined--America had not altered her even to the extent of affecting
her speech; and that was a very exceptional thing, for the returned
Americans usually came with a speech altered out of all recognition.

When Lady O'Gara came into the little sitting-room at the cottage,
having knocked with her knuckles and obtained no answer, she found
Susan Horridge there.  Susan stood up, making a little dip, took the
boy's garment she had been mending and went away, while Mrs. Wade
received her visitor with a curious air of equality.  It was not such
an equality as she might have learnt in the United States.  There was
nothing assertive about it.  It was quite unconscious.

She seemed profoundly agitated by Lady O'Gara's visit, her colour
coming and going, her eyes dilated.  She had put out a hand as Susan
Horridge went away, almost as though she would have detained her by
force.

"Please forgive my coming in like this," Lady O'Gara said.  "I was
knocking for some time, but you did not hear me.  My husband, Sir Shawn
O'Gara, has told me about his tenant, and I thought I would like to
come and see you."

"Thank you very much, Lady O'Gara.  I am sorry you had to wait at the
door.  Won't you sit down?"

"May I sit here?  I don't like facing the light.  My eyes are not
over-strong."

"Dear me.  They look so beautiful too."

The naïve compliment seemed to ease the strain in the situation.  Lady
O'Gara laughed.  She had sometimes said that she laughed when she felt
like to die with trouble.  People had taken it for an exaggerated
statement.  What cause could Mary O'Gara have to feel like dying with
trouble?  Even though Shawn O'Gara was a melancholy gentleman, Mary
seemed very well able to enjoy life.

"How kind of you!" she said merrily.  "I might return the compliment.
What a pretty place you have made of this!"

"I brought a few little things with me.  I knew nothing was to be
bought here.  And the things I found here already were good."

"It is a damp place down here under the trees.  Now that you have made
it so pretty it would be hard to leave it.  Else I should suggest
another cottage.  There is a nice dry one on the upper road."

"Oh!  I shouldn't think of leaving this," Mrs. Wade said, nervously.
Still her colour kept coming and going.  America had not yellowed her
as it usually had the _revenants_.  Her dark skin was smooth and richly
coloured: her eyes soft and still brilliant.  Only the greying of her
hair told that she was well on towards middle age.

"But it is very lonely.  You are not nervous?"

"I like the loneliness."

"You should have a dog."

Her tongue had nearly slipped into saying that a dog was the kind of
company that did not ask questions.

"I should have to exercise a dog."

A queer look of fear came into her eyes.  Lady O'Gara could have
imagined that she looked stealthily from one side to another.

"But you must go out sometimes," she said.

Again the look of fear cowered away from her.  What was it that Mrs.
Wade was afraid of?

"I was never one for walking," she said, lamely.

"You don't like to tear yourself from this pretty room?"

It was very pretty.  The walls had been thickly whitewashed and the
curtains at the window were of a deep rose-colour.  A few cushions in
the white chairs and sofa repeated the rose-colour.  The room seemed to
glow within the shadow of the many trees, overhanging too heavily
outside.

"You have too many trees here," Lady O'Gara went on.  "It must be
pitchy towards nightfall.  I shall ask my husband to cut down some of
them."

She was wondering at her own way with this woman.  Gentle and kindly as
she was, she had approached the visit with something of shrinking, the
unconscious, uncontrollable shrinking of the woman whose ways have
always been honourable and tenderly guarded, from the woman who has
slipped on the way, however pitiable and forgivable her fault.  It is
the feeling with which the nun, however much a lover of her kind,
approaches the penitent committed to her care.

She suddenly realized that in this case she did not shrink.  Whatever
difference there might be between her and Mrs. Wade there was not
_that_ difference.  They met as one honourable woman meets another.
Lady O'Gara was glad that she had forgotten to shrink.

"Thank you very much," said Mrs. Wade.  "It is kind of you to think of
it.  But--I like the trees.  You are very kind, Lady O'Gara.  About the
dog,--if I had a little gentle one, who would stay with me while I
gardened and not want too much exercise, I should like it."

"I believe I can get you such a one.  My cousin, Mrs. Comerford, or
rather her adopted daughter, has Poms.  There is a little one, rather
lame, in the last litter.  His leg got hurt somehow.  I am sure I can
have him.  You will be good to him."

Mrs. Wade had drawn back into the shadow.  The one window lit the space
across by the fireside to the door and the other portion of the room
was rather dark.  But Lady O'Gara had an idea that the woman's eyes
leaped at her.

"I saw the young lady," she said.  "She came to Mrs. Horridge's lodge
one day I was there.  She was so pretty, and the little dogs with her
were jumping upon her.  Little goldy-coloured dogs they were."

"Yes, that would be Stella.  She loves her dogs: I know she would be so
glad to give you one, because you would be good to it."

"Maybe she'd bring it to me one day?  She's a pretty thing.  It would
be nice to see her in this house."

The voice was low, but there was something hurried and eager about it.
Lady O'Gara imagined that she could see the heave of the woman's breast.

"Certainly.  We shall bring the puppy together.  I shall tell Stella."

A sudden misgiving came to her when she had said it.  Perhaps she ought
to be too careful of Stella to bring her into touch with a woman who
had slipped from virtue, however innocently and pitiably.  It was a
scruple which might not have troubled her if Stella had been her own
child.  There was another thing.  Would Grace Comerford, if she knew
all, be willing that her adopted daughter should be friends with Mrs.
Wade?

Again something leaped at her from the woman's eyes, something of a
gratitude which took Lady O'Gara's breath away.

"It will be nice to have a little dog of my own," she said.  "It will
be great company in the house at night.  A little dog like that would
be almost like a child.  And in the daytime he'd give me word if any
one was coming."

Suddenly she seemed to have a new thought.  She leant forward and said
in the same agitated way:

"You wouldn't be bringing Mrs. Comerford?"

"No, no," said Lady O'Gara.  "I shall not bring Mrs. Comerford."

"I knew her long ago.  She was kind, but she was very proud," Mrs. Wade
said, dropping back into the shadow from which she had emerged.

So it was of Mrs. Comerford she was afraid!  What was it?  Conscience?
Did she think Terence Comerford's mother could have heard anything in
that far away time?

"I shall not bring Mrs. Comerford," she said.  "Stella is much with me
at Castle Talbot."

Again she wondered why she had said "Stella."  It would have been "Miss
Stella" to another woman of Mrs. Wade's class.

"Might I be making you a cup of tea, Lady O'Gara?" Mrs. Wade asked with
a curiously brightening face.  "I had put on the kettle in the kitchen
for Mrs. Horridge.  It will be boiling by this time."

Lady O'Gara was about to refuse.  Then she changed her mind.  A refusal
might hurt Mrs. Wade.  Beyond that she had a sudden curiosity,--her
husband had often said that she had a touch of the _gamin_--as to how
Mrs. Wade would give her tea.  Would she sit down with her in the
equality of an afternoon call?  There was a little twitch at the
corners of her lips as she answered that she would like tea.  Sir Shawn
was away shooting wild duck, and she would be alone at tea if she went
home.

While she waited, still with that half-delighted feeling of curiosity,
she went and stood before the old-fashioned bookcase which contained
Mrs. Wade's library.  Very good, she said to herself.  There were odd
volumes of Thackeray and Dickens, Mrs. Gaskell and Charlotte Brontë.
Her dimples came and were reflected as she turned about in the convex
glass, with an eagle atop, over the fireplace.  Outside a couple of
stone eagles perched on the low roof, after the fashion of a bygone
day.  Far away in the silvery distance of the convex mirror a miniature
Lady O'Gara dimpled.

She was remembering a pretentious lady who had called on her a few days
earlier--the wife of a newly rich man who had taken Ardnavalley, a
place in the neighbourhood, for the shooting.  Sir Robert Smith, the
multi-millionaire, was very simple.  Not so Lady Smith, who had
remarked that Bront was always readable.

There were also a few volumes of poetry, not very exacting,--Tennyson,
Adelaide Procter, Longfellow, and some Irish books--"The Spirit of the
Nation," "Lady Wilde's Poems," Davis, Moore: a few devotional books.

Ah well, it was very good--gentle and innocent reading.  And there was
Mrs. Wade's prayer-book--The Key of Heaven,--on a small table, the
"Imitation of Christ" beside it.  By these lay one or two oddly bound
books in garish colourings, Lady O'Gara opened one.  She saw it was in
French--an innocuous French romance suitable for the reading of
convent-school girls.

Mechanically she looked at the flyleaf.  It bore an inscription; Miss
Bride Sweeney, Enfant de Marie, had received this book for proficiency
in Italian, some twenty-two years earlier at St. Mary's Convent.

She held the book in her hand when Mrs. Wade appeared, carrying a
little tray of unpainted wood, on which was set out a tea for one
person, all very dainty, from the small china cup and saucer on its
white damask napkin to the thinly cut bread and butter.

Lady O'Gara had been thinking that if Mrs. Wade did not wish to be
identified with Bride Sweeney, she should not leave her school-prizes
about.

"Ah, you are looking at that old book," Mrs. Wade said, setting down
her little tray, while she spread a tea-cloth on the table.  "They are
very dull stories.  Even a convent-school girl could not extract much
from them.  I'm sorry it's so plain a tea.  If I'd known your Ladyship
was coming I'd have had some cakes made."

"This home-made bread is delicious," Lady O'Gara said.  "But, won't you
have some tea too?"

"No, thank you.  I am not one for tea at every hour of the day like
Mrs. Horridge.  I take my tea when you are taking your dinner.  You
wouldn't like a boiled egg now?  I've one little hen laying."

Her voice was coaxing.  Now that Lady O'Gara could see the face in full
light she thought it an innocent and gentle face.  The eyes still
looked upward with a kind of passion in their depths.  She remembered
her husband's epithet,--"ardent."  It well described Mrs. Wade's eyes.
Just now the ardour was for herself.  She wondered why.

"Thank you so very much," she said sweetly.  "I don't think I could eat
an egg, though.  Your tea is delicious."

"The cream is from your own Kerries.  Mrs. Horridge arranged it for me
that I could get the milk from your dairy.  It would make any tea good.
She brings me the milk twice daily, or her little lad does."

"Susan seldom ventures out, I think," Lady O'Gara said, while she
sipped her tea.  "I am glad you get her beyond her own gate."

"She's a scared creature.  She dreads the road.  Mr. Kenny gets her all
she wants from the village.  She comes to me across the Mount.  She
doesn't mind that way even in the dark, though the people about here
wouldn't take it on any account.  Perhaps she doesn't know the stories.
Perhaps, like myself, she thinks a ghost is better company than humans
sometimes."

"Ah; you are not afraid of ghosts!"

"If I was," Mrs. Wade's eyes suddenly filled with tears,--"would I be
settled here?  It's not thinking of the Admiral's ghost I'd be.  Maybe
there's some you'd welcome back from the grave, if you loved them well
enough.  I can't imagine any one not wanting the dead back, if so be
that you loved them."

Her voice died off in a wail, and suddenly it came to Lady O'Gara that
just outside, where the water fell over the weir, Terence Comerford had
met with his death.

"No," she said softly, "I cannot imagine any one being afraid of the
dear dead."

As she said it she remembered the shadows about her husband's face and
her heart was cold.

It was only later that she wondered if Mrs. Wade had chosen that lonely
spot to return to because there Terence Comerford's handsome head had
lain in its blood.  It occurred to her at the same time that not one
word had passed between them which could indicate that she knew
anything of Mrs. Wade beyond that she had been a dweller in these parts
long before she had come to be a tenant of Sir Shawn O'Gara at the
Waterfall Cottage.

A curious thing that there should be there side by side, thrown into an
odd companionship, two women who had reason to be afraid and had chosen
these lonely places to hide.  Poor Susan!  The reason for her hiding
was obvious.  With Mrs. Wade it was another matter.  Why need she have
come back if she so dreaded her past?  Or was it the memory of Terence
Comerford that drew her, the thought of the old tragedy and the old
passion?



CHAPTER XI

THE ONLY PRETTY RING-TIME

Castle Talbot took on new lightness and brightness when Terry came
home.  His mother said fondly that it was like the Palace of the
Sleeping Beauty where life hung in suspense between his goings and
comings.  The mere presence of this one young man seemed to put all the
servants on their mettle.  The cook sent up such meals as she did not
at any other time.  "Sure Sir Shawn and her Ladyship never minded what
they would be atin," she said.  The gardener, a gruff old cynic
usually, gave his best grapes and peaches for "Master Terry"; even the
small sewing maid who sat in a slip of a room at a remote corner of the
house, mending the house-linen under the supervision of the
housekeeper, was known to have said that though she never _saw_ Master
Terry she _felt_ he was there.

The dogs were aware of his coming before he came.  They had their own
intuitions of the joyful expectancy in the house and what it meant.
Shot would take to lying in the hall, with one wistful eye fixed on the
open hall door, while Lady O'Gara's two Poms became quite hysterical,
rushing out when there was no one at all or some one they were well
accustomed to, assailing them with foolish shrieks.

"It is all right when Terence is coming home," Lady O'Gara said,
smiling.  "I can forgive Chloë and Cupid for yapping.  It is when he is
gone and they rush out at every sound that I find it unbearable."

"You will kill the fatted calf for Terry," Sir Shawn grumbled, "as
though he had been a year away.  The youngster does nothing but amuse
himself.  When I was his age we got in some hard work at soldiering."

"Every generation says the same of the one that comes after it," Lady
O'Gara rejoined.  "Terry loves his work, though he manages to enjoy
himself."

"Too much of a golden youth," grumbled his father.  "You spoil the boy,
Mary!"  But his eyes were glad all the time, and the grumbling was only
a pretence.

"You'll see what the golden boys are capable of if the war they are
always talking about comes in our time," Lady O'Gara said, and a swift
shadow passed over her face.  "I hope there will be no more wars, even
to vindicate them.  I suffered enough in those years of the South
African War when you were out and Terry and I were alone."

Eileen arrived a few hours earlier than Terry.  She clapped her hands
to her ears when she arrived, and the Poms broke out into shrill
chorus.  Shot, who began already to be very dim-sighted, came to the
door to see what the clamour was about, and with the most indifferent
movement of his tail returned to his place on the rug before the fire.

"Little beasts!" said Eileen, poking viciously at the Poms with her
umbrella.  "I don't know how you endure them, Cousin Mary; I can hardly
tell which is the worst, Chloë or Cupid."

Eileen had never liked the dogs any more than she liked the horses.
She was fond of cats and had a favourite smoke-blue Persian, between
whom and the Poms there was an armed neutrality.  The cat's name was
Cleopatra, and she deserved it.  Her green eyes shone like emeralds
when she curled boa-fashion about her mistress's white neck and looked
down at the Poms.

Lady O'Gara had come out on the steps to meet Eileen and had kissed her
on each cold satin cheek, making a tender fuss about removing her
wraps.  Her coldnesses were easily dispelled.

"Come right in, darling, and have some tea," she said fondly.  "Why,
you are perished!  It is very cold.  We shall have a frost to-night.
And how are all at home?"

"Oh, much the same as usual.  Mother has rheumatism.  Dad is grumbling
over his large and expensive family and the bad year it has been for
everything.  It is always a bad year with farmers, isn't it?  The house
is tight-packed, as usual.  They always have visitors.  I _was_ glad to
escape to this delicious roominess.  They are all outrageously well and
hungry, as Dad says.  And some of them will love to come after
Christmas, if you can _really_ have them.  They _must_ be at home for
Christmas, they say.  I am sure some of them could well be spared."

A momentary vision passed before Lady O'Gara's inner eyes.  It was of
Mrs. Anthony Creagh and the quiverful, three boys and five girls then,
to be increased later.  Mrs. Anthony sat in her armchair, one child on
her lap, a second with its face buried in her trailing, somewhat shabby
silk skirt, two others peeping from behind her chair.  The boys were at
a table with books open before them.  Eileen, aged eight, and already
the beauty of the family, stood by her mother's knee, eating an apple.

"Cousin Mary wants one of my little girls to go home with her," Mrs.
Creagh had said, rather tearfully.  She was an incurably motherly
person, whose heart expanded with the quiver--"She wants one of my
little girls to play with her Terry.  Who will go?"

The boys had looked indifferent.  The child whose face was buried in
her mother's skirts seemed to burrow a little further in, while the two
standing behind the chair disappeared.  The baby on its mother's knee
only gurgled cheerfully, as though at the best joke in the world.

Then Eileen had laid down her half-eaten apple, and turning, had thrust
her moist little hand into Lady O'Gara's, warm from her muff.  Dear
friendly thing!  Lady O'Gara had brought her back in triumph to Castle
Talbot, feeling that she could never do enough to make up to the child
for forsaking for her that long family, happy and happy-go-lucky.
Eileen had become conventional in her growing-up, not much like the
others, who frolicked like puppies and grew up pretty well at their own
sweet will.

"I told Mother she should not fill the house with visitors in addition
to her long family, if Dad had had a bad year," said Eileen, putting
off her furs in the hall.  "She said that what people ate never
counted.  Isn't it just like Mother?  What a jolly fire, darling Cousin
Mary!  And how sweet to see you again!"

She took up Lady O'Gara's hand and kissed it.  She had done the same
thing that evening long ago when she had come for the first time to
Castle Talbot, and had snuggled against Lady O'Gara in the brougham,
warming her heart, which was chilly because in a very short time Terry
was to go off to his preparatory school for Eton.  It was his father's
will and she had not grumbled, but she had often felt in her own heart
that she had had very little of Terry since he was eight years old.

"Come and eat something," she said, leading the girl into the
drawing-room, where the lamps had been lit and the tea-table drawn near
the fire.  "I told Cook to send up an extra good tea, knowing you would
be cold and hungry after your journey."

"How delicious!" Miss Creagh said, lifting off one cover after another.
"I haven't had a decent tea since I went away.  We are such a hungry
family, to say nothing of the visitors."

"Terry will be here in time for dinner," Lady O'Gara said, her eyes
joyful.  "So put on your best bib-and-tucker.  We don't get many
occasions to wear our finery.  I shall wear my Limerick lace and
emeralds."

"And Terry won't see them because he will be thinking only of
yourself," Eileen said, devouring sandwiches and hot cakes.  For a girl
of her slender delicacy she had a very good appetite and usually
indulged it, although there were moments when she tried to hold it in
check, having detected, as she said, a tendency to _embonpoint_.

"I can really afford to be greedy, Cousin Mary," she said, with a
laughing apology.  "I've been _starved_ at Inver.  How the _stacks_ of
food went!  They have such healthy appetites.  I _couldn't_ eat
potato-cakes, soaked in butter, nor doorsteps as the boys called them,
of bread and jam and honey.  Fearfully fattening food."

"You remind me of when you came to me and started to grow out of your
clothes with such alarming rapidity.  When your white satin,
long-waisted frock grew too small for you, you said, for you did not
like giving it up, 'I can really get into it if I hold myself in like
_this_.  And anyhow I've given up pudding!'"

"Ah, that was the worst of me," said Eileen mournfully.  "I could never
continue long doing without pudding."

She came down to dinner wearing a pale green frock with a prim fichu of
chiffon and lace.  Terry had already arrived and was in the
drawing-room, standing on the hearthrug with his back to the fire.

"Hullo, Eileen!" he shouted, "How stunning you look!  You grow prettier
every day!"

The compliment was too brotherly in its easy candour to please her
altogether: but she knew very well she was "stunning."  She could see
herself in a long old-fashioned mirror on the wall.  Her hair was like
gold floss.  There was no sign of the embonpoint she feared in the
slender grace of her figure.  The pearls about her neck became her
mightily, as did the green ribbon, the same shade as her dress, snooded
in her hair.

She lifted her eyes to the boy's frank gaze in a way which she had
usually found very effective.  She had been able to do anything with
Terry when she looked at him like that, and she had tried the same
allurement on others than Terry.

"You're only just back," he went on.  "Jolly nice of you to come for
me.  The mater must have missed you."

"They insist on my presence at Inver now and again.  I don't know why.
It is very unreasonable of them!"

She put out a satin slipper and stirred Shot with it.

"The only drawback to this dear house," she said, "is that there are
dogs everywhere."

Shot growled in his sleep.  Perhaps she had not touched him in quite
the right way.  She withdrew her foot in alarm, more alarm that she
felt, and turned eyes of a child-like fear upon Terry.  "Oh!  Shot is
cross," she said innocently.  The man in Terry answered.  He bent
towards her as though drawn irresistibly.

There was a flutter of feminine garments in the doorway of the room.
Some one looked in and withdrew.  Sir Shawn, coming down the stairs,
did not notice the small figure by the fire in the hall, fast fading to
ashes, the centre of a circle of adoring dogs, who had withdrawn
themselves from Miss Creagh's unfriendliness.

He went on to the drawing-room door.  He too was attracted by the
tableau.  Nothing could have been prettier than the boy's bold advance,
the girl's withdrawal.  They were too engrossed in each other, or
appeared to be, to notice his face in the doorway.

With a deep sigh, as of relief, he turned away.  Then he caught sight
of the pink blob by the fireplace in the hall.  Stella was down on her
knees feeding the dying fire with sods of turf.  Her rose geranium
frock made what the children call a "cheese" about her.  Her golden
brown head was charming against the audacious colour of her frock.  The
dogs had taken advantage of her position to press about her.  Now and
again she pushed off Cupid, who was the bold one, with the sod of turf
in her hand.

Sir Shawn felt particularly kind towards the girl.

"Hullo, Stella," he said: "I didn't know you had come."

"Some little time ago," she replied.  "Grannie is with Lady O'Gara.  Do
you mind my making up the fire?"

"Not a bit."  His heart was light within him, almost to the extent of
taking Stella into his confidence.  Discreet little thing!  She, too,
had surprised the pretty picture in the drawing-room, and had
withdrawn, leaving the lovers to themselves.

"The lovers."  He said the words over to himself, mouthing them as
though they were sweet.  He had been unnecessarily alarmed.  Things
were arranging themselves beautifully.  He believed in early marriages.
The happiness of the youngsters would keep him young.  He would get
away from his shadows.  After a while Terry must come home and settle
down somewhere near.  A few years of soldiering in these piping times
of peace were as much as the boy need do.

So his mind ran on into the happy future while he sat on the arm of one
of the red-leather chairs and beamed at Stella, who had always been
rather alarmed of Sir Shawn, and came out now as prettily as a flower
in the warm sun.

He looked at his watch.  It was a quarter to eight.  Dinner-time.  A
pity the youngsters had not more time to settle their pretty affair.
He began to think of what gift he would give Eileen.  His mother's
pearl cross--large pearls set _en cabochon_.  Mary had so many things.
She would not grudge that to Terry's wife.

There were Mary and Grace Comerford coming down the staircase, talking
as though they did not see each other constantly.  How well Mary looked
in the brown silk!  It brought out the dear shades of red in her hair
and eyes.

He went over and joined the two ladies.

"Only _just_ in time!" he said, in rather a loud voice, as he opened
the drawing-room door.

He intended it as a warning, but it was apparently not necessary.
Terry was sitting in a chair at one side of the fireplace with Shot's
head on his knee.  Miss Creagh, a cloud on her face, was in the
opposite chair, caressing Cleopatra.  Sir Shawn's heart sank.  Had they
been quarrelling, silly children?  He began to tremble for his dream.

"Cleopatra scratched Shot's nose," said Terry, holding up the
liver-coloured nose for inspection.  "See, it has bled.  Eileen will
have it that it was Shot's fault.  Of course it was not.  Shot is so
gentle."

He stood up to meet the ladies and, swift as an arrow from the bow, he
went to Stella's side.

Poor Sir Shawn!  Poor gentleman!  The fabric of his rosy dreams had
faded to ashes.  He looked almost piteously towards Eileen: and,
unreasonably, was angry with her because with that sullenness of
expression her beauty had departed: she was almost plain.  Under his
breath he damned Cleopatra.



CHAPTER XII

MOTHER-LOVE

Somehow or other Lady O'Gara found it difficult to get Stella to
herself in the days that followed.  There were times when she almost
thought that Stella deliberately kept away.  Sir Shawn had often said,
rallying his wife, that Mary never saw further than her own nose.  She
was a little bewildered about the young people.  Terry and Eileen
seemed to have quarrelled.  Eileen found occupations that kept her in
her own room.  She had suddenly developed a desire to make herself a
coat and skirt, and Lady O'Gara had gone in many times, to find her
pinning and fitting on the lay-figure which occupied the centre of the
room, surrounded by all manner of snippets and pieces.

This ridiculous pre-occupation of Eileen's gave Lady O'Gara something
she did not complain of.  She had more of her son than otherwise she
would have had.  Terry had never looked for better companionship than
his mother's, but he grumbled about Eileen nevertheless.

"She used to be always ready to come anywhere," he said.  "I know I
can't always have you, because Father needs you so much.  We have
always torn you in pieces between the two of us.  I asked Eileen to
come out shooting on the bog with me and she wouldn't.  She just opened
her door and I saw a horrid thing, an indecent thing that pretended to
look like a woman's body, taking up the middle of her room."

"It's for fitting dresses on, you ridiculous boy!" Lady O'Gara said
laughing.

"It gave me a shock.  A horrid, stuffed thing.  I shall not be able to
look at Eileen again without seeing that.  Why does she want to make
her dresses?  Can't your maid do it?  Industry in Eileen is quite a new
thing.  Not that she's half as good a companion on the bog as you are,
darling.  I've always had to carry her over the pools.  She said she
couldn't jump."

Lady O'Gara's face at this frankness was a study.

"She's so helpless.  Not like a country girl, at all.  You remember
that day with the bull.  She left Stella to be gored by the bull and
expected to be admired for it."

There was certainly a change in Terry's attitude towards Eileen.  Lady
O'Gara sighed, because of what she knew was in her husband's mind
rather than for any disappointment in herself.  Eileen was not her
ideal wife for Terry.

"Eileen will go with you all right," she said.  They were standing in
front of the house on the gravel-sweep.  "I've just told her she was
injuring her complexion by staying indoors.  She has gone to put on her
hat.  I did not like to tell her that Margaret McKeon lamented to me
that Eileen was cutting out that beautiful Foxford tweed so badly.
We'll go and rout out Stella.  She has not been over here for five
days."

Terry's face lit up.

"I don't know why Stella's out with me," he said.  "She is always
hiding behind your skirts or Mrs. Comerford's when I am about and want
to talk to her."

His mother looked at him, with the yearning tenderness of the woman who
would give all the world to her beloved man if she only might.

"You like Stella?"

"Yes: she's a little darling.  Don't you?"

"I am very fond of Stella.  Perhaps ... she thinks ...  You like Eileen
very much?"

After all, if her boy wanted Stella, why should even his father's
preferences prevail?  She had surprised a glance in Stella's eyes when
they rested on Terry for a brief moment before they quickly veiled
themselves.  The child had something Southern in her.  So, for the
matter of that, had Terry.  She was fond of Eileen, but, simple as she
was, she had not had Eileen with her pretty constantly for many years
without being aware of a certain shallowness in the girl.  The blood
under the fair skin ran thinly, coldly.

His face lit up with such a light that she was alarmed at what she had
done.  What would Shawn say if he knew?  But, after all, Shawn had
married where he loved.  Why should not the boy have the same felicity?
Stella had been pushing her small soft way into Mary O'Gara's heart.
She knew now that Eileen could never have been the little daughter she
wanted.

"You think she would mind that?"  His eyes leaped at her.

She felt like one who had burnt her boats.  She would not look before
or behind.  Shawn was wrong, she said vehemently to herself.  Eileen
was not the girl for Terry.

"I will tell you a secret, Terry," she said.  "The first evening you
came back, in the drawing-room before dinner, there was something that
might have passed for a love-scene between you and Eileen.  Your father
opened the door and withdrew.  Then he discovered that Stella had come
downstairs before him and was playing with the dogs in the hall by the
dying fire.  He supposed that she had surprised that scene before he
did."

Oh, poor Shawn!  What a use she was making of his confidence!  But men
never knew about their sons as mothers did.  She would give anything,
except her own soul, to procure Terry the joy he desired.  And it was a
good joy.  She loved Stella.  Of course, she would be very good to
Eileen, but she did not want Eileen for a daughter-in-law.  Shawn did
not look very deeply.  He had hardly considered Eileen except as
something pretty and gentle, who was pleasant in the house and sang him
Moore's Melodies of evenings in a small sweet voice.  He missed her
when she returned to her own people.

"I was an idiot for a second," the boy said, shamefacedly.  "I don't
suppose you understand, Mother, but men are like that.  Eileen can be
very alluring when she likes and..."

"Don't tell me any more.  I can imagine," Lady O'Gara said and laughed,
a laugh which had a certain shyness in it.

"Then we fell out over the cat and dog," he said.  "Eileen was rather
rude.  Perhaps I was a little rough with Cleopatra, but she had
scratched Shot's nose.  You know what Shot is!  It was an entirely
unprovoked attack.  I believe I did say that Cleopatra should be sent
to the Cats' Home."

Eileen appeared at this point, coming with an unwilling air.  It was
true that her staying within-doors so much had not improved her looks.
She had not a very good circulation at any time.  That, or her mood,
had given her rose and white a dull, leaden look.  Her discontented
little face was lifted towards the dappled sky.  It was really a
beautiful day of Autumn.  There was a little wind, and the last yellow
leaves on the branches tinkled like so many small golden cymbals.  A
pale gold sun was going low amid oceans of amber touched with rose, and
above dappled clouds were floating as though the day was February.

"It is so cold," said Eileen, and shivered.  "I don't see how Margaret
can get on without fitting me.  She had made up such a nice fire in my
room.  I cannot see why any one wants to go out in such weather."

"Oh, come along, you little grumbler!" Lady O'Gara said with her
infectious gaiety.  "Come for a good trot.  I know what will happen to
you: you'll get chilblains if you sit by the fire in cold weather.
Your hands will be dreadful to look at, and your feet will be a
torture."

Eileen looked down at her feet and then at her hands, childishly.  She
had very pretty feet and hands.

"They are all right so far," she said.

"You and Terry had better race each other to the bridge," Lady O'Gara
said.  "I want to see the colour in your face, child."

"Come along," said Terry, and caught at Eileen's hand.
Half-unwillingly she ran with him, but when Lady O'Gara caught up with
them, Eileen was laughing and panting.

"This wretched son of yours," she said, "has run me off my feet."

"And you look the better for it," Lady O'Gara answered, her brown eyes
merry and her cheeks dimpling like a girl's.  "We are going for Stella,
to bring her back to tea.  She has not been near us for some days."

"Oh!"  Eileen had gone back to the chilly voice.  "She doesn't want to
come.  She finds us rather dull, I think."

Lady O'Gara laughed.

"I don't believe any one could find us dull," she said merrily, "least
of all Stella."

"Oh well, I suppose I'm not telling the truth," Eileen said huffily.
"All I know is she asked me the last time I saw her if Terry ever
brought any of his brother-officers home with him."

Terry's candid face clouded over ever so slightly; while his mother
remarked that, of course, three was an awkward number for games.  They
wanted another man.  She believed she had been talking about it.

"You might ask Major Evelyn," she said to Terry.  "It is still possible
to have golf when there is fine weather."

"I wonder if he would come?" Terry said ingenuously.  "Think of a
second-lieutenant like me asking a swell like Evelyn!  Why, his
decorations make a perfect breastplate when he chooses to put them on.
Not that it is a matter of choice.  He only does it when he can't help
it.  He did so splendidly in South Africa."

"I dare say he'd condescend to come," Lady O'Gara said.  "Few sportsmen
can resist the Castle Talbot duck-shooting."

"Do ask him," said Eileen, becoming animated.  "Two's company, three's
none.  Everything is lop-sided without a second man."

"I'll ask him, of course," Terry said.  "But I don't suppose he'll
come.  It is like a kid in the Lower School asking a prefect to tea.
He may come--for the grub.  On the other hand he may give the kid a
kicking for his impudence."

After all, they had not to go as far as Inch.  They met Stella
exercising her dogs about half a mile from her own gates.  She would
like to come to tea if she might first take the dogs home and leave
word as to where she had gone.

To Lady O'Gara's mind she looked small and unhappy as soon as the flush
had faded which came when she saw them.  She clung to Lady O'Gara, and
could not be detached from her.  The dogs, surrounding her, made a
barrier between her and Terry, who, at first, kept as close to her as
he could, leaving Eileen to walk the other side of Lady O'Gara.

But Stella did not seem to have much to say to him.  She was too
engrossed with the dogs and with his mother to spare him a word.  The
eager light which had come to his eyes when he had first caught sight
of her faded.  His candid face was overcast.  She had been keeping him
at arms-length ever since he had come back.

His mother watched him with a comprehension which was half tender
amusement, half compassion.  He was becoming a little sullen over
Stella's persistent disregard of him.  She watched the set boyish
mouth, the pucker of his forehead--her baby.  Terry had always had that
pucker for perplexity or disappointment.  Why, he had had it when the
first down was on his baby head, as soft as a duckling's.

The road grew narrow.  He began to lag behind, to veer towards Eileen.

"Is it worth while for us all to go on to Inch?" he asked in his
discontented young voice.  "Supposing Eileen and I go on by the river,
while you and Stella take back the dogs!  They wouldn't follow me or
I'd offer to go home with them.  It must be nearly a mile to the house
from the gate."

"I've a better way than that," Lady O'Gara said on a sudden impulse.
She had taken Stella's cold little hand in hers, and it made a mute
appeal.  She was sure Stella was unhappy, poor little motherless child.
The two poor children, fretting and worrying each other about nothing
at all!  Her comprehending, merry, pitiful gaze went from one to the
other young face.

"Suppose Eileen and I walk back.  You'll overtake us before we get
home.  You two are such quick walkers."

Eileen's lips opened as though to protest.  Her face had brightened at
Terry's suggestion.  She closed them again in a tight snap.

"I never _can_ see the good of walking about wet roads," she said
crossly.  "It must be nice to live in a town, where there are dry
pavements, and people, and shops."

A robin rained out his little song from a bough above her head, and
behind the trees the sky broke up into magnificence--the sun looking
from under a great dun cloud suffused with his rays, while all below
him was a cool greenish bluish wash of sky, tender and delicate.

"You would not find that in a city, Eileen," Lady O'Gara said, pushing
away gently Stella's cold little hand that seemed to cling to hers.

"Make her trot, Terry," she said.  "Her hands are cold as little frogs,
like the child's hands in Herrick's 'Grace for a Child.'

  "Cold as paddocks though they be,
  Still I lift them up to thee
  For a benison to fall
  On our meat and on us all."


She saw the sudden rush of joy to her son's face and she was a little
lonely.  She felt that she was no longer first with Terry.



CHAPTER XIII

THE OLD LOVE

Sir Shawn was still out when they got back, after a brisk walk.  The
laggard young people made no appearance for tea, though they waited a
while.  Eileen grumbled discontentedly over everything being cold and
suggested a carelessness in Stella about other people's convenience.
The tea-cakes had been kept warm over a spirit-lamp, but she was in a
captious mood.  Lady O'Gara wondered at the girl, who had sometimes
been embarrassingly effusive in the display of her affection.  Had she
spoilt Eileen? or was the girl feeling sore and a little out of it?

The suggestion that Eileen might be feeling Terry's desertion of her
was enough to soften his mother's heart towards the captious girl, who
as soon as she had finished her tea,--and a very good tea she
made--went off to see how Margaret McKeon was progressing with her
skirt.

At the door she turned about.

"Do you think I might have a new evening frock, Cousin Mary?" she
asked.  "My pink has gone out of fashion.  There are such beautiful
blues in some patterns I have got from Liberty's: I could make it
myself, with Margaret's help.  It would only need a little lace to trim
it, or some of that pearl trimming Liberty's use so much."

"Certainly, my dear child.  Let me know what it will cost.  I have a
piece of Carrickmacross lace somewhere which would make a fichu.  You
must remind me, Eileen.  We live so quietly here that I do not remember
how the fashions change."

"I've hardly noticed, either," said Eileen, with a hand on the door
handle.  "The pink does very well for home-wear.  But if Terry is going
to have friends, I should want something a little smarter."

Lady O'Gara smiled.  So Eileen was interested in the coming of Major
Evelyn!  And she had made so good a tea that any one less
ethereal-looking than Eileen might have been considered greedy!  She
had left very little of the abundant tea to be removed.

"We'll have a turning-out one of these days," she said.  "I noticed
your wardrobe was very full the other day when I was in your-room.  We
can send off what you don't want to Inver, and I shall add a few
lengths of that Liberty silk.  Brigid and Nora are so clever with that
little sewing machine I gave them last Christmas that they'll turn out
something very pretty for themselves."

"They've no occasion for pretty things," said Eileen.  "There never was
any young man there but Robin Gillespie, the doctor's son.  He is in
India in the R.A.M.C.  Brigid liked him, I think, but he was not
thinking of Brigid."

Then she closed the door on her departing footsteps, leaving Lady
O'Gara to her thoughts.

She put the consideration of Eileen from her a little impatiently.  She
was afraid Eileen was selfish.  She did not seem to have any desire to
share her good things with her family, not even with her mother, yet
Mrs. Creagh was a very sweet mother; Mrs. Comerford who had a cynical
way sometimes had remarked one day when Eileen had been very caressing
with Lady O'Gara: "If your mother is like what I remember her you need
not go further for some one to love."

It was the day on which Lady O'Gara had given Eileen her necklet of
amethysts and seed-pearls--a beautiful antique thing, of no great
intrinsic value beyond its workmanship.

It suddenly came to her that, for a good while past, she had got into a
way of propitiating Eileen with gifts.  It had not occurred to her
exactly as propitiation, but she had learnt that when Eileen was out of
sorts the gift of some pretty thing worked wonders.  Had she been
spoiling the girl?  Was she herself responsible for the whims and
fancies which Eileen took so often nowadays?  In the old days it had
not been so.  Eileen had been sweet-tempered and placidly selfish.
There was a change in her of late.  It was quite unlike the old Eileen
to go away and leave her sitting alone in the drawing-room with only
two watchful Poms, each with a bright eye upon her from their
respective chairs, and Shot stretched at her feet, to keep her company.

She acquitted herself.  Love and generosity ought not to spoil any one:
they ought to lift up, to awake their like.  Was Eileen in love with
Terry and resenting his desertion?  No; she said emphatically in her
thoughts.  She would have known if Eileen cared.  If it had been _that_
she could have been very tolerant.

Her thoughts went back to the first beginnings of difficulty with
Eileen, and she fixed them at the date of her return from her visit
home during the preceding summer.  The fatted calf had been killed for
the girl's return.  Lady O'Gara remembered how she had anticipated it,
and had thought of what Eileen liked, the special food and sweets, and
so on.  She had kept Margaret McKeon busy with the new chintz curtains
and cushions for Miss Eileen's room, and when it was all finished had
fussed about doing one little thing and another till the privileged
maid had been moved to protest.

"Hasn't Miss Eileen had everything she wanted from the lucky day for
her that she came here?  Don't be robbin' yourself, m'lady."

Lady O'Gara had taken some of her own pretty things, a crystal clock, a
silver and tortoiseshell box for the toilet table--things Eileen
particularly admired--and had added them to the other pretty things,
her gifts, of which the room had many.  She had brought an armful of
her dearest books: and she had insisted on pink roses because Eileen
particularly liked pink.

After all Eileen had been cold when she came.  It had been like a douch
of cold water.  She had not recovered her sweet placidity since that
time.  Lady O'Gara had commented on the change to her husband, but he
had not seen it.  He was fond of Eileen, in a superficial way.  Indeed
his devotion to and absorption in his wife were such that almost all
other affection in him must be superficial by contrast.  To two people
his love had been given passionately, to Terence Comerford and to his
wife.  He never spoke of the dead friend.  It was a well-understood
thing in the circle that Terence Comerford was not to be spoken of
carelessly, when Sir Shawn was within hearing.

Sitting alone in the firelight, except for the adoring dogs, Lady
O'Gara let her thoughts wander on away from Eileen.  How deep and
passionate was Shawn's love when it was given.  He had shrunk from that
first meeting with Mrs. Comerford after all those years.  He had turned
pale when she had taken his hand in hers, looking at him with a long
gaze that asked pardon for her past unreason and remembered that he and
her dead son had been dearer than brothers.  After all those years that
touch with the past had opened the floodgates of grief in Shawn O'Gara.
Only his wife knew the anguish, the disturbed nights and the weary days
that followed.  Grief in him was like a sharp physical suffering.

Dear Shawn!  How glad she was that she was so strong and healthy and
had such good spirits always, so as to be able to cheer and comfort
him.  She smiled to herself, remembering how some of her friends had
pitied her because she must always be uplifting his mood.  She had
never wearied nor found it an irksome effort.  A serious sad thought
came to her; when the hour of the inevitable parting came she prayed it
might be her lot to be left desolate rather than his.

She looked at her little watch, a delicate French thing, with a tiny
painted picture on the back framed within pearls ending in a
true-lovers'-knot, one of Shawn's many gifts.  Six o'clock.  It was
time Shawn was home.  She was very glad he had not ridden Mustapha, as
he had wanted to.  Patsy Kenny had dissuaded him.  Terry must have
stayed on at Inch for tea.  It had been a cold bright day, and it must
be turning to frost, for the fire was burning so redly.  The cold was
on the floor too, for the little dogs had left their baskets and taken
to the chairs, a thing supposed to be strictly forbidden, although as a
matter of fact Chloë and Cupid were always cheerfully disobedient.  She
wished Shawn was home.  He had gone up the mountains to a
shooting-lodge, where was a party of men gathered to shoot red deer.
He had been out overnight and he would be very tired when he came home
after a long drive on an outside car.  Well, after all, it was better
than Mustapha.  Patsy's unwillingness to see Sir Shawn go out on
Mustapha had infected her, little nervous as she was where horse-flesh
was concerned.

She comforted herself.  It was not like those dreadful days when there
had been trouble with the tenants, and she had sat in this very room,
listening in anguish for the sound of the horse's hoofs coming fast.
Terry had been away at his preparatory school then.  She had never told
any one her terrors.  Perhaps some of the servants had guessed them.
She remembered the night of the Big Wind, when Shawn had been out, and
the house had shaken in the first onslaught of the hurricane, before he
came.

There was a butler's pantry close to the drawing-room door which had
always an open window.  She had often stolen in there in the dark to
listen for the sound of the mare's trot.  Fatima had been Shawn's
favourite mount in those days, and no one could mistake the sound of
her delicate feet in the distance.  There, with her ear to the night,
Mary O'Gara had listened and listened, her heart thumping so fast
sometimes that she could not be sure if she heard the horse's hoofs.
Only, as she used to say joyously afterwards, there was really no
mistaking Fatima's trot when she _was_ coming.

Once, Rafferty, the old butler, who was dead now, had opened the pantry
door suddenly, and had all but let the tray of Waterford glass he was
carrying fall, for the fright she had given him.

She remembered how on that night of the Big Wind, when her terror was
at its worst.  Patsy Kenny had asked to see her about something or
other; how she had gone into the office to talk to him; how he had
talked gently about Fatima, how sure-footed she was and how wise, and
how little likely to be frightened as long as she was carrying her
master.  He had wandered off into simple homely talk, about the supply
of turf, how the fair had gone, the price the people were getting for
their beasts; now and again leaving off to say, when the moan of the
wind came and the house shook: "Glory be to God, it's goin' to be a
wild night, so it is!"  Or "That was a smart little clap o' win'.  It's
a great blessin' to be on dry land to-night."

Patsy's way with the dumb beasts was well known; and Lady O'Gara had
said afterwards, when she had her husband warm and dry by the fire, and
she too happy, being relieved of her terrors, to mind the storm which
had not yet reached anything like its height, that Patsy had soothed
her as though she were a nervous horse.

Shawn had been younger and stronger then.  He had laughed at her fears
and had insisted on making a night of it, keeping a roaring fire and
lamplight all through the terrifying din, while the servants in the
kitchen said their Rosary and prayed for the night to be over.
Sometime in the wild late dawn, when the wind was subsiding, Shawn had
made her go to bed, saying he would follow.  But he had not come for a
long time, and she had dropped asleep and wakened to his weary face
beside her bed, and to hear him saying that, thank God, they had got
out the horses, although the stables were all but in ruins.

As she thought over these things the fulness of her love for her
husband swept her heart like a Springtide.  It was sweet yet poignant,
for she had the pity beyond all telling in her love for Shawn.
Suddenly she began to be a little in dread because she had been going
against what she knew were his wishes.  Would he mind very much if
Terry's choice were Stella and not Eileen?  She hoped he would not--at
first.  Later on, when he knew little Stella better, with her soft
appealing ways, he would be glad.  Eileen would never be such a dear
little daughter.  Stella had not those ardent eyes for nothing.

Her disinclination to let the winds of heaven blow too roughly on the
men she loved, for whom she had always the maternal pity, brought a
sharp revulsion of feeling.  After all, the world was for the young.
They had never refused Terry anything.  In a detached way the father
was very fond of his boy.  He was not necessary to him.  No one was
that except his wife: but he had been a kind, indulgent father.  Why
should not Terry wait a little till his father came to know Stella
better?  Things would be all right then.  Shawn had seemed to avoid
Stella, perhaps because he avoided Mrs. Comerford.

At last there was Terry's ringing step in the hall.  There could be
little doubt to the mother's mind of what tidings he brought.  There
was triumph in the step.

He burst in on his mother like a young wind.

"Darling," he said, "I'm so very sorry not to have come home for tea.
I simply couldn't induce Stella to: she's so dreadfully shy, but she
adores you.  Congratulate me!"

He placed his two young firm hands on his mother's shoulders, and
stooping, he kissed her.

"I shall never love you any less, you know," he said boyishly.  "You
angel, how you helped us!  Not many mothers of an only boy would have
done it."

To their ears came the sound of wheels, approaching the house, now
near, now far, as the long avenue turned and twisted.

"It is your father," said Lady O'Gara.  "He will be very tired.  Don't
tell him yet, Terry.  He hardly knows Stella.  You are very young.  It
will have to be something of a long engagement."

"Oh!" he said, but less disappointedly than she had feared, "You too!
Mrs. Comerford said we must wait.  I don't want to wait.  I want to
shout out to the whole world that Stella is mine, but, of course, I
know.  Father would rather have had Eileen.  I have known Eileen since
I was eight years old.  Love does not come that way."

He was repeating her own words, her own thought.  She was relieved that
he was so amenable.

"After all," she said roguishly, "there have been moments when you
seemed on the edge of falling in love with Eileen.  Last June we
thought it was all but settled, your father and I."

"Oh," he said shamelessly, "when the true gods come the half-gods go."

Sir Shawn came into the room.  He was pale and tired and the shadows
crept in the hollows of his cheeks.  She was glad he was not to be
disturbed by Terry's love-story to-night.  She wondered if he would
notice the shining radiance of the boy's face.  Joy--the triumphant joy
of the accepted lover--dazzled there to her eyes.  She was relieved
when the boy went away and left them alone.  When Shawn was tired he
was irresistible to her tenderness.  For the moment even Terry was out
of it.



CHAPTER XIV

STELLA GOES VISITING

Lady O'Gara had met Stella, had drawn her to her and kissed her warmly
and softly.

"Your Granny will not have it just yet, Stella," she said, "so we need
not announce it, need we?  As though all the world will not read it in
Terry's eyes!"

It made it easier that Mrs. Comerford was somewhat unreasonable about
the engagement.  There was too short an acquaintance, she said.  Three
months,--what was three months?  And they had not had three weeks of
each other's society.  Too slender a foundation on which to build a
life's happiness.  And Terry had been obviously in love, or what such
children called love, with Eileen, when they came.  He must be sure of
himself before she gave him Stella.

She had drawn back in some curious way, Lady O'Gara felt, for she had
seemed pleased when Terry openly displayed his infatuation.  The most
candid creature alive, although for the moment she held a secret, Lady
O'Gara was puzzled by something in Grace Comerford.  Once she said that
she was sorry she had yielded to the ridiculous Irish passion for
return: and when Mary O'Gara had looked at her with a certain pain in
her expression she had railed upon the wet Irish climate.  But the
weather was not what she had meant.  Had she not said that in Italy and
Egypt she had been parched for the Atlantic rain-storms and the humid
atmosphere of Western Ireland?

It was a relief that the duck-shooting had begun with the frost: that
there was rough shooting in the other days to keep the men out of
doors.  Major Evelyn and another man, a cheerful little blonde boy
named Earnshaw, had got a few days leave from the Curragh.  Their
presence imposed a certain restraint upon Terry in regard to his
love-making--otherwise it must have been obvious even to his father,
despite that growing absent-mindedness which enfolded Shawn O'Gara like
a mist.

Eileen seemed happy once again.  Lady O'Gara began to reproach herself;
doubtless Castle Talbot in Winter was a lonesome place for the young.
Young Earnshaw was obviously épris with Stella, while Major Evelyn, a
big, laughing brown man, attached himself to Eileen.

Eileen, despite her dislike of the sound of a shot,--she would clap her
hands over her pretty ears, with their swinging hoops of turquoise,
whenever a gun was fired,--went out with the guns when they shot the
last of the pheasants, she at least managed to accompany the lunch.  In
the evenings she sang to the tired happy men--her Irish songs, while
Major Evelyn watched her, an admiring light in his brown eyes.  He was
half-Irish, and the sentiment of the songs appealed to him.  Night
after night Eileen went through her little repertoire, charming with
her soft, veiled voice, and Sir Shawn was drawn in from his office to
listen with the others.  Only occasionally Stella put in an appearance,
which was as well in the circumstances, Terry was so taken up attending
to all possible needs of his C.O., and wondering ingenuously why Evelyn
had done him the honour to come, that he bore the deprivation imposed
upon him by Mrs. Comerford better than he might otherwise have done.

When she should be alone again with Shawn she would tell him, Lady
O'Gara said to herself.  She had surprisingly few moments alone with
him these days.  A few days more and the house would have settled down
quietly once more.  She would be passing Terry's room, with the door
standing open revealing its emptiness, as she had had to do many times,
always missing the boy sadly.

One of these days Eileen went out alone with the lunch while Stella
came to the meal at Castle Talbot.  Sir Shawn was absent.  Lady O'Gara
had ordered a specially dainty lunch such as a young girl would like.
She loved to give Stella pleasure, and to draw out the look of
adoration from her soft bright eyes, which had something of the shyness
and wildness of the woodland creature.  Terry had complained boyishly
that Stella ran away from him, was shy of his caresses.  He had had to
take her by capture, he said, and his mother loved him none the less.
They were going to see Mrs. Wade.  Stella was already friends with
Susan Horridge at the South lodge and with Georgie.  She had heard much
of Mrs. Wade from them, and she pitied her loneliness, as she pitied
Susan's when Georgie was at school.

"Odd, isn't it, dear?" she asked in her soft deliberate voice: she had
lost or nearly lost the slightly foreign way of speaking she had had at
first.  "Odd, isn't it, that those two natural recluses should have
found each other?  The other day I was talking to Susan, when some one
shook the gate and there was a rattle of tins.  I thought Susan would
have fainted.  I had to go to the gate for her.  It was only a
procession of tinkers, as Patsy calls them, and an impudent fellow
asked me if I wanted any pots or pans mended.  I asked him did I look
like wanting any pots or pans mended, and he nodded his head towards
the lodge.  'The good woman of the house there might,' he said.  'She
keeps herself to herself.  I never knew this gate locked before.'  Poor
Susan asked me twenty questions about what the man looked like.  I
think she was satisfied."

"We are going to bring Mrs. Wade a gift of a puppy," Lady O'Gara said.
"You shall select one from Judy's family, with the assistance of Patsy.
They are a good lot."

"I know the one she shall have," Stella said.  "It is the one with a
few white hairs on his breast.  Patsy says they'll be a patch as big as
a plate when he's older, and tells him he's a disgrace to the litter.
He's a darling, much nicer than the others.  May I carry him, dear?"

"Won't he be rather heavy?"

"He can walk for little bits where it is dry.  But he falls over his
great big puppy paws.  I don't think there ever were such beautiful
dogs as your setters, not even my Poms or yours."

"I did think of asking you to give Mrs. Wade a Pom, but although they
are good watchdogs they would not afford such a sense of protection as
a setter.  I hope she'll like a setter puppy just as well.  We are very
proud of our setters.  The old Shot strain is known everywhere.  It has
been in the family for at least two hundred years."

Lady O'Gara could be very eloquent about the dogs, but she refrained.
This little daughter of hers was just as much a lover of the little
brethren as she was.  Stella simply could not endure to see anything
killed, which was a reason against her going out with the guns.  Once
or twice when she had seen anything shot, although she had not screamed
like Eileen, she had turned pale, while her dark eyes had dilated as
though with fear.  Lady O'Gara, noticing how close and silky the gold
nut-brown hair grew, rather like feathers than hair, had said to
herself that Stella had been a rabbit or a squirrel or perhaps a wild
bird in one of her incarnations.

They went off after lunch to see Mrs. Wade, the waddling puppy
following them, now and again tumbling over his paws.  They went out by
Susan's gate, where Lady O'Gara stopped to admire the garden that was
growing up about the lodge.

"You have transfigured it, Susan," she said.  "It used to be so damp
here with the old ragged laurels.  They are well away.  But I would not
have thought there was such good earth under them; the ground always
seemed caked so hard."

"So it were, my lady," said Susan, colouring prettily.  "It were Mr.
Kenny.  He has worked so 'ard.  Him an' Georgie've been puttin' in
bulbs no end these last few days, when he can spare an half-hour from
his horses.  It's downright pleasant to watch them do it, knowin' that
the dead-lookin' things come forth in glory soon as ever this wet
Winter's past."

Susan had to bring out her Michael to be presented to the puppy, who
had no name as yet, but Michael only growled and disappeared into the
lodge as soon as he was released, like an arrow from the bow.
Jealousy, Susan pronounced it, and suggested that the puppy should be
called Pansy.

"I fancied callin' Michael Pansy," she said.  "But Mr. Kenny, he fair
talked me out of it.  His eyes do favour the brown pansies that growed
in my old granny's garden in the Cotswolds."

A thousand, thousand pities, Lady O'Gara thought, as they went down the
hill towards the river, that Patsy Kenny, that confirmed bachelor,
should apparently have found his ideal in an unhappily married woman.

Stella was carrying the puppy, so that he should not arrive muddy at
his new mistress's house.  She had twined a ridiculous blue ribbon in
his russet curls, which he tried to work off whenever he got a chance,
desisting only to lick vigorously at her hand.

"He knew me when he was a blind puppy," Stella explained.  "I had them
all in my lap when they were a few hours old.  Judy let me handle them.
You should see Eileen's face of disgust as I sat on the horse-block in
the stable-yard with my arms full of them."

"I can see it!" Lady O'Gara said, with a queer little smile.

The day had been one of heavy showers, between which a pale sun came
out and gilt the dappled golds and browns of the woods, and set up a
rainbow bridge on the rain cloud that had passed over.  They had left
the house in a fair interval.  They were within sight of the Waterfall
Cottage, within hearing of the water as it fell over the weir, when the
heavy drops began to patter.  They ran the intervening space, Lady
O'Gara laughing like a girl.  It was the girlishness in her that made
girls love her society, while they adored her in her own proper place.

As they passed the window of Mrs. Wade's cottage, where it showed
beyond the iron railing, Lady O'Gara glanced that way.  The interior of
the room was no longer visible to the casual passer-by.  Curtains were
drawn across it, but through the parting of the curtains one caught a
glimpse of fire-light.  It would be a pleasant rosy window in the
desolate road when the lamps were lit.  But probably Mrs. Wade
shuttered her window against the night, although the barred opening in
the wall, designed to give light to the window, was well protected by
its bristling spikes atop.

The gate was padlocked.  They remained shaking it long enough to make
them fearful that they would have to turn back before Mrs. Wade came
flying down the avenue to open to them.

"I am so sorry I kept you waiting," she said, panting: "I had just gone
into the house when you came.  I have been so busy getting my garden
into order."

She was stooping in the act of unlocking the gate.  A pale shaft of
watery sunlight came and lay on her hair, showing how thick and soft it
was, how closely it grew.  The sun was in her eyes, dazzling, and on
her cheek, making it pale.  She took the hand Lady O'Gara extended to
her, without looking at Stella.

"This is your little dog, Mrs. Wade," Stella said, not waiting to be
introduced.  "Now isn't he a darling?  I think myself he's the pick of
the basket, although Patsy Kenny says he's a disgrace to the place,
with that old white waistcoat making a holy show of him."

Mrs. Wade looked at her, shading her eyes with her hand.

"Thank you, miss," she said humbly.  "I'm sure he'll be a dear little
dog and a great companion."

She had a fluttered, flustered look.  Her breath came short.  Lady
O'Gara wondered if her heart was strong.

"I've been expecting you any day at all, m'lady," she went on.  "You
didn't say when you'd come, but you said you'd come and I've been
expecting you, though I used to say to myself, 'She won't come yet:
it's too soon to be expecting her.  Maybe 'tis in a month's time or six
weeks she'd be coming, with the little dog and the young lady.  She
wouldn't be remembering.  Hasn't she her beautiful son at home?'"

Lady O'Gara was touched.  She had forgotten how very lonely Mrs. Wade's
lot must be.  After all, Susan Horridge could not be very much of a
companion to Mrs. Wade, who, despite the humility of her manner, was
evidently a person of some education and refinement.

"We shall come oftener now," she said.  "It has been a rather busy
time.  I am sure Stella will come often to see you and the dog.  We
must find a name for him.  I once knew a man who called his dog,
Dog,--just that.  We must find something better than that."

She was talking to set Mrs. Wade at her ease.  Mrs. Wade lit the lamp;
apologizing for the darkness of the firelit room.  The deep pink shade
flooded the room with rosy light.  There was a tea-table set in the
background.  Lady O'Gara had a passing wonder as to whether the table
had been set daily in expectation of their visit.

"Now, what do you think of your dog?" Stella asked, as soon as the lamp
was lit.  "See how he has made himself at home already, lying on his
side on the hearthrug as though he was a big dog, and not a ridiculous
tumbling-over puppy."  Mrs. Wade knelt down obediently to receive the
puppy's large paw, with more than a suspicion of white about the toes,
which Stella laid in her hand.  As the two heads met together it
occurred to Lady O'Gara that the hair grew similarly on the two heads,
close, silken, rippling.

She watched Mrs. Wade take the dog's paws and hold them against her
breast.  A very lonely woman, she said to herself.  There had been
something of passion in the little act and in the way she laid her
cheek against the dog's head.

"I can see he's going to have a most lovely time," said Stella
approvingly.  "We'll call him Terry, I think, after Mr. Terry O'Gara.
All my dogs are called after my friends.  I haven't a Terry yet,
though."

"Oh, no, not that name, please," Mrs. Wade said.  "Let me call him
Keep, if you don't mind, Miss.  He's going to keep me and the house,
and we'll keep together."

"Oh, certainly," said Stella, a little surprised at Mrs. Wade's manner.
"I know some people don't like dogs called after people.  There was a
dear old man in Rome, Count Raimondi, Carlo Raimondi.  I had a dear
King Charles spaniel then.  He died of distemper, poor darling!  Count
Raimondi did not like Carlo's being called after him.  He had just the
same mouth and eyes, and both were rather fond of their food.  So I had
to change Carlo for Golliwog, poor darling."

Mrs. Wade laughed, a sweet fresh laugh.  Lady O'Gara was glad she could
laugh.  She asked to be excused while she made the tea, and in her
absence Stella went round the room, exclaiming at the prettiness of
everything.

"Only I do not like her to be so lonely," she said.  "I must come very
often to see her.  She is a darling, is she not?  Don't you feel drawn
to love her?  Think of her having to depend on Susan for society--nice
as Susan is!"

Mrs. Wade came back with a dainty tea.  She was with difficulty
persuaded to share it, saying that she had had her tea earlier.  But
even when she yielded to persuasion she did not make much of a tea.
She had picked up a fan and sat shading her eyes with it from the lamp.
From the shadow her eyes doated on Stella.



CHAPTER XV

THE SHADOW

One evening some ten days later Lady O'Gara, who had been out, arrived
home with the dressing-bell.  Hurrying upstairs, she found her husband
in his dressing-room.  He had had his bath: she noticed that his hair
was wet as he stood in front of the glass, knotting his white cravat.
He wore hunting things in the Winter evenings, and the scarlet coat,
with the little facing of blue, became his dark skin and eyes.

"Is it you, Mary?" he asked, without turning round.  "What kept you so
late?"

"I forgot the time.  I went to see Mrs. Wade, and found Stella there.
I did not know she had been there since we brought Mrs. Wade a puppy to
keep her company.  Stella was on her way here.  She had sent on her
luggage, meaning to follow."

Sir Shawn turned about completely and stared at her.  She saw that his
face was disturbed.

"I wonder if it was wise to take Stella there!" he said.  "Poor woman!
One would not deny her any happiness.  But--I warn you, Grace Comerford
will not like it.  There is another thing, Mary.  Come in and shut the
door.  In a few minutes we shall have to go downstairs and talk
platitudes.  I could wish we were alone once more."

"Why, what is the matter, Shawn!" Lady O'Gara asked, coming forward in
some alarm.  "You don't feel ill?"

"I feel as well as ever I feel.  But I've been infernally disturbed.
Evelyn, quite gaily, and showing his white teeth, as he does when he
laughs--I've nothing against Evelyn--frightened me by talking about
Terry and Stella.  He said it was delightful to see children so
thoroughly in love.  I pulled him up, rather short.  He turned it off
with a half apology, but I could see he did not believe me when I said
there was nothing.  'Oh, they haven't told him.'  I could see by his
eyes that he thought that.  I felt infernally frightened, I can tell
you!"

"Oh, but why, Shawn?"  Lady O'Gara's eyes fluttered nervously in the
candlelight.  She was frightened at her own complicity, really
frightened for the first time.  "Why shouldn't the poor children be
happy?  I know you like Eileen better than Stella.  Still it is not a
question of our choice."

She had been strangely, implicitly obedient to her husband during their
married life, even when she might well have departed from obedience.

"What in God's Name are you talking about, Mary?" he asked and she felt
vaguely shocked.  Shawn had always been reverent in using the Name of
His Creator.  "It is not a question of my likes or dislikes.  Why, for
the matter of that, I can see little Stella with the poor lad's eyes
well enough.  But this thing simply cannot go on.  It must be killed.
God knows I don't want to hurt the boy.  I'd give my life to make him
happy, although I don't show him affection as you do, as you can.  Is
it possible you did not understand?  Was I stupid about explaining to
you?  Don't you know that Stella is Terence's daughter?"

No; she had not known.  That was plain enough in her face.

"Oh, no," she said in a bewildered way.  "Stella is the daughter of
Gaston de St. Maur...."

"Grace Comerford said so, or she allowed people to believe it.  Did she
ever say so?  Stella is the daughter of Terence Comerford and Bridyeen
Sweeney, whom you know as Mrs. Wade.  Don't you see now how impossible
it is?  I wish to Heaven Grace Comerford had not come back."

A sense of the piteousness, the pitilessness, of it all came
overwhelmingly to Mary O'Gara.  She had been learning to love Stella.
The fond, ardent little creature had pushed herself into her heart.
What was to happen to them all, to Terry, to Stella, to herself?

"You are sure, Shawn?" she asked, rubbing her hands together as though
she were cold.  But while she asked the certainty was borne in upon
her.  It was the starved mother-love that had burned in Mrs. Wade's
eyes as they rested on the girl.  It was the unconscious daughterly
tenderness, the mysterious attraction which had made Stella chatter on
the homeward way of Mrs. Wade and how she pitied her, she knew not for
what.

She threw out her hands in a gesture of despair.

"It seems we are all going to be hurt," she said.  "I would not mind if
it were not for the children.  Why did Grace Comerford bring Stella
where she and Terry were certain to meet?  The boy was bound to find
her irresistible?"

She remembered suddenly that the dinner bell might ring at any moment
and that the patient Margaret MacKeon was waiting to help her to dress.
She sighed.  It was one of the moments when one finds the social
demands hard to endure.

"One of us will have to tell Terry," she said.  "It is not a pretty
story.  Poor little Stella!"

No one would have thought from Lady O'Gara's demeanour at the dinner
table that Black Care pressed hard on her white shoulders.  Sir Shawn
had often said that when his wife chose she could put the young girls
in the shade.

She put them in the shade to-night.  She had a deep, brilliant spot of
colour in either cheek.  Her dress of leaf brown matched her eyes and
hair.  She had laid aside her other jewels for a close-fitting antique
collar of garnets, the deep ruby of which suggested a like colour in
the gown as it did in her eyes.

Eileen was out of it with Major Evelyn and pouted.  Terry was tired and
happy after his day of tramping over the bogs.  He seemed content to
watch Stella across the bowl of growing violets which was between them.
Young Earnshaw talked nonsense and Stella dimpled and smiled.  She had
gained the colour of the moss rose-bud since she had come back to
Ireland.  There was a daintiness, a delicacy in her little face with
the softly moulded, yet firm features, the grey-brown eyes with dark
lashes, the arched fine brows, which would have made a plain face
distinguished.  Her head as she moved it about in the lamplight--she
had bird-like gestures--showed a sheen like a pheasant's breast.
Watching her miserably Sir Shawn O'Gara said to himself that Terence
Comerford's red hair had come out as golden bronze on his daughter's
pretty head.

He had a girl at either hand, as Lady O'Gara had the two male visitors.
Terry, the odd man, had come round and slipped in between his father
and Eileen, moving her table-napkin so that she sat between him and
Major Evelyn.  He and his father were almost equally silent from
different reasons.

Eileen at first had been crumbling her bread, sending her food away
untasted or only just tasted.  She was vexed about something.  It was
not like Eileen to be capricious over her food.

Perhaps Lady O'Gara noticed the dissatisfaction and ascribed it to the
fact that Eileen was not having the attention she desired, so she drew
gently out of a very interesting discussion she was having with Major
Evelyn and turned to little Earnshaw, an agreeably impudent boy, with
cheeks like a Winter apple and an irresistibly jolly smile.  He seemed
to have got over his first shyness with Stella and was conducting his
veiled love-making with a rather charming audacity.  Lady O'Gara had
glanced a little anxiously once or twice at Terry, but there was
obviously only amusement at young Earnshaw's way in Terry's face.  He
must be very sure of Stella.

"Don't mind him," he said across the table while she watched.  "He's
very young and he's apt to get excited when he stays up for dinner.
Very often the Mess has to pack him off to bed."

Mary O'Gara smiled at the banter between the two boys.  Now and again
she inclined an ear to the conversation of Major Evelyn and Eileen.
The big, handsome, jovial man of the world, whom his subalterns, while
evidently deeply admiring him, called "Cecil," did not find much to
interest him in Eileen, though he was too well-bred to show it.

Stella, laughing, put down her head with one of her bird-like
movements.  Her hair was parted in the centre and the thick masses of
it, so much like plumage, went off in silken waves and curls and was
looped behind her little ears where it was combed up from her white
neck.  She was wearing green tonight, a vivid emerald green which would
have tried a less beautiful complexion.

The movement, the close fine ripple of the hair, were like Mrs. Wade's;
there was no reason to doubt the relationship.  Would others see it?
But Mrs. Wade hardly ever walked abroad.  She seemed as much afraid of
her fellow-creatures as any one could wish her to be.

Lady O'Gara found herself seeking for another likeness.  No; except for
that slight redness in the hair there was nothing she could discover of
Terence Comerford.  She wondered vaguely whether Grace Comerford had
looked for such a likeness and been disappointed.

She let her thoughts slip away from things around her.  She asked
herself whether in the circumstance Mrs. Wade was a fit companion for
her daughter, and answered herself, with a little scorn, that there was
nothing to fear from the mother's influence.  She remembered something
she had caught sight of at the end of a little cross-passage in
Waterfall Cottage.  There was a statue, a throbbing rosy lamp in the
darkness.  Mrs. Wade was at 7 o'clock Mass at the Convent every morning
despite her recluse habits.  She was a good woman, whatever there was
in her past.

Lady O'Gara recalled herself with a start to the things about her.  How
long had her thoughts been straying?  Not very long, for the plates
were being taken away that had been full when last she was aware of
them.

Her eyes rested on Eileen's face.  A name caught her ear--Robin
Gillespie.  Oh, that was the doctor's son of whom Eileen had spoken
with a certain consciousness.  Eileen's manner had suggested that Robin
Gillespie was in love with her, while she said: "Of course he has not a
penny and never will have."

Eileen was listening now, absorbed in what Major Evelyn was saying.
Her lips were parted, her eyes and colour bright.  The air of slackness
which so often dulled her beauty had disappeared.  For once she was
animated.

Major Evelyn perceived that his hostess was listening and turned to her
with a courteous intention to include her in the conversation.  He was
charming to all women, this big man, with the irresistible gaiety.
Poor Eileen, she had been playing off all her little charms upon him,
and in vain.  He showed openly his preference for an old woman, as Mary
O'Gara called herself in her thoughts, wincing a little.

"I've discovered that Miss Creagh knows Gillespie, the young doctor who
has defied all the Army Regulations.  It was quite an excitement in
India.  The Rajah of Bundelpore had a very bad attack of Indian cholera
one night.  His own doctors could do nothing for him.  Some one--the
Rajah's heir who had been at Harrow, probably--sent over for the
regimental doctor, who happened to be Gillespie.  He found all sorts of
devilry going on while the Rajah writhed and turned black and green.
Gillespie took him in hand--I heard his treatment was nearly as weird
as that of the native doctors.  There was something about blackberry
jam stirred in boiling water for an astringent drink.  Anyhow the Rajah
pulled through.  He's got a constitution like a horse.  And as soon as
he was well he presented Gillespie with a horse that was the very
Kohinoor of horses--Gillespie sold him, for a preposterous sum I
believe, to Lord Nutwood--magnificent jewels and a lakh of rupees."

"How much is a lakh of rupees?" Eileen asked with breathless interest.

"Oh, a big sum--somewhere about fifty thousand pounds.  The jewels are
worth as much.  Then came in the Indian Government and the Army
Regulations.  They ordered Gillespie to return the Rajah's gifts.
Gillespie, who hadn't a penny to bless himself with--it was understood
that all he could squeeze out of his pay went home to his people in
Ireland--snapped his fingers at them.  They bid him choose between
leaving the Service and giving up the Rajah's gifts.  Gillespie quite
unhesitatingly--I believe they really thought there could be a question
of choice--gave up the Service.  I hear he's come home and means to set
up as a specialist in Cavendish Square.  They said there was a girl in
the case, some girl who wouldn't have him, and that took the savour
even out of the lakh of rupees.  I don't suppose it's true.  Do you
happen to know him, Miss Creagh?  He is from your part of the world,
Donegal way."

"My people know him quite well," said Eileen, her breath coming and
going fast.  "Just fancy, I never heard of it.  You'd have thought some
one would have written to me."

She frowned, looking down at her plate.

At bed-time when Lady O'Gara, putting her own preoccupations aside,
went to say good-night to Eileen she found her in tears.

"My dear, what is it?" she asked in dismay.

"Oh, Cousin Mary--you know that story Major Evelyn told us about Robin
Gillespie.  Well--isn't it awful?" she broke into sobbing.  "I wouldn't
listen to him when he asked me to be engaged to him.  He said he knew
he was a poor ... poor ... beggar, but ... with that to spur him on ...
he could do anything.  I was ... horrid.  I told him to ask ... Brigid.
He said it wasn't Brigid he wanted ... it was me.  He got ... angry at
last ... and now...  I know I loved him ... all the time."

Lady O'Gara troubled as she was, could not refrain from smiling, but as
Eileen's tears apparently had overtaken her during the process of
brushing her hair, and the long mantle of greenish grey, silver-gold
hair hung about her face, Lady O'Gara's smile passed unnoticed.

"Do you think ... it would seem ... very forward of me to write to
him?" asked Eileen; and then looked from the curtain of her hair with
wet eyes but a new hopefulness.

"I should ask Brigid.  He may have acted on your advice."

"Oh, but he hadn't time," said Eileen, whose strong point was not
humour.  "He went away at once, broken-hearted.  Besides, I should have
known if he had made any advance to Brigid.  Cousin Mary, _would_ you
mind very much if I went home for a little visit?  I know that I have
only just come back--but still..."

"Certainly not, Eileen."  Lady O'Gara had a feeling that just at
present Eileen might be a jarring element.  "Make your own
arrangements, my dear.  I am very glad if it will make you happier."

"Oh, _thank_ you," said Eileen, with effusion.  "You are always so
sympathetic and understanding, darling Cousin Mary.  You see, if Robin
has come back as Major Evelyn says, he might be with his people just at
this moment."



CHAPTER XVI

THE DEAD HAND

Terry came to his mother a week later with a look in his face which
made her want to take his young head in her arms and weep over it.  A
shadow had fallen on his comely youth.  He looked "grumpy," as he had
been accustomed to look in his darling childhood when he was about to
have a croupy attack, at which times the sense of injury against all
the world had been part humorous, whole poignant, to his mother's mind.

"What is it, darling?" she asked, although she knew before he spoke
what was the matter.

"I have been talking to Father," he broke out.  "Mother, it is
intolerable.  He says he will not consent to my engagement to Stella.
As though he or anybody could prevent it."

"You have not quarrelled?" she asked in quick alarm, anxious for both
her men.

He laughed angrily.

"Oh, we didn't shout at each other, if that is what you mean.  He told
me he would never consent to my engagement.  Why?  In the name of
Heaven why?  I asked him that and he wouldn't answer me.  He told me to
come to you.  What bee has he got in his bonnet?  I should have
thought--Stella is a sort of little sister of Terence Comerford, from
whom I am called, whose death I have always understood shadowed
Father's life.  Oh, I know you've been throwing cold water on me,
leading me up to this.  I knew when you would not let me shout it out
that first night, as I wanted to, before all the world.  Father said
something about Eileen.  Ridiculous!  We have never thought of each
other.  As a matter of fact she has a young man of her own.  I always
knew he wanted me to marry Eileen.  As though I ever could have married
any one but Stella!"

She did not at all resent her husband's laying the burden of comfort
upon her.  He had always left Terry to her.

She looked at his young angry face.  He was ramping up and down the
little boudoir like an animal in a cage.  He was adorably young and she
loved him.  What was she to say?

"I'm not a child," Terry went on.  "Things can't stand like this, as
Father expects them to, apparently.  One doesn't throw over a girl one
loves better than life for no reason at all, and Father will give none
except that the marriage is unsuitable.  How can it be unsuitable
except that I am so unworthy of her?  Mother"--he stopped suddenly in
his pacing to and fro--"you can do anything with Father.  Make him see
sense.  You know my whole happiness depends on this--and hers.  It has
gone deep with me."

Suddenly he turned away, and putting his two arms on the mantelpiece he
laid down his face upon them.

She went to him and stroked his hair softly.  He looked up at her and
his eyes were miserable, and so young.

"Darling," he said, "you have always been good to me.  Can't you talk
Father over?  I am going away to-morrow.  If he persists in this
insanity I shall chuck my commission, go off to Canada and try to make
a home there for Stella."

"Terry!"  The name was wrung from her like a cry.

"You see I couldn't stay, darling, hanging round in the hope that
Father might change his mind.  I couldn't stick being engaged and not
engaged.  I should hate to leave you, of course, darling, but then you
wouldn't come.  You'd never leave Father.  He says his decision is
final, but he gives me no reason for it.  It is the maddest way of
treating a man I ever heard.  What does he mean by it?"

"He was always a very indulgent father, Terry.  If he refuses you a
thing you desire so much he must have a good reason."

She felt the feebleness of her plea even before he turned and looked at
her.

"That is really foolish, Mother," he said.  "I beg your pardon if I am
rude.  I'm not a child, to be kept in the dark and told that my elders
know what is best for me.  Do you know his reasons?"

She had been dreading the question, yet she was unprepared with an
answer.

"I see you do," he went on grimly.  "But of course you won't tell me,
if Father will not, though he sent me to you."

The poor lady was profoundly wretched.  Tears were not far off.  She
would not for the world have wept before the boy.  He had enough to
bear without her tears.

"Where is your father?" she asked.

"He is in his office.  You will speak to him?  You angel!  Tell him how
impossible it is that Stella and I could give up each other.  You love
her, Mother, don't you?  The bird-like thing!  I remember you said at
first that she was like a bird.  She has flown into my heart and I
cannot turn her out.  Say..."

"I will say all I Can, Terry.  Do you feel fit to go back to the
others?"

"They don't want me.  They are quite happy knocking about the
billiard-balls.  Evelyn would know, and I don't think I could stand
little Earnshaw's chaffing ways."

Boyishly he looked at himself in the glass.  He had rumpled his hair
out of its usual order.  There was a bright colour in his cheeks.  He
looked brilliantly handsome.  What he said was:

"Lord, what an outsider I look!"

She left him there and went off to look for her husband.  Her heart was
very heavy.  Already she knew that the compromise she had to suggest
would be received with scorn.  It was a weak womanly compromise, just
the kind of thing a man will put his foot on and squelch utterly.

He turned round as she came in.

"Well, Mary," he said.  "I've been having a very unpleasant discussion
with Terry.  It ended where it began.  He would not listen to me."

She came and stood behind his chair.  The fire was low in the grate.
There was the intolerable smell of a smoking lamp in the room.  The
reading-lamp on the table was flaring.  She turned it down and
replenished the fire.  The discomfort of it all--the room felt cold and
dismal--depressed her further.

"The poor boy!" she said.  "What are we to do, Shawn?  You can't expect
him to give up Stella without any explanation.  He would be a poor
creature if he could--not your son or mine.  Shawn, you will have to
tell him.  How could you leave it to me?"

"And if I do, what then?"

She shook her head.  She did not know what then: or rather she did not
wish to answer the question.

She was sitting on the arm of his chair.  He leant his head against her
wearily.  In the glass above the chimney-piece, tilted towards them,
she saw his face and was frightened.  Were the purple shadows really
there, or did she only imagine them?

"If such a story had been told to me about you, Mary," he asked, "do
you suppose it would have made any difference?  I would have said like
an ancestor of mine:

  "Has the pearl less whiteness
    Because of its birth?
  Has the violet less brightness
    For growing near earth?

That is what any lover worth his salt would say: yet when one is older
and very proud of one's family the bar sinister is not a thing to be
thought of."

"You said yourself that Bridyeen was an innocent creature.  You forgave
Terence, who was her tempter.  You love his memory and you have called
your one son after him.  Is it fair, is it just?"

She was frightened at her own temerity.  The subject of Terence
Comerford had always been like an open wound to her husband.

"Did I forgive Terence?" he asked with a wonder that had something
child-like about it; "I was very angry with Terence, dreadfully angry.
Do you remember that passage, Mary?

  "Alas they had been friends in youth;

you know how it goes on:

  "And to be wroth with one we love
  Doth work like madness in the brain."


She had slipped an arm about his neck, and her hand went on softly
caressing his cheek.

"I think we shall have to tell Terry," she said, "if we persist in our
refusal.  We could not take up such an untenable position.
Unless..."--she hesitated.

"Go on, Mary," he said.

"Unless we were to accept Grace's story of Stella's birth.  Why should
it not be true?"  She asked the question piteously.  "Are you sure,
Shawn, about the other thing?"

But while she said it she remembered Stella's likeness to Mrs. Wade.
Why, any one might see it, any one.  A new fear sprang up in her heart,
troubled by many fears.  This time it was for Stella.  Any day, any
hour, some one besides herself might discover that likeness.  Why, for
all she knew the place buzzed with it already.  Sooner or later some
one would recognize Mrs. Wade as Bridyeen Sweeney.  Then it would be
easy to piece the old story together.  Already people had noticed that
Stella had the Comerford colour, which had been, in her own case, the
Creagh colour.  Grace Comerford ought not to have come back.  Shawn was
quite right.  She ought not to have come back.

"You are a very clever woman, Mary.  But it seems to me a cheap novel
kind of suggestion.  I think we must face the thing as it is.  I shall
tell Terry to-night."

Terry was told.  He came to his mother's room after hearing the story.
She had been expecting him.  In the end her men always brought her
their troubles.  So she had piled up a bright fire, had set a couple of
softly cushioned chairs side by side, as though the physical comfort
would reach the wounded spirit.  She smiled to herself rather piteously
at the thought.  Men were susceptible to comfort, to being petted, no
matter at what age one loved them, or in what grief one would comfort
them.

She was in her silk dressing gown, her hair in two long plaits before
Terry came.  Despite his miserable preoccupation his face lightened at
sight of her.

"How sweet you look, Mother!" he said.  "And so young with your hair
like that."

"Come and sit down, my darling boy."

He came and sat by her, and presently he laid his face on her shoulder
to conceal, she divined, set eyes.

"What am I to do, Mothereen, at all, at all?" he asked, going back to
the phraseology of his nursery days.

"Your father has told you?"

"Yes, he has told me."

"It is pretty bad," she said compassionately.

"Mother," he lifted his face and his eyes were bloodshot.  "Why did you
call me after that villain?  Why does my father love him still?  I have
never heard you say one word against him."

She flinched before the accusation.

"Dear," she said.  "I have only just been told of this.  Your father
kept it from me all those years."

"And you were engaged to him at the time!  Good Lord!" he broke out
with young passion.  "Don't tell me, Mother, that there is any excuse
for him.  I could not bear that from you.  One law for the man, another
for the woman: it is the easy way of the world.  My poor little
darling!"

Suddenly he choked and got up and went away from her.  She found
nothing to say.

He was back again in a second, while she watched him helplessly.

"I don't want her to know," he said.  "She must not know.  What am I to
do?  She ought to enter this family as its loved and honoured daughter.
Mother, I do not intend to give her up."

She had been waiting for it.  If he had said otherwise she would have
been bitterly disappointed, however much she might have tried to
deceive herself.  It was a pity, a thousand pities, the child could not
have come to them without that smirch.  But it had not touched her:
there was no stain on her.  Thinking upon Stella's mother she said to
herself that no levity in the girl she had been had led to her
downfall.  Why, Shawn had said she was the simplest, whitest of
creatures.  It made Terence's sin all the blacker.

She drew her boy's head down to her and kissed it.

"I did not ask you to give her up," she said.  "I do not take the
world's view of such things."

He looked at her with an incredible incredulous relief.

"You angel mother!" he said with a deep sigh.  "I might have trusted
you.  There is one thing.  Stella must never know."

"She must never know," she repeated after him.

Her husband's foot sounded in the adjoining room and Terry went away
comforted.  Shawn did not come in to say good-night to her as usual, by
which omission she conjectured the trouble of his mind.  She prayed for
light, almost in despair of finding it, and slept, although she had
expected to lie awake, seeking unhappily a way out of this threatening
sorrow for all dear to her.

She awoke somewhere in the small hours.  The moon was on her bed and
the air was very cold.  She came awake suddenly, with a thought in her
mind so concrete that it was as though some one had spoken it aloud.

"Is it quite certain that Terence did not marry Bridyeen Sweeney?"

She caught at it as a drowning man catches at a straw.  Her heart gave
a wild bound towards it.  It was so thin, so frail a hope, that while
her fingers closed upon it she knew the futility.  Again she slept, and
the thought was with her when she awoke in the grey morning.



CHAPTER XVII

MISS BRENNAN

She was grateful to the exigencies of the Service which made it
absolutely necessary for Terry to be back in barracks next day.  He had
gone off after breakfast with Major Evelyn and Mr. Earnshaw, forbidding
her to come to see him off.  Sir Shawn, who was High Sheriff for the
year and had to be in the county town for the opening of the Assizes,
took the party to the station on his way.  She was left with the
morning on her hands.

How to use it?  Oh, she had been impatient for them to be gone!  The
hope which had seemed so frail in the night had strengthened and
failed, strengthened and failed many times since.  This morning it was
strong within her.  It was founded on so little.  Terry had called
Terence Comerford hard names last night.  A villain.  She did not think
Terence was a villain.  He had been a kindly, affectionate fellow, very
quick to be angry about a cruelty to any helpless thing.  A good heart:
oh, yes, Terence had had a good heart: but, even to her had come the
dreary knowledge that good-hearted people can be very cruel in their
sins.

She had looked at it from many points of view.  Supposing Terence had
meant to marry the girl and been prevented by his sudden death!
Something came into her mind, dreary and terrible.  "The way to Hell is
paved with good intentions."  Poor Terence, who had laid this coil for
their feet, tangling their lives and happiness in the meshes of his
passion, had he been paving Hell, just paving Hell, with good
intentions never to be realized?

Early as they had started she had found time to speak to her husband
about the possibility of there having been a marriage.  He had found
her beside his bed full-dressed when he opened his eyes on the grey
morning.

"Shawn," she had said, "Could Terence have married Bridyeen Sweeney?"

The maze of sleep was still in his eyes.  For a moment he stared at her
as though she had given him a new idea.  Then he turned away fretfully.

"No," he said, "no.  Put that out of your head.  If it was so would he
have let me go on suffering as I did?  It was the whiskey was at the
root of the trouble.  He would never have spoken to me as he did if it
had not been for the whiskey."

She passed over the irrelevancy.  Shawn was not yet all awake.

"Would he have righted her if he had lived, do you think, Shawn?"

"My God, Mary, how can I tell?  Why do you torture me with such
senseless questions?  You know how that old tragedy has power to upset
me.

"I'm sorry, Shawn," she said humbly.  "It was for the boy's sake."

She left him, his face turned to the wall, her heart heavy because the
hope had failed.  But a little later she had the house to herself, and
the hope came back again and asked the insistent question.

She was going to see Mrs. Wade for herself and discover if there was
hope for Terry and Stella.  Common sense whispered at her ear, that it
was not likely Mrs. Wade would choose to be Mrs. Wade all those years
if she might have been Mrs. Terence Comerford, living at Inch, honoured
and with the love of her child.  She would not listen to that chilling
whisper.  She had known many strange things in life, quite contrary to
common sense.  It would not be common sense now for Terry to want to
marry a girl born out of wedlock.  It would not be common sense that
the girl should be kept in ignorance of the stain on her birth.  But
these things happened.--A wryness came to Mary O'Gara's sweet mouth
with the thought that if Terry married Stella his children would be
born of a nameless mother.  So the world was so strong in her!
Scornfully in her own mind she defied the world.

She took a roundabout way to Waterfall Cottage, because she did not
want the slight interruption of speaking to Susan Horridge if she went
out by the South lodge, the nearest way.  By a détour through her own
park she entered O'Hart property, which had been in Chancery since she
remembered it, the house going to rack and ruin.  Her way led her round
by the Mount in which was the tomb of old Hercules.

The earth was warmly beautiful, covered with the rust-coloured Autumn
leaves.

Under the trees overlooking the river there were many strangely
coloured fungi pushing in rows and ranks from the damp earth on which
the foot slid, for it was covered thickly by a moss that exuded slimy
stuff when trodden upon as though it was seaweed.

She was just by the vault where the Admiral's coffin stood on its
shelf, plain to be seen by any one who had the temerity to peep through
the barred grating in the iron door.  Suddenly a little figure dipped
in front of her and she recognized Miss Brennan, who had once been a
lady's maid to a Mrs. O'Hart and had survived the provision made for
her before the O'Harts were off the face of the earth.  She had come to
live in one of the dilapidated lodges on the place, with very little
between her and starvation beyond the old-age pension, supplemented by
contributions from charity.  The old woman was nearer ninety than
eighty, but was still lively and intelligent, despite her eccentricity.
The big apron she was wearing was full of sticks and she had a bundle
in her arms as well.

"Good morning, my Lady," she said, with her little dip.  She always
prided herself on her superior manners and her traditions, and the
neighbours good-naturedly acknowledged her pretensions by addressing
her always as _Miss_ Brennan.

"Good morning, Lizzie," returned Lady O'Gara, who was one of the
privileged ones to call the old woman by her name.  "How are you
keeping?  It is very rheumatic weather, I'm afraid."

"I'm as well as can be since your Ladyship gave me the beautiful
boarded floor to my little place, may the Lord reward you!  Squealin'
and scurryin' I do hear the rats under the floor, but I'm not afraid
now that they'll bite my nose off when I fall asleep."

"I wish I could make it more comfortable for you.  Lizzie.  I'll see
that you get a couple of cribs of turf.  Your lodge is damp under the
trees."

"Thank your Ladyship," said the old woman with another dip.  "I'm
wonderful souple in my limbs, considerin' everythin'; for the same
house would give a snipe a cowld.  The blankets are a great comfort.
They're as warm as Injia."

"Oh, I'm glad of that."

She was about to go on her way when Miss Brennan jerked her thumb
backward in the direction of Waterfall Cottage.

"She's gone," she said.

"Who is gone?"

"Mrs. Wade, she calls herself.  I knew as soon as ever I laid eyes on
her she was little Bride Sweeney, old Judy Dowd's granddaughter.  She
kep' out of the way o' the people that might ha' known her.  She
stopped to spake to me one day I was pickin' sticks an' brought me in
an' made me a lovely cup o' tay.  She thought I was too old to
remember.  The little lady that's at Inch now would be her little girl.
I've seen them together when they didn't know any wan was lookin'.
Them beautiful pink curtains don't meet well.  I've seen little Missie
on a footstool before the fire an' the mother adorin' her."

Lady O'Gara was overwhelmed.  What had been happening during the
days--there were not twenty of them--since she had first taken Stella
to see Mrs. Wade.

"When little Missie wasn't there Bridyeen would be huggin' the dog the
same as if he was a babby.  Some people make too much o' dogs.  I kep'
my old Shep tied up till he died.  He was wicked and I wasn't afraid o'
tinkers with him about.  I saw her once when she didn't think any wan
was peepin' in.  She was cryin' on the dog's head an' him standin'
patient, lickin' her now and again with his tongue.  I never could bear
the lick of a dog."

Lizzie looked at Lady O'Gara with the most cunning eyes.  Apparently
she expected contradiction, but she met with none.  Lady O'Gara was in
fact too dumbfounded to answer.

"Many's the time I took notice of Bridyeen," the old woman went on.
"She was well brought up.  She respected ould people.  When she wint
away out of the place I said nothin', whatever I guessed.  I said
nothin' all those years.  It was to me she kem when Mr. Terence
Comerford was kilt.  'Tisn't likely I wouldn't know her when I seen her
agin.  What's twinty years when you're my age?  She didn't say I'd made
a mistake when I called her Bridyeen.  She's gone now, an' I'll miss
her.  'Tis a lonesome road without a friend on it, for I'm too ould to
take to an Englishwoman, though yon's a quiet crathur at the lodge."

Lady O'Gara was recovering her power of speech.  Still she did not feel
able to contradict this terrible old woman of the bright piercing eyes,
with whom it seemed useless to have any subterfuges.

"You don't be afeard I'll tell, me Lady.  I keep meself to meself, away
from the commonality round about here.  She needn't have gone for me.
I'd have held my tongue.  'Twasn't likely I'd want to set tongues
clackin' about her that was good to me.  As I sez to the little
lady...."

Terror seized upon Lady O'Gara.  What had the old woman said to Stella?

"You didn't tell the young lady anything?" she said, very gently,
remembering not to frighten the frail old creature before her.

"Not me.  I said no more than 'Your Mamma's left.'"  She looked with a
peering anxiety into Lady O'Gara's face, as though she had just begun
to doubt her own wisdom.  "I didn't do any harm sayin' them words, did
I?  Didn't I know they was that to each other, seein' them through the
chink in the curtain lovin' an' kissin'?"

Was it possible that Stella knew?  Anyhow it was no use frightening old
Lizzie.

"No, no," Lady O'Gara said.  "You did nothing wrong.  Only remember, I
depend on you for silence.  The people are so fond of gossip about here
like all country-people."

"I let them go their own ways an' I go mine," Miss Brennan said, and
looked down at the sticks which she had dropped.  "I don't know who's
goin' to pick them up," she said plaintively.  "I've picked them up
wance an' me ould knees are goin' under me.  I don't consider I could
do it twicet."

"I'll pick them up and carry them for you," Lady O'Gara said.  "It is
not far to your lodge.  Indeed you ought not to be picking up sticks or
carrying them.  I'll speak to Patsy Kenny.  He'll see that some dry
wood is sent down to you, as much as you want.  You have only to ask
for it to have it any time.  That is, if I forget."

"Thank your Ladyship kindly," Miss Brennan said with one of the dips
which perhaps kept her limbs "souple" as she said.  "I'll be glad o'
the dry sticks.  The green do be makin' me cry.  All the same I like to
pick up sticks.  Isn't it what the Lord sends us, what matter if
they're green itself.  'Tis the chancey things I love havin'--the
musharoons and the blackberries,--straight from God, I call them.  But
I couldn't let your Ladyship carry sticks for the like o' me.  I hope I
know me place better.  If your Ladyship was to give me a hoosh up wid
them?  My back's not too bent if only they was to be tied in a bundle."

She performed a series of little dips which would have made Lady O'Gara
smile at another time.

"The sticks are very light," she said.  "Supposing we share the burden?
Then we can talk as we go along.  I suppose there never will be any
news of Mr. Florence O'Hart, who went to Australia and was lost sight
of?"

It was enough for Miss Brennan, who forgot even to protest when Lady
O'Gara took the big bundle of sticks and gave her a few light ones to
carry.  She could always be set off chattering on the topic of the
O'Hart who _might_ have survived the family _debâcle_ and _might_ come
home one day to restore the fallen splendours of the place.  Lady
O'Gara walked as far as the lodge with the old woman, and laid the
sticks away in the corner by the fireplace.  It was a very short
distance, though it counted as long to Miss Brennan.

As she went back along the road, the old woman, watching her disappear
through the arch of orange and scarlet and pale fluttering gold, for
the trees were not yet bare, talked to herself.

"There she goes!" she said, "an' she's proud to the proud an' humble to
the humble.  'Tis the great day for you, Lizzie Brennan, to have the
likes o' Lady O'Gara carryin' home your bits o' sticks.  I hope I
wasn't wrong sayin' what I did to the little lady.  It seemed to get on
her mind, for she wasn't listenin' to what I was sayin' for all she
kep' her head towards me.  Still an' all little Missie couldn't be
without knowin' the light in a mother's eyes whin she seen it."



CHAPTER XVIII

THE DAUGHTER

Lady O'Gara went away quickly from the rusty gate overhung by ivy, not
looking back to see how Miss Brennan watched her out of sight.  She had
not indeed heard one word of what the old woman had been saying about
the O'Harts.  She was dreadfully perturbed.  The fair placidity of her
face was broken up.  In either cheek two spots of vivid colour pulsed.
Seeing them one would have said she was in pain.

She hastened back along the tree-overhung road, over the dead leaves
where the fine silver veining of last night's frost was yielding to a
sodden dampness, to the gate of Waterfall Cottage.

She had half-expected to find it locked, but it was open.  There was a
thick carpet of dead leaves on the gravel sweep.  Between the boughs
sparsely clothed with leaves and the slender tree-trunks she caught a
glimpse of the bronze and amber river running over its stones, or
winding about the big dripping boulders that were in the bed of the
stream.  A damp, rheumatic place, she said to herself, although she
loved the river; and its backwaters, full of wild duck and dabchick and
the moorhens, were enchanting places.

The grounds which she remembered as neglected and overgrown had become
orderly.  The little beds cut in the turf were neat in their Winter
bareness, despite a few dead leaves which had fluttered on to them.
Her eyes fell on a pair of gardening gloves and a trowel lying on the
grass by one of the beds.  From the open mouth of a brown paper bag a
bulb had partly rolled before it became stationary.  There was a hole
dug in the turf.  Some one had been planting bulbs and had gone away
leaving the task unfinished.

From the house-wall hung a branch of clematis torn down by the rough
wind.  A ladder stood close by.  Some one had had the intention of
nailing up the branch, and had not carried it into effect.

She lifted her hand to the knocker and found that the door yielded to
her slight touch.  It was open.  For a second she had a wild thought
that Miss Brennan might have been wandering in her wits--that Mrs.
Wade, or Bridyeen Sweeney--she had come to calling her that in her
mind--was still in the house.

She looked into the little hall.  It was bright with a long ray from
the white sun that peered below a cloud, seeming to her dazzled eyes
surrounded by a coruscation of coloured rays.  The white sun portended
rain to come, probably in the afternoon.

Shot had pushed his way before her into the hall.  She had almost
forgotten that Shot had come with her when she had left the Poms at
home because of the muddy roads.  He had disappeared into Mrs. Wade's
little parlour.  The plume of his fine tail caught a flash from the
sun's rays on its burnished bronze.  She heard the dog whine.

No one answered her knock nor did Shot return, so, after a second's
hesitation, she followed the dog.

She was not prepared for what she saw.  The only occupant of the room
beside the dog, who had dropped on to the hearthrug, and lay with his
nose between his paws and his melancholy eyes watching, was
Stella--Stella kneeling by a chair in an abandonment of grief, her face
hidden.

The little figure kept its grace even in the huddled-up attitude.  The
face hidden in the chair, childishly, as though a child suffered pain,
was lifted as Lady O'Gara touched the bronze-brown head.  The misery of
Stella's wide eyes shocked her.  Stella's face was stained and
disfigured by tears.  The soft close hair, which she had taken to
wearing plaited about her head, was ruffled and disordered.

"Stella, darling child!" Lady O'Gara said, with a gasp of
consternation.  She had never seen Stella before without brightness,
the brightness of a bird.  Now the small ivory pale face had lost the
golden tints of its underlying brownness.  The child was wan under the
disfigurement of her tears.

She got up with a groping motion as though tears obscured her sight.
She came to meet Lady O'Gara and held out her hands with a piteous
gesture of grief.

"She has gone away," she said.

Her hands were chill in Mary O'Gara's warm clasp.  The woman drew the
girl to her, holding the cold hands against her breast with a soft
motherliness.

"Now, tell me what is the matter?" she said, while her voice shook in
the effort to be composed.  "Where has Mrs. Wade gone to?"

"That is what I do not know, Lady O'Gara," Stella answered, with a
catch of the breath.  "I came to her as I have come every day of late.
She was gone.  I thought she would come back at first; but she has not
come.  While I stood looking out of the gate watching for her an old
woman came by picking up sticks for her fire.  She said"--something
like a spasm shook the slender body and her face quivered--"that she,
Mrs. Wade, was gone away.  Do you know what she called her, Lady
O'Gara?  She called her my _mother_--my _mother_."

The suffering eyes were full upon her.  Lady O'Gara found nothing to
say that could serve any useful purpose.

"Yes, I know," she said aimlessly.  "It was old Lizzie Brennan.  She
lives at that gate-lodge a little way down the road."

"She said my _mother_."

The eyes, grey in one light, brown in another; made a piteous appeal.

"How could Mrs. Wade be my mother?" Stella asked, with a quiver of the
lip, clasping and unclasping her hands.  "My mother died long ago.  I
am Stella de St. Maur, although Granny will have me called by her name.
But I love Mrs. Wade; I love her.  I have never loved any one in the
same way."

Lady O'Gara took the bewildered head into her arms and stroked it with
tender touches as though it was the head of a frightened bird, one of
those birds that sometimes came in at her windows, and nearly killed
themselves trying to escape before she could give them their liberty.
She sought in a frightened way for something to say to the girl and
could find nothing.

"Granny is so angry with me," Stella went on.  "She has found out that
I came here.  She said she would not have me keep low company, that she
was shocked to find I could slip away from her to a person not in my
own class of life.  She had noticed that I was always slipping away.
She talked about throwbacks.  What did she mean by that?  She was very
angry when she said it."

"Oh, I am sorry you made her angry, Stella."  Mary O'Gara had found her
tongue at last.  She had no idea of the inadequacy of what she said.
Her thoughts had gone swiftly back to the days when she had trembled
before Grace Comerford's cold rages.  Her thoughts, as though they were
too tired to consider the situation of the moment, went on to Terence.
Poor Terence!  She remembered him red and white before his mother's
anger, her tongue that stung like a whip, the more bitter where she
roved.

"I ran away from her," Stella went on.  "She told me to go to my room,
as though I was a child.  I went, but I got out of the window: it is
not far from the ground.  I came here only to find _her_ gone.  I had
been running all the way thinking of how she would comfort me.  She has
taken nothing with her but Keep.  I expect Keep followed her.  I would
not have minded anything if she had been here.  The old woman called
her my _mother_.  Is she mad, Cousin Mary?  How _could_ Mrs. Wade be my
mother?"

Her eyes asked an insistent question.  Lady O'Gara was a truthful
woman.  The candour of her face did not belie her.  She tried to avoid
the eyes, lest they should drag the truth from her.

"She is only very old," she answered, haltingly.  "Not mad, but
perhaps..."

"The odd thing is,"--Stella put by what she had been about to say as a
trivial thing,--"that I _wish_ what the old woman said was true.  I
_wish_ it with all my heart.  She was like what I think a mother must
be to me.  I have always been running away to her, ever since you
brought me first.  She _comforted_ me.  I have always felt there was
something I did not know.  Granny would never tell me about my father
and mother.  If she is not my mother why should I feel all that about
her?  She made up to me for everything.  And Sir Shawn was cold.  He
used to like me, but now he does not.  He is afraid,"--a little colour
came to her cheek,--"that I will marry Terry.  He need not be afraid.
If Mrs. Wade is my mother I shall not marry Terry.  He can marry Eileen
Creagh and please his father!  Do not tell me she is not my mother."

Was the mother, the nameless mother, worth all that to her child?  It
seemed so.

"Oh, the poor boy!" Lady O'Gara said, with sudden tears, clasping her
hands together.  "Is he to have no word in it?"

"Not if I am Mrs. Wade's daughter.  She told me how she lived with her
grandmother who kept a shop in the village long ago.  Of course Sir
Shawn would not like it.  I see that quite well, and I am not thinking
of marrying Terry or any one.  I am only thinking that Mrs. Wade may be
my mother.  I've always wanted a mother.  How I used to envy the
Italian children when I was little.  They had such soft warm, dark-eyed
mothers.  And I had only Granny--and Miss Searle.  Miss Searle was fond
of me but she was often cross with me.  Granny never _loved_ me as a
mother would have.  I was sometimes afraid of her though she was good
to me"--her cheeks were scarlet by this time,--"I am going to stay here
and wait for Mrs. Wade to return.  If _she_ does not come I must go to
look for her.  Terry need not trouble about me, nor Sir Shawn...."

"Oh, the poor boy!" said Lady O'Gara again, with the soft illogicality
that her lovers loved in her.  "But, Stella, love, you cannot stay
here.  Think how people would talk.  Come home with me.  You can wait
just as well at Castle Talbot.  Every day you shall come and see if she
has returned.  It would be better, of course, for you to go back to
Inch..."

"But Granny will lock me in my room.  I cannot go to Castle Talbot, for
Sir Shawn would look coldly at me and I should not like that."

Lady O'Gara was suddenly decided.  "You cannot stay here, Stella," she
said.  "It is quite out of the question."

In her own mind was a whirl of doubt and fear.  Who was going to tell
Stella?  Who was going to tell her?  Apparently Stella suspected no
worse than that she was peasant-born.  She had not yet arrived at the
point of asking for her father.  At any moment she might ask.  What was
any one to answer?

"Come with me, dear child," she said.  "My husband comes home
dead-tired these hunting days, has some food and stumbles off to bed.
I am all alone.  We can have the days together.  I will write to your
Granny that you are paying me a visit.  Let us lock up here."

Some one paused in the road outside the window to look in, leaning
impudently on the green paling.  It was a ragged tramp bearded like the
pard.

As he shuffled on his way Lady O'Gara said with a rather nervous laugh.

"There, Stella!  You see the impossibility of your being here alone.  I
wonder where that creature came from!  We don't get many of his sort
here.  Think of the night in this place!  We could not possibly allow
it.  Mrs. Wade is sure to come back.  She would not have gone away
leaving all her things here.  Was the door open when you came to it?"

"It was locked.  I found the key where she used to put it if she went
out.  She sometimes walked over there across the Mount, where the
people do not walk because they are afraid of the O'Hart ghosts.  I
thought I would wait for her till she came back."

"Let us lock up and put the key where she left it.  She is sure to
return.  The place does not look as if she were not coming back."

"Everything is in order," said Stella, a light of hope coming to her
face.  "I have been in her bedroom.  The lamp is burning on her altar.
There is a purse lying on her bed with money in it."

"She will come back," said Lady O'Gara.

There was a sound of carriage wheels which made two pairs of eyes turn
towards the window.

"It is Granny," said Stella, drawing back into the shade of the window
curtains.  "And she is very angry.  She is sitting up so straight and
tall.  When she is like that I am afraid of her.  Is she coming here?"

"Do not be afraid; I will stay with you," said Lady O'Gara.

The carriage re-passed the window, going slowly and without its
occupant.  Almost immediately came the sound of the knocker on the
little hall-door.



CHAPTER XIX

ANGER CRUEL AS DEATH

Lady O'Gara met Mrs. Comerford in the hall.  Despite the shadows of all
the greenery outside flung through the fanlight across the White Horse
of Hanover, which stands in so many Irish fanlights, she could see that
the lady was in one of the towering rages she remembered and had
dreaded in her youth.  Looking at her, with a stammering apology on her
lips, she had a wandering memory of the day at Inch long ago when Terry
had broken a reproduction of the Portland Vase.  He had been a big boy
of sixteen then and he had flatly refused to meet his mother, going
away and laying _perdu_ in a stable loft for two or three days till she
had forgotten her anger in her fear for him.

"Stella is here, I suppose," said the icy voice.  That suggestion of
holding herself in check, which accompanied Mrs. Comerford's worst
anger, had been a terrifying thing in Mary Creagh's experience of her.

"I believe it is you I have to thank for introducing her to her mother.
What a fool I was to have come back.  I thought that shame was covered
up long ago.  What a mother for Stella!"

She spoke with a fierce scorn.  She had not troubled to lower her voice.

Lady O'Gara lifted her hand in a warning gesture, glancing fearfully
back over her shoulder.  But the angry woman did not heed her.

"Have you told her what her mother is, what _she_ is?" she demanded
furiously.  "Did you understand what you were doing, Mary O'Gara?  It
was your husband who told me Bride Sweeney had come back, who urged me
to get Stella away.  I was mad ever to have come home."

"Hush, hush!" said Lady O'Gara, wringing her hands and whispering.
"Stella is in there; she will hear you..."

"Perhaps I mean her to hear me.  She shall know what sort of woman it
is who has crept back here to disgrace her and me and to ruin her life."

There came out into the hall a little figure gliding like a ghost,
Stella, her eyes wide and piteous, her pretty colour blanched.

"My mother is a good woman," she said, facing Mrs. Comerford.  "You
must never say a word against her.  I would follow her through the
world.  I have had more happiness with her in those stolen meetings
than you could ever give me."

A pale shaft of Winter sunshine stole through the low hall window,
filtered through red dead leaves that gave it the colour of a dying
sunset.  It fell on Stella's hair, bringing out its bronzes.  She had
the warm bronze hair of her father's people.  It came to Lady O'Gara
suddenly that she and Stella had much the same colouring.  In Terence
Comerford it had been ruddier.  Why, any one might have known that
Stella was a Comerford by that colour; not the child of some dark
Frenchman.

"You stand up to me better than your father ever did," said Mrs.
Comerford in white and gasping fury.  Had she no pity, Mary O'Gara
asked herself; and remembered that Grace Comerford's anger was sheer
madness while it lasted.  She had always known it.  She had a memory of
how she and Terence had tried to screen each other when they were
children together.

"You dare to tell me that your shameful mother is more to you than I
am!" the enraged woman went on.  "It shows the class you have sprung
from.  I took you out of the gutter.  I should have left you there."

"Oh, hush! hush!" cried Lady O'Gara in deep distress.  "You do not know
what you are saying, Grace.  For Heaven's sake, be silent."

Mrs. Comerford pushed her away with a force that hurt.  A terrible
thing about her anger was that while she said appalling things her
voice had hardly lifted.

Stella looked at her in a bewildered way.  "I do not understand," she
said.  "You always told me my father was a gentleman.  You said little
about my mother.  What have you against my mother except that she was a
poor governess?"

"All that was fiction," said Grace Comerford, with a terrible laugh.
"Very poor fiction.  I often wondered that any one believed it.  Your
father was my son, Terence Comerford.  He disgraced himself."  She was
as white as a sheet by this time.  "Your mother was the granddaughter
of the woman who kept the public-house in Killesky."

"Then I am your granddaughter?"

"In nature, not in law.  My son did not marry your mother."

Stella groped in the air with her hands.  They were taken and pressed
against Mary O'Gara's heart.  Mary O'Gara's arms drew the stricken
child close to her.

"Go," she said to the pale, evil-looking woman, in whom she hardly
recognized Mrs. Comerford--"Go!--and ask God to forgive you and deliver
you from your wicked temper.  It has blighted your own life as well as
your son's and your granddaughter's.  Go!"

Mrs. Comerford put her hand to her throat.  Her face darkened.  She
seemed as if she were going to fall.  Then she controlled herself as by
a mighty effort, turned and went out of the house.  The bang of the
hall-door as she went shook the little house.  A second or two later
her carriage passed the window, she sitting upright in it, her curious
stateliness of demeanour unaltered.

Mary O'Gara did not look through the window to see her go.  Her eyes
were blind with tears as she bent over the child who was the innocent
victim of others.

All her life afterwards she could never forget the anguish of poor
Stella, who was like a thing demented.  She could remember the objects
that met her eyes as she held the two hot trembling hands to her with
one hand while the other stroked Stella's ruffled hair.  She felt as
though she were holding the girl back by main force from the borderland
beyond which lay total darkness.  She could remember afterwards just
the look of things--the Autumn leaves and berries in the blue jars on
the chimney-piece; the convex glass leaning forward with its outspread
eagle, mirroring her and Stella; Shot lying on his side on the
hearthrug, now and again heaving a deep sigh.  How pretty the room was,
she kept thinking!  What a quiet background for this human tragedy.

She knew that her heart was gabbling prayers for help, eagerly,
insistently, while her lips only said over and over: "Hush, Stella!  Be
still, darling child!" and such tender foolish phrases.

At last the heart-broken crying was over.  The girl was exhausted.  Now
and again a quiver passed through her where she sat with her face
turned away from Lady O'Gara--but the terrible weeping was done.

"Come," Lady O'Gara said, at last.  "We must find some water to bathe
your face, you poor child.  You are coming back with me to Castle
Talbot.  You are mine now.  I shall not give you up again."

Stella shook her head; she stooped and kissed Lady O'Gara's hand as
though she asked pardon.  The swift dipping gesture like a bird's was
too painful, recalling as it did the bright Stella of yesterday.  Her
hair was roughened like the feathers of a sick bird.  Lady O'Gara, her
hand passing softly over it, had felt the roughness with a pang.

"I am not yours, dear Lady O'Gara," she said.  "I am no one's but my
mother's.  I am not going to Castle Talbot.  I shall stay here for the
present.  If she does not come back I will go to look for her.  All
that other life is done with."

With a gesture of her little hands she put away all that had been hers
till to-day, including Terry.  His mother's heart began to ache anew
with the thought of Terry.  What would he say when he knew that Stella
knew?  Poor boy, he had a very gentle and faithful heart.  Oh, what a
tangle it all was, what a coil of things!

"But you can't stay here, darling child," she said tenderly.  "How can
you stay in this lonely little house by yourself?  I will take you away
somewhere where you do not know people, if you think that would be
better.  There are griefs that are more easily borne under the eyes of
strangers.  Let me see!  There is a convent I know where you could be
quiet for a little time, and I could trust the Reverend Mother--Mary
Benedicta is her name; she is a cousin of mine and a dear friend--to be
as loving to you as myself."

"She would be my ... father's cousin," said Stella; and a shudder ran
through her.  Then she said piteously:

"I never thought of my father as wicked."

Oh, poor Terence!  How was she going to explain to the child to whom he
had done this hideous wrong?  Was it any use saying that Terence had
always been good-natured?  She remembered oddly after many years a day
when he had turned away from the glazing eyes of a wood-pigeon he had
shot.  What use to tell such things to his daughter, whose life was
laid in ruins by that sin of his youth?  Those tragical eyes would
confute her in the midst of her excuses.  She could not yet make any
plea for forgiveness for the dead man.

"Mother Mary Benedicta would be gentle with you," she said, "if you
will not come to Castle Talbot.  But, dear, no one need know.  You
shall take Eileen's place with me.  You shall be my little daughter."

Her loving heart was running away with her.  Shawn would never forgive
her if she brought Stella to Castle Talbot, to which Terry might return
at any time.  Mary Benedicta would know how to tend the wounded spirit,
if poor little Stella would but consent.

"It is getting late," said Stella, breaking in on the confusion of her
thoughts.  Her voice, which seemed drained of tears, was suddenly
composed.  "You will be late for lunch."

"And you, Stella, what about _your_ lunch?"

She could have cried out on the futility of this talk of lunches.

Stella shook her head.

"There is food here if I want it.  My mother had taken to storing
dainty food for me, since I have been so much with her, as though her
food was not good enough for me.  I shall not starve, Lady O'Gara."

"Stella, I tell you it is impossible for you to stay here alone."

Lady O'Gara spoke almost sharply.  She had a foreboding that Stella's
will would be too strong for her.

"She will come back.  She has left everything behind; even her purse
with money in it.  She must find me here when she comes home.  We can
go away together."

Lady O'Gara looked at the little face in despair.  It was so set that
it was not easy to recognize the soft Stella who had crept into all
their hearts.  Even Shawn had felt her charm though he had locked the
door of his heart against her.  A thought came to Lady O'Gara's mind.
Stella's remaining at the cottage for the present would at least give
time.  Prudence whispered to her that she must not bring Stella to
Castle Talbot.  She might have felt equal to opposing Shawn, but,
perhaps, she was relieved by the chance of escape.  Shawn was not
well--those dark shadows were more and more noticeable in his face.
Other people had begun to see them and to ask her if Sir Shawn was not
well.  Presently Stella might be more amenable to reason, and go to
Mother Mary Benedicta at St. Scholastua's Abbey.  Benedicta was like
her name.  She, if any one, could salve the poor child's wound.  She
was as tolerant as she was tender, and she had been fond of Terence
Comerford in the old days.  No fear that she would be shocked at the
story, as some women--cloistered or otherwise--might have been!
Benedicta was perfect, Mary O'Gara said to herself and heaved a sigh of
relief because there was Benedicta to turn to.

She felt tired out with her emotions, almost too tired to think.
Suddenly she had a happy inspiration.  She and Stella should eat
together.  The girl looked worn out.  If she left her she was tolerably
sure Stella would not think of food.

"No one will be alarmed if I do not come back for lunch," she said.  "I
often do not trouble about lunch when I am alone.  They will expect me
in for tea.  Sir Shawn will not be home till late.  Do you think you
could give me some food, Stella?"

"Oh, yes, it will be a pleasure," Stella said, getting up with an air
of anxious politeness.  "I am sure there are eggs.  You will not mind
eggs for lunch, with tea and bread and butter.  I am afraid the kitchen
fire may be out--but the turf keeps a spark so long.  It is alight when
you think it is out."

She took the poker and stirred the grey fire to a blaze, then put on
turf, building it as she had seen others do in the narrow grate.

"There are hearths in Connaught on which the fire has not gone out for
fifty years," said Lady O'Gara, watching the shower of sparks that rose
and fell as Stella struck the black sods with the poker.

Neither of them ate very much when the meal was prepared, though Stella
drank the tea almost greedily.  She had begun to look a little
furtively at Lady O'Gara before the meal was finished as though she
wished her to be gone.  It hurt Mary O'Gara's kind heart; though she
understood that the girl was aching for solitude.  But how was she
going to leave her in this haunted place alone--a child like her--in
such terrible trouble?

Suddenly she found a solution of her difficulties.  It would serve for
the moment, if Stella would but consent.

"Would you have Mrs. Horridge to stay with you?" she asked.  "You know
you cannot stay here quite alone.  She is a gentle creature, and very
unobtrusive.  I shall feel happy about you if she is here."

To her immense relief Stella consented readily.

"She has been very good to my mother," she said; "and they are both
victims of men's cruelty."

Lady O'Gara, who was looking at Stella at the moment, noticed that her
eyes fell on something outside the window and a quick shudder passed
through the slight body.  She went to Stella's side and saw only a heap
of stones for road-mending.  They must have been newly flung down
there, for she did not remember to have seen them when last she passed
this way.

Was it possible that Stella knew?  That her eyes saw another heap of
stones, and upon them a dead man lying, his blood turning the sharp
stones red?



CHAPTER XX

SIR SHAWN HAS A VISITOR

The sun was low, almost out of sight, as Lady O'Gara climbed up the
hill from Waterfall Cottage to her own South lodge.  Through the bars
of the gate she caught a glimpse of a red ball going low, criss-crossed
with the bare branches of the trees.  The air nipped.  There was going
to be frost.  Before she left she had seen the lamps lit at Waterfall
Cottage and bidden Stella lock herself in and only open to a voice she
knew.

She had delayed, washing up the tea-cups with Stella, trying to
distract the girl from her grief to the natural simple things of life:
and all the time she had felt that Stella longed for her to be gone.

She had narrowly escaped being caught in the dusk--without the
flashlight Terry had given her, which she usually carried when she went
out these short afternoons.  Was she growing as stupid as the
villagers?  She had glanced nervously at the heap of stones as she
passed them by where the water made a loud roaring noise hurrying over
the weir.  She had to remind herself that it was not really dark but
only dusk, and that she had never been afraid of the dark.  Rather she
had loved the kind night, the mantle with which God covers His restless
earth that she may sleep.  As she went up the hill she thought uneasily
of the tramp who had passed the window of Waterfall Cottage a few hours
earlier.  The shambling figure had a menace for her.  She could not
keep from glancing over her shoulder and was glad to come to her own
gate.

She called through the bars and Patsy Kenny came to open for her.
Seeing him she sighed.  More complications.  Her mind was too weary to
tackle the matter of Patsy's unfortunate attachment to Susan Horridge.
Not that she doubted Patsy.  She had a queer confidence that Patsy
would not hurt the woman he loved.  People would talk, were talking in
all probability.  What a world it was!  What a world!

Of late Patsy had refrained from visiting the South lodge so far as she
knew.  Sir Shawn had said to her only a day or two before that Patsy
had taken up the fiddle again--Patsy was a great fiddler--that he could
hear him playing his old tunes night after night.  There had been an
interval during which the fiddle had been silent.  She thought that,
with the simple craft of his class, Patsy might have played the fiddle
to let possible gossips know that he was at home in the solitude which
in the old times before Susan came he had never seemed to find solitary.

"Is that you, m'lady?" said Patsy.  "The dark was near comin' up wid
ye.  I'd like if you'd the time you'd come in and see Susan.  She's
frightened like in herself an' she won't listen to rayson."

"Why, what's the matter?" asked Lady O'Gara, turning towards the lodge,
while Patsy re-padlocked the gate.  She did not wait for his answer,
which was slow of coming.  Patsy was always deliberate.

In the quiet and cheerful interior of the lodge she found a terrified
Susan.  Michael lay on the hearth-rug before a bright fire, Georgie sat
by the white, well-scrubbed table, his cheek on his hand, the lamplight
on his pale fine hair, watching his mother anxiously; the lesson book
on top of a pile of others, was plainly forgotten.

Susan seemed desperately frightened.  She got out the reason why at
last, with some help from Patsy Kenny.  She shook as she told the tale.
She had been washing, outside the lodge, earlier in the day,
fortunately out of view of the gate, when some one had shaken it and
cursed at finding it locked.  Susan had seen his hand, a coarse hairy
hand, thrust through the gate in an attempt to force the lock.  The
man, whoever he was, had gone on his way, seeing the futility of trying
to enter by the strongly padlocked gate.  Susan had locked herself in
the lodge till Georgie had come home from school, when the two of them
had fled to Patsy Kenny for protection.

"The poor girl will have it that Baker has come back," said Patsy,
scratching his head.  "She says she knew his voice an' the
wicked-looking hand of him.  If it was to be him itself--but I had the
Master's word for it he had gone to America--he wouldn't know she was
here.  I keep on tellin' her that, but she won't listen."

Lady O'Gara had a passing wonder about Shawn's having known that
Susan's husband was gone to America--she had not associated the person
who had saved Shawn from accident at Ashbridge Park with Susan's
graceless husband.

"He might find out by asking questions," said Susan.  "He's only got to
ask.  There's many a one to tell him."

"I was goin' to your Ladyship," said Patsy.  "The two frightened things
can't be left their lone in this little place.  The heart would jump
out of her.  Can't I see it flutterin' there in her side like a bird
caught in your hand."

"I came to ask Susan if she would go down to Waterfall Cottage to look
after Miss Stella Comerford, who is there alone."

Lady O'Gara's eyes fluttered nervously.  She was aware of the
strangeness of the thing she said, and she felt shy about the effect of
it on her listeners.  She hastened to make some kind of explanation.

"Miss Stella has had a disagreement with Mrs. Comerford and will not
return to her--for the present.  She wishes to stay at Waterfall
Cottage, but, of course, she cannot stay alone."

"The poor young lady," said Susan, looking up; she added hopefully:
"Baker would never look for me there.  The people would think I was
gone away out of this place.  Few pass Waterfall Cottage, and we could
keep the gate locked."

"Where at all is Mrs. Wade gone to?" asked Patsy; not seeming to find
it strange that Miss Stella should be at Waterfall Cottage.

"Could Georgie be very wise and silent?" asked Lady O'Gara.

Georgie flushed under her look and sent her a worshipping glance.

"Georgie would be silent enough if it was likely his father would find
us," said Susan.  "Not but what he's quiet by nature.  Baker used to
say that Georgie would run into a mouse-hole from him.  Not that I let
him knock my Georgie about.  I told him if he laid a hand on Georgie
I'd do him a mischief, and he believed me.  He knocked me about after
that."

"God help the two o' ye," said Patsy with sharp anguish in his voice.
"If I was to see the rascal I couldn't keep my hands off him."

"He might do _you_ a harm.  The hands of him are dangerous strong.  He
used to say he'd choked a man once.  It isn't likely I wouldn't know
the wicked hands of him when I saw them."

"I'd take my chance," said Patsy with a baleful light in his eyes.
"The one time I seen him I was mad to kill him.  I never felt the like
before for any man.  'Twas like a dog I seen when the Master an' me was
in South Africay.  He'd found a nest of vipers, and I never seen
anything like the rage o' that dog whin he wint tearin' them to
tatters.  I felt the same way with that blackguard that owns you,
Susan, my girl."

Patsy was pale, and in the lamplight little drops of perspiration
showed on his forehead and about his lips.

"Very probably the man who frightened Susan was not her husband at
all," Lady O'Gara put in.  "But in the remote case of its being Baker,
Susan will be better away for the present.  She can have Georgie with
her, or perhaps he could stay with you, Patsy?"

"I'd like to have Georgie with me, if he didn't mind keepin' to the
house in the daytime," said Patsy with a fatherly look at the boy.
"He'd have the run o' the books, what he's always cravin' for."

"Georgie can go to Mr. Penny's," said Susan.  "He'll be safe there an'
my mind'll be easy about him."

"I'll leave you then, Susan, to put out the fire here and lock the
door," Lady O'Gara said.  "Be as quick as you can.  I don't like to
think of Miss Stella in that lonely place.  Here is the key of the
gate.  I locked it when I came through.  Miss Stella will let you in
when you knock.  Patsy will take you down there.  You won't be afraid
with him?"

"Not with Mr. Kenny, m'lady," said Susan with a flattering fervour.

Lady O'Gara went on her way, refusing the offer of Georgie as an
escort.  She was quite safe with Shot, she said; adding that she was
not at all a nervous person.  She was a bit puzzled now about her panic
coming up the dark road, under the trees, from Waterfall Cottage to the
South lodge.

She stepped out briskly.  It was nearly a mile from the South lodge to
the house.  The darkness increased as she went.  She was quite pleased
to see the light shining from the window of the room Sir Shawn called
his office, through the bay trees and laurestinus and Portugal laurels
which lay between her and it.  She was glad Shawn was at home.  She had
forgotten for once to ask Patsy if the Master was at home.  After all
the years of their life together her heart always lifted for Shawn's
coming home before the dark night settled down upon the world.

She had only to tap on the French window and he would open it and let
her in, as he had done so many times before.

She took the path by the side of the house, between the ivied wall and
the shrubbery.

As she approached the window Shot uttered a low growl.  At the same
moment she became aware that her husband was not alone.  Some one had
crossed between the light and the window.  For a second a huge shadow
was flung across the gravel path almost at her feet.

With a sigh she went back again, entering by the hall-door way.  She
was sorry Shawn had one of his troublesome visitors.  She wanted so
much to talk to him, to tell him of all the trouble about Stella.  She
felt chilled that he was not ready to listen to her when she needed to
talk to him so much.

"Sir Shawn has returned, m'lady," said Reilly, the new butler, the
possessor of a flat large face with side whiskers which always made her
want to laugh.  Reilly's manners, she had said, would befit a ducal
household, and it had been no surprise to her to learn that he had
lived with an old gentleman who had a Duke for a grandfather, and that
a part of his duties had been to recite family prayers, understudying
his master.

"Yes," she said, "has he had tea, Reilly?"

"No, m'lady.  He did not wish for tea."

"He has a visitor?  Has this person been long with him?"

"I don't know, m'lady.  No one came in this way.  I went a while ago to
see if the fire was burning, and I found the door locked, m'lady, I
concluded Sir Shawn did not wish to be disturbed."

"Sir Shawn's visitors on business come in by the window that opens on
the lawn.  The handle of the office door is rather stiff.  I don't
think it could have been locked."

She went on down the passage to the office door.  She heard voices the
other side of the door.  Sir Shawn was speaking in a fatigued voice.
She had hardly ever known him to speak angrily.  She listened for a
second or two.  The other voice answered; it was thick and coarse: she
could not hear what was said.  She went back to the drawing-room, where
a little later Sir Shawn joined her.

Even when they were alone she always dressed in her most beautiful
garments for her husband's eyes.  To-night she had chosen a pink satin
dress, close-fitting and trailing heavily, with her garnets.

She was sitting by the fire when Sir Shawn came in and his eyes lighted
as they fell upon her.

"You look like your own daughter, Mary," he said, "only so much more
beautiful than the girl I married.  What a wonderful colour your gown
is!  It makes you like a beautiful open rose."

She laughed.  His compliments were never stale to her.

"Where were you when I came in?" he asked.  "'I looked in your chamber,
'twas lonely?'"

She evaded the question for a moment.  "I made an attempt to enter by
your window as I came back, but you had a visitor."

He was standing with his back to the fire, looking down at her, and she
saw the ominous shadows come in the hollows of his cheeks.

"A troublesome visitor, Mary," he said.  "When I come to you you
exorcise all my troubles.  You are the angel before whom the blue
devils flee away."

She did not ask him further about his visitor.  So many of them were
troublesome.  She often wondered at Shawn's patience with the people.
The family quarrels over land were apt to be the worst of all: but
there were other things hardly less disagreeable.

"Poor Shawn!" she said tenderly.  "Sit down by me and let me smoothe
that line out of your forehead!  It threatens to become permanent."

She stooped, half playfully, to him as he sat down beside her leaning
his head back against a cushion, and touched his forehead with her
finger-tips gently.

"Go on doing that, Mary," he said.  "It seems to smoothe a tangle out
of my brain.  I cannot tell you how restful it is.  I saw Terry
off--and the others.  The boy looked rather down in the mouth.  What
have you been doing all day?"

It was a quiet hour.  She had dressed early on purpose to have this
hour.  No one had business in the room till the dressing bell rang.
She had learnt by long use to watch his moods.  She knew her own power
over him, to soothe, to assuage.  The moment was propitious.  So she
told him the tale of the day's happenings, in a quiet easy flow, now
and again patting his hand or stroking his forehead with her delicate
finger-tips.

"Good Lord, what a kettle of fish!" he groaned when she had finished.
"And you take it so easily, Mary!  I wish to the Lord, Grace Comerford
had never come back.  It was an ill day."

She almost echoed the wish.  Then she found herself, to her amazement,
setting Stella against all the trouble, putting her in the balance
against all that had happened and might happen.  To her amazement
Stella counted against all the rest.  She was just the little daughter
she had wanted all her days--to stay with her when the insistent world
snatched her boy from her.  She acknowledged to herself that she was
jealous of the woman who was Stella's real mother, whom the girl had
chosen before everything, every one else.

She sought in her own mind, with what her husband called her incurable
optimism, for a bright side to this dark trouble and could find none.
She must leave it where she left everything, at the foot of the altar.
God could unpick the black knot of Stella's fate.  He could smooth out
the tangle.  She must only pray and hope.

She had meant to talk the matter out thoroughly with Shawn.  She had so
often found that light and comfort came that way.  But Shawn would not
discuss things thoroughly.  He would only say that it was a pretty
kettle of fish; that he wished Grace Comerford had never come back,
that he wished they could send Terry somewhere out of harm's way.  And
presently he fell asleep with his head against her shoulder.  He had
had a hard day and a tiring one.  Of late he had taken to dropping
asleep in the evenings.

She let him sleep, remaining as motionless as she could so as not to
disturb him.  When he awoke he was full of repentance.  She had not
even had a book to solace her watch.  That which she had been reading
was out of reach.

"You are the perfect woman, Mary," he said gratefully, "and I am an
unworthy fellow.  I don't know how I came to be so sleepy.  You make me
too comfortable."

Her face lit up.  Shawn was often unreasonable in these latter days.
Indeed he had not been the easiest of men to live with since Terence
Comerford's tragic death.  But when he was like this his wife thought
that all was worth while.



CHAPTER XXI

STELLA IS SICK

A few days passed by and Mrs. Wade had not returned.  Mrs. Comerford
had written an icy message to Mary O'Gara.

"When Stella comes to her right mind this house is open to her.  I have
said to my servants that she is with you.  I was once a truthful woman."

Reading this brief epistle Mary O'Gara had said to herself that it was
lucky there was distance enough between Inch and Castle Talbot; also
that though _she_ considered herself a truthful woman there was nothing
she would not say in order to shield Stella from gossiping tongues.
She was bitterly angry with Grace Comerford for the cruel and evil
temper which had done so much hurt to an innocent thing.

"Does she think," she asked herself hotly, "that so easily Stella will
forget her cruelty?  I do not believe the child will ever go back to
her."

She had written to Mary Benedicta about the case, giving her a cautious
account of poor Stella's plight, abstaining from mentioning Terence
Comerford's part in the story.  She could have told that: she could not
write it.  Mary Benedicta would think that Stella's trouble came from
the fictitious French father.  There was little or no communication
between the nun and Mrs. Comerford, who had quarrelled with her over
her choice of a conventual life long ago.

Mary Benedicta had answered the letter with another full of the milk
and honey of a compassionate tenderness.

The best solution of the problem Lady O'Gara could find was that Stella
should go for a time at least to the Convent.  Terry had not written.
Terry would have his say in the matter presently.  He had gone off
chilled for the time by Stella's disinclination towards him: but he
would come back.  If he only knew Stella's plight at this moment he
would surely break all the barriers to get back to her.

Poor Stella's plight was indeed a sad one.  Susan Horridge, watching
her like a faithful dog, reported that she ate little, that she walked
up and down her room at night when she ought to have been sleeping,
that she started when spoken to, that she spent long hours staring
before her piteously, doing nothing.

"If Mrs. Wade don't come back soon the young lady will either go after
her or she'll have a breakdown," Susan said.

Sometimes Lady O'Gara wondered how much Susan knew or suspected, but
there was in her manner an entire absence of curiosity, of a sense that
anything out of the way was happening, that was invaluable in a crisis
like this.  Lady O'Gara thought more highly of Susan every day.  The
weather had turned very wet, but Waterfall Cottage glowed with
brightness and roaring fires of turf and wood.  The rain and darkness
were shut out.  Stella could not have been in better hands.

About the fifth day came a hunting morning.  The meet was fixed for a
distant part of the country.  Lady O'Gara got up in the dark of the
morning to superintend her husband's cup of tea, to see that his flask
was filled and his sandwiches to his liking.

"I wish you had been coming out too, Mary," he said wistfully as he
stood on the steps drawing on his gloves.  "You are growing lazy, old
lady."

"I'll come out with you on Saturday," she said, and patted his shoulder.

Patsy was late in bringing round Black Prince, the beautiful spirited
horse which was Sir Shawn's favourite hunter that season.  It was
unlike Patsy to be late.  The first grey dawn was coming lividly over
the sky.  Standing in the lamplit hall Mary O'Gara looked out and
caught the shiver of the little wind which brings the day.

"I'll be late at the Wood of the Hare," Sir Shawn said, fuming a
little.  "I don't want to press the Prince with a hard day before him."

Still Patsy did not come.

"Good-bye, darling," Sir Shawn said at last.  "Go back to bed and have
a good sleep before breakfast.  I'll see what's up with Patsy."

She had gone upstairs before she heard her husband ride out of the
stable yard.  So Patsy had been late.  Was it possible he had
overslept?  It would be so unlike Patsy, who, especially of a hunting
morning, had always slept the fox's sleep.

She had a long day before her, with many things to do.  She ought to
write to Terry, but she knew the things Terry expected to hear.  There
had been a letter from him, asking roundly for news of Stella.


"Why don't you write?" it asked.  "Are you going to treat me like a
child as Father does?  I've made up my mind about Stella.  I will marry
her, if she will have me; and she shall never know anything from me.
Are you looking after her, keeping her happy?  For Heaven's sake don't
take Father's view of it!  That would be ruin to everything, but I warn
you, that if you do, it will not alter me.  Tell me what she says, how
she looks.  Has her colour come back?  Does she speak of me?  There are
a thousand things I want to know."


There had been a postscript to the letter.


"By the way, Evelyn has discovered that the man who got the lakh of
rupees,--you remember?--had been rather badly treated by Eileen, or so
Evelyn's informant said.  It is a she--a cousin of Evelyn's who is
married to somebody up there.  Evelyn says he will come again to Castle
Talbot if you ask him.  He says the duck-shooting was splendid--and he
congratulated me on you--darling.  I did myself proud.  Just
imagine,--Evelyn!"


She did not know how to answer his letter.  It was not in her to put
off the boy with a letter which should disappoint him.  She imagined
him running through it with a blank face, looking for what she had not
written.  No: she could not write without telling him the truth: and
the truth would make the boy miserable.  She supposed it would have to
be told--presently, but she would wait till then.  She was not one to
deal in half-truths and subterfuges.

She went forth after breakfast with an intention of seeing Stella, and
afterwards going on to old Lizzie Brennan, who required some looking
after, in cold weather especially.  She had rather mad fits of
wandering over the country, from which she would return soaked through
with rain, hungry and exhausted.  More than once Lady O'Gara had
discovered her after these expeditions, choking with bronchitis, in a
fireless room, too weak to light a fire or prepare food for herself.
Lady Conyers, a neighbour of Castle Talbot at Mount Esker, had tried to
induce Lizzie to go into the workhouse, with many arguments as to the
comfort which awaited her there.  But Lizzie was about as much inclined
for the workhouse as the free bird for the cage, and, rather to Lady
Conyers' indignation, Lady O'Gara had abetted the culprit, saying that
she would look after her.

There was not much to be done with Stella, who had begun to look
sharpened in the face and her eyes very bright.  Susan repeated that
her charge did not sleep.  She had gone in to her half a dozen times
during the night and found her wide-eyed on the pillow, staring at the
ceiling.

"I never see any one take on so," Susan said.  "Seems to me if Missie
don't get what she wants she won't be long wantin' anything."

Stella had shown no inclination to get up and Susan had left her in bed.

"Seems like as if gettin' up was more than she could a-bear," said
Susan.  "I did try to coax her out when the day were sunny, but 'twas
no use.  That poor old fly-away Miss Brennan came to the door this
mornin' with a bunch of leaves and berries.  I asked her into my
kitchen, and gave her a cup o' cocoa.  There, she were grateful, poor
soul!"

"You must have the four-leaved shamrock, Susan," Lady O'Gara said.
"Lizzie is so very stand-off with most people."

"So Mr. Kenny was tellin' me.  He used your Ladyship's words.  I never
'eard of the four-leaved shamrock before.  She has a kind heart.
There, I'd never have thought it.  She was fair put out over the poor
young lady.  She talked about a decline in a way that giv me a turn.
But people don't go into a decline sudding like that.  It's something
on Miss Stella's mind.  Take that away and she'll be as bright as
bright.  So I said to the old person, an' she took a fit o' bobbin' to
me, and then she ran off a-talkin' to herself."

Lady O'Gara went up to the pretty bedroom which had been Mrs. Wade's.
It was in the gable and was lit from the roof and by a tiny slit of a
window high up in the wall through which one saw the bare boughs across
the road, with a few fluttering leaves still on them.  A similar window
on the other side had a picture of the wet country, the distant woods
of Mount Esker, and the sapphire sky just above the sapphire line of
hills.

The little windows were open and a soft wet wind blew into the room.
When Lady O'Gara had climbed up the corkscrewy staircase and stepped
into the room she was horrified to find the ravages one more day's
suspense had wrought in Stella's looks.  Her eyes were heavy and there
were dark red spots in her cheeks.

"Is that you, Lady O'Gara?" she asked in a low voice, "I've been
asleep, and I've only just wakened up.  You are very good to come to
see me, but now you need not trouble about me any more.  I am going
away from here.  I do not think she will come back.  She must have got
a long way on her road in these endless seven days of time.  I should
have followed her at first and not wasted time waiting for her here."

"But, my poor child, where would you have gone?" Lady O'Gara asked,
sitting down beside the bed and capturing one of the restless hands.

"I think that old woman, Lizzie Brennan, knows something about where
she is.  She was here yesterday, and she looked in at me and seemed
frightened.  'God help you, child,' she said.  'Don't you be wearin'
your heart out.  She'll come back fast enough as soon as she knows you
want her.  You see, mavourneen, it's a long time since she was anything
but a trouble to people.'  I thought she was only talking in her mad
way.  But since I've wakened up I've been thinking that maybe she knows
something."

"Oh, I wouldn't build on it, child.  Lizzie often talks nonsense,
though she's not as mad as people think."

"I was just going to get up when I heard your foot on the stairs.  I
feel stronger this morning, and I want to get out-of-doors.  The house
is stifling me.  I have been listening so hard for the sound of her
foot or her voice that when I try to listen I can't hear for the
thumping of my heart in my ears.  I want to be with her.  I too am only
a trouble to people.  She and I will not be a trouble to each other."

Lady O'Gara had a thought.

"If you will get up and dress and eat your breakfast to my satisfaction
I shall go with you to Lizzie Brennan's lodge.  It is only about half a
mile down the road.  You have been too much in the house."

She went away downstairs, leaving Stella to get up and dress.  There
was a dainty little breakfast ready for her when she came down, but she
did it little justice.  Lady O'Gara had to be content with her trying
to eat.  She seemed tired even after the slight exertion of dressing,
but she was very eager to go to Lizzie Brennan.

"If only I knew I should find my mother I should not be so troublesome
to you kind people," she said with a quivering smile, which Lady O'Gara
found terribly pathetic.

She said to herself that Grace Comerford must have lacked a good deal
in her relation towards Stella to have left the child so hungry for
mother-love.  Again there was something that puzzled her.  Stella
seemed to have forgotten everything except the fact of her mother's
disappearance.  Did she understand the facts of her birth, all that
they meant to her and how the world regarded them?  Or was it that
these things were swallowed up in the girl's passion of love and loss?

Stella started out at a great pace, but lagged after a little while,
and turned with an apology to Lady O'Gara.

"I feel as though I had had influenza," she said.  "I suppose it's
being in the house so much and not eating or sleeping well.  Oh, I must
not get ill, Lady O'Gara; for I cannot stay here unless my mother comes
back..."

"I thought you liked us all, Stella," Lady O'Gara said, rather sadly.
"You seemed very happy with us always."

"That was before my mother came, before I knew that she and I belonged
to each other and were only a trouble to people."

She harped on old Lizzie's phrase.

"My poor little mother!" she said.  "All that time I was living in
luxury my mother was working.  Her poor hands are the hands of a
working woman.  I cannot bear to look at them."

"She was in America, was she not?" Lady O'Gara asked, by way of saying
something.

"She never spoke of America.  I do not think she was there.  She was
housekeeper somewhere--to a priest.  She said he was such a good old
man, innocent and simple.  He had a garden with bee-hives, and a poodle
dog she was very fond of.  She said it had been a refuge to her for
many years; and she did not like leaving the good old man, but
something drew her back.  She was hungry for news of me."

The child was not ashamed of her mother.  Perhaps she did not
understand.  Lady O'Gara was glad.  She remembered how Shawn had always
said that Bridyeen was innocent and simple.

They had arrived at the gate, one half of it swinging loose from the
hinges; the stone balls, once a-top of the gate-posts, were down on the
ground, having brought a portion of the gate-post with them.

Lady O'Gara glanced at the lodge.  It had been a pretty place once,
with diamond-paned windows and a small green trellised porch, over
which woodbine and roses had trailed.  There were still one or two
golden spikes of the woodbine, and a pale monthly rose climbed to the
top of the porch to the roof; but the creepers which grew round the
windows had been torn down and were lying on the grass-green gravel
path.

"Lizzie is out," Lady O'Gara said, glancing at the door hasped and
padlocked.  "We shall have to come another time."



CHAPTER XXII

A SUDDEN BLOW

There was always a good deal of interest for Lady O'Gara in the affairs
of Castle Talbot.  She went out after her solitary lunch to look for
Patsy Kenny.  She wanted to talk to him about the turf and wood to be
given away to the poor people for Christmas.  Little by little Patsy
had slid from being stud-groom into being general overlooker of the
business of the place.

Having found him she went with him into the stables where the light was
just failing, going from one to the other of the horses, talking to
them, fondling them, discussing them with Patsy in the knowledgable way
of a person accustomed to horses and loving them all her days.

Suddenly she caught sight of Black Prince, wrapped up in a horse-cloth,
hanging his long intelligent nose over his stall and looking at her
wistfully.

"Why," she said, "I thought Sir Shawn was riding the Prince!"  She put
out her hand to fondle the delicate nose and Black Prince whinnied.

"No, m'lady.  The Prince was coughin' this mornin': and Tartar was a
bit lame.  You might notice I was late comin' round.  I didn't want the
master to ride Mustapha.  Not but what he's come on finely and the
master has a beautiful pair of hands.  You'll remember Vixen that broke
her back at the double ditch at Punchestown, how she was a lamb with
the master though a greater divil than Mustapha to the rest of the
world?"

She knew that way Patsy had of talking a lot about a subject when he
was really keeping something essential back.  It was quite true that
Mustapha had been coming to his senses of late--and Shawn had a
beautiful pair of hands, gentle yet as strong as steel.  She had
thought Patsy's anxiety about Mustapha's being ridden by any one but
himself unnecessary, perhaps even with an unconscious spice of vanity
underlying it.  Patsy had conquered Mustapha.  Perhaps he would not be
altogether pleased that the horse should be amenable to some one else,
yet Mustapha had taken a lump of sugar from her hand, only yesterday,
as daintily as her own Chloë, his muzzle moving over her hands
afterwards with silken softness.

"I hope Mustapha will repay all the time and care you have spent on
him, Patsy," she said, and would not acknowledge that her heart had
turned cold for a second.

She hoped Shawn would be home early, before she had time to feel
alarmed.  Of course there was no cause for alarm.  Patsy himself said
that Mustapha had come to be that kind that a lamb or a child could
play with him.  It was absurd of Patsy not to be satisfied about
Shawn's riding the horse.

There were some things Patsy needed--a bandage for Tartar, some
cough-balls for Black Prince, which could be procured at the general
shop in Killesky.

She went into Sir Shawn's office to write the order.  Patsy would come
for it presently.

After she had written it she went out by the open French window and
climbed the rising ground at the back of the house.  Very often she
went up there of afternoons to look at the sunset.  She had always
loved sunsets.

The afternoon had been grey, but at the top of the hill she was
rewarded for her climb.  On one side the sloping valley was filled with
a dun-coloured mist.  Over it leant the dun-coloured cloud which was a
part of the grey heavens.  To the other side were the hills, coloured
the deep blue which is only seen in the West of Ireland.  Behind them
were long washes of light, silver and pale gold.  The dun cloud above
had caught the sapphire as though in a mirror.  Round the Southern and
Western horizon ran the broad belt of light under the sapphire cloud,
while to North and East the dun sky met the dun-coloured mist.

She went back after a while, her sense of beauty satisfied.  From that
hill one could hear anything, horse or vehicle, coming from a long way
off.  The sound ascended and was not lost in the winding and twisting
roads.  But she would not acknowledge disappointment to herself.  She
had gone up to look at the evening sky and it had been beautiful with
one of the strange kaleidoscopic effects which makes those Western
skies for ever new and beautiful.

The tea had been brought in and the lamps lit when a visitor was
announced--Sir Felix Conyers.  She was glad she had not heard the noise
of his arrival and mistaken it for Shawn's.

Sir Felix was an old soldier who had held an important command in
India.  He was a rather fussy but very kind-hearted person whom Mary
O'Gara liked better than his handsome cold wife with her organized
system of charities.

"This is kind, Sir Felix," she said.  "Shawn is not home yet.  They met
at the Wood of the Hare this morning.  The scent must have lain well.
We were a little anxious about the frost before the wind went to the
South-West."

Then she discovered that Sir Felix, a transparently simple person, was
labouring under some curious form of excitement.  He stammered as he
tried to answer, and looked at her furtively.  He dropped his riding
whip, which he was carrying in his hands, stooped to look for it and
came up rather apologetic and more nervous than before.

"The fact is ... I came over, Lady O'Gara ... to ... to ..."

"Is anything the matter, Sir Felix?"

Down went her heart like a plummet of lead.  _Shawn!_  Had anything
happened to Shawn?  Had this stammering, purple-faced gentleman come to
prepare her?  Her heart gave a cry of anguish, while her eyes rested
with apparent calmness on Sir Felix's unhappy face.  Of course it was
Mustapha.  Would he never speak?  Why could they not have found a
better messenger than this unready inarticulate gentleman?

At last the cry was wrung from her: "Has anything happened to my
husband?"

"No!  God bless my soul,--no!"

Her heart lifted slightly with the relief and fell again.  She had been
frightened and had not got over the shock.

"It is a perfectly absurd business, Lady O'Gara.  Your husband will--I
have no doubt"--he emitted a perfectly unnatural chuckle--"be immensely
amused.  I should not have mentioned it ...  I should have shown the
ruffian the door, only that new District Inspector ...  Fury ... a very
good name for him ... mad as a hatter, I should say ... brought the
fellow to me."

"What is it all about, Sir Felix?" asked Lady O'Gara, in a voice of
despair.

"My dear lady, have I been trying you?  I'm sorry."   Sir Felix pulled
himself together by a manifest effort.

"I apologize for even telling you such a thing, though I don't believe
one word of it.  The fellow was obviously drunk and so I told D.I.
Fury.  I absolutely refused to swear him, but I had to issue a summons.
Yes, yes, I'm coming to it now!  Don't be impatient, my dear lady.  A
low drunken tramp went to the police with a ridiculous story that your
husband was privy to the death of young Terence Comerford, poor fellow!
Ridiculous! when every one knows there was the love of brothers between
them.  The ruffian maintains that he was on the spot,--that your
husband and Comerford were quarrelling, that your husband struck him
repeatedly, he not being in a way to defend himself, finally that he
lashed the horse, a young and very spirited horse who would not take
the whip, saying: 'You'll never reach home alive, Terence Comerford!
You've forced me to do it.'  My dear lady, don't look so terrified.  Of
course there's nothing in it.  Your husband will have to answer the
charge at Petty Sessions.  It won't go any further.  If it were true
itself they couldn't bring it in more than manslaughter.  Indeed, I
doubt if any charge would lie after so many years."

He stopped, panting after the long speech.

"It was very kind of you to ride over this dark night to tell us.  Of
course it is a ridiculous tale.  But the mere suggestion will upset my
husband.  As you say, they were so devoted, dearer than brothers.  Why
should this person come with such a tale at this time of day?"

"That is exactly what I asked, my dear lady.  Trumped up, every bit of
it, I haven't the smallest doubt.  Only for Fury it would end where it
began.  The fellow says--I beg your pardon, Lady O'Gara,--that Sir
Shawn paid him to keep silence--that he has grown tired of being bled
and told him to do his worst.  As I said to Fury, you had only to look
at the fellow to see that the truth wasn't in him."

Lady O'Gara was very pale.

"Would you mind waiting a second, Sir Felix?" she said gently.  "You
were not here at the time of the dreadful accident.  The one who really
all but witnessed it is here, close at hand.  You might like to hear
his version of what happened."

She rang the bell and asked the servant who came in answer if Mr. Kenny
was waiting.  Patsy was Mr. Kenny even to the new butler.

Patsy came in, small, neat, in his gaiters and riding breeches, his cap
in his hand.  He stood blinking in the lamplight, looking from Lady
O'Gara to Sir Felix Conyers.

"Sir Felix would like to hear from your lips, Patsy, the story of what
you saw the night Mr. Terence Comerford was killed."

There was a wild surmise in Patsy's eyes.  Not for many a year had that
tragedy been spoken of in his hearing.

"I would not recall it," Lady O'Gara went on in her gentle voice, "only
that Sir Felix tells me some man has been saying that Sir Shawn flogged
Mr. Comerford's horse, using words as he did so which proved that he
knew the horse would not take the whip and that he had it in his mind
to kill Mr. Comerford."

"Who was the man said the likes of that?" asked Patsy, his eyes
suddenly red.

"It was a sort of ... tramping person," said Sir Felix, putting on his
pince-nez the better to see Patsy.  "He has been in these parts before.
A most unprepossessing person.  Quite a bad lot, I should say."

"A foxy man with a hanging jowl," said Patsy.  "Not Irish by his
speech.  Seems like as if he'd curse you if you come his way.  No
whiskers,--a bare-faced man."

"That would be his description."

"It's a quare thing," said Patsy in a slow ruminating voice, "that for
all the rage I felt agin him, so that I wanted to throttle him wid me
two hands, I never thought of him with the man that was there the night
Mr. Terence Comerford was killed.  Did you notice the big hairy hands
of him?  They all but choked me that night.  I thought I'd cause enough
to hate him when he came my way again because o' the poor girl and the
child.  I could scarce keep my hands off him.  The villain!  I'd rather
kill him than a rat in the stable yard."

"You seem to have a very accurate idea about the person who has made
this grotesque charge against your master," Sir Felix said in his
pompous way.  "Your feelings do you credit, but still ... I should not
proceed to violence."

"Please tell Sir Felix what happened that night, Patsy," Lady O'Gara
said.  She had stood up and gone a little way towards the window.  She
spoke in a quiet voice.  Only one who was devoted to her, as Patsy was,
could have guessed the control she was exercising over herself.
Patsy's eyes, in the shadow of the lamp, sent her a look of mute
protecting pity and tenderness.

"'Tis, sir, that I was in the ditch that night."  Patsy turned his cap
about in his hands.  "I was lookin' for the goat an' she draggin' her
chain an' the life frightened out of me betwixt the black night and the
ghosts and the terrible cross ould patch I had of a grandfather, that
said he'd flog me alive if I was to come home without the goat.  I was
blowin' on me hands for the cowld an' shakin' wid fright o' bein' me
lone there; an' not a hundred yards between me an' that place where the
ould Admiral's ghost walks.  When I heard the horses' feet comin' my
heart lifted up, once I was sure it wasn't ghosts they was.  They
passed me whin I was sittin' in the ditch.  No sooner was they gone by
than I let a bawl out o' me, an' I ran after them for company, for it
come over me how I was me lone in that dark place.  You see, your
Honour, I was only a bit of a lad, an' th' ould grandfather had made me
nervous-like.  Just then I caught the bleat of the goat an' I was
overjoyed, for I thought I'd ketch her an' creep home behind Sir Shawn
an' the walkin' horse.  They parted company where the roads met, an' I
heard Sir Shawn trottin' his horse up the road in front o' me, an'
Spitfire--that was Mr. Comerford's horse--was unaisy an' refusin' the
dark road under the trees.  You couldn't tell what the crathur saw, God
help us all!  No horse liked that road.  Thin I heard Spitfire
clatterin' away in the dark an' I ran, draggin' the little goat after
me to get past the place where the unchancy ould road dips down.
Somewan cannoned into me runnin' out o' the dark road.  I couldn't see
his face, but he cursed me, an' I felt his hairy hands round me neck
and me scratchin' and tearin' at them.  It was that villain that's
comin' here to annoy the master, or I think it was.  Mind you, I never
seen him.  But he took me up be me little coat an' he dashed me down on
the road an' nigh knocked the life out o' me.  The next thing I knew I
was lying in the bed at home an' me sore from head to foot, an' able to
see only out o' wan eye be rayson of a bandage across the other: an' me
grandfather an' the neighbours wor sayin' that Mr. Terence Comerford
was kilt, and that Sir Shawn O'Gara was distracted with grief.  But the
quarest thing at all was hearin' the ould man sayin' that I was a good
little boy, after all the divils and villains he'd called me, as long
as I could remember."

Patsy stopped, still turning his hat about in his hands, his velvety
eyes fixed on Lady O'Gara, where she stood leaning by the mantelpiece,
her face turned away, one slender foot resting on the marble kerb.  If
Sir Felix had been aware of the expression of the eyes he might have
been startled, but even the pince-nez were not equal to that.

"Thank you very much," he said.  "That story should knock the bottom
out of our friend's statement.  Merely vexatious; I said so to D.I.
Fury.  Sir Shawn and Mr. Comerford parted in perfect amity?"

"Like brothers," said Patsy with emphasis, "as they wor ever an'
always.  Sure the master was never the same man since.  I often heard
the people sayin' how it was the love of brothers was betwixt them, an'
more, for many a blood brother doesn't fret for his brother as the
master fretted for Master Terence.  He was never the same man since."



CHAPTER XXIII

THE HOME-COMING

After Sir Felix had gone off, profuse in his apologies, and
anathematizing Mr. Fury's zeal, Lady O'Gara went to a desk in the
corner of the drawing-room, a Sheraton desk which she did not often
use.  She found a tiny key and unlocked a little cupboard door between
the pigeon-holes.  She felt about the back of one of the three little
drawers it contained and brought out a sliding well, one of the
innocent secret receptacles which are so easily discovered by any one
who has the clue.  She drew out a little bundle of yellow papers from
it--newspaper cuttings.  These she took to the lamp and proceeded to
read with great care.

Once or twice she knitted her fair brows over something as she read;
but, on the whole, she seemed satisfied as she put the papers back into
their secret place, locked the little door and put away the key.

Then she remembered that she had not given Patsy his orders.

She went to Sir Shawn's office-room and wrote them out.  While she put
the second one in its envelope Patsy tapped at the door and came in,
closing it carefully behind him.

"No wan 'ud be expectin' the master home from the Wood o' the Hare
yet," he said.  "'Tis a good step an' Sir John Fitzgerald would be very
sorry to part with him after he'd carried him in for his lunch.  Maybe
'tis staying to dinner he'd be."

Lady O'Gara looked at her watch.

"It's quite early," she said; "not much after six."

"'Tis a dark night," said Patsy.  "Maybe 'tis the way they'll be
persuadin' him to wait till the moon rises.  Sorra a bit she'll show
her face till nine to-night."

Mary O'Gara's heart sank.  She knew that Patsy was nervous.

"He may come at any moment," she said.  "I don't think he'll wait for
the rising of the moon."

"It isn't like the troubled times," said Patsy, "an' you listenin'
here, an' me listenin' by the corner o' the stable-yard where the wind
brings the sounds from the bog-road whin 'tis in that quarter.  Your
Ladyship had great courage.  An' look at all you must ha' went through
whin we was at the War!"

He looked compassionately at her as he went towards the door.

"I'll be sendin' a boy wid this message," he said.  "Or maybe Georgie
an' me would be steppin' down there.  It's lonesome for the child to be
sittin' over his books all day whin I'm busy."

He opened the door, looked into the empty hall and came back.

"I wouldn't be troublin' the master wid them ould stories," he said.
"Didn't I tell my story fair!"

"You did, Patsy.  There were some things in it were not in the evidence
you gave at the time."

"See that now!  T'ould mimiry of me's goin'.  Still, there wasn't much
differ?"

There was some anxiety in his voice as he asked the question.

"Nothing much.  You said nothing long ago of running towards the upper
road after Sir Shawn."

"Sure where else would I be runnin' to?  It isn't the lower road I'd be
takin'--now is it your Ladyship!  It wouldn't be likely."

"I suppose it wouldn't," she said, slightly smiling.

"I remember it like as if it was yesterday, the sound of the horse's
hoofs climbin' and then the clatter that broke out on the lower road
whin Spitfire took the bit between his teeth an' bolted.  I'll put the
stopper on that villain's lies.  I'd like to think the master wouldn't
be troubled wid them."

"I'm afraid he'll have to hear them, Patsy.  Sir Felix was obliged to
issue a summons.  It might have been worse if Sir Felix had not been a
friend."

"The divil shweep that man, Fury," said Patsy with ferocity.  "If he
hadn't been a busy-body an' stirrer-up of trouble, he'd have drowned
that villain in a bog-hole."

He went off, treading delicately on his toes, which was his way of
showing sympathetic respect, and Lady O'Gara returned to the
drawing-room.

She was very uneasy.  She tried reading, but her thoughts came between
her and the page.  Writing was no more helpful.  She went to the piano.
Music at least, if it did not soothe her, would prevent her straining
her ears in listening for sounds outside.

The butler came and took away the tea-things, made up the fire and
departed in the noiseless way of the trained servant.  Her hands on the
keys broke unconsciously into the solemn music of Chopin's Funeral
March.  She took her hands off the piano with a shiver as she realized
her choice and began something else, a mad, merry reel to which the
feet could scarcely refrain from dancing.  But her heart did not dance.
The music fretted her, keeping her from listening.  After a while she
gave up the pretence of it and went back to the fireside, to the sofa
on which she and Shawn had sat side by side while she comforted him.
She could have thought she felt the weight of his head on her shoulder,
that she smelt the peaty smell of his home-spuns.  He would be
disturbed, poor Shawn, by what she had to tell him.  It would be an
intolerable ordeal if he should be dragged to the Petty Sessions Court
to refute the preposterous charge of being concerned in the death of
the man he had loved more than a brother..  Poor Shawn!  She listened.
Was that the sound of a horse coming?  He would be so disturbed!

It was only the wind that was getting up.  She drew her work-table to
her and took out a pair of Shawn's stockings that needed darning.
Margaret McKeon's eyes had been failing of late, and Lady O'Gara had
taken on joyfully the mending of her husband's things.  Her darning was
a thing of beauty.  She had said it soothed her when Sir Shawn would
have taken the stocking from her because it tired her dear eyes.

Nothing could have seemed quieter than the figure of the lady sitting
mending stockings by rosy lamplight.  She had put on her spectacles.
Terry had cried out in dismay when he had first seen her wear them, and
she had laughed and put them away; her beautiful eyes were really
rather short-sighted and she had never spared them.

But while she sat so quietly she was gripped by more terrors than one.
She was trying to keep down the thought, the question, that would
return no matter how she strove to push it away--had she been told all
the truth about Terence Comerford's death?

There had always been things that puzzled her, things Shawn had said
under the stress of emotion, and when he talked in sleep.  There had
been a night when he had cried out:

"My God, he should not have laughed.  If he had wanted to live he
should not have laughed.  When he laughed I felt I must kill him."

She had wakened him up, telling him he had had a nightmare and had
thought no more about it.  There were other things he had said in the
stress of mental sufferings.  She began to piece them together, to make
a whole of them, in the light of this horrible accusation.  And--Patsy
had been lying, had been ready to lie more if necessary.  Patsy was a
truthful person.  Conceivably he would not have lied unless there was a
reason for it, unless there was something to conceal.

She got up at last, weary with her thoughts, and went upstairs to
dress.  Before doing anything else she opened her window and leant out.
It had come on to rain.  She had known the beautiful strange sky was
ominous of wet weather, although for a little time in the afternoon it
had seemed inclined to freeze.  The heavy raindrops were falling like
the pattering of feet.  A wind got up and shook the trees.  She said to
herself that she _would not_ fancy she heard the horse's hoofs in the
distance.  When they were coming she would have no doubt.

She dressed herself finely, or she permitted Margaret McKeon to dress
her, in a golden brown dress which her husband had admired.  Through
the transparent stuff that draped the corsage modestly her warm white
shoulders gleamed.  Her arms were very beautiful.  She remembered as
she sat in front of the glass, while the maid dressed her hair, that
her husband had said she was more beautiful than the girl he had
married.

She went back to the drawing-room where Shot lay, stretched on the
skin-rug before the fire, now and again lifting his head to look at
her.  The Poms were in their baskets either side of the fireplace.  It
was very quiet.  Not a sound disturbed the silence of the room beyond
the ticking of the clock over the mantelpiece and the purring and
murmuring of the fire.

She had a book in her hand, but she did not read it.  She was too
concerned about real actual happenings for the book to keep her
attention.  She held it indeed so that she might seem to be reading if
a servant came into the room.  She wondered if the story of the tramp's
charge against Sir Shawn had reached the kitchen.  Very probably it
had.  The police would know of it and from them it would spread to the
village and the countryside.  The people were insatiable of gossip,
especially where their "betters" were involved.  Probably the
tramp--Baker, was it?--poor Susan's husband and Georgie's father--had
made the statement at every place where he had satisfied his thirst.
What a horrid thing to have happened!  How would Shawn take the
accusation?  Of course it was absurd--nevertheless it was intolerable.

Reilly came in presently and asked if her Ladyship would have dinner at
the usual hour.  It still wanted a quarter of the hour--eight o'clock.

She answered in the affirmative.  Shawn was always vexed if she waited
for him when he was late, wishing she would remember that he might be
detained by twenty things.  It would be something to do and would
suspend for a while the listening which made her head ache.  She hated
these hours of listening.  Of late years she had forgotten to be
nervous when Sir Shawn was not in good time.  He had said that he would
not give her the habit of his punctual return lest a chance
unpunctuality should terrify her.  To-night she had only gone back to
the listening because Shawn was riding Mustapha.  Besides, the news she
had to give him had upset her nerves out of their usual tranquil course.

The rain beat hard against the windows.  She hoped Shawn was not
crossing the bog in that rainstorm.  Some horses hated the wind and the
rain and would not face them.  It would be so terribly easy for
Mustapha if he swung round or reared to topple over where the bog-pools
lay dark and silent below the road, on either side.

A thought came to her with some sense of companionship that Patsy Kenny
was doubtless listening round the corner of the stables for the sound
of Mustapha's hoofs, coming closer and closer.  She had thought she
heard them so often without hearing them.  Before she came down the
stairs to dinner, she had turned into the private chapel to say her
night-prayers, praying for her beloved ones, and for all the world; and
as she knelt there in the dimness she had been almost certain she heard
Mustapha come.  Now, sitting by the drawing-room fire, the river of
prayer went flowing through her heart, half articulate, broken into by
the effort of listening that might become something tense and aching.

The dinner gong began, rising to a roar and falling away again.  She
smiled as she stood up, saying to herself that Reilly sounded the gong
with a sense of the climax.

As she stood up the Poms bristled and Shot suddenly barked and
listened.  He sat up on his haunches and threw back his head and
howled.  The dogs knew the master was out and that something vexed the
mistress, and were uneasy.

As she passed across the hall, her golden-brown dress catching the
light of the lamps, suddenly the hall door opened.  There came in the
wind and the rain.  The lamps flared.  Patsy Kenny stood in the
doorway.  He was very wet.  As he took off his hat mechanically the
rain dripped from it.  His hair was plastered down on his face and the
rain was in his eyes.  He was panting as though he had run very hard.

"The master's comin'," he said with a sound like a sob.  "He's not
kilt, though he's hurted.  I'm telling you the truth, jewel.  It was
well there was a pig-fair in Meelick to-morrow or he might have lain
out all night.  An' wasn't it the Mercy o' God the cart didn't drive
over him?"

"Where is he?" she asked, going to the door and peering out into the
darkness.  "Where is he?"

"He's comin'.  They're carryin' him on the tail-board o' the cart.
He's not kilt.  Did ye ever know your poor Patsy to decave you yet?  I
ran ahead lest ye'd die wid the fright.  Here, hould a light, you."

He spoke to Reilly, who had never been spoken to so unceremoniously in
the whole course of his professional career.  The hall was full of the
servants by this time, peering and pushing from the inner hall with
curious or disturbed faces.

Reilly brought a lamp, more quickly than might have been expected of
him.  There was the measured tramp of men's feet and something came in
sight as the lamplight streamed out on the wet ground.

"Stand back!" Lady O'Gara said, pushing away the crowding servants with
a gesture.  "Can they see, Patsy?"

"They can see," said Patsy.  "God help you!  But mind ye he's not kilt.
I'm goin' for the doctor.  I won't be many minutes."

Into the hall came Tim Murphy, the road-contractor and small farmer,
who lived up a boreen from the bog.  He was under the tailboard of the
cart.  Behind was his son Larry.  There was a crowd of wet faces and
tousled heads crowding in the dark looking into the hall.

The men were carrying the silent figure of Sir Shawn O'Gara, hatless,
his scarlet coat sodden and mud-stained, his eyes closed and his head
fallen to one side.



CHAPTER XXIV

THE SICK WATCHERS

Patsy had told the truth.  Sir Shawn was not dead.  Whether he was
going to live was another matter.

Patsy had brought back Dr. Costello with unhoped for speed.  The doctor
had just come in from a case and had only to get what he thought he
might need and come as fast as his motor-bicycle would carry him.  He
was a kind, competent doctor who might have had a wider field for his
ambition than this lonely bog country.  One of the big Dublin doctors
had said to a patient: "Haven't you got Costello at Killesky?  I don't
know why he wastes himself there.  It is very lucky for you since you
need not trouble to be coming up to me."

It was a comfort to the poor woman's desolation to see the pitying
capable face.

"Patsy has told me all about it as we came along," he said in the slow
even voice that had quieted many a terrified heart.  "I got him to
leave his bicycle at my place and come back with me in the side car.
The horse broke his back in the bog, I believe.  Better the horse than
the man.  Is there any one here who will help me to undress him?"

"The butler valets my husband," Lady O'Gara replied.  "He was with an
invalid before he came to us, and he was highly recommended for his
skill and gentleness in nursing.  I did not think then that we should
have need of these qualifications."

"The very man I want.  Can you send him?"

As she turned away he put his hand on her arm.  The pale smile with
which she had spoken touched the man who was accustomed to but not
hardened by human suffering.

"It is not as bad as it seems," he said.  "I think he will recover
consciousness presently.  He must have been thrown rather violently."

She went away somewhat comforted.  Outside the door she found Patsy
seated on a chair, his head fallen in his hands.  Shot was sitting by
him, his nose on Patsy's knee.  They looked companions in suffering.

"The doctor is hopeful," she said, with a hand on Patsy's shoulder.
"Go down and tell Reilly to come.  The doctor wants him."

The flat-faced, soft-footed Reilly was to prove indeed in those sad
days and nights an untold help and comfort.  Patsy watched him
curiously and enviously, going and coming, as he would, in and out the
sick-room.

Absorbed as she was Lady O'Gara noticed that sick look of jealousy on
Patsy's face.  She herself was content to sit by her husband's bed and
let others do the useful serviceable things, unless when by the
doctor's orders she went out of doors for a while.

"We don't want him to open his eyes on a white face he doesn't know.
The better you look, my Lady, the better it will be for him," said Dr.
Costello.

The afternoon after the accident a watery sun had come out in fitful
gleams.  It had been raining and blowing for some hours.  There was
still no sign of returning consciousness in the sick man.  Sir Shawn's
face looked heavy and dull on the pillow, where he lay as motionless as
though he were already dead.

"Concussion, not fracture," said the doctor, lifting an eyelid to look
at the unseeing eye.  "He will come to himself presently."

And so saying he had sent her out to walk, bidding her exercise the dog
as well as herself, for Shot was a heartbreak in these days, lying
about and sighing, a creature ill at ease.

"So long as he does not howl," she said piteously, "I do not mind.  I
could not bear him to howl."

"Dogs howl for the discomfort of themselves or their human friends,"
said the doctor.  "You are not superstitious, Lady O'Gara?"

"Oh, no," she said, huddling in her fur cloak with a little shiver.

"You must believe in God or the Devil.  If in God you can't admit the
Devil, who is the father of superstition as well as of lies."

"Oh, I know, I know," she said.  "But, just now, I cannot bear to hear
a dog howl."

On the hall table she found a telegram from Terry.  He hoped to be with
her by eleven o'clock.

The news from Terry turned her thoughts to Stella.  For twenty-four
hours she had not remembered Stella.  Terry would ask first for his
father and next for Stella.

She would go and ask for Stella.  She turned back from the path that
led to the South lodge, remembering that the gate was locked.

Patsy would have the key.  She went in search of him, accompanied by
the melancholy Shot and the two Poms, rescued from the kitchen regions,
to which they had been banished because of their inane habit of barking
with or without reason.  She was grateful to the Poms, now that she was
out of hearing of the sick-room, for the manner in which they leaped
upon her and filled the air with their clamorous joy.  There was
nothing ominous about their yapping.

Patsy came to meet her as she entered the stableyard.  The small neat
figure had a disconsolate air.  Patsy's eyes were red, his hair rumpled.

"How is he?" he asked.

"There is no change.  The doctor is not alarmed."

"Ah, well, that's good so far.  Master Terry'll be comin'; that's
better.  I'll be meetin' him at the late train?"

"How did you know?" she asked surprised; "the telegram has only just
come."

"The gorsoon that brought it spread the news along the road.  We was
the last to hear it."

"Oh, of course," she said listlessly.

He looked at her anxiously.

"There'll be no use to trouble the master about that blackguard's lies?"

"No fear of that," she answered.  "Nothing to hurt or harm him shall
enter that room."

"Sure God's good always!" Patsy said reverently.

She went on to ask him for the key of the South lodge.

"Wait a minit, m'lady," he said, "I'll come wid you."

She waited while he fetched the key.  He came back swinging it on his
finger.

"I never seen a quieter little lad thin that Georgie," he said.  "He's
very fond o' the books.  I don't know how I'll give him back to his
mother at all.  He's great company for me."

They went on, past the house and into the path that led to the South
lodge.

Out of sight of the house Patsy suddenly stopped, and nodded his head
towards where the boundary wall of Castle Talbot ran down to the O'Hart
property.

"It never rains but it teems," he said.  "I was waitin' about to see
you.  There's trouble down there."

His pointing finger indicated the direction of the Waterfall Cottage.

"What's the matter?" she asked in quick alarm.

"It's little Miss Stella.  She strayed away last night.  Susan didn't
miss her till the mornin'.  She found her just inside the gates of the
demesne--by old Lizzie's lodge.  She was soaked wid rain an' in a dead
faint.  I wonder Susan ventured with that blackguard about.  She
brought Miss Stella to and helped or carried her back.  She's wanderin'
like in her mind ever since, the poor little lady."

"Give me the key," Lady O'Gara said.  "Go back and bring Dr. Costello."

"It was what I was venturin' to recommend," said Patsy, giving her the
key.

She went on quickly, a new cause for trouble oppressing her.  She had
not waited to ask questions of Patsy....  Was Stella very ill?  What
had happened to the poor child?  How was she going to tell Terry?
These were some of the questions that hammered at her ears as she
hurried on as fast as her feet could carry her.

She was at the South lodge before she remembered the dogs.  Shot might
be trusted to be quiet, but the Poms, in a strange house, would bark
incessantly.  She shut the gate between them and her, leaving it
unlocked for the doctor.  Their shrill protests followed her as she
went down the road.

She stood by the gable-end of the house and called up to the window,
open at the top, which she knew to be that of Stella's room.  While she
waited expectantly, she became aware of a low voice talking very
quickly in a queer monotonous way.  Susan came to the window and looked
out above the lace blind.  She made a signal that she would open the
gate and disappeared.

Lady O'Gara went on to the gate and saw Susan coming down the little
avenue.  Susan, dropping the curtsey which had doubtless been the meed
of the Squire's lady, opened the gate for her.

"I'm troubled about the poor young lady, m'lady," she said, jerking her
thumb backwards towards the cottage.  "I wish her mother'd come back.
She do keep callin' for her, somethink pitiful."

"Leave the gate open, Susan; I expect the doctor immediately."

"I'm sorry for your own trouble, m'lady," Susan said.  "I hope Sir
Shawn's doin' nicely now?"

"There is no change yet.  But the doctor seems confident."

"There: I _am_ pleased," said Susan.

They went back to the little house, Susan explaining and apologizing.
She did not know how she had come to sleep so soundly.  She supposed it
must have been because she'd been sleeping the fox's sleep, keeping one
eye open on Miss Stella, for several nights past, till she was fair
worn out.  Still, she didn't ought to have done it.

As they stood by the end of the little brass bed on which Stella lay,
tossing in fever, she told the rest of the tale--how she had awakened
with the first glimmer of dawn and realized that she had slept the
night through; how, going to Stella's room she had missed her; how she
had searched house and garden in a frenzy without finding any traces of
her; finally she had discovered that the gate stood open.

"I declare to goodness, m'lady," said Susan.  "I never even thought of
Baker when I went out to look for her.  After all, if Georgie was safe,
there isn't much more he could do to me than he's done.  I don't know
why it was I turned in at old Lizzie's cottage, an' there I found the
poor lamb up against the door, for all the world as though she'd tried
to get in and dropped where she was.  She've been talking ever since of
some one follerin' her.  And then she calls out for her mother to come.
Once or twice I thought I heard her callin' Master Terry to come and
save her.  I can't tell whether she was frightened or whether she
fancied it.  But she do cry out, poor little soul, in mortal terror of
some one or something."

Standing there by the foot of the bed Lady O'Gara's heart went out in
tenderness to the sick girl as though she was her own little daughter.
What maze of terror had she passed through, whether in dreams or
reality, that had brought that look to her face?  While they watched
Stella got up on her elbow and peered into the corners of the room with
a terrible expression.  She struggled violently for a moment as though
held in a monstrous grip.  Then she fell back on her pillow, exhausted.

There came a knocking at the door.  The doctor.  In a few seconds Dr.
Costello was in the room with his invaluable air of never being
flurried, of there being no need for flurry.  He did not even express
surprise, though he must have felt it, at seeing Stella there, nor at
the state in which he found her.

"I shall explain to you presently," Lady O'Gara said, "why she is here
instead of at Inch.  Mrs. Comerford has quarrelled with her."

"Ah," said the doctor, getting out his clinical thermometer.  "It has
been her bane, poor lady, that difficult temper.  Years have not
softened it apparently."

"But for all that she has a noble nature," Lady O'Gara said.  "This
will be a terrible grief to her."

"If they have fallen out I should not recommend her presence here when
Miss Stella returns to herself," the doctor said quietly.  "She must be
kept very quiet.  Evidently she has had a bad shock of some kind,
following on a strained condition of the nerves."

After his examination Lady O'Gara told him something of Stella's case.
He did not ask for more than he was told.  He did not even show
surprise at hearing that Stella had a mother living.

"Ah," he said, "if her mother's face could be the first thing for her
eyes to rest upon when she comes out of that bad dream, it would do a
good deal to restore her sanity."

"Unfortunately we do not know where the mother is," Lady O'Gara said
sorrowfully.

"I will give the patient something to keep her quiet to-night," the
doctor went on.  "Perhaps you could send some one over to my house for
the medicine."

"Patsy Kenny will go."

"Now let me take you back to the house.  It is growing dusk.  Is there
any one you could send to stay with Mrs. ...  Mrs. ...?"

"Susan Horridge.  Oh, yes.  I can send Margaret McKeon, my maid.  She
never talks."

The doctor gave no indication of any curiosity as to why no talking
made Margaret McKeon a suitable person for this emergency.  The world
was full of odd things, even such a remote bit of it as lay about
Killesky.  The place buzzed with gossip.  Every one in it knew already
the story of the charge made by the drunken tramp against Sir Shawn
O'Gara.  It had reached Dr. Costello at an early stage in its progress.
He remembered the death of Terence Comerford and the gossip of that
time.  In his own mind he was piecing the story together: but he was
discretion itself.  No one should be the wiser for him.

He was on his way home, having left Lady O'Gara safely at her own door,
when he did something that very nearly ran the bicycle with the
side-car into the bog.  Patsy, his passenger, merely remarked calmly:
"A horse 'ud have more sinse than this hijeous thing."

The doctor, piecing together the details of the old tragedy to explain
the new, had had an illumination as blinding as the flash of lightning
widen reveals a whole countryside for a moment before it falls again to
impenetrable blackness.

"By Jove," he had said to himself, "Stella is Terry's daughter.  And
the woman at Waterfall Cottage--they will talk even though I don't
encourage them--is Bridyeen Sweeney that was.  I wonder some of them
didn't chance on that."

He murmured excuses to Patsy for the peril he had narrowly escaped.

"She answers to my hand like a horse," he said.  "That time I was
dreaming and I pulled her a bit too suddenly."

As he got out at his own door he said something half aloud; being a
solitary bachelor man he had got into a trick of talking to himself.

"I did hear that boy of the O'Garas' was sweet on her," he said.  "My
word, what a pretty kettle of fish!"

"I beg your pardon, doctor?" said Patsy.

"Oh nothing, nothing.  I was wool-gathering.  Come in and wait; I'll
have the medicine ready in less than no time."



CHAPTER XXV

IN WHICH TERRY FINDS A DEAD MAN

Terry arrived a little before midnight, having made the difficult
cross-country journey from the Curragh, looking so troubled and unhappy
that his mother's heart was soft over him as when he was the little boy
she remembered.

He bent his six foot of height to kiss her, and his voice was husky as
he asked how his father was.

"He is asleep, thank God," she answered.  "He came to himself for a
little time while I was out this afternoon.  Reilly, who is invaluable,
a real staff, tells me it is healthy sleep now, not unconsciousness."

"Imagine Reilly!" said Terry, with a sigh of immense relief.  "You poor
darling! to think of your having to bear it alone!  The Colonel was so
decent about leave.  He told me not to come back till you could do
without me.  A son's not as good as a daughter.  Still, I'm better than
nothing, aren't I, darling?"

"You are better than any one," his mother said, caressing his smooth
young cheeks.

"You should have wired for Eileen.  What's that selfish minx doing?
Making up with the lakh of rupees, I suppose?"

"Do you know I never remembered Eileen," she said, and laughed for the
first time since the accident.  Her heart had lifted suddenly with an
irrational, joyful hope.

She wanted to get Terry to bed and a night's sleep before he knew
anything about Stella's illness.  In the morning the girl might be
better.  Terry looked very weary.  He explained to her with a half-shy
laugh what terrible imaginings had been his companions on the railway
journey.

"By Jove, darling," he said, "I never want an experience like it again.
And how the train dragged!  I felt like trying to push it along with
something inside me all the time till I was as tired as though I had
been really pushing it.  At one place the train stopped in the middle
of a bog--some one had pulled the communication cord--and the guard and
the fireman ran along the carriages, using frightful language, only to
pull out seven drunken men going home from a fair, in charge of one
small boy who was sober.  He was explaining that he couldn't wake them
up at the last station, and that as soon as they came awake they pulled
the cord.  'Go on out o' that now, ye ould divil!' said the guard
giving a kick to the last of them.  I assure you I didn't feel inclined
to laugh, even then, darling, though it was so ridiculous!"

She pressed him to eat, but he was too weary to eat much; and she
vetoed his seeing his father before morning, being afraid that the
strange pallor on the face of the sick man would frighten the boy.

She got him off at last, unwillingly, but out of consideration for her
weariness.  She was going to bed, she said; Reilly was taking the night
watch.  She had not slept all the preceding night.  He had not asked
about Stella, although several times she had thought he was about to
ask.  She hoped he would not ask.  How was she to answer him if he did?

She said good-night to him in his warm fire-lit room, feeling the
sweetness and comfort of having him there again despite all the
trouble: and, half-way to the door, she was stopped by the question she
had dreaded.

"Mother, have you seen Stella?"

"You shall see her to-morrow," she answered, and hurried away, feeling
dreadfully guilty because she imagined the light of joy in his young
face.

Despite all her troubles she slept soundly, the sleep of
dead-tiredness: and when she awoke it was half-past seven.  She could
hear the maid in the drawing-room below her lighting the fire.  It was
still grey, but there were indications of a beautiful sunrise in the
long golden-yellow light that was breaking in the sky: and a robin was
singing.

She did not feel inclined to lie on.  She was refreshed and
strengthened for the many difficulties of the day before her.  She got
up, dressed and went down to the sick-room.  Reilly was just coming out
with a scuttle-full of ashes: he had been "doing" the grate and
lighting the fire.  He had expressed a wish that there might be as few
intruders in the sick-room as possible.

"The thing is to keep him quiet, m'lady," he had said.  "They are
well-meaning girls"--referring to the maids--"but as like as not they'd
drop the fire-irons just when he was in a beautiful sleep."

Reilly looked quite cheerful; and Lady O'Gara began to think that the
flat side-whiskered face had something very pleasant about it after
all.  He did not wait for her to make inquiries.

"He's doing nicely, m'lady," he said.  "He's been awake and asked for
your ladyship."

"Oh!" she said with a catch of the breath, "you should have called me."

"He'd have been asleep before your ladyship could have come.  Sleep's
the best of all medicine."

She had her breakfast and relieved Reilly.  Somewhere about ten o'clock
Terry opened the door and peeped in.

"Come!" she beckoned to him.

He came and stood beside her looking down at the bandaged head and pale
unconscious face.  The deadly pallor of yesterday had passed.  A slight
colour had come to the cheeks, driving away the blue shadows.

Tears filled the boy's eyes as he looked, and his mother loved him for
the sensibility.

She went out with him into the corridor to speak.  There was so much
she had to tell him that could not be told in a moment or two.

"I shall be off duty by three o'clock," she said.  "Can you wait till
then?"

"I suppose I couldn't ... they wouldn't want me at Inch?  I have
written to Stella and she has not answered."

"She has not been very well.  I will tell you about it.  Only be
patient, dear boy.  I must not stay away from your father too long."

"Very well," he said resignedly.  "I'll take out Shot and we'll pot at
rabbits--a long way from the house, darling.  It's good to be here,
anyhow."

"It's good to have you," she said gratefully.

He had not taken up what she said about Stella's not being well, and
she was glad of that.  Stella had not been at her best when he left.
She might have alarmed him and set him to asking questions which she
would have found it difficult to parry.

Twice during the morning hours, while she sat in the clean well-ordered
room, with its bright fire and its sudden transformation to a
sick-room, she was called to the door.  Once it was to interview Patsy
Kenny.  He had brought word that Susan had spoken to him from the
window of Waterfall Cottage and had said that Miss Stella was no worse.
Patsy was to watch by Sir Shawn for the afternoon and evening: so much
had been conceded to him.

She was expecting the doctor when another summons came--this time it
was Sir Felix Conyers, who came tip-toeing along the corridor since she
could not go downstairs to him.

"I'm terribly sorry for this dreadful accident, Lady O'Gara," he said.
She noticed with a wondering gratitude that Sir Felix was quite pale.
"I've only just heard it.  The whole countryside will be shocked.  Such
a popular man as Sir Shawn, such a good landlord and fine specimen of a
country gentleman.  Upon my word, I'm sorry."

She saw that he was, and she put out her fair be-ringed hand and took
his, pressing it softly.

"Thank you, Sir Felix," she said.  "I know you feel for us and I am
very grateful.  Thank God, it is not as bad as it might have been.  My
husband is sleeping quietly.  The doctor is quite pleased."

"Thank God for that," said Sir Felix, echoing her.  "He'll be back
amongst us again in no time.  I came to tell you as soon as I could
that the ruffian Fury brought to me the other night has disappeared.
The effects of the drink worn off, I said to Fury, and gave him a sharp
touch-up about too much zeal.  The fellow walks like a dancing-master,
and talks picking his words to conceal want of education.  I pity the
men under him, I do indeed.  I'm really sorry, Lady O'Gara, that I
troubled you with that cock and bull story the other night.  I don't
anticipate that we'll hear any more about it."

"I'm glad my husband was not troubled with it," she said, and left her
hand in the kind gentleman's: he was wringing it hard, so that the
rings hurt her, but she would not have betrayed it for worlds.

A few more expressions of sympathy and of a desire to help and Sir
Felix was gone.  She was left to her watch once more.

The house seemed extraordinarily quiet.  The clock in the corridor
ticked away, marking the flight of time.  Now and again a coal fell
from the fire on to the hearth, or some one came to know if anything
was wanted.  Mary O'Gara, usually so full of energy, was content to sit
watching her husband's face on the pillow.  Sir Felix's visit had
brought her a certain relief.  She could put that worry away from
her--for the time.  If the man had disappeared he had probably good
reasons for disappearing.  Perhaps he would not come back.  He might be
frightened of the thing he had done.  Anyhow, she was grateful for so
much relief; and if Shawn was going to live she felt that she could
endure all other troubles.

After a time she remembered something--something that must be done.
Mrs. Comerford must be told about Stella.  Perhaps the anger had died
down in her by this time, leaving her chilled and miserable, as Mary
O'Gara remembered her in the old days after some violent scene with
Terence.

She went to the writing-table in the room and wrote a note.  She had
just placed it in its envelope when the doctor came and she gave it to
the servant who showed him up; bidding her give it to Patsy Kenny to be
sent to Inch by a special messenger.

The doctor was well satisfied with Sir Shawn's condition.  While he
examined him the patient opened his eyes.  How dark they looked in the
white face!  They rested on the doctor with recognition, then passed on
to his wife, and he smiled.

"Have I ... been very troublesome?" he asked.  "I remember ... now ...
that brute, Spitfire ... always was a brute...."

The eyes grew vague again and closed, but the lips kept their faint
smile.

"He'll sleep a lot," said the doctor.  "Much the best thing for him
too.  He had run himself down even before the accident.  He'll be able
to talk more presently."

He had taken her out to the corridor before he told the latest, most
sensational news.

"I found a new nurse by the little girl's bedside this morning," he
said.  "Apparently she is the lady who occupied the Cottage--Mrs. Wade.
The patient seems wonderfully improved.  Hardly any fever; she kept
watching her new nurse as though she dreaded letting her out of her
sight."

"Ah--that is good!"

There was another lightening of the heaviness of Lady O'Gara's heart.
Some mothers in her place might have had an unacknowledged feeling that
Stella's death would not be altogether the worst solution of a
difficult situation.  It would have been easy to think with a kindly
pity of how much better it would be for the poor child without a name
to drift quietly out on the great sea.  Not so Lady O'Gara.  Her whole
being had been in suffering for the suffering of this young thing who
had crept into her heart.  Now she was lifted up with the thought of
Stella coming back to life and health.  For the rest it was in the
future.  With God be the future!

Terry was late for lunch.  Patsy Kenny had begged and prayed to be
allowed to help in "lookin' after the master," so he took the afternoon
watch, setting Lady O'Gara free to be with her son.  It was not like
Terry to be late for lunch.  He was a very good trencherman and had
always been the first to laugh at his own appetite.  But to-day he did
not come.  His mother waited, turning over the newspapers which came
late to Castle Talbot.  He must have gone farther afield than he had
intended.  She was not nervous.  What was there to be nervous about?
Terry had forgotten in the joy of rabbiting that the luncheon hour was
gone by: that was all.

At last he came, almost simultaneously with a wild idea in his mother's
head that he might have wandered towards Waterfall Cottage and somehow
discovered that Stella was there.

She got up quite cheerfully when she saw him.

"You are late, dear boy," she said.  Her heart had gone up because so
many good things had happened this morning.  Shawn was better and had
recognized her.  The wretch who would have hurt him in the secret
places of his heart had gone on farther.  Stella was doing well.  It
was always the way with her to be irrationally hopeful.  Many and many
a time she had had to ask herself why, on some particular day, she was
feeling particularly happy, and had had to trace back the cause to
something so small that even she had forgotten it.  The founts of
happiness in her were very quick to flow.

"There is a cold game pie here," she said, "and there is some curry
which I have sent down to keep warm.  Also there is pressed beef and a
cold pheasant on the sideboard.  I suggest that you begin with the
curry and go on to the other things."

He did not answer her, but sat down with a weary air.  She looked at
him in quick alarm.  He was not looking well.

"What is the matter, Terry?" she asked anxiously.

"Oh, nothing, darling, to make you look so frightened.  Only I have had
a rather gruesome experience.  I found a dead man, and such an ugly
one!"

"A dead man!"

"Yes--just by old Hercules O'Hart's tomb.  The place will have twice as
bad a name now."

"What sort of a man?"

"Oh, a tramp, apparently.  He appeared to have fallen from the Mount.
He might have been running in the dark and shot out violently over the
edge.  From the look of him I should say he had broken his neck.  You
know how thick the moss is there under the trees.  You would not think
the fall could have hurt him, but he is stone-dead.  I didn't want him
brought here so I ran off and got some men who are building a Congested
Districts Board house on the Tubber road to lift him.  The body is in
the stable belonging to the pub.  There will have to be an inquest, I
suppose, and I shall have to give evidence.  A beastly bore."  He began
to cut himself a slab out of the game pie absent-mindedly.

"Terry," she said, "I think I know the man.  He has been about here
lately.  Patsy would know.  If he is the man I think, he is the husband
of Susan Horridge, the little woman at the South lodge."

"Oh--that Patsy's so sweet on!  He was a bad lot, wasn't he?  A brute
to that poor little woman and the delicate child.  He didn't look a
nice person."

He gave a fastidious little shudder.

"We're too squeamish," he said.  "It comes of the long Peace.  I've
sent word to Costello.  I suppose I'll have to appear at the inquest.
They say a wise man never found a dead man.  No one would accuse me of
being wise."

A queer thought came to her.  If Shawn had not been lying as he was,
helpless, might not he have been suspected of a hand in the death of
the man who had made such charges against him?



CHAPTER XXVI

MOTHER AND DAUGHTER

Lady O'Gara left Terry eating his curry--the Castle Talbot cook made a
particularly good and hot curry--with a quickly recovered appetite, and
went upstairs to where Patsy Kenny was sitting by the fire in the
sick-room.

"He woke up an' took his milk," said Patsy in an ecstatic whisper, "an'
he knew me!  'Is that you, Patsy, ye ould divil?' says he.  Sorra a
word o' lie in it!  An' Shot had twisted himself in unbeknownst to me,
an' when he heard the master spakin' he up an' licked his hand."

"I've asked Reilly to come on duty now, Patsy.  I shall be up to-night,
so he has taken a short sleep."

"You think I'm not fit to be wid him," said Patsy mournfully.  "Maybe
there's the smell o' the stables about me, though I put on me Sunday
clothes and claned me boots."

"No, no; Sir Shawn wouldn't mind the stable smell.  Nor should I.  I
want you to do something for me.  I'll tell you in the office.  Here's
Reilly now."

Reilly came in, cat-footed.  Lady O'Gara delayed to tell him what had
happened during her watch.  Then she followed Patsy downstairs, Shot
going with her.

In the office where Patsy stood, turning about his unprofessional
bowler in his hands, and looking quite unlike the smart Patsy she knew
in his slop-suit of tweeds, she told him how Terry had found a dead man.

"Murdered?" asked Patsy.  "Sure it was no sight for a little young boy
like him!"

"No; not murdered, fortunately.  He was lying huddled up by the
Admiral's tomb.  Just as though in the dark he had stepped out over the
edge of the Mount, not knowing there was a sharp drop below.  Mr. Terry
thought his neck was broken by the way he was lying."

She had a thought that but for Terry's rabbiting, which had led him
anywhere without thought of trespass, the body might have lain there a
long time undiscovered.  Very few people cared, even in daylight, to go
close up to the tomb.

"What sort of a man?" asked Patsy, beetling his brows at her.

"A tramp, Mr. Terry thought."

"It wouldn't be that villain."

"That is just what I thought of.  The police have the key of the stable
where the body is.  They would let you see it if you asked."

"It would be a pity if it was some harmless poor man," said Patsy, with
fire in his brown eyes.

He went towards the door and came back.

"It might be the hand of God," he said.  "I had a word with Susan this
mornin'.  She was tellin' me Miss Stella does be cryin' out not to let
some one ketch her, an' screamin' like a mad thing that she's ketched.
Supposin' that villain was to have put the heart across in the poor
child, an' she out wanderin' in the night!  Wouldn't it be a quare
thing for him to tumble down there an' break his dirty neck before he
was let lay hold on her?"

It gave Lady O'Gara fresh food for thought, this hypothesis of Patsy's.
She put away the thoughts with a shudder.  To what danger had poor
fevered Stella been exposed, wandering in the night?  And what vengeful
Angel had interposed to save her?

She went back to Terry.  He had made a very good lunch, she was glad to
see, and was just lighting a cigarette.

He looked up expectantly as she came in.

"You said I should see Stella if she would see me.  It did not seem
like it last time."

A shade fell over his face as he concluded.

She sat down by him and told him of Stella's illness, of the
disappearance of her mother and her return.  Of Patsy's suggestion she
did not speak.  It would be too much for the poor boy, who sat,
knitting his brows over her tale, his face changing as he looked down
at the cigarette between his fingers.  He had interjected one
breathless question.  Was Stella better?  Was she in any danger?  And
his mother had answered that Dr. Costello was satisfied that the girl
would mend now.

"I suppose I must wait till she is better before seeing her," he said,
when his mother paused.  "Poor little darling!  I may tell you, Mother,
my mind is not shaken.  I shall marry Stella if she will have me."

"You can walk with me if you like to the Waterfall Cottage," she said,
"and wait for me.  There is something about the place that makes a
coward of me.  It will be worse than ever now after your discovery."

She laughed nervously.

"Poor mother, you have too many troubles to bear!" he said with loving
compassion.  "You carry all our burdens."

"I have sent Patsy to identify your dead man.  I think he can do it."

She was saying to herself that never, never must Terry know the charges
that had been brought against his father.  They might become a country
tale--but the whole countryside might ring with the story without any
one having the cruelty to repeat it to Terry.

The night was closing down--Christmas was close at hand, and it was
already the first day of the Shortest Days--when they started.  A few
dry flakes of snow came in the wind as they crossed the park to the
South lodge, silent now and empty.  Under the trees as they went down
the road it was already dark.

The window of the little sitting-room of the Waterfall Cottage threw
its cheerful rosy light out over the road.  The bedroom window above
showed a dimmer light.

"Perhaps, after all," she said, "you might come in and wait for me.  I
see Susan has lit the fire downstairs.  She has not been lighting it
since Stella's illness--I have got a second key for the padlock, so we
shall not have to wait, rattling at the gate."

"You think I may come in?" he asked eagerly.

"We shall consult Mrs. Wade."

Susan received them with a great unbolting and unlocking of the door.
She apologized for her slowness.

"It isn't that lonesome now Mrs. Wade's come," she said.  "Yet I've had
a fear on me this while back.  Maybe it's the poor child upstairs and
her thinkin' somethink's after her.  It fair gave me the creeps to hear
her.  She's stopped that since Mrs. Wade's come back.  She takes her
for her Ma.  Now she's got her she doesn't seem scared any more."

Susan had curtseyed to Terry.

"I've that poor old soul, Miss Brennan, a-sittin' in my kitching, as
warm as warm," she went on.  "Didn't you know, m'lady?  'Twas 'er as
went to look for Mrs. Wade.  How she knew as Mrs. Wade would content a
child callin' for 'er Ma, passes me."

"Oh, I am glad you have poor Lizzie.  I never liked to think of her
alone in that wretched place.  Yet when we talked of her leaving it she
always seemed so afraid her liberty would be interfered with.  She is
really too old to be running all over the country as she does, coming
back cold and wet to that wretched place, where she might die any night
all alone."

"She do seem to have taken a fancy to me," Mrs. Horridge said placidly.
"I might take her for a lodger, maybe.  Georgie's not one to annoy an
old lady like some boys might.  I'd love humourin' her little fancies;
I could always do anythink for an old person or a child."

"I am going up to see Miss Stella," Lady O'Gara said.  "Do you think
Mr. Terry may wait by the fire?  I shall tell Mrs. Wade."

"He'll be as welcome as the flowers in May, as the sayin' is," Mrs.
Horridge said, briskly pushing a chair for Terry nearer the fire and
lamplight.  "An' plenty o' books to amuse you, sir, while your Ma's
upstairs."

Lady O'Gara left Terry in the cheerful room and went up the winding
staircase.  As she entered Stella's room she had an idea that the place
had become more home-like with Mrs. Wade's presence.  Mrs. Wade was
wearing the white dress of a nurse and a nurse's cap, the white strings
tied under her chin.  The room was cosy in fire and lamplight and yet
very fresh.  Stella was awake.  She turned her head weakly on the
pillow and smiled at Lady O'Gara.

"My darling child, this is an improvement," Lady O'Gara said, quite
joyfully.

"My mother has come back," Stella whispered, and put out a thin little
hand to Mrs. Wade, who had stood up at the other side of the bed and
was still standing as though she waited for Lady O'Gara to bid her be
seated.

"I am very glad," Lady O'Gara said, and bent to kiss Stella's forehead.
It was cool and a little moist.  The fever had quite departed.

"You should not have gone away and left her," she said reproachfully to
Mrs. Wade.  "You see she cannot do without you."

"I shall not leave her again," Mrs. Wade said.  "She chooses me before
all the world."

Oh, poor Terry!  There was something of a definite choice in the words.
They meant that Stella had chosen her mother before all the world might
give her.  And the poor boy was sitting just below them, bearing the
time of waiting with as much patience as possible, listening to the
sounds upstairs, his mother divined, with a beating heart.

"Won't you sit down?" said Lady O'Gara.  "I cannot sit till you do."

"Thank you," replied Mrs. Wade, and sat down the other side of Stella.
Her profile in the nurse's cap showed against the lamplight.  It was a
beautiful soft, composed profile, like Stella's own.  And her manner
was perfect in its quiet dignity.  A Nature's lady, Lady O'Gara said to
herself.

Lady O'Gara could not have told what inspired her next speech.  It was
certainly not premeditated.

"My son is waiting for me downstairs in your pretty room."

Mrs. Wade bowed her head without comment on Terry's waiting.  "We were
sorry to hear of the accident to Sir Shawn.  I hope he is better," she
said.

How quietly they were talking!  It might have been just conventional
drawing-room talk.  No one looking on could have guessed at the web of
difficulties they were snared in, at the tragedy that menaced so many
harmless joys.  Again Lady O'Gara felt surprise at her own attitude
towards Mrs. Wade, at Mrs. Wade's towards her.  She had no feeling of
inequality, nothing of the attitude of the woman who has always been
securely placed within reverence and affections, to the woman who has
gone off the rails, even though she be more sinned against than
sinning.  Mrs. Wade met her so to speak on equal grounds.  There was no
indication in her manner of the woman who had stepped down from her
place among honoured women.

And yet, the mere saying that Terry was in the house had somehow
affected Mrs. Wade.  There was agitation under the calm exterior.  In
the atmosphere there was something disturbed, electrical.

She hardly seemed to hear Lady O'Gara's answer to her inquiry about Sir
Shawn.  She got up after a few minutes, and, saying that she would get
some tea, went out of the room; to recover her self-possession, Lady
O'Gara thought.

When she had gone Stella turned her eyes on Lady O'Gara's face.

"When I get well," she said, "I am going away with my mother.  It will
be best for everybody.  I shall begin a new life with her."

"Oh, Stella, child!  You can't give us up like that!  You have made
your place in our hearts."

There were tears in Mary O'Gara's kind eyes and in her voice.

Stella reached out and patted her hand as though she were the older
woman.

"You needn't think I shan't feel it," she said.  "You have been dear to
me, sweet to me; and I shall always love you.  And poor Granny----"  A
little shiver ran through her and for a second she closed her eyes.  "I
am sorry for her, too, poor woman! but it will be kinder to you all for
me to go away.  I did think that I was going to die and that would have
made it so much easier for every one.  Only, now that my mother has
come back and needs me, I must go on living--but at a distance from
this place.  Terry will forget me and marry Eileen and be very happy."

The tired voice trailed off into silence.  Evidently the long speech
had been an effort.

"Terry is obstinately faithful," said Lady O'Gara, with a sound like a
sob in her voice.  "But now, I think you have talked enough.  Go to
sleep, child.  We shall have plenty of time for talk, even if you do
keep to your resolve to leave us all."

Stella opened her eyes again to say:

"No one is ever to say a word against my mother.  She never did
anything wrong, my poor little mother, even if she was deceived.  I
honour her more than any one in the world."

"Don't talk about it, child.  No one will dare to say anything," Lady
O'Gara assured her, eager to stop something which she felt too
poignant, too intolerable to be said or heard.

Almost at once Stella was asleep.  There came a little knock at the
door.  It was Susan to say that, please would Lady O'Gara come down to
tea, while she sat with Miss Stella.

Again Lady O'Gara felt the strangeness of it all.  There was Mrs. Wade
pouring out the tea, handing cakes and toast, doing the honours like
any assured woman in her drawing-room--except that she would not take
tea herself and could not be prevailed upon to sit down with them.

Once or twice Lady O'Gara thought she intercepted a soft, motherly
glance, with something of beaming approval in it, directed from Mrs.
Wade's eyes upon Terry.  There was light upon Terry's dark head from
Mrs. Wade's eyes.  The boy was shy, ill at ease.  He was dying to ask
questions, but he felt that the situation craved wary walking.  He
fidgeted and grew red: looked this way and that; was manifestly
uncomfortable.

None of them had heard the hall-door open nor any one enter, but Keep,
stretched on the hearthrug, growled.  Shot lying under the table
answered him.  From Michael, in the kitchen, came a sharp hysterical
barking.  Michael was not so composed, not so entirely well-mannered as
his brothers of the famous Shot breed.

The door opened.  In came Mrs. Comerford, tall, in her trailing blacks,
magnificent, the long veil of her bonnet floating about her.  She
looked from one to the other of the group with amazement.

"I am surprised to find you here, Mary O'Gara," she said.  "But perhaps
you come to see my child.  Where is Stella?  I have brought the
carriage to take her back to Inch."

"Oh, the poor child is too ill to be moved," said Lady O'Gara
tremblingly.

"You should be by your husband's side," Mrs. Comerford said, as though
Mary O'Gara was still the child she had loved and oppressed.

She had not looked at Mrs. Wade since the first bitter contemptuous
glance.  Suddenly Mrs. Wade spoke with an air as though she swept the
others aside.  She faced Mrs. Comerford with eyes as steady as her own.

"Stella will not go with you, she said.  She stays with me."

"You! her nurse.  I did not know the child was so ill as to need a
hospital nurse."

"Her mother, Mrs. Comerford.  You did not satisfy her in all those
years since you took her from my breast.  I take her back again."



CHAPTER XXVII

THE STORY IS TOLD

Lady O'Gara's first terror was of a scene which should waken Stella and
alarm her in her weak state.  She made as if to stand between the two
women: she looked fearfully for the signs of the rising storm as she
remembered them in Mrs. Comerford, the heaving breast, the working
hands, the dilated nostrils.  But there were none of these signs.
Instead Mrs. Comerford was curiously quiet.

For a moment the quietness seemed to possess the little house.  In the
silence you might have heard a pin drop.  Shot sighed windily under the
table and Keep laid his nose along his paws and turned eyes of worship
on his mistress.  Long afterwards Mary O'Gara remembered these things
and how the wind sprang up and drove a few dead leaves against the
window with a faint tinkling sound.

Then the momentary tense silence was broken.

"You are Stella's mother--Terence's..."

What she would have said was for ever unsaid.

"Your son's wife, Mrs. Comerford," said Mrs. Wade proudly.  She held
out her hand with a gesture which had a strange dignity.  On the
wedding finger was a thin gold ring.

There was a silence, a gasp.  Mrs. Comerford leant across the table and
stared at the ring.

"Terence's wife!" she repeated slowly.  "You don't expect me to believe
that!  Why, my God, if it were true"--her voice rose to a sudden
anguish--"if it were true, if it could be true--why didn't you tell me
long ago?  Why did you let me go on thinking such things of my boy?  I
won't believe it.  I tell you I won't believe it.  You would have been
quick enough to step into my place, old Judy Dowd's granddaughter!  Is
it likely you'd have gone all these years without your child--in
disgrace--the mother of a child born out of wedlock?  It's a lie--Bride
Sweeney, it's a lie!"

"It is not a lie," Mrs. Wade said wearily.  "I know it seems
incredible.  There is no difficulty about proof.  We were married in
Dublin, when Terence was at the Royal Barracks and I was staying with
Maeve McCarthy, a school-friend.  She was my bridesmaid."

Mrs. Comerford put a bewildered hand to her head.  Her other hand
clutched the rail of a chair as though her head reeled.  Lady O'Gara
and Terence looked on as spectators, out of it, though passionately
interested.  Lady O'Gara gave a quick glance at her son.  There was a
strange light on his face.  He put out his hand and steadied Mrs.
Comerford, helping her to a chair.  As she sat down, the long black
draperies floating about her, she looked more than ever a tragedy queen.

"You have your marriage certificate?" she asked with an effort.

"I have never parted with it."

"If you are not mad, will you tell me why you masqueraded as my son's
mistress when you were his wife?"

"Because your son was so afraid of you--you may believe it or not as
you will--that he made me swear never to tell it to any one till he
gave me leave.  Poor Terence!  He did not live to give me leave.  He
had made up his mind to tell you.  He said our child should be born in
his old home.  Then he was killed, and my baby was born, and the world
was at an end for me.  I only wanted to go away and die somewhere.  My
grandmother had been terrible; and then you came and you were terrible
too: and you took away my baby.  I don't think I knew or thought how it
was going to affect the baby.  You said that she would be brought up to
inherit Inch if I never claimed her.  I was very innocent, very
ignorant.  I kept the oath I had sworn to Terence.  I have kept it all
these years."

"He need not have been afraid of me," Mrs. Comerford said in a
heart-broken voice.  "I loved him so much that I could have forgiven
him his marriage.  Do you think that I would have kept your place from
you all these years?  That I would have lied and lied to keep the world
from knowing what I thought the shameful secret of Stella's birth?"

"I think nothing.  I only know that he who was afraid of nothing else
was afraid of your anger."

The two women stared at each other.  Something of pity came into Mrs.
Wade's face.

"It might be that he loved you so well he couldn't bear to bring you
trouble," she said.  "I was only a poor girl from the village, Judy
Dowd's grand-daughter, who served in the bar of the little
public-house.  It would have been a bitter story for you to hear, and
you so proud."

"Terence would have raised his wife to his own station.  What insanity!
I was always hot-tempered but I soon cooled and forgave.  What was
there in my anger for my six-foot son to be afraid of?"

Mary O'Gara remembered how Terence shook with terror of his mother's
anger after some boyish escapade.  Grace Comerford deceived herself!
Apparently she had no idea of how terrible her fits of temper could be,
how the fear of them overclouded the lives of children, defenceless
before her.

"You wanted her," Mrs. Wade indicated Lady O'Gara--"for Terence's wife.
It was not likely you could have put up with me instead."

"She preferred Shawn O'Gara," said Mrs. Comerford, with a queer
bitterness.  "I might have turned to you who loved Terence.  I had
nothing against Shawn O'Gara.  He loved Terence better than a brother.
I meant not to lose sight of you though I forbade you ever to claim the
child.  You disappeared from the place where I had sent you.  I did not
mean you to want for anything.  After all you were Terence's."

Her voice ended on a queer note of tenderness.

Suddenly Terry O'Gara spoke, coming out of his corner, the bright light
on his glowing eager young face.

"Stella will not refuse to listen to me, now," he said.  "You will not
refuse me Stella, Mrs. Comerford?"

He addressed Mrs. Wade.  The name sounded most strangely in the ears of
those who heard it.  The woman addressed coloured and looked at him
with softly parted lips.  Her eyes were suddenly dewy.

"If it had been as ... as ... the poor darling thought," the boy
blushed vividly, averting his gaze from the face that was so like
Stella's in its softness and wonder and shyness--"it would have made no
difference.  My mother knows.  It would have made no difference.  The
only barrier would have been Stella herself.  I was afraid of Stella's
will."

"Stella must decide for herself.  Thank God, she did not turn from her
mother.  I thought I would go away and that this tale need never be
told.  I knew I had been wrong to come back.  I never thought any one
would have had the heart to tell my child that story."

She turned suddenly accusing eyes on Mrs. Comerford.

"Even yet she does not know that I was married to her father," she went
on.  "But she does not shrink from me.  My little daughter!  That such
an anguish as that should ever have come to her!  She has chosen me
even so before all the world!"

She lifted her head proudly as she said it.  Then her expression
softened as she saw the shadow on Terry O'Gara's candid face.

"Give her time," she said.  "If your father and mother will not mind
her being my daughter--why--I think you should ask her."

"Where have you been hiding yourself all this time?" Mrs. Comerford
asked, with a certain roughness.  "If I had known where you were I
might have extracted this story from you earlier.  I suppose it is
true.  How I have suffered by your folly!  Do you know that I have had
hard thoughts of my dead son--that he disgraced me?"

"He thought you would call his marriage disgrace."

"He wronged me there.  It would have been a bitter pill, but I'd have
got over it.  To think of all those years during which I believed that
my one son had betrayed a girl and left her to suffer the shame."

"You should not have thought it; you were his mother," Mrs. Wade, or
Mrs. Comerford, said simply.  Then she settled down as to a
story-telling.

"My grandmother kept her word to you, Mrs. Comerford," she said.  "You
told her I was not to come back.  She did not live very long after we
left Killesky.  We had reached Liverpool on our way to America, and she
became ill there.  She was very old and she had gipsy blood.  She
thought I had disgraced her.  Even then I kept my oath to Terence, till
almost the very end when she was dying--I thought he would forgive--I
whispered in her ear that I was married.  She died happy because of
that word."

"What folly it was!  What cruel folly!" the other woman said, as though
she were in pain.

"I came back again," Mrs. Wade went on, "after some years.  I did go to
America, but the homesickness was terrible.  It was bad enough wanting
the child, but wanting the country was a separate pain.  It was like a
wolf in my heart.  I used to look at an Irish face in the street and
wonder if the man or woman suffered as I did.  I believe that if I had
had Stella I should have still suffered as much, or nearly as much."

"I know," Mrs. Comerford said.  "It was not as bad with me, but I had
to come back."

"I did not dare come near Killesky, though I knew that trouble had
altered me.  I came to Drumlisk on the other side of the mountain.  You
had been generous, Mrs. Comerford, and my grandmother had saved money
and I wanted for nothing.  I lived in a little cottage there and I
nursed the poor.  Father Anthony O'Connell, the priest there, was very
good to me.  He is a dear old saint.  He had a terrible woman for
housekeeper.  She had a wicked tongue, and she persecuted him with her
tantrums, and half-starved him because she was too lazy to cook for him
or get up in the morning to keep his house.  He used to say--'Ah well,
she doesn't drink!' He'd find some good in the worst.  He wouldn't get
rid of her, but at last she got rid of herself.  She went off to look
after a distant cousin, who was old and dying and had a little money to
leave.  I hope she didn't hasten the creature's death.  I was with him
three months--I loved to work for him: he was such an old saint and so
grateful--when she came back and wanted to take up the place again.
She hadn't got the money, I believe, after all.  But by that time I
knew more about her than the saintly old man did, and I threatened to
tell, and so got rid of her.  I was very happy there at Drumlisk--there
was a light upon the house.  Why wouldn't there be with a Saint in it?
and the least thing you did for him he was so grateful.  I told him
about my marriage and the oath I'd taken.  He absolved me from that
oath.  He said it wasn't binding, and that I was in the wrong to let
people think me something I was not, much less the wrong to the child
deprived of her father as well as her mother."

"He was quite right there," Mrs. Comerford said.  "I never had Stella's
heart.  She wanted you if she could not have her father."

"I had too low an opinion of myself.  I said to myself that Stella
would grow up a lady and I was a poor woman.  I had done better for her
by not claiming her, no matter what sorrow it had meant to me.  I had
my spies out all the time.  Lizzie Brennan recognized me one day she
wandered into the church at Drumlisk when I was cleaning the sanctuary
lamp.  It was no use denying it.  She knew me.  I made her promise
she'd never tell.  The creature was grateful for the little I could do
for her.  She told me Inch was empty all those years.  Then, when
Father O'Connell died, and I was in grief for him, she came and told me
Mrs. Comerford had come back with the little lady.  The longing grew on
me--I was very lonely and so I came to Waterfall Cottage, that I might
see the child I'd been longing for all my days."

"You should have walked into Inch and said out that you were my son's
lawful wife.  I am not the woman to turn my back on his wife, even
though you were Judy Dowd's grandchild," Mrs. Comerford said fiercely.

"I never thought of doing that.  I only wanted to get a glimpse of the
child now and again.  Then you, Lady O'Gara, brought her to me, and the
love leapt up alive between us the minute we met.  I gave myself up to
it for a while, feeling as though I was committing a sin all the time.
Then I was frightened by old Lizzie.  She discovered somehow that
Stella was my daughter.  She was getting less reliable, being so old.
I did not want to stand between Stella and her happiness."  She looked
at Terry.  "So I ran away, meaning to send for my things.  I never
meant to come back.  I returned to my old cottage at Drumlisk till I
could make up my mind where I was to go to.  Lizzie found me there.  It
is a long way over the mountains.  She walked it in the wind and rain
to tell me Stella was here and pining for me--so I came."

"Go up and tell the child, if she can listen to you, that we are
friends," Mrs. Comerford said.  "Tell her you are Terence's wife and my
daughter.  Tell her I am not such an ogre as she thinks and you think.
Tell her that you and she are to come to Inch as soon as she can be
moved.  Tell her all that, Mrs. Terence Comerford.  Perhaps then she
will consent to see me."

She pointed a long finger at Stella's mother, looking more than ever
like a priestess, and Mrs. Wade, as she had called herself, obeyed
meekly.

When the door closed behind her Mrs. Comerford turned to Terry.

"Good-bye," she said.  "The future will be yours.  You are like your
mother, and she never had any worldly wisdom.  I love you for it, but
now you had better go."

So Terry and his mother went away, passing in the dark road Mrs.
Comerford's carriage with its bright lights and champing and impatient
horses.



CHAPTER XXVIII

THE VIGIL

Some time in the night when Lady O'Gara had nodded in the chair beside
her husband's bed, she came awake sharply to the knowledge that he had
called her name.

"Mary!  Mary!"

She could not have dozed for long, since the fire which she had made up
was burning brightly.

"Yes, Shawn, I am here," she answered.

"Move your chair so that I may see your face.  I want to talk to you."

His voice was quite strong.  There was something in the sound of it
that spoke of recovering strength.

"I've been lying awake some little time," he said.  "I didn't like to
wake you, you poor sweet woman.  I liked to hear your breathing so
softly there close to me--as you have been all these years."

"You are better, Shawn, wonderfully better," she said, leaning down to
see his face, for firelight and the shaded lamp did not much assist her
short-sighted eyes.

"I am free of pain," he answered.  "I don't know when it may return.
Give me something to keep me going while I talk."

She gave him a few spoonfuls of a strong meat extract mixed with
brandy, supporting his head on her arm while he took the nourishment.

"How young you look, Mary," he said, when she had laid down his head
again on the pillow.  "Sit there, just where you are.  What a burthen I
have been to you all these years, holding me up from the abyss.  And
yet your eyes and your skin are like a child's.  I suppose it is prayer
and quiet and honest thoughts."

"You really feel able to talk, Shawn?" she asked anxiously.

"I feel as strong as a horse at this moment.  That stuff is potent.
But I had better talk while I am able.  There is much I want to tell
you, Mary, and there may be no great time."

Her eyes looked at him in dumb protest, but she said not a word.

"To go back to the beginning, Mary.  I have not told you all the truth
about myself and Terence.  It was not the loss of my friend that
darkened my life.  That would have been unnatural when I had you beside
me.  It was--Mary--it was I who sent Terence Comerford to his death."

"You, Shawn!  You are dreaming!  There was more than the love of
brothers between you!"

"My mind is perfectly clear.  You won't turn away from me when I tell
you?  My need of you is bitter."

She dropped on her knees by the bed and laid her face against his hand.
She did not want him to see her eyes while he told his story.

"Nothing could make me turn away from you," she answered.  "Nothing,
nothing.  We are everything to each other."

"You are everything to me.  But you have Terry.  I am fond of Terry,
but I have only need of you.  I will tell you what happened the night
Terence was killed.  I had been praying and pleading with him to right
Bridyeen, for I knew that there was a baby coming.  Never had I so
pleaded with any one.  I remember that I sweated for sheer anguish,
although the night was cold.  I don't know what possessed Terence,
unless it was the whisky.  He told me to go and marry you and leave his
affairs alone.  And then he laughed.  A laugh can be the most terrible
and intolerable thing in the world.  It maddened me.  It was not only
poor Bride; but there was you.  I thought he would leave Bride and her
baby and go back to you.  I believed you loved him.  I begged and
prayed him not to laugh, and he but laughed the louder.  He said
hateful things; but it was not what he said; it was the way he laughed.
It mocked as a devil might have mocked, or I thought it did.  It drove
me mad.  I knew Spitfire would not take the whip and that Terence was
in no state to control her.  I leant out and I lashed her with all my
strength.  I can remember shouting something while I did it.  Then
Spitfire was off, clattering down the road--and suddenly the madness
died in me.  I would have given my life for his, but I had killed him.
I had killed myself.  I have never since been the man I was when
Terence and I were closer than brothers."

He ended with a sob.

"You can't forgive me, Mary?" he asked, in a terrified whisper, as she
did not speak.  "For God's sake say something."

She got up and put her arms about his head.  Whatever grief or horror
there was in her face he should not see it.  She laid her face against
his, embracing him closely and softly.

"The only thing I find it hard to forgive," she whispered, "is your not
telling me.  It would not have been so bad if you had told me, Shawn.
I could have helped you to bear it.  I could have carried at least half
your burden."

"You understand, Mary," he asked in a wondering voice, "that when I
struck Spitfire, I meant to kill Terence."

"It was madness," she said.  "I would almost say it was justifiable
madness.  No one could believe it was deliberate."

"A jury might have brought it in manslaughter," he said.  "Only for you
and Terence I would have tested it long ago.  You cannot imagine what a
weight I have carried.  Even telling it has eased me as though a stone
had been rolled from off my heart."

"You should have shared it," she said.  "That is all I have to
forgive--that you carried it alone all those years."

"Oh, incomparable woman!" he said.  "Indeed I have felt the wrong I did
you in marrying you, in chaining your brightness and sweetness to a
doomed man like me."

"You have made me perfectly happy," she said.  "I would not have
changed my lot for anything else in the world.  Why do you talk of
doom?  It is going to be happiness for both of us now that you have
spoken at last."

"I have made you happy?" he asked wonderingly.  "Why, if I have, it is
not so bad after all."

"Did Patsy know?" she asked on a sudden thought.

"Patsy knew, though he has tried to keep the fact of his knowledge from
me.  He must have heard what I said.  One other knew and has
blackmailed me ever since.  No matter how much money I gave him he came
back again.  I was so weary of it and so weary of the burthen I was
carrying that the last time I refused him.  He went away cursing and
swearing that he would have me brought to justice.  I felt I didn't
care.  I told him to do his worst.  He is the husband of that poor
thing you sheltered at the South lodge, one of the many your goodness
has comforted.  A bad fellow through and through."

"He will not harm us, Shawn.  He is dead.  He was found with a broken
neck just by the doorway of the Admiral's tomb.  He must have stepped
over the edge of the Mount not knowing there was a steep fall."

"I am glad for your sake and Terry's.  For my own sake I should welcome
any atonement."

He went on in a low voice.

"A strange thing happened to me--when was it--the day I went hunting?"

"It is the third day since that day."

"I did not know it was so long.  You remember that Black Prince was
lame.  That was why Patsy was late.  He wanted me not to ride Mustapha,
but I was determined.  The horse went all right during the day--a bit
difficult and sulky at some of the jumps, but I kept coaxing him and
got him along.  It was a long day.  We put up three foxes.  The last
gave us a smart run before we lost him the other side of Altnabrocky.
It was late by then and it was raining.  You'd think Mustapha would
have come home quietly.  There was the devil in him, poor brute; and
Patsy could not exorcise it.  I suppose he is dead?"

"He broke his back."

"Ah, well, he meant to break mine, I think.  You know what wild country
there is about Altnabrocky.  The dusk came fast and I lost my way.  I
knew it was going to be very dark before the moon rose; the rain was
beating in my face and Mustapha kept jibbing and trying to turn round,
for he hated the rain and the wind on his eyes.  I was considering
whether I ought to lead him, and wondering where on earth we were, when
a low white light came under the rim of an immense cloud.  It was like
daylight come back for a little while.  By the light I saw a little
farmhouse up a boreen off the road.  I was dreading to lose the road in
the darkness, for it was not much more than a track.  Mustapha had been
dancing about a bit, but suddenly he whinnied and made a rush for the
boreen.  It was all right, as I wanted to go there, but he'd have gone
whether I wanted to or not.

"An extraordinary thing happened.  The door of the cottage opened and
out stepped a little old man.  I could see his figure against the light
within: and Mustapha, who was such a devil with all of us, started
whinnying and nuzzling the old fellow, who seemed just as delighted to
see him.

"'How far am I from the main road to Galway?' I asked; for I knew I'd
be all right once I got on to that.  I had quite lost my bearings.

"'A matter of a couple of miles, your honour,' said he.  I saw then
that he was a little innocent-looking old man like a child, and I
remembered Patsy's description of the one he'd bought Mustapha from in
the fair of Keele.

"'The horse seems to know you,' said I.

"'It's a foal of me own rarin',' said he, 'an' more betoken he was out
of a mare that kilt a man, an' a fine man--poor Mr. Terence Comerford,
Lord rest him!  She was a beauty, an' I could do anything with her.
She was sent to the fair to be sold and no one 'ud touch her.  I got
her for a twinty-pound note.  Only for her foals the roof wouldn't be
over me head.  This wan was the last o' them.'"

Sir Shawn's voice failed and died away.

"Give me a little more of that stuff, Mary," he said weakly.  "I want
to finish, and then I can sleep.  You don't know how it has oppressed
me."

She obeyed him, and, after an interval, he went on again.

"So that was where Spitfire went.  I never could make out.  And there
was I riding a colt of hers, and a worse one than Spitfire to manage.
I had great difficulty in getting Mustapha away from his old master,
but at last I succeeded, and we jogged along: as he covered the long
road he seemed to become quieter.  I think I dozed in the saddle.  I
know I thought it was Spitfire I was riding and not Mustapha.  I
remember calling him Spitfire as I woke up and encouraged him.

"The night was as dark as I expected, but there was some glimmer from
overhead and I could see the bog-pools either side of us as we crossed
the bog.  It wasn't much guidance to keep us to the road, but we'd
crossed the railway bridge, and I could see the lights of Castle
Talbot; I was lifting my heart towards you, Mary, as I've always done
at that point when--something ran across the road--it might have been
only a rabbit--just under Mustapha's feet.  Then he was out of control.
He reared backwards towards the bog, trying to throw me.  I had a
struggle with him.  It could hardly have lasted a minute, but it seemed
a long time.  There did not seem any chance for either of us; all I
could think of was that I was riding Spitfire's son and that he was
going to kill me, and that, maybe, it was a sort of reparation I had to
make.  Besides, I should be free of Baker and his threats, and he could
never harm you through me.  But all the time the instinct to live was
strong, and I'd got my feet clear of the stirrups, for I didn't want to
go with him into the bog.  Then he threw me and I heard his hoofs
tearing at the stones of the road as he went over, and he squealed.
It's horrible to hear a horse squeal, Mary."

He ended with a long sigh of exhaustion.

"Now you are not to talk any more," she said.  "The doctor would be
angry with me if he knew I had let you talk so much."

"I had to get it off," he said.  "I am going to sleep till morning now.
Dear Terence!  He would have forgiven me if he knew how I suffered."

"He has forgiven you," she said steadily.  "I want to tell you, before
you sleep, that Terence had married Bride Sweeney secretly.  He swore
her to silence, because he dreaded his mother's anger; and, poor girl,
she bore all that unmerited shame and the loss of her child to keep
faith with him."

"He had married her after all!"

Sir Shawn, by an immense effort lifted his head from the pillows.
There was a strange light on his face.

"I thought I had cut Terence off in his sins, I who loved him.  I said
he would wake up in Hell.  Terence has been in Heaven all these years.
It has been Hell to me that I had sent Terence to Hell.  Now I can
sleep."

He slept quietly all through the morning hours, till Reilly came to
relieve her.

"He looks a deal better, m'lady," said Reilly, looking at him
curiously.  "I thought yesterday, if you'll excuse me, m'lady, that you
were going to lose him.  He has taken a new lease of life."

Later on Dr. Costello corroborated Reilly's verdict.

"Something has worked a miracle," he said, patting Lady O'Gara's hand
kindly.  "I should have said yesterday that we could not keep him very
long.  There is a marked change for the better.  I've been watching Sir
Shawn these many years back and I was never satisfied with him."

"There! there!" he said as the joy broke out over her face.  "Don't be
too glad, my dear lady.  I was afraid the spine might have been
injured, or something internal.  I have made a thorough examination
this morning.  He is not seriously injured in any way.  His thinness
and lightness must have saved him when he was thrown.  He is very thin.
We must fatten him.  But, my dear lady, he is going to be more or less
of an invalid.  There is heart-trouble.  No more strenuous days for
him!  He will have to live with great care.  You will be tied to him,
Lady O'Gara.  I can see he depends on you for everything.  He will be
more dependent than ever."

He said to himself, looking at her wonderfully fresh beauty--the beauty
of a clear soul--that it would be hard on her to be tied up to a sick
man.  But her face, which had been changing during his speech, was now
uplifted.

"If I can only keep him," she said, "all the rest will be nothing.  He
is going to be so happy with me."

She said it as though she made a vow.



CHAPTER XXIX, AND LAST

THE LAKH OF RUPEES

Mrs. Comerford acted with characteristic thoroughness.  Perhaps she
felt that she had much to atone for.

It was Christmas Day by the time Stella could be moved to Inch, where
amazement reigned.  Mrs. Comerford had given her orders.  Miss Stella's
room was to be prepared.  She was coming back again, with her mother.
The Bride's Room, which was the finest bedroom at Inch, was to be
prepared for Mrs. Terence Comerford.

Mrs. Clinch, to whom the order was given, gasped.

"Mrs. Terence Comerford, ma'am?" she repeated.

"Yes: I hope you're not becoming deaf.  My son was married, and Miss
Stella is his daughter.  He chose to keep his marriage a secret.  I
have only just learnt that his wife is living."

No more than that.  Mrs. Comerford was not a person to ask questions
of.  She went her way serenely, with a queer air of happiness about her
while Inch was swept and garnished.  Of course Clinch and Mrs. Clinch
debated these amazing happenings with each other; of course the
servants buzzed and the news spread to the village and about the
countryside with amazing swiftness.

Christmas morning saw the transference from the Waterfall Cottage to
Inch accomplished.  Stella was by this time able to sit up for the
journey, and since there could be no proper Christmas festivity at
Castle Talbot Terry O'Gara was to lunch at Inch.  He was witness of the
strange ceremonial air with which Mrs. Comerford laid down her seals of
office, so to speak.

"Mrs. Terence Comerford will take the head of the table," she said.

Then she passed to the foot of the table while Mrs. Terence, flushed
and half tearful, took the vacated place.

Terry was in the seventh heaven.  There was no longer anything between
him and Stella, who had accepted him as though their happiness had
never been threatened.  Stella, with that air of illness yet about her
which made her many times more dear and precious to her lover, looked
with shining eyes from her mother to her grandmother.

In the drawing-room afterwards, while Stella rested in her own pretty
room, and her mother, rather overwhelmed by her new estate, sat by her,
Mrs. Comerford talked to Terry.

"It is a long Winter here," she said.  "I remember frost and snow in
January when it was dangerous to walk across your own lawn because of
the drifts.  If the snow does not come it will be wild and wet.  Stella
was brought up in Italy.  I should hurry up the marriage, young man,
and take her away.  Now that your father is going on so well there is
no reason for delay.  Besides, we want to get it out of her head that
she was pursued by some ruffian the night she wandered and fell by the
empty lodge at Athvara."

"Poor little angel," said Terry, "I am only too anxious, Mrs.
Comerford.  I shall be the happiest man alive if she will consent."

"Of course she will consent.  She is an obedient child," said Mrs.
Comerford, with an entire oblivion of Stella's marked disobedience in
the not very remote past.

"It is adorably unselfish of you to be willing to part with her," said
Terry, his face shining with happiness.

"For the matter of that I shall have my daughter-in-law," said Mrs.
Comerford superbly.  "She has never travelled.  We shall probably do
some travelling together.  You had better resign your commission."

"Oh, must I?  I might get a year's leave because of my ... Stella's
health.  I am very fond of the Regiment.  But of course I should not
put it before her."

"Of course not.  I don't mind your sticking to the Regiment, as you
say, for a bit longer.  Your father and Stella's father each took their
turn at soldiering.  It is as well to be prepared--in case of need.
There might be a bolt out of the blue sky.  So much more reason for
being happy while we may."

"You know that Susan Horridge--or Mrs. Baker, but she won't be called
that--identified the dead man I found by the Admiral's tomb as her
husband?"

"Yes, I heard so.  A good riddance.  I wonder if he was hunting for
Susan and the boy when he met with that accident.  He was 'warm' as the
children say, close up against Waterfall Cottage.  You are to make
Stella forget that dream of hers of being pursued by some terrible
creature that night."

"I will do my best," said Terry.  "A pity some one does not take
Athvara!  It is a fine old house all falling to rack and ruin."

"I have heard a rumour that some Order is buying it for a boys' school.
That would be best of all.  A crowd of boys about would soon banish the
ghosts.  They would delight in the Admiral's tomb.  My own boy and
Shawn O'Gara, your father, made a cache there one cold Winter,
pretending they were whalers in the North Sea.  It was the time of Dr.
Nansen.  The tomb used to be open then.  They had all sorts of queer
things stowed away under the shelf that held the Admiral's coffin.
Queer things, boys!"

She looked into the fire for a few minutes.

"Your father loved my boy," she said.  "I believe he'd have died to
save him.  There was a time when I was angry against him, because he
lived and was warm and my boy was cold, and because your mother had
married him.  I always looked to see her my Terence's wife.  I was
wrong.  Terence had chosen his own wife."

The marriage was fixed for early in the New Year.  Every one seemed
extremely happy.  Terence had got his leave of absence for a year.
Stella was making excellent progress and had begun to take a shy
interest in the preparations for the wedding and the details of the
wedding journey.  She had seen Sir Shawn, lying on the invalid couch
which had the very latest improvements to make his invalid's lot as
easy as possible.  He had drawn down her face to his and kissed it,
saying something inexplicable to Stella.

"You are the dove with the olive branch to say that the floods have
retreated."

He was very happy about the marriage, and Lady O'Gara, watching him as
though he were a beloved and delicate child, smiled at his saying, a
bright brave smile which made Stella say afterwards to Terry that his
mother's smile was like Winter sunshine.

"It used to be so full of fun," said Terry, "her dimples used to come
and go, but she is troubled about my father, though she says she is the
happiest woman alive, because she can keep him perhaps for a long time
yet."

Patsy Kenny was painting and papering his house in the stable yard, in
the intervals of his professional labours, whistling over his work.
Mrs. Horridge, as she still called herself, was back at the South lodge
with Georgie, and old Lizzie Brennan as her lodger.

"The old soul," she said to Lady O'Gara.  "I'll always find room for
her.  She do take on so when it comes over her that she might go to the
'Ouse.  I've promised her she shan't.  Wasn't it clever of her, m'lady,
to go off and find Miss Stella's Ma for her.  I don't believe Miss
Stella would be with us this day if it weren't for that.  I never saw a
young lady so set on her Ma.  M'lady," she drew Lady O'Gara away from
the gate by which they were standing talking, a little way along the
avenue where no listener could hear--"I've told Miss Stella a lie, and
I'm not sorry for it, although I'm a truthful woman.  It was a big lie
too.  I told her that there terror she had of runnin' and runnin' from
somethink dreadful was but the fever.  I told her she dreamed it.  But
I'd never have got it out of her head if her Ma hadn't come."

She turned away and was silent for a minute.  Then she spoke again in a
low voice.

"It was the drink," she said.  "The Lord forgive all the wicked!"


One of these days Lady O'Gara was saying to herself that she must read
and answer all the letters that had come to her while Sir Shawn still
claimed her constant attention.  There was a heaped basket of them on
the desk in her own room.  It was a very chilly afternoon.  Sir Shawn
was asleep upstairs.  Presently Reilly and Patsy Kenny would carry him
down on his wonderful couch.  Terry was over at Inch.  He was to bring
back Stella, and later on they were to be joined at dinner by Mrs.
Comerford and Mrs. Terence.

"I'm afraid no one ever wrote to tell poor Eileen," Lady O'Gara said to
herself, with a whimsical glance at the letter basket and the flanking
waste-paper basket.  The telling that was in her mind referred to the
approaching marriage of Terry and Stella.  Eileen had been notified of
Sir Shawn's illness and had written expressing her concern.  But Eileen
never could write a letter.  The formal and ill-constructed phrases
conveyed nothing.  Somewhat to Lady O'Gara's surprise Eileen had not
offered to return.  But after that formal letter another letter had
come, quite a thick one, and it lay still unopened amid the accumulated
letters.

"Poor Eileen!  I wonder if there was anything in Terry's story about
the lakh of rupees!"

The thought had but entered her mind when she heard, or thought she
heard, the sound of approaching carriage-wheels.  She listened.  It
might be Dr. Costello, who had a way of coming on friendly visits very
often.  Or perhaps Terry and Stella were coming earlier than she had
expected them.

The door opened.  In came a young woman wearing magnificent furs,
bringing with her a scent of violets.  Eileen!

She flung her arms about Lady O'Gara with an unaccustomed
demonstrativeness.  But she turned a cold satin cheek to the lady's
kiss.  It had been characteristic of Eileen even in small childhood
that in moments of apparently greatest abandonment she had never kissed
but always turned her cheek to be kissed.

"Since you wouldn't write, dearest Cousin Mary," she cried in a voice
strangely affected to Lady O'Gara's ear, "I've come to see what is the
matter.  And I've brought my husband."

A shortish man with a keen, clear, plain face came from behind the
shadow of Eileen and her furs.  Lady O'Gara had a queer thought.  She
recognized Eileen's furs for sables.  She had never attained to sables.
The coat must have cost three hundred guineas.  How quick Eileen had
been about her marriage!  And how soon she had begun to spend the lakh!

Meanwhile her lips were saying--

"I am very glad to meet you, Dr. Gillespie.  But what a surprise!  I
did not think Eileen had had time even to get engaged."

"You see there was so little to be done," the lakh responded in a very
pleasant voice, which at once secured Lady O'Gara's liking.  Besides,
his hand-clasp was very warm, so unlike Eileen's chilly cheek.  She
hoped Eileen was going to be good to him.  "I was Eileen's slave
always.  She had refused me innumerable times.  She only had to say she
had changed her mind and I procured a special licence."

"You will take off your furs, Eileen.  Of course you and Dr. Gillespie
will stay.  Sir Shawn is so much better.  And you have to hear all our
news.  You have sent away your car?"

Eileen was taking off the sables, and flinging them carelessly to one
side, as though three hundred guinea sables were things of common
experience with her.  The rose-silk lining fairly dazzled Lady O'Gara's
amused eyes, so sumptuous was it.

"Only between two trains, dearest Cousin Mary.  We are going to London
on our way to Italy.  We've been married a week and have been boring
each other dreadfully at Recess.  I am longing for Italy, but I felt I
must see you and introduce Bobbin.  We have till seven o'clock to stay."

Lady O'Gara glanced at the bridegroom to whom his bride had given so
absurd a name.  He was looking amusedly, if adoringly, at Eileen.  He
had a good strong chin, a firm mouth, which was sweet when he smiled:
his grey eyes were quizzical.  She thought the marriage would be all
right.

"I am going to get warm in the sun," said Eileen with a little shiver.
"You see Bobbin has to go back to work.  He has taken a house in Harley
Street and we wish to settle in as early as possible.  There has been
an article in the _Medical Journal_."

"In fact London can't wait till I put up my brass plate, Lady O'Gara,"
Dr. Gillespie said, with twinkling eyes.

Reilly came to ask if he should bring tea.

"Yes, please; Mr. Terry and Miss Stella will be here very shortly."

Lady O'Gara thought she had better prepare Eileen, who had always had
the air of Terry being her property.

"Our great news, after my husband being so well," she said, "is that
Terry and Stella are going to be married almost immediately.  By the
way, they too are going to Italy.  Perhaps you may meet there."

Eileen opened her eyes wide and lifted her hands, with a side look at
her husband.

"I am _so_ glad," she said.  "Do you know, Cousin Mary, the one
drawback to my happiness--you see I _always_ cared for Bobbin, since we
were small children--was the dread that Terry might _mind_."



THE END





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