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Title: Rossmoyne
Author: Unknown
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 "Rossmoyne" ***

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  ROSSMOYNE.

  BY THE AUTHOR OF
  "PHYLLIS," "MOLLY BAWN," "PORTIA," ETC.


      "Who set this ancient quarrel new abroach?--
      Speak, nephew, were you by when it began?

      "Here's much to do with hate, but more with love."--

          ROMEO AND JULIET.


  NEW YORK AND CHICAGO

  BUTLER BROTHERS


  TROW'S
  PRINTING AND BOOKBINDING COMPANY,
  NEW YORK.



ROSSMOYNE.



CHAPTER I.

  How a Dove-cot was fluttered in Rossmoyne.


The old-fashioned clock is ticking loudly, ponderously, as though
determined to betray the flight of fickle time and impress upon the
happy, careless ones that the end of all things is at hand. The roses
knock their fragrant buds against the window-panes, calling attention to
their dainty sweetness. The pigeons coo amorously upon the sills
outside, and even thrust their pretty heads into the breakfast-room,
demanding plaintively their daily crumbs; but no one heeds.

A deadly silence has fallen upon this room at Moyne, albeit life is
fully represented here, and two eyes, in which the light of youth is
quenched, are looking anxiously into the two other eyes that have also
seen the best and the sweetest of their days.

Hopelessly the golden roses scatter their petals. In vain the white and
tawny birds entreat backsheesh. To no purpose does the elderly clock
count out its numbers. The urn is hissing angrily, the two cups of tea
so carefully prepared are growing cold. So are the crisp little hot
cakes, so is the----

No! by the bye, it isn't! Honey can't. What a chance I was near giving
the reviewers!

One bird, growing annoyed at the prolonged quiet, flies from the open
window to the back of Miss Penelope's chair, and settles there with an
indignant flutter and a suppressed but angry note. This small suggestion
of a living world destroyes the spell that for the last few minutes has
been connecting the brain with a dead one.

Miss Penelope, raising her head, gives words to her thoughts.

"Poor, poor Katherine!" she says, gently smoothing out the letter that
lies upon her knee. "How her happiness was wrecked and what a sad ending
there has been to everything! Her children coming home to us,
fatherless--motherless! Dear child! what a life hers has been! It is
quite twenty years ago now, and yet it all seems to me as fresh as
yesterday."

"She shouldn't have taken things so easily; she should have asserted
herself at the _time_," says Miss Priscilla, whose voice is always a
note sharper than her sister's.

"It requires a great deal of thought and--and a great deal of moral
courage to assert one's self when a man has behaved abominably to
one,--has, in fact, _jilted_ one!" says Miss Penelope, bringing out the
awful word with a little shudder and a shake of her gentle head, that
sets two pale lavender ribbons on her cap swaying mildly to and fro.

"Why was she so fatally silent about everything, except the one bare
fact of his refusal, at the last moment, to marry her, without assigning
any cause for his base desertion? Why didn't she open her whole heart to
me? I wasn't afraid of the man!" says Miss Priscilla, with such terrible
energy and such a warlike front as might well have daunted "_the man_,"
or indeed any man, could he have seen her. "She should have unburdened
her poor bruised spirit to me, who--if my mother was not hers, and if I
was many years her senior--had at least a sister's love for her."

"A true love," says Miss Penelope, with another sigh.

"Instead of which," regretfully, "she hid all her sorrows in her own
bosom, and no doubt wept and pined for the miscreant in secret."

"Poor soul!" says Miss Penelope, profoundly affected by this dismal
picture. Tears born of tenderness spring to her eyes. "Do you remember,
Priscilla, how she refused to show his letter, wishing, I suppose, even
_then_ to spare him?"

"I forget nothing!" with some acerbity. "Often, when saying my prayers,
I have wished I could forget him, but I can't, so I have to go on being
uncharitable and in sin,--if indeed sin it be to harden one's heart
against a bad man."

"Do you remember, too, my dear Priscilla, how she refused to go to
church the Sunday after she received his cold-blooded missive telling
her he wished his engagement at an end? I often wonder in what language
he could have couched such a scandalous desire; but she tore the letter
up. Dear! dear! it might have happened to-day, it is all so clear to
me."

"Too clear," says Miss Priscilla.

"I recollect, too," says Miss Penelope, leaning her elbows on the table,
pushing her untasted tea from her, and warming to the dismal memory,
"how she would not come down to dinner on that eventful evening, though
we had the red-currant tart she was so fond of, and how I took some up
myself and knocked at her door and entreated her to open to me and to
eat some of it. There was whipped cream on it; and she was very fond of
cream, too."

"And she refused to open the door?" asks Miss Priscilla, with the
satisfied air of one who has often heard the thrilling recital before,
yet was never tired of it.

"Absolutely! so I laid the plate on a little table outside her door.
Some hours afterwards, going up to bed, I saw the plate was gone and her
door slightly ajar. Stealing into her room on tiptoe, I saw she was
sleeping peacefully, and that she had eaten the red-currant tart. I felt
so happy then. Poor dear child! how fond she was of that tart."

"She liked everything that had sugar in it," says Miss Priscilla,
mournfully.

"It was only natural. 'Sweets to the sweet,'" says Miss Penelope,
letting one little white jewelled hand fall slowly, sadly upon the
other.

There is a lengthened pause.

Presently, stooping slightly towards her sister, Miss Penelope says in a
mysterious whisper,--

"I wonder, my dear Priscilla, _why_ she married James Beresford a month
afterwards."

"Who can read the human heart? Perhaps it was pride drove her into that
marriage,--a desire to show George Desmond how lightly she treated his
desertion of her. And James was a handsome young fellow, whereas George
was----"

"Ugly," says Miss Penelope, with quite an amazing amount of vicious
satisfaction for her.

"Strikingly so," says Miss Priscilla, acquiescing most agreeably. "But
then the Desmond estates mean half the county; and we _used_ to think he
was the soul of honor."

"It was our father's expressed desire upon his deathbed that Katherine
should marry him."

"Yes, yes; a desire to be held sacred. And Katherine gave her promise to
our dying parent. Nothing," says Miss Priscilla, in a solemn tone,
"should induce any one to break such an oath. I have often said so to
the dear child. But she appeared not only willing, but anxious, to marry
George Desmond. _His_ was the traitorous mind."

"I daresay he has had his own punishment," says Miss Penelope, mildly.

"I hope so," says Miss Priscilla, sternly. Then, with a return to
sadness, "Twenty years ago it is, and now she has been a twelvemonth
dead and in her quiet grave."

"Oh, _don't_, my dear Priscilla," says Miss Penelope, in a broken voice,
burying her face in her pocket-handkerchief.

"Ah! well, well, we had better look to the future; the past has no
charms for us," says Miss Priscilla, with a ghastly attempt at
cheerfulness. "Let me see," referring through a pair of gold-rimmed
spectacles to the letter in her hand: "That the dear children have
landed we know, and--h'm--yes, this very--yes, plainly, _very_
respectable person, the captain, writes to say they will be with us
to-morrow."

"_To-morrow!_ and that was written yesterday," says Miss Penelope,
putting down her handkerchief and starting once more into life. "Why, at
that rate, my dear Priscilla, they will be here _to-day_!"

"Bless me! you don't mean it!" exclaims Miss Priscilla, again applying
her glasses to the letter. "Monday, and this is Tuesday: yes, sure
enough you are right. What a head you have, my dear Penelope!"

"Oh, not at all," says Miss Penelope, flushing with pleasure at this
tribute to her intellect.

"To-day,--in a few hours. Now, what is to be done about the beds?"

"But surely they are aired?"

"Aired?--yes. They have been aired every day regularly for the past two
months, ever since I first heard the children were likely to come to us.
But still I am uncertain about them. I know they will want hot jars; and
then the rooms, they will want flowers and many things--and----"

"Can't I help you?" demands Miss Penelope, eagerly.

"My dear girl, not at all," says Miss Priscilla, with a calmly superior
air, arising from the fact that she is quite eighteen months her senior.
"You can assist me with your valuable counsel, but I would not have you
disturb yourself for worlds. You must be cool and collected, and hold
yourself in readiness to receive them when they come. They will be shy,
no doubt, coming here all the way from Palestine, and it must be your
part to make them feel quite at home."

This to Miss Penelope, who is afraid of strangers in any guise, appears
such a fearful mission that she pales, and says, tremblingly,--

"But you too will be present at our first meeting? I must indeed _beg_
you to be present, my dear Priscilla."

"Of course, of course," says Miss Priscilla, encouragingly. Then,
doubtfully, "I hope the boy won't take a dislike to us."

"I wonder how we shall get on with children," says Miss Penelope. She is
evidently growing extremely nervous. "It seems so strange they should be
coming here to the old house."

"Monica cannot be a child now. She must be at least eighteen," says Miss
Priscilla, thoughtfully. "It was in 1863 that----"

"1864, I think," interrupts Miss Penelope.

"1863," persists Miss Priscilla.

"You may be right, my dear," says Miss Penelope, mildly but firmly, "you
often are,--but I know it was in '64 that----"

"What?" asks Miss Priscilla, sharply.

"The Desmond jilted our Katherine."

"You are wrong, Penelope, utterly wrong. It was in '63."

"I am nearly always wrong," says Miss Penelope, meekly, yet with a
latent sense of suppressed power. "But I cannot forget that in the year
George Desmond behaved so shamefully to our sweet Katherine, Madam
O'Connor's cow had two calves, and _that_," triumphantly, "was in '64."

"You are right--quite right," says Miss Priscilla, vanquished, but not
cast down. "So it was. What a memory you have, my dear Penelope!"

"Nothing when compared with _yours_," says Miss Penelope, smiling.

At this moment the door opens and an old man enters the room. He is clad
in the garb of a servant, though such wonderful habiliments as those in
which he has arrayed himself would be difficult to purchase nowadays:
whether there are more wrinkles in his forehead or in his trousers is a
nice question that could not readily be decided at a moment's notice.

He is quite ten years older than either of his mistresses; and, indeed,
both he and his garments belong to a by-gone generation. His knees are
bent, so is his back; his face is like a Ribston pippin, his coat is a
marvel both in cut and in texture, but his linen is irreproachable, and
what hair nature has still left him is most carefully brushed. There is,
too, in his small gray Irish eyes a mischievous twinkle, and a fund of
honest good humor that goes far to defy the ravages of time. In spite
of his seventy years and his quaint attire, he still at times can hold
his own with many a younger man.

"Well, Timothy," says Miss Priscilla, looking up as he approaches the
table, "we have had news of Miss Katherine's--I mean Mrs.
Beresford's--children."

"Rest her sowl!" says Timothy, in a reverential tone, alluding to that
part of the late Mrs. Beresford.

"It seems they have landed and will be with us to-day."

"The day, miss?" growing brisk at this unexpected announcement.

"Yes, they have reached England in safety, and are now in Dublin. What a
long, long journey it has been for them," with another dreamy glance at
the letter, "all the way from Palestine!"

"An' so it has, miss, poor little crathurs!" says Timothy, who knows as
much about the whereabouts of Palestine as he does about the man in the
moon.

"You mustn't think they are very young, Timothy," says Miss Penelope,
hastily. "Miss Priscilla and I have been talking it over, and we believe
Miss Beresford must be now seventeen, Master Terence sixteen, and Miss
Kate fourteen."

"And so of course they must be, miss. Thrue for ye, ma'am. Dear, dear,
though only to think now; it seems only the other day the dear young
lady was married to Mister Beresford. But you aren't eating a bit,
miss," anxiously; "you haven't tasted a morsel, ma'am. What can I get ye
now?"

"Nothing, Timothy. The fact is----"

"There's an iligant ham downstairs, ma'am," says the old man, now really
concerned for the mistresses, who still always appear to him as "the
young ladies:" "let me bring it up to you."

"No, thank you, Timothy: we are just a little upset by this sudden news.
We cannot help wondering how the old house will be with children in it,
after all these years of calm and quiet."

"Sure an' a grand change it will be for us all, miss; 'twill indeed,
ma'am," says Timothy, cheerfully, though his mind misgives him. "There's
nothing like children, when all's told: sure's there's music in every
sound of their footsteps."

"I hope they will be good," says Miss Penelope, with a doubtful sigh.

"Faix, what else would they be, miss?" says the old man, with assumed
reproach. "'Tis well I mind of poor Miss Katherine herself,--the soft
tongue she had in her head, an' never a cross word out of her, save to
Nelly Doolin--an' she was the divil herself, savin' your presence, miss,
and enough to provoke all the saints--glory be----"

"I trust they will be happy here," goes on Miss Penelope, still wistful.

"An' why not, miss? Sure the counthry is the finest place at all for the
young; and where's a finer counthry than ould Ireland?"

"Much can't be said for it of late, Timothy," says Miss Priscilla,
sadly: "all it can boast of now is rebellion, sedition, and bloodshed."

"Sure every one must have a kick up sometimes, miss," says Timothy, with
youthful lightness; "an', afther all, isn't the ould place only doin'
what she can for herself, more power to her?"

"Ryan," says Miss Priscilla, sternly, addressing her butler by his
surname,--a thing that is never done except in dire cases,--and fixing
upon him an icy glance beneath which he quails, "I regret you should so
far forget yourself as to utter such treasonable sentiments in our
presence. You ought to be ashamed of yourself."

"So I am miss. I humbly ask yer pardon, ma'am," says Mr. Ryan, promptly.
"But all the different opinions one hears addles the brain. 'Twas only
last night the Murphys had a meeting, and they do say, miss," lowering
his voice confidentially, "that the Squire down there," pointing
apparently through the breakfast-room wall, "is in a bad way with the
League boys."

"The Desmond?"

"Yes, miss. He's been evictin' again, ma'am, an' there's queer talk
about him. But," with a relapse into former thought, "if he's a bad
landlord, what can he expect?"

"No, no, Timothy. He is not a bad landlord," says Miss Priscilla,
hastily, though this allowance of grace to her enemy causes her a bitter
pang. "He has been most patient for years. That I _know_."

"Well, maybe so, miss," says Ryan, deferentially, but with a reservation
in his manner that speaks volumes. "It isn't for the likes of me ma'am,
to contradict the likes of you. But did ye hear, miss, that Misther
Desmond's nephew has come to stay with him?"

"At Coole?"

"At the Castle. Yes, miss. Faix 'twas meself was surprised to hear it.
But there he is, safe enough, an' another gentleman with him; an' they
do say that the old masther is as proud as Punch of him. But his blood's
bad, I'll no doubt."

"No doubt," says Priscilla, severely.

Miss Penelope sighs.



CHAPTER II.

  How two Old Maids are made acquainted with a very Young One.


Already we have reached the afternoon. In these warm June days, when all
the earth is languorous and glad with its own beauty, time slips from us
unannounced, and the minutes from morn to eventide, and from the
gloaming till nightfall, melt into one another, until all seem one
sweet, lengthened hour.

Just now the hot sun is pouring down upon garden and gravelled walks at
Moyne; except the hum of the industrious bees, not a sound can be heard;
even the streamlet at the end of the long lawn is running sleepily,
making sweet music as it goes, indeed, but so drowsily, so heavily, that
it hardly reaches the ear; and so, too, with the lap-lapping of the
waves upon the shore below, as the tide comes and goes.

Not a breath of air comes to disturb the languid grandeur of the huge
elms that stand staring up to heaven just opposite the hall door. The
crows swinging in their branches up above are all subdued; hardly have
they energy enough to flap their great, broad wings.

Little stationary clouds lie like flecks of silver upon the pale-blue
sky; far far away, in the woods of Coole, a cuckoo may be heard at long
and yet longer intervals,--last remnant of a vanished spring; but all
the other birds have succumbed to the power of the great god of light,
and are wrapped in silence.

Certain stray little sunbeams, half wild with glee, rushing hither and
thither through the roses, discover Miss Penelope Blake sitting in the
drawing-room at Moyne. She is dressed in her very best lavender silk,
that would stand alone, and be glad to do it if it was let, but
unabashed by her splendor Apollo's saucy babies dance down upon her,
and, seizing on her knitting-needles, play hide and seek among them,
until the poor lady's eyes are fairly dazzled.

Fortunately, at this instant Miss Priscilla, entering the room, draws
down the blind and restores order: after which she seats herself almost
directly opposite her sister.

The Misses Blake are not pretty old ladies at all. I don't want to
deceive you in this matter. They are, in fact, quite ugly old ladies.
Their noses are all wrong, their cheeks are as wrinkled as Timothy's
forehead, and their mouths out of all drawing.

Miss Priscilla's eyes are brown,--a deep startling brown, that seems to
look you through and through and compels the truth. Her hair is brown,
too, and soft, and silky, and pretty, though thickly sprinkled with
gray. She has a great deal of this hair, and is secretly very proud of
it.

Miss Penelope's eyes are pale blue,--with very little blue,--and but for
her long lashes (sole remnants of goodlier days) would be oppressive.
Her hair is pale, too, and sandy, and is braided back from her forehead
in severe lines.

There is a pensive air about Miss Penelope that might suggest to the
casual observer an early and disastrous love-affair. But all such
imaginings on his part would be vain. No winged cupid ever hid in Miss
Penelope's ear, or played bo-peep in her virgin bosom, or nestled in her
sandy locks: she is free from all taint of such wild frivolisms.

"All is ready now," says Miss Priscilla,--who is the Martha at Moyne,
while we may regard Miss Penelope as the Mary. "The rooms are prepared,
nothing is wanting, and the flowers smell so sweet. I have sent the
carriage to meet them, though I know the train cannot be here for quite
an hour yet; but I think it wise always to be in time."

"There is nothing like it," says Miss Penelope, placidly.

"Now I shall rest here with you a little while," goes on the elder
maiden, complacently, "and think of all that is likely to happen."

"Really," says Miss Penelope, lowering her work and glancing restlessly
at her sister, "I feel more nervous than I can say, when I think of
their coming. What on earth should we do, dear Priscilla, if they took a
dislike to us?"

"I have thought of that myself," says Miss Priscilla, in an awe-struck
tone. "We are not attractive, Penelope: beyond a few--a _very_
few--insignificant touches," with an inward glance at her fine hair, "we
are absolutely outside the pale of beauty. I wonder if Monica will be
like her mother, or if----"

Here something happens that puts a final stop to all conversation. The
door is opened, quickly, impetuously; there is a sound as of many
footsteps on the threshold without.

The old ladies start in their seats, and sit upright, trembling
excessively. What can have happened? Has the sedate Ryan come to
loggerheads with Mrs. Reilly the cook? (a state of things often
threatened); and are they now standing on the mat meditating further
bloodshed?

A moment surcharged with thrilling suspense goes by, and then, not Ryan
or the cook, but a much more perplexing vision comes slowly into the
room.

It is a very radiant vision, though it is clothed in mourning garments,
full of grace and beauty. Very shy, with parted lips, and brilliant
frightened eyes, but perfect as an opening flower.

Is it a child or a woman? is the first question that strikes Miss
Penelope. As for Miss Priscilla, she is too surprised for thought of any
kind, too lost in admiration of the little, gracious uncertain, figure,
with its deep-blue eyes glancing up at her with a half-terrified yet
trusting expression, to give way to speech of any kind.

She is slight, and slim as a hazel wand. Her hair is nut-brown, with a
red gold tinge running through it. Her nose is adorable, if slightly
tilted; her mouth is a red, red rose, sad but sweet, and full of
purpose. Her eyes are large and expressive, but touched, like her lips,
with a suspicion of melancholy that renders them only a degree more
sweet and earnest.

There is a spirituality about her, a calm, a peace that shines out of
these dark Irish eyes, and rests upon her perfect lips, as it were a
lingering breath of the heaven from whence she came.

She stands now, hesitating a little, with her hands loosely
clasped,--brown little hands, but beautifully shaped. Indeed, all her
skin owes more of its coloring to Phoebus Apollo than nature intended.
She draws her breath somewhat quickly, and then, as though anxious to
get through the troublous task assigned her, says, nervously, in a low,
sweet voice,--

"I am Monica."

As she says this, she glances entreatingly from one old lady to the
other, with some trouble in her great eyes, and some tears. Then all at
once her lips tremble to a smile, and a soft light breaks upon her face.

"_You_ are Aunt Priscilla," she says, turning to Miss Blake; "I know you
by your dark eyes, and by your _pretty_ hair!"

At the sound of her voice the two old ladies wake from their
abstraction.

"Yes, yes, it is your aunt Priscilla," says Miss Penelope, eagerly, with
a sudden pleased smile. Had the compliment been made to herself she
could not possibly have appeared more delighted, and certainly would not
have betrayed her satisfaction so openly. "Her hair," she says, "was
always beautiful."

As for Miss Priscilla, she is smiling too, but in a shamefaced fashion,
and is blushing a warm pretty crimson, such as a girl of seventeen might
be guilty of, listening to a first word of love.

She takes Monica's right hand in hers and pats it softly; and Miss
Penelope takes her left; and then the two old ladies stoop forward, and,
one after the other, kiss the pale, girlish cheek, and with the kiss
take her at once and forever into their very hearts.

"But surely, dear child, you did not come alone?" says Miss Priscilla,
presently, calling to remembrance the fact that there ought to be two
other Beresfords somewhere.

"No; Terence and Katherine are with me."

"But where, my dear?"

"Well, I _think_ they are standing on the mat, just outside the door,"
says Monica, blushing and laughing; and then she says, rather louder,
"Terry and Kit, you may come in now. It is all right."

As to what was evidently supposed not to be "all right" up to this, the
Misses Blake have no time to decide upon before a fresh nephew and niece
present themselves to their view. They come in quite gayly,--reassured,
no doubt, by Monica's tone: Terence, a tall slim lad of about sixteen,
and a little girl somewhat like Monica, but more restless in features,
and even a degree more pallid.

"My dear children, why didn't you come in before?" said Miss Priscilla,
aghast at the inhospitable thought that they had been shivering with
needless nervousness in the hall for the last five minutes.

"They said they wouldn't come in until I paved the way for them," says
Monica, with a slight shrug of her shoulders that is a trick of hers.
"They always put everything upon my shoulders: a little shabby of them
_I_ call it."

"I am afraid you must have pictured us as ogres," says Miss Priscilla,
which idea strikes the old ladies as such a delicious flight of fancy
that they laugh outright, and look at each other with intense enjoyment
of their little joke.

"Well, of course we couldn't tell what you would be like," says Monica,
gravely. "You might have been people likely to impress one with awe;
but, as _it is_----This is Terry," laying her hand upon her brother's
arm; "and this is Kit. She is really Katherine, you know, but no one
ever calls her by so long a name. She isn't worth it."

At this the three Beresfords laugh among themselves, as children will,
at time-worn fun, knowing no fatigue; after which Katherine and Terence
are embraced and made much of by their new-found relatives, and freely
commented upon.

But ever and anon the eyes of both old ladies wander thoughtfully,
admiringly, to where the lissome Monica stands, like a pale, pensive
lily.

       *       *       *       *       *

"But how have you managed to be here so soon?" asks Miss Priscilla, when
the impromptu luncheon, improvised by the startled Timothy, has come to
an end. The children were all hungry, and have eaten a great deal, and
have talked more. Indeed, though Miss Priscilla has been dying to ask
this question for a long time, it has been impossible for her to do so,
as there has not been so much as a comma in the conversation for the
last hour.

The Beresfords are like so many clocks wound up, and bound to go for a
certain time whether they like it or not; and, apparently, they do like
it. Now they have run down a little, Terence being exhausted after his
last laughing attack, and Kit wrapped in contemplation of an
old-fashioned hair brooch that is fastening an equally old-fashioned
piece of priceless lace that adorns Miss Penelope's throat.

"Well, I can't think how they do it!" she says, lost in admiration of a
little slim hair lady bending over a miniature hair urn in the most
lachrymose attitude conceivable. "But they have put her eye in wrongly:
she looks as if she is dying with laughter."

Here Miss Priscilla edges in her question, as to how they have contrived
to be at Moyne at so early an hour.

"We came by the wrong train," says Terry. "We generally do. Ever since
we left the South of France--where we were staying with the Bohuns, you
know, on our way here--we have been missing our trains right and left,
and turning up at all sorts of unexpected places. Haven't we, Kit?"

"_You_ have," says Kit, with suspicious emphasis. "You have such a
pretty trick of rushing into the first train you see, without ever
asking any one where it is going. No wonder we always turned up at the
wrong end."

"_You've_ a pretty trick of putting everything down on other people's
shoulders," says Terence, with open disgust. "Whose fault was it we were
always so late at the stations that we hadn't time to make inquiries,
I'd like to know? Could you," with fine irony, "tell us?"

"Certainly; it was nurse," replies Kit, with dignity.

"Dear me! and where is your nurse now?" asks Miss Priscilla, anxiously.
The query is a fortunate one, in that it turns the conversation into a
different channel, and checks the eloquence of Kit and Terry, who are
plainly on the brink of an open war.

"When last _I_ saw her," says Terence, "she was sitting on the top of
our biggest box, with everything else strewn around her, and her feet
resting on two brown-paper parcels.--I wonder," says Mr. Beresford,
addressing Monica, "what on earth she had in those brown paper parcels.
She has been hugging them night and day ever since she left Jerusalem."

"Dynamite," suggested Monica, lightly; whereupon the two Misses Blake
turn pale.

"At that rate, Aunt Priscilla, we needn't trouble about her," says
Terence, pleasantly, "as she _must_ be blown up by this. None of those
clock-work affairs could be arranged to go on much longer. Poor thing!
when in the flesh she wasn't half bad. I forgive her everything,--even
her undying hatred to myself."

"If she is in fragments, so are our things," says Kit. "I think she
_needn't_ have elected to sit on them at the supreme moment."

"You don't really think," says Miss Penelope, in a somewhat troubled
tone, remembering how an innocent baker in Rossmoyne had had some of the
explosive matter in question thrown into his kitchen the night before
last,--"you don't really think that these parcels you speak of contain
infernal machines?--Yes, that is what they call them, my dear
Priscilla," turning to her sister, as though anxious to apologize for
having used a word calculated to lead the mind to the lower regions.

By this time both Kit and Terence are convulsed with delight at the
sensation they have created, and would probably have gone on to declare
the innocent Mrs. Mitchell an advanced Nihilist of the most dangerous
type, but for Monica's coming to the rescue and explaining matters
satisfactorily.

"Still, I cannot understand how you got up here so quickly," says Miss
Penelope. "You know Moyne--home I hope you will call it for the future,
my dears--" with a little fond pat on Monica's hand, "is quite three
miles from the station."

"We should have thought nothing of that," says Terence, "but for Kit;
she has had a fever, you know," pointing to the child's closely-cropped,
dark little head; "so we said we would just stroll on a little and see
what the country was like."

"And lovely it is," puts in Kit, enthusiastically. "We got up on a high
hill, and saw the sea lying like a great quiet lake beneath us. There
was scarcely a ripple on it, and only a soft sound like a sob." Her
eyes, that are almost too big for her small face, glow brilliantly.

"And then there came by a man with a cart filled with hay, and he nodded
to us and said, 'Good-morning, sir;' and so I nodded back, and said,
'How d'ye do?' to him and asked him was it far to Moyne House. 'A good
step,' he said; 'three miles at the very least.'"

"He didn't; he said _laste_," says Kit, who is plainly in a litigious
mood.

"At that," says Monica, breaking in eagerly, feeling, no doubt, she has
been left too long out in the cold, and that it is time her voice were
heard, "I suppose I looked rather forlorn, because he said, quite nicely
'Maybe ye'd not be too proud, miss, to get into me cart, an I'll dhrive
the lot of ye up to the House, where as luck has it, I'm goin' meself.'"
She mimicks the soft Southern brogue very prettily.

"So up we got," says Kit, gayly, "and away we went in the nice sweet
hay, jog trot, jog trot, and _so_ comfortable."

The Misses Blake by this time are filled with dismay. In Rossmoyne,
where families are few and far between, and indecent scandal unknown,
the smallest trifles are seized upon with avidity and manufactured into
mountains. "A good appearance," Miss Penelope was taught at school, "is
the first step in life," and here have these children been making
_their_ appearance for the first time in a common hay-cart.

What will Madam O'Connor say? Madam O'Connor's father having always laid
claim to being a direct descendant of one of the old kings of Munster,
Madam's veins of course are filled with blood royal, and as such are to
be held in reverence. What _won't_ this terrible old woman say, when she
hears of the Beresfords' escapade?

The Misses Blake sit shivering, blinking their eyelids, and afraid to
say anything.

"We got on splendidly," Terence is saying, "and might indeed have
finished our journey respectably, but for Monica. _She_ laid our
reputation in the dust."

Monica turns upon him an appealing glance from her large soft eyes that
would have melted any heart but that of a brother's.

"Aunt Priscilla," says the adamantine youth, "what is the name of the
house with a big gate, about a half a mile from this?"

"Coole Castle," replies she, stiffly, the very fact of having to mention
the residence of the detested Desmond making her heart beat violently.
But Terry is a person blind to speaking glances and deaf to worded
hints. In effect, Terry and tact are two; so he goes on, unheeding his
aunt's evident disrelish for the subject,--

"Well, just as we got to Coole, I saw a fellow standing inside the
entrance-gate, smoking a cigar. I fancied he looked amused, but would
have thought nothing of that, only I heard him laugh aloud, and saw he
was staring over my head--I was driving--to where Monica and Kit were,
on the top of the hay. It occurred to me then to see what the girls were
doing, so I stood up on the shaft, and looked, and----"

Here he pauses, as though slightly overcome.

"What, my dear?" asks Miss Priscilla, anxiously.

"There was Monica lying in an æsthetic attitude,--_very_ æsthetic,--with
her chin in her hands, and her eyes on the horse's ears, and her
thoughts I presume in heaven, or wherever young ladies keep them, and
with her heels----"

"It isn't _truth_!--it _isn't_!" interrupts Monica, blushing furiously,
and speaking with much indignation. "I don't believe a single word of
it!"

"And with her heels----"

"_Terence!_"

"In mid-air. She was kicking them up and down with delight," says
Terence, fairly bubbling over with joy at the recollection. "It was the
most humiliating sight for a modest brother. I shall never forgive her
for it. Besides, the strange young man was----"

"If you say another word," says Monica, white with wrath and tears in
her eyes, "I shall never speak to you again, or help you out of any
trouble."

This awful threat has the desired effect of reducing Mr. Beresford to
subjection. He goes down before the foe, and truckles to her meanly.

"You needn't take it so much to heart," he says soothingly: "there
wasn't much in it, after all; and your shoes are very pretty, and so are
your feet."

The compliment works wonders; Monica quite brightens up again, but the
two old ladies are hopelessly scandalized.

"I feel assured, Terence," says Miss Priscilla, with much dignity, "that
under _no_ circumstances could a niece of mine show too much of
her----her----"

Here Miss Priscilla blushes, and breaks down.

"Legs?" suggests Terry, politely.

"But who was the strange young man?" asks Miss Penelope, curiously.

"Our friend of the hay-cart said his name was Desmond, and that he was
nephew to the master of the house behind the big gates," returns Kit,
fluently.

"Desmond!" says Miss Priscilla, greatly agitated. "Let me never hear you
mention that name again! It has been our bane! Forget you have ever been
so unfortunate as to encounter this young man; and if ill luck should
ever drive him across your path again, remember you do not--you never
_can_--know him."

"But I'm certain he will know Monica if he sees her again," says Kit.
"He stared at her as if she had seven heads."

"No wonder, considering her equivocal position. And as to knowing
Monica, I'm not certain of that, of course, but I'm utterly positive he
could swear to her _shoes_ in a crowd," says Terence, with unholy
delight. "He was enchanted with them, and with the clocks on her
stockings: I think he was taking the pattern of them."

"He was _not_," says Monica, almost weeping. "He couldn't see them. I
was too high up."

"What will you bet he doesn't know the color of them?" asks her
tormentor, with a fresh burst of appreciation of the undignified scene.
"When I see him again I'll ask him."

"Terence," says Miss Priscilla, growing very pale, "you must never see
him again, or, at all events, you must never speak to him. Understand,
once for all, that intimacy between us and the inhabitants of Coole is
impossible. This feud I hint at touches you even more closely than it
touches us, but you cannot feel it more than we do,--perhaps not as
much. The honor of our family has suffered at the hands of the Master of
Coole. He is the enemy of our house!"

"Priscilla!" murmurs Miss Penelope, in a low and trembling tone.

"Do not try to check me, Penelope. I _will_ speak," says Miss
Priscilla, sternly. "This man, years ago, offered one near and dear to
us an indignity not to be lightly borne. The world is wide," turning to
the astonished children, "you can make friends where you choose; but I
would have you recollect that _never_ can a Beresford and a Desmond have
aught in common."

"But what have the Desmonds done to us, Aunt Priscilla?" asks Monica, a
good deal awed by the old lady's solemnity.

"Some other time you shall know all," says Miss Priscilla in the low
tone one might adopt if speaking of the last appalling murder.

"Yes, some other time," echoes Miss Penelope, gently.



CHAPTER III.

  How Monica studies the landscape.


"Is it thrue, ma'am, what I hear, that ye'll be wantin' a maid for Miss
Monica?" asks Mrs. Reilly, the cook at Moyne, dropping a respectful
courtesy just inside the drawing-room door. "Ryan let dhrop a word to me
about it, so I made so bould, ma'am, as to come upstairs an' tell ye I
think I know a girl as will come in handy to ye."

"And who is she, Reilly?" asks Miss Priscilla anxiously.

"She's a very good girl, ma'am, an' smart, an' nate, an' I think ye'll
like her," replies cook, who, like all Irish people, finds a difficulty
in giving a direct answer to a direct question. Perhaps, too, there is a
little wiliness in her determination not to name the new servant's
parentage just at present.

"I daresay; I place great reliance upon your opinion, Reilly. But who is
she? Does she come from the village, or from one of the farms? I should
prefer the farms."

"She's as tidy as she can be," says Mrs. Reilly, amiably but still
evasively, "an' a bit of a scholard into the bargain, an' a very civil
tongue in her head. She's seventeen all out, ma'am, and never yet gave
her mother a saucy word."

"That is as it should be," says Miss Priscilla, commendingly. "You feel
a great interest in this girl, I can see. You know her well?"

"Yes, miss. She is me uncle's wife's sisther's child, an' as good a girl
as ever stepped in shoe leather."

"She is then?" asks Miss Priscilla, faintly, puzzled by this startling
relationship.

"She's that girl of the Cantys', ma'am, and as likely a colleen as ever
ye met, though I say it as shouldn't, she being kin-like," says Mrs.
Reilly, boldly, seeing her time is come.

"What! that pretty, blue-eyed child that called to see you yesterday?
She _is_ from the village, then?" with manifest distaste.

"An' what's the matther wid the village, ma'am?" By this time Mrs.
Reilly has her arms akimbo, and has an evident thirst for knowledge full
upon her.

"But I fear she is flighty and wild, and not at all domesticated in any
way."

"An' who has the face to say that, ma'am? Give me the names of her
dethractors," says Mrs. Reilly, in an awful tone, that seemed to demand
the blood of the "dethractors."

"I feel sure, Reilly," says Miss Priscilla, slowly, "that you are not
aware of the position your arms have taken. It is most unbecoming." Mrs.
Reilly's arms dropped to her sides. "And as for this girl you speak of,
I hear she is, as I say, very flighty."

"Don't believe a word of it, ma'am," says cook, with virtuous
indignation. "Just because she holds up her head a bit, an' likes a
ribbon or two, there's no holdin' the gossips down below," indicating
the village by a backward jerk of her thumb. "She's as dacent a little
sowl as you'd wish to see, an' has as nate a foot as there is in the
county. The Cantys has all a character for purty feet."

"Pretty feet are all very well in their way," says Miss Priscilla,
nodding her head. "But can she sew? and is she quiet and tractable,
and----"

"Divil a thing she can't do, ma'am, axin' yer pardon," says Mrs. Reilly,
rather losing herself in the excitement of the moment. "Just thry her,
ma'am, an' if ye don't like her, an' if Miss Monica finds even one fault
in her, just send her back to her mother. I can't say fairer nor that."

"No, indeed. Very well, Reilly, let her come up to me to-morrow; and see
that her inside clothes are all right, and let her know she must _never_
be out after dark."

"Yes, ma'am," says the triumphant Reilly, beating a hasty retreat.

Half an hour afterwards she encounters Monica upon the avenue.

"Why, where are you going, Mrs. Reilly?" asks Monica, seeing that cook
is got up in all her war-paint, regardless of expense.

"To mass first, miss," says Mrs. Reilly.

"Where's that?" asks Monica, with foreign ignorance.

"Law! to the chapel, miss," says Reilly, with an amused smile.

"But it isn't Sunday?"

"No, miss. It's a saint's day--may they be good to us!" crossing
herself. "It's different with you, miss, you see; but we poor folks, we
must say our prayers when we can, or the Virgin will dhrop us out of her
mind."

"Is your chapel pretty?" asks Monica, who has now been a week in the
country, and through very weariness feels a mad desire to talk to
somebody or anybody.

"Faix, it's lovely, miss, since Father Jerry took it in hand! There's
the finest pictures ye ever saw on the walls, an' an altar it 'ud do ye
good to look at."

"Would it? Then I'll go some day to see it," says Monica, smiling, not
knowing that her aunts would as soon let her enter a pandemonium as a
Roman Catholic chapel.

Dear old ladies! frightened by shadows, they have been bred in the
belief that the Evil One dwells beneath the shade of the Romish Church,
and will therefore surely die in it.

"Do, then, agra!" said Mrs. Reilly, who has, of course, like all the
other servants, gone down before Monica: "it's proud we'd be to see ye
there."

There is no thought of conversion in the woman's mind, you must
remember,--merely a hospitable desire to let her know she will be
welcome anywhere.

"By the same token, Miss Monica," says she, "there's something I was
near forgettin' to tell ye."

"Yes!" says Monica.

"Ye're goin' to have me uncle's wife's niece for yer own maid, miss."

"Am I? I'm glad of that," says Monica, with a native courtesy. "Is
she"--with some hesitation and a faint blush--"is she pretty, Reilly?"

"She's the purtiest girl ye ever set eyes on," says Mrs. Reilly, with
enthusiasm.

"I'm glad of _that_; I can't bear ugly people," says Monica.

"Faix, then, there's a bad time before ye wid the ould ladies," mutters
Mrs. Reilly, _sotto voce_, gathering up her cloak and stepping onwards.
She is a remarkably handsome woman herself, and so may safely deplore
the want of beauty in her betters.

Monica, turning aside, steps on a high bank and looks down towards the
village. Through the trees she can see the spire of the old cathedral
rising heavenwards. Though Rossmoyne is but a village, it still can
boast its cathedral, an ancient edifice, uncouth and unlovely, but yet
one of the oldest places of worship in Ireland.

Most of my readers would no doubt laugh it to scorn, but we who belong
to it reverence it, and point out with pride to passers by the few
quaint marks and tokens that link it to a bygone age.

There is a nave, broad and deep, comprising more than a third of the
whole building, with its old broken stone pavement, and high up, carven
upon one of its walls the head of St. Faughnan, its patron saint,--a
hideous saint, indeed, if he resembled that ancient carving. How often
have I gazed upon his unlovely visage, and wondered in my childish
fashion why the grace that comes from so divine an origin had not the
power to render his servant's face more beautiful!

In these later years they have improved (?) and modernized the old
structure. A stone pulpit, huge and clumsy, erected by subscription to
the memory of some elderly inhabitant, stands like a misshapen blot
before the altar rails; a window, too broad for its length, and
generally out of proportion, throws too much light upon the dinginess
within; the general character of the ugly old place has lost something,
but assuredly gained nothing, by these innovations. It is hard to put "a
piece of new cloth on an old garment" successfully.

The village itself stands upon a high hill; the ocean lies at its feet.
From Moyne House one can see the shimmer of the great Atlantic as it
dances beneath the sunbeams or lashes itself into furious foam under the
touch of the north wind. The coastguard station, too, stands out,
brilliant in its whitewash, a gleaming spot upon the landscape.

To the left of the station lies Ounahincha,--a long, deep line of
sea-beach that would make its fortune as a bathing place under happier
auspices and in some more appreciated clime.

Monica, looking down from her height, takes in all the beauties of the
landscape that surround her, and lets the music of the melancholy ocean
sink into her very soul.

Then she lets her eyes wander to the right, and rest with pardonable
curiosity upon Coole Castle, where dwells the ogre of her house. Above
Coole, and about two miles farther on, lies Aghyohillbeg, the residence
of Madam O'Connor, that terrible descendant of one of Ireland's kings;
whilst below, nestling among its firs and beeches, is Kilmore, where the
Halfords--a merry tangle of boys and girls--may be seen at all hours.

Then there is the vicarage, where the rector lives with his family,
which is large; and nearer to the village, the house that holds the
curate and his family, which, of course, is larger. Besides which,
Monica can just see from her vantage-ground the wooded slopes of
Durrusbeg that have lately called young Ronayne master,--a distant
cousin having died most unexpectedly and left him all his property.

       +       +       +       +       +

Six months ago, Ulic Ronayne was spoken of by anxious matrons as a wild
lad, with nothing to recommend him save his handsome face and some
naughty stories attached to his name. Now he is pronounced charming, and
the naughty stories, which indeed never had any foundation, are
discovered to have been disgraceful fabrications. Marriageable daughters
are kinder to him than words can say, and are allowed by the most
cautious mothers to dance with him as often as they choose, and even to
sit unlimited hours with him in secluded corners of conservatories
unrebuked.

Truly, O Plutus! thou art a god indeed. Thou hast outlived thy greater
brethren. Thy shrine is honored as of old!

After a last lingering glance at the distant ocean and the swelling
woods that now in Merry June are making their grandest show, Monica
jumps down from her bank again and goes slowly--singing as she
goes--towards the river that runs at the end of Moyne.

Down by its banks Moyne actually touches the hated lands of Cooles, a
slight boundary fence being all that divides one place from the other.
The river rushes eagerly past both, on its way to the sea, murmuring
merrily on its happy voyage, as though mocking at human weals and woes
and petty quarrels.

Through the waving meadows, over the little brook, past the stile,
Monica makes her way, plucking here and there the scarlet poppies, and
the blue cornflowers and daisies, "those pearled Arcturi of the earth,
the constellated flower that never sets."

The sun is tinting all things with its yellow haze, and is burning to
brightest gold the reddish tinge in the girl's hair as she moves with
dallying steps through the green fields. She is dressed in a white gown,
decked with ribbons of sombre tint, and wears upon her head a huge poky
bonnet, from which her face peeps out, half earnest, half coquettish,
wholly pure.

Her hands are bare and shapely, but a little brown; some old-fashioned
rings glisten on them. She has the tail of her gown thrown negligently
over her arm, and with her happy lips parted in song, and her eyes
serene as early dawn, she looks like that fair thing of Chaucer's, whose

    "Berthe was of the womb of morning dew,
    And her conception of the joyous prime."

And now the sparkling river comes in sight. Near its brink an old
boat-house may be seen fast crumbling to decay; and on the river itself
lies, swaying to and fro, a small punt in the very last stages of
decline. It is a very terrible little boat, quite at death's door, and
might have had those lines of Dante's painted upon it without libel:

    "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here."

But Monica, in happy ignorance of rotting timbers, thinks only of the
joy she felt last evening when the discovery of this demoralized
treasure was made. In the mouldering boat-house she had found it, and so
had claimed it for her own.

She had told no one of her secret, not even Kit, who is, as a rule, her
prime minister, her confidante, and her shadow. She has, indeed, had
great difficulty in escaping from "her shadow" just now, but after much
diplomatic toil had managed it. To find herself upon the calm and gentle
river, to dream there her own sweet thoughts beneath the kindly shade of
the pollard willows, to glide with the stream and bask in the sunlight
_all alone_, has been her desire since yester-eve.

To-morrow, if to-day proves successful and her rowing does not fail her,
of which she has had some practice during the last two years of her
life, she will tell Kit and Terry all about it, and let them share her
pleasure. But to-day is her own.

The boat is connected with the shore by a rope tied round the stump of a
tree by most unskilful hands. Flinging her flowers into the punt, she
strives diligently to undo the knot that she herself had made the night
before, but strives in vain. The hard rope wounds her tender hands and
vexes her gentle soul.

She is still struggling with it, and already a little pained frown has
made a wrinkle on her smooth brow, when another boat shoots from under
the willows and gains the little landing-place, with its pebbly beach,
that belongs equally to Coole Castle and to Moyne.

This new boat is a tremendous improvement on our heroine's. It is the
smartest little affair possible, and as safe as a church,--safer,
indeed, as times go now. Not that there is anything very elaborate about
it, but it is freshly painted, and there are cushions in it, and all
over it a suppressed air of luxury.

Besides the cushions, there is something else in it, too,--a young man
of about six and twenty, who steps lightly on to the bank, though it is
a miracle he doesn't lose his footing and come ignominiously to the
ground, so bent is his gaze on the gracious little figure at the other
side of the boundary-fence struggling with the refractory rope.

It doesn't take any time to cross the boundary.

"Will you allow me to do that for you?" says the strange young man,
raising his hat politely, and taking the rope out of Monica's hand
without waiting for permission.



CHAPTER IV.

  How Monica makes a most important discovery and, changing suddenly
  from "lively to severe," is reprehensibly cruel to a most
  unoffending young man.


"You are very kind," says Monica slowly, feeling not so much
embarrassment as surprise at this sudden advent.

Then the young man looses the rope, and, having done so, casts a cursory
glance at the boat to which it is attached. As he does so, he lifts his
brows.

"Surely you are not dreaming of going on the river in _that_!" he says,
indicating the wretched punt by a contemptuous wave of his hand.

"Yes. Why not?" returns she.

"There isn't a sound bit of timber in her. What _can_ your people be
thinking of, to let you trust yourself in such a miserable affair?"

"My people have nothing to do with it," says Monica, somewhat grandly.
"I am _my own mistress_."

She has picked up her flowers again out of the despised punt, and now
stands before him with her hands filled with the June blossoms, blue,
and white, and red. They show bravely against the pallor of her gown,
and seem, indeed, to harmonize altogether with her excessive fairness,
for her lips are as red as her poppies, and her cornflowers as blue as
her eyes, and her skin puts her drooping daisies all to shame.

"As you _are_ your own mistress," says the young man, with a suspicion
of a smile, as he takes in the baby sweetness of her mouth, and each
detail of her slight girlish figure, that bespeaks the child rather than
the woman, "I entreat you to have mercy upon _yourself_."

"But what is the matter with it?" asks Monica, peering into the boat.
"It _looks_ all right; I can't see a hole in it."

"It's nothing _but_ holes, in my opinion," says the strange young man,
peering in his turn. "It's a regular _coffin_. You will be committing
nothing less than suicide if you put your foot in it."

"Dear me," says Monica, blankly, feeling impressed in spite of herself,
"I do think I am the most unfortunate person alive. Do you know,"
lifting her eyes to his, "I didn't sleep a wink last night, thinking of
this row on the river to-day, and now it comes to nothing! That is just
like my luck always. I was so bent on it; I wanted to get round that
corner over there," pointing to it, "to see what was at the other side,
and now I can't do it." It seems to the young man looking at her, as
though her glance is reproachful, and as if she connects him, innocent
as he is, with her disappointment.

"There is no reason why you shouldn't," he is beginning, anxiously, when
she contradicts him.

"After all," she says, doubtfully, bending over to look into the clear
bed of the river, "I don't believe, if things came to the worst, and I
_did_ get swamped, I should be drowned."

"Certainly not, if you could swim, or if there was any one watching over
your welfare from the banks that could."

"Well, I can't," confesses Monica, with a sigh; "and unless _you_," with
an irrepressible laugh that shows all her white and even teeth, "will
promise to run along the banks of the river all the afternoon to watch
over me, I don't think there is much chance of my escaping death."

"I shouldn't mind in the least being on guard in such a cause," says the
stranger, politely, with the same carefully suppressed smile upon his
lips (which are very handsome) as had moved them a while ago. "Command
me if you will; but I would have you remember that, even though I should
come to the rescue, it would not save you an unpleasant ducking,
and--and your pretty gown," with a glance that is almost affectionate at
the white Indian cotton, "would be completely ruined."

"Even that dire idea doesn't daunt me," says Monica, gayly: "you forgot
that the more limp I am the more æsthetic I shall look. Well," with a
sudden relapse into melancholy, "I suppose I must give it up, and not go
round the corner to-day."

"But _why_ not?" exclaims he, eagerly. "My boat is at your service. _Do_
take it. I have quite done with it, I have indeed, and it is lighter
than it looks."

"Too heavy for me, I am afraid," says Monica with a sigh.

"Is it? Then," with desperate boldness, "let _me_ row you."

"Oh, _no_!" returns she, blushing warmly. "You forget," with a swift
glance at him, "you are quite a stranger to me."

Yet he is not quite such a stranger as she thinks. She is not such a
stranger to him at least, because her face, seen for a minute about a
week a go, has haunted him persistently ever since.

"As we live in the same neighborhood, we cannot long continue
strangers," he says, gently; "and, in the mean time, why lose this
lovely afternoon, and that corner you were speaking of? The view of the
sea, when you get round it, is really worth seeing."

"Yes, yes, I daresay," reluctantly turning to leave him. "I shall see it
some day."

"Look here," says the young man, very earnestly, following her as she
moves. "If you will come with me you will see it _now_. I will only be
your oarsman; I won't say a word to you unless you wish it; I won't even
_look_ at you. Think of me as a common boatman you have hired by the
hour; or, better still, don't think of me at all. With a little care you
might bring yourself to imagine I wasn't there."

"But if we met any one?" says Miss Beresford, visibly relenting.

"Impossible! There is never a soul on this stream save myself. I have
been here now every day for ten days, and never yet came upon even the
ghost of anything human."

"Very well," says Monica, though still with palpable hesitation. "Now,
remember, you have pledged yourself not to speak to me, or to look at
me." At this he fixes on her so prolonged a gaze that one may readily
understand he means it to be a last one for some time.

Then he turns aside, and, having brought his boat to her side of the
fence, holds out to her his hand. As he does this he keeps his eyes bent
upon the ground, as though determined to let her know his penance has
already begun.

"I am not in the boat yet," says Monica, with a quaint little smile,
laying her palm on his. Whereupon he looks at her again; and then, as
their eyes meet, they both laugh joyously, as youth will when it meets
youth.

Lightly she steps into his boat, and slowly, lazily, he rows her down
the little river,--flower-clad on either bank,--letting the boat drift
almost at its own sweet will.

The willows, drooping towards the water's edge, woo them as they pass;
the foolish weeds would hold them in embrace; the broad flag-flowers
would fain entwine them. But they, though loving them, go by them,
thinking their own thoughts, and wondering vaguely at the beauty of the

    "Starry river-buds among the sedge,
    And floating water-lilies broad and bright,
           *       *       *       *       *
    And bulrushes, and reeds of such deep green
    As soothes the dazzled eye with sober sheen."

So far silence has been scrupulously kept. Not a word has been spoken
since they left the bank, not a look exchanged. Monica is letting her
little slender fingers trail through the water and the flat leaves of
the lilies. He, with his coat off, is pretending to row, but in reality
is letting his body grow subservient to his mind. He has even adhered
honorably to his promise not to look at her, and is still mentally
ambitious about being true to his word in this respect, when an
exclamation from her puts an end to all things.

"Oh! look at _that_ lily!" she says, excitedly. "Was there ever such a
beauty? If you will row a little more to the right, I am sure I shall be
able to get it."

"Don't stir. I'll get it," returns he, grateful to the lily for this
break in their programme; and presently the floating prize is secured,
and he lays it, wet and dripping, in her outstretched hands.

"After all, you see, you broke your promise," she says, a moment later,
most ungratefully, glancing up at him coquettishly from under her long
lashes.

"But who made me do it?" asks he, reproachfully, whereupon she laughs
and reddens.

"I never confess," she says, shaking her pretty head; "and after all--do
you know?--I am rather glad you spoke to me, because, though I like
being quite by myself at times, still I _hate_ silence when any one is
with me."

"So do I," says her companion, with the utmost cheerfulness.

"I think," leaning towards him with a friendly smile, "I cannot do
better than begin our acquaintance by telling you my name. It is Monica
Beresford."

"Monica," lingering over it lovingly; "a beautiful name, I think. I
think, too, it suits you. Mine is not to be compared to yours; but, such
as it is, I give it you!"

He throws a card into her lap.

"I hope it isn't John Smith," says Monica, smiling and picking up the
card. But, as she reads what is printed thereon, the smile fades, and an
expression of utter dismay overspreads her face.

"'Desmond'--Oh! _not_ Desmond!" she says, imploringly, her lips growing
quite pale.

"Yes, it _is_ Desmond," says the young man, half amused, half puzzled.
"You really think it ugly, then! Do you know I rather fancy my surname,
although my Chris----"

"You are not--you cannot be _the_ Desmond," interrupts she, hastily.

"No; that's my uncle," says the young man, innocently.

"Oh! then you acknowledge the crime?" in deep distress.

"I didn't know that an old Irish title must necessarily be connected
with guilt," says her companion, fairly puzzled.

"Eh?" says Monica, puzzled in her turn. "I don't understand you: I only
want to know if you are one of the _particular_ Desmonds?"

"I suppose not," he replies, now openly amused, "because I regret to
say we have never yet done anything worthy of note, or likely to
distinguish us from all the other Desmonds, whose name is legion."

"If you are going to tell me you live at Coole," says Miss Beresford, in
a tone that is almost tragic, "I warn you it will be the last straw, and
that I shan't be able to bear it."

"I am not going to tell you anything," protests he.

"But you must," declares she, illogically. "I may as well hear the worst
at once. Go on," heroically; "tell me the truth. _Do_ you live there?"

"I'm awfully afraid I do," says Mr. Desmond, feeling somehow, without
knowing why, distinctly ashamed of his name and residence.

"I knew it! I _felt_ it!" says Monica, with the calmness of despair.
"Take me back to the bank at once,--this very instant, please. Oh, what
a _row_ I should get into if they only knew!"

Very justly offended at the turn affairs have taken, Mr. Desmond rows
her in silence to the landing-place, in silence gives her his hand to
alight, in silence makes his boat safe, without so much as a glance at
her, although he _knows_ she is standing a little way from him,
irresolute, remorseful, and uncertain.

He might, perhaps, have maintained this dignified indifference to the
end, but that, unfortunately lifting his eyes, he catches sight of her
in this repentant attitude, with her head bent down, and her slim
fingers toying nervously with the lilies of his own gathering.

This picture flings dignity to the winds. Going up to her, he says, in a
would-be careless but unmistakably offended voice, "May I ask what I
have done, that 'they,' whoever they are, should consider you had
disgraced yourself by being with me for half an hour?"

"_You_ have done nothing," says Monica, faintly. "It was your uncle."

"My _uncle!_--George Desmond! Why, what on earth can _he_ have done?"
demands he, bewildered.

"I don't know." Feeling this is indeed a lame answer to a most natural
question, she goes on hurriedly, "It all happened twenty years ago,
and----"

"But what happened?" asks he, with pardonable impatience.

"Something dreadfully wicked," says Monica, solemnly. "Something really
very, _very_ bad, because Aunt Priscilla can't hear you spoken of with
common patience."

"_Me!_"

"Not so much you, perhaps, as your name. She hates the very sound of it.
There isn't a doubt about _that_; because, though I have not heard the
exact story yet, I know both my aunts grow actually faint with horror
when your uncle's name is mentioned."

"Good gracious!" says the horrified nephew of this apparently
disreputable old man. He is staring at Monica, but in reality he does
not even see her. Before his mind's eye is a picture of a stout old
gentleman, irascible, but kindly, with a countenance innocent of guile.
Yet how can he doubt this girl's story? Twenty years ago, as it seems,
George Desmond had done something too bad to be discussed. After all,
how impossible it is to trust to appearances! As a rule, the most
seemingly harmless people are those who are guilty of the vilest
misdemeanors. And, yet, what on earth _could_ George have done twenty
years ago? Visions of forgery, murder, homicide, rise up before him,
but, try as he will, he cannot connect Mr. Desmond's face with any of
them.

"You don't exactly know yourself what the crime is with which he is
charged?" he asks her, with growing diffidence.

"No. But I shall find out, and tell----But that will be
impossible!"--with a glance full of liveliest regret. "I _cannot_ tell
you, because after to-day I shall never see or speak to you again."

"That is the most insane nonsense I ever heard in my life," says Mr.
Desmond.

The girl shakes her head sadly.

"If you won't speak to me I shall speak to you, whether you like it or
not," says Desmond, with decision.

"That will be out of your power, as you will never see me."

"Do you mean to tell me I may not call at Moyne?"

"Certainly I do. They wouldn't hear of it. They wouldn't, in fact,
receive you."

"But why must they visit my uncle's sins upon my shoulders? I have heard
of a father's sins being entailed upon his heir, but never an uncle's."

"It is your name," says Monica. Then she laughs a little, in spite of
herself, and quotes, in a low tone, "Oh! Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art
thou Romeo?"

But he takes no heed of this frivolous quotation.

"You mean me to understand, then, that I am never to speak to you
again?"

"I do, indeed."

"What! Do you know we are to be close neighbors for the future, you and
I? This is to be your home. Coole is to be mine. At the most, only a
mile of road lies between us, and _here_ not quite a yard. And yet you
calmly tell me I am from this day forth to be only a common stranger to
you."

"You look as if you were angry with _me_," says Monica, with sudden
tears in her eyes at his injustice. "It isn't my fault; I haven't done
anything wicked. Blame your uncle for it all."

"The whole thing is simply absurd," says the young man, taking now the
superior tone that is meant to crush the situation by holding it up to
ridicule. "You forget, perhaps, that we shall _have_ to meet sometimes.
I suppose the people down here give balls occasionally, and
tennis-parties, and that; and when I meet you at them, is it your wish
that I shall pretend never to have seen you before,--never to have known
you?"

"Yes," says Monica, with as much hesitation as lets him know how she
hates saying it. "When next you meet me, you are to look right over my
head, and pass on!"

"I couldn't do it," returns he, gazing at her steadily. "I couldn't
indeed. In fact, I feel it is just the last thing in the world I _could_
do."

"But you must," says Monica, imperiously, terrified to death as she
conjures up before her Aunt Priscilla's face as it will surely be if
this Philistine dares to address her: "I tell you my aunts would never
forgive me if they knew I had interchanged even one syllable with you.
From this moment you must forget me. There will really be no difficulty
about it, as our acquaintance is but of an hour's growth. You have seen
me for the first time to-day, and a chance meeting such as this is
easily driven from the mind."

"That is your opinion," says the young man, moodily. "It is not mine. I
dare say _you_ will find it very easy to forget. I shan't! And this
isn't the first time I have seen you, either. It seems to me as if years
have rolled by since last I looked upon your face. I was standing at the
gate of Coole, and saw you pass by, the day of your arrival in
Rossmoyne. So, you see, we are--in spite of you--almost old friends."

A bombshell flung at her feet could hardly have produced a greater
sensation than this apparently harmless speech. All at once there rushes
back upon her the recollection of that fatal day when she lay upon a
cart-load of hay and (according to Terence) kicked up her heels in the
exuberance of her joy. Oh, horror! she grows crimson from her soft
throat to her forehead! even her little ears do not escape the tint, but
turn a warm and guilty pink.

Never until this unlucky instant did it occur to her that this strange
young man must be the detested one who had stood in the gateway and
laughed at her undignified position and taken the clocks of her
stockings into careful remembrance.

The one absorbing thought that he was nephew to Aunt Priscilla's bugbear
has swallowed up all others; but now, as he himself reveals this other
truth to her, she feels that her cup is indeed full.

Deeper and deeper grows the crimson tint that dyes her pale, shy face,
until her cheeks are all aflame. Something like anger, too, is rendering
her sweet eyes brilliant beyond their wont. Delicately but haughtily she
gathers up the train of her white gown and casts one expressive glance
upon the way she came. This glance says much. Somehow it tells him as
distinctly as though she said it aloud that she is sorry she ever came
down to this river, and that her sorrow arises from the fact that it was
here she encountered him.

While he is still sore perplexed by her sudden change of demeanor, she
turns away from him. Then, pausing, she turns again, and bestows upon
him so indignant a look as completely finishes this ill used young man.

"I object to hasty friendships," she says, icily. "And," pausing as if
to make the effect greater, "if I were _you_, I think I should seek some
better employment than standing _idling all day long_ at your uncle's
gate."

With this parting shaft, and before he can recover from his
consternation, she goes swiftly away from him, up through the meadows,
home.



CHAPTER V.

  How Monica is put in possession of a dreadful secret--And how Kit
  protests against the injustice of the world.


"An invitation from Madam O'Connor," says Miss Priscilla in a pleased
tone, glancing at them all, over the top of her spectacles. She has the
card in her hand, and slowly reads aloud the information printed upon
it, to the effect that Madam O'Connor will be at home on Friday the
15th, from four to six o'clock, etc.

"I am very glad she has asked Terence and Monica," says Miss Penelope.
"Excessively attentive I call it."

"Will you go, Aunt Priscilla?" asks Monica, in a sneaky sort of tone.
Her young soul hankers after the world, and will not be subdued. Upon
Miss Priscilla's "yes" or "no" she waits with an anxiety that surprises
even herself.

"Certainly, my dear," says Miss Blake, drawing herself up. "I shall feel
it my duty to take you to all such places as will enable you to mix with
people in your own rank of life. I am not one of those who think it well
for young girls to lead the life of nuns. No, indeed!"

"I quite agree with you, my dear Priscilla," says Miss Penelope, who is
an echo of her elder sister. "Yes, we will rouse ourselves, and once
more seek the world."

"But I would not have you make yourselves unhappy," says Monica,
falteringly.

"Nay, my dear, it will be a pleasure, for _your_ sake."

Not for worlds, even to themselves, would these two old ladies
acknowledge that they are right glad of the chance that has come to them
of introducing so beautiful a niece to the gay world around them, and of
mingling, even in a subdued and decorous fashion, with the amusements
that for the last five years they have (most unwillingly, be it said,
but on the score of age) declined.

"I wonder who will be there," says Monica, in a fresher tone, striving
vainly to drown the hope that is taking possession of her, a hope that
connects itself with a certain blue-eyed, dark-haired young man, last
seen in boating flannels.

"Everybody," says Miss Priscilla,--"the entire country. Madam
O'Connor may not be--is not--there may be certain points about
her--that"--floundering hopelessly--"I mean"--with a rush--"there are
a few who object to her _manner_ but her birth is undeniable, and she
has a large fortune; you must know, my dear, her father was a direct
descendant of King O'Toole, and her husband the head of one of the
oldest families in Ireland."

"Is that the old woman who called here the day before yesterday?" asked
Terence, irreverently. They are all sitting in the drawing-room, Terence
being rather on the balcony perhaps.

"Yes--I regret you were not in to receive her. I should have liked you
to make her acquaintance, Monica, before going to Aghyohillbeg."

"Oh I saw her," says Terence, contemptuously, "she's got an eye like a
lance, and a man's figure. She drove herself, and held the reins like
this," throwing himself into position.

"If you are going out, Terence, you may as well go at once," says Miss
Priscilla, with dignity, pretending neither to hear nor see him.
Whereupon Terence gladly departs.

"Go on, auntie," says Monica, slipping down on a footstool close to Aunt
Penelope, and leaning both her arms across the old lady's knee. "Who
else will be there?"

"Yes, tell her everything, Priscilla," says Miss Penelope, smoothing the
girl's hair softly, and feeling a strange thrill of pleasure in her
heart as she notices the little confident gesture with which the girl
nestles close to her.

"Well, there will be her own guests, of course, I mean those staying
with her, for she always has her house full," says Miss Priscilla, after
a slight pause, being still somewhat ruffled by Terry's remarks. "The
Fitzgeralds will be there, of course. Bella is considered a very
handsome girl, but I don't think you will like her much."

"No, no, she is not at all our Monica's style," says Miss Penelope,
stroking the pretty cheek near her with her mittened hand. "Yet she has
a fine skin."

"Ay, and a fine temper under it, or I'm a Dutchman," says Miss
Priscilla. "And she is more peculiar than handsome; but men admire her,
so _we_ say nothing."

"Is she tall?" asks Monica, anxiously, who is a little thing herself,
and looks even smaller than she really is because of her slender,
girlish figure. She wonders in a vague, uncomfortable fashion
whether--whether most men like tall women best.

"Tall? yes, and large in proportion; and as for her _manners_," says
Miss Priscilla, in her severest tone, "in my opinion they are simply
unbearable. Modesty in my days was a virtue, nowadays it is as _naught_.
Bella Fitzgerald is never content unless she has every man in the room
at her side, and goodness alone knows what it is she says to them. The
way she sets her cap at that poor boy Ronayne, just because he has
fallen in for that property, is quite revolting."

"And a mere lad, too," says Miss Penelope.

Monica draws a breath of relief. Perhaps if Miss Fitzgerald likes Mr.
Ronayne she will not care to practise her fascinations upon----any other
man.

"How old is she?" she asks, feeling deeply interested in the
conversation.

"She _says_ she is twenty-four," says Miss Priscilla, with an eloquent
sniff. "There is nothing easier to say than that. I _won't_ be
uncharitable, my dear Penelope,--you needn't look at me like that,--but
this I must say, she looks every hour of eight and twenty."

"Her mother ought to know," says Miss Penelope.

"She ought, indeed," grimly. "But, as from the way she dresses we may
reasonably conclude she thinks _herself_ nineteen, I suppose she has
lost her memory on all points."

"Her father, Otho Fitzgerald, was the same," says Miss Penelope,
reflectively. "He never could bear the idea of age. He was one who saw
nothing honorable in it. Gray hairs with him were a crime."

"So he used to dye them," says Miss Priscilla, maliciously; "and when he
got warm the dye used to melt, and (unknown to him) run all down his
cheek."

"Oh, Priscilla, how you remember things? Dear, dear, I think I see him
now," says Miss Penelope. And here the two old ladies, overcome by this
comical recollection, laugh until the tears run down their faces. Monica
joins in from sheer sympathy; but Kit, who is sitting in the embrasure
of a distant window and who had been strangely silent ever since the
invitation came from Aghyohillbeg, maintains a stern gravity.

"Poor man," says Miss Penelope, wiping her eyes, "I shall never forget
the night your sweet mother, my dear Monica, most unintentionally
offended him about the diamond--you recollect, Priscilla? Tell Monica of
it."

"He always wore a huge diamond ring upon his little finger," says Miss
Priscilla, addressing Monica, "of which he was very proud. He was at
this time about fifty-three, but used to pose as a man of thirty-nine.
One evening showing the ring to your mother, then quite a girl, he said
to her, in his stilted way, 'This jewel has been in our family for fifty
years.' 'Ah! did you buy it, Mr. Fitzgerald?' asks your mother, in her
sweet innocent way. Ha, ha, ha!" laughs Miss Priscilla, "you should have
seen his face. It was a picture! and just when he was trying to make
himself agreeable to your poor mother, and acting as if he was a
youthful beau of twenty-five, or at least as young as the best of us."

"That was so like mother," says Monica, in a low tone. "She always knew
where to _touch_ people."

"Oh, no, my dear, not at all like her," says Miss Penelope, hastily.
"She didn't _mean_ it, you must understand; she was the very soul of
sweetness, and would not willingly affront any one for the world."

For just an instant Monica lifts her eyes and gazes earnestly at her
aunt; but the old face is so earnest and sincere that with a faint sigh
she lowers her eyes again, and makes no further remark.

"After that he married his cousin's wife, a widow with one child, this
girl, Bella," says Miss Priscilla, still full of reminiscences, as old
people will be. "A most unpleasant person I thought her, though she was
considered quite a belle in those days."

"She always appeared to me such a silly woman," says Miss Penelope.

"She is worse than that now," says Miss Priscilla, who seems specially
hard on the Fitzgeralds. "She is a shocking old woman, with a nose like
a flower-pot. I won't say she drinks, my dear Penelope, because I know
you would object to it; but I _hear_ she does, and certainly her nose is
her betrayer."

"Do you remember," says Miss Penelope, "how anxious she once was to
marry George Desmond?" This she says in a very low tone.

"Yes, I remember." The bare mention of her enemy's name has sent a flush
of crimson into Miss Priscilla's cheeks. "But he never bestowed a
thought upon _her_."

"Oh, no, never," says Miss Penelope, after which both the Misses Blake
grow silent and seem to be slowly sinking into the land of revery.

But Monica, having heard the "enemy's name" mentioned, becomes filled
with a determination to sift the mystery connected with him, now, to the
end.

"Aunt Priscilla," she says, softly, looking at her with grave eyes
across Miss Penelope's knees, "tell me, now, why Mr. Desmond is our
enemy."

"Oh, not _now_," says Miss Penelope, nervously.

"Yes, now, please," says Monica, with ever-increasing gravity.

"It may all be said in a few words, Monica," says Miss Priscilla,
slowly. "And what I have to say affects you, my dear, even more than
us."

"_Me?_"

"Yes, in that it affects your mother. Twenty years ago George Desmond
was her affianced husband. Twenty years ago, wilfully and without
cause, he deliberately broke with her his plighted troth."

"He threw her over?" exclaims Monica, aghast at this revelation.

"Well, I never heard be used actual violence to her, my dear," says Miss
Penelope, in a distressed tone; "but he certainly broke off his
engagement with her, and behaved as no man of honor could possibly
behave."

"And mother must have been quite beautiful at that time, must she not?"
says Monica, rising to her knees in her excitement, and staring with
widely-opened eyes of purest amazement from one aunt to the other.

"'Beautiful as the blushing morn,'" says Miss Priscilla, quoting from
some ancient birthday-book. "But, you see, even her beauty was powerless
to save her from insult. From what we could learn, he absolutely refused
to fulfil his marriage-contract with her. He was false to the oath he
had sworn over our father's dying bed."

Nothing can exceed the scorn and solemnity of Miss Priscilla's manner as
she says all this.

"And what did mother do?" asks Monica, curiously.

"What _could_ she do, poor child? I have no doubt it went nigh to
breaking her heart."

"Her heart?" says Monica.

"She suffered acutely. That we could see, or rather we had to guess it,
as for days she kept her own chamber and would see no one, going out
only when it was quite dusk for a solitary ramble. Ah! when sorrow
afflicts the soul, there is no balm so great as solitude. Your poor
mother took the whole affair dreadfully to heart."

"You mean that she really _fretted_?" asks Monica, still in the same
curious way, with her eyes fixed on her aunt. There is, indeed, so much
unstudied surprise in her whole manner as might have produced a
corresponding amount in the Misses Blake, had they noticed it.

"Yes, my dear, of course. Dear, dear, dear! what a sad thing it all was!
Well, now you understand all that it is needful you should, Monica,"
says Miss Penelope, with a glance at her sister, who really seems quite
overcome. "So we will say no more about it. Only you can see for
yourself how impossible it is for any of our blood to be on friendly
terms with a Desmond."

"They may not all be like _that_ Mr. Desmond," says Monica, timidly,
coloring to her brow.

"Yes, yes. Like father, like son; you know the old adage; and a nephew
is as close a relation almost. We can know no one at Coole."

"I would almost rather see you dead than intimate with one of the name,"
says Miss Priscilla, with sudden harshness.

"I don't think we told Monica about the other guests at Aghyohillbeg,"
says Miss Penelope, hastily, with the kindly intention of changing the
conversation. "A very pretty young woman came there about a week before
your arrival, child, and is to remain, I believe, for some time. She is
a widow, and young, and--by the bye, I wonder if she can be any relation
to your friends in the South of France."

"Why?"

"Her name is Bohun, and----"

"Not _Olga_ Bohun?" says Monica, springing to her feet. "A widow, you
say, and young. Oh! auntie, if she only _might_ be Olga!"

"Well, certainly she has a heathenish--I mean, a Russian--name like
that," says Miss Priscilla. "She is a very little woman, with merry
eyes, and she laughs always, and she has the prettiest, the most
courteous manners. Quite a relief I found her, after the inanities of
Bella Fitzgerald."

"She is even smaller than I am. Yes, and her eyes do laugh!" says
Monica, delight making her cheeks warm. "She is the prettiest thing. Ah!
how happy I shall be if I may see her sometimes!"

"You shall see her just as often as ever you and she wish," say the two
old maids in a breath, glad in the thought that they can make her home
at Moyne happy to her.

"I hope _you_ like her," says Monica, glancing from one to the other of
them.

"Yes. I thought her quite fascinating," says Miss Penelope. "Some people
say she is rather--rather _fast_, I believe is the word they use
nowadays," getting the word out with difficulty, as though afraid it may
go off and do somebody an injury. "But for my part I don't believe a
word of it. She is quite natural, and most pleasing in manner,
_especially_ to those who are older than herself. A great charm in these
times, my dear, when age is despised."

Plainly, the little widow at Aghyohillbeg has been playing off her
sweetest graces upon the two Misses Blake.

"I dare say Monica will like young Ronayne," says Miss Priscilla. "He is
quite nice, that lad. But I hope, Monica, that, even if circumstances
should throw you together, you will take no notice of young Mr.
Desmond. I myself would not exchange a word with him if a queen's diadem
were offered me as a bribe."

"You might speak to him without knowing him," says Monica, blushing
again that nervous crimson of a while ago.

"Impossible, my dear. Instinct, sharpened by hatred, would tell me when
one of the race was near me."

"Well, as it is your first party here, dear child, I hope you will enjoy
it," says Miss Penelope, quickly, as though again anxious to throw oil
on the waters by changing the conversation. "It is a charming place, and
its mistress, if a little rough, is at least kindly."

At this moment Kit, emerging from the curtains that have hidden her for
the past hour, comes slowly to the front. Her face, her very attitude,
is martial. She is plainly in battle-array. Pausing before Miss
Priscilla, she directs her first fire upon her.

"Am I not asked at all?" she says, in a terrible tone, that contrasts
painfully with the ominous silence she has maintained ever since the
invitation was brought by Mrs. O'Connor's groom.

"My dear child, you must remember you are only fourteen," says Miss
Priscilla, who is sincerely sorry the child has not been included in the
invitation, and, in fact, thinks it rather unkind she has been left out.

"I _know_ that, thank you," says the youngest Miss Beresford,
uncompromisingly, fixing her aunt with a stony glare. "I know my
birthday as well as most people. And so, just because I am a child, I am
to be slighted, am I? I call it unfair! I call it beastly _mean_, that
every one here is to be invited out to enjoy themselves except _me_."

"Young people are seldom asked to grown-up parties," says Miss
Priscilla, in her best conciliatory manner. "When you are as old as
Monica, of course you will go everywhere. In the meantime you are only a
child."

"I am old enough to conduct myself properly, at all events," says Kit,
unmoved. "I suppose at _fourteen_"--as if this is an age replete with
wisdom--"I am not likely to do anything _very_ extraordinary, or make
myself unpleasant, or be in anybody's way."

"That is not the question, at all: it is merely one of age," says Miss
Priscilla.

"Is it? And yet people say a great deal about childhood being the
happiest time of one's life," says Kit, almost choking with scornful
rage. "I should just like to see the fellow who first said that. Maybe I
wouldn't enlighten him, and tell him what a hypocrite he was. Whoever
said it, it is a decided untruth, and I know I wish to goodness I was
grown up, because then," with withering emphasis, "I should not be
trampled upon and insulted!"

This is dreadful. The two old ladies, unaccustomed in their quiet lives
to tornadoes and volcanoes of any kind, are almost speechless with
fright.

"Dearest," says Monica, going up to her, "how _can_ you look at it in
such a light?"

"It's all very well for you," says the indignant Kit: "_you're_ going,
you know. I'm to stay at home, like that wretched Cinderella!"

"Katherine, I am sure you are quite unaware of the injustice of your
remarks," says Miss Priscilla, at last finding her voice. She is bent on
delivering a calm rebuke; but inwardly (as any one can see) she is
quaking. "And I have frequently told you before that the expression 'I
wish to goodness,' which you used just now, is anything but ladylike. It
is not nice; it is not proper."

"I don't care what is proper or improper, when I am treated as I now
am," says the rebel, with flashing eyes and undaunted front.

"There is really _nothing_ to complain of," says Miss Priscilla,
earnestly, seeing censure has no effect. "Madam O'Connor would not
willingly offend any one; she is a very kind woman, and----"

"She is a regular old wretch!" says the youngest Miss Beresford, with
considerable spirit.

"My _dear_ Katherine!"

"And it's my belief she has done it _on purpose_!" with increasing rage.

"Katherine, I must insist----"

"You may insist as you like, but I'll be even with her yet," persists
Kit, after which, being quite overcome with wrath, she breaks down, and
bursts into a violent fit of weeping.

"My dear child, don't do that," says Miss Penelope, rising
precipitately, and going over to the weeping fury. "Priscilla," in a
trembling tone, "I fear it is selfish. I think, my dear, I shall stay at
home, too, the day you all go to Madam O'Connor's."

This kills the storm at once.

"No, no, indeed, Aunt Penny, you shan't." Kit cries, subdued, but still
in tears. She is overcome with remorse, and blames herself cruelly in
that her ill temper should have led to this proposal of self-sacrifice.
To give in to Kit is the surest and quickest method of gaining your own
point. She throws her arms, as she speaks, around Miss Penelope's neck,
and nearly strangles that dear old lady in her remorseful agitation, to
say nothing of the deadly havoc she makes of her frills and laces.

"But indeed, my Kitten, it will be no privation to me to stay at home
with you, and we will be quite happy together, and we will have our tea
out in the orchard," says Miss Penelope, soothing her with sweet words;
while Miss Priscilla, who is thoroughly frightened by the sobbing, pats
the refractory child on the back, with a view to allaying all fear of
convulsions.

"You shan't stay at home, Aunt Penny,--you shan't indeed," cries the
inconsistent Kitten. "I like being alone, I _love_ it; if you don't go
to that place with the long name, and enjoy yourself very much, I shall
be miserable all my life, though I love you very, very, _very_ much for
wishing to keep me from being lonely. Tell her I mean it, Monica."

"Yes, I am sure she means it," says Monica, earnestly, whereupon peace
is once more restored to the breasts of the terrified aunts.



CHAPTER VI.

  How Monica goes to Aghyohillbeg, and meets there an old friend and a
  very new one.


Time flies, and no man can reach his hand to stay it. A very good thing,
too, thinks Monica, as she stands before her looking-glass putting the
last pretty touches to her white toilet.

It is Friday. Madam O'Connor's garden-party lies before her, and,
probably, other things. Here she blushes at herself, as she sees that
pretty soul in the glass, though, indeed, she has no cause to do so; but
possibly the vague thought of those "other things" has something to do
with it, and perhaps it is for their sake too that she places with such
care the heavy, blood-colored rose beneath her chin.

This is the only suspicion of color about her. Her gown is white; her
hat is white; long white silk gloves run up her rounded arms as though
bent on joining her sleeves far above the elbow. A white Surat sash is
tied round her dainty waist. She is looking "as fair as the moon, as
lovely as a rose," and altogether distinctly dangerous.

Perhaps she half recognizes this fact, because she smiles at her own
reflection, and--vain little girl that she is--stoops forward and kisses
herself in the happy glass that holds her even for so brief a minute;
after which she summons her maid from her dressing-room beyond.

"Canty," she says, as the "uncle's wife's sister's child" enters, "I am
dressed now; and----"

"Shure, so you are, miss; and lovely ye look, more power to ye."

"Make my room very tidy," says Monica, giving her her directions before
starting. "And, Canty, I shall want my blue dress for dinner. You can
put it out."

"Yes, miss," whereupon Monica prepares to leave the room; but the new
maid stops her.

"If ye please, Miss Monica," she says, hesitating, and applying her
apron to her lips.

"Yes, Canty?"

"I'd be very thankful to ye, miss, if ye wouldn't call me that."

"Call you what?"

"Canty, miss."

"But," astonished, "isn't it your name?"

"No, miss; me name is Bridget."

"But surely Canty is your name, too?"

"Well, it's me father's name, miss, no doubt; but faix I feel just like
a boy when ye call me by it, an' ye wouldn't like me to feel like a boy,
miss, would ye?" says the village beauty casting an anxious glance at
Monica from her dark Irish eyes, and blushing deeply.

"Certainly not," says Monica, laughing a little. "Very well, Bridget; I
shall try to forget you ever had a surname."

"Thank ye, miss," says Bridget, with a sigh of profound relief.

Then Monica runs downstairs, where she finds her aunts in the
drawing-room, dressed in their very best silk gowns, waiting for the
carriage to come round. There is a little delay, which wasted time the
two old ladies spend in endeavoring to drill Terence into shape.
Something of this sort is going on as Monica enters.

"When I introduce you to Madam O'Connor or Lady Rossmoyne, my dear boy,
be sure you make a very low bow. Nothing distinguishes a gentleman so
much from the common herd as the manner of his salute. Now make me a
bow, that I may judge of your style." Thus Miss Priscilla.

"I couldn't make one to order like that," says Terence; yet he sulkily
complies, making a very short, stiff, and uncompromising nod that makes
both aunts lift their hands in dismay.

"Oh, no, my dear!--that won't do _at all_! Most ungraceful, and totally
devoid of the dignity that should inspire it. Now look at me. It should
be something like _this_," making him a reverence that might well have
created admiration in the court of Queen Anne.

"Ah, yes! that is something like what it should be," chimes in Miss
Penelope, paying a tribute to the talent of her sister. "Priscilla has
caught the true tone. I wish, Terence, we could see you more like your
dear grandfather; _he_ was a man to bow."

Terence, calling to mind the portrait of his "dear grandfather," as
represented in the elaborate gilt frame in the dining-room, in a court
suit and a periwig, and with an abominable simper, most devoutly thanks
his gods that he is _not_ like unto him. He is, indeed (feeling goaded
to the last degree), about to break into unseemly language, when,
fortunately, the arrival of the ancient equipage that has done duty at
Moyne as state carriage for generations is announced.

The coachman, who is considerably older than Timothy, draws up the old
horses before the door with a careful manner that impresses the beholder
with the belief that he thinks they would run away in a minute if he
relaxed a muscle on the reins; and a small boy who acts as footman and
looks decidedly depressed, lets down the rickety steps.

Miss Priscilla Blake then enters the carriage. She is followed with much
ceremony by Miss Penelope. After which Monica, who is impressed by the
proceedings, and Terence, who is consumed with secret mirth, step in and
seat themselves. Then the coachman says, "Gee up!" in exactly the tone
he has employed for forty years; and the gloomy boy settling down beside
him, they are all presently on the fair road to Aghyohillbeg.

The drive is a very pleasant one, though filled with injunctions of the
most obsolete from the Misses Blake as to their behavior, etc. The fact
is, that the two old maids are so puffed out with pride at the thought
that they will presently introduce to the county the handsome lad and
beautiful girl opposite them that they have grown fidgety and
over-anxious about the niceties of their presentation.

"Surely," say the Misses Blake to themselves and to each other, "not
half so pretty a pair could be produced by any family in the south!"

Which is saying a great deal, as in the south of Ireland a pretty face
is more the rule than the exception.

Over the dusty road they go, calmly, carefully, the old horses being
unaccustomed to fast ways of any sort; slowly, with much care they pick
their aged steps, never stumbling, never swerving, but as certainly
never giving way to frivolous haste.

Then, all at once, as it seems to Monica, the hillside seems to break in
twain, and a great iron gate appears, into which they turn to drive in
their solemn fashion down a dark avenue shaded by swaying elms.

It is a perfect place, old as the hills that surround it, and wild in
its loveliness. To right and left great trees, gnarled and moss-grown,
and dipping tangles of blackberry and fern; patches of sunlight, amidst
the gloom, that rests lovingly upon a glowing wilderness of late
bluebells, and, beyond all these broad glimpses of the glorious,
restless ocean, as it sleeps in its bay below.

Gazing at all this natural beauty, Monica's soft eyes and heart expand,
and,--

    "Joy rises in her like a summer morn."

And then she sees an old house, low, broad, picturesque, with balconies
and terraces, and beyond the house slanting lawns, and at one side
tennis-courts, where many gayly-clad figures are moving to and fro.
There is a sound of subdued laughter and the perfume of many flowers,
and a general air of gayety; it is as though to-day care has utterly
forgotten this one favored corner of the earth.

Then they all descend from the time honored chariot, and cross the lawn
to where they can see their hostess standing, tall and erect and
handsome, in spite of her sixty years.

"Your niece?" says Madam O'Connor, staring hard at Monica's pure little
face, the girl looking straight back at her with a certain amount of
curiosity in her eyes.--"Well, I wish you no greater fortune than your
face, my dear," says the old Irishwoman. "It ought to be a rich one,
I'm thinking. You're like your mother, too; but your eyes are honester
than hers. You must know I knew Kitty Blake very well at one time."

"I have heard my mother speak of you," says Monica.

"Ay--so? Yet I fear there wasn't much love lost between us."

Then she turns a little aside to greet some one else, and Monica lets
her eyes roam round the grounds. Suddenly she starts, and says out
loud,--

"Ah! there is Olga?"

"You know Mrs. Bohun, then?" says her hostess, attracted by her
exclamation and her pretty vivacious expression.

"So very, very well," says Monica. She has flushed warmly, and her eyes
are brilliant. "I want to speak to her; I want to go to her, _please_."

"Bless me! what a shame to waste that lovely blush on a mere woman!"
says Madam O'Connor, with a merry laugh. "Here, Fred," turning to a
young man standing close to her with a very discontented expression, "I
am going to give you a mission after your own heart. You are to take
Miss Beresford over there, to where Mrs. Bohun is dealing death to all
those boys.--This is Lord Rossmoyne, Miss Beresford: he will see you
safely over your rubicon."

"Oh, thank you!" says Monica, gratefully smiling at her.

"Tut, child! thank me when I have done something for you. It is Fred's
turn to thank me now," says Madam O'Connor, with a merry twinkle in her
gray eyes.

She is a large woman close on sixty, with an eagle eye and a hawk's
nose. As Monica leaves her she continues her gossip with the half dozen
young men round her, who are all laughing at some joke. Presently she
herself is laughing louder than any of them (being partial to boys and
their "fun," as she calls it). Bestowing now a smart blow with her fan
upon the youngest and probably therefore most flippant of her
attendants, she stalks away from them across the lawn, to where two
ladies are sitting together.

One is elderly, but most ridiculously dressed in juvenile attire, that
might have well suited the daughter sitting beside her. This latter is a
tall girl, and large in every way, with curious eyes and a rather harsh
voice; she is laughing now at some remark made by a man lounging at the
back of her chair, and the laugh is both affected and discordant.

"Have you seen that girl of Kitty Beresford's, Edith?" asks Madam
O'Connor of the elder lady.

"That little washed-out-looking girl who came with those two old Miss
Blakes?" asks the youthful old woman, with a profoundly juvenile lisp.

"Faith, I don't know about her being washed out," says Madam O'Connor,
bluntly. "I think she is the prettiest creature I've seen this many a
day."

"You are so impulsive, my dear Theresa!" says her friend, with a simper:
"all your geese are swans."

"And other people's swans my geese, I suppose," says Madam, with a
glance at the tall girl, which somehow brings the conversation to a full
stop.

Meantime, Monica is crossing the soft turf, with the moody man called
Rossmoyne beside her. She can see her goal in the distance, and finds
comfort in the thought that soon she must be there, as she cannot bring
herself to be agreeable to her new acquaintance; and certainly he is
feeling no desire just at present to be agreeable to her or to anybody.

As Monica comes nearer to her friend, she gazes anxiously at her, as
though to see if time has worked a change in her.

She is quite a little woman about five and twenty, but looking at least
four years younger than that. Her eyes are large, dark, and mischievous.
Her hair is so fair as to be almost silvery; naturally wavy, it is cut
upon the forehead in the prevailing fashion, but not curled. Her mouth
is small, mutinous, and full of laughter; her nose distinctly retroussé.
Altogether she is distractingly pretty, and, what goes for more
nowadays, very peculiar in style, and out of the common.

She is exquisitely dressed in a costume that suggests Paris. She is a
harmony in black and white, as Lord Rossmoyne told her an hour ago, when
he was _not_ wearing his discontented expression. Seated beside her is a
tall pallid woman with a cold face, but very velvety eyes and a smile
rare but handsome. Every now and then this smile betrays itself, as her
companion says anything that chances to amuse her. She is a Mrs.
Herrick, a cousin of Olga Bohun's, and is now on a visit with her at
Aghyohillbeg.

There are several men grouped round Mrs. Bohun, all in various standing
positions. One man is lying at her feet. He is a tall slight young
fellow, of about twenty-three, with a lean face, dark hair, and
beautiful teeth. He has, too, beautiful eyes, and a most lovable
expression, half boyish, but intensely earnest and very sensitive.

Just now he appears happy and careless, and altogether as if he and the
world are friends indeed, and that he is filled with the belief that
every one likes him; and, in truth, he is right in so believing, for
every one does like him, and a great many are fond of him, and some love
him.

He is looking up at Mrs. Bohun, and is talking rapidly, as Monica and
Lord Rossmoyne come up behind them.

"What! another bit of scandal?" exclaims Mrs. Bohun, lifting her brows
in pleased anticipation. "The air seemed full of it. An hour ago I heard
of the dire discomfiture of two of my dearest friends, and just now I
listened to a legend of Belgravia that was distinctly _fifi_ and had a
good deal to do with a marchioness. It is really quite too much
happiness for _one_ day."

"My tale does not emanate from such an aristocratic region as
Belgravia," says Ulic Ronayne, the man at her feet: "it is, I blush to
say, from the city."

"Ah!" in a regretful tone; "then it will of course be decenter. Don't
trouble to expend color on it, as I daresay there isn't a blush in the
whole of it. Well," resignedly, "go on."

In the usual quick manner habitual to him, and with the slight but
eloquent amount of gesture common to Irish people, Ronayne tells his
news, which is received with low laughter by those around.

"I've heard better stories," says Mrs. Bohun, discontentedly; "and it
isn't a bit like what Lord Tommy would do. It is more in Rossmoyne's
line. I don't think I believe it. And the roundabout way in which you
told it reminds one of a three-volume novel: the first leads up to the
point, the third winds up the point, the second _is_ the point. I
confess I like the second volume best. When I grow funny over my friends
I'm _all_ second."

"Then don't be funny about me, please," says Ronayne, lazily.

"_Are_ you my friend?" asks she, glancing at him. Lifting his eyes to
hers, he pauses, and then says slowly, the smile dying from his face,--

"Well, perhaps _not_."

Then he lowers his eyes again, and goes back to his idle occupation of
decorating with daisies some of the fantastic loops upon her gown.

At this moment Lord Rossmoyne, coming forward, says, sullenly, "May I
hear the story that just now reminded you of me? But first----" He
pauses, and glances at Monica. Mrs. Bohun, following his glance, rises
hurriedly from her seat, and going up to the girl, embraces her warmly.

"Ah! my _pretty_ Monica! my little saint!" she cries, in her sweet, gay
voice, "what happy breeze has blown you hither?"

"I am living here,--at Moyne,--with my aunts," in a happy, breathless
way. "Some days ago they described you to me, and I knew it must be you.
I was right. And to-day I have found you."

"I'm always found out, as a rule," says Mrs. Bohun, with a light laugh.
"That is my standing grievance. You know Hermia, don't you?" indicating
the tall, cold-looking woman near her, who so far unbends as to take
Monica's hand kindly and bestow upon her one of her handsome smiles.
"She has come here to look after me and see that I don't get into a
scrape or make myself unhappy."

"Could you be unhappy?" says Rossmoyne, from behind her chair, in so
disagreeable a tone that every one looks at him. "Decidedly," thinks
Monica to herself, "he has either neuralgia or an execrable temper."

"Miserably so," says the pretty widow, airily. "Though, after all,"
reflectively, "I believe I have even a greater talent for making others
so. That, however, is my misfortune, not my fault. I was 'born so,' like
that poor man with the twisted neck."

"Well, this is not one of your miserably unhappy hours, at all events,"
says Hermia Herrick. "You have been in magnificent spirits ever since
you came to Aghyohillbeg."

"You've learned it?" says Olga, staring at her with pretended surprise.
"The name, I mean. Well, you _are_ clever. It takes most people four
long weeks. Oh, yes, I am blissfully happy here. I _ought_ to be. It
would be the grossest ingratitude if I were otherwise, as all the men
have been good enough to fall in love with me, and that, of course, is
the principal thing."

At this the young man at her feet smiles openly and presses his face
unperceived against her gown; but Rossmoyne throws up his head and
glances with a coldly displeased expression into the vague distance.

"Have you been here long?" asks Monica, turning to her friend.

"_Very_ long," pettishly. Something--perhaps Rossmoyne--has annoyed the
capricious beauty.

"Only a fortnight," says Mrs. Herrick, briefly. "You _must_ know that."

"I don't judge time by days and weeks; it _seems_ long," says Mrs.
Bohun, "years,--an eternity almost!"

A sudden gloom appears to have fallen upon the group. Rossmoyne's dark
face grows darker still; the smile fades from Ronayne's face, a shadow
falls athwart his eyes.

"I think I like the country," says Monica, suddenly. "It is so calm, so
quiet, and there are moments when the very beauty of it brings tears to
my eyes."

"I love it too," says Ronayne, quickly, addressing her pointedly in a
friendly tone, although no introduction has been gone through between
them. "I wonder how any one who has once tasted the sweetness of it can
ever again long for the heat and turmoil of the town."

"Yes, for a time it is charming, all-sufficing," says Mrs. Bohun, "but
for what a _little_ time! Perhaps,--I am not sure,--but _perhaps_ I
should like to live for three months of every year in the country. After
that, I know I should begin to pine again for the smoke and smuts of my
town."

"If you are already wearied, I wonder you stay here," says Lord
Rossmoyne, sullenly.

"And I wonder what has happened to-day to your usually so charming
temper," returns she, laughingly uplifting her face to his, and letting
her eyes rest on him with almost insolent inquiry.

"Desmond says good temper is a mere matter of digestion," says some one
at this moment. Monica starts more at the name mentioned than at the
exceedingly worn-out words uttered. She glances at the speaker, and sees
he is a very ugly young man, with a nice face, and a remarkably dismal
expression. He is looking at Rossmoyne. "Sit down, dear boy," he says,
_sotto voce_ and very sadly. "There's too much of you; you should never
stand. You appear to so much better advantage when doubled in two. It
don't _sound_ well, does it? but----"

"But really, when you come to think of it," Mrs. Bohun is saying,
feelingly, "there is very little in the country."

"There is at least the fascinating tulip and lily," says the sad man who
mentioned Desmond's name. "Don't put yourself beyond the pale of art by
saying you had forgotten those æsthetic flowers,--blossoms, I mean.
Don't you yearn when you think of them? _I_ do."

"So glad you are awake at last, Owen!" says Mrs. Bohun.

"That silly craze about tulips," says Mrs. Herrick, contemptuously, "I
have always treated it with scorn. Why could not the art idiots have
chosen some better flower for their lunatic ravings? What can _any_ one
see in a tulip?"

"Sometimes earwigs," says the man called Owen.

"Nonsense! I don't believe even earwigs would care for it. Foolish,
gaudy thing, uplifting its lanky neck as though to outdo its fellows!
There is really nothing in it."

"Like the country," says Owen, meekly, "according to Mrs. Bohun."

"And like Bella Fitzgerald," says that graceless person, with a little
grimace.

"My _dear_ Olga," says Mrs. Herrick, glancing quickly to right and left.
"Do you never _think_?"

"As seldom as ever I can. But why be nervous, Hermia? If any one were to
compare _me_ with a tulip, I should die of--no, not chagrin--_joy_, I
mean, of course. Monica, what are you saying to Owen?"

"I don't think I know who Owen is," says Monica, with a glance at the
gentleman in question, that is half shy, half friendly.

"That argues yourself unknown," says Olga. "He is Master Owen Kelly, of
Kelly's Grove, county Antrim, and the bright and shining light of the
junior bar. They all swear by him in Dublin,--all, that is except the
judges, and they swear _at_ him."

Monica looks at Master Owen Kelly in a faintly puzzled fashion.

"It is all quite true," says that young man, modestly, in a reassuring
tone.

"Now tell us what you were saying to each other," says Olga.

"It was nothing," returns Monica. "We were only talking about this
Egyptian war. But I don't really," nervously, "understand anything about
it."

"You needn't blush for your ignorance on that score," says Mr. Kelly.
"You're in the general swim: nobody knows."

"It is the most senseless proceeding altogether," says Hermia Herrick,
in her decided way. "Gladstone's wars are toys. He has had three of them
now, dear little fellow, to amuse himself with, and he ought to be proud
of his victories."

"According to Erasmus, war is the 'malady of princes,'" says Lord
Rossmoyne, sententiously.

"Rossmoyne isn't well," says Mr. Kelly, softly. "He is calling the
wood-cutter a prince. It reminds one of Hans Andersen's fairy-tale: all
hewers of wood and drawers of water were blood-royal then."

"Yet Gladstone has intellect," says Mrs. Herrick, in oh, _such_ a tone:
would that the master of Hewarden could have heard her!

"Some!" said Mr. Kelly. "He is indeed 'a thing apart.' I know nothing
like him. 'Once, in the flight of ages past, there lived a _man_.' In
ages to come they will say that of our modern immortal William. They
will probably add that no _real_ man has ever lived since."

"How silly you can be at times!" says Olga.

"It isn't mine; it's Montgomery's nonsense," says Mr. Kelly, sadly.
"Blame him, not me."

"I don't want to blame any one," says Olga, with a skillfully-suppressed
yawn; "but, taking your view of the case, I think it will be an awful
age when there _doesn't_ live a man."

"Your 'occupation will be o'er,' indeed," says Rossmoyne, with an
accentuated bitterness, "when that time comes."

("He must be very much in love with her," thinks Monica, with a touch of
inspiration, "he is so excessively rude to her!")

"Lord Rossmoyne," says Mrs. Bohun, turning to him with ineffable
sweetness, "will you do something for me?"

The transition from coldness to tender appeal is too much for Rossmoyne:
his face brightens.

"You know there is nothing I would not do for you," he says, gravely but
eagerly.

"Then," promptly, "please take that ugly frown off your forehead and put
it in your pocket; or--no, throw it away altogether; if you kept it near
you, you might be tempted to put it on again."

"I did not know I was frowning."

"You were," sweetly. "You are all right again now, and so shall be
rewarded. You can't think how unbecoming frowns are, and how much better
you look when you are all 'sweetness and light' as now for example.
Come," rising, "you shall take me for a nice long walk through these
delightful old gardens."

As she moves she sees the daisies still clinging to her gown that Ulic
Ronayne has been amusing himself with during the past half-hour. More
than this, she sees, too, the imploring gaze of his dark eyes upturned
to hers.

"Silly boy!" she says, stooping to shake away the daisies with her hand;
but her words have a double meaning. Involuntarily, unseen by all the
others--except Monica--his hand closes upon hers.

"Do not go with him," he says, with deep entreaty.

"I must--now."

"Then let me come too?"

"No." Then she raises herself, and says, gayly, "You shall stay and make
love to Miss Beresford--Monica, I have desired Mr. Ronayne to stay here
and amuse you."

She moves across the lawn with Rossmoyne beside her. Mrs. Herrick and
Mr. Kelly are strolling lazily in another direction. Monica and Ulic are
alone.

"Is there anything I can take you to see?" asks he, gently.

"No, thank you. I am quite happy here."

Then, noticing the extreme sadness on his beautiful face, she says,
slowly, "But you are not, I am afraid."

"I _should_ be, with so fair a companion." He smiles as he says this,
but his smile is without mirth, and she does not return it. Suddenly
leaning forward, she says to him, very tenderly,--

"You love Olga, do you not?"

She never afterwards thinks of this speech without blushing deeply and
wondering why she said it. It was an impulse too strong to be conquered,
and it overpowers her. His face changes, and he colors perceptibly; he
hesitates too, and regards her inquiringly. Something, perhaps, in her
expression reassures him, because presently he says, bravely,--

"Yes, I do. I love her with all my heart and soul; as I never have
loved, as I never shall love again. _This_ thought is my happiness: my
sorrow lies in the fear that she will never love _me_. Forgive my saying
all this to you: she told me to amuse you," with a faint smile, "and I
have woefully neglected her commands."

"You must forgive me," says Monica. "I should not have asked you the
question."

"Do not be sorry for that: it has done me good, I think. I am glad I
have said it _out loud_ to somebody at last. It is odd though,--isn't
it?--I should have made my confession to you, of all people, whom I
never saw until ten minutes ago!"

Then Monica remembers that this is the second young man she has found
herself on friendly terms with since her arrival at Moyne, without the
smallest introduction having been gone through on any side. It all
sounds rather dreamy, and certainly very irregular.

"Ah! there is Madam O'Connor beckoning to me," says Ronayne, rising
lazily to his feet. "I suppose she wants me for a moment. Will you mind
my leaving you for a little, or will you come with me? I shan't be any
time."

"I shall stay here," says Monica. "There, go: she seems quite in a
hurry. Come back when you can."

He runs across the grass to his hostess; and Monica, leaning back in her
chair, gives herself up to thought. Everything is strange, and she is
feeling a little lonely, a little _distraite_, and (but this she will
not allow even to herself) distinctly disappointed. She is trying very
hard to prevent her mind from dwelling upon a certain face that should
be naught to her, when she suddenly becomes conscious of the fact that
some one has come to a standstill close beside her chair. She turns.



CHAPTER VII.

  How Monica listens to strange words and suffers herself to be led
  away.--How Cupid plants a shaft in Mars, and how Miss Priscilla
  finds herself face to face with the enemy.


"You see I failed," says Brian Desmond.

A quick warm blush has dyed Monica's cheeks crimson.

"Ah! it is you," she said. "I thought you had not come."

This betrays the fact that she has been thinking of him, but he is far
too wise a young man in his own generation to take count of it.

"Yes, I came. Three days ago I thought I should have been in London now,
and then I heard _you_ were to be here to-day."

"In what have you failed?" asks she, abruptly, alluding to his opening
sentence.

"Can't you guess? Have you forgotten the last cruel injunction you laid
upon me? 'When next we meet,' you said, 'you are to look straight over
my head and pass on.' Will you believe that twice to-day I obeyed that
mandate? The third time was the charm: it conquered me; I broke my sword
in two and came to you."

"I wish you hadn't," says Monica, sincerely, if impolitely. "I wish you
would go away now, and promise me never to speak to me again. You _know_
I am afraid of you," looking nervously around.

"I don't, indeed; I can't conceive such a situation. You do me a great
injustice, I think. I verily believe if I tried my very hardest I
couldn't instil terror into the smallest child in the village."

"You know what I mean. Of course," scornfully, "I should never be afraid
of a _man_: it is Aunt Priscilla I am afraid of. And see, see _there_!"
in an agony, "she is standing quite close to us, talking to somebody."

"If that is your aunt Priscilla, she is safe for an hour at least. The
old lady with her is Lady Rossmoyne, and she never lets any one
(unfortunate enough to get into her clutches) go free under a generous
sixty minutes. She is great on manures, and stock, and turnips, and so
forth. And your aunt, I hear, is a kindred spirit."

"But then there is Aunt Penelope," says Monica, timidly.

"She, too, is arranged. Half an hour ago I met her so deep in a
disgraceful flirtation with the vicar that I felt it my duty to look the
other way. Depend upon it, she is not thinking of you."

"But some one may tell them I have been talking to you."

"I always thought I had a proper amount of pride until I met you," says
Mr. Desmond. "You have dispelled the belief of years. 'Is thy servant a
dog,' that you should be ostracized for speaking to him? Never mind; I
submit even to that thought if it gives me five minutes more of your
society. But listen to me. No one can tell tales of us, because we are
both strangers in the land. No one knows me from Adam, and just as few
know you from--let us say _Eve_, for euphony's sake."

She laughs. Encouraged by her merriment to believe that at least she
bears him no ill will, Brian says, hurriedly,--

"Come with me to the rose-garden. It is stupid sitting here alone, and
the garden is beyond praise. Do come."

"Why?" lifting her heavy lashes.

"For one thing, we shall be free from observation, and you know you
dislike being seen with me. For another----" He pauses.

"Well?" rather nervously.

"It is just this, that I _must_ speak to you," says the young man, his
gay manner changing to one of extreme earnestness. "You were unkind to
me that day we parted. I want you to tell me why. I understand quite
that I have no right to demand even the smallest favor of you, yet I do
entreat you to come with me."

For another moment she hesitates, then--

"Yes, I will come with you," she says, raising her soft eyes to his. In
her whole manner, voice, and bearing there is something so sweet and
childish and trusting as to render Desmond her slave upon the spot.

The path to the rose-garden leads away from Miss Priscilla, so they
avoid detection as they go.

But they are singularly silent and grave; when the garden is reached
they pass between the rows of growing blossoms mute, if rich in thought.
At last, when silence is becoming too eloquent to be borne, her
companion turns to her.

"It wasn't _true_ what you said to me that last day, was it?" he asks,
with far more anxiety than the occasion seems to demand. "Not _really_,
I mean. You said it for fun, perhaps--or----It has been with me ever
since. I can't forget it. You said you disliked sudden friendships, and
the way you said it made me think you disliked _me_. Tell me I thought
wrong."

"Quite wrong," in a low tone. She is plucking a rose to pieces, and
keeps her eyes downcast. "When I said that, I was angry about
something."

"About something I _said_?"

"No. Nothing you said."

"Something I did, then?" growing more and more anxious.

"Ye-es."

"What was it?"

"It doesn't matter now; not in the least now; and I can not tell you,
_indeed_."

"But I wish very much you would. Perhaps, being in wretched ignorance, I
shall be so unhappy as to do it again some day, and so make you hate me
a second time."

"I didn't _hate_ you."

"No? Yet there was a look in your eyes I wouldn't like to see there
again. Do tell me, lest I once more fall into error."

"Oh, no," coloring deeply, as though at some unpleasant recollection.
"That would be impossible. It could never happen again. I shall take
care of that. I shall never as long as I live get into a--that is--I
mean--I----Really I have forgiven it all now, so let us forget it too."

Though still greatly mystified, Mr. Desmond wisely forbears to press the
point, something in her pretty distressed face and heightened color
forbidding him.

"Very good," he says, pleasantly. "But there is another thing I have
not forgotten. Have you ever cleared up that mystery about my uncle and
your aunts?"

"Oh! _that_. It cannot be cleared, I am afraid it is too muddy a tale
for any help; but I have at least found out all about it."

"Would it be indiscreet if I said I would give anything to be as wise as
you on this subject? In other words, will you divulge the secret?"

"It is a story that doesn't redound to the honor and glory of _your_
house," says Miss Beresford, stepping back from him with a gay little
laugh, and glancing at him mischievously from under her big "Patience"
hat. "If I were you I should shrink from hearing it."

"I decline to shrink," with unparalleled bravery. "I prefer to rush upon
my fate. Life has no longer any flavor for me until I hear what the old
reprobate at Coole has done."

"Well, if you _will_ insist upon the sorry tale, 'tis this. Once there
lived a wicked knight, who wooed a maiden fair. But when that her heart
was all his own, his love grew cold, and, turning from her, he refused
to fulfil his plighted troth and lead her to the hymeneal altar. In
fact, he loved and he rode away, leaving her as dismally disconsolate as
the original maid forlorn."

"Alas for the golden age of chivalrie!" says Mr. Desmond.

"Alas, indeed! That wicked knight was your uncle; the maid forlorn my
mother!"

"You have been giving me a summary of a fairytale, haven't you?" asks
he, in an unbelieving tone.

"No, indeed; it is all quite true. From what I have heard, your uncle
must have treated my mother very badly. Now, aren't you thoroughly
ashamed of yourself and your family?"

"One swallow makes no summer," says Mr. Desmond, hardily. "Because my
uncle refused to succor a distressed damosel is no reason why I should
so far forget myself. Besides, the whole thing seems incredible. Report
says, and," with an expressive glance at her, "I can well believe it,
your mother was the most beautiful woman of her time in all the
countryside; while my uncle, bless him, is one of the very ugliest men I
ever met in my life. He might take a prize in that line. Just fancy the
Beast refusing to wed with Beauty!"

"To be ugly, so far as a _man_ is concerned, is nothing," says Monica
with a knowledge beyond her years. "Many singularly plain men have been
much beloved. Though"--with an unconscious study of her companion's
features, who is decidedly well favored--"I confess I should myself
prefer a man whose nose was straight, and whose eyes were--had no
inclination to look round the corner, I mean."

"A straight nose is to be preferred, of course," says Mr. Desmond,
absently stroking his own, which is all that can be desired. "But I
never since I was born heard such an extraordinary story as yours. I
give you my word,"--earnestly,--"my uncle is just the sort of man who,
if _any_ girl, no matter how hideous, were to walk up to him and say, 'I
consent to marry you,' ought to be devoutly grateful to her. Why,
talking of noses, you should just see his: it's--it's _anyhow_," with
growing excitement. "It's all up hill and down dale. I never before or
since saw such a nose; and I'd back his mouth to _beat that_!"

"He must be a very distinguished-looking person," says Miss Beresford,
demurely.

"I know very little about him, of course, having been always so much
abroad; but he _looks_ like a man who could be painfully faithful to an
attachment of that kind."

"He was not faithful to her, at all events. I daresay he fell in love
with some other girl about that time, and slighted my mother for her."

"Well," says Mr. Desmond, drawing a deep breath, "he _is_ 'a grand
man!'"

"I think he must be a very _horrid_ old man," replies Monica, severely.

"You have proofs of his iniquity, of course," says Brian, presently, who
evidently finds a difficulty in believing in his uncle's guilt.

"Yes. He wrote her a letter, stating in distinct terms that"--and here
she alters her voice until it is highly suggestive of Miss Blake's fine
contralto--"'he deemed it expedient for both parties that the present
engagement existing between them should be annulled.' Those are Aunt
Priscilla's words; what he really meant, I suppose, was that he was
tired of her."

"Your mother, I should imagine, was hardly a woman to be tired of
readily."

"That is a matter of opinion. We--that is, Terry and Kit and I--thought
her a very tiresome woman indeed," says Miss Beresford, calmly. She does
not look at him as she makes this startling speech, but looks beyond
him into, possibly, a past where the "tiresome woman" held a part.

Brian Desmond, gazing at her pale, pure, spiritual face, sustains a
faint shock, as the meaning of her words reaches him. Is she heartless,
emotionless? Could not even a mother's love touch her and wake her into
life and feeling?

"You weren't very fond of your mother, then?" he asks, gently. The bare
memory of his own mother is adored by him.

"Fond?" says Monica, as though the idea is a new one to her. "Fond? Yes,
I suppose so; but we were all much fonder of my father. Not that either
he or mamma took very much notice of us."

"Were they so much wrapt up in each other, then?"

"No, certainly not," quickly. Then with an amount of bitterness in her
tone that contrasts strangely with its usual softness, "I wonder why I
called my mother 'mamma' to you just now. I never dared do so to _her_.
Once when she was going away somewhere I threw my arms around her and
called her by that pet name; but she put me from her, and told me I was
not to make a noise like a sheep."

She seems more annoyed than distressed as she says this. Desmond is
silent. Perhaps his silence frightens her, because she turns to him with
a rather pale, nervous face.

"I suppose I should not say such things as these to you," she says,
unsteadily. "I forgot, it did not occur to me, that we are only
strangers."

"Say what you will to me," says Desmond, slowly, "and be sure of this,
that what you _do_ say will be heard by you and me alone."

"I believe you," she answers, with a little sigh.

"And, besides, we are not altogether strangers," he goes on, lightly;
"that day on the river is a link between us, isn't it?"

"Oh, yes, the river," she says, smiling.

"_Our_ river. I have brought myself to believe it is our joint property:
no one else seems to know anything about it."

"I have never been near it since," says Monica.

"I _know that_," returns he, meaningly.

"How?" is almost framed upon her lips; but a single glance at him
renders her dumb. Something in his expression suggests the possibility
that he has spent pretty nearly all his time since last they met, and
_certainly_ all his afternoons, upon that shady river just below the
pollard willows, in the vain hope of seeing her arrive.

She blushes deeply, and then, in spite of herself, laughs out loud, a
low but ringing laugh, full of music and mischief.

This most uncalled-for burst of merriment has the effect of making Mr.
Desmond preternaturally grave.

"May I ask what you are laughing at?" he says, with painful politeness;
whereupon Miss Beresford checks her mirth abruptly, and has the grace to
blush again even harder than before. Her confusion is, indeed, the
prettiest thing possible.

"I don't know," she says, in an evasive tone.

"People generally _do_ know what they are laughing at," contends he,
seriously.

"Well, _I_ don't," returns she, with great spirit.

"Of course not, if you _say_ so; but," with suppressed wrath, "I don't
myself think there is anything provocative of mirth in the thought of a
fellow wasting hour after hour upon a lonely stream in the insane but
honest hope of seeing somebody who _wouldn't_ come. Of course in your
eyes the fellow was a fool to do it; but--but if I were the girl I
wouldn't laugh at him for it."

Silence.

Monica's eyes are bent upon the ground; her face is averted; but there
is something about her attitude that compels Mr. Desmond to believe she
is sorry for her untimely laughter; and thinking this breeds hatred
towards himself for having caused this sorrow and makes him accuse
himself of basest ill temper.

"I beg your pardon!" he says, in a contrite tone; "I shouldn't have
spoken to you like that. I lost my temper most absurdly and must
apologize to you for it now. It was ridiculous of me to suppose you
would ever come again to the river; but one hopes against hope. Yet, as
Feltham tells us, 'he that hopes too much shall deceive himself at
last:' that was my fate, you see. And you never once thought of coming,
did you? You were quite right."

"No, I was quite wrong; but--but--_you_ are quite wrong too in _one_
way," still with her eyes downturned.

"By what right did I expect you? I was a presumptuous fool and got just
what I deserved."

"You were not a fool," exclaims she, quickly; and then, with a little
impulsive gesture, she draws herself up and looks him fair in the eyes.
"If I had known you were there," she says, bravely, though evidently
frightened at her own temerity, "I--I--am almost sure _I_ should have
been there too!"

"No! would you really?" says Desmond, eagerly.

Then follows a rather prolonged silence. Not an awkward one, but
certainly a silence fraught with danger to both. There is no greater
friend to Cupid than an unsought silence such as this. At last it is
broken.

"What lovely roses there are in this garden!" says Desmond, pointing to
a bush of glowing beauty near him.

"Are there not?" She has taken off a long white glove, so that one hand
and arm are bare. The hand is particularly small and finely shaped, the
nails on it are a picture in themselves; the arm is slight and childish,
but rounded and very fair.

Breaking a rose from the tree indicated, she examines it lovingly, and
then, lifting it to his face, as though desirous of sympathy, says,--

"Is it not sweet?"

"It is indeed!" He is staring at her. Very gently he takes the little
hand that holds the flower and keeps it in his own. He detains it so
lightly that she might withdraw it if she pleases, but she does not.
Perhaps she doesn't please, or perhaps she sees nothing remarkable in
his action. At all events, she, who is so prone to blush on all
occasions, does not change color now, but chatters to him gayly, in an
unconcerned manner, about the scented blossoms round her, and afterwards
about the people yonder, behind the tall flowering shrubs that surround
the tennis-ground.

And still her little slender fingers lie passively in his. Glancing at
them, he strokes them lightly with his other hand, and counts her rings.

"Four--five," he says; "quite a burden for such a little hand to carry."

"I like them," says Monica: "brooches and earrings and bracelets I don't
care for, but rings I love. I never really feel dressed until they are
on. To slip them on my fingers is the last thing I do every morning
before running downstairs. At least nearly the last."

"And what is the last?"

"I say my prayers," says Monica, smiling. "That is what every one does,
isn't it?"

"I don't know," says Mr. Desmond, not looking at her. It seems to him a
long, long time now since last he said _his_ prayers. And then he
suddenly decides within himself that he will say them to-morrow morning,
"the last thing before going downstairs;" he cannot have quite forgotten
_yet_.

He is examining her rings as he thinks all this, and now a little pale
turquoise thing attracts his notice.

"Who gave you that?" he asks, suddenly. It is to a jealous eye rather a
lovable little ring.

"Papa, when I was fourteen," says Monica. "It is very pretty, isn't it?
I have felt quite grown up ever since he gave me that."

"Monica," says Brian Desmond suddenly, tightening his hold on her hand,
"had you ever a lover before?"

"Before?"

"Yes," slowly, and as if determined to make his meaning clear, and yet,
too, with a certain surprise at his own question. "Had you?"

"Before?" as if bewildered, she repeats the word again. "Why, I never
had a lover _at all_!"

"Do not say that again," says Brian, moving a step nearer to her and
growing pale: "I am your lover now--and _forever_!"

"Oh! no, _no,_" says Monica, shrinking from him. "Do not say that."

"I won't, if you forbid me, but," quietly, "I am, and shall be, all the
same. I think my very soul--belongs to you."

A crunching of gravel, a sound of coming footsteps, the murmur of
approaching voices.

Monica, pallid as an early snowdrop, looks up to see her Aunt Priscilla
coming towards her, accompanied by a young man, a very tall and very
stout young man, with a rather drilled air.

"Ah! here is Aunt Priscilla," says Monica, breathlessly. "Who is that
with her?"

"Ryde, one of the marines stationed at Clonbree," says Mr. Desmond,
cursing the marine most honestly in his heart of hearts. Clonbree is a
small town about seven miles from Rossmoyne, where a company of marines
has been sent to quell the Land League disturbances.

Miss Priscilla is looking quite pleased with herself, and greets Monica
with a fond smile.

"I knew I should find you here," she says; "flowers have such a
fascination for you. You will let me introduce you to Mr. Ryde, dear
child!"

And then the introduction is gone through, and Monica says something
unworthy of note to this big young man, who is staring at her in a more
earnest manner than is strictly within the rules of etiquette. Somehow,
too, she presently discovers she has fallen into line with her new
friend, and is moving towards the lawn again with Aunt Priscilla
following in her train with _Mr. Desmond_.

Quaking inwardly, Monica at first cannot take her mind off the twain
behind her, and all the consequences that must ensue if Miss Priscilla
once discovers a Desmond is being addressed by her with common civility.

She is, therefore, but poor company for the tall marine, who seems,
however, quite satisfied with the portion allotted him and maunders on
inanely about the surroundings generally. When the weather and the
landscape have been exhausted, it must be confessed, however, that he
comes to a standstill.

Miss Priscilla, pleased with her day and the satisfactory knowledge that
every one has been raving about Monica, is making herself specially
agreeable to her companion, who, nothing loath, draws her out and grows
almost sycophantic in his attentions. She becomes genial with him, not
knowing who he is, while he becomes even more than genial with her,
knowing right well who she is. Indeed, so merrily does he make the time
fly that Miss Priscilla is fain to confess to herself that seldom has
she passed so pleasant a five minutes.

In the meantime, Monica, strolling on in front with Mr. Ryde, is feeling
both nervous and depressed. This chance meeting between her aunt and Mr.
Desmond, and the memory of all the strange exciting things the latter
has said to her, renders her mute and unequal to conversation, and her
present companion is not one likely to enchain her attention by any
brilliant flashes of intellect.

He is, in truth, a very ordinary young man, of the heavy, stupid type
too often met with to require either introduction or description. He had
arrived in Queenstown about a fortnight before, with nothing much to
guide his conduct in a strange country beyond the belief that Hibernia,
as he elects to call it, is like Africa, a "land benighted," fit only to
furnish food for jests. He has a fatal idea that he himself can supply
these jests at times, and that, in fact, there are moments when he can
be irresistibly funny over the Paddies: like many others devoid of
brain, and without the power to create wholesome converse, he mistakes
impertinence for wit, and of late has become rude at the expense of
Ireland whenever he found anybody kind enough, or (as in Monica's case
now) obliged, to listen to him.

Just now, there being a distinct and rather embarrassing pause, he says
amiably,--

"Awfully jolly gown you've got on!"

"So glad you like it!" says Monica, absently.

"Got it from town, I suppose?"

"From Dublin--yes."

"Oh! by Jove, you call Dublin town, do you?" says Mr. Ryde, with a heavy
laugh that suggests danger of choking, he being slightly plethoric by
nature.

"Yes: what do you call it?" says Monica, regarding him steadily. She has
hardly looked at him till now, and tells herself instantly that young
men with fat faces are not in _her_ line.

"Always thought it was a village, or something of that sort, you know,"
replies he, with a continuation of the suicidal merriment.

Monica stares, and her color rises, ever so little, but unmistakably.

"You ought to read something, papers and articles on Ireland, now and
then," she says, deep but suspicious pity for him in her tone.
"Considering what education costs nowadays, it is shameful the way yours
has been neglected. Your college, or wherever you were, ought to be
ashamed of itself. Why, I don't believe you know what a capital means."

"A capital?--in writing, do you mean?" asks he, puzzled.

"N--o; I wasn't thinking of that. You can write, I suppose," with
malicious hesitation that betrays doubt. "I was speaking of the capitals
of Europe. Dublin is one of them."

Unable to grasp the fact that she is mildly snubbing him, Mr. Ryde
smiles gayly, and says, "Oh, really?" with an amused air that incenses
her still more highly. "Was there ever," she asks herself, angrily, "so
hateful a man, or so long a gravel walk!"

Having racked his brain to find something further wherewith to beguile
the monotony of the way, and finding it barren, Mr. Ryde falls back upon
the original subject.

"I like a white gown on a woman better than any," he says. "And so they
really _can_ make gowns in Ireland? I've been awfully disappointed, do
you know?--reg'lar sold. I came over here in the full hope of seeing
everybody going about in goatskins and with beads round their
necks--and--er--that."

"And why are you disappointed?" asks Monica, mildly, with a provoking
want of appreciation of this brilliant sally. "Are you fond of goatskins
and beads? Do _you_ wear them when 'your foot is on your native heath'?"

"Eh?--Oh, you don't understand," says this dense young man, fatally
bent on explanation. "I meant to imply that the general belief with us
over there"--pointing to the horizon, which would have led him to
America rather than to England--"is that everybody here is half
savage--d'ye see--eh?"

"Oh, yes, it's quite plain," says Miss Beresford, her eyes immovably
fixed on the horizon. "'Over _there_' must be a most enlightened spot."

"So of course I thought the goatskins, etc., would be the order of the
day," goes on Mr. Ryde, with another chuckle.

"You do think sometimes, then?" says Monica, innocently.

"I have been thinking of _you_ ever since I first saw you this
afternoon," returns he, promptly, if unwisely.

There is an almost imperceptible pause, and then--

"Don't trouble yourself to do that again," says Monica _very_ sweetly,
but with a telltale flash in her blue eyes; "I am sure it must fatigue
you dreadfully. Remember what a warm day it is. Another thing: don't for
the future, please, say rude things about Ireland, because I don't like
that _either_."

The "_either_" is the cruellest cut of all: it distinctly forbids him
even to think of her.

"I am afraid I have been unlucky enough to offend you," says young Mars,
stiffly, awaking at last to a sense of the situation, and glancing down
uneasily at the demure little figure marching beside him with her pretty
head erect. "I didn't mean it, I assure you. What I said was said in
fun."

"Are you always like that when you are funny?" asks she, looking
straight before her. "Then I think, if I were you, I wouldn't do it."

Then she is a little ashamed of her severity, and, changing her tone,
makes herself so charming to him that he quite recovers his spirits
before they come up with all the others on the lawn.

Yet perhaps her smiles have wrought him more harm than her frowns.

Madam O'Connor, going up to Miss Priscilla, engages her in some
discussion, so that presently Monica finds Brian beside her again.

"You will let me see you again soon," he says, in a low tone, seeing
Ryde is talking to Miss Fitzgerald.

"But how can I?"

"You can if you will. Meet me somewhere, as I may not call; bring your
brother, your sister, _any one_, with you; only meet me."

"If I did that, how could I look at Aunt Priscilla afterwards?" says
Monica, growing greatly distressed. "It would be shameful; I should feel
like a traitor. I feel like it already."

"Then do nothing. Take a passive part, if you will, and leave all to
me," says Desmond, with a sudden determination in his eyes. "I would not
have you vexed or made unhappy in any way. But that I shall see you
again--and _soon_--be sure."

"But----"

"I will listen to no 'buts:' it is too late for them. Though all the
world, though even you yourself, should forbid me your presence, I
should still contrive to meet you."

Here somebody addresses him, and he is obliged to turn and smile, and
put off his face the touch of earnest passion that has just illumined
it; while Monica stands silent, spellbound, trying to understand it all.

"Is it thus that all my countrymen make love?" she asks herself,
bewildered. At the very second meeting (she always, even to herself,
ignores that ignominious first) to declare in this masterful manner that
he _must_ and _will_ see her again!

It is rapid, rather violent wooing; but I do not think the girl
altogether dislikes it. She is a little frightened, perhaps, and
uncertain, but there is a sense of power about him that fascinates her
and tells her vaguely that faith and trust in him will never be
misplaced. She feels strangely nervous, yet she lifts her eyes to his,
and gazes at him long and bravely, and then the very faintest glimmer of
a smile, that is surely full of friendliness and confidence, if nothing
more, lights up her eyes and plays around her pensive mouth. A moment,
and the smile has vanished, but the remembrance of it lives with him
forever.

Yes, the wooing is rapid, and she is not won; but "she likes me," thinks
Desmond, with a touch of rapture he has never known before. "Certainly,
she _likes_ me; and--there are always time and hope."

"My dear Monica, it grows late," says Miss Priscilla at this moment.
"Say good-by to Madame O'Connor, and let us go."

"Oh, not a bit of it, now," says Madam O'Connor, hospitably in her rich,
broad brogue, inherited in all its purity, no doubt, from her kingly
ancestor. "You mustn't take her away yet: sure the day is young. Mr.
Ryde, why don't you get Miss Beresford to play a game with you? In my
time, a young fellow like you wouldn't wait to be told to make himself
agreeable to a pretty girl. There, go now, do! Have you brought your own
racket with you?"

"I left it at home," says Mr. Ryde. "Fact is," affectedly, "I didn't
think tennis was known over here. Didn't fancy you had a court in the
land."

This speech fires the blood of the O'Toole's last descendant.

Madam O'Connor uprears a haughty crest, and fixes the luckless
lieutenant with an eagle eye, beneath which he quails.

"There is no doubt we lack much," she says, taking his measure with
lofty scorn; "but we have at least our _manners_."

With this she turns her back upon him, and commences a most affable
discussion with Miss Penelope, leaving her victim speechless with
fright.

"Have a brandy-and-soda, Ryde?" says Mr. Kelly, who is always
everywhere, regarding the wretched marine through his eyeglass with a
gaze of ineffable sadness. "Nothing like it, after an engagement of this
sort."

"I thought Ireland was the land for jokes," says the injured Ryde,
indignantly,--"stock in trade sort of thing over here; and yet when I
give 'em one of mine they turn upon me as if I was the worst in the
world. I don't believe any one understands 'em over here."

"You see, your jokes are too fine for us," says Mr. Kelly, mournfully.
"We miss the point of them."

"You are all the most uncomfortable people I ever met," says the
wrathful marine.

"We are, we are," acquiesces Kelly. "We are really a very stupid people.
Anything, delicate or refined is lost upon us, or is met in an
unfriendly spirit. I give you my word, I have known a fellow's head
smashed for less than half what you said to Madam O'Connor just now.
Prejudice runs high in this land. You have, perhaps," in a friendly
tone, "heard of a shillelagh?"

"No, I haven't," sulkily.

"No? _really_? It is quite an institution here. It's a sort of a big
stick, a very unpleasant stick, and is used freely upon the smallest
difference of opinion. You'll meet them round every corner when you get
more used to us: you'd like to see them, wouldn't you?"

"No, I shouldn't," still more sulkily.

"Oh, but you ought, you know. If you are going to live for any time in
the country, you should study its institutions. The best way to see
_this_ one is to make cutting remarks about Ireland in a loud voice when
two or three of the peasants are near you. They don't like cutting
remarks, they are so stupid, and jokes such as yours annoy them
fearfully. Still, you mustn't mind that; you must smother your natural
kindliness of disposition and annoy them, if you want to see the
shillelagh."

"I said nothing to annoy Mrs. O'Connor, at any rate," says Mr. Ryde.
"She needn't have taken a simple word or two like that."

"You see, we are all so terribly thin-skinned," says Mr. Kelly,
regretfully, "I quite blush for my country-people. Of course there are
noble exceptions to every rule. I am the noble exception here. I don't
feel in the least annoyed with you. Now do try some brandy, my dear
fellow: it will do you all the good in the world."

"I don't know this moment whether _you_ are laughing at me or not," says
the marine, eying him doubtfully.

"I _never_ laugh," says Mr. Kelly, reproachfully. "I thought _even you_
could see that. Well, will you have that B. and S.?"

But Mars is huffed, and declines to accept consolation in any shape. He
strolls away with an injured air to where his brother officer, Captain
Cobbett, is standing near the hall door, and pours his griefs into his
ears. Captain Cobbett being a very spare little man, with a half starved
appearance and a dismal expression, it is doubtful whether poor Ryde
receives from him the amount of sympathy required.

"Well," says Madam O'Connor, turning round as she sees him disappear,
and addressing the three or four people round her generally, "'pon me
conscience, that's the silliest young man I ever met in my life!" When
disturbed, elated, or distressed, Madam O'Connor always says, "'Pon me
conscience!"

"Don't be hard upon him," says Mr. Kelly, kindly. "Though very mad, he
is _quite_ harmless!"

"He plays tennis very well," says Miss Fitzgerald, the tall girl. "So
nice, isn't it? to have these ancient games reproduced!" This with the
learned air of one who could say more if she would.

"_Ancient?_" says Madam O'Connor. "Faith, I thought it was a game of
yesterday."

"Oh, dear, no!" says the erudite Bella, with a lenient smile. "Tennis
was first brought from France to England in the reign of Charles the
Second."

"There now, Miss Beresford, don't forget that," says Madam O'Connor,
turning to Monica with an amused smile: "it is essential you should
remember it, as it is part of one's education." After which she moves
away towards some other guests, having said all she has to say to those
near her.

"May I see you to your carriage, Miss Blake?" says Desmond, finding she
and Miss Penelope are bent on going; and Aunt Priscilla, who has taken
quite a fancy to this strange young man, gives her gracious permission
that he shall accompany them to the fossilized chariot awaiting them.

"Who is he, my dear Priscilla?" asks Miss Penelope, in a stage whisper,
as they go.

"Don't know, my dear, but a vastly agreeable young man, very superior to
those of his own age of the present day. He is marvellously polite, and
has, I think, quite a superior air."

"Quite," says Penelope, "and a very sweet expression besides,--so open,
so ingenuous. I wish _all_ were like him." This with a sigh, Terence
having proved himself open to suspicion with regard to plain dealing
during the past few days.

Now, it so happens that at this instant they turn a corner leading from
the shrubbery walk on to the gravel sweep before the hall door; as they
turn this corner, so does some one else, only _he_ is coming from the
gravel sweep to the walk, so that consequently he is face to face with
the Misses Blake without any hope of retreat.

The walk is narrow at the entrance to it, and as the newcomer essays to
pass hurriedly by Miss Priscilla he finds himself fatally entangled with
her, she having gone to the right as he went to the left, and afterwards
having gone to the left as he went to the right, and so on.

Finally a passage is cleared, and the stranger--who is an amazingly ugly
old man, with a rather benign though choleric countenance--speeds past
the Misses Blake like a flash of lightning, and with a haste creditable
to his years, but suggestive rather of fear than elasticity.

"My uncle?" says Brian Desmond, in an awestruck tone, to Monica, who
literally goes down before the terrible annunciation, and trembles
visibly.

It is a rencontre fraught with mortal horror to the Misses Blake. For
years they have not so much as looked upon their enemy's face, and now
their skirts have actually brushed him as he passed.

"Come, come quickly, Monica," says Miss Penelope, on this occasion being
the one to take the initiative. "Do not linger, child. Do you not see?
It was _our enemy_ that passed by."

If she had said "it was the arch fiend," her voice could not have been
more tragic.

"I am coming, Aunt Penny," says Monica, nervously.

Now, it is at this inauspicious moment that Mr. Kelly (who, as I have
said before, is always everywhere) chooses to rush up to Brian Desmond
and address him in a loud tone.

"My dear boy, you are not going yet, are you?" he says reproachfully. "I
say, Desmond, you can't, you know, because Miss Fitzgerald says you
promised to play in the next match with her."

The fatal name had been uttered clearly and distinctly. As though
petrified the two old ladies, stand quite still and stare at Brian; then
Miss Priscilla, with a stately movement, gets between him and Monica,
and, in tones that tremble perceptibly, says to him,--

"I thank you for the courtesy already received sir; but we will no
longer trouble you for your escort: we prefer to seek our carriage
_alone_."

She sweeps him a terribly stiff little salute, and sails off, still
trembling and very pale, Miss Penelope, scarcely less pale, following in
her wake.

Desmond has barely time to grasp Monica's hand, and whisper, "Remember,"
in as mysterious a tone as the hapless Stuart, when she too is swept
away, and carried from his sight.

Not until the gates of Aghyohillbeg are well behind them do the Misses
Blake sufficiently recover themselves for speech. Terence, who has been
a silent witness of the whole transaction, creating a diversion by
making some remark about the day generally, breaks the spell that binds
them. His remark is passed over in silence, but still the spell is
broken.

"Whoever introduced you to that young man," begins Miss Priscilla,
solemnly, "did a wrong thing. Let us hope it was done in ignorance."

At this Monica shivers inwardly and turns cold, as she remembers that no
introduction has ever been gone through between her and "that young
man." What if her Aunt Priscilla persists, and asks the name of the
offending medium? Fortunately, Miss Blake loses sight of this idea,
being so much engrossed with a greater.

"For the future you must forget you ever spoke to this Mr. Desmond," she
says, her face very stern. "Happily he is an utter stranger to you, so
there will be no difficulty about it. You will remember this, Monica?"

"Yes, I will remember," says the girl, slowly, and with a visible
effort.

Then Moyne is reached in solemn silence so far as the Misses Blake are
concerned; in solemn silence, too, the two old ladies mount the oaken
staircase that leads to their rooms. Outside, on the corridor, they
pause and contemplate each other for a moment earnestly.

"He--he is very good-looking," says Miss Penelope at last, as though
compelled to make the admission even against her will.

"He is abominably handsome," says Miss Priscilla fiercely: after which
she darts into her room and closes the door with a subdued bang behind
her.



CHAPTER VIII.

  How Brian, having instituted inquiries, condemns his Uncle
  secretly--How Terry throws light upon a dark subject, and how, for
  the third time, Love "finds out his way."


It is the evening of the next day, and dinner at Coole has just come to
an end. Mr. Kelly, who has been Brian's guest for the last fortnight,
and who is to remain as long as suits him or as long after the
grouse-shooting in August as he wills, has taken himself into the garden
to smoke a cigar. This he does at a hint from Brian.

Now, finding himself alone with his uncle, Brian says, in the casual
tone of one making an indifferent remark,--

"By the bye, I can see you are not on good terms with those old ladies
at Moyne."

As he speaks he helps himself leisurely to some strawberries, and so
refrains from looking at his uncle.

"No," says The Desmond, shortly.

"Some old quarrel I have been given to understand."

"I should prefer not speaking about it," says the squire.

"Twinges of conscience even at this remote period," thinks Brian, and is
rather tickled at the idea, as he lifts his head to regard his uncle in
a new light,--that is, as a regular Don Juan.

"Well, of course, I dare say I should not have mentioned the subject,"
he says, apologetically; "but I had no idea it was a sore point. It was
not so much bad taste on my part as ignorance. I beg your pardon!"

"It was a very unhappy affair altogether," says Don Juan.

"Very unfortunate indeed, from what I have heard."

"_More_ than unfortunate!--right down disgraceful!" says the squire,
with such unlooked-for energy as raises astonishment in the breast of
his nephew. ("By Jove, one would think the old chap had only now
awakened to a sense of his misconduct," he thinks, irreverently.)

"Oh, well," he says, leniently, "hardly _that_, you know."

"_Quite_ that," emphatically.

"It has been often done before: yours is not a solitary case."

"Solitary or not, there were elements about it inexcusable," says the
old squire, beating his hand upon the table as though to emphasize his
words.

"I wouldn't take it so much to heart if I were you," says Brian, who is
really beginning to pity him.

"It has lain on my heart for twenty years. I can't take it off now,"
says the squire.

"You have evidently suffered," returns Brian, who is getting more and
more amazed at the volcano he has roused. "Of course I can quite
understand that if you were once more to find yourself in similar
circumstances you would act very differently."

"I should indeed!--_very_ differently. A man seldom makes a fool of
himself twice in a lifetime."

("He's regretting her now," thinks Brian.)

But out loud he says,--

"You didn't show much wisdom, I daresay."

"No, none; and as for _her_,--to fling away such a love as that----"
Here he pauses, and looks dreamily at the silver tankard before him.

This last speech rather annoys Brian; to gloat over the remembrance of a
love that had been callously cast aside to suit the exigences of the
moment, seems to the younger man a caddish sort of thing not to be
endured.

("Though what the mischief any pretty girl of nineteen could have seen
in _him_," he muses, gazing with ill-concealed amazement at his uncle's
ugly countenance, "is more than I can fathom.")

"Perhaps it wasn't so deep a love as _you_ imagine," he cannot refrain
from saying _a propos_ to his uncle's last remark, with a view to taking
him down a peg.

"It was, sir," says the Squire, sternly. "It was the love of a lifetime.
People may doubt as they will, but I know _no_ love has superseded it."

"Oh, he is in his dotage!" thinks Brian, disgustedly; and, rising from
the table, he makes a few more trivial remarks, and then walks from the
dining-room on to the balcony and so to the garden beneath.

Finding his friend Kelly in an ivied bower, lost in a cigar, and
possibly, though improbably, in improving meditation, he is careful not
to disturb him, but, making a successful detour, escapes his notice, and
turns his face towards that part of Coole that is connected with Moyne
by means of the river.

       *       *       *       *       *

At Moyne, too, dinner has come to an end, and, tempted by the beauty of
the quiet evening, the two old ladies and the children have strolled
into the twilit garden.

There is a strange and sweet hush in the air--a stillness full of
life--but slumberous life. The music of streams can be heard, and a
distant murmur from the ocean; but the birds have got their heads
beneath their wings, and the rising night-wind wooes them all in vain.

Shadows numberless are lying in misty corners; the daylight lingers yet,
as though loath to quit us and sink into eternal night. It is an eve of
"holiest mood," full of tranquillity and absolute calm.

    "It is that hour of quiet ecstasy,
      When every rustling wind that passes by
      The sleeping leaf makes busiest minstrelsy."

"You are silent, Priscilla," says Miss Penelope, glancing at her.

"I am thinking. Such an eve as this always recalls Katherine; and
yesterday _that meeting_,--all has helped to bring the past most vividly
before me."

"Ah, dear, yes," says Miss Penelope, regarding her with a furtive but
tender glance. "How must _he_ have felt, when he thought what grief he
brought to her young life!"

"You are talking of mother?" asks Kit, suddenly, letting her large dark
eyes rest on Miss Penelope's face, as though searching for latent
madness there.

"Yes, my dear, of course."

"He would not have dared so to treat her had her father been alive or
had we been blessed with a brother," says Miss Priscilla, sternly. "He
proved himself a dastard and a coward."

"Perhaps there was some mistake," says Monica, timidly, plucking a pale
blossom and pretending to admire it.

"No, no. We believe he contracted an affection for some other girl, and
for her sake jilted your mother. If so, retribution fit and proper
followed on his perfidy, because he brought no wife later on to grace
his home. Doubtless he was betrayed in his turn. That was only just."

"There seems to be reason in that conjecture," says Miss Penelope,
"because he went abroad almost immediately. I saw him shortly before he
left the country, and he was then quite a broken-down man. He must have
taken his _own_ misfortune greatly to heart."

"Served him right!" says Miss Priscilla, uncompromisingly. "He deserved
no greater luck. Your mother suffered so much at his hands that she
almost lost her health. I don't believe she ever got over it."

"Oh, yes, she did," says Terry, suddenly; "she got over it uncommonly
well. We didn't know who Mr. Desmond was then, of course; but I know she
used to make quite a joke of him."

"A joke!" says Miss Priscilla, in an awful tone.

"Yes, regular fun, you know," goes on Terence, undaunted. "One day she
was telling father some old story about Mr. Desmond, a 'good thing'
_she_ called it, and she was laughing heartily; but he wasn't, and when
she had finished, I remember, he said something to her about want of
'delicacy of feeling,' or something like that."

"I was there," says Kit, in her high treble. "He said, too, she ought to
be ashamed of herself."

"Oh, that was nothing," says Mr. Beresford, airily. "Father and mother
never agreed for a moment; they were always squabbling from the time
they got up till they went to bed again."

The Misses Blake have turned quite pale.

"Terence how can you speak so of your sainted mother?" says Miss
Penelope. "I'm sure, from her letters to us, she was a most _devoted_
mother and wife, and, indeed, sacrificed her every wish and pleasure to
yours."

"I never knew it cost her so much to _keep away_ from us," says Terence.
"If she was dying for our society, she must indeed have sacrificed
herself, because she made it the business of her life to avoid us from
morn to dewy eve."

"Doubtless she had her duties," says Miss Penelope, in a voice of
suppressed fear. What is she going to hear next? what are these dreadful
children going to say?

"Perhaps she had," said Terence. "If so, they didn't agree with her, as
she was always in a bad temper. She used to give it to papa right and
left, until he didn't dare to call his soul his own. When I marry, I
shall take very good care my wife doesn't lead me the life my mother led
my father."

"_Your_ wife! who'd marry _you_?" says Kit, scornfully, which interlude
gives the discussion a rest for a little time. But soon they return to
the charge.

"Your mother when here had an angelic temper," says Miss Penelope. Miss
Priscilla all this time seems incapable of speech.

"Well, she hadn't when _there_," says Terence; and then he says a
dreadful thing, as vulgar as it is dreadful, that fills his aunt's heart
with dismay. "She and my father fought like cat and dog," he says; and
the Misses Blake feel their cup is indeed full.

"And she never would take Monica anywhere," says Kit; "so selfish!"

It is growing _too_ terrible. Is their idol to be shattered thus before
their eyes?

"Monica, was your mother _unkind_ to you?" says Miss Penelope, in a
voice full of anguish. After all these years, is the Katherine of their
affections to be dragged in the dust?

Monica hesitates. She can see the grief in her aunt's face, and cannot
bear to add to it. The truth is that the late Mrs. Beresford had _not_
been beloved by her children, for reasons which it will be possible to
conceive, but which would be tiresome to enumerate here. Perhaps there
seldom had been a more careless or disagreeable mother.

So Monica pauses, flushes, glances nervously from right to left, and
then back again, and finally rests her loving, regretful eyes full upon
Miss Penelope's agitated face.

Something she sees there decides her. Sinking to her knees, she flings
her arms around the old lady's neck, and lays her cheek to hers.

"I will say nothing, but that I am happy _here_," she says, in a low
whisper.

Miss Penelope's arms close round her. The worst has come to her; yet
there is solace in this clinging embrace, and in the dewy lips that
seek hers. If she has lost one idol, who can say she has not gained
another, and perhaps a worthier one?

Yet beyond doubt the two old ladies have sustained a severe shock: they
hold down their heads, and for a long time avoid each other's eyes, as
though fearing what may there be seen.

"Let us walk round the garden, Aunt Priscilla," says Monica, feeling
very sorry for them. "The evening is lovely, and the roses so sweet."

"Come then," says Miss Priscilla, who is perhaps glad to escape from her
own thoughts. And so they all wander to and fro in the pretty garden,
bending over this flower and lingering over that in a soft, idle sort of
enjoyment that belongs alone to the country.

Terence had disappeared, but, as he is not great on flowers, his
presence is not indispensable, and no one takes any notice of his
defection.

Presently they come upon the old gardener, who is also the old coachman,
upon his bended knees beside a bed. The whole garden is scrupulously
raked and scrupulously weeded till not a fault can be found. But Miss
Priscilla is one of those who deem it necessary always to keep a servant
up to his trumps.

Stooping over the bed, therefore, she carefully adjusts her glasses upon
her nose, and proceeds to examine with much minuteness the earth beneath
her. A tiny green leaf attracts her notice.

"Corney, is that a _weed_?" she asks, severely. "I certainly remember
sowing some seeds in this place; but _that_ has a weedy look."

"It's seeds, miss," says Corney, "Ye'd know it by the curl of it."

"I hope so, I _hope_ so," says Miss Priscilla, doubtfully, "but there's
a common cast about it. It reminds me of groundsel. Corney, whatever you
do, don't grow careless."

"Faix, I'm too ould a hand for that, miss," says Corney. "But, to tell
the truth, I think myself, now, not to desaive ye, that the leaf ye
mentioned is uncommon like the groundsel. You ought to be proud of yer
eyes, Miss Priscilla; they're as clear as they were twinty years ago."

Greatly mollified by this compliment, Miss Priscilla declines to scold
any more, and, the groundsel forgotten, moves onward to a smooth piece
of sward on which a cartload of large white stones from the seashore has
been ruthlessly thrown.

"What is this?" she says, indignantly, eying the stones with much
disfavor. "Corney, come here! Who flung those stones down on my green
grass?"

"The rector, miss. He sent his man wid a load of 'em, and 'tis there
they left 'em."

"A most unwarrantable proceeding!" says Miss Priscilla, who is in her
managing mood. "What did Mr. Warren mean by that?"

"Don't you think it was kind of him to draw them for our rookery, my
dear Priscilla?" says Miss Penelope, suggestively.

"No, I don't," says Miss Priscilla. "To bring cartloads of nasty large
stones and fling them down upon my velvet grass on which I pride myself
(though _you_ may think nothing of it, Penelope) is _not_ kind. I must
say it was anything but nice,--anything but gentlemanly."

"My dear, he is quite a gentleman, and a very good man."

"That may be. I suppose I am not so uncharitable as to be rebuked for
every little word; but to go about the country destroying people's good
grass, for which I paid a shilling a pound, is _not_ gentlemanly.
Katherine, what are you laughing at?"

"At the stones," says Kit.

"There is nothing to laugh at in a stone. Don't be silly, Katherine. I
wonder, Monica, you don't make it the business of your life to instil
some sense into that child. The idea of standing still to laugh at a
_stone_."

"Better do that than stand still to _cry_ at it," says the younger Miss
Beresford, rebelliously. Providentially, the remark is unheard; and
Monica, scenting battle in the breeze, says, hastily,--

"Do you remember the roses at Aghyohillbeg, auntie? Well, I don't think
any of them were as fine as this," pointing to a magnificent blossom
near her. It is the truth, and it pleases Miss Priscilla mightily, she
having a passion for her roses. And so peace is once more restored.

"It grows chilly," says Miss Penelope, presently.

"Yes; let us all go in," says Miss Priscilla.

"Oh, not yet, auntie; it is quite lovely yet," says Monica, earnestly.
She cannot go in yet, not _yet_; the evening is still young, and--and
she would like _so_ much to go down to the river, if only for a moment.
All this she says guiltily to herself.

"Well we old women will go in at least," says Miss Penelope. "You two
children can coquet with the dew for a little while; but don't stay too
long, or sore throats will be the result."

"Yes, yes," says Miss Priscilla, following her sister. As she passes
Monica, she looks anxiously at the girl's little slight fragile figure
and her slender throat and half-bared arms.

"That dress is thin. Do not stay out too long. Take care of yourself, my
darling." She kisses her pretty niece, and then hurries on, as though
ashamed of this show of affection.

A little troubled by the caress, Monica moves mechanically down the path
that leads towards the meadows and the river, followed by Kit. By this
time the latter is in full possession of all that happened
yesterday,--at least so much of it as relates to Monica's acquaintance
with Mr. Desmond (minus the tender passages), his uncle's encounter with
her aunts, and Brian's subsequent dismissal. Indeed, so much has
transpired in the telling of all this that Kit, who is a shrewd child,
has come to the just conclusion that the young Mr. Desmond is in love
with her Monica!

Strange to say, she is not annoyed at his presumption, but rather
pleased at it,--he being the first live lover she has ever come in
contact with, and therefore interesting in no small degree.

Now, as she follows her sister down the flowery pathway, her mind is
full of romance, pure and sweet and great with chivalry, as a child's
would be. But Monica is sad and taciturn. Her mind misgives her,
conscience pricks her, her soul is disquieted within her.

What was it she had promised Aunt Priscilla yesterday? Aunt Priscilla
had said, "For the future you will remember this?" and she had answered,
"Yes."

But how can she forget? It was a foolish promise, for who has got a
memory under control?

Of course, Aunt Priscilla had meant her to understand that she was never
to speak to Mr. Desmond again, and she had given her promise in the
spirit. And of course she would be obedient; she would at least so far
obey that she would not be the first to speak to him, nor would she seek
him--nor----But why, then, is she going to the river? Is it because the
evening is so fine, or is there no lurking hope of----

And, after all, what certainty is there that--that--any one will be at
the river at this hour? And even if they should be, why need she speak
to him? she can be silent; but if he speaks to her, what then? Can she
refuse to answer?

Her mind is as a boat upon a troubled sea, tossed here and there; but
by and by the wind goes down, and the staunch boat is righted, and turns
its bow toward home.

"Kit, do not let us go to the river to-night," she says, turning to face
her sister in the narrow path.

"But why? It is so warm and light, and such a little way!"

"You have been often there. Let us turn down this side of the meadow,
and see where it will lead to."

That it leads directly away from Coole there cannot be the least doubt;
and the little martyr treading the ground she would not, feels with an
additional pang of disappointment that the fulfilment of her duty does
not carry with it the thrill of rapture that ought to suffuse her soul.
No, not the faintest touch of satisfaction at her own heroism comes to
lighten the bitter regret she is enduring as she turns her back
deliberately on the river and its chances. She feels only sorrow, and
the fear that _some one_ will think her hard-hearted, and she could cry
a little, but for Kit and shame's sake.

"Monica, who is that?" exclaims Kit, suddenly, staring over the high
bank, beside which they are walking, into the field beyond. Following
her glance, Monica sees a crouching figure on the other side of this
bank, but lower down, stealing cautiously, noiselessly, towards them, as
though bent on secret murder. A second glance betrays the fact that it
is Terence, with--yes, most positively with a _gun_!

"Where on earth did he get it?" says Kit; and, unable to contain her
curiosity any longer, she scrambles up the bank, and calls out, "Terry,
here we are! Come here! Where did you get it?" at the top of her fresh
young lungs.

As she does so, a little gray object, hitherto unseen by her, springs
from among some green stuffs, and, scudding across the field into the
woods of Coole beyond, is in a moment lost to view.

"Oh, _bother_!" cries Terry, literally dancing with rage; "I wouldn't
_doubt_ you to make that row just when I was going to fire. I wish to
goodness you girls would stay at home, and not come interfering with a
fellow's sport. You are always turning up at the wrong moment, and just
when you're not wanted!--indeed you _ever are_!"

These elegant and complimentary remarks he hurls at their heads, as
though with the wish to annihilate them. But they haven't the faintest
effect: the Misses Beresford are too well accustomed to his eloquence to
be dismayed by it. They treat it, indeed, as a matter of course, and so
continue their inquiries uncrushed.

"Terry, where _did_ you get this gun?" asks Monica, as breathless with
surprise as Kit. "Is it"--fearfully--"_loaded_? Oh! don't!--don't point
it this way! It will surely go off and kill somebody."

Here she misses her footing and slips off the high bank, disappearing
entirely from view, only to reappear again presently, flushed but
uninjured.

"What a lovely gun!" says Kit, admiringly.

"Isn't it?" says Terence, forgetting his bad temper in his anxiety to
exhibit his treasure. "It's a breech-loader, too; none of your
old-fashioned things, mind you, but a reg'lar good one. I'll tell you
who lent it to me, if you'll promise not to peach."

"We won't," says Kit, who is burning with curiosity.

"Guess, then."

"Bob Warren?" says Monica. Bob Warren is the rector's son, and is much
at Moyne.

"Not likely! Pegs above _him_. Well, I'll tell you. It's that fellow
that's spoons on you,"--with all a brother's perspicacity,--"the fellow
who saw us on the hay-cart,"--Monica writhes inwardly,--"Desmond, you
know!"

"The enemy's nephew?" asks Kit, in a thrilling tone, that bespeaks
delight and a malicious expectation of breakers ahead.

"Yes. I was talking to him yesterday, early in the day, at Madam
O'Connor's; and he asked me was I your brother, Monica, to which I
pleaded guilty, though," with a grin, "I'd have got out of it if I
could; and then he began to talk about shooting, and said I might knock
over any rabbits I liked in Coole. I told him I had no gun, so he
offered to lend me one. I thought it was awfully jolly of him,
considering I was an utter stranger, and that; but he looks a real good
sort. He sent over the gun this morning by a boy, and I have had it
hidden in the stable until now. I thought I'd never get out of that
beastly garden this evening."

"Oh, Terence, you shouldn't have taken the gun from him," says Monica,
flushing. "Just think what Aunt Priscilla would say if she heard of it.
You know how determined she is that we shall have no intercourse with
the Desmonds."

"Stuff and nonsense!" says Mr. Beresford. "I never heard such a row as
they are forever making about simply _nothing_. Why, it's quite a
common thing to jilt a girl, nowadays. I'd do it myself in a minute."

"You won't have time," says Kit, contemptuously. "She--whoever she may
be--will be sure to jilt _you_ first."

"Look here," says Terence, eyeing his younger sister with much disfavor;
"you're getting so precious sharp, you know, that I should think
there'll be a conflagration on the Liffey before long; and I should
think, too, that an outraged nation would be sure to fling the cause of
it into the flames. So take care."

"Terence, you ought to send that gun back _at once_," says Monica.

"Perhaps I ought, but certainly I shan't," says Terence, genially. "And
if I were you," politely, "I wouldn't make an ass of myself. There is
quite enough of that sort of thing going on up there," indicating, by a
wave of his hand, the drawing-room at Moyne, where the Misses Blake are
at present dozing.

"You shouldn't speak of them like that," says Monica; "it is very
ungrateful of you, when you know how kind they are, and how fond of
you."

"Well, I'm fond of them, too," says Terence, remorsefully but gloomily;
"and I'd be even fonder if they would only leave me alone. But they keep
such a look-out on a fellow that sometimes I feel like cutting the whole
thing and making a clean bolt of it."

"If you ran away you would soon be wishing yourself back again," says
Monica, scornfully. "You know you will have no money until you are
twenty-one. People pretend to be discontented, at times, with their
lives; but in the long run they generally acknowledge 'there is no place
like home.'"

"No, thank goodness, there isn't," says Terence, with moody fervor.
"I'll acknowledge it at once, without the run. To have frequent
repetitions of it would be more than human nature could endure. I have
known two homes already; I should think a third would be my death."

So saying, he shoulders the forbidden gun and marches off.

Monica and Kit, getting down from their elevated position, also pursue
their path, which leads in a contrary direction.

"Monica," says Kit, presently, slipping her slender brown fingers
through her sister's arm, "what did Terry mean just now, when he spoke
about some one being 'spoons' on you? Does that mean being in love with
you?"

No answer.

"Is Mr. Desmond, then, in love with you?"

No answer.

"_Is_ he?"

"Oh, Kit, how can I answer such a question as that?"

"In words, I suppose. _Is_ he in love with you?"

"I don't know," says Monica, in a troubled tone. "If I ever had a lover
before, I should _know_; but----"

"That means he is," says the astute Kit. "And I'm sure," with a little
loving squeeze of her arm, "I don't wonder at it."

"You must not say that," says Monica, earnestly. "Indeed, he said a few
_things_ to me, but that is nothing; and----"

"You think he _likes_ you?"

"Yes," reluctantly.

"I believe he adores the very ground you walk on."

"Oh, no, indeed."

"If you say that, he _isn't_ a real lover. A real one, to my mind, ought
to be ready and willing to kiss the impressions your heels may make in
the earth."

"That would be the act of a fool; and Mr. Desmond is not a fool."

"Ergo, not a lover. And yet I think he is _yours_. Monica," coaxingly,
"did he say any pretty things to you?"

"What should he say? I only met him twice."

"You are prevaricating," gazing at her severely. "Why don't you answer
me honestly?"

"I don't know what _you_ call 'pretty things.'"

"Yes, you do. Did he tell you your eyes were _deep, deep_ wells of love,
and that your face was full of soul?"

"No, he did not," says Monica, somewhat indignantly; "_certainly_ not.
The idea!"

"Well, that is what Percival said to the girl _he_ loved in the book I
was reading yesterday," says Kit, rather cast down.

"Then I'm very glad Mr. Desmond isn't like Percival."

"I daresay he is nicer," says Kit, artfully. Then she tucks her arm into
her sister's, and looks fondly in her face. "He must have said
_something_ to you," she says. "Darling love, why won't you tell your
own Kitten all about it?"

A little smile quivers round Monica's lips.

"Well, I will, then," she says. In her heart I believe she is glad to
confide in somebody, and why not in Kit the sympathetic? "First, he made
me feel he was delighted to meet me again. Then he asked me to go for a
walk _alone_ with him; then he said he was--my lover!"

"Oh!" says Kit, screwing up her small face with delight.

"And then he asked me to meet him again to-day with _you_."

"With _me_! I think that was very delicate of him." She is evidently
flattered by this notice of her existence. Plainly, if not _the_ rose in
his estimation, she is to be treated with the respect due to the rose's
sister. It is all charming! she feels wafted upwards, and incorporated,
as it were, in a real love affair. Yes, she will be the guardian angel
of these thwarted lovers.

"And what did you say?" she asks, with a gravity that befits the
occasion.

"I refused," in a low tone.

"To meet him?"

"Yes."

"With _me_?" says this dragon of propriety.

"Yes."

"But why?"

"Because of Aunt Priscilla." And then she tells her all about Aunt
Priscilla's speech in the carriage, and her reply to it.

"I never heard such a rubbishy request in my life!" says the younger
Miss Beresford, disdainfully. "It is really beneath notice. And when all
is told it means nothing. As _I_ read it, it seems you have only
promised to forget you ever spoke to Mr. Desmond: you haven't promised
never to speak to him again." Thus the little Jesuit.

"That was not what Aunt Priscilla meant."

"If she meant anything, it was folly. And, after all, what is this
dreadful quarrel between us and the Desmonds all about? It lives in Aunt
Priscilla's brain. I'll tell you what I think, Monica. I think Aunt
Priscilla was once in love with old Mr. Desmond, and mother cut her out;
and now, just because she has been disappointed in her own love-affair,
she wants to thwart you in yours."

"She doesn't, indeed. Any one but Mr. Desmond might show me attention,
and she would be pleased. She was quite glad when Mr. Ryde--well--when
he made himself agreeable to me."

"From all you told me of him, he must have made himself _dis_-agreeable.
I'm perfectly certain I should hate Mr. Ryde, and I'm equally sure I
should like Mr. Desmond. What did he say to you, darling, when you
refused to meet him even with _me_?" She lays great stress on this
allusion to herself.

"He said I might do as I chose, but that he would meet me again, whether
I liked it or not, and _soon_!"

"Now, that's the lover for _me_!" says Kit, enthusiastically. "No giving
in, no shilly-shallying, but downright determination. He's an honest
man, and we all know what an honest man is,--'the noblest work of God.'
I'm certain he will keep his word, and I do hope I shall be with you
when next you meet him, as I should like to make friends with him."

At this moment it occurs to Monica that she never before knew how very,
_very_ fond she is of Kit.

"Oh, well, I don't suppose I _can_ see him again for ever so long," she
says. But even as the words pass her lips she knows she does not mean
them, and remembers with a little throb of pleasure that he had said he
would see her again _soon_. _Soon!_ why, that might mean this
evening,--now,--_any_ moment! Instinctively she lifts her head and looks
around her, and there, just a little way off, is a young man coming
quickly towards her, bareheaded and in evening dress.

"I told you how it would be," says Kit, in a nervous whisper, taking
almost a bit out of poor Monica's arm in her excitement. "Oh, when I
have a lover I hope he will be like _he_."

Her grammar has gone after her nerve.

Monica is silent: some color has gone from her cheeks, and her heart is
beating faster. It is her very first _affaire_, so we must forgive her:
a little frightened shadow has fallen into her eyes, and altogether she
looks a shade younger than usual: she is troubled in spirit, and
inclined to find fault with the general management of things.

After all, she might as well have gone to the river this evening for
what good her abstinence has done her: the poverty of our strength to
conquer faith and the immutability of its decrees fills her with
consternation and a fretful desire for freedom. Yet above and beyond all
these vain imaginings is a gladness and a pride that her power is strong
enough to draw her lover to her side in spite of all difficulties.

The bareheaded young man has come up to her by this time, and is
holding out his hand: silently she lays her own in it, and colors
treacherously as his fingers close on hers in a close, tender, and
possessive fashion.

"I found the river too chilly," he says, smiling, "so I came on here.
Having been unsuccessful all the afternoon and morning, I _knew_ I
should find you _now_."

This might be hieroglyphics to others, but is certainly English to her,
however she may pretend otherwise; she doesn't pretend much, to do her
justice.

"This is your sister?" goes on Desmond, looking at Kit, who is regarding
him with an eye that is quite a "piercer."

"Yes," says Monica. "Kit, this is Mr. Desmond."

"I know that," says this _enfant terrible_, still fixing him with a
glance of calm and searching scrutiny that is well calculated to
disconcert even a bolder man. Then all at once her mind seems made up,
and, coming forward, she holds out her hand, and says, "How d'ye do?" to
him, with a sudden, rare sweet smile that convinces him at once of her
sisterhood to Monica.

"We are friends?" he says, being attracted to the child for her own
grace alone, as well as for the charm of her relationship to the pale
snowdrop of a girl beside her.

"Yes. If you prove true to my Monica."

"Oh, Kit!" says Monica, deeply shocked; but Kit pays no heed, her eyes
being fastened gravely upon the man before her. He is quite as grave as
she is.

"If our friendship depends upon that, it will be a lasting one," he
says, quietly. "My whole life is at your sister's service."

Something in his tones touches Monica: slowly she lifts her eyes until
they reach his.

"I wish, I _wish_ you would not persist in this," she says, sadly.

"But why? To think of you is my chiefest joy. Do you forbid me to be
happy?"

"No--but--"

"In the morning and the afternoon I went to the river, to look for
you--in vain; after dinner I went too, still hoping against hope; and
now at last that I _have_ found you, you are unkind to me!" He speaks
lightly, but his eyes are earnest. "Miss Katherine," he says appealingly
to Kit, "of your grace, I pray you to befriend me."

"Monica would not go to the river this evening because she remembered an
absurd promise she made to Aunt Priscilla, and because she feared to
meet you there. It is the most absurd promise in the world: wait till
you hear it." Whereupon Kit, who is in her element, proceeds to tell him
all about Miss Priscilla's words to Monica, and Monica's answer, and her
(Kit's) interpretation thereof. "She certainly didn't promise never to
speak to you again," concludes she, with a nod Solomon might have
envied.

Need it be said that Mr. Desmond agrees with her on all points?

"There is no use in continuing the discussion," says Monica, turning
aside a little coldly. "I should not have gone to the river, _anyway_."

This chilling remark produces a blank indescribable, and conversation
languishes: Monica betrays an interest in the horizon never before
developed; Mr. Desmond regards with a moody glance the ripening harvest;
and Kit, looking inward, surveys her mental resources and wonders what
it is her duty to do next.

    "For aught that ever I could read,
    Could ever hear by tale or history,
    The course of true love never did run smooth."

_This_ much she knows; and to any one blessed with a vision sharp as
hers it is very apparent now that there is a roughness somewhere. She
knows too, through many works of fiction, that those in attendance on
loving couples should at certain seasons see cause to absent themselves
from their duty, and search for a supposititious handkerchief or sprain
an unoffending ankle, or hunt diligently in hedgerows for undiscoverable
flowers. Three paths therefore lie open to her; which to adopt is the
question. To return to the house for a handkerchief would be a decidedly
risky affair, calculated to lead up to stiff and damning
cross-examination from the aunts, which might prove painful; to sprain
an ankle might prove even painfuller; but to dive into the innocent
hedgerow for the extraction of summer flowers, what can be more
effectual and reasonable? she will do it at once.

"Oh, what lovely dog-roses!" she says, effusively, in a tone that
wouldn't have deceived a baby; "I really _must_ get some."

"Let me get them for you," says Desmond, gloomily, which she at once
decides is excessively stupid of him, and she doing all she can for him
too! She tries to wither him with a glance, but he is too miserable to
be lightly crushed.

"No, thank you," she says; "I prefer getting them myself. Flowers are
like fruit, much more enjoyable when you pick them with your own hands."

So saying, this accomplished gooseberry skips round the corner, leaving
Monica and Mr. Desmond _tete-a-tete_.

That they enjoy their sudden isolation just at first is questionable:
Monica discovers blots on the perfect horizon; and Mr. Desmond, after a
full minute's pause, says, reproachfully,--

"You didn't _really_ mean that, did you?"

"Mean what?" uncompromisingly, and without changing position.

"That even if matters had been quite--quite comfortable with us, you
would not have gone to meet me at the river?"

"I don't know," in a low tone.

"_Say_ you didn't mean it."

"I--suppose I didn't," even lower.

"Look at me, then," says Mr. Desmond.

Kit, in her high, sweet voice, is warbling that little, pretty thing
about a "lover and his lass," in the next field. The words of her song,
and its silly refrain of

    "A hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,"

come to them across the corn and scented meadow. Monica, with her hand
in his, smiles faintly.

"You hear what she sings,--'that life is but a flower:' is it wise,
then, to set your heart upon----"

"You?"

"I meant, an impossibility."

"Which you are _not_. You shall not be. I don't believe in
impossibilities, to begin with; and, even if it were so, I should still
prefer to be unwise."

"You are defiant," she says, lightly; but her smile is still very sad.

"I have hope. 'Affection's ground is beyond time, place, and all
mortality,' as we read. I shall conquer yet; yes, even _your_
prejudices. In the mean time, give me fair play; do not harden your
heart against me."

"I wish mine was the only hard heart you had to contend against,"
returns she, with a faint sigh. But this remark seems to drop so
carelessly from her lips that, though elated by it, he is afraid to take
any open notice of it.

"I hope your aunts were not cross to you last evening on my account?" he
says, anxiously.

"No. Nothing was said, more than Kit told you, except that Aunt
Priscilla touched upon the point of introduction. Oh, what a fright I
got then! If she had persisted in her inquiries, what _would_ have
become of me?"

"Couldn't you have----" began Mr. Desmond, and then stops abruptly. A
glance at the face uplifted to his checks his half-uttered speech
effectually, and renders him, besides, thoroughly ashamed of himself.

"If I had to confess there had been _no_ introduction," goes on Monica,
laughingly, "I don't know what would have been the result."

"The deluge, I suppose," returns her companion thoughtfully.

"What a pity you have an uncle at all!" says Monica, presently. "It
would be all right only for him." She omits to say _what_ would be all
right, but the translation is simple.

"Oh, don't say that," entreats Desmond, who has a wholesome affection
for the old gentleman above at Coole. "He is the kindest old fellow in
the world. I think, if you knew him, you would be very fond of him; and
I know he would adore _you_. In fact, he is so kind-hearted that I
cannot think how all that unfortunate story about your mother ever came
about. He looks to me as if he couldn't say 'Bo to a goose' where a
woman was concerned and yet his manner to-night confirmed everything I
heard."

"He confessed?" in a deeply interested tone.

"Well just the same thing. He seemed distressed about his own conduct in
the affair, too. But his manner was odd, I thought: and he seems as much
at daggers drawn with your aunts as they with him."

"That is because he is ashamed of himself. One is always hardest on
those one has injured."

"But that is just it," says Mr. Desmond, in a puzzled tone. "I don't
believe, honestly, he is a bit ashamed of himself. He _said_ a good deal
about his regret, but I could see he quite gloried in his crime. And, in
fact, I couldn't discover the smallest trace of remorse about him."

"He must really be a very bad old man," says Monica, severely. "I am
perfectly certain if he were _my_ uncle I should not love him at all."

"Don't say that. When he _is_ your uncle you will see that I am right,
and that he is a very lovable old man, in spite of all his faults."

At this Monica blushes a little, and twirls her rings round her slender
fingers in an excess of shyness, and finally, in spite of a stern
pressure laid upon herself, gives way to mirth.

"What are you laughing at now?" asks he laughing too.

"At you," casting a swift but charming glance at him from under her long
lashes. "You _do_ say such funny things!"

"Did you hear there is to be an afternoon dance at the Barracks next
week?" asks he presently. "I was at Clonbree on Thursday, and Cobbett
told me about it."

"Who is Cobbett?"

"The captain there, you know. He was at Aghyohillbeg yesterday. Didn't
you see him,--a little, half-starved looking man, with a skin the color
of his hair, and both gray?"

"Oh, of course--now I remember him," says Monica, this fetching
description having cleared her memory. "I thought to myself how odd he
and the other man, Mr. Ryde, looked together, one as big as the other
was little."

"I think there is more matter than brains about Ryde," says Desmond,
contemptuously. "Do you think your aunt will let you go to this dance at
Clonbree?"

"Oh, no; I am _sure_ not. My aunts would be certain to look upon a dance
in the Barracks as something too awfully dissipated."

"For one reason I should be glad you didn't go."

"Glad?" opening her eyes.

"Yes. That fellow Ryde never took his eyes off you yesterday."

"Is _that_ a crime?"

"In my eyes, _yes_."

"And you would wish me to be kept a prisoner at home just because one
man looked at me?"

"I don't want any one to look at you but me!" Then he comes a little
closer to her and compels her, by the very strength of his regard, to
let her eyes meet his. "Do you like Ryde?" he asks, somewhat
imperiously. "Monica, answer me."

It is the second time he has called her by her Christian name, and a
startled expression passes over her face.

"Well, he was nice to me," she says, with a studied hesitation that
belongs to the first bit of coquetry she has ever practised in her life.
She has tasted the sweetness of power, and, fresh as her knowledge is
she estimates the advantage of it to a nicety.

"I believe a man has only to be six feet one to have every woman in the
world in love with him," says Desmond, wrathfully, who is only five feet
eleven.

"I am not exactly in _love_ with Mr. Ryde," says Monica, sweetly, with
averted face and a coy air, assumed for her companion's discomfiture;
"but----"

"But _what_?"

"But, I was going to say, there is nothing remarkable in that, as I am
not in love with _any one_, and hope I never shall be. I wonder where
Kit can have gone to: will you get up there, Mr. Desmond, and look?"
Breaking off a tiny blade of grass from the bank near her, she puts it
between her pretty teeth, and slowly nibbles it with an air of utter
indifference to all the world that drives Mr. Desmond nearly out of his
wits.

Disdaining to take any heed of her "notice to quit," and quite
determined to know the worst, he says, defiantly,--

"If you _do_ go to this dance, may I consider myself engaged to you for
the first waltz?" There is quite a frown upon his face as he says this;
but it hasn't the faintest effect upon Monica. She is not at all
impressed, and is, in fact enjoying herself immensely.

"If I go, which is more than improbable, I shall certainly not dance
with you at all," she says, calmly, "because Aunt Priscilla will be
there too, and she would not hear of my doing even a mild quadrille with
a Desmond."

"I see," with a melancholy assumption of composure. "All your dances,
then, are to be reserved for Ryde."

"If Mr. Ryde asks me to dance, of course I shall not refuse."

"You mean to tell me"--even the poor assumption is now gone--"that you
are going to give him _all_ and me _none_?"

"I shall not give any one _all_: how can you talk like that? But I
cannot defy Aunt Priscilla. It is very unkind of you to desire it. I
suppose you think I should enjoy being tormented from morning till night
all about you?"

"Certainly not. I don't want you to be tormented on any account, and,
above all on mine," very stiffly. "To prevent anything of the kind, I
shall not go to Cobbett's dance."

"If you choose to get into a bad temper I can't help you."

"I am _not_ in a bad temper, and even if I were I have cause. But it is
not temper will prevent my going to the Barracks."

"What then?"

"Why should I go there to be made miserable? _You_ can go and dance with
Ryde to your heart's content, but I shall spare myself the pain of
seeing you. Did you say you wanted your sister? Shall I call her now? I
am sure you must want to go home."

"I don't," she says, unexpectedly; and then a little smile of conscious
triumph wreathes her lips as she looks at him, standing moody and
dejected before her. A word from her will transform him; and now, the
day being all her own, she can afford to be generous. Even the very best
of women can be cruel to their lovers.

"I don't," she says, "not _yet_. There is something I want to ask you
first," she pauses in a tantalizing fashion, and glances from the grass
she is still holding to him, and from him back to the grass again,
before she speaks. "It is a question," she says then, as though
reluctantly, "but you look so angry with me that I am afraid to ask it."
This is the rankest hypocrisy, as he is as wax in her hands at this
moment; but, though he knows it, he gives in to the sweetness of her
manner, and lets his face clear.

"Ask me anything you like," he says, turning upon her now a countenance
"more in sorrow than in anger."

"It isn't much," said Miss Beresford, sweetly, "only--what _is_ your
Christian name? I have been so _longing_ to know. It is very unpleasant
to be obliged to _think_ of people by their surnames, is it not? so
unfriendly!"

He is quite staggered by the excess of her geniality.

"My name is Brian," he says, devoutly hoping she will not think it
hideous and so see cause to pass judgment upon it.

"Brian!" going nearer to him with half-shy eyes, and a little _riante_
mouth that with difficulty suppresses its laughter. "How _pretty_!
Brian," purposely lingering over it, "with an 'i' of course?"

"Yes."

"I'm so glad I know yours now!" says this disgraceful little coquette,
with a sigh of pretended relief. "You knew mine, and that wasn't fair,
you know. Besides,"--with a rapid glance that might have melted an
anchorite and delivered him from the error of his ways,--"besides, I may
want to call you by it _some_ day, and then I should be at a loss."

Though by no means proof against so much friendliness, Mr. Desmond still
continues to maintain an injured demeanor. Monica lays one little hand
lightly on his arm.

"Won't you ask me to call you by it?" she says, with the prettiest
reproach.

"Oh, Monica," says the young man, seizing her hand and pressing it
against his heart, "you know your power; be merciful. Darling," drawing
her still nearer to him, "I don't think you quite understand how it is
with me; but, indeed, I love you with all my heart and soul."

"But in such a little time, how can it be true?" says Monica, all her
gayety turning into serious wonderment.

"'Love is a thing as any spirit free,'" quotes he, tenderly. "How shall
one know when the god may come? It has nothing to do with time. I have
seen you,--it little matters how often,--and now I love you. Dear heart,
_try_ to love me."

There is something in his manner both gentle and earnest. Impressed by
it, she whispers softly,--

"I _will_ try."

"And you will call me Brian?"

"Oh, no!--no, indeed!--not yet," entreats she, stepping back from him as
far as he will allow her.

"Very well, not yet."

"And you will go to the Barracks for this dance?"

"I will do anything on earth you ask me. You know that too well, I fear,
for my peace of mind."

"And you won't be angry with me if I don't dance with you there?"

"No. I promise that, too. Ah! here is Miss Kit coming,--and without the
roses,--after all."

It is true she has no roses; she has, indeed, forgotten she even
pretended to want them, and has been happy while away with her song and
her own thoughts.

"I think, Monica, we ought, perhaps, to be thinking of coming home," she
says, apologetically, yet with quite a motherly air. Has she not been
mounting guard over and humoring these two giddy young people before
her?

"Yes, I think so too;" and the goodness of Kit, and something else,
strike her.

"If we are asked to this dance at Clonbree, and if we go, I should like
Kit to go too," she says in a soft aside to Desmond, who says, "That is
all right: I settled it with Cobbett yesterday," in the same tone; and
then a little more energetically, as he sees the moments flying, he goes
on, "Before you go, say one thing after me. It will be a small
consolation until I see you again. Say, 'Brian, good-by.'"

"Good-by, Brian," she whispers, shyly, and then she draws her hand out
of his, and, turning to the studiously inattentive Kit, passes her arm
through hers.

"Good-by, Mr. Desmond! I trust we may soon meet again," says the
younger Miss Beresford, with rather a grand air, smiling upon him
patronizingly.

"I hope so too," says Desmond, gravely, "and that next time you will
graciously accord me a little more of your society."

Quite pleased with this delicate protest against her lengthened absence,
Kit bows politely, and she and Monica take their homeward way.

Once Monica turns, to wave him a friendly adieu, and he can see again
her soft, bare arms, her pretty baby-neck in her white dinner-gown, and
her lovely, earnest eyes. Then she is gone, and her passing seems to him
"like the ceasing of exquisite music," and nothing is left to him but
the wailing of the rising night-wind, and the memory of a perfect
girl-face that he knows will haunt him till he dies.



CHAPTER IX.

  How Terry is put in the Dock--And how the two Misses Blake baffle
  expectation, and show themselves in their true colors.


Monica and Kit reach the house in breathless haste. It is far later than
they imagined when lingering in happy dalliance in the flower-crowned
field below, and yet not really late for a sultry summer evening. But
the Misses Blake are fearful of colds, and expect all the household to
be in at stated hours; and the Misses Beresford are fearful of
scoldings, carrying, as they do, guilty hearts within their bosoms.

"Conscience makes cowards of us all;" and the late secret interview with
Brian Desmond has lowered the tone of their courage to such an extent
that they scarcely dare to breathe as they creep into their aunts'
presence.

The lamps are lighting in the drawing-room as they enter, though the
windows are open, and _Dies pater_, the all-great, is still victorious
over _Nox_. The Misses Blake both start and look up as they come in, and
show general symptoms of relief which is not reciprocated by the
culprits. Mrs. Mitchell, the nurse, who has followed almost on their
heels, stands in the doorway, with bayonets fixed, so to speak, seeing
there is every chance of an engagement. It may be as well to remark
here that Mitchell has not "got on" with the Misses Blake, having
rooted opinions of her own not to be lightly laid aside. The Misses
Blake's opinions have also a home in very deep soil, so that the
"give-and-take" principle is not in force between them and the foreign
nurse, as they term Jane Mitchell, though she was bred and born on
Devonshire soil.

"Mitchell," say the Misses Blake in confidence to each other, "is not
altogether what one would desire in a servant assigned to the care of
children. She is not _nice_ in many ways; there is far too much of the
fine lady about her," etc.

"H'elderly ladies as 'asn't been to the h'altar," says Mrs. Mitchell in
confidence to cook, "can't be supposed to know what is right and proper
for motherless lambs." And so the war rages.

Just now Mrs. Mitchell is plainly on the defensive, and eyes her
baby--as she still calls Kit (having nursed her)--with all the air of
one prepared to rush in and rescue her by bodily force, should the worst
come to the worst.

"My dear Monica, what a late hour to be abroad!" says Miss Priscilla,
reproachfully. "The dew falling, too, which is most unwholesome. For
you, Kit, a mere child, it is really destruction. Nurse, as you are
_there_," regarding the bony Mitchell with distrust and disfavor, "I
think it as well to let you know I do not think this is a proper time
for Miss Katherine to be in the open air. It is far too late."

"It isn't late, miss. It is only nine o'clock."

"Nine o'clock! What is the woman thinking about? Nine! why, that means
night?"

"Not at this time of the year, miss."

"At _any_ time of year. With all the experience you _say_ you have had,
I wonder you do not consider it a most injurious hour for a child of
Miss Katherine's age to be out of doors."

"I don't hold with making a child puny, miss. Coddling up, and that
sort, only leads to consumptions and assmas, in my humble opingion."

"I must request that for the future you will show deference to _our_
opinion, nurse; which is directly opposed to yours," says Miss
Priscilla, straightening herself.

"I suppose I can manage my own young lady, miss," says Mitchell,
undaunted, and now, indeed, thoroughly braced for conflict.

"I have grave doubts about that, Mitchell, and at least you should not
answer me in this wise."

"If I brought my young lady safely all the way from Jerusalem, miss, I
suppose I can take care of her 'ere."

"Her ear?" questions Miss Priscilla, not meaning to be rude at all.

"She means _here_," says Miss Penelope, in a stage whisper.

"Oh!" says Miss Priscilla, rather shocked at her mistake, which has been
accepted by Mitchell as a deliberate insult. "Katherine, go upstairs
with Mitchell, and change your shoes and stockings; they _must_ be
damp."

"I don't consider Mitchell at all a nice person," says Miss Priscilla,
when the door had closed upon that veteran; "but still I hope I did not
offend her with that last thoughtless slip of mine. But really, over
here in Ireland, we are not accustomed to the extraordinary language in
which Mitchell indulges at times. She seems to me to be saving up her
aspirates for a hypothetical dearth of that article in the future."

Miss Priscilla is so pleased with this long word that she quite recovers
her temper.

"Certainly, from Jerusalem _is_ a long way to bring a child," says Miss
Penelope, thoughtfully; and, indeed, this journey from Palestine has
been, and probably always will be, Mrs. Mitchell's trump card when
disputing with the mistresses of Moyne.

Miss Priscilla has walked to the window, and is now gazing in thoughtful
fashion over the fast darkening landscape. Perhaps her mind is
travelling that long journey to Palestine, perhaps it is still occupied
with the inimical Mitchell; be that as it may, she keeps her senses well
about her, and a keen eye behind her spectacles, because presently she
says aloud, in a tone calculated to attract attention,--

"_What_ is that in the meadow, creeping along beneath the ha-ha,
Katherine?"--Kit has returned with dry shoes and stockings;--"come here,
your eyes are sharper than mine!" which is a distinct libel upon her own
orbs.

"Where?" says Kit, recognizing the crouching form of Terry with a pang
of terror. Is she to be compelled to inform upon her own brother? Perish
the thought!

"Over _there_," says Miss Priscilla, in an awful tone, pointing to where
the luckless Terence is crawling home in the fond belief that he is
defying all detection; whereupon Kit, with much presence of mind, looks
scrutinizingly in just the opposite direction. "It is somebody carrying
a gun. Good gracious! it is remarkably like Terence!"

At this Monica starts perceptibly, and lets the book she is holding fall
heavily to the ground.

"Perhaps it is a poacher," says Kit, brightly, her general reading being
deeply imbued with those characters.

"Perhaps," says Miss Priscilla, grimly. "Yet I feel sure it is your
brother!" Then she throws wide the sash, and calls aloud to the
culprit,--

"Terence! Terence, come here!"

At this, Mr. Beresford loses his presence of mind, and stands bolt
upright, gun in hand: the words have come to him distinctly across the
soft green grass, and fallen upon his ears with dismal distinctness.
Throwing up the sponge, he shoulders the offending weapon and marches
upon the foe with head erect and banners flying. Even if death is before
him (meaning the confiscation of the gun), he vows to himself he will
still die game.

"Really, it _is_ Terence," says Miss Penelope, as he approaches; "but
where _can_ he have got the gun?"

"I _know_!" says Miss Priscilla, whereupon Monica feels positively
faint.

Feeling she is growing very pale, she rises hurriedly from her seat,
and, going to the lower window, so stands that her face cannot be seen.

If Terence is cross-examined, will he tell a lie about the obtaining of
the gun? And if he does _not_, what will happen? what dreadful things
will not be said and done by Aunt Priscilla? Her breath comes quickly,
and with horror she finds herself devoutly hoping that Terence on this
occasion _will_ tell a lie.

By this time Terence has mounted the balcony, and is standing in a
somewhat defiant attitude before his inquisitors.

"Where have you been, Terence?" began Miss Priscilla.

"Shooting, aunt."

"And where did you get the gun, Terence?"

Silence.

"You certainly had no gun yesterday, and none this morning, as far as I
can judge. Now we want the truth from you, Terence, but we do not wish
to coerce you. Take time, and give us an answer your heart can approve."

Such an answer is evidently difficult to be procured at a moment's
notice, because Terence is still dumb.

"I am afraid your nature is not wholly free from deceit, Terence," says
Miss Priscilla, sadly. "This hesitation on your part speaks volumes; and
such unnecessary deceit, too. Neither your aunt Penelope nor I have any
objection to your borrowing a gun if you find such a dangerous weapon
needful to your happiness. But why not confide in us?"

"Is it possible she would not be really angry if she knew?" thinks
Monica, breathlessly. I regret to say that both Kit and Terence take
another view of Miss Blake's speech, and believe it an artful dodge to
extract confession.

"I--" says Terence, to gain time, and because speech of some kind at
this moment is absolutely necessary--"I didn't think----"

"Of _course_ you didn't think, Terence, or you would not have recorded
your poor aunts, in your secret thoughts, as hard-hearted and
ungenerous. If you had told us openly that Mitson, the coast-guard, had
lent you a gun (as I strongly suspect, and indeed felt sure from the
first moment was the case), we should not have been at all angry, only
naturally anxious that you should use an instrument of death with
caution. But you have no confidence in us, Terence."

Intense relief fills the breasts of the three Beresfords. Remorse that
the trusting nature of the old ladies should be so abused touches Monica
keenly, but of the other two I must again declare with grief that they
feel nothing but a sense of delivery from peril, and no contrition at
all for their past suspicions.

"I thought you might be angry, aunt," says Terence. He is looking very
dirty indeed, and his hands are grimy, and altogether even Monica cannot
bring herself to feel proud of him. There is, too, a covert desire for
laughter about him that exasperates her terribly.

"Not angry, my dear; only nervous. I hope you know how to load, and
that. I remember a cousin of ours blowing off his first finger and thumb
with a powder-horn."

"This is a breech-loader, auntie," says Monica, softly.

"Eh? One of those new-fangled things I have read of. Oh, well, my dear
boy, I daresay there is more need for circumspection. Let me look at it.
Ah! very handsome, indeed! I had no idea coast-guards were so well
supplied; and yet I cling to the old guns that your grandfather used to
use."

"Did you shoot anything?" asks Miss Penelope, who has grown quite
interested, and regards Terence with a glance of pride.

"Only one thrush," says Terence, drawing the dilapidated corpse from his
pocket, "and a sparrow, and one rabbit I fired at and wounded mortally,
I know, but it got away into its hole and I lost it."

"Rabbits!" says Miss Priscilla. "Am I to understand--nay, I hope I am
_not_ to understand--that you crossed the stile into Coole?"

"There are plenty of rabbits in our own wood," says Terence; "more than
I could shoot. I am glad you don't object to my having the gun, auntie."

"I don't, my dear; but I wish you had been more ingenuous with us. Why
now, Terence, _why_ do you steal along a field with your back bent as
though desirous of avoiding our observation, and with your gun _under_
your coat, as if there was a policeman or a bailiff after you?"

"I was only trying to steal upon a crow, aunt."

"Well, that _may be_, my dear, but there are ways of doing things. And
why put your gun _under_ your coat? I can't think such a fraudulent
proceeding necessary even with a crow. Now look here, Terence,"
illustrating his walk and surreptitious manner of concealing his gun
beneath his coat, "_does_ this look nice?"

"If I do it like _you_, auntie, it looks _very_ nice," says Terence,
innocently, but with a malevolent intention.

"What a pity you missed the rabbit, Terry!" says Monica, hurriedly.

"Oh, he is dead _now_, I'm certain; but I should have liked to bring him
home. His leg was broken, and I chased him right through the rushes down
below in the furze brake at Coole."

Sensation!

It is too late to redeem his error. "Murder wol out, that see we day by
day," says Chaucer, and now, indeed, all the fat is in the fire. The two
old ladies draw back from him and turn mute eyes of grief upon each
other, while Kit and Monica stare with heavy reproach upon their guilty
brother.

The guilty brother returns their glance with interest, and then Miss
Priscilla speaks.

"So you went into Coole, after all," she says. "Oh, Terence!"

"I couldn't help it," says Terence, wrathfully. "I wasn't going to let
the rabbit go for the sake of a mere whim."

"_A mere whim!_" Words fail me to convey Miss Priscilla's indignation.
"Are you destitute of heart, boy, that you talk thus lightly of a family
insult? Oh! shame, shame!"

"I'm very sorry if I have made you unhappy," says Terence, who is really
a very good boy and fond. "I didn't mean it, _indeed_."

But Miss Priscilla appears quite broken-hearted.

"To dream of bringing a rabbit of Coole into this house!" she says, with
quite a catch in her voice that brings Miss Penelope into prominent
play.

"If, when you came to the stile that leads into Moyne," she says, "you
had said to yourself, 'My good aunt, who loves me so dearly, would not
wish me to enter this forbidden land,' you would, I _hope_, have paused,
and come back here. But you did not. You went recklessly on, and trod
upon ground where your foot is _unwelcome_."

"Dear Aunt Penelope, do not talk like that," says Monica, entreatingly,
slipping her arm around her.

"And this to his poor old aunts who love him so fondly!" says Miss
Penelope, in so dismal a voice that the two Misses Blake break into
sobs.

"It wouldn't seem so bad if he hadn't equivocated about it," says Miss
Priscilla, presently. "But he purposely led us to believe that he had
not set his foot on that detested land."

"He has indeed been much to blame," says Miss Penelope. "Terence, what
was it it said about _lying_ in the Bible this morning? I am afraid your
chapter to-day--that awful chapter about Ananias and Sapphira--did you
little good."

A growl from Terence.

"He will be more careful for the future, auntie," says Monica,
interpreting the growl after her own gentle fashion. "And now you will
forgive him, won't you? After all, any one, even _you_, might forget
about forbidden lands, if you were racing after a rabbit."

The idea of the Misses Blake racing through rushes and gorse after a
rabbit strikes Kit as so comical that she forgets everything, and laughs
aloud. And then the Misses Blake, who are not altogether without a sense
of fun, catching "the humor of it," laugh too, and, drying their eyes,
give Terence to understand that he is forgiven.

Just at this moment the door is opened, and Timothy enters, bearing not
only an air of mystery with him, but a large envelope.

"Why, what is this at this time of night?" says Miss Priscilla, who is
plainly under the impression that, once the lamps are lighted, it is
verging on midnight. She takes the envelope from Timothy, and gazes at
the huge regimental crest upon it with a judicial expression.

"A sojer brought it, miss. Yes, indeed, ma'am. A-hossback he come, all
the way from the Barracks at Clonbree."

Redcoats at Rossmoyne are a novelty, and are regarded by the peasantry
with mixed feelings of admiration and contempt. I think the contempt is
stronger with Timothy than the admiration.

"From the Barracks?" says Miss Priscilla, slowly, turning and twisting
the letter between her fingers, while Monica's heart beats rapidly. It
is, it _must_ be the invitation; and what will be the result of it?

"Yes, indeed, miss. I asked him what brought him at this hour, ma'am;
but he took me mighty short wid his answer, so I give up me questions."

Never having been able during fifty years to make up his mind whether
his mistresses should be addressed as maidens or matrons, Timothy has
compromised matters by putting a "miss" and a "ma'am" into every
sentence he dedicates to them.

"Ah, an invitation from Captain Cobbett for Friday next--um--um--four to
seven--um--um. All of us invited, even Kit," says Miss Priscilla, in a
decidedly lively tone.

"Me! am I asked?" cries Kit, excitedly.

"Yes, indeed, you are specially mentioned. Very nice and attentive, I
must say, of those young men, particularly when we have not shown them
any kindness _as yet_. I thought that Mr. Ryde a very superior young
fellow, with none of the discourteous antipathy to _age_ that disfigures
the manners of the youth of the present day. Penelope, my dear, perhaps
you had better indite the answer to this. Yours is the pen of a ready
writer."

"Very well," says Miss Penelope, rising slowly--Oh! _so_ slowly! thinks
Monica--and going towards the davenport.

"Is the soldier outside, Timothy?" asks Miss Priscilla.

"Yes, miss. He said he wanted a bit of writing from ye for the captain."

"It is a long ride. Take him downstairs, Timothy, and give him some
beer, while Miss Penelope prepares a reply."

"Begging your pardon, miss, and with due respect to ye, ma'am, but he's
that stiff in his manners, an' tight in his clothes, I doubt if he'd
condescend to enter the kitchen."

"Timothy," says Miss Priscilla, with much displeasure, "you have been
having hot words with this stranger. What is it all about?"

"There's times, miss, as we all knows, when a worm will turn, and though
I'm not a worm, ma'am, no more am I a coward, an' a red coat don't cover
more flesh than a black; an' I'm an ould man, Miss Priscilla, to be
called a buffer!"

It is apparent to every one that Timothy is nearly in tears.

"A buffer?" repeats Miss Priscilla, with dignity blended with disgust:
she treats the word cautiously, as one might something noxious. "What is
a buffer?"

Nobody enlightens her: though perhaps Terence might, were he not busily
engaged trying to suppress his laughter behind a huge Japanese fan.

"Perhaps, Timothy," says Miss Priscilla, gravely, "as we all seem in
ignorance about the real meaning of this extraordinary word, you are
wrong in condemning it as an insult. It _may_ be--er--a term of
_endearment_."

At this Terence chokes, then coughs solemnly, and finally, lowering the
fan, shows himself preternaturally grave, as a set-off against all
suspicions.

"I wouldn't pin my faith to that, miss, if I was you," says Ryan,
respectfully, but with a touch of the fine irony which is bred and born
with his class in Ireland.

"Well, but as we cannot explain this word, Timothy, and you cannot,
perhaps the best thing for you to do will be to go to the originator of
it and ask _him_ what he meant by it," says Miss Penelope, with quite
astonishing perspicacity for _her_.

"Shure I did that same, miss. 'Twas the first thing I said to him,
ma'am. 'What do ye mane, ye spalpeen, ye thief o' the world,' says I,
'by miscalling a dacent man out of his name like that?' says I. I gave
him all that, miss, and a dale more, though I've forgotten it be now,
for the Ryans was always famous for the gift o' the gab!"

"If you said all that to the poor marine, I think you gave him
considerably more than you got," says Miss Penelope, "and so you may cry
peace. Go down now, Timothy, and make it up with him over your beer."

Timothy, though still grumbling in an undertone death and destruction
upon the hated Sassenach, retires duteously, closing the door behind
him.

"Now, Penelope," says Miss Priscilla, with an air of relief, glancing at
the pens and ink, at which Monica's heart fails her. She has no doubt
whatever about the answer being a refusal, but a sad feeling that she
dare make no protest renders her doubly sorrowful.

"Dear me!" says Miss Penelope, leaning back in her chair with pen well
poised between her fingers, and a general air of pleased recollection
full upon her, "it sounds quite like old times--doesn't it?--to be
invited to the Barracks at Clonbree."

"Quite," says Miss Priscilla, with an amused smile.

"You remember when the Whiteboys were so troublesome, in our dear
father's time, what life the officers stationed here then, threw into
the country round. Such routs! such dances! such kettle-drums! You can
still recollect Mr. Browne--can you not, Priscilla?--that fashionable
young man!"

"_You_ have the best right to remember him," returns Miss Priscilla, in
a meaning tone. "It would be too ungrateful of you if you did not,
considering what a life you led him."

And at this the two old ladies break into hearty laughter and shake
their heads reproachfully at each other.

"You _know_ you broke his heart," says Miss Priscilla.

"Tell us about it, auntie," says Kit, eagerly, who is always sympathetic
where romance is concerned; but the old ladies only laugh the more at
this, and Aunt Priscilla tells her how her Aunt Penelope was a very
naughty girl in her time, and created havoc in the affections of all the
young men that came within her reach.

All this delights Aunt Penelope, who laughs consumedly and makes feeble
protest with her hands against this testimony.

"Poor fellow!" she says, sobering down presently, and looking quite
remorseful. "It is unkind to laugh when his name is mentioned. He was
killed in the Indian Mutiny, long afterwards, in a most gallant charge."

"Yes, indeed," says Miss Priscilla. "Well, well, things _will_ happen.
Go on with the answer now, Penelope, as the man is waiting and it is
woefully late."

Monica trembles. But Kit starts into life.

"Oh, _don't_ refuse, Aunt Priscilla!" she cries, darting from her seat
and throwing her arms round Miss Blake's neck. "_Don't_, now! I do so
_want_ to go, when I have got my invitation, and all."

"But----" begins Miss Priscilla; whereupon Kit, tightening her hold on
her neck, with a view to staying further objection, nearly strangles
her.

"No 'buts,'" she says, entreatingly; "Remember how disappointed I was
about Madam O'Connor's, and be good to me now."

"Bless the child!" breaks out Miss Priscilla, having rescued her
windpipe and so saved herself from instant suffocation by loosening
Kit's arms, and then drawing the child down upon her knee. "What is she
talking about? who is going to refuse anything? Penelope, accept at
once,--_at once_, or I shall be squeezed to death!"

"Then you _will_ go?" exclaims Monica, joining the group near the
davenport, and turning brilliant eyes upon her aunts. "Oh, I am so
glad!"

"Why, we are dying to see the inside of the Barracks again, your aunt
Penelope and I, especially your aunt Penelope," says Miss Blake, with a
sly glance at her sister, who is plainly expecting it, "because she has
tender recollections about her last visit there."

"Oh, now, Priscilla!" says Miss Penelope, modestly, but with keen
enjoyment of the joke. After which an acceptance of his kind invitation
is written to Captain Cobbett, and borne to him by the destroyer of
Timothy's peace.



CHAPTER X.

  How Monica falls a prey to the green-eyed monster--How Mr. Kelly
  improves the shining hours--And how Brian Desmond suffers many
  things at the hands of his lady-love.


For the next few days the sun is conspicuous by its absence, and Jupiter
Tonans, with all his noisy train, is abroad. There is nothing but rain
everywhere and at all hours, and a certain chill accompanying it, that
makes one believe (with "Elia," is it not?) that "a bad summer is but
winter painted green."

The light is dimmed, the winds sigh heavily, all through these days, and
on the hills around, "the hooded clouds, like friars, tell their beads
in drops of rain."

But on Thursday evening it clears a little,--not sufficiently to allow
one to wander happily through shrubbery or garden, but enough to augur
well for the morrow, when the much longed for dance at the Barracks is
due.

And, indeed, when Friday dawns all nature is glorious. O'er sea and land
there floats a brightness indescribable, with no fleck or flaw upon its
beauty. In every nook and glade and hollow is glad sunshine, and a soft
rushing breeze that bids the heart rejoice, and uplift itself in joyous
praise to the Great Power who calls the heavens His Throne.

Birds are singing upon every bough, to give the day "good-morrow," and
the small streamlets, swollen by past rains, are chanting loud but soft
harmonies to the water-pixies, as they dash headlong towards the river
down below.

                        "No tears
    Dim the sweet look that Nature wears."

but rather a smile is on leaf, and flower, and waving bracken. And on
Monica, too, as, with glad eyes and parted lips, she steps lightly into
the shadow of the old porch at Moyne. No sweeter presence ever honored
it. Leaning against one of the pillars, she steps forward, and gazes
almost gratefully at the merry sunbeams, as they creep up in homage to
her feet and then go swiftly back again.

She is dressed to-day in a pale blue batiste gown, that rivals in hue
the delicate azure of the skies above her. Her large black hat is a mass
of Spanish lace, her long gloves are of the same sombre shade, and so
are her shoes, though relieved by buckles. With that smile upon her
lips, and the subdued expectation in her eyes, she looks the
personification of all that is tender, pure, and lovable.

"Are you ready?" asks Kit, joining her. "The carriage is coming round."

"Quite."

"All but your fan: where is that?"

"Ah! true; I forgot it. It must be on my table. I----"

"No, do not stir. I will get it for you. It would be a shame to send you
on any errand that might destroy your present pose, you look so like a
cloud, or a thing out of one of Kate Greenaway's books."

"It is very rude to call me a thing; it is disheartening, when I
believed I was looking my best," says Monica, laughing. Somehow Kit's
praises always please her.

Then the carriage does come round, and they all get into it, and start
for their seven-miles drive, a very slow seven miles, at the end of
which they find themselves in the small town of Clonbree, mounting the
steep hill that leads to the Barracks, which are placed on almost
unsavory eminence,--all the narrow streets leading up to them being
lined with close cabins and tiny cabins that are anything but "sweets to
the sweet."

Entering the small barrack-yard and finding a door hospitably open, the
Misses Blake go up a wooden staircase, and presently find themselves on
the landing-place above, where they are welcomed effusively by Mr. Ryde,
who is looking bigger and hotter and stouter than usual.

Captain Cobbett in the largest room--there are but two available in
these rustic barracks--is trying vainly to find a comfortable corner for
old Lady Rossmoyne, who is both deaf and stupid, but who, feeling it her
duty to support on all occasions (both festive and otherwise) the
emissaries of her queen, has accepted this invitation and is now
heartily sorry for her loyalty.

She is sitting in durance vile upon a low chair, with a carpet seat and
a treacherous nature, that threatens to turn upon her and double her up
at any moment if she dare to give way to even the smallest amount of
natural animation: so perforce the poor old woman sits still, like
"patience on a monument smiling at grief," and that her own grief, too,
which, of course, is harder to bear!

"_So_ glad you've come! We were quite in despair about you; but better
late than never, eh?" says Mr. Ryde to Monica, with a fat smile. There
is rather much of "too solid flesh" about his face.

"I daresay," says Monica, very vaguely: she is looking anxiously round
her, hoping, yet dreading to see Desmond.

In the next room can be heard the sound of music. "My Queen" is being
played very prettily upon a piano by somebody. Dancing is evidently
going on, and Monica, who adores it, feels her toes trembling in her
shoes.

"May I have the pleasure of this?" says Mr. Ryde. "I've kept it for you
all along, you know. If you tell me you have already given it away, I
shall feel myself aggrieved indeed."

"Was there ever so silly a young man?" thinks Monica, and then she says
aloud, "No, it is not promised," and lets him place his arm round her,
and reluctantly mingles with the other dancers. To do him justice, he
waltzed very well, this fat young marine, so it cannot be said that she
has altogether a bad time, and she certainly feels a little glow of
pleasure as she pauses presently to recover her breath.

As she does so, her eyes rest on Desmond. He, too, is dancing, and with
Olga Bohun. He is whispering to his partner, who is whispering back to
him in a somewhat pronounced fashion, and altogether he is looking
radiantly happy, and anything but the disconsolate swain Monica has been
picturing him to herself. He is smiling down at Olga, and is apparently
murmuring all sorts of pretty things into her still prettier ear,
because they both look quite at peace with each other and all the world.

A pang shoots through Monica's heart. He can be as happy, then, with one
pretty woman as with another! She by no means, you will see, depreciates
her own charms. All he wants is to have "t'other dear charmer away."

At this moment she encounters his eyes, and answers his glad stare of
surprise with a little scornful lowering of her lids. After which, being
fully aware that he is still watching her in hurt amazement, she turns a
small, pale, but very encouraging face up to Ryde, and says, prettily,--

"You said I was late, just now. Was I?"

"Very. At least it seemed so to me," says Ryde with heavy adoration in
his glance.

Feeling, rather than seeing, that Mr. Desmond has brought his fair
companion to an anchor close behind her, Monica says, in a soft sweet
voice,--

"I didn't _mean_ to be late. No, indeed! I hurried all I could; but my
aunts are slow to move. I was _longing_ to be here, but they would make
no haste."

"You _really_ longed to be here?" asks he, eagerly. "Well, that _was_
good of you! And now you have come you will be kind to me, won't you?
You will give me all the dances you can spare?"

"That would be a great many," says she, laughing a little. "You might
tire of me if I said yes to that. The fact is, I know nobody here, and
_certainly_ there is no one I care to dance with."

"You will have another tale to tell later on," returns he, gazing with
unrepressed admiration at her charming face. "Before the avalanche of
worshippers descends, promise me all the waltzes."

"Are my dances, then, so necessary to you?" with a swift upward glance.

"They are, at all events, the only ones I care for," returns he,
clumsily, but heartily. "All the others will lie in the scale with
duty."

"'Every subject's duty is the king's; but every subject's soul is his
own,'" quotes Monica, lightly. "Why dance unless you wish it?"

"Because my soul is _not_ my own," responds he, with a sigh. "I am bound
to dance with every undanceable woman here to-day, or they will go home
and revile me. You _ought_ to be sorry for me if you aren't."

"Well, I am," says Monica; "and so you shall have every waltz on the
programme."

With this she lets him take her in his arms again, and float away with
her to the strains of the waltz then playing, and far away from
Desmond's jealous ears.

"Well, I had no idea it was in her," says Mrs. Bohun, in a breathless
sort of manner, when Monica has quite vanished. "All that was meant for
you, you know; and how _well_ she did it!"

"But _why_ should it be meant for me? What have I done that she should
so ill use me?" says Desmond, also breathless. "And you speak of her as
if you admired her and she ought to be praised for her conduct when you
have just heard from my own lips how devotedly I am attached to her!"

"I cannot help admiring genius when I see it," says Olga, with a gay
laugh. "She made up her mind--naughty little thing!--to make you
miserable a minute ago, and--she succeeded. What can compare with
success! But in very truth, Brian," tapping his arm familiarly with her
fan (an action Monica notes from the other side of the room), "I would
see you a victor too, and in this cause. She is as worthy of you as you
of her, and a fig for one's cousins and sisters and aunts, when Cupid
leads the way."

She has thrown up her head, and is looking full of spirit, when young
Ronayne, approaching her, says, smiling,--

"This is our dance, I think, Mrs. Bohun?"

"Is it? So far so good!" She turns again to Brian:

"'Faint heart never won fair lady,'" she says, warningly.

"I cannot accuse myself of any feebleness of that sort," says Desmond,
gloomily. "As you see, it all rests with her."

"Perhaps she is afraid of the family feud," says Olga, laughing. "One
hears such a lot about this Blake-Desmond affair that I feel I could
take the gold medal if examined about it. There!--what nonsense! Go and
speak to her, and defy those dear old ladies at Moyne."

"You were talking about that pretty Miss Beresford?" says Ronayne, as
Brian moves away.

"Yes. But, sir," archly, "dare you see beauty in any woman when I am
by?"

"Oh that I could see you really jealous, and of _me_!" returns he, half
sadly, looking at her with longing eyes. "If I thought I could make
your heart ache for even one short minute, I should be the happiest man
alive."

"_Boy_, you mean! Oh, traitor! And would you have me miserable for your
own gratification?"

"It would be for yours later on. For that one moment you would gain a
slave forever."

"And unless I am wretched for that one moment, I cannot gain my slave?"

"You know the answer to that only too well," returns he, with so much
fervor that she refuses to continue the discussion.

"Talking of jealousy," she says, lightly, with a glance at him, "it is
the dream of my life to make Rossmoyne jealous,--to reduce him to
absolute submission. He is so cold, so precise, so English, that it
would be quite a triumph to drag him at one's chariot-wheels. Shall I be
able to do it?" she turns up her charming face to his, as though in
question. She is looking her very sweetest, and is tenderly aware of the
fact; and, indeed, so is he.

"I suppose so," he says, in answer to her, but slowly and reproachfully.

"But I must have help," says Olga. "_Some_ one must help me. You?--is it
not?"

"I?" with strong emphasis. "What should I have to do with it?"

"Not much, yet I count upon you. Why, who do you think I am going to
make him jealous about? Eh?"

"How should I know?"

"How shouldn't you? Why it is of you,--_you_!" with quite a delicious
little laugh. "So you will have to dance round after me all day for the
future until your mission is fulfilled, and try to look as if you
_really_ loved me."

"You have mistaken your man," says Ronayne, quietly: "you must get some
one else to help you in this matter. It is not for me, even if I did not
love you; I should scorn so low a task."

"Love is an idle word," she says, her eyes flashing.

"It may be--to some. But I tell you no man's heart is of so poor value
that it can be flung hither and thither at any one's pleasure,--no, not
even at the pleasure of the woman he adores. You will seek some more
complaisant lover to be your dupe on this occasion. I decline the
office."

"You forget how you speak, sir!" she says, proudly; yet even as she
gives way to this angry speech a gleam of deepest admiration so lights
her eyes that she is obliged to let her lids fall over them to cover the
tell-tales beneath; her breath comes and goes quickly.

Something like relief comes to her when Lord Rossmoyne, stretching his
long neck round the curtain that half shields the cushioned recess of
the window where they are sitting, says, with considerable animation,
for him,--

"Ah! so I have found you, Mrs. Bohun."

"You have indeed, and in good time. I am pining in prison, but you have
come to deliver me."

"If I may."

"Such a dreary little spot, is it not? I don't know what could have
induced me to enter it."

"Ronayne possibly," says Rossmoyne, with an unpleasant smile.

"Oh, dear, no!" contemptuously: "I came here of my own free will. We all
do foolish things at times, I have not danced this last because Mr.
Ronayne prefers pleasant converse. I don't. I thought you would never
come to seek me. What were you doing?"

"Hunting for you, and thinking every minute an hour. These
curtains"--touching them--"were jealous of you, and sought to hide you."

"Well, don't be so long next time," she says, looking up at him with a
smile that a little more pressure would make tender and laying her hand
on his arm.

She moves away. Ronayne, drawing his breath somewhat savagely, sits down
on the sill of the window and gazes blankly into the barrack-yard below.
He has still her programme in his hand, and is crumpling it
unconscionably, hardly knowing what he does. But, if disturbed in mind,
it is always _such_ a comfort to smash something, be it a piece of
pasteboard or one's most intimate friend.

She had forgotten her card, probably, and now it is almost useless.
Ronayne's heart is full of bitterness, and he tries to swear to himself
that for the future he will cleanse his heart of this coquette, who
cares no more for him--nay, far less--than she does for her little toy
terrier. Yet, even as these stern resolves seek vainly to root
themselves in his breast, his eyes turn again to the room beyond, and
make search for the siren who is his undoing. She is still, of course,
with Rossmoyne, and is all smiles and pretty blushes, and is evidently
both content and happy.

"I am a fool!--a madman!" he says to himself; and even as he says it
his eyes light on Owen Kelly, who by chance is looking at him too.

Crossing the room, the latter (as though drawn by the melancholy eyes
that have met his) soon reaches the window where Ronayne stands
disconsolate.

"Why so pale and wan, fond lover?" he says gayly, but with so kindly an
intonation that even the most pugnacious could not take umbrage at it.

Now, Mr. Kelly's knowledge on all matters is so clear and precise that
Ronayne does not dream of deceiving him in this matter.

"Of course you will laugh at me," he says, "but somehow I don't mind
_your_ ridicule much. It means only this, that I have just found out
that she cares nothing at all for me."

"_She_, being Mrs. Bohun? Well, my dear lad, if an elderly gentleman's
experience is of any use to you, you may have it cheap. _I_ believe she
cares a great deal for you. Lookers-on see most of the game, and I would
back you against Rossmoyne any day."

"You are a very good fellow," says Ulic Ronayne, "the best I know; but I
understand you. You are only saying that to console me."

"I am not, in faith: I say it because I think it."

"I wish I could think it."

"Try. 'If at first you don't succeed,' you know follow out the
inestimable Watts's advice, and 'try again.' There's nothing like it: it
gets to be quite a game in the long run. I thank my stars," laughing, "I
have never been a slave to the 'pathetic fallacy' called love; yet it
has its good points, I suppose."

"It hasn't," says Ronayne, gloomily.

"You terrify me," says Mr. Kelly, "because I feel positive my day is yet
to come, and with all this misery before me I feel suicidal. Don't my
dear fellow! don't look like that! Give her up; go and fall in love with
some little girl of your own age or even younger."

The "even" is offensive, but Ulic is too far gone in melancholy to
perceive it.

"It is too late for that kind of advice," he says: "I want her, and her
only. I don't know how to describe it, but----"

"There are chords," quotes his friend gravely.

"Just so," says the miserable Ronayne, quite as gravely; which so upsets
the gravity of his companion that it is with difficulty he conceals his
ill-timed mirth.

"What is that mutilated article in your hand?" he asks at length, when
he has conquered his muscles.

"This--eh!--oh, her card, I suppose," says Ronayne, viciously. Yet even
as he speaks he smooths out the crumpled card, and regards it with a
dismal tenderness as being in part _her_.

"You're engaged to her for the next," says Mr. Kelly, looking over his
shoulder: "what an unfortunate thing! If I were you," mournfully, "I
should go home. Get ill. Do _something_."

"And so let her think I'm wasting in despair because she prefers
another? No, I shan't," says Ronayne, with sudden animation. "I shall
see it out with her. If she chooses to cancel this dance well and good,
but I shall certainly remind her she promised it to me."

"Rash boy!" says Kelly, with a sigh. "As you refuse to hearken to the
voice of common sense, and afflict yourself with a megrim, I leave you
to your fate."

So saying, he turns aside, and, having gone a step or two, finds himself
face to face with Miss Beresford.

"This dance is ours," he says, mendaciously, knowing well this is the
first time they have met this evening.

Monica laughs: to be angry with so sad a visaged man as Owen Kelly would
be a cruelty.

"I am glad of it," she says, "because I do not want to dance at all; and
I think you will not mind sitting with me and talking to me for a little
while."

"You remember me then?" he says, shifting his glass from one eye to the
other, and telling himself she is as pretty as she is wise.

"I think so," shyly, yet with a merry glance; "you are that Master
O'Kelly, of Kelly Grove, county Antrim, who is the bright and shining
light of the Junior Bar."

"You do indeed know me," returns he, mildly.

"'Thy modesty's a candle to thy merit,'" quotes she, wickedly, in a low
tone.

At this he smiles sadly (a luxury he rarely permits himself), and,
taking up her hand, lays it on his arm.

"Come," he says, "I will sit with you, and talk with you, when, and
where, and for as long as you like. The longer the greater bliss for me.
The spaciousness of these halls, fair madam, as doubtless you have
perceived, gives wide scope for choice of seats. In which secluded bower
will it please you to efface yourself?"

Monica glances from one small room to the landing-place, and from the
landing-place to the other small room beyond, and naturally hesitates.

"There is another stairs besides the one we ascended," says Mr. Kelly.
"I saw it when first I came: would _you_ like to see it too?"

"I should indeed," says Monica, grateful for the hint, and, going with
him, suddenly becomes aware of a staircase, leading goodness knows
whither, upon the third step of which she seats herself, after a rapid
glance around and upwards that tells her nothing, so mysterious are the
workings of a barracks.

Mr. Kelly seats himself beside her.

"I suppose it is my mission to amuse you," he says, calmly, "as I dare
not make love to you."

"Why not?" says Monica, quite as calmly.

"For one thing, you would not listen to me; and for another, I don't
want my head broken."

Monica smiles, more because it is her duty to than for any other reason,
because after the smile comes a sigh.

"I know few knights would tilt a lance for me," she says; and Kelly,
glancing at her, feels a quick desire rise within him to restore
sunshine to her perfect face.

"One knight should be enough for any one, even the fairest ladye in the
land," he says.

"True; but what is to be for her who has none?" asks she, pathos in her
eyes, but a smile upon her lips.

"She must be a very perverse maiden who has _that_ story to tell,"
returns he; and then, seeing she has turned her face away from him, he
goes on quietly,--

"You know every one here, of course."

"Indeed, no. The very names of most are unknown to me. Tell me about
them, if you will."

"About that girl over there, for instance?" pointing to a dingy-looking
girl in the distance, whose face is as like a button as it well can be,
and whose general appearance may be expressed by the word "unclean."

"That is Miss Luker," says Kelly. "Filthy Lucre is, I believe, the name
she usually goes by, on account of her obvious unpalatableness (my own
word, you will notice), and her overwhelming affection for coin small
and great."

"She looks very untidy," says Monica.

"She does, indeed. She is, too, an inveterate chatterbox. She might give
any fellow odds and beat him; I don't believe myself there is so much
as one comma in her composition."

"Poor girl! What an exertion it must be to her!"

"Musn't it? Especially nowadays, when one _never_ goes for much, real
hard work of any kind being such a bore. That's her mother beside her.
She is always beside her. Fat little woman, d'ye see?"

"Yes, a nice motherly-looking little woman she seems to be."

"Horribly motherly! She has a birthday for every month in the year!"

"How?" says Monica, opening her eyes.

"I don't so much allude to her own natal day (which by this time I
should say is obscure) as to her children's. They came to her at all
seasons, from January to December. There are fourteen of them."

"Oh, it _can't_ be possible! Poor, _poor_ soul!" says Monica, feeling
quite depressed.

"She isn't poor; she is very well off," says Mr. Kelly, obtusely. "Much
better than she deserves. So don't grieve for her. She glories in her
crime. Well, it's 'a poor heart that never rejoices,' you know: so I
suppose she is right. There's Miss Fitzgerald: do you admire her?"

"I am sure I _ought_," says Monica, simply; "but I _don't_."

"You have the courage of your opinions. Every one down here admires her
tremendously. I agree with you, you know, but then," softly, "_I_ am
nobody!"

"Perhaps you think I am jealous," says Monica. "But indeed I am not."

"What a baby you are!" says Mr. Kelly. "_Who_ could suppose you jealous
of Bella Fitzgerald? 'Two stars keep not their motion in one sphere,'
and I shouldn't think the fair Bella would have _much_ motion if put in
comparison with you. She always calls 'a spade a spade, and Branson's
Essence of Coffee,' etc. In fact, she is material."

"That means she has common sense. Why call her 'material'?"

"Never mind. It is quite _immaterial_," says Mr. Kelly, tranquilly,
after which silence reigns triumphantly for a moment or two, until a new
figure presents itself on a small platform below them.

"Ah! there is Desmond," says Kelly. "He looks," innocently, "as if he
was looking for somebody."

"I hope he will find her," remarks Miss Beresford, with some acerbity
and a most unnecessary amount of color.

"Perhaps he is looking for _me_," says Mr. Kelly, naively.

"Perhaps so," dryly.

"At all events, whoever it is, she, or he, or it, seems difficult of
discovery. Did you ever see so woebegone a countenance as his?"

"I think he looks quite happy enough," says Monica, without sympathy.

Kelly lets his languid gaze rest on her for a moment.

"What has Desmond done to you?" he says at last, slowly.

"Done?" haughtily. "Nothing. What _could_ he do?"

"Nothing, I suppose,--as you say. By the bye, I have not seen you
dancing with him this afternoon."

"No."

"How is that?"

It is an indisputable fact that some people may say with impunity what
other people dare not say under pain of excommunication. Owen Kelly, as
a rule, says what he likes to women without rebuke, and, what is more,
without incurring their displeasure.

"How is what?"

"I thought that day at Aghyohillbeg that you and Desmond were great
friends."

"Friends! when we have only seen each other two or three times. Is
friendship the growth of an hour?"

"No. But something else is." He looks at her _almost_ cheerfully as he
says this. "But neither you nor I, Miss Beresford, have anything to do
with that flimsy passion."

"You mean----"

"Love!"

"_Is_ there such a thing?" says Monica, wistfully, whereupon Mr. Kelly
says to himself, "Now, what on earth has that fellow been doing to her?"
but aloud he says, in his usual subdued tones,--

"I don't know, I'm sure, but they say so, and perhaps they, whoever they
may be, are right. If so, I think it is a dangerous subject to discuss
with _you_. Let us skip it, and go on. You haven't told me why you are
not dancing with Desmond."

"_Why_ should I dance with Mr. Desmond?"

"Because it is not always easy to have a refusal ready, perhaps,
or----He has asked you?"

She would have given a good deal at this instant to be able to answer
"No;" but the remembrance of how he pleaded with her for one waltz that
evening at the end of the Moyne meadow comes between her and her desire.
So she says, "Yes," instead.

"And you would none of him?"

"_No._"

"It isn't my part to ask why," says Kelly, with quite a miserable air;
"but still I cannot help wondering how _any one_ can dislike Desmond."

No answer. Miss Beresford is looking straight before her, but her color
is distinctly higher, and there is a determination about her not to be
cajoled into speech, that is unmistakable. Having studied her for a
little, Mr. Kelly goes on,--

"I never know whether it is Desmond's expression or manner that is so
charming, therefore I conclude it is both. Have you noticed what a
peculiarly lovable way he has with him? But of course not, as, somehow
he has the misfortune to jar upon you. Yet very few hate him. You see,
you are that excellent thing, an exception."

"I do not hate him," says Monica; and, having thus unlocked her lips
against her inclination, she feels Owen Kelly of Kelly's Grove has won
the game; but she bears him no ill will for all that. "It is the cause,
it is the cause, my soul!"

"No! well, hate is a bitter word, and an unmannerly. I am sorry, then,
that you dislike him."

"Not even that."

"You mean, you regard him with indifference!"

"Yes, exactly that," says Monica, with slow deliberation.

"I am sorry for it. He is a man upon whom both men and women smile,--a
rare thing,--a very favorite of Fortune."

"She is fickle."

"She may well be dubbed so, indeed, if she deserts him at his sorest
need. But as yet she is faithful, as she ought to be, to the kindest,
the sincerest fellow upon earth."

"Sincerest?"

As this repetition, and the fine sneer that accompanies it, escape her,
she becomes aware that Desmond himself has come to the foot of the
stairs, and is gazing at her reproachfully.

"Here is fickle Fortune's favorite literally at our feet," says Owen
Kelly; and, before Monica can say anything, Brian has mounted the two
steps that lie between him and her, and is at her side.

"If I may not dance with you, may I at least talk to you for a moment or
two?" he says, hurriedly.

"Certainly," with cold surprise.

"I don't think three of us could sit together comfortably on this one
step," says Mr. Kelly, with a thoughtful glance at its dimensions,--"not
even if we squeezed up to each other ever so much; and I am afraid,"
mournfully, "Miss Beresford might not like that, either. Would you, Miss
Beresford?"

"Not much," says Monica. "But why need you stir? Mr. Desmond has asked
at the most for two moments; they will go quickly by: in fact,"
unkindly, "I should think they are already gone."

"And yet he has not begun his '_talk_.' Make haste Desmond. Time, tide,
and Miss Beresford wait for no man. Hurry! we are all on the tiptoe of
expectation." As Mr. Kelly says all this in a breath, he encourages
Desmond generously to "come on" by a wave of his hand; whereupon Brian,
who is not in his sweetest mood, directs a glance at him that ought to
annihilate any ordinary man, but is thrown away upon Kelly, who is
fire-proof.

"Some other time, then, as I disturb you now," says Brian, haughtily,
addressing himself pointedly to Monica.

"By no means," says his whilom friend, rising. "Take my place for your
two moments,--not a second longer, remember! I feel with grief that Miss
Beresford will probably hail the exchange of partners with rapture.
'Talk,' says Bacon, 'is but a tinkling cymbal, where there is no love;'
and as she would not let me discourse on any topics tenderer than the
solar system and the Channel Tunnel, I have no doubt she has found it
very slow. Now, _you_ will be the--er--other thing quite!"

With this speech, so full of embarrassing possibilities, he bows to
Monica, smiles at the gloomy Desmond, and finally withdraws himself
gracefully from their view. Not without achieving his end, however: they
both heartily wish him back again even while he is going.

"What have I done?" asks Desmond, abruptly, turning to Monica, who is
gazing in a rapt fashion at her large black fan.

"Done?"

"Don't answer me like that, Monica. I have offended you. I can see that.
But how? Every moment of this wretched afternoon, until you came, I
spent wondering when you would arrive. And yet when at last I _did_ see
you, you would vouchsafe me neither smile nor glance. In fact, you
looked as if you _hated_ me!"

"_Every_ moment?" sardonically.

"Every one."

"Even those spent with Mrs. Bohun?" To save her life she could not call
her "Olga" now.

"With _her_?" staring in some surprise at his inquisitor. "Well, it
certainly wasn't quite so bad--the waiting, I mean--then. Though still,
with my mind full of you, I was----"

"You were indeed!" interrupting him hastily, with a contemptuous smile.

"Certainly I was," the surprise growing deeper.

"I wonder you are not ashamed to sit there and confess it," says Miss
Beresford, suddenly, with a wrathful flash in her eyes. "I shall know
how to believe you again. To say one thing to me one day, and another
thing to another person another day, and----" Here she finds a
difficulty in winding up this extraordinary speech, so she says,
hurriedly, "It is _horrible_!"

"What is horrible?" bewildered.

But she pays no heed to his question, thinking it doubtless beneath her.

"At least," she says, with fine scorn, "you needn't be untruthful."

"Do you know," says Mr. Desmond, desperately, "you are making the most
wonderful remarks I ever heard in my life? There is no beginning to
them, and I'm dreadfully afraid there will be no ending."

"No doubt," scornfully, "you are afraid."

"If I allow I am," says Desmond, humbly, "will it induce you to
explain?"

"You want no explanation," indignantly. "You know very well what you
confessed a while ago,--that--that--'_you were_'! _There!_"

"_Where?_"

"Flirting with Olga Bohun!"

"What?"

"You did. You know you did. Oh, what perfidy! Only a moment since you
declared it openly, shamelessly; and now you deny it! Why I wouldn't
have believed it, even of _you_. How _can_ you pretend to forget it?"

But that there are tears born of real emotion in her great eyes, Mr.
Desmond would assuredly believe she is making a vast joke at his
expense, so innocent is he of any offence.

"If by some unfortunate method," he says, calmly, "you have
metamorphosed any speech of mine into a declaration relative to a
flirtation with Mrs. Bohun, you have done an uncommonly clever thing.
You have turned a lie into truth. I never said even one spoony word to
Olga Bohun in all my life."

"Then why," in a still much-aggrieved tone, but with strong symptoms of
relenting, "did you say you were?"

"I don't remember saying it at all," says poor Mr. Desmond, who has
forgotten all about his interrupted remark.

"Then what were you saying to Olga just as I came in?"

"Oh! _that!_"--brightening into a remembrance of the past by the
greatest good luck, or the quarrel might have proved a final one (which
would have been a sad pity, as so many right good ones followed it).
"You stopped me just now when I was going to tell you about it. When you
came this evening I was dancing with Olga, and talking to her of _you_.
It was some small consolation."

"But you were smiling at her," says Monica, faltering, "and whispering
to her--_whispering!_"

"Of you. You believe me? Monica, look at me. Do you know I really think
that----"

But this valuable thought is forever lost. Glancing at his companion, he
sees a change come over the spirit of her face. Her eyes brighten, but
not with pleasurable anticipation. Quite the reverse. She lays her hand
suddenly upon his arm, and gazes into the landing-place beneath.

"There is Aunt Priscilla!" she says, in an awestruck tone. "She has just
come out of that room. She is, I _know_,"--a guilty conscience making a
coward of her,--"looking for me. She may come here! Go, Go!"

"But I can't leave you here alone."

"Yes, you can; you can, indeed. Only try it. Mr. Desmond, _please_ go."
This she says so anxiously that he at once decides (though with
reluctance) there is nothing left him but to obey.

And, after all, Aunt Priscilla never looks up those stairs, but passes
by them, dimly lit as they are, as though they had never been built; and
Desmond, unknowing of this, goes sadly into the dancing-room, ostensibly
in search of Kelly, but with his mind so full of his cross little love
that he does not see him, although he is within a yard of him at one
time.

Now, Mr. Kelly, when he quitted the fateful staircase, had turned to his
right, with a view to getting some friend to lounge against a doorway
with him, but, failing in this quest, had entered the dancing-room, and
edged round it by degree,--not so much from a desire for motion as
because he was elbowed ever onwards by tired dancers who sought the
friendly support of the walls.

Reaching at length a certain corner, he determines to make his own of it
and defend it against all assailants, be they men or Amazons.

It is a charming corner, and almost impregnable; it is for this very
reason also almost unescapable, as he learns to his cost later on.
However, he comes to anchor here, and looks around him.

He is quite enjoying himself, and is making private comments on his
friends that I have no doubt would be rapturously received by them could
they only hear them, when he wakes to the fact that two people have come
to a standstill just before him. They are engaged in not only an
animated but an amicable discussion, and are laughing gayly: as laughter
is even more distinguishable in a crowd than the voice when in repose,
Mr. Kelly is attracted by theirs, and to his astonishment discovers that
his near neighbors are the deadly enemies of an hour agone,--_i. e._,
Mrs. Bohun and Ulic Ronayne.

No faintest trace of spleen is to be discovered in their tones. All is
once more sunshine. Past storms are forgotten. They have evidently been
carrying on their discussion for a considerable time whilst dancing,
because it is only the very end of it that is reserved for Mr. Kelly's
delectation. He, poor man, is hemmed in on every side, and finds to his
horror he cannot make his escape. This being so, he resigns himself with
a grim sense of irony to the position allotted him by fate, and being a
careful man, makes up his mind, too, to derive what amusement from it
that he can.

"So you see everything depends upon judgment," says the fair widow,
fanning herself languidly, but smiling archly.

"A good deal, certainly."

"_Everything_, _I_ say. Determination to succeed, and the power to do
it, are strong in themselves; but judgment tempers all things. And how
few possess all three!"

"I, at least, am grateful for that. If every one was endowed with those
three irresistible forces, I should have a bad chance. I should be but
one among so many. Then it could only be decided by brute force."

"What could?" asks she, turning a fair but amazed face up to his.

"Oh, nothing!" returns he, with some confusion. "Only some silly thought
of my own private brain,--not the part I was devoting to your argument.
Forgive me. You were saying----"

"That there is a tremendous amount of feebleness in most natures. The
real clever thing is to be able to see when an opportunity for good
arises, and then to grasp it. Most people can't see it, you know."

"Others _can_!" says Mr. Ronayne. As he speaks he passes his arm round
her pretty waist and smiles saucily into her eyes.

"What!" exclaims she, smiling in turn, "am I an opportunity, then?"

"The sweetest one I know, and so I seize it," says the audacious youth;
while Mr. Kelly, behind, feels as if he was going to sink into the
ground.

"You don't understand what the word means, you silly boy," says the
widow, laughing gayly.

"Don't I! I only wish I might parse and _spell_ it with you," says
Ronayne, his spirits rising; at which answer, I regret to say, pretty
Mrs. Bohun laughs again merrily, and suffers him to lead her away into
the dancing-circle without a rebuke, leaving Mr. Kelly limp with fear of
discovery.

Now, his imprisonment being at an end, he leaves his corner, and,
braving the anger of the dancing people, walks straight through their
midst to the door beyond, ready to endure anything rather than the
eavesdropping, however innocent, of a moment past.

Filled therefore with courage, he sallies forth, and on the landing
outside encounters the two Misses Blake clothed for departure, with
Monica and Kit beside them. Terence is still bidding adieu to Miss
Fitzgerald whose tall charms have worked a way into his youthful
affections.

Desmond is standing at a little distance from this group; Mr. Ryde is in
the midst of it. He is expostulating with Monica about the cruelty of
her early departure, in a tone that savors of tenderness and rouses in
Mr. Desmond's breast a hearty desire to kick him. Then Mr. Ryde carries
on his expostulations to where Aunt Priscilla is standing; and Brian
tries vainly to gain a last glance from Monica, if only to see whether
the treaty of peace between them--interrupted a while ago--has been
really signed or not.

But Monica, either through wilfulness or ignorance of his near locality,
or perhaps fear of Miss Priscilla, refuses to meet his longing eyes. For
my part, I believe in the wilfulness.

Kit, who is always like the cockles of ancient fame, "_alive O_," sees
his disconsolate face, his earnest, unrequited glance, and Monica's
assumed or real indifference, and feels sad at heart for him.
Deliberately, and with a sweet, grave smile, she holds out to him her
small hand, and, regardless of consequences, gives his a hearty squeeze.
Most thankfully he acknowledges this courtesy; whereupon, of her still
further charity, she bestows upon him a glance from her dark eyes that
speaks volumes and assures him he has in her a friend at court.

Then all is over. The two Misses Blake go slowly and with caution down
the steep staircase, Monica and Mr. Ryde (who grows more devoted every
minute) following, Terence and Kit bringing up the rear.

During the drive home the Misses Blake (who have thoroughly enjoyed
themselves) are both pleasant and talkative. As the old horses jog
steadily along the twilit road, they converse in quite a lively fashion
of all they have heard and noticed, and laugh demurely over many a small
joke.

Kit of course, is in raptures. Her _first_ party and _such_ a success!
She had danced one set of quadrilles and one polka! _two_ whole dances!
Ye gods, was there ever so happy a child! She chatters, and laughs, and
rallies everybody so gayly that the old aunts are fain to die of
merriment.

Yet Monica, who might--an' she chose--have had two partners for every
dance, is strangely silent and depressed. No word escapes her: she leans
back with her pretty tired head pressed close against the cushions.
Perchance little Kit notices all this; because when any one addresses
Monica she makes answer for her in the most careless manner possible,
and by her sharp wit turns the attention of all from the sister she
adores; yet in her heart she is angry with Monica.

Once only during this homeward drive something occurs to disturb the
serenity of the Misses Blake. Kit, in one of her merry sallies, has
touched upon Miss Fitzgerald; whereupon Aunt Priscilla, mindful of that
late and lingering adieu of Terence, says, suddenly,--

"And how do _you_ like Miss Fitzgerald, Terence?"

"She's delightful, aunt!" says the stricken Terence, enthusiastically.
"Perfectly enchanting! You never met so nice a girl!"

"Oh, yes! I think I have, Terence," says Miss Priscilla, freezingly. "I
am, indeed, _sure_ I have."

"There's something about her right down fetching," says Mr. Beresford,
giving himself airs. "Something--er--_there_, but difficult to
describe."

"A 'je ne sais quoi young man,'" quotes the younger Miss Beresford, with
a sneer. "She's tall enough to be one, at any rate. She is a horrid girl
I think."

"You're jealous," says Terence, contemptuously. "Because you know you
will never be half as good to look at."

"If I thought that," says Kit, growing very red, "I'd commit suicide."

"Tut! You are too silly a child to be argued with," says Terence, in a
tone that is not to be borne.

Kit, rising in her seat, prepares for battle, and is indeed about to
hurl a scathing rebuke upon him, when Miss Priscilla interrupts her.

"What is this great charm you see in Miss Fitzgerald, Terence?" she asks
slowly.

"That is just what I cannot describe, aunt."

"I should think you couldn't, indeed!" puts in Kit, wrathfully.

"But, as I said before, she is delightful."

"She _may_ be," says Priscilla, the most damning doubt in her tone. "She
_may_ be, my dear. Forbid that I should deny it! But there are some
delightful people, Terence, that are not good for us."

Somehow, after this, conversation dwindles until it is gone. Terence
sulks; Monica moons; Kit ponders; the Miss Blake snooze: and so at last
home is reached.



CHAPTER XI.

  How Kit sees a Vision, and being exhorted thereto by it, pleads a
  certain cause with great success.


It is ten o'clock, and as lovely a night as ever overhung the earth. The
moon is at its fullest, the wind has fallen, all is calm as heaven
itself, through which Dictynna's unclouded grandeur rolls.

The Misses Blake, fatigued by their unusual dissipation, ordered an
early rout an hour agone, whereby bedroom candlesticks were in demand at
nine or half-past nine o'clock.

Now, in Monica's room Kit is standing by the open window gazing in rapt
admiration at the dew spangled garden beneath. Like diamonds glitter the
grass and the flowers beneath the kiss of the grass and the queen of
night.

Moonbeams are playing in the roses, and nestling in the lilies, and
rocking to and fro upon the bosom of the stream.

There is a peace unspeakable on all around. One holds one's breath and
feels a longing painful in its intensity as one drinks in the beauty of
the earth and sky. 'Twere _heaven_ to be assured of love on such a night
as this.

Stars make the vault above so fine that all the world, me-thinks, should
be in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun. There is a
rush of feeling in the air,--a promise of better things to come,--of
hope, of glad desire, of sweet love perfected!

"How lovely a night it is!" says Kit, leaning far out of the window, and
gazing westward. She is at heart a born artist, with a mind, indeed, too
full of strange, weird thoughts at times to augur well for the happiness
of her future. Like many of her Irish race, she is dreamy,
poetical,--intense at one moment, gay, wild impulsive the next.

"See what a flood of light there is on everything!" she says. "'_Bathed_
in moonlight,' what a good thought was that. Monica, when I am as old as
you, in a very few short years I shall be a poet."

"No, you won't, darling: you will be a musician. See what fairies lie
beneath your fingers even now when you touch the piano or violin; be
content, then, with your great gift, which most surely _is_ yours. And
to me, indeed, it seems a grander thing to thrill and enchain and draw
to your feet all hearts by the power of harmony that dwells within you,
than by the divine gift of song that poets have."

"But their songs _are_ harmony," says the child, turning quickly to her.

"Ay, the interpretation of it, but you have its very breath. No; search
the world over, and you will find nothing so powerful to affect the
souls of all as music."

"Well some day I shall want to do something," says Kit, vaguely; and
then she turns to the window again, and lets her mind wander and lose
itself in a mute sonata to the fair Isis throned above.

"It draws me," she says, presently, rising slowly and addressing Monica,
but always with her gaze fixed upon the sleeping garden down below. "It
is so bright,--so clear."

"What, Kit?"

"The moonlight. I must," restlessly, "go down into it for a little
moment, or I shall not sleep through longing for it."

"But the doors are closed, my dearest, and Aunt Priscilla is in bed, and
so are the servants."

"So much the better. I can draw the bolts myself without being
questioned. You said just now," gayly, "I have a fairy beneath my
fingers. I think I have a moon-fairy in my heart, because I love it so."

"Stay here with me, then, and worship it sensibly from my window."

"What! do you look for sense in 'moon-struck madness'? No; I shall go
down to my scented garden. I have a fancy I cannot conquer to walk into
that tiny flame-white path of moonlight over there near the hedge. Do
you see it?"

"Yes. Well, go, if Titania calls you, but soon return, and bring me a
lily,--I, too, have a fancy, you see,--a tall lily, fresh with dew and
moonshine."

"You shall have the tallest, the prettiest I can find," says Kit from
the doorway, where she stands framed unknowingly, looking such a
slender, ethereal creature, with eyes too large for her small face, that
Monica, with a sudden pang of fear, goes swiftly up to her, and,
pressing her to her heart, holds her so for a moment.

"I know what you are thinking now," says Kit, with another laugh,--"that
I shall die early."

"Kit! Kit!"

"Yes. Isn't it strange? I can read most people's thoughts. But be happy
about me. I look fragile, I know, but I shall not die until I am quite a
respectable age. Not a hideous age, you will understand, but with my
hair and my teeth intact. One keeps one's hair until forty, doesn't
one?"

"I don't know. I'm not forty," says Monica. "But hurry, hurry out of the
garden, because the dew is falling."

Down the dark staircase, through the darker halls, into the brilliant
moonlight, goes Kit. The wind, soft as satin, plays about her pretty
brows and nestles through her hair, rewarding itself thus for its
enforced quiet of an hour ago. Revelling in the freedom she has gained,
Kit enters the garden and looks lovingly around upon her
companions,--the flowers.

Who would sleep when beauty such as this is flung broadcast upon the
earth, waiting for man to feast his slothful eyes upon it?

Lingeringly, tenderly, Kit passes by each slumbering blossom, or gazes
into each drowsy bell, until the moonlit patch of grass she had pointed
out to Monica is at last reached. Here she stands in shadow, glancing
with coy delight at the fairyland beyond. Then she plunges into it, and
looks a veritable fairy herself, slim, and tall, and beautiful, and more
than worthy of the wand she lacks.

Walking straight up her silver path, she goes to where the lilies grow,
in a bed close by the hedge. But, before she comes to them, she notes in
the hedge itself a wild convolvulus, and just a little beyond it a wild
dog-rose, parent of all roses. She stays to pluck them, and then--

"Kit," says a voice subdued and low, but so distinct as to sound almost
in her ear.

She starts, and then looks eagerly around her, but nothing can she see.
Was it a human voice, or a call from that old land that held great Zeus
for its king? A message from Olympus it well might be, on such a night
as this, when all things breathe of old enchantment and of mystic lore.
Almost she fears yet hopes to see a sylvan deity peep out at her from
the escalonia yonder, or from the white-flowered, sweetly-perfumed
syringa in that distant corner,--Pan the musical, perhaps, with his
sweet pipes, or a yet more stately god, the beautiful Apollo, with his
golden lyre. Oh for the chance of hearing such godlike music, with only
she herself and the pale Diana for an audience!

Perchance the gods have, indeed, been good to her, and sent her a
special messenger on this yellow night. Fear forgotten, in the ecstasy
of this hope, the strange child stands erect, and waits with eager
longing for a second summons.

And it comes, but alas! in a fatally earthly tone that ruins her fond
hope forever.

"Kit, it is I. Listen to me," says some one, and then a hole in the
hedge is cleared, and Mr. Desmond, stepping through it, enters the
moonlit patch, flushed but shamelessly unembarrassed.

Kit, pale with disappointment, regards him silently with no gentle
glance.

"And to think," she says, at length, with slow scorn, looking him up and
down with measureless contempt,--"to think I was mad enough to believe
for one long moment that you might be Apollo, and that your voice was a
cry from Parnassus!"

At which, I regret to say, Mr. Desmond gives way to most unseemly
mirth. "I never dreamed I should attain to such glory," he says. "I feel
like 'the rapt one of the godlike forehead.'"

"You _may_," says the younger Miss Beresford, who has awakened from the
dim dusk of "faerie lands forlorn" to the clearer light of earth. "You
may," witheringly, "_feel_ like it, but you certainly don't _look_ like
it."

"I am not complete, I know that," says Mr. Desmond still full of unholy
enjoyment. "I lack 'bright Apollo's lute strung with his hair;' but if
you will wait a moment I will run back to Coole and get the nearest
thing to it."

He turns as if to fulfil his words, but Kit stops him.

"Don't go," she says, laughing gayly, now herself. "Even the very
original lute would not transform you into a god. Stay if you want to.
After all, now I am again in my senses, I daresay you are as good to
talk to as a heathen deity."

"Oh, no," says Mr. Desmond, humbly. "They always thundered when they
spoke: so think how imposing and convincing their arguments must have
been!"

"Horrid, _I_ should think," says Kit. "And now tell me what brought you
here?"

This is abrupt, but, taking her in her own mood, Desmond answers,
bluntly,--

"Monica."

"She _told_ you to come?"

"No. But I want to see her."

"She has gone to her room."

"Make her leave it again. Tell her I cannot rest until I see her; tell
her anything; only bring her to me for even one short moment."

"But it is some time since I left her: perhaps she is in bed."

"But not asleep yet, surely. She loves _you_, Kit: induce her, then, to
come to her window, that I may even catch a glimpse of her, if I may not
speak with her. But she cannot be in bed; it is so early," says Mr.
Desmond, desperately.

"Well," says Kit, relenting, and striving to forget the blank occasioned
by the substitution of an ordinary Desmond for an extraordinary deity,
"I'll see what can be done."

"You will," eagerly, "really?"

"Yes, really. I will stand your friend," say Kit, solemnly, feeling now
that, even if the old gods have denied her an intimate acquaintance with
them, still they have devoted her to the service of Cupid, and have
secretly commanded her to help on the machinations of his naughty little
highness.

"Then will you tell her I want to see her--_here, now_--for only a bare
second if she so wills it? Will you tell her this from me? Dear Kit,
_sweet_ Kit, I entreat you to do this."

"Oh! how sweet I am when you want me to do something for you!" says she,
with a little smile. "There! I can see through you as clearly as though
you were crystal; but I like you all the same. You must have some good
in you to fall in love with my Monica."

"Others can fall in love with her, too," returns he, with moody
jealousy.

"Ah, yes! I saw that," says Kit, lifting her hands excitedly.

"Who could fail to see it? Who could fail to love her?" says Desmond,
sadly. Then, being in such very poor case, and looking sorrowfully for
comfort from any source, however small, he says, nervously,--

"Kit, answer me truthfully--you have sworn to be my friend: tell me,
then, which do _you_ count the better man,--him, or me?"

But that a sense of honor forbids him to pry into his love's secret
thoughts, he would have asked whom _she_ counted the better man.

"You," says Kit, calmly. "I have no doubt about it. I _hate_ fat men,
and--and so does Monica. I have heard her say so, over and over again."

"Oh, Kit! what a dear little girl you are!" says Mr. Desmond, with
grateful fervor.

"Well, I'm glad you like me," says Kit, "because"--frankly--"I like you.
It was very good of you to lend that gun to Terry; I haven't forgotten
that, though, goodness knows, I only hope he won't do himself to death
with it" (she delights in old-world phrases such as this); "and I like
you, too, for loving Monica. Isn't she--" laying her hand upon his arm,
and looking trustfully into his eyes,--"_isn't_ she pretty?"

"She is like an angel," says Desmond, feeling all his heart go out to
the fragile, ethereal-looking child before him, as he listens to her
praises of her sister.

"Or a saint, perhaps. Monica is a saintly name. Was she not the mother
of St. Augustine?" says Kit, quickly. After the old gods, passion for
the saints, and their lilies and roses and fiery trials, animates her
childish bosom. "Oh! and that reminded me," she says: "she told me to
bring her in a lily, fresh with dew,--one of those lilies over there in
that dark corner. Do you see them,--tall and white?"

"I see. Let me pick one for her. Here, take it to her, and," laying his
lips upon it, "_this_ with it."

"I will. And now let me run in and try my utmost to persuade her to come
out here. But," doubtfully, as she remembers how Monica refused with
studied coldness to meet his parting glance at the Barracks a few hours
ago, "do not be too sure of her coming. She _may_ refuse, you know. She
is peculiar in many ways, and she thinks herself bound in honor to Aunt
Priscilla not to look at you. But stay here, just in this spot, and
think all the time that I am doing my very best for you."

Her little face is so earnest as she says all this, so fearful that he
may have to endure disappointment, that he is greatly touched. Pushing
back her hair from her forehead with both hands, he lays a light but
loving kiss upon her brow.

"Go, my best friend. I trust all to you," he says, after which the
slender sprite springs away from him, and, entering the shadows beyond,
is soon lost to him.

Reaching the house, she mounts the stairs with swift but silent
footsteps, and, after a nervous hesitation before the door of her aunt
Priscilla's room, finds herself once again face to face with Monica.

That pretty cause of all this plotting is not in bed, as Kit had
predicted might be the case. She is not even undressed. She has only
exchanged her azure gown for a loose white morning robe, long and
trailing, and lavishly trimmed at the throat and wrists with some rare
old Mechlin lace that Aunt Penelope had given her a week ago, glad in
the thought that it may perchance add another charm to the beauty of her
darling.

Her hair is rolled up in a small, soft knot behind; her face is a little
pale; her eyes, large and luminous, have great heavy shadows lying
beneath them, suggestive of fatigue and tiring thought. Altogether, she
is looking as lovely as any heart can desire.

"Ah, you have returned!" she says, as Kit enters. "How long you have
been! I gave you up. I thought some pixy had become enamoured of you and
had carried you off to his kingdom."

"I was in danger of nothing so insignificant as a pixy. It was the great
Apollo's self I feared," says Kit, with a sly humorous smile. "And here
is your lily: _he_ sent it to you with his love and a kiss."

"Apollo?" smiling.

"Why, yes. Who else could it be at this hour?"

"Yet there is something strange in your manner."

"That is as it should be. On such a night as this, how could one escape
a little touch of that 'moonstruck madness' I spoke of a while since? Go
out yourself, walk through that moonlit garden just where I walked, to
where in that corner over the rays melt into shadow, and try if there be
nothing in it to make your heart beat faster."

"I could do it, and return calm as I am now."

"Then you are no true woman."

"What! must a woman be so foolishly romantic as to tremble in the
moonlight, to be true?"

"Moonlights differ. There is a witchery abroad to-night. Go, and judge
for yourself if there be not truth in my words."

"I can see enough of it from this," says Monica, leaning her bare snowy
arms--from which her loose sleeves have fallen--upon the window-ledge,
and turning her eyes to the pale sky studded with bright stars, "to
bewitch me, if indeed it has the power you ascribe to it."

Foiled in her first effort to send her to Desmond's arms, Kit flings
herself upon the ground beside her, and lays her arms upon her lap and
looks lovingly but reproachfully into her eyes.

"I think you were a little unkind to that dear Brian this evening," she
says.

"That dear Brian will recover from my cruel treatment, I make no doubt,"
says Monica, with affected lightness, though, in truth, remorse is
gnawing at her heartstrings.

"If he does, he will show his very good sense. He loves you: why, then,
do you _flout_ and scorn him?"

In the ancient library below, the young ladies in the novels always
_flouted_ their lovers. Not having the faintest idea how they perform
this arduous task, Kit still adopts the word as having a sonorous sound,
and uses it now with--as she hopes--great effect.

"I do _not_ flout him," says Monica, indignantly. "But what am I to do?
am I to make Aunt Priscilla wretched, then, because of him, and break
her poor heart perhaps?"

"Oh, bother her heart!" says the younger Miss Beresford, with more
candor than decency: "think of _his_ poor heart, if you like, wasting
and wearing away because of your unkindness. If _I_ had a lover, that
is not how I should treat him. I should do anything in the world he
asked me. I should defy everybody in the world for him, and think them
well lost. I should run away with him at a moment's notice if he asked
me. _Now!_"

"Oh, Kit!" says Monica, aghast at all this energy.

"I should indeed," nothing daunted; "I shouldn't hesitate. And, at all
events, I should be civil to him at all times. Why, the way you treated
that wretched young man to-day at Clonbree Barracks was, I consider,
shameful! And you call yourself, I dare say, soft-hearted. To _look_ at
you, one would think you couldn't be unkind if you tried; and yet the
_barbarity_ of your conduct to-day, to a person who literally worships
the ground you walk on, was----"

"But what did I do?" interrupts poor Monica, trembling before this
whirlwind.

"What _didn't_ you do? you mean. You would not even grant him one kind
parting glance. I could have _cried_ for him, he looked so sad and
forlorn. I think he looked like suicide,--I do, indeed,--and I shouldn't
wonder a bit if in the morning we heard----"

"Oh, Kit, don't! _don't!_" says Monica, in an agony, as this awful
insinuation gains force with her.

"Well, I won't then," says the advocate, pretending to surrender her
point by adroitly changing her front. A very Jesuit at soul is this
small Kit. "After all, I daresay he will grow tired of your incivility,
and so--forget you. Some one else will see how dear a fellow he is, and
smile upon him, and then he will give you up."

This picture, being in Monica's eyes even _more_ awful than the former,
makes great havoc in her face, rendering her eyes large and sorrowful,
and, indeed, so suffused with the heart's water that she seems upon the
very verge of tears. She turns these wet but lovely orbs upon her
tormentor.

"That would be the best thing he could do for _himself_," she says, so
sadly that Kit insensibly creeps closer to her; "and as for me, it
doesn't matter about me, of course."

"Monica, you like him, then," says Kit, suddenly, rising on her knees
and looking into her sister's averted eyes. "I am sure of it: I know it
now. Why did you not confide in me before?"

"Because it seems all so hopeless; even--if I loved him enough to marry
him--_they_ would never give in" (meaning, presumably, her aunts): "so
why should he or I waste time over so impossible a theory?"

"Why should it be impossible? Why should you not be married?"

"Because the fates are against us. Not," quickly, "that _that_ so much
matters: I don't want to marry _anybody_! But--but," lowering her lids,
"I do want him to _love_ me."

"My dear child, talk sense if you talk at all," says the material Kit.
"There never yet was a heroine in any novel ever read by me (and I have
had a large experience) who didn't want to marry the man of her heart.
Now just look at that girl of Rhoda Broughton's, in 'Good-by,
Sweetheart!' We can all see she didn't die of any disease, but simply
because she couldn't be wedded to the man she loved. _There's_ a girl
for you! give _me_ a girl like that. If ever I fall in love with a man,
and I find I can't marry him, I shall make a point of dying of grief. It
is so graceful; just like what I have heard of Irving and Ellen Terry--I
mean, Romeo and Juliet!"

"But I can't bear to deceive Aunt Priscilla," says Monica. "She is so
kind, so good."

"Stuff and nonsense!" says Kit promptly. "Do you suppose, when Aunt
Priscilla was young, she would have deserted--let us say--Mr. Desmond
the elder, at the beck and call of any one? She has too much spirit, to
do her credit. Though I must say her spirit is rather out of place now,
at times."

"What would you have me do, then?" asks Monica, desperately.

"Oh, nothing," says Kit, airily,--"really _nothing_. I am too young, of
course, to give advice," with a little vicious toss of her small head.
"And of course, too, I know nothing of the world's ways," with another
toss, that conveys to her auditor the idea that she believes herself
thoroughly versed and skilled in society's lore, but that as yet she is
misunderstood. "And it is not my place, of course, to dictate to an
elder sister." This severely, and evidently intended as a slap at Monica
because of some little rebuke delivered by her, the other day, on the
subject of age. "But," with concentrated energy, "I would not be
_brutal_, if I were you."

"Brutal?" faintly.

"Yes, _brutal_, to keep him waiting for you all this time in the shadow
near the ivy wall!"

Having discharged this shell, she waits in stony silence for a reply.
She waits some time. Then--

"Are you speaking of--of Mr. Desmond?" asks Monica, in a trembling
voice.

"Yes. He is standing there now, and has been, for--oh, for hours,--on
the bare chance of gaining one word from you."

"Now?" starting.

"Yes. He said he would wait until I had persuaded you to go out. If I
had such a lover, I know I should not keep him waiting for me all the
evening _shivering_ with cold."

(It is the balmiest of summer nights.)

"Oh! what shall I do?" says Monica, torn in two between her desire to be
true to her aunt and yet not unkind to her lover.

"As I said before," says the resolute Kit, turning her small pale face
up to her sister, "I know I am not entitled to dictate to any one, but
this I know, too, that if I were you, and _twenty_ Aunt Priscillas were
at my side, I should still--go to him! There!"

She conquers. Monica rises slowly, and as a first move in the desired
direction goes--need I say it?--to the looking-glass. Need I say, also,
that she feels dissatisfied with her appearance?

"Then I suppose I had better dress myself all over again," she says,
glancing with much discontent at the charming vision the glass returns
to her.

"No, no!" says Kit, decidedly. She has now arranged herself as Mistress
of the Ceremonies, and quite gives herself airs. "Do not add even a
touch to your toilet. You are quite too sweet as you are, and 'time
presses'" (another quotation from one of her mouldy volumes).

"But _this_," says Monica, plucking at her pretty loose gown, that hangs
in limp artistic folds round her slight figure and is pranked out with
costly laces.

"It is perfect! Have you no eyes for the beautiful? There, go, you silly
child; Nature has been so good to you, you now deride her prodigality,
and make little of the gifts she has bestowed upon you. Go to----"

"Good gracious!" says Monica, pausing to stare at her aghast. "Where did
you learn all that?"

"It is in a book below; I learned it by heart, to say it to you some
day, and now I have done it. There, be quick! He will be _gone_ if you
don't make haste. His patience by this time must be exhausted. Think
what he has been enduring; I only hope he hasn't fainted from sheer
fatigue, that's all!"

"Will you stay here till I come back," says Monica, nervously, "or will
you come with me?"

"I shall stay here; and don't hurry on my account. I shall be quite
happy with this lamp and your Chaucer. There, go now; and tell him I
sent you. And," mischievously, "don't be civil to him, you know, but
rate him soundly for presuming to disturb your worship at this hour."

"Oh! if any one sees me!" says Monica, quaking.

"You will never get hanged for a big crime," returns Kit, laughing; and
then Monica steps out lightly, fearfully, upon the corridor outside, and
so, with her heart dying within her, creeps past her aunt's doors, and
down the wide staircase, and through the hall, and at last into the
silver moonlight!



CHAPTER XII.

  How Monica with faltering footsteps enters the mysterious moonlight,
  and how she fares therein.


What a noise the tiny gravel makes beneath her feet, as she hurries
rapidly towards the garden! How her heart beats! Oh that she were back
again in her pretty safe room, with the naughty Kit to scold! Oh, if
Aunt Priscilla were to rise, and, looking out of her bedroom window,
catch a glimpse of her, as she hastes to meet the man she has been
forbidden to know! A thousand terrors possess her. The soft beauty of
the night is unseen, the rushing of sweet brooks in the distance is
unheard. She hurries on, a little, lithe, frightened figure, with wide
eyes and parted lips, to the rendezvous she has not sought. And what a
little way it had seemed in the glad daylight, yet what a journey in the
silent, fearsome night! There are real tears, born of sheer nervousness,
in her beautiful eyes, as she runs along the garden path, and at
last--_at last_--finds herself face to face with Desmond.

"Ah, you have come!" cries he, gladly, going to meet her while yet she
is a long way off.

"Yes." She can say no more, but her fear has departed at sight of him,
and once more she grows calm, collected, and mistress of herself. She
keeps well away from him, however, and holds out to him--that "white
wonder"--her hand, from a very great distance, as it seems to him. Does
she distrust him, then? Thinking of this, Brian takes the extended hand,
and holds it in a clasp that though tender is light, and refrains with
much forbearance from pressing his lips to it.

"To come _here_, and at this hour! It is madness!" says Monica, hastily.

"A very blessed madness, then, and with method in it: it has enabled me
to see _you_."

"Oh, do not talk like that. You ought not to see me at all. And, now,
what is it? Kit said you wanted me sadly."

"And so I do, and not only now but always."

"If," reproachfully, "it is nothing pressing, would not to-morrow have
done?"

"To-morrow never comes. There is nothing like to-day; and how could I
have lived till to-morrow? I could not sleep, I could not rest, until I
had seen you. My heart seemed on fire. Monica, how could you have
treated me as you did to-day?"

She is silent. The very fact of her not answering convinces him her
coldness at the Barracks was intentional, and his tone takes an
additional sadness as he speaks again.

"You meant it then?" he says. "You would not throw me even one poor
glance. If you could only look into my heart, and read how cruelly I
felt your unkindness, you might----"

"I don't know what you mean," says Monica. "Why should you talk of
unkindness? Why should I be kinder to you than to another?"

"Of your grace alone; I know that," says the young man, humbly. He has
paid court to many a town-bred damsel before this, and gained their
smiles too, and their sighs; yet now he sues to this cold child as he
never sued before, and knows his very soul is set on her good will.

"Why must you choose me to love,--_me_, of all the world?" says Monica,
tremulously: "it is wide, there are others--and----"

"Because I must. It is my fate, and I am glad of it. Whom worthier could
I love?" says the lover, with fond, passionate reverence.

"Many, no doubt. And why love at all? Let us be friends, then, if it is
indeed decreed that our lives meet----"

"There could never be mere friendship between you and me. If your heart
sleeps, at least your sense must tell you that."

"Then I could wish myself without sense. I want to know nothing about
it. Alas! how sad a thing is love!"

"And how joyous! It is the one emotion to be fed and fostered. 'All
others are but vanity.' I will persist in loving you until I die."

"That is a foolish saying; and, even if you do, what will come of it
all?" says Monica, with a sigh.

"Marriage, I trust," returns he, right cheerily. "Because, to give you
another example of love's endurance, and to quote old Southey to you, I
will tell you that he says,--

            "'It is indestructable;
      Its holy flame forever burneth:
    From heaven it came, to heaven returneth.'

but not yet awhile, I hope."

"You are a special pleader," says she, with a sudden smile.

"For the cause that I plead I would that I were a more eloquent
advocate."

"You are eloquent enough," glancing at him for a moment, and then again
turning away from him; "too eloquent," she says, with a little sigh.

He is still holding her hands, but now he does not speak or answer her
in any wise. A silence falls upon them, calm as the night. In "full
orbed glory" the moon above sails through the skies.

    "A dewy freshness fills the silent air;
    No mist obscures, nor cloud, nor speck, nor stain,
    Breaks the serene of heaven."

"There is one thing I must say, Monica," says the young man at last,
lifting her face gently with one hand until her eyes look into his own:
"remember, my life is in your hands."

"Do not overburden me," she answers, but in so low a voice that it can
scarce be heard. Yet _he_ hears.

"My darling, must I be a burden to you?" he says. "Monica, if this my
courtship is hateful to you, or more than you can bear, dismiss me now,
and I will go from you, no matter what it costs me."

"You are no true lover, to talk like that," she says, with a shadowy
smile.

"I am lover enough to wish you no pain or weariness of spirit."

"I doubt you are too good for me," she answers with a little burst of
feeling.

"I must be a paragon indeed if that be so," returns he. "Oh, Monica, if
you could only love me!"

"I _dare_ not." Then, as though sorry for these words, she holds out her
hands to him, and says, with a quick smile, "Oh, Romeo, Romeo! wherefore
art thou Romeo?"

"I wish I knew," returns he sadly. "Yet if I were sure of one thing I
should not despair. Monica, tell me you don't like Ryde."

"I can't," says Monica. "He is very kind to me always. I am sure I ought
to like him."

"How has he been kind to you?"

"Oh, in many ways."

"He has brought you a cup of somebody else's tea, I suppose, and has
probably trotted after you with a camp-stool; is that kindness?"

"If one is hot or tired, yes."

"You are one of the most grateful specimen of your sex. I wish there was
anything for which you might be grateful to me. But I am not great at
the _petits soins_ business."

"I shouldn't have thought so this afternoon," says Monica, maliciously,
"when you were happy with Olga Bohun. But see, the moon has risen quite
above the elms. I must go."

"Not yet. There is something else. When am I to see you again?--when?"

"That is as fate wills it."

"_You_ are my fate. Will it, then, and say to-morrow."

"No, no!" exclaims she, releasing her hands from his, "I cannot indeed.
I _must_ not. In being here with you now I am doing wrong, and am
betraying the two people in the world who are most kind to me. How shall
I look into their eyes to-morrow? No; I will not promise to meet you
anywhere--_ever_."

"How tender you are with them, and with me how cruel!"

"You have many joys in your life, but they how few!"

"You are wrong there. The world has grown useless to me since I met you.
You are my one joy, and you elude me; therefore pity me too."

"Who made you so gracious a courtier?" asks she, with a little shrug of
her rounded shoulders.

"Now you cast scorn upon me," says Desmond, half angrily, and as he says
it the thought of Kit's word _flout_ comes to her, and she smiles. It is
an idle thought, yet it is with difficulty she cleaves to the less
offensive smiles and keeps herself from laughing aloud.

"Why should I do that?" she says, a little saucily. Indeed, she knows
this young man to be so utterly in her power--and power is so sweet when
first acquired, and so prone to breed tyranny--that she hardly turns
aside to meditate upon the pain she may be causing him.

"I don't know," a little sadly; then, "Monica, you like me?"

"Yes, I like you," says Miss Beresford, as she might have answered had
she been questioned as to her opinion of an aromatic russet.

Repressing a gesture of impatience, Desmond goes on calmly,--

"Better than Ryde?"

"Than Mr. Ryde?" She stops and glances at the gravel at her feet in a
would-be thoughtful fashion, and pushes it to and fro with her pretty
Louis Quinze shoe. She pauses purposely, and makes quite an affair of
her hesitation.

"Yes, Ryde," says he, impatiently.

"How can I answer that?" she says, at length, with studied deliberation,
"when I know so little of either him--or you?"

His indignation increases.

"Knowing us both at _least_ equally well, you must have formed by this
time some opinion of us."

"I should indeed," says the young girl, slowly, always with her eyes
upon the gravel; "but unfortunately it never occurred to me,--the vital
necessity of doing so, I mean."

Though her head is still bent, he can detect the little amused smile
that is curving her mobile lips. There can be small doubt but that she
is enjoying his discomfiture immensely.

"Certainly there is no reason why _you_ should waste a thought on either
him or me," he returns, stiffly.

"No; and yet I do waste one on--_you_--sometimes," says she, with a
gleam of tenderness, and a swift glance from under her long lashes that
somehow angers him intensely.

"You are a coquette," he says, quietly. There is contempt both in his
look and tone. As she hears it, she suddenly lifts her head, and,
without betraying chagrin, regards him steadfastly.

"Is that so?" she says. "Sometimes I have _thought_ it, but----"

The unmistakable hope her pause contains angers him afresh.

"If you covet the unenviable title," he says, bitterly, "be happy. You
can lay just claim to it. You are more than worthy of it."

"You flatter me," she says, letting a glance so light rest upon him that
it seems but the mere quiver of her eyelids.

"I meant no flattery, believe me."

"I do believe you: I quite understand."

"Not quite, I think," exclaims he, the sudden coldness of her manner
frightening him into better behavior. "If--if I have said anything to
offend you, I ask your forgiveness."

"There is nothing to forgive, indeed, and you have failed to offend me.
But," slowly, "you have made me very sorry for you."

"_Sorry?_"

"Yes, for your most unhappy temper. It is quite the worst, I think, I
have ever met with. _Good_-night Mr. Desmond: pray be careful when going
through that hedge again; there are some rose-trees growing in it, and
thorns do hurt so dreadfully."

So saying, she gathers up her white skirts, and, without a touch of her
hand, or even a last glance, flits like a lissome ghost across the
moonlit paths of the garden, and so is gone.



CHAPTER XIII.

  How Kit reads between the lines--How the Misses Blake show
  themselves determined to pursue a dissipated course, and how Monica
  is led astray by an apt pupil of Machiavelli.


Early next morning Bridget, Monica's maid, enters Kit's room in a
somewhat mysterious fashion. Glancing all round the room furtively, as
though expecting an enemy lying in ambush behind every chair and table,
she says, in a low, cautious tone,--

"A letter for you, miss."

As she says this, she draws a note from beneath her apron, where, in her
right hand, it has been carefully hidden,--_so_ carefully, indeed, that
she could not have failed to create suspicion in the breast of a babe.

"For me," says Kit, off her guard for once.

"Yes, miss."

"Who brought it?"

"A bit of a gossoon, miss, out there in the yard beyant. An' he wouldn't
give me his name; but sure I know him well for a boy of the Maddens',
an' one of the Coole people. His father, an' his gran'father before him,
were laborers with the ould Squire."

"Ah, indeed!" says Kit. By this time she has recovered her surprise and
her composure. "Thank you, Bridget," she says, with quite a
grandiloquent air: "put it there, on that table. It is of no
consequence, I dare say: you can go."

Bridget--who, like all her countrywomen, dearly likes a love-affair, and
is quite aware of young Mr. Desmond's passion for her mistress--is
disappointed.

"The gossoon said he was to wait for an answer, miss," she says,
insinuatingly. "An' faix," waxing confidential, "I think I caught sight
of the coat-tails of Misther Desmond's man outside the yard gate."

"You should never think on such occasions, Bridget; and coat-tails are
decidedly _low_," says the younger Miss Beresford, with scathing
reproof.

"They weren't very low, miss. He wore one o' them cutaway coats," says
Bridget, in an injured tone.

"You fail to grasp my meaning," says Kit, gravely. "However, let it
pass. If this note requires an answer, you can wait in the next room
until I write it."

"Very well, miss," says the discomfited Bridget; and Kit, finding
herself in another moment alone, approaches the table, and with a
beating heart takes up the note. "It is--it _must_ be from Brian!"

The plot thickens; and _she_ has been selected to act a foremost part in
it! She is to be the confidante,--the tried and trusted friend; without
her aid all the fair edifice Cupid is erecting would crumble into dust.

And is there no danger, too, to be encountered,--perhaps to be met and
overcome? If perchance all be discovered,--if Aunt Priscilla should
suddenly be apprised of what is now going on beneath her very
spectacles,--will not she,--Kit,--in her character of "guide,
philosopher, and friend" to the culprits, come in for a double share of
censure? Yes, truly there are breakers ahead, and difficulties to be
overcome. There is joy and a sense of heroism in this thought; and she
throws up her small head defiantly, and puts out one foot with quite a
martial air, as it comes to her.

Then she tears open the envelope, and reads as follows:--

"DEAR LITTLE KIT,--Owing you all the love and allegiance in the world
for having helped me once, I come to you again. How am I to pass this
long day without a glimpse of _her_? It is a love-sick swain who doth
entreat your mercy. Does any happy thought run through your pretty head?
If so, my man is waiting for it somewhere; befriend me a second time.

      "Ever yours,
          "BRIAN."

Prompt action is as the breath of her nostrils to Kit. Drawing pen and
ink towards her, without a moment's hesitation, she scribbles an answer
to Desmond:--

"We are going towards Ballyvoureen this afternoon, to take a pudding to
old Biddy Daly: any one _chancing_ to walk there also might meet us.
Count upon me always.

          "KIT."

This Machiavellian epistle, which she fondly believes to be without its
equal in the matter of depth, she folds carefully, and, enclosing it in
an envelope void of address or anything (mark the astuteness of
_that_!), calls to Bridget to return to her.

"You will find the boy you mentioned as being by birth a Madden," she
says, austerely, "and give him this; and you will refrain from gossiping
and idle talking with him, which is not convenient."

It would be impossible to describe the tone in which she says this.
Bridget, much disgusted, takes the note silently, and with sufficient
nervousness to make itself known. Indeed, she is so plainly impressed by
Kit's eloquence that the latter's heart sings aloud for joy.

"Yes, miss," she says, in a very subdued voice, and goes away with
indignant haste, to tell cook, as she passes through the kitchen, that
"Faix, Miss Kit might be her own gran'mother,--she is so ould an' quare
in her ways."

Kit meantime goes in search of Monica, with a mind stored with crafty
arguments for the beguiling of that unconscious maiden. Hearing voices
in the morning-room, she turns in there, and finds the whole family in
conclave.

Miss Priscilla is speaking.

"Yes, I certainly think hospitality of some sort should be shown them,"
she is saying, with quite an excited flush on her dear old ugly face.
"We cannot, of course, do much; but afternoon tea, now, and some
pleasant people to meet them,--and strawberries,--and a little stroll
round the gardens--eh? And, Penelope, you used to be a great hand at
claret-cup in our dear father's time; and then there is tennis. I really
think, you know, it might be done."

She quite bridles with pleasure at the bare anticipation. To entertain
once more,--again to welcome guests beneath the old roof! For many years
a nightly game of patience has been the sole dissipation the Misses
Blake have known, and here of late days they have been going hither and
thither to dances and garden-parties, and have acknowledged to
themselves secretly that the change is sweet. And now they are actually
discussing the idea of indulging in wild festivities on their own part!
Surely these children from Jerusalem have much to answer for!

"Is there going to be a party _here_, Aunt Priscilla?" asks Kit with
enlarged eyes.

"Well, my dear, we are debating the possibilities of it,--just the pros
and cons," says Miss Priscilla, precisely. "Your aunt Penelope agrees
with me that some attention is due to those young men in Clonbree
Barracks."

"You are going to ask Captain Cobbett and Mr. Ryde here! Oh, what fun!"
cries Kit, seating herself, minus invitation, on Miss Priscilla's knee,
and twining her arms round her neck. "Do you know, when with mother we
didn't dare call our souls our own; but with you we are having real good
old times! Aren't we, now?"

"Oh, Kit!--my _dear_ Kit!--you must not speak so of your lost mother,"
cry the old ladies in a breath, both greatly distressed.

"Well, I shan't if you don't wish it; but it is true, for all that. And
so you are really going to ask that big young man and his little captain
to come here?"

"Your Aunt Penelope and I both feel that some hospitality should be
shown to Her Majesty," says Miss Priscilla, pompously.

"The Queen!" says Kit aghast. "You aren't going to ask _her_ to Moyne
are you? Windsor is a long way off, and she is pretty well on now, you
know, and I don't believe she'd come."

"Not personally. But we shall pay her the compliment through her trusty
servants the marines. Not that we owe her much," says Miss Priscilla,
shaking her head. "I cannot think she has behaved quite fairly towards
us in many ways. Never coming to see us, I mean, or sending the prince,
or having a residence here, or that----"

"Still," breaks in Miss Penelope, coming to Her Majesty's relief, with
the evident and kindly desire of showing her up in a more favorable
light, "I have always understood that in private life she is a most
exemplary woman,--a blameless wife so long as she was allowed to be so,
and a most excellent mother."

"And grandmother," chimes in Miss Priscilla, gracefully, as though
ashamed of her former acrimonious remarks. "From what I can glean from
the papers, she seems quite devoted to those poor little motherless
girls of Hesse."

It is quite plain that the Misses Blake regard their sovereign more as
Victoria and sister than queen and mistress.

"She has sent these men to Clonbree to protect our lives and properties
in these perilous times," goes on Miss Priscilla, in her clear, soft
voice, "and so I think we are bound to show them any civility in our
power."

"More especially the life and property of old Desmond," says Terry, at
this moment, with a noble disregard of consequences. He is sitting at a
distant window, tying flies, and makes this unfortunate remark without
the faintest appearance of malice prepense. "They say he is running a
regular rig with his tenants,--playing old Harry with 'em, in fact," he
goes on, debonairly; "but they'll stop his little game for him with a
bullet before long, I shouldn't wonder."

As the forbidden name is thus cavalierly thrown into their midst, like a
bomb, Monica flushes first a warm crimson and then turns cold with
fright.

The old ladies stiffen in their chairs, but never a word say they; they
are too much overcome for ordinary rebuke. Kit, however, to whom any
excitement is welcome, betrays an open admiration for the bold Terence
and waits hopefully for what may come next.

It is even worse than might be expected. Terence, either unaware or
careless of the sensation he has produced, closes one eye to examine
with pleased scrutiny the gaudy fly he has just completed, after which
he says, with a suggestion of jocoseness that under the circumstances is
perfectly abominable,--

"I say, Aunt Priscilla, as Cobbett has been sent to look after old
Desmond in particular, don't you think, if you entertain him, it will be
to old Desmond, and _not_ Her Majesty, you will be paying attention,
after all?"

He stops and smiles blandly. If, indeed, I said a _grin_ illuminates his
countenance, I might be nearer the truth. It is apparent to everybody
that he is _jesting_ on this sacred subject.

"Terry!" says Monica, with a little gasp.

"Well?" says Mr. Beresford, amiably, purposely misunderstanding the
horror of her tone, and looking up as though thirsting for the remainder
of her speech. It doesn't come. Monica, fearful of provoking him to
further monstrosities, forbears from answer of any kind.

"Terence," says Miss Priscilla, with slow solemnity, "I have frequently
told you that we object to hearing that detested name mentioned in our
presence. It offends both your aunt Penelope and me. I must again beg
that for the future we may be spared a repetition of it."

"When I was going to give Tim Daly a sound thrashing for his
impertinence yesterday, you stopped me and bade me forgive my enemies,"
says Terence, calmly, questioningly. "Why don't you forgive old
Desmond?"

"Because----That is quite another thing altogether. I mean----I----it
seems to me----No matter _what_ it seems now; we can't discuss it," says
Miss Priscilla, making a desperate effort to catch the horns of her
dilemma and to escape from it.

"Let us discuss our party instead," says Kit, cheerfully, who is really
of the greatest use at times. "When is it to be, Aunt Pris?"

"Next week, I suppose," says Miss Penelope, promptly, seeing that Miss
Priscilla is still too agitated to reply. "And I think it would be
rather nice to have tea in the orchard."

"Oh! how quite too lovely!" says Kit, clasping her hands.

"Quite too utterly consummately, preciously intense?" mutters Terence,
_sotto voce_, regarding Kit sideways, who returns his rapturous glance
with one full of ineffable disdain.

"I hope Michael won't object," says Miss Penelope, nervously. Michael is
the gardener, and they are all, without exception, afraid of him.

"Nonsense, my dear! why should he?" says Miss Priscilla. "It isn't
because he has been here for years that he is to forbid us the use of
our own grounds, and of late I consider there is great fault to be found
with him. Long service should not generate neglect, and of late there
has not been a good lettuce or a respectable dish of asparagus in the
garden."

"There wasn't even any thyme last week," says Kit, who maintains an
undying feud with Michael. "He had to get some fresh plants from
Cahirmore."

"Time was made for slaves," says Terence, meditatively. "_You_ aren't a
slave, are you?"

"I should hope not," says Kit, icily.

"Then you can't want time: so don't worry that poor old man in the
garden about it. He hasn't a scythe, or a bald head, or a dismal
forelock: so he _can't_ know anything about it."

"You are so clever," says the younger Miss Beresford, with unmixed
scorn, "that I wonder something dreadful doesn't happen to you."

"So do I," says Terence.

"Well, auntie, and whom shall we ask to meet these men of war?" says
Kit, ignoring him,--publicly, to his great delight.

"I suppose Madam O'Connor and all her party, and the Frenches, and Lord
Rossmoyne,--who I hear is still in the country,--and----Penelope, my
dear, will you sit down and write the invitations now for Friday next,
as I must get ready to go to the coast-guard station? That girl of
Mitson's is ill, and wants to see me."

Monica rising at this moment to leave the room, Kit follows her.

"It is really _too_ amazing," she says, when they find themselves in the
hall. "To think of their blossoming into a real live party! I feel quite
overcome."

"So do I," says Monica, laughing.

"There is only one drawback to it," says Kit, softly: "I am _so_ sorry
Brian can't be asked."

Monica flushes furiously, and swerves away from her somewhat
impatiently; but reply she makes none.

"There are cobwebs in my brain," says Kit, raising her hands languidly
to her head, with the oppressed air of one who is bravely struggling
with a bad headache. "I think I shall go for a walk to Biddy Daly's to
try and rout them. I promised her old mother a pudding the last day I
was there, and to-day cook has it ready for me. Will you come with me,
Monica? _Do._"

"Not to-day, I think," says Monica, lazily.

"I wish you would! I do so _hate_ going anywhere by myself. And,
somehow, I am half afraid to go alone to-day, I feel--so--so faint.
However," with a resigned sigh, "never mind; I dare say if I _do_ drop
in a deadly swoon, somebody will pick me up."

"My dear Kit, if you feel like that, don't go," says Monica, naturally
alarmed.

"I have promised old Mrs. Daly; I must go," replies Kit, with the
determination of a Brutus. "If I am not back in time for dinner, you
will understand what has happened."

This is awful! Monica turns quite pale.

"Of course I shall go with you," she says, hurriedly. "Is your head so
very bad, darling? How bravely you carried it off in there!" pointing
towards the morning-room they have just left. "However, it would be only
like you to hide your worries from us, lest they should make us
unhappy."

At this, it must be allowed to her credit, Kit feels some strong twinges
of remorse,--not enough, however, to compel confession.

"It is really hardly worth talking about," she says, alluding to the
headache; and this, at all events, is the strict truth.



CHAPTER XIV.

  How Kit's plot is betrayed, and how a walk that begins gayly ends in
  gloom.


The road to Mrs. Daly's is full of beauty. On one side of it runs Coole,
its trees rich with leafy branches; upon the other stretches a common,
green and soft, with a grand glimpse of the ocean far down below it.

"Why walk on the dusty road when those fields are green in there?" says
Kit, pointing to Coole; and, after a faint hesitation, Monica follows
her over the wall and into the dark recesses of the woods. The grass is
knee deep in ferns and trailing verdure; great clumps of honeysuckle,
falling from giant limbs of elm, make the air sweet. Some little way to
their right--but where they cannot see because of the prodigality of
moss and alder and bracken--a little hidden brook runs merrily, making

    "Sweet music with th' enamell'd stones,
    Giving a gentle kiss to every sedge
    He overtaketh in his pilgrimage."

Some thought belonging to the past night coming to Kit, she turns to
Monica with a little laugh.

"How silent you have been about last night's adventure!" she says. "I
watched you from your own window until the shadows caught you. You
looked like a flitting spirit,--a--a bhoot."

"A _boot_!" says Monica, very justly surprised.

"Yes," loftily. Kit's educational course, as directed by herself, has
been of the erratic order, and has embraced many topics unknown to
Monica. From the political economy of the Faroe Isles, it has reached
even to the hidden mysteries of Hindostan.

"I must have struck you then as being in my liveliest mood," says
Monica, still laughing. "Terry told us yesterday he was as gay as old
boots. As I looked like _one_, I suppose I was at least half as gay as
he was. After all, there is nothing like leather, no matter how
ancient."

"There's an _h_ in my bhoot," says Kit, with some disgust. "Really, the
ignorance of some people--even the _nicest_--is, surprising."

"Then why don't you take it out?" says Monica, frivolously. "Not that I
know in the very least what harm a poor innocent letter could do there."

"You don't understand," says Kit, pitifully.

"I don't indeed," says Monica, unabashed.

"A bhoot is an Indian ghost."

"And you thought I looked like an Indian ghost! with a turban! and an
Afghan! and a scimitar! Oh, Kit! Did I really look like the mahogany
table beneath the silver moonbeams? and did my eyes glitter?"

"What a goose you are!" says Kit, roaring with laughter. "No, you looked
lovely; but I was reading an Indian story yesterday, and it came into my
head."

"You read too much," says Monica. "'Much learning will make you mad,' if
you don't take care. Remember what Lord Bacon says, 'Reading maketh a
full man.' How would _you_ like to be a full woman,--like Madam
O'Connor, for example?"

"Francis Bacon never meant it in that sense," says Kit, indignantly. "I
really _wonder_ at you Monica." And, having so scolded her idol, she
relapses into silence for a considerable time.

"Oh! what lovely dog-roses!" says Monica, presently, pointing to a
hanging spray of pink blossoms, satisfying as a happy dream. "I _must_
get them."

She springs up a mossy bank as she speaks, regardless of the blackberry
branches that cross her path, barring her way, and catching viciously
at her skirts, as though to hinder her progress.

"Oh, take care!" cries Kit, forgetting all about Lord Bacon in her
terror lest her pretty sister shall not show to the best advantage in
her lover's eyes. "Your gown will be torn. Wait, wait, until I set you
free from these dreadful thorns."

"'Alas! how full of briers is this working-day-world,'" quotes Monica,
gayly. "There, now I am all right, and I have got my pretty roses into
the bargain. Are they not sweet?--_sweet?_" holding them right under
Kit's nose.

"They are, indeed. And, by the by, here we are," pointing to a low
farmhouse in the distance.

Reaching it, and finding the door as usual open, they enter what might
be the hall in another house, but is here the kitchen. There is no
leading up to it. From the moment you cross the threshold the kitchen
lies before you.

It is a large room, if it may so be called, with a huge fireplace in
which a dozen fires might be stowed away and forgotten. Just now there
is a flame somewhere in its blackmost depths that cannot possibly annoy
these June visitors, as one has to search for it to find it.

An old woman, infirm and toothless, yet with all the remains of great
beauty, sits cowering over this hidden turf fire, mumbling to herself,
it may be, of golden days now past and gone, when she had been the
fairest colleen at mass or pattern, and had counted her lovers by the
score. Yea, those were good old times, when the sky was ever blue and
all the earth was young.

Two young women, sitting near her, but farther from the chimney-nook,
are gossiping idly, but persistently, in the soft, mellifluous brogue
that distinguishes the county Cork.

As the Beresford girls enter, these two latter women rise simultaneously
and courtesy with deep respect. The youngest of them, who is so like the
handsome old woman in the corner of the fireplace as to be unmistakably
of kin to her, comes quickly forward to greet her visitors with the
kindly grace and the absence of consciousness that distinguish the Irish
peasantry when doing the honors of their own homes. This lack of
_mauvaise honte_ arises perhaps from the fact that they are so honestly
glad to welcome a guest beneath their roof that they forget to be shy or
backward.

She makes a slight effort to pull down her tucked-up sleeves, and then
desists, for which any one with a mind artistic should be devoutly
grateful, as her arms, brown as they are from exposure to the sun, are
at least shaped to perfection. She is dressed in a maroon-colored skirt
and body, the skirt so turned up in fishwife fashion (as _we_ wore it
some seasons ago) that a dark-blue petticoat beneath, of some coarse
description, can be distinctly seen.

Her throat is a little bare, arms, as I have said, quite so, far up
above the elbows. She is stout and comely, with a beautiful laughing
mouth, and eyes of deepest gray, merry as her lips. Outside, lying
about, half naked in the warm sunshine, are three or four boys with the
same eyes and mouth, undeniably her children.

"Wisha! 'tis meself's glad to see ye," she says, with a beaming smile.
"Good luck to yer faces. 'Tis a long time now, Miss Beresford, since ye
came, or Miss Kit there."

"I promised your mother a pudding, and I have brought it," says Kit.

"Look at that, now! 'Tis a trouble we are to ye entirely. Mother, wake
up a bit, an' thank Miss Kit for what she's brought ye."

"Ye're too kind, asthore, too kind," mumbles the old woman in the
corner, turning eyes that are still full of light upon the child, "to
think of an ould 'ooman now in the grave as it might be. Ay, faix! An'
the bells a-ringin' too. I can hear 'em sometimes, when the wind's
down----"

"Nonsense, mother! the yard (churchyard) will be lonely for ye yet
awhile," says Mrs. Daly, junior, cheerfully. "See, now! taste this:
'twill do ye good. An' you'll sit down, Miss Monica, I hope. Take care,
honey, till I dust the chair for ye." This is dexterously done with the
corner of her apron. "An' ye'll take a dhrop o' tay too, may be; oh, ye
will now, if only to plase me, afther yer long walk, an' all to honor
the ould woman."

"Ah, there is Mrs. Moloney!" says Kit, addressing the second younger
woman, who is a thin little peasant with a somewhat discontented
expression. "The sun blinded my eyes so that I could not see you at
first. Have you heard from your boy at sea?"

"Yes, miss. Praises be above! He's doin' well, he says; but it's belike
I'll never see a sight of his handsome face again."

"Oh, nonsense, now, Mrs. Moloney, me dear! What are ye talkin' like that
for?" says young Mrs. Daly, who seems to be the parish consoler. "Sure
it's back he'll be wid ye before the new year."

"Oh, yes, I _hope_ so," says Monica, softly.

"'Tis hard to hope, miss, wid the rowling wind o' nights, an' the waves
dashin' up on the beach."

"Ye're an ould croaker," says Mrs. Daly, giving her a good-humored
shake, "An' now sit down, Miss Monica an' Miss Kit, do, till I get ye
the sup o' tay. Mrs. Moloney, me dear, jist give the fire a poke, an'
make the kittle sing us a song. 'Tis the music we want most now."

It would have been considered not only a rudeness, but an act _hauteur_,
to refuse this simple hospitality: so the girls seat themselves, and,
indeed, to tell the truth, are rather glad than otherwise of this chance
of securing their afternoon tea.

"An' how are the old ladies up above?" says Mrs. Daly, meaning the
Misses Blake.

"Quite well, thank you," says Monica. "It was only yesterday Aunt
Priscilla was saying she should come down and see old Mrs. Daly."

"She's as welcome as the flowers in May whenever she comes," says the
daughter-in-law. "D'ye hear that, mother? Miss Priscilla's comin' to see
ye, some day soon. Ay, 'tis a good friend she always was to the poor,
summer an' winter; an' isn't it wondherful now, Miss Monica, how she's
kept her figure all through? Why," raising her hands with an expressive
gesture of astonishment, "'twas Friday week I saw her, an' I said to
meself, says I, she's the figure o' a young girl, I says. Ye'll take a
taste o' this home-made cake, alanna."

She is made happy forever by Kit's unmistakable enjoyment of this
last-named luxury.

"Ay, she's an iligant figure even now," says Mrs. Moloney, in her
depressing voice. "But time an' throuble is cruel hard on some of us. I
had a figure meself when I was young," with a heartrending sigh.

"Ye were always slight, me dear, an' ye're slight now too," says Mrs.
Daly, tenderly. "I niver see the like o'ye for keepin' off the flesh.
Why, I remember ye well as a slip o' a girl, before yer blessed babby
was born, an' ye were a screed, me dear,--a screed."

"Yes, I was always ginteel," says Mrs. Moloney, openly consoled. Still
she sighs, and sips her tea with a mournful air. Mrs. Daly is drinking
hers with much appreciation out of her saucer, it being considered
discourteous to offer anything to a guest without partaking of the same
one's self.

At this moment a little cooing sound coming from the other corner of the
fireplace makes itself heard. Instantly the old woman stooping over the
turf embers rouses herself, and, turning, puts out her withered hand
lovingly towards what looks like a box covered with colored stuff of
some sort. Young Mrs. Daly rises too, precipitately and, hurrying across
the kitchen, bends over the box.

"Ay, she's awake sure enough!" says the old woman, who has quite
brightened into life. "See how she looks at ye, Molly! The colleen of
the world, she was! asthore machree-sthig."

Many another fond name is muttered, such as "pulse o' my heart," and
such like, before Mrs. Daly junior emerges from the supposed box, but
_not_ empty-handed.

"Oh! it is the baby!" cry Monica and Kit, in a breath. "Oh! what a
darling baby! and what red, red cheeks, just like a June rose!"

It is the only daughter of the house, so the mother is of course
inordinately proud of it. She places it, with quite a little flourish of
triumph, in Monica's arms, to Kit's terrible but unspoken
disappointment.

"She grows prettier every day. She is really the sweetest baby I ever
saw in my life!" says Monica, enthusiastically, to whom babies are an
endless joy.

The mother is pleased beyond doubt at these compliments, yet a shade of
anxiety crosses her brow. To praise a child _too_ much in the
superstition of these simple folks, is to "overlook" it; and when a
child is "overlooked" it dies. The smiles fades from Mrs. Daly's bonny
face, and her mouth grows anxious.

"You should say, 'God bless her,' miss, when ye give her the good word,"
says Mrs. Moloney, timidly, who is also bending over the beloved bundle,
and notes the distress in her neighbor's eyes.

"God bless her!" says Monica with pretty solemnity, after which the
mother's face clears, and sunshine is again restored to it.

"I think she knows ye," she says to Monica. "See how she blinks at ye!
Arrah! look, now, how she clutches at yer hand! Will ye come to yer
mother now, darlin',--will ye? Sure 'tis starvin' ye must be, by this."

"Oh! don't take her yet," says Monica, entreatingly.

A little figure with naked legs and feet, creeping into the doorway at
this moment, draws near the baby as if fascinated. It is Paudheen, the
eldest son of the house, and baby's _nurse_,--save the mark!

"Come nearer, Paddy," says Monica, smiling at him with sweet
encouragement; but Paddy stops short and regards her doubtfully.

"Come, then, and kiss your little sister," continues Monica, gently; but
Paddy is still obdurate, and declines to hearken to the charmer, charm
she never so wisely. There is, indeed, a sad lack both of sweetness and
light about Paddy.

"An' what d'ye mane be standin' there, an' niver a word out o' ye in
answer to the lady, ye ill-mannered caubogue?" cries his mother, deeply
incensed. The laughter is all gone from her face, and her eyes are
aflame. "What brought ye in at all, ye ugly spalpeen, if ye came without
a civil tongue in yer head?"

"I came to see the baby an' to get me dinner," says the boy, with
hanging head, his silence arising more from shyness than sullenness. The
potatoes have just been lifted from the fire by Mrs. Moloney, and are
steaming in a distant corner. Paudheen looks wistfully towards them.

"Dickens a sign or taste ye'll get, then, if only to tache ye better
manners. Be off, now, an' don't let me see ye agin."

"I'm hungry," says the boy, tears coming into his eyes.

"Oh, Mrs. Daly!" says Monica, in a distressed tone.

"A deal o' harm it will do him to be hungry, thin!" says the culprit's
mother, with an angry voice, but with visible signs of relenting in her
handsome eyes. "Be off wid ye now, I tell ye." This is the last burst of
the storm. As the urchin creeps crestfallen towards the doorway her rage
dies, its death being as sudden as its birth. "Come back here!" she
cries, inconsistently. "What d'ye mane be takin' me at me word like
that? Come back, I tell ye, an' go an' ate something, ye crathur. How
dare ye behave as if I was a bad mother to ye?"

The boy comes back, and, raising his bonny head, smiles at her fondly
but audaciously.

"Look at him, now, the blackguard," says the mother, returning the smile
in kind. "Was there ever the like of him? Go an' ate yer praties now,
and thank yer stars Miss Monica was here to say a good word for ye."

Paddy, glad of his rescue, casts a shy glance at Monica, and then, going
over to where his grandmother and the pot of potatoes rest side by side,
sits down (close cuddled up to the old dame) to fill his little empty
stomach with as many of those esculent roots as he can manage, which, in
truth, is the poor child's only dinner from year's end to year's end.
And yet it is a remarkable fact that, in spite of this scanty fare, the
Irish peasant, when come to man's estate, is ever strong and vigorous
and well grown. And who shall say he hasn't done his queen good service,
too, on many a battle-field? and even in these latter days, when sad
rebellion racks our land, has not his name been worthy of honorable
mention on the plains of Tel-el-Kebir?

"I don't think he _looks_ like a bad boy, Mrs. Daly," says Monica,
reflectively, gazing at the liberated Paddy.

"Bad, miss, is it?" says the mother, who, having made her eldest born
out a villain, is now prepared to maintain he is a veritable saint. "You
don't know him, faix. Sure there niver was the like of him yet. He is a
raal jewel, that gossoon o' mine, an' the light of his father's eyes.
Signs on it, he'd die for Daly! There niver was sich a love betwixt
father an' son. He's the joy o' my life, an' the greatest help to me.
'Tis he minds the pig, an' the baby, an' ould granny there, an'
everything. I'd be widout my right hand if I lost him."

"But I thought you said----" begins Monica, mystified by this change
from righteous wrath to unbounded admiration.

"Arrah, niver mind what I said, acushla," says the younger Mrs. Daly,
with an emphatic wink. "Sure 'twas only to keep him in ordher a bit, I
said it at all at all! But 'tis young he is yet, the crathur."

"_Very_ young. Oh, Mrs. Daly, _look_ at baby! See how she is trying to
get at my hair!" Monica is beginning in a delighted tone,--as though to
have one's hair pulled out by the roots is the most enchanting sensation
in the world,--when suddenly her voice dies away into silence, and she
herself stares with great open violet eyes at something that darkens the
doorway and throws a shadow upon the assembled group within.

It is Desmond!

Kit, feeling as guilty as though she were the leading character in some
conspiracy, colors crimson, and retires behind Mrs. Moloney. She lowers
her eyes, and is as mute as death. But Monica speaks.

"Is it you?" she says. Which, of course, is quite the silliest thing she
_can_ say, as he is standing there regarding her with eyes so full of
light and love that the cleverest ghost could not copy them. But then
she is not sillier than her fellows, for, as a rule, all people, if you
remark, say, "Is that you?" or "Have you come?" when they are actually
looking into your face and should be able to answer the question for
themselves.

"Yes, it is," says Desmond, with such an amount of diffidence (I hope it
wasn't assumed) as should have melted the heart of the hardest woman
upon earth. Monica is _not_ the hardest woman upon earth.

Still, she makes him no further speech, and Desmond begins to wonder if
he is yet forgiven. He is regarding her fixedly; but she, after that
first swift glance, has turned her attention upon the baby on her knee,
and is seemingly lost in admiration of its little snub nose. Why will
she not look at him? What did he say to her last night that is so
difficult to forgive? Can wrath be cherished for so long in that gentle
bosom? Her face is as calm as an angel's; surely

    "There's nothing ill can dwell in such a temple."

"Ah! come in, Misther Desmond," says Mrs. Daly, hospitably. "I'm glad
'tis company I have before you the day. Maybe 'twill coax ye to come
again. Where have you been this week an' more? Faix, ye were so long in
comin', I thought 'twas angry wid me ye were."

"Nobody is ever angry with a pretty woman like you," says Desmond,
saucily.

"Oh, now, hark to him!" says Mrs. Daly laughing heartily. "I wonder ye
aren't ashamed of yourself. An' is the ould Squire hearty?"

"He's as well as even _you_ could wish him. How d'ye do, Kit? Won't you
come and speak to me?"

He has been afraid to shake hands with Monica up to this, but now she
turns suddenly towards him and holds out to him one slender fair hand,
the other being twined round the baby. She does this musingly.

He grasps the little snowy hand with almost senile delight, and holds it
for--as long as he dares. During this undefined period he tells himself
what a perfect picture she is, with her clear, pale, beautiful face, and
her nut-brown hair, and the tender sweetness of her attitude, as she
bends over the smiling baby. Could any vaunted Madonna be half as
lovely? At this moment a growing contempt for all the greatest
masterpieces of the greatest masters permeates his being and renders him
weak in faith.

"Won't ye sit down, thin?" says Mrs. Daly. Being a woman, she grasps the
situation at a glance, and places a chair for him close to Monica.
"What's the matther wid ye to-day, Misther Desmond, that ye haven't a
word to give us?"

"You ought to know what I'm thinking of," says Desmond, accepting the
chair, and drawing it even a degree closer to Monica.

"Faix, thin, I don't," says Mrs. Daly junior, her handsome face full of
smiles. A love-affair is as good as a saint's day to an Irish peasant;
and here she tells herself, with a glance at Monica, is one ready-made
to her hand.

"I'm thinking what a lucky man Daly is," says Desmond, promptly.

"Oh, git along wid ye now, an' yer blarney!" says Mrs. Daly, roaring
with laughter; whilst even Mrs. Moloney the dismal, and the old granny
in the corner, chime in merrily.

And then the visit comes to a close, and they all rise and bid Mrs. Daly
and the others "good-by;" and Monica, mindful of his late affliction,
bestows a soft parting word upon the subdued Paddy.

And now they are all in the open air again, and, turning down the boreen
that leads to the Daly's homestead, reach the road that leads to Moyne.
It is Desmond's way as well as theirs, so he accompanies the girls
without remark.

"What brought you to see the Dalys, to-day?" asks Monica, suddenly,
without any ulterior meaning beyond the desire of making conversation;
but to Kit's guilty soul this question seems fraught with mischief.

"Oh, I often go to see Daly. I want him to come fishing with me
to-morrow: he's the best man about here for that, and trudges behind one
for miles without complaining."

"Poor Daly!"

"Well, I hope you enjoyed your visit to-day," says Kit, blithely,
glancing at him mischievously from beneath her broad hat.

"There was a drawback," says Brian, unthinkingly. "I went there full of
hope, and, after all, she never offered me any of your pudding!"

Tableau!

Kit's agonized glance and Monica's questioning eyes awake Mr. Desmond to
a knowledge of what he has done.

"How did _you_ hear of Kit's pudding?" asks Monica, looking keenly from
Brian to Kit, and then back again.

"Oh!--the pudding," stammers Desmond.

"There! don't commit yourself," says Monica, in a tone that trembles.
"Oh, Kit!"

Both culprits are afraid to look at her. Does the tremble mean tears, or
anger, or what? Perhaps horror at their duplicity, or contempt. Is she
hopelessly angered?

Then a suppressed sound reaches their ears, creating a fresh panic in
their breasts. Is she positively _choking_ with indignation? Cautiously,
anxiously, they glance at her, and find, to their everlasting relief,
that she is convulsed with laughter.

"When next you meditate forming a brilliant plot such as this," she says
to Kit, "I think I should look out a more trustworthy accomplice if I
were you."

"Catch me having a secret with _him_ again," says Kit now her fears are
appeased, turning wrathfully upon Desmond.

"I quite forgot all about it, I did, indeed," exclaims he, penitently.
"Forgive me this time, and I'll promise never to do it again."

"And I'll promise you you shan't have the chance," says Kit, with
fervor.

"_Why_ was I to be deceived?" says Monica. "I think I have been very
basely treated. If you, Kit, desired a clandestine meeting with Mr.
Desmond, I don't see why _I_ was to be drawn into it. And it was a
stupid arrangement, too: two is company, three trumpery. I know, if I
had a lover, I should prefer----"

"Monica!" says Kit, indignantly; but Monica only laughs the more.

"It is _my_ turn now, you know," she says.

"Kit had nothing to do with it: it was all my fault," says Desmond,
laughing too. "If you must pour out the vials of your wrath on some one,
let it be on me."

"Yes, give him a good scolding, Monica," says Kit viciously, but with a
lovely smile. "I am going to pick to some ferns for Aunt Pen; when I
return I hope I shall find that recreant knight of yours--I mean
_mine_--at the point of death!"

At this she flits away from them, like the good little thing she is, up
a sloping bank, and so into the fields beyond, until Desmond and Monica
are as much alone as if a whole sphere divided them from their kind.
Dear little Kit! When her own time comes may she be as kindly dealt
with!

"You are angry with me still,--about last night," says Desmond, softly,
"and, I own, with cause. But I was miserable when I called you a
coquette, and misery makes a man unjust. I wrote to Kit this morning,--I
was afraid to write to you,--and she was very good to me."

"How good?" plucking a leaf from a brier, as she goes slowly, _very_
slowly--down the road.

"She brought me _you_. Do you know, Monica, I have been as unhappy as a
man can be since last I saw you,--a whole night and part of a day? Is it
not punishment enough?"

"Too much for your crime," whispers she, softly, turning suddenly
towards him and letting her great luminous eyes rest with forgiveness
upon his. She smiles sweetly, but with some timidity, because of the
ardor of the glance that answers hers. Taking her hand with an impulsive
movement impossible to restrain, Desmond presses it rapturously to his
lips. Drawing it away from him with shy haste, Monica walks on in
silence.

"If I had written to you, and not to her, would you still have been here
to-day?" asks he, presently.

"I think not."

"That is a cruel answer, is it not?"

"Would you have me belie my nature?" asks she, with quick agitation;
"would you have me grow false, secret, deceitful? My aunts trust me: am
I to prove myself unworthy of their confidence?"

"I am less to you, then, than your aunts' displeasure!"

"You are less to me than my conscience; and yet----"

With a violent effort, that betrays how far her thoughts have been
travelling in company with his, she brings herself back to the present
moment, and a recollection of the many reasons why she must not listen
to his wooing. "Why should you believe yourself anything to me?" she
asks, in a voice that quivers audibly.

"Ah, why, indeed?" returns he, bitterly. There is such pain in his voice
and face that her soul yearns towards him, and she repents of her last
words.

"I am wrong. You _are_ something to me," she says, in a tone so low that
he can scarcely hear it. But lovers' ears are sharp.

"You _mean_ that, Monica?"

"Yes," still lower.

"Then why cannot I be _more_ to you? Why am I to be denied a chance of
forwarding the cause in which all my hopes are centred? Monica, say you
will meet me somewhere--_soon_."

"How can I?" she says, tremulously. Her voice is full of tears. She is
altogether different from the coquettish, provoking child of last night.
"You forget all I have just now said."

"At least tell me," says he, sadly, "that if you could you would."

There is a pathetic ring in his tone, and tears rise to her eyes. Can
anything be so hopeless as this love-affair of hers?

"Yes, I would," she says, almost desperately.

"Oh, darling--_darling_!" says the young man with passion. He holds her
hands closely, and looks into her troubled eyes, and wishes he might
dare take her into his arms and, pressing her to his heart, ask her to
repeat her words again. But there is something in the calm purity of her
beautiful face that repels vehemence of any sort; and as yet--although
the dawn is near--her love has not declared itself to her own soul in
all its strength.

"I have at least one consolation," he says, at last, calling to mind the
quietude that surrounds Moyne and its inhabitants, and the withdrawal
from society that has obtained there for many years. "As you are not
allowed to see me,--except on such rare occasions as the present when
the Fates are kind,--you cannot at least see _any one else_,--often,
that is."

"Meaning?----"

"Ryde."

She laughs a little, and then colors.

"Aunt Priscilla has asked him to come to Moyne next Friday," she says,
looking at the ground: "she is giving an At Home on that day, for him
and Captain Cobbett. She says she feels it is a duty to her queen to
show some attention to her servants."

In her tone, as she says this, there is a spice of that mischief that is
never very far from any pretty woman.

"He is to be invited to Moyne,--to spend an entire day with you!" says
Desmond, thunderstruck by this last piece of news.

"Oh, no! only part of it," says Monica, meekly.

"It is just as bad. It is disgraceful! Your aunts are purposely
encouraging _him_ to keep you away from me. Oh, _why_," wretchedly,
"should this unlucky quarrel have arisen between our house and yours?"

"Well, that's your fault," says Monica.

"Mine?"

"Your uncle's, then. It is all the same," unjustly.

"I really can't see _that_," says Mr. Desmond, very righteously
aggrieved; "that is visiting the sins of the uncles upon the nephews
with a vengeance! Monica, at least promise me you won't be civil to
him."

"To your uncle?"

"Nonsense! You know I mean Ryde."

"I can't be rude to him."

"You can. Why not? It will keep him from calling again."

No answer.

"Oh, I daresay you _want_ him to call again," says Desmond, angrily.

At this moment, the gates of Moyne being in sight, and those of Coole
long passed, Kit suddenly appears on the top of a high stone wall, and
calls gayly to Desmond to come and help her alight.

"And now go away too," she says: "you are forbidden goods, you know, and
we must not be seen talking to you, under pain of death."

"Good-by," says Desmond, with alacrity, who is, in truth, sulky, and
undesirous of further parley with his beloved. "Good-by, Miss
Beresford."

"Good-by," says Monica, shortly.

"We shall see you again soon, no doubt," says Kit, kindly, in her clear,
sweet treble.

"I think it very improbable," returns he, raising his hat gravely and
taking his departure.

"Now, what _have_ you been saying to that wretched young man, Monica?"
says Kit, severely, standing still in the middle of the road, the better
to bring her sister beneath the majesty of her eye.

"Nothing. Nothing that any reasonable being could object to," declares
Monica, with such an amount of vigor as startles Kit. "But of all the
ill-tempered, bearish, detestable men I ever met in my life, _he is the
worst_."

Which unlooked for explosion from the gentle Monica has the effect of
silencing Kit for the remainder of the walk.



CHAPTER XV.

  How the Misses Blake discover a gigantic fraud--How Terence is again
  arraigned, and brought before the Court on a charge of
  duplicity--and how he is nearly committed for contempt.


Reaching home, they find the atmosphere there decidedly clouded. Miss
Priscilla, who has returned from her drive just a moment before, is
standing in the hall, gazing with a stern countenance upon the
old-fashioned eight-day clock, in which two or three people might be
safely stowed away. The clock regards her not at all, but ticks on
loudly with a sort of exasperating obstinacy, as though determined to
remind every one of the flight of time.

"Who has wound this clock?" demands Miss Priscilla, in an awful tone.
With a thrill of thankfulness the girls feel they can answer truthfully,
"Not I."

"Dear me!" says Miss Penelope, timidly, advancing from the morning-room;
"I did. You were so long out, Priscilla, and I feared--I mean, I thought
it would save you the trouble."

"Trouble in winding a clock! What trouble could there be in that? And it
is _never_ wound until Saturday evening. For twenty years I have wound
it on Saturday evening. A good eight-day clock nearly fifty years old
can't bear being tampered with. Now, Penelope, why did you do that? You
know that I can't endure old rules to be upset."

"But, my dear Priscilla, I only thought as I was passing----"

"You _thought_, Penelope; but I wish you _wouldn't_ think. There are
other things you ought to think about that you often neglect; and----"

"Now, Priscilla, is that just? I think--I _hope_ I seldom neglect my
duty; and I must say I didn't expect this from _you_."

Here Miss Penelope dissolves into tears, to Monica's grief and dismay.

"Oh, Aunt Priscilla, I am sure Aunt Pen only meant to save you trouble,"
she says, earnestly, putting her arms round Miss Penelope, who sobs
audibly on her shoulder.

"And who says I thought anything else?" says poor Miss Priscilla,
fiercely, though her voice trembles with emotion: it is terrible to her
to see her faithful friend and sister in tears of her causing.
"Penelope, I meant nothing, but I have heard something that has grieved
and disturbed me: so I must needs come home and avenge my ill-temper on
the best creature in the world. Alas! I am a wicked woman."

"Oh, no, no," cries Miss Penelope. "My dear Priscilla, you will break my
heart if you talk thus. My good soul, come in here and tell me what has
happened to distress you."

In truth it is quite plain now that something has happened during her
drive to take Miss Priscilla's well-balanced mind off its hinges.

"Where is Terence?" she asks, looking from one to other of the group in
the hall.

"Here," says Terence himself, coming leisurely towards her from a
side-passage.

"Come in here with me," says Miss Priscilla; and they all follow her
into the morning-room.

Here she turns and faces the unconscious Terence with a pale,
reproachful face.

"When I tell you I have just come from Mitson the coast-guard, and that
I thanked him for having lent you his gun, you will understand how I
have been grieved and pained to-day," she says, a tremor in her voice.

Terence is no longer unconscious; and Monica feels that her heart is
beating like a lump of lead.

"Oh! what is it, Priscilla?" asks Miss Penelope, greatly frightened.

"A tale of craft and cunning," says Miss Priscilla in a hollow tone.
"Mitson tells me he never lent him that gun. Terence has wilfully
deceived us, his poor aunts, who love him and only desire his good. He
has, I fear, basely mystified us to accomplish his own ends, and has
indeed departed from the precious truth."

"I never said Mitson did lend it to me," says Terence, sullenly: "you
yourself suggested the idea, and I let it slide, that was all."

"All! Is not prevarication only a _mean_ lie? Oh, Terence, I am so
deeply grieved! I know not what to say to you."

The scene is becoming positively tragical. Already a sense of crime of
the blackest and deepest dye is overpowering Terence.

"Whom _did_ you get that gun from, Terence?" asks Miss Priscilla,
sternly.

No answer.

"Now, Terence, be calm," says Miss Penelope. "Sit down now, Terence, and
collect yourself, and don't be untruthful again."

"I have told no lie, aunt," says Terence, indignantly.

"Then tell your good Aunt Priscilla who gave you the gun."

Dead silence.

"Are we to understand that you _won't_ tell us, Terence?" asks Miss
Priscilla, faintly. She is now much the more nervous of the two old
maids.

Terence casts a hasty glance at Monica's white face, and then says,
stoutly,--

"I don't want to tell, and I _won't_!"

"Terence!" exclaims the usually mild Miss Penelope, with great
indignation, and is going to further relieve her mind, no doubt, when
Miss Priscilla, throwing up her hands, checks her.

"Let him alone, Penelope," she says, sadly. "Perhaps he has some good
reason: let us not press him too far. Obduracy is better than falsehood.
Let us go and pray that heaven may soften his heart and grant him a
right understanding."

With this the two old ladies walk slowly and with dignity from the room,
leaving the criminal with his sisters.

Monica bursts into tears and flings her arms round his neck. "You did it
for _me_. I know it!--I saw it in your eyes," she says. "Oh, Terence, I
feel as if it was all my fault."

"Fiddlesticks!" says Mr. Beresford, who is in a boiling rage. "Did you
ever hear anything like her? and all about a paltry thing like that! She
couldn't behave worse if I had been convicted of murder. I'm
convinced"--viciously--"it was all baffled curiosity that got up her
temper. She was _dying_ to know about that gun, and so I was determined
I wouldn't gratify her. A regular old cat, if ever there was one."

"Oh, no! don't speak like that; I am sure they love you--and they were
disappointed--and----"

"They'll have to get through a good deal of disappointment," says
Terence, still fuming. "What right have they to make me out a Sir
Galahad in their imaginations? I'd perfectly _hate_ to be a Sir Galahad;
and so I tell them." This is not strictly correct as the Misses Blake
are out of hearing. "And as for their love, they may keep it, if it only
means blowing a fellow up for nothing."

"Aunt Penelope was just as bad," says Kit. "I really"--with dignified
contempt--"felt quite _ashamed_ of her!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Miss Priscilla keeps a diary, in which she most faithfully records all
that happens in every one of the three hundred and sixty-five days of
every year.

About this time there may be seen in it an entry such as follows:

"_Saturday, July 3._--I fear Terence told a LIE! He _certainly_
equivocated! Penelope and I have done our best to discover the real
owner of THE gun, but as yet have failed. The secret rests with Terence,
and to force his confidence would be unchristian; but it _may_ transpire
in _time_."

After this come sundry other jottings, such as--

"_Monday, July 5._--Past four. Fanny Stack called. Penelope in the
garden, as usual. All the trouble of entertaining falling upon _my_
hands. Still, I do not repine. Providence is good; and Penelope of
course, dear soul, should be allowed the recreation that pertains to her
garden. And, indeed, a sweet place she makes of it."

After this again comes a third paragraph:

"_Tuesday, July 6._--Terence again most wilful, and Kit somewhat saucy;
yet my heart yearns over these children. God grant they be guided by a
tender hand along the straight and narrow way!"

       *       *       *       *       *

It is the next day, July 7, and the two Misses Blake, standing in the
dining-room, are discussing Terence again. They have had a great shock,
these two old ladies, in the discovery of a duplicity that they in their
simplicity have magnified fourfold. How is it possible they should
remember how _they_ felt thirty years ago?

"I doubt we must keep a tight hand upon him, Penelope," says Miss
Priscilla, sorrowfully. "The rector is very lax. He goes to him day by
day, but beyond Greek and Latin seems to imbibe little else. And
_morals_ are the groundwork of all, and surely superior to the languages
spoken by those who believed in heathen gods. I wonder at the rector, I
must say. But we must only make up for his deficiences by keeping a
tight hand, as I said before, upon this unhappy boy."

"Yes, but not _too_ tight, Priscilla; that might only create a
rebellious feeling and destroy all our chances of success. And we are
bent on leading this poor dear boy (poor Katherine's boy, Priscilla)
into the way of truth."

"Yes, yes; we must be cautious, _most_ cautious, in our treatment," says
Miss Priscilla, nervously, "and very careful of his comings and goings,
without _appearing_ to be so! Dear me! dear me! I wonder if the
greatness of our cause justifies so much deceit. It sounds jesuitical,
my dear Penelope, say what we can."

"The end justifies the means," says Miss Penelope, as solemnly as if
this speech emanated from her throat as an original remark.

"Oh, don't! my dear Penelope!" says Miss Priscilla, with a shudder;
"that is _their_ principal argument."

"Whose? The children's?" asks Miss Penelope, startled.

"No; the Jesuits,--the Inquisitors,--those dreadful people we read of in
'Westward Ho,'" says Miss Priscilla, protestingly. "Still, I agree with
you; secrecy is the part we have to play. We must keep one eye" (as if
there was only one between them) "upon him without _seeming_ to do so.
And there he is,"--pointing through the window to where Terence may be
seen coming slowly towards the window in which they stand in a most
unhappy frame of mind.

"I wonder where he can have been for the past half-hour," says Miss
Priscilla presently, in a nervous whisper, though Terence is so far off
that if she spoke at the top of her lungs he could not have heard her.

"Perhaps if we ask him he may tell us," says Miss Penelope, equally
nervous and decidedly with great doubt as to the success of her
suggestion.

"Well, you ask him," says Miss Priscilla.

"I am greatly wanting in _force_ on occasions such as these," says Miss
Penelope, hurriedly. "No, no, my dear; you ask him. But be gentle with
him, my dear Priscilla."

"Why can't _you_ do it?" persists Miss Blake, plainly anxious to shift
the obnoxious task from her own shoulders to another's. "You have great
influence with the children, I have remarked many times."

"Nothing to _yours_," says Miss Penelope, with an agitated wave of her
hand. "I couldn't do it; indeed I _couldn't_, my dear Priscilla," openly
quaking. "Don't ask me. See, here he comes! Now be firm,--be _firm_,
Priscilla, but lenient, _very_ lenient: he is only a boy, remember, and
even the great Luther was strangely wanting in principle when young."

"It is my duty; I suppose I must go through with it," says poor Miss
Priscilla, sighing; and then she throws wide the window and calls to
Terence to come to her.

"Where have you been, Terence?"

"At the back gate, aunt."

"But, my _dear_ Terence, _why_ at the back gate? Such a nice day for a
good long wholesome walk! Why spend it at the back gate?"

"Because--that is--I----"

"My dear boy, be calm. Wait a moment now, Terence, and don't hurry
yourself. There is no occasion for haste."

"I was only going to say, aunt----"

"Pause now, Terence: consider well before you speak. Though, indeed,
there should be no need for consideration when only the simple but
lovely truth is required. Truth is always lovely, Terence; it is a
flower of great beauty. Collect yourself, now." (This is a favorite
formula with the Misses Blake.) "Don't tell a lie, Terence!"

"Why should I tell a lie?" says Terence, fiercely, feeling at this
moment that death, when compared with nagging, would be sweet.

"Oh, Terence, what a tone! and to your good aunt Penelope, who loves
you! Such a tone as that, my dear, is unchristian. Now, we don't want to
know what you were _doing_ at the back gate. Why should you be afraid of
us? Are we not your greatest friends? But what could you have been doing
for half an hour at the back gate, Terence?"

"I went up there with Michael, aunt."

"I didn't ask you that, dear. I am afraid you have no confidence in us,
Terence. I didn't ask you who went with you. Can't you say yes or no,
Terence? Were you _long_ at the gate?"

"No, aunt."

"Was any one but Michael with you?"

"Yes, aunt."

"Was it Adams?"

"No, aunt."

"Can't you say anything but yes or no, Terence? Have you no command of
the Queen's English, after all the money, too, your poor father wasted
on your education,--and now the rector? Speak up, my dear child, and
tell us everything honestly and nobly."

"But there is nothing to tell, aunt, except that----"

"No, collect yourself, Terence; take time, my dear. _Now_, answer me:
who was with you, besides Michael?"

"Timothy, aunt."

The hoary-headed butler being, like Cæsar's wife, above suspicion, the
Misses Blake are pulled up pretty short,--so short, indeed, that they
forget to ask if any one besides the respectable Timothy was at the
obnoxious back gate. Perhaps had they known that the smith's son, and
two or three other young men, had been there, and that all had been
talking the most violent politics, their fears for Terence's morality
would have increased rather than diminished.

As it is, they are well pleased.

"But why didn't you say that at once, my dear boy? We are so afraid of
your mixing with evil companions."

Terence thinks of the smith's son, and his unqualified opinion that all
landlords and aristocrats and sovereigns should be "stamped out," and
wonders if _he_ would come under the category of evil companions, but he
wisely refrains from speech.

"And," says Miss Penelope, softly, "why didn't you tell us before
leaving the house where you were going? I am sure, if you had, both your
aunt Priscilla and I would have been delighted _to go with you_, busy
though we were."

This is the climax. Again in Terence's fevered imagination the smith's
son arises, wielding his brawny brown arm like a sledge-hammer, as he
noisily lays down the laws of extermination: he can see himself, too,
joining in the fray, and defying the smith's son's opinion with an
eloquence of which he had been only proud. He feels he is deceiving
these two old ladies, and is angry with himself for doing it, and still
more angry with them for making him do it.

"I am glad we have heard the truth at _last_, Terence," says Miss
Priscilla. "There is nothing so mean or contemptible as a lie."

"You are enough to make _any_ fellow tell a lie," bursts out Terence,
with miserable rage, "with your questionings and pryings!"

At this awful speech, the two Misses Blake burst into tears, and Terence
dashes in a fury from the room.



CHAPTER XVI.

  How the afternoon at Moyne proves a great success--How Olga Bohun is
  led into a half confession, and how Monica, growing restless, seeks
  a dubious solitude.


"It is quite the loveliest old place in the world!" says Mrs. Bohun, in
her soft plaintive voice, speaking very enthusiastically. "We ought to
be more than grateful to you, dear Miss Blake, for letting us see it."

Miss Priscilla reddens with suppressed satisfaction but says,--

"Tut tut, my dear! It is only a funny old-fashioned spot, after all," in
quite an off-hand manner.

It is Friday,--_the_ Friday,--as the Misses Blake have been thinking of
it for days, in fear and trembling, as being the date of their first
hospitable venture for many years.

All the Aghyohillbeg party, and the men from Clonbree Barracks, and some
other neighbors, are strolling through the sweet antiquated gardens of
Moyne, hedged with yews fantastically cut. The roses, white and red and
yellow, are nodding their heads lazily, bowing and courtesying to the
passing breeze. The stocks and mignonette are filling the air with
perfume. Tall lilies are smiling from distant corners, and the little
merry burn, tumbling over its gray boulders through the garden, is
singing a loud and happy song, in which the birds in the trees above
join heartily.

The lazy hum of many insects makes one feel even more perceptibly how
drowsy-sweet is all the summer air.

Mrs. Bohun has now flitted away with Monica, who in her white gown looks
the prettiest flower of all, in this "wilderness of sweets," with the
tall, infatuated Ryde and handsome young Ronayne in their train. Mrs.
Bohun, who is in one of her most mischievous moods to-day, has taken it
into her head to snub Lord Rossmoyne and be all that is of the sweetest
to Ulic Ronayne, a proceeding her cousin, Mrs. Herrick, regards with
dismay.

Not so, however, does Bella Fitzgerald regard it. She, tall, and with a
would-be stately air, walks through the grounds at Lord Rossmoyne's
side, to whom she has attached herself, and who, _faute de mieux_, makes
himself as agreeable as he can to her, considering how he is inwardly
raging at what he is pleased to term Olga's disgraceful behavior.

Miss Priscilla has now been seized upon by Madam O'Connor and carried
off for a private confab.

"And you really _must_ let her come to us for a week, my dear," says
Madam O'Connor, in her fine rich brogue. "Yes, now, really I want her.
It will be quite a favor. I can't withstand a pretty face, as you well
know 'tis a weakness of mine, my dear, and she is really a pearl. Olga
Bohun is talking of getting up tableaux or some such nonsense, and she
wants your pretty child to help us."

"I should like her to go to you. It is very kind of you," says Miss
Priscilla, but with unmistakable hesitation.

"Now, what is it? Out with it, Priscilla!" says Madam O'Connor, bluntly.

Miss Priscilla struggles with herself for yet another minute, and then
says, quickly,--

"That young man Desmond,--will _he_ be staying in your house?"

"Not if you object, my dear," says Mrs. O'Connor, kindly; "though I do
think it is a pity to thwart that affair. He is as nice and as pleasant
a young fellow as I know, and would make a jewel of a husband; and
money--say what you like, my dear Priscilla--is always something. It
ranks higher than _revenge_."

"There is no revenge. It is only a just resentment."

"Well, I'll call it by any name you like, my dear, but I must say----"

"I must beg, Gertrude, you will not discuss this unhappy subject," says
Miss Priscilla, with some agitation.

"Well, I won't, there. Then let it lie," says Madam O'Connor,
good-humoredly. "And tell me, now, if I come over to fetch Monica on
Monday, will she be ready for me?"

"Quite ready. But we have not consulted her yet," says Miss Priscilla,
clinging to a broken reed.

"Olga is talking to her about it. And, if she's the girl she _looks_,
she'll be glad of a change, and the chance of a sweetheart," says Madam
O'Connor, gayly.

       *       *       *       *       *

"What lovely lilies!" says Mrs. Bohun, standing before a tall white
group.

"Oh, don't!" says Owen Kelly, who has joined her and Monica. "Whenever I
hear a lily mentioned I think of Oscar Wilde, and it hurts very much."

"I like Oscar Wilde. He is quite nice, and _very_ amusing," says Olga.

"I wonder if I could make my hair grow," says Mr. Kelly, meditatively.
"He's been very clever about his; but I suppose somebody taught him."

"Well, I think long hair is dirty," says Mrs. Bohun, with an abstracted
glance at Ronayne's lightly-shaven head.

Then, as though tired of her sweet _role_ and of its object (Ronayne)
and everything, she turns capriciously aside, and, motioning away the
men with her hand and a small frown, sits down at Hermia Herrick's feet
and plucks idly at the grasses near her.

"So we are dismissed," says Kelly, shrugging his shoulders. Monica has
disappeared long ago with the devoted Ryde. "Your queen has her tempers,
Ronayne."

"There are few things so cloying as perfection," says Ronayne, loyally.

"I entirely agree with you,--so much so that I hope Providence will send
me an ugly wife. She--I beg your pardon--Mrs. Bohun does pretty much
what she likes with you, doesn't she?"

"Altogether what she likes. She's been doing it for so long now that I
suppose she'll go on to the end of the chapter. I hope it will be a long
one. Do you know," says the young man, with a rather sad little laugh,
"it sounds of course rather a poor thing to say, but I really think it
makes me _happy_, being done what she likes with?"

"It is only to oblige a friend that I should seek to understand such a
hopelessly involved sentence as that," says Mr. Kelly, wearily. "But I
have managed it. You're as bad a case as ever I came across, Ronayne,
and I pity you. But, 'pon my soul, I respect you too," with a flash of
admiration: "there is nothing like being thoroughly in earnest. And so I
wish you luck in your wooing."

"You're a very good fellow, Kelly," says Ronayne gratefully.

In the mean time, Olga, tiring of tearing her grasses to pieces, looks
up at Hermia.

"How silent you are!" she says.

"I thought that was what you wanted,--silence. You have been talking all
day. And, besides, if I speak at all, it will be only to condemn."

"Nevertheless speak. Anything is better than this ghastly quiet; and,
besides, frankly, I need not mind you, you know."

"You are flirting disgracefully with that Ronayne boy."

"What harm, if he _is_ a boy?"

"He is not such a boy as all that comes to; and, if you don't _mean_ it,
you are overkind to him."

"He is my baby," says Olga, with a little laugh; "I often tell him so.
Why should I _not_ be kind to him?"

"Oh, if you are _bent_ on it."

"I am bent on nothing. You do run away so with things!"

"I think you might do better."

"I'm not going to do anything," says the widow. She throws off her hat,
and ruffles up all her pretty pale gold hair with impatient fingers.

"Oh! if you can _assure_ me of that!"

"I don't want to assure you of anything."

"So I thought. That is why I say you might do better."

"I might do worse, too."

"Perhaps. But still I cannot forget there was Wolverhampton last year. A
title is not to be despised; and he was devoted to you, and would, I
think, have made a good husband."

"I daresay. He was fool enough for anything. And I liked him, rather;
but there was something in him--wasn't there, now, Hermia?--something
positively enraging at times."

"I suppose, then, your fancy for young Ronayne arises from the fact that
there is _nothing_ in him," says Hermia, maliciously: "that's his charm,
is it?"

Mrs. Bohun laughs.

"I don't suppose there is very much in him," she says: "that in itself
is such a relief. Wolverhampton was so overpowering about those
hydraulics. Ulic isn't a savant, certainly, and I don't think he will
ever set the Liffey afire, but he is 'pleasant too to think on.' Now,
mind you, I don't believe I care a pin about Ulic Ronayne,--he is
younger than I am, for one thing,--but still I don't care to hear him
abused."

"I am not abusing him," says Hermia. "It was you said he was no savant,
and would be unlikely to set the Liffey afire."

"For which we should be devoutly grateful," says Olga, frivolously.
"Consider, if he _could_, what the consequences would be, both to life
and property. Poor young man! I really think Government ought to give
him a pension because he _can't_."

"And what about all the other young men?" asks Hermia. And then she
yawns.

Here Monica--who has been absent with Mr. Ryde for the best part of an
hour--comes up to them, and presently Terence, with the Fitzgeralds, and
Miss Priscilla and Lord Rossmoyne.

"I heard a story yesterday I want to tell you," says Terence, gayly,
singling out Miss Fitzgerald and Olga, and sinking upon the grass at the
former's feet. He is such a handsome merry boy that he is a favorite
with all the women. Miss Priscilla stands near him; the others are all
conversing together about the coming plays at Aghyohillbeg.

"It is about the curate," says Terence, gleefully. "You know, he is
awful spoons on the ugliest French girl, and the other day he wanted to
run up to Dublin to get her a ring, or something, but----"

"Now, Terence, dear, surely that is not the way to pronounce that word,"
says Miss Priscilla, anxiously; "such a vulgar pronounciation--'bu-ut.'
How you drawled it! How ugly it sounds--'bu-ut!' Now put your lips
together like mine, so, and say 'but,' _shortly_. Now begin your story
again, and tell it nicely."

Terence begins again,--_very_ good humoredly, thinks Olga,--and has
almost reached the point, when Miss Priscilla breaks in again:

"Now, not so fast, my dear Terence. I really cannot follow you at all. I
don't even understand what you are at. Gently, my dear boy. Now begin it
all over again, and be more explicit."

But the fun is all out of Terence by this time, though Olga is so
convulsed with laughter that it might have been the best story on
record, which somewhat astonishes though it consoles Terence, as when
his funny incident is related in a carefully modulated voice, and with a
painful precision, it strikes even him as being hopelessly
uninteresting. However, Mrs. Bohun certainly enjoys it,--or something
else, perhaps: fortunately, it never occurs to Terry to ponder on the
"something else."

"Hermia, Olga, come now, my dears. You can't stay here for _ever_, you
know," cries Madam O'Connor's loud but cheery voice. "It is nearly
seven. Come, I tell you, or the Misses Blake, our good friends here,
will think we mean to take up our residence at Moyne for good."

"Oh, now, Gertrude!" says Miss Priscilla, much shocked. But Madam
O'Connor only laughs heartily, and gives her a little smart blow on the
shoulder with her fan. Olga laughs too, gayly, and Hermia lets her lips
part with one of her rare but perfect smiles. If she likes any one
besides Olga and her children, it is bluff and blunt old Gertrude
O'Connor.

One by one they all walk away, and presently Moyne is lying in the dying
sunshine, in all its usual quietude, with never a sound to disturb the
calm of coming eve but the light rustling of the rising breeze among the
ivy-leaves that are clambering up its ancient walls.

Kit and Terry are indoors, laughing merrily over the day, and
congratulating themselves upon the success it has certainly been.

"Yes. I do think, Penelope, they all enjoyed themselves," says Miss
Priscilla, in high glee; "and your claret-cup, my dear, was superb."

But Monica has stolen away from them all. The strange restlessness that
has lain upon her all day is asserting itself with cruel vigor, and
drives her forth into the shadows of the coming night.

All day long she has struggled bravely against it; but, now that the
enforced necessity for liveliness is at an end, she grows dreamy,
_distraite_, and feels an intense longing for solitude and air.

Again she walks through the now deserted garden, where the flowers,
"earth's loveliest," are drooping their sweet heads to seek their happy
slumbers. Past them she goes with lowered head and thoughts engrossed,
and so over the lawn into the wood beyond.

Here Coole and Moyne are connected by a high green bank, that in early
spring is studded and diamonded with primroses and now is gay with
ferns. Not until she has reached this boundary does she remember how far
she has come.

She climbs the bank, and gazes with an ever-growing longing at the cool
shade in the forbidden land, at the tall, stately trees, and the
foxgloves nodding drowsily.

It is a perfect evening, and as yet the god of day--great Sol--is riding
the heavens with triumphant mirth, as though reckless of the death that
draweth nigh. Shall he not rise again to-morrow morn in all his awful
majesty, and so defy grim Mars? It is, indeed, one of those hours when
heaven seems nearest earth, "as when warm sunshine thrills wood-glooms
to gold," and "righteousness and peace have kissed each other," and
Nature, tender mother, smiles, and all the forest deeps are by "a tender
whisper pierced."

Conscience forbidding her, she abstains from entering those coveted
woods, and, with a sigh, seats herself upon the top of the green bank.

"Monica!" says a voice close to her, yet not close to
her,--mysteriously, far up in mid-air, right over her head. She starts!
Is the great wood peopled with satyrs, ouphs, or dryads?



CHAPTER XVII.

  The marvellous history of how Monica finds the green-eyed monster in
  a beech-tree--and how, single-handed, she attacks and overcomes him.


It is not a tender voice. It is not even a gentle or coldly friendly
voice. It is, when all is told, a distinctly angry voice, full of
possible reproaches and vehement upbraidings.

Monica, raising her head with extreme nervousness, had just time to see
Mr. Desmond in the huge fir-tree above her, before he drops at her feet.

"What on earth were you doing up there?" asks she, thinking it wise to
adopt the offensive style, so as to be first in the field, feeling
instinctively that a scolding is coming and that she deserves it.

"Watching _you_," returns he, sternly, nothing dismayed by her
assumption of injured innocence, so her little ruse falls through.

"A charming occupation, certainly!" says Miss Beresford, with fine
disgust.

"I climbed up into that tree," says Mr. Desmond, savagely, "and from it
saw that you had spent your entire day with that idiot, Ryde."

"Do you think," says Miss Beresford, with awful calm, "that it was a
_gentlemanly_ thing to climb into that tree, like a horrid schoolboy,
and spy upon a person?--_do you?_"

"I don't," vehemently, "but I was driven to it. I don't care what is
gentlemanly. I don't care," furiously, "what you think of me. I only
know that my mind is now _satisfied_ about you, and that I know you are
the most abominable flirt in the world, and that you ought to be ashamed
of yourself."

"Well, I'm not," with great self-possession.

"The more to your discredit! That only means that you are bent on doing
it again."

"I shall certainly always talk to any man who talks to me. That is,"
cuttingly, "any man who knows how to conduct himself with propriety."

"Meaning--_I_ don't, I suppose?"

"_Certainly_ you don't."

"Oh, if it comes to that," says Desmond, in tones of the deepest
desperation, and as if nothing is left to expect but the deluge in
another moment.

And, in effect, it comes. Not, as one has been taught to expect, in
sudden storm, and wind, and lightning, but first in soft light drops,
and then in a perfect downpour, that bursts upon them with passionate
fury.

As they are standing beneath a magnificent beech, they get but a taste
of the shower in reality, though Desmond, seeing some huge drops lying
on Monica's thin white gown, feels his heart smite him.

"Here, take this," he says, roughly, taking off his coat and placing it
round her shoulders.

"No, thank you," says Miss Beresford, stiffly.

"You must," returns he, and, to his surprise, she makes no further
resistance. Perhaps she is cowed by the authority of his manner;
_perhaps_ she doesn't like the raindrops.

Encouraged, however, by her submission to a further daring of fortune,
he says, presently,--

"You might have given Cobbett a turn, I think, instead of devoting
yourself all day to that egregious ass."

"He prefers talking to Hermia. I suppose you don't want me to go up to
people and ask them to be civil to me?"

"Some other fellow, then."

"You would be just as jealous of him, whoever he was."

"I am not jealous at all," indignantly. "I only object to your saying
one thing to _me_ and another to _him_."

"What is the one thing I say to you?"

This staggers him.

"You must find me a very monotonous person if I say only one thing to
you always."

"I haven't found you so."

"Then it--whatever it is--must be one of the most eloquent and
remarkable speeches upon record. _Do_ tell it to me."

"Look here, Monica," says Mr. Desmond, cautiously evading a reply: "what
I want to know is--what you _see_ in Ryde. He is tall, certainly, but he
is fat and effeminate, with 'a forehead villanous low.'"

"Your own is very low," says Miss Beresford.

"If I thought it was like _his_, I'd make away with myself. And you
listen to all his stories, and believe them every one. I don't believe a
single syllable he says: I never met such a bragger. To listen to him,
one would think he had killed every tiger in Bengal. In my opinion, he
never even saw one."

"'Les absents ont toujours tort,'" quotes she, in a low, significant
tone.

This is the finishing stroke.

"Oh! you _defend_ him," he says, as savagely almost as one of those wild
beasts he has just mentioned. "In your eyes he is a hero, no doubt. I
daresay all women see virtue in a man who 'talks as familiarly of
roaring lions as maids of thirteen do of puppy-dogs.'"

"I don't think maids of thirteen, as a rule, talk much of puppy-dogs.
I'm sure Kit doesn't," says Monica, provokingly. "And really, to do Mr.
Ryde justice too, I never heard him mention a roaring lion. Perhaps you
are thinking of Artemus Ward's lion that goes about 'seeking whom he may
devour somebody.'" She smiles in a maddening fashion.

"I am thinking of Ryde," says Desmond. "I am thinking, too, how mad I
was when I thought you liked me better than him. I _did_ think it, you
know; but now I am _desillusionnee_. It is plain to me you are
infatuated about this fellow, who is 'perfumed like a milliner' and
hasn't two ideas in his head."

"I can't think where you find all your quotations," says Monica, who is
now seriously annoyed; "but I must ask you not to worry me any further
about Mr. Ryde."

"You are madly in love with him," says Desmond, choking with rage. Upon
which Miss Beresford loses the last remnant of her patience, and very
properly turns her back on him.

The rain has ceased, but during its reign has extinguished the dying
sun, which has disappeared far below the horizon. A great hush and
silence has followed the petulant burst of storm, and a peace
unspeakable lies on all the land. There is a little glimpse of the ocean
far away beyond the giant firs, and one can see that its waves are calm,
and the fishing-boats upon its bosom scarcely rock.

The grass is bending still with the weight of the past rain, and a
plaintive dripping from the trees can be heard,--a refreshing sound that
lessens the sense of heat. The small birds stir cosily in their nests,
and now and then a drowsy note breaks from one or another; a faint mist,
white and intangible, rises from the hills, spreading from field to sky,
until

    "The earth, with heaven mingled, in the shadowy twilight lay,
      And the white sails seemed like spectres in a cloud-land far away."

"Ah! you don't like me to say that," says Desmond, unappeased by the
beauty of the growing night; "but----"

"Do not say another word," says Monica, imperiously. The moon is rising
slowly--slowly,--and so, by the by, is her temper. "I forbid you. Here,"
throwing to him his coat; "I think I have before remarked that the rain
is _quite_ over. I am sorry I ever touched anything belonging to you."

Desmond having received the coat, and put himself into it once more,
silence ensues. It does, perhaps, strike him as a hopeful sign that she
shows no haste to return home and so rid herself of a presence she has
inadvertently declared to be hateful to her, because presently he says,
simply, if a little warmly,--

"There is no use in our quarreling like this. I won't give you up
without a further struggle, to _any_ man. So we may as well have it out
now. Do you care for that--for Ryde?"

"If you had asked me that before,--sensibly,--you might have avoided
making an exhibition of yourself and saying many rude things. I don't in
the least mind telling you," says Miss Beresford, coldly, "that I _can't
bear_ him."

"Oh, Monica! is this _true_?" asks he, in an agony of hope.

"Quite true. But you don't deserve I should say it."

"My darling! My 'one thing bright' in all this hateful world! Oh!"
throwing up his head with an impatient gesture, "I have been so wretched
all this evening! I have suffered the tortures of the----"

"Now, you musn't say naughty words," interrupts she, with an adorable
smile. "You are glad I have forgiven you?"

This is how she puts it, and he is only too content to be friends with
her on any terms, to show further fight.

"_More_ than glad."

"And you will promise me never to be jealous again?"

This is a bitter pill, considering his former declaration that jealousy
and he had nothing to do with each other; but he swallows it bravely.

"Never. And you--you will never again give me cause, darling, will you?"

"I gave you no cause now," says the darling, shaking her pretty head
obstinately. And he doesn't dare contradict her. "You behaved really
badly," she goes on, reproachfully, "and at such a time, too,--just when
I was dying to tell you _such_ good news."

"Good?--your aunts--" eagerly, "have relented--they----"

"Oh, no! oh, _dear_, no!" says Miss Beresford. "They are harder than
ever against you. Adamant is a _sponge_ in comparison with them. It
isn't that; but Madam O'Connor has asked me to go and stay with her next
Monday for a week!--there!"

"And me too?"

"N--o. Aunt Priscilla made it a condition with regard to my going that
you shouldn't be there."

"The----And Madam O'Connor gave in to such abominable tyranny?"

"Without a murmur."

"I thought she had a soul above that sort of thing," says Mr. Desmond,
with disgust. "But they are all alike."

"Who?--women?"

"Yes."

"You mean to tell me I am like Aunt Priscilla and Madam O'Connor?"

"_Old_ women, I mean," with anxious haste, seeing a cloud descending
upon the brow of his beloved.

"Oh!"

"And, after all, it _is_ good news," says Brian, brightening, "because
though I can't stop in the house for the week, still there is nothing to
prevent my riding over there every one of the seven days."

"That's just what I thought," says Monica, ingenuously, with a sweet
little blush.

"Ah! you wished for me, then?"

She refuses to answer this in any more direct manner than her eyes
afford, but says, quickly, doubtfully,--

"It won't be deceiving Aunt Priscilla, your coming there to visit, will
it? She must know she cannot compel Madam O'Connor to forbid you the
house. And she knows perfectly you are an intimate friend of hers."

"Of course she does. She is a regular old tyrant,--a Bluebeard in
petticoats; but----"

"No, no; you must not abuse her," says Monica: so he becomes silent.

She is standing very close to the trunk of the old beech, half leaning
against it upon one arm which is slightly raised. She has no gloves, but
long white mittens that reach above her elbow to where the sleeves of
her gown join them. Through the little holes in the pattern of these
kindly mittens her white arms can be seen gleaming like snow beneath
the faint rays of the early moon. With one hand she is playing some
imaginary air upon the tree's bark.

As she so plays, tiny sparkles from her rings attract his notice.

"Those five little rings," says Desmond, idly, "always remind me of the
five little pigs that went to market,--I don't know why."

"They didn't all go to market," demurely. "One of them, I _know_, stayed
at home."

"So he did. I remember now. Somehow it makes me feel like a boy again."

"Then, according to Hood, you must be nearer heaven than you were a
moment ago."

"I couldn't," says Desmond, turning, and looking into her beautiful
eyes. "My heaven has been near me for the last half-hour." If he had
said _hour_ he would have been closer to the truth.

A soft, lovely crimson creeps into her cheeks, and her eyes fall before
his for a moment. Then she laughs,--a gay, mirthful laugh, that somehow
puts sentiment to flight.

"Go on about your little pigs," she says, glancing at him with
coquettish mirth.

"About your rings, you mean. I never look at them that I don't begin
this sort of thing." Here, seeing an excellent opportunity for it,
he takes her hand in his. "This little turquoise went to market,
this little pearl stayed at home, this little emerald got
some--er--cheese----"

"No, it wasn't," hastily. "It was roast beef."

"So it was. Better than cheese, any day. How stupid of me! I might have
known an emerald--I mean a pig--wouldn't like cheese."

"I don't suppose it would like roast beef a bit better," says Monica;
and then her lips part and she bursts into a merry laugh at the
absurdity of the thing. She is such a child still that she finds the
keenest enjoyment in it.

"Never mind," with dignity, "and permit me to tell you, Miss Beresford,
that open ridicule is rude. To continue: _this_ little pearl got none,
and this little plain gold ring got--he got--what on earth did the
little plain gold pig--I mean, ring--get?"

"_Nothing._ Just what _you_ ought to get for such a badly-told story. He
only cried, 'Wee.'"

"Oh, no, indeed. He shan't cry at all. I won't have tears connected with
you in any way."

She glances up at him with eyes half shy, half pleased, and with the
prettiest dawning smile upon her lips.

He clasps the slender fingers closer, as though loath to part with them,
and yet his tale has come to a climax.

"If I have told my story so badly, perhaps I had better tell it all over
again," he says, with a base assumption of virtuous regret.

"No. I would not give you that trouble for the world," she says,
mischievously, and then the dawning smile widens, brightens into
something indescribable, but perfect.

"Oh, Monica, I do think you are the sweetest thing on earth," says the
young man, with sudden fervid passion; and then all at once, and for the
first time, he puts out his arms impulsively and draws her to him. She
colors,--still smiling, however,--and after a brief hesitation, moves
slowly but decidedly back from him.

"You don't _hate_ me to touch you, do you?" asks he, rather hurt.

"Oh, no, indeed!" hurriedly. "Only----"

"Only what, darling?"

"I hardly know what," she answers, looking bewildered. "Perhaps because
it is all so strange. Why should you love _me_ better than any one?--and
yet you do," anxiously, "don't you?"

The innocently-expressed anxiety makes his heart glad.

"I adore you," he says, fervently; and then, "Did no one ever place his
arm round you _before_, Monica?"

He finds a difficulty in even asking this.

"No, no," with intense surprise at the question, and a soft, quick
glance that is almost shamed. "I never had a lover in my life until I
met you. No one except you ever told me I was pretty. The first time
_you_ said it I went home (when I was out of your sight," reddening, "I
ran all the rest of the way) and looked at myself in the glass. Then,"
naively, "I knew you were right. Still I had my doubts; so I called Kit
and told her about it; and she," laughing, "said you were evidently a
person of great discrimination, so I suppose she agreed with you."

"She could hardly do otherwise."

"Yet sometimes," says Monica, with hesitation and a downcast face, "I
have thought it was all mere fancy with you, and that you don't love me
_really_."

"My sweetheart, what a cruel thing to say to me!"

"But see how you scold me! Only now," nervously plucking little bits of
bark from the trunk of the tree, "you accused me of dreadful things.
Yes, sometimes I doubt you."

"I wonder where I leave room for doubt? Yet I must convince you. What
shall I swear by, then?" he asks, half laughing: "the chaste Diana up
above--the lovers' friend--is in full glory to-night; shall I swear by
her?"

"'Oh, swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon, lest that thy love
prove likewise variable,'" quotes she archly; "and yet," with a sudden
change of mood, and a certain sweet gravity, "I do not mistrust you."

She leans slightly towards him, and unasked, gives her hand into his
keeping once again. She is full of pretty tender ways and womanly
tricks, and as for the best time for displaying them, for this she has a
natural talent.

Desmond, clasping her hand, looks at her keenly. His whole heart is in
his eyes.

"Tell me that you love me," he says, in a low unsteady voice.

"How can I? I don't know. I am not sure," she says, falteringly; "and,"
shrinking a little from him, "it is growing very late. See how the moon
has risen above the firs. I must go home."

"Tell me you love me first."

"I _must_ not love you; you know that."

"But if you might, you could?"

"Ye--es."

"Then I defy all difficulties,--aunts, and friends, and lovers. I shall
win you in the teeth of all barriers, and in spite of all opposition.
And now go home, my heart's delight, my best beloved. I have this
assurance from you, that your own lips have given me, and it makes me
confident of victory."

"But if you fail," she begins, nervously; but he will not listen to her.

"There is no such word," he says, gayly. "Or, if there is, I never
learnt it. Good-night, my love."

"Good-night." A little frightened by his happy vehemence she stands well
away from him, and holds out her hands in farewell. Taking them, he
opens them gently and presses an impassioned kiss on each little
pink-tinged palm. With a courteous reverence for her evident shyness, he
then releases her, and, raising his hat, stands motionless until she has
sprung down the bank and so reached the Moyne fields again.

Then she turns and waves him a second and last good night. Returning the
salute, he replaces his hat on his head, and thrusting his hands deep in
his pockets, turns towards Coole--and dinner. He is somewhat late for
the latter, but this troubles him little, so set is his mind upon the
girl who has just left him.

Surely she is hard to win, and therefore--_how_ desirable! "The women of
Ireland," says an ancient chronicler, "are the coyest, the most
coquettish, yet withal the coldest and virtuousest women upon earth."
Yet, allowing all this, given time and opportunity, they may be safely
wooed. What Mr. Desmond complains of bitterly, in his homeward musings
to-night, is the fact that to him neither time nor opportunity is
afforded.

"She is a woman therefore to be won;" but how is his courtship to be
sped, if thorns are to beset his path on every side, and if persistent
malice blocks his way to the feet of her whom he adores?

He reaches home in an unenviable frame of mind, and is thoroughly
unsociable to Owen Kelly and the old squire all the evening.

Next morning sees him in the same mood; and, indeed, it is about this
time he takes to imagining his little love as being a hapless prisoner
in the hands of two cruel ogres (I am afraid he really does apply the
term "ogres" to the two old ladies of Moyne), and finds a special
melancholy pleasure in depicting her as a lonely captive condemned to
solitary confinement and dieted upon bread and water.

To regard the Misses Blake in the light either of ogres or witches
required some talent; but Mr. Desmond, at this period of his
love-affair, managed it.

He would go about, too, singing,--

    "Oh, who will o'er the downs so free,"

taking immense comfort out of, and repeating over and over again, such
lines as--

    "I sought her bower at break of day,
        'Twas guarded safe and sure;"

    "Her father he has locked the door,
      Her mother keeps the key;
    But neither bolt nor bar shall keep
      My own true love from me,"--

until bars, and bolts, and locks, and keys seemed all real.



CHAPTER XVIII.

  How, after much discussion, the devoted, if mistaken, adherents of
  Thalia gain the day--and how, for once in his life, Owen Kelly feels
  melancholy that is not assumed.


"I wish you would all attend," says Olga Bohun, just a little
impatiently, looking round upon the assembled group, with brows uplifted
and the point of a pencil thrust between her rose-red lips.

"Thrice-blessed pencil!" murmurs Mr. Kelly, in a _very_ stage whisper.
"Man is the superior being, yet he would not be permitted to occupy so
exalted a position. Are you a stone, Ronayne, that you can regard the
situation with such an insensate face?" Mr. Ronayne is at this moment
gazing at Mrs. Bohun with all his heart in his eyes. He starts and
colors. "I cannot help thinking of that dear little song about the
innocent daisy," goes on Mr. Kelly, with a rapt expression. "But I'd
'choose to be a _pencil_, if I might be a flower.'"

"Now _do_ let us decide upon something," says Olga, taking no heed of
this sally, and frowning down the smile that is fighting for mastery.

"Yes; now you are all to decide upon something at once," says Mr. Kelly,
gloomily. "There is a difficulty about the right way to begin it, but it
must be done; Mrs. Bohun says so. There is to be no deception. I shall
say one, two, three, and away, and then every one must have decided: the
defaulter will be spurned from the gates. Now, one, two----Desmond,"
sternly "you are not deciding!"

"I am, indeed," says Desmond, most untruthfully. He is lying on the
grass at Monica's feet, and is playing idly with her huge white fan.

"You are not doing it properly. I daresay Miss Beresford is making you
uncomfortable; and I am sure you are trying to break her fan. Come over
here and sit by me, and you will be much happier."

"Penance is good for the soul. I shall stay here," says Desmond.

"If we mean to get up tableaux, we certainly ought to set about them at
once," says Herrick, indolently.

"There doesn't seem to be any work in anybody," says Olga, in despair.

"Try me," says Lord Rossmoyne, bending over her chair. He has only just
come, and his arrival has been unannounced.

"Ah! _thank_ you!"--with a brilliant smile. "Now you _do_ look like
business."

It is Monday, and four o'clock. Aghyohillbeg lying basking in the
sunshine is looking its loveliest,--which is saying a great deal. The
heat is so intense on this sweet July day that every one has deserted
the house and come out to find some air,--a difficulty. They have tried
the grass terraces, in vain, and now have congregated beneath a giant
fir, and are, comparatively speaking, cool.

Just before luncheon Madam O'Connor brought Monica home in triumph with
her from Moyne, to find Desmond, handsome and happy, on her doorstep,
waiting with calm certainty an invitation to that meal. He got it, and
to dinner likewise.

"We have set our hearts on tableaux, but it is _so_ difficult to think
of any scene fresh and unhackneyed," says Olga, gazing plaintively into
Lord Rossmoyne's sympathetic face.

"Don't give way," says Mr. Kelly, tenderly. "It must be a poor intellect
that couldn't rise superior to such a demand as that. Given one minute,
I believe even I could produce an idea as novel as it would be
brilliant."

"You shall have your minute," says Olga, pulling out her watch.
"Now--begin----"

"Time's up," she says, presently, when sixty seconds have honestly
expired.

"You might have said that thirty seconds ago, and I should not have
objected," says Mr. Kelly, with an assured smile.

"And your idea."

"_The Huguenots!_"

Need I say that every one is exceedingly angry?

"Ever heard it before?" asks Mr. Kelly, with aggressive insolence; which
question, being considered as adding insult to injury, is treated with
silent contempt.

"I told you it was not to be done," says Olga, petulantly addressing
everybody generally.

"I can't agree with you. I see no reason why it should fall to the
ground," says Miss Fitzgerald, warmly, who is determined to show herself
off in a gown that has done duty for "Madame Favart," and the "Bohemian
Girl," and "Maritana," many a time and oft.

"I have another idea," says Mr. Kelly, at this opportune moment.

"If it is as useful as your first, you may keep it," says Olga, with
pardonable indignation.

"I am misunderstood," says Mr. Kelly, mournfully, but with dignity. "I
shall write to Miss Montgomery and ask her to make another pathetic tale
about me. As you are bent on trampling upon an unknown genius,--poor but
proud--I shall _not_ make you acquainted with this last beautiful
thought which I have evolved from my inner consciousness."

"Don't say that! _do_ tell it to us," says Monica, eagerly, and in
perfect good faith. She knows less of him than the others, and may
therefore be excused for still believing in him.

"Thank you, Miss Beresford. _You_ can soar above a mean desire to crush
a rising power. You have read, of course, that popular poem by our
poet-laureate, called 'Enid.'"

"Yes," says Monica, staring at him.

"I mean the poem in which he has so faithfully depicted the way in which
two escaped lunatics would be sure to behave if left to their own
devices. Considered as a warning to us to keep bolts and bars on Colney
Hatch and Hanwell, it may be regarded as a delicate attention. Dear
Tennyson! he certainly is a public benefactor. There is a scene in that
remarkable poem which I think might suit us. You remember where, after
much wild careering in the foreground, the principal idiots decide upon
riding home together, pillion fashion?"

"I--I think so," says Monica, who plainly doesn't, being much confused.

"'Then on his foot she sat her own and climbed,'--and then she threw her
arms round him in a most unmaidenly fashion, if I recollect aright; but
of course mad people _will_ be vehement, poor souls; they can't help it.
Now, supposing we adopted that scene, wouldn't it be effective? One of
Madam O'Connor's big carriage-horses, if brought forward,--I mean the
one that kicked over the traces, yesterday,--would, I firmly believe,
create quite a sensation, and in all probability bring down the house."

"The stage, certainly," says Desmond.

"Ah! you approve of it," says Kelly, with suspicious gratitude. "Then
let us arrange it at once. Miss Beresford might throw her arms round
Ryde, for example: that would be charming."

Desmond looking at this moment as if he would willingly murder him, Mr.
Kelly is apparently satisfied, and sinks to rest with his head upon his
arm once more. No one else has heard the suggestion.

"I think you might help me, instead of giving voice to insane
propositions," says Olga, reproachfully, turning her eyes upon Mr.
Kelly's bowed form,--he is lying prostrate on the grass,--which is
shaking in a palsied fashion. "I really _did_ believe in _you_," she
says, whereupon the young man, springing to his feet, flings his arms
wide, and appeals in an impassioned manner to an unprejudiced public as
to whether he has not been racking his brain in her service for the last
half-hour.

"Then I wish you would go and rack it in somebody else's service," says
Mrs. Bohun, ungratefully.

"Hear her!" says Mr. Kelly, gazing slowly round him. "She still persists
in the unseemly abuse. She is bent on breaking my heart and driving
sleep from mine eyelids. It is ungenerous, the more so that she knows I
have not the courage to tear myself from her beloved presence. You,
Ronayne, and you, Rossmoyne, can sympathize with me:

    "'In durance vile here must I wake and weep,
    And all my frowzy couch in sorrow steep.'

Fancy a frowzy couch saturated with tears! you know," reproachfully to
Olga, "_you_ wouldn't like to have to lie on it."

"Oh, do come and sit down here near me, and be silent," says Olga, in
desperation.

"Why not have a play?" says Captain Cobbett, who with Mr. Ryde has
driven over from Clonbree.

"'The play's the thing,'" says Brian Desmond, lazily; "but when you are
about it, make it a farce."

"Oh, _no_!" says Miss Fitzgerald, with a horrified gesture; "_anything_
but that! Why not let us try one of the good old comedies?--'The School
for Scandal,' for example?"

"_What!_" says Mr. Kelly, very weakly. He is plainly quite overcome by
this suggestion.

"Well, why not?" demands the fair Bella, with just a _soupcon_ of
asperity in her tone,--as much as she ever allows herself when in the
society of men. She makes up for this abstinence by bestowing a liberal
share of it upon her maid and her mother.

"It's--it's such a naughty, naughty piece," says Mr. Kelly, bashfully,
beating an honorable retreat from his first meaning.

"Nonsense! One can strike out anything distasteful."

"Shades of Farren--and----Who would be Lady Teazle?" says Olga.

"I would," says Bella, modestly.

"That is more than good of you," says Olga, casting a curious glance at
her from under her long lashes. "But I thought, perhaps----You, Hermia,
would you not undertake it? You know, last season, they said you
were----"

"No, dear, thanks. No, _indeed_," with emphasis.

"Cobbett does Joseph Surface to perfection," breaks in Mr. Ryde,
enthusiastically.

"Oh, I say now, Ryde! Come, you know, this is hardly fair," says the
little captain, coyly, who is looking particularly pinched and dried
to-day, in spite of the hot sun. There is a satisfied smirk upon his
pale lips, and a poor attempt at self-depreciation about his whole
manner.

"You know you took 'em by storm at Portsmouth, last year,--made 'em
laugh like fun. You should see him," persists Ryde, addressing everybody
generally.

"Perhaps you mean the part of Charles Surface," says Ronayne, in some
surprise.

"No. Joseph: the sly one you know," says Ryde chuckling over some
recollection.

"Well, it never occurred to me that Joseph's part might be termed a
_funny_ one," says Mr. Kelly, mildly; "but that shows how ignorant all
we Irish are. It will be very kind of you, Cobbett, to enlighten us,--to
show us something _good_, in fact."

"Really, you know, you flatter me absurdly," says Cobbett, the
self-depreciation fainter, the smirk broader.

Lord Rossmoyne, whose good temper is not his strong point, glances
angrily at him, smothers an explosive speech, and walks away with a
sneer.

"And Sir Peter,--who will kindly undertake Sir Peter?" asks Olga, with a
smile that is faintly sarcastic. "Will you, Owen?" to Mr. Kelly.

"Don't ask me. I could not act with Cobbett and Miss Fitzgerald. I mean,
I should only disgrace them," says Kelly, who is a member of a famous
dramatic club in Dublin, and who has had two offers from London managers
to tread the boards. "I feel I'm not up to it, indeed."

"I suspect you are not," says Hermia Herrick, with a sudden smile that
lights up all her cold impassive face. Kelly, catching it, crawls lazily
over to her, along the grass, Indian fashion, and finding a fold of her
gown lays his arm on it, and his head on his arm, and relapses into
silence.

"Ryde has done it," says Captain Cobbett.

"Indeed!" says Olga, raising questioning eyes to the big marine standing
behind Monica's chair.

"Ye--es. We--er--do a good deal of that sort of thing in _our_ country,"
says Ryde, with conscious worth. "I have done Sir Peter once or twice;
and people have been good enough not to--" with a little laugh--"_hiss_
me. I have a style of my own; but--er----" with an encouraging glance at
the other men, "I daresay there are many here who could do it as I do
it."

"Not _one_, I am convinced," says Desmond, promptly; and Monica laughs
softly.

"We must think it over. I don't believe anything so important could be
got up without deep deliberation----" Olga is beginning, when Kelly, by
a movement of the hand, stops her.

"Do let it go on to its bitter end," he says, in a whisper, with most
unusual animation for him. "Mrs. Herrick, help me."

"Why not, Olga?" says Hermia, in a low tone. "The principal characters
are willing; we have not had a real laugh for some time: why throw away
such a _perfect_ chance?"

"Oh! _that_----" says Olga.

Here a slight diversion is caused by the appearance of a footman, tea
tray, a boy, a gypsy table, a maid, a good deal of fruit, maraschino,
brandy, soda, _and_ Madam O'Connor. The latter, to tell the truth, has
been having a siesta in the privacy of her own room, and has now come
down, like a giant refreshed, to see how her guests are getting on.

"Well, I hope you're all happy," she says, jovially.

"We are mad with perplexity," says Olga.

"What's the matter, then, darling?" says Madam. "Hermia, like a good
child, go and pour out the tea."

"I'll tell you all about it," says Brian, who is a special favorite of
Madam O'Connor's, coming over to her and stopping behind her chair to
whisper into her ear.

Whatever he says makes her laugh immoderately. It is easy to bring
smiles to her lips at any time,--her heart having kept at a standstill
whilst her body grew old,--but now she seems particularly fetched.

"Yes, yes, my dear Olga, let them have their own way," she says merrily.

"Very good. Let us consider it settled," says Mrs. Bohun. "But I
_should_ like some tableaux afterwards, as a wind-up."

"Yes, certainly," says Ronayne. "What do you think, Madam?"

"I have set my mind on them," says his old hostess, gayly. "You are
such a handsome boy, Ulic, that I'm bent on seeing you in fancy clothes;
and so is somebody else, I daresay. Look at the children, how they steal
towards us; were there ever such demure little mice? Come here, Georgie,
my son, I have peaches and pretty things for you."

The kind old soul holds out her arms to two beautiful children, a boy
and a girl, who are coming slowly, shyly towards her. They are so like
Hermia Herrick as to be unmistakably hers. The boy, coming straight to
Madame O'Connor, climbs up on her lap and lays his bonny cheek against
hers; but the girl, running to her mother, who is busy over the
tea-tray, nestles close to her.

"Gently, my soul," say Hermia, in a soft whisper. Though she still
calmly pours out the tea, with Kelly beside her, she lets the unoccupied
hand fall, to mingle with the golden tresses of the child. As her hand
meets the little sunny head, a marvellous sweetness creeps into her face
and transfixes it to a heavenly beauty. Kelly, watching her, marks the
change.

Going round to the child, he would have taken her in his arms,--as is
his habit with most children, being a special favorite in every nursery;
but this little dame, drawing back from him, repels him coldly. Then, as
though fearing herself ungracious, she slowly extends to him a tiny,
friendly hand, which he accepts. The likeness between this grave baby
and her graver mother is so remarkable as to be almost ludicrous.

"I think you haven't given Mr. Kelly even one kiss to-day," says her
mother, smiling faintly, and pressing the child closer to her. "She is a
cold little thing, is she not?"

"I suppose she inherits it," says Owen Kelly, without lifting his eyes
from the child's fair face.

Mrs. Herrick colors slightly.

"Will you let me get you some tea, Fay?" says Mr. Kelly, addressing the
child almost anxiously.

"No, thank you," says the fairy, sweetly but decidedly. "My mammy will
give me half hers. I do not like any other tea."

"I am not in favor to-day," says Kelly, drawing back and shrugging his
shoulders slightly, but looking distinctly disappointed. It may be the
child sees this, because she comes impulsively forward, and, standing on
tiptoe before him, holds her arms upwards towards his neck.

"I want to kiss you now," she says, solemnly, when he has taken her into
his embrace. "But no one else. I only want to kiss _you_ sometimes--and
_always_ mamma."

"I am content to be second where mamma is first. I am glad you place me
with her in your mind. I should like to be always with mamma," says
Kelly. He laughs a little, and kisses the child again, and places her
gently upon the ground, and then he glances at Hermia. But her face is
impassive as usual. No faintest tinge deepens the ordinary pallor of her
cheeks. She has the sugar tongs poised in the air, and is apparently
sunk in abstruse meditation.

"Now, I wonder who takes sugar and who doesn't," she says, wrinkling up
her pretty brows in profound thought. "I have been here a month, yet
cannot yet be sure. Mr. Kelly, you must call some one else to our
assistance to take round the sugar, as you can't do everything."

"I can do _nothing_," says Kelly, in a low tone, after which he turns
away and calls Brian Desmond to come to him.



CHAPTER XIX.

  How Desmond asserts himself, and shows himself a better man than his
  rival--And how a bunch of red roses causes a breach, and how a ring
  heals it.


"Then it is decided," says Olga. "'The School for Scandal' first, and
tableaux to follow. Now for _them_. I suppose four altogether will be
quite sufficient. We must not try the patience of our poor audience past
endurance."

"It will be past that long before our tableaux begin," says Ulic
Ronayne, in a low tone. He is dressed in a tennis suit of white flannel,
and is looking particularly handsome.

Olga makes a pretty little _moue_, but no audible response.

"I have two arranged," she says, "but am distracted about three and
four. Will anybody except Mr. Kelly come to my assistance?"

"Oh, you're jealous because you didn't think of 'Enid' and the
carriage-horse yourself," returns that young man, with ineffable
disdain,--"or that Dolly Varden affair."

"Well, that last might do,--modified a little," says Olga, brightening.
"Mr. Ryde is enormous enough for anything. Quite an ideal Hugh."

"Quite," says Ronayne, with a smile.

"Then it has arranged itself; that is, if you agree, dear?" says Olga,
turning to Monica.

"It shall be as you wish. I mean, I know nothing about it," gently; "but
I shall like to help you if I can."

"I mean you don't object to the subject,--or Mr. Ryde?" says Olga,
kindly, unaware that Mr. Ryde has come away from the tea-table and is
now close behind her. Monica, however, sees him, and smiles courteously.

"Oh, no," she says, as in duty bound.

And then the fourth is found and grasped, and all trouble is at an end.

"_So_ glad I can now take my tea in peace," says Olga, with a sigh of
profound relief. "_Who_ would be stage-manager?"

"Ah! you don't do much of this kind of thing in Ireland, I daresay,"
says Mr. Ryde.

"What kind of thing?" asks Olga, sweetly, who doesn't like him.
"Tea-drinking?"

"No--acting--er--and that."

"I'm afraid I'm quite at sea about the '_that_,'" says Olga, shaking her
blonde head. "Perhaps we do a good deal of it, perhaps we don't. Explain
it to me."

("Awful stoopid people!--not a word of truth about their ready wit,"
says Mr. Ryde to himself at this juncture.)

"Oh, well--er--let us confine ourselves to the acting," he says, feeling
somehow at a loss. "It is new to you here, it seems."

"I certainly have never acted in my life," begins Monica; "but----"

Mrs. Bohun interrupts her.

"We are a hopelessly benighted lot," she says, making Ryde a present of
a beautiful smile. "We are sadly behind the world,--_rococo_"--shrugging
her shoulders pathetically--"to the last degree. You, Mr. Ryde, have
opened up to us possibilities never dreamt of before; touches of
civilization hitherto unknown."

"I should think in your case a very little tuition would be sufficient,"
says Ryde, with such kindly encouragement in his tone that Ronayne, who
is at Olga's feet, collapses, and from being abnormally grave breaks
into riotous laughter.

"You must teach us stage effects,--is that the proper term?--and correct
us when we betray too crass an ignorance, and--above all things, Mr.
Ryde," with an arch glance, "you must promise not to lose your temper
over the _gaucheries_ of your Dolly Varden."

"Whose Dolly Varden?" asks Desmond, coming up at this instant laden with
cups of tea.

"Mr. Ryde's."

"He is to be Hugh to Miss Beresford's Dolly," says Ronayne.

"Yes, isn't it good of Monica? she has consented to take the part," says
Olga, who is really grateful to her for having helped her out of her
difficulty.

"_Have_ you?" says Desmond, turning upon Monica with dilated eyes.

"Yes. Is that tea for me?" returns she, calmly, with great
self-possession, seeing that sundry eyes are upon her.

"For you, or any one," replies he. Tone can convey far more meaning than
words. The words just now are correct enough, but the tone is uncivil to
the last degree. Monica, flushing slightly, takes a cup from him, and
Olga takes the second.

There is a short silence whilst they stir their tea, during which Madam
O'Connor's voice can be distinctly heard,--it generally _can_ above
every tumult. She is discoursing enthusiastically about some wonderful
tree in her orchard, literally borne down by fruit.

"You never saw such a sight!" she is saying,--"laden down to the ground.
The finest show of pears in the country. I was telling Williams he would
do well to prop it. But I suppose it will ruin the tree for the next two
years to come."

"What, the propping?" says Rossmoyne.

"No, the enormous produce, you silly boy!" says his hostess, with a
laugh.

Monica, who is growing restless beneath Desmond's angry regard, turns to
her nervously.

"I think I should like to see it," she says, softly.

"Allow me to take you to it," says Ryde, quickly, coming to her side.

"Miss Beresford is coming with _me_," interposes Desmond. His face is
pale, and his eyes flash ominously.

"That is for Miss Beresford to decide."

"She _has_ decided," says Desmond, growing even paler, but never
removing his eyes from his rival's. He is playing a dangerous game, but
even in the danger is ecstasy. And, as Monica continues silent, a great
joy fills his soul.

"But until"--begins the Englishman, doggedly--"I hear----"

"Mrs. Bohun's cup is causing her embarrassment. See to it," interrupts
Desmond, unemotionally. And then, turning to Monica, he says, "Come,"
coldly, but with such passionate entreaty in his eyes that she is borne
away by it, and goes with him submissively across the lawn, until she
has so far withdrawn herself from her companions that a return would be
undignified.

They go as far as the entrance to the orchard, a good quarter of a mile,
in silence, and then the storm breaks.

"I won't have that fellow holding you in his arms," says Desmond, pale
with grief and rage, standing still and confronting her.

"I thought you said you would never be jealous again," says Monica, who
has had time to recover herself, and time, too, to grow angry.

"I also said I hoped you would never give me cause."

"Mrs. Bohun has arranged this tableau."

"Then disarrange it."

"But how?"

"Say you won't act with Ryde."

"You can't expect me to make myself laughable in that way."

"Then _I'll_ do it."

"And so make me laughable in another way. I can't see what right you
have to interfere," she breaks out suddenly, standing before him, wilful
but lovely. "What are you to me, or I to you, that you should order me
about like this?"

"You are all the world to me,--you are _my wife_," says the young man,
in a solemn tone, but with passionately angry eyes. "You can refuse me
if you like, but I shall go to my grave with your image only in my
heart. As to what I am to _you_, that is quite another thing,--less than
nothing, I should say."

"And no wonder, too, considering your _awful_ temper," says Monica,
viciously; but her tone trembles.

At this he seems to lose heart. A very sad look creeps into his dark
eyes and lingers there.

"Well, do what you like about these wretched tableaux," he says, so
wearily that Monica, though victorious, feels inclined to cry. "If they
give you a moment's pleasure, why should I rebel? As you say, I am
nothing to you. Come, let us go and look at this famous pear-tree."

But she does not stir. They are inside the orchard, standing in a very
secluded spot, with only some green apples and an ivied wall to see
them. Her eyes are downcast, and her slender fingers are playing
nervously with a ribbon on her gown. Her lips have taken a remorseful
curve. Now, as though unable to restrain the impulse, she raises her
eyes to his for a brief second, but, brief as it is, he can see that
they are full of tears.

"Brian," she says, nervously.

It is the first time she has ever called him by his Christian name, and
he turns to her a face still sad indeed, but altogether surprised and
pleased.

"Now, that is good of you," he says.

"There is nothing good about me," says Monica, tearfully. "I am as
horrid as I well can be, and you are----Brian, I will give up that
tableau. I will not be Dolly Varden; no, not if Mr. Ryde went on his
_knees_ to me."

"My dear, _dear_ love!" says Mr. Desmond.

"Do you indeed love me," says Monica, softly, "in spite of all I do?"

"I love you _because_ of all you do. What is there not commendable in
every action of yours? I love you; I live always in the hope that some
day you will be more to me than you are to-day. A presumptuous hope
perhaps," with a rather forced smile, "but one I _will_ not stifle. I
suppose every one lives in a visionary world at times, where some 'not
impossible she' reigns as queen. I dare say you think my queen _is_
impossible, yet you little know what dreams have been my playmates,
night and day."

"Am I your queen?" sweetly.

"Yes, darling."

"And you are glad I have given up this tableau?"

"I don't know what I should have done if you hadn't."

"Then, now you will do something for me," says Miss Beresford, promptly.

"Anything," with enthusiasm.

"Then to-morrow you are to come here _without_ the roses I heard you
promising Miss Fitzgerald this afternoon."

Her tone is quite composed, but two little brilliant flecks of color
have risen hurriedly and are now flaunting themselves on either pretty
cheek. She is evidently very seriously in earnest.

"She asked me for them: she will think it so ungenerous, so rude," says
Desmond.

"Not ungenerous. She will never think you that, or rude either," says
Monica, gauging the truth to a nicety. "_Careless_ if you will, but no
more; and--I _want_ you to seem careless where she is concerned."

"But why, my dearest?"

"Because I don't like her; she always treats me as though I were some
insignificant little girl still in short petticoats," says Miss
Beresford, with rising indignation. "And because--because, too----"

She pauses in some confusion.

"Go on: because what?" with gentle encouragement.

"Well, then, because I know she wants to _marry_ you," says Monica,
vehemently, but in a choked voice.

"What an extraordinary idea to come into your head!" says Desmond, in a
choked tone also, but from a different emotion.

"What are you laughing at?" severely. "At me?"

"My darling, it seems so absurd, and----"

"I _forbid_ you to laugh," in a tone replete with anger but highly
suggestive of tears. "Don't do it."

"I'll never laugh again, my pet, if it offends you so dreadfully."

"But your eyes are laughing; I can see them. I can see a great deal more
than you think, and I know that hateful girl has made up her mind to
marry you as soon as ever she can."

"That will be never."

"Not if you go on bringing her roses and things."

"What harm can a simple rose do?"

"If you are going to look at it in that light, I shall say no more. But
in a very little time you will find she has married you, and _then_
where will you be?"

Her jealousy is too childishly open to be misunderstood. Mr. Desmond's
spirits are rising with marvellous rapidity; indeed, for the past two
minutes he feels as if he is treading on air.

"As you won't have me, I don't much care _where_ I shall be," he says
with the mean hope of reducing her to submission by a threat. In this
hope he is doomed to be disappointed, as she meets his base insinuation
with an unlowered front.

"Very good, _go_ and marry her," she says, calmly, as if church, parson,
and Miss Fitzgerald are all waiting for him, in anxious expectation,
round the corner.

"No, I shan't," says Desmond, changing his tactics without a blush.
"Catch me at it! As you persist in refusing me, I shall never marry, but
remain a bachelor forever, for your sweet sake."

"Then say you will not bring those roses to-morrow. Or, better still,
say you will bring them, and"--all women, even the best are cruel--"give
them to me _before_ her."

"My darling! what an unreasonable thing to ask me!"

"Oh! I daresay! when people don't _love_ people they always think
everything they do unreasonable."

This rather involved sentence seems to cut Mr. Desmond to the heart.

"Of course, if you say that, I must do it," he says.

"Don't do it on my account," with a wilful air.

"No, on my own, of course."

"Well, remember I don't ask you to do it," with the most disgraceful
ingratitude. "Do as you wish about it."

"Your wishes are mine," he says, tenderly. "I have had no divided
existence since that first day I saw you,--how long ago it seems
now----"

"Very long. Only a few weeks in reality, but it seems to myself that I
have known and--liked you all my life."

"Yet that day when I saw you on the hay-cart is hardly two months old,"
says Desmond, dreamily.

As a breath of half-forgotten perfume, or a long-lost chord fresh
sounded, brings back the memories of a lifetime, so does this chance
remark of his now recall to her a scene almost gone out of mind, yet
still fraught with recollections terrible to her self-love.

"Two months,--only two?--oh, it must be more," she says, with a pang.
Surely time ought to lessen the feeling of shame that overpowers her
whenever she thinks of that fatal day.

"So wearisome a time, my own?" asks he, reproachfully.

"No, it is not that. It is only----. Oh, Brian, that day you speak of,
when I was on that horrid hay-cart, did you--I mean--did I--that is--did
I look very ungraceful?"

The word she is dying to say is _dis_graceful, but she dares not.

"Ungraceful?"

"Yes. Terry says that when we were passing you that day I was--was,"
with a desperate rush, "kicking up my heels?"

She is trembling with shame and confusion. Crimson has sprung to her
cheeks, tears to her eyes.

"I don't believe a word of it," says Mr. Desmond, comprehending the
situation at last. "But, even supposing you were,--and, after all, that
is the sort of thing _every one_ does on a bundle of hay,"--as though
it is quite the customary thing for people generally to go round the
world seated on hay-carts,--"I didn't see you--that is, your heels, I
mean; I saw only your face,--the prettiest face in the world. How could
I look at anything else when I had once seen that?"

"Brian!" turning to him impetuously, and laying both her hands upon his
shoulders, "I do think you are the dearest fellow on earth."

"Oh, Monica! am I the dearest to you?" He has twined his arms round her
lissome figure, and is gazing anxiously into her eyes.

"Yes,--yes, _certainly_." And then, with a _naivete_ indescribable, and
with the utmost composure, she says,--

"I think I should like to give you a kiss!"

Is the blue dome still over his head, or has the sky fallen? The thing
he has been longing for, with an intensity not to be portrayed, ever
since their first meeting, but has not dared to even _hint_ at, is now
freely offered him, as though it were a thing of naught.

"Monica!" says her lover, the blood rushing to his face, "do you _mean_
it?" He tightens his clasp round her, yet still refrains from touching
the sweet lips so near his own. A feeling of honest manliness makes him
hesitate about accepting this great happiness, lest, indeed, he may have
misunderstood her. To him it is so great a boon she grants that he
hardly dares believe in its reality.

"Of course I do," says Miss Beresford, distinctly offended. "I--at
least, I _did_. I don't now. I always want to kiss people when I feel
fond of them; but you don't, evidently, or else, perhaps, you aren't
really fond of me at all, in spite of all you have said. Never mind.
Don't put yourself out. It was merely a passing fancy on my part."

"Oh, don't let it pass," exclaims her lover, anxiously. "Darling _life_,
don't you know I have been longing, _longing_ to kiss you for weeks
past, yet dared not, because something in your eyes forbade me? And now,
to have you of your own accord really willing to give my dear desire
seems too much."

"Are you sure that it is that, or----"

"My angel, what a question!"

"Yet perhaps you think----Don't kiss me just to oblige me, you know. I
don't care so much about it as all _that_, but----"

She finds it impossible to finish the sentence, because----

       *       *       *       *       *

Dexterously, but gently, she draws herself away from him, and stands a
little apart. Looking at her, he can see she is troubled. He has opened
his lips to speak, but by a gesture she restrains him.

"I know it now," she says. This oracular speech is accompanied by a
blush, vivid as it is angry, and there are large tears in her eyes. "I
should not have asked _you_ to kiss _me_. That was your part, and you
have taught me that I usurped it. Yet I thought only that I was fond of
you, that you were my friend, or like Terry, or--" here the grievance
gains sound, "you _should_ not have kissed me like that."

"You didn't suppose I was going to kiss you as Terry might?" asks he,
with just indignation. "He is your brother; I am--not."

"I don't know anything about it, except this, that it will be a very
long time before you have the chance of doing it again. I can't bear
being _hugged_."

"I am very sorry," says Mr. Desmond, stiffly. "Let me assure you,
however, that I shall never cause you such offence again until you wish
it."

"Then say never at once," says Monica, with a pout.

"Very good," says Desmond. It may now be reasonably supposed that he has
met all her requirements, and that she has no further complaints to
bring forward; but such is not the case.

"I don't like you when you talk to me like that," she says,
aggressively, and with a spoiled-child air, glancing at him from under
her sweeping lashes.

"How am I to talk to you, then?" asks he, in despair.

"You know very well how to talk to Miss Fitzgerald," retorts she,
provokingly, and with a bold attempt at a frown. Yet there is something
about her naughty little face, a hidden, mocking, mischievous, yet
withal friendly smile as it were, that disarms her speech of its sting
and gives Brian renewed hope and courage.

He takes her hand deliberately and draws it unrepulsed through his arm.

"Let us go up this walk," he says, "and leave all angry words and
thoughts behind us."

He makes a movement in the direction indicated, and finds that she moves
with him. He finds, too, that her slender fingers have closed
involuntarily upon his arm. Plainly, she is as glad to be at peace with
him as he with her.

Coming to a turn in the path, shaded by two rugged old apple-trees now
growing heavy with their green burden, Desmond stands still, and,
putting his right hand in his pocket, draws out something from it. As he
does this he colors slightly.

"You wear all your rings on your right hand," he says, with loving
awkwardness, "and it seems to me the other poor little fingers always
look neglected. I--I wish you would take this and make it a present to
your left hand."

"_This_" is a thick gold band, set with three large diamonds of great
brilliancy in gypsy fashion.

"Oh! not for me!" says Monica, recoiling, and clasping her hands behind
her back, yet with her eyes firmly fastened upon the beautiful ring.

"Why not for you? Some day I shall give you all I possess; now I can
give you only such things as this."

"Indeed I must not take it," says Monica; but even as she utters the
half-hearted refusal she creeps unconsciously closer to him, and, laying
her hand upon his wrist, looks with childish delight and longing at the
glittering stones lying in his palm.

"But I say you must," says Desmond, taking a very superior tone. "It is
yours, not mine. I have nothing to do with it. It was never meant for
me. See," taking up her hand and slipping the ring on her engaged
finger, "how pretty your little white hand makes it look!"

It is always a difficult thing to a woman to bring herself to refuse
diamonds, but doubly difficult once she has seen them positively
adorning her own person.

Monica looks at the ring, then sighs, then turns it round and round
mechanically, and finally glances at Desmond. He returns the glance by
passing his arm round her shoulders, after which there is never another
word said about the ownership of the ring.

"But it will put my poor little pigs in the shade, won't it?" says
Monica, looking at her other hand, and then at him archly. "Oh! it is
lovely--_lovely_!"

"I think I might have chosen you a prettier one, had I run up to Dublin
and gone to Waterhouse myself," says Desmond; "but I knew if I went I
could not possibly get back until to-morrow evening, and that would mean
losing two whole days of our precious seven."

This speech pleases Monica, I think, even more than the ring.

"I am glad you did not go," she says, softly.

"So am I--especially as----" Here he pauses, and then goes on again
hurriedly. "If I had gone, Monica, you would not have forgotten me?"

"How could I forget you in two little days?"

"They would have been two very big days to me. But tell me, if I were to
go away from you for a far longer time--say for a whole month--would you
still be faithful? Should I find you as I left you,--indifferent to
others at least, if not wholly mine?"

"Why should I change?"

"Darling, there are so many reasons." He draws his breath quickly,
impatiently. "Some day, you may meet some one else--more suited to you,
perhaps, and----"

"I shall never do that." She interrupts him slowly, but decidedly.

"You are sure?"

"Yes."

The answer in words perhaps is meagre; but he, looking into the depths
of her soft eyes, sees a surer answer there, and is satisfied.

The shadows are growing longer and slower. They do not dance and quiver
now in mad glee, as they did an hour agone.

"I think we must go back," says Monica, with unconcealed regret.

"What! you will throw me again into temptation? into the very arms of
the fair Bella?" says Desmond, laughing.

"Reflect, I beg of you, before it is too late."

"After all," says Monica, "I don't think I have behaved very nicely
about her. I don't think now it would be a--a pretty thing to make you
give me the roses before her. No, you must not do that; and you must not
manage to forget them, either. You shall bring the handsomest you can
find and give them to her,--but _publicly_ Brian, just as if there was
nothing in it, you know."

"There is nothing like adhering to the strict truth," says Brian. "There
shall be nothing in my roses, I promise you,--except perfume."



CHAPTER XX.

  How gossip grows rife at Aghyohillbeg--How Hermia parries the
  question, and how Olga proves unkind.


"She's _disgracefully_ ugly!--I saw her quite close," says Mr. Kelly, in
an injured tone. "I wonder what on earth Madam O'Connor means by asking
her here, where she can be nothing but a blot upon a perfect landscape;
all the rest of us are so lovely."

It is four o'clock, and hopelessly wet. The soft rain patters on the
leaves outside, the grass and all the gardens are drowned in Nature's
tears. There can be no lounging on sunny terraces, no delicious dreaming
under shady beech-trees, this lost afternoon.

Giving in to the inevitable with a cheerful resignation worthy of
record, they have all congregated in the grand old hall, one of the
chief glories of Aghyohillbeg.

Through a vague but mistaken notion that it will add to their comfort
and make them cosier and more forgetful of--or at least more indifferent
to--the sunshine of yesterday, they have had an enormous fire of pine
logs kindled upon the hearth. When too late, they discover it to be a
discomfort; but, with a stoicism worthy a better cause, they decline to
acknowledge their error, and stand in groups round the aggressive logs,
pretending to enjoy them, but in reality dying of heat.

Meanwhile, the fragrant pieces of pine roar and crackle merrily,
throwing shadows up the huge chimney, and casting bright gleams of light
upon the exquisite oaken carving of the ancient chimney-piece that
reaches almost to the lofty ceiling and is now blackened by age and
beautiful beyond description.

Olga, in a sage-green gown, is lying back listlessly in a deep
arm-chair; she has placed an elbow on either arm of it, and has brought
her fingers so far towards each other that their tips touch. Hermia
Herrick, in a gown of copper-red, is knitting languidly a little silk
sock for the child nestling silently at her knee.

Monica, in plain white India muslin, is doing nothing, unless smiling
now and then at Brian Desmond be anything, who is lying on a bear-skin
rug, looking supremely happy and full of life and spirits. He has come
over from Coole very early, being generously urged so to do by Madam
O'Connor when parting with him last night. Ryde is not on the field, so
the day is his own.

Miss Fitzgerald is looking rather handsome, in a dress of the very
tiniest check, that is meant for a small woman only, or a child, and so
makes her appear several sizes larger than she really is. Ulic Ronayne,
standing leaning against the chimney-piece as close to Olga as
circumstances will permit, is silent to a fault; and, indeed, every one
but Mr. Kelly has succumbed to the damp depression of the air.

They have had only one distraction all day,--the arrival of another
guest, a distant cousin of their hostess, who has been lauding her for a
week or so. On inspection she proves to be a girl of nineteen, decidedly
unprepossessing in appearance,--in fact, as Mr. Murphy, the butler, says
to Mrs. Collins, the housekeeper, "as ugly as if she was bespoke."

A tall girl oppressed by freckles and with hair of a deep--well, let us
emulate our polite French neighbors and call it _blond ardent_.

"Who is she?" asks Lord Rossmoyne, who arrived about an hour ago, to
Ulic Ronayne's discomfiture.

"She's a fraud!" says Mr. Kelly, indignantly,--"a swindle! Madam assured
us, last night, a charming girl was coming, to turn all heads and storm
all hearts; and to-day, when we rushed in a body to the window and
flattened our noses against the panes to see her, lo! a creature with
red hair and pimples----"

"No, no; freckled, my dear Owen," interrupts Olga, indolently.

"It is all the same at a distance! general effect fatal in both cases,"
says Mr. Kelly, airily. "It makes one positively uncomfortable to look
at her. I consider her being thrust upon us like this a deliberate
insult. I think if she continues I shall leave."

"Oh, _don't_," says Desmond, in a tone of agonized entreaty. "How
_should_ we manage to get on without you?"

"Badly, badly, I know that," regretfully. "But it is a question of
breaking either your hearts or mine. Some of us must go to the wall; it
would be unfair to the world to make it me."

"I don't believe you will go far," says Mrs. Herrick, slowly. Kelly
glances at her quickly, but she does not lift her eyes from the little
sock, and her fingers move rapidly, easily as ever.

"London or Paris," he says,--"the city of fogs or the city of frogs. I
don't know which I prefer."

"Better stay where you are," says Brian.

"Well, I really didn't think her so very plain," says Bella Fitzgerald,
who thinks it pretty to say the kind thing always. "A large mouth _is_
an affliction, certainly; and as for her complexion--but really, after
all, it is better to see it as it is than painted and powdered, as one
sees other people."

This is a faint cut at Olga, who is fond of powder, and who has not
scrupled to add to her charms by a little touch of rouge now and then
when she felt pallor demanded it.

"I think a little artificial aid might improve poor Miss Browne," says
Hermia Herrick. Miss Browne is the new arrival.

"I don't. I think it is an abominable thing to cheat the public like
that," says Miss Fitzgerald, doggedly: "nobody respectable would do it.
The _demi-monde_ paint and powder."

"_Do_ they? how do you know, dear?" asks Olga Bohun, sweetly.

Miss Fitzgerald, feeling she has made a _faux-pas_, colors violently,
tries to get herself out of it, and flounders helplessly. Lord Rossmoyne
is looking surprised, Ulic Ronayne and Desmond amused.

"Every one says so," says the fair Bella, at last, in a voice that
trembles with anger: "you know very well they do."

"I don't, indeed, my dear Bella. My acquaintance with--er--that sort of
person has been limited: I quite envy you your superior knowledge."

Here Olga laughs a little, low, rippling laugh that completes her
enemy's defeat. After the laugh there is a dead silence.

"I think somebody ought to remove the poor little child," says Mr.
Kelly, in a low, impressive tone, pointing to Mrs. Herrick's little
girl. At which everybody laughs heartily, and awkwardness is banished.

"Browne?--I knew an Archibald Browne once: anything to this girl?" asks
Lord Rossmoyne, hurriedly, unwilling to let silence settle down on them
again.

"Big man with a loose tie?" asks Ulic.

"Ye-es. There was something odd about his neck, now I remember," says
Rossmoyne.

"That was her father. He had an idea he was like Lord Byron, and always
wore his necktie flying in the wind."

"He couldn't manage it, though," says Mr. Kelly, with as near an attempt
at mirth as he ever permits himself. "It always flew the wrong way.
Byron's, if you call to mind his many portraits, always flew over his
left shoulder; old Browne's wouldn't. By the bye," thoughtfully, "Byron
must have had a wind of his own, mustn't he? our ordinary winds don't
always blow in the same direction, do they?"

"I would that a wind could arise to blow you in some direction, when you
are in such an idle mood as now," says Mrs. Herrick, in a low tone.

"If it would blow me in _your_ direction, I should say amen to that," in
a voice as subdued as her own.

"May the Fates avert from me a calamity so great!"

"You will have to entreat them very diligently, if you hope to escape
it."

"Are you so very determined, then?"

"Yes. Although I feel I am mocked by the hope within me, still I shall
persist."

"You waste your time."

"I am content to waste it in such a cause. Yet I am sorry I am so
distasteful to you."

"That is not your fault. I forgive you that."

"What is it, then, you can't forgive in me?"

"Not more than I can't forgive in another. 'God made you all, therefore
let you all pass for men.' I don't deal more hardly with you than with
the rest, you see. You are only one of many."

"That is the unkindest thing you ever said to me. And that is saying
much. Yet I, too, will beseech the Fates in my turn."

"To grant you what?"

"The finding of you in a gentler mind."

The faintest flicker of a smile crosses her lips. She lays her knitting
on her knee for an instant, that she may the more readily let her
tapered fingers droop until they touch the pale brow of the child at her
feet; then she resumes it again, with a face calm and emotionless as
usual.

"Old Browne's girl can't owe her father much," Desmond is saying
_apropos_ of something both lost and gone before, so far as Kelly and
Mrs. Herrick are concerned.

"About a hundred thousand pounds," says Ronayne. "She is quite a catch,
you know. No end of money. The old fellow died a year ago."

"No, he didn't; he demised," says Kelly, emerging from obscurity into
the light of conversation once more. "At least, so the papers said.
There is a tremendous difference, you know. A poor man dies, a rich man
demises. One should always bear in mind that important social
distinction."

"And the good man! What of him?" says Desmond, looking at his friend.
"What does Montgomery say?"

"Yes, that is very mysterious," says Kelly, with bated breath.
"According to Montgomery, 'the good man _never_ dies.' Think of that!
_Never_ dies. He walks the earth forever, like a superannuated ghost,
only awfuller."

"Have you ever seen one?" asks Olga, leaning forward.

"What? a man that never died? Yes, lots of 'em. Here's one," laying his
hand upon his breast.

"No. A man that never will die?"

"How can I answer such a question as that? Perhaps Ronayne, there, may
be such a one."

"How stupid you are! I mean, did you ever meet a man who _couldn't_
die?"

"Never,--if he went the right way about it."

"Then, according to your showing, you have never seen a good man." She
leans back again in her chair, fatigued but satisfied.

"I'm afraid they are few and far between," says Hermia.

"Now and again they _have_ appeared," says Mr. Kelly, with a modest
glance. "Perhaps I shall never die."

"Don't make us more unhappy than we need be," says Mrs. Herrick,
plaintively.

"How sad that good men should be so scarce!" says Miss Fitzgerald, with
a glance she means to be funny, but which is only dull.

"Don't make trite remarks, Bella," says Mrs. Bohun, languidly. "You know
if you did meet one he would bore you to death. The orthodox good man,
the oppressive being we read about, but never see, is unknown to me or
you, for which I, at least, am devoutly grateful."

"To return to old Browne," says Ulic: "he wasn't good, if you like. He
was a horrid ill-tempered, common old fellow, thoroughly without
education of any kind."

"He went through college, however, as he was fond of boasting whenever
he got the chance."

"And when he didn't get it he made it."

"In at one door and out at the other, that's how he went through
Trinity," says Mr. Kelly. "Oh, how I hated that dear old man, and _how_
he hated me!"

"You admit, then, the possibility of your being hated?" says Mrs.
Herrick.

"I have admitted that ever since--I met--_you_! But old Browne bore me a
special grudge."

"And your sin against him?"

"I never fathomed it. 'The atrocious crime of being a young man,'
principally, I think. Once, I certainly locked him up in his own
wine-cellar, and left him there for six hours, under the pretence that I
believed him to be a burglar, but nothing more. He quite disliked being
locked in the cellar, I think. It was very dark, I must admit. But I'm
not afraid of the dark."

"That's a good thing," says Madam O'Connor, entering, "because it will
soon envelop you. Did any one ever see so dark an evening for the time
of year? Well, I do think that fire looks cheerful, though it _is_ warm.
Has Mary Browne come down yet?"

"No. Come here, Madam; here's a cosey seat I have been keeping sacred
for you for the past hour. Why have you denied us the light of your
countenance all this weary time?"

"Get out with you now, and your fine compliments to an old woman!" says
Madam, laughing. "If I were _your_ sweetheart, Owen, I'd never believe a
word out of your lips."

Mrs. Herrick, laying down her knitting, raises her head, and looks full
into Kelly's eyes. As she does so, a smile, lovely as it is unexpected,
warms all her statuesque face into perfect beauty.

"And this to me!" says Kelly, addressing his hostess, and pretending to
be blind to Mrs. Herrick's glance. "All the afternoon I have been
treated by your sex with the most consummate cruelty. With their tongues
they have been stabbing me as with so many knives. But yours is the
unkindest cut of all. It is, in fact, the--er--carving-knife!"

"Oh! here's the tea," says Olga, in a pleased tone. "Madam, _please_ let
me pour it out to-night?"

"Of course, my love, and thank you too."

"And may I to-morrow evening?" asks Monica, with childish eagerness and
a quick warm blush.

"You may, indeed, my pretty one; and I hope it won't be long before you
pour me out my tea in your own house."

Monica laughs, and kisses her, and Desmond, who is standing near them,
stoops over Madam O'Connor and tells her he would like to kiss her
too,--first, for her own sake, and secondly, for that sweet hope of hers
just uttered.

"Not a bit of it," says she, in return, in a tone as sprightly as it was
twenty years ago, though too low for Monica to hear. "Your first and
second reasons are all humbug. Say at once you want to kiss me because
you think this child's caress still lingers on my lips. Ah ha!--you see
I know more than you think, my lad. And hark you, Brian, come here till
I whisper a word in your ear; I'm your friend, boy, in the matter, and I
wish you luck, though Priscilla Blake kill me for it; that's what I want
to say."

"I couldn't desire a better friend," says Brian gratefully.

"And where on earth _is_ Mary Browne?" says Madam O'Connor. "She is such
a nice girl, though hardly a Venus. Owen, my dear, I want you to take
her down to dinner, and to make yourself charming to her."

"I shall be only too pleased," says Mr. Kelly, faintly; and then he
sinks back in his chair and covers his face with his hands.

"We were talking about Miss Browne's father; he was quite a millionaire,
wasn't he?" says Lord Rossmoyne, who is standing at the tea-table beside
Olga. He is a very rich man himself, and has, therefore, a due regard
for riches in others.

"He was,--and the most unpleasant person I ever met in my life, into the
bargain," says Madam O'Connor. "I'm sure the life he led that poor
Mary!--I never felt more relieved at anything than at the news of his
death."

"I feel as if I could weep for Mary," says Mr. Kelly, in an aside to
Mrs. Herrick, who takes no notice of him. "I wonder if she has got a
little lamb," he goes on, unrebuked.

"What about the lamb?" says Madam, whose ears are young as ever.

"I was only conjecturing as to whether your cousin Mary had a little
lamb," says Mr. Kelly, genially. "The old Mary had, you know. A dear
little animal with its

      'Fleece as white as snow;
    And everywhere that Mary went
      The lamb was sure to go.'

You recollect, don't you? What does Miss Browne do with hers? Has she
got it upstairs in her room, now? After all,--though the idea is sweetly
pretty,--I think there might be certain places into which it would be
awkward to have even the whitest lamb trotting after one. Eh?"

"I suppose Miss Browne is rich enough to indulge in any vagaries that
may occur to her," says Bella Fitzgerald.

"There's nothing like money," says Olga, with a sigh; at which Lord
Rossmoyne looks hopeful, and young Ronayne despondent.

"Like leather, you mean," says Owen Kelly: "that's the real thing to get
hold of."

"Some people would do _anything_ for money," says Miss Fitzgerald, with
a spiteful glance in Olga's direction. "They would sell themselves for
it." Here she turns her cold eyes upon Ronayne, who is standing erect,
handsome, but unmistakably miserable.

"They could hardly sell themselves for a more profitable article," says
Olga, with a fine shrug of her soft shoulders.

"So _they_ think. Croesus, we know, was, and is, allpowerful."

"Oh, no," says Olga, with a little silvery laugh; "you forget my dear
Bella. Read it up again, and you will see that Croesus was once
conquered by Cyrus. What became of his power then?"

Her lashes cover her eyes for a moment, and when she lifts them again
they are fixed on Ronayne. By some coquettish art she gives him to
understand in this single glance that he is Cyrus, Lord Rossmoyne
Croesus. He can conquer the rich lord if he will.

"How idle you are, Mr. Ronayne!" she says aloud. "Come here directly and
help me. You know I cannot do without _your_ help." There is the most
delicate emphasis possible upon the pronoun. Obedient to her command, he
comes, as Rossmoyne, armed with the cups, crosses the hall to Hermia and
Miss Fitzgerald.

"Did your eyes speak true just now?" he asks, bending over her under
pretext of helping her with the cups.

"What is truth?" asks she, in turn, with a swift upward glance. "Who
knows aught of her? She lies buried in a deep well, does she not? Who
shall drag her forth?"

She smiles, yet in a somewhat constrained fashion, that assorts ill with
the inborn self-possession that as a rule characterizes her. She glances
at him hurriedly. How young and handsome and earnest he looks! How full
of tenderest entreaty! There is, too, a touch of melancholy in his dark
eyes that never came to the birth (she is fain to acknowledge to herself
with a pang of remorse) until that day when first they look on her.

He loves her,--that she knows; but Rossmoyne loves her too; and though
Ronayne's rent-roll is by no means to be despised, still it counts but
as a small one beside that of Rossmoyne's.

And Hermia is right! a title _is_ of use in the world; and nothing is so
lasting or so satisfactory as a respectable book at one's banker's. A
good match (Hermia again) is the one thing to be desired; it covers all
sins. Advice such as this coming from Mrs. Herrick is thoroughly
disinterested, as the late lamented Mr. Herrick, having behaved to her
like a brute during their mercifully short married life, had died in the
odor of sanctity, leaving her complete mistress of all his enormous
wealth, and quite free to make a second marriage of her _own_ choosing.

With her (Olga), however, the case is widely different; she is indeed
without encumbrances so far as children may so be termed, and she has
sufficient means to enable her to get her gowns and things from Paris,
but there her independence ends.

As she runs over all this hurriedly in her mind, the desire for riches
grows upon her. Yes, there is certainly a great deal of good in
Rossmoyne, besides his income; and perhaps a solid sternness is
preferable to an airy gayety of manner (this with an irrepressible
leaning towards the "airy gayety"); and--and--what a _pity_ it is that
Rossmoyne is not Ulic!----

"I will," says Ronayne, alluding to her last remark, in a low but
determined tone. "Olga, tell me I am more to you than Rossmoyne."

"The boy you are!" says Olga, with an adorable smile that reaches him
through the flickering flashes of the firelight. "The baby!" He is
bending over her, and with a light caressing touch she brushes back the
hair from his temples. "In a year, nay, in a month, once we are
separated, you will see some other face, newer, more desirable, and
forget you ever cared for mine."

"If I could believe that, I might find peace. Yet, for all that peace
could give me, I would not so believe it. I am yours forever, boy though
you deem me; and, yet, is one ever a boy again when one has once truly
loved?"

"How often have you truly loved?" with an attempt at lightness that is
down-trodden by the intensity of her regard.

"As often as I have seen you. Nay, more than that, every moment since I
first saw you; because night and day, whether absent or present, I have
been yours in heart and soul."

"You have fatigued yourself!--A long two months!" laughingly.

"A short two months."

"There has been no time for fickleness."

"There never will be, so far as I am concerned. So sure am I of that,
that I do not mind praying that Cupid's curse may light upon me if ever
I prove unfaithful. You know it?"

"I have but small acquaintance with cursing of any sort."

"Then learn this one,--

    'They that do change old love for new,
    Pray gods they change for worse!'

Will you repeat that after me?"

"Wait until I finish my tea; and--unkind as you are--you will give me a
little bit of cake, won't you?"

"I would give you everything I possess, if I could."

"You don't possess this cake, you know: it is Madam O'Connor's."

"Oh, Olga, why will you always press me backwards? Am I never to be
nearer to you than I am now?"

"I don't see how you could conveniently be very much nearer," says Mrs.
Bohun, with a soft laugh.

"After all, I suppose I come under the head of either madman or fool,"
says Ronayne, sadly. "You are everything to me; I am less than nothing
to you."

"Is Lord Rossmoyne to come under the head of 'nothing'? How rude!" says
Olga.

"I never thought of him. I was thinking only of how hopelessly I love
you."

"Love! How should such a baby as you grasp even the meaning of that
word?" says Olga, letting her white lids droop until their long lashes
lie upon her cheeks like shadows, while she raises her cup with indolent
care to her lips. "Do you really think you know what it means?"

    "'The dredeful joy, alway that flit so yerne,
    All this mene I by Love,'"

quotes he, very gently; after which he turns away, and, going over to
the fireplace again, flings himself down dejectedly at Monica's feet.

"Are you tired, Mr. Ronayne?" says Monica, very gently. Something in his
beautiful face tells her that matters are not going well with him.

"Tired? no," lifting his eyes to her with a smile that belies his words.
"It is good of you to ask, though. I wish," earnestly, "you would not
call me 'Mr. Ronayne.' I can't bear it from any one I like. Desmond tell
her to call me Ulic."

It strikes both Monica and Brian as peculiar that he should appeal to
the latter as to one possessed of a certain influence over the former.
It strikes Miss Fitzgerald in the same light too, who has been listening
to his impetuous entreaty.

Seeing there is something wrong with him, something that might be termed
excitement in his manner, Desmond whispers to Monica to do as he
desires.

"He is unhappy about something; let him feel you are his friend," he
says, in a low tone.

"Come a little farther from the fire, Ulic,--a little nearer to me,"
says Monica, in a tone of shy friendliness, "and I think you will be
more comfortable."

He is more than grateful, I think, though he says nothing only he moves
a good deal closer to her, and lays his head against her knee in a
brotherly fashion,--need I say unrebuked?

Something in this little scene sends the blood rushing with impatient
fervor through Olga's veins. But that she knows Monica well, and that
the girl is dear to her, she could have hated her heartily at this
moment, without waiting to analyze the motive for her dislike. As it is,
she gives the reins to her angry spirit, and lets it drive her where it
will. She laughs quite merrily, and says some pretty playful thing to
Lord Rossmoyne that all the world can hear,--and Ronayne, be assured,
the first of all.

Desmond, with a subdued touch of surprise in his eyes, turns to look at
her. But the night has darkened with sullen haste--tired, perhaps, of
the day's ill temper--and standing as he does within the magic circle of
the firelight, he finds a difficulty in conquering the gloom beyond.
This makes his gaze in her direction the more concentrated; and, indeed,
when he has separated her features from the mist of the falling night,
he still finds it impossible to pierce the impenetrable veil of
indifference that covers her every feature.

His gaze thus necessarily prolonged is distasteful to her.

"Brian, don't keep staring at the teapot in that mean fashion," she
says, playfully, yet with a latent sense of impatience in her tone. "It
is unworthy of you. Go up to Madam O'Connor _nobly_, cup in hand, and I
daresay--if you ask her prettily--she will grant me permission to give
you a cup of tea."

Desmond, recovering from his revery with a start accepts the situation
literally.

"Will you, Madam?" he says, meekly. "_Do._" His tone is of the most
abject. There is a perceptible trembling about his knee-joints. "Is
_this_ the 'air noble'?" he says to Olga, in an undertone. "Have I
caught it?"

"You'll catch it in a minute in real earnest, if you don't mend your
manners," says Madam, with a laugh. "Give him his tea, Olga, my dear,
though he doesn't deserve it."

"Sugar?" says Olga, laconically.

"Yes, please," mendaciously.

"Then you shan't have even one lump, if only to punish you for all your
misconduct."

"I thought as much," says Brian, taking his cup thankfully. "Fact is, I
can't bear sugar but I knew you would drop it in, in an unlimited
degree, if I said the other thing. Not that I have the vaguest notion as
to how I have misconducted myself. If I knew, I might set a watch upon
my lips."

"Set it on your _eyes_," says Olga, with meaning.

At this moment a light footfall is heard, and somebody comes slowly
across the hall. A merry tongue of fire, flaming upwards, declares it to
be the plain Miss Browne.

Mrs. O'Connor has just passed into an adjoining room. Olga is busy with
her tray and with her thoughts. Mrs. Herrick, partly turned aside, and
oblivious of the approaching guest, is conversing in low tones with Lord
Rossmoyne.

No one, therefore, is ready to give the stranger welcome and put her
through the ceremony of introduction. Awkwardness is impending, when
Monica comes to the rescue. Her innate sense of kindly courtesy
conquering her shyness, she rises from her seat, and going up to Miss
Browne, who has come to a standstill, lays her hand softly upon hers.

"Come over here and sit by me," she says, nervously, yet with such a
gracious sweetness that the stranger's heart goes out to her on the
spot, and Brian Desmond, if it be possible, falls more in love with her
than ever.

"Thank you," says Miss Browne, pressing gratefully the little hand that
lies on hers; and then every one wakes into life and says something
civil to her.

Five minutes later the dressing-bell rings, and the scene is at an end.



CHAPTER XXI.

  How Mrs. Herrick grows worldly-wise and Olga frivolous--How Mr.
  Kelly tells a little story; and how, beneath the moonlight, many
  things are made clear.


Dinner has come to an end. The men are still dallying with their wine.
The women are assembled in the drawing-room.

Olga, having drawn back the curtains from the central window, is
standing in its embrasure, looking out silently upon the glories of the
night. For the storm has died away; the wind is gone to sleep; the rain
has sobbed itself to death; and now a lovely moon is rising
slowly--slowly--from behind a rippled mass of grayest cloud. From out
the dark spaces in the vault above a few stars are shining,--the more
brilliantly because of the blackness that surrounds them. The air is
sultry almost to oppressiveness, and the breath of the roses that have
twined themselves around the railings of the balcony renders the calm
night full of sweetest fragrance.

Even as she gazes, spellbound, the clouds roll backward, and stars grow
and multiply exceedingly, until all

                    "the floor of heaven
    Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold."

Madam O'Connor is talking to Miss Browne of certain family matters
interesting to both. Miss Fitzgerald has gone upstairs, either to put on
another coating of powder, or else to scold her long-suffering maid. Her
mother has fallen into a gentle, somewhat noisy snooze.

A sudden similar thought striking both Monica and Mrs. Herrick at the
same moment, they rise, and make a step towards the window where Olga is
standing all alone.

Hermia, laying her hand on Monica's arm, entreats her by a gesture to
change her purpose; whereon Monica falls back again, and Hermia, going
on, parts the curtains, and, stepping in to where Olga is, joins her
uninvited.

"Dreaming?" she says, lightly.

"Who would not dream on such a night as this? the more beautiful because
of the miserable day to which it is a glorious termination. See, Hermia,
how those planets gleam and glitter, as though in mockery of us poor
foolish mortals down below."

"I don't feel a bit more foolish than I did this morning," says Hermia.
"Do you, dear? You were giving yourself a great deal of credit for your
common sense then."

"'Common sense,'--worldly wisdom,--how I hate the sound of all that
jargon!" says Olga, petulantly. "Let us forget we _must_ be wise, if
only for one night. The beauty of that silent world of flowers beyond
has somehow entered into me. Let me enjoy it. 'How sweet the moonlight
sleeps upon that bank' down there! Watch it. Can you see how the roses
quiver beneath its touch, as though stirred by some happy dream?"

"It is indeed a perfect night!" says Hermia, looking at her in some
surprise. There is a suspicion of excitement in Olga's manner--arising,
as it were, from the desire to hide one emotion by the betrayal of
another--that strikes her listener as strange.

"How softly the air beats upon one's face!" says Mrs. Bohun, leaning a
little forward. "The night is, as you say, perfect. Yet I don't know
what is the matter with me: the more I feel the loveliness of all
around, the sadder my heart seems to grow."

"What!" says Hermia, lifting her brows, "am I to learn now that you--the
gayest of all mortals--have at last succumbed to the insufferable
dreariness of this merry world?"

"You run too fast. I am a little perplexed, perhaps; but I have not
succumbed to anything."

"Or any _one_, I hope, unless it be to your advantage. You are playing a
silly game, Olga."

"The world would be lost unless it had a fool to sport with now and
then."

"But why should _you_ be the one to pander to its pleasures?"

"Who more fitting? I am tired of hearing you apply that word 'silly' to
me, morning, noon, and night."

"It is too late to believe it possible that you and I should quarrel,"
says Mrs. Herrick, in a perfectly even tone: "so don't try to get up an
imaginary grievance. You know you are dearer to me than anything on
earth, after the children."

"Well, don't scold me any more," says Olga, coaxingly.

"I never scold; I only reason."

"Oh! but that is so much worse," says Olga. "It means the scolding, and
a lot more besides. Do anything but reason with me, my dear Hermia."

"I _will_ say that I think you are throwing yourself away."

"Where? Over the balcony?"--wilfully. "I assure you, you misjudge me: I
am far too great a coward."

"You are not too great a coward to contemplate the committing of a much
more serious _betise_. To-night his attentions were specially marked,
and you allowed them."

"I can't think what you mean."

"Will you deny that Mr. Ronayne paid you very marked attention
to-night?"

"Marked! Where did he make his impression, then? He didn't _pinch_ me,
if you mean that."

"Of course you can follow your own wishes, dearest, and I shall neither
gain nor lose; but it does seem a pity, when you might be a countess and
have the world at your feet. I know few so altogether fitted to fill the
position, and still you reject it. You are pretty, clever,
charming,--everything of the most desirable."

"Am I?" She steps into the drawing-room, and brings herself by a swift
step or two opposite a huge mirror let into one of the walls. Standing
before it, she surveys herself leisurely from head to foot, and then she
smiles.

"I don't know about the 'clever,'" she says; "but I am _sure_ I am
pretty. In town last season--do you remember?--my hair created quite a
furore, it is so peculiarly light. Ever so many people wanted to paint
me. Yes, it was all very pleasant."

"Do you think it will be as pleasant to live _here_ all your days, and
find no higher ambition than the hope that your ponies may be prettier
than Mrs. So-and-so's?"

"Do you remember that fancy ball, and how the prince asked who I was,
and all the rest of it? He said one or two very pretty things to me. He,
like you, said I was charming. Do you know," naively, "I have never got
over the feeling of being _obliged_ to any one who pays me a compliment?
I am obliged to _you_ now."

"And to the prince _then_. But you won't see many princes if you stay in
Ireland, I fancy: they don't hanker after the soil."

"Poor Ireland!" says Mrs. Bohun.

"And compliments, I should say, will be almost as scarce."

"Ah! now, _there_ you are wrong: _they_ fly beneath these murky skies.
We absolutely revel in them. What true Irishman but has one ripping
freely from his mouth on the very smallest chance? And then, my dear
Hermia, consider, are we not the proud possessors of the
blarney-stone?"

"I wish, dearest, you would bring yourself to think seriously of
Rossmoyne."

"I do think seriously of him. It would be impossible to think of him in
any other way, he is so dull and pompous."

"He would make an excellent husband!"

"I have had enough of husbands. They are very unsatisfactory people. And
besides----"

"Well?"

"Rossmoyne has a temper."

"And forty thousand a year."

"Not good enough."

"If you are waiting for an angel, you will wait forever. All men
are----"

"Oh, Hermia! really, I _can't_ listen to such naughty words, you know. I
really wonder at you!"

"I wasn't going to say anything of the kind," says Hermia, with great
haste, not seeing the laughter lurking in Olga's dark eyes. "I merely
meant that----"

"Don't explain!--_don't!_" says Olga; "I couldn't endure any more of
it." And she laughs aloud.

"Rossmoyne is very devoted to you. Is there anything against him, except
his temper?"

"Yes, his beard. _Nothing_ would induce me to marry a man with hair all
over his face. It isn't _clean_."

"Give him five minutes and a razor, and he might do away with it."

"Give him five minutes and a razor, and he might do away with himself
too," says Olga, provokingly. "Really. I think one thing would please me
just as much as the other."

"Oh, then, you are bent on refusing him?" says Hermia, calmly. With very
few people does she ever lose her temper; with Olga--never.

"I am not so sure of that, at all," says Olga, airily. "It is quite
within the possibilities that I may marry him some time or
other,--sooner or later. There is a delightful vagueness about those two
dates that gives me the warmest encouragement."

"It is a pity you cannot be serious _sometimes_," says Mrs. Herrick,
mildly.

A little hand upon her gown saves further expostulation. A little face
looking up with a certainty of welcome into hers brings again that
wonderful softness into Hermia's eyes.

"Is it you, my sweetest?" she says, fondly. "And where have you been? I
have watched in vain for you for the last half-hour, my Fay."

"I was in the dining-room. But nurse called me; and now I have come to
say good-night," says the child.

"Good-night, then, and God bless you, my chick. But where is my
Georgie?"

"I'm here," says Georgie, gleefully, springing upon her in a violent
fashion, that one would have believed hateful to the calm Hermia, yet
that is evidently most grateful to her. She embraces the boy warmly, and
lets her eyes follow him until he is out of sight. Then she turns again
to the little maiden at her side.

"I must go with Georgie," says the child.

"So you shall. But first tell me, what have you got in your hand?"

"Something to go to bed with. See, mammy! It is a pretty red plum,"
opening her delicate pink fist, for her mother's admiration.

"Where did you get it, darling?"

"In the dining-room."

"From Lord Rossmoyne?"

"No. From Mr. Kelly. I would not have the one Lord Rossmoyne gave me."

Olga laughs mischievously, and Mrs. Herrick colors.

"Why?" she says.

"Because I like Mr. Kelly best."

"And what did you give him?"

"Nothing."

"Not even a kiss?" says Olga.

"No," somewhat shamefacedly.

"Her mother's own daughter!" says Olga, caressing the child tenderly,
but laughing still. "A chilly mortal."

"Good-night, my own," says Hermia, and the child, having kissed them
both again, runs away.

Olga follows her with wistful eyes.

"I almost wish I had a baby!" she says.

"_You?_ Why, you can't take care of yourself! You are the least fitted
to have a child of any woman that I know. Leave all such charges to
staid people like me. Why, you are a baby at heart, yourself, this
moment."

"That would be no drawback. It would only have created sympathy between
me and my baby. I would have understood all her bad moods and condoned
all her crimes."

"If you had been a mother, you would have had a very naughty child."

"I should have had a very happy child, at least." Then she laughs.
"Fancy me with a dear little baby!" she says,--"a thing all my own, that
would rub its soft cheek against mine and love me better than anything!"

"And rumple all your choicest Parisian gowns, and pull your hair to
pieces. I couldn't fancy it at all."

Here the door opens to admit the men, the celestial half-hour after
dinner having come to an end. With one consent they all converge towards
the window, where Olga and Hermia are standing with Monica, who had
joined them to bid good-night to little Fay. Miss Fitzgerald, who had
returned to the drawing-room freshly powdered, seeing how the tide runs,
crosses the room too, and mingles with the group in the window.

"How long you have been! We feared you dead and buried," she says to
Kelly, with elephantine playfulness.

"We have, indeed. I thought the other men would never stir. Why did you
not give me the chance of leaving them? The faintest suggestion that
_you_ wanted me would have brought me here _hours_ ago."

"If I had been sure of that, I should have sent you a message; it would
have saved me a lecture," says Olga, flashing a smile at Hermia.

"I should disdain to send a message," says the proud Bella, "I would not
_compel_ any man's presence. 'Come if you will; stay away if you won't,'
is _my_ motto; and I cannot help thinking I am right."

"You are, indeed, quite right. Coercion is of small avail in _some_
cases," says Olga, regarding her with the calm dignity of one who
plainly considers the person addressed of very inferior quality indeed.

"A woman can scarcely be too jealous of her rights nowadays," says Miss
Fitzgerald. "If she has a proper knowledge of her position, she ought to
guard it carefully."

"A fine idea finely expressed!" says Kelly, as though smitten into
reverence by the grandeur of her manner.

"I wonder what is a man's proper position?" says Olga lazily.

"He will always find it at a woman's feet," says Miss Fitzgerald,
grandly, elated by Kelly's apparent subjection.

That young man looks blankly round him. Under tables and chairs and
lounges his eyes penetrate, but without the desired result.

"So sorry I can't see a footstool anywhere!" he says, lifting regretful
eyes to Miss Fitzgerald; "but for that I should be at your feet from
this until you bid me rise."

"Hypocrite!" says Olga in his ear; after which conversation becomes more
general; and presently Miss Fitzgerald goes back to the fire under the
mistaken impression that probably one of the men will follow her there.

The _one_--whoever he is--_doesn't_.

"Do you know," says Mr. Kelly, in a low tone, to the others, "the ugly
girl's awfully nice! She is a pleasant deceit. 'She has no winsome
looks, no pretty frowning,' I grant you; but she can hold her own, and
is _so_ good-humored."

"What a lovely night!" says Monica, gazing wistfully into the misty
depths of the illuminated darkness beyond. "I want to step into it,
and--we have not been out all day."

"Then why not go now?" says Hermia, answering her glance in a kindly
spirit.

"Ah! _will_ you come?" says Monica, brightening into glad excitement.

"Let us go as far as the fountain in the lower garden," says Olga: "it
is always beautiful there when the moon is up."

"Avoid the grass, however; wet feet are dangerous," says Lord Rossmoyne,
carefully.

"You will die an old bachelor," retorts Olga, saucily, "if you take so
much 'thought for the morrow.'"

"It will certainly not be my fault if I do," returns Rossmoyne, calmly,
but with evident meaning.

"Mrs. Bohun, bring your guitar," says Desmond, "and we will make Ronayne
sing to it, and so imagine ourselves presently in the land of the olive
and the palm."

"Shall we ask the others to come with us?" says Monica, kindly, glancing
back into the drawing-room.

"Miss Browne, for example," suggests Owen Kelly. If he hopes by this
speech to arouse jealousy in anybody present, he finds himself, later
on, mightily mistaken.

"If she is as good a sort as you say, I daresay she would like it," says
Olga. "And, besides, if we leave her to Bella's tender mercies she will
undoubtedly be done to death by the time we return."

"Oh, do go and rescue her," says Mrs. Herrick, turning to Kelly. Her
tone is almost appealing.

"Perhaps Miss Fitzgerald will come too," says Monica, somewhat
fearfully.

"Don't be afraid," says Olga. "_Fancy_ Bella running the risk of having
a bad eye or a pink nose in the morning! She knows much better than
that."

"Tell Miss Browne to make haste," says Mrs. Herrick, turning to Kelly.
"Because we are impatient,--we are longing to precipitate ourselves into
the moonlight. Come, Olga; come, Monica; they can follow."

Miss Browne, however, on being appealed to, shows so honest a disregard
for covering of any sort, beyond what decency had already clothed her
with, that she and Kelly catch up with the others even before the
fountain is reached.

It is, indeed, a fairy dell to which they have been summoned,--a magic
circle, closed in by evergreens with glistening leaves. "Dark with
excessive light" appears the scene; the marble basin of the fountain,
standing out from the deep background, gleams snow-white beneath Diana's
touch. "The moon's an arrant thief." Perchance she snatches from great
Sol some beauties even rarer than that "pale fire" he grants her--it may
be, against his will. So it may well be thought, for what fairest day
can be compared with a moonlit night in languorous July?

The water of the fountain, bubbling ever upwards, makes sweet music on
the silent air; but, even as they hark to it, a clearer, sweeter music
makes the night doubly melodious. From bough to bough it comes and
goes,--a heavenly harmony, not to be reproduced by anything of earthly
mould.

    "O nightingale, that on yon gloomy spray
    Warbles at eve, when all the woods are still,
    Thou with fresh hope the lover's heart dost fill."

Clear from the depths of the pine woods beyond, the notes ascend,
softly, tenderly. Not often do they enrich our Irish air, but sometimes
they come to gladden us with a music that can hardly be termed of earth.
The notes rise and swell and die, only to rise and to slowly fade again,
like "linked sweetness long drawn out."

Seating themselves on the edge of the fountain, they acknowledge
silently the beauty of the hour. Olga's hand, moving through the water,
breaks it into little wavelets on which the riotous moonbeams dance.

"Where are your bangles, Olga? you used to be famous for them?" asks
Desmond, idly.

"I have tired of them."

"Poor bangles!" says Ulic Ronayne, in a low tone heard only by her.

"What a heavy sigh!"

"A selfish one, too. More for myself than for the discarded bangles. Yet
their grievance is mine."

"I thought they suited you," says Desmond.

"Did you? Well, but they had grown so common; every one used to go about
laden with them. And then they made such a tiresome tinkle-tinkle all
over the place."

"What place?" says Lord Rossmoyne, who objects to slang of even the
mildest description from any woman's lips, most of all from the lips of
her whom he hopes to call his wife.

"Don't be stupid!" says this prospective wife, with considerable
petulance.

"You are fickle, I doubt," goes on Rossmoyne, unmoved. "A few months ago
you raved about your bangles, and had the prettiest assortment I think I
ever saw. Thirty-six on each arm, or something like it. We used to call
them your armor. You said you were obliged to wear the same amount
exactly on each arm, lest you might grow crooked."

"I know few things more unpleasant than having one's silly remarks
brought up to one years afterwards," says Olga, with increasing temper.

"_Months_ not _years_," says Rossmoyne, carefully. Whereupon Mrs. Bohun
turns her back upon him, and Mrs. Herrick tells herself she would like
to give him a good shake for so stupidly trying to ruin his own game,
and Ulic Ronayne feels he is on the brink of swearing with him an
eternal friendship.

"Bangles?" breaks in Owen Kelly, musingly. "Harmless little circular
things women wear on their wrists, aren't they? But awkward too at
times,--amazingly awkward. As Olga has feelingly remarked, they _can_
make a marvellously loud tinkle-tinkle at times. I know a little story
about bangles, that ought to be a warning against the use of them. Would
any one like to hear my little story? It is short, but very sweet."

Every one instantly says "Yes," except Olga, who has drawn herself
together and is regarding him with a stony glare.

"Well, there was once on a time a young woman, who had some bangles, and
a young man; she had other things too, such as youth and beauty, but
they weren't half so important as the first two items; and wherever she
and her bangles went, there went the young man too. And for a long time
nobody knew which he loved best, the beauteous maiden or the gleaming
bangles. Do I make myself clear?"

"Wonderfully so, for _you_," says Mrs. Herrick.

"Well one day the young man's preference was made 'wonderfully so' too.
And it was in this wise. On a certain sunny afternoon, the young woman
found herself in a conservatory that opened off a drawing-room, being
divided from it only by a hanging Indian curtain; a _hanged_ Indian
curtain she used to call it ever afterwards; but that was bad grammar,
and bad manners too."

"I feel I'm going to sleep," says Desmond, drowsily. "I hope somebody
will rouse me when he has done, or pick me out of the water if I drop
into it. Such a rigmarole of a story I never heard in my life."

"Caviare can't be appreciated by the general; it is too strong for you,"
says Mr. Kelly, severely. "But to continue----Anything wrong with you,
my dear Olga?"

"Nothing!" says Mrs. Bohun, with icy indignation.

"Well. In this conservatory my heroine of the bangles found herself; and
here, too, as a natural consequence, was found the young man. There was
near them a lounge,--skimpy enough for one, but _they_ found it amply
large for _two_. Curious fact in itself, wasn't it? And I think the
young man so far forgot himself as to begin to make violent----and just
as he was about to emb----the young woman, whose name was----, she very
properly, but with somewhat mistaken haste, moved away from him, and in
so doing set all her bangles a-tinkling. Into full cry they burst,
whereupon the curtain was suddenly drawn back from the drawing-room
side, giving the people there a full view of the conservatory _and_
its--contents! The _denouement_ was full of interest,--positively
thrilling! I should advise all true lovers of a really good novel to
obtain this book from their libraries and discover it for themselves."

Here Mr. Kelly stops, and looks genially around.

"I think I shall take to writing reviews," he says, sweetly. "I like my
own style."

A dead silence follows his "little story," and then Mrs. Herrick lifts
her eyes to his.

"'I wonder that you will still be talking, Signor Benedick: nobody marks
you,'" she quotes, with a touch of scorn.

"_You_ do, my dear Lady Disdain, or else you would not have addressed me
that contemptuous remark."

"An absurd story, altogether!" says Olga, throwing up her head, a smile
lightening her eyes as they meet Kelly's. At her tone, which is more
amused than annoyed, Ronayne lets his hand fall into the water close to
hers, and doubtless finds its cool touch (the water's, I mean, of
course) very refreshing, as it is fully five minutes before he brings it
to the surface again.

"True, nevertheless," says Kelly. "Both the principals in my story were
friends of mine. I knew--indeed, I may safely say I _know_--them well."

"I am glad you said '_were_,'" says Olga, shaking her blonde head at
him. Lord Rossmoyne, by this time, is looking as black as a
thunder-cloud.

"A questionable friend you must be, to tell tales out of school," says
Mrs. Herrick.

"I defy any one to say I have told anything," says Kelly, with
much-injured innocence. "But I am quite prepared to hear my actions, as
usual, grossly maligned. I am accustomed to it now. The benefit of the
doubt is not for _me_."

"There isn't a doubt," says Hermia.

"Go on. I must try to bear it,"--meekly. "I know I am considered
incapable of a pure motive."

"Was it you drew back the curtain?"

"Well, really, yes, I believe it was. I wanted my friend, you see, and I
knew I should find him with the bangles. Yes; it was I drew the
curtain."

"Just what I should have expected from you," says Mrs. Herrick.

"Ah! Thank you! Now at last you are beginning to see things in their
true light, and to take my part," says Mr. Kelly, with exaggerated
gratitude. "Now, indeed, I feel I have not lived in vain! You have,
though at a late hour, recognized the extraordinary promptitude that
characterizes my every action. While another might have been hesitating,
I drew the curtain. I am seldom to be found wanting, I may, indeed,
always be discovered just where----"

"You _aren't_ wanting," interrupts Mrs. Herrick, with a sudden smile.

"How can _that_ be," says Kelly, with reproachful sadness, "when I am
generally to be found near you?"

At this Hermia gives in, and breaks into a low soft laugh.

"But I wish you had not told that story of Olga and Mr. Ronayne," she
says, in a whisper, and with some regret. "You saw how badly Rossmoyne
took it."

"That is partly why I told it. I think you are wrong in trying to make
that marriage: she would be happier with Ronayne."

"For a month or two, perhaps."

"Oh, make it _three_," says Kelly, satirically. "Surely the little
winged god has so much staying power."

"A few weeks ago you told me you did not believe in him at all."

"I have changed all that."

"Ah! _you_ can be fickle too."

"A man is not necessarily fickle because when he discovers the only true
good he leaves the bad and presses towards it. I think, too, his
mentor," in a lowered tone, "should be the last to misjudge him."

"Nothing is so lasting, at least, as riches," says Mrs. Herrick, with a
chastened but unmistakable desire to change his mood. "Olga with
unlimited means and an undeniable place in the world of society would be
a happier Olga than as the wife of a country gentleman."

"I don't agree with you; but you know best--_perhaps_. You speak your
own sentiments, of course. A title is indispensable to you too, as well
as to her?"

His tone is half a question.

"It counts," she says, slowly, trifling with firm though slender fingers
with the grasses that are growing in the interstices of the marble.

"Pshaw!" says Kelly. Rising with a vehemence foreign to him, he crosses
to where Ulic Ronayne is standing alone.



CHAPTER XXII.

  How Olga drowns a faithful servant--How Mr. Kelly conjures up a
  ghost--And how Monica, beneath the mystic moonbeams, grants the gift
  she first denies.


"Why so pale and wan, fond lover?" he says, lightly, laying his hand on
Ulic's shoulder. The latter turns to him with a bright smile that
renders his handsome face quite beautiful. Seeing its charm, Kelly asks
himself, in half-angry fashion, how Olga can possibly hesitate for one
moment between him and Rossmoyne. "But they are all alike heartless,"
he decides, bitterly.

"I am feeling neither pale nor wan," says Ronayne, still smiling. "It
must be the moon, if anything. Look here, Kelly, something to-night has
told me that it will all come right in the end. I shall gain her against
the heaviest odds."

"If you mean Rossmoyne, he's the heaviest mortal I know," says Kelly.

"Well, he _isn't_ suited to her, is he?" There is a strange excitement
in Ronayne's manner. "Putting me out of the question altogether, I don't
believe he could make her happy. If I thought he could, of course I
should then go away somewhere, and find contentment in the thought of
hers; but----_you_ don't think she would do well to marry him do you
Kelly?" He has controlled his features to an almost marvellous calm, but
the agony of his question in his eyes cannot be hid.

"I think the woman who could even _hesitate_ between you and him must be
a fool and worse," says Kelly, whose temper is not his own to-night. "He
is a pedantic ass, more in love with himself than he can ever be with
anything else. While you----Look here, Ronayne; I wonder if any woman is
_worth_ it."

"Oh, _she_ is," says Ronayne, with tender conviction. "I don't think
she is at all like other people; do you? There's something
different--something _special_--about her."

"I daresay," says Kelly, gently, which is rather good of him,
considering his frame of mind.

"You're an awfully kind sort of fellow, Kelly, do you know?" says
Ronayne, slipping his arm through his. "You are the only one I ever talk
to about _her_. And I suppose I must bore you, though you don't say it.
It's the most generous thing I know, your sympathizing with me as you
do. If you were in love yourself, I could understand it. But you are
not, you know."

"Oh, no; of course not," says Mr. Kelly.

"Is that your guitar, Mrs. Bohun? I wish you would sing us something,"
says Miss Browne at this moment.

"I don't sing much,--and never out of doors, it hurts my throat so,"
says Olga, smiling at her; "but if any else will sing, I will gladly
play to them."

"Mr. Ronayne,--Ulic,--come here," says Monica, half shyly, but very
sweetly. "You can sing, I know."

"Yes come here," says Olga, turning to him, and away from Lord
Rossmoyne, who is talking to her in low, short, angry tones. But the
latter, laying his hand on her arm, half compels her to turn to him
again.

"Let some one else accompany him if he _must_ sing," he says; "_any_ one
but you."

"No one else can."

"I object to your doing it."

"You won't when you hear him; he sings _so_ sweetly," with the
prettiest, most enthusiastic smile. "You really should hear him."

"You persist, then? you compel me to believe the worst,--to regard you
as implicated in that story of Kelly's."

"I compel you to nothing. And as for the story, I thought it very
amusing: didn't you?"

"_No!_" says Rossmoyne, with subdued fury.

"Do you know, I often said you lacked humor?" says Mrs. Bohun, with a
little airy laugh; "and now I am sure of it. I thought it intensely
comic; such a situation! I should like to have seen your face when the
curtain was drawn, if _you_ had been the young man."

"I must beg you to understand that such a situation would be
_impossible_ to _me_."

"I am to understand, then, that you would not 'emb----' that was what he
said, wasn't it?--a woman if you loved her?"

"Not without permission, certainly," very stiffly.

"Oh, dear!" says Olga; "what a stupid man! Well, I shouldn't think you
would do it _often_. And so you wouldn't have liked to be that
particular young man?"

This is a poser; Lord Rossmoyne parries the thrust.

"Would _you_ have liked to be that young woman,--who, as it appears to
me, wasn't at all particular?" he asks, in turn.

"That is no answer to my question," says Olga, who is angry with his
last remark. "Are you afraid to say what you mean?"

"Afraid! No. To give publicity to a thing means always to vulgarize it:
therefore, on consideration, I should not have cared to be that young
man."

"Ah! I should have thought otherwise," says Olga, in an indescribable
tone. "Well, there must be consolation for you in the thought that you
never can be.--Mr. Ronayne," calling to Ulic lightly, "are you coming,
or must I sit fingering my lyre in vain?"

Ulic, coming slowly up to her, stands beside her, as she seats herself
again upon the marble edge of the fountain, and runs her fingers
gracefully over its strings.

His voice, a rich sweet tenor, breaks upon the air, blends with the
beauty of the night, and sinks into it until all seems one great
harmony. "'Tis I" is the song he has chosen, and a wonderful pathos that
borders on despair enriches every note. He has forgotten every one but
her, the pretty dainty creature who holds his heart in the hollow of her
small hand. She must hear the melancholy that is desolating and thereby
perfecting his voice; but, if so, she gives no sign. Once only her
fingers tremble, but she corrects herself almost before her error is
committed, and never after gives way to even the faintest suspicion of
feeling.

Through the glade the music swells and throbs. Mary Browne, drawing
instinctively nearer, seems lost in its enchantment. Monica, looking up
with eyes full of tears into Desmond's face, finds his eyes fixed on
her, and, with a soft, childish desire for sympathy, slips her hand
unseen into his. How gladly he takes and holds it need not here be told.

As he comes to the last verse, Ronayne's voice grows lower; it doesn't
tremble, yet there is in it something suggestive of the idea that he is
putting a terrible constraint upon himself:

    "If regret some time assail thee
        For the days when first we met,
    And thy weary spirit fail thee,
      And thine eyes grow dim and wet,
            Oh, 'tis I, love,
            At thy heart, love,
    Murmuring, 'How couldst thou forget?'"

The music lingers still for a moment, ebbs, and then dies away. Ronayne
steps back, and all seems over. How Olga has proved so utterly unmoved
by the passionate protest is exercising more minds than one, when
suddenly she rises and with a swift movement bends over the fountain.
Another moment, and she has dropped the guitar into the water. Some
little silver ornament upon its neck flashes for an instant in the
moonlight, and then it is gone.

"Oh, Olga!" says Hermia, making an involuntary step towards her.

"I shall never play on it again," says Olga, with a gesture that is
almost impassioned. An instant, and it is all over,--her little burst of
passion, the thought that led to it,--everything!

"I hate it!" she says, with a petulant laugh. "I am glad to be rid of
it. Somebody made me a present of it whom I learned to detest
afterwards. No, Owen, do not try to bring it to life again: let it lie
down there out of sight where I may learn to forget it."

"As you will, madame," says Owen Kelly, who has been fruitlessly fishing
for the drowned guitar.

"It is curious how hateful anything, however pretty, can become to us if
we dislike the giver of it," says Mary Browne, pleasantly.

"Yes," says Hermia, quickly, glancing at her with a sudden gleam in her
eyes,--of gratitude, perhaps. A moment ago there had been a certain
awkwardness following on Olga's capricious action; now these few
careless, kindly words from this ugly stranger have dispelled it. And is
she so plain, after all? The fastidious Hermia, gazing at her intently,
asks herself this question. Surely before that bright and generous gleam
in her eyes her freckles sink into insignificance.

"I knew you would like her," says Mr. Kelly, at this moment, speaking
low in Hermia's ear.

When a woman is startled she is generally angry. Mrs. Herrick is angry
now, whether because of his words, or the fact that she did not know he
was so close to her, let who will decide.

"You are very, very clever," she says, glancing at him from under
drooping lids, and then turning away.

"So they all tell me," returns he, modestly.

Rossmoyne, crossing the brilliant moonlit path that divides him from the
group round Hermia, seats himself beside her, thereby leaving Olga and
Ulic Ronayne virtually alone.

"You will regret that guitar to-morrow," says Ronayne,--"at least not
the thing itself (I can replace that), but----"

"I regret nothing," says Mrs. Bohun, carelessly,--"unless I regret that
you have taken an absurdly ill-tempered action so much to heart. I am
ill-tempered, you know."

"I don't," says Ronayne.

"So courteous a liar must needs obtain pardon. But let us forget
everything but this lovely night. Was there ever so serene a sky? see
how the stars shine and glimmer through the dark interstices of the
blue-gray clouds!"

"They remind me of something,--of some words," says Ronayne, in a low
voice. "They come to me now, I hardly know why, perhaps because of the
night itself, and perhaps because--" he hesitates.

Olga is staring dreamily at the studded vault above her.

"About the stars?" she asks, without looking at him.

"Yes:--

          'A poet loved a star,
          And to it whispered nightly,
    Being so fair, why art thou, love, so far,
    Or why so coldly shine who shin'st so brightly?'

The poet was presumptuous, it seems to me."

"Was he? I don't know. All things come to him who knows how to wait."

"Who's waiting?" says Kelly's voice from the other side of the fountain;
"and for what?"

"_Toujours_ Owen," says Mrs. Bohun, with a shrug of her pretty
shoulders. "Well, no one even in this life is altogether without a taste
of purgatory: mine (this is a delicate compliment to you, Owen, so
listen to it) might have been worse. Do you know I have sometimes
thought----"

"She has really!" interrupts Mr. Kelly, turning with cheerful
encouragement to the others. "You wouldn't think it to look at her,
would you? but I know her intimately, and can vouch for the truth of her
words. Go on, my dear Olga."

But "my dear Olga" has turned aside, and declines to take any notice of
his remark beyond a faint grimace.

"She's very shy," says Mr. Kelly, in an explanatory aside, "and _so_
retiring. Can't bear to hear herself publicly praised, or feel herself
the centre of attraction. Let us haste to change the subject." This with
many becks, and nods, and wreathed smiles, meant to explain the delicacy
of the feeling that prompts him to this course. "By the by, Desmond,
doesn't this fairy-like spot, and the moonlight, and the pathos of the
silent night, and everything, remind you forcibly of old O'Connor?"

"But I always heard----" begins Monica, in a voice of much amazement;
then she stops confusedly and presently goes on again, but in a
different key. "Was The O'Connor, then, æsthetic?" she says.

At this even Lord Rossmoyne, who was in the lowest depths of despair,
gives way to open mirth.

"Well, no, not exactly," says Ulic Ronayne. "There was a fatal
healthiness about his appearance that disagreed with that idea. But he
certainly was fond of this little place; he put up the fountain himself,
had it brought all the way from Florence for the purpose; and he had a
trick of lying here on his face and hands for hours together, grubbing
for worms,--or studying the insect world I think he used to call it."

"I have always thought," says Mr. Kelly, in a tone of reflective
sadness, "what an uncomfortable position that must be."

"What must be?"

"Lying on one's face and hands. What becomes of the rest of one? Does
one keep one's heels in the air whilst doing it? To me it sounds awful!
Yet only last week I read in the papers of a fellow who was found on a
road on his face and hands, and the doctors said he must have been in
that position _for hours!_ Fancy--_your_ nose, for instance, Rossmoyne,
in the mud, and your heels in the air, _for hours_!"

Lord Rossmoyne, having vainly tried to imagine his dignified body in
such a position, looks distinctly offended.

"No, _nobody_ would like it," says Kelly, pathetically, answering his
disgusted look exactly as if it had been put into words. "There is a
shameful frivolity about it not to be countenanced for a moment. Yet
good and wise men have been said to do it. Fancy the Archbishop of
Canterbury, now, balancing himself on his nose and his palms! Oh! it
_can't_ be true!"

His voice by this time is positively piteous, and he looks earnestly
around, as though longing for some one to support his disbelief.

"You are really excelling yourself to-night," says Mrs. Herrick, in a
delicately disdainful tone.

"Am I? I am glad," humbly, "that _you_ have had an opportunity of seeing
me at my poor best."

"I wonder," says Desmond, suddenly, "if, when old O'Connor revisits the
earth at the witching hour, he comes in the attitude so graphically
described by Kelly? In acrobat fashion, I mean."

At this Monica breaks into laughter so merry, so full of utterly
childish _abandon_ and enjoyment, that all the others perforce join in
it.

"Oh! fancy a ghost standing on his head!" she says, when she can speak.

"I shouldn't fancy it at all," says Mr. Kelly, gloomily. "I _won't_. Far
from it. And I should advise you, Miss Beresford, to treat with less
frivolity a subject so fraught with terror,--especially at this time of
night. If that 'grand old man' were to appear now," with a shuddering
glance behind him, "what _would_ become of us all?"

"An unpleasant idea!" says Miss Browne,--"so unpleasant, indeed, that I
think I should like to go for a little walk somewhere,--_any_where, away
from the scene of the late Mr. O'Connor's nightly visitations."

"Come to the end of the shrubbery, then," says Desmond, "and look at the
sea. It should be worth the trouble on such a night as this. Come you
too, Olga."

"I should like it, but my head aches so," says Mrs. Bohun, plaintively.
And, indeed, she is very pale. "It is either the moonlight which
oppresses me, or--I don't know what. No! I shall go indoors, I think."

"Then I shall go with you," says Mrs. Herrick, regarding her with a
certain anxiety. "But you," turning to Mary Browne, "must not miss a
glimpse of the coast by moonlight. Mr. Kelly will show it to you."

She slips her arm through Olga's, and turns towards the house; Ulic
Ronayne accompanies them; but Lord Rossmoyne and Owen Kelly move in the
contrary direction with Miss Browne. Monica and Desmond have gone on
before; and even when the others arrive at the point in the shrubbery
from which a glimpse of the ocean can be distinctly seen, these last two
people are not to be discovered anywhere.

Yet they are not so distant as they seem. Desmond has led Monica to a
rather higher spot, where the desired scene can be more vividly beheld,
and where too they can be--oh, blessed thought!--_alone_.

Through a belt of dark-green fir-trees, whose pale tips are touched with
silver by the moon, can be seen the limitless ocean, lying in restless
waiting in the bay below.

A sort of enforced tranquillity has fallen upon it,--a troubled
calm,--belied by the hoarse, sullen roar that rises now and again from
its depths, as when some larger death-wave breaks its bounds, and,
rushing inland, rolls with angry violence up the beach. Soft white
crests lie upon the great sea's bosom, tossing idly hither and thither,
glinting and trembling beneath the moon's rays, as though reluctantly
subdued by its cold influence.

Across the whole expanse of the water a bright path is flung, that has
its birth in heaven, yet deigns to accept a resting-place on earth,--a
transitory rest, for there in the far distance on the horizon, where the
dull grays of sea and sky have mingled, it has joined them, and seems
again to have laid hold of its earliest home.

The birds are asleep in their sea-bound nests; the wind has died away.
There is nothing to break the exquisite stillness of the night, save the
monotonous beating of the waves against the rocks, and the faint
rippling murmur of a streamlet in the ash-grove.

The whole scene is so rich with a beauty mystical and idealistic that
Monica draws instinctively nearer to Desmond, with that desire for
sympathy common to the satisfied soul, and stirs her hand in his.

Here, perhaps, it will be as well to mention, once for all, that
whenever I give you to understand that Desmond is alone with Monica you
are also to understand, without the telling, that he has her hand in
his. What pleasure there can be for two people in standing, or sitting,
or driving, as the case may be, for _hours_, palm to palm (this is how
the poetical one expresses it), I leave all true lovers to declare. I
only know for certain that it is a trick common to every one of them,
rich and poor, high and low. I suppose there is consolation in the
touch,--a sensation of nearness. I know, indeed, one young woman who
assured me her principal reason for marrying Fred in a hurry (Fred was
her husband) lay in the fact that she feared if she didn't she would
grow left-handed, as he was always in possession of the right during
their engagement.

"Ah! you like it," says Desmond, looking down upon her
tenderly,--alluding to the charming view spread out before them,--the
dark firs, the floating moon, the tranquil stars, the illimitable ocean,
"of Almightiness itself the immense and glorious mirror."

Monica makes no verbal answer, but a sigh of intensest satisfaction
escapes her, and she turns up to his a lovely face full of youth and
heaven and content. Her eyes are shining, her lips parted by a glad,
tremulous smile. She is altogether so unconsciously sweet that it would
be beyond the power of even a Sir Percivale to resist her.

"My heart of hearts!" says Desmond, in a low, impassioned tone.

Her smile changes. Without losing beauty, it loses something ethereal
and gains a touch of earth. It is more pronounced; it is, in fact,
amused.

"I wonder where you learned all your terms of endearment," she says,
slowly, looking at him from under her curling lashes.

"I learned them when I saw you. They had their birth then and there."

An eloquent silence follows this earnest speech. The smile dies from
Monica's lips, and a sudden thoughtfulness replaces it.

"You never called any one your 'heart of hearts' before, then?" she
asks, somewhat wistfully.

"Never--_never_. You believe me?"

"Yes." Her lids drop. Some inward thought possesses her, and then--with
a sudden accession of tenderness very rare with her--she lifts her head,
and lays her soft, cool cheek fondly against his.

"My beloved!" says the young man, in a tone broken by emotion.

For a moment he does not take her in his arms; some fear lest she may
change her mind and withdraw her expression of affection deters him; and
when at last he does press her to his heart, it is gently and with a
careful suppression of all vehemence.

Perhaps no man in all the world is so calculated to woo and win this
girl as Desmond. Perhaps there is no woman so formed to gain and keep
him as Monica.

Holding her now in a light but warm clasp, he knows he has his heaven in
his arms; and she, though hardly yet awake to the full sweetness of
"Love's young dream," understands at least the sense of perfect rest and
glad content that overfills her when with him.

"What are you thinking of?" she says, presently.

"'Myn alderlevest ladye deare,'" quotes he, softly.

"And what of her?"

"'That to the deth myn herte is to her holde,'--yes, for ever and ever,"
says Desmond, solemnly.

"I am very glad of that," says Monica, simply; and then she raises
herself from his embrace and looks straight down to the sea again.

At this moment voices, not approaching but passing near them, reach
their ears.

"They are going in," says Monica, hurriedly, and with a regret that is
very grateful to him. "We must go too."

"Must we?" reluctantly. "Perhaps," brightening, "they are only going to
try the effect higher up."

"No. They are crossing the gravel to the hall door."

"They are devoid of souls, to be able to quit so divine a view in such
hot haste. Besides, it is absurdly early to think of going indoors yet.
By Jove, though!" looking at his watch, "I'm wrong: it is well after
eleven. Now, who would have thought it?"

"Are you sure you mean _eleven_?" with flattering incredulity.

"Only too sure. _Hasn't_ the time gone by quickly? Well, I suppose I
must take you in, which means candles and bed for you, and a dreary
drive home for Kelly and me, and not a chance of seeing you alone
again."

"This time last week you couldn't have seen me at all," says Miss
Beresford.

"True. I am ungrateful. And altogether this has been such a delightful
evening,--to me at least: were," doubtfully, "_you_ happy?"

"Very, _very_ happy," with earnest, uplifted eyes.

"Darling love!--I am afraid I must give you up to Mrs. O'Connor now," he
goes on, presently, when an ecstatic thought or two has had time to come
and go. "But, before going, say good-night to me here."

"Good-night, Brian."

He has never attempted to kiss her since that first time (and last, _so
far_) in the orchard; and even now, though her pretty head is pressed
against him, and her face is dangerously close to his, he still
refrains. He has given her his word and will not break it; but perhaps
he cannot altogether repress the desire to expostulate with her on her
cruelty, because he gives voice to the gentle protest that rises to his
lips.

"That is very cold good-night," he says. "You would say quite as much as
that to Kelly or any of the others."

"I shouldn't call Mr. Kelly by his Christian name."

"No; but you would, Ronayne."

"Well, I shan't again, if you don't like it."

"That has nothing at all to do with what I mean. I only think you might
show me a little more favor than the rest."

"Good-night, then, _dear_ Brian. Now, I certainly shouldn't dream of
calling Mr. Ronayne dear Ulic."

"Of course not. I should hope not, indeed! But still----there is
something else that you might do for _me_."

Miss Beresford draws herself a little--_a very_ little--away from him,
and, raising her head, bestows upon him a glance that is a charming
combination of mischief and coquetry. A badly-suppressed smile is
curving the corner of her delicate lips.

"What a long time it takes you to _say_ it!" she says, wickedly.

At this they both break into low, soft laughter,--_delicious_
laughter!--that must not be overheard, and is suggestive of a little
secret existing between them, that no one else may share.

"That is an invitation," says Desmond, with decision. "I consider you
have now restored to me that paltry promise I made to you the other day
in the orchard. And here I distinctly decline ever to renew it again.
No, there is no use in appealing to me: I am not to be either softened
or coerced."

"Well," says Miss Beresford, "listen to me." She stands well back from
him this time, and, catching up the tail of her white gown, throws it
negligently over her arm. "If you _must_ have--you know what!--at least
you shall earn it. I will race you for it, but you must give me long
odds, and then, if you catch me before I reach that laurel down there,
you shall have it. Is that fair?"

Plainly, from her exultant look, she thinks she can win.

"A bargain!" says Desmond. "And, were you Atalanta herself, I feel I
shall outrun you."

"_So_ presumptuous! Take care. 'Pride goeth before destruction, and a
haughty spirit before a fall,' and you may trip."

"I may not, too."

"Well," moving cautiously away from him, "when I come to that branch
there, and say one, two, three, you--will----_Now!_"

At this, before he is half prepared, she cries, "one, two, three," with
scandalous haste, and rushes away from him down the moonlit path. Swift
and straight as a deer she flies, but, alas! just as the goal is all but
reached, she finds the race is not to her, and that she is a prisoner in
two strong arms!

"Now, who was presumptuous?" says Desmond, gazing into her lovely face.
Her head, with a touch of exhaustion about it, is thrown back against
his chest; through her parted lips her breath is coming with a panting
haste, born of excitement and her fruitless flight. He bends over her,
lower, and lower still. She feels herself altogether in his power.

"As you are strong, be merciful," she whispers, faintly. A warm flood of
crimson has dyed her cheeks; her smile has faded; she struggles
slightly, and then all in one moment Desmond becomes aware that tears
have sprung into her eyes.

Instantly he releases her.

"Darling, forgive me," he says, anxiously. "See how your heart is
beating now, and all for nothing! Of course I shall let you off your
bargain. What do you take me for? Do you think I should make you unhappy
for all the world could offer? Take those tears out of your eyes this
instant, or I shall be seriously angry with you."

Monica laughs, but in a rather nervous fashion, and lets her lover dry
her eyes with his own handkerchief. Then she sits down with him upon a
rustic seat close by, wishing to be quite mistress of herself again
before encountering the glare of the drawing-room lamps and the still
more searching light of her friends' eyes.

For a full minute not a word is spoken by either of them She is inwardly
troubled; he is downcast. Presently she rises with a little restless
movement.

"No, do not stir just yet," she says. "I only want to pick some of that
syringa behind you, it is so sweet."

Disinclined for action of any sort, he obeys her. She slips away behind
him, and he sits there waiting listlessly for her return, and thinking,
somewhat sadly, how small a way he has made with her, and that she is
almost as shy with him now as on that day by the river when first they
met.

And then something marvellous happens that puts all his theories and
regrets and fears to flight forever. Two soft arms--surely the softest
in this wide glad world--steal round his neck; a gold-brown head is laid
against his; a whisper reaches him.

"You were very good to me about _that_!" says somebody, tremulously; and
then two warm childish lips are laid on his, and Monica is in his arms.

"I wonder what it was that frightened you?" says Desmond, in a tender
whisper, drawing her down on his knees and enfolding her closely as
though she were in form the child that verily at heart she still is.
"Tell me."

"I don't know." She has twined her bare beautiful arms around him, and
is rubbing her cheek softly up and down against his in a fresh access of
shyness.

"I think you do, my dearest."

"It was only this; that when I found I couldn't get away from you, I was
frightened. It was very foolish of me, but whenever I read those stories
about prisoners of war, and people being confined in dungeons, and that,
I always know that if I were made a captive I should _die_."

"But surely your lover's arms cannot be counted a prison, my life!"

"Yes, if they held me when I wanted to get away."

"But," reproachfully, "would you want to get away?"

She hesitates, and, lifting one arm, runs her fingers coaxingly through
the hair fashion has left him.

"I don't want to go away now, at all events," she temporizes sweetly.
Then, a moment later, "But I _must_, nevertheless. Come," nervously, "we
have been here a long time, and Madam O'Connor will be angry with me;
and besides," pityingly, "you have all that long drive home still before
you."

"I forgot all about the time," says Desmond, truthfully. "You are right:
we must go in. Good-night again, my own."

Without waiting for permission this time, he stoops and presses his lips
to hers. An instant later he knows with a thrill of rapture that his
kiss has been returned.



CHAPTER XXIII.

  How Mary Browne makes confession, though not by creed a Romanist;
  and how those who receive it are far removed from being holy
  fathers!--Moreover, I would have you see there is more acting off
  the stage than on it.


Monica's week at Aghyohillbeg is drawing to a close. The day has dawned
that is to usher in at even the famous representation of "The School for
Scandal," as given by Miss Fitzgerald, Captain Cobbett, etc.

The whole house is topsy-turvy, no room being sacred from the actors and
actresses (save the mark!), and all the servants are at their wit's end.
There have been men down from the Gayety Theatre, Dublin, who have seen
about the stage, and there have been other men from the village of
Rossmoyne to help in the decoration of the ballroom, and between these
two different sets of men an incessant war has been raging for many
days.

Now at last the house is comparatively quiet, and, as four o'clock
strikes, Madam O'Connor finds herself in her own special den (the only
spot that has not been disturbed), with a tea-equipage before her, and
all her ladies-in-waiting round her.

These ladies, for the most part, are looking full of suppressed
excitement, and are in excellent spirits and irreproachable tea-gowns.
Mary Browne, who has developed into a general favorite, is making some
laughing remark about Lord Rossmoyne, who, with all the other men, is
absent.

"D'ye know what it is, Mary?" says Madam O'Connor, in her unchecked
brogue; "you might do something else with Rossmoyne besides making game
of him."

"What?" says Mary Browne.

"Marry him, to be sure. A young woman like you, with more money than you
know what to do with, ought to have a protector. Faith, you needn't
laugh, for it's only common sense I'm talking. Tenants, and the new
laws, will play the mischief with your soft heart and your estate, if
you don't get some one to look after them both."

"Well?" says Mary Browne.

"Well, there's Rossmoyne, as I said before, actually going a begging for
a wife. Why not take him?"

"I don't care about beggars," says Miss Browne, with a slight smile. "I
am not one of those who think them picturesque."

"He isn't a beggar in any other sense than the one I have mentioned. He
is a very good match. Think of it, now."

"I am thinking. Indeed, ever since my first day here I been thinking how
deeply attached he is to Mrs. Bohun. Forgive me, Mrs. Bohun."

Olga laughs lightly. There is something about this plain girl that
repels the idea of offence.

"What on earth put that idea into your head?" says her hostess, opening
her eyes, who talks too much both in season and out of it to be able to
see all the by-play going on around her. "You aren't setting your cap at
him, are you, Olga my dear?"

"Indeed, no," says Olga, still laughing. "How could so absurd a notion
have got into _any_body's head?"

"How, indeed?" says Monica, gayly.

"There's Owen Kelly, then; though he isn't as well off as Rossmoyne,
still he will be worth looking after by and by, when the old man drops
off. He's as good hearted a fellow as ever lived, when you know what
he's at,--which isn't often, to do him justice. It struck me he was very
civil to you last night."

"He was," says Miss Browne, whose merriment is on the increase. "But I
never met any one who wasn't civil to me: so I found him commonplace
enough. Ah! if he had only been uncivil, now!"

"Well, there he is, at all events," says Madam O'Connor, sententiously.

"I hope he's comfortable," says Miss Browne, kindly, "I shan't try to
make him less so, at least. Why don't you recommend Mr. Desmond or Mr.
Ronayne to my notice?" with a mischievous glance at Monica and Olga
Bohun.

"I'm afraid they are done for," says Madam, laughing now herself. "And I
only hope that handsome boy Ronayne isn't laying up sorrow for himself
and living in a fool's paradise. Indeed, Olga, pretty as you are, I'll
be very angry with you if I hear you have been playing fast and loose
with him."

The old lady shakes her head grimly at Mrs. Bohun, who pretends to be
crushed beneath her glance.

"To prevent you offering me any more suitors," says Mary Browne,
steadily, but with a rising blush, "I may as well tell you that I am
engaged to be married."

"Good gracious, my dear! then why didn't you say so before?" says Madam,
sitting bolt upright and letting her _pince-nez_ fall unheeded into her
lap.

"I really don't know; but I daresay because you took it for granted I
wasn't."

"Mary," says Mrs. Herrick, speaking for the first time, and for the
first time, too, calling Miss Browne by her Christian name, "tell us all
about it."

"Yes, _do_," says Monica, and all the women draw their chairs
instinctively a degree closer to the heroine of the hour, and betray in
her a warm interest. After all, what can equal a really good
love-affair?

"Go on, my dear," says Madam O'Connor, who is always full of life where
romance is concerned. "I hope it is a good marriage."

"The best in the world, for me," says Mary Browne, simply, "though he
hasn't a penny in the world but what he earns."

As she makes this awful confession, she isn't in the least confused, but
smiles brightly.

"Well, Mary, I must say I wouldn't have believed it of you," says Madam.

"I would," says Monica, hastily laying her hand on one of Mary's. "It is
just like her. After all, what has money got to do with it? Is he
_nice_, Mary?"

"So nice!" says Mary, who seems quite glad to talk about him, "and as
ugly as myself," with a little enjoyable laugh, "so we can't call each
other bad names; and his name is Peter, which of course will be
considered another drawback, though I like the name myself. And we are
very fond of each other--I have no doubt about that: and that is all, I
think."

"No, it is not all," says Madam O'Connor, severely. "May I ask when you
met this young man?"

"I must take the sting out of your tone at once, Gertrude," says her
cousin, pleasantly, "by telling you that we were engaged long _before_
poor Richard died." (Richard was the scampish brother by whose death she
inherited all.)

"Then why didn't you marry him?" says Madam.

"I was going to,--in fact, we were going to run away," says Miss Browne,
with intense enjoyment at the now remote thought,--"doesn't it sound
absurd?--when--when the news about Dick reached us, and then I could not
bring myself to leave my father, no matter how unpleasant my home be."

"What is he?" asks Olga, with a friendly desire to know.

"A doctor. In rather good practice, too, in Dublin. He is very clever,"
says Miss Browne, telling her story so genially, so comfortably, that
all their hearts go out to her, and Madam O'Connor grows lost in a
revery about what will be the handsomest and most suitable thing to give
"Peter" as a wedding-present. As she cannot get beyond a case of
dissecting-knives, this revery is short.

"Perhaps if you saw some one else you might change your mind," she says,
a new thought entering her head (of course there would be a difficulty
about offering dissecting-knives to a barrister or quiet country
gentleman).

"I have had five proposals this year already," says Miss Browne,
quietly, "but, if I could be a princess by doing so, I would not give up
Peter."

"Mary Browne, come here and give me a kiss," says Madam O'Connor, with
tears in her eyes. "You are the best girl I know, and I always said it.
I only hope your Peter knows the extent of his luck."

Miss Browne having to leave the room some few minutes later Olga raises
herself from the lounging position she has been in, with her hands
clasped behind her head, and says, slowly,--

"I don't think she is so plain, after all."

"Neither do I," says Monica, eagerly, "there is something so sweet about
her expression."

"I am perfectly certain that man Peter is awfully in love with her,"
says Mrs. Herrick solemnly, "and that without the slightest thought of
her money."

"What would he think of her money for?" says Madam O'Connor, testily,
who had firmly believed him a fortune-hunter only two minutes ago.
"Isn't she a jewel in herself?"

"By the bye, where is our Bella all this time?" says Olga, suddenly.
"It now occurs to me that of course we have been missing her all this
time."

"I know," says Monica, mysteriously: "she is _asleep_,--getting herself
up for her Lady Teazle. I was running along the corridor, outside her
room, half an hour ago, when her mother came out on tiptoe and implored
me to go gently, lest I should wake her."

"Gentle dove," says Mrs. Herrick.

"I shall go and dance the _can-can_ up and down that corridor this
moment," says Mrs. Bohun, rising to her feet with fell determination in
her eye.

"I think you had all better go to your rooms and get ready for dinner.
It is painfully early to-night," says Madam, "on account of all this
nonsense of Olga's. But no dressing mind, as I have told the men to come
as they are. There will be plenty of that by and by."

One by one they all dwindle away at the word of command, Olga, true to
her word, making such a clatter as she passes Miss Fitzgerald's door as
might readily be classed with those noises popularly supposed to be able
to wake the silent dead. Whether it wakes Miss Fitzgerald is unknown to
all save her mother and her maid.

It makes Monica laugh, however who, sitting in her own room, is gazing
with dreamy delight at the pretty gown Miss Priscilla has ordered from
Mrs. Sim's for her all the way from Dublin, and which has been spread
upon her bed by Olga's maid, Mrs. Bohun having insisted on sharing that
delightful young person with her ever since her first night at
Aghyohillbeg.

Yet Aunt Priscilla will not be here to-night to see her favorite niece
dressed in her charming present.

At the last moment, not two hours agone, had come a letter from Moyne to
Madame O'Connor telling how Miss Penelope had been seized by a bad
neuralgic headache and was in such pain that Miss Priscilla could not
find it in her heart to leave her. Kit, escorted by Terence, would
arrive, however, in time for the opening act; and it would be impossible
to say how disappointed the two old ladies were (which indeed was the
strict truth), and they hoped all would be successful, etc., etc.

With a remorseful pang, Monica acknowledges to herself now that she had
felt a secret gladness when first the news had been retailed to her by
Madame O'Connor. A sense of being under an obligation to that dire
neuralgic headache, is oppressing her. It is wicked of her, and most
cruel, but the secret exultation cannot be denied.

And see how the case stands. Poor Aunt Penelope in vile suffering, Aunt
Priscilla enduring bitter disappointment,--for she had, as Monica well
knew, set her heart on witnessing these theatricals,--and Monica herself
actually glad and light at heart _because_ of the misfortunes that have
befallen them. Alas! how fiendish it all sounds!

And again, to add to the iniquity of it, for how slight a cause has she
welcomed the discomfiture of her best friends! For a few dances with
their enemy, a freedom for happy smiles and unrestrained glances,--_all_
to be made over to the enemy. For how, with Miss Priscilla's reproachful
angry eyes upon her, could she have waltzed or smiled or talked with a
Desmond?

And what is to be the end of it all? A vague feeling of terror compasses
her round about as she dwells on her forbidden lover. Will she have to
give him up at the last?--it must be either him or Aunt Priscilla; and
she owes so much to Aunt Priscilla; while to him--oh, no! she owes him
nothing; of course he is only--only--and yet----

A bell sounds in the distance; she starts and glances at the tiny clock
upon her chimney-piece. Yes, it is almost six, and dinner will be ready
in ten minutes. And afterwards comes "The School for Scandal," and after
that the tableaux, and after that again dancing,--delights threefold for
happy eighteen. Her spirits rise; her fears fall; self-contempt,
remorse, regret, all sink into insignificance, and with a beating heart
she coils afresh her tinted hair, and twines some foreign beads about
her slender throat to make herself a shade more lovable in the eyes of
the man she must not encourage, and whose very existence she has been
forbidden to acknowledge.

       *       *       *       *       *

The curtain has risen, has fallen and risen again, and now has descended
for the last time. A flutter--is it rapture or relief?--trembles through
the audience. "The School for Scandal" has come to a timely end!

I selfishly forbear from giving my readers a lengthened account of it,
as they (unless any of the Aghyohillbeg party takes up this book) have
mercy--that is, unfortunately, been debarred by fate from ever
witnessing a performance such as this, that certainly, without servile
flattery, may be termed unique. Words (that is, _my_ words) would fail
to give an adequate idea of it, and so from very modesty I hold my pen.

"It was marvellous," says Sir Mark Gore, who is paying a flying visit to
Lord Rossmoyne. He says this with the profoundest solemnity, and
perhaps a little melancholy. His expression is decidedly pensive.

"It was indeed wonderful," says the old rector, in perfect good faith.

And wonderful it was indeed. Anything so truly remarkable, I may safely
declare, was never seen in this or any other generation.

Miss Fitzgerald's Lady Teazle left nothing to be desired, save perhaps
an earlier fall of the curtain, while Captain Cobbett's Joseph Surface
was beyond praise. This is the strict truth. He was indeed the more
happy in his representation of the character in that he gave his
audience a Joseph they never had seen and never would see again on any
stage, unless Captain Cobbett could kindly be induced by them to try it
on some other occasion.

A few ignorant people, indeed, who plainly found such a splendid
rendering of the part too much for their intellectual capacity, were
seized with a laughter profane, if smothered, whenever the talented
captain made his appearance, giving the rest of the company (who could
see them shaking behind their fans) to understand that they at least
were "not for Joe,"--that is, Captain Cobbett's Joe. But the majority
very properly took no notice of these Philistines, and indeed rebuked
them by maintaining an undisturbed gravity to the very end.

Sir Peter (Mr. Ryde) was most sumptuously arrayed. Nothing could exceed
the magnificence of his attire. Upon an amateur stage, startling
habiliments copied from a remote period are always attractive, and Mr.
Ryde did all he knew in this line, giving even to the ordinary Sir Peter
of our old-fashioned knowledge certain garments in vogue quite a century
before he could possibly have been born. This gave a charming wildness
to his character, a devil-may-care sort of an air, that exactly suited
his gay and festive mood. After all, why should Sir Peter be old and
heavy? why indeed?

The effect was altogether charming. That there were a few disagreeable
people who said they would have liked to know what he was _at_ (_such_ a
phrase, you know!), what he _meant_, in fact, and who declared that, as
a mere simple matter of choice, they liked to hear a word now and again
from an actor, goes without telling. There are troublesome people in
every grade of society,--gnats that _will_ sting. Silence is golden, as
all the world knows; and Mr. Ryde is of it: so of course he forgot his
part whenever he could, and left out all the rest!

This he did with a systematic carefulness very praiseworthy in so young
a man.

On the whole, therefore, you will see that the affair was an
unprecedented success; and if some did go away puzzled as to whether it
was a burlesque or a tragedy, nobody was to blame for their obtuseness.
There certainly are scenes in this admirable comedy not provocative of
laughter; but such was the bad taste of Madam O'Connor that she joined
in with the Philistines mentioned farther back, and laughed straight
through the piece from start to finish, until the tears ran down her
cheeks.

She said afterwards she was hysterical, and Olga Bohun, who was quite as
bad as she, said, "_no wonder_."

Now, however, it is all over, and the actors and actresses have
disappeared, to make way for the gauze, the electric light, and the
tableaux; whilst the audience is making itself happy with iced champagne
and conversation, kind and otherwise (very much otherwise), about the
late performance.

Olga Bohun, who is looking all that the heart of man can desire in white
lace and lilies, leaving the impromptu theatre, goes in search of
Hermia, who, with Owen Kelly, is to appear in the opening tableau. She
makes her way to the temporary green-room, an inner hall, hidden from
the outer world by means of a hanging velvet curtain, and with a
staircase at the lower end that leads to some of the upper corridors.
Here she finds Ulic Ronayne, Miss Browne, Monica, Desmond, and Kelly.

She has barely time to say something trivial to Miss Browne, when a pale
light appearing at the top of the staircase attracts the attention of
all below. Instinctively they raise their eyes towards it, and see a
tall figure clad in white descending the stairs slowly and with a
strange sweet gravity. Is it an angel come to visit them, or Hermia
Herrick?

It resolves itself into Hermia at last, but a beautiful Hermia,--a
lovely apparition,--a woman indeed still, but "with something of an
angel-light" playing in her dark eyes and round her dusky head. Always a
distinguished-looking woman, if too cold for warmer praise, she is now
at least looking supremely beautiful.

She is dressed as Galatea, in a clinging garment of the severest Greek
style, with no jewels upon her neck, and with her exquisite arms bare to
the shoulder. One naked sandalled foot can be seen as she comes
leisurely to them step by step. She is holding a low Etruscan lamp in
one hand upon a level with her head, and there is just the faintest
suspicion of a smile about her usually irresponsive lips.

No one speaks until her feet touch the hall, when a little murmur,
indistinct, yet distinctly admiring, arises to greet her.

"I hope I don't look foolish," she says, with as much nervousness in her
tone as can possibly be expected from her.

"Oh, Hermia, you are looking too lovely," says Olga, with a burst of
genuine enthusiasm. "Is she not, Owen?"

But Mr. Kelly makes no reply.

A slight tinge of color deepens Mrs. Herrick's complexion as she turns
to him.

"Poor Mr. Kelly!" she says, the amused flicker of a smile flitting over
her face, which has now grown pale again. "What a situation! There!
don't sully your conscience: I will let you off your lie. That is where
an old friend comes in so useful, you see."

"At all events, I don't see where the lie would come in. But, as you do,
of course I shall say nothing," says Kelly.

"What a Pygmalion!" says Olga, in high disgust. "And what a speech!
Contemptible! I don't believe any Galatea would come to life beneath
_your_ touch. It would be cold as the marble itself!"

So saying, she moves away to where Monica is standing, looking quite the
sweetest thing in the world, as

    "A nun demure, of lowly port."

"She has prophesied truly," says Kelly, in a low tone, turning to Mrs.
Herrick. "I fear _my_ Galatea will never wake to life for _me_."

A subdued bell tinkles in the distance.

"Our summons," says Mrs. Herrick, hastily, as though grateful to it; and
presently she is standing upon a pedestal, pale motionless, with a rapt
Pygmalion at her feet, and some Pompeian vases and jugs (confiscated
from the drawing-room) in the background.

And then follow the other tableaux, and then the stage is deserted, and,
music sounding in the distant ballroom, every one rises and makes a step
in its direction, the hearts of some of the younger guests beating in
time to it.

"Where are you going?" says Ulic Ronayne, seeing Olga about to mount the
stairs once more.

"To help the others to get into civilized garb,--Hermia and Monica, I
mean. Lady Teazle I consider capable of looking after herself."

"H'm! you say that? I thought Miss Fitzgerald was a friend of yours."

"Then you thought like the baby you are. No! Women, like princes, find
few real friends. But one in a hundred can fill that character
gracefully, and Bella is _not_ that one."

She turns to run up the stairs. "Well, don't be long," says Mr. Ronayne.

"I'll be ready in a minute," she says; and in twenty-five she really
_is_.

Monica, who has had Kit to help her,--such an admiring, enthusiastic,
flattering Kit,--is soon redressed, and has run down stairs, and nearly
into Desmond's arms, who, of course, is waiting on the lowest step to
receive her. She is now waltzing with him, with a heart as light as her
feet.

Hermia's progress has been slow, but Miss Fitzgerald's slowest of all,
the elaborate toilet and its accessories taking some time to arrange
themselves; she has been annoyed, too, by Olga Bohun, during the earlier
part of the evening, and consequently feels it her duty to stay in her
room for a while and take it out of her maid. So long is she, indeed,
that Madam O'Connor (most attentive of hostesses) feels it her duty to
come upstairs to find her.

She _does_ find her, giving way to diatribes of the most virulent, that
have Olga Bohun for their theme. Mrs. Fitzgerald, standing by, is
listening to, and assisting in, the defamatory speeches.

"Hey-day! what's the matter now?" says Madam, with a _bonhommie_
completely thrown away. Miss Fitzgerald has given the reins to her
mortification, and is prepared to hunt Olga to the death.

"I think it is disgraceful the license Mrs. Bohun allows her tongue,"
she says, angrily, still smarting under the speech she had goaded Olga
into making her an hour ago. "We have just been talking about it. She
says the most wounding things, and accuses people openly of thoughts and
actions of which they would scorn to be guilty. And this, too, when her
own actions are so hopelessly faulty, so _sure_ to be animadverted upon
by all decent people."

"Yes, yes, indeed," chimes in her mother, as in duty bound. Her voice is
feeble, but her manner vicious.

"The shameful way in which she employs nasty unguents of all kinds, and
tries by every artificial means to heighten any beauty she may possess,
is too absurdly transparent not to be known by all the world," goes on
the irate Bella. "Who run may read the rouge and veloutine that cover
her face. And as for her lids, they are so blackened that they are
positively _dirty_! Yet she pretends she has handsome eyes and lashes!"

"But, my dear, she may well lay claim to her lashes. All the Egyptian
charcoal in the world could not make them long and curly. Nature is to
be thanked for them."

"You can defend her if you like," says Bella, hysterically, "but to my
mind her conduct is--is positively _immoral_. It is cheating the public
into the belief that she has a skin when she hasn't."

"But I'm sure she has: we can all see it," says Madam O'Connor, somewhat
bewildered by this sweeping remark.

"No, you can't. I defy you to see it, it is so covered with pastes and
washes, and everything; she uses every art you can conceive."

"Well, supposing she does, what then?" says Madam, stoutly. She is
dressed in black velvet and diamonds, and is looking twice as important
and rather more good-humored than usual. "I see nothing in it. My
grandmother always rouged,--put on patches as regularly as her gown.
Every one did it in those days, I suppose. And quite right, too. Why
shouldn't a woman make herself look as attractive as she can?"

"But the barefaced fashion in which she hunts down that wretched young
Ronayne," says Mrs. Fitzgerald, "is dreadful! You can't defend that,
Gertrude. I quite pity the poor lad,--drawn thus, _against his will_,
into the toils of an enchantress." Mrs. Fitzgerald pauses after this
ornate and strictly original speech, as if overcome by her own
eloquence. "I think he should be warned," she goes on presently. "A
woman like that should not be permitted to entrap a mere boy into a
marriage he will regret all his life afterwards, by means of abominable
coquetries and painted cheeks and eyes. It is horrible!"

"I never thought you were such a fool, Edith," says Madam O'Connor, with
the greatest sweetness.

"You may think as you will, Gertrude," responds Mrs. Fitzgerald, with
her faded air of juvenility sadly lost in her agitation, and shaking her
head nervously, as though afflicted with a sudden touch of palsy that
accords dismally with her youthful attire. "But I shall cling to my own
opinions. And I utterly disapprove of Mrs. Bohun."

"For me," says Bella, vindictively, "I believe her capable of
_anything_. I can't bear those women who laugh at nothing, and powder
themselves every half-hour."

"You shouldn't throw stones, Bella," says honest Madam O'Connor, now
nearly at the end of her patience. "Your glass house will be shivered if
you do. Before I took to censuring other people I'd look in a mirror, if
I were you."

"I don't understand you," says Miss Fitzgerald, turning rather pale.

"That's because you won't look in a mirror. Why, there's enough powder
on your right ear to whiten a Moor!"

"I never----" begins Bella, in a stricken tone; but Madam O'Connor stops
her.

"Nonsense! sure I'm looking at it," she says.

This hanging evidence is not to be confuted. For a moment the fair Bella
feels crushed; then she rallies nobly, and, after withering her
terrified mother with a glance, sweeps from the room, followed at a
respectful distance by Mrs. Fitzgerald, and quite closely by Madam, who
declines to see she has given offence in any way.

As they go, Mrs. Fitzgerald keeps up a gentle twitter, in the hope of
propitiating the wrathful goddess on before.

"Yes, yes, I still think young Ronayne should be warned; she is very
designing, very, and he is very soft-hearted." She had believed in young
Ronayne at one time, and had brought herself to look upon him as a
possible son-in-law, until this terrible Mrs. Bohun had cast a glamour
over him. "Yes, yes, one feels it quite one's duty to let him know how
she gets herself up. His eyes should be opened to the rouge and the
Egyptian eye-stuff."

While she is mumbling all this, they come into a square landing, off
which two rooms open. Both are brilliantly lighted and have been turned
into cosey boudoirs for the occasion.

In one of them, only half concealed by a looped curtain from those
without, stand two figures, Olga Bohun and the "poor lad" who is to have
his eyes opened.

They are as wide open at present as any one can desire, and are staring
thoughtfully at the wily widow, who is gazing back just as earnestly
into them. Both he and Olga are standing very close together beneath the
chandelier, and seem to be scanning each other's features with the
keenest scrutiny.

So remarkable is their demeanor, that not only Bella but her mother and
Madam O'Connor refrain from further motion, to gaze at them with growing
curiosity.

There is nothing sentimental about their attitude; far from it; nothing
even vaguely suggestive of tenderness. There is only an unmistakable
anxiety that deepens every instant.

"You are sure?" says Olga, solemnly. "Certain? Don't decide in a hurry.
Look again."

He looks again.

"Well, _perhaps_! A _very_ little less would be sufficient," he says,
with hesitation, standing back to examine her countenance more safely.

"There! see how careless you can be," says Olga, reproachfully. "Now,
take it off with this, but lightly, _very_ lightly."

As she speaks, she hands him her handkerchief, and, to the consternation
of the three watchers outside, he takes it, and with the gentlest touch
rubs her cheeks with it, first the one, and then the other.

When he had finished this performance, both he and she stared at the
handkerchief meditatively.

"I doubt you have taken it _all_ off," she says, plaintively. "I
couldn't have put more than that on, and surely the handkerchief has no
need of a complexion; whilst I----It must be all gone now, and I was
whiter than this bit of cambric when I put it on. Had I better run up to
my room again, or----"

"Oh, no. You are all right; indeed you are. I'd say so at once if you
weren't," says Ronayne, reassuringly. "You are looking as lovely as a
dream."

"And my eyes?"

"Are beautifully done. No one on earth could find you out," says Ulic,
comfortably; after which they both laugh merrily, and, quitting the
impromptu boudoir, go down to the ballroom.

Mrs. Fitzgerald shows a faint disposition to sob, as they pass out of
sight. Madam O'Connor is consumed with laughter.

"I don't think I should trouble myself to open 'that poor young
Ronayne's' eyes, if I were you, Edith," she says, with tears of
suppressed amusement in her eyes.

"He is lost!" says Mrs. Fitzgerald, with a groan; but whether she means
to Bella or to decency never transpires.



CHAPTER XXIV.

  How Madam O'Connor tells how lovers throve in the good old days when
  she was young; and Brian Desmond thrives with his love in these our
  days, when he and she are young.


The day is near; the darkest hour that presages the dawn has come, and
still every one is dancing, and talking, and laughing, and some are
alluring, by the aid of smiles and waving fans, the hearts of men.

Kit Beresford, in spite of her youth and her closely-cropped
head,--which, after all is adorable in many ways,--has secured, all to
her own bow, a young man from the Skillereen Barracks (a meagre town to
the west of Rossmoyne). He is a _very_ young, young man, and is by this
time quite _bon comarade_ with the sedate Kit, who is especially lenient
with his shortcomings, and treats him as though he were nearly as old as
herself.

Monica is dancing with Mr. Ryde. To do him justice, he dances very well;
but whether Monica is dissatisfied with him, or whether she is tenderly
regretful of the fact that at this moment she might just as well--or
rather better--be dancing with another, I cannot say; but certainly her
fair face is clothed with a pensive expression that heightens its beauty
in a considerable degree.

"Look at that girl of Priscilla Blake's," says Madam O'Connor, suddenly,
who is standing at the head of the room, surrounded, as usual, by young
men. "Look at her. Was there ever such a picture? She is like a martyr
at the stake. That intense expression suits her."

Brian Desmond flushes a little, and Kelly comes to the rescue.

"A martyr?" he says. "I don't think Ryde would be obliged to you if he
heard you. I should name him as the martyr, if I were you. Just see how
hopelessly silly--I mean, sentimental--he looks."

"Yet I think she fancies him," says Lord Rossmoyne, who is one of those
men who are altogether good, respectable, and dense.

"Nonsense!" says Madam O'Connor, indignantly. "What on earth would she
fancy that jackanapes for, when there are good men and true waiting for
her round every corner?"

As she says this, she glances whole volumes of encouragement at Desmond,
who, however, is so depressed by the fact that Monica has danced five
times with Ryde, and is now dancing with him again, that he gives her no
returning glance.

At this apparent coldness on his part, the blood of all the kings of
Munster awakes in Madam O'Connor's breast.

"'Pon my conscience," she says, "I wouldn't give a good farthing for the
lot of you, to let that girl go by! She came into Rossmoyne on the top
of a hay-cart, I hear,--more luck to her, say I; for it shows the pluck
in her, and the want of the sneaking fear of what he and she will say
(more especially _she_) that spoils half our women. When I was her age
I'd have done it myself. Rossmoyne, get out of that, till I get another
look at her. I like her face. It does me good. It is so full of life _et
le beaute du diable_," says Madame O'Connor, who speaks French like a
native, and, be it understood, Irish too.

"_We_ like to look at her, too," says Owen Kelly.

"To look, indeed! That would be thought poor comfort in my days when a
pretty woman was in question, and men were men!" says Madam, with
considerable spirit. "If I were a young fellow, now, 'tis in the
twinkling of an eye I'd have her from under her aunt's nose and away in
a coach and four."

"The sole thing that prevents our _all_ eloping with Miss Beresford on
the spot is--is--the difficulty of finding the coach and four and the
blacksmith," says Mr. Kelly, with even a denser gloom upon his face than
usual. Indeed, he now appears almost on the verge of tears.

"We never lost time speculating on ways and means in _those_ days," says
Madame O'Connor, throwing up her head. "Whoo! Times are changed indeed
since my grandfather played old Harry with the countrymen and my
grandmother's father by running away with her without a word to any one,
after a big ball at my great grandmother's, and that, too, when she was
guarded as if she was the princess royal herself and had every man in
the South on his knees to her."

"But how did he manage it?" says Desmond, laughing.

"Faith, by making the old gentleman my great-grandfather as drunk as a
fiddler, on drugged potheen," says Madam O'Connor, proudly. "The butler
and he did it between them; but it was as near being murder as anything
you like, because they put so much of the narcotic into the whiskey that
the old man didn't come to himself for three days. That's the sort of
thing for _me_," says Madam, with a little flourish of her shapely
hand.

"So it would be for me, too," says Kelly, mournfully. "But there's no
one good enough to risk my neck for, now you have refused to have
anything to do with me."

"Get along with you, you wicked boy, making fun of an old woman!" says
Madam, with her gay, musical laugh. "Though," with a touch of pride, "I
won't deny but I led the lads a fine dance when I was the age of that
pretty child yonder."

"I wonder you aren't ashamed when you think of all the mischief you
did," says Desmond, who delights in her.

"Divil a bit!" says Madam O'Connor.

"Still, I really think Ryde affects her," says Rossmoyne, who, being a
dull man, has clung to the first topic promulgated.

"That's nothing, so long as she doesn't affect him," says Kelly,
somewhat sharply.

"But perhaps she does; and I daresay he has money. Those English fellows
generally have a reversion somewhere."

"Not a penny," says Mr. Kelly. "And, whether or no, I don't believe she
would look at him."

"Not she," says Madam O'Connor.

"I don't know that. And, even allowing what you say to be true, women
are not always to be won by wealth" (with a faint sigh), "and he is a
very good-looking fellow."

"Is he?" says Desmond, speaking with an effort. "If flesh counts, of
course he is. 'Let me have men about me that are fat; sleek-headed men,
and such as sleep o' nights.' To look at Ryde, one would fancy he slept
well, not only by night but by day."

"I feel as if I was going to be sorry for Ryde presently," says Mr.
Kelly.

"Well, he's not the man for Monica," says Madam O'Connor, with
conviction. "See how sorrow grows upon her lovely face. For shame! go
and release her, some one, from her durance vile. Take heart of grace,
go in boldly, and win her, against all odds."

"But if she will not be won?" says Desmond, smiling, but yet with an
anxious expression.

"'That man that hath a tongue, I say, is no man if with his tongue he
cannot win a woman,'" quotes Madam, in a low voice, turning to Desmond
with a broad smile of the liveliest encouragement; "and as for you,
Desmond, why, if I were a girl, I'd be won by yours at once."

Desmond laughs.

"I'm sorry I'm beneath your notice now."

"Where's your uncle? Couldn't even my letter coax him here to-night?"

"Not even that. He has gone nowhere now for so many years that I think
he is afraid to venture."

"Tut!" says Madam, impatiently; "because _he_ jilted a woman once is no
reason why the rest of us should jilt _him_."

       *       *       *       *       *

It is an hour later, and all the guests have gone except indeed Kit, who
has been sent upstairs tired and sleepy to share Monica's room, and
Terence and Brian Desmond, who with his friend Kelly are struggling into
their top-coats in the hall. The rain is descending in torrents, and
they are regarding with rather rueful countenances the dog-cart awaiting
them outside, in which they had driven over in the sunny morning that
seems impossible, when Madam O'Connor sweeps down upon them.

"Take off those coats at once," she says. "What do you mean, Brian? I
wouldn't have it on my conscience to send a rat out of my house on such
a night as this, unless under cover." Her conscience is Madam's strong
point. She excels in it. She ofttimes swears by it! Her promise to Miss
Priscilla that Desmond shall not sleep beneath her roof during Monica's
stay is forgotten or laid aside, and finally, with a smile of
satisfaction, she sees the two young men carried off by Ronayne for a
final smoke before turning in.

"I don't feel a bit sleepy myself," says Monica, who is looking as fresh
and sweet as if only now just risen.

"Neither do I," says Olga. "Come to my room, then, and talk to me for a
minute or two."

They must have been long minutes, because it is quite an hour later when
a little slender figure, clad in a pretty white dressing-gown, emerges
on tiptoe from Mrs. Bohun's room and steals hurriedly along the deserted
corridor.

Somebody else is hurrying along this corridor, too. Seeing the childish
figure in the white gown, he pauses; perhaps he thinks it is a ghost;
but, if so, he is a doughty man, because he goes swiftly up to it with a
glad smile upon his lips.

"My darling girl," he says, in a subdued voice, "I thought you were in
the middle of your first happy dream by this."

Monica smiles, and leaves her hand in his.

"I am not such a lazy-bones as you evidently thought me," she says. "But
I must hurry now, indeed. All the world is abed, I suppose; and if Kit
wakes and finds me not yet come, she will be frightened."

"Before you go, tell me you will meet me somewhere to-morrow. You,"
uncertainly, "_are_ going home to-morrow, are you not?"

"Yes. But--but--_how_ can I meet you? I have almost given my word to
Aunt Priscilla to do nothing--clandestine--or that; and how shall I
break it? You are always tempting me, and"--a soft glance stealing to
him from beneath her lashes--"I should _like_ to see you, of course, but
so much duty I owe to her."

"Your first duty is to your husband," responds he, gravely.

She turns to him with startled eyes.

"Who is that?" she asks.

"I am," boldly; "or at least I soon shall be: it is all the same."

"How sure you are of me!" she says, with just the faintest touch of
offence in her tone that quickens his pulses to fever-heat.

"_Sure!_" he says, with a melancholy raised by passion into something
that is almost vehemence. "Was I ever so _unsure_ of anything, I wonder?
There is so little certainty connected with you in my mind that half my
days are consumed by doubts that render me miserable! Yet I put my trust
in you. Upon your sweetness I build my hope. I feel you would not
willingly condemn any one to death, and what could I do but die if you
now throw me over? But you _won't I think_."

"No, no," says Monica, impulsively, tears in her eyes and voice.
Tremblingly she yields herself to him, and let him hold her to his heart
in a close embrace. "How could you think that of me? Have you forgotten
that I _kissed_ you?"

Plainly she lays great stress upon that rash act committed the other
night beneath the stars.

"_Forget it!_" says Desmond, in a tone that leaves nothing to be
desired. "You are mine, then, now,--now and forever," he says,
presently.

"But there is always Aunt Priscilla," says Monica, nervously. Her tone
is full of affliction. "Oh, if she could _only_ see me now!"

"Well, she _can't_, that's one comfort; not if she were the hundred-eyed
Argus himself."

"I feel I am behaving very badly to her," says Monica, dolorously. "I
am, in spite of myself, deceiving her, and to-morrow, when it is all
over,----"

"It shan't be over," interrupts he, with considerable vigor. "What a
thing to say!"

"I shall feel _so_ guilty when I get back to Moyne. Just as if I had
been doing something dreadful. So I have, I think. How shall I ever be
able to look her in the face again?"

"Don't you know? It is the simplest thing in the world. You have only to
fix your eyes steadily on the tip of her nose, and there you are!"

This disgraceful frivolity on the part of her lover rouses quick
reproach in Monica's eyes.

"I don't think it is a nice thing to laugh at one," she says, very
justly incensed. "I wouldn't laugh at _you_ if you were unhappy. You are
not the least help to me. What _am_ I to say to Aunt Priscilla?"

"'How d'ye do?' first; and then--in an _airy_ tone, you know--'I am
going to be married, as soon as time permits, to Brian Desmond.' No,
no," penitently, catching a firmer hold of her as she makes a valiant
but ineffectual effort to escape the shelter of his arms, "I didn't mean
it. I am sorry, and I'll never do it again. I'll sympathize with
_anything_ you say, if you will promise not to desert me."

"It is you," reproachfully, "who desert me, and in my hour of need. I
don't think," wistfully, "I am so _very_ much to blame, am I? I didn't
_ask_ you to fall in love with me, and when you came here all this week
to see Madam O'Connor I couldn't possibly have turned my back upon you,
could I?"

"You could; but it would have brought you to the verge of suicide and
murder. Because, as you turned, I should have turned too, on the chance
of seeing your face, and so on, and on until vertigo set in, and death
ensued, and we were both buried in one common grave. It sounds awful,
doesn't it? Well, and where, then, will you come to meet me to-morrow?"

"To the river, I suppose," says Monica.

"Do you know," says Desmond, after a short pause, "I shall have to leave
you soon? Not now; not until October, perhaps; but whenever I do go it
will be for a month at least."

"A _month_?"

"Yes."

"A whole long month!"

"The longest month I shall have ever known," sadly.

"I certainly didn't think you would go and do a thing like _that_," says
his beloved, with much severity.

"My darling, I can't help it; but we needn't talk about it just yet.
Only it came into my head a moment ago, that it would be very sweet to
get a letter from you while I was away: a letter," softly, "a letter
from my own wife to her husband."

Monica glances at him in a half-perplexed fashion, and then, as though
some thought has come to her for the first time, and brought merriment
in its train, her lips part, and all her lovely face breaks into silent
mirth.

"What is it?" asks he, a little--just a very little--disconcerted.

"Oh, nothing; nothing, really. Only it _does_ seem so funny to think I
have got a husband," she says, in a choked whisper, and then her mirth
gets beyond her control, and, but that Brian presses her head down on
his chest, and so stifles it, they might have had Miss Fitzgerald out
upon them in ten seconds.

"Hush!" whispers the embryo husband, giving her a little shake. But he
is laughing, too.

"I don't feel as if I honored you a bit," says Miss Beresford; "and as
to the 'obey,' I certainly shan't do that."

"As if I should ask you!" says Desmond. "But what of the _love_,
sweetheart?"

"Why, as it is yours, you ought to be the one to answer _that_
question," retorts she, prettily, a warm flush dyeing her face.

"But why must you leave me?" she says, presently.

"The steward has written to me once or twice. Tenants nowadays are so
troublesome. Of course I could let the whole thing slide, and the
property go to the dogs; but no man has a right to do that. I am talking
of my own place now, you understand,--_yours_, as it will be soon, I
hope."

"And where is--_our_ place?"

The hesitation is adorable, but still more adorable are the smile and
blush that accompany it.

"In Westmeath," says Brian, when some necessary preliminaries have been
gone through. "I hope you will like it. It is far prettier than Coole in
every way."

"And I think Coole lovely, what I've seen of it," says Monica, sweetly.

Here the lamp that has hitherto been lighting the corridor, thinking,
doubtless (and very reasonably, too), that it has done its duty long
enough, flickers, and goes out. But no darkness follows its defection.
Through the far window a pale burst of light rushes, illumining in a
cold and ghostly manner the spot on which they stand. "The meek-eyed
morn, mother of dews," has come, and night has slipped away abashed,
with covered front.

Together they move to the window and look out upon the awakening world;
and, even as they gaze enraptured at its fairness, the sun shoots up
from yonder hill, and a great blaze of glory is abroad.

          "Over the spangled grass
    Swept the swift footsteps of the lovely light,
    Turning the tears of Night to joyous gems."

"Oh, we have delayed too long," says Monica, with a touch of awe
engendered by the marvellous and mystic beauty of the hour. "Good-night,
good-night!"

"Nay, rather a fair good-morrow, my sweet love," says Desmond, straining
her to his heart.



CHAPTER XXV.

  How The Desmond's mind is harrassed by a gentle maiden and two
  ungentle roughs; and how the Land League shows him a delicate
  attention.


"By the by," says old Mr. Desmond, looking at his nephew across the
remains of the dessert, "You've been a good deal at Aghyohillbeg of
late: why?"

It is next evening, and, Monica being at Moyne and inaccessible, Brian
is at Coole. Mr. Kelly is walking up and down on the gravelled walk
outside, smoking a cigar.

"Because Miss Beresford was there," says Brian, breaking a grape
languidly from the bunch he holds in his hand.

"_What!_" says Mr. Desmond, facing him.

"Because Miss Beresford was there."

"What am I to understand by that?"

"That she was there, I suppose," says Brian, laughing, "and that I am
head over ears in love with her."

"How dare you say such a thing as that to me?" says the squire, pushing
back his chair and growing a lively purple. "Are you going to tell me
next you mean to marry her?"

"I certainly do," says Brian; "and," with a glance of good-humored
defiance at the squire, "I'm the happiest man in the world to-day
because she last night told me she'd have me."

"You shan't do it!" says the squire, now almost apoplectic. "You shan't
do it!--do you hear? I'm standing in your poor father's place, sir, and
I _forbid_ you to marry one of that blood. What! marry the
daughter--of--of--" something in his throat masters him here,--"the
niece of Priscilla Blake, a woman with a tongue! Never!"

"My dear George, you wouldn't surely have me marry a woman _without_
one?"

"I think all women would be better without them; and as for Priscilla
Blake's, I tell you, sir, Xantippe was an angel to her. I insist on your
giving up this idea at once."

"I certainly shan't give up Miss Beresford, if that is what you mean?"

"Then I'll disinherit you!" roars the squire. "I will, I swear it! I'll
marry myself. I'll do something desperate!"

"No, you won't," says Brian, laughing again; and going over to the old
man, he lays his hands upon his shoulders and pushes him gently back
into his chair. "When you see her you will adore her, and she sent her
love to you this morning, and this, too," laying a photograph of Monica
before the Squire, who glances at it askance, as though fearful it may
be some serpent waiting to sting him for the second time; but, as he
looks, his face clears.

"She is not like her mother," he says, in a low tone.

"I never met such a remorseful old beggar," thinks Desmond, with wonder;
but just at this moment a servant enters with a message to the squire;
so the photograph is hastily withdrawn, and the conversation--or rather
discussion--comes to an end.

"Two of the tenants are asking to see you, sir," says the butler,
confidentially.

"What two?"

"Donovan, from the East, and Moloney, from the Bog Road, sir."

"Very well; show Moloney into the library, and tell Donovan to wait
downstairs until I send for him."

"Yes, sir."

"Well, Moloney, come to pay your rent?" says the squire, cheerfully,
entering the library and gazing keenly at the man who is awaiting him
there. He is a fellow of ordinary build, with a cringing, servile
expression and shifting eyes. He smiles apologetically, and shuffles
uneasily from one foot to the other as he feels the squire's eye upon
him.

"No, sir; I can't bring it, sir. I'd be in dhread o' my life wid the
boys to do it."

"I don't know who the gentlemen in question you designate as 'the boys'
may be," says the squire, calmly. "I can only tell you that I expect my
rent from you, and intend to get it."

"That's what I come to spake about, yer honor. But the Land League is a
powerful body, an' secret too; look at the murdher o' Mr. Herbert and
that English Lord in Faynix Park, and the rewards an' all, an' what's
come of it?"

"A good deal of hanging will come of it, I trust," says The Desmond,
hopefully. "In the mean time, I am not to be detered from doing my duty
by idle threats. I thought you, Moloney, were too respectable a man to
mix yourself up with this movement."

"I'm only a poor man, sir, but my life is as good to me as another's;
an' if I pay they'll murdher me, an' what'll become o' me then? An'
besides, I haven't it, sir; 'tis thrue for me. How can I be up to time,
wid the crop so bad this year."

"It is as good a year as I have ever known for crops," says Desmond. "I
will have no excuses of that sort: either you pay me or turn out; I am
quite determined on this point."

"Ye wouldn't give me an abatement, yer honor?"

"No, not a penny. Not to men such as you, who come here to demand it as
a right and are very well to do. There are others whose cases I shall
consider; but that is my own affair, and I will not be dictated to. On
Monday you will bring me your rent, or give up the land."

"I think ye're a bit unwise to press matthers just now," says the man,
slowly, and with a sinister glance from under his knitted brows. "I
don't want to say anything uncivil to ye, sir, but--I'd take care if I
were you. The counthry is mad hot, an', now they think they've got
Gladstone wid 'em, they wouldn't stick at a trifle."

"The trifle being my assassination," says old Desmond, with a laugh. He
draws himself up, and, in spite of his ugly face, looks almost princely.
"Tut, man! don't think, after all these years among you, I am to be
intimidated: you should know me better."

The man cowers before the haughty glance the old squire casts upon him,
and retreats behind his cringing manner once again.

"I thought ye might take into considheration the fact that I'm of yer
own religion," he says cunningly.

"That you are a Protestant does not weigh with me one inch. One tenant
is as worthy of consideration as another; and, to tell the truth, I find
your Roman Catholic brethren far easier to deal with, I will have no
whining about differences of that sort. All I require is what is justly
due to me; and that I shall expect on Monday. You understand?"

"Ye're a hard man," says Moloney, with an evil glance.

"I expected you to say nothing else. All the kindness of years is
forgotten because of one denial. How often have I let you off your rent
entirely during these twenty years we have been landlord and tenant
together! There, go! I have other business to attend to. But on Monday,
remember."

"Ye won't see me that day or any other," says the fellow, insolently,
sticking his hat on his head with a defiant gesture.

"Very good. That is your own lookout. You know the consequences of your
non-arrival. Denis," to the footman, "show this man out, and send
Donovan here."

"Yes, sir."

"Well, Donovan, what is it?" says Desmond, a few minutes later, as the
library door again opens to admit the other malcontent. He is a stout,
thick-set man, with fierce eyes and a lowering brow, and altogether a
very "villanous countenance." He has mercifully escaped, however, the
hypocritical meanness of the face that has just gone. There is a
boldness, a reckless, determined daring about this man, that stamps him
as a leading spirit among men of evil minds.

"I've come here to spake to ye to-night, Misther Desmond, as man to
man," he says, with a somewhat swaggering air.

"With all my heart," says The Desmond; "but be as fair to me as I have
ever been to you and yours, and we shall come to amicable terms soon
enough."

"As to fairness," says the man, "I don't see how any landlord in Ireland
can spake of it without a blush."

Strange to say, the aggressive insolence of this man fails to rouse in
Mr. Desmond's breast the anger that the servile humility of the last
comer had brought into active being.

"Look here, Donovan," he says, "I've been a good landlord to you; and I
expect you, therefore, to be a good tenant to me. You hint that I, along
with the rest, have dealt unfairly with my people; but can you prove it?
You can lay to my charge no tales of harshness. In famine times, and
when potatoes failed, in times of misfortune and sickness, I have always
stood your friend, and the friend of every man, woman, and child on my
estate; yet now what harvest do I reap, save grossest ingratitude? yet
what more can I hope for in this most unhappy time, when blood is
unrighteously poured upon the land, and the laws of God and my queen are
set at naught?"

There is a touch of passionate old-world grandeur in the squire's face
and manner that works a sense of admiration in Donovan's breast. But it
quickly gives way to the carefully-cultivated sense of injury that has
been growing within him for months.

"Ye can talk, there's no doubt," he mutters; "but words go for little;
and the fact is, I've got no rent to pay ye."

His tone conveys the idea that he _has_ the rent, but deliberately
refuses to pay it.

"You will bring it on Monday, or I shall evict you," says the Squire
quietly. "You hear?"

"I hear," says the man, with an evil frown. "But ye can't have it all
yer own way now, Misther Desmond. There's others have a voice in the
matther."

"I don't care for innuendoes of that sort, or for any insolence
whatever; I only mean you to fully know that I must live as well as you,
and that therefore I must have my rents."

"I know well enough what ye mane," says the man, with increasing
insolence. "But I'd have you know this, that maybe before long ye'll
whistle another tune. There's them I could mention, as has their eye
upon ye, an' will keep it there till justice is done."

"Meaning, until I give up Coole itself to the mob," says the squire,
with a sneer.

"Ay, _even_ that, it may be," says the man, with unswerving defiance.

"You dare to threaten me?" says The Desmond, throwing up his head
haughtily, and drawing some steps nearer to his tenant.

"I only say what is likely to prove truth before long," returns the man,
sturdily, and giving in an inch. "That we'll have no more tyranny, but
will have a blow for our rights, if we swing for it."

"You can shoot me when and where you like," says Desmond, with a shrug.
"But I am afraid it will do you no good."

"It will be a lesson to the others," says the man between his teeth.

"To _you_ others,--yes; because it will make my heir somewhat harder on
you than I am. The Desmonds never forgive. However, that is more your
lookout than mine. A last word, though: if you were not the consummate
idiots this last revolt has proved you, you would see how you are being
led astray by a few demagogues (a butcher's boy, perchance, or an
attorney's clerk pushed by you from absolute obscurity into a
Parliament ashamed to acknowledge them), who will save their skins at
the expense of yours at the last, and who meanwhile thrive royally upon
the moneys you subscribe!"

"That's a damned lie for ye," says Donovan losing his temper altogether.

At this outbreak The Desmond rises slowly, and, ringing the bell, calmly
pares his nails until a servant comes in answer to his summons.

"Ask Mr. Brian to come here for a moment," he says, calmly, not lifting
his eyes from the fourth finger of his left hand, upon the nail of which
he is just now employed.

Brian lounging in, in a few moments, his uncle pockets his penknife,
and, waving his hand lightly in Donovan's direction, says, gravely,--

"This man, Donovan, will be one of your tenants, some time,
Brian,"--plainly, he has forgotten all about his determination to marry
again, and so dispossess his nephew of Coole and other things, or else
one glance at Monica's portrait (in which she had appeared so _unlike_
her mother) has done wonders: "it is therefore as well you should learn
his sentiments towards his landlord, especially as he is apparently the
mouthpiece of all the others. Oblige me, Donovan, by repeating to Mr.
Brian all you have just said to me."

But the man is far too clever a lawyer to commit himself before a third
party.

"I have nothing to say," he answers, sullenly, "but this, that times are
hard an' money scarce, an'----"

"We will pass over all that. It is an old story now; and, as you decline
to speak, I will just tell you again, I intend to have my rent on
Monday, and if I don't I shall evict you."

"Ay! as you evicted Ned Barry last month, throwing him on the open road,
with his wife beside him, an' a baby not a month old."

"Nonsense! the child was six months old, and Barry was better able to
pay than any tenant I have, and more willing, too, until this precious
Land League tampered with him. He has proved he had the money since, by
paying a sum to Sullivan yonder for board and lodging that would have
kept him in his own house for twice the length of time he has been
there. I know all about it: I have made it my business to find it out."

"Ye're mighty well informed entirely," says Donovan with a wicked sneer.

"If you can't keep a civil tongue in your head, you had better leave
this room," says Brian, flushing darkly and making a step towards him.

"Who are _you_, to order me about?" says the man, with a fierce glance.
"Ye're not my master yet, I can tell ye, an' maybe _ye never will be_."

"Leave the room," says Brian, white with rage, pointing imperiously to
the door.

"Curse ye!" says the man; yet, warned by the expression on Brian's face,
he moves in a rebellious manner to the door, and so disappears.

       *       *       *       *       *

"They are the most unpleasant peasantry in the world," says the squire,
some hours later,--the words coming like a dreary sigh through the
clouds of tobacco-smoke that curl upwards from his favorite meershaum.

He and Brian and Owen Kelly are all sitting in the library, the scene of
the late encounter, and have been meditating silently upon many matters,
in which perhaps Love has the largest share, considering his votaries
are two to one, when the squire most unexpectedly gives way to the
speech aforesaid.

"The women are very handsome," says Mr. Kelly.

"Handsome is as handsome does," says the squire with a grunt.

"Don't the Protestant tenants pay?" asks Owen, presently, who is in a
blissful state of ignorance about the tenant-right affair generally.

"They're just the worst of the lot," says old Desmond, testily: "they
come whimpering here, saying they would gladly pay, but that they are
afraid of the others, and won't I let them off? and so forth."

"I wonder," says Brian, dreamily,--it is very late, and he is in a
gently, kindly, somnolent state, born of the arm-chair and his pipe,--"I
wonder if one was to give in to them entirely, would they be generous
enough to----"

"If you can't talk sense," interrupted his uncle, angrily, "don't talk
at all. I am surprised at you, Brian! Have you seen or noticed nothing
all these years, have you been blind to the state of the country, that
you give sound to such utter trash? Pshaw! the weakly sentiment of the
day sickens me."

"But suppose one was to humor them. I am not alluding to you, my dear
George," to his uncle,--"I know you have humored them considerably,--but
I mean landlords generally: would not peace be restored? That fellow
Donovan to-day was beyond doubt impertinent to the last degree; but of
course he meant nothing: they would, I should think, hesitate, in their
own interest, before falling foul of you."

"You don't understand them as I do," says the squire, slowly.

"I still think peace, and not war, should be instilled into them," says
Brian. "Too many landlords are harsh and unyielding in an aggravated
degree, when a little persuasion and a few soft words would smooth
matters. They, of course, are visited with the revenge of the League,
whilst such as you escape."

These complacent words are still upon his lips, he has had time to lean
back in his chair with the languid air of one who has given to the world
views not admitting of contradiction, when a sharp whirring noise is
heard, followed by a crash of broken glass and the dull thud of a bullet
that has found its home in the wall right opposite the squire. Right
opposite Brian, too, for they had been side by side with Owen Kelly,
fortunately not _quite_, but very nearly, opposite.

For a moment nobody quite knows what has happened, so sudden is the
thing; and then they spring to their feet, full of the knowledge that a
bullet has been fired into their midst.

It had passed right over The Desmond's shoulder, close to his ear,
_between_ him and Brian, and had grazed the sleeve of Kelly's coat, who,
as I have said, was sitting _almost_ opposite.

With an oath Brian rushes to the window, tears open the shutters, throws
up the sash, and jumps down into the garden, followed by Kelly and the
Squire.

It is a dark night, murky and heavy with dense rain-laden clouds, and so
black as to render it impossible to see one's hand before one. Search
after a while is found to be impossible and the cowardly would-be
assassin so far is safe from arrest. Dispirited and indignant, they
return to the room they left, to discuss the outrage.

"Now, who will preach to me of peace again?" says the squire turning to
Brian a face pale with excitement.

"Not I," says Brian, with a face pale as his own, and eyes that burn
fiercely with the wrath of an incomplete revenge.

"I retract every foolish word I said a few minutes since. Henceforth it
shall be war to the knife between me and my tenantry, as well as yours."

"War to the bullet would be more in harmony," says Mr. Kelly, seriously.
He has extracted the bullet in question from the wall with the aid of a
stout penknife, and is now regarding it mournfully as it lies in the
palm of his hand. "Don't you think they take a very unfair advantage of
you?" he says, mildly. "They come here and shoot at you; why don't you
go to their cabins and shoot at them?"

"Let them keep their advantage," says Brian, disdainfully. "We shall
conquer at last, no matter how many lives it costs us."

"At all events, they won't get a glimpse of the white feather _here_,"
says the squire, who is looking quite ten years younger. There is
nothing like a row for an Irishman, after all.

"Still, I think I wouldn't sit with my back to that window any more, if
I were you," suggests Mr. Kelly, meekly, seeing the squire has sunk into
his usual seat again.

"It will be a bad winter, I fear," says the squire shaking his head.

"A lively one, no doubt. I quite envy you. I should rather like to stay
here and see you through it. My dear sir, if you and that enormous chair
are inseparables, let me entreat you to move it at least a _little_ to
the left."

    "'I love it, I love it, and who shall dare
    To chide me from loving this old arm-chair?'"

quotes the squire, with quite a jolly laugh. "Eh? well, Kelly, this is
hardly a pleasant time to ask a fellow on a visit, and I expect you'll
be glad to get back to more civilized parts; but we'll write and tell
you how we're getting on, my lad, from time to time. That is, as long as
we are alive to do it."

"You shall hear of our mishaps," says Brian laughing too.

"It is rather inhospitable of you not to take the hint I have thrown
out," says Kelly, with a faint yawn. "_Won't_ you ask me to spend this
winter with you?"

"My _dear_ fellow, you really mean it?" says Brian, looking at him.

"Oh, yes, I really mean it. Excitement of the sort I have been treated
to to-night seldom comes in my way. I should like to see this affair
through with you."

"You're a brave lad!" says the squire; "but there is always a risk in
this kind of thing, and it is quite probable you will have the roof
burned over your head one of these dark nights to come. You will have to
chance that if you stay, as I intend to persevere with these
blackguardly tenants and fight it out with them to the last."

"To the very last," says Brian, regarding his friend meaningly.

"That's why I'm staying," returns his friend, languidly. Which is half,
but not the whole, truth, as the fact that Mrs. Bohun and her cousin
Hermia are going to spend the winter at Aghyohillbeg has a good deal to
do with it too.



CHAPTER XXVI.

  How rations fall short in the enemy's camp; and how Monica, armed
  with a strange ammunition, marches into the hostile land.


"Did ye hear, miss? Oh, faix, there's terrible news, ma'am!" says old
Timothy, trotting into the breakfast-room at Moyne the following
morning, his face pale with excitement.

"You alarm me, Ryan! what is it?" says Miss Priscilla, laying down her
fork.

"Oh, it's beyant everything, ma'am! Oh, the blackguards o' the world! It
was last night, miss, it happened. The ould squire, there below, was
sittin' in his library, as paceable as ye plaze, ma'am, when they fired
a bullet at him, an' shot him an' wounded Misther Brian----No, be the
powers, I b'lave I'm wrong; they kilt Misther Brian an' wounded the
Squire; an' there's the greatest commotion ye iver see down below,
miss."

For one awful moment Monica thinks she is going to faint. A mist rises
between her and Timothy's face; his voice sounds far away, in the next
county as it were, and then ceases altogether. Then a sharp sting of
pain rushing through her veins rouses her, and sends the blood back with
a tumultuous haste to cheek and neck and brow. The pain is short but
effective, and is, indeed, nothing more than a pinch of a pronounced
type, administered by the watchful Kit, with a promptitude very
creditable to her.

"He is exaggerating," says the astute Kit, in a subdued whisper
apparently addressed to her plate. "Don't believe him; take courage;
and, at all events, remember their eyes are upon you!" Her tone is great
with mystery and kindly encouragement. More revived by it than even by
the pinch, Monica takes heart of grace, and listens with maddening
impatience for what is yet to come. Glancing at Miss Priscilla, she can
see that her aunt is as pale as death, and that her hands are trembling
excessively. Miss Penelope is looking with anxiety at her, whilst trying
to elicit the truth from Ryan.

"Collect yourself, Ryan," she says, severely. "Who was killed?"

"No one outright, I'm tould, miss,--but----"

"Then who is wounded?"

"The bullet went right through them, miss."

"Through _both_! But that is impossible. I must beg you again to collect
yourself, Timothy; all this is most important, and naturally Miss
Blake--that is, _we_--are much upset about it. Through whom did the
bullet go?"

"The ould squire an' his nephew, miss."

"Through their bodies?" cries Miss Penelope, throwing up hope and both
her hands at the same time.

"No, ma'am, jist between them, as it might be between you an' Miss
Priscilla now." He illustrates the real truth as he says this.

"Bless me, man! sure they weren't touched at all so," says Miss
Penelope.

"No more they were, miss. Sorra a bit, praise be----"

"Then why did you say they were killed?" says Terence, indignantly, who
has been stricken dumb by the appalling fate of his dear Desmond.

"An' sure how much nearer could they be to it? What saved thim, but
maybe the hitch of a chair? Oh! wirrasthrue this day!" says old Ryan,
beginning to cry.

"Timothy sit down directly. Terence get him a glass of whiskey," says
Miss Penelope. "Now, don't excite yourself, Timothy; you know it is very
bad for you at your age. Take time, now. Collect yourself!"

"Have the assassins been discovered?" asks Miss Priscilla, in a
trembling tone.

"No, miss. But I'm tould the polis is very eager afther 'em."

"Was nobody hurt, Timothy?"

"No one, ma'am."

Here Monica, feeling the relief greater than she can support, gives way
to a dry but perfectly audible sob.

"Don't be afeard, miss, dear," says old Ryan, with heartfelt but most
ill-judged sympathy: "the _young gentleman_ is all right. Not a single
scratch on him, they say; so you needn't be cryin' about him, honey."

"Miss Monica is in no wise anxious about Mr. Brian Desmond," says Miss
Priscilla, recovering from her nervousness with as much haste as though
she had been subjected to an electric shock. "She is only distressed--as
I am--by these lawless proceedings."

"An' we hear they're boycotted, too, ma'am," says old Ryan, still
oppressed with news that must be worked off. "John Bileman, the
Protestant baker in the village they always dealt wid, has been
forbidden to give 'em another loaf, and the butcher is threatened if he
gives 'em a joint, an' the Clonbree butcher has been telegraphed to
also, miss, an' there's the world an' all to pay!"

"Do you mean that they are going to treat him as they did Mr. Bence
Jones?" says Miss Penelope, indignantly.

"Troth, I believe so, ma'am."

"Will Mr. Brian have to milk the cows?" says Terence, at which
astounding thought both he and Kit break into merry laughter until
checked by Monica's reproachful gaze. How _can_ they laugh when Brian
may be _starving_?

"Faix, it's awful, miss; an' the ould man to be wantin' for things
now,--he that allus kep' a fine table, to spake truth of him, and liked
his bit an' sup amazin', small blame to him. I'm thinkin' 'tis hungry
enough he'll be now for the future, the crathur! Oh, wirra! wirra!" says
Timothy, sympathetically, as he shambles towards the door.

When he is gone, Miss Priscilla turns upon Terence and Kit.

"I must say, I think your mirth at such a time most unseemly," she says.
"I am glad Monica takes no part in it. Terence, did you go up to the
widow Driscoll with my message this morning?"

"Yes, aunt."

She had evidently expected him to say "no," because her tone is
considerably mollified when she speaks again.

"Was she pleased, do you think?"

"Yes, aunt."

"She said so, perhaps?"

"No, aunt."

"Then what _did_ she say? I wish, my dear boy, you would try to be a
little less reticent."

"She said, 'Her duty to you, aunt, and her very coarse veins were worse
than ever.'"

"Varicose, Terence--varicose!"

"She said very coarse, aunt, and I suppose she knows more about them
than any one else."

He has a very sweet face, and it is more than usually so as he says all
this.

"And her son, how is he, poor soul?" asks Miss Penelope, as Miss
Priscilla withdraws, beaten, into the background.

"His duty to you, too, and 'he is better, but has been much afflicted
with the egg-cups for the last two days.'"

"_The what!_" says Miss Penelope, shifting her _pinceneze_ uneasily, and
looking perplexed in the extreme.

"Oh, Terry! how can you be so silly?" says Kit, with another merry
laugh.

"How am I silly?" with an impassible countenance. "Young Driscoll is
silly, of course, and evidently looks upon part of the breakfast-ware as
enemies of some sort. But that is not _my_ fault."

"Hiccoughs he must have meant, my dear," says Miss Priscilla, hastily.
"Dear--dear--dear! what a terrible shock he--they--must have got last
night at Coole!"

       *       *       *       *       *

When day is deepening into eventide, Monica, finding Kit alone, kneels
down beside her, and lays her cheek to hers.

All day long she has been brooding miserably over her lover's danger,
and dwelling with foolish persistency upon future dangers born of her
terrified imagination.

She had been down to their trysting-place at the river, hardly hoping to
find him there, yet had been terribly disappointed when she had _not_
found him, Brian at that very moment being busy with police and
magistrates and law generally.

"What is it, ducky?" says Kit, very tenderly, laying down her book and
pressing her pretty sister close to her.

"Kit," says Monica, with tearful eyes, "_do_ you think it is all true
that Timothy said this morning about their--their _starving_ at Coole?
Oh Kit, I can't bear to think he is _hungry_!"

"It is dreadful! I don't know what to think," says Kit. "If nobody will
sell them anything, I suppose they have nothing to eat."

At this corroboration of her worst fears, Monica dissolves into tears.

"I couldn't eat my chicken at lunch, thinking of him," she sobs. "It
stuck in my throat."

"Poor sweet love!--it _was_ dry," says Kit, expanding into the wildest
affection. She kisses Monica fondly, and (though you would inevitably
have suffered death at her hands had you even hinted at it) is beginning
to enjoy herself intensely. Once again this luckless couple look to
_her_ for help. She is to be the one to raise them from their "Slough of
Despond,"--difficult but congenial task! "Then you have been existing on
lemon tart and one glass of sherry since breakfast time?" she says, with
the deepest commiseration. "Poor darling! I saw it; I noticed you ate
nothing _except_ the tart. You liked that, didn't you?"

"I didn't," says Monica. "I _hated_ it. And I was a cruel, cold-hearted
wretch to _touch_ it. But it was sweet--and--I--it--somehow
disappeared."

"It did," says Kit, tenderly.

"Oh, Kit, help me!"

"You mean you want to take him something wherewith to stave off the
pangs of hunger," says the younger Miss Beresford, with that grandeur of
style she usually affects in moments of strong excitement, and with the
vigor that distinguishes her. "I see; certainly." She grows abstracted.
"There's a leg of mutton hanging in the larder, with some fowl, and a
quarter of lamb," she says, presently. "But I suppose if we took _them_,
Aunt Priscilla would put us in the hue and cry."

"It mustn't be thought of. No, no; think of something else."

"Bread, then. Ordinary, of course, very ordinary, but yet the staff of
life."

"I _couldn't_ take him anything so nasty as mere bread," says Monica, in
despair. "But, if cook would make us a cake----"

"A big one, with currants! The very _thing_!" says Kit, with decision.
"And she will never betray us. Reilly, in little affairs of this
kind,--though sadly wanting where soups are concerned,--is quite all she
ought to be."

"When will it be baked? He _must_ get it to-night," says Monica, who is
evidently afraid her lover, if not succored, will die of want before
morning.

"Leave all to me," says Kit, flitting away from her through the
gathering gloom to seek the lower region and its presiding goddess.

Leaving all to Kit means that when dinner is over, about half-past
eight, the two Misses Beresford may be seen crossing the boundary that
divides Moyne from Coole with anxious haste and a hot cake.

This last is hugged to Monica's breast, and is plainly causing her the
greatest inconvenience. It is a _huge_ cake, and has to be carried
parcelwise, being much too big for the smaller basket they had, and
much too small for the bigger. But Monica--though it is heavy beyond
description (though, I hope, light in every other way for the sake of
Reilly's reputation) and still appallingly _hot_--trudges along with it
bravely, resisting all Kit's entreaties to be allowed to share the
burden.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Who are those coming towards us through the elms down there?" says Mr.
Kelly, suddenly.

He and Brian Desmond are sitting upon a garden seat outside the
dining-room windows, enjoying an after dinner cigar.

"There?" says Brian, following his glance. "Eh?--What?" There is a
second pause, then, rising to his feet with much precipitancy, he flings
his cigar to the winds, and, before Owen has time to recover from his
astonishment at these proceedings, is well out of sight. A turn in the
lawn has hidden Brian and the advancing figures from his view.

"Monica!" says Desmond, as he reaches her; "what has brought you here at
this hour? My darling! how pale and tired you look!"

"She has been much perturbed," says Kit, solemnly. She has been
meditating this remark for some time.

"We heard all about last night," murmurs Monica, with a sweet troubled
face, out of which her eyes look into his, full of a tender pathos, like
violets drowned. "And you were not at the river this afternoon, and so I
came here to find you, and----" Her voice trembles ominously.

"I was obliged to be with the sergeant and the other men all day," says
Desmond, hurriedly. "Do not blame me, my _love_. When I went to the
river towards evening it was then of course too late. I meant to go up
to Moyne when the moon was up----But what have you got there, dearest?"
pointing to the enormous thing she is still holding tightly to her
breast.

She colors and hesitates; seeing which, the faithful Kit comes once more
to the rescue.

"It's a cake!" she says, with a nod of her sleek head. "We knew of you
being boycotted, and we thought you would be hungry, so we brought it to
you. But," eyeing him with disfavor, and as one might who feels herself
considerably _done_, "you are evidently not. You are looking just the
same as ever, and not a bit _pinched_ or _drawn_, as people are when
they are found starved in garrets."

"Yes, I was afraid you would get nothing to eat," says Monica, timidly.
There is in her lovely eyes a certain wistfulness suggestive of the
idea that she hopes her cake has not been made in vain.

Mr. Desmond, seeing it, grasps the situation.

"I _am_ hungry," he says; and I hope, and think, the gentle lie will be
forgiven him. "We have had nothing in the house all day but bread, and
that is not appetizing."

"_There!_" says Monica, turning to Kit with sparkling eyes, "I _told_
you he wouldn't like bread."

"But," goes on Desmond, with a view to making her future happier,
"to-morrow all will be right again. We know of a few faithful people who
will smuggle us in all we may require. So do not be unhappy about me
again. Sweetheart, what a terrible weight you have been carrying!"

"It _is_ a fine one, isn't it?" says Kit. "But give it to me now,
Monica," taking the cake from her, "while you talk to Brian: when you
are ready to come home, I can give it to him."

So saying, this inestimable child withdraws herself and Monica's
offering to a safe distance, and pretends for the remainder of the
interview an absorbing interest in some wild flowers growing near.

"I have only a moment to stay," says Monica, nervously. "I shall be
missed; and now I have _seen_ you safe and unhurt," with a very sweet
smile, "I shall be able to sleep. But all day long I have been haunted
by timid thoughts," she sighs.

"I doubt it was a sorry day for you, that first one when we met," says
Desmond, remorsefully. "I have brought you only trouble. By and by you
will regret you ever knew me."

"Do not say that. I have no regrets,--none! Even if--if--we cannot be--"
reddening vividly, "more to each other than we are now, I can still be
happy in the thought that you love me and are near me, and that I can
sometimes, in spite of _every one_--" with a recklessness that sits very
funnily upon her--"see you."

"But we shall be more to each other, Monica," says the young man,
earnestly. "We shall be all in all to each other. No human being has the
right to separate two hearts for the sake of a mere whim."

"There are so many things. But now, indeed, I must go. Good-night."

"Good-night, my own. But I shall go with you as far as the boundary
fence."

"No, no, indeed!"

"But indeed I shall!" and of course he has his own way, and parts from
her and Kit there, and answers her parting injunction "to take care of
himself for _her_ sake"--this last very low--with a lingering lover's
kiss, and watches the two slight figures with a beating heart, until
they are out of sight.

Then, picking up the cake, he goes back again to where Mr. Kelly is
still awaiting him.



CHAPTER XXVII.

  How Monica's gift receives due attention, and is thoroughly
  appreciated; and how a torpedo falls into a morning-room at Moyne.


"Well," says Kelly, "was it Miss Beresford?"

"Yes, and her sister. I saw them back to the boundary fence, but they
would let me go no farther. It was rather----"

"What on earth have you got there?" says his friend, sticking his
eyeglass in his eye, and staring with bent head and some suspicion at
the mysterious thing in Desmond's arms.

"This! oh, ah! yes." Then, desperately, "Kelly, if you laugh at it I'll
never forgive you."

Mr. Kelly drops the eyeglass and looks afflicted.

"My dear fellow, do I _ever_ laugh?" he says.

"Well, it--it's _a cake_!" says Brian, who (in spite of the warning just
delivered to his friend) is now indulging in wild mirth and can scarcely
speak for laughter. "She--Monica--heard we were boycotted, and, thinking
we were starving, the dear angel! she brought this up herself to us."

"Desmond, I'm ashamed of you," says Kelly, who has not moved a muscle of
his face. "Such an action as hers calls for reverence,--not this
unseemly gayety."

"It's not the action I'm laughing at," says Brian, still convulsed;
"it's the _cake_. The action is divine--the cake hot!" Here he sinks
upon the garden-seat again, as if exhausted, and dries his eyes.

"I see nothing to laugh at in that, either. It seems an excellent cake,
and, as you say, _hot_," says Mr. Kelly, prodding it meditatively with
his finger,--"a merit in a cake of this sort, I should say; and nicely
browned, too, as far as I can see. I can see, too, that it is quite the
biggest cake I ever made acquaintance with. _Another_ merit! Did she
carry it herself all the way?"

"All the way, poor darling! and just because she was afraid we should
be hungry." Mr. Desmond's laughter has subsided, and he now looks rather
absent. "It quite weighed her down," he says, in a low tone.

"Poor child! I said yesterday, you remember, that I thought her one of
the nicest girls I have met. The cake has finished me. I think her now
_the_ nicest." He says this with a cheerful conscience. Between girls
and widows a deep margin lies.

"But what are we to do with it?" says Brian, regarding the cake, which
is now lying upon the garden seat, with a puzzled expression.

"Say a repentant tenant--no, that sounds like tautology--say a
remorseful tenant brought it to you."

"That wouldn't do at all."

"Then say you found it in the garden."

"Nonsense, Kelly! they don't _grow_. Think of something more plausible."

"Give me time, then." As he speaks he absently breaks off a piece of the
cake and puts it in his mouth. Desmond, in quite as abstracted a manner,
does likewise. Silence ensues.

"I think the idea was so sweet," says Desmond, presently, his thoughts
being (as they should be) with Monica.

"As honey and the honeycomb!" says Mr. Kelly, breaking off another
piece, with a far-off, rapt expression.

"She said she couldn't be happy, thinking we were hungry. Her dear heart
is too big for her body."

"Her cake is certainly," says Mr. Kelly: here he takes a third enormous
pinch out of it, and Desmond follows his example.

"I didn't tell her we had had dinner," says Brian. "It would have taken
the gloss off it."

"Off this?" pointing to the smoking structure between them. "I don't
believe it."

"No, the deed."

Another silence.

"It's a capital cake," says Mr. Kelly, pensively, who has been eating
steadily since the first bite. "After all, give me a good sweet,
home-made cake like this! Those bought ones aren't to be named in the
same day with it. There is something so light and wholesome about a cake
like this."

"Wholesome!" doubtfully: "I don't know about that. What _I_ like about
it is that it is hot and spongy. But, look here, you haven't yet said
what we are to do with it."

"I think we are doing uncommonly well with it," says Kelly, breaking off
another piece.

"But what are we to do with the remains, provided we leave any, which at
present seems doubtful?"

"Keep, them, of course. You ought to, considering she gave it you whole
as a present."

"You are right: no one shall touch a crumb of it save you and me," says
Mr. Desmond, as though inspired. "Let us smuggle it up to my room and
keep it there till it is finished."

"I feel as if I was at school again with a plum-cake and a chum," says
Mr. Kelly.

"Well, come and follow me up with it now, and distract my uncle's
attention if we meet him."

"To _my_ room or yours?" insinuatingly.

"To _mine_," firmly.

"I'd take the greatest care of it, if you like to trust it to me," with
what Kit would certainly have termed "an obliging air."

"I don't doubt you," sardonically. "But certainly _not_. It was given to
me, and I feel myself bound to look after it."

"Pity we can't have it petrified," says Mr. Kelly, thoughtfully. "Then
you might hang it round your neck as a trophy." At this they both laugh,
and finally the trophy, after much difficulty is satisfactorily stored
away.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is a fortnight later, and desolation has overtaken Monica. Brian has
passed out of her active life, has ceased from that seeing and hearing
and that satisfaction of touch that belong to a daily intercourse with
one beloved. Only in thought can she find him now. He has gone upon that
threatened journey to those detested estates of his in Westmeath.

Yesterday he went; and to-day as she wakes it seems to her that a cold
and cruel mist has wrapped her world in its embrace. We never know how
we prize a thing until we lose it (N. B.--Mark the novelty of this
idea;) and now, for the first time, Monica finds herself fully awake to
the fact of how necessary Desmond is to her everyday happiness.

She had gone down to the river-side to bid him farewell, and had been
calm, almost careless, throughout the interview,--_so_ calm that the
young man's heart dies within him, and a latent sense of hope deferred
had made it sick.

But just at the very last she had given way, and had flung herself into
his embrace, and twined her arms around his neck,--dear, clinging
arms--and had broken into bitter weeping. And--

"Don't be long, Brian! don't be _long_!" she had sobbed, with deep
entreaty, and with such a tender passion as had shaken all her slender
frame.

So they had "kissed and kissed," and parted. And Desmond, though sad as
man may be at the thought that he should look upon her face no more for
four long weeks, still left her with a gladder heart than he had ever
known. Her tears were sweet to him, and in her grief he found solace for
his own.

And, indeed, as the days flew by, they found the pain of absence was
checkered by dreams of the reunion that lay before them; and each day,
as it was born, and grew, and died, and so was laid upon the pile of
those already gone, was a sad joy to them, and counted not so much a day
lost as one gained.

"We take no note of time but from its loss." This loss in the present
instance was most sweet to Monica and her lover. To them Time was the
name of a slow and cruel monster, whose death was to be desired.

And now the monster is slain, and to-day Brian will return to Coole. A
few lines full of joyful love and glad expectancy had been brought to
her yesterday by the sympathetic Bridget, who affected an ignorance
about the whole matter that utterly imposed on Monica, who would have
found a bitterness in sharing her heart's secret with her maid. Yet
Bridget knows quite as much about it as she does. To Kit alone has
Monica unburdened her soul, and talked, and talked, and talked, on her
one fond topic, without discovering the faintest symptom of fatigue in
that indefatigable person.

Yes, to-day he comes! Monica had risen with the lark, unable to lie abed
with the completion of a sweet desire lying but a few short hours away
from her, and had gone through the morning and afternoon in a dreamy
state of tender anticipation.

Yet surely not short, but of a terrible length, are these hours. Never
has the old clock ticked with such maddening deliberation; yet--

    "Be the day weary, or never so long,
    At length it ringeth to evensong;"

and at last the old clock, tick it never so slowly, must bring round the
hour when she may go down to the river to meet her love again.

But the relentless Fates are against her, and who shall interfere with
their woven threads? As though some vile imp of their court had
whispered in Miss Priscilla's ear the whole story of her forbidden
attachment, she keeps Monica in the morning-room with her, copying out
certain recipes of a dry nature, that could have been copied just as
well to-morrow, or next year, or _never_.

As the hour in which she ought to meet her lover comes and goes by, the
poor child's pulses throb and her heart beats violently. Kit has gone to
the village, and so cannot help her. All seems lost. Her eyes grow large
and dark with repressed longing, her hand trembles.

"There, that will do, dear child; thank you," says Miss Priscilla,
gratefully, folding up the obnoxious papers and slipping them into the
davenport.

It is now quite half an hour past the time appointed by Desmond in his
letter. Monica, rising impetuously, moves towards the door.

"Is the writing at an end?" Miss Penelope's voice comes to her from the
other end of the room, with a plaintive ring in it. It casts despair
upon the hopes that are kindling afresh within her bosom. "Dear, dear!
I'm so glad! Monica, come to me, and help me with this wool. It has got
so entangled that only bright eyes like yours," with a loving smile,
"can rescue it from its hopeless state."

Poor Monica! after one passionate inclination to rebel, her courage
fails her, and she gives in, and taking the tangled skein of wool (that
reminds her in a vague, sorrowful fashion of her own hapless love story)
between her slender fingers, bends over it.

Her cheeks are aflame. Her eyes are miserable but tearless. It all seems
too cruel. There sits Aunt Priscilla at the davenport, with a smile of
triumph on her lips, as she finds her accounts right to a halfpenny.
Here sits Aunt Penelope fanning herself with soft complacency, because
the day, though of September, is sultry as of hot July. And all this
time Brian is walking impatiently to and fro upon the tiny beach,
thinking her cold, unloving, indifferent, watching with straining,
reproachful eyes the path along which she ought to come.

This last thought is just too much. A great fire kindles in her
beautiful eyes; the spirit of defiance seizes on her gentle breast; her
lips quiver; her breath comes from between them with a panting haste.
"Yes! she will go to him, she will!" She rises to her feet.

Just at that moment the door is flung wide open, and Desmond enters the
room.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

  How the Misses Blake receive the nephew of their sworn foe--How
  Monica at all hazards proclaims her truth--And how Miss Priscilla
  sees something that upsets her and the belief of years.


One moment of coma ensues. It is an awful moment, in which nobody seems
even to breathe. The two Misses Blake turn into a rigidity that might
mean stone; the young man pauses irresolutely, yet with a sternness
about his lips that bespeaks a settled purpose not to be laid aside for
any reason, and that adds some years to his age.

Monica has turned to him. The tangled wool has fallen unconsciously from
her hands to her feet. Her lips are parted, her eyes wide: she sways a
little. Then a soft rapturous cry breaks from her, there is a
simultaneous movement on his part and on hers; and then--she is in his
arms.

For a few moments speech is impossible to them: there seems nothing in
the wide world but he to her, and she to him.

Then he lifts her face, and looks at her long and eagerly.

"Yes, I have found you again, my love,--_at last_," he says.

"Ah! how long it has seemed!" whispers she, with tears in her eyes.

The old ladies might have been in the next county, so wrapt are they in
their happy meeting. Their hearts are beating in unison; their souls are
in their eyes. She has reached her home,--his breast,--and has laid her
heart on his. The moment is perfect, and as near heaven as we poor
mortals can attain until kindly death comes to our aid.

It is but a little moment, however. It passes, and recollection returns.
Monica, raising her head, sees the two Misses Blake standing side by
side, with folded, nerveless hands, and fixed eyes, and horror-stricken
faces. Shrinking still closer to her lover, Monica regards them with a
troubled conscience and with growing fear. She is at last discovered,
and her sin is beyond redemption.

She trembles in Desmond's arms, and pales visibly. But the frantic
beating of her heart against his renders him strong and bold. He throws
up his head, with the action of one determined to fight to the death.
No one shall ever take her from him. He is only too anxious to enter the
lists and do battle for his love.

And then, as his eyes light upon his foes, his spirit dies. Poor old
ladies, so stupefied, so stricken! are they not already conquered?
Looking at the frail front they present, he feels his weapons must be
blunted in this fight, his gloves anything but steel.

A terrible silence fills the room,--a silence that grows almost
unbearable, until at length it is broken by Miss Priscilla. Her voice is
low, and hushed and broken.

"Monica, why did you deceive us?" she says.

There is reproach, agonized disappointment, in her tone, but no anger.

To these poor old women the moment is tragical. The child of their last
years--the one thing they had held most dear and sacred--has proved
unworthy, has linked herself with the opposition, has entered the lists
of the enemy. They are quite calm, though trembling. Their grief is too
great for tears. But they stand together, and there is a lost and
heart-broken look about them.

Monica, seeing it, breaks away from her lover's restraining arms, and,
running to Miss Priscilla, falls down on her knees before her, and,
clasping her waist with her soft, white arms, bursts into bitter tears.
She clings to Miss Priscilla; but the old lady, though her distress is
very apparent, stands proudly erect, and looks not at her, but at
Desmond. The tears gather slowly in her eyes--tears come ever slowly to
those whose youth lies far behind--and fall upon the repentant sunny
head; but the owner shows no sign of forgiveness; yet I think she would
have dearly liked to take the sweet sinner in her arms, to comfort and
forgive her, but for the pride and wounded feeling that overmastered
her.

"Your presence here, sir, is an insult," she says to Desmond, meaning to
be stern; but her grief has washed away the incivility of her little
speech and has left it only vaguely reproachful. Desmond lowers his head
before her gaze, and refrains from answer or explanation. A great sorrow
for the defencelessness of _their_ sorrow has arisen in his breast for
these old aunts, and killed all meaner thoughts. I think he would have
felt a degree of relief if they had both fallen upon him, and said hard
things to him, and so revenged themselves in part.

Monica is sobbing bitterly. Not able to endure her grief, Desmond,
going even to the feet of Miss Priscilla, tries to raise her from the
ground. But she clings even more closely to Miss Priscilla, and so
mutely refuses to go to him.

A pang, a sudden thought, shoots through him, and renders him desperate.
Will they be bad to his poor little girl when he is gone? will they
scold her?

"Oh, madam," he says to Miss Priscilla, with a break in his voice,
"_try_ to forgive her; be gentle with her. It was all my fault,--mine
entirely. I loved her, and when she refused to hear me plead my cause,
and shrunk from me because of that unhappy division that separates my
family from yours, and because of her reverence for your wishes, I still
urged her, and induced her to meet me secretly."

"You did an evil deed, sir," says Miss Priscilla.

"I acknowledge it. I am altogether to blame," says Desmond, hastily.
"She has had nothing to do with it. Do not, I beseech you, say anything
to her when I am gone that may augment her self-reproach." He looks with
appealing eyes at Miss Blake, his hand on Monica's shoulder, who has her
face hidden in a fold of her aunt's gown.

"Sir," says Miss Priscilla, drawing herself up, with a touch of
old-world grandeur in her manner, but a sad tremulousness in her tone,
"my niece has been with us now for some time, and we have dared to hope
she has been treated in accordance with the great love we feel for her."

"The _great_ love," echoes Miss Penelope, gently. Though deeply
distressed, both old ladies are conscious of a subdued admiration for
the young man, because of the tenderness of his fears for his beloved.

"But if," says Miss Priscilla, with a mournful glance at the pretty
bowed head--"if _she_ thinks we have failed in our love towards her, as
indeed it seems it may be, by your finding it necessary to ask us to
treat her with kindness in this trouble,--we can only say to her that we
regret,--that we----" Here she breaks down, and covers her sad old face
with her trembling hands.

Monica springs to her feet.

"Oh, auntie!" she says, a world of love and reproach and penitence in
her voice. She throws her arms round her aunt's neck; and, Miss
Priscilla clasping her in turn, somehow in one moment the crime is
condoned, and youth and age are met in a fond embrace.

"Go, sir," says Miss Priscilla, presently, without lifting her eyes.
There is so much gentleness in her tone that the young man is emboldened
to ask a question.

"You will permit me to come to-morrow, to--to--plead my cause?" he says,
anxiously.

Miss Priscilla hesitates, and a pang of apprehension rushes through his
heart. He is almost in despair, when Miss Penelope's voice breaks the
oppressive silence.

"Yes. Come to-morrow," she says, pressing Miss Priscilla's arm. "To-day
we are too tired, too upset. To-morrow let it be."

"I thank you madam," says Desmond, humbly; and then he turns to go, but
still lingers, with grieved eyes fixed on Monica.

"Monica, you will give me one parting word?" he says, at last, as though
the petition is wrung from him.

Still holding Miss Priscilla's hand, she turns to him, and, raising her
other arm, places it softly round his neck. Holding them both thus, she
seems the embodiment of the spirit that must in the end unite them. Her
position compels her to throw back her head a little, and she smiles at
him, a sad little smile, but bright with love and trust.

"Not a _parting_ word," she says, with a sweetness so grave as to be
almost solemn.

"You will be true to me?" says Desmond, reckless of listeners. He has
his arms round her, and is waiting for her answer with a pale, earnest
face. Something in the whole scene touches the two kindly old maids with
a sense of tender reverence.

"Until my death," says the girl, with slow distinctness, laying her head
against the gray sleeve of his coat.

A great wave of color--born of emotion and love that is stronger than
the grave--sweeps over his face. He stoops and lays his lips on hers.
When he is gone, Monica turns suddenly upon Miss Priscilla.

"Do not say a word to me!" she cries, feverishly; "I could not bear
it--_now_. I may have done wrong, but I am not sorry for it. I love him.
That should explain everything to you; it means _all_ to me! Nothing can
alter that! And I will have nothing said,--nothing; and----"

"Nothing shall be said, dear child," says Miss Penelope, gently.
"Everything shall be as you wish with regard to us. Can you not trust us
to spare you where we _can_?"

"I am ungrateful. I must go and think it all out," says Monica,
stoutly, pressing her hands against her head. She turns away. A little
cry breaks from Miss Priscilla.

"Oh! not without kissing us _too_, Monica!" she says, in a broken voice,
holding out her arms to her niece. Monica throws herself into them.

       *       *       *       *       *

Long and eager is the discussion that follows on the girl's
disappearance.

The two Misses Blake, side by side, argue (with what they erroneously
term dispassionate calmness) the case just laid before them.

"I don't know what is to be done," says Miss Priscilla, at length: "all
I do know is that, for her sake, consent will be impossible."

"And what is to be said to him to-morrow? He looks so earnest, so--full
of her. _What_ is to be said to him?"

"So his uncle looked at her mother," says Miss Priscilla, with a
terrible bitterness; "and what came of that? Is this young man to steal
from us our best and dearest--as _he_ did? Be firm, Penelope. For her
sake crush this attachment before the fickleness that is in his blood
asserts itself to break her heart."

"I fear it will be broken either way," says Miss Penelope, who has a
secret hankering after all true lovers.

"At least her self-respect will be spared, and for that she will thank
us later on. She must give him up!"

"Priscilla," says Miss Penelope, in a low tone, "supposing she _refuses_
to do it?"

"When I have fully explained the matter to her, she will withdraw her
refusal," says Miss Priscilla, very grandly, but her expression is not
up to her tone in anyway. It is, indeed, depressed and uncertain.

"He struck me as being a very attractive young man," ventures Miss
Penelope absently.

"Humph!" says Miss Priscilla.

"And--but that would be impossible in one of his name--a very _lovable_
young man," says Miss Penelope, timidly.

"Hah!" says Miss Priscilla: this ejaculation is not meant for surprise
or acquiescence, but is merely a warlike snort.

"And very loving, too," says Miss Penelope, dreamily. "I never saw such
eyes in my life! and he never took them off her."

"Penelope," says Miss Priscilla, with such a sudden and awful amount of
vehemence as literally makes Miss Penelope jump, "I am ashamed of you.
Whatever we--that is" (slightly confused) "_you_ may think about that
young man, please keep it to yourself, and at least let me never hear
you speak of a Desmond in admiring terms."

So saying, she stalks from the rooms and drives down to the village to
execute a commission that has been hanging over her for a fortnight, and
which she chooses to-day to fulfil, if only to prove to the outer world
that she is in no wise upset by the afternoon excitement.

Yet in a very short time she returns from her drive, and with a
countenance so disturbed that Miss Penelope's heart is filled with fresh
dismay.

"What is it?" she says, following Miss Priscilla into her own room. "You
have heard something further; you have seen----"

"Yes, I have seen _him_--young Desmond," says Miss Priscilla, with an
air of much agitation. "It was just outside the village, on my way home;
and he was carrying a little hurt child in his arms, and he was hushing
it so tenderly; and--the little one was looking up in his face--and he
kissed it--and----_Why_ isn't he a _bad_, _wicked_ young man?" cries
Miss Priscilla, in a frenzy of despair, bursting into tears.



CHAPTER XXIX.

  How Miss Priscilla is driven to enter Coole--How she there receives
  an important proposal, but with much fortitude declines it--And how
  The Desmond suffers more from a twinge of conscience than from a
  bullet.


In the morning, a certain amount of constraint prevails with every one.
Kit is, of course, aware of all that has happened, and of the day's
expected visitor for Monica, who has refused to come down to breakfast,
and who is as unsettled and miserable as she well can be. Kit has
espoused her cause _con amore_, and is (I need hardly say) ready for
open war at a moment's notice. She has indeed arranged a plan of action
that will bring her on the battle-field at a critical moment to deliver
a speech culled from some old novels in her room and meant to reduce
both her aunts to annihilation.

When breakfast is over she disappears to study her part afresh, and the
Misses Blake, too, separate and go to their own rooms, with an air of
careful unconcern, that would not have imposed upon a one-year babe.

When again they reappear, they seem desirous of avoiding each other's
glances, whereupon it occurs suddenly to everybody that they have both
put on their very best silk gowns and lace caps, and have in fact got
themselves up with elaborate care to receive--a _Desmond_! No wonder
they are ashamed of themselves!

Still keeping up the outward symptoms of supreme indifference, they seat
themselves in the drawing-room, Miss Penelope attacking her knitting
with tremendous vigor, whilst Miss Priscilla gets apparently lost in the
pages of "Temple Bar." Monica, sliding in presently like a small ghost,
in her clinging white gown, slips into a seat in the window that
overlooks the avenue, and hides herself and her pretty anxious face
behind the lace curtains.

An hour glides by with aggravating slowness; and then a sound of wheels
upon the gravel makes Monica's heart beat almost to suffocation. The two
Misses Blake, suddenly forgetful of their _role_ of unconcern, start
from their seats and go to the window where Monica now is standing. A
brougham and pair of horses drive up to the door, and a young man,
opening the door, springs to the ground. It is Desmond.

"To come here in a close carriage!" says Miss Priscilla, with much
contempt. "Is he afraid of catching cold, I wonder? I never heard of
such foppery in my life."

"He is not a fop," says Monica, indignantly, and then she catches sight
of her lover's face, and something in it awakes within her a prescience
of coming evil.

Then the drawing-room door is thrown open with rather unceremonious
haste, and the young man, entering, goes straight to where Miss
Priscilla is standing, merely taking and holding Monica's hand as he
reaches her, but addressing to her neither word nor look. He seems
greatly agitated, and altogether unlike the man who stood here yesterday
and almost defied them. His face is very pale, and full of honest grief
and indignation.

"My uncle is at death's doors," he says in a voice that quivers with
rage and excitement. "Coming home late last night he was shot at by some
ruffians from behind the blackthorn hedge on the Coole road. He wants
you Miss Blake" (to Priscilla). "He is asking for you. You will not
refuse to come to a man who may be dying for all we know! I have
brought the carriage for you, and I implore you not to delay, but to
come to him at once."

Miss Priscilla has sunk into a chair, and is quite colorless; Miss
Penelope clasps her hands.

"Oh, poor George!" she says, involuntarily, almost unconsciously. His
present danger has killed remembrance of all the angry years that stand
between to-day and the time when last she called him by his Christian
name.

"When did it happen? How?" asks Monica, tightening her fingers round
his, and trembling visibly.

"About ten o'clock last evening. Both Kelly and I were with him, and a
groom. Two shots were fired. Kelly and I jumped off the dog-cart and
gave chase and succeeded in securing one of them. There were four
altogether, I think. We did not know my uncle was wounded when we ran
after them, but when we came back we found Murray the groom holding him
in his arms. He was quite insensible. I left Kelly and Murray to guard
our prisoner, and drove my uncle home myself. He is very badly hurt.
Miss Blake," turning again to Miss Priscilla, "you will come with me?"

"Oh, yes, yes," says Miss Priscilla, faintly.

"And I shall go with you, my dear Priscilla," says Miss Penelope,
heroically. "Yes, you will want me. To find yourself face to face with
him after all these years of estrangement and in so sad a state will be
distressing. It is well I should be on the spot to lend you some
support."

Miss Priscilla lays her hand on her arm.

"I think I shall go alone, Penelope," she says, falteringly. For one
moment Miss Penelope is a little surprised, and then in another moment
she is not surprised at all. But I believe in her heart she is a good
deal disappointed: there is a flavor of romance and excitement about
this expedition she would gladly have tasted.

"Well, perhaps it will be better so," she says, amiably. "I am glad he
has sent for you. He will be the easier for _your_ forgiveness, though
he cannot obtain _hers_, now. Come upstairs: you should not keep Mr.
Desmond waiting." There is a kindly light in her eyes as she glances at
the young man. And then she takes Miss Priscilla away to her room, and
helps her carefully with her toilet, and accepts the situation as a
matter of course, though in her secret soul she is filled with amazement
at The Desmond's sending for Miss Priscilla even though lying at death's
door.

And indeed when the old man had turned to Brian and asked him to bring
Miss Blake to Coole, Brian himself had known surprise too, and some
misgivings. Was he going to make her swear never to give her consent to
his (Brian's) marriage with her niece? or was he going to make open
confession of that dishonorable action which caused Miss Blake's pretty
stepsister to suffer dire tribulation, according to the gossips round?

"I should like to see Priscilla Blake," the old squire had said, in a
low whisper, his nephew leaning over him to catch the words, and then he
had muttered something about "old friends and forgiveness," that had not
so easily been understood.

"You shall see her," the younger man says, tenderly. "I'll go for her
myself. I am sure she won't refuse to come."

"_Refuse!_" There is something in the squire's whisper that puzzles
Brian.

"I am certain she will not," he repeats, mechanically, whilst trying to
translate it. But the look has faded from the old man's face, and his
tone is different, when he speaks again.

"If she is afraid to come," he says, generously, having evidently
settled some knotty point of inward discussion to his entire
satisfaction, "tell her from me that I am ready and willing to forgive
_all_."

"You mean you are anxious to obtain her forgiveness," says Brian, with
the kindly intention of assisting the old man's wandering imagination.

"Eh?" says the squire, sharply. "What d'ye mean, Brian? Speak, lad, when
I desire you."

"Look here, George! if you excite yourself like this, you know what the
consequences will be," says Brian, sharply, in his turn. "I only meant
that, as you--er--jilted their stepsister, I suppose you are anxious to
obtain their pardon, now you feel yourself pretty low. But I'd advise
you to wait and see about that when you have recovered your strength a
little."

"And you believed that old story too!" says the poor squire, forlornly.
"I didn't jilt her at all, Brian. _It was she jilted me!_"

"_What!_" says Brian, turning to see if the bullet had touched his brain
instead of his ribs.

"'Tis true. I tell you, that girl broke my heart. She was the prettiest
creature I ever saw, with soft dove's eyes, and a heavenly smile, and no
more heart than _that_," striking the post of the old-fashioned bedstead
with his uninjured arm. "I gave myself up to her, I worshipped the very
ground she walked on, and within a fortnight of our wedding she calmly
wrote to tell me she could not marry me!"

"Giving a reason?"

"No. Even _she_, I presume, could not summon sufficient courage to tell
the wretch she had deluded of her love for another. She gave me no
reason. She entreated me, however, to keep silence about the real author
of the breach between us,--that is, herself. _I_ was the one to break
off our engagement! I was to bear all the blame! She implored me to
conceal her share in it, and finally demanded of me, as a last favor,
that I would give the world to understand I had thrown _her_ over."

"A charmingly disinterested specimen of womankind," says Brian, raising
his brows.

"And this to _me_," says The Desmond, an indignant sob making his weak
voice weaker,--"a man who had always kept himself straight in the eyes
of the world. I was required to represent myself as a low, despicable
fellow, one of those who seek a woman's affections only to ignore them
at the sight of the next pretty face."

"But you refused to comply with her request?" says Brian, hastily.

"No, sir, I didn't," says the squire, shame struggling with his
excitement. "On the contrary, I gave in to her in every respect. I
believe at that time I would cheerfully have allowed myself to be
branded as a _thief_ if she had desired it and if it would have saved
her one scrap of discomfort. She was afraid of her sisters, you see. I
blamed them then, Brian, but I think now her fear of them arose from the
fact that _they_ were as true as _she_ was----Well, well!"

"This is indeed a revelation," says Brian.

"Yes; you wouldn't think they would behave like that, would you?" says
Mr. Desmond, eagerly.

"Who? The Misses Blake?" says Brian, startled.

"Yes. It wasn't like them to keep silent all these years, and let me
bear the brunt of the battle, when they knew I was innocent and that it
was their own flesh and blood who was in fault. Yet they turned their
backs upon me, and have treated me ever since as though I were in
reality the miscreant they have succeeded in making me out."

"There is a terrible mistake somewhere," says Brian. "They do verily
believe you to be the miscreant you describe."

"Brian, come here!" says the old man, in an ominously calm tone. "Do you
mean to tell me Priscilla Blake believes me guilty of having behaved
dishonestly to her sister Katherine? You positively think this?"

"I _know_ it," says Brian, who feels it is better to get out the plain
unvarnished truth at once.

"You have no doubt? Think, Brian; think."

"I needn't.--There is no doubt on my mind."

"Then she deceived us _all_," says the squire, in a stricken tone. Then
he roused himself again. He seems to have recovered his strength
wonderfully during the past hour. "Go, get me Priscilla Blake," he says.
"Hurry, boy! hurry! I must make it right with her before I die."

"Before you recover, you mean," says Brian, cheerily. "There! lie down
now, and keep yourself quiet, or you won't be looking your best when she
comes."

       *       *       *       *       *

And now Miss Priscilla has come, and is standing beside the bed of her
quondam friend, looking down upon him with dim eyes.

"I am sorry to meet you again like this, George Desmond," she says, at
last, in tones meant to be full of relentless displeasure, but which
falter strangely.

"She made as great a fool of _you_ as of _me_, Priscilla," is the
squire's answer, whose tired mind can only grasp one thought,--the
treachery of the woman he had loved! And then it all comes out, and the
letter the false Katherine had written him is brought out from a little
secret drawer, bound round with the orthodox blue ribbon, and smelling
sadly of dust, as though to remind one of all things, of warmest
sweetest love, of truest trust, and indeed of that fair but worthless
body from whose hand it came, now lying mouldering and forgotten in a
foreign land.

"Oh, I wouldn't have believed it of her!" says Miss Priscilla, weeping
bitterly. "But there must have been something wrong with her always,
though we could never see it. What an angel face she had! But the
children, they speak terribly of her, and they say--that she--and James
Beresford--did not get on at all."

"Eh?" says the squire. He rises himself on his sound elbow, and quite a
glow of color rushes into his pallid cheeks. When, with a groan of
self-contempt, he sinks back again, and the light in his eye (was it of
satisfaction?) dies.

"You have met Brian," he says presently. "What do you think of him,
Priscilla? He is a good lad,--a _very_ good lad."

"He looks it," says Miss Priscilla, shortly.

"He does," heartily. "Well, I'm told this boy of mine is in love with
your girl."

"Who told you?" says Miss Priscilla.

"Brian himself," says the Squire.

"I like that in him," says Miss Priscilla. "Well, George, if you will
look upon that as settled, so shall I."

"So be it," says the squire--"Eh, my dear? but doesn't it make us feel
old to be discussing the love-affairs of these young things, when it
seems only yesterday that we--that you and I, Priscilla----"

"That is all buried long ago: don't rake it up. It died when first your
eyes fell on _her_," says Miss Blake, hurriedly.

"I was a fool," says the squire. "But, somehow, since I have been
talking to you, I don't think I'm going to die this time, and old scenes
came back to me, and--I suppose it is too late now, Priscilla?"

There is no mistaking his meaning.

"Oh, yes; a whole lifetime too late," says Miss Priscilla, with a soft,
faint blush that would not have misbecome a maiden in her teens. "But I
am glad we are friends again, George."

She pressed his hand with real affection, and then colors again warmly,
as though afraid of having discovered herself in the act of committing
an indiscretion. Could that gentle pressure be called forward, or light,
or unseemly? Terrible thought!

"So am I, my dear," says the squire. And then again, "You won't think of
it, then, Priscilla?"

"No, no," says Miss Blake, feeling flattered at his persistence, and
then she actually laughs out loud, and The Desmond laughs too, though
feebly; and then the doctor comes in again, and Miss Priscilla goes
home, to tell Miss Penelope, in the secrecy of her chamber, and with the
solemnity that befits the occasion, all about the squire's proposal, its
reception, and its rejection.

Be assured no minutest detail is forgotten; Miss Penelope is soon in
possession of every smallest look and word connected with it, and deeply
gratifying is the manner in which the great news is received by that
gentle maiden.

"Though late in the day, Penelope," says Miss Priscilla, as a sort of
wind-up to her recital, "it was an offer of marriage _any_ woman might
be proud of, be she young or old; and he _meant_ it, too. He was quite
_pressing_. Twice he asked me, although my first was a most decided
'No.'"

"It seems terrible, your having been so cold to him, poor fellow!" says
Miss Penelope, with a regretful sigh for the griefs of the rejected
Desmond.

"What could I do?" says Miss Priscilla, with an air of self-defence.
This thought, that she can actually be accused of having treated the
sterner sex in a hardhearted fashion, is cakes and ale to her.

"We must not talk of this, Penelope," she says, presently. "It would be
unfair. It must never transpire through _us_ that George Desmond laid
his heart and fortune at my feet only to be rejected."

To her these old-world phrases sound grand and musical and full of fire
and sentiment.

"No, no," says Miss Penelope, acquiescing freely, yet with a sigh; she
would have dearly liked to tell her gossips of this honor that has been
done her dear Priscilla. And, after all, she has her wish, for the story
gets about, spread by the hero of it himself.

The squire, tired, no doubt, of keeping secrets, and perhaps (but this
in a whisper) grateful to her because of her refusal, goes about
everywhere, and tells people far and near of his offer; so that when
their friends flock to Moyne, and, giving The Desmond as their authority
for it, accuse Miss Priscilla of her refusal, and she still, with
maidenly modesty, parries their questions, Miss Penelope, feeling
herself absolved from further reticence, comes to the front and gives
them a full and true account of the wonderful event.

"Yes, Priscilla might indeed have reigned as queen at Coole had she so
wished it, and well graced the position too," winds up Miss Penelope, on
all these occasions, with much pride and dignity.

Brian, who had been busy all the morning swearing informations, and so
forth, with Mr. Kelly and the groom, before magistrates and others,
coming into his uncle's room about half an hour after Miss Blake's
departure, finds him considerably better both in mind and in body,
though feeble in spirit, as is only natural. Indeed, the bullet had done
him little harm, causing merely a flesh-wound, but the shock had been
severe to a man of his years.

"Come here, Brian; I want to tell you something," he says, as the young
man leans over him.

"You are not to talk," says his nephew, peremptorily.

"If you won't listen to me, I'll send for Bailey, the steward," says the
squire. "Nonsense! it does me good." And then he tells him all the
particulars of Miss Priscilla's visit relating to his engagement with
Katherine Beresford, with one reservation.

"It is all right between us now," he says, in a pleased tone. "She told
me everything, and it appears we were both sadly taken in, though I
don't wish to say anything against her even now. I daresay she had her
own grievances, poor soul; and indeed Priscilla said----"

Here he pauses, and a guilty flush covers his pale face. He hesitates,
and then beckons Brian to come even nearer.

"Look you, lad! I'm not quite at ease even yet. There's something wrong
here!" laying his hand upon his heart.

"Is it pain?" asks his nephew, anxiously. "I told you you were talk----"

"No, no, boy. It's only mental pain. I want to be ashamed of myself, and
I _can't_. I'm feeling a satisfaction about something that I shouldn't.
It's not right, Brian. It's not a gentlemanly feeling, but I can't curb
it. The more I think of it, the more pleased I feel. Eh? You don't look
as if you understood me."

"I don't, much," confesses Brian, seating himself on the edge of the
bed. "You see, you haven't told me what it is all about."

"It is about Katherine Beresford. Priscilla told me, and I should like
to tell you. I say, Brian, you won't throw it in my teeth, now, when I'm
better, eh?"

"I swear I won't," says Brian.

"Well, she told me Katherine had a regular _devil_ of a life with her
husband, and _I'm glad of it_! _There!_" says the squire; after which
disgraceful confession he regularly scrambles under the bedclothes, with
a view to hiding his shame and his exultation from public view.

Brian fairly roars with laughter. At the sound of his welcome mirth, the
old man slowly emerges from the sheets again, and looks at him
doubtfully, but with growing hope.

"_She_ had the best of it, of course; any one would have the best of it
with James Beresford," he says. "But she couldn't have been altogether
comfortable; that's what I mean. I don't want you to think I should
rejoice at her having received bad treatment at her husband's hands. He
had all the bad treatment to himself, I expect."

"So do I," says Brian, who is laughing still.

"And you don't think so badly of me for it?" says the Squire, anxiously.

"Not I," says Brian.

"Still, it's rather a mean sort of feeling, isn't it, now? It's very
low--eh?"

"Low or not," says Brian, with decision, "I'm perfectly certain if it
was _my_ case I should feel just like that myself."

"You're the comfort of my life, Brian," says his uncle, gratefully; and
then he indulges in a covert smile himself, after which he drops off
into a slumber, sound and refreshing.



CHAPTER XXX.

  How Madam O'Connor gives her opinion on certain subjects--How Fay
  electrifies an entire audience--And how Olga makes up her mind.


It is growing towards evening, and as yet at Aghyohillbeg they have not
grown tired of discussing the terrible event of last night.

"When I called just now, Priscilla Blake was with him," says Madam
O'Connor. "Brian told me The Desmond had sent for her. I suppose the old
quarrel about Katherine will be patched up now, and I shouldn't wonder
if our two lovers, Monica and Brian, get married quite comfortably and
in the odor of sanctity, after all."

"I suppose they couldn't have managed it without the old people's
consent," says Mrs. Herrick, who is rocking herself lazily to and fro in
a huge American chair.

"Nonsense, my dear!" says Madam, throwing up her chin. "Accredit them
with some decent spirit, I beg of you. Of course they would have got
married whether or not,--there is nothing like opposition for that kind
of thing, and no doubt would have enjoyed it all the more for the fun of
the thing, because there must be an excitement in a runaway match
unknown to the orthodox affair."

"I don't think I should like to run away," says Olga Bohun; "there is
always a difficulty about one's clothes."

"What's the good of being in love if you can't get over a few paltry
obstacles?" says Madam, whose heart is still young. "Well, I expect we
shall have a gay wedding here before long, and be able to give that
pretty child our presents without any trouble."

"How long the day has been!" says Olga, with a little affected yawn,
meant to reduce Ulic Ronayne to despair, who is sitting in a distant
window touching up one of her paintings. "I don't know when I have been
so bored,--no one to speak to. Madam, darling, you shall never go out
again without me; remember that. Nobody has called,--I suppose they are
afraid of being shot,--not even Owen Kelly; and one would _like_ to see
him and Brian, to make sure they are all there."

"Talk of somebody," says Madam, looking out of the window, "here comes
Owen."

As Olga puts her hand in his presently, she says, laughing,--

"Madam O'Connor says you are, in polite language, his sable majesty
himself. So you must be, to escape as you did last night. Now tell us
all about it. We have heard so many garbled accounts that a _real_ one
will set our minds at rest."

Then he tells them all about it, dropping as though unconsciously into a
low chair very close to Hermia's.

"So, you see," he says, when he had finished, "it might have been a very
sensational affair, and covered us all with glory, only it didn't."

"I think it did," says Mrs. Herrick, gently. She doesn't raise her eyes
from her work to say this, but knits calmly on; only a _very_ careful
observer could have noticed the faint trembling of her fingers, or the
quivering of her long, downcast lashes.

"How can you say such a thing, Owen?" says Olga. "Look at all the cases
we have known where the assassins have got away quite free, and here we
have the principal secured."

"Yes, that was very clever of Brian," says Mr. Kelly.

"Did he capture him, then, single-handed? Were not you with him? Were
_you_ in no danger of your life, too?" exclaims Hermia, with such
unwonted animation that every one looks at her. She takes no notice of
their regard, but fixes her kindling eyes on Kelly, who, in returning
her mute protest, forgets that any other more open answer may be
required of him. Then she lets her eyes fall from his, and her face
grows calm and statuesque again, and only the rapid clicking of her
needles show the perturbation of the mind within.

"Did the fellow give you much trouble, Kelly?" asks Ronayne, who in his
secret soul is bitterly regretful he had not been on the scene of
action.

"Not he, the fool!" says Mr. Kelly, with something approaching a smile.
"Brian fired his revolver and grazed his arm slightly,--a mere scratch,
you will understand,--and the miserable creature rolled upon the ground,
doubled himself in two, and, giving himself up as dead, howled dismally.
Not knowing at that time that the poor squire was hurt, Brian and I
roared with laughter: we couldn't help it, the fellow looked so absurd."

They all laugh at this, but presently Olga, holding up her finger, says,
seriously,--

"Owen, recollect yourself. You said you _laughed_. Oh! it _can't_ be
true."

"I regret to say it is," says Mr. Kelly, with intensest self-abasement.
"For once I forgot myself; I really _did_ do it; but it shan't occur
again. The exquisite humor of the moment was too much for me. I hope it
won't be placed to my account, and that in time you will all forgive me
my one little lapse."

"Well, Owen, you are the drollest creature," says Madam O'Connor, with a
broad sweet smile, that is copied by Olga and Ronayne. Mrs. Herrick
remains unmoved, and her needles go faster and faster: Mr. Kelly stares
at them uneasily.

"They'll give out sparks in another minute or so," he says, warningly,
"and if they do there will be a general conflagration. Spare me that: I
have had enough excitement for a while."

Mrs. Herrick lets her knitting fall into her lap.

"The squire may be thankful he got off so easily," says Madam O'Connor
at this moment.

"He may, indeed," says Kelly. "Fay," to the child who is standing at a
distance gazing thoughtfully with uplifted head at the blue sky without,
"what are you wondering about now?"

The child turns upon him her large blue eyes, blue as Nankin china, and
answers him in clear sweet tones, indifferent to the fact that every one
in the room is regarding her.

"I was wondering," she says, truthfully, "why Ulic says his prayers to
Olga."

A most disconcerting silence follows this speech. Madam hums a tune;
Mrs. Herrick loses herself in her knitting; but Mr. Kelly, who is always
alive, says "Eh?"

"I saw him," says Fay, dreamily.

Olga, who is as crimson as the heart of a red rose, makes here a frantic
but subdued effort to attract the child's attention; Mr. Kelly, however,
gets her adroitly on to his knees before she can grasp the meaning of
Olga's secret signals.

"Where did you see him?" he says, mildly.

"In the summer-house, this morning. He was kneeling down before her,
just as I kneel to mamma, and he had his head in her lap, and he was
whispering his prayers. I could not hear what he said." At this instant
an expression of the most devout thankfulness overspreads Mrs. Bohun's
features. "But they were very _long_ prayers; and I think he was _sorry_
for something he had done."

"I haven't a doubt of it," says Mr. Kelly, mournfully. "Go on, my
child."

"I'm not your child; I'm mamma's," says Fay, firmly; but, having so far
vindicated her mother's character, she goes on with her tale: "When he
got up he didn't look a bit better," she says. "He looked worse, I
think. Didn't you, Ulic?" addressing the stricken young man in the
window. "And I always thought it was only children who said their
prayers to people, and not the grown-up ones. And why did he choose
Olga? Wasn't there mamma? And wasn't there Madam? You would have let him
say his prayers to you, Madam, wouldn't you?" turning placidly to her
hostess.

"I should have been only too charmed,--too highly flattered," says
Madam, in a stifled tone; and then she gives way altogether, and breaks
into a gay and hearty laugh, under cover of which Olga beats an
ignominious retreat.

Mr. Ronayne, feeling rather than seeing that his colleague in this
disgraceful affair has taken flight, puts down his brushes softly and
jumps lightly from the open window to the grass beneath. Then with a
speed that belongs to his long limbs, he hurries towards that corner of
the house that will lead him to the hall door: as he turns it, he
received Olga almost in his arms.

"You here?" she says. "Oh, that terrible child!"

"She didn't understand, poor little soul." And then, as though the
recollection overcomes him, he gives away to uncontrollable mirth.

"Such unseemly levity!" says Mrs. Bohun, in a disgusted tone; but, after
the vaguest hesitation, she laughs too.

"Come to the orchard," says Ronayne; and to the orchard they go. Here,
finding a rustic seat at the foot of a gnarled and moss-grown
apple-tree, they take possession of it.

"It is very unfortunate," says Olga, with a sigh. Her fair hair is being
blown like a silver cloud hither and thither and renders her
distractingly pretty.

"You mean our betrayal by that child?"

"Yes. I hope it will cure you of ever being so silly as to go on your
knees to any woman again."

"I shall never go on my knees to any woman but you, whether you accept
or reject me."

"I am sure I don't know how I am ever to face those people inside
again." Here she puts one dainty little finger to her lips and bites it
cruelly.

"There is nothing remarkable in having one's _accepted_ lover at one's
feet."

"But you are not that," she says, lifting her brows and seeming half
amused at his boldness.

"By one word you can make me so."

"Can I? What is the word?"

This is puzzling; but Mr. Ronayne, nothing daunted says,--

"You have only to say, 'you are,' and I am."

"It isn't Christmas yet," says Mrs. Bohun: "you shouldn't throw
conundrums at me out of season. It is too much? 'you _are_ and I _am_.'
I couldn't guess it, indeed; I'm anything but clever."

"If you say the 'I will,' you will find the solution to _our_ conundrum
at once."

"But that is two words."

"Olga, does the fact that I love you carry no weight with it at all."

"But do you love me--_really_?"

"Need I answer that?"

"But there are others, younger, prettier."

"Nonsense! There is no one prettier than you in this wide world."

"Ah!" with a charming smile, "now indeed I believe you do love me, for
the Greek Cupid is blind. What a silly boy you are to urge this matter!
For one thing I am older than you."

"A year or two."

"For another----"

"I will not listen. 'Stony limits cannot hold love out:' why, therefore,
try to discourage me?"

"But you should think----"

"I think only that if you will say what I ask you, I shall be always
with you, and you with me."

"What is _your_ joy is _my_ fear. Custom creates weariness! And--'the
lover in the husband may be lost!'"

"Ah! you have thought of me in that light," exclaims the young man,
eagerly. "Beloved if you will only take me, you shall find in me both a
lover and husband until your life's end."

The smile has died from Olga's lips; she holds out her hands to him.

"So be it," she says gravely.

"You mean it?" says Ronayne, as yet afraid to believe in his happiness.

"Yes. But if ever you repent blame yourself."

"And if you repent?"

"I shall blame you too," she says, with a sudden return to her old
archness.

"And you will refuse Rossmoyne?"

She laughs outright at this, and glances at him from under drooping
lashes.

"I can't promise that," she says, with carefully simulated
embarrassment--"because----"

"What?" haughtily, moving away from her.

"I _did so yesterday_."

"Oh, darling, how cruelly I misjudged you! I thought--I feared----"

"Never mind all that. I know--I forgive you. I've a _lovely_ temper,"
says Olga, with self-gratulation.

"Why did you refuse him? Was it," hopefully, "because you didn't like
him?"

"N--o. Not so much that--as----" again this shameless coquette
hesitates, and turns her head uneasily from side to side, as though
afraid to give utterance to the truth.

"What? Explain, Olga," says her lover, in a fresh agony.

"As that I----_loved you_!" returns she, with a heavenly smile.

His arms close round her, and at this moment she lets all her heart be
seen by him. The mocking light dies out of her eyes, her face grows
earnest. She lets her heart beat with happy unrestraint against his. The
minutes fly, but time was never made to be counted by blissful lovers.

A gong sounding in the distance rouses them from their contented
dreaming.

"I must go and tell Hermia," she says, starting to her feet: "that is
the dressing-bell."

"You won't let her influence you against me?"

"Nobody could do that." She moves away from him, and then runs back to
him again and lays her arms round his neck.

"You are more to me now than Hermia and _the world_!" she says, softly.

Yet presently, when she finds herself in Hermia's calm presence, her
courage somewhat fails her. It is not that she for a moment contemplates
the idea of having to give up her lover, but she is afraid of her
cousin's cold disparagement of both him and her.

"I have just promised to marry Ulic," she says, plunging without preface
into her story, with a boldness born of nervous excitement.

"To _marry_ him! Why, I thought you looked upon him as a mere boy! Your
'baby,' you used to call him."

"Probably that is why I have accepted him. A baby should not be allowed
to roam the world at large without some one to look after him."

"Do you love him, Olga?"

"Yes, I do," says Olga, defiantly. "You may scold me if you like, but a
title _isn't_ everything, and he is worth a dozen of that cold, stiff
Rossmoyne."

"Well, dearest, as you have given him the best part of you,--your
heart,--it is as well the rest should follow," says Mrs. Herrick,
tenderly. "Yes, I think you will be very happy with him."

This speech is so strange, so unexpected, so exactly unlike anything she
had made up her mind to receive, that for a moment Olga is stricken
dumb. Then with a rush she comes back to glad life.

"'Do I wake? do I dream? are there visions about?'" she says. "Why, what
sentiments from _you_! You have 'changed all that,' apparently."

"I have," says Hermia, very slowly, yet with a vivid blush. Something in
her whole manner awakes suspicion of the truth in Olga's mind.

"Why," she says, "you don't mean to tell me that----Oh, no! it can't be
true! and yet----I verily believe you have----_Is_ it so, Hermia?"

"It is," says Hermia, who has evidently, by help of some mental process
of her own, understood all this amazing farrago of apparently
meaningless words.

There is a new sweetness on Mrs. Herrick's lips. One of her rare smiles
lights up all her calm, artistic face.

"After all your vaunted superiority!" says Olga, drawing a deep sigh.
"Oh, _dear_!" Then, with a wicked but merry imitation of Mrs. Herrick's
own manner to her, she goes on!--

"You are throwing yourself away, dearest. The world will think nothing
of you for the future; and you, so formed to shine, and dazzle,
and----"

"_He_ will be a baronet at his father's death," says Mrs. Herrick,
serenely, with a heavy emphasis on the first pronoun; and then suddenly,
as though ashamed of this speech, she lets her mantle drop from her, and
cries, with some tender passion,----

"I don't care about that. Hear the truth from me. If he were as ugly and
poor as Mary Browne's Peter, I should marry him all the same, just
because I love him!"

"Oh, Hermia, I am so _glad_," says Olga. "After all what is there in the
whole wide world so sweet as love? And as for Rossmoyne,--why, he
couldn't make a tender speech to save his life as it should be made;
whilst Ulic--_oh he's charming!_"



CHAPTER XXXI.

  How Monica's heart fails her; and how at last Hope (whose name is
  Brian) comes back to her through the quivering moonlight.


And now night has fallen at last upon this long day. A gentle wind is
shivering through the elms; a glorious moon has risen in all its beauty,
and stands in "heaven's wide, pathless way," as though conscious of its
grandeur, yet sad for the sorrows of the seething earth beneath. Now
clear, now resplendent she shines, and now through a tremulous mist
shows her pure face, and again for a space is hidden,

    "As if her head she bow'd
    Stooping through a fleecy cloud."

Miss Priscilla, with a sense of now-found dignity upon her, has gone
early to bed. Miss Penelope has followed suit. Terence, in the privacy
of his own room, is rubbing a dirty oily flannel on the bright barrels
of his beloved gun, long since made over to him as a gift by Brian.

Kit is sitting on the wide, old-fashioned window-seat in Monica's room
at her sister's feet, and with her thin little arms twined lovingly
round her. She is sleepy enough, poor child, but cannot bear to desert
Monica, who is strangely wakeful and rather silent and _distraite_. For
ever since the morning when he had come to carry Miss Priscilla to
Coole, Brian has been absent from her; not once has he come to her; and
a sense of chill and fear, as strong as it is foolish, is overpowering
her.

She rouses herself now with a little nervous quiver that seems to run
through all her veins and lets her hand fall on Kit's drooping head.

"It grows very late. Go to bed, darling," she says, gently.

"Not till you go," says Kit, tightening the clasp of her arms.

"Well, that shall be in a moment, then," says Monica, with a stifled
sigh. All through the dragging day and evening she has clung to the
thought that surely her lover will come to bid her "good-night." And now
it is late, and he has not come, and----

She leans against the side of the wide-open casement, and gazes in sad
meditation upon the slumbering garden underneath. The lilies,--"tall
white garden-lilies,"--though it is late in the season now, and
bordering on snows and frosts, are still swaying to and fro, and giving
most generously a rich perfume to the wondering air. Earth's stars they
seem to her, as she lifts her eyes to compare them with the
"forget-me-nots of the angels," up above.

Her first disappointment about her love is desolating her. She leans her
head against the woodwork, and lifts her eyes to the vaguely-tinted sky.
Thus, with face upturned, she drinks in the fair beauty of the night,
and, as its beauty grows upon her, her sorrow deepens.

      "With how sad steps, O moon! thou climb'st the skies!
      How silently, and with how wan a face,
      Thou feel'st a lover's case!
      I read it in thy looks; thy languish'd grace,
    To me, that feel the like, thy state descries."

As she watches the pale moon, Sidney's sad words return to her. Just now
Diana is resting in a path of palest azure, whilst all around her
clouds, silver-tinged, are lying out from her, trembling in mid-air.

Great patches of moonlight lie upon the garden sward. One seems brighter
than its fellows, and as her eyes slowly sink from heaven to earth they
rest upon it, as though attracted unconsciously by its brilliancy. And,
even as she looks, a shadow falls athwart it, and then a low, quick cry
breaks from her lips.

"What is it?" says Kit, scrambling to her knees.

"Only Brian," says Monica, with a hastily-drawn breath. A rich color has
rushed into her cheeks, her eyes are alight, her lips have curved
themselves into a happy smile.

"It's all right now, then, and I can go," says Kit, joyfully.

"Go? To bed, you mean, darling?"

"Yes, now I know you are _happy_," says Kit, tenderly; and then the
sisters embrace, and presently Monica is alone, but for the shadow in
the moonlight.

"It is you, Monica?" says Brian, coming close beneath her window, and
looking upwards.

She leans out to him, her white gown gleaming softly in the moon's rays.

"Oh, why venture out at this hour?" she says, nervously. Now he is
here,--woman-like,--fears for his safety, forgotten before, arise in all
their horror. "They may have followed you; they may----"

"Come down to the balcony," he interrupts her, with a light laugh. "I
want to talk to you. Nonsense, dear heart! I am as safe as a church. Who
would touch me, with an angel like you near to protect me?"

His shadow, as he moves away, may again be seen for an instant, before
he turns the corner of the old house; and Monica, opening her door
softly, runs lightly down the corridor and the staircase, and across the
hall and the drawing-room floor until she reaches the balcony beyond,
where she finds his arms awaiting her.

"You have missed me all day?" he says, after a pause that to them has
been divine.

"Oh, Brian, what a day it has been!" she clings to him. "All these past
hours have been full of horror. Whenever I thought of your danger last
night, I seemed to grow cold and dead with fear; and then when the
minutes slipped by, and still you never came to me, I began to picture
_you_ as cold and dead, and then----Ah!" she clings still closer to him,
and her voice fails her. "I never knew," she whispers, brokenly, "how
well I loved you until I so nearly lost you. I could not live without
you now."

"Nor shall you," returns he, straining her to his heart with passionate
tenderness. "My life is yours, to do what you will with it. And somehow
all day long I knew (and was happy in the knowledge, forgive me that)
that you were lonely for want of me; but I could not come to you, my
soul, until this very moment. Yet, believe me, I suffered more than you
during our long separation." (If any one laughs here, it will prove he
has never been in love, and so is an object of pity. This should check
untimely mirth.)

"You felt it long too, then?" says Monica, hopefully.

"How can you ask me that? Your darling face was never once out of my
mind, and yet I _could_ not come to you. I had so many things to do, so
many people to see, and then the poor old fellow was so ill. But have we
not cause to be thankful?--at last the breach between our houses is
healed, and we may tell all the world of our love."

"You should have heard Aunt Priscilla, how she talked of you when she
came back to-day from Coole," says Monica, in a little fervent glow of
enthusiasm. "It was beautiful! You know she must have _understood_ you
all along to be able to say the truth of you so well. She said so much
in your favor that she satisfied even me."

She says this with such a graceful _naivete_, and such an utter belief
in his superiority to the vast majority of men, that Mr. Desmond does
well to feel the pride that surges in his heart.

"I really think she has fallen in love with you," says Miss Beresford,
at the last, with a little gay laugh.

"Perhaps that is why she refused the squire," says Brian; and then he
basely betrays trust, by telling her all that tale of the late wooing of
Miss Priscilla, and its result, which awakens in the breast of that
ancient lady's niece a mirth as undutiful as it is prolonged.

"And what were you doing all day?" she says, when it has somewhat
subsided.

"Trying to keep my uncle--did I tell you he has fallen in love with your
photograph?--from talking himself into a brain fever, and I was swearing
hard, and----"

"_Brian!_"

"Only informations, darling! And I wouldn't have done that either, only
I had to. They made me. Lay the blame on '_they_.' It wasn't my fault,
indeed. If I had thought for a moment you had the slightest objection to
that sort of----"

"Nonsense! don't be silly; go on," says Miss Beresford, austerely.

"Well, then, I listened patiently to a good deal of raving from Kelly on
the subject of Hermia Herrick. I don't suppose I should have exhibited
as much patience as I did, but for the fact that I was waiting on
George--my uncle--at the time, and couldn't get away. And after that I
listened with even more patience to a perfect farrago of nonsense from
our sub-inspector about the would-be assassin we have caught, and his
fellows; and, besides all this, I thought of _you_ every moment since
last I saw you."

"_Every_ moment. Not _one_ neglected?" asks she, smiling.

"I'll swear to that too, if you like. I'm in good practice now."

"No, no," hastily. "I can believe you without that."

"Did you hear about your Ryde?" asks Desmond, suddenly.

"I disclaim the possession," says Monica. "But what of him?"

"He has been ordered, with his regiment, to Egypt, to fight Arabi, where
I hope he will be shot. And the 36th are coming in his place."

"How can you say such shocking things?"

"Is it shocking to say the 36th are coming to Clonbree?"

"No, but what you said about Mr. Ryde."

"Oh, that! Well, I hope, then, if they don't knock the life they will
knock the conceit and the superfluous _flesh_ out of him: will that do?"

"Very badly. He was a horrid man in many ways, but he did _you_ no
harm."

"He dared to look at you."

"The cat may look at the king."

"But the cat may not look at my queen. So now, madam, what have you to
say?"

"Well, never mind, then: tell me about Hermia. So Mr. Kelly is engaged
to her?"

"Yes. He has just discovered her to be the most superior as well as the
loveliest woman upon earth. He told me so. I ventured mildly, but
firmly, to differ with him and enter a protest on your behalf, but he
wouldn't hear of it. In his opinion you are nowhere beside the majestic
Hermia."

"I know that. He is right," says Monica, meekly. But there is a
reproachful question in her eyes, as she says it, that contradicts the
meekness.

"He is _not_," says Desmond, with loving indignation, pressing her dear
little head so close against his heart that she can hear it throbbing
bravely and can find joy in the thought that each separate throb is all
her own. "The man who thinks so must be insane. A fig for Hermia! Where
would she be if placed beside _you_, my 'Helen fair beyond compare'?"

"You are prejudiced; you tell too flattering a tale," says Monica, with
soft disparagement; but the fond, foolish, lover-like words are very
dear and sweet to her, all the same.

He has his arms round her; in her tender childish fashion she has laid
her cheek against his; and now, with a slow movement, she turns her head
until her lips reach his.

"I love you," she whispers.

Almost in a sigh the words are breathed, and a sense of rapture--of
completion--renders the young man for the instant mute. Yet in her soul
so well she knows of his content that she cares little for any answer
save that which his fond eyes give.

A breath from the sleeping world of flowers below comes up to the
balcony and bathes the lovers in its sweets. The "wandering moon" looks
down upon them, and lights up the dark windows behind them, till they
looked like burnished silver. A deadly silence lies on grass and bough;
it seems to them as though, of all the eager world, they two only are
awake, and alone!

"Do I count with you, then, as more than all?" he says, at length; "than
Terence or than Kit?"

"You know it," she says, earnestly.

Suddenly he loosens his arms from round her, and, pushing her slender,
white-robed figure gently backwards, gazes searchingly into her calm but
wondering face.

"Tell me," he says,--some mad, inward craving driving him to ask the
needless question--"how would it have been with you if I had been killed
yesterday? Would you _in time_ have loved again?"

I am not sure, but I think he would have recalled the words when it is
too late. A quiver runs through the girl's frame; a great wave of
emotion sweeping over her face transfigures it, changing its calm to
quick and living grief. The moonbeams, catching her, fold her in floods
of palest glory, until he who watches her with remorseful eyes can only
liken her to a fragile saint, as she stands there in her white, clinging
draperies.

"You are cruel," she says, at last, with a low, gasping cry.

He falls at her feet.

"Forgive me, my love, my darling!" he entreats, "I should never have
said that, and yet I am glad I did. To feel, to _know_ you are
altogether mine----"

"You had a doubt?" she says; and then two large tears rise slowly, until
her beautiful eyes look passionate reproach at him through a heavy mist.
Then the mist clears, and two shining drops, quitting their sweet home,
fall upon the back of the small hand she has placed nervously against
her throat.

"A last one, and it is gone _forever_." He rises to his feet. "Place
your arms round my neck again," he says, with anxious entreaty, "and let
me feel myself forgiven."

A smile, as coy as it is tender, curves her dainty lips, as she lifts to
his two, soft, dewy eyes, in which the light of a first love has at last
been fully kindled. She comes a step nearer to him, still smiling,--a
lovely thing round which the moonbeams riot as though in ecstasy over
her perfect fairness,--and then in another instant they are both in
heaven, "in paradise in one another's arms!"

"You are happy?" questions he, after a long pause, into which no man may
look.

"I am with _you_," returns she, softly.

"How sweet a meaning lies within your words!"

"A true meaning. But see, how late it grows! For a few hours we must
part. Until to-morrow--good-night!"

"Good-night, my life! my sweet, _sweet_ heart!" says Desmond.


THE END.





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