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Title: Tempest-Driven (Vol. II of 3) - A Romance
Author: Dowling, Richard
Language: English
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                              A Romance.


                           RICHARD DOWLING,


                         _IN THREE VOLUMES_.

                               VOL. II.


                       [_All rights reserved_.]

                      CHARLES DICKENS AND EVANS,
                         CRYSTAL PLACE PRESS.


                            CHAPTER XVIII.


                             CHAPTER XIX.


                             CHAPTER XX.


                             CHAPTER XXI.


                            CHAPTER XXII.


                            CHAPTER XXIII.


                            CHAPTER XXIV.


                             CHAPTER XXV.


                            CHAPTER XXVI.


                            CHAPTER XXVII.


                           CHAPTER XXVIII.


                            CHAPTER XXIX.


                             CHAPTER XXX.


                            CHAPTER XXXI.



                            CHAPTER XVIII.

                           AFTER TEN YEARS.

Jerry O'Brien's words had been no sooner uttered than he saw how
foolishly injudicious they were. In the excitement of the moment he
had forgotten what ought to have been uppermost in his thoughts--the
condition of his friend.

He rang the bell. In a few seconds Madge entered the room. He briefly
explained what had occurred, and then set off to summon Dr. Santley.

The doctor looked grave, and hurried back to Carlingford House. Here
he stayed an hour, and left with gloomy looks and words. A relapse was
possible, and a great delay to convalescence certain. There was
danger, serious danger of the patient's life.

Jerry O'Brien was in despair. He had the greatest affection for
Alfred, and he was in love with Alfred's sister. Yes, he might as well
confess the matter boldly to himself; plain-looking, gentle, cheerful
Madge was worth more to him than all the rest of the girls in the
world put together. And here his impetuous rashness had brought her
brother to death's door. Curses on his rashness!

Santley said he was by no means to see Alfred again that day, or until
he got formal leave to do so. He would give no opinion as
to the ultimate course of the disease; but there was cause for
anxiety--great anxiety.

Jerry took his leave of the house with a heavy heart. He was quite
alone in the world, and since he lost his mother, now years ago, he
had known no trouble so trying as this. He told himself over and over
again that all would yet be well with Alfred. In vain! His heart would
not be comforted; his mind would not abide in peace.

When he got into town, he did not know where to turn. The idea of
going to the club under the unpleasant circumstances was out of the
question. Walking about alone was dull work. He did not care to call
on any friend, and the notion of spending the evening at a place of
entertainment was simply monstrous. There seemed to be nothing else
for it but to go home, and that was a stupid programme enough.

Jerry had lodgings in Cecil Street, Strand, and thither he went. He
let himself in with a latchkey, and walked upstairs in the gathering
gloom of a late February afternoon. His rooms were on the second
floor. He entered the one looking out on the street, and lit the lamp
deliberately. There were two reasons for his proceeding slowly. In the
first place, it was not yet quite dark; in the second, deliberation
killed time, and he had nothing to do between that hour and to-morrow
morning, when he should call to know how Alfred was.

"Killing time," he thought, "is, when one is anxious, an excellent
though slow way of killing one's self."

He pulled down the blinds, drew the curtains, and roused up the
smouldering fire; then, with a heavy sigh, he threw himself into an
easy-chair, and looked indolently, discontentedly around.

The room at best was not very cheering or elegant. The house was old,
the room low, the furniture heavy, by no means fresh, and far from
new. The table on which the lamp stood had a staring crimson cover.
This was a recent and outrageous addition to the chromatic elements of
the place. Until that afternoon the cover had been of a dim, nameless
green, quite inoffensive, except for motley stains.

In his present state of mind, this cover felt like an insult, and he
rose quickly, and, having lifted the lamp, flung the obnoxious cover
into a corner, and was about to sit down again, when his eyes caught
sight of a letter lying on the carpet at his feet.

He stooped and picked it up.

"A letter from O'Hanlon, and a fat letter, too! What can it be, now?
Nothing more about those weirs and the commissioners, I hope. Well,
even the weirs and the commissioners in moderation would be better
than dwelling on this wretched business about poor Alfred."

He broke the cover, sat down, and began to read a long and
closely-written letter in a clerks hand. It was signed in a different
hand "John O'Hanlon," and from a printed chaplet in the corner it
appeared John O'Hanlon was a solicitor residing at Kilbarry.

Jerry O'Brien read on resolutely. The only sign he gave of
perturbation while mastering the eight pages he held in his hand was
now and then crossing, uncrossing, and recrossing his legs. When he
came to the end he threw the letter from him with an exclamation of
annoyance and disgust. Then he sat awhile motionless, with his elbow
resting on the table, his cheek on his hand, and his eyebrows drawn
low down over his eyes. At last he muttered:

"It is my unfortunate weirs again--or, rather, it is the weirs of
unfortunate me. They'll end by tearing up my weirs and leaving me to
graze on the parish. I'll make a nice pauper--splendid! I don't think
paupers have numbers like convicts; but if they have, I shall be
number naught, naught, naught recurring. Confound those commissioners
eternally! Obstruct the navigation of the Bawn! My salmon weirs
obstruct as much the navigation of the Bawn as they do of the
Euphrates or the Mississippi! If I had my will, these infernal,
meddling commissioners would be drowned first in the Euphrates and
then in the Mississippi, after which I'd give them a roasting alive in
Vesuvius for a change. This will take eight hundred a year out of my
pocket, and hand it over to--the Atlantic, and parts adjacent! That's
a nice way to help a struggling country!"

He paused for a while, and began walking up and down the room hastily,
angrily. Presently his thoughts took another turn.

"It's fortunate I said nothing to Madge. She must know by this time
how I feel towards her, and I don't think her people would have any
objection if this infernal affair was not hanging over me. But I could
not speak to her father if I had to say: 'Will you, sir, be good
enough to bring your daughter over to Kilbarry, and see her married to
me in the poor-house?' It would not look swell. Not a bit of it! Why,
'twould look quite squalid and ungenteel. Never mind, Madge. I'll
fight them, darling, to the last. I won't leave a stone unturned, and
every one I turn I'll fling at these rapacious fools."

He paused in his walk at the table.

He took up the letter again and looked at the end of it.

"He says I must go over at once--that I must start to-night. That's
peremptory and but short notice. Never mind; it may be all for the
best. I know the people at Dulwich will not think I am running away
from them after bringing this fresh trouble upon them. They are the
most generous people in the world. My honour is perfectly safe with
them. I have plenty of time to catch the mail. This letter must have
come at noon, and fallen off the table. I'll write a letter to
Carlingford House explaining matters, and then when I have packed a
portmanteau I shall be all right for the road." He sang in a low

     "With my pistols cocked, and a kind good-night,
        Then hurrah, hurrah for the road!"

Adding: "I wish to heavens the days were not gone for 'pistols cocked'
and 'the road.' Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to bag
these accursed commissioners on the road, or in the water, or on the
wing. Unfortunately, 'old times are changed, old manners gone,' as the
poet says, and shooting even ruffianly commissioners is against the
law of the land, or the sea, or the air."

He got writing materials, gave Mr. Paulton a short account of the
reason for his unexpected departure from London; then he ordered his
dinner, packed his portmanteau, ate his dinner, and caught the mail
train for Holyhead easily.

He slept half the way from Euston to Holyhead, and nearly all the way
from Holyhead to Kingstown. In Dublin, at an hotel close to the
Westland Row Station, he got his breakfast, and then drove to
Kingsbridge, where he booked and took train for Kilbarry, an important
town in the south of Ireland.

A railway journey in the early part of the year from Dublin to the
south of Ireland is far from exhilarating. Half the way may be
performed at a fair, but the second half is done at a funereal pace.
The country looks damp, and is ill-clad with trees. It has not yet
donned its summer vesture of astonishing green. The towns are small,
far apart, and generally invisible from the train. Few people are on
the platforms, and the stations of even important towns are paltry and
forlorn. There are occasionally lovely mountains and pastoral streams,
but the whole effect is dulling, depressing, from the absence of trees
and the melancholy thinness of the population. It is a country empty
of its children, and desolate at the loss of them.

Jerry O'Brien was of a mercurial nature, and when he was down he was
at zero, and when up, at boiling. This last stage of his journey
plunged him into the profoundest gloom. Overhead there was a sick,
watery sun, which gave a feeble white glare more dejecting than a pall
of thunder cloud. Tobacco was powerless to ameliorate the chill
influence of that changing landscape. He tried to read a newspaper,
but found he could not fix his attention on one word of what he read.
After ascertaining there was nothing in it about Fishery
Commissioners, he gave it up as a bad job, and laid it with
resignation on the rug which covered his knees.

When he arrived at Kilbarry he was in the lowest and most desponding
state of mind. He was firmly persuaded that nothing could save his
weirs, and was almost convinced that the first news he should hear was
that his weirs had been destroyed, and that the commissioners had
resolved to lynch him if they could lay hands on him before he died of

He left the station in an omnibus and drove along the mile of broad
quays beside the noble river Bawn to the "Munster Hotel." Here the
prospect was more cheering than on the bleak, cold journey down. The
river was thick with shipping; the quays noisy with traffic; the
stores, warehouses, wharfs, and shops alive with people. Sailing
vessels were discharging corn and coal, and steamers taking in cattle,
and cases of eggs, and bales of bacon, and firkins of butter. Here the
stream of humanity was vivid and strong. Moderate prosperity asserted
its presence blithely. The weather had cleared and brightened, and the
sun hung in the clear western air, a pale golden shield of light.

O'Brien was well known at "The Munster," and as he went up the steps
of the hotel, was greeted cordially by the cheerful landlord and a few
loungers with whom he was acquainted. He did not see a trace of the
hated Fishery Commissioners, and by the time he had eaten a light
luncheon, he began to think they were little more than an amiable
fiction of a jovial Government. No one he met seemed to think his
fortunes were in peril. The manners of John, the old waiter, were
respectful and joyous as though the traveller had just returned from
far distant lands, after an absence of many years, to enter into
possession of a princely patrimony.

There was no time to be lost if he wanted to catch his solicitor,
O'Hanlon, at the office. Accordingly he set off at once in that
direction, and, having gone through two or three streets, found
himself in the presence of his legal adviser, agent, and friend all in

John O'Hanlon was a man past middle life, tall, a little stooped in
the shoulders, black-haired, neither fat nor lean, dark, ruddy, with
whiskers just tinged with gray, loud-voiced, and aggressive in manner,
and owning a pair of enormous brown hands. One of the peculiarities of
O'Hanlon was that no matter how well prepared he might be for the
advent of any one who came to him he was always at that moment busy,
or about to be busy, with something or somebody else.

As the young man entered the private office of the solicitor the
latter rose hastily, pointed to a chair, and said rapidly:

"A minute, O'Brien--a minute. Sit down. I want to tell Gorman

Gorman was the head clerk--a red-haired, restless little man, who was
always to be found in the front office, and who never seemed to
have anything more important to do than lean against the folded
window-shutter and look out into the street, but who was reputed to
be more wily than any two fully sworn-in attorneys in Kilbarry.

After a short absence, O'Hanlon came back.

"My dear O'Brien, I'm delighted to see you."

He took both his client's hands, and shook them most cordially. He had
the reputation of being the most insincere man you could meet on a
summer's day; but no one had ever been able to point out any one act
of insincerity in his conduct.

"I got your letter," said O'Brien, after replying to the greetings of
the other, "and here I am. I came post-haste."

"Right, right, my boy! Those rascally commissioners will be the death
of me. They'll be the death of every man in the neighbourhood who
takes an interest in salmon, except the net men."

"Well, what is it this time? The same old story, as well as I could
gather from your letter."

"The same old story over again. The same old three-and-fourpence--(a
professional sum, which, I am sorry to see, has grown into a saying,
although a colourless and unmeaning saying). The facts are these."

Here the solicitor gave a long and energetic account of the vile
proceedings of these rascally commissioners, and wound up by saying
that they hadn't a leg to stand on, and that "we" were sure to win in
the long run, but that to insure success it was absolutely necessary
for O'Brien to be in town or within very easy call for a month or two,
as petitions and declarations and so-ons had to be considered, drawn
up, and attended to generally and particularly.

When Jerry heard the whole state of affairs, he felt considerably
relieved on the score of his salmon weirs on the lower Bawn. Upon
telling this to his friend, the latter became hilarious, slapped Jerry
on the back, and said that he'd prove the commissioners were the
greatest fools in Ireland, and, moreover, make them confess it
themselves in their own little dirty hole-and-corner court.

These and other gallant words and brave assurances served to put Jerry
in good spirits, and when he rose to leave he was as buoyant as though
he already held the proofs of triumph in his hand.

As he was about to quit the office, O'Hanlon took him by the hand, and
mysteriously said:

"You were in London while that Davenport inquest was going on?"


"Do you know anything about it?"

O'Brien's good spirits instantly took flight.

"Too much! I know everything about it."

"You read a good report of the inquest?"

"No; I was at the inquest."

"Ah-h!" It was a long-drawn, deep breath. The eyes of the solicitor
became suddenly introspective, and he lolled his head over his right
shoulder as if in deep thought. "Why did you attend that inquest?"

"Well, for two reasons. First, I, as you of course know, was
acquainted with the Davenports; and second, because the dearest friend
I have in London was greatly interested in Mrs. Davenport. It's a long

"Is it? Ah-h! I am greatly interested in that story too."

"Are you? Why? I didn't think you knew the Davenports."

The solicitor straightened his head on his shoulders. His eyes were
still turned inward.

"You are right so far. I did not know the Davenports. But do you
remember a client of mine named Michael Fahey--commonly called Mike

"Let me see. That's a good while ago?"

"Ten or eleven years ago," said the solicitor, shaking his head in
accord with his private thoughts rather than with his words.

"I do. He was drowned near Kilcash, wasn't he?"

"At the Black Rock."

"An awful death. I never think of any one being drowned there without
shuddering. Wasn't there something wrong with that man--that client of

"Yes. The police were after him."

"Why do you speak of him now?"

"Don't you remember that when seen by the police who were in chase he
was in the neighbourhood of Davenport's house, and that he ran like a
madman until he got to the Black Rock, and then threw himself in?"

"Yes; it makes my flesh creep," said O'Brien, with a shiver.

"He left some documents in my possession. They are in my possession
yet. They show he had some connection with Davenport. I had forgotten
all about it until----"

The solicitor paused, and suddenly the eyes, which had been so long
turned inward, flashed out their light, and blazed into those of the
young man standing opposite.

O'Brien started back in vague dread.

"Until when?" he asked, in a low, constrained voice.

"Until this day week."

"And then"--O'Hanlon's eyes dilated--"I saw----"

"In the name of Heaven, what?"

"His ghost."

                             CHAPTER XIX.

                        SEEING NOT BELIEVING.

For a moment the young man looked at the other in amazement and doubt.
But it was impossible to resist for any great length of time the
conviction that O'Hanlon had spoken sincerely. O'Hanlon himself looked
troubled, scared, affrighted, as though scarcely able, and wholly
unwilling, to believe his own words. O'Brien was the first to recover
his composure.

"I will not," he said, "question what you say; I will go so far as to
assure you I am fully convinced you saw the ghost of that unhappy man.
You want me to tell you a story which, as I said, is a long one, and I
want you to tell me your story at length. Dine with me at 'The
Munster' this evening at seven, and we can chat the matter over."

The reference to the hotel and dinner drew the mind of the lawyer back
once more into its ordinary groove. With a shrug of his shoulders and
a forced laugh, he said:

"Right--you are right, O'Brien. This is not a good time or place for
our little private theatricals. I'll join you with pleasure at seven.
Here I have been holding you, which is an assault, and detaining you
against your will, which is false imprisonment--both punishable by
law. I ought to be too old a stager to be guilty of either offence.
But I cry mercy, and will do my best to wash away my offences in your
claret this evening. Till then, adieu."

So they parted.

O'Brien resolved to stroll about until it was time for dinner. He knew
every street, almost every house in Kilbarry. He had lived in the
neighbourhood the most part of his life. He had no relative alive, nor
any place he could call home. When in this neighbourhood he usually
stopped at "The Munster"; but of late years he had spent much of his
time in London. He owned the land close to which his salmon weirs
stood on the Bawn; but there was no house for him on them--only a few
rude, primitive farmers' houses.

He was now thirty years of age, and had been a rover most of his life.
He had always made it a point to spend a month or two of the summer at
Kilcash, a sea-bathing and fishing village ten miles by road from
Kilbarry. Here it was that he learned what he knew of the Davenports,
for Mr. Davenport's place, Kilcash House, was only a mile inland from
the village whose name it bore. He had been personally acquainted with
the Davenports, and had often seen them, and knew all about them.

O'Hanlon's words, now that he was from under the influence of the
manner which accompanied them, filled him with wonder more than
anything else. He was only nineteen or twenty at the time that man
Fahey was drowned--or, rather, committed suicide--and he could not
recall all the particulars of the case. When it occurred, he had been
living with his widowed mother at Kilbarry, and had not, like other
young men of the city, gone out to the scene of the tragedy. He knew
every nook of the coast for miles around Kilcash. It was a bold, bad,
rock-bound coast save at the village, where there was a bay and a
strand fatal to ships. He remembered that, from the first news of
Fahey's death, there had not been the least hope of recovering the
man's body. It was a tradition of the coast that the body of no one
who had been drowned there was ever recovered. Who or what Fahey was
he did not know, and so he resolved to banish the subject from his
mind until O'Hanlon reopened it that evening.

The great feature of this day was O'Hanlon's assurance that his weirs
would not be torn up. If that were true, and Alfred Paulton recovered,
then he would have to think of building a house somewhere near the
weirs for--Madge.

He got back to the hotel a little before seven, and wrote a letter to
Mr. Paulton, announcing his safe arrival, asking for news of Alfred,
and sending his kindest regards to the others in the order of their
seniority. It was a little comfort to be able to send even kind
regards to Madge through her father. But if he had the commissioners
by the collective throat at that moment, he could have throttled them
with great comfort to himself, and an assured consciousness that he
was a benefactor to mankind.

Seven o'clock brought O'Hanlon and the dinner. The latter was served
in a small, snug, private room overlooking the broad white river. When
at length they were alone and had lighted their cigars, the guest
reverted to the Davenport affair, and asked for the full and true
history of the case as far as it was known to Jerry.

Then O'Hanlon's turn came:

"Since I saw you I have hunted up and glanced over the documents left
in my hands by the dead man Fahey. They are, I find, unintelligible,
as far as my lights now lead me, and I think we may dismiss them from
our minds for the present. I shall, however, keep them safe. I will
say nothing more of them than that in whatever portions of them Mr.
Davenport is mentioned, they always speak of him in terms of gratitude
and respect. It is plain that at one time the relations between these
two men were very close, but of the nature of these relations there is
no hint. At the time of the death of Fahey he had been hovering about
Kilcash for months. No one exactly knew who or what he was. He had
taken a mean lodging in the village, and given out that he was poor,
and had been ordered to the seaside for his health, and recommended to
get as much sea air and boating as possible. He often went out with
the fishermen, and at last bought a small punt, a mere cockleshell,
and kept it for his own exclusive use. In this he put off at all times
of the day and night, and the fishermen predicted that he would be
drowned some time or other; and so he was, but not in the way
anticipated by the people of the village. They made sure his boat
would be swamped one day, and that would be the end of him. An
additional reason for their fears was that he never swam, and said he
was too old to learn.

"On the day of his death he was followed from a distance by two
policemen in plain clothes. They watched him leave the cottage in
which he lived at Kilcash, take to the downs, and make straight for
Kilcash House. They were not able to get near him until he had just
gained the house. He then became aware that he was followed, and ran
straight for the cliffs. The rest I have already told you. There never
was an inquest, for, as you may know, the bodies of people drowned
there are never found.

"A week ago I was in the neighbourhood of Kilcash House. I had left my
horse and car at Kilcash, and was walking over the downs to the
village, when on the cliffs, just over the Black Rock, I cast my eyes
down, and there, on that large shelf of rock, as plain as I see you
now, I saw him. The same coat, the same Scotch bonnet, the same
trousers--not a thing altered since the first day he stood in my
office, going on eleven years ago."

"What time of the day was it?"

"Broad day. About three o'clock in the afternoon."

"It must have been some one of about his stature dressed identically."

"Must it?" cried the lawyer, scornfully. "You have not heard all yet.
I made up my mind to be sure. I ran--I _ran_ to the top of the path,
and went down to the rocks below. There was nobody there. You know the
place. Tell me how a living man could get away alive, except up the
path that I went down? It was Michael Fahey's ghost, as sure as I am a
living man."

"I confess," said Jerry, in perplexity, "I cannot explain away what
you say, except upon the supposition that you were suffering from
delusion. How do you account for the appearance yourself?"

"This is my way of reasoning it out. I either saw the ghost of Michael
Fahey or I did not. If I did, I account for it by the fact that
Davenport and he were associated together in something while they were
alive, and now that both are dead, one of them has to come back and
see that something left undone--a wrong unrighted, a debt unpaid, an
explanation unmade--is put straight."

"But why should the one be Fahey? And why should it be at the Black
Rock? And why should he appear to you?"

"The first, because I had nothing to do with Mr. Davenport; the
second, because seeing Fahey's ghost there would recall to my mind
most vividly the circumstance of his death; and the third, because I
hold the documents to which I have referred."

"But don't you think the fact of Davenport's name having been brought
before the public so lately, and that you recollected the documents
you held belonging to Fahey, and that you looked over the cliff at the
very spot where he lost his life, may all have helped to impose upon
your imagination?"

"Sir, an attorney of my years does not know the meaning of the word
imagination. You may say I am mad if you like, but don't attribute
imagination to me, or I shall break down altogether. O'Brien, do you
mean to say seriously that you take me for a crazy young poet? Great
heavens, sir, it can't have come to that with me in my declining

"But, then, what did you see?"

"A ghost--Fahey's ghost."

"You don't mean to tell me seriously you believe in ghosts!"

"I mean to tell you most emphatically I do not."

"Then what is your contention?"

"That I, being one who does not believe in ghosts, saw the ghost of
Michael Fahey this day week at the Black Rock."

"I can make nothing of your position."

"I can make nothing of my position either. I am beginning to think I
shall lose my reason. You are the first person I spoke to on the
subject. Don't say anything about it to a soul. I have no wife to blab
to, and I look on you as a friend. I had hoped you would have brought
me news from London--some facts not published in the papers, and
bearing on this branch of the case. But you haven't. If you let this
get abroad, some of my _kind_ friends will get me locked up. I got old
Coolahan locked up because he kept on saying that farthings were as
valuable as sovereigns because they had the Queen's head on them."

O'Brien was sorely puzzled. It did not now look like a matter which
ought to be laughed at. Either O'Hanlon had seen the ghost of this
man, or he was losing his reason. There was one other possibility. He
said: "I am not going to make light of what you have told me, or
communicate it to a soul. There is one other question--a wild one, I
own. I wonder have you thought of it?"

"What is it? If you have thought of anything which has escaped me, you
are a very Daniel come to judgment."

"Could it be that man was not really drowned ten or eleven years ago?
Either the police may have been mistaken in their man, and the wrong
man may have leaped into the hole, or Fahey may have leaped in and by
some miracle escaped."

"Yes, I have thought of both possibilities. The only answer will
dispose of both. The clothes seen ten or eleven, years ago, and those
seen this day week, were identical."

"What! You identify them?"

"Yes, if"--with a shudder--"those of last week could be produced and
handled. O'Brien, I'm not afraid of ghosts, but I begin to be afraid
of myself, now that I have begun to see them."

"But after such a lapse of time, and at a long distance, as from the
top of the cliff to the plain of rock below. It must be a hundred

"It is a hundred and twenty feet from the brow of the cliff to where
the cliff meets the sloping rock, and the figure was about one hundred
and seventy or eighty feet from the base. I measured both roughly.
That gives between seventy and eighty yards from my eye. Now, ten
years ago, and this day week, the colour, cut, and material of the
coat and trousers were identical, and both times there was a circular
green patch on the right elbow of the coat, about the size of my palm;
and both times the right leg of the trousers had evidently been torn
up as high as the knee-joint behind, and rudely stitched by an
unskilful hand. I'm not," he said, looking timidly around, "afraid of
ghosts, but I am of men. Keep my secret, O'Brien, if you care for me."

"You may swear by me. By-the-way, I have more time than you. Let me
see those documents you have, and I'll try if I can puzzle anything
out of them."

"With the greatest pleasure and thankfulness."

And so the two parted.

                             CHAPTER XX.

                           TOLD BY GORMAN.

The documents Jerry O'Brien found in his hand were four in number. He
read them all hastily first, and then went over them carefully word by
word. When he examined them next day, they proved in substance or text
to be as follows:

No. 1. A will dated about eleven years back, by which he left all
property of any kind of which he might die possessed to Mrs.
Davenport, wife of his good friend Louis Davenport. He explained that
he would have left his property to Mr. Davenport himself, but that so
well did he know the depth of affection between Mr. Davenport and his
wife, that the surest way to make a bequest acceptable to the former,
was to leave it to the latter. The bequest was accompanied by no
conditions, and the will wound up with a hope that Mr. and Mrs.
Davenport might live long and happy lives.

To the will was affixed a piece of paper, on which appeared in the
handwriting of O'Hanlon, the solicitor, this comment:

Note.--There being no trace of property or relatives of deceased,
nothing could be done. I sent my clerk to Mr. Davenport to make some
inquiries, but could learn nothing except that deceased was an
eccentric friend of Mr. Davenport, and that as far as he (Davenport)
knew, deceased had neither relatives nor property.

This was signed "John O'Hanlon."

No. II. This was half a sheet of note-paper partly covered by writing
not nearly so regular or well-formed as the will. To judge by the
handwriting of No. III., it was the manuscript of Michael Fahey. It
ran thus:

Memorandum.--Rise 15·6 lowest. At lowest minute of lowest forward with
all might undaunted. The foregoing refers to _skulls_. With only one
_skull_ any lowest or any last quarter; but great forward pluck
required for this. In both cases (of course!) left.

No. III. was a letter of instructions from Fahey to O'Hanlon in the
handwriting of Fahey. It was as follows:

"Dear Sir,

"I leave with you my will and three other papers. In case of anything
happening to me, please read the will and put it in force. But if
between this and then you hear nothing more from me, it will not be
worth while taking any trouble in the matter. The 'Memorandum' is to
be kept by you for me. In case I should absent myself from the
neighbourhood for any length of time do not be uneasy, as I am much
abroad. If I am away fifteen years, you may hand all these to my
friend, Mr. Davenport, but not till fifteen years have passed without
my return to the neighbourhood.

                             "Yours truly,

                                   "Michael Fahey."

No. IV. was merely a long, narrow, slip of paper, bearing the

"Dear Mr. Davenport,

"Time has swallowed me, and everything connected with me. I hope when
you receive this you will have forgotten I ever existed. I leave all
the documents I own with Mr. O'Hanlon for you.

         "Always most faithfully yours,

                         "Michael Fahey."

These did not throw a great flood of light on the subject. In fact,
they did not help him to see an inch further than he had seen before.
It was plain on the face of it that there must have been some kind of
connection between this Fahey and the Davenports; but what the nature
of that connection was there was no clue to. He had no particular
interest in the mystery, if it could be said to reach the dignity of a
mystery. He was a kind of indifferent centre in the events. He had
known the Davenports and O'Hanlon for years, and now by a strange
coincidence, or rather a series of coincidences, the Davenports,
O'Hanlon, the Paultons, Fahey, and himself had all been drawn

He shook himself and tried to argue himself into indifference, but
failed. He told himself the whole matter was nothing in the world to
him, and that, in fact, there was nothing particular in it to engage

What were the facts?

Mr. Davenport had, under acute mental excitement, committed suicide
after an interview with Tom Blake. He had left two documents
respecting that act. Both of these documents were written in pencil,
and on leaves of his pocket-book. One of these memoranda said he,
Davenport, had committed suicide. The other accused Blake of
poisoning, murdering him. Every one except Edward Davenport credited
the former statement. Blake had formerly been Mrs. Davenport's lover,
and might love her even still. Blake had got a thousand pounds years
ago from the deceased for giving up his pretensions to that lady's
hand. Blake had long been abroad; turned up unexpectedly at
Davenport's house in London the first night the latter was in London,
and the night of his death. Blake gets a hundred pounds from
Davenport, and a promise of a further hundred in a few days.

What was this money given for? Not, of course, with the old object. It
did not come out at the inquest or elsewhere that the dead man had
been in the least jealous of his wife. She had not seen Blake for a
good while before her husband's death. Blake had been some years on
the Continent, without visiting the United Kingdom. It was
discreditable, but intelligible, that when the dead man was an elderly
and unfavoured lover he should buy off his rival; but it would be
absurd to suppose that ten or eleven years after marriage any man
would continue to pay considerable sums of money to a former rival for
absolutely nothing. Such an act would be that of a coward and a fool,
and the dead man had been neither.

For what, then, had Davenport given this money to Blake? The latter
said the interview between the two had been of a pleasant character.
Why? Blake was disreputable, and Davenport eminently respectable. It
was absurd to suppose Davenport could have had a liking for Blake.
Taking that thousand pounds years ago must have destroyed any good
opinion Davenport had of Blake. Why, then, had the latter been
received well and been given money? He had not only been received well
and given money, but invited to dinner on a later date! It was simply
incredible that out of gratitude for that service rendered long ago in
Florence, Davenport was going to forget that this man had been his
rival, and invite him to his house and a necessary meeting with his
beautiful wife.

O'Brien did not for a moment suspect the widow and her former admirer
of perjury, of concocting their stories. These stories were not at all
calculated to exculpate either of the two. In fact, these stories,
uncorroborated by the evidence obtained at the _post-mortem_
examination, would have heightened suspicion rather than allayed it.
At first these stories seemed prodigal in daring, but this very excess
of apparent improbability made them seem most probable when read by
the light of Davenport's written confession. No, there was no reason
to suspect perjury.

He could make nothing of it so far. But did those documents of Fahey's
aid one towards a solution? He could not see how they bore on the case
one way or the other, and yet the coincidences were remarkable. He had
seen Blake in London the day of the night on which Davenport died.
When Alfred Paulton told him what had happened at Crescent House, he
came to the conclusion Blake was in some way or other mixed up in the
matter. This conclusion turned out right, although not exactly in the
way he had expected. Now upon his coming back to Kilbarry he is met by
a still more remarkable story. A man whom O'Hanlon knew ten or eleven
years ago, and was then drowned at the hideous Black Rock, appears to
O'Hanlon in the same spot and same clothes as he had been last seen
alive in. It seemed as if he, O'Brien, were destined to be connected
with the Davenport affair whether he would or not. Alfred Paulton was
the greatest friend he had in London, and John O'Hanlon was the best
friend he had in Kilbarry. He knew Blake by appearance and report, and
he was acquainted with the Davenports; and here were all mixed up in
the same matter in more or less degree, and all in a disagreeable way.
It was the smallest of small worlds. He had no particular reason for
being interested in the complication; and, indeed, except for the
extraordinary statement made by O'Hanlon, the incident might be said
to be closed, were it not that he was not quite sure whether Alfred
Paulton--whom he hoped one day to have for a brother-in-law--had got
over the fascination exercised on him by that beautiful woman. Any
way, he had nothing particular to do now but fight those rascally
commissioners; so he'd just glance over these documents again, and see
if he could make anything out of them.

With a sigh, he put them away a second time. He might as well look for
help to the stars. He would call at O'Hanlon's to-day and ask was
there any news.

He found Mr. Gorman, head clerk to O'Hanlon, leaning against his
favourite shutter with his hands in his trousers' pockets, placidly
regarding through the window a tattered, battered, and wholly
miserable-looking man of between sixty and seventy, who was playing
"The Young May Moon," atrociously out of tune and out of time, on a
penny tin whistle.

"Well," said O'Brien, briskly to Gorman, "any news?"

"Not a blessed word," answered the clerk, resting his back against the
shutter instead of his shoulder, and so facing the visitor. "I suppose
you came over about your weirs? Deuced bother, Mr. O'Brien!"

"It is an infernal nuisance. Do you know, Mr. Gorman, I think half the
people who ought to be hanged are never even brought to trial."

"These Fishery Commissioners don't murder any one but fisheries and
the proprietors of fisheries, and there is no precedent for hanging a
man merely because he killed a fishery or the proprietor of a fishery.
However, Mr. O'Brien, you need not be afraid. Your weirs are as safe
as the Rock of Cashel. I often wonder why they call a rock a rock.
It's about the last thing that would think of rocking, and the sea,
which is the best rocker out, can't stir a rock that's in good wind
and form. It would take the Atlantic a month of Sundays to rock the
Black Rock, for instance, at Kilcash."

The mention of the Black Rock made O'Brien start slightly, for it was
in the rock that famous and treacherous Hole yawned and breathed
dismay and destruction. It was odd Gorman should mention the rock
which had occupied such a prominent place in his thoughts that

"It's strange," said O'Brien, walking over to the window, and placing
himself against the shutter opposite Gorman, "that I should have been
thinking of the Black Rock a little while ago! What put it into your
head now?"

"Well, I tell you, nothing could be simpler or more natural. I knew
you arrived from London yesterday. I knew you were acquainted with the
Davenports of Kilcash, and a man who once had some connection with the
Davenports was last seen on the Black Rock, and drowned himself, to
escape the police, in the Hole. You may remember the circumstance?"

"Yes," said O'Brien, instantly interested; "I have a faint
recollection of that man's death. Were you with Mr. O'Hanlon then?"

"Oh, yes. I remember all about it. He was a client of ours. We didn't
do much for him; in fact, we didn't do anything for him. He left some
papers with the governor, and then got into trouble about passing
flash notes. The police had their hands just on him, when he leapt
into the Hole. You know what that means. The body was never found; but
that does not count as anything, for the bodies of persons drowned
near that spot are never found."

"And nothing was known of the connection between this unfortunate
Fahey and the Davenports?"

"I don't know anything about it, and I don't think the governor does.
It was supposed he was an old hanger-on of old Davenport's, since the
time Davenport was abroad. Davenport himself, as far as I could find
out, never volunteered information about Fahey; and, you know, he
wasn't the kind of man you'd care to ask unnecessary questions. He was
about the closest man in the county. I never had any business to do
with him, but I've kept my ears open."

"He died very rich, I suppose?"--with a laugh. "A friend of mine is
already greatly interested in the widow."

"Ah, no wonder! She's a fine woman--the finest woman in these parts. I
often saw her. You might do worse than try your luck there yourself,
Mr. O'Brien. If he left her the bulk of his fortune she will be very
well off. He had no one else in the world but his brother, who is
crack-brained, I believe; and the dead man was very rich--made a whole
fortune abroad, in various kinds of speculations, both in Europe and

"What did he speculate in chiefly?"

"I don't know. All kinds of stocks and shares. They say he had some
plan never before adopted, and out of which he made money as fast as
he liked, and this plan he never would tell any one. At all events,
for more than ten years before he settled down here he had been
wandering pretty well over the whole civilized world. Every one who
knew of his great business cleverness wondered why he retired before
fifty, but he said he had enough for a lifetime, and that his asthma
was too bad for him to go on any longer. But somehow it leaked out
that he got a great fright about some bank on the Continent in which
he had a large sum of money--I think ten thousand pounds--lodged to
his credit."

"Do you remember the story, Gorman?"

"I do."

"Well, tell it to me. But, for heaven's sake, first send out the boy
and order that man with the tin whistle to go away. Here's sixpence
for him."

"Not fond of music! I thought you were." He took the coin, and
despatched the boy. "The Bank of England had its own reasons for
keeping the thing quiet at the time, and it never came fully before
the public, as the criminal was never discovered. Mr. Davenport gave
notice to the foreign bank that on a certain day he would require the
ten thousand he had lodged there, and that the more Bank of England
notes he found in the packet, the better he should be pleased.

"On the day he had named he called and got the money, and that very
evening started for London with the cash. This was an unusual mode of
proceeding, but most of his ways were unusual, if not odd. On his
arrival the Bank declared several of the one hundred pound notes in
his packet to be forgeries, and a few tens were also spurious.

"This discovery started an inquiry, and in a little while it was found
that one of the largest and most skilful forgeries ever made on the
Bank of England had just been committed, and that upwards of two
hundred thousand pounds worth of valueless notes had been palmed off
on foreign banks of the highest class.

"The forgeries did not stop at the notes. The signatures of some of
the greatest banking firms had been imitated and used as introductions
to the Continental houses of eminence, and an elaborate scheme of
fraud had been based on these bogus introductions. The scheme had been
in preparation for a long time. At first a small private account was
opened in the regular way in London, the referees--two customers of
the bank--being a retired military man and a shopkeeper, I think. I
forget what name the account was opened in--false one, of course,
say Jenkins.

"Jenkins's account was gradually augmented, and a balance of a couple
or three thousand was always kept. Moneys were now and then paid in
and drawn out. The account was highly respectable. In the end Jenkins
said he was going to live in Paris, and would feel obliged if his
banker would give him an introduction to a Paris house. This was done
as a matter of course.

"In Paris the balance was still further increased, until it was kept
above five thousand pounds. Then Jenkins asked if he might deposit a
box containing valuable documents for safety in the bank. He got
permission and lodged the box.

"Then he drew out all his balance very gradually, and when it was
exhausted, called, asked for his box, opened it in the presence of the
manager, and taking from it fifty Bank of England one hundred pound
notes, asked that they might be placed to his credit, as he was
expecting heavy calls momently. He had been speculating and had lost,
he said. In a couple of weeks he drew out the five thousand in one
cheque payable to himself.

"Shortly after this he took from the box, and handed the manager ten
thousand pounds, saying he was still losing heavily, and should want
the money that day, subject, of course, to a fair charge on the part
of the bank. The bank accommodated him. He said there was a great deal
more than ten ten thousands in the box, and showed the notes to the
manager. Next day he came in a great state of excitement. He had a
vast fortune within his grasp if he could only get money that day. He
took from his pocket one hundred thousand pounds in Bank of England
notes, and from his box all that was in it--one hundred and ten
thousand more. Would they oblige him? It was neck or nothing with him.
If he hadn't the money within three hours, he would be a ruined man;
if he got the money, he could make a stupendous fortune. He would
leave the odd ten thousand in the hands of the bank against expenses,
interest, etc. Would they let him have two hundred thousand in French
notes on the security of the Bank of England notes?

"After an hour's consideration the bank gave him the money, and never
saw Mr. Jenkins afterwards. The two hundred and ten thousand pounds
were forged notes. He had of course a capital of ten thousand pounds
in good notes, but these he carried off. What he did at the box was
mostly sleight-of-hand, for he was supposed to have brought the good
notes in his pocket, and by a little elementary legerdemain appeared
to take them out of the box which contained the forged notes.

"Mr. Davenport was in Paris at the time, and by the merest chance drew
out all his money next day, when he got some of the forged notes, and
on bringing them to London the crime was discovered.

"At first people were much concerned for Mr. Davenport, but they
afterwards heard he would get all his money from the French bank. It
appears Mr. Davenport gave two forged ten-pound notes--all the notes
were tens and hundreds--to the unfortunate Fahey; and although he
passed them in Dublin, he got as far as Kilcash before the police came
up with him. The silliest part of it all was that he should be such a
fool as to drown himself; for after he threw himself into the Hole,
Mr. Davenport recollected he had given him the notes, and said Fahey's
had come out of what the French bank had handed him.

"The whole affair gave Mr. Davenport an ugly turn, and they say he
retired from business earlier than he had intended, even bad as his
asthma undoubtedly was. That's all I know of the story," said Gorman,
as he turned once more with his shoulder to the shutter, and gazed out
into the dull, damp street.

                             CHAPTER XXI.

                               THE SEA.

After a few more words of no interest with Gorman, Jerry O'Brien went
into the private office of O'Hanlon, and found that gentleman
encircled by hedges of legal documents, fast asleep, with a newspaper
before him. The opening of the door roused the solicitor, who
straightway sprang to his feet, exclaiming:

"My dear O'Brien, delighted to see you! Sit down. I'll be back in a

He left the room, hastened into the outer office, asked Gorman what
o'clock it was, and if the mail had been delivered yet, and then
hurried back to his client, saying:

"Excuse my running away; there was something I had to say to my clerk.
Now, how are you? What kind of a night had you?"

"I'm quite well, and had an excellent night. And you?"

"Oh, bad, bad! Nothing could be much worse. I didn't get an hour's
sleep. I was dozing as you came in. Don't say anything about it.
Remember your promise! But I am sure I am breaking down. I am certain
I shall break down mentally soon."

"Nonsense!" cried O'Brien, cheerfully. "I am not going to listen to
that rubbish in the noonday."

"And a beautiful noonday it is," said O'Hanlon, looking out into the
meagrely illumined back-yard, with its grass-green water-butt resting
unevenly on its grass-green stand; its flower-pots three-quarters full
of completely sodden clay; its brokenhearted, lopsided, bedraggled
whisk, reclining dejectedly partly against the humid white wall and
partly against the bulged and staring water-butt; its dilapidated
wooden shed that did not go through the farce of sheltering anything
from the universal moisture save a battered watering-pot without a
rose; and its ghastly six-foot-high _arbor vitæ_--a shrub which makes
even summer sunshine look dull.

"I've been looking over the papers you lent me, and I had a chat with
Gorman before I came into this room. Gorman told me more of Davenport
and long ago than I knew up to this. But I can make nothing of your
old client, and am sure the apparition was the result of pure nervous

"But, confound it, my dear O'Brien, can't you see extreme mental
relaxation is what I am in dread of?"

"Well, then, I won't say that. I'll say it was pure or impure liquor,
or liver, or anything you like. Of only one thing am I sure--namely,
that there was more than a little between this Fahey and Davenport."

"That's my own impression too; but I can make nothing of these

"It is not intended you should be able to make anything of them; and
if I were you, now that the two men concerned in them are dead and
done for, I'd bother no more about them."

"Get it out of your head for good and all, O'Brien, that I am
troubling about the men. I am not; I am troubling about myself. I am
afraid I am going to have something seriously wrong with my brain, and
that's not a comfortable thing for a man who is not yet old to get
into his mind."

"Well, I'm sure I don't know what to do. I have often heard it said
that one of the best ways to adopt in a case of this kind is to bring
the man face to face with the thing which causes him annoyance----"

"What! Bring me face to face with what I saw! I think, O'Brien, your
brain is giving way before merely the story of my troubles."

"No, no; I mean to set you face to face with the scene of your
adventure, and then when you perceive nothing unusual there, you will
be less disturbed by the memory of your last visit than you are now. I
myself am curious to look at the place once more. Will you drive over
with me now, and put your mind at rest for ever?"

He spoke earnestly, considerately.

O'Hanlon thought a moment, and then said with a sigh, followed by a
lugubrious smile:

"I don't know about putting my mind at rest, but I think the drive
would do me good. I have been staying too much indoors of late. Yes,
I'll go. I'll be ready in half-an-hour. Call for me then, and I'll
have a car waiting outside. I hope the weather will keep up."

O'Brien called at the time appointed, and they drove away towards

When they cleared the city, their road lay through miles of bog and
marsh, in which nothing grew but flags and osiers and bulrushes, with
here and there patches of thin rank grass. The causeway along which
they drove had been formed of the earth obtained from cuttings on each
side of it, and these cuttings made long straight lines of dreary
canals, uncheered by traffic. Snipe, and duck, and cranes were to be
seen here, but the ground was rotten, and, in places, dangerous. As
far as the eye could reach no human habitation was to be seen. On one
of these canals a poor hare-brained enthusiast had built a small mill,
now fallen into the last stage of decay. The useless water had no
power to turn the useless wheel. Now and then a bald gray rock rose a
few feet above the flat monotony of the swamp. To right and left, low
green hills touched the leaden sky. All in front and behind was
cheerless, unbroken morass.

The air was heavy with moisture, but no rain fell. The iron rails,
woodwork, and cushions of the car were clammy to the touch. The
horse's head drooped as he plodded spiritlessly along the dark, miry
road. The driver wore an oilcap, oilskin coat, and had a heavy,
sodden, yellow rug about his knees. He used the whip with monotonous
regularity and monotonous absence of result. The horse seemed to feel
that not even man could be in a hurry on such a day. There was no
movement in sky, or air, or on the land. The car startled two cranes
that were fishing by the side of the road. They rose and fled with
such intolerable slowness as proclaimed their belief that no creature
which had once gone beneath could ever get from under the flat
pressure of those purposeless clouds--could ever shake off the slimy
unctuousness of the land.

The two travellers sat back to back, holding their heads forward
against the soft, clinging, clammy air. They scarcely spoke a word the
whole way. The landscape afforded no subject for pleasant remark, and
the younger man did not care to make matters gloomier. He had nothing
new to communicate, so he smoked in silence. The elder man could not
rouse himself to take an interest in any subject not immediate to
himself, and the driver was half asleep.

At last the ground began to rise very gradually. They were getting
near the sea. The air grew lighter, fresher, brisker. A thin white
vapour lay upon the marsh and rolled slowly inward, yet no wind could
be felt. The air had grown much warmer, and although the dull pall of
leaden sky still spread unbroken above, it could be felt that sunlight
existed somewhere overhead. The bleak vacuity of an overcast winter
day was being insensibly filled with assurances of activity and life,
and from the wide sweep of the full horizontal front there was the
breath, the inchoate murmur as though the leaves of a hundred thousand
trees felt the approach of wind. That was the fine, broad, opening
phrase of the diapason tones drawn by the ocean from the shore in its
portentous prelude to the silence of eternity.

Higher and higher they crawled slowly, gradually, until they could
tell what part of the sky lay over the sea by reason of its greater

And now the various movements in the orchestra of the sea began to
assemble and marshal before their ears. Here the shrill silver hiss of
the long waves toppling in curved cascades, and running swiftly inland
on the sand. Here the roar and rattle of stubborn boulders torn from
their rocky holds by the mad out-wash of the shattered wave. Here the
low hollow groaning of protesting caves, vocal, inscrutable. Afar off
the deep boom of the mighty wave, which, gliding up to the land, a
green, unbroken mound of water, flung itself in white, impotent rage
against the unrepining, unappalled, forlorn cliffs, and made the air
thunder with mutinous clamour.

There was no storm--nothing beyond the ordinary winter roller of the

The car stopped, and the two friends descended.

"It's only a few hundred yards from this to the cliff over the Black
Rock," said the driver. "But it's lonely there on a day like this.
Don't go down. Don't trust yourself on that rock a day like this. She
may begin any minute a day like this, and if she catches you between
her and the water, you're dead men."

The two friends struck across the downs, the younger leading the way.

                            CHAPTER XXII.

                              THE ROCK.

Here was the dull blue wintry sea under the dull gray wintry sky. No
wind blew, no rain fell. A thin, soft sea moisture rose from the sea
and met a thin, soft cloud moisture descending from the clouds. The
long, even roller of the Atlantic stole slowly, deliberately,
sullenly, from the level plains of the ocean, growing to the eye
imperceptibly as it came. The water was thickly streaked with tawny,
vapid froth; the base of the high, impassable, brown rocky coast was
marked by a broad but diminishing line of yellow foam.

No bird was visible in the air, no ship on the sea, no living creature
on the land but the two men, O'Hanlon and O'Brien. A mile inland stood
lonely Kilcash House, which had for years been the home of the dead
man and his beautiful wife. Below, between the towering, oppressive,
liver-coloured cliffs and the foam-mantled, blanched blue sea lay the
Black Rock, a huge, flat, monstrous table cast off by the land and
spurned by the sea.

For a while the two men stood speechless on the edge of the cliff
overlooking the barren waste of heaving waters and the sullen ramparts
of indomitable heights. The deep boom of the bursting wave, the roar
of the outwashing boulders, and the shrill hiss of the falling spray,
made the dismal scene more deserted and forlorn. The sea and cliffs
were forbidding to man. They seemed to resent the presence of man--to
desire, now that they were not engaged in actual war, no intrusion on
the lines where their gigantic conflicts were waged.

The Black Rock stretched out half-a-mile from the base of the cliff
into the sea, and was half-a-mile wide. Above it the land was slightly
hollowed towards the sea, and would, but for the Black Rock beneath,
form a bay-like indentation in the shore. The chord of this arc was
about six hundred yards, so that the greater mass of the Black Rock
projected into the sea beyond the heads of the cliffs.

The Rock, as it was called for brevity in the neighbourhood, was only
a few feet above the reach of the waves and broken water when a strong
wind blew from the south-west. It shelved outward, and when the waters
were very rough, when a storm raged, the shattered waves leaped up on
it, and bounded, hissing in irresistible fury, towards the inner
cliff, but were arrested, dispersed, and poured down the sides of the
Rock ere they reached the inner cliff. The Rock was highest at the
centre, and descended to right, left, front, and rear. But although it
was lower at the rear than in the centre, it was much higher there
than in front. Viewed from above, it was not unlike the back of some
prodigious sea monster rising above the surface of the water. In shape
it resembled a vast creature of the barnacle kind, the apex of whose
shell would represent the highest point of the Rock, and the
corrugations stand for the ridges and hollows of the sides from the
highest point of the ledge to the lower ones.

The colour, too, was not unlike that of a barnacle. For, although the
people had given it the name of the Black Rock, it was black only by
comparison with the cliffs. The surface was made up of smooth, slimy
ridges, dark blue-green in the hollows, growing lighter as the curve
sloped upward, and on the summit, here and there, deep yellow brown or

Winter or summer, the Rock was never quite dry. It was always damp,
clammy, treacherous. It was always dangerous to the foot. There was no
fear of one who fell slipping into the sea, unless the misfortune
occurred very near the brink. Then a fall and a plunge were certain
death, for the great rollers of the ocean would grind or dash the life
out of a man against these rocks in a few minutes. But many a man had
slipped and hurt himself badly, and two fatally, on that cruel Black

Once a man of the village of Kilcash had fallen, broken his leg in two
places, and been carried up the cliff path and across the downs to
die. Another had slipped on the top of one ridge. For a moment his
body swept backward in an arc like a bent bow, until his head touched
the top of the next ridge behind. All his muscles instantly relaxed,
his chin was crushed down upon his chest, he rolled for an instant
into a shapeless heap, rolled down into the trough, and lay at full
length with dead, wide open eyes turned upward to the sun. Several
people had from time to time met with dire accidents on that dangerous
slope by reason of the uncertain footing it afforded.

But the great terror of the Black Rock did not lie in the greasiness
of its surface. The chief danger lay below the surface. The deadly
monster of that desolate tract was hidden from view, until suddenly,
and generally without warning, it sprang forth upon its victim, and
seized him and bore him away to certain and awful death. It gave no
chance of respite or rescue; it gave no time for thought or prayer.
One moment man in the full vigour of life, full of the pride of life,
full joy in life, stood upon that awful field of slippery rock, and
the next was caught from behind and dragged into the foaming sea by a
force no ten men could fight against for a moment.

All the year round this terrible monster of death lurked here, and
upon provocation would rush out, and, when opportunity offered,
invariably destroy. It could not be drowned with water or scared by
fire, or slain with lethal weapons. It could not be lured or trapped.
It would come to an end no one knew when. It had begun to exist
centuries ago. It varied in length with the season of the year, and in
bulk with the phases of the moon. It had its lair in a cave. No boat
along all that coast durst enter the Whale's Mouth for fear of it; for
although much could be foretold of its habits, all could not. No one
could infallibly predict for an hour what it would do--except one
thing: that any boat in that cave when it did appear would infallibly
be dashed into a thousand splinters. That was the only thing certain
about it. To be caught in its cave would, if possible, be still more
terrible than to be caught by it on the Black Rock.

Its dimensions varied from twenty to a hundred and fifty feet one way
by ten to twelve and six to eight another.

Along the whole coast it was spoken of with fear. Nothing else like it
was known in those parts. It was one of the sights which made holiday
makers seek the secluded fishing of Kilcash. The inhabitants knew its
ways better than strangers. And yet people of the village had fallen a
prey to its fury. More than a dozen villagers had within four
generations died in its deadly embrace, and more than an equal number
of visitors within the same period. Suppose the season visitors had
been at their highest number all the year round, it had been
calculated that forty of them would have been sacrificed in the time.

Over and over again visitors had been warned against going near the
place; but the attraction of danger proved too strong for prudence,
and people would go for mere bravado or out of morbid curiosity. The
chance of contracting a fatal malady has no allurements for man: the
prospect of a violent death fascinates him. The love of daring certain
death by violence is found in few; the willingness to dare great peril
by violence is almost universal in young men of healthy bodies and
minds. It has been justly said that the most extraordinary contract
into which large bodies of men ever voluntarily enter is that by which
they agree to stand up in a field and allow themselves to be shot at
for thirteenpence a day; and yet men risk their lives daily willingly,
at a less price--nay, for no price at all.

Here, on this very Black Rock, a terrible instance occurred with
disastrous result five years before, when three young Trinity College
students were staying for the summer vacation at Kilcash. They were
friends, and lodged in the same cottage. They went on little
excursions together. Of course they had heard all about the terrors of
the Black Rock. In an hour of eclipse they resolved not only to visit
the fatal Rock, but to lunch there under circumstances of the greatest
danger. They mentioned their intention freely, and were warned by the
simple people of the village that they ran a risk in going to the spot
they named, and at the time they selected, and that they absolutely
courted death by delaying for luncheon. That afternoon one of the
three ran the whole way back into the village and told the appalling
tale. He had strayed a few yards from his friends, when suddenly burst
upon his ears a thunderous roar. The Rock shook beneath his feet as
though it would burst asunder. He was instantly covered and blinded
with mist and sea smoke. He gave himself up for lost, and
instinctively ran towards the cliff. Then he heard a fearful crash of
waters, and again the Rock shook. He wondered his destruction had been
so long delayed. He waited until all was still. He turned round. His
friends had disappeared. Their bodies were never recovered.

As it has been said, the Black Rock was not in reality black, but a
dark, dirty olive green. Perhaps it got its name from the dark or
black deeds which had been enacted on it.

Around the Black Rock the cliffs do not stand very high. They reach to
little more than a hundred feet above the solid shelf below. In colour
they are of a deep liver hue. They lean outward and take the form of
huge broad broken pilasters, set against an irregular wall. These
cliffs, like the Rock, are always damp, but, unlike the Rock, never
clammy. They are smooth and flat, with sharp angles and rectangular
fractures. They are cold and hard, and seem built by nature to define
for ever the frontier of the ocean.

At the point of the Rock furthest inland the cliff is of a softer
nature, and hence the water has eaten deeper in here. The cliff is
part clay, part gravel, and part boulder. Here is a temporary break in
the continuity of the regular formation. There is no depression on the
downs above to correspond with this fault. Thus at the back of what
has been called the bay, there are about two hundred yards long of
cliff, which the sea would soon tear away if it could get at it. But
the Black Rock stood between the greedy ocean and the vulnerable point
of the cliff. It formed a sufficient outpost. This part of the bay
slants inwards, not outwards, as the two arms. In this part a little
copper ore was once found, and a shaft sunk. But the mine proved of no
practical value, and, after absorbing much money, was abandoned fifty
years ago. The shaft was sunk two hundred feet; but here, even if the
mine had proved rich, the water would have presented serious
difficulties, for after getting down a hundred and twenty feet it
began to appear, and at a hundred and fifty it occasioned delay and
inconvenience. Forty years ago the top of the shaft had been covered
with planks and clay to prevent accident. Long ago the machinery and
wooden engine-house and tool-house had been carried away, and now the
site of the head of the shaft was indistinguishable from the other
bramble-grown parts of the sloping cliff over the Black Rock. This
head of the mine was always carefully avoided by the inhabitants, for
every one said some day or other the planks were sure to give way and
fall to the bottom. It was of no interest whatever to visitors, for
nothing was to be seen, and a landslip had destroyed the rude road
long ago made to it. It was on the right-hand side of one looking

On this inside of the bay of stone ran downwards the path leading to
the great table below. It was a natural path almost the whole way. Art
of the simplest kind had cut a little here and filled up a little
there, and levelled a little in another place, but the lion's share of
the work had been found ready to man's hand. There was no attempt at
road-making, or attaining to a surface. Those were luxuries of
civilisation: this was a work of rough art and benignant nature.

As one faced the sea, the path crossed over from left to right, then
from right to left, and finally from left to right. Standing on the
cliff at the middle point of the bay, and looking down at the broad
expanse of slanting rock, only two things caught the eye, when the
dimensions, the colour, and conformation had been taken in. Directly
in front, and almost in the middle of the Rock, rose the apex of what
has been likened to the shell of a barnacle. It was not more than ten
feet above the level of the Rock, twenty feet from its centre, and was
part of the Rock itself.

In a direct line with the apex, and about half-way between it and the
outer rim of the Rock, there is a black spot which, upon closer
inspection, proves to be a hole of some kind. At the distance it is
impossible to perceive any more.

Towards this hole O'Hanlon pointed his arm, and said to O'Brien:

"There's the Hole. You know it well enough."

"Of course. But you could not recognise him so far off," said O'Brien,
shading his eyes to look.

"No; but I told you I saw him in here quite close;" and he pointed.
"He or it went on without hesitation, and then jumped in. He or it,
whichever you prefer, O'Brien, went in as sure as I have a head on me.
Either that or I am going mad."

O'Brien thought awhile in silence, with his hand on his chin and his
eyes turned on the bleak, dreary waste of stone and water before him.

"O'Hanlon, you're not afraid to risk seeing anything--that thing
again?" he asked at length--adding, "I want to have a look at the

The other hesitated a little before he drew himself up, and said:

"No. I may as well face it and be sure of the worst--be certain
whether I am to end my days in a lunatic asylum or not."

The two men descended to the Black Rock.

                            CHAPTER XXIII.

                       THE HOME OF THE MONSTER.

It was now growing dusk. The loneliness of the place was extreme. A
few sea-gulls were wheeling and crying in the dull air overhead. They
had come back from their long day's fishing far out to sea and up and
down the coast, and were leisurely wheeling, scouting, and sailing
shoreward to their homes among the crags.

Nothing else stirred or broke the stillness, except the sea--the
imperial, the insatiable, the eternal sea!--the sea that for ever
chafes and storms, and seeks to eat away or overwhelm the land because
it spurns and writhes under its function of merely filling up the
hollows of earth and balancing the volume of the world.

If all the solids of the earth were turned smooth in the mighty lathe
that drives the earth round its axis, then water would be supreme, and
this planet would be a polished, argent sphere, flashing through
interspaces between clouds as it spun and flew along the orbit of gold
woven of light for it by the sun.

Day and night the waters work without ceasing to overwhelm the earth.
Day and night the torrents tear down the sand and boulders and trees
of the mountains and fling them into the hidden hollows at the mouths
of rivers. All the deltas of the world are offerings of the torrents
and rivers towards carrying out the grand scheme of the oceans
metropolitan. Pool and tarn and lake and inland sea, and remotest
waters that touch undreamed-of isles, are daily and nightly fretting
or tearing away the uncomplaining shores.

The sun and moon and winds are leagued against the pastoral earth.
Daily the sun transports millions of tons of water from the harmless
plains of deep-sea waters, and the wind takes these vaporous foes of
the land and hurls them on the loftiest mountains, so that they may
gain the greatest speed and rending force and carrying power as they
fly back with spoils of earth to their old friend the sea. The sun
splits the cliffs with heat, and the winds lend fascines to the waves,
so that the injured portions may be reached, cast down, and another
line of defence destroyed.

Lest the sun and the winds and the rivers are not enough to accomplish
the ruin of man's territory, the moon--the gentle moon of poets and
lovers--the cold, frigid moon helps with that coldest of all things on
earth, the glacier, to complete the havoc. The power of the wind is
but partial, intermittent; that of the moon and the glacier general,
everlasting. The tides are the heights commanding the outworks of the
land; the moving fields of ice unsuspected traitors, in the garb of
solidity, sapping the walls of the citadel.

Even now the list of enemies is not complete. In the core and centre
of the earth itself the arch-traitor, the mightiest traitor of all,
lies, gravitation, which should naturally be the lieutenant of the
denser of the two combatants. This is the most relentless, the most
unmerciful leveller of all. It seizes with equal avidity upon the moat
that the sunlight only makes visible, and the loosened but yet
unapportioned cliff of a thousand feet high, cut by the river of a
Mexican cañon.

Electricity, the irresistible enemy and imponderable slave of man, is
on the side of the waters. It binds the vapours of the oceans
together, and scatters them when it reaches the hills. It rends trees
and stones and buildings, and flings them down ready for easy
porterage by the more methodical water.

One of these forces that ought to be on the side of the land,
gravitation, has deserted its own side for the water. It is one force,
and is universally operative. One of these forces that ought to be on
the side of the sea has deserted its own side for the land. It is one
force, but it operates through hundreds of thousands, of millions of
agents; it is the coral insect. It transmutes the waters which give
life and sustenance to it into land against which the waters war. It
raises up an island where there ought to be two hundred fathoms of
water. It uses up more material in making islands than all the great
rivers put together deposit at their deltas.

The only loyal servant land has is the central fire. It can throw up
in one minute as much as all the others can tear down in a hundred
years. The central fire pushes an ocean aside with as much ease as a
wave raises a boat. It throws up the Andes in less time than it took
the sea, with its allied forces, to rob England of Lyonnesse.

The coral insect and the central fire, the least and the hugest of the
world's working forces, are more than equal to all the forces arrayed
against them, and are the humble and the terrible friends of man.

Here, by this gloomy sea, no coral insect toiled, no earthquake
heaved, no volcano thrust up a flaming torch of hope to heaven. Here
the enemies of the land had no foe to encounter but the resolute
indifference of the veteran cliffs. Here the sea, and the tides, and
the winds, and gravitation worked on unchallenged by active
resistance. Year after year, almost imperceptible pieces of cliff
fell, were engulfed. Year after year the incessant action of the waves
was gnawing deeper and deeper into the heart of the land. Year after
year the adamantine substance of the Black Rock was diminishing,
though in a generation no man noticed a change in the Rock, and few a
change in the cliff.

This coast was honeycombed with caves. In the summer time, when the
weather was fine, pleasure parties put off from Kilcash for "The
Caves," as the district in which they were to be found was, with
peculiar want of fancy or imagination in so imaginative a race, called
by the inhabitants of the village.

The region of caves was all to the east of Kilcash, and extended along
several miles of coast. Some caves were wide-mouthed, shallow, low,
uninteresting; others spacious, lofty, ramified. In order to excite
curiosity and inspire awe, some were reported to be unexplored; others
had legends. Others had sad stories of truthful tragedies. It was safe
to enter one at low water only, and safe to stay no longer than a few
minutes because of the stalactites. If you wished to see another, and
not stay in its black, chill maw for four hours, you must go on the
top of high water, and stay no more than a good hour. To a third you
might go at any time of tide. To a fourth only on the last of the
lowest of neaps, and then be quick and get away again. To a sixth only
on the top of spring tides. To one, and one only, which might be
entered at any state of tide--Never.

This last cave, which not the boldest fisherman in Kilcash or the next
village to it would face, was called the Whale's Mouth, and ran in
under the Black Rock.

The opening of the Whale's Mouth is on the south-west or extreme
seaward side of the Black Rock. At full of spring tide the entrance to
it is about fifteen feet high and of equal breadth. The difference
between high and low water here is about fifteen feet. Hence, at
lowest of spring tide, the measurement from the surface of the water
to the roof at the entrance would be thirty feet.

At the entrance of the Whale's Mouth the outline of the Black Rock is
blunt, abrupt, solid. The base of the Rock is never uncovered by
water. The wash of the long roller of the Atlantic is always against
its sides. The general formation of the cave is that of a square. It
is more like the hideous distended jaws of the crocodile than of the
whale; but the reason for calling it the Whale's Mouth does not lie in
the immediate entrance, but further on, in the roof of the forbidding

For years no one had dared to enter that cavern. Along the coast were
stories of two boats which had ventured in. Not a plank, oar, or man
of the first had ever been seen again. Part of the boat, oars, and
crew of the other had been seen for one brief moment, smashed and
mangled, and then disappeared for ever. What the fate of the former
was no one could tell; what the fate of the latter had been all knew.

As far as could be seen into the cave from the outside, there was
nothing dangerous or remarkable-looking about it. It declined slightly
in height, but the walls did not seem to come any closer together.
There was no rock or obstruction of any kind visible in it. The long,
even swells rolled in unbroken; but after each wave passed out of
sight there was a deep tumultuous explosion, and a strange, loud sound
of rushing and struggling water. There was no weakening or gradual
dispersion of the force of the wave. Its power seemed shattered and
absorbed at once.

This cave had another mysterious and disquieting faculty. It absorbed
and discharged more water than could be accounted for by any other
supposition but that inside somewhere it expanded prodigiously. At
flood tide the water went in eagerly; at ebb tide it ran out at so
quick a rate, many believed a large body of fresh water, or foreign
water of some other kind, found a way into it. On flood tide, the
fishermen gave it a wide berth, lest by any chance or mischance they
might be sucked into it.

Often curious people passing by at flood tide threw overboard articles
that would float, and watched them as they were slowly but surely
drawn into that gaping vault. There was no doubt they were swallowed
by that inky void, but they never were seen by man again. Some of the
simpler people believed that there was a whirlpool at the end of the
cave, and that if this whirlpool took anything down, it never gave
that thing, or sign or token of that thing, back again. People on
these shores attach miraculous powers to whirlpools. There are no
whirlpools of consequence in the neighbourhood, but terrible stories
of them had reached the people, and filled the simple folk with
superstitious awe.

In this shunned and mysterious cell the rock-monster had its home. On
the sea it was harmless. But no one durst enter its haunt, and yet
this was not wholly from fear of the monster, but of the place itself,
with its loud explosions, its unaccountable indraught and outflow, and
the unreturning dead of the two boats. The monster had its home in the
cave; but his sphere of action was on the vast plain of rock above.

O'Hanlon and O'Brien succeeded in crossing the Black Rock without
accident, and were drawing near the Hole.

"It was there," said O'Hanlon, pointing--"just there. I saw him as
plain as ever eyes saw anything."

O'Hanlon pointed to the north-east, or shore side, of the Hole.

The two men drew nearer, and then, pausing a moment to fix their hats
firmly on their heads and grasp one another round the waist, crept
cautiously forward until they stood on the brink of the Hole. They
looked down.

The Hole was almost square, about thirty feet by thirty feet, and
narrowing irregularly as it went down to about half that size. The
depth from where the two stood to the surface of the water below was
thirty-five feet.

The bottom of the Hole was naturally scant of light, and the light now
in the sky was poor and thin.

The sides were almost smooth, and at the bottom of the funnel the
angles a little rounded in. The rock upon which they stood seemed to
be about twenty-five feet thick, and the free space between the bottom
of the rock and the surface of the water ten feet. Thus
the height of the cave at the Hole was at the present time of
tide--half-tide flood--ten feet.

At the bottom of the Hole the water was no longer smooth, even quiet,
but broken and turbid, opaque, and mantled with froth. Every wave that
entered the vestibule of the cave swung the uneasy seething mass
inward, to return in a few seconds on the back-wash. But the froth did
not come back every time; it crept further on, until at the third wave
the froth disappeared inward, to be succeeded by other froth moving at
the same rate.

It made one giddy to look for any length of time. After a few minutes
both men drew back by mutual consent.

"No mortal man could live down there for five minutes," said O'Hanlon,
with a shiver.

"No," said O'Brien, with a laugh, "or ghost either, for that matter.
But, I say, O'Hanlon, what cool and roomy lodging it would afford to
all the Fishery Commissioners in the United Kingdoms!"

"This is no place for joking," said O'Hanlon, uneasily. "Let us get
back. I am sick of this place."

"Wait a minute," said O'Brien. "As this wretched man Fahey was seen
here both in the flesh and the spirit for the last time, let me read
the documents he left in your charge."

He put his hand in his pocket, and read the papers by the fast-fading

"Come on. Take care you don't slip. The papers are simple enough on
the surface, except No. 11. Shall I read it to you?"

"Ay," answered O'Hanlon absently.

It was nothing to him. He was devoting his thoughts to getting safely
over this greasy, clammy, slippery surface.

O'Brien read out slowly:

"'Memorandum.--Rise 15·6 lowest. At lowest minute of lowest forward
with all might undaunted. The foregoing refers to _sculls_. With only
one _skull_ any lowest or any last quarter; but great forward pluck
required for this. In both cases (of course!) left.'

"Well," said O'Brien, "I confess I can't make anything of it. Can

"No," said the other listlessly.

They had now reached the foot of the path.

"I think it's rubbish. What do you say?"

"Unmitigated rubbish."

"What, for instance, can he mean by 'skull' and 'sculls' with a line
under each? The writing is that of a man of some education."

"Oh, yes--he was a man of some education."

O'Brien paused in his walk, and cried:

"Stop! I think I have an idea."


"From what you know of this man, do you think he could spell a word of
ordinary English?"

"I should think so."

"Then I _have_ an idea.

"What is it?"


                            CHAPTER XXIV.


O'Brien and O'Hanlon gained the top of the cliff, and reached the car
waiting on the road without saying anything further. The former was
busy with his thoughts; the latter, after O'Brien's word "Wait," sank
into indifference.

"I'm ashamed of two sensible men such as you," said the driver, in a
southern brogue, "going down there on an uncertain season like this,
and at the end of daylight. It's a mercy you ever got back alive."

"Or dead," said O'Brien, with a laugh.

"Never mind, Terry; we're none the worse for it. Now, drive on to
Kilcash, and pull up at the Strand Hotel."

The driver whipped his horse, and the remainder of the journey was
accomplished in silence.

Kilcash is a small, straggling village, built on the slopes of the
cliffs surrounding Kilcash Bay, and on the low ground lying in front
of the bay. In summer it is usually pretty full of people, for
although no railway has yet reached it, hundreds of families live in
the neighbourhood, and many who dwell at a distance use it as a
holiday resort. In winter it is dreary, deserted, dead. The closed-up
lodging-houses and cottages which, under the influence of the summer
sun, grow bright and cheerful with flowers and the faces of children,
in winter stare with blank window eyes at the cold gray sky and
monotonous level of the sea. It was difficult to say who governed
Kilcash--five policemen and seven coastguardsmen, possibly; for there
was no other sign of official life.

There was no Corporation, no Commissioners under the Towns Improvement
Act, no gas-house, no water-works, no sanitary board, no guardians of
the poor, no bellman, no watering-carts, no workhouse, no police-court,
no tax or rate collector, no exciseman, no soldier, no lawyer. There
were only three institutions, and these were curative--namely, two
houses of worship of different denominations, and a dispensary.

Indirect taxation reached the people occultly; of direct taxation they
knew nothing. No doubt some one paid for mending their sewer when the
rain-water of winter burst it. No doubt some one paid for putting
metal on the roads when the ruts became absolutely dangerous. No doubt
some one paid the men who built up the breach in the Storm Wall.

There was a slumbering belief that the police had powers, and the
coastguards functions. For instance, the police fished a good deal,
smoked fairly well, and were respectable with haughtiness. The
coastguards had a boat. In the eyes of Kilcash the possession of a
boat was sufficient to account for anything in the world. The
coastguards went out in their boat only in fine weather, which gave
them the aspect of gentlemen. They kept their boat scrupulously mopped
and painted--painted, not tarred; which was foppish, and a little
weak-minded. They carefully displayed in the station on the hill,
carbines and cutlasses of which Kilcash stood in no more awe than it
did of the bulrushes in the bog at the back of the village. To be
sure, there was a theory that upon occasion the police might call on
the coastguards to come out and assist them. But what this occasion
was no one knew. Sergeant Mahony had been heard to hint broadly that
in such a dire extremity--which would not, he said, curdle his blood
in the least--the chief command would devolve on him. Although nothing
was known for certain as to the exigency which might place the whole
offensive and defensive forces of the village under the command of
Mahony, Tim Curran had, when going home late of an evening, said he
supposed the landing of the French in Dublin Bay would lead to that
extraordinary act of power. Tim had been in Dublin for three days, and
was believed to be infallible on all matters connected, or that might
ever be connected, with the bay--from herrings to the French Fleet. It
must not be deduced from this that Kilcash assumed a very servile
attitude towards Dublin; for if Dublin had a bay, so likewise had

In the village there was one secret held by all, known by all, but
scarcely once in a lifetime spoken of by one neighbour to another. It
is more than likely that this secret would never have been dreamed of
only for a fool once famous in the village, now long since dead. And
even this fool told the secret to but few. For a reason lost in the
obscurity of local dulness, this fool was named "The Prince of
Orange." He went about barefooted, in the most gaudy raiment he could
beg. He preferred a soldiers or a huntsman's cast-off coat to any
other, and if he was fortunate enough to get such a garment, he
stitched to it all the blue, yellow, and green ribbons he could lay
hands on. He was one of the villagers killed by the monster of the
Black Rock. On the outer face of it the fishing was generally good for
long lines, and one day, while making believe to fish there with an
old brace and a piece of tattered ribbon tied together, he was
surprised and overwhelmed.

The great secret of the people of Kilcash was that no man, woman, or
child of the whole village could understand why people came there in
summer. Of course the advent of the visitors filled the pockets of the
inhabitants, which was no more than the inhabitants were entitled to
expect, which was no more than natural, since it has been so for
generations. But why should people come to Kilcash in the summer
months? It was said they came to the sea. But why?

Supposing a sailor had been at sea for three years and then came home
to Kilcash, did he want to look at the land? Did any one in the world
ever want to see the land? These people who came with the long, hot
days had near their own homes lakes or rivers, or pools or wells. All
these were water--nothing but water. There was salt in one, and not in
the other--that was all the difference. Put a bucket of sea-water
beside a bucket of fresh, and who could tell the difference without
tasting or smelling?

When a man came back from a three years' cruise, did he go straight
off into the country and stand or lie staring at the fields and
haystacks? Not he. Either he came home to Kilcash, or went to a big
town where he could see strange sights and buy fine things with his
wages. Some came to fish. To fish! Why, every gurnet they caught cost
them about a pound of money. The doctors told them to come for health.
Health! What did they think of rheumatism, and fever, and bronchitis,
and pleurisy, and lumbago, and other diseases, a thousand times worse
at the sea than inland? Did any one ever know the land to kill a man?
How many thousands a year did the sea kill? In the heat of summer it
was all very well to bathe, and swim, and lie about on the sands and
rocks, to wade and tumble into pools and get drenched with spray. But
wait until the winter comes. Wait until they get the wages of their
summer folly. Wait until they are racked by pains, and choked with a
cough, and crippled with stiff joints. When they feel the penalties
they are far from the place where they incurred them, and the fools of
doctors tell them they must go back to the sea next summer in order to
get finally rid of their maladies! Rubbish. In reality they come to
the sea to drive in the few nails still wanting in their coffins.

This secret made the people of Kilcash conscious of being hypocrites,
and accounted for the forced smile with which they greeted visitors in
summer, and the night of leaden gloom which descended on them when the
visitors departed for the year. The inhabitants of Kilcash never
smiled in winter. To laugh in winter would have sounded like a pæan
over their miserable, misguided visitors. It would have indicated a
heartless and brutal nature.

O'Brien and O'Hanlon alighted at the "Strand Hotel," and ordered
dinner and beds. During dinner, O'Hanlon made two ineffectual attempts
to extract O'Brien's idea from him, but the latter would not speak. He
smiled, and repeated his former word "Wait." O'Brien in his turn tried
to induce O'Hanlon to talk, but the latter answered in the briefest
and most apathetic way. The dinner was finished in absolute silence.

When it was over, O'Brien rose and said:

"You won't mind my going out for an hour or so?"

"Going out!" cried O'Hanlon, rousing up. "Where on earth are you going
at such an hour, in such a place? Not to that accursed Black Rock?"

"No, no," said O'Brien. "Only I'm quite sure you would never dream of
entering such a place, I would ask you to come with me."

"What place?"

"Oh, you're too respectable for it, I assure you."

"Nonsense! I'll go with you."

"I'll lay you a sovereign you don't."


"Done! I'm going to the 'Blue Anchor' to drink a pint of beer and
smoke a pipe of tobacco. Hand over the money."

"The 'Blue Anchor'--the Blue 'Anchor!' Are _you_ out of your mind too,
or are you joking? Oh, I know! You want to get rid of me for an hour,
but don't like to say so."

"I have a bet of a sovereign on it, and I'll take the money now, if
you like. Will that convince you?"

"No; I'll pay when you come back and tell me you have been there. But
if you really are going to that low beershop, tell me what you are
going there for."

"Amusement. I find you dull."

O'Hanlon screwed up his eyes and regarded O'Brien closely.

"What is it?" he asked.

He knew O'Brien much too well to think he meant to be offensive, or
even smart at the expense of an old friend without good reason. He
suspected O'Brien was waiving a direct answer, which might cause pain
to his hearer.

"It's something you suspect, and don't like to tell me. You're not
going over to the dispensary to ask Dr. Flynn to drop in presently, as
though by accident, and find me here, and make an informal

This was said half-playfully.

"Take care," said O'Brien, as he buttoned on his overcoat. "If you
don't knock off talking about your infernal sanity, you'll drive _me_
mad; and won't that be a nice kettle of fish? Now look here: Are you,
or are you not, coming with me to the 'Blue Anchor' to smoke a frugal
pipe and drink a frugal pint of beer--or, more correctly, a pint of
frugal beer? Yes or no?"

"No," answered O'Hanlon, sinking back hopelessly on the chair from
which he had risen. "It would be as much as my professional position
is worth."

"All right, then; I'm off. I'll be back within an hour. Don't forget
you owe me a sovereign;" and he left the room.

                             CHAPTER XXV.

                          THE "BLUE ANCHOR."

The "Blue Anchor" was certainly not a place suited to the leisure
moments of a respectable solicitor enjoying first-rate practice in an
important town. It was small, low, dingy, blear-windowed, dilapidated.
It stood in a little by-street, if a place like Kilcash can be said to
have a by-street, since it has no main street or streets, all streets
being in some way or another intimately connected with the Storm Wall,
as the road inside that work was called.

The "Blue Anchor" has no pretensions to a "front." On one side of the
door is a small, square window filled with small panes of unclean
glass. The house is two storeys high; the ground-floor consists of
three rooms--namely, the bar, tap-room, and kitchen. The floors of
these three rooms are formed of beaten clay, and boast of neither
straw nor sand.

Within the bar are a plain deal table and four chairs. By means of
these, the bar is, for the sake of gentility, used as the family
refectory, for people of any pretensions know that dining in the
kitchen is a sign of low origin. Opposite the counter of the bar
stands the door into the tap-room. Folk who are in haste can be served
at the bar, but most of the customers of the "Blue Anchor" are
strangers to haste, and take their liquor seated in the tap-room--or
tap, as it is familiarly and affectionately called by those who are
familiar with the place. It is about twelve feet square, with a large
deal table in the middle, and a bench on each side of the table. At
the upper end is a hearth, on which smoulders a good peat fire, the
smoke from which goes up a large flue that comes down to within five
feet of the floor like a huge funnel. Two short pieces of logs, the
spoil of some wreck, serve as chimney-seats. The benches are of
home-make, and very unsteady on their legs. The continual presence of
beer seems to have muddled them as to the exact position of their
centre of gravity; and this condition, combined with the deplorable
unevenness of the floor, has made them despair of ever being able to
find it out.

But the table is as firm as the Black Rock itself John Tobin, the
landlord--an enormously fat man, in gaiters, knee-breeches, and a
cutaway-coat--takes great pride in the invincible stability of that
table. Whenever he is angered by anything, he goes into the tap-room,
places his hands flat on the middle of the table, and gives two,
three, or four shakes, according to the agitation of his feelings.
Then he goes out to the front door, looks critically at the sky to
seaward, comes back to the bar, and, having mopped his forehead,
sighs, and is once more calm.

The wonder of every one in the village is how the "Blue Anchor"
manages to live, and support John, his wife, and daughter. In summer
the men are too busy to go often, except for a pint or two before
retiring for the night; and in winter the men have very little or no
money to spend.

When Jerry O'Brien reached the "Blue Anchor" he spoke a few cheerful
words to John Tobin, whom every frequenter of Kilcash knew, told him
he had run out from Kilbarry for the evening, with a view to seeing
how things were in the village, and how things were likely to be there
in the coming season. Jerry did not know exactly what the latter
phrase could mean, but it sounded friendly, as though he took an
interest in the place.

Old John instantly attached a definite meaning to his words, and said,
with a smile:

"Ah, sir, glad to hear it. Going to marry, sir, and settle down and
take a house here for the season?"

Jerry started a little, coloured a little, and then said gaily:

"No such luck, John--no such luck! I meant about the fishing, you
know. I'll go in and smoke a pipe for a bit."

"And welcome, sir," said the fat old man, steering himself around the
end of the counter, and bringing his vast stomach safely into view,
with watch-chain, watch-key, and seals swaying giddily from his
overhanging fob.

There were only two guests in the "Blue Anchor." Both were smoking
short clay pipes; each had a pint pewter pot before him. Jerry nodded
to each and said "Good evening" before sitting down. He called for a
pipe and tobacco for himself, and then asked if all, John Tobin
included, would have a drink, "because, you know," said he, "as I
never have been here before, it is only fair I should pay my footing,"
a speech which was very cordially received. A wish was expressed by
John Tobin that since it was the first time he hoped it wouldn't be
the last. Upon which the two fishermen applauded and cleared their
throats in anticipation of beer.

For a while O'Brien led the men to speak of the prospects of the next
season's fishing, and the chances of its being a good one. By the end
of half-an-hour they were ready for more beer. Then he ceased to ask
questions, and began to talk:

"As I was coming along from Kilbarry to-day, I told Tim to stop
opposite the Black Rock, and I and Mr. O'Hanlon, who was with me, got
down and went out on it. I haven't been on it for I don't know how
long. Horrible place! I suppose very few people go over from the
village this time of year?"

"Very few. Only for the good fishing there's off the tail of it, no
one out of the village would ever go there. It's a cursed spot. I
wonder you weren't afraid to go down, sir, at such a time of year. Ah,
but when you were passing it was no more than about half flood.
There's not so much danger at half flood as at full. Were you to the
southward of the Hole, sir?" said one of the fishermen.

"No. I took care of that. I may be a fool, but I'm not such a fool as
that. I was curious to see the place because of the death of Mr.

"Ah, yes," said John Tobin. "He's gone."

There was neither joy nor sorrow in Tobin's voice, and that tone
expressed the general feeling of Kilcash towards the event. It was
nothing to the village, neither good nor harm. He had been little more
than a name to them.

"Well, you all remember an unfortunate fellow named Fahey--Mike Fahey,
wasn't it?--who went down the Hole of his own free will, or, rather,
when he was chased by the police, ten or eleven years ago. Of course
you all remember him?"

"Oh, yes"--they all remembered him.

"Well, the affair of Mr. Davenport's death put him in my mind, and I
thought we'd go and look at the place where he took his awful leap. It
nearly made me giddy to look down, and sick to think of his awful

"And he wasn't in the wrong, after all!" said John Tobin. "Mr.
Davenport, I will say, afterwards cleared the man's character. That
was good of Mr. Davenport, wasn't it?"

"Yes," said O'Brien; "but why did he make away with himself? If a man
knows he's innocent, he needn't run off and drown himself. He must
have remembered Mr. Davenport gave him the money. Why didn't he trust
Mr. Davenport to clear him?"

The three men shook their heads.

"That's what puzzles me," said O'Brien. "This unfortunate man was fond
of fishing."

"And little's the good he got by it," said one of the fishermen. "He
had a miserable cockleshell of a punt, and it was the wonder of every
one he wasn't drowned seven days in the week. Nothing would satisfy
him but to keep dodging about that Black Rock in his tub of a punt,
all by himself, and he not able to swim a stroke. If he hadn't gone
down the Hole of his own will, he'd have been drowned by his own
foolishness some day."

"How used he to manage that boat? With a sail?"

"Sail! No, sculls."

"Did he pull well?"

"Not particularly well. Well enough, though, for a raw-boned chap like
him. Now that I remember it, I think he was pretty handy with the
oars--for a spell, you know. He'd be dead beat in a jim-crack with a
heavy oar in a yawl, but he could fiddle pretty fairly with the oars
he carried."

"Did you ever see him scull from the notch?"

"Ay, I have, sir."

"And was he handy from the notch, too?"

"Yes, in a hop-o'-my-thumb cockleshell like his. Why, you could twist
her round your finger in a mill-race. But as far as I can remember, he
could handle an oar aft as well as most of those that weren't brought
up to the work from boys."

"And what happened to this miserable punt of his?"

"Well, I don't think, sir, I can remember that. I know he lost it in
some kind of way or other--west, I think he said. Anyway, whether he
said so or not, it must have been west somewhere, for if anything
happened to the punt on the east shore he'd never come back to tell
what it was, for there isn't a landing-place there for anything from
the sea but gulls and curlews; and even if he was the strongest
swimmer in the barony his swimming would be no use to him, for he
could never get into Kilcash Bay--never get round the head."

"Although, as you say, the east is much more dangerous than the west,
isn't it strange he should have lost his boat on the west side?"

"Well, sir, it may and may not be strange. You see the western coast
is more broken up, and there are more coves, and little bays, and
little strands, and sharp rocks half covered, and so on, so that he
might stave her in there, and yet manage to get ashore. I'm very sorry
I can't remember what became of the punt."

"Never mind," said O'Brien. "Now, do you know the exact rise and fall
of a neap tide at the Black Rock?"

"The exact rise and fall?"

"Yes; the exact rise of a neap tide from dead low water to the top of
high water."

"I could not say to the inch, Mr. O'Brien."

"Well, to the foot. I don't want it to the inch; the foot will do."

The fisherman consulted his companion, who had not yet opened his
mouth. After a muttered talk, the spokesman said:

"We wouldn't say to a foot, sir, if anything of consequence depended
upon it."

"Fill up the measures again, John," said O'Brien, whose pint stood
before him untasted. "There's no bet on it; you needn't be afraid. I'm
only asking for information. I may be coming round here for the
summer, and I just want to find out all I can. How much do you think?"

"Fourteen to sixteen feet."

"You don't think fifteen feet six would be far out?"

"No, sir. That's as near as can be. But there's the wind to be taken
into account when you come to inches."

"How near were you ever to the Whale's Mouth--I mean, what was the

"As close as that," he answered, stretching out his hand at arm's
length. He added significantly--"On the ebb."

"How wide is the Mouth?"

"I couldn't say exactly, sir. It's a place we're rather shy of, as you
know. I dare say it's as big as this room."

"You couldn't pull a yawl into it?"

"God forbid!" said the man devoutly. "Two did go in, and one was
swallowed up into the bowels of the land, and the other was broken
into ten thousand splinters. Pull a yawl in there! I'd go to the
Canary Islands for life first."

"I don't mean to say _would_ you, but _could_ you?"



"For two reasons. In the first place, there isn't room for the yawl
and the oars; and in the other place, I'd drop dead with the fright.
Heaven be between us and all harm!"

"Is the Mouth much too narrow to allow a yawl to pull in?"

"Mr. O'Brien, I and every one in Kilcash have a great wish for you,
sir; and if you're asking me these questions with the intention of
going into the Whale's Mouth, I'll not answer another one."

"Upon my word and honour, Phelan. I haven't the least intention of
making away with myself, or with anybody else, by means of the Whale's
Mouth. I am inquiring simply for information, and perhaps if I come
here in the summer, I may ask you to take care of me while I am having
a look for myself; but just at present I want you to give me the
benefit of what you know. How much too small is it for a yawl to pull

"I couldn't say how many feet, but some feet."


"Hardly so many as that, but thereabouts."

O'Brien was silent for a while. He looked down at the table, and made
some figures on it with his finger. The other men talked together. At
last he looked up and said:

"Tell me, Phelan, did you, in looking into the Whale's Mouth, notice
whether it was straight, or inclined to the right or the left?"

"It's quite straight, as far as you can see."

"Are you quite sure of that?"


O'Brien then turned the conversation back into local channels again.
Soon after he took his leave, having by some strange freak of
preoccupation forgotten to drink his beer, although he had smoked his
pipe like a man.

It was pitch dark. There was not a star in the heavens; no lights in
the village, save here and there the thin ray of a rushlight shining
through the wet window of some cottage. No phosphorescent gleam came
from the sea, but a mournful, ghostly sound of wailing, as its waves,
reduced by their passage up the bay, broke in diminished force against
the flat, uneventful sand. Here were none of the grand organ tones
heard near the lonely Black Rock, with its deadly legends, hideous
Hole, and irresistible monster.

But O'Brien did not want to hear the sea now, either in its tame and
civilised musing or in its insane roar when it flung itself unimpeded
against the barriers of its dominions. He was thinking of the Black
Rock, and of his sick friend, Alfred Paulton; and of O'Hanlon, and of
the fate of Mike Fahey, and of Mr. Davenport, and of Tom Blake, and
of--of Madge--his Madge, as he called her to himself, now that it was
dark and no one was near. His Madge!

All around him was dark, cold, vacuous; all within him was full of
light and warmth, and rich with figures in motion. He could not keep
his great company of players in order at first. They hustled and
jostled one another in his mind--all except Madge--his Madge! She
moved apart from all the others, and the moment she appeared all the
others fled as though abashed before her unstudied perfections.

Up to this he had never seriously concerned himself about anything. He
had always been in fairly comfortable circumstances, although never
rich. He had been brought up in the belief that he need never take
much more trouble about the present or the future than an occasional
glance at his salmon weirs on the river, and here he was now
threatened with the loss of those weirs, which formed the backbone of
his income--at a time, too, when this income meant the one thing he
held dearest in the future--Madge! He had never been really in love
before; there had been a few trifling affairs, but up to this he had
never made up his mind to marry. That was the great test. Then look at
the way he was mixed up in the Paulton and Davenport affair! Alfred,
Madge's brother, succours Mrs. Davenport, and falls in love with the
widow. He, Jerry O'Brien, causes a relapse in Alfred's case by some
indiscreet words spoken by him of Mrs. Davenport. Then the Fishery
Commissioners (whom may perdition lay hold of and keep for ever!) come
howling to him about those weirs, and O'Hanlon tells him he must come
over to Ireland post-haste, or he'll be picked dry as a bone by the
Fishery Commissioners (whom may perdition--as before!); and no sooner
does he set his foot in Kilbarry than O'Hanlon placidly confesses
there is not so much need for haste for a day or two, or perhaps more,
and that his (O'Hanlon's) real reason for sending for him was because
of the ghost, or the ghost of a ghost, of one Mike Fahey, who had been
connected with the Davenports ten or eleven years ago, and had jumped
into the Hole in the Black Rock. A pretty complication, truly, for a
man to get into in a fortnight or three weeks!

A pretty complication to get into, no doubt; but how would it all end?
Except for poor Alfred's illness and the Fishery Commissioners (whom--
as before!), upon the whole he rather liked it.

And now he must go back to O'Hanlon, who would think him lost.

"I say, O'Hanlon," he said, cheerfully, as he got back to the
coffee-room, "you've won that sovereign, not I."

"Did you go?"

"Yes. I went and ordered the beer; but, I'm blowed, I was so much
amused that I came away and left it undrunk."

"Amused! What in the name of all that is wonderful could amuse you at
that wretched beer-shop?"

"I was only picking up some facts about your old friend, Mike Fahey."

"Well, has any one seen him?"

"I met three men, and they had all seen him."

"In the name of heaven, when?"

"Ten or twelve years ago."

"Oh!" groaned O'Hanlon. "And not since?"


"That's not much good for me, is it?"

"Is it the fact that they have not seen the ghost which strikes you as
being bad for you?"

"Yes, O'Brien. You know something."

"No, I do not; but I hope to know. I have learned something. But

                            CHAPTER XXVI.

                            ON THE CLIFF.

Next morning O'Hanlon went back by himself to Kilbarry. Jerry O'Brien
made up his mind to stay a few days at Kilcash. His last words to the
perturbed attorney were encouraging, reassuring. He would divulge
nothing, nor indicate the nature of his hopes; but he told O'Hanlon in
a confident manner that he might dismiss all thought of his brain
being affected. "I now," he said, "verily believe you saw a ghost, the
ghost of Mike Fahey, on the Black Rock within the past month. Will
that satisfy you?"

O'Hanlon shook his head.

"I'm in the old fix still. I don't believe in ghosts; neither do you,
I am sure. You are saying this merely to quiet my fears."

"You may trust me, I assure you. I am not saying anything out of a
desire to quiet your fears. If I do not tell you all, I am prevented
from doing so only by the want of conclusive evidence. I shall hang
about here until some more evidence turns up. I really believe what
you saw was no figment of your own brain."

They parted thus. O'Hanlon was little satisfied, still he had no
resource but to endure. His faith in O'Brien was great in everything
save this one subject, which so unpleasantly and threateningly
engrossed his thoughts. He was a man of sanguine temperament, and now
the strength and impetuosity of his mind was turned inward and preyed
on his peace.

O'Brien had little or nothing to do. His curiosity was strongly
excited. Owing to the uncertainty of the movements of the Fishery
Commissioners he could not leave the country. His heart was in London;
no hour went over his head that he did not think of his friends there.
He wrote to Mr. Paulton, and to his great relief heard that Alfred was
gradually recovering, and that Dr. Santley hoped to have his patient
up and about in a short time, his youth and good constitution
favouring rapid convalescence now that the acute stage of the disease
was passed. All at Carlingford House were well, and joined in sending
kindest regards to him, and hoped he would soon get rid of his
troublesome business, and run back to them. There was a postscript to
the effect that Dr. Santley had just that moment pronounced Alfred out
of danger, and said that he hoped in a fortnight or three weeks the
invalid would be able to seek change of air and scene--the two things
which would then be sufficient to ensure his restoration.

O'Brien, upon reading this, struck the table with his hand, and cried

"Capital!--capital! Nothing could be better! This is the mildest
climate in all Europe. He shall come here. I'll run over for him if
all the Fishery Commissioners whom Satan can spare were to try and bar
my way. The least I may do after causing that relapse is to nurse him
for a while."

O'Brien had little or nothing to do in Kilcash. No newspapers came to
him from London or Dublin. After luncheon he walked every day along
the downs as far as the Black Rock. There, when the weather was fine,
he lounged for an hour or so, and then strolled back to the hotel,
where he read some book until dinner.

The "Strand Hotel" was of course deserted. He was the only guest, and
the staff had been reduced to one maid-of-all-work.

"If Alfred wants quiet," thought Jerry, grimly, "he can have it here
with a vengeance. As long as those wretched Commissioners are about, I
could not stand Kilbarry. I'd be an object of commiseration there, and
I can't bear commiseration. If I only had Alfred here I'd be as happy
as a king. But until he comes I must try and keep up an interest in
O'Hanlon's ghost. I begin now to think O'Hanlon is going mad, after
all; for I can neither hear nor see anything of the late Mr. Fahey. It
wouldn't do to tell my misgivings to O'Hanlon. He really is cut up
about that spectre, and the only way to keep his spirits up is by
professing an unbounded belief in his phantom."

No doubt Kilcash was dull, and would have been found intolerable by
any one not used to such a place at such a time. But O'Brien had been
brought up close to the sea, and its winter aspect was as familiar to
him as its summer glories.

In summer, the sun and the clouds and the genial warmth of the air
take the mind off the sea, and reduce it to a mere accessory to the
scene. It is only one of many things which claim attention. In winter
the sea is absolute, dominant--master of the scene. In its presence
there is nothing to take the mind away from it. The land and the air
and the clouds have suffered change: the sea is alone immutable. It is
not then the adjunct to a holiday. In winter and summer its colour is
the result of reflection; but the dull, gloomy colours it reflects in
winter seem more congenial to it than the vivid brightness of gayer

From his childhood O'Brien had been familiar with every phase of
change that possesses the watery waste. There was for him no
loneliness by the shore. He was no poet in the ordinary sense of the
word. He had never tried to string rhymes together. He considered that
a man who deliberately sat down to write verses which were not
intended purely to bring in money must be in a bad state of health. He
never concerned himself with elaborate analysis of his feelings, or
moaned because the destinies had not ordained splendours for his
career. He wished the Commissioners would let his weirs alone, so that
he might marry Madge Paulton. He wanted to lead a quiet, unromantic
life. He felt much more relief in abusing the Commissioners than he
should feel in writing a mournful ditty against fate.

But he was in love, and dwelling by the sea in winter. He had
inadvertently caused his dearest friend a serious relapse in illness,
and he was asked by another friend to help him over a horrible
suspicion that this other friend had of his own sanity. Here surely
was matter for abundance of thought. So that, on the whole, he had no
moment of the day that was not filled with engrossing reflection of
some kind or another.

He answered Mr. Paulton's letter at once. He was overjoyed to hear the
good news of Alfred, and he had made up his mind beyond any chance of
alteration that the finest place in the world for Alfred would be the
south of Ireland, and that there was no spot in the south of Ireland
at all equal to Kilcash for any one who needed recruiting. Then he
sent his very kindest regards to each member of the family by name,
and tried to write "Miss Paulton" like the rest of the letter, but
failed, so that it was the most ill-written part of all. He had little
hope of Alfred's coming.

To his astonishment he got a reply thanking him for his kind
invitation, and saying that although Dr. Santley at first thought the
south of Europe would be preferable, he had at length yielded to
Alfred's earnest importunities to be sent to Ireland, where he could
enjoy the society of his friend Jerry, which he was certain would tend
more to his recovery than anything else in the world.

"I am astonished," thought O'Brien, "that he did not insist on going
abroad, if it was only for the chance of meeting that siren who has
bewitched him. There is one thing plain from this--he has not only got
over his dangerous physical illness, but that much more dangerous
affection of the heart from which he has been suffering. What a
madness that was! I hope and trust, for his sake, that woman has
married Blake by this time. But no--I do not. That would be too bad a
fate to wish even to an enemy; and surely she has never done me harm."

O'Brien did not repeat his visit to the "Blue Anchor," but now and
then he met burly Jim Phelan, the boatman, and talked to him about the
Black Rock and the Whale's Mouth.

For the first week O'Brien was at Kilcash the weather had been
singularly calm. It had rained nearly every day; nothing else was to
be expected there at that time of the year. But scarcely a breath of
wind touched the sea. The long even rollers slid into the bay, and
burst upon the sands in front of the village. They flung themselves
wearily, carelessly against the cliffs without the bay, and after
tossing their arms languidly a moment in the air, fell back exhausted
into their foamy bed.

One morning, as O'Brien was walking on the strand after breakfast, he
met Jim Phelan, and, as usual, got into talk with him. After a few
sentences of ordinary interest, Jim said:

"The other night, sir, at the 'Blue Anchor,' you asked me a whole lot
about the Black Rock and the Whale's Mouth. Did you ever see her

"No," answered O'Brien, looking at the south-western region of the
sky. "I have often been here, winter and summer, but I have never been
so fortunate. Do you think there's going to be a gale?"

"Yes, sir; there's going to be a heavy gale from the southward and
westward, and it will be high water at about three. You can see the
scuds flying aloft already, and I'm greatly mistaken if we haven't a
whole gale before a couple of hours are over. That won't give much
time for the sea to get up, but I am sure she'll spout to-day even
before the top of high water. Anyway, if she doesn't, I'm greatly
mistaken. Would you like to go over and see it, sir?"

"Yes, Jim. I have nothing particular to do to-day, and I certainly
should like to see it."

"Very good, sir. I have nothing particular to do to-day either, and if
you like I'll go over with you."

"I should be very glad. When shall we start?"

"Well, sir, if you are to see it you may as well be there at the
beginning, so we'll be off at once. Did you feel that?"


A puff of warm wind touched the two men, and then the air was still

"Go on, then, sir, to the hotel and put on your oilskins. I'll run and
get mine, and be back in a minute."

"But I haven't got oilskins!" said O'Brien, with a smile. "Will a
mackintosh and gaiters do?"

The boatman looked long and fixedly into the south-west before he

"No, sir; a mackintosh would not be any use out there against what's
coming. This will be a whole gale, or I'm a Dutchman. It's been
brewing a long time, and we're going to have it now, and no mistake.
I'll get you a set of oilskins, and maybe if you went up to the hotel
and put your flask in your pocket, it wouldn't be out of the way
by-and-by. I'll bring the oilskins up to the hotel."

"All right," said O'Brien; and he set off.

In less than half-an-hour he found himself in a clumsy, ill-fitting
set of oilskins a size too big. Jim had brought a sou'-wester also. He
himself wore his own oilskins and his sou'-wester, and, so equipped,
the two set out for the Black Rock.

As they reached the high ground of the downs, another gust of wind,
stronger and of longer duration than the former one, struck them. Jim
tied the strings of his sou'-wester under his chin, and O'Brien
followed his example.

"It will be a sneezer," said the boatman, shaking himself loose in his
over-alls, as if getting ready for action.

The sea was still unruffled. The two puffs of wind which had come as
the advance guard of the storm had passed lightly and daintily over
the sleeping ocean. The long clean-backed rollers swept slowly
shoreward, staggering a little here and there when they passed over
some sunken rock. Down in the south-west the sky was leaden-coloured,
with long fangs of cloud stretching towards the land and gradually
stealing upward and onward. An unnatural stillness filled the air. No
wild bird of any kind was to be seen. The gulls had long ago sailed
far inland. There were few sea birds here but gulls.

"We'll be there before the first puff," said Phelan, buttoning the
lowest button of his coat. "She hasn't spouted now since a little
after Christmas. In that southerly gale we had then she spouted fine."

"Did it come over the cliffs?"

"No, sir--not quite up to the cliffs. 'Twas a southerly gale, you
know; and it takes a south-westerly gale to send it over the cliffs.
Ah, that was a stiffer squall than the last! It's coming on. Heaven
help the ship that makes this a lee shore for the next twenty-four

The prediction was verified, for a fierce gust had caught O'Brien in
front and threatened to tear the strings out of his sou'-wester.

The two men turn and resume their way. The torn skirts of the
south-western pall of cloud are now almost overheard. They are
hurrying on at a dizzy rate. Out far upon the water under the lowering
cloud a dulness has crept. The great mirror of the sea has been
breathed upon and sullied by the wind. In shore, the waves rise and
fall tranquilly.

The squalls now become frequent. Although the solid mass of the water
beneath is still unchanged, when the gusts fly across the waves and
strike the cliffs the foam is blown upward, hissing, and bursts into
smoke against the crags. From under the broadening cloud a faint
whispering sound comes, thin and shrill like a broadened whisper of
the wind in grass.

"Do you think the storm will last so long as twenty-four hours?"

"Impossible to say, sir. But I think there's that much due to us. Turn
your back to it, sir."

They draw near the Black Rock. Each man keeps his body bent to
windward ready to meet the next onslaught of the gale. Now only a few
seconds pass between each gust. Each gust is stronger and longer than
the former one. When they are within a few hundred yards of the rock,
when they can plainly see the outline of the little bay in which it is
wedged, the storm bursts fully upon them. One blast strikes them, and
lasts a minute. They are obliged to stand still, leaning against the
gale. A lull of a few seconds follows, and then the broad, mighty
torrent of the wind bursts upon them in its uninterrupted fury, and
for a while it seems as if they must be swept away by its persistent,
tremendous force.

At length they turn round, and, holding on their sou'-westers, gaze
into the face of the wind. The sea is now boiling, churning, but not
yet roused. Foam spurts aloft, where, before, the dull blue waters
rose and fell unbroken. The spray crawls further and further upward
against the red-brown cliffs. The roar and tumult of the wind is
pressing against them. The roar and tumult of the waters have not yet

At that moment Phelan catches O'Brien by the arm, and points towards
the Black Rock. The figure of a man is seen clearly against the
sky-line. It gradually sinks from view. It is descending the path to
the Black Rock below.

"Let us run," shouts Phelan. "It is certain death if he goes down."

They run at the top of their speed in their clumsy oilskins. They
reach the cliff directly over the fatal rock. They look down, around,
at one another. Both start back with cries of surprise and horror.

No one is to be seen.

                            CHAPTER XXVII.

                       THE MONSTER LET LOOSE.

Neither man spoke. Phelan's amazement had bereft him of words. He knew
the place thoroughly. He had known and feared it from his earliest
years. To left and right were perpendicular cliffs. In front stretched
the evil Black Rock. From where they stood descended the pathway to
the table rock below. On the broken ground around them was nothing
taller than dwarf bushes, which could not conceal a goat and to reach
which the sure-footedness of a goat would have been needed. In his
youth Phelan had been as bold as any lad in the village. But neither
he nor any other lad of the village had ever dared to tempt death on
those steep, friable, rotten slopes.

Beyond all doubt he had seen the figure of a man disappear over this
cliff a few moments ago. Where was he--it--now? The Black Rock lay
bare, naked, at their feet. A man's head could not be hidden there.
Whither had that figure gone? It could not have reached the sea in the
time. The monster had not yet broken loose, and the man could not have
been swept into the water. No shattered corpse lay on the greasy rock
beneath. A man cannot fly. What had become of this man? Or had they
seen a ghost?

He turned to O'Brien and noticed that the latter looked pale and

"You saw him?" he shouted above the storm. "You saw him as plain as


"What do you make of it?"

"I don't know."

Once more Phelan looked carefully around him. Absolutely no trace of
man was to be seen. Except for their presence, the place might have
been alone since the making of the world. He again turned to O'Brien.

"Heaven be between us and all harm, but it must have been a ghost!"

"He could not have got to the Hole in the time."

"Not if he had wings."

"Did you ever see Fahey? Of course you did. You told me about him."

"Merciful Lord, it was Fahey!"

The two men looked mutely into each other's faces. Anything like a
regular conversation was now impossible owing to the force and noise
of the storm.

O'Brien had had a theory. The events of the last two minutes had
shattered his theory to atoms. The two policemen who had seen Fahey
jump into the Hole had not been mistaken. It was no ghost they saw.
They had tracked their man as surely as they had ever tracked any one
on whom they laid hands. He, being innocent, was suspected of a crime;
or, rather, he had innocently, in ignorance, committed a criminal act,
and being pursued and hard pressed, had flung himself headlong into
that awful pit. Within a couple of weeks or so, O'Hanlon had seen that
same figure in this place, and now he (O'Brien) had seen such a
figure, and Phelan had identified it. This was monstrous. What came of
all his inquiries respecting the Whalers Mouth and the accessibility
of the cave? Nothing--absolutely nothing. His theory was childish. He
was glad he had spoken of it to no man.

What was to be his theory now?

Phelan was stupefied, and stood staring at the cliffs and the rock as
if he expected them to undergo some stupendous change, display some
more incomprehensible marvel. O'Brien stood back a few paces from the
brink, and kept his eyes fixed on the horizon, which had lowered and
come nearer.

Suddenly Phelan stepped back to O'Brien, and, putting his mouth close
to the ear of the other, shouted--

"She blows!"

O'Brien dropped his eyes to the Black Rock.

From the Hole a thin wreath of sea-smoke rose, and, bent sharply by
the gale, almost touched the cliff. A booming, hollow sound, like the
flapping of distant thunder among hills, weighed on the air, and then
came a shrill, loud hiss, as of falling water, and again the wind was
drenched in sea-smoke.

Phelan stretched out his hands towards the Hole, and shouted--


The word was scarcely uttered when the ground shook, and from that
Hole a solid column of water sprang aloft with a shriek that drowned
the raging of the storm. It rose fifty feet into the air, turned
inward towards the cliff, and then toppled and fell with a mighty
crash that again made the gigantic bases of the immemorial cliffs
tremble to their lowest depths.

The monster had broken loose!

O'Brien started back. He had from childhood heard of the awful Puffing
Hole, but had never seen it in action before. His first feeling was
that this could be no display of ordinary power, but that the cliffs
and rocks were riven by some Titanic force never exercised before. He
felt certain that when again he looked down he should see the Black
Rock shattered, disintegrated, annihilated. What could withstand such
a blow?

The boatman drew him towards the edge of the cliff once more. He was
scarcely in position when the huge shaft of water sprang once more
into the air, this time to twice its former height. He was appalled,
and again sprang back. The gale caught the capital of the column and
lifted it bodily, dashing it against the cliff. O'Brien was covered
from head to foot with water.

The two men shifted their position, so as to get out of the reach of
the water, and then stood mutely looking at the terrible phenomenon.

When O'Brien's alarm subsided, and he knew by the conduct of his
companion that there was no occasion for fear, he stood fascinated by
the stupendous spectacle. He had heard this described hundreds of
times, but his imagination had not had space for grandeur such as
this. The Hole did not spout at every wave, but took breathing space
like a living thing. Now he understood why the opening of the cave was
called the Whale's Mouth. Now he understood why the people said "she
spouts" when the Puffing Hole flung its hundreds of tons of water a
hundred feet into the air. It was a daring fancy which saw in the
strange freak of nature a colossal representation of the spouting of
the whale. The Black Rock was the head, the cave the jaws, the shaft
in the rock the blow-hole of a whale multiplied a thousand times.

And he, presumptuous fool that he was, had imagined a boat might enter
that cave and come out uninjured--that a man might throw himself into
that awful funnel and survive!

In half an hour O'Brien and Phelan left the edge of the cliff and
turned their faces towards the village. Notwithstanding the oilskins,
both were wet through, for the spray and fine mist from the sea
penetrated at the neck, the wrists, and under the buttons in front.
They kept more inland on their way back. Phelan was the first to speak
of the mysterious figure they had seen. He had no difficulty in the
matter. They had seen the ghost of Fahey, who had committed suicide
there ten or eleven years ago. Nothing could be simpler or more
natural than this explanation. It was a horribly wicked thing to
commit suicide, but to throw one's self into the Puffing Hole was a
double crime; for, in addition to making away with life, it was
defying Providence--it was courting the most awful death that could be
sought by man. The supernatural appearance that day was to be a
warning to O'Brien, who had displayed an unwise curiosity as to the
Puffing Hole and the Whale's Nose. From the nature of O'Brien's
inquiries, it was, notwithstanding his denials, almost certain that he
had formed a design of going in a boat up the cavern. The spirit of
the dead man had been sent to show him the penalty of any such impious
risking of life, and to remind him of the fate he would surely
encounter if he dared to do anything so rash.

                           CHAPTER XXVIII.

                          A NIGHT TRAVELLER

When O'Brien got back to the "Strand Hotel" at Kilcash, he thought the
whole matter over for an hour or so. Then he sat down and wrote a

"My dear O'Hanlon,

"Jim Phelan, the boatman, and I went to the Black Rock to-day to see
the Puffing Hole spout. When within a few hundred yards of the cliff
over the Rock, we both plainly saw the figure of a man, which Phelan
declared to be Fahey's! Are you satisfied now? I am not. I'll run in
to Kilbarry to-morrow.

                             "Yours always,

                                 "Jeremiah O'Brien."

Then he ate his dinner, and went out to pay another visit to the "Blue

By this time Jim Phelan had told the story of that day's visit to the
Black Rock to many of the villagers, and although the simple fisher
folk as a rule retired very early during the long nights, most of them
made an exception on this occasion. Many of the men and women sought
neighbours' houses, and discussed the mysterious appearance of the
form of Fahey hours after their usual time for going to bed.

But Jim himself was not at any of these domestic gatherings. He was
the hero of the hour, and the natural place for a hero was the taproom
of the "Blue Anchor."

There was a feeling among the men of Kilcash that no subject of prime
importance to the village could be discussed anywhere else so well as
in the taproom of the "Blue Anchor." Ordinary events of an ordinary
day might be suited to the shelter of the Storm Wall on the shoreward
face in a breeze or rain, or the rocks beneath the wall when the
weather was fine. But neither of these, nor even the bar of the "Blue
Anchor" itself, accorded with grave or exciting discourse of an
exceptional nature. The taproom was the only place in which men could
give unbridled license to debate. Here one could not only unbend, but
give expression to the most audacious theories without danger of
reproof or repression by wives or mothers.

When O'Brien entered, a dozen men were crowded into the dimly-lighted,
squalid room. As he had drawn near the house he heard voices raised in
eager conversation. His entrance was the signal for silence. This was
partly owing to his superior social position, and partly to the fact
that his name had mingled freely in the talk for some time. He sat
down, called for beer for himself and those around him, and lit a
cigar. The storm was still blowing so strongly that he had found it
impossible to smoke in the open air.

Jim Phelan was there, and the men were all seated as close as the
rickety benches would allow.

"Well, men," said O'Brien, "I dare say I could guess what you were
talking of. Did any of you ever hear of anything like it until
now?--I mean, did any of you ever hear that the ghost of this man
Fahey had been seen in the neighbourhood before?"

Several men answered in the negative; the others shook their heads.

O'Brien then rehearsed all he had gathered from Phelan of Fahey, and
asked the others if they could add anything to the tale.

At this they shook their heads also. He then inquired if among them
they could find an explanation. But this produced no better result. He
felt baffled, discouraged. He had not counted on learning much, but he
had expected to gather something.

After a stay of some time he left the "Blue Anchor" with nothing added
to his store of facts or surmises. During the time he had sat there
and smoked his cigar, he had heard much of what he knew repeated over
and over again, with the wearying garrulity of those into whose lives
few events of varied interest enter.

The storm was raging still abroad, although the violence of the wind
had considerably abated. The sky was now strewn with shattered, rugged
clouds, wreckage of the gale. Here and there groups of pale stars
shone out in the dull sky. The night was not dark. No moon shone, but
a pale blue radiance filled the clefts and chasms between the clouds,
and fringed their rugged edges with hues of dull steel.

By this time the tide was falling. The sea, even in the bay, had been
lashed into fury, and was breaking in sheets over the Storm Wall,
under the partial shelter of which O'Brien walked towards the "Strand

He kept his head bent low, in order to avoid the flying spray. On his
right was the Storm Wall, with the bay beyond. On the left the
village, with its few scattered lights. Kilcash Bay made an irregular
shallow bow on the innermost side, and along this bow from one end to
the other of it the village was built. As became a house of such
importance as the "Blue Anchor," it stood near the middle of the bow,
not on the main road, but on a little narrow road running at right
angles to the Storm Wall, and on which were very few houses. At the
end of this by-road, and to the right facing the sea, lay the cottages
of the village. These were owned chiefly by fishermen, and were let to
visitors in the summer, while the families of the fishermen retired to
some other shelter, situate visitors never knew exactly where. To the
left stood the more ambitious half of the village. Here were the few
shops and two-storey houses it contained. At the further end of this
left-hand half stood the "Strand Hotel," the most imposing-looking
house in the place, and the point towards which Jerry O'Brien was now
making his way in the lee of the wave-beaten wall.

O'Brien did not look at his watch before leaving the "Blue Anchor,"
but he knew it was about nine o'clock. At such an hour, in such a
season of the year, the village was usually plunged in darkness,
except for the lights in the one hotel and the one public-house. The
few shops were never in the winter open after seven, and not ten in a
hundred of the inhabitants were out of bed at nine o'clock. But owing
to the story which Jim Phelan had brought back from the downs that
day, this was not considered an ordinary night, and there were more
lights than usual twinkling in the houses still.

But as O'Brien forged his way laboriously forward, under the
protection afforded by the wall, he became aware that one of the shops
was not only open, but doing business too, at this advanced hour of

Between O'Brien and the shop were a broad road and a little
garden--for all the houses and cottages, including those with shops,
had gardens in front.

O'Brien's mind was not busy at the moment, and out of idleness, rather
than curiosity, he kept his eyes on the open door of the shop as he
drew near and passed it.

Before he had gone beyond the point at which he could command a view
of it without turning his head back inconveniently, some one came out
of the shop, the door closed, and all was dark.

Here a severe gust of wind almost carried off O'Brien's hat, and he
paused a moment to pull it down over his brows, and wait until the
spray of a wave, which had just climbed the wall and sprung over it,
fell on the road in front. Partly to shield his face from the wind,
and partly out of a desire to try and make out what kind of being had
the daring to come with custom to M'Grath's at such an unusual hour,
he kept his face turned inland, and looked at the figure which had
emerged from the shop. The form was that of a man--a man of the
average, or perhaps slightly over the average height--bulky, or,
rather, bulged--no, not bulky, but bulged--irregular--stooped, stooped
as though he carried a bundle, or was very old, or was a hunchback.
The man was going on at a quick pace in the direction of the hotel.

"He can't be staying at the 'Strand,'" thought O'Brien. "I am the only
visitor at the 'Strand.' And yet where can he be going? No person
living in the village would dream of knocking up M'Grath at such an
hour except in a matter of life and death, and M'Grath doesn't sell

They were now getting near the end of the houses. The "Strand" was the
last building in the village. The garden at its rear climbed partly up
the slope of the downs. The nearest dwelling-place beyond the hotel
was Kilcash House, the late Mr. Davenport's home. That house stood a
mile back from the cliff, and the shortest line from it to the sea
would bring one to the Black Rock.

As O'Brien saw the man pass the last house of the terrace and approach
the hotel, he watched no longer, but turned his eyes out for one last
look at the sea, with the reflection, "There is nowhere else for him
but the 'Strand'--unless," he thought, with a smile, "he is going to
visit our old friend Fahey at the Black Rock. A nice quiet place to
spend an evening like this would be the Puffing Hole."

He shuddered. Even here, two miles away from it, and within a few
yards of his comfortable room, with lamps and a fire, and absolute
security from the sea, it was not possible to think of that awful Hole
unmoved. Although the tide was receding, it was higher than when he
and Jim Phelan had been at the Rock. The water had then been flung up
a hundred feet into the air. Now, no doubt, it was mounting a hundred
and fifty feet--ay, two hundred feet, in a solid, unbroken, bent
column! What a hideous fate it would be to stand down on that fatal
rock and, with the certainty of immediate destruction, watch that dire
column mount up into the air! Ugh! It wasn't a thing to think of just
now. He had had enough of the sea and storm for one day. He'd go in
and turn up the lamps, and fit himself into an easy-chair in front of
the fire, and mix a tumbler of punch and smoke a cigar, and forget all
about the confounded sea, except that it was out here foaming and
fuming away, wholly unable to get at him.

He looked towards the hotel. The man who had come out of M'Grath's
ought by this time to have got within its hospitable walls. No one was
to be seen stirring near it.

"Ah, as I thought!" mused O'Brien complaisantly. "But what can they
have wanted from M'Grath's at the 'Strand' at this hour of the night?
And now that I think of it, the whole male force attached to the house
in any capacity consists of old Billy Coyne, the stable man, and
myself. I've not been in M'Grath's buying things--that is, at least,
not with my knowledge and consent. But then this is a queer place,
where queer things happen now and then."

He turned to cross the road, but was again brought to a standstill by
a fierce gust of wind and dash of spray. While he was holding on his
hat, his face was turned towards the pathway leading to the downs high
above. He shook the spray off him, and was on the point of moving away
when his eyes caught something moving upward and forward on that path.
What the object was he could not determine, for the light was poor and
uncertain, and the distance considerable. One moment he thought it was
a pony; the next it seemed to resemble a human being. He stood still a
minute or two, long enough to make sure he could not come to a
conclusion, as the thing continued to recede and the light did not

He shrugged his shoulders. The affair was not of the least moment to
him. He crossed the road and entered the hotel. He was in the act of
taking off his overcoat in the hall when he caught sight of old Billy
Coyne, who in the winter acted as handy man about the place, and
discharged now and then the functions of waiter and boots.

"Who came in just now, Billy?" he asked.

"Sorrow a soul, sir," answered the old man, helping O'Brien with the

"I mean, who was the man that came out of M'Grath's carrying a bundle
on his back?"

"Some one carrying a bundle on his back?" queried the man in
respectful perplexity.

"Yes," said O'Brien, sharply.

He was annoyed at what he considered the stupidity of Coyne.

"The yard door is locked this hour, and no one could come in that
way. Ever since you went out, sir, I've been about here; and although
the sea and the wind are high, I am used to them, and no one could,
and no one did, come in. Nobody," added Coyne, emphatically, "crossed
that threshold"--pointing to the front doorway--"since you went
out, sir, until you yourself crossed it this minute. If you saw
_anything_"--mysteriously--"for goodness sake don't say a word about
it, or you'll have the missus and Mary in dread of their lives, if
they don't die of the fright. Did you see _it_ come in?"

O'Brien dropped his brows a little over his eyes, and looked at the
man. Coyne did not seem as though he had been drinking or asleep.

"Go and ask Mrs. Carey and Mary, and when you are coming back, bring
me some whisky and hot water."

When Coyne reappeared it was with the full assurance that neither Mrs.
Carey, the landlady, nor Mary, the housemaid, had seen or heard any
one enter the house between Jerry's leaving it and his return just

What was Jerry to make of this? There was not the shadow of a doubt
that a man had come out of M'Grath's with a bundle of some kind on his
back. He had watched that man with a little curiosity until he was
quite sure he had no other cover to go to but the hotel. Then came a
time when his attention was taken off the figure and given to the sea.
No man was to be seen when he turned round, but something was going up
the path to the downs. That something must have been the man he had
seen leave M'Grath's. Nothing could be plainer than that. But who in
the name of all that was mysterious could think of knocking at
M'Grath's, and then ascend the downs with a heavy bundle on such a
night? There was no house for several miles in the direction taken by
the man with the bundle except the residence of the late Mr.
Davenport, and that was two miles off.

Fahey, or----

Nonsense! This rubbish about ghosts was unworthy of a moment's
consideration. It was puerile, old-womanish, contemptible. Besides,
ghosts did not, as far as he knew, knock up the proprietor of a
general shop and buy or any way carry away heavy bundles on their
backs. He must not waste time with such rubbish again.

But what about Fahey? Fahey was more of a ghost than his own ghost.
Either Fahey was dead or he was not. To jump into the Puffing Hole,
was, every one said, certain death. Fahey had been seen to jump into
the Puffing Hole--seen by two witnesses incapable of making a mistake
in the matter. The word of one man in a case of this kind would be
open to doubt, but two men said they saw Fahey jump into the Puffing
Hole years ago. That very day he (O'Brien) had seen a figure which Jim
Phelan recognised as that of Fahey, and that figure had vanished near
the hideous caldron, but without having time to get near it, and in
face of the fact that there was not another means of accounting for
its disappearance.

What on earth could he make of this? And now here was a mysterious
figure getting a shop opened at night, and in the face of a fierce
storm starting over the downs in the direction of the Black Rock.

But the whole thing wasn't worth thinking of. What was it to him if
Fahey's ghost were fictitious or real, or if Fahey were alive or dead?
He'd put the whole thing from him, and think of where exactly he
should build that house for Madge.

Next morning, before starting for Kilbarry, he took a stroll and
turned into M'Grath's shop to buy a strap for his rugs. They sold
everything at M'Grath's--twine, and candles, and bread, and gunpowder,
and kettles, and vinegar, and calico, and tea, and butter, and
sweetmeats, and fishing-hooks, and hoops, and wooden spades, and white
lead, and garden seeds, and flowers of sulphur, and dried haddock, and
camp-stools, and crockery-ware, and pious pictures, and wall-hooks,
and penny bugles, and cod-liver oil, and bran, and a thousand other
things--to make a list of which would puzzle the most experienced
auctioneer or valuer.

"You had a late customer last night," said O'Brien, when he had
selected the strap.

"Yes, sir. He came to buy a few articles he wanted. He said that in my
father's time he often bought things in this shop, and that as he was
passing through the village late he wanted to see this place again for
the sake of old times."

"How long is it since he was here, did he say?"

"Thirty-seven years since he saw Kilcash."

"Then he is not young."

"Bless you, no, Mr. O'Brien! He's seventy-five, and with a bad cough
too; and to think of him walking a night like last night from this to
Kilbarry, with such a load too!"

"Seventy-five--seventy-five!" muttered Jerry. "That's no good."

"Ay, seventy-five, and looked every day of it. I don't think the poor
fellow is long for this world."

O'Brien left. A man of seventy-five did not, he thought, bear much on
the case. The years were thirty or thirty-five too many.

                            CHAPTER XXIX.

                            DULWICH AGAIN.

When Jerry O'Brien reached Kilbarry that afternoon, he drove straight
to O'Hanlon's office, and briefly recounted to the astonished
solicitor what he and Jim Phelan had seen at the Black Rock the day
before. O'Hanlon was for a few moments speechless with amazement. When
his amazement wore off a little, he found himself bound in on all
sides with perplexities. He told himself a hundred times that here was
evidence enough to satisfy the most sceptical of judges and juries;
and yet he, a mere solicitor, could not make up his mind to believe.
O'Brien, Phelan, and himself had seen something they would swear was
the figure of a man, and Phelan and himself would swear that what they
had seen was in the likeness of that Mike Fahey who had committed
suicide years ago by throwing himself into the Puffing Hole while, in
respect of a groundless charge, pursued by the police. It was
distracting--it was incredible; but it must be believed.

He remembered when he was told at school that if a penny had been put
out at five per cent, compound interest in the year 1 A.D., it would
then equal in value a mass of gold containing a globe as big as the
earth for every second of time since the beginning of the Christian
era. At first he had said this astounding statement was not true, but
when it was plainly demonstrated that it was even a ridiculous
understatement, he did not say it was not true, but he could not
believe it, although the figures were irrefutable.

This history of the reappearance of Fahey, or some shade or likeness
of him, was now above question. It stood on as firm a basis as
testimony could desire, and yet it was naught to him but myth. Many of
the greatest truths are unbelievable. This was a little truth, but in
its integrity was impenetrable.

The one great consolation was that he, O'Hanlon, need no longer fear
his brain was playing him false.

Like O'Brien, he came to the conclusion that impossible ghost or still
more impossible man, the affair was none of his. He wasn't going mad;
that was the great thing.

That day the two friends chatted the matter over while they sat before
O'Hanlon's fire after dinner, and they both agreed that they would
then and there say good-bye to Mr. Michael Fahey, whether he was
matter or spirit.

The solicitor had no more certain news of the beastly Fishery
Commissioners. They were still hovering about the neighbourhood; but
no one alive, themselves included, could tell what they were going to
do, or were not going to do, but they were still deucedly hard on
weirs. And--no; it would not be at all safe for Jerry to go to
London--just at present.

The two friends separated early, Jerry going back to "The Munster." He
had no desire for a further time in Kilcash. Alfred Paulton would be
soon fit to travel, and then once more he should go back to the
village; but he now had business to watch in Kilbarry. Certificates,
and memorials, and declarations, and so on, had to be obtained or
attended to, and although O'Hanlon did all the business in connection
with the weirs and the Commissioners, both men deemed Jerry's presence
advisable. He was extremely popular in the town, and the request of a
principal is always more efficacious than that of an agent.

He had been only a few days at "The Munster," when a letter put into
his hand one morning caused him an agreeable surprise. The envelope
bore the London postmark, and the superscription, shaky though it
happened to be, was unmistakably in the handwriting of Alfred himself.

Jerry broke the cover hastily, and read the brief pencil note with
pleasure, until he came to the last two sentences--"I do not know
where _she_ is. They will not tell me anything about her."

"Not cured, by Jove!" said Jerry to himself, with disappointment. "One
would think his illness and relapse would have put some sense into his
head, or knocked some nonsense out of it. But, after all, what is
there wrong in it? Why shouldn't he fall in love with whom he likes?
She is older than he, and I am sure she would not marry him, even if a
sleepy Government would only have the good sense and good taste to
hang Blake instead of worrying honest folk about weirs and other
things. Alfred is the best fellow in the world. Who could associate
with Madge and not be good--except, of course, myself? But Alfred is
dull; there's no denying that. He's more than a trifle mutton-headed.
Madge has all the brains of the family, and the best heart, too, only
she's going to throw that away. Is she? Wait till you see, Madge. My

He crooked his arm and held it out from him, and looked at the sleeve
of his coat tenderly, as though a head rested there.

"I'll spoil you with love when I get you. Spoil you with love! No
woman ever yet was spoiled with love. It's the flattery and
foolishness which spring from a desire to win a woman any way, no
matter how, so long as you win, that spoil women. I'd like to see a
Fishery Commissioner spooning. By Jove, it would be a fine thing if a
fellow had a sister a Commissioner was spooning! First you could get
him to allow you to do anything you liked, and the moment he turned
crusty, you would only have to ask your sister to poison him. I'm
sorry I haven't a sister. But, stay, I will have one soon. Edith
_must_ marry a Commissioner. When Madge and I are settled, I will ask
Edith to stay with us, and fill the house from garret to basement with
Commissioners. (I wonder how many of the beasts there are?) But I must
not say anything to Madge about this scheme until we are married. If I
mentioned it now she might object to the poison--there is no depending
on women, until they are married. But once a woman is married you may
count on her for anything. Look at Lady Macbeth! What a wife she was
to have at a fellow's elbow! Why, she wasn't merely a wife--she was a
spouse. What the difference is I don't know; but I'm sure she was a
spouse more than a wife--just as an awful father or mother is a
parent. But what is it I was thinking of?"

Jerry could be cool and collected and coherent when he liked, but he
did not like it now.

Days passed by uneventfully with Jerry at Kilbarry. He answered
Alfred's letter, but made no reference to Mrs. Davenport. He thought
it safer not. He was quite sure neither Mr. nor Mrs. Paulton would
look with favour on their son taking a continued interest in the
widow. To him there was something grotesque in Alfred falling in love
with a widow. Beyond doubt Alfred was in love with this strange and
beautiful woman. Jerry did not wonder at his young friend's
enthusiasm. He would have been a cold-blooded man under thirty who
could see her without feeling profound admiration. But Alfred would
have to get over this infatuation. It could never come to anything. Of
course time would cure him. Up to this, time had apparently been
losing its opportunity. When a man is in love with the sister of a
friend, it makes matters pleasanter if the girl's brother is involved
in a similar enterprise. But Jerry would rather forego such an
advantage in his case than that matters should become serious between
Alfred and the beautiful widow.

Daily Jerry saw O'Hanlon, and daily urged upon him the desirability of
despatch. So importunate was the younger man, that his friend and
adviser at length became suspicious and finally certain of the cause
from which Jerry's anxiety for haste sprang. "When the weirs are out
of danger," said the solicitor, "I know the next job you'll give me to

"What is it?" said Jerry, colouring slightly, and looking his
companion defiantly in the face.

"A settlement--a settlement! A marriage settlement, I mean!"--with a

"Don't be a fool, O'Hanlon. I wish you'd get a settlement about the

At length the day came on which Jerry set out for London for the
purpose of bringing over his friend for change of air and scene. In
two senses of the phrase, the weirs were still where they had been
five weeks ago. One of these senses was satisfactory: the weirs
had not been pulled down by the ruthless Commissioners. The other
sense was discouraging: the Commissioners had not yet done with the
weirs, and the weirs were still in danger of being pulled down,
as engines which obstructed the free navigation of the river Bawn.
Notwithstanding this, Jerry made the journey in the best of humours,
and having arrived without adventure or accident at Euston, drove to
his old lodgings and renewed his acquaintance with the civil landlady
and the odious table-cover.

His first call next morning was at Dulwich. He had not written to say
the hour at which he would reach Carlingford House, and when he
arrived and asked the servants after each member of the family, he
found they were all out with the exception of the invalid. At first
this rather chilled Jerry, but upon a moment's consideration he
thought that after all it was best Alfred and he should have a few
moments together alone. There was no reason, as far as he knew, for
precautions of any kind; but Alfred might be excitable, and it was
desirable that Mrs. Davenport's name should occur but sparingly, or
not at all.

He was shown into a little back drawing-room, where he found Alfred
sitting in an easy-chair at the window. Alfred rose with eager
alacrity. The two friends held one another by the hand for some time
in silence. Then Jerry spoke and thanked heaven Alfred looked so well,
quite well, better than ever he had seen him before--thinner no doubt,
but better. "Why, you have got a colour like a bashful girl in a
little fix!"

"I--I have just heard surprising news."

"What is it?" asked Jerry, looking keenly at his friend.

"First, tell me when are we to go to Ireland--to Kilcash?"

"Whenever you like, my dearest Alfred."

"But how soon?" he asked eagerly.

"Whenever you like, my dear boy, I am at your disposal. But do not run
any risk--do not hasten away for my sake."

Jerry was thinking of how little it would cost him in the way of
self-denial if he were obliged to pass a month under this roof.

"But will you hurry away for _mine?_"

"For _yours_, my dear Alfred! Of course I'll do anything you wish. But
how hurry away for _yours?_"

"Then we can start to-morrow for Kilcash?"

"_To-morrow!_ Why, what's the matter, Alfred?"

"Ah, I know it is too late for to-day. But to-morrow we set out for

"If you wish it. But why this excitement? It's the dullest place in
the world."

"Dull--dull! Why, she's there by this time!"

"_Who, in the name of mercy?_"

"Mrs. Davenport."

                             CHAPTER XXX.

                           ANOTHER VISITOR.

O'Brien was struck dumb. "Mrs. Davenport," he thought, in a dazed,
unbelieving way--"Mrs. Davenport at Kilcash! It can't be possible.
There is some mistake." Here was a complication on which he had never
counted--which it would have been idle to anticipate. The position in
which he found himself was perplexing, absurd. It was useless to hope
any longer that Alfred was not desperately in love with this woman,
who had recently been the central figure in a most notorious and
unpleasant inquiry. Alfred had seen her only a few times, and could
not have exchanged a word with her since that awful night. It was

"Mrs. Davenport," said Jerry, slowly, "had, I thought, gone away by
this time. How do you know she is in Ireland, or on her way there? Who
told you?"

Alfred smiled and sat down.

"A friend found it out for me. She did go to France for a week, but
she came back the day before yesterday, and is in Ireland now. I am
most anxious to see her again. Poor woman!--she must have suffered

He had observed a look of anxiety, if not disapproval, on Jerry's
face, and tried to make it seem as though he took no more than a
friendly interest in the widow.

"Alfred," said Jerry, slowly and seriously, "it won't do. I can see
you are hard hit."

"Nonsense!" cried Alfred, gaily.

Jerry directed the conversation far afield from the subject to which
Alfred would willingly have confined it.

But Alfred was not to be baffled or denied. The moment a pause
occurred he broke in with:

"Jerry, you have not told me yet whether we shall start for Ireland
tomorrow or not?"

"Alfred, have you ever been in love?"

"Never!"--with a laugh, a slight increase of colour, and a dull, dim
kind of pride in some feeling he had, he knew not what--a feeling of
comfort and exaltation.

"Because, you know, it's an awfully stupid and miserable feeling. It's
not good enough to cry over or to curse over. Sighing is despicable."

"How on earth do you know anything about it, Jerry? I thought you were
a woman-hater."

"Ay," said Jerry, vaguely. "Do you know of all people in the world
whom I should most like to be?"


"One of Shakespeare's clowns. What digestions these clowns had! They
are the only perfect all-round men I know. Mind you, they are no more
fools than they choose to be. If they pleased, they could all be Chief
Justices, or Archbishops, or Fishery Commissioners, or anything else
fearfully intellectual they liked; but they preferred to be clowns,
and kept their superb digestions, and made jokes at lovers and
such-like human rubbish. Motley's the only wear."

"What on earth is the matter with you, Jerry? I never knew until
now that you had a leaning towards poetry!" Alfred was gratified
to find O'Brien thus bordering on the sentimental. He would have
embraced with delight any chance of breaking into the most extravagant
sentimentality himself. To think of O'Brien countenancing sentiment
was too delicious. He added: "I don't know much about Shakespeare;
but, for my part, I think his fools are awful fools."

"Why, Alfred--why?"

"Because they are so desperately wise."

"Ay," said O'Brien, in a still more desponding tone. "A fool must be a
fool indeed when he chooses to be wise.

     "'Why, then, O brawling love! O loving hate!
       O any thing, of nothing first create!
       O heavy lightness!--serious vanity!
       Mis-shapen chaos of well-seeming forms!
       Feather of lead, bright smoke, cold fire, sick health!
       Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is!
       This love feel I, that feel no love in this.
       Dost thou not laugh?'"

"No," answered Alfred: "I don't see anything to laugh at. That seems a
very wise speech. Is it spoken by a fool?"

"By an amateur fool, and a bad amateur fool, too. It is one of the
silliest speeches in all Shakespeare. Whenever Shakespeare wanted to
have a little sneer up his sleeve, and to his own self, he put the
thing in rhyming couplets. Nearly all his rhyming couplets are jokes
for his own delight, and for the vexation and contempt of all other
men. Shakespeare did penance for his sins in his puns, and revenged
his injuries on mankind in his rhyming couplets.... That's your
mother's voice."

"Yes," said Alfred, going to the door and opening it, "that's my
mother and the girls. Come here, mother; here's Jerry O'Brien."

"Your mother and _my_ girl," said Jerry, down low in his heart.
"'Still-waking sleep, that is not what it is.' Romeo is the most
contemptible figure in all history, and Juliet the most adorable."
Aloud he said at that moment: "And you, Miss Paulton--how are you?"

"Quite well, thank you."

"What a low blackguard," he thought, "Shakespeare was to kill Juliet!
But he killed Romeo, too, and that may have justified him in the eyes
of heaven. I'd forgive him even his rhyming couplets if he'd only turn
his tragic attention to those accursed Commissioners. Just fancy a lot
of apoplectic fools, bursting, so to speak, with the want of knowledge
of anything, and standing between that darling and me! May the
maledictions of----" To Madge he said aloud, in answer to her
question: "Yes, I had a very good passage across--not a ripple on the
water. You have never been across?"

"No, never. I should very much like to go," she said, as she sat down
on a chair, adjusted her mantle, and looked up in his face.

"Oh, you ought to go over," he said; "the scenery is romantic."

He thought "romantic" might be too strong for Mrs. Paulton, so he
added hastily:

"And the garden produce--owing," he added, in explanation, "to the
humidity of the climate."

He felt rather foolish, and that he had been saying very foolish
things. But then he didn't care. He did not want to shine before her:
she was the beacon of his hope.

"Perhaps," she said, looking up, "father might take us over next
summer, or the summer after."

She looked up in his face again. It was desperately provoking.

"Or the summer after," thought Jerry, with a pang. "Does that girl
sitting there, three feet away from me, and who doesn't think I care
for her a bit, imagine for a moment that I am going to let her wander
about all the earth with that respectable old gentleman, her father,
till the crack of doom? Nonsense! She isn't a bit good-looking," he
thought, looking down into her eyes, and when she lowered her eyes,
gazing devoutly at her hat--"she isn't a bit good-looking--not half as
good-looking as Edith, and Edith is no beauty. But still, I think, I'd
feel excellently comfortable if the others would go away, and I might
put my arm round her and try to persuade her that she was happy
because I did so."

"You find Alfred almost quite well again?" asked Mrs. Paulton genially
of Jerry.

"Oh, yes. He is almost as well as ever, and of course will be better
than ever in a little while."

"A few whiffs of sea air will put me on my legs once more," said
Alfred, with abounding cheerfulness. "I feel as if the very look of
the sea would set me all right."

"You unfortunate devil!" thought Jerry. "Are you so bad as that? Oh,
for the mind of one of those plaguey clowns! Falstaff was the only man
who ever enjoyed life thoroughly--Falstaff and Raffaelle. What was the
burden of flesh carried by Falstaff compared to this 'feather of
lead!' What were all the jealousies which surrounded Raffaelle's
career compared to my jealousy of the hat that touches her hair, or
the glove that touches her cheek!"

"You will of course stay with us while you are in London," said Mrs.
Paulton. "I told Alfred to be sure to say that we insisted upon your
doing so, and the silly boy forgot it."

"Oh, he'll stay, mother," answered Alfred. "He'll stay with us while
he's in London."

The invalid gave a glance at Jerry. The latter understood it to be an
appeal for a very brief respite indeed from travelling. Jerry was in
no small difficulty as to what he should say or how he should act. He
would like to stop at Carlingford House a month, a year. Even a month
was out of the question. But it was too bad that Alfred should be in
such a violent hurry to go away. He believed Madge's brother had no
suspicion that Madge was particularly dear to him. Still, common
hospitality would scarcely allow a man to hurry a guest away from
under his own roof after twenty-four hours' stay, particularly when
that friend had come several hundred miles to do his host a good turn.
No, hospitality would not allow a man to do it, but love would. He,
Jerry, could not plead fatigue. That would be grotesque in a healthy
young man. He would not lie and say he had business in London which
would keep him a few days there, and yet it was shameful and
ridiculous that after a whole month of separation he should be obliged
to fly from her almost before he had time to get accustomed to the
music of her voice. What delicious music it did make in his hungry
ears! He would ask Alfred, without any explanation, if the day after
to-morrow would not suit him quite as well as tomorrow.

He made a sign to Alfred, and the two young men passed through the
folding doors into the front drawing-room. Here a bright fire burned.
Alfred went to the fire--Jerry to the window. The latter looked out,
started, and said slowly:

"Alfred, there's a visitor coming up the garden."

"All right," said Alfred without interest.

"And it's a woman."

"All right."

"And it's Mrs. Davenport."


In a second Alfred was by Jerry's side.

Jerry laughed softly.

"All right?" he repeated in an interrogative voice.

Alfred's face blazed, but he did not speak or move.

                            CHAPTER XXXI.

                   "I HAVE BEEN ALWAYS ALONE."

Mrs. Davenport knocked at the front door, and was shown into the back
drawing-room, where the ladies were sitting.

"I have come, Mrs. Paulton," she said, "to thank you and Mr. Paulton
and your family for the great kindness you showed me in my trouble. I
am afraid that at the time I was too intent on my own misfortunes to
say as fully as I ought what I should have felt. Indeed, to be quite
candid, I do not know exactly what I said to you or your husband, or
exactly how I felt."

Mrs. Paulton went over to her, and took the hand of the widow. O'Brien
and Paulton could hear and see everything going on in the back
drawing-room, as they approached the folding-doors slowly.

"My dear Mrs. Davenport," said Mrs. Paulton gently, as she pressed the
visitor's hand, "you must not think of the matter. We were, and are,
deeply sorry for you, and our only feeling in the matter was one of
regret at not having had an opportunity of being more useful."

This was true now. Both William Paulton and his wife were by the
inquest perfectly satisfied Mrs. Davenport had for a while suffered
from ugly suspicions because a crazy old husband had made away with
his life in a perfectly mad manner, and without being in the least
induced to the act by any fault of his wife. Every one agreed with the
jury that it had been a case of suicide while suffering from temporary

Another thing greatly helped Mrs. Davenport into the good graces of
the Paultons. After Blake's release he stayed in London, although Mrs.
Davenport was away in France. Since the trial young Pringle had kept
Alfred informed on all matters connected with the widow.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Paulton now felt as though they had done an absolute
wrong to this woman, and Mrs. Paulton knew that her husband would be
delighted to show her any civility or kindness he could. The husband
and wife were, as their son had said, two of the kindest and most
generous people in England.

Alfred and Jerry entered the back room. She held out her hand to the
former, and thanked him for what he had done. She gave her hand to
Jerry, and said, with a wan smile:

"I owe you an apology, Mr. O'Brien, for my rudeness to you when last
we met."

"Rudeness! Mrs. Davenport!--your rudeness to me! I am shocked to hear
you say such a thing. I am shocked to think you should have for a
moment rested under so unpleasant an idea. Believe me, you were never
anything but most polite and considerate to me."

Madge admired this speech of Jerry's, for it seemed to her very
generous. She did not greatly admire Mrs. Davenport. She thought her
too grand and cold and reserved. But she did not go as far as Edith,
who positively disliked their visitor.

"I am quite clear as to my bad conduct," insisted Mrs. Davenport, with
her wan smile. "When I met you in this house the day after the--the
dreadful event, I did not speak to you, although I recognised you

"But, Mrs. Davenport, you don't for a moment imagine I did not realise
how terribly you were tried just then?"

"It is very good of you to make such liberal allowances for my
conduct, but I fear I did not deserve your generosity; and I am more
than afraid, if you knew exactly how I felt, you would not be able to
forgive me so readily. I suppose it was owing to the state of
excitement I was in at the time that the moment I set eyes on you, Mr.
O'Brien, I looked upon you as an enemy."

"An enemy--an enemy!" cried Jerry, in surprise and confusion. "What
could have put such a notion into your mind?"

"I am sure I don't know," she answered, shaking her head slowly. "I
experienced nothing but the greatest consideration from you and every
one else here. I have since learned that I owe my introduction to Mr.
Pringle to you--to you and Mr. Paulton," she added, looking gratefully
at the young man.

Alfred coloured with delight and embarrassment. To see and hear her
was delight enough to outweigh all the troubles he had yet known; but
to feel that her voice and eyes were thanking and praising him was

She was dressed in complete widow's weeds. Her face was pale, placid,
unwrinkled. Her dark eyebrows, dark eyes and lashes, and full red
mouth afforded the only breaks in colour. All the rest was pale,
delicate olive. The head had still the grand imperial carriage, the
eye the same unflinching, haughty fearlessness. The full, red lips met
closely, readily, at the clear, curved line, and parted easily,
readily. Only hints of the superlative graces of the figure came
through her heavy mantle. The hands lay clasped in suppliant ease in
the lap. Now that she was free from commanding excitement, her voice
drew attention to itself. The face and head, and the carriage and pose
of the head, were full of authority and command; the figure full of
feminine yielding gentleness. Now that the voice was unburdened by
heavy emotions, it partook at one time of the nature of the head; at
another of the nature of the figure. In giving thanks to Mrs. Paulton,
it was slow, stately, gravely harmonious; in confessing her want of
generosity to Jerry, it was low, soft, full, intensely sympathetic.

Her words had taken O'Brien quite aback. Was it divination, instinct,
that told her he had been friendly only in externals, and that he owed
her no particular goodwill? Or was it that she did not at the time of
the fatal occurrence wish any one to be near who knew much of her
former life? Could it be that if he had been absent from the inquest
some of the unpleasant events preceding her marriage would not have
been so nakedly exposed by either her or Blake? Who could tell? Not
he, certainly.

He looked from Mrs. Davenport to Alfred, and mentally pitied him.

"I cannot wonder," he thought, "at his falling in love with her. If I
were in his shoes, I don't know what might happen to me. Fortunately I
am safe."

He glanced gratefully at Madge.

She could not understand exactly what he meant by his eyes; but she
knew they were not eyes of disapproval or dislike, and so she looked
down because she would have liked to look up.

A general and desultory talk was going on. Alfred felt quite well
already. Notwithstanding his feeble state, he felt the strength of ten
men against all the world. He felt towards her a worshipful tenderness
he could not describe--did not want to describe, only wanted to enjoy.
When one is sailing in the sun over a summer bay, who wants to analyse
the light, and hear of the solar spectrum? When one is at the opera,
who cares about the number of vibrations it takes to produce a certain
note? When one is in love, who cares to analyse the charm? Delight is
not so plentiful in the world that we need pick it to pieces. Alfred
would not try to find out why he was supremely happy in her presence.
His happiness was enough for him. Others might say what they pleased
of her. All he would say was "Let me be near her."

Of the two friends, O'Brien was the more robust by far. His nature was
sturdy, almost aggressive. He had a hatred of what he called
"tinkering his opinions." He could be as straightforward and downright
as any other man alive. He could stick to his opinions, and had a
contempt for consequences. In manner he was a trifle arrogant. It was
this feeling of independence and self-assertion which made him feel
but slightly attracted towards Mrs. Davenport, and which often
repelled him from her.

"If she were my wife," he thought, "there would be two masters in the
house, and it would end in my throwing her out of a window--an act
which would no doubt import unpleasantness into our household. And yet
if she thought well of wheedling me, she could. A man could never be
her husband. Davenport was her owner. If ever she marries again, it
will be a master or a slave. Poor Alfred would make a fine master for
such an Amazon! But it's downright brutal of me to call her an Amazon.
After all, it would be a very terrible thing to be loved by that
woman. I think if I were married to her, I'd rather she hated me and
mastered me, always provided it was not I who went through that
window. When you find yourself continually thinking of a woman you are
not in love with, it's a bad sign of the woman, as a rule."

Alfred had been of service to her--service however slight--on the
evening of that terrible catastrophe. He had seen her aidless, alone,
helpless, dismayed. Her voice that night struck the keynote of the
music she had awakened in his heart. To those who did not know her
well--to those who had not seen her in difficulty and despair, her
outward seeming might be one of command and victory. But he had found
her distracted with horror, had lent her aid, and seen her relieved by
his own act. He had, in however humble a way, played the part of
protector. He had seen the feminine, the dependant side of her nature
revealed. She might be stately, commanding, self-sufficient, imperious
to others. To him she would always be the woman who once leaned upon
his manhood. Her beauty, her grace, her commanding stateliness might
draw other admirers to her side; to him the child-like helplessness of
her womanhood lent the charm which could never die or fade away, and
brought him more close to her heart than if he had sat and worshipped
at her feet for years. He had been the donor of little in her
distress; he would be the donor of all he had or could command in the
world for her protection and peace.

While the ladies and the two young men were chatting soberly together,
Mr. Paulton came in. He was unfeignedly delighted to see Mrs.
Davenport. He had never been easy in his mind since that day she left
his roof in the depth of her misery. Although she had gone away of her
own free will and of her own independent initiative, he was unable to
rid himself of the feeling that he expelled this woman from his roof
when she most needed friendship and protection. She had come out of
the ordeal of the trial purified, if purification were necessary; and
public opinion, of which he stood in great respect, not only held him
justified in the countenance he had given her, but applauded him
loudly for his bold, open-handed help to a lonely woman in a strange

"And what are your plans for the future?" asked the old man in his
most solicitous voice. "If I, or any of us, can be of the least
service to you, I hope you will command us."

She thanked him sadly, and said that all which any one could do for
her he had already done. She had gone to France for a short time to
calm herself after the late excitement, but she could not content
herself abroad.

"My life, Mr. Paulton, up to this, has been tempest-tossed, although
little may have been seen of the disturbance. I am weary of strife,
and yearn for quiet. Kilcash is not a very lively place, but it seems
to me that I have within the past couple of months had enough of
excitement to satisfy me for the rest of my time."

He smiled, and shook his head in gallant expostulation.

"No doubt," he said, "a little rest in your old home will be grateful
and beneficial to you; but we must see you again. We have not so many
friends that we can afford to lose you."

"I am a very new friend," she said sadly.

Alfred would have given ten years of his life to tell her she was
dearer to them than all the other friends they had in the world. His
father said:

"The depth of friendship is not to be measured by years only, or,
indeed, chiefly. Some people have the faculty of making better friends
in an hour than others can in a lifetime. We were brought together
under most peculiar and distressing circumstances, and you have won
all our love." He took her hand with paternal cordiality. "If we are
so unfortunate as not to find a little place in your heart, it must be
owing to some defect on our part--owing to the want in us of some
faculty which could enlist your regard. It is not, I am sure, my dear
madam, from any lack of desire to win your confidence and good will."

All this rather long and old-fashioned speech was said with a sweet,
benevolent chivalry which would have silenced and abashed any one
who felt disposed to regard it as too fine and elaborate for a
drawing-room scene of our own day. "Bravo, sir!" cried Alfred. He was
a good, affectionate son, and had always been on the best terms with
his father; but he never felt absolutely proud of the old man before.
He coloured with pleasure. This simple homage of the old man touched
all--Mrs. Davenport herself--as something sacred. The tears stood in
his wife's eyes. What a privilege it was to own the love and share the
confidences of such a gentle and generous heart! "I am sure," said
Mrs. Paulton, scarcely able to keep her tears back, "that you will
always think of us as of old friends. I know you will make up out of
your own goodness whatever you may find wanting in us."

Mrs. Paulton took the widow's other hand in both hers.

Mrs. Davenport opened her lips as if to speak, but no words came. Then
slowly and mutely the tears formed in her eyes and fell down upon her
black dress. Alfred and O'Brien withdrew into the front room and
closed the folding doors; the two girls stole noiselessly away.

Mr. Paulton moved to the window. Mrs. Davenport's head gradually sank
on her chest; she breathed heavily, and swayed slightly to and fro.
She rose slowly.

"I must go now," she said.

"No, no; you must not. You must stay with us. You are too lonely."

She looked fearfully into the other woman's eyes.

"I have been alone since I was born, and I am afraid."

"Afraid of what?" asked Mrs. Paulton, anxiously.

She thought the fear must have some connection with the widow's recent

"I am afraid of companionship."

Mrs. Paulton rose and stood before her guest, gazing wonderingly into
the dark, fathomless, tearful eyes, now startled, looking as though
they expected to see a strange, disturbing object.

"Come with me to my room." She nodded towards her husband. "We shall
be quieter there."

"I cannot. I must get back. I am going"--a shudder--"home this

Mr. Paulton turned round and said:

"You shall not go to-night. You must not leave us so soon. Go with my
wife; she will comfort you. You have an hour between this and

The beautiful woman raised her face.

"Forgive me, Mr. Paulton. I have as much hatred of anything like a
scene as any one else, but I feel--I feel a bit broken--broken down. I
am not so young as I look. I am thirty-four; but in all my life I have
lived alone, within myself, and your kindness--the kindness of you and
Mrs. Paulton has been too much for me. It may sound strange, but
kindness is unkindness to me. I shall be better when I find myself
alone once more. I am used to such companionship--none other.

He went to her, and took her again by the hand.

"Hush, child--hush! I will not have you leave us to-day. If we have
been able to do a little for you, do you a little for us. Stay with us
this one day, if no more--only this one day."

"No, no; I cannot. Good-bye."

"Wait!" he said, holding up his hand and approaching the folding doors
that opened into the front room. "It is a long and lonely journey to
the south of Ireland. Perhaps we can find you an escort--company." He
passed into the front room. The two young men were seated at the
window looking out on the little garden between the house and the
road. "You re going to Ireland, to Kilcash, Alfred--when?"

"We were thinking of going soon, sir; but----"

He paused and looked at his friend. He knew his father well, and
guessed that he had asked the lonely woman to stay with them for a
while. His father had indeed said more than once he wished an
opportunity of this kind might occur.

"Can you go to-morrow? Mrs. Davenport wants to go to-night; but if you
can manage to go to-morrow she may be induced to stay to-night with

"We shall only be too happy, sir," said Alfred, turning away to hide
his satisfaction.

"Very good. We shall say to-morrow evening," said the old man, as he
withdrew into the back room and shut the doors. He went to where the
two women stood. "It is all settled. We will not ask you to do too
much for us this time. Mr. O'Brien and my son are starting for the
south of Ireland to-morrow. They are going to the village near which
you live--Kilcash--and will leave you at your own gate."

"Mr. O'Brien and Mr. Paulton going to Kilcash! Surely this is arranged
for me--at the moment."

"No, indeed; it has been settled for weeks. You see"--he smiled, and
imported some gaiety into his voice--"Fate is stronger than you. You
would not ask them to set off at once--to-night? Mr. O'Brien arrived
in London only last night, and I could not dream of asking him to
start again for Ireland this evening. Besides, Alfred, I am sure,
could not get ready in time, and you must not go alone. Take her
upstairs now, Kate, and make her rest till luncheon. Take her away,

"But," she persisted, as Mrs. Paulton guided her reluctant steps to
the door, "I am used to being alone."

"Not travelling alone. I must have my way this time."

"But I really am used to travelling alone."

"Then we must insist upon this being an exception. Now, we never allow
any arguments in this house."

He opened the door for the two ladies. Mrs. Davenport shook her head
mournfully, and suffered herself to be led out of the room by Mrs.

                           END OF VOL. II.

                         * * * * * * * * * *

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