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Title: A Gray Eye or So - In Three Volumes—Volume I
Author: Moore, Frank Frankfort
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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A GRAY EYE OR SO

By Frank Frankfort Moore

Author of “I Forbid The Banns,” “Dalreen,” “Sojourners Together,”
 “Highways And High Seas,” Etc.

In Three Volumes--Volume I

Sixth Edition

London: Hutchinson & Co., 34 Paternoster Row


1893


[Illustration: 0007]



A GRAY EYE OR SO



CHAPTER I.--ON CERTAIN ABSTRACTIONS.


I WAS talking about woman in the abstract,” said Harold.

The other, whose name was Edmund--his worst enemies had never
abbreviated it--smiled, lifted his eyes unto the hills as if in search
of something, frowned as if he failed to find it, smiled a cat’s-paw of
a smile--a momentary crinkle in the region of the eyes--twice his lips
parted as if he were about to speak; then he gave a laugh--the laugh of
a man who finds that for which he has been searching.

“Woman in the abstract?” said he. “Woman in the abstract? My dear
Harold, there is no such thing as woman in the abstract. When you talk
about Woman enthusiastically, you are talking about the woman you love;
when you talk about Woman cynically, you are talking about the woman who
won’t love you.”

“Maybe your honours never heard tell of Larry O’Leary?” said the
Third--for there was a Third, and his name was Brian; his duty was to
row the boat, and this duty he interpreted by making now and again an
elaborate pretence of rowing, which deceived no one.

“That sounds well,” said Harold; “but do you want it to be applied?
Do you want a test case of the operation of your epigram--if it is an
epigram?”

“A test case?”

“Yes; I have heard you talk cynically about woman upon occasions. Does
that mean that you have been unloved by many?”

Again the man called Edmund looked inquiringly up the purple slope of
the hill.

“You’re a wonderful clever gentleman,” said Brian, as if communing with
himself, “a wonderful gentleman entirely! Isn’t he after casting his
eyes at the very spot where old Larry kept his still?”

“No,” said Edmund; “I have never spoken cynically of women. To do so
would be to speak against my convictions. I have great hope of Woman.”

“Yes; our mothers and sisters are women,” said Harold. “That makes
us hopeful of women. Now we are back in the wholesome regions of the
abstract once more, so that we have talked in a circle and are precisely
where we started, only that I have heard for the first time that you are
hopeful of Woman.”

“That’s enough for one day,” said Edmund.

“Quite,” said Harold.

“You must know that in the old days the Excise police looked after the
potheen--the Royal Irish does it now,” said the Third. “Well, as I say,
in the old days there was a reward of five pounds given by the Excisemen
for the discovery of a private still. Now Larry had been a regular hero
at transforming the innocent smiling pratie into the drink that’s the
curse of the country, God bless it! But he was too wary a lad for the
police, and he rolled keg after keg down the side of Slieve Gorm. At
last the worm of his still got worn out--they do wear out after a dozen
years or so of stiff work--and people noticed that Larry was wearing out
too, just through thinking of where he’d get the three pound ten to buy
the new machinery. They tried to cheer him up, and the decent boys was
so anxious to give him heart that there wasn’t such a thing as a sober
man to be found in all the country side. But though the brave fellows
did what they could for him, it was no use. He never got within three
pound five of the three pound ten that he needed. But just as things was
at their worst, they mended. Larry was his old self again, and the word
went round that the boys might get sober by degrees.

“Now what did our friend Larry do, if you please, but take his old
worn-out still and hide it among the heather of the hill fornenst
us--Slieve Glas is its name--and then he goes the same night to the
Excise officer, in the queer secret way.

“‘I’m in a bad way for money, or it’s not me that would be after turning
informer,’ says he, when he had told the officer that he knew where the
still was concealed.

“‘That’s the worst of you all,’ says the officer. ‘You’ll not inform on
principle, but only because you’re in need of money.’

“‘More’s the pity, sir,’ says Larry.

“‘Where’s the still?’ says the officer.

“‘If I bring you to it,’ says Larry, ‘it must be kept a dead secret, for
the owner is the best friend I have in the world.’

“‘You’re a nice chap to inform on your best friend,’ says the officer.

“‘I’ll never be able to look at him straight in the face after, and
that’s the truth,’ says Larry.

“Well, your honours, didn’t Larry lead the officer and a couple of the
Excisemen up the hill in the dark of the early morning, and sure enough
they came upon the old still, hid among the heather. It was captured,
and Larry got the five pound reward, and was able to buy a brand-new
still with the money, besides having thirty shillings to the good in his
pocket. After that, was it any wonder that he became one of the greatest
informers in the country? By the Powers, he made a neat thing out of
the business of leading the officers to his own stills and pocketing the
reward. He was thirty shillings to the good every time. Ah, Larry was a
boy!”

“So I judge,” said the man called Edmund, with an unaffected laugh--he
had studied the art of being unaffected. “But you see, it was not of the
Man but of the Woman we were talking.”

“That’s why I thought that the change would be good for your honours,”
 remarked Brian. “When gentlemen that I’ve out in this boat with me,
begin to talk together in a way that has got no sense in it at all, I
know that they’re talking about a woman, and I tell them the story of
Larry O’Leary.”

Neither the man called Edmund, nor the man called Harold, talked any
more that day upon Woman as a topic.



CHAPTER II.--ON A GREAT HOPE.

I THINK you remarked that you had great hope of Woman,” said Harold,
the next day. The boat had drifted once again into the centre of the
same scene, and there seemed to be a likelihood of at least two of the
boat’s company drifting back to the topic of the previous afternoon.

“Yes, you certainly admitted that you had great hope of Woman.”

“And so I have. Woman felt, long ago; she is beginning to feel again.”

“You don’t think that feeling is being educated out of her? I certainly
have occasional suspicions that this process is going on. Why, just
think of the Stafford girl. She can tell you at a moment’s notice
the exact difference between an atheist, an infidel, an agnostic, a
freethinker, and the Honest Doubter.”

“She has been reading modern fiction--that’s all. No, I don’t think that
what is called education makes much difference to a woman. After all,
what does this thing called education mean? It simply means that a girl
can read all the objectionable passages of the ancient poets without the
need of a translation. I have hope of Woman because she is frequently so
intensely feminine.”

“Maybe you never heard tell of how the Widdy MacDermott’s cabin came to
be a ruin,” said the Third.

“Feeling and femininity will, shall I say, transform woman into our
ideal?” said Harold.

“Transform is too strong a word,” said Edmund. “And as for our ideal,
well, every woman is the ideal of some man for a time.”

“And that truth shows not only how lowly is the ideal of some men, but
also how unwise it is to attempt to speak of woman in the abstract. I
begin to think that what you said yesterday had a grain of truth in it,
though it was an epigram.”

“The Widdy MacDermott--oh, the Widdy Mac-Dermott,” said the Third, as
though repeating the burden of a ballad. “They made a pome about her
in Irish, that was near as full of nonsense as if it had been in the
English. You see when Tim, her husband, went to glory he left the cow
behind him, taking thought for the need of his widdy, though she hadn’t
been a widdy when he was acquainted with her. Well, your honours, the
byre was a trifle too near the edge of the bog hole, so that when one
end fell out, there wasn’t much of the mud walls that stood. Then one
blessed morning the childer came running into the cabin to tell their
mother that the cow was sitting among the ruins of its home.”

“A Marius of the farmyard,” remarked Edmund.

“Likely enough, sir. Anyhow, there she sat as melancholy as if she was
a Christian. Of course, as the winter was well for’ard it wouldn’t do to
risk her life by leaving her to wander about the bogs, so they drove
her into the cabin--it was a tight fit for her, passing through the
door--she could just get in and nothing to spare; but when she was
inside it was warm and comfortable that the same cow made the cabin,
and the childer were wondering at the end of a month how they could
have been such fools as to shiver through the winter while the cow was
outside.

“In another month some fine spring days came, and the cabin was a bit
close and stuffy with the cow inside, and the widdy herself turned the
animal’s head to the door and went to drive her out for exercise and
ventilation. But the way the beast had been fed and petted told upon
her, and by the Powers, if she didn’t stick fast in the doorway.

“They leathered her in the cabin and they coaxed her from outside, but
it was all of no use. The craythur stood jammed in the door, while the
childer crawled in and out of the cabin among her hind legs--the fore
legs was half a cow’s length outside. That was the situation in the
middle of the day, and all the neighbours was standing round giving
advice, and calling in to the widdy herself--who, of course, was a
prisoner in the cabin--not to lose heart.

“‘It’s not heart I’m afeard of losing--it’s the cow,’ says she.

“Well, your honours, the evening was coming on, but no change in the
situation of affairs took place, and the people of the country-side was
getting used to the appearance of the half cow projecting beyond the
door of the cabin, and to think that maybe, after all, it was nothing
outside the ordinary course of events, when Barney M’Bratney, who does
the carpentering at the Castle, came up the road.

“He took in the situation with the glance of the perfessional man, and
says he, ‘By the Powers, its a case of the cow or the cabin. Which would
ye rather be after losing, Widdy?’

“‘The cabin by all means,’ says she.

“‘You’re right, my good woman,’ says he. ‘Come outside with you.’

“Well, your honours, the kindly neighbours hauled the widdy outside over
the back of the cow, and then with a crowbar Barney attacked the walls
on both sides of the door. In ten minutes the cow was free, but the
cabin was a wreck.

“Of course his lardship built it up again stronger than it ever was,
but as he wouldn’t make the door wide enough to accommodate the cow--he
offered to build a byre for her, but that wasn’t the same--he has never
been so respected as he was before in the neighbourhood of Ballyboreen.”

“That’s all very well as a story,” said Edmund; “but you see we were
talking on the subject of the advantages of the higher education of
woman.”

“True for you, sir,” said Brian. “And if the Widdy MacDermott had been
born with eddication would she have let her childer to sleep with the
cow?”

“Harold,” said Edmund, “there are many side lights upon the general
question of the advantages of culture in women.”

“And the story of the Widdy MacDermott is one of them?” said Harold.

“When I notice that gentlemen that come out in the boat with me begin
to talk on contentious topics, I tell them the story of how the Widdy
MacDermott’s cabin was wrecked,” said Brian.



CHAPTER III.--ON HONESTY AND THE WORKING MAN.

DON’T you think,” remarked Edmund, the next day, as the boat drifted
under the great cliffs, and Brian was discharging with great ability
his normal duty of resting on his oars. “Don’t you think that you should
come to business without further delay?”

“Come to business?” said Harold.

“Yes. Two days ago you lured me out in this coracle to make a
communication to me that I judged would have some bearing upon your
future course of life. You began talking of Woman with a touch of
fervour in your voice. You assured me that you were referring only to
woman in the abstract, and when I convinced you--I trust I convinced
you--that woman in the abstract has no existence, you got frightened--as
frightened as a child would be, if the thing that it has always
regarded as a doll were to wink suddenly, suggesting that it had an
individuality, if not a distinction of its own--that it should no longer
be included among the vague generalities of rags and bran. Yesterday you
began rather more boldly. The effects of education upon the development
of woman, the probability that feeling would survive an intimate
acquaintance with Plato in the original. Why not take another onward
step today? In short, who is she?”

Harold laughed--perhaps uneasily.

“I’m not without ambition,” said he.

“I know that. What form does your ambition take? A colonial judgeship,
after ten years of idleness at the bar? A success in literature that
shall compensate you for the favourable criticisms of double that
period? The ownership of the Derby winner? An American heiress, moving
in the best society in Monte Carlo? A co-respondency in brackets with a
Countess? All these are the legitimate aspirations of the modern man.”

“Co-respondency as a career has, no doubt, much to recommend it to some
tastes,” said Harold. “It appears to me, however, that it would be easy
for an indiscreet advocate to over-estimate its practical value.”

“You haven’t been thinking about it?”

“You see, I haven’t yet met the countess.”

“What, then, in heaven’s name do you hope for?”

“Well, I would say Parliament, if I could be sure that that came within
the rather narrow restrictions which you assigned to my reply. You said
‘in heaven’s name.’”

“Parliament! Parliament! Great Powers! is it so bad as that with you?”

“I don’t say that it is. I may be able to get over this ambition as I’ve
got over others--the stroke oar in the Eight, for instance, the soul of
Sarasate, the heart of Miss Polly Floss of the Music Halls. Up to the
present, however, I have shown no sign of parting with the surviving
ambition of many ambitions.”

“I don’t say that you’re a fool,” said the man called Edmund. He did not
speak until the long pause, filled up by the great moan of the Atlantic
in the distance and the hollow fitful plunge of the waters upon the
rocks of the Irish shore, had become awkwardly long. “I can’t say that
you’re a fool.”

“That’s very good of you, old chap.”

“No; I can’t conscientiously say that you’re a fool.”

“Again? This is becoming cloying. If I don’t mistake, you yourself do a
little in the line I suggest.”

“What would be wisdom--comparative wisdom--on my part, might be
idiotcy--”

“Comparative idiotcy?”

“Sheer idiotcy, on yours. I have several thousands a year, and I can
almost--not quite--but I affirm, almost, afford to talk honestly to the
Working man. No candidate for Parliament can quite afford to be honest
to the Working man.”

“And the Working man returns the compliment, only he works it off on the
general public,” said Harold.

The other man smiled pityingly upon him--the smile of the professor of
anatomy upon the student who identifies a thigh bone--the smile which
the _savant_ allows himself when brought in contact with a discerner of
the obvious.

“No woman is quite frank in her prayers--no politician is quite honest
with the Working man.”

“Well. I am prepared to be not quite honest with him too.”

“You may believe yourself equal even to that; but it’s not so easy as
it sounds. There is an art in not being quite honest. However, that’s a
detail.”

“I humbly venture so to judge it.”

“The main thing is to get returned.”

“The main thing is, as you say, to get the money.”

“The money?”

“Perhaps I should have said the woman.”

“The woman? the money? Ah, that brings us round again in the same circle
that we traversed yesterday, and the day before. I begin to perceive.”

“I had hope that you would--in time.”

“I shouldn’t wonder if we heard the Banshee after dark,” said the Third.

“You are facing things boldly, my dear Harold,” said Edmund.

“What’s the use of doing anything else?” inquired Harold. “You know how
I am situated.”

“I know your father.”

“That is enough. He writes to me that he finds it impossible to continue
my allowance on its present scale. His expenses are daily increasing, he
says. I believe him.”

“Too many people believe in him,” said Edmund. “I have never been among
them.”

“But you can easily believe that his expenses are daily increasing.”

“Oh, yes, I am easily credulous on that point. Does he go the length of
assigning any reason for the increase?”

“It’s perfectly preposterous--he has no notion of the responsibilities
of fatherhood--of the propriety of its limitations so far as an exchange
of confidences is concerned. Why, if it were the other way--if I were to
write to tell him that I was in love, I would feel a trifle awkward--I
would think it almost indecent to quote poetry--Swinburne--something
about crimson mouths.”

“I dare say; but your father--”

“He writes to tell me that he is in love.”

“In love?”

“Yes, with some--well, some woman.”

“Some woman? I wonder if I know her husband.” There was a considerable
pause.

Brian pointed a ridiculous, hooked forefinger toward a hollow that from
beneath resembled a cave, half-way up the precipitous wall of cliffs.

“That’s where she comes on certain nights of the year. She stands at the
entrance to that cave, and cries for her lover as she cried that night
when she came only to find his dead body,” said Brian, neutralizing the
suggested tragedy in his narrative by keeping exhibited that comical
crook in his index finger. “Ay, your honours, it’s a quare story of
pity.” Both his auditors looked first at his face, then at the crook in
his finger, and laughed. They declined to believe in the pity of it.

“It is preposterous,” said Harold. “He writes to me that he never quite
knew before what it was to love. He knows it now, he says, and as it’s
more expensive than he ever imagined it could be, he’s reluctantly
compelled to cut down my allowance. Then it is that he begins to talk of
the crimson mouth--I fancy it’s followed by something about the passion
of the fervid South--so like my father, but like no other man in the
world. He adds that perhaps one day I may also know ‘what’tis to love.’”

“At present, however, he insists on your looking at that form of
happiness through another man’s eyes? Your father loves, and you are to
learn--approximately--what it costs, and pay the expenses.”

“That’s the situation of the present hour. What am I to do?”

“Marry Helen Craven.”

“That’s brutally frank, at any rate.”

“You see, you’re not a working man with a vote. I can afford to be frank
with you. Of course, that question which you have asked me is the one
that was on your mind two days ago, when you began to talk about what
you called ‘woman in the abstract.’”

“I dare say it was. We have had two stories from Brian in the meantime.”

“My dear Harold, your case is far from being unique. Some of its
elements may present new features, but, taken as a whole, it is
commonplace. You have ambition, but you have also a father.”

“So far I am in line with the commonplace.”

“You cannot hope to realize your aims without money, and the only way by
which a man can acquire a large amount of money suddenly, is by a deal
on the Stock Exchange or at Monte Carlo, or by matrimony. The last is
the safest.”

“There’s no doubt about that. But--”

“Yes, I know what’s in your mind. I’ve read the scene between Captain
Absolute and his father in ‘The Rivals’--I read countless fictions up to
the point where the writers artlessly introduce the same scene, then I
throw away the books. With the examples we have all had of the
success of the _mariage de convenance_ and of the failure of the
_mariage d’amour_ it is absurd to find fault with the Johnsonian
dictum about marriages made by the Lord Chancellor.”

“I suppose not,” said Harold. “Only I don’t quite see why, if Dr.
Johnson didn’t believe that marriages were made in heaven, there was any
necessity for him to run off to the other extreme.”

“He merely said, I fancy, that a marriage arranged by the Lord
Chancellor was as likely to turn out happily as one that was--well, made
in heaven, if you insist on the phrase. Heaven, as a match-maker, has
much to learn.”

“Then it’s settled,” said Harold, with an affectation of cynicism
that amused his friend and puzzled Brian, who had ears. “I’ll have to
sacrifice one ambition in order to secure the other.”

“I think that you’re right,” said Edmund. “You’re not in love just
now--so much is certain.”

“Nothing could be more certain,” acquiesced Harold, with a laugh. “And
now I suppose it is equally certain that I never shall be.”

“Nothing of the sort. That cynicism which delights to suggest that
marriage is fatal to love, is as false as it is pointless. Let any man
keep his eyes open and he will see that marriage is the surest guarantee
that exists of the permanence of love.”

“Just as an I O U is a guarantee--it’s a legal form. The money can be
legally demanded.”

“You are a trifle obscure in your parallel,” remarked Edmund.

“I merely suggested that the marriage ceremony is an I O U for the debt
which is love. Oh, this sort of beating about a question and making it
the subject of phrases can lead nowhere. Never mind. I believe that, on
the whole, the grain of advice which I have acquired out of your bushel
of talk, is good, and is destined to bear good fruit. I’ll have my
career in the world, that my father may learn ‘what’tis to love.’ My
mind is made up. Come, Brian, to the shore!”

“Not till I tell your honour the story of the lovely young Princess
Fither,” said the boatman, assuming a sentimental expression that was
extremely comical.

“Brian, Prince of Storytellers, let it be brief,” said Edmund.

“It’s to his honour I’m telling this story, not to your honour, Mr.
Airey,” said Brian. “You’ve a way of wrinkling up your eyes, I notice,
when you speak that word ‘love,’ and if you don’t put your tongue in
your cheek when anyone else comes across that word accidental-like, you
put your tongue in your cheek when you’re alone, and when you think over
what has been said.”

“Why, you’re a student of men as well as an observer of nature, O
Prince,” laughed Edmund.

“No, I’ve only eyes and ears,” said Brian, in a deprecating tone.

“And a certain skill in narrative,” said Harold. “What about the
beauteous Princess Fither? What dynasty did she belong to?”

“She belonged to Cashelderg,” replied Brian. “A few stones of the ruin
may still be seen, if you’ve any imagination, on the brink of the cliff
that’s called Carrigorm--you can just perceive its shape above the cove
where his lordship’s boathouse is built.”

“Yes; I see the cliff--just where a castle might at one time have been
built. And that’s the dynasty that she belonged to?” said Harold.

“The same, sir. And on our side you may still see--always supposing that
you have the imagination--”

“Of course, nothing imaginary can be seen without the aid of the
imagination.”

“You may see the ruins of what might have been Cashel-na-Mara, where the
Macnamara held his court--Mac na Mara means Son of the Waves, you must
know.”

“It’s a matter of notoriety,” said Edmund.

“The Macnamaras and the Casheldergs were the deadliest of enemies, and
hardly a day passed for years--maybe centuries--without some one of the
clan getting the better of the other. Maybe that was how the surplus
population was kept down in these parts. Anyhow there was no talk, so
far as I’ve heard, of congested districts in them days. Well, sir, it
so happened that the Prince of the Macnamaras was a fine, handsome, and
brave young fellow, and the Princess Fither of Cashelderg was the most
beautiful of Irish women, and that’s saying a good deal. As luck would
have it, the young people came together. Her boat was lost in a fog one
night and drifting upon the sharp rocks beyond the headland. The cries
of the poor girl were heard on both sides of the Lough--the blessed
Lough where we’re now floating--but no one was brave enough to put out
to the rescue of the Princess--no one, did I say? Who is it that makes a
quick leap off the cliffs into the rolling waters beneath? He fights his
way, strong swimmer that he is! through the surge, and, unseen by any
eye by reason of the fog, he reaches the Princess’s boat. Her cries
cease. And a keen arises along the cliffs of Carrigorm, for her friends
think that she has been swallowed up in the cruel waves. The keen goes
on, but it’s sudden changed into a shout of joy; for a noble young
figure appears as if by magic on the cliff head, and places the precious
burden of her lovely daughter in the arms of her weeping mother, and
then vanishes.”

“And so the feud was healed, and if they didn’t live happy, we may,”
 said Edmund.

“That’s all you know about the spirit of an ancient Irish family
quarrel,” said Brian pityingly. “No, sir. The brave deed of the young
Prince only made the quarrel the bitterer. But the young people had
fallen in love with each other, and they met in secret in that cave that
you see there just above us--the Banshee’s Cave, it’s called to this
day. The lovely Princess put off in her boat night after night, and
climbed the cliff face--there was no path in them days--to where her
lover was waiting for her in the cave. But at last some wretch unworthy
of the name of a man got to learn the secret and told it to the
Princess’s father. With half-a-dozen of the clan he lay in wait for the
young Prince in the cave, and they stabbed him in twelve places with
their daggers. And even while they were doing the murder, the song
of the Princess was heard, telling her lover that she was coming.
She climbed the face of the cliff and with a laugh ran into the
trysting-place. She stumbled over the body of her lover. Her father
stole out of the darkness of the cave and grasped her by the wrist.
Then there rang out over the waters the cry, which still sounds on some
nights from a cave--the cry of the girl when she learned the truth--the
cry of the girl as, with a superhuman effort, she released herself from
her father’s iron grasp, and sprang from the head of the cliff you see
there above, into the depths of the waters where we’re now floating.”

There was a pause before Edmund remarked, “Your story of the
Montague-Macnamaras and the Capulet-Casheldergs is a sad one, Brian. And
you have heard the cry of the young Princess with your own ears, I dare
say?”

“That I have, your honour. And it’s the story of the young Princess
Fither and her lover that I tell to gentlemen that put their tongues
in their cheeks when they’re alone, and thinking of the way the less
knowing ones talk of love and the heart of a woman.”

Both Edmund and Harold began to think that perhaps the Irish boatman was
a shrewder and a more careful listener than they had given him.



CHAPTER IV.--ON FABLES.

VERY amusing indeed was Edmund’s parody of the boatman’s
wildly-romantic story. The travesty was composed for the benefit of Miss
Craven, and the time of its communication was between the courses of the
very excellent dinner which Lord Innisfail had provided for his numerous
guests at his picturesque Castle overlooking Lough Suangorm--that
magnificent fjord on the West Coast of Ireland. Lord Innisfail was a
true Irishman. When he was away from Ireland he was ever longing to be
back in it, and when he was in Ireland he was ever trying to get away
from it. The result of his patriotism was a residence of a month in
Connaught in the autumn, and the rest of the year in Connaught Square or
Monte Carlo. He was accustomed to declare--in England--that Ireland
and the Irish were magnificent. If this was his conviction, his
self-abnegation, displayed by carefully avoiding both, except during a
month every year, was all the greater.

And yet no one ever gave him credit for possessing the virtue of
self-abnegation.

He declared--in England--that the Irish race was the finest on the face
of the earth, and he invariably filled his Castle with Englishmen.

He was idolized by his Irish tenantry, and they occasionally left a few
birds for his guests to shoot on his moors during the latter days of
August.

Lord Innisfail was a man of about fifty years of age. His wife was
forty and looked twenty-five: their daughter was eighteen and looked
twenty-four.

Edmund Airey, who was trying to amuse Miss Craven by burlesquing the
romance of the Princess Fither, was the representative in Parlament of
an English constituency. His father had been in business--some people
said on the Stock Exchange, which would be just the opposite. He had,
however, died leaving his son a considerable fortune extremely well
invested--a fact which tended strongly against the Stock Exchange
theory. His son showed no desire to go on the turf or to live within
reach to the European gaming-table. If there was any truth in the Stock
Exchange theory, this fact tended to weaken the doctrine of heredity.

He had never blustered on the subject of his independence of thought or
action. He had attached himself unobtrusively to the Government party
on entering Parlament, and he had never occasioned the Whips a moment’s
anxiety during the three years that had elapsed since the date of his
return. He was always found in the Government Lobby in a division, and
he was thus regarded by the Ministers as an extremely conscientious
man. This is only another way of saying that he was regarded by the
Opposition as an extremely unscrupulous man.

His speeches were brief, but each of them contained a phrase which told
against the Opposition. He was wise enough to refrain from introducing
into any speech so doubtful an auxiliary as argument, in his attempts
to convince the Opposition that they were in the wrong. He had the good
sense to perceive early in his career that argument goes for nothing in
the House of Commons, but that trusted Governments have been turned out
of office by a phrase. This power of perception induced him to cultivate
the art of phrase-making. His dexterity in this direction had now
and again made the Opposition feel uncomfortable; and as making the
Opposition feel uncomfortable embodies the whole science of successful
party-government in England, it was generally assumed that, if the
Opposition could only be kept out of power after the General Election,
Edmund Airey would be rewarded by an Under-Secretaryship.

He was a year or two under forty, tall, slender, and so
distinguished-looking that some people--they were not his friends--were
accustomed to say that it was impossible that he could ever attain to
political distinction.

He assured Miss Craven that, sitting in the stern sheets of the boat,
idly rocking on the smooth swell that rolled through the Lough from the
Atlantic, was by far the most profitable way of spending two hours of
the afternoon. Miss Craven doubted if this was a fact. “Where did the
profit come in except to the boatman?” she inquired.

Mr. Airey, who knew that Miss Craven was anxious to know if Harold had
been of the profitable boating-party, had no idea of allowing his powers
of travesty to be concealed by the account, for which the young woman
was longing, of Harold and the topics upon which he had conversed. He
assured her that it was eminently profitable for anyone interested in
comparative mythology, to be made acquainted with the Irish equivalent
to the Mantuan fable.

“Fable!” almost shrieked Miss Craven. “Mantuan fable! Do you mean to
suggest that there never was a Romeo and Juliet?”

“On the contrary, I mean to say that there have been several,” said Mr.
Airey. “They exist in all languages. I have come unexpectedly upon them
in India, then in Japan, afterwards they turned up, with some delicate
Maori variations, in New Zealand when I was there. I might have been
prepared for them at such a place as this You know how the modern
melodramas are made, Miss Craven?”

“I have read somewhere, but I forget. And you sat alone in the boat
smoking, while the boatman droned out his stories?” remarked the young
woman, refusing a cold _entrée_.

“I will tell you how the melodramas are made,” said Mr. Airey, refusing
to be led up to Harold as a topic. “The artist paints several effective
pictures of scenery and then one of the collaborateurs--the man who
can’t write, for want of the grammar, but who knows how far to go with
the public--invents the situation to work in with the scenery. Last of
all, the man who has grammar--some grammar--fills in the details of the
story.”

“Really! How interesting! And that’s how Shakespeare wrote ‘Romeo and
Juliet’? What a fund of knowledge you have, Mr. Airey!”

Mr. Airey, by the method of his disclaimer, laid claim to a much larger
fund than any that Miss Craven had attributed to him.

“I only meant to suggest that traditional romance is evolved on the same
lines,” said he, when his deprecatory head-shakes had ceased. “Given the
scenic effects of ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ the romance on the lines of ‘Romeo
and Juliet’ will be forthcoming, if you only wait long enough. When you
pay a visit to any romantic glen with a torrent--an amateurish copy of
an unknown Salvator Rosa--ask for the ‘Lover’s Leap’ and it will be
shown to you.”

“I’ll try to remember.”

“Given, as scenic details, the ruin of a Castle on one side of
the Lough, the ruin of a Castle on the other, and the names of the
hereditary enemies, the story comes naturally--quite as naturally--not
to say overmuch about it--as the story of the melodrama follows the
sketch of the scenic effects in the theatre. The transition from
Montague to Macnamara--from Capulet to Cashelderg is easy, and there
you are.”

“And here we are,” laughed Miss Craven. “How delightful it is to be able
to work out a legend in that way, is it not, Mr. Durdan?” and she turned
to a man sitting at her left.

“It’s quite delightful, I’m sure,” said Mr. Durdan. “But Airey is only
adapting the creed of his party to matters of everyday life. What people
say about his party is that they make a phrase first and then look out
for a policy to hang upon it. Government by phrase is what the country
is compelled to submit to.”

Mr. Durdan was a prominent member of the Opposition.



CHAPTER V.--ON A PERILOUS CAUSEWAY.

MISS CRAVEN laughed and watched Mr. Airey searching for a reply beneath
the frill of a Neapolitan ice. She did not mean that he should find
one. Her aim was that he should talk about Harold Wynne. The dinner had
reached its pianissimo passages, so to speak. It was dwindling away into
the _marrons glacés_ and _fondants_ stage, so she had not much time left
to her to find out if it was indeed with his friend Edmund Airey that
Harold had disappeared every afternoon.

Edmund Airey knew what her aim was. He was a clever man, and he
endeavoured to frustrate it. Ten minutes afterwards he was amazed to
find that he had told her all that she wanted to know, and something
over, for he had told her that Harold was at present greatly interested
in the question of the advisability of a man’s entering public life by
the perilous causeway--the phrase was Edmund Airey’s--of matrimony.

As he chose a cigar for himself--for there was a choice even among
Lord Innisfail’s cigars--he was actually amazed to find that the girl’s
purpose had been too strong for his resolution. He actually felt as if
he had betrayed his friend to the enemy--he actually put the matter in
this way in his moment of self-reproach.

Before his cigar was well alight, however, he had become more reasonable
in his censorship of his own weakness. An enemy? Why, the young woman
was the best friend that Harold Wynne could possibly have. She was
young--that is, young enough--she was clever--had she not got the better
of Edmund Airey?--and, best of all, she was an heiress.

“The perilous causeway of matrimony”--that was the phrase which had come
suddenly into his mind, and, in order to introduce it, he had sent the
girl away feeling that she was cleverer than he was.

“The perilous causeway of matrimony,” he repeated. “With a handrail of
ten thousand a year--there is safety in that.”

He looked down the long dining-hall, glistening with silver, to where
Harold stood facing the great window, the square of which framed a dim
picture of a mountain slope, purple with heather, that had snared the
last light of the sunken sun. The sea horizon cut upon the slope not far
from its summit, and in that infinity of Western distance there was a
dash of drifting crimson.

Harold Wynne stood watching that picture of the mountain with the
Atlantic beyond, and Edmund watched him.

There was a good deal of conversation flying about the room. The smokers
of cigarettes talked on a topic which they would probably have called
Art. The smokers of pipes explained in a circumstantial way, that
carried suspicion with it to the ears of all listeners, their splendid
failures to secure certain big fish during the day. The smokers of
cigars talked of the Horse and the House--mostly of the Horse. There
was a rather florid judge present--he had talked himself crimson to the
appreciative woman who had sat beside him at dinner, on the subject of
the previous racing-season, and now he was talking himself purple on the
subject of the future season. He had been at Castle Innisfail for three
days, and he had steadily refused to entertain the idea of talking
on any other subject than the Horse from the standpoint of a possible
backer.

This was the judge, who, during the hearing of a celebrated case a few
months before--a case that had involved a reference to an event known
as the City and Suburban, inquired if that was the name of a Railway
Company. Hearing that it was a race, he asked if it was a horse race or
a dog race.

Harold remained on his feet in front of the window, and Edmund remained
watching him until the streak of crimson had dwindled to a flaming Rahab
thread. The servants entered the room with coffee, and brought out many
subtle gleams from the old oak by lighting the candles in the silver
sconces.

Every time that the door was opened, the sound of a human voice (female)
trying, but with indifferent success, to scale the heights of a
song that had been saleable by reason of its suggestions of
passion--drawing-room passion--saleable passion--fought its way through
the tobacco smoke of the dining-hall. Hearing it fitfully, such men as
might have felt inclined to leave half-smoked cigars for the sake of the
purer atmosphere of the drawingroom, became resigned to their immediate
surroundings.

A whisper had gone round the table while dinner was in progress, that
Miss Stafford had promised--some people said threatened--to
recite something in the course of the evening. Miss Stafford was a
highly-educated young woman. She spoke French, German, Italian
and Spanish. This is only another way of saying that she could
be uninteresting in four languages. In addition to the ordinary
disqualifications of such young women, she recited a little--mostly
poems about early childhood, involving a lisp and a pinafore. She wished
to do duty as an object lesson of the possibility of combining with an
exhaustive knowledge of mathematical formulæ, the strongest instincts of
femininity. Mathematics and motherhood were not necessarily opposed to
one another, her teachers had assured the world, through the medium
of magazine articles. Formulæ and femininity went hand in hand, they
endeavoured to prove, through the medium of Miss Stafford’s recitations;
so she acquired the imaginary lisp of early childhood, and tore a
pinafore to shreds in the course of fifteen stanzas.

It was generally understood among men that one of these recitations
amply repaid a listener for a careful avoidance of the apartment where
it took place.

The threat that had been whispered round the dinner-table formed an
excuse for long tarrying in front of the coffee cups and Bénédictine.

“Boys,” at length said Lord Innisfail, endeavouring to put on an
effective Irish brogue--he thought it was only due to Ireland to put on
a month’s brogue. “Boys, we’ll face it like men. Shall it be said in the
days to come that we ran away from a lisp and a pinafore?” Then suddenly
remembering that Miss Stafford was his guest, he became grave. “Her
father was my friend,” he said. “He rode straight. What’s the matter
with the girl? If she does know all about the binomial-theorem and
German philosophy, has she not some redeeming qualities? You needn’t
tell me that there’s not some good in a young woman who commits to
memory such stuff as that--that what’s its name--the little boy that’s
run over by a ‘bus or something or other and that lisps in consequence
about his pap-pa. No, you needn’t argue with me. It’s extremely kind of
her to offer to recite, and I will stand up for her, confound her! And
if anyone wants to come round with the Judge and me to the stables while
she’s reciting, now’s the time. Will you take another glass of claret,
Wynne?”

“No, thank you,” said Harold. “I’m off to the drawing-room.”

He followed the men who were straggling into the great square hall where
a billiard table occupied an insignificant space. The skeleton of an
ancient Irish elk formed a rather more conspicuous object in the hall,
and was occasionally found handy for the disposal of hats, rugs, and
overcoats.

“She is greatly interested in the Romeo and Juliet story,” remarked
Edmund, strolling up to him.

“She--who?” asked Harold.

“The girl--the necessary girl. The--let us say, alternative. The--the
handrail.”

“The handrail?”

“Yes. Oh, I forgot: you were not within hearing. There was something
said about the perilous causeway of matrimony.”

“And that suggested the handrail idea to you? No better idea ever
occurred even to you, O man of many ideas, and of still more numerous
phrases.”

“She is responsive--she is also clever--she is uncommonly clever--she
got the better of me.”

“Say no more about her cleverness.”

“I will say no more about it. A man cannot go a better way about
checking an incipient passion for a young woman than by insisting on
her cleverness. We do not take to the clever ones. Our ideal does not
include a power of repartee.”

“Incipient passion!”

There was a suspicion of bitterness in Harold’s voice, as he repeated
the words of his friend.

“Incipient passion! I think we had better go into the drawing-room.”

They went into the drawing-room.



CHAPTER VI.--ON THE INFLUENCE OF AN OCEAN.

MISS CRAVEN was sitting on a distant sofa listening, or pretending to
listen, which is precisely the same thing, with great earnestness to the
discourse of Mr. Durdan, who, besides being an active politician, had a
theory upon the question of what Ibsen meant by his “Master Builder.”

Harold said a few words to Miss Innisfail, who was trying to damp her
mother’s hope of getting up a dance in the hall, but Lady Innisfail
declined to be suppressed even by her daughter, and had received
promises of support for her enterprise in influential quarters. Finding
that her mother was likely to succeed, the girl hastened away to entreat
one of her friends to play a “piece” on the pianoforte.

She knew that she might safely depend upon the person to whom she
applied for this favour, to put a stop to her mother’s negotiations.
The lady performed in the old style. Under her hands the one instrument
discharged the office of several. The volume of sound suggested that
produced by the steam orchestra of a switchback railway.

Harold glanced across the room and perceived that, while the performer
was tearing notes by the handful and flinging them about the place--up
in the air, against the walls--while her hands were worrying the bass
notes one moment like rival terrier puppies over a bone, and at other
times tickling the treble rather too roughly to be good fun--Miss
Craven’s companion had not abandoned the hope of making himself audible
if not intelligible. He had clearly accepted the challenge thrown down
by the performer.

Harold perceived that a man behind him had furtively unlatched one of
the windows leading to the terrace, and was escaping by that means, and
not alone. From outside came the hearty laughter of the judge telling an
open-air story to his host. People looked anxiously toward the
window. Harold shook his head as though suggesting that that sort of
interruption must be put a stop to at once, and that he was the man to
do it.

He went resolutely out through the window.

“‘Which was immediately suppressed by the officers of the court,’” said
Edmund, in the ear of Lady Innisfail.

He spoke too soon. The judge’s laugh rolled along like the breaking of
a tidal wave. It was plain that Harold had not gone to remonstrate with
the judge.

He had not. He had merely strolled round the terrace to the entrance
hall. Here he picked up one of the many caps which were hanging there,
and putting it on his head, walked idly away from the castle, hearing
only the floating eulogy uttered by the judge of a certain well-known
jockey who was, he said, the kindliest and most honourable soul that had
ever pulled the favourite.

A longing had come to him to hurry as far as he could from the Castle
and its company--they were hateful to him just at that instant. The
shocking performance of the woman at the pianoforte, the chatter of his
fellow-guests, the delicate way in which his friend Edmund Airey made
the most indelicate allusions, the _nisi prius_ jocularity of the
judge--he turned away from all with a feeling of repulsion.

And yet Lord Innisfail’s cook was beyond reproach as an artist.

Harold Wynne had accepted the invitation of Lady Innisfail in cold
blood. She had asked him to go to Castle Innisfail for a few weeks in
August, adding, “Helen Craven has promised to be among our party. You
like her, don’t you?”

“Immensely,” he had replied.

“I knew it,” she had cried, with an enthusiasm that would have shocked
her daughter. “I don’t want a discordant note at our gathering. If you
look coldly on Helen Craven I shall wish that I hadn’t asked you; but if
you look on her in--well, in the other way, we shall all be happy.”

He knew exactly what Lady Innisfail meant to convey. It had been hinted
to him before that, as he was presumably desirous of marrying a girl
with a considerable amount of money, he could not do better than
ask Miss Craven to be his wife. He had then laughed and assured Lady
Innisfail that if their happiness depended upon the way he looked upon
Miss Craven, it would be his aim to look upon her in any way that Lady
Innisfail might suggest.

Well, he had come to Castle Innisfail, and for a week he had given
himself up to the vastness of the Western Cliffs--of the Atlantic
waves--of the billowy mountains--of the mysterious sunsets. It was
impossible to escape from the overwhelming influence of the Atlantic in
the region of Castle Innisfail. Its sound seemed to go out to all the
ends of the earth. At the Castle there was no speech or language where
its voice was not heard. It was a sort of background of sound that
had to be arranged for by anyone desirous of expressing any thought or
emotion in that region. Even the judge had to take it into consideration
upon occasions. He never took into consideration anything less important
than an ocean.

For a week the influence of the Atlantic had overwhelmed Harold. He had
given himself up to it. He had looked at Miss Craven neither coldly nor
in the other way--whatever it was--to which Lady Innisfail had referred
as desirable to be adopted by him. Miss Craven had simply not been in
his thoughts. Face to face with the Infinite one hesitates to give up
one’s attention to a question of an income that may be indicated by five
figures only.

But at the end of a week, he received a letter from his father, who
was Lord Fotheringay, and this letter rang many changes upon the
five-figure-income question. The question was more than all the
Infinities to Lord Fotheringay, and he suggested as much in writing to
his son.

“Miss Craven is all that is desirable,” the letter had said. “Of
course she is not an American; but one cannot expect everything in this
imperfect world. Her money is, I understand, well invested--not in land,
thank heaven! She is, in fact, a CERTAINTY, and certainties are becoming
rarer every day.”

Here the letter went on to refer to some abstract questions of the opera
in Italy--it was to the opera in Italy that Lord Fotheringay w as,
for the time being, attached. The progress made by one of its
ornaments--gifted with a singularly flexible soprano--interested him
greatly, and Harold had invariably found that in proportion to the
interest taken by his father in the exponents of certain arts--singing,
dancing, and the drama--his own allowance was reduced. He knew that his
father was not a rich man, for a peer. His income was only a trifle
over twelve thousand a year; but he also knew that only for his father’s
weaknesses, this sum should be sufficient for him to live on with some
degree of comfort. The weaknesses, however, were there, and they had to
be calculated on. Harold calculated on them; and after doing the sum in
simple subtraction with the sound of the infinite ocean around him, he
had asked his friend Edmund Airey to pass a few hours in the boat with
him. Edmund had complied for three consecutive afternoons, with the
result that, with three ridiculous stories from the Irish boatman,
Harold had acquired a certain amount of sound advice from the friend who
was in his confidence.

He had made up his mind that, if Miss Craven would marry him, he would
endeavour to make her the wife of a distinguished man.

That included everything, did it not?

He felt that he might realize the brilliant future predicted for him by
his friends when he was the leader of the party of the hour at
Oxford. The theory of the party was--like everything that comes from
Oxford--eminently practical. The Regeneration of Humanity by means of
Natural Scenery was its foundation. Its advocates proved to their own
satisfaction that, in every question of morality and the still more
important question of artistic feeling, heredity was not the dominant
influence, but natural scenery.

By the party Harold was regarded as the long-looked-for Man--what the
world wanted was a Man, they declared, and he was destined to be the
Man.

He had travelled a good deal on leaving the University, and in a year
he had forgotten that he had ever pretended that he held any theory. A
theory he had come to believe to be the paper fortress of the Immature.
But the Man--that was a different thing. He hoped that he might yet
prove himself to be a man, so that, after all, his friends--they had
also ceased to theorize--might not have predicted in vain.

Like many young men without experience, he believed that Parliament was
a great power. If anyone had told him that the art of gerrymandering
is greater than the art of governing, he would not have known what his
informant meant.

His aspirations took the direction of a seat in the House of Commons. In
spite of the fact of his being the son of Lord Fotheringay, he believed
that he might make his mark in that Assembly. The well-known love of the
Voter for social purity--not necessarily in Beer--and his intolerance of
idleness--excepting, of course, when it is paid for by an employer--had,
he knew, to be counted on. Lord Fotheringay was not, he felt, the
ideal of the Working man, but he hoped he might be able to convince
the Working man--the Voter--that Lord Fotheringay’s most noted
characteristics had not descended to his son.

From his concern on this point it will be readily understood how
striking a figure was the Voter, in his estimation.

It is not so easy to understand how, with that ideal Voter--that stern
unbending moralist--before his eyes, he should feel that there was a
great need for him to be possessed of money before offering himself to
any constituency. The fact remained, however, that everyone to whom
he had confided his Parliamentary aspirations, had assured him at the
outset that money had to be secured before a constituency could be
reckoned on. His friend Edmund Airey had still further impressed upon
him this fact; and now he had made up his mind that his aspirations
should not be discouraged through the lack of money.

He would ask Helen Craven that very night if she would have the goodness
to marry him.



CHAPTER VII.--ON THE ADVANTAGES OF A FULL MOON.

WHY the fact of his having made up his mind to ask Miss Craven who,
without being an American, still possessed many qualities which are
generally accepted as tending to married happiness, should cause him to
feel a great longing to leave Castle Innisfail, its occupants, and its
occupations behind him for evermore, it is difficult to explain on any
rational grounds. That feeling was, however, upon him, and he strode
away across the billowy moorland in the direction of the cliffs of the
fjord known as Lough Suangorm.

The moon was at its full. It had arisen some little way up the sky
and was showering its red gold down the slopes of the two cone-shaped
mountains that guard the pass of Lamdhu; the deep glen was flooded with
moonlight--Harold could perceive in its hollows such objects as were
scarcely visible on the ordinary gray days of the West of Ireland. Then
he walked until he was on the brink of the great cliffs overhanging the
lough. From the high point on which he stood he could follow all the
curves of the lough out to the headlands at its entrance seven miles
away. Beyond those headlands the great expanse of sea was glittering
splendidly in the moonlight, though the moon had not risen high enough
to touch the restless waters at the base of the cl iffs on which he
stood. The waters were black as they struggled within their narrow
limits and were strangled in the channel. Only a white thread of surf
marked the breaking place of the waves upon the cliffs.

He went down the little track, made among the rocks of the steep slope,
until he reached the natural cavern that bore the name of the Banshee’s
Cave.

It was scarcely half-way up the face of the cliff. From that hollow in
the rocks the descent to the waters of the lough was sheer; but the cave
was easily accessible by a zig-zag path leading up from a small ledge of
rocks which, being protected by a reef that started up abruptly half a
dozen yards out in the narrow channel, served as a landing place for the
fishing boats, of which there were several owned in the tiny village of
Carrigorm.

He stood at the entrance to the cavern, thinking, not upon the scene
which, according to the boatman’s story, had been enacted at the place
several hundreds--perhaps thousands (the chronology of Irish legends is
vague)--of years before, but upon his own prospects.

“It is done,” he said, looking the opposite cliffs straight in the
face, as though they were Voters--(candidates usually look at the Voters
straight in the face the first time they address them). “It is done;
I cast it to the winds--to the seas, that are as indifferent to
man’s affairs as the winds. I must be content to live without it. The
career--that is enough!”

What it was that he meant to cast to the indifference of the seas and
the winds was nothing more than a sentiment--a vague feeling that he
could not previously get rid of--a feeling that man’s life without
woman’s love was something incomplete and unsatisfactory.

He had had his theory on this subject as well as on others long ago--he
had gone the length of embodying it in sonnets.

Was it now to go the way of the other impracticable theories?

He had cherished it for long. If it had not been dear to him he would
not have subjected himself to the restriction of the sonnet in writing
about it. He would have adopted the commonplace and facile stanza. But a
sonnet is a shrine.

He had felt that whatever might happen to him, however disappointed he
might become with the world and the things of the world, that great and
splendid love was before him, and he felt that to realize it would be to
forget all disappointments--to forget all the pangs which the heart of
man knows when its hour of disillusion comes.

Love was the reward of the struggle--the deep, sweet draught that
refreshes the heart of the toiler, he felt. In whatever direction
illusion may lie, love was not in that direction.

That had been his firm belief all his life, and now he was standing at
the entrance to the cavern--the cavern that was associated with a story
of love stronger than death--and he had just assured himself that he
had flung to the seas and the winds all his hopes of that love which had
been in his dreams.

“It is gone--it is gone!” he cried, looking down at that narrow part of
the lough where the boat had been tumbling during the afternoon.

What had that adviser of his said? He remembered something of his
words--something about marriage being a guarantee of love.

Harold laughed grimly as he recalled the words. He knew better. The love
that he had looked for was not such as was referred to by his friend Mr.
Airey. It was----

But what on earth was the good of trying to recall what it was? The
diamonds that Queen Guinevere flung into the river, made just the same
splash as common stones would have done under the same circumstances:
and the love which he had cherished was, when cast to the winds, no more
worthy of being thought precious than the many other ideas which he had
happily rid himself of in the course of his walk through the world.

This was how he repressed the thought of his conversation with his
friend; and after a while the recollections that he wished to suppress
yielded to his methods.

Once more the influences of the place--the spectacle of the infinite
mountains, the voice of the infinite sea--asserted themselves as they
had done during the first week of his arrival at the Castle. The story
of the legendary Prince and Princess came back to him as though it were
the embodiment of the influences of the region of romance in the midst
of which he was standing.

What had Brian the boatman said? The beautiful girl had crossed the
narrow channel of the lough night after night and had climbed the face
of the cliffs to her lover at their dizzy trysting-place--the place
where he was now standing.

Even while he thought upon the details, as carefully narrated by the
boatman, the moon rose high enough to send her rays sweeping over the
full length of the lough. For a quarter of an hour a single thin crag of
the Slieve Gorm mountains had stood between the moon and the narrowing
of the lough. The orb rose over the last thin peak of the crag. The
lough through all its sinuous length flashed beneath his eyes like a
Malayan crease, and in the waters just below the cliffs which a moment
before had been black, he saw a small boat being rowed by a white
figure.

“That is the lovely Princess of the story,” said he. “She is in
white--of course they are all in white, these princesses. It’s
marvellous what a glint of moonlight can do. It throws a glamour over
the essentially commonplace, the same way that--well, that that fancy
known as love does upon occasions, otherwise the plain features of a
woman would perish from the earth and not be perpetuated. The lumpy
daughter of the village who exists simply to show what an artist was
Jean François Millet, appears down there to float through the moonlight
like the restless spirit of a princess. Is she coming to meet the spirit
of her lover at their old trysting-place? Ah, no, she is probably about
to convey a pannikin of worms for bait to one of the fishing boats.”



CHAPTER VIII.--ON THE ZIG-ZAG TRACK.

HAROLD WYNNE was in one of those moods which struggle for expression
through the medium of bitter phrases. He felt that he did well to be
cynical. Had he not outlived his belief in love as a necessity of life?

He watched with some degree of interest the progress of the tiny boat
rowed by the white figure. He had tried to bring himself to believe that
the figure was that of a rough fisher-girl--the fisher-girls are not
rough, however, on that part of the coast, and he knew it, only his mood
tended to roughness. He tried to make himself believe that a coarse jest
shrieked through the moonlight to reach the ears of an appreciatively
coarse fisherman, would not be inconsistent with the appearance of that
white figure. He felt quite equal to the act of looking beneath the
glory and the glamour of the moonlight and of seeing there only the
commonplace. He was, he believed, in a mood to revel in the disillusion
of a man.

And yet he watched the progress of the boat through the glittering
waters, without removing his eyes from it.

The white figure in the boat was so white as to seem the centre of
the light that flashed along the ripples and silvered the faces of the
cliffs--so much was apparent to him in spite of his mood. As the boat
approached the landing-place at the ledge of rock a hundred feet below
him, he also perceived that the rower handled her oars in a scientific
way unknown to the fisher-girls; and the next thing that he noticed
was that she wore a straw hat and a blouse of a pattern that the
fisher-girls were powerless to imitate, though the skill was
easily available to the Mary Anns and the Matilda Janes who steer
(indifferently) perambulators through the London parks. He was so
interested in what he saw, that he had not sufficient presence of mind
to resume his cynical mutterings, or to inquire if it was possible
that the fashion of the year as regards sailor hats and blouses, was a
repetition of that of the period of the Princess Fither.

He was more than interested--he was puzzled--as the boat was skilfully
run alongside the narrow landing ledge at the foot of the cliffs, and
when the girl--the figure was clearly that of a girl--landed---she wore
yachting shoes--carrying with her the boat’s painter, which she made
fast in a business-like way to one of the iron rings that had been sunk
in the face of the cliff for the mooring of the fishing boats, he was
more puzzled still. In another moment the girl was toiling up the little
zig-zag track that led to the summit of the cliffs.

The track passed within a yard or two of the entrance to the cavern. He
thought it advisable to step hack out of the moonlight, so that the girl
should not see him. She was doubtless, he thought, on her way to the
summit of the cliffs, and she would probably be startled if he were to
appear suddenly before her eyes. He took a step or two back into the
friendly shadow of the cavern, and waited to hear her footsteps on the
track above him.

He waited in vain. She did not take that zigzag track that led to the
cliffs above the cave. He heard her jump--it was almost a feat--from the
track by which she had ascended, on to a flat rock not a yard from the
entrance to the cavern. He shrunk still further back into the darkness,
and then there came before the entrance the most entrancing figure of a
girl that he had ever seen.

She stood there delightfully out of breath, with the moonlight bringing
out every gracious curve in her shape. So he had seen the limelight
reveal the graces of a breathless _danseuse_, when taking her “call.”

“My dear Prince,” said the girl, with many a gasp. “You have treated me
very badly. It’s a pull--undeniably a pull--up those rocks, and for the
third time I have kept my tryst with you, only to be disappointed.”

She laughed, and putting a shapely foot--she was by no means careful to
conceal her stocking above the ankle--upon a stone, she quietly and in a
matter-of-fact way, tied the lace of her yachting shoe.

The stooping was not good for her--he felt that, together with a few
other matters incidental to her situation. He waited for the long breath
he knew she would draw on straightening herself.

It came. He hoped that her other shoe needed tying; but it did not.

He watched her as she stood there with her back to him. She was sending
her eyes out to the Western headlands.

“No, my Prince; on the whole I’m not disappointed,” she said. “That
picture repays me for my toil by sea and land. What a picture! But what
would it be to be here with--with--love!”

That was all she said.

He thought it was quite enough.

She stood there like a statue of white marble set among the black rocks.
She was absolutely motionless for some minutes; and then the sigh that
fluttered from her lips was, he knew, a different expression altogether
from that which had come from her when she had straightened herself on
fastening her shoe.

His father was a connoisseur in sighs; Harold did not profess to
have the same amount of knowledge on the subject, but still he knew
something. He could distinguish roughly on some points incidental to the
sigh as a medium of expression.

After that little gasp which was not quite a gasp, she was again silent;
then she whispered, but by no means gently, the one word “Idiot!” and
in another second she had sent her voice into the still night in a wild
musical cry--such a cry as anyone gifted with that imaginative power
which Brian had declared to be so necessary for archæological research,
might attribute to the Banshee--the White Lady of Irish legends.

She repeated the cry an octave higher and then she executed what is
technically known as a “scale” but ended with that same weird cry of the
Banshee.

Once again she was breathless. Her blouse was turbulent just below her
throat.

“If Brian does not cross himself until he feels more fatigue than he
would after a pretence at rowing, I’ll never play Banshee again,” said
the girl. “_Ta, ta, mon Prince; a rivederci_.”

He watched her poise herself for the leap from the rock where she was
standing, to the track--her grace was exquisite--it suggested that of
the lithe antelope. The leap took her beyond his sight, and he did not
venture immediately to a point whence he could regain possession of her
with his eyes. But when he heard the sound of her voice singing a snatch
of song--it was actually “_L’amour est un oiseau rebelle_”--the Habanera
from “Carmen”--he judged that she had reached the second angle of the
zig-zag downward, and he took a step into the moonlight.

There she went, lilting the song and keeping time with her feet, until
she reached the ledge where the boat was moored. She unfastened the
painter, hauled the boat close, and he heard the sound of the plunge
of the bows as she jumped on one of the beams, the force of her jump
sending the boat far from shore.

She sat for some minutes on the beam amidship, listlessly allowing the
boat to drift away from the rocks, then she put out her hands for the
oars. Her right hand grasped one, but there was none for the left to
grasp. Harold perceived that one of the oars had disappeared.

There was the boat twenty yards from the rock drifting away beyond the
control of the girl.



CHAPTER IX.--ON THE HELPLESSNESS OF WOMAN.

THE girl had shown so much adroitness in the management of the little
craft previously, he felt--with deep regret--that she would be quite
equal to her present emergency. He was mistaken. She had reached the end
of her resources in navigation when she had run the boat alongside the
landing place. He saw--with great satisfaction--that with only one oar
she was helpless.

What should he do?

That was what he asked himself when he saw her dip her remaining oar
into the water and paddle a few strokes, making the boat describe an
awkward circle and bringing it perilously close to a jagged point of the
reef that did duty as a natural breakwater for the mooring place of the
boats. He came to the conclusion that if he allowed her to continue that
sort of paddling, she would run the boat on the reef, and he would be
morally responsible for the disaster and its consequences, whatever they
might be. He had never felt more conscientious than at that moment.

He ran down the track to the landing ledge, but before he had reached
the latter, the girl had ceased her efforts and was staring at him, her
hands still resting on the oar.

He had an uneasy feeling that he was scarcely so picturesquely
breathless as she had been, and this consciousness did not tend to make
him fluent as he stood upon the rocky shelf not a foot above the ridges
of the silver ripples.

He found himself staring at her, just as she was staring at him.

Quite a minute had passed before he found words to ask her if he could
be of any help to her.

“I don’t know,” she replied, in a tone very different from that in which
she had spoken at the entrance to the cavern. “I don’t really know.
One of the oars must have gone overboard while the boat was moored. I
scarcely know what I am to do.”

“I’m afraid you’re in a bad way!” said he, shaking his head. The change
in the girl’s tone was very amusing to him. She had become quite demure;
but previously, demureness had been in the background. “Yes, I’m afraid
your case is a very bad one.”

“So bad as that?” she asked.

“Well, perhaps not quite, but still bad enough,” said he. “What do you
want to do?”

“To get home as soon as possible,” she replied, without the pause of a
second.

Her tone was expressive. It conveyed to him the notion that she had just
asked if he thought that she was an idiot. What could she want to do if
not to go home?

“In that case,” said he, “I should advise you to take the oar to the
sculling place in the centre of the stern. The boat is a stout one and
will scull well.”

“But I don’t know how to scull,” said she, in a tone of real distress;
“and I don’t think I can begin to learn just now.”

“There’s something in that,” said he. “If I were only aboard I could
teach you in a short time.”

“But--”

She had begun her reply without the delay of a second, but she did not
get beyond the one word. He felt that she did not need to do so: it was
a sentence by itself.

“Yes,” said he, “as you say, I’m not aboard. Shall I get aboard?”

“How could you?” she inquired, brightening up.

“I can swim,” he replied.

She laughed.

“The situation is not so desperate as that,” she cried.

He also laughed.

They both laughed together.

She stopped suddenly and looked up the cliffs to the Banshee’s Cave.

Was she wondering if he had been within hearing when she had been--and
not in silence--at the entrance to the cave?

He felt that he had never seen so beautiful a girl. Even making a
liberal allowance for that glamour of the moonlight, which he had tried
to assure himself was as deceptive as the glamour of love, she was, he
felt, the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.

He crushed down every suggestion that came to him as to the best way of
helping her out of her difficulty. It was his opportunity.

Then she turned her eyes from the cliff and looked at him again.

There was something imploring in her look.

“Keep up your heart,” said he. “Whose boat is that, may I ask?”

“It belongs to a man named Brian--Brian something or other--perhaps
O’Donal.”

“In that case I think it almost certain that you will find a fishing
line in the locker astern--a fishing line and a tin bailer--the line
will help you out of the difficulty.”

Before he had quite done speaking she was in the stern sheets, groping
with one hand in the little locker.

She brought out, first, a small jar of whiskey, secondly, a small
pannikin that served a man’s purpose when he wished to drink the whiskey
in unusually small quantities, and was also handy in bailing out the
boat, and, thirdly, a fishing line-wound about a square frame.

She held up the last-named so that Harold might see it.

“I thought it would be there,” said he. “Now if you can only cast one
end of that line ashore, I will catch it and the boat will be alongside
the landing-place in a few minutes. Can you throw?”

She was silent. She examined the hooks on the whale-bone cross-cast.

He laughed again, for he perceived that she was reluctant to boast of
the possession of a skill which was denied to all womankind.

“I’ll explain to you what you must do,” he said. “Cut away the cast of
hooks.”

“But I have no knife.”

“Then I’ll throw mine into the bottom of your boat. Look out.”

Being a man, he was able to make the knife alight within reasonable
distance of the spot at which he aimed. He saw her face brighten as she
picked up the implement and, opening it, quickly cut away the cast of
hooks.

“Now make fast the leaden sinker to the end of the fishing line, unwind
it all from the frame, and then whirl the weight round and sling it
ashore--anywhere ashore.”

She followed his instructions implicitly, and the leaden weight fled
through the air, with the sound of a shell from a mortar.

“Well thrown!” he cried, as it soared above his head; and it was well
thrown--so well that it carried overboard every inch of the line and the
frame to which it was attached.

“How stupid of me!” she said.

“Of me, you mean,” said he. “I should have told you to make it fast.
However, no harm is done. I’ll recover the weight and send it back to
you.”

He had no trouble in effecting his purpose. He threw the weight as
gently as possible into the bow of the boat, she picked it up, and
the line was in her hands as he took in the slack and hauled the boat
alongside the shelf of rock.

It cannot have escaped notice that the system of hauling which he
adopted had the result of bringing their hands together. They scarcely
touched, however.

“Thank you,” said she, with profound coldness, when the boat was
alongside.

“Your case was not so desperate, after all,” he remarked, with just a
trifle less frigidity in his tone, though he now knew that she was the
most beautiful girl he had ever seen. He had talked of the glamour of
moonlight. How could he have been so ridiculous?

“No, my case was not so very desperate,” she said. “Thank you so much.”

Did she mean to suggest that he should now walk away?

“I can’t go, you know, until I am satisfied that your _contretemps_ is
at an end,” said he. “My name is Wynne--Harold Wynne. I am a guest of
Lord Innisfail’s. I dare say you know him.”

“No,” she replied. “I know nobody.”

“Nobody?”

“Nobody here. Of course I daily hear something about Lord Innisfail and
his guests.”

“You know Brian--he is somebody--the historian of the region. Did you
ever hear the story of the Banshee?”

She looked at him, but he flattered himself that his face told her
nothing of what she seemed anxious to know.

“Yes,” she said, after a pause. “I do believe that I heard the story
of the Banshee--a princess, was she not--a sort of princess--an Irish
princess?”

“Strictly Irish. It is said that the cry of the White Lady is sometimes
heard even on these nights among the cliffs down which the Princess
flung herself.”

“Really?” said she, turning her eyes to the sea. “How strange!”

“Strange? well--perhaps. But Brian declares that he has heard the cry
with his own ears. I have a friend who says, very coarsely, that if lies
were landed property Brian would be the largest holder of real estate in
the world.”

“Your friend does not understand Brian.” There was more than a trace of
indignation in her voice. “Brian has imagination--so have all the people
about here. I must get home as soon as possible. I thank you very much
for your trouble. Goodnight.”

“I have had no trouble. Good-night.”

He took off his cap, and moved away--to the extent of a single step. She
was still standing in the boat.

“By the way,” he said, as if the thought had just occurred to him; “do
you intend going overland?”

The glamour of the moonlight failed to conceal the troubled look that
came to her eyes. He regained the step that he had taken away from her,
and remarked, “If you will be good enough to allow me, I will scull you
with the one oar to any part of the coast that you may wish to reach. It
would be a pleasure to me. I have nothing whatever to do. As a matter of
fact, I don’t see that you have any choice in the matter.”

“I have not,” she said gravely. “I was a fool--such a fool! But--the
story of the Princess--”

“Pray don’t make any confession to me,” said he. “If I had not heard the
story of the Princess, should I be here either?”

“My name,” said she, “is Beatrice Avon. My father’s name you may have
heard--most people have heard his name, though I’m afraid that not so
many have read his books.”

“But I have met your father,” said he. “If he is Julius Anthony Avon, I
met him some years ago. He breakfasted with my tutor at Oxford. I have
read all his hooks.”

“Oh, come into the boat,” she cried with a laugh. “I feel that we have
been introduced.”

“And so we have,” said he, stepping upon the gunwale so as to push off
the boat. “Now, where is your best landing place?”

She pointed out to him a white cottage at the entrance to a glen on the
opposite coast of the lough, just below the ruins--they could be seen
by the imaginative eye--of the Castle of Carrigorm. The cottage was
glistening in the moonlight.

“That is where we have been living--my father and I--for the past
month,” said she. “He is engaged on a new work--a History of Irish
Patriotism, and he has begun by compiling a biographical dictionary of
Irish Informers. He is making capital progress with it. He has already
got to the end of the seventh volume and he has very nearly reached the
letter C--oh, yes, he is making rapid progress.”

“But why is he at this place? Is he working up the Irish legends as
well?”

“It seems that the French landed here some time or other, and that was
the beginning of a new era of rebellions. My father is dealing with the
period, and means to have his topography strictly accurate.”

“Yes,” said Harold, “if he carefully avoids everything that he is told
in Ireland his book may tend to accuracy.”



CHAPTER X.--ON SCIENCE AND ART.

A BOAT being urged onwards--not very rapidly--by a single oar resting
in a hollow in the centre of the stern, and worked from side to side
by a man in evening dress, is not a sight of daily occurrence. This may
have suggested itself to the girl who was seated on the midship beam;
but if she was inclined to laugh, she succeeded in controlling her
impulses.

He found that he was more adroit at the science of marine propulsion
than he had fancied he was. The boat was making quite too rapid progress
for his desires, across the lough.

He asked the girl if she did not think it well that she should become
acquainted with at least the scientific principle which formed the
basis of the marine propeller. It was extremely unlikely that such
an emergency as that which had lately arisen should ever again make a
demand upon her resources, but if such were ever to present itself, it
might be well for her to be armed to overcome it.

Yes, she said, it was extremely unlikely that she should ever again be
so foolish, and she hoped that her father would not be uneasy at her
failure to return at the hour at which she had told him to expect her.

He stopped rocking the oar from side to side in order to assure her that
she could not possibly be delayed more than a quarter of an hour through
the loss of the oar.

She said that she was very glad, and that she really thought that the
boat was making more rapid progress with his one oar than it had done in
the opposite direction with her two oars.

He began to perceive that his opportunities of making her acquainted
with the science of the screw propeller were dwindling. He faced the oar
boldly, however, and he felt that he had at least succeeded in showing
her how effective was the application of a scientific law to the
achievement of his end--assuming that that end was the driving of the
boat through the waters.

He was not a fool. He knew very well that there is nothing which so
appeals to the interest of a woman as seeing a man do something that she
cannot do.

When, after five minutes’ work, he turned his head to steer the boat, he
found that she was watching him.

She had previously been watching the white glistening cottage, with the
light in one window only.

The result of his observation was extremely satisfactory to him. He
resumed his toil without a word.

And this was how it happened that the boat made so excellent a passage
across the lough.

It was not until the keel grated upon the sand that the girl spoke. She
made a splendid leap from the bows, and, turning, asked him if he would
care to pay a visit to her father.

He replied that he feared that he might jeopardize the biography of some
interesting informer whose name might occur at the close of the letter
B. He hoped that he would be allowed to borrow the boat for his return
to the cliffs, and to row it back the next day to where it was at the
moment he was speaking.

His earnest sculling of the boat had not made all thought for the morrow
impracticable. He had been reflecting through the silence, how he might
make the chance of meeting once more this girl whose face he had seen
for the first time half an hour before.

She had already given him an absurd amount of trouble, she said. The
boat was one that she had borrowed from Brian, and Brian could easily
row it across next morning.

But he happened to know that Brian was to be in attendance on Mr. Durdan
all the next day. Mr. Durdan had come to the West solely for the purpose
of studying the Irish question on the spot. He had, consequently, spent
all his time, deep-sea fishing.

“So you perceive that there’s nothing for it but for me to bring back
the boat, Miss Avon,” said he.

“You do it so well,” she said, with a tone of enthusiasm in her voice.
“I never admired anything so much--your sculling, I mean. And perhaps I
may learn something about--was it the scientific principle that you were
kind enough to offer to teach me?”

“The scientific principle,” said he, with an uneasy feeling that the
girl had seen through his artifice to prolong the crossing of the lough.
“Yes, you certainly should know all about the scientific principle.”

“I feel so, indeed. Good-night.”

“Good-night,” said he, preparing to push the boat off the sand where it
had grounded. “Goodnight. By the way, it was only when we were out with
Brian in the afternoon that he told us the story of the Princess and her
lover. He added that the cry of the White Lady would probably be heard
when night came.”

“Perhaps you may hear it yet,” said she. “Goodnight.”

She had run up the sandy beach, before he had pushed off the boat, and
she never looked round.

He stood with one foot on the gunwale of the boat in act to push into
deep water, thinking that perhaps she might at the last moment look
round.

She did not.

He caught another glimpse of her beyond the furze that crowned a ridge
of rocks. But she had her face steadfastly set toward the white cottage.

He threw all his weight upon the oar which he was using as a pole, and
out the boat shot into the deep water.

“Great heavens!” said Edmund Airey. “Where have you been for the past
couple of hours?”

“Where?” repeated Miss Craven in a tone of voice that should only be
assumed when the eyes, of the speaker are sparkling. But Miss Craven’s
eyes were not sparkling. Their strong point was not in that direction.
“I’m afraid you must give an account of yourself, Mr. Wynne,” she
continued. She was standing by the side of Edmund Airey, within the
embrace of the mighty antlers of the ancient elk in the hall. The sound
of dance music was in the air, and Miss Craven’s face was flushed.

“To give an account of myself would be to place myself on a level of
dulness with the autobiographers whose reminiscences we yawn over.”

“Then give us a chance of yawning,” cried Miss Craven.

“You do not need one,” said he. “Have you not been for some time by the
side of a Member of Parliament?”

“He has been over the cliffs,” suggested the Member of Parliament.
He was looking at Harold’s shoes, which bore tokens of having been
ill-treated beyond the usual ill-treatment of shoes with bows of ribbon
above the toes.

“Yes,” said Harold. “Over the cliffs.”

“At the Banshee’s Cave, I’m certain,” said Miss Craven.

“Yes, at the Banshee’s Cave.”

“How lovely! And you saw the White Lady?” she continued.

“Yes, I saw the White Lady.”

“And you heard her cry at the entrance to the cave?”

“Yes, I heard her cry at the entrance to the cave.”

“Nonsense!” said she.

“Utter nonsense!” said he. “I must ask Lady Innisfail to dance.”

He crossed the hall to where Lady Innisfail was seated. She was fanning
herself and making sparkling replies to the inanities of Mr. Durdan, who
stood beside her. She had been engaged in every dance, Harold knew, from
the extra gravity of her daughter.

“What does he mean?” Miss Craven asked of Edmund Airey in a low--almost
an anxious, tone.

“Mean? Why, to dance with Lady Innisfail. He is a man of determination.”

“What does he mean by that nonsense about the Banshee’s Cave?”

“Is it nonsense?”

“Of course it is. Does anyone suppose that the legend of the White Lady
is anything but nonsense? Didn’t you ridicule it at dinner?”

“At dinner; oh, yes: but then you must remember that no one is
altogether discreet at dinner. That cold _entrée_--the Russian salad--”

“A good many people are discreet neither at dinner nor after it.”

“Our friend Harold, for instance? Oh, I have every confidence in him.
I know his mood. I have experienced it myself. I, too, have stood in a
sculpturesque attitude and attire, on a rock overhanging a deep sea,
and I have been at the point of dressing again without taking the plunge
that I meant to take.”

“You mean that he--that he--oh, I don’t know what you mean.”

“I mean that if he had been so fortunate as to come upon you suddenly at
the Banshee’s Cave or wherever he was to-night, he would have--well, he
would have taken the plunge.”

He saw the girl’s face become slightly roseate in spite of the fact
of her being the most self-controlled person whom he had ever met. He
perceived that she appreciated his meaning to a shade.

He liked that. A man who is gifted with the power of expressing his
ideas in various shades, likes to feel that his power is appreciated.
He knew that there are some people who fancy that every question is
susceptible of being answered by yea or nay. He hated such people.

“The plunge?” said Miss Craven, with an ingenuousness that confirmed
his high estimate of her powers of appreciation. “The plunge? But the
Banshee’s Cave is a hundred feet above the water.”

“But men have taken headers--”

“They have,” said she, “and therefore we should finish our waltz.”

They did finish their waltz.



CHAPTER XI.--ON HEAVEN AND THE LORD CHANCELLOR.

MR. DURDAN was explaining something--he usually was explaining
something. When he had been a member of the late Government his process
of explaining something was generally regarded as a fine effort at
mystification. In private his explanations were sometimes intelligible.
As Harold entered the room where a straggling breakfast was
proceeding--everything except dinner had a tendency to be straggling
at Castle Innisfail--Mr. Dur dan was explaining how Brian had been
bewildered.

It was a profitable theme, especially for a man who fondly believed that
he had the power of reproducing what he imagined to be the Irish brogue
of the boatman.

Harold gathered that Mr. Durdan had already had a couple of hours of
deep-sea fishing in the boat with Brian--the servants were all the
morning carrying into the dining-room plates of fish of his catching
(audibly sneered at by the fly-fishers, who considered their supreme
failures superior to the hugest successes of the deep-sea fishers).

But the fishing was not to the point. What Mr. Durdan believed to be
very much to the point were the “begorras,” the “acushlas,” the “arrahs”
 which he tried to make his auditors believe the boatman had uttered in
telling him how he had been awakened early in the night by hearing the
cry of the Banshee.

Every phrase supposed to have been employed by the boatman was
reproduced by the narrator; and his auditors glanced meaningly at one
another. It would have required a great deal of convincing to make them
fancy for a moment that the language of Brian consisted of an
imaginary Irish exclamation preceding a purely Cockney--occasionally
Yorkshire--idiom. But the narrator continued his story, and seemed
convinced that his voice was an exact reproduction of Brian’s brogue.

Harold thought that he would try a little of something that was not
fish--he scarcely minded what he had, provided it was not fish, he
told the servant. And as there was apparently some little-difficulty in
procuring such a comestible, Harold drank some coffee and listened
to Mr. Durdan’s story--he recommenced it for everyone who entered the
breakfast-room.

Yes, Brian had distinctly heard the cry of the Banshee, he said; but a
greater marvel had happened, for he found one of his boats that had been
made fast on the opposite shore of the lough in the early part of the
night, moored at the landing-ledge at the base of the cliffs beneath the
Banshee’s Cave. By the aid of many a gratuitous “begorra,” Mr. Durdan
indicated the condition of perplexity in which the boatman had been
all the time he was baiting the lines. He explained that the man had
attributed to “herself”--meaning, of course, the White Lady--the removal
of the boat from the one side of the lough to the other. It was plain
that the ghost of the Princess was a good oarswoman, too, for a single
paddle only was found in the boat. It was so like a ghost, he had
confided to Mr. Durdan, to make a cruise in a way that was contrary--the
accent on the second syllable--to nature.

“He has put another oar aboard and is now rowing the boat back to its
original quarters,” said Mr. Durdan, in conclusion. “But he declares
that, be the Powers!”--here the narrator assumed once more the hybrid
brogue--“if the boat was meddled with by ‘herself’ again he would call
the priest to bless the craft, and where would ‘herself’ be then?”

“Where indeed?” said Lord Innisfail.

Harold said nothing. He was aware that Edmund was looking at him
intently. Did he suspect anything, Harold wondered.

He gave no indication of being more interested in the story than anyone
present, and no one present seemed struck with it--no one, except
perhaps, Miss Craven, who had entered the room late, and was thus
fortunate enough to obtain the general drift of what Mr. Durdan was
talking about, without having her attention diverted by his loving
repetition of the phrases of local colour.

Miss Craven heard the story, laughed, glanced at her plate, and remarked
with some slyness that Mr. Durdan was clearly making strides
in his acquaintance with the Irish question. She then
glanced--confidentially--at Edmund Airey, and finally--rather
less confidentially--at Harold.

He was eating of that which was not fish, and giving a good deal of
attention to it.

Miss Craven thought he was giving quite too much attention to it. She
suspected that he knew more about the boat incident than he cared to
express, or why should he be giving so much attention to his plate?

As for Harold himself, he was feeling that it would be something of a
gratification to him if a fatal accident were to happen to Brian.

He inwardly called him a meddlesome fool. Why should he take it upon
him to row the boat across the lough, when he, Harold, had been looking
forward during the sleepless hours of the night, to that exercise? When
he had awakened from an early morning slumber, it was with the joyous
feeling that nothing could deprive him of that row across the lough.

And yet he had been deprived of it, therefore he felt some regret that,
the morning being a calm one, Brian’s chances of disaster when crossing
the lough were insignificant.

All the time that the judge was explaining in that lucid style which was
the envy of his brethren on the Bench, how impossible it would be for
the Son of Porcupine to purge himself of the contempt which was heaped
upon him owing to his unseemly behaviour at a recent race meeting--the
case of the son of so excellent a father as Porcupine turning out badly
was jeopardizing the future of Evolution as a doctrine--Harold was
trying to devise some plan that should make him independent of the
interference of the boatman. He did not insist on the plan being
legitimate or even reasonable; all that he felt was that he must cross
the lough.

He thought of the girl whom he had seen in that atmosphere of moonlight;
and somehow he came to think of her as responsible for her exquisite
surroundings. There was nothing commonplace about her--that was what he
felt most strongly as he noticed the excellent appetites of the young
women around him. Even Miss Stafford, who hoped to be accepted as an
Intellect embodied in a mere film of flesh--she went to the extreme
length of cultivating a Brow--tickled her trout with the point of her
fork much less tenderly than the fisherman who told her the story--with
an impromptu bravura passage or two--of its capture, had done.

But the girl whom he had seen in the moonlight--whom he was yearning to
see in the sunlight--was as refined as a star. “As refined as a star,”
 he actually murmured, when he found himself with an unlighted cigar
between his fingers on that part of the terrace which afforded a fine
view of the lough--the narrow part as well--his eyes were directed to
the narrow part. “As refined as a star--a--”

He turned himself round with a jerk. “A star?”

His father’s letter was still in his pocket. It contained in the course
of its operatic clauses some references to a Star--a Star, who, alas!
was not refined--who, on the contrary, was expensive.

He struck a match very viciously and lit his cigar.

Miss Craven had just appeared on the terrace.

He dropped his still flaming match on the hard gravel walk and put his
foot upon it.

“A star!”

He was very vicious.

“She is not a particularly good talker, but she is a most fascinating
listener,” said Edmund Airey, who strolled up.

“I have noticed so much--when you have been the talker,” said Harold.
“It is only to the brilliant talker that the fascinating listener
appeals. By the way, how does ‘fascinated listener’ sound as a phrase?
Haven’t I read somewhere that the speeches of an eminent politician were
modelled on the principle of catching birds by night? You flash a lamp
upon them and they may be captured by the score. The speeches were
compared to the lantern and the public to the birds.”

“Gulls,” said Edmund. “My dear Harold, I did not come out here to
exchange opinions with you on the vexed question of vote-catching
or gulls--it will be time enough to do so when you have found a
constituency.”

“Quite. And meantime I am to think of Miss Craven as a fascinating
listener? That’s what you have come to impress upon me.”

“I mean that you should give yourself a fair chance of becoming
acquainted with her powers as a listener--I mean that you should talk to
her on an interesting topic.”

“Would to heaven that I had your capacity of being interesting on all
topics.”

“The dullest man on earth when talking to a woman on love as a topic,
is infinitely more interesting to her than the most brilliant man when
talking to her on any other topic.”

“You suggest a perilous way to the dull man of becoming momentarily
interesting.”

“Of course I know the phrase which, in spite of being the composition
of a French philosopher, is not altogether devoid of truth--yes, ‘_Qui
parle d’amour fait l’amour’_.”

“Only that love is born, not made.”

“Great heavens! have you learned that--that, with your father’s letter
next your heart?”

Harold laughed.

“Do you fancy that I have forgotten your conversation in the boat
yesterday?” said he. “Heaven on one side and the Lord Chancellor on the
other.”

“And you have come to the conclusion that you are on the side of heaven?
You are in a perilous way.”

“Your logic is a trifle shaky, friend. Besides, you have no right to
assume that I am on the side of heaven.”

“There is a suggestion of indignation in your voice that gives me hope
that you are not in so evil a case as I may have suspected. Do you think
that another afternoon in the boat--”

“Would make me on the side of the Lord Chancellor? I doubt it. But that
is not equivalent to saying that I doubt the excellence of your advice.”

“Yesterday afternoon I flattered myself that I had given you such advice
as commended itself to you, and yet now you tell me that love is born,
not made. The man who believes that is past being advised. It is, I say,
the end of wisdom. What has happened since yesterday afternoon?”

“Nothing has happened to shake my confidence in the soundness of your
advice,” said Harold, but not until a pause had occurred--a pause of
sufficient duration to tell his observant friend that something had
happened.

“If nothing has happened--Miss Craven is going to sketch the Round Tower
at noon,” said Edmund--the Round Tower was some distance through the
romantic Pass of Lamdhu.

“The Round Tower will not suffer; Miss Craven is not one of the
landscape libellers,” remarked Harold.

Just then Miss Innisfail hurried up with a face lined with anxiety.

Miss Innisfail was the sort of girl who always, says, “It is I.”

“Oh, Mr. Airey,” she cried, “I have come to entreat of you to do your
best to dissuade mamma from her wild notion--the wildest she has ever
had. You may have some restraining influence upon her. She is trying to
get up an Irish jig in the hall after dinner--she has set her heart on
it.”

“I can promise you that if Lady Innisfail asks me to be one of the
performers I shall decline,” said Edmund.

“Oh, she has set her heart on bringing native dancers for the purpose,”
 cried the girl.

“That sounds serious,” said Edmund. “Native dances are usually very
terrible visitations. I saw one at Samoa.”

“I knew it--yes, I suspected as much,” murmured the girl, shaking her
head. “Oh, we must put a stop to it. You will help me, Mr. Airey?”

“I am always on the side of law and order,” said Mr. Airey. “A mother is
a great responsibility, Miss Innisfail.”

Miss Innisfail smiled sadly, shook her head again, and fled to find
another supporter against the latest frivolity of her mother.

When Edmund turned about from watching her, he saw that his friend
Harold Wynne had gone off with some of the yachtsmen--for every day
a yachting party as well as deep-sea-fishing, and salmon-fishing
parties--shooting parties and even archæological parties were in the
habit of setting-out from Castle Innisfail.

Was it possible that Harold intended spending the day aboard the cutter,
Edmund asked himself.

Harold’s mood of the previous evening had been quite intelligible
to him--he had confessed to Miss Craven that he understood and even
sympathized with him. He was the man who was putting off the plunge as
long as possible, he felt.

But he knew that that attitude, if prolonged, not only becomes
ridiculous, but positively verges on the indecent. It is one thing to
pause for a minute on the brink of the deep water, and quite another to
remain shivering on the rock for half a day.

Harold Wynne wanted money in order to realize a legitimate ambition. But
it so happened that he could not obtain that money unless by marrying
Miss Craven--that was the situation of the moment. But instead of
asking Miss Craven if she would have the goodness to marry him, he was
wandering about the coast in an aimless way.

Lady Innisfail was the most finished artist in matchmaking that Edmund
had ever met. So finished an artist was she that no one had ever
ventured to suggest that she was a match-maker. As a matter of fact, her
reputation lay in just the opposite direction. She was generally looked
upon as a marrer of matches. This was how she had achieved some of
her most brilliant successes. She was herself so fascinating that she
attracted the nicest men to her side; but, somehow, instead of making
love to her as they meant to do, they found themselves making love to
the nice girls with whom she surrounded herself. When running upon the
love-making track with her, she switched them on, so to speak, to the
nice eligible girls, and they became engaged before they quite knew what
had happened.

This was her art, Edmund knew, and he appreciated it as it deserved.

She appreciated him as he deserved, he also acknowledged; for she had
never tried to switch him on to any of her girls. By never making love
to her he had proved himself to be no fit subject for the exercise of
her art.

If a man truly loves a woman he will marry anyone whom she asks him to
marry.

This, he knew, was the precept that Lady Innisfail inculcated upon the
young men--they were mostly very young men--who assured her that they
adored her. It rarely failed to bring them to their senses, she had
admitted to Edmund in the course of a confidential lapse.

By bringing them to their senses she meant inducing them to ask the
right girls to marry them.

Edmund felt that it was rather a pity that his friend Harold had never
adored Lady Innisfail. Harold had always liked her too well to make love
to her. This was rather a pity, Edmund felt. It practically disarmed
Lady Innisfail, otherwise she would have taken care that he made
straightforward love to Miss Craven.

As for Harold, he strolled off with the yachtsmen, giving them to
understand that he intended sailing with them. The cutter was at her
moorings in the lough about a mile from the Castle, and there was a
narrow natural dock between the cliffs into which the dingey ran to
carry the party out to the yacht.

It was at this point that Harold separated himself from the
yachtsmen--not without some mutterings on their part and the delivery of
a few reproaches with a fresh maritime flavour about them.

“What was he up to at all?” they asked of one another.

He could scarcely have told these earnest inquirers what he was up to.
But his mood would have been quite intelligible to them had they known
that he had, within the past half hour made up his mind to let nothing
interfere with his asking Helen Craven if she would be good enough to
marry him.



CHAPTER XII.--ON THE MYSTERY OF MAN.

HE meant to ask her at night. He had felt convinced, on returning after
his adventure in his dinner dress, that nothing could induce him to
think of Miss Craven as a possible wife. While sitting at breakfast,
he had felt even more confident on this point; and yet now his mind was
made up to ask her to marry him.

It must be admitted that his mood was a singular one, especially as,
with his mind full of his resolution to ask Miss Craven to marry him,
he was wandering around the rugged coastway, wondering by what means he
could bring himself by the side of the girl with whom he had crossed the
lough on the previous night.

His mood will be intelligible to such persons as have had friends who
occasionally have found it necessary to their well-being to become
teetotallers. It is well known that the fascination of the prospect of
teetotalism is so great for such persons that the very thought of it
compels them to rush off in the opposite direction. They indulge in an
outburst of imbibing that makes even their best friends stand aghast,
and then they ‘take the pledge’ with the cheerfulness of a child.

Harold Wynne felt inclined to allow his feelings an outburst, previous
to entering upon a condition in which he meant his feelings to be kept
in subjection.

To engage himself to marry Miss Craven was, he believed, equivalent
to taking the pledge of the teetotaller so far as his feelings were
concerned.

Meantime, however, he remained unpledged and with an unbounded sense of
freedom.

And this was why he laughed loud and long when he saw in the course of
his stroll around the cliffs, a small oar jammed in a crevice of the
rocks a hundred feet below where he was walking.

He laughed again when he had gone--not so cautiously as he might have
done--down to the crevice and released the oar.

It was, he knew, the one that had gone adrift from the boat the previous
night.

He climbed the cliff to the Banshee’s Cave and deposited the piece of
timber in the recesses of that place. Then he lay down on the coarse
herbage at the summit of the cliff until it was time to drift to the
Castle for lunch. Life at the Castle involved a good deal of drifting.
The guests drifted out in many directions after breakfast and
occasionally drifted back to lunch, after which they drifted about until
the dinner hour.

While taking lunch he was in such good spirits as made Lady Innisfail
almost hopeless of him.

Edmund Airey had told her the previous night that Harold intended asking
Miss Craven to marry him. Now, however, perceiving how excellent were
his spirits, she looked reproachfully across the table at Edmund.

She was mutely asking him--and he knew it--how it was possible to
reconcile Harold’s good spirits with his resolution to ask Helen Craven
to marry him? She knew--and so did Edmund--that high spirits and the
Resolution are rarely found in association.

An hour after lunch the girl with the Brow entreated Harold’s critical
opinion on the subject of a gesture in the delivery of a certain poem,
and the discussion of the whole question occupied another hour. The
afternoon was thus pretty far advanced before he found himself seated
alone in the boat which had been at the disposal of himself and Edmund
during the two previous afternoons. The oar that he had picked up was
lying at his feet along the timbers of the boat.

The sun was within an hour of setting when Brian appeared at the Castle
bearing a letter for Lady Innisfail. It had been entrusted to him for
delivery to her ladyship by Mr. Wynne, he said. Where was Mr. Wynne?
That Brian would not take upon him to say; only he was at the opposite
side of the lough. Maybe he was with Father Conn, who was the best
of good company, or it wasn’t a bit unlikely that it was the District
Inspector of the Constabulary he was with. Anyhow it was sure that the
gentleman had took a great fancy to the queer places along the coast,
for hadn’t he been to the thrubble to give a look in at the Banshee’s
Cave, the previous night, just because he was sthruck with admiration of
the story of the Princess that he, Brian, had told him and Mr. Airey in
the boat?

The letter that Lady Innisfail received and glanced at while drinking
tea on one of the garden seats outside the Castle, begged her ladyship
to pardon the writer’s not appearing at dinner that night, the fact
being that he had unexpectedly found an old friend who had taken
possession of him.

“It was very nice of him to write, wasn’t it, my dear?” Lady Innisfail
remarked to her friend Miss Craven, who was filtering a novel by a
popular French author for the benefit of Lady Innisfail. “It was very
nice of him to write. Of course that about the friend is rubbish. The
charm of this neighbourhood is that no old friend ever turns up.”

“You don’t think that--that--perhaps--” suggested Miss Craven with the
infinite delicacy of one who has been employed in the filtration of Paul
Bourget.

“Not at all--not at all,” said Lady Innisfail, shaking her head. “If it
was his father it would be quite another matter.”

“Oh!”

“Lord Fotheringay is too great a responsibility even for me, and I don’t
as a rule shirk such things,” said Lady Innisfail. “But Harold is--well,
I’ll let you into a secret, though it is against myself: he has never
made love even to me.”

“That is inexcusable,” remarked Miss Craven, with a little movement
of the eyebrows. She did not altogether appreciate Lady Innisfail’s
systems. She had not a sufficient knowledge of dynamics and the
transference of energy to be able to understand the beauty of the
“switch” principle. “But if he is not with a friend--or--or--the
other--”

“The enemy--our enemy?”

“Where can he be--where can he have been?”

“Heaven knows! There are some things that are too wonderful for me. I
fancied long ago that I knew Man. My dear Helen, I was a fool. Man is
a mystery. What could that boy mean by going to the Banshee’s Cave last
night, when he might have been dancing with me--or you?”

“Romance?”

“Romance and rubbish mean the same thing to such men as Harold Wynne,
Helen--you should know so much,” said Lady Innisfail. “That is, of
course, romance in the abstract. The flutter of a human white frock
would produce more impression on a man than a whole army of Banshees.”

“And yet the boatman said that Mr. Wynne had spent some time last
night at the Cave,” said Miss Craven. “Was there a white dress in the
question, do you fancy?”

Lady Innisfail turned her large and luminous eyes upon her companion.
So she was accustomed to turn those orbs upon such young men as declared
that they adored her. The movement was supposed to be indicative of
infinite surprise, with abundant sympathy, and a trace of pity.

Helen Craven met the luminous gaze with a smile, that broadened as she
murmured, “Dearest Lilian, we are quite alone. It is extremely unlikely
that your expression can be noticed by any of the men. It is practically
wasted.”

“It is the natural and reasonable expression of the surprise I feel at
the wisdom of the--the--”

“Serpent?”

“Not quite. Let us say, the young matron, lurking beneath the
harmlessness of the--the--let us say the _ingenue_. A white dress! Pray
go on with ‘_Un Cour de Femme’._”

Miss Craven picked up the novel which had been on the ground, flattened
out in a position of oriental prostration and humility before the wisdom
of the women.



CHAPTER XIII.--ON THE ART OF COLOURING.

THE people of the village of Ballycruiskeen showed themselves quite
ready to enter into the plans of their pastor in the profitable
enterprise of making entertainment for Lady Innisfail and her guests.
The good pastor had both enterprise and imagination. Lady Innisfail had
told him confidentially that day that she wished to impress her English
visitors with the local colour of the region round about. Local colour
was a phrase that she was as fond of as if she had been an art critic;
but it so happened that the pastor had never heard the phrase before;
he promptly assured her, however, that he sympathized most heartily with
her ladyship’s aspirations in this direction. Yes, it was absolutely
necessary that they should be impressed with the local colour, and if,
with this impression, there came an appreciation of the requirements of
the chapel in the way of a new roof, it would please him greatly.

The roof would certainly be put on before the winter, even if the work
had to be carried out at the expense of his Lordship, Lady Innisfail
said with enthusiasm; and if Father Constantine could only get up a wake
or a dance or some other festivity for the visitors, just to show them
how picturesque and sincere were the Irish race in the West, she would
take care that the work on the roof was begun without delay.

Father Constantine--he hardly knew himself by that name, having
invariably been called Father Conn by his flock--began to have a
comprehensive knowledge of what was meant by the phrase “local colour.”
 Did her ladyship insist on a wake, he inquired.

Her ladyship said she had no foolish prejudices in the matter. She was
quite willing to leave the whole question of the entertainment in the
hands of his reverence. He knew the people best and he would be able to
say in what direction their abilities could be exhibited to the greatest
advantage. She had always had an idea, she confessed, that it was at
a wake they shone; but, of course, if Father Constantine thought
differently she would make no objection, but she would dearly like a
wake.

The priest did not even smile for more than a minute; but he could not
keep that twinkle out of his eyes even if the chapel walls in addition
to the roof depended on his self-control.

He assured her ladyship that she was perfectly right in her ideas. He
agreed with her that the wake was the one festivity that was calculated
to bring into prominence the varied talents of his flock. But the
unfortunate thing about it was its variableness. A wake was something
that could not be arranged for beforehand--at least not without
involving a certain liability to criminal prosecution. The elements of
a wake were simple enough, to be sure, but simple and all as they were,
they were not always forthcoming.

Lady Innisfail thought this very provoking. Of course, expense was no
consideration--she hoped that the pastor understood so much. She hoped
he understood that if he could arrange for a wake that night she would
bear the expense.

The priest shook his head.

Well, then, if a wake was absolutely out of the question--she didn’t see
why it should be, but, of course, he knew best--why should he not get up
an eviction? She thought that on the whole the guests had latterly heard
more about Irish evictions than Irish wakes. There was plenty of local
colour in an eviction, and so far as she could gather from the
pictures she had seen in the illustrated papers, it was extremely
picturesque--yes, when the girls were barefooted, and when there was
active resistance. Hadn’t she heard something about boiling water?

The twinkle had left the priest’s eyes as she prattled away. He had an
impulse to tell her that it was the class to which her ladyship belonged
and not that to which he belonged, who had most practice in that form of
entertainment known as the eviction. But thinking of the chapel roof, he
restrained himself. After all, Lord Innisfail had never evicted a family
on his Irish estate. He had evicted several families on his English
property, however; but no one ever makes a fuss about English evictions.
If people fail to pay their rent in England they know that they must go.
They have not the imagination of the Irish.

“I’ll tell your ladyship what it is,” said Father Conn, before she had
quite come to the end of her prattle: “if the ladies and gentlemen who
have the honour to be your ladyship’s guests will take the trouble to
walk or drive round the coast to the Curragh of Lamdhu after supper--I
mean dinner--to-night, I’ll get up a celebration of the Cruiskeen for
you all.”

“How delightful!” exclaimed her ladyship. “And what might a celebration
of the Cruiskeen be?”

It was at this point that the imagination of the good father came to his
assistance. He explained, with a volubility that comes to the Celt
only when he is romancing, that the celebration of the Cruiskeen was
a prehistoric rite associated with the village of Ballycruiskeen.
Cruiskeen was, as perhaps her ladyship had heard, the Irish for a vessel
known to common people as a jug--it was, he explained, a useful vessel
for drinking out of--when it held a sufficient quantity.

Of course Lady Innisfail had heard of a jug--she had even heard of a
song called “The Cruiskeen Lawn”--did that mean some sort of jug?

It meant the little full jug, his reverence assured her. Anyhow, the
celebration of the Cruiskeen of Ballycruiskeen had taken place
for hundreds--most likely thousands--of years at the Curragh of
Lamdhu--Lamdhu meaning the Black Hand--and it was perhaps the most
interesting of Irish customs. Was it more interesting than a wake? Why,
a wake couldn’t hold a candle to a Cruiskeen, and the display of candles
was, as probably her ladyship knew, a distinctive feature of a wake.

Father Conn, finding how much imaginary archæology Lady Innisfail would
stand without a protest, then allowed his imagination to revel in
the details of harpers--who were much more genteel than fiddlers, he
thought, though his flock preferred the fiddle--of native dances and
of the recitals of genuine Irish poems--probably prehistoric. All these
were associated with a Cruiskeen, he declared, and a Cruiskeen her
ladyship and her ladyship’s guests should have that night, if there was
any public spirit left in Ballycruiskeen, and he rather thought that
there was a good deal still left, thank God!

Lady Innisfail was delighted. Local colour! Why, this entertainment was
a regular Winsor and Newton Cabinet.

It included everything that people in England were accustomed to
associate with the Irish, and this was just what the guests would
relish. It was infinitely more promising than the simple national dance
for which she had been trying to arrange.

She shook Father Conn heartily by the hand, but stared at him when he
made some remark about the chapel roof--she had already forgotten all
about the roof.

The priest had not.

“God forgive me for my romancing!” he murmured, when her ladyship had
departed and he stood wiping his forehead. “God forgive me! If it wasn’t
for the sake of the slate or two, the ne’er a word but the blessed truth
would have been forced from me. A Cruiskeen! How was it that the notion
seized me at all?”

He hurried off to an ingenious friend and confidential adviser of his,
whose name was O’Flaherty, and who did a little in the horse-dealing
line--a profession that tends to develop the ingenuity of those
associated with it either as buyers or sellers--and Mr. O’Flaherty,
after hearing Father Conn’s story, sat down on the side of one of the
ditches, which are such a distinctive feature of Ballycruiskeen and the
neighbourhood, and roared with laughter.

“Ye’ve done it this time, and no mistake, Father Conn,” he cried, when
he had partially recovered from his hilarity. “I always said you’d do it
some day, and ye’ve done it now. A Cruiskeen! Mother of Moses! A
Cruiskeen! Oh, but it’s yourself has the quare head, Father Conn!”

“Give over your fun, and tell us what’s to be done--that’s what you’re
to do if there’s any good in you at all,” said the priest.

“Oh, by my soul, ye’ll have to carry out the enterprise in your own way,
my brave Father Conn,” said Mr. O’Flaherty. “A Cruiskeen! A----”

“Phinny O’Flaherty,” said the priest solemnly, “if ye don’t want to have
the curse of the Holy Church flung at that red head of yours, ye’ll rise
and put me on the way of getting up at least a jig or two on the Curragh
this night.”

After due consideration Mr. O’Flaherty came to the conclusion that it
would be unwise on his part to put in motion the terrible machinery
of the Papal Interdict--if the forces of the Vatican were to be
concentrated upon him he might never again be able to dispose of a
“roarer” as merely a “whistler” to someone whose suspicions were
susceptible of being lulled by a brogue. Mr. Phineas O’Flaherty
consequently assured Father Conn that he would help his reverence, even
if the act should jeopardize his prospects of future happiness in
another world.



CHAPTER XIV.--ON AN IRISH DANCE.

LADY INNISFAIL’S guests--especially those who had been wandering over
the mountains with guns all day--found her rather too indefatigable
in her search for new methods of entertaining them. The notion of an
after-dinner stroll of a few miles to the village of Ballycruiskeen
for the sake of witnessing an entertainment, the details of which Lady
Innisfail was unable to do more than suggest, and the attractions of
which were rather more than doubtful, was not largely relished at the
Castle.

Lord Innisfail announced his intention of remaining where he had dined;
but he was one of the few men who could afford to brave Lady Innisfail’s
disdain and to decline to be chilled by her cold glances. The other men
who did not want to be entertained on the principles formulated by Lady
Innisfail, meanly kept out of her way after dinner. They hoped that they
might have a chance of declaring solemnly afterwards, that they had been
anxious to go, but had waited in vain for information as to the hour of
departure, the costume to be worn, and the password--if a password were
needed--to admit them to the historic rites of the Cruiskeen.

One of the women declined to go, on the ground that, so far as she could
gather, the rite was not evangelical. Her views were evangelical.

One of the men--he was an Orangeman from Ulster--boldly refused to
attend what was so plainly a device planned by the Jesuits for the
capture of the souls--he assumed that they had souls--of the Innisfail
family and their guests.

Miss Craven professed so ardently to be looking forward to the
entertainment, that Mr. Airey, with his accustomed observance of the
distribution of high lights in demeanour as well as in conversation.
felt certain that she meant to stay at the Castle.

His accuracy of observation was proved when the party were ready to
set out for Ballycruiskeen. MIss Craven’s maid earned that lady’s
affectionate regards to her hostess; she had been foolish enough to sit
in the sun during the afternoon with that fascinating novel, and as she
feared it would, her indiscretion had given her a headache accompanied
by dizziness. She would thus be unable to go with the general party
to the village, but if she possibly could, she would follow them in an
hour--perhaps less.

Edmund Airey smiled the smile of the prophet who lives to see his
prediction realized--most of the prophets died violent deaths before
they could have that gratification.

“Yes, it was undoubtedly an indiscretion,” he murmured.

“Sitting in the sun?” said Lady Innisfail.

“Reading Paul Bourget,” said he.

“Of course,” said Lady Innisfail. “Talking of indiscretions, has anyone
seen--ah, never mind.”

“It is quite possible that the old friend whom you say he wrote about,
may be a person of primitive habits--he may be inclined to retire
early,” said Mr. Airey.

Lady Innisfail gave a little puzzled glance at him--the puzzled
expression vanished in a moment, however, before the ingenuousness of
his smile.

“What a fool I am becoming!” she whispered. “I really never thought of
that.”

“That was because you never turned your attention properly to the
mystery of the headache,” said he.

Then they set off in the early moonlight for their walk along the cliff
path that, in the course of a mile or so, trended downward and through
the Pass of Lamdhu, with its dark pines growing half-way up the slope on
one side. The lower branches of the trees stretched fantastic arms over
the heads of the party walking on the road through the Pass. In
the moonlight these fantastic arms seemed draped. The trees seemed
attitudinizing to one another in a strange pantomime of their own.

The village of Ballycruiskeen lay just beyond the romantic defile,
so that occasionally the inhabitants failed to hear the sound of the
Atlantic hoarsely roaring as it was being strangled in the narrow part
of the lough. They were therefore sometimes merry with a merriment
impossible to dwellers nearer the coast.

It did not appear to their visitors that this was one of their merry
nights. The natives were commanded by their good priest to be merry for
“the quality,” under penalties with which they were well acquainted. But
merriment under a penalty is no more successful than the smile which is
manufactured in a photographer’s studio.

Father Conn made the mistake of insisting on all the members of his
flock washing their faces. They had washed all the picturesqueness out
of them, Mr. Airey suggested.

The Curragh of Ballycruiskeen was a somewhat wild moorland that
became demoralized into a bog at one extremity. There was, however, a
sufficiently settled portion to form a dancing green, and at one side
of this patch the shocking incongruity of chairs--of a certain sort--and
even a sofa--it was somewhat less certain--met the eyes of the visitors.

“Mind this, ye divils,” the priest was saying in an affectionate way to
the members of his flock, as the party from the Castle approached. “Mind
this, it’s dancing a new roof on the chapel that ye are. Every step ye
take means a slate, so it does.”

This was clearly the peroration of the pastor’s speech.

The speech of Mr. Phineas O’Flaherty, who was a sort of unceremonious
master of the ceremonies, had been previously delivered, fortunately
when the guests were out of hearing.

At first the entertainment seemed to be a very mournful one. It was
too like examination day at a village school to convey an idea of
spontaneous mirth. The “quality” sat severely on the incongruous
chairs--no one was brave enough to try the sofa--and some of the
“quality” used double eye-glasses with handles, for the better inspection
of the performers. This was chilling to the performers.

In spite of the efforts of Father Conn and his stage manager, Mr.
O’Flaherty, the members of the cast for the entertainment assumed a
huddled appearance that did themselves great injustice. They declined to
group themselves effectively, but suggested to Mr. Durdan--who was
not silent on the subject--one of the illustrations to Foxe’s Book of
Martyrs--a scene in which about a score of persons about to be martyred
are shown to be awaiting, with an aspect of cheerful resignation that
deceived no one, their “turn” at the hands of the executioner.

The merry Irish jig had a depressing effect at first. The priest was
well-meaning, but he had not the soul of an artist. When a man has
devoted all his spare moments for several years to the repression of
unseemly mirth, he is unwise to undertake, at a moment’s notice, the
duties of stimulating such mirth. Under the priest’s eye the jig was
robbed of its jiguity, so to speak. It was the jig of the dancing class.

Mr. O’Flaherty threatened to scandalize Father Conn by a few
exclamations about the display of fetlocks--the priest had so little
experience of the “quality” that he fancied a suggestion of slang
would be offensive to their ears. He did not know that the hero of the
“quality” in England is the costermonger, and that a few years ago the
hero was the cowboy. But Edmund Airey, perceiving with his accustomed
shrewdness, how matters stood, managed to draw the priest away from
the halfhearted exponents of the dance, and so questioned him on the
statistics of the parish--for Father Conn was as hospitable with his
statistics as he was with his whiskey punch upon occasions--that half an
hour had passed before they returned together to the scene of the dance,
the priest with a five-pound note of Mr. Airey’s pressed against his
heart.

“Murder alive! what’s this at all at all?” cried Father Conn, becoming
aware of the utterance of whoop after whoop by the dancers.

“It’s the jig they’re dancin’ at last, an’ more power to thim!” cried
Phineas O’Flaherty, clapping his hands and giving an encouraging whoop
or two.

He was right. The half dozen couples artistically dishevelled, and
rapidly losing the baleful recollections of having been recently tidied
up to meet the “quality”--rapidly losing every recollection of the
critical gaze of the “quality”--of the power of speech possessed by
the priest--of everything, clerical and lay, except the strains of the
fiddle which occupied an intermediate position between things lay and
clerical, being wholly demoniac--these half dozen couples were dancing
the jig with a breadth and feeling that suggested the youth of the world
and the reign of Bacchus.

Black hair flowing in heavy flakes over shoulders unevenly bare--shapely
arms flung over heads in an attitude of supreme self-abandonment--a
passionate advance, a fervent retreat, then an exchange of musical cries
like wild gasps for breath, and ever, ever, ever the demoniac music of
the fiddle, and ever, ever, ever the flashing and flying from the ground
like the feet of the winged Hermes--flashing and flashing with the
moonlight over all, and the fantastic arms of the hill-side pines
stretched out like the fringed arms of a grotesque Pierrot--this was the
scene to which the priest returned with Edmund Airey.

He threw up his hands and was about to rush upon the half-frenzied
dancers, when Edmund grasped him by the arm, and pointed mutely to the
attitude of the “quality.”

Lady Innisfail and her friends were no longer sitting frigidly on their
chairs--the double eye-glasses were dropped, and those who had held them
were actually joining in the whoops of the dancers. Her ladyship was
actually clapping her hands in the style of encouragement adopted by Mr.
O’Flaherty.

The priest stood in the attitude in which he had been arrested by the
artful Edmund Airey. His eyes and his mouth were open, and his right
hand was pressed against the five-pound note that he had just received.
There was a good deal of slate-purchasing potentialities in a five-pound
note. If her ladyship and her guests were shocked--as the priest,
never having heard of the skirt dance and its popularity in the
drawing-room--believed they should be, they were not displaying
their indignation in a usual way. They were almost as excited as the
performers.

Father Conn seated himself without a word of protest, in one of the
chairs vacated by the Castle party. He felt that if her ladyship liked
that form of entertainment, the chapel roof was safe. The amount of
injury that would be done to the Foul Fiend by the complete re-roofing
of the chapel should certainly be sufficient to counteract whatever sin
might be involved in the wild orgy that was being carried on beneath the
light of the moon. This was the consolation that the priest had as he
heard whoop after whoop coming from the dancers.

Six couples remained on the green dancing-space. The fiddler was a
wizened, deformed man with small gleaming eyes. He stood on a stool and
kept time with one foot. He increased the time of the dance so gradually
as to lead the dancers imperceptibly on until, without being aware of
it, they had reached a frenzied pitch that could not be maintained for
many minutes. But still the six couples continued wildly dancing, the
moonlight striking them aslant and sending six black quivering shadows
far over the ground. Suddenly a man dropped out of the line and lay
gasping on the grass. Then a girl flung herself with a cry into the arms
of a woman who was standing among the onlookers. Faster still and faster
went the grotesquely long arms of the dwarf fiddler--his shadow cast by
the moonlight was full of horrible suggestions--and every now and again
a falsetto whoop came from him, his teeth suddenly gleaming as his lips
parted in uttering the cry.

The two couples, who now remained facing one another, changing feet with
a rapidity that caused them to appear constantly off the ground, were
encouraged by the shouts and applause of their friends. The air was full
of cries, in which the spectators from the Castle joined. Faster still
the demoniac music went, every strident note being clearly heard above
the shouts. But when one of the two couples staggered wildly and fell
with outstretched arms upon the grass, the shriek of the fiddle sounded
but faintly above the cries.

The priest could restrain himself no longer. He sprang to his feet
and kicked the stool from under the fiddler, sending the misshapen man
sprawling in one direction and his instrument with an unearthly shriek
in another.

Silence followed that shriek. It lasted but a few seconds, however.
The figure of a man--a stranger--appeared running across the open space
between the village and the Curragh, where the dance was being held.

He held up his right hand in so significant a way, that the priest’s
foot was arrested in the act of implanting another kick upon the
stool, and the fiddler sat up on the ground and forgot to look for his
instrument through surprise at the apparition.

“It’s dancin’ at the brink of the grave, ye are,” gasped the man, as he
approached the group that had become suddenly congested in anticipation
of the priest’s wrath.

“Why, it’s only Brian the boatman, after all,” said Lady Innisfail.
“Great heavens! I had such a curious thought as he appeared. Oh, that
dancing! He did not seem to be a man.”

“This is no doubt part of the prehistoric rite,” said Mr. Airey.

“How simply lovely!” cried Miss Stafford.

“In God’s name, man, tell us what you mean,” said the priest.

“It’s herself,” gasped Brian. “It’s the one that’s nameless. Her wail is
heard over all the lough--I heard it with my ears and hurried here for
your reverence. Don’t we know that she never cries except for a death?”

“He means the Banshee,” said Lady Innisfail.

“The people, I’ve heard, think it unlucky to utter her name.”

“So lovely! Just like savages!” said Miss Stafford.

“I dare say the whole thing is only part of the ceremony of the
Cruiskeen,” said Mr. Durdan.

“Brian O’Donal,” said the priest; “have you come here to try and terrify
the country side with your romancin’?”

“By the sacred Powers, your reverence, I heard the cry of her myself,
as I came by the bend of the lough. If it’s not the truth that I’m after
speaking, may I be the one that she’s come for.”

“Doesn’t he play the part splendidly?” said Lady Innisfail. “I’d
almost think that he was in earnest. Look how the people are crossing
themselves.”

Miss Stafford looked at them through her double eye-glasses with the
long handle.

“How lovely!” she murmured. “The Cruiskeen is the Oberammergau of
Connaught.”

Edmund Airey laughed.

“God forgive us all for this night!” said the priest. “Sure, didn’t I
think that the good that would come of getting on the chapel roof would
cover the shame of this night! Go to your cabins, my children. You
were not to blame. It was me and me only. My Lady”--he turned to the
Innisfail party--“this entertainment is over. God knows I meant it for
the best.”

“But we haven’t yet heard the harper,” cried Lady Innisfail.

“And the native bards,” said Miss Stafford. “I should so much like to
hear a bard. I might even recite a native poem under his tuition.”

Miss Stafford saw a great future for native Irish poetry in English
drawing-rooms. It might be the success of a season.

“The entertainment’s over,” said the priest.

“It’s that romancer Brian, that’s done it all,” cried Phineas
O’Flaherty.

“Mr. O’Flaherty, if it’s not the truth may I--oh, didn’t I hear her
voice, like the wail of a girl in distress?” cried Brian.

“Like what?” said Mr. Airey.

“Oh, you don’t believe anything--we all know that, sir,” said Brian.

“A girl in distress--I believe in that, at any rate,” said Edmund.

“Now!” said Miss Stafford, “don’t you think that I might recite
something to these poor people?” She turned to Lady Innisfail. “Poor
people! They may never have heard a real recitation--‘The Dove Cote,’
‘Peter’s Blue Bell’--something simple.”

There was a movement among her group.

“The sooner we get back to the Castle the better it will be for all of
us,” said Lady Innisfail. “Yes, Father Constantine, we distinctly looked
for a native bard, and we are greatly disappointed. Who ever heard of a
genuine Cruiskeen without a native bard? Why, the thing’s absurd!”

“A Connaught Oberammergau without a native bard! _Oh, Padre mio--Padre
mio!_” said Miss Stafford, daintily shaking her double eye-glasses at
the priest.

“My lady,” said he, “you heard what the man said. How would it be
possible for us to continue this scene while that warning voice is in
the air?”

“If you give us a chance of hearing the warning voice, we’ll forgive you
everything, and say that the Cruiskeen is a great success,” cried Lady
Innisfail.

“If your ladyship takes the short way to the bend of the lough you may
still hear her,” said Brian.

“God forbid,” said the priest.

“Take us there, and if we hear her, I’ll give you half a sovereign,”
 cried her ladyship, enthusiastically.

“If harm comes of it don’t blame me,” said Brian. “Step out this way, my
lady.”

“We may still be repaid for our trouble in coming so far,” said one of
the party. “If we do actually hear the Banshee, I, for one, will feel
more than satisfied.”

Miss Stafford, as she hurried away with the party led by Brian, wondered
if it might not be possible to find a market for a Banshee’s cry in a
London drawing-room. A new emotion was, she understood, eagerly awaited.
The serpentine dance and the costermonger’s lyre had waned. It was
extremely unlikely that they should survive another season. If she were
to be first in the field with the Banshee’s cry, introduced with a few
dainty steps of the jig incidental to a poem with a refrain of “Asthore”
 or “Mavourneen,” she might yet make a name for herself.



CHAPTER XV.--ON THE SHRIEK.

IN a space of time that was very brief, owing to the resolution with
which Lady Innisfail declined to accept the suggestion of short cuts
by Brian, the whole party found themselves standing breathless at the
beginning of the line of cliffs. A mist saturated with moonlight had
drifted into the lough from the Atlantic. It billowed below their eyes
along the surface of the water, and crawled along the seared faces of
the cliffs, but no cold fingers of the many-fingered mist clasped the
higher ridges. The sound of the crashing of the unseen waves about the
bases of the cliffs filled the air, but there was no other sound.

“Impostor!” said Edmund Airy, turning upon Brian. “You heard no White
Lady to-night. You have jeopardized our physical and your spiritual
health by your falsehood.”

“You shall get no half sovereign from me,” said Lady Innisfail.

“Is it me that’s accountable for her coming and going?” cried Brian,
with as much indignation as he could afford. Even an Irishman cannot
afford the luxury of being indignant with people who are in the habit
of paying him well, and an Irishman is ready to sacrifice much to
sentiment. “It’s glad we should all be this night not to hear the voice
of herself.”

Lady Innisfail looked at him. She could afford to be indignant, and
she meant to express her indignation; but when it came to the point she
found that it was too profound to be susceptible of expression.

“Oh, come away,” she said, after looking severely at Brian for nearly a
minute.

“Dear Lady Innisfail,” said Mr. Durdan, “I know that you feel indignant,
fancying that we have been disappointed. Pray do not let such an idea
have weight with you for a moment.”

“Oh, no, no,” said Miss Stafford, who liked speaking in public quite
as well as Mr. Durdan. “Oh, no, no; you have done your best, dear Lady
Innisfail. The dance was lovely; and though, of course, we should have
liked to hear a native bard or two, as well as the Banshee--”

“Yet bards and Banshees we know to be beyond human control,” said Mr.
Airey.

“We know that if it rested with you, we should hear the Banshee every
night,” said Mr. Durdan.

“Yes, we all know your kindness of heart, dear Lady Innisfail,” resumed
Miss Stafford.

“Indeed you should hear it, and the bard as well,” cried Lady Innisfail.
“But as Mr. Airey says--and he knows all about bard and Banshees and
such like things Great heaven! We are not disappointed after all, thank
heaven!”

Lady Innisfail’s exclamation was uttered after there floated to the
cliffs where she and her friends were standing, from the rolling white
mist that lay below, the sound of a long wail. It was repeated, only
fainter, when she had uttered her thanksgiving, and it was followed by a
more robust shout.

“Isn’t it lovely?” whispered Lady Innisfail.

“I don’t like it,” said Miss Stafford, with a shudder. “Let us go
away--oh, let us go away at once.”

Miss Stafford liked simulated horrors only. The uncanny in verse was
dear to her; but when, for the first time, she was brought face to face
with what would have formed the subject of a thrilling romance with a
suggestion of the supernatural, she shuddered.

“Hush,” said Lady Innisfail; “if we remain quiet we may hear it again.”

“I don’t want to hear it again,” cried Miss Stafford. “Look at the man.
He knows all about it. He is one of the natives.”

She pointed to Brian, who was on his knees on the rock muttering
petitions for the protection of all the party.

He knew, however, that his half sovereign was safe, whatever might
happen. Miss Stafford’s remark was reasonable. Brian should know all
about the Banshee and its potentialities of mischief.

“Get up, you fool!” said Edmund Airey, catching the native by the
shoulder. “Don’t you know as well as I do that a boat with someone
aboard is adrift in the mist?”

“Oh, I know that you don’t believe in anything.” said Brian.

“I believe in your unlimited laziness and superstition,” said Edmund.
“I’m very sorry, my dear Lady Innisfail, to interfere with your
entertainment, but it’s perfectly clear to me that someone is in
distress at the foot of the cliffs.”

“How can you be so horrid--so commonplace?” said Lady Innisfail.

“He is one of the modern iconoclasts,” said another of the group.
“He would fling down our most cherished beliefs. He told me that he
considered Madame Blavatsky a swindler.”

“Dear Mr. Airey,” said Miss Stafford, who was becoming less timid as the
wail from the sea had not been repeated. “Dear Mr. Airey, let us entreat
of you to leave us our Banshee whatever you may take from us.”

“There are some things in heaven and earth that refuse to be governed by
a phrase,” sneered Mr. Durdan.

“Mules and the members of the Opposition are among them,” said Edmund,
preparing to descend the cliffs by the zig-zag track.

He had scarcely disappeared in the mist when there was a shriek from
Miss Stafford, and pointing down the track with a gesture, which for
expressiveness, she had never surpassed in the most powerful of her
recitations, she flung herself into Lady Innisfail’s arms.

“Great heavens!” cried Lady Innisfail. “It is the White Lady herself’!”

“We’re all lost, and the half sovereign’s nothing here or there,” said
Brian, in a tone of complete resignation.

Out of the mist there seemed to float a white figure of a girl. She
stood for some moments with the faint mist around her, and while the
group on the cliff watched her--some of them found it necessary to cling
together--another white figure floated through the mist to the side of
the first, and then came another figure--that of a man--only he did not
float.

“I wish you would not cling quite so close to me, my dear; I can’t see
anything of what’s going on,” said Lady Innisfail to Miss Stafford,
whose head was certainly an inconvenience to Lady Innisfail.

With a sudden, determined movement she shifted the head from her bosom
to her shoulder, and the instant that this feat was accomplished she
cried out, “Helen Craven!”

“Helen Craven?” said Miss Stafford, recovering the use of her head in a
moment.

“Yes, it’s Helen Craven or her ghost that’s standing there,” said Lady
Innisfail.

“And Harold Wynne is with her. Are you there, Wynne?” sang out Mr.
Durdan.

“Hallo?” came the voice of Harold from below. “Who is there?”

“Why, we’re all here,” cried Edmund, emerging from the mist at his side.
“How on earth did you get here?--and Miss Craven--and--he looked at the
third figure--he had never seen the third figure before.

“Oh, it’s a long story,” laughed Harold. “Will you give a hand to Miss
Craven?”

Mr. Airey said it would please him greatly to do so, and by his kindly
aid Miss Craven was, in the course of a few minutes, placed by the side
of Lady Innisfail.

She took the place just vacated by Miss Stafford on Lady Innisfail’s
bosom, and was even more embarrassing to Lady Innisfail than the other
had been. Helen Craven was heavier, to start with.

But it was rather by reason of her earnest desire to see the strange
face, that Lady Innisfail found Helen’s head greatly in her way.

“Lady Innisfail, when Miss Craven is quite finished with you, I shall
present to you Miss Avon,” said Harold.

“I should be delighted,” said Lady Innisfail. “Dearest Helen, can you
not spare me for a moment?”

Helen raised her head.

It was then that everyone perceived how great was the devastation done
by the mist to the graceful little curled fringes of her forehead.
Her hair was lank, showing that she had as massive a brow as Miss
Stafford’s, if she wished to display it.

“It is a great pleasure to me to meet you, Miss Avon; I’m sure that I
have often heard of you from Mr. Wynne and--oh, yes, many other people,”
 said Lady Innisfail. “But just now--well, you can understand that we are
all bewildered.”

“Yes, we are all bewildered,” said Miss Avon. “You see, we heard the cry
of the White Lady--”

“Of course,” said Harold; “we heard it too. The White Lady was Miss
Craven. She was in one of the boats, and the mist coming on so suddenly,
she could not find her way back to the landing place. Luckily we were
able to take her boat in tow before it got knocked to pieces. I hope
Miss Craven did not over-exert herself.”

“I hope not,” said Lady Innisfail. “What on earth induced you to go out
in a boat alone, Helen--and suffering from so severe a headache into the
bargain?”

“I felt confident that the cool air would do me good,” said Miss Craven.
somewhat dolefully.

Lady Innisfail looked at her in silence for some moments, then she
laughed.

No one else seemed to perceive any reason for laughter.

Lady Innisfail then turned her eyes upon Miss Avon. The result of her
observation was precisely the same as the result of Harold’s first sight
of that face had been. Lady Innisfail felt that she had never seen so
beautiful a girl.

Then Lady Innisfail laughed again.

Finally she looked at Harold and laughed for the third time. The space
of a minute nearly was occupied by her observations and her laughter.

“I think that on the whole we should hasten on to the Castle,” said she
at length. “Miss Craven is pretty certain to be fatigued--we are, at
any rate. Of course you will come with us, Miss Avon.”

The group on the cliff ceased to be a group when she had spoken; but
Miss Avon did not move with the others. Harold also remained by her
side.

“I don’t know what I should do,” said Miss Avon. “The boat is at the
foot of the cliff.”

“It would be impossible for you to find your course so long as the mist
continues,” said Harold. “Miss Avon and her father--he is an old friend
of mine--we breakfasted together at my college--are living in the White
House--you may have heard its name--on the opposite shore--only a mile
by sea, but six by land,” he added, turning to Lady Innisfail.

“Returning to-night is out of the question,” said Lady Innisfail. “You
must come with us to the Castle for to-night. I shall explain all to
your father to-morrow, if any explanation is needed.” Miss Avon shook
her head, and murmured a recognition of Lady Innisfail’s kindness.

“There is Brian,” said Harold. “He will confront your father in the
morning with the whole story.”

“Yes, with the whole story,” said Lady Innisfail, with an amusing
emphasis on the words. “I already owe Brian half a sovereign.”

“Oh, Brian will carry the message all for love,” cried the girl.

Lady Innisfail did her best to imitate the captivating freshness of the
girl’s words.

“All for love--all for love!” she cried.

Harold smiled. He remembered having had brought under his notice a toy
nightingale that imitated the song of the nightingale so closely that
the Jew dealer, who wanted to sell the thing, declared that no one on
earth could tell the difference between the two.

The volubility of Brian in declaring that he would do anything out of
love for Miss Avon was amazing. He went down the cliff face to bring the
boats round to the regular moorings, promising to be at the Castle in
half an hour to receive Miss Avon’s letter to be put into her father’s
hand at his hour of rising.

By the time Miss Avon and Harold had walked to the Castle with Lady
Innisfail, they had acquainted her with a few of the incidents of the
evening--how they also had been caught by the mist while in their boat,
and had with considerable trouble succeeded in reaching the craft in
which Miss Craven was helplessly drifting. They had heard Miss Craven’s
cry for help, they said, and Harold had replied to it. But still they
had some trouble picking up her boat.

Lady Innisfail heard all the story, and ventured to assert that all was
well that ended well.

“And this is the end,” she cried, as she pointed to the shining hall
seen through the open doors.

“Yes, this is the end of all--a pleasant end to the story,” said the
girl.

Harold followed them as they entered.

He wondered if this was the end of the story, or only the beginning.



CHAPTER XVI.--ON THE VALUE OF A BAD CHARACTER.

IT was said by some people that the judge, during his vacation, had
solved the problem set by the philosopher to his horse. He had learned
to live on a straw a day, only there was something perpetually at the
end of his straw--something with a preposterous American name in a
tumbler to match.

He had the tumbler and the straw on a small table by his side while he
watched, with great unsteadiness, the strokes of the billiard players.

From an hour after dinner he was in a condition of perpetual dozing.
This was his condition also from an hour after the opening of a case in
court, which required the closest attention to enable even the most
delicately appreciative mind to grasp even its simplest elements.

He had, he said, been the most widely awake of counsel for thirty years,
so that he rather thought he was entitled to a few years dozing as a
judge.

Other people--they were his admirers--said that his dozing represented
an alertness far beyond that of the most conscientiously wakeful and
watchful of the judicial establishment in England.

It is easy to resemble Homer--in nodding--and in this special Homeric
quality the judge excelled; but it was generally understood that it
would not be wise to count upon his nodding himself into a condition of
unobservance. He had already delivered judgment on the character of the
fine cannons of one of the players in the hall, and upon the hazards of
the other. He had declined to mark the game, however, and he had
thereby shown his knowledge of human nature. There had already been
four disputes as to the accuracy of the marking. (It was being done by a
younger man).

“How can a man expect to make his favourite break after some hours on
a diabolical Irish jaunting car?” one of the players was asking, as he
bent over the table.

The words were uttered at the moment of Harold’s entrance, close behind
Lady Innisfail and Miss Avon.

Hearing the words he stood motionless before he had taken half-a-dozen
steps into the hall.

Lady Innisfail also stopped at the same instant, and looked over her
shoulder at Harold.

Through the silence there came the little click of the billiard balls.

The speaker gave the instinctive twist of the practised billiard player
toward the pocket that he wished the ball to approach. Then he took a
breath and straightened himself in a way that would have made any close
observer aware of the fact that he was no longer a young man.

There was, however, more than a suggestion of juvenility in his manner
of greeting Lady Innisfail. He was as effusive as is consistent with the
modern spirit of indifference to the claims of hostesses and all other
persons.

He was not so effusive when he turned to Harold; but that was only to be
expected, because Harold was his son.

“No, my boy,” said Lord Fotheringay, “I didn’t fancy that you would
expect to see me here to-night--I feel surprised to find myself here. It
seems like a dream to me--a charming dream-vista with Lady Innisfail at
the end of the vista. Innisfail always ruins his chances of winning a
game by attempting a screw back into the pocket. He leaves everything
on. You’ll see what my game is now.”

He chalked his cue and bent over the table once more.

Harold watched him make the stroke. “You’ll see what my game is,” said
Lord Fotheringay, as he settled himself down to a long break.

Harold questioned it greatly. His father’s games were rarely
transparent.

“What on earth can have brought him?--oh, he takes one’s breath away,”
 whispered Lady Innisfail to Harold, with a pretty fair imitation of a
smile lingering about some parts of her face.

Harold shook his head. There was not even the imitation of a smile about
his face.

Lady Innisfail gave a laugh, and turned quickly to Miss Avon.

“My husband will be delighted to meet you, my dear,” said she. “He is
certain to know your father.”

Harold watched Lord Innisfail shaking hands with Miss Avon at the
side of the billiard table, while his father bent down to make another
stroke. When the stroke was played he saw his father straighten himself
and look toward Miss Avon.

The look was a long one and an interested one. Then the girl disappeared
with Lady Innisfail, and the look that Lord Fotheringay cast at his son
was a short one, but it was quite as intelligible to that soft as the
long look at Miss Avon had been to him.

Harold went slowly and in a singularly contemplative mood to his
bedroom, whence he emerged in a space, wearing a smoking-jacket and
carrying a pipe and tobacco pouch.

The smoking-jackets that glowed through the hall towards the last hour
of the day at Castle Innisfail were a dream of beauty.

Lady Innisfail had given orders to have a variety of sandwiches and
other delicacies brought to the hall for those of her guests who had
attended the festivities at Ballycruiskeen; and when Harold found his
way downstairs, he perceived in a moment that only a few of the feeble
ones of the house-party--the fishermen who had touches of rheumatism and
the young women who cherished their complexions--were absent from the
hall.

He also noticed that his father was seated by the side of Beatrice Avon
and that he was succeeding in making himself interesting to her.

He knew that his father generally succeeded in making himself
interesting to women.

In another part of the hall Lady Innisfail was succeeding in making
herself interesting to some of the men. She also was accustomed to
meet with success in this direction. She was describing to such as
had contrived to escape the walk to Ballycruiskeen, the inexhaustibly
romantic charm of the scene on the Curragh while the natives were
dancing, and the descriptions certainly were not deficient in colour.

The men listened to her with such an aspect of being enthralled, she
felt certain that they were full of regret that they had failed to
witness the dance. It so happened, however, that the result of her
account of the scene was to lead those of her audience who had remained
at the Castle, to congratulate themselves upon a lucky escape.

And all this time, Harold noticed that his father was making himself
interesting to Beatrice Avon.

The best way for any man to make himself interesting to a woman is to
show himself interested in her. He knew that his father was well aware
of this fact, and that he was getting Beatrice Avon to tell him all
about herself.

But when Lady Innisfail reached the final situation in her dramatic
account of the dance, and hurried her listeners to the brink of the
cliff--when she reproduced in a soprano that was still vibratory, the
cry that had sounded through the mist--when she pointed to Miss Avon
in telling of the white figure that had emerged from the mist--(Lady
Innisfail did not think it necessary to allude to Helen Craven, who had
gone to bed)--the auditors’ interest was real and not simulated. They
looked at the white figure as Lady Innisfail pointed to her, and their
interest was genuine.

They could at least appreciate this element of the evening’s
entertainment, and as they glanced at Harold, who was eating a number of
sandwiches in a self-satisfied way, they thought that they might
safely assume that he was the luckiest of the _dramatis personae_ of the
comedy--or was it a tragedy?--described by Lady Innisfail.

And all this time Harold was noticing that his father, by increasing
his interest in Beatrice, was making himself additionally interesting to
her.

But the judge had also--at the intervals between his Homeric nods--been
noticing the living things around him. He put aside his glass and its
straw--he had been toying with it all the evening, though the liquid
that mounted by capillary attraction up the tube was something noisome,
without a trace of alcohol--and seated himself on the other side of the
girl.

He assured her that he had known her father. Lord Fotheringay did not
believe him; but this was not to the point, and he knew it. What was to
the point was the fact that the judge understood the elements of the art
of interesting a girl almost as fully as Lord Fotheringay did, without
having quite made it the serious business of his life. The result was
that Miss Avon was soon telling the judge all about herself--this
was what the judge professed to be the most anxious to hear--and Lord
Fotheringay lit a cigar.

He felt somewhat bitterly on the subject of the judge’s intrusion. But
the feeling did not last for long. He reflected upon the circumstance
that Miss Avon could never have heard that he himself was a very wicked
man.

He knew that the interest that attaches to a man with a reputation for
being very wicked is such as need fear no rival. He felt that should his
power to interest a young woman ever be jeopardized, he could still fall
back upon his bad character and be certain to attract her.



CHAPTER XVII.--ON PROVIDENCE AS A MATCH-MAKER.

OF course,” said Lady Innisfail to Edmund Airey the next day. “Of
course, if Harold alone had rescued Helen from her danger last night,
all would have been well. You know as well as I do that when a man
rescues a young woman from a position of great danger, he can scarcely
do less than ask her to marry him.”

“Of course,” replied Edmund. “I really can’t see how, if he has any
dramatic appreciation whatever, he could avoid asking her to marry him.”

“It is beyond a question,” said Lady Innisfail. “So that if Harold had
been alone in the boat all would have been well. The fact of Miss Avon’s
being also in the boat must, however, be faced. It complicates matters
exceedingly.”

Edmund shook his head gravely.

“I knew that you would see the force of it,” resumed Lady Innisfail.
“And then there is his father--his father must be taken into account.”

“It might be as well, though I know that Lord Fotheringay’s views are
the same as yours.”

“I am sure that they are; but why, then, does he come here to sit by the
side of the other girl and interest her as he did last evening?”

“Lord Fotheringay can never be otherwise than interesting, even to
people who do not know how entirely devoid of scruple he is.”

“Of course I know all that; but why should he come here and sit beside
so very pretty a girl as this Miss Avon?”

“There is no accounting for tastes, Lady Innisfail.

“You are very stupid, Mr. Airey. What I mean is, why should Lord
Fotheringay behave in such a way as must force his son’s attention to be
turned in a direction that--that--in short, it should not be turned in?
Heaven knows that I want to do the best for Harold--I like him so well
that I could almost wish him to remain unmarried. But you know as well
as I do, that it is absolutely necessary for him to marry a girl with a
considerable amount of money.”

“That is as certain as anything can be. I gave him the best advice in
my power on this subject, and he announced his intention of asking Miss
Craven to marry him.”

“But instead of asking her he strolled round the coast to that wretched
cave, and there met, by accident, the other girl--oh, these other girls
are always appearing on the scene at the wrong moment.”

“The world would go on beautifully if it were not for the Other Girl.”
 said Edmund. “If you think of it, there is not an event in history that
has not turned upon the opportune or inopportune appearance of the Other
Girl. Nothing worth speaking of has taken place, unless by the agency of
the Other Girl.”

“And yet Lord Fotheringay comes here and sits by the side of this
charming girl, and his son watches him making himself interesting to her
as, alas! he can do but too easily. Mr. Airey, I should not be surprised
if Harold were to ask Miss Avon to-day to marry him--I should not,
indeed.”

“Oh, I think you take too pessimistic a view of the matter altogether,
Lady Innisfail. Anyhow, I don’t see that we can do more than we have
already done. I think I should feel greatly inclined to let Providence
and Lord Fotheringay fight out the matter between them.”

“Like the archangel and the Other over the body of Moses?”

“Well, something like that.”

“No, Mr. Airey; I don’t believe in Providence as a match-maker.”

Mr. Airey gave a laugh. He wondered if it was possible that Harold
had mentioned to her that he, Edmund, had expressed the belief that
Providence as a match-maker had much to learn.

“I don’t see how we can interfere,” said he. “I like Harold Wynne
greatly. He means to do something in the world, and I believe he will
do it. He affords a convincing example of the collapse of heredity as a
principle. I like him if only for that.”

Lady Innisfail looked at him in silence for a few moments.

“Yes,” she said, slowly. “Harold does seem to differ greatly from his
father. I wonder if it is the decree of Providence that has kept him
without money.”

“Do you suggest that the absence of money--?”

“No, no; I suggest nothing. If a man must be wicked he’ll be wicked
without money almost as readily as with it. Only I wonder, if Harold had
come in for the title and the property--such as it was--at the same age
as his father was when he inherited all, would he be so ready as you say
he is to do useful work on the side of the government of his country?”

“That is a question for the philosophers,” said Edmund.

In this unsatisfactory way the conversation between Lady Innisfail and
Mr. Airey on the morning after Lord Fotheringay’s arrival at the Castle,
came to an end. No conversation that ends in referring the question
under consideration to the philosophers, can by any possibility be
thought satisfactory. But the conversation could not well be continued
when Miss Craven, by the side of Miss Avon, was seen to be approaching.

Edmund Airey turned his eyes upon the two girls, then they rested upon
the face of Beatrice.

As she came closer his glance rested upon the eyes of Beatrice. The
result of his observation was to convince him that he had never before
seen such beautiful eyes.

They were certainly gray; and they were as full of expression as gray
eyes can be. They were large, and to look into them seemed like looking
into the transparent depths of an unfathomed sea--into the transparent
heights of an inexhaustible heaven.

A glimpse of heaven suggests the bliss of the beatified. A glimpse of
the ocean suggests shipwreck.

He knew this perfectly well as he looked at her eyes; but only for an
instant did it occur to him that they conveyed some message to him.

Before he had time to think whether the message promised the bliss of
the dwellers in the highest heaven, or the disaster of those who go down
into the depths of the deepest sea, he was inquiring from Helen Craven
if the chill of which she had complained on the previous night, had
developed into a cold.

Miss Craven assured him that, so far from experiencing any ill effects
from her adventure, she had never felt better in all her life.

“But had it not been for Miss Avon’s hearing my cries of despair,
goodness knows where I should have been in another ten minutes,” she
added, putting her arm round Miss Avon’s waist, and looking, as Edmund
had done, into the mysterious depths of Miss Avon’s gray eyes.

“Nonsense!” said Miss Avon. “To tell you the plain truth, I did not hear
your cries. It was Mr. Wynne who said he heard the White Lady wailing
for her lover.”

“How could he translate the cry so accurately?” said Edmund. “Do you
suppose that he had heard the Banshee’s cry at the same place?”

He kept his eyes upon Miss Avon’s face, and he saw in a moment that she
was wondering how much he knew of the movements of Harold Wynne during
the previous two nights.

Helen Craven looked at him also pretty narrowly. She was wondering if he
had told anyone that he had suggested to her the possibility of Harold’s
being in the neighbourhood of the Banshee’s Cave during the previous
evening.

Both girls laughed in another moment, and then Edmund Airey laughed
also--in a sort of way. Lady Innisfail was the last to join in the
laugh. But what she laughed at was the way in which Edmund had laughed.

And while this group of four were upon the northern terrace, Harold was
seated the side of his father on one of the chairs that faced the south.
Lord Fotheringay was partial to a southern aspect. His life might be
said to be a life of southern aspects. He meant that it should never be
out of the sun, not because some of the incidents that seemed to him to
make life worth preserving were such as could best stand the searching
light of the sun, but simply because his was the nature of the
butterfly. He was a butterfly of fifty-seven--a butterfly that found it
necessary to touch up with artificial powders the ravages of years upon
the delicate, downy bloom of youth--a butterfly whose wings had now and
again been singed by contact with a harmful flame--whose still shapely
body was now and again bent with rheumatism. Surely the rheumatic
butterfly is the most wretched of insects!

He had fluttered away from a fresh singeing, he was assuring his son.
Yes, he had scarcely strength left in his wings to carry him out of the
sphere of influence of the flame. He had, he said in a mournful tone,
been very badly treated. She had treated him very badly. The Italian
nature was essentially false--he might have known it--and when an
Italian nature is developed with a high soprano, very shrill in its
upper register, the result was--well, the result was that the flame had
singed the wings of the elderly insect who was Harold’s father.

“Talk of money!” he cried, with so sudden an expression of emotion that
a few caked scraps of sickly, roseate powder fluttered from the
crinkled lines of his forehead--Talk of money! It was not a matter of
hundreds--he was quite prepared for that--but when the bill ran up to
thousands--thousands--thousands--oh, the whole affair was sickening.
(Harold cordially agreed with him, though he did not express himself to
this effect). Was it not enough to shake one’s confidence in woman--in
human nature--in human art (operatic)--in the world?

Yes, it was the Husband.

The Husband, Lord Fotheringay was disposed to regard in pretty much
the same light as Mr. Airey regarded the Other Girl. The Husband was not
exactly the obstacle, but the inconvenience. He had a habit of turning
up, and it appeared that in the latest of Lord Fotheringay’s experiences
his turning up had been more than usually inopportune.

“That is why I followed so close upon the heels of my letter to you,”
 said the father. “The crash came in a moment--it was literally a
crash too, now that I think upon it, for that hot-blooded ruffian, her
husband, caught one corner of the table cloth--we were at supper--and
swept everything that was on the table into a corner of the room. Yes,
the bill is in my portmanteau. And she took his part. Heavens above!
She actually took his part. I was the scoundrel--_briccone!_--the coarse
Italian is still ringing in my ears. It was anything but a charming
duetto. He sang a basso--her upper register was terribly shrill--I had
never heard it more so. Artistically the scene was a failure; but I had
to run for all that. Humiliating, is it not, to be overcome by something
that would, if subjected to the recognized canons of criticism, be
pronounced a failure? And he swore that he would follow me and have my
life. Enough. You got my letter. Fortune is on your side, my boy. You
saved her life last night.”

“Whose life did I save?” asked the son. “Whose life? Heavens above! Have
you been saving more than one life?”

“Not more than one--a good deal less than one. Don’t let us get into
a sentimental strain, pater. You are the chartered--ah, the chartered
sentimentalist of the family. Don’t try and drag me into your strain.
I’m not old enough. A man cannot pose as a sentimentalist nowadays until
he is approaching sixty.”

“Really? Then I shall have to pause for a year or two still. Let us put
that question aside for a moment. Should I be exceeding my privileges
if I were to tell you that I am ruined?--Financially ruined, I mean,
of course; thank heaven, I am physically as strong as I was--ah, three
years ago.”

“You said something about my allowance, I think.”

“If I did not I failed in my duty as a father, and I don’t often do
that, my boy--thank God, I don’t often do that.”

“No,” said Harold. “If the whole duty of a father is comprised in
acquainting his son with the various reductions that he says he finds
it necessary to make in his allowance, you are the most exemplary of
fathers, pater.”

“There is a suspicion of sarcasm--or what is worse, epigram in that
phrase,” said the father. “Never mind, you cannot epigram away the stern
fact that I have now barely a sufficient income to keep body and soul
together. I wish you could.”

“So do I,” said Harold. “But yours is a _ménage à trois_. It is not
merely body and soul with your but body, soul, and sentiment--it is the
third element that is the expensive one.”

“I dare say you are right. Anyhow, I grieve for your position, my boy.
If it had pleased Heaven to make me a rich man, I would see that your
allowance was a handsome one.”

“But since it has pleased the other Power to make you a poor one--”

“You must marry Miss Craven--that’s the end of the whole matter, and an
end that most people would be disposed to regard as a very happy one,
too. She is a virtuous young woman, and what is better, she dresses
extremely well. What is best of all, she has several thousands a year.”

There was a suggestion of the eighteenth century phraseology in Lord
Fotheringay’s speech, that made him seem at least a hundred years old.
Surely people did not turn up their eyes and talk of virtue since the
eighteenth century, Harold thought. The word had gone out. There was
no more need for it. The quality is taken for granted in the nineteenth
century.

“You are a trifle over-vehement,” said he.

“Have I ever refused to ask Miss Craven to marry me?”

“Have you ever asked her--that’s the matter before us?”

“Never. But what does that mean? Why, simply that I have before me
instead of behind me a most interesting quarter of an hour--I suppose
a penniless man can ask a wealthy woman inside a quarter of an hour, to
marry him. The proposition doesn’t take longer in such a case than an
honourable one would.”

“You are speaking in a way that is not becoming in a son addressing his
father,” said Lord Fotheringay. “You almost make me ashamed of you.”

“You have had no reason to be ashamed of me yet,” said Harold. “So long
as I refrain from doing what you command me to do, I give you no cause
to be ashamed of me.”

“That is a pretty thing for a son to say,” cried the father,
indignantly.

“For heaven’s sake don’t let us begin a family broil under the windows
of a house where we are guests,” said the son, rising quickly from the
chair. “We are on the border of a genuine family bickering. For God’s
sake let us stop in time.”

“I did not come here to bicker,” said the father. “Heavens above! Am
I not entitled to some show of gratitude at least for having come more
than a thousand miles--a hundred of them in an Irish train and ten of
them on an Irish jolting car--simply to see that you are comfortably
settled for life?”

“Yes,” said the son, “I suppose I should feel grateful to you for coming
so far to tell me that you are ruined and that I am a partner in your
ruin.” He had not seated himself, and now he turned his back upon his
father and walked round to the west side of the Castle where some of
the girls were strolling. They were waiting to see how the day would
develop--if they should put on oilskins and sou’westers or gauzes
and gossamer--the weather on the confines of the ocean knows only the
extremes of winter or summer.

The furthest of the watchers were, he perceived, Edmund Airey and Miss
Avon. He walked toward them, and pronounced in a somewhat irresponsible
way an opinion upon the weather.

Before the topic had been adequately discussed, Mr. Durdan and another
man came up to remind Mr. Airey that he had given them his word to be of
their party in the fishing boat, where they were accustomed to study the
Irish question for some hours daily.

Mr. Airey protested that his promise had been wholly a conditional one.
It had not been made on the assumption that the lough should be moaning
like a Wagnerian trombone, and it could not be denied that such notes
were being produced by the great rollers beneath the influence of a
westerly wind.

Harold gave a little shrug to suggest to Beatrice that the matter was
not one that concerned her or himself in the least, and that it might
be as well if Mr. Airey and his friends were left to discuss it by
themselves.

The shrug scarcely suggested all that he meant it to suggest, but in
the course of a minute he was by the side of the girl a dozen yards away
from the three men.

“I wonder if you chanced to tell Mr. Airey of the queer way you and I
met,” she said in a moment.

“How could I have told any human being of that incident?” he cried. “Why
do you ask me such a question?”

“He knows all about it--so much is certain,” said she. “Oh, yes, he gave
me to understand so much--not with brutal directness, of course.”

“No, I should say not--brutal directness is not in his line,” said
Harold.

“But the result is just the same as if he had been as direct as--as a
girl.”

“As a girl?”

“Yes. He said something about Miss Craven’s voice having suggested
something supernatural to Brian, and then he asked me all at once if
there had been any mist on the previous evening when I had rowed across
the lough. Now I should like to know how he guessed that I had crossed
the lough on the previous night.”

“He is clever--diabolically clever,” said Harold after a pause. “He was
with Miss Craven in the hall--they had been dancing--when I returned--I
noticed the way he looked at me. Was there anything in my face to tell
him that--that I had met you?”

She looked at his face and laughed.

“Your face,” she said. “Your face--what could there have been apparent
on your face for Mr. Airey to read?”

“What--what?” his voice was low. He was now looking into her gray eyes.
“What was there upon my face? I cannot tell. Was it a sense of doom? God
knows. Now that I look upon your face--even now I cannot tell whether I
feel the peace of God which passes understanding, or the doom of those
who go down to the sea and are lost.”

“I do not like to hear you speak in that way,” said she. “It would be
better for me to die than to mean anything except what is peaceful and
comforting to all of God’s creatures.”

“It would be better for you to die,” said he. He took his eyes away from
hers. They stood side by side in silence for some moments, before he
turned suddenly to her and said in quite a different strain. “I shall
row you across the lough when you are ready. Will you go after lunch?”

“I don’t think that I shall be going quite so soon,” said she. “The fact
is that Lady Innisfail was good enough to send Brian with another letter
to my father--a letter from herself, asking my father to come to the
Castle for a day or two, but, whether he comes or not, to allow me to
remain for some days.”

Again some moments passed before Harold spoke.

“I want you to promise to let me know where you go when you leave
Ireland,” said he. “I don’t want to lose sight of you. The world is
large. I wandered about in it for nearly thirty years before meeting
you.”

She was silent. It seemed as if she was considering whether or not his
last sentence should be regarded as a positive proof of the magnitude of
the world.

She appeared to come to the conclusion that it would be unwise to
discuss the question--after all, it was only a question of statistics.

“If you wish it,” said she, “I shall let you know our next
halting-place. I fancy that my poor father is less enthusiastic than he
was some years ago on the subject of Irish patriotism. At any rate, I
think that he has worked out all the battles fought in this region.”

“Only let me know where you go,” said he. “I do not want to lose sight
of you. What did you say just now--peace and comfort to God’s creatures?
No, I do not want to lose sight of you.”



CHAPTER XVIII.--ON THE PROFESSIONAL MORALIST.

THE people--Edmund Airey was one of them--who were accustomed to point
to Harold Wynne as an example of the insecurity of formulating any
definite theory of heredity, had no chance of being made aware of the
nature of the conversations in which he had taken part, or they might
not have been quite so ready to question the truth of that theory.

His father had made it plain to him, both by letter and word of mouth,
that the proper course for him to pursue was one that involved asking
Helen Craven to marry him--the adoption of any other course, even a
prosaic one, would practically mean ruin to him; and yet he had gone
straight from the side of his father, not to the side of Miss Craven,
but to the side of Miss Avon. And not only had he done this, but he had
looked into the gray eyes of Beatrice when he should have been gazing
with ardour--or simulated ardour--into the rather lustreless orbs of
Helen.

To do precisely the thing which he ought not to have done was certainly
a trait which he had inherited from his father.

But he had not merely looked into the eyes of the one girl when he
should have been looking into those of the other girl, he had spoken
into her ears such words as would, if spoken into the ears of the other
girl, have made her happy. The chances were that the words which he
had spoken would lead to unhappiness. To speak such words had been
his father’s weakness all his life, so that it seemed that Harold had
inherited this weakness also.

Perhaps for a moment or two, after Edmund Airey had sauntered up, having
got the better of the argument with Mr. Durdan--he flattered
himself that he had invariably got the better of him in the House of
Commons--Harold felt that he was as rebellious against the excellent
counsels of his father as his father had ever been against the excellent
precepts which society has laid down for its own protection. He knew
that the circumstance of his father’s having never accepted the good
advice which had been offered to him as freely as advice, good and bad,
is usually offered to people who are almost certain not to follow it,
did not diminish from the wisdom of the course which his father had
urged upon him to pursue. He had acknowledged to Edmund Airey some days
before, that the substance of the advice was good, and had expressed his
intention of following it--nay, he felt even when he had walked straight
from his father’s side to indulge in that earnest look into the eyes of
Beatrice, that it was almost inevitable that he should take the advice
of his father; for however distasteful it may be, the advice of a father
is sometimes acted on by a son. But still the act of rebellion had been
pleasant to him--as pleasant to him as his father’s acts of the same
character had been to his father.

And all this time Helen Craven was making her usual elaborate
preparations for finishing her sketch of some local scene, and everyone
knew that she could not seek that scene unless accompanied by someone to
carry her umbrella and stool.

Lord Fotheringay perceived this in a moment from his seat facing
the south. He saw that Providence was on the side of art, so to
speak--assuming that a water-colour sketch of a natural landscape by an
amateur is art, and assuming that Providence meant simply an opportunity
for his son to ask Miss Craven to marry him.

Lord Fotheringay saw how Miss Craven lingered with her colour-box in one
hand and her stool in the other. What was she waiting for? He did not
venture to think that she was waiting for Harold to saunter up and take
possession of her apparatus, but he felt certain that if Harold were to
saunter up, Miss Craven’s eyes would brighten--so far as such eyes as
hers could brighten. His teeth met with a snap that threatened the gold
springs when he saw some other man stroll up and express the hope that
Miss Craven would permit him to carry her stool and umbrella, for her
sketching umbrella was brought from the hall by a servant.

Lord Fotheringay’s indignation against his son was great afterwards. He
made an excellent attempt to express to Edmund Airey what he felt on
the subject of Harold’s conduct, and Edmund shook his head most
sympathetically.

What was to be done, Lord Fotheringay inquired. What was to be done in
order to make Harold act in accordance with the dictates not merely of
prudence but of necessity as well?

Mr. Airey could not see that any positive action could be taken in order
to compel Harold to adopt the course which every sensible person would
admit was the right course--in fact the only course open to him under
the circumstances. He added that only two days ago Harold had admitted
that he meant to ask Miss Craven to marry him.

“Heavens above!” cried Lord Fotheringay. “He never admitted so much to
me. Then what has occurred to change him within a few days?”

“In such a case as this it is as well not to ask _what_ but _who_,”
 remarked Edmund.

Lord Fotheringay looked at him eagerly. “Who--who--you don’t mean
another girl?”

“Why should I not mean another girl?” said Edmund. “You may have some
elementary acquaintance with woman, Lord Fotheringay.”

“I have--yes, elementary,” admitted Lord Fotheringay.

“Then surely you must have perceived that a man’s attention is turned
away from one woman only by the appearance of another woman,” said
Edmund.

“You mean that--by heavens, that notion occurred to me the moment that I
saw her. She is a lovely creature, Airey.”

“‘A gray eye or so!’ said Airey.”

“A gray eye or so!” cried Lord Fotheringay, who had not given sufficient
attention to the works of Shakespeare to recognize a quotation. “A
gray--Oh, you were always a cold-blooded fellow. Such eyes, Airey, are
so uncommon as--ah, the eyes are not to the point. They only lend colour
to your belief that she is the other girl. Yes, that notion occurred to
me the moment she entered the hall.”

“I believe that but for her inopportune appearance Harold would now be
engaged to Miss Craven,” said Edmund.

“There’s not the shadow of a doubt about the matter,” cried Lord
Fotheringay--both men seemed to regard Miss Craven’s acquiescence in
the scheme which they had in their minds, as outside the discussion
altogether. “Now what on earth did Lady Innisfail mean by asking a
girl with such eyes to stay here? A girl with such eyes has no business
appearing among people like us who have to settle our mundane affairs to
the best advantage. Those eyes are a disturbing influence, Airey. They
should never be seen while matters are in an unsettled condition. And
Lady Innisfail professes to be Harold’s friend.”

“And so she is,” said Edmund. “But the delight that Lady Innisfail
finds in capturing a strange face--especially when that face is
beautiful--overcomes all other considerations with her. That is why,
although anxious--she was anxious yesterday, though that is not saying
she is anxious today--to hear of Harold’s proposing to Miss Craven, yet
she is much more anxious to see the effect produced by the appearance of
Miss Avon among her guests.”

“And this is a Christian country!” said Lord Fotheringay solemnly, after
a pause of considerable duration.

“Nominally,” said Mr. Airey,

“What is society coming to, Airey, when a woman occupying the position
of Lady Innisfail, does not hesitate to throw all considerations of
friendship to the winds solely for the sake of a momentary sensation?”

Lord Fotheringay was now so solemn that his words and his method of
delivering them suggested the earnestness of an evangelist--zeal is
always expected from an evangelist, though unbecoming in an ordained
clergyman. He held one finger out and raised it and lowered it with the
inflections of his voice with the skill of a professional moralist.

He had scarcely spoken before Miss Avon, by the side of the judge and
Miss Innisfail, appeared on the terrace.

The judge--he said he had known her father--was beaming on her.
Professing to know her father he probably considered sufficient
justification for beaming on her.

Lord Fotheringay and his companion watched the girl in silence until she
and her companions had descended to the path leading to the cliffs.

“Airey,” said Lord Fotheringay at length. “Airey, that boy of mine must
be prevented from making a fool of himself--he must be prevented from
making a fool of that girl. I would not like to see such a girl as
that--I think you said you noticed her eyes--made a fool of.”

“It would be very sad,” said Edmund. “But what means do you propose to
adopt to prevent the increase by two of the many fools already in the
world?”

“I mean to marry the girl myself,” cried Lord Fotheringay, rising to his
feet--not without some little difficulty, for rheumatism had for years
been his greatest enemy.



CHAPTER XIX.--ON MODERN SOCIETY.

EDMUND AIREY had the most perfect command of his features under all
circumstances. While the members of the Front Opposition Benches were
endeavouring to sneer him into their lobby, upon the occasion of a
division on some question on which it was rumoured he differed from
the Government, he never moved a muscle. The flaunts and gibes may
have stung him, but he had never yet given an indication of feeling
the sting; so that if Lord Fotheringay looked for any of those twitches
about the corners of Mr. Airey’s mouth, which the sudden announcement
of his determination would possibly have brought around the mouth of
an ordinary man, he must have had little experience of his companion’s
powers.

But that Lord Fotheringay felt on the whole greatly flattered by the
impassiveness of Edmund Airey’s face after his announcement, Edmund
Airey did not for a moment doubt. When a man of fifty-seven gravely
announces his intention to another man of marrying a girl of, perhaps,
twenty, and with eyes of remarkable lustre, and when the man takes such
an announcement as the merest matter of course, the man who makes it has
some reason for feeling flattered.

The chances are, however, that he succeeds in proving to his own
satisfaction that he has no reason for feeling flattered; for the man
of fifty-seven who is fool enough to entertain the notion of marrying a
girl of twenty with lustrous eyes, is certainly fool enough to believe
that the announcement of his intention in this respect is in no way out
of the common.

Thus, when, after a glance concentrated upon the corners of Edmund
Airey’s mouth, Lord Fotheringay resumed his seat and began to give
serious reasons for taking the step that he had declared himself ready
to take--reasons beyond the mere natural desire to prevent Miss Avon
from being made a fool of--he gave no indication of feeling in the least
flattered by the impassiveness of the face of his companion.

Yes, he explained to Mr. Airey, he had been so badly treated by the
world that he had almost made up his mind to retire from the world--the
exact words in which he expressed that resolution were “to let the world
go to the devil in its own way.”

Now, as the belief was general that Lord Fotheringay’s presence in the
world had materially accelerated its speed in the direction which he
had indicated, the announcement of his intention to allow it to proceed
without his assistance was not absurd.

Yes, he had been badly treated by the world, he said. The world was very
wicked. He felt sad when he thought of the vast amount of wickedness
there was in the world, and the small amount of it that he had already
enjoyed. To be sure, it could not be said that he had quite lived the
life of the ideal anchorite: he admitted--and smacked his lips as he did
so--that he had now and again had a good time (Mr. Airey did not assume
that the word “good” was to be accepted in its Sunday-school sense)
but on the whole the result was disappointing.

“As saith the Preacher,” remarked Mr. Airey, when Lord Fotheringay
paused and shook his head so that another little scrap of caked powder
escaped from the depths of one of the wrinkles of his forehead.

“The Preacher--what Preacher?” he asked.

“The Preacher who cried _Vanitas Vanitatum_,” said Edmund.

“He had gone on a tour with an Italian opera company,” said Lord
Fotheringay, “and he had fallen foul of the basso. Airey, my boy,
whatever you do, steer clear of a prima donna with a high soprano. It
means thousands--thousands, and a precipitate flight at the last. You
needn’t try a gift of paste--the finest productions of the Ormuz
Gem Company--‘a Tiara for Thirty Shillings’--you know their
advertisement--no, I’ve tried that. It was no use. The real thing
she would have--Heavens above! Two thousand pounds for a trinket, and
nothing to show for it, but a smashing of supper plates and a hurried
flight. Ah, Airey, is it any wonder that I should make up my mind
to live a quiet life with--I quite forget who was in my mind when I
commenced this interesting conversation?”

“It makes no difference,” said Mr. Airey. “The principle is precisely
the same. There is Miss Innisfail looking for someone, I must go to
her.”

“A desperately proper girl,” said Lord Fotheringay. “As desperately
proper as if she had once been desperately naughty. These proper girls
know a vast deal. She scarcely speaks to me. Yes, she must know a lot.”

His remarks were lost upon Mr. Airey, for he had politely hurried to
Miss Innisfail and was asking her if he could be of any assistance to
her. But when Miss Innisfail replied that she was merely waiting for
Brian, the boatman, who should have returned long ago from the other
side of the lough, Mr. Airey did not return to Lord Fotheringay.

He had had enough of Lord Fotheringay for one afternoon, and he hoped
that Lord Fotheringay would understand so much. He had long ago ceased
to be amusing. As an addition to the house-party at the Castle he was
unprofitable. He knew that Lady Innisfail was of this opinion, and he
was well aware also that Lady Innisfail had not given him more than a
general and very vague invitation to the Castle. He had simply come to
the Castle in order to avoid the possibly disagreeable consequences of
buying some thousands of pounds’ worth of diamonds--perhaps it would be
more correct to say, diamonds costing some thousands of pounds, leaving
worth out of the question--for a woman with a husband.

Airey knew that the philosophy of Lord Fotheringay was the philosophy of
the maker of omelettes. No one has yet solved the problem of how to make
omelettes without breaking eggs. Lord Fotheringay had broken a good many
eggs in his day, and occasionally the result was that his share of the
transaction was not the omelette but the broken shells. Occasionally,
too, Edmund Airey was well aware, Lord Fotheringay had suffered more
inconvenience than was involved in the mere fact of his being deprived
of the comestible. His latest adventure. Airey thought, might be
included among such experiences. He had fled to the brink of the ocean
in order to avoid the vengeance of the Husband. “Here the pursuer can
pursue no more,” was the line that was in Edmund Airey’s mind as he
listened to the fragmentary account of the latest _contretemps_ of the
rheumatic butterfly.

Yes, he had had quite enough of Lord Fotheringay’s company. The
announcement of his intention to marry Miss Avon had not made him more
interesting in the eyes of Edmund Airey, though it might have done so
in other people’s eyes--for a man who makes himself supremely ridiculous
makes himself supremely interesting as well, in certain circles.

The announcement made by Lord Fotheringay had caused him to seem
ridiculous, though of course Edmund had made no sign to this effect:
had he made any sign he would not have heard the particulars of Lord
Fotheringay’s latest fiasco, and he was desirous of learning those
particulars. Having become acquainted with them, however, he found that
he had had quite enough of his company.

But in the course of the afternoon Mr. Airey perceived that, though
in his eyes there was something ridiculous in the notion of Lord
Fotheringay’s expression of a determination to marry Beatrice Avon, the
idea might not seem quite so ridiculous to other people--Miss Avon’s
father, for instance.

In another moment he had come to the conclusion that the idea might not
seem altogether absurd to Miss Avon herself.

Young women of twenty--even when they have been endowed by heaven with
lustrous eyes (assuming that the lustre of a young woman’s eyes is
a gift from heaven, and not acquired to work the purposes of a very
different power)--have been known to entertain without repugnance
the idea of marrying impecunious peers of fifty-seven; and upon this
circumstance Edmund pondered.

Standing on the brink of a cliff at the base of which the great rollers
were crouching like huge white-maned lions, Mr. Airey reflected as he
had never previously done, upon the debased condition of modern society,
in which such incidents are of constant occurrence. But, however
deplorable such incidents are, he knew perfectly well that there never
had existed a society in the world where they had not been quite as
frequent as they are in modern society in England.

Yes, it was quite as likely as not that Lord Fotheringay would be able
to carry out the intention which he had announced to his confidant of
the moment.

But when Mr. Airey thought of the lustrous eyes of Beatrice Avon,
recalling the next moment the rheumatic movements of Lord Fotheringay
and the falling of the scrap of caked powder from his forehead, he felt
quixotic enough to be equal to the attempt to prevent the realization of
Lord Fotheringay’s intention.

It was then that the thought occurred to him--Why should not Harold, who
was clearly ready to fall in love with the liquid eyes of Beatrice Avon,
ask her to marry him instead of his father?

The result of his consideration of this question was to convince
him that such an occurrence as it suggested should be averted at all
hazards.

Only the worst enemy that Harold Wynne could have--the worst enemy that
the girl could have--would like to see them married.

It would be different if the hot-blooded Italian husband were to pursue
the enemy of his household to the brink of the Atlantic cliffs and then
push him over the cliffs into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. But the
hot-blooded Italian was not yet in sight, and Edmund knew very well that
so long as Lord Fotheringay lived, Harold was dependent on him for his
daily bread.

If Harold were to marry Miss Avon, it would lie in his father’s power
to make him a pauper, or, worse, the professional director with the
honorary prefix of “Honourable” to his name, dear to the company
promoter.

On the death of Lord Fotheringay Harold would inherit whatever property
still remained out of the hands of the mortgagees; but Edmund was well
aware of the longevity of that species of butterfly which is susceptible
of rheumatic attacks; so that for, perhaps, fifteen years Harold might
remain dependent upon the good-will of his father for his daily bread.

It thus appeared to Mr. Airey that the problem of how to frustrate the
intentions of Lord Fotheringay, was not an easy one to solve.

He knew the world too well to entertain for a moment the possibility of
defeating Lord Fotheringay’s avowed purpose by informing either the girl
or her father of the evil reputation of Lord Fotheringay. The evil deeds
of a duke have occasionally permitted his wife to obtain a divorce; but
they have never prevented him from obtaining another wife.

All this Mr. Edmund Airey knew, having lived in the world and observed
the ways of its inhabitants for several years.


END OF VOLUME I.





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