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Title: Lady Kilpatrick
Author: Buchanan, Robert Williams
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Lady Kilpatrick" ***

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LADY KILPATRICK

By Robert Buchanan

A New Edition

London

Chatto & Windus

1898

[Illustration: 0001]

[Illustration: 0009]



LADY KILPATRICK



CHAPTER I.--INTRODUCES DESMOND AND DULCIE.

On a summer evening, twenty years ago, a girl and a youth were
strolling slowly along the strip of yellow sands which leads from the
verge of the Atlantic to the steep line of rock dominated by Kilpatrick
Castle.

The girl, who was not more than seventeen years of age, carried her
hat and parasol in her hand: the first a serviceable article, little
superior in form and material to that generally worn by the superior
peasants of the district; the other a dainty trifle in pale blue silk,
better in keeping with the tailor-made dress and dainty French shoes
in which its owner was dressed. She had a delightfully fair and fresh
complexion, a little freckled by a too free exposure to the sun, and her
dark blue eyes shone from under the rather disorderly waves of her light
golden hair with an expression of harmless audacity and frank gaiety
eloquent of youth and health and innocence.

Her companion, who might have been three or four years her senior, was
a long-limbed, supple youngster of the finest Western Irish type. His
hair, long, black and curly, escaped in natural ripples from under a
battered soft felt hat, and framed an olive-hued face of great strength
and delicacy, lit by a pair of black eyes sparkling with honest, boyish
impudence. The merest shade of callow down darkened his upper lip. He
was clad in rough and rather ill-cut tweeds, stained in brown patches
with salt water, and the collar of a flannel shirt, innocent of stud or
necktie, left to view a sun-tanned, muscular throat. His long legs kept
swinging pace with the tripping lightness of the girl’s walk, and
he looked down at her from his superior height with a mingling of
admiration and protection very pretty to witness, and of which she was
perhaps a shade too obviously unconscious.

‘We shall be late for dinner,’ said the girl, breaking the first silence
which had fallen upon them since the beginning of a long day’s ramble.
‘Uncle will be angry.’

‘Sorra a bit,’ replied the boy. ‘The old gentleman’s temper’s queer at
times, but it has to be mighty bad before he’s angry with _you_. And
as to being angry with _me_, sure I’m used to it. It’s not often he’s
anything else.’

‘My uncle is very fond of you,’ said the girl, ‘and very kind to
you--kinder than you deserve, most people think.’

‘Your uncle!’ repeated the boy. ‘Which of ’em?’

‘Lord Kilpatrick, of course!’

‘Indeed he is, then! He’s been as good as a father to me nearly all my
life. I owe to him all I have and all I am.’

‘Tell me, Desmond,’ said the girl, after another short interval of
silence, ‘why does Lord Kilpatrick take so great an interest in you, and
yet let you run about like--like a young colt? Isn’t it time that you
began to take life seriously, and to think of doing something?’

‘Faith, I suppose it is,’ said Desmond. ‘I’ve been trying for the last
six months to find what kind o’ life I’m fit for. I’ll take to something
by-and-by. As to why Lord Kilpatrick’s so good to me, you know just as
much as I know myself, Lady Dulcie; Mr. Peebles, that knows more of his
ways than anybody else, says ’tis to aise his conscience.’

‘To ease his conscience?’ the girl repeated.

‘Just that,’ said Desmond. ‘An old debt he owed and never paid till
my parents were dead. ’Twas my mother asked him to pay it by looking
after me. He promised, and he’s kept his word--more power to him.’

‘Do you remember your parents?’

‘No. Both died before I could run about. They were gentlefolk,
I suppose, or I’d not be called the Squireen, and I’ve the true
gentlemanly knack o’ getting into scrapes. But let’s talk of something
else, Lady Dulcie; ’tis a subject that always makes me sad.’

‘Why?’ asked Dulcie.

‘Why,’ said Desmond, ‘there’s times when I feel like a boat on the sea,
all alone. I’ve neither kith nor kin, only friends. You’ll laugh at me,
I know, but there’s times, when I’m by myself, I feel the mist rising to
my eyes and the lump in my throat, thinking I’ve never known a father’s
care nor a mother’s love.’

The bright face had lost its merry impudence for the moment, and the
quick, swinging step slackened.

‘Laugh at you!’ repeated Dulcie. ‘I’ll never laugh at you for that. And
_I_ care for you, Desmond.’

‘And that might come to be the bitterest of all,’ said Desmond. ‘You’re
like a star in the sky above me, Lady Dulcie. You’re a rich young lady,
and I’m only a poor boy dependent on strangers. But come, now,’ he
continued after a short pause, ‘I’ve answered your question, will you
answer mine? Is it true what I hear all about the place, that you’re to
marry Richard Conseltine?’

‘Nonsense!’ said Dulcie, flushing redly. ‘I’m not going to marry
anybody!’

‘Ah!’ said Desmond dryly, ‘that’s what all the girls say, but they never
mean it.’

‘I mean it. I think marriage is absurd. Don’t you?’

‘Sure I do,’ responded Desmond. ‘But the priest says it’s convenient,
if the world is to continue. Tell me, now, what d’ye think of Master
Richard?’

‘Think of him?’ said Dulcie slowly. ‘Oh, I think--I think he’s my
cousin, and as stupid as girls’ cousins always are.’

‘That’s mighty hard on boys in general,’ said Desmond laughingly, ‘for
they’re mostly some girl’s cousin. I may be myself, for all I know. But
Richard’s as fond of you as a fox of a goose--a duck, I mean. And that’s
why he hates _me_.’

‘For shame, Desmond! How has he ever shown that he hates you?’

‘Shown it? Faith, he doesn’t need to show it. It just comes out of him
like steam from boiling water. Much I care for the hate or the love of
the likes o’ him! I can run him out of breath, fight him out of time,
gallop him out of hearing, swim him out of seeing, chaff him out of
temper--and as for loving, sure if he loves you, I’ll just adore you,
and so beat him at that as well!’

The girl smiled, with her face concealed by the brim of her sun-bonnet,
and turned a little away from this brisk wooer, whose bursts of
affectionate impudence were generally followed by long intervals of
silence.

‘You adore too many, Desmond,’

‘Sorra one but yourself.’

‘Nonsense!’ cried Dulcie. ‘What were you doing with Rosie this morning
in the stable-yard?’

‘I mistook her for her mistress,’ said Desmond. ‘No, sure,’ he added, as
the girl flushed a little angrily, ‘I don’t mane that.’

‘I should think you didn’t “mane that!”’ said the young lady. ‘I should
like to catch you kissing me.’

‘I’m agreeable to be caught,’ returned the unabashable.

‘Oh, you Irish boys!’ cried Dulcie, with a transparent simulation of
contempt. ‘You kiss anybody, so it’s no compliment.’

‘That depends,’ said Desmond. ‘There’s kissing for duty, and kissing
for interest, and kissing for love. There’s a mighty difference between
kissing a rose and kissing a thorn. But, after all, what’s a kiss but a
salutation?’

‘You’re a great deal too forward,’ said Dulcie, with an almost matronly
air of reproof.

‘Then get behind me,’ responded Desmond, ‘and I’ll go backward.’

The battle of wit was interrupted at this point by the sudden appearance
of a man at the end of the ascent leading to the Castle. As he
approached, the young couple fell apart a little, and advanced to meet
him with a proper and respectful distance between them.

‘It’s Blake of Blake’s Hall,’ said Desmond, as he neared them.

‘In his usual condition of an afternoon,’ said Dulcie.

The man, tall and strongly built, with a mane of black hair and whiskers
streaked heavily with gray, and a flushed face, was reeling and tacking
along the narrow path. His hat reposed at a dangerous angle at the back
of his head, and his waistcoat was open to catch the cooling breeze.
There was an air of jolly ferocity about him; but in spite of that
and of the disorder of his dress and the other signs of dissipation he
carried about with him, the least observant person in the world would
hardly have taken him for anything but a gentleman. As he came level
with the young people he stopped in his walk and in the scrap of
Irish song he was chanting, and saluted the young lady with a wide and
unsteady sweep of the hat.

‘Good morning, Lady Dulcie.’ The voice, though husky, and at that moment
a little thick with liquor, was sound and full and sweet, and the brogue
simply defied phonetics to render it. ‘Ye’re a cure for sore eyes.
Desmond, ye divil, give us your fin.’

‘You have been dining with my uncle, Mr. Blake?’ asked Lady Dulcie.

‘Faith, I have, then,’ returned Mr. Blake; ‘and if the company had only
been as good as the dinner and the wine--and the whisky--’tis not yet
I’d been after leaving it.’

‘And what was the matter with the company?’ asked Desmond.

‘It appears to me, Mr. Desmond Macartney,’ said Blake, with portentous,
drunken dignity--‘it appears to me, sor, that a gentleman of the long
descent and the high breedin’ of Lord Kilpatrick might have thought
twice before inviting a man o’ my blood to sit at the same table with a
low, dirty, six-an-eight-scrapin’ thief of an attorney. The back o’ my
hand and the sole of my foot to ’m! the filthy reptile! I’ve left my
mark on ’m, an’ I’ve spoke my mind of him, and ’twill be a long day
ere he forgets Patrick Blake, of Blake’s Hall.’

‘My uncle?’ cried Lady Dulcie in a tone of half amaze, half question.

‘Your uncle, Lady Dulcie!’ answered Blake. ‘’Tis not in that fashion
that a gentleman of my figure behaves to a gentleman of his. ’Tis not
at the head of a nobleman that I throw bottles, nor, sor,’ he continued
to Desmond, as if the interruption had come from him, ‘’tis not him
I’d call a dirty thief nor a filthy reptile, and that I’d have ye to
know, sor.’

‘You’ve been quarrelling with somebody at his lordship’s table?’ said
Desmond.

‘I have, then! And if Dick Conseltine and that white-livered boy of
his, and old Peebles--may the devil fly away with the whole boodle of
’m--if they hadn’t interfered and spoilt the sport, I’d have had the
ruffian’s blood. By the lud, I’d have smashed him like an egg!’ He
drove one powerful fist into the palm of the other with such force as
to overbalance himself, and was only prevented by Desmond’s restraining
hand from coming to the ground. ‘’Tis an insult before Heaven; ’tis
an insult to ask a gentleman to put his legs under the mahogany with
such a snake as that!’

‘You had your legs under the mahogany a pretty long time before you
found ’twas an insult, from the looks of you,’ said Desmond dryly.
‘Now, look here, Mr. Blake, ’tis not for a boy of my years to be after
offering lessons in politeness to a gentleman of yours, but I’ll just
ask you to remember that the host whose hospitality you’re insulting is
this lady’s uncle.’

Blake’s ferocity vanished with ludicrous suddenness. He began to stammer
apologies to Lady Dulcie.

‘And then, too, Mr. Blake,’ continued Desmond, ‘you’d claim the right
to choose the guests at your own table--if you had one,’ he interpolated
_sotto voce_; ‘and Lord Kilpatrick, or any gentleman, has the same
right.’

‘And that’s true, if the devil spoke it,’ cried Blake. ‘Desmond
Macartney, ye’re a gentleman. Ye can carry a gentleman’s apology to
a gentleman without demeaning yourself. Present my apologies to his
lordship, and tell him that I’ll honour myself by presenting them
personally when I hear that he’s got rid of his present company.’

‘’Tis Mr. Feagus, of Ballymote, that you’ve had the row with?’

‘Faith then, it is, and ye can tell him that if he has the spunk to
stand up at twenty paces I’ll do sufficient violence to my feelings as a
gentleman to honour him by lettin’ daylight into him.’

‘Nonsense, Mr. Blake,’ said Desmond. ‘Men don’t fight duels nowadays.’

‘No, by the saints!’ cried Blake; ‘they stab each other with inky
pens, and suck each other dry with lawsuits, by the help of such
parchmint-scrapin’ vermin as Jack Feagus. ’Tis a dirty world we live
in, Desmond, my boy, but sure that’s all the more reason that the few
decent men should stick together. I’m goin’ on to Widdy Daly’s shebeen,
and if ye’re inclined for a drink at the stone cow, I’ll be proud of
your company.’

‘Later, perhaps,’ said Desmond. ‘I’ve Lady Dulcie to take care of now,
you see.’

‘Ah!’ said Blake, with a vinous smile at the girl, ‘’tis the best end
of the stick that ye’ve got hold of, Desmond Macartney. Whisky’s a good
familiar craythur, but ’tis a mighty poor substitute for the colleens.

Good luck to ye. Lady Dulcie, your obedient servant.’

He swaggered off, his recent anger quite forgotten, and a moment later
the quiet evening air rang tunably with a scrap of Irish song:

               ‘And thin he’d reply, with a wink of his eye,

               “Arrah! Paddy, now can’t ye be aisy

‘’Tis a beautiful voice,’ said Desmond, standing still to listen.
‘’Twould have been better for poor Blake, maybe, if it hadn’t been so
fine; it’s just been the ruin of him.’

‘The horrid old man!’ said Dulcie.

‘I wonder uncle admits him to his table.’

‘Oh, sure, there’s no harm in poor Blake!’ said Desmond. ‘He’s nobody’s
enemy but his own, and there’s no better company in Ireland, till he
gets too much of the whisky inside him, or sees an attorney.’

‘What makes him hate lawyers so?’ asked Dulcie.

‘Sure he has reason,’ returned the boy, who had all an Irishman’s
apparently innate detestation of law and its exponents. ‘He lost one
half of his acres in trying to keep the other half, years ago, before
you and I were born, and Feagus, who acted for him, played him false.
That’s the story, at least, and I don’t find it hard to believe, for
he’s an ugly customer, that same Feagus.’

They passed together through the ruined arch, which had been in former
times the main point of ingress, through the outer wall of the Castle,
the rough and ponderous stones of which had, in these later years of
peace, gone to the building of stables, offices, and peasants’ cottages.
The main building, a huge castellated mansion with an aspect of great
age and rugged strength, contrasted strongly in its air of well-kept
prosperity with most proprietorial residences in that part of Ireland.
Skirting the side of the Castle, they came upon a garden and pleasaunce,
bright with flowering plants and emerald turf, commanding a view of the
sea, now shining with the glaring tints of sunset, which were reflected
too by the bay-windows of the Castle façade.

A heavy-faced, sullen-looking young man, dressed in an ultra-fashionable
dress suit, and strangling in a four-inch collar, was sprawling
ungracefully on a garden seat with a newspaper on his knees and a cup
of coffee on the rustic table at his elbow. He turned at the sound of
footsteps on the garden gravel, and seeing Dulcie, rose clumsily to his
feet.

‘His lordship has been asking for you, Lady Dulcie.’

‘Dinner is over, I suppose?’ said Dulcie.

‘Yes, dinner is over,’ said the young man, scowling, ‘and so is the
fight.’

‘We’ve heard all about the fight from Blake. We met him on the rocks,’
said Desmond.

The young man took no heed of the remark, and did not even look at the
speaker.

‘I’m getting pretty tired of living down here among these savages,’ he
continued to Lady Dulcie, with an attempt at the accent of a certain
type of London men, a drawl which struggled vainly against a pronounced
Dublin brogue. ‘Bottles flying at people’s heads--it isn’t my style, you
know.’

‘Sure,’ said Desmond, ‘if we’re so savage as all that, ’twould be a
charity to stop here among us and civilize us. We’re willing to learn,
Mr. Richard Conseltine, and willing to teach the little we know.’

The young dandy looked at him with a heavy insolence, in which there was
a lurking touch of fear, but did not deign to address him.

‘His lordship’s awf’ly upset. My father’s with him, and the doctor’s
been sent for.’

‘I’ll go and see him,’ said Dulcie.

‘Desmond, you might go and ask Mrs. O’Flaherty for some dinner for both
of us. I’m as hungry as a hunter.’

‘I’ll follow you directly,’ said Desmond.

‘You’ll come at once, if you please,’ she said, with a pretty
imperiousness.

‘Come!’

They went away together, young Conseltine following them with a
deepening of his usual ill-bred, angry scowl.

‘The supercilious brute!’ said Desmond under his breath.

‘One fight a day is quite enough, Desmond,’ whispered Lady Dulcie.

‘Fight!’ said Desmond. ‘Much of a fight ’twould be. I’d-----’

‘Quite so,’ Dulcie interrupted him quietly. ‘I know you’d--and as I
don’t want you to, you’ll just go quietly, and ask to have some dinner
laid for us, and keep out of his way for the rest of the evening.’



CHAPTER II.--LORD KILPATRICK.

Four of our leading characters, including our best apology for a hero,
have introduced themselves. All that remains to be explained, at least
for the present, is that Dulcie Broadhaven, called by courtesy Lady
Dulcie, was the youngest daughter of Lord Belmullet, who had married
Lord Kilpatrick’s only sister and left her a widow with several children
and heavily mortgaged estates in county Mayo; and that Dulcie was just
then paying one of her annual visits to her uncle’s castle in Sligo.
Here she had struck up a friendship with young Desmond, who had for
years been a sort of protégé of Lord Kilpatrick. Only in the wild west
of Ireland are such intimacies common or even possible, but there, where
the greater and the smaller gentry still meet on terms of free and
easy equality, and where the vices of more civilized society are still
unknown, they excite no comment.

Mr. Blake’s abrupt and angry departure from the Castle left anything but
comfortable feelings in the breasts of one or two of his late
convives. Lord Kilpatrick, an elderly nobleman, whose originally feeble
constitution had not been improved by early dissipation, and who was
afflicted with a mysterious cardiac disorder, which caused him constant
nervous tremors, was in a condition of semi-senile anger over Blake’s
violation of the sanctities of his dinner-table. Mr. Feagus, Blake’s
_bête noire_, was naturally and excusably enraged by the terms of
unmeasured contempt in which the latter had addressed him. He was almost
as great a rascal as Blake thought him, but he had a full measure of the
commonest of Irish virtues, brute courage; and had it not been for the
interference of my lord’s brother, Mr. Conseltine, his son Richard, and
old Mr. Peebles, my lord’s butler, valet, general factotum, and
tyrant, Blake might have had cause to regret his outrage on his host’s
hospitality.

‘The beggarly bankrupt brute!’ he cried. ‘By the blood of the saints,
Mr. Conseltine, if ’Twas not for the respect I owe you as my lord’s
brother--ye used me ill, sir, in holding me back!’

Conseltine, a dark man of late middle age, with an inscrutable face and
a manner of unvarying suavity, poured a bumper of burgundy, and held it
out to the angry attorney.

‘Drink that, Mr. Feagus. ’Tis a fine cure for anger. Maybe I’ve not
used you so ill as you think. Mr. Peebles,’ he continued, ‘you had
better assist my brother to his room. Pray be calm, my dear Henry.
The disturbance is over. If you will permit me, I will do myself the
pleasure of looking in on you before retiring.’

His lordship, his face twitching, and his hands tremulous with anger,
sat back in his chair, and pettishly brushed the old Scotchman’s hand
from his shoulder.

‘At my table!’ he ejaculated angrily, for the sixth time.

‘Ay,’ said Peebles, with a broad, dogmatic drawl. ‘Ye should keep better
company. Come awa’, my lord, come awa’. Ye’ll get nae good by sitting
there glowering at folk.’

‘Hold your tongue, sir!’ snapped the nobleman. ‘How dare you address me
in that fashion?’

‘Come awa’, come awa’,’ repeated Peebles gently, as one speaks to a
froward child. ‘Ye’ll be doing yourself a mischief.’

The old lord rose tremulously, and left the room on his servant’s arm.
Mr. Conseltine stepped rapidly forward to open the door, and shook his
brother’s hand as he passed from the room. Then, returning, he addressed
Feagus, who was still puffing with anger.

‘Sit down, Mr. Feagus. Fill again, man, and wash the taste of that
drunken blackguard out of your mouth. Yes, yes,’ he continued, seeing
Feagus about to speak; ‘he’s all that you could call him, but he has to
be endured; he knows too much to be crossed.’

‘Knows?’ snorted Feagus; ‘and what does he know, then?’

Conseltine looked warily round before replying, and then, bending across
the table till his face was within a foot of Feagus’s, he said in a low
voice:

‘He knows all about Moya Macartney.’

‘Moya Macartney!’ echoed his son. ‘And who, pray, is Moya Macartney?’

‘She was a peasant girl, away down in Kenmare. My brother married her--a
sham marriage--’Twas Blake that played priest for him, and pretended
to be in Holy Orders.’

‘That’s true!’ murmured Feagus. ‘And after--tell him what came of it!’

‘The old story. Henry grew tired of his plaything. One day, when the
child--they had a child--was two years old, he told Moya the truth. She
went on like a madwoman for a time, and then went quite cold and
quiet. Henry thought ’Twas all right, and that she had accepted the
situation; but within two hours she disappeared, taking the child with
her, and for a month or two nothing was heard of her.’

‘Well?’ said Dick eagerly.

‘Then,’ continued Conseltine, ‘one night--a devilish cold winter’s night
it was, too--the boy was brought to my brother with a letter. “Take your
child,” the letter said, “and as you use him may God use you! You’ll
never hear from me again.” ’Twas signed “Moya Macartney,” and a week
later her body was found on the sands of Kenmare Bay.’

‘A good riddance,’ said Feagus. ‘And now, Dick, guess the name of the
child!’

Dick looked questioningly at his father, who said quietly:

‘The child is the Squireen, Desmond Macartney.’

Feagus gazed sideways from under his ponderous brows at young
Conseltine. The boy’s sullen mask was almost as inscrutable as his
father’s smooth face.

‘Does Desmond Macartney guess that he’s my lord’s son?’ asked the youth.

‘No,’ said Conseltine. ‘A story was trumped up that he was the orphan
son of people to whom my brother owed obligations. He’s too big a fool
to trouble himself asking questions.’

‘Well, then,’ said Feagus, ‘spake out and let me know what ’tis ye
fear.’

‘I fear my brother’s weakness. He may leave all to this young vagabond.
He’s been conscience-haunted about Moya Macartney’s death ever since it
happened, and I know that more than once he has made his will in favour
of the Squireen. There’s not a square yard of the estate entailed. He
could leave it to a beggar in the street if he liked, and Dick would get
nothing but the title. I’m as certain as I can be that he has sent for
you to make a will; and with that old rascal Peebles always whispering
in his ears, praising the bastard, and running down Dick, there’s
danger.’

‘Well?’ asked the lawyer, after a pause.

‘Well?’ Conseltine’s smooth voice echoed him.

There was silence for a full minute, during which Feagus sat looking
over his glass from father to son.

‘Plain speech is best, Mr. Conseltine. I’m a friend of the family--a
humble friend--and I’d like to see justice. Will ye spake straight, and
say what ye’d have done?’

Conseltine smiled with half-shut eyes.

‘I thought you’d understand me,’ he said coolly. ‘I’m sure that the
interests of the family are safe in your hands, and you may be sure that
the family won’t be ungrateful.’

‘Ye can trust me, sor,’ said Feagus. ‘I’ll take care that justice is
done. Ye needn’t fear your brother’s wakeness if I have the drawin’ o’
the will.’

Conseltine nodded again. The worthy trio brought their glasses together
with a light chink, and drank.

‘You see now,’ continued Conseltine, ‘why Blake has to be humoured. He’s
capable of blowing on us in one of his drunken tantrums, and then the
whole story would be ripped up.’ Feagus nodded.

‘Keep out of his way, Mr. Feagus, or, if you meet him, control your
temper. That’s all I wanted to say, and I think we understand each
other.’

‘Fairly well,’ said Feagus.

‘’Tis a pretty kettle o’ fish I’m stirring,’ he said to himself, when
father and son had left him alone; ‘but I’ll be surprised if I don’t
keep the biggest trout for my own share. I’ll help Conseltine to get
the estates, and then I’ll be on his back like the old man o’ the sea
on Sinbad’s. Here’s success to virtue! ‘’tis a fine drink this, and
’tis not often, Jack Feagus, that ye get the chance of drinkin’ real
wine out of a live lord’s cellar.’

Lord Kilpatrick had meanwhile been conducted to the drawing-room by the
faithful, though outwardly unsympathetic, Peebles. Sitting at the open
oriel window in a high-backed antique chair, he drew in the soft evening
air with tremulous gulps. His face, which in youth and manhood had been
singularly handsome, was drawn with pain and pettish anger, and wore
that peculiar gray tinge so often seen in the complexions of people
afflicted with diseases of the heart. His long, waxen fingers drummed
irritably on the arm-pieces of his chair, so that the rings with which
they were decorated cast out coruscations of coloured light.

Peebles, a long, dry Scotchman, who but for his white hair might have
been of any age from thirty-five to eighty, long in leg and arm, long
in the back, long in the nose and upper-lip, shrewd of eye, dry and
deliberate in action, moved soundlessly about the room until summoned by
his master’s voice.

‘Peebles!’

‘My lord?’

‘How do I look? No flattery, now. Speak out.’

‘Much flattery ye’ll get frae me, or ever did,’ muttered Peebles, taking
his stand before the invalid, and scrutinizing him with a cast-iron
countenance of no name-able expression.

‘Well, Peebles, well! How do I look?’

‘My lord,’ said Peebles, after another thirty seconds’ inspection, ‘you
look as green as grass and as sick as peasemeal!’

‘Nonsense! Pooh! Rubbish!’ Each word shot out of his lordship’s mouth
like a bullet, ‘I never felt better.’

‘Ye never looked worse,’ said Peebles.

‘God bless my soul!’ said his lordship. ‘It must be those damn’d
globules that Clarke is giving me. They’re ruining my liver--actually
ruining it. Infernal idiots of doctors!’ His fingers moved faster. ‘Go
away, Peebles, go away!’

Peebles retired into the background, and stood scraping his lantern jaws
with his right hand.

‘Peebles!’ said the old gentleman presently.

‘My lord?’

‘You don’t think----’ Lord Kilpatrick paused, hem’d, and finally shot
the question out of himself with a suddenness which showed how strong
a repugnance he had to conquer before he could ask it--‘you don’t think
I’m going to _die?_’

‘Ye don’t suppose ye’re _immortal_, do ye?’ asked the unbending
servitor.

‘Of course not! Confound you for an unfeeling blockhead!’ cried his
master. ‘Give me your advice--tell me what to do.’

‘I’m to prescribe for ye?’ asked Peebles, looking, as he stood outlined
against the oblong of white sky seen through the window, like the
silhouette of some curious species of parrot.

‘If you can!’

‘What else have I been doing this last nineteen years,’ asked Peebles,
‘but prescribing the one sure remedy ye winna tak’? My lord, your
disease is pride.

Try the black draught of humility and the blue pill of atonement!’

‘What the devil are you talking about?’ asked his lordship, looking
angrily at his servant, who returned his gaze quite unmoved.

‘Ye know weel what I’m talkin’ aboot,’ he returned, with no quickening
of his usual deliberate drawl. ‘Acknowledge your child, Lord Kilpatrick,
and thank God humbly on your knees for such a son to bless your
declining years.’

‘By Heaven!’ cried his lordship, sitting up in his chair, ‘you--you--how
dare you trifle with me?’ The gray shade deepened on his face, his
trembling hands were pressed against his heart. ‘I have done my
uttermost. I have provided for the boy. I have looked after his
welfare--can a man do more?’

‘Ay, he can! Desmond Macartney is your flesh and blood. Acknowledge him
before the world--it’s all the atonement ye can make to the poor lass
that’s gone.’

‘She was not my wife!’

‘Ay was she,’ returned Peebles, ‘in the sight o’ God!’

His lordship struggled up in his seat with an oath.

‘That’s enough! You are out of my service, Peebles, from this moment--I
discharge you!’

‘I’m agreeable,’ said Peebles, with unmoved calm.

‘And without a character--mind that!’

‘Character, is it?’ said the dour old Scot. ‘If ever I need one,
I’ll gang till a God-fearing man, and no’ till your father’s son.
Good-afternoon to your lordship.’ Peebles had reached the door when his
lordship’s voice arrested him:

‘Stay--stay! I--ha!--I command you!’ ‘Too late!’ said Peebles coolly.
‘I’m no longer at your lordship’s orders--I’m discharged.’

‘Nonsense!’ said Kilpatrick. ‘Why do you provoke me, Peebles? I have
been a good master to you--a forbearing master. If we parted I should--I
should miss you.’

‘No doot o’ that,’ returned Peebles, smiling. ‘Dismiss me, and ye
dismiss your conscience. Dismiss me, and the Deil has ye, tooth and
nail.’

His lordship laughed, but with no aspect of enjoyment.

‘You’re an assuming old scoundrel, Peebles. My conscience? Gad!--my
conscience, indeed!’

‘Ay, and your conscience says, “Make amends to your own begotten son,
the bairn of the puir lass who died for your sake, and who loved ye,
Lord Kilpatrick.”’

The old lord’s head sank upon his breast; his eyes were dim with a
sudden moisture.

‘I loved _her_, Peebles--I loved her!’

‘And yet ye played that deil’s trick on her, with the aid o’ yon
scoundrel Blake.’

‘How could I marry one so much my inferior?’ asked Kilpatrick
tremulously.

‘And yet there are moments when I think that if--if she had not--if she
had had a little more patience, I might have done it. There, there,’ he
continued, with his usual testiness, ‘let it sleep. Don’t talk about it.
As for Desmond, I have brought him up almost like my own son and heir.
He has wanted nothing--he shall never want. I shall provide for him in
my will.’

‘Grandly, no doot,’ said Peebles, with the abrupt snort which was his
laugh, ‘with Mr. Conseltine at your lug, pleading for that smug-faced
imp, his son.’

‘Desmond shan’t be forgotten,’ said Kilpatrick. ‘Nothing on earth shall
make me forget Desmond.’

‘There’s just a chance,’ said Peebles, after an interval of silence,
scraping at his chin--‘there’s just a chance that Desmond, when he kens
ye’re his father, will refuse to tak’ a shilling o’ your money. I
know the lad, for isn’t he like the child o’ my ain old age--haven’t I
watched over him and seen him grow--haven’t I had daily to _lie_ to
him, and tell him that he has neither father nor mother, but only a kind
friend who knew them both--and haven’t I heard his voice break when he
has asked of his dead mother? Man alive!’ he continued, in answer to
Kilpatrick’s stricken look, ‘do your duty--acknowledge your son before
the world! If anything can get ye a free pass through the gates of
heaven, it will be a deed like that!’

‘Gad!’ said Kilpatrick, ‘I’ve a mind to do it, if only to spite my
brother Dick. Peebles, do you think I’m a fool? Do you think I don’t
know Dick Conseltine? He’s looking forward to my funeral. He wants the
estate for young spindleshanks, my nephew. Suppose I showed him a trick
worth two of that, eh? Ha, ha!’

His lordship’s rather spiteful chuckle was cut short by a rap at the
door.

Peebles opened it, and Mr. Conseltine appeared.

‘My dear Henry,’ he said, advancing solicitously, ‘I trust you are
better?’

‘Yes, yes,’ said Kilpatrick uneasily; ‘but----’

‘In that case,’ said Conseltine, smoothly interrupting him, ‘may I talk
to you privately for a few minutes?’

‘If you desire,’ said his brother. ‘Don’t go, Peebles. Never mind
Peebles, Dick He’s my conscience, my--my _alter ego_--eh, Peebles?’

‘As it is a family matter,’ said Conseltine, ‘I would prefer----’

‘Peebles is one of the family,’ said his lordship; ‘I’ve no secrets from
him.’

‘Very good,’ said Conseltine, suffering no shade of annoyance to
cloud his smooth face. ‘Mr. Peebles doubtless agrees with me that you
exaggerate the gravity of your condition, and that, unless you specially
desire it, the drawing up of a new will can be postponed. In the will
already placed in my possession you, as is natural, devise the bulk
of your estate to your next-of-kin. Do I understand that you desire to
alter or modify that arrangement?’

His lordship, nervously interlacing his fingers, glanced at Peebles.

‘Tell your brother the truth, my lord. Tell him ye wish to leave the
estates to your own begotten son.’

‘My brother has no son, Mr. Peebles,’ said Conseltine sternly.

‘Ay has he,’ said Peebles--‘Desmond Macartney.’

‘The fruit of a foolish liaison with a peasant. My dear Henry----’

‘Peebles is right, Dick,’ said Kilpatrick. ‘Desmond should be my heir.’

‘My dear Henry!’ said Conseltine, ‘you must surely be mad. Proclaim
your folly to the world! Acknowledge a waif and stray as your flesh and
blood! It is simply midsummer madness! Thank God, whatever you do
with any portion of your personal possessions, you can’t pass your
patrimonial title to one born out of wedlock.’

Kilpatrick looked from his brother to Peebles, and back again,
interlacing his fingers and dragging them apart.

‘Faith,’ he said, ‘that’s true, that’s true, Peebles. The title must go
to my next-of-kin. It must go. There’s no help for it, and the title,
with nothing to support it! eh? You must see that, Peebles. Gad, I’m
sorry--I’m devilish sorry!’ He rose. ‘Never mind, Peebles, Desmond
shan’t be forgotten. Trust me, he shan’t be forgotten.’

Conseltine offered him his arm, and he took it with a glance at his
servant.

‘Ay, my lord,’ said Peebles, with an immovable face, ‘lean on your
brother. It’s good to have loving kith and kin.’

Voices and laughter were heard from the landing without, and a moment
later Dulcie, with Desmond at her heels, entered the room.



CHAPTER III.--MR. PEEBLES RECEIVES A MESSAGE.

His lordship welcomed the appearance of the two young people as a
relief from the further discussion of a painful topic.

‘So, young madam,’ he said to Dulcie, pinching her ear, ‘you’ve come
back! And where have you been all the afternoon?’

‘On the sands,’ said Dulcie. ‘You’re not angry with me, are you?’ she
asked, kissing him in a coaxing fashion, for the tone in which he had
spoken was a little sharp. ‘I was so sorry to hear that you had been
upset.’

‘It wouldn’t have happened if you had been at the table,’ said
Kilpatrick. ‘I suppose I have to thank _you_, sir,’ he continued to
Desmond, ‘for her absence? You’re pretty spectacles, the pair of you,’
he went on, looking at the disordered dresses, flushed faces and untidy
hair of the young couple. ‘You’ve been up to some mischief, I suppose?’

‘Not this time,’ said Desmond, smiling. ‘Hold your tongue, boy!’ snapped
his lordship, with sudden and inexplicable ill-temper. ‘Don’t bandy
words with me--hold your tongue!’

‘Yes, sir,’ said Desmond.

‘Can’t you find something better to do than to go wandering about the
place, mixing with all the loafers and blackguards in the county? Can’t
you speak? You can chatter fast enough when you’re not asked to.’

‘You told me to hold my tongue, sir,’ said Desmond, falling back on
Irish prevarication and broadening his brogue.

‘I shall have to take some order with you, sir,’ said Kilpatrick.
‘Come to my study to-morrow after breakfast. It’s time you were doing
something--time you began to think of--of your future. There, there,’ he
continued, patting Desmond’s shoulder, ‘I’m not angry with you, my
boy. I’ve been upset, and in my state of health the least thing excites
me--ask Peebles.’

‘Ay,’ said the Scot, ‘that’s true--you’ve a troublesome temper.’

‘Never mind,’ said Dulcie; ‘we’ll coddle you up and comfort you. I’ll
play a game of backgammon with you, and if that doesn’t cure you, I’ll
send over to Galway for mamma.’

‘For your mother!’ cried Kilpatrick. ‘My sister Matilda!’

‘She’s a capital nurse,’ said Dulcie. ‘She’ll set you right in a
jiffy--as Desmond would say.’ The bit of slang passed unnoticed by his
lordship in his terror at the suggestion it conveyed.

‘Good heavens, child! Matilda will be praying over me day and night. I’m
not quite so bad as that--I won’t be prayed over; but for this little
cardiac weakness, I’m in excellent condition. Ask Peebles. There, there,
go and get your dinner, and take Desmond with you.’

‘I shall come back afterwards,’ said Dulcie.

‘Yes, yes!’ said her uncle. ‘Come back by-and-by and give me my game of
backgammon.’

‘I met Mr. Blake on the road, sir,’ said Desmond. ‘He asked me to
deliver a message to your lordship.’

‘Well,’ snapped Kilpatrick, ‘what has the drunken brute to say to me?’

‘Just to apologize for what he did and said this afternoon.’

‘His repentance is mighty sudden,’ said Kilpatrick.

‘He didn’t repent at all till Desmond talked to him,’ said Dulcie, glad
to get in a word in favour of her sweetheart.

‘So you’ve been giving Blake a lesson in manners, eh?’ said the old man.
‘And what did you say to him, and how did he take it?’

Desmond recounted the interview.

‘He took it like mother’s milk, sir. Sure he knew he was in the wrong.
He’s not a bad fellow, if you know how to humour him.’

Peebles coughed behind his hand a dubious note, and Kilpatrick, catching
the old man’s eye, said with something of his former testiness:

‘Well, well, that will do--go and eat your dinner. Peebles, wait on Lady
Dulcie.’

The two young people and the old servitor left the room together, and
Kilpatrick, sinking back into the seat he had quitted, sat for some
time plunged in silent thought. Conseltine, leaning against the high,
old-fashioned mantelpiece, took advantage of the shadow with which
the room was filled, and of his brother’s abstraction, to watch him
narrowly. The old lord sighed once or twice, and gave one or two
movements of impatience, and once the sound of a broken murmur reached
Conseltine’s ear, in which he distinguished only the word ‘Moya.’

‘Dick,’ said Kilpatrick, suddenly turning towards him, ‘I must provide
at once for Desmond--I simply must do it--I should be a cad if I
didn’t.’

The intently watchful look which Conseltine’s face had worn was replaced
by his general expression of suavity as he came forward into the ray of
light which was yet coming through the great oriel window.

‘My dear Henry,’ he said smoothly, ‘you are perfectly right. ’Tis the
dictate of nature and justice--it does you credit.’ Kilpatrick, who
was anything but a fool, looked at his brother with a curious, quick,
questioning glance. Conseltine replied to it as if to a speech.

‘I know, my dear Henry, I know! You’ve been thinking me grasping, and
avaricious, and heartless, all this time, now, haven’t you? And why?
Just because I’ve felt it my duty, as your brother and Richard’s father,
to safeguard the interests of the family. The title goes to Richard,
anyhow; and ’tis but common-sense, as you said just now yourself, that
the bulk of the property should go with it. ’Tis mighty little I can
leave him, and a lord without soil to his foot or a guinea in his pocket
would be a queer spectacle, wouldn’t he? ’Tis not Lord Kilpatrick,
anyhow, that shall be seen in that predicament; but you can provide for
Desmond, too. You can give him all he has a right to expect, and still
leave enough for Richard.’

The argument was unanswerable, the manner and voice with which it was
put were suave, persuasive, honest; but Kilpatrick’s only answer was to
shoot another quick, questioning glance at his brother’s face, and to
tap the carpet with his foot.

‘What would you call a proper provision?’ he asked, after an interval of
silence.

‘Give the boy a profession, and--well, some hundreds a year. He’s bright
and clever, and with that income, and a calling in his fingers, if he
can’t make his way in the world, ’tis a pity.’

‘A profession!’ said Kilpatrick musingly. ‘I don’t know what the boy’s
fit for, unless it’s for a soldier or a sailor.’

‘Bad pay and poor prospects,’ said Conseltine. ‘Why not the Church?’

His lordship went off into a sudden cackle of laughter.

‘The Church! Fancy Desmond a priest! Faith, ’twould be a pretty parish
that he had charge of!’

‘The bar?’ suggested his brother.

‘No; Desmond hates lawyers almost as much as Blake himself--it’s in the
blood, I suppose--I’m none too fond of them myself. I’ll think it over,
Dick, I’ll think it over; don’t bother me about it any more at
present. Nothing shall be done without your knowledge and--without your
knowledge, at all events.’

‘You are tired?’ asked Conseltine.

‘Yes, tired to death.’

‘Well, I’ll leave you to yourself. Goodnight; sleep well, and you’ll be
as sound as a trout in the morning. I’ll send up Peebles to help you to
undress.’

He went; and Kilpatrick, rising from his seat, began to pace the room
from end to end among the gathering shadows.

‘What the devil makes Dick Conseltine so tender all of a sudden?’ he
asked himself. ‘Dictate of nature and justice, indeed! He hates the boy
like poison, that I’m sure of. I can see it in his eye, sly and smooth
as he is, every time he looks at him; and so does that bull-headed young
fool, his son. It’s natural, I suppose. Faith, then, one sees the
hatred that money breeds--brother hating brother, father hating son, son
father; the meanness, lying, ingratitude, intriguing; I’d rather be the
poorest peasant on my estate. I’d rather be Desmond, poor boy; he knows
his friends, at least. Nobody cajoles and flatters him.’

He fell silent again, and paced the room with a slower step.

‘Poor Moya! Gad! how it all comes back to me! If she had been only a
little more of a lady, just a shade more possible as my wife! She was a
lady in heart and feeling; the truest I ever met, I think. I threw away
a jewel when I cast her off--nineteen years ago.

‘Nineteen years ago this month, and it is all as clear and vivid as if
it had happened yesterday. Poor girl! I can see her face now as it was
when I broke the secret to her. It will haunt me till I die, and after,
if all tales are true. I was a scoundrel! It was a vile business. There
are moments when I think Peebles is right: that it is my plain duty
to let family considerations slide, own the boy, and leave him all.
It wrings my heart to see him, handsome, manly, courageous, loved by
everybody--my son! my own son!--and then look at that long-shanked cub
of Dick’s, and think that he, Desmond, is worth a million of him,
worth a planetful of the stupid, ugly cur. How like his mother he is!
Sometimes he frightens me; it is as if the dead came out of the grave to
accuse me.’

He paused in his walk, and looked round the darkened chamber as if he
feared an actual hidden presence there; then he walked to his
desk, struck a match, and applied it to the wick of a small shaded
reading-lamp; then, stealthily, and with more than one glance over his
shoulder, he unlocked the desk, touched a spring, and drew from a secret
drawer a scrap of paper and a miniature portrait. It was to the paper
he gave his first attention. The writing, originally bold and heavy,
had faded to a faint rusty red, the paper was stained and spotted. ‘Take
your child,’ he read falteringly; ‘and as you use him may God use
you.’ He sat staring at the flame of the lamp, blurred by the mist of
gathering tears.

‘As you use him, may God use you,’ he repeated half aloud. ‘I’ll do my
duty by the boy--I _must!_ Before God, if Moya were alive!--No, even
that wouldn’t mend matters--it wouldn’t even mend her broken heart. It
was not that she wasn’t my lady--not that her vanity was wounded--it was
the treachery! She loved me--she thought me an honest man. It was her
pride in me that was broken. God forgive me! I acted like a villain!’

He took up the portrait and bent his eyes upon it with a long, regretful
gaze. It was the work of a true artist, who had caught and reproduced
with actual fidelity the features and expression of the proud and tender
girl Kilpatrick had betrayed. The bright, gay face, instinct with youth
and happiness, beamed from the picture; the sensitive lips seemed almost
to tremble as the world-worn old man gazed at them. The dress was that
of the better class of an Irish peasant of twenty years ago; but the
hand which held the shawl about the throat wore jewelled rings.

‘She sent back the rings--every scrap and every rag I’d ever given
her,’ said Kilpatrick. They lay in the secret drawer, and rattled as his
blanched fingers drew them forth. ‘She wouldn’t wear the dress I’d given
her when she had this taken. “Let me be as I was when you first knew me,
when the great lord wasn’t ashamed to tell the poor girl he loved her.”’

With a sudden passionate gesture of love and remorse, he carried the
picture to his lips.

‘My lord!’ said a voice so startlingly close that it seemed to be at his
very ear. Kilpatrick turned with a start and beheld a dim form standing
in the shadow of the door.

‘Confound you!’ he said. ‘Who is it?’

‘Just Peebles,’ said that worthy with his usual slow Scotch drawl.

‘Confound you,’ said his lordship again, ‘why didn’t you knock?’

‘I knocked twice,’ said Peebles, ‘and got nae answer. Mr. Conseltine
told me ye needed me.’

Kilpatrick dropped the letter and the miniature back into the desk and
closed and locked it before speaking again.

‘Is Feagus still below?’

‘Ay,’ said Peebles. ‘He’s drinking with Mr. Conseltine and Mr. Richard.
He’s just as drunk as a lord--begging your lordship’s pardon. It’s an
old proverb, and like the most o’ proverbs, it has its exceptions.’

‘Drunk, eh?’ said his lordship musingly.

‘Verra drunk!’ said Peebles. ‘It’s seldom he gets such liquor as comes
out o’ your cellar, my lord.’

‘I suppose so,’ said Kilpatrick absently; ‘I suppose so. Well, you can
help me to undress, Peebles, and then you can tell Mr. Feagus--you
can tell him--tell him I’ll write him regarding the business I have in
hand.’

Peebles, his face hidden in the darkness which surrounded the little
circle of light cast by the reading-lamp, smiled sourly.

‘Verra weel, my lord,’ he said; and Kilpatrick, rising, accepted his arm
as a support to his bedroom.

Half an hour later Peebles descended to the dining-room, where he found
Mr. Feagus with his head on the table and one arm curled lovingly round
an empty bottle.

It took some trouble to rouse him, and even when awakened he was for a
time oblivious of his surroundings. At last, dimly defining the figure
of Peebles, he took him for Blake, and rising with a sort of paralytic
alertness, bade the old man stand upon his defence. Peebles, from a safe
distance, proclaimed his identity; thereupon the lawyer, relinquishing
his pugnacious ardour, wept copiously, and would have embraced him.

‘Gang hame--gang hame, now!’ said Peebles, repulsing him; thereupon Mr.
Feagus’s tears ran faster. ‘My lord will send for ye if he should hae
need o’ ye.’

‘You’ll come and have a drink with me, just for the sake of old times,
Mr. Peebles?’ said Feagus.

‘Ye’ve had drink enough,’ said Peebles; ‘gang hame!’ and bundled him
through the French window opening on the lawn. Finding himself in the
open air, Feagus made straight by instinct for the high road. Peebles
stood at the window watching him tacking and reeling along the path
until he had passed out of sight, and was about to return and close the
window, when he heard a voice hailing him--

‘Misther Paybles! Misther Paybles!’ Peering into the darkness, he made
out a dim form approaching him.

‘Who is it?’ he asked.

‘’Tis me, sure--Larry.’

Peebles recognised the lad, a henchman of Desmond’s, a village loafer,
generally to be found in the company either of the Squireen or of Lady
Dulcie’s maid, Rosie.

‘Weel, Larry! What hae ye there?’

‘’Tis a letther!’ panted Larry.

‘For my lord?’

‘No, ’tis for yourself.’

‘And where did ye get it?’

‘I met a poor woman at the foot o’ the hill, and she asked me if I knew
one Misther Paybles. “Sure I do,” says I. “Then,” ses she, “will ye earn
the blessin’ on a poor craythur by givin’ this into his own hand?” “I
will,” ses I--and here I am.’

Peebles accepted the scrap of paper Larry held out to him, and walking
to the chimneypiece, read it by the light of the lamp: ‘One who comes
from Kenmare, and who knew Moya Macartney’--he started, but, remembering
Larry’s presence, controlled himself and read on--‘would like to speak
with him who was the best of friends to that poor colleen before she
died. Will you meet the writer at ten tomorrow night in the churchyard
by the lake-side and hear her message, for poor Moya’s sake?’

Peebles stood silent for a moment, the paper shaking in his fingers.

‘Who gave ye this, did ye say?’ he asked.

‘A stranger,’ said Larry. ‘She said there was no answer.’

‘Verra weel,’ said Peebles, in a tone as near commonplace as he could
make it. ‘I’ll attend to it.’ Larry saluted and vanished.

Left alone, Peebles mused:

‘What’s the meaning of this? What mystery’s here? A droll kind o’
message, and a droll kind o’ place for an appointment, and a droll hour
o’ the night for a respectable man to be gadding about a kirkyard. Weel,
weel! Maybe it’s one of Moya’s kin anxious to hear news aboot the bairn.
Be she friend or foe, angel or deil, I’ll be there.’



CHAPTER IV.--A SURPRISE FOR DESMOND.

Mr. Richard Conseltine, junior, was not a young man of brilliant parts,
but, like most intellectually slow people, he made up for the paucity of
his ideas by the intensity with which he dwelt on those he possessed.
He had made up his mind quite easily and naturally that his uncle’s
belongings should come to him in their entirety along with the title. He
had grown to early manhood in the unquestioning belief that such would
be the case.

But now, to his amazement, he had learned of the real relationship
existing between his uncle and the Squireen. Up to that moment, Mr.
Conseltine had thought it well to keep the knowledge from his son.

The two boys had hated each other, almost at first sight, with a quiet
instinctive ferocity as of cat and dog. In his sullen grudging fashion
Richard detested all who were not subservient to his wishes and
interests, and especially hated anybody who was his superior in matters
in which he most desired to excel. Desmond, as bright and quick as he
himself was lumpish and dull, compared with him to his disadvantage at
every turn. The poor Squireen, who owned not a single acre of soil, and
was dependent upon Richard’s uncle for his daily bread, for the clothes
he wore, was the idol of the district. Mr. Richard Conseltine, the
independent young gentleman of birth and means, was everywhere tacitly,
and not unfrequently overtly, set at naught. In those exercises
which are popular in all rural districts, and especially among the
sport-loving people of Ireland, Desmond was easily Richard’s master. He
was the best shot, rider, angler, boxer, dancer, and fly-fisherman of
his years in the county. He was handsome in person, and had with all
women, young or old, that serene and beautiful assurance which of all
masculine qualities recommends itself most instantly to the feminine
heart.

All women loved him, and did their best to spoil him. Every man and boy
on the estate was his willing servant and accomplice in the freaks and
frolics and breaches of discipline in which he delighted, confident that
the simple excuse, ‘’Twas the Squireen that asked me,’ would be quite
sufficient to calm the wrath of my lord or his agent, or even of the
dreaded Mr. Peebles, before whom, it was popularly believed, even his
lordship trembled.

Richard could not but contrast this willing and eager service with the
frigid obedience which was paid to him as the future owner of the soil.
Had he been other than he was, he might have found a lesson in the
contrast, and have penetrated the simple secret of Desmond’s popularity,
which lay more in his sunny good-temper, his quick sympathy, his courage
and generosity, than in the physical superiorities which so galled his
cousin’s envious mind.

Ideas, it has been said, were not common with Richard, but the evening
of the events just recorded was made additionally memorable to him by
the implanting of a new one in his mind. He had happened to pass on
the terrace below the open window of the drawing-room during the
conversation held between Lord Kilpatrick and the faithful Peebles.
The window was open, and the calm evening air had brought one single
utterance of the old servant’s distinctly to his ears.

‘There’s just a chance,’ the deliberate Scotch voice had said, ‘that
Desmond, when he kens ye’re his father, will refuse to tak’ a shilling
o’ your money.’

Now, the moment Richard was made aware of Desmond’s illegitimacy, the
secret began to tremble at his lips. He longed to dash the insolent
triumph of the nameless adventurer who diminished his chances of
succession, and by every morsel he ate seemed to lessen the future
possessions of the rightful heir. He was only restrained from insulting
Desmond on the score of his birth by his father’s strenuous assurance
that to touch on that matter might be to lose his uncle’s favour at once
and for ever. Conseltine senior had impressed that belief on him very
forcibly. Richard rolled the sweet morsel of insolence round his tongue
a score of times, with a rich anticipation of the time when it should be
safe to humiliate his adversary by full publicity.

Peebles’ words came to him as a veritable revelation. For just a minute
the solution of the whole difficulty, so long sought, so ardently
desired, seemed almost ludicrously easy. He had only to acquaint the
Squireen with the truth in order to secure the even greater and much
more solid pleasure of inheriting his uncle’s estate. Then a doubt came
and chilled him. We are all apt to fancy that our neighbour’s conduct
in any given conditions will closely resemble our own conduct under like
circumstances. Richard knew, and--no criminal being ashamed of his own
instincts--confessed to himself quite openly and with no embarrassment,
that if he, in Desmond’s place, had learned the secret of his birth, the
effects of the knowledge would certainly not be those foreshadowed by
Peebles. Rather the contrary! The stain on his name would have been
an added claim on the generosity of the father who had so wronged him.
Still, a fiery-tempered fool like Desmond might think differently.
Peebles’ words stuck in his mind, and returned during the night with a
constant reiteration, keeping sleep at arm’s length. Again and again his
clumsy imagination tried to realize the effects of the betrayal of
the secret, until he determined to take the trouble to his father, and
consult with him as to the best line of conduct to be followed.

He descended to the breakfast-table to find my lord and his father
seated together there, attended by Peebles, but neither Desmond
nor Dulcie was present. In answer to a remark on their absence from
Kilpatrick, Peebles deposed to having heard them laughing and talking on
the lawn at least three hours earlier, and suggested that they had gone
on one of their eternal excursions. Breakfast was almost over when they
appeared, flushed and radiant. Kilpatrick had shown some testiness
in remarking their absence, but Dulcie’s good-morning kiss had quite
dissipated his gloom, and he listened with a goodtempered smile to their
chatter about the morning’s adventures.

‘Don’t forget to come to the study, Desmond,’ he said, as he rose and
passed out on to the terrace with his newspaper.

‘All right, sir,’ said Desmond. Conseltine also withdrew, leaving the
three young people together, Richard sitting apart, and scowling angrily
at Dulcie and her companion, who ignored his presence completely.

‘Dulcie,’ he said suddenly, ‘won’t you come into the drawing-room and
teach me that song? You promised, you know.’

‘Not now,’ said the girl, ‘I’m busy. I’ve got to go and look out my
fishing-tackle.’

‘Are you going fishing?’ asked Richard. ‘Yes,’ said Desmond; ‘she’s
going with me.’

‘I wasn’t addressing you,’ said Richard.

‘Thank you for the honour you do me in not addressing me!’ said Desmond
quietly.

There was something in Richard’s manner which the lad could not define,
something more than usually insolent and offensive.

‘I really think, Dulcie,’ said Richard, ‘that you might give us a little
of your company now and then, instead of running all over the county
like a madcap with all the tatterdemalions in the village. I wish we
were back in Dublin, with civilized people about us.’

‘Really, Mr. Conseltine,’ said Dulcie quietly, but with a manner which
marked her sense of the side-sneer at Desmond, ‘I can choose my society
without your assistance.’

The lowering look which always rested on Richard’s heavy features
deepened.

‘No, you can’t,’ he said roughly; ‘or, at all events, you don’t. You’re
getting yourself talked about all over the county, wandering about like
a girl off the hillside with any vagabond who----’

‘I beg your pardon,’ interrupted Desmond, with great smoothness of
manner, but with a dangerous glitter in his eyes, ‘but civility costs
nothing, Mr. Richard. Were you alluding to me at all?’

‘Well,’ said Richard, trying hard to revert to his usual manner of heavy
insolence, but speaking angrily, ‘and what if I was?’

‘Why----’ returned Desmond, rising.

‘Don’t be afraid, Lady Dulcie, I’m not going to quarrel. If I’ve said or
done anything to give offence to this kind, civil-spoken, amiable young
gentleman, I’m willing and anxious to apologize. What’s my offence,
sir?’

‘You hang too much about the Castle,’ said Richard. ‘I know his lordship
encourages you, but you ought to know better than to presume on his
good-nature.’

‘Don’t you think,’ said Desmond quietly, ‘that you might leave his
lordship to say that?’

‘You’re not fit company for my cousin,’ cried Richard hotly.

Dulcie rose with an exclamation of anger, but Desmond laid his hand upon
her arm, and she remained silent.

‘And don’t you think,’ continued Desmond again, ‘that you might leave
that for your cousin to say? She hasn’t said it yet.’ ‘Said it!’ cried
Dulcie, in a white heat of anger; ‘why should I say it? A gentleman is
fit company for anybody.’

‘A gentleman!’ sneered Richard. ‘A gentleman! Yes, but you should
be able to tell the difference between the real article and the
counterfeit.’

‘Oh!’ said Desmond, quietly still, but with more keenly glittering eyes
and a pulsating voice. ‘And I suppose I’m the counterfeit? Is that what
you mean?’

‘That is just what I mean,’ returned Richard.

‘Then,’ said Desmond, ‘if Lady Dulcie will do us the honour to leave us
to ourselves, or if you’ll kindly step out on the lawn, the counterfeit
will give the real article a taste of his quality.’

‘Desmond!’ cried Dulcie.

‘All right, Lady Dulcie,’ said Desmond, soothing her with his hand, and
keeping his eye on Richard’s face.

The girl let the endearing tone and action pass unregarded. They stung
Richard to fury.

‘You beggar!’ he cried.

Desmond made a step towards him; Dulcie clung to him, beseeching him to
be quiet.

‘Don’t be alarmed, now,’ said Desmond, with his Irish blood dancing
in his veins, and his heart all aglow with love of battle. ‘We’re only
going to have a small civil kind of a fight, just to see how _real_ he
is!’

Peebles, who had entered the room unobserved, overheard these last
words, and came between the combatants, ‘Master Desmond,’ he said, ‘I’m
surprised at ye. Ye’ll no’ disgrace his lordship’s house by brawling in
it, as if ye were in a tap-room or a hillside shebeen?’

‘Stand out of the way, if you please, Mr. Peebles,’ said Desmond.

‘That I’ll no’ do,’ returned the old Scot. ‘Ye’ll just be a sensible
lad, as I’ve always thought ye, and tell me what’s the trouble. You’re
the calmest, Master Richard--what’s a’ the steer aboot?’

‘I warned that ruffian,’ said Richard, ‘to avoid my company. He
retaliated, as you see, and----’

‘You insulted him cruelly!’ cried Dulcie, with a heaving breast, and a
glitter of tears in her soft eyes. ‘Never mind him, Desmond--come away!’

‘Insult _him!_’ cried Richard. Peebles’ presence, and the near
neighbourhood of his lordship, gave him some sense of security, and
Dulcie’s obvious sympathy with the object of his antagonism enraged him
beyond all control. ‘Insult _him!_ By the powers! Ask him who and what
he is, and then you’ll know what right he has to be in your company, or
in the company of any young lady.’

The anger half faded from Desmond’s face, and gave way to something of a
look of astonishment.

‘Who and what I am?’ he repeated. ‘Sure, I’m Desmond Macartney.’

Richard repeated the name, and gave a scornful laugh.

‘And who has anything to say against me? I’m as good a gentleman as
yourself.’

‘That’s a lie,’ said Richard. ‘You’re a pauper, dependent on my uncle’s
charity for bread.’

Peebles let out a slow growl of remonstrance and warning, through
which Dulcie’s voice sounded like the clear note of a flute through the
scraping of a violoncello.

‘For shame!’ she cried, her cheeks burning with a hot flush of generous
indignation.

‘Shame!’ cried Richard. ‘If there’s any shame, it’s there!’ He pointed
his finger straight at Desmond.

‘Hold your fool’s tongue!’ said Peebles gruffly.

‘I will speak!’ shouted Richard. ‘Everybody knows--he knows--that his
mother was a common peasant woman, and that he is my uncle’s bastard!’

Desmond sprang past Peebles with a cry, and struck his traducer in the
face.

‘Keep him off!’ cried Richard, white and reeling from the blow. ‘Curse
you, Peebles, why don’t you keep him off?’

‘Ye fool!’ said Peebles, with angry contempt. ‘Ye pitiful, cowardly
fool, ’twad serve ye right if he beat the life oot of your carcase!’

Desmond, blind with fury, had seized Richard by the throat.

‘Down on your knees!’ he cried.

‘Take back those words!’

Just then Kilpatrick’s gray face and trembling figure appeared at the
room door--none but Peebles saw him.

‘Take them back!’ cried Desmond, raising his fist to strike again.

‘Let me go!’ cried Richard desperately.

Desmond’s hand slackened on his collar.

‘Speak!’ he cried. ‘Tell me, or I’ll strangle you! Is it the truth ye’ve
told me? Is Lord Kilpatrick my father?’

‘Yes,’ cried Richard, ‘and you know it!’

Desmond released him, and fell back with a moan. Cur and coward as
he knew the man to be, his words carried conviction. As by a
lightning-flash, he read the meaning of a thousand details of his past
life, which, thus illuminated, went to prove the truth.

‘My mother!’ he said. ‘My mother! No, no! Don’t say it--don’t say it!
Don’t say it, for the love of God! I can’t bear it!’ He broke into a
terrible sob.

‘Ye’re just the champion fool o’ my experience,’ said Peebles, as
he passed Richard on his way to the door, to the frame of which Lord
Kilpatrick was clinging, looking on the scene with haggard eyes.

‘You cad!’ said Dulcie, flinging the word at Richard like a missile.

‘Peebles! Desmond! What’s all this?’ cried his lordship.

‘The secret’s out, my lord,’ said Peebles. ‘The poor lad knows he’s your
son.’

Kilpatrick looked with a ghastly face towards Desmond, who glared back
at him like one turned to stone.

‘Uncle,’ cried Dulcie, ‘speak to him. Tell him it is not true.’

‘It _is_ true,’ said Kilpatrick hoarsely.

Desmond, my boy, my son, speak to me!’

‘_You!’_ said Desmond. ‘You--you are my father?’

Lord Kilpatrick tottered into the room and fell into a chair.

‘And my _mother_,’ said Desmond--‘my mother? What of _her?_’

‘She died, long years ago,’ said his lordship.

‘Who was she? Speak!’ cried Desmond--‘speak! I must know!’

‘She was named Moya Macartney,’ said Kilpatrick. ‘She was--she----’

‘She was not your _wife?_’ said the boy. ‘Then I am--I am what he called
me!’

‘Convention!’ cried Kilpatrick--‘mere convention! I acknowledge you as
my son. Who will dare to point at you? Take witness, all of you!’ he
cried, rising from his seat, ‘Desmond Macartney is my son. Those who
will receive him and treat him as such are welcome here. Those who will
not, let them go their ways.’

‘Uncle!’ cried Dulcie, ‘God bless you! Desmond----’

‘Hush, Lady Dulcie!’ cried Desmond. ‘Don’t speak to me now, or my heart
will break. I was too happy to-day,’ he said brokenly; ‘I might have
known that trouble was to come.’

Kilpatrick made a movement towards him.

‘Keep back!’ said Desmond. ‘Don’t come near me! I’m _her_ son, not
yours. I’ll never eat your bread, or call you father.’

So saying, he pushed his way past Peebles, who sought in vain to
restrain him, and with one wild glance at the assembled group, rushed
from the room and ran like a death-struck deer from Kilpatrick Castle.



CHAPTER V.--LADY DULCIE OFFERS CONSOLATION.

On Desmond’s departure, Dulcie left the room, and ran swiftly to her
own chamber. Her hurried ring at the bell was answered by her maid,
Rosie.

‘Mr. Desmond has left the Castle,’ said Lady Dulcie. ‘He has had a
misunderstanding with his lordship. Follow him, and tell him not to
leave the village till he sees me. Quick!’

‘Sure, there’s no hurry,’ said Rosie coolly.

‘But there is!’ cried Dulcie. ‘The poor boy has quarrelled with Lord
Kilpatrick, and vows that he will never come back.’

‘He’ll not lave the place without sayin’ farewell to the boys at Widdy
Daly’s,’ said Rosie. ‘There’s a grand dance there to-night, and the
whole counthryside will be there. I’ll just go to the shebeen, and tell
the widdy and the boys to kape on the watch for ‘m, and lave word that I
have a message for him from your ladyship.’

Rosie’s instinct had not deceived her, for that night Desmond was found
sitting in the kitchen of the rude hostelry kept by the Widow Daly,
listening to the strains of Patsey Doolan’s fiddle, and sombrely
watching the dance of boys and colleens, in which, for the first time
during their long experience of him, he had declined to take part. Rosie
delivered her message. Desmond heard it with a half-averted face, which
did not hide from the girl’s keen eyes a flush of pleasure on his cheek.
He pressed her hand gratefully, but shook his head with a sad smile.

‘’Tis like her, Rosie--’tis like her. But that’s all over now. What
can she have to say to a poor devil like me? She’s up there with the
reigning government of angels, and I’m down here with the opposition.
Well, never mind! The world’s wide, and there’s room in it somewhere for
us all. Don’t stand staring at me there, Rosie, as if I was a show in a
fair. There’s Larry dying to shake the rheumatism out of his legs. Play
up, Patsey, you rogue, and put the music into their heels!’

‘Ye’ll dance yourself, Mr. Desmond?’ said Rosie. ‘I’d be proud to stand
out on the floor wid ye.’

‘And, sure,’ said Larry, ‘I wouldn’t be jealous if ye did!’

‘No, no,’ said Desmond. ‘Go and enjoy yourselves, and leave me to
myself. Play up, play up!’ he shouted wildly, ‘and the devil take the
hindmost!’

Rosie and Larry left him with pitying glances. The dance proceeded, the
Squireen sitting apart and looking on with haggard eyes at the mirth he
had so often shared.

A sudden cessation of the music and the measured beat of feet upon the
earthen floor made him look round. Lady Dulcie stood just within the
door.

‘Lady Dulcie!’ Desmond cried in astonishment, and rose and went towards
her. ‘What has brought you here?’

‘I’ve come to speak to you,’ she said.

‘Desmond, I _must_ speak to you.’

‘But,’ replied the boy, ‘this is no place for you.’

‘It’s the place where _you_ are,’ said the girl, with a tender look
shining in her eyes, ‘and that’s enough for me.’

Larry, standing arrested with his arm about Rosie’s waist, caught the
words.

‘D’ye hear that?’ he said to his partner. ‘Clare out, boys,’ cried the
widow. ‘There’s the rale stuff in the next room and in a moment, as if
by magic, the whole company melted away,--only Larry and Rosie lingering
at the door.

Widow Daly wiped the seat of a stool for her guest, and set it for her.

‘Sit ye down, my lady. Ye’re kindly welcome.’

Dulcie sat, looking up in Desmond’s face.

‘She’s the light of his eyes,’ whispered Rosie to her sweetheart. ‘See
how she looks at him.’

‘Ah!’ said Larry, ‘when will ye be afther lookin’ at _me_ like that?’

‘When your desarts are ayqual to your impudence!

She curtsied, and drew Larry from the room after the others. The Widow
Daly followed, dropping an ecstatic curtsey before she disappeared.

There was a long pause. Desmond sat looking sadly at the fire.

‘Desmond!’

‘Yes, Lady Dulcie.’

‘Dulcie to you, now and always,’ she said, taking his hand.

‘Don’t, don’t!’ said the lad. ‘I can’t bear it. I’d rather you let me
drift away from you like a leaf on the running water. I can bear all the
rest, but not your pity.’

‘It’s not pity that brings me here,’ said the warm-hearted girl, with
all her heart in her face. ‘It’s something more. I’ve come to ask your
forgiveness.’

‘My forgiveness!’ cried Desmond. ‘For what?’

‘For all my foolish ways--my thoughtless words. I ought to have known
better. But we were both so young. Well, I was a child this morning, but
seeing your trouble, I feel to-night like an old, old woman.’

‘Ah! You’re still what you always were, Dulcie, sweet and beautiful.
’Twas on a sunny summer’s day God made ye, and ’Twas the brightest
bit of work He ever did!’

‘You’re not going away, Desmond?’ she besought him.

‘I must,’ he answered.

‘I came to ask you for your father’s sake, for mine, to stay a little
while. You will, Desmond? For my sake!’

‘They’re words to conjure with, Dulcie,’ said Desmond. ‘But sure I
can’t. D’ye know what they’ll all be calling me? D’ye know what name
they’ll soon be giving me? How can I stay and look you in the face?’

‘Oh, Desmond,’ she pleaded, ‘your father----’

‘Don’t spake of him!’ cried Desmond.

‘He loves you, Desmond. He’d give his right hand to put things right. If
you will remain he will acknowledge you as his son--make you his heir.’

Desmond shook his head.

‘He can’t give me the one thing I want,’ said Desmond proudly and sadly.
‘He can’t take the blot off my name, the stain off my mother’s. He can’t
turn back the years and bring her from the grave.’

‘He can make amends,’ said Dulcie. ‘He will.’

‘It’s too late for that, too,’ answered Desmond. ‘Ah, spare me, Dulcie!
Don’t speak of it! Don’t remind me of my disgrace!’

‘Your disgrace?’ repeated Dulcie. ‘Where is the disgrace to you? Where
there is no sin there can be no shame; and you are innocent. Desmond,
there are others who care for you. There’s one,’ she added softly, ‘who
would give all the world to see you happy. Don’t make her miserable by
going away.’

‘You mean that?’ cried the boy. ‘No? Oh, Dulcie, don’t be too good to
me! Don’t let me think you care for me!’

‘Why not, when I do care for you?’ returned the girl. ‘And I do, I
do!’ She took his hand and rose from her seat. ‘I think you’re very
ungrateful.’

‘Ungrateful! To _you!_’

‘Yes. You think me a child still, a doll, with no heart, or head, or
will of my own. Ah! you don’t know me. If you were to say, now, “Dulcie,
I want you,” I’d follow you to the end of the world.’

‘Dulcie!’ He stretched his arms towards her, but fell back and let them
drop at his sides again. ‘I daren’t! I mustn’t! There’s a great black
river running between you and me.’

Dulcie laughed with the old dashing spirit, so alien to his own.

‘Then show your pluck. Strip off your coat, plunge in, and swim across
the river! I’ll help you up the bank when you reach the other side.’

‘Oh, Dulcie! my darling!’ Desmond caught her in his arms with a sudden
gust of passion, and strained her to his breast.

‘Dulce, dulce domum!’ she said with another laugh, though her own eyes
were brimming. ‘You may _kiss_ me if you like,’ she added with ineffable
drollness. Choking with tears, he pressed his lips to her face. ‘That’s
a dreadfully damp kiss. Sure, you’ve swallowed the river. No, you shan’t
go. I’ve got you, and I mean to keep you.’

‘You--you love me, Dulcie?’ said Desmond, breathless with wonder and
delight.

‘A wee little bit,’ said Dulcie; ‘just the least little bit in the
world. Now, just sit down like a good sensible boy and listen to me. No
more nonsense, if you please, about “shame” and “disgrace.” Our parents
don’t consult us as to the how and the where of our being born, and I
don’t see why we should trouble our heads about _them!_ A boy’s a boy,
and a girl’s a girl, and this boy and girl quite understand each other.
Don’t we?’ she asked, nestling up to him. ‘I never knew you to be so
backward before, Desmond! That river has washed all the old impudence
out of you.’

Her raillery could not altogether conquer Desmond’s gloom.

‘It can’t be, Dulcie. You’re only opening the door to a fool’s paradise
for me. I’ve lived in one long enough. ’Tis time I came out and looked
at the world as it is. It can never be. It’s madness to think of it.
Even if it were different, even if the trouble had never fallen on me,
I could never have hoped to win you. You’re a lady. I’m only the
Squireen.’ ‘You’ve grown mighty humble all of a sudden,’ said Dulcie.
‘You weren’t like this only this afternoon. After I’d waded with you
across the pool, you had the impudence to kiss my shoes.’

‘Sure I did,’ replied Desmond. ‘And I’m ready now to kiss your feet.’

‘That’s better,’ said Dulcie, nestling nearer yet. ‘That’s more like the
old Desmond. But a boy of taste would look a little higher. The mouth’s
prettier, and more “convanient,” as you’d call it. Ah!’ she continued,
with a sudden gush of tenderness, ‘don’t think me too bold! don’t think
me an outrageous little flirt! It wasn’t till I felt your trouble that I
knew my own heart, and learned that I loved you so much.’ She broke into
a sudden sob. ‘Tell me you’re not miserable any more!’

‘Miserable!’ cried Desmond, almost sobbing too; ‘I’m the most miserable
and the happiest man in Ireland. But, oh, Dulcie, darling, I’ve
sworn----’

‘But you mustn’t!’ said Dulcie, laying her fingers on his lips. ‘My
sweetheart mustn’t swear.’

‘I mean, Dulcie, that while this shadow is over me I can never hold my
head up again. I must leave this place. I’ve neither land nor title,
father nor mother----’

‘I don’t want your land or your title,’ interrupted Dulcie, ‘nor your
father and mother. I want _you_, and I’ve got you, and I shall keep you.
Try to get away if you dare! You can’t!’

A sound behind them made them both start, and, turning quickly, Desmond
beheld Peebles standing in the doorway. He turned away to brush the
tears from his eyes, but Dulcie hailed the intruder with delight.

‘Come in, Mr. Peebles,’ she cried, ‘and talk to this stubborn boy. He
won’t listen to me a bit.’

‘Is that so?’ said Peebles dryly, scratching at the scrap of gray
whisker which decorated his cheek. ‘I thought jest noo he seemed very
attentive to your discourse! Desmond, laddie,’ he continued, ‘my lord
has sent me after you. Noo, noo, ye’ll just hear me deliver my message.
He’s oot of his mind, almost, clean daft, and neither pancreatic
emulsion nor leever pills will hae much power to help him through in
this trouble, I’m thinking.’

‘Tell Lord Kilpatrick from me,’ said Desmond, when he could trust his
voice, ‘that I’ve nothing more to say to him.’

‘Hoot, lad!’ said Peebles. ‘Blood’s thicker than water. Ye can’t shake
off the ties of relationship in that fashion, and cast awa’ your father
like an old glove. For, after all, ye ken, he _is_ your father.’

‘No!’ said Desmond. ‘He’s no father of mine.’

‘Then he himself is sairly mista’en,’ quoth the old servitor. ‘He’s been
leevin’ for years under that impression!’

‘The man who broke my mother’s heart is neither kith nor kin to me!
Dulcie, good-bye! God bless you for all your goodness. You must try to
forget me.’

‘Oh, Desmond!’ cried the girl, ‘you can’t leave us; you can’t, dear.
Stay! Stay for my sake, I implore you!’

‘To be pointed at by everyone as the wretched thing I am. To know that
my mother’s name is a byword, and I myself am an outcast. You don’t know
what it is you ask me. ’Tis more than I can do.’

‘For my sake, Desmond!’

‘I can’t,’ cried the poor, proud boy; ‘I can’t, even for your sake.’

‘And where are ye going?’ asked Peebles. ‘Eh, Desmond, lad, what will ye
do?’

‘Do! Hide myself at any rate from those that have known me. The world’s
wide, old friend; don’t fear for me!’

And he made a movement to the door.

‘Stop!’ cried Peebles. ‘Since ye _will_ gang, listen to a word I hae to
say to you. Never think shame o’ the mother that bore ye, Desmond. _I_
kenned her, lad; I kenned her weel. She was a brave woman, as true and
honest as she was loving, and ’twas for _your_ sake that she took the
weary road o’ death.’

Desmond broke into sobs again, and the old man, seeing him thus
softened, went on:

‘There’s jest one thing ye’ll promise me, lad. Before ye gang awa’, see
me once more, and maybe I can help ye yet.’

‘I’ll promise you that,’ said Desmond, ‘if you’ll give me a promise in
return. You’ll tell me all about my mother?’

‘Ay, lad, I’ll tell ye all I ken. There’s no word o’ shame for _her_ in
all the story, whatever shame there may be for others.’

‘All I think of now,’ continued Desmond, ‘is the thought of the grief I
brought her.’

‘Ne’er believe it, lad,’ cried the old man; ‘ne’er believe it. Ye
brought her comfort and hope.’ He wiped his eyes. ‘Many’s the time I’ve
grat o’er your cradle, and noo, old fool that I am, I’m greeting again.
Bide a bit, lad; God may help us yet! There, there!’ he continued, as
the impulsive young fellow threw his arms about him, ‘ye’ll not be for
hugging old Peebles. Tak’ the little lass in your arms, and gie _her_
one more kiss for luck!’

‘Desmond!’ cried Dulcie, stretching her arms to him.

‘My conscience!’ said Peebles, as the lovers embraced, ‘if I’d your
youth, and siccan a mouth to kiss, I wadna care if the Deil himsel’ was
my progenitor!’

‘Good-bye, my darling!’ sobbed Desmond. ‘Good-bye, and God Almighty
bless ye! I must go. Good-bye, good-bye!’ He tore himself from her arms,
and ran out of the house. Dulcie sank back upon a bench, and her tears
ran unrestrainedly.

‘Tak’ heart, Lady Dulcie, tak’ heart,’ said the good old man, patting
her shoulder with one hand, as he wiped his own eyes with the other.
‘It’s a sair trouble, but we’ll maybe reconcile them yet.’

‘Oh, Mr. Peebles!’ sobbed the girl. ‘I love him!’

‘Any fool could see that,’ said the old man, with a chuckle which was
half a sob. ‘I love him, too, the rascal! Ye must hasten home, Lady
Dulcie. My lord needs watching, and ’tis weel ye should be with him,
for the boy’s sake.’

Dulcie dried her tears, and called Rosie, who answered the summons at
once.

‘You’ll take care of him?’ she said to Peebles. ‘You’ll see that he
comes to no harm?’

‘Trust me for that,’ said Peebles. ‘There, there, my bonny doo, tak’
comfort. He’ll be yours yet.’

‘Oh, how good you are!’ cried Dulcie. She threw her arms about his
neck, and kissed him on either cheek with right goodwill. ‘That’s for
Desmond’s sake. Mind, I trust in _you_.’

Left alone, Peebles stood for some moments in a cataleptic condition,
till he recovered his senses, and refreshed his brain with a liberal
pinch of snuff from his waistcoat pocket.

‘Peebles, ye old villain!’ he said to himself, ‘what’s gone wi’ your
morality, lettin’ the lassies kiss you at your age! Aweel! a kiss like
that from a pure lass is better than a bad man’s blessing. Never fear,
Lady Dulcie, nae mischief shall befall Desmond Macartney if I can save
him.’



CHAPTER VI.--THE MEETING IN THE GRAVEYARD.

That same night a cold round moon was shining on the old graveyard
where the people of Kilpatrick had for many generations buried their
dead--a place of green and grassy graves, with here and there a simple
cross of stone or wood. It was a lonely place, a lonely hour, and with
the rising moon came a chilly night wind, stealing from grave to grave,
and lifting the grass upon them as a cold hand might lift the hair of
human heads.

The silence of the spot was broken by the sound of a slow but firm
footstep approaching along the quiet by-road that led to the village. A
tall woman, with a shawl about her head, and clad in a material so dark
as to pass for black in the moonlight, entered the graveyard, and stood
looking towards the distant sea. She looked long and earnestly before
she spoke.

‘It’s the time I named,’ she murmured in a deep, inward-sounding voice.
‘Will he come, I wonder? Maybe he’ll think it’s an idle message, and
never guess who sent it, for he thinks me dead and gone long years ago.
I must speak with him, and hear tidings of my boy. Oh, saints in heaven,
that know the achings of a mother’s heart, ye’ve given me strength to
bear my trouble all these years--give me strength now, and pity the
wakeness that brought me here, maybe to get a glimpse of my darling
son!’

She leaned against a ragged, wind-blown tree, with her forehead
supported on her arm; then, slipping to the ground, bent her head in
prayer--an appeal of which only an occasional word could have been heard
by any chance listener, though the fervour of her supplication shook her
whole body with a passionate tremor. She was so lost for the moment to
all sense of her surroundings that a loud and cheerful whistle, coming
along the path she had herself travelled but a few minutes previous,
fell unheeded on her ear, and the gravedigger, returning for his pick
and shovel, was close upon her before she recognised his presence.

She rose with a start, and the suddenness of her apparition made the
intruder’s music stop with a ludicrous suddenness.

‘Musha!’ he cried. ‘What’s that at all? ’Tis a woman! Bedad, I took ye
for a ghost!’

‘I’m flesh and blood, like yourself,’ she answered.

‘But why were ye kneeling there?’ he asked, still fearfully.

‘I was only saying a prayer,’ she answered.

‘A mighty lonesome place to say your prayers in,’ said the gravedigger,
crossing himself. ‘Unless,’ he added as an afterthought, and more
gently, ‘ye’ve any kith or kin lying here.’

‘No,’ said the woman; ‘I am a stranger.’

‘Well, good luck t’ ye, whoever y’ are,’ said the gravedigger. ‘I’ll
just get the pick and the spade, and lave ye to your devotions.’ He
jumped into an open grave at a little distance. ‘I can finish this in
the morning,’ he added to himself. ‘Another two feet ’ll do it.’

‘Who’s to be buried there?’ she asked, as he clambered out with his
tools in his hand.

‘A poor colleen that kilt herself for love. Leastways, she drowned
herself, but wint out of her mind first, to make sure of Christian
burial. Are ye livin’ hereabouts, my woman?’

‘Yes,’ she answered. ‘I’ve a lodging down at the old mill.’

‘Musha!’ said the gravedigger, ‘that’s a lonesome place.’

‘The more fit, maybe,’ she answered, ‘for a lonesome woman.’

‘Will ye be going now?’ asked the man, looking at her with some anxiety.

‘Presently,’ she answered. ‘Sure, I’m doing no harm.’

‘Sorra the bit,’ he said; ‘but I’m thinking that there’s not many
women--nor men ayther, for that matter--who’d care to walk this
graveyard at night, when the fairies walk it. Well, tastes differ, and
so good luck t’ ye.’

‘And good luck to _you!_’ the woman answered.

The man shouldered his tools and went off, resuming his interrupted
whistle. The woman looked anxiously down the road.

‘It’s past the time I named,’ she said to herself, ‘and no sign of him
yet.’

She walked to the low wall which separated the graveyard from the
road, and stood there, watching so keenly that the sound of a footstep
approaching from the opposite side of the churchyard failed to wake
her attention. The unseen wayfarer, who was no other than Mr. Feagus,
returning homewards after a wettish evening with a client beyond the
village, caught sight of her tall, gaunt figure clearly outlined against
the pale flood of moonlight which deluged the sky.

‘Who’s that, now?’ he asked himself, with a start,--‘a woman, or a
taisch?--a Christian soul, or an ugly spirit? Wake my soul to glory! I’m
sorry I took this road, for it’s lonesome for a lawyer with long arrears
of conscience to make up; and, faith, here’s another of ’em coming the
way I came myself. No, ’tis a man this time, a living man, bless the
saints! I’ll step along with him for company. Am I drunk or dreamin’?
’Tis that old omadhaun, Peebles the steward! ’Tis mighty queer! What
can bring a quiet man like that down here at night-toime? If it’s an
assignation with that female? The old rascal! I’ll keep out of his way,
and watch what he’s after.’

He slid cautiously over the wall, and established himself in the deepest
shadow, just as Peebles’ lean figure emerged into clear moonlight.

The old man paused at the wicket-gate.

‘I saw someone here--I’d swear till it, and noo there’s nae sign of any
living thing. Lord save us! it’s a gruesome place. Well, gruesome or no
gruesome, I’ll e’en see it through. She’s there!’ he exclaimed, catching
sight of the woman’s figure. ‘Ahem! Was’t you, lass, that sent the
message to Mr. Peebles?’

The woman turned eagerly.

‘Yes, sir!’ she cried. ‘I sent for you!’ ‘Good e’en t’ ye, whoever
ye are,’ said Peebles. ‘I’m here at your service, though I ken little
enough what it is ye want o’ me. ’Twas of Moya Macartney ye wanted to
speak--the puir lassie that died lang syne?’

‘Of Moya Macartney, sure enough,’ answered the woman. ‘But she never
died, sir. She’s alive this day, and nearer than ye think!’

‘Lord save us!’ exclaimed Peebles. ‘You say she’s living! Moya Macartney
living?’

The woman turned her face to the moonlight, and let her shawl, which
had hidden it, fall back upon her shoulders. The old man stepped nearer,
peering on her with a look of mingled expectation, incredulity, and
superstitious horror. The face was white, thin, and wrinkled, but he
recognised it in a moment; and as the great black eyes dwelt on Peebles’
face, the thin lips murmured a name which struck on his astonished ears
like a veritable echo from the grave.

‘Moya!’ he cried. ‘Moya Macartney! No! It can’t be!’

‘It is, sir,’ said Moya. ‘I’m Moya Macartney. Old and gray now, Mr.
Peebles, but the same colleen ye knew once in Kenmare.’

The hidden listener raised his head cautiously.

‘Saints preserve us!’ he muttered, and taking advantage of Peebles’
wonder and consternation, crept nearer to him and his companion.

‘Meeracle of meeracles!’ cried the old man. He extended a trembling
hand, and took that which Moya held out in answer. It was as real as,
and warmer and steadier than, his own. ‘Ay! ye’re flesh and blood;
but--what does it mean?’

‘Sure, it’s a long story,’ said Moya; ‘but I’ll tell it ye in as few
words as I can. When I left my child and went away broken-hearted, I
little thought to live another day; but my courage failed me, and I
feared to face my Maker before my time. I lived on, unknown and far
away. But I heard news from time to time of my son. I knew that he was
growing up happy, and ignorant, thank God, of his mother’s shame.’

‘Puir lass!’ said Peebles. ‘Puir lass! And it’s been for his own sake
that ye’ve held aloof from him all these years--never shown your face or
spoke a word!’

‘Sure, why should I? ’Twas enough for me to think that maybe, when
he thought that I was dead, my lord’s heart might be turned to the poor
friendless boy, and that he might crape into his father’s heart and earn
his love. I said to myself a thousand times, “God bless him! I’ll never
disgrace him. He shall never learn that his mother’s still living on
this weary earth.”’

‘But ye’ve come at last, Moya,’ said Peebles, wiping his eyes; ‘ye’ve
come at last to----’

‘Only to hear of his happiness--only, maybe, to get one glimpse of his
face. Oh, sir, if I could do that same, I’d die happy, for the heaviness
of years is on me, and I’ve not long to live. Speak to me! Tell me of
him! Is he well and happy?’

‘Weel?’ repeated Peebles. ‘Ay, he’s weel enough. Happy? Ay, he’s as
happy as most folk, for it’s a wearyin’ world.’ He paused, looking
pityingly at Moya, and then resumed in a hesitating manner: ‘I’ve
news for ye that I fear will not be over welcome to ye. ’Twas only
yesterday he learned the truth. He found oot that Lord Kilpatrick was
his father, and with that, poor lad, he shook the dust from his feet and
fled away from his father’s house.’

‘My God!’ cried Moya. ‘But who tould him? Not you, sure?’

‘I?’ cried Peebles--‘I, that hae guarded the secret these eighteen
years, and burdened my conscience with endless lees for the poor lad’s
sake and yours! No, no, Moya. He was taunted wi’ his birth by a wicked
whelp--his cousin, Richard Conseltine’s son, and a’ came oot.’

‘And then?’ cried Moya.

‘My lord begged him to stay, offered to make him his lawful heir, but
he refused the siller and cursed his father in his mother’s name. Ah,
don’t greet, woman, or I’ll be greeting too. Your name’s deepest in
the lad’s heart, and first upon his lips.’

‘God bless him!’ sobbed the heartbroken mother. ‘But what shall I do?
What shall I do?’

‘Let me take ye to him,’ said Peebles. ‘Eh, lass, but the boy’s heart
will leap for joy to know ye’re alive.’

‘No!’ said Moya, shrinking back. ‘No, no! Let things be as they are.
It’s betther, far betther, that he should think me dead.

Alive, I shall only shame him more. Just let me see him, let me look
into his eyes and hear his voice--’tis all I ask of the blessed
saints, and I’ll go back to where I came from and never trouble him
again.’

At that moment, as if in answer to the impassioned prayer of that lonely
heart, a voice rose at a hundred yards’ distance. Peebles started at the
sound:

               ‘Tho’ I lave thee for ever, my darling, and go,

               Thine image shall haunt me in sunshine and

                        snow;

               Like the light of a star shining over the foam,

               Thy face shall go with me wherever I roam.’


‘Lord save us!’ cried Peebles. ‘’Tis himself.’

‘Who?’ cried Moya wildly. ‘Desmond? My son?’

‘Ay! your son Desmond. Wheest, woman! He’s coming this way.’


               ‘Though waves roll between us, sweet star of my

                        love,

               Thy voice calls unto me----’


Desmond’s voice rose again as he spoke, nearer and more distinct.

‘Mr. Peebles!’ he cried, pausing in his song to scrutinize his old
friend’s figure in the moonlight. ‘It’s late for you to be out here
among the graves. Who’s that with ye?’

Peebles hesitated. Moya touched him lightly on the arm.

‘It’s just a poor peasant body. She’s strange to these parts, and was
asking the way.’

Moya had gathered her shawl about her face again, and a sob broke from
her.

‘Sure she’s in trouble,’ Desmond added pityingly.

‘Yes, sir,’ said Moya, conquering herself, ‘I’m in bitter trouble. And
by the same token there’s trouble in _your_ heart too.’

‘In mine?’ said Desmond, forcing a laugh, not very successfully.

‘Ye favour one I used to know,’ said Moya. ‘Will ye tell me your name,
sir?’

‘My name?’ said Desmond hesitatingly. ‘Well, why not? My name’s Desmond
Macartney.’

‘Desmond Macartney!’ the woman repeated. ‘I’ll not forget it. Sure I’d
once a boy of me own, as swate to look upon as yourself. It’s proud your
mother should be of such a son.’

‘My mother is dead,’ said Desmond. ‘She died long ago--when I was but a
child. Good-night t’ ye, and God help ye through your trouble.’

‘Where are you going, Desmond?’ asked Peebles.

‘To the farm yonder; they’ll put me up for the night.’

‘Wait for me there to-morrow. I must see you.’

‘I’ll wait,’ said Desmond. He looked again at Moya, who was crying
unrestrainedly. ‘Poor soul!’ he said. ‘She seems to have a heavy grief.’

‘She has,’ said Peebles. ‘She’s lost all the folk she loves.’

‘Like me,’ sighed Desmond. ‘Well, well! “Though I lave thee for ever,”’
he began singing again as he turned away, till interrupted by the
stranger’s voice.

‘Sir--Mr. Desmond!’ cried the woman suddenly, ‘they say that the
blessing o’ one broken heart may help to heal the trouble of another.
Will ye bend down in this holy place and take a poor creature’s
blessing?’

‘Sure,’ said Desmond, ‘it’s only one blessing in the whole world that I
seek, and that I can never have--the blessing of my own dead mother.’

‘Maybe it might come through me! I’m a mother, too!’

‘Humour her, laddie,’ said Peebles gently. ‘Humour her. Her sorrow’s
great.’

Desmond took off his cap and knelt with bent head. It seemed long before
the voice broke the solemn stillness, but when at last it was audible,
it was strangely firm.

‘May the Lord watch over ye, now and for ever! May the mouth of the
mother that bore ye spake through me, and bring ye happiness, health,
and peace. May your days be long in the land, till you’re old and gray
like me. But, oh, may ye never know my trouble or lose what I have lost.
Amen! Amen!’

‘And may God bless _you!_’ said Desmond, rising, deeply touched by the
solemn words and the deep rich voice which had spoken them.

‘And now,’ said Moya, ‘will ye let a poor crathure kiss your forehead,
for the sake of her own son that she’ll never see again?’ She took
his head between her hands and pressed her lips to his brow in a long
embrace. ‘The Lord be with you, Desmond Macartney.’

With no other word, she turned and left the graveyard, Peebles following
her after a hasty reminder to Desmond of their engagement for the
morrow.

It was not till some minutes later, when Desmond’s voice rose again on
the air at a considerable distance, and the figures of Moya and Peebles
had disappeared, that Feagus rose to his feet.

‘Monomondiaoul!’ he said softly to himself. ‘Moya Macartney alive! And
what will me lord and Mr. Conseltine say to that, I wonder?’



CHAPTER VII.--BLAKE, OF BLAKE’S HALL.

Lady Dulcie, wending her way back from the shebeen to the Castle under
the escort of Rosie and the faithful Larry, dried her tears resolutely,
and did her best--no hard task at sweet eighteen, with love as an
ally--to look on the bright side of things. Desmond would never leave
her for long, of that she felt assured. He might go out into the world
to seek his fortune, and, of course, one so brave, generous, handsome,
and altogether admirable, could hardly fail to find it; but his success
or failure would never, she told herself, make any difference to her.
The day was not far off when she would be her own mistress, and then no
spite of accident or design should hold her from her lover’s arms.

As she and her companions came upon the confines of the Castle grounds
two dusky figures approached them, and she made out by the faint light
of the rising moon that they were Mr. Conseltine and his son Richard.
They saluted her silently, to her great relief, and she passed by.

‘She’s been to meet that blackguard bastard, I suppose,’ muttered
Richard between his teeth. ‘Damn him!’

‘With all my heart!’ responded his senior. ‘Damn him, by all means! Your
blunder of the morning has turned out better than I had dared to hope;
but it was a blunder all the same.’

‘It might have been,’ returned Richard; ‘but, so far, it has answered.
We’ve got the brute out of the house, and it won’t be my fault if he
gets in again.’

‘’Twas too bold a stroke, lad,’ said Conseltine. ‘You show your cards
too openly--you play too boldly. If the proud-stomached young ass had
only had a little common-sense, he might have consolidated his position
with your uncle. Henry was in the mood to do anything, to commit any
folly, after you insulted the boy.’

‘I couldn’t help it,’ returned Richard. ‘I hate the cad to such an
extent that I’d have shouted his shame in his face if it had cost me
every penny I have and every penny I expect from Kilpatrick.’

‘You’re a fool,’ said his father, smoothly as ever. It required a good
deal to shake the elder Conseltine from his calm cynicism. ‘And if you
think the game’s won just because you’ve insulted the Squireen and got
him out of the Castle for a single day, you’re a bigger fool than I
ever thought you--and that’s not saying a little. The game’s only begun.
Henry’s fond of the brat--absence will make him fonder still. It’s quite
on the cards that he may leave every stick and stone of his property to
him and strand you with the barren title. Keep out of his way. He never
liked you, and now he likes you less than ever. Leave him to me. Leave
Dulcie alone, too. Don’t be trying to excuse yourself, or trying to make
love to her; you’ll only make bad a deal worse. Who’s that in front of
us?--your eyes are younger than mine.’

‘It’s that drunken scoundrel Blake.’

‘Blake!’ repeated Conseltine, and fell into a slower step. ‘Well, ’tis
lucky, on the whole. ’Tis as well he should know.’

‘Know what?’ asked Richard.

‘Know all there is to be known about this business of the Squireen,’
answered the elder.

‘What affair is it of his?’

‘That you’ll not learn from me,’ responded his father: ‘not yet, at
least. If it’s ever necessary you should know, I’ll tell you.
Meanwhile, keep a still tongue and an open eye. It’s to the shebeen he’s
going--we’ll follow him.’

They were close behind Blake’s heels by the time he had reached the door
of the alehouse. He lurched round and faced them.

‘The divil and his imp,’ he remarked, as a polite salutation, and
stumbled across the threshold with no further greeting than a drunken
laugh.

Peebles was in the kitchen, finishing a drink of whisky, and chatting
with the widow.

‘Hullo! my king o’ Scots,’ hiccuped Blake. ‘You here? Drinkin’, too!
Ye’ve taken to decent habits in your old age. Here! you’ll have another
drink with me.’

‘Indeed but I’ll no’,’ replied the sententious old Scot.

‘You won’t! You won’t drink?’

‘Yes, with my friends,’ returned Peebles; ‘but I see none o’ them
_here_.’

He set his glass upon the table, nodded to the widow, and went out to
keep his already recorded interview with Moya in the churchyard.

Blake laughed with drunken good humour.

’Tis a brave boy, old Peebles! He doesn’t trust me, but, after all,
’tis a question of taste, and no gentleman quarrels on such a ground.
Bedad, I’m dry.’ He searched his pockets, and found them empty. ‘Here,
you spalpeen,’ he continued, accosting Richard, ‘pay for a drink for me.
Sure, ’twill be a luxury for you, and one you don’t often enjoy.’

‘Bring some whisky, if you please, Mrs. Daly,’ said Conseltine smoothly,
before Richard could muster his heavy wits to retort. ‘Sit down, Blake,
and listen to me. Are ye sober enough to talk business?’

‘I’m as sober as I need be,’ responded Blake; ‘and more sober than I
want to be, at this hour o’ the night.’

‘That’s easily cured,’ said Conseltine dryly, handing him a charged
tumbler; ‘but don’t go too fast--this is business.’

‘Discoorse,’ said Blake, tossing off the spirit, ‘and I’ll listen.’

The widow still lingered about the room, making pretence of trifling
with some household task. Conseltine with a smooth voice bade her leave
them to themselves, and she obeyed, after which he rose, and for greater
security closed the door leading to the road.

‘Ye’re mighty mysterious,’ said Blake. ‘What is it, at all?’

‘Have you heard what happened at the Castle this morning?’ asked
Conseltine, leaning across the rude table at which the two were seated,
and speaking in a whisper.

‘How the divil should I?’ asked Blake.

‘I’ve not been out of bed an hour, and I’d be there still, but the
whisky gave out, and I kem here to wet my whistle.’

‘’Tis better ye should hear it from me than from another,’ said
Conseltine, in the same tone of extreme caution. ‘My son here made a
fool of himself this morning.’

‘Did he, now?’ returned Blake, with a laugh. ‘Sure his Creator did that
for him twenty years ago.’

‘He had a row with the Squireen, young Desmond Macartney, and let out
what he knew about his birth.’

‘’Tis the first time I knew that he knew anything about it,’ said
Blake. ‘Was it you that trusted him with such a secret?’

‘Never mind how he came to know,’ returned Conseltine. ‘He learned
the secret. Desmond provoked him, and he blurted it out before
everybody--Lady Dulcie, my brother, Peebles and all.’

‘And he’s here to tell the tale?’ said Blake, with an air of drunken
surprise. ‘Bedad, I’m a good man with my fists, but ’tis not I that
would like to tell the Squireen that story.’

‘Listen! Listen!’ said Conseltine, beating the tops of his fingers on
the table a little impatiently.

‘D’ye mean to sit there, Dick Conseltine,’ said Blake, ‘an’ tell me that
that rip of a son o’ yours told the Squireen all that, and there was no
fight?’

‘Devil a bit of a fight,’ answered Conseltine. ‘The boy was knocked
clean out of time by the information. Well, when he came to, his
lordship told him he’d acknowledge him before the world.’

‘His lordship’s a gentleman!’ cried Blake. ‘By the Lord, he is! If only
he could hold a dacent skinful o’ liquor, he’d be the finest gentleman
in Ireland, bar none. And what did the Squireen say?’

‘He cursed the father that begot him,’ returned Conseltine. ‘He shook
the dust of the house off his feet, and swore he’d never cross the
threshold again!’

‘Then the boy’s like his father--a gentleman!’ cried Blake, with a
drunken cheer. ‘Here’s to him, with three times three and all the
honours! And what did the old man say to that?’

‘It has made him seriously ill,’ answered Conseltine. ‘He has passed the
day in bed, and has refused himself to everybody except Peebles. Now,
Blake,’ he leaned further across the table, and fixed his keen eyes
on the face of the drunken squire, ‘the time has come for a definite
understanding between us.’

‘Well?’ asked Blake. He made an obvious and partially successful attempt
to sober himself. ‘Give me that jug o’ water.’ It was passed to him, and
he drained it--to the great apparent refreshment and steadying of his
wits. ‘A man has need of all his brains, Dick Conseltine, when ye speak
in that tone of voice. Out with it--what hell-broth are ye brewing now?’

‘There’s no new development yet,’ answered Conseltine, with a smile,
‘though something may occur at any moment with Henry in his present
condition. But I want to know definitely, yes or no, are you for us or
against us?’

‘That just depends on how ye treat me,’ muttered Blake. ‘I don’t know
whether it is that I’m getting old, or whether the whisky is playing
false with my nerves--which is what I’d call my conscience, if I was one
o’ the pious sort--or what it is, but I--I fluctuate! Sometimes--it’s
generally in the morning, when I wake--I feel penitent: I feel that I’d
like to go over to the enemy and clear my breast o’ the load I’ve borne
this eighteen years and more. What are ye doin’?’ he asked angrily, as
Conseltine trod heavily on his foot beneath the table. ‘Oh, the cub!
Sure I said nothin’ that he has the brains to understand. Yes, Mr.
Richard Conseltine, that’s how I feel at times, and it comes over me
generally in the mornin’, when the whisky’s out and my pockets are
empty. And, by thunder, if I did! if I did tell all I know--Holy Moses!
what a racket it would make up at the Castle, and all Ireland over.
Faith, I’d live in history! ’Twould be what the play-actors call a
fine situation! And let me tell ye, there’s them as ’d make it worth
me while to do it!’

‘You drunken hog!’ murmured Conseltine under his breath; adding aloud,
‘You won’t do that, Blake!’

‘Won’t I?’ returned Blake. ‘Faith, you’re surer about it than I am!’

‘No,’ said Conseltine, ‘you won’t do it. I can make it better worth your
while to keep silent.’

‘Then why the divil don’t ye?’ asked Blake. ‘You’re very fond o’ talking
about your gratitude, and you hold out fine promises, but what do ye
_do?_’

‘It seems to me,’ returned the other, ‘that I’ve done a good deal.’

‘And it seems to me,’ exclaimed Blake, banging the table to emphasize
the personal pronoun, ‘that ye do damn’d little. I tell ye, Dick
Conseltine, it’s not for nothing that I’m going to suffer the torments
of an aching conscience!’

‘Your aching conscience,’ said Conseltine, with a scarcely perceptible
sneer, ‘has been fairly well salved so far. Is it money that you want?’

‘Bedad it is, then!’ cried the other. ‘I haven’t the price of a glass in
the wide world.’

‘Well,’ said his fellow conspirator, ‘I’m willing to do what I can, in
reason.’

‘In reason!’ repeated Blake. ‘Your notions of what’s reasonable and mine
may not agree. Look here, now, what d’ye say to two hundred pounds?’

‘Two hundred pounds!’ cried Conseltine, with well-acted amazement. ‘Oh,
come, come, Blake!’

‘Come, come!’ echoed Blake. ‘’Tis you that has to come--I’ve gone far
enough along the road to hell; I’ll go no farther unless I’m paid for
it. I want two hundred pounds to-morrow, and I’ll have it, or know the
reason why!’

‘I can’t do it, Blake,’ cried Conseltine.

‘Very well, then,’ said Blake, ‘his lordship can, and I’ll not only get
two hundred, but ease my aching conscience at the same time.’

‘I think you’re hard,’ said Conseltine. ‘Come, Blake; our interests
stand or fall together. Look at the affair all round, pro and con. You
might get that two hundred from Henry, but ’twould be all you’d get.
Now, serve my interest, and Dick’s here, and you’re safe for life. Have
I ever refused you money when you asked for it?’

‘That’s all right,’ said Blake; ‘don’t refuse me now!’

‘Well,’ groaned Conseltine, ‘if you must have it you must.’

‘Bedad I must,’ returned the other, with a nod full of meaning. ‘Is it a
bargain?’

‘Yes, it’s a bargain.’

‘To-morrow, mind.’

‘Yes, to-morrow.’

‘Good! Then I’ll drug my conscience and accept the solatium. And now I’m
goin’ home.’

‘Very well,’ said Conseltine; ‘I’ll see you to-morrow.’

‘All right!’ retorted Blake, with a disfavouring eye on Richard. ‘Don’t
bring the cub with you. I can stand the old sinner, but not the young
one.’

He reeled from the room, and Conseltine’s glance, as it followed him,
was full of a dark and concentrated loathing.

‘The insolent scoundrel!’ said Richard, when he was out of hearing. ‘Why
do you stand him? What is his hold over you?’

‘I hope you’ll never need to know,’ returned his father, draining his
glass. ‘Damn him! I wish he was in the grave.’

‘He’s going there as fast as drink can take him,’ said Richard.

‘I feel inclined sometimes,’ said his amiable parent, ‘to give him a
lift on the journey.’



CHAPTER VIII.--MOYA MACARTNEY.

Peebles, returning home to the Castle after his midnight interview with
Moya Macartney in the churchyard, passed a sleepless and troubled night,
revolving in his mind all the events of the sad history in which the
unfortunate woman had played so strange a part, and canvassing all that
her mysterious and unexpected return to life might mean to herself
and others. More than once he determined to disregard Moya’s strenuous
injunction to silence, and at once break to Lord Kilpatrick the news of
her existence, and of her presence in the district; but again and
again the memory of the solemn promise of secrecy he had given, and the
thought that so sudden and heavy a shock might be fatal to one of his
lordship’s age and feeble health, dissipated that intention.

‘Eh!’ he murmured to himself as he tossed and tumbled in vain effort
to discover a way out of the labyrinth of difficulties the business
presented, ‘it’s a troublous affair. I’d like to do justice, if I
could see my way clear to the doing o’t. I’d like fine to bowl out that
smugfaced hypocrite Conseltine, and that lump o’ malignity his son.
’Twould be the grandest day’s work I ever did. But I promised, like
an old fool, and I must keep my promise, and just await the decrees o’
Providence.’

He rose long before his usual hour, early as that was, and went out into
the fresh breeze of early morning. Dawn was faintly glimmering on the
mountain-tops, and the dew was heavy on the grasses of the lawn. He
looked up at the light which shone faintly in his master’s window.

‘’Twill be but a poor night’s rest he’s had, I’m thinkin’, poor old
heathen, found out by his sin at last. Eh, but the lad’s curses will lie
heavy on his heart! Mine’s wae for him, and for the callant I’ve seen
grow up from a bairn, and for the lonely woman out yonder.’

A sudden idea struck him; he drew out his watch and consulted it
eagerly.

‘Near hand to four o’clock,’ he murmured. ‘The mill’s but four miles
awa’. I can do it in an hour, and anither hour to come back. I’ll gang
and see Moya, and persuade her to hear reason.’

He took his hat and stick, and set out at the briskest pace he could
attain towards Moya’s lodging place. It was a rough and stony track,
and by the time he came in sight of the mill the old man was fain to sit
upon a chance boulder and pant his breath back. Caution was necessary;
he wished to do nothing that could by any chance give gossip or
conjecture a handle, and he walked cautiously round the mill, glad of
the babble of the stream which covered the sound of his footsteps on
turf and gravel. Nobody was stirring; the place and all the countryside
lay still and gray under the morning mist, now faintly touched here and
there with threads of opalescent colour by the yet invisible sun. He
threw a small pebble cautiously at the window shutter of Moya’s sleeping
place, and a minute later it opened and revealed her pale, lined face.
He made a gesture, cautioning her to silence, and then by another
invited her to join him. She nodded to show comprehension of his
pantomime, and a minute later stood beside him.

They walked on side by side in silence till they reached a little glen
between two hills which hid them from all chance of observation, and
then Peebles spoke.

‘Moya, woman,’ he said, ‘tell me why, after all these years, you come
here now?’

‘I came to see my son,’ she answered.

‘Ay,’ he said, ‘that’s natural eneuch, na doubt. But is that _all_ you
came for?’

She darted a keen look at him--a look in which question and surprise
were both expressed.

‘Moya,’ he went on, ‘since I saw you last night I’ve no’ closed my eyes
for thinking o’ you and the lad your son. Eh, woman, but it’s clear
impossible that after that one glimpse o’ his bonny face, and that one
sound o’ his voice, ye should be content to gang back to solitude--it’s
clear impossible! Let me tell him you’re alive and near him. _He’s_
alone, too, noo! His place is by your side; your duty is to comfort him
under the trouble he’s suffering, ye ken that weel?’

‘Mr. Peebles,’ said Moya steadily, ‘the path of duty is not always
plain; but I’m going to clear mine if I can, by your help. God knows my
very bones are full of desire for the child I love; I was near crying
out who I was last night when I kissed him; but I’ve borne the bitter
pain of solitude now for eighteen years, and sure my time here will not
be so long. I’ll bear it to the end rather than disgrace and shame my
child!’

‘But, Moya, he kens!’ cried Peebles. ‘He kens you were not married to
his father. I winna say but, if he had never learned that, ye wad no’ be
in the right to keep apart from him; but he knows it. He’s cast off his
father; he has barely a friend in the world, barring me, and how can _I_
help him. He has need o’ ye! Ye’ll heal his sair heart, and he’ll love
ye and cherish ye and comfort your declining years.’

Moya shook her head.

‘He’s young,’ she replied, with a world of meaning in her tone. ‘A heart
as young as his won’t break for such a trouble as he’s suffering now.
He’ll go out into the big world, where the shame’s not known, and win
his way. What would _I_ be to him--a nameless vagabond, a poor, ignorant
ould woman! I should only kape him down and disgrace him. No; ye must
tell Desmond nothing--yet. Ye asked me just now,’ she went on after a
pause, ‘if I had no other reason to come here afther all these years but
just to see my boy?’

‘Weel?’ asked Peebles.

‘I had--I had another reason, or I’d have resisted the temptation now as
I have fought it down all that long, dreary time. I’ve a question to ask
ye, Mr. Peebles?’ She paused there for so long a time that the old man
snapped out suddenly, with excusable irritation:

‘Weel, weel, lassie! What is’t?’

‘There’s so much depends on the answer that I hardly dare to ask,’ said
Moya, with a voice suddenly gone tremulous. ‘Tell me,’ she continued,
after another pause, ‘if ye know a gintleman in this part of the
counthry that calls himself Blake--one Patrick Blake, of Blake’s Hall?’

‘Do I know him?’ echoed Peebles. ‘Ay, I know him fine, the drunken
scoundrel! A’body kens him for miles round. But what depends on my
knowing Patrick Blake, lassie?’

‘Much may depend on it,’ said Moya. ‘Desmond’s own future may depend on
it.’

‘Desmond’s future? Why, what in the name of a’ that’s meaning can Pat
Blake hae to do wi’ Desmond’s future?’

‘Was Mr. Blake,’ asked Moya slowly, and with an amount of effort which
helped the old man to understand the importance she attached to the
answer--‘was Mr. Blake ever a clerk in holy orders?’

Peebles stared at her in sheer bewilderment. Had she asked if he himself
had ever been Pope of Rome, the question could hardly have seemed more
ludicrous; but there was a painful solemnity in her manner which would
have stayed a man less grave than he from laughter.

‘Holy orders!’ he muttered. ‘Holy orders! Patrick Blake! By my soul, but
it’s an odd question!’

‘Not under that name, I mane, but another--Ryan O’Connor.’

‘He’s borne no name but Patrick Blake that I ever kenned o’,’ said
Peebles, still groping painfully for any meaning in Moya’s queries.
‘She’s haverin’,’ he muttered to himself; but the calm intentness of
Moya’s glance, though contradicted by the heaving bosom and irregular
breath with which she spoke, did not accord with the explanation. ‘What
if he ever was a priest under that or any other name?’ he asked at last.

‘I was married to Lord Kilpatrick,’ said Moya, ‘by a man calling himself
the Reverend Father Ryan O’Connor.’

‘Lord guide us!’ ejaculated the old Scot. ‘And do ye think ’Twas
Patrick Blake?’

‘I _know_ it was Patrick Blake,’ replied Moya. ‘That much I’m sure of.’

‘But how do you ken it?’ asked the bewildered Peebles.

‘Sure ‘twould be too long a story to tell ye now. ’Twas only lately
that an accident put me on the track. It took time and trouble to get
Ryan O’Connor and Patrick Blake into the same skin, but I did it. And
now, all that remains to be learned is just whether Blake was ever a
priest, or whether his office was as false as his name. Will ye do
that for me, Mr. Peebles? ’Tis not for my sake I ask it, but for my
son’s--for Desmond’s!’

Peebles had fallen into a sitting posture on a low stone dyke, and sat
staring at her like a man bewitched.

‘Moya! Moya Macartney! D’ye ken what ye’re sayin’? Oh! my head will rive
with the dingin’ ye’ve started in my brains. Blake married ye! Blake
a priest! Why, woman!’ he cried, suddenly straightening himself, ‘if
that’s so, ye’re Lady Kilpatrick!’

‘Desmond would be Lord Kilpatrick,’ Moya answered simply. ‘’Tis for
his sake, Mr. Peebles, that I ask you for help; not for mine, God knows.
There were times,’ she went on, after another long pause, ‘long, long
ago, when I’d have given my life to hold him--Henry Kilpatrick--in
my arms for just one minute--times when all the shame and sorrow he’d
brought on the poor ignorant girl who’d loved him seemed nothing--when,
if the broad sea had not been betwixt us, I’d have gone to him and said,
“Take me as your misthress, your servant, anything--let me see your face
and hear your voice now and then, one day in the year, and I’ll follow
ye barefoot through the world.” But they’ve gone, long since, and
all my love and all my anger are gone with them. As to bein’ Lady
Kilpatrick,’ she went on, with a short and mirthless laugh, ‘’tis not
the chance of that that brings me here. A fine lady I’d make for any
lord, wouldn’t I? and much at me aise I’d be among the grand folk he’d
introduce me to? But Desmond’s a gintleman--as good a gintleman as any
in Ireland, as Henry himself--and if the title’s his by rights, he shall
have it. _I_ shan’t trouble him. I shall go as I came, when I’ve seen
him happy and honoured in his place. The thought has been food and
drink, fire and shelter, to me these months past, since God sent the
message that it might be so. Will you help me, Mr. Peebles?’

‘Will I help ye?’ cried Peebles, springing to his feet with the vivacity
of a young man. ‘Deil hae me, but I’ll know the truth in four-and-twenty
hours. But, eh, lass, if ye’re mistaken? If it’s not sae? I’d just gang
clean daft in the disappointment. But it must--it must be true, eh,
lass? To see the faces o’ they two Conseltines! To see the bonny lad,
that they denounced as a beggar and a bastard, established wi’ title and
estates! To see Lady Dulcie Lady Kilpatrick and Desmond’s wife! Oh! if
it’s no’ true there’ll be a braw end o’ one good Scot, for I’ll just
gang neck and crop into Limbo for sheer vexation. Dawm it! that I should
say so--it _must_ be true! It shall be true, if I squeeze it oot o’ yon
scoundrel Blake wi’ my ain old hands, and his worthless life along wi’
it! But I maun awa’, lass--I maun awa’. There’s a hantle o’ things to
be done at the Castle, and the lazy loons o’ servants are at sixes
and sevens if they haven’t me about their lugs. I’ll see yon drunken
ne’er-do-weel this day, and I’ll hae news for ye the morn’s morn. Keep
a good heart, woman. The king shall enjoy his ain again. Eh, I’m just
daft!’ Indeed, anybody who had witnessed the scene might have thought
so,--he was so topful of excitement.

‘God bless ye, Mr. Peebles,’ said Moya. ‘Ye’re a true friend to me and
the boy.’

‘Ay, am I,’ returned Peebles, ‘and that ye shall see ere long. Gang
hame, lass, and pray for Desmond.’

‘Pray for him!’ cried Moya. ‘Has there been a day this eighteen years
I’ve not prayed for him? No, nor a waking hour. God go with ye, sir,
but----’

She checked him with an outstretched hand as he turned to go, and laid
her finger on her lips as a signal for absolute silence.

‘Don’t fear me,’ said the old man; ‘I’m nae chatterbox, wi’ business
like this afoot.’



CHAPTER IX.--IN WHICH MISCHIEF IS BREWING.

It was late in the forenoon of the same day when Mr. Blake rose from
his bed in the tenement to which he gave the sonorous and impressive
title of Blake’s Hall--a tumbledown hut of two stories, which long
years of neglect had reduced to a condition of almost complete ruin.
The ground-floor was occupied by Blake himself; the upper portion by an
ancient peasant woman, who acted as his cook, housemaid, caterer, and
general factotum. There was not a whole pane of glass or an unbroken
article of furniture in the whole building, and the little plot of
ground in which it stood was a wilderness of stones and weeds.

Biddy was made aware of her employer’s awakening in the fashion familiar
to her for years past--by his roaring at the full stretch of his
lungs for a draught of whisky. That draught despatched, he arose, and
proceeded with shaking limbs to shave and dress. He was still occupied
with his toilet when the voice of the elder Conseltine was heard in the
outer room.

‘Give him a glass of punch,’ Blake called out to Biddy. ‘I’ll be with
him in the squazing of a lemon. So,’ he continued, reeling out of his
bedroom a minute later, ‘ye’ve brought the cub with ye, though I forbade
ye.’

Richard, sullenly flicking at his boot with his riding-whip, looked at
Blake from under his lowering eyebrows, but took no further heed of
his ambiguous welcome. Blake unsteadily poured out a second bumper of
spirit, and the glass rattled against his teeth as he drained it.

‘And what’s the news with his lordship this day?’ he asked.

‘Still very ill,’ answered Conseltine.

‘He’s been upset by that old fool Peebles, who’s been hammering at him
all day long to recall that brat of a by-love of his.’

‘Faith!’ returned Blake, ‘and he might do worse, by a great deal. ’Tis
a fine lad, Desmond, as clever and handsome as that cub of yours is
stupid and ugly. Don’t stand there, ye imp of perdition, glowering at me
like a ghost. Sit down and drink like a Christian.’

Richard obeyed a scarcely perceptible motion of his father’s eyebrows,
sat at the battered table, and poured out for himself a glass of whisky,
to which he put his lips with an awkward affectation of goodfellowship.

‘Have ye got that two hundred pounds?’ asked Blake.

‘I have,’ said Conseltine; ‘I’ve brought it with me.’

He unbuttoned his coat, and took a bundle of bank papers from the inner
breast-pocket. Blake took it with shaking hands, and rammed it in a
crumpled mass into his breeches pocket without counting.

‘You’re as good as your word, Dick Conseltine, for once in your life,’
said he. ‘Have another drink.’

Conseltine profited by Blake raising his glass to his lips to fling the
contents of the tumbler which Biddy had filled for him on to the earthen
floor of the hut, and filled it again, principally with water.

‘Why,’ said Blake, ‘ye’re gettin’ friendly and neighbourly in your old
age. Ye’ll be a dacent man before ye die, if ye live long enough.’

‘Blake,’ said Conseltine, ‘I want to talk to you. Did ye ever think of
emigration?’

‘Did I ever think o’ _what_?’ asked Blake, pausing with his tumbler
half-way to his lips.

‘Emigration,’ repeated Conseltine.

‘I never did,’ returned Blake. ‘Why would I?’

‘Well,’ said his companion, ‘there are many reasons why ye might think
of it. Ye’re just spoiling here--wasting yourself. If ye’d go out West,
a man of your abilities, with a little capital, would do well. Land and
hiring are cheap; it’s a lovely climate, and there are no end of chances
of making money. I’ll tell ye what, now. ’Tis a sin and a shame to see
a man like you wasting yourself in this cursed country. I’ll make that
two hundred five, and pay your passage out, if ye’ll take the next
steamer to New York.’

‘By the saints!’ cried Blake, ‘ye’re mighty generous all of a sudden. Ye
want to get rid of me? Spake the truth, now, isn’t that it?’

‘Well,’ said Conseltine, with a great appearance of candour, ‘that
is it! I’d rather have you out of the country. You’re dangerous here,
Blake--dangerous to us and to yourself.’

‘To myself!’ echoed Blake. ‘And how am I dangerous to meself?’

‘Ye’ll be splitting some day on a certain matter that we know of--easy
now, we needn’t name names--and if ye did speak, ’twould be worse for
you than for us.’

‘Make that good,’ said Blake.

‘Well,’ said Conseltine, ‘you’d very likely get a sum of money down
from the other parties; but that once spent--ye’d get no more, and you’d
spend the rest of your days in an Irish gaol. Now, so long as you’re
faithful to our cause, you know you have a faithful friend in me. I’ll
give ye five hundred down to go to America, and another two hundred
a year as long as you live. Don’t answer now,’ he continued, as Blake
opened his lips to speak. ‘Think it over, and I’m sure ye’ll see things
as I see them, and admit that it’s best for you to be out of the way of
temptation.’

Blake swallowed another tumbler of punch.

‘’Tis a mighty fine idea,’ he said thoughtfully, with a thickening
of the voice which showed that he was fast nearing his normal pitch
of intoxication. He rubbed his head dubiously, and, to clear his wits,
poured out and drank a half-glass of neat whisky. ‘Leave my ancestral
possessions! Desert Blake’s Hall! What are ye grinning at, ye thief of
darkness?’ he demanded angrily of Richard, who had glanced round the
barren room with a smile of pitying contempt; then he lurched forward in
his chair, with bloodshot eyes glaring at Conseltine, who, having thrown
away his second glass of whisky, filled a third. ‘Tell me, now,’ he
said, ‘is the whisky good out there?’

Conseltine smiled and nodded.

‘Well,’ said Blake, ‘an Irish gentleman ought to travel. Five hundred
pounds, ye said?’ Conseltine nodded again. ‘Five hundred on the nail,
and two hundred a year for life?’ Conseltine nodded a third time. ‘Hand
over the bottle,’ said Blake. ‘’Twill take a dale o’ whisky to settle
this question.’

His wavering hand had scarcely steered his glass to his mouth, when
a hurried step was heard in the garden, and a moment later the lawyer
Feagus burst into the room, panting and perspiring. Blake stared at him
for a moment without recognising him, and then rose, with the obvious
intention of falling foul of this unwelcome visitor.

‘Hold him back!’ cried Feagus. ‘Hold him back, for the love of heaven!’

‘Ye sneaking coward!’ cried Blake, trying to get past Conseltine. ‘How
dare ye intrude into my apartments? I’ll have your life!’

Feagus, who, under ordinary circumstances, would have at once accepted
the challenge, once more called to Conseltine to keep Blake back, and,
unbidden, filled and drank a glass of spirits.

‘I’ve no time to waste with _you_, Mr. Blake. I’ve news, Mr. Conseltine;
we’re cooked entirely!’

Conseltine thrust Blake into his chair, and turned.

‘What d’ye mean?’ he asked.

‘Moya Macartney’s _alive!_’ cried the lawyer.

Conseltine staggered as if he had been shot, and Blake, who had risen
to his feet to make a rush at Feagus, checked himself, and stood
still, swaying heavily on his feet, as he glared at the bearer of this
extraordinary news.

‘Are ye mad or drunk?’ asked Conseltine, with an ashen face.

‘I’m neither, sir,’ answered Feagus. ‘God be good to me, I’m too sober
for my pace of mind! I tell ye Moya Macartney’s alive. I’ve seen her.’

Conseltine stared at him like a man newly awakened from a nightmare, as
he went on: ‘’Twas last night, in the churchyard down by the lake. I
was passin’ by, and I saw a woman standing there among the graves, and
old Peebles coming along the road. Thinks I, “I’ll have a fine story
to tell my lord next time I dine with him,” and I just slipped behind a
gravestone and listened. He didn’t know her till she _told_ him who she
was--Moya Macartney, who’s been drowned and in her grave this eighteen
years! Holy Moses! I’m wringing wet only to think of it!’

‘Get on, man, get on!’ said Conseltine hoarsely.

‘I kept as still as death,’ continued Feagus, ‘though ’twas all I
could do to hold meself from cryin’ out when I heard her say “I’m Moya
Macartney.” Then she went on to say that she’d come back to the old
place to see the boy, and at that very minute he kem along the road
singin’.’

‘Desmond?’ cried Conseltine.

‘Desmond himself,’ said the lawyer. ‘Peebles cried out to him, and he
comes into the churchyard and talks with Moya.’ ‘For God’s sake go on,’
cried Conseltine; ‘what did they say?’

‘She never let on who she was. She said she was a poor wandering
creature who wanted to give him her blessin’. And she did; and
she cried, and he cried, and Peebles cried, and I was near cryin’
meself,--it was so affectin’!’

‘Well?’ said Conseltine. ‘And what was the upshot of it all?’

‘Faith, there was no upshot at all,’ said Feagus. ‘The boy went away
no worse than he kem, promisin’ not to lave the district till he’d seen
ould Peebles once more.’

‘If this is true----’ cried Conseltine, shaken out of his ordinary
cynical calm by the news; then he stopped short, staring before him with
a haggard face.

‘True, is it?’ cried Feagus. ‘Go and see for yourself. She’s staying
incog, at Larry’s mill.’

‘And Peebles knows it,’ said Conseltine. ‘By Heaven! I thought something
had happened. The old rascal’s been going about all day long as full o’
mystery as an egg’s full o’ meat. If Henry hears of this!’ ‘He won’t
yet awhile,’ returned Feagus. ‘She swore Peebles to silence till she
hersilf gave him leave to speak.’

‘My God!’ said Conseltine, scarcely above his breath. ‘What’s to be
done? We’re standing on a mine of gunpowder while that woman’s in the
district.’

Blake laughed. He had been as much astonished at the first hearing
of the news as either of his companions, but by this time had shaken
himself back into his usual condition of half-sodden, half-ferocious
humour.

‘Faith,’ said he, ‘’tis a case of the divil among the tailors. By the
Lord, Conseltine, but things are looking mighty quare. I’m thinkin’ I
won’t emigrate just yet. Sure, I’ll stop and see the fun! There’ll be
great doin’s at the Castle by-and-by, I’m thinkin’.’

He laughed again, and drank another glass of whisky.

Conseltine took no notice of the interruption, which he seemed scarcely
to hear.

‘What are ye goin’ to do, sir?’ asked Feagus.

‘I don’t know yet,’ answered Conseltine slowly. He sat down, and leant
his head upon his hand, Feagus and Richard watching him keenly. ‘She’s
living at Larry’s mill, you say?’ he said presently, without raising his
eyes from the floor.

‘At Larry’s mill,’ repeated Feagus. ‘She’s living all alone, under a
false name, at that ould antiquated rat-trap.’

‘Alone?’ repeated Conseltine meaningly.

‘Alone!’ repeated Feagus.

‘It’s ruin,’ said Conseltine, looking up,--‘it’s ruin for all of us if
we don’t get that woman out of the way.’

‘Bedad it is, then,’ said Feagus. His pale face went whiter as he looked
from Conseltine to Richard, and then back again, before stealing a look
at Blake, who, with his chin propped in his hands and his elbows on the
table, followed their dialogue as well as his muddled wits would allow,
with his habitual expression of dogged humour slightly deepened. ‘See
here, now,’ continued the lawyer; ‘we’re all friends here. The danger’s
pressin’, and what’s goin’ to be done has got to be done quick.’

Conseltine’s generally smooth and expressionless face was as a book in
which he read strange matter. Richard’s heavy hangdog countenance was
white with rage and distorted with apprehension. Blake was the only one
of the trio who preserved anything like his customary appearance.

‘I was thinking,’ said Feagus, ‘as I came along, unless--you see now,
the mill’s a mighty old place, worm-eaten and dry as tinder, and if--by
an accident intirely--in the night, when there’s nobody about to render
help--a stray spark’d do it, for there’s hay and sthraw scattered all
round convanient--and if--of course by accident--the old place were to
catch fire, powers alive! wouldn’t it be an odd happening? and if it
did, what fault o’ yours or mine would it be, and who’d be the wiser?’

‘God in heaven!’ cried Blake, rising to his feet, ‘’tis murder ye
mean! Now, mark me, Conseltine, I’ll be no party to this. The curses of
the son, the remorse of the old lord, and the spirit of that poor woman,
would haunt me to me grave. I’ll have neither art nor part in such a
plan.’

‘Of course not,’ said Conseltine, turning his white face from the last
speaker to Feagus. ‘It’s only Feagus’s fun!’

Feagus, looking at him, read more in his glance than could Blake and
Richard, from both of whom his face was hidden. What it was he did
not yet know, but in the score of years during which he had known
Conseltine, he had never seen in his eyes such an expression.

‘We must find legal means,’ Conseltine continued. ‘Good-day, Blake;
you’ll think of what I said to ye just now?’ Except for an added shade
of gloom, for which Feagus’s news of the presence of Moya Macartney in
the countryside would quite well have accounted, his face now was the
face of every day. ‘I’ll see ye again before long. Come, Dick; come,
Feagus.’

The three left the hut.

‘By the powers!’ said Blake, as he filled his seventh glass that day,
‘if the divil wants a fourth he’ll have to come _in propria persona_
himself an’ join them. I’m more than half inclined to take Dick
Conseltine’s offer, and go across the water. Your sins are finding ye
out, Pat Blake. You’ve lived on his money for years past; ’twould be
shabby conduct if ye turned on him now. But then, there’s Moya. Poor
colleen! Eh, the handsome slip of a girl she was--a long sight too good
for Kilpatrick, and ’twas I that ruined her--or helped. And the boy?
A fine lad, that; a handsome lad. Sure, many a time I’ve seen his mother
lookin’ out of his eyes at me, and heard her spake to me wid his voice.
Ah, be damn’d to me, now, I’m gettin’ ould and crazy! ’tis an ould
story--eighteen years ago. You might have got used to the thought of it
by now, Pat Blake. Put more of the right stuff into ye, and forget it.’

He obeyed his own prescription so promptly that, half an hour after his
guests had left him, he fell into a sodden sleep, with his head upon the
table.

Conseltine and his two companions had meantime walked on at a rapid
pace, and in dead silence, for the first half-mile. It was Conseltine
who was the first to speak.

‘That’s a good idea of yours, Feagus.’

‘It would be,’ responded the lawyer, ‘if it were not for that cowardly
drunken villain, who stops us puttin’ it into execution.’

‘But he won’t,’ said the other. ‘My mind’s made up. It’s that or
nothing.’

‘But if he splits?’ said Richard.

‘Split!’ repeated Conseltine. ‘The job once done, he has my leave to
split as wide as the Liffey. It’s one oath against three--the oath of
a drunken blackguard and beggar against the oaths of three men of
substance and position.’

‘And sure that’s true,’ said Feagus. ‘By the Lord, Mr. Conseltine, ye
should have taken to our profession. Ye’d have been an honour to it.’

‘Besides,’ said Conseltine, ‘he’ll _not_ split. He has his own skin to
save, and he’s as deep in the mud as we are in the mire.’ He paused, and
looked round cautiously. The plain stretched to the mountains on the
one side and the sea on the other, empty of any possible observer. ‘We
mustn’t be seen together,’ continued Conseltine. ‘We’d better separate
here. But before we part, we’ll just arrange the details.’



CHAPTER X.--ANOTHER INTERVIEW.

The shades of evening were beginning to envelop the landscape as
Peebles made his slow and toilsome way towards Blake’s Hall. The old man
had been in a ferment of excitement all day long, and nothing but
his long years of habit as chief officer and general director of Lord
Kilpatrick’s household had sufficed to hold him back from fulfilling his
momently recurring desire to throw his duties to the winds for that day,
and at once proceed to put to Blake the question dictated to him by Moya
Macartney. His discomposure had not escaped the notice of his master,
who, since the shock occasioned by Desmond’s renunciation of him and his
abrupt departure from the house, had kept his room, and had resented all
approaches, even that of his favourite Dulcie, with an exaggeration of
his usual snappish ill-temper.

‘What the deuce are you dreaming about, Peebles?’ he had asked, as the
old servitor made some slight blunder in the service at his master’s
solitary dinner-table.

‘If ye had an inkling of what I am dreaming about,’ Peebles had
responded, with his customary drawl, ‘ye’d be in nae such a hurry to
speer, maybe.’

At which his lordship had muttered an angry ‘Pshaw!’ and turned his face
away.

‘Is there any news of--of Desmond?’ he asked a minute later.

‘No, my lord,’ answered Peebles; ‘none that I ken o’.’

He was in so mortal a dread of prematurely letting slip the secret of
Moya’s presence in the neighbourhood that he would not trust himself to
approach the subject at all.

‘Where is he?’ asked Kilpatrick.

‘They say he’s at Doolan’s farm,’ answered Peebles.

‘They say!’ snapped his lordship. ‘As if you didn’t know where the boy
is, you disingenuous old brute!’

‘Oh ay!’ said Peebles tranquilly. ‘Swear at me, wi’ a’ my heart, if it
will ease your lordship’s heart, or your conscience.’

Kilpatrick pushed his plate aside.

‘Take these things away and bring the wine.’

Peebles obeyed, and filled his master’s glass, after which he lingered
for a moment.

‘Well, Peebles, well? Have you anything to say?’

‘Just that I’m going oot for an hour or twa. I hae a visit to make. If
ye want anything in my absence the flunkey will look after ye.’

‘Very good,’ answered Kilpatrick, who thought he knew the object of
Peebles’ visit. ‘Peebles!’ he called, as the old man reached the door.

‘My lord!’

‘Has--has the boy any resources--any funds?’

‘Not that I ken o’,’ answered Peebles. ‘He was aye too open-handed.’

‘Well, if he wants money--he wouldn’t take it from me, I suppose--lend
him what he asks, and look to me for repayment. There, there, that will
do.’

Peebles saluted and retired, and set out half an hour later for Blake’s
Hall. Entering the rude sitting-room, he made out, through the gathering
shadows, the figure of Blake leaning on the table.

‘In his general condition, the drunken wastrel!’ said Peebles. ’Tis
odd but he’s sae drunk he’ll not understand me when I speak to him. Mr.
Blake! Mr. Blake!’ He shook the recumbent figure gently at first, and
then more roughly, and at last elicited a husky growl. ‘Mr. Blake! Wake
up, and speak to me. Man, I’ve news for ye, and a question to ask o’ ye.
Wake up, wake up, for the love o’ Heaven!’

Blake swayed back in his seat and opened his eyes. His first act, half
unconscious, was to hold out his hand towards the bottle, which Peebles
snatched from him with the quickness of a conjurer.

‘Ye’ve had enough o’ that for one while, ye disgraceful object,’ he
said. ‘Wake up, I tell ye! Wake up, and tell me what I want to know.’

‘Oh, ’tis you, Misther Peebles!’ cried Blake.

‘Ay, ’tis mysel’,’ returned Peebles. ‘I’ve news for ye, when ye’re
sufficiently sober to hear it.’

Blake, like the practised toper he was, pulled himself together, and
succeeded in looking solemnly and preternaturally sober.

‘We’re alone?’ asked the old Scot, glancing cautiously round.

‘We are,’ said Blake. ‘Biddy’s gone to the village for more whisky.’

‘Then listen,’ said Peebles. ‘Moya Macartney’s alive!’ He made the
communication slowly and distinctly, and paused to mark its effect.

‘Bedad! that’s true!’ returned Blake, as calmly as if Peebles had said
‘Good-day.’ ‘Ye ken it!’ cried the old man. ‘And how the deil d’ye ken
it?’

‘That’s my business, sir,’ said Blake. ‘I _do_ know it. She was in the
churchyard last night wid a Scotch gentleman of your acquaintance!’

It was difficult to throw Peebles off his mental balance for long at a
time, and, surprised as he was at Blake’s knowledge of the interview of
the preceding night, he went on with a perfect apparent calm:

‘Weel, it should lighten your heart! Ay! ye should fall on your knees
and thank God, who’s kinder to ye than ye deserve, that ye have not that
puir lassie’s death on your conscience!’

‘Have ye come here to preach?’ asked Blake.

‘Na, na!’ said Peebles. ‘That’s not my business, but it’s yours, Mr.
Ryan O’Connor, if a’ tales are true!’

There could be no mistaking the effect of this speech on Blake. He half
rose from his seat, clutching the sides of the table with trembling
hands, and stared at Peebles with his eyes standing out of his head with
surprise.

‘And how the thunder did you know _that?_’ he asked.

‘That’s _my_ business,’ retorted the old Scotchman dryly.

‘Holy powers!’ muttered Blake, falling back into his chair, and passing
his hand across his eyes in a bewildered fashion. ‘’Tis dreamin’ I
am!’

‘Listen to me, Patrick Blake,’ said Peebles solemnly. ‘I met Moya
Macartney last night. Poor lass! Her spirit’s sadly broken. Says she to
me--“Peebles, it’s eighteen years since I spread the report of my own
death; my hair is white, and my heart is broken; gang to Mr. Blake and
ask him, as he values his own soul, to tell ye if ever he was in holy
orders.”’

Blake breathed hard, staring at Peebles with a face gone white.

‘Answer!’ cried the old man, ‘and for God’s sake answer truly!’

‘Well, then,’ said Blake, ‘I was; but not when I married Moya Macartney
to Lord Kilpatrick.’

‘Had they unfrocked ye?’ asked Peebles. ‘Tell me that!’

‘I’d unfrocked myself,’ answered Blake. ‘The Bishop said I was a
disgrace and scandal to the Church, and took from me the only cure of
souls I ever had.’

‘But at the time ye married Moya were ye drummed out o’ the Kirk?’

‘Devil the drum about it,’ responded Blake. ‘The Bishop persuaded me
to quit, so I just civilly retired. ’Twas convanient at the time, for
sure I had creditors enough to man a Queen’s ship.’

‘But ye had been a priest, and properly ordained?’ asked Peebles.

‘Faith, I was as well ordained as any priest need be. What the divil’s
the matter wid ye?’ he asked, as Peebles sprang from the seat he had
taken and broke into a Highland fling. ‘Is it mad ye are?’

‘Clean daft wi’ joy!’ cried the old man. ‘Gie’s your hand, man!’ He
seized Blake’s hand and wrung it heartily. ‘By the piper that played
before Moses, ye’re the Reverend Mr. Blake still!--and by that same
token Moya Macartney is Lady Kilpatrick, and Desmond Macartney is
Desmond Consel-tine, his lordship’s son and heir!’

The mention of the name of Conseltine electrified Blake. He clutched his
whisky-muddled head in both hands, staring wildly before him.

‘My God!’ he cried suddenly, ‘is it dreamin’ that I am? No, by the Lord,
’tis no dream, sir! Get up, man, get up! ’Tis no time to be sittin’
here! They mean mischief--already it may be too late!’

‘Too late! Too late for what?’ cried the old man.

‘Richard Conseltine and his boy, and Feagus the attorney--bad cess to
the lot of ’em--were here this forenoon. They know Moya’s alive! They
know where she lives! Oh, my head, my head! what was it the blackguards
said? Ah!’ he screamed, ‘the mill! ’tis at Larry’s mill that Moya’s
living!’

‘Yes!’ cried Peebles. ‘She’s there. But what of that? Speak, man! what
is it?’

‘They mean to burn the mill, and her with it!’ cried Blake. ‘For the
love o’ God, run and find Desmond, and get Moya out o’ the place.
’Twas here that they plotted it. Man alive, I believe they mean
murder!’

‘Murder!’ gasped Peebles.

‘Isn’t it life or death to them to keep Moya out o’ the way? Run, man!
Run every step o’ the road! Ye’ve time to save her yet. They daren’t try
it before nightfall. Doolan’s farm is on the way, and ye’ll find Desmond
there. If ever ye loved him, run!’

Peebles, knowing the men with whom he had to deal, needed no further
warning, but after a few more hasty words with Blake, ran rather than
walked from Blake’s Hall.



CHAPTER XI.--MOTHER AND SON.

Peebles, though weary with his unwonted vigil in the early morning and
the anxiety of the day, made good speed to Doolan’s farm, urged as he
was by those most powerful of stimulants, love and fear. It was a long
and rough road, but a younger and stronger man than the old Scot might
have been satisfied with the speed at which he covered it. He arrived
panting at the humble cabin, where the farmer and his family, with
Desmond among them, were just sitting down to the plain but plentiful
evening meal of potatoes and buttermilk, supplemented by a rasher
of bacon in honour of the guest, whom Doolan felt a great pride in
entertaining, and who would have found a welcome equally warm at almost
any house in the district.

‘By my soul!’ said the hospitable farmer, as Peebles broke into the
room and fell exhausted into the nearest chair; ‘’tis me lord’s
butler--’tis Mr. Peebles! The top o’ the evening to ye, sor. Bridget,
I’m thinkin’ Mr. Peebles will be takin’ a dhrop o’ whisky. Saints above!
what’s wrong wi’ ye, sor?’

Peebles slowly panted his breath back, while the farmer and his
wife--the latter a ruddy, handsome peasant woman, who had been Desmond’s
nurse eighteen years before--stood solicitously over him.

‘Get the bottle, Bridget,’ said the farmer. ‘The poor gentleman’s clane
blown.

Peebles took a mouthful of the liquor, and felt the better for it.

‘What is it at all?’ asked Desmond.

‘Faith, ye look as if you’d seen a ghost. What is it, old friend?’

‘You must come with me, Desmond,’ said the old man. ‘I’ve news for
ye--news that will keep no longer.’

‘If ’tis good news,’ said Desmond, ‘sure ’tis welcome, and all the
more welcome for being unexpected.’

‘Good!’ cried Peebles--‘it’s the best! It’s better than I ever dared to
hope!’

‘Faith, then,’ returned the boy, ‘let’s have it!’

‘Not here, laddie, not here!’ said Peebles. ‘’Tis only in your private
ear that I can whisper it yet.’

‘We’ll lave ye alone,’ said the honest farmer. ‘Come, Bridget;
come, children.’

‘No, no!’ said Peebles. ‘I’ve no time to bide. Ye must come wi’ me,
Desmond. It’s not a’ good news I bring ye. There’s danger near one ye
love, laddie.’

‘Dulcie?’ cried Desmond.

‘No--Lady Dulcie’s safe, for a’ I ken, and I saw her not three hours
syne, the bonnie doo, blooming like the rose o’ Sharon. Come, lad, put
on your hat--I’m rested noo. We’ll gang together, and I’ll tell ye as we
gang.’

Desmond obeyed, in a great state of bewilderment, and Peebles, when
they were some hundred yards away from the farm, began his story by a
question:

‘Ye’ll remember the poor woman ye met last night in the kirkyard?’

‘Yes,’ answered Desmond.

‘Man,’ said Peebles, ‘I scarce know how to tell ye, or if ye’ll believe
me when I’ve tellt ye. Maybe ye’ll think I’m daft or dreaming. You’ve
just got to prepare yourself for the greatest shock ye ever had in your
life. It well-nigh dinged the soul oot o’ me wi’ surprise when I heard
it, and it will hit ye sairer still, I’m thinking.’

The old man’s voice was so tremulous with emotion that Desmond stopped
short, and peered into his face questioningly in the pale moonlight
which was struggling with the thick dust of the summer night.

‘For God’s sake, Peebles,’ he said, ‘what is it?’

‘It’s just this,’ returned the Scot. ‘That poor woman was Moya
Macartney--your own mother!’

For some seconds Peebles’ speech carried no emotion to Desmond’s mind.

‘My mother!’ he repeated, in a voice whose only expression was one of
pure bewilderment. ‘My mother?--Moya Macartney?’

‘Ay,’ said Peebles. ‘She that was dead is alive. ’Tis a long story,
and I’ve neither time nor breath to tell you all. She spread the
report of her own death eighteen years ago, and went across the seas to
America. All these long, weary years, she’s denied her heart the only
pleasure it could ever know--the pleasure of seeing her son’s face and
hearing his voice. At last she could bear it no longer--she came. It
was she you talked wi’ last night in the kirkyard, she who kissed your
forehead and gied you her blessing.’

Desmond clutched at his throat with a choking sob.

‘For God’s sake, laddie,’ cried the old man, ‘don’t break down noo!
There’s work to be done. You don’t know all yet, nor the half o’t.’

‘My mother!’ cried Desmond. ‘My mother!’ He took off his soft felt
hat, crushing it in his hand, and pulled his collar open, stifling with
surprise and emotion. Peebles, seeing it vain to continue his story for
the moment, paused, waiting till the first shock of his communication
should have passed away. ‘My mother!’ Desmond repeated again, after an
interval. He spoke mechanically, with an utter lack of emotion in voice
and manner. ‘My mother! Well?’

‘The laddie’s stunned wi’ the intelligence,’ said Peebles to himself,
‘and small wonder. Can you understand what I’m saying, Desmond?’ he
asked, taking the lad’s arm. ‘We must gang on, lad. There’ll maybe be
serious work for us this night. D’ye understand me?’

‘Yes,’ said Desmond slowly, his mind still feeling numbed and dim. ‘I
can hear what you say, Mr. Peebles, but it--it all seems so strange. Is
it dreaming that I am?’ ‘’tis no dream,’ answered Peebles. ‘It’s as
real as the soil beneath your feet, and as true as God’s above ye. Pull
yerself together, lad, pull yerself together!’

‘Well,’ said Desmond, resuming his way in obedience to the impetus of
Peebles’ hand, ‘go on--I’ll try to understand.’

‘She came back,’ continued Peebles--speaking slowly, that the words
might better penetrate the stunned intelligence of his companion--‘she
came back a’ that weary way just to see the face and hear the voice o’
the bairn she’d suffered for eighteen years ago. But, laddie, she’s had
strange news! You don’t ken all the sorrowfu’ story. I tauld you, when
that young cub, your cousin, taunted you wi’ the accident o’ your birth,
never to think shame o’ your mother. I’ve had no chance since to tell
you more; I must tell it noo. Your mother was entrapped by a sham
marriage--or, at least, the marriage was believed to be a sham. It was
Blake of Blake’s Hall who officiated as priest. Somehow, Moya surmised
that Blake might really have been a priest, and asked me to gang till
him and speer if it was so. I went this afternoon and saw him, and he
confessed that he had been in holy orders, and that, though the
Bishop had ta’en his cure o’ souls from him, he had never been legally
unfrocked. D’ye ken what _that_ means, laddie?’

‘My brain’s reeling,’ said Desmond; ‘I understand nothing.’

‘It means,’ cried the old man, his voice breaking with glad emotion--‘it
means that you’re Desmond Conseltine, my master’s legitimate son and
heir, the next Lord Kilpatrick! Oh, laddie, it’s brave news--it’s brave
news--and my heart was just bursting to tell it!’

Desmond spoke no word, and his silence after the communication of the
tidings a little frightened his old friend, who peered into his face as
they walked on quietly side by side.

‘Hae ye nothing to say, Desmond?’ he asked.

‘What can I say?’ asked Desmond. ‘Where is my mother?’ he asked
suddenly. ‘Is it to her that ye’re taking me?’

‘Ay,’ said Peebles. ‘We’re gaun to Larry’s mill, and there we’ll find
her. Desmond, my man, she mustn’t stay there. There’s danger abroad.’

They were in the middle of the wide, waste country, but the old man
could not repress the searching look he cast around him.

‘She has ill-wishers, blackguards, who’ll stick at nothing to gain their
cruel ends. Blake told me this afternoon of a thing I find it hard to
credit. Your uncle, Richard Conseltine, and his son, and that scoundrel
Feagus, _know_ that Moya’s alive, and where she’s living. Feagus saw
her wi’ me in the kirkyard, and listened to our talk. Blake thinks they
might molest her while she’s there asleep! We’ll just hope it’s nothing
but one of his drunken havers, but I’ve kent Richard Conseltine for
well-nigh thirty years, and, man, he’s a mean creature. There’s not much
he’d stick at, I’m thinking, for the price is the title and estates of
Kilpatrick. Anyway, ’tis just sober prudence to warn Moya and get her
awa’ oot o’ danger. Her proper place is the Castle, but if she’ll no
consent to gang there, we’ll just find her another shelter for awhile.’

While Peebles and Desmond were earnestly discussing the strange news of
her resurrection and reappearance, Moya Macartney was seated alone in
the desolate tenement known to the country people as ‘Larry’s Mill.’

It was a dreary, tumble-down place, ill-fitted for human habitation,
and the ‘Larry’ by whom it had been owned had long gone the way of all
flesh. The house itself was built on wooden pillars, and consisted of
an upper and a lower chamber; the former utterly abandoned, save in the
spring of the year, when it was temporarily occupied by an old shepherd;
the latter now and again used as a sort of byre, or shelter-place for
cattle. A rough ladder, several rungs or which had fallen away, led from
the under to the upper room.

The mill-wheel itself, choked with filth and weeds, stood still and
broken, the waters of the stream which had once turned it forcing their
way through its torn fissures and gaps, and forming a slimy pool. On
the night of which we write there had been heavy rains, and the stream,
swollen and black, was pouring through the moveless wheel with the force
and the roar of a torrent.

A truckle-bed with a coarse straw mattress, and a few coarse utensils,
were the only furniture of the upper room. The floor was strewn with
straw. A rude window looked down on the wheel and on the dismal pool
beneath, and as the water roared, and the wind blew, the whole building
shook as if about to be swept away.

The sound of someone stirring below startled the woman as she stood at
the window gazing silently out into the night.

‘Who’s there?’ she cried, turning and looking down the open trap-door
which opened on the ladder.

‘Sure it’s only me, ma’am,’ said a voice--‘Larry Monaghan! I’ve a
message to ye from my mother, at the new mill beyant.’

As the man spoke, his head protruded through the trap-door.

‘I see ye’ve a light convanient,’ he said, pointing to a tallow candle
which stood above the disused fireplace.

‘Yes, sure,’ answered Moya.

‘Kape it burning, to drive away the rats, but mind the sparks--the ould
timber’s like touchwood. But sure it’s not that I came to say. My mother
bids ye come over with me to the new mill, and shelter there, for sure
this is no place for a decent woman.’

‘It’s only for one more night,’ replied Moya, ‘and then I’ll be laving
for my own home in the south. Though I thank your kind mother all the
same.’

‘Saints above!’ murmured Larry. ‘It’s not a wink of shleep I could get
here! They’re sayin’ the place is haunted by the fairies.’

‘Sure they won’t harm a poor soul like me!’ cried Moya, with a musical
laugh.

‘Thin ye won’t come? It’s only a short stretch down the hillside.’

‘I’ll stay where I am, thank you,’ was the reply. ‘I’m a sound sleeper,
and even when I’m waking, I’ve my thoughts for company. It will be
getting late?’

‘Past ten o’clock,’ said Larry, ‘and the rain’s falling heavily. I’m
concerned to leave ye here, in a place so lonesome!’

‘The Lord will watch over me!’ answered Moya, crossing herself.

‘Amin!’ said the man. ‘Then I’ll say good-night!’

‘Good-night!’

With a dubious shake of the head, Larry disappeared, and immediately
afterwards she heard the sound of his retreating footsteps below. He was
whistling as he went, doubtless to keep up his courage, for, like most
of his class, he was superstitious. Presently all was silent, save
for the dismal murmur of wind and water. Left alone, Moya sat on the
bedside, looking at vacancy and thinking. Presently, with a deep sigh,
she rose, placed the lighted candle for safety in a tin bowl on the
floor close to the bedside, and then, kneeling down, covered her face
with her hands and prayed.

For a long time she remained thus, praying silently. The wind howled,
and the water roared, but she did not stir. When at last she rose, her
fair face looked calm and peaceful, as if the hand of an angel had been
placed upon her suffering brow. Then she threw herself on the bed, and
after a time fell asleep.

How long she slept she never knew; but she was wearied out, and her
sleep was sound. Suddenly, with a start of terror, she awakened. The
candle had gone out, and the place was in total darkness. As she lay
trembling and listening, she heard, above the moan of the elements,
the sound of something moving in the room below, and saw, through the
trapdoor, a gleam like the light from a lanthorn.

‘Who’s there?’ she cried.

There was no answer, but the light immediately disappeared.

Moya was not superstitious, and much sorrow had given her unusual
courage. She sat up in bed, listening, and heard again a sound from
below--this time like retreating footsteps.

‘Sure it was only my fancy,’ she thought, ‘when I seemed to see a light
yonder. ’Twill only be some of the poor mountain cattle sheltering
from the storm.’

But at that moment a red gleam came from the room below, and before she
could spring from her bed and look down the gleam had become a flame,
lighting up the place like dawn. Conscious now of a real and awful
peril, she endeavoured to descend the ladder, but a column of mingled
smoke and flame drove her back, suffocating.

The room below was a sheet of fire, and piled against the walls was a
heap of dry hay and straw, burning brightly, with flames that leapt
up and caught the rotten timber. With a scream she again attempted to
descend, but was instantly driven back. Then, scarcely knowing what she
did, she closed the trap-door, and rushing to the window, threw it open.

She realized the truth now. The sounds she had heard, the light she
had seen, had been made by human beings, and whether by design or by
accident, the mill had been set on fire. Poor soul, she did not yet
understand that there were men living in the world who would do even a
deed like that to compass a fellow-creature’s death.

As she stood terror-stricken, a tongue of fire crept through the floor
and caught the loose straw with which it was strewn. At this fresh
horror she uttered a piercing shriek, for escape seemed impossible.
As her voice rose on the night, it was answered by another from the
darkness.

‘Mother! mother!’

Her heart stood still. Was she dreaming? Whose voice could it be that
uttered that holy name? She leant out over the mill-wheel, and saw
beyond her in the darkness the glimmer of a lanthorn.

‘Help! help!’ she cried; and as she cried the whole place seemed rocking
beneath, and thick clouds of smoke and tongues of fire came up through
the heating floor. Then again she heard the voice, crying and imploring.

‘Mother! mother!’

‘Who’s that?’ she cried.

‘Desmond--your son Desmond!’

Desmond! Her son! Even in her dire and awful peril she felt a thrill of
delicious joy.

‘Save me, Desmond, save me!’ she cried.

‘The water-wheel!’ answered Desmond. Climb out from the window, stand on
the wheel, and lape for your life into the pool below!’

Moya hesitated, and again, as the flame and smoke thickened behind her,
uttered a despairing scream.

‘’Tis your only chance for life,’ called the voice. ‘Jump, mother
darling! Sure I’ll be near to help ye! Jump, for the love of God!’

It was that or being burned alive. The whole mill was now one sheet of
flame, and the fire scorched her as she stood, while the wooden floor
crackled and split beneath her feet. Crossing herself, and consigning
her soul to God, she scrambled out on the wheel and clung there on hands
and knees, exposed to the full force of wind and rain.

‘Jump, mother!’ cried Desmond once more. She fluttered forward with a
cry, and slipped rather than fell with a heavy splash into the boiling
waters of the pool. As she did so her senses left her; she seemed to
be sucked down, down into some awful abyss; then she was conscious of
nothing more.

When her eyes opened, she was lying on the bank of the stream, with the
light from a lanthorn flashing into her face.

‘Mother! mother!’ cried the voice she had heard before. ‘It’s
Desmond--your son Desmond!’

His arms were round her neck, her head was on his bosom. Peebles,
holding the lanthorn, bent over them, tears streaming down his wrinkled
face.

‘Desmond--my boy!’ she murmured.

‘Mother, my mother!’ he answered, sobbing over her.

He had watched her drop into the mill-pool, and then had plunged in to
her rescue, catching her as she was swept down towards the fall below
the mill, and swimming with her to the bank whereon she now lay.



CHAPTER XII.--MR. PEEBLES PREPARES FOR WAR.

For a long, sacred space the mother and son thus strangely reunited
knelt together, their arms about each other, their hearts full of a
whirl of many mingled emotions which made speech impossible. When at
last Moya broke the long silence, it was with a voice curiously calm,
despite the deep underlying tremor which told by what an heroic effort
she was able to speak at all.

‘Desmond! My son!’

‘Mother!’ was all Desmond could sob in return.

‘Ye know me? Ye know who I am?’

‘Yes; Peebles has told me,’ returned Desmond.

‘Ye don’t shrink from me? Ye don’t despise the poor woman that loves
ye?’

‘Shrink from you! Despise you!’ cried the boy, straining her to his
heart, and speaking between the kisses with which he covered her face,
her hands, her dress. ‘I’m like to burst with joy for finding ye! I
was alone in the world, with scarce a friend, nameless and hopeless and
homeless, and God has sent me _you!_’

He raised her to her feet, and fell on his knees again before her,
looking up at her with eyes bright with fast-running tears.

‘Mother! mother! mother!’

It was all that he could say, and there was at once infinite pleasure
and poignant grief in his repetition of the word. He fell forward,
embracing her knees.

‘God’s good, after all!’ said Moya.

‘Many and many has been the bitter hour all these weary years when I
thought He had forgotten me. Oh, my son, my son!’

She lifted him from his kneeling posture, and fed her hungry eyes upon
his face.

‘Ye’re my own boy, Desmond. I can see the face that I remember years
ago, smilin’ at me from the glass, when I little thought of the bitter
trouble in store for me. I can die happy now. There’s nothing more that
God can give me, now that I’ve held you in my arms and heard you call me
mother.’

‘Not for many a long year yet, please God,’ sobbed Desmond; ‘not
for many a long, happy year that you and I will pass together. I’ve
something to live for, now--something to work for. We’ll go away
together, back to the place you came from, and forget the past and all
its misery.’

‘_His_ face, too!’ said Moya, who, in her passionately loving scrutiny
of Desmond’s features had let his words pass unheeded; ‘his face, as it
was when I first knew him!’

‘You mean my father?’ cried Desmond. ‘I’ve disowned him! I’ve cast him
off! I have no father!--nobody in the world but you, mother!’

‘Hoots, man!’ said Peebles, who stood blinking and looking on like an
intelligent raven, ‘are ye going to retreat just when the battle’s in
your hand? That’s mighty poor generalship, laddie!’

The events of the last quarter of an hour had quite banished from
Desmond’s memory the story the old man had told him as they had walked
from the farmer’s cottage towards the mill. At this sudden interruption
he stared at Peebles with the empty look of one aroused from a daydream
by words which bear no meaning to his mind.

‘All this trouble has turned the poor lad’s brain,’ said Peebles to
Moya. ‘Hae ye forgotten,’ he continued to Desmond, ‘all that I told ye
not an hour syne?’

The boy gave a sudden cry of recollection, and again threw his arms
about his mother’s neck.

‘Come!’ he cried, ‘come to the Castle, and take the place that’s yours
by right.’

‘Not yet, laddie, not yet,’ said Peebles. ‘Soft and cunning goes far. My
lord’s no in a condition to hae sic a surprise sprung on him wi’ no sort
o’ warning. ‘Deed, ’twould kill him, I’m thinking.’

‘And serve him right!’ cried Desmond hotly.

‘Hoots, man!’ said Peebles again, ‘ye’re in o’er much of a hurry to
inherit.’

‘I?’ cried Desmond. ‘I never thought of myself. ’Tis for her,
Peebles. Think of the long years of misery she’s endured, of all the
anguish--the--the----’ His voice broke.

‘Ay!’ said Peebles. ‘Ye think as the young, who have never kenned
sorrow, are apt to think. She has suffered so long that anither day or
twa will hardly matter much, I’m thinking. You must bide a wee, laddie.
You must trust to Peebles. I’m just as anxious to see you and your
mother get your rights as ye can be yersel’; but lookers-on see most of
the game, and my lord’s head is cooler than yours is like to be.’

‘He is right, Desmond,’ said Moya. ‘We must think of--of your father,
and then--’tis myself, too, that has need of time and need of prayer.
If the news had come years back, I couldn’t have held myself back. I
should have run to him at once. But now--’tis not of him I think;
’tis of you. ’Tis little enough pleasure to me to know that I am
Lady Kilpatrick, and the love that would have carried me to him is
gone--gone all to you, Desmond.’

She fell silent for a time, looking straight before her with an
expression which her two companions strove vainly to interpret till she
spoke again.

‘Those villains think that they have killed me,’ she said presently,
speaking quietly, almost dreamily. ‘I was thinkin’ that maybe----’

‘Yes, lassie--I mean Lady Kilpatrick,’ said the old man, substituting
the title for the more familiar form of address, with all the respect of
a good Scot for the upper ranks of the social hierarchy.

‘They think I’m dead,’ she said again, in the same slow and dreamy
fashion. ‘Wouldn’t it be better if I were dead?’

‘God guide us!’ exclaimed the old man, her wits are wandering.’

‘No,’ she said. ‘But couldn’t I go away quietly to some place where
Desmond could come and see me at odd times? I’d not disgrace him, then,
nor--nor Henry. If Blake will spake the truth, Desmond will be the next
Lord Kilpatrick, and that will make me as happy as I can ever be this
side o’ the grave.’

‘Disgrace me!’ cried Desmond. ‘Oh, mother! how can ye speak so?’ What is
it to me that I am to be Lord Kilpatrick? Sure, I’d rather be the
poor Squireen, and have you to love and work for, than be king of all
Ireland.’

‘Weel said!’ cried Peebles. ‘Eh, there’s the real grit in ye, laddie!
But I’m thinking that maybe ye’ll find mair virtue in the title o’ Lord
Kilpatrick than ye think for. Think o’ Lady Dulcie, Desmond. Can ye ask
her, the bonnie doo, to share sic a life as ye’d hae to live for years
and years to come, before ye’ve made a name and position for yersel’? It
looks easy at your age to conquer the world, but the fight’s a long and
bitter one. And then, there’s the plain justice of the case. Let right
be done. Your mother’s Lady Kilpatrick, and you’re Desmond Conseltine,
my lord’s heir, and I’ll see them damn’d--the Lord forgive me for
swearin’!--before I’ll let yon brace o’ murderin’ thieves prosper at
your expense. No, no, Moya, my lass. There’s nae hurry for the moment.
We can afford the time to bide and turn it over till we’ve hit on the
best means o’ gettin’ your rights--but hae them ye shall, and Desmond,
too, or my name’s no’ Peebles. But save us a’, here are ye twa poor
creatures standing here drippin’ water. Ye’ll be takin’ yer deaths o’
cauld. I must find ye anither shelter, my lady, where ye may bide quiet
and canny till matters are arranged. I’ll hae to find how the land lies,
and prepare my lord’s mind. I hae’t! There’s Patsy Maguire’s cottage.
He’s gone to Dublin to sell his stock for emigrating to America. He’ll
not be back for a week, and the bit sticks o’ furniture are a’ there.
’Tis a lonesome place. Ye’ll not be disturbit, and nobody need ken
that ye’re there. I’ll send ye all ye can want by a sure hand. Kiss your
son, and say good-bye to him for a day or twa. Trust to me!’

Desmond and his mother took each other again in their arms, and for a
minute the deep silence of the night was broken only by the babble of
the brook and the sound of their sobs and kisses. Then the old mill,
which had been blazing furiously, though unheeded, fell in upon itself
with a thunderous crash.

‘Lord save us!’ cried Peebles, ‘come awa’ if ye don’t want the
countryside about us! It’s jest a wonder that naebody’s come already.
Hoot! they’re coming!’

A noise of distant voices and the clatter of feet became audible.

‘Quick, quick!’ cried the old man. ‘Get back hame, Desmond; I’ll see to
your mother.’

He took Moya by the arm, and with gentle violence forced her from the
scene, while Desmond moved off in the contrary direction. Once or twice
he had to hide behind trees and boulders from the people who were now
passing towards the mill attracted from all quarters by the blazing
timbers.

Once clear of them, and out again in the wide silence of the summer
night, he tried hard to fix his mind on the events of the evening, but
his brain was bewildered, and seemed like a screw too worn to bite; he
could think to no satisfactory result. Half mechanically, his feet bore
him in paths he had travelled thousands of times, and he found himself
at last on the outskirts of Kilpatrick Castle. Then his wandering wits
fixed themselves on one image--Dulcie! He stole noiselessly as a thief
about the great house. It was still as a tomb, and dark, but for a
single ray of light which shone from a window which he knew to be
Dulcie’s. His heart glowed with love and hope. At last she should be
his!

There was no question now of accepting her heroic self-sacrifice. He
could give her the position that she had a right to aspire to. She had
descended from her lofty station like a pitying angel to love the poor,
nameless boy. He could raise her to a higher. His heart was so full
of love and pride and triumph that he knelt on the turf beneath that
friendly gleam of light, and prayed to it as a devotee would pray to the
shrine of his favourite saint, the happy tears running down his face.

‘God bless my darling!’ he said softly. ‘God bless her!’

The desire again to see her face, to hear her voice, was too strong to
be resisted. He threw a few pebbles of gravel against the glass, and
a moment later the blind was drawn aside. Lady Dulcie saw him standing
pale and still in the broad moonlight, and softly raised the window.

‘Desmond, is it you?’

‘Yes, Lady Dulcie. Speak low. Maybe they’re listening. I couldn’t stay
away longer; I longed so to see you.’

‘I’ll come down to you,’ she whispered; ‘go to the west door.’

He slipped away, and a minute or two later Dulcie issued from the
house, enveloped in a white dressing-gown, her naked feet glistening in
rose-coloured slippers. Desmond made an irrepressible motion to take her
in his arms, but, remembering his soaked condition, drew back.

‘Why,’ said Dulcie, ‘you’re all dripping wet, you silly boy! What have
you been doing with yourself?’

‘I’ve been fishing,’ said Desmond.

‘Fishing?’ repeated Dulcie.

‘Yes, sure,’ said the boy, with a happy laugh. ‘I’ve landed the biggest
fish of the season. I’ll tell ye all about it by-and-by, Dulcie. Not
yet. ’Tis a secret. Haven’t ye a kiss for me?’

Dulcie pecked at the cheek he extended towards her, making a comic
little face.

‘What is your secret, Desmond?’ she asked. ‘Can’t you trust me?’

‘Not yet, my jewel,’ said Desmond. ‘Trust _me_ a bit. I’ll tell you this
much, dear. Our troubles are over, and I’ll be coming in a day or two
to claim ye! Is that as sweet to you to hear as it is to me to say, I
wonder?’

‘This is all very mysterious,’ said Dulcie. ‘But you seem very happy,
Desmond. Won’t you tell me what has happened?’

‘Not yet. Wait a bit, and be as happy as your curiosity will let you.’

‘You provoking wretch!’ cried Dulcie. ‘I’m sure something has happened;
you seem so ridiculously happy.’

‘Then I look as I feel. Tell me,’ he went on, to stave off further
questioning on her part, ‘how are things going on here at the Castle?
How is Lord Kilpatrick?’

‘He’s better in health,’ replied Dulcie, ‘but he’s very glum and
silent, and he keeps his room. He has seen nobody but Peebles, and
Mr. Conseltine, and me. He’s dreadfully changed--quite sullen and
disagreeable. Oh, by the way, Mr. Conseltine and that son of his were
out nearly all day, and when they came back, about an hour ago, I
happened to pass them in the hall. They were both dreadfully pale, and
looked awfully disturbed and frightened. Has your secret anything to do
with _them?_

‘Maybe,’ said Desmond. ‘Sure, ’tis no use you asking questions. But
’tis good news I have for you, when the time comes to speak. And now,
darling, give me another kiss, and go back indoors.’

He tried hard to hold himself from embracing her, but his arms were
round her before he knew it and he strained her to his breast with all
his strength.

‘I’ve ruined your gown,’ he said penitently, when the embrace was
finished, ‘but I couldn’t help it. You’d draw the soul out of a stone
when you look like that. The mischiefs done now, so I’ll take another!
Good-night, my angel. Sweet dreams, and a happy waking for ye! If I stay
any longer I’ll be breaking down and telling you all, and ’tis best
you shouldn’t know for a while.’



CHAPTER XIII.--FATHER AND SON.

During breakfast next morning at the Castle the two Conseltines, father
and son, who were usually punctual in their appearance at meal hours,
descended late. They were pale and quiet; and Richard, who had his
nerves very much less under control than had his astute and resolute
parent, was so obviously ill at ease as to bring down upon himself
the notice and comments of his lordship. The old nobleman, sick of the
seclusion of his solitary chamber, had appeared at the breakfast table,
in hopes that a little cheerful society might aid in dissipating the
unwelcome reflections which, since Desmond’s departure from the Castle,
had beset his waking hours and broken his nightly rest. At no time
gifted with the most equable temper in the world, he was particularly
snappish and irritable that morning.

‘Your lordship will no’ hae heard the news, I’m thinking,’ said Peebles,
standing at the sideboard and breaking in upon the uneasy silence. His
eyes dwelt, as if by accident, upon Richard Consel-tine’s face as he
spoke, and the young man’s pale complexion assumed a greenish hue.

‘What news are you talking about?’ asked Kilpatrick.

‘There was a fire last night,’ answered Peebles.

Richard, conscious of his father’s coldly threatening eye, spilled
half the contents of the glass of brandy-and-soda by which he had
that morning replaced the soberer beverages usually in demand at the
breakfast table, and conveyed the remainder to his lips with a shaking
hand.

‘A fire! Where?’ asked Kilpatrick.

‘At the old mill up by the burn,’ said Peebles. ‘’Twas burned to
the ground, I’m told, and there’s some talk of an old peasant woman, a
gangrel strange body that they had gien shelter to, having been burned
wi’ it.’

‘God bless my soul!’ murmured his lordship. ‘Has the body been found?’

Richard emitted an involuntary gasp, and clung with his feet to the leg
of the table.

‘No,’ returned Peebles, ‘not yet. There’s just the chance it never
may be. A good part o’ the blazing timbers fell into the burn and were
carried awa’, and it’s like eneuch the body went wi’ them--or maybe
they’ll come upon it digging among the ruins.’

‘Who was the woman?’ asked Dulcie,

‘Does anybody know her?’

‘Nobody that I ken o’,’ returned Peebles, with an immovable face. ‘A bit
tramp body.’

‘Deuced odd,’ said Kilpatrick. ‘How could a place like that, miles away
from anywhere, catch fire? Is there any suspicion of arson?’

‘’Deed,’ said Peebles, ‘I don’t know why there should be. Who is there
that wad do siccan mischief? To be sure,’ he added, with a reflective
air, ‘the woman might have enemies. Those tramps are a waesome lot to
deal wi’--but it’s most likely that she did it hersel’ by accident, poor
thing. We’ll just hope so, for the sake o’ human charity--till we get
further information, anyway.’ He looked at Richard again as he spoke the
last words, and had some difficulty in repressing any sign of the angry
scorn he felt at sight of the young man’s livid face. ‘It’s hard on
Larry, dacent lad,’ he continued.

‘I’m thinking that your lordship might do worse than start a
subscription for him.’

‘Certainly, certainly,’ said Kilpatrick.

‘I’ll give five pounds. You have my leave, Peebles, to say so, and to
ask for subscriptions in my name.’

‘I’ll give five,’ said Dulcie.

‘I shall be glad to follow so good an example,’ said Conseltine. He
strove hard to speak in his usual smooth fashion, but his voice sounded
harsh and unsteady to his own ears. He gave Richard an angrily prompting
look, and the boy tried to speak, but his tongue rattled against the
roof of his mouth. ‘I thought you would,’ said Conseltine, quickly
interpreting the inarticulate sound issuing from his son’s throat as an
expression of charitable sympathy. ‘Put Richard and myself down for ten
pounds, if you please, Mr. Peebles.’

‘I thank ye, Lady Dulcie and gentlemen,’ said Peebles. ‘It’s good to hae
feeling hearts, and the means of proving that ye hae them. I’ll let ye
know any later news--if the body’s found, or anything o’ that kind.’

‘What the devil’s the matter with you?’ his lordship asked of Richard,
with sudden acerbity. Richard was as white as death, and shivering like
a leaf.

‘It’s the heat, or--or something,’ he managed to stammer out.

‘Let me help you to your room, my boy,’ said his father.

He rose, and supported Richard from the table, hiding as well as he
could his pitiable condition.

‘You cowardly fool!’ he hissed in his ear, when he had got him to his
own chamber and locked the door. ‘Do you want to ruin us? What are ye
afraid of, ye shaking poltroon?’

‘He knows!’ gasped Richard; ‘I could see it in his eye; he knows.’

‘Knows!’ echoed Conseltine scornfully.

‘What does he know?’

‘He knows that the woman at the mill was Moya Macartney.’

‘And if he does,’ said Conseltine, ‘what then? What can he prove?’

‘He knows more than that, I’ll swear!’ cried Richard. ‘I saw him look at
me. He knows enough to hang us.’

‘Hang us!’ repeated the elder. ‘By the saints, I’ve a mind to save the
hangman half his work, you white-livered, croaking coward!’

‘If _he_ doesn’t know, Blake does,’ said Richard.

‘Leave Blake to me,’ said his father.

‘I’ll look after Blake. ’Twill be a question of money; he’ll bleed us
pretty freely, I expect; but if he opens his mouth too wide I’ll bluff
him, and swear he dreamt it. ’Tis two against one, any way; two men of
good position and unblemished record against one drunken vagabond.

They can prove nothing, let them talk as they may. Feagus will hold his
tongue for his own sake, for if the case comes before the court there
are three to swear that he suggested the business. There’s no danger
at all, except from your cursed cowardice. Pull yourself together, and
trust to me. They can prove no motive. Why should you and I go burning
mills and killing old peasant women? Feagus is the only creature alive
who knows that we were aware of Moya’s identity. Keep a cool head, and
you’ll be Lord Kilpatrick before long.’

The task which Peebles had undertaken was no easy one, and the more he
contemplated it, the more difficult it seemed to grow. He racked his
brains over the problem of how to make known to one in so precarious a
condition of health as Lord Kilpatrick the secret of Moya’s continued
existence, and of her presence in the neighbourhood. The difficulty
was complicated by the cowardly and criminal attempt on her life by two
members of his lordship’s family, for the honour of which the faithful
old servant was deeply concerned. That two such scoundrels should
still be permitted to prey on the kindness of his master, and diminish
Desmond’s patrimony, was intolerable; that they should be publicly
charged with their crime was impossible. Feagus, too, was in the same
boat, and must also be permitted to escape, for it was impossible to
denounce him without bringing the crime of the Conseltines to light.
But, then, there was the chance--the strong chance--of the gossip of
the countryside bringing to their ears the knowledge of Moya’s continued
existence, and what three such scoundrels might do to cover their
unsuccessful attempt, and to secure their endangered booty, it was hard
to say.

The need for decisive action was pressing, but in what direction was
that action to be taken? One course, and one course only, seemed to
Peebles clear for the moment. It was in his power to secure Moya’s
safety from any further attempt. That could be done by simply telling
the two villains now in the house that their nefarious proceeding of the
night before was known. Once resolved, Peebles was as bold a man as any
that ever trod shoe-leather; and with such a weapon as was furnished
by his hold over the two Conseltines he would have faced an army. His
resolution taken, he walked with an assured foot upstairs to Richard’s
bedroom, and knocked at the door; it was opened by the elder man.

‘I’d like a word with you, if you please, Mr. Conseltine,’ he said.

‘Presently, Mr. Peebles, presently,’ said the other, who did not care to
expose his son and confederate to the old man’s keen eye in his present
pitiful condition of nervous excitement. ‘We have business of importance
together.’

‘It must be business o’ very great importance,’ said Peebles, ‘if it
can’t wait till mine is finished.’

Conseltine’s hard eye dwelt on the old man’s face, and his lips twitched
in a hopeless attempt to maintain their impassivity.

‘You are importunate, my old friend,’ he said.

‘Ye’d better listen to me,’ returned the grim old servitor.

Conseltine stood aside to allow him to enter, and closed and locked the
door behind him. Richard was seated on the bed. He made a terrible and
clumsy effort to seem at ease as Peebles’ gaze passed lightly over him
before it settled again on his father.

‘Well, sir?’ said Conseltine as calmly as he could.

‘Before making the communication I hae to make,’ said Peebles, his usual
slow and deliberate drawl more slow and deliberate than ever, ‘I hae to
tell ye that, but for the honour o’ the house I’ve served man and boy
for five-and-forty years, I should have conseedered it my duty as a good
citizen to hand you and your son, Mr. Richard Conseltine, here present,
into the hands o’ justice.’

Neither of the persons he addressed making any reply to this preamble,
Peebles continued:

‘When Larry’s mill was burned down last night, the woman once known
as Moya Macartney, best known to you and me, Mr. Conseltine, as Lady
Kilpatrick, was leeving there.’

That Conseltine knew of Moya’s claim to the title Peebles gave her was
only a shrewd guess of the latter’s, but the start and pallor with which
Conseltine heard the words showed the old man that the shaft had struck
home.

‘The mill,’ continued Peebles, ‘was fired by you and your son there, in
complicity wi’ one Feagus, the lawyer, wi’ the object of destroying the
unfortunate lady, your brother’s wife.’

Richard gave a sort of feeble gulp at this, and cowered terror-stricken
on the bed.

‘It’s by no virtue o’ yours, Mr. Conseltine, that your wicked will was
not worked. Moya Macartney, Lady Kilpatrick, is alive and safe. She
was rescued from death by her son, Desmond Conseltine, sole lawfully
begotten son and heir of my master, Lord Kilpatrick.’

‘Damn you!’ cried Richard, leaping from the bed at these words with a
flash of hysteric anger conquering his fears.

‘You come and tell us this! Father----!’

‘Hold your tongue!’ said the elder man quietly. ‘Don’t play the fool,
Richard Conseltine.’

Peebles looked at him with a kind of loathing admiration of his courage
and coolness.

‘If you’ve any more to say, Mr. Peebles,’ Conseltine continued, ‘you’d
better get it over.’

‘Just this,’ said the old man: ‘ye’ll hold your tongue about the
business till I see fit to speak. Ye’ll cease to trade on his lordship’s
generosity, and rob the poor lad ye’ve kept out of his rights all these
years, and the poor woman ye’ve tried to murder. And if in a day or two
ye can manage to find some business o’ sufficient importance to tak’ ye
awa’ oot o’ this place, and to keep ye awa’ oot o’t for the rest o’
your natural lives, so much the better. I don’t think,’ he added
reflectively, as he scraped his lean jaws thoughtfully with his long
fingers--‘I don’t think there’s any ither thing to be arranged. Ye’d
better keep clear o’ Blake, perhaps.’

‘One word, Mr. Peebles,’ said Conseltine, as the old man turned to go.

‘When do you intend to break to my brother the news of--of that woman
being alive?’

‘I canna preceesely tell ye,’ returned Peebles. ‘As soon’s I think he’s
strong enough to hear it. In the mean time, Mr. Conseltine, ye’d best
ca’ cannie. I’m secret in the game till ye try another move; but if ye
do, I’ll split on ye, as sure as God’s in heaven!’



CHAPTER XIV.--LADY KILPATRICK.

Peebles had left the Conseltines barely half an hour when a message
was brought to him in his pantry that Mr. Blake of Blake’s Hall would be
glad to have the pleasure of a word with him. Blake, being ushered into
the old man’s private room, immediately demanded whisky, and, having
been supplied, inquired of Peebles what was the news concerning Moya.

‘I met Larry as I was coming here. Sure, he’s like a madman, raving
about the poor woman that must have been burned wid the mill, though
sorra a chip of her bones or a rag of her dress have they found.’

‘They’re no likely to find anything,’ said Peebles. ‘I went straight to
Desmond last night, and he was just in time to rescue her from the awfu’
death the villains had plotted for her.’

‘Glad am I to know it,’ said Blake. ‘Are the rogues laid by the heels
yet?’

‘No,’ said Peebles, ‘nor will they be, wi’ my good will. Man, ’twould
break my lord’s heart! His ain brother, Mr. Blake! his ain brother’s
son! No, no. They must be let gang, for the honour o’ the family, though
it’s a hard lump to swallow, and goes terribly against my conscience,
that twa such wretches should be free while many a decent man’s in
prison. But there’s just no help for it. And noo, just tell me, Mr.
Blake, are ye sober--sober enough, I mean, to know the value of what
ye’re saying?’

‘Sober, is it?’ cried Blake. ‘Soberer than I’ve been this
five-and-twenty years, bad luck to me!’

‘Then listen to me,’ said Peebles. ‘’Twas you that married his
lordship to Moya Macartney?’

‘’Twas so,’ returned Blake.

‘And ye had really been ordained a clerk in holy orders before that
time?’

‘I had, but when I performed the ceremony I used a false name.’

‘That makes no difference,’ returned Peebles. ‘You were a clergyman, you
are a clergyman, and a clergyman you’ll die. Holy orders are indelible!
I ken that much, though I’m no churchman mysel’. Noo, Moya’s safe, and
it’s my intention, jest as soon as it can be done withoot chance of
damage to my lord’s health, to break the news to him, and I’ll look to
you to put all possible assistance in the way o’ proving your possession
o’ the necessary power to perform a legal marriage.’

‘H’m!’ said Blake doubtfully.

‘And what the deil d’ye mean by “h’m”?’ asked Peebles.

‘You’re talkin’ mighty aisy,’ said Blake, ‘of my givin’ up the only
means o’ livelihood I’ve had these years past.’

‘Means o’ livelihood,’ repeated Peebles. ‘You’re doited, man alive! What
has this question to do wi’ your means of livelihood?’

‘Just the blackmail that Dick Conseltine has paid me to hold my tongue,’
replied Blake with a beautiful candour.

‘That’s all o’er now,’ said Peebles. ‘He kens that Moya’s alive, and he
kens that _I_ ken it. Eh, Patrick Blake,’ he continued, shaking his
head reproachfully at the burly figure opposite him, ‘ye’ve been a sad
scoun’rel in your time, I doubt. But ye helped to save that puir lass’s
life, and I’ll no be hard on ye. What can be done for ye in reason shall
be done. Maybe the wages o’ honesty won’t amount to as much as the wages
o’ sin, but ye’ll hae a clearer conscience to mak’ up the balance. I can
promise naething, but I’ll speak to Desmond and my lord. I’m thinking
ye’d be best oot o’ the country. Some hundred pounds and a passage to
America would suit ye fine.’

‘Emigration!’ said Blake. ‘’Twas that Dick Conseltine was advising the
other day. Faix, ye’re all in a mighty hurry to get rid o’ poor old Pat
Blake. Well, Peebles, I’ll trust ye. I’ve always found ye square and
honest, and I like the boy. I’d rather see him with the title than that
ape cub o’ Dick Conseltine’s, any day of the year. As for the help I can
give ye, well, there’s me licence to preach, marry, and bury, signed
by the Bishop, and granted at Maynooth College. I’ve got it at home at
Blake’s Hall to this day, and faith, if that’s not enough, I can find
a score o’ people at my old cure who’ll remember me and swear to my
identity.’

At this moment he was interrupted by a rap at the pantry door, and a
servant announced that Peebles was needed in my lord’s chamber.

‘Wait here,’ said the old man to Blake. ‘I’ll no’ be long.’

Peebles mounted the stairs, and found Kilpatrick seated at the open
window of his room. He gave some commonplace instructions which could
quite easily have been fulfilled by any other servant in the house.
Peebles, who knew his master’s mind as though he had made him, obeyed
the orders, and stood at his elbow silently.

‘Well, Peebles? well?’ asked Kilpatrick. ‘Well, my lord?’ said Peebles,

‘What are you waiting for?’

‘For your lordship’s orders.’

Kilpatrick sat twisting his fingers in a nervous silence for a second or
two, and then abruptly asked:

‘Where’s Desmond? I suppose you’ve seen him lately?’

‘Ay!’ said Peebles, ‘I saw him last night.’

‘And what had the young scamp to say for himself? Still on the high
horse, I suppose? When does he propose to honour my house with his
presence again?’ ‘God forgive us!’ said Peebles, shaking his head at
his master with a mournful reproof. ‘“Still on his high horse,” quotha!
’Tis you that are walking wi’ the bare feet o’ conscience in the mire
o’ repentance, if your silly pride would let ye own till it.’

Kilpatrick tried to look angrily at the old man, but the continued slow
shake of Peebles’ head, and the calm penetration of the eyes that dwelt
on his, cowed him.

‘I ask you, Peebles,’ he cried suddenly, ‘is not my position a hard
one?’

‘Sair hard,’ said Peebles; ‘but ye made it yoursel’, and ye hae nae
right to grumble.’

‘It’s harder than I deserve,’ cried Kilpatrick. ‘If--if it was the--the
just measure of punishment for--for that silly indiscretion of years
ago, I should not complain, but----’

‘My lord!’ said Peebles, ‘dinna gang beyond God’s patience. “Just
measure o’ punishment!” “too hard!” I wonder ye hae the presumption to
sit in that chair, and talk to me that ken the circumstances.’

‘Hold your tongue, confound you!’ said his master.

‘That will I no’,’ returned Peebles, ’till as your speeritual
weelwisher and your carnal servant I hae done my best to purge your
heart o’ the black vanity ye cherish.’

‘Go to the devil, you canting old scoundrel!’ screamed Kilpatrick.

‘After your lordship,’ said Peebles suavely, and flowed on before the
angry old gentleman could stop him. ‘You say your lot’s a hard one? You
complain that Providence is punishing you too severely? Man, ye are just
like a spoiled child, that sets a house afire in his wantonness, and
then thinks he’s badly treated because he gets his fingers burnt. Your
lot a hard one! What about the lot o’ the innocent lass that trusted ye,
and that ye ruined and slew? What about the bright bonny lad that God
put it into his mither’s heart to send here t’ ye, that should hae been
a sound o’ peace in your ears, a light unto your eyes, a sermon to your
understanding, ilka day this eighteen years bygone? What about his shame
and anguish, his loss of respect and belief in all his kind, because
you, the one man he loved and trusted most, turned to base metal in
his sight? And ye are hardly treated! Gin ye had your deserts, Henry
Conseltine, Lord Kilpatrick, ye’d be on the treadmill at this minute.
There’s many an honester man than you that’s praying God this minute
for bread and water to stay his carnal pangs, while ye sit here, full
o’ meat, and puffed out wi’ idleness. Ill treated! Ma certie!’ cried
the old man, with a fall from an almost Biblical solemnity of phrase to
latter-day colloquialism which would have seemed ludicrous to any third
person. ‘Ye’re no blate! Perhaps ye’d like a step up in the peerage for
havin’ ruined an honest lassie and broken a poor lad’s heart?’

‘Upon my soul,’ said Kilpatrick, twisting in his chair, ‘I don’t know
why I stand your infernal impudence.’

‘For the same reason,’ returned Peebles, ‘that you stand the infernal
impudence o’ your ain conscience. Ye’ve been trying to drug and bully
_that_ into quiet a’ these years, and ye’ve no succeeded yet, and ne’er
will, the Lord be praised! Ye ask,’ he continued, ‘if Desmond’s on his
high horse yet? Ay, is he--on a higher horse than ever.’

‘What do you mean?’ asked Kilpatrick.

‘Circumstances have come to light this last day or twa,’ said Peebles,
‘that put a new complexion on a’ this business.’

‘What circumstances?’ asked his lordship wonderingly.

‘Strange circumstances,’ said Peebles. ‘I’ve news for ye that’ll mak’
your ears to tingle, I’m thinking.’

‘Curse you!’ cried the old man; ‘can’t you speak out, instead of
jibbering and jabbering in this fashion, you old death’s-head!’

‘Ye’re a foul-mouthed person, Lord Kilpatrick,’ said Peebles dryly,
‘but let that flea stick to the wall. I’ve news for ye that it will tak’
courage to listen to.’

‘Man alive!’ cried Kilpatrick; ‘for the love of God don’t waste your
time and my patience in this fashion! What is your news?’

‘Just this,’ said the old man slowly and deliberately: ‘The marriage
with Moya Macartney, that ye believed to be a sham marriage--the more
shame to ye for it--was no’ a sham at all, but as good a marriage as was
ever made between man and maid on this earth, and as binding!’

Kilpatrick stared at him like one distraught, breathing heavily, and
grasping the side-pieces of his armchair with twitching fingers.

‘’Tis sooth I’m tellin’ ye,’ returned Peebles. ‘Blake was in holy
orders. He’d been deprived of his cure and he performed the ceremony
under a false name, but he’d ne’er been disfrocked. Desmond is your
lawfully begotten son--your heir!’

Kilpatrick’s reception of this astounding news fairly astonished the
old man. After the first dumfoundering effect of the communication had
passed, Kilpatrick sprang from his chair, his face flushed, his eyes
glittering.

‘Is it true? Is it true?’

‘True as death!’ responded Peebles.

‘Where is he?’ cried the old man. ‘For God’s sake, Peebles, bring him
here! Let me see him!’

His face darkened with a sudden expression of doubt.

‘Peebles,’ he cried brokenly; ‘you’re not playing with me? You’re not
deceiving me? I’ve been a good master to you these years past; you
couldn’t--you wouldn’t----’

‘God forbid!’ said Peebles. ‘It’s gospel truth.’

‘But,’ asked Kilpatrick, ‘why has Blake been silent all these years?’

‘Because,’ said Peebles, ‘Richard Conseltine has made it worth his
while.’

‘By Heaven!’ cried the old lord, ‘I’ll break every bone in Dick’s body!
Peebles, you don’t know what I’ve suffered all these years. Even from
you I’ve hidden my miseries. I’ve looked at Desmond, standing side by
side with that ugly cub of Dick’s, and ground my teeth to think that I
couldn’t leave the title to him. God bless you, Peebles--God bless you
for the news! ‘Fore Gad! I shall go mad with joy. Peebles, I’ll double
your wages if you’ll get the boy here in an hour from now. What are
you standing glowering there for? Run, you old rascal, run, and bring
Desmond to me! My eyes are hungry for him! I’ll acknowledge him before
the world! He shall marry Dulcie before the week’s out, and I’ll live to
nurse my grandson yet! Dick’s face will be a sight to see when he learns
that I know this.’

Peebles did not move. He was revolving in his mind the wisdom of at once
breaking to Kilpatrick the news that the wife he deemed dead was living.

‘Desmond shall do that,’ he said to himself. ‘Ay, Desmond shall do
that. ’Twill come better from him. My lord’s heart will be softened.
’Twill be less of a shock than if _I_ told him. Ay, ay,’ he said
aloud, as Kilpatrick impatiently bade him begone and fetch Desmond. ‘He
shall be here inside an hour, my lord.’

‘God bless you, old friend,’ said his lordship, shaking hands with him.
‘You’re a pragmatical old Puritan, but you’ve taken ten years off my age
to-day.’

Peebles descended to the pantry, where he found Blake still in intimate
converse with the whisky bottle.

‘Mr. Blake, would ye do my lord and me a service?’

‘By my troth, I will, then,’ said Blake.

Peebles called a groom, and bade him prepare a horse and carriage.

‘I want ye, Mr. Blake, to drive to Maguire’s cottage over at Cornboy.
There you’ll find Moya Macartney--tell her she must come with you. Then
drive on to Doolan’s Farm, and pick up Desmond. Bring them both here,
and I’ll have a boy posted in the road to warn me that ye’re coming.’



CHAPTER XV.--THE MOVING BOG.

In a state of mind bordering as closely on frenzy as was possible in
so very cold and calculating a nature, Conseltine made his way to the
neighbouring village of Cor-dale, where, in a disreputable inn bearing
the pretentious title ‘Hotel,’ his confederate Feagus was waiting the
issue of events. He found the worthy seated in a parlour leading off
the main chamber, or taproom, playing cards with the landlord, a
truculent-looking ruffian in shirt-sleeves.

As Conseltine entered, Feagus looked up with a grin, but, seeing at a
glance by the expression of Conseltine’s face that something unusual had
occurred, he threw down his cards and rose to his feet.

‘Business before pleasure, Pat Linney,’ he said. ‘Here’s a client, good
luck to him! Will ye be seated, Mr. Conseltine?’

‘No, no,’ was the reply. ‘Come out into the fresh air; this place
is stifling’--as indeed it was, from the combined effects of bad
ventilation, bad tobacco, and bad whiskey.

‘What’s the matter now?’ sharply demanded the lawyer, as they stood
together in the open street. An Irish ‘mist’ was falling from skies dark
with heavy clouds, and the prospect all around the few miserable huts
which constituted the ‘village’ was miserable in the extreme.

In a few hurried words Conseltine recounted the facts of the interview’
with Peebles.

‘So that’s it, is it?’ cried the lawyer, scowling savagely. ‘If I’d been
in your place, I’d have coaxed the ould villain into some convanient
corner, and knocked him on the head.’

‘Nonsense!’ said Conseltine.

‘Nonsense, ye call it?’ snapped Feagus, showing his teeth like a savage
dog about to bite. ‘When you’re cooling your heels in gaol ye’ll pipe to
a different tune.’

‘And you?’

‘Don’t couple my name with yours in that connection, Conseltine. I
forbid ye. My hands are clane, and the only thing on my conscience is
that I didn’t inform against ye.’

Conseltine’s face was livid with anger, as the other continued:

‘And it’s nice of ye to bring me put into the wet to talk with me, as if
I wasn’t a dacent man, except for my dealing with the likes of you.
I’m tired of doing dirty work for one that hasn’t the brains of a brent
goose, or the pluck of a louse--I am, sir! How will ye get out of it
all? tell me that.’

‘We sink or swim together,’ answered Conseltine. ‘I didn’t come here to
listen to abuse. I want your advice.’

‘Then come in to the fireside,’ snarled Feagus, moving towards the inn.

‘No! Can’t you understand that something must be done at once? That old
fool is against us, so is Blake; and when Desmond Macartney hears that
we’re concerned in his mother’s death, he’ll never rest till he’s hunted
us down. Come away with me to Blake’s at once, and see what can be done
with him.’

For some time Feagus was obdurate, but at last he listened to his
companion’s arguments, and agreed to accompany him to Blake’s Hall.
The way thither led by a track across the open moor or ‘mountain,’ and,
after refreshing himself with one stiff tumbler of Jamieson at the inn,
Feagus followed Conseltine through the drizzling rain.

A dreary day, a dreary prospect. The ground was covered with a soft,
soaked blanket of mud, moss, and heather, and low, gray vapours were
trailing on every side across the rain-washed hills. Not one ray of
sunlight broke the gloom, but far away to seaward moved a white mass
like smoke, ever shifting and changing. The air was strangely still, for
the rain was too thin and mist-like to produce the slightest sound.

It was a miserable walk of three Irish miles from the village of Cordale
to the valley inhabited by Blake. The two men hastened along in gloomy
silence until they had covered half the distance. Then Feagus paused
with an oath, and looked fiercely into the pale, determined face of his
companion.

‘I’m a fool to follow ye!’ he cried. ‘I’d be a wiser man if I took the
car to Sligo, and left ye here to fight the devils you’ve raised.’

‘I tell you that we stand or fall together,’ said Conseltine.

‘That’s a lie! If I was an accessory before the fact, I can plade
insufficiency of motive, and turn Queen’s evidence. What d’ye say to
that, now?’

Conseltine’s face went a shade whiter, and its expression a shade
uglier, as he glanced down at Feagus, and then surveyed the gloomy
prospect surrounding him. For the moment his impulse was to spring upon
his accomplice, and strangle him then and there; but Feagus, though
small, was wiry, and fierce as a wild cat, and would have taken a great
deal of killing. Momentary as the impulse was, it expressed itself
clearly on his countenance, and was at once understood and appreciated
by Feagus, who said with a savage and spiteful grin:

‘Wouldn’t ye like to get rid of me now, as ye got rid of poor Moya
Macartney? So I’m a thorn in your side, Dick Conseltine? By the powers,
I’ll be a bigger thorn yet, if ye don’t mind what you’re after!’

‘You’re drunk,’ returned Conseltine, ‘and you talk like a child. Come
along!’

And he walked slowly on.

‘A child, am I, and drunk?’ muttered Feagus, irresolute whether to
follow or turn back. ‘Well, I’m neither too young nor too drunk to guess
what game you’re after, my fine gintleman. If I’m not before ye, ’tis
you that will be blowing the gaff, and denouncing me, to save your own
skin. So I won’t leave ye yet awhile, I’m thinking.’

He followed Conseltine at a short distance, grumbling and cursing at
every footstep of the way. From time to time Conseltine glanced back to
assure himself that he was following.

At last, soaked to the skin and splashed with mud, they came in view
of Blake’s Hall. By this time the rain had almost ceased, but above the
heights which rose seaward, beyond the flat valley in which the Hall
lay, a great mass of vaporous cumuli, black and ominous, hung like a
pall. Between this mass and the hill summits was a white space filled
with smoke-like vapour, with gleams of shimmering silver. The silence
had grown deeper, but when the slightest sound arose it travelled with
startling distinctness for miles. Here and there, between the valley and
the hills, were scattered cottages, bright patches of green pasture, and
clumps of woodland. From these, at intervals, came the lowing of cattle,
the crowing of a cock, the cry of a solitary human voice--each and all
of which seemed to make the silence more intense.

Down to the cottage, or hall, went the two men, only to find that they
had come upon a useless errand. The door stood open, but when they
entered there was no sign of anybody within. Tired with his long walk,
Feagus threw himself on a stool, and, lighting his pipe, began smoking
furiously, while Conseltine, returning to the door, searched the
prospect in vain for any trace of the man he sought.

A hundred yards from the threshold ran the river, a narrow and shallow
stream in ordinary weather, but now broadened and deepened by the rain.
It was boiling along at lightning speed, stained deep brown by the clay
and peat of the moorlands whence it flowed. The stepping-stones at the
ford, by which one gained the road to Castle Fitzpatrick, were covered,
and to cross at all a man would have had to wade nearly waist-deep, at
the risk of being carried away by the current.

Like a man lost in thought, Conseltine walked over to the bank, and
stood looking at the water. His mind was in as great a tumult as the
raging stream. All his plans had failed, the whole world seemed leagued
against him, and he was now full of a nameless dread, a horror of
discovery, of punishment, and of the accompanying shame. Recent events
had developed everything that was harsh and even savage in his nature.
He had passed from one crime to another, till the blackest of all crimes
cast its shadow on his soul; not that he felt any pity for the victim of
his evil deed--his dominant feeling was one of fierce rage that the deed
had been done in vain. How to act now he knew not. His only hope was
in the silence of Peebles, whose regard for the honour of the family he
well knew. His greatest fear was of Desmond, should the Squireen learn
that his mother’s life had been attempted.

He stood so long brooding there, that Feagus grew impatient, and came to
the door to look after him.

‘What the devil are ye doing there?’ shouted the lawyer.

Conseltine looked round, and made no reply. At that moment a strange
sound, like the faint shock of an earthquake, came from the distant
hills. Both men instinctively glanced thither, and saw, stretching from
the black mass or pile of cloud behind the hill-tops, a silhouette of
solid black, in the form of an enormous waterspout, its apex in the
clouds, its base hidden somewhere in the unseen ocean. Even as they
gazed it burst, and for a moment it seemed as if night had come, the
whole skies being wrapt in blackness, and the rain falling in a deluge,
lashing the ground.

‘Powers of heaven!’ cried Feagus, clinging to the lintel of the open
door, and feeling, almost for the first time in his life, a ghastly
sense of fear. Before he could realize his own dread, Conseltine stood
by him, panting for breath.

‘Look yonder!’ Conseltine gasped, gripping his companion by the arm, and
pointing up the mountains.

Light now broke from the clouds--gloomy light with livid rays; and it
fell full on a great green stretch of bogland covering the mountain
side. The mountain itself seemed rocking as if with earthquake, and
simultaneously the bog itself, like thick and slimy lava, seemed to be
moving downward!

‘Holy saints defend us!’ cried Feagus.

As he spoke, the sound of human cries came from the distance, and
figures were seen wildly moving to and fro. A white cottage of stone
rocked, crumbled like sugar in water, and disappeared from sight, washed
over by the moving earth.

Tempest on sea and earthquake are dreadful enough, but there is no
phenomenon more portentous than that of the moving bog, when the very
earth seems to become liquid lava, shifting and changing, obliterating
landmarks, and swallowing up whatever stands in the way of its fatal
course. Such was the phenomenon the two men were now contemplating--a
whole hillside shifting from its place and moving downward like a
great slow, ever-broadening stream, engulfing rocks, trees, and human
dwellings, bearing fragments of these in its course, urging stones
and rocks along like a river in full flood, now halting and pausing to
destroy obstacles, again rolling relentlessly on.

In the present case, it was fed with the rain of a thousand torrents,
which gushed along with it and hastened it along.

Louder and shriller cries soon broke upon the air, and groups of men,
women, and children were seen flying down the valley, some driving
before them cattle as terror-stricken as themselves, many bearing
blankets, bedding, and domestic utensils, all moaning and shrieking in
fear. Very slowly, but surely and terribly, the bog crept behind them,
devouring and destroying, yet now and then, as if in caprice, leaving
some dwelling or clump of trees untouched, like an island in a slimy,
moving pool.

As emotion spreads from one to another in a crowd of living beings, so
does trouble grow by some elemental sympathy of nature among inanimate
things. The terror and the tumult of the scene we are describing seemed
to communicate itself to the whole landscape. The very river, flowing
from the opposite direction, and winding away seaward by the base of the
mountains, seemed to boil up ominously, surging tumultuously along.
A mile away there was a wooden bridge, over which many of the
panic-stricken peasants had now crossed, gaining the open vale beyond.
Suddenly, the supports of this bridge yielded to the fury of the waters;
the bridge, covered with sheep and cattle, with men and women about to
follow, tottered, yielded, and was swept away with its load.

All this time Feagus and Conseltine had stood fascinated, forgetful of
themselves in the extraordinary scene they were contemplating; but now,
as the excitement culminated, they realized their own danger.

‘We must get out of this,’ said Feagus. ‘If we don’t cross the ford,
we’ll be buried alive!’

He flew rather than ran towards the river, and reached the place of
crossing, only to stand in abject terror above a boiling torrent.

‘Saints save us!’ he groaned. ‘No man can cross here.’

He turned trembling, and saw Conseltine standing by his side, pale but
comparatively calm.

‘What’s to be done?’ gasped Feagus.

Conseltine smiled grimly.

‘Plunge in, man, wade to the other side, or swim to it! It’s not twenty
yards from bank to bank.’

‘I should drown!’ cried the lawyer.

‘Better that than live to betray the man that has fed and kept you so
many years. You talked of turning Queen’s evidence--go and do it!’

Feagus recoiled.

‘I didn’t mane it, Conseltine--’Twas only my little joke. For God’s
sake, tell me what’s to be done!’

‘I neither know nor care,’ returned the other. ‘Perhaps it’s God’s
vengeance upon us for what we’ve done. Are you afraid to die?’

Without replying, Feagus looked round in despair. The whole
mountain-side seemed now descending on that portion of the valley where
he stood, while the river wound round and round, between Blake’s Hall
and the open moor by which they had gained the lonely vale. There was
only one way of escape--to gain the opposite bank of the river.

‘Tell me this--if we escape out of this alive, do you mean to stand by
me or to turn against me?’

‘To stand by ye, to stand by ye!’ cried Feagus.

‘Then strip off your coat, and follow me!’ said Conseltine. ‘I’m going
across. If the water takes me off my feet, I shall swim to the point
below yonder--the current swirls that way, and it’s shallow close to the
bank. You’d better come--it’s your only chance.’

Suiting the action to the word, Conseltine took off his outer garments,
and stood in trousers and shirtsleeves; then, stooping down, he unlaced
his mud-clogged boots, and threw them off. Trembling with fear, Feagus
followed his example.

Conseltine crept down to the water’s edge, and leaning forward, tried
the depth with a heavy blackthorn stick which he carried.

‘We can do it,’ he said. ‘Mind you stand firm against the current, or
you’re a dead man.’

Feagus groaned and prayed. All his natural courage had deserted him, and
he looked an abject picture of human wretchedness.

‘Stop a minute,’ he cried; ‘I’m out o’ breath!’

‘Stop if you please,’ returned Conseltine contemptuously. ‘I’m going
across!’

Then steadying himself for the struggle, and using his stick as a
partial support, he stepped into the stream, and in a moment was
fighting with the current. With slow, long strides he moved from the
bank, his feet set upon the slippery bottom. For several yards the water
reached no higher than his knees, but gradually deepened; it at last
surged wildly to his waist; but he was a tall man of unusual strength,
and nature favoured him. For a few moments, as he stood in mid-stream,
it seemed as if he must be swept away, but, facing the current and
leaning forward, he held his own--then, putting out all his strength,
he leaped rather than walked until he gained the shallower water on the
farther side. He had passed safely, and stood soaked and dripping, but
secure, upon the further bank.

Feagus, who had watched his progress with wondering eyes, but with an
increasing sense of hope, still stood crouching by the riverside.

‘Come,’ cried Conseltine, waving his stick and laughing; ‘it’s easier
than I thought!’

‘Your staff! Throw me your staff!’ shrieked Feagus, and glancing round
he saw the bog descending like a snake towards Blake’s Hall. Then an
extraordinary phenomenon took place. The bog, meeting the river just
where the bridge had fallen, blocked it like an enormous dam and then
crawled like a monster over it. The result was instantaneous. The river,
arrested in its course, began to swell up, deepen, and push backward on
itself. There was not a moment to be lost if it was to be crossed again.

‘Throw me your staff, for the love of God!’ cried Feagus.

Conseltine hesitated for a moment, then cast the stick across the flood
with all his might; it fell close to Feagus, who gripped it eagerly, and
then, with a cry, plunged forward into the water. His progress was at
first comparatively easy, but as the water deepened, it became more
and more difficult to keep his foothold. With face set hard and eyes
protruding, he struggled on.

After watching him for a moment, Conseltine ran from the bank, followed
the side of the stream, and stood on the point of land of which he had
spoken, some forty yards below. Standing there, he waited for results.

Straining every nerve, and praying aloud, the lawyer reached the middle
of the stream, and paused for a moment, gasping for breath. Then the
roar of the flood, and the rush of water and wind, seemed to blind and
confuse him, and he seemed giving way. But with a mighty effort he kept
his feet, and even then all might have gone well with him but for an
accidental impediment--the half-submerged trunk of a tree, which rolled
over and over, struck the staff from his hands and took him off
his feet. With a shriek, he was swept headlong into the flood, and
disappeared.

Only for a few moments--then, haggard and ghastly, his head re-emerged,
drifting towards the point where Conseltine stood. A good swimmer, he
struck boldly out, and was helped by the current. All he was conscious
of was the rushing water around him, and the figure of Conseltine coming
nearer and nearer.

As Conseltine had explained, the current swept right to the point, close
to which there was some shallow water. Strong and wiry as a terrier,
Feagus made his way thither, fighting for his life. He was close to the
point, his feet touched solid ground, and he could see Conseltine
close to him, looking calmly down, when his force foiled him and he was
whirled round like a straw.

‘Save me!’ he shrieked, reaching out his hands.

By wading forward, and gripping the hands so outstretched, Conseltine,
with little or no danger to himself, could have drawn him into the
shallows, but, instead of so doing, he looked at the miserable man and
made no effort to assist him. The opportunity of the moment passed, and
with a shriek of despair Feagus was swept away.

*****

Pale as death, Conseltine watched him until he disappeared altogether,
and then, pale as a spectre, walked up the riverside. He was safe now,
and the only man who could denounce him and bring any certain proof of
his guilt was silenced for ever.

‘The drunken fool!’ he muttered. ‘That threat has cost him his life. Had
he lived, he would have done what he threatened to do--so he’s better
where he is!’

He looked back across the river. Blake’s Hall stood untouched, but all
around it was the dark mass of the moving bog, still creeping across
the vale. Where the bridge had fallen, a great lake of water, fed by the
river, was spreading and spreading. The rain still fell heavily, adding
to the general desolation.

He turned and hastened till he reached the road leading to the village
and Castle of Kilpatrick. As he strode along, he passed numbers of men,
women, and children hurrying in the same direction, but spoke to none
and was heeded by none, until he was close upon the village, when he
came suddenly face to face with his son.

‘Father!’ cried Richard, aghast at the wild figure before him. ‘I’ve
been looking for you everywhere. What has happened?’

In a few brief words, Conseltine related what had occurred--the search
for Blake, the strange convulsion of nature, his own escape, and the
death of Feagus. Then Richard, on his side, had something to tell which
made Conseltine sick with rage and dread. What that ‘something’ was will
be known in the sequel. The result of the communication was that father
and son made no attempt to return to Kilpatrick Castle, but within a few
hours of their meeting had gained the nearest railway-station and were
on their way to Dublin.



CHAPTER XVI.--IN WHICH LORD KILPATRICK NAMES HIS HEIR.

It was not till Blake was half-way on the road to Maguire’s cottage
that the personal significance to himself of the errand with which
Peebles had entrusted him dawned upon him. His first impulse was to
tell the driver to return to the Castle, and to request Peebles to find
another messenger.

‘By the Saints, but ’tis a fine business I’m in for--a two-mile ride
with Moya Macartney and Desmond--and ’tis a comfortable quarter of an
hour I’ll be after having.’

His habitual recklessness prevailed, however, aided by the thought that,
as the bearer of the message of peace, he might have a better chance of
pardon for past peccadilloes. He arrived at Maguire’s cottage, which had
a lonely and deserted aspect, in the bright mid-day sunshine. No curl
of smoke from the chimney announced the presence of an occupant, and the
door was fast shut. It opened at his knock, and disclosed Moya.

‘God save all here!’ said Blake, with his customary swagger rather
broadened.

‘Amen to that, Patrick Blake,’ said Moya calmly, ‘for some of us need
His mercy. What is it ye want here?’

‘Just yourself,’ said Blake. ‘I’m from the Castle with a message from
Mr. Peebles. Ye’re asked for there.’

Moya turned a shade paler.

‘Is he there--Desmond?’

‘I’m going on to Doolan’s farm to take him,’ said Blake. ‘I’ve the
carriage waitin’ here.’ He hesitated for a moment, and then added, with
more show of feeling than was common with him: ‘I’m a quare sort o’
messenger to send on this errand, and God knows ye’re little likely to
relish my society. It’s no sort o’ use in the world to say I’m sorry, or
to offer apologies for what’s past, but I hope it’s good news I’m
bringin’ ye. In fact, I _know_ it’s good news.’ He took off his hat with
a gesture that was almost dignified. ‘Will ye do me the honour to
accompany me, Lady Kilpatrick?’

Moya drew her shawl about her face and walked to the carriage, the door
of which Blake held open for her. He mounted beside the driver, and
another ten minutes saw them at the farm. Desmond was in the yard,
seated on a bench and engaged in splicing a fishing-rod. At the sound
of the approaching wheels he checked the pensive whistle with which
he accompanied his work; and at the sight of Blake on the box of the
carriage, he dropped the rod to the ground and strode forward at
a quickened pace and with heightened colour. Blake descended and
confronted him.

‘Tell me this, Mr. Blake,’ said the boy; ‘I’m in a bit of a quandary.
There is a man I know who’s a villain, but he’s old enough to be my
father, and I hear that he’s a clergyman, so I can neither call him out
nor lay a stick across his back. What would ye do in my place?’

‘Faith,’ answered Blake, ‘’tis a troublesome question. ’Twill take
thinking over. In the mean time, I’ve news for ye. Ye’re wanted at the
Castle.’

‘Am I?’ said Desmond. ‘And who wants me?’

‘Mr. Peebles.’

‘Then tell him,’ said Desmond, ‘that when I enter my father’s doors
again ’twill be either to find my mother there, or with her on my
arm.’

‘Sure,’ said Blake, ‘she’s in the carriage at this minute, and going to
the Castle with ye. Your troubles are over, Desmond--and hers.’

‘_You_ have a right to congratulate me on that, haven’t ye?’ asked the
boy with scornful anger.

‘Faith! and if _I_ haven’t, who has?’ replied Blake unabashed. ‘And look
here, Desmond Conseltine; in regard to the matter ye mentioned just now,
sure there’ll be no difficulty whatever. ’Tis not myself that’ll
take refuge behind a black coat and a white choker. Twenty paces or a
six-foot ring will do for me, and so, my service to ye. ’Twould ease
your heart and end the bad blood between us, maybe. But there’s things
more important than divarsions o’ that sort on hand.’

Moya’s white face appeared at the carriage window, and Desmond, with a
final angry look at Blake, joined her. Blake remounted the box and gave
the word for home. The coachman, who had received his instructions from
Peebles, made a detour in order to approach the Castle from the back.
Moya trembled like a leaf as they approached the house, and clung tight
to Desmond’s hand.

They found Peebles standing bareheaded at the back door, waiting to
receive them.

‘Moya,’ he said--‘I beg your pardon, Lady Kilpatrick, but the old name
comes easiest--his lordship has asked for Desmond. He kens that he is
his lawful son, and the way he took the news was just joyful to see. He
repents his past sin, he’ll welcome the boy back to his hearth and home.
But he doesna ken--I hadna the courage to tell him--that you are living.
I thought ’twould come best from Desmond. Desmond, lad, be gentle wi’
him! We a’ hae much to forgive each other, and--he’s your father, man,
when a’ is said and done. Mak’ your peace wi’ him, and then break it to
him as gently as ye can.

He’s in the library. I’ll get your mother upstairs cannily into the
anteroom, to be at hand. Eh?’ he cried, with a quiver in his voice and a
flash of moisture in his eyes which did more than all his entreaties to
soften Desmond. ‘Hech, laddie,’ but this is a grand day! I can lay down
my old bones in thankfulness, praising God for his mercies. It’s a grand
day this, and I never thought to live to see the like!’

The old man fairly broke down. Desmond took his hand and pressed it,
with the tears in his own eyes, and it was in a much kindlier mood
than that in which he had entered the house that he mounted the stairs
leading to the library. He stood for a minute outside the door. His
breath was heavy, and the beating of his heart filled his ears like the
pulse of a muffled drum. When he knocked, Kilpatrick’s voice answered
from within, bidding him enter.

The old man was standing near the window, with the light streaming on
his face, which was very worn and haggard. Desmond thought even that his
hair had whitened a little since he last saw him, though so short a time
had elapsed. Kilpatrick advanced a pace or two with outstretched hands,
and then paused with bent head. A strange mingling of many nameless
and some nameable emotions welled up in Desmond’s heart--memories of
a thousand kindnesses and generosities, pity for the proud man
humbled--and before he knew it his arms were round the old man’s neck,
and they were mingling their tears together. Kilpatrick was terribly
agitated.

‘My son, my son!’ was all he could say for a time. He repeated the words
again and again, each time more passionately, as if at this moment their
wonderful significance had become dear to him for the first time. ‘You
forgive me, Desmond?’

The boy took the gray head between his hands, and kissed his father on
the forehead, wetting his face with his tears.

‘It is more than I deserve,’ said the old man. ‘I was a scoundrel, a
villain! I broke your mother’s heart, Desmond, the sweetest, purest
heart that ever beat. Ye can’t forgive me for that! Nothing can ever
take that load from my heart, nothing, till I die and she asks God to
pardon me.’

‘Father!’ said Desmond. ‘I have strange news for you. Are you well and
strong enough to bear it?

‘Nothing can hurt me now,’ replied Kilpatrick.

‘You don’t know what it is,’ replied Desmond. ‘I’m afraid ’twill be a
dreadful shock to you at first, but a happy one after, I hope.’

‘Well,’ said the father, with a faint touch of his old quickness of
temper, ‘what is it? Speak out, my boy, and tell me. Some scrape you’ve
got into, eh? Well, that’s forgiven before you tell me.’

‘You regret the past?’ asked Desmond. ‘You would make amends for it to
the utmost extent in your power?’

‘I _will_ make amends for it, Desmond. There is nothing you can ask me
I will not do, no burden that you can lay upon me that I will not gladly
bear.’

‘I hope,’ said Desmond, after a short pause, ‘that you won’t think what
I’m going to tell ye is a burden. Faith, ’tis hard to know where to
begin! Supposing--mind, I only say supposing--supposing my mother were
not dead at all, supposing she were alive, and came back here, would
you make the same amends to her as you say you’ll make to me?’ ‘You--you
torture me!’ cried Kilpatrick. ‘Why rake up these painful recollections?
Why ask questions of this sort, when they can do no good? Every day of
my life, for eighteen years past, I have repented the wrong I did. God
knows, if it were possible, I would repair it.’

‘Ye mean that?’ cried Desmond.

‘God knows I do!’ said Kilpatrick, ‘but of what avail is it to speak of
such things now?’

‘Of more avail than you may think, father. Strange things have happened
this last day or two.’

Kilpatrick searched his son’s face with distending eyes.

‘Desmond! For God’s sake, tell me what you mean!’

‘I mean,’ said Desmond, taking his father’s hand, ‘that God has been
very good to us both, father. If I tell it to you too suddenly, forgive
me--I don’t know how to break it properly. My mother is alive!’

Kilpatrick staggered as if the words had shot him.

‘Alive!’ he gasped. ‘Moya Macartney alive!’

‘Yes, sure,’ said Desmond, ‘and in a little while she’ll be here, in
Ireland.’

Kilpatrick sank into a seat, and sat trembling like a man ague-struck.

‘In fact,’ said Desmond, ‘she is in Ireland already, and on her way
here.’

The old man sprang to his feet.

‘She is here--she is in the house!’

Desmond walked to the ante-room door, and made a sign. Moya advanced
into the library, and let slip the shawl from her face.

‘God of Heaven!’ cried Kilpatrick, falling to his knees. ‘Moya!’

She stood still, looking down on him, the broad light falling on her
wrinkled face and whitening hair. Kilpatrick bent his head beneath
her gaze, an awful sob broke from his throat. Desmond closed the door,
leaving them together: the meeting was too sacred to be witnessed even
by him.

*****

A long time had gone by, and the shadow of the Castle had blotted out
the shaft of sunshine which had spread its glory of golden green on the
lawn when the carriage had reached the Castle. Desmond still sat alone
as a light step crossed the floor, and a soft arm was slipped round his
neck. He looked up and saw Dulcie.

‘You needn’t say anything, Desmond,’ she said. ‘Peebles has told me. I
am so happy, dear, for your sake.’

He drew her to his side.

‘You loved me, Dulcie, when I was the poor Squireen: will you love me
the less now that I’m to be the next Lord Kilpatrick?’

‘Not less,’ answered Dulcie, ‘nor more. Sure,’ she added, with the most
musical of brogues, ‘’twould be impossible!’


THE END.





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