Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: An Irish Cousin; vol. 1/2
Author: Ross, Martin, Somerville, E. Oe. (Edith Oenone)
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 "An Irish Cousin; vol. 1/2" ***

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



produced from images available at The Internet Archive)



                           AN IRISH COUSIN.

                                  BY
                   GEILLES HERRING AND MARTIN ROSS.

                           _IN TWO VOLUMES._
                                VOL. I.

                       [Illustration: colophon]

                                LONDON:
                       RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON,
           Publishers in Ordinary to Her Majesty the Queen.
                                 1889.

                       (_All rights reserved._)



                    [Illustration: text decoration]



CONTENTS.


PART I.

_AN EXPERIMENT._

CHAPTER I.

      PAGE

THE “ALASKA”.....1

    “In that new world which was the old.”


CHAPTER II.

AUNT JANE.....7

    “Sing Hey! when I preside.”


CHAPTER III.

MY COUSIN WILLY.....27

    “Willy’s fair and Willy’s rare,
     And Willy’s wondrous bonny.”


CHAPTER IV.

THE MASTER OF DURRUS.....44

    “My father’s brother; but no more like my father than I to Hercules.”

CHAPTER V.

IMPRESSIONS.....60

    “Groping in the windy stair,
     Darkness and the breath of space
     Like loud waters everywhere.”


CHAPTER VI.

AN IRISH SUNDAY.....70

    “In Islington there was a man,
       Of whom the world might say,
     That still a godly race he ran,
       Whene’er he went to pray.”


CHAPTER VII.

MOLL.....89

    “Or in the night, imagining some fear,
     How easy is a bush suppos’d a bear!”


CHAPTER VIII.

SCHOOLING.....97

    “Rode he on Barbary? Tell me, gentle friend,
     How went he under him?”

    “This is the prettiest low-born lass----”


CHAPTER IX.

“THE TURF, THE CHASE, AND THE ROAD”.....114

    “_Ford._ Old woman! What old woman’s that?

           *       *       *       *       *

     A witch, a quean, an old cozening quean!
     Have I not forbid her my house?”


CHAPTER X.

THE MOYCULLEN HOUNDS.....133

    “On the first day of spring, in the year ’93,
     The first recreation in this countheree,
     The King’s counthry gintlemen o’er hills, dales, and rocks,
     They rode out so gallant in search of a fox.”


CHAPTER XI.

NUGENT O’NEILL.....152

    “He is the toniest aristocrat on the boat.”


CHAPTER XII.

A VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY.....165

    “And wouldst thou leave me thus? Say Nay.”


CHAPTER XIII.

A DINNER-PARTY.....177

    “Go, let him have a table by himself!
     For he does neither affect company,
     Nor is he fit for’t, indeed.”


CHAPTER XIV.

IN SOCIETY.....199

    “Ah! Then was it all spring weather?
     Nay, but we were young and together.”

    “Society is now one polished horde
     Formed of two mighty tribes, the Bores and Bored.”

CHAPTER XV.

AN AMERICAN GIRL.....218

    “She’s always been kind of off-ish and partic’lar for
         a gal that’s raised in the woods.”


CHAPTER XVI.

FERRETING.....239

    “I do perceive here a divided duty.”


CHAPTER XVII.

POTATO CAKES.....263

    “The tenacious depths of the quicksand, as is usual
         in such cases, retained their prey.”


PART II.

_THE COST OF IT._


CHAPTER I.

MRS. JACKSON-CROLY AT HOME.....280

    “Fate’s a fiddler, life’s a dance.”

    “O’Rorke’s noble feast will ne’er be forgot
     By those who were there, and those who were not.”


[Illustration: text decoration]



[Illustration: text decoration]

AN IRISH COUSIN.



PART I.

_AN EXPERIMENT._



CHAPTER I.

THE “ALASKA.”

    “In that new world which was the old.”


There had been several days of thick, murky weather--dull, uncomplaining
days that bore their burden of fog and rain in monotonous endurance. Six
of such I had lived through; a passive existence, parcelled out to me by
the uncomprehended clanging of bells, and the, to me, still more
incomprehensible clatter which, recurring at regular intervals, told
that a hungry multitude were plying their knives and forks in the
saloon.

But a change had come at last; and on Saturday morning, instead of the
usual heaving ridges of grey water, I saw through the port-hole the
broken green glitter of sunlit waves. The s.s. _Alaska’s_ lurching
plunge had subsided into a smooth unimpeded rushing through the water,
and for the first time since I had left New York, the desire for food
and human companionship awoke in me.

“Stewardess,” I said, “get me a cup of tea. I am going on deck.”

It was early when I came on deck. The sun was still low in the
south-east, and was spreading a long road of rays toward us, up which
the big steamer was hurrying, dividing the radiancy into shining lines,
that writhed backwards from her bows till they were lost in the foaming
turmoil astern.

A light north wind was blowing from a low-lying coast on our left,
bringing, as I fancied, some faint suggestion of fields and woods. I
walked across the snowy deck, to where a sailor was engaged in a
sailor’s seemingly invariable occupation of coiling a rope in a neat
circle.

“I suppose that is Ireland?” I said, pointing to the land.

“Yes, miss; that’s the county Cork right enough. We’ll be into
Queenstown in a matter of three hours now.”

“Three hours more!” I said to myself, while I watched the headlands
slowly changing their shapes as we steamed past. It would soon begin
now, this new phase of my life, whether I wished it or not. It had once
seemed impossible; now it was inevitable. My destiny was no longer in my
own control, and its secret was, perhaps, hidden among those blue Irish
hills, which looked as if they were waiting for me to come and prove
what they had in store for me.

“Well, it has been my own doing,” I thought; “whatever comes of it, I
have only myself to thank; and whether they like or dislike me, I shall
have to make the best of them, and they of me.”

“First breakfast just ready, miss,” said one of the innumerable
ship-stewards, scurrying past me with cups of tea on a tray.

I paid no attention to the suggestion, and made my way to a deck chair
just vacated by an elderly gentleman. I could not bring myself to go
below. The fresh sweet wind, the seagulls glancing against the blue sky,
the sunshine that gleamed broadly from the water and made a dazzling
mimic sun of each knob and point of brasswork about the ship,--to
exchange these for the fumes of bacon and eggs, and the undesired
conversation of some chance fellow-passenger, seemed out of the
question.

Moreover, I was too restless and excited to care about breakfast just
then. The sight of the land had given new life to expectations and hopes
from which most of the glory had departed during the ignominious misery
of the last six days. I lay in my deck chair, idly watching the black
river of smoke that streamed back from the funnels, and for the first
time found a certain dubious enjoyment in the motion of the vessel, as
she progressed with that slight roll in her gait which the sea confers
upon all its _habitués_.

Most people appear to think that sea-sickness, if spoken of at all,
should be treated as an involuntarily comic episode, to be dealt with in
a facetious manner. But for me it has only two aspects--the pathetic
and the revolting; the former being the point of view from which I
regard my own sufferings, and the latter having reference to those of
others. In the dark hours spent in my state-room, I had had abundant
opportunity to formulate and verify this theory, and I have never since
then seen any reason to depart from it.

[Illustration: text decoration]



[Illustration: text decoration]

CHAPTER II.

AUNT JANE.

    “Sing Hey! when I preside.”


It may not be a very dignified admission, but one of the main causes
that led to my being at present on board the _Alaska_, bound for
Queenstown, was the incompatibility of my temper with that of my Aunt
Jane.

In self-extenuation, I may mention that I had for the last twelve months
lived in her house, and had thus had ample opportunity of verifying the
opinion expressed by many of her most intimate friends--“That Jane
Farquharson was the salt of the earth, but as such was better when
taken in very small quantities.”

She was a Scotchwoman of the most inflexible type. Twenty-five years of
sojourn in the United States had modified none of her insular
prejudices, and my mother, who was her youngest sister, had never, even
during her married life, lost belief in the awfulness of her authority.

The Farquharsons were a family whose pedigree was longer than their
purse; and when her younger brother, my Uncle James, had been compelled
to sell the paternal acres and emigrate to California, my aunt had
uprooted herself from her native land and followed his fortunes, in the
full conviction that he, excellent young man though he was, would become
altogether a castaway if once allowed out of range of her vigilant eye.
They were orphans, and Aunt Jane, having imposed upon herself the
duties of both parents, took my mother with her to the Far West, where
she maintained on my uncle’s ranch the straitest traditions of the
elders.

Uncle James never married. Aunt Jane’s vigilance had been so
conscientiously unremitting that no daughter of Heth had ever disputed
with her the position of mistress of Farquharson’s ranch. But the
precautionary measures that had preserved Uncle James from the snares of
matrimony were a distinct failure in my mother’s case. With the
unexpected revolt of a weak nature, she defied her elder sister, and
committed the incredible enormity of getting married.

Men--with the exception of a legendary Scotch minister, who, if
tradition spoke truly, had not long survived his betrothal to Aunt
Jane--were regarded by her as the natural foes of cleanliness, economy,
and piety. And of all men she considered Irishmen to be the epitome of
their sex’s atrocities.

It must, then, be admitted that Fate dealt hardly with Aunt Jane, when,
one summer afternoon, her sister Helen came to her and told her that she
had that morning been married to Owen Sarsfield, the good-looking
Irishman who, a few months before, had entered into partnership with
their brother. My mother has often described the scene to me--how she
had found Aunt Jane grimly darning her brother’s socks; how she had
received the news at first in terrible silence; and then how on my
mother, white and trembling, had fallen the thunders of her wrath.

“That ne’er-do-weel Irishman! A creature that ’tis well known had to
leave his home for Heaven only knows what wickedness! Did you never hear
that a bad son makes a bad husband? I was right when I warned James
against having anything to do with a vagabond scamp such as he is, and
told him no good would come of handling money that had doubtless been
won at the gaming-table!”

To all this, and much more, my mother did not attempt a reply; she
thought she knew more of Owen Sarsfield than her sister did. She and her
husband settled down in another house on the ranch, and, notwithstanding
their proximity to Aunt Jane, they were very happy.

My father, in spite of Aunt Jane’s insinuations to the contrary, was an
Irish gentleman of good family, and the money which he had put into the
farm had been honestly come by. Perhaps my mother never knew the exact
reason of his leaving Ireland. She only told me that money troubles had
led to a quarrel with his father, Theodore Sarsfield, of Durrus, in the
county Cork. He had no sisters, and his younger and only brother,
Dominick, had sided with my grandfather against him, so that during the
fifteen years he had spent in America he was as much cut off from his
home as if he had been on another planet. The little that he knew of it
was gathered from a few misspelt letters, written by one Patrick Roche,
a special retainer of his in the old days at Durrus.

These reached him at long intervals, and usually announced some event
connected with the Sarsfield family. In this way he heard of his
brother’s marriage, which took place three or four years before his own.
Then shortly afterwards, towards the end of the Irish famine, came the
news that “The young misthris was ded, and she just after havin’ a fine
young son; ’twas what the peepel war all saying that the hard times kilt
her.”

My mother used sometimes to take these letters from a little old green
velvet bag in which she hoarded many valueless treasures, and give them
to me to read. And I well remember the yellow worn papers, with the
half-foreign smell of turf-smoke lingering about them. I did not then
dream of how, in after-years, when that same smell of turf-smoke became
very familiar, it would recall the hours I spent when a child, sitting
in the shade of the verandah beside my mother’s rocking-chair, and
poring with subdued excitement over these messages from the other side
of the world.

The last letter which my father received was as urgent as it was brief.


     “HONORED MASTHER OWEN” (it began, without any of the usual preamble
     of good wishes),

     “The owld masther is very sick. You’d do well to cum home. Ther is
     them that sayes he’s askin’ for you, and God knows maybe ’tis the
     change for deth that’s on him. The family is very poor this while
     back. The big house do be mostly shut up; only owld Peggy Hourihane
     within in the house and her daughter mindin’ the child. Me father
     and mother is ded. I will gos ’list for a sojer. God help us; these
     are bad times.

                         “Your faithful servant,

                                        “PATRICK ROCHE.”


On getting this letter, my father started at once for Ireland. I was at
this time about a year old, a very ugly and stubborn little baby, so
Aunt Jane has often told me; and when my mother held me high above the
sunflowers at the gate, to kiss my hand to my father as he drove away, I
only beat her upon the head and screamed for the pussy.

That was the last chance I ever had of seeing my father. He wrote to my
mother from New York, and again from Queenstown--short dispirited
letters; the latter saying that he had caught a bad cold, and felt the
change from a Californian to an Irish winter very severely. A week
afterwards came another letter in a strange handwriting. It was from my
Uncle Dominick, and it told my mother, not unkindly, the news that she
never quite recovered from. The cold which my father had spoken of had
turned to pleurisy, and he had died in a hotel in Queenstown the day
after he landed. The writer said that, owing to the unfortunate
relations that existed between him and his brother, he had not been
aware of his marriage till letters that he had found in his possession
informed him of the fact. He now forwarded them to her, with his
brother’s few personal effects, and remained, hers faithfully, D.
Sarsfield.

The next mail brought a second letter from my Uncle Dominick. Since he
last wrote, my grandfather had died; and by the terms of his will, in
consequence of my father having predeceased him, the property and house
of Durrus passed to the second son, the writer himself. “Had my father
known that my brother had married,” wrote my uncle, he might possibly
have made an alteration in the terms of the will; but as Owen had never
seen fit to make any communication on the subject, no such provision was
made. “The property has suffered much during the recent famine, but, as
I feel sure that it would have been in accordance with my father’s
wishes, I have ventured to place a small sum to your credit at the Bank
of Ireland, with directions to forward it to your order.”

My mother never allowed the correspondence thus begun with my Uncle
Dominick to drop altogether, and once or twice a year she would devote a
couple of mornings to the toilful compilation of a letter to the
brother-in-law whom she had never seen. Looking back now, I think there
was something very touching in the confident way in which she relied on
his interest in those annals of my childhood which filled her letters. I
came upon them long afterwards, and read them with a strange mingling of
feeling, very different from the wonder and longing with which I, in
those childish days, saw them despatched on the first stage of their
long journey, and wished that I could accompany them into the post-bag’s
grimy recesses, and go to Durrus too.

I had a very happy childhood. Either my mother or Uncle James could
single-handed have spoiled the best of children, and their joint
efforts being devoted to giving me everything I wished for, I should,
had it not been for Aunt Jane, have lived a life of lawless enjoyment.
The result of their long years of subjugation was a secret exultation in
the undaunted front which I bore towards my aunt, and at a very early
age I had learnt to recognize the fact that we three were confederates
against a common despot. Uncle James was my most daring ally, and at his
instigation I committed some of my most signal and spirited
misdemeanours. By the time I was sixteen, I had become, under his
supervision, a young lady of varied, if unusual, attainments. I could
catch and saddle my own horse; I could guide a steam-plough; I could
make some attempt at Latin verse; I knew a little about the rotation of
crops, and a good deal of Shakespeare and Walter Scott. Aunt Jane
herself took charge of my music, and I spent a daily hour of suffering
at a piano as upright and unsympathetic as she was, learning from the
frayed, discoloured pages of her music-books, the old-fashioned marches,
and “Scotch airs with variations,” that had formed the taste of two
generations of Farquharsons.

I think my mother would have been satisfied to let me grow up as I was
then doing, knowing nothing of the usual more elegant accomplishments of
young ladies; and it was owing to Aunt Jane’s abhorrence of my “tom-boy
tricks” that the first great change in my life was made. The climax came
one early summer morning, when, possessing myself of Uncle James’s gun,
I crept out to try and slay one of the big “jack-rabbits” that abounded
on the ranch.

My aunt from her bedroom window saw the whole performance--the
stalking; the unseemly grovellings and crawlings through the long grass;
the deliberate aim; and, finally, the stealthy but triumphant return
with the spoil.

That very day it was decided that my mother and I were to go forthwith
to Boston, there to abide with a cousin of my mother’s, until such time
as some of the high literary polish of that city should be imparted to
me.

“Perhaps Rachel Campbell will be given patience to bear with her wild
heathen-like ways,” Aunt Jane had said; and my poor mother had answered
with a sigh--

“Theo is always good to me, dear Jane; but I dare say you are right, and
it will be best for us to go away.”

So my mother and I set out on our long journey, little thinking that we
should never see Farquharson’s Ranch again.

Towards the end of our second year in Boston Uncle James died. His horse
fell with him, throwing him on his head, and he only lived for a few
hours afterwards, never recovering consciousness. He left all his
property to my mother and my aunt; and the latter, having sold the
ranch, came to live with us in Boston.

My uncle’s death was the first trouble that I had ever known; but in the
near future a still greater one awaited me. I was barely twenty-two when
my mother’s unexpected death seemed to bring the whole world to a
standstill. I do not like to look back to the desolate days which
followed. She was all I had in the world to love, and Aunt Jane’s stern,
undemonstrative nature would admit me to no fellowship of sorrow.

I dare say it may have been my own fault, but after a time I found the
change from my mother’s unexacting governance to Aunt Jane’s rule
becoming intolerable.

“Theodora has been quite ruined by poor Helen,” she used, I believe, to
say to her friends. “She will do nothing now but what is right in her
own eyes. I shudder to think what will become of her.”

Either my aunt’s temper or mine had disimproved with advancing years,
and each day I found it harder to avoid a breach of the peace. At length
a diatribe upon “the fearful irreverence to my elders which I had learnt
in this godless town,” ending with reflections upon my mother’s
indulgence, aroused me to angry rejoinder.

I was trying to simmer down in my own room after the encounter, and in
my stormy trampings to and fro in that limited apartment, I had twice
upset a photograph of a plump and smiling little boy that stood on my
table.

“That horrid little Willy Sarsfield!” I said, delighted to find
something on which to expend my wrath; “he is always tumbling down!”

The picture had been my mother’s, one which, at her request, had been
sent to her by my Uncle Dominick many years before; and as for the
second time I picked it up and put it in its place, an idea came to me.

“Why should I not go to Durrus?” I said.

I did not wait for a calmer moment, but, seating myself at the table, I
immediately began a letter to my Uncle Dominick. My hand shook from the
excitement of my suddenly taken resolution and from a sense of its
temerity, but I was at least able to make my meaning clear. I had, I
said, since I was a child, longed to visit Durrus, and see my father’s
relations; but hitherto this had been impossible to me. Now, however, I
was comparatively alone in the world, and if my uncle would allow me to
pay him a visit, nothing remained to prevent my doing so.

That evening I told my aunt of the step I had taken. The heat of her
altercation with me had not yet died out in her, and, though she was, as
she said, beyond measure astounded, her pride did not permit her to
remonstrate.

“You can do as you please, Theodora. As your mother did not see fit to
leave me the control of your fortune, I do not presume to give an
opinion as to your movements. I trust, however, that you may not have
cause to regret the headstrong self-will which has made you unable to
content yourself in a quiet and God-fearing household.”

During the days of waiting for an answer from my uncle, Aunt Jane
preserved the same demeanour of distant disapproval, and I began to
feel that to leave her house with the weight of her displeasure still
hanging over me, would be a strong measure. The morning at length came
on which I tore open an envelope with the Irish post-mark, and read to
her the ceremonious letter in which Uncle Dominick intimated his and his
son’s great pleasure at the prospect of a visit from me.

“Very good; then I suppose you will start without delay.” Her cold voice
quavered unexpectedly at the end of the sentence, and, looking up in
astonishment, I saw in her hard grey eyes an unmistakable moisture. “I
had no wish to drive you out, Theodora.”

“I know, Aunt Jane,” I broke in, in hasty penitence; “I never thought
that for an instant.”

But she hurried away before I could get any further, saying
inarticulately, as she left the room, “God bless you, child, wherever
you go.”

After this Aunt Jane made no further comment on what had taken place,
but we found ourselves on a more friendly footing than we had ever been
before; and when I said good-bye to her, I did so with the knowledge
that I could always rely on her undemonstrative, but steadfast
affection.

This is the history of how, on the 18th of October, 188-, I came to be
reclining in a deck chair on board the s.s. _Alaska_, two hours from
Queenstown.

[Illustration: text decoration]



[Illustration: text decoration]

CHAPTER III.

MY COUSIN WILLY.

    “Willy’s fair and Willy’s rare,
     And Willy’s wondrous bonny.”


“_To Miss Sarsfield, s.s. ‘Alaska,’ Queenstown. From W. Sarsfield._

“Awfully sorry I will not be able to meet you. Drive to Foley’s Hotel.
Will be waiting you there.”

       *       *       *       *       *

This despatch was put into my hand before I left the steamer at
Queenstown. Its genial tone and eccentric grammar were quite in keeping
with my ideas of an Irishman. These were at once simple and definite.
All Irishmen were genial; most of them were eccentric. In fact, had my
uncle and cousin met me on the pier, clad in knee-breeches and
tail-coats, and hailed me with what I believed to be the national
salutation “Begorra!” I should scarcely have been taken aback.

The outside car on which I drove from the Cork station to the hotel was
also a realization of preconceived ideas. In response to the bewildering
proffers of “Inside or outside?” I had selected an “outside,” and was
quite satisfied with the genuineness of the difficulty I found in
remaining on it, as we rattled through the muddy streets. The carman
himself was perhaps a little disappointing. His replies to my questions
were not only devoid of that repartee which I had understood to be the
attribute of all Irish carmen, but were lacking in common intelligence;
and on his replying for the third time, “Faith, I dunno, miss,” I
concluded I must have hit on an unlucky exception.

The day had lost none of the brilliancy of the early morning. It seemed
to me that the sun shone with a deliberate intention of welcome, and the
unfamiliar softness of Irish air was almost intoxicating. Everything was
conspiring to put me into the highest spirits, and I only laughed when
my new dressing-bag was flung on to the pavement by the dislocating jerk
with which the car pulled up in front of Foley’s Hotel.

As I walked into the hotel, the porter who had taken in my boxes, went
over to a tall young man who was leaning over the bar at the end of the
narrow hall, and whispered something to him. He immediately started from
his lounging position, and, furtively glancing at the mirror behind the
bar, he came up to me.

“How do you do? I’m very glad to see you over here,” he said, with an
evident effort to assume an easy cousinly manner. “I hope you didn’t
mind not meeting me. I was awfully sorry I couldn’t get down to
Queenstown, but I had important business in town.” It was perhaps a
consciousness of the interested scrutiny of the young lady behind the
bar that caused him to blush an ingenuous red as he spoke. “You’d better
come on and have some luncheon,” he continued, without giving me time to
answer him. “We’ve only got an hour before the train starts.”

I followed him into the coffee-room, thinking as I did so how different
this well-dressed, rather awkward young man was from the picturesque and
vivacious creature I had somehow pictured my Irish cousin to be. His
accent, however, was unmistakably that of his native country; or,
rather, as I afterwards found, that of his particular part of it. His
quick, low way of speaking was at first a little unintelligible to me,
and almost gave me the idea that what he said was intended to be of a
confidential nature; but on the whole I thought his voice a singularly
pleasant one, and listened with interest to its friendly modulations.

By the time our luncheon was put on the table he was more at his ease,
and had even, with a sheepish, half-deprecating glance from his light
grey eyes, addressed me as “Theo.” The almost fraternal familiarity of
the head waiter was, on Willy’s explanation that I was his cousin from
America, extended in the fullest degree to me.

“Indeed, when I seen her coming in the door, I remarked to Miss Foley
how greatly the young lady favoured the Sarsfield family,” he observed
blandly; “and Miss Foley said she considered she had a great likeness to
yourself, captain.”

This was a little embarrassing. I did not quite know what I was expected
to say, and devoted myself to my mutton-chop.

“I did not know that you were a soldier,” I said, as soon as the waiter
had gone.

“Oh, well,” replied my cousin, giving a conscious twist to his yellow
moustache, “I’m only a sort of one--what they call ‘a malicious man.’
I’m a captain in the West Cork Artillery Militia,” he explained; “but
nobody calls me that but the buckeens hereabouts.”

I wondered silently what a buckeen was, and why it should be so anxious
to maintain the prestige of the militia, but did not like to betray too
much ignorance of what might be one of the interesting old courtesy
titles peculiar to Ireland.

Looking at my cousin as he rapidly devoured his luncheon, I noticed
that, in spite of his disclaimer of military rank, he took some pains to
cultivate a martial appearance. His straw-coloured hair was clipped with
merciless precision, and on his sunburnt forehead, what was evidently a
cherished triangle of white marked the limit of protection afforded by
an artillery forage cap.

“I think I’d better be looking after your luggage now,” he said, bolting
what remained of his second chop, and getting up from the table with his
mouth full. “I was quite frightened when I saw those two big mountains
of trunks coming along on the car after you. And then when I saw _you_
walk in”--he laughed a pleasant, foolish laugh--“I didn’t think you’d
be such a swell!” he ended, with confiding friendliness.

The terminus of the Cork and Moycullen railway, the line by which we
were to travel to Durrus, was crowded on that Saturday afternoon. We had
ten minutes to spare, during which I sat at the window and watched with
the utmost interest the concourse on the platform. It had all the
appearance of a large social gathering or conversazione. Stragglers
wandered from group to group, showing an equal acquaintance with all,
and with apparently entire nonchalance as to the functions of the train,
while the guard himself bustled about among them with an interest that
was evidently quite unofficial. My carriage soon became thronged with
people, between whom and their friends on the platform a constant
traffic in brown-paper parcels was carried on; and I was beginning to
think there would be no room for Willy, who had disappeared in the
crowd. But the ringing of the final bell set my mind at rest.

Contrary to the usual usage, this sound had the effect of almost
emptying the train, and, the party in my carriage being reduced to two,
I realized that the travellers were left in a minority by those who had
come to bid them good-bye.

Willy returned at the last moment, emerging from the centre of a group
of young ladies, with the well-pleased air of one whose conversation has
been appreciated.

“Did you see those girls I was talking to?” he said, as we moved out of
the station. “They are cousins of the O’Neills, people in our part of
the world. They came down to see me off. There was a great mob there
to-day, but there always is on Saturday.”

“Who are the O’Neills?” I asked, feeling that some response was expected
of me.

“They’re neighbours of ours. They live at Clashmore--that’s four miles
from us--and they’re very nice people. Nugent, the brother, used to be a
great pal of mine--at least, he was till he went to Cambridge, and came
back thinking no one fit to speak to but himself.”

Not feeling particularly interested in the O’Neills, I did not pursue
the subject; but Willy was full of conversation.

“I’m just after buying a grand little mare in Cork. It was that kept me
from going to meet you,” he observed confidentially. “I suppose you
learnt to ride at your ranch, Theo? I tell you what! I bought her for
the governor, but she’d carry you flying, and you shall hunt her this
winter if you like.”

My cousinly feeling for Willy increased perceptibly at this suggestion.

“But,” I said, “if your father buys her, he will want to ride her
himself, won’t he?”

“Is it the governor?”--with an intonation of contempt. “You never see
_him_ on a horse’s back. He’s always humbugging in the house over papers
and books. I believe he used to be a great sportsman and fond of
society, but he never goes anywhere now.”

The two ladies who had started from Cork with us had got out a station
or two afterwards, and we had the carriage to ourselves. But the
extraordinary jolting and rattling of the train were not conducive to
conversation, and, seeing that I was not inclined to talk, Willy
relapsed into the collar of his ulster and the Cork newspaper, and ended
by going unaffectedly to sleep.

It grew slowly darker. I sat watching the endless procession of small
fields slipping past the window, until the grey monotony of colour made
me dizzy. I leaned back, and, closing my eyes, tried to imagine the life
I was going to, and to contrast its probabilities with my past
experience. But a strange feeling of remoteness and unreality came upon
me. I suppose that the mental exhaustion caused by so many new sights
and impressions had dazed me, and I began to doubt that such a person as
Theo Sarsfield had ever really existed. Willy, my Uncle Dominick, and my
father flitted confusedly through my mind as inconsequently as people in
a dream. I myself seemed to have lost touch with the world; my past life
had slid away from me, and the future I had not yet grasped. I was a
solitary and aimless unit in the dark whirl that surrounded me, and the
sleeping figure at the opposite end of the carriage was a trick of
imagination, and as unreal as I. I became more and more remote from
things actual, and finally fell from all consciousness into a sleep as
sound as Willy’s.

My slumbers were at length penetrated by a shriek from the engine. I sat
up, and saw that Willy was taking down his parcels from the rack; and in
another minute we were in the little station of Moycullen.

A hat with a cockade appeared at the window.

“Hullo, Mick. Is it the dog-cart they’ve sent?”

“‘Tis the shut carriage, Masther Willy,” said Mick; “and ’tis waiting
without in the street.”

With some difficulty I followed Mick through the crowd of carts in the
station yard, to where a landau and pair were standing in the road. The
moonlight was bright enough for me to see the fine shapes of the big
brown horses, who were evincing so lively an interest in the movements
of the engine that the coachman had plenty to do to keep them quiet.

“You’re welcome, miss,” said that functionary, touching his hat; and I
got into the carriage, followed by Willy, with the usual number of
impedimenta that appear necessary to male travelling youth.

“It’s a good long drive,” he said, arranging rugs over our
knees--“twelve Irish miles. But we won’t be very long getting there. You
won’t have time to be tired of me--I hope not, anyhow.”

This was more like my idea of the typical Irishman, but was,
nevertheless, rather discomposing from a comparative stranger. It was
said, moreover, with a certain conquering air, which plainly showed that
Willy was not accustomed to being found a bore. I could think of no very
effective reply, so I laughed vaguely, and said I hoped I should not.

We had been driving at a good pace for about an hour, when we left the
high-road and began the ascent of a long steep hill. At the top the
carriage turned a sharp corner, and I saw below me, on my right, a great
sheet of water all alight with the misty splendour of a full moon. Black
points of land cut their way into the expanse of mellow silver, and the
small islands were scattered like blots upon it.

“That’s Roaring Water Bay,” said Willy; “and that mountain over there’s
called Croagh Keenan”--pointing to a shadowy mass that formed the
western limit of the bay. “You haven’t anything to beat that in
America, I’ll bet!” An assertion which I refrained from combatting.

Our road now lay for a mile or two along the top of a hill overlooking
the bay, and though Willy had done his best to make himself agreeable, I
was tired enough to be extremely glad when the carriage swung sharply
between high gate-posts, and we entered the avenue of Durrus.

As we passed the lodge, I caught, in the moonlight, a glimpse of the
pretty face of a girl who opened the gates, and asked who she was.

“She’s the lodgekeeper’s daughter,” said my cousin.

“She looked very pretty.”

“Yes, she’s not bad looking,” he said indifferently. “There are plenty
of good-looking girls in these parts.”

The drive sloped down through a park to the level of a turf bog, which
it skirted for some distance, and then entered a thick clump of trees,
through which the moonlight only penetrated sufficiently to let me see
that they were growing in a species of reedy swamp, from which, on this
cold night, a low frosty mist was rising. We were soon out again into
the moonlight, the horses quickening up as they came near their
journey’s end. I saw a sudden gleam of sea in front, and on the left a
long, low house, looking wan and ghostly in the moonlight.

[Illustration: text decoration]



[Illustration: text decoration]

CHAPTER IV.

THE MASTER OF DURRUS.

    “My father’s brother; but no more like my father than I to Hercules.”


As the carriage drew up at the hall door it was opened by a stout
elderly man, who came forward with such empressement that for a moment I
thought it was my uncle. Before, however, I had time to speak, he said
with much excitement--

“Your honour’s welcome, Miss Sarsfield!”

Willy checked further remark on his part by shovelling our many parcels
into his arms; but as soon as we had got into the hall, he let them all
go, and caught hold of my hand and kissed it.

“Glory be to God that I should have lived to see this day! I never
thought I’d be bringing Masther Owen’s child into this house. Thank God!
thank God!”

“Come, Roche, that will do for a start,” said Willy, laughing. “Keep the
rest for another day. Here’s the master.”

Roche hastily let go my hand, as a tall bowed figure came across the
hall to meet me.

“Well, my dear Theodora, so you have found your way at last to these
western wilds,” said my uncle, and kissed me on the forehead, taking
both my hands in his as he did so.

His manner was an extreme contrast to Willy’s affable familiarity, and I
was struck by the absence of Irish accent in his voice, which had a
mellifluous propriety of intonation.

He led me into the room he had just left, a small library, and placed a
chair for me in front of the fireplace.

“You must be cold after your long journey. Sit down and warm yourself,”
he said politely, adding another log to the furnace that was blazing in
the old brass-mounted grate.

He rubbed his long white hands together and drew back, so as to let the
light of the lamp fall on my face.

“And your--a--relatives in America--you left them quite well, I hope? I
dare say they resent your desertion of them very bitterly?” He laughed a
little.

I made some perfunctory reply, and sat warming one frozen foot after the
other, while my uncle stood with his back to the lamp, and surveyed me
with guarded intentness.

I had expected him to be perhaps formal, in an old-world, courteous way;
but this strained and glacial geniality was a very different thing, and
disconcerted me considerably.

“How unlike he is to Willy! I wish he would not stare at me like that. I
don’t think he is a bit glad to see me,” I thought, with hasty
inconsequence. “Why does he not speak? Well, I will,” and I made an
ordinary remark about my journey. My voice seemed to startle him from a
reverie. He put his hand to his eyes, and made some alteration in the
lamp before replying.

It was a distinct relief when, at this juncture, Willy came in, and
offered to show me the way to my room. We passed through the dark
entrance-hall, whose depths were inadequately lighted by a cheap lamp,
its orange light forming a dingy halo that contended hopelessly with the
surrounding gloom. At the end of the hall was a broad flight of stairs,
that at the first landing branched into two narrower flights leading to
a corridor running round the hall. Passing along one side of this
corridor, Willy opened a door at the end of it.

“Here you are,” he said; “and I told them to bring you up a cup of tea;
I thought you looked as if you wanted it”--with which he took his
departure.

I was grateful for Willy’s unexpected thoughtfulness in the matter of
the tea. My uncle’s reception had chilled me. I was tired by my long
journey, and the darkness and silence of the house had a depressing
effect upon my spirits. For weeks this arrival at Durrus had been
constantly in my mind, and now that it was over, the only definite
emotions it seemed to have produced were disappointment and dejection.

I looked round me as I sipped my tea, and did not feel enlivened by what
I saw. The room was large and bare. The paper and the curtains of the
two windows were alike detestable in colour and pattern. The enormous
bed had once been a four-poster, but the posts had been cut down, and
four meaningless stumps bore witness to the mutilation it had undergone.
A colossal wardrobe loomed in a far-off corner; a round table of
preposterous size occupied the centre of the room. Six persons could
comfortably have dined at the dressing-table. In fact, the whole room
appeared to have been fitted up for the reception of a giantess, and was
quite out of proportion to my moderate stature of five feet seven.

I have always disliked more than one door in a bedroom, as it seems to
me to afford to ghosts and burglars unnecessary facilities; and my
dislike of my gaunt apartment reached its climax when I saw a door in
the corner on the farther side of the fireplace from the door into the
corridor. It had been papered over along with the walls, and its
consequent unobtrusiveness had almost the effect of intentional
concealment. I opened it, and found that it led into a moderate-sized
bedroom. The moonlight which came through the uncurtained window lay in
greenish-white patches on the uncarpeted floor, and showed a few pieces
of furniture, shrouded in sheets and huddled in one corner. In spite of
its chill bareness, an effect of recent occupancy was given to it by a
chair that stood sideways in the window with an air of definiteness, and
underneath and beside it I noticed a few tattered books.

I went back to my own room with an unexplainable shudder, slamming the
door behind me, and proceeded to dress for dinner with all speed.

With the unfailing punctuality of a newcomer, I left my room as the gong
sounded, and, hurrying down, found my uncle and Willy waiting for me in
the library.

The dining-room was a large and imposing room. A moderate number of
portraits of the most orthodox ancestral type hung, interspersed with
mezzotints of impassioned Irish clergymen, on its panelled walls. A high
old sideboard of what seemed to me an unusual shape stretched up to the
ceiling on one side of the room, and the plate upon it twinkled in the
blaze of the fire.

We sat down at the long table; and while Willy and his father were
absorbed in overcoming the usual embarrassments offered by soup to the
wearers of moustaches, I amused myself with speculations as to who was
responsible for the subtle combination of yellow and magenta dahlias
that adorned the table. I concluded that the artist must have been the
old butler, Roche; and as, at the thought, I involuntarily looked
towards him, I found his eyes fixed upon me with the abstracted gaze of
one who is trying to trace a likeness. Our eyes met, and he shuffled
away, but I felt sure that he had been searching for a resemblance to
the refined, well-cut, humorous face which, from a miniature of thirty
years ago, I knew must be what he remembered of my father.

“It is quite an unusual pleasure to Willy and me to see a charming young
lady at our bachelor-table--eh, Willy?” said Uncle Dominick, lifting his
face from his now empty soup-plate, and smiling at me.

Willy, whose flow of language seemed checked by his father’s presence,
gave an assenting grunt.

“It is a long time since there has been a Miss Sarsfield at Durrus, and
it is thirty years since she died. You will find Willy and I are sad
barbarians, and we shall have to trust to you to civilize us.”

I am singularly unfitted to deal with the compliments of elderly
gentlemen. On this occasion I failed as signally as usual to attain the
requisite quality of playful confusion, and diverted the conversation by
a question about a claret-coloured ancestor, who had been staring at me
from his frame over the fireplace ever since we had sat down to dinner.

“That is my grandfather,” said my uncle. “Dick the Drinker, they called
him. He neither is nor was an ornament to the family; but his wife, the
beautiful Kate Coppinger, is worth looking at. In fact, my dear”--with
another smile and a little bow--“directly I saw you I was reminded of a
miniature which we have of her.”

“I hope she looks Irish,” I responded. “I have always tried to live up
to my idea of an Irish girl; but though my hair is dark, I haven’t got
violet eyes.”

“No, nor any one else either. I never heard of them out of a book,” said
Willy, abruptly.

It was almost his first contribution to the conversation; but his father
took no more notice of him than if he had not spoken, and went on eating
his dinner, taking longer over each mouthful than any one I had ever
seen.

“Then, am I not like the Sarsfields?” I asked.

My uncle paused and looked hard at me for a second or two, letting his
heavy eyebrows drop over his eyes, with a peculiar change of
expression.

“In some ways, perhaps,” he said shortly. Then, turning to Willy,
“Nugent O’Neill was here this afternoon to see you about the stopping of
some earths. I told him to come over and dine here some day next week.
Not”--turning to me--“that he is much of a ladies’ man, but he is a
gentlemanlike young fellow enough; very unlike his father,” he added, in
a bitter tone.

“Why, is Mr. O’Neill very objectionable?” I said.

I felt an unmistakable kick under the table, and Willy, with an
admonitory wink, slurred over my question by saying--

“I can tell you, O’Neill would be pretty mad if he heard you calling him
_Mr._ He’s _The_ O’Neill, and his wife’s Madam O’Neill, and they
wouldn’t call the queen their cousin.”

My uncle silently continued his dinner, but I noticed how unpleasant his
expression had become since The O’Neill was mentioned.

I finally made up my mind that his face was one I should never care for.
He was decidedly a handsome man, though unusually old-looking for his
age, which could not have been more than sixty.

His thick dark eyebrows lay like a bar across his high forehead. A long
hooked nose drooped over an iron-grey moustache, which, when he smiled,
lifted in a peculiar way, and showed long and slightly prominent yellow
teeth. His unwholesomely pallid skin was deeply lined, and hung in folds
under the dark sunken eyes, giving a look of age which was further
contributed to by the stoop in his square shoulders. As I glanced from
him to Willy, I concluded that the latter’s blonde commonplace good
looks must have been inherited from his mother.

Rousing himself from the morose silence into which he had fallen, my
uncle proceeded to apply himself to the task of entertaining me by a
dissertation on the trade and agriculture of California. I soon found
that he had all the desire to impart information which characterizes
those whose knowledge of a subject is taken from pamphlets; but I
listened with all politeness to his description of the country in which
I had lived most of my life. Willy maintained a discreet silence, but
from time to time bestowed on me glances of sympathy and approbation.
Evidently Willy did not know how to talk to his father.

As dinner progressed, I observed that, if Roche allowed his master’s
glass to remain empty, he was at once given a sign to refill it, and my
uncle became more and more diffusely instructive.

During dessert a pause at length gave me an opportunity of changing the
conversation.

“I saw such a pretty girl at your gate lodge as we drove in,” I said.
“She looked delightful in the moonlight, with a shawl thrown over her
head.”

If Uncle Dominick had looked black at the mention of The O’Neill, he
became doubly so at this apparently inoffensive remark. Glancing for
explanation to Willy, I was amazed to see that he had become crimson,
and was elaborately trying to show his want of interest in the subject
by balancing a fork on the edge of his wine-glass.

“Yes,” said my uncle; “she is a good-looking girl enough, and no one
knows it better than she does. When people in that class of life are
taken out of their proper place”--with great severity--“they at once
begin to presume.”

Willy upset his wine-glass with a sudden jerk. For my part, I was so
taken aback by this tirade, that I thought my safest plan lay in
immediate flight. Willy got up with alacrity, and, following me from the
room, opened the drawing-room door. He looked confused and annoyed.

“Can you take care of yourself in there for a while?” he said. “I’ll be
with you in a few minutes.”

[Illustration: text decoration]



[Illustration: text decoration]

CHAPTER V.

IMPRESSIONS

    “Groping in the windy stair,
     Darkness and the breath of space
     Like loud waters everywhere.”


The room was cold, and I at once made for the fire, and, to my surprise,
found the hearthrug occupied by an untidy little girl, who was engaged
in dropping grease from a candle over the coals to make them burn. On
seeing me she sprang to her feet, and, with semi-articulate apologetic
murmurs, she gathered up a coal-box and retired in confusion.

I concluded that, improbable as it appeared, this was the
under-housemaid, and reflected with some astonishment on the
incongruities of the Durrus establishment. However, I afterwards found
she held no official position, but was a satellite of the
under-housemaid’s, privately imported by her as a species of
body-servant or slave. In fact, at the risk of digressing, I may here
add that in process of time I discovered that the illicit apprenticeship
of a young relation was a common custom of the Durrus servants, and in
the labyrinthine remoteness of the servants’ quarters they could be
concealed without fear of attracting the master’s eye.

In spite of its top dressing of grease, the fire was not a tempting one
to sit over, and I roamed round the large ill-lighted room, taking in
with leisurely wonderment the style of its decorations. It was, in
startling contrast to the rest of the house, painted and papered in
semi-aesthetic hues, pale sage-green and pink being the prevailing
colours. This innovation of culture had not, however, extended itself to
the furniture, which was of the solidly ugly type prevalent fifty years
ago.

Heavy mahogany tables, each duly set forth with books and daguerrotypes,
stood inconveniently about, causing a congestion among the lesser
furniture. The pictures, which had been taken down at the repapering of
the room, leaned against the wall with their faces inwards. I turned one
of the nearest to me, expecting to come upon a family portrait, but
found it represented a Turk of truculent aspect, worked in Berlin
wool--a testimony to the amount of spare time at the disposal of the
ladies of Durrus. The thick coating of dust on my fingers which was the
result of this investigation did not encourage me to make any further
researches, and an examination of the old china on the marble cheffonier
between the windows had equally disastrous results. In one corner there
was an ancient grand piano, which to my astonishment proved to be in
good tune. I had not been playing for very long when Willy came in, and,
without speaking, placed himself beside me.

“Well, I declare!” he said, as I finished playing one of Schubert’s
impromptus, “it’s a long time since I heard that old piano. I got it
tuned the other day on purpose for you, and you know how to knock sparks
out of it, anyhow! I heard Henrietta O’Neill playing that piece once,
and it didn’t sound half so well--though, I can tell you, she thinks no
end of herself.”

“By-the-by, Willy, why did you stop me when I began to speak of Mr.
O’Neill?”

“O’Neill,” corrected Willy.

“Oh, well, _O’Neill_,” I said peevishly. “But what was the harm of
talking about him?”

“No harm, as far as I am concerned, but the governor hates him like
poison. I believe they had some row in my grand-father’s time--I don’t
know exactly what-and they never made it up since. But there’s no
regular quarrel; I go to all their parties, and I think the governor
rather likes Nugent and the girls.”

“What is Madam O’Neill like?”

“Oh, _I_ get along with her first-rate,” said Willy, stretching out one
of his long legs, and serenely studying the gold-embroidered clock on
his sock. “But other people say she’s rather a bitter old pill; and I
can tell you, she has the two girls in great order!”

I began to play as he finished speaking; but his thoughts had travelled
on to my other unlucky remark at dinner, for he presently interrupted
me by saying in an uncertain way--

“Oh! you know that girl we were talking of at dinner, the one you saw at
the gate--Anstice Brian her name is--her mother is a bit queer in her
head, and she’d be very apt to give you a start if you didn’t know her
ways. She’s a harmless poor creature, but she wanders about these bright
nights, and she gets into the house sometimes.”

I probably looked as alarmed as I felt, for he laughed protectingly,
and, drawing his chair a little closer to mine, said reassuringly--

“Never fear! She’s not half as silly as they say; and do you think I’d
let her be about if there was any chance at all of her frightening you?”

“What is she like? Is she an old woman?”--ignoring the reproachful
warmth of this last observation.

“Is it old Moll Hourihane? She’s as old as two men--or she looks it,
anyhow. She used to be my nurse till she went off her head.”

“I thought you said her name was Brian,” I said.

“That’s only her husband’s name. The women mostly stick to their own
names in this country when they’re married.”

“And you’re quite sure she’s not dangerous?” I said, feeling only half
reassured.

“No more than I am myself”--with a glance to see if I were going to
contradict this assertion. “She has a sort of dumb madness--like a
hound, you know--and she’ll never speak; though I dare say after all
that’s no great loss,” he concluded.

I was by this time feeling very sleepy, and hoping I should soon be able
to escape to my own room, when the door opened, and my uncle came
solemnly in.

“I have come, Theodora, my dear, to suggest an early retirement on your
part.”

He avoided looking at Willy, and I felt that the effects of my ill-timed
remarks at dinner had not yet died out. He looked haggard and troubled,
and a sudden pity and sense of kinship impelled me to raise my cheek
towards him as he took my hand to say good night. He stooped his head as
if to kiss me, but checked himself, and after an instant of hesitation
his moustache touched my forehead.

There was something repelling in his manner, but I felt that he was not
unconscious of the sympathy I had intended to express. He turned and
left the room, and I heard him go back to the library and shut himself
in, the sound of the closing door emphasizing his solitariness.

I went upstairs with the feeling of isolation again strongly upon me.
The wind had risen, and on the walls of the draughty corridor each gust
made the old pictures shake in their mouldering frames. At intervals,
through the panes of the large skylight overhead, the moon’s light
dropped in pale wavering squares on the floor of the hall below. I
leaned over the balustrades watching the spectral alternations of light
and darkness, as the clouds swept across the moon, till the objects
beneath me seemed to take intermitting motion from the flitting of the
moonbeams.

As I looked, the dim lamp in the hall flickered and went out. A gust
from below circled round the corridor, lifting the hair upon my forehead
and almost extinguishing my candle as it passed me.

Perhaps I was overtired and nervous, but a causeless fear possessed
me--the old unreasoning dread of some vague pursuit out of the darkness,
that I had not felt since I was a child. I gave a terrified glance over
my shoulder at the swaying pictures, and then, shielding my candle with
my hand, I ignominiously ran down the corridor into my own room.

[Illustration: text decoration]



[Illustration: text decoration]

CHAPTER VI.

AN IRISH SUNDAY.

    “In Islington there was a man,
       Of whom the world might say,
     That still a godly race he ran,
       Whene’er he went to pray.”


“Will you have your tay, plase, miss?”

The words at first mingled with the dreams which had all night disturbed
my sleep. On being repeated, the unfamiliar accent, accompanied by the
clink of a cup and saucer, made me open my eyes. A pleasant-looking,
red-haired girl was standing by my bed, tray in hand.

“You’re after having a great sleep, miss. I was twice here before, and
there wasn’t a stir out of you.”

“Is it very late?” I asked, with an alarming recollection of my uncle’s
punctuality.

“Oh, not at all, miss. The masther’s only just after having his
breakfast.”

“What!” I gasped. “You should have called me earlier.”

“Oh, there’s no hurry, miss! Sure he always ates his breakfast by
himself, and there’s no sayin’ how late it’ll be before Masther Willy’s
down.”

Calmed by this assurance, I did not hurry myself over my dressing, but
from time to time stopped to look at the view from my windows.

It was a quiet October day, with a grey yet luminous sky, that lit with
a grave radiance the group of yellow elms that divided the avenue from
a heathery expanse of turf-bog, with low hills beyond. From the other
window, which was almost over the hall door, I could see to the left a
dark belt of trees that went round to the back of the house; and in
front, at the foot of the lawn, the curve of a little bay. This was
separated from the larger waters of Durrusmore Harbour by a low
promontory, along whose ridge a meagre line of fir trees was etched
against the grey sky. Leaning out of the window, and looking westwards
towards the mouth of the harbour, I saw the Atlantic lying broad and
white under the light of the soft clear morning.

I went downstairs, and as I passed along the corridor, I felt, even on
this still day, the air circulating freely through broken panes in the
skylight and the staircase window, making it easy to account for the
ghostly eddyings of the wind the night before.

Willy had apparently made an effort on my behalf at early rising, and I
found him making tea when I came into the dining-room. He came forward
to meet me with a complacency in which I detected a consciousness of the
added smartness of his Sunday attire; and, having satisfactorily
ascertained the fact that I had slept well, he installed me behind the
urn to pour out the superfluously strong tea which he had just brewed.

I experienced undeniable relief in the absence of Uncle Dominick, whom
at this moment I saw pacing up and down a walk leading from the house to
the sea. Willy saw the direction of my eyes.

“I hope you’re not insulted by only me breakfasting with you,” he said,
with ungrammatical gallantry. “You can breakfast with the governor
whenever you like, but you will have to be down at eight o’clock to do
that!”

I intimated with fitting politeness that I was satisfied with the
present arrangement, and we began our _tête-à-tête_ meal in great amity.
Willy, indeed, was an excellent host. He plied me with everything on the
table, eating his own breakfast and talking all the time with unaffected
zest and vigour, and I began to feel as if the time I had known him
could be reckoned in months instead of hours.

The necessity of writing to announce my safe arrival to Aunt Jane was
one that had already forced itself upon my notice.

“I thought you’d be wanting to write a letter,” Willy said, conducting
me into the drawing-room after breakfast, “and I got the place ready for
you.”

I sat down at the old-fashioned writing-table, and found that he had
anticipated my wants with a lavish hand. Through the window I saw him, a
few minutes afterwards, sauntering down the drive towards the lodge,
smoking a cigarette, with two little white dogs flashing in circles
round him; and as I watched him, I came to the conclusion that at first
sight I had underestimated my cousin.

There was something to me half amusing and half touching in the anxiety
of his little housewifely attentions to me. He was really unusually
thoughtful for others; from various things he had said, it was evident
that his father had allowed the whole management of the place to devolve
on him, and I fell to idle speculation as to whether he ordered dinner,
and if he were particular about the housemaids wearing white muslin
caps; and I was only aroused from these, and other equally interesting
reflections by hearing the clock strike the hour at which I had been
warned I must get ready for church.

My uncle was standing on the steps, with his Prayer-book in his hand,
when I came downstairs. He wished me good morning, with a polite apology
for not having met me at breakfast, and stood looking about him, with
eyelids narrowed by the white glare from the sea, till a minute
afterwards the wagonnette in which we were going to church came to the
door. My uncle and I got in behind; while Willy, with Mick by his side,
sat on the box and drove. Once outside the gate, we took a road running
at right angles to that by which I had arrived. It went round the head
of Durrusmore Harbour, and, leaving the sea behind, turned inland
through large woods, which my uncle told me were part of the demesne of
Clashmore, The O’Neill’s place.

The road was level, and soft with the fallen red beech leaves, and the
brown horses took us along it at a pace that showed they were none the
worse for their journey the night before. The rough stone walls on
either side of the road were covered with moss and small ferns. Here and
there the wood was pierced by narrow rides--vistas in which the clumps
of withering bracken repeated the brown and gold of the trees above.

“We’re going to draw this place on Friday,” said Willy, pausing in the
steady flow of his conversation with Mick to give me the information.
“Blackthorn will carry Miss Theo right enough, wouldn’t he, Mick? and
I’ll ride the new mare.”

The village of Rathbarry, which we had now entered, consisted of a
single street of low, dirty-looking cottages, their squalid uniformity
varied at frequent intervals by the more prosperous shuttered face of a
public-house. At the end of the street, a gateway led into a graveyard,
surrounded by ill-thriven elm trees, in the middle of which stood the
church. It was an ugly, oblong building, with a square tower at the west
end, from which proceeded a clanging as of a cracked basin battered with
a spoon.

“We’re in good time,” said Willy, drawing up with a flourish before the
porch. “That’s the hurry-bell only begun now, so we’ve five minutes to
spare. Look, Theo! there’s the Clashmore carriage. Did you ever see such
brutes as those chestnuts?”

Before, however, I had time to reply, Uncle Dominick hurried me into the
church, and we took our places in opposite corners of a singularly
uncomfortable square pew. As we sat confronting each other in the
half-empty church, we heard in the porch Willy’s voice raised in
agreeable converse. Apparently his remarks were of a complimentary sort,
for a girl’s voice rejoined, “Oh, nonsense, Willy!” with a laugh.

“Disgraceful!” muttered my uncle, under his breath; and the next moment
three ladies swept up the aisle, followed by Willy, on whose face still
beamed a slightly fatuous smile.

He immediately sat down beside me, and in a rapid whisper instructed me
as to the more prominent members of the congregation.

“Those are the O’Neills”--indicating the ladies he had come in with.
“Connie’s the little fair one. And look! those are the Jackson Crolys!
You’d better sit up and behave, as they’ll be watching you all the
time. I know they all want to see what you’re like!”

“Hush! don’t talk!” I whispered back. “Here’s the clergyman.”

The service was very long. The music, which consisted of the clergyman’s
daughter accompanying herself on a harmonium, with casual vocal
assistance from a couple of school-children, was of an unexhilarating
kind. Willy fidgeted, admired his boots, trimmed his nails, and tried to
utilize every possible opening for conversation. Uncle Dominick, on the
contrary, devoted his whole attention to the service, and answered all
the responses with austere punctiliousness, even going so far as to try
and track the clergyman’s daughter in her devious course through the
hymns.

From the corner which had been allotted to me in my uncle’s pew I could
not see the clergyman, and, though his voice resounded through the
church, his very pronounced Cork accent made it difficult for me to
understand more than a word here and there in his discourse.

The high sides of the pew debarred me from even the solace of inspecting
the congregation, and, in the absence of other occupation, I could not
altogether conceal the interest that I felt in the remark which Willy
was laboriously spelling on his fingers for my edification. Becoming
conscious, however, that Uncle Dominick’s eye, while fixed upon the
preacher, had included us in its observations, I transferred my
attention to the mural tablets, which on either side of the church set
forth the perfections of dead-and-gone O’Neills and Sarsfields.

Having studied these for a few minutes with the mild sceptical interest
usually excited by the tabulated virtues of the unknown departed, I
leaned back in my corner, and, in doing so, noticed a brass upon the
wall slightly behind my uncle’s seat. My eye was immediately caught by
my father’s name.

                             IN MEMORIAM.

                      THEODORE WILLIAM SARSFIELD,

                        WHO DEPARTED THIS LIFE
                           JANUARY 10, 185-.

                                AND OF

                            OWEN SARSFIELD,

                           SON OF THE ABOVE,
                      WHO DIED SUDDENLY IN CORK,
                      ON HIS RETURN FROM AMERICA,
                           JANUARY 9, 185-.

                   *       *       *       *       *

            THIS MONUMENT IS ERECTED BY THEIR SORROWING SON
              AND BROTHER, DOMINICK SARSFIELD, OF DURRUS.

I glanced by a natural transition to my uncle, whose head all but
intervened between me and the brass. His expression of sombre
melancholy harmonized well with the words “his sorrowing brother.”

I could guess what must have been his grief at the death of an only
brother, from whom he had been perforce alienated. Till then I had
scarcely realized how closely linked their lives must once have been,
and I resolved that his chilly manner should not deter me from some day
inducing him to speak to me of my father.

As I made up my mind to this, the clergyman’s voice ceased, and the
congregation rose at the end of the sermon. We walked out of church
close behind the O’Neills, and outside the porch Madam O’Neill stopped
to shake hands with my uncle. Then, turning to me--

“I need not ask to be introduced to you, my dear. I knew your poor
father very well indeed in days gone by.” This was said in a dry
attenuated voice, but through the elaborate pattern of her Maltese lace
veil, her eyes looked kindly at me. She was small and refined looking,
with little artificial airs and graces which told that she had been a
beauty in her day; and what remained of a delicate complexion was
carefully sheltered from the harmless light of the grey sky by a thick
parasol.

Uncle Dominick’s impatience to get away only gave me time to say a word
or two in answer to her salutation.

“Come, Theodora,” he said, with the smile that lifted his moustache and
showed all his teeth. “We must not keep the horses waiting;” and bidding
the madam and her two daughters, who had been standing behind her,
good-bye, he led the way down to the gate.

Willy was already on the box of the wagonnette, and was talking to a
dark, quiet-looking young man who was standing with one foot on the
wheel.

“Then you’ll see about having those earths stopped,” Willy said, leaning
over, and emphasizing what he was saying with the handle of the whip on
his hearer’s shoulder. “Oh, here they are! Theo, let me introduce Mr.
O’Neill. I was just telling him he must be sure and have a fox for you
at Clashmore this week.”

“I shall do my best,” said Mr. O’Neill, as he took off his hat; but he
did not look particularly enthusiastic as he spoke.

We had no sooner driven off, than Willy twisted round on the box to
speak to me.

“Well, what do you think of Nugent?” he said rather eagerly.

“He is nice looking,” I replied critically; “but I do not like his
expression. I cannot say he is what I should call either cheerful or
agreeable looking.”

“Oh, he’s not half a bad chap,” said Willy, with a leniency which was
possibly the result of the pleasure with which young men listen to the
depreciation of their fellows. “He’s jolly enough sometimes; but he can
put on a bit of side when he likes, and I dare say he thinks he is
thrown away down here. Henrietta’s like him in that sort of way, but
Connie has no nonsense about her.”

I decided that Connie’s was the laugh that I had heard in the porch
before service, and thought that of the two I should be more likely to
prefer Henrietta.

Ever since we had left church the sky had been darkening, and when we
reached Durrusmore Harbour, the distant headlands were almost hidden in
a white mist. The south-west wind blew it towards us from the sea, and
by the time we got home a thick fine rain was coming steadily down.

Lunch, with Uncle Dominick at the head of the table, was a more serious
business than breakfast had been, and old Roche’s shuffling
ministrations added to the general solemnity. I was, however, amused by
the affectionate solicitude with which he nudged me in the elbow with
the dish of potatoes, indicating with his thumb a specially floury one,
and concluded that this was the singular method he took of showing that
his regard for my father had extended itself to me.

When lunch was over Willy announced his intention of walking to
Clashmore, to see about borrowing a side-saddle for me, he said--an act
of self-sacrifice which I was not slow to attribute to the fascinations
of Miss Connie O’Neill. Uncle Dominick retired to a private den at the
end of a dark passage leading from the hall to the back of the house;
and a few minutes later, Willy, in a voluminous mackintosh, set forth
on his errand, followed by the fox terriers in a state of amiable
frenzy, the result of the abhorred Sunday morning incarceration. I
became aware that I was thrown upon my own resources, and, with the
prospect of a wet afternoon before me, I felt my spirits sinking
perceptibly.

To finish my letter to Aunt Jane was at least better than doing nothing.
I took up a strong position in front of the library fire, and
disconsolately applied myself to filling the big sheet of foreign paper
on which I had embarked in the morning.

[Illustration: text decoration]



[Illustration: text decoration]

CHAPTER VII.

MOLL.

    “Or in the night, imagining some fear,
     How easy is a bush suppos’d a bear!”


Willy did not come home till dinner-time, when he reappeared in
exceedingly good humour. I, on the contrary, felt the vague ill-temper
of a person who has spent a wet Sunday afternoon in solitude, and I
found dinner long and dull. In the drawing-room after dinner, I sought
the resource of music to raise my spirits; but I was debarred from even
this last consolation, for Willy implored me to “let the piano alone,”
as his father disapproved of music on Sunday.

We finally settled down in armchairs by the fire, and I discovered that
Willy possessed in a high degree the feminine faculty of sitting over a
fire and talking about nothing in particular. He pretended to no
superiority to the minor gossip which forms the ripples in the current
of country life, and he had quite a special gift of recounting small
facts with accuracy and detail, and without any endeavour to exalt his
talent as a story-teller. His tales had, in consequence, a certain
intrinsic freshness and merit, and till bedtime we maintained a
desultory, but on the whole interesting conversation.

When I got up to my room, I found it full of smoke and extremely cold.
The window had been opened to let out the smoke, and the chintz curtains
rustled and flapped in the draught. Making up my mind after a few
minutes that even turf smoke was preferable to the cold disquiet of the
wind, I went to the window to close it, and noticed with a good deal of
amusement that, the pulley being broken, the housemaid had supported the
sash with one of my brushes.

There was something in this misplaced ingenuity which was eminently
characteristic of the slipshod manner of life at Durrus, and by force of
contrast my thoughts travelled back to my mother’s orderly household. I
leaned against the shutter and looked out, beset by poignant
recollections of a time when life without my mother seemed an
impossibility, and when Durrus was no more to me than a place in a fairy
story.

The wind had blown away most of the fog, and the rain had ceased, but a
thin haze still blunted the keenness of the moonlight. I gazed at the
dark shapes of the trees in the shrubbery till I lost the sense of their
reality, and they came and went like dreams in the uncertain light. In
my ears was still the throb and tremor which seven days and nights spent
in listening to the screw of the _Alaska_ had imprinted on my brain, and
my thoughts and surroundings seemed alike hurrying on in time to its
pulsations. I was at length roused to realities by a sound which at
first seemed part of the light chafing of the laurel leaves, but which
in a few moments became detached and distinct from the vague noises of
the autumn night.

It came nearer, and gave the impression of some stealthy advance in the
wet grass under the trees. At length, at the verge of their shadow, just
opposite my window, I heard the gravel crunch under a soft footstep.
The next instant a woman’s figure slid into the dim light, and came out
across the broad gravel sweep with a rhythmical swaying gait, as though
moving to music.

Half-way to the house she stopped, and, raising her arms above her head
with a wild gesture, she began to step to and fro with jaunty liftings
and bendings of her body, as though she were taking part in a dance.
Backwards and forwards she paced with measured precision; then, placing
her hands on her hips, she danced with fantastic lightness and vigour
some steps of an Irish jig. Suddenly, however, she checked herself; she
knelt down, and, turning a pale face to the sky, she crossed her hands
on her breast and remained motionless.

Her absolute stillness had in it an intensity almost more dreadful than
the strange movements she had previously gone through, and I stood
staring in inert terror at the grey kneeling figure, with a face as
white as that which was still turned rigidly skywards in what appeared
to be the extremity of supplication. Just then the moon shone sharply
out, hardening and fixing in a moment the limits of light and darkness,
and, as if with a sudden movement, it flung the shadow of the praying
woman on the ground before her. She started, and slowly rose to her
feet, and, with her hands still crossed on her bosom, turned her face
towards me. I saw the moonlight glisten in her wide-open eyes, which
were fixed, not on me, but on the window of the room next to mine. Then
opening her arms wide, she let them fall to her side with an extravagant
obeisance, and sidled back into the impenetrable shadow of the trees.

There was I know not what unearthly suggestion about this weird dance
and agonized devotion, that seemed to paralyze my mind, and render it
incapable of any thought except fear. I stood bewilderedly looking at
the spot where the darkness had swallowed up her figure; but before I
had time to collect my ideas, she reappeared at a little distance, and,
as well as I could see, turned up a path which led through the shrubbery
in the direction of the lodge.

As she passed out of sight, I suddenly remembered what Willy had said to
me about Anstey’s half-witted mother. This strange dancer was, then, no
ghost nor dream-creature, sent on a special errand to me, as I had first
feared, and then, with returning courage, had almost hoped might be the
case.

She was only “old Moll Hourihane.” It was a simple explanation, and
perhaps a humiliating one; but, in spite of my anxiety to possess a
ghost-story of my own, I accepted it with relief. I shut the window and
locked my door, and, though still trembling all over with cold and
excitement, I went to bed, thankful that “Mad Moll” had introduced
herself to me from without, instead of first appearing to me within the
walls of Durrus.

[Illustration: text decoration]



[Illustration: text decoration]

CHAPTER VIII.

SCHOOLING.

    “Rode he on Barbary? Tell me, gentle friend,
     How went he under him?”

    “This is the prettiest low-born lass----”


“And so she gave you a great fright? Well, now, wasn’t that too bad? I
wish I’d caught her at her tricks, and I’d soon have packed her about
her business. You know, they say she was the best step-dancer in the
country when she was a girl; and to think of her going dancing under
your window, and you taking her for a ghost!”

Willy’s amusement overcame his sympathy, and he laughed loud and long.

I had been impelled to confide my alarm of Sunday night to him when we
were on our way round to the stables to see the horses, on the following
morning, and I now rather resented his refusal to see anything but the
ludicrous side of the incident.

“You are very unsympathetic. I am sure you would have been just as
frightened as I was,” I said. “She looked exactly like a ghost; and in
any case I should like to know why she selected _my_ window to dance
under?”

“She meant it for a compliment, of course. I suppose she thought you’d
be a good audience. _I_’ve seen her now and again jack-acting there in
front of the house, but I’m afraid all I said was to tell her go home.
But then, I’m not sympathetic like you!”

We had stopped to discuss the point at the spot whence I had seen Moll
emerge, and now walked on past the untidy old flower-garden to the yard.

It was a large square, of which three sides were formed by stables and
cowhouses, the house itself being the fourth, and was only redeemed from
absolute ugliness by a row of four great horse-chestnut trees, which
grew out of a grassy mound in the middle. We arrived in time to surprise
the two little fox terriers, Pat and Jinny, in the clandestine enjoyment
of a meal with the pig, whose trough was conveniently placed by the
scullery door. On seeing us, they at once endeavoured to dissemble their
guilty confusion by an unworthy attack on their late entertainer. This
histrionic display did not, however, deceive Willy in the least. The
dogs were ignominiously called off, and the pig was left master of the
situation.

I wondered, as I looked round, if all Irish yards were like this one.
Certainly I had never before seen anything like the mixture of
prosperity and dilapidation in these solid stone buildings, with their
ricketty doors and broken windows. Through the open coach-house door I
saw an unusual amount of carriages, foremost among them the landau in
which I had driven from Moycullen, with a bucket placed on its coach-box
in order to catch a drip from the roof. A donkey and a couple of calves
were roaming placidly about, and, though there was evidently no lack of
stable-helpers and hangers-on, everything was inconceivably dirty and
untidy.

The horses were, however, well housed and cared for. My future mount,
“Blackthorn,” was the first to be displayed. He was a big black horse,
with an arched back and an ugly head; but he had a look of power and
intelligence which provided me with materials for a sufficiently
laudatory criticism. In the next box, the bay mare Willy had bought in
Cork was pushing her nose through the bars over the door to attract our
attention.

“That’s the one kept me from going to meet you at Queenstown,” said
Willy, opening the door, and catching the mare by the head. “She’s a
nice little thing, but I’ll know better another time than to throw you
over for her. Stand, mare!”--as that animal made a vigorous remonstrance
at being deprived of her sheet.

“She looks as if she knows how to go,” I said. “What are you going to
call her?”

“Don’t you think you might christen her for me?” Willy answered, with an
insinuating glance at me from under his black eyelashes. “Just to show
you don’t bear malice for my leaving you to cross Cork all alone.”

Notwithstanding the access of brogue with which this was said, there was
something in the look which accompanied it at which, to my extreme
annoyance, I felt my colour rise.

“Of course I don’t bear malice. I never even expected you to meet me,” I
said, turning to stroke the mare’s shoulder. “If you really want a name
for her, suppose you call her ‘Alaska.’ That was the steamer I came over
in, and they say she’s the fastest on the line.”

Willy received this moderate suggestion with enthusiasm. “If she turns
out half as good as she looks,” he said, as we walked out of the yard,
“you shall have her for yourself to ride.”

“I think you are very rash to put me up on your horses when you don’t
in the least know how I can ride.”

“Ah! well, I’ll trust you; though, indeed, after the funk you were put
into by poor old Moll, I suppose I may expect to see you turning back at
the first fence.”

To this sally I vouchsafed no reply.

“I must take the mare out this afternoon,” he continued, “to try can she
jump. Blackthorn wants shoeing, or you should ride him; but I thought
perhaps you’d like to walk up to the farm to see me schooling the mare.
It’s only as far as those fields opposite the lodge that I’ll go.”

This was, I thought, a very good suggestion. A prospective day with the
hounds made me anxious to see what Irish fences were like, and we
settled to start early in the afternoon.

At lunch Uncle Dominick was more conversational than I had yet seen
him.

“What have you been doing with yourself this morning, Theo, my
dear?”--for the first time adopting the more familiar form of my name.
“The roses in your cheeks do credit to our Irish air.”

Uncle Dominick’s faded gallantry always had the effect of making me shy
and constrained. I laughed nervously, and before I could reply Willy
struck in--

“She was round to the stables with me, sir.”

“Oho! so that was it, was it?” said my uncle, with the smile I disliked
so much; and I felt that at that moment my cheeks more resembled peonies
than roses.

“I was showing her the new mare,” said Willy, “and we’re going to call
her ‘Alaska,’ because that’s the ship that”--here he stopped--“because
that’s the fastest ship between this and America.”

“Why, is not that the vessel that brought you to us from America?” said
Uncle Dominick, pursuing his advantage with unexpected facetiousness. “I
think it is an admirable name, and will always have pleasant
associations for you and me, eh, Willy?”

Willy made no reply, and my uncle rose from the table, apparently well
satisfied with himself, and left the room humming a tune.

It was a softly brilliant afternoon. I thought, as I started for the
farm where I was to see Alaska put through her paces, that I had never,
even in America, seen anything like the glow of the yellow leaves
against the blue sky--a blue so intense that it seemed to press through
the half-stripped branches. The thick drifts of fallen leaves rustled
like water about my feet, and floated on the surface of the pools which
the rain of yesterday had formed in the low swampy ground under the
clump of elms at the bend of the avenue. Just here a deep dyke ran
parallel with the drive, separating it from the turf bog which I had
seen from my bedroom window. Across it was a rough bridge of logs, from
which a raised cart-track wound over the bog like a long brown serpent.
I crossed the bridge and leaned upon the rusty iron gate that closed the
approach to the bog road. The keen scent of the sea came to me across
the heathery expanse, mingled with the pure perfume of the peat, and I
regretted that my promise to Willy prevented me from following the
meandering course of the cart-track over the headland, to where I heard
the hollow draw of the sea on the rocks at the other side.

Retracing my steps, I went up the avenue, and found Willy with the two
dogs waiting for me outside the gate. In the fence on the other side of
the road was an opening partially filled by a low wall of loose
stones--locally called a gap.

“I’ll take her in at this gap,” Willy said, turning the mare to give her
room, and then putting her at the gap. Alaska, however, had probably her
own reasons for preferring the road, for she refused with a vicious
swerve, and a lively contest between her and her rider ensued.

The latter’s difficulties were considerably complicated by Pat and
Jinny, who, with ostentatious activity, insisted on crossing and
recrossing the gap at the most critical moments. When Jinny at length
took up a commanding position on its top-most stone, in order to watch,
with palpitating interest and ejaculatory yelps, Alaska’s misbehaviour,
Willy’s temper gave way.

“Theo,” he said, with suppressed fury, “will you for goodness’ sake
take that--that _infernal_ dog out of my way?”

I captured Jinny, and held her wriggling in my arms, until at length
Alaska, with a bound that would have cleared a five-barred gate, went
into the field.

I climbed on to a gate-post, from whence I could conveniently see the
schooling process. Willy was a fine rider, and Alaska acquitted herself
very creditably; but after a quarter of an hour spent on my gate-post, I
began to find it rather cold, and, Willy having gone to more distant
fields in search of further educational difficulties, I decided to go
home without him. Outside the gates was a large gravel sweep, with high
flanking walls, forming a semicircular approach, and in these, at some
height from the ground, several niches had been made, large enough to
hold life-sized figures. As I turned to get down, I saw that a young
girl was standing in one of the niches. She was leaning slightly
forward, steadying herself with one hand on the wall, while with the
other she shaded her eyes, as if looking after Willy’s departing figure.

On seeing me, she jumped quickly down, and ran to open one of the small
gates. I recognized the shy, pretty face of Anstey Brian, and stopped
inside the gate to speak to her.

“If Mr. Sarsfield comes, will you tell him I have gone home?” I said;
and was turning away, when Anstey, with a nervous blush, said, in a
soft, deprecating voice--

“Oh, miss, I beg your pardon! I was very sorry to hear you got anny sort
of a fright from my mother last night. It’s just a little restless she
is, those last few nights, and my father’d be greatly vexed if he
thought you got anny annoyance by her.”

I assured her that my alarm had only been momentary, wondering vaguely
how she had heard anything about it.

“Indeed, miss, she’d hurt no one. She’s this way, foolish-like, this
long time.”

“How long is it since it began?” I said, with interest.

“I never remember her anny other way, miss, though my father says she
was once a fine, handsome girl, and as sensible as yourself, miss.”

“Did her mind go from an accident?” I asked.

“Why, then, indeed, miss, I don’t rightly know. She had some strange
turn in her always, and afther I was born she got quare altogether; and
that’s the way she is ever since. Dumb, like she couldn’t spake, and
silly in her mind.”

I was looking in the direction of the lodge while she spoke, half
unconsciously noting how thickly the ivy trails hung over its small
windows, when I became aware of a face looking out at me through one of
them.

I could distinguish little of it beyond the wide-open, pale eyes, which
were fixed upon me with a concentrated, half-terrified intentness; but
with a momentary return of last night’s unreasoning panic, I knew it to
be the face of the woman of whom we were speaking. Something of this
must have been shown in my expression, for Anstey, following the
direction of my eyes, said--

“Don’t be frightened at all, miss. Sure that’s only poor mother. Will I
bring her out here for your honour to see?”

But I had no wish for any close acquaintance, so hastily saying that, as
it was already dark, I had no time to stay, I wished Anstey good night.

I must confess that, as I walked away from the lodge, I was haunted by
the frightened glare of Moll Hourihane’s eyes. There had been something
in their expression which, beneath the oblivion of insanity, seemed
almost to struggle into recognition. At the remembrance of them, I felt
the same unconquerable dread creep over me again, and I hurried along
the avenue towards home. To my imagination, the patches of grey lichen
on the trees repeated in the growing twilight the effect of the grey
face at the darkened window. The dead leaves awoke as I trod on them,
and followed me with whisperings and cracklings. It was a relief to
leave the little wood behind, and to see in the library windows the
flickering glow which told of a good fire, and suggested tea.

I was surprised and annoyed by the unwonted nervousness which had
lately affected me. I prided myself upon being a singularly practical,
unimaginative person; and yet now, for the third time since my arrival
at Durrus, my self-possession had been disturbed by a trivial event,
which I should formerly have laughed at. I walked rapidly to the house,
determined for the future to give no toleration to my foolish fancy, and
to----

“Here you are!” said Willy’s voice from the hall door. “Come on and have
some tea.”

[Illustration: text decoration]



[Illustration: text decoration]

CHAPTER IX.

“THE TURF, THE CHASE, AND THE ROAD.”

    “_Ford._ Old woman! What old woman’s that?

           *       *       *       *       *

     A witch, a quean, an old cozening quean!
     Have I not forbid her my house?”


It occurred to me several times during the next few days, how strangely
little I saw of my uncle. Except at luncheon and dinner, he seldom or
never appeared, even in the evenings preferring to sit alone over his
wine in the gloomy dining-room, while Willy and I were in the
drawing-room. At ten o’clock regularly the door would open, and his tall
austere figure would appear, holding my candle ready lighted; and with
the same little speech about the advantages of early hours for young
people, he would wish me good night, politely standing at the foot of
the stairs as I went up. As a rule, I did not see him again until
luncheon next day, and I wondered more and more how he spent his time.

Willy seemed to know little more about his father’s occupations than I
did.

“Oh, _I_ don’t know what he’s up to,” he had said, when I asked him. “He
prowls about the place from goodness knows what awful hour in the
morning till breakfast, and he sits in that den of his all day, more or
less. I’ve plenty to do besides watching him.”

Whether or not this was Willy’s real reason for avoiding his father, it
was a sufficiently plausible one. All outdoor affairs at Durrus were
under his control, and at any time during the morning he might be seen
tramping in and out of the stable, or standing about the yard, giving
orders and talking to the numerous workmen in a brogue in no way
inferior to their own.

I may mention here that Willy, in common with most Irish gentlemen when
speaking to the lower orders, paid them the delicate, if unintentional,
compliment of temporarily adopting their accent and phraseology. I had
plenty of opportunities of noticing this, as Willy evidently considered
that the simplest method of providing for my amusement was to take me
about with him as much as possible. I had at first rather dreaded the
prospect of these constant _tête-à-têtes_, but I soon found that my
cousin had always plenty to talk about, and was one of the only men I
have ever met who was a good listener.

He contrived to include me in most of his comings and goings about the
place. He took me down to the cove to see the seaweed carried up the
rocks on donkeys’ backs to be spread on the land; or I watched with deep
interest while the great turf-house was slowly packed for the winter
with the rough chocolate-coloured sods; or, standing at a little
distance, I listened with respect to his arbitration of a dispute
between two of the tenants, who generally accepted his verdict as if it
had been a pronouncement of the Delphic oracle. He was very popular with
the country people, as much perhaps from his invincible shrewdness as
from his ready good-nature, and subsequent observation has shown me that
nothing so much compels the respect and admiration of the Irish peasant
as the rare astuteness that can outwit him.

Thursday was fair day at Moycullen, and Willy, who regarded the
attending of fairs as both a duty and privilege, proceeded thither with
the first light of day. To say at cock-crow would scarcely be an
exaggeration, for, knowing well the absurdity of expecting any servant
within the walls of Durrus to call him, he had--so he informed
me--resorted to the extraordinary device of putting over-night a
vigorous barn-door cock on the top of his wardrobe. This bird’s
relentless cries at dawn were, as may be imagined, of a sufficiently
rousing character, and in consequence Willy’s arrival at even the most
distant fairs was as a rule timely.

The result of his absence was a solitary morning for me, and lunch alone
with Uncle Dominick. Although faintly alarmed at the latter prospect, I
was at the same time glad of the chance which it offered of getting to
know him a little better.

But in this I was disappointed. My uncle did not abate an atom of his
usual impenetrable civility, and conversed with me on entirely
uninteresting topics, with a fluency that was as admirable as it was
provoking. I was absolutely at a loss to understand him; and, being a
person sensitive to the opinions of others, I puzzled myself a great
deal as to what he thought about me. The compliments which he never lost
an opportunity of making, and his evident desire that Willy should do
all in his power to make my visit agreeable to me, were not, I felt
sure, any real indications of his feelings. That he took an interest in
me, I was certain. Often I surprised in his cold eyes a still scrutiny,
a watchful appraising glance that suggested mistrust, if not dislike;
and although his manner was distant and self-engrossed, I had a
conviction that little that I said or did escaped him.

It was a depressing day. A quiet rain trickled steadily down, and
through the blurred windows the trees looked naked and disconsolate
against the threatening sky. I made up my mind that it was not a day to
go out, and, with a pitying thought of Willy at the fair, I heaped turf
and logs upon the library fire, and determined to write a really long
letter to one of my friends in America.

After a period of virtuous endeavour with this intent, I discovered that
I was becoming bored to stupefaction, and gave up the struggle. There
was something in the air of Durrus antagonistic to letter-writing; or
perhaps it was the impossibility of writing about a place which was so
different from anything that I or my correspondents had been accustomed
to, and was at the same time so devoid of interest for them. I bethought
me of a certain old book of field-sports which Willy had commended to
my notice, and I wandered round the dusty shelves, looking for it among
the exceptionally uninteresting collection of books which formed my
uncle’s library. Not being able to find it, I took the bold step of
going to his room to ask him if he could tell me where it was.

As I went down the long dark passage that led to his room, I was keenly
alive to the temerity of the proceeding, and knocked at the door with
some trepidation.

“What is it?” came an unencouraging voice from within.

“Oh! I only wanted to ask you about a book, Uncle Dominick,” I began.

The door was opened almost immediately.

“Come in, my dear Theo,” said my uncle, with what was intended for a
smile of welcome. “What book is it you want?”

I explained, adding that Willy had recommended the book to me.

“Oh, Willy told you of it, did he?” said my uncle, with interest; “and
you cannot find it in the library?”--turning towards a large cupboard
that filled a recess on one side of the chimney-piece. “Perhaps I have
it in here.”

I heard a faint jingle of glass as he opened it; but the doors of fluted
green silk, latticed with brass wire, prevented, from where I was
standing, my seeing inside. My uncle ran his finger along one of the
shelves in search of the book I wanted. Meantime I looked curiously
about me.

It was a small, dingy room, disproportionately high for its size, with
county and estate maps hanging on its damp-stained walls. A handsome old
escritoire stood in the corner to the right of the lofty window that
faced the door by which I had entered. On one or two tables, dusty
pamphlets and papers lay about in a comfortless way. Right in front of
the fire was a battered leather-covered armchair, in which my uncle had
been sitting, though there was no book or newspaper to indicate that he
had been occupied in any way.

“It is an unusual thing to hear of Willy recommending a book. I suppose
this is due to your civilizing influence?” said my uncle, emerging from
the recesses of the cupboard with the book in question in his hand.

“Oh, well,” I replied, laughing, “this is not a very high class of
literature.”

“It is, nevertheless, a classic in its way,” he said, opening the book;
“and the prints are very good indeed.”

I came and stood beside him, looking at the illustrations with him.

“The Regulator on Hertford Bridge Flat,” “The Race, Epsom,” “The
Whissendine Brook”--we studied them together, Uncle Dominick becoming
unexpectedly interesting and friendly in his reminiscences of his own
sporting days when he was a young man at Oxford.

As he paused in looking at the pictures to enlarge upon an experience of
his own, the pages slipped from his stiff bony fingers, and, turning
over of their own accord, remained open at the title-page. There I saw,
in faded ink, the words, “Owen Sarsfield, the gift of his affectionate
Brother, D. S.”

My uncle looked at the inscription for half an instant, and, drawing a
quick breath, closed the book.

“Uncle Dominick,” I said, with a sudden impulse, “won’t you tell me
something about my father? My mother could never bear to speak of him,
and I know so little about him.”

He turned his back to me, and replaced the book in the cupboard, feeling
for its place in the shelves in a dull, mechanical way.

“I hate to give you pain,” I went on; “but if you knew how much I have
thought about him since I have been here! I have always so connected him
and Durrus together in my mind.”

He walked back to the fireplace, and placed one hand on the narrow
marble shelf before answering.

“There are many circumstances connected with your father which make it
painful for me to speak of him,” he began, in a very quiet, measured
voice. “I loved him very dearly; we were always together until his
lamentable quarrel with my father.”

He walked to the window, and stood looking out through the streaming
panes, with his hands behind his back. After a few moments of waiting
for him to speak again, I could bear the silence no longer.

“But what was the quarrel about? Was it my father’s fault?”

“It is a hard thing to say to you,” replied my uncle, turning round and
looking past me into the fire, “but, under the circumstances, I feel
that it is my duty to let you know the truth. Your father unfortunately
got into money difficulties while at Oxford, which he was afraid to
mention to his father. He went to London to study for the Bar with these
debts still hanging over him, while I came home and undertook the
management of the property.” He paused, and passed a large silk
handkerchief over his face. “Owen always had a passion for the stage; he
got entangled with a theatrical set in London, and finally he took the
fatal step of making himself responsible for the expenses of an--in
fact, of a travelling company of actors, with, I need hardly tell you,
what result. Instead of the enterprise paying his debts, as he had
hoped, he found himself liable for large sums of money.”

Uncle Dominick came back to the fireplace, where I was standing
nervously grasping the shabby back of the leather armchair. I suppose my
face told of the anxious conjectures that filled my mind, for, looking
at me not unkindly, my uncle went on.

“I did all I could for him with my father, but he was a man of very
violent temper, and was absolutely infuriated with Owen. He paid the
debts, but he refused to see Owen again, and insisted on his leaving the
country. I contrived to see him before he left England, and from that
day until I got his letter saying he was ill in Cork, I neither heard of
nor from him.”

“But,” I broke in, “why did he never write to you?”

My uncle hesitated, and drew his hand heavily over his moustache. I saw
that it trembled. He sat down in the chair by which I stood, and did not
answer. I put my hand on his shoulder.

“Surely he had not quarrelled with you, Uncle Dominick? Or was it that
you--that you thought he had behaved too----” I could not finish the
sentence.

“No, no, my dear,” he said quickly; “I had no such feelings. I would
have done anything in the world for him at that time.” He cleared his
throat and continued huskily, “It was Owen who misjudged me, who
misconstrued all my efforts on his behalf, who ignored my offers of
assistance. I cannot bear to think of what I went through,” he ended
hastily, leaving his chair and again walking to the window. It was a
French window, and a few stone steps led from it to the grass outside.
He opened one door and looked down the drive.

It was getting darker, and the rain came driving in from the sea in
ghost-like white clouds, as he stood there motionless, and apparently
oblivious of the drops that fell from the roof on his head and
shoulders.

“Are you looking out for Willy?” I said at length.

“Oh, Willy! Yes; is he not home yet?” he answered absently, closing the
window.

“Is there any portrait of my father in the house?” I asked as he turned
towards me, ignoring his remark about Willy in my anxiety to put a
question that since my arrival at Durrus I had often wished to ask, and
feeling that it might not be easy to find another opportunity of
reopening the subject.

“There is one, taken when he was a child; it hangs in the corridor
outside your bedroom door.”

“But I think there are two portraits of boys there,” I persisted. “I am
afraid I should not know which was his.”

My uncle rose wearily from his seat. “If you wish, I will show it to you
now,” he said. “If you will go upstairs, I will follow you in an
instant.”

I went slowly up the passage, and before I had reached the foot of the
stairs he overtook me, and we went up together. He had his crimson silk
handkerchief in his hand, and I remember wondering why he kept pressing
it to his mouth as we walked along the corridor side by side.

A faint light shone through the open door of the room over the hall
door, the one that opened into mine, and against the grey light I saw in
the window a crouching figure indistinctly silhouetted.

My uncle saw it too. With a muttered exclamation of anger, he walked
quickly past me to the open doorway.

“What are you doing here?” he said sternly. “You know I desired you not
to come upstairs, and this is the second time this week I have found you
here.”

He stepped back to one side, and a tall woman with a shawl covering her
bent shoulders shuffled out of the room. I had already guessed that it
was Moll Hourihane, and I shrank back into the doorway of my own room;
but she stopped, and, stretching out her neck towards me, she fixed her
eyes upon my face with an expression of hungry eagerness.

“Did you hear what I ordered you? Go down at once,” repeated my uncle,
placing himself between her and me. “Let me never find you here again.”

She immediately turned and slunk away round the far side of the
corridor, and, looking back once more at me, disappeared through the
door that led to the servants’ quarters.

I gave a sigh of relief. “That woman terrifies me,” I said. “I wish she
would not look at me in that dreadful way.”

“You need not be alarmed”--he spoke breathlessly and with unusual
excitement--“she is perfectly harmless; but I do not choose to have her
roaming about the house. These are the pictures of which we were
speaking,” he continued. “The one to the right was done of me, and
this--this is the other”--pointing to an old-fashioned looking portrait
of a pretty dark-haired boy holding a spaniel in his arms.



[Illustration: text decoration]

CHAPTER X.

THE MOYCULLEN HOUNDS.

    “On the first day of spring, in the year ’93,
     The first recreation in this countheree,
     The King’s counthry gintlemen o’er hills, dales, and rocks,
     They rode out so gallant in search of a fox.”


Blackthorn looked sedately amiable as Tom led him up to the hall door
next morning, and I felt as I looked at him that I might safely trust
him to initiate me into the mysteries of cross-country riding in the
county Cork.

The day was lovely--sunny and mild, with a lingering dampness in the air
that told of light rain during the night. I settled myself in the
saddle, intoxicated by the idea that I was actually going out hunting
for the first time, though I could not help a tremor of anxiety as I
wondered if Willy would find his confidence in me had been misplaced.

I could hear him now in the hall, knocking down umbrellas and sticks in
search of his whip, and presently, in response to his shouts, old Roche
came shuffling to his aid.

“I was putting up your sandwiches, sir,” he said.

“Go on, and give hers to Miss Theo, and hurry,” said Willy’s voice, in a
tone indicative of exasperation.

Roche bustled out on to the steps with a small packet in his hand, a
jovial smile on his face. He looked at me, and his face changed.

“My God! ’tis Master Owen himself!” he said, as if involuntarily. “I beg
your pardon, miss,” he continued, coming down the steps and putting the
sandwiches into the saddle-pocket. “I suppose ’twas the man’s hat, and
the sight of you up on the horse, made me think of the young master, as
we called your father.”

Willy, at all times a carefully attired person, was to-day absolutely
resplendent in his red coat and buckskins, and as we rode slowly down
the avenue, I was impelled to tell him how smart both he and the mare
looked. He beamed upon me with a simple satisfaction.

“Do you think so? Well, now, do you know what _I_ was thinking? That no
matter how good-looking a girl is, she always looks fifty per cent.
better on a horse.”

“That is a most ingenious way of praising your own horse,” I said.

“Ah now, you know what I mean quite well,” rejoined Willy, with a look
which was intended to be sentimental, but, by reason of his
irrepressibly good spirits, rather fell away into a grin.

The meet was to be at the Clashmore cross-roads, and we passed many
people on their way there. White-flannel-coated country boys and young
men--“going for the best places to head the fox,” as Willy observed with
bitterness, and little chattering swarms of national-school children.
Every now and then a young farmer or two came clattering along, on
rough, short-necked horses, whose heavy tails swung from side to side as
they trotted at full speed past us, and an occasional red coat gave a
reality to the fact that I was going out fox-hunting. The cross-roads
were now in sight, and I saw a number of riders and people who had
driven to see the meet, waiting for the hounds to come up.

“Why, I declare, here are the two Miss Burkes coming along in that old
shandrydan of theirs with the bedridden grey pony!” said Willy, looking
back. “Hold on, Theo. I must introduce you to them; they’re great
specimens.”

We allowed the pony-carriage to overtake us, and Willy, pulling off his
hat with as fine a flourish as his gold hatguard would allow, asked
leave to introduce me.

“With the greatest of pleasure, Willy. Indeed, we’d no idea till
yesterday, when we met Doctor Kelly in town, that Miss Sorsefield had
arrived.” This from the elder Miss Burke, a large, gaunt lady with a
good-humoured red face and an enormous Roman nose, and a curiously deep
voice, whose varying inflections ran up and down the vocal scale in
booming cadences.

“You ought to be riding the pony, Miss Burke. She looks in great form.”

“Oh, now, Willy! you’re always joking me about poor old Zoé. You’re very
naughty about him. Isn’t he, Bessy?”

The younger Miss Burke, thus appealed to, replied with a genteel simper,
“Reely, Mimi, I’m quite ashamed of the way you and the captain go on.
Don’t ask me to interfere with your nonsense. We hope, Miss
Sarsfield”--turning a face that was a pale dull replica of her sister’s
towards me--“to have the pleasure of calling upon you very soon. But oh,
my gracious! there are the dogs and Mr. Dennehy coming! And look at us
keeping you delaying here! Good-bye, Miss Sarsfield. I hope you’ll
obtain a fox.”

At the cross-roads we found the master of the Moycullen hunt, a big,
wild-looking man with a long reddish-grey beard and moustache, seated
on an ugly yellow horse with a black stripe, like a donkey’s, down his
back.

“How do you do, Mr. Dennehy?” said Willy, as we rode up. “Nice day. This
is my cousin, Miss Sarsfield. I hope you’ll show her some sport.
Morning, Nugent. How are you, Miss Connie? Do you see the new mount I
have?” and Willy forgot his duties as my chaperon, in a lively
conversation with Miss O’Neill.

Mr. Dennehy, with what was, I believe, unwonted condescension, began to
speak to me.

“I’m delighted to see you out, Miss Sarsfield,” he said in a slow,
solemn brogue. “I hope we’ll have a good day for you, and if there’s a
fox in Clashmore at all, these little hounds of mine will have him out.”

I did not know much about hounds, but even to inexperienced eyes these
appeared to be a very motley collection. Mr. Dennehy saw me look with
interest at two strange little animals, somewhat resembling long-legged
black-and-tan terriers.

“Well, Miss Sarsfield, those are the two best hounds I have, though
they’re ugly creatures enough. And there’s a good hound. Loo, Solomon,
good hound! That’s a hound will only spake to game.”

Here Mr. Dennehy produced a battered little horn, and with two or three
bleats upon it to collect his hounds, he put the yellow horse at a
yawning black ditch that divided the road from a narrow strip of rough
ground, perpendicularly from which rose a steep hill covered with
laurels. The yellow horse took the ditch and the low stone wall on its
farther side with unassuming skill, and he and Mr. Dennehy were
presently lost to sight in the wood.

Willy now came up to me with Miss O’Neill and her brother, and I was
introduced to the former, a small, fair-haired girl in a smart habit,
with brown eyes and rather a high colour. She nodded to me with cheery
indifference, and continued her conversation with Willy, leaving me to
talk to her brother.

This I found to be a somewhat difficult task. His manner was exceedingly
polite, but he appeared to be engrossed in watching the covert, and we
finally relapsed into silence. At intervals Mr. Dennehy’s red coat
showed between the low close-growing trees as he led his horse through
the covert, and we could hear his original method of encouraging his
hounds.

“Thatsy me darlins! Thatsy-atsy-atsy! Turrn him out, Woodbine! Hi,
Waurior, good hound!”

I felt inclined to laugh, but as no one else seemed amused, I refrained
and waited for further developments. Presently, with a few words to
Willy, Mr. O’Neill put spurs to his big bay and galloped off. In a
moment or two, Miss O’Neill, without further ceremony, followed her
brother to the other end of the covert, and Willy and I remained with
about twenty other riders on the road.

“See here!” he said in low, excited tones. “You keep close to me. Old
Dennehy’s got a beastly trick of slipping away with his hounds directly
they find, and making fools of the whole field, leaving them the wrong
side of the covert. But I think we’re in a good place here. Whisht!
wasn’t that a hound speaking? Come on this way.”

We set off down the road helter-skelter after Mr. O’Neill and Connie,
but were stopped by an excited rush of country boys with shouts of,
“He’s gone aisht! He’s broke the far side!” and at the same instant Mr.
and Miss O’Neill came pounding down a ride out of the covert.

“It’s just as I thought; Dennehy’s gone away with the hounds by
himself,” called out Mr. O’Neill. “A country fellow saw the fox heading
for Lick, and Dennehy all alone with the hounds, going like mad!”

At this juncture I think it better not to record Willy’s remarks.

“It’s all right, Nugent,” said Connie. “I know a way over the hill lower
down.”

“Don’t mind her, Theo,” said Willy in my ear; “just you stick to me.”

We had galloped past the eastern bound of the wood, and as he spoke he
turned his horse and jumped the fence on the right of the road.
Blackthorn followed of his own accord, and I found that an Irish bank
did not feel as difficult as it looked.

Willy turned in his saddle to watch me.

“Well done! that’s your sort,” he shouted. “Hold him now, and hit him!
This is a big place we’re coming to.”

We were over before I had time to think, and to my horror I saw that
Willy was making for a hill that looked like the side of a house,
covered with furze.

“There’s a way up here, but you’ll have to lead. Nip off! I’ll go
first.”

I was fearfully out of breath, but Willy allowed no time for delay. Up
the hill we scrambled, Blackthorn leading me considerably more than I
led him. After the first few seconds of climbing, I felt as if it would
be impossible to go on. My habit hindered me at every step. Blackthorn’s
jerks and tugs at the reins nearly threw me on my face, and the fear of
Willy alone prevented me from letting him finish the ascent by himself.
When at last we reached the top, Willy and I were both so much out of
breath that we could not speak, and I wished for nothing so much as to
lie down. But Willy, with a blazing face, made signs to me to mount at
once, and, jerking me into the saddle, we again set off.

The top of the hill which we had now gained was rough, boggy ground.
Down to our right lay the gleaming laurel covert, and in front of us the
hill sloped gradually down into a low tract of bog and lakes, with hills
beyond. We could see nothing of any one, but a countryman, on the top of
a bank above the wood, waved semaphore-like directions that the hounds
were running to the north-east.

“Hullo! here’s Nugent,” said Willy, in a not over-pleased voice, and as
he spoke I saw Mr. O’Neill’s bay horse coming along over the hill. He
soon overtook us, looking, I was glad to see, as heated and dishevelled
as Willy and I.

“I knew that way of Connie’s was no use, so I came back and went up the
hill after you. Where are the hounds?”

“Going north-east, a fellow told me. But look! By Jove! there they are
on the hill across the bog, and going straight for Killnavoodhee.”

“There is only one way to pick them up,” said Nugent, with what seemed
to me unnatural calm--“we must cross the bog.”

“But, my dear fellow, I don’t believe there’s a way across, and once we
got in, we’d not get out in a hurry.”

“Do you mind trying, Miss Sarsfield?” demanded Mr. O’Neill.

“Whatever Willy likes,” I said.

“Oh, all right,” said Willy. “Fire away, but you’ll have to pay for the
funeral, Nugent.”

We had now reached the foot of the hill, and we rode rapidly along the
verge of the bog for a short distance till we came to where an old
fence traversed it in a north-easterly direction.

“Here’s the place. If we can get along the top of this, we shall just
hit off their line,” Mr. O’Neill said. He went first, and the horses
picked their way along the top of the bank like cats, though the sides
crumbled under their feet, and sometimes the whole structure tottered as
if it were going to collapse into the deep dykes on either side. At last
it broke sharp off, at a pool of black mire. Our guide dismounted and
jumped down into the bog, pulling his horse after him, and we slowly
dragged our way through the heavy ground to the farther side of the bog.

Here we were confronted by the most formidable obstacle we had yet come
to. It consisted of a low, soft-looking bank, with an immense boggy
ditch beyond it.

“We’ve got to try it, I suppose,” said Willy, “but it’s a thundering big
jump, and there’s a deuced bad landing beyond the water.”

He and Mr. O’Neill remounted, and the former put his horse at the place.
The bay’s hoofs sank deep in the bank, but he took a spring that landed
him safely on the opposite side on comparatively firm ground. My turn
came next.

“Whip him over it!” exclaimed Willy.

I did so as well as I was able, but the treacherous ground broke under
Blackthorn’s feet, and he all but floundered back into the ditch as he
landed.

“Oh, Willy!” I cried, “I’m afraid you’ll never get her over now that the
bank is broken.”

But Willy was already too much occupied with Alaska to make any reply.
She refused several times, but finally, yielding to the inevitable, she
threw herself rather than jumped off the bank, and the next moment she
and Willy were in the ditch.

I was terrified as to the consequences, and was much relieved when I saw
Willy, black from head to foot, crawl from the mare’s back on to the
more solid mud of the bank on our side. Without a word he caught Alaska
by the head, and began to try and pull her out. His extraordinary
appearance, and the fact that he was much too angry to be in the least
conscious of its absurdity, had the disastrous effect of reducing both
Mr. O’Neill and me to helpless laughter.

“I am very sorry, Willy,” I panted, “and I am delighted you’re not hurt;
but if you could only see yourself!”

Willy silently continued his efforts.

“Oh, Mr. O’Neill, do get down and help him,” I continued.

“I don’t want any help, thank you,” returned my cousin, with restrained
fury. “Come up out of that, you brute!”--applying his hunting-crop with
vigour to the recumbent Alaska, who thereupon, with two or three violent
efforts, heaved herself out of the slough. All this time Mr. O’Neill had
been grinning with that unfeigned delight which all hunting-men seem to
derive from the misfortunes of their friends.

“You have toned down that new coat, Willy,” he remarked; “and I must say
the little mare takes to water like an otter.”

“Oh, I dare say it’s very funny indeed!” retorted Willy, leading Alaska
on to the higher ground where we were standing; “but if you’d an eye in
your head you’d see the mare is dead lame.”

“By George! so she is. That’s hard luck. She must have given herself a
strain.”

“Well, whatever ails her, there’s no use in your standing there looking
at me,” replied Willy. “I can get home all right. I don’t want Theo to
lose the run, and you’ll head them yet if you put on the pace.”

His magnanimity was almost more crushing than his wrath. I was filled
with contrition for my heartless amusement, and begged to be allowed to
stay with him. But I was given no voice in the matter; my offer was
scouted, and before I had fairly grasped the situation, I was galloping
up a narrow mountain road after Nugent O’Neill.

[Illustration: text decoration]



[Illustration: text decoration]

CHAPTER XI

NUGENT O’NEILL.

    “He is the toniest aristocrat on the boat.”


After we had gone about a quarter of a mile, my companion pulled up.

“I think our best chance is to wait here,” he said, “From the way the
hounds were running, they are almost certain to come this way
eventually.”

The road up which we had ridden formed the only pass between the hills
on either side of us, and beyond was a low-lying level stretch of
country.

“If he’ll only run down that way----” Mr. O’Neill began, but suddenly
stopped, and silently pointed with his whip to the hill at our right.

“What is it?” I asked, in incautiously loud tones.

He looked for an instant as if he were going to shake his whip at me,
and again pointed, this time to a narrow strip of field beside the road.
I saw what looked like a little brown shadow fleeting across it, and in
another moment the fox appeared on the top of the wall a few yards ahead
of us. He looked about him as if considering his next move, and then,
seeing us, he leaped into the road and, running along it, vanished over
the crest of the hill.

Mr. O’Neill turned to me with such excitement that he seemed a different
person. “Here are the hounds!” he said, “and not a soul with them.”

Down the hill the pack came like a torrent, and were over the wall in a
second. They spread themselves over the road in front of us as if at
fault; but one of the little black-and-tan hounds justified Mr.
Dennehy’s good opinion by picking up the line, and at once the whole
pack were racing full cry up the road.

I have often looked back with considerable amusement to that moment. I
was suddenly possessed by a kind of frenzy of excitement that deprived
me of all power of speech. I heard my companion tell me to keep as close
to him as I could, but I was incapable of any response save an
inebriated smile and a wholly absurd flourish of my whip.

As this does not purport to be a hunting-story, I will not describe the
run which followed. I believe it lasted fifteen minutes, and included
some of the traditional “big leps” of the country. But to me it was
merely an indefinite period of delirious happiness. I scarcely felt
Blackthorn jump, and was only conscious of the thud of the big bay
horse’s hoofs in front of me and the rushing of the wind in my ears, At
last a wood seemed to heave up before me; the bay horse was pulled up
sharply, and I found myself almost in the middle of the hounds.

“By George! he’s just saved his brush,” said Mr. O’Neill, breathlessly;
“he’s gone to ground in there, and I am afraid we shall never get him
out. I hope you are none the worse for your gallop,” he continued
politely. “It was pretty fast while it lasted.” He dismounted as he
spoke, and began to investigate the hole in which the fox had taken
refuge, and while he was thus engaged I saw Mr. Dennehy on his yellow
horse coming across the next field. When he came up he was, rather to
my surprise, amiably pleased at our success in picking up the hounds,
and regretted we had not killed our fox.

“You two and meself were the only ones in this run,” he said.

My thoughts at once reverted to poor Willy. I asked Mr. Dennehy if he
had seen anything of him, and heard that he had passed my cousin, slowly
making his way home.

“Oh, I think I ought to go home at once,” I said to Mr. O’Neill. “I
might overtake him if you will tell me where I am to go.”

“If you will allow me, I think you had better let me show you the way,”
he answered, with a resumption of the stiff manner which had at first
struck me. Although I was quite aware that politeness alone prompted
this offer, my ignorance of the country made it impossible for me to
refuse it. Trusting, however, that by speedily overtaking Willy I should
be able to release my unwilling pilot, I wished Mr. Dennehy good
morning, and we made the best of our way to the nearest road.

Our way lay through what seemed to me a chessboard of absurdly small
fields. I could not imagine where all the stones came from that were
squandered in the heaping up of the walls that divided them from each
other, nor did I greatly care, so long as the necessity of jumping them
gave me something to amuse me, and made conversation with Mr. O’Neill
disjointed and unexacting.

What little I had seen of him at the covert-side had not inspired me
with any anxiety to pursue his acquaintance, and once we had got out on
to the road, with all the responsibilities of a _tête-à-tête_ staring us
in the face, my heart died within me. Never had I met any one who was
so difficult to talk to. I found that I was gradually assuming the
ungrateful position of a catechist, and, while filled with smothered
indignation at my companion’s perfunctory answers, I could not repress a
certain admiration for the composure with which he allowed the whole
stress of discourse to rest upon my shoulders. I at length made up my
mind to give myself no more trouble in the cause of politeness, and
resolved that until he chose to speak I would not do so.

A long silence was the result. We rode on side by side, my companion
staring steadily between his horse’s ears, while I wondered how soon we
should be likely to meet Willy, and thought how very much more I should
have preferred his society.

“I suppose you find this place rather dull?” Mr. O’Neill’s uninterested
voice at last broke the silence. “I have always heard that American
young ladies had a very gay time.”

I at once felt that this insufferable young man was trying to talk down
to my level--the level of an “American young lady”--and my smouldering
resentment got the better of my politeness.

“I very seldom find myself bored by places. It is, as a rule, the people
of the place that bore me.”

“Really,” he returned, with perfect serenity. “Yes, I dare say that is
true; but ladies do not generally get on very well without shop and
dances.”

“Strange as it may appear, neither of those entrancing occupations are
essential to my happiness.”

Mr. O’Neill turned and looked at me with faint surprise, but made no
reply. Another pause ensued, and I began to repent of my crossness.

It was clearly my turn to make the next remark, and I said, in a more
conciliatory voice--

“I suppose you don’t have very much to do here, either?”

“Oh, I am not here very much, and I can always get as much shooting and
fishing as I want; but I fancy my sisters find it rather dull.”

“Are your sisters fond of music? I was very glad to find a piano at
Durrus.”

His face assumed for the first time a look of interest.

“My elder sister plays a good deal; and Connie has a banjo, though I
cannot say she knows much about it; and I play the fiddle a little. I
believe in these parts we are considered quite a gifted family.”

I felt that I had, so to speak, “struck ile.”

“Do you play the violin?” I said, with excitement. “I delight in playing
accompaniments! I hope you will bring your music with you when you come
to dinner.”

“Oh, thanks very much; my sister always accompanies me,” he responded
coolly.

His deliberate self-possession was infinitely exasperating in my then
state of mind, and I repented the enthusiasm that had laid me open to
this snub. I was hurriedly framing an effective rejoinder, when he again
spoke, this time in tones of considerable amusement.

“Do you see that man leading a lame horse down the road? If he is not a
chimney-sweep, I think he must be your cousin.”

As we came nearer, I was secretly unspeakably tickled by Willy’s inky
and bedraggled appearance; but I was too proud to join in Mr. O’Neill’s
open amusement, until I noticed for the first time the incongruously
rakish effect imparted to Willy’s forlorn figure by the fact that his
hat had been crushed in. My injured dignity collapsed, and, holding on
to my saddle for support, I laughed till the tears poured down my
cheeks.

It was at this singularly unpropitious moment that Willy, hearing our
horses’ feet, turned round.

“Oh, there you are!” he called out. “Did you meet the hounds?” Then, in
a voice which showed his good temper had not returned. “You seem to be
greatly amused, whatever you did.”

I thought it better to ignore the latter part of the sentence, and
dashed at once into a confused account of our exploits, Mr. O’Neill
helping out my narrative with a few geographical details; to all of
which Willy listened with morose attention.

“And Blackthorn jumped splendidly, Willy,” I said. “I was so sorry you
weren’t there.”

“H’m!” said Willy; “very kind of you, I’m sure.”

Mr. O’Neill saw that the situation was becoming strained.

“As I can’t be of any further help to you or Miss Sarsfield,” he said,
“I think I will go back and look for the hounds;” and, wishing us
good-bye, he rode off.

“Well,” Willy began viciously, “you seem to find O’Neill cheerful
enough, after all.”

“_Indeed_, I don’t, Willy,” I said, with vigour; “he was perfectly
_odious_.”

“You didn’t look as if you thought him so a while ago, when you were
both near falling off your horses with laughing. I suppose”--with
sudden penetration--“that it was at me you were laughing.”

“Oh no, Willy; at least, it was not exactly you--indeed, it was only
your hat.”

Even at this supreme moment the air of disreputable gaiety of Willy’s
headgear was too much for me, and my voice broke into a hysterical
shriek. This was the last straw. With a wrathful glance, he turned his
back upon me, and stalked silently on beside Alaska. Blackthorn and I
followed meekly in the rear, and in this order we soberly proceeded to
Durrus.

[Illustration: text decoration]



[Illustration: text decoration]

CHAPTER XII.

A VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY.

    “And wouldst thou leave me thus? Say Nay.”


A lowering grey sky succeeded the sunshine of the day of the hunt. I
crawled down late to breakfast, feeling very stiff after yesterday’s
exertions, and was on the whole relieved to find that Willy had gone out
for a long day’s shooting, and that till lunch at least I should have no
one to entertain but myself.

The evening before had been, as far as Willy had been concerned, of a
rather complicated type. I had done all in my power to efface from his
mind the memory of my unfortunate laughter, but until dinner was over he
had remained implacable. Uncle Dominick, on the contrary, had been
unusually bland and talkative. It appeared that Madam O’Neill and her
eldest daughter had called on me while I was out, and my uncle, having
met them on the drive, had brought them in, given them tea, and had even
gone so far as to ask the two girls to come with their brother to dinner
the next night. He had given me to understand that this unusual
hospitality was on my account--“Although,” he added, “I have no doubt
you two young people are quite well able to amuse each other.” The look
which accompanied this was, under the circumstances, so peculiarly
embarrassing, that, in order to change the conversation, I made the
mistake of beginning to describe the hunt. Too soon I discovered that
to slur over Willy’s disaster would be impossible, and my obvious
efforts to do so did not improve matters.

“So you went off with young O’Neill,” my uncle had said, with a change
of look and voice that frightened me; and nothing more was said on the
subject.

My discomfiture was perhaps the cause of the alteration in Willy’s
demeanour after dinner. Success far beyond my expectations, or indeed my
wishes, was the result of my conciliatory advances. I went to bed
feeling that I had more than regained the position I had held in Willy’s
esteem, and a little flurried by the difficulties of so ambiguous a
relationship as that of first cousins.

From all this, it may be imagined that when I heard from Roche that “the
masther was gone to town, and would not be home for lunch,” I regarded
the combined absences of Willy and his father as little short of
providential.

I observed that the magenta and yellow dahlias which had decorated the
table on my arrival still held their ground, albeit in an advanced stage
of decay; and, remembering the glories of the autumn leaves, I suggested
to Roche that with his permission I might be able to improve upon the
present arrangement.

A little elated by the expectation of surprising Willy with the unusual
splendour of the dinner-table, and not without an emulative thought of
the O’Neills, I determined to ransack the shrubberies for the most
glowing leaves wherewith to carry out my purpose. A few minutes later, I
left the house with a capacious basket in my hand, feeling a delightful
sense of freedom, and full of the selfish, half-savage pleasure of a
solitary and irresponsible voyage of discovery.

I wandered down the nearest path to the sea, and, keeping to the shore,
came to the little promontory which, with its few ragged trees, I could
see from the windows of my room. There was a certain romance about this
lonely wind and wave beaten point that had always attracted me to it.
When, in the early light, I saw the fir trees’ weird reflection in the
quiet cove, I used to wonder if they had ever been a landmark for some
western Dick Hatteraick; and now, as I scrambled about, and tugged at
the tough bramble-stems that trailed in the coarse grass, I was half
persuaded that any one of the rough boulders might close the entrance of
a smuggler’s long-forgotten “hide.”

I had soon gathered as many blackberry-leaves as I wanted, and, sitting
down beside one of the old trees, I leaned my cheek against its seamy
trunk and looked across the grey rollers to the horizon.

A narrow black line stole from behind the eastern point of Durrusmore
Harbour, leaving a dark stain on the sky as it went, and from where I
sat I fancied I could hear the beat of machinery.

It was the first time I had noticed the passing of one of the big
American steamers, and I watched the great creature move out of sight
with a strange conflict of feeling. Uppermost, I think, was the thought
of what my regret would be if I were at that moment on board her, bound
for America. I was a little ashamed when I reflected how soon the newer
interests had superseded the old. I had been but a week in Ireland, and
already the idea of leaving it for America was akin to that of
emigration. What, I wondered, was the charm that had worked so quickly?
Was this subtle familiarity and satisfaction with my new life merely the
result of æsthetic interest, or had it the depth of an inherited
instinct?

I could not tell; I could only feel a strange presentiment that my
existence had hitherto been nothing but a preface, and that I was now on
the threshold of what was to be, for good or evil, my real life.

I picked up my basket and retraced my steps down the little slope, till
I again found myself in the shrubbery walk. On one point my mind was
clear. My liking for Durrus was in no perceptible degree influenced by
my feeling for my uncle and my cousin. I reiterated this to myself as I
strolled along in the damp shade of over-arching laurels towards the
plantation which lay between the sea and the lodge.

Uncle Dominick was anything but a person to inspire immediate
affection; and then Willy--well, Willy certainly had many attractive
points, but, although he was a pleasant companion, he could not be said
to be either very cultured or refined.

I left the path and strayed through the wood, stopping here and there to
rob the branches of their lavish autumn loveliness. A sluggish little
stream crept among the trees, and along its banks the ferns grew
thickly. I knelt down in the stubbly yellow grass beside it, where the
pale trunk of a beech tree stooped over the water, and picked the small
delicate ferns that were clustering between its roots. Having gathered
all within reach, I still knelt there, watching a little procession of
withered beech-leaves making their slow way down the stream, and
studying my own dark reflection on the water.

I was at length startled by the sound of voices that seemed to come
from the path I had just left, but from where I was, the thickness of
the intervening laurels prevented me from seeing to whom they belonged.

It soon became evident that one of the speakers was a country girl. She
was talking rapidly and earnestly; but what she said was unintelligible
to me till she and her companion came to the point in the path which was
nearest to me, when, after a momentary pause, the soft voice broke out--

“Ye won’t lave me for her, will ye, now? Ye _said_ ye’d hold by me
always, and now----”

Something between a sob and a choke ended the sentence. Several sobs
followed; and then the girl’s voice went on excitedly--

“Ah! ’tis no use your goin’ on like that; ye know ye want to have done
with me entirely.”

I could hear no reply; but that reassurance and consolation were offered
was obvious, for as the footsteps died away I heard something like a
broken laugh from the girl, with some faint echo of it from a man’s
voice.

“Who can she be?” I thought, with instinctive compassion. There was a
certain perplexing familiarity in the low pathetic voice, and I walked
home, feeling unnecessarily depressed and troubled by what I had heard,
and wondering sadly at the self-abandonment which had led to such an
appeal.

The path by which I returned skirted the garden and formed a loop with
the one by which I had first entered the wood. As I approached the
broader walk, I saw a girl’s figure flit down the other path, and I had
just time to recognize it as being that of Anstey Brian. Simultaneously
came the recollection of the pleading voice in the wood, and in an
instant I knew why it had been familiar.

“Then it must have been Anstey,” I thought, feeling both sorry and
surprised. The entreaty in her voice had made it very plain how serious
a matter her trouble was to her, and the helplessness of her quick
surrender showed that she had lost all power of resistance or
resentment. I was astonished to think that so pretty a girl as Anstey
should have cause to reproach her sweetheart with want of constancy.
“Who could he be?” I wondered. Then, remembering that the path she was
on was a usual short cut from the lodge to the yard, I came to the
conclusion that one of the Durrus stablemen must have been the object of
this broken-hearted appeal. I determined that I would try and find out
something further about Anstey and her lover, and wondered if it would
be of any use to mention the subject to Willy.

[Illustration: text decoration]



[Illustration: text decoration]

CHAPTER XIII.

A DINNER-PARTY.

    “Go, let him have a table by himself!
     For he does neither affect company,
     Nor is he fit for’t, indeed.”


In spite of the incontestable success of my decorations, which drew
forth the admiration of even the superior Henrietta O’Neill, I felt,
before we had arrived at the period of fish, that the dinner-party was
likely to be a failure.

Uncle Dominick had, of course, taken in the elder Miss O’Neill, and as
far as they were concerned nothing was left to be desired. Conversation
of a fluent and high-class order was evidently her strong point. She at
once entered upon a discussion of Irish politics with my uncle in a
manner deserving of all praise, and as I surreptitiously studied her
pale, plain, intellectual face, with the dark hair severely drawn back,
and heard her enunciate her opinions in clearly framed sentences, I
became deeply conscious of my own general inferiority.

Nevertheless, I did what in me lay to talk to Nugent O’Neill, who had
taken me in, thus leaving to Willy the necessary and, as I thought,
congenial task of entertaining Miss Connie. Nothing could apparently be
better arranged. Nugent had exchanged his frigid, uninterested civility
of the day before for an excellent semblance of sociability, beneath
which, as it seemed to me, he concealed a curious observation of all
that I said. He had a dark clever face, with strong well-cut features,
and blue eyes, with a pleasanter expression in them than I had at first
expected to see there. His voice would have been monotonous in its
quietness and unexcitability had it not been for a certain humorous,
semi-American turn which he occasionally imparted to his sentences. He
annoyed me, but at the same time he was interesting; moreover--which was
to me a very strong point in his favour--he was evidently as much alive
as I to the fact that for the next hour and a half it would be our
solemn duty to amuse each other, and to that intent we both performed
prodigies of agreeability.

But Willy was the cause of disaster. I became gradually aware that
silence was settling down upon him and Connie, and that, instead of
devoting himself to her, he, with his eyes fixed on me and my partner,
was listening moodily to what we were saying. When this had gone on for
some minutes, during which Connie crumbled her bread and looked cross, I
was exasperated to the point of bestowing a glance upon him calculated
to awaken in him a sense of his bad manners. Far, however, from
accepting my reproof, Willy returned my look with a gaze of admiring
defiance, and projected himself into our conversation by flatly
contradicting what Nugent was saying. The latter rose many degrees in my
estimation by ignoring the interruption till he had reached the end of
his sentence. Then, with a tolerating smile, he looked past me to Willy,
and asked him what he had said.

Willy’s dark eyebrows met in a way that unpleasantly reminded me of his
father.

“If it wasn’t worth listening to, it’s not worth repeating,” he said
aggressively.

Terrified by the turn things were taking, I struck in quickly, “Oh,
Willy! have you told Miss O’Neill what you heard to-day about the
Jackson-Crolys giving a ball?”

“No; I thought she’d have heard it herself,” he returned ungraciously.

“As it happens, I had heard nothing about it,” said Connie, from the
other side of the table; “but I cannot say that I feel much excited at
the prospect of one of their dances.”

“I am looking forward to it immensely,” I said, persevering with my
topic. “I want very much to see a real Irish ball.”

“Yes,” said Nugent, reflectively; “you will see that to great perfection
at the Jackson-Crolys’. They excel in old Irish hospitality. They do
that kind of thing in quite the traditional way. Little Croly offers you
whiskey the moment you get into the hall; and, though you may not
believe it, Mrs. Jackson-Croly orders champagne to be put into all the
carriages when people are coming away. The guests are generally pretty
happy by that time, and she says it is to keep their hearts up on the
way home.”

“That’s quite true,” observed Connie; “and, as well as I remember, you
were not at all above drinking it next day.”

“Do they dance jigs at these entertainments?” I asked. “If so, I am
afraid I shall be rather out of it.”

“Oh yes,” said Willy, with what was intended to be biting sarcasm; “and
horn-pipes and Highland flings. They always do at Irish dances.”

“Nonsense, Willy! They don’t really, do they, Mr. O’Neill?”

“It is always well to be prepared for emergencies,” he answered, “so I
should advise you to have some lessons from Willy. I have been told
that step-dancing is his strongest suit.”

“Who told you that?” demanded Willy.

“One of our men was at McCarthy’s wedding the other day, and said he saw
you there.”

“Oh yes,” supplemented Connie. “He said, ‘The sight would lave your eyes
to see Mr. Sarsfield and that little gerr’l of owld Michael Brian’s
taking the flure, and they so souple and so springy.’”

Willy did not appear to be at all amused by this flattering opinion, or
by the admirable accent in which it was repeated. On the contrary, he
looked rather disconcerted, and, with a glance towards the other end of
the table, he said awkwardly--

“Oh, one has to do these sort of things now and then. The people like
it, and it doesn’t do me any harm.”

“On the contrary,” said Nugent, “I am sure it is a most healthy
exercise. But I thought it rather spoiled your leg for a top-boot.”

Willy was known to favour knee-breeches as being especially becoming to
him, and at this, to my great relief, he turned his back upon us, and
plunged into an ostentatiously engrossing conversation with Connie. At
last we were in smooth water, and with almost a sigh of relief I heard
Nugent take up the thread of our discourse at the point where Willy had
broken it off.

It was evident that he could be pleasant enough when he chose; and
though I felt that this new development was almost as offensive in
another way as his deliberate dullness yesterday, I was now very
grateful for its timely help. At the same time, I bore in mind with
resentment my unremunerated toil during our ride, and reflected
bitterly on the fact that people who only talk when it pleases them,
receive far more credit when they do so than those who from a sense of
duty exhaust themselves conversationally.

Uncle Dominick and Henrietta had up to this not caused me a moment’s
anxiety. We were now at dessert, and yet the flow of their discourse had
never flagged. In fact, my uncle seemed at present to be delivering a
species of harangue, to which Henrietta was attending with a polite
unconvinced smile. This was all as it should be, and my respect for
Henrietta’s social gifts increased tenfold. Unfortunately, however, it
soon became evident that the discussion, whatever it was, was taking
rather too personal a tone, and my uncle’s voice became so loud and
overbearing that Nugent and I were constrained to listen to him.

“You amaze me,” he was saying. “I cannot believe that any sane person
can honestly hold such absurd theories. What! do you mean to tell me
that one of my tenants, a creature whose forefathers have lived for
centuries in ignorance and degradation, is my equal?”

“His degradation is merely the result of injustice,” said Miss O’Neill,
coolly adjusting her _pince-nez_.

“I deny it,” said my uncle, loudly. His usually pale face was flushed,
and his eyes burned. “But that is not the point. What I maintain is that
any fusion of classes such as you advocate, would have the effect of
debarring the upper while it entirely failed to raise the lower orders.
If you were to marry your coachman, as, according to your theories of
equality, I suppose you would not hesitate to do, do you think these
latent instincts of refinement that you talk about would make him a fit
companion for you and your family? You know as well as I do that such an
idea is preposterous. It is absurd to suppose that the natural
arrangement of things can be tampered with. This is a subject on which I
feel very strongly, and it shocks me to hear a young lady in your
position advance such opinions!”

Henrietta’s face assumed an aggravating expression, clearly conveying
her opinion that further argument would be thrown away. Uncle Dominick
gulped down a glass of wine, and glared round the table. There was a
general silence, and I took advantage of it to make a move to the
drawing-room.

I was wholly taken aback by my uncle’s violence, and could not help
fearing that the number of times his glass had been replenished had had
something to say to it. Willy’s temper had also been so uncertain that
I dreaded an outbreak between him and his father, and, in the interval
of waiting for their reappearance, I found myself making the most absent
and ill-chosen answers to Henrietta’s questions upon the culture and
political status of American women, while I listened anxiously for the
sound of the opening of the dining-room door. My only consolation was,
that Nugent would, for his own sake, do his best to keep the peace, and
I was surprised to find how much I relied on his powers of doing so.

In my preoccupied state of mind, it is not to be wondered at that
Henrietta soon appeared to come to the conclusion that I was incapable
of giving her any information on the subjects in which she was
interested, and that I was generally a person of limited abilities. She
leaned back in her chair with the exhausted air of one who relinquishes
a hopeless task, and, taking up a photograph-book, she tacitly made me
over to her sister.

Connie’s ideas ran in less exalted grooves. The run of the day before
was to her a topic of inexhaustible interest; and when she found that my
humility in the matter of hunting equalled my ignorance, she expanded
into extreme graciousness, and was soon in the full tide of narration.
The story-teller who treats of hunting with any real enthusiasm
generally loses all mental perspective, and sacrifices artistic unity to
historical accuracy. Then, as now, I was amazed at the powers of memory
and merciless fidelity to detail with which those who have taken part in
a run can afterwards describe it, and I listened with reverence
befitting the neophyte to Connie’s adventures by flood and field. Foxes
and fences, hounds and hunters, were revolving in my brain, when the
opening of the door brought the story to a conclusion, and Willy came
into the room, followed by Nugent. He marched directly to the sofa where
I was sitting, and deposited himself beside me with such determination
that the rebound of its springs almost lifted me into the air.

This behaviour was really intolerable. Willy had not before shown any
very pronounced partiality for me, and why he should have selected this
evening for a demonstration of affection it would be hard to say. One
thing was clear: it must be suppressed with a strong hand, or a
dead-lock would ensue. Nugent was standing on the hearthrug, with
apparently no prospect of entertainment before him save what he could
derive from talking to his sisters; while those two young ladies were
well aware that no reasonable hostess could ask them to dinner and
expect them to devote their evening to conversing with their brother,
and, pending action on my part, were sitting in expectant silence. I
turned upon Willy in desperation.

“You _must_ talk to them,” I hissed in his ear.

To which, with equal emphasis, he whispered back, “I won’t!” fixing upon
me a blandly stubborn gaze that infuriated me beyond the bounds of
endurance.

I leaped from my seat, and, with a timely recollection of Nugent’s
violin, I walked over to him and asked if he had remembered to bring it.
He admitted apologetically that it was in the hall, adding, with
unexpected modesty, that he had only brought it because I had asked him
to do so. I had some acquaintance with the ways of amateur violinists,
and speedily recognized the diffidence which conceals a yearning to
play at all hazards. My intention to dislike him was softened by the
discovery that he was not at all points so superior as I had believed,
and I was pleased to notice some hurry and trepidation in his manner
while he was tuning his violin. Henrietta advanced upon the piano with
an air of sisterly resignation, and, concealing a yawn, tapped a note
for Nugent to tune by.

While he was thus engaged, I cast an anxious eye round the room. My
uncle had now come in, and, with his elbow on the chimney-piece, was
looking into the fire. Connie had taken possession of the ancient
photograph-book which her sister had put down, and, in company with
Willy, was silently and methodically turning over its yellow pages. Well
did I know its contents. Ladies in preposterously inflated skirts, with
rows of black velvet round the tail; and gentlemen clad from head to
heel in decent black, each with his back to an Italian landscape, and
his tall hat on a Grecian pedestal near him--all alike undistinguishable
and unknown. I felt sincerely for Connie; but other occupation there was
none, and I had done my best on her behalf.

I was at first inclined to agree with Nugent in his own estimate of his
playing, and I saw with unworthy amusement that he was extremely
nervous; but as he went on he steadied down, and played with
considerable sweetness and delicacy. The keen notes vibrated in the dim,
lofty room, and tingling in the many hanging crystals of the old glass
chandelier. I forgot the indignation which he had yesterday aroused in
me, and remained leaning on the piano, conscious only of the pleasure I
was receiving, until the player ceased, and began to unscrew his bow
preparatory to putting it away.

“Please play something else,” I said hastily. “Won’t you try this Suite
of Corelli’s? I know it so well.”

“I am afraid my sister doesn’t know the accompaniment,” he answered,
with a dubious look at Henrietta, who was rising from the piano.

Her bored manner had already told me that she looked on accompanying her
brother as a task beneath her powers, and the thought struck me with
paralyzing conviction that I ought to have asked her to play a solo.
However, this was not the moment to rectify the error; Nugent was
lingering over the putting away of his violin, with an obvious desire to
play again.

“I suppose it would be too much to ask you to try it?” he said to me,
after another glance at Henrietta’s unresponsive face.

“Perhaps if it was not very difficult I might be able----” I said, and
checked myself, remembering the snub I had received on that very
subject.

But now that I had admitted so much, Nugent held me to my word, and
firmly proceeded to arrange the piano part on the desk for me.

“I don’t envy you, Miss Sarsfield,” remarked Henrietta, with a cold
little laugh; “Nugent’s ideas of counting are excessively primitive.”

Decidedly Henrietta was annoyed.

“I am the class of savage who cannot count more than five,” he replied,
addressing me; “but I do my best.”

Miss O’Neill laughed again. “You will have to play it for him,” she
said, moving away from the piano; “Nugent is a regular bully.”

I scarcely liked being coerced in this way, but I yielded; and we played
the piece I had asked for, as well as several others, before I
remembered my duties as hostess. Willy had forsaken Connie and the
photograph-book, and had again left her and Henrietta to talk to each
other, while he propped himself against the chimney-piece, and gazed
moodily at Nugent and me.

I could not have believed that he would have left me in this dastardly
way to bear the burden and heat of the entertainment, and I made a
second effort to keep things going by begging Miss O’Neill to play. But
this time I was unsuccessful; she would not be propitiated. A look
passed between her and her sister, whose banjo I now had little doubt
had been secreted in the hall; while I, in violation of all the laws of
civility, had myself been monopolizing the piano. They both got up from
their places.

“I should have been delighted,” said Henrietta, “but I am afraid it is
getting rather late. My dear Nugent”--calling to her brother, who was
carefully swaddling his violin preparatory to putting it away--“we
really ought to be getting home. The carriage must have been waiting
some time; and I am sure”--in a lower voice--“that Mr. Sarsfield has had
quite enough of us.”

I looked at my uncle, who during the violin-playing had sunk into an
armchair, and had shaded his eyes with his hand, as if listening
attentively. He had not moved since we stopped, and looked almost as if
he were asleep; but there was something in his attitude that conveyed
the idea of deep dejection rather than of slumber.

The general stir of departure roused him. He rose slowly, and said good
night with a little more than his usual sombreness.

[Illustration: text decoration]



[Illustration: text decoration]

CHAPTER XIV.

IN SOCIETY.

    “Ah! Then was it all spring weather?
     Nay, but we were young and together.”

    “Society is now one polished horde
     Formed of two mighty tribes, the Bores and Bored.”


One day at Durrus was very like another. By the time I had been there
three weeks or a month, the days stretched out behind me into indefinite
length, separating me more and more from my past life.

Looking back to that time, it seems to resolve itself into one long
_tête-à-tête_ with Willy. Quiet rides with him through the damp brown
woods, or now and then a day with the Moycullen hounds; drives to
return the visits of such of the natives as had called upon me; walks
across the turf bog to where the old graveyard hangs over the sea, to
watch the sun drop below the horizon. “Bound for America,” says Willy.
“I wonder if you’d like to be going back with him?” I had no doubts in
my own mind on the subject, though I did not feel called upon to say so
to him. I was now quite certain that, in spite of various drawbacks, I
enjoyed my life at Durrus very much.

I have said that I had had callers. After the O’Neills, among the first
to come and see me were Mrs. Jackson-Croly and her daughters, and the
Burkes, whose acquaintance I had already made.

These ladies all made their appearance on the same afternoon; but before
the Burkes arrived I had an undiluted quarter of an hour of the
Jackson-Crolys, during which time the magnificence of Mrs. Croly’s
manner was only equalled by the fashionable languor of her daughters’. I
naturally tried to talk to them of such local subjects as I knew
anything about, but found that the meanest topic on which they would
consent to converse was Dublin Castle, and the affability displayed to
them by the lord-lieutenant--“left’nant,” they pronounced it--during the
past season. With these lofty themes I was quite unfitted to grapple,
and had sunk into a subordinate place in the conversation when the Miss
Burkes were announced.

They were both exceedingly cordial and friendly, and Miss Mimi began
almost immediately to rally me with ponderous facetiousness on my
exploits on the day of the hunt.

“Oh, Miss Sarsfield! what’s this we hear about you and Mr. O’Neill?
Springing away through the country after the fox, and leaving poor
Willy in the ditch! Oh, fie!”

I feel that it is hopeless to convey any adequate idea of Miss Mimi’s
voice by any system of spelling; but the fact that in her vocabulary
“fie,” was pronounced “foy,” may serve as some indication of her manner
of speech.

At her ingenuous observation I became aware that the eyes of Mrs.
Jackson-Croly and her two daughters were riveted upon me with
undisguised interest, and I hastened to explain how it was that Willy
had been left behind. But Miss Burke paid little heed; another and more
exciting topic had suggested itself to her.

“Well, Mrs. Croly, is it true that you’re going to give us a dance at
Mount Prospect?” she began. “Why, you’re a wonderful woman for
dissipation! We’d all he dying down with dulness only for you.”

Mrs. Jackson-Croly, metaphorically speaking, descended with one leap
from the pedestal on which she had hitherto posed for my benefit.
Forgetful of the demeanour befitting one who moved in vice-regal
circles, she dragged her chair, still seated upon it, across the floor,
till she had placed herself knee to knee with Miss Burke, and they were
soon deep in calculation as to the number of “dancing gentlemen” who
could be relied on for the forthcoming ball.

A few days afterwards, Nugent O’Neill rode over to ask Willy and me to
lunch at Clashmore on the following day. I had once or twice met him and
Connie out hunting, and the latter and Henrietta had come over to call,
after their dinner at Durrus. On these occasions my acquaintance with
Connie had made rapid progress; she was a girl whom it was not
difficult to know and to like; but with her brother I seemed to have
come to a standstill. I must admit to having felt rather disappointed at
this, as since the night of the dinner-party I had believed that, under
favouring circumstances, he would be a person with whom I should find
myself on many points in sympathy. On this occasion he certainly did not
carry out my theory. After a great deal of profoundly uninteresting
conversation with Willy, in which a self-respecting wish not to be out
of it alone induced me to make a third, they both went round to the
stables, and I watched him ride away with a return of my old resentment
towards him.

Nevertheless, I had to allow to myself that he had not been more dull
than was suitable to the subject on which Willy had chosen to harangue
him--the question of how and where best to lay out and level a
tennis-ground in the lawn at Durrus was not one which lent itself to a
display of epigram, but I could not see why they should have talked
about it the whole time.

I speculated with a good deal of interest on Nugent’s probable demeanour
at luncheon the next day. I could not make up my mind if his
unenthusiastic manner was the result of conceit or of an inborn distrust
of “American young ladies.” It was certainly provoking that the one
Irishman I had hitherto met who seemed to have a few ideas beyond horses
and farming, was either too uninterested or too distrustful to expend
them upon me.

“I suppose it is the arrogant timidity of these eldest sons,” I
reflected, with a touch of republican scorn. “I wish I could tell him
that he can talk to me without fear of ulterior designs on my part.”

The day of the Clashmore repast was bright and cold. Willy had put
Alaska into the dog-cart to drive me there, and we all three started in
very good spirits.

“Willy,” I said, as we spun along the hard road, “you have never told me
anything about The O’Neill. I am rather nervous at the idea of meeting
an Irish chieftain in his own lair. Ought I to kiss his hand? I am sure
you ought to have driven over a couple of fat oxen and a he-goat as
propitiatory offerings.”

“By the hokey! I’ll do nothing of the sort,” said Willy. “I can tell
you, he is not the sort to refuse them if I did. But I’ve no objection
to your kissing his hand, if you like.”

“How kind of you!”

“And he’ll have still less. Mind you, he’s a great old buck, and expects
every girl who goes to Clashmore to make love to him.”

“Oh, Willy!” I cried, in real alarm, “for goodness’ sake don’t let him
come near me. I never have anything to say to old men, and yet they
invariably want to talk to me.”

“Then, my dear, you’d better look out. The madam will have it in her
sleeve for you if he’s too civil; _she_ doesn’t approve of his goings
on.”

“Well, one comfort is, I shall probably be in his black books in five
minutes, as you say it is one of the seven deadly sins to call him
_Mister_ O’Neill. I could no more call him ‘O’Neill’ than I could fly; I
should feel as if I were talking to a coachman.”

“Oh, I dare say he’d put up with more than that from you! You’re just
his sort. I know he’ll tell every one you are ‘a monstrous fine girl.’
You know, he likes them tall and dark and hand----”

“Do hold your tongue!” I interposed. “You are most offensive.”

“Well, never mind,” said Willy, consolingly. “Maybe he won’t look at
you, after all. There’s that big English girl we saw in church with them
last Sunday--Watson, I think Nugent said her name was--I dare say he
devotes himself to her all the time. Though,” he added, “I don’t see why
I shouldn’t go in for her myself”--with a glance at me to see how his
shaft had sped.

“Oh, I hope you will!” I said; “it would interest me so much.”

I thought Willy looked a little crestfallen, and he said no more on the
subject.

As I walked cautiously across the highly polished floor of the Clashmore
hall, preceded by an eminently respectable young footman, I was amused
to find that my mind was occupied in unfeigned admiration of the
cleanliness of the house. This, then, was the result of six weeks’
residence at Durrus. I had become so inured to untidiness, and a
generally lenient system of cleansing, that the most ordinary household
virtues had acquired positive instead of merely negative value.

The big, bright drawing-room seemed full of strangers, who, as I came
in, all stopped talking. I caught, however, my own name, spoken in a
voice unmistakable, even in the undertone in which it said, “I declare,
there’s Miss Sarsfield herself!” and I had the uncomfortable conviction
that Miss Mimi Burke, in common with the rest of the room, had been
discussing me.

I advanced with uncertain speed across the wide space of glowing carpet
which separated me from Madam O’Neill, my last few steps being
considerably accelerated by the sudden uprisal from under my feet of an
abnormally lengthy dachshund, which had lain coiled unseen in my path.

“That detestable dog of Henrietta’s!” said Madam O’Neill, as she shook
hands with me; “he is always getting in the way. How do you do, Miss
Sarsfield? Robert dear, this is Miss Sarsfield.”

A stout, elderly gentleman, in a light suit of clothes, and with one of
the reddest faces I have ever seen, stepped forward with a very polite
bow and expansive smile, and shook hands with me. This was my host, but
the warning I had received against encouraging his attentions had so
alarmed me, that as soon as was decently possible I turned my back upon
him and began to talk to Henrietta. I had been aware all the time of
Willy’s observation, and now, as I turned and met his malevolent eye, I
felt with dismay that my face was slowly turning a good fast colour,
analogous to Turkey red. Deeply conscious of this, and of the unsparing
glare of light from the large plate-glass windows, I spent some
singularly uncomfortable moments, until the booming of the gong
interrupted Miss O’Neill’s comments on the weather.

I suppose that every one has at some period of their life felt the
absurdity of being led forth processionally to an entirely commonplace
meal, to which one is quite capable of walking unassisted on one’s own
legs. I was never more keenly alive to this than on the present
occasion, when, thrusting my hand with some difficulty inside The
O’Neill’s bulky arm, and feeling at least a head taller than he, we with
all dignity led the way into the dining-room.

I looked round the luncheon-table to see how people had arranged
themselves. My neighbour on the right was the Reverend Thomas Horan,
Rector of Rathbarry, a dull-looking man, with a saffron complexion, and
hair and beard of inky blackness, whose speech in private life was
little less unintelligible than his pulpit utterances. Opposite to me
sat Nugent O’Neill and Miss Watson. She was an ordinary type of smart
English girl, tall, fair, square shouldered, and well dressed, and
apparently rather fond of the sound of her own high, unmodulated voice.
She, evidently, had no difficulty in talking to Nugent. I caught from
time to time such fragments of their discourse as, “Saw your college get
a bump,” “Up for commemoration week,” “Ladies’ eights”--by which latter
phrase I wondered if he were referring to her size in gloves.

The view to my right was impeded by the portly form of Miss Mimi Burke,
who was next Mr. Horan, she and that divine interchanging much lively
badinage, in tones suggestive of a duet between two trombones. Beyond
her I could just discern the feeble profile of a red-haired youth of
nineteen or twenty, who was subsequently introduced to me as Mr.
Barrett.

The O’Neill had been up to this too busy in dissecting two ducks of
unusually athletic physique to speak to me; but he had from time to
time--

    “Looked upon me with a soldier’s eye,
     That liked, but had a rougher task in hand.”

And when the last limb had been distributed, he turned his crimson face
and gleaming eyeglass upon me.

“And why haven’t we seen you out with the hounds lately, Miss
Sarsfield?” he began, in a wheezy, luscious voice, with a suspicion of
brogue in it. “Nugent brought home such accounts of your doings that I
went out myself in hopes of seeing you show us all the way.”

I modestly disclaimed all credit for the glories of the run which had
made such a sensation. “And I have only been able to go out once or
twice since,” I added; “the meets have been so far away, and Willy has
only two horses.”

“Ah! I wish you’d let me give you a mount. Your father has done as much
for me many a day when I was a youngster; and I think you and I ought to
be great friends”--this with a gaze of deep feeling from the unglazed
eye.

“Thank you; you are very kind,” I murmured discomposedly, looking
towards the little madam to see if she were noting the behaviour of her
lord.

But no; the pink ribbons and marabout tufts of her elaborate cap were
nodding complacently towards Willy, who was talking to her with
enviable ease and fluency.

Willy’s skill in talking to elderly ladies amounted to inspiration. At
present both Madam O’Neill and Miss Bessie Burke were hanging on his
words, with every appearance of rapt interest; while I, the beloved of
old men, could make no fitting rejoinder to the advances of my host.
“But then,” I reflected, in self-extenuation, “old women are infinitely
preferable to old men.”

“Ah yes!” The O’Neill went on, “how much you remind me of your father!
The same wonderful dark eyes----”

“Mine are grey,” I interrupted, in as repressive a manner as possible.

The objects in question immediately underwent a close scrutiny.

“No matter--no matter; they have the same depth of expression. ‘That
eye’s dark charm ’twere vain to tell,’ eh? Isn’t that what Byron says?”

Of the appropriateness of the quotation my plate alone was in a position
to give an opinion, as on it my eyes were immovably fixed.

“I say, sir,” said Nugent, suddenly, from across the table, “did you
know that Miss Watson was a great fortune-teller? You ought to show her
your hand.”

Nothing loth, O’Neill laid his fat white hand on the table for Miss
Watson’s inspection. She at once opened the campaign in a masterly
manner, by pronouncing it to be that of a “flirt,” and I felt that the
chieftain’s entertainment need no longer be a matter of anxiety to me.

Looking at his father with a peculiar expression, in which amusement
seemed to predominate, Nugent listened for a minute or two to Miss
Watson’s ingenious insinuations and pronouncements. Then he turned to
me.

“Do you believe in chiromancy, Miss Sarsfield? It seems to me an
adaptable sort of science.”

[Illustration: text decoration]



[Illustration: text decoration]

CHAPTER XV.

AN AMERICAN GIRL.

    “She’s always been kind of off-ish and partic’lar for
        a gal that’s raised in the woods.”


Luncheon was over. The elders of the party had returned to the
drawing-room, where they were seated in a state of contented satiety,
discussing their servants, their gardens, and the Church of Ireland
Sustentation Fund, according to their age and kind.

In the billiard-room, a four-handed game was going on. Willy and Miss
Watson were playing Connie and Mr. Barrett; and, as billiards was not
one of my accomplishments, I preferred, notwithstanding polite offers
of instruction, to sit in a window-seat and look on.

Nugent at first undertook the office of marker; but as he tried at the
same time to explain the intricacies of the game to me, complications in
the scoring soon arose, accompanied by violent altercations with the
players. Finally, he was expelled with ignominy, it having been proved
that he had marked Miss Watson’s most brilliant break to her opponents.

“I thought I should never have come alive out of that,” he said, sitting
down in the window beside me; “Miss Watson looked as if she was going to
convince me with the butt end of her cue, and I have no ambition to have
a row with Willy. I shouldn’t have much of a chance.”

I thought, nevertheless, that he looked well able to take care of
himself, as he leaned back against the window-shutter, and began to
roll a cigarette, while the sun slanted in upon his light, firm figure
and well-shaped head, striking a pleasant dazzle into his blue eyes as
he glanced at the players.

“Do you know Mr. Jimmy Barrett?” he asked, in cautious tones, as that
youth, his freckled face pink with anxiety, sprawled across the table to
play his stroke.

“No, I don’t know him, but I remember seeing him out hunting.”

“He’s a very fine rider, but that’s about all he’s good for. From the
appearance of things at present, he will have cut the cloth in the
course of the next five minutes. If Connie is going to give lessons in
billiards, she ought to keep a private table for her disciples.”

Nugent had laid his tobacco-pouch on the seat beside him while he was
speaking; it was covered with crimson plush, and his monogram,
sumptuously worked in gold thread, adorned the flap. I thought it, on
the whole, rather vulgar.

“I am thankful that I was not decoyed into playing,” I said. “I must say
all my sympathies are with Mr. Barrett; he did not want to play in the
least, and I am sure he does not look as if he were enjoying himself.”

“I deny that he was decoyed into playing,” said Nugent, argumentatively,
lighting his cigarette and leaning back again with an air of leisurely
satisfaction; “and, anyhow, he is not a case in point. The mere fact
that you are an American is about fifty points in your favour. You would
probably lick all our heads off by the sheer force of instinct and power
of intimidation.” He took up his tobacco-pouch, and looked at it
absently. “Yes, you’re a great nation. For instance, this very fine
thing is of Yankee origin, and I don’t believe the worker of it had ever
done anything of the kind before. It was done, as the Irishman played
the fiddle, ‘by main strength,’ and yet look at it!”

“It’s very _gay_,” I said, regarding it with chilly disfavour.

Nugent looked at me meditatively, as he put it back into his pocket.
“Does that mean professional jealousy?” he asked. “Are you also a worker
of tobacco-pouches?”

“I can’t work any more than I can play billiards,” I said, with some
enjoyment of the admission.

“No? What a pity!” said Nugent, a little inattentively. “Do you know, I
once taught an American girl billiards, and after she had played for a
week, she used to beat me pretty nearly every time.”

“But I think I told you before I was _not_ an American girl,” I said
energetically. “Every one here persists in calling me American, and I am
nothing of the kind; I am Irish!”

“It seems to me you are very anxious to ‘go back on’ your native land,”
he said, looking at me through his half-closed eyelids; “you won’t allow
yourself to be called American, and you don’t even speak the language.”

“That is the regular British fallacy. You all expect us to talk through
our noses, and say, ‘Wal, stranger.’”

“Not at all. I am awfully well up in modern American fiction, and I know
all about the Boston young woman and her high-class conversation. I
assure you, there is no one on earth that I should be so much afraid
of.”

“I am sure you took that idea from Henry James’s ‘Bostonians,’ but they
are not all as superior and conscientious as Olive Chancellor was in
that. Certainly _I_ am not, and I lived for a long time in Boston.”

“Really!” he said, opening his eyes; “I had no idea of that. I think,”
he went on, after a moment’s pause, “you might have mentioned it before,
and saved me from giving myself away as I did.”

“You have said nothing very compromising so far,” I said, stooping down
to help Henrietta’s dachshund in an attempt to scramble on to my lap;
“but I thought it kinder to warn you while there was yet time.”

He laughed rather foolishly, and slowly knocked the ash off his
cigarette against the window-sash. “All the same,” he said, “I think I
was quite right in what I said. By the way, I got a lot of new fiddle
music to-day. I wonder if you would come and have a look at it? Perhaps
we could try over some?”

“I am afraid it is rather late,” I said hesitatingly. “I should like to
do so very much, but I think the game must be nearly over, and we ought
to go home then; it gets dark so quickly.”

“Well, perhaps you would allow me to bring it over to Durrus some day?
My sister is very slow at reading music, and I think I remember your
saying that you did not mind playing accompaniments.”

I did remember saying so quite well, and also the manner in which the
intimation had been received; but I magnanimously determined to let
bygones be bygones, and consented with a good grace.

The game was, as I had said, coming to a conclusion. Willy was playing,
and evidently playing extremely well--striding round the table with
silent purposeful rapidity, while Miss Watson triumphantly proclaimed
the score as his break mounted. Connie, ignoring the dejection of her
unhappy little partner, was leaning back against the wall, humming a
little bitter tune, with the air of having lost all interest in the
proceedings.

“I think Connie looks as if she had enough of Jimmy’s billiard-playing,”
said Nugent, with brotherly discernment; “she doesn’t like being beaten
a bit. There’s an end of Willy’s break. Now, Jimmy,” he called out,
“they only want three of game--42 plays 97; it’s a good game to win!”

Mr. Barrett advanced to the table, looking with a sickly smile to his
partner for an encouragement which he did not receive. Nugent and I left
our window, and came closer to see the finish of the game. We had not
long to wait. Taking prolonged aim at the red ball, Mr. Barrett dealt
his own a faltering tap; it rolled slowly across the table, and, without
touching either of the other balls, sank unobtrusively into a side
pocket.

“Three to us. Game!” said Miss Watson. “I think we did pretty well, Mr.
Sarsfield. I told you you were good at games as soon as I looked at your
hand.”

“Why, have you had your fortune told, Willy?” I said.

“Yes,” he said shortly. “Are you quite sure you’ve told me
everything?”--turning from me to Miss Watson.

“Oh dear, no! not more than half. I shall _think_ about your hand, and
tell you the rest another day,” said Miss Watson, with great suavity.
“Irishmen’s hands are so puzzling--so contradictory, you know; but I
suppose all Irish people are that, aren’t they?”

“Never mind, Mr. Barrett,” I heard Connie saying; “we will play them
again some other time. Now, good people, won’t you all come and have
some tea?” she continued. “You had better not lose time, or there will
be none left. Mr. Horan gets through tea and cake like a Sunday
school--four cups at least, and two slices with every cup! So if you and
Willie are going to have any more palmistry, Georgie, we certainly shall
not wait for you.”

In the drawing-room, we found Madam O’Neill, Henrietta, and Mr. Horan
sitting over the tea-table; the latter with his handkerchief spread over
his knees, and a general greasiness of aspect suggestive of buttered
toast. The Burkes had gone, and, to my unbounded relief, The O’Neill
did not appear.

“It’s just as I said,” whispered Connie; “there isn’t an atom of toast
or hot cake left. Did you see mamma just now hiding the sponge-cake
behind the slop-basin to get it out of his way? I see the Burkes have
gone,” she went on. “If you could only have heard old Mimi singing your
praises before you came to-day! She said it was ‘_deloightful_ to have
that _sweet_ young creature settled in the country,’ and that,
‘considering you had been brought up among the Americans, you really
spoke English as well as she did.’ Was not that what she said, Nugent?”

Her brother laughed, and sat down beside me.

“You see, what I told you is quite true,” he said, “though perhaps I did
not put it as nicely as Miss Burke did. As an American young lady, you
are a failure in these parts.”

“I am delighted to hear it,” I replied. “If you had not formed a
preconceived idea that I was a Yankee, I know you would have noticed my
Cork brogue at once.”

While we were talking, Willy came up.

“Are you nearly done your tea?” he demanded. “The trap is at the door
some time.”

He remained standing before me, as if he expected me to get up at once.
That something had annoyed him was evident, and, feeling that delay was
unadvisable, I swallowed my tea with all possible despatch, and made my
adieux.

Nugent came to the hall door with us.

“Then, may I come over on Tuesday?” he said, tucking in the rug for me,
while Willy silently picked up the reins, and took the whip out of the
rest, “or any other day that would suit you would do for----” The rest
of the sentence was lost, as Willy, without further ceremony, drove
away.

“Very well--Tuesday!” I screamed back, as we whirled down the avenue.
“My dear Willy, I don’t know why you were in such a desperate hurry,” I
went on, rather crossly.

“Well, how was I to know he had anything more to say?” retorted Willy,
with equal ill-temper. “I’m sure he had plenty of time to settle
everything before we left the house. I wasn’t going to keep the mare
standing, if he chose to go on prating there.”

“I don’t suppose another five seconds would have done her any mortal
injury, and I think you might have risked it for the sake of civility.”

He did not answer, and we drove along in silence, Willy maintaining a
demeanour of unbending severity, and affecting to be altogether occupied
with his driving.

“Very well,” I said to myself, “if he likes to sulk, he may; I won’t
take any notice of him.”

No word was spoken for at least a mile. Alaska trotted steadily on,
under the leafless beeches, and along the road by the sea, till she at
length slackened to walk up a hill.

“Are you cold, Theo?” Willy did not turn his head, but I felt that the
olive branch had been extended.

“Not particularly,” I said, as indifferently as possible.

“I put a wrap into the trap for you”--stretching a long arm over the
back of the seat, and dragging a cloak from the depths. “You must be
perished in that thin coat. Here, let me put this round you.”

He wrapped me in it with unnecessary care, and while he was doing so he
said suddenly,

“I’m awfully sorry if I was rude to you. You know that----” His voice
broke, and he stopped as suddenly as he had begun. I put up my hand to
fasten the cloak for myself, and was rather startled to find it caught
and fervently squeezed.

“Oh!” I said, withdrawing my hand sharply, “you were not in the _least_
rude to me. I did not mind a bit. We had a very pleasant day on the
whole, I think,” I continued inconsequently; “and did you see how
beautifully I behaved to The O’Neill?”

I fancy Willy looked a little disappointed at his apology being disposed
of so quickly.

“No, I can’t say I did,” he answered, in an injured way. “I had plenty
to do talking to the madam.”

“Yes, I saw you. I was looking at you with the deepest admiration all
through lunch. And, by the way, what do you think of Miss Watson? She
seems to be a wonderful billiard-player.”

“I thought you were too busy talking to Nugent to notice what we were
doing,” said Willy, with some return of sulkiness. “It didn’t look as if
you found it so hard to talk to him, as you’re always saying you do.”

“But I assure you we _were_ looking at the game, Willy. I don’t
understand billiards, so you can’t expect me to watch every stroke.”

“Well, I only know that I spoke to you one time, and you were so much
taken up with talking about Boston or something, that you never even
heard me.”

“Then you must have said it absolutely in a whisper,” I said, in heated
self-defence. “Mr. O’Neill was not saying anything in the least
interesting, only that he should never have thought I had been brought
up in America.”

“H’m!” said Willy, in a more mollified tone. “He must have meant that
for a compliment. _I_ know what he thinks of Yankee girls. He’s told me
many a queer story of one he met at Cannes last winter.”

We rounded a turn in the road, and in the twilight I could see the
Durrus woods spreading darkly down to the sea. It would take another ten
minutes to reach home, and, though Willy was simmering down, I knew that
we were still on dangerous ground.

“What did Miss Watson say of your hand?” I asked, with the view of
changing the conversation. “Did she tell you that you had ‘no sense of
humour, and homicidal tendencies, combined with unusual
conscientiousness’? That’s what a man once told me.”

“No,” answered Willy, quite seriously; “she didn’t say very much about
my character. She was looking at my line of heart most of the time, I
think. She told me that I would have ‘two great passions’ in my life,
and that I was to be married soon.” He stopped, and looked at me.

“How exciting!” I said hurriedly. “My man did not tell me any of those
interesting sort of things.”

“She said my line of fate was broken,” resumed Willy, “whatever that may
mean. She told me I had a very good line of intellect, but it wasn’t
properly developed. I dare say the last part of that’s true enough,” he
added, with a sigh. “I never got a chance to learn anything when I was
a boy. The governor sent me from one dirty little school to another for
a couple or three years, and then the national schoolmaster had a go at
me, and that’s about all the education I ever had.”

“I dare say you get on just as well without being very good at classics
and those sort of things. And, you see, you passed your exam. for your
captaincy in the West Cork quite easily,” I said, with a rather lame
attempt at consolation.

“That’s quite a different thing; any fool could do that. What makes me
sick is to see Nugent and chaps like him, who have been to Harrow and
Oxford, and all the rest of it--and here I’ve been stuck all my life,
without a chance to get level with them. It’s when I’m talking to you
that I feel what an ignorant brute I am!”

“I hate to hear you talk like that, Willy,” I said, really distressed.
“_I_ never thought you so--not for an instant. On the contrary, I think
you know more than any one I ever met--about practical things; and if
you don’t look where you’re going, you will drive over that old woman
who is going in at the gate”--as we turned sharply off the road at the
Durrus lodge--“and I believe it is that dreadful old Moll, too. I am
thankful to say I have not seen her for ever so long.”

[Illustration: text decoration]



[Illustration: text decoration]

CHAPTER XVI.

FERRETING.

    “I do perceive here a divided duty.”


It was early in December, a showery, blustry afternoon; but I was
sitting out of doors in the hay. The men had been cutting away the great
rick in the haggard; they had taken a slice off it, down almost to the
ground, and I had burrowed myself a comfortable bed among the soft
trusses, with my back against the bristling, newly shorn wall of hay
that towered above me like a gable. The dogs were standing beside me in
different attitudes of intensest attention, their eyes fixed, like
mine, upon a hole in the foundations of the rick, from which at this
moment a pair of legs in corduroys and gaiters were protruding.

“Have you come to them yet?” I called out.

A muffled grunt was all that I could hear in answer; but after a moment
or two, the body belonging to the legs was drawn out of the hole.

“I’ve got one of the brutes,” said Willy, holding up his hand, with a
ferret hanging limply from it. “I don’t know how I’ll get the other;
those rats must be miles back in the rick. I’ll have to go up for one of
the young Sweenys to help me to move some of the stones under the rick.”

“I think in that case I shall go home,” I said. “I suppose you’ll take
hours over it.”

“Oh no! Do wait a bit; we won’t be any time. You can have my coat if
you’re cold,” said Willy, dropping the reclaimed ferret into its bag.
“I’ll be back in a jiffy.”

He climbed the wall of the haggard, and took a short cut across the
field to where the whitewashed walls of Sweeny’s cottage showed through
the red twigs of the leafless fuchsia hedge that incongruously
surrounded it.

I took out my watch as soon as he had started, and saw that it was
half-past three. Willy seemed to have forgotten that this Tuesday
afternoon was the one on which Nugent had said he would come over. I had
taken care to say something about it at breakfast, but had done it so
lamely and inopportunely that I was not sure whether Willy had heard me;
and a kind of awkwardness had prevented me from reminding him of it when
he had asked me after luncheon to come out with him to the haggard,
where a thriving colony of rats had been that morning discovered.

Willy and I were now on terms of the most absolute intimacy. His daily
companionship had become second nature to me--something which I accepted
as a matter of course, which gave me no trouble, and was in all ways
pleasant. But, for all that, I had begun to find out that in some occult
way I was a little afraid of him. He was unexpectedly and minutely
observant, and, where I was concerned, appeared to be able to take in my
doings with the back of his head. It was this gift, combined with his
unostentatious acuteness, that made me sometimes feel foolish when I
least wished it, and lately had made any mention of Nugent’s name a
difficulty to me.

At all events, at this particular moment I did not feel disposed to
explain matters, and I settled myself again in the hay, hoping that the
capture of the ferret would allow me, by the natural course of things,
to get home in time without having to remind Willy of my expected
visitor.

The demesne farm, as it was called, was at some distance from the
house--at least ten minutes’ walk down a stony lane, worn into deep ruts
by the passing of the carts of hay; and now that the ruts had been
turned into pools by heavy showers, it was anything but a pleasant walk.
The boreen passed through the fields in which Willy had schooled Alaska;
it came out into the road near the lodge, and thence led directly to the
house, whose gleaming slate roof and tall chimneys I could see from
where I was sitting, above the trees of the plantation. The short
December day was already beginning to close in; the setting sun was
level with my eyes, and was sending broad rays up the long slope that
lay between the farm and the sea. Everything for the moment was
transfigured; all the wet stones and straw lying about the yard shone
and glistened. The pigs were splashing through pools of liquid gold; and
the geese, who were gabbling in an undertone near the hayrick, looked
blue on the shadow side, and silver-yellow on the side next the sun--one
could believe them capable of laying nothing but golden eggs. The wind
was going down with the sun, and it seemed as if we should have no more
rain; but there was a dangerous-looking black cloud over Croaghkeenen. I
wondered if Nugent had come. That cloud certainly meant rain; perhaps it
would serve as an excuse to get home.

Willy was as good as his word about coming back quickly, and brought
with him not one, but two small sons of the house of Sweeny, with shock
heads of hair, as fluffy as dandelion seed, and almost as white, and big
grey eyes that looked doubtfully at me from under the blackest lashes
and out of the dirtiest faces I had ever seen in my life.

“Come, Timsy,” said Willy to the smaller of the two, “in you go; and if
you get a grip of him at all, hold on to him, no matter if he eats the
nose off your face.”

In no wise discouraged by this injunction, Timsy crawled into the hole,
until nothing but the muddy soles of his bare feet were visible. But the
ferret was evidently beyond human reach. I sat impatiently enough,
looking on, and trying to summon up courage to say that I would go home,
when I felt a drop or two of rain on my hand, and saw that the heavy
cloud now shut Croaghkeenen altogether out of view, and that a thick
shower was coming across the sea and along the slopes of Durrus. In
another instant we were enveloped in a gusty whirl of rain.

“Run to the Sweenys’, Theo!” cried Willy, jumping up from his knees, and
abandoning his attempt to push little Sweeny deeper into the hole; “we
must shelter there.”

“Couldn’t we get home?” I said, standing undecidedly in the downpour,
and thinking with despair that my deserted visitor was possibly arriving
at Durrus now.

“No; you’d be drowned getting there. Come on.”

We ran up the lane as fast as was possible from the nature of it, with
the mud splashing up at every step, the rain trickling down the backs of
our necks, and the dogs racing along with us, getting very much in the
way by ridiculous jumps at the bag in which Willy carried the ferret,
and evidently believing that this unusual rushing through the mud was
only a prelude to something far more thrilling. I picked my way after
Willy through the Sweenys’ yard, along a path which ran precariously
between a manure heap and a pool of dirty water, and saw Mrs. Sweeny
flinging open her door to receive us.

“Oh, ye craytures! ye’re dhrowned! Come in asthore. Get out, ye
divil!”--slapping the bony flanks of a calf which was trying to thrust
itself into the house. “Turn them hins out, Batty! Indeed, ’tis a
disgrace to ask ye into that dirty little house, and me afther plucking
a goose.”

We entered the low, narrow doorway; and the hens, seeing that they were
hemmed in, and disdaining even at this extreme moment to yield to
Batty’s practised pursuit, took to their wings, and flew past our heads
through the doorway with varying notes of consternation.

“Did anny wan iver see the like of thim hins?” demanded Mrs. Sweeny,
dramatically, while she dragged forward a greasy-looking kitchen chair.
“I’m fairly heart-scalded with them--the monkeys of the world! Sit down,
ochudth, sit down why!” she went on, addressing me, her broad red face
beaming with pride and hospitality. “Indeed, me little place isn’t fit
for the likes of ye! Sure, wouldn’t ye sit down, Masther Willy, till I
get ye a dhrink of milk? Run away, Bridgie”--this in an undertone to a
grimy little girl--“and dhrive in the cows.”

She produced another chair for Willy, the discrepancy in the length of
whose legs was corrected by a convenient dip in the mud floor of the
cottage, and Willy sat down, and at once began a diffuse and cheerful
conversation with her.

The fates certainly seemed to be against me. This shower would probably
last for some time, and it would be impossible to say that I wanted to
go home until it was over. I looked at my watch; it was already nearly
four. Nugent would very likely come early--he had said that he would be
over some time before tea--and would hear that I had gone out, and had
left no message or explanation of any kind for him. It was very
exasperating, but, as long as this deluge of rain lasted, all I could do
was to sit still and possess my soul in as much patience as possible.

The cabin had more occupants than, in its doubtful light, I had at first
noticed. In the smoky shadow of the overhanging chimney-place was
huddled, on a three-legged stool, a very small old man in knee-breeches
and a tail-coat, who was smoking a short pipe, and still held in his
hand the battered tall hat which he had taken off on our entrance. He
was our hostess’s father-in-law, one of the oldest tenants on the
estate, and he sat, as I had often seen the old country men in the
cabins sit, smoking and dozing over the fire, and looking hardly more
alive to what was going on than the grey, smouldering lumps of turf on
the hearth. In the dusky recess at the foot of a four-poster bed, which
blocked up one of the small windows, Batty and two other children were
hiding behind each other, and were staring at us as young birds might.
Pat and Jinny were vulgarly snuffing among Mrs. Sweeny’s pots and pans,
with an affectation of starvation which but ill-assorted with what I
knew of their recent luncheon. Now they had come, with stunning
unexpectedness, on a cat, crouched on the dresser, and, when called off
by Willy on the very eve of battle, remained for the rest of their visit
in agonized contemplation of her security. From a hencoop in the corner
by the bed came faint cluckings; the goose which Mrs. Sweeny had been
plucking lay with its legs tied beside the red earthen pan, in which it
might have seen its own breast feathers, and tried to console itself by
pecking feebly at the yellow meal which had been spilt on the ground in
front of the chickens’ coop.

Mrs. Sweeny was sitting on a kind of rough settle, between the
other window and the door of an inner room. She was a stout,
comfortable-looking woman of about forty, with red hair and quick blue
eyes, that roved round the cabin, and silenced with a glance the
occasional whisperings that rose from the children.

“And how’s the one that had the bad cough?” asked Willy, pursuing his
conversation with her with his invariable ease and dexterity. “Honor her
name is, isn’t it?”

“See, now, how well he remembers!” replied Mrs. Sweeny. “Indeed, she’s
there back in the room, lyin’ these three days. Faith, I think ’tis like
the decline she have, Masther Willy.”

“Did you get the doctor to her?” said Willy. “I’ll give you a ticket if
you haven’t one.”

“Oh, indeed, Docthor Kelly’s afther givin’ her a bottle, but shure I
wouldn’t let her put it into her mouth at all. God knows what’d be in
it. Wasn’t I afther throwin’ a taste of it on the fire to thry what’d it
do, and Phitz! says it, and up with it up the chimbley! Faith, I’d be
in dread to give it to the child. Shure, if it done that in the fire,
what’d it do in her inside?”

“Well, you’re a greater fool than I thought you were,” said Willy,
politely.

“Maybe I am, faith,” replied Mrs. Sweeny, with a loud laugh of
enjoyment. “But if she’s for dyin’, the crayture, she’ll die aisier
without thim thrash of medicines; and if she’s for livin’, ’tisn’t
thrusting to them she’ll be. Shure, God is good--God is good----”

“Divil a betther!” interjected old Sweeny, unexpectedly.

It was the first time he had spoken, and having delivered himself of
this trenchant observation, he relapsed into silence and the smackings
at his pipe.

“Don’t mind him at all, your honour, miss,” said his daughter-in-law,
seeing my ill-concealed amusement. “Shure, he’s only a silly owld man.”

“He’s a good deal more sensible than you are,” said Willy, returning to
the subject of Honor.

The rain poured steadily down. I thought of Nugent, and could fancy his
surprise at hearing that I was not at home. It was not, I argued to
myself, so much that I was sorry to miss him, as that I hated being
rude; and it certainly was rude to have gone out on the day he had
settled to come, without even leaving a message. What an amazing gift of
the gab Willy had! Rain or no rain, it was clear that he and Mrs. Sweeny
meant to talk to one another for the rest of the afternoon.

The old man in the chimney-corner had watched me during all this time,
and muttered to himself every now and then--what, I could not
understand. We must have been sitting there for ten minutes at least,
when the two boys whom Willy had left to look for the ferret came
dripping in, with the object of their search safely housed in a bag, and
silently stationed themselves along with their brothers and sisters in
the corner by the bed.

“Is the rain nearly over?” I asked the elder.

“I dunno, miss,” he replied, bashfully rubbing the sole of his foot up
and down the shin of the other leg.

“I can tell you that,” said Willy, getting up and going to the door. “I
don’t think it looks like clearing for another quarter of an hour.”

“Then I don’t know what I can do,” I said, in unguarded consternation.

“Why,” said Willy, turning round and looking at me with his hands in his
pockets, “what’s the hurry?”

“There is no hurry exactly,” I said, feeling very small and cowardly;
“but I thought you knew--at least, I think I told you this morning, that
Mr. O’Neill said he would come over to-day.”

I wondered if this simple sentence gave any indication of the effort it
was to me to say it.

“I can’t say I remember anything about it,” Willy answered, in what I am
sure he thought a crushingly chilly voice.

“Oh yes, indeed I did tell you,” I said, getting up and following him to
the door; “but you sneezed just as I was saying it, and the voice is not
yet created that could be heard through one of your sneezes.”

I knew that he was rather proud than otherwise of his noisy sneezes, and
I laughed servilely, and looked up, hoping that he would laugh too. But
there was nothing approaching to amusement in his face. It was red and
forbidding, as he looked out into the rain that was thrashing down in
the dirty yard. He had still a good deal of hay and hayseed about his
coat and hat, and altogether I thought it was not one of his most
becoming moments.

“I don’t know if you’d like to start in that,” he said; “but if you
would, I’m quite ready to go with you.”

If I had been alone, I should probably have faced a wetting in order to
get back to the house; but now I was both too proud and too shy to
accept Willy’s offer.

“I think I shall wait a little longer,” I said, going back to my chair
by the fire.

“Himself’s afther sayin’,” said Mrs. Sweeny, as I sat down, “that he’d
think ’twas your father he was lookin’ at, an’ you sittin’ there a while
ago.”

Old Sweeny removed his pipe from his lips, and cleared his throat.

“Manny’s the time I seen the young masther sit there,” he said, in a
sort of harsh whisper, turning his bleared and filmy old eyes towards
me--“the way she”--he pointed a crooked forefinger at me--“is now,
afther he bein’ out shootin’ or the like o’ that; ‘Be domned to ye,
Sweeny, ye blagyard,’ he’d say to me, ‘dickens a shnipe is there left on
yer land with your dhraining; I’ll have ye run out of the place,’ he’d
say. That’s the very way he’d talk to me, as civil and pleasant as
yerself. Begob, ye have the very two eyes of him, an’ the grand long
nose of him!”

I acknowledged the compliment as well as I knew how, and old Sweeny went
on again, punctuating his sentences with long and noisy pulls at his
pipe.

“Faith, there was manny a wan of the Durrus tinants would rather ’twas
their own son was goin’ to Ameriky than him when he went; and manny a
wan too that’d have walked to Cork to go to his funeral. That was the
quare comin’ home that he had--to die an’ be berrid in the town o’ Cork.
I’ll niver forget that time. Shure the night he died in Cork--’twas the
night before the owld masther dyin’ too--I wasn’t in me bed, but out in
the shed with a cow that was sick. There was carridges dhriving the
Durrus avenue that night,” he said, his voice getting lower and huskier;
“I heard them goin’ the road, an’ it one o’clock in the morning! And the
big shnow comminced afther that agin.”

“What carriages were they?” I asked, with a little superstitious shiver.

The old man looked furtively round, and took his pipe out of his mouth.

“God knows!” he said mysteriously; “God knows! But they say there do be
them that wait for the Sarsfields agin they’re dyin’. There was wan that
seen the black coach and four horses goin’ wesht the road, over the bog,
the time the owld man--that’s Theodore’s father--died; and wansht,” he
went on impressively, “there was a Sarsfield out, that time the Frinch
landed beyond in Banthry Bay, and the English cot him an’ hung him; but
_those_ people took him and dhragged him through hell and through
det’th, and me mother’s father heard the black coach taking him wesht to
Myross Churchyard.”

Old Sweeny had let his pipe go out during the telling of the story, and
he left me to make what I could of it, while he poked about for a piece
of burning turf wherewith to rekindle his pipe. Willy was still standing
by the door.

“I think it’s cleared up enough for you to start now,” he said coldly,
“and if you want to get back to the house, you’d better start before it
comes on heavy again.”

“Oh, very well, if you like,” I answered, with equal indifference. “Good
afternoon, Mrs. Sweeny.”

Mrs. Sweeny was taking a bowl from the dresser, from which haven of
refuge she had driven her cat with one swing of her brawny arm. It shot
past Willy out of the door, followed by a flying white streak, which
inference rather than eyesight told me was composed of the pursuing Pat
and Jinny.

“Look at that, now!” remarked the cat’s mistress; “that overbearin’ owld
cat’d be sittin’ there, thwarting thim dogs, and she well able to run
for thim; an’ I wouldn’t begridge them to ketch her nayther. She’s a
little wandhering divil that have no call to the place.” She came
forward with the bowl in her hand. “See here, Masther Willy; here’s
eight beautiful pullet’s eggs, the first she iver laid, an’ you’ll carry
them wesht to the house for Miss Sarsfield to ate for her brekfish--mind
that, now!” She gave him a slap on the back. “Och, there’s no fear but
he’ll mind!” she said, winking at me. “He’d do more than that for
yourself, and small blame to him!”

Willy took the bowl from her without taking any notice either of the
innuendo or the slap which accompanied it, and marched out of the house
with sulky dignity.

[Illustration: text decoration]



[Illustration: text decoration]

CHAPTER XVII.

POTATO CAKES.

     “The tenacious depths of the quicksand, as is usual in such cases,
     retained their prey.”


The rain was not by any means over when we came out into the field. It
was half-past four, but, though the sun had sunk, the clouds had lifted,
and the misty orange light of the after-glow filled the air. A slim
scrap of a moon had slipped up over the hill to the eastward, and the
bats were swooping round our heads as we picked our way across the muddy
yard of the demesne farm.

“I think you’ll find the field drier than the bohireen,” said Willy, in
the same distant voice which he had last spoken; “we can get over the
wall here.”

He took my hand to help me over, but dropped it as quickly as possible,
and walked on with unnecessary haste, keeping a little in front of me.
The field was, as he had said, rather better than the lane, but my feet
sank in the soaked ground, the pace at which we were going took my
breath away, and I began to be left behind. Willy still stalked on
unrelentingly, with the enviable unpetticoated ease of mankind in wet
weather.

“I wish you wouldn’t go so fast,” I called out at last. “I can’t
possibly keep up if you go at that pace.”

He slackened at once.

“I thought you wanted to go fast,” he answered, without looking back.

“I don’t particularly care,” I said, as I struggled up alongside of
him. “I should think Mr. O’Neill must have gone home some time ago.”

Willy made no comment. I took out my handkerchief and wiped the last
raindrops from my face, feeling a good deal aggrieved by his behaviour.

“Your cap’s all wet too,” he said, looking down at me from under his
eyelids--“soaking, and so is your coat,” putting his hand on my shoulder
for a moment. “I think I ought to have carried you home in a
turf-basket. Look at this bad bit here we’ve got to go through.”

“Thank you,” I said snappishly, taking off my wet cap and shaking the
rain from it as I went, “I should rather not. I am about as wet as I can
be now. It certainly was capital weather to go out ferreting in.”

We were now at the “bad bit” of which Willy had spoken,--a broad, dark
stripe, vivid green by daylight,--across a hollow in the field, with a
gleam of water here and there in it.

“You’d much better let me carry you over this,” said Willy, stopping.

“No, thank you,” I said again, eyeing, however, with an inward tremor,
the long distances between the tussocks of grass which might serve as
stepping-stones. “You have the eggs to carry, and I have no wish to be
dropped with them into the bog.”

“Ah! nonsense now; you know there’s no fear of that,” he said, and put
his arm round me as if to lift me. “Do let me.”

“I am _not_ going to be carried,” I said, with determination. “If you’d
only let me alone, I should get over quite well.”

He did not take his arm away, and bent down over me.

“You’re always getting angry with me these times,” he said.

“No, indeed I’m not,” I answered, trying to speak pleasantly, and to
move forward at the same time.

His quick breathing was at my ear, and for one moment his lips touched
my hair; the next I was floundering with a burning face through the
deepest of the quagmire. At every step my feet sank ankle-deep; I
dragged out each in succession with an effort that nearly pulled my
boots off, and when I gained firm ground again, my feet had become
shapeless brown objects, weighed down with mud, with which my skirt was
also thickly coated. Willy had made no further effort to help me, and,
having followed me across with caution, walked silently beside me as I
hurried along, trying to ignore my uncomfortable and ignoble plight.

But one field now divided us from the road, and as I scrambled up on to
the high fence I heard wheels, and saw something moving along it away
from the Durrus gate.

“That must be Mr. O’Neill’s trap!” I cried excitedly, jumping down after
Willy, who was already in the field. “Oh, Willy, do run and stop him! I
_must_ explain----”

“There’s no earthly use in trying to catch him now,” Willy answered
morosely. “I’m not going to kill myself running after him, like a fool,
for nothing at all.”

“Very well,” I rejoined; “if you won’t go, I will.”

My indignation with Willy alone sustained me through that dreadful run.
I had to cut diagonally across the field in order to intercept Nugent.
The ground was soft and sticky; my mud-encumbered skirt clung round me;
and I should have had scant chance of catching him but for the fact that
the road, curving a little at this point, led over a steep and stony bit
of hill. I reached the wall of the field just as the horse was breaking
into a trot at the top of the hill; but, fortunately for me, the groom
at the back of the dog-cart saw the walking-stick which I feebly
brandished to attract his attention--I had no breath wherewith to
shout--and, recognizing me, called to his master to stop.

Nugent pulled up, and, turning round, took off his hat with a face of
such astonishment that I became all at once aware of the appearance
which I must present, but I came forward with a gallant attempt to
appear unconscious of my heated face and general dishevelledness.

“How are you?” I panted. “I intended to be at home. Won’t you----?”
Here my breath failed me, and I was obliged to eke out my sentence with
a gesture in the direction of Durrus.

“Oh, thanks; it doesn’t matter in the least. Don’t let me take you back
any sooner than you had intended,” replied Nugent, in a voice that told
he had been nursing his wrath to keep it warm.

“I was going home,” I said, more intelligibly. “I am very sorry, but we
were delayed by the rain.”

He got out of the dog-cart and shook hands with me across the low wall,
on the farther side of which I was standing.

“There has certainly been a pretty heavy shower,” he said, looking at me
uncertainly, but, as I thought, with a dawning amusement.

“Hasn’t there? Awful!” I said, smearing my wet hair back behind my ears,
and putting on the cap which I had clutched convulsively in my hand
during my run across the field. “We had to shelter in a cottage for ever
so long.”

“Who is we?”

I looked round for my late companion, but he was nowhere to be seen.

“Willy was with me,” I said; “but he declared that it was no use trying
to catch you, and--and I suppose he has gone home.”

Nugent said nothing, but climbed on to the wall with as much dignity as
his macintosh would permit, and helped me over it. I was very
unfortunate, I inwardly reflected; I first got wet through, and then one
cross young man after another dragged me over these horrible wet stone
walls. However, I said aloud--

“You must come back and have some tea; it is quite early still.”

He hesitated.

“Thanks, I am not sure if I shall have time; but perhaps, in any case,
you had better let me drive you home.”

The step of the dog-cart was a very high one, and as I put my foot on it
to get up, the full beauties and proportions of my boot--a shapeless
mass, resembling a brown-paper parcel--were revealed. My eyes met
Nugent’s, and we both laughed, he unwillingly, I with helpless
realization of my appearance.

“I am not fit to get into anything better than a pigstye or a
donkey-cart,” I said apologetically. “I really am ashamed of myself from
every point of view, moral and physical.”

“But what on earth have you been doing?” he asked, as we turned and
drove towards Durrus. “Have you been out snipe-shooting in the bog with
Willy?”

“No,” I answered cheerfully; “something much more vulgar.”

“It certainly does look more as if you and he had been digging potatoes,
but I did not quite like to suggest that.”

Something in his manner offended me.

“That was just it,” I said, not choosing to explain. “Willy is rather
short of farm hands just now, and I have had my first lesson in
‘sticking’ potatoes.”

“I should think you will find that a useful accomplishment in Boston.”

“Knowledge is power,” I said combatively. “Probably the next time you
see me, I shall be learning to sell pigs in the fair at Moycullen.”

“Very likely. I believe Americans--I beg your pardon, I mean people from
America--like to do a country thoroughly when they get there. I suppose
you go in for experiments as much as the others?”

“Why, certainly! I guess that’s why I came over here; I’m
experimentalizing all the time.”

“Really!” said Nugent, without appearing to notice my elaborate
Americanisms. “And is your experiment successful so far?” He looked me
full in the face as he spoke.

“Yes, so far,” I answered, with an unexplainable feeling that sincerity
was required of me, and noting inwardly the blue impenetrability of his
eyes.

He said nothing for a minute or two; then, without any apparent
connection of ideas--

“Is Willy corning home to hear us play?” he asked. “Have you taught him
to appreciate high-class music yet?”

“I don’t think he wants any teaching,” I said, with an instinctive wish
to stand up for my cousin; “he has a wonderful ear, and his taste is
really very good.”

“Really!” in an uninterested voice.

“Yes,” I said positively; “I believe he has a real talent for music, if
he had only been given a chance.”

“He did not get much of a chance at anything, I believe,” Nugent said,
in what seemed to me a patronizing way.

“No, he certainly did not. I think very few people know all the
disadvantages he has had, and I am quite sure that very few people would
have done as well as he has if they had been in his place.” This with
some warmth.

“I am sure I shouldn’t, for one,” replied Nugent, quietly taking to
himself the generality which I had thought both telling and impalpable.
“But then, I dare say---- Why, there he is!” interrupting himself, as we
turned into the avenue and came in sight of Willy, who was walking very
fast towards home.

He got out of our way without looking back, and only nodded to us as we
passed. I saw the bowl of eggs in his hand, and knew by the defiant way
in which he carried it that he was ashamed of it.

“Your fellow-labourer seems to have had a peaceful time collecting eggs
whilst you were sticking the potatoes,” said Nugent, with again the
suggestion of a sneer. “He certainly does not look as if he had done as
much hard work as you.”

“No; he has not run all the way across a field, as I did just now.”

Nugent coloured. “I deserved that,” he said, and laughed. Then, after a
moment’s pause, “And I don’t think I did deserve your taking such
trouble to stop me.”

“Of course, you may have some inner sense of unworthiness,” I answered,
mollified, “that must remain between you and your own conscience; but
it was very rude of me not to have been at home, and I did not mind the
run half so much as writing the letter of apology which I should have
felt you had a right to.”

“And which I should not have believed,” said Nugent. “It was so wet that
I should have been quite certain that you were sitting over the fire
with Willy all the time, and told Roche to send me away because you felt
as if playing violin accompaniments would be a bore.”

“Appearances would have been against me,” I admitted; “but I should have
enclosed my boots as circumstantial evidence”--advancing one
disreputable foot from beneath the rug--“and perhaps also one of the
potato-cakes which I had ordered specially for your benefit.”

A loud twanging snap from the violin-case under the seat startled us
both.

“By Jove!” exclaimed Nugent; “that is the E string, and I have not
another with me.”

“Then we can’t have any music,” I said, with unaffected dismay. “What a
pity! So I brought you back for nothing, after all.”

“Don’t say nothing,” he said; “think of the potato-cakes!”

“That may be your point of view,” I said regretfully; “but when I was
running across that field I was thinking of Corelli.”

“I had hoped,” remarked Nugent, looking sideways at me, as he pulled up
at the hall door, “that you might have had some incidental thoughts
about the way in which you had treated me.”

“I cannot argue any more until I have had my tea,” I said, getting out
of the trap, and trying to stamp some of the mud off my boots on the
steps.

“Perhaps I had better go home,” he suggested. “As Corelli is out of the
question, I suppose I shall not be wanted.”

“Just as you like.”

“But I want the potato-cake you promised me.”

“Then, I think you had better come in and get it,” I said, going into
the house. “I don’t approve of outdoor relief.”

[Illustration: text decoration]



[Illustration: text decoration]

PART II.

_THE COST OF IT._



CHAPTER I.

MRS. JACKSON-CROLY AT HOME.

    “Fate’s a fiddler, life’s a dance.”

    “O’Rorke’s noble feast will ne’er be forgot
     By those who were there, and those who were not.”


It was the day of the Jackson-Crolys’ dance, for which we had in due
course received our invitations, gorgeously printed on gilt-edged cards.
Willy and I were sitting over the library fire after tea, and had
already begun to contemplate the combined horrors of dressing for a ball
and eating a half-past six o’clock dinner, when Uncle Dominick stalked
in, with a basket in his hand, which he handed to me with a note, saying
austerely that one of the Clashmore servants had just ridden over with
it.

The note was from Connie.

“MY DEAR THEO,” it began--I had seen a good deal of the O’Neills lately,
and Connie and I had arrived at calling each other by our Christian
names--“we are sending you over some yellow chrysanthemums, as you said
you were going to wear white. Mamma will, of course, be delighted to
chaperon you, and thinks you had better come here first, and drive on in
our carriage; and we can take you home and put you up for the night, as
Willy may want to stay later than you do. Nugent is, I think, very proud
of the bouquet. He constructed it himself, and has spent the greater
part of the morning over it in the conservatory. Certainly, as far as
wire goes, it is all that can be desired; there are at least ten yards
of that in it.”

“I should have thought you might have found some flowers for your cousin
here, Willy,” remarked Uncle Dominick, while I was reading the letter to
myself.

“There’s nothing fit for any one to wear,” answered Willy, gloomily. “I
was out this morning to see, and there was nothing but a few violets.”

“I am sorry you did not pick them,” I said, with pacific intention; “I
should have been very glad to wear them. They think it would simplify
matters if I slept at Clashmore to-night,” I went on. “I think it would
be a good plan, if you don’t mind, Uncle Dominick?”

“It is entirely for you to decide, my dear,” he said coldly; “you can
make any arrangements that you like. The man is waiting for an answer.”

“Well, I _will_ sleep there,” I said, goaded to decision by his
ungracious manner.

I accordingly wrote a note to Connie to that effect, and, having sent
it, went up to dress.

With the aid of the ministrations of Maggie, the red-haired housemaid,
who had developed a deep attachment for me, I was arriving at the more
advanced stages of my toilet, when I heard a knock at my door.

“I’ve got you some violets,” said Willy’s voice, “but I’m afraid they’re
not up to much. I’ve left them outside.”

I heard him run down the passage to his own room, and, opening the door,
I saw a small bunch of violets lying on the ground. I picked them up;
there were very few of them, and they were drenched with rain. Willy
must have been all this time toilsomely searching for them with a
lantern in the dark.

“Has it been raining, Maggie?” I asked.

“‘Deed, then, it has, miss, and teeming rain this half-hour.”

So he must have gone out in the rain to pick them for me. Poor Willy!

I fastened them into the front of my dress with a sudden ache of pity,
and looked at those other flowers on my dressing-table, the feathery
golden chrysanthemums showing through a mist of maidenhair, with
something that was near being distaste. Their coming had not been
altogether a surprise to me; in fact, I had been more or less looking
out for them all day. But somehow Willy’s bunch of violets had taken
away most of my pleasure in them, and when I came downstairs I laid the
bouquet with my wraps, out of sight, on the hall table.

We hurried through our early dinner, but before we left the dining-room
I received a mysterious intimation from Roche to the effect that Mrs.
Rourke would like to see me outside.

Mrs. Rourke was the cook, and, inly marvelling what she could have to
say to me, I went out into the hall. There, to my no small surprise, I
was confronted, not only by Mrs. Rourke, but by the whole strength of
the Durrus indoor establishment. There they all were--housemaid,
dairy-maid, and kitchen-maids, with their barefooted subordinates
lurking behind them, and from them, as I appeared, a low-breathed murmur
of approval arose.

“Well, miss,” began Mrs. Rourke, in tones of solemn conviction, “ye
might thravel Ireland this night, and ye wouldn’t find yer aiqual! Of
all the young ladies ever I seen, you take the sway!”

“Glory be to God! ’tis thrue!” moaned a kitchen-maid, in awestricken
assent.

“Why, you can’t half see her there, Mrs. Rourke,” said Willy, coming out
of the dining-room; “hold on till I get a lamp.”

He came back with the tall old moderator lamp from the middle of the
dinner-table, and, holding it up, stood so that the light should fall
full on me. Seldom have I felt more foolish than I did at that moment;
but I did my best to live up to the position.

“And what I say, Masther Willy,” continued Mrs. Rourke, taking up her
parable in the manner of a prophetess, “is that I never seen a finer
pair than the two of ye, and ye do well to be proud of her! And I hope
it won’t be the last time I’ll see herself and yourself going out
through that door together--nor coming in through it nayther!”

This dark saying was received by the chorus with various devotional
expressions of satisfaction.

“Yes, Mrs. Rourke,” said my uncle’s voice from behind me, in tones of
unusual affability, “I think we have no reason to be ashamed of our
representatives.”

I was beginning to feel that I could bear this dreadful ceremonial no
longer, when, with sincere inward thanksgiving, I heard the grinding of
wheels on the gravel.

“There is the carriage,” I said, turning to Willy, who had all this time
been silently holding up the lamp; “do put down that thing, and get me
my cloak.”

My uncle himself put my wraps upon me, and stood with me in the open
doorway while Roche laid a strip of carpet down the wet steps. As I
stood waiting in the doorway, I saw a woman standing in the rain, just
outside the circle of light thrown from the carriage lamps. She pressed
forward a little as I came down the steps, and then drew quickly back
with what sounded like a sob. The momentary gleam of the carriage lights
had shown me who it was.

“Willy,” I said, as we drove away, “did you see Anstey Brian standing
there? I am almost sure she was crying. What could have been the matter
with her?”

“You must have made a mistake,” he said; “maybe it wasn’t Anstey at all.
Anyhow, if she wants to cry, there’s no need for her to go and stand out
there in the rain to do it.”

He spoke with an annoyance that puzzled me. I was quite certain that I
had seen Anstey; but, remembering that for some reason the subject of
Moll Hourihane and her daughter had always been an unfortunate one with
Willy and my uncle, I said no more.

We had been asked to the Jackson-Crolys’ for nine o’clock, but, although
it was not much more than half-past when the Clashmore carriage arrived
at Mount Prospect, several heated couples whom we encountered in the
hall were proof that the dancing had already been going on for some
time. On coming down from the cloak-room, we saw at the foot of the
stairs a small, bald-headed gentleman, moving in an agitated way from
leg to leg, and apparently engaged in alternately putting on and taking
off his gloves.

“That’s Mr. Jackson-Croly,” whispered Connie, rapidly; “he’s an _odious_
little being! Don’t dance with him if you can possibly help it. I always
tell lies to escape him; I lose less self-respect in that way than by
dancing with him.”

She had no time to say more, as Madam O’Neill had by this time advanced
upon our host with a benignity of aspect born of the consciousness of a
singularly becoming cap and generally successful toilette. For a moment
I thought he was going to make her a courtesy, so low was his reverence
on shaking hands with her.

“It was _so_ kind of you to come, Madam O’Neill,” he said, speaking
through tightly closed teeth in a small, deprecating voice; “and the
weather so unpleasant, too; yes, indeed! But we’ve quite a nice little
number of friends dancing in there already, and we’re expecting another
carful of partners for the young ladies”--with a bow to Connie and
me--“from the bank in Moycullen.”

“That will be delightful!” said Connie, with a brilliant smile, giving
me at the same time an expressive pinch.

She was looking very pretty, and was in the highest spirits, consequent,
as I soon found, on an advanced flirtation with a Captain Forster, then
staying at Clashmore. Pending his arrival, however, she condescended to
dance with Mr. Jimmy Barrett, who, his usual red-hot appearance
accentuated by the fact that he was wearing the hunt uniform, had
waylaid us in the hall, and he now carried Connie off, while I followed
the Madam and Mr. Jackson-Croly into the drawing-room. There we were
received by Mrs. Jackson-Croly, imposingly attired in ruby silk and
white lace. Unlike her obsequious spouse, Madam O’Neill’s diamonds and
acknowledged social standing had no over-aweing effect upon her, and in
her greeting to us she abated no whit of her usual magnificence of
manner.

“‘Twas too bad Miss O’Neill was from home and couldn’t come,” she
observed condescendingly. “I have lots of gentlemen looking for
partners--quite an ‘_embrasse de richesses_.’ There were so many asking
for invitations, and I didn’t like refusing. You must let me present
some of them to you, Miss Sarsfield.”

The two rooms in which the dancing was going on were brightened by the
red coats of several members of the Moycullen Hunt, and one of these was
presently captured by Mrs. Croly and introduced to me. While I was
putting his name down for a dance, the rest of our party were ushered in
by Mr. Jackson-Croly.

“The Clashmore gentlemen, Louisa, my dear,” he announced, with chastened
pride.

The O’Neill soon made his way to me.

“Well, Miss Sarsfield, what are we to have? I see the next is a polka. I
can’t manage these new-fashioned waltzes, but I flatter myself I _can_
dance a polka.”

With inward trepidation I consented, and was occupied with the usual
difficulty of refastening my pencil to my card, when card and all were
quietly taken out of my hand.

“Now, Theo, how about those dances you promised me? I’m just going to
put my name down for them”--scribbling away on my card as he spoke.

“Nonsense, Willy; give me back my card at once.”

“No fear; not till I’ve done with it. Well, this will do for a start,”
he said, at length returning me my card, black with his initials, and
departing without giving me time to remonstrate. As he went away, Nugent
came up.

“Can you give me a dance?” he asked. “I am afraid it is not very likely,
after the amount of time Willy has spent over your card. I never saw him
write so much before in his life; he looked as if he were writing a
book.”

“Oh, I think I have some left,” I said, resolving to do as I thought fit
about Willy’s dances.

“Then, may I have 6, 11, 13, and 18, if you are here; and supper?”

“I am afraid I can’t give you supper,” I said, glancing at the large “W”
scrawled through the four supper extras on my card; “but you can have
the others, I think.”

“Thanks; that is very good of you. I think the next thing to be done is
to ask Mrs. Croly for a waltz”--making a survey of the room as he spoke.
“I always do, and she always pretends to strike me with her fan, and
says, ‘I suppose you’re mistaking me for Sissie,’ and is arch. I should
watch if I were you; I am sure you would like to see her looking arch.”

I was, unfortunately, not privileged to see this phase of my hostess, as
The O’Neill had already stationed himself beside me, so as not to lose a
bar of his polka.

“Lots of people here to-night, Miss Sarsfield. You must feel as if you
were back in Boston, eh? Ah, there’s the music! Let us start while we
have plenty of room.”

He danced with the self-assertive vigour peculiar to small fat men, and
we stamped and curvetted round the room in circles so small that I found
it difficult to keep on my feet.

“That wasn’t bad,” he gasped complacently, as we staggered to a corner
and rested there, while he mopped his purple forehead. “You dance like a
fairy, Miss Sarsfield. But, upon my soul, I think they get more pace on
every year. That woman at the piano--Mrs. What’s-her-name? Whelply,
isn’t it?--why, she’s rattling away as if the devil was after her.”

Looking about me, I saw with deep amusement that Willy had selected Miss
Mimi Burke as his partner, and was charging with her through the throng
at reckless speed. Her face, blazing with heat and excitement, showed no
unworthy fears for her own safety; and as, with her chin embedded in
Willy’s shoulder, they sped past, she cast an eye of exhilarated
recognition at me.

“By Jove!” wheezed O’Neill, still breathless from his exertions; “old
Mimi’s got a wonderful kick in her gallop still. She’s getting over the
ground like a three-year-old!”

To me the appearance of my cousin and his partner was more suggestive of
a large steamer going full speed through smaller craft, Miss Mimi’s
rubicund face representing the port light; but I kept this brilliant
idea to myself.

“I hope Willy knows how to steer,” I said. “He does not take things so
easily as your son appears to do.”

Nugent was performing what was only too evidently a duty dance with one
of the Misses Jackson-Croly--a very young lady, with fuzzy hair and a
pink frock. They wound sadly along, as much as possible on the outskirts
of the darting crowd, Nugent’s expression of melancholy provoking his
more agile parent to a laugh of mingled contempt and self-complacency.

“Take things easily!” he repeated; “why, he’s a regular muff. Who’d ever
think he was a son of mine? If _I_ were dancing with a spicy little girl
like that, I wouldn’t look as if I were at my own funeral. Shall we have
another turn?” and before I had time for a counter suggestion we were
again hopping and spinning round the room.

I had no reason to complain of lack of attention on the part of my
hostess, and I and my card were soon in a state of equal confusion. The
generic name of Mrs. Jackson-Croly’s “dancing gentlemen” appeared to be
either Beamish or Barrett, and had it not been for Willy’s elucidation
of its mysteries, I should have thrown my card away in despair.

“No, not _him_. That’s _Long_ Tom Beamish! It’s _English_ Tommy you’re
to dance with next. They call him English Tommy because, when his
militia regiment was ordered to Aldershot, he said he was ‘the first of
his ancestors that was ever sent on foreign service.’”

Willy’s dances with me were, during this earlier part of the evening,
sandwiched with great regularity between those of the clans Beamish and
Barrett, and I found him to be in every way a most satisfactory partner.
He was in a state of radiant amiability, and proved himself of
inestimable value as a chronicler of interesting facts about the
company in general. He was, besides, strong and sure-footed--qualities,
as I had reason to know, not to be despised in an assemblage such as
this. I carried for several days the bruises which I received during my
waltz with English Tommy. It consisted chiefly of a series of short
rushes, of so shattering a nature that I at last ventured to suggest a
less aggressive mode of progression.

“Well,” said English Tommy, confidentially, “ye see, I’m trying to bump
Katie! That’s Katie”--pointing to a fat girl in blue. “She’s my cousin,
and we’re for ever fighting.”

There seemed at the time nothing very incongruous about this
explanation. There was a hilarious informality about the whole
entertainment that made it unlike any I had ever been at before. Every
one talked and laughed at the full pitch of their lungs. An atmosphere
of utmost intimacy pervaded the assemblage, and Christian names and
strange nicknames were bandied freely about among the groups in the
corners. The music was supplied by volunteers from the ranks of the
chaperons, at the end of each dance the musician receiving a round of
applause, varying in volume according to the energy and power of
endurance displayed. The varieties of style and time thus attained were
almost unimaginable, and were only equalled by the corresponding
vagaries of the dancers, whose trampings and shufflings and runnings
were to me as amazing as they were unexpected.

I could see Madam O’Neill sitting in state at the end of the room,
surrounded by lesser matrons, her boredom only alleviated by the acute
disfavour with which she viewed the revels.

“Do you know where Connie is, my dear?” she said, with pale asperity, as
I came up to her after a dance. “I have not seen her for the last four
dances.”

I was well aware that Connie and Captain Forster had long since
established themselves in the conservatory, but Madam O’Neill was too
full of her grievance to give me time to reply.

“I am perfectly horrified at what you must think of all this,” she went
on. “Even here I never saw such a noisy, romping set. You know, we are
quite in the backwoods here--all the _nice_ people live at the other end
of the county--and you mustn’t take these as specimens of Irish
society.”

I was spared the necessity of replying by the appearance of Nugent.

“Nugent, _where_ is Connie?” demanded the Madam again. “It is too bad of
her to make herself so remarkable in a place like this.”

“Oh, she’s all right; she’s with Forster somewhere,” he answered, with
the incaution of total indifference. “Here’s your host coming to take
you in to supper, and I advise you to avoid the sherry. This is our
dance, No. 11,” he said to me. “We had better not lose any more of it.”


                            END OF VOL. I.


             PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED,
                  LONDON AND BECCLES. _G., C. & Co._





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "An Irish Cousin; vol. 1/2" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home