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Title: An Irish Cousin; vol. 2/2
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. 2/2" ***

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produced from images available at The Internet Archive)



                           AN IRISH COUSIN.


                                  BY
                   GEILLES HERRING AND MARTIN ROSS.


                           _IN TWO VOLUMES._
                               VOL. II.


                       [Illustration: colophon]


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

                       (_All rights reserved._)



[Illustration]

CONTENTS.

PART II.

_THE COST OF IT._

(_Continued._)


CHAPTER II.

PAGE

SUPPER EXTRAS.....1

    “All night has the casement jessamine stirred
     To the dancers dancing in tune.”

                      “Must you go?
     That cousin here again? He waits outside?”


CHAPTER III.

MR. CROLY’S STUDY.....18

          “Love the gift, is love the debt.”

    “Like bitter accusation, even to death,
     Caught up the whole of love, and uttered it.”


CHAPTER IV.

MYROSS CHURCHYARD.....32

                      “O fair, large day!
    The unpractised sense brings heavings from a sea of life too broad.”

    “Such seemed the whisper at my side.
    ‘What is it thou knowest, sweet voice?’ I cried.
    ‘A hidden hope,’ the voice replied.”


CHAPTER V.

ENTER WILLY.....54

    “Oh, the little more, and how much it is!
    And the little less, and what worlds away!”

        “Love with bent brows went by,
    And with a flying finger swept my lips.”


CHAPTER VI.

THE HAND AT THE GATE.....74

    “Which do you pity the most of us three?”


CHAPTER VII.

“THIS HIDDEN TIDE OF TEARS”.....95

    “Look in my face; my name is Might-have-been.”

    “Ah me! my heart, rememberest thou that hour,
     When foolish hope made parting almost bright?
     Hadst thou not then some warning of thy doom?”


CHAPTER VIII.

PAIN.....111

    “Go from me. Yet I know that I shall stand
     Henceforward in thy shadow.”


CHAPTER IX.

GARDEN HILL.....131

    “Was this to meet? Not so; we have not met.”


PART III.

_PROFIT AND LOSS._


CHAPTER I.

A THREAT.....149

    “With morning wakes the will, and cries,
    ‘Thou shalt not be the fool of loss.’”

    “A night of mystery. Strange sounds are swept
     Through the dim air.”


CHAPTER II.

“BUT WHERE IS COUNTY GUY?”.....173

    “What shall assuage the unforgotten pain,
     And teach the unforgetful to forget?”


CHAPTER III.

“LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST”.....186

    “‘Uncover ye his face,’ she said;
    ‘Oh, changed in little space!’”

    “When Pity could no longer look on Pain.”


CHAPTER IV.

STORM.....197

    “And all talk died, as in a grove all song
     Beneath the shadow of some bird of prey;
     Then a long silence came upon the hall,
     And Modred thought, ‘The time is hard at hand.’”

    “In the shaken trees the chill stars shake.
     Hush! Heard you a horse tread as you spake,
                            Little Brother?”


CHAPTER V.

GOOD-BYE.....211

    “Since there’s no help, come, let us kiss and part.”

                              “‘Not my pain.
    My pain was nothing; oh, your poor, poor love,
    Your broken love!’”


CHAPTER VI.

A RESOLVE.....223

    “Sad is my fate; I must emigrate
    To the wilds of Amerikee.”

    “In the fresh fairness of the spring to ride,
     As in the old days when he rode with her.”


CHAPTER VII.

THROUGH THE FRENCH WINDOW.....239

    “Remorse she ne’er forsakes us;
     A bloodhound staunch, she tracks our rapid step.”

                      “A thousand fantasies
    Begin to throng into my memory,
    Of calling shapes and beckoning shadows dire.”


CHAPTER VIII.

POUL-NA-COPPAL.....258

    “The rose-winged hours that flutter in the van
     Of Love’s unquestioning, unrevealèd span--
     Visions of golden futures; or that last
     Wild pageant of the accumulated past
     That clangs and flashes for a drowning man.”

    “Wenn ich in deine Augen seh
     So schwindet all’ mein Leid und Weh.”


CHAPTER IX.

A HERITAGE OF WOE.....274

    “Love that was dead and buried, yesterday
     Out of his grave rose up before my face.”

    “Not by appointment do we meet delight and joy--
     They heed not our expectancy;
     But, at some turning in the walks of life,
     They on a sudden clasp us with a smile.”


CHAPTER X.

LEX TALIONIS.....295

    “And now Love sang; but his was such a song,
     So meshed with half-remembrance hard to free.”

[Illustration: text decoration]



[Illustration: text decoration]

AN IRISH COUSIN.



PART II.

_THE COST OF IT._

(_Continued._)



CHAPTER II.

SUPPER EXTRAS.

    “All night has the casement jessamine stirred
     To the dancers dancing in tune.”

                          “Must you go?
     That cousin here again? He waits outside?”


We were at supper. The chaperons had at length completed their
well-earned repast, and had returned, flushed and loquacious, to the
dancing-room, yielding their places to the hungry throng who had been
waiting outside the door.

The last waltz had been played by Miss Sissie Croly, in good time and
with considerable spirit, an act of coquettish self-abnegation which
elicited many tender reproaches from her forsaken partner. Making the
most of the temporary improvement in the music, Nugent and I had danced
without stopping, until a series of sensational flourishes announced
that the end of the waltz was at hand. After it was over, he had
suggested supper, and we had secured a small table at the end of the
supper-room, from which, in comparative quiet, we could view the doings
of the rest of the company. I was guiltily conscious of the large “W”
scrawled across the supper extras on my card; but a latent rebellion
against my cousin’s unauthorized appropriation conspired with a
distinct desire for food to harden my heart. I made up my mind to do
what seemed good to me about one at least of the extras, and dismissed
for the present all further thought of Willy and his possible
grievances.

I found myself possessed of an excellent appetite. Nugent’s invention as
a caterer soared above the usual chicken and jelly, and we both made
what, in the land of my birth, would be described as a “square meal.”

Meanwhile, the centre table was surrounded by what looked like a
convivial party of lunatics. Miss Burke and Dr. Kelly had set the
example of decorating themselves with the coloured paper caps contained
in the crackers, and the other guests had instantly adopted the idea.
Mob-caps, night-caps, fools’-caps, and sun-bonnets nodded in nightmare
array round the table, Miss Burke’s long red face showing to great
advantage beneath a pale-blue, tissue-paper tall hat.

“I feel I have been very remiss in not offering to pull a cracker with
you,” said Nugent, “but I am afraid they have all been used up by this
time!”

“Why did I not go in to supper with Dr. Kelly?” I said regretfully. “If
the worst came to the worst, I am sure he would have taken off his own
sun-bonnet and put it on my head!”

“Go in with him next time,” suggested Nugent. “He always goes in to
supper two or three times, and works his way each time down the table
like a mowing-machine, leaving nothing behind him. At the masonic ball
in Cork he was heard saying to his sisters, as they were going in to
supper, ‘Stuff, ye divils! there’s ice!’”

“Quite right, too,” I said, beginning upon the tipsy cake which Nugent
had looted for our private consumption. “I always make a point of
stuffing when there is ice. However, I think on the whole I have had
enough of Dr. Kelly for one evening. I have danced once with him, and I
suppose it is because he is at least a foot shorter than I am that he
makes himself about half his height when he is dancing with me. But I
think all small men do that; the taller their partner, the more they
bend their knees.”

Nugent laughed. “I have been watching you dancing with all sorts and
conditions of men, and wondering what you thought of them. I also
wondered if you would find them sufficiently amusing to induce you to
stay on till No. 18?” he said, putting his elbows on the table and
looking questioningly at me.

“Oh, I hope so--at least--of course, that depends on your mother,” I
answered.

“Should you care to stay? As in that case I think I could manage to
square my mother.”

“It would be better not to bother her about it, perhaps--of course, it
might be very pleasant to stay,” I answered confusedly.

The way in which he had asked the question had given me a strange
sensation for a moment.

“I dare say it is not any argument, but I shall be very sorry if you
go.”

I went on with the buttoning of my gloves without answering.

“For one reason, I should like you to see what it gets like towards the
end.”

Nugent’s eyes were fixed on mine across the intervening woodcock and
tipsy cake with more inquiry than seemed necessary, but as he finished
speaking a little troop of men came in together for a supplementary
supper, and I forgot everything but my own guilty conscience, as among
them I saw Willy. It was, however, evident that he had not come with any
gluttonous intent, for, after a cursory look round the room over
people’s heads, he walked out.

“Did you see Willy?” I said, in a scared whisper.

“Yes, perfectly. He was probably looking for you.”

“Oh, I know he was!” I said, beginning to gather up my fan and other
belongings. “I ought to go at once. I am engaged to him for the extras.”

“Are you afraid of Willy?” returned Nugent, without taking his elbows
off the table, or making any move.

“No, of course I’m not. But I don’t like to throw him over.”

“Oh, I see!” he said, still without moving, and regarding me with an
aggravating amusement.

“Well, _I_ am going----” I began, when a hand was laid on my arm.

“I am delighted to hear it,” said Connie’s voice, “as we want this
table. Get up, Nugent, and give me your chair. Nothing would induce me
to sit at that bear-garden”--indicating the larger table. “What do you
think I heard Miss Donovan say to that little Beamish man--English
Tommy--as I was making my way up here? ‘Now, captain, if you say that
again, I’ll pelt my plate of jelly at you!’ And I haven’t the least
doubt that at this moment his shirt-front is covered with it.”

“Oh, all right,” said Nugent, slowly getting up, “you can have this
table; we were just going. Miss Sarsfield is very anxious to find Willy.
She says she is going to dance all the extras with him.”

“Then she is rather late,” replied Connie, unconcernedly. “Captain
Forster, go _at once_ and get me some game-pie. Don’t tell me there’s
none; I couldn’t bear it. Well, my dear,” she continued, “perhaps you
are not aware that the extras are all over, and No. 12 is going on now?”

“Have you seen Willy anywhere?” I asked, feeling rather than seeing the
sisterly eye of facetious insinuation that Connie directed at her
brother. “I am engaged to him for No. 12.”

“At this moment he is dancing with Miss Dennehy,” answered Connie, “but
I know he has been looking for you. He has prowled in and out of the
conservatory twenty times.”

“He was in here too,” said Nugent; “and I think he saw you,” he added,
as we walked into the hall. “What would you like to do now? Willy has
evidently thrown you over, and I expect my partner has consoled herself.
I think the safest plan is to hide somewhere till this is over, and, as
13 is ours, we can then emerge, and dance it with blameless composure.”

The doors of the conservatory at the end of the hall stood invitingly
open, and a cool, fragrant waft of perfume came through them. Without
further deliberation, we mutely accepted their invitation, and finding,
by the dim, parti-coloured light of Chinese lanterns, that two armchairs
had been placed at the further end, we immediately took possession of
them.

“Occasionally rest is vouchsafed even to the wicked,” said Nugent,
leaning back, and picking up my fan, which I had laid on the floor, and
beginning lazily to examine it. “Looking at a ball in the abstract, I
think it involves great weariness and vexation of spirit. Out of
twenty-four dances, there are at most four or five that one really looks
forward to. You _are_ going to stay for No. 18, you know,” he added
quietly. “I shall settle that with the Madam.”

“Give me my fan, please,” I said, taking no notice of this assertion. “I
can see you know just the right way to break it.”

He sat up, and, instead of returning it, began slowly to fan me. There
was a brief silence. The rain pattered down on the glass overhead. We
could just hear the music, and the measured stamping of the dancers’
feet.

“Do you know,” he said suddenly, “you are curiously different from what
I expected you to be.”

“Why? Had you formed any definite idea about me?”

“Not in the least. That was what threw me so out of my reckoning. I
thought I knew pretty well, in a general way, what you were going to be
like; but somehow you have made me reconstruct all my notions.”

“If you had only told me in time, I should have tried to be less
inconsiderate. It is so painful to have to give up one’s ideas.”

“I did not find it so,” he said seriously; “on the contrary. I
wonder”--continuing to flap my big black fan to and fro--“if you ever
had a kind of latent ideal--a sort of thing which seems so impossible
that you never try to form any very concrete theory about it? I suppose
it very seldom happens to a man to find that an idea he has only dreamt
about is a real thing after all. Can you imagine what an effect it would
have upon him when he found that he had unexpectedly met his--well, his
ideal?”

He folded up the fan, and looked down at me, waiting for an answer.

“I should imagine he would think himself very clever,” I said, feeling
rather nervous.

“No, not clever, I don’t think, so much as fortunate; that is to
say”--he drew a short breath--“of course the ideal may have ideas of
her--of its own that the man can’t live up to--independent schemes, in
fact; and then--why, then that chap gets left, you know,” he ended, with
a change of tone.

As he finished speaking, the far-off banging of the piano ceased. I did
not know how to reply to what he had said, and his way of saying it had
made me feel so shy and bewildered that I sat awkwardly silent until the
dancers came crowding into the conservatory, all in turn exhibiting the
same resentful surprise, as they found the only two chairs occupied.
Willy was not among them, nor did I see him during the ensuing dance,
and, as his late partner was in the room, I could only conclude that he
was sitting out by himself. I began to feel uncomfortable about him, and
half dreaded meeting him again. The dance seemed interminably long. I
kept my eyes fixed on the door to see if he were among the string of
black and red-coated men who wandered partnerless in and out, but could
see no sign of him. I have no doubt that under these circumstances I was
a very uninteresting companion; Nugent was also silent and preoccupied,
and I think we were both glad when the dance was over.

“It is very strange that I do not see Willy anywhere,” I said, as we
came out into the hall again.

“Who? Oh! Willy,” he said. “Are you still looking for him? Is not that
he coming out of the supper-room?”

It _was_ Willy. I dropped Nugent’s arm.

“You will excuse me, won’t you?” I said hurriedly. “I want to explain to
him----”

By this time Willy had met us, and looked as if he were going to pass me
by.

“Do you know that this is our dance?” I said, stopping him. “You are not
going to throw me over again, are you?” My heart beat rather fast as I
made this feeble endeavour to carry the war into the enemy’s country. He
was looking grey and ill, and I did not think that his pleasant, boyish
face could have taken on such an expression of gloomy coldness.

“Really? Is it? I did not know that I was to have the honour of dancing
with you again,” he responded, with a boyish attempt at frigid dignity.

“Of course it is,” I said cheerily, though I felt rather alarmed. “Look
at it in black and white.”

Willy did not look at the card which I held towards him.

“It doesn’t appear that my name being written there makes much
difference,” he answered, making a movement as if to pass on.

“Oh, Willy, that isn’t fair! You know I danced ever so often with you
before supper, and afterwards I was looking for you everywhere; was I
not, Mr. O’Neill?”--turning for corroboration to Nugent. He, however,
had left me to fight my own battles, and was at a little distance, deep
in conversation with Mr. Dennehy. I saw that, whether verified or not,
my explanations had but little effect upon Willy, and I boldly assumed
the offensive. “You know, I never said that I was going to give you all
those dances that you took.”

“Of course you were at perfect liberty to do what you liked about them,”
returned Willy, without looking at me.

“Don’t be absurd! You know quite well what I mean, and if you had wanted
to dance with me you might very easily have found me. I was only in the
supper-room.”

He said nothing, and just then we heard the first few notes of the next
waltz.

“You _will_ dance this with me, will not you?” I said, thoroughly
unhappy at the turn things were taking. “I am very sorry. I did not
think you would mind. Don’t be angry with me, Willy,” I ended
impulsively, putting my hand into his arm.

He looked at me almost wildly for a moment; and then, without a word, we
joined the stream of dancers who were returning to the ball-room.



[Illustration: text decoration]

CHAPTER III.

MR. CROLY’S STUDY.

          “Love the gift, is love the debt.”

    “Like bitter accusation, even to death,
     Caught up the whole of love, and uttered it.”


Mrs. Jackson-Croly’s party had reached its climax of success.

“The supper’s put great heart into them,” little Dr. Kelly remarked
confidentially to Willy, as he passed us, leading a stout elderly matron
forth to the dance. The chaperons, with but few exceptions, had
abandoned the hard chairs and narrow sofas on which they had hitherto
huddled in chilly discomfort, and were, again to quote Dr. Kelly,
“footing it with the best of them.”

Mrs. Croly herself was playing “Sweethearts,” and by way, as I suppose,
of receiving this favour with proper enthusiasm, the guests, as they
danced, sang the words of the refrain--

    “Oh, lo--_ove_ for a year,
     A we--_eek_, a day,”

as often as it recurred, Mrs. Croly from the piano lending her powerful
aid to swell the chorus. Madam O’Neill was sitting alone upon her sofa,
and had closed her eyes during this later development of the
entertainment, whether in real or simulated slumber I did not know; but
an expressive glance from Connie, whom, to my surprise, I saw circling
in the arms of our host, told me that the latter was more probably the
case. The O’Neill I had lately espied sitting in an armchair on the
landing of the stairs with a very pretty young lady, the instructress
of the younger Misses Jackson-Croly. He, at all events, was enjoying
himself, and as far as he was concerned I felt none of the qualms of
conscience at the lateness of the hour which assailed me at sight of my
chaperon’s tired face.

Willy had not spoken since we had begun to dance, but I thought it best
to behave as if nothing were the matter.

“This is the most amusing dance I ever was at in my life,” I said, in
the first pause that we made.

“I don’t see much difference between it and any other.”

“I do not mean to say that I have not enjoyed myself,” I said, anxious
to avoid any semblance of superiority, “but you must admit that one does
not usually meet people who are able to sing and dance a waltz at the
same time.”

At this point there came a sudden thud on the floor, followed by a
slight commotion.

“Hullo! Croly’s let Connie down!” exclaimed Willy, forgetting for an
instant his offended dignity.

I was just in time to catch between the dancers a glimpse of Connie
struggling, hot and angry, to her feet, while her partner lay prone on
his back on the floor. The catastrophe had taken place just in front of
Madam O’Neill, whose eyes, now wide open, were bent in a gaze of
petrified indignation on Mr. Jackson-Croly. Nugent had not been dancing,
and, on seeing Connie fall, had gone round to pick her up, and now made
his way towards me.

“Did you see them come down?” he said. “Croly hung on to Connie like a
drowning man to a straw, and Connie, not being exactly a straw, nearly
drove his head into the floor. She won’t speak to him now, which is
rather hard luck, considering she all but killed him. Was I not right in
advising you to stay on till the end?”

Exceeding laughter had deprived me of all power of speech, but, in any
case, Willy did not give me time to reply.

“Come out of this,” he said roughly; “I’m sick of it.” He gave me his
arm as he spoke, and elbowed his way past Nugent out of the room. He
walked without speaking through the hall towards the conservatory, but
stopped short at the door. “It’s full of people in there. Croly’s
study’s the only place where you’ve a chance of being let alone,” he
said, turning down a passage, and leading the way into a dreary little
room, lighted by a smoky paraffin-lamp, and pervaded by the odour of
whiskey. On the inky table, two or three tumblers with spoons in them,
and a bottle and decanter, were standing in shining patches of spilt
whiskey and water. A few office chairs were drawn up in front of the
remains of a smouldering turf fire. Long files of bills hung beside an
old coat on some pegs, and Mr. Croly’s cloth slippers showed modestly
from under a small horse-hair sofa. A more untempting place to sit in
could not well be imagined; but Willy did not seem to notice its
discomforts. He sat down on one of the chairs, and began aimlessly to
poke the fire; while I, gingerly drawing my skirts together, established
myself on the sofa.

“I can’t say I think this is an improvement on the conservatory,” I said
at length, seeing that Willy did not seem inclined to talk. “When did
you discover it?”

He threw down the poker, and, standing up, began to examine a specimen
of ore that lay on the chimney-piece.

“If you want to know particularly,” he said, in a hard and would-be
indifferent voice, “I came and sat in here by myself while those extras
were going on.”

“That wasn’t a very cheerful thing to do.”

“Well, I didn’t feel very cheerful,” he answered, still with his back to
me, and beginning to scrape the marble mantelshelf with the piece of ore
which he held in his hand.

“Some one appears to have found a certain solace here,” I said, looking
at the whiskey and water. “I am sure poor Mr. Croly has crept in from
time to time, and put on his old coat and slippers, and tried to forget
that there was a dance going on in his house.”

No answer from Willy.

“Then perhaps it was _you_,” I continued, with ill-assumed levity. “I am
sorry to think that you have taken to such evil courses.”

He went on hammering at the chimney-piece without replying.

“It’s very rude of you not to answer; and you are ruining Mr. Croly’s
mantelpiece.”

He put down the piece of ore suddenly, and, leaving the fireplace, came
and stood over me.

“Theo!” he said, in a breathless sort of way, and stopped. I looked up
at him with quick alarm, and saw that he was trying to get mastery
enough over himself to speak. “Don’t look at me like that,” he said,
almost in a whisper. “I’m nearly mad as it is. I can’t bear it any
longer; I must say it.”

“Don’t, Willy,” I said; “please don’t. It would be better for us both if
you didn’t.”

“I don’t care,” he said, kneeling down beside me, and taking hold of
both my hands. “You’ve got to listen to me now. You needn’t think that I
don’t know I haven’t a chance. I’ve seen that plain enough to-night, if
I didn’t know it before. Oh, I know, Theo; I know very well,” he ended
brokenly.

I could find nothing to say. I liked him so much that I could not bring
myself to frame the bitter truth which he would have to hear. I suppose
my silence encouraged him, for in the same breathless, abrupt way he
went on.

“I know I’m an ignorant brute; but if you would only just try me. Oh,
Theo, if you could only know! I’m such a fool I can’t get hold of the
right words to tell you, but you might believe me all the same. Indeed I
do love you--I love you,” he repeated, with a sort of sob, gathering
both my hands into one of his and kissing them passionately.

“Willy,” I said despairingly, trying to free my hands from his grasp,
“you must stop; you make me miserable. I can’t bear to hear you talk
like that. You know how much I like you and respect you, and everything.
I am fonder of you than any one I know almost, but not in that way.”

“But if you were fond of me at all, I wouldn’t mind how little you liked
me at first, if you’d let me care for you. Maybe, it would come to you
afterwards; and you know the governor would like it awfully,” said the
poor boy, lifting his white face, and gazing at me with desperate eyes.

“It’s no use, Willy; I can’t let you say any more about it. I’m not
worth your caring for me like that,” I said unsteadily.

His hands relaxed their grasp, and, drawing mine away, I stood up. He
got up also, and stood facing me in the smoky light of the lamp. He
leaned his hand on the table beside him, and a little ringing of the
spoons and glasses told me how it trembled. When he next spoke, however,
his voice was firmer.

“That’s no answer. You’re worth more to me than everything in the world.
If it was only _that_”--with a shaky laugh--“but I know that’s not your
reason. Look here--will you tell me one thing?”--coming closer, and
staring hard at me. “Is it another fellow? Is it--is it Nugent?”

“It is nothing of the kind,” I said angrily, but at the same time
flushing hotly under his scrutiny. “You have no right to say such
things. If I had never seen him, I should feel just the same towards
you.”

I turned to take my bouquet from the sofa with the intention of leaving
the room, but before I could do so, Willy snatched it up, and, taking a
stride forward, he flung the flowers into the fire, and crushed them
with his foot into the burning embers.

“How dare you, Willy!” I said, thoroughly roused. “What right had you to
do that?”

“And what right have _you_ to say you don’t care for him, when you carry
his cursed flowers in your hand? I see how the land lies well enough.
I’ve been made a fool of all through!”

“You have not been made a fool of,” I said, with equal energy. “It is
cruel of you to say that.”

“Cruel? It comes well from you to say that! I dare say you think it
doesn’t matter much; but maybe some day, when I’ve gone to the devil,
you’ll be sorry.”

He walked to the door, as if to go.

“I _am_ sorry, Willy,” I said, the tears rushing to my eyes. “Don’t go
away like that. Oh, why did I ever come to Durrus?”

He stood irresolute for a moment, with the handle of the door in his
hand, looking at me as if in a daze. Then, with an inarticulate
exclamation, he came back to where I was standing, and, before I had
time to stop him, took me in his arms. I was too much unstrung and
exhausted by what had gone before to resist, and I stood in a kind of
horror of passive endurance while he kissed me over and over again. He
let me go at last.

“It’s no use,” he said, in a choked voice, which sounded almost like a
groan; “it’s no use. My God! I can’t bear it!” His eye fell on the bunch
of violets in my dress. “Give them to me,” he said.

I silently took out of my dress the bunch he had given me, and handed
them, all limp and faded, to him. He took them without looking at me,
and, turning his back to me, walked to the chimney-piece. He leaned both
his arms upon the narrow shelf, and laid his head upon them.

When I left the room, he was still standing motionless in the same
position.

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CHAPTER IV.

MYROSS CHURCHYARD.

                    “O fair, large day!
     The unpractised sense brings heavings from a sea of life too broad.”

    “Such seemed the whisper at my side.
    ‘What is it thou knowest, sweet voice?’ I cried.
    ‘A hidden hope,’ the voice replied.”


The old graveyard on the promontory was at most times the forlornest and
least frequented spot about Durrus. The dead people who lay in crowded
slumber within the narrow limits of the grey, briar-covered walls seldom
heard any disturbing human voice to remind them of the life they had
left. Their solitude was ensured to them by the greater solitude of the
sea, which on three sides surrounded them, and by the dreary strip of
worn-out turf bog which formed their only link with the rest of the
world. There was nothing to mark for them the passing of time, except
the creeping of the shadow thrown dial-wise by the gable of the
broken-down chapel, or the ever-increasing moaning in the caves beneath,
which told of the yearly encroachments of the sea.

Between the verge of the cliff and the wall of the graveyard was only a
little space, along which the sheep had worn themselves a track among
the thickly lying shells and _débris_, flung up by the waves during
autumn storms. I had wandered round this narrow path, holding with a
careful hand to the wall as I went; and now had clambered on to it, and,
with Pat seated in my lap and Jinny on the tail of my gown, I was
watching the quick dives and casual reappearances of the slim black
cormorants in the sunlit water beneath me. The murmur of the sea,
lightly lipping the rocks, and an occasional bleat from the sheep in the
graveyard behind me, were the only definite sounds I heard, and the soft
wind that rustled in my ears in little gusts seemed the expression of
the pervading stillness.

This delicate breezy morning was the first of the new year. Yesterday’s
sunset had been a wild one; it had gleamed angrily and fitfully before
me through packs of jagged cloud while I drove home from Clashmore, and
my heart had sunk low as I watched the outlines of Durrus growing darker
against it. But that was already a thing of last year. The long
uneventful darkness had made everything new, and on this first of
January the sunshine was lying purely and dreamily on sea and bog, and
was even giving something like warmth to the head-stones, whose worn
“Anno Dominis” were since yesterday more remote by a year.

It was a desire for this freedom and freshness which had driven me out
of the house on this, the second morning after the dance at Mount
Prospect. When I came back to Durrus the evening before, I had found the
house empty and desolate. Willy was not there; he had gone to Cork,
Uncle Dominick had told me, looking at me, as he spoke, with a
questioning glance that showed me his anxiety to know if I could account
for this unexpected move.

All the morning at Clashmore, the thought of the inevitable meeting with
Willy had hung over me. It had made me absent during a lesson at
billiards, and stupid in a violin accompaniment; and, combining with
the guilt which I felt at enjoying myself, as, in spite of what had
happened, I could not help doing, it had made me unnecessarily and
awkwardly determined in refusing several invitations to stay on. As I
sat beside Nugent in the dog-cart on the way home, and felt that every
step of the horse was bringing me nearer to Willy, I had become silent
in the attempt to nerve myself for the dreaded first few minutes. If I
could struggle through them creditably, things might not afterwards be
so bad. I think Nugent must have seen that something was troubling me.
Having told me that he was afraid I was very much done up by the dance,
he had considerately left me to myself, and scarcely spoke until we were
at the Durrus hall door--an act of thoughtfulness for which I could
almost have thanked him. He refused my invitation to come in to tea--an
invitation so faintly given that he could hardly have accepted it--but
asked if he might come over some other afternoon, perhaps the day after
to-morrow, and with an excuse for not coming in, which he had obviously
fabricated to help me out of the difficulty, he had driven away.

My first question to Roche as the hall door closed behind me, was to
know where Willy was. He was away; he had gone to Cork the day after the
dance, and it was uncertain when he would be at home. Then, I might have
stayed at Clashmore after all--that, I am afraid, was my first thought;
and then came the feeling of blank collapse, the blending of relief and
disappointment, which is the usual result of needless mental strain. I
had for an instant an insane desire to run down the avenue after the
dog-cart, and say that I would go back to Clashmore; that there was no
reason now---- I laughed drearily to myself as I took off my wraps. What
would Nugent have said when I had overtaken him with such an excuse? It
amused me to think of it; but yet, I thought, I should have liked to
have known.

The restlessness of over-fatigue and excitement was upon me. I did not
know how to endure the long dull dinner, and the solitary evening which
followed it. I tried to play the piano, but the tunes of the waltzes of
the night before still rang in my ears, and the unresponsive silence of
the room as I ceased was too daunting to be faced a second time. Between
my eyes and the columns of the newspaper came a vision of Mr. Croly’s
dark little room, and my tired brain kept continually framing sentences
which might have averted all that had taken place there. I could not
even think connectedly, and finally went to bed, as lonely and miserable
as I have ever felt in my life.

In the morning my thoughts had confusedly shaped themselves into one
problem. Would it be possible to go on staying at Durrus? Half the
morning had slipped away, and I had still found no answer to the
question. My head ached, and I felt I could come to no decision until I
was, for the present at least, out of the depressing atmosphere of the
house.

I put the perplexing subject away from me in my half-hour’s walk across
the bog, and thought of the dogs, the seagulls, the patches of white
cloud and blue sky that seemed so out of place reflected in the black
pools by the side of the road--of anything, in fact, rather than the
difficulty which was troubling me. I thought that when I got to the
edge of the cliffs, with nothing but the open sea before me, I should be
able to take a steadier view of the whole position.

But I had been sitting in perfect tranquillity for half an hour, and yet
no inspiration had been brought to me on the breath of the west wind
that was coming softly over the sea from America. “I suppose I ought to
go back to Aunt Jane,” was my last, as it had been my first, thought;
“but it will be very hard to have to leave Ireland. Besides, if I go
away now, Willy will think that I am going out of kindness to him, and I
could not bear that.”

Here Pat, who had found the distant observation of the cormorants a very
tantalizing amusement, looked up in my face with a whimpering sigh, and
curled himself up with his head on my arm and his back to the sea. As I
stooped over and kissed his little white and tan head, a crowd of
insistent memories rushed into my mind. In every one Willy’s was the
leading figure; his look, his laugh, his voice pervaded them all, but
with a new meaning that made pathos of the pleasantest of them. I
wondered, with perhaps a little insincerity, why I had not liked him as
well as he liked me. He had said that, if I were to try, I might some
day; but though I should have been glad for his sake to believe it,
every feeling in me rose in sudden revolt at the idea with a violence
that astonished myself. “We shall never have any good times again,” I
thought. “I suppose he is miserable now, and it is all my fault. Oh,
Willy! I never meant to be unkind to you.” I ended, almost aloud, and
the bright reaches of sea quivered and dazzled in my eyes as the
painful tears gathered and fell.

I have always found that tears rather intensify a trouble than lessen
it, and they now gave such keen reality to what I was feeling that I
could bear the pressure of my thoughts no longer. I got up quickly to go
home, and as I turned I saw a string of three or four boats heading for
the little strand at the foot of the cliff, just below where I was
standing. They were the cumbrous rowing-boats generally used for
carrying turf, and came heavily on through the bright restless water,
loaded, as well as I could see, with men and women.

The pounding and creaking of the clumsy oars in the rowlocks grew
louder; I was soon able to make out that the long dark object, round
which several figures were clustered in the leading boat, was a coffin,
and I now remembered Willy’s having told me that this little cove was
called “Tra-na-morruf,” the strand of the dead, from the fact that it
was the landing-place for such funerals as came by boat to the old
burying-place. The people were quite silent as the boats slowly advanced
to the shore; but directly the keel of the first touched on the shingle,
the women in the others raised a sustained, penetrating wail, which
vibrated in the sunny air, and made me shiver in involuntary sympathy.

I thought I had never heard so terrible a cry. I had often been told of
the Irish custom of “keening” at funerals, but I was not prepared for
anything so barbaric and so despairing. It broke out with increasing
volume and intensity while the coffin was being lifted from the boat and
was toilfully carried up the steep path in the cliff, the women clapping
their hands and beating their breasts, their chant rising and swelling
like the howl of the wind on a wild night. The small procession halted
at the top of the cliff, and another set of bearers took the coffin, and
carried it with staggering steps across the irregular mounds of the
graveyard, to where, behind the ruined chapel, I now noticed, for the
first time, an open grave. The dark crowd closed in round it, and, after
a few stifled sobs and exclamations, I heard nothing but the shovelling
of the earth upon the coffin.

It was soon over. The throng of heavily cloaked women and frieze-coated
men opened out, and I saw the long mound of brown earth, with a couple
of women and a man kneeling beside it. The rest, for the most part, made
their way down the cliff to the strand, from which a clatter of
conversation soon ascended. About half a dozen of the women, however,
remained behind; each sought out some special grave, and, kneeling
there, began to tell her beads and pray with seemingly deep devotion.

I moved away from where I had been standing, with the intention of going
home, but stopped at the gateway to look again at the effect of the
black figures dotted about among the grey stones, with their background
of pale blue sky. Near the gate was the ugly squat mausoleum in which
lay many generations of Sarsfields, and as I passed through the gate I
saw, kneeling at the farther side of it, a mourner dressed like the
others in a hooded blue cloak. She was clapping her hands and beating
her breast as if keening, but she made no sound. A country woman at this
moment passed me, curtseying as she did so, and, feeling a natural
curiosity to know who had taken upon herself the office of bewailing my
ancestors, I said--

“Can you tell me who that woman at the Sarsfield tomb is?”

“Faith, then, I can, your honour, miss! But sure yourself should know
her as well as me. ’Tis Moll Hourihane, that lives below at the lodge of
the big house.”

“Oh yes, of course, so it is,” I said, recognizing her as I spoke; “but
what has she come here for?”

“Throth, I dunno, miss. But there’s never a buryin’ here that she’s not
at it, and that’s the spot where she’ll always post herself. Sure she’s
idiotty-like; she thinks she’s keening there, and the divil a screech
out of her, good or bad, all the time.”

My informant gave a short laugh. She was a tall, handsome woman, with a
strong Spanish type of face and daring black eyes, and she had a grimly
humorous manner which interested and amused me.

“Why does she pick out the Durrus tomb?” I asked, as much to continue
the conversation as for any other reason.

“Glory be to God, miss! How would I know?”--darting at me, however, a
look of extreme intelligence, combined with speculation as to the extent
of my ignorance. “‘Twas she laid out the owld masther afther he dying,
whativer--yis, an’ young Mrs. Dominick too. Though, fegs! the sayin’ is,
she cried more for her whin she was alive than whin she was dead.”

We were walking slowly along the uneven bog road towards Durrus, my
companion trudging sociably beside me, with her hood thrown back from
her coarse black hair.

“What do you mean?” I said, hoping to hear at last something of the
origin of Moll’s madness.

“There’s many a wan would cry if they got the turn out,” she responded
oracularly.

“Why, what was she turned out of?” I asked.

“Out of the big house, sure! ’Twas there she was till the young
misthriss came.”

“I suppose she was a servant there?”

She gave a loud laugh. “Och! ’twasn’t thrusting to being a servant at
all she was! Mr. Dominick got her wan time to tend the owld masther that
was sick three years before he died, and the like o’ that; and ’twas
there she stayed till Mr. Dominick got marri’d, and then, faith, she had
to quit.”

I was rather puzzled.

“I suppose Mrs. Sarsfield liked to choose her servants for herself.”

The woman gave a derisive snort. “It ’ud be a quare thing if she’d
choose _her_ whatever!” she said. “Annyway, she never came next or nigh
the house till after Mrs. Dominick dyin’, and thin she was took back to
mind the owld masther and Masther Willy.”

“But I thought she was weak in her head?”

“Och! the divil a fear! She was as cute as a pet fox till the winther
the owld masther died; but whativer came agin her thin I don’t rightly
know. ’Twas about the time she marri’d owld Michael Brian it began with
her. She looked cliver enough; but the spaych mostly wint from her, and
she was a year that way.” Here she looked behind her, and crossed
herself with a start. “The saints be about us!” she exclaimed, in a
whisper; “look at herself follying us!”

I also turned, and saw Moll Hourihane close behind. She was walking on
the strip of grass by the side of the road, and, without looking at us,
she passed by, moving with a sliding shuffle, which I can only compare
to the rolling action of an elephant. She shambled along in front of us
until she came near the gate in the Durrus avenue, when, turning aside
into the bog, she made her way across it to a large black pit filled
with water, apparently one of the many deep holes from which turf had
once been dug. Having wandered once or twice round its shelving, ragged
edges--perilously near them, it seemed to me--she knelt down at its
verge, and, folding her hands on her breast, as she had done on the
first night I had seen her, she remained there without moving.

“Look at her now,” said my companion, superstitiously, “saying her
prayers there down by Poul-na-coppal, as if ’twas before the althar she
was. Faith, whin she had her sinses she wasn’t so great at her
prayers!”

“I don’t think it is very safe to let her go to a place like that,” I
said. “I suppose that hole is deep enough to drown her.”

“Is it Poul-na-coppal? Shure, it’s the greatest shwallow-hole in the
country! Shure, wasn’t it there a fine young horse fell down in it wan
time, and they niver seen the sight of him agin? There’s no bottom in
it, only mud. Throth, if she got in there, she’d be bound to stay there;
and ’twould be a good job too--God forgive me for sayin’ such a thing!”

“Don’t you think we ought to try and get her away from there?” I said,
still watching Moll with a kind of fascination, as she rocked herself to
and fro close to the edge.

“Wisha, thin, I’d be in dhread to near her at all. Shure, there’s times
when she wouldn’t be said nor led by her own daughther.”

“It was after Anstey was born that she went completely out of her mind,
was it not?” I said, as we walked on.

“Well, ’twas thin the sinse left her entirely, miss; but she wasn’t all
out right in her head, as I’m tellin’ ye, for a year before that. There
was a big snow came afther the little gerr’l was born, and they say,
whin she seen that she let one bawl out of her, and niver spoke a word
afther.”

We had by this time come to the little gate that led out of the bog.

“Good evening to your honour, miss. May the Lord comfort your honour
long, and that I may niver die till I see you well married; for you’re a
fine young lady, God bless you!”--with which comprehensive benediction,
Mary Minnahane, as I afterwards found was her name, tramped off down
the avenue.

I felt lonelier for the cessation of her rough, vigorous voice; and,
turning, I leaned on the gate, and looked back over the sunshiny
bleakness of the bog. It looked now very much as it had looked on the
day when I had gone out to see Willy put Alaska through her paces, and
as the fragrant wind brought the sea murmurs to me, I almost cheated
myself into the belief that this was still that brilliant October
afternoon, and that Willy was now riding down to meet me at the lodge.

My eyes fell on the solitary figure at the bog hole. It recalled in a
moment the funeral, the graveyard, my futile tears, and all that had led
to them. I turned towards home with the same feeling of uncertainty and
dejection with which I had set out.



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CHAPTER V.

ENTER WILLY.

    “Oh, the little more, and how much it is!
     And the little less, and what worlds away!”

      “Love with bent brows went by,
    And with a flying finger swept my lips.”


“No news from Willy? I thought _you_ would have been sure to have heard
from him.”

“No, Uncle Dominick; he never even told me he was going,” I replied,
with a full consciousness of the emphasis laid on the “you.”

“Really! How very strange! I thought Master Willy seldom did anything
nowadays without consulting a certain young lady.”

I went on with my lunch without speaking. These pleasantries on my
uncle’s part were not uncommon, and, as there was no mistaking whither
they all tended, I hated and dreaded them more every day. In this
particular instance, I believed I saw very plainly a real anxiety to
find out the state of affairs between Willy and me, and I thought it
best to hold my tongue. My silence did not discourage Uncle Dominick.

“I forgot to tell you last night that I met Miss Burke yesterday,” he
said. “She gave me a great deal of news about the ball, and told me that
every one said that you and Willy were ‘the handsomest couple in the
room.’ I told her that as far as one of you was concerned I could well
believe it; and, indeed, Willy is not such a bad-looking fellow, after
all, eh?”

“I think Miss Burke herself and Willy were a much more striking pair,” I
answered, evading the question, and anxious to show him that I disliked
the way in which I was for ever bracketed with Willy. “Oh, by the way,
Uncle Dominick,” I went on, regardless of a conviction that I was saying
the wrong thing, “I heard from Mr. O’Neill this morning. He says that he
is coming over here this afternoon, to fetch some music which he left
here the other day.”

Uncle Dominick gave me a sharp look from under his bushy eyebrows. It
was one of those unguarded glances which, for the moment, strip the face
of all conventional disguises, and lay bare all that is hidden of
suspicion and surmise. I noticed suddenly how bloodshot his eyes were,
and how very pale he was looking. There was dead silence. By way of
appearing unconscious and indifferent, I took out of my pocket Nugent’s
letter, and began to read it; but I felt in every fibre that my uncle
was watching me, and a maddening blush slowly mounted to my forehead,
and spread itself even to the tips of my ears. Uncle Dominick cleared
his throat with ominous severity, and pushed back his chair from the
table.

“At what hour do you expect Mr. O’Neill?”

If he had asked me at what time in the afternoon I contemplated
committing a burglary, he could not have spoken with a more concentrated
disapproval.

“I have not the least idea,” I said, getting up with as much dignity as
I could muster. “I suppose about the time people usually come.”

“H’m! I suppose one cannot expect young ladies to be very lucid in
their statements about such matters,” he replied, with a singularly
unpleasant smile.

“I suppose not,” I retorted obstinately.

“Well, I suppose one must only expect him when he comes,” said my uncle,
with a return of suavity, as distasteful to me as his former manner. I
called the dogs away from their assiduous polishing of the plates on
which they had had their dinners, and left him to finish his wine alone.

“How detestable he can be when he likes!” I thought, seating myself
before the drawing-room fire. “I wonder why he dislikes Nugent so much?
I don’t suppose it can be on account of Willy; after all, there is
really no reason for that.” My cheeks were still hot, and I put my hands
over them, looking through my fingers into the fire. “If Uncle Dominick
is going to make himself unpleasant in this kind of way, I shall have to
go back to America, no matter what Willy thinks about it.”

My ideas as to leaving Durrus were still as hazy as they had been
yesterday morning at the old graveyard, and this was a fresh
complication. I had, however, made up my mind on one point--until I saw
Willy again, I would settle nothing. That was at least definite; and so
was the fact which at this moment occurred to me--that I should break
down in one of the more difficult of the violin accompaniments if I did
not practise it before Nugent came. I gave the fire an impatient poke,
and, mentally throwing my reflections into it, went over to the piano.

I had said to my uncle that I supposed Nugent would come at the usual
time, but I was forced to the conclusion that his views on the subject
differed from those of most people. Teatime came, and, after waiting
till the tea was becoming bitter, and the buttered toast half congealed,
I partook of it in solitude. I began to wonder if it were possible that
he could have made a mistake about the day, and again taking out his
letter, I read it over. The clear, forcible handwriting was not that of
a person who made mistakes, and it set forth plainly the fact that on
this afternoon the writer intended to come and see me, and would come as
early as he could. The sprawling minute-hand of the ormolu clock was now
well on its way towards half-past five; something must have happened to
prevent him from coming, unless, indeed, he had forgotten all about it.
I did not think it likely that he would forget, but the possibility was
not a pleasant one. I sat in the cheery light of the fire until the
minute-hand had passed the illegibly ornamental figure which marked the
half-hour, and, feeling a good deal more disappointed and put out than I
cared to own to myself, I was going to ring for the lamp and settle down
to a book, when I heard the sound of quick trotting, and the light run
of a dog-cart’s wheels on the avenue.

“I know I’m very late,” said Nugent, as he shook hands with me, “and I
meant to be very early, but it wasn’t my fault. I am sure you are going
to tell me that the tea is cold, but I don’t care; I prefer it with the
chill just off.”

“Then you will be gratified,” I said, pouring it out. “I began to think
you were not coming, and was repenting that I had wasted half an hour in
practising that awful accompaniment of Braham’s.”

“Did you really do that? It was very good of you. I did my best to get
away early, but I had to stay and see Captain Forster off. I can’t say
that he seemed to appreciate the attention, as he was playing billiards
with Connie up to the last minute. I was very sorry afterwards that I
had been such a fool as to lose the whole afternoon on his account.”

“I think you might have left him in Connie’s hands,” I said, sociably
beginning upon a second edition of tea.

“I want to know if you are all right again,” said Nugent, looking at me
scrutinizingly. “I thought you seemed awfully played out the day before
yesterday.”

“Did I?” I said. “I wasn’t in the least--I mean I was very tired, but
that was all.”

“You scarcely spoke to me all the way over here. I don’t know if you
generally treat people like that when you are very tired.”

“No,” I said; “when I know people well enough, I am simply cross.”

“That means that you don’t know me very well.”

“No, I don’t think I do,” I said, with unpremeditated truthfulness. “By
the way, is it true that you are all going away from Clashmore soon? You
said something about it in your letter.”

“Yes; I believe they are all off next week,” he replied; “but I think I
shall stay on here for a bit. I don’t want to go away just now.”

I was on the point of saying that I was very glad to hear he was going
to stay, but stopped myself, and said instead that I should have thought
he would find it rather dreary by himself.

“I don’t expect I shall,” he answered. “I shall ask you to let me come
over here very often. You know, we agreed at Clashmore that you were to
take my music in hand, and teach me to count.”

“If I try to do that, we shall certainly have plenty of occupation,” I
said, laughing at the prospect with a foolish enjoyment.

“All right, so much the better”--looking at me and laughing too. “By the
way, Connie wants to know if you will ride over to Mount Prospect with
her and me the day after to-morrow, to pay our respects after the
dance.”

“I shall be very glad,” I answered; “I have not had a ride for a long
time. Should you mind ringing the bell? We shall want the lamps for the
piano.”

“I should mind very much,” he said, without moving from the substantial
armchair in which he was sitting. “I think it would be a much better
scheme to sit over the fire instead. You were in such an extraordinary
hurry to get away from Clashmore the day before yesterday, that you did
not give me time for more than half the smart things I had prepared to
say about the Jackson-Crolys’ dance.”

“Very well,” I said, dragging out a little old-fashioned, glass-beaded
footstool, and settling myself comfortably with my feet on it in front
of the fire. “You can begin now, and say them all one after the other,
and by the time you have got through I shall have got my smile ready.”

“You are very hard upon me. You should remember that my _bon-mots_ are
exceedingly fragile flowers--kind of hothouse exotics--and they require
the most sympathetic attention. You ought to try to encourage native
talent, even if it does not come up to your American standard of
humour.”

“I don’t know exactly what that is,” I replied; “but I assure you that
that dance does not require any embellishments. The only thing needful
in describing it is the solid truth.”

“You must not fancy that all our county Cork entertainments are on the
Mount Prospect pattern,” he said, a little anxiously. “I dare say you
think we are all savages, but we don’t often have a war-dance like
that.”

“Well,” I said, checking an inclination to sigh as the thought crossed
my mind, “I shall always be glad that I saw at least one before I went
back to America.”

He got up and put down his cup; then, drawing his unwieldy chair closer
to me before sitting down, “But you are not thinking of going back to
America?” he said slowly.

“Oh! well, of course I shall have to go back sooner or later,” I
replied, as airily as I could. “I do not mean to spend my whole life
here.”

“Don’t you?” he said, in a low voice, leaning forward and trying to
intercept my eyes, as I looked straight before me into the fire. “I wish
you would tell me if you really mean that.”

“I certainly do mean it,” I answered, with decision. “And, after all, I
do not see that it much matters whether I do or not.”

“Why do you say it doesn’t matter?” he said slowly.

“Oh, I don’t know,” I answered idiotically.

“But I think you ought to know before you make assertions of that kind,”
he persisted. “I dare say there are several people who would think it
mattered a good deal.”

He spoke with an intention in his voice that I had never heard before.
My heart gave a startled beat. Did he mean Willy?

“That does not sound at all like what you once said to me. You told me
that I was ‘a distinct failure in these parts.’ I should like to know
who all these people are who have changed their minds about me,” I said,
impelled by a reckless impulse to find out what he had meant.

“Don’t you remember my telling you the other night of one person who had
changed his mind? Have you quite forgotten what I said to you then?”

He was very near to me, so near that he must almost have felt my breath
as it quickly came and went. My heart was beating fast enough
now--hurrying along at such speed that I could not be sure enough of my
voice to speak.

“Can you not think of any one to whom it would make a good deal of
difference if you went back to America? Couldn’t you?” He hesitated.
“Don’t you know it would make all the difference in the world to--to
me?”

His hand found mine, and, as it closed upon it, I felt in one magical
moment that there was but one hand in the world whose touch could send
that strange pang of delight to my heart. His eyes lifted mine to them
in spite of me. I do not know what he read in them, but in his I thought
I saw something quite new--something that made me giddy, and took away
my power of speaking.

“Don’t you know it?” he whispered. “Theo!”

With a feeling that I must say something, I answered, scarcely conscious
of what I was saying--

“I do not know. I do not see how it could. We see so little of you.
Perhaps some people might care. I dare say my uncle and Willy would.”

Nugent got up abruptly, treading inadvertently on Jinny, who was
sleeping peacefully on the rug. He took no notice of her resentful
shriek, and said, with a sudden change of voice and manner--

“Yes, of course--I forgot; naturally they are the people it would make
most difference to.” He stooped and patted Jinny, who was ostentatiously
tending her injured paw. “Did I hurt you, Jinny? Poor little dog!” he
said, as if becoming aware for the first time of his offence. Then,
after a time, “By-the-by, I heard from Barrett that Willy is in Cork.
When do you expect him back?”

Even before he had spoken, I had realized the impression which my
blundering mention of Willy must have given; but, in the shock of the
discovery which I had just made, I hardly cared. Nothing could penetrate
to my brain except one thought that mastered it with bewildering
force--Is it possible that he cares for me? Perhaps he fancied, from
what I said, that the general gossip about Willy and me was true. I
could almost have laughed for pleasure that he should mind so much. I
looked up at him as he stood by the fire, with its light flickering on
his gloomy face, and my self-possession returned to me a little.

“I know absolutely nothing about Willy,” I said, with decision. “I have
not seen him since the night of the ball, and I have no idea when he is
coming home.”

He came a step nearer, and looked at me dubiously; but there was new
purpose in his voice as he said--

“Then, it is not----”

He stopped at the sound of a footstep outside the door. I recognized it
in an instant.

“Here is Willy!” I gasped, in tones from which I vainly tried to banish
the sudden inward despair which possessed me. The door opened, letting
in a blaze of light, and Willy, followed by Roche with a lamp, came into
the room.

The necessity of the moment gave me a fictitious courage. Pushing back
my chair, I jumped up to meet him with an ease and cordiality intended
to cover his embarrassment and my own.

“So here you are back, Willy! We have been wondering what had become of
you.”

He did not look at me as we shook hands, but he answered, in a voice as
successfully friendly as my own--

“I was forced to go up to Cork on business. I thought I could get down
last night, but I couldn’t manage it. How are you, Nugent?” he went on
stiffly. “You’ll have a pretty wet drive home. It was pouring when I
came in.”

Nugent at once took the hint thus broadly given.

“Yes, I dare say I shall,” he said coolly. “Would you order my trap,
please?”--turning to Roche, who had not yet left the room. “Good night,
Miss Sarsfield. Does that ride hold good?”

He had taken my hand in his as he said good night, and he still held it
with a strong pressure. Something weighed down my eyelids--I could not
meet his eyes again, and I answered hurriedly--

“Yes--oh yes, I hope so! Good night.”



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CHAPTER VI.

THE HAND AT THE GATE.

    “Which do you pity the most of us three?”


Most girls at three and twenty believe that they have explored their own
characters, and know pretty accurately their emotional capabilities.
They have always been taking soundings in their souls, noting eagerly
any signs of increasing depth or of shoaling water; the most trivial
incidents have a local importance and imagined connection. In fact, the
phrase, “Falling in love,” implies, in their case, a contradiction of
terms, the various phases of the disorder being accepted by its victims
with scientific recognition.

I think I must have been very deficient in this power of self-analysis.
I had always taken my life as it came, without much introspective
thought of its effect upon me, and on the one or two occasions when I
had been confronted with the necessity for knowing my own mind, I had
never found the need for searchings of heart to discover if the germs of
any unsuspected feeling were hidden there. I had taken for granted that
I must be a hard-headed, hard-hearted person, somewhat probably of Aunt
Jane’s type. I used to listen with an amused sympathy to the intricacies
of sentimental detail with which many of my friends recounted their
experiences, and had often offered, not without a certain sense of
superiority, the cold-blooded counsels of common sense.

It was to me the remotest of chances that I should ever be driven to
weigh, as they did, the value of a sentence, a word, or a look; and yet,
nevertheless, now, not three months after I had left America, this was
precisely what I found myself doing.

I awoke, the morning after Nugent’s visit, with an unfamiliar feeling of
still gladness. I knew that some strange and delightful thing had
befallen me; but I waited in dreamy security, till this new happiness
that was waiting for me in my waking life should stir me to a clearer
knowledge of itself. Slowly it all came back to me. In imagination I
lived again through what had happened yesterday afternoon. The
unacknowledged anxiety lest he should not come; the relief of hearing
that he was not leaving the country; the incredulous uncertainty as to
his meaning; and then--ah yes! I put my hand over my eyes, dizzy even
at the remembrance of the swift conviction which had taken me with such
sovereign power--then, the certainty that he loved me.

How had it all come about? How was it that, before I well understood
what was happening, my independence had been overthrown? Looking back
over the time I had known him, I could find no reasonable explanation.
Until the night of the Jackson-Crolys’ dance I had never admitted to
myself that I did more than like his society, and till then I had had
still less idea that he did more than care for mine.

With a shamefaced smile at my own foolishness, I got out my diary, and
searched through it for some mention of Nugent on the days on which I
remembered to have met him. But its bald and unimaginative record had
chronicled no description of him beyond one pithy entry after the first
day’s hunting--

“Mr. O’Neill piloted me. Dull and conceited.”

I remembered quite well the satisfaction with which I had permitted
myself this rare expression of opinion; and I laughed outright as I
thought how the girl who had written that would have despised her future
self, if she could have foreseen in what spirit it would again be
referred to. “Dull and conceited!” Had he or I changed most since that
was written? I pondered over it, and came to the conclusion that it was
with him that the change had begun. I should never have altered my
opinion of him, if he had not shown that he had altered his of me.

I slowly thought over the various stages of our acquaintance, ending, as
I had begun, with the events of yesterday. Woven in through all my
reflections had been a little thread of uncertainty and dissatisfaction.
What was the question that had been interrupted by Willy’s inopportune
arrival? Could he really have thought I was engaged to my cousin? It
seemed at first as if he had suspected it; but I knew that what I had
said was enough to convince him that he had been mistaken--that I was
sure of, from the way he had said good-bye. Well, I should certainly see
him to-morrow; perhaps even to-day, I thought, and trembled at the
thought.

When I went down to breakfast, I found that Willy had finished his. This
was practically our first _tête-à-tête_ since he had come home. Last
night he had not come into the drawing-room after dinner, and I had gone
to my room early. He was standing in the window, reading a letter, when
I came into the room, and, with a keen dart of memory, my first morning
at Durrus came into my mind. He had been standing in just that position
as I came into breakfast that first morning after my arrival, and I well
remembered the smile with which he had come forward to meet me. The
contrast of his present greeting jarred painfully on me, and dashed a
little the serenity in which I had tried to enwrap myself. The old
boyish friendliness was all gone, and in its place was a spasmodic,
constrained politeness, which was so foreign to his nature, and so
hardly assumed, that it seemed to me the most pitiful thing in the
world. I came near wishing that I had never seen Nugent, and I thought
with humiliation of what Willy would feel when he knew how much my
denials about him had been worth.

“I breakfasted earlier to-day,” he said awkwardly. “I have to be in
Moycullen at eleven o’clock. Is there anything I can do for you there?”

“No, thank you. But, Willy”--as he was leaving the room--“that reminds
me, the O’Neills want me to ride with them to Mount Prospect to-morrow.
Could I have Blackthorn?”

“Of course you can,” he answered gruffly; “you know you’ve only to order
the horse when you want him.”

“Would you come with us?” I went on timidly.

“No, thanks; I’m very busy about the farm just now.”

He opened the door and went away.

I had no heart to eat my breakfast; the tears were in my eyes as I
poured out a cup of tea, and, making no pretence of eating anything,
took it over and sipped it by the fire. All my gladness of the morning
had died out; I could only feel illogically sorry at this utter break
and severance in the old relations between Willy and me. I was still
dawdling over my tea when Roche came in to clear away the
breakfast-things. His professional eye at once detected my unused plate.

“Will I get another egg biled for you, miss? Them’s cold.”

“No, thank you, Roche. I am not very hungry this morning.”

Roche turned a shrewd eye, like a parrot’s, upon me.

“Fie, fie, miss! That’s no way for a young lady to be. And Masther Willy
wasn’t much better than yourself. You have a right to be out this fine
morning, and not sitting that way over the fire.”

Roche and I had become great friends. Early in our acquaintance I had
found out that he was the Patrick Roche whose letters had given me my
first impressions of Irish life, and I had often listened with
affectionate patience to his rambling stories of my father’s prowess in
all departments of sport. As much to escape from his acute observation
as for any other reason, I left the dining-room, and wandered aimlessly
into the hall.

A whining and scratching outside the door decided me to try what the day
felt like. I wrapped a carriage rug round my shoulders, and, putting on
the deer-stalker cap which Willy had once made over to me, I opened the
hall door, and was at once assaulted by Pat and Jinny. Having exhausted
themselves in ambitious attempts to lick my face by means of
perpendicular leaps at it, they proceeded to explain to me as well as
they could their wish that I should take them to the garden, to hunt,
for the hundredth time, a rabbit which had long set at naught the
best-laid plots for his destruction. I followed them to the old gate--a
structure in itself very characteristic of Durrus--and opened it in the
usual way, by kicking away a stone that had been placed against it, and
by then putting my hand through a hole to reach the latch, whose catch
on the outside had been broken.

I did not feel disposed to-day to help Pat and Jinny in their hunt, by
struggling, as Willy and I had so often done, through the rows of big
wet cabbages, whose crinkled white hearts showed the devastations of the
enemy, and, leaving the dogs to form their own plan of campaign, I
sauntered up and down the path between the lichen-crusted
gooseberry-trees. In spite of Roche’s recommendation of the weather, I
thought it a very cheerless morning. There was a bite in the chilly
air, and each time I turned at the end of the walk and faced the gate,
the breeze that met me was sharp and raw.

It was early in January--the deadest time of all the year, I thought,
looking round. Not a sign of spring, no feeling even of the hope of it;
and somehow, in this cold, leaden atmosphere, my own hopes began to lose
half their life. I turned and once more walked towards the gate,
thinking that I would call the dogs from their futile yelpings at the
mouth of the hole to which the rabbit had long since betaken himself,
and would go for a walk. I was not more than half-way down the path,
when I saw a hand put through the hole in the gate. As it felt for the
latch, I quickly recognized its lean pallor; the gate opened, and Uncle
Dominick came into the garden.

“Good morning, my dear,” he said. “I thought I saw you going into this
wilderness of ours that we call a kitchen garden, and I followed you in
the hopes of having a little chat.”

He was evidently in the best of humours--nothing else could have
accounted for this unwonted desire for society, and, in spite of the
dark rings under his eyes and the yellow sodden look of his skin, he
looked unusually benign and cheerful.

“Perhaps you will take a turn with me round the garden,” he continued
affably. “I can see you are not dressed for a longer walk; although I do
not for a moment wish to disparage your costume. Indeed, I do not know
that I have ever seen you wear anything that became you more than that
cap of Willy’s.”

I turned with him, and we walked slowly round the grass-grown paths
which followed the square of the walls, stooping every now and then to
save our eyes from the unpruned boughs of the apple-trees.

“Dear me! this place is shockingly neglected,” my uncle said, twitching
a bramble out of my way with his stick; “in old days it was a very
different affair. My mother used to have four men at work here, and I
remember well when it was the best garden in the country.”

We had by this time come to the dilapidated old hothouse, and we both
stood and looked at it for a few seconds. Through the innumerable broken
panes, and under the decaying window-sashes, the branches of a
peach-tree thrust themselves out in every direction, as if breaking
loose from imprisonment.

“Ah, the poor old peach-house!” said Uncle Dominick, digging a weed out
of the path with the heel of his boot--“that was another of my mother’s
hobbies. I wish I had the energy and the money to get this whole place
put to rights,” he continued, as we walked on again; “but I have neither
the one nor the other. I shall leave all that for Willy to do some day;
for he is fond of the old place. Do you not think so, my dear?”

“I am sure he is,” I answered, rather absently; my thoughts had strayed
away to to-morrow’s ride.

“I suppose you have seen Willy this morning? Did he seem in better
spirits than he was in last night? I don’t know that I ever saw him so
depressed and silent as he was at dinner,” said my uncle.

“Did you think so?” I replied guiltily. “I think he seemed all right
this morning.”

“I am very glad to hear it. I was quite distressed by his manner;
indeed, latterly I have frequently noticed how variable his spirits have
been.”

I did not speak, and Uncle Dominick went on again with a little
hesitation--

“I will confess to you, my dear Theo, that before you came Willy had
been causing me very serious anxiety. You see, this is a lonely place;
the O’Neills are much away from home, and he had no companions of his
own age and station.”

“No, I suppose not,” I said, considerably puzzled as to the drift of all
this.

My uncle stroked his long moustache several times.

“Well, my dear, you know the old proverb, ‘No company, welcome
trumpery;’ that, I am sorry to say, is what the danger was with Willy.
It came to my knowledge that he was in the habit of--a--of spending a
great deal of his time in the house of--“--he hummed and hawed, ending
with suppressed vehemence--“in the house of one of my work-people.”

I held my breath, with perhaps some presentiment of what was coming.

“Yes,” my uncle said, bringing his stick heavily down on the ground; “I
heard, to my amazement and horror, that the attraction for him there was
the daughter, an impudent girl, who was evidently using every means in
her power to entangle him!”

“An impudent girl!” What was it that he had once said about a girl who
had been taken out of her proper place, and had at once began to
presume? In the same instant the answer flashed upon me--Anstey! Of
course, it was she. How had I been so blind?

My uncle was silent for a few moments, and my thoughts raced back to
incidents, unconsidered at the time, but which now recurred, fraught
with a new meaning. I understood it all now--the girl standing in the
niche at the lodge gate; the words which I had overheard at the
plantation; last of all, the figure in the rain at the hall door on the
night of the dance.

“I was delighted to see, after you came, what an influence for good you
at once seemed to exert over him,” Uncle Dominick began again. “I cannot
say how grateful to you I have felt. The thought that Willy might be led
on into doing anything to lower the family preyed upon me more than I
can tell you, and it gave me the greatest pleasure to see what his
feelings for you were.”

What could I say? Horror at this new complication about Willy, pity for
Anstey, and the knowledge of what my uncle so obviously expected of me,
were pursuing each other through my mind.

“I feared, from his behaviour last night, that there had occurred some
misunderstanding between you.” He stood still, and looked at me
interrogatively. “Of course, I do not ask for your confidence in the
matter, but I think you know as well as I do what effect anything
serious of that kind would have on him.”

Honesty compelled me to speak. “I ought to have told you before,” I
began falteringly, “that I was thinking--I had almost settled that I was
going back to America.”

“To America? Impossible!” he exclaimed, in a startled but dictatorial
voice; then, forcing a laugh, “Of course, I know you are a very
independent young lady, but I have belief enough in you to think that
you would not desert your friends.”

“I cannot do what you want me to,” I said incoherently; “I should be
staying here on false pretences. I must go away.”

“Nonsense!” he said impatiently. “I beg your pardon, my dear, but your
ideas of duty appear to me a little peculiar. I think, _all things
considered_, you could scarcely reconcile it--I will not say with your
conscience, but with your sense of honour--to let Willy ruin his whole
life without stretching out a hand to stop him.”

“But I don’t know what you mean. You know I would do almost anything for
Willy; but why should I be bound by my ‘sense of honour’ to stay here?”

I spoke stoutly, but in my inmost soul I dreaded his answer.

“Well,” said my uncle, with a disagreeable expression, “I think that
most people would agree with me, that a young lady is bound in honour
not to give such encouragement to a man as will raise hopes that she
does not mean to gratify.”

There was truth enough in what he said to make me feel a difficulty in
replying. We had come to the gate, and he opened it for me.

“I do not wish to press you on this subject, my dear, but I am sure
that, after you have thought it over a little, your fairness, as well as
your kind heart, will make you feel the truth of what I have been saying
to you.”

That was all he said, but it was enough. I went back to the house,
feeling that, whatever happened, trouble was before me.

Roche met me on the steps with a note on a salver. I knew the
handwriting, and opened it with a pulse quickened by a delightful glow
of confidence and expectancy. I read it through twice over; then,
mechanically replacing it in the envelope, I went up to my own room,
and, throwing myself on my bed, I pressed my face into the pillow and
wished that I were dead.



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CHAPTER VII.

“THIS HIDDEN TIDE OF TEARS.”

    “Look in my face; my name is Might-have-been.”

    “Ah me! my heart, rememberest thou that hour,
     When foolish hope made parting almost bright?
     Hadst thou not then some warning of thy doom?”


The fire in the library was dying out. I had been sitting on the
hearthrug in front of it for some time, with my elbows resting on the
seat of a low armchair, from whose depths Jinny’s snores rose with quiet
regularity. The window had been grey with the last of the dull light
when I first sat down there, and, without stirring, I had watched the
grey fading by imperceptible changes from mere blankness into an
absolute darkness, that invaded the room and filled it like a cloud.

The turf fire, with soft noises of subsidence, had sunk lower and lower
in the grate, and, abandoning its effort to light up the heavy lines of
bookshelves, now did little more than edge with a feeble glow the shadow
of the chimney-piece upon the ceiling. A few minutes before, a flicker
had leaped up from the red embers; it had not lasted long, but the
transient glare had made my eyes ache. For two or three seconds
afterwards the blackened fragments of a sheet of note-paper had been
shaken and lifted uncertainly by the thin turf smoke, and they were now
drifting away with it up the chimney. My hand, lying open upon my knee,
still retained the sensation of holding something which had been clasped
tightly in it all the afternoon--the letter which I had just burnt--and
it seemed to me that in my heart there was the same sense of emptiness
and loss.

It had cost me something to burn it, and as the flame crept over the
pages, I had come near snatching it back again. But after all there was
no need to keep it; its contents were not so long nor so intricate, I
thought bitterly, that there was any fear of my forgetting them.


     “DEAR MISS SARSFIELD” (it began),

       “My sister has asked me to tell you that she has been obliged to
     change her plans, and is leaving Clashmore to-morrow instead of
     next week. She desires me to say how sorry she is at having to give
     up the ride to Mount Prospect, and to go away without seeing you.
     She would write herself, but is too much hurried. I fear that I
     must make the same apologies on my own account, as I find that I
     shall have to go to London in a few days, and may possibly not
     return before the summer; and, as I am afraid I shall not be able
     to get over to Durrus, perhaps you will kindly let me say good-bye
     by letter.

                           “Sincerely yours,

                                            “NUGENT O’NEILL.”


Nothing could have been more simply put; nothing could have expressed
more incisively the writer’s meaning. Even in the first moment of
reading it, I had been at no loss to understand it. In the legitimate
amusement of flirting with “An American girl,” he had gone a little
farther than he had intended, and he now lost no time in removing any
undue impression that his words might have made upon her. What was it
that Willy had told me long ago--how long ago?--“He could tell you many
a queer story of a Yankee girl he met at Cannes!”

Possibly he would now be able to add another “queer story of a Yankee
girl” to his _repertoire_--how, in the course of a most ordinary
flirtation, he had discovered one afternoon that this girl was losing
her head, and how he had been obliged to leave the country so as to
avoid further difficulties.

The last scrap of the letter fluttered upwards out of sight as this
idea, which it had suggested, came into my mind. The intolerable sting
of the thought acted on me like physical pain. I started up, but by the
time I was on my feet I was ashamed of it. “No,” I said to myself
vehemently, “he would never do that; I have no right even to think it of
him. And although, I suppose, he has changed his mind now for some
reason or other, I know he was in earnest when he was speaking to me; I
am sure of it. Perhaps _he_ lost his head too--men very often say more
than they intend--and then when he got home he thought better of it, and
felt it was only fair to let me understand as soon as possible that he
meant nothing serious. How could I have been such a fool as to let half
a dozen words upset my peace of mind?” I asked myself desperately.
“Whatever he meant by them, it is no use my thinking about him any more.
I had better begin at once, as he has done, to try and forget it all,” I
thought, as I groped my way out of the room; “but just now I feel as if
it would take me all my life.”

As I dressed for dinner, I shrank from the prospect of the long
difficult hours that lay between me and the solitude of my own room. But
I think that my powers of further suffering must have been exhausted; a
benumbing weariness was my only sensation as I sat at the dinner-table,
and, looking from my uncle to my cousin, felt, in some far-off way, that
our lives were converging to their point of closest contact, perhaps to
their climax of mutual suffering.

I had not energy to talk, and I occupied myself for the most part in
efforts to keep up the semblance of eating my dinner. Willy went on with
his in a kind of resigned surliness, taking as little notice of me as
was compatible with common politeness. This state of things I should
much have preferred to any open signs of enmity or friendship, if I had
not noticed that my uncle was narrowly observing us, and was even making
various attempts to involve us both in the conversation, which had
hitherto been little more than a monologue upon his part. Beyond an
occasional grunt, Willy did not even try to respond; and as for me,
though I did my best, utter mental and bodily fatigue made the framing
of a sentence too laborious for me.

Several times during the progress of dinner, I found that Roche was
looking at me with anxious interest; and once or twice he came to my
rescue with unexpected tact, by quietly changing my plate as quickly as
possible, so that my uncle should not see how little I had eaten of what
he had sent me.

Dinner was longer, and Uncle Dominick more determinately talkative, than
usual; but at last there came a break in his harangue, and I took
advantage of it to make my escape into the drawing-room. I sat for a
long time over the fire by myself, lying in an armchair without any wish
to move. I felt as if I had sunk to the bottom of a deep sea, whose
waves were rushing and surging over my head, and I wondered dully if
this was what people felt like when they were going to have a bad
illness. My mind kept stupidly repeating one short sentence, “Let me say
good-bye! Let me say good-bye!” They were the last words I had seen of
Nugent’s letter as it curled up in the flame of the library fire, and
they now beat to and fro in my brain with sing-song monotony.

I believe I must have dozed, for the noise of the door opening aroused
me with a shivering start. Willy came into the room with a newspaper in
his hand, and, sitting down at the other side of the fire without
speaking to me, began to read it. I fell back in my chair again, waiting
till the striking of ten o’clock should give me a reasonable excuse for
going to bed. The crackling of Willy’s newspaper and the sleepy tick of
the clock were the only sounds in the room. I had never before seen
Willy read a newspaper so attentively, and I watched him with languid
interest from under my half-closed eyelids, while he steadily made his
way through it. Now he had turned it inside out, and was reading the
advertisements; certainly it did not take much to amuse him. Could he
have felt, on that day after the dance, as dead to all the things that
used to interest him as I did now?

It was only four evenings ago since I had listened miserably to the
passionate words which I had not been able to prevent him from saying;
he must have forgotten them already, or how else could he sit there with
such stolid composure? If he could recover his equanimity in four days,
perhaps in a week I should have begun to forget that persistent sentence
which still kept pace with my thoughts.

The dining-room door opened and shut with a loud bang, and I heard the
sound of uncertain footsteps crossing the hall. The crackling of the
newspaper ceased, and a sudden rigidity in Willy’s attitude showed me
that he was listening. The step paused outside the door, and then, after
some preliminary rattling, the handle was turned. Willy jumped up and
walked quickly to the door, as if with the intention of stopping whoever
was there from coming in. Before he reached it, however, it opened, and
I saw that it was his father whose entrance he had been trying to
prevent.

“It’s not worth while your coming in, sir,” he said; “Theo’s awfully
tired, and she’s going to bed.”

“Tired! what right has she to be tired?” said my uncle, loudly, coming
into the room as he spoke. He put his hand on Willy’s shoulder and
pushed him to one side. “Get out of my way! Why should I not come in if
I like?”

He walked very slowly and deliberately to the fireplace, and stood on
the rug with his back to the fire, swinging a little backwards and
forwards from his toes to his heels. There was some difference in his
manner and appearance which I could not account for. His face was
ghastly white; a scant lock of iron-grey hair hung over his forehead;
and the dark rings I had seen about his eyes in the morning had now
changed to a purplish red.

“And what have you two been doing with yourselves all the evening?
Making the most of your time, Willy, I hope? Perhaps that was why you
tried to keep me out just now?”

He began to laugh at what he had said in a way very unusual with him.

“Theo,” Willy said abruptly, interrupting his father’s laughter,
“you’re looking dead beat; I’ll go and light your candle.”

“What are you in such a hurry about?” demanded Uncle Dominick, turning
on Willy with unexpected fierceness. “Don’t you know it is manners to
wait till you’re asked?”

Willy did not answer, but went out into the hall; and I, feeling both
scared and angry, got up with the intention of following him as quickly
as possible.

“Good night, Uncle Dominick,” I said icily.

He bent forward and took hold of my arm, leaning his whole weight upon
it.

“Look here,” he whispered confidentially; “how has that fellow been
behaving? You haven’t forgotten our little talk this morning, eh?”

“I remember it quite well, Good night,” I repeated, trying to pull my
arm from his detaining hand, and move away.

The action nearly threw him off his balance; he gave a stagger, and was
in the act of recovering himself by the help of my arm, when Willy came
back with the lighted candle.

“For goodness sake, let her go to bed,” he said, striding over to where
we were standing, and looking threateningly at his father.

Uncle Dominick dropped my arm. “What the devil do you mean by
interfering with me, sir?” he said. “Let me tell you that I will not
stand this behaviour on your part any longer! I suppose you think you
can treat your cousin and me as if we were no better than your low
companions? I know where you spent your afternoon to-day. I know what
those infernal people are plotting and scheming for. But I can tell
you, that if they can make a fool of you they shall not make one of me!
This house is mine. And you may tell them from me, that as sure as I am
standing here”--emphasizing each word with a trembling hand, while he
clutched the mantelshelf with the other--“you shall never set foot in
it, or touch one penny of my money, if----”

“Look here!” said Willy, stepping forward between me and his father;
“that’s enough; you’d better shut up.”

“How dare you speak to me like that? Your conduct is not that of a
gentleman, sir!--not that of a gentleman! I say, sir, it is
not--that--of----” His voice had grown thicker and more unsteady at
every word.

“Here’s your candle,” said Willy, thrusting the candlestick into my
hand; “you’d better go.”

“She shall not be ordered about by you!” thundered my uncle, making an
ineffectual step or two to stop me. “She shall stay here as long as I
like. I will be master in my own house. Come back here!”

He spoke with such fury that I was afraid to go, and looked irresolutely
to Willy for help. But before he could speak, my uncle’s mood had
changed.

“Let her go if she likes,” he said suddenly, staring at me with a sort
of stupefaction. “Good God! Let her go if she likes; let her go!” he
cried, covering his eyes with his hands and dropping into a chair, and
as I slipped out of the room I heard him groan.



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CHAPTER VIII.

PAIN.

    “Go from me. Yet I know that I shall stand
     Henceforward in thy shadow.”


I do not often get a headache, but the one which woke me next morning
seemed determined to bring my average of pain up to the level of that of
less fortunate people. All day long it pressed like a burning cap over
my head, till my pillow felt as if it were a block of wood, and the thin
chinks of light that came through the closed shutters cut my eyes like
the blades of knives. The infrequent sounds in the quiet house--the
far-off shutting of a door, the knocking of the housemaid’s broom
against the wainscot in the corridor, or an occasional footstep in the
hall--all jarred upon my aching brain as if it had lost some accustomed
shelter, and the blows of sound struck directly upon its bruised nerves.

The wretchedness of the day before had given way to the supremacy of
physical suffering. I lay in my darkened room, thinking of nothing
except how best to endure the passing of the slow hours. Once, as the
clock in the hall struck three, I was conscious of some association
connected with the sound, and remembered that this was the hour at which
I should have been starting for Mount Prospect.

But it had all lost reality. Even the horror of that scene with my uncle
and Willy in the drawing-room had been for the time obliterated, wiped
out by the pain, of which it had partly been the cause. All that I felt
was that some trouble surely was there, and, though in abeyance for
to-day, it was already in possession of to-morrow, and of many
to-morrows.

When, on the next morning, after breakfast in bed, I made my way
downstairs, I felt as if a long time had gone by since I had crossed the
hall. The house was cold and deserted. I dreaded meeting my uncle, but I
saw no one; there was not even a dog to wish me good morning. In the
drawing-room, the fire had only just been lighted; the blinds were drawn
to the top of the windows, showing the various layers of dust in the
room, from the venerable accumulation under the piano, to the lighter
and more recent coating on the tables. I went straight to the
writing-table, and, regardless of the cheerless glare from the sheet of
grey sea, I began a letter to Aunt Jane.

Upstairs, in the early hours of the morning, it had seemed an easy and
not disagreeable thing to do--to write and tell her that my Irish visit
was over, and that, as soon as her answer had come, I should be ready to
start for America. But when the letter was closed and directed, I sat
looking at it for a long time, feeling that I had done something akin to
making my will. The best part of my life was over; into these past three
months had been crushed its keenest happiness and unhappiness, and this
was what they had amounted to. They had none the less now to fall into
the background, and soon would have no more connection with my future
life than if they had never been.

I had convinced myself so thoroughly that by writing to Aunt Jane I had
closed this epoch in my life, that when, a few minutes afterwards, Willy
came into the room, I was almost surprised to find that he was as
awkward and constrained as when I had seen him last.

“Oh! I didn’t know you were in here, Theo,” he said apologetically,
stopping short half-way across the room. “I only came in to look for a
pen.”

“Come in, Willy,” I answered, with an appearance of ease which was the
result of the high, unemotional standpoint on which I had taken up my
position. “I have just finished my letter-writing.”

“I hope your head’s all right to-day? The governor was asking after you
yesterday,” he said, rolling his cap in his hands, and looking at the
ground. “He was very sorry to hear your headache was so bad.”

I knew that he was trying, as well as he could, to apologize for his
father’s outbreak and its too obvious cause.

“That was very kind of him,” I made haste to answer. “My headache is
quite well. I was thinking of going out, as it looks as if the east wind
had gone.”

“Yes, it’s a nice day. I dare say it would do you good to go out.”

Nothing could have made me feel more plainly the break that had come in
what had been such “a fair fellowship” than his making no offer to come
with me, and I realized with sharp regret that I had done well in
writing that letter to Aunt Jane.

Willy turned to leave the room.

“I wanted to tell you about this letter,” I said. “I have just written
to Aunt Jane to say that I am going back to America in about a
fortnight.”

His back had been towards me when I began to speak, but he faced round
with an exclamation of astonishment.

“What! going away? Why are you doing that?”

His face was red with surprise, and he had forgotten his shyness.

“I thought Uncle Dominick would have told you. I spoke to him a couple
of days ago.”

“He never said so to me. On the contrary----” Willy stopped. “I mean, he
didn’t give me the least idea you were going.”

“For all that, I am afraid I must go. I have been here an immense time
already,” I said, finding some difficulty in maintaining an easy and
conventional tone.

“Indeed, you haven’t!” he blurted out. “You know you told me you meant
to stay on into the spring, and--and you know”--looking steadily over my
head out of the window while he spoke--“there’s no reason why----”

“Oh yes, there is, Willy,” I said, interrupting him. “Poor Aunt Jane has
been by herself all this time. I ought not to leave her alone any
more.”

“Well, and won’t you be leaving us alone too?”--still without changing
the direction of his eyes.

“Oh! you will be no worse off than you were before I came,” I answered,
with the hasty indiscretion of argument.

He did not reply, and I had time to be sorry for my thoughtlessness,
before he said, with an assumption of carelessness--

“Well, I’m going out now, and I advise you to do the same.” He left the
room; but, reopening the door, put his head in--“I say, don’t send that
letter,” he said, and shut the door again before I could answer.

I did not meet Uncle Dominick at lunch. Roche told me not to wait for
him, as he was not well, and would probably not come in; and I had
almost finished my solitary meal before Willy appeared. He and I were
both more at our ease than we had been at our first meeting that
morning. I do not know what had operated in his case, but for myself, I
felt more than ever that I had become a different person--a person to
whom nothing mattered very much, whose only link with the everyday life
of the past and present was a very bitter and humiliating pain.

“I have to go into Moycullen this afternoon,” said Willy, occupying
himself very busily with the carving of the cold beef. “I was wondering
if you might care to ride there. The horse wants exercise, and I thought
perhaps--you said something about wanting fresh air----”

I did not know how to refuse an invitation so humbly given, although my
first inclination had been to do so.

“It is rather a long ride,” I began doubtfully.

“Well, you can turn back whenever you like.”

I debated with myself. As I was going away so soon, it could not make
much real difference to any one; and Uncle Dominick had specially asked
me not to neglect Willy. Besides--I could not help it--some faint hope
struggled up in my heart that in Moycullen I might hear something of the
O’Neills.

“Very well,” I said finally; “I will go with you.”

Willy and I had often ridden to Moycullen. It was a long ride, but we
had established a short cut across the fields at one place which
considerably shortened the distance; though experience had shown us that
the amount of jumping it involved, and the rough ground to be crossed,
did away with any great saving of time. To-day we went in off the road
at the usual gap, and as we cantered over the grass to the accustomed
spot in each fence, the free stride of the horse, and the tingling of
the wind in my cheeks, brought back the old feeling of exultant
independence, the last remnant of my headache cleared away, and for the
time I even forgot that quiet, incessant aching at my heart.

One or two successful conflicts with his horse had done much to restore
Willy’s confidence and self-possession.

“It’s a long time since we had a ride now,” he said, after we had come
out over a bank on to the road again.

“Yes; I was just thinking the same. I am very glad I came out.”

“We must try and get a look at the hounds next week; they meet pretty
close--that is to say”--continuing his sentence with something of a
jerk--“if you’re not too busy packing for America then.”

I did not answer, and Willy said nothing more until we had pulled up
into a walk on some rising ground, from which we could see the town of
Moycullen straggling out of an opening between two hills, its
whitewashed houses showing dimly through the blue smoke which lay about
it like a lake.

“And did you send that letter, after all?” Willy said, in an unconcerned
way.

“Yes,” I answered; “you know I always write to Aunt Jane on Friday.”

“Then you mean to say you are really going back?”

I nodded.

“Well, I suppose you know best,” he said coldly.

Alaska put her foot on a stone, and stumbled slightly.

“Hold up, you confounded fool!” he said, chucking up her head roughly,
and digging his spurs in.

The mare reared and plunged, and to steady her we broke into a trot,
which brought us into the crooked, crowded streets of Moycullen.

It was market-day, and the carts that had come in with their loads of
butter, turf, fowls, and old women blocked our way in every direction. I
remained on my horse’s back while Willy went off about his business, and
for the next half-hour I only caught glimpses of him, doubling round the
immovable groups of talkers, and eluding the beggars with practised
skill as he dived in and out of the little shops. Willy’s satisfaction
and confidence in the warehouses of Moycullen, and the amount of
shopping which he contrived to do there, had always been a matter of
fresh surprise to me.

Beggars pestered me; little boys exasperated me by offers to hold
Blackthorn, regardless of the fact that I was on his back; and women
clustered round me on the pavement and discussed my lineage and
appearance, but I was too dispirited to be much amused by their
comments. The glow of my gallop had faded out; I felt cold and tired,
and thought that Willy had never before been so long over his shopping.

At last he appeared unexpectedly at my horse’s shoulder.

“I was thinking that you must be dead for want of your tea. I’ve just
ordered some at Reardon’s, and you must come and drink it before we go
home.”

I assented without much interest, and began to push Blackthorn through
the crowd. At the hotel I dismounted, and followed Willy listlessly into
the dark, unsavoury commercial room, the only available apartment in
which we could have tea. Its sole occupant got up in obedience to a
whisper from the boots, and hurriedly conveyed himself and his glass of
whiskey and water from the room which had been allotted to him and the
gentlemen of his profession, and I sat down at the long
oil-cloth-covered table and began to pour out the tea, while Willy
battered the fire into a blaze. He had evidently made up his mind to be
cheerful, but as evidently he was not quite certain as to what to talk
about.

I listened with as much intelligence as I could muster to such pieces of
news as he had picked up during his shopping, but our conversation
gradually slackened, and finally came to a full stop. I slowly drank the
contents of my enormous teacup, wondering why it was that at country
hotels the bread and butter and the china were alike abnormally thick. I
noticed that Willy had looked at me undecidedly once or twice during
the last few minutes, and at length he said, in a way that showed he had
been framing the question for some time--

“I suppose, if you went to America, you’d be coming back again?”

“Come back!” I echoed. “No, I do not think there is the least chance of
my doing that.”

I had finished my tea, and got up as I spoke.

“Then you’ve done with the old country altogether?”

“Yes; altogether,” I answered resolutely, turning aside to study one of
the oleographs on the walls.

I could not have said another word, but, in a sort of defiance of my own
weakness, I began to hum a tune, one that had been in my mind
unrecognized all day. Now as I hummed it the straining sweetness of the
notes of a violin filled my memory, and I knew where and how I had heard
it last.

Willy said nothing more, but finished his tea, and, getting up, rang the
bell and ordered the horses to be brought round. We had to stand for a
minute in the doorway while they were coming. A cold wind was springing
up with the sunset; the pale yellow light was contending with the newly
lighted street-lamps, and over my head a large jet of gas flickered
drearily behind the name “Reardon” on the fan-light.

“Hullo! look at the Clashmore wagonette,” Willy said suddenly. “It’s
coming along now behind that string of turf-carts.”

The turf-carts lumbered slowly down the narrow street, the chestnuts and
wagonette having, perforce, to follow at a foot-pace. On the box,
sharply outlined against the frosty sky, I saw Nugent’s figure, and
inside was a huddled mass of furs, which I supposed was Madam O’Neill.
My first instinct was to shrink back into the hall, but it was too late;
Willy was already taking off his hat, and I bowed mechanically as Nugent
lifted his, and drove past without speaking.

We rode quickly and steadily homewards through the darkening hills, an
occasional word only breaking the silence between us. I had no wish to
speak, no wish for anything but to escape from this miserable place, and
to forget all that had happened to me since the night when I had first
driven along this very road. This was the fulfilment of the foolish,
unacknowledged hope which had been my real reason for to-day’s ride. I
had met Nugent, and could take home with me the certainty that I had
made no mistake as to what his letter had meant, and that he, for his
part, would be quite sure that I had treated him, and was now treating
my cousin, in a manner worthy even of the evil traditions of “American
girls.”

It was quite dark when we got to Durrus, but, as the gates swung back, I
could see that it was Anstey who had opened them for us. I rode through
a little in advance of Willy, who had checked his horse in order to let
me go first. I thought I caught the sound of a whispered word or two
from Anstey, and, with the clang of the closing gate, I distinctly heard
Willy say in a low voice, “No, I can’t.”

I rode fast up the avenue so that he should not overtake me. I was sick
at heart at this confirmation of what my uncle had told me. Everything
was going wrong. I had spoilt my own life, and now I had to stand by
and see Willy ruin his, knowing that I had it, perhaps, in my power to
save him, and yet feeling incapable of doing so.

When I met Uncle Dominick at dinner, his manner was more blandly
affectionate than I had ever known it, and but for the recollections
which his haggard face called up, I should have thought that the scene
of two nights ago had been a dream.

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CHAPTER IX.

GARDEN HILL.

    “Was this to meet? Not so; we have not met.”


Wednesday was the Burkes’ At Home day. They were the only people in the
country who had taken to themselves a “day,” and to go and see them, and
to eat their peculiarly admirable cakes, had become a recognized method
of spending that afternoon. To-day, at about four o’clock, when I came
in, their small drawing-room was full of people, and their confidential
little copper tea-kettle was already making incessant journeys between
the fireplace and the tea-table.

Mr. Jimmy Barrett was carrying about cups of tea, steering his perilous
way among the low velvet-covered tables and basket chairs with a face
expressive of the liveliest apprehension. He was the only young man
present--a fact in itself sufficiently overwhelming, and now made doubly
so by the attentions which, _faute de mieux_, were being bestowed upon
him by Miss Dennehy, a young lady whom I remembered as having been much
sought after at the Mount Prospect dance.

He took the first opportunity of sitting down in an unconspicuous
position behind his mother’s chair, from whence he returned feeble and
evasive rejoinders to the badinage levelled at him from the sofa, on
which were seated Miss Dennehy and the rector’s daughter, Miss Josie
Horan. His mother, a lady whose ample proportions were a tacit reproach
to her son’s meagreness of aspect, reclined imposingly in a chair by
the fire, and several other ladies whom I did not know were sitting
round the room.

The Misses Burke and their mother welcomed me effusively.

“Where’s Willy? I haven’t seen him this long while,” said Miss Mimi,
regarding me with an expression of heartiest curiosity and good
fellowship.

“No, indeed,” said Mrs. Burke; “we were wondering what had become of you
both.”

She was a brisk little old lady, whose bright black eyes and hooked nose
were suggestive of an ancient parrakeet, and whose voice further carried
out the idea. I knew well that any cross-examination that she might
subject me to would be as water unto wine compared with Miss Mimi’s, and
I gladly turned and addressed myself to her, and left Willy, who had
just come into the room, to satisfy Miss Mimi’s thirst for information.

His entrance caused a perceptible flutter in the room, and the occupants
of the sofa at once began a loud and attractive conversation.

“I’m _dying_ to hear more about the ball,” began Miss Horan. “Aggie,
you’re really no good at all”--this with artless petulance to Miss
Dennehy. “I’m sure Captain Sarsfield could give a better account of it.
_He_ wasn’t sitting on the stairs all the time; were you, Captain
Sarsfield?”

“I don’t think she should ask us these questions, should she, Captain
Sarsfield?” responded Miss Dennehy. “I think ’tis very wrong to tell
tales out of school!”

I, from the low chair which I had taken beside Mrs. Barrett, listened in
some anxiety to a discussion which for both Willy and me was of so
singularly discomposing a character. Willy, however, was equal to the
occasion. Having fittingly assured Miss Dennehy of his abhorrence of
tale-bearing, he provided himself with a cup of tea and a wedge of cake,
and proceeded with unimpaired equanimity to seat himself on the sofa
between Miss Horan and Miss Dennehy.

I had seldom seen Miss Horan, except behind the harmonium in her
father’s church, and should certainly never have suspected her of the
social gifts which she now displayed. She had a flat little face, set in
a shock of hair which had once been short and had not yet become long.
Her pale blue eyes almost watered with pride and excitement, as she
found that her conversation with Willy was attracting the attention of
the rest of the room.

“And who was the belle of the room, Captain Sarsfield?” she asked, when
Willy had comfortably settled down to his tea.

“Well, as you weren’t there, Miss Horan,” answered my cousin,
shamelessly, “I wasn’t able to make up my mind about it.”

A delighted titter ran round the room at this sally; as it ceased, Mrs.
Barrett broke the monumental silence which she had hitherto preserved.

“My Jimmy,” she said, in a heavy, distinct voice, that lent an almost
Scriptural tone to her utterances, casting an eye of disfavour at Miss
Josie, “told me that Miss Sarsfield and Miss O’Neill were the belles of
the ball.”

Deep as was my dismay at this unlooked-for statement, it was far
excelled by that of its originator. On Willy’s arrival he had altogether
effaced himself; but now, from his refuge behind his mother’s chair, I
heard him inarticulately disclaiming the dashing criticism attributed to
him.

“Oh,” said Miss Mimi, jovially, “we all know that Jimmy has an eye for a
pretty girl! I thought,” she continued, addressing Miss Dennehy, “they
were very bad about introducing people the other night. Didn’t you,
Aggie?”

“Really, _I_ didn’t notice it, Miss Burke; but I heard a great many
complaining about it, and I know the Croly girls like to keep their
gentlemen friends to themselves,” Miss Dennehy replied.

“Well,” said Miss Horan, “I saw Sissy Croly yesterday, and she said
that, indeed, she was introducing gentlemen all the evening. Oh, and she
was _mad_ with the O’Neills! She said that Connie O’Neill thought no one
good enough to dance with but that officer they had staying at
Clashmore; and as for Mr. O’Neill, he pretended he was engaged for
every dance, and her fawther”--it was thus that Miss Horan pronounced
“father”--“found him, after supper, sitting in the library reading the
paper.”

“Oh, I dare say,” said Miss Dennehy. “I know he was engaged to me for
the last extra, and as he didn’t choose to come for it, I didn’t choose
to wait for him; did I, Captain Sarsfield?”

Mrs. Burke’s continuous twitter of talk did not so engross me that I
could not hear all this, and remember that it was Willy who, after his
unavailing search for me, had become Nugent’s substitute, and something
in the rigid twist of his neck away from my direction told me that he
too had not forgotten the antecedents of that dance. Since her last
speech Mrs. Barrett had been as silent as she was motionless. I should
almost have thought she was asleep, but her eyes wandered to each
person’s face as they spoke, and somehow suggested to me the idea of an
intelligent restless spirit imprisoned in a featherbed. She now saved
Willy the necessity of replying.

“I wonder why the young ladies in this country are so anxious to dance
with Nugent O’Neill, as they all abominate him so much?” she inquired
solemnly.

Miss Horan and Miss Dennehy looked speechlessly round for sympathy at
this accusation, but before their indignation found words, a diversion
was created by the entrance of Mrs. Jackson-Croly and her daughters.
Miss Sissy Croly lingered at the door to speak to some one in the hall.
I recognized the voice which replied to her, though I could not hear the
words, and some instinct of self-defence made me rush into conversation
with Jimmy Barrett before Nugent followed Miss Croly into the room.

Since the day I had gone into Moycullen I had been slowly and, as I
thought, successfully hardening my heart. I had made a mistake, but it
was not an irretrievable one, and here was an opportunity of proving to
myself how little it had really affected me. So I talked sedulously to
Mr. Jimmy Barrett, until, Mrs. Croly’s greetings to the Burkes over,
manners demanded that I should shake hands with her. Nugent was standing
near, speaking to Miss Burke, and as I turned from Mrs. Croly he paused
in his conversation.

“How do you do, Miss Sarsfield?” he said formally; then, after a
moment’s silence, he spoke again to Miss Burke--“Yes, I was to have
started off yesterday, but I could not manage it, and I thought I
should like to see you before I go, as I may not be back again for some
time.”

“Why, every one is going away from the country!” said Miss Mimi,
directing her discourse to me. “Willy was saying, now this minute, that
he was afraid you were thinking of being off too?”

“Yes; I have been thinking of it, but I am not sure. I have to wait for
an answer from my aunt in Boston before I arrange anything,” I said,
with a confusion which took me unawares.

Miss Burke looked at me with delighted sagacity.

“Oh, now, I know quite well what that means! I don’t believe you’re
going away at all--do you, Mr. O’Neill?”

In spite of my own embarrassment, it gave an indefinable pleasure to
see, in the imperfect light afforded by Miss Burke’s lace-shrouded
windows, that Nugent’s imperturbable face was slowly changing in colour
from its usual brown to a dull crimson.

But Miss Mimi, in the fullness of her heart, did not wait for his
answer.

“I’ll talk to Willy about it,” she went on. “I’ll engage _he_ won’t let
you be running away from us like this!”

The fact that Nugent had turned away, and was speaking to Miss Croly,
gave me sufficient assurance to make some airy response. But I had lost
confidence in myself, and, cutting short the conversation, I again took
refuge in my chair near Mrs. Barrett.

For some little time Mrs. Jackson-Croly’s voice dominated the room, and
obviated all necessity for conversation on the part of any one else. She
also was talking of going away.

“Yes, Mrs. Burke,” she said; “I’m thinking of taking the girls to
Southsea. There’s such nice military society there. I always like to
take them to England as often as I can, on account of the accent. I
loathe a Cork brogue! My fawther took me abroad every year; he was so
alormed lest I’d acquire it, and I assure you, when we were children, he
used to insist on mamma’s putting cotton wool in our ears when we went
to old Mr. Flannagan’s church, for fear we’d ketch his manner of
speaking.”

“Dear, dear!” said Mrs. Burke, sympathetically, wholly unmoved by this
instance of the refinement of Mrs. Croly’s father. “Poor old Johnny
Flannagan! He had a beautiful voice in the pulpit. I declare”--turning
to me--“sometimes you’d think the people out in the street would hear
him, and the next minute you’d think ’twas a pigeon cooing to you.”

At another time I should probably have been inclined to lead Mrs. Burke
on to more reminiscences of this gifted divine, but my sole idea now was
to get away as soon as possible. I looked to see if Willy had nearly
finished his tea, but found that it was still in progress; in fact, when
I looked round, Miss Dennehy and Miss Horan were engaged in throwing
pieces of cake into his open mouth, loud laughter announcing equally the
success or failure of their aim. Willy caught my eye, and guiltily shut
his mouth.

“Do you want the horses, Theo?” he said, rightly interpreting my look,
and hastily getting up from the sofa, while small pieces of cake fell
off him in every direction. “I’ll go round and see about them.”

“Now, you needn’t be in such a hurry, Willy,” said Miss Burke, getting
up. “There’s just light enough left to show your cousin my new Plymouth
Rocks. I’ve been telling her all about them; and I’ve the doatiest
little house built for them in the yard! Come along, Miss Sarsfield;
we’ll slip out by the greenhouse while he’s getting the horses;” and,
snatching up a purple woollen antimacassar from the back of the chair,
she wrapped her head and shoulders in it, and with total unconsciousness
of her extraordinary appearance she led me out of the room.

The evening had grown very cold. I had felt smothered in the little
drawing-room, but now I shivered as I stood by the wired enclosure in
the corner of the garden, watching the much-vaunted Plymouth Rocks
picking and scratching about their gravel yard, and listening with
simulated intelligence to Miss Burke’s harangue upon their superiority
to all other tribes of hens. Beyond the fact that hens laid eggs in
greater or less profusion, I knew nothing about them. But, fortunately,
Miss Mimi’s enthusiasm asked for no more than the stray word or two of
ignorant praise with which I filled up her infrequent pauses.

My eyes took in, without losing any detail of absurdity, the effect of
her large face and majestic nose, surmounted by the purple antimacassar,
but my brain did not seem to receive any definite impression from it.
Every faculty was deadened by the battle between pride and despair that
was being fought out in me again. I had persuaded myself that that fight
was over and done with; but now as I stood in the damp twilight, and
looked at the firelit drawing-room windows, I felt that this time
despair might be likely to get the mastery.

Miss Mimi’s voice broke strangely in on my thoughts.

“Well, now, wait a moment till I go round to the back,” she said. “Me
greatest beauties are roosting in the house; but I must run into the
kitchen for the key, and then I can get in and poke them out for you to
see them.”

She went round through a door in the thick fuchsia hedge, which
encircled the garden and divided it from the yard, and left me standing
by myself in the chilly silence of the evening. I had almost forgotten
what I was waiting there for, though it could not have been more than
three or four minutes since Miss Burke left me, when I heard steps come
through the yard, and the faint smell of cigarettes penetrated the
hedge. A horse’s hoofs clattered on the stones as it was led out of the
stable.

“Well, good-bye, Nugent,” said Willy’s voice. “Will you be away long?”

“Yes; I dare say I shall not be home for some time. I am thinking of
going abroad for a bit.”

“Abroad? Where to? Is it to Cannes again? Or will you take a run over
to--to the U-nited States?” said Willy, with an indifferent assumption
of an American accent.

One or two movements from the horse filled the brief silence which
ensued, and when Nugent spoke again it was evident he had mounted.

“No,” he said; “that’s about the last place I should ever want to go to.
Well, good-bye. I suppose I shall find you here when I get back?” He
went on a few steps, and stopped. “Say good-bye to Miss Sarsfield for
me, will you?” he said, and rode out of the yard.



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PART III.

PROFIT AND LOSS.



CHAPTER I.

A THREAT.

    “With morning wakes the will, and cries,
    ‘Thou shalt not be the fool of loss.’”

    “A night of mystery. Strange sounds are swept
     Through the dim air.”


Aunt Jane’s answer to my letter had come. It had been much what I
expected it would be; she said she would be satisfied to see me back at
any time I saw fit to come, and she even unbent so far as to say that
the sooner that was, the better pleased she would be.

That was a week ago, and I was still at Durrus. If I had kept to my
original idea, I should by this time have been on the Atlantic; but the
steamer by which I had meant to have sailed was only taking to Aunt Jane
a letter, in which I had for the present, at all events, postponed my
return. I had not been able to explain very clearly my reasons for
changing my mind--principally for the excellent one that I was not quite
certain what they were. As the date on which I had settled to go came
nearer, it had appeared to me that the imperative necessity for my
leaving Durrus became more and more imaginary.

I had gradually come to take fresh views of life. It was not very long
since I had seen, for the first time, a new aspect of it, and had weakly
given myself over to its enchantment. But since then I had made up my
mind that that aspect was one that did not concern me personally any
more, and I now believed that there was nothing to prevent me from
going on with my life in the old way, as if I had never had that glimpse
of another possible future.

My idea that on Willy’s account I ought to go away had changed into the
directly opposite conviction, that on his account I ought to stay. What
my uncle had said to me about him that morning in the garden had not, I
must admit, very greatly disquieted me. I knew very well--I could not
help knowing it--that what he had said was true, and that it was my
influence which, though unintentionally on my part, had driven Anstey’s
into the background. But I would not believe his warning that there was
any further danger in the future.

Poor little Anstey! Uncle Dominick’s hints had made me think with a
great deal of unavailing pity about her. The recollection of her soft
eyes and deprecating voice made his definition of her as “an impudent
girl” singularly inappropriate. I had very little doubt but that Willy,
being both susceptible and idle, had amused himself, for want of better
occupation, by making love to her, and, so far from pitying him for
being “entangled,” all my sympathies were on the side of the
“entangler.” Even if he had ever had any real feeling for her, it had
become, I was very sure, a thing of the past; and, knowing Uncle
Dominick’s strong wish that I should stay at Durrus, I believed that he
had ingeniously used this imaginary peril as a reason for my doing so.

However, that whispered interchange of words at the gate on the way home
from Moycullen, gave unexpected reality to his fears as to the
consequences of a “misunderstanding” between Willy and me. Here was his
prophecy being fulfilled, and I was all the angrier with Willy from the
haunting feeling that it was I who had to a great extent revived this
undesirable state of things. It was of no use to try and persuade myself
that I had no real moral responsibility in the matter. My conscience had
developed an exasperating sensitiveness in connection with Willy, and
was persistently deaf to the excellent arguments which I brought to bear
upon it. I began to wonder whether it might not be possible to undo some
of the harm I had done, by beginning over again with Willy on new
lines--by adopting a friendliness so frank and so unsentimental, that he
should gradually be led into a state of calm and cousinly companionship.

I lost no time in trying the experiment, but after a few days I had to
confess to myself that it was uphill work. Willy was baffling, more
baffling than I had believed he ever could be. I did not even know
whether he appreciated the cheerfulness which I sometimes found it so
hard to keep up. There was a latent moroseness about him by which,
perhaps from its unaccustomedness, I could not help being a little
overawed. It bewildered me and set me at fault to see him spend the
evening, as he often did, in virtuously reading some standard work,
instead of wasting it in our old good-for-nothing way, by sitting over
the fire and doing nothing more profitable than playing with the dogs
and talking illiterate gossip. I could not make him out. I had once
thought his character a very simple one, so much so as to be almost
uninterestingly transparent, and this new complexity occupied my mind
and mystified me considerably. I suppose mystery is always interesting,
and just then I was inclined to cling to anything that led my thoughts
away from myself. At all events, whatever might have been the cause, I
thought and speculated about him more than I had ever done before.

On the day that we went to the Burkes’, he had been more
incomprehensible than ever. He rode there with me in a state of such
profound gloom, that I wondered if it were the result of some
culminating quarrel with his father. I certainly could never have
anticipated the admirable way in which, during the visit, he comported
himself; still less his continued good spirits on the way home. I did
not at the time understand their cause, but I afterwards knew that it
was what had happened that afternoon that had, to a great extent,
cleared the atmosphere. It was now more than a fortnight since then, and
he had had no very serious relapse into moodiness. We had pretty nearly
arrived at the ideal friendly but unromantic footing that I had hoped
for--quite enough for me to permit myself a little self-glorification,
and going back to America any sooner than I had intended seemed more
unnecessary than ever. Uncle Dominick had effaced himself almost
entirely from our lives. Dinner was now the only time during the day
that I saw him, and he used to sit and listen to what we were saying
without joining in it. There was nothing about him to remind me of his
outburst that night in the drawing-room. When he spoke, it was usually
to say something which, for him, was almost affectionate, and his manner
often showed traces of feebleness and exhaustion which were very new
with him.

Thursday, the 28th of January, was Willy’s twenty-fifth birthday. We
had fitly celebrated it by going out hunting, and, having come home
hungry after a good day’s sport, were now, in consideration of having
had no lunch, indulging in poached eggs at afternoon tea.

“The men in the yard tell me that there are to be great doings to-night
in honour of me,” Willy remarked, when the first sharp edge had been
taken off his appetite. “There’s to be a bonfire outside the front gate,
and Conneen the piper, and dancing, and everything. It means that I’ll
have to send them a tierce of porter, and that you’ll have to turn out
after dinner and go down and have a look at them.”

“So long as they don’t ask me to dance, I shall be very glad to go. But
would your father mind?”

“Mind? Not he! You’re such a ‘white-headed boy’ with him these times,
you can do what you like with him. By Jove, he’s a deal fonder of you
than he ever was of me!” said Willy, with ungrudging admiration.

“I am sure he is not,” I said lazily, and as much for the sake of
contradiction as from any false modesty. “It is most unlikely. I know if
I were he, I should naturally like you better than I like myself.”

“What on earth are you trying to say?” said Willy. “Would you mind
saying it all over again--slowly?”

“I mean,” I said, slightly confused, but sticking to my point--“I mean
that if I were your father, I should see a great many more reasons for
being fond of _you_ than I should of _me_.”

“Well, as far as I can make that out,” said Willy, grinning
exasperatingly, “it seems to me that it’s a pity you’re not my father.”

“You know perfectly well what I mean. Just suppose that I was your
father----”

“I’d rather not, thanks.”

I did not heed the interruption. “I should be much fonder of you----”

“Then, why aren’t you?”

“I don’t care what you say,” I said, feeling I was getting the worst of
it; “I know what I mean quite well, and so would you, only that you
choose to be an idiot.” And, getting up, I left the room with all speed,
in order to have the last word in a discussion which was taking a rather
difficult tone.

The sea-fog had crept up from the harbour towards evening, and it fell
in heavy drops from the trees upon Willy and me as we walked down the
avenue after dinner to see the bonfire. There was no moon visible, but
the milky atmosphere held some luminous suggestion of past or coming
light. It was a still night; we could hear the low booming of the sea in
the caves below the old graveyard, and the nearer splashing of the
rising tide among the Durrus rocks.

“There’s no sound I hate like that row the ground-swell makes out there
at the point,” said Willy. “If you’re feeling any way lonely, it makes
you want to hang yourself.”

“I like it,” I said, stopping to listen. “I often lie awake and listen
to it these nights, when the westerly wind is blowing.”

“Maybe you’d get enough of doing that if you were here by yourself for a
bit, and knew you’d got to stop here. I tell you you’ve no notion what
this place is like in the winter. Sometimes there’s not a creature in
the country to speak to from one month’s end to another.”

“I ought to know something about it by this time.”

“You think you do,” he answered, with a short laugh. “But you can’t very
well know what it was like before you came, no more than you can tell
what it will be like when you’re gone.”

We moved on again.

“Cannot you ever get away?” I asked sympathetically.

“No; how could I leave the governor? I tell you,” he went on, “that if
you were boxed up here with no one to talk to but him, you’d go anywhere
for company.” He stopped for a moment. “Do you know that, before you
came here last October, I was as near making a fool of myself as ever a
chap was”--breaking off again, but continuing before I could speak--“I
believe I didn’t care a hang what I did with myself then. I suppose
you’ll think that I’m an ass, but it’s very hard to have no one at all
who cares about you.”

“I am sure it must be,” I said, feeling very uncomfortable, and walking
quickly on.

I had a nervous feeling that in confidences of this kind I might find
the “calm and cousinly” footing that I so much desired, slipping from
under my feet.

We were now near the gate, and could already hear the squeals of the
bagpipe, and see the glare of the bonfire in the fog. All round the
semi-circular sweep outside the lodge, a row of women and girls were
seated on the ground, with their backs to the ivy-covered wall, while a
number of men and boys were heaping sticks on to a great glowing mound
of turf that was burning in the middle of the road. The barrel of porter
which Willy had sent was propped up in one of the niches in the wall,
and in the other niches, and along the top of the walls, were clustered
innumerable little boys.

As Willy and I came through the open gates, a sort of straggling cheer
was set up by the men, which was shrilly augmented and prolonged by
shrieks from the children in the niches. Willy walked up to the bonfire.

“Well, boys,” he said, “that’s a great bonfire you have. I’m glad to see
you all here.”

At this moderate display of eloquence there was another cheer, and as it
died away, a very old man, in knee-breeches and tail-coat, came forward,
and, to my intense amazement, kissed Willy’s hand.

“I’m a tenant in Durrus eighty-seven years,” he said, “an’ if I was
dyin’ this minute, I’d say you were the root and branch of your
grandfather’s family! Root and branch--root and branch!”

I was not given time to ponder over the meaning of this occult
commendation, for an old woman, darting forward, snatched Willy’s hand
from the man. She also began by kissing it resoundingly, but, with an
excess of adoration, she flung it from her.

“On the mout’! on the mout’!” she screamed, flinging her arms round him;
and then, dragging his face down to hers, she suited the action to the
word.

Willy submitted to the salute with admirable fortitude; but, in order to
avoid further demonstrations of a similar kind, he called upon Conneen
the piper to play a jig. I heard from the other side of the road a long
preliminary drone, and the piper, a weird-looking, crippled hunchback,
seated on a donkey, began to produce from his bagpipes a succession of
sounds of varying discordancy, known as “The Foxhunter’s Jig.”

I drew back into the smaller gateway to watch the dance. The figures of
the four dancers showed darkly against the background of firelit, steamy
fog, and the flames of a tar-barrel which had just been thrown upon the
bonfire glared unsteadily on the faces of the people, and on the glowing
network of branches overhead. Willy was one of the four who were
dancing, and was covering himself with glory by the number and intricacy
of his steps. He had chosen as his partner the stout lady in whose
cottage we had once sheltered from the rain, and above the piercing
efforts of the bagpipes to render in “The Foxhunter’s Jig” the various
noises of the chase, the horn, the hounds, and the hunters, the plaudits
of the audience rose with more and more enthusiasm.

“More power, Masther Willy!”

“Tighten yourself now, Mrs. Sweeny!”

“Ah ha! d’ye mind that for a lep! He’s the divil’s own dancer!”

I looked on and listened to it all from the gateway, feeling, in spite
of my Sarsfield blood, a stranger in a strange land. I did not recognize
many of the people about me; beyond some of the junior members of the
Durrus household, who nodded to me with the chastened, reserved
friendliness of the domestic servant when away from her own roof, and
Mary Minnehane, whose white teeth shone in a broad grin when I looked at
her, I knew no one. Neither Anstey nor her mother were anywhere to be
seen, though I had looked up and down the row of faces several times for
them. A small, ugly old man, whom I knew to be Michael Brian, the
lodge-keeper, was in charge of the barrel of porter. I noticed during
the dance that, although he never took his eyes off the dancers, he did
not applaud, and before it was over he left the barrel in the care of a
subordinate, and went past me into the lodge.

In a minute or two he returned, bringing Anstey with him, and she began
to help him in dispensing the porter. The niche in which it was placed
was quite near to where I was standing, and I could hear him scolding
her in a low voice. She looked frightened and unhappy, and Willy’s
half-confession on the way down made me watch her with a peculiar,
pitying interest. When the jig had ended with a long squeal from the
pipes, intended, I presumed, to represent the fox’s death-agony, Willy
led his breathless partner back to her place, and slowly made his way to
me, amid a shower of compliments and pious ejaculations.

“Phew I’m mostly dead!” he said, leaning against the gatepost beside
me, and fanning himself with his cap. “Mrs. Sweeny has more going in
her than ten men, and dancing on the gravel is no joke.”

While he was speaking, I saw that his eye had fallen on Anstey, and
almost imperceptibly he faced more and more in my direction, till his
back was turned to her and her father. Another dance began, but, instead
of joining in it, he lighted a cigarette and went on talking to me.

“Perhaps we’d better be getting home,” he said presently. “You must have
seen about enough of it.”

We moved from where we were standing into the carriage-drive, and he
said a general good night to the assemblage. The jig was stopped, and
one of the dancers shouted--

“Three cheers for Masther Willy!”

“Huzzay!” rose the chorus.

“And three cheers for Miss Sarsfield!” called out a woman’s voice,
which I fancied I recognized as my friend Mary Minnehane’s, and another
“Huzzay!” arose in my honour.

Willy looked at me with a beaming face.

“Do you hear that, Theo? You see, _they_ think a good deal of you too.”

“It’s very kind of them,” I replied, retreating precipitately into the
darkness; “but I hope they don’t expect me to make a speech.”

“Masther Willy!”

I heard a hoarse whisper behind me, and, looking back, I saw that old
Michael Brian had followed Willy through the gates.

“Masther Willy, aren’t you goin’ to dance with my gerr’l?”

“No, I’m not; I’m going home,” said Willy, roughly. He turned away, but
Brian caught his sleeve.

“Ah! come back now and dance with her,” he said, in a part bullying,
part wheedling voice; “don’t give her the go by.”

Willy wrenched away his sleeve.

“Go to the devil! You’re drunk!” he said, in a low angry voice.

“Dhrunk is it? Wait a while, and you’ll see if I’m dhrunk,” said Brian,
following him as he turned from him, and speaking more threateningly.
“Dhrunk or sober, there’ll be work yet before ye’re done with me.”

Willy made no remark on what had taken place as he joined me where I was
standing a few paces in advance of him. I did not know what to say, and
we walked silently away up the avenue. The noise of the bagpipes died
away behind us in the fog, and the moaning rush of the tide, now full
in, on the strand, was again the only sound to be heard. We had got into
the darkness of the clump of elms, when Willy stopped short.

“I thought I heard some one there in the trees,” he said. “I wonder if
that old blackguard----” He did not finish the sentence, and we both
listened.

“I don’t hear anything now, whatever,” he said, moving on. But before we
had gone more than a few steps, I heard a twig snap.

“There _is_ something there,” I said apprehensively, coming closer to
him. He felt for my hand, and put it into his arm.

“Never mind; very likely it’s only a stray jackass; don’t be frightened
at all.”

We walked on quickly until we were in the open beyond the little wood,
and we were near the house before he spoke again.

“Theo, I think I’ve made the most miserable hash of my life that ever
any one did. You needn’t say anything, and you needn’t think that I’m
going to say anything that would annoy you anyway; but I just feel that
everything’s gone against me, and I may as well chuck it all up.”

“Oh, that’s nonsense, Willy!” I said, trying to speak with more
cheerfulness than I felt. “That is a very poor way of looking at
things.”

“Very likely, but it’s the only way I’ve got.” We were on the steps by
this time, and he opened the hall door. “Anyhow, it doesn’t make much
difference how I look at them; I suppose it will all come to the same
sooner or later.”

He shut the door with a bang, and I went upstairs.

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[Illustration: text decoration]

CHAPTER II.

“BUT WHERE IS COUNTY GUY?”

    “What shall assuage the unforgotten pain,
     And teach the unforgetful to forget?”


I lay awake for a long time after I got into bed, and I had not been
long asleep when some sound wakened me. I was at first not sorry to
awake; I had been sleeping uneasily and feverishly, and my dreams had
been full of disasters and difficulties. I did not trouble myself much
as to what the sound was--probably a rat, as the house was overrun with
them--and I tried to see the face of my watch by the light of the fire,
which was still burning brightly. I had made out that it was half-past
one, when I again heard a sound. It was a movement in the next room, as
if a chair had been pushed against by some one moving cautiously in the
dark. I do not pretend to being superior to irrational terrors at night,
and now the blood rushed back to my head from my heart, as I sat up in
bed and tried to persuade myself that what I had heard was the effect of
imagination.

There was dead silence for a few seconds, and then a hand was passed
over the other side of the paper-covered door, as if feeling for the
latch. I could not have moved to save my life, and remained sitting bolt
upright, with my eyes fixed upon the door. It was a weak and badly
fitting one, made of single planks, and at first refused to open, but it
had finally to yield to the pressure applied to it. It opened with a
jerk, and I saw by the firelight that the figure which appeared in the
doorway was neither ghost nor burglar, but was that of the woman whose
special mission it had seemed to be to terrify me ever since I came to
Durrus.

“What do you want?” I demanded, as courageously as I could, though my
voice was less valiant than I could have wished.

Moll advanced a step into the room, keeping her face down and half
averted from me, while her large hands kept clutching and plucking at
the cloak she wore.

“Go away,” I said, feeling exceedingly frightened. “You know you are not
allowed to come in here.”

She stopped still for a moment, and looked at me. The deep shadows which
the fire threw on her face made it look absolutely appalling. Her lips
moved incessantly, and her malevolent expression, as she glanced at me
out of the corners of her eyes, made me feel certain that she was
trying to curse me; but, except a guttural mouthing sound, I could
distinguish nothing. While this imprecation, or whatever it was, was
going on, she kept edging sideways towards the sofa, and, cautiously
putting out her hand, she picked up the large cushion that was on it.

Still watching; me intently, she moved towards the bed, crushing and
working the pillow about in her hands. I had no idea what she was going
to do, and wildly thought of making a rush past her to the other door,
and escaping down the corridor; but, beside the disadvantage of leaving
a stronghold where, if the worst came to the worst, I could always pull
the clothes over my head, I had a horrible fear that she might run after
me. I determined to make a last effort, and, before she could come any
closer, I said determinately--

“If you do not go away at once, I shall call the master.”

At this, to my unspeakable relief, she looked hastily round over her
shoulder, and let the cushion fall. Drawing the hood of her cloak over
her head, she slowly retreated into the room out of which she had come,
and with a final roll of her dreadful eyes upon me, she closed the
paper-covered door after her. I listened intently, and presently heard
the rustle of her cloak against the walls as she went down the corridor,
and soon afterwards a door in some distant part of the house opened and
shut.

I drew a long breath; she was out of the house now. I got up, and, with
shaking limbs, dragged my big Saratoga trunk against the paper-covered
door, and, having locked the other one, felt comparatively secure. As
might be expected, I did not get to sleep again very easily. I had
always been aware of Moll’s animosity towards me, but this was the first
time it had taken active form. As my nerves steadied down, I remembered
the sounds that Willy and I had heard in the avenue on the way home, and
I wondered if jealousy on Anstey’s account could have been Moll’s motive
in following us, and then in making her way, with what seemed like a
sinister intention, up to my room. Yet it was hard to believe that such
a creature as she was could comprehend and act upon an idea of the kind.
I drowsily tried to connect this dreadful visit with her husband’s words
to Willy at the lodge, but before I could arrive at any satisfactory
conclusion I fell asleep.

At breakfast I told Willy the greater part of what had happened, but I
made as light of it all as I could. He was out of spirits, and not like
himself, and I had put off saying anything to him about it until we had
almost finished breakfast. When I had ended my story, he pushed back his
chair from the table and got up.

“I’ll make them sorry for this,” he said vindictively, his face flushing
darkly as he spoke. “I’ll teach that old scoundrel Brian to let Moll
come up here frightening you! You look as white as a sheet this minute.”

“I am sure I am nothing of the kind,” I answered, trying unsuccessfully
to look at myself in the silver teapot; “there is nothing the matter
with me. If you will fasten up that little door into the other room
before this evening, I shall be perfectly happy.”

“Never fear but I will,” he said; “and it’ll be very queer if I don’t
fasten up that old hag too.”

He stalked out of the room. I heard him go upstairs and along the
corridor, and presently the noise of hammering echoed through the house.

I met him in the hall soon afterwards, putting on his cap to go out.

“I fixed that door the way it won’t be opened again in a hurry,” he
said, with grim satisfaction, “and I’ve locked the other; and now I’m
going to be off to fix Moll herself. She’s not such a fool but she’ll
understand what I’m going to say to her!”

“I wonder what the attraction in that room was for her?” I said. “I have
seen her in there several times.”

“Goodness knows! There was nothing in it, only an old broken chair she
had by the window, and there were a couple of books on the floor that I
suppose she stole out of the study to play with. One looked like an old
diary, or account-book, or something. I meant to bring it to show you,
but I left it in my room with the hammer and nails.”

“I am very much obliged to you for shutting up that door,” I said, with
sincere gratitude. “I had no idea you were going to do it for me at
once. You are a most reliable person.”

He had taken his stick out of the stand, and had opened the hall door;
but he stopped and looked back at me.

“I think I’d do more than that for you,” he said, almost under his
breath, and went out of the house.

It was a fine morning, and I finally went for a walk along the cliffs
with the dogs. I expected to hear all about Willy’s encounter with Moll
at luncheon; but, on my return to the house, I heard, to my surprise,
that he had ridden into Moycullen, and would probably not be home for
dinner.

The afternoon lagged by. I had tea early, in the hope of shortening it;
but the device did not have much success. As the evening clouded in,
rain began to beat in large drops against the windows, and the rising
wind sighed about the house, and sent puffs of smoke down the
drawing-room chimney. I despised myself for the feeling of forsakenness
which it gave me; but I could help it no more than I could hinder some
apprehensive recollections of Moll’s entry into my room. A childish
dread of having all the darkness behind me made me crouch down on the
hearthrug, with my back to the fire, and rouse Pat from a satiated
slumber to sit on my lap for company. Something about the look of the
fire and the sound of the rain was compelling my thoughts back to the
afternoon when I sat and waited here for Nugent. I did not try, as I
had so often tried before, to drive away those thoughts, or to forget
the withheld possibilities of that afternoon. Once more I gave myself
over to the fascination of unprofitable remembrances, yielding to myself
on the plea that it was to be for the last time. After to-day they would
be contraband, made outlaws by the power of a resolution which I had
newly come to--a resolution that I had been driven to by the combined
forces of pity and sympathy and conscience; but to-day, for one final
half-hour, I would allow them to have their way.

Dinner-time came, and with it no appearance of Willy. Uncle Dominick had
for some time given up his custom of waiting in the library to take me
in to dinner, and Willy and I usually found him sitting by the fire in
the dining-room when we went in. To-night, when I came in alone, he
remained seated in his chair.

“We may as well give Willy a few moments’ law,” he said. “I hear he rode
into Moycullen.”

“He told Tom when he was going that you weren’t to wait dinner for him,
sir,” interposed Roche.

“What business could he have that would detain him so late?” said my
uncle, slowly rising and taking his place at the table. “Can you throw
any light upon this absence, Theo?”

He looked anxious and surprised when I told him that Willy had said
nothing to me about it. Several times during dinner he harked back to
the same subject, and I was more struck than ever by the nervous
uncertainty of his manner, and the strange way in which one idea took
possession of his mind. He looked so ill and worn, that before I left
the room compassion made me screw up my courage to ask him if he would
not sit with me in the drawing-room, instead of going to his own study
by himself.

He shook his head. “You are very good, my dear; it is very kind of you
to express a wish for my society. But I am much occupied in the
evenings--letters to write, accounts to go over. Besides, I am used by
this time to being alone--ah yes!” He walked feebly over to the door,
and opened it for me to leave the room. “You must forgive me,” he said.

To my amazement, he stooped down as I passed, and, putting his hand on
my shoulder, he kissed my forehead.



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CHAPTER III.

“LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST.”

    “‘Uncover ye his face,’ she said;
    ‘Oh, changed in little space!’”

    “When Pity could no longer look on Pain.”


“Faith, I don’t know anny more than yourself, miss. ’Twas twelve o’clock
last night when he come home, and Tom says the mare was in such a sweat
when he brought her in that he thought she’d never stop breaking out in
the stable.”

“Where has he been all the morning? Did he breakfast long before I did?”

“It wasn’t half-past seven, miss, when he was downstairs calling for a
cup of tay from the servants’ breakfast, and, afther he taking it, he
went out of the house,” Roche answered, rising stiffly from his knees
after he had swept up and replenished the drawing-room grate.

“It is very curious,” I said to myself, going over to the window and
looking out on the lawn, where the dogs were engaged in a long,
unsatisfactory wrangle over a duck’s claw. “I wonder what has become of
him?”

“Miss Theo,” began Roche, impressively, depositing his coal-scuttle in
the middle of the floor, “I don’t like the way Masther Willy is, and
that’s the thruth. Maggie told me he wasn’t in his bed last night at
all; and Tom was saying he had a face on him that would frighten you
when he ordhered the horse yesterday.”

Something in Roche’s manner implied reproach and inquiry, and I felt
obliged to defend myself. “There was nothing the matter with him when I
saw him last, yesterday morning.”

“Is that so, miss?” said Roche, picking up his coal-scuttle preparatory
to leaving the room. “Well, miss, maybe I’m only an owld fool afther
all, but there’s things going on I don’t like.”

Luncheon came, and again I had to eat it in no better company than my
own. I began to feel seriously troubled about Willy, and finally put on
my things and went round to the yard to see if I could hear anything
about him there. He had been in the stables early that morning, to see
the mare get her feed, Mick told me, and he thought he had seen him, a
while ago, going round the shrubberies towards the plantation.

There had been sharp, sleety showers all the morning, and one of them
now began to fall so heavily that I had to take refuge in a stable
while it lasted. I watched it impatiently, as it whipped the surface of
the puddles about the yard and drove the fowls to the friendly shelter
of the coach-house, and at the first signs of its abating I started for
the plantation to look for Willy. By the time I reached the front of the
house, the shower was quite over, and was driving out to sea. A wet
gleam of sunlight shone on the trees, making every branch and twig show
with pale distinctness against the bank of purple cloud behind; a
pilot-boat was beating in to Durrusmore Harbour in the teeth of the cold
south-easterly wind; the curlews screamed fitfully as they flew inland
over my head, and I was weatherwise enough by this time to know that a
storm was not far off.

The shrubberies were chilly and dripping, and their narrow walks were
covered with soaking withered leaves, but they were sheltered from the
wind. I hurried along them, not very certain of where I was going, or
what my exact intention in looking for Willy was. I had come to the
place where I had once left the path to gather ferns by the stream, and
was beginning to realize the absurdity of expecting to find him here,
half an hour at least since Mick had seen him, when, at the angle where
the two paths meet, I came suddenly upon him.

He was sitting on a tumble-down old rustic seat, with his elbows on his
knees, and his face hidden in his hands.

“Willy!” I cried, starting forward, “what is the matter? Are you ill?”

He raised his head, and looked at me vacantly, and for the moment I felt
almost as great a shock as if I had seen him lying dead there; if he
had been dead, his whole look could hardly be more changed than it was
now. A bluish-grey pallor had taken the place of his usually fresh
colouring; his eyes were sunk in dark hollows, but the lids were red;
and I saw, with a shame at surprising them there, the traces of tears on
his cheeks.

“I’m all right,” he answered, turning his face away without getting up;
“please don’t stay here, Theo. It’s only that my head’s pretty bad.”

A small brown book was lying on the seat beside him, and he put it into
the pocket of his coat while he was speaking. I was too bewildered to
move.

“You’d better go in,” he said again; “it’s awfully cold and wet for you
to be out here.”

The feeling that I was prying upon his trouble, whatever it was, made me
take a few undecided steps away from him; but, looking back, I saw that
he had again relapsed into his old position, and with an uncontrollable
impulse I came back.

“I won’t go away, Willy,” I said, sitting down beside him; “I can’t
leave you here like this. Won’t you tell me what it is that is troubling
you?”

He neither lifted his head nor spoke, but I could hear the quick
catchings of his breath. A thrust of sharp pity pierced my heart.

“Do tell me what it is, Willy,” I repeated, careless of the break in my
voice, putting one hand on his shoulder, and trying with the other to
draw one of his from his face.

He was trembling all over, and when I touched him he started and let his
hand fall, but he turned still further from me.

“Don’t,” he said huskily. “You can’t do any good; nothing can----”

“What do you mean?” I said, horror-struck at the settled despair in his
voice. “What has happened to you?”

“It’s no use your asking me questions,” he answered more calmly. “I tell
you there’s nothing the matter with me.”

“I don’t believe you” I said. “Something _has_ happened to you since
yesterday morning. Is it anything that I have done? Is it my fault in
any way?”

“No, it is not your fault.” He stood up, and went on wildly, without
looking at me, “But I wish I had died before you came to Durrus! I wish
I was in the graveyard out there this minute! I wish the whole scheming,
infernal crew were in hell--I wish----”

“Oh, stop, Willy!” I cried--“stop! You are frightening me!”

He had been standing quite still, but he had flung out his clenched hand
at every sentence, and his grey eyes were fixed and dilated.

“I don’t know what I’m saying; I didn’t mean to frighten you,” he said,
sitting down again beside me. “I had no right to say that--about wishing
I was dead before you came. Your coming here was the best thing ever
happened to me in my life. I’ll always thank God for giving me the
chance of loving you; and no matter what happens, I always will love
you--always--always----”

He caught my hand as if he were going to draw me towards him, but,
checking himself, he let it fall with a groan.

“It’s all over now,” he said. “Everything’s gone to smash.”

A rush of wind shivered through the laurels, and shook a quick rattle of
drops from the shining leaves.

“Why should it all be over? Why should not it begin again?”

I said it firmly, but it seemed to me as if I were listening to some one
else speaking.

“What do you mean?” He stared at me.

“I mean that perhaps I made a mistake,” I said, beginning to
hesitate--“that perhaps, that night at Mount Prospect, I was wrong in
what I said to you----”

“You’re humbugging me!” he said fiercely, without taking his eyes from
my face. “You don’t know what you’re saying.”

“Yes, I do know,” I answered, still with that feeling that another
person was speaking for me. “I’ve thought about it before now, and I
thought perhaps, if you would forgive----”

“Forgive! I don’t understand you. Do you mean to say you would marry
me?”

“Yes.”

He looked at me stupidly, and staggered to his feet as if he were drunk.

“I’m having a fine time of it!” he said, with a loud harsh laugh. “She
says she’ll have me after all, and I’ve got to say ‘No, thank you!’”

He swayed a little as he stood opposite to me, and then, falling on his
knees, he laid his head on my lap, and broke into a desperate sobbing.

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CHAPTER IV.

STORM.

    “And all talk died, as in a grove all song
     Beneath the shadow of some bird of prey;
     Then a long silence came upon the hall,
     And Modred thought, ‘The time is hard at hand.’”

    “In the shaken trees the chill stars shake.
     Hush! Heard you a horse tread as you spake,
                                Little Brother?”


That night the wind shifted to the south-west, and the storm that came
thundering in from the Atlantic was the worst I had known since I came
to Durrus. The rain had been coming down in furious floods ever since
sunset, and as the night darkened in, the wind dashed it against my
window till I thought the sashes must give way. The roaring of the
storm in the trees never ceased, and once or twice, through the
straining and lashing of the branches, I heard the crash of a falling
bough. The house was full of sounds. The rattling of the ill-fitting
windows, the knocking of the picture-frames against the walls of the
corridor, the loud drip of water from a leak in the skylight into a bath
placed to catch it in the hall. Somewhere in the house a door was
banging incessantly. It maddened me to hear it, more especially now,
when I was trying to determine by the sound if the door which had just
been opened was that of Willy’s room. He surely must be in the house on
a night like this; and yet his door had been open, and his room dark,
when I had passed it on my way up to bed an hour ago.

Since he had left me in the plantation--left me sitting there in
stunned horror, with the rain beating down through the laurels upon
me--I had not seen or heard anything of him. He had gone without another
word of explanation, without saying anything to qualify that last
speech, or that could give any clue to the cause of it. It was all dark,
inexplicable. I could only sit over my fire in impotent anxiety, my
brain toiling with confused surmises, and my heart heavy with
apprehension.

I think I never was as fond of Willy, or as truly unhappy about him, as
now, when I had just received from him a slight, the idea even of which
I should a few months ago have laughed at. I did not care about my own
point of view--I even forgot it, in my consuming desire to find out the
reason of Willy’s mysterious behaviour during the last two days. Nothing
that had gone before threw any light upon the problem, unless, indeed,
Michael Brian’s threat that night of the bonfire had had some incredibly
sinister meaning. No, there was no adequate solution; but the bellowing
of the wind in the chimney, and the sliding clatter of a slate falling
down the roof, brought home to me the one tangible fact that he was
still out of the house, at twelve o’clock on the wildest night of the
year.

The next day was Sunday. The storm raged steadily on, putting all
possibility of going to church out of the question. The shutters on the
western side of the house were all closed, and I sat in the
semi-darkness of the library, trying to read, and looking from time to
time through the one unshuttered window out on to the gravel sweep.
Broken twigs and pieces torn from the weather-slated walls were strewed
over the ground. A great sycamore had fallen across the drive a little
below the house, and the other trees swung and writhed as if in despair
at the long stress of the gale.

Roche came in and out of the room on twenty different pretexts during
the day, and made each an occasion for ventilating some new theory to
explain Willy’s absence. I was kneeling on the window-seat, looking out
into the turmoil, as the wind hurried the black rain-clouds across the
sky, and the gloomy daylight faded into night, when he came into the
room again.

“There’s a great dhraught from that window, miss,” he remarked. “You’d
be best let me shut the shutthers. You’ll see no sign of Masther Willy
this day, unless he’s coming by the last thrain.”

“Why, what makes you think that?” I asked eagerly.

“Well, miss, the postman’s just afther being here, and he said there
was one that saw him at the station at Moycullen last night.”

“At the station--Moycullen!” I repeated, in bewilderment. “Was he going
away?”

“He was, miss. Sure he was seen getting into the thrain, though the dear
knows where he was going!”

“Have you told the master that he was seen there?”

“I did, miss. Sure he’s asking for him the whole day. He’s very unaisy
in his mind. He’s roaming, roaming through the house all the day, and
he’s give ordhers to have his dinner sent to his own room. He wasn’t
best pleased when he found Masther Willy had locked up the room that’s
next your own, and twice, an’ I coming upstairs, I seen him sthriving to
open the door.”

“Master Willy did that to prevent Moll getting in there,” I explained.
“I will tell the master so myself.”

“Don’t say a word to him, miss, good nor bad,” said Roche, shaking his
knotted forefinger at me expressively. “He’ll forget--he’ll forget----”
He sniffed significantly, and, as if to prevent himself from saying any
more, he shuffled out of the room.

But Willy did not come by the last train; indeed, the storm was still
too violent for any one to travel. I lay awake the greater part of the
night, filled with feverish fears and fancies. Several times I could
have been sure that I heard some one wandering about the house, and once
I thought there was a shaking and pushing at the locked door of the room
next to mine.

When I awoke next morning, I found that the wind had been at length
beaten down by a deluge of rain, which was descending in a grey
continuous flood, as if it never meant to stop. The day dragged wearily
on. Roche had spoken truly in saying that Uncle Dominick was uneasy and
restless. It seemed to me that he never stopped walking about the house.
I heard him constantly moving backwards and forwards, from the library
to his own study, and every now and then the sound of his footsteps in
Willy’s room overhead would startle me for an instant into wondering if
Willy had come home.

The long waiting and suspense had got on my nerves, and the gloom and
silence made the house seem like a prison. I could neither read nor play
the piano. I was debarred from even the society of Pat and Jinny, as, on
the first day of the storm, their muddy footmarks in the hall had made
my uncle angrily order their exile to the stable. I almost looked
forward to dinner-time. I should then at least have occupation, and a
certain amount of society, for half an hour, and there was something
usual and conventional about it which would be a rest after the tension
and loneliness of the day.

Rather to my surprise, I found my uncle standing in the hall when I came
downstairs to dinner.

“What a terrible day this has been!” he said, as he offered me his arm.
“This rain makes the air so oppressive,” he sighed, “and I have a great
deal to trouble me.”

He helped me to soup, and, having done so, got up and walked over to the
fireplace.

“I have no appetite at all,” he said. “I suppose it is caused by loss of
sleep, but I really have a positive distaste for food.”

He turned his back to me, and leaned his forehead against the high
mantelshelf, while I went on with my dinner as well as I could. After a
little time, however, he came back to the table.

“Dear me! I am forgetful of my duties! Will you not take a glass of
wine? You must be tired after your long drive in the snow from
Carrickbeg.” Mentioning a station between Cork and Moycullen.

I stared. “But I have not been out to-day.”

He put his hand to his head. “How forgetful I am!” he said hastily. “But
the fact is, I am so upset by anxiety about Willy that I do not know
what I am saying.”

“Then, have you heard that Willy is at Carrickbeg?” I asked excitedly.

“No, my dear, no,” he said, shaking his head two or three times; “I know
nothing about him. I confused Carrickbeg with Moycullen. Till a few
years ago, Carrickbeg was our nearest station, and in those days
travellers did not arrive here till one o’clock in the morning--one
o’clock on a cold snowy morning.” He slowly repeated to himself, with a
shudder.

I felt very sorry to see how unhinged he was by what he had gone
through, and I tried to persuade him to eat something, but without
success. He poured himself out a glass of port, and, having drunk it,
again left his chair and stood by the fire, fidgeting with a trembling
hand with the objects on the mantelshelf. Dinner was soon over, and, not
liking to leave Uncle Dominick, I drew a chair over to the fire and sat
down. He did not seem to notice me, but began to pace up and down the
room, stopping now and then by one of the windows as if listening for
sounds outside; but the noisy splashing of the water that fell from a
broken eaveshoot on to the gravel, was all that was to be heard.

“There!” he said at last, in a whisper; “do you hear the wheels? Do you
hear them coming?”

I jumped up and listened too. “No, I can hear nothing.”

“I _did_ hear them,” he said positively. “I know they are beginning.”

I could not understand what he meant, but I went to the nearest window,
and was beginning to unbar the shutters, when there came a loud ring at
the hall-door bell.

“I told you he was coming,” my uncle said. “I must get out some brandy
for him after his long drive in the snow.”

The hall door was opened, and I heard Roche’s voice raised excitedly,
and then the rustle of a mackintosh being thrown off. I ran to the door,
and, opening it, met Willy coming into the room.

His face was all wet with rain, and his hair was hanging in damp points
on his forehead. He took my outstretched hand and shook it, and,
without answering my incoherent questions, walked past me into the room.
My uncle was still standing by the window, holding with one hand to the
heavy folds of the red curtain.

“What! Willy!” he said, coming forward, and staring at Willy with wild
eyes in which frightened conjecture slowly steadied into reassurance.
“Was it _you_ who drove up?” A sort of sob shook his voice. “My dear
boy, I am rejoiced to see you; but, good heavens, how wet you
are!”--going to the sideboard and pouring out a glass of brandy. “Here,
you must drink this at once.”

“I don’t want it,” said Willy; “I don’t want anything.”

He stood still looking at his father, who, from some cause or other, was
shaking in every limb.

“How did you get up to the house, Willy?” I interposed. “Did you know of
the tree that was blown across the avenue?”

“They told me of it below at the lodge, and I walked from the corner,”
he answered. “I’ve got something to say to you, sir,” he went on,
addressing his father. “You needn’t go away, Theo; you might as well
hear it too.”

Uncle Dominick lifted the glass of brandy to his lips, and swallowed it
at a gulp.

“Well, my dear boy,” he said, with a smile, and in a stronger voice,
“let us hear what you have got to say.”

“It’s easy told,” Willy said, putting his hands into his pockets. “I
went up to Cork on Saturday night, and Anstey Brian followed me this
morning, and I married her there.”



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CHAPTER V.

GOOD-BYE.

    “Since there’s no help, come, let us kiss and part.”

                       “‘Not my pain.
    My pain was nothing; oh, your poor, poor love,
    Your broken love!’”


There was dead silence for some seconds, Uncle Dominick was the first to
break it.

“You married her?” he said slowly, the words falling from his lips like
drops of acid. “You mean to say she is your wife?”

Willy nodded stubbornly.

My uncle stood looking at him, the blood mounting in dark waves to his
pale face, till I should scarcely have known him. He made a stammering
attempt to speak, and moved some steps forward towards Willy, groping
with his hands in front of him as if he were blind, before the words
came.

“Leave the house!” he gasped, in a high, shrill voice--“leave the
house!”--swaying as if shaken by the passion that filled him--“you
infernal, lying scoundrel, or I will kick you out like a dog!”

He stopped again to take breath, but recovering himself caught at the
collar of Willy’s coat as if to put his threat into execution.

“You needn’t trouble yourself,” said Willy, raising his arm and
retreating before his father’s onslaught. “You’ve seen pretty nearly the
last of me now; but, whether you like it or no, I’m going to stay here
for to-night.”

Uncle Dominick grasped at the edge of the sideboard to steady himself,
his face so dark and swollen that I thought he was going to have a fit.

“Stay here!” he roared, the full tide of rage breaking from him with
ungoverned savageness. “Stay here! I’ll see you damned before you spend
another night in this house!”

“Now, look here,” said Willy, in a hard, overbearing voice, keeping his
eyes fixed on his father’s face, “it’ll be the best of your play to keep
quiet. I’m going to stay here, and that’s the end of it!”

His insolent manner appeared to cow my uncle. The colour began to fade
from his face, and his expression became more controlled, though it was
more evil than ever when he spoke next.

“And your bride? May I ask if she has done me the honour of coming
here?” He wiped a thin foam from his lower lip with his trembling hand.
“Or is she perhaps at her father’s residence?”

Willy turned his face so that I could not see it. “She’s in Cork,” he
said.

“I suppose you intend eventually to return here after your honeymoon?”
my uncle went on, with a nasty smile, pouring out and drinking another
glass of brandy, while he waited for Willy’s reply.

“I’ve done with this place for ever,” answered Willy steadily, looking
straight at his father. “I married Anstey Brian for a reason that maybe
you know as well as I do.”

“What do I know about your reasons for degrading yourself?” interrupted
my uncle, dashing his hand down upon the sideboard with a return of his
first fury. “I only know one thing about her, and that is, that she and
her family shall get no good of their infamous plotting!”--the glasses
on the sideboard clashed and rang as he struck it again. “You shall
never own a stick or a stone of Durrus!” he cried in his harsh, broken
voice. “Your cousin shall have it all--your cousin shall get everything
I have. I will see to that this very night!”

“Oh, all right,” Willy answered coolly; “the sooner the better. But I
may as well tell you that if you went down on your knees to me this
minute, I wouldn’t touch a halfpenny, nor the value of one that belonged
to you. I’ve money enough to take me to Australia, and when I go away
to-morrow morning it will be for good and all.”

I had up to this stood by a scared and silent spectator; but now I tried
to make my voice heard--

“I won’t have it, Uncle Dominick,” I said, half choked with my own
eagerness. “It is no use leaving it to me; I won’t have your money.”

Uncle Dominick took no notice of me at all. He had sat down on the chair
nearest him, his passion having seemingly exhausted his strength, and
his hand on the table beside him shook and twisted as if he had lost all
control over its muscles.

Willy spoke to me for the first time.

“See here, Theo,” he said gently, also ignoring my protest, “you’d
better go on upstairs out of this; you can’t do any good here.” He
glanced at his father. “Do go now, like a good girl; he and I have got
things to settle before I go.”

He put his hand on my shoulder, and half pushed me to the door.

“Promise you won’t let him do that,” I said, trying to hold the door as
he opened it. “Tell him I won’t have it.”

He did not answer; but, disengaging my fingers from their grasp of the
door, he held them in his for an instant.

“I’ll see you again,” he said; and then shut the door and left me
standing outside.

I waited for a long time in the drawing-room, but Willy did not come.
Ten and eleven struck; the fire died out, and the candles on the
chimney-piece burned down till the paper which fitted them into their
sockets took fire and began to flare smokily. I went out into the hall
and listened, but could hear no sound of voices. Some one was moving
about upstairs. Perhaps Willy had gone up by the back stairs from the
dining-room. Perhaps he had changed his mind and did not want to see me
after all, I thought, making my way up to my room in unutterable
weariness and despondency.

There was a light under his door when I passed, and I stopped
uncertainly outside. He was dragging boxes about, and opening and
shutting drawers; evidently he was packing. Should I call him? This
would be my last chance of seeing him, as he was going away by the early
train in the morning. But with the thought, the remembrance of Anstey
fell like a shadow between him and me. What could I say to him if I were
to see him? How could I ignore the subject which must be uppermost in
both our minds? And yet, how could I bring myself to speak of it? Most
likely he had felt this same difficulty, and had purposely avoided
meeting me.

I went slowly on from his door, and into my own room, trying to realize
the impossible thought that I had seen the last of Willy. Willy, the
trusty comrade of many a day’s careless pleasuring; who had taken me out
schooling and ferreting, and had ransacked every hedge to cut for me
superfluous numbers of the flattest of black-thorns, and the straightest
of ash plants--Willy, with whom I used to gossip and wrangle and chaff
in the easiest of intimacy; who had been, as he himself would have
expressed it, the “best playboy” I had ever known. I could not believe
in this grim ending, that would have been grotesque, if it had not been
so tragical. Willy married to Anstey Brian, and going away for ever
to-morrow morning, and going without even saying good-bye!--these were
things too hard and too sorry to be taken in easily.

A knock came at my door.

“Theo, are you there? Could I see you for a minute?”

I opened the door and went out into the corridor. Willy was standing
there in his shirt-sleeves.

“I heard you coming up,” he began quickly, “and I came to say
‘Good-bye.’”

“Oh, Willy!” I said wretchedly, “are you really going?”

“Yes; I’m off by the early train,” he answered. “It’s late now; I won’t
keep you up.” He put out his hand to me. “Good-bye,” he said.

I took his hand, and held it, unable to say a word.

“Good-bye,” he repeated, in a whisper.

“Willy,” I cried suddenly, “why did you do it? Why did you do it?”

“I can’t tell you--I had to. Maybe, some day----” he broke off. “I must
go. Will you say ‘Good-bye’ to me?”

“I will,” I said, carried away by the restrained misery of his voice,
and putting my arms round his neck. “You’ve been too good to me--oh,
Willy, my dear, I’ve brought you nothing but bad luck. Good-bye.”

I kissed his cheek--he was my only cousin, and I was never going to see
him again--and then I tried to draw myself away from the grasp that was
tightening round me, but it was too late.

“I’ll never say ‘Good-bye’ to you,” he said fiercely, straining me to
him. “I won’t let you go till you tell me if you meant what you said to
me in the wood. Was it me you cared for, after all?”

“Don’t ask me, Willy,” I implored. “Let me go!”

“I won’t!” he answered, with reckless passion, trying to press his lips
against mine.

I put my hands over my face, with a shrinking which told me in a moment
the depth of the self-delusion which had carried me to the point of
saying I would marry him. He must be told the truth now, no matter what
it cost.

“I meant that I was fond of you,” I said; “but I never was in love with
you.”

“I see,” he said bitterly. He let me go at once. “Then it was Nugent,
after all.”

I turned away without answering, but at my own door I stopped, and again
held out my hand.

“Willy,” I said, breaking into tears, “say ‘Good-bye.’”

He took my hand again, and kissed it softly; he was crying too.

“God help us both!” he said. “Good-bye.”

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CHAPTER VI.

A RESOLVE.

    “Sad is my fate; I must emigrate
    To the wilds of Amerikee.”
        _Old Irish Song._

    “In the fresh fairness of the spring to ride,
     As in the old days when he rode with her.”


The postmaster at Rathbarry was evidently not in the habit of
despatching many telegrams. He was now standing in the street,
scratching his red beard, and looking thoughtfully up at the single wire
which dropped from the tarred pole--literally the last outpost of
civilization--down through the roof of his little shop, while I read to
him the message with which I had ridden over early on Tuesday morning.

“You know where Boston is?” I asked, when I had finished; “Boston, in
America, you know?”

“_Boyshton_, miss?” he said, correcting my pronunciation. “I do, miss.
Sure I think it’s there that me sisther’s son is a plumber these five
years.”

“Well, listen,” I said, beginning to read it aloud again, “‘To
Farquharson, 16, Charles Street, Boston. Start for Boston February 6th.
THEO.’ Are you quite sure you understand it? It is very important.”

“No fear at all, miss,” he answered, and went into his shop to get my
change.

This was a lengthy proceeding, which involved the sending of a little
girl to the public-house opposite, and an argument, as to the amount to
be returned to me, between Mr. Cassidy, the postmaster, and his
daughter. However, I was in no particular hurry to get back, and
Blackthorn never objected to standing. The day felt more like May than
the second of February. The only tokens of yesterday’s rain were the
swollen yellow streams in the gutters on either side of the narrow
street, and the delicate clearness of the sky. It was so enticingly mild
and spring-like, that by the time that Mr. Cassidy had brought me my
change, I had made up my mind to go home by the longer road, instead of
by the usual way round the head of the harbour.

The road I had chosen went past the Clashmore entrance gates, and as I
rode slowly along it, I noticed the ravages which the storm had worked
in The O’Neill’s woods. Half-uprooted firs and beeches leaned forlornly
against their neighbours in every direction among the plantations that
sloped to the road, and torn boughs hung over the demesne wall. Near the
big front gates a group of men was collected in the road, where a tree
had, in falling, partly broken down the wall. As I came near, one of
them, a short, square man, detached himself from the others, and,
lifting his hat, walked towards me. To my astonishment I found that it
was O’Neill himself.

“How do you do? I’m delighted to see you,” he began effusively. “I see
you’re surprised to find me here. I came down from Dublin on Saturday,
to settle some business, and I’ve been shut up ever since by the storm.
I dare say you’ve had plenty of it at Durrus?” He hardly waited for my
answer. “And what have you been doing with yourself all this time?” he
went on. “I don’t think you look quite the thing--very charming, of
course”--with a wave of his hand--“but still not as blooming as you did
when I saw you last.”

“I have been in the house a good deal lately,” I answered evasively;
“the weather has been so bad.”

“Has Willy come back from Cork yet?” O’Neill asked, turning to look at
where his men were working as he spoke. “I heard that he was there
yesterday.”

There was no use in trying to conceal a fact that would soon become
common property.

“Yes,” I answered, in a constrained voice, “he came home last night, but
not to stay; he--he went away again this morning.”

“Ah!” said O’Neill, still watching the sawing and chopping of the fallen
tree; “has he gone away for long?”

“Yes; I am afraid he has.”

“Gone to England, has he?” pursued O’Neill, running his pudgy hand along
my horse’s neck.

“No,” I replied unwillingly; “at least, I believe he is going there
first.”

“Then he _is_ going to emigrate?” O’Neill said quickly, forgetting his
endeavour to appear ignorant, and looking at me through his eye-glass
with undisguised excitement.

I made no answer.

“The fact is,” O’Neill went on, clearing his throat, “I heard some
rumour that he had got into trouble; but I hoped it might not have been
true. These people,” with a glance at his workmen, “delight in
exaggerating, especially if it is bad news.”

Then it _had_ become common property.

“What did they tell you?” I said faintly.

O’Neill’s red face got a trifle redder.

“Well, it sounds preposterous, but they had some cock-and-a-bull story
that he had--a--in fact,” he said, looking considerately away from me,
“they said he was married.”

“It is quite true,” I said, with despairing candour; “he has married the
daughter of the man at the lodge, and he--that is to say--they, have
started for Australia.”

“God bless my soul!” ejaculated O’Neill. “Dear, dear, how very shocking!
I couldn’t believe it when those fellows told me about it this morning.
What a pity it all is--a nice young fellow like that ruining himself in
such a way, and we all thought----” He stopped and stammered, perhaps
becoming aware for the first time of the connection between the news we
were discussing and my pale face and red eyes. “I mean, we had never
anticipated anything of this kind.”

I began to gather up my reins preparatory to saying good-bye.

“I hope Madam O’Neill is quite well? I have not heard from Connie for a
long time.”

“Oh, quite well--quite well, thank you. I left them in Dublin.” Then,
laying his hand on the reins as if impelled by irresistible curiosity,
“I suppose your uncle is very angry with Willy?”

I assented.

“Ah! very naturally; but, upon my soul, I think it was as much his own
fault as any one else’s. He never could get on with his own family, you
know. There was your poor father, now--the dearest fellow in the
world--my greatest friend--though, of course, he was a good deal older
than I,” O’Neill threw in parenthetically,--“he never hit it off with
him. He hasn’t spoken to me for years past because I backed up Owen
when he got into trouble with his father; and there was that other
business about Owen’s funeral--a hole and corner affair--no one given
any notice about it, the poor dear fellow buried in Cork as if he were a
pauper!” O’Neill paused, and blew his nose with indignant vigour. “But
all that’s neither here nor there,” he resumed; “all I mean to say is,
that Dominick was not the man to make the best of a young fellow. That
poor boy Willy never got a chance. He was brought up, as you might say,
among the common people; and, now I come to think of it, we _did_ hear
something of this girl before--but that was before _you_ came, you know.
Ahem!”--he cleared his throat--“it really is most incomprehensible.”

“I am afraid I must say good-bye, O’Neill,” I said hurriedly, each of
his words giving me a fresh stab; “and I do not know if I shall see you
again, as I am going away on Saturday. I am going back to America.”

O’Neill looked as aghast as was possible for a person of his complexion.

“That’s the worst news I have heard yet. How can you treat us so
cruelly?” he said gallantly. “You come over and break all our hearts,
and then off you go, and leave us to mend them as best we can.”

“I hope it is not as bad as all that,” I said, with a sickly smile. “I
won’t say good-bye to you now; I am sure I shall see you again before I
go--perhaps at Miss Burke’s to-morrow.” And I rode quickly away, without
heeding the farewell words that he shouted after me.

To say the truth, I could not face another good-bye, even with O’Neill,
and I trotted home at a good pace along the muddy road, doing my best
to outstrip the associations that every fresh turn in its familiar
windings called up.

There was a note for me on the hall table when I arrived.

“Miss Burke left it herself, miss,” said Roche, “and she hopes you’ll
send over an answer this afternoon. She wanted to see the masther, but
sure he’s not able to see any one--and no wondher, faith, no wondher!”

The note was written on the small coquettish paper, with a golden
“Mimi,” engrossed on the corner, which was affected by Miss Burke, and
her good-natured, untidy handwriting had sprawled over all four sides of
the sheet. She said that she “heard that Willy was gone,” and, without
making any further comment, she asked me if I would come and stay with
them for as long or as short a time as I might wish. She hoped I would
come to-morrow, if possible, as it was their “at home” day, and I might
meet a few friends; and she remained, mine most affectionately, Mary
Burke.

I considered the matter. It certainly would be a relief to get away from
Durrus and its horrible silence and forsakenness, even for a night or
two. To-day was Tuesday; I did not start till Saturday. If I went over
to Garden Hill to-morrow afternoon, timing my arrival so as to evade the
“few friends,” I could stay there till Friday morning. I knew it would
make no difference to my uncle; I could tell him about it when I saw him
at dinner: and I sent a note telling Miss Burke that I should be very
glad to go over to her to-morrow afternoon. But I did not see my uncle
at dinner.

“He’s not at all well, miss,” Roche said mysteriously. “I was telling
him a while ago that ’tis for the docthor he should send; but indeed, he
was for turning me out of the room when I said it.”

“Do you think he would like to see me?”

“Don’t go near him at all to-night, miss,” Roche answered, with
unexpected urgency. “He’ll be betther to-morrow--you’ll see him then.”

But I did see my uncle again that night. When I went upstairs to bed, I
was startled by seeing his tall figure, in his dressing-gown, standing
outside the door of the room which Willy had locked. He had a large
bunch of keys, and was trying them one after the other in the lock.

“Perhaps you can help me with these,” he said, looking round as I came
up to him. “I am almost sure that one of these keys opens this door, but
I cannot find it.”

His hand trembled so much, that the keys were shaking and jingling as he
held them out to me.

“I am afraid Willy has got the key----” I began.

“But, my dear, I think it is very probable that we shall find Willy in
that room,” he said, in a low confidential voice, pressing the keys upon
me. “I cannot think why he remains in there. I have tried several times
to-day to open the door, but that fellow Roche keeps pestering me. I
believe he is in league with Willy.”

My own hand was trembling almost as much as my uncle’s, but I did not
dare to refuse to take the keys, and I made a pretence of trying one in
the lock. He watched me anxiously for a moment.

“No, my dear, I see it is no use trying to-night. You are tired, and so
am I”--he sighed deeply, and put his hand to his chest,--“this
oppression that I am suffering from tries me terribly. I will go to my
room and see if I can get a little rest. I need rest sadly.”

“Yes, you look very tired,” I said, in as ordinary a voice as I could
manage, handing the keys back to him.

“Do I? Well, to tell you the truth, I have been quite unable to sleep
lately. I am so much disturbed by these hackney carmen who make it a
practice to drive past the house at all hours of the night; I hope they
do not annoy you? I have told them several times to go away, but they
simply laugh at me. And the strange thing is,” he continued, leaning
over the rail of the corridor and looking suspiciously down into the
hall, “that though that tree is still lying across the avenue, it does
not stop them in the least--they just drive through it. Well, good
night, my dear,” he said, nodding at me in a friendly way; “we must
give it up for to-night, but we shall unearth Master Willy to-morrow.”

He nodded again, and walked away down the corridor.

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CHAPTER VII.

THROUGH THE FRENCH WINDOW.

    “Remorse she ne’er forsakes us;
     A bloodhound staunch, she tracks our rapid step.”

                        “A thousand fantasies
     Begin to throng into my memory,
     Of calling shapes and beckoning shadows dire.”


When Maggie came into my room next morning, she told me that Dr. Kelly
had been sent for.

“The masther was very bad all the night, and it wasn’t daylight when
Misther Roche come down and said Mick should go for the docthor.”

I dressed as quickly as I could, and, when I came downstairs, found
that Dr. Kelly was already with my uncle. I rang the bell, and, after an
unusual delay, Roche answered it.

“You had better ask Dr. Kelly to come in to breakfast,” I said.

“Very well, miss; he’ll be going now in a minute. He’s with the masther
in the little study.”

“In the little study?”

“Yes, indeed, miss. At four o’clock this morning he lepped out of his
bed, and nothing would do him only to go downstairs; first he was for
going away out of the house down to the bog, or the like o’ that, an’
when I was thrying to stop him, he says, ‘Let go,’ says he,
‘Poul-na-coppal is the only place,’ says he; ‘we’ll be late if we don’t
go now!’ and I was put to me thrumps to howld him.”

“Did you tell Dr. Kelly all this?”

“Oh, bedad, I did, miss!” said Roche, with modest pride, “and more too.
There he is now in the hall. I’ll go tell him you want to spake to him.”

The little doctor’s vulgar authoritative voice and complacent manner
inspired me with a certain confidence in him, though what he said about
Uncle Dominick was not very reassuring.

“It’s hard enough to say how it’ll go with him,” he said, sitting down
opposite to me at the breakfast-table. “Yes, thank you, I take three
lumps; I’ve a very sweet tooth. Of course, he’s not as young as he was,
y’ know; it’s a nasty attack, and his constitution’s greatly pulled down
since I saw him last.”

Beyond this he did not seem inclined to give an opinion, and began to
tell me about some Shakespeare recitations, in which, it appeared, he
was to take a prominent part. But I reverted to the subject of my
uncle’s illness at the first opportunity.

“Oh, never fear, he’ll pull round; but we’ll have to be very careful of
him,” he said, hurrying through his breakfast with practised rapidity.

“He was wandering in his head last night,” I said tentatively.

“Oh, I know that, I know that,” he replied, rubbing his truculent red
moustache violently with his napkin; “Roche told me all about that.”

“Because,” I went on, “if you thought there was anything serious, I
would not go over to Garden Hill to-day. Miss Burke asked me to spend a
few days with her,” I explained.

“Well, why not?” broke in Dr. Kelly, brusquely. “Now, if you don’t mind
me telling you so, it would be the best thing you could do”--screwing
up one small intelligent eye and looking at me observantly. “You just
want a little change, and Roche is well able to mind your uncle”--he
gave his tea-cup a swing to collect what remained of the three lumps
before swallowing its contents. “Well, I must be off now. I’ll be at
Miss Burke’s meself this afternoon, and I’ll call in here again on my
way home. Good morning.”

Roche was waiting in the hall, and I heard Dr. Kelly’s last words.

“Mind, now, you keep a good eye on him. I’ll send over the medicine.”

Up to this I had not been able to examine the contents of the post-bag,
and I now went over to the sideboard and shook them out. There was
nothing in it but a circular or two, and a small flat parcel. I turned
over the latter, and saw with a start my own name in Willy’s cramped
boyish handwriting. Cutting the string quickly, I found inside another
wrapping of paper, carefully tied up, and sealed with his
well-remembered signet-ring. Under the string a half-sheet of
note-paper, folded in two, had been slipped. There were only a very few
words written in pencil on it.

“I think you have a right to this, and some day I would like you to see
it, but please don’t open it till my father is dead. Yours ever, W.”

I turned the parcel over and over. It felt like a book with a soft
cover; but why Willy, of all people in the world, should send me a book,
and what it could have to say to Uncle Dominick was more than I could
fathom.

It was no use trying to think about it. Everything lately had gone
beyond my powers of comprehension. I was sick of conjectures, and
exhausted by unexplainable disasters. I would not let myself think of
Willy; it did not bear thinking of, that he was now turning his back on
his own home, for no apparent reason, except the contradictory one that
he had married, contrary to his father’s wishes, a girl whom he did not
love. One comfort was, that I also was soon to leave Durrus behind me,
and in my case it would certainly be for ever. Even if Uncle Dominick
had meant anything by his threat of leaving me his property, it did not
make any difference to me. Nothing would induce me to have anything to
say to it. Willy would have to come home and take possession when the
time came, and I would go on living my peaceful uneventful life in the
house in Charles Street with Aunt Jane. That was what it was going to
be, I determined--a placid, unexciting existence; an occasional
classical concert; a literary tea or two; no more dances or
frivolities--I had in the last two or three months grown too old for
them.

I went up to my room and began to get through some preliminary packing
before lunch, and as with a heavy heart I folded up and laid in my trunk
the dresses which I had bought in Boston with such pleasant
anticipations, Aunt Jane’s words came back to me with humiliating
force--“I trust you will not have cause to regret the headstrong
self-will which has made you unable to content yourself in a quiet and
God-fearing household.”

The morning went quickly by, and, when I had finished packing, I sat
down by the window with an aching back and a hot head, but nevertheless
with satisfaction in the thought that the big trunk which I had just
filled and locked need not be opened again until it had once more taken
up its quarters in the house in Charles Street. Some irrational
sentiment had made me defer the packing of my habit till the last
moment, and when I did at last lay it on the top of my dresses, I
slipped the parcel Willy had sent me into its folds.

I raised the window, and looked out into the mild still air. By this
time next week, Willy and I would both be on the sea, being carried to
opposite ends of the earth, without anything to connect us for the
future, except this parcel, which he had forbidden me to open. It seemed
to me, as I looked out at the woods of Durrus, the place that I was so
fond of, and that yet I almost hated, that it was a true saying--

    “Life is a tale told by an idiot, ...
... signifying nothing.”

The sky was dark and sullen, with layers of overlapping clouds roofing
it down to the horizon, and on the lonely sea-stretches there was not so
much as a fishing-boat to be seen. The place was unusually deserted, and
in nothing was Willy’s absence more clearly shown than in the fact that
the fallen sycamore was still lying across the bend of the avenue, no
attempt having even been made to cut away the branches. I looked away
from it with a shudder, remembering Uncle Dominick’s dreadful
confidences about it the night before, and I wondered how I should
summon up courage enough to go into his room to say good-bye to him. It
seemed unnatural to leave him when he was ill; but I knew very well that
I could be of no real use to him, and the mere thought of another scene
such as that of last night actually made my blood run cold.

A sound of the snapping of twigs made me again look in the direction of
the fallen tree, and I saw that a woman, whom I soon recognized as being
Moll Hourihane, was breaking away some of the smaller branches, and
making them into a bundle for firewood. It was the first time I had ever
seen her occupy herself rationally, or that I had been able to watch her
in unobserved security, and my eyes followed her movements with a
fascinated curiosity as she made herself a large bundle, and, having
hoisted it on to her back with surprising ease, crossed the grass
between the house and the drive, and walked along close under the
windows until she reached the end one, which was the French window of my
uncle’s study. She stood for a moment or two outside, looking in, and
then drew her hand once or twice down the glass.

I had leaned as far out of my window as was possible, and I now called
out to her, “Go away! You will disturb the master. Go away at once!”

She drew back from the window, and looked up, shading her eyes with her
hand, to see where my voice had come from. She soon saw me, and I again
motioned to her to go away. Instead, however, of doing so, she stood
quite still, and throwing back her head, she fell into a sort of
paroxysm of voiceless laughter, pointing at me, and rolling her head
from shoulder to shoulder. Seeing that she paid no attention to what I
said to her, I was on the point of leaving the window to go and look for
Roche, when the French window was opened, and Roche himself came out,
and with a torrent of abuse, delivered in voluble Irish, he drove her
away.

“The divil’s cure to her!” I heard him say to himself as she retreated,
“coming frightening the masther like that!”

“Roche,” I called, “how is the master?”

“Oh, a dale betther, miss,” he replied, coming under my window. “He was
quite aisy till that owld one came with her ugly face at the window. But
sure you can see him to-day before you go; he’s quite composed in his
mind. He was asking for yourself just now.”

In order to be quite sure of missing most of Miss Burke’s friends, I had
not ordered the trap till half-past four, and I put off going to see
Uncle Dominick until about a quarter of an hour before the time I was to
start. At the door of his study I met Roche coming out.

“Go in, miss; he’s getting on first-class. I’ll have a cup of tay ready
for you agin you’re coming out,” he said, opening the door for me.

My uncle was standing by the window, with a book in his hand. He gave a
quick glance at me as I came in.

“Yes, they are capital prints,” he said, as if in continuance of a
conversation. “I am glad you have come. There is very little light left;
but if you will come to the window, I will show them to you.”

He had on the long Paisley shawl dressing-gown which he had worn the
night before; his figure looked immensely tall against the dull light;
and his high bowed shoulders, with his head sunk on his chest, gave him
the appearance of some forlorn sick raven.

“I have come to say good-bye to you for a day or two,” I said, going
over to the window. “I am going over to the Burkes’.”

“Well, you will have time to look at this book before you go,” he
answered, turning over its leaves with a sort of suppressed eagerness.
“This now, do you remember showing me this?” He held the book towards
me, and I saw that it was the old volume of “The Turf, the Chase, and
the Road,” which my father had given him, and he and I had once before
looked over together. “That is a long time ago now.”

“Yes,” I replied, glad to find that he was so easy to talk to; “I can
hardly believe that it is only three months since I came.”

He looked fearfully ill and wasted; he was shaking from head to foot,
and his restless, bloodshot eyes kept wandering from the book to the
trees outside. Whatever Dr. Kelly might say, I was certain that he was
much worse than he had even been last night. I could not pretend to
myself that I was fond of him; but after all, now that Willy was gone,
I was practically the only relation he had left in the world, and I felt
more and more that it would be heartless of me to go away and leave him
in such a state.

He did not appear to notice what I had said, and I went on--

“I don’t really care about going to the Burkes’ in the least, Uncle
Dominick. I would quite as soon stay with you, if you would like me to.”

“Stay with me! What do you mean?” he said, with some surprise, slipping
the book into the wide pocket of his dressing-gown. “You only came last
night--or was it the night before?--and, of course, you must stay. You
will have to attend the old man’s funeral. You know”--with a low
laugh--“they all think that you were buried in Cork; but you’re not, you
know--you’re not.”

He had laid his trembling hand on my wrist to emphasize what he said,
and I was afraid to move.

“No, do not go,” he went on, his voice getting more and more hurried. “I
want you to see about that fallen tree. They cannot possibly get the
hearse up to the door while it is there. Why are you looking so
frightened, Owen? She is not here. You know, you were very ill when you
came, and I _had_ to get her to look after you. She was looking in
through the window a little time ago; but Roche hunted her away, and she
can’t do you any harm now.”

I was almost too terrified by this time to be able to conceal my fear;
but I said, as calmly as I could--

“I am not afraid of her. I think it is time for me to go now; let me
send Roche to you.”

“No, no!” he whispered anxiously, clutching my wrist more tightly, “he
knows nothing about it; he wasn’t here. No one knows but Mary Hourihane,
and it was all her fault. Owen!” he cried, his voice rising
hysterically, “don’t stare at me! I declare to God I never did anything
to you until she came in and asked me to help her to take
you--there--out through that window--out to Poul-na-coppal.” He dragged
me from the window into the dark corner by the fireplace. “Hide there!
Be quick! lest she should see you!” he panted, his teeth chattering, and
the perspiration breaking out on his forehead. “I hear her coming. There
she is!” fixing frenzied eyes on the wall opposite. “Look at the
bog-mould on her hands. She says she did it for my sake! Don’t let her
come near me; she will put her arms round my neck, and I shall die!” He
let go my hand, and made a rush to the window. “She is out there too!”
he said, with an awful cry, turning back and cowering again in the
corner by the fireplace; “and there--and there; she is everywhere! Don’t
leave me, Owen!”

But his appeal did not stop me in my flight from the room for help.

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CHAPTER VIII.

POUL-NA-COPPAL.

    “The rose-winged hours that flutter in the van
     Of Love’s unquestioning, unrevealèd span--
     Visions of golden futures; or that last
     Wild pageant of the accumulated past
     That clangs and flashes for a drowning man.”

    “Wenn ich in deine Augen seh
     So schwindet all’ mein Leid und Weh.”


I am not very clear as to what happened next, Mrs. Rourke told me
afterwards that I had burst into the kitchen with “a face on me like
death,” only able to say, “The master--go to the master!”

After that, I suppose I somehow made my way to the drawing-room, as I
next remember walking to and fro between the window and the fireplace,
with a confused feeling that by doing so I should steady my whirling
brain.

He had called me “Owen.” He had mistaken me, in his madness or delirium,
for his dead brother--a mistake which my strong likeness to my father
made easy to understand; but neither madness nor delirium could account
for all he had said. “You were very ill when you came.” “They all think
that you’re buried in Cork; but you’re not, you know!” “I declare to God
I never did anything to you.” “She asked me to help her to take
you--there--out through that window.”

What had all this meant? He certainly believed he was speaking to my
father. If I could only think it out quietly! What had Moll Hourihane to
say to my father, and what had she done to him that he should be afraid
of her?

Then he had spoken of “the old man’s funeral”--my grandfather’s funeral.
How, even in his ravings, could he have forgotten that his brother died
two or three days before his father? It was no use; I could not think it
out. I must wait until my brain was calmer, till my thoughts had ceased
to reel and spin. I was only groping in the dark--in a darkness from
whose depths one persistent idea was thrusting itself at me like a
sword.

The distant sound of wheels on the drive reminded me that it was past
the time at which I was to start for Garden Hill. I hastily resolved to
wait and see Dr. Kelly before going there, and I rang the bell in order
to send a message to that effect out to the yard. No one answered it for
some time, but at length the door opened. I was standing by the fire,
with my elbows on the mantel-shelf and my forehead in my hands, and,
hearing a bashful murmur in Maggie’s voice, I said, without turning
round--

“Tell Tom I shall not want the trap until I send for it.”

The door closed, but footsteps advanced into the room.

“Well, what is it?” I said wearily, taking down my arms.

There was no answer, and, turning round, I found myself face to face
with Nugent.

I looked at him stupidly, without taking the hand which he had
conventionally held out to me. He drew it back quickly.

“How do you do?” he said very stiffly. “Miss Burke asked me to leave a
message for you on my way home. She hopes you do not forget that she
expects you this afternoon. She thought you would have been with her at
tea time.

“I could not go,” I answered, without moving.

“Miss Burke desired me to say that you were not to disappoint her,”
going on conscientiously with his message, “as Dr. Kelly had told her
there was no necessity for your staying with Mr. Sarsfield.”

“My uncle has been much worse. I must wait and see Dr. Kelly.”

My lips were stiff and cold, and I moved them with difficulty. It did
not occur to me to ask him to sit down; my only wish was that he should
go away while I was still able to keep up the semblance of an ordinary
demeanour. He looked at me for a moment.

“I am very sorry to hear that Mr. Sarsfield is worse. Miss Burke had no
idea of that when she sent the message.”

“I do not know when I shall be able to go to her. Perhaps never!”

The last words forced themselves out against my will; he must see now
that something was wrong. Why did he not go?

“Is there any message I can give Miss Burke for you? If I could be of
any use----” he began, less formally than he had hitherto spoken.

“No, thank you; nothing,” I answered, still standing motionless.

There was a brief pause. Nugent glanced at the clock, and then again
looked at me. He hesitated for a moment, as if waiting for me to speak;
then, finding I did not do so, he picked up his gloves from the table by
which he was standing.

“I think I must say good afternoon now,” he said, this time without
offering to shake hands with me. “I hope there will be a better account
of your uncle to-morrow before I start. I have only come down for a day
about some business.”

I did not attempt any reply, and he left the room.

The stress was over, and, after an instant, I wondered why it had been
so great. It was a long time now since I had thought myself near
breaking my heart about him; when he came in, it had not so much as
beaten faster. I had felt stunned, but it was only by the shock of
seeing him again at such a moment. Now I assured myself that I was glad
he had come and taken my thoughts for a little time from those ghastly
ravings of my uncle. Seeing him had been a kind of assurance that things
were going on in the usual way, and that I was not living in a
nightmare. I was sorry that I had not taken his hand; by not doing so I
must have given him a false impression, and I even wished now that he
had stayed longer. In a few minutes I should have lost that feeling of
faintness, and have been able to talk naturally to him.

The drawing-room had become very dark. I felt as if I were the only
creature alive in the house, and Uncle Dominick’s words were again
beginning to crowd back with new and insistent suggestion. I would not
stay indoors any longer. There was still some daylight, and it would be
better to wait outside in the fresh air till Dr. Kelly came.

I walked down the drive till I came to the fallen tree. I was more weak
and shaken than I had believed, and I sat down on one of the great limbs
that had sprawled along the ground. There was a heavy silence in the
air; the sky was low and foreboding, and a watery streak of yellow lay
along the horizon behind the bog. A rook rustled close over my head,
with a subdued croak; I watched him flying quietly home to the tall elms
by the bog gate. He was still circling round them before settling down,
when a sound struck on my ear. I sprang to my feet and listened. It had
come from the bog; and now it rose again, a loud, long cry, the cry of a
woman keening. Every pulse stood still as I heard it, and I held to a
branch of the tree for support, as the wail grew and spread upon the
air.

Some one came down the steps of the French window of my uncle’s study,
and ran across the grass towards me, and I recognized Roche in the
twilight.

“Did ye see him?” he called out. “Did he pass this way?”

“Who?” I answered, starting forward.

“The masther--the masther!” he cried, and then stopped as the keen rose
again from the bog. “God save us, what’s that? ’Tis from the bog--’twas
the bog he was talking of all day! Run, miss, run, for the love of God!”

I hardly waited to hear what he said, but ran for the bog gate as I have
never run before or since. The air was full of the crying; the pantings
of my breath made it beat in waves in my ears, as I came along under the
trees. The gate was wide open, and I could see no one in the gloom ahead
of me as I blindly followed the sound along the rough cart track. I
strained my eyes in the direction it came from, running all the time,
and I soon saw, or thought I saw, against the pale light of the sky, a
figure down in the bog to my right. I made for it, stumbling and
tripping among the tussocks of heather and grass-grown lumps of peat,
once, in my reckless haste, falling over a great piece of bogwood that
stood out of the soft ground. The figure was that of a woman, who was
kneeling, keening and wringing her hands, on the farther side of the
black Poul-na-coppal, by which I had once seen Moll Hourihane, and,
hurrying with what speed I could round its broken, shelving edge, I
found that the surging thought which had grown during my run into an
unreasoning conviction had been right--the woman was Moll herself.

That she, who was supposed to be unable to utter a sound, should be
making this outcry did not then strike me as strange.

“Where is the master?” I said breathlessly. “What are you crying for?”

For all answer, she flung her arms high over her head, and extended them
both with a frantic gesture downwards, towards the water, and then fell
again to clapping her hands and beating her breast. At the same moment
the irregular fall of footsteps sounded in the road, and I called out
with all the strength left to me. At my voice, Moll’s crying, which had
ceased as I first spoke to her, broke out anew; but I paid no heed to
her, and taking a step forward, peered with a sick terror down at the
inky gleam of water in the bog hole. It was quite still, but water was
dripping from a plant of bog myrtle that hung out over the edge, and,
putting my hand on it, I found it was all wet, as if it had been
splashed.

The voices of the men were close to me; I staggered back to meet them,
and sank down on the ground as Tom came up to me.

“Did you find him, miss? Is he here?”

“He’s there,” I said wildly; “ask Moll! He has killed himself!”

My face was turned toward the road, and as I spoke I saw near me on the
dark ground a glimmer of something white that did not look like a stone.
I dragged myself towards it. It was a book lying open, a book with
pictures, and, dark as it was, I recognized the outlines of one of them,
“The Regulator on Hertford Bridge flat.”

It was the book which I had seen my uncle put into his pocket. I did not
want any more proof of what had happened, and letting the book fall, I
covered my face with my hands and lay prone in the heather. Moll’s
keening had stopped altogether; footsteps hurried past, and I heard
excited voices in every direction round me.

“Get ropes and a laddher!”

“Yerrah, what use is that, man? There’s twenty foot of mud in the
bottom! Go get a boat-hook.”

“‘Twas in here he jumped whatever. Do ye see the marks of his feet?”

Then Roche’s voice, in broken explanation--

“He was cowld, and I wasn’t out of the room three minutes getting the
hot jar an’ blankets, an’ whin I got back, he was gone out the window!”

“Well?” said another voice.

“I ran to Miss Theo, who was sitting below at the three,” went on Roche;
“an’ we heard the screeching, an’ we run away down----”

“Where’s Miss Sarsfield now?” said the first voice imperatively.

I knew the voice now; the ground rocked and heaved under me, flashes
came and went before my eyes, and for an instant the voices and
everything else melted away from me.

When my senses came back to me, I felt that I was being lifted and
carried in some one’s arms, but by whom I did not know.

“Put me down,” I murmured; “I am able to walk.”

I was placed gently on my feet.

“All right now; I’ll take Miss Sarsfield home,” said Nugent’s voice: “go
back and help Dr. Kelly. Can you come on now?” he asked, “we are not far
from the gate, and my trap is close to it.”

I tried to answer him, but my voice was almost gone, and my knees shook
under me when I made a step forward. He put his arm round me without a
word, and, supported by it, I managed to get as far as the bog gate, but
there my strength failed me.

“I am afraid I cannot go any farther,” I said, tottering to the low bank
beside the road, and sinking down on it. “Please don’t trouble about
me.”

He sat down beside me, and, putting his arm round me again, drew my head
down on to his shoulder.

“Why did you send me away from you?” he said, bending his face close to
mine.

“I don’t know,” I whispered, trembling.

“Must I go away now, my darling?”

I said nothing, but in the soft darkness his lips met mine, and in a
moment all the grief and horror of the last week slipped away from
me--everything was lost in the long forgetfulness of a kiss.

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[Illustration: text decoration]

CHAPTER IX.

A HERITAGE OF WOE.

    “Love that was dead and buried, yesterday
     Out of his grave rose up before my face.”

    “Not by appointment do we meet delight and joy--
     They heed not our expectancy;
     But, at some turning in the walks of life,
     They on a sudden clasp us with a smile.”


It was Friday afternoon, two days since the evening when Nugent had
driven me away from Durrus to Garden Hill. The sun was shining into Miss
Burke’s drawing-room, and through the window I caught occasional
glimpses of Miss Burke herself in her garden, examining the hotbed,
standing with arms akimbo to direct the operations of the garden boy, or
ejecting an errant Plymouth Rock, that had daringly flown over the
fuchsia hedge into the garden from the yard.

“Do you remember that afternoon when you said good-bye to Willy out
there?” I said, looking round at Nugent, as Miss Burke slammed the
garden gate on the intruder. “I was there by the henhouse all the time.”

“Yes, I knew you were--I was watching you out of the window while I was
being talked to by Miss Croly.”

“Then why did you say what you did about America to Willy? You must have
known I could hear.”

“I wanted you to hear. I thought then that you had treated me very
badly. In fact, I am not at all sure that I don’t think so still.”

I left the window in which we were standing, and went back to the
armchair which Mrs. Barrett had once so abundantly filled.

“I want to ask you something,” I said; “what was it--why--I mean, what
made you write me that letter?”

“Because, under the circumstances, it was about the only thing for me to
do”--in a tone which told of past indignation. “I was warned off!”

“I never warned you,” I said, trying to appear absorbed in studying the
figures on the Japanese screen that I was holding.

“No, I dare say you did not; but it came to pretty nearly the same thing
when you got your uncle to do it for you.”

“I! I never did anything of the kind!”

“But your uncle himself told me----” he began, and stopped.

“Told you what?” I said, sitting bolt upright.

“Well,” he answered reluctantly, “that last day I was at Durrus--after
the ball, you know--your uncle sent for me, and he told me you were
engaged to Willy.”

“I engaged to Willy!” I cried hotly. “How could he have----”

The words died on my lips; I could not now dispute about anything Uncle
Dominick had said.

“He said more than that,” said Nugent, coming and standing over me; “he
said he thought--he was pretty sure, in fact--that you wanted me to know
it” (reddening at the recollection), “and so then, of course----”

It was a hard thing to hear. The falsehood had come near spoiling both
our lives, and with the thought of it the remembrance of the time that
was over came like a wave about me--the wretchedness and bewilderment,
the heart-ache and the hidden strivings with it, the effort for Willy’s
sake. I looked up into the troubled blue eyes that were fixed on mine,
and, with such a reaction from pain as comes seldom in a life, I
stretched out both my hands.

“Oh, Nugent,” I said, calling him by his name for the first time, “why
did you believe it?”

He took hold of my hands, and knelt down beside me. “I think,” he said,
in a low voice, “because I loved you so much.”

I could not now say more than this, even to Nugent. Uncle Dominick had
only been buried this morning, and all that had happened that last
afternoon was still fresh in my mind. They had recovered his body from
the bog hole the same night, after long searching, and a telegram had
been sent to try and catch Willy before he started. But it had been too
late; he and Anstey had sailed for Melbourne a few hours before the
telegram had gone, and now a second message had been sent to Melbourne
to await his arrival there. There had been very few at the funeral,
Nugent said; he and his father, and old Mr. McCarthy, the solicitor, and
Dr. Kelly, who had conducted the inquest, were, with the Durrus
servants, the only people there.

“They went by the old road across the bog,” he said, in answer to a
question from me. “It was a lovely morning, just like spring. I looked
at Poul-na-coppal as we walked past, and you can see at once that
something unusual has happened there. The banks are all muddy and
trampled, and the heather and bog myrtle that used to grow round it are
torn and broken down. You wouldn’t know it.”

“Not know Poul-na-coppal! I wish I could think I should ever forget it.”

“They had had the mausoleum opened,” Nugent went on. “I can just
remember seeing it open before, when I was six years old, and they took
me to old Theodore’s funeral--by way of a treat. It’s an awful old
place.”

“Oh, Nugent,” I said, “was Moll Hourihane there?”

“No, I hear she has gone off her head altogether, and just sits by the
fire and says ‘Gibber’ all the time--or words to that effect.”

“Nonsense!”

“Well, that is what your friend Tom told me. I was quite glad to hear
that she was turning into a good conventional idiot, after all.”

“Was old Brian there?”

“Yes; he had the cheek to ask me if I knew who was to get the property.
He is as ill-conditioned an old ruffian as I ever saw. I told him that
till the will was read, no one knew anything about it.”

“I hope your father went up to the house to hear it,” I said, with an
uneasy recollection of my uncle’s threat to disinherit Willy in my
favour.

“I have not the least doubt he did--in fact, I believe McCarthy asked
him to do so; but as I knew it could be of no special interest to any
one but Willy, I came right on here. It seemed to me as if I would
prefer it.”

Miss Mimi’s gardening occupied her till nearly tea time; at least it was
not till then that we heard her voice reverberating in the hall.

“See now, Joanna, be sure and put plenty of butter on the toast, and
don’t wet the tea till I ring the bell. The mistress and Miss Bessie
will be home from Moycullen soon, and”--in a lower voice--“there’s Miss
Sarsfield and Mr. O’Neill in the drawing-room.”

Here there came a ring at the bell.

“Mercy on us! who’s this?” exclaimed Miss Burke; “and me in me awful old
gardening clothes!”

We heard her hastily retreat into the room opposite, and then, in a
muffled voice, issue her directions.

“Say I’m not at home, Joanna, and Miss Sarsfield’s not able to see _any_
one!”

“Good woman,” murmured Nugent.

The door was opened, and Joanna’s steadfast assertions that “all the
ladies were out of home,” were reassuringly audible; but the next
instant we heard Miss Mimi emerge from her refuge, and shamelessly
betray her confederate.

“Don’t mind Joanna, O’Neill! Come in, come in! I never thought it was
you!”

“How do you do, Miss Burke?” said O’Neill; “I am glad you are not as
inhospitable as Joanna!” Here followed an apologetic giggle from Joanna,
and O’Neill continued. “And how is your guest? Better, I hope.”

“Oh, the poor child! She was awfully bad yesterday; she never lifted her
head from the pillow all day. I think some one was greatly disappointed
when he came to inquire! But come in and see her; she’s in the
drawing-room.”

O’Neill’s manner when he came in, was, I at once felt, somewhat shorn of
its usual intimate devotedness, and I discerned in it a certain striving
after a paternal tone. He shook my hand with a pressure and a shake of
his head, that were meant to convey at once a facetious reproach and
forgiving congratulation, and as soon as possible took advantage of the
cover afforded to him by Miss Burke’s appropriate witticisms, and, after
a word or two, left my side. Miss Mimi’s exuberant enthusiasm soon
became a trifle wearying to the objects of it, and although O’Neill
gallantly seconded her, I think he was as glad as either Nugent or I
when the return of Mrs. Burke and Miss Bessie, and the arrival of tea,
caused a diversion.

Soon afterwards, however, he again came up to where I was sitting.

“I want to say a word or two to you, my dear Miss Theo,” he said. I
guessed that they would be on the subject which I most dreaded, but
which was, I knew, inevitable. “It is about that sad business,” he went
on, drawing his chair up to mine; “very deplorable it has all been--very
shocking--and so trying for you! And how fortunate that Nugent turned
back that evening with Kelly! He says he scarcely knows why he did; but
I dare say it is not impossible to imagine his reason!”--with a
temporary relapse from the paternal tone. “However, what I wanted to say
to you was this; when your uncle’s papers were searched to-day, two
wills were found, one of comparatively old standing, in Willy’s favour,
and the other--well, you can hardly call it a will--was dated only a few
days ago--the first of this month,--it was quite incomplete, neither
finished nor signed, but in it it was clear that his intention had been
to leave everything he possessed to you. Unluckily, for want of the
signature, it is perfectly valueless----” He broke off, and stuck his
eye-glass into his eye in order to observe me more intently.

“I am very glad,” I said in a low voice. “I would not have taken it.”

“Well, you see, it was only to be expected that he should want to punish
Willy for that outrageous marriage of his. Upon my word, I should have
done the same if Nugent had done anything of the kind--or, I may say, if
he hadn’t done precisely what he _has_ done!”

I paid no attention to O’Neill’s implied compliment.

“Poor Willy!” I said, more to myself than to him; “no matter what the
will had been, I would never have taken what ought to have been his.”

“Ah! that’s all very nice and kind and romantic,” said O’Neill, wagging
his head sapiently, “but you ought to remember that your father was the
eldest son, and that it was only by what you might call a fluke that he
did not inherit. I always thought that it was a wonderful stroke of luck
for Dominick, old Theodore’s outliving your father. Why, if Owen had
held out a couple of days longer, Durrus would be yours this minute! It
certainly was an iniquitous thing,” he went on, in a wheezy, indignant
whisper, “that your grandfather never took the trouble to find out
anything about Owen--where he was, if he was married and had any
children, and all that kind of thing. But not a bit of it! If Owen
survived him, well and good, he got the property; but if he didn’t,
Dominick was to have it--no reference made to Owen’s possible
heirs--nothing! Upon my soul, it puts me in a passion whenever I think
of it!”

O’Neill pulled out his handkerchief, and began to polish his heated
countenance.

I did not answer. While he was speaking, that idea which had haunted me
since my last meeting with my uncle again thrust itself into my mind,
and I began to feel that there might have been a motive for such a
tragedy as had been shadowed in his ravings. I could not sit here with
those loud, cheerful voices round me, and O’Neill’s red, interested face
opposite to me. I knew he was expecting me to speak, but I could not
find words to do so. It was vain to look to Nugent to interpose, as he
was with difficulty holding his own against the combined assault of Mrs.
Burke and her two daughters, who were delightedly making him the
occasion to parade venerable jests that had seen hard service in many a
previous engagement.

“It was a funny thing now, Willy’s marrying that girl. D’ye know had he
any notion of his father’s intentions?” began O’Neill again, hitching
his chair still closer to mine with the evident intention of starting a
long and satisfactory discussion.

I had been rapidly forming various schemes of escape, but I was spared
having to carry out any of them by the timely intervention of Joanna,
who at this juncture appeared at the door and announced that “Misther
Roche had brought over Miss Sarsfield’s luggages from Durrus, and would
be thankful to speak to her in the hall.”

As I crossed the room, Nugent followed me.

“What’s the matter?” he whispered. “You look regularly tired out.”

“I am going to speak to Roche,” I answered. “Will you come with me?”

The first object that I saw in the hall was the Saratoga trunk which I
had packed for America, and my other luggage was blocking up the narrow
passage. The sight of the big trunk recalled to me the day that I had
packed it, and a sudden thought of Willy’s parcel came to me. He had
said that I was not to open it till after his father’s death, but that
then, for his own sake, he would like me to see it. Perhaps it would
throw some light on all these mysteries that had thickened round me
since I had made the experiment of this visit to Ireland. I could hardly
wait to talk to poor old Roche, and to listen to his lamentations over
the downfall of the Durrus family. I was burning to open my trunk and
see what must be, as far as Willy was concerned, the final word on the
subject. At last Roche had said all he had to say. I sent him down to
the kitchen to have a consolatory cup of tea with Joanna, and then,
with Nugent’s help, I eagerly unbuckled the heavy straps and unlocked my
trunk. There, on the top of all, lay my habit, and, with a very shaking
hand, I drew out of its folds the little brown paper parcel.

We took it into the dining-room, where we should be free from
interruption.

“Will you open it?” I said, sitting down by the table, and trying to
prepare myself for whatever fresh revelation was coming.

Nugent cut the string and took the paper off.

“It’s a book of some kind,” he said, sitting down beside me. “It looks
like a diary. And here is a letter for you, from Willy, I suppose.”

“Give it to me,” I said breathlessly. “And will you see what the book is
about?”

The letter was a long one, and was written from Foley’s Hotel, Cork.


                                        “Tuesday afternoon, February 2nd.

     “MY DEAR THEO” (it began),

        “I found this book in the room next yours the morning I went to
     nail up the door. When I went down after that to the lodge to abuse
     Brian about letting Moll up to the house, he threatened me in what
     I thought a queer way. While I was there Moll came in, and when she
     saw me, she tried to hide a book she had in her hand. I just saw
     the cover of it, and I knew it was the one I had picked up that
     morning and left down in my own room. I took it from her, and when
     I was coming home I looked at it. Then I knew right enough what old
     Brian had been driving at. You’ll see for yourself when you read
     it.

     “All the same, I know now that the biggest part of the fault was
     Moll’s, though that time I didn’t think so. Anyhow, I knew that my
     father had swindled you, and that if what I thought was true, I
     hadn’t a right even to speak to you; and I thought the only way out
     of it was to do what I knew would make the governor leave the
     property away from me. Besides, Brian knew, and he told me plain
     enough, that if I did not do what he wanted, he would disgrace my
     father and all the family. But I wouldn’t have minded that so much
     only for the thought of its being your father, and thinking that it
     was mine who had robbed him, and worse. But, as I told you before,
     it was really Moll who did it. She thought she’d square things for
     the governor, and that then, maybe, he’d marry her. He told me that
     himself. She was so sold then when he wouldn’t do it, that it, and
     everything else, sent her off her head. That room she used to be in
     was your father’s, and I hear now she used to be playing there all
     the time with the little book. I suppose she knew somehow that it
     was his, and the servants never noticed one way or the other.

     “I will never forget what you did for me. I was very near shooting
     myself that afternoon after you were talking to me in the
     plantation, but I thought that would only make it worse for you.

     “This is the longest letter I ever wrote, and now I have no more to
     tell you. We will be starting for London directly, and we sail
     to-morrow. Maybe before you open this you will have heard from me
     again. Anyhow, don’t forget me.

                                                 “WILLY.

     “P.S.--You see now that you’re bound to take the property.”



[Illustration: text decoration]

CHAPTER X.

LEX TALIONIS.

    “And now Love sang; but his was such a song,
     So meshed with half-remembrance hard to free.”


The tears crept to my eyes, and, standing there unshed, blurred the
closely written lines, as I read them, and heard in every sentence
Willy’s voice telling me the miserable story. Nugent was still turning
over the leaves of the book when I finished the letter.

“I can’t make this out,” he said. “It is a diary of your father’s for
the year 185--, and the curious thing is that it seems from it that he
died at Durrus instead of in Cork.”

“Here,” I said helplessly, handing him the letter, “read this, and tell
me what it all means.”

He put the diary into my hand, but half drew it back again.

“You ought not to look at it,” he said. “You’re not fit to stand all
this trouble.”

“I must see it,” I said agitatedly. “Don’t stop me, Nugent.”

He still held my hand, with the book in it.

“Listen!” I said in a whisper. “I have something to tell you.”

I had been burdened longer than I could bear with the dread of the
possible meaning of those strange things that my uncle had said in his
delirium, and now by the light of Willy’s letter, all these broken
sentences were beginning to shape and group themselves into something
that could be understood. I did not wait to think, or to try and
arrange coherently what I was going to say, but with a feeling of
feverish hurry driving me, I told Nugent everything that I could think
of that bore in any way on my father’s death. It was not easy to tell,
and towards the end of my story my voice began to fail me.

“Never mind, my darling,” he said, putting his arm close round me,
“don’t think of it any more.”

“I can’t think of anything else,” I said, unclasping his hand from mine,
and putting the letter into it. “Read this.”

He read it, and, without speaking, took up the diary again.

“I believe I understand it all now,” he said. “There is very little in
the diary, but there is enough to make it pretty clear what happened. Do
you see here; your father got to Cork on the 9th of January, and instead
of dying on that day, as is said on the brass in the church, he did not
even start for Durrus till the 10th. I will read it to you, and you will
understand it for yourself.

“‘_January 9._--Arrived in Cork. Felt very ill. Wrote to Helen, also to
Dominick, telling him to expect me to-morrow. Weather very cold.

“‘_January 10._--Felt too ill to leave by early train. Came by the six
o’clock instead. Got to Carrickbeg at nine p.m. Did not see any one I
knew. Got outside car. Very cold night; snow. Arrived Durrus one a.m.
Found that my father had died this afternoon. Feel very ill myself. Am
in my old room over hall-door.

“‘_January 11._--Did not get up. Fear I have a touch of pleurisy. Wish
Helen were here. D. has only once been in to see me, and there seems to
be no one to attend to me. Have asked the woman to light a fire in my
room, but she has not done so. D. tells me she is the only servant in
the house. He says the property has been nearly ruined in the famine.
Must write to Helen to-morrow about coming here.’”

This was the last entry in the book, and Nugent had some difficulty in
reading it, as the writing was weak and the ink had faded. The pages
were rubbed and soiled, and the leaves were dog’s-eared, but none had
been torn out, and, considering its age and the ill-usage it had
probably received, the book was in very good condition.

“You see,” Nugent said, when he had finished reading, “your father
certainly survived your grandfather, and it is very easy to see why your
uncle was anxious for people to believe the contrary. He knew your
mother was a long way off, and that there was no one here to ask any
inconvenient questions. The famine had made most people leave the
country. I believe my father was the only person who made any trouble
about it.”

“Yes, yes,” I said excitedly, remembering my meeting with O’Neill on the
way home from Rathbarry; “he said something to me about it once. Go on.”

“Well,” went on Nugent, with, as I now think, some pride and pleasure in
the office of elucidator, “as a matter of fact, your father probably
died on the 11th or 12th, and I must say it looks as if there had been
some foul play about it. Your uncle’s object was of course to settle
things so as to be able to assert that your father had died before your
grandfather, and had been buried in Cork. I haven’t a doubt that he and
Moll managed to get his body out through that French window, and that
then they carried it between them to Poul-na-coppal, and put it in
there, where they knew it would never be found or thought of.”

“Oh, that explains----” I began; but Nugent was now too interested in
what he was saying to stop.

“Of course, he _may_ have died naturally, but I am bound to say I don’t
think he did. I should say that that old madwoman was quite capable,
then, of putting a pillow over a sick man’s face, if she had any reason
for doing so----”

“Stop!” I cried, interrupting him. “I remember now that I thought she
wanted to do that very thing to me, the night she came into my room.”

Nugent’s clear exposition broke down.

“My darling,” he said, catching me in his arms again, “I don’t know how
you ever lived through that awful time, all alone, with no one to stand
by you; and to think that if I hadn’t been fool enough to believe that
old blackguard----”

“Don’t say anything against him,” I said, rather indistinctly, by reason
of my face being hidden in the collar of his coat. “It’s all over now,
and I shouldn’t mind anything--only for poor Willy. You must write to
him. Tell him that nothing would ever induce me to have Durrus, if it
was mine fifty times over; tell him that for my sake he must abide by
his father’s will, and not waken up a thing that is over now and done
with; tell him that I beg of him to come home again----”

“I’ll do nothing of the sort,” said Nugent, lifting my face and looking
suspiciously into it. “I believe you cared a great deal more about Willy
than you ever did for me.”

“I don’t know why I didn’t,” I answered, midway between laughter and
tears. “He was a thousand times nicer to me than you were--but, somehow,
I always liked you best.”


                               THE END.


             PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED,
                  LONDON AND BECCLES. _G., C. & Co._





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