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Title: A Nine Days' Wonder
Author: Croker, B. M. (Bithia Mary)
Language: English
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A NINE DAYS’ WONDER


      *      *      *      *      *      *

BY THE SAME AUTHOR

     DIANA BARRINGTON
     TERENCE
     PEGGY OF THE BARTONS
     THE CAT’S-PAW
     ANGEL
     A STATE SECRET
     JOHANNA
     THE HAPPY VALLEY
     THE OLD CANTONMENT

      *      *      *      *      *      *


A NINE DAYS’ WONDER

by

B. M. CROKER


   “IL FAUT DE PLUS GRANDE VERTU
   POUR SOUTENIR LA BONNE FORTUNE,
   QUE LA MAUVAISE.”



Methuen & Co.
36 Essex Street W.C.
London

First Published in 1905



A NINE DAYS’ WONDER



PART I



CHAPTER I


A tall grey-haired soldier, with a professionally straight back, stood
looking out of an upper window in the “Rag” one wet October afternoon.
His hands were buried in his pockets, and his face was clothed with
an expression of almost mediæval gloom. The worldly wise mask their
emotions so that those who run may not read, but Colonel Doran had
lived so many years among a primitive race that he made no effort to
conceal his feelings, and all the world was welcome to see that he
was bored to death. To tell the truth, he had been too long in the
East to appreciate club life. Other men were undoubtedly contented,
interested, occupied; it was different in his case. The palatial
dignity, solemnity, luxury of the place failed to stir his pride; even
its traditions left him as cold as the marble statue on the great
staircase. He would have felt ten times more at home in a Bombay chair,
on a brick verandah, with the old Pioneer in his hands and a “Trichy”
in his mouth.

The big smoking-room below had presented a most animated scene; groups
of old brother officers were discussing various burning questions, and
topics ranged, from the new Hussar boot, to the North-west Frontier.
Colonel Doran knew a good deal about the frontier, but made no effort
to enter the lists. What were possible campaigns to him now? He
wandered aimlessly up to the library, and turned over some books; he
tried to read--it was no use. Ashamed to appear a sort of no man’s
friend, and stray, he made his way to the upper smoking-room, which he
was tolerably certain to find empty at that hour. He sauntered round
it, gazing indifferently at the pictures and mementoes. A sketch of two
elephants in a dust-storm arrested his attention. How he wished himself
on the back of one of the old beggars--dust-storm and all! At last he
strolled over to the window, and as he stood looking out on a dismal
vista of wet slates and an iron-grey sky he heaved an involuntary sigh.
So this was the end of his career--idleness, boredom, solitude!

The career of Ulick Doran had commenced at eighteen, when as a cadet
he had landed in India--that hospitable godmother of younger sons--and
the kindly East had adopted and made him her own for the better part
of thirty-four years. He had been gazetted as a mere boy to a crack
regiment of Bengal cavalry known as “Holland’s Horse,” and in this
corps, his home, he had lived and fought and nearly died: had seen his
comrades come and go, marry, and retire. Now it was his own turn. At
fifty-two his career was ended, and the curtain rung down. Good-bye
to everything he cared for--to the sowars, his children, to the mess,
to the horse lines, aye, to the very horses, half of which he had
selected--good-bye to all that had made life worth living. Naturally
he could not remain in India, that unseemly spectacle, a mere camp
follower of the regiment he had so ably commanded, hovering around
it like a departed spirit. He must return to England, and range
himself decently on the shelf along with most of his contemporaries.
Unfortunately Colonel Doran had but few resources apart from his
profession; he was a fine horseman, a noted swordsman, a keen and
capable officer, and here he stood, a stranded and unhappy pensioner,
the very typical dragoon without his horse! What made his position
still worse, he was alone in the world. His mother had died when he was
a small boy--he scarcely remembered her; his father, on the other hand,
had lived to a great age, a red-faced, irascible old gentleman, whose
eldest son predeceased him by many years; and thus the family place had
come to the Indian officer, after all.

An agent had remitted him spasmodically his somewhat shrunken rents;
and recently he had visited Kilmoran Castle, the home of his ancestors,
a tumbledown old place six miles from a station, with a defective roof,
and a pervading odour of soot and dry rot. He scarcely knew a soul in
the neighbourhood: undoubtedly there was good hunting to be had of a
somewhat rough-and-ready description that would carry him through the
dark winter days; but what of the _evenings_ at home? He recalled the
cavernous dining-room, with black horsehair and mahogany furniture, the
heavy flock paper, the narrow windows, the glowering family portraits,
and, above all, the grim sarcophagus under the sideboard that seemed
to await, not the plate, but a corpse! whilst the drawing-room, which
had been closed for fifty years, was a ghostly apartment, given over to
dust and mice, who played weird tunes among the wires of the ancient
Broadwood piano. Ulick Doran shivered as he pictured the dim flagged
passages, the damp, desolate bedrooms. If he were to live at Kilmoran
alone, he would undoubtedly take to drink or cut his throat! The other
alternative was London and a bedroom near his club, where he would see
the same faces, hear the same arguments, walk the same streets--every
day. Oh, he would soon come to the end of that! This great city had no
attractions for him. As he stood gazing out on the streaming rain and
leaden clouds he was mentally contrasting Pall Mall with the “eye of
his heart”--the Punjaub--and wishing he were back under the deep blue
sky, with the first nip of the cold weather in the air, and his new
Australian thoroughbred between his knees.

Just at this instant the door opened and a brisk little bald man,
with a fair moustache and cheery eye, entered the room. He was Major
Sutton--or Johnny Sutton, as his friends called him--late of Holland’s
Horse, a comrade who had retired, married, and apparently lived happy
ever after.

“I say, old man,” he began, “what are you doing here all by
yourself--eh? What’s the matter? Down on your luck?”

“Not much luck to be down on, as far as I know,” growled the other,
turning from the window and sinking into a capacious chair.

“Of course it’s just raw to you at present; you miss the old regiment,
and, by George! they miss you,” said Johnny Sutton, opening his
cigar-case. “We all have a sort of lost, end-of-all-things feeling,
when we first come home, but we get over it in time and make a fresh
start.”

“That’s all right for the young ’uns, Johnny, but a man of fifty-two
has gone over most of the course.”

“Nonsense, Pat. I see you are affected by this beastly weather, and
your liver--a man of fifty is in his prime! Why, I’m fifty myself, and
can walk and shoot with the best.”

“You were always a great shikari, Johnny.”

“For that matter, so were you.”

“Well, there’s an end of all that now.”

“Why so? Haven’t you shooting on your place in Ireland?”

“Shooting!” he repeated derisively. “About as much as is in St. James’s
Park. Perhaps after a hard day’s work I might bag a brace of rabbits
and one snipe. It’s been poached for years. My father was an old man,
and let things slide----”

“Still, I suppose you will go over there and pull the place together a
bit?”

“No, I could not stand it for more than a week; the loneliness and
dreariness seem to penetrate to one’s very bones.”

“And you are not keen about living in town--eh? You are like a newly
imported remount--everything is strange, and you don’t know what to do
with yourself?”

“Yes, Johnny, you have hit the nail right on the head; and if you can
give me some sort of lead, I’m your man.”

Major Sutton puffed at his cigar, removed it from his mouth, examined
it carefully, and then blurted out--

“I say, why don’t you marry?”

“Marry!” repeated his companion. “What an idea!”

“Yes, man alive, and a good one; people do it every day. You stare as
if you had never heard of the institution. Look at me”--and he tapped
his waistcoat: “I am married.”

“Yes, but I--I am not a ladies’ man.”

“So much the better; _they_ never marry.”

“And I’m too old,” objected Colonel Doran.

“Bosh!”

“No girl would have me.”

“Well, what do you say to a fine young woman of five-and-thirty--or--a
widow?”

“I’m not a society man, or in the way of meeting ladies.”

“Because you won’t go out when you are invited, except among the old
married folk of the regiment. I can introduce you to one or two really
suitable young women, with good looks, a little money, and no nonsense
about them. There is Flora Davey! Why, her father commanded the 25th
Bengal Cavalry. You remember him. She was born in Lahore?”

“Yes; and I was at her christening,” he supplemented grimly. “No, no!
that would never work. Thank you, old man, I believe I’ll stay as I am.”

“But look here, Pat, you remember when I got that crack on my head at
polo and was shunted home--years ago: it nearly broke my heart, but
matrimony cured me. I met Maudie on the Riviera my first winter--and
she took to me and I to her. You see, I was an invalid, and she pitied
me, and talked over her rich old pater. People said nasty things,
and it was a lie; I married Maudie for herself only, though money is
certainly a power. Now the old man is gone, she has a clear three
thousand a year, and I have come into a comfortable legacy. Maudie is a
confirmed match-maker, and tries her best to settle her friends.”

“Yes, like the fox who lost his tail,” remarked the bachelor.

“Bar jokes, come along and dine with us quietly on Friday.”

Colonel Doran hesitated; he knocked the ash off his cigar reflectively
and then began--

“You are very kind, Johnny, old man, but----”

“Oh, no, I’m not going to make up a match for you on the spot--no fear:
but just take a look at me and mine--as a practical illustration of my
argument--no party: I want you and Maudie to get to know one another
better--she likes you so much----”

“All right, then, I’ll come--thanks. Friday did you say?” and he took
out a little pocket-book. “Friday, 13th, at 8 o’clock, 402 Sloane
Street.”

“Now, remember, you are engaged to us to a _tête-à-tête_ dinner. I
must be off; I’m taking the Mem Sahib to a theatre, and we dine early.
You ought to look in yourself; it’s rather fun--_The Old Bachelor’s
Blunder_.”

       *       *       *       *       *

Major Sutton had been a Benedict for nearly ten years. His wife was a
pretty, fashionable little woman, some months--though few suspected
this--older than himself. She dressed with taste, had a capable maid,
and was, in the eyes of Johnny Sutton, perennially young and beautiful.
He had no secrets from her, and told her, like a good boy, where he had
been, who he had seen, what they had said. The couple were on terms of
delightful good fellowship, and she, for her part, shared with Johnny
all the dearest secrets of her dearest friends.

“I say, Maudie,” he began, when they were settled in their brougham,
“you know my pal, Pat Doran, one of the best fellows who ever
stepped----”

“Yes, of course I do; he looks like an unhappy duke, poor old boy.”

“I met him to-day, alone and evidently rather wretched. You see, he
feels a bit out of it now he is retired; he is like a lost dog. The
regiment was his home; now he is out of it. If he had had a clever
little wife to exploit him he might have become a brigadier and
goodness knows what. Now he is short of a job; he is not even on the
club committee, and he has nothing to do.”

“And Satan finds, etc. etc.; only he is too old to get into mischief, I
should hope. What about him?”

“Well, you see, he doesn’t take kindly to London, and he does not care
to live in Ireland. He has a fine estate and castle over there. His
family goes back to the Flood, and had their own ship.”

“Yes, he looks an aristocrat all over,” agreed Mrs. Sutton, who, being
the daughter of a successful nobody, had a profound respect for blue
blood.

“He is one of the simplest and best of men, but all alone in the world.
After living years in a mess he can’t stand the empty halls of his
ancestors, and I’ve been telling him to-day, that he _must_ marry!”

“Of course,” she eagerly agreed--“certainly he must marry.”

“And you are the proper person to find him a nice wife, Maudie--a
real jewel, you know--no paste. I’ve asked him to come and dine on
Friday--quite by ourselves, and you can talk to him--of course, not
about matrimony--just to find out his tastes. In fact, I know them--he
was desperately in love once, with a quiet fair-haired girl; she had
a soft manner, and a charming smile, and married a drunken boor--who
broke her heart--and----”

“But listen, Johnny,” interrupted his wife, “we have a little dinner on
Friday--don’t you remember? The Colletts and Sir Fred and Lady Hewson.”

“By Jove! Yes--so we have! Then I’ll put him off till Sunday.”

“No, no, you will do nothing of the sort. I will ask a girl specially
to meet him. I know the very one to suit him. What do you say to Julia
Barker?”

“Oh,” doubtfully, “I don’t think she would be his style at all--no--not
one little bit.”

“Why not? She is handsome, agreeable, well connected--the
Hollington-Barkers you know.”

“Yes, but I don’t admire her; she’s too stout and full-blown; too loud,
and _I_ should say, had the devil of a temper.”

“It is not necessary for _you_ to admire her, Johnny. Poor Ju has led a
life to try the temper of a saint. A spendthrift old father, and since
his death she is a sort of wanderer, and wants a home of her own so
badly; her life is spent in visits--and she lives in her boxes. Now the
Barre girls are growing up she cannot be there so much, and she hates
being paying guest.”

“Miss Barker has no money,” objected Major Sutton.

“But Colonel Doran has, and Ju is wonderful, she can make one penny go
as far as two! She will be a capital wife for him, lively, energetic,
and managing--and _so_ well connected.”

“I don’t think she will suit, Maudie. He is a quiet, reserved sort of
chap, and would like some one of his own caste.”

“Not a bit of it: silent men always take talkative wives--every one
chooses their opposite--I believe Ju and the Colonel will be an exact
match--and here we are!”



CHAPTER II


Julia Barker was the youngest daughter of a needy gentleman of good
family who for many years had roamed about the cheaper continental
resorts, bearing in his train two dashing good-looking girls--and
leaving in his track a considerable number of bad debts. Occasionally,
his rich relations came to his assistance; for instance, when Fanny
succeeded in capturing the affection of a wealthy baronet, Sir Herbert
Barre, the connection provided a suitable wedding and trousseau, and
hinted that they looked to Fanny to help her sister in the like manner.
It was really discreditable, the way in which old Fitzroy dragged their
name about in the dust of Europe; they were constantly encountering
people who said, “Oh--we met your cousins the Hollington-Barkers at
Spa or Monte Carlo--they _are_ your cousins, are they not? Rather a
handsome girl, and a thin old gentleman, who gambles a good deal.”
Sometimes it appeared that the thin old gentleman had borrowed money
from these too confiding travellers. However, at last Captain Fitzroy
Hollington-Barker’s wanderings came to an end; he was accorded (for
the sake of the connection) a decent funeral, buried in the ancestral
vault; and Julia his daughter had her liberty, the world before her,
and one hundred and fifty pounds a year. Lady Barre had exerted herself
in every way to “help off poor Ju” as she termed it; but so far her
anxious efforts had proved of no avail: on the contrary, poor Ju had
sustained several crushing disappointments. Yet Julia Barker was a
handsome woman, in a showy dark style; she had bright eyes, a bright,
somewhat fixed colour, a fine carriage, and a sustained supply of
energy and conversation. Also she was granddaughter of the late Earl
of Hollington, and sister to Lady Barre, who entertained so well;
but--Miss Barker had no money--was losing her looks and figure, and
bore the reputation of a temper, and debts! In spite of her clever
manœuvring, and her astonishing aptitude for exacting invitations,
favours, presents, and even the use of their carriages, from her
circle, Miss Barker’s future was becoming somewhat grey. People were
beginning to weary of her company, her stories, her assurance, and
herself! when Maudie Sutton--to her supreme joy--presented to her the
gallant gentleman, whom she subsequently advertised as “her fate.” She
and Maudie, who had been intimates for years, met at the glove-counter
of a well-known shop in Knightsbridge.

“You got my note, Ju?” said Mrs. Sutton. “I hope you are coming on
Friday?”

“No, dearest; I am engaged to the Farmers--charades and a dance----”

“Oh, never mind the Farmers, Ju,” interrupted Mrs. Sutton; “this little
dinner of mine is ten million times more important--and,” she lowered
her voice and concluded her speech in a series of somewhat breathless
whispers.

The young lady over the gloves was curious--evidently something
mysterious was afoot! Miss Barker now became all animation and
interest, and as she took leave of her friend, she kissed her
repeatedly, and said--

“Thank you, dear old Maudie--you are a _real_ friend!”

When Major Sutton received his brother officer at the drawing-room
door, he said, “Look here, Pat, I owe you ever so many apologies--I
guaranteed a family party, and I’ve let you in for a ‘Burra Khana.’
Maudie had arranged it before--better luck next time.”

There was indeed a large party at 402 Sloane Street, and Colonel Doran
was one of the latest arrivals; he looked very distinguished and
soldierly, as he talked to Mrs. Sutton, a vision in yellow and diamonds.

“I know you were told we were to be alone,” she said, smiling; “but
it makes no matter to a man if there are three, or three hundred--not
like us poor women, who have to dress according to numbers. Now I
want to introduce you to a most particular old friend of mine, Miss
Hollington-Barker,” and she towed him over to a sofa, on which was
enthroned a handsome Juno-like form. “Julia--this is Johnny’s comrade,
Colonel Doran; you are to be very nice to him, and he will take you
down to dinner”; and with an affable smile Mrs. Sutton sailed away and
left them.

Colonel Doran stood before Julia, lamely discoursing of the rain and
the east wind--whilst she figuratively proceeded to take his measure.
When she descended the stairs on her cavalier’s arm, Julia Barker had
definitely decided that “he would do.”

He was neither too old, nor too young--he was good-looking, a
gentleman, and a soldier--with a fine property in Ireland; and as to
family, her own was of mushroom growth in comparison! Maudie Sutton had
given her this splendid chance, and Miss Barker meant to seize it. She
had heard all about Major Sutton’s distinguished friend--a man without
relatives, but possessing immense savings and a castle--who was looking
about him for a wife! There was now no occasion for him to seek further
than his present companion. As his partner ate her soup, which he had
declined, Colonel Doran studied her stealthily.

The lady was dark-browed, dark-haired, with brown eyes, a high colour,
a large mouth, and a short straight nose; her age was considerably
over thirty, her figure plump; she was remarkably well dressed (in
one of Lady Barre’s cast-offs), black, with pink velvet, and wore
a handsome old-fashioned necklace. Subsequently his eyes travelled
round the table and he noted Mrs. Sutton--fair and fluffy-haired,
animated and pretty. Sutton was a lucky man! He discovered several
attractive-looking ladies; one opposite had dark auburn hair and an
ivory skin, whom he admired immensely. And now his own partner began
to unmask her fascinations; she was a practised diner-out, and talked
well. Little did he guess that on the present occasion she was talking
for a wedding ring, and straining every nerve to interest this polite,
but unresponsive gentleman. Their conversation really opened with that
disastrous catastrophe, the upsetting of the salt-cellar.

“Yes, and it’s on a Friday!” she exclaimed, with mock tragic
eyes,--“and I’ve upset it towards you, and will bring you sorrow!”

As he looked a little embarrassed by this jaunty speech, she rattled
on to relate the well-known anecdote of an absent-minded gentleman,
who, having spilled some salt, instantly poured a glass of claret over
it--thus transposing the usual remedy. With sundry excellent, and,
to him, perfectly fresh chestnuts, she kept her victim thoroughly
entertained--actually so interested, that he forgot to glance at the
red-headed girl--or even at Mrs. Sutton--and refused two of the most
toothsome _plats_. What a fortunate fellow he was, to have secured
such a charming companion! By turns amusing, sympathetic, or serious;
he had but to listen, to look into her eloquent dark eyes, admire her
white teeth, and her delightful smile. Among other things, she told
him how it had ever been the one dream of her life to go to India, and
how she still devoured ravenously every book about India that came in
her way. She drew him out cleverly about his regiment (his hobby),
his chargers and polo-ponies, his tiger-shooting; and presently he
found himself talking to the lady as if he had known her for years;
they had discovered a mutual Indian friend--one Bobbie Travers, late
of the 170th Bengal Lancers, who was Miss Barker’s own second cousin,
and he--oh, lucky man--now commanded no less a regiment than Holland’s
Horse. Here was a tie indeed! Bobbie proved not merely a link, but a
_chain_, and it was almost in the nature of a shock when Mrs. Sutton
gave the signal, and the two enthralled companions were compelled to
relinquish an absorbing conversation.

As soon as the men appeared in the drawing-room, Miss Barker made a
significant movement of her hand, and as the enchanted veteran ventured
to occupy the seat beside her, she began--

“I am longing for you to finish that story about the old sower, and
the pariah dog--do, please, _do_ go on--you had just got to where
he was lying on the orderly-room steps, when Maudie hustled us all
upstairs”; and so conversation was resumed precisely where it had been
interrupted. “Your experiences are so enthralling!” she remarked, as he
took her coffee-cup. “I only wish my sister could hear them--you really
_ought_ to write a book.”

Colonel Doran looked at her doubtfully for a moment: then he laughed
aloud.

“Lady Barre is my only sister; I live with her,” she resumed. This was
not a fact. Julia happened to be staying with her for a few days; but,
as the Spanish proverb says, “there is no tax on lies.” “Will you come
and have tea with us some afternoon?”

“I--I----” He was about to refuse, but she suddenly looked up at him
with an appeal in her eyes, and he said “Er--I shall be delighted.”

“We live at two hundred and five, Grosvenor Street,--shall we say
Tuesday at four o’clock?”

“Thank you.”

“You won’t forget, will you?” again looking up at him. “If you do, I
shall feel so hurt and disappointed.”

Colonel Doran, though over fifty years of age, blushed as if he were
seventeen; he actually felt his face burning at the implied compliment.
How astonishing it seemed that this handsome, charming woman should be
interested in a battered old soldier. What _did_ she see in him?

       *       *       *       *       *       *

“Fanny,” said Julia, as she opened the door of her sister’s boudoir.
“So you’ve not gone to bed yet! I am so glad. I’ve something to say to
you, and I want you to help me.”

“Yes,” agreed Lady Barre, languidly laying down her book. “The girls
are out, and Tom is down at the house. What has happened? If it’s money
again, I really cannot----”

“I’ve met a man to-night at the Suttons’,” broke in her sister.

Lady Barre nodded.

“And I intend to marry him.”

“Good gracious, Julia----”

“Yes; he is looking for a wife--so Major Sutton told Maudie--and I am
looking for a husband. He is middle-aged, wealthy, of good family--a
colonel in the army--just retired--with enormous savings; he has a fine
estate and castle in Ireland, and not one relation in the wide world!”

“My dear, it sounds too good to be true! Who is he?”

“His name is Doran; he is rather silent and a little shy. I’ve invited
him to tea here on Tuesday. I hope you are not engaged?”

“But I am--yes, to the Lovells; however, I will certainly stay at home
and see your--catch.”

“Yes, it is time I was married; and I do honestly believe Colonel
Doran has taken a fancy to me. He left when I did, and put me into a
cab as if I were something precious and breakable. He has offered me
tiger-claws.”

“What on earth for?”

“To make a necklet, of course.”

“You have fine claws of your own, Ju, if he only _knew_.”

Julia, who had removed her cloak, now reclined in an arm-chair, as if
reposing after some exhausting effort. “To think of it, Fan”--ignoring
this scratch--“I am going to be off your hands--and my own hands--at
last!”

“I know how clever you are, Ju; but there is many a slip. You remember
Eddie Ellis----”

“There will be no slip this time if you will back me up properly. Get
Tom to leave a card at his club; ask him to dinner once or twice, and
be _nice_ to him.”

“Oh, I’ll do all that, of course, with pleasure”--and her ladyship
sincerely meant it. She would strain every nerve to get Julia
settled--a homeless, impecunious sister, always clinging to her--a
sister, too, with endless debts, quarrels, and flirtations. Of course
she was fond of poor old Ju, but she would be truly grateful to the man
who would marry her, and relieve her of an incubus.

Colonel Doran was not kept in the dark respecting Miss Barker’s fine
connections and amiable relations. He dined at Grosvenor Street; he had
a seat in their box at the theatre. Indeed, Julia’s family received him
with open arms, as if he were a long-expected friend; being, indeed, an
eagerly-looked-for, and well approved suitor. Julia’s interest in sport
was unquenchable; secretly she borrowed and read up books on Indian
shikar, and was always radiantly pleased to see him--handsome, well
dressed, and agreeable. In three weeks’ time, Colonel Doran had spoken
the fatal words. Sitting over the fire in the little drawing-room one
dull afternoon Miss Julia described in pitiful tones her own sad and
solitary life. Fanny had her family, who engrossed her. “And I,” she
added in a broken voice, “am really _alone_ in the world. I shall be a
forlorn old maid; no one cares for me.”

And, emboldened by this splendid opening, Colonel Doran figuratively
rushed upon his fate.

       *       *       *       *       *       *       *

It was decided that the engagement was to be brief, as the lady frankly
declared--

“We are neither of us young; there is nothing to wait for; and the
wedding can take place before Fanny leaves town. She won’t be back
again till February.”

To this arrangement the happy bridegroom readily agreed. When money
matters came to be discussed, Colonel Doran’s large estate dwindled
down to £1,200 a year. This discovery proved a shock. It appeared that
most of his surplus income had been lavished on his regiment; still,
his pension was considerable, and living was cheap in Ireland. Fanny
generously paid her sister’s debts and presented the trousseau. The
bride-elect talked continually of Kilmoran Castle, and distributed
pressing invitations--among friends unlikely to accept. There was a
brilliant wedding, and showers of presents descended on old Ju Barker,
who had made an unexpectedly good match. After the ceremony the happy
pair left, amid a buzz of congratulations and a shower of rice and
slippers, for Colonel Doran’s Irish seat.

Although he had repeatedly attempted to discount her expectations,
Julia had turned a resolutely deaf ear to her fiancé.

“It is really nothing of a place,” he protested; “the old family
house was burnt down eighty years ago. My ancestors gambled, and
raced through most of the property; and though once we owned miles
of country, we have only about two thousand acres of land--some of
it is bog--and I am the last twig on our family tree. The castle is
merely a house tacked on to an ancient keep; there are no grounds or
conservatories--it is just a gloomy old barrack. But you will brighten
it. I’ve had some of the rooms papered, and sent over a little modern
furniture.”

“But your father and mother lived in it, as it was,” she argued, in a
querulous key.

“Yes, and my grandfather too. I remember him when Nora and I were small
children.”

“By the way, who is, or was, Nora?”

“Don’t you remember? I told you about her. My only sister--such a
pretty girl; but when she was eighteen, she ran away to America--with
the postman.”

“How awful! Has nothing been heard of her?”

“No, not for many years. I used to write to her, and send her money on
the sly; my father would never allow her name to be mentioned.”

“He was right, I think; she behaved disgracefully.”

“My father married late in life, and had no sympathy with young people.
Nora never had a moment’s freedom, and she was a wild, gay sort of
girl--poor Nora! I’ve lost sight of her this twenty years; she was five
years younger than I.”

In spite of her husband’s warning, Kilmoran Castle proved a terrible
disappointment to the bride. First of all a mean little hump-backed
gate lodge, covered with ivy as with a cloak, and a common rusty iron
gate, then a winding weedy drive, and finally, the Castle!--merely a
square grey keep, against which a two-storeyed white house had propped
itself. There were no towers or battlements, there was not even a
pillared porch to hide the vulgarity of a grass-green hall door. The
garden in front was a dreary wilderness of overgrown box and old
fuchsias. In short, the Castle had nothing pretty, noble, or uncommon,
to recommend it; it was not even dignified by a curse, or a ghost.
Within were several large low sitting-rooms, antique furniture, family
pictures, and a smell of soot and dry rot. The bride having ascended
to her room, collapsed on the first chair in floods of tears--bitter,
angry tears. However, Julia Doran was not the sort of woman to sit and
weep, and she soon, to use an American term, “took hold.” She explored
the house, and cleverly appraised its mouldy contents, discovered the
great stable-yard--capable of holding a troop of cavalry--and the huge
garden, remnants of the glories of a former mansion; here, at least,
was a sense of comfort and importance. The demesne was pretty, and
the views lovely. After all, she was Mrs. Doran of Kilmoran Castle,
and matters might be worse. For instance, she might still be Miss
Barker--living on her friends, and her wits, in some cheap suburban
boarding-house. To all important correspondents she despatched glowing
accounts of her home, and on her cards and writing-paper was engraved
“Kilmoran Castle” in clear large type; and as far as people in England
could tell, it might be Chatsworth itself! Then the new lady (there had
not been a Mrs. Doran for more than forty years) began to institute
improvements. Trees were cut down, old lumber carted away, rooms were
opened and aired; she set up a carriage, and taught the immediate
neighbourhood to keep its distance. There was to be no running in and
out of the Castle _now_. Next, she issued an edict, and dismissed
several old servants. Dotards and blood-suckers, she termed them,
and if they had been forty years at Kilmoran, it was twenty years
too long. She set her face sternly against authorised beggars, and
all pensioners; and oh, crowning enormity, she sold the skim milk,
which for a century and more, had been a free gift. Alas, there was
now no picking up of firewood in the plantations, no winking at stray
cattle--or even goats; altogether it was a new régime.

Colonel Doran made a gallant struggle to stem the revolution, but
found himself powerless. His wife had a strong and ruthless will.
Remonstrances merely led to scenes: the lady, with a red face, stormed
and scolded; she assured him that he was a fool, living in an old
barrack, and being ruined by a pack of greedy parasites, and that she
would never stand by and calmly witness such extravagance. So at last,
for the sake of a quiet life, the unhappy gentleman succumbed; he
was alive to the fact that his marriage had been a terrible mistake,
but he bore his sufferings with a patience and resignation that was
almost oriental in its character. He busied himself beyond the scope of
Julia’s operations, became a justice of the peace, farmed, hunted, and
took up the broken links of ancient family friendships.

As far as lay in his power, the Colonel helped his poor dependents: in
secret, and out of his own pocket he remitted rents, or bought on the
sly a cow or an ass; for Mrs. Doran was a woman of business. Precisely
like the model French wife, she kept the keys, the accounts, and all
domestic power, in her own hands, and, but for her streak of hard
greed, was an admirable manager.

The Dorans had two children, both boys--Barker, the elder, was stout,
lumpish, black-eyed,--his mother’s favourite, and a Barker, as she
proudly proclaimed. Ulick, the second, was a slender, delicate
child, with clear-cut features, and large grey eyes. As he resembled
the Dorans, his mother did not care for him; he was strong-willed,
undemonstrative, and passionately attached to his father.

When Ulick was seven years of age, and Barker nine, Colonel Doran
caught a bad cold, which developed into pneumonia, and died suddenly.
Being much respected, he was accorded that final tribute and
compliment, a great funeral; it was more than two miles long, and the
boast among his retainers for many years.

“A nice, quiet kind man. God rest him! A real gentleman,” was his
epitaph; and some went so far as to add--

“Faix, he has had a poor sort of life, and maybe he is glad to be out
of it.”

Ten years had elapsed since the great funeral. The boys were growing
up. Ulick’s godfather, Major Sutton, had sent him to Wellington, and
occasionally invited him to London for a week, but Barker remained in
Ireland, under his mother’s supervision, qualifying for the position of
Master of Kilmoran; he had been a short time at school, and then, in
answer to his fervid representations, his devoted parent had installed
him at home with a resident tutor, whilst Ulick went to Sandhurst; for
Ulick had decided to follow the usual career of a younger son, and was
resolved to be a soldier.



CHAPTER III


Mrs. Doran, generally called Mrs. “Colonel” Doran, and by her retainers
“the ould wan,” was well known to fame in the immediate region of her
personal influence--that is to say, within a visiting distance of
fifteen Irish miles from her own door. The lady cherished a delusion
that she was one of the most prominent figures in the province, and
if she had been persuaded to whisper her claims to this distinction,
would have announced, “high birth, good breeding, and benevolence.” But
alas! how differently do others see us! The reputation she bore was in
startling contradiction to her illusions. People talked openly of Mrs.
Doran’s arrogance, rudeness, and parsimony, and the lower orders boldly
proclaimed her to be “a holy terror.” Her blustering tyranny, her
meanness, and inflexible resolve to get more than her money’s worth,
revolted the souls of her miserable retainers, whilst among the upper
ten her systematic assumption of superiority, and barefaced endeavours
to make use of every one, added to a malignant tongue, caused the lady
to be not merely disliked, but feared. As for her benevolence, no one
denied that she was a most indefatigable beggar. She begged boldly for
money, blankets, and cast-off garments, and distributed the alms of
other people; but she never contributed herself--indeed, the malicious
went so far as to say that Mrs. Doran embezzled certain of these
moneys, and put them in her pocket, believing that charity began in her
_own_ home; also, they declared that she gave the collected flannel,
and blankets, to her servants, and wore the pick of the clothes
herself! In fact, a certain class detested Mrs. Doran so intensely that
they were ready to say or believe anything to her disadvantage.

Since the days when she came to Kilmoran, a showy and self-possessed
bride, the lady was much changed, and was now a stout, red-faced
matron, with a bustling gait, incredible energy, and a large balance
at her banker’s. To give her her due, she had worked hard, and nursed
the estate for her beloved Barky, who loafed through life, whilst his
active mother held the reins of government. But even her bitterest
foe could not deny that the Englishwoman had wrought improvements.
There was now an imposing entrance, with gilded gates; on either pier
sat a great stone wolf-hound (the crest of the once noble Dorans); a
pretty pleasure-ground lay before the Castle; and a smart man-servant
(on board wages), opened the door; but unfortunately nothing could
be done for the Castle itself!--nothing short of razing it to the
ground, and rebuilding it. The rooms were all suitably furnished, with
the most modern antique treasures, including tapestry. A flag waved
languidly from the roof of the ancient tower. Certainly the place
looked both prosperous and pretentious. Mrs. Doran, in a smart landau
with a pair of fine bays, scoured the country, and established intimate
relations with all the people of wealth and position. To these she was
affectionate, sympathetic, and even confidential; but she was not given
to hospitality, and preferred to see her friends in their own homes.
Two garden-parties per summer, and a couple of hunting luncheons,
were the limit of her efforts. With the professional class Mrs. Doran
was stand-off, and “an Earl’s grand-daughter” (unless she required a
legal opinion, or a prescription), and she was a wonderful woman to
borrow! The lower orders she simply looked upon as slaves. They were
a race apart, and to these she was an autocrat, and a tyrant. Those
who were unluckily her workmen, and born on the property, had to work
longer than elsewhere. The bell clanged at six o’clock in the morning,
and at six in the evening. The payment was one shilling a day--a penny
an hour! And the active lady tramped round the fields herself, and
saw that there was no idling. She did not trust her steward, in fact,
she trusted no one, except Barky--it was for him she was toiling and
saving; he should be a wealthy man yet, and marry into the peerage!
Everything that made an outside show was properly maintained; but where
matters were not open to the public eye, it was otherwise. There was
a stinting in fires, in lamp-oil, in the servants’ food, in matches,
yea, and in washing! Time, which had wrought changes in the property,
had not improved its future owner. Barky, as he was called, had been
firmly secured to his mother’s apron-strings and spoiled to his heart’s
content. He was naturally a lazy, self-indulgent boor, stupid and
stubborn, with an enormous conception of his own importance. Much of
this might have been eliminated at a good public school--where he would
have been compelled to bestir himself, yield to others, and realise his
own true value. In appearance he was thick-set, with short legs, and a
long body: naturally no horseman. He had cunning little dark eyes, a
high colour, a thick neck, and slouched as he walked. He spoke with a
common accent, and rarely opened a book or wrote a letter; but he was
fond of smoking, and as devoted to cards and gambling as his unworthy
ancestors. He enjoyed low company, yet had a most exalted idea of
his own status. Ulick, at the age of seventeen, presented a complete
contrast to his brother; he was tall and slender, and spoke with an
English accent, until he became roused or excited, which was seldom;
like his father, he was a born horseman--in fact, he resembled him in
many ways, and inherited his parent’s popularity among the country
people. Although Barker would unbend, and borrow sporting-papers
from the coachman, and play “spoil fire” with stable-boys in the
harness-room, yet for all this condescension his companions were never
_sure_ of him--he would “round on them” at a moment’s notice, no longer
the jovial comrade, but the blustering, cursing master; whilst Mr.
Ulick, who made no freedom, was always the same, and a gentleman!

Mrs. Doran was a keen woman of business, and by no means a bad
farmer, save that she grudged a proper supply of manure, got all that
she could off the land, and put but little back. Young horses were
one of her adventures, and as a rule, though they are considered a
risky investment, they paid her well. In the first place, she had
an invaluable head groom, an ancient retainer, who, for the sake of
the old master, stayed on, receiving small wages and enduring many
indignities; no better judge of a three-year-old long-tail than Peter
Duffy ever stood in an Irish fair. These he brought home, handled,
rode, and sold, with most satisfactory results.

Latterly, Peter was getting too heavy to ride to hounds, or school the
young ones, and Master Ulick, when at home, took his place. All the
world agreed that he was “the darling on a colt, with the loveliest
hands in the world, and as bold as a young lion.” It is unnecessary to
mention that none of his admirers had ever seen a young lion following
the foxhounds; but their praise, though ignorant, was heartfelt and
sincere.

Ulick loved animals, especially horses; he was crazy about hunting,
and when he was at Kilmoran spent most of his time in the saddle. His
mother made no objection; she was alive to the pecuniary value of a
light-weight rider, and knew that after a month or two of Ulick’s
training the young hunters’ prices were sensibly increased.

Even from the time he was twelve years old, this light-weight boy,
with light hands, a bold heart, and mounted on an animal as youthful
and eager as himself, caused many a pang of envy, and memory of the
“has-been days,” to the veteran followers of the Harkaway hounds.

When Ulick was seventeen, and a cadet at Sandhurst, he met with an
accident that nearly brought his career, and his neck, to an untimely
end. One raw winter afternoon the hounds were running not far from
Kilmoran. It had been a grand scenting day. Sport was good, and Ulick
was out on a new investment--a fine upstanding four-year-old, with
grand legs and quarters, but with an ugly fiddle-head and a small
pig-like eye. He had, however, a famous pedigree--and with that same
pedigree was allied a temper. At first he went kindly, taking all
before him with extraordinary flippancy, sailing over places big or
little, in a manner that it was a pleasure to witness. A hard-riding
cavalry man had already bought him (mentally) and entered him for
a couple of steeplechases at Punchestown and Sandown. Suddenly,
something put the brown horse out--one never quite knows what upsets a
hunter’s temper. Leading the field, he came thundering down to a big
boundary-fence, wheeled about sharp on the edge, as if on a pivot--in
short, balked before the whole hunt, knocked fifty pounds off his
price, and all but shot his rider into the next field. The thrusting
followers of the Harkaways stormed the obstacle and galloped on, and
Ulick made another effort, put the horse at the ditch, which he again
refused; and he not only refused, but reared, and snorted. As the
hounds were now far ahead, his rider was determined to get the horse
over, so to speak, dead or alive; the brown colt was as positively
resolved not to jump. Each, boy and beast, was furious with the other;
their blood was up, and it was now a frantic personal affair between
them. The beast stood planted, with tucked-in tail, ears laid back, in
a lather of sweat and foam, the picture of stubborn strength; the boy,
with set white face, was equally dogged, and used every means in his
power to conquer the brute--whip, spurs, voice. These were answered
by plunges, rearings, and loud snorts of angry defiance. Then Ulick
Doran tried peaceful methods, soothing and coaxing, and gentle walkings
to and fro. But all to no purpose. The contest had lasted for twenty
minutes. The field was empty, save for an old white goat, who stared
her astonishment at the proceedings, and a little girl of ten years
old, who had been watching the hunt from the top of the boundary-fence,
and was the only human witness of the struggle--rather a pretty,
slender child, with an amazing quantity of bright red hair; she wore no
cap or hat, and was out, so to speak, in her pinafore.

It was a raw December afternoon, and little Mary Foley, her bare arms
wrapped in her bib, waited on the top of the big ditch with breathless
interest to see which would win, man or horse; and if Master Ulick
would get the better of the baste? Her curiosity and anxiety were
equally kindled. All the country knew, to use a local expression, “that
Master Ulick’s riding bet all.” But, on the other hand, the horse
looked a real savage, and the poor young gentleman might be hurted or
killed. Anyhow, the Gripe was a terrible big lep.

The Gripe was a huge, deep ditch at the taking-off side. The landing
was on a big sound bank, the top of which was only a few feet above the
level of the next field; it was a wide, but otherwise perfectly safe
up-jump, and the brown horse had negotiated several others of the same
description with ease; he could, and he would--and--he would _not_.

During his exertions Ulick became aware of a figure in a fluttering
blue pinafore, who was the sole spectator--a little girl, with a pair
of remarkably neat black legs, who capered about on the top of the bank
at a safe and discreet distance. It was the Foley child; he recognised
her carroty head; she was not in the way at all, but what was she
waiting for? He hated to see her watching him; he wished to goodness
she would go home--indeed, he would be thankful to go home himself. As
a last desperate expedient, he struck spurs into the sulky colt, and
sent him round the field full gallop; wheeled suddenly, and brought him
down to the fence at a pace that was terrific. The horse was taken
unawares. No time now for stopping or propping: it was a case of in,
or over; his own impetus carried him sheer off his legs; he made a
spring--landed on the bank----

The little girl’s irrepressible yell of triumph died away on her lips
when she beheld the hunter, after landing, stumble, lose his legs, and
roll helplessly into the field, with his rider beneath him. At first
she was too horrified to scream, or even stir. Surely to goodness they
were both dead!

Presently the brown colt scrambled to his feet, shook himself, sniffed
at his prostrate rider, then trotted off with high knee action,
trailing reins, and proudly waving tail, as much as to say, “I think I
got the best of _that_!”

Meanwhile, Ulick Doran lay in a motionless heap, precisely as if he
were lifeless--in fact, as the child said to herself, “There was not a
stir out of him! and what was to be done at all, at all?” Not a soul
was likely to come near them; her father’s cottage was four fields
away, and he and her mother were out, it being market day, and there
was not a creature within but the cat. She crept down from the bank,
and cautiously approached the still form. Master Ulick was as white as
a sheet; his eyes were closed, and from a deep cut in his forehead the
blood was oozing. Mary Foley, an only child, was unusually sharp and
self-confident for her age; her mother, a delicate woman, was given to
“weak turns” and long faints, and on some of these occasions little
Mary had tended her without assistance. Perhaps Master Ulick was only
overcome with the same kind of strong weakness as her mother? She eyed
him critically for a moment, then boldly filched his handkerchief from
his pocket, and darted off to the Holy Well, which lay within a couple
of hundred yards. Returning breathless, she dabbed his temples and
forehead with ice-cold water; and still he never moved, but lay like
a stone. Then she sat down on the grass and raised his head, and laid
it on her small lap; and as she resumed her operations with the wet
handkerchief, some salt tears became mingled with the water from St.
Bridget’s Well. In a short time she was weeping bitterly.

All at once Ulick Doran opened his eyes. Where was he? His head was
reeling round, but he grasped that above him was a watery, wintry sky,
beneath him the hard, damp earth, behind his head something small!
What? He turned his glance upwards, and beheld a pair of streaming
hazel eyes, and a mop of rough red hair. Was it a fairy? For a moment
he lay motionless, and wondered; then, as his senses gradually returned
to him, he recollected the child on the ditch. Yes, he had come a
tremendous cropper! Was the horse killed? He struggled to a sitting
posture. No, the brute was all right, grazing away in the corner of the
field. The effort cost him agony, and he realised that he was badly
hurt; his shoulder seemed twisted, and altogether he felt sick and
faint, and as if he had been recently passed under a steam-roller.

“Holy Mary be praised! And ye are not killed all out, Mr. Ulick?” piped
a small voice, and the child rose to her feet.

“No. Do I look like it?” he answered cheerily.

“And ye got the better of him after all!”

“I’m not so sure of that. Anyhow, he has the best of it _now_”;
and his eyes wandered to the hunter, who was cropping grass along a
headland with the zest of a gourmand.

“Are ye much hurted?” she asked. Generally, when her mother “came to,”
she was all right!

“My head feels a bit buzzy, and I believe I’ve put my shoulder out, and
broken some bones.”

“What’s to be done?” she asked, wringing her little red hands. “What’s
to be done at all? Shall I run up to the Castle?”

“No, it’s a good mile off, and I don’t fancy sitting here; and besides,
I don’t want to frighten them.” He was talking to this bare headed imp
as if she were a grown-up woman. “If I could get on the horse--I know
there’s a lane hereabouts--I’d manage all right.”

He made a violent effort and rose to his feet, but quickly collapsed
again. “I can’t walk, that’s sure”; and he looked over at the brown
colt.

“Shall I catch him for your honour?”

“You!” he repeated sarcastically. “What a chance you’d have!”

“Yes, faix, and I would,” she rejoined stoutly.

“Are you not afraid?”

“Is it me! I’m afraid of no horse or man, or any sort of beast
whatever. Wasn’t it _me_, that bested Colgan’s old savage sow! I’m not
used to horses--but I’m fine and handy with cows.”

“All right then, go and try your luck.” And as young Doran sat on the
ground endeavouring to stanch the blood which trickled into his eyes,
he was amazed and amused at the manœuvres of the child in the blue
pinafore. First she walked boldly forward, then she stood as if meaning
nothing at all; next she stalked warily; finally she pounced almost
imperceptibly on the reins, and before the big sixteen-hander could
jerk back his head and snatch them and his liberty, she had him by the
bit. Her very boldness and audacity astonished her captive as much
as her captive’s master. She soothed and patted the big, upstanding
hunter, and he, being now full of grass, and also a little sobered and
lamed by his recent fall, actually suffered himself to be led forward
like the traditional lamb.

“Why, you are a regular horse-tamer!” cried Ulick, as she approached.

“I have a way with animals, they say,” she replied; “they are tame
enough with me.”

“He has given himself a bad over-reach I see! Well, now little Foley,
will you put your hand in my pocket--this one--and pull out a flask,
and uncork it, as I’ve only one hand?”

She instantly did as requested, and with nimble, red fingers fished out
a small silver flask.

“Whisky?” she suggested, as she unscrewed the stopper.

“No, sherry. I shall want some jumping powder to get on the fellow’s
back”; and he took a long draught. As he handed the flask to her to
be replaced, he said, “Hullo! little Foley, what’s this? You’ve been
blubbering; there are two great dirty streaks down your cheeks! What
were you crying for?”

“Well, then, Mr. Ulick,” getting very red, “sure, didn’t I think you
were dead?”

“And so you were weeping over my remains? That was very kind of you,
little Foley.”

“And wouldn’t any one cry after you, Master Ulick?” she demanded with
an air of friendly wonder.

“Would they? Well I hope I shan’t give them a chance for some years.
Now, do you stand by his head, and I’ll do my big best to get on his
back.”

Apparently the effort was not merely protracted, but agonising. When
Mary looked up at the rider, she was startled at what she saw; his face
seemed drawn and grey, like that of an old man; the skin looked clammy.

“Now run along”--he spoke between his shut teeth--“and try and break
down the stone gap into the boreen.”

This feat Mary accomplished without difficulty, and Ulick and his lame
hunter passed through into the lane. All up the lane, they were closely
attended by the child, who seemed to consider them both under her care.
At last they reached a black wooden gate leading into the so-called
demesne; as she opened it, she halted, and so did Ulick Doran.

“Well, little Foley, you are a queer little devil, and a real brick. I
wish I’d something to give you, but I can’t get at my pocket, as you
know.”

“Sure, I wouldn’t take anything, thank your honour,” she answered, with
amusing hauteur, “not if it was gold itself.”

He stared down hard into the serious, uplifted eyes, and asked--

“But are you not Pat Foley’s girl; the one I see with the red head
peeping through the gate at Foley’s corner?”

“Yes, ye’ honour, I am so.”

“You have done a good job for me to-day: you know that I’d like to do
something for you. What would you say to a nice big doll?”

“Is it a doll? No, no!” reddening, “nothing, nothing.”

“Then I’m in your debt, and I hate to be in any one’s debt. You’ve got
my hat, I see; I can’t put it on just now.”

“No, sir, I’ll take it up this evening; ye may be wanting it.”

“Well, good-bye. I must try and get on home, before I fall off;” and as
he gave the limping brown his head, the pair moved painfully away.

It was many a day before Ulick Doran wanted his hat. He had had a bad
fall--broken his arm, and two of his ribs; it was a miracle how he had
ever mounted his hunter and ridden home. The doctors agreed that he was
a boy of incredible fortitude and resolution, and as a man, he would be
bound to go far.

Ulick explained to his family the scene of the accident, and how
Foley’s little girl had come to his assistance.

“Only for her I suppose I might have lain there a week. She is a
wonderful child, and has her head screwed on the right way. I daresay
you know her?” he added, turning to his mother.

“Oh, yes, the little foxy thing,” she rejoined indifferently.

“She’s uncommonly plucky and handy,” urged her son.

“I hope you did not praise her to her face! She is spoiled enough as it
is,” declared Mrs. Doran. “Being the only child Katty ever reared, they
think the world does not hold her equal. Katty dresses her almost like
a lady!--gets her shoes from Cork, and knits her long black stockings,
just the same as the Rectory children wear. It’s a sin to be giving
the brat a taste for dress. For my part I think she is just a flighty,
impudent little monkey, and whenever I come across her I take right
good care to give her a setting down.”

Little Mary often recalled the day of the hunt, and one event in her
life. She had of course frequently related the incident to her mother
and father, and even escorted them to the field, and shown them the
very marks of the horse’s hoofs on the bank, and explained how he fell,
and where Mr. Ulick lay, as if stone dead.

“Faix, if it had been the other,” muttered Pat to his wife, “he’d have
been no great loss. But poor Mr. Ulick, thank God he was spared; he is
the very spit of his father, the old Colonel.”

As soon as he was convalescent, Ulick Doran joined the regiment to
which he had been gazetted, and was not seen again at Kilmoran for some
years.



CHAPTER IV


When Mary Foley was sixteen, she ceased to attend the local day school,
being considered for her station a finished pupil. She wrote a good
hand, was fairly well grounded in grammar and arithmetic, had acquired
the Irish, and was an excellent needlewoman. Mary was no longer called
“Foxy” or “Carrots,” for she was bewitchingly pretty, and her clouds of
auburn hair shaded a radiant face. She had also what was described as
“a wonderful way with her” and an extraordinary fascination for most of
the boys in the barony. John Foley had been dead for some years; his
death was no pecuniary loss to his widow, who had him “well insured,”
but she gave up most of the land adjoining the farm, only keeping the
house, garden, and the grass of a couple of cows, seeing there was,
as she explained, “now but Mary and herself in it, and beasts were
bothersome.” To tell the truth, Mary was not particularly partial to
farm labour; indeed, plain girls, her detractors, openly declared that
“there was too much of the _lady_ about Miss Foley”; but she did her
share, as her fond parent bragged, if she was not over keen with regard
to the wash-tub, or scouring. She was handy with her needle, and made
quite a nice lot of money, sewing for Mrs. Hogan at the Glenveigh
Arms. Also she looked after the fowls and eggs, the cows and calves.
“Oh, she was,” her mother declared, “a grand little girl for work.”
“Aye,” agreed her enemies, “but it was all gentry’s work. Who ever saw
Mary on her knees scrubbing, or washing out the pots? Whilst as for
pigs, she set her face entirely against them.” She would neither be
said nor led, and since poor Pat died, the stye was standing empty. Was
ever the likes known?

There were two roads to the Castle from Foley’s Corner; one lay across
the fields, up the boreen, and through the iron gate--this was the
fine-weather approach; the other, a long round by the high road, and
imposing principal entrance.

One bright September afternoon Mary was returning from Kilmoran,
swinging her empty egg-basket, when in the lane she descried a
handsome young gentleman in a grey tweed suit and cap, and immediately
recognised Mr. Ulick. This was no great feat; she had heard up above
that “the Captain” had arrived home now for a good spell, and was a
really splendid-looking young officer. But Mr. Doran lacked Mary’s
advantages; he had not the slightest suspicion of the identity of
this pretty slim girl, in a well-fitting blue cotton dress, who was
gradually approaching him from the demesne. He could not even place
her. She was not the usual country type; her bones were small, her
carriage erect, assured, graceful; and there was a finish about her
dress that was unusual. He noticed the little bit of lace at the neck,
the trim belt. However, she wore no hat, and was undoubtedly a peasant.
As this girl was about to pass him, she dropped a hurried curtsey, and
glanced at him timidly, with a pair of bewildering hazel eyes. Surely
he had met those eyes somewhere? A sudden gleam of memory flashed into
Ulick’s brain. He halted and exclaimed--

“Is it possible that you are Mary Foley?”

“Yes, your honour.” Another curtsey, and it was difficult to ignore her
girlish flutter, her evident joy at seeing him again.

“I declare I scarcely recognised you. How you have grown!”

“Children mostly do,” she rejoined with composure.

“I suppose you consider yourself grown up?”

“Yes, sir, I have left the schoolin’.”

“And so your education is complete?”

“I would not say that, but,” shifting her basket to her other arm, “I
learnt all they taught, so I did.”

“Reading, writing, arithmetic. The three R’s.”

“Yes, and grammar, history, and geography. I loved geography.”

“Well, it is a harmless passion. Can you tell me where Malta is?”

“Faix, unless it’s lost, sir, it should be in the Mediterranean Sea.”

“Oh, I see you cannot be puzzled, can you?”

“Oh, then indeed I can, and am, often and many a time.”

“Tell me what puzzles you.”

“No, sir, I really couldn’t make so free”; and she moved a step, as if
to pass on.

Two long hours lay between him and dinner. Young Doran had nothing
particular to do; his mother was irritable and continually scolding
some one. It was rather pleasant, standing in this fragrant lane,
talking to this pretty, shy, yet audacious colleen.

“You have been up at the Castle, I presume?” he continued.

“Yes, your honour, selling eggs to her ladyship.”

“I hope you make a good thing out of it?”

“Well,” a pause, “I just bid to take what her ladyship gives
me--sixpence the dozen, and young chickens a shilling a couple.”

“A shilling--a--a--couple!” he repeated; and he felt his face becoming
warm.

“Well, of course I could get more in the market, or even from the
hawkers,” she continued, “but ye see we live on the land, and her
ladyship has the first call, and--and--anyhow, though the price is not
much, the Castle is convenient-like.”

“Do you remember the last time I saw you?” inquired her ladyship’s
shamefaced son, “and the cropper I came, over in that field?” and he
pointed in the direction.

“Aye, to be sure I do, sir! What would ail me that I’d forget it? Sure,
weren’t you nearly killed dead?”

“Nearly, I suppose. I have not forgotten what you did for me that day.”

“Sure it was nothing, sir, I’d do as much for ye again.”

“I hope you never may have the chance! You were a kind, active little
helper. How you did run about, and how you mothered me! I’ve owed you
a debt ever since; I’d like to give you a souvenir of some sort even
now--better late than never.”

“Thank your honour, but I have one already, and one is all I want.”

“What may it be? Not my hat--you brought that after me!”

“No, I’ve no call for hats. ’Twas the horse’s shoe I found, an elegant,
bright new shoe; it was lying on the grass on the other side of the
ditch. I have it nailed up, ever since, for luck.”

“Has it brought you any?”

“Well, then, I can’t say much for it so far, yer honour.”

“It may do great things yet.”

“Well, God send it. And now, if your honour pleases, I must be going
on. I’m late as it is----”

“Why, where is your hurry?”

“Sure, hasn’t the cows to be milked, and the calf fed?”

“I wish I could help you--for I’m out of a job to-day.”

Mary suddenly broke into laughter and displayed a row of pretty little
teeth. “You’d make a poor hand of the milking, I’m thinking,” she said.

“Anyway, I’ll walk back with you as far as the stone gap, if I may?”

“Sure, the boreen is your honour’s own land, and what’s to hinder you?”

“Old Crock na Bowl looks well this evening,” suddenly remarked the
young fellow, as they turned and faced a towering purple peak, on which
lay the long afternoon shadows.

“Oh, he’s there right enough,” said Mary, with indifference.

“Now you’d like to see another mountain for a change?”

“Bedad, I would so. I’m always craving to visit the grand places I read
about. It’s your honour that has been round the world, and in fine
countries, and foreign parts.”

“Only in Spain and Malta so far; but we are going to India the next
reliefs. Ah, here is the stone gap you once pulled down for me. Allow
me to help you over----”

“Is it, help _me_?” and she laughed derisively. “Why there is not a
wall or gap in the country to stop me.”

“At least I may hold the basket?”

“No, no, sir,” and she smiled, and stood irresolute, wondering how she
was to bid farewell to the young master. Should she curtsey? or would
she just take herself off anyhow?

“Before you go, Mary Foley, you might tell me at least one of the
things that puzzles you. I’ve nothing to do. Maybe I can guess the
riddle! I’m rather good at that sort of thing.”

“Well, then, I just will, sir, since ye have axed me twice. There’s a
matter that sticks in my mind, and I cannot get shut of it.”

“Yes, let us have it by all means.”

“Can you tell me,” and she paused, and looked at him steadily, “why
some have every mortal blessed thing, and others--have nothing at all?”

“But how do you mean?” he asked, rather taken aback. This description
of puzzle was far from what he had anticipated.

“Why look at Miss Cunninghams, and look at me!”

“Yes”; and he looked at her.

“They are ladies born, and live in a park, and wear beautiful dresses,
and ride fine hunters, and eat with silver forks; they go away and see
the world, with plenty of money in their pockets. And for me, I live in
a little weenchie cottage, and work hard, and I will never lay an eye
on any sight better than Crock na Bowl, or do anything but cook, and
milk, as long as the breath is in me! And I’d just love to _see_ life.
Why were they born one way, and me another?”

“I’m sure I don’t know,” he replied.

“Well, ye see, I’ve asked ye my riddle, and ye cannot answer it,” she
said with a smile, “so now I’ll be going”; and without another word,
Mary Foley clambered lightly over the stone gap (she still wore black
stockings, and had remarkably neat ankles), and presently disappeared.



CHAPTER V


And thus the young couple parted, going in opposite directions, each
carrying in their thoughts a poignant memory of the other. Since Mary
was a small child, “Master Ulick” had been secretly worshipped as her
hero--the natural consequence of hearing on all sides praises of his
feats of horsemanship, his courage, and his generosity. Little pitchers
have long ears, and what they imbibe they remember. For a girl of her
age, and class, Mary Foley was a widely-read young person. Mrs. Hogan
at “The Arms” had a fancy for the child, and, knowing she was crazy
after books, endowed her with various odds and ends that careless
visitors or fishing folk, had left behind them. Mary had a wonderful
imagination, and from the germs of her favourite characters, she
composed a Paladin of her own. He was the embodiment of the Heir of
Redcliff, Wilfred of Ivanhoe, the Black Knight, and Charles O’Malley,
and his name she never whispered, but all the same it was some one
resembling Master Ulick, whom she crowned with a choice selection of
other men’s laurels. It therefore will be seen that if Mary’s little
sixteen-year-old heart was free, it was not fancy free!

As soon as Mary reached home and opened the half-door, her mother cried
out--

“Mary asthore! What in the living world kep’ ye?”

“Sure I am afther meeting Masther Ulick,” was the breathless reply.
“There beyant, in the boreen.”

“Did ye, agra; and what is he like now he’s a grown man?”

“Faix I couldn’t rightly explain, only he is tallish and upstanding,
and I got a smell of tobacco off him!”

“Great fathers, child!”

“Yes; an’ he has a small moustache on his upper lip, and a great big
smile on him, and grey eyes--his eyes”--and she drew in her breath--“is
real beautiful!”

“His eyes! God help us, Mary! that’s the queer sort of chat for a slip
of a girl. Sure ye have no call to be looking at the young gentleman’s
eyes.”

“An’ how can I help it, mammy, when I’ve eyes of me own! He is not a
bit like her ladyship--no, nor Barky, with the great roasted face on
him.”

“God be thanked for that same,” exclaimed Mrs. Foley piously. “He is
the Colonel’s own boy; but, Mary asthore, ye must know yer place, and
not be making free, or be talking to the young Captain. Ye have such
funny, queer ways of spaking up to high and low--I tell ye, sometimes
ye have me paralysed with fright.”

“Oh, make yer mind easy, mammy; I know me place. Augh! do ye hear the
bawls of the calf? I must hurry up with the milking.”

After her mother’s word of warning, Mary Foley merely dropped a hasty
curtsey when she encountered the Captain, and then hurried on; and he,
manlike, was attracted by this avoidance; the less he saw of Mary, the
more he thought of her. The unknown has a wonderful fascination.

Ulick was at present an idler. Cub-hunting had not yet commenced;
his home was not particularly congenial. He and Barky had nothing in
common; Barky was frankly jealous of his brother’s smart soldier-like
air, his knowledge of the world, his manner of speech, his well-cut
clothes, and his popularity. Ulick contented himself with schooling
young horses, reading, smoking, and making friends with the dogs, whom
he overjoyed by taking out for many a long tramp.

One afternoon it came on to drizzle as he was approaching Foley’s
corner. He turned up his collar and pulled out his pipe. Alas! he had
not a match left: there was nothing for it but to run into Katty’s and
ask for a sod of turf. He pushed open the half-door and entered, and
found Katty, with horn spectacles on nose, hunched up by the window,
patching an old sack.

“I just came in for a light, Katty,” he explained. “I hope you won’t
mind the dogs,” as two setters and a terrier followed him.

“Yer honour is welcome, and as many dogs as he likes.”

“There are two more sitting outside, but these have no manners; I hope
I see you well, Katty.”

“Well, then, indeed I’m no great shakes, sir, and only among the
middins; I’m gettin’ into years, ye see.”

“What nonsense!” stooping to pick up a live sod. “You can’t be more
than fifty, if you are that.”

“I am fifty-seven, sir, and it’s a long age for a working woman;
still,” and she sighed, “but God is good, and the devil himself not too
bad entirely. And Mary is a grand help--and here she comes.”

As the inner door opened, Mary, followed by the dogs with better
manners, entered with a tin can on her arm.

“Now go out, every one of you!” shouted their master, authoritatively.
“Good evening, Mary.”

“Good evening, sir,” she answered. “Sure, the poor dogs is doing no
harm whatever. Me mother loves a dog, and so do I. ’Tis only the cat
that’s so particular.”

“And there she is, on the top of the dresser, out of harm’s way. I was
sorry for poor John,” he said, addressing himself to Katty; “you must
miss him.”

“In troth and I do, at every turn--a sore loss, both outside and in.
Mary and me is not aqual to more than a couple of cows, and a few hens,
and the potatoes.”

“And who does the digging?” inquired the younger master, who stood with
his back to the fire, for all the world as if he were at home--the dogs
with manners lying near the door.

“Well, to tell yer honour no lie, Patsie Maguire does the heavy part.
When his work is over, he comes and puts in an hour.”

“I know Patsie Maguire--a smart, likely-looking lad”--here he addressed
himself to Mary, who stood leaning carelessly against the dresser. “And
what does he dig for, Mary--love, or money?”

“Oh, sir!” cried the girl, “now I declare to goodness ye make me laugh!
For neither--but just his kindness.”

“Mary is terribly clever with flowers,” put in her mother irrelevantly.
“’Tis she has the lucky hand; and as for eggs, hasn’t the hens been
laying the whole winter, and them mother naked, and not a feather
on them. Winter does be awful lonesome for us now; not a living
soul within half a mile. Sometimes, when I think of robbers and
house-breakers, I am all of a tremble, and never close an eye.”

“You ought to keep a dog,” suggested the visitor; “he’d be company.”

“He would so,” agreed Mary. “I’d love to have one.”

“Would you like this fellow?” asked Ulick, indicating a red terrier who
had made his way to the fire; “he is only a pup, but he will grow!”

“Oh, sir! oh, yer honour! sure we would not expect the likes of him,”
protested Mrs. Foley. “Maybe Boland up at the Chapel has a pup he can
spare.”

“No, no, mother,” broke in Mary, “I just hate that breed of
Boland’s--they are so long and black and deceiving, and, anyhow, are
only good for poaching. They are quiet enough on a weekday, but all
over the county of a Sunday. Oh----,” and she paused, “Oh faix, I was
forgetting Mr. Ulick!” and she laughed, and coloured vividly.

“I’m glad to hear you don’t like poachers, Mary. This little chap
here”--and he held him up--“kills rats already, and will keep off
tramps. He is a gentleman.”

“Sure,” began Katty, with a wheezy laugh, “what would a gentleman be
doing with the likes of us?”

“He will like you, and I know you will like him. See, Pap”--and he led
him over to Mary--“this is your new mistress; and here is another”; and
he pulled him towards Katty, who, however, held back, saying--

“Oh, sir, it’s too great a condescension for us; entirely too much!”

“What do you say to him, Mary?” turning to her.

“If when you’ll be going away ye would spare him sir, it would be a
kindness and a consolation, for me mother is very wake in herself, and
in dread of a night if she hears a sound, even of a mouse, let alone
one of the cows stirring in the byre; she thinks it’s some one coming
to murder us, so she does. The little dog will be a grand watch, though
of course he is above our station.”

“Is any one within?” The voice came from the half-door, and the open
space above was amply filled by a stout, elderly woman, wearing a
jetted bonnet, a black front, and a blue waterproof.

“There is to be sure,” replied Mary, who liked visitors, darting to the
door. “There’s no fear of the dogs, ma’am. I see it’s spilling rain.
Come in if ye plase and take a sate.”

The tall, burly figure stalked forward, and shook out her wet umbrella;
she stared very hard--first at Katty, then at Ulick--and sank heavily
into the proffered chair.

“I am stopping at an hotel below,” she began, with a strong American
accent, “and I’ve lost my way. I am a pretty smart walker. Am I far
out?”

“About a mile and a half,” replied Mary. “It’s the other side of the
Castle-gates--ye know, the place with the two dogs. This is Mr. Ulick
Doran, of Kilmoran Castle.”

The woman looked up at him quickly, and said: “I’m in luck to chance on
you, sir. I know your aunt, Mrs. Grogan, in Philadelphia; she lives not
far from me, and is real well-to-do.”

“There! to think of that now!” ejaculated Katty. “Oh, but Miss Nora was
the splendid fine girl, and the grand horse-lady--and how is she, at
all?”

“Not much of a horse-lady now, but she keeps her carriage.”

“I am glad to meet any one who knows my father’s sister,” said Ulick.
“Is there any chance of her coming over?”

“Well, not just at present; she heard I was to be a day or so in these
parts--my people being buried hereabouts, you see--and I told her I’d
go up and see the Castle, and bring her news right away; and she said
she believed I’d be made welcome.”

“And she was quite right, ma’am,” replied Ulick. “I know my mother will
be delighted to see you; will you come up with me now?”

“No, thank you, I’ll wait till to-morrow; I’m all wet and muddy, and
not just fit for Castle company, thanking you all the same.”

The eagerness of Mrs. Doran to welcome the emissary of her
sister-in-law requires some explanation. News had come, in the curious
way in which it filters through other people’s letters, that Tom
Grogan was doing right well for himself in America. After a pause,
there was whispered the magic word of “_wealth_.” When Colonel Doran
died, his sister had written to his widow, a timid epistle, full of
heartfelt condolence; this had received a most gracious answer, and
a correspondence ensued. Mrs. Doran was always good at her pen; she
wrote volumes respecting her want of capital, and the extraordinary
attractions of her oldest son; the younger she rarely mentioned.

Mrs. Grogan despatched American apples, candies, beautiful books,
and furs--undeniably money’s worth; but no money. However, her
sister-in-law built largely on Barky’s expectations from his aunt Nora,
and talked a good deal about the Colonel’s sister, who was the wife of
a millionaire; not a word of the mésalliance, much less of the postman!

“Then since you won’t come with me,” said young Doran, “I must be off.
I’ll let my mother know you are at the ‘Glenveigh Arms,’ and no doubt
she will write to you. Good evening, everybody”; and he opened the
half-door, and departed with his train of dogs.

“He is after offering us a pup,” said Katty, with complacency; “we are
so lonesome here, since I buried me poor husband.”

“I know the names of the folk around from Mrs. Grogan,” said the
visitor; “she has the place still at her finger-ends.”

“My name is Katty Foley, ma’am. I sure she will mind _me_ well; we
were the wan age, and she and I had some fine jokes, together; to tell
the truth, I was a bit of a go-between. Well that’s all past now. If
the old gentleman had known, he’d have had me life! Aye, but he was
the proud man. This girlie here is my daughter Mary, the only child I
reared out of five, and all I have in the world, except a sister above
at the junction!”

“Oh, indeed. Mr. Ulick seems a fine young man,” remarked the stranger.

“That’s true for ye, ma’am, as good as he looks, and the flower of
the flock, the very twin of his father, the Colonel, so kind, and so
feeling for the poor. Just a real decent clean-living boy!”

“That’s fine news, Mrs. Foley; and what about the other?”

“Oh, bedad, ma’am, I’d like well to say a good word for him too, if I
could; but silence is best.”

“What ails him?” she asked peremptorily.

“Sure the mother has him ruinated since he could walk. He is just an
eyesore to the township, and a scandal”; and Katty shook her head till
the horn spectacles fell into her lap. “Av course, he is young, and may
mend, but all I can tell you is, that if I see him coming into heaven,
I’ll say, thank God!”

The stranger did not pause to question Mrs. Foley’s confidence in her
own future state, but inquired, in a nasal key, “But what does he do,
anyhow, my good woman?”

“Everything he ought to leave alone, ma’am. He is fond of low company,
and cock-fighting, and betting, and all sorts of devilment. He gets
in at night by the pantry window, and his mother thinks he is an
archangel.”

“It’s a way mothers have. Poor woman!”

“Poor, is it! Faix, she’s a real rich woman, and small blame, and has
the place in tip-top style, and keeps terrible state; but her servants
is just starved.”

“Oh, mammy!” remonstrated Mary, “ye shouldn’t be talking so free to
strangers.”

“A friend of Miss Nora’s is no stranger to _me_, and since she wants
news, I bid to give her the truth. I know I’m crabbed, but I was reared
on the Dorans’ land, and I’d put me hands under the Colonel’s feet.
Sure, all the world knows the bad wife he had, and how she scolded him,
and shamed him, and sold the buttermilk, and sent the old servants to
the poorhouse! Well, well, I’ll say no more, I’ll say no more. Don’t
mind me, ma’am. Mrs. Doran will be very sweet to _you_, and I’m only a
bitter old woman. Oh, I wish ye could have seen the poor Colonel!--such
a lovely, fine, tall gentleman, with a beautiful face, as if it was
carved. Him and Miss Nora was always very thick!”

“Yes, so I’ve been told,” said the stranger.

“And Tom? Tom Grogan--an’ how is he? He was a fine, fresh-looking boy,
and me own second cousin. Faix, if I was to say that to Mrs. Doran,
she’d burn the house over me head.”

“Mr. Grogan is well,” replied the visitor; “a little stiff in the
joints now; but he is a rich man, and rides in his carriage.”

“Great fathers! to think of that now. Faix, ’tis no wonder as all the
Grogans have gone afther him to America! And Miss Nora was the darlin’
girl. Is she changed?”

“Yes. Who would not be in thirty years? She is grey and wrinkled, but I
think her heart is young still. And now I see the rain has stopped, and
I must be going.”

“But won’t ye condescend to a cup of tea, ma’am? Mary will wet it in
a brace of shakes. It’s good tay--Lynche’s--and has a fine grip of
the water. I’d like ye to tell Miss Nora ye had a cup of tay with old
Katty. She will remember Katty, I’ll go bail.”

“I really must be moving, thank you--I’ll maybe look in again; but if
your gal here will set me on my road, I’ll be obliged to her.”

“To be sure, ma’am, with a heart and a half,” said Mary, as she took a
shawl and threw it over her head, and then led the way down the path to
the gate, and into the main road.

Mary and her guide had a most interesting talk, so much so that
they scarcely felt the time passing--the American putting clever
questions to the girl, the girl, ever greedy of information, eagerly
cross-examining her companion respecting “the sort of life over there”;
and they were mutually astonished when they found themselves at the
entrance of the “Glenveigh Arms.”

Ulick Doran had lost no time in preparing his mother for a visit from
his aunt’s emissary; but Ulick’s friends, or discoveries, were rarely
appreciated at Kilmoran. Mrs. Doran was proud of her youngest son’s
good looks, good manners, and his horsemanship, precisely as she
would be proud of a valuable piece of furniture which belonged to her
exclusively. But the boy was too like his father; he reminded her at
every look and turn of her life’s--well, she would not go so far as
to call it remorse; but at any rate, she was not fond of Ulick. Her
share of maternal affection was expended on Barker, and she was ashamed
to admit to herself, that her indifference to her second son almost
amounted to dislike. However, he was home now for six months’ leave,
and she must just make the best of him.

“A woman who says she knows your aunt Nora,” she exclaimed, as she set
down her glass of cheap sherry. “That is strange. And coming to see
_me_. How did you come across her?”

“At Foley’s, at the corner.”

“And may I ask what were you doing in there?”

“I just went in to light my pipe.”

“So that’s what he _calls_ it, eh, mater?” broke in Barky, with a
knowing chuckle. “Mary Foley is the prettiest girl in the whole side of
the country, and the cockiest, most impudent little devil I ever came
across. So _that’s_ your taste, is it, my boy!”

Ulick flung his brother an indignant glance, and went on. “The woman
was there sheltering, and asking her way.”

“What sort of a person is she?” inquired Mrs. Doran.

“It is not easy to describe her.”

“No; it’s easier to describe little Mary, with her red poll,”
interrupted Barky facetiously.

“But,” resumed the narrator, “she is stout and elderly, talks with a
strong American accent, and looks like a prosperous housekeeper.”

“I suppose she has a letter of introduction from your aunt?”

“She did not say, and I did not ask her.”

“No, so _like_ you! But I shall ask her,” announced Mrs. Doran, with an
air of stern decision.

Mrs. Aron, as she was called, did not appear at the Castle for nearly a
week. She had caught a wetting, and a cold, and remained at “The Arms”
under the ministrations of Mrs. Hogan, imbibing gruel and a wonderful
assortment of local gossip. At last, one afternoon, she presented
herself at Kilmoran, but at an unfortunate moment: Mrs. Doran was in a
bad temper; the cook and two other servants had given notice. Also she
was momentarily expecting Lady Borrisokane, and various notables to
tea. She sat enthroned in an arm-chair, pretending to read, clad in her
best black satin. (Her toilettes now were rich satin, or silk for best,
her everyday garment a black serge, with velveteen sleeves, which had
long seen its best years.)

Suddenly the man-servant flung open the door, and announced “Mrs.
Aron,” and a tall, self-possessed, elderly woman stalked in.

Mrs. Doran sat still and stared; she never uttered a word, and looked
really formidable, for she had been composing the character she was
about to give her cook.

“I am speaking to Mrs. Doran, I believe,” began the stranger.

Mrs. Doran nodded shortly; her expression was distinctly grim.

“I am a great friend of Mrs. Grogan--Miss Doran that was; she lives
near me in Philadelphia, and as I was coming home to these parts she
asked me to step in and see you, and bring her your news.”

“Oh, indeed,” drily. “I presume she sent a letter to introduce you?”

“No, ma’am, she did not.”

“That was strange!”

“I don’t believe she ever gave it a thought, nor that it would be
expected or asked for.”

“Why not? I might have half America giving me a call!”

“I’m sure I don’t see _why_ they should?” rejoined Mrs. Aron brusquely.
“However, Mrs. Grogan, she told me that you’d be right glad to see
me! In short, she said that most likely, for her sake, you’d give me
house-room for a week or so.” After a short pause she added, “My box is
at the ho-tell.”

“I’m positively certain Nora never said anything of the sort,” burst
out Mrs. Doran. “I prefer to invite my own guests. Surely you are not
in her class of life?” looking her slowly up and down.

Mrs. Aron’s clothes were cheap, and a little shabby: a long blue
waterproof, a mock fur tie, black thread gloves, and a bonnet that had
suffered from the weather.

“Yes I am, and just in her own class,” she answered sharply.

“But Mrs. Grogan is a wealthy woman.”

“Oh, is she?”

“I expect you were her--servant, were you not? Come now, tell me the
truth.”

Mrs. Aron, who had been standing all the time, looked about her--and
coolly took a seat.

“Were you her servant?” repeated Mrs. Doran.

“Well, I won’t deny that I _have_ cooked for her; yes, and for Mr.
Grogan, too; but it was many years ago.”

“And you dare pretend to me that she told you to come here on a visit?
My good woman, you are a humbug! Don’t tell me that Nora Grogan
associates with her servants; she is a Doran, and has the Doran pride
in her blood--although she did disgrace herself. And you are an
impostor.”

“No, ma’am, I really am not: I am a respectable woman. Mrs. Grogan
would tell you so----”

“But she has _not_ told me so!” interrupted Mrs. Doran angrily. The
Countess and party might enter at any moment and find her _tête-à-tête_
with this person, who would probably disclose all manner of tales of
Nora, and her husband, and disinter a buried and forgotten scandal!

“Mrs. Grogan told me a great deal about this beautiful place and her
own country,” continued the intruder, in a meeker key. “I seem to know
it as well as if I had seen it before. I expect she would see wonderful
changes----”

“No doubt,” agreed Mrs. Doran, rising. Then she added with savage
insolence: “Now I must really ask you to go. I am expecting friends. I
firmly believe you are a fraud. There are too many frauds going”; and
she rang the bell with energy.

“I’m not that, indeed!” protested Mrs. Aron, tremulously, also rising
to her feet, “but I am in want--that is to say, I’d be thankful if you
could spare me a little assistance to pay my way to Queenstown.”

“Well, you will not get it here,” replied Mrs. Doran with biting
emphasis. “I’ve suspected what you wanted all along--money. You are a
begging impostor. Thomson!”--to her man-servant--“show this person out,
and do not admit her again on any consideration.”

“And so, is this what I’m to tell your sister?” cried the American,
suddenly confronting her hostess, “that you turned me out of the house!”

“You may, for all I care--I don’t believe for a moment that you know
her!”

“If I don’t”--a pause, during which she seemed to struggle for an
expression--“I know you--and well--for a hard, avaricious, cruel woman,
that grinds the poor, and that drove your husband into his grave.”

“There, that’s enough!” interrupted Mrs. Doran, whose face had assumed
the colour of beetroot. “Another word and I send for the police, you
abusive old vagabond!”

A clang at the hall door announced the Countess, and Mrs. Aron was
hurried into the hall. Thus the coming and the parting guest came face
to face. The parting guest walked slowly down the avenue, every now
and then pausing to look back. As she stood for a last glance, she was
overtaken by Ulick Doran on a prancing bay filly.

“Hullo!” he said, “what’s the matter?” He noticed that she had been
crying. “Have you been up to see my mother?”

“Say!” she said in a choked voice, “I don’t feel like talking to--to
any one just now--” and she moved on, evidently struggling with some
overpowering emotion.

“Oh, now,” suddenly dismounting, “I’m not going to let you off like
this! Won’t you tell me what is the trouble? Come now.”

“Well, your mother told me I was just an impostor and a fraud, and
turned me out. Your aunt had certainly forgotten her people, for she
assured me I’d have a warm welcome, and be asked to stay.”

“My mother is a bit hasty sometimes,” he murmured, “and as to
visitors--she is dreadfully worried with servants; she never even asks
over her own relations.”

“Do you believe I’m telling truth or lies,” demanded Mrs. Aron suddenly.

“The truth. Yes I do! I think you have it in your face. And it was kind
of you to come and look us up. I’d like to know my aunt Nora. Mind you
give her my love.”

“Yes, I will. She has not many to love her.”

“Why so?”

“Because she is so rich; now”--and she hesitated. “I am myself a bit
pressed for money for the price of my hotel bill and a second-class
ticket to Queenstown.” She paused, and looked at him interrogatively,
“and--you see for yourself I’ve no friends here!”

The young man reddened as he answered--

“I’m not to say flush just now, but I think I can scrape up ten pounds.”

“That will be as much as I shall want; and you shall have it back on my
word of honour. I suppose you have not got it about you?”

“No, but I will send or bring it over myself this evening.”

“Is this your brother?” she inquired--“the stout young man with the gun
coming in at the gate.”

“Yes, my brother Barker--he has been out after hares.”

“Hullo, Ulick!” he began, as he came within earshot. “I say, who is
your lady friend?”

“Mrs. Aron, a friend of Mrs. Grogan in America--our aunt, you know.”

“No, I don’t know her, thank goodness, and don’t want to. A lady who
disgraced the family, and made a scandal and went off with a blackguard
postman!”

“He was not a blackguard, sir,” she broke in indignantly, “and he was
the son of a respectable farmer. By all accounts, she was kept very
strict, and had no young society of her own class.”

“She doesn’t seem to be keeping much society _now_, if you are a
specimen of her acquaintances,” scoffed Barky, with deliberate
insolence, as he stared at her weather-beaten waterproof and
old-fashioned bonnet. “_I_ was always against my mother making it up
with her, and you may tell her that if you like--from me. As to her
money, I’ll believe it when I see it! America is a queer sort of place!”

“Is it? And yet, by all accounts, some one sent off a girl there last
month who was a _real_ disgrace to her family.”

Barky became crimson as she looked him steadily in the face, and added,
“I see you are your mother’s own son!”

“Well, so I have been given to understand.”

“And she has a right to be proud of you!”

“I am glad you think so”; and Mr. Barker Doran turned on his heel and
stalked away, carrying with him all the eclat which is supposed to be
conferred by the last word.



CHAPTER VI


The conversation between his brother and Mrs. Aron was not overheard by
Ulick. As the nervous young mare was cold and impatient, he had hastily
mounted, and ridden away through the demesne. After an hour’s exercise
he returned home, hurried up to his room, hunted out his money, and,
taking what was called “the dairy pony,” galloped off to “The Arms.” He
told himself that he could just do it, and be back in time for dinner
at eight o’clock, for Mrs. Doran kept fashionable hours. Fashionable
hours cost nothing; a chop at six is the same price as a chop two hours
later.

When Ulick arrived at “The Arms,” a comfortable family hotel, the
resort of tourists in search of fishing and scenery--the fishing a
fiction, the scenery a delightful fact--he went to the bar and asked
for Mrs. Aron. The landlady replied in person.

“Sure she is upstairs, after packing, and a bit tired, sir. If you will
come along with me I will let her know”; and Mrs. Hogan conducted him
into the best sitting-room.

In a few minutes Mrs. Aron entered, still wearing her bonnet and cloak.

“So you have brought it, I suppose?” she began abruptly.

“Yes. I’m awfully sorry: it’s only nine pounds after all.”

“Oh, I’ll make it do, and I am ever so much obliged to you; you’ll be
no loser by me,” she added with emphasis.

“I am sorry my people were--were--a bit rough, and I hope you won’t
tell my aunt more than you can possibly help. I know my mother has
been bothered lately with several things, and I daresay my aunt would
be vexed if she heard that she had not----well, you know what I mean:
ignorance is bliss.”

“Young man, you never said a truer word!” declared Mrs. Aron, with
unexpected emphasis. As she spoke she rose and walked over to the glass
above the chimney-piece, leaving the money on the table. Ulick sat for
a moment buried in thought; then he turned about to look for his cap.
It was on the floor. He stooped for it, and when he raised his head
Mrs. Aron had disappeared. In her place stood a tall, rather elegant
woman with a slight figure and quantities of grey hair.

Ulick Doran started to his feet, and stared at the lady in stupefied
silence. The stranger was the first to speak.

“Come here and give me a kiss, Ulick; I am your aunt Nora.”

“But why--and where?” he stammered, and held back.

“Oh, ever so many whys! As to where? Here is Mrs. Aron--my own name
backwards;” and she lifted the wadded cloak from the sofa, then held up
the bonnet and front. “It was a capital disguise, was it not?”

“Surely quite unnecessary--and why?”

“That is the second time you have asked _why_? Sit down there, and
you shall hear all there is to it. I wished to see your mother, your
brother, and yourself--what you called ‘unknownst’--and find out what
you were like.”

“And, by Jove, you have been most unfortunately successful!”

“Not altogether unfortunate----”

“But I don’t think it was fair, Aunt Nora,” he protested; “I don’t
think it was playing the game!”

“Well, there we differ. I am a rich woman. Tom agreed that our money is
to go to the Dorans, my brother’s children, and I naturally wanted to
discover what sort of people the Dorans were? As a girl, I was wild,
and fond of fun and dancing; but my father, who was a very stern old
man, kept me all but locked up. He had forgotten his own youth, poor
man, and even his middle age. He married, you know, late in life. I
was full of spirits, and daring, and once I got out and dressed up in
Katty Foley’s clothes and went to a wake as her cousin, a strange young
woman from Dublin. I was glad to see Katty. That’s a nice bright girl
of hers; she has some notions, and is real well-looking. Well, to go on
with my story, I had a great success. I could take off the brogue to
the life, and at the wake I met Tom, and that was the beginning of the
end.”

“But did you never go out at all, in your own rank of life--meet
people?”

“Never, except to church, and now and then after the hounds. The only
pleasure I had at all, was through your father, and you see he went to
India. Tom Grogan was handsome and steady, and well enough educated.
He had a place offered him in the States. I was just crazy to see the
world. I loved Tom, and I ran away with him, and never regretted it,
which is more than some can say. He has always been just lovely to me.
We have worked hard and done well, and out there we are as good as
any--being respectable, self-respecting, and real rich. I often longed
to come over and see the old place, but I was ashamed to face people
and the _talk_. However, then Tom had a sudden call to London, and I
came with him--almost at a moment’s notice. The idea was his to start
with: I got a hustle on, and felt I’d just got to do it, and that was
all there was to it, and fixed myself up as you see, a week and more
ago; and then I was laid up with a real bad cold. Mrs. Hogan herself
nursed me. _She_ knows--she actually knew me when the bonnet was off.
But she can keep my secret, and she will. Of course, my dear boy, I’m
not going to take your money. I was only trying and testing you, like
an old witch in a fairy tale. I’m real glad I met you in the avenue
this evening, for to tell you the truth I felt so discouraged I was
going right away, never wishing to see a Doran again.”

“I don’t know what my mother will say, and Barky, when I tell them,”
said Ulick, after a pause.

“That is immaterial, Ulick. I wish you would come over to Queenstown
with me to-morrow, and meet Tom; he would be real glad to know you.”

Ulick shook his head.

“Thank you, Aunt Nora, but I could not get away now. I’ve ever so many
young hunters on hand. Duffy is sick.”

“Why, it sounds like old times to hear his name! Do you know that we
once had a boy called Ulick; he was killed in a lift accident when
he was eleven years of age, and now we have no one belonging to us
whatever.”

“I’m awfully sorry for you, Aunt Nora, and for your disappointment
here. I am not much good at talking, but----”

“But better at doing.”

“And I had better be going.”

“No, no; here is Mrs. Hogan with the tray. You will just stay and keep
your aunt Nora company, and let us get to know one another a bit, my
dear boy.”

So Ulick was persuaded, and he and his aunt made friends; he was so
like her dear brother, not only in appearance, but ways, that she
almost felt that it was she and the Ulick of her young days, once
more _tête-à-tête_, and it was an easy matter to take his boy into
her heart. The poor fellow, she knew, had a scanty allowance, and yet
he had brought his little all, to his aunt’s old begging friend; she
secretly resolved that that kindly meant loan, should be repaid by a
great fortune. Mrs. Grogan drew the lad out about his regiment, his
comrades, his plans, and tastes. She made him promise to write her long
letters, to keep her well posted in his affairs, and ultimately to go
over, and visit them. At ten o’clock she rose, and said--

“Now I must turn you out, for I’ve an early start to-morrow.”

“You won’t think too badly of my mother and Barky, will you?” he
pleaded.

“My dear, I am not going to think of _them_, one mite! At first I felt
mad: now I’m as cool as a cucumber. _You_ are enough for me. You may
tell them it’s no matter, and they have got no need to worry. Now,
good-bye, my dear Ulick, and bless you. Keep a corner in your heart for
your old American auntie”; and she kissed him affectionately on both
cheeks.

Two or three minutes later the patient dairy pony was on his way
home. It was considerably after ten o’clock when Ulick entered the
dining-room and found his mother and Barky still sitting there. (For
one thing it economised candle-light, and for another, Barky could
smoke to his heart’s content.)

“Ulick, this is a pretty hour for you to be coming home!” began his
mother, in a high, excited key, “and you never told me you were dining
out. I suppose these are military manners? Where have you been, pray?”

“At ‘The Arms.’ I’ve had my dinner. I did not intend to stay, and I had
no way of letting you know. I am sorry you waited.”

“Oh, oh! I expect you were hob-nobbing with some _lady_, if the truth
were known, you sly fox,” cried Barky.

“Well, yes, you’ve made a good shot. I was dining with a lady. Now for
it,” said Ulick to himself.

“I know! The old bag-woman! Ha, ha, ha!”

“Yes. And the old bag-woman turns out to be--who do you think? Our aunt
Nora herself!”

“Ah, man alive, you’re drunk,” shouted Barky, pushing back his chair.

“Not I. I met her in the avenue this afternoon. I went down with
a small loan I promised her, and after I got there, and saw her,
she suddenly slipped off bonnet, wig, and cloak, and turned into a
handsome, well-dressed, elderly lady!”

Mrs. Doran, for once in her life, was too horrified to speak; her
feelings were beyond the power of expression. Words failed her, and she
simply sat glaring at her youngest son, as if he were some horrible
monster.

“She said she had long wished to come home and see us all, and what we
were like?” he resumed, “but could not face the situation. At last,
as her husband was over on business, she accompanied him, and explored
about here, as you saw.”

“Good-bye to her money!” roared Barky. “Mother, you’ve done me out of a
million dollars, if all you told me that you said to her is true!”

Mrs. Doran’s face had become mottled with red patches.

“Just what comes of associating with low company. A _lady_ would never
have played us such a trick,” she said, when she had at last found her
voice. “Is she going away early to-morrow?”

“Yes, to Queenstown, to catch the American boat.”

“Then I’ll write a line at once”--rising as she spoke.

“Mother,” protested Barky, “_don’t_.”

“Yes, I certainly will. I’ll apologise, and explain. After all, she has
only herself to thank for her cool reception. Your aunt had no business
to come home as a masquerader, and she really got what she deserved;
but I will send her a nice letter. Tom shall take the dairy pony and
ride down.”

Once again the dairy pony carried an errand to Mrs. Aron at “The Arms,”
but on the last occasion he had his journey for nothing--to Mrs.
Doran’s note there was no reply.



CHAPTER VII


As winter advanced, the outlook for hunting was excellent, but, on the
other hand, the prospects of the poor were lamentable. It had been
a miserably wet harvest; there was a blight on most of the potato
crops. Altogether, times were bad, and many decent, respectable old
people were just struggling to keep the workhouse at arm’s length. The
upper class in this part of the world were not wealthy; times were
bad with them also, but they did what they could, and started a fund
to provide firing, blankets, soup, and tea. In order to augment this
subscription, Mrs. Doran, the ever bustling and benevolent, suggested
holding a concert in the big drawing-room of the old part of the
Castle, which, with one or two small passages, a cavernous kitchen,
and pantries, was all of the dwelling that remained from the fire.
This drawing-room lay at the opposite end of the yard from the present
somewhat jerry-built mansion, and was utilised as a sort of general
lumber- and store-room. It proved, when emptied, capable of holding
three or four hundred people, and Mrs. Doran generously offered it
free of charge. Decorations, she declared, were easy; chairs and forms
could be borrowed; she would lend her piano--yes, and her youngest
son should be one of the performers; for Ulick, as most people knew,
had a delightful voice. The eager lady drove about the country and
expounded her scheme to her neighbours with convincing eloquence. The
concert, of course, to be undenominational: the schoolmistress could
get up glees, Lady Tandragee would play the violin, Father Daly, the
parish priest, should sing, and the rectory girls perform on the piano;
kind friends must contribute their talents, and the public their money.
Tickets were to be ten shillings, five shillings, and two shillings,
and there were to be--oh, marvel!--refreshments, which would be served
in the Castle dining-room and servants’ hall, according to the rank of
the ticket-holders. For, as Mrs. Doran declared, people could not be
expected to come for miles and sit out two mortal hours and more, and
then go away hungry. Her hearers listened and approved. But was this
really Mrs. Doran who was setting forth such an innovation?--she, of
all people, who suffered acquaintances to come and visit her from many
miles distant, and rarely “put up” a horse, or offered the caller a cup
of tea! What had come to her? Possibly now that her youngest son was at
home, he had wisely prevailed on his mother to be less penurious, and
more like other people. At any rate, Mrs. Doran was in her element; she
was a born organiser; arranged a stage, wall-lamps, programmes, chairs,
forms, and collected a really capital company. She borrowed far and she
borrowed near; her pen, as she said herself, was never out of her hand!
and, thanks to her exertions, which were prodigious, every ticket was
sold. Lady Borrisokane was coming, weather permitting, with a large
party, and General and Mrs. Haverstock were bringing a houseful of
guests. For many days the grand concert and little but the concert was
discussed in cabin, cottage, and Castle. The schoolmistress drilled a
selection of girls to sing in the glees, and among the chosen was Mary
Foley. The others were the daughters of strong farmers, or of people
of the shopkeeping class; but Mary had a deliciously sweet treble,
and could not well be overlooked; although her companions were a bit
above her station, her voice soared above theirs, as a lark’s above
the twittering of finches. All were commanded to appear in white, and
Mary’s dress for her first communion came in nicely for the splendid
occasion.

A full moon and a hard frost, made locomotion easy on the eventful
evening, and by seven o’clock the yard of the Castle was packed with
every description of vehicle, from an ass’s car to a smart private
omnibus, and a bicycle to a mourning coach; “the house,” so to speak,
was crammed to the door, the farmers and tradespeople gladly paid five
shillings for a good charity, which combined songs, a supper, and a
sight of all the quality in the country! The poorer folk expended
two shillings, to show they could afford it, and were not coming on
the parish; the boys also paid for the girls. There was much to see:
the old drawing-room did not know itself; its walls were decorated
with holly and pink paper, lit up by flaring wall-lamps. At the upper
end was a platform (covered and draped in turkey red, rising from
a forest of palms and exotic plants) on which stood a grand piano,
chairs, and yet more palms. Behind this platform hung the doctor’s
best drawing-room curtains, concealing the exit and entrance to the
green-room (down three rickety steps and into a mouldy pantry), where
was a lamp and a couple of kitchen chairs. By the time the five- and
two-shilling seats had digested all these splendid details, the
ten-shilling places began to arrive. It was the first time that many of
the simple crowd had seen a real diamond necklace, or a black velvet
dress. Lady Borrisokane’s head was covered with white plumes, “for all
the world,” as some one said, “like a child’s hearse!” There was his
lordship, bent in the shoulders, bald on the head, and furious in the
face! Undoubtedly he was here against his will. Lady Tandragee, smart
and showy in spangled pink satin, with a low body and pearls--the
sight of her was worth at least one shilling. Next came Sir Thomas,
in his pink coat, the honourable Mrs. Fagan and three daughters,
all heiresses, but as plain as a heap of stones. The general, very
gay-looking, with grand company; the rector of the parish; the parish
priest. Each party or individual was loudly clapped as they entered;
some were embarrassed, some laughed, others accepted the demonstration
as their due, and indeed, Mrs. Fagan went so far as to scatter half
a dozen stately bows! By the time they had all found seats, the
doors were closed. The room was full--even the window-sills were
occupied, and no less than five boys were seated (half-price) upon the
chimney-piece.

It is perhaps scarcely necessary to mention that the concert opened
with a duet--the Overture to _Zampa_! After this the comic man sang a
capital song, “Lannigan’s Ball.” The next item was a solo on the violin
by Lady Tandragee, much appreciated by the ten-shilling places, but
the performance was rather over the heads of the others; she gave a
concerto delightfully. The farmer folk thought it most amazing to see a
lady playing the fiddle; the working of her arms was a real wonder, but
she was not getting out much tune! However, when she concluded, they
clapped and stamped from politeness, and a good-natured appreciation
of her desperate exertions. After an encore, there was a humorous
recitation by the rector; and the last item on the first part was a
song by Ulick Doran, Esq. When he stepped forward in his evening-dress
clothes, looking remarkably handsome and well groomed, there was a loud
burst of applause, and a noisy shuffling of feet under the cheap forms.
Mr. Doran was entirely at his ease, the result of a long apprenticeship
to soldiers’ sing-songs, and he sang in a fine, clear voice the
well-known melody--


     “Rich and rare were the gems she wore.”


This being wildly encored, he gave them “Father O’Flynn,” and
subsequently, without waiting for an uproarious demonstration,
descended headlong into the so-called green-room--which he had named
“the black hole.”

The interval lasted ten minutes only, and during the time people talked
to one another, some even leaving their places, and visiting about;
their voices sounded like the buzzing of a great swarm of bees; so far
every one agreed that the concert was a wonderful success.

The second part of the entertainment opened with a glee. Ten young
girls trooped up, and bashfully took their places on the stage, and
sang “The Hunting Morn,” no doubt in compliment to the members of the
Harkaway pack, who were present. The glee went capitally, and was
loudly encored; the ten maidens were duly prepared, and sang another
with equal success.

Among the group, Mary Foley was supreme; she had a brilliant colour,
her eyes shone with excitement, her voice was clear and high, she was
not the least self-conscious, although the gaze of all her little world
was concentrated on her, including the gaze of Mr. Ulick Doran--for,
owing to the exigencies of space already indicated, performers who
had played their parts, immediately resumed their seats among the
audience. The girl created a sensation, not merely in the cheap, but
the ten-shilling places. Her neighbours and friends asked one another
if Mary didn’t look for all the world like a lady born? as good as the
best! and twice as natural as some that were there?

“An will ye luck at the turn of her neck,” said Mrs. Hogan of “The
Arms,” “and the grand set of her head. She might well be somebody,
instead of just a working girl, the daughter of John Foley.”

Among the upper ten she was prodigiously admired; but Mrs. Doran did
her utmost to damp all enthusiasm and extinguish curiosity, and was
uncommonly sorry she had allowed the Foley girl to appear. She was far
too conspicuous.

“Oh, she was just taken in to make up the dozen,” she explained, “and
is only the daughter of one of our cottagers; indeed, she lives in a
humble way, and is not in the same class as the rest.”

“Now, I should have said it was the other way about,” exclaimed Lady
Borrisokane. “It shows one should not judge by appearances. She really
looks almost ladylike--have you noticed her hands?”

“No!” impatiently, “I never looked at them, though she is my egg-girl
this six years. She is inclined to be a bit above her station, and I
make a point of keeping her in her place. It is the really _truest_
kindness.”

“She is most awfully pretty and jolly-looking,” put in a young man. “I
only wish----”

“_Hussh!_” interrupted the presiding lady. “Father Daly is going to
sing.”

And the parish priest, who was a general favourite, emerged from the
curtain, and gave them “Killarney” in a fine mellow voice, which
was clapped to the echo by his parishioners. After a violin solo,
and another glee, and a duet on the grand piano (Irish melodies and
fireworks), there was a considerable delay. The lamp in the black hole
had gone out, and an embarrassing collision occurred between coming and
going performers. Then Ulick Doran stepped up on the platform; on this
occasion carrying a much-beribboned guitar. He fetched a chair forward,
sat down, deliberately tuned up the instrument, struck one or two rich
chords, and then broke into “Torear por lo fino” (“The song of the
Spanish bull-fighter”).


     “El tipo mas flamena que hayen
     Espa-ña.”


he sang--


     “Es este cuerpecito con tanta
     Gra-cia.
     Con tanta gracia y este cuerpecito
     Y este cuerpecito, Salero!
     Con tanta gracia.
             Olé con, olé ola, y olé, barbian de
             Mas gracia no habra visto uste!”


Not one word could his audience understand; they could, however,
realise that a remarkably good-looking young man, playing a guitar,
decorated with beautiful crimson and yellow ribbons, was singing
a catching and delightful melody with extraordinary spirit and
expression; so much so, they felt fired with an almost irrepressible
desire to join in the inspiriting refrain--


     “Olé con, olé ola, y olé barbian de
     Mas gracia no habra visto uste!”


Indeed, for many a day the boys in the neighbourhood might be heard
whistling the air, or bursting suddenly into--


     “Olé con, olé ola,”


for the Irish peasant is naturally musical, and has a true ear.

The audience, by the end of the third verse, were completely carried
away. Something in the Toreador song stirred them. And if the general
audience were thus touched, what of an impressionable girl? Something
in the voice and the air seemed to call forth a sudden joy in the heart
of Mary Foley--a joy, an ecstasy, that thrilled her. “Olé con, olé
ola!” rang in her ears for months!

After the bull-fighter’s song burst a wild hurricane of applause. Mrs.
Doran trembled for the poor old cracked ceiling. And then with “God
Save the Queen” the concert came to an end. People began to talk, to
criticise, to collect wraps, and to wonder, “what sort of refreshments
would be forthcoming?”

The light supper in the dining-room was excellent, as far as it
went--hot soup, sandwiches, tea, coffee, claret-cup, jelly, cakes.

In the servants’ hall were buns, bread and jam, tea, roasted potatoes,
and cold corned beef. “A great spread entirely,” agreed the company.
Barky and Ulick looked in, in order to see how the guests were looked
after, Barky from curiosity and a profound sense of his own importance,
Ulick carried there by an overwhelming desire to speak to Mary Foley.
They found an immense crush, and a merry, noisy, hungry crew. People
were standing, sitting, eating, drinking, and enjoying themselves just
anyhow. At last he discovered Mary in a corner, hemmed in by a circle
of admirers, which included Patsie Maguire. She seemed to stand out
from her entourage in the most extraordinary way. Certainly Mary had
a wonderful personality, and an intangible quality of refinement and
piquancy. As her circle suddenly fell back, in order to make room for
Mr. Ulick, she coloured vividly.

“Well, Mary, I congratulate you,” he said. “You did splendidly.”

“I--I,” she stammered, “ah, sure it was nothing at all; but oh,
sir”--and her eyes shone--“your song, although I did not know the
language, it gave me a sort of wild feeling, a queer longing: I don’t
believe I’ll ever get it out of my head”--here she caught Katty’s eye,
and added hastily, “humbly begging your honour’s pardon for speaking so
free.”

“Not at all,” he rejoined. “I’m only too flattered. I picked up some
Spanish songs at Gib--Spanish music has a charm of its own, half
Arab, half I don’t know what. Don’t you think the concert was a great
success?”

“Yes, sir, I do, indeed. I wish we had one once a week.”

“Ah!” he rejoined, “you’d soon get tired of it: the second of a thing
is never the same as the first.”

“I don’t think I could give in to that, sir,” and she smiled. “What
about second thoughts?”

He was about to retort, “What about first love?” but prudently
refrained, and said, “I suppose this is the first function of the sort
you have ever been to?”

“Yes, sir, and I’m afraid it will be the last.”

“No fear of that,” he answered gaily.

As he looked at the girl in her dainty white muslin, with her delicate
features and wonderful hair, he could have imagined he was addressing
one of his own class; then he noticed the surrounding faces, the
grooms, gardeners, and labouring men, and their families, and realised
that Mary was one of _these_. She was unaccountably shy, and would only
say yes or no, being aware that her mother was watching her keenly;
so was Mrs. Hogan, and, to tell the truth, also the jealous eyes of a
dozen other girls and young men were wondering to see Mr. Ulick making
so much of little Mary Foley! Possibly the situation struck him as
somewhat _prononcé_, and he hastened to distribute greetings and nods
among a number of the crowd, in his pleasant off-hand manner; then he
took himself away to his proper sphere, among the somewhat dull quality
in the dining-room!

Mary walked home, one of a large and merry party that clear frosty
night, silent herself, but listening to the “talk” about the
gentry--their grand dress and looks--the quality of the refreshments,
Father Daly’s singing, and Mr. Ulick’s, which “just beat all.” “Begob,
’tis him could sing the heart out of a girl’s breast,” declared one
admirer, and in this opinion Mary silently concurred; his song was
still ringing in her ears. How different he was to the young men and
boys, with his white glossy shirt-front, and beautiful little neat tie,
the faint scent of cigars about him, and his nice clean hands--how
superior to Patsie Maguire, with his coarse hair, broken nails, and
atmosphere of turf and tallow. Even in his new tweeds, Patsie looked
nothing at all, and had a great slouch on him. Undoubtedly it was hard
on poor Patsie thus to draw comparisons between him and his master, who
had the advantage of a drill-sergeant and a first-rate tailor; but at
any rate Ulick Doran had unwittingly accomplished one feat.

He had “sung the heart out of Mary Foley’s breast.”



CHAPTER VIII


After the concert came a day of reckoning; that is to say, a winding
up of the financial part of the performance. The parish complacently
expected a substantial sum for coal and blankets, tea and sugar. Boots?
Certainly there would be boots; and they were badly wanted. The simple
folk had made their calculation something after this fashion: three
hundred shillings was fifteen pounds, anyhow; the room was free. Take
an average of five shillings all round, was not that seventy-five
pounds? The neighbourhood nodded, and grinned, and figuratively
rubbed its hands. But unfortunately the neighbourhood had reckoned
without Mrs. Doran and her little bills for carting, hiring, lighting,
decorations, printing, and refreshments--the amount came to £57 11_s._
6_d._--and when she handed the small balance to the Rector and the
Rev. Father Daly, their countenances expressed the blankest dismay.
The lady was in her own house, entrenched in a business-like attitude
behind her writing-table, as she tendered the cheque with an air of
bold assurance, not unflavoured with patronage. For a moment there was
an awful silence. Mr. West took the bit of paper, stared at it as if he
could not credit his faculties, cleared his throat, and passed it on to
the priest.

Father Daly became red in the face (he was a man of full habit and of
somewhat impetuous temper). He spoke at last, in his deep rich brogue.

“Goodness preserve us, Mrs. Doran! what does this mean? What has become
of all the money for our poor people?”

“Become?” she repeated. “Some was spent in their interest; the balance
is in your hand--a cheque on the Munster Bank.”

“But surely to goodness----” he reiterated.

“There are my accounts,” she interrupted angrily. The lady was not
prepared for this inquisition, and believed that the two men would
thankfully accept her largesse and so depart.

“I certainly understood that the refreshments were provided gratis,”
put in Mr. West, with unprecedented courage.

“Pray who said so? I’m sure _I_ never did. See, it is merely stated,”
snatching up a programme, “_There will be refreshments_.”

A pause. Yes; the fact was patent; the statement had involved no
promise; the matter had been understood, taken for granted, but Mrs.
Doran never permitted anything to be _taken_ from her.

“Surely you don’t suppose for a moment,” she resumed, with rising
temper, “that _I_ was to feed three hundred people, out of my own
pocket, now do you?” and she threw herself back in her chair, and
contemplated her visitors with her hard black eyes.

“Well, yes, ma’am,” rejoined the priest, “I must declare that I was
under that impression. After all, it was only once in a way.”

“What nonsense!” she exclaimed. “Why, I was the only person who _gave_
anything. The room, the piano, my servants’ time, my own time and
exertions, all the trouble. However”--and here she gave a sniff of
definite resolve--“it will be a lesson to me not to put myself out
another time.”

“Well, I suppose there is no more to be said!” exclaimed Mr. West,
turning to his companion with an expression of despair.

“Except, perhaps, the little word _thank_ you?” sneered Mrs. Doran, who
was trembling with suppressed rage.

“Well, I don’t know about thanks,” observed the priest, turning
squarely on the lady, “but I’ll just say the _little word_”; and he
paused. “God forgive me if I am wrong, but I believe, woman, you have
cheated the poor! Yes”--with uplifted hand--“you got up this concert
for them, and have put the earnings into your own hungry pocket. I am
not a fool. You need not tell me that a few gallons of tea, and soup,
and a couple of tins of kerosene oil, would cost nearly sixty pounds!
And see, now I’ll punish you.”

“What? You will punish me!” she screamed hysterically. “I’d like to see
you attempt it.”

“Yes, I’ll publish an account of the grand concert, and its takings,
and all your little bills”--here he stretched out his big hand and
gathered them up--“in the Cork paper and the _Irish Times_. This I will
do at my own expense, and so let the world know what you are made of.
If the Colonel were alive, I would never do it, nor shame him, good,
innocent man; but as for you, you avaricious cormorant, you have no
shame whatever--you do not know the name. Come away, West; this is no
place for the servants of God!” and before Mrs. Doran could recover her
senses and speech she was alone.

When the amount of the balance became known, naturally there was a
terrible outcry. “The old wan” had surpassed herself this time! The
lady had beaten every record. Some people laughed, others were furious,
and as for the poor, they said, “Arrah! what could ye expect from Mrs.
Doran? When did she give away bite or sup? She only gives trouble.
Faix, the ould wan has it in for her.”

The particulars of the great scene in the study were imparted to Barky
and Ulick. Barky, who was, of course, on his mother’s side, swore a
terrible vengeance on Father Daly, but his brother was overwhelmed
with shame. He wrote to his banker’s, and he rode down to Mr. West and
had a good square talk with him; and the result of the conversation
was that Father Daly withdrew his threatened exposure when he received
an anonymous contribution of sixty pounds. Well, he knew where the
money came from--generous young Ulick was his father’s own son; and
accordingly, the scandal respecting “refreshments” was quickly hushed
up, and not suffered to spread, though in the immediate neighbourhood
of the Castle “Mrs. Doran’s concert” is talked of to the present day!

       *       *       *       *       *

The frost did not last long. Hunting was speedily resumed, and Ulick
was in his element. He had three capital horses, and rode them in the
first flight. As the meets were early, and at a distance, and it was
dark when he jogged home, he had not much chance of prosecuting his
acquaintance with Mary Foley; now and then he came across her; once
he met her on Sunday, just outside the Castle gates, coming from
mass, with her prayer-book neatly wrapped in a clean handkerchief, and
accosted her.

“So you’ve been saying your prayers?” he began.

“Yes, yer honour”--a curtsey--“but there was a sermon too.”

“Was it a good one?”

“It was so, sir.”

“Tell me what is your idea of a good sermon, Mary?”

“Oh, well, one that makes yer blood creep. Father Dunne is a nice quiet
man, but he never frightens ye, or puts the fear of death in ye, not
like Father Daly. ’Twas him as preached to-day.”

“Yes. Tell me all about it?”

“Then, sir, I declare ye might have heard the people breathing! They
were just paralysed!”

“Ah! And were you frightened?”

“I cannot say I was all out--just a bit disheartened with myself. I
know I’m a black sinner.”

“I wish to God my soul was as white as yours, Mary!”

“O Lord, sir!” she ejaculated, aghast, “you must not say the like of
these things to _me_, and--and----” Colouring up, and taking a firm
hold of her resolution, she curtseyed herself off.

One afternoon, some weeks later, Ulick Doran overtook the pretty
egg-girl on her way from market. Her mother was beginning to feel the
distance long, unless she could get a lift, and Mary was alone.

The young man dismounted from his weary horse, and walked beside
her with the bridle over his arm for three whole happy miles. The
afternoon was clear; there was a slim young moon. A red coat is
somewhat conspicuous, and the couple were passed by one or two of
the neighbours, and descried from a distance by Father Daly himself!
All the same, their conversation was absolutely harmless--it was even
stupid (but they could subsequently recall each precious syllable); and
yet, with every step they took, they fell deeper and deeper into love
(but with a frightened consciousness, like--as R. L. Stevenson says--a
pair of children venturing together into a dark room). Sixteen and
twenty-three--how could they help it?

They were both sensible of an indescribable something that drew them
irresistibly towards one another. He appealed to her, because he was
just Mr. Ulick--and a gentleman. She to him by her strange magnetic
personality; she was totally different to any girl he had ever
seen--coarsely clad yet dainty, bold yet shy; as for her face, it
recalled the exquisite miniature of some piquante beauty at the court
of Louis XIV., and Ulick Doran was poignantly aware of her soft low
voice, her sweet eyes, her hair, and her upturned, questioning gaze.

But Mary was Mary, a peasant’s daughter, and, being a girl of the
people, his lips were locked. Nevertheless, he adored her.

By-and-by, with the spring weather, a little “talk” began to circulate.
It was whispered that Mr. Ulick had given Mary Foley his red pup, and
that more than once he had been seen walking out with her! The news
came to the ears of Father Daly, who had indeed beheld the couple with
his own two eyes, and promptly descended upon Mrs. Foley and Mary, and
gave them an impressive, never-to-be-forgotten lecture. The gossip also
reached Mrs. Doran, who was furious. She made no remark to her son,
but she went to Foley’s corner, and enacted a great scene with Katty,
having discovered that unhappy woman alone. The lady strode into the
cottage, and began without any preamble, such as “How are you?” or “A
fine day!” “Katty Foley, only you have a lease here, do you know that
I’d throw you into the road!” Long residence in Ireland had infected
the matron’s vocabulary.

“Ah, for why, me lady?” rising stiffly as she spoke.

“Why? Because of your daughter’s brazen behaviour with my son, Mr.
Ulick. It’s the scandal of the county.”

“Mary is a good girl,” responded Katty, in a tremulous voice. “God
knows there’s no harm in her, whativer.”

“Is there not? She is going the right way about losing her character,
walking the roads with a gentleman.”

“She never did no such thing! Once I’ll allow he overtook her; on
another time she overtook him--it was a pure accident.”

“An accident on purpose!” said Mrs. Doran venomously. “She waylaid
him. And I suppose he has not lent her books; that’s not his dog lying
there?”

“Sure, Mr. Ulick gave him to me, because the house is so lonesome, me
lady,” she answered, with submissive deprecation. “No one in the house
since I buried poor John, so Mr. Ulick, he says, ‘Would you like a dog,
Katty?’ and there he is.”

“There he is, indeed! Love me, love my dog. You could have got one
anywhere; pups are as common as kittens. He gave that terrier to
Mary--a prize one, that cost him three guineas.”

As Mrs. Foley could not combat this statement, her visitor resumed:
“I’ve just come to say one word, and it is my last. If you encourage
my son here, and he ever darkens your door, you never enter my gates,
and I will make it very unpleasant for you, Mrs. Foley. Look after your
daughter, forbid her to speak to him, or you will be sorry yet. You
don’t suppose that he would marry her, do you?”

“God knows I never thought of such a thing, my lady; I’d never wish my
girl to be looked down on. I would not let him put a ring on her; I
have my pride.”

“_Your_ pride!” cried Mrs. Doran. “Well, that is a good joke. Your
pride!” she repeated hysterically, as she swept out of the kitchen,
like a tornado in black petticoats.

Not long after this raid, the lady of the castle came suddenly on
the culprit herself. It was a fine March afternoon, and, wearing her
best merino frock and her Sunday shoes, Mary was on her way to drink
a cup of tea with her friend Bridget Curran, and show her the elegant
fine-drawn work she was after doing for Mrs. Hogan. Suddenly, at a
corner, she found herself face to face with the person she most dreaded
in the whole world, who deliberately halted, stared hard, and then
burst out, “Where did you get that gold locket and chain? But I need
not ask; you have a bold face to be going about the country, wearing
my son’s presents”; and before the girl was aware Mrs. Doran suddenly
stretched out her hand, broke the chain with a violent snap, and flung
it and the little locket, into the middle of the road.

“What are ye doing, ma’am?” cried the girl, roused to passion.

“I’m tearing my son’s presents off you, you wicked, scheming little
hussy!”

“’Tis none of your son’s presents,” rejoined Mary, with her face
aflame. “I’m not that sort; I take nothing from a gentleman.”

“You took his dog!” retorted the other triumphantly.

“I did not,” replied Mary, quivering with antagonism; “and I bought the
locket with my own money”; and she held up her head and surveyed Mrs.
Doran with fierce, if unspoken defiance.

“You’re a liar! a liar! a liar!” screamed her enemy, now abandoning all
self-control.

“I am not, and it’s as true as if I was to be judged, that I bought it
with my egg money; and God knows it took me long enough to gather--six
mortal years; but it came out of his mother’s meanness, and not out of
Mr. Ulick’s purse.” And when she concluded, Mary stooped and picked up
the battered little gewgaw, which had cost her three pounds.

“As for being a liar,” she resumed, “them’s queer sort of words for a
lady to use--but then _you_ are no lady.”

“If you don’t take care, I’ll box your ears!” screamed the matron.
Father Daly had called her “shameless.” This chit of an egg-girl
declared she was no “lady.” Was the world coming to an end? “Mind”--and
she seized the girl’s arm in a grip of passion--“if ever you dare to
speak to my son again, it will be worse for you.”

“I see ye have a poor opinion of Mr. Ulick, ma’am,” she answered,
wrenching herself out of Mrs. Doran’s grasp.

“No, but of you, you double-faced schemer--you odious little red-haired
flirt. You will come to a bad end!” and Mrs. Doran passed on, now
breathless, and completely exhausted by the violence of her own
emotions.

Mary had solemnly promised her mother and the priest that she would
never speak again with Mr. Ulick, and somehow the little scandal (and
it was a small one) was scotched and smothered. The girl kept out of
her lover’s way with conscientious avoidance; once, indeed, she met him
riding with a beautiful young lady on a grey horse, and he had nodded
gaily to her; but when they were out of sight, the miserable girl had
crept into a field close by, pulled her shawl over her head, and wept,
oh! such hot, painful, jealous tears. Shortly afterwards Mr. Ulick
went away to England, and his admiration for Mary Foley was forgotten;
the little Foley girl now took her eggs to market town--she never went
near the Castle. This stubborn defection was a disagreeable experience
to Mrs. Doran, who drove a thriving trade with a considerable egg
connection--friends to whom she offered the surplus of her hen-house,
posting many boxes at a clear profit of sixpence a dozen. Mary’s supply
was regular--such nice, large brown eggs! Unfortunately the recent
scene on the road had actually cost poor Mrs. Doran several shillings a
week!

It was noticed that Mary had grown rather white and “dawnchie” looking;
some people said the poor angashore was losing her good looks, whilst
others declared she was going into a decline, same as Kathleen Kelly
when her boy died in America, and eagerly recommended a strong infusion
of cat-nip tea.

One evening late, Katty was in bed; Mary still sat up working--what was
the use of lying down, she asked herself, when she could not sleep? She
was knitting close to the kitchen window, by the light of a fine April
moon; outside it was nearly as bright as day. She intended to finish
the stocking that night; she liked knitting, for she could both knit
and--think.

All at once something interposed between the moon and herself--a
face, a man’s face, was pressed against the window. Mary rose with a
half-stifled scream, and then recognised, with a violent thrill and
shock of joy, the well-cut features of Mr. Ulick.

“Mary!” he said, “Mary! Come quite close to the window, will you?”

“Whist,” she answered sharply. “I must not speak to you; I’ve promised
my mother and the priest.” But she approached nearer to the window all
the same.

“You may speak to me this once, Mary, for I’ve come to bid you
good-bye. I am off to India to-morrow.”

“Is it to India?” she repeated mechanically.

“Yes, and I ran across the mountains just to try and catch a sight of
you before I start, for the chances are----” He stopped, and his lips
twitched.

“Yes?” she asked.

“That we shall never see one another again.”

“Oh, Mr. Ulick! Oh, Mr. Ulick!” She broke down, her thoughts filled
with the terror of separation, and tears ran from her eyes. “Don’t say
that. Don’t.”

“Yes. There is nothing half so sweet in life as love’s young dream,
and it has been very sweet. Mary, although I’ve never said one word to
you that I might not have addressed to your mother, I’m sure you have
_guessed_. Now I came here to tell you the truth; I felt that before I
went away, I must speak. I love you, Mary, and I know my own mind. I
shall never forget you to my dying day. Yet we can never be anything to
one another.”

Mary gazed at his face--white in the moonlight--and made a sudden
shivering gesture, pierced with a sense of something tragic and
irreparable. She moaned, “Oh, I wish I was dead, that I do.”

“Oh, no, don’t say that. You will have many happy years before you.
Why, you are only sixteen. You will soon forget me, and it will be
better for you.”

“If you can remember, so can I,” she answered proudly.

“It is hard lines, Mary. I wish I was just a labouring boy for your
sake; but you know that unequal matches bring no luck. There is a
barrier between us, like this pane of glass.”

“Yes, that’s true,” she murmured.

“Open the window, Mary,” he urged. “Just an inch.”

“Sure I can’t; it’s nailed fast! Are ye up at the Castle?”

“Up at the Castle they think I am in Queenstown. My mother was very
rude to you, I’m afraid; she has a hot temper, poor woman, and she
believes the Dorans are next door to royalty. She would like me to
marry an earl’s daughter. I’ll never marry now, and I must go. God
bless you. I wish I could shake you by the hand, but I won’t ask to
come in----” He paused, and stared hard at her. “Mary, look here. Will
you kiss me through the window? It won’t be a _real_ kiss, you know,
but it will be something for me to carry away, and a sign you cared for
me--here, just on this little star.”

As she nodded quickly, he bent his head, removed his cap, and pressed
his lips on the pane. Mary too leant forward, and deliberately laid
hers on the self-same spot. Then he stepped back and looked at her
with misty eyes that said farewell. Suddenly he, with a vehement and
pathetic gesture, waved his hand, and vanished.

Mary Foley spent the remainder of that unhappy night rocking to and fro
and sobbing in a chair. Her heart was broken, she told herself--broken,
broken, broken! What was the good of living at all, when she could
never again lay an eye on Mr. Ulick, and Mr. Ulick loved her!
Struggling through the eclipse of grief, that truth shone like a fixed
star.

Meanwhile a light, active figure might be seen, running or walking by
turns along a short cut which led to a junction over the hills nine
miles away. Ulick Doran had to catch a mail train at one o’clock. If
he missed it, he would forfeit his passage in the trooper lying at
Queenstown, and be reported absent without leave.

He had dallied too long with his love, and now it became a race for his
commission, and his career. In the still cool night he fancied he heard
the train approaching miles away, the faint, muffled rumble becoming
more and more distinct. He ran the last mile downhill at extraordinary
speed, and dashed into the junction just as the signal was lowered, and
the night mail to Cork came thundering over the points.

“It had been a narrow shave, and he had only just done it,” Ulick said
to himself, as he sat in a corner of an empty smoking carriage. When
the express moved on, he seemed every now and then to see Mary Foley’s
beautiful wistful face gazing at him from the other side of the glass.

But no; it was a mirage--a mere mocking fancy! All that was visible
through the clear pane, was the flying landscape, the high full moon,
and the melancholy dark mountains of his native land.


END OF PART I



PART II



CHAPTER IX


A brisk little gentleman, with a sharp profile and a slight stoop, was
walking along a road in the south of Kerry. He had a somewhat lost,
undecided air as he halted now and then, and vaguely stared about him.
He was, in fact, a total stranger to the locality, being a certain Mr.
Bence Usher, head of a well-known firm of London solicitors, who was
spending his vacation for the first time in Ireland, and Ireland’s
beauty had decoyed him far astray; the active, enterprising tourist
was a good five miles from his hotel and his dinner--he was exploring
alone, for Emily Usher, his housekeeper and sister, preferred to sit
in the shady garden at the “Glenveigh Arms,” in company with the hotel
tortoise and a new novel. As he moved onwards, sheer above him rose the
purple Reeks; low on the right hand glittered a silver lake, of which
each bend in the way, or break among the trees, revealed an enchanting
vista of wooded islands, bays, or promontories. By degrees the prospect
became lost to sight, and at length a high, dilapidated wall screened
it completely--a wall bulging out dangerously here and there, but held
together with ropes of ancient ivy. An equally dilapidated entrance
presently came into view, and perched on one of the tumbledown gate
piers sat an old man in his Sunday clothes, smoking a short black
dhudeen. This he removed from his mouth in order to say, “A fine
evening, yer honour”--for the southern-born peasant is always gracious,
and never meets a stranger without some civil salute.

“Can you tell me whereabouts I am?” inquired the Englishman, in his
thin, polite voice.

“And to be sure I can! An’ why wouldn’t I?” he returned, with
unexpected emphasis. “This place,” indicating a grass-grown avenue
which wound away vaguely among the trees, “is called Lota, but sure,
’tis in ruins. An empty house hereabouts falls to pieces in ten years’
time. ’Tis the soft climate as does it.”

“How far am I from the ‘Glenveigh Hotel’?”

“Faix, it depends on the road ye go--by wan way it’s in or about six
miles, and the other it’s three--though it’s all the same distance. Ye
understand me?”

“I cannot say that I exactly apprehend you, but if you would put me on
the shortest route, I shall be greatly obliged----”

“Then the shortest root, as ye call it, is through here, and I’ll put
ye on it in a brace of shakes an’ kindly welcome.”

“Thank you, I should be glad of your guidance,” replied the stranger,
as he proceeded to clamber over the broken stile.

Meanwhile, Mike Mahon, having knocked the ashes out of his pipe,
deliberately descended from his roost, and led the way between an
overgrowth of trees and shrubs, down a back avenue into a yard,
entirely surrounded by large roofless outhouses.

“Now, did ye ever see the like of that?” he demanded, with a dramatic
wave of his horny hand.

No. His companion never had, and he shook his head in solemn
commiseration. Rank grass a foot high covered the stones, the pump was
a wreck, the stables lairs of nettles and old iron.

“This place has not been occupied for a long time, I take it.”

“There hasn’t been a fire in the chimney, a soul inside its doors, for
twenty-one years. Ah, when the ould master, General Macarthy, lived
here, there wasn’t as much as a straw astray, no, nor a leaf itself.
He was a great soldier, who had lived mostly in the Indies, and was a
wonderful man for flowers.”

Then they passed through a gap in a wall, and came on traces of the
front avenue winding out of a forest of trees. There were trees on
all sides, and on a sort of wide plateau stood the house. At the
first glance its appearance administered a shock. The house was
but a cottage. From the dimensions of the yard, the entrance, the
imposing stretch of lawns and timber, one had naturally expected to
see a mansion, or at least the ruins of a mansion. The grounds sloped
gradually to the water’s edge, which was almost entirely hidden by
a dense growth of shrubberies, and scattered over the wilderness to
the left were marvellously luxuriant flowering plants, pampas grass,
arbutus, rhododendrons, giant fuchsias, and at a little distance, a
high and hoary garden wall, through its gates a vista of a wild jungle
of high bushes and aged fruit-trees gone mad.

The little spare lawyer absorbed each item of the scene with his quick,
professional eye, and then turned to his guide with an air of mute
interrogation.

“Yes, ’tis a mortial pity,” he exclaimed, “for ’twas once the loveliest
spot in the wide world.”

The stranger made no reply, but gazed at the lake and the woods, and
mentally admitted that the situation and view were not to be surpassed.

“And so you say it has been empty this twenty-one years,” he remarked
at last.

“Yes, sir, ’tis twenty-one years last September since they left it. I
worked here, man and boy, for the General, and the garden over there
was just a wonder. When he died, it was let for a short term, and after
that it went to rack and ruin as ye see.”

“And does no one ever come near it?”

“Only the caretaker, once a week,” he replied. “It is rented to
graziers for dry heifers, and that’s all. Oh, ’tis a mortial pity.”

Mr. Usher turned about as he concluded, and looked into the empty
shell of a dwelling. It had originally been a glorified cottage with
four spacious rooms and a wide hall; kitchen and servants’ quarters
were at the back. The roof was intact; remnants of rich carving, and
scraps of expensive wall-paper, still streaked the walls--and bore the
signatures of half the country! In the drawing-room was a boat, whilst
the dining-room served as a byre for the dry heifers.

“Of course when a house is left empty for years ’tis a sore
temptation,” resumed the Irishman, in an apologetic key. “The
poor people around has made away with the grates and doors and
window-sashes. Faix, the old General spared no money on it, and if he
was to see it now, he’d haunt the place.”

“It looks as if it had a history, or a law-suit,” remarked Mr. Usher,
as he settled himself on a low window-sill, and produced his pipe.

“Well, then, no, yer honour, God be praised, it has not either wan or
the other; but I could tell you--if yer in no hurry--a mighty queer
tale of a child that was born there.”

“Oh, I’m in no hurry. It is not more than four o’clock,” said Mr.
Usher, “and I’d like to hear the story,” offering his tobacco-pouch as
he spoke.

“Well, then, hear it you shall, and so here goes!” rejoined the other,
stuffing, as he spoke, a generous supply of tobacco into the bowl of
his pipe, and thrusting it down with a horny thumb.

“’Tis more nor twenty years ago, when there were no gentlemen’s lodges
round the lake, nor no railroad or telegraphs, nor tourists, but
terrible long journeys and great hardships on cars, and the _best_ of
shooting and fishing; now we have a power of quality coming to and
fro, and admiring all this”--waving his hand,--“and bringing good
money into the country. God knows it’s badly wanted; but when I was a
young gossoon, a stranger hereabouts was as much of a curiosity as an
elephant; so it made a notorious stir when this very place was took by
the Earl of Mulgrave and his Countess.”

Mr. Usher started, and hastily pulled his pipe out of his mouth.
“Mulgrave,” he repeated, “_Mulgrave_, did you say?”

“Yes, Mulgrave, sir. I learnt off the name by thinking of graves. They
was not too long married, and come on a spree like, and without hardly
any servants.”

“Yes, yes, yes,” assented Mr. Usher, “but how did they discover it?”

“I don’t rightly know,” he replied, “but they were highly delighted,
I can tell ye--his lordship with the sport; for in those days ye
couldn’t put down yer foot on the mountain without standing on a bird.
The woodcock was just dying of old age; and as for the fish, they were
waiting on ye.”

“More than they do now!” grunted Mr. Usher.

“Himself liked the sport, and her ladyship the place. It was soon after
the old master dying, and was just pure fairyland. The fuchsia hedges
were a sight, the palms a wonder, the magnolia-trees the size of a
cabin; and as for passion-flowers, the house was smothered between them
and roses, and the carnations scented half the lake!” He paused to draw
breath after this burst of eloquence, struck a match, and then resumed:
“Ye may see the terrace here. I keep it still weeded. ’Twas here the
old master took his stroll; ’twas here _she_ used to walk.” He heaved a
profound sigh, then proceeded in a brisker key.

“Yes; his lordship and her ladyship was well content, though maybe it
was a bit lonesome for her. Many an evening I’ve seen her pacing up and
down this same terrace, watching for the boat. Oh, she was a picture, I
declare! like an angel on the chapel window.”

“Then you remember her?”

“Ah, who wouldn’t? Bedad I do! If I was to shut me eyes, I could see
her standing there still; her hair (and she had crowds of it, enough to
stuff a pillow) was dark red, like a copper beech; a small lily face,
set on a long, white throat, a pair of wonderful dark eyes, and wee
hands, like a child’s; just a blaze of stones; her voice was as sweet
as a song, and when she smiled, ochone! ochone! it gave yer heart a
squeeze. I never saw anything like it before.”

“Or since,” suggested Mr. Usher.

“Oh, then, bedad, sir, I won’t give in to that! I’ve seen the very
comrade of it, an’ I’ll tell ye no lie! Well, her ladyship was mad on
flowers, and she used to come and talk to me when I was weeding and
working, asking questions about the country folk, and their matches
and queer ways, and the old master--God rest him; and she said how sad
it was to see his beautiful place let to strangers. ‘It’s a paradise,’
says she--‘the loveliest spot I’ve ever seen. You ought to be proud of
your country, Mike Mahon!’ I told her I was so--and prouder again that
it was plaisin’ to _her_.”

“Now that was a fine piece of blarney,” exclaimed his companion.

“’Twas not, sorr. ’Twas her due!” he retorted with vehemence. “Well,
one night there was a terrible whirra loo--her ladyship had a baby
unexpected! No doctor, nor nurse, nor clothes ready. Old ‘Betty the
brag’ was called in, for the French maid was no good at all, only for
screeching. Well, the baby was a girl, and a cruel disappointment, as a
boy was wanted; however, av coorse she had to be reared all the same,
and there was no means of feeding the crature, till Betty bethought her
of Katty Foley. She had a young infant. Katty was about forty, a big,
strong major of a woman. She’d been terribly unlucky, and had lost four
children--some was born dead, some had just breath in them. People gave
out it was a fairy blast. Howsomever, she had a living child at long
last, four weeks old, and she took on the other poor little crawneen,
and it throve elegantly. Well, when everything was going fair and
aisy, her ladyship all of a sudden took and died. Just went out like a
candle, and wid no more warning nor a snow-flake. And oh, but she made
the beautiful corpse!”

“Why, you did not see her, surely?” said Mr. Usher, in a key of
startled protest.

“No; but I heard tell the like was never beheld. Just the same as a
dead angel! And I tell ye more: his lordship was all as wan as a mad
man, and out of himself wid grief. The windows used to be open--it was
summer--and I weeding and working hard by, and I heard him calling on
her, and crying to her to come back--to come back. I declare to ye,
sir, it was enough to melt the rock of Cashel; but sure, she was gone.”
Here he gave a profound sigh. “They took her to England along with a
great train of black mourners, and left the place just as it stood,
and the child wid Katty. She had a bit of a farm and cows, and a nice
decent slated house of her own; and his lordship would not so much as
_look_ at the baby, and was terribly bitter against it. Bedad, there
seemed a sort of blight on the family, for in about two months’ time
the child pined off and died, and was packed in a grand little white
coffin, and sent away to the family burying-ground, and laid alongside
the mother.”

“And so that was an end of the whole affair?”

“It was, sor. His lordship sent Katty fifty pounds to bank for her
little Mary, and a long while after news came as he had married
again--a widow lady. Little Mary throve well. Begorra, she was a rale
beauty, and just the core of John Foley’s heart, and the apple of his
eye. She was that clever and quick, wid such taking ways, but awful
dainty about her food, and wid a terribly high sperrit. Learning was
no trouble to _her_, and she has grown up a lovely girl, and it isn’t
alone the golden sovereigns she has to her fortune, that makes all the
boys crazy to marry her, ’tis her pretty face, and quare manners--not
bold at all, but imperious and commanding. She could marry any wan she
pleased; there is a strong farmer from this side of Kenmare, crazy
about her, and I know a police-sergeant that is _clean_ out of his
mind.”

“And which is she going to take?” inquired Mr. Usher, who had finished
his pipe, and stowed it carefully in its case, and began to think this
story was rather long-winded, and that he would now cut it short, in
favour of the short cut home.

“Neither wan or the other,” was the solemn response, “and she won’t
have no match drawn down for her; she’s all for pickin’ and choosin’,
the same as a lady. They do say she favours a car-driver at the
Glenveigh Hotel, Pat Maguire, my own cousin’s son, a good-looking
boy, as wild for fun and dancin’ as herself. He has sorra a penny
or a penny’s worth but his two bare hands, a beautiful voice, and a
concertina; but she is as hard to catch as a sunbeam, and all for play
and joking. She’ll spend half her time standing at the gate at Foley’s
corner, colloguing and laughing wid the neighbours, or running off
fishing, or picking flowers, and she’s at every dance and wake in the
barony. Oh, she’s a rare one to sing, aye, and to talk, and has always
a word with the men, and a pick and a bit out of them; and yet no one
could ever say that Mary Foley was bould, though they do give out she’s
a terror for spending.”

Mr. Usher had heard more than enough of this little peasant and her
attractions. He was beginning to feel a bit chilly, and he rose stiffly
from the window-ledge, stamped down his trousers, yawned and said--

“Well, thank you, my good fellow, I’ve enjoyed my smoke and chat here,
and your interesting story, but----”

“Story!” echoed Mike Mahon, hastily rising to his feet. “Sure, I
haven’t told it to you yit.”

Mr. Usher turned about, and contemplated the speaker with an air of
dignified surprise.

“Faix, it’s a true word, sor! All the talk I’m after pointing out was
only the fringe, or the outside. I’m coming to the kernel now, and if
your honour will just hold on a few minutes I’ll maybe surprise ye!”

“Oh, no doubt you will do that; but you see, I must be getting on now.
Another time, perhaps, my good man, another time.”

“No, sir, but _now_. Since you’ve been so kind as to give me your
company and the best of tobacco, I’d like just to finish off my bit of
history like. I cannot tell what’s got at me this blessed day, but it
drives me to speak, and to talk. Maybe it’s the place itself that edges
me on! I ax yer pardon for making so free as to bother ye wid an old
man’s chat.”

“As for that,” responded Mr. Usher, “I’m an idle man at present. At
home all my time means money, and I forget that here I have no occasion
to hurry myself. The day is long, and besides--this is rather a curious
coincidence, but I’ve heard part of your tale before. The name of
Mulgrave is familiar, and I am interested in seeing the spot where the
first Lady Mulgrave died. It is extraordinary that I should, in the
course of a casual afternoon ramble, come upon it just by accident.”

“Do ye think it was an accident, sir? I’d call it a queer chance.
Anyhow, ’tis many a Sunday afternoon I put in here, and you’re one of
the few visitors I’ve seen. If ye like, I’ll be setting ye on your
road home, for I can walk and talk, and I would not be wishful to be
a torment and a hindrance to yer honour; but when I’ve put the story
off me mind, ye, being English and a gentleman, well up in years and
experience, might give me your opinion and advice.”

“It is my rule to charge for both,” rejoined Mr. Usher, with a grim
smile. “That is how I make my living. I’m a lawyer.”

“God help us!” ejaculated Mike under his breath, and then, in a louder
key, “Meaning no offence, but ye don’t look like one. I’d take ye for a
blooded gentleman!”

“Thank you. And now perhaps you will take me out of this delightful
wilderness, and put me on the road to Glenveigh. If you will tell me
your story, you shall have my best advice gratis--that means, without a
fee.”



CHAPTER X


Within the next five minutes the man in the frieze coat was pioneering
the man in the grey tweed through the jungle of fuchsias and arbutus
which smothered the steep footpath leading down to the lake. A broken
gate lying on the ground marked the extreme limit of Lota. Presently
the lawyer and labourer were striding by the water’s edge side by side,
and Mike resumed the relation of his story, precisely as if the thread
had never been snapped.

“Ye see, old John Foley, who was terribly proud of Mary, was took off
of a sudden in a fit, and of late his wife got queer in her head.
They do say her mother was the same, though some made out it was
tay-drinking; sure enough, she never had the taypot out of her hand.
Whatever it was, she turned so mortal strange that Mary had to get her
aunt Bridgie, Katty’s sister, to come over and help mind her; but it
wasn’t better, but worse, she got-shockingly unaisy and restless and
worrying in herself, or else sitting and never speaking, all as wan as
some stone image. At long last she bid them send for the priest, as she
had something on her soul. And when he come, she ups and she told him,
and she told Mary, and she told any one that would listen, what I’m
about to tell _you_.”

Here Mike cleared his throat energetically, and continued--

“And _what_ do ye think Katty giv’ out? That her child died; it was
always droopy, and she could not bear to part wid the other. She loved
it as her own. Its father hated it, and would marry again, and rear a
family, and never grudge _her_ the pretty little girlie at all! And so
she sent off her own dead baby to the grand place in England, and she
kept the stranger, who has grown up fine and strong and clever, and
everything that is surprising for quickness and talk.”

As Mike related this audacious case of child stealing, his companion’s
expression changed from the countenance of the tolerant, easily amused
listener, to that of a keen man of business, who is suddenly made
acquainted with a most serious piece of intelligence. He removed his
pipe, his lips set in one grim line, and his face was slightly flushed,
as he glanced at his guide with a penetrating sidelong look.

No, the man was no garrulous “Ananias,” but an Irish peasant of a
faithful and romantic nature, who still, year after year, week after
week, haunted the place which had once held his ideal. To the best of
his ability he was telling what he believed to be the truth.

“Katty took great pride out of the child, and soon forgot as she wasn’t
her own flesh and blood; and as for John, he never knew, and he just
lived for his daughter. Well, now Katty was growing old, and her sin
rose up and faced her, her conscience tormented her, and she said she
must ease her mind before she died. She made out she felt awful bad,
and when Mary looked in her face with her ladyship’s own two eyes, when
she smiled at her the same as her mother, she just stiffened in the
bed!”

“And how did every one receive this amazing news? What did they say to
it?” demanded Mr. Usher, in a sharp legal key.

“Oh, bedad, Mary laughed at it for pure nonsense. She was a country
girl born and bred. To be an English countess with a castle and
servants, and to wear a gold crown on her head, would just kill her,
if it was true; but it was only a fairy tale, and she was her mammy’s
daughter, and no one else----”

“What did the priest say?”

“Faix, his reverence give it against Mrs. Foley, too! Anyhow, she was
too late; twenty-wan years had passed, and there was no call to go
and upset a grand English family, and maybe for nothing. Katty, ye
see, had no proof beyond her bare word; no papers, no witnesses. Every
one jeered at Mrs. Foley’s queer notion, and treated the story as an
elegant fine joke. Mary is no Englisher, and there’s not a lighter foot
to dance a jig, or a better warrant to sing an old Irish lament, in all
the country.”

“And is that the end of it? Eh?” said the lawyer briskly.

“’Tis in a way; howsomever, Katty still whinges and whimpers and moans,
begging and praying them to make restitution--sometimes beating on the
walls with her two bare hands, and crying by the hour; she can’t stir
now, having lost the use of herself; and her legs being crippled with
rheumatism, she sits in her chair all day. Whiles, she’s reasonable
enough; but about Mary she is properly mad. She says she’s no child of
hers--and calls her _Lady_ Mary. Ye see the head of Katty is not right,
and her own mother went the same way, so people just humours her; they
are all very good to the poor crazy creature, she being a sort of
‘innocent’ in her old age.”

“I suppose they never imagine there is any foundation for her
delusion,” inquired Mr. Usher.

“No; and if there was they’d hold Mary Foley hard and fast, and keep
her, I believe, against all the lords in England; for she is one of
themselves.”

“And what do you think yourself?”

Mike made no immediate reply, but took one or two loud sucks at his
pipe. At last he said: “I believe, on me solemn oath, that there _is_
something in the story all the same.”

“You do!” cried Mr. Usher, coming to an abrupt halt, and fixing his
sharp eyes on his companion.

“In troth I do,” rejoined the old man doggedly.

“What grounds have you to go upon for supposing there is something in
it?” asked the lawyer.

“Faix, it’s no sacret,” he answered, with an air of sullen resolution;
“any one would see it that had eyes in their head. John and Katty was
as black as two crows. Mary has hair like a copper kettle, a white
swan throat, a dancing eye, and a little weenchie hand. Oh, I declare
she’s the born image of her ladyship. Now, is not that strange?” and he
turned and looked fixedly at his companion’s hard-set, wizened face.

“Not if she is her daughter!”

“Whisht!” he cried, turning about, as if he feared that the very trees
had ears. “Never let _that_ pass yer lips; I only whisper it in my
heart, when I go there alone, and sit on the terrace of a Sunday--and
to you, a black stranger, it makes no matter what I say; and somehow
it’s a relief to give out me thoughts to another creature, whether a
gentleman or a man.”

“Has this strange likeness struck other people?” inquired Mr. Usher, in
his cool, judicial tone.

“No, sir!”--now drawing up his bent back, and speaking with
overwhelming dignity. “You see none of the neighbours had much chance
of seeing the Countess. She was mostly out boating, or staying at home.
It’s twenty-wan years ago, ye know, and not a sowl remembers whether
her hair was black or yellow. Now, _I_ saw her every day, and I can
never forget her, for I never saw any wan like her, and never will
again.”

“Except Mary Foley,” amended his listener. “Is she not admired, and
remarked all over the country?”

“No, I can’t say rightly that she is, though the young men does be wild
about her; the old people and the women says she’s no great shakes;
she’s too slim and small-made for the Kerry folk, and has no colour;
they talk of her sperrit, and her singing and dancing, and her clever,
smart chat, within three parishes: but they don’t say much of Mary’s
_looks_, bekase, sir, they are a rough sort of ignorant people, and
she’s out of the common.”

“I must confess I should like to see her!” exclaimed Mr. Usher.

“An’, sure, what’s to hinder ye? That’s aisy enough, if ye will give
yerself the trouble to walk up some afternoon to Foley’s farm; there
ye will see Mary herself standing in the doorway, ready for a word and
a joke, and the house behind her just anyhow! She has no great heart
for work, though she has a kind heart for the poor, and all the dumb
creatures.”

“Well, you have told me a most interesting story,” said Mr. Usher, as
he came to a halt, “and I shall do my best to make the acquaintance of
Mary Foley. Look here!” he added, as if struck by a sudden thought,
“don’t say a word of what you’ve been telling me, to your wife. Women
talk.”

“Sure, man alive, don’t I know that, when I’ve buried three!”

“Three wives?” repeated the old bachelor incredulously. “Three?”

“Yes, faix--and all had a bit in the bank.”

“Then you must be what they call a warm man.”

“Augh, not at all”--with a gesture of repudiation--“what with bringing
them home, and putting them out, they cost me a sight of money! As
for what I’m after telling ye, sir, ’tis Bible truth, and here our
roads goes different ways. Augh, not at all!” he exclaimed. “Sure, I
would not be taking your silver, sor--it was a relief to me to spake.
Well, well, then, I’ll not say agin the tobacco! I’m thankful fer your
company and yer kindness to a bothered old man, listening to his quare,
foolish talk”; and, with a hasty nod, Mike turned his back on Mr. Usher
and hobbled away.

“But was it all quare, foolish talk?” the lawyer asked himself, as he
stood gazing after the retreating figure. “Was it one of two things: a
mere ‘mare’s nest,’ or ‘a pretty kettle of fish’?”

He was, by one of the strange coincidences (which really occur more
frequently than is supposed), Lord Mulgrave’s solicitor, agent, and
man of business. Five-and-twenty years previously he had succeeded
his father in the same responsible and lucrative billet. Mr. Usher
remembered perfectly, and with a poignant regret, the first Lady
Mulgrave, a truly exquisite creature. Her reception by the family had
been cool and suspicious; she brought but a small fortune, and she was
half French: a member of a great race (ruined and scattered by the
Terror), the head of which, on small means, and in a contracted circle,
still endeavoured to maintain their ancient pride and traditions.

The Duc de Hernoncourt, with much-reduced rental, clung to the home
of his ancestors. (The Château de Verbèrie, a famous gem of French
architecture, lying remote from cities, and surrounded by a moat, the
two wings flanked by turrets, with pointed roofs, is a well-known
picture on the local post-card.) He married an English lady, mother of
the future Countess Mulgrave. During a tour through the valley of the
Oise, Lord Mulgrave had been entertained by the de Hernoncourts--his
distant connections--and later, when Madame La Duchesse and
Mademoiselle Joseline came to London, he had persuaded the young lady
to remain in England, as his wife. Mademoiselle de Hernoncourt had hair
the colour of a copper kettle, a mignonne face, a wonderful personal
charm, precisely as described by her former gardener. She was a lady
of a distinctive appearance--once seen, never forgotten. Even the
bloodless little lawyer recalled her with an emotion that he was unable
to classify or explain. If this girl Mary Foley was her image, she
was undeniably her daughter, and Katty’s ravings were no ravings, but
embodied the painful truth.

Oh, yes, the painful truth! Lord Mulgrave was childless; his present
wife had been a fascinating little widow with one girl, when he married
her, fifteen years previously. Her ladyship was smart, ambitious,
devoted to society, dress, and social diplomacy; her daughter was
also smart and up-to-date, who shot and danced, acted and smoked; she
and her mother managed his lordship, who was a tall, taciturn man of
fifty, fond of fishing and of peace--proud, reserved, and ceremonious.
What would be the effect of introducing an uneducated Irish peasant
girl--a girl celebrated for “sperrits” and “chat” into this
aristocratic and exclusive circle? Mary was, of course, a Catholic. She
had never been in a carriage, or seen a silver fork, in her life. Yet
if all this circumstantial evidence went for anything--not to speak of
Katty’s confession--she was Lord Mulgrave’s only child and heiress. It
was in a highly perturbed frame of mind that Mr. Usher pursued his way
to the hotel. He had so much food for meditation that he made a very
poor dinner, and was unusually silent. Questioned by his sister with
respect to his excursion, his replies were brief and unsatisfactory.
“He had walked about eight miles. Yes, it was a pretty country. No, he
had not met any motors.”

Subsequently, as he sat out in the garden after dinner, smoking
cigarette after cigarette, his sister, Miss Usher, who knew his moods,
came over and took a seat beside him and said--

“Bence, I see you are getting your old London expression, and thinking
of some business.”

He nodded assent.

“Can’t you leave it behind even for six weeks, and enjoy yourself like
every one else? You know you promised me you would.”

“Yes, Emily, I know I did. It is all very well to say I’ll leave
business behind me; but what can I do when it _follows_ me here?”

“What do you mean?” she demanded. “There were no letters for you
to-day.”

“Never mind, my dear, I’ve got some hard thinking to do. A most
serious case has recently come to my notice.”

“Well, I suppose”--rising as she spoke--“I’d better leave you to do
your thinking alone. I can be no help, can I?”

“No--or--By the way! You poke about the neighbourhood a good deal, and
are in and out of the houses, looking for bits of china, and studying
the people, as you call it. Have you ever come across a place called
Foley’s farm?”

“Foley’s farm,” she repeated. “Yes, at Foley’s Corner. Quite a small
farmer lives in it, I believe. I stopped there the other day to ask the
way, and saw a beautiful girl.”

“Oh, that’s a common sight in these parts.”

“Yes, I know--of a certain style; black hair and grey eyes put in with
a dirty finger. But this one is of another type. Chestnut locks, a
graceful figure; she carries her head like royalty, and Vandyck would
have been proud to have painted her hands, though they _are_ rather red
I must confess. I have promised to lend her some magazines, and will
take them up to her one of these days.”

“Take me, too--will you?”

“But, Bence, you are not in earnest? Why, you grudge every hour you
have not a rod in your hands.”

“I’ll give the fish a holiday. I should like to see something of the
natives--the Irish at home, and that sort of thing.”

“All right, then, I will escort you up to ‘Foley’s’ as they call it;
only too happy to have your company. Well, good night.”

As she moved off, her brother remained immovable, buried in thought and
tobacco-smoke.

“No harm in going to see the young woman, at any rate,” he reflected.
It committed him to nothing. After all, perhaps he ought to leave
well alone. Apparently the girl was happy; her present home was her
natural sphere. She was but a peasant. Why upset her life and the lives
of others who were all content with their lot? Yes, to stir in the
business would be a grave and responsible action. “Better let sleeping
dogs lie”; and having arrived at this conviction, Mr. Usher sought his
couch.



CHAPTER XI


Although it was a nice, cloudy day, and the wind perfect for fishing,
Mr. Usher sacrificed himself the following afternoon upon the altar of
duty. He had slept on his discovery, and had come to the conclusion
that it was his office, as Lord Mulgrave’s man of business, to
interview this girl, whom fate had, so to speak, flung at his head; and
four o’clock found him escorting his sister, Emily Usher (aged fifty,
a good soul, and a bit of a blue-stocking), along a high, breezy road
which ran above the lake, and at a certain sharp angle plunged into,
and was lost among, dense woods which crowned the hill, and spread
to the water’s edge. Clouds had gathered, a thin, cold drizzle was
descending, when the couple came to the elbow or joint where the long,
bluish-white road turned abruptly in order to accompany the lake;
they arrived at the same time at a comfortable slated cottage, with
geraniums in the windows, and a crimson rambler trained over its walls.
The cottage stood back in a little field, and was flanked by several
outhouses. At one side was a garden full of straggling hollyhocks,
currant bushes, and poultry; at the other the usual substantial turf
rick. A heavy wooden gate opened directly from the field into the
road--a most excellent talking trap for passers-by, and doubtless the
identical gate referred to by Mike Mahon. The general appearance of
the place was well-to-do, but thriftless. A couple of pigs were rooting
and grunting in the short grass; a speckled hen was perched at her ease
upon the half-door; the currant bushes and apple trees exhibited a
family washing;--conspicuous among the items were pink petticoats, and
black stockings.

The nice soft afternoon and the drizzle was developing into steady
rain, and Mr. Usher was by no means sorry to hear his sister exclaim--

“Here it is! This is Foley’s--Foley’s Corner, as they call it. I hope
we shall find the girl at home.” And as her brother shoved back the
gate she added, “I’ll go in first. Shall I?”

The pigs and geese pressed hospitably round the visitors as they walked
up the path, and when they reached the half-door the hen flew off
with a loud skwawk of expostulation. Miss Usher gave a genteel little
cough--an ineffectual signal, for the room within seemed dim and empty.
Presently she supplemented the cough with a timid “Ahem! Is _any_ one
at home?”

No reply. Brother and sister then with one consent peered into the big
flagged kitchen. Bacon in solid flitches hung from the rafters. On the
well-varnished dresser a lean white cat sat comfortably lapping from a
large pan of new milk. The fire was low, but on a girdle on the embers
a large soda cake was baking--and burning. Crouched over the fire on
a three-legged stool sat a slender, auburn-haired young woman, deeply
engrossed in a somewhat tattered volume. Cough and speech, cat or
hens, were alike indifferent to her, for at the moment she was living
in another world, far away from this gloomy kitchen and this burning
cake. In short, the auburn head was buried in _Monte Cristo_.

As Miss Usher and her brother boldly entered (immediately attended by
two geese), Mary Foley started, came back to her own everyday life, and
sprang to her feet, greeting Miss Usher with a radiant glance.

“And so,” said her brother to himself, “this was Mary Foley!”

Yes, though not locally credited with “looks,” she was undeniably
pretty--nay, even beautiful--with clear-cut, high-bred features, and,
for all her peasant’s clothes, an _aristocrat_ to the tips of her
little pink fingers.

“Ah, sure then, miss, it’s entirely too kind of you to come and
bring me the books.” As she spoke her eyes fell on the parcel, and a
wonderful smile--her ladyship’s smile--lit up her whole face.

“This is my brother,” explained Miss Usher, introducing him with a
gesture.

“I am glad to see your honour”--dropping a curtsey--“and hope your
honour has had good sport.”

“Pretty well, I thank you,” he faltered, for he was gazing at the
living image of the late Countess of Mulgrave--supposing the countess
to be dressed in a short blue calico gown and coarse white apron.

“And how is your mother to-day?” resumed Miss Usher.

“Oh, indeed, she’s only among the middlings, miss, and she’s keeping
her bed. Me aunt is gone to the town for some medicine.”

“And you are minding the house?” suggested Mr. Usher.

“And doing it badly, too, sir. Shoo! ye greedy divil!” and she made a
dart at the cat. “Out of this wid ye!” and she drove off the geese.
“But the truth is I’ve got stuck in a book, and when I do that I clean
forget everything--more shame for me.” She still held the book between
her fingers, and from the bottom of her heart wished herself alone.

“May I see what it is?” said Miss Usher. Then, as she glanced at
it--“oh, _Monte Cristo_! No wonder you were enthralled!”

“Isn’t it splendid!” she exclaimed. “Oh, it beats Banagher! I’ve just
got to where they are dragging him into the boat. Isn’t it grand!”

As she and Miss Usher stood talking, it never seemed to have occurred
to Mary Foley, that she was lacking in hospitality or good manners.
As she remained discussing the engrossing romance with his sister,
it struck Mr. Usher that Mary preferred to lounge against the table
descanting and listening, and lacked the true Irish instinct, which
instantly offers a welcome, a seat, and, if possible, refreshment.
His quick, grey eyes wandered round the room, and noted its contents.
It was of a good size; the furniture was strong and useful, but a tub
with a half-washed gown stood near the window; the floor was littered
with sticks and cabbage leaves. It was plain that Mary’s little hands
were incapable of rough work! But he noticed some pathetic attempts
at decoration: the dresser exhibited a large bunch of wild flowers;
on the walls was a considerable gallery of coloured pictures, cut
from the illustrated papers; the window curtains were white, and
looped back with strips of pink calico. As the visitor stood staring
about the half-door was thrown back with a kick, and a thin, tall,
peevish-looking woman, with a basket on her arm and a shawl over her
frilled cap, entered, immediately followed by a red terrier. For
a moment she stood aghast, then recovered and said, “Yer servant,
ma’am--yer servant, sir,” as she dropped two curtseys, and deposited
her load with an air of relief.

“Mary, me girl,” turning to her niece, “where’s yer manners? Won’t the
lady take a sate?”

Mary coloured guiltily as she dusted and offered a chair. “Faix,
I’m forgetting myself. Rap”--aside to the dog, who was sniffing the
visitors--“behave yerself! Ma’am, I beg your pardon, but the house is
all upset, and through other, it being washing day.”

“Lord save us! the cakes is a cinder!” cried the new arrival, hurrying
to the fire. “Mary, girl, I lay my life you’ve been reading a book.
Bedad, ma’am”--turning to Miss Usher--“if she was as good a hand at
rearing pigs and calves as she is for reading and rearing flowers, we’d
all be in clover. Oh, but she’s the terrible girl for a story----”

As she spoke Mrs. Grogan made a desperate attempt to tidy up the place,
carried away the tub, and endeavoured with all the strength of her
lungs to rekindle a few sods.

All this time Mary, her niece, with true patrician unconcern, stood
knitting and talking to Miss Usher, precisely as if she were receiving
her amidst the most luxurious surroundings, and absolutely unconscious
of any shortcomings. If she had been a true-born Irishwoman she
would have been pouring forth an irrepressible torrent of excellent
and plausible excuses. And here, to Mr. Usher, was yet another
incontrovertible proof that in Mary’s veins ran no Foley blood,
but that she was the descendant of a colder race, the daughter of a
hundred earls. Whilst Miss Usher made use of her tongue, her brother
continued to make use of his eyes. The young woman, leaning against
the dresser, with the dog at her feet, was plainly not in keeping
with her background; her pose was grace itself, unconscious and
unstudied--possibly the heritage of centuries of court life. The
short blue cotton skirt revealed a pair of black woollen stockings
and cobbler’s shoes; but even these failed to conceal a high-arched
instep and slim little feet, and the hands that twinkled among the
flying knitting needles might have been painted by Vandyck or Lely, so
delicate, taper, and absolutely useless did they look.

Mary Foley had a sweet voice and a pleasant and melodious brogue; she
and her visitor had much to say to one another on the subject of books,
and the English lady was secretly amazed at the extent and variety of
the Irish girl’s reading.

“Father Daly lends me the _Times Weekly_, and Mrs. Hogan at the hotel
gives me all the stray old books and magazines, and I keep her in
stockings; then I buy books myself in Cork.”

“You don’t get much of a selection do you?”

“Oh, ma’am, sixpenny reprints is not too bad--I wish I knew French!”

“I suppose you only know your language?” put in Mr. Usher.

“The Irish, sir? Yes, I can speak that well, and read it too, they
teach it in the schools now, but it is not much use if one went
travelling--not like French.”

“Do you wish to travel?”

“Sometimes I do. I get a queer roving feeling,--a sort of longing comes
over me; but mostly I am very well content here, and I’ve a notion that
if I ever left this part of the world it would be like tearing the
heart out of me, same as you see the poor people going to America.”

“Well, Mary, me girl, aren’t you going to ask the lady if she has a
mouth on her?” put in the shrill, whining voice of Mrs. Grogan, who had
been busy with a kettle and some cups and saucers.

The hot soda cake, retrieved from the cinders, sent forth an appetising
invitation. Mrs. Grogan had cut it into large chunks, which she split
and buttered with a generous hand.

“Emily, I really think we ought to be going,” protested Mr. Usher,
who hated and despised afternoon tea, and would as soon partake of
rhinoceros as hot buttered soda cake!

“Oh, but, sir,” pleaded Mary, turning her battery of smiles on him, “my
aunt Bridgie would be shockingly disappointed if you won’t honour her,
after making the tay and all; she’s the real manager and mistress since
me poor mother took bad, and I’m only good, as she’ll tell you, for a
little nursing, and minding the hens and the flowers. I hope you will
stay?”

Bence Usher was astonished to find himself presently drawn up at a
table, spread with a clean coarse cloth, and seated before a steaming
slice and a steaming cup, _tête-à-tête_ with the two peasant women.

“No milk,” he cried, remembering the scene on the dresser.

“No milk,” echoed his sister.

“So it goes in families, misliking milk,” remarked Mrs. Grogan
gravely. “I hope the tay is to your taste? I get the best, like me
poor sister, four shillings and sixpence the pound. None of yer cheap
mixtures!”

(There is no one in the world so particular respecting her tea, as the
Irishwoman of the lower middle class.)

Mary, he noticed, was exceedingly dainty about her food, and reduced
her share of cake to a mere slice, half of which she shared with the
dog.

“That’s a handsome terrier,” he remarked; “he looks thoroughbred. Where
did you get him?”

“He was given to me mother as a house watch, when he was a pup.”

“Your people are not from this part of the world?” remarked Miss Usher.
“Any one can see that, Mary!”

“Deed then they are, ma’am,” she replied emphatically; “and where else?
Why wouldn’t I be Kerry born and bred?”

“Because you are so unlike the other people, who have dark hair and
blue or grey eyes, and are more strongly built; and you----”

“Oh, yes,” she interrupted, “I’m aware I’m altogether different--very
small-boned, wid red hair and brown eyes, and no colour to spake of,
but it’s just a chancey thing, like a piebald horse--or a blue-eyed
cat; we can’t all be cut out on the same pattern.”

Mary was doing the honours of the feast; her aunt had undertaken the
part of servant, and she now stepped gracefully into the rôle of
hostess. Her manners were charming and fascinating; even Mr. Usher,
laden as he was with care and apprehension, fell under their spell. In
a kind of dream he ate a dangerous supply of soda bread, and disposed
of two cups of strong tea; for as this most fascinating creature
chattered away to him, he forgot both his digestion and his duties.

“Oh, faix, it’s not every day we have a gentleman to tay, I tell ye! If
me poor mother was stirring, she’d be a proud and happy woman to see
yer honour sitting here,” declared Mary.

“And how is she?”

“Just dozing now within in the room. She’s had one of her bad turns,
but I nursed her out of it. Oh, she’s awfully changed since her mind
gave way.”

“And do you think she really is--peculiar?”

“_Think!_ Sure, don’t we know it? She, that used to be the sensiblest
woman in the parish, and every one running to her for advice, is now,
God help her, teetotally moidered, and wake in herself.” After a pause,
“I see you looking at me very constant, sir. May I make so free as to
ask if ye get a likeness of any one out of me?”

“Oh, I--I--beg pardon,” stammered Mr. Usher. “I’m a bit near-sighted.
I hope you don’t mind. I see you have splendid potatoes,” he remarked
suddenly, pointing to a basketful. “I suppose you like them?”

“Is it me? Augh, no!” with a gesture of abhorrence. “I hate potatoes;
they just choke me. And when our bag of flour went astray on the train
’ere last week, I was daggin round for something to keep me alive, so I
was. I’d die on potatoes.”

“And what did you find?”

“Ned Macarthy gave me a couple of salmon trout and a pigeon.” “Oh, he’s
a great poacher!” and she laughed. “So I did finely. I think I hear me
mother calling me, if you’ll pardon me”; and she rose and hurried into
an adjoining room.

“She keeps you all alive, I am sure,” observed Miss Usher, “so full of
life.”

“Aye, you’d never be wanting to go to a theatre or a pantomime as long
as ye have Mary in the house,” assented Mrs. Grogan. “The chat out of
her is wonderful, and she can talk to any one, as ye may judge! I can’t
think how she comes by her freedom, for John and me sister was not a
bit gabby themselves; but every one likes Mary, though she’s a poor
worker. Half the boys are ready to put their hands under her feet. It’s
not the looks, but what ye may call the cleverality of her!”

“Is her mother really no better?” inquired Miss Usher.

“Yes; she’s in her senses--no more foolish rambling, and rousing the
priest with mad tales. But the head of her is full of pains. Oh, she’s
greatly failed! She’s been lying a good while, and I’m thinking she
won’t be long in it.”

“I suppose you don’t remember Lord Mulgrave coming here?” ventured Mr.
Usher, who had risen, and, with his back to Mrs. Grogan, was searching
for his stick.

“And troth an’ I do, and why wouldn’t I? I remember him well,” she
rejoined, in her whinging voice. “I met him in the woods one day, and
he gave me a great salute. Such a lovely, tall, fine gentleman! I never
seen her ladyship; she never stirred out much. It was at Lota she died.
Oh, but she made the lovely corpse!”

“Indeed!” said Miss Usher.

“Yes, that was an awful affair, and unexpected. They do say”--lowering
her voice almost to a whisper--“she _walks_! Anyway, no one will go
near the place after dark.”

“Surely you don’t believe that?” protested the lady.

“Well, ma’am, I’ve seen and heard many a quare tale in me time, and
I don’t rightly know what to believe and what not to believe; but
it would be more reasonable-like if she’d stop with her own folk,
and haunt them, instead of scaring poor Irish people, as are black
strangers.”

“Really, Emily, it’s six o’clock,” said her brother, suddenly looking
at his watch. “We must not intrude on Mrs. Grogan any longer. You see
it has quite cleared up now”; and he made for the door.

Miss Usher, an intelligent woman, who wrote a little, and was
particularly anxious to study the Irish peasant, and interiors, would
gladly have thrashed out with Mrs. Grogan the subject of ghosts,
warnings, and Banshees; but her brother was already at the gate. Should
she offer payment? She put her hand to her steel bag, and looked
interrogatively at her hostess, but read an invincible “no” in those
little twinkling greenish eyes.

“Thank you very much. Please say good-bye to your niece for us.”

“Aye, she’ll be sorry to miss ye; but she is mighty taken up with her
mother. She’s a real, good decent girl, for all her funny ways--wan
that always satisfies ye, and me sister cannot spare her out of her
sight--that is when she’s in her right senses. Well, good-bye, my lady,
good-bye. Mind the gander; he’s a bit wicked to strangers”; and she
curtseyed her out.

“Well, Bence!” said Miss Usher, as she came up with her brother, “tell
me frankly what you think of that girl? Is she not beautiful, and has
she not an extraordinary air of refinement and distinction?”

“Oh, yes, she’s uncommon-looking,” he muttered, in a peevish tone.

“Did you notice her slow smile? A family smile, I should imagine; and
yet, of course, I am talking the most arrant nonsense! Can you believe
that her grandmother was some old Kerry woman, who dug potatoes and
smoked a pipe! Now, _can_ you?” she repeated impressively.

“No, I cannot,” he answered doggedly. All the time he was mentally
making a draft of a letter.

“And yet there is her aunt, a common, ignorant person, as you see. I
rather wanted to give her half a crown as a return for the tea; but
Irish hospitality is a thing by itself. As for Mary, the day I lost my
way I offered her a shilling, and you should have seen how she coloured
up and refused it. I almost felt as if I had offered it to an _equal_.
Really, one would take her for a lady if she were dressed up--a
somebody, in fact!”

“In fact, Lady Joseline Dene,” her listener mentally added, as they
walked on for some time in silence. The Mulgraves were a notoriously
proud family; ancient, exclusive, wealthy, now dwindled down to one
last branch. What would Owen, Earl of Mulgrave, say to this Irish
heiress who fed pigs, washed and cooked (very badly), and had adopted
the religion, language, prejudices, and accomplishments of a Kerry
peasant? Could she ever be educated, transformed, and fitted for her
high degree?

“Come, come, Bence, you have not opened your lips for half a mile,”
remonstrated his sister. “A penny for your thoughts. What are you
thinking about?”

“That I hope we may have cranberry tart for dinner,” was the mendacious
reply.

“Oh, you greedy person. I fancied you might be puzzling out the enigma
of that red-haired girl. I must confess that she baffles _me_. She’s a
physiological freak; she’s a white crow. What business has she to feed
pigs with those little taper hands? Tell me that?”

But her cautious companion was not prepared to tell her anything as
yet; he would keep his discovery to himself. Emily had an active mind,
a healthy curiosity, a world-wide correspondence, and in answer to
her question, “Tell me that?” he merely shook his head, in token of
hopeless ignorance.

Personally, he had no shadow of doubt as to the girl’s identity, and as
he strolled up and down the road in front of the hotel after dinner, he
held a long debate as to what he ought to do. Should he hold his peace,
leave Lady Mary to her wash-tub and her gate, or should he write the
wonderful news to the earl, her father?



CHAPTER XII


From the slated cottage at the corner of a country lane it is a long
step to an historical castle in Perthshire. Here the Marquis of
Maxwelton is entertaining a large party for the twelfth. His moors
are as celebrated as his gaunt old fortress, built after the French
fashion, in the time when the Guise family held sway in Scotland.
The château has been modernised, and the gardens and grounds are
unsurpassed for beauty and originality.

Among the guests are the Earl and Countess of Mulgrave and Miss Tito
Dawson--the Countess’s daughter by a former alliance. The ladies are
lounging in the gardens, the earl is on the moor with the guns. He is a
fine shot and a keen sportsman. A tall, slim man of fifty with clearly
cut profile, grizzly hair, and a pair of deep-set, melancholy eyes. He
has a polished manner, a pleasant voice, is an agreeable acquaintance
and popular landlord; but the real Earl of Mulgrave lives far behind
those melancholy eyes, entrenched in an impenetrable reserve. Thus far
and no further his guests can go. He is ready to entertain them, to
shoot, play billiards, talk politics, and subscribe money; lavish with
time and with his fortune, he is niggardly of himself. His life--how
little people guess!--has for years been one long disappointment.

After his young wife’s death he became a rover--driven from country to
country by his own despair.

One autumn afternoon at Granada he came upon a party of tourists, or
rather they came upon him, and among these was a lady who, to his
starved heart, brought dim memories of Joseline, his lost idol. Mrs.
Dawson was slim and animated. She had brown eyes and mahogany-coloured
hair. A free lance, with great ambitions and small possessions, she set
herself to lay siege to the handsome, heart-broken _parti_. Her cue was
“sympathy.” Each had known losses--irreparable losses. The departure
of Captain Dawson had been hastened by drink. Oh what profanation to
bracket _him_ with Joseline Mulgrave!

Mrs. Dawson admired, in a really genuine fashion, the handsome,
desolate widower, and he, knowing that he must once more accept the
burden of his position, and imagining her to be a sweet, tender-hearted
woman, energetic as wise, invited her to be the partner of his sorrows.

The likeness to Joseline had become indistinct and faded, save for
the hair-tint (which was duly revived at necessary intervals); but
he believed that they would make the best of two sad lives, and face
the future sustained by mutual experience, and mutual sympathy. The
Countess of Mulgrave, with her carriages, diamonds, town-house, and
country-seats, was an entirely different individual to the pretty,
pathetic widow his lordship had known in Spain. They were not the same.
People talk of children being changed at nurse; it seemed as if Lottie
Dawson had been changed at the altar!

She was ambitious, agreeable, and selfish. A luxurious home, crowds
of servants, quantities of money, a great name, and a connection, were
all delightful in their way, and she was fairly well satisfied with
her lot. Certainly Owen was peculiar; she managed him beautifully--yet
she stood a little in awe of him, although he had never uttered a
sharp word, or denied her any reasonable request. He attended her
to functions, he submitted to her friends, he made Tito a generous
allowance; and yet somehow they remained strangers.

Of course, they had not identical tastes. A country life, sport, books,
and peace, were all he cared for; she enjoyed the racket of town--six
engagements of an evening, with races, the opera, Hurlingham wedged in
between visiting, charity concerts, and milliners. She had acquired the
great art of dress, and was still a pretty woman, with auburn hair, and
a brilliant colour, a wonderful faculty of making conversation, a fair
amount of tact, and a reputation at bridge.

Her daughter Tito, who was small and dark, with a _nez retroussé_,
found it necessary to live up to her profile, and was as jaunty and
impudent as her nose--extravagant in dress and conversation. Tito
Dawson had a reputation for being clever, and making the most daring
and original remarks.

As a rule, women and girls liked her, and men considered her “good
sport.” She had a sharp, amusing tongue, and a capital seat on a horse.

The marquis and his guests were lunching in a glen after a first-rate
drive. Long rows of dead grouse were spread in lines near where the
beaters were eating their dinner. The guns, twelve in number, reclined
under the lee of a rock, discussing cold grouse, cold pie, sandwiches,
and cake, when a gillie arrived with the letters. These were those
which had come from the south by a second post, and, being the most
important of the day, were invariably sent out to the guns, as among
Lord Maxwelton’s guests were men high in the political and diplomatic
world and the services, to whom the delay of a few hours, meant much in
these hurried times. Letters and telegrams were handed about to where
their recipients sat lounging or cross-legged, enjoying a pipe or cigar.

“Two for you, Owen,” said his host and brother-in-law, and he handed
him a couple of missives in the long, narrow envelopes dedicated to
business.

Lord Mulgrave glanced at them indifferently. The post had no surprises
or pleasures for him. One was from his farm bailiff, no doubt about
wire fencing; the other was from Usher, his man of business. Could
anything be more prosaic or commonplace?

An interesting young colonel, his next-hand neighbour--a keen soldier
and a keen shot--was immersed in a woman’s letter, written in an
enormous hand, with violet ink. As he turned the page, the words “My
own darling boy” were as plain as a sign-post. Those who sat must read;
but the lady’s “darling” was blissfully unconscious.

Lord Mulgrave, about to consign his letters to his pockets, paused. He
might as well see what Brown and Usher had to say. He cut the envelopes
carefully with a pocket-knife, being the most methodical of men, and
drew out first of all Brown’s estimate for so many yards of netting.

Then he examined the other. At the first glance, at the words
“astonishing discovery,” he simply lifted his eyebrows. At the second
glance, he read on with colourless face to the bottom of the page; he
turned it with a trembling hand--he finished the letter, three sides of
a sheet--crushed it up, rose abruptly to his feet, and walked away.

“Hullo!” exclaimed the little colonel, looking up suddenly, “I am
afraid his lordship has had bad news?” and he turned his head, and
watched the tall, active, tweed-clad form, striding towards the banks
of a foaming mountain torrent, where the figure seated itself in an
attitude which implied, “Leave me alone. I wish for my own company!”

“Perhaps something has disagreed with him,” muttered a man who did not
like Lord Mulgrave’s cold and courteous manners.

“Perhaps so,” assented the little colonel; “_you_ have never agreed
with him, and I heard you just now abusing his pet scheme for
compulsory service.”

“And he jumped down my throat, spurs and all.”

“Well, it must come to that, sooner or later. The world’s conditions
are changing. Can a half-armed people survive, when the whole of the
rest of the world is trained to arms? The growth of immense foreign
armies is introducing new problems into British national life, whilst
all the omens point to the probability that England’s position will be
challenged in the near future! Diplomacy may do much, but, as Napoleon
said, diplomacy without an armed force behind it, is like music without
instruments!”

“My dear chap,” sneered the other, “you talk like a newspaper
correspondent.”

“I do. I am actually quoting the Press.”

“Oh, I bar these big questions. Sufficient to the day is the evil
thereof. I suppose we are going to the west beat after this?”

“Yes.”

“I hope to goodness they won’t put _me_ in a butt next old Sir Timothy
Quayle. He’s dangerous. Talk of being under fire! He blazed right into
me--cannot see a yard. No business on a moor. Never was so frightened
in my life! I threw clods at him and yelled, and he thought it was
something to do with the coveys. There’ll be an accident some day. I
say, why aren’t we moving? Where’s the marquis?”

“Down there by the waterfall, talking to Lord Mulgrave.”

“Well, I’m here to shoot my twenty to forty brace, not to talk”--rising
to his feet and stretching himself. “I wish---- Oh, I see, it’s all
right. There go the beaters.”

“I say, Owen,” said the marquis, as he joined him, “I hope you have not
had bad news, old boy?”

“No,” replied the other, raising a colourless face, “but news that,
if it is _true_, is the best that has come to me for more than twenty
years. Here”--and he thrust the letter into his friend’s hand. “You had
better read it yourself. To tell you the truth, I’m a bit knocked out
of time. Of course, I’m going to Ireland to-night.”

“Ireland!” echoed his companion. “What in the world would take you
there?”

“Read that, and you will understand.”

The marquis, who was near-sighted, deliberately fumbled for his
pince-nez, stuck it on his nose, and read with provoking leisure.


     “GLENVEIGH HOTEL,
     “CO. KERRY.

     “MY LORD,

     “I have recently come upon an astonishing discovery, and beg
     to acquaint you with my experience. I must ask you to prepare
     yourself for a piece of intelligence which must naturally be to
     you of the nature of a shock.

     “By accident I rambled into a ruined place called Lota, of which,
     many years ago, your lordship was the tenant, where, in short, her
     ladyship the first Lady Mulgrave died, after having given birth
     to a little girl. I there met an old man, once your gardener, who
     disclosed to me the amazing news that your daughter did not, as
     was supposed, die in infancy, but was kept in place of her dead
     child by the foster-mother, Katherine Foley, and reared as her own.

     “Recently remorse, illness, and age, have overtaken Mrs. Foley,
     now a widow, and she has made the extraordinary confession that
     Mary Foley, a girl of one-and-twenty, is no child of hers, but
     the child of the Earl of Mulgrave. Of course, no one credits this
     statement, for Mary is a Kerry girl, with all a Kerry girl’s
     tastes. Every one, including the priest and doctor, believe the
     poor old woman to be suffering from a delusion, and crazy. Mary
     herself has no doubt whatever of her antecedents. Hearing from
     the old gardener that her appearance was remarkable, I made my
     way to Foley’s farm and interviewed the young woman, and I have
     come to the conclusion that the ravings of old Katty are the
     _truth_. The girl’s likeness to the late Countess of Mulgrave is
     so extraordinary, that for my own part I believe the relationship
     to be undeniable, and I am confident that this girl is your
     lordship’s daughter and heiress.

     “I am afraid my information may be unwelcome, for several
     reasons: the girl has been brought up as an Irish peasant; she has
     had but little education, and is, of course, a Roman Catholic.
     On the other hand, she is remarkably intelligent, has read all
     the books that she could lay hands on, and has a natural grace
     and charm of manner, that is lacking in many young ladies that
     have had ten times her advantages. If I might venture to make a
     suggestion, I think your lordship should come over and _see_ the
     girl and judge for yourself. I have not breathed my conviction to
     a soul, and, should I be mistaken, at least no harm is done. I am
     staying at the Glenveigh Hotel, where fairly comfortable quarters
     are available. It is within an easy distance of Foley’s farm, and
     five miles from a station. I have debated with myself whether to
     disturb your lordship with my discovery or to pass over the event
     in silence. I am aware what a change in the girl’s circumstances,
     and in other people’s expectations, such a revelation will
     occasion. At present Mary Foley is happy, satisfied with her
     lot in life, devoted to her mother, and full of high spirits,
     vivacity, and contentment. It will be for _you_ to judge, for you
     to speak the word, and to break the spell.

     “Awaiting instructions, I remain,

     “Your lordship’s obedient servant,

     “BENCE USHER.”


“Well,” exclaimed the marquis, as he deliberately folded the letter,
“this is a nice thing to spring on a man after twenty-one years!”

“Nice! Yes. Oh, Max,”--and his voice shook--“I hope to God it is no
mirage, and that it may be true.”

“Then you are glad?” he asked sharply.

“Yes, I should think so. Why not?”

“But it is such an outrageous event--so unnatural and impossible. Of
course, I’m aware that you and poor Joseline were all in all to one
another--a sort of fairy tale, your marriage; but that is over. You are
no longer a young man; you have other ties.”

“But no child?”

“No; and this one, if she is your own flesh and blood, will be an
alien, a stranger in ideas, prejudices, and religion--nothing more or
less than a pretty Irish peasant, eh?”

“He said she was the image of her mother.”

Lord Maxwelton looked incredulous. Then he resumed--

“The likeness may be accidental. Such things do happen. Just think of
the horror of the present Lady Mulgrave to have a girl less refined
than her own kitchen-maid thrust into her intimate society--in fact,
bound to accept and chaperone the stranger as her daughter! And as to
that story of a baby changed at nurse, I don’t quite believe that; it
sounds too much like a shilling shocker. Your man Usher is, no doubt,
a romantic old bachelor; he has been captivated by a pretty girl--I
can _see_ he has--and found a mare’s nest. If I were you, I should do
nothing hastily; in fact, I’m not sure that _I_ should do anything at
all.”

“Max, I’m amazed to hear you talk in this cold-blooded fashion.”

“Cold-blooded! No, but prudent and far-seeing, my dear fellow. Do you
realise the results of bringing over this Irish girl? She will be
Baroness of Marchlyde in her own right. She will inherit a certain
amount of the family property--she, an uncouth, raw, country girl! You
could do nothing with her. Of course her character is formed by now.
She will probably make your present quiet life most sensational and
wretched. She is happy where she is--_you_ are happy where you are.”

“No, Max, you know very well that I have never been happy since her
mother left me. But oh! if fortune were to give me back Joseline in our
daughter, I’d ask no more.”

“Then what do you propose to do?” inquired his listener, in a sharper
key.

“Return at once to the castle, get a few things put together, and leave
by the six o’clock from the junction. I’ll go alone, and not take my
man, and you will make my excuses to every one, and say that I was
called away by important business.”

“All right--though in my opinion it’s all wrong. Shall you tell Lady
Mulgrave and Elgitha?”

“Only my wife just yet.”

“If you are wise, you will wait.”

“Wait! For what? If this girl is my daughter, I shall bring her back
with me.”

“And if it is a wild-goose chase, how foolish you will look!”

“Yes; one has to take risks, and I’m ready to chance that. Now I see
all the others anxious to start and I must not detain you. Good-bye,
old man”--wringing his hand--“I leave you to explain everything. Wish
me luck.”

“I wish you _luck_,” rejoined the other, putting his own construction
on the word; and in another minute the two had separated.



CHAPTER XIII


Lord Mulgrave, having given directions to his man to immediately pack
a portmanteau and order a dog-cart, set out in search of his wife.
The quest proved long. She was not in the boudoir, the hall, the
drawing-room; she was not even playing bridge or croquet. At last he
discovered her in the garden--a most sequestered spot, some distance
from the castle. Two ancient fishponds, surrounded by terraces and
broad grass walks, were its principal features. On an island in one of
the ponds was a pretty clump of trees, in that clump a hammock, in the
hammock a smart lady with a novel, a cigarette, and a tiny “sleeve” dog.

“My dear O,” she cried, as he crossed a footbridge, “what brings
you back? Not an accident! Has anything happened? Any one blown off
anyone’s head?”

“No, not quite; but something has happened. I’ve had a letter.”

“From the duke?”--struggling to sit up. “So he is coming for the
pheasants after all?” Her face was radiant.

“No, I’ve not heard from him”--and he put his hand in his pocket and
drew out the letter.

Lady Mulgrave’s expression changed, as she said, “I really do think
there ought to be a law against all the men going out together. Half
should remain to amuse _us_. It is ghastly dull. Tito and Griselda are
going to walk with the guns this afternoon, but I hate that sort of
thing. Lady Madge and the marchioness, and a whole pack have driven
to see a ruin. They couldn’t see a more splendid ruin than Lady Madge
herself! Some are playing croquet; some are asleep, and I was nearly
off. Oh, you abominable little dog!” suddenly addressing the mite, who
had been chewing her book. “Oh, you little horror!”--and she gave it
several hard cuffs.

“Look here, I want you to read this, Charlotte. I’ve had a most
startling piece of news. I am going to Ireland to-night.”

“Ireland?”--carelessly taking the letter. “Ireland, of all places!
But _why_? It’s not even the horse-show week, and that’s its only
inducement!”

“You will see the why, when you read what Usher has to say.”

Lady Mulgrave glanced over the pages with a puckered, frowning face.

“My dear, what nonsense!” she exclaimed at last. “Surely you don’t
believe such utter rubbish. A common country girl your daughter?”--and
with an impatient jerk she threw away the cigarette which had been
suspended in her fingers.

“I cannot tell you until I’ve seen her. Seeing will be believing, or
disbelieving.”

“My dear man, I can tell you one thing. You will have your journey for
nothing.”

“I sincerely hope not,” he answered gravely.

“If there is anything in it, it will really be awful, Owen. No, I’m not
meaning anything nasty! Awful for the girl, and also for us. I expect
she wears no stockings, and says ‘bedad’ and ‘begorra.’”

“These matters can easily be remedied. You will be good to her, won’t
you, Lottie?”

“Of course. I will be good to any one belonging to you,” she answered.
Then, suddenly getting out of the hammock, with a great display of
orange silk petticoat, and standing before him, she added, “But I feel
confident it is some mistake. And if not, do think of the feelings of
Dudley Deverill, brought up to be your heir.”

“Well, he will have the title and a good share of the property. But we
are travelling a little too fast. I must first go over to Glenveigh.
I might have kept my own counsel till I returned; but I thought you’d
like to know.”

“_Like_ to know!” she repeated, under her breath.

“Pray don’t let it go any further. I’ve not told even Elgitha. Say I’m
called away on urgent business.”

“And the word ‘business,’ like charity, covers a multitude of sins
and secrets!” Lady Mulgrave looked at her husband with an odd smile;
but he was grave--he was even agitated. She could read the signs. He
had been besotted about his first wife, so people declared, though
it seemed incredible, for he was always so cool, self-possessed, and
undemonstrative. Was he going to be as idiotic with respect to his
daughter?

But of course half the evils in the world are those which never happen.
No doubt this creature was a myth.

“At least it will be an adventure,” she exclaimed. “And think of the
scare lines in the morning papers: ‘Long-lost heiress discovered in
Irish cabin.’ ‘Peasant girl, aged twenty, a peer’s daughter.’”

“Well, Charlotte, if any unexpected good luck had fallen to _you_, I
think I’d not have jeered and laughed.”

“Dear old Owen!”--and she patted his arm--“did I jeer and laugh? I beg
your pardon, but the idea is so grotesque I cannot get to face it,
and it all seems so _funny_. You know I’ve an extraordinary sense of
humour; it bubbles up in spite of me, like a kettle on the boil! In my
mind’s eye, when I see you so tall, erect, and dignified, with a wild
and tattered Irish colleen hanging to your arm, I really cannot feel
serious; but you know very well, dear, that my heart is in the right
place! I suppose”--and she paused and looked up in his face--“you would
not like me to go with you?”

This was, as she was well aware, a perfectly safe offer.

“No, no, I must be off. No time to lose. Pray do not mention the
matter to a soul. I’ll write and wire. Good-bye”; and despite her
protestations that she would come with him and help him to pack, he
waved her a denial and a valediction.

As she heard the garden gate click her ladyship scrambled once
more into the hammock, lit a cigarette, and abandoned herself to
contemplation.

No, no; if it really came to anything, if the story were true, if this
journey provided her with a stepdaughter, it would be too detestable.
How she would hate the commotion, the gossip, and--the _girl_!



CHAPTER XIV


It was a soft and exquisite autumn afternoon. A delicate blue haze
lay over the hills; the dense, dark woods were steeped in breathless
silence, and the only sound that caught the ear, was the rattle of
a reaping machine. As Lord Mulgrave and Mr. Usher turned down the
long, straight road leading to Foley’s Corner, the earl was livid,
his expression was set; evidently he was struggling in the grip
of some vehement emotion, and the name of this disturbing element
was “suspense.” Would it be true? or false? Would it be Joseline’s
daughter? or some raw, uncouth stranger? Was it the wild-goose chase
his wife had predicted, or the pursuit and capture of happiness? Oh,
these next ten minutes would mean so much to him; he almost felt, this
self-contained man, as if he were treading on the very boundaries of
life and death.

“Joseline’s daughter,” he was saying to himself. “Joseline’s daughter.”

Mr. Usher, instinctively aware that his companion was in a highly
strung and nervous condition, like the wise little man he was, held his
peace; yes, even when they came within full view of the slated house,
with its commonplace white face half hidden by a veil of crimson roses.

“There she is!” he exclaimed abruptly.

Yes; standing at the farthest side from them, attended by a terrier,
feeding a multitude of bold and presumptuous poultry, stood Mary
herself.

“See, now! that’s all I have for ye,” she declared, as she tossed the
last crumbs away, and a race ensued between a strong-limbed cochin and
a dissipated-looking hen turkey. The bang of the gate caused her to
turn her head, and she beheld, to her surprise, the “little grey man,”
as she called him, and a fine, tall gentleman; and little did she guess
how deeply he was agitated.

“Here I am again, Mary!” announced Mr. Usher, with an off-hand air. “I
thought, as we were just passing, we would look in and bid you the time
of the day!”

“And kindly welcome.” As she spoke she glanced up at the stranger; he
was awfully white, and his eyes, as he looked into hers, seemed to
pierce down to her very heart. “What ailed the poor gentleman?” she
wondered; “was he taken bad?” Yes; he suddenly sat down on a bench
outside the door, and, in a husky tone, asked for a “glass of water.”

He really seemed faint and come over, and Mary hastened into the house,
and presently returned with a brimming tin porringer.

As he sipped it, the hand which held the porringer shook visibly, and
Mr. Usher, in order to make a diversion, inquired--

“How is your mother to-day, Mary?”

Lord Mulgrave started violently.

“Deed then, your honour,” she replied, “she is in a way better. She is
sitting up, and the pains are gone, but her head is bothersome.”

From within a shrill old voice called out querulously:

“What are you after? Who is it that’s talking to your ladyship?”

“There it is!” she ejaculated. “The head of the poor thing is not
right. Maybe”--hesitating--“you’ll come inside? or will the other
gentleman?”

“Thank you,” he interrupted, “yes--yes, if you will permit me, I should
like to see your--Mrs. Foley.”

Mary instantly pushed back the half-door, and ushered in the visitors.

Old Katty was seated in a comfortable chair near the window. On her lap
lay a peculiarly complacent white cat, whose loud purrings testified to
its supreme satisfaction, although she had the fur half singed off one
side, and was in appearance the very lowest of the lower order of the
great tribe, with a thin, pointed head, and a disgracefully dirty face.

Mrs. Foley, on the other hand, presented the remains of remarkably good
breeding and good looks--slender and erect, with well-cut features,
wavy black hair, but slightly powdered with grey, and dark, deep-set,
tragic eyes. She bore but scant resemblance to her half-sister--the
sandy, mealy-skinned, peevish Mrs. Grogan--and had made the more
successful match of the two sisters.

“Here’s two gentlemen, mother!” was Mary’s somewhat vague introduction.

Mrs. Foley slowly turned her great melancholy eyes, first on Mr. Usher
and then on his companion. As she gazed she suddenly seized the arms
of her chair, rose to her feet and cried, “God help me! ’tis the earl
himself!” and she trembled violently from head to foot.

“Now, can’t ye sit down, mother,” protested Mary, “and don’t be
exciting yourself. Sure, ’tis only a chance friend of the visitors from
the ‘Glenveigh’ as has looked in.”

Mrs. Foley threw herself back in her chair, and, rocking to and fro,
began to wail and sob.

“Oh, my sin has found me out. Wirrah, wirrah, asthue! My sin has found
me out! You’ve come to put me in jail and take her away at last.”

“Katty Foley,” he replied, “I will do you no injury in any way, you may
be certain of that”--and his voice was strong and encouraging. “But I
implore you to tell me the truth.”

“Aye, your honour,” she moaned, “I will so, and sure, haven’t I been
telling it this twelvemonth, and not a soul will believe me!”

“I will believe you, I promise you on my honour.”

“Ye may think I am mad, but it was only _bad_ I was; yer lordship will
remember when I was sent for to take the poor little motherless babe?”

He nodded his head gravely.

“Oh, it was a fair and lovely darlin’, and so fine and healthy; but
my own little girl grew droopy and pined--I’ve had four, and I never
reared one. It killed me to see them just fading off and my heart
withering along with them. When my little Mary--God rest her!--died,
quite sudden, I was nearly crazy, but that other little one was a
consolation, and as I lay in the bed I made up my mind I’d keep her
for my own. Oh, wasn’t I the wicked woman? I had no scruple. Oh, may
the saints pity me! But the little live warm child just caught me by
the heart”--her voice rose to a wail of agony; “_how_ could I send her
away, and sit again by the empty cradle?”

She came to a pause, fighting for breath and overcome by the violence
of her emotion.

“And how did you do it?” he inquired in a low voice.

“I kep’ my own baby well covered up, and the room within dark; and John
telegraphed over, and there was a great stir, and a mighty gay little
funeral; and no one knew--for young babies is so similar--that it was
my own little girlie, I laid in the beautiful white and silver coffin
under the flowers.”

“Tell me”--leaning forward as he spoke--“did no one ever suspect you?”

“Sorra a wan, but Mike over beyant at Lota. When he saw the child
growing up he would come to the gate there and just stand and look over
at her and then at _me_, in a way that put the fear of death in me. You
see, he had worked for her ladyship; he saw the _likeness_; he saw her
walking, living, talking image. Sure, don’t you see it, sir, yourself?”

“Yes, I do,” he asserted gravely.

“And what are you going to do with me and her?” she asked, in a broken
voice.

“I intend to take her home,” he said quietly.

“Sir, if I’d suspicioned you’d have cared, I’d never have kep her from
ye all these years. I surely believed ye thought yerself well shut of
her. For you will remember as you were terribly bitter against her, and
wouldn’t so much as lay an eye on her.”

“That is true, Katty; but if I had known, she would have been a
wonderful comfort to me.”

As these two talked together, Mary herself listened in white-faced,
petrified silence. Surely she was dreaming! Either that or going out
of her mind! During a sudden pause in the conversation there was not a
sound to be heard, but the distant reaping machine, and the immediate
purring of the white cat.

“Mary,” said the earl, suddenly turning to her, and speaking in a husky
voice, as he took her hand in his. “Do you understand that all your
foster-mother tells us is true, and that you are _my_ daughter?”

Here he looked hard at the little fingers which lay so limply in his
grasp, and Mary, having thrown her apron over her head, burst into a
violent storm of sobbings.

“Oh, no! Faix, I couldn’t face it! No, no, I’m not going out of this,”
she stammered in gasps behind the apron. “Sure, sir, I was born and
reared here; my life is here--not among grand folks.”

“They are your own folks, Mary,” he said gently.

“Well, anyhow”--and she flung down her screen, and flashed upon him a
pair of challenging wet eyes--“I’m no lady, and I’m dog ignorant; so
what can you do with me?”

“Love you, my dear,” he answered, in a low voice.

“Arrah, how could you? and you and me strangers--you a grand lord, and
me just a common girl with no manners, and very foolish and unhandy in
myself? I can’t even do a day’s washing; and the bread I bake turns
out like leather! I’m no good whatever here, and sure I’d be a million
times worse in a strange country!”

“You’re making an awful poor mouth about yourself, Mary asthore,” put
in the high, complaining treble of Mrs. Grogan. “Why don’t ye up and
tell his lordship how good ye are at learning--how ye were in the sixth
book, and if there’d have been a seventh, you’d be in _that_ too?--and
that learning and reading and singing and dancing comes as easy to you
as kiss me hand?”

“Sir,” said Mary, suddenly drawing herself up and confronting him--did
she but know it, with the very face and form of her mother--“I’m no
credit to ye. For God’s sake leave me here, where you found me. It
will be better for both you and me. Think of the awful scandal and
talk it will raise in this parish” (and what of the great Mulgrave
connection?), “and my mother always so respected--when people thought
it was only raving and wake in the head she was. Now, if it is _true_
what she’s after telling us, they will be saying she’d a right to be
jailed up in Tralee!”

“My dear girl,” he said, “since Mrs. Foley has declared before
witnesses and a lawyer, that you are no relation to her, but a very
near relation to _me_, do you suppose I will leave you among people
to whom you have no ties whatever? No; I am much too thankful to have
found a daughter.”

“O God! What ails Katty?” screamed Mrs. Grogan. “Glory! she’s come
over, and she’s going off in a faint and a wakeness!”

This was true. The recent scene and excitement had been too much for
the poor frail woman, and after a few weak gasps she fell back in her
chair insensible.

Cold water was procured immediately, also whisky (Mr. Usher, who looked
the last man in the world to carry a flask, produced one), and then he
and his employer went out of the cottage, leaving the women to attend
on the invalid.

As Lord Mulgrave’s eyes met those of his companion, he said--

“Yes, Usher, she is my child, and her mother’s daughter. Oh, what a
blessing and happiness to come so suddenly, when I thought that life
held no more--that nothing lay before me but the long, monotonous road
that leads to the gate of death. Now I have something to----” He paused
abruptly, and remembered himself. “You see how it is. The discovery of
an unexpected treasure has been a shock, and I’m rambling, from sheer
happiness. I will never forget, Usher, that I owe it chiefly to _you_.”

A frightened face now appeared at the half-door, and Mary said--

“Oh, sir, me mother is took awful bad in her breathing. Will ye go and
send some one for Doctor Manns? I’ve no red ticket,--but we can pay
him.”

The two visitors set off at once, and despatched a doctor post-haste
from Glenveigh, with instructions that no exertions or expense were to
be spared on behalf of Mrs. Foley.

The sick woman remained unconscious for twenty-four hours, and then
rallied; but on the morning of the third day, when Lord Mulgrave walked
over early in order to make his usual inquiries, he was met by Mary at
the gate. Her eyes were red, and her face was sodden with crying.

“Oh, sir,” she began, “sure I see you can guess!” She sobbed aloud, and
the tears poured down her pale cheeks. “She was took off in her sleep
about sunrise. Me mother is dead!”



CHAPTER XV


The letter (for it was altogether too serious and strange a story to
telegraph) which reached Lady Mulgrave, relating the fact that Mary
Foley was Joseline Dene, disturbed her to such a degree that she was
compelled to plead a shocking headache, and lunch as well as breakfast,
in her own apartments.

It took her some time to attempt to realise a stepdaughter, aged
twenty-one, Irish, uneducated, vulgar, and tawdry. _What_ could she do
with the creature? A social atrocity, a well-born deformity! A girl
with the best blood of France and England in her veins, and the ideas,
aspirations, and deportment of a kitchen-maid! Oh, she felt as if the
foundations of her position, were being upheaved.

If it were only possible to marry the creature, and get her out of the
way! But who would care to be the husband of a horror who spoke with
a common brogue, probably took sevens in gloves, dressed in emerald
green, and had a passion for turf and potatoes?

This discovery was crushing. It seemed to threaten a hopeless state
of affairs--a lifelong incubus! Yes, and an incubus who would take
the precedence of Tito, and perhaps engage the somewhat flickering
attentions of Tito’s cavaliers!--not because of what she was, but of
what she would ultimately be--Baroness Marchlyde in her own right, and
heiress of many thousands per annum. Apparently there was no mistake
about the matter. A sworn information, a legal witness! Alas! there was
no escape in that direction. If the girl had been brought up under her
father’s roof it would have been a different affair; but twenty-one
years in a dirty Irish mud cabin (impossible to dissociate the idea of
mud and dirt from anything Irish)--it was too awful to contemplate. The
abominable old foster-mother deserved to be hanged; but hanging and
capital punishment she had cleverly evaded by death!

There was one small consolation: this new, uneducated person would be
easily kept in the background; she resembled the horse and elephant,
and was entirely ignorant of her own power, and ignorant she should
remain. Lady Mulgrave was a woman who had acquired a special gift
for repressing people. In the sweetest and most charming and smiling
fashion she could administer the cruellest snubs; her rudeness of
speech and manner at times bordered on brutality. To those whom she
wished to “put down” or cast out from her circle, to any pushing
nouveau riche, or dangerous rival, her affronts were as terrible and as
ferocious, in their way, as if she were an East End virago, battering
an enemy with a chair or a saucepan.

Lady Mulgrave sent off a charming, sympathetic letter to her husband,
declaring that she was longing to welcome the dear child (lies are _so_
easy on paper!), and that in a day or two she would move south and
prepare to receive her at Westlands. She wrote the news to intimate
friends as a dead secret, and would leave it to them to break it to all
their acquaintance. “The old stock plot of a child changed at nurse
has actually been flung as a bombshell into our quiet and everyday
little family.” (This is how she began her epistle.) “Imagine poor
dear Owen, most conventional and practical of men, having a strange
grown-up daughter, Irish and uneducated, suddenly thrust into his arms!
Of course he has recognised her, claimed her, and brings her to England
very shortly; but please, dear, keep this to yourself. We don’t want
any _talk_.” When her ladyship had despatched her correspondence and
her lunch, she summoned Miss Tito to her presence. Tito came in with a
dishevelled appearance and a flushed face. She had been disturbed in a
game of tennis--a match but half decided.

“Well, mum,” she began, “are you better? What is it? Please don’t keep
me; I’m having such a ripping game, and they are waiting--Lord Bobby,
Mr. Beaufort, Julia Legge, two sets all.”

“I must detain you a few minutes to tell you a piece of family
news”--and she took up her husband’s letter, two sheets closely
written. “What do you say to a sister?”--and she looked over at Tito.

“A sister!” repeated the girl, with a laugh, “a sister-in-law you mean;
I suppose she will be a necessary evil?”

“No, but ‘necessary evil’ is a capital name for the new addition to our
family”--and in a few pungent and rapid sentences, Miss Dawson was made
acquainted with the facts.

First she opened her eyes, and then her mouth, and stood staring
dumbfounded, and totally unable to speak. Next she tore off her hat,
flung it on a table, and cast herself into a chair.

“It’s not a joke, is it, mummy?”

“No indeed, but deadly earnest. Could anything be more unexpected,
inconvenient and _odious_? Is not it too awful?”

“Yes; but I cannot get it into my head. What shall you do?”

“Make the best of it, of course.”

“Fancy a common, low, Irish creature! Oh, I hope she won’t expect me to
kiss her, or to be seen about with her!”

“You had better be civil to her, Tito, though I grant you it is hard to
have an interloper forced on one. She will make us three women--such an
uncomfortable number in the carriage and at the opera; and, of course,
she takes precedence of you.”

“Well, anyway, she won’t take any pals from me, or any partners. I
should think she cannot come out, or be in the least presentable, until
she has learnt how to dress and behave herself. I suppose she has never
owned a pocket-handkerchief or a tooth-brush. Can she read and write?”

“Of course. Your father is delighted. Well, it is only natural. But----”

“But we are _not_. And it’s only natural, eh, mum? There! they are
calling me. I must fly. Shall I tell them?”

“No-o; only Lady Maxwelton and the girls privately. She is her aunt! It
will ooze out presently. There will be the usual nine days’ wonder. We
must put up with that.”

Tito picked up her hat and went over to a glass, settled her ruffled
hair with both hands, and pinned on the picturesque pink muslin
headgear, and stared at herself with a critical expression.

No--although her eyes were good and her dark hair thick, and curly,
her nose, as she said herself, was all wrong--she was not pretty, only
fascinating and fetching. She had no fear that the coming companion
would supplant her. She felt serenely confident that no one would
compare her with an awkward, ignorant country girl, even although she
_was_ an earl’s daughter.

“I suppose I shall have to sit with my back to the horses in future,”
she exclaimed, “and walk behind her ladyship into a room! But I haven’t
got to share my allowance, or my maid, or partners. After all, perhaps
I may like her very much; there’s nothing bad that might not be worse.
Yes,” to a servant who had entered, “I’m coming--coming this moment.”

Meanwhile, Mary--she could not get accustomed to her new name--had left
Foley’s farm the evening of Katty’s death, and had been carried off to
the “Glenveigh Arms” by her father. Here Miss Usher had been her true
and kind friend, and endeavoured to comfort and console her, in what,
in the lady’s experience, was an unparalleled situation.

The girl was heart-broken at the death of a woman who was no relation,
who had actually stolen her and brought her up in a station different
to the one in which she was born; who had robbed her for years of her
patrimony and her parent, as well as her position and wealth; yet Mary
had no desire to be claimed. She shrank from “his lordship,” as she
called him, and earnestly pleaded to be permitted “to live for the rest
of her life, according,” as the Prayer-book says, “to its beginning.”
Her bewildered father was at his wits’ end. All his newly-found
daughter did, when in his society, was to weep, and weep, and weep! She
most urgently desired to attend the wake, and passionately protested
that if she were not present, people would “talk,” and it would raise a
terrible scandal in the county!

But no. Lord Mulgrave, although exceedingly anxious to please her in
every way, was firm. It was not befitting that his daughter should be
present at a wake. In every possible manner Mrs. Foley’s funeral would
be conducted with respect--the Foley family should be benefited; but
Mary must endeavour to remember that she had no real connection with
them--and was Lady Joseline Dene.

“Lady Joseline Dene!” cried she. “I just _hate_ the likes of her!”--and
she got up precipitately! and rushed away to her own room, where she
buried her head in the bedclothes.

“There, you see. And what can I do?” he cried, appealing to Miss Usher;
and his tone expressed despair.

“Leave her to Mrs. Hogan of the hotel,” replied the lady; “she will
talk to her in her own fashion, and by-and-by, when she has had a
good rest--you know she has been sitting up nursing Katty for three
whole nights--she will be different. At present she is overwrought
and out of herself. It is a startling change for a girl--much less
one of her impulsive and passionate nature--to lose an identity and a
mother, and to find a father, all within the same week. Give her time,
a good sleep, and some nourishing food. I should certainly permit her
to attend the funeral, and I would arrange for her to have a long
interview with Mike Mahon; he has been haunting the hotel. By-and-by he
will turn her thoughts to her own mother in a manner, and in speech, we
could never emulate.”

“That is an excellent idea. Yes, she must then begin to realise things
a little. At present, of course, she is suffering from want of rest,
from grief, and from the first sad wrench. At present----”

“At present she is like some newly-caught bird,” continued Miss Usher,
“most miserably unhappy.”

“I suppose every bliss has its drawback. This, which has been a supreme
joy to me, is agony to her!”

“Leave her to herself for two or three days, and you will see a
difference; her own friends will be your strongest allies. They will be
so proud of her rank and uplifting that no matter _how_ she desired it,
they would never suffer her to return to Foley’s Corner, and live among
them as Mary of the gate.”

“Thank you, Miss Usher; you give me wonderful comfort and
encouragement, and I will take your advice--do all you say: go with her
to the funeral, and allow her to remain here for a time. I _had_ hoped
to carry her off to-morrow. Of course, I have a great deal to do, as
your brother points out. I must immediately make a new will, and I have
to prepare my friends, and----”

“Would you permit me to offer yet another piece of advice?”

“Certainly. I shall be only too glad to accept it.”

“Leave Mary here with me for, say, a fortnight, or even a month, and
then return and fetch her. Yes, it may be terribly against the grain,
but it will well repay you in the long run.”

“How?” and he looked at her sharply.

“You see, if you take the girl away now, a grief-stricken, reluctant
captive, who has not had time to realise herself and her new
position, she will fret and pine--she will receive, and give, a wrong
impression.”

“But she is beautiful--you admit that?”

“Yes, but she is Mary Foley; she does not know how to dress, or enter a
room, or arrange her hair, or even behave at table. She drinks out of a
saucer; she uses her own knife for butter and salt.”

“May I ask how you know?”

“I had tea with her once,” replied Miss Usher drily. “Besides this,
I would help her to weed the too forcible expressions out of her
vocabulary--expressions such as ‘For the love of God,’ ‘The saints
protect me,’ ‘Faix,’ ‘Bedad,’ ‘Musha,’ and ‘Begorra.’ Of course, a
month is not long enough to supply the necessary instruction, but it
will clip off the sharp corners and give her a little polish before she
faces the severe ordeal of being presented to Lady Mulgrave and your
relations. To leave her for a short time among her old surroundings
would be a true kindness to her. She will have by that time become
accustomed to her new character, and may have attained a certain amount
of self-possession and confidence.”

“All right then, Miss Usher; but the kindness is entirely yours. If you
will continue to be her guide, counsellor, and friend, you lay me under
a lifelong obligation. I will return home the day after the funeral and
will leave you in sole charge. Shall you remain here?”

“Yes, that Mary may presently see herself as others--her old
associates--see her.”

“Miss Usher, you are a clever woman.”

“No, no, only sensible. Bence has our brains.”

“Of course you will have a private sitting-room, a carriage, and a
maid?”

“Oh, no maid yet,” she protested--“we are not quite ready for that;
but we will be glad of this sitting-room and an outside car. And now
I’m going to suggest something funny. Please send her a gold watch
and chain. I gather that to an Irish peasant--and she is that--a gold
watch and a long chain represent the visible sign of a great rise in
life. It will come home to her as a most tangible proof that she is a
girl of some position. Every time she looks at the watch she will be
reminded of this fact. The watch and chain will give her proper pride
and consequence.”

“I cannot imagine it; but you know women, and I do not.”

“You see, you must approach your daughter through the _Mary Foley_ side
of her character--touch her sensibilities as the peasant girl. There is
one thing for which you have to be devoutly thankful.”

“Yes, and what is that?” he asked gravely.

“She has no lover.”

“Good heavens!”--and he grew suddenly white. “What an awful idea!”

“But surely a very commonplace idea. She is the beauty, or, at any
rate, the _boast_ of the county. She is twenty-one; she might have been
married. Think of that!”

“Oh, I could not entertain such a horrible notion. Yes, I own I have
much to be thankful for.”

“Her inherited disposition, the race in her veins, has undoubtedly been
her safeguard. She, as old Mike declared, was always for ‘picking and
choosing like a born lady.’ Her suitors were beneath her standard; she
is too fastidious.”

“Thank God for that!” he exclaimed, with pious emphasis.

The following afternoon, the funeral of Katty Foley took place. It
was an immense affair, for not only was the whole neighbourhood
represented, but cars, asses’ cars, and even turf cars, came laden for
miles and miles--not so much to see the last of Katty Foley as the
first of Lady Joseline! And Lady Joseline was present--accompanied by
her father. Here she would have her own way, being dressed, or rather
draped, in black--yes, and in the crêpe so dear to the heart of the
Irish lower classes. Her gown was of heavy material that broiling
August afternoon; but then, she had not been obliged to walk; she came
in a carriage, it was noted, like the real lady she was--now. All
eyes were concentrated on the girl as she stepped out and followed
her father into the wild, overgrown graveyard which surrounded an
old ruined church. She wore a hat, and a long crêpe veil with a deep
border, and a pair of loose black kid gloves. Yes, they were proud of
her! She looked a lady, every inch. She was crying too, as any one
could see, and not a bit uplifted, for all the neighbours could hear
her sobbing and sniffing behind the crêpe fall. His lordship was a
fine-looking, upstanding man, grave and erect, as became a lord. It was
a terrible pity he wasn’t Irish; but anyhow, his daughter was Irish
born, and a credit to him, and the country.

Taking it all in all, he had behaved handsomely to Katty Foley, and
the burying, which was of the best--a hearse and plumes, a beautiful
coffin, and two coaches--was at his expense.

There was a good deal of whispering and nudging when the ceremony
had concluded. Mary threw back the long veil, looked about her, and
exhibited to the hundreds of watching eyes, a tear-stained and utterly
miserable countenance.

In spite of her father’s overawing presence, she was immediately
encompassed by a crowd of friends. They swarmed round her, shook her
by the hand, looked hard into her eyes to see if they were proud? No;
only very sad, and wet with tears. More fluent than sympathy and regret
for Katty, came warm expressions of amazement, and congratulation; but
these were somewhat jarring, and found no echo in Mary’s heart. Tom
Kelly looked sheepish, and hung back. To think of his having made up
to a lady born! When he glanced at his lordship he felt half inclined
to run and hide behind one of the tombstones. Old Betty the Brag was
present; she was getting on for eighty, but still wonderfully active.
“Oh, me own little darlin’ fair creature,” she screeched, in her shrill
old voice, “and hadn’t she the great nerve to steal ye, and keep ye out
of your own?”

Mike Mahon, the author and originator of the great discovery, remained
aloof, gazing with melancholy pride upon her mother’s daughter.

At last the earl, who had been surprisingly long-suffering, made a move
to depart, and the crowd wrung Mary by the hand, with every description
of English and Irish benediction. Hitherto she had been their own,
and now she was leaving them--leaving them in tears. All the same, no
bride in the country had ever received such a grand “send off” from her
home, as did Mary Foley from the old Clonlara churchyard. The crowd
streamed down _en masse_ to the gate and lined the road three deep.
“The place was black with them,” as a man subsequently described it;
“and such a commotion over a young girl was never, never seen.” There
was no thought of the poor corpse who had just been laid to rest. Every
interest was centred on the young woman who was about to enter another
state of life.

All her friends and acquaintances realised that Mary had taken leave of
her former station, when she drove away in the pair-horse brougham, now
rapidly passing out of sight.

The occasion was unprecedented. The crowd felt inclined to shout and to
cheer, but a glance at the hearse, and the near sound of falling earth,
restrained their enthusiasm. Presently, they scattered each to their
place, or their own little shebeen, there to marvel, to discourse, and
to prophesy, concerning Mary Foley’s future.



CHAPTER XVI


It was wonderful how an old maid like Miss Usher had developed such
a motherly heart, as well as so much worldly wisdom. She prudently
abstained from intruding on her companion’s grief, and left her to
enjoy several good comfortable cries, and talks with Mrs. Hogan. She
accompanied Mary on a car to see Lota one Sunday, and left her in
the hands of old Mike, who proudly escorted her round the place, and
pointed out the terrace, the room where she was born, and gave her
the first and, needless to say, most eloquent, description of her own
mother; and the disconsolate girl began at last to realise, as she
stood listening to him, this mother whom she had never seen.

“An’ sure ye have the hair and eyes and hands, aye, and the very walk
of her,” declared Mike. “Though Katty brought ye up on a flagged floor,
ye see these things come out in the appearance.”

“And so you have guessed it all the time?”

“Is it guess?” he repeated indignantly. “Sure, haven’t I _known_ it.”

“And that was why you used to come and stare at me in that strange way?”

“To be sure it was. And what else?”

“And I have never seen her!”

“It would be hard for ye, seein’ she giv’ her life for yours. But when
ye look in the glass ye see her. I’m told when his lordship first laid
eyes on ye he got a terrible turn. He’s gone home for the present, and
left ye with the ould wan over there,” indicating Miss Usher, who,
under a distant tree, was happy with a book. “An’ for why?”

“Because I didn’t want to stir, I think, and I made so strange----”

“Now what balderdash is that, yer telling me?” cried Mike.

“Man alive, isn’t he a stranger? Ye’ll not deny that. If he’d let me,
I’d go back and live in Foley’s Corner, this very blessed hour.”

“Would ye now!” he rejoined, with an expression of sovereign contempt.
“And all by yerself, too! Bridgie Grogan is going home at wance, wid
her pocket well lined. Faix, that was the easily earned money! His
lordship also giv’ her all the furniture and stock, you having no call
for it. The place is to be shut up, and not a hate left in it. Bridgie
says it’s entirely too lonely for her, is Foley’s Corner.”

“But suppose I _chose_ to stay on?--then what would ye say?”

“That you had a right to be taken out of it, and put in the county
lunatic asylum.”

“But surely the lease, and the cows and pigs, were coming to me?”

“An’ for why? Ye were no relation to Katty whatever, and isn’t Bridgie
her own sister?”

Mary stared at him in silence. Yes, he was right; the house was Mrs.
Grogan’s, and the door of that home was closed to her. She was shut out
from her old life in the cottage, and must accept her new quarters in
the castle. For the first time since Katty’s death she began to catch
a faint glimpse of herself, as “Lady Joseline.”

“I expect you’ll have Bridgie coming round to see yer ladyship this
evening. She might bring you a few bits of things and your duds. I know
she’s aching to get off home.”

“Who is going to have the cat?”

“The white cat, ye mane? ’Tis no bargain for any one; an ugly
blackguard of a thing. I’m thinking the lake will take him, as it has
done his betters.”

“No, no, Mike, I’ll have him! the poor angashore.”

“What’s that yer saying?”

“Yes, and give him whatever home I have, as long as he lives.”

“Faix, it’s well known he has nine lives! You and the white cat! Well,
to be sure. A nice ornament he is to be transported over to England.
I’m thinking they’ll get a cruel bad notion of the breed of Irish cats.
But maybe he’s dead by now.”

“No. And I want you to go up to Biddy Grogan’s and tell her to bring
him this evening in a basket, will ye?”

“’Tis a quare fancy ye have! But I’ll do yer commands. I wish it
was meself yer ladyship was taking along wid her instead of an ould
scorched tom-cat, wid a bad character.”

“Do not call me yer ladyship!”

“Arrah! an’ what else am I to call ye?”

“Mary.”

“Sure, how can I put such a lie in me mouth as _that_?--yer name being
Joseline, and a quare one, too, and it was given ye within there in
the drawing-room”--pointing to the apartment which harboured the
boat--“and you were christened by the Reverend William Scott, in a
great hurry, and out of the General’s old china punch-bowl.”

“How do you know all that?”

“Because the windows, as ye see, are big, and I was working round the
flower-beds. And sure, didn’t all the world know ye were baptised that
day; her ladyship, your mother, wished it. I saw ye; we all did, for
his lordship was the proud man. Ye were wrapped up in a white shawl,
and had a head on you as red as a carrot, and a screech out of ye like
a peacock. More betoken, there was a peacock sitting on the roof; it
came over from Lord Warner’s place. When I saw it, the heart crossed in
me, for them’s, as ye know, the _unlucky_ birds. Sure enough that night
her ladyship took bad. Oh, it would have made a great differ to you,
aye and to every one, if she had lived; and by all accounts she found
it terribly hard to go and leave ye all.”

“Who told you?” inquired the girl under her breath.

“Oh, I heard it. When she knew she had but a couple of hours to spare,
she sent for his lordship and talked, talked, talked, striving her best
to comfort him, and telling him to be brave, with her very last breath.
Oh, ’twas she had a spirit, and when she went it made small differ to
her--sure, she was always an angel.”

“She was buried over in England?”

“Yes, and with Katty Foley’s three-months baby lying alongside of her.”

“Well, I’m glad I’ve come here, Mike, and seen this place and had a
talk with you--you who found it all out. Somehow it makes things seem
more _real_. But I’ll never get used to it--never; and that’s as true
as I am standing here.”

“Oh, yes, ye will; only take your time. When you get fine dresses,
and learn talk and manners, it will be as easy to you as eating your
dinner.”

“But sure, I’ve no talk, and no manners, Mike.”

“You’ll soon learn them, me dear, for ye see it’s not as if you were a
real common country girl; ye have her ladyship’s manners and talk _in_
ye somewhere, and they are bound somehow or other to come out! I tell
ye this, that in a year’s time you won’t know yourself, and I won’t
know you.”

“But I will always know _you_, Mike; and you must come over to England,
and see me, if I am to have any say.”

“I think you’ll find you’ll have a good say.”

“Perhaps with his lordship, for--for”--with an effort--“my mother’s
sake; but the ladies.”

“Sure, aren’t you a lady, me darlin?”

“No, no! I feel so frightened of all that’s before me.”

“And what would frighten ye? Keep a stout heart--be a good girl; what
harm can come to you? One would think they’d ate yer!”

“People have a way of doing that, sometimes.”

“I know what ye mane--some bad ones, that never has a good word for a
crature, and are always chewing up others and passing remarks; but the
likes of them are not among the gentry!” (Poor simple Mike!) “All your
friends is proud for ye, but sorry for themselves, ye being taken up
out of their station. There’s one, howsomever, that will be glad of yer
uprise, when he hears it.” Here Mike paused, and his expression became
shrewd and personal.

Mary stared at him interrogatively, and then a sudden tinge of pink,
flooded her pale face.

“Ye mane Mr. Ulick,” she said boldly. “I’d just hate----Whist!” for
here Miss Usher broke in upon the _tête-à-tête_, which had lasted more
than an hour. It seemed to her, that the time had been well employed.
Mary’s expression was not quite so dismal; there was a little colour
in her face, a spark of animation in her glance. She accepted a bunch
of flowers from Mike, and as Mike and Miss Usher moved away together,
talking, they suddenly noticed that the girl lagged behind.

“Take no notice,” he muttered; “she’s coming to herself nicely. I think
she’s picking a pebble off the terrace where her mother used to walk,
aye, and a bit of a rose from the house. Pass no remark whatever, but
ye may take it from me, that it’s a good sign. The lady bred in her
bones is bound to come out _yet_----”



CHAPTER XVII


As they swung along homewards, one on each side of a well-hung
jaunting-car, with a slashing four-year-old between the shafts, Miss
Usher and her companion never exchanged a single remark. The elder
lady was reflecting that she had done a capital afternoon’s work in
introducing Mary to her birthplace, and she felt confident that the
words she had heard from old Mike had sunk down into her heart, and
brought the girl to realise what had never yet dawned upon her: that
only by birth--the mere accident of birth--did she belong to this
beautiful, romantic, green and blue country--for if the trees and
pastures were emerald, the mountains were royal blue, the skies cobalt.

The crafty lady determined that she would not break the spell, but give
Mary ample time to meditate on these matters, and presently adjust
herself to her strange circumstances; she must now begin to see about
some suitable clothes for the girl, and to offer, cautiously and by
degrees, a few lessons on manners and deportment. After all, it would
not be an onerous task; in fact, to an old maid with a warm heart,
hitherto centred on her brother and a white cockatoo--it was a pleasure
to interest herself in this young life, for the time entrusted to
her care. Indeed she felt her own youth renewed as an eagle’s! Lord
Mulgrave had left them but one week, and already Mary was a little
less Mary Foley than formerly. She drove out in a hat (swathed in
crêpe), no longer in her “hair.” She had cast off with joy her aprons
and cobbler’s shoes, and taken quite meekly to black thread stockings,
a black silk parasol, and kid gloves; also she often closed the door
when she entered a room, and did not now peel her potato on the
table-cloth, or drink tea out of her saucer. Yes, already there was
an improvement, the girl was adaptable and quick to learn--she never
required to be told anything twice; her personal tastes were curiously
and unexpectedly refined; her petticoats and stockings were certainly
coarse, but as neat and trim as those of any fine lady; and as to
pocket-handkerchiefs, they were almost as fine as Miss Usher’s own.

Whilst the good, kind woman was occupied with these reflections, Mary
was engaged in a similar manner. Her active, imaginative brain was
filled with the picture of the beautiful lady who had died at Lota.
Could she really be _her_ mother? Was it true that she was like her?
She pulled off her glove and gravely considered her hand. Certainly it
was small--too small for dairy work--and the fact had been cast up to
her! If that marvellous beauty were her mother, oh! she was a shocking
falling off; a common, ignorant, low creature, who did not know how to
talk, or walk, or sit, or eat, like the quality--and who was too old
to learn. But if she was this other girl (even to herself, she would
not say “Joseline Dene”)--and people seemed to believe it, and Father
Daly had been very eager about her taking up her birthright, and her
duties--she must learn. With the help of God she was bound to do her
best, not forgetting her old friends, as he had said, nor disgracing
the beautiful lady that had brought her into the world, and whose
place, late as it was, she must endeavour to fill. Oh, but what was
the use of talking or thinking. She never could be anything but Mary
Foley. The driver of the car happened to be a certain Patsie Maguire,
Mary’s former partner, friend, declared (and declined) lover. He too
had his private meditations, which now and then stung him so sharply
that he laid the unnecessary whip, on the sleek and thin-skinned flanks
of the flying chestnut, and almost invited a catastrophe. Here was he,
by the stress of circumstances, actually driving for hire her ladyship,
no less! Mary Foley--the great lord’s daughter, who was soon quitting
Ireland and him. She, his partner, his girl, his intended wife--for of
course if let alone, she’d have come round, and married him. And what
would hinder him now, to let the young red mare run away, accidentally
on purpose, and break their three necks? The present situation was
enough to make a man mad. Was he not attending in the capacity of a
servant, a girl whom hitherto he had considered a little beneath him in
position? His mother, the daughter of a well-to-do publican, rented a
small farm, had been brought up on a carpeted floor, and kept even now
her own cover car. And Mary Foley, was just a good-looking, gay little
creature, with fifty pounds fortune. Of course, every one knew he could
have done far better, but _she_ had such pretty, joking ways with her;
she had made a fool of him, and faix, by all accounts he was in good
company! Then before anything was fixed comes this sort of fairy tale,
and “Mary at the corner” is turned at one stroke into her ladyship, and
he himself driving her like any hired boy. When she got up on the car
she had just nodded at him, her face as long as a ha’porth of bacon,
and said-- “Is that yer self, Pat? How are ye?”

And not another word; and coming home she had never opened her mouth
once. He’d make her do that, if it was only screaming--for a pin’s
head, he’d upset the machine.

Pat--“handsome Pat” as he was called--was about seven-and-twenty,
and certainly as good-looking a fellow as could be met with in a
day’s walk--and not indifferent to the fact. His was the real type
of Celtic face--dark blue eyes, dark hair and brows, well-shaped,
somewhat refined features, white teeth, and eyelashes so long and so
effective, that to a London débutante they might have proved an asset
of extraordinary value.

Pat was capable and active when he chose, but innately lazy and
self-indulgent. He liked dancing, he liked horses, and porter, and
singing, and girls. The girls liked him--indeed so did many people, for
when Pat was in the humour, his manner was irresistible. His mother and
eldest sister kept the farm, where at present he was out of favour, and
had taken on a job at the hotel. His mother adored her handsome Pat--so
clever, so well schooled, and so smart! His shirts were invariably
white as snow, his clothes well mended. Once he had taken it into his
head to go to America, where he remained one year, and then returned,
because, as he said, “His mother was dying after him”; also because
(though this he did not divulge) the country did not suit him. It
was true that good money was to be earned, but the work was hard and
continuous, and the price of everything was so high, that it swallowed
up the dollars. It suited him better to have smaller earnings and
easier labour; to live at home, and be a comfort to his mother. Pat
and his sister, an industrious, strong-willed, hot-tempered woman, did
not always agree. Now and then a domestic storm arose. Occasionally
Lizzie’s tongue drove Pat abroad, and he went off and took service.
He enjoyed the bit of change for one thing, and for another, he was
pleasantly alive to the fact that, during his absence, his mother
was leading Lizzie a devil of a life, and paying off his score with
interest.

Having arrived safely at the “Glenveigh Arms,” Miss Usher descended in
a gingerly manner from the car, and walked straight into the hall in
search of letters.

Here was Pat’s opportunity, and leaning over to Mary, he thus addressed
her in a low voice.

“Am I never to have a word with you again, asthore, and you going off
for ever and ever, and taking the heart out of my body along with you?”

“I’m not going yet--no, nor soon. But sure, what’s the good of talking
nonsense about yer heart? To me own knowledge, you’ve given it away
twenty times.”

“It will be a relief to me to spake, anyhow. Are ye going up to the
corner again?”

“Of course I am--to see my aunt Bridgie and the place, and to fetch
away the cat.”

“I’ll bring him down to-night for you. You have only to say the word.”

“Well, then, maybe you might as well, Pat; and you must mind and butter
his feet, and put him in one of the old egg-baskets. I’m taking him to
England.”

“Faix, he’ll be an elegant souvenir! But every one to his taste, as the
monkey said, when he kissed the parrot! Whist now, there’s Bridgie
Grogan sitting within the hall a-waiting to see ye. I believe she has
all cleared out at the house above already. She’s mad to be off home
wid her takings. That wan will talk ye out of yer shoes! Mind, you and
me must have a few words together before ye go--for the sake of old
times.”

Mary nodded her head in assent, and the frantic chestnut, who had been
champing, jumping, and tearing up the ground, was at last suffered to
fling herself into the stable yard.

The news of Mary Foley’s sudden transformation flew round the county
like wild-fire. Barky heard it in the stables, and brought it to his
mother at dinner.

“Now Barky,” she cried, “you’ve been drinking again! and you know you
promised me on your honour, not to touch whisky between meals.”

“I’m as sober as a judge, so don’t be flying into one of your tantrums
for nothing; it’s the solid truth I’m telling you.”

“What, Mary below, the daughter of Lord Mulgrave! And Kitty bringing
her up as her own! Well”--and she gasped--“I don’t believe it.”

“You can please yourself about that, but it’s true.”

“I remember them at the cottage,” she returned, “and I went and called,
but they just left cards here. They wanted no visitors. She was a
pretty, Frenchy-looking young woman and--yes--Mary has a look of her.
I wonder I never noticed it. But who would dream of looking for _her_
child in Katty Foley’s smoky cabin?”

“If for it’s smoky, ’tis your own fault. You never will do a thing to
the chimneys--often as you are asked.”

“Yes, I see the likeness. And there was always something queer and
independent about Mary, that I could never quite make out; she was
never shy, or embarrassed.”

“Now you have it. She’s an aristocrat.”

“And what a match for some one!”

“It’s a pity you snuffed out that affair with Ulick, or she might be
your daughter-in-law this day.”

“Of course she is impossible-a mere ignorant peasant. What an awful
situation for the poor Mulgraves!”

“Oh, she’s a bright enough girl. I daresay she can write, and speak, as
well as any--and hold her own too.”

“Who told you this story?”

“Tom Whelan; he had it from Mrs. Hogan at the ‘Arms’; the lawyer and
his sister are there, and his lordship too.”

“Really! Oh, then, you must leave a card on him to-morrow.”

“You and your card-leaving, mother! Maybe you will go and leave one on
Mary.”

“Of course; as soon as she is established in her new position I shall
certainly call; it will be my duty to do so, considering that she was
reared here, and lived on our land for twenty-one years.”

“And has kept you going in your trade of eggs and chickens. This is no
doubt one of her chickens I’m eating this minute.”

“I wish you would marry her, Barky.”

“And I don’t. In the first place, she wouldn’t look at me; she is
accustomed to refusing; and in the second, she’s too much coxy and
fiery. I tried to kiss her once, and she left the print of her five
fingers on my face.”

“You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Barky.”

“Why? I’d kiss any girl that would let me. Now if I’d been Ulick, it
would have been _all right_”.

“Maybe it will be Ulick--yet.”

“No, mammy. Use your common sense. She’s as much above him now, as he
was above her before; it’s like a see-saw. Now I’m up, now you are
down.”

“Ulick is good enough for any one!”

“Faith! you don’t think so when he is here; he is not nearly good
enough for you. You have always a pick out of him!”

“I mean as a match!”

“Such as an earl’s only daughter, with, say, ten thousand a year--oh,
stop coddin, now!”

“Barky, where _do_ you get hold of such horrible expressions?”

“Anyhow, Ulick is in India,” he continued. “Shall I telegraph out to
him, ‘Come home at once--Mary Foley is a peeress’?”

“No, she is not a peeress--and you’re an unmannerly boor!” As she
spoke, Mrs. Doran got up and pushed back her chair; and as she walked
to the door, Barky gave a loud, unfilial laugh,--

“If ye were more civil to common folk, mammy, and less civil to the
big ones, it would be better for us. Look at Aunt Nora, and the fine
fortune you lost _me_! And now Mary Foley, and the great match you lost
_Ulick_!”

“How was I to know that the old bagwoman was your aunt herself, coming
to spy on me?” she demanded passionately. “And would _any_ mother, in
her senses, allow her son to marry a common country girl off the side
of the road? Tell me that? When you talk such nonsense you drive me
mad!” and she went out and slammed the door with violence.

Mrs. Doran called in due state on Mary and Miss Usher. She sent up her
cards in proper form.

“Oh, it’s Mrs. Doran,” cried Mary. “Oh, miss, I don’t want to see her.
I can’t _bear_ her; she makes me tingle all over, ever since I was a
young one. ’Tis she is the hard bitter woman.”

“Still, she is coming to start a fresh acquaintance, with a new Mary
Foley, and you must receive her as one lady receives another.”

“She’s no lady! and I told her so to her face!”

The door opened as she spoke, and Mrs. Doran, in her best beaded mantle
and feathered toque, sailed in, now all smiles and affability.

“Well, Mary”--offering two hands--“this is indeed _great_ news. I
am so glad, and I have come as your oldest friend, to offer my warm
congratulations, and good wishes.”

“Thank you, yer ladyship!” said the girl faintly.

“Oh, _you_ are the ladyship now, Mary,” she rejoined, with an affable
smile, “and this is, I presume, Miss Usher?” And as Miss Usher was only
a legal woman, she bowed stiffly, and subsided into a chair.

“And now do tell me all about it, my dear? No one can be more
interested than I am, who have seen you all your life, and have met
your own mother.”

“It’s just this, yer ladyship--that I am not Mrs. Foley’s daughter at
all, but a nurse child she kept, and made out was her own--and buried
her girlie instead of me; and now it’s all come out.”

“And are you immensely delighted?”

“No, I am not; I’d sooner stay as I am, except for a few things. I’m
not educated, nor fit to be a lady.”

“Oh, you will soon learn, Lady Joseline,” put in Miss Usher. “It will
all come quite easy; it is so much pleasanter to go up, than down.”

Mrs. Doran stared at the speaker, and said, “And what are the few
things you wish for most?”

“Nice dresses, and books, and pretty things, and not having to wash
clothes, and scour.”

“Still, you were fond of poultry?”

“No, I never wish to see another hen; but I do love flowers.”

“I suppose you have no plans as yet?”

Mary paused and looked interrogatively at Miss Usher. “I believe we are
going to England soon.”

“Never to return, eh, Mary?” She asked persuasively, with her head on
one side.

“I don’t know.”

“I presume Lord Mulgrave has a London house?”

“That’s more than I can tell ye.”

“Because if so, my sister, Lady Barre, will call upon you at once. Will
you come up to tea to-morrow? I’ll send the carriage for you?”

Mary became scarlet. “Thank you ma’am, no.”

“No?” she repeated, in a tone of angry incredulity.

“You see,” said Miss Usher, coming to the rescue, “Mary is a little
strange as yet, and is very shy and awkward.”

“I suppose it’s only natural”--appeased. “Well, you won’t forget your
old friends, will you, my dear?”--rising to go.

“No, Mrs. Doran”--and she looked her in the face--“I won’t forget my
old--friends.”

Mrs. Doran returned the gaze with observant scrutiny--she read in
Mary’s eyes, hostility and dislike. Evidently there was nothing to be
made out of her; and presently she went rustling downstairs.

As the carriage rolled off, the girl ran to the window and said: “To
think of me! Offered a seat in that! I’d as soon have expected to be
asked to take a seat on a throne. Well, there goes the last of Mrs.
Doran, please God!”

       *       *       *       *       *

The “Glenveigh Arms” was an unpretentious hostelry, standing close to
the roadside, from which a narrow strip of gravel and a low laurel
hedge divided it--a long, plain, whitewashed house, with nothing
attractive in its appearance. Strangers little guessed how comfortable
it was within, and what a really beautiful old garden lay concealed
behind it.

Motors whirled by in a cloud of dust and ignorance, making for a fine
new tourist hotel some miles ahead. Mrs. Hogan did not approve of these
“mad” cars, that went racking and tearing through the country, killing
dogs and poultry and scaring the cattle out of their seven senses!
and made no attempt to secure their custom. The word “Garage” was not
advertised along with “Mary Hogan, Livery and Bait Stables.”

All the same, about a week after Mary’s expedition to Lota, a smart
bright red Mercédès car, containing four passengers, halted and
palpitated outside the hotel.

It contained two men in motoring coats and goggles, the chauffeur in
black leather; a valet sat beside him, and there was a certain amount
of luggage, indicating that the party was making an extensive tour. The
two gentlemen got out and went into the hotel. The tallest of them,
when he removed his mask, proved to be a man of about thirty, with a
dark, handsome face, a clean-cut profile, and a pair of sleepy eyes.
He was Captain Dudley Deverell, Lord Mulgrave’s cousin, and heir. His
companion, Sir Harry Coxford, was a tubby little round-faced man with a
red moustache and many freckles. The two travellers were ceremoniously
ushered into the drawing-room.

“No, we don’t want rooms, thanks,” said Captain Deverell, in a pleasant
drawl. “Want to see Lord Mulgrave--heard he was here.”

“His lordship left ten days ago,” said a trim, black-whiskered waiter,
who looked like a Methodist parson in evening dress. “We don’t expect
his lordship back at present.”

“No”--looking round superciliously--“I should think _not_.”

“But a--any message or letter to his lordship, will a--be forwarded to
his lordship?”

“Oh, it’s of no consequence. We were in this part of the world and
happened to hear he’d been here, and we looked in on chance, that’s
all.”

“Can I get you two gentlemen any refreshment?”

“No”--looking round the low sitting-room with narrow windows and
old-fashioned furniture.

“Lord, how it smells of musty hay!” exclaimed Sir Harry.

“And flowers,” added his friend. “I say, what roses!--yes, and a garden
at the back”--walking over. “I wonder what sort of people come here?”
and, staring out at the unexpectedly large pleasance, with its wide
gravel walks, and old-fashioned benches, “I say,” to the waiter, “what
sort of people stay here?”

“The _best_ sort, sir,” replied the waiter, who had been secretly
indignant at the bold, cheap air of these motoring gents. “People comes
here that like comfort and quiet. No cheap trippers. There’s some took
in at other hotels as Mrs. Hogan would have the hall washed after, if
they had the impudence to put a foot in it! We have our own farm, the
finest poultry in the country, fruit and vegetables, good cars and
horses on hire, and”--as a grand climax--“a _bath_-room.”

“Dear me!” exclaimed Sir Harry, putting up his eyeglass.

“Yes. At present we have his lordship’s sister’s man of business here.
I mean the man of business’ sister of his lordship.”

“The man of business’ sister of his lordship,” drawled Captain
Deverell. “What the dickens _do_ you mean?”

The cool, superior air of the “young high flyer,” as he mentally termed
him, inflamed the waiter’s wrath; his Celtic temper rose fast; he
resolved to give this contemptuous inquirer one for his nob.

“Miss Usher, sir, I mean.”

“Oh, old Usher’s sister,” said the captain, turning to his friend.
“Then”--to the waiter--“is Mr. Usher staying here too?”

“No, sir; he left with his lordship some time back.”

“Leaving Miss Usher alone?”

“Oh, no, sir. It’s not giv’ out yet exactly on the papers; but she’s
keeping company with her ladyship, his lordship’s daughter.”

Captain Deverell stared hard at the waiter, then looked at his friend
and laughed. As he resumed his goggles, he exclaimed: “This Ireland is
a funny place, isn’t it, Coxy? The land of romance, eh?”

“Yes, one must come to the back of the world for news, I see. Well, now
we really must get on. It is past four o’clock.”

And the pair tramped noisily through the hall; and presently the motor
departed with a triumphant “Tuff, tuff, tuff!”



CHAPTER XVIII


On the occasion of this visit Miss Usher happened to be laid up with
a severe cold, suspiciously akin to a touch of the “flue,” and was
nursing herself in her sitting-room. Meanwhile, her young companion had
set out for Foley’s Corner, in quest of the white cat, who, despite of
his buttered paws, daily returned to his late abode with praiseworthy
devotion. It was true that the doors and windows were closed, that
there was nothing available to eat or to drink, but nevertheless, he
was to be found sitting with pathetic patience on Katty’s window, or
making the air hideous with his melancholy caterwaulings.

Mary thought but little of the mile and a half distance, and directly
after tea she and “Rap” had departed to fetch “Whitey.” She enjoyed the
walk there, when she could be alone, and think, and as Miss Usher was
not about, she sallied forth, as in former times, in her “hair”--that
is to say, bareheaded, with her hat slung over her arm. She wore a
white spotted cotton dress-an old friend, made by an old friend--the
weather was much too warm for crêpe and wool; and the same friend,
Maggie Kane, met her, and walked part of the way with her, and said
good-bye at the cross above the corner. Maggie’s manner had been a
mixture of constraint and freedom, and Mary had begun to realise the
bitter truth of Miss Usher’s prophecy. Old comrades and schoolfellows
were changed--if she was really her ladyship, she had no call to mix
with them as one of themselves; she had a right to go away. They were
no longer at ease with Mary, nor she with them. Yes; Miss Usher’s plan
was working to admiration. Formerly she went in and out among the
neighbours, and they were only too glad to welcome Mary Foley; but this
grand Lady Joseline was another person. At one time--even three weeks
ago--Mary would have felt broken-hearted to leave them all. Now, much
as she still liked them, and much as she dreaded her future, she was
secretly impatient to depart. Wise old women had given her advice, and
Mrs. Hogan, her former patroness, had said to her privately, “See here,
Mary, me dear! ye have no part nor lot among us _now_; you’re a lady
born, and a titled lady; sure, look at your finger-nails yerself!--and
ye must just make the best of it. I’ve no call whatever to be talking
so free with ye, and I know it; but I’m fond of ye, lovey, and
proud--and so is all the countryside: and we think you should just go
quietly to your own, and get the education, and the airs, as is your
_due_.”

“But I’d ever so much rather stay here!” she protested with tears.

“But you can’t, me dear--ye cannot be fish and fowl at the wan time.
Sure, ye haven’t a soul over here belonging to yer; and it makes people
unaisy in themselves, to be sitting talking to ye, cheek by jowl, as
Mary Foley, knowing as ’tis standing up and dropping curtseys to her
ladyship as they should be half the time. Sometimes I declare when I
think of the liberties I’ve took wid ye as a young girl, I break out
into a cold sweat, saving yer presence.”

“Then I must go,” she cried. “And none of ye want me!” and she burst
into sobs. “Oh, I’d never have believed it of ye!”

“If ’twas only Mary ye wor, we all want ye; and the young boys,
especially Tom Grady, and poor Dan that’s heart-broke, and Patsie
Maguire, that’s killing himself with bad whisky for your sake.”

“Tom! Dan!” repeated the girl; and her face grew scarlet.

“Yes,--see now, the very names brings all the lady’s blood in yer body,
to yer face! ’Tis her ladyship coming out, and proud and haughty, as is
fit for an earl’s daughter.”

“An earl’s daughter!” echoed Mary. “It’s all like a dream. I was better
as I was before, a thousand times!”

“So we would have ye, my dear; but ye must make up yer mind to the
other lot in life. Faix, and it will come aisy. The ould wan above”
(she meant Miss Usher) “know’s what’s what, and will put ye in
training. I’d be entirely said and led by her if I was you. You look a
lady when ye have the hat on, and ye will _be_ a lady yit!”

Mary was thinking over this conversation as she leant against the
gate at Foley’s Corner with “Rap” and the cat sitting sedately beside
her. Miss Usher had talked of leaving as soon as her cold was better,
and as it might be that she was now standing at her lifelong post for
the last time, she fell into a dreamy meditation. The various faces
she remembered seemed to pass the gate in single file. Master Ulick,
on his bay hunter; Old Mike Daly; Kathleen Sullivan, her friend, who
died of a decline, and the match made up and all; Bridgie Curran, her
schoolfellow, whose boy was in America; Timmy Maher, who had asked her
to marry him here at this very spot; Johnny Sugrue, who was killed in
the war; and scores and scores of others. All that life was behind her,
as much as if she were dead. No one would ever come to speak to her
again at the gate. No one--_ever_! She had taken leave of the cottage
which had been the home of many joys and sorrows--and kissed the little
star on the window in token of farewell: for years she had never slept
without first pressing her sweet red lips upon the irresponsive glass;
but of late she had relinquished the habit. What was Mr. Ulick to her?
Or she to Mr. Ulick? The scar was healing--time and silence are great
physicians; yet “the tender grace of a day that was dead” occasionally
stole into her heart, and it was a fact, that the sudden mention of
one name invariably brought the colour to her cheek. Since Ulick Doran
went away he had never sent but one sign; and that, thanks to the
delinquencies of the local post, was fifteen long months, in reaching
its destination.

Judy Flynn was the mistress of a secondary makeshift post office, where
the mail car picked up a small bag, en route from village to village;
and Mrs. Flynn held a licence to sell stamps, as well as tobacco and
tea. Judy was a widow--a character, and a notorious gossip. All the
news in the county emanated from “the cross.” And if tales were true,
no wonder. Judy kept a kettle handy and opened and read every letter
that seemed to her to be of general interest! It was she who made
known how John MacCarthy was owing for seed-potatoes nigh on three
years, and likely to be put in court. How Mary Hannigan’s boy had gone
back on her! Why the Connors were leaving Moreen, and when old Murphy
had married his cook. Her shop was a place of the wildest, maddest
confusion; behind the little counter letters, parcels, canisters of
tobacco, pipes, old newspapers, herrings, and packets of tea, were
inextricably mixed with portions of Mrs. Flynn’s wardrobe.

“If ye will only lave me alone, and don’t moider me, I can lay me hand
on everything,” was her invariable boast. Her business methods were at
least original. Sometimes she went out, locked the door after her, and
left the yawning post-bag hanging on a nail, where the passer-by might
post (or extract) letters, precisely as he or she pleased.

But Judy Flynn, stout survival of old times and ways, continued to
flourish in spite of numerous complaints from afar. When brought
to book, she wept torrents of tears, assuming the attitude of a
persecuted, hard-working widow woman. She had strong local interest;
her backers were sensible that if Judy was superseded, they would lose
much exciting and unexpected information; and as her office was a mere
cross-post, serving a small insignificant district, Judy remained.

One beautiful June afternoon Judy beckoned to Mary Foley, who was
passing her door.

“See here, acushla,” she cried, “there’s been a bit of a parcel for ye
this whiles back. It come one evening, and I put it up safe, and forgot
it, till I found it ’ere last week behind the meal-chest, when I was
looking for a spool. Being a parcel, it’s no harm; if it was a letter
I’d be main sorry; an’ here it is”--dusting it as she spoke.

“For me?” said Mary incredulously.

“Yes. Ye don’t trouble the post much; all yer boys are within spakin’
distance of ye. That thing looks like a book, and is from India.”

“India!” repeated the girl confusedly. “Sure I know no one out there!”

“Oh, yes, me darlin’, ye know _wan_,” replied Mrs. Flynn, with a
significant nod. “I can’t say if it’s in his writing, for the Castle
letters does not come this way.”

Mary made no reply; she tucked the parcel under her arm, and saying,
“Good evening to ye kindly, Mrs. Flynn,” stepped forth.

Poor disappointed Mrs. Flynn remained staring after her, till a turn in
the road hid her figure from sight. Subsequently she told a neighbour
that “Mary Foley was getting a bit crabbed in herself, and looked like
a girl that had something on her _mind_.”

Mary desired to be alone, and far away from every human eye, when
she opened her parcel; she felt instinctively that it came from Mr.
Ulick; he and she had often talked of books; he had offered to lend
her several; he knew that she was a great reader. Anyhow, this book
was a sign that he was thinking of her still. She crossed several
fields by a narrow footpath, and at last, at the back of a stile,
rarely used, halted and proceeded to investigate her treasure. She
studied the writing, the cover, the stamps; finally she cut the string
with her excellent white teeth, and a little volume of poetry was
disclosed--_Songs of the Glens of Antrim_.

Then she sat down in the long grass, and began to examine it carefully.
No name was inscribed within. As she turned over the pages with hasty,
tremulous fingers, she came to one, on which was scrawled, in pencil,
the word “Mary.” Below ran the title: “I mind the day.”


     “I mind the day. I wish I was a say-gull flying far,
     For then I’d fly and find you in the West;
     And I wish I was a little rose--as sweet as roses are,
     For then you’d maybe wear it on your breast.

     I wish I could be living near to love you day and night,
     To let no trouble touch you, or annoy,
     I wish I could be dyin’ here to rise a spirit light,
     If them above ’ud let me win you joy.

     And now I wish no wishes, nor ever fall a tear;
     Nor take a thought beyond the way I’m led:
     I mind the day that’s overby, and bless the day that’s near,
     Then be to come--a day, when we’ll be dead;
     A longer, lighter day, when we’ll be dead.”


Mary read this quickly, with a catch in her breath; then slowly;
finally with eyes so dim, that she could scarcely distinguish the
words, and her tears pattered down upon the pages.

This pathetic and touching lament reopened the gates of the poor girl’s
grief. Misery stalked in, and resumed the seat from which, time, youth,
and summer, had almost dislodged her.

Fifteen months previously, a brother officer on the trooper had given
the book to Ulick. Ulick, still smarting from his separation, had found
that the lines exactly interpreted his own feelings, and in a spasm of
imprudent impulse had posted the book to Mary the very day he landed in
Bombay.

And now Mary had received it at last. The poem recalled a bygone
ecstasy that could never, never return, and in a passion of despair,
anguish, and rebellion she cast herself face downwards in the soft June
grass. She might have been lifeless, she remained there so long, and
lay so still; but the birds in the thorn hedge and the bees among the
clover knew better. They heard her low, stifled sobs. It was only a
girl who had lost something--or who had been robbed of her all. Well,
they had known the experience themselves!

The June evening was five years ago, and Mary, like the birds, had
outgrown her heartbreak.

As she stood leaning on the gate for the last time, dreamily reviewing
the past years, there was a loud rumbling, whizzing sound, and a
red motor shot by, leaving a cloud of dust and a hideous smell of
petroleum. This same motor had not travelled half a mile before it
broke down. The by-road was covered with sharp, loose stones, and a
tyre was punctured.

“It will be nothing much,” announced the chauffeur, “but it will take
time.”

“What do you call time?” inquired Sir Harry Coxford.

“About an hour, sir.”

“An hour! How is that hour to be killed?” drawled his companion and
host.

“I know”--slapping his leg. “I noticed a pretty girl at a gate about a
quarter of a mile back--just below a cottage. Let us go and have a look
at her, and a talk.”

“Let us go anywhere and stretch our legs, as long as it is not far.”

“You lazy beggar! I never met your match. You wouldn’t walk half a mile
to look at a pretty face, eh?”

“Not five yards to look at the prettiest face in Ireland. Come on. Lead
the way to the miraculous beauty at the gate. I bet you a sov. she is
ugly, or she has gone.”

“Done!” rejoined Sir Harry, and they strolled along down the straight
road towards the corner.

“No; there she is!” cried Sir Harry. “I see her dress.”

There she was indeed, still leaning on the gate, so absorbed in her own
thoughts that the two gentlemen were within a few yards of her, when
she realised their presence with a violent start.

“Good evening,” said Sir Harry, taking off his cap. He had an affable
manner of talking to refreshment-room young ladies. “You seem buried in
meditation. I’m afraid we disturbed you.”

“Oh, no, not at all,” she answered briskly. Here were some people to
talk and chaff with--her very last visitors.

“I expect you were thinking of _him_,” he suggested, with a significant
glance.

She coloured to her hair, and looked haughty.

“Come, come. A pretty girl like you is bound to have a score of lovers.”

“That’s true!” she assented, with a touch of her old sauciness,
suddenly resolved to act the part of Mary once more--“but _she_ need
never trouble her head to think of them.”

“What were you thinking of, then? I say, if you’ll tell me the honest
truth I’ll give you a sovereign, or rather, this other gentleman will,
for your thoughts.”

“My thoughts are not for sale. They are my own.”

“Very sweet and beautiful they must be.”

“Sometimes.”

“How proud _I_ should be if I might have a place in them!”

She smiled derisively. Really, for a country girl she had a wonderfully
short upper lip.

“Are you often at this gate?”

“I used to be.”

“For any particular reason?”

“Only to see my friends, and pass them the time of day!”

“To see your friends? Yes; but I am sure they found it difficult to
_pass_. The road must have been blocked from end to end!”

“Well, there’s not many about now, as you may notice.”

“Is that thing a cat you have beside you?”

“Yes; it’s the newly-invented Chinese breed.”

“Where did you rise it?”

“It came to the house as a stray kitten. A stray cat coming in like
that brings luck.”

“Well, it’s more like a dilapidated old weasel.”

“Don’t abuse it, sir, if you please, for it has something in common
with your friend, the other gentleman.”

“What do you mean?”

“Why, the poor creature is dumb!”

“Ah, ha! There’s a compliment and a challenge for you, Dudley,” he
exclaimed, with a boisterous laugh. “You must pick up the gauntlet.”

“May I ask why you suppose I am dumb?” inquired Captain Deverell, in
his slow voice, looking her over with supercilious eyes.

“Sure I had no reason to suppose otherwise till now.”

“My friend here invariably talks for both. He enjoys it.”

“Yes, and saves your lazy self, a lot of trouble,” amended Sir Henry.

“Conversation is a fag. Do you live here?” he added, looking straight
at Mary.

“I’ve spent my whole life in that cottage.”

“But it looks as if it were unoccupied.”

“It is so.”

“Are you, then, a disembodied spirit or a witch? If so, the cat is the
wrong colour.”

“I am not sure what the word ‘disembodied’ means, but I understand the
word spirit, because I have one.”

“I am glad to hear that,” broke in Sir Harry. “Tell me where you live;
where is your home?”

“My home? Oh, I don’t know where it is, so I cannot oblige ye.”

“Come, come! think again, and I’ll give you a sovereign.”

“You are very free with that sovereign, sir.”

“Yes. This particular one doesn’t happen to be mine. I won it as a bet
from the dumb gentleman. He bet you would not be here. I saw you as we
passed. And he bet something else, too.”

“What else?”

“That you would not be pretty.”

“Neither I am--no more nor yourselves. Are you the two frights in
goggles that went by on the motor? What has become of it?”

“It’s rather delicate just now.”

“Well, then, I’m glad, and I hope it may die. I hate motors!”

“Really. And why?”

“Because they go hooting through the world, never caring what they do.
One of them killed our neighbour’s old dog Joe, too stiff to clear out
of the road; and as to the fowls and ducks they run over, and those no
use after, there are scores!”

“Would you permit me to take a photograph?” said Sir Harry, suddenly
swinging round a small snapshotting camera.

“Certainly, sir. You may take the cat. Here he is,” pulling him up,
“and proud to sit for you”--and she held him in her arms.

A pretty picture! Snap! It was done--“Beauty and the Beast.”

“And now for yourself!”

“What do you want it for, sir?”

“To keep as the portrait of the prettiest Irish girl I’ve ever seen.”

“What would you say, if I told you I was not Irish?”

“Oh, I say! Come”--and he laughed; “you can scarcely expect me to
believe _that_! Now, please stay still for one moment. There! I’ve
taken two.”

“What’s going on here?” said a hoarse voice, and Patsie Maguire came
suddenly through a gap in the opposite wall. Patsie, in his dark blue
Sunday clothes, looking handsome, ill-tempered, and excited.

“I’m after having my picture took,” explained Mary.

“This is a queer sort of business,” he growled, stepping over the
stile, and standing beside her within the gate.

Patsie had “a drop taken,” as the saying is. Raw, bad whisky
was working in his veins; his brain was in a state of wild
confusion--jealousy and vanity were seething within him, and he had
come to the conclusion that he would not let Mary Foley stir a toe out
of the place, dead or alive.

“So yer at yer old games,” he began, in a blustering voice, addressing
himself to Mary, “talking at the corner, talking to any one.
Faith!”--to the strangers--“she’s the gabbiest little divil in Ireland!”

Mary glanced at him furtively. Patsie Maguire was drunk.

“An’ now she’s pratin’ to gentlemen no less; and for a change--but let
me tell ye,”--here he paused and swayed a little--“yer--not--the first
gentlemen--that Mary here--has talked to. Aye”--and his wink expressed
malicious significance--“Mary knows that I’m telling the holy truth,
don’t ye, Mary, me darlin’?”

The girl’s colour had faded; there was a momentary tightening of the
lips, but she merely said--

“Patsie, I’ll thank ye to behave yerself! You don’t know what yer
saying.” What was the use, she said to herself, in argufying with a man
who was not sober? Patsie, when in such a state, was more or less mad.
Had he forgotten, that she was not Mary Foley, now?

They were an uncommonly good-looking couple in Sir Harry’s opinion,
this Irishman and his sweetheart--the one, so fair, vivacious, and in
a way brilliant, with wonderful hair; the other, dark as a Spaniard,
with equally wonderful eyes, undeniably well-favoured, and undeniably
jealous. So this was the fellow she had been thinking of, and
expecting. The gate was their trysting place, and without permission
Sir Harry took a joint photograph of the couple.

“Ye’d no call to do that!” cried Pat. “It’s a shame to steal a person’s
face unknownst.”

“Do you think so?” rejoined Sir Harry airily. “I’ve not the slightest
objection to any one stealing mine.”

“No, for yer quite safe! No one would be at the trouble of taking off
your picture; it’s ugly enough to break the plate!”

“I say, my good fellow,” he cried, colouring up, “don’t presume on my
good-nature. Don’t go too far!”

“Go back to your motor that’s lying up the road there on its belly, and
take a picture of that!” scoffed the Irishman.

“Yes, I suppose”--ignoring this insult, and turning to his
companion--“that we ought to be moving.”

Captain Deverell had made himself comfortable on the wall, and was
smoking a pipe.

“Before I go, won’t you tell me your name?” said Sir Harry, appealing
to Mary. “You are better-looking, and better fun, than half the girls
in England.”

“Thank you kindly, sir, for your good opinion”--and she dropped a
curtsey. “My name is--a secret.”

“I see”--looking significantly at her; “you are soon going to change
it.”

“I am--so.”

“May I be permitted to kiss your pretty little hand?”

“You may, if you please,” and she held it out across the gate.

Sir Harry took it in his, gazed at it in surprise, and pressed his lips
on it. Then he turned it about and squeezed the sovereign into its
small, rosy palm.

“Throw away his dirty money, Mary!” cried Pat. “Tell him yer able to
buy and sell his likes! Throw it in his face, I tell ye!” he shouted
passionately, “do ye hear me!”

These men belonged to the very class who would now come between him
and Mary; he hated them both furiously.

“I tell you what?” said Sir Harry, who had lost his easily mislaid
temper, pushing back the gate as he spoke, “I see that I will have to
give you a thrashing; you are spoiling for it, as they say here”--and
he seized Pat roughly by the coat.

Pat, nothing loth, tore it out of his hand, flung it on the grass,
squared himself, and said: “Come on, me little man! and I’ll soon knock
the head off ye.”

Hearing this challenge, Captain Deverell jumped down with unexpected
agility, caught hold of his companion, and dragged him through the
gate, struggling violently, saying: “For heaven’s sake don’t make an
ass of yourself! Come along, come along--leave the fellow alone. Why
should you interfere with his girl?--how would you like it yourself?”

And the girl called after him, in a clear voice: “Yes; you take your
wan off quietly, sir, and I’ll see, that Patsie Maguire here, keeps
himself in bounds!”



CHAPTER XIX


After the separation of the would-be combatants, and when the dumb man
had, with unlooked-for energy, dragged away his furious struggling
companion, Mary found herself _tête-à-tête_ with Patsie. He had on
several occasions waylaid her in the hotel garden; now he had tracked
her to “the Corner,” and for what good? If Patsie was not pleasing
as a lover in the sight of Mary Foley, how could he expect to be
acceptable to the same young woman in a much loftier station? What
description of a husband would he make for Lord Mulgrave’s daughter and
heiress? Why, the thing was ridiculous on the face of it! He realised
this instinctively, and yet he would not suffer her to depart without
some sort of interview, even if the interview led to nothing. Pat was
impulsive, sensitive, warm-hearted, and very vain. It would satisfy his
heart, and gratify his vanity, to have a real sort of storybook parting
with his sweetheart, and all the world--that is to say, his own little
world--would know that she had talked to him as equal to equal, and
bidden him good-bye.

This, encouraged by bad whisky, was Pat’s motive in following Mary.
Mary had a patrician horror of scenes. A scene was impending. She read
its approach in her suitor’s tragic blue eyes; and she was annoyed,
not only with him, but herself. She had been led away by some impish
spirit to fall into temptation, to play the old part of Mary of the
gate to two totally strange gentlemen; and the two strange gentlemen
had departed, carrying with them, an entirely wrong impression.

“Well, Pat,” she began, on the principle that the first blow is half
the battle, “what has brought ye--I mean you”--correcting herself--“up
here?”

“To see you, of course. Sure, I never can get a word with you below.”

“An’ why should you?” she asked, with some asperity. “Ye are very big
in yerself!”

“See here now,” he began, in a loud, hoarse voice, “which are you at
the present moment--Mary, or her ladyship? For I’d like to know where I
am.”

“I am always Mary here”--and she glanced back at the cottage, which,
even in a short time, had assumed a forlorn and deserted appearance.
The poor old place! Already the weeds were flourishing in the garden,
and the kitchen, when she entered it, smelt of damp, and soot.

“Then it’s to Mary I’m talking. Mary, wid all your grandeur and money,
you won’t buy love, mind you _that_, and you will never find any one,
if you were to go over the wide world, that will love you the same as I
do.”

“Perhaps not, Patsie.”

“Ah!”--and his tone was triumphant.

“But what is the use of it, Pat, when I cannot--never could or would or
should--love _you_.”

“Ye never tried!”

“One does not _try_ to love, I believe. I like you, and as a friend I
will not forget you or go agen you. You are mixed up with all my life
here, and I am friendly with yer mother and Lizzie; but if I’d lived
here to the end of my days, I’d never have loved you, Patsie.”

“You’ll go off and marry some one else--some one of the pattern of the
little red-faced blackguard.”

“No, I think not; I’m not such a fool!”

“Faix, I don’t know about that,” he sneered. “A long while back there
was Mr. Ulick--ye were near making a fool of yourself with him!”

“I was not!” she retorted with passion. “How dare you bring in his
name--how dare you?” she repeated, and her face was white.

“Oh, I dare most things when me blood is up. And now, I’d like ye to
promise me one thing.”

“What is it?” she asked impatiently.

“That ye will never marry any one at all,” he answered, raising his
voice, and his eyes blazed into hers, “but be true to Ireland--and to
_me_.”

“True to you--what balderdash! Sure, don’t ye know well I never cared a
thraneen about ye?”

She glanced up at him suddenly, and noticed that his dark, expressive
face was working with passion. What ailed him? He looked murderous.
Was he going to kill her? It was a lonely enough spot. A man had been
beaten to death in that very road.

“See now, I’ll promise you one thing, Pat,” she continued, dissembling
her fears, “for old times’ sake. If ever you are in any trouble, or
want a good friend, I’ll help you. And as to marrying me, ye know
there’s a dozen prettier girls in these parts just _aching_ to have
you. I can’t think why you are so set on _me_. Come, Pat, carry the cat
for me, and we will be going home.”

Pat turned about; his expression startled her--the hard look in his
eyes, the tightness of his lips. Her heart beat convulsively, but she
kept a brave front and faced him as she would some dangerous animal,
from whom she could not escape, and was therefore bound to overawe.
Pat was crazy drunk; the raw whisky had taken effect; there was a mad
look in his eyes. Did he mean to murder her? The sudden sound of voices
and approaching footsteps filled her with a sense of profound relief.
It proved a party of neighbours going towards Glenveigh; and before
Pat could interfere, Mary had snatched up Whitey, opened the gate, and
darted after them.

And Pat, thus left alone, sat down suddenly on a stone and burst into
a passion of maudlin sobs. Why hadn’t he killed her, and then himself?
A cheap revolver was in his pocket; it was loaded in four chambers. If
the Connors had been three minutes later in coming down past Foley’s
Corner, the chronicle of Mary of the Gate would have concluded here.

       *       *       *       *       *

The cold Miss Usher had contracted “held her,” to use an Irish term,
for one whole week, and during that time, she had a most tender,
thoughtful, and assiduous nurse in her young protegée. Mary was
afraid to venture into the garden. Pat might waylay her again; also
she experienced a certain shyness with respect to mixing with her
old friends, and she spent a good deal of her time in the sick-room,
reading aloud to the patient, answering notes--she wrote a fine hand,
thanks to the School Board--and concocting drinks, possets, and
poultices with much skill. Her attendance was so quiet, her little
hands so deft and quick, her soft voice so sympathetic, that the
invalid felt herself becoming warmly attached to this treasure-trove;
and as she lay in bed, waited on by Mary, she instilled into the
girl’s mind some practical hints, without seeming to be continuing her
much-neglected education.

As Mary read aloud the papers Miss Usher threw in remarks and
information. It was socially she was so desperately wanting--yes, in
the common A B C of deportment and conduct. Otherwise the good lady
was surprised to discover how well the girl was posted up in the most
unexpected subjects. She had read widely for one of her station.
Tennyson, Sir Walter Scott, Thackeray, the Brontës, some of Victor
Hugo’s works, Hans Andersen, Macaulay’s history and essays, Carlyle’s
_French Revolution_, with a fair knowledge of history, geography,
grammar, and arithmetic; she was not too badly equipped. Questioned,
she could tell a good deal about the Crusades, the Wars of the Roses,
and was eloquent respecting the battle of Clontarf, which was a new
name to Miss Usher; but then, she had never studied Irish history.

At last Miss Usher was sufficiently recovered to start for Dublin,
where Lord Mulgrave was to meet his daughter and convey her home. Her
chaperon had suggested at least a week in the Irish capital, in order
that, before she was actually launched into her new life, Mary, the
ignorant child of the pastures, might see things; such, for instance,
as a large city with its traffic and shops, a fashionable hotel, a
regiment marching, a theatre, a picture-gallery, and a good milliner.
Before she crossed the Irish Sea she must be suitably dressed. At
present she was merely clothed.

As the day of departure approached, Mary’s slender wardrobe was
packed; she had been persuaded to leave the cat as a parting legacy
to Mrs. Hogan, but the dog, “Rap,” must accompany her wherever she
went. On this subject Lady Joseline showed an amount of decision that
had never been evinced by Mary Foley--indeed, she was, as her friends
knew, just wrapped up in the creature. No doubt he was a fine, handsome
terrier, who had belonged to poor Katty; but Mrs. Hogan’s memory was
long; she recalled a time when “Rap” had been the property of a young
gentleman. Was Mary still faithful to that first fancy? Now came the
final good-byes. Her numerous friends flocked to the hotel to say
God-speed to Mary. These included Father Daly, Mr. and Mrs. West,
Mary’s schoolfellows, neighbours, and lovers. When it came to the last
words and handshakes, Mary broke down and wept unrestrainedly. She wept
all the five miles to the station--such a capacity for grief was beyond
the bounds of Miss Usher’s experience--indeed, the girl’s condition
remained very tearful and subdued throughout the entire journey. Mary
had been twice to Cork on a three-shilling cheap excursion, crammed
with many others into a third-class little better than a cattle-truck;
this was a new conveyance, a carriage with beautiful cushions and
“Reserved” printed on the window. Once in Dublin, they drove to the
“Shelbourne,” the grandeur of which struck the poor creature dumb;
the lift proved a paralysing novelty, also the smart and superior
chambermaid who addressed her as “your ladyship.” However, she was
completely worn out with her journey, her emotion, and the novelty of
everything, and, refusing dinner, retired at once to bed, and in sleep,
forgot all her joys, sorrows, and fears.

The next morning the new arrival felt fresh as a lark, and ready to
witness any amount of novelty. Concealed in a hired brougham, Miss
Usher carried her charge to a well-known establishment, and there
spent the flying hours in fitting her out in a manner becoming, not
only to her, but to her new position. She was fortunately easily
suited, being of a “stock size,” and with slight alterations she became
possessed of a smart tailor-made, a black evening gown, a French model,
crêpe-de-chine, a travelling cloak, tea-gown, luggage, hats, gloves,
shoes, and furbelows. It was almost like buying a small trousseau; but
Miss Usher had “carte blanche” from his lordship, he was coming in
three days to claim his child, and she was resolved that she should do
him credit!

After this morning’s hard work and lunch, the two ladies drove together
out to the park, and Mary saw a number of wonderful things; she was
strangely quiet, and talked hardly at all, but her glances were in
every direction, observant, critical, and amazed.

When they returned, they discovered that some of the purchases had
already arrived; in fact, the young lady’s room was half full of
cardboard boxes.

“You will have to put on the black gown,” announced Miss Usher. “I’ll
dress you myself, and we will dine at the table d’hôte.”

“Oh, no, no,” protested the other, in an agonised voice, “I dare not.”

“Oh, but yes; you must begin some time, and the sooner the better, and
learn how girls of your own rank look and behave themselves. Don’t you
wish your father to be pleased when he returns? Don’t you wish him to
be proud of you?”

“Is it proud of _me_! You’re making fun,” she scoffed.

“Not at all. I want you to do me credit. And you will follow me
into the room, and copy what I do as regards knife and fork and
wine-glasses.”

“I expect I’ll do something awfully bad--upset the things, I’ll be so
nervous, and have all the servants laughing at me.”

“Well-trained servants never laugh; and please remember that you are
no longer, as you seem to think, on equal terms with them. They don’t
understand familiarity; they have their own dignity. There is a story
of a gentleman who had socialistic ideas--all men on an equality sort
of thing; he insisted on shaking hands with his butler. The butler did
not like it; he gave warning.”

“Ah! I suppose that was why the tall chambermaid stared at me, when I
said how nicely her fringe was done!”

“Of course; she must have been horrified! Now go and do your hair, and
when you are ready I’ll come and help you into your new gown.”

“The girl has a taste for dress,” reflected Miss Usher, as she
arranged her own thick grey locks. “I suppose it comes from her French
relations. It was really marvellous, the eye she had for a suitable
purchase, considering that everything is as new to her as if she came
from another planet. She is wonderful, poor child!”

Before Miss Usher had completed her toilette there was a timid knock
at the door, and she gave a faint scream, as her charge trailed into
the room. What a transformation! The well-cut bodice set off a willowy
and graceful figure; the sweeping skirt lent dignity; the black gown
was entrancingly becoming to the soft white skin and ruddy hair of Lady
Joseline. Yes, she was Lady Joseline, indeed--an aristocrat every inch,
from her neat black velvet shoe, to the crown of her thick hair. Mary
Foley, in a clumsy serge, had quitted the apartment half an hour ago
for ever, and this graceful young personage, had taken her place!

“Will I do?” she eagerly inquired, in her soft southern brogue.

Yes; outwardly she would do extremely well. She seemed to possess the
natural art--a valuable one--the art of knowing how to put on her
clothes.

“Yes”--turning round and then standing up--“nothing could be better,
Lady Joseline.”

“Oh, for goodness sake----”

Miss Usher made a gesture of interruption, and continued.

“For the future you must remember that such is your _real_ name. You
have now taken upon you your new character. May you adorn it, be happy,
and make others happy, my dear!”

And as she spoke, she went over to the girl, and kissed her on both
cheeks, French fashion.

“You are half French, you know,” she explained; “your grandfather was
the Duc de Hernoncourt, a French nobleman.”

“My grandfather! Sure I always think of old Joe Foley as that!”

“Yes. You will soon get accustomed to your relations. Mary Foley is
gone; we will never see her again; we will forget her, and give her
dress and boots and hat and clothes to some poor woman. And now we will
go downstairs together, and eat our dinner.”

“Oh, dear me, I’m so frightened, I’m all of a tremble; the legs is
giving under me.”

“Your ladyship should say trembling--not all of a tremble; and you need
not mention your legs. Come, there’s nothing to be afraid of.”

“That’s what Mrs. Hogan said; her last words were to hold up my head,
and not be afraid of anybody--but sure, talking is easy!”

“You are not afraid of the lift now, are you?”

“No, I like it finely. I love going up and down in it.”

“Everything will be the same in time, my dear girl. Just keep a cool
head, and wait.”

“Oh, I declare I feel all goose-flesh!” whispered her charge.

“Never mind; follow me closely. This way. Our table is in a
corner”--and as she spoke the chaperon entered the brilliantly lit
dining-room--already crowded--and proceeded to steer Lady Joseline into
society for the first time.



CHAPTER XX


“I don’t rightly know whether I am on me head or my heels!” declared
her ladyship, when she had taken a seat in the corner, with her back
against the wall, and proceeded to gaze about her. “What a power of
people! I suppose this is a glimpse of what Father Daly calls ‘the
world.’ No,” to the ready waiter, “no broth!”

The man, with blank, impassive face, bowed, and offered soup to Miss
Usher.

“Dear child,” she murmured, when he had departed, “this is _soup_; we
don’t call it broth.”

“Very well then, I won’t”--taking up the ménu, and looking over it. “I
declare to goodness if it isn’t in a foreign language! Will ye tell me,
what’s the use of that?”

“I’m sure I cannot give you any reason, but it’s the fashion. You will
find it everywhere.”

“And such a lot of things. I can guess at some names: ‘enter’ and
‘relieve’--hunger, I suppose.”

Here Miss Usher leant across and carefully explained the meaning of
‘entrée’ and ‘relève’--the names of the courses; whilst the girl
listened, with both elbows firmly planted on the table.

“You should not sit like that, my child,” suggested the teacher of
manners.

“No? But there’s a girl doing it over there,” argued the pupil; and,
pointing with a taper finger, she indicated a young woman in a loud
tea-gown with a towzled head and arms bare to the shoulder, who was
holding forth to a shiny-faced, dissipated-looking man.

“Never mind, my dear, you need not take her for a model. Look at those
two nice girls in white. Now have some fish?”

“Claret or Chablis, my lady?”

“No, thank ye,” she responded, “I never drink wine at all; but I’d be
glad of a glass of spring water, or”--as an afterthought--“if ye have
such a thing as a sup of fresh buttermilk?”

Without relaxing a muscle, the waiter replied: “We don’t supply
buttermilk, my lady, but the water is the best.”

Lady Joseline ate little dinner, but devoured the company with a pair
of eager, childish eyes. One lady she stigmatised as “a play actress,”
another as “an old show, with feathers in her hair and scarcely a tack
to her back.” Most of the men were “as like the waiters as two peas.”
Then, to their special attendant--

“No meat whatever. Sure, man alive, ’tis a fast day!”

“My dear, there is no occasion for an explanation,” remonstrated her
_vis-à-vis_, when the waiter had retired.

“Sure, won’t he think it uncivil, just to say no or yes?”

“Not if you add ‘please.’ The salad is nice and fresh, but you should
not eat it with your fingers.”

“It tastes more natural like!”

“Possibly; but you don’t wish to be remarkable, do you?”

“No, indeed. Am I? Tell me, please, is there anything _on_ me? or
queer about me? Is anything sticking in me hair?”

“Why, certainly not. Why do you ask?”

“I’ve noticed quite a lot of people staring over at me, as if they knew
I was no great shakes, and had no call to be here; and there’s a man
near the pillar that has a pair of eyes like two big black slugs. I
declare they make me curl all over!”

Miss Usher was agreeably conscious of the fact that her charge had
made considerable sensation in their neighbourhood. No one could look
more elegant and distinguished, than the pretty girl in the corner.
There had been whispers, glances, and a turning of heads. These
admirers had not heard the beauty’s soft common brogue, nor witnessed
her difficulties with forks and wine-glasses. “But, considering all
things, she was wonderful,” said the chaperon to herself, as she rose
from the table, and ordered coffee in the hall. The more her ladyship
rubbed off the raw edge of ignorance, and the sooner she encountered
and vanquished startling first impressions, the better for her, and her
kinsfolk.

As they sat down at a little table, and the coffee made its appearance,
the girl said in a loud voice--

“I’m not partial to coffee. I’d sooner have a cup of tay!”

“But coffee is better at this hour. No one drinks tea immediately after
dinner; and, my dear, you really must begin to drop such words as
‘tay.’ Now sit here quietly, and listen to the way other girls speak.”

“And take a lesson for nothing?”

“Yes, and profit by it. Remember that your father arrives to-morrow.”

“Oh, Miss Usher dear, I’m terribly scared of him!”

“You must put that feeling out of your mind, and you will soon learn to
love him; he loves you already.”

“What? Oh, balderdash! Now, how could he love one that he’s only set
eyes on a few times.”

“Quite naturally, as a matter of course, for your mother’s sake.”

“You mane, because”--lowering her voice--“I’m so like her?”

“Yes, in appearance; and you must strive hard to resemble her in other
ways.”

“I will so if I can. But what ways?”

“She was most unselfish and thoughtful, good to the poor and the aged,
kind to animals, very gay and gracious in her manners, sweet-tempered,
clever, and fascinating.”

“Oh, but fancy the likes of me being clever, and fascinating!”

“Why not? But you will soon begin to learn to speak like other people.
To-morrow I shall write down a list of expressions you are not to use.
You are not to say ‘ould’ for old, ‘ye’ for you, ‘the likes of,’ ‘sure
now,’ and ‘by your leave.’ Talk but little, listen, and read a great
deal.”

“I see what you mean; I’m to keep my ears cocked. I’m not too bad to
look at, but when I open my lips I am like the girl in the fairy tale,
and my mouth drops toads and serpents.”

“There are no toads or serpents in Ireland you know. Still, just at
present, until you see and hear a little more, I think you will find
that, except between you and me, silence is golden.”

After a considerably long silence, during which Miss Usher knitted
steadily and her charge stared about her, the latter said--

“Well, I’ve been listening to those two girls in blue carrying on with
the nosey young man; and the little one told him he was ‘a rotter’ and
the other said he was ‘pulling her leg.’ What sort of chat, do ye call
that?”

“Oh, they are not ladies,” explained Miss Usher, who was distinctly
disconcerted.

“Yes; but how am I to know the differ between the talk of ladies and
the talk of them as is not?--not being a lady meself.”

“Oh, you will soon understand.”

“But those two are dressed as well as I am, and better,” protested the
girl, “and how----”

“Dress reminds me,” interrupted Miss Usher, “that you have several
fittings to-morrow, and a busy day”; and, suddenly rising to her feet,
she added, “It is getting on for ten o’clock. Shall we retire?”

On the way to their rooms, the two paused on a landing before a great
mirror; they halted involuntarily, and gazed at themselves as they
stood side by side; or rather, they both gazed at the reflection of
Lady Joseline Dene.

“I’m just a daw in peacock’s feathers!” she exclaimed at last. “It’s
all mighty fine, my beautiful dress, and my hair done up in the
fashion. Oh, dear me! I’m a regular take-in. I shall never be as nice
as I look.”

“Yes, you will,” said her companion, leading her into her room; “and
remember, dear child, that you are nice to your father when he comes
to-morrow.”

“I’m all in a tremble, when I think of it. How can I be nice?”

“By not being shy and shrinking and plainly afraid of him. He is a shy
man himself--people call it reserve. For years he has shut up his real
self, and no one has seen it. I believe that you hold the key.”

“But I shall never dare to turn it in the lock.”

“Why not? You are his daughter, a gift given back to him to cheer and
brighten the end of his life. Mind that you do it.”

“I’ll try. Anyway, I’ll put it in my prayers.”

“Do,” replied Miss Usher, as she closed the door.



CHAPTER XXI


It was with a feeling of repressed excitement and unusual trepidation,
that Lord Mulgrave, who had come over by the evening boat, walked into
the hotel and inquired for Miss Usher.

“Miss Usher and her ladyship were in,” said the porter; “in fact, they
were in the hall.” Yes, he recognised Miss Usher’s black-and-white
check gown, and her broad back; the girl with her--could it be
Joseline? What a transformation! Undoubtedly clothes had done wonders;
but her manners were as pitiably timid and uncouth as ever--she was
actually shaking with nervousness. By Lord Mulgrave’s desire the little
party dined in a private room, where he and Miss Usher talked, and did
their utmost to promote the ease of their companion, who, in spite of
her smart white gown and fashionable coiffure, was still the peasant in
her heart. She ate but little, and scarcely opened her lips, fearing to
be guilty of some awful blunder, and shock this handsome grey-haired
gentleman!

After the meal was over Miss Usher effaced herself with a murmured
excuse about letters, and left the father and daughter to talk to one
another alone.

“Come here, my dear,” he said, drawing up a chair, “and let us
endeavour to know one another. Talk to me, won’t you.”

Joseline accepted the seat in trembling silence. What could she talk to
him about? The price of calves, the Hennesseys’ wedding, the mission
at Glenveigh, her new clothes? Cleverly, and by degrees, her father
drew her out, and prevailed on her to thaw--to speak of herself and
her upbringing; and as she became more familiar with his presence and
the sound of her own voice, she talked a great deal, and unwittingly
displayed her simple mind, and simple heart. She was a dear, sweet,
good girl--the image of her dead mother; but twenty-one years yawned
between him and her, and as he listened to her artless conversation, he
felt overcome by the appalling state of her ignorance of what may be
called, “life above stairs.”

“Yes, I’ve had good schoolin’,” she was saying. “I can cast up figures,
and knit, and mend lace; the nuns taught me.”

“Yes; and anything else?”

“I can sing--I was among the altos, and once I sang at a concert, and
many a time at a dance.”

“I’m glad you can sing. Will you sing to me now, my dear?”

“Is it here?” she faltered. “Sure, I’ve no concertina.”

“That is no matter.”

“Oh, I’d be afraid, so I would. Oh”--twisting her hands--“I dare not.”

“Now listen to me, Joseline” (how many years since he had uttered the
name!). “If you are going to be afraid of _me_, I shall be afraid
of _you_, and that will be a terrible misfortune. You have your
mother’s face; if you have her nature, I don’t care one straw for
accomplishments. I think you may have her voice. Will you not sing to
me, my dear, and give me pleasure?”

He pressed her little hand tightly; he felt her trembling; and then,
all at once, in the dusky room, the sweet, low, quivering notes began,
at first faint and husky, but gaining strength and volume as they
went on. Oh, such a heart-piercing, exquisite air! The words were
unintelligible, for she was singing a well-known Irish lament, which,
rendered into English, was something like:--


     Wail, wail, ye, for the mighty one!
     Wail, wail, ye, for the dead!
     Quench the hearth and hold the breath, with ashes strew the head!
     How tenderly we loved him! how deeply we deplore!
     Holy Saviour, but to think, we shall never see him more!
     Wail, wail him through the island! Weep, weep for our pride!
     Ye know that on the battle-field our gallant chief has died.
     Weep the Victor of Benn Burb! Weep him, young men and old!
     Weep for him, ye women! your beautiful lies cold.
     Soft as a woman’s was your voice, O’Neil; bright was your eye.
     Oh, why did ye leave us, Owen? Why did you die?
     Your troubles are over; you’re at rest with God on high.
     But we’re forlorn and sad, Owen. Why did you die?


As she concluded with a low sob of supreme dramatic effect, Lord
Mulgrave drew a deep breath, and, carrying the little cold hand to his
lips, said, “My dear child, do you know that _my_ name is Owen? Your
singing is no mere accomplishment; it is a great gift.”

“Did she sing?” she asked faintly.

“Yes. It was the same voice”; and he sighed as he released her fingers.

“Does Lady Mulgrave sing?” she continued, in a bolder key.

“No”--and he gave a slight start--“but, Tito, her daughter, is fond
of music; she is nearly your age, or a little older. You will be, I
hope, capital companions for one another; she’s a bit of a rattle, but
a good-hearted girl.”

“Is she pretty?” she asked.

“Not exactly; but rather attractive and piquante.”

“I never heard that word before; I suppose it means something nice?”

“Yes. You will see for yourself. She and Dudley are great friends; he
is my heir, you know, and your cousin; we see a good deal of him.”

“And what is he like?”

“Oh, fairly good-looking, but a lazy beggar. He did well in South
Africa, but got enteric, and was laid on his back for so long I believe
he fancies he is still there. You have put his nose a bit out of joint,
for some of the estates will now go to you.”

“Is it to me? Sure I’m not fit to own land. Once they wanted to make up
a match for me with a strong farmer; his people were eager for it, on
account of the fifty pounds.”

“But you said no?”

“Bedad, I did--a great fat man, with a bald face, and a pearl on one of
his eyes.” She meant cataract.

Lord Mulgrave gave a short laugh; then he said, “So, Joseline, you’ve
never had a lover?”

“Is it me? Why I had a couple of dozen or more making shapes at me!”

Her father sat up stiffly in his chair, apprehension in his attitude;
the expression of his face was disturbed.

“But sure, I didn’t care a hair for one of them,” she added
reassuringly. “I only liked them just for joking and dancing--nothing
more, I give ye me word. But I’d fine work keeping them off; they
mostly wanted to marry me!”

“You say you had many admirers, my dear. Did you not care for one of
them? Come, now, do not be afraid to speak.”

“No. Sorra one of them!”

“And yet you are past one-and-twenty! It is strange that my little
girl’s heart has never been touched,” continued Lord Mulgrave, in a
meditative tone; “but I think I can explain it. I believe it was a case
of like to like, and you instinctively shrank from the claims of a race
to which you did not really belong.”

“I expect there was something in that,” assented Joseline. “They said I
was too particular, and all for picking and choosing.”

“Now, supposing you had come across a gentleman wooer?”--and Lord
Mulgrave paused interrogatively. (Did he notice that Joseline was very
pale?) “I wonder how it would have been? Perhaps you and I would not be
sitting here to-day, Joseline. I am thankful that you belong only to
me!”

A long pause ensued.

Joseline was conscious that her mind was in a tempestuous state of
indecision. Should she speak? Should she disinter and lay before her
father, the poor little skeleton of her own romance? Should she or not?
After all, there is something that belongs to ourselves. And yet--and
yet---- Her large eyes gazed into vacancy.

At last she faltered, in a low and shaken voice, “Well, father, there
_was_ some one once. You are right. A gentleman--and--he was--a real
gentleman. He went away six years ago, when I was but a young slip of
a thing, and it nearly broke my heart. And that’s all.”

“What was his name? Who was he?” he asked under his breath.

“Sure there’s no need to tell ye that, for”--and her face
quivered--“I’ll never come across him again.”

“Irish, of course?”

She nodded. “There now, I’ve told ye, and ye know all there is to know
about me. Promise me ye will never let on.”

“I promise faithfully. Did he give you the red dog?”

“No, he gave him to Mrs. Foley. And now we will never spake of him
again.” Here two tears, which had been gathering, fell. “You have me
only secret.”

As a servant entered with a telegram and turned up the electric light,
her father looked searchingly at Joseline. Her face was white and
haggard. “My little girl is tired?” he exclaimed.

“Yes; I feel as if the feet were falling off me. I was standing so long
to-day being tried on.”

“Then you must go to bed at once. To-morrow we will do a drive and the
theatre. Next day we go home. You are no longer afraid of me, are you,
dear?”--and he bent down and kissed the hair over her brow. “You must
not. You are my only child; all I have, remember.”

“I will remember, and you will remember”; and she looked up at him with
an expression more eloquent than speech. An undivided and implicit
trust, spoke in her beautiful eyes.


END OF PART II



PART III



CHAPTER XXII


Although Lord Mulgrave had given Miss Usher a cordial invitation to
accompany his daughter to London, that prudent lady excused herself
with the plea of one or two engagements in Dublin. She wished to give
the father and daughter an opportunity of becoming better acquainted
before they joined the family circle. What could be a better occasion
than a sea voyage and a railway journey?

“I shall miss you awfully,” sobbed her companion of the last six weeks.
“I don’t know what in the living earth I’ll do, all alone. Of course, I
have his--his lordship--father; but I mean among the women. And I’ve a
notion they are all going to hate me, so they will.”

“That is a foolish idea to start with, my dear. You will find that
if you like people, people will like you. Do not be afraid of your
relations. Be good--tempered and pleasant, and just yourself.”

“Faix, it’s easy talking, Miss Usher dear. But which self? I’ve two,
you see. The one that comes natural--the common country girl, reared,
as ye may say, on the side of the road, and the new self, that’s a
grand lady, and must mind her manners and her talk, and hold up her
nose as if there was a smell under it!”

“Not at all,” protested her counsellor. “I hope you will be gracious
and polite to every one; it is only nobodies who give themselves airs.
Your father has invited me to pay you a visit later, and I shall look
for wonderful improvements and bring you a little prize. You are
improved as it is; you have learnt a great deal.”

“It will all run out of my head the moment I get among strangers,”
declared her pupil, in a tone of deep dejection.

“At any rate they will make allowances.”

“More likely they’ll make fun of me!”

“Nonsense! Now, you must try and remember some of the things you have
learnt. Promise me you will not say ‘Faix,’ ‘Musha,’ and ‘Begorra’; in
fact, my dear child, you should endeavour to cultivate silence.”

“Sure, don’t I know that well! and yet for the life of me I can’t hold
me tongue. I can’t stop myself. I’ve been so encouraged to talk as much
as ever I liked since I could talk at all, the words just slip out of
me mouth before I know they are gone--and often words I never meant
to say at all. I tell the black truth, and let them take it or leave
it--man, woman, or child.”

“You must make up your mind to listen and learn,” said Miss Usher,
soothingly. “You learn quickly. Now, I’ve a little book for you here.”
It was a neat edition of _The Manners of Good Society_. “Read this
over; it won’t tell you everything, but you will find it a help.”

Lord Mulgrave, for his part, had a gift for Miss Usher, and the evening
before he took leave of her he offered her his heartfelt thanks for
her care of his daughter. “I am aware that nothing I could give you,
would be an adequate return,” he said, “but I want you to accept this
as a memento of _Mary Foley_”; and he placed in her hand a blue velvet
case--a case containing a string of pearls, which, as a lady friend
subsequently remarked with bated breath, “must have cost hundreds and
hundreds of pounds.”

The travellers left for Holyhead by the early boat; and as Joseline,
in the dull grey cold morning, took leave of her friend--her very last
tie--she broke down and wept bitterly, and, with her arms tightly
clasped round Miss Usher’s neck, fell into a sudden breathless sobbing.

“May Heaven forgive me, but I _hate_ going, so I do,” she gasped. “Oh,
Miss Usher dear, I wish to God I was on my way back to Glenveigh!”

       *       *       *       *       *

At Kingstown the waves were tumbling over the west pier; the water
in the harbour was lively. They were likely to experience a bad
crossing--a bit of an October gale.

At first Joseline enjoyed her novel experience of the sea, the stinging
salt air, the unfamiliar up-and-down motion; but once past the “Kish,”
when they caught the full force of the wind, she was compelled to seek
refuge in the ladies’ cabin, where she fell an immediate prey to _mal
de mer_ and terror. Over and over she believed that each lurch was
the end! However, at last Holyhead stack was safely sighted, and a
miserable, white-faced girl was claimed from the stewardess by the Earl
of Mulgrave. Her head was swimming and aching as she crawled up the
gangway, leaving _The Manners and Customs of Good Society_ behind her
on board the _Ireland_.

During the long day’s journey to London Joseline recovered but little,
in spite of her companion’s most anxious solicitude; her interest in
the flying landscape proved feeble, she felt so sick, and so utterly
shattered and desolate.

“Would you prefer to stop in London for the night, and go on
to-morrow?” suggested Lord Mulgrave.

“Oh, no, no! let us do it all at wance.”

“And get it over,” he added, with a faint smile. “You need not be
nervous, Joseline; every one is prepared to give you a warm welcome.”

“But I feel so strange. I know I’ll be like a sort of wild plant that
is pulled up by the roots, and stuck in a greenhouse, and every bit as
much out of place.”

“No, for you belong to the greenhouse,” he answered, “and by-and-by you
will find that you are in your natural atmosphere.”

“God send it!” she murmured, as with a gesture of weariness she closed
her eyes, and presently fell into a comfortable little sleep.

Her father, who sat opposite, studied the pale face anxiously. Here was
the image of his dead wife: her outward form, with the mind, manners,
and habits of an Irish peasant. What an unparalleled situation!

The poor, tired child had some formidable obstacles in her future path.
Lotty and she would have nothing in common--Lotty, with her bridge
and her cigarettes, her society jargon, her _set_, would be terribly
embarrassed by this simple, innocent creature. His wife’s opinions were
decided, her tongue was persuasive, her will inflexible. He had drifted
into allowing her to gently lead, to manage, and to set him a little on
one side, because he had not cared. Now he had something to care for
and protect. He must stand between Lottie, and a girl who embodied many
of Lottie’s especial aversions--a girl who was a mere child of nature,
outspoken, impulsive, uncouth.

Joseline and her father, having dined at the Euston Hotel, made their
way down to Ashstead. It was past nine o’clock, a dark, windy night,
when they arrived outside the gusty station, where a fine equipage,
with two moon-like lamps, awaited them. As she was conducted to her
carriage, the girl felt as if she were a second Cinderella going to
the ball. They drove away rapidly, Joseline sitting erect, her heart
beating with nervousness; her father took her little cold hand, and
held it in silence. When they stopped at a pair of great gates, which
opened noiselessly and swung back of their own accord as the carriage
dashed through, he said--

“This is Ashstead--my dear--your home.”

“Father,” she gasped, “I am mortally in dread. I feel as if I was going
to be killed, or married, when I think of meeting all these grand
strangers. I declare I’d like to get out of the carriage, and run in
and hide under the hedge.”

“My dear, I assure you there is nothing to alarm you.”

“It’s her ladyship and the young lady that terrifies me, when I think
of them.”

“Her ladyship is prepared to welcome you warmly. She is----” (What
could he say to encourage this trembling creature?) “She is--most
sweet-tempered, and full of tact.”

“Tact! What is tact?”

“A--the knack of saying the right thing, and keeping quiet at the right
time.”

“Oh, laws! then she is just the black opposite to me! And the young
one?”

“I feel sure you and Tito will be as sisters; she has often wished for
a companion. She will show you all sorts of things, and tell you what
to do.”

“I suppose she has had a grand education?”

“Yes, chiefly abroad. I am afraid she did not make the most of her
advantages; her spelling is shocking.”

“Oh! Well, anyhow, I can spell,” declared Joseline, with a gulp. “It is
the other things--the tip-top talking, and the sailing about a room,
and the hand-shaking, and looking people over from their shoes up. I
watched the ladies in the hotel. You see, I just clump about, and hitch
myself on to anything, and say, ‘What way are ye the day?’”

“Well, here we are,” he interrupted, as the horses came to a standstill
under a pillared portico. The door was then thrown open, and the light
from a large domed entrance streamed out into the night. Silhouetted
against the yellow glare were three tall men-servants. In a sort of
daze Joseline stumbled out of the brougham and followed Lord Mulgrave
into what seemed to be a royal palace. She paused for a moment, whilst
a footman relieved her of her umbrella and handbag, and, turning to her
father with piteous eyes, exclaimed, in a voice which the great dome
re-echoed--

“I declare to goodness I’m all of a swither!”

To this announcement her parent made no reply, but hastily preceded
her across the hall along a wide red-carpeted corridor, lined with
paintings and cabinets, to where a murmur of voices came through a
half-open door.

Lord Mulgrave had particularly desired an informal reception for his
daughter, so romantically restored. Of course, he was aware that the
entire neighbourhood were on the _qui vive_ to see her; their curiosity
must wait. He expected to find merely his wife and Tito. But Lady
Mulgrave had arranged otherwise; she had invited Lady Maxwelton and her
girls to come and behold the new niece and cousin, and being in London,
they had responded with alacrity. Several smart neighbours were added
to her dinner-party; but for these the inducement offered was bridge.

Lady Mulgrave was secretly displeased that her husband was bringing
“the hog-trotter” girl home--actually straight to Ashstead. She ought,
as a preliminary, to have first been sent to some school or foreign
convent. It was most irritating to have her dragged into the family;
the whole thing was so melodramatic--a sort of penny novelette story;
it had got into all the papers, too. The proper thing to do would have
been to send the girl abroad, and permit the episode to evaporate.
An uncouth peasant-girl was bound to cut a most ridiculous figure;
but since she was really coming, her ladyship had invited a surprise
party, as a little punishment for his lordship. The presence of so many
critical eyes would intensify his discomfort: in addition to the kind
and charitable intention of making him ashamed of his daughter, it was
also arranged as an ordeal for the girl herself.

Ten o’clock had struck. The small blue drawing-room was set out with
three bridge-tables, at which sat twelve deeply engrossed players.
Lady Maxwelton occupied a sofa with another lady; they were discussing
missions.

“Mother,” said Tito, suddenly throwing down her hand, “I’m sure I hear
the carriage! Yes; they have come at last!”

“Nonsense! It is the wind. They won’t arrive to-night,” replied Lady
Mulgrave, from another table. “Of course they will stop in London.”
As she spoke, she ceased to sort her cards, and announced, “I make no
trumps.”

“It _is_ them,” persisted Tito, rising. “Mother, aren’t you going out?”

But her mother merely took up her cigarette and blew a cloud of smoke.
As she did so the door of the drawing-room was pushed open by some one,
and a graceful girl in a long sable-trimmed cloak and a French toque
came slowly into the room, ghastly pale, and yet so pretty! She looked
distinctly dazed--no wonder, poor alien!--as she contemplated this
brilliantly lighted room, the crowd of gaily dressed people all playing
cards and smoking cigarettes. Even Joseline was sharply sensible of the
strangeness of this new life--so near, yet so unknown. Directly facing
her, a yellow-haired woman--her beautiful bare shoulders emerging from
a hazardously low yellow gown--with a cigarette half-way to her mouth,
stared at the new-comer with eyes of stony incredulity.

For about the space of ten seconds a deadly stillness reigned. The
arrival paused, and in that time Lady Mulgrave saw and realised, the
amazing likeness to a certain picture in the red saloon; also that
this graceful, well-dressed personage was the bog-trotter girl, as she
mentally called her. Her husband, who was now in the room, said--

“Lottie, here is----”

“Oh ... I know.... I see,” she answered quickly, and, putting down her
cigarette, she rustled forward, took her stepdaughter’s hand in hers,
and administered an elaborate embrace. “Dearest, you are welcome--so
welcome. And here is my girl Tito,” she added, in her sweet voice,
waving forward a petite figure in a bright red gown, with bright, dark
eyes.

For a moment Joseline hesitated, and then she stooped and kissed Tito,
murmuring in a soft, broken whisper, “I do hope you will like me, me
dear! and we will be friends.”

Tito was taken completely aback, but from that moment her heart was
enlisted by this sweetly pretty creature, with the lofty air and
ridiculous brogue.

“Elgitha,” said his lordship, “let me present your niece to you,” and
he led her formally to a sofa, on which was seated the stately dowager
in velvet, with her beautiful white hair turned off her face over a
cushion.

The marchioness rose and warmly embraced the girl, and added, in a
subdued aside, “What a _likeness_!”

There were more introductions, a little talk, chiefly carried on by his
lordship, and then he said--

“Tito, will you take your sister away to her room and look after her?
We had a hideous crossing.”

“I’m sure you must be dead,” said Tito, leading the way, “and glad of a
rest and supper. I’ll introduce you to your room and your maid.”

“Maid? Oh, no. For goodness sake----”

“Why, of course a maid! Mother has two--one for her clothes, and one
for her hair! Here we are”--and she ushered Joseline into a lofty
bedroom on the first floor. “Is it not nice?”

“’Tis elegant! ’tis grand”--gazing about at the silk hangings, silver
looking-glass, and French furniture. “Just beautiful.”

“Do let me help you off with your wraps! Dear me! how different you are
to what we expected!”

“Yes?”--sitting down wearily. “What _did_ you expect?”

“Oh, a sort of bare-legged girl, with a turf creel on her back.”

The new-comer laughed hysterically as she removed her hat-pins. “Oh,
well, I never was just as bad as that!”

“I think you have made a most successful first appearance. You carried
the house by storm, and, figuratively speaking, will have splendid
notices in all the morning papers. You don’t understand my jargon?
And you are worn out. Ah! here comes your maid. Justine, this is
her ladyship. I see you have brought up some soup. You will look
after her? She is frightfully tired. What time do you get up in the
morning?”--turning to Joseline.

“Half-past six!” was the prompt reply.

“Half-past--horror! I generally emerge about eleven. To-morrow, I’ll
come and look you up early, and we will go round the grounds together
whilst Justine unpacks. Of course you breakfast in bed!”

“Is it me? Never in my life!”

“Well, I’m really going now. Good night.” Kissing her, she whispered,
“sleep well, and dream happy dreams. I expect they will all come true!”



CHAPTER XXIII


Joseline, who was worn out, both bodily and mentally, slept a sound and
dreamless sleep, from which she was aroused by the sound of careful
footsteps, a rustling of starched petticoats, and a gentle opening of
heavy shutters. She stared about the unfamiliar, lofty room. Where was
she? As her gaze fell on the pale satin counterpane, the dignified
dressing-table, beyond it a tall housemaid in a stiff print gown,
cautiously raising the window-blinds, she closed her eyes. Would she
open them on her own little quarters in the cottage loft?--a room with
a wooden bed and patchwork quilt, a rickety washstand, and one chair?
No, no--and she sat erect among her pillows--it was not a dream; she
was at home--her real home. Sleepily she watched the clever housemaid
arrange her bath, and carry in her tea in a dainty canary-coloured
service.

“At what time will you have your breakfast, my lady? Her ladyship said
you would have it in your room.”

“At nine o’clock. Just a bit of anything that’s going--I’m partial to
stirabout.”

“Very well, my lady.”

Enter Justine the maid, with her smart lace-trimmed apron and air of
critical inquiry, who began to arrange and put away and take out things
in a sort of stealthy silence. Presently she came forward and asked--

“When will your ladyship get up?”

“Oh, now,” she answered, “it’s all hours.”

“When shall I come back?”

“I can dress myself, thank ye.”

“But your hair, my lady?”

“Yes, I always do it meeself.”

“Then you will ring if you want me. I’ve left out your blue cloth;
it”--pause--“fastens up the back.”

As Justine closed the door, her ladyship slid out of bed and ran,
barefooted, to the window. Before her eyes lay a heavily timbered park,
so large, that it gave her the impression of being boundless. A silvery
frost sparkled on the grass. Beneath the window was a pleasure-garden
with gravel walks and marble steps and statues, where three men with
brooms and a barrow were languidly sweeping up the dead leaves. Somehow
the stately spacious outlook, impressed Joseline, even more than the
interior of the house.

When breakfast arrived, she was already dressed, all but the fastening
of her gown, and, unaware of the enormity, she requested the housemaid
“to give her a hook up.” Of course it was not Marston’s business, and
she might get into trouble with Ma’mselle; but the new-comer had no
idea of the hard and fast lines of domestic service--or indeed that
there were any lines at all. After a hearty meal, Joseline ventured
forth into the wide corridors, down a grand staircase, and was
presently lost among the intricacies of an immense, rambling mansion.
There were long passages, lined with sporting pictures, and covered
with thick red carpets, where she encountered soft-footed men-servants,
who stared and stood aside. She discovered a billiard-room, then,
opening a swing door, a cloak-room, and suddenly found herself in what
appeared to be the butler’s pantry, where two youths in shirt-sleeves
seemed not a little startled by her visit. She had opened the wrong
swing door, and, in beating a nervous retreat, came face to face with
her father in shooting kit. He seemed surprised and pleased, as he
exclaimed--

“Hullo! you early bird, what are you doing in this part of the house?”

“Faix, I believe I’ve lost me way. I wanted to find you, and--all the
other people.”

“At any rate you’ve found _me_. I hope you are rested?”

“Yes, thank you. And where are the rest of them?”

“Scattered about. Some are playing golf, some are in bed. I’ve been
interviewing the steward.” Then, as he ushered her through a doorway,
“Would you like me to show you the house?”

“Yes, indeed; I would love it.”

To introduce Joseline to the home of her forefathers was a task after
Lord Mulgrave’s own heart; he was a man of cultured tastes and a
well-known collector. He had a fine show of old arms, old ivories, old
cloisonné, some exquisite French cabinets, and the finest snuff-boxes
in England. By degrees he piloted Joseline through a suite of
reception-rooms, and showed her many rare and costly objects among his
heirlooms and his treasures; he was eloquent over his relics of the
Armada, his Sèvres cups, “Mary and William” tankards, and was conscious
of a sharp spasm of disappointment, when he found that the object that
claimed his companion’s admiration and awe was the stuffed brown bear,
which held a cigar-tray in the billiard-room! In short, as far as
knowledge and appreciation of art went, Joseline might be a child of
six. In the red saloon, a room panelled with damask and pictures, she
came to a halt before a fine painting of the Madonna and Child, which
Lord Mulgrave had picked up at a curiosity-shop in Pisa; it was said to
be a Raphael--at any rate, it was of his school.

Joseline gazed for some time, and then crossed herself devoutly.

“Oh, it is real beautiful,” she remarked at last--“a deal better than
the one in Glenveigh Chapel. I wish they had the likes of it. An’
wouldn’t Father Daly be the proud man!” She paused, coloured, and
exclaimed, “Oh, I was forgettin’.”

“Forgetting what?” inquired her father.

“I’m afraid my being a Catholic is a shockin’ upset; but I tell ye, for
ye bid to know”--and she surveyed him with solemn eyes--“I’ll never
change my religion.”

“No, of course not, my dear. It is true that our family have always
been Church of England; but I am thankful that you have a religion; it
is an uncommon possession in these days.”

Was he thinking of his wife, with her Sunday card-parties?

As they talked on many subjects, they were moving slowly down the
saloon, and at the end, he came to a standstill. Lord Mulgrave had
instinctively felt that there was no use in exhibiting the priceless
Vandycks, Romneys, and Hoppners, to this uneducated child as yet; but
here was a modern picture, bound to enchain her. Joseline looked up at
a full-length painting of a lovely girl, robed in a filmy white gown,
with delicate touches of blue. The portrait had been taken at a happy
moment, and seemed to exhale the very breath of life and youth. No need
to explain. Instinctively she was aware that she was face to face
with her mother. The picture was a gem, the “chef d’œuvre” of a French
artist who, like his model, had died young. The face was so vivid, so
full of animation, it seemed to stand out from the canvas, as if alive.
A truly speaking likeness! Joseline recognised her own shade of hair,
the colour of her eyes, and brows--her very mouth--she was looking at
herself as in a mirror.

“You are like her,” said Lord Mulgrave, in a low voice. “You can see
it?”

“I am, in face,” she answered, with an effort. “But in mind and ways
I’m just an awkward, common flahoola of a country girl!”

She had spoken the truth; her father could not contradict her. Again
he was penetrated with the conviction that, with the refined face and
figure of his beloved Joseline, the charming daughter beside him, had
the manners and vocabulary of the Irish peasantry. (Unfortunately for
Lord Mulgrave, his nature was dominated by the critical faculty.) Would
she ever outgrow or live down her plebeian youth, and those twenty-one
years of poverty and hardship, which yawned between her and him?

“Oh! you will improve,” he said, with a stifled sigh.

“I’m afraid I’m too old. However, I’ll try.”

“And here,” continued Lord Mulgrave, indicating a patrician individual
in splendid uniform, “is your grandfather, the Duc de Hernoncourt.”

“Holy Moses! Fancy that my grandfather!” she murmured, staring into the
face, “and him a duke, no less!”

“Yes; he had the royal blood of France in his veins. So”--looking at
her steadily--“have you.”

“Is it me?” she repeated, opening her eyes. Then she burst out
laughing. “Well, to think of that now! He looks terribly stiff and
stand-off, does my grandfather, and as if he did not want to know the
likes of me.”

“This is the little boudoir,” announced Lord Mulgrave, suddenly opening
a door into a small, bright room, where a great wood fire blazed up
the chimney. Before it was drawn a sofa, on which a recumbent figure
lay extended at full length, displaying a generous view of red silk
stockings and buckled shoes, the head buried among soft silk cushions;
and when the head turned, it displayed the face of Tito--Tito with a
cigarette between her lips, and a yellow paper-bound book in her hand.

“Hallo!”--suddenly sitting up. “Good morning, pater.” To Joseline: “So
you are down?”

“Yes, long ago,” she replied. “I’m sorry you are sick. What ails you?”

“I sick? Certainly not! Pray why on earth should you think so?”

“Because you are lying stretched.”

“Oh, that’s nothing. I’m taking it easy. The Max girls and the men are
playing a foursome, and I’m off duty”; and she snuggled down again, and
replaced her cigarette.

“Duty reminds me that I’m to meet Ross, the head keeper, at
eleven-thirty,” said Lord Mulgrave, “so I must be off; and I leave you
two girls together. Tito will take you in hand, Joseline, and coach you
a bit. I’ll see you at lunch.” And he went out.

“Sit down in that comfy chair,” said Tito, extending an authoritative
cigarette, “and let us have a talk. I suppose the earl has been doing
the grand tour. Tell me what do you think of the pictures? Aren’t they
splendid?”

“Oh, yes,” she assented, without enthusiasm, “grand.”

“The Cavalier on the black horse is worth ten thousand pounds.”

“Holy saints! Did father pay all that money?”

“No, goosey. The Cavalier is an ancestor--a most valuable one, too. If
he were mine, I’d sell him like a shot. They are all your ancestors.”

“How strange! I never heard the word itself spoken till last week.
Where are the other people?”

“Mother is in bed; she never shows till lunch; she has her toilette,
and her little dog, and her letters. Lady Max is an early bird, but she
breakfasts in her boudoir; she has a mighty correspondence--political
and philanthropic. The girls are out--both golf mad. Griselda is a
champion; the rest of the crowd were only neighbours. There is another
big spread to-night, and a shoot to-morrow.”

“Oh!”--and Joseline relapsed into silence, and sat staring at the fire.

“Now, come, let’s talk, and get to know one another,” said Tito
briskly. “You begin.”

“Faix, it takes a long while to know people,” rejoined the other, in
her soft, musical drawl.

“But in my case I become an intimate, or an enemy, within the first
half-hour.”

“Faix, then, I hope you won’t become my enemy.”

“No--though of course I ought to, after your turning up, and giving me
the back seat!”

Joseline became crimson, and looked uncomfortable and distressed.

“Bar jokes! I mean to do you a good turn, and tell you things.”

“I’ll be thankful to you, for I’m as ignorant as a young crow. What
sort of things?”

“Family news, family politics, family secrets that you would take ages
to discover. Also I’ll be your child’s guide and adviser--for though
I expect you are only a couple of years younger than I am, I am old
enough in worldly ways to be your grandmother. You call me Tito, of
course.”

“Yes, of course. And your mother; what am I to call her?”

“Um,” muttered Tito into the stump of her cigarette.

“Um?” repeated her pupil. “Do you mean _Mum_?”

“No. I’m considering,” she answered, with half-shut eyes. “I’ll let you
know later. Did you do your hair yourself?”

“Yes; av course I did. Why? Is it a holy show?”

“No; ripping! Tell me, has the earl said anything to you about money,
or an allowance?”

“Yes. He said four hundred a year. It’s far too much.”

“Too much!” suddenly sitting erect. “Not half enough. You could
never do with it--that is, if you are to be dressed. Why, look at
me!”--gesticulating. “Do you see this serge gown I’ve on? It cost
twenty guineas--not paid for yet. My shoes”--she flourished her pretty
feet--“three guineas. As to my evening gowns, that wretch ‘Du Du’ won’t
let me have anything under thirty-five pounds, and then it’s sham lace,
and looks like a rag in a week! Do you know that my winter coat cost
one hundred and twenty pounds? That makes a big hole in four hundred
pounds. I’ve the same allowance too, and I’m drowned in debt.”

“_You_ in debt? Why I thought it was only poor people that owed!”

“Well, I’m poor. I’ve nothing of my own but a hundred a year. Oh, I
owe bills I simply dare not think of. Such piles--especially in Paris.
Mother is even worse; she owes thousands! Of course, then there’s her
bridge losings, and her new motor, and Monte Carlo and all that. When
she married his lordship she had a thousand a year, and a little girl.
She has the little girl still--but the thousand a year has departed.”

“But is not father rich?”

“Yes. Nothing much for all he has to keep up. He says he is a poor rich
man. Lots of the farms are on his hands. There is the big London house,
the villa at Cannes, this place, with fifty servants. And mother is a
bad manager, and frightfully extravagant.”

“Well, av course I’ve always been poor, and twenty pounds seems a
fortune. Tell me, Tito, why do ye spend so much on yer back?”

“Because I must be in the swim. One cannot be seen over and over in
the same gown. When I go on a three days’ visit, I take at least a
dozen frocks. Then, I’m plain--I require dressing. Now _you_ could wear
anything.”

“Is that so? or are ye joking?”

“Why, you know you are most awfully pretty! I say”--and she pulled up
a cushion with a tug and selected a fresh cigarette--“don’t you feel a
bit funny? Outside you look all right”--she paused and surveyed her
companion critically, then resumed, “but how is your mind? How are you
_inside_?”

“Faix, then I’ll tell you! I feel just as you would if, after being
reared in grandeur all your life, you were suddenly struck down below
stairs, among a pack of strangers, and told to scour the pots, and wash
up dishes.”

“I’d be bound to smash everything before me.”

“That’s just how I feel,” said Joseline with fervour. “I’m sure to
break lots of things.”

“You mean the laws of good manners. Well, you will soon learn; you see,
you are a lady born.”

“But I’ve lived all my life as a working girl”--and she held out her
hands. “I may be Lady Joseline to look at, but I’m just Mary Foley
dressed up.”

“There is one thing you’ll break, my dear, and that is hearts.”

“Arrah, go on with you, and your blarney!”

“Go where?”--laughing. “I really wonder you were not married long ago.”

“Faix, there is more nor you wonders at that,” she answered sedately.

“Who pray?”

“Why, the boys I would not take!”

“Do tell me about them?”

“Augh, sure, they were only just common chaps.”

“What a providential mercy you did not _take_ one of them! That would
have been a fine complication!”

“Have you any chap, Tito?”

“Oh, heaps of a sort. Of course, I’ve played about.”

“What’s that?”

“Sitting in corners and writing little notes and having jokes, but
nothing serious. Mother thinks it is time there _was_ something
serious; you see, I’m twenty-three”--and she blew a cloud. “And I’ve no
looks or money; I’m only smart and bright and well turned out, and an
A1 dancer and bridger.”

“What’s a bridger?”

“Oh, you poor dear innocent, you’ll soon know! Well, as I was saying,
I’m not a very marketable article, and here you come and take all the
wind out of my little sails.”

“There’s no fear of that! You can’t understand the dread I’m in of all
the strange grand folk. When I think of things I’m scared; and as to
the servants, I declare they just paralyse me!”

“How ridiculous! You must really learn to hold up your head and be
self-confident.”

“I never could. Now, there’s your mother; she’s a real lady; any one
can see that with half an eye.”

“Of course, mother comes of a good old family, and is proud; but she
was only a parson’s daughter--second son--family living, you know?”

“No, I know nothing. I’ve heard of a living family, never of a family
living. I’m afraid her ladyship will mislike me.”

“Oh no, she never mislikes any one; and don’t call her her ladyship,
for mercy’s sake!”

“No; and I’ll be very thankful to you if you’ll correct me when I’m
wrong. Now, tell me, what my father likes?”

“Peace, with a big P, and sport and books and pictures and curios. I am
happy to add, he likes _me_.”

“And your mother?”

“Society, society, and again society--lots of nice boys, and smart
married women without their husbands, married men without their wives.
She adores bridge and cigarettes, motoring, and pretty clothes; she
likes to give the best house-parties, and to feel that she is very
popular. By-the-by, I wonder what Dudley will say to _you_?”

“Dudley? Oh, yes, I remember--father’s cousin. Do you like him?”

“Pretty well: he is decent enough. Mother adores him.”

“Why? Sure she is no relation!”

“No, if he were she might loathe him. She likes him because he is rich,
and run after, and good-looking, and the next heir--and so deliciously
casual and cool; and because”--here she took the pillow from beneath
her head and thumped it vigorously--“she wishes him to marry”--a
violent thump--“_me_!”

“Well, and why not?” inquired Joseline, in her tranquil voice. “I see
they do draw down matches over here, with all their laughing at us in
Ireland.”

“_Us_, in Ireland!”--throwing herself back. “You have no more to say to
Ireland than the parrot or your terrier. By the way, why did you import
him?”

“I was lonesome like.”

“I believe he has chased the housekeeper’s best cat; and that cat is a
personage, I can assure you.”

“I’m sorry; but he was always a terror for cats.”

“What a funny expression!”

“Well, when I’m too funny entirely, will you, for the love of goodness,
give me a wink or a pinch. I know I just talk like the purest
commonality--I’m not fit to be a lady.”

“You can’t help yourself; you _are_ a lady.”

“I’m better than I was, thanks be to Miss Usher; she made me read
aloud to her every day. Now, do tell me, when are you going to be
married to my cousin?”

“Most probably never--though it would be a splendid match for me.”

“Then why not give in to it?”

“I expect there would be two words to the bargain. Dudley is in no
hurry; he knows his value, and that he could marry almost any girl in
England. Perhaps he may take it into his head to marry you! I’m sure
your father would fall in with that arrangement.”

“And what about _me_?”

“Oh, you! It would be like a political marriage; you’d have to consider
yourself highly honoured. He is the most fastidious creature I’ve ever
seen.”

“Tell me some more about him,” urged Joseline, suddenly sinking on to
the big white rug, and clasping her arms around her knees.

“Yes, with pleasure, if you will wait till I light a fresh cigarette.”

“But you have smoked two already,” remonstrated her companion.

“Oh, that’s nothing”--carelessly striking a match. “Why, mother
smokes dozens a day, although the doctors have forbidden her to smoke
at _all_, she has such a weak heart; and they declare she will kill
herself, but she does not believe them. As for Dudley, he has been
in the army--the Duke’s Lancers; he was out in South Africa, and got
enteric, and nearly died; he is awfully faddy about his health, and
takes a real interest in his tongue and his temperature; then, he is
shockingly flattered and run after, for, besides being heir to the
pater, he has a big property in mines, which, needless to say, he never
goes near; he is supposed to have tremendous taste in some ways, and
sets fashions--he was the first man to wear a silk muffler with the
point outside, and to lunch at his club on bread and milk. Now I hear
that bread and milk is the rage!”

“And what else does he do besides eating slops?”

“Oh, he travels, and motors, and shoots, and sleeps, and nurses
himself, and says nasty, cynical things--and sometimes does kind ones.
He is rather decent--the earl likes him; by all the laws of propriety
he ought to hate his heir, but they get on capitally; they neither of
them talk much; they just sit and smoke, or walk and smoke. Dudley is
accustomed to be talked to and amused; you see, he is a great catch.”

“Does he flirt, or play, as you call it?”

“Yes; but only with married women.”

Joseline stared; her face expressed shame and disapproval.

“Oh, my dear little lambkin, it’s all right. No scandal! Just a few
dresses, and a kiss or two.”

“I don’t understand.”

“No, but you will, darling. Now tell me, between ourselves, have you
ever had a real lover?”

No answer. Joseline’s eyes fell, and her colour rose.

“Look here, we will exchange experiences. I will tell you my secrets;
you shall reveal yours. Come now; has a man ever kissed you?”

Joseline’s colour increased, and crept up to her temples.

“Ah, ha! I see! Oh, your face is a shocking telltale!”

“Then it’s telling a big lie!” she protested with energy.

“It looks to me like the truth. _Some one_ has kissed you. Come now,
own up!”

“If I do, you will swear”--and she rose to her knees, and leant against
the sofa--“to keep my secret?”

“Yes, I swear--a million times over!”

“Well--I’ve no call to be ashamed; it was six years ago, and I was
only a slip of a thing; but a man did kiss me, and I kissed him”--a
pause--“through a pane of glass!”

Tito sat erect, stared incredulously, and burst into a scream of
laughter; it rang through the room, peal after peal. At that moment
Lady Grizel appeared in the doorway, where she stood for a moment in
startled silence.

“Why, Tito, you have nearly drowned the luncheon gong!” she said. “What
_is_ the joke?”

Tito, still gasping for breath, scrambled off the sofa and replied:
“The best joke I’ve heard for years!” and drying her eyes, she
repeated, “The best I’ve heard for years! I must refer you to Joseline!”

But Joseline had already sprung to her feet, and fled.



CHAPTER XXIV


Lady Mulgrave and her guests were already seated, when two late
arrivals joined them with hurried apologies.

“Good morning,” she said, tendering a dainty hand to Joseline, and
offering her ear to be kissed.

But this ignorant Irish peasant failed to accept the hint, having no
conception that she was being honoured with permission to salute her
stepmother’s delicately powdered skin; and she stood for a moment,
undecided and embarrassed.

“Well, there, my dear, go and sit down,” said her ladyship, indicating
a place next to herself. “I hope you are rested?”

“Thank you, I’m finely to-day.”

“I suppose you have been round the house?”

“Yes. It’s wonderful; it’s grand. I never saw the likes of it.”

Lady Mulgrave smiled faintly, and said, with half malicious emphasis,
“No, dear, I should imagine _not_!”

Her look was significant, though her smile was enchanting. Joseline
instantly withdrew into herself and proceeded to eat her lunch in
nervous silence. Whatever she said or did was bound to be wrong. She
read--she was quick in such matters--criticism and ridicule in the
other woman’s eyes.

Those same eyes watched her from time to time with a curious,
scrutinising gaze. Seen in the broad light of day, the girl’s
extraordinary resemblance to her mother came home to Lady Mulgrave like
a shock. She had never ceased to be jealous of that exquisite portrait!
And here was the picture alive, a brilliant and emphatic reality,
seated beside her at table, and, oh! small sweet consolation! eating
French beans with a knife!

Although Mrs. Dawson had secured a splendid position for herself and
daughter, her affection for Lord Mulgrave was lukewarm; she had,
however, acted her part to perfection. By-and-by it had dawned on her
husband that there was no sincerity behind all those honey-sweet words.
Gradually he had withdrawn into himself, and they had drifted apart,
having nothing whatever in common.

Then there had been disagreements respecting expenditure, arrangements,
guests of which he disapproved; but in these little encounters, the
lady had invariably the best of it; she never lost her self-command, or
her temper; but she wept in a subdued and becoming fashion, and Lord
Mulgrave was a coward in the presence of a woman in tears, therefore
he relinquished his sceptre for the sake of peace. And yet, though
he was indifferent to her, she was jealous--jealous of the beautiful
French wife, whose memory he had enshrined, jealous of the poor little
treasures which he hoarded, of the miniature that he carried with him
whenever he left home, were it but for a day!

Now, like a thunderbolt from the skies, this Frenchwoman’s
daughter--her living, breathing image--had crossed the threshold
of her life. Already she was sensible of a hot dislike of the girl
(though, of course, no one should ever suspect it). She would play her
cards cautiously, pose as the sweetest of stepmothers, and, as soon
as possible, marry her off. With that face and figure there would be
little difficulty, unless the creature was an absolute idiot!

She could see that Joseline was pitiably nervous, and no doubt would
have been a thousand times happier in the servants’ hall. It was true
she ate but little; and by degrees ventured to look about her. The
presence of her father at the foot of the table--of Tito, chattering
directly opposite--emboldened her, and she glanced at the company one
by one. There was her aunt, handsome, gracious, and stately, with her
white hair beautifully waved, her plump hands sparkling with rings;
she looked kind. There were her cousins--fresh Scotch girls--wearing
tam-o’-shanters and tweeds; three clean-shaven young men, rather like
a set; and a pretty dark girl from the Rectory. They were all eagerly
talking golf--discussing putting, ties, bunkers. To Joseline it was
the purest gibberish, but to the company it seemed a topic of the most
vital interest. Even Lady Maxwelton was eloquent, and bragged of “our
greens.”

Her immediate neighbours had only addressed one or two remarks to the
new importation. They were charitable, Christian people, and realised
that it was kinder to leave her unnoticed--and to permit the poor girl
“to find herself.”

After lunch, the six ladies adjourned to coffee in the little
drawing-room, and here the marchioness and her daughters gathered round
and made friends with their new cousin.

Such a pretty, blushing, timid creature, with her soft southern brogue!
And what a likeness to her mother!

By-and-by Joseline rose, in hopes of making her escape; but Lady
Mulgrave, with an imperative gesture, motioned her to her side, and,
looking up with half-closed eyes, exclaimed, “Now you must talk to _me_
a little, dear girl.”

Joseline sat down in embarrassed silence.

“Dearest child, I really do think you so wonderful.” A pause, and she
blew a cloud. “Six weeks ago you were in a cabin. It is extraordinary,
is it not?”

“It is,” was the humble admission; “but it was not altogether what you
might call a cabin.”

“No? And what, then--a hut?”

“Just a decent slated house with two good bedrooms, forby, a loft, and
a fine kitchen and scullery.”

“Where did _you_ sleep?”

“In the loft.”

“But, dearest, you said there were two bedrooms.”

“Yes, but we kept potatoes in one, and I liked being up high. And now,
with your leave, I’d like to go away and write a few letters.”

“So then”--with a playful air--“you can write?”

“Oh yes, and read, and cipher. I had good schooling.”

“And what are your accomplishments, Joseline?”

“Not much to brag about.”

“Still, I’m confident you are clever at some things.”

“I can sing, and play the concertina.”

“Oh, the concertina!” repeated Lady Mulgrave, with a faint shudder.

“And I can knit and dance; and I’m a good milker--if that counts.”

“So, then, you had a cow? Any pigs?”

“No. We had three, and sometimes four, cows. We kept the Rectory in
milk, and the police barracks as well.”

“Did you do all this yourself--no assistants?”

“Me mother--that’s”--becoming scarlet--“Mrs. Foley,--wasn’t up to much,
and I used to have a girl in on weekdays to lend a hand, and a boy of a
Sunday--but I got shut of him.”

“And where did you shut him? And why?”

“Oh, because he was always in a hurry to be off, tearing at the cows at
two o’clock, instead of six, because, being Sunday, he wanted to do the
bona fide on his bicycle.”

“Dearest, what _do_ you mean?”

“The bona fide traveller, you know, is allowed refreshments. He would
take a spin of six or seven miles--get a drink at a public-house. May I
go now, please?”

“Yes, of course, dear.” And as the girl crossed the room and
disappeared, Lady Mulgrave turned to the marchioness and said, with a
shrug, “Is she not _too_ quaint for words! playing the concertina, and
the boy doing--what was it?--the bona fide on a bicycle!”

“I think she is a sweet, simple, good girl,” declared her aunt--“just
one of nature’s ladies.”

“Oh, she is simple enough,” acquiesced the other; but in her voice
there was a belittling and malicious note.

Joseline spent an hour in writing letters to Miss Usher, Peggy
Carroll, and Mrs. Hogan--letters written on beautiful thick paper, and
ornamented with a neat gold crown. After these had been despatched,
she accompanied her father on a tour of inspection round the grounds,
the gardens, and the stable-yard. It was a bright, frosty afternoon,
and she felt invigorated and even gay. The two made steady progress
in intimacy; her awe of him had entirely abated, and she talked
freely, expressing her delight in the greenhouses and horses and dogs
with truly Irish enthusiasm. As they walked away from the golf links
he said, “You must learn to play golf and billiards. I will teach
you--yes, and to ride too.”

“I’ve everything to learn--and that’s the truth.”

“I am glad you and Tito seem to hit it off.”

“Yes, indeed; she’s queer notions, but she is real kind-hearted. I’ve
asked her to correct me when I’m doing the wrong thing.”

“She’s so feather-headed, you must not rely on her; better come to
_me_.”

“So I will, with a heart and a half.”

“You will soon become accustomed to us and our ways. Be yourself--be
gay, my dear; another young voice in the house is a great pleasure to
me.”

“But not a South Cork brogue! Ye can’t call _that_ nice?”

“Yes, I can; it reminds me of old days. Your mother had most wonderful
spirits; she was the happiest----” he stopped. “Well, here I see her
ladyship coming in her motor; you had better go and get ready for tea;
she likes young people to be punctual--remember that, dear.”

“Yes; and we were so late for lunch! But I had to tidy my hair; it was
like a furze bush. I won’t have any tea. I must unpack, and tidy up my
things; but I’ll come down early.”

“If you do, then we can have a talk. Dinner is at eight. I believe
Dudley is expected.”

Joseline, having arranged her belongings in her own way, dressed early,
and descended to the yellow drawing-room, in order to have a good
half-hour with the magazines, and the promised talk with her father,
before the crowd came.

Absorbed in a story, she did not hear the door open.

Captain Deverell entered; he had just arrived by train. At first he
supposed the room was empty, but, seeing a white skirt billowing round
the sides of an arm-chair near the fire, he called out, “Hullo, Tito!
Is that you? Has the wild Irish girl arrived?”

The figure sat up, rose slowly to her feet, and confronted him. No, it
was not Tito, but a far better-looking young lady, wearing a white gown
and a turquoise necklace, who replied, “Yes, she has come--in fact,
here she is!” dropping a curtsey. “But she’s not very, very wild at
present.”

He surveyed her gravely. “I beg your pardon. So you must be Lady
Joseline?”

She nodded.

“And I have the honour to present your cousin, once removed, Dudley
Deverell”; and he made a profound, half-ironical inclination.

“Oh, yes, I’ve heard all about you from Tito”; and she sat down and
took up her book with an air of calm detachment.

“I’ve seen you before somewhere, I think,” he announced, after a
puzzled silence.

“Have you really?” And again her eyes wandered to the page.

“It is not considered polite to read--er--when you have some one to
talk to.”

She closed her book, and said, “Excuse me, please, I have not learnt
manners yet. I will not read, but I am awfully interested in the story.”

“And not in the least in _me_, eh? How crushing!”

She coloured up to her hair.

“I have it!” he shouted triumphantly.

“What have you caught?” she demanded, with brisk curiosity.

“You, bless my soul!” Here he sat down. “Why, you are the girl at the
gate. Yes, I recognise your eyes, though you are dressed up. You cannot
have forgotten us--the motor people! And my friend Harry Coxford had a
row with your young man. Don’t you remember?”

“Oh, indeed, I remember it well enough! And you were the dummy! Patsie
had drink taken, and I got a queer fright, I declare, when the two were
in handy grips.”

“What were you doing there, that day?”

“I went up just to fetch back the cat, and to say good-bye to the old
place. ’Twas there I was reared.”

“Were you? Well, I must say you do it credit. So that was your home,
until old Usher ferreted you out?”

She nodded.

“And how do you like your new quarters?”

“Well enough so far, thank you.”

“By Jove!”--looking her over--“she is a cool card--might have been here
for years”; and he took in the well-cut gown, the dainty little shoe,
the turquoise necklace, which so well became her dazzling white throat.
Yes, the girl had evidently begun well, and made what is known on the
turf, as a “flying start.”

It was a singular circumstance that whereas her tone and speech were
distinctly common, she had nevertheless an indescribable air of good
breeding--the strange, inimitable stamp of social superiority that
cannot be acquired by any known process of education.

“And what became of the uproarious young man?” he inquired.

“Oh, he’s all right, for all I know,” she answered, with supreme
indifference.

“Or care,” drawled Captain Deverell.

“Yes,” she answered coldly, “or care.”

“There’s a pretty confession.”

“Sure! the likes of him was nothing whatever to me,” she announced,
with an air of serene repudiation.

“No, but you seemed to be a good deal whatever, to him.”

“How could I help that? Aren’t they all the same?”

“Oh, are they? Does your father know of this Pat, or Mike?”

“No; why should he be bothered with the likes of such nonsense?”

“Nonsense! Well, you are amazing. The man was madly in love with you,
and you call it ‘nonsense’!”

“People in love are mostly foolish.”

“How do you know?”

“Why, from seeing plenty of them,” was the unabashed reply.

“In your own case?”

“Yes, they tormented the life out of me, and I was tired of insulting
them. But I’ll tell you one thing--Patsie only fancied he liked me; it
was just because I was going off, and his contrariness. If I’d been
stopping on, I don’t believe he’d have bothered me, for he is looking
for a fortune.”

“Yes”--drawing his chair a little closer. “This is most interesting.
Please go on.”

But Joseline was gazing at the door, which opened cautiously, and
admitted Lady Mulgrave in an evening toilette of sea green and
diamonds. She rustled forward with empressement.

“There now, and I’ll tell ye the rest when we are by ourselves.”

Her ladyship distinctly overheard this promise. What a bold
creature!--a girl who had met Dudley for the first time. So this was
her simple, innocent little Irish peasant! Already spreading her nets
for her father’s heir. How truly abominable!

“My dear boy, I’d no idea you had arrived,” she said, coming over with
extended hands. “I see that I needn’t introduce you to Joseline”--and
she looked contemptuously amused. “Have you been here long?”

“Only about five minutes.”

She glanced interrogatively at the girl, who turned towards the
mantelpiece, and said, “Fifteen, by the clock.”

“Well, it seemed like five,” he said; “my new cousin had so many
curious things to tell me. Now I must be off and dress”; and he
departed, leaving Joseline and her stepmother _tête-à-tête_.

“But, dearest child, I was given to understand that you were painfully
_shy_,” she was beginning, when, to the girl’s immense relief, the door
opened again, and several of the guests came into the room, followed by
her father.

“And how has my little girl been getting on?” he asked, as he joined
her.

“Oh, very well so far, and I’ve just made acquaintance with Dudley
Deverell.”

“And what do you think of him?”

“I cannot answer that just yet; but I can tell you what he thinks--of
me.”

“Really!”

“That I am a new sort of foreign curiosity. I may be gold, or I may be
_brass_! I’m sure he suspects there’s a bit of brass about me!”



CHAPTER XXV


Tito’s sketch of Dudley Deverell was not altogether a caricature;
he was good-looking, selfish, and popular. Social success and an
atmosphere of flattery, stimulated his weaknesses, and encouraged
him to display the least attractive side of his nature--a cynical
air, an amazing indolence, and a cool indifference to the opinions
of other people. Life had been made pleasant for him, and he valued
it accordingly. As a guest and attraction he was faithless, and had
thrown more than one important hostess into a tempest of indignation,
by sending at the eleventh hour a lying wire. He travelled, he shot and
fished when his health permitted, and was just as bored as other young
men, with no occupation, and great prospects.

Some day he was bound to marry, and possibly Tito would do as well
as any one! She knew the place, and it would please her people. Tito
was good company, and a ripping dancer, but inclined to be rowdy, and
confoundedly plain. If he could not remedy one defect--he would the
other.

And now there was another girl in the family--he had bestirred himself
so far as to journey to Ashstead, to see what she was like? It was an
amazing tale. An introduction to this peasant would afford him a novel
sensation. New sensations were rare and precious, and he had run down
just for one night, in order to interview the stranger; and behold!
she was no stranger, but the pretty, cheeky girl who had chaffed him
by the roadside in Ireland. The new cousin was uncommon; she was
amazing; her manners and accent were abominable. However, she had
lovely eyes and a saucy tongue, and he foresaw a considerable amount of
entertainment.

These were some of Captain Deverell’s reflections as he gazed into his
own face and executed a most finished white tie (he had been an Eton
boy). Lady Mulgrave, too, had certain thoughts respecting Joseline. She
had never seen Dudley so animated and interested, as on this occasion
in the drawing-room.

Oh, that would never do! She would nip the intimacy in the bud at once.
Dudley rarely remained longer than twenty-four hours, and she would see
that he and the girl were kept apart. Captain Deverell slipped into the
drawing-room just as dinner was announced, looking the ne plus ultra of
the smooth-faced, smooth-headed young men of the period, and was just
in time to lead Lady Grizel into the dining-room.

As Lord Mulgrave glanced round the beautifully decorated, well-lined
table, he felt secretly vexed that Joseline, who had yet to distinguish
between a dinner-knife and a dessert-knife, and to whom a finger-glass
was a puzzle, should not have been allowed a little breathing space
before being placed on exhibition.

Certainly she looked surprisingly like the rest of the company, save
that she was much more attractive. With her wonderful skin, her
burnished hair, her fine features, and exquisitely turned throat, it
might be her mother come to life. And she was suitably dressed! Miss
Usher had proved, indeed, a treasure. Then he considered his wife at
the head of the table, a fashionable figure, with wonderful hair and
complexion, a generous display of her splendid neck and shoulders, a
French gown, the family diamonds, and her best society smile.

Lady Mulgrave glanced frequently at Joseline; she was a remarkable
object, and Captain Deverell’s eyes strayed to her too. The girl seemed
to be both beautiful and discreet. She scarcely spoke, she scarcely
ate, but crumbled bread and uttered monosyllables. Once she assured a
man-servant that “she wanted no more sauce--she had lashings!” What
were lashings? “Oh, if she would only talk!” said Lady Mulgrave to
herself. Some one had been advising her to hold her tongue. However,
her hands were red; she had upset her neighbour’s champagne, eaten her
neighbour’s bread, and dropped her spoon. Yet, when all was said, the
peasant girl had undergone the ordeal of her first dinner-party, with
respectable self-possession.

After dinner, Joseline was formally presented to various important
dowagers in the drawing-room, who found the girl pretty, well turned
out, but oh! so stupid! She scarcely opened her lips.

Then the men came crowding in, conversation became general,
bridge-tables were set out, and Joseline found her tongue.

“Do you play bridge?” inquired Captain Deverell, sinking into a seat
beside Joseline, whilst another man hovered near.

“No, I never heard tell of it till to-day,” she answered; “and is it
with a ball, or what?”

“No; with cards.” Then, speaking as to a child, “You know
cards--playing cards?”

“Yes, and like them finely too. I’ve never heard of the game you mean,
but I know ‘spoil fire’ and ‘beating Jack out of town.’”

“That must be a most exciting game,” drawled her cousin. “How many beat
him? Not more than one at a time, I hope?”

“As many as likes; it makes no odds.”

“Are you fond of motoring?” inquired a man who did not see why Deverell
should engross the beauty.

“Well, I’ll tell ye after I’ve been on one. I once got a lift on a
traction-engine--me and a girl--I mean, a girl and myself--and I
suppose it’s the same sort of thing?”

“Only the pace is slightly different.”

“Yes; but the noise, and the joggling, and the frightening of horses
and cattle, is all one.”

“I daresay you are right there,” he assented.

“What part of Ireland have you lived in?” inquired a smartly dressed
lady, who was seated near Joseline.

“The south, near Glenveigh.”

“Oh, yes; a great place for fishing, is it not?”

“I would not say that; but it’s where people come _looking_ for
fishing.”

“And don’t get it. I see! By the way, does not Mrs. Borrodaile live in
that part of the world?”

“She does so, at the Court.”

“I suppose you know her--er--by sight?”

Joseline nodded. “I seen her in the chapel.”

“Do tell me what she is like?”

“Well, some makes out she is handsome; but I’d call her a very
streelish lady.”

“Streelish!” she repeated. “You mean stylish?”

“No, no, I do not. She has a great streel on her--long, sweeping
things--and looks as if she was falling out of her clothes.”

“Really?” she laughed. “I must inquire into this. I’ve not seen her for
ages; she is my cousin.”

“Is she so?” rejoined Joseline imperturbably. “I believe she is very
good to the poor. Her kitchen-maid was a friend of mine and thought a
power of her. Still and all, she _has_ a rakish look!”

This newly discovered heiress was a unique creature, with her
distinguished face and her extraordinary talk. She was splendid fun;
people began to hover near her. Her father watched her with nervous
apprehensions. It was too bad of her ladyship to bring the child
forward before she had a little experience of society! But her ladyship
had her own views; she wished to make her husband uncomfortable and
ashamed of his low-bred daughter. He now joined the circle, and with
unexpected animation, urged people to seat themselves at bridge.

Bridge, the all-fascinating, soon scattered Joseline’s little court;
and presently she and her father stole away together to have a talk in
the library. They were not missed.

When Joseline had retired, Lord Mulgrave, as he smoked alone, began to
ask himself if he would not have been wise to have accepted Lottie’s
broad hint, and sent the child to a school for a few months, just to
rub off the rough edges of her vocabulary?

The shooting party were to have a grand battue the following morning.
All the ladies who were not sportswomen were to meet the guns at a
keeper’s cottage, and there share their luncheon. But some of the
women preferred to walk with the guns. These included Tito, who
begged Joseline to accompany her to the neighbourhood of a celebrated
warm corner, where they took their stand; but after a very short time
Joseline and her dog made their way elsewhere. She had no taste for the
spectacle. As she struggled through the undergrowth, she suddenly came
upon Dudley Deverell, gun in hand, his loader beside him, awaiting the
magic words “Mark over!”

“I say, what in the world are you doing here? and with a dog too! If
the governor sees it he will be furious,” he drawled. “If you don’t
mind you’ll get shot.”

“The dog will stick to me, and I’m striving to get out of the wood and
doing my big best; but wherever I go there are guns and slaughter.
Pah!” she exclaimed, “grown-up men shooting tame pheasants! Why don’t
you wring their necks, and have done with it!”

Dudley Deverell, who prided himself on being a dead shot and a keen
sportsman (when his health permitted), stiffened and coloured with
annoyance. What did this girl know of shooting or sport? She really
_was_ a young savage! “I see you don’t approve of us, which is
deplorable; for you will have to remain here till the end of the beat.”

“Who says so?” she demanded.

“I do. You may get shot. Mark over!” He raised his gun. Bang! bang!
went two barrels, and a couple of rocketters came crashing heavily
down. One of them fluttered about till it was put an end to. “What do
you think of that?” he inquired.

“I call it a horrid sight!” was the unexpected reply. “There is no
chance or fair play in it. But I suppose the poulterers have to be
supplied!”

“Pray what do you know about poulterers?”

“A sight more than I want to! Haven’t I spent all my life, till the
last two months, rearing chickens, and selling eggs?”

“Oh! Really! And how did you dispose of them?”

“To the gentry.”

“You did not _kill_ them I presume?”

“No. I never had the nerve; but I plucked some of them with me own two
hands.”

“Still, I suppose you made a good thing of it?”

“No then, I didn’t; though I had one lady, a big customer--till we fell
out.”

“About eggs? A bad egg, eh?”

“No. There _you_ are out. My eggs were the best. It was over a gold
locket and chain.”

“How was that?”

“She made out as her son had given it to me.”

“And she was wrong?”--smiling. “It was the other fellow?”

“Well, yes, if I’m a fellow, for I gave it to myself.”

“And the lady’s son--was _he_ one of the crowd you----?”

“What does my father do with all the game?” she interrupted brusquely.

“I’m sure I’ve no idea. He has the best coverts in the county, and
that’s enough for me. What an odd girl you are!” he said suddenly.
“Don’t you feel it yourself?”

“I feel I am the odd one out at present. And you are a queer sort of
man.”

“I--queer? In what way?” he asked, with a touch of hauteur in his tone.

“Oh, rambling about the world, looking for something to kill, same as
a boy birds-nesting, and not doing a hand’s turn, good or bad.”

“Ah, I declare you are a young reformer”--colouring angrily. “And _you_
must know such a jolly lot about the world, and men of the world--don’t
you?” he added ironically.

“There, now you are laughing at me. I’m no reformer. God knows there’s
plenty of faults in me, and I’ve no call to be picking holes in you, or
the likes of you; but I can’t keep me tongue quiet.”

“You can keep it very quiet sometimes--for instance, last night at
dinner.”

“And hard set to do it. I’ve always been a terrible talker. Tell me, is
it true, that, with all the foreign countries you have seen, and the
strange places you have pried into, you have never in your mortal life
been down one of your own mines, nor seen how things is going with men
and beasts that make your money? There! now I see you’re real mad. I
didn’t mean to torment ye!”

Before Dudley could make a fitting and crushing reply, steps approached
from behind them, and a man called out, “Hullo, Deverell, what luck?
You had a hot corner!” But all that Deverell displayed was four brace.
“Ah, you’ve had a young lady with you I see.” As the girl pushed
through the laurels, and fought her way on to a path, she heard the
voice declare, “They are the very deuce out shooting.”

“Yes,” acquiesced her cousin, with unflattering emphasis, “an infernal
nuisance.”

So that was Dudley’s verdict. She was an infernal nuisance! She halted
for a moment to digest this fact. It was now time for the lunch at the
keeper’s cottage, and she encountered most of the party on their way
to the rendezvous as she once more emerged into the open.

       *       *       *       *       *

“Lady Mulgrave, is it possible that I see you refusing our standing
dish, Irish stew?” said Dudley Deverell.

“I believe I shall have enough elsewhere,” she answered, with
significance. “What do you think of your new cousin?” she continued, as
she helped herself carefully to cutlets.

“I am not prepared to give an opinion at such short notice.”

“Then I gather that it is not a case of love at first sight?”

“I don’t believe in that humbug; and besides, I saw her in Ireland.”

“No!”--suddenly putting down her glass.

“Yes, by chance--as Mary Foley. I had not the smallest idea who she was
then.”

“And what did she look like?”

“Oh, a pretty, saucy, country girl, with lots to say for herself.
I never was so amazed as when I discovered her last night in the
drawing-room! You could have floored me with the traditional feather!”

“She does not talk much now,” said Lady Mulgrave. “Evidently she has
been advised, that silence is best.”

“It must be a trial, for I heard a man describe her as ‘the gabbiest
little divil in the country.’”

“Oh, I expect she will soon find her tongue.”

“And her feet?” supplemented Captain Deverell.

“I’m not so sure of that; it takes some time to rub off twenty-one
years of the cabin.”

“She is not awkward--no, not a bit.”

“Except when she spills things over people, and breaks wine-glasses.
You don’t think her pretty, surely?”

“Yes; very pretty, in an uncommon style.”

“A very uncommon style. What a mixture--French, English--reared in
Ireland!”

“She has some curious ideas.”

“Dear me! I had no notion that she had any ideas at all.”

“Oh, yes; with regard to shooting, and idle young men, who won’t do a
hand’s turn!”

“Nonsense! How amusing! You and she must have become delightfully
confidential among the laurels! She is a frightful flirt; any one can
see that with half an eye.”

“Well, I cannot, with two eyes.”

“Oh, but you will. Oh, she’ll try her prentice hand--and a red hand it
is!--on you, of course!”

“How do she and Tito hit it off?”

“Pretty well. You know Tito has the temper of an angel; so unselfish
and sweet. She and I are running over to Paris to do some shopping for
ten days. Any chance of seeing you, Dudley?”

“Perhaps. The old place, I suppose?”

“Yes; and Joseline and her father will have the house to themselves,
and be able to make much of one another.”

“He seems immensely devoted,” said Dudley.

“Yes. He is full of sentiment, you know. There is, however, one
drawback; she is a Catholic.”

“Well, I agree with the earl. It is something to be anything in the
present day. Personally, I like a woman to have a religion.”

“But we all have,” protested the lady.

“I suppose you think so. At any rate, you worship the Golden Calf.”

“Really, Dudley!” she said, in an offended tone, “you do say the rudest
things! Your manners are not improving.”

“No, wearing a bit thin. Well, I must run over when you are in Paris,
and see if I can’t give them a touch of French polish!”



CHAPTER XXVI


The small family party had dispersed, and as the days went by without
social events, Joseline began seriously and methodically to accustom
herself to the routine, and resolute to become at ease in her new life.
She was painfully conscious of her ignorance of the ways of people in
society. She felt that she shocked Lady Mulgrave ten times a day; and
Lady Mulgrave, for all her sweet smiles, had, as she mentally expressed
it, “a pick on her.” Yet she was making some progress, and from
conversations listened to, she acquired a familiarity with the jargon
of her surroundings, and was learning to manipulate just those turns of
phrase, best calculated to sustain amiable relations.

Joseline was a great reader, and devoured books. With her, this was not
a cultivated taste, but a natural appetite. From books, magazines, and
reviews, she was learning with avidity, humbly conscious of her own
inferiority, and that her father hoped for her to acquire a polish, and
to shine.

When Lady Mulgrave and Tito had departed to Paris she and her father
were thrown into one another’s constant society. Innumerable small
signs of her affection afforded him a happiness such as he had not
known for years. He was becoming reconciled to shocks and to strange
expressions, and all the best that was in Lord Mulgrave was brought to
the surface. Together the pair walked and drove, explored the estate,
and visited the cottagers. The girl’s manner to their inmates was
charming, and many of the elder people remembered and recalled her
mother.

“I cannot imagine where you have acquired it, but you have a wonderful
way with these folk,” exclaimed Lord Mulgrave. “How do you know what is
just the right thing to say?”

“It’s like this, you see: although I am so awkward and flurried in fine
society, and make such awful mistakes--you remember how I shook hands
with the head gamekeeper at Lord Dover’s, and walked out of the room
before the Duchess--I am really at home with the poor. I can enter into
their feelings, for I have lived with them all my life. They are the
same all the world over, only they talk differently.”

“Then in that case you shall be my Lady Bountiful and take on the
cottage hospital, the school, and the almshouses. Her ladyship does
not care for the people; she never visits them; she says they are
uninteresting, grasping, and thankless.”

“Well, some are! They can’t help it. I knew a funny old woman at home;
and once, when a lady gave her a nice stout serge, she just whimpered
and said, ‘And what about the elegant little grey dress ye had in the
spring--where is _that_?’”

Lord Mulgrave laughed and she resumed: “But, after all, we should not
be looking for thanks; some of them have so little, and we have so
much.”

“You talk like your mother, my dear. She was always on the side of the
poor.”

“Oh, father”--and she blushed vividly--“you make me so happy when you
tell me that I am like her in other ways besides looks. Of course I can
talk to the people, because I was one of them for so many years. Yet,
somehow, these English are different--they are _all_ ladies.”

“Good gracious, Joseline! What do you mean?”

“I’ll explain if I can. Now there is Mrs. Gillson, a widow-woman; I
asked her to come up yesterday, and I would find her some warm clothes,
but she said, ‘I cannot come to-morrow, for a lady I’ve worked for
regular every Wednesday this three years will expect me. I do her
washing, and the lady always puts the clothes in soak of a Tuesday, and
gives me a hand herself, so I really could not disoblige her!’”

Lord Mulgrave laughed again.

“Now, you see, in Ireland there’s none of that. You are a lady born, or
you are not. Irish ladies don’t do washing.”

“As yet; but it will come.”

“That’s true. Some of the quality are very short of money; the
Mulligans, of Carlane, have sold all their old silver and pictures,
and the young ladies do lace-work for the shops. I liked the lace-work
myself, but I hadn’t the time for it. I might do it now, I’m idle.”

“Yes, and you seem to be getting on pretty well, and more at your ease.”

“I’m not so flustered and awkward with you, or with the poor, or Tito;
it’s only with Lady Mulgrave and the servants I feel that small, ye
might put me in your pocket!”

“You will outgrow that by-and-by.”

“I’m awfully afraid of my maid; she is very _nosey_ with me, and that’s
the truth.”

“Then send her away, and get another. You must try and be more
self-assured. Do you know that next week you will have to stand alone,
for I’m going to the north of England on election business, and will be
away a week.”

“Oh, father, couldn’t you take _me_ too? I just love elections!”

“No, my dear--impossible.”

“Oh, I wish you would. I’d adore the election and the speechifying, and
the fun. We had one down in Glenveigh; they nearly tore one another to
flittergigs.”

“That must have been exciting. I’m afraid I could not promise you
anything of that description. It will be rather a good thing to leave
you to stand alone and rely on yourself. After I return, I intend to
take you over to France to see the Hernoncourts. I have promised that
you shall pay them a long visit.”

“I wonder if they will like me?”

“I daresay they will, for you have inherited the Hernoncourts’ face,
and disposition.”

“What is their disposition?”

“Gay, vivacious, impulsive, sensitive to kindness or ridicule. There is
not much of the Mulgrave in you.”

“Oh, what a pity. Is Dudley more of a Mulgrave?”

“Yes. Do you and he hit it off?”

“Oh, pretty well; he is slow.”

“But sure.”

“Perhaps _too_ sure!”

“What do you mean?”

“He takes much for granted--sometimes I fancy he takes _me_ for
granted”--she added with a mischievous smile. “Now, father, let me
race Rap to the little white gate, giving me a start. You must hold
him.”

“What a child she was!” thought the earl, as he held the struggling
dog--a child in some ways; but in others, her sayings were beyond his
comprehension.



CHAPTER XXVII


Joseline and Tito stood together in a window watching the departure
of Lord Mulgrave. Last words and farewells had been exchanged in the
hall, and the girls had ample time to return to the library before
the brougham travelled out of sight. As its polished blue panels
disappeared round a clump of trees Tito suddenly flung her arms round
her companion and exclaimed--

“Hurrah!”

“Tito!” she remonstrated, thrusting her back with angry force.

“Well, Joe, you know as well as I do how fond I am of the pater;
but--when the earl’s away, the family will play--bridge.”

“So you do now.”

“Only in a mild form--a couple of quiet rubbers after dinner, at
farthing points. The pater looks upon daylight bridge as undignified
and unseemly. Now he has departed, the drawbridge is down.”

“For mercy’s sake will ye talk sense?” cried Joseline.

“Certainly. Don’t I always talk sense? Mother is going to have her
innings now, and she has invited a party of kindred spirits to spend a
week, including--though she does not suspect it--her future son-in-law!
Oh, yes, Joe, you may gape, but he arrives by the four o’clock train!”
And Tito began to waltz around the room, with her hands on her hips.

“But who is he?” inquired Joseline, suddenly turning her back on the
window, and surveying her companion with grave interest.

“Just what you might expect! A bad match, but everything else that is
charming and desirable.”

“What do you call a bad match?”

“One that will make mother furious. Tony is a third son, in the Foreign
Office, with only four hundred a year. His name is Anthony Goodrich,
and he is good enough for Tito Dawson.”

“But sure, I thought that Dudley----” began Joseline.

“Would kindly throw the handkerchief to _me_?” continued Tito briskly.
“No, no. Wait, and you will see that honour lies elsewhere, between
Lady Agnes Shutter and”--with a significant smile--“another girl. Lady
Agnes is stupid, but she has good manners, and a very clever mother.”

“Who else is coming?” resumed Joseline.

“Oh, quite a number. Mother has to crowd them all in now, because the
pater loathes them; they smoke and gossip and gamble, and treat the
house like a hotel. First of all there is the Honourable Gussie Tripp,
a tremendous swell at bridge--they say she clears a thousand a year.”

“What, at cards? Ah, you’re humbugging me!”

“Yes, at cards.”

“Holy Saint Bridget!”

“Then there is Lady Boxhill, a very young elderly widow, rich, and
fond of play and admiration. Lady Towton, rather pretty, with the most
exquisite frocks--_dreams_! She won’t tell where she gets them in
Vienna. And of course Teddy Boltover. Then Senor Bambinetto--an Italian
prince, they say; but if I saw him behind an organ and a monkey I
should not be a bit surprised; he is looking for a rich wife, age and
appearance quite immaterial. I fancy he likes Lady Boxhill. I hate him;
he pokes his nose into one’s face, and paws one! Colonel Wildairs, late
of the Greens, a most distinguished officer. Sir Harry Coxford. Two
cavalry men from Canterbury, and perhaps the great Dudley himself!”

“I’m glad he is coming,” said Joseline. “Anyhow I’ll have some one to
speak to.”

“I’m not so sure of that. If Mrs. Folly Fullerton appears, _she_ will
talk to Dudley. They have been a good deal talked about. That’s the
lot, with power to add to their number.”

“I expect we shall find them plenty.”

“You will, at any rate! They will make you sit up, you little rich
and rare specimen from Ireland. However, take my advice, and amuse
yourself. I can’t look after you because----”

“You will be looking after Tony!”

“How smart! There is a ball on the fourteenth at the Hamptons’, and we
are going to it in full force; it will be enormous fun. Now remember
they will all be here at four sharp. The cart that took the pater’s
luggage was to wait, also the brougham. Little he knew! Go and get into
a smart tea-g. and prepare to receive--shocks.” And as she uttered the
last word, Tito waltzed to the door, and exit singing.

By five o’clock the expected guests were assembled in the little
drawing-room, enjoying tea and sandwiches, drinks and cigarettes,
discussing the weather, the latest news, and above all, bridge. Miss
Tripp was a tall, talkative woman, with a high nose, a fine figure,
and an air of easy assurance. Little Lady Boxhill, a good deal made
up, looked about twenty in a certain light, and wore a chestnut wig,
and a complexion. Mrs. Folly Fullerton, fair, sylph-like, languid,
and insolent, dressed in flowery, diaphanous robes, with a gold
cigarette-case dangling at her side. The Colonel, late of the Greens, a
loud-voiced, well-groomed gentleman, who seemed to know every one, and
be anxious that they should make themselves thoroughly at home.

Joseline gazed at him as he stood with his back to the fire, precisely
like the master of the house, and said to one of the cavalry men with
an off-hand air--

“Oh, it’s all right, Pierrepont--smoking allowed. Try one of these
Havanas?”

She had taken Tito’s advice, and invested herself in a new tea-gown,
and an armour of reserve. Nevertheless she felt frightened among the
crowd of supercilious strangers, who appeared to look upon the house as
a comfortable private hotel; indeed, she heard Lady Boxhill say to Mrs.
Fullerton--

“What room have you this time, Bab? Not the corner one I hope?”

“No, I’m on the big landing.”

“That’s right.”

“Yes. I told Lottie I simply would not come unless I had a suite.”

“Oh!”--with a gesture of approval--“when one comes to a country house,
the _least_ they can do is to make you comfortable. I’ve brought my
masseuse, my secretary, and my dogs.”

The company were still discussing racing odds, shares, divorce cases,
Yarborough and little slams, and Joseline sat in the background,
completely bewildered. All her newly acquired confidence and manners
seemed oozing away amid surroundings of inquisitive eyes and languid
patronage! Dudley, who on flying visits had been friendly, was now
chilly and unsympathetic, and almost ignored her. Tito was engrossed in
the company of a thin, clever-looking young man, and she was left to
the mercies of strange women, who stared at her in a way that put her
out of countenance, and asked such blunt questions.

“And were you really in a cottage in Ireland only three months ago?”
inquired Mrs. Fullerton, contemplating her with a look of languid
insolence.

“Yes, only three months ago”--and she sighed.

“And is it _true_ that you actually sold fowls?”

“Yes”--colouring--“and eggs as well.”

“Dear me, how amusing!”--with a sarcastic lifting of the brows; and she
replaced her cigarette in her mouth, and took a whiff. “I hear you are
tremendous fun,” she drawled.

“Who says so?”

“Oh, some one--Dudley I think; but it does not matter. Would you mind
reaching me that cushion? Thanks. Now you might fetch me another of
those excellent caviare sandwiches.”

       *       *       *       *       *

The following morning was wet--a hopeless day; and card-tables were set
at eleven. People played till lunch, from lunch till tea, from tea till
dinner.

After dinner Lady Boxhill said--

“Lottie my dear, my brain feels in a sort of pulp; my ideas are mixed;
I’ve played seventeen rubbers to-day. Do let us have some parlour
tricks, or music, as a sort of rest cure.”

“Oh, very well, if you like. Yes, Tito”--turning to her daughter--“go
and beat up recruits”--and she once more settled herself comfortably
among her cushions.

Presently Tito came back, and proclaimed--

“No performance! The Prince has a cold, Lady Boxhill says, and Mrs.
Folly simply won’t; she is sitting in the little back room with Dudley.”

Lady Mulgrave muttered something that may, or may not, have been,
“Selfish pig!”

“And,” continued Tito, spreading out her hands, “there is no one else.”

“Unless we have the pianola?” suggested Lady Mulgrave.

“No, no!” cried Sir Harry Coxford, “I like to look at the fair
performer. The pianola is so mechanical, and it does not _sing_.”

“I believe the housekeeper has a gramophone,” put in Tito; “it sings ‘I
won’t play in your yard.’”

“Housekeeper and gramophone. That reminds me,” murmured Lady Mulgrave,
“where is Joseline? Tito, did not your father say she sang, and had
a lovely voice?” Then, with a laugh, she added, “She can borrow the
footman’s concertina!”

“Mother,” remonstrated Tito, “please don’t ask her. I am sure she would
be too shy. She would hate it!”

“Nonsense! Tell her she must! There is nothing to alarm her.
Stay--where is she? The library, I suppose. Then I’ll go myself,”
said Lady Mulgrave, rising with unusual energy; and as she swept out
of the room in search of her victim, she promised herself that the
forthcoming performance would prove a novelty, a draw, and a good joke.
Already it was evident to some of her ladyship’s guests, that they
might laugh at the wild Irish girl with impunity, and in spite of all
Joseline’s efforts in the way of humble conciliation, her stepmother
treated her, in private, as a species of domesticated savage. Whatever
blandishments or arguments her ladyship had used, proved successful,
for in less than ten minutes a white and stricken figure, clutching
a concertina, stood up and faced a critical, and secretly scornful
audience.

Many a time Mary Foley had played and sung to five times their number
with the confidence born of appreciation and success. Mary’s singing
and playing of old Irish songs was declared “to beat all,” and with her
own neighbours she enjoyed a far higher reputation than Madame Melba
herself. But here were different listeners, and a different atmosphere.
The girl’s heart felt like lead; her hands were so icy cold she could
scarcely hold the footman’s concertina. She glanced timidly about
her, half hoping that her cousin Dudley would befriend her or beg her
off; but Dudley had dined, he was at peace with his digestion--he was
not disposed to exert himself, and if Lady Mulgrave did hustle the
girl a bit, it would do her good! She struck a few shaky chords and
endeavoured to find her voice and courage. What could she give them?
“The three-leaved Shamrock”? “The stone outside Dan Murphy’s door”?
“The exile of Erin”? Yes. She looked over towards Dudley, hoping for at
least his moral support; but there he lounged in the background, with
his glass in his eye, sniggering at some remark of Mrs. Fullerton’s.
“So much for a cousin!” she thought, with deep resentment. “He would
stand by and see her baited, the same as a rabbit among the coursing
dogs of a Sunday!” At last she began; her sweet full notes were
tremulous, and occasionally inaudible. With painful difficulty she
brought out the opening bars:


     “There came to the beach, a poor exile of Erin;
     The dew on his thin robe was heavy and chill;
     For his country he sighed, when at twilight repairing
     To wander alone by the wind-beaten hill.”


The sound of her own voice had given her confidence, and she continued
with fuller notes:


     “Where is my cabin door, fast by the wild wood?
     Sisters and Sire----”


Here an hysterical titter caused her to pause. Miss Tripp held her
handkerchief to her mouth, and Lady Towton was convulsed. The girl
stood staring for a whole moment; then, with a gesture of unexpected
passion, dashed down the unhappy concertina, saying, “Sing for
yerselves!” and escaped from the room.

When the commotion, consternation, and amusement, had somewhat
subsided, Lady Towton said, in a choked voice--

“I really could not help myself! The _cabin_ door was so appropriate,
it was too much for me. I’m really awfully sorry.”

“’Pon my word, I think you ought to be,” interrupted Sir Harry
brusquely.

“She has a beautiful voice,” added Colonel Wildairs.

“More than we can say for her accent,” murmured Miss Tripp.

He turned his back on her, and went over to Tito, who was arranging the
pianola.

“Won’t you run after her, Miss Dawson, and take her our thanks and
apologies, and see what she is doing?”

But Tito found the door locked, and to all her knocking and calling
there was no response.

Lady Joseline was Mary Foley once more, and her heart was too sore for
even Tito’s sympathy, as she lay on her bed sobbing. She wished herself
back at the Corner; she went even further--she wished herself _dead_.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dudley took but scant notice of his new cousin; in fact, he avoided
her, and maintained a sort of studied aloofness, determined not to be
associated with ridicule. He was fastidious, and easily influenced by
a woman like Mrs. Folly Fullerton, who did not see anything to admire
in Joseline, and made fun of her continually. Dudley, shameful to say,
drifted with the stream, too indolent to swim against it. Poor Joseline
seemed to find so many adversaries among the company; she became shy
and awkward when people addressed her, and appeared to have a genius
for saying and doing the wrong thing. She was, moreover, downright
unlucky; she knocked down and broke a piece of china, value untold.
And Rap had nearly been the death of Lady Mulgrave’s little dog, which
he in the heat of the moment had chased, shaken, and mistaken for a
rat. Some of her miseries were possibly due to imagination. She was
painfully sensitive, and believed the whole of this little world was
against her. Certainly she made a few blunders, and two enemies. For
instance, one evening, at dessert, there was an animated discussion
respecting the conduct of a certain married lady, whose case had been
recently in the papers. Her letters had been read to the wide world;
her husband had vainly sued for a divorce. Some blamed her, others
merely laughed.

“Why, I declare Lady Joseline looks shocked,” said Colonel Wildairs, in
a loud, full voice, which would have been a fortune to an orator. “She
is not used to the manners and ways of such society, eh?”

“No, thank goodness, I am not,” she answered, with decision.

“Are you Irish so particular?”

“Among the lower orders--yes. I do not know the other lot; they may
be as bad as yourselves, but the common people have conduct, and they
_have_ to behave themselves. I knew a girl--a married woman--and her
husband thought she was speaking too free to a young boy, and he
punished her proper.”

“How?” inquired Miss Tripp, leaning forward as she spoke. “Do tell us
how he punished her ‘proper’ for improper behaviour.”

“Well, he tied her up by her two hands in the cowhouse, and he bet her
with a car-whip till he could stand over her no longer, and she was
half-killed. I heard the screeches of her myself, and it served her
right.”

“You think so?” said Lady Boxhill sarcastically.

“Certainly, and to be sure I do. What does a married woman want with
a sweetheart? Will ye tell me?” Here she inadvertently fixed her eyes
upon Lady Towton, and the question seemed to be shot at her from the
girl’s impetuous lips.

The stupid creature did not know how her arrow hit the goal--the only
one at table who was ignorant of its effect. Lady Towton became white,
then crimson, and Joseline’s bitter enemy to the end of her life.

Dudley Deverell had witnessed the scene with a mixture of dismay and
amusement. What a dangerous young woman. She seemed to have a knack
of dropping bomb-shells into people’s laps! The very same evening
she surpassed her previous effects. She was looking on at a game of
roulette--indeed, she was actually playing, and occasionally placing
a timid shilling here and there (as no knowledge or practice is
required). Suddenly Lady Boxhill announced--

“Well, now I’m going to plunge and put a sovereign on my _age_!” And
she surveyed the circle with her crafty, made-up old eyes.

“But you can’t do that! How can you?” remonstrated Joseline, in her
soft, sonorous tone. “Your age is not on the board within twenty years.
Why, the highest is thirty-eight.”

Joseline’s protest and faux pas were immediately drowned in a loud
buzz, and she felt herself severely pinched by Tito. The miserable girl
had made another enemy, and Lady Boxhill in future spoke of her as
“that fearful Yahoo,” and snubbed her ruthlessly whenever it lay in her
power.

“The fearful Yahoo” was painfully sensitive. She knew that she was
unpopular, and was quick-witted in her own unpolished fashion. She
caught stealthy looks and smiles exchanged on her account. Lady
Mulgrave frankly ignored her (unless she found occasion to exhibit her
as a curiosity). Dudley held aloof, in chilling disapproval; he was a
coward, and ashamed to be identified with the public laughing-stock,
whose ignorance of the social code was displayed at every turn. Sir
Harry Coxford, however, paid her many stupid compliments; Colonel
Wildairs assumed bluff, fatherly airs. Yes, these two were her friends;
but Teddy Boltover was stolidly rude, and the Prince pursued her with
detestable attentions; he brought his face so close to hers when he
addressed her, and surveyed her with such a detestable expression that
she hated him.

Naturally, Joseline was gregarious and fond of life and company;
had she not for many years been “Mary of the Corner,” accustomed to
continual homage, and acclamation? Better be a success in a cottage,
than a failure in a castle! Gradually she withdrew into her own
company; she went for long walks with Rap, or sat up in her little
boudoir, keeping the fire warm as she crouched over it, meditating on
her many blunders and the hostility, or indifference of her associates.
She did not play bridge, she disliked motoring, she had no friends or
tastes in common with the party, nor any claim to be remembered or
considered; her heart was filled with bitterness and revolt. Oh, if her
father were at home!--never, never again would she remain behind alone
as an experiment, and for the sole benefit of her education.

But her enemies within the gate had a strong case against Joseline, and
Lady Boxhill voiced the sentiments of her friends when she said--

“Did you ever notice the way that girl sits huddled over the fire on a
low stool, as if she were still in her kitchen? What a frightful trial
to poor Lottie! She plants her elbows on the table, her hands on her
hips, she pushes before people, and in her clumsy haste to be obliging
she gets flustered, drops things, falls over footstools, and treads on
every one’s toes.”

“Yes,” put in Lady Towton, “and asks such odd questions; and I declare
her scarlet blushes, are positively indecent.”

Alas! Poor Joseline was, in some respects, an Ishmaelite; her hand
against her associates, and their hands against her.

One afternoon, as Joseline sat by her fire knitting a sock, with Rap,
the criminal, luxuriously extended beside her, the door opened quickly,
and Tito entered. She looked rather pale and agitated. Without preamble
she came up to the hearthrug, spread out her hands before the blaze,
and said--

“I’ve had an awful time!”

“How? Where? What is the matter?”

“I’ve been playing bridge since two o’clock, and my brain is buzzing.
My partner was Colonel Wildairs, against Sir Harry and Gussie Tripp.
She _is_ a beast; she riles me! So hatefully sharp and on the make. The
way she slaps down a good card, with a sort of jerk, is just maddening,
even when I _knew_ she had it all the time. She made me lose my temper,
and what’s worse--my money. Joe, you will have to lend me thirty
pounds?”

“Arrah! Is it for card-playing? Go on with ye!”

“It’s true. I’ve lost forty pounds.”

“The saints preserve us!”--lifting her hands and eyes in protest.

“Yes, it’s a fact. I went no trumps, and she redoubled: my partner had
nothing, and I was weak in diamonds. She got in with her ace, and made
the little slam. Colonel Wildairs was furious; he pays Sir Harry, and
I pay _her_; she was so nasty about it, too. She said--‘Forty pounds,
dear Tito! You should _never_ double until you are more experienced.
It is a shocking sum, but I won’t press you. Pay me next week.’ And of
course, I’ll settle up this very night.”

“I don’t understand the quarter of what you are saying; only that you
are short of money.”

“Yes. I’ve only ten pounds. I should hate Tony to think I was a
defaulter, and she is so mean, and would talk at the Women’s Clubs, and
say awful things of me.”

“Oh, would she?”

“Yes. She has her knife into most people.”

“I’ve not much money left,” said Joseline, “but whatever I have you are
welcome to”; and she rose and went to a writing-table.

“But my dear, what _have_ you done with it? The other day you said you
had a hundred pounds.”

“Well, ye see, being near Christmas I sent some over to Father Daly to
lay out; they’d take it kinder from him, than me.”

“Take what?”

“Well, my old friends. Mikey Mahon would be the better of an ass and
car, I know, and Mrs. Curran is lost for a good pig, and Larry Duff’s
cow went and died on him, so I’ve told them to buy a nice little young
Kerry; and there was coals badly wanted, and I sent Peggy Curran a
dress piece, and Mrs. Hogan a weather-glass and a visitors’ book, for
the last one was spoiled on her, and full of impudence and poetry.”

“What have you left?” interrupted Tito impatiently.

“Here it is--twenty-five pounds”--and she held it out. “I am sorry I’m
short. What will you do for the rest?”

“I’ll borrow from Robins the butler.”

“Goodness, girl alive! Isn’t that queer doings?”

“Oh, Robins knows me; he is a family friend, and rolling in tips. Well,
Joe, you _are_ decent. I’ll pay you next quarter.”

“No, no, let me give you the money; I really don’t want it. I wish you
would promise me not to--I won’t say play bridge--I’m not a born fool;
but not to play for so much.”

“I’ll promise farthing points with pleasure; I will indeed,” said Tito
emphatically. “I’m sick of the whole thing. I love the game, but I
loathe losing my money, and I’m not a very good player, for I’m too
hasty and emotional, like you! By the way, why do you sit up here all
by your little lone?”

“Where else would you have me sit? They are not missing me downstairs,
are they?” she asked, with a sarcastic laugh. “And when I’m here, I’m
not making a show of myself.”

“They _are_ a horrid pack, most of them! Old Lady Boxhill--I
suppose she’ll take the Prince--Lady Towton, Mrs. Folly, and Gussie
Tripp--hateful! But you should not let them draw you out about wakes,
and dances, and your schooling, and so on.”

“Sure, I see that, and I’m getting wiser now. I thought they wanted
information, they all seemed so eager with questions. Now, I know ’twas
only laughing they were.”

“Tony disapproves of them; says they are--well, no matter; and he was
horrified at my losing this money”; and she held up the notes. “He
never plays high now; he simply refuses anything more than half a crown
a hundred. You can lose quite enough at that.”

“Can ye now?”

“Once, he told me, he played with a very smart woman, who said, ‘What
shall we have on?’ And she named quite a big stake--something like
half-crown points. He was ashamed to refuse. However, he won, and won,
and had great luck. He won about a hundred, and they stopped. She said,
‘I’ll settle at once.’ ‘Oh, no, no hurry,’ he said, thinking it was
such a big sum, he would give her time. ‘I always pay money down,’ she
said, and handed him ten shillings. ‘What is this for?’ he asked. ‘What
I’ve lost to you,’ she answered, as bold as brass, naming some decimal
points. He was struck dumb. Of course, being a woman, he could not
argue with her. Afterwards, he heard, that it was a habit of hers to
play this trick, and that if he had _lost_, she would have come down on
him for her hundred pounds.”

“Then she is a cheat!” cried Joseline.

“Oh, yes,” rejoined Tito triumphantly, “of course she is! and I only
hope she will be run in some day. Now I must fly and dress.”



CHAPTER XXVIII


In spite of all her excuses, protestations, and pleadings, Joseline
found herself _en route_ to the Hamptons’ ball, packed into the omnibus
along with seven others, and being carried to the scene of action as
fast as a pair of fine steppers could take her. Figuratively speaking,
the vehicle was almost bursting with high spirits; the clatter of
chaffing tongues was incessant, and, as some so-called “wit” had
extinguished the lamp, semi-darkness promoted hilarity.

Joseline sat at the far end next to the Prince, who made a gallant
attempt to hold and squeeze her hand, under the impression that she was
Lady Boxhill--which endearments she forcibly returned by a sharp and
vicious pinch. Now and then she was drawn into the conversation, and
forced to reply to questions.

“Will you give me a dance, Lady Joe?” said Colonel Wildairs, who was
her _vis-à-vis_.

“Thank ye, but I can’t dance--only jigs and reels.”

“Well, I cannot imagine any one going to a ball that can only dance
jigs,” said Gussie Tripp, “especially when she is not old enough to
care for supper.”

“Signs on it, I agree with you with all my heart,” declared the brogue
in the corner. “I wanted to stay at home. I don’t know why Lady
Mulgrave was set on bringing me, seeing I can’t dance a step, and I
never eat supper.”

“There is such a thing as looking on,” suggested Sir Henry Coxford.

“And--sitting out,” supplemented Tito.

“That’s true,” said Sir Henry. “Lady Joe, you and I will sit out a
couple of dances, eh? Here we are, and a bit late too,” he added, as
they drove under an illuminated porch, descended, and joined the rest
of their company--a party of no less than twelve.

“Quite an invading force, are we not, dear Mrs. Hampton?” said Lady
Mulgrave, as she shook hands with her hostess. “I think you know
most of them, except my stepdaughter, Lady Joseline, and Prince
Bambinetto”--presenting them as she spoke. “I am afraid we are a little
late.”

“The third waltz; but you do not dance, I know. There is bridge--in the
end room, and you will, I hope, get a rubber.”

The party moved on and presently dissolved among the gay company.
Joseline, who was not sorry for Sir Henry’s escort, made her way
with him into a wide corridor hung with tapestry lined with splendid
furniture, and priceless inlaid cabinets.

“This is as good a perch as any; I know the house well,” he said. “You
can see and be seen; they all pass by in review order”; and he nodded
or bowed to several acquaintances. Finally, he got up to speak to a
lady in reply to an imperative summons, and Joseline for the moment was
alone. How strange! She did not see one familiar face. How different
to her former dances: when she took the floor--a mud floor--with
Tom Kelly or Patsy Malone, an enthusiastic audience of friends and
admirers lined the room, and greeted their performance with uproarious
applause--applause so vigorous and infectious, that the very soot came
tumbling down the chimney!

As she sat a little aloof and distrait, looking vacantly before her,
her mind filled with other images, she recalled her sole previous
experience of a society gathering--the great concert at Kilmoran, and
Mr. Ulick singing the bull-fighter’s song. These reflections were
interrupted by her hostess, who had been attracted by her lovely face,
and now approached her, followed by a tall, soldierly-looking man.

“I hope you are dancing?” she said. “I have brought you a
partner--Major Doran.”

Behold the hour and the man!

Had Joseline’s thoughts summoned him?

Since we last came across Ulick Doran he had served in India and South
Africa, had won laurels, and seen the world. With many matters to
occupy his attention and fill his time, he had never forgotten Mary
Foley--she held her own against the various pretty visitors who had
knocked and rung at the door of his heart. From the animated Indian
spin; the South African grass widow; the charming American girls;--his
thought invariably turned to a slender red-haired maiden, with a soft,
insinuating brogue, and a pair of bewitching brown eyes.

The astonishing history of her exaltation had recently come to his
knowledge. It sounded like a fairy tale! Well, she was now nearly as
much out of his reach as before--and for an exactly contrary reason.

When Mrs. Hampton (an active and admirable hostess) had said, “I want
to introduce you to a beauty,” Major Doran, who had no idea of what was
in store for him, obediently accompanied her into a gallery, where sat
a young lady in a high-backed chair, with her eyes bent on the ground.

As Mrs. Hampton addressed her, she lifted them and looked from the
image in her thoughts on the real man, Ulick Doran--browner, graver,
older, otherwise unchanged. In a moment her face became transfigured,
and wore a smile of radiant surprise and joy. The recognition was not
mutual, until Mrs. Hampton added--

“Major Doran--Lady Joseline Dene.”

He stared at her blankly, incredulously, as she sat in the ancient
chair, with its great carved crown showing above the masses of sunny
hair, her delicate hands resting on its massive arms, her graceful
slimness thrown out into relief by its broad leather back.

She looked dazzling in her mother’s pearls and a silver spangled gown.
Almost like some stately young sovereign, enthroned among her subjects.

And yet it was the same little face that had haunted him all these
years--the same that had been pressed against the window-pane one April
night, in passionate farewell.

“May I have the pleasure of a dance?” he asked, after a moment’s
hesitation.

“Thank you, I don’t dance,” she answered inarticulately, as she pressed
on the knobs of the arm-chair with trembling hands.

“Then may we sit it out?”

She bowed, without raising her eyes.

“What a queer, nervous sort of girl!” thought Mrs. Hampton, as she
moved away.

To Major Doran it seemed almost incredible. But these delicate
patrician features, and the rich, soft brogue, both belonged to Mary
Foley. She was curiously reserved, and cold. Had her sudden uprise
turned her head? Did Lady Joseline Mulgrave hate to recall the old
days, when she was the inferior, and dropped curtseys to _him_?

“Lady Joseline,” he said, on a sudden impulse, “may I ask you a
question?”

“You may if you like,” she answered, almost under her breath.

“Do we meet now for the first time? or--have we known one another all
our lives. It is for you to say?”

“Me to say,” she repeated, raising her eyes to where he stood, humbly
awaiting her decision. “Why, to say the truth, and what else?--wasn’t I
your mother’s egg-huxter?”

“Well, perhaps we need not recall _that_--only--other things?”--and
he studied her pale, uplifted face, and her brilliant eyes, with
a keen and intimate interest. “Do you know that I’ve always had a
presentiment, that we should come across one another some day. Of
course I have heard your story.”

“Yes,” she answered, with regal equanimity, “I believe it was on the
papers.”

“I was not as much surprised as other people. You were always different
to your surroundings.”

“I suppose I was,” she acquiesced. “I never had much heart for work.”

“But you had for play. You seem to have left your spirits in Ireland?”

As he spoke he took a seat and continued.

“It is six years since we met. A good deal of water has run under the
bridge----”

“Oh, for the Lord’s sake,” she interrupted, with unexpected passion,
“will ye not be talking of bridge! I’m fair sick of it!”

“I am not alluding to cards, but to events. Many things have happened
since we said good-bye to one another.”

Did she recall the episode? Yes, for her face flamed.

“You remember?”

She moved slightly in her regal chair, and made no reply.

“Do you?” he urged, with low persistence.

“Oh, I’ve a pretty good memory,” she answered at last, her face aglow,
as she raised her eyes to his with a glance of proud defiance. “There’s
been changes--the death of Mrs. Foley; the break-up at the Corner; some
going to America, and some getting married.”

“I was told that you were going to be married,” he said.

“I?”--and she laughed derisively. “I might be married years ago, if I’d
liked.”

“I don’t mean over in Ireland,” he protested; and his glance wandered
to where Dudley was permitting a pretty woman to entertain him.

“Oh, that!” A pause; and she added, with a touch of her natural
impulsiveness, “I wouldn’t marry him if he was hung in diamonds, nor he
me; he is afraid of his life of me.”

“Why, what have you been doing to frighten him?”

“Always saying and doing the wrong thing. You see, I’m so ignorant, and
when people make signs at me, ’tis worse I get.”

“What do you call the wrong thing? Can you give me a specimen?”

“Well, talking to Lady Boxhill of wigs, and age, and to Mrs. Fullerton
of divorce, and to Sir Harry Coxford of debt and people owing money. I
mean no harm, God knows! but I frighten people, and I make them hate
me”; and her lip trembled, and her eyes were brimming.

“I am sure no one could do that,” he protested.

“Oh, but they can! I’m such a clumsy fool. And faix, your own mother
wasn’t too fond of me! All the same, I hope she is getting her health?”

“Yes; but I’m sorry to say Barker is giving her a lot of trouble.”

“Well, she has him as she reared him! I suppose about the big lump of a
girl that’s barmaid over in Killarney?”

“He has married her.”

“I am glad he had that much decency.”

“And he insists on bringing her home. It’s a terrible trial to my
mother.”

“Well, if I’m not mistaken there will be two of them in that trial. And
what have you been doing with yourself?”

“Soldiering in India, and other places--and twice to America, to see my
aunt Nora. I am going over again immediately. She is a widow now.”

“That was she that came in one soft evening in the old blue cloak. I
took her down to ‘The Arms.’ Mrs. Hogan told me about her. She must
have got a queer sort of shock when your mother chased her out of the
Castle.”

“I think she has forgiven and forgotten. Now would you like to take a
turn, and see the other rooms and the dancing?”

“Yes, I would”--rising with graceful alacrity.

“I suppose this is your first ball?” he continued, as they stepped into
the stream of moving figures, a remarkably distinguished-looking pair.
Joseline held herself well, and looked every inch the daughter of a
hundred earls. Not a few people remarked her, and asked, “Who was the
beauty?” In fact, she made a sort of triumphal progress, as she moved
about the rooms, the loveliest of visions. The fame of her remarkable
story, and the presence of her beauty, filled the air. No one who saw
Lady Joseline, would believe that she was stupid, common, uneducated,
and muddleheaded.

Ulick Doran, her escort, was conscious of the sensation caused by his
companion. Admirers crowded about Mrs. Hampton, clamouring for an
introduction to the charming heroine of a romantic tale; but among them
her cavalier still held his ground, and would not yield his place.

“I say, what a find for Mulgrave!” muttered one county magnate to a
neighbour.

“Yes. I’m not sure that Lady M. is delighted with his discovery. Where
is she?”

“Need you ask? In the bridge-room, of course.”

“I wonder what she would say to the stir the girl is making? By
gad!”--watching her as she passed by. “And who is the fellow with her?”

“Lady Barre’s nephew; his name is Doran.”

“Irish! Well, no Irish need apply--her ladyship is booked for Dudley
Deverell. By the way, I see him here playing the fool with the
Fullerton woman.”

Dudley Deverell observed from afar, and marvelled. So Joseline had
got hold of Doran. Such a smart, good-looking chap--and Joseline was
undeniably admired. Oh, yes, she was all very well--until she began to
talk!

“It is a pity you can’t waltz,” remarked Ulick, as they looked on; “but
you will learn in no time.”

“I’m no good. I can do nothing like other people. I can’t ride, or
dance, or play bridge, or tell pleasant lies to people’s faces without
turning a hair, or even pretend I like those I can’t bear.”

“Oh, all those things will come easy to you, bar the hypocrisy. It was
strange our meeting here to-night,” he said.

“Our meeting--and parting,” she added quickly.

“Why parting?”

“Because you are going to America, and I am going to France. Yes”--in
answer to his look--“as soon as my father returns, next week, I
believe. You know, I’m half French and half English.”

“Yes, and half-hearted.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because you don’t seem happy.”

“That’s true. Ye see how it is; I’m neither fish, flesh, nor fowl. Too
fine for the folks in Ireland, and not up to the mark over here. I was
twenty-one years too long in a cottage. I will never be a lady.”

“Would you like to return to the Corner, and be Mary Foley?”

“Oh no, I could never go back to that,” she answered with emphasis.
“There is my father, who is more than good to me; and Tito too. But I’m
not denying, that I don’t care very much for the crowd in the house.”

“I daresay not. I know the set; you are a bit out of it?”

“I am so--and so best! In Ireland the people laughed with me. Here
they laugh _at_ me. Oh, it’s a sore change!” she concluded, in a
miserable voice.

“Surely you need not trouble your head, or think about them.”

“But I’ve not much else to think of just now, being hand-idle. Tell
me,” she added eagerly, “what did _you_ think now, when you saw me?”

“My first impression when I caught sight of you was, ‘Splendid
isolation.’ Then I had a curious sense, of something foreseen.”

“I can’t understand them grand words.”

“Are you aware, Major Doran, that you have cut my dance?” said a sharp
voice, and there was Miss Tripp and her partner standing beside them.

“Number eleven, I think,” he faltered, hurriedly pulling out his
programme.

“No, number ten. I see that you agree with Lady Joseline, who simply
came to the ball to sit out”; and she accorded the girl a deadly glance.

“I’m sorry, Miss Tripp,” he said. “Pray accept my most abject
apologies.”

“Oh, well, if you really are repentant, you may have the next instead,”
said the lady, releasing her cavalier with a nod. “It’s going to begin,
so come along--I hate to miss even a bar.”

“But--Lady Joseline”; and he looked at Joseline, resolved that he would
not desert her.

“Oh, _she_ will be all right! Here comes Colonel Wildairs, only too
pleased to take her off your hands”; and before Major Doran could
remonstrate, the tall, masterful lady had carried him away.

“I am delighted to step into his shoes, Lady Joe,” declared the gallant
officer, who was keenly alive to the fact that he was escorting the
beauty of the evening--a beauty, too, who had no honour in her own home.

“I see you know Doran,” he added, as they made their way into the
ball-room.

“Yes.”

“He is a good sort. I knew him in Natal; he did very well in the
mounted infantry--a nailing rider.”

“Oh, he rides well,” she assented, as she watched him dancing with his
captor.

“And is able to keep fine horses; he is rich.”

“Oh, no, indeed.”

“Sorry to contradict, but he is a wealthy man; an uncle in America left
him tons of dollars. I’m surprised he stays in the service; but money
is useful everywhere. It was rather amusing the way Miss Gussie carried
him off; perhaps she will manage it for good and all!”

Joseline was enjoying the scene; the fact was written in her
speaking eyes, and brilliant colour, also she was aware that many
glances followed her; she knew that she was discussed and admired.
The knowledge that she was a success restored her shattered
self-confidence; her spirits rose to their former pitch, and her heart
throbbed with alternations of hope and fear. Mr. Ulick!--_Ulick!_ Oh,
she could hardly believe that she had seen him and spoken to him! Old
recollections came surging through mind and memory, and beating in
her brain; everything connected with that poignant, uncertain, happy,
and agonised time was coming back. Joseline realised that she was
unchanged. Was he?

As she stood beside a pillar, surrounded by a little court, which now
included Colonel Wildairs and Sir Harry, distributing smiles and “Ah,
sures,” and “I don’t rightly knows” among her circle, all the time she
was in a state of seething impatience; a voice was muttering, “Will he
come back? Shall I see him again to-night? Yes”--he had effected his
escape, and joined the group. Her face kindled and looked radiant as
their eyes met, and he said--

“Lady Joseline, I have come to carry you off to supper.”

Was it but an excuse to release her? No; they proceeded towards the
supper-room in real earnest, (followed by the attentive observation of
the crowd,) where he secured a little table and the services of a brisk
waiter.

“I’m not a bit hungry,” she protested, refusing several proffered
delicacies.

“But I am,” he said, “and I hope you will keep me in countenance. Let
me help you to some of this salmi. My cousin, Freddy Barre, and I
motored over here, thirty miles, after dinner.”

“That was a long way.”

“So I thought, and I wanted to cry off; but then I’d no idea I was
coming to meet you. Have some champagne?” he added.

“No, no, please; I do not care for it.”

“Just a little”--pouring it out as he spoke--“to drink to ourselves
and old times”; and he lifted his glass and touched hers. “But,” he
added, seeing that she had suddenly become extremely pale, “perhaps we
should forget! Now that you know your place in the world, and I may be
presuming on mine.”

Joseline’s face expressed bewilderment; and then, as her eyes were
drawn to his, the colour flowed back into her checks, for she had
divined, by some infallible instinct, that Mr. Ulick had not changed.
It was the same Mr. Ulick who had sent her the poetry, and kissed her
through the pane.

“Miss Tripp introduced me to Lady Mulgrave,” he continued; “she knows
my aunt, Lady Barre, and she has asked Freddy and me over to-morrow for
a bridge drive, to dine and sleep.”

“Are you coming?”

“Yes, we will motor over--forty miles.”

“Just to play cards?”

“That may be Freddy’s inducement; mine, you know, is to see you.”

“And Rap?” she added. “I wonder if he will know you?”

“Rap”--colouring--“the red terrier? Why, you don’t mean to say you have
him still?”

“Sure, six years isn’t long for a dog to live!”

“And you brought him over?”

“How could I leave him after me, when I knew he’d never be happy with
any one else?”

Major Doran nodded. “And how does he like the change?”

“Oh, finely; he is very proud in himself, and great company for me just
now--him and books.”

“You got the one I sent you?”

“Yes, I did so. Oh, it was beautiful poetry; I have it off by heart.”


     “Do you mind the day that’s over,
     And bless the day that’s here?”


he quoted, leaning suddenly towards her, and lowering his voice.

She was on the point of answering, when she caught sight of Lady
Mulgrave approaching.

“Joseline,” she said, “we have been looking for you everywhere. What
_have_ you been doing with yourself?”--and she gave Major Doran a
quick, sarcastic glance. “We are going at once. Now, don’t sit staring,
my dearest girl,” she added peremptorily, “but run away and get your
cloak.”



CHAPTER XXIX


It was the last day of Lady Mulgrave’s house-party. They were to
scatter on the morrow--and the assemblage was to conclude with a
brilliant finish: a gathering of neighbours at lunch, skating on the
ornamental water, a festive dinner, and a bridge drive--such was the
programme. Captain Barre and his cousin were among the guests, and
the latter naturally singled out Lady Joseline for his companion
when they all set out for the lake. She was accompanied by Rap, who,
though he failed to recognise his former owner, accorded a searching
investigation, and a civil reception. With her bright colour--the
complexion of a true country girl--and her becoming sables, Lady
Joseline confirmed the sensation she had created at Mrs. Hampton’s
ball. Unfortunately she did not skate, and was left among the
dowagers and lookers-on, whilst most of the company took to the ice,
figuratively, as young ducks do to water. Here was an opportunity of
which Ulick Doran was not slow to avail himself. Together (and attended
by Rap) they accompanied a self-conducted party in a brisk walk across
the park, explored the frost-bound gardens and the sultry stoves. On
the present occasion their talk was confined to the commonplace, and
to old times; it never once soared into the region of Romance, for
Ulick Doran had taken himself sternly to task, and his inner mind was
filled with anxious debate. Years ago he had kept aloof because he
had loved the girl too well to drag the poor child into a position
which would entail misery--a ceaseless combat with prejudice, with his
mother, and the world at large. Now, by a strange stroke of fortune,
she was elevated to a position above his own. Did it not seem mean and
despicable to ask her to descend to his level? On the other hand, he
was well born, he was rich, he had been first in the field; why should
he not take his chance? If Joseline was of the same mind as Mary Foley,
why should they not both be happy? He honestly believed that he would
make her a better husband than that faineant, Dudley Deverell, with his
drawl and his dyspepsia.

As they walked in the wake of others he talked of his travels in
Asia, Africa, and America, remembering her keen interest in foreign
countries. He told her many amusing anecdotes, gave little sketches
of people, and one or two sensational experiences. For her part, she
described the chief local events (as seen from Foley’s Corner). She
also surprised him by her shrewd comments on her new life, intelligent
criticism on books she had read, and questions she had heard debated.
One moment she was Lady Joseline discussing “Helbeck of Banisdale”;
the next, as Mary Foley, she accosted a gardener’s kitten as a “poor
angashore” whom she eloquently harangued in Irish.

After dinner the bridge drive was arranged in the great drawing-room; a
few repaired to billiards, but most people declared for cards.

“Of course you’ll play, Major Doran?” said Lady Mulgrave. “We will make
up six tables.”

“No thanks,” he rejoined. “I am rather out of form, and if you will
allow me, I’ll just have a look round the pictures. I’ve heard so much
of the Ashstead Romneys.”

“Oh, of course”--and she raised her eyebrows in apparent amusement.
“I daresay Joseline will be pleased to introduce you to some of the
ancestors. Mr. Baines will take your place--_he_ is very keen.”

It flashed through her mind, what a good thing it would be if this
Major Doran, who was Irish and rich, would relieve her for life of “her
young girl from over the sea.”

Presently everybody in the drawing-room resolved into silence, and
tricks; whilst Joseline and her companion strolled through the empty
reception-rooms into the little boudoir. Ulick Doran was turning over
in his mind how he would approach the subject, when Joseline herself
made an opening.

“To think of all the travelling you have done,” she exclaimed, “and the
countries you’ve seen, and your never once coming home!”

“But I did return once, just for a couple of days.”

“Yes, but never to stop. Why was that?”

“Surely you need not ask. You know the reason.”

“I--Mr. Ulick?” she exclaimed, thrown off her guard.

“Don’t call me Mr. Ulick.”

“Well, what will I call ye? Oh, of course--Major.”

“I know what I hope you’ll call me,” he interrupted; “but I daresay you
won’t.”

“Ah, what’s that?”

“Ulick.”

“Oh”--colouring--“how could I do that? Oh, no, I really
couldn’t--never.”

“Do you really mean--_never?_”--and his face was serious.

She hesitated for so long, his expectation became intense; at last it
was positively painful. “Well”--drawing a quick breath--“any way--not
yet.”

“And when?” he persisted.

She made no answer.

“In six months?”

“Ah, sure ye know I’m not fit,” she faltered, and her eyes were filled
with tears. “Although I’m dressed up like this”--and she glanced at her
dainty gown of white chiffon--“I’m only a common girl, and faix, no one
knows that, better than yerself.”

“Once upon a time you were very fond of me, and I have never forgotten
you. Mary, I believe you have been constant to that time.”

“In a way, only,” she said, rising suddenly, “I tried my big best to
put you out of my mind, and I’ll tell ye no lie, but you would not
stir--no, strive as I would, I could not get shut of ye, for three long
years. Then I began to think ... I was a fool”--and she paused and put
her hand to her long, slim throat--“and if any boy I fancied, had asked
me to marry him, I’d have said ‘Yes’; but I never did see one I could
like in the same way as you--no one that made my heart ache, and kept
me pining and fretting, and wishing I was dead--the same as _you_ did,
Mr. Ulick.”

“Ulick!”

“Well, then, Ulick.”

“And I believe people will say it is tremendous presumption to lift my
eyes to your father’s daughter. You know I’m only just a major in the
service, and he will expect you to make a splendid match.”

“I don’t think he wishes me to marry at all--any way, for a long while.
You see, he has only _had_ me for a few months.”

“Yes; it would be hard lines on him--and I will wait, if you will marry
me in the end.--Mary, will you?”

“Ye were always terribly set in getting your own way, Mr. Ulick”;
and she looked up at him with a tremulous smile. “I remember it with
horses, and how once the black hunter stood with ye on the road for
five mortal hours--and ye waited, and won the day.”

“I’ll wait on you for five years if necessary. May I speak to your
father when he returns?”

“About what?”

“Why, about you, of course. I shall ask him to give you to me.”

“Yes; but not for a good while--I am so awkward, and ignorant, I’d
shame ye.”

“No, never. I shall always be proud of you!”

“An’ ye may think it strange, but he is real fond of me.”

“Not as fond of you as I am, Mary”; and he slipped his arm round her
waist, and kissed her--this time without the intervening pane of glass.

Five minutes later, and the door was pushed open, and Lord Mulgrave
entered, in the act of taking off his muffler.

He started when he saw Major Doran and Joseline standing together by
the fire; and, unless he was losing his wits, the fellow’s arm was
round her waist. In a flash he recalled a whispered secret one dim
evening in the “Shelbourne”--the _real_ gentleman, who was Irish, and
had given Mrs. Foley a dog.

Here they were, the very trio--the red terrier, the lover, and the girl.

As Doran was no stranger to him he came forward, with a rather
constrained “Hullo, Doran!”

“Oh, father!” cried Joseline, “we did not expect you till to-morrow.
How did you come?”

“In a fly from the station, my dear. I got away earlier than usual. Not
playing bridge, eh?”--turning to the man.

“No. The fact is, Lady Joseline was good enough to offer to show me the
pictures; but we--er”--and as he glanced at his companion, she vanished
through the door.

“I see, you had forgotten all about them,” said Lord Mulgrave, hastily
finishing the speech.

Well, there was no time like the present moment; here was his
opportunity. Lord Mulgrave was not allowed to take off his top-coat,
much less to think of his supper, before Ulick Doran was in full career.

In two or three pithy sentences he told his story. For a few vital
moments they talked squarely, man to man. Lord Mulgrave knew all about
Major Doran--his reputation and his fortune.

When he had divested himself of his great-coat, he said, “I will not
part with Joseline yet, and we will take no one into the secret for
six months. The girl has seen nothing so far, but Joseline is not
like young women of her rank. She has a past of twenty-one years
behind her. She loved you in that other life; you belong to it, and, I
suppose,--she belongs to you.”

       *       *       *       *       *

“I say!” said Tito, as she encountered Joseline in a corridor, “what
has happened to you? Why this radiant air of ‘I fear no foe in shining
armour’?”

Joseline did not wait to be cross-examined, but threw over her shoulder
the misleading statement, “The pater is home!”

Lord Mulgrave escorted his daughter to France, and presented her to her
mother’s family, who received her with open arms, and were enchanted
with l’Irlandaise, their kinswoman. Here the brogue and her occasional
solecisms did not matter, since the child had her mother’s face, and
her mother’s heart. She spent six months in the valley of the Oise, and
returned to Ashstead Park a much improved and polished young woman;
for her cousins had found her a ready pupil, and had taught her ease,
self-confidence, and fluent French.

       *       *       *       *       *

Ashstead always looked its best in August. The gardens were perfect,
the green sward like rich velvet, the old trees dense, massive, and
picturesque, and the surroundings silent and restful. On a certain
warm afternoon, the sound of croquet-balls and voices woke the sleepy
grounds. A game had just been concluded, and Joseline strolled off
towards the shade, followed by her cousin and partner; they had been
defeated by one stroke.

“What is the meaning of ‘Bad scran to ye’?” he asked. “I heard you
addressing the blue ball in those terms.”

“Oh, it means ‘bother take it!’ and is just one of the old expressions
I want to forget. I was so vexed that I lost the game. The words
slipped out. I hope Miss Usher did not hear me.”

“What matter if she did? Come and let us find a seat.”

“Tired?” she asked. “Oh, poor cousin Dudley!”

“Tired? Yes, of a good many things.”

“If I am one of them, please don’t hesitate to say so.”

“No, I’m never tired of you, Joseline. On the contrary, I should like
to have more of your society.”

She turned, and made him a little curtsey.

“And so Tito is going to marry young Goodrich?” he remarked.

“Yes, father has consented at last.”

“Which means he has given Tito a dot.”

“It means that he likes Tony, and so do I.”

“You will miss Tito, won’t you? You and she pulled together from the
first.”

“Yes, I shall miss her, but, of course, they will often run down.”

“By the way, talking of ‘running down,’ you seem to see a good deal of
that fellow Doran. How does he get leave?”

“Oh, pending retirement.”

“Ah, so he is going. I wonder what he will do with himself? It’s rather
a bore to be a rich man with nothing to do.”

“Like yourself, for instance?”

“Yes.”

“But, cousin Dudley, you have lots to do if you like; you could go
about your property, and see things for yourself. You’d really like it
after a bit; you would know what to do, and what to give, and what to
take away.”

“Yes, yes,” impatiently, “I know. You are always preaching.”

“And you won’t practise!”

“Well, perhaps, your sermons may do me good; but I can’t say there is
much jam in the powder! I am aware I’m an absentee landlord, but not a
hard one.”

“Pray, how can you tell?” she asked.

“Well, I let fellows off, and I subscribe to things that are necessary.”

“That costs you little!”

“There now, don’t go on rubbing it in,” he said resentfully. “I’ve told
you often that Harrowside is a great big black rookery of a place. I
can’t stand it! No, I never go near it.”

“It is your duty; you have responsibilities. ‘Noblesse oblige.’”

“Since I’ve been in bad health----”

“That’s an old story,” she interposed. “You are as strong as a horse
now.”

“Well, Joseline, you talk of my responsibilities; what would you think
of taking charge of them, and me?” He turned his head suddenly and
looked at his companion with a complacent, proprietary air. Then he
added, in his usual drawl--

“What would you say if we were to get married?”

“Say!”--and she dug her mallet into the turf. “That we would lead a
cat-and-dog life!”

“And which”--sitting erect--“would be the cat?”

“I--I suppose a woman is always a cat! You never call a man a cat, or
an old cat.”

“No, I’m a dog--the unlucky dog.”

“No, a lazy dog,” she corrected. “There are always puppies, and
lap-dogs.”

“Do you infer that I am one of these?”

“Well, you are petted enough. You live in the lap of luxury--I believe
you don’t even shave, or open your own letters.”

“What else?” he demanded shortly.

“You won’t take the trouble to, what’s called make love! You say to a
girl, ‘Shall we get married?’ and the girl says, No.”

Dudley again turned his head, and looked at her steadily. Was she in
earnest? Of course not! She was smiling. To her, everything was a joke;
it was one of her silly habits imported from Ireland, and not yet
abandoned.

Well, he was in no hurry; he did not wish to settle down at present.
Joseline was amazingly improved--a handsome, amusing, much-admired
girl, clever in her way; even Lady Mulgrave was reconciled to her.

To suppose that any sane young woman would seriously refuse him, Dudley
Deverell, never dawned on his mind. He decided to postpone the question.

“I say, here is your father coming over with that fellow Doran,” he
announced. “I hear his brother has married a dairy-maid, who turned his
mother out of doors.”

“I’m sure she could not manage that,--from what I knew of her.”

“Do you mean that _you_ knew Mrs. Doran?” he asked, with quickened
interest.

“Yes, I was reared on the land.”

“I declare, one would suppose you were talking of a lamb.”

“I _am_ a lamb--sometimes. I sold her eggs.”

“Ah, now I begin to see light,” exclaimed Dudley--“to see--many things.”

“To see further than your nose?”

“Yes”--rising to his feet--“I have it! Lady Mulgrave gave me a hint,
but I laughed at her. Is this Doran the son who did _not_ present you
with the locket and chain?”

“He is,” and she sat up abruptly.

“And perhaps he would like to offer you something instead; for
instance, a ring?”

Joseline coloured, and nodded assent.

“Ah! I understand where I’ve been remiss, and he has been successful.
These Irish fellows are tremendous hands at making love!”

He paused, momentarily overwhelmed with the shock of his discovery.

“Well, as to making love,” said Joseline at last; “love should be
real--and grow. But it is right that I should tell you, that Ulick has
cared for me for seven long years, and that I have loved him--ever
since I was in pinafores.”


PLYMOUTH
WILLIAM BRENDON AND SON, LTD.
PRINTERS





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