GOOD-BYE. THE OLD ROOM. MRS. HEFFERNAN'S TROUBLES. "MAGNIFICENT TIPPERARY." A GLEAM OF SUNSHINE. BUT KNOCKNAGOW IS GONE.
WE have not counted the years as they stole away like visions. of the night. What need to count them? They were here, and they are gone! And now we must say good-bye and sad enough it is to be obliged to say it. God be praised! we see truth, and trust, and thankfulness in the eyes raised to ours, and no shadow of reproach at all. And, God be praised again, there are tears in those eyes, and we feel the clasp of a slender hand! But with this the reader has not much to do; so we shall only add may his or her good-byes, when they must be said, be all like this one.
But, whatever other changes the years have brought, the little room up in the steep roof of the old cottage is much the same as when Barney Brodherick threw Arthur O'Connor's letter into the window in the ivied gable long ago. It is still called "Mary's room," and sometimes "mamma's room" by two lovely little ladies, who live almost entirely at the cottage, and for whose behoof the little room has been turned into a nursery. There is an old straw-chair there, which the little ladies regard with something like awe, as they talk in whispers of the poor sick girl who was so good and so patient, and who gave the straw-chair to their mamma when she was dying. These two little ladies are their grandmamma's pets; and even "dressing dinners" is not half so important a matter now in Mrs. Kearney's eyes as it used to be. But they have been observed, latterly, feeling their noses carefully, and climbing upon chairs to look at them in the glass; for people are continually telling them that the said noses are "out of joint" since the arrival of the plump little stranger in the cradle; and they wonder much how that can be, seeing that the plump little stranger never touched their noses at all, but, on the contrary, seems to devote most of his waking hours to vigorously thumping his own nose with his dimpled little fist, which, fortunately for him, has no knuckles, and therefore cannot hurt him very much. The nose, his grandmother avers, is her Uncle Dan's; and the rose-bud of a mouth that is never done blowing bubbles his aunt Mary's; and the double chin, his grandfather's "all over." "And," Mrs. Kearney would continue, "he'll have his father's eye-brows." "And his mother's cheek," Hugh added, one day. At which Grace laughed, and shook her fist at him.
And who so happy as Grace! For a while there was one little vexation that used to put her into a scolding humour. Hugh was as great a stay-at-home as ever; and Grace was as fond of a dance as ever. There was a round of very pleasant little parties at Christmas-time among their acquaintances, to not one of which Hugh could be induced to go except to Woodlands. He was ready enough to go there, Grace said. And when her father was at Woodlands on these occasions, and he and Hugh and Edmund discussed literary or political subjects with Dr. Arthur O'Connor to contradict everybody and object to everything for Arthur was nothing if not critical Grace used to say it came fully up to her idea of what refined and intellectual society ought to be. And the old mansion, and the ancestral trees outside for the timber at Woodlands was not all cut down and a certain high-born air in the hostess, were not altogether lost sight of; though Grace's notions about the "upper ten" were considerably modified since the time she used to edify Mary with her views as to what an aristocracy ought to be.
But though Hugh would go nowhere but to Woodlands, he wished her to go, saying that her account of all that happened would be better than being there himself. And this was quite true. But equally true was it that Hugh Kearney found it very pleasant to be alone with his books of an evening, reading and thinking. Yet, let the page or the vision be never so fascinating, the moment he heard her voice or her footstep, his heart leaped to welcome her.
One night Grace was home earlier than usual. She drew a chair close to his, and Hugh shut his book, prepared to listen to a lively description of Mrs. O'Shaughnessy's party. But to his surprise Grace remained silent and thoughtful. He looked anxiously at her, fearing that she might be ill. But there was no sign of illness in that bright, bewitching face; for, though thoughtful, it was bright, and to him, at least, it was bewitching in all moods. It was pleasant, too, to look at her dressed in such perfect taste.
"But why does she not begin to talk?" Hugh asked himself.
Not a word; she only leant against his arm, and gazed into the fire.
"Do you remember the time when Mr. Lowe was here?" she said at last, without moving, and still gazing into the fire.
"I remember it quite well," he replied. "Indeed, I have been thinking of him and Richard to-night. It is a strange coincidence that they should be together again in another quarter of the globe."
"This very night," continued Grace, still gazing into the fire "I can't think of the year just now, but it was this very night they were in this room. Richard sat in the old arm-chair, and Mr. Lowe was standing there with his elbow on the chimney-piece. Do you remember?"
"Yes; they used to come in here to smoke."
"Richard asked you whether you thought a person could love more than once." Here Grace seemed lost in thought for some minutes. "And you said yes," she continued, as if unconscious of the pause; "that a person might really love more than once; but that you believed it was the fate of some to love one as they never could love another. Do you remember?"
"Not exactly. But I dare say I said so, for I have always thought so."
"Do you think so still?"
"Yes, I certainly do."
"And you said, if it ever happened that a man or a woman could never love but once, it was when two spirits rushed together in this way, and were parted by death or some other cause that did not involve blame to either."
"That has been a theory of mine," Hugh replied.
"Is it still?"
"Well, yes. It is," he answered, thoughtfully.
She was silent again, gazing into the fire.
He bent over her, and looked into her eyes.
"What am I to tell you?" he asked, smiling; for she had relapsed into silence.
"Was it of me you were thinking when you said that?" She bent back her head, and raised her eyes to his with a confident smile.
He was on the point of answering seriously "Yes," when he recollected himself, and, leaning back in his chair, laughed heartily.
She looked up in surprise, and even appeared troubled.
"Why do you laugh?" she asked.
"Just remember how old were you at that time," he replied.
"Ah, no matter," said Grace; "can't you say it was of me you were thinking?"
"Well, perhaps I had some sort of a prevision of what was to come
'And now I find the fancy true,
And fairer than the vision made it.'
But how did you remember all this?"
"I don't know. I was passing the door while you were saying it. I didn't mind it at all at the time, but it occurred to me afterwards. That and Bessy Morris's story about the Beauty Race, and Fionn Macool, and 'the one little girl that he'd rather have than any of them,' were constantly in my mind."
"How much I owe Bessy Morris," said Hugh, half laughingly, half dreamily, laying his hand upon her head. "She and Mat Donovan are the happiest couple in all Tipperary this moment."
"No; not the happiest," said Grace. "I sometimes fear we are too happy, Hugh."
"Not too happy, so long as we do not forget the Giver."
She made no reply, but continued gazing into the fire.
"Now, Grace, do you think I can allow this? Where is the use in your being home early if you stay up this way? Here, drink this while 'tis hot. I thought you were in bed an hour ago."
It was Mrs. Kearney, who roused them from their dreaming a full half-hour after Hugh had last spoken. She came into the room with a posset for Grace; who, Mrs. Kearney would have it, required all sorts of nursing just then.
This was in the winter the "dreary winter" some people call it. But no one in that old cottage ever thought of calling it "dreary."
It is now autumn, towards the end of September.
"I can't help feeling a little discontented," said Grace. "Whenever Edmund makes his appearance Hugh is never home till long after nightfall. And if they chance to go near Woodlands, I may give him up till eleven o'clock or later."
"What would you do if you were like me?" Mary asked.
"Well, I suppose," Grace replied, "I'd console myself with the idea that we were getting rich. Arthur seems to have great practice."
"Practice enough," returned Mary. "But scarlet-runners are more plenty than fees."
"What are they?"
"I thought you knew everything. They are the red dispensary tickets which require the medical officer to attend at the residence of the patient. Arthur said this morning, when he saw those young ladies in the garden, that if times did not mend, he did not know what to do with them. But I told him he need not give them fortunes at any rate." And Mary's mild eyes beamed with all a mother's pride as she looked into the garden where her two lovely little girls were playing among the formal flower-beds.
"You meant that, like their mother, they would require no fortune."
"Yes," Mary replied innocently. But seeing Grace beginning to laugh, she added with spirit "I am proud that I had no fortune. But, on the other hand," she continued, somewhat sadly, "I wish I had ten thousand pounds."
"Well," returned Grace, thoughtfully, "I have not that to be proud of. But I think I may be quite sure my fortune did not influence Hugh, even in the slightest degree. On the contrary, the very fortune I was always wishing to have might have been a bar to my happiness. I think if I were poor Hugh would not have concealed his love for me as he did. It is appalling to think I might never have known it only for an accident. And it would have been a just judgment to punish me for my mercenary notions."
"I remember I used to be shocked at your notions," returned Mary. "But I knew you would see things in a different light, if once your heart was touched. But look at mamma with the children. Oh, here is Arthur!" she exclaimed with a start of delight. "I did not think he'd be back for hours."
"Yes, he knows that stile behind the laurels," Grace observed. "But where are those shots from? If we could intercept the sportsmen before they get to Woodlands it would be well."
"I see them," said Mary. "They are in Billy Heffernan's turnips. Let us all walk round by the village, and they will see us when we reach the bridge."
Dr. O'Connor agreed to this arrangement; and, after a glass of wine, and a kiss from each of his little daughters, went with Mary and Grace to prevent Hugh's escape to Woodlands.
Old Mrs. Donovan was among her bee-hives; and it was pleasant to catch a glimpse of her white cap and her sad tranquil face through an opening in the clipped hedge. Mary always liked to see old Mrs. Donovan when ever she passed by the neat little thatched house. Grace liked a chat with young Mrs. Donovan; they were con genial spirits. And so, perhaps, were Mary and old Mrs. Donovan.
"Aren't you afraid to have the child so near the bees?" Grace asked.
"I am, then, and very uneasy," Bessy replied. "But his grandmother only laughs at me."
"Oh, he's a tremendous big fellow," Grace exclaimed, as she lifted Mat the Thrasher's son and heir up in her arms. "I thought my young Maurice was a 'bully,' as Barney calls him. But this lad is once and a half as heavy."
"Mat says he'll be a stone-thrower," returned Bessy, laughing, as she took the infant athlete from Grace's arms, and laid him upon the ground; to roll and tumble, or lie still upon his chest, or his back, or to make short excursions upon all-fours ever and anon stopping suddenly, propped up by his fat arms, to stare at a white head of cabbage with all his eyes at his own sweet will.
"Do you ever wish to live at the Three Trees now?" Grace asked. "Oh, never," returned Bessy. "Mat wanted to take the farm when my father sent us some money; but I would not let him."
"Is it the same place?" said Mary, sadly, as she looked down the hill. There was a low stone wall at each side of the road, the mortar of which looked very new and unpleasant to the eye. Perhaps the mortar looked all the more fresh because of the dark stones that seemed to thrust themselves through it here and there, in order that the traveller might read the story of quenched hearths and scattered households in their soot-browned faces. An odd tree, a perch or two in from the road, marked the boundary of a "haggart"; for where an ash or an elm sheltered the peasant's cabin the tree was allowed to stand. The beech-tree escaped in this way; and the pointed gable of Phil Lahy's old house, now roofless and crumbling to decay, seemed to regard the change wrought by the rule of the Stranger with a grim smile such as Phil himself might have worn while emptying the vials of his sarcasm upon the head of "that poor crawler," Tom Hogan. No smiling faces now as they went on; no children's voices; no ringing of the anvil. Mary even regretted Kit Cummins's shrewish tongue, and the next-door neighbour's "G-i-r-rout, you bla'guard of which she was reminded by seeing a cat run across the road, and over the wall at the other side, pursued by a small red terrier that always accompanied Grace in her walks.
"It is an awful change," Mary observed.
"It really is," returned Grace. "I thought of it when you said we would go through the village."
"And think of the happy crowd that used to follow the big drum to the Bush," continued Mary. "And where are they all now? Not one, I may say, left."
"There is one melancholy relic of the crowd you speak of," Grace observed, pointing to a man in the field a little further down.
"And what a handsome young fellow he was
"And for what is he rolling that stone from the wall into the field?" Arthur asked.
"Surely," said Mary, "it cannot be that he is in Mr. Cummins's employment? Though it was not he ruined them."
She alluded to the purchaser of a portion of Sir Garrett Butler's property a brother of the redoubtable Kit Cummins, who had made a fortune by a peculiar mode of dealing with the struggling farmers in hard times. And it may be mentioned that Mr. Cummins's conduct as a landlord completely upset Maurice Kearney's favourite theory about "good Catholics," for Mr. Cummins was a most exemplary Catholic. And Billy Heffernan was hopelessly bewildered on the subject of "gentlemen," when be remembered that Kit Cummins's brother was a magistrate and a landlord, and, in fact, as great a man as ever Sam Somerfield was, to say nothing of Bob Lloyd, or Beresford Pender.
"There they are," Grace exclaimed; "and if you don't stop them before they cross the road, we won't see them again for the day."
Arthur hurried on in pursuit of the two sportsmen, followed more slowly by Mary and Grace. He got within hailing distance on the bog-road, and when they heard his shout to them, they changed their course and came towards him.
Grace could see nothing but Hugh for some time, but Mary had eyes for other objects. Observing a goodly crowd around a stack of oats in the next field, and hearing the words, "Norah, throw up that bruckish to me," she laughed and made her way to them. It was Nelly Donovan, or we should rather say, Mrs. Billy Heffernan, and her whole family from Norah, a black-eyed gipsy of nine years, to the "bruckish," of about the same number of months. Their mother, who was kneeling on the stack, the top of which Billy Heffernan had just taken to the barn in his mule's car, wanted to give the "bruckish" his afternoon draught, while waiting till his father returned for the next load. But Norah found some difficulty in lifting him so high, and Mrs. O'Connor laughingly came to her assistance.
"This is the third fat boy I have taken in my arms to-thy," she observed, as she pressed the bruckish against her bosom. "I'll begin to feel quite jealous and discontented; every body has boys except myself."
"Faith, then, maybe 'tis too many uv 'em you'll have yet, ma'am," replied Nelly, pulling up the child with one hand. "There's more bother wud wan uv 'em than a house-full of girls. Look at that fellow beyand now, an' nothin' will do him but to ketch a hoult uv that heifer be the tail; an' wan kick from her would knock the daylights out uv him. Run, Norah, an' brin' him over here. Oh!" cried Mrs. Billy Heffernan, at the top of her voice, "look at him, look at him!"
The heifer had set off at full speed, the young hopeful holding on to the tail, till, the pace becoming too fast for him, be was flung headlong upon his face and hands the stubbles scarifying his sun-burnt visage till it looked like a tulip.
"Lord help us!" exclaimed his mother, flinging the infant on the oat sheaves, and tumbling herself off the stack. But remembering, before she had run many yards, that the olive branch on the stack would be sure to creep out to the edge and fall down directly on his skull, thereby breaking his neck or causing concussion of the brain, Nelly ran back and pulled him from his couch; and letting him drop upon the stubbles almost with as much violence as if he had descended on his own hook, but in a less dangerous position than upon the crown of his head. She was starting off again, when a great flock of geese, coming along the car-track, gabbling and picking up the oats that had been shaken from the load, attracted her attention; and as it occurred to her that the old gander, who was of a vicious and misanthropic turn of mind, might take a fancy to the bruckish's eyes, Mrs. Heffernan looked wildly from one to the other of her olive-branches, quite at a loss how to proceed; but, seeing that the elder had got upon his legs, and was now swinging from the tail of the mule's car, never minding his scratched countenance, Mrs. Heffernan heaved a sigh of relief.
"'Tis little you know what bother they are, ma'am," said she, twisting up her abundant black hair, which had fallen about her shoulders. "When Mister Hugh an' Misther Kiely fired at the birds in the turnips a while ago, that fellow was makin' off over the ditch to get himse'f shot. An' there he is now, an' if the rope chances to get round his neck, he'll get himse'f hung. An' look at his father walkin' on, an' never lookin' back, or throublin' his head about him. This is the way my heart do be broke from mornin' till night. No, ma'am; 'tis harder to rear wan boy than twenty girls."
"You'll have twenty barrels to the acre here, Bill," Hugh Kearney observed, looking round at the stacks, after feeling the weight of a sheaf of the oats.
"About that, sir," returned Billy, in his old solemn way. "You're a wonderful man," continued Hugh. "This is the very spot Richard stood in the day he left the leg of his trousers in the bog-hole; and look at that crop of oats!"
"And all because the land is his own for ever," observed Dr. O'Connor.
"While grass grows an' wather runs, sir," rejoined Billy Heffernan. "Misther Lloyd laughed at me whim I axed a lase for ever of such a spot. But Sam Somerfield wanted him to go to law wud me an' break the lase whin he see the good I was gettin' uv id. He said 'twas a bad example to the counthry, an' that 'twould put dangerous notions into the people's minds. An' there is Sam himse'f wudout a sod of ground now; an' Misther Bob is there yet."
'Tis really remarkable," Hugh observed, "that Bob Lloyd is the only landlord for miles around here who has escaped the Incumbered Estates Court."
"Because his tinants had the land for the value, an' long lases," returned Billy. "An' they wor always able to meet their rints, and to make up money for him whin he was in a hoult. An' there is Yallow Sam, that hunted every tinant he had, an' I'm tould his property was sould agin' t'other day for three times as much as it was bought for the first time."
"That's a fact," said Edmund. "And it does look a little hard, that, after all their devotion to England, this law should have been introduced just when the value of landed property was at the lowest ebb. In fact, it looks very like robbery."
"The Irish landlords were encouraged to exterminate the people," said Dr. O'Connor, "and when the work was done, many of themselves were exterminated. England cares just as little for them as for the people."
"Mr. Somerfield's friends, however," Hugh remarked, "did not quite forget his services. You know he is a stipendiary magistrate."
"He whined frightfully," said Edmund, "at being obliged to give up Woodlands. It is strange that the most callous and merciless tyrants are the most abject hounds when it comes to their own turn to meet the fate which it was their glory to inflict on others. Poor Sir Garrett might have been moved to give him a lease only for those gables." And Edmund pointed to several gables that stood like large head stones, scattered over a great sheep-walk along the side of a hill within view of where they stood. Mr. Somerfield had left a solitary gable standing, of every roof-tree he had swept from the face of the land, and these he was wont to point to with the pride of an Indian warrior displaying the scalps of his foes.
"If we had the bogs itse'f," said Billy Heffernan, "some uv us at any rate might do some good. But they'd rather lave 'em to the cranes than give 'em to the Christians. What have I but the fag-end uv a bog? An' begor, I wouldn't give id this minute for the best farm in the parish wudout security."
"You are right," said Hugh Kearney.
'Tis of'en I thought uv ould Phil Morris's words," continued Billy Heffernan, "that there was nothin' like security to give a man courage. Look at Mat Donovan, an' becase he had them few perches that his grandfather fenced in betune the two roads, when 'twas on'y a hape uv stones an' a lough uv wather, an' see how he kep' his grip. An' Tom Hogan an' the rest uv 'em swep' away like that," added Billy, taking a handful of chaff from the bottom of his cart and letting it fly with the wind. "Wo! Kit! Come, Nelly, up wud you on that butt uv a stack an' throw me the shaves. 'Twill be tight enough on us to have id all in afore nightfall."
"No more shooting to-day," said Grace, putting her arm in her husband's. "Arthur and Mary are staying for dinner; so, march!"
Two gentlemen on horseback pulled up suddenly as they were passing "Tom Hogan's gate," as it was still called.
"That is Mr. Lloyd," said Grace. "But who is that with him?"
"I don't know," Hugh replied. "They are calling to someone."
It was to the man who had rolled the stone into the field. He raised his head listlessly, on hearing Mr. Lloyd's voice, and looked towards the gate, as if waiting to know what he wanted. He had been sitting on the stone with his face buried in his hands, and must have remained motionless for some time, as the sheep were grazing quite close to him, one or two looking curiously at him, and almost touching him with their noses. But the moment he observed Mr. Lloyd's companion, he stood up quickly, and, after touching his cap, dropped his arms by his side and stood at attention.
"How are you, Hogan?" said the gentleman. "I hope you're well, captain," was the reply, "What fancy have you taken to sitting there?" Mr. Lloyd asked. "We saw you from the top of the hill, and didn't know what to make of you till we came to the gate here
Jemmy Hogan's eyes moistened; but his cheek flushed, and he seemed ashamed of being detected in giving way to such weakness.
"'Twas a foolish notion," he replied at last, smiling somewhat grimly.
"I was going to ask you why you rolled that heavy stone into the field," said Dr. O'Connor, for they had all come up by this time, and were shaking hands with the two horsemen.
Jemmy Hogan walked, or rather stumped, to the gate for he had a wooden leg before he replied. He grasped the top of the gate, and rested his forehead upon his hands, just as his father had done the night he told Phil Lahy that "his heart was stuck" in that little farm.
"He is fainting," Mary observed in an anxious whisper to her husband, who approached the gate, and asked the young man if he were ill.
"No, sir," he answered, recovering himself; "I'm not to say very strong, but I'm not ill."
His lips were quite pale, and his yellow cheeks looked hollow and worn. What a contrast to the handsome youth who leaped to Mat Donovan's side at the words, "Come here, Jemmy Hogan," that Sunday long ago in Maurice Kearney's kiln-field, when Tom Cuddehy's desertion of his party changed the hurling of the "two sides" into what Phil Lahy called a "promiscuous match!"
"You exerted yourself too much rolling that heavy stone," said the doctor.
"No, sir, no; 'twasn't that," returned Jemmy Hogan. "I was tryin' could I make out the exact spot where the ould house stood. An' then I took a fancy to sit down where I used to sit when I was a little boy, in the corner beside my mother. So I rowled over that stone an' sot on id, till I thought I felt the hate uv the fire an' my mother's hand on my head. I b'lieve 'twas the breath uv the sheep that made me think I felt the hate; for I was someway half asleep. An' when the thruth came back sudden on me, an' I see the grass an' the sheep, instead uv the blazin' fire an' my mother's smile, id gave me a change, I b'lieve," said Jemmy Hogan, as he took off his cap and wiped the drops of perspiration from his forehead.
"O Arthur!' Mary exclaimed, as, overcome by her emotion, she rested her forehead against his shoulder, "it is awful!"
Grace grasped Hugh's arm with both her hands, and fixed her eyes pityingly on Jemmy Hogan's face, but did not speak.
Captain French's horse, at the moment, began to plunge violently, and the ladies were about running down the road in their terror, when they saw a wild-looking cow running towards them.
"Stop her!" was shouted in a loud voice, but in a manner which would lead to the belief that the speaker considered the party at Tom Hogan's gate were there for the special purpose of stopping runaway cows. Hugh disengaged himself from the little hands that clutched his arm so firmly, and, going a few yards to meet the cow, brought her to stand with little difficulty.
"I'm afther buyin' her from Mat Donovan," said Wat Murphy the butcher, in a quiet way, "an' she turned at the cross and med off for home. I was thryin' to buy another from him, but he's axin' too much."
"She's a nice cow," Hugh remarked, "and in good condition."
Mat himself appeared at this juncture, and at the same time his wife was seen running down the hill to meet him. But, on seeing the gentleman on horseback, she stopped short and turned back again. She had been wondering what was keeping Mat out so long beyond his usual dinner-hour, but Wat Murphy and the cow was a sufficient explanation, and she hastened home, blushing at being observed by the gentle men.
"Why," said the captain, "that is the girl poor Sergeant Baxter lost his senses about."
"She is Mat Donovan's wife now," returned Mr. Lloyd.
"Well, Mat," said the captain, "I can never have a cast of a sledge with you again."
"I'm sorry for it, sir," Mat replied; and his heart smote him for having beaten the captain that day in the kiln-field. "I'm sorry for it, sir," he repeated, looking at him, almost with the tears in his eyes. For Captain French had only one arm now.
"Do you have a hurling still?" he asked. "We got some smart fellows from about here."
"The hurlers are gone," replied Mat, looking around upon the great pasture fields with scarcely a house within view.
"By George," said the captain, "if this sort of thing goes on, there will be an end of 'magnificent Tipperary' in the English army."
"I was just going to remark," Edmund Kiely observed, "that you and Jemmy Hogan would make a very suggestive picture in illustration of that same 'magnificent Tipperary.'"
"How is that?" Captain French asked.
"Why," Edmund replied, "he has come home with one leg, after shedding his blood in the service of England, to find the sheep grazing on his father's heath. And you come home with one arm, to find a stranger in your father's halls."
"An' his property sowld for one-sixth uv the value," added Wat Murphy, who was a privileged person. "The divil's cure to the landlords. An Irish Parliament wouldn't thrate 'em that way. An' still they're agin their counthry."
"By G," the captain muttered, absently, as if he were talking to himself, "that's just what they tell me my poor father said when he was dying of a broken heart."
"Come and dine with us," said Bob Lloyd to Edmund for the rest of the party had moved on towards home. "We have a leg of mutton, and everything elegant."
"I'm after promising Mrs. Kearney to take an early dinner with her," returned Edmund. "And, by the way, I must send a messager to tell my wife, or she will think I have been swallowed up in a bog-hole."
"Not shot from behind a hedge?" the captain observed.
"No," Edmund answered, as he walked on to overtake his friends. "She is too long now in Tipperary for nonsense of that sort."
They had stopped to wait for him at Mat Donovan's clipped hedge.
"What is the matter with you?" Arthur O'Connor asked, seeing the tears in his wife's mild eyes.
"It is such a sad picture," she replied, looking along the lonely road. "So different from what it used to be."
"There are gleams of sunshine in it," he answered.
"Where are they?"
He pointed to Billy Heffernan and his wife and children, in the cornfield, which, a few years before, was a profitless moor.
"It is an omen," said Hugh Kearney. "The Irish people will never be rooted out of Ireland. Cromwell could not do it; the butchers of Elizabeth could not do it."
"But there is a more deadly system at work now," returned the doctor. "The country is silently bleeding to death."
"Not to death," rejoined Hugh Kearney. "Those of her people who are forced to fly are not lost to Ireland. And those who cling to her are advancing in knowledge and intelligence. The people are becoming an educated and a thinking people. When Billy Heffernan's sons grow to manhood, they will in many respects be different men from their father."
And would you say he will be a superior man to his father?" Grace asked, pointing over the clipped hedge.
Mat Donovan stood under the cherry-tree, holding the young "stone-thrower" high up among the branches, while his mother glanced up at him with the identical smile of the little Bessy Morris of old, when she used to glance at the cherries on her way from school; and his grandmother clapped her hands to attract the attention of the delighted youngster, who crowed and kicked and plunged so vigorously that Mat declared 'twas like holding a little bull.
"Yes," said Hugh, in reply to Grace's question, "he, too, will be ahead of his father at least of what his father was in his early youth. For Mat is now a really intelligent man, and is adding to his stock of knowledge every day."
"That is another gleam of sunshine," said Mary, her face lighted up now, and her eyes almost dancing with pleasure, as she contemplated the group under the cherry tree.
And when she turned to the dear old cottage, and saw the blue smoke gliding up above its sheltering trees, and her father, hale and ruddy, coming to meet them, and her mother at the door, "wondering" what was keeping them so long, and her own fair children gambolling upon the soft grass, and her generous brother with his bright little wife clinging so lovingly to him that was a gleam nay, a very flood of sunshine, too. And in Mary's home and in her heart there was sunshine, bright, warm, and unclouded.
"Whack!" Maurice Kearney called out, "didn't I tell you never to milk that cow without putting the spancel on her?"
"O father, why don't you call her by her right name?" said Mary, appearing a little shocked.
"You may call her Mrs. Barney Brodherick if you like," returned Maurice Kearney, "but I'll call her Whack."
Grace and Mary sat in the drawing-room, feeling somewhat lonely, they could not tell why, when they were startled by a ringing knock at the hall-door, which was quickly followed by a ringing laugh, and Mrs. Edmund Kiely had administered a kiss and a hug to each, before they could recover from their surprise. Of course it was just like her to set off for Ballinaclash, when Barney announced to her that Edmund was staying there for dinner. She flung her cloak on one chair, and her hat on another; and not a soul under the old cottage roof from Barney sucking his "dudheen" in the kitchen chimney-corner, to young Maurice, blowing bubbles and thumping Uncle Dan's nose in his cradle in the nursery that did not feel the influence of her presence. Old Maurice rubbed his hands and shrugged his shoulders in a perfect ecstasy of delight, and lost no time in asking her to play his favourite tunes and sing his favourite songs which she did till the tears ran down his cheeks.
And the old cottage was "filled with music"; and their hearts overflowed with deep and tranquil happiness.
Mary saw the light shine out from Mat Donovan's little window, and thought of the dream of the Past from which it had awakened her long ago, as she sat there in the cold moonlight. And what a bright future was in store for her after all!
There was another dreamer awakened by the light from Mat Donovan's window that same moonlight night. And now, almost from the very spot where he lay in the black, lonesome moor, the light from Mat Donovan's window is seen by a happy household, basking in the ruddy glow of a bogwood fire. The change is like what we read of in fairy tales. If poor Mick Brien could revisit the glimpses of the moon, he could scarcely believe that it was the dreary spot where he lay for hours meditating a deed of blood.
"Come," says Nelly, "I promised Bessy we'd go up to night. An' brin' the flute."
Billy Heffernan took down his hat from the elk's horns and meekly obeyed.
"I'll go," exclaimed young Matty Heffernan, independently.
"No, you won't," returned his mother. "Stay wud Norah, an' help her to mind your little brothers. Give him the fife," she added, on seeing Matty showing symptoms of rebellion.
"I'll go see grandmother," he persisted. "She'll give me honey."
"You can stay all day o' Sunday at your grandmother's." said Nelly. "But you must stop an' mind the house to night. An' there is the fife, an' you can play till you're tired."
"Well, Billy," said Mat Donovan, "did you hear any sthrange news yestherday?"
"Not a word," he replied. "But I never see a town that's
gone like Clo'mel. I remember when I could hardly get through the streets wud loads uv corn; an' now there's nothin' doin' there. The mills nearly all idle, an' the stores an' half the shops shut up. 'Twas well Phil Morris used to say 'twas the corn made a town uv Clo'mel."
"Nelly, you must bring in the kettle and fill out the tea," said Bessy. " This fellow won't go to sleep for me."
Nelly prepared the tea, of which all present partook, except Billy Heffernan, before whom his mother-in-law placed a huge mug of milk.
"Have you the flute?" Mat asked, as the American clock on the chimney-piece struck eight.
"Let us come out to the kitchen," returned Billy Heflernan.
"Arthur, stop for a moment," said Mary, an hour later, as they reached the top of the hill on their way home. "Can it be that Annie's voice could reach this? The drawing-room windows are open, and I really think I can hear her singing."
Dr. O'Connor reined in the horse, and listened with some curiosity.
"Oh, it is from Mat Donovan's," Mary observed. "And I am much mistaken if it is not Billy Heffernan's old flute."
"Why," said Arthur, when they had driven on a little further, "there is nothing but music to-night. Do you hear the fife from Billy Heffernan's own house, too!"
"It is very pleasant," returned Mary. "Thank God, there are happy homes in Tipperary still! But " she added, sadly, as she turned round, and looked along the two low whitish walls that reached from "the cross" to Mat Donovan's "but KNOCKNAGOW IS GONE!"