MAT DONOVAN IN TRAMORE. — MRS. KEARNEY AND HER "OWN CAR." — THE "COULIN."
TRAMORE — the "Great Strand" — is a household word in very many Tipperary homes. There the child gets the first sight of those waves, whose singing had been so often listened to in the sea-shell on the parlour chimney-piece; and there the grandsire, leaning upon his staff, gazes for the last time upon the same waves with wonder and delight more childish than the child's. Few married couples will you meet along the Golden Vale, and for many a mile to right and left of it, who have not wandered over that level, velvety strand, or reclined upon the sloping turf above the steep shore, while the bay flashed in the autumn sun, when life's journey seemed to them a very "path of rays." And when the corn is "drawn in," and the orchard "shook," and October frosts make it pleasant to come within the glow of the farmer's fire, see if the mention of "Tramore" will not call a dreamy look into the eyes of stalwart youths and blushing maidens!
Yes, pleasant memories of the sea are cherished in the homes of Tipperary. Yet who could ever look upon the sea without a sigh for the homes of Tipperary — and the homes of Ireland?
Father Carroll and his two young friends were walking down the steep street towards the beach, when Edmund exclaimed:
"Surely, that is Mat Donovan with the spade in his hand. What on earth can have brought him here?"
Mat was greeted as an old acquaintance by both Edmund and Father Carroll, but Arthur O'Connor had never seen him before, and contented himself with admiring the broad shoulders and sinewy limbs of the young peasant.
"Miss Mary, an' Miss Ann, an' the Misthress, sir," said Mat, in reply to a question from Father Carroll. "We're goin' home to-morrow, an' the misthress wouldn't be satisfied to have anyone dhrive 'em but myse'f, an' she sent for the car the week before last, so that I'm here now nearly a fortnight."
The fact was, Mrs. Kearney found that her neighbour, Mrs. O'Shaughnessy, had her own car at the seaside, and discovered at the same time that she herself was by no means well, and required "the sea air" to bring her round. Mary pointed to the window-curtain, which was fanning her mother's face at the moment, as she watched the breakers leaping up to clasp the dusky cliffs in their white arms, and then slide down and hide themselves in the bosom of the blue waves that rolled in as if to call back the truants to their proper home.
"What do you mean?" says Mrs. Kearney with severity, on observing the laugh in Mary's blue eyes.
"Is there not sea air enough here?" returned Mary. "And sure you can sit on the rocks, or on one of the seats on the Doneraile Walk. You have the sea air wherever you go."
But Mrs. Kearney had made up her mind that the sea air could only be taken in its purity while driving in "her own car" down to the Rabbit-burrow and back again. And so the car and the old mare and Mat Donovan were sent for; and every day after their arrival Mrs. Kearney might be seen, with her plump hands folded over her stomacher, jogging slowly by the tide — which ever and anon glided under the old mare's feet and startled the two young ladies on the other side of the car, whose exclamations were utterly ignored by their mamma, as she gave her whole mind to the "sea air"; with Mat Donovan "in an ezad" — to borrow his own expression — on the driver's seat. For Mat's legs were long and the driver's seat was low, and he always descended from his throne after a long drive, vowing that he was metamorphosed into the last letter of the alphabet.
This jogging by the tide was a severe penance to Mary Kearney and her sister, who often turned round to gaze with longing looks at the promenaders on the "Doneraile Walk"; and we fear Miss Anne sometimes wished that the wheel would fall off, or that the old mare would obstinately refuse to walk or trot upon sea sand for love or money.
But really, young ladies, you must have patience. The moon will be bright to-night; and — don't you see the O'Shaughnessys driving behind you?
"'Twould be worth your while, sir," said Mat Donovan, "to go out in a boat to the Metal-man's Cave, an' fire a shot in id. Such an ai-cho you never heard in your life! I'd give a crown to get wan box at the Knocknagow dhrum in id. 'Twould be like the end uv the world! Mr. Richard fired a shot in id a few days ago, an' id made the hair stand on my head. But I knew a box uv the big dhrum would be a show intirely!"
"So we have Richard here," said Edmund; "that's fortunate."
"No, sir"; returned Mat, "he cut away home. All they could say couldn't stop him. The minute he laid his eyes on that bit uv paper stuck on that windy above," continued Mat, pointing to a window they were just passing, "nothin' could keep him. You'd think that little scrap was a latitat, he was so frightened when he see it."
"Do you mean the label with 'Lodgings' on it?" Father Carroll asked.
"Yes, sir," replied Mat, "the Miss Hanlys wor lodgin' there; but their father came to bring 'em home unexpected."
"Oh, I understand," said Edmund, laughing. "He is now rambling under the shadow of the old castle with the fair Kathleen."
As they walked along the beach by the "storm wall" they were obliged to cross to the other side of the road, as some hundred yards of the footway were enclosed by a high paling with a gate at each end. This arrangement puzzled Arthur O'Connor a good deal, and he wondered what was the object of locking out the public from this portion of the walk.
"The gates will be open by-an'-by, sir," Mat Donovan observed. "That palin' was put up to keep the men from speculatin' on the ladies."
"Speculating on the ladies?" Arthur repeated, inquiringly. "Yes, sir," replied Mat seriously. "They're here from all parts — they're here from London," he added, with emphasis, as if London were at the other end of the world. "There's a Lady Elizabeth, an' a Lady Mary, an' ladies the divil knows what here."
"How did you happen to learn the names of those distinguished visitors, Mat?" Father Carroll asked with a smile.
"Well, sir," Mat answered, with a very solemn expression of countenance, "Phil Morris is here, an' he's lodgin' at a mantymaker's up near the chapel, an' their women do be in there. You might as well thry to understand a turkey-cock as to understand wan uv 'em," added Mat with a blending of astonishment and indignation in his tone.
"But about the speculating?" asked Arthur O'Connor, who was able to make nothing of Mat Donovan's explanation of the paling along the storm wall.
"He means that the paling is intended to keep the men from looking over the wall at the ladies bathing," returned Edmund. "That's what he calls speculating on the ladies. But, Mat, what are you going to do with the spade?"
"To bury Phil Morris, sir," Mat answered.
"Is old Phil dead? I'm very sorry to hear it. It was a treat to listen to him telling of his adventures when he was out in '98."
"He's as stout as a buck," returned Mat. "I'm on'y goin' to bury him for his pains. If you walk down as far as the mast of the ship that was wracked last winther you'll see him buried in the sand, wud on'y his head above ground, and the sweat runnin' down his face from the weight on him. He says wan buryin' is betther than twenty baths."
"Was there a vessel lost in the bay last winter?"
"There was, sir. Wanst they get in apast them two white pillars they're done for. Though the fishermen at the Boat-cove tells me there's not an honester bay in Ireland, if the captain would on'y run the vessel in on the strand, instead uv tryin' to get back again."
"By the way, Mat," said Edmund, "has old Phil Morris his pretty granddaughter with him?"
"He has, sir," returned Mat; "he couldn't live wudout her, I b'lieve. An', begor, she'd surprise you. She's able to talk to the best uv 'em, an' to undherstand what they'd say. An' she was able to show the dressmaker how to manage some turns an' twists in a new-fashioned gown that she wasn't able to come at herself, afther takin' id asundher. I was standin' by mese'f; an' she might as well thry to make a watch as put id together, on'y for Bessy."
Mat did not mind telling that he spent a good deal of his time picking shells with Bessy Morris — which shells, in after days, he could never catch the slightest glimpse of, on the fire-board to which they were glued, in Bessy's own little room, without a sigh and mental "God be with old times."
The bathers were now flocking up from the strand, and Edmund Kiely, recognising a light-footed nymph among them, with her silky tresses hanging down her back, was about giving instant chase, when Arthur caught him by the arm, and requested that he would take the world easy.
"It is Minnie Delany," exclaimed Edmund, keeping his eyes on the shining tresses. " Just let me see where she is stopping."
"I'll show you the house," said Mat Donovan, who seemed to be a walking edition of that interesting weekly sheet, 'The Tramore Visitor.'
"She's too damp yet," Arthur observed; "and possibly her nose is blue, for the water must be rather cold to-day. Let us get a boat and go to the cave, and you can see your friends in the evening."
"They'll be out in all the colours uv the rainbow, by-an'-by," Mat Donovan observed. "But I can't see wan uv 'em to equal Miss Mary."
"Then this lady Mr. Kiely was about running after does not come up to Miss Kearney, in your opinion?" asked Arthur, who was greatly amused by Mat's free-and-easy remarks on things in general.
"Not at all!" returned Mat indignantly. "She's a nice lively little girl, an' she has so many bows, an' feathers, an' goold chains, an' sich things, that people take notice uv her. But she's on'y an Ally Blasther near Miss Mary. But I see Phil Morris waitin' for me, an' I must be off to bury him."
"But who is Ally Blaster?" Arthur asked.
"Ha'penny dolls are called Ally Blasters," replied Father Carroll. " I suspect it is a corruption of 'alabaster.'
"I hope you will introduce me to your Ally Blaster," said Arthur.
Edmund Kiely was too disgusted to reply, and, buttoning up his "zephyr," he strode on towards the Boat-cove in advance of his friends, looking as if he considered their observations quite beneath contempt.
"This is really a nice bathing place," Arthur O'Connor remarked as he sat at the window of his room in the evening. "But is it not a wonder that the people who build these handsome houses never plant a tree?"
"Come, brush yourself up and be ready to come out," said Edmund, who had run up to his friend's bed-room to protest against his shutting himself up for the evening. "The belles you see, are just about to appear in all the colours of the rainbow, as Mat Donovan said." And Edmund pointed to a young lady at a door a little lower down the street, opening and shutting her parasol.
The evening was calm and sultry, and as Edmund ran his eye along the row of houses opposite, he remarked that all the windows were thrown open and pretty faces were visible at more than one; but for some reason or other none of them as yet emerged into the open air.
"What are they waiting for?" the young gentleman thought to himself, as the parasols at the doors became more numerous. "By Jove, Arthur, I'm in luck!" he exclaimed, aloud. "There she is in the bow-window just opposite!"
"What are you talking about?" returned Arthur.
"But I must warn you to take care of your heart and vocation," Edmund ran on, "for I am positively haunted by the thought that sooner or later you will come to look upon me as the destroyer of your happiness."
"In the name of common sense what are you talking about?"
"Look at that dazzling little being in the bow-window."
"I see her but can see nothing wonderful about her."
"But, my dear fellow, don't you see it is sweet little Minnie Delany." Here Edmund Kiely bowed and smiled, but the young lady seemed quite unconscious that the eyes of her admirer were on her. She had leant out of the window and looked up at the sky, and Edmund Kiely, following her example, saw that a heavy cloud was hanging like a pall above them. The bay, which an hour or two before looked so sunny, was now almost black. The fringe of white along the strand had become broader, and little eruptions of foam were bursting up here and there far out between the Metal-man and the two white pillars on the opposite side of the bay, marking where those treacherous rocks, so dangerous to the mariner, lifted their iron foreheads almost to the surface of the heaving billows, which now seemed roused from sleep by some mysterious agency; for
"There was not wind enough in the air
To move away the ringlet curl."
from Minnie Delany's cheek, as, with her chin resting on her gloved hand, she leant out of the bow-window and glanced up at the great black cloud hanging in the sky.
"I fear the evening is likely to be wet," Edmund observed ruefully. "I'll ask Father Carroll to step over to see Mrs. Delany, and manage to have us all asked to tea. There will be no walking. There is Somerfield's carriage going back to the stable-yard, too. A splendid pair they are; Mat Donovan pointed them out to me as we were coming up, and I was honoured by a nod of recognition from one of the ladies."
"Who are they?" Arthur asked.
"Sam Somerfield's daughters, of Woodlands," returned Edmund. "It is he, or rather his father, keeps the harriers.
Hugh Kearney and I have often had a good run with them."
Arthur O'Connor gave very little attention to what his friend was saying. He was listening with a look of surprise to the soft sweet tones of a flute, which he could hear distinctly through the hoarse chant of the breakers. The circumstance which excited his surprise was, that the music suddenly stopped almost as soon as it had commenced, and then began again, to cease as suddenly as before. This was repeated over and over till Arthur's surprise began to change to something like irritation; for the strain seemed familiar to him, and affected him strongly, as will often happen
"Should some notes we used to love
In days of boyhood meet our ear."
"Can you recognise the air?" he added, turning to Edmund, who was pensively contemplating the movements of Miss Minnie Delany's fingers, as she twisted up her ringlets after taking off her bonnet — and it would be no violent stretch of the imagination to suppose that Miss Delany had at least a slight suspicion that Mr. Edmund Kiely was so engaged.
"Yes," he replied, after listening for a moment, "'tis an Irish air." But it stopped again before he could be sure what particular Irish air it was.
Those snatches of melody were becoming fainter and. fainter, as if the performer were moving farther away from them; but they soon noticed them becoming more distinct again, till every note of the few oft-repeated bars could be plainly heard.
"I see how it is," said Arthur. "He began to play at this side of the street, and now he is coming back at the other side."
"Yes, there he is," returned Edmund, "and a most picturesque-looking figure he is, with his cloak and long white hair. He must be a foreigner, I should say."
The musician commenced his melody for the twentieth time; but the window before which he stood was pulled down, and he let his flute drop into the hollow of his arm, and, hesitating for a moment, walked a few steps, and commenced again — but only to meet with the same reception.
He tried again and again with no better success, till he came within a door or two of the house at the window of which Miss Delany stood toying with her curls.
"He must be new to the business," said Edmund, "or it would not be so easy to shut him up. Did you remark the way his hands trembled when that window was pulled down with such unnecessary violence? And, by the way, what thin, delicate hands they are. And there is something striking in his pale, melancholy face, too. He certainly must have seen better days."
"'Tis a shame!" exclaimed Arthur O'Connor, as the poor flute-player met with still another repulse. "What sort of people must these be?"
"I know the air," said Edmund. "It is the 'Coulin.'" For the poor musician had walked on to the next house without taking the flute from his lips.
"Hang her!" muttered Arthur, as Miss Minnie Delany, too, pulled down her window; though she did it so slowly and hesitatingly, that the old minstrel played on seemingly unconscious of this last repulse. Or it might be that he was borne away to other scenes by the sweet melody —
"The home-loving Coulin,
That's sobbing, like Eire, with Sorrow and Love" —
and that poverty and sorrow and humiliation were all forgotten. This, indeed, must have been the case, for the two friends observed, as he turned his mild, melancholy face side ways, towards the sea, that his eyes were closed.
Edmund Kiely reddened, and bit his lips.
Yet pretty Minnie Delany had done only what she had seen others do. She had not the courage to do as her own heart prompted. And, perhaps, the same excuse, such as it is, may be pleaded for some of the others who so rudely spurned the poor flute-player from their doors.
When the Misses Somerfield, of Woodlands, would not listen to the "Coulin" — for the splendid pair of bays champing their bits before the Miss Somerfield's door induced the old musician to begin with them — how could those who had no carriages-and-pairs at all venture to listen to it? But if the Misses Somerfield, of Woodlands, had the faintest suspicion of who that poor flute-player was, they would have been charmed with the "Coulin," or any other tune he might choose to play, even though it were as Irish as "Garryowen" itself.
He played on now with his face towards the "melancholy ocean," as if he were playing in a dream.
Though the last glimpse of Erin with sorrow I see,
Yet wherever thou art will seem Erin to me.
In exile thy bosom shall still be my home,
And thine eyes make my climate wherever we roam."
Edmund had murmured the words softly to the air, and was commencing the next verse, when the sweet tones of the flute were drowned by the shrill voices of a couple of ragged urchins, who accompanied themselves with a most unmusical rattling of bones as they sang, or rather yelled —
"Out of the way, old Dan Tucker,
You're too late to get your supper."
The window was thrown up again by Miss Delany's mamma, who seemed quite charmed by the hideous din; and even Minnie stopped twisting her curls, and beat time to it with her little rosy fingers upon her shoulder. But still the old musician played on, with his pale face turned towards the sea.
A hand — an exquisitely fair and delicate hand — was laid upon his arm, and a pair of large dark lustrous eyes were raised to his. It could be seen at a glance that she was his daughter. The old man started as his eyes met hers; and after casting a bewildered look around, a painful smile passed over his pale face, as he hid his flute hurriedly in the folds of his cloak. The girl was tall, and, in spite of her worn and faded apparel, singularly graceful. Her lips trembled and her eyes filled with tears as she drew her father away from the crowd of idlers that began to collect around the boys, who "yah, yahed," and rattled their "castanets," till Mrs. Delany seemed to be getting quite faint from the excess of her delight. They had not moved many steps from the crowd when Arthur O'Connor stood by the young girl's side and pressed a piece of silver into her hand. She blushed deeply; and before she could recover from her surprise, a second piece was placed in the same hand, and, on looking round, the fairest face and the heavenliest blue eyes, she thought, she had ever beheld, met her gaze. For a moment all three seemed spell-bound. The musician's daughter looked from one to the other of her benefactors, while they looked at each other. Arthur O'Connor thought, too, that the young girl who, like himself, had run after the poor flute-player, was the loveliest creature he had ever seen. She was the first to recover presence of mind, and turning quickly round hurried past the grinning vocalists, who were becoming alarmingly black in the face from the vigour of their exertions, and entered a house within a few doors of Mrs. Delany's. The musician's daughter gazed after her with eyes brimful of admiration and gratitude; but observing that her father had walked on without appearing to miss her from his side, she thanked the student with a smile, and hastened after him.
Edmund Kiely was a spectator of all this; but he saw nothing distinctly but the musician's dark-eyed daughter. He watched her till she was out of sight, and then seizing his hat started off in pursuit.
Half-an-hour after Edmund Kiely found himself looking down a steep, almost perpendicular wall of rock, into a little cove, where the white surf was swaying backward and forward over the round pebbles with a sharp crashing noise that pierced through the deep rolling of the waves like the rattle of musketry amid the roar of cannon upon the battlefield. To his surprise the old man and his daughter hurried on, and on, keeping close to the shore for more than a mile. He suddenly lost sight of them at this point, and on coming up to the place, he looked over the cliff with a curiosity not unmingled with alarm, for the thought occurred to him that they might have missed their footing and been precipitated into the seething waters below. His heart beat quick as he looked in vain for some trace of them; and a cry almost escaped from him, on seeing some dark object rising and falling with the waves some fifty yards or so from the shore. He soon, however, saw that the dark object was a mass of seaweed, and his eyes wandered again in every direction in search of the old musician and his daughter.
"Surely," he thought, "it was just here I saw them last; and where can they have gone? So old a man would scarcely have ventured down that narrow pathway, where a goat might run the risk of breaking its neck. By Jove!" he exclaimed with a start, "there she is on the top of that black cliff, with the waves tumbling and twisting around its base. What a corsair's bride she would make!"
After standing upon the rock for a minute or two, she waited till the receding wave allowed her to leap upon the strand, and in another moment Edmund watched her climbing, or rather bounding, up the steep pathway, with a step as light as the wild goat's. The path led up close to the rock behind which he was standing, and as she came nearer, her silvery tones fell upon his ear.
"And that's the place where you first saw my dear mother?" said she, stopping a little below where he stood.
"Yes," returned the old man, who sat upon a ledge of the cliff, concealed from Edmund's view. "When consciousness returned, she and the good old priest were standing over me by the side of that rock."
"And they took you to the same house where we are staying. I'm so glad you have brought me to see the place!"
"But I fear I have acted imprudently. It is strange I have got no reply to my letter before now. I very much fear some accident of which I have not heard must have occurred to the friend to whom I have written; for he never failed me before."
"Oh, I am sure you will have a letter to-morrow; and this money the beautiful girl and the young abbé have so kindly given to me will be quite enough for us until then. I only wish I could keep it as a souvenir of them. He is so very handsome; and she so exquisitely lovely! Did you notice them?"
"No, I noticed nothing," he replied. "My debut as an itinerant musician has not been encouraging."
"I asked the name of those ladies for whom you first played," returned his daughter. "I thought it very unkind of them to close their window as they did, and they such stylish people. I was told their name is Somerfield."
"Somerfield," repeated the old man, musingly. "I am acquainted with that name.
"The Somerfields of Woodlands," she added.
"The same," returned her father. "It is a strange coincidence."
"How is that?" she asked.
I'll tell you another time," he answered. "Let us go now. The fisherman promised to inquire for a letter in Waterford, and I am not without hopes that he may have one for us when he comes back. I scarcely expected your uncle would write, but it will surprise me much if the friend to whom I have written do not send the small sum I asked of him. I am determined to put my case in the hands of a lawyer at last, and see whether I cannot compel my unkind brother to do me justice. It is a duty I owe to you, my child."
"My dear father," she returned, "don't be so anxious about me. Thanks to the care you have bestowed on my education, I feel I can earn my bread respectably whenever it is necessary."
I trust it will not come to that," replied the old man. "You do not know how bitter a thing it is to be dependent upon strangers. But see, those heavy clouds are about to burst, and we must hasten back, or we shall get well drenched before we can reach the cottage."
They retraced their steps for some distance along the path over the cliffs, and Edmund, climbing to the top of the rock against which he had been leaning, saw them turn to the left up a steep narrow road, and enter a small thatched cottage a couple of hundred yards from the shore.
If we ventured to turn Mr. Edmund Kiely's thoughts, as he stood with folded arms upon that rock high above the surging sea, into plain prose, we fear some at least of our readers would not readily set him down for the sensible fellow he really was. He was startled from his reverie, however, by a vivid flash of lightning, followed quickly by a terrific thunder-clap that seemed to shake the rocks around him. Then, as the old musician had foretold, down came the Tam in a hissing torrent; and Mr. Edmund Kiely leaped from his elevated position, and pulling the collar of his zephyr up over his ears, made straight for the fisherman's cottage, with the fleetness of an arrow; persuading himself that his only earthly object was to escape getting wet to the skin. Raising the latch, he flung the door open, and standing inside the threshold, shook the rain from his hat and coat without even looking about to see who or what the inmates of the house might be. It was quite plain the young gentleman only sought shelter from the thunder-shower. The woman of the house, however, placed a chair in front of the fire, and invited him to sit down; and then he saw an old man with white hair sitting by the fire, and a young girl with dark hair at a table near the small window, writing or making a sketch upon the blank leaf of a book.
I have just run in to escape from the shower," Edmund remarked. "It has come down very suddenly, but I do not think it will last long."
The door was again opened before the old man could make any reply, and the fisherman entered with the water running down from his "sou'-wester," and over his oil-cloth jacket, as if he had just emerged from the waves. Thrusting his hand inside his waistcoat, he produced a letter, and presented it without speaking to the old musician, who snatched it nervously from his hand, and retired into an inner room, followed by the young girl.
"Who is that old gentleman?" Edmund asked.
"I couldn't tell you, sir," the fisherman answered. " He says he lodged here the year the French vessel was lost in the bay. That was in my father's time, and I was in Newfoundland myself. So I have no recollection of him. There wasn't near so many houses in Tramore then, and people used to come and lodge here in the summer. But, though poor he is, he's a gentleman. I'd take my oath uv that any day."
"Ay, an' his daughter is a born lady," added his wife. "An' they're welcome to stop for a month if they like before I'd ax 'em for a penny. 'Twould rise the cockles uv your heart to hear her singin' the 'Coulin,' an' her father playin' id on the flute. I thought I was in heaven listenin' to 'em last night."
The old man or his daughter did not return to the kitchen, and the rain having ceased quite suddenly, Edmund stood up to leave, resolving that he would find some pretext for returning to the cottage next day. Seeing that the young girl had left her book, with the pencil in it, on the table, curiosity impelled him to take it up and look at it. It was a well-worn copy of Moore's Melodies. Glancing at the blank leaf between the "Irish" and "National Melodies," his face betokened the utmost astonishment; for on the blank leaf he beheld Arthur O'Connor's handsome profile done to the life. The sensations created by this discovery were not altogether of the pleasurable sort; and he remembered with some satisfaction that she spoke of Arthur a little while before as "the young abbé." There was also an unfinished female head, the contour of which reminded him of some one, though just then he could not say of whom; but he had no doubt it was meant for "the beautiful girl" mentioned in connection with "the young abbé."
"'Tis most extraordinary," thought Edmund. "Arthur and I will most certainly be at logger-heads some day."
He wrote with the pencil on the leaf — "Don't be offended. I am a friend of the young abbé." And slipping a pound note between the leaves, he replaced the book on the table.
It is quite fine now," he remarked. "There is the moon rising out of the bay. I shall have quite a pleasant walk back." And bidding the fisherman and his wife "Good evening," he proceeded on his way back to the town by the "Doneraile Walk." Minnie Delany was among the moonlight promenaders on the walk — for one of the advantages of this pleasant seaside resort is that five minutes after the heaviest fall of rain, the daintiest feet can venture out without fear of wet or mud — but alas! Mr. Edmund Kiely deliberately turned from the smooth gravelled walk, and, descending to the brink of the steep shore, stood there for a good hour and more, watching the shimmering of the moonlit bay.
Edmund Kiely did not sleep as soundly as was his wont that night, and in the morning he was pacing up and down by the storm-wall long before there were any fair nymphs to "speculate" upon among the breakers. He saw Mat Donovan at some distance purchasing cockles from a barefooted woman on her way from the Black Strand; and it occurred to him that Mat would be able to learn something about the old musician and his daughter for him. But Mat, with his purchase tied up in his red cotton pocket-handkerchief, was gone before he could come near enough to speak to him, and he put it off till he should fall in with him in the course of the day. But during the morning and afternoon he looked about in vain for a sight of Mat Donovan. In the evening he recognised Bessy Morris and her grandfather among the rocks at the Boat-cove, and leaving Father Carroll and Arthur O'Connor to comment upon Tom Steele's remarkable speed at the last "usual weekly meeting" of the "Loyal National Repeal Association," made his way over the slippery sea weed, and, after congratulating the old weaver on his good looks, inquired of Bessy whether she had seen Mat Donovan during the day.
"I saw him buying cockles on the strand early in the morning," he added, "but I have not seen him since."
"He went home to-day, sir," Bessy answered, looking very innocent and unconscious.
And the fact was, at that identical moment, Willie Kearney and Tommy Lahy, sitting by the side of a hay-cock in the kiln-field, were grinding those same cockles one against another and greedily devouring them; while Ellie was rolling the most beautiful "pair" of jackstones (consisting of five) ever seen, between her hands; and Jack Delany's twins were making desperate efforts to choke themselves with two monstrous lobster-claws — cockles and jackstones and lobster-claws being presents from Mat the Thrasher, who was just then expatiating upon the virtues of a peculiar kind of sand, a small bag of which he was the happy possessor of, for sharpening a scythe, and holding forth in his own expressive and felicitous manner upon the wonders of the mighty deep, to the amazement and delight of Tom Maher and Barney Brodherick. And at that moment, too, Kit Cummins left off abusing her next-door neighbour, and pushing her dishevelled hair under her cap of dubious hue, stood outside her own door, and addressing all Knocknagow, gave it as her private opinion that Mrs. Kearney looked younger and rosier than her own daughters "afther the wather" — an opinion which no one in Knocknagow ventured to contradict, unless a suppressed "gir-r-r-r-out, you bla'guard," from the next door neighbour, might be taken as an expression of dissent.
"It seems Mrs. Kearney is gone home," said Edmund, after returning to his companions. "I'm sorry I did not see them."
"They were wondering why you did not make your appearance anywhere last evening," returned Father Carroll. "I wanted to persuade Arthur to spend the evening with them as you could not be found, but he would not. And, by the way, I see Sir Thomas Butler's death announced in this paper."
"What has that to do with my refusal?" Arthur asked.
"He was Maurice Kearney's landlord," returned Father Carroll. "It may be a matter of some consequence to them."
Edmund, seeing the fisherman, in whose house he took shelter from the rain the evening before, coming up from the cove with a boat-hook on his shoulder, hastened to meet him. The man immediately presented him with a letter.
"Are they gone?" Edmund asked, after glancing at its contents.
"They went early this morning, sir," replied the fisherman.
"Where?" Edmund asked eagerly.
"The Lord knows," returned the fisherman. "An' the Lord bless 'em wherever they go; for they behaved well to us, any way. There was some great news in that letter I brought from Waterford yesterday, but when my wife made the same remark they said nothin'."
The pound-note was enclosed in the letter which Edmund now held in his hand. But there was no signature, no clue by which he could hope to trace them; only the words:
"Many, many thanks — but we do not now require it. May God bless you for your kindness. We shall never forget it."
"And so ends my dream!" thought Edmund. "But something tells me I shall meet her again. She thinks Arthur is already a priest; it may be better for his peace of mind not to be told of that sketch. It was a wonderfully true likeness. I wonder has she made a sketch of me? — Did you remark that girl with the old flute-player yesterday?" he asked aloud as he came up with Arthur, who seemed to have his own fancies at the moment.
"She was very beautiful," he replied absently.
"Beauty 'like the night,'" rejoined Edmund.
"No," said Arthur, looking surprised. "She was singularly fair; and her eyes were blue."
"There must have been something the matter with your eyes," returned Edmund. "I never saw such a pair of black eyes in all my life."
"Oh, you mean the girl that seemed to be his daughter?"
"Of course I do. Did you ever see such eyes?"
"Well, yes. They reminded me of my cousin Annie, of whom we were talking the other evening."
"Then, by all means keep out of their way — if you would not endanger your vocation," said Edmund, laughing.
Arthur O'Connor looked grave, and made no reply. He knew he had no vocation for the church. But he thought of his mother, and resolved to strive and pray for it.
"This place is infernally dull, after all," yawned Edmund Kiely. "I'm tired of it already."
One gloomy day in the following winter, Arthur was "pounding" for the examinations, in his room in — College, when Father Carroll was announced.
"Come over to the Ursuline Convent with me," said he after shaking hands with the student. "I'm going to see Sister Clare."
Sister Clare received her reverend brother and his friend with bright smiles of welcome, and after innumerable inquiries about friends at home and abroad, she exclaimed in reply to a question of Father Carroll's. — "Oh, I'll bring her down to you," and left the room.
Arthur was so occupied examining a painting of the Virgin, copied, Sister Clare had just told him, by one of the nuns from an original of one of the old masters which a gentleman in the neighbourhood had lent to them, that he was not aware of Sister Clare's return to the room till he heard Father Carroll say — "She is keeping up the beauty, I see."
"Oh, she'll be quite spoiled," returned the nun. "Every one talks of her beauty."
Arthur turned round; and if the picture he had been examining had moved its lips or its eyes, his look could scarcely have expressed greater astonishment. Yet there was nothing in the least miraculous to excite his wonder.
"Don't you know Arthur O'Connor?" Father Carroll asked.
"No," was the low, hesitating reply.
"What is it all about?" exclaimed Father Carroll. "Ye both look as if ye had seen a ghost. This is my cousin, Miss Kearney; so don't be afraid."
"I saw Miss Kearney once before," returned Arthur; "but I did not know who she was."
"I remember," said Mary, with a smile and a blush.
"Where was it?" Father Carroll asked.
"In Tramore," Mary answered.
"Would you like to hear her play?" said Sister Clare.
"Do give us a tune, Mary?" said Father Carroll. "Though I don't know I'll care much for your music after Flaherty. He was at Major French's a few weeks ago, and did me the honour of coming over for an hour or two occasionally — but it was in compliment to your mother and her Uncle Dan, who, next to Sir Garrett Butler, he says, was the best friend ever he had."
Mary went to the piano, and after a little hesitation and embarrassment commenced an Irish melody, and played it with such feeling that Father Carroll exclaimed — "You really play very well, Mary. And one would think you wanted to rival Flaherty. That is his favourite tune; and you play it in his manner. Did you ever hear him?"
"No, I never heard Mr. Flaherty play, though I often wished to hear him," Mary replied.
"She ought to play that air well," Sister Clare observed, "for she is continually practising it. Edmund Kiely was here lately, and he would not let her play anything but the 'Coulin,' the 'Coulin,' over and over."
"Ha! is that the way the wind blows?" said Father Carroll.
Mary bent her head and laughed, but made no reply.
After this Arthur O'Connor and Mary Kearney became great friends. He spent a week at Christmas at Ballinaclash, and two weeks in the summer — besides meeting her at the seaside. Oh, those seaside musings and communings! But then Arthur's mother openly accused Mary of trying to lure her son from the high and holy path he had entered upon; an accusation which so pained and shocked the gentle girl that she insisted upon breaking off all further intercourse with him. Her brother Hugh approved of her resolution, and ever Arthur himself admitted that she was right. He pursued his studies industriously, and was among the students of — College chosen to be sent to Maynooth at the examinations which took place a week or two before Sir Garrett Butler's nephew did Maurice Kearney the honour of becoming his guest. Arthur, however, preferred the Irish College at Paris to Maynooth, and was on his way to spend a day or two with Father Carroll before leaving Ireland, when he chanced to see Barney Brodherick and his black donkey in the main street of Kilthubber. There was some delay about the car he had ordered; and, as he would have to pass by the cottage on his way to Father Carroll's, the wish to see Mary Kearney once more, and bid her good-bye, became so strong, that he wrote a hasty line, asking her to be at the little window in the ivied gable to shake hands with him. If she had no objection, he said, he would like to see her father and mother, and all of them, before he left. But, if she feared whispering tongues might be busy if he called in the usual way, he would be satisfied with a good-bye from the garden. He gave the note to Barney, who thrust it into his hat, and, as a matter of course, forgot to deliver it till Mary's question, the evening after, reminded him of it, when she was wondering whose could be those mysterious footprints in the snow from under her window to the stile behind the laurels.
"And now he is gone!" said Mary, after reading the note. Yes, he was gone; and in by no means a happy frame of mind.
And now the reader knows more of the tracks in the snow than Mr. Henry Lowe; to whom we will return, just to see him safe out of Tipperary; that is, so far as his bones are concerned. But we do not by any means vouch for the wholeness of the young gentleman's heart.