A CONSPIRACY. — THE "COULIN. " — MISS LLOYD WANTS TO KNOW ALL ABOUT IT. — VISIONS OF HAPPY DAYS.
"COME, Arthur, let us have a walk," said Edmund Kiely.
"Where shall we go?" Arthur O'Connor asked, laying down his book.
"Oh, to the Priest's Walk," replied Edmund. "That is the best place to see the sun setting behind the castle."
"If you don't hurry, the sun will be gone down," Father Carroll observed, looking, not towards the setting Sun, but in quite an opposite direction, towards the turn of the road, where a car had just come in view.
It was evident that his reverence and Edmund were deep in some conspiracy, of which Arthur was to be kept in ignorance. But, quite unsuspicious of the plotting of his friends, he drew on his gloves and followed Edmund towards the river.
He looked stronger and happier now than when last he stepped over those moss-covered stones. But, though his face lights up now and then, its prevailing expression is gloomy.
"Strange to say," Edmund remarked, "I have not yet got rid of the feeling that we are destined to be rivals."
"And what reason have you for thinking so?"
"No reason; it is only a feeling."
Their eyes met, and in both there was a look of suspicion.
"A very foolish feeling," Arthur observed, after a pause. They passed beyond the Priest's Walk, and into the pleasure-grounds near the castle; and Arthur stopped short as a strain of low, sweet music fell upon his ear.
"I thought these people were away on the Continent," said he.
Edmund did not reply. He was watching the play of his friend's features, which changed from indifference to surprise, and then softened into melancholy.
"That air reminds you of something," said Edmund. "Well, it does," returned Arthur O'Connor, and his pale cheek became crimson for an instant.
"Of the day you heard it in Tramore?
Edmund dropped into a rustic seat near him, looking quite miserable.
"I suppose it can't be helped!" he exclaimed at last. "And the sooner 'tis over the better. But it is a bitter drop in the cup which I thought would be unmixed bliss."
"Is it raving you are?" Arthur asked.
"Now, Arthur, you know you are thinking of her!"
"Thinking of whom?"
"The person of whom that air has reminded you."
"Well, suppose that is the fact," returned Arthur, reddening again, "what then?"
"'Tis a most extraordinary fatality," said Edmund, quite distressed. "Though you only saw her that one time."
You are most certainly taking leave of your wits," returned Arthur. "Of course I saw her often since."
"You never told me that," exclaimed Edmund, looking up in surprise. "And she never gave me the least hint of it."
"Why, you saw me in her company repeatedly yourself," Arthur replied, looking as if he were really anxious on the score of his friend's sanity. "Perhaps Father Carroll's whiskey is too much for you?"
"My dear Arthur," cried Edmund Kiely, springing to his feet, "I have been making a fool of myself. It is not of the same person we are thinking at all. Let us go back. It is getting late, and Father Carroll may think we have been spirited away by some one of the numerous supernatural visitants who haunt the Priest's Walk after nightfall, if Mrs. Hayes is to be believed."
The candles were lighted in the priest's parlour when they reached the cottage. Arthur O'Connor stood still, looking quite bewildered, when he opened the parlour door, and saw the most gloriously beautiful girl he had ever beheld standing before him and smiling through her tears. She advanced as if she found it impossible to restrain herself, and clasped his hand in hers, while the big tears that sprang into her eyes when she first looked at him rolled down her cheeks. He looked to Edmund for an explanation, but that gentle man only rubbed his hands gleefully, evidently enjoying his friend's bewilderment.
"She is gloriously beautiful," thought Arthur, as he surveyed her splendid figure, and then looked inquiringly into her dark lustrous eyes.
"You don't remember me," she said in a clear, musical voice.
"I must have seen you before," he replied; "but I can't recollect when or where."
An old man, with long white hair and slightly bent figure, advanced from behind Father Cleary's high-backed arm-chair, where he had been standing unobserved by Arthur, and stood beside the lovely girl, holding an ebony flute in the hollow of his left arm, and looking at Arthur with a plaintive smile.
"I remember now," said Arthur, appearing more bewildered than ever, as the old gentleman shook him by the hand. At this the tears sprang into the young lady's eyes again, and then she and Edmund exchanged looks and laughed.
But all the laughing was not to be on Edmund's side, and he looked almost as astonished as Arthur, when Father Carroll led forward another lovely girl, of the mild and statuesque and not of the glowing sort like the first, who now caught her by the hand; though it was plain they had met that evening before. It was the first time that she and Arthur had met for years; but each read in the eyes of the other what the reader must have guessed by this time.
"My dear Miss Kearney," exclaimed the dark beauty, "how much I regret I did not know who you were that day at the seaside. And to think that the young abbé, as I have always called him, was my own cousin! It is like a romance. I never heard the 'Coulin' since that I did not think of both of you."
"I know now," said Edmund, "of whom the 'Coulin' reminded you."
"Yes, and I have some faint notion of what you were driving at," returned Arthur. "But who is she?"
Before he could answer, Edmund felt a little hand glide into his, and turning round, he caught his sister Grace in his arms.
Father Carroll looked on, rubbing his hands in silence, and congratulating himself upon the success of his part of the plot, when Mrs. Hayes came in and whispered some words to him. He went to the white-haired old gentleman, who, buried in the high-backed armchair, seemed to be quite unconscious of what was going on around him, and started as if from a dream when the priest addressed him.
"Tell the servant to come in," said Father Carroll.
Mrs. Hayes withdrew, and a liveried functionary immediately appeared, looking so solemn and dignified that Grace asked Mary in a whisper, was he the bishop.
"Did I not tell you that I could not see that person? said the old gentleman.
"Yes, sir," returned the dignified personage, with a slight bow, and turning his toes more out, "but when I saw he was determined to come over after you I thought it right to come and tell you." But the dignified functionary said nothing of the half-crown in the pocket of his plush breeches.
"You may as well see him," said Father Carroll.
"Very well," returned the old man, with a helpless sigh, as if he were quite incapable of thinking for himself.
The servant retired; and when the door was again opened, the ladies were startled to see Mr. Beresford Pender rush in and fling himself upon his knees.
"Mercy, mercy, Sir Garrett!" he blubbered. "Don't transport me."
"I have nothing to do with it; you must see my lawyer," returned Sir Garrett Butler, trying to push back his chair, which was already against the wall.
"I'll be transported, I'll be transported — Ooch! whoo! boo!" And Mr. Beresford Pender burst into a hideous howl.
"I can do nothing. I have allowed myself to be deceived too long," said the baronet more firmly. "I fear I have much to answer for, for all the wrong that has been done in my name."
"'Tis forgery, 'tis forgery," cried Beresford, looking one after another into the faces around him. "Mercy, Miss Butler, mercy!" he blubbered, dragging himself across the room on his knees, causing the young lady to take refuge behind a chair, as he was about prostrating himself at her feet.
'Tis all my father's fault; 'tis all my father's fault," he whined, dragging himself back again to where the baronet sat; "I'm innocent, I'm innocent, Sir Garrett. Ooh! hoo! whoo!"
"Do you see the face at the window? " Grace asked in a whisper. "Who can it be?"
"Perhaps some one who has been attracted by all this roaring," returned Mary. "'Tis a woman's face."
"Yes; and she has contrived to convert her nose into a badly baked pancake against the glass — oh, my goodness, the window is broken! "Grace exclaimed, as the face vanished, and the broken glass fell upon the floor. But Mr. Pender's bowls for mercy prevented any one else from noticing the accident.
"I think you bad better withdraw," Father Carroll suggested, "or stand up at least." But it was no use. Beresford howled and blubbered, till there was nothing for it but to eject him by force. Edmund and Arthur advanced for that purpose, but both shrank in disgust from touching the grovelling creature, and Tom Doherty was called in. Tom quietly flung Mr. Pender on the broad of his back, and was pulling him away, when an assistant appeared upon the scene in the person of our friend Barney Brodherick, who jumped between Beresford's legs, and catching a shin in each hand, like the shafts of a wheelbarrow, started off round the table — that being easier than a short turn — and swept out through the door with such speed, that Tom Doherty was left standing on the spot where his prisoner was snatched from him, staring in utter bewilderment, till Beresford resumed his roaring — which the celerity of his exit had silenced — outside the hall-door. Then Tom Doherty walked out, scratching his head as if even still he thought the affair rather puzzling.
"Begob, Barney," said he, "you made short work uv him."
"The divil a thing I'd rather be doin' thin whalin' him," returned Barney. " But I'll never sthrike a man down."
"Don't lay a hand on him," muttered a gruff voice; and Barney was pushed rudely aside, coming violently into collision with a female, who at the moment ran round the corner of the house.
"Oh, my gracious!" she screamed, grasping at Barney as both tumbled to the ground.
"D—n your sowl, let me go," muttered Barney, "an' I'll smash every eye in his head."
"Can't you tell me what it is all about?" she gasped, panting for breath, and fastening her hands in Barney's shirt front like the claws of a kite.
"Where's his hat?" Darby Ruadh asked, after pulling his master to his feet.
Mrs. Hayes flung out the hat from the hall.
"Come away out uv this," Darby continued. "Didn't I tell you there was no use comin' here? An' you know you have no time to lose."
Barney forced open the claws that held him in a spasmodic clutch, and was rushing headlong to take instant vengeance for the insult he had received, when he was stopped by Tom Doherty.
"Never mind him, Barney," said Tom, "come an' finish your supper an' tell us about that letther from Mister Hugh. I'm glad he's doin' well."
"Dear Mr. Pender," exclaimed a voice, just as Beresford had got into the covered car that was waiting for him on the road, "do tell me what it was all about."
"Blast your eyes," Darby Ruadh whispered into his master's ear, "now is your time; you'll never have a betther chance. Tell you all about id? " he continued, turning to the lady. "Av coorse. An' why not? Here, come in here, an' I'm the b'y that can tell you all about id." And he lifted her into the car and told the driver to drive on.
"Oh, don't drive on — "
"Never mind. We'll let you down at the gate. Sure I knew you wor at the major's. An' glad I was whin the butler towld me Miss Isabella an' the captain wor well, an' doin' well, in Ingy, an' that they wor shortly expected home. 'Twas the wondher uv the world whin the captain married Miss Isabella instead uv you, until we learned how it was, an' that you refused him."
"Dear Mr. Pender, don't squeeze me so hard. And please take care of my nose or 'twill begin to bleed again."
"Can't you talk?" muttered Darby. "Wan'd think you hadn't a word in your gob."
"No surrender," said Beresford.
"Oh, please, don't," she said faintly. "I hope we have not passed the gate."
"An' you want to know all about id," continued Darby. "Oh, yes. What was it all about? And why was he shouting so dreadfully?"
"Faith an' sure no blame for him to shout, whin that ould rascal wanted to make him marry his daughter in spite uv him. 'No,' says Misther Beresford, 'I'll never marry a woman but the wan that I always had the love in my heart for,' says Misther Beresford; 'though 'tis little she suspects it,' says he. 'So for God 'lmighty sake, Sir Garrett Butler,' says Misther Beresford,' don't ax me.' Wasn't that enough to make any man roar?"
"Oh, 'twas dreadful!"
"'I'll die like the mules, Darby,' says Misther Beresford to me, 'if I don't get the on'y wan I ever loved,' says he."
"Don't hold me so tight, please," said the lady.
"Don't blame him, Miss," returned Darby. "'Tis little you know all he's afther goin' through on your account."
"On my account!"
"Oh, bedad I'm afther lettin' the cat out uv the bag," exclaimed Darby. "Afther he warnin' me never to tell a word uv id to man or mortal."
"Oh, I'm sure we have passed the gate," said the lady. "Never mind, my darling," returned Beresford. "Don't you know that I'd die for you. No surrender is my motto." And they drove on — whither the young lady did not inquire.
"Only think, Miss Kearney, I once almost worshipped that man as the most valiant of heroes," said Miss Butler, when Beresford's howling had ceased. She looked and spoke so piteously that Edmund burst into a loud laugh. "Indeed yes," she continued. "My aunt Lowe used to show me his letters. Cousin Henry was in the country at the time, and we thought you all — particularly your eldest brother — very bad people indeed. But Mr. Pender was in my eyes a most gallant and chivalrous gentleman."
"Yes, he and my friend, the abbé, were my only dangerous rivals," said Edmund.
"And to think the abbé was my cousin!" added Miss Butler, with a beaming look at Arthur; "and that he knew my beloved mother. And that we should meet in this old cottage where she was married. Did you ever read of any thing more romantic in a book?"
"Really, Edmund," Grace observed, "you ought to make it the subject of a drama or a novel. It has every requisite for it."
"Except the sensational," said Edmund.
"Oh, that could be easily managed. Suppose you have her fall from the cliffs, when you were in pursuit of her along the shore, into the angry, roaring waters. Her shrieks bring her father to the spot. He gazes down into the deep, dark whirlpool, with a gesture and a cry of anguish and despair. She is seen to rise for a moment to the surface, and is again engulfed in the remorseless waves. He is about flinging himself after her, in the madness and agony of the moment, when you appear. You plunge boldly into the roaring, raging, seething surges, and, diving to the bottom, you are not seen for — say a minute and a half — which will be an age, of course, to the agonized spectators."
"You have given me only one spectator," Edmund. interrupted.
"Oh, I am thinking of the readers — or the pit, boxes, and gallery."
"Well, I bring her up of course," said Edmund.
"Not the first time, I think," returned Grace, seriously. "You must keep them on the rack. You should dive at least three times before you bring her up. Then, with one arm encircling her waist, you buffet the mad waves with the other, and, after a desperate struggle, reach the dark, beetling rock that towers above you — as high as you please — and as you cling to it, a huge fragment gives way and falls with a crash like thunder into the whirling billows. You are lost. But no; again you are seen buffeting the waves, but instead of struggling against the receding tide, you are borne out to sea, and raising your arm aloft, while you rise and sink upon the heaving billows, and the lightning flashes through the frowning sky above you, you shout for help. The hardy fishermen bear your cry. A boat is launched. They pull vigorously through the foaming surf — and so on. Nothing is easier than the sensational, to my mind. You might bring in a shark or two if you liked, and be met by a mad bull on the way home, or something of that sort."
"And then, I suppose, it would all end in half a dozen happy marriages? " said Father Carroll, laughing.
"As it is likely to do in reality," returned Grace, "at least with a couple of happy marriages."
Mary blushed, and looked so distressed that Grace was sorry for what she had said.
"We'll send for Mr. Lowe, who, of course, will be a rich nabob, and give Grace to him," said Edmund.
"And I suppose," Arthur remarked, "Mr. Beresford Pender will be the villain of your novel?"
"Oh, not at all," replied Grace; "he would not make even a respectable villain."
"You used to say Hugh Kearney would make an excellent brigand," said her brother.
"Papa had a letter from him lately," returned Grace, looking grave. " He has had a severe attack of illness, but was recovering."
"I fear he means to settle down permanently in Australia," said Mary. "He wishes to have Willie brought home, but he says he would rather be a merchant than a farmer."
"I hoped to have Hugh for a neighbour," Edmund remarked, "and if he does not come home it will be a sore disappointment to me. But, after the turn things have taken now, I am sure you can prevail on him to come home."
"It was the case of that poor man Tom Hogan that first opened my eyes," said Sir Garrett. "If it were not for that, more wrong would have been done in my name. But I'm glad Mr. Kearney has escaped."
"But how did you become acquainted with Sir Garrett Butler?" Arthur asked, turning to Edmund.
"Oh, when you hear it all, it will be an interesting story," he replied. "You know the beginning of it in the old flute-player. The very day you left for Paris, Annie saw me, and sent a servant to learn my name in Kingstown; but I didn't know who she was for a long time after. I'll tell you all another time. We must see them home now. Will you venture to go back by the Priest's Walk?"
"Oh, certainly," Miss Butler replied. " It will be delightful in the moonlight."
"Was it Sir Garrett's flute we heard in the evening? Arthur asked.
"Yes, that was a plan of mine," replied Edmund. "I wanted to know would it remind you of the incident in Tramore. By George, I little thought what good reason you had for remembering it," he added, glancing at Mary "I was quite frightened at the thought that it was of Annie you were thinking. It is as Grace says, really like a novel. And if I should think of founding a story on it, what ought it to be called?"
"I think the 'Coulin' would be a suitable title," returned Grace.
"Is Flaherty the piper alive, and in the country? " Sir Garrett asked.
"Oh, yes," replied Father Carroll. " I met him lately at Father M'Mahon's."
"I am very glad," rejoined the baronet. "I must have him at Woodlands. It was he first inspired me with a love of our native music."
"Cousin Henry told me about him," said Miss Butler. "He met him at a country wedding. Miss Lloyd reminded me of it to-day. She wants me to write to cousin Henry, and as much as say that she will go back with him to India if he comes for her, and that he will get twice as much money as Captain French got with her sister."
"Come, you must be off to bed," said Father Carroll. "Miss Butler will be sure to play the siren and these gentlemen won't be back for two hours yet."
"And why are you in such a hurry?" Mary asked.
"Simply, because I must sleep on the sofa," he answered, "and will have to say Mass at seven in the morning."
"Well, don't forget to close the shutters," said Grace. "There is a pane broken in the window."
Mary did not sleep much that night. She was too much agitated to be happy. Grace, too, was restless enough; but she is a "mystery"; and we must leave her to unravel herself.
"We are all quite alarmed about Miss Lloyd. She can't be found anywhere," said Miss Butler, who met Mary and Grace on their way home next morning. "They are afraid she followed us to Father Carroll's and fell into the river."
"No, Miss," answered Barney Brodherick, who was driving the car, "she went home be the road."
"How do you know?" Mary asked.
"Sure I see her, Miss," Barney answered, "cuttin' away as fast as her legs could carry her. She kem into the kitchen to put cobwebs to her nose."
"Cobwebs to her nose?"
"Yes, Miss, her nose was bleedin'. 'Twas gettin' the cobwebs that delayed me from goin' to help Tom to pull out Pendher."
"Why, Mary, it was she was at the window," exclaimed Grace.
"I must go tell them," said Miss Butler. "They are searching the deep pools in the river; and a messenger has been sent to her brother's."
Neither Mary nor Grace was disposed for talking on the way.
"Ah, that 'Good-bye' came from his heart," thought Grace as they passed the turn of the road that brought them in view of the cottage.
"Mary," she asked, "do you remember the day I came away from Ballinaclash with papa and Eva, and Richard and Mr. Lowe? It was the day old Mr. Somerfield died."
"Indeed I do," replied Mary. "I felt very lonely after you all. And you never came after, till mamma got ill. I used to think of that day as the last of the old 'happy days.'"
"The old happy days will come again," said Grace.
"I hope so," returned Mary. "Things look so bright now, I am almost frightened by the visions of happiness I have."
Maurice Kearney's voice was heard shouting to his work men in his old style; which so delighted Barney that he grinned from ear to ear, and made up his mind to earn a "ballyragging" as soon as possible for himself.
"My poor father!" said Mary. "It is dreadful to think how near he was to being driven for ever from those fields. And there is mamma superintending the feeding of the young turkeys. I really begin to hope she will be as strong as ever again."
"You will be as happy as ever," said Grace.
"I hope so. And yet there is one great drawback. I don't think I can ever be happy while Hugh is far away, and among strangers."
"Why did he go at all?" Grace asked.
"Ah, you don't know him, or you would not ask. He went for our sake. He has all the old debts paid off. It is I that know what a sacrifice he has made. He is too generous, too noble."
The tears rushed into her eyes; and Grace clasped her by the band, and held it so tight that Mary looked at her in surprise. But Grace took no notice.
"Oh, you're home very early," said Mrs. Kearney. There's a letter for you, Mary, from Australia. I was so impatient, I'd open it, only for you are home so soon."
Mary jumped from the car, and ran into the house, followed by her mother and Grace; all eager to know the contents of the letter from Australia.