How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable

Seem to me all the uses of this world.

Gather by him, as he is behaved,

If't be the affliction of his love or no

That thus he suffers for.

Break my heart, for I must hold my tongue.


THE road upon which the car was driving was made round an elevated part of the coast of the lough. It curved away from where the castle of The Macnamaras was situated on one side of the water, to the termination of the lough. It did not slope downwards in the least at any part, but swept on to the opposite lofty shore, five hundred feet above the great rollers from the Atlantic that spent themselves amongst the half-hidden rocks.

The car jerked on in silence after The Macnamara had spoken his impressive sentence. Standish's hands soon relaxed their passionate hold upon the rail of the car, and, in spite of his consciousness of being twenty-three years of age, he found it almost impossible to restrain his tears of mortification from bursting their bonds. He knew how pure—how fervent—how exhaustless was the love that filled all his heart. He had been loving, not without hope, but without utterance, for years, and now all the fruit of his patience—of his years of speechlessness—would be blighted by the ridiculous action of his father. What would now be left for him in the world? he asked himself, and the despairing tears of his heart gave him his only answer.

He was on the seaward side of the car, which was now passing out of the green shade of the boughs that for three miles overhung the road. Then as the curve of the termination of the lough was approached, the full panorama of sea and coast leapt into view, with all the magical glamour those wizards Motion and Height can enweave round a scene. Far beneath, the narrow band of blue water lost itself amongst the steep cliffs. The double coasts of the lough that were joined at the point of vision, broadened out in undulating heights towards the mighty headlands of the entrance, that lifted up their hoary brows as the lion-waves of the Atlantic leapt between them and crouched in unwieldy bulk at their bases. Far away stretched that ocean, its horizon lost in mist; and above the line of rugged coast-cliff arose mountains—mighty masses tumbled together in black confusion, like Titanic gladiators locked in the close throes of the wrestle.

Never before had the familiar scene so taken Standish in its arms, so to speak, as it did now. He felt it. He looked down at the screen islands of the lough encircled with the floss of the moving waters; he looked along the slopes of the coasts with the ruins of ancient days on their summits, then his eyes went out to where the sun dipped towards the Atlantic, and he felt no more that passion of mortification which his reflections had aroused. Quickly as it had sprung into view the scene dissolved, as the car entered a glen, dim in the shadow of a great hill whose slope, swathed in purple heather to its highest peak, made a twilight at noon-day to all beneath. In the distance of the winding road beyond the dark edge of the mountain were seen the gray ridges of another range running far inland. With the twilight shadow of the glen, the shadow seemed to come again over the mind of Standish. He gave himself up to his own sad thoughts, and when, from a black tarn amongst the low pine-trees beneath the road, a tall heron rose and fled silently through the silent air to the foot of the slope, he regarded it ominously, as he would have done a raven.

There they sat speechless upon the car. The Macnamara, who was a short, middle-aged man with a rather highly-coloured face, and features that not even the most malignant could pronounce of a Roman or even of a Saxon type, was sitting in silent dignity of which he seemed by no means unconscious Standish, who was tall, slender almost to a point of lankness, and gray-eyed, was morosely speechless, his father felt. Nature had not given The Macnamara a son after his own heart. The young man's features, that had at one time showed great promise of developing into the pure Milesian, had not fulfilled the early hope they had raised in his father's bosom; they had within the past twelve years exhibited a downward tendency that was not in keeping with the traditions of The Macnamaras. If the direction of the caressing hand of Nature over the features of the family should be reversed, what would remain to distinguish The Macnamaras from their Saxon invaders? This was a question whose weight had for some time oppressed the representative of the race; and he could only quiet his apprehension by the assurance which forced itself upon his mind, that Nature would never persist in any course prejudicial to her own interests in the maintenance of an irreproachable type of manhood.

Then it was a great grief to the father to become aware of the fact that the speech of Standish was all unlike his own in accent; it was, indeed, terribly like the ordinary Saxon speech—at least it sounded so to The Macnamara, whose vowels were diphthongic to a marked degree. But of course the most distressing reflection of the head of the race had reference to the mental disqualifications of his son to sustain the position which he would some day have to occupy as The Macnamara; for Standish had of late shown a tendency to accept the position accorded to him by the enemies of his race, and to allow that there existed a certain unwritten statute of limitations in the maintenance of the divine right of monarchs. He actually seemed to be under the impression that because nine hundred years had elapsed since a Macnamara had been the acknowledged king of Munster, the claim to be regarded as a royal family should not be strongly urged. This was very terrible to The Macnamara. And now he reflected upon all these matters as he held in a fixed and fervent grasp the somewhat untrustworthy rail of the undoubtedly shaky vehicle.

Thus in silence the car was driven through the dim glen, until the slope on the seaward-side of the road dwindled away and once more the sea came in sight; and, with the first glimpse of the sea, the square tower of an old, though not an ancient, castle that stood half hidden by trees at the base of the purple mountain. In a few minutes the car pulled up at the entrance gate to a walled demesne.

“Will yer honours git off here?” asked Eugene, preparing to throw the reins down.

“Never!” cried The Macnamara emphatically. “Never will the head of the race descend to walk up to the door of a foreigner. Drive up to the very hall, Eugene, as the great Brian Macnamara would have done.”

“An' it's hopin' I am that his car-sphrings wouldn't be mindid with hemp,” remarked the boy, as he pulled the horse round and urged his mild career through the great pillars at the entrance.

Everything about this place gave signs of having been cared for. The avenue was long, but it could be traversed without any risk of the vehicle being lost in the landslip of a rut. The grass around the trees, though by no means trimmed at the edges, was still not dank with weeds, and the trees themselves, if old, had none of the gauntness apparent in all the timber about the castle of The Macnamara. As the car went along there was visible every now and again the flash of branching antlers among the green foliage, and more than once the stately head of a red deer appeared gazing at the visitors, motionless, as if the animal had been a painted statue.

The castle, opposite whose black oak door Eugene at last dropped his reins, was by no means an imposing building. It was large and square, and at one wing stood the square ivy-covered tower that was seen from the road. Above it rose the great dark mountain ridge, and in front rolled the Atlantic, for the trees prevented the shoreway from being seen.

“Eugene, knock at the door of the Geralds,” said The Macnamara from his seat on the car, with a dignity the emphasis of which would have been diminished had he dismounted.

Eugene—looked upward at this order, shook his head in wonderment, and then got down, but not with quite the same expedition as his boot, which could not sustain the severe test of being suspended for any time in the air. He had not fully secured it again on his bare foot before a laugh sounded from the balcony over the porch—a laugh that made Standish's face redder than any rose—that made Eugene glance up with a grin and touch his hat, even before a girl's voice was heard saying:

“Oh, Eugene, Eugene! What a clumsy fellow you are, to be sure.”

“Ah, don't be a sayin' of that, Miss Daireen, ma'am,” the boy replied, as he gave a final stamp to secure possession of the boot.

The Macnamara looked up and gravely removed his hat; but Standish having got down from the car turned his gaze seawards. Had he followed his father's example, he would have seen the laughing face and the graceful figure of a girl leaning over the balustrade of the porch surveying the group beneath her.

“And how do you do, Macnamara?” she said. “No, no, don't let Eugene knock; all the dogs are asleep except King Cormac, and I am too grateful to allow their rest to be broken. I'll go down and give you entrance.”

She disappeared from the balcony, and in a few moments the hall door was softly sundered and the western sunlight fell about the form of the portress. The girl was tall and exquisitely moulded, from her little blue shoe to her rich brown hair, over which the sun made light and shade; her face was slightly flushed with her rapid descent and the quick kiss of the sunlight, and her eyes were of the most gracious gray that ever shone or laughed or wept. But her mouth—it was a visible song. It expressed all that song is capable of suggesting—passion of love or of anger, comfort of hope or of charity.

“Enter, O my king-,” she said, giving The Macnamara her hand; then turning to Standish, “How do you do, Standish? Why do you not come in?”

But Standish uttered no word. He took her hand for a second and followed his father into the big square oaken hall. All were black oak, floor and wall and ceiling, only while the sunlight leapt through the open door was the sombre hue relieved by the flashing of the arms that lined the walls, and the glittering of the enormous elk-antlers that spread their branches over the lintels.

“And you drove all round the coast to see me, I hope,” said the girl, as they stood together under the battle-axes of the brave days of old, when the qualifications for becoming a successful knight and a successful blacksmith were identical.

“We drove round to admire the beauty of the lovely Daireen,” said The Macnamara, with a flourish of the hand that did him infinite credit.

“If that is all,” laughed the girl, “your visit will not be a long one.” She was standing listlessly caressing with her hand the coarse hide of King Corrnac, a gigantic Wolf-dog, and in that posture looked like a statue of the Genius of her country. The dog had been welcoming Standish a moment before, and the young man's hand still resting upon its head, felt the casual touch of the girl's fingers as she played with the animal's ears. Every touch sent a thrill of passionate delight through him.

“The beauty of the daughter of the Geralds is worth coming so far to see; and now that I look at her before me——”

“Now you know that it is impossible to make out a single feature in this darkness,” said Daireen. “So come along into the drawing-room.”

“Go with the lovely Daireen, my boy,” said The Macnamara, as the girl led the way across the hall. “For myself, I think I'll just turn in here.” He opened a door at one side of the hall and exposed to view, within the room beyond, a piece of ancient furniture which was not yet too decrepit to sustain the burden of a row of square glass bottles and tumblers. But before he entered he whispered to Standish with an appropriate action, “Make it all right with her by the time come I back.” And so he vanished.

“The Macnamara is right,” said Daireen. “You must join him in taking a glass of wine after your long drive, Standish.”

For the first time since he had spoken on the car Standish found his voice.

“I do not want to drink anything, Daireen,” he said.

“Then we shall go round to the garden and try to find grandpapa, if you don't want to rest.”

With her brown unbonneted hair tossing in its irregular strands about her neck, she went out by a door at the farther end of the square hall, and Standish followed her by a high-arched passage that seemed to lead right through the building. At the extremity was an iron gate which the girl unlocked, and they passed into a large garden somewhat wild in its growth, but with its few brilliant spots of colour well brought out by the general feeling of purple that forced itself upon every one beneath the shadow of the great mountain-peak. Very lovely did that world of heather seem now as the sun burned over against the slope, stirring up the wonderful secret hues of dark blue and crimson. The peak stood out in bold relief against the pale sky, and above its highest point an eagle sailed.

“I have such good news for you, Standish,” said Miss Gerald. “You cannot guess what it is.”

“I cannot guess what good news there could possibly be in store for me,” he replied, with so much sadness in his voice that the girl gave a little start, and then the least possible smile, for she was well aware that the luxury of sadness was frequently indulged in by her companion.

“It is good news for you, for me, for all of us, for all the world, for—well, for everybody that I have not included. Don't laugh at me, please, for my news is that papa is coming home at last. Now, isn't that good news?”

“I am very glad to hear it,” said Standish. “I am very glad because I know it will make you happy.”

“How nicely said; and I know you feel it, my dear Standish. Ah, poor papa! he has had a hard time of it, battling with the terrible Indian climate and with those annoying people.”

“It is a life worth living,” cried Standish. “After you are dead the world feels that you have lived in it. The world is the better for your life.”

“You are right,” said Daireen. “Papa leaves India crowned with honours, as the newspapers say. The Queen has made him a C.B., you know. But—only think how provoking it is—he has been ordered by the surgeon of his regiment to return by long-sea, instead of overland, for the sake of his health; so that though I got his letter from Madras yesterday to tell me that he was at the point of starting, it will be another month before I can see him.”

“But then he will no doubt have completely recovered,” said Standish.

“That is my only consolation. Yes; he will be himself again—himself as I saw him five years ago in our bungalow—how well I remember it and its single plantain-tree in the garden where the officers used to hunt me for kisses.”

Standish frowned. It was, to him, a hideous recollection for the girl to have. He would cheerfully have undertaken the strangulation of each of those sportive officers. “I should have learned a great deal during these five years that have passed since I was sent to England to school, but I'm afraid I didn't. Never mind, papa won't cross-examine me to see if his money has been wasted. But why do you look so sad, Standish? You do look sad, you know.”

“I feel it too,” he cried. “I feel more wretched than I can tell you. I'm sick of everything here—no, not here, you know, but at home. There I am in that cursed jail, shut out from the world, a beggar without the liberty to beg.”

“Oh, Standish!”

“But it is the truth, Daireen. I might as well be dead as living as I am. Yes, better—I wish to God I was dead, for then there might be at least some chance of making a beginning in a new sort of life under different conditions.”

“Isn't it wicked to talk that way, Standish?”

“I don't know,” he replied doggedly. “Wickedness and goodness have ceased to be anything more to me than vague conditions of life in a world I have nothing to say to. I cannot be either good or bad here.”

Daireen looked very solemn at this confession of impotence.

“You told me you meant to speak to The Mac-namara about going away or doing something,” she said.

“And I did speak to him, but it came to the one end: it was a disgrace for the son of the——— bah, you know how he talks. Every person of any position laughs at him; only those worse than himself think that he is wronged. But I'll do something, if it should only be to enlist as a common soldier.”

“Standish, do not talk that way, like a good boy,” she said, laying her hand upon his arm. “I have a bright thought for the first time: wait just for another month until papa is here, and he will, you may be sure, tell you what is exactly right to do. Oh, there is grandpapa, with his gun as usual, coming from the hill.”

They saw at a little distance the figure of a tall old man carrying a gun, and followed by a couple of sporting dogs.

“Daireen,” said Standish, stopping suddenly as if a thought had just struck him. “Daireen, promise me that you will not let anything my father may say here to-day make you think badly of me.”

“Good gracious! why should I ever do that? What is he going to say that is so dreadful?”

“I cannot tell you, Daireen; but you will promise me;” he had seized her by the hand and was looking with earnest entreaty into her eyes. “Daireen,” he continued, “you will give me your word. You have been such a friend to me always—such a good angel to me.”

“And we shall always be friends, Standish. I promise you this. Now let go my hand, like a good boy.”

He obeyed her, and in a few minutes they had met Daireen's grandfather, Mr. Gerald, who had been coming towards them.

“What, The Macnamara here? then I must hasten to him,” said the old gentleman, handing his gun to Standish.

No one knew better than Mr. Gerald the necessity that existed for hastening to The Macnamara, in case of his waiting for a length of time in that room the sideboard of which was laden with bottles.

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook