When I got near home, I met Dick, who had strolled out to meet me. He was looking much happier than when I had left him in the morning. I really believe that now that the shock of his own disappointment had passed, he was all the happier that my affair had progressed satisfactorily. I told him all that had passed, and he agreed with the advice given by Joyce, that for a little while, nothing should be said about the matter. We walked together to the hotel, I hurrying the pace somewhat, for it had begun to dawn upon me that I had eaten but little in the last twenty-four hours. It was prosaic, but true; I was exceedingly hungry. Joy seldom interferes with the appetite; it is sorrow or anxiety which puts it in deadly peril.

When we got to the hotel, we found Andy waiting outside the door. He immediately addressed me:—

“‘Och musha! but it’s the sad man I am this day! Here’s Masther Art giv over intirely to the fairies. An’ its leprachaun catchin’, he has been onto this blissed day. Luk at him! isn’t it full iv sorra he is. Give up the fairies, Masther Art!—Do thry an make him, Misther Dick!—an’ take to fallin’ head over ears in love wid some nice young girrul. Sure, Miss Norah herself, bad as she is, ’d be betther nor none at all, though she doesn’t come up to Masther Art’s rulin’!”

This latter remark was made to Dick, who immediately asked him:—

“What is that, Andy?”

“Begor! yer ’an’r, Masther Art has a quare kind iv a girrul in his eye intirely, wan he used to be lukin’ for on the top iv Knocknacar—the fairy girrul yer ’an’r,” he added to me in an explanatory manner.

“I suppose, yer ’an’r,” turning to me, “ye haven’t saw her this day?”

“I saw nobody to answer your description, Andy; and I fear I wouldn’t know a fairy girl if I saw one,” said I, as I passed into the house followed by Dick, whilst Andy, laughing loudly, went round to the back of the house, where the bar was.

That was, for me at any rate, a very happy evening. Dick and I sat up late and smoked, and went over the ground that we had passed, and the ground that we were, please God, to pass in time. I felt grateful to the dear old fellow, and spoke much of his undertakings both at Knocknacar and at Knokcalltecrore. He told me that he was watching carefully the experiment at the former place as a guide to the latter. After some explanations, he said:—

“There is one thing there which rather disturbs me. Even with the unusual amount of rain which we have had lately, the flow or drain of water from the bog is not constant; it does not follow the rains as I expected. There seems to be some process of silting, or choking, or damming up the walls of what I imagine to be the different sections or reservoirs of the bog. I cannot make it out, and it disturbs me; for if the same process goes on at Knockcalltecrore, there might be any kind of unforeseen disaster in case of the shifting of the bog. I am not at all easy about the way Murdock is going on there. Ever since we found the indication of iron in the bog itself, he has taken every occasion when I am not there to dig away at one of the clay banks that jut into it. I have warned him that he is doing a very dangerous thing, but he will not listen. To-morrow, when I go up, I shall speak to him seriously. He went into Galway with a cart the night before last, and was to return by to-morrow morning. Perhaps he has some game on. I must see what it is.”

Before we parted for the night we had arranged to go together in the morning to Knockcalltecrore, for of course I had made up my mind that each day should see me there.

In the morning, early, we drove over. We left Andy, as usual, in the boreen at the foot of the hill, and walked up together. I left Dick at Murdock’s gate, and then hurried as fast as my legs could carry me to Joyce’s.

Norah must have had wonderful ears. She heard my footsteps in the lane, and when I arrived at the gate she was there to meet me. She said, “Good morning,” shyly, as we shook hands. For an instant she evidently feared that I was going to kiss her, there in the open where someone might see; but almost as quickly she realized that she was safe so far, and we went up to the cottage together. Then came my reward; for, when the door was closed, she put her arms round my neck as I took her in my arms, and our lips met in a sweet, long kiss. Our happiness was complete. Anyone who has met the girl he loved the day after his engagement to her, can explain why or how—if any explanation be required.

Joyce was away in the fields. We sat hand in hand, and talked for a good while; but I took no note of time.

Suddenly Norah looked up. “Hush!” she said. “There is a step in the boreen; it is your friend, Mr. Sutherland.” We sat just a little further apart and let go hands. Then the gate clicked, and even I heard Dick’s steps as he quickly approached. He knocked at the door; we both called out “Come in” simultaneously, and then looked at each other and blushed. The door opened and Dick entered. He was very pale, but in a couple of seconds his pallor passed away. He greeted Norah cordially, and she sweetly bade him welcome; then he turned to me:—

“I am very sorry to disturb you, old fellow, but would you mind coming down to Murdock’s for a bit? There is some work which I wish you to give me a hand with.”

I started up and took my hat, whispered good-bye to Norah, and went with him. She did not come to the door; but from the gate I looked back and saw her sweet face peeping through the diamond pane of the lattice.

“What is it, Dick?” I asked, as we went down the lane.

“A new start to-day. Murdock evidently thinks we have got on the track of something. He went into Galway for a big grapnel; and now we are making an effort to lift it—whatever ‘it’ is—out of the bog.”

“By Jove!” said I, “things are getting close.”

“Yes,” said Dick. “And I am inclined to think he is right. There is most probably a considerable mass of iron in the bog. We have located the spot, and are only waiting for you, so as to be strong enough to make a cast.”

When we got to the edge of the bog we found Murdock standing beside a temporary jetty, arranged out of a long plank, with one end pinned to the ground and the centre supported on a large stone, placed on the very edge of the solid ground, where a rock cropped up. Beside him was a very large grappling-iron, some four feet wide, attached to a coil of strong rope. When we came up, he saluted me in a half surly manner, and we set to work, Dick saying, as we began:—

“Mr. Severn, Mr. Murdock has asked us to help in raising something from the bog. He prefers to trust us, whom he knows to be gentlemen, than to let his secret be shared in with anyone else.”

Dick got out on the end of the plank, holding the grapnel and a coil of the rope in his hand, whilst the end of the coil was held by Murdock.

I could see from the appearance of the bog that someone had been lately working at it, for it was all broken about as though to make a hole in it, and a long pole that lay beside where I stood was covered with wet and slime.

Dick poised the grapnel carefully, and then threw it out. It sank into the bog, slowly at first, but then more quickly; an amount of rope ran out which astonished me, for I knew that the bog must be at least so deep.

Suddenly the run of the rope ceased, and we knew that the grapnel had gone as far as it could. Murdock and I then held the rope, and Dick took the pole and poked and beat a passage for it through the bog up to the rock where we stood. Then he, too, joined us, and we all began to pull.

For a few feet we pulled in the slack of the rope. Then there was a little more resistance for some three or four feet, and we knew that the grapnel was dragging on the bottom. Suddenly there was a check, and Murdock gave a suppressed shout:—

“We have got it! I feel it! Pull away for your lives!”

We kept a steady pull on the rope. At first there was simply a dead weight, and in my own mind I was convinced that we had caught a piece of projecting rock. Murdock would have got unlimited assistance and torn out of the bog whatever it was that we had got hold of, even if he had to tear up the rocks by the roots; but Dick kept his head, and directed a long steady pull.

There was a sudden yielding, and then again resistance. We continued to pull, and then the rope began to come, but very slowly, and there was a heavy weight attached to it. Even Dick was excited now. Murdock shut his teeth, and scowled like a demon; it would have gone hard with anyone who came then between him and his prize. As for myself, I was in a tumult. In addition to the natural excitement of the time, there rose to my memory Joyce’s words:—“When the treasure is found you may claim her if you will;”—and, although the need for such an occasion passed away with his more free consent, the effect that they had at the time produced on me remained in my mind.

Here, then, was the treasure at last; its hiding for a century in the bog had come to an end.

We pulled and pulled. Heavens! how we tugged at that rope. Foot after foot it came up through our hands, wet and slimy, and almost impossible to hold. Now and again it slipped from each of us in turns a few inches, and a muttered “steady! steady!” was all the sound heard. It took all three of us to hold the weight, and so no one could be spared to make an effort to further aid us by any mechanical appliance. The rope lay beside us in seemingly an endless coil. I began to wonder if it would ever end. Our breath began to come quickly, our hands were cramped. There came a new and more obstinate resistance. I could not account for it. Dick cried out:—

“It is under the roots of the bog; we must now take it up straight. Can you two hold on for a moment? and I shall get on the plank.” We nodded, breath was too precious for unnecessary speech.

Dick slacked out after we had got our feet planted for a steady resistance. He then took a handful of earth, and went out on the plank a little beyond the centre and caught the rope. When he held it firmly with his clay-covered hands, he said:—

“Come now, Art. Murdock, you stay and pull.” I ran to him, and, taking my hands full of earth, caught the rope also.

The next few minutes saw a terrible struggle. Our faces were almost black with the rush of blood in stooping and lifting so long and so hard, our hands and backs ached to torture, and we were almost in despair, when we saw the bog move just under us. This gave us new courage and new strength, and with redoubled effort we pulled at the rope.

Then up through the bog came a large mass. We could not see what it was, for the slime and the bog covered it solidly; but with a final effort we lifted it. Each instant it grew less weighty as the resistance of the bog was overcome, and the foul slimy surface fell back into its place and became tranquil. When we lifted and pulled the mass on the rock bank, Murdock rushed forward in a frenzied manner, and shouted to us:—

“Kape back! Hands off! It’s mine, I say, all mine! Don’t dar even to touch it, or I’ll do ye a harrum! Here, clear off! this is my land! Go!” and he turned on us with the energy of a madman and the look of a murderer.

I was so overcome with my physical exertions that I had not a word to say, but simply in utter weariness threw myself upon the ground; but Dick, with what voice he could command, said:—

“You’re a nice grateful fellow to men who have helped you! Keep your find to yourself, man alive; we don’t want to share. You must know that as well as I do, unless your luck has driven you mad. Handle the thing yourself, by all means. Faugh! how filthy it is!” and he too sat down beside me.

It certainly was most filthy. It was a shapeless irregular mass, but made solid with rust and ooze and the bog surface through which it had been dragged. The slime ran from it in a stream; but its filth had no deterring power for Murdock, who threw himself down beside it and actually kissed the nauseous mass as he murmured:—

“At last! at last! me threasure! All me own!”

Dick stood up with a look of disgust on his handsome face:—

“Come away, Art; it’s too terrible to see a man degraded to this pitch. Leave the wretch alone with his god!” Murdock turned to us, and said with savage glee:—

“No! shtay! Sthay an’ see me threasure! It’ll make ye happy to think of afther! An’ ye can tell Phelim Joyce what I found in me own land—the land what I tuk from him.” We stayed.

Murdock took his spade and began to remove the filth and rubbish from the mass. And in a very few moments his discovery proclaimed itself.

There lay before us a rusty iron gun-carriage! This was what we had dragged with so much effort from the bottom of the bog; and beside it Murdock sat down with a scowl of black disappointment.

“Come away!” said Dick. “Poor devil, I pity him! It is hard to find even a god of that kind worthless!” And so we turned and left Murdock sitting beside the gun-carriage and the slime, with a look of baffled greed which I hope never to see on any face again.

We went to a brook at the foot of the hill, Andy being by this time in the sheebeen about half a mile off. There we cleansed ourselves as well as we could from the hideous slime and filth of the bog, and then walked to the top of the hill to let the breeze freshen us up a bit if possible. After we had been there for a while, Dick said:—

“Now, Art, you had better run back to the cottage. Miss Joyce will be wondering what has become of you all this time, and may be frightened.” It was so strange to hear her—Norah, my Norah—called “Miss Joyce,” that I could not help smiling—and blushing whilst I smiled. Dick noticed and guessed the cause. He laid his hand on my shoulder, and said:—

“You will hear it often, old lad. I am the only one of all your friends privileged to hear of her by the name you knew her by at first. She goes now into your class and amongst your own circle; and, by George! she will grace it too—it or any circle—and they will naturally give to her folk the same measure of courtesy that they mete to each other. She is Miss Joyce—until she shall be Mrs. Arthur Severn!”

What a delicious thrill the very thought sent through me!

I went up to the cottage, and on entering found Norah still alone. She knew that I was under promise not to tell anything of Murdock’s proceedings, but noticing that I was not so tidy as before—for my cleansing at the brook-side was a very imperfect one—went quietly and got a basin with hot water, soap, and a towel, and clothes brush, and said I must come and be made very tidy.

That toilet was to me a sweet experience, and is a sweet remembrance now. It was so wifely in its purpose and its method, that I went through it in a languorous manner—like one in a delicious dream. When, with a blush, she brought me her own brush and comb and began to smooth my hair, I was as happy as it is given to a man to be. There is a peculiar sensitiveness in their hair to some men, and to have it touched by hands that they love is a delicious sensation. When my toilet was complete Norah took me by the hand and made me sit down beside her. After a pause, she said to me with a gathering blush:—

“I want to ask you something.”

“And I want to ask you something,” said I. “Norah, dear! there is one thing I want much to ask you.”

She seemed to suspect or guess what I was driving at, for she said:—

“You must let me ask mine first.”

“No, no!” I replied. “You must answer me; and then, you know, you will have the right to ask what you like.”

“But I do not want any right.”

“Then it will be all the more pleasure to me to give a favour—if there can be any such from me to you.”

Masculine persistence triumphed—men are always more selfish than women—and I asked my question:—

“Norah, darling—tell me when will you be mine—my very own? When shall we be married?”

The love-light was sweet in her eyes as she answered me with a blush that made perfect the smile on her lips:—

“Nay! You should have let me ask my question first.”

“Why so, dearest?”

“Because, dear, I am thinking of the future. You know, Arthur, that I love you, and that whatever you wish, I would and shall gladly do; but you must think for me too. I am only a peasant girl—”

“Peasant!” I laughed. “Norah, you are the best lady I have ever seen! Why, you are like a queen—what a queen ought to be!”

“I am proud and happy, Arthur, that you think so; but still I am only a peasant! Look at me—at my dress. Yes! I know you like it, and I shall always prize it because it found favour in your eyes!” She smiled happily, but went on:—

“Dear, I am speaking very truly. My life and surroundings are not yours. You are lifting me to a higher grade in life, Arthur, and I want to be worthy of it and of you. I do not want any of your family or your friends to pity you and say, ‘Poor fellow, he has made a sad mistake. Look at her manners—she is not of us.’ I could not bear to hear or to know that such was said—that anyone should have to pity the man I love, and to have that pity because of me. Arthur, it would break my heart!”

As she spoke the tears welled up in the deep dark eyes and rolled unchecked down her cheeks. I caught her to my breast with the sudden instinct of protection, and cried out:—

“Norah! no one on earth could say such a thing of you—you who would lift a man, not lower him. You could not be ungraceful if you tried; and as for my family and friends, if there is one who will not hold out both hands to you and love you, he or she is no kin or friend of mine.”

“But, Arthur, they might be right! I have learned enough to know that there is so much more to learn—that the great world you live in is so different from our quiet, narrow life here. Indeed, I do not mean to be nervous as to the future, or to make any difficulties; but, dear, I should like to be able to do all that is right and necessary as your wife. Remember, that when I leave here I shall not have one of my own kin or friends to tell me anything—from whom I could ask advice. They do not themselves even know what I might want—not one of them all! Your world and mine, dear, are so different—as yet.”

“But, Norah, shall I not be always by your side to ask?”—I felt very superior and very strong as well as very loving as I spoke.

“Yes, yes; but oh! Arthur—can you not understand—I love you so that I would like to be, even in the eyes of others, all that you could wish. But, dear, you must understand and help me here. I cannot reason with you. Even now I feel my lack of knowledge, and it makes me fearful. Even now”—her voice died away in a sob, and she hid her beautiful eyes with her hand.

“My darling! my darling!” I said to her passionately—all the true lover in me awake—“Tell me what it is that you wish, so that I may try to judge with all my heart.”

“Arthur! I want you to let me go to school—to a good school for a while—a year or two before we are married. Oh! I should work so hard! I should try so earnestly to improve—for I should feel that every hour of honest work brought me higher and nearer to your level!”

My heart was more touched than even my passion gave me words to tell—and I tried, and tried hard, to tell her what I felt—and in my secret heart a remorseful thought went up: “What have I done in my life to be worthy of so much love!”

Then, as we sat hand in hand, we discussed how it was to be done—for that it was to be done we were both agreed. I had told her that we should so arrange it that she should go for awhile to Paris, and then to Dresden, and finish up with an English school. That she could learn languages, and that amongst them would be Italian; but that she would not go to Italy until we went together—on our honeymoon. She bent her head and listened in silent happiness; and when I spoke of our journey together to Italy, and how we would revel in old-world beauty—in the softness and light and colour of that magic land—the delicate porcelain of her shell-like ear became tinged with pink, and I bent over and kissed it. And then she turned and threw herself on my breast, and hid her face.

As I looked I saw the pink spread downward and grow deeper and deeper, till her neck and all became flushed with crimson. And then she put me aside, rose up, and with big brave eyes looked me full in the face through all her deep embarrassment, and said to me:—

“Arthur, of course I don’t know much of the great world, but I suppose it is not usual for a man to pay for the schooling of a lady before she is his wife—whatever might be arranged between them afterwards. You know that my dear father has no money for such a purpose as we have spoken of, and so if you think it is wiser, and would be less hardly spoken of in your family, I would marry you before I went—if—if you wished it. But we would wait till after I came from school to—to—to go to Italy,” and whilst the flush deepened almost to a painful degree, she put her hands before her face and turned away.

Such a noble sacrifice of her own feelings and her own wishes—and although I felt it in my heart of hearts I am sure none but a woman could fully understand it—put me upon my mettle, and it was with truth I spoke:—

“Norah, if anything could have added to my love and esteem for you, your attitude to me in this matter has done it. My darling, I shall try hard all my life to be worthy of you, and that you may never, through any act of mine, decline for a moment from the standard you have fixed. God knows I could have no greater pride or joy than that this very moment I should call you my wife. My dear! my dear! I shall count the very hours until that happy time shall come. But all shall be as you wish. You will go to the schools we spoke of, and your father shall pay for them. He will not refuse, I know, and what is needed he shall have. If there be any way that he would prefer—that suits your wishes—it shall be done. More than this! if he thinks it right, we can be married before you go, and you can keep your own name until my time comes to claim you.”

“No! no! Arthur. When once I shall bear your name I shall be too proud of it to be willing to have any other. But I want, when I do bear it, to bear it worthily—I want to come to you as I think your wife should come.”

“My dear, dear Norah—my wife to be—all shall be as you wish.”

Here we heard the footsteps of Joyce approaching.

“I had better tell him,” she said.

When he came in she had his dinner ready. He greeted me warmly.

“Won’t ye stay?” he said. “Don’t go unless ye wish to!”

“I think, sir, Norah wants to have a chat with you when you have had your dinner.”

Norah smiled a kiss at me as I went out. At the door I turned and said to her:—

“I shall be in the Cliff Field in case I am wanted.”

I went there straightway, and sat on the table rock in the centre of the fields, and thought and thought. In all my thought there was no cloud. Each day—each hour seemed to reveal new beauties in the girl I loved, and I felt as if all the world were full of sunshine, and all the future of hope; and I built new resolves to be worthy of the good fortune which had come upon me.

It was not long before Norah came to me, and said that she had told her father, and that he wished to speak with me. She said that he quite agreed about the school, and that there would be no difficulty made by him on account of any false pride about my helping in the task. We had but one sweet minute together on the rock, and one kiss; and then, hand in hand, we hurried back to the cottage, and found Joyce waiting for us, smoking his pipe.

Norah took me inside, and, after kissing her father, came shyly and kissed me also, and went out. Joyce began:—

“Me daughter has been tellin’ me about the plan of her goin’ to school, an’ her an’ me’s agreed that it’s the right thing to do. Of coorse, we’re not of your class, an’ if ye wish for her it is only right an’ fair that she should be brought up to the level of the people that she’s goin’ into. It’s not in me own power to do all this for her, an’ although I didn’t give her the schoolin’ that the quality has, I’ve done already more nor min like me mostly does. Norah knows more nor any girl about here—an’ as ye’re to have the benefit of yer wife’s schoolin’, I don’t see no rayson why ye shouldn’t help in it. Mind ye this—if I could see me way to do it meself, I’d work me arms off before I’d let you or any one else come between her an’ me in such a thing. But it’d be only a poor kind of pride that’d hurt the poor child’s feelins, an’ mar her future—an’ so it’ll be as ye both wish. Ye must find out the schools an’ write me about them when ye go back to London.” I jumped up and shook his hand.

“Mr. Joyce, I am more delighted than I can tell you; and I promise, on my honour, that you shall never in your life regret what you have done.”

“I’m sure of that—Mr.—Mr.—”

“Call me Arthur!”

“Well! I must do it some day—Arthur—an’ as to the matther that Norah told me ye shpoke of—that, if I’d wish it, ye’d be married first. Well! me own mind an’ Norah’s is the same—I’d rather that she come to you as a lady at wance—though God knows! it’s a lady she is in all ways I iver see one in me life—barrin’ the clothes!”

“That’s true, Mr. Joyce! there is no better lady in all the land.”

“Well, that’s all settled. Ye’ll let me know in good time about the schools, won’t ye? an’ now I must get back to me work,” and he passed out of the house, and went up the hillside.

Then Norah came back, and with joy I told her that all had been settled; and somehow, we seemed to have taken another step up the ascent that leads from earth to heaven—and that all feet may tread, which are winged with hope.

Presently Norah sent me away for a while, saying that she had some work to do, as she expected both Dick and myself to come back to tea with them; and I went off to look for Dick.

I found him with Murdock. The latter had got over his disappointment, and had evidently made up his mind to trust to Dick’s superior knowledge and intelligence. He was feverishly anxious to continue his search, and when I came up we held a long discussion as to the next measure to be taken. The afternoon faded away in this manner before Murdock summed up the matter thus:—

“The chist was carried on the gun-carriage, and where wan is th’ other is not far off. The min couldn’t have carried the chist far, from what ould Moynahan sez. His father saw the min carryin’ the chist only a wee bit.” Dick said:—

“There is one thing, Murdock, that I must warn you about. You have been digging in the clay bank by the edge of the bog. I told you before how dangerous this is; now, more than ever, I see the danger of it. It was only to-day that we got an idea of the depth of the bog, and it rather frightens me to think that with all this rain falling you should be tampering with what is more important to you than even the foundations of your house. The bog has risen far too much already, and you have only to dig perhaps one spadeful too much in the right place and you’ll have a torrent that will sweep away all you have. I have told you that I don’t like the locality of your house down in the hollow. If the bog ever moves again, God help you! You seem also to have been tampering with the stream that runs into the Cliff Fields. It is all very well for you to try to injure poor Joyce more than you have done—and that’s quite enough, God knows!—but here you are actually imperilling your own safety. That stream is the safety valve of the bog, and if you continue to dam up that cleft in the rock you will have a terrible disaster. Mind now! I warn you seriously against what you are doing. And besides, you do not even know for certain that the treasure is here. Why, it may be anywhere on the mountain, from the brook below the boreen to the Cliff Fields; is the off chance worth the risk you run?” Murdock started when he mentioned the Cliff Fields, and then said suddenly:—

“If ye’re afraid ye can go. I’m not.”

“Man alive!” said Dick, “why not be afraid if you see cause for fear? I don’t suppose I’m a coward any more than you are, but I can see a danger, and a very distinct one, from what you are doing. Your house is directly in the track in which the bog has shifted at any time this hundred years; and if there should be another movement, I would not like to be in the house when the time comes.”

“All right!” he returned doggedly, “I’ll take me chance; and I’ll find the threasure, too, before many days is over!”

“Well; but be reasonable also, or you may find your death!”

“Well, if I do that’s me own luk out. Ye may find yer death first!”

“Of course I may, but I see it my duty to warn you. The weather these last few weeks back has been unusually wet. The bog is rising as it is. As a matter of fact, it is nearly a foot higher now than it was when I came here first; and yet you are doing what must help to rise it higher still, and are weakening its walls at the same time.” He scowled at me as he sullenly answered:—

“Well, all I say is I’ll do as I like wid me own. I wouldn’t give up me chance iv findin’ the threasure now—no, not for God himself!”

“Hush! man; hush!” said Dick sternly, as we turned away. “Do not tempt Him, but be warned in time!”

“Let Him look out for Himself, an’ I’ll look out for meself,” he answered with a sneer. “I’ll find the threasure—an’ if need be in spite iv God an’ iv the Divil too!”

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