I think it was a real pleasure to Dick to get Norah’s message that he was expected to tea that evening. Like the rest of his sex, he was not quite free from vanity; for when I told him, his first act was to look down at himself ruefully, and his first words were:—

“But I say, old lad! look at the mess I’m in; and these clothes are not much, anyhow.”

“Never mind, Dick, you are as good as I am.”

“Oh, well!” he laughed, “if you’ll do, I suppose I needn’t mind. We’re both pretty untidy. No, begad,” he added, looking me all over, “you’re not out of the perpendicular with regard to cleanliness, anyhow. I say, Art! who’s been tidying you up? Oh! I see! Forgive me, old lad; and quite natural, too! Miss Joyce should see you blush, Art! Why, you are as rosy as a girl!”

“Call her ‘Norah,’ Dick! it is more natural, and I am sure she will like it better. She is to look on you as a brother, you know!”

“All right, Art,” he answered heartily, “but you must manage it for me, for I think I should be alarmed to do so unless I got a lead; but it will come easy enough after the first go off. Remember, we both always thought of her as ‘Norah!’”

We went down towards the brook and met with Andy, who had the car all ready for us.

“Begor yer ’an’rs,” said he, “I thought yez was lost intirely, or that the fairies had carried yez off; both iv yez this time.”—This with a sly look at me, followed by a portentous wink to Dick. “An’ I’m thinkin’ it’s about time fur somethin’ to ate. Begor! but me stummick is cryin’ out that me throat is cut!”

“You’re quite right, Andy, as to the fact,” said Dick, “but you are a little antecedent.”

“An’ now what’s that, surr? Begor! I niver was called that name afore. Shure, an’ I always thry to be dacent—divvle a man but can tell ye that! Antidacent indeed! Well now! what nixt?”

“It means, Andy, that we are going to be carried off by the fairies, and to have some supper with them too; and that you are to take this half-crown, and go over to Mother Kelligan’s, and get her to try to dissipate that unnatural suspicion of capital offence wreaked on your thoracic region. Here, catch! and see how soon you can be off!”

“Hurroo! Begor, yer ’an’r, it’s the larned gintleman y’ are! Musha! but ye ought to be a councillor intirely! Gee-up! ye ould corncrake!” and Andy was off at full speed.

When we had got rid of him, Dick and I went down to the brook, and made ourselves look as tidy as we could. At least Dick did; for, as to myself, I purposely disarranged my hair—unknown to Dick—in the hope that Norah would take me in hand again, and that I might once more experience the delicious sensation of a toilet aided by her sweet fingers.

Young men’s ideas, however, are very crude; no one who knew either the Sex or the World would have fallen into such an absurd hope. When I came in with Dick, Norah—in spite of some marked hints, privately and secretly given to her—did not make either the slightest remark on my appearance, or the faintest suggestion as to improving it.

She had not been idle in the afternoon. The room, which was always tidy, was as prettily arranged as the materials would allow. There were some flowers, and flag-leaves, and grasses tastefully placed about; and on the table, in a tumbler, was a bunch of scarlet poppies. The tablecloth, although of coarse material, was as white as snow, and the plates and cups, of common white and blue, were all that was required.

When Joyce came in from his bedroom, where he had been tidying himself, he looked so manly and handsome in his dark frieze coat with horn buttons, his wide unstarched shirt-collar, striped waistcoat, and cord breeches, with grey stockings, that I felt quite proud of him. There was a natural grace and dignity about him which suited him so well, that I had no wish to see him other than a peasant. He became the station, and there was no pretence. He made a rough kind of apology to us both:—

“I fear ye’ll find things a bit rough, compared with what you’re accustomed to, but I know ye’ll not mind. We have hardly got settled down here yit; and me sisther, who always lives with us, is away with me other sisther that is sick, so Norah has to fare by herself; but gentlemen both—you, Mr. Sutherland; and you, Arthur—you’re welcome!

We sat down to table, and Norah insisted on doing all the attendance herself. I wanted to help her, and, when she was taking up a plate of cakes from the hearth, stooped beside her and said:—

“May not I help, Norah? Do let me!”

“No—no, dear,” she whispered. “Don’t ask me now—I’m a little strange yet—another time. You’ll be very good, won’t you, and help me not to feel awkward?”

Needless to say I sat at table for the rest of the meal, and feasted my eyes on my darling, whilst in common with the others I enjoyed the good things placed before us. But when she saw that I looked too long and too lovingly, she gave me such an imploring glance from her eloquent eyes, that for the remainder of the time I restrained both the ardour of my glance and its quantity within modest bounds.

Oh! but she was fair and sweet to look upon! Her dark hair was plainly combed back, and coiled modestly round her lovely head. She had on her red petticoat and chintz body, that she knew I admired so much; and on her breast she wore a great scarlet poppy, whose splendid colour suited well her dark and noble beauty. At the earliest opportunity, when tea was over, I whispered to her:—

“My darling, how well the poppy suits you. How beautiful you are. You are like the Goddess of Sleep!” She put her finger to her lips with a happy smile, as though to forbid me to pay compliments—before others. I suppose the woman has never yet been born—and never shall be—who would not like to hear her praises from the man she loves.

I had eaten potato-cakes before, but never such as Norah had made for us; possibly they seemed so good to me because I knew that her hands had made them. The honey, too, was the nicest I had tasted—for it was made by Norah’s bees. The butter was perfect—for it was the work of her hands!

I do not think that a happier party ever assembled round a tea-table. Joyce was now quite reconciled to the loss of his daughter, and was beaming all over; and Dick’s loyal nature had its own reward, for he too was happy in the happiness of those he loved—or else I was, and am, the most obtuse fool, and he the most consummate actor, that has been. As for Norah and myself, I know we were happy—as happy as it is given to mortals to be.

When tea was over, and Norah fetched her father’s pipe and lighted it for him, she said to me with a sweet blush, as she called me by my name for the first time before a stranger:—

“I suppose, Arthur, you and Mr. Sutherland would like your own cigars best; but if you care for a pipe there are some new ones here,” and she pointed them out. We lit our cigars, and sat round the fire; for in this damp weather the nights were getting a little chilly. Joyce sat on one side of the fire and Dick on the other. I sat next to Dick, and Norah took her place between her father and me, sitting on a little stool beside her father and leaning, her head against his knees, whilst she took the hand that was fondly laid over her shoulder and held it in her own. Presently, as the grey autumn twilight died away, and as the light from the turf fire rose and fell, throwing protecting shadows, her other hand stole towards my own—which was waiting to receive it; and we sat silent for a spell, Norah and I in an ecstasy of quiet happiness.

By-and-by we heard a click at the latch of the gate, and firm, heavy footsteps coming up the path. Norah jumped up, and peeped out of the window.

“Who is it, daughter?” said Joyce.

“Oh father! it is Murdock! What can he want?”

There was a knock at the door. Joyce rose up, motioning to us to sit still, laid aside his pipe, and went to the door and opened it. Every word that was spoken was perfectly plain to us all.

“Good evenin’, Phelim Joyce!”

“Good evenin’! You want me?”

“I do.” Murdock’s voice was fixed and firm, as of one who has made up his mind.

“What is it?”

“May I come in? I want to shpake to ye particular.”

“No, Murtagh Murdock! Whin a man comes undher me roof by me own consint, I’m not free wid him to spake me mind the same as whin he’s outside. Ye haven’t thrated me well, Murdock. Ye’ve been hard wid me; and there’s much that I can’t forgive!”

“Well! if I did, ye gev me what no other man has ever gave me yit widout repintin’ it sore. Ye sthruck me a blow before all the people, an’ I didn’t strike ye back.”

“I did, Murtagh; an’ I’m sorry for it. That blow has been hangin’ on me conscience iver since. I would take it back if I could; God knows that is thrue. Much as ye wronged me, I don’t want such a thing as that to remimber when me eyes is closin’. Murtagh Murdock, I take it back, an’ gladly. Will ye let me?”

“I will—on wan condition.”

“What is it?”

“That’s what I’ve kem here to shpake about; but I’d like to go in.”

“No! ye can’t do that—not yit, at any rate, till I know what ye want. Ye must remimber, Murtagh, that I’ve but small rayson to thrust ye!”

“Well, Phelim, I’ll tell ye; tho’ it’s mortial hard to name it shtandin’ widout the door like a thramp! I’m a warrum man; I’ve a power iv money put by, an’ it brings me in much.”

“I know! I know!” said the other bitterly. “God help me! but I know too well how it was gother up.”

“Well! niver mind that now; we all know that. Anyhow, it is gother up. An’ them as finds most fault wid the manes, mayhap ’d be the first to get hould iv it av they could. Well, anyhow, I’m warrum enough to ask any girrul in these parts to share it wid me. There’s many min and weemin between this and Galway, that’d like to talk over the fortin iv their daughter wid Murtagh Murdock—for all he’s a gombeen man.”

As he spoke, the clasp of Norah’s hand and mine grew closer. I could feel in her clasp both a clinging, as for protection, and a restraining power on myself. Murdock went on:—

“But there’s none of thim girls what I’ve set me harrt on—except wan!” He paused. Joyce said quietly:—

“An’ who, now, might that be?”

“Yer own daughther, Norah Joyce!” Norah’s hand restrained me as I was instinctively rising.

“Go on!” said Joyce, and I could notice that there was a suppressed passion in his voice:—

“Well, I’ve set me harrt on her; and I’m willin’ to settle a fortin on her, on wan condition.”

“And what, now, might that be?”—the tone was of veiled sarcasm.

“She’ll have all the money that I settle on her to dale wid as she likes—that is, the intherest iv it—as long as she lives; an’ I’m to have the Cliff Fields that is hers, as me own to do what I like wid, an’ that them an’ all in them belongs to me.” Joyce paused a moment before answering:—

“Is that all ye have to say?” Murdock seemed nonplussed, but after a slight pause he answered:—


“An’ ye want me answer?”

“Iv coorse!”

“Thin, Murtagh Murdock, I’d like to ask ye for why me daughter would marry you or the like of you? Is it because that yer beauty ’d take a young girl’s fancy—you that’s known as the likest thing to a divil in these parts! Or is it because of yer kind nature? You that tried to ruin her own father, and that drove both her and him out of the home she was born in, and where her poor mother died! Is it because yer characther is respicted in the counthry wheriver yer name is known?——” Here Murdock interrupted him:—

“I tould ye it’s a warrum man I am”—he spoke decisively, as if his words were final—“an’ I can, an’ will, settle a fortin on her.” Joyce answered slowly and with infinite scorn:—

“Thank ye, Mr. Murtagh Murdock, but me daughter is not for sale!”

There was a long pause. Then Murdock spoke again, and both suppressed hate and anger were in his voice:—

“Ye had betther have a care wid me. I’ve crushed ye wance, an’ I’ll crush ye agin! Ye can shpake scornful yerself, but mayhap the girrul would give a different answer.”

“Then, ye had betther hear her answer from herself. Norah! Come here, daughter! Come here!”

Norah rose, making an imperative sign to me to keep my seat, and with the bearing of an empress passed across to the door and stood beside her father. She took no notice whatever of her wooer.

“What is it, father?”

“Now, Murdock, spake away! Say what ye have to say; an’ take yer answer from her own lips.” Murdock spoke with manifest embarrassment:—

“I’ve been tellin’ yer father that I’d like ye for me wife!”

“I’ve heard all you said!”

“An’ yer answer?”

“My father has answered for me!”

“But I want me answer from yer own lips. My! but it’s the handsome girrul ye are this night!”

“My answer is ‘No!’” and she turned to come back.

“Shtay!” Murdock’s voice was nasty, so nasty that instinctively I stood up. No person should speak like that to the woman I loved. Norah stopped. “I suppose ye won’t luk at me because ye have a young shpark on yer hands. I’m no fool! an’ I know why ye’ve been down in the Fields. I seen yez both more nor wance; an’ I’m makin’ me offer knowin’ what I know. I don’t want to be too hard on ye, an’ I’ll say nothin’ if ye don’t dhrive me to. But remimber ye’re in me power; an’ ye’ve got to plase me in wan way or another. I knew what I was doin’ whin I watched ye wid yer young shpark! Ye didn’t want yer father to see him nigh the house! Ye’d betther be careful, the both of ye. If ye don’t intind to marry me, well, ye won’t; but mind how ye thrate me or shpake to me, here or where there’s others by; or be th’ Almighty! I’ll send the ugly whisper round the counthry about ye——”

Flesh and blood could not stand this. In an instant I was out in the porch, and ready to fly at his throat; but Norah put her arm between us.

“Mr. Severn!” she said in a voice which there was no gainsaying, “my father is here. It is for him to protect me here, if any protection is required from a thing like that!” The scorn of her voice made even Murdock wince, and seemed to cool both Joyce and myself, and also Dick, who now stood beside us.

Murdock looked from one to another of us for a moment in amazement, and then with a savage scowl, as though he were looking who and where to strike with venom, he fixed on Norah—God forgive him!

“An’ so ye have him at home already, have ye! An’ yer father prisent too, an’ a witness. It’s the sharp girrul ye are, Norah Joyce, but I suppose this wan is not the first!” I restrained myself simply because Norah’s hand was laid on my mouth; Murdock went on:—

“An’ so ye thought I wanted ye for yerself! Oh no! It’s no bankrup’s daughther for me; but I may as well tell ye why I wanted ye. It was because I’ve had in me hands, wan time or another, ivery inch iv this mountain, bit be bit, all except the Cliff Fields; and thim I wanted for purposes iv me own—thim as knows why, has swore not to tell”—this with a scowl at Dick and me—“But I’ll have thim yit; an’ have thim too widout thinkin’ that me wife likes sthrollin’ there wid sthrange min!”

Here I could restrain myself no longer; and to my joy on the instant—and since then whenever I have thought of it—Norah withdrew her hand as if to set me free. I stepped forward, and with one blow fair in the lips knocked the foul-mouthed ruffian head over heels. He rose in an instant, his face covered with blood, and rushed at me. This time I stepped out, and with an old football trick, taking him on the breast-bone with my open hand, again tumbled him over. He arose livid—but this time his passion was cold—and standing some yards off, said, whilst he wiped the blood from his face:—

“Wait! Ye’ll be sorry yit ye shtruck that blow! Aye! ye’ll both be sorry—sad an’ sorry—an’ for shame that ye don’t reckon on! Wait!”—I spoke out:—

“Wait! yes, I shall wait, but only till the time comes to punish you. And let me warn you to be careful how you speak of this lady! I have shown you already how I can deal with you personally; next time—if there be a next time——” Here Murdock interrupted sotto voce

“There ’ll be a next time; don’t fear! Be God but there will!” I went on:—

“I shall not dirty my hands with you but I shall have you in gaol for slander.”

“Gaol me, is it?” he sneered. “We’ll see. An’ so ye think ye’re going to marry a lady, whin ye make an honest woman iv Norah Joyce, do ye? Luk at her! an’ it’s a lady ye’re goin’ to make iv her, is it? An’ thim hands iv hers, wid the marks iv the milkin’ an’ the shpade on to them. My! but they’ll luk well among the quality! won’t they?” I was going to strike him again, but Norah laid her hand on my arm; so smothering my anger as well as I could, I said:—

“Don’t dare to speak ill of people whose shoes you are not worthy to black; and be quick about your finishing your work at Shleenanaher, for you’ve got to go when the time is up. I won’t have the place polluted by your presence a day longer than I can help.”

Norah looked wonderingly at me and at him, for he had given a manifest start. I went on:—

“And as for these hands”—I took Norah’s hands in mine—“perhaps the time may come when you will pray for the help of their honest strength—pray with all the energy of your dastard soul! But whether this may be or not, take you care how you cross her path or mine again, or you shall rue it to the last hour of your life. Come, Norah, it is not fit that you should contaminate your eyes or your ears with the presence of this wretch!” and I led her in. As we went I heard Joyce say:—

“An’ listen to me! Niver you dare to put one foot across me mearin’ again; or I’ll take the law into me own hands!”

Then Dick spoke:—

“An’ hark ye, Mr. Murdock! remember that you have to deal with me also in any evil that you attempt!” Murdock turned on him savagely:—

“As for you, I dismiss ye from me imploymint. Ye’ll niver set foot on me land agin! Away wid ye!”

“Hurrah!” shouted Dick. “Mr. Joyce, you’re my witness that he has discharged me, and I am free.” Then he stepped down from the porch, and said to Murdock, in as exasperating a way as he could:—

“And, dear Mr. Murdock, wouldn’t it be a pleasure to you to have it out with me here, now? Just a simple round or two—to see which is the best man? I am sure it would do you good—and me too! I can see you are simply spoiling for a fight. I promise you that there will be no legal consequences if you beat me, and if I beat you I shall take my chance. Do let me persuade you! Just one round;” and he began to take off his coat. Joyce, however, stopped him, speaking gravely:—

“No! Mr. Sutherland, not here! and let me warn ye, for ye’re a younger man nor me, agin such anger. I sthruck that man wance, an’ it’s sorry I am for that same! No! not that I’m afeered of him”—answering the query in Dick’s face—“but because, for a full-grown man to sthrike in anger is a sarious thing. Arthur there sthruck not for himself, but for an affront to his wife that’s promised, an’ he’s not to be blamed.” Norah here took my arm and held it tight; “but I say, wid that one blow that I’ve sthruck since I was a lad on me mind, ‘Never sthrike a blow in anger all yer life long, unless it be to purtect one ye love!’” Dick turned to him, and said heartily:—

“You’re quite right, Mr. Joyce, and I’m afraid I acted like a cad. Here! you clear off! Your very presence seems to infect better men than yourself, and brings them something nearer to your level. Mr. Joyce, forgive me! I promise I’ll take your good lesson to heart.”

They both came into the room; and Norah and I looking out of the window—my arm being around her—saw Murdock pass down the path and out at the gate.

We all took our places once again around the fire. When we sat down Norah instinctively put her hands behind her, as if to hide them—that ruffian’s words had stung her a little; and as I looked, without, however, pretending to take any notice, I ground my teeth. But with Norah such an ignoble thought could be but a passing one; with a quick blush she laid her hand open on my knee, so that, as the firelight fell on it, it was shown in all its sterling beauty. I thought the opportunity was a fair one, and I lifted it to my lips and said:—

“Norah! I think I may say a word before your father and my friend. This hand—this beautiful hand,” and I kissed it again, “is dearer to me a thousand times, because it can do, and has done, honest work; and I only hope that in all my life I may be worthy of it.” I was about to kiss it yet again, but Norah drew it gently away. Then she shifted her stool a little, and came closer to me. Her father saw the movement, and said simply:—

“Go to him, daughter. He is worth it!—he sthruck a good blow for ye this night.” And so we changed places, and she leaned her head against my knee; her other hand—the one not held in mine—rested on her father’s knee.

There we sat and smoked and talked for an hour or more. Then Dick looked at me and I at him, and we rose. Norah looked at me lovingly as we got our hats. Her father saw the look, and said:—

“Come, daughter! if you’re not tired, suppose we see them down the boreen.”

A bright smile and a blush came in her face; she threw a shawl over her head, and we went all together. She held her father’s arm and mine; but by-and-by the lane narrowed, and her father went in front with Dick, and we two followed.

Was it to be wondered at, if we did lag a little behind them?—and if we spoke in whispers?—or, if now and again, when the lane curved and kindly bushes projecting threw dark shadows, our lips met?

When we came to the open space before the gate, we found Andy. He pretended to see only Dick and Joyce, and saluted them:—

“Begor! but it’s the fine night, it is, Misther Dick, though more betoken the rain is comin’ on agin soon. A fine night, Misther Joyce! and how’s Miss Norah?—God bless her! Musha! but it’s sorry I am that she didn’t walk down wid ye this fine night! An’ poor Masther Art—I suppose the fairies has got him agin?” Here he pretended to just catch sight of me. “Yer ’an’r, but it’s the sorraful man I was—shure, an’ I thought ye was tuk aff be the fairies—or, mayhap, it was houldin’ a leprachaun that ye wor. An’ my! but there’s Miss Norah, too, comin’ to take care iv her father! God bless ye, Miss Norah, Acushla!—but it’s glad I am to see ye!”

“And I’m always glad to see you, Andy,” she said, and shook hands with him.

Andy took her aside, and said, in a staccato whisper intended for us all:—

“Musha! Miss Norah, dear, may I ax ye somethin’?”

“Indeed you may, Andy. What is it?”

“Well, now, it’s throubled in me mind I am about Masther Art—that young gintleman beyant ye, talkin’ t’ yer father!” the hypocritical villain pointed me out, as though she did not know me. I could see in the moonlight the happy smile on her face as she turned towards me.

“Yes, I see him!” she answered.

“Well, Miss Norah, the fairies got him on the top iv Knocknacar, and ivir since he’s been wandherin’ round lukin’ fur wan iv thim. I thried to timpt him away be tellin’ him iv nice girruls iv these parts—real girruls, not fairies. But he’s that obstinate he wouldn’t luk at wan iv thim—no, nor listen to me, ayther.”

“Indeed!” she said, her eyes dancing with fun.

“An’, Miss Norah, dear, what kind iv a girrul d’ye think he wanted to find?”

“I don’t know, Andy—what kind?”

“Oh, begor! but it’s meself can tell ye! Shure, it’s a long, yalla, dark girrul, shtreaky—like—like he knows what—not quite a faymale nagur, wid a rid petticoat, an’ a quare kind iv an eye!”

“Oh, Andy!” was all she said, as she turned to me smiling.

“Get along, you villain!” said I, and I shook my fist at him in fun; and then I took Norah aside, and told her what the “quare kind iv an eye” was that I had sought—and found.

Then we two said “Good-night” in peace, whilst the others in front went through the gate. We took—afterwards—a formal and perfectly decorous farewell, only shaking hands all round, before Dick and I mounted the car. Andy started off at a gallop, and his “Git up, ye ould corncrake!” was lost in our shouts of “Good-bye!” as we waved our hats. Looking back, we saw Norah’s hands waving as she stood with her father’s arm around her, and her head laid back against his shoulder, whilst the yellow moonlight bathed them from head to foot in a sea of celestial light.

And then we sped on through the moonlight and the darkness alike, for the clouds of the coming rain rolled thick and fast across the sky.

But for me the air was all aglow with rosy light, and the car was a chariot flying swiftly to the dawn!

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