The following week was a time to me of absolute bitterness. I went each day to Knocknacar, where the cutting was proceeding at a rapid rate. I haunted the hill-top, but without the slightest result. Dick had walked over with me on Sunday, and had been rejoiced at the progress made; he said that if all went well we could about Friday next actually cut into the bog. Already there was a distinct infiltration through the cutting, and we discussed the best means to achieve the last few feet of the work so as not in any way to endanger the safety of the men working.

All this time Dick was in good spirits. His meeting with Norah’s father had taken a great and harrowing weight off his mind, and to him all things were now possible in the future. He tried his best to console me for my disappointment. He was full of hope—indeed he refused to see anything but a delay, and I could see that in his secret heart he was not altogether sorry that my love affair had received a temporary check. This belief was emphasized by the tendency of certain of his remarks to the effect that marriages between persons of unequal social status were inadvisable—he, dear old fellow, seemingly in his transparent honesty unaware that he was laying himself out with all his power to violate his own principles.

But all the time I was simply heartbroken. To say that I was consumed with a burning anxiety would be to understate the matter; I was simply in a fever. I could neither eat nor sleep satisfactorily, and—sleeping or waking—my brain was in a whirl of doubts, conjectures, fears and hopes. The most difficult part to bear was my utter inability to do anything. I could not proclaim my love or my loss on the hill-top; I did not know where to make inquiries, and I had no idea who to inquire for. I did not even like to tell Dick the full extent of my woes.

Love has a modesty of its own, whose lines are boldly drawn, and whose rules are stern.

On more than one occasion I left the hotel secretly—after having ostensibly retired for the night—and wended my way to Knocknacar. As I passed through the sleeping country I heard the dogs bark in the cottages as I went by, but little other sound I ever heard except the booming of the distant sea. On more than one of these occasions I was drenched with rain—for the weather had now become thoroughly unsettled. But I heeded it not; indeed the physical discomfort—when I felt it—was in some measure an anodyne to the torture of my restless soul.

I always managed to get back before daylight, so as to avoid any questioning. After three or four days, however, the “boots” of the hotel began evidently to notice the state of my clothes and boots, and ventured to speak to me. He cautioned me against going out too much alone at night, as there were two dangers—one from the moonlighters who now and again raided the district, and who, being composed of the scum of the country-side—“corner-boys” and loafers of all kinds—would be only too glad to find an unexpected victim to rob; and the other, lest in wandering about I should get into trouble with the police under suspicion of being one of these very ruffians.

The latter difficulty seemed to me to be even more obnoxious than the former; and to avoid any suspicion I thought it best to make my night wanderings known to all. Accordingly, I asked Mrs. Keating to have some milk and bread and butter left in my room each night, as I would probably require something after my late walk. When she expressed surprise as to my movements, I told her that I was making a study of the beauty of the country by night, and was much interested in moonlight effects. This last was an unhappy setting forth of my desires, for it went round in a whisper amongst the servants and others outside the hotel, until at last it reached the ears of an astute Ulster-born policeman, from whom I was much surprised to receive a visit one morning. I asked him to what the honour was due. His answer spoke for itself:—

“From information received A come to talk till ye regardin’ the interest ye profess to take in moon-lichtin’.”

“What on earth do you mean?” I asked.

“A hear ye’re a stranger in these parts—an’ as ye might take away a wrong impression weth ye—A thenk it ma duty to tell ye that the people round here are nothin’ more nor less than leears—an’ that ye mustn’t believe a sengle word they say.”

“Really,” said I, “I am quite in the dark. Do try and explain. Tell me what it is all about.”

“Why, A larn that ye’re always out at nicht all over the country, and that ye’ve openly told people here that ye’re interested in moon-lichtin’.”

“My dear sir, some one is quite mad! I never said such a thing—indeed, I don’t know anything about moon-lighting.”

“Then why do ye go out at nicht?”

“Simply to see the country at night—to look at the views—to enjoy effects of moonlight.”

“There ye are, ye see—ye enjoy the moonlicht effect.”

“Good lord! I mean the view—the purely æsthetic effect—the chiaroscuro—the pretty pictures!”

“Oh, aye! A see now—A ken weel! Then A needn’t trouble ye further. But let ma tell ye that it’s a dangerous practice to walk out be nicht. There’s many a man in these parts watched and laid for. Why in Knockcalltecrore there’s one man that’s in danger all the time. An’ as for ye—why ye’d better be careful that yer nicht wanderins doesn’t bring ye ento trouble,” and he went away.

At last I got so miserable about my own love affair that I thought I might do a good turn to Dick; and so I determined to try to buy from Murdock his holding on Knockcalltecrore, and then to give it to my friend, as I felt that the possession of the place, with power to re-exchange with Joyce, would in no way militate against his interests with Norah.

With this object in view I went out one afternoon to Knockcalltecrore, when I knew that Dick had arranged to visit the cutting at Knocknacar. I did not tell anyone where I was going, and took good care that Andy went with Dick. I had acquired a dread of that astute gentleman’s inferences.

It was well in the afternoon when I got to Knockcalltecrore. Murdock was out at the edge of the bog making some investigations on his own account with the aid of the magnets. He flew into a great rage when he saw me, and roundly accused me of coming to spy upon him. I disclaimed any such meanness, and told him that he should be ashamed of such a suspicion. It was not my cue to quarrel with him, so I restrained myself as well as I could, and quietly told him that I had come on a matter of business.

He was anxious to get me away from the bog, and took me into the house; here I broached my subject to him, for I knew he was too astute a man for my going round the question to be of any use.

At first my offer was a confirmation of his suspicion of me as a spy; and, indeed, he did not burke this aspect of the question in expressing his opinion.

“Oh, aye!” he sneered. “Isn’t it likely I’m goin’ to give up me land to ye, so that ye may hand it over to Mr. Sutherland—an’ him havin’ saycrets from me all the time—maybe knowin’ where what I want to find is hid. Didn’t I know it’s a thraitor he is, an’ ye a shpy.”

“Dick Sutherland is no traitor and I am no spy. I wouldn’t hear such words from anyone else; but, unfortunately, I know already that your ideas regarding us both are so hopelessly wrong that it’s no use trying to alter them. I simply came here to make you an offer to buy this piece of land. The place is a pretty one, and I, or some friend of mine, may like some day to put up a house here. Of course if you don’t want to sell there’s an end to the matter; but do try to keep a decent tongue in your head—if you can.”

My speech had evidently some effect on him, for he said:—

“I didn’t mane any offinse—an’ as for sellin’, I’d sell anything in the wurrld av I got me price fur it!”

“Well! why not enter on this matter? You’re a man of the world, and so am I. I want to buy; I have money and can afford to give a good price, as it is a fancy with me. What objection have you to sell?”

“Ye know well enough I’ll not sell—not yit, at all evints. I wouldn’t part wid a perch iv this land fur all ye cud offer—not till I’m done wid me sarch. I mane to get what I’m lukin’ fur—if it’s there!”

“I quite understand! Well! I am prepared to meet you in the matter. I am willing to purchase the land—it to be given over to me at whatever time you may choose to name. Would a year suit you to make your investigations?”

He thought for a moment—then took out an old letter, and on the back of it made some calculations. Then he said:—

“I suppose ye’d pay the money down at wanst?”

“Certainly,” said I, “the very day I get possession.” I had intended paying the money down, and waiting for possession as a sort of inducement to him to close with me; but there was so much greed in his manner that I saw I would do better by holding off payment until I got possession. My judgment was correct, for his answer surprised me:—

“A month ’ll do what I wanted; or, to be certain, say five weeks from to-day. But the money would have to be payed to the minit.”

“Certainly!” said I. “Suit yourself as to time, and let me know the terms, so that I can see if we agree. I suppose you will want to see your attorney, so name any day to suit you.”

“I’m me own attorney! Do ye think I’d thrust any iv them wid me affairs? Whin I have a law suit I’ll have thim, but not before. If ye want to know me price I’ll tell it to ye now.”

“Go on,” said I, concealing my delight as well as I could.

He accordingly named a sum which, to me, accustomed only as I had hitherto been to the price of land in a good English county, seemed very small indeed.

“He evidently thought he was driving a hard bargain, for he said with a cunning look:—

“I suppose ye’ll want to see lawyers and the like. So you may; but only to see that ye get ye bargin hard and fast. I’ll not discuss the terrums wid anyone else; an’ if y’ accept, ye must sign me a writin’ now, that ye buy me land right here, an’ that ye’ll pay the money widin a month before ye take possession on the day we fix.”

“All right,” said I. “That will suit me quite well. Make out your paper in duplicate, and we will both sign. Of course, you must put in a clause guaranteeing title, and allowing the deed to be made with the approval of my solicitor, not as to value, but as to form and completeness.

“That’s fair!” he said, and sat down to draw up his papers. He was evidently a bit of a lawyer—a gombeen man must be—and he knew the practical matters of law affecting things in which he was himself interested. His Memorandum of Agreement was, so far as I could judge, quite complete and as concise as possible. He designated the land sold, and named the price which was to be paid into the account in his name in the Galway Bank before twelve o’clock noon on the 27th September, or which might be paid in at an earlier date, with the deduction of two per cent. per annum as discount—in which case the receipt was to be given in full and an undertaking to give possession at the appointed time, namely Wednesday, 27 Oct., at 12 noon.

We both signed the memorandum, he having sent the old woman who came up from the village to cook for him for the old schoolmaster to witness the signatures. I arranged that when I should have seen my solicitor and have had the deed proper drafted, I would see him again. I then came away, and got back at the hotel a little while before Dick arrived.

Dick was in great spirits; his experiment with the bog had been quite successful. The cutting had advanced so far that the clay wall hemming in the bog was actually weakened, and with a mining cartridge, prepared for the purpose, he had blown up the last bit of bank remaining. The bog had straightway begun to pour into the opening, not merely from the top, but simultaneously to the whole depth of the cutting.

“The experience of that first half-hour of the rush,” went on Dick, “was simply invaluable. I do wish you had been there, old fellow. It was in itself a lesson on bogs and their reclamation.”

It just suited my purpose that he should do all the talking at present, so I asked him to explain all that happened. He went on:—

“The moment the cartridge exploded the whole of the small clay bank remaining was knocked to bits and was carried away by the first rush. There had evidently been a considerable accumulation of water just behind the bank; and at the first rush this swept through the cutting and washed it clean. Then the bog at the top, and the water in the middle, and the ooze below all struggled for the opening. I could see that the soft part of the bog actually floated. Naturally the water got away first. The bog proper, which was floating, jammed in the opening, and the ooze began to drain out below it. Of course, this was only the first rush; it will be running for days before things begin to settle; and then we shall be able to make some openings in the bog and see if my theories are tenable, in so far as the solidification is concerned. I am only disappointed in one thing.”

“What is that?”

“That it will not enlighten us much regarding the bog at Shleenanaher, for I cannot find any indication here of a shelf of rock such as I imagine to be at the basis of the shifting bog. If I had had time I would like to have made a cutting into some of the waste where the bog had originally been. I daresay that Joyce would let me try now if I asked him.”

I had my own fun out of my answer:—

“Oh! I’m sure he will; but even if he won’t let you now, he may be inclined to in a month or two when things have settled down a bit.”

His answer startled me.

“Do you know, Art, I fear it’s quite on the cards that in a month or two there may be some settling down up there that may be serious for some one.”

“How do you mean?”

“Simply this—that I am not at all satisfied about Murdock’s house. There is every indication of it being right in the track of the bog in case it should shift again; and I would not be surprised if that hollow where it stands was right over the deepest part of the natural reservoir, where the rock slopes into the ascending stratum. This wet weather looks bad; and already the bog has risen somewhat. If the rain lasts I wouldn’t like to live in that house after five or six weeks.”

A thought struck me:—

“Did you tell this to Murdock?”

“Certainly! the moment the conviction was in my mind.”

“When was that now? just for curiosity!”

“Last night, before I came away.” A light began to dawn on me, as to Murdock’s readiness to sell the land. I did not want to have to explain anything, so I did not mention the subject of my purchase, but simply asked Dick:—

“And what did our upright friend say?”

“He said, in his own sweet manner, that it would last as long as he wanted it, and that after that it might go to hell—and me too, he added, with a thoughtfulness that was all his own.”

When I went to my room that night I thought over the matter. For good or ill I had bought the property, and there was no going back now; indeed I did not wish to go back, for I thought that it would be a fine opportunity for Dick to investigate the subject. If we could succeed in draining the bog and reclaiming it, it would be a valuable addition to the property.

That night I arranged to go over on the following day to Galway, my private purpose being to consult a solicitor; and I wrote to my bankers in London, directing that an amount something over the sum required to effect my purchase should be lodged forthwith to an account to be opened for me at the Galway Bank.

Next day I drove to Galway, and there, after a little inquiry, found a solicitor, Mr. Caicy, of whom every one spoke well. I consulted him regarding the purchase. He arranged to do all that was requisite, and to have the deed of purchase drawn. I told him that I wished the matter kept a profound secret. He agreed to meet my wishes in this respect, even to the extent that when he should come to Carnaclif to make the final completion with Murdock, he would not pretend to know me. We parted on the best of terms, after I had dined with him, and had consumed my share of a couple of bottles of as fine old port as is to be had in all the world.

Next day I returned to Carnaclif in the evening and met Dick.

Everything had gone right during the two days. Dick was in great spirits; he had seen his Norah during the day, and had exchanged salutations with her. Then he had gone to Knocknacar, and had seen a great change in the bog, which was already settling down into a more solid form. I simply told him I had been to Galway to do some banking and other business. It was some consolation to me in the midst of my own unhappiness to know that I was furthering the happiness of my friend.

On the third day from this Mr. Caicy was to be over with the deed, and the following day the sale was to be completed, I having arranged with the bank to transfer on that day the purchase money for the sale to the account of Mr. Murdock. The two first days I spent mainly on Knocknacar, going over each day ostensibly to look at the progress made in draining the bog, but in reality in the vain hope of seeing my unknown. Each time I went, my feet turned naturally to the hill-top; but on each visit I felt only a renewal of my sorrow and disappointment. I walked on each occasion to and from the hill, and on the second day—which was Sunday—went in the morning and sat on the top many hours, in the hope that some time during the day, it being a holiday, she might be able to find her way there once again!

When I got to the top, the chapel bells were ringing in all the parishes below me to the west, and very sweetly and peacefully the sounds came through the bright crisp September air. And in some degree the sound brought peace to my soul, for there is so large a power in even the aspirations and the efforts of men towards good, that it radiates to unmeasurable distance. The wave theory that rules our knowledge of the distribution of light and sound, may well be taken to typify, if it does not control the light of divine love, and the beating in unison of human hearts.

I think that during these days I must have looked, as well as felt, miserable; for even Andy did not make any effort to either irritate or draw me. On the Sunday evening, when I was on the strand behind the hotel, he lounged along, in his own mysterious fashion, and after looking at me keenly for a few moments, came up close, and said to me in a grave, pitying half-whisper:—

“Don’t be afther breakin’ yer harrt, yer ’an’r. Divil mend the fairy girrul. Sure isn’t she vanished intirely? Mark me now! there’s no sahtisfaction at all, at all, in them fairy girruls. Faix! but I wouldn’t like to see a fine young gintleman like yer ’an’r, become like Yeoha, the Sigher, as they called him in the ould times.”

“And who might that gentleman be, Andy?” I asked, with what appearance of cheerful interest I could muster up.

“Begor! it’s a prince he was that married onto a fairy girrul, what wint an’ was tuk off be a fairy man what lived in the same mountain as she done herself. Sure thim fairy girruls has mostly a fairy man iv their own somewheres, that they love betther nor they does mortials. Jist you take me advice, Master Art, fur ye might do worser! Go an take a luk at Miss Norah, an ye’ll soon forgit the fairies. There’s a rale girrul av ye like!”

I was too sad to make any angry reply, and before I could think of any other kind, Andy lounged away whistling softly—for he had, like many of his class, a very sweet whistle—the air of Savourneen Deelish.

The following day Mr. Caicy turned up at the hotel according to his promise. He openly told Mrs. Keating, of whom he had often before been a customer, that he had business with Mr. Murdock. He was, as usual with him, affable to all, “passing the time of day” with the various inhabitants of all degrees, and, as if a stranger, entering into conversation with me as we sat at lunch in the coffee-room. When we were alone he whispered to me that all was ready; that he had made an examination of the title, for which Murdock had sent him all the necessary papers, and that the deed was complete and ready to be signed. He told me he was going over that day to Knockcalltecrore, and would arrange that he would be there the next day, and that he would take care to have some one to witness the signatures.

On the following morning, when Dick went off with Andy to Knocknacar, and Mr. Caicy drove over to Knockcalltecrore, where I also shortly took my way on another car.

We met at Murdock’s house. The deed was duly completed, and Mr. Caicy handed over to Murdock the letter from the bank that the lodgment had been made.

The land was now mine; and I was to have possession on the 27th of October. Mr. Caicy took the deed with him; and with it took also instructions to draw out a deed making the property over to Richard Sutherland. He went straight away to Galway; whilst I, in listless despair, wandered out on the hillside to look at the view.

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