Some six weeks elapsed before my visits to Irish friends were completed, and I was about to return home. I had had everywhere a hearty welcome; the best of sport of all kinds, and an appetite beyond all praise—and one pretty well required to tackle with any show of success the excellent food and wine put before me. The west of Ireland not only produces good viands in plenty and of the highest excellence, but there is remaining a keen recollection, accompanied by tangible results, of the days when open house and its hospitable accompaniments made wine merchants prosperous—at the expense of their customers.

In the midst of all my pleasure, however, I could not shake from my mind—nor, indeed, did I want to—the interest which Shleenanaher and its surroundings had created in me. Nor did the experience of that strange night, with the sweet voice coming through the darkness in the shadow of the hill, become dim with the passing of the time. When I look back and try to analyse myself and my feelings with the aid of the knowledge and experience of life received since then, I think that I must have been in love. I do not know if philosophers have ever undertaken to say whether it is possible for a human being to be in love in the abstract—whether the something which the heart has a tendency to send forth needs a concrete objective point! It may be so; the swarm of bees goes from the parent hive with only the impulse of going—its settling is a matter of chance. At any rate I may say that no philosopher, logician, metaphysician, psychologist, or other thinker, of whatsoever shade of opinion, ever held that a man could be in love with a voice.

True that the unknown has a charm—omne ignotum pro magnifico. If my heart did not love, at least it had a tendency to worship. Here I am on solid ground; for which of us but can understand the feelings of those men of old in Athens, who devoted their altars “To The Unknown God?” I leave the philosophers to say how far apart, or how near, are love and worship; which is first in historical sequence, which is greatest or most sacred! Being human, I cannot see any grace or beauty in worship without love.

However, be the cause what it might, I made up my mind to return home viâ Carnaclif. To go from Clare to Dublin by way of Galway and Mayo is to challenge opinion as to one’s motive. I did not challenge opinion, I distinctly avoided doing so, and I am inclined to think that there was more of Norah than of Shleenanaher in the cause of my reticence. I could bear to be “chaffed” about a superstitious feeling respecting a mountain, or I could endure the same process regarding a girl of whom I had no high ideal, no sweet illusive memory.

I would never complete the argument, even to myself—then; later on, the cause or subject of it varied!

It was not without a certain conflict of feelings that I approached Carnaclif, even though on this occasion I approached it from the South, whereas on my former visit I had come from the North. I felt that the time went miserably slowly, and yet nothing would have induced me to admit so much. I almost regretted that I had come, even whilst I was harrowed with thoughts that I might not be able to arrive at all at Knockcalltecrore. At times I felt as though the whole thing had been a dream; and again as though the romantic nimbus with which imagination had surrounded and hallowed all things must pass away and show that my unknown beings and my facts of delicate fantasy were but stern and vulgar realities.

The people at the little hotel made me welcome with the usual effusive hospitable intention of the West. Indeed, I was somewhat nettled at how well they remembered me, as for instance when the buxom landlady said:—

“I’m glad to be able to tell ye, sir, that yer carman, Andy Sullivan, is here now. He kem with a commercial from Westport to Roundwood, an’ is on his way back, an’ hopin’ for a return job. I think ye’ll be able to make a bargain with him if ye wish.”

I made to this kindly speech a hasty and, I felt, an ill-conditioned reply, to the effect that I was going to stay in the neighbourhood for only a few days and would not require the car. I then went to my room, and locked my door muttering a malediction on officious people. I stayed there for some time, until I thought that probably Andy had gone on his way, and then ventured out.

I little knew Andy, however. When I came to the hall, the first person that I saw was the cheerful driver, who came forward to welcome me:—

“Musha! but it’s glad I am to see yer ’an’r. An’ it’ll be the proud man I’ll be to bhring ye back to Westport wid me.”

“I’m sorry Andy,” I began, “that I shall not want you, as I am going to stay in this neighbourhood for a few days.”

“Sthay is it? Begor! but it’s more gladerer shtill I am. Sure the mare wants a rist, an’ it’ll shute her an’ me all to nothin’; an’ thin whilst ye’re here I can be dhrivin’ yer ’an’r out to Shleenanaher. It isn’t far enough to intherfere wid her rist.”

I answered in, I thought, a dignified way—I certainly intended to be dignified:—

“I did not say, Sullivan, that I purposed going out to Shleenanaher or any other place in the neighbourhood.”

“Shure no, yer ’an’r, but I remimber ye said ye’d like to see the Shiftin’ Bog; an’ thin Misther Joyce and Miss Norah is in throuble, and ye might be a comfort to thim.”

“Mr. Joyce! Miss Norah! who are they?” I felt that I was getting red and that the tone of my voice was most unnatural.

Andy’s sole answer was as comical a look as I ever saw, the central object in which was a wink which there was no mistaking. I could not face it, and had to say:

“Oh yes, I remember now! was not that the man we took on the car to a dark mountain?”

“Yes, surr—him and his daughther!”

“His daughter! I do not remember her. Surely we only took him on the car.” Again I felt angry, and with the anger an inward determination not to have Andy or anyone else prying around me when I should choose to visit even such an uncompromising phenomenon as a shifting bog. Andy, like all humourists, understood human nature, and summed up the situation conclusively in his reply—inconsequential though it was:—

“Shure yer ’an’r can thrust me; its blind or deaf an’ dumb I am, an’ them as knows me knows I’m not the man to go back on a young gintleman goin’ to luk at a bog. Sure doesn’t all young min do that same? I’ve been there meself times out iv mind! There’s nothin’ in the wurrld foreninst it! Lukin’ at bogs is the most intherestin’ thin’ I knows.”

There was no arguing with Andy; and as he knew the place and the people, I, then and there, concluded an engagement with him. He was to stay in Carnaclif whilst I wanted him, and then drive me over to Westport.

As I was now fairly launched on the enterprise, I thought it better to lose no time, but arranged to visit the bog early the next morning.

As I was lighting my cigar after dinner that evening Mrs. Keating, my hostess, came in to ask me a favour. She said that there was staying in the house a gentleman who went over every day to Knockcalltecrore, and as she understood that I was going there in the morning, she made bold to ask if I would mind giving a seat on my car to him as he had turned his ancle that day and feared he would not be able to walk. Under the circumstances I could only say “yes,” as it would have been a churlish thing to refuse. Accordingly I gave permission with seeming cheerfulness, but when I was alone my true feelings found vent in muttered grumbling:—“I ought to travel in an ambulance instead of a car.” “I seem never to be able to get near this Shleenanaher without an invalid.” “Once ought to be enough! but it has become the regulation thing now.” “I wish to goodness Andy would hold his infernal tongue—I’d as lief have a detective after me all the time.” “It’s all very well to be a good Samaritan as a luxury—but as a profession it becomes monotonous.” “Confound Andy! I wish I’d never seen him at all.”

This last thought brought me up standing, and set me face to face with my baseless ill-humour. If I had never seen Andy I should never have heard at all of Shleenanaher. I should not have known the legend—I should not have heard Norah’s voice.

“And so,” said I to myself, “this ideal fantasy—this embodiment of a woman’s voice, has a concrete name already. Aye! a concrete name, and a sweet one too.”

And so I took another step on my way to the bog, and lost my ill-humour at the same time. When my cigar was half through and my feelings were proportionately soothed, I strolled into the bar and asked Mrs. Keating as to my companion of the morrow. She told me that he was a young engineer named Sutherland.

“What Sutherland?” I asked. Adding that I had been at school with a Dick Sutherland, who had, I believed, gone into the Irish College of Science.

“Perhaps it’s the same gentleman, sir. This is Mr. Richard Sutherland, and I’ve heerd him say that he was at Stephen’s Green.”

“The same man!” said I, “this is jolly! Tell me, Mrs. Keating, what brings him here?”

“He’s doin’ some work on Knockcalltecrore for Mr. Murdock, some quare thing or another. They do tell me, sir, that it’s a most mystayrious thing, wid poles an’ lines an’ magnets an’ all kinds of divilments. They say that Mr. Murdock is goin’ from off of his head ever since he had the law of poor Phelim Joyce. My! but he’s the decent man, that same Mr. Joyce, an’ the Gombeen has been hard upon him.”

“What was the law suit?” I asked.

“All about a sellin’ his land on an agreement. Mr. Joyce borryed some money, an’ promised if it wasn’t paid back at a certain time that he would swop lands. Poor Joyce met wid an accident comin’ home with the money from Galway an’ was late, an’ when he got home found that the Grombeen had got the sheriff to sell up his land on to him. Mr. Joyce thried it in the Coorts, but now Murdock has got a decree on to him an’ the poor man’ll to give up his fat lands an’ take the Gombeen’s poor ones instead.”

“That’s bad! when has he to give up?”

“Well, I disremember meself exactly, but Mr. Sutherland will be able to tell ye all about it as ye drive over in the mornin.”

“Where is he now? I should like to see him; it may be my old schoolfellow.”

“Troth, it’s in his bed he is; for he rises mighty arly, I can tell ye.”

After a stroll through the town (so-called) to finish my cigar I went to bed also, for we started early. In the morning, when I came down to my breakfast I found Mr. Sutherland finishing his. It was my old schoolfellow; but from being a slight, pale boy, he had grown into a burly, hale, stalwart man, with keen eyes and a flowing brown beard. The only pallor noticeable was the whiteness of his brow, which was ample and lofty as of old.

We greeted each other cordially, and I felt as if old times had come again, for Dick and I had been great friends at school. When we were on our way I renewed my inquiries about Shleenanaher and its inhabitants. I began by asking Sutherland as to what brought him there. He answered:—

“I was just about to ask you the same question. ‘What brings you here?’”

I felt a difficulty in answering as freely as I could have wished, for I knew that Andy’s alert ears were close to us, so I said:—

“I have been paying some visits along the West Coast, and I thought I would take the opportunity on my way home of investigating a very curious phenomenon of whose existence I became casually acquainted on my way here—a shifting bog.”

Andy here must strike in:—

“Shure the masther is mighty fond iv bogs, intirely. I don’t know there’s anything in the wurruld what intherests him so much.”

Here he winked at me in a manner that said as plainly as if spoken in so many words, “All right, yer ’an’r, I’ll back ye up!”

Sutherland laughed as he answered:—

“Well, you’re in the right place here, Art; the difficulty they have in this part of the world is to find a place that is not bog. However, about the shifting bog on Knockcalltecrore, I can, perhaps, help you as much as any one. As you know, geology has been one of my favourite studies, and lately I have taken to investigate in my spare time the phenomena of this very subject. The bog at Shleenanaher is most interesting. As yet, however, my investigation can only be partial, but very soon I shall have the opportunity which I require.”

“How is that?” I asked.

“The difficulty arises,” he answered, “from a local feud between two men, one of them my employer, Murdock, and his neighbour, Joyce.”

“Yes,” I interrupted, “I know something of it. I was present when the sheriff’s assignment was shown to Joyce, and saw the quarrel. But how does it affect you and your study?”

“This way; the bog is partly on Murdock’s land and partly on Joyce’s, and until I can investigate the whole extent I cannot come to a definite conclusion. The feud is so bitter at present that neither man will allow the other to set foot over his boundary—or the foot of any one to whom the other is friendly. However, to-morrow the exchange of lands is to be effected, and then I shall be able to continue my investigation. I have already gone nearly all over Murdock’s present ground, and after to-morrow I shall be able to go over his new ground—up to now forbidden to me.”

“How does Joyce take his defeat?”

“Badly, poor fellow, I am told; indeed, from what I see of him, I am sure of it. They tell me that up to lately he was a bright, happy fellow, but now he is a stern, hard-faced, scowling man; essentially a man with a grievance, which makes him take a jaundiced view of everything else. The only one who is not afraid to speak to him is his daughter, and they are inseparable. It certainly is cruelly hard on him. His farm is almost an ideal one for this part of the world; it has good soil, water, shelter, trees, everything that makes a farm pretty and comfortable, as well as being good for farming purposes; and he has to change it for a piece of land as irregular in shape as the other is compact; without shelter, and partly taken up with this very bog and the utter waste and chaos which, when it shifted in former times, it left behind.”

“And how does the other, Murdock, act?”

“Shamefully; I feel so angry with him at times that I could strike him. There is not a thing he can say or do, or leave unsaid or undone, that is not aggravating and insulting to his neighbour. Only that he had the precaution to bind me to an agreement for a given time I’m blessed if I would work for him, or with him at all—interesting as the work is in itself, and valuable as is the opportunity it gives me of studying that strange phenomenon, the shifting bog.”

“What is your work with him?” I asked: “mining or draining, or what?”

He seemed embarrassed at my question. He ‘’hum’d and ’ha’d’—then with a smile he said quite frankly:—

“The fact is that I am not at liberty to say. The worthy Gombeen Man put a special clause in our agreement that I was not during the time of my engagement to mention to any one the object of my work. He wanted the clause to run that I was never to mention it; but I kicked at that, and only signed in the modified form.”

I thought to myself “more mysteries at Shleenanaher!” Dick went on:—

“However, I have no doubt that you will very soon gather the object for yourself. You are yourself something of a scientist, if I remember?”

“Not me!” I answered. “My Great Aunt took care of that when she sent me to our old tutor. Or, indeed, to do the old boy justice, he tried to teach me something of the kind; but I found out it wasn’t my vogue. Anyhow, I haven’t done anything lately.”

“How do you mean?”

“I haven’t got over being idle yet. It’s not a year since I came into my fortune. Perhaps—indeed I hope—that I may settle down to work again.”

“I’m sure I hope so, too, old fellow,” he answered gravely. “When a man has once tasted the pleasure of real work, especially work that taxes the mind and the imagination, the world seems only a poor place without it.”

“Like the wurrld widout girruls for me, or widout bog for his ’an’r!” said Andy, grinning as he turned round on his seat.

Dick Sutherland, I was glad to see, did not suspect the joke. He took Andy’s remark quite seriously, and said to me:—

“My dear fellow, it is delightful to find you so interested in my own topic.”

I could not allow him to think me a savant. In the first place he would very soon find me out, and would then suspect my motives ever after. And again, I had to accept Andy’s statement, or let it appear that I had some other reason or motive—or what would seem even more suspicious still, none at all; so I answered:—

“My dear Dick, my zeal regarding bog is new; it is at present in its incipient stage in so far as erudition is concerned. The fact is, that although I would like to learn a lot about it, I am at the present moment profoundly ignorant on the subject.”

“Like the rest of mankind!” said Dick. “You will hardly believe that although the subject is one of vital interest to thousands of persons in our own country—one in which national prosperity is mixed up to a large extent—one which touches deeply the happiness and material prosperity of a large section of Irish people, and so helps to mould their political action, there are hardly any works on the subject in existence.”

“Surely you are mistaken,” I answered.

“No! unfortunately, I am not. There is a Danish book, but it is geographically local; and some information can be derived from the Blue Book containing the report of the International Commission on turf-cutting, but the special authorities are scant indeed. Some day, when you want occupation, just you try to find in any library, in any city of the world, any works of a scientific character devoted to the subject. Nay more! try to find a fair share of chapters in scientific books devoted to it. You can imagine how devoid of knowledge we are, when I tell you that even the last edition of the ‘Enclycopædia Britannica’ does not contain the heading ’bog.’”

“You amaze me!” was all I could say.

Then as we bumped and jolted over the rough by-road Dick Sutherland gave me a rapid but masterly survey of the condition of knowledge on the subject of bogs, with special application to Irish bogs, beginning with such records as those of Giraldus Cambrensis—of Dr. Boate—of Edmund Spenser—from the time of the first invasion when the state of the land was such that, as is recorded, when a spade was driven into the ground a pool of water gathered forthwith. He told me of the extent and nature of the bog-lands—of the means taken to reclaim them, and of his hopes of some heroic measures being ultimately taken by Government to reclaim the vast Bog of Allen which remains as a great evidence of official ineptitude.

“It will be something,” he said, “to redeem the character for indifference to such matters so long established, as when Mr. King wrote two hundred years ago, ‘We live in an Island almost infamous for bogs, and yet, I do not remember, that any one has attempted much concerning them.’” We were close to Knockcalltecrore when he finished his impromptu lecture thus:—

“In fine, we cure bog by both a surgical and a medical process. We drain it so that its mechanical action as a sponge may be stopped, and we put in lime to kill the vital principle of its growth. Without the other, neither process is sufficient; but together, scientific and executive man asserts his dominance.”

“Hear! hear!” said Andy. “Musha, but Docther Wilde himself, Rest his sowl! couldn’t have put it aisier to grip. It’s a purfessionaler the young gintleman is intirely!”

We shortly arrived at the south side of the western slope of the hill, and as Andy took care to inform me, at the end of the boreen leading to the two farms, and close to the head of the Snake’s Pass.

Accordingly, I let Sutherland start on his way to Murdock’s, whilst I myself strolled away to the left, where Andy had pointed out to me, rising over the slope of the intervening spur of the hill, the top of one of the rocks which formed the Snake’s Pass. After a few minutes of climbing up a steep slope, and down a steeper one, I arrived at the place itself.

From the first moment that my eyes lit on it, it seemed to me to be a very remarkable spot, and quite worthy of being taken as the scene of strange stories, for it certainly had something ‘uncanny’ about it.

I stood in a deep valley, or rather bowl, with behind me a remarkably steep slope of green sward, whilst on either hand the sides of the hollow rose steeply—that on the left, down which I had climbed, being by far the steeper and rockier of the two. In front was the Pass itself.

It was a gorge or cleft through a great wall of rock, which rose on the seaside of the promontory formed by the hill. This natural wall, except at the actual Pass itself, rose some fifty or sixty feet over the summit of the slope on either side of the little valley; but right and left of the Pass rose two great masses of rock, like the pillars of a giant gateway. Between these lay the narrow gorge, with its walls of rock rising sheer some two hundred feet. It was about three hundred feet long, and widened slightly outward, being shaped something funnel-wise, and on the inner side was about a hundred feet wide. The floor did not go so far as the flanking rocks, but, at about two-thirds of its length, there was a perpendicular descent, like a groove cut in the rock, running sheer down to the sea, some three hundred feet below, and as far under it as we could see. From the northern of the flanking rocks which formed the Pass the rocky wall ran northwards, completely sheltering the lower lands from the west, and running into a towering rock that rose on the extreme north, and which stood up in jagged peaks something like “The Needles” off the coast of the Isle of Wight.

There was no doubt that poor Joyce’s farm, thus sheltered, was an exceptionally favoured spot, and I could well understand how loth he must be to leave it.

Murdock’s land, even under the enchantment of its distance, seemed very different, and was just as bleak as Sutherland had told me. Its south-western end ran down towards the Snake’s Pass. I mounted the wall of rock on the north of the Pass to look down, and was surprised to find that down below me was the end of a large plateau of some acres in extent which ran up northward, and was sheltered north and west by a somewhat similar formation of rock to that which protected Joyce’s land. This, then, was evidently the place called the “Cliff Fields” of which mention had been made at Widow Kelligan’s.

The view from where I stood was one of ravishing beauty. Westward in the deep sea, under grey clouds of endless variety, rose a myriad of clustering islets, some of them covered with grass and heather, where cattle and sheep grazed; others were mere rocks rising boldly from the depths of the sea, and surrounded by a myriad of screaming wild-fowl. As the birds dipped and swept and wheeled in endless circles, their white breasts and grey wings varying in infinite phase of motion—and as the long Atlantic swell, tempered by its rude shocks on the outer fringe of islets, broke in fleecy foam and sent living streams through the crevices of the rocks and sheets of white water over the boulders where the sea rack rose and fell, I thought that the earth could give nothing more lovely or more grand.

Andy’s voice beside me grated on me unpleasantly:—

“Musha! but it’s the fine sight it is entirely; it only wants wan thing.”

“What does it want?” I asked, rather shortly.

“Begor, a bit of bog to put your arrum around while ye’re lukin’ at it,” and he grinned at me knowingly.

He was incorrigible. I jumped down from the rock and scrambled into the boreen. My friend Sutherland had gone on his way to Murdock’s, so calling to Andy to wait till I returned, I followed him.

I hurried up the boreen and caught up with him, for his progress was slow along the rough laneway. In reality I felt that it would be far less awkward having him with me; but I pretended that my only care was for his sprained ankle. Some emotions make hypocrites of us all!

With Dick on my arm limping along we passed up the boreen, leaving Joyce’s house on our left. I looked out anxiously in case I should see Joyce—or his daughter; but there was no sign of anyone about. In a few minutes Dick, pausing for a moment, pointed out to me the shifting bog.

“You see,” he said, “those two poles? the line between them marks the mearing of the two lands. We have worked along the bog down from there.” He pointed as he spoke to some considerable distance up the hill to the north where the bog began to be dangerous, and where it curved around the base of a grassy mound, or shoulder of the mountain.

“Is it a dangerous bog?” I queried.

“Rather! It is just as bad a bit of soft bog as ever I saw. I wouldn’t like to see anyone or anything that I cared for try to cross it!”

“Why not?”

“Because at any moment they might sink through it; and then, good-bye—no human strength or skill could ever save them.”

“Is it a quagmire, then? or like a quicksand?”

“Like either, or both. Nay! it is more treacherous than either. You may call it, if you are poetically inclined, a ‘carpet of death!’ What you see is simply a film or skin of vegetation of a very low kind, mixed with the mould of decayed vegetable fibre and grit and rubbish of all kinds which have somehow got mixed into it, floating on a sea of ooze and slime—of something half liquid half solid, and of an unknown depth. It will bear up a certain weight, for there is a degree of cohesion in it; but it is not all of equal cohesive power, and if one were to step on the wrong spot—” He was silent.

“What then?”

“Only a matter of specific gravity! A body suddenly immersed would, when the air of the lungs had escaped and the rigor mortis had set in, probably sink a considerable distance; then it would rise after nine days, when decomposition began to generate gases, and make an effort to reach the top. Not succeeding in this, it would ultimately waste away, and the bones would become incorporated with the existing vegetation somewhere about the roots, or would lie among the slime at the bottom.”

“Well,” said I, “for real cold-blooded horror, commend me to your men of science.”

This passage brought us to the door of Murdock’s house—a plain, strongly-built cottage, standing on a knoll of rock that cropped up from the plateau round it. It was surrounded with a garden hedged in by a belt of pollard ash and stunted alders.

Murdock had evidently been peering surreptitiously through the window of his sitting-room, for as we passed in by the gate he came out to the porch. His salutation was not an encouraging one:—

“You’re somethin’ late this mornin’, Mr. Sutherland. I hope ye didn’t throuble to delay in ordher to bring up this sthrange gintleman. Ye know how particular I am about any wan knowin’ aught of me affairs.”

Dick flushed up to the roots of his hair, and, much to my surprise, burst out quite in a passionate way:—

“Look you here, Mr. Murdock, I’m not going to take any cheek from you, so don’t you give any. Of course I don’t expect a fellow of your stamp to understand a gentleman’s feelings—damn it! how can you have a gentleman’s understanding when you haven’t even a man’s? You ought to know right well that what I said I would do, I shall do. I despise you and your miserable secrets and your miserable trickery too much to take to myself anything in which they have a part; but when I bring with me a friend, but for whom I shouldn’t have been here at all—for I couldn’t have walked—I expect that neither he nor I shall be insulted. For two pins I’d not set foot on your dirty ground again!”

Here Murdock interrupted him:—

“Aisy now! ye’re undher agreement to me; an’ I hould ye to it.”

“So you can, you miserable scoundrel, because you know I shall keep my word; but remember that I expect proper treatment; and remember, too, that if I want an assistant I am to have one.”

Again Murdock interrupted—but this time much more soothingly:

“Aisy! Aisy! haven’t I done every livin’ thing ye wanted—and helped ye meself every time? Sure arn’t I yer assistant?”

“Yes, because you—you wanted to get something, and couldn’t do without me. And mind this! you can’t do without me yet. But be so good as to remember that I choose my own assistant; and I shall not choose you unless I like. You can keep me here, and pay me for staying as we agreed; but don’t you think that I could fool you if I would?”

“Ye wouldn’t do that, I know—an’ me thrusted ye!”

“You trusted me! you miserable wretch—yes! you trusted me by a deed, signed, sealed, and delivered. I don’t owe you anything for that.”

“Mr. Sutherland, sir! ye’re too sharp wid me. Yer frind is very welkim. Do what you like—go where you choose—bring whom you will—only get on wid the worrk and kape it saycret.”

“Aye!” sneered Dick, “you are ready to climb down because you want something done, and you know that this is the last day for work on this side of the hill. Well, let me tell you this—for you’ll do anything for greed—that you and I together, doing all we can, shall not be able to cover all the ground. I haven’t said a word to my friend—and I don’t know how he will take any request from you after your impudence; but he is my friend, and a clever man, and if you ask him nicely, perhaps he will be good enough to stay and lend us a hand.”

The man made me a low bow and asked me in suitable terms if I would kindly stop part of the day and help in the work. Needless to say I acquiesced. Murdock eyed me keenly, as though to make up his mind whether or no I recollected him—he evidently remembered me—but I affected ignorance, and he seemed satisfied. I was glad to notice that the blow of Joyce’s riding switch still remained across his face as a livid scar. He went away to get the appliances ready for work, in obedience to a direction from Sutherland.

“One has to cut that hound’s corns rather roughly,” said the latter, with a nice confusion of metaphors, as soon as Murdock had disappeared.

Dick then told me that his work was to make magnetic experiments to ascertain, if possible, if there was any iron hidden in the ground.

“The idea,” he said, “is Murdock’s own, and I have neither lot nor part in it. My work is simply to carry out his ideas, with what mechanical skill I can command, and to invent or arrange such appliances as he may want. Where his theories are hopelessly wrong, I point this out to him, but he goes on or stops just as he chooses. You can imagine that a fellow of his low character is too suspicious to ever take a hint from any one! We have been working for three weeks past, and have been all over the solid ground, and are just finishing the bog.”

“How did you first come across him?” I asked.

“Very nearly a month ago he called on me in Dublin, having been sent by old Gascoigne, of the College of Science. He wanted me to search for iron on his property. I asked if it was regarding opening mines? he said, ‘no, just to see if there should be any old iron lying about.’ As he offered me excellent terms for my time, I thought he must have some good—or rather I should say some strong motive. I know now, though he has never told me, that he is trying for the money that is said to have been lost and buried here by the French after Humbert’s expedition to Killala.”

“How do you work?” I asked.

“The simplest thing in the world; just carry about a strong magnet—only we have to do it systematically.”

“And have you found anything as yet?”

“Only old scraps—horseshoes, nails, buckles, buttons; our most important find was the tire of a wheel. The old Gombeen thought he had it that time!” and Dick laughed.

“How did you manage the bog?”

“That is the only difficult part; we have poles on opposite sides of the bog with lines between them. The magnet is fixed, suspended from a free wheel, and I let it down to the centre from each side in turn. If there were any attraction I should feel it by the thread attached to the magnet which I hold in my hand.”

“It is something like fishing?”


Murdoch now returned and told us that he was ready, so we all went to work. I kept with Sutherland at the far side of the bog, Murdoch remaining on the near side. We planted or rather placed a short stake in the solid ground, as close as we could get it to the bog, and steadied it with a guy from the top; the latter I held, whilst Murdoch, on the other side, fulfilled a similar function. A thin wire connected the two stakes; on this Sutherland now fixed the wheel, from which the magnet depended. On each side we deflected the stake until the magnet almost touched the surface of the bog. After a few minutes’ practice I got accustomed to the work, and acquired sufficient dexterity to be able to allow the magnet to run freely. Inch by inch we went over the surface of the bog, moving slightly to the south-west each time we shifted, following the edges of the bog. Every little while Dick had to change sides, so as to cover the whole extent of the bog, and when he came round again had to go back to where he had last stopped on the same side.

All this made the process very tedious, and the day was drawing to a close when we neared the posts set up to mark the bounds of the two lands. Several times during the day Joyce had come up from his cottage and inspected our work, standing at his own side of the post. He looked at me closely, but did not seem to recognize me. I nodded to him once, but he did not seem to see my salutation, and I did not repeat it.

All day long I never heard the sweet voice; and as we returned to Carnaclif after a blank day—blank in every sense of the word—the air seemed chiller and the sunset less beautiful than before. The last words I heard on the mountain were from Murdock:—

“Nothin’ to-morrow, Mr. Sutherland! I’ve a flittin’ to make, but I pay the day all the same; I hould ye to your conthract. An’ remember, surr, we’re in no hurry wid the wurrk now, so ye’ll not need help any more.”

Andy made no remark till we were well away from the hill, and then said, dryly:—

“I’m afeerd yer ’an’r has had but a poor day; ye luk as if ye hadn’t seen a bit iv bog at all, at all. Gee up, ye ould Corncrake! the gintlemin does be hurryin’ home fur their tay, an’ fur more wurrk wid bogs to-morra!”

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