When we were strolling back to the hotel Dick said to me:—

“Cheer up, old fellow! You needn’t be the least bit downhearted. Go soon and see Joyce. He will not stand in the girl’s way, you may be sure. He is a good fellow, and loves Norah dearly—who could help it!” He stopped for a moment here, and choked a great sob, but went on bravely:—

“It is only like her to be willing to sacrifice her own happiness; but she must not be let do that. Settle the matter soon! Go to-morrow to see Joyce. I shall go up to Knocknacar instead of working with Murdock; it will leave the coast clear for you.” Then we went into the hotel; and I felt as if a great weight had been removed.

When I was undressing I heard a knock. “Come in,” I called, and Dick entered. Dear old fellow! I could see that he had been wrestling with himself, and had won. His eyes were red, but there was a noble manliness about him which was beyond description.

“Art,” said he, “I wanted to tell you something, and I thought it ought to be told now. I wouldn’t like the night to close on any wrong impression between you and me. I hope you feel that my suspicion about fair-play and the rest of it is all gone.”

“I do! old fellow! quite.”

“Well, you are not to get thinking of me as in any way wronged in the matter, either by accident or design. I have been going over the whole matter to try and get the heart of the mystery; and I think it only fair to say that no wrong could be done to me. I never spoke a single word to Norah in my life. Nor did she to me. Indeed, I have seen her but seldom, though the first time was enough to finish me. Thank God! we have found out the true state of affairs before it was too late. It might have been worse, old lad! it might have been worse! I don’t think there’s any record—even in the novels—of a man’s life being wrecked over a girl he didn’t know. We don’t get hit to death at sight, old boy! It’s only skin deep this time, and though skin deep hurts the most, it doesn’t kill! I thought I would tell you what I had worked out, for I knew we were such old friends that it would worry you and mar your happiness to think I was wretched. I hope—and I honestly expect—that by to-morrow I shall be all right, and able to enjoy the sight of both your happiness—as, please God! I hope such is to be.”

We wrung each other’s hands; and I believe that from that moment we were closer friends than ever. As he was going out Dick turned to me, and said:—

“It is odd about the legend, isn’t it! The Snake is in the Hill still, if I am not mistaken. He told me all about your visits and the sale of the land to you, in order to make mischief. But his time is coming; St. Patrick will lift that crozier of his before long!”

“But the Hill holds us all!” said I; and as I spoke there was an ominous feeling over me. “We’re not through yet; but it will be all right now.”

The last thing I saw was a smile on his face as he closed the door.

The next morning Dick started for Knocknacar. It had been arranged the night before that he should go on Andy’s car, as I preferred walking to Shleenanaher. I had more than one reason for so doing, but that which I kept in the foreground of my own mind—and which I almost persuaded myself was the chief—if not the only reason—was that I did not wish to be troubled with Andy’s curiosity and impertinent badinage. My real and secret reason, however, was that I wished to be alone so that I might collect my thoughts, and acquire courage for what the French call un mauvais quart d’heure.

In all classes of life, and under all conditions, this is an ordeal eminently to be dreaded by young men. No amount of reason is of the least avail to them—there is some horrible, lurking, unknown possibility which may defeat all their hopes, and may, in addition, add the flaming aggravation of making them appear ridiculous! I summed up my own merits, and, not being a fool, found considerable ground for hope. I was young, not bad looking—Norah loved me; I had no great bogey of a past secret or misdeed to make me feel sufficiently guilty to fear a just punishment falling upon me; and, considering all things, I was in a social position and of wealth beyond the dreams of a peasant—howsoever ambitious for his daughter he might be.

And yet I walked along those miles of road that day with my heart perpetually sinking into my boots, and harassed with a vague dread which made me feel at times an almost irresistible inclination to run away. I can only compare my feelings, when I drew in sight of the hill-top, with those which animate the mind of a young child when coming in sight of the sea in order to be dipped for the first time.

There is, however, in man some wholesome fear of running away, which at times either takes the place of resolution, or else initiates the mechanical action of guiding his feet in the right direction—of prompting his speech and regulating his movement. Otherwise no young man, or very few at least, would ever face the ordeal of asking the consent of the parents of his inamorata. Such a fear stood to me now; and with a seeming boldness I approached Joyce’s house. When I came to the gate I saw him in the field not far off, and went up to speak to him.

Even at that moment, when the dread of my soul was greatest, I could not but recall an interview which I had had with Andy that morning, and which was not of my seeking, but of his.

After breakfast I had been in my room, making myself as smart as I could, for of course I hoped to see Norah—when I heard a knock at the door, timid but hurried. When I called to “come in,” Andy’s head appeared; and then his whole body was by some mysterious wriggle conveyed through the partial opening of the door. When within, he closed it, and, putting a finger to his lip, said in a mysterious whisper:—

“Masther Art!”

“Well Andy! what is it?”

“Whisper me now! Shure I don’t want to see yer ’an’r so onasy in yer mind.”

I guessed what was coming, so interrupted him, for I was determined to get even with him.

“Now, Andy! if you have any nonsense about your ‘Miss Norah,’ I don’t want to hear it.”

“Whisht! surr; let me shpake. I mustn’t kape Misther Dick waitin’. Now take me advice! an’ take a luk out to Shleenanaher. Ye may see some wan there what ye don’t ixpect!”—this was said with a sly mysteriousness, impossible to describe.

“No! no! Andy,” said I, looking as sad as I could, “I can see no one there that I don’t expect.”

“They do say, surr, that the fairies does take quare shapes; and your fairy girrul may have gone to Shleenanaher. Fairies may want to take the wather like mortials.”

“Take the water, Andy! what do ye mean?”

“What do I mane! why what the quality does call say-bathin’. An’ maybe, the fairy girrul has gone too!”

“Ah! no, Andy,” said I, in as melancholy a way as I could, “my fairy girl is gone. I shall never see her again!”

Andy looked at me very keenly; and then a twinkle came in his eye and he said, slapping his thigh:—

“Begor! but I believe yer ’an’r is cured! Ye used to be that melancholy that bedad it’s meself what was gettin’ sarious about ye; an’ now it’s only narvous ye are! Well! if the fairy is gone, why not see Miss Norah? Sure wan sight iv her ’d cure all the fairy spells what iver was cast. Go now, yer ’an’r, an’ see her this day!”

I said with decision, “No, Andy, I will not go to-day to see Miss Norah. I have something else to do!”

“Oh, very well!” said he with simulated despondency. “If yer ’an’r won’t, of course ye won’t! but ye’re wrong. At any rate, if ye’re in the direction iv Shleenanaher, will ye go an’ see th’ ould man? Musha! but I’m thinkin’ it’s glad he’d be to see yer ’an’r.”

Despite all I could do, I felt blushing up to the roots of my hair. Andy looked at me quizzically; and said oracularly, and with sudden seriousness:—

“Begor! if yer fairy girrul is turned into a fairy complately, an’ has flew away from ye, maybe ould Joyce too ’d become a leprachaun! Hould him tight whin ye catch him! Remimber, wid leprachauns, if ye wance let thim go ye may niver git thim agin. But if ye hould thim tight, they must do whatsumiver ye wish! So they do say—but maybe I’m wrong—I’m itherfarin’ wid a gintleman as was bit be a fairy, and knows more nor mortials does about thim! There’s the masther callin’. Good bye, surr, an’ good luck!” and with a grin at me over his shoulder, Andy hurried away. I muttered to myself:—

“If anyone is a fairy, my bold Andy, I think I can name him. You seem to know everything!”

This scene came back to me with renewed freshness. I could not but feel that Andy was giving me some advice. He evidently knew more than he pretended; indeed, he must have known all along of the identity of my unknown of Knocknacar with Norah. He now also evidently knew of my knowledge on the subject; and he either knew or guessed that I was off to see Joyce on the subject of his daughter.

In my present state of embarrassment, his advice was a distinct light. He knew the people, and Joyce especially; he also saw some danger to my hopes, and showed me a way to gain my object. I knew already that Joyce was a proud man, and I could quite conceive that he was an obstinate one; and I knew from general experience of life that there is no obstacle so difficult to surmount as the pride of an obstinate man. With all the fervour of my heart I prayed that, on this occasion, his pride might not in any way be touched, or arrayed against me.

When I saw him I went straight towards him, and held out my hand. He seemed a little surprised, but took it. Like Bob Acres, I felt my courage oozing out of the tips of my fingers, but with the remnant of it threw myself into the battle:—

“Mr. Joyce, I have come to speak to you on a very serious subject.”

“A sarious subject! Is it concarnin’ me?”

“It is.”

“Go on! More throuble, I suppose?”

“I hope not, most sincerely. Mr. Joyce, I want to have your permission to marry your daughter!” If I had suddenly turned into a bird and flown away, I do not think I could have astonished him more. For a second or two he was speechless, and then said, in an unconscious sort of way:—

“Want to marry me daughter!”

“Yes, Mr. Joyce! I love her very dearly! She is a pearl amongst women; and if you will give your permission, I shall be the happiest man on earth. I can quite satisfy you as to my means. I am well to do; indeed, as men go, I am a rich man.”

“Aye! sir, I don’t doubt. I’m contint that you are what you say. But you never saw me daughter—except that dark night when you took me home.”

“Oh yes, I have seen her several times, and spoken with her; but, indeed, I only wanted to see her once to love her!”

“Ye have seen her—and she never tould me! Come wid me!” He beckoned me to come with him, and strode at a rapid pace to his cottage, opened the door, and motioned me to go in. I entered the room—which was both kitchen and living room—to which he pointed. He followed.

As I entered, Norah, who was sewing, saw me and stood up. A rosy blush ran over her face; then she grew as white as snow as she saw the stern face of her father close behind me. I stepped forward, and took her hand; when I let it go, her arm fell by her side.

“Daughter!”—Joyce spoke very sternly, but not unkindly. “Do you know this gentleman?”

“Yes, father!”

“He tells me that you and he have met several times. Is it thrue?”

“Yes, father; but—”

“Ye never tould me! How was that?”

“It was by accident we met.”

“Always be accident?” Here I spoke:—

“Always by accident—on her part.” He interrupted me:—

“Yer pardon, young gentleman! I wish me daughter to answer me! Shpeak, Norah!”

“Always, father!—except once, and then I came to give a message—yes! it was a message, although from myself.”

“What missage?”

“Oh father! don’t make me speak! We are not alone! Let me tell you, alone! I am only a girl—and it is hard to speak.”

His voice had a tear in it, for all its sternness, as he answered:—

“It is on a subject that this gentleman has spoke to me about—as mayhap he has spoke to you.”

“Oh father!”—she took his hand, which he did not withdraw, and, bending over, kissed it and hugged it to her breast. “Oh father! what have I done that you should seem to mistrust me? You have always trusted me; trust me now, and don’t make me speak till we are alone!”

I could not be silent any longer. My blood began to boil, that she I loved should be so distressed—whatsoever the cause, and at the hands of whomsoever, even her father.

“Mr. Joyce, you must let me speak! You would speak yourself to save pain to a woman you loved.” He turned to tell me to be silent, but suddenly stopped; I went on:—“Norah,” he winced as I spoke her name, “is entirely blameless. I met her quite by chance at the top of Knocknacar when I went to see the view. I did not know who she was—I had not the faintest suspicion; but from that moment I loved her. I went next day, and waited all day in the chance of seeing her; I did see her, but again came away in ignorance even of her name. I sought her again, day after day, day after day, but could get no word of her; for I did not know who she was, or where she came from. Then, by chance, and after many weary days, again I saw her in the Cliff Fields below, three days ago. I could no longer be silent, but told her that I loved her, and asked her to be my wife. She asked a while to think, and left me, promising to give me an answer on the next evening. I came again; and I got my answer.” Here Norah, who was sobbing, with her face turned away, looked round, and said:—

“Hush! hush! You must not let father know. All the harm will be done!” Her father answered in a low voice:—

“All that could be done is done already, daughter. Ye never tould me!”

“Sir! Norah is worthy of all esteem. Her answer to me was that she could not leave her father, who was all alone in the world!” Norah turned away again, but her father’s arm went round her shoulder. “She told me I must think no more of her; but, sir, you and I, who are men, must not let a woman, who is dear to us both make such a sacrifice.” Joyce’s face was somewhat bitter as he answered me:—

“Ye think pretty well of yerself, young sir, whin ye consider it a sacrifice for me daughter to shtay wid the father, who loves her, and who she loves. There was never a shadda on her life till ye came!” This was hard to hear, but harder to answer, and I stammered as I replied:—

“I hope I am man enough to do what is best for her, even if it were to break my heart. But she must marry some time; it is the lot of the young and beautiful!” Joyce paused a while, and his look grew very tender as he made answer softly:—

“Aye! thrue! thrue! the young birds lave the nist in due sayson—that’s only natural.” This seemed sufficient concession for the present; but Andy’s warning rose before me, and I spoke:—

“Mr. Joyce, God knows! I don’t want to add one drop of bitterness to either of your lives! only tell me that I may have hope, and I am content to wait and to try to win your esteem and Norah’s love.”

The father drew his daughter closer to him, and with his other hand stroked her hair, and said, whilst his eyes filled with tears:—

“Ye didn’t wait for me esteem to win her love!” Norah threw herself into his arms and hid her face on his breast. He went on:—

“We can’t undo what is done. If Norah loves ye—and it seems to me that she does—do I shpeak thrue, daughter?” The girl raised her face bravely, and looked in her father’s eyes:—

“Yes! father.” A thrill of wild delight rushed through me. As she dropped her head again, I could see that her neck had

“The colour of the budding rose’s crest.”

“Well! well!” Joyce went on, “Ye are both young yit. God knows what may happen in a year! Lave the girl free a bit to choose. She has not met many gentlemen in her time; and she may desave herself. Me darlin’! whativer is for your good shall be done, plase God!”

“And am I to have her in time?” The instant I had spoken I felt that I had made a mistake; the man’s face grew hard as he turned to me:—

“I think for me daughter, sir, not for you! As it is, her happiness seems to be mixed up with yours—lucky for ye. I suppose ye must meet now and thin; but ye must both promise me that ye’ll not meet widout me lave, or, at laste, me knowin’ it. We’re not gentlefolk, sir, and we don’t undherstand their ways. If ye were of Norah’s and me own kind, I mightn’t have to say the same; but ye’re not.”

Things were now so definite that I determined to make one more effort to fix a time when my happiness might be certain, so I asked:—

“Then if all be well, and you agree—as please God you shall when you know me better—when may I claim her?”

When he was face to face with a definite answer Joyce again grew stern. He looked down at his daughter and then up at me, and said, stroking her hair:—

“Whin the threasure of Knockcalltecrore is found, thin ye may claim her if ye will, an’ I’ll freely let her go!” As he spoke, there came before my mind the strong idea that we were all in the power of the Hill— that it held us; however, as lightly as I could I spoke:—

“Then I would claim her now!”

“What do ye mane?”—this was said half anxiously, half fiercely.

“The treasure of Knockcalltecrore is here; you hold her in your arms!” He bent over her:—

“Aye! the threasure sure enough—the threasure ye would rob me of!” Then he turned to me, and said sternly, but not unkindly:—

“Go, now! I can’t bear more at prisent; and even me daughter may wish to be for a while alone wid me!” I bowed my head and turned to leave the room; but as I was going out, he called me back:—

“Shtay! Afther all, the young is only young. Ye seem to have done but little harm—if any.” He held out his hand; I grasped it closely, and from that instant it seemed that our hearts warmed to each other. Then I felt bolder, and stepping to Norah took her hand—she made no resistance—and pressed it to my lips, and went out silently. I had hardly left the door when Joyce came after me.

“Come agin in an hour,” he said, and went in and shut the door.

Then I wandered to the rocks and climbed down the rugged path into the Cliff Fields. I strode through the tall grass and the weeds, rank with the continuous rain, and gained the table rock. I climbed it, and sat where I first had met my love, after I had lost her; and, bending, I kissed the ground where her feet had rested. And then I prayed as fervent a prayer as the heart of a lover can yield, for every blessing on the future of my beloved; and made high resolves that whatsoever might befall, I would so devote myself that, if a man’s efforts could accomplish it, her feet should never fall on thorny places.

I sat there in a tumult of happiness. The air was full of hope, and love, and light; and I felt that in all the wild glory and fulness of nature the one unworthy object was myself.

When the hour was nearly up I went back to the cottage; the door was open, but I knocked on it with my hand. A tender voice called to me to come in, and I entered.

Norah was standing up in the centre of the room. Her face was radiant, although her sweet eyes were bright with recent tears; and I could see that in the hour which I had passed on the rock, the hearts of the father and the child had freely spoken. The old love between them had taken a newer and fuller and more conscious life—based, as God has willed it with the hearts of men, on the parent’s sacrifice of self for the happiness of the child.

Without a word I took her in my arms. She came without bashfulness and without fear; only love and trust spoke in every look, and every moment. The cup of our happiness was full to the brim; and it seemed as though God saw, and, as of old with His completed plan of the world, was satisfied that all was good.

We sat, hand in hand, and told again and again the simple truths that lovers tell; and we built bright mansions of future hope. There was no shadow on us, except the shadow that slowly wrapped the earth in the wake of the sinking sun. The long, level rays of sunset spread through the diamond panes of the lattice, grew across the floor, and rose on the opposite wall; but we did not heed them until we heard Joyce’s voice behind us:—

“I have been thinkin’ all the day, and I have come to believe that it is a happy day for us all, sir. I say, though she is my daughter, that the man that won her heart should be a proud man, for it is a heart of gold. I must give her to ye. I was sorry at the first, but I do it freely now. Ye must guard and kape, and hould her as the apple of your eye. If ye should ever fail or falter, remimber that ye took a great thrust in takin’ her from me that loved her much, and in whose heart she had a place—not merely for her own sake, but for the sake of the dead that loved her.” He faltered a moment, but then coming over, put his hand in mine, and while he held it there, Norah put her arm around his neck, and laying her sweet head on his broad, manly breast, said softly:—

“Father, you are very good, and I am very, very happy!” Then she took my hand and her father’s together, and said to me:—

“Remember, he is to be as your father, too; and that you owe him all the love and honour that I do!”

“Amen,” I said, solemnly; and we three wrung each others’ hands.

Before I went away, I said to Joyce:—

“You told me I might claim her when the treasure of the Hill was found. Well! give me a month, and perhaps, if I don’t have the one you mean, I may have another.” I wanted to keep, for the present, the secret of my purchase of the old farm, so as to make a happy surprise when I should have actual possession.

“What do ye mane?” he said.

“I shall tell you when the month is up,” I answered; “or if the treasure is found sooner—but you must trust me till then.”

Joyce’s face looked happy as he strolled out, evidently leaving me a chance of saying good-bye alone to Norah; she saw it too, and followed him.

“Don’t go father!” she said. At the door she turned her sweet face to me, and with a shy look at her father, kissed me, and blushed rosy red.

“That’s right, me girl,” said Joyce, “honest love is without shame! Ye need never fear to kiss your lover before me.”

Again we stayed talking for a little while. I wanted to say good-bye again; but this last time I had to give the kiss myself. As I looked back from the gate, I saw father and daughter standing close together; he had his arm round her shoulder, and the dear head that I loved lay close on his breast, as they both waved me farewell.

I went back to Carnaclif, feeling as though I walked on air; and my thoughts were in the heaven that lay behind my footsteps as I went—though before me on the path of life.

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