We were all astir shortly after daylight on Monday morning. Dick’s foot was well enough for his walk to Knockcalltecrore, and Andy came with me to Knocknacar, as had been arranged, for I wanted his help in engaging labourers and beginning the work. We got to the shebeen about nine o’clock, and Andy having put up the mare went out to get labourers. As I was morally certain that at that hour in the morning there would be no chance of seeing my unknown on the hill-top, I went at once to the bog, taking my map with me and studying the ground where we were to commence operations.

Andy joined me in about half-an-hour with five men—all he had been able to get in the time. They were fine strapping young fellows and seemed interested in the work, so I thought the contingent would be strong enough. By this time I had the ground marked out according to the plan, and so without more ado we commenced work.

We had attacked the hill some two hundred feet lower down than the bog, where the land suddenly rose steeply from a wide sloping extent of wilderness of invincible barrenness. It was over this spot that Sutherland hoped ultimately to send the waters of the bog. We began at the foot and made a trench some four feet wide at the bottom, and with sloping walls, so that when we got in so far the drain would be twenty feet deep, the external aperture would measure about twice as much.

The soil was heavy and full of moderate-sized boulders, but was not unworkable, and amongst us we came to the conclusion that a week of solid work would, bar accidents and our coming across unforeseen difficulties, at any rate break the back of the job. The men worked in sections—one marking out the trench by cutting the surface to some foot-and-a-half deep, and the others following in succession. Andy sat on a stone hard by, filled his pipe, and endeavoured in his own cheery way to relieve the monotony of the labour of the others. After about an hour he grew tired and went away—perhaps it was that he became interested in a country car, loaded with persons, that came down the road and stopped a few minutes at the sheebeen on its way to join the main road to Carnaclif.

Things went steadily on for some time. The men worked well, and I possessed my soul in such patience as I could, and studied the map and the ground most carefully. When dinner-time came the men went off each to his own home, and as soon as the place was free from them I hurried to the top of the mountain. The prospect was the same as yesterday. There was the same stretch of wild moor and rugged coast, of clustering islands and foam-girt rocks—of blue sky laden with such masses of luminous clouds as are only found in Ireland. But all was to me dreary and desolate, for the place was empty and she was not there. I sat down to wait with what patience I could. It was dreary work at best; but at any rate there was hope—and its more immediate kinsman, expectation—and I waited. Somehow the view seemed to tranquillize me in some degree. It may have been that there was some unconscious working of the mind which told me in some imperfect way that in a region quite within my range of vision, nothing could long remain hidden or unknown. Perhaps it was the stilly silence of the place. There was hardly a sound—the country people were all within doors at dinner, and even the sounds of their toil were lacking. From the west came a very faint breeze, just enough to bring the far-off, eternal roar of the surf. There was scarcely a sign of life. The cattle far below were sheltering under trees, or in the shadows of hedges, or standing still knee-deep in the pools of the shallow streams. The only moving thing which I could see, was the car which had left so long before, and was now far off, and was each moment becoming smaller and smaller as it went into the distance.

So I sat for quite an hour with my heart half sick with longing, but she never came. Then I thought I heard a step coming up the path at the far side. My heart beat strangely. I sat silent, and did not pretend to hear. She was walking more slowly than usual, and with a firmer tread. She was coming. I heard the steps on the plateau, and a voice came:—

“Och! an’ isn’t it a purty view, yer ’an’r?” I leaped to my feet with a feeling that was positively murderous. The revulsion was too great, and I broke into a burst of semi-hysterical laughter. There stood Andy—with ragged red head and sun-scorched face—in his garb of eternal patches, bleached and discoloured by sun and rain into a veritable coat of many colours—gazing at the view with a rapt expression, and yet with one eye half-closed in a fixed but unmistakable wink, as though taking the whole majesty of nature into his confidence.

When he heard my burst of laughter he turned to me quizzically:—

“Musha! but it’s the merry gentleman yer ’an’r is this day. Shure the view here is the laughablest thing I ever see!” and he affected to laugh, but in such a soulless, unspontaneous way that it became a real burlesque. I waited for him to go on. I was naturally very vexed, but I was afraid to say anything lest I might cause him to interfere in this affair—the last thing on earth that I wished for.

He did go on; no one ever found Andy abashed or ill at ease:—

“Begor! but yer ’an’r lepped like a deer when ye heerd me shpake. Did ye think I was goin’ to shoot ye? Faix! an’ I thought that ye wor about to jump from aff iv the mountain into the say, like a shtag.”

“Why, what do you know about stags, Andy? There are none in this part of the country, are there?” I thought I would drag a new subject across his path. The ruse of the red herring drawn across the scent succeeded!

“Phwhat do I know iv shtags? Faix, I know this, that there does be plinty in me Lard’s demesne beyant at Wistport. Sure wan iv thim got out last autumn an’ nigh ruined me garden. He kem in at night an’ ate up all me cabbages an’ all the vigitables I’d got. I frightened him away a lot iv times, but he kem back all the same. At last I could shtand him no longer, and I wint meself an’ complained to the Lard. He tould me he was very sorry fur the damage he done, ‘an’,’ sez he, ‘Andy, I think he’s a bankrup,’ sez he, ‘an’ we must take his body.’ ‘How is that, Me Lard?’ sez I. Sez he, ‘I give him to ye, Andy. Do what ye like wid him!’ An’ wid that I wint home an’ I med a thrap iv a clothes line wid a loop in it, an’ I put it betune two threes; and shure enough in the night I got him.”

“And what did you do with him, Andy?” said I.

“Faith, surr, I shkinned him and ate him!” He said this just in the same tone in which he would speak of the most ordinary occurrence, leaving the impression on one’s mind that the skinning and eating were matters done at the moment and quite offhand.

I fondly hoped that Andy’s mind was now in quite another state from his usual mental condition; but I hardly knew the man yet. He had the true humorist’s persistence, and before I was ready with another intellectual herring he was off on the original track.

“I thrust I didn’t dishturb yer ’an’r. I know some gintlemin likes to luk at views and say nothin’. I’m tould that a young gintleman like yer ’an’r might be up on top iv a mountain like this, an’ he’d luk at the view so hard day afther day that he wouldn’t even shpake to a purty girrul—if there was wan forninst him all the time!”

“Then they lied to you, Andy!” I said this quite decisively.

“Faix, yer ’an’r, an’ it’s glad I am to hear that same, for I wouldn’t like to think that a young gintleman was afraid of a girrul, however purty she might be.”

“But, tell me, Andy,” I said, “what idiot could have started such an idea? And even if it was told to you, how could you be such a fool as to believe it?”

“Me belave it! Surr, I did’t belave a wurrd iv it—not until I met yer ’an’r.” His face was quite grave, and I was not sorry to find him in a sober mood, for I wanted to have a serious chat with him. It struck me that he, having relatives at Knocknacar, might be able to give me some information about my unknown.

“Until you met me, Andy! Surely I never gave you any ground for holding such a ridiculous idea?”

“Begor, yer ’an’r, but ye did. But p’raps I had betther not say any more—yer ’an’r mightn’t like it.”

This both surprised and nettled me, and I was determined now to have it out, so I said, “You quite surprise me, Andy. What have I ever done? Do not be afraid! Out with it,” for he kept looking at me in a timorous kind of way.

“Well, then, yer ’an’r, about poor Miss Norah?”

This was a surprise, but I wanted to know more.

“Well, Andy, what about her?”

“Shure, an’ didn’t you refuse to shpake iv her intirely an’ sot on me fur only mintionin’ her—an’ she wan iv the purtiest girruls in the place.”

“My dear Andy,” said I, “I thought I had explained to you, last night, all about that. I don’t suppose you quite understand; but it might do a girl in her position harm to be spoken about with a—a man like me.”

“Wid a man like you—an’ for why? Isn’t she as good a girrul as iver broke bread?”

“Oh, it’s not that, Andy; people might think harm.”

“Think harrum!—phwhat harrum—an’ who’d think it?”

“Oh, you don’t understand—a man in your position can hardly know.”

“But, yer ’an’r, I don’t git comprehindin’! What harrum could there be, an’ who’d think it? The people here is all somethin’ iv me own position—workin’ people—an’ whin they knows a girrul is a good, dacent girrul, why should they think harrum because a nice young gintleman goes out iv his way to shpake to her?— Doesn’t he shpake to the quality like himself, an’ no wan thinks any harrum iv ayther iv them?”

Andy’s simple, honest argument made me feel ashamed of the finer sophistries belonging to the more artificial existence of those of my own station.

“Sure, yer ’an’r, there isn’t a bhoy in Connaught that wouldn’t like to be shpoke of wid Miss Norah. She’s that good, that even the nuns in Galway, where she was at school, loves her and thrates her like wan iv themselves, for all she’s a Protestan’.”

“My dear Andy,” said I, “don’t you think you’re a little hard on me? You’re putting me in the dock, and trying me for a series of offences that I never even thought of committing with regard to her or any one else. Miss Norah may be an angel in petticoats, and I’m quite prepared to take it for granted that she is so—your word on the subject is quite enough for me. But just please to remember that I never set eyes on her in my life. The only time I was ever in her presence was when you were by yourself, and it was so dark that I could not see her, to help her when she fainted. Why, in the name of common sense, you should keep holding her up to me, I do not understand.”

“But yer ’an’r said that it might do her harrum even to mintion her wid you.”

“Oh, well, Andy, I give it up—it’s no use trying to explain. Either you won’t understand, or I am unable to express myself properly.”

“Surr, there can be only one harrum to a girrul from a gintleman,” he laid his hand on my arm, and said this impressively—whatever else he may have ever said in jest, he was in grim earnest now—“an’ that’s whin he’s a villain. Ye wouldn’t do the black thrick, and desave a girrul that thrusted ye?”

“No, Andy, no! God forbid! I would rather go to the highest rock on some island there beyond, where the surf is loudest, and throw myself into the sea, than do such a thing. No! Andy, there are lots of men that hold such matters lightly, but I don’t think I’m one of them. Whatever sins I have, or may ever have upon my soul, I hope such a one as that will never be there.”

All the comment Andy made was, “I thought so!” Then the habitual quizzical look stole over his face again, and he said:—

“There does be some that does fear Braches iv Promise. Mind ye, a man has to be mighty careful on the subject, for some weemin is that ’cute, there’s no bein’ up to them.”

Andy’s sudden change to this new theme was a little embarrassing, since the idea leading to it—or rather preceding it—had been one purely personal to myself; but he was off, and I thought it better that he should go on.

“Indeed!” said I.

“Yes, surr. Oh, my! but they’re ’cute. The first thing that a girrul does when a man looks twice at her, is t’ ask him to write her a letther, an’ thin she has him—tight.”

“How so, Andy?”

“Well, ye see, surr, when you’re writin’ a letther to a girrul, ye can’t begin widout a ‘My dear’ or a ‘My darlin’’—an’ thin she has the grip iv the law onto ye! An’ ye do be badgered be the councillors, an’ ye do be frowned at be the judge, an’ ye do be laughed at be the people, an’ ye do have to pay yer money—an’ there ye are!”

“I say, Andy,” said I, “I think you must have been in trouble yourself in that way—you seem to have it all off pat!”

“Oh, throth, not me, yer ’an’r. Glory be to God! but I niver was a defindant in me life—an’ more betoken, I don’t want to be—but I was wance a witness in a case iv the kind.”

“And what did you witness?”

“Faix, I was called to prove that I seen the gintleman’s arrum around the girrul’s waist. The councillors made a deal out iv that—just as if it warn’t only manners to hould up a girrul on a car!”

“What was the case, Andy? Tell me all about it.”

I did not mind his waiting, as it gave me an excuse for staying on the top of the hill. I knew I could easily get rid of him when she came—if she came—by sending him on a message.

“Well, this was a young woman what had an action agin Shquire Murphy iv Ballynashoughlin himself— a woman as was no more nor a mere simple governess!”

It would be impossible to convey the depth of social unimportance conveyed by his tone and manner; and coming from a man of “shreds and patches,” it was more than comic. Andy had his good suit of frieze and homespun; but whilst he was on mountain duty, he spared these and appeared almost in the guise of a scarecrow.

“Well! what happened?”

“Faix, whin she tould her shtory the shquire’s councillor luked up at the jury, an’ he whispered a wurrd to the shquire and his ’an’r wrote out a shlip iv paper an’ handed it to him, an’ the councillor ups an’ says he: ‘Me Lard and Gintlemin iv the Jury, me client is prepared to have the honour iv the lady’s hand if she will so, for let bygones be bygones.’ An’ sure enough they was married on the Sunday next four weeks; an’ there she is now dhrivin’ him about the counthry in her pony-shay, an’ all the quality comin’ to tay in the garden, an’ she as affable as iver to all the farmers round. Aye, an’ be the hokey, the shquire himself sez that it was a good day for him whin he sot eyes on her first, an’ that he don’t know why he was such a dam fool as iver to thry to say ‘no’ to her, or to wish it.”

“Quite a tale with a moral, Andy! Bravo! Mrs. Murphy.”

“A morial is it? Now may I make bould to ask yer ’an’r what morial ye take out iv it?”

“The moral, Andy, that I see is, When you see the right woman go for her for all you’re worth, and thank God for giving you the chance.” Andy jumped up and gave me a great slap on the back.

“Hurro! more power to yer elbow! but it’s a bhoy afther me own h’arrt y’ are. I big yer pardon, surr, for the liberty; but it’s mighty glad I am.”

“Granted, Andy; I like a man to be hearty, and you certainly are. But why are you so glad about me?”

“Because I like yer ’an’r. Shure in all me life I niver see so much iv a young gintleman as I’ve done iv yer ’an’r. Surr, I’m an ould man compared wid ye—I’m the beginnin’ iv wan, at any rate, an’ I’d like to give ye a wurrd iv advice—git marrid while ye can! I tell ye this, surr, it’s not whin the hair is beginnin’ to git thin on to the top iv yer head that a nice young girrul ’ill love ye for yerself. It’s the people that goes all their lives makin’ money and lukin’ after all kinds iv things that’s iv no kind iv use to thim, that makes the mishtake. Suppose ye do git marrid when ye’re ould and bald, an’ yer legs is shaky, an’ ye want to be let sit close to the fire in the warrum corner, an’ ye’ve lashins iv money that ye don’t know what to do wid! Do you think that it’s thin that yer wives does be dhramin’ iv ye all the time and worshippin’ the ground ye thrid? Not a bit iv it! They do be wantin’—aye and thryin’ too—to help God away wid ye!”

“Andy,” said I, “you preach, on a practical text, a sermon that any and every young man ought to hear!” I thought I saw an opening here for gaining some information and jumped in.

“By Jove! you set me off wishing to marry! Tell me, is there any pretty girl in this neighbourhood that would suit a young man like me?”

“Oho! begor, there’s girruls enough to shute any man.”

“Aye, Andy—but pretty girls!”

“Well surr, that depinds. Now what might be yer ’anr’s idea iv a purty girrul?”

“My dear Andy, there are so many different kinds of prettiness that it is hard to say.”

“Faix, an’ I’ll tell ye if there’s a girrul to shute in the counthry, for bedad I think I’ve seen thim all. But you must let me know what would shute ye best?”

“How can I well tell that, Andy, when I don’t know myself? Show me the girl, and I’ll very soon tell you.”

“Unless I was to ax yer ’an’r questions!” this was said very slily.

“Go on, Andy! there is nothing like the Socratic method.”

“Very well thin! I’ll ax two kinds iv things, an’ yer ’an’r will tell me which ye’d like the best!”

“All right, go on.”

“Long or short?”

“Tall; not short, certainly.”

“Fat or lane?”

“Fie! fie! Andy, for shame; you talk as if they were cattle or pigs.”

“Begor, there’s only wan kind iv fat an’ lane that I knows of; but av ye like I’ll call it thick or thin; which is it?”

“Not too fat, but certainly not skinny.” Andy held up his hands in mock horror:—

“Yer ’an’r shpakes as if ye was talkin’ iv powlthry.”

“I mean Andy,” said I with a certain sense of shame, “she is not to be either too fat or too lean, as you put it.”

“Ye mane ‘shtreaky’!”

“Streaky!” said I, “what do you mean?” He answered promptly:—

“Shtreaky,—thick an’ thin—like belly bacon.” I said nothing. I felt certain it would be useless and out of place. He went on:—

“Nixt, fair or dark?”

“Dark, by all means.”

“Dark be it, surr. What kind iv eyes might she have?”

“Ah! eyes like darkness on the bosom of the azure deep!”

“Musha! but that’s a quare kind iv eye fur a girrul to have intirely! Is she to be all dark, surr, or only the hair of her?”

“I don’t mean a nigger, Andy!” I thought I would be even with him for once in a way. He laughed heartily.

“Oh! my but that’s a good wan. Be the hokey, a girrul can be dark enough fur any man widout bein’ a naygur. Glory be to God, but I niver seen a faymale naygur meself, but I suppose there’s such things; God’s very good to all his craythurs! But, barrin’ naygurs, must she be all dark?”

“Well not of necessity, but I certainly prefer what we call a brunette.”

“A bru-net. What’s that now; I’ve heerd a wheen o’ quare things in me time, but I niver heerd a woman called that before.”

I tried to explain the term; he seemed to understand, but his only comment was:—

“Well, God is very good,” and then went on with his queries.

“How might she be dressed?” he looked very sly as he asked the question.

“Simply! The dress is not particular—that can easily be altered. For myself, just at present, I should like her in the dress they all wear here, some pretty kind of body and a red petticoat.”

“Thrue for ye!” said Andy. Then he went over the list ticking off the items on his fingers as he went along:—

“A long, dark girrul, like belly bakin, but not a naygur, some kind iv a net, an’ wid a rid petticoat, an’ a quare kind iv an eye! Is that the kind iv a girrul that yer ’an’r wants to set yer eyes on?”

“Well,” said I, “item by item, as you explain them, Andy, the description is correct; but I must say, that never in my life did I know a man to so knock the bottom out of romance as you have done in summing-up the lady’s charms.”

“Her charrums, is it? Be the powers! I only tuk what yer ’an’r tould me. An’ so that’s the girrul that id shute yer?”

“Yes! Andy. I think she would.” I waited in expectation, but he said nothing. So I jogged his memory:—

“Well!” He looked at me in a most peculiar manner, and said slowly and impressively:—

“Thin I can sahtisfy yer ’an’r. There’s no such girrul in all Knocknacar!” I smiled a smile of triumph:—

“You’re wrong for once, Andy. I saw such a girl only yesterday, here on the top of this mountain, just where we’re sitting now.”

Andy jumped up as if he had been sitting on an ant-hill, and had suddenly been made aware of it. He looked all round in a frightened way, but I could see that he was only acting, and said:—

“Glory be to God! but maybe it’s the fairies, it was, or the pixies! Shure they do say that there’s lots an’ lots an’ lashins iv them on this hill. Don’t ye have nothin’ to say to thim, surr! There’s only sorra follys thim. Take an ould man’s advice, an’ don’t come up here any more. The shpot is dangerous to ye. If ye want to see a fine girrul go to Shleenanaher, an’ have a good luk at Miss Norah in the daylight.”

“Oh, bother Miss Norah!” said I. “Get along with you—do! I think you’ve got Miss Norah on the brain; or perhaps you’re in love with her yourself.” Andy murmured sotto voce, but manifestly for me to hear:—

“Begor, I am, like the rist iv the bhoys—av course!”

Here I looked at my watch, and found it was three o’clock, so thought it was time to get rid of him.

“Here,” said I “run down to the men at the cutting and tell them that I’m coming down presently to measure up their work, as Mr. Sutherland will want to know how they’ve got on.”

Andy moved off. Before going, however, he had something to say, as usual:—

“Tell me, Misther Art”—this new name startled me, Andy had evidently taken me into his public family—“do ye think Misther Dick”—this was another surprise—“has an eye on Miss Norah?” There was a real shock this time.

“I see him lukin’ at her wance or twice as if he’d like to ate her; but, bedad, it’s no use if he has, for she wouldn’t luk at him. No wondher! an’ him helpin’ to be takin’ her father’s houldin’ away from him.”

I could not answer Andy’s question as to poor old Dick’s feelings, for such was his secret, and not mine; but I determined not to let there be any misapprehension regarding his having a hand in Murdock’s dirty work, so I spoke hotly:—

“You tell anyone that dares to say that Dick Sutherland has any act or part, good or bad—large or small—in that dirty ruffian’s dishonourable conduct, that he is either a knave or a fool—at any rate he is a liar! Dick is simply a man of science engaged by Murdock, as any other man of science might be, to look after some operations in regard to his bog.”

Andy’s comment was made sotto voce, so I thought it better not to notice it.

“Musha! but the bogs iv all kinds is gettin’ mixed up quarely. Here’s another iv them. Misther Dick is engaged to luk afther the bogs. An’ so he does, but his eyes goes wandherin’ among thim. There does be bogs iv all kinds now all over these parts. It’s quare times we’re in, or I’m gettin’ ould!”

With this Parthian shaft Andy took himself down the hill, and presently I saw the good effects of his presence in stimulating the workmen to more ardent endeavours, for they all leaned on their spades whilst he told them a long story, which ended in a tumult of laughter.

I might have enjoyed the man’s fun, but I was in no laughing humour. I had got anxious long ago because she had not visited the hill-top. I looked all round, but could see no sign of her anywhere. I waited and waited, and the time truly went on leaden wings. The afternoon sun smote the hill-top with its glare, more oppressive always than even the noontide heat.

I lingered on and lingered still, and hope died within me.

When six o’clock had come I felt that there was no more chance for me that day; so I went sadly down the hill, and, after a glance for Dick’s sake at the cutting, sought the sheebeen where Andy had the horse ready harnessed in the car. I assumed as cheerful an aspect as I could, and flattered myself that I carried off the occasion very well. It was not at all flattering, however, to my histrionic powers to hear Andy, as we were driving off, whisper in answer to a remark deploring how sad I looked, made by the old lady who kept the sheebeen:—

“Whisht! Don’t appear to notice him, or ye’ll dhrive him mad. Me opinion is that he’s been wandherin’ on the mountain too long, an’ tamperin’ wid the rings on the grass—you know—an’ that he has seen the fairies!” Then he said aloud and ostentatiously:—

“Gee up! ye ould corncrake—ye ought to be fresh enough—ye’ve niver left the fut iv the hill all the day,”—then turning to me, “An’ sure, surr, it’s goin’ to the top that takes it out iv wan—ayther a horse or a man.”

I made no answer, and in silence we drove to Carnaclif, where I found Dick impatiently waiting dinner for me.

I was glad to find that he was full of queries concerning the cutting, for it saved me from the consideration of subjects more difficult to answer satisfactorily. Fortunately I was able to give a good account of the time spent, for the work done had far exceeded my expectations. I thought that Dick was in much better spirits than he had been; but it was not until the subject of the bog at Knocknacar was completely exhausted that I got any clue on the subject. I then asked Dick if he had had a good time at Shleenanaher?

“Yes!” he answered. “Thank God! the work is nearly done. We went over the whole place to-day and there was only one indication of iron. This was in the bog just beside an elbow where Joyce’s land—his present land—touches ours; no! I mean on Murdock’s, the scoundrel!” He was quite angry with himself for using the word “ours” even accidentally.

“And has anything come of it?” I asked him.

“Nothing! Now that he knows it is there, he would not let me go near it on any account. I’m in hopes he’ll quarrel with me soon in order to get rid of me, so that he may try by himself to fish it—whatever it may be—out of the bog. If he does quarrel with me! Well! I only hope he will; I have been longing for weeks past to get a chance at him. Then she’ll believe, perhaps——” He stopped.

“You saw her to-day, Dick!”

“How did you know that?”

“Because you look so happy, old man!”

“Yes! I did see her; but only for a moment. She drove up in the middle of the day, and I saw her go up to the new house. But she didn’t even see me,” and his face fell. Presently he asked:—

“You didn’t see your girl?”

“No, Dick, I did not! But how did you know?”

“I saw it in your face when you came in!”

We sat and smoked in silence. The interruption came in the shape of Andy:—

“I suppose, Masther Art, the same agin to-morra—unless ye’d like me to bring ye wid Masther Dick to see Shleenanaher—ye know the shpot, surr—where Miss Norah is!”

He grinned, and as we said nothing, made his exit.

Share on Twitter Share on Facebook