But a change crept over her frame of mind as she waited and waited on the platform at the dreary little Garville station. It began when the ten oclock train, in which Tom had promised to come, arrived without any such passenger; and from thenceforward her spirits were continually to sink. They dropped to a lower level with each train that went by, some rushing through in a dusty whirlwind, some stopping to give her a few minutes of agonised suspense, ending always in dismayed disappointment; for not one brought sight or sign of Tom Clancy. As the afternoon wore away, slowly and yet heart-sickeningly fast, all her surroundings became to her like a sort of hateful nightmare, in which the most detestable features were the stolid stationmaster and the inquisitive porter. At last in desperation she quitted her dismal waiting-place, and resolved to return home. The best chance that she could conjecture wherewith to encourage herself in her sorely discomfited retreat, was that some trivial accident had for the time being vexatiously hindered Tom from carrying out his intentions; but her imagination would not forbear, of course, to conjure up occurrences far more alarming. It struck her, for instance, that his possession of her cattle might have got him into some terrible difhculty with the police authorities, from whose clutches her own testimony. perhaps, alone could extricate him; and this thought made her fret at the lagging pace of her long tedious drive and walk.
Hurry as she would, even the dusk had almost ebbed away when she turned into the cow-lane, dragging herself wearily along between the dark hedges, weighed down by her heavy bag, which she had ten minds to fling into a ditch, and distracted with a thousand fears, which she could by no possibility discard. The fact that she had eaten nothing all day formed an unrecognised element in her despondency. She hardly knew what she wished or dreaded to behold, when the gate of the sloping grass-field should be in sight. But undoubtedly a wild hope did flare up when she came into view of a tall figure standing b}/ the wooden bars, and for a moment believed that it was Tom Clancy. And undoubtedly, too, terror seized her as, drawing nearer, she saw that it was Fergus Moore. He stood beside the fawn-coloured Alderney, who was eating bran-mash out of a pail, while a white cow, less favoured, thrust her head over the gate to survey the repast with an expression of concentrated bitterness. Several other beasts were more vaguely visible, moving about in the grey dimness beyond the gate.
The munching of the cow so close at hand for a while screened from Fergus the sound of Joannas footsteps, but at length he heard them, and looked up to see her slowly approaching. He went forward quickly to meet her, with an expression of relieved concern on his broad good-natured face, russet-bearded and blue-eyed, than which nothing could less resemble Tom Clancys. Joanna suddenly felt as if after her endless, miserable day, she had reached some sort of refuge.
Well, Joanna, and is it yourself? Fergus said. Glad I am to see you back again anyhow. But its the quare work altogether theres been goin on here, and wonderin I was did you know anything about the matter. Its more than your brother does, thats sure.
About what matter? Joanna said with as much show of indifference as she could achieve, which was little enough.
Your bastes, said Fergus. Sure now neer a notion you had to be selhn them?
Joanna in her confusion said neither yea nor nay, and he did not repeat his question, seeing that her silence had answered it very effectually. But he made no comment.
It so happened, he continued, after a brief pause, that I had to be in Rusheenmoe this mornin early to meet a man on business. I wasnt at that fair widin these half-dozen years; tis mostly no great good. Howaneer, there I went to-day, and I wasnt in it above ten minutes, when who should I see but Terry Molloy, of Garville, thats a notorious ould villin, and he just startin to drive a herd of bastes off the other end of the green. So says I to meself: Its quare now if I dont know the look of thim. And when I stepped over to him, sure enough, divil aught else were they except these crathurs here of yours - every single one of them. After buyin them, ould Molloy said he was, off a young chap, he couldnt tell who it might be; a middlin big man wid black hair. But wid that, Jimmy Carr from French Market was standin by, and he up and says he himself passed them on the road drivin in, and Tom Clancy it was, ould Widdy Finnys nephew. And he said that, more betoken, only a little while back he seen young Clancy below at the station, gettin into the Queenstown express along wid Fanny Fitzpatrick, the school-teachers daughter at Clonowen.
Fanny Fitzpatrick, Joanna said, half under her breath, it couldnt ever be. Yet as she spoke the world seemed swirling into ruin around her, and here and there from amid the wreck emerged remembered incidents, which now took on a treacherous aspect.
Fergus Moore was observing her intently. The scared and bewildered anger in her face, her fagged air, and heavy load of bulging bag and cumbrous bundle, the mortified despair betrayed by her would-be incredulous exclamation, all confirmed a suspicion originally but too strong.
The two of them it was, he said; Mrs. Dockrell was tellin me the same thing afterwards. But we can aisy stop the young thief yet, Joanna, wid a wire to the Queenstown police; for I see on the paper theres no American boat sailin till Wednesday, and thats what theyll be makin for, you may depend - himself and the price of your bastes. Ill go straight to the office.
Ah, for mercys sake, dont be doin any such a thing, Joanna said aghast. The mere suggestion appalled her, so intolerable was the possibility of Toms return to make her the laughing-stock of the gossiping country-side. Even now she raged at the thought of her humiliating wait on the Garville platform. Well did she remember the sight of the Queenstown express running through the station; and she now reflected with sore chagrin that two of its passengers had probably caught a glimpse of her sitting there by herself on the bench. Somebody had fluttered a handkerchief out of a carriage window; very likely Fanny Fitzpatrick had done it out of derision, with Tom Clancy chuckling at her side. Joanna felt that rather than ever set eyes on the pair, or hear talk of them again, she would lose her fortune ten times over. If the money went to the bottom of the sea with them, it would be all the better; but at this moment her one intense desire was that nothing should interfere with their departure. So she vehemently and imploringly repeated: Dont be doin any such a thing on me, Fergus. Let them quit out of it - let them go wherever they like, and dont be delayin them.
Fergus looked at her gravely. Then its the way I was partly supposin, he said, and thinkin you were to go off along wid Tom Clancy, he thats took up instead wid Fanny Fitzpatrick, the little, ugly-tempered weasel - manys the time Id hear her scoldin and bargein at the other childer. Well, now, it was the quare notion for the likes of yourself to take into your head. But sure, Joanna, me child, its the quare notions we do all of us be bound to git a hold of now and agin, and the odd way we do be mistook about different things, till we come by a trifle of experience. I mind the time meself when I couldnt scarce tell a three-year-old from a four year-old; and ud be givin double the worth of him for a bullock as soon as look at him. So where d you get a deal of sinse yet awhile? But as for that young miscreant, sure what great matter, so long as you hadnt the bad luck to travel off wid him after all? He knew anyway better than you what was the right sort for him: Fanny Fitzpatrick, bedad! And if it was to be annoyin you, sooner than bring him back Fd let him run the farthest he plased wid the money hes robbed off you in his thiefs pocket. By the same token, I know right well from what ould Molloy gave me the bastes for, that he suspicioned there was some dirty work goin on, and that he got them very raisonable off the young rogue. But the fright I gave the ould sinner put his heart across, the way he was glad enough to be shut of his fine bargain, and hould his tongue about it. Faix, if these poor crathurs had the wit, they might be none too well continted wid the bad price was paid for them twice over this day. For you see, Joanna asthore, bought back again for you they are the very same as they were, and no more trouble or talk about them; so if eer a body thinks to be passin remarks, why there the whole of them are grazin before our eyes, and whod mind a word hed say? And apt you are to be takin better care that your fortune isnt made away wid a second time. But whatever you do, machree, dont be troublin yourself wid eer a thought of them two, thats not worth this tussock of ragweed. Sure you wouldnt look the same side of the road as Tom Clancy, not if the slieveens coat of him was double-lined wid five-pound notes - would you now? Let alone cross-tempered Fanny Fitzpatrick.
Joanna nodded slightly. The calamity had already begun to seem less overwhelming. Wrath was a stimulant, and Ferguss contemptuous mention of Fanny dropped on her feelings like balm.
And a bit later on, Fergus continued, comin towards Michaelmas, say, I wonder might I be axin you was there eer a body else in it that you wouldnt think too bad of altogether. But I wont be delayin you now, for its tired you are streelin about, and if youll take my advice, youll just go in and wet yourself a cup of hot tea, and get a bit to eat. Theres a fire burning I know, for Im after makin free to heat a sup of water to give this heifer of yours a mash, thats had a power of drivin forwards and backwards too. So good-night to you kindly, Joanna, and when I have it all locked up, Ill hang the keys in the holly-bush by the stable-door.
Joanna, turning away, took with her a consolatory remembrance of his words; and as she drank her warm tea by the kitchen hearth in accordance with his advice, it seemed to her quite within the bounds of possibility that she might furthermore take his hint about next Michaelmas.
AN UNFINISHED ROMANCE
This romance began at Lisconnel one very long summer afternoon. A troop of children, chiefly little Sheridans, Ouigleys, and MacEvoys, had strayed off the bog on to the tussocky slopes of the knockawn that weatherfends the hamlet, and there, for want of any better diversion, they fell to watching a fleet of clouds sail by from west to east. Great, solid, slow-moving woolpacks they were, high-piled bergs of glistering white vapour, cragged and corniced, touched in hollows here and there with a shadowy golden fawn-colour. Lizzie MacEvoy, a newcomer from distant regions, who had beheld many strange things, said that they were like a trayful of big crusty loaves, which she had seen a man carrying on his head in the town of Galway. Furthermore, she declared that in Galway there were plenty of carts going about filled with the very same sort of loaves, whole loads of them, enough to build a turf-stack. These statements seemed to her audience as incredible almost as a turf-stack built up of bakers bread was inconceivable. The comparison perhaps edged their appetites; at any rate they soon began a move down the hill towards home, where they might by good luck find that it was supper-time. They had the vaguest notions about the hour, but felt that they had been away for a long, long while.
Just as they were dropping themselves into the road off the lowest shelving ledges of a fine-swarded bank, there came into sight on their right hand - that is, from the direction of Duffclane - a very remarkable vehicle of unprecedented aspect, rather to be described as a weeny house wid wheels under it. It was painted bright green, and drawn by a large cream-coloured Connemara pony, of the race called Shan Bwee, which means Old Yellow. Nobody except Lizzie MacEvoy had ever seen the like before. A cart going to the fair with a pig-creel was the nearest approach to it, but different indeed. And Lizzie, to excite them the more, asserted that it was the hving moral of one of those Galway bread-carts, only a trifle smaller. Lizzies repute as a trustworthy relater of marvels was, however, presently to pass under a dense cloud. For when the van stopped opposite the Kilfoyles, and the driver opened the doors at the back, sorrow a loaf was there in it at all, or anything else only all the books that ever were in the world sitting on shelves stuck alongside it. That was truly a despicable result in the eyes of the small children, who lived beyond schooling, and had not a letter of the alphabet among them. Ould books bedad! They soon dispersed, freely expressing their opinion of Lizzie MacEvoys veracity.
But some of their elders had more learning, and the vanman did a little business during his brief stay. As a stranger he of course interested everybody, scholars or no, and he rather puzzled them too, because although he was not apparently any sort of quality, and certainly was not an old schoolmaster, he seemed to be thoroughly acquainted with the contents of his van, and talked like an expert about the merits of this volume and that. Judy Ryan inquired sarcastically if he had read the whole of them himself, that he knew so well what a person was sure to like best. To which he replied with the question whether the man she bought her boots from had tried all his stock on his own feet. As Judys feet were unshod this retort was not entirely appropriate, but little Murt Rafferty hastened to point it by bobbing up his head at her elbow with, Isnt himself wearin her ones these times anyway? When she turned to cuff him, he slithered down the bank behind them, and lay chuckling under a low furze-bough, out of portlier reach.
Shoeless though she was, Judy in her youth had walked many a long mile for her schooling, and she still possessed literary tastes which made her happy if she chanced on a newspaper with a bit of a story in it. No such opportunity as this days had ever presented itself to her imagination. She could scarcely believe the eyes that showed her those crowded shelves, or the ears that apprised her that one penny could procure the loan of any two volumes for a month. Happily the penny was to be had; the difficulty was how to choose, and at length she let herself be said, in part, by the librarian-driver, who magnanimously advised her to the best of his flouted judgment. Locking up his doors, he promised to come through Lisconnel again before that month was out, whereupon the bystanders began to compute the present date from various time-marks, and with discrepant results. They were impressed by the off-hand manner in which he asserted, without reflection, that it was the second of July, but they accepted his authority as that of one fresh from the great world, where matters of the kind are settled. So after a little more discourse the van dwindled away down the long road, with its green sides and blossom-white inscription, Rosmoran Travelling Library; while even the neighbours who were no readers felt that to see it grow into sight again would be an agreeable event.
That evening, when the light was slowly ebbing towards such dimness as would fleetingly visit the midsummer night, Lisconnel for the most part sat out of doors, perched on convenient grass-banks and big stones. The great white clouds had all drifted away, leaving the whole west crystal-clear, except where a few pencilled flecks veined it with almost transparent fire. An odour of aromatic bog-herbs was the stronger on the air because the blue peat-smoke mingled with it in only meagre wafts, fitful and failing. About the Brian Kilfoyles house there was a plenty of comfortable seats on which a party of the older women had congregated, some with knitting and some with jugs to fill at the well, sea-green rimmed in the sward close by; to sit frankly idle not being their way. Despite the warmth, their matronly heads were protected with both caps and shawls. Their six or seven tongues kept up a fairly continuous murmur, which died out on the surrounding stillness even sooner than the trails of smoke on the air.
I was wonderin, said Mrs. Brian, did any of yous happen to see Con about lately. I didnt set eyes on him meself since he had his dinner. Her good-tempered face wore an anxious shadow, which deepened when nobody minded seeing him this little while back. The truth was that she was just now coming for the first time into possession of a grown-up son, whose straining against the inelastic leash of circumstances caused her many an uneasy moment. Cons no ways too well satisfied in himself these times, she explained to her right-hand neighbour, Mrs. Doyne. Gloomy like he does be now and again, and discontented. Afeard of me life I am that he might take the notion into his head to be runnin off to some outlandish place on us, the way the other lads do, as if there was mad bears huntin them, instead of their mislucky ould mothers thinkin bad of their goin. And no good of them after that, unless maybe an odd letter. I do be tellin him they had a right to have more nathur in them, if they havent more wit itself; but never a word out of him one way or the other. Its heart-scalded he has me.
Well, now, Mrs. MacEvoy said meditatively on Mrs. Brians left, I do be sorry in me heart many a time for them young lads. Sure theyre to be pitied, God knows. For at their beginnin, theres every manner of thing in the world, so to spake, lyin before them, and the whole of it as good as offered to them, in a way. But the first instant a one of the crathurs tries to take a hould of eer a somethin for himself, tis thwarted and disappointed of it hes apt to be at every turn. He might as well be raichin at the stars above his head, and it all the while lookin just under his hand; youd think he might have it and welcome - but sorrow a bit. So they see it all slippin away from them before they know where they are, and maybe they niver had a fair chance. To be pitied they are, poor lads.
These general reflections seemed to demand no particular response, and they received none directly. But Mrs. Brian said in an aggrieved undertone to Mrs. Doyne: I dunno what call anybody has to be pityin me son Con. A fine hardy boy he is, thanks be to God. Twould trouble them that knows him all the days of his life, let alone a body thats no great while in the place, to say there was aught amiss wid him. People do be talkin quare.
If it was me poor Terence, now, said Mrs. Doyne, there might be raison in it, for anybody d think it a pity to see him the way he is this long while. Addin up we were yesterday, and tis better than a twelvemonth since he set fut beyond our door. But a couple of year ago, maam, he was such another as your Con, and he would be yit, only for the rheumaticky fever that got a cruel grip on his heart. Dr. Egan says tis like as if there was a spring broke in it, and he questions has he eer a bottle wid the strenth to set it right, nor ould Dan OBeirne. Twas a bad wake turn he took this very mornin, and I couldnt be lavin him now, only Judy Ryan said shed stop wid him till I got a while in the fresh air. Ah sure, we do be missin poor Stacey. I must prisently be
Deed then its the twenty pities, Mrs. Brian said, him to be gettin his health so indifferent.
As it happened, however, just at that moment neither Terence Doyne nor Con Kilfoyle was in a pitiable plight. Both of them were worlds away from to-day and Lisconnel, rapt into enchanted regions by the charm of a story-teller. Judy Ryan was reading aloud to them from one of her borrowed books, the one on which she had set her heart ever since she had espied it uppermost of a pile amid that bewildering van-load. In the case of the other one she had allowed herself to be guided in her choice by the vanman, and had selected Crohoore of the Bill Hook, but he had vainly advised her against taking The Door by the Dark Water. His objection that he had at this time only the first of its two volumes, and could not be quite sure when he would have the second, did not prevail over the allurement of its title and cover-picture. A bold black-and-white sketch this was, showing simply the door beyond a foreground of very dark water, wrought in portentously broad straight strokes. Sedge and weed stood up about its threshold, and it was barred with a great cross-handled sword thrust bolt-wise through iron rings. Ill chance it, Judy had said, with rapacious eyes; you might be apt enough to have the rest of it again you come round next time. And he had promised that he would if he could.
Now she was beginning to explore it in the company of two profoundly interested friends. She had lost no time in sharing her new acquisition with Terence Doyne, and while they were poring over the picture they were joined by Con Kilfoyle, who looked in to show Terence a curious pointed stone that he had picked up out on the bog near Ody Raffertys still. Then when they had decided that a vague three-cornered notch on the extreme right of the engraving probably represented the bows of a boat, she turned to the printed page. Judy read out fluently and daringly, not pausing to stumble over unfamiliar words, the conventional pronunciation of which was really neither here nor there; and the course of the story ran likewise freely and swiftly, plunging into the middle of most thrilling things, and opening that mysterious door on delectable glimpses of dread. Light and shadow so strongly gleamed and gloomed on characters as well as incidents that the rising tide of vicissitude was watched from the outset with undivided sympathies. The precarious fortunes of the persecuted heroine had already roused on her behalf the liveliest hopes and fears, when the reading was cut short by gathering dusk; for at Lisconnel artificial illumination, feeble and costly, is used as little as may be.
But the party broke up under agreement to meet again on the morrow, when ample time was found for getting through a larger portion; and thenceforward there were few days that they did not assemble in the tiny slip of a room off Mrs. Doynes kitchen. It was so very small that Terences bed, though narrower than a berth, would have been impossible except in a recess of the wall; his two visitors had scanty space for their stools on the rough earthen floor. What rays struggled in came chiefly through the door, of so little avail was the hands-breadth pane of coarse greenish glass, set in stones and mud deeply enough to suggest some uncouth attempt at a telescope. A big lump of a boulder planted close outside further obscured it. Still if Terence craned his neck into just the right angle, he had a glimpse of the brown-faced bog. Looking forth from his cell, it seemed daily less possible to imagine himself at large out and about there again, as he used to be in the time on the other side of that nightmare fever-chasm. His sense of the terrible long while grew upon him despairingly, and burdened his mind, when he was not preoccupied with acute physical distress. Other distractions he had few or none.
Therefore it was indeed no trivial matter for him when The Door by the Dark Water came within his ken to engross a strangely large proportion of his thoughts. Through the dismal hours he looked forward, as towards a gleam brightening at the end of a tunnel, to the appearance in his doorway of Judy Ryans grizzled head, else he might sometimes have doubted woefully whether the tunnel had any end at all. Now and then, it is true, he was obliged to forego the reading. There would be a day when he felt like as if the ould lad himself was whirlin his head round under water in a one of the black houles, or when he suffered from some equally incapacitating symptom. But on such occasions Judy and Con loyally refrained from proceeding any further with their romance.
Yet notwithstanding these delays, it became evident as the weeks went on that the first volume would be finished considerably before the date fixed for the return of the Rosmoran Travelling Library. When Judy saw that the pages were dwindling more rapidly than the month waned, she did try to be thrifty and curtail her lectures, but this economy was made difficult by the increasing interest of the story, and the eager urging of her audience, more especially of the crathur, whom she could hardly refuse. Do what she would to eke it out by the repetition of favourite passages, and the encouragement of time-wasting conjectures about the plot, that last leaf was turned on the twenty-second afternoon of July, a full week at least before there would be much use in beginning to watch for the van. They were left, moreover, to wait with affairs at a terrible crisis. That door with its sill by the dark water was barred on the father and the lover of the Lady Emeria, who had fallen hopelessly into the power of her fellest foes. To extricate her from such a plight, even hypothetically, passed the ingenuity of her friends at Lisconnel, and they chafed much at their state of suspense. Con said that it would be a charity to stick the thieves of the mischief up m a row, and reap the ugly heads off them like so many thistles; it would do his heart good, he said, to have a welt at them. But Terence rejoined querulously that he didnt see where anybody with that much decency in him was very apt to come from. By way of a stop-gap Judy began to read Crohoore of the Bill Hook, but without success. Terences interest could not be diverted into the new channel; it was clear to her that his attention continually wandered off.
No doubt this was in some measure due to the failure of his strength. In those days a change for the worse had manifestly come over him, bringing with it a feverish weakness that distorted his view of things, and made him fix his thoughts upon the fate of the Lady Emeria, and Ronairn, and the old chief, as vehemently as if the tragedy were in truth impending. What Judy and Con, however they might talk, recognised as merely images in their fancy, had for him all the substance of reality conjoined with the obsessing powers of a dream. Other circumstances now came against him too. The fine clear weather had turned sultry and lowering. Overcast skies gloomed on Lisconnel, and ever and anon a thunderous scowl blackened the bog, creeping across it from rim to rim. Curlew cried, darting to and fro beneath the shadow, and wide-winged white sea-gulls sailed by, going eastward inland. Then in their wake would swoop a wild blast hissing and rattling with rain and hail showers. It all seemed to oppress and shatter Terence Doyne, as he toiled for breath, sitting as upright as he could in his low-ceiled niche. You might suppose he was after lyin out under the teems of it, all night, he does be that wake and onaisy this mornin, Mrs. Doyne said to the Widow McGurk; but neer a drop comes next or nigh him where he is. The kitchens in strames; I have to be shiftin about for a dry place; the little rooms iligant, whatever ails him. Mrs. Doyne, who was a rather complaining sort of person herself, spoke as if she thought that her son scarcely appreciated his privileges. Mrs. McGurk solemnly replied: Deed now, maam, tis a great thing when you can keep the wet weather off a sick body itself. But its the quare thatch hell lie aisy under, wet or dry, agin the will of God.
One stormy morning Terence was so entirely bad that Con Kilfoyle ran off to Duffclane for Dr. Egan, who came over on his car along a road traversed by lightning flashes, that kept his horse ducking and swerving, often at inconvenient points. When he arrived, he found his patient better, yet seemed less impressed by the improvement than Mrs. Doyne had expected him to be. However, she ascribed this to his annoyance at having been summoned in such ugly weather. On his way home he met Judy Ryan, whom he considered more sensible than most of her gossips, and to whom he told something of his opinion on the case. Soon afterwards, looking in on Mrs. Doyne, she found her just starting for the well in a fretful mood, because Terence wouldnt so much as look at a lovely bowl of two-milk whey she was after making him, and that Dan OBeirne said would be the grandest drink he could take. Nothing would suit him but a sup of water, that hadnt an atom of good in it. Sure now, he was real contrary.
Gim-me the jug, maam, dear, Judy said on hearing this complaint, Ill fetch it quicker than you would, and me shawls dreeped through already. Deed twould be a sinful pity to cross the crathur now about anythin he fancied at all, good or bad, if you could help it. These words suddenly smote Mrs. Doyne with a sorer dread than she could have felt at the blast of Michaels trumpet; but there was no awful record into which she would not have dared pry rather than ask Judys meaning. She went back to Terence, and stood looking at him silently. Somewhat to her comfort he said remorsefully that he would have a try at the whey, after a little while.
Unluckily it was beyond anybodys power to prevent him from being crossed in the matter of the one thing on which he had set his heart, that is to say, the completion of his beloved romance. He had persuaded himself that the library van was very likely to reappear at any time during the last week of July, and this gave him scope for repeated harassing expectation and disappointment. It was constantly Judy Ryans hated task to report that Con Kilfoyle had seen nothing from his look-out post. She thought that on each occasion Terence seemed feebler and shakier; certainly he was less and less able to dissemble his chagrin. The forced cheerfulness of his: Ah sure, what matter at all, Judy? Itll be comin along presently anyway, rang so dismally in her ears that, as she said herself, many a time she was fit to sit down and cry in the middle of the road. All along she had maintained that the last day of the month was the date intended by the driver, so when the thirty-first came, she felt desperately confident that it would bring the fulfilment of their wishes.
It dawned with no happy omens, for Terence had nearly gone off altogether in the night, and had now rallied only just enough to show how wistfully he was still hankering after The Door by the Dark Water. The morning was grim with mirk and wet. An iron-grey rampart of mist had been drawn close round the hamlet, and the included tracts of bog spread a sullen black, save for a few rusty stains of withered grass, and spectral glints of skeleton tree-trunks disinterred among lime-white boulders. From overhead the lividly leaden cloud canopy let down unfurled sheets of rain-mist with fringes of pelting drops, that quivered against wall and roof, and kept the peat-reek cowering indoors much to the discomfort of the other occupants. Though neither of the watchers apprehended that the Rosmoran Travelling Library would thus be deterred from its journey - for who would think of staying at home because the weather was a trifle soft? - they were hampered by this inclemency in more ways than one. It was impossible to see any distance along the blurred and drifting road: Con was once all but betrayed into hailing with jubilant shouts the approach of Ody Raffertys old ass-cart; and it was difficult to form any idea at all about the time of day, not a blink of the sun giving a clue. Frequently in the course of that forenoon did Con consult the three time-pieces of Lisconnel, which were situated in his own house, and John MacEvoys, and Hughey Quigleys. There was, generally speaking, a difference of at least an hour and a half between the fastest and the slowest of the trio, and Con took care to base his report on the latter. But at length, when even according to that it was fully three oclock, and sorrow a sign of anything stirring on the road, except the puddles, he could no longer pretend to think that there were not some grounds for uneasiness.
And then, just as Judy was reassuringly pointing out to Terence that it had been something later when the van arrived before, in to light a pipe at Mrs, Doynes fire came Mick Lonergan, who casually mentioned, quite unaware of what he did, how he had met the quare covered yoke wid the books from Rosmoran away out a bit beyond Loughcran, goin towards Kilnaglesh, where the man said hed put up that night, for the roads were powerful heavy - Sure not at all; there was no talk of him comin Lisconnel ways. Micks strong bass voice carried his words with ruthless distinctness into the little next room, and Judy saw the hopeful gleam flicker blankly out of Terences eyes, followed by a desperate feigning of unconcern. This seemed to her as it were a countermining of her own careful pretences, and she rushed away into the rain, where to Con, sheltering under the lee of a turf-stack, she told the news with gestures so discomposed that some neighbours, observant beyond earshot, concluded Terence to be took mortal bad, and drew near precipitately.
For a moment Con looked as disconcerted as she did herself, but then he said: See me here, Judy. If its between Loughcran and Kilnaglesh the books was the time Mick met them, theyre apt to be on that road this good while yet. So if I legged it straightways over the bog, why mightnt I have a great chance of catchin them up? And troth and bedad Ill get that second volume out of the chap, if I have to wreck the ould yoke for it.
Sure now you might, Judy said brightening up, unless you were bogged intirely.
Bogged in me hat! said Con. Fetch me the penny, and Ill run like Learys colt.
In another minute Con was out of sight among the mists, while Judy returned to rekindle the spark of hope in Terences failing spirits. She well knew that it might come to nothing, but matters were too urgent to allow of looking as much as an hour ahead.
With the best of good wills did Con make his way across the drenched bog-corner, adopting nearly as many different modes of progression as a more distinguished person is related to have done in somewhat similar surroundings. Treacherous was the foothold offered by the unstable surface, which often could be got over only in standing leaps from spongy tussock to tussock, and wobbling stone to stone. It was usually with reluctance that Con visited Terence in his prison. A natural recoil from the sight of suffering which he could not relieve was strengthened by a consciousness that the spectacle might be morahsed into representations about the happier lot wherewith he himself yet remained dissatisfied. In his heart he vaguely knew that these representations were unfair and false, and he resented them as a dishonest attempt on the moralisers part to debase his standard of what might reasonably be demanded from life, and to beat down the terms on which he could honourably make a treaty of contentment, not on his own behalf alone. Accordingly he kept conscience-strickenly aloof. This bit of active service for his hapless friend was, however, quite to his mind. He plunged and splashed along, ignoring much mire and water in his determination to bring back with the utmost speed that desired intelligence about the Lady Emeria. Alas! it was a fools errand.