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From Archibald T. De Nise, Attorney-at-Law.
To Major Matthew Forbes.
My dear Major:--A week ago when we ended our after-dinner talk (in the small hours of the morning), I little thought that I should so soon have evidence on your side of the argument concerning the shadowy other life in our midst. I can't say that the new evidence has convinced me, but it certainly has me rattled.
I am sending you brief excerpts from a curious old Irish volume I am eager to have you see, and also, a verbatim copy of the letter which came with it. I recall that your family was of the last hereditary historians of Ireland in the seventeenth century, and with your bookish tendencies, added to your predisposition to delve into the uncanny, it gives me a hope that your inheritance of knowledge may help me to a glimmer of light in this case.
I am sure that in reading the letter I enclose, you will not fail to recollect the statement of your friend Dartan, whose portrait of "Girl with the Hound," was in the spring exhibition. He told us that the addition of the hound to that picture was at his suggestion, and that it required considerable
time and trouble to find the right type of hound for the desired composition. By this you will note that the hound did not enter that family through any special desire of any member of that family.
It is easy to decide that an impressionable mind, under the influence of powerful inherited tradition of brutal ages, could work itself into a state of self-hypnosis wherein the dream became the fact. I tell myself that such is the reasonable solution of the mystery.
I work it out beautifully along those lines as I would a theoretical game of chess--and then that red-eyed hound of the picture walks across the board, and makes chaos of my chess men!
You know how much the unusual personality of the boy has interested me from the beginning. The excitement over him has been tremendous--the absolute lack of motive--her beauty, and his youth (he is not yet twenty-three)--all this would be enough to make the affair celebrated even without the very important financial position held by his brother.
I have begged the boy to help me clear up the mystery of it all, and he evidently thinks he has really given me that help in the letter I enclose, but to my mind it furnishes two mysteries instead of one.
When you have read it I want you to call me up, no matter what hour of the day or night it is, and then cote and talk it over--if ever a friend needed a lifeline in the strange sea of the uncanny, I am that friend. I worked personally all night on the copy I send you--it could not be given to a copyist.
There are many who are confident that he is not the guilty one, but that his finding her there, in that condition, shocked him out of sanity. He gave himself up at once and accused himself without any excitement whatever.
[paragraph continues] He has steadily refused to tell his motive for the act, and has made not the slightest attempt to vindicate himself at any time--not even soliciting the help of an attorney.
When I offered him the services of my office he only said: "It is a kindness of you to give help at this time, and there is money in plenty to pay you, Mr. De Nise, but the work is not worth the doing, and it is I am telling you it."
More than that he has not said, and his speech has the unusual quality of fineness in it, at the same time that he uses curious phrasing suggestive of a brogue, though it is not a brogue. Perhaps it is that Irish music in his voice makes him fascinating. I have heard nothing quite like it. I hope you remember that in our former talk I spoke to you of it, and you said that prior to Elizabethan days, much learning and most of the music of England had been borrowed from the Irish scholars who took the brogue with them across the Irish Sea and made it fashionable. I assure you this lad's manner would become fashionable if it could be easily imitated. It belongs to a world older than our day. That is the baffling impression given when he speaks. It is not the words alone--it is a certain lilt in intonation as if he had been trained in rhythmic chants. Strangely enough his half-brother, who is old enough to be his father, and has had much the same educational advantages, has not a particle of this manner. He is a plain, practical, very well-to-do Anglo-Irishman, interested in certain American mines, and is a local bank director.
You will think me obsessed by this matter of a personality individual and strange--but I am only impressing on you the fact that I spoke to you a week ago of that baffling fascination in him. I want you to remember it, otherwise we should both fancy that my present impressions
are merely borrowed from the book and letter I send you.
Yesterday, in desperation over having the case called for next week and not a single word or suggestion of help from him, I repeated what I have said to him so often:
"Fergal, since you have promptly accused yourself and implicated no one but yourself, why--why in the name of all that's holy, do you not tell to me, your lawyer, and your friend, at least the cause of the crime you have confessed? Why will you not give me something substantial to work on? As it is, I have nothing but absurd theories--shadows to pit against a prosecution."
He looked at me with the quiet, unyouthful gray eyes, which look black under jet lashes. Then he stretched his arms drowsily as if I had fairly beaten him into speech.
"Aye, Mr. De Nise," he said, and shook his head with its purple-black wave of hair, like nothing so much as a crow's wing, except that a crow has no curls to its feathers. "Mr. De Nise, the wonder is on me, sir, as to what you would be saying if you heard in truth of the shadow I have fought in this--and the shadow I feared long--and the shadow by which I was overcome. I am not they one saying to you that shadows are little things to fight.'
"You try me and see what I would say," I suggested. "Tell me every word and every thought you have on this matter; that is the right thing to do for me as well as for you." I was only too keen to encourage him, for it was the first time he had shown even a sign of sympathy toward my solicitations.
"And you would not be thinking it moonshine from some Irish rath of the fairies? And you will not be having your laugh with the councilors and the judges over the crazed Irish head of me, after I have gone the Way?" he asked.
I assured him it was too weighty an affair for laughter,
and that I was convinced that his head had the usual requisites for a head. He appeared to consider that statement thoughtfully, but finally he said:
"No--no, it has lived with me so long in silence that no words come to me for the telling. No--it will not be spoken."
I saw that he was actually striving to nerve himself for some ordeal, and I kept silence, looking over some notes I had made for the defense: few and shadowy they are, too! My presence without speech must have got on his nerves, for as if to get rid of me he spoke at last.
"I may write it as the other records of our home were written--I--may do that. Yes--that is where it would be having the right place--in the record of the clan, for it is the ending of it--yes--and the right ending."
I knew I could make nothing for his defense out of that sort of statement, so I ignored it, and left the jail after sending for paper, pen, and ink. I looked back through the bars and he was seated again, his head on his hands. I should not have been surprised to learn that he had forgotten the pen and paper were there. I have not seen him since.
But this morning there came to the office his half-brother, Raymond E. Brennan, from whom this crime has separated him beyond hope of reconciliation. Now that I think of it, they are not exactly half-brothers but by courtesy, since Brennan's father married the mother of Fergal some years after he was born, and she a widow.
In his hand he carried a small square package.
"It is the book--" he said, "the book done by Kearmit the monk in a past century. I brought it myself, for the boy asked that you be let read it. It is a treasure of his house. He knew it by heart, and thought it a great treasure--as I fancy it may be, as such things go."
His tone indicated that such things did not go far with him, though he was tolerant.
"Is it something concerning the case?" I asked.
"Not at all," he said. "It is a collection of legends and songs of his mother's house, done by a kinsman of theirs who was a monk. It is a very ancient house, Mr. De Nise. According to the records, there were princes and abbots among them when Ireland was in her glory. The work on the book is of the finest and worth seeing."
"But I have made no request for the book, nor ever heard of it," I said, for as the wrapper was taken off and I saw the richness and value of it, I hesitated to keep it. He looked at me in surprise.
"No? That is strange," he said. "Ah, the poor lad; his head is wrong; that is it."
"Did he tell you I wanted it?" I asked. "Please repeat to me exactly what he said; I am much interested in his case, and he speaks so little that every word is precious, as it may help to reveal hidden things."
"I know that, and am glad he has a good friend in you. I cannot be that. I feel that it is his head is wrong, for he was ever a strange lad, delving in ancient records, and at home with thoughts too old for his years. His mother was a safe, natural woman and there were times he seemed 'fey' to her. He was born the night his father die, but he was like neither father nor mother. She told me that when she followed my father, and asked me to care for the lad. I did my best while I could, but I do not want ever to hear the old Irish of his voice again, or touch his hand again while I live."
"What do you mean by the 'old' Irish of his voice?" I asked, and he looked at me with a little frown of perplexity.
"Do you know, Mr. De Nise, that is a hard question to answer to a man who has not heard the Gaelic about him.
[paragraph continues] That lad was not brought up to the Gaelic speech, nor his parents before him, nor their parents, yet when he spoke first--English words, mind you--he spoke it with the sound on his tongue of the old Irish. That is not because he has not gone about and heard other speech: three years he was in France and in Spain. There was an old branch of his people came to Galway from Spain in the very old times. His mother said he came by the blackness of his hair from the Spanish kindred, for her people were fair always. But, as I was saying, no travel took the touch of the old tongue off him. You must have noticed, sir, yourself; it is as if he speaks in English but thinks in the old Irish."
Now that explained exactly that baffling music of his intonation, and I was glad to have it cleared up for me; if cleared up it is!
"Yes--he has always been strange, but he was a lovable lad at that," said Brennan. "I know it was his head went wrong all in a flash, and I hope the court so decides. But when I try to think kindly of him, there comes again before my eyes that awful sight of--ah--I cannot even speak of it yet."
He walked to the window and stood with his back to me. I could see he was much agitated.
"Do not try to speak of it," I said, "only try to tell me the word he sent concerning the book."
Brennan gave me a letter from his pocket and walked again to the window while I read it.
There was no heading to the letter; it began abruptly in clear, decided penmanship.
"I know the sorrow of you--yet it may be there is a deeper sorrow I am now hiding. I know the hate of your heart for me--and all the world is with you in that.
"I am not sending to you in any complaining, for things are written, and the reasons are not shown to mortals, yet we must abide by that writing.
"I am sending to ask a favor for the man who would save--if he can--the last of my family, which he cannot. I would have lent to him for his reading, the book of the annals of our house. Not the genealogy in Gaelic with its translation, but the smaller book with the ivory cover and the silver clasps. It is the legends and songs of our bards in the other days before the harps of Ireland were broken by the mailed fist of the enemy. The man if want to have read it is a lover of books, and nothing like the 'Book of Kearmit' has he seen; not but what kindred clans had jewels of books, and more of them than in other lands, but the Saxon, like the Dane, in their plunderings, stripped them of the precious coverings, and left the vellum to rot or burn. They are few and rare at this day.
"The sorrow is with me for the reason that your life is in shadow. Always first in my heart was held my love of you. I am proud now to be knowing that, and on a day to be . . . you will know it!
"On that day I may again call you brother--and the waiting for it is long to me.
"That is the first word he has ever sent me, since that night," said Brennan, "so I brought the book at once. I would do much more to be of use to any mortal in misery, but hear him, or see him, I hope I shall never."
While he spoke a messenger came in with a package for me. I still held Brennan's letter in my hand. As I glanced at the envelope just received I saw that the writing was the same--it was the first communication I had ever received from Fergal.
I opened it quickly, and found many large pages closely written; folded around them was a note. It said:
"A book of old Irish legends will be brought to your hand this day. Before reading the letter I send in this, I will ask you to read the book. There is one tale of the olden day I would have you reading. It is called Randuff and White Enora."
I turned to Brennan. "I should like after all to look the book," I said. "Fergal will no doubt tell me why he wishes me to see it."
Then thanking him for coming with it personally, I let him out as expeditiously as possible in my eagerness to see what the boy had sent me. It was a great temptation to read the letter first, but I put it aside and opened the book.
I did not linger long over the artistic binding or ornamental pen work, but turned at once to the story Fergal had mentioned. It was called The Sad Tale of Randuff and White Enora. It was written in verse, as many others were. I find that Randuff means "The Dark, Handsome One."
not rise in their vengeance and make ashes of their women and children as have the Saxons with the "mere Irish."
But Brian is dust in Dunpatrick, and Cormac the wise has been dust a thousand years in Rosnaree, and besides them no king has arisen in strength to hold together the tribes, and strong to do righteousness on the adventurers who have their hirelings in mail to help them make profits off the land.
And of the last law of Edward's councilors has come the evil of the death of Randuff--the sweetly dark one, cried now by the woman, and mourned by the very trees of the forests he had love for! Randuff of the princes of Cumanac, Randuff of the sweet voice, and that voice chanting the glories above all sweetness of mortal: Grief on the loss of that one!
Her name was Enora of the Saxons, and when she spread her net, and looked on him, it was a drug to his soul. The robe of a scholar he forgot, and holiness he forgot, and only marriage with her was the dream walking with him all the night. To his brothers in kindred he told his love and it needed not the telling, for all could read the wonder of it in his eyes--shadowed eyes the women of Cumanac are wailing!
The new law of the invader forbids bonds of marriage between their Saxon men and our Irish Women--and much more is the strength of the law against daughters of English taking a name from an Irish clan, even though it be a princely clan. Grief on that day!
So it stands, and what is one man, even the youth Randuff, to do against that? What is one man to do with the pride of his clan like a black rage back of him? And their friendship and their love hidden from him? And their rule hard against him for that he would not tear the
face of her out of his breast; and would not forget the White Enora of the sea-blue eyes?
Sons of lords of Spain sailed into the Shannon mouth. In their own ship they came, and young they came, and they were his kindred. Love in their own hearts made them brothers to Randuff, and they alone knew of the stolen nights of him in her secret chamber. Only they knew that he fared forth as a duine--leading the steed of her father . . . as a servant unknown walked Randuff, son of princes, to follow the white feet of the woman of the other shore. Grief on that day! None but the sons of the lords of Spain knew it, and they knew it.
Sweet the plot for love was the plot of Randuff and the sons of the lords of Spain--and sweet the sailing to be when the bird of love flew south with them, for that was their dream!
But the maid of the secret nights had a long look in the blue eyes of her, and the look was long for a man who could put her near to the throne in the court of Edward. Such was her look, and such was the hope, and that was not in power of Randuff, son of prince of Cumanac, nor of any other of Erinn's princes, and she grew in fear of the love-nights she had loved so rashly, and in fear of the lover who had dared much, and would dare more.
The Night of nights came when the sails were loosed, and horses were under the wall, and the lover in the secret door for the last time. And in fear of his wrath when she should say to him "No," and in fear of her own kindred if they thought the truth of her--she took by her side a wolfhound of her knowing, and a keen knife to give help to the last. Grief on the night!
With fair treacherous words, and sad words, she told him the will of her kinsmen was heavy on her, and the fear on her was a great fear, and never again could the moon
light their love-nights. Her beauty had been coveted by an earl of England, and her parting from wild Ireland would be a long parting.
So it was, and when in love his arms went around her, the wolfhound leaped to his throat, and her knife found the way to his heart. Grief on that night!
The cries of her were the cries of a child in fright, and her words were of terror, and these were her words: That to save herself pure from a man of the Irish wilds, she had used the knife, and she stood there holding back the hound from the blood of Randuff, and told this thing, and the eyes of Randuff on her, and the breath of life going from him!
Her kinsmen came there--and their rage was a great and terrible rage, and above all the rage was that of Alwynn, a priest of her blood, and it may be he is druid, too, for he is not christian surely; and it was the curse of curses he put on the youth there, not alone that he should die unshriven, but that no sons should ever again be born to the name, and the pride of the race, and its fruitfulness should die out even as the youth's blood was flowing from the heart of him. Grief on that night!
And the strength of that hate, and the words of it, wakened Randuff out of the death spell, and in a' great slowness he spoke again, and the people who heard it went cold, and the wanton white thing fell swooning, and none of them are forgetting it, and this is what he said there:
Death took him, and no mortal is knowing what meaning was in his words. The Spanish kinsmen told their tale, and sailed for the south, and earth glory and sinful glory are the portion of Enora of the wolfhound. She is near the throne surely, and the children of her are honored by her own name forever by the royal will.
This is the tale of Randuff and White Enora. It is put down by the hand of Kearmit of Cumanac as a sign against that family forever. No honor, no friendship, is ever to be taken by gift or grace of the people of her blood, and no other thing forever but war should be with that people. As White Enora with her wolfhound, and her knife for the lover, so is that blood to the blood of the tribes whose land they have coveted, and have left ravaged. May memory be with our people in the Day of days!
"By the Elements, and the Father, and Son, and Sanctified Spirit."
. . . . . . . . . . .
I finished the old chronicles, wondering why I had been asked to read of the intensity of the ancient hates, though I acknowledge that the form of the original is better than my faulty translation from the Latin. Then I opened his letter of which I send you an exact copy. I can't let the original go--yet I want you to be entirely acquainted with all the evidence of which I am possessed. Call me up soon as you read it. Here is the letter:
My Good Friend--
Now that I have put my hand to it, you shall have your wish. To tell you will lighten the heart of me, and now that the end is so near I can see no harm coming from the
fit, truth. No man with the cleverness of you would take into court a letter such as this must be, and you will not tell the one man it would hurt--that you could not do; the worst you will do is to think me mad.
If it is so now, then I was mad at birth. Yet no one thought it. I was different but no worse than that, and I will tell it you.
My mother was of the blood of the Cumanac, though the name of the tribe is dead. Sons were not born--only daughters. The genealogy of our people is clear back to the days of Diarmod of the Foreigners, who is in hell if there be one! The women of our house married scholars, and into families of scholars. The record of that blood was the record of a province, and there was no generation of it lost.
I am different from my family. They were fair, I am dark as our ancient Spanish cousins. My mother wept often on my birthdays but would not say why to me. Later I learned that I was born the night of the death of my father. There were times when she cried out that I was born with his brains, and my questions of ancient things frightened her, for I spoke as a child of things I could not know as a child. She thought I had "the sight," and she was frightened by it, for she was a quiet, God-fearing woman, with only dread on her for the side of life she could not see.
Because of that dread I grew silent about many things. I wanted to ask why, when I closed my eyes to sleep, I so often rose above my body and drifted there, held only by the thin invisible cord, waiting for the slumber of the body to release me until I could go free--where?
I wanted to ask why certain people, though dressed in sober friese, yet had rainbow rays of light visible--while others had clear white--and others the color of gloom.
I wanted to ask of the faint, sweet music of harps, heard in nights of clear cold and white snow under the moon often I was out at dawn to find track of the musicians whose playing was unearthly sweet.
But I was only a boy, and I had learned to watch and learn if others were in the same wonder, but it was of no use. There were no tracks in the snow, and no one seemed to me to have ears or eyes for my mysteries.
So I grew to live much within myself, and my mother was a lonely woman. When the father of Raymond wed with her, it brought more content to us both. I think she feared the care of me as I grew older, and Raymond was the sort she could best understand.
It was after the marriage that I first saw the land of our ancient people. In Galway my mother's husband had bought an old estate, and Raymond had great joy in plans for showing me the old castle--the secret dungeon--the hidden stairway and subterranean gallery whose exit they had not yet discovered.
That was the time I had the first glimmer of light as to where I had flown while my body slept!
For I turned to the hidden stairway before Raymond could tell me, and I took them to the ruins of an old monastic cell, and told them to lift a slab there to find the underground entrance--and it was there as I said.
My mother wept when they told her. I said I had dreamed it.
In looking over the ancient documents transfer of the lands, its history was clear to the day of Edward the Third, when a beautiful daughter of the Saxon owner had become a court favorite, and left the w Ids of Connaught to carry her graces to the eastern market. The name of her was Enora. I was reading Latin by that time and
found her name in our own records by Kearmit. Raymond came by some deeds giving names of her descendants, and it was a game of interest to trace them down through the centuries.
Happiness was with me in that place; I had never heard the Gaelic until I heard it there, and the knowing of it seemed breathed into me with the air, for I was soon delving in every corner for songs of the ancient bards and seeking out old singers, and hearing over and over their tales of the breaking of Ireland's harps by England's laws that her music might be killed forever.
The tales were sad enough, but I was only a lad and no sadness stayed on me, for I was in more happiness than ever before. In my early childhood I had been long ill, and debarred from ranging in freedom the field or the mountains, but in old half-Spanish-looking Galway I walked into new life--and new strength. The nights and days were filled with the harmonies of mere living. I was as one who has hungered long for full warm heartbeats and who grows drunken with the rhythmic music of that pulsing--all the world and the harmonies of it were as chorus to me.
I enjoyed life with every breath of me--not as my mother and Raymond did, in quiet and serene, but with the lilt of a singing gladness that was but a reflection of every flower--an echo of every bird-song and the joyous, thunderous rhythm of the tide with its menace of mysteries.
The Gaelic came to me as though in sudden remembrance, and I lived in the very spirit of the ancient legends of the Land Wonderful where turrets of sunken cities are seen in a clear day at the ebb, and the magic island of the "Land of the Ever Young" rises above the waters to the west every seven years.
Ireland is the tragic "different" land from every other. The wish is with me that I could tell to you the influences in that land--the inherited influences by which an unread peasant can recite the loves and battles of Queen Maeve, and the flight of Grania and her Diarmod, as if the passions of them had been in our own day rather than twenty centuries back in the shadows. Every well and river, every hill and battle-plain, has its legend of god or goddess, of the Danaans or the later wondrous Fionn and the Comrades. Nothing is old there, because the spirit of it is young. It is why the music of it has had soul enough to reach through the world--Teuton and Briton and Gaul borrowed and renamed the music of Ireland and the legends of Ireland, even while Britain smashed Ireland's harps lest the bards keep alive forever her kinship with the Spirits of Beauty.
Only fragments of the music are left to her--death and exile were the penalties for giving shelter to a bard, or giving ear to his harping. An old man of Laherdane told me a human life had been paid twice over for every note of every ancient Irish song preserved to us in this day. All that is left are a few airs to which the moderns strive to fit words, or a few verses to which they strive to fit music, yet the beauty of the fragments are worth all the strivings.
By this you will see that, as a lad, I was overswept by the great wave of ancientness of the land--and the charm of it. You have seen Raymond, and you will know without any telling that he lived beside me for years, yet never saw the Ireland I was enthralled by. We had the different eyes and the different heart for its reading.
I thought often enough how strange it was that while he was near double the years of me, yet it was the new
things of today he was alive to: the trading of nations, and the financing of American mines, and such like, with never a thought of even the policies of kingdoms further in the past than his own generation; while I lay hidden from my English tutor on the cliffs above the bay, and tried to picture the gray-blue mist by which the magical Danaans made a wall between themselves and the foreign invaders while their hidden palaces under the green hills were being made ready for their using.
I knew the magical and majestic Danaans of the land had dwindled in earth-power with the centuries, until in our day they are spoken of as fairies, or earth-spirits, but that lessened none of their interest to me. They had, for some mystic reason, drawn the veil of the invisible over their life. But the life did endure, and was often close akin to certain living mortals.
For hours I would lie thus in the grasses, listening to the whisper of winds and waves, singing with them at times, listening for echoes, until the soft flight of velvet-winged bats from the cliff caves sent me home in the dark to tell my mother and my tutor the many echoes of ancient years I had heard out there with only sea and sky, bird and wind voices for my telling.
I did not mean to speak falsely when I averred, despite lectures from my tutor and scoldings from my mother, that the birds did speak, and that the wind did bring whispering voices which none but I could hear. I heard them, felt their presence, and at times the veil between this and that other life was so thin that I could see the glad sun-light on faces that came--I knew not whence! Slowly, as I grew older, they faded--as do the many other dreams that come to children.
But the echo of the whispers remained; through all of life they have seemed to prepare me for what was to come.
[paragraph continues] And if my sentence from the court is death, I feel that the same voices will greet me again, and will say: "Rest you now; the time has been long to you since you wandered away. Your work in that life is over. Rest you with us."
So I grew up, my mind full of fancies; and they were odd and foolish, and frightening to my mother.
"Sorrow of me," she would say, scoldingly. "You are like a changeling of different blood. You do naught but dream in idleness, and see unchristian things that are the outgrowth of lazy brains."
It would be of no use in the world to tell her that at times I dreamed true--like the secret stairway, and the lost underground hall to which I had found the lichen-covered door. To say aught to her of these things in argument only sent her to her prayers--or to her priest, who deemed me but a hopeless liar, and an unrepentant one.
Only Raymond did not scold. "Never you mind, mother, he is but a boy," I have often heard him say; "and why should he do aught but dream and sing old songs if his happiness is in that? He has income enough to be at no one's expense but his own."
In our house were many old books of the tribes of the Cumanac, and quaint old pictures of our people. My mother never looked at them. She only had care of them because her mother had known them as treasures. Kings had been of our family in the past, and mystical druid rulers in the dim shadow ages. The old legends and traditions over which I pored as I grew older told me of the beauty of our women, the bravery of our men, and the high esteem in which they were held even by their enemies of the east and north. They lived in the feudal grandeur of those days--kings in their own territory.
Then the curse came!
All those tales of a life so different to that around me made a lasting impression on my imagination. I seemed to live in the lives of those who were gone centuries before I was born. And when alone in some old room of the castle with my books about me, or alone in the hills in the night with my memories of dreams about me, I had strange temptings at times. If my self-confidence had equaled my convictions, I would have turned scribe and supplied many missing chapters in the old histories. Strangely enough, it was not history at all that I wanted to write, but it was the lost songs of Ancient Ireland, and they held themselves high in the air--the words never came near--only fugitive melodies and the thrilling harp!
I think now I should have written the history as it came clear in my mind, and at times in scribbling idleness to my pen's point. The flashes of the ancient life were as a schooling for my mind and my hand. I think the songs would have followed if I had done good work. . . . It is my grief that I have lost the chance for this life. They come not again to a closed door.
"What will we do?" I asked him. Scotch cousins did not seem near to me. That people had helped break the harps.
"I must go myself and see about it," he said; "it is not a large property and may have gone to the Crown through being unclaimed. But by going I may at least find in it some old books such as you fancy, or some old pictures for you to dream over."
That is what he said: "some old books or old pictures for you to dream over."
Aye! The dreams he made true for me by that going!
In that way he went from me to be back in a month, but letter after letter came, pleading business details to be arranged. My claim was made good, but it required much attention to settle the matters connected with it. So time went on until many weeks had passed. Then at last came a letter which explained all, and it said:
"Fergal, my brother--
"I have news to tell you--news I hope you will be glad to hear. Tomorrow I am to be married. It all seems very sudden to send you word thus, but she has been left alone in the world by death--herself the last of the ancient family of the Galway castle, who, I have heard you say, were your forefathers' enemies ages ago. Her name is Ednah; she is the last of their line, and you the last of yours. I give her to you as a sister, and thus we will bury the old hates of Erin and Albion."
I read this letter as in a dream. I had never thought of the marrying of Raymond. I re-read it, trying to remember all the tales of our old feud with her people. Why did that one of Randuff and White Enora come first and keep uppermost in my mind? Parts of the others were forgotten. It alone remained undimmed in my memory. I tried to put it aside and think only of Raymond. I thought I succeeded, at least in the daytime.
I was out on the cliffs when they arrived, and did not see them at once. I came in vexed with myself for forgetting the hour he was to come. I found them in a room where our family portraits were hung. I could see them through the door--he so large and massive, she so slight and fair. His arm was about her shoulders.
I hesitated; I was only a lad, and our family had been one with family affections, but little of outward sign given of them--no kisses, no embraces, even from my mother; and the sight of that half-embrace was a strange one to me. It made me feel more keenly my own aloneness. Because of the shyness on me I waited until they should move. They had stopped before my picture.
"Who is that?" she asked, and her voice was music.
"It is my brother Fergal," said Raymond. "He should be here now--the idle, dreaming fellow. He has forgotten. Come, we will go and look for him."
"Wait," she said. "I want to look at his picture. How different from all the rest it is. Somewhere, sometime . . . I have seen a face like that, or a picture, but where--where?"
"I have no doubt there are many such happy, careless faces among boys," said Raymond.
"But is it quite careless?" she asked. "When one looks at it long it grows sad, then stern--and the eyes--ah, those eyes! If he looks at me in that way I shall fear him, Raymond."
Raymond put his hand over her eyes, and laughed and kissed her on the mouth. I went chill in the heart at that kiss.
"What a foolish child you are," he said. "You and Fergal are alike in your imaginings."
Then they turned and saw me. Raymond looked so
happy and so different that I was glad. But I do not know if I can find words to tell how she looked.
She was fair and babyish, with little ways and movements like a white kitten. Her hair was the yellow of the cornsilk, and her eyes as blue as the violet which grows always in the shade. She reached out her hands to me in a pretty childish way.
"We are to be brother and sister," she said. "I hope we shall all be very happy together."
I barely touched the hands of her--such pretty hands--but that touch tingled through all my blood. I stammered and blushed with embarrassment. I had known so few women, and none well, and I had never seen any as beautiful as my brother's wife. She was dainty and delicate as the snow maiden that fades when brought down to the level where humanity lives.
Perhaps that was why I feared to touch her, even. If I did by chance, my hand would tremble and my face flush. She laughed over it to Raymond.
"He will never be my brother," she said. "He is as shy of me as if I were still a stranger."
One day Raymond spoke to me of it:
"Why are you so foolish," he asked. "Ednah wonders why you have dislike of her. You are almost of an age--born in the same year--and should be better friends. Yet you range the mountains alone more than ever. Even the books are forgotten by you."
In answer I asked to go away to school, or to travel. I had never before cared for anything but our old house and the forest near, or the musty books in the time-worn cases. Now the air had grown close; all the quiet of the forest, all the hum in the grasses, could not bring to me their old, drowsy rest; and the wind no more carried echoes of whispering voices!
"Perhaps it is best that you should go," said Raymond. "Travel may cure you of this strangeness and shyness. I shall give up this place for a while and cross seas. Ednah has horror of these old walls, and will stay in no room of them alone. When you join us again you will find us in some sunnier place."
Then Raymond wrote to me in Spain to join them here. I was almost twenty-two. There were property matters to be arranged, and my presence was required. I am not sure if I was glad or not. I did not sleep at all, and I sailed on the first ship.
Once on the sea the fear fell away. Almost the music of dreams came back to me. The three years of wandering had driven out the dreams and remembrance had not been happiness.
But the ship to the west brought me into starry nights of sweetness and wonderful dreams when all the world was of hope, for the fear was gone on the waves.
Raymond did not expect me so soon, and I found their new home all alone. Only Ednah was there. She ran down the steps to meet me. Back of her was a tall hound.
"Fergal, Fergal!" she said, and the blue eyes of her were bright as if with tears.
I am not knowing if I spoke to her--I think I did not.
[paragraph continues] But I took her hand. She offered her cheek as if for a brother's caress, but I did not touch it. I only looked at her, and we walked up the steps together, and the hound followed.
"I am glad it is today you came," she said. "I am all alone. Ah, we have wanted you so often! The world felt so empty--empty as all my life used to be! Now all will be different--you are here."
She showed me a portrait lately finished of her with the hound at her knee. The artist had asked that one be secured for the painting, and Raymond had tried to find one to look most like an Irish wolfhound for the harsh note of contrast with her own whiteness. She told this frankly as a child, and laughed because the dog would not follow Raymond when she was near. Then she showed me all their wonderful new home, and the Italian garden above the river, and a wonderful pergola where yellow roses and crimson roses burned like flame.
We sat in that dream place through the sunset. I listened and said little. Her glad voice was as cool, sweet rain that falls on sun-scorched sands. I was beside her until the dusk, drinking in tones of music, but never once did I look in her eyes.
And Raymond came when the night fell.
I scarce know how to tell of the days to follow. The fear and shyness came back to me. But I was older and could hide it more than when she first came to my sight, and Raymond had pleasure to think I was feeling more friendly toward the lovely wife. But I avoided being alone with her, and with the tall hound ever her shadow.
Even when she rode horseback above the cliffs of the river the hound was at the heels of her horse, and was known widely by the new friends of Raymond. The portrait was shown in a great gallery, and was called "Beauty
and the Beast." But you have seen that, and know the pride of Raymond that she was his. He housed and dressed and adored her as queen of the world.
But it was herself gave long, strange looks to me, and looks of question they were, too. Everyone sought her except myself, and she was noting that, even though the eyes of Raymond were blind by his love for us both.
One day I came in with scarlet blossoms for which she had asked.
She was coming down the great stairs and smiled at me.
"How lovely," she said; "we have dinner-guests to-night, but I shall wear no jewels. I want only those scarlet blossoms in my hair; bring them in here to the music-room."
I followed her, and stood there holding the flowers; but she did not take them. She only looked at me and laughed a little.
"One would think me an old witch-wife of your Irish hills, you shun me so, brother Fergal," she said, "and I think I shall make you do penance here. You must fasten the blossoms in my hair with your own hands. You should learn to be gallant, Fergal, else when you meet your lady-love you will never know how to woo her."
I held the flowers in silence and tried to fasten them. My fingers were shaking. The perfume of her hair made me drunk as wine.
"Your hands are nervous doing work so new to them," she said, and laughed. "You foolish boy, what can I do more than to fit up this room for you only, with its Irish harp and its Irish music and a pot of Shamrock in each window. It is enough to make any other man love me--but not Fergal!" she said, and sighed, and then laughed.
I could not answer her words of light mocking, and the great hound, stretched at her feet, arose and the bristles
on his neck stood upright as my hands touched her hair. He was ever on guard for her, and it was a jest that she had to put chain on him for the lessons with a dancing-master. He would allow no stranger to touch her, and me he was ever watching in jealousy.
Raymond's wife noted it, and laughed.
"He has the jealousy of a man in love," she said, "but you know nothing of that jealousy, for it is only books and old music you have in your mind. You are almost a year older than I, and have traveled around the world, yet are afraid of women. And to think I once dreamed of fearing you--or your picture--that is amusing to me now! I have never once seen your eyes look in a rage as I thought they might. But it is seldom you favor me even with a glance. I doubt if you could tell the color of my eyes."
So she chattered on, smiling up at me, mocking at my silence and at my shaking hand.
"I have fear that this will not be done to your pleasure," I said at last.
She laughed again. "Fergal," she said, "is it all women you are fearing, or only me?"
As she spoke her head was turned to look up at me. I still held the flowers in her hair. My wrist was near her cheek. In turning, her lips touched it. Perhaps it was accident. I do not know.
The golden hair of her was over my hands, her red mouth on my wrist, and the wonderful child-eyes of her looking into my own. She raised one hand and clasped my arm. I threw it from me with a force that staggered her back to the wall, and the tall hound pressed close to her and growled deep threat to me. The flowers in my hand I dashed to the floor, and I left her there like that. As I went down the steps I heard my name called by her, but I never looked back.
That night I spent in the forest.
When morning came again I told Raymond that my wandering years were not over. The Foreign Legion of France might need another sabre. I was willing to offer one to her--or to Ireland, if need arose in the south. And it was not a time for youth to be easy in comfort in any house.
Raymond laughed, and said I could send money enough to buy them a seasoned soldier instead of myself, and told me he would take it ill if I sailed before Ednah's birthday, for it was in his mind to give an entertainment that I might meet their many new friends. His wife joined us in silence and clasped his arm and stood with eyes downcast. She looked very white and very childish. We had not spoken.
"You young people have been dull here," her husband said. "Suppose we have a ball for your birthnight; something to repay the great hospitality of the people. What do you say, my child? I must not have you lonely."
She spoke her pleasure, and, the choice of entertainment being left to her, it was a masquerade she made choice of. "It is more gaiety," she said.
"A masque it shall be, then," said Raymond. "And you, Fergal, must have no thought of leaving us until after that."
"Are you going again?" she asked, and her blue eyes had pleading in them.
I could make her no answer.
"So he threatens," said Raymond. "You must help me to persuade him to be sensible and stay where he is. Perhaps we can find him a sweetheart at the ball. You must get a fine dress, Fergal, and we shall have it the night Ednah is twenty-two."
I was arranging some books in a case while they talked.
[paragraph continues] I did not want to look in her eyes and see the appeal there. One of the volumes slipped from my hand to the floor. It was our old book of legends, and it lay open at the tale of Randuff and White Enora.
"Here is my dress," I said, and tried to laugh. "What was good enough for our ancestors centuries ago is good enough for me now. I shall wear the dress of Randuff of Cumanac. Here is a description of it in the legend."
Ednah stared at me. "Randuff of Cumanac," she half whispered, "do you mean that 'Randuff' of the Lady Enora's song?"
"Yes, if that is what you are calling him," I said, "but the song I never heard."
"How do you know of him?" asked Raymond.
"I heard the rhyme of the killing often when I was a child," she said. "My grandmother never tired repeating the old tales of our ancestors. It gave me fear of the wild Irish. How bitter those old traditions made the people! The Lady Enora was sung as a very brave maid. Grandmother always spoke of the Cumanac as our enemy. Had she lived she would not have allowed me to be under the same roof with a descendant of theirs--never!"
"How ridiculous in this age to remember the old feudal hates," said Raymond. "I do not think the mother of Fergal knew even the legend. She read only books of piety, and was too sensible to take heed of hates so unchristian."
"It may seem silly to you," said his wife, "but my grandmother was thought a wise woman."
"What will be your dress?" asked Raymond, stroking her hair in a caress.
"I think I shall not tell either of you that," she said. "It will be much more amusing to puzzle you. I shall receive my guests in evening dress and then mask in whatever
[paragraph continues] I decide upon. You must not coax me to tell. On my birthnight you must let me have my own way."
My friend, this story may seem strangely long to you, but when I write of it, every word, every look, is coming back to me.
No persuasions could induce Raymond to mask the night of the ball. "I am too old," he protested. "At forty-five, people lose zest for masques."
My dress they called a success, but Ednah said:
"There is one thing needed for that costume: you have no dagger."
"It was forgotten by the costumer," I told her, "and I had none that would answer."
"Wait," she said, "I have one--an heirloom. How old it is I do not know. We had several in an old chest. Grandmother knew the history of each, but I never could remember them. I kept a very ancient Spanish one for a paper knife: I am sure it will do."
She left us, running along the hall, the great hound leaping beside her in play, her white ball dress fluttering like wings; to see her thus none would have thought such a childish butterfly could be the hostess of the evening.
Raymond looked after her in pride and great content.
"Like a child she is," he said. "Just as thoughtless and innocent; twenty-two today, and does not look seventeen. Ah, Fergal, there is only one life for a man: you must also get a wife. You will be more content to stay home from wars then."
I had no answer for him, and he laughed at me as he watched her come back with the dagger. It swung by a silver chain and there were jeweled clasps to the chain. The handle formed a cross, and the sheath was oddly carved and inlaid; the blade . . . but you have seen it!
I tried to clasp it, but the fastenings were difficult to manage.
"Clasp it for him, Ednah," said Raymond. "I must have this hound chained for you, else no mask will serve you or no stranger be let dance with you." So he spoke and laughed and left us alone.
The chain of the girdle was in her hand and her eyes on mine. "Shall I?" she asked.
"If you please," I answered, "since your husband bids."
"I am more kind to you than you are deserving," she said, and sighed. "You have not even said you were sorry for hurting me that day."
"If ever I have hurt you, I am sorry," I said as coldly as I could, but I feared while I spoke that she would know the tremble in my throat. I might have been brutal that day, but to tell her so I did not dare; I was afraid. And looking down at the bent golden head of her, I told myself that never another day should see me under the roof with my brother's wife.
"You are hurting me now," she whispered. "Fergal, you are hurting me always when you speak to me with that ice in your voice."
"Never will you hear it after tonight," I answered. "I am going tomorrow."
She stared at me, and put out her hand as if about to speak, then dropped it and walked away.
The ball was a very gay one. I surprised Raymond by showing no shyness whatever among the ladies who thronged the rooms. He said the mask gave me boldness. He was trying to discover his wife, and had failed.
"Several times I thought I had found her," he said, "but I am always mistaken. She has been very cunning. If you find her first, Fergal, bring her to me."
I danced and jested with many, but in none did I discover her.
At last, wearying of all the gay pretenses, I went out into the night. The Italian garden above the cliffs was deserted by others for the dance, and the pergola of the yellow roses was my own. It was there I had sat that first evening of her witcheries. And there I sat again with my head in my hands--wishing for the dawn that would take me away without offense to the man I felt deep love for.
The peace of it all oppressed me. The perfume of the flowers was sweet, but I hid my face in my hands. I knew that the time was past when the scent of flowers or music of winds or my own dreams would bring content to me. Better, I thought, if I were dead and forgotten as the Randuff whose dress I wore.
How long I was sitting there I do not know. At last I felt that I was not alone, and looked up. By my side was a girl in a dress such as I had never seen save in antique pictures. It was of something with lights in it like the waves of the ocean when the moon shines. Her face I could not see for the misty lace over it.
The glamour of the scene was about me. I forgot the
crowds dancing within; I forgot all save the presence of this girl, or was it a dream-girl like the visions of my childhood?
"Who are you?" I asked, and there was awe and wonder on me.
"Do you not know?" came the answer in a whisper, "Have you forgotten, Randuff of Cumanac?"
"Randuff?" I repeated, scarcely knowing what I said. My brain seemed whirling and the music of the dance drifted away. Through it I heard the muffled, far-off bay of a hound!
The girl touched me with her hand, and I held it fast. Her presence was an intoxication of joy to me. I have no words for the telling of the witcheries I felt myself yielding to. Was I Fergal or was I Randuff? I could not tell.
"Of course, Randuff," she whispered with her lips on my throat, "and I am your Enora who has found you again. This night only is ours out of all the years of life. Were you wishing for me?"
"I was," I said, and I spoke truth. It seemed to me that all of life had been nothing but waiting for that one night, and her near me.
"And you are not afraid now?" she whispered.
And I said: "There is no fear on me of anything but to lose you again, as we have lost each other until now."
"We have only this night out of all the others," she repeated. "Give me your kisses, Randuff."
And then I knew what a woman's kiss meant to a man, though it was not as a woman I was thinking of her, but as a spirit of the far past come back for that one night. My arms were about her--her face to mine; broken, tender words were whispered in my ears. What I replied I do not know. I felt her kiss on my mouth; I heard her breathless whispers.
And back of it all I heard the wild baying of a hound!
"One night of life together, my Randuff," she sighed. "Is it not worth more than a long lifetime apart?"
I could not speak--I could not! She lifted her hand to bring my face again to hers. Some jewel in her bracelet caught in the lace mask, and the veil of lace fell from about her head.
The moon shone full in her eyes through the rose vines of the pergola, and the soul of me was frozen there, for the girl who had witched me by the touch of her fingers--whose lips I had kissed, whose love I had taken--was the wife of my brother!
I tried to rise; I could not. I tried to speak, but my tongue seemed paralyzed. She must have felt something of what I wanted to say, for terror was on her, and she clung to me, whispering:
"Don't, Fergal; don't look at me like that! I could not have you go away so. Now, though you go, I will know your love is mine. Nothing can change that. Your love is mine!"
I knew she was speaking the truth. Our lives were each other's, though the bond of it was sin. I heard her whispers in a strange, double sense, for in clearness, as though there was no other sound under the heavens, I was hearing the bay of a hound, and him on a trail!
She came closer to me. Her lips were touching mine which were locked, giving no response to her caresses. I was as a man struck dumb with the horror. My brother--who had been like a kind father to me, always!
When I could hear her again, she was whispering:
"Why must you go--ever? Do not be leaving me. Raymond need never know--"
Then it was that I killed her, as the hound, in great leaps, entered the pergola, dragging his chain in the moonlight.
[paragraph continues] One blow of the dagger, and she lay on my arm, white and innocent-looking as a sleeping child. The hound leaped for me, but the same dagger caught him in the throat. Another stroke left him twitching and quivering at my feet.
I stood between them, watching them long, to be sure no breath of life was there to come back.
Then I lifted her in my arms and bore her to the house. On straight through the rooms I went, where the masked dancers scattered with shrieks from my path. At last I saw Raymond, and carried her to him.
"I have found your wife," I said, and laid her in his arms. And for that, the judges, who cannot know, will be giving me death.