She looks up now with a smile as Honor enters.
"I was just going over to tell you the news, dear. I know you never hear anything at Donaghmore."
"The news!" Honor falters, turning from white to crimson; her first thought being of some new danger threatening Power Magill.
"Oh, it's nothing very wonderful—perhaps nothing that you will call news after all!" Belle says hurriedly, seeing that swift blush and understanding it. "It is just that Ross Mount is closed, and its mistress has flown away to England. Sure they are saying now that she has a husband over there, alive and well, a farmer somewhere in Devonshire. Maybe she has gone back to him."
"Maybe she has," Honor assents coldly.
"And they are saying too," Belle goes on more gravely, and looking anxiously at her friend, "that the two men who were with Power Magill have got off to America. I'm sure I hope it is true!"
Honor says not a word. She is thinking of the man who is left a homeless wanderer on his native mountains—an exile within sight of his own walls!
"It's an awful pity about poor Power, isn't it, Honor? Sometimes I cry my eyes red thinking of him," Belle goes on in her pretty plaintive voice; "and I often think he must have gone with the rest to Donaghmore to keep them in order. He couldn't have gone, you know, to—to do any harm!"
Honor looks at her gratefully, and the words linger in her mind and comfort her in some vague way during her long and lonely walk to Donaghmore.
The sun has set as she enters the gates, and a mist which has crept up from the river makes the wide empty space on her left, as she walks up toward the house, look more like a lake than solid earth.
She has left the ruins behind her, not without a nervous shiver in passing, when the sound of a step, falling lightly but regularly on the strip of grass by the side of the drive, arrests her attention and sets her heart beating rapidly.
"It is all my own foolish fancy," she says to herself, and walks faster.
The step follows faster too. She stops, and instantly that light footfall is silent. Not a creature is to be seen. The old ruins rise grim and bare between her and the pale evening sky, but not a sound comes from them.
"It must have been my own fancy," she tells herself, and, reassured, starts forward almost at a run.
But listen! Again the step sounds behind her; more distant and far less rapid than her own, but clear and unmistakable. Her heart gives a great throb, the color dies out of her cheeks, and by the time she reaches her own door she feels ready to fall from haste and fear.
The old butler is crossing the hall and he looks at her curiously.
"Have you seen anything to startle you, Miss Honor?" he says at last.
"No; I have seen nothing. Why do you ask?" Not for worlds would she own to any one the ghostly fears that shook her out there in the dusky avenue, with the sound of those following steps in her ears.
"Well," adds the butler, "one of the girls has just come in, miss, in a state of great fright, and says that she saw the old abbot himself at the corner of the avenue, watching the house for all the world as if it held some treasure of his own."
"Nonsense!" Honor says, turning suddenly pale, even in the lighted hall. "I hope these silly tales are not going to begin again. Your master will be very displeased if they come to his ears."
As she enters the sitting-room she sees that her father is not alone.
A tall man is standing on the rug before the fire, talking with much animation. It is Brian Beresford.
"I have taken the liberty of invading you without even an invitation," he says, coming forward with outstretched hand.
"And you are welcome," the girl answers softly. "Besides, your last invasion was so well timed, we may well forgive this one."
"Ah," he says, smiling gravely, "that was a rough sort of invasion! I hope I shall never have to attack Donaghmore in that fashion again."
"I hope not indeed!" Honor agrees promptly. "I don't think I could live through another night like that."
"Oh, yes, you could—through a dozen such, if necessary. I quite admired your bravery. I never saw a young lady so cool under fire before."
She blushes as she listens; her heart thrills with a half-reluctant pride at his praise.
"What has come to me," she says to herself crossly, "that I can't look at the man without blushing? It's time I had more sense."
"I have come to stay a day or two," he tells them.
A week passes, however, and he does not go away. To Honor it is a week of very mixed sensations. She has never before known any one like this stolid Englishman, who under all his composure hides a passion so fiery, a will so strong.
On his part he is very grave and gentle. Not once does a word of love pass his lips; and she is glad of it, for she is in no mood to think of love or lovers.
"It would be horrible to think of such things," she tells herself, "while poor Power Magill is wandering in homeless misery."
She is thinking of him to-night as she looks out at the moonlight, lying chill and white on the grass and the bare flower-beds.
"Where is he now?" she asks herself with a shivering sigh, as she listens to the restless creak and sough of the trees. It is a question she is asking continually; but who can answer it?
He may be lying dead on some bare hillside, or at the bottom of some dark gorge in the mountains.
From the drawing-room window she can see across to the drive. Some one is coming slowly toward the house—a girl, little more than a child, with an old cloak flung over her head—country fashion. Honor watches her, and wonders which of the village people have been brave enough to pass the ruins of Donaghmore at this hour.
The girl comes straight on to the window at which Honor is still standing. When she is quite close she opens her cloak and holds out a letter—not a bulky letter, a mere scrap, closely twisted; and, without a second thought, Honor raises the window and takes it out of her hand.
"Who has sent it, Nora?"—for she recognizes the child now that she sees her face.
But Nora only shakes her head and hurries away, passing over the moonlit grass like the mere shadow of a girl.
The gentlemen are stirring in the dining-room now; she can hear their chairs being set back, and her father's voice as he opens the door for their guest.
There is not a moment to be lost if she is to read her letter in secret, and instinctively she feels that it is meant for no eyes but her own. Untwisting it rapidly, she spreads it out and reads:
"Will you venture to the old ruins at dusk to-morrow, to see one who needs your forgiveness, even if you must refuse him your pity? P. M."
As she reads the tears rush into her eyes, half blinding her; the sorrowful pleading words grow dim and indistinct.
"How he must have suffered," she says to herself, "to have changed like this!" Masterful Power, who used always to take obedience for granted! There is something pitiful in it that goes straight to the tender woman's heart, loyal to its old traditions.
As she was putting the paper into the bosom of her dress, the drawing-room door opens, and Brian Beresford enters, followed by her father. Brian's eyes at once seek her where she stands beside the open window, her fingers playing nervously with the tell-tale scrap of paper.
His face darkens at once, and she knows that he has seen and understood.
Never has time passed so slowly to Honor Blake. All the morning she goes about her work with a listless preoccupied air that could not fail to attract attention if there were any one to heed the girl or her moods.
Perhaps Brian Beresford heeds them; but Honor never gives a thought to him. She would be glad if he would go away and leave her to herself; but since he makes no such offer, she puts up with him.
And now, in the late afternoon, she sits down at the piano, more to pass the time than to amuse their guest. In truth, as she plays she forgets him altogether. The music, now low and sweet, now wild and martial, soothes her and brings back some of her lost nerve.
Brian Beresford, looking and listening, frowns, and then sighs. She is an enigma to him, this stately, contradictory Irish girl, with her moods and her prejudices, and, above all, her reserve. He has met no one quite like her. The women of his world are of a totally different type—he can understand them easily; but Honor he cannot understand.
He feels his heart soften as he looks at her. He is proud, and it has jarred upon his pride terribly that a man like Power Magill should have been preferred to him.
"And the chances are, now the fellow is in disgrace, she will cling to him all the closer," he says to himself bitterly. He does not care to own it, but in his heart he is savagely jealous of Power Magill.
Very softly is Honor playing now—a sort of dirge or lament for the chief of a clan. Suddenly she stops, and her head droops low over the keys. She has forgotten everything but the sore pain at her own heart and the anxious dread that is making every breath a torture to her.
"What if he should be taken to-night?" she is saying to herself. "How do we know that that child is to be trusted? How dare he trust any one when there is such a heavy reward out for him—poor Power?"
The tears come into her eyes as she thinks of him. It grows more bitter to her every moment, the thought of this meeting that is so close at hand now.
"Honor," Brian says gently, "will you not let me help you? You are in some trouble, I know." He has crossed the room and is standing beside her. "You can trust me, surely?"
"I could trust you with my life; but this secret is not my own."
"I know it is not; nevertheless you might trust it to me."
She raises her head and looks at him, and something in his face brings the color into her own. He is very brave and true, a safe shelter in trouble—she has proved that—and her heart yearns for the help he could give her. But it may not be. His sympathies are all on the side of law and order, and she has ranged herself, for this one night at least, among the opposite ranks.
"Don't think me curious, Honor," he says earnestly; "but I am sure you are in need of a friend's help, and I would like you to let me give it."
"No one can help me—not even you," she answers gently, getting up and looking at him with those troubled eyes that move him so strangely.
"And yet you are so good to me always that I should like to tell you my trouble if I might. But it is better not, perhaps."
"Let me say one thing, Honor. If this trouble of yours is connected with Power Magill—and I believe it is—you will not forget that he is a dangerous man, a man not to be trusted."
"I will not forget," she answers with a shiver, as she thinks of the meeting that is drawing nigh so rapidly.
The sun has set, and a cold mist is rising. It is very peaceful but rather dreary outside; and inside, in the familiar pretty room, the shadows are gathering.
Brian Beresford draws a step nearer. He had not meant to say one word of love to her—this willful girl who makes so light of him and his devotion; but, standing so close beside her in this tender gray twilight, impulse masters his judgment.
"Honor, has my love no power to touch you? Must this man forever stand between us even in his——" He is going to say disgrace, but the piteous look on the girl's face stays him.
"Oh, Brian, don't talk to me of love now—I cannot bear it!"
It is the first time she has ever called him Brian, and in her face, as she turns it from him, crimson from brow to chin, in her very attitude, as she stands with clasped hands before him, there is some subtle change that chills him.
"Then promise me that when times are brighter and you are happier you will listen to me, Honor."
"Perhaps," she stammers; and then, with tears in her eyes: "Oh, how cruel I am! I'm not worth loving!" And she is gone before he can say another word.
For so stoical a man, Brian Beresford is strangely excited to-night. Long after Honor has left him he walks up and down the darkening room, and, when the old butler comes in to light the lamps, he goes out on to the terrace and continues his measured tramp to and fro, smoking and thinking, and watching he scarcely knows for what.
Ever since he saw Honor hide away that scrap of paper in her dress he has been tormented with jealous fears.
"If the fellow were once out of the country I should feel all right," he tells himself. But the fellow is not out of the country—nay, may be in the immediate neighborhood for all he can tell, and in consequence he is racked with anxiety.
From the terrace he can see the ruins clearly at first; then the mist partly blots them out, and presently he can only guess at their position. But he has no interest in the ruins. He is not in the least superstitious; and certainly he does not believe in the old abbot.
He has reached the end of the walk and turned to go back, when the sight of a tall slight figure, coming rapidly down the steps not many yards away, brings him to a sudden halt.
"Ah!" he says, as he recognizes Honor. "Then it was not without cause that I've been so uneasy! A warning, these people would call it, I suppose."
It is a terrible blow to him, striking to the very root of his love. He hates mystery; and to find this girl, whom he had thought perfect in her maidenly pride and purity, stealing out in the dark from her father's house fills him with dismay.
For an instant he feels tempted to follow and speak to her, then he turns back. He can hardly control himself so far as to speak calmly, and every faint far-away noise makes him start.
"She is safe enough," he tells himself a dozen times; but he finds no comfort in his own assertions.
In his heart he feels convinced that she has gone to meet Power Magill; and in his jealous fury he almost hates her for it.
"Where is Honor?" her father asks fretfully; and then, as time goes on and she does not come in, he says again, "Where can Honor be?"
"I will go and find her for you," Brian says at last—he can bear the suspense no longer. "She cannot have strayed very far. I was talking to her a while ago."
He speaks lightly enough, but his heart is not light. A curious depression has come upon him. It seems to him that his love for this girl has died, and that half the brightness of his life has died along with it. He has not the least idea in what direction to begin his search.
The heavy iron gates at the end of the avenue are closed, but not locked, and he opens them and walks out into the high-road. Once, as he passes a narrow lane, he fancies he hears a slight rustle in the bushes that grow close and low at the side of the path; but, when he stops to listen, he can hear nothing, and so sets it down to fancy.
"Surely she has not gone into the village on a night like this," he says to himself at last, daunted by his want of success; and at the bare surmise he feels his face burn hotly.
Turning, he walks rapidly back—for the village lies in the opposite direction, past Donaghmore—and, as he comes near the gates, he is startled to see a car drawn up by the side of the high wall, and evidently waiting for somebody.
The driver has been standing beside his horse, and at the sound of Brian's step he leads the animal slowly forward. Apparently he does not wish to be seen; and indeed he might easily escape the notice of any one less quick of sight than Brian Beresford.
"Hallo!" Brian shouts; but he receives no answer; and, taking a stride or two, he gains the horse's side. The man walks on the other side of the animal, close by the wall; and, what with the darkness and the way his hat is pulled down over his eyes, his own mother might be pardoned for not recognizing him.
"Whose car is this?" Brian demands sternly, "and for whom are you waiting here?"
"Sorrer a sowl I'm waiting for, your honor! The best face in Derry wouldn't tempt me this minute. I'm just dead beat meself—and the baste! It's to Boyne Fair we've been this day, and a terrible time entoirely we've had of it."
Brian looks at the man and stops. He seems to be speaking the truth; and, if he is not, Brian knows the Irish peasant too well by this time to expect to force it from him.
With a short "Good-night," he turns away, and the man looks after him with a scowl.
"It's a bullet in yer skin that I'd give yez this blessed night if I dare take my own way," he mutters savagely.
Very slowly Brian Beresford walks back to Donaghmore. He is not so calm now, not so sure of Honor's safety. His fears are rising with every step he takes through the murky darkness. He feels that, if she is not in the house when he reaches it, he shall be able to keep silence no longer. Even at the risk of betraying her secret the squire must be told.
As he is passing the ruins a faint sound reaches his ear. He stops instantly and listens, his head bent, every sense on the alert. He is not thinking of Honor now—not in his wildest dreams would he connect her in any way with these weird unholy old ruins; but he is anxious—as anxious as ever Launce was—to solve the mystery that attaches to the place. Again it comes, a long-drawn, gasping cry, with this time a ring of fear in it.
"Good heavens, it is a woman!" he says, and goes quickly, but very quietly and cautiously, in the direction of the sound.
He has gained the low-browed gateway leading into the great quadrangle, when a dark figure dashes past him, and the next instant there is a loud report. He feels a sharp pain in his shoulder, and knows that he has been hit; but he does not give a thought to that in his intense excitement. He is conscious of but one thing—Honor's voice calling his name.
"Brian—oh, Brian, come to me!" The shrill clear tones ring through the ghostly silence.
CHAPTER X., AND LAST.
Honor hastens down the avenue, looking neither to the right nor left. Her head is dizzy, her heart beating heavily in this nervous dread that has come upon her. She starts at every shadow that crosses her path; the sound of the wind in the pine-trees almost makes her scream, and when, just as she reaches the ruins, a low whistle breaks the quiet, a sharp cry of terror escapes her lips.
"Whist, miss! It's a friend," a deep voice whispers close beside her, though she can see no one; and the next moment Power Magill comes out from the low doorway and calls her gently by name.
"My darling, this has been too much for you!" he says, seeing the dread on her face as she stands close beside him. "I should not have asked you to come here; but I felt that I could not go away till I had seen your face, and heard you tell me with your own lips that you have forgiven me."
He has led her across the great paved court to a corner where they can stand together without being seen by any one passing along the avenue.
There is something awful in the silence that broods round them; but the girl's nerves are too much shaken for her to be quite conscious of her surroundings. The man standing beside her is no less agitated.
"Honor, you know that, in acting as I did, I brought suffering upon myself—horrible suffering—apart from all social considerations! You have never doubted my love? You are true to me still; and I'm thankful for it. I would rather see you dead at my feet than know you were false to your solemn promise!"
The passionate voice, speaking so close to her ear that she can feel his hot breath on her cheek, the pale eager face peering into hers, as if to read its secret even in the darkness, strikes a sudden chill through the girl. For the first time personal fear—fear of the man before her—assails her.
"Have you no word for me?" the man pleads wistfully. "You stand there like a spirit, and say no word of comfort or of pity! By heavens, if I did not know all that you dared for my sake, I should swear that you had no love in your heart for me!"
"Love for you!" she cries at last, speaking on the impulse of the moment, as it is in her nature to speak. "Why should I love you? What love had you for me when you shot my father—when——"
But he steps her almost savagely.
"I fired only one shot that night; but— [lack in the text] ses on my false aim!—that missed the man I hated."
"And that man was Brian Beresford?"
"Yes," he answers slowly, defiantly, even, "it was Brian Beresford. It is no fault of mine he is alive to-night."
"And you would have killed him?" she cries, drawing back from him.
"Why not? He would have sent me to Kilmainham."
He is changed already—the girl divines this instinctively, and shrinks still farther away from him against the damp wall. This life that he has led—separated from friends and equals—has done its work.
"And now, Honor, we have no time to lose. Everything is ready for me to get away to-night, but"—with a sudden break in the passionate voice—"oh, my love, I cannot go without you!"
"You cannot go without me, Power?" the girl gasps. In her wildest dreams no such fancy as this had risen to trouble her. "But you must go without me! I cannot go with you!"
"And why not, if you love me?"
"But I do not love you," the girl says calmly. "I am very sorry for you; but all love is done with between us. Surely, Power, after that night you knew it would be so?"
He does not answer her, and his silence fills her with more anxiety and fear than could any passionate outburst.
He has walked to the end of the court, and stands there, looking over the broken parapet. Once she fancies that he raises his hand, as though beckoning to some one, but she is not certain, because it is so dark and he is so far off. As she stands shivering, she hears a step go slowly past. Surely it is Brian's step? Oh, what would she not give for the sight of his face now? And then his warning comes back to her—"He's a dangerous man—a man not to be trusted." Can it be that he knew him better than she did? Power himself has not been careful to keep this meeting from his friends. More than once she has caught a glimpse of dark figures passing to and fro at the farther end of the court, where the pillars are still standing; and, as she realizes the fact that she is alone, a helpless girl, in the midst of these men, desperate and lawless as she knows them to be, it is only by an immense effort she keeps from screaming aloud. It would be useless, she knows—it might even bring about the very results she has most to dread.
"Honor," her lover says, coming back to her, "I have no time to plead with you, and sure I have no need to tell you again how I love you. I thought and hoped you would have come with me this night of your own free will; but since you will not do that, by St. Joseph, you shall come without it!"
From the road comes a sudden shrill whistle, and the girl's heart sinks within her. Oh, how mad she has been to put herself in the power of this man and his associates!
For an instant, as she leans against the wall behind her, a faintness steals over her. Her eyes grow dim, and there is a sound in her ears like the rush and roar of the weir down the river.
When this feeling has passed away she hears Power's voice speaking, as it seems to her dizzy brain, out of great darkness.
"There is a car waiting to take us to Boyne. Once there we are with friends, and you can make all needful preparations for our journey."
She does not answer him; she could not. Her lips are dry and quivering with the terror that has come upon her.
At this moment some one glides from behind a pillar and touches Power on the arm. With an impatient gesture he moves back a little way to listen to the man's message; and in this one second Honor sees her only chance of escape.
With a slow gliding motion she gains the end of the wall, and sees the open square of the old court before her.
Some one may be watching from behind those broken buttresses, she knows; but she is desperate, and has no time to count the chances. With a rapid step she crosses the square, and is almost at the open gateway when a man steps forward and holds her back by the arm.
"Not so fast, miss! Shure ye'd not be for forgetting the masther!"
With a sharp cry of fear she struggles to get free; but she might as well try to fly as to loose her arm from the grip of those grimy fingers.
Surely the steps she heard a little while ago are coming back again—more slowly this time, but still coming! Yes, and it is Brian—she knows it; she cannot be mistaken, and, yielding to a sudden impulse, she calls his name aloud, calls it again and again, in her utter helplessness and misery.
She does not think that he will hear and come to her. She has no hope of help from any quarter, as she looks round upon the dark menacing faces of the men who have gathered so noiselessly and rapidly about her. She is in their power—she realizes that; and, as a Blake of Donaghmore, she expects but little mercy, unless it be granted her for Power Magill's sake.
He has come up to her now, and the men fall back a little at a sign from him.
"Are you mad, Honor?" he asks hoarsely. "Is it your own death or is it mine that you seek this night?"
"Oh, let me go home!" she moaned, looking at him piteously. "If ever you loved me, Power, let me go home!"
But a threatening murmur rises from the men about them.
"If I would trust you to carry our secret back to Donaghmore they would not," he said curtly. "No, no, Honor—there is no turning back for either of us!"
The steps—the slow, heavy tread, as of a man in deep thought—are close at hand now. She can hear them plainly; so does Power, for he pauses and seems almost to hold his breath in the deep stillness that has fallen upon the place.
Through this quiet Honor's despairing cry—"Brian—oh, Brian, come to me!"—rings sharply out.
She hears a shout as if in answer; and the hoarse murmur of threatening voices fills her heart with fear. She has twisted her ankle on the rough stones, and now, when she tries to move, she cannot, so she crouches back against the wall and waits for the help that she is sure is coming in an agony that is fast merging into unconsciousness.
"Honor, where are you? Speak!"
She tries to answer: but her voice has failed her; she can only moan faintly in her great pain.
And clearly, above all the sounds of this terrible night, she hears a man's voice saying sternly:
"Back, Magill! Would yez risk the lives of your friends for the sake of a woman?"
Then comes silence—a great silence—and darkness; and the terror and the pain and the longing for Brian all fade away together.
* * * * *
Fortunately Honor's swoon does not last long. The cold night air revives her, and she opens her eyes to see Brian Beresford kneeling beside her. He had almost stumbled over her in his eager search for her, and at the first glance he thought that she was dead.
Everything is intensely quiet as the girl raises her head from his shoulder and looks round her with terrified eyes. There is not a sound to tell that the place has so lately been filled with armed men.
"Where are they?" she whispers, trembling. "Oh, Brian, if they come back they will kill us both!"
The same thought is in his own mind; but not for worlds would he put it into words. The men fled in a panic, thinking he was not alone; but let them discover that they have only one man to face, and they will soon return and make short work of him.
He knows it well; but what can he do? He cannot leave Honor, and, with his wounded arm, it would be impossible for him to carry her so far as the house. And as he holds her there, her cheeks against his shoulder, her little cold hands in his, he thinks that death itself with her might not be so very terrible after all.
"They will not come back," he tells her—"at least not yet. They will be afraid."
But even as he speaks a stealthy footfall breaks the quiet, and a man's voice says low and guardedly, yet distinct enough for them to hear:
"Have they had time to get to the house, Neil?"
"Troth an' they have, sor—twice over! I'd take my oath they didn't let the grass grow under their feet, once they got free!"—and the man laughs grimly, a low mocking laugh that echoes through the lonely place.
Honor clings more close to Brian, and shivers like one stricken with ague. So far they have not been seen; and the men—Power Magill and his servant—must have passed close to them. But any moment a stir, a heavy breath may betray them.
"If I thought there was a chance of overtaking them, I would follow them even now," Power Magill says fiercely. "To think a fellow like that should have baffled us at the last moment! If it were not for the men's cowardly fear that the police were with him, he couldn't have done it."
"Faith, and that's true for yer honor!"
Very slowly they come back again, talking earnestly. It is evident from what they way that Power Magill has offended his friends by to-night's rashness and, though his companion speaks respectfully there is a veiled threat in his words that Power cannot but feel.
"I would do it over again," Power answers sternly, "if it was my life that I was risking in place of my liberty."
"But the boys don't care to risk their liberty—why should they, the cratures?—even for a beautiful young lady like Miss Honor—Heaven bless her!" the other man says sturdily.
His master retorts angrily; but they are too far off now for their words to be heard; and again silence reigns.
It is long before Brian and Honor dare to move, though the girl is trembling with cold and the man's arm is paining him intensely—longer still before they venture out of their hiding-place.
Honor will never forget that walk up to the house in the chill damp night, the dread of pursuit making her heart throb wildly. Her companion is very silent; and, when he does speak, his voice sounds cold and harsh. More than once she tries to thank him for coming to her help so bravely; but the words die away on her lips. She finds it hard to believe that this man spoke tenderly to her only a little time ago. His very words ring in her ears and serve to make his grim silence more oppressive.
"He is sorry already for having spoken then," she says to herself; "but he need not be. I shall never remind him of them—never!"
They are within sight of the house before she can summon up courage to thank him for coming to her aid.
"It was so brave of you," she adds simply; "for of course you did not know how many you might have to face! I'm afraid I am very stupid—I don't know how to thank you as you deserve."
"No, no," he says hastily, almost impatiently. "Pray do not thank me at all; I deserve no thanks, I assure you! I would have done as much for any woman!"
There is something almost cruel in the way in which he says it, and tears well up in the girl's eyes.
"I know you would," she says, with cold gentleness; "but that does not make the act less brave."
Suddenly he turns on her with unexpected passion.
"I was not half so courageous as you were, Honor! I would not have met Power Magill at such an hour and in such a place for any consideration. You were—if you will let me say so—recklessly brave to do such a thing."
The light from the open door streams out, and she looks up at him as he speaks. His face is ghastly pale, and his tone is angry and scornful. She realizes for the first time how strange her rash act must appear in the eyes of this fastidious Englishman. The women of his world would never have done such a thing, she knows; but that does not trouble her—it is the scornful surprise on his face that cuts her so cruelly.
"Never mind," she says to herself, suppressing a sob as they go up the steps together. "I am not a fine London lady, and I don't wish to be; if the pater and the boys are content with me as I am that is enough. It is nothing to me what this man thinks."
Brian is almost past conscious thought just now; but he hides his pain bravely till they get into the house and he has seen the great doors fastened securely; then he sinks down exhausted, and Honor sees, by the blood on his sleeve, that he has been wounded.
Instantly the whole place is in confusion. A messenger is sent off at once to the chief constable at Drum and another fetches Doctor Symmonds, who when he arrives finds his patient very low indeed.
"It is not the wound," he explains to the squire, "it is the loss of blood that has done the mischief. A little longer, and the poor fellow would have bled to death; as it is, he will need the greatest care to pull him through."
* * * * *
"My dear Honor, I do wish you would try to like him!" Belle Delorme says, looking up at her friend with pretty pleading eyes. "I'm sure he's awfully fond of you—any one can see that."
"And he's rich—why don't you tell me that?" Honor returns scornfully. "Every one's head seems to be turned by the man's money—even the pater's."
"Your head is not turned," Belle observes dryly, "nor your heart either, unfortunately."
"Tell me one thing," says Honor, facing her friend suddenly—"do you think this George Cantrill is as nice as Launce?"
"As nice as Launce? Well, no, I don't; but then"—gravely—"you don't often see any one who is quite as nice as Launce, do you, dear?"
"I intend to wait till I do, then," Honor retorts.
"Brian Beresford was nearly as nice," Belle says demurely, looking innocently at Honor; "but then he was English, and he had an awful temper—hadn't he?—and——" But she stops with a little gap of surprise, for the man himself, very worn and gaunt-looking, is walking toward them. "Why, Honor, did you know he was coming?"
Honor turns and looks at her tranquilly.
"Did I know who was coming, dear? Aren't you just a trifle vague this morning?"
"I'm awfully glad," the girl answers, with a curious smile; "and I think I'll go home now. Dad is sure to want me; and—— How do you do, Mr. Beresford?"—turning swiftly. "I'm delighted to see you back in Ireland."
"Thanks, Miss Delorme," a deep voice answers; and Honor looks round and sees him standing on the grass quite close to her—this grave, bearded man who left Donaghmore four months ago, looking so very ill and worn. He looks ill now, for that matter; but at the sight of him her heart gives a great leap and the color comes into her face.
"An unexpected guest, I can claim no welcome," he says, looking at her almost wistfully.
"But you are as welcome as unexpected," Honor answers, holding her hand and smiling graciously.
He barely touches the slim white fingers; he looks away from her, as if the sight of her beauty pained him.
Belle has disappeared; they can hear her singing as she flits between the great tree-trunks, a dainty figure in her gay print gown.
"You have been ill again?" Honor says gently. She is feverishly excited, but no one could imagine that from her manner. Her voice trembles a little, but that is the only sign she gives of the tumultuous emotion that the sight of this man has roused in her.
And she thought she had forgotten him—that if he never came to Donaghmore it would not matter in the least. His scornful words had hurt her cruelly; she had never forgiven them, and he knew that she had not.
Though she had been so kind to him all those weeks that he lay hovering between life and death he had not been deceived. He left Donaghmore fully conscious that he was not forgiven.
But that did not trouble him. He had been strong in his resentment then; he had judged her, and disapproved of her in his calm judicial way, and there was an end of it.
"I've had a nasty touch of low-fever, that is all."
"And you never let us know!"
"No. Why should I? You had trouble enough with me!"
"Trouble!" the girl says passionately; and at the sudden change in her voice he raises his head. "Do you forget it was through my fault you were suffering—that if I had not acted so foolishly that night you would not have been shot? Oh, I think of it sometimes till it almost turns my brain!"
It is an exquisite April day, the air is keen and sweet here in the heart of the old-fashioned garden, full of the odor of budding leaves and freshly-turned earth, mingled with the perfume of the great lilac-trees, which are one mass of bloom.
To Honor's Celtic beauty-loving nature such a day as this is full of delights; it soothes her.
"If you have forgotten me," she says more calmly, "for all the pain I brought upon you, I have never forgiven myself."
"I don't know that I have forgiven you," he says, looking at her almost sternly. "There are things a man like me finds it hard to forgive; but as for that stray bullet—it was a mere accident—I have never blamed you in the least for that."
"Then what else had you to forgive me for?"
He laughs, and moves a little way from her—a restless black figure among all his morning freshness.
"Oh, we won't talk of it!" he says, almost awkwardly. "I was a fool to come back, though, and, by Jove, I ought to have known it!"
"No, you are not a fool," the girl answers bitterly; "but you are certainly the worst-tempered man I ever met."
"Thank you for your good opinion!"
"You are welcome; it's an honest opinion so far as it goes. And now we had better go in; you will want something to eat, and you are tired, I dare say."
"Yes, I am tired of a good many things," he replies, with a short laugh.
They walk together back to the house, between the beds of early wall-flowers and the Lent lilies nodding in the sunshine.
"I suppose I ought to congratulate you, Honor."
"Congratulate me," the girl repeats, looking at him with some surprise; then a sudden thought comes to her, and she smiles; but he does not see the smile.
"Yes—on your engagement to this fellow from Dublin. He is very rich, I hear."
"Immensely rich," the girl agrees calmly. "And then he is clever too; he writes—I'm sure I don't know what he writes; but he is literary."
"I'm glad you think so highly of him, and I hope you will be happy," he says after a pause.
"Thanks. I could do with a little happiness for a change, you know! I've not had too much of it in my life, have I?"
"And yet you ought to be happy, if ever a woman ought! You are young and beautiful—I think sometimes you hardly know how beautiful you are; and perhaps that is your greatest charm."
"Oh, yes, I do!" she answers, showing her white teeth and her dimples in a sudden smile. "But, after all, as you said once, if you remember, I am only an Irish girl; and the wonder is that such a fine gentleman as this George Cantrill should look at me! Don't you think so?"
"No, I do not," he returns frigidly. "I think you are a fit wife for any man!"
"And since when have you thought that, Brian? Tell me the truth," the girl says, stopping on the narrow path, and looking up at him with lovely imperious eyes.
The man's heart yearns for her, as she stands there in her grace and beauty, and the passionate love he has tried so hard to subdue rises and masters him.
"What does that matter? I know it now!" he says hoarsely. "Should I be here to-day if I did not?"
"And what brought you here to-day, Brian?" She is looking at him, and he feels his cheeks burn under her glance.
"It's too late to talk of that now," he says, trying not to look at her.
"Let me be judge of that; tell me"—coaxingly—"why you came all this way, and you so ill—not fit to travel?"
"I came to ask you to be my wife, Honor. I fought against it as long as I could; but my love was stronger than my pride, and I came, even at the risk of being mocked at for my folly. But I had not been five minutes in the house before I heard you were going to marry this fellow from Dublin, and even then I was fool enough to come out to look at you. I could not go away without one glance at your face."
"I should think not," Honor says softly.
"Oh, it was very stupid of me!" he answers, with a grim smile. "But there's not much harm done, and I shall go by the next train."
"But"—with a swift hot blush—"you have not done what you came to do!"
He looks at her angrily. He sees nothing but mockery in her face, and his heart is sore, for all his pride resents it.
"Of course not! Why should I ask another man's betrothed to marry me?"
"But I am not another man's betrothed," the girl says, with a little sob. She is acting in a very unlady-like manner; but this is not the time to stand on etiquette; a little false pride now, and this man whom she loves with all her heart would slip out of her life never to return. She trembles and turns pale at the mere thought. "And I do think, if you came all the way from England to ask me that, you should ask me," she stammers, and turns rosy red again.
"Good heavens, Honor, are you making a fool of me?"
She does not speak; all her sweet audacity has fled before the passion in his eyes, in his voice, in his touch as he clasps her hand.
But, looking into her face, he needs no words to tell him that at last he has won the desire of his heart. He knows now what he has gained in winning her love, and how empty the years would have been without it. She is the one "good gift" that can crown his life, this beautiful willful woman whom once, in his ignorance, he called ONLY AN IRISH GIRL.
Typographical errors silently corrected:
Chapter 1: eying silently corrected as eyeing
Chapter 1: Delorne silently corrected as Delorme
Chapter 1: wards silently corrected as words
Chapter 2: contrve silently corrected as contrive
Chapter 2: 'How sweet silently corrected as "'How sweet
Chapter 2: speech!" silently corrected as speech!'"
Chapter 3: Alleen silently corrected as Aileen
Chapter 3: his letters silently corrected as his letters.
Chapter 4: nothiug but scare silently corrected as nothing but scare
Chapter 4: It ever he thought silently corrected as If ever he thought
Chapter 4: Honor foels silently corrected as Honore feels
Chapter 5: answered silently corrected as answers
Chapter 5: burst into tears silently corrected as bursts into tears
Chapter 5: some with it silently corrected as come with it
Chapter 5: corriders silently corrected as corridors
Chapter 5: to see anythng silently corrected as to see anything
Chapter 5: for you, Honor. silently corrected as for you, Honor,
Chapter 6: when he think himself silently corrected as when he thinks himself
Chapter 6: Mr. Hunter is an Englishman silently corrected as "Mr. Hunter is an Englishman
Chapter 6: he should think so. silently corrected as he should think so."
Chapter 6: If harm silently corrected as if harm
Chapter 7: I never new silently corrected as I never knew
Chapter 7: frightens her. I was silently corrected as frightens her. "I was
Chapter 7: throughly silently corrected as thoroughly
Chapter 7: in its earnestness. silently corrected as in its earnestness,
Chapter 9: perferred to him silently corrected as preferred to him
Chapter 9: Then promise me silently corrected as "Then promise me
Chapter 10: rush and rour silently corrected as rush and roar
Chapter 10: the crosses the square silently corrected as she crosses the square
Chapter 10: but you are certainly silently corrected as "but you are certainly
Chapter 10: replies. with silently corrected as replies, with
Chapter 10: short laugh." silently corrected as short laugh.
Chapter 10: harm done. and silently corrected as harm done, and