'Are there no letters this morning?' he asked Catherine.
'None, sir. You haven't had one from London for a long time.'
He turned away. 'An intolerable woman—intolerable! I shall be obliged to make a change soon,' he said, turning away so that Catherine should not see the annoyance that he felt on his face.
From Father Oliver Gogarty to Miss Nora Glynn.
'August 6, 19—.
'DEAR MISS GLYNN,
'You said in your very kind letter, which I received a fortnight ago, and which I answered hastily, that on some future occasion you would perhaps tell me about the book Mr. Poole is writing. I wonder if this occasion will ever arise, and, if so, if it be near or far—near, I hope, for interested as I naturally am in your welfare, I have begun to feel some anxiety regarding this book. On the day that—'
'Father O'Grady, your reverence.' Father Oliver laid his letter aside, and then hid it in the blotter, regretting his haste and his fumbling hands, which perhaps had put the thought into O'Grady's mind that the letter was to Nora. And so he came forward faintly embarrassed to meet a small pale man, whom he judged to be seventy or thereabouts, coming forward nimbly, bent a little, with a long, thin arm and bony hand extended in a formal languor of welcome. A little disappointing was the first moment, but it passed away quickly, and when his visitor was seated Father Oliver noticed a large nose rising out of the pallor and on either side of it dim blue eyes and some long white locks.
'You're surprised to see me,' Father O'Grady said in a low, winning voice. 'Of course you're surprised—how could it be otherwise? but I hope you're glad.'
'Very glad,' Father Oliver answered. 'Glad, very glad,' he repeated; and begged his visitor to allow him to help him off with his overcoat.
'How pleasant,' Father O'Grady said, as soon as he was back in the armchair, as if he felt that the duty fell upon him to find a conversation that would help them across the first five minutes—'how pleasant it is to see a turf fire again! The turf burns gently, mildly, a much pleasanter fire than coal; the two races express themselves in their fires.'
'Oh, we're fiery enough over here,' Father Oliver returned; and the priests laughed.
'I did not feel that I was really in Ireland,' Father O'Grady continued, 'till I saw the turf blazing and falling into white ash. You see I haven't been in Ireland for many years.'
Father Oliver threw some more sods of turf into the grate, saying: 'I'm glad, Father O'Grady, that you enjoy the fire, and I'm indeed glad to see you. I was just thinking—'
'Of me?' Father O'Grady asked, raising his Catholic eyes.
The interruption was a happy one, for Father Oliver would have found himself embarrassed to finish the sentence he had begun. For he would not have liked to have admitted that he had just begun a letter to Nora Glynn, to say, 'There it is on the table.' Father O'Grady's interruption gave him time to revise his sentence.
'Yes, I was thinking of you, Father O'Grady. Wondering if I might dare to write to you again.'
'But why should you be in doubt?' Father O'Grady asked; and then, remembering a certain asperity in Father Oliver's last letter, he thought it prudent to change the conversation. 'Well, here I am and unexpected, but, apparently, welcome.'
'Very welcome,' Father Oliver murmured.
'I'm glad of that,' the old man answered; 'and now to my story.' And he told how a variety of little incidents had come about, enabling him to spend his vacation in Ireland. 'A holiday is necessary for every man. And, after all, it is as easy to go from London to Ireland as it is to go to Margate, and much more agreeable. But I believe you are unacquainted with London, and Margate is doubtless unknown to you. Well, I don't know that you've missed much;' and he began to tell of the month he had spent wandering in the old country, and how full of memories he had found it—all sorts of ideas and associations new and old. 'Maybe it was you that beguiled me to Ireland; if so, I ought to thank you for a very pleasant month's holiday. Now I'm on my way home, and finding that I could fit in the railway journey I went to Tinnick, and I couldn't go to Tinnick without driving over to Garranard.'
'I should think not, indeed,' Father Oliver answered quickly. 'It was very good of you to think of me, to undertake the journey to Tinnick and the long drive from Tinnick over here.'
'One should never be praised for doing what is agreeable to one to do. I liked you from your letters; you're like your letters, Father Oliver—at least I think you are.'
'I'm certain you're like yours,' Father Oliver returned, 'only I imagined you to speak slower.'
'A mumbling old man,' Father O'Grady interjected.
'You know I don't mean that,' Father Oliver replied, and there was a trace of emotion in his voice.
'It was really very good of you to drive over from Tinnick. You say that you only undertook the journey because it pleased you to do so. If that philosophy were accepted, there would be no difference between a good and an evil action; all would be attributed to selfishness.' He was about to add: 'This visit is a kindness that I did not expect, and one which I certainly did not deserve;' but to speak these words would necessitate an apology for the rudeness he felt he was guilty of in his last letter, and the fact that he knew that Father O'Grady had come to talk to him about Nora increased his nervousness. But their talk continued in commonplace and it seemed impossible to lift it out of the rut. Father O'Grady complimented Father Oliver on his house and Oliver answered that it was Peter Conway that built it, and while praising its comfort, he enlarged on the improvements that had been made in the houses occupied by priests.
'Yes, indeed,' Father O'Grady answered, 'the average Irish priest lived in my time in a cottage not far removed from those the peasants lived in. All the same, there was many a fine scholar among them. Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Catullus, Cicero in the bookcases. Do you ever turn to these books? Do you like reading Latin?'
And Father Oliver replied that sometimes he took down his Virgil. 'I look into them all sometimes,' he added.
'And you still read Latin, classical Latin, easily?' Father O'Grady inquired.
'Fairly,' Father Oliver replied; 'I read without turning to the dictionary, though I often come to words I have never seen or have forgotten the meaning of. I read on. The Latin poets are more useful than the English to me.'
'More useful?' Father O'Grady repeated.
'More useful,' Father Oliver rejoined, 'if your object is a new point of view, and one wants that sometimes, living alone in the silent country. One sometimes feels frightened sitting by the fire all alone listening to the wind. I said just now that I was thinking of you. I often think of you, Father O'Grady, and envy you your busy parish. If I ever find myself in London I shall go for long tram drives, and however sordid the district I shall view the dim congregation of houses with pleasure and rejoice in the hub of the streets.'
'You would soon weary of London, I promise you that, Father Oliver.'
'A promise for which it would be an affectation to thank you,' Father Oliver answered. And Father O'Grady spoke of the miles and miles of docks.
'The great murky Thames,' he said, 'wearies, but it is very wonderful. Ah, Landor's "Hellenics" in the original Latin: how did that book come here?'
'A question I've often asked myself,' Father Oliver returned. 'A most intellectual volume it is to find in the house of an Irish priest. Books travel, and my predecessor, Father Peter, is the last man in the world who would have cared to spend an hour on anything so literary as Landor. He used to read the newspaper—all the newspapers he could get hold of.'
Father Peter's personality did not detain them long, and feeling somewhat ashamed of their inability to talk naturally, without thinking of what they were to say next, Father O'Grady ventured to doubt if Horace would approve of Landor's Latin and of the works written in comparatively modern times. Buchanan, for instance. At last the conversation became so trite and wearisome that Father O'Grady began to feel unable to continue it any longer.
'You've a nice garden, Father Oliver.'
'You'd like to see my garden?' Father Oliver asked, very much relieved at having escaped from Buchanan so easily. And the two priests went out, each hoping that the other would break the ice; and to encourage Father Oliver to break it, Father O'Grady mentioned that he was going back that evening to Tinnick—a remark that was intended to remind Father Oliver that the time was passing by. Father Oliver knew that the time for speaking of her was passing by, but he could not bring himself to speak, and instead he tried to persuade Father O'Grady to stay to dinner, but he could not be persuaded; and they walked to and fro, talking about their different parishes, Father O'Grady asking Father Oliver questions about his school and his church. And when Father O'Grady had contributed a great deal of unnecessary information, he questioned Father O'Grady about his parish, and gained much information regarding the difficulties that a Catholic priest met with in London, till religion became as wearisome as the Latin language. At last it suddenly struck Father Oliver that if he allowed the talk to continue regarding the difficulties of the Catholic priest in London, Father O'Grady might speak of girls that had been driven out of Ireland by the priests, to become prostitutes in London. A talk on this subject would be too painful, and to escape from it he spoke of the beauty of the trees about the garden and the flowers in the garden, calling Father O'Grady's attention to the chrysanthemums, and, not willing to be outdone in horticulture, the London priest began to talk about the Japanese mallow in his garden, Father Oliver listening indifferently, saying, when it came to him to make a remark, that the time had come to put in the bulbs.
'Miss Glynn was very fond of flowers,' he said Suddenly, 'and she helped me with my garden; it was she who told me to plant roses in that corner, and to cover the wall with rambling robin. Was it not a very pretty idea to cover that end of the garden with rambling roses?'
'It was indeed. She is a woman of great taste in music and in many other things. She must have regretted your garden.'
'Why do you think she regretted my garden?' Father Oliver asked.
'Because she always regretted that mine wasn't larger. She helped me with my garden;' and feeling that they had at last got into a conversation that was full of interest for them both, Father Oliver said:
'Shall we go into the house? We shall be able to talk more agreeably by the fireside.'
'I should like to get back to that turf fire; for it is the last that I shall probably see. Let us get back to it.'
'I'm quite agreeable to return to the fire. Catherine will bring in the tea presently.'
And as soon as they were back in the parlour, Father Oliver said:
'Father O'Grady, that is your chair. It was very good of you to take the trouble to drive over.'
'I wished to make my correspondent's acquaintance,' Father O'Grady murmured; 'and there is much that it is difficult to put down on paper without creating a wrong impression, whereas in talk one is present to rectify any mistakes one may drop into. I am thinking now of the last subject dealt with in our correspondence, that I should have informed myself regarding Mr. Poole's writing before I consented to allow Nora Glynn to accept the post of secretary.'
'You must forgive me, Father O'Grady,' Father Oliver cried.
'There is nothing to forgive, Father Oliver; but this criticism surprised me, for you have known Miss Nora Glynn longer than I have, and it seems strange that you should have forgotten already her steadfastness. Nothing that I could have said would have availed, and it seems to me that you were mistaken in asking me to urge Miss Glynn to decline the chance of improving her circumstances. I could not compel Miss Glynn even if I had wished to compel her. But we have discussed that question; let it pass.'
'All the same,' Father Oliver interjected, 'if one sees a woman going into danger, surely one may warn her. A word of warning dropped casually is sometimes effective.'
'But it is fatal to insist,' Father O'Grady remarked; 'and one should not try to bar the way—that is my experience at least.'
'Well, your experiences are longer than mine, Father O'Grady, I submit. The mistake I made will certainly not be repeated. But since hearing from you I've heard from Miss Glynn, and the remarks she makes in her letters about Mr. Poole's literary work, unless indeed he be a Catholic, alarm me.'
'Biblical criticism is not a Catholic characteristic,' Father O'Grady answered. 'So Miss Glynn has written to you?'
'Yes, but nothing definite about Mr. Poole's work—nothing definite. Do you know anything, Father O'Grady, about this man's writing? What is his reputation in the literary world?'
'I've heard a great deal about him,' Father O'Grady answered. 'I've made inquiries and have read some of Mr. Poole's books, and have seen them reviewed in the newspapers; I've heard his opinions discussed, and his opinions are anti-Christian, inasmuch as he denies the divinity of our Lord.'
'Could anybody be more anti-Christian than that?' Father Oliver asked.
'Yes, very much more,' Father O'Grady replied. 'There have always been people, and their number is increasing, who say that Christianity is not only untruthful but, what is worse, a great evil, having set men one against the other, creating wars innumerable. Millions have owed their deaths to tortures they have received because they differed regarding some trifling passage in Scripture. There can be no doubt of that, but it is equally true that Christianity has enabled many more millions to live as much from a practical point of view as from a spiritual. If Christianity had not been a necessity it would not have triumphed;' and Father O'Grady continued to speak of Mr. Poole's historical accounts of the history of the rise and influence of Christianity till Father Oliver interrupted him, crying out:
'And it is with that man her life will henceforth be passed, reading the books he reads and writes, and, what is worse, listening to his insidious conversation, to his subtle sophistries, for, no doubt, he is an eloquent and agreeable talker.'
'You think, then,' Father O'Grady said, 'that a Christian forfeits his faith if he inquires?'
'No, if I thought that I should cease to be a Christian. She is not inquiring the matter out of her own account; she is an enforced listener, and hears only one side. Every day a plausible account is being poured into her ears, and her circumstances are such as would tempt her to give a willing ear to Mr. Poole's beliefs that God has not revealed his existence, and that we are free to live as we please, nature being our only guide. I cannot imagine a young woman living in a more dangerous atmosphere than this.
'All you tell me, Father O'Grady, frightens me. I discovered my suspicions to you in my letters, but I can express myself better in talking than on paper—far better. It is only now that I realize how wrongly I acted towards this young woman. I was frightened in a measure before, but the reality of my guilt has never appeared so distinctly to me till now. You have revealed it to me, and I'm thinking now of what account I could give to God were I to die to-morrow. "Thou hast caused a soul to be lost," he would say. "The sins of the flesh are transitory like the flesh, the sins of the faith are deeper," may be God's judgment. Father O'Grady, I'm frightened, frightened; my fear is great, and at this moment I feel like a man on his deathbed. My agony is worse, for I'm in good health and can see clearly, whereas the dying man understands little. The senses numb as death approaches.'
'Have you spoken of the mistake you made in confession, Father Oliver?'
'No, why should I?' he answered, 'for none here would understand me. But I'll confess to you. You may have been sent to hear me. Who knows? Who can say?' and he dropped on his knees crying: 'Can I be forgiven if that soul be lost to God? Tell me if such a sin can be forgiven?'
'We must not fall into the sin of despair,' Father O'Grady answered. And he murmured the Latin formula Absolve te, etc., making the sign of the cross over the head of his penitent. For a while after the priests knelt together in prayer, and it was with a feeling that his burden had been lifted from him that Father Oliver rose from his knees, and, subdued in body and mind, stood looking through the room, conscious of the green grass showing through his window, lighted by a last ray of the setting sun. It was the wanness of this light that put the thought into his mind that it would soon be time to send round to the stables for his visitor's car. His visitor! That small, frail man sitting in his armchair would soon be gone, carrying with him this, Father Oliver's, confession. What had he confessed? Already he had forgotten, and both men stood face to face thinking of words wherewith they might break the silence.
'I do not know,' Father O'Grady said, 'that I altogether share your fear that an anti-Christian atmosphere necessarily implies that the Catholic who comes into it will lose her faith, else faith would not be a pure gift from God. God doesn't overload his creatures unbearably, nor does he put any stress upon them from which they cannot extricate themselves. I could cite many instances of men and women whose faith has been strengthened by hostile criticism; the very arguments that have been urged against their faith have forced them to discover other arguments, and in this way they have been strengthened in their Catholic convictions.' And to Father Oliver's question if he discerned any other influence except an intellectual influence in Mr. Poole, he answered that he had not considered this side of the question.
'I don't know what manner of man he is in his body,' said Father Oliver, 'but his mind is more dangerous. An intellectual influence is always more dangerous than a sensual influence, and the sins of faith are worse than the sins of the flesh. I never thought of him as a possible seducer. But there may be that danger too. I still think, Father O'Grady, that you might have warned Nora of her danger. Forgive me; I'm sure you did all that was necessary. You do forgive me?'
The men's eyes met, and Father O'Grady said, as if he wished to change the subject:
'You were born at Tinnick, were you not?'
'Yes, I was born in Tinnick,' Father Oliver repeated mechanically, almost as if he had not heard the question.
'And your sisters are nuns?'
'Tell me how it all came about.'
'How all what came about?' Father Oliver asked, for he was a little dazed and troubled in his mind, and was, therefore, easily led to relate the story of the shop in Tinnick, his very early religious enthusiasms, and how he remembered himself always as a pious lad. On looking into the years gone by, he said that he saw himself more often than not by his bedside rapt in innocent little prayers. And afterwards at school he had been considered a pious lad. He rambled on, telling his story almost unconsciously, getting more thoughtful as he advanced into it, relating carefully the absurd episode of the hermitage in which, to emulate the piety of the old time, he chose Castle Island as a suitable spot for him to live in.
Father O'Grady listened, seriously moved by the story; and Father Oliver continued it, telling how Eliza, coming to see the priest in him, gave up her room to him as soon as their cousin the Bishop was consulted. And it was at this point of the narrative that Father O'Grady put a question.
'Was no attempt,' he asked, 'made to marry you to some girl with a big fortune?'
And Father Oliver told of his liking for Annie McGrath and of his aversion for marriage, acquiescing that aversion might be too strong a word; indifference would more truthfully represent him.
'I wasn't interested in Annie McGrath nor in any woman as far as I can remember until this unfortunate conduct of mine awakened an interest in Nora Glynn. And it would be strange, indeed, if it hadn't awakened an interest in me,' he muttered to himself. Father O'Grady suppressed the words that rose up in his mind, 'Now I'm beginning to understand.' And Father Oliver continued, like one talking to himself: 'I'm thinking that I was singularly free from all temptations of the sensual life, especially those represented by womankind. I was ordained early, when I was twenty-two, and as soon as I began to hear confessions, the things that surprised me the most were the stories relating to those passionate attachments that men experience for women and women for men—attachments which sometimes are so intense that if the sufferer cannot obtain relief by the acquiescence of the object of their affections, he, if it be he, she, if it be she, cannot refrain from suicide. There have been cases of men and women going mad because their love was not reciprocated, and I used to listen to these stories wonderingly, unable to understand, bored by the relation.'
If Father Oliver had looked up at that moment, Father O'Grady's eyes would have told him that he had revealed himself, and that perhaps Father O'Grady now knew more about him than he knew himself. But without withdrawing his eyes from the fire he continued talking till Catherine's step was heard outside.
'She's coming to lay the cloth for our tea,' Father Oliver said. And Father O'Grady answered:
'I shall be glad of a cup of tea.'
'Must you really go after tea?' Father Oliver asked; and again he begged Father O'Grady to stay for dinner. But Father O'Grady, as if he felt that the object of his visit had been accomplished, spoke of the drive back to Tinnick and of the convenience of the branch line of railway. It was a convenience certainly, but it was also an inconvenience, owing to the fact that the trains run from Tinnick sometimes missed the mail train; and this led Father Oliver to speak of the work he was striving to accomplish, the roofing of Kilronan Abbey, and many other things, and the time passed without their feeling it till the car came round to take Father O'Grady away.
'He goes as a dream goes,' Father Oliver said, and a few minutes afterwards he was sitting alone by his turf fire, asking himself in what dreams differed from reality. For like a dream Father O'Grady had come and he had gone, never to return. 'But does anything return?' he asked himself, and he looked round his room, wondering why the chairs and tables did not speak to him, and why life was not different from what it was. He could hear Catherine at work in the kitchen preparing his dinner, she would bring it to him as she had done yesterday, he would eat it, he would sit up smoking his pipe for a while, and about eleven o'clock go to his bed. He would lie down in it, and rise and say Mass and see his parishioners. All these things he had done many times before, and he would go on doing them till the day of his death—Until the day of my death,' he repeated, 'never seeing her again, never seeing him. Why did he come here?' And he was surprised that he could find no answer to any of the questions that he put to himself. 'Nothing will happen again in my life—nothing of any interest. This is the end! And if I did go to London, of what should I speak to him? It will be better to try to forget it all, and return, if I can, to the man I was before I knew her;' and he stood stock still, thinking that without this memory he would not be himself.
Father O'Grady's coming had been a pleasure to him, for they had talked together; he had confessed to him; had been shriven. At that moment he caught sight of a newspaper upon his table. 'Illustrated England,' he muttered, his thoughts half away; and he fell to wondering how it had come into the house. 'Father O'Grady must have left it,' he said, and began to unroll the paper. But while unrolling it he stopped. Half his mind was still away, and he sat for fully ten minutes lost in sad sensations, and it was the newspaper slipping from his hand that awoke him. The first thing that caught his eye on opening the paper was an interview with Mr. Walter Poole, embellished with many photographs of Beechwood Hall.
'Did O'Grady leave this paper here for me to read,' he asked himself, 'or did he forget to take it away with him? We talked of so many things that he may have forgotten it, forgotten even to mention it. How very strange!'
The lodge gates and the long drive, winding between different woods, ascending gradually to the hilltop on which Beechwood Hall was placed by an early eighteenth-century architect, seemed to the priest to be described with too much unction by the representative of Illustrated England. To the journalist Beechwood Hall stood on its hill, a sign and symbol of the spacious leisure of the eighteenth century and the long tradition that it represented, one that had not even begun to drop into decadence till 1850, a tradition that still existed, despite the fact that democracy was finding its way into the agricultural parts of England. The journalist was impressed, perhaps unduly impressed, by the noble hall and the quiet passages that seemed to preserve a memory of the many generations that had passed through them on different errands, now all hushed in the family vault.
Father Oliver looked down the column rapidly, and it was not until the footman who admitted the journalist was dismissed by the butler, who himself conducted the journalist to the library, that Father Oliver said: 'We have at last arrived at the castle of learning in which the great Mr. Poole sits sharpening the pen which is to slay Christianity. But Christianity will escape Mr. Poole's pen. It, has outlived many such attacks in the past. We shall see, however, what kind of nib he uses, fine or blunt?' The journalist followed the butler down the long library overlooking green sward to a quiet nook, if he might venture to speak of Mr. Walter Poole's study as a quiet nook. It seemed to surprise him that Mr. Walter Poole should rise from his writing-table and come forward to meet him, and he expressed his gratitude to Mr. Walter Poole, whose time was of great importance, for receiving him. And after all this unction came a flattering description of Mr. Walter Poole himself.
He was, in the interviewer's words, a young man, tall and clean-shaven, with a high nose which goes well with an eye-glass. The chin is long and drops straight; his hair is mustard-coloured and glossy, and it curls very prettily about the broad, well-shapen forehead. He is reserved at first, and this lends a charm to the promise, which is very soon granted you, of making the acquaintance with the thoughts and ideas which have interested Mr. Walter Poole since boyhood—in fine, which have given him his character. If he seems at first sight to conceal himself from you, it is from shyness, or because he is reluctant to throw open his mind to the casual curious. Why should he not keep his mind for his own enjoyment and for the enjoyment of his friends, treating it like his pleasure grounds or park? His books are not written for the many but for the few, and he does not desire a larger audience than those with whom he is in natural communion from the first, and this without any faintest appearance of affectation.
'I suppose it isn't fair,' the priest said, 'to judge a man through his interviewer; but if this interviewer doesn't misrepresent Mr. Walter Poole, Mr. Walter Poole is what is commonly known as a very superior person. He would appear from this paper,' the priest said, 'to be a man between thirty and forty, not many years older than myself.' The priest's thoughts floated away back into the past, and, returning suddenly with a little start to the present, he continued reading the interview, learning from it that Mr. Walter Poole's conversation was usually gentle, like a quiet river, and very often, like a quiet river, it rushed rapidly when Mr. Walter Poole became interested in his subject.
'How very superior all this is,' the priest said. 'The river of thought in him,' the interviewer continued, 'is deep or shallow, according to the need of the moment. If, for instance, Mr. Walter Poole is asked if he be altogether sure that it is wise to disturb people in their belief in the traditions and symbols that have held sway for centuries, he will answer quickly that if truth lies behind the symbols and traditions, it will be in the interest of the symbols and traditions to inquire out the truth, for blind belief—in other words, faith—is hardly a merit, or if it be a merit it is a merit that cannot be denied to the savages who adore idols. But the civilized man is interested in his history, and the Bible deserves scientific recognition, for it has a history certainly and is a history. "We are justified, therefore," Mr. Walter Poole pleaded, "in seeking out the facts, and the search is conducted as much in the interests of theology as of science; for though history owes nothing to theology, it cannot be denied that theology owes a great deal to history."'
'He must have thought himself very clever when he made that remark to the interviewer,' the priest muttered; and he walked up and down his room, thinking of Nora Glynn living in this unchristian atmosphere.
He picked up the paper again and continued reading, for he would have to write to Nora about Father O'Grady's visit and about the interview in Illustrated England.
The interviewer inquired if Mr. Walter Poole was returning to Palestine, and Mr. Walter Poole replied that there were many places that he would like to revisit, Galilee, for instance, a country that St. Paul never seemed to have visited, which, to say the least, was strange. Whereupon a long talk began about Paul and Jesus, Mr. Walter Poole maintaining that Paul's teaching was identical with that of Jesus, and that Peter was a clown despised by Paul and Jesus.
'How very superior,' Father Oliver muttered—how very superior.' He read that Mr. Walter Poole was convinced that the three Synoptic Gospels were written towards the close of the first century; and one of the reasons he gave for this attribution was as in Matthew, chapter xxvii., verse 7, 'And they took counsel, and bought with them (the thirty pieces of silver) the potter's field, to bury strangers in. Wherefore that field was called, The field of blood, unto this day'—a passage which showed that the Gospel could not have been written till fifty or sixty years after the death of Jesus.
'England must be falling into atheism if newspapers dare to print such interviews,' Father Oliver said; and he threw the paper aside angrily. 'And it was I,' he continued, dropping into his armchair, 'that drove her into this atheistical country. I am responsible, I alone.'
From Father Oliver Gogarty to Miss Glynn.
'August 10, 19—.
'DEAR Miss Glynn,
'I have a piece of news for you. Father O'Grady has been here, and left me a few hours ago. Catherine threw open the door, saying, "Father O'Grady, your reverence," and the small, frail man whom you know so well walked into the room, surprising me, who was altogether taken aback by the unexpectedness of his visit.
'He was the last person in the world I expected at that moment to meet, yet it was natural that an Irish priest, on the mission in England, would like to spend his holidays in Ireland, and still more natural that, finding himself in Ireland, Father O'Grady should come to see me. He drove over from Tinnick, and we talked about you. He did not seem on the whole as anxious for your spiritual safety as I am, which is only what one might expect, for it was not he that drove you out of a Catholic country into a Protestant one. He tried to allay my fears, saying that I must not let remorse of conscience get hold of me, and he encouraged me to believe that my responsibility had long ago ended. It was pleasant to hear these things said, and I believed him in a way; but he left by accident or design a copy of Illustrated England on my table. I am sufficiently broad-minded to believe that it is better to be a good Protestant than a bad Catholic; but Mr. Walter Poole is neither Catholic nor Protestant, but an agnostic, which is only a polite word for an atheist. Week in and week out you will hear every argument that may be used against our holy religion. It is true that you have the advantage of being born a Catholic, and were well instructed in your religion; and no doubt you will accept with caution his statements, particularly that very insidious statement that Jesus lays no claim to divinity in the three Synoptic Gospels, and that these were not written by the apostles themselves, but by Greeks sixty, seventy, or perhaps eighty years after his death. I do not say he will try to undermine your faith, but how can he do otherwise if he believe in what he writes? However careful he may be to avoid blasphemy in your presence, the fact remains that you are living in an essentially unchristian atmosphere, and little by little the poison which you are taking in will accumulate, and you will find that you have been influenced without knowing when or how.
'If you lose your faith, I am responsible for it; and I am not exaggerating when I say the thought that I may have lost a soul to God is always before me. I can imagine no greater responsibility than this, and there seems to be no way of escaping from it. Father O'Grady says that you have passed out of our care, that all we can do is to pray for you. But I would like to do something more, and if you happen upon some passages in the books you are reading that seem in contradiction to the doctrines taught by the Catholic Church, I hope you will not conclude that the Church is without an answer. The Church has an answer ready for every single thing that may be said against her doctrines. I am not qualified to undertake the defence of the Church against anyone. I quite recognize my own deficiency in this matter, but even I may be able to explain away some doubts that may arise. If so, I beg of you not to hesitate to write to me. If I cannot do so myself, I may be able to put you in the way of finding out the best Catholic opinion on matters of doctrine.
'Very sincerely yours,
From Miss Nora Glynn to Father Oliver Gogarty.
'BEECHWOOD HALL, BERKSHIRE,
'August 15, 19—.
'I am sorry indeed that I am causing you so much trouble of conscience. You must try to put it out of your mind that you are responsible for me. The idea is too absurd. When I was in your parish I was interested in you, and that was why I tried to improve the choir and took trouble to decorate the altar. Have you forgotten how anxious I was that you should write the history of the lake and its castles? Why don't you write it and send it to me? I shall be interested in it, though for the moment I have hardly time to think of anything but Jewish history. Within the next few weeks, for certain, the last chapter of Mr. Poole's book will be passed for press, and then we shall go abroad and shall visit all the great men in Europe. Some are in Amsterdam, some are in Paris, some live in Switzerland. I wish I understood French a little better. Isn't it all like a dream? Do you know, I can hardly believe I ever was in forlorn Garranard teaching little barefooted children their Catechism and their A, B, C.
'Good-bye, Father Gogarty. We go abroad next week. I lie awake thinking of this trip—the places I shall see and the people I shall meet.
'Very sincerely yours,
It seemed to him that her letter gave very little idea of her. Some can express themselves on paper, and are more real in the words they write than in the words they speak. But hardly anything of his idea of her transpired in that letter—only in her desire of new ideas and new people. She was interested in everything—in his projected book about the raiders faring forth from the island castles, and now in the source of the Christian River; and he began to meditate a destructive criticism of Mr. Poole's ideas in a letter addressed to the editor of Illustrated England, losing heart suddenly, he knew not why, feeling the task to be beyond him. Perhaps it would be better not to write to Nora again.
From Father Oliver Gogarty to Miss Nora Glynn.
'August 22, 19—.
'DEAR MISS GLYNN,
'I gather from your letter that religion has ceased to interest you, except as a subject for argument, and I will not begin to argue with you, but will put instead a simple question to you: In what faith do you intend to bring up your child? and what will be your answer when your child asks: "Who made me?" Mr. Poole may be a learned man, but all the learning in the world will not tell you what answer to make to your child's questions; only the Church can do that.
'I have thought a great deal about the danger that your post of secretary to Mr. Poole involves and am not sure that the state of indifference is not the worst state of all. One day you will find that indifference has passed into unbelief, and you will write to me (if we continue to write to each other) in such a way that I shall understand that you have come to regard our holy religion as a tale fit only for childhood's ears. I write this to you, because I have been suddenly impelled to write, and it seems to me that in writing to you in this simple way I am doing better than if I spent hours in argument. You will not always think as you do now; the world will not always interest you as much as it does now. I will say no more on this point but will break off abruptly to tell you that I think you are right when you say that we all want change. I feel I have lived too long by the side of this lake, and I am thinking of going to London....'
The room darkened gradually, and, going to the window, he longed for something to break the silence, and was glad when the rain pattered among the leaves. The trees stood stark against the sky, in a green that seemed unnatural. The sheep moved as if in fear towards the sycamores, and from all sides came the lowing of cattle. A flash drove him back from the window. He thought he was blinded. The thunder rattled; it was as if a God had taken the mountains in his arms and was shaking them together. Crash followed crash; the rain came down; it was as if the rivers of heaven had been opened suddenly. Once he thought the storm was over; but the thunder crashed again, the rain began to thicken; there was another flash and another crash, and the pour began again. But all the while the storm was wearing itself out, and he began to wonder if a sullen day, ending in this apocalypse, would pass into a cheerful evening. It seemed as if it would, for some blue was showing between the clouds drifting westward, threatening every moment to blot out the blue, but the clouds continued to brighten at the edges. 'The beginning of the sunset,' the priest said; and he went out on his lawn and stood watching the swallows in the shining air, their dipping, swerving flight showing against a background of dappled clouds. He had never known so extraordinary a change; and he walked to and fro in the freshened air, thinking that Nora's health might not have withstood the strain of trudging from street to street, teaching the piano at two shillings an hour, returning home late at night to a poky little lodging, eating any food a landlady might choose to give her. As a music teacher she would have had great difficulty in supporting herself and her baby, and it pleased him to imagine the child as very like her mother; and returning to the house, he added this paragraph:
'I was interrupted while writing this letter by a sudden darkening of the light, and when I went to the window the sky seemed to have sunk close to the earth, and there was a dreadful silence underneath it. I was driven back by a flash of lightning, and the thunder was terrifying. A most extraordinary storm lasting for no more than an hour, if that, and then dispersing into a fine evening. It was a pleasure to see the change—the lake shrouded in mist, with ducks talking softly in the reeds, and swallows high up, advancing in groups like dancers on a background of dappled clouds.
'I have come back to my letter to ask if you would like me to go to see your baby? Father O'Grady and I will go together if I go to London, and I will write to you about it. You will be glad, no doubt, to hear that the child is going on well.
'Very sincerely yours,
From Father Oliver Gogarty to Miss Nora Glynn.
'September 4, 19—.
'Forgive me, my dear friend, but I am compelled to write to apologize for the introduction of my troubles of conscience and my anxiety for your spiritual welfare into my last letter. You found a way out of difficulties—difficulties into which I plunged you. But we will say no more on that point: enough has been said. You have created a life for yourself. You have shown yourself to be a strong woman in more ways than one, and are entitled to judge whether your work and the ideas you live among are likely to prove prejudicial to your faith and morals. By a virtue of forgiveness which I admire and thank you for, you write telling me of the literary work you are engaged upon. If I had thought before writing the letter I am now apologizing for, I could not have failed to see that you write to me because you would relieve my loneliness as far as you are able. But I did not think: I yielded to my mood, and see now that my letters are disgracefully egotistical, and very often absurd; for have I not begged of you to remember that since God will hold me responsible for your soul, it would be well that you should live a life of virtue and renunciation, so that I shall be saved the humiliation of looking down from above upon you in hell?
'Loneliness begets sleeplessness, and sleeplessness begets a sort of madness. I suffer from nightmare, and I cannot find words to tell you how terrible are the visions one sees at dawn. It is not so much that one sees unpleasant and ugly things—life is not always pretty or agreeable, that we know—but when one lies between sleeping and waking, life itself is shown in mean aspects, and it is whispered that one has been duped till now; that now, and for the first time, one knows the truth. You remember how the wind wails about the hilltop on which I live. The wailing of wind has something to do with my condition of mind; one cannot sit from eight o'clock in the evening till twelve at night staring at the lamp, hearing the wind, and remain perfectly sane.
'But why am I writing about myself? I want to escape from myself, and your letters enable me to do so. The names of the cities you are going to visit transport me in imagination, and last night I sat a long while wondering why I could not summon courage to go abroad. Something holds me back. I think if I once left Garranard, I should never return to the lake and its island. I hope you haven't forgotten Marban, the hermit who lived at the end of the lake in Church Island. I visited his island yesterday. I should have liked to have rowed myself through the strait and along the shores, seeing Castle Cara and Castle Burke as I passed; but Church Island is nearly eight miles from here, and I don't know if I should have been man enough to pull the fisherman's boat so far, so I put the gray horse into the shafts and went round by road.
'Church Island lies in a bay under a rocky shore, and the farmer who cuts the grass there in the summer-time has a boat to bring away the hay. It was delightful to step into it, and as the oars chimed I said to myself, "I have Marban's poem in my pocket—and will read it walking up the little path leading from his cell to his church." The lake was like a sheet of blue glass, and the island lay yellow and red in it. As we rowed, seeking a landing-place under the tall trees that grow along the shores, the smell of autumn leaves mingled with the freshness of the water. We rowed up a beautiful little inlet overhung with bushes. The quay is at the end of it, and on getting out of the boat, I asked the boatman to point out to me what remained of Marban's Church. He led me across the island—a large one, the largest in the lake—not less than seven acres or nine, and no doubt some parts of it were once cultivated by Marban. Of his church, however, very little remains—only one piece of wall, and we had great difficulty in seeing it, for it is now surrounded by a dense thicket. The little pathway leading from his cell to the church still exists; it is almost the same as he left it—a little overgrown, that is all.
'Marban was no ordinary hermit; he was a sympathetic naturalist, a true poet, and his brother who came to see him, and whose visit gave rise to the colloquy, was a king. I hope I am not wronging Marban, but the island is so beautiful that I cannot but think that he was attracted by its beauty and went there because he loved Nature as well as God. His poem is full of charming observations of nature, of birds and beasts and trees, and it proves how very false the belief is that primitive man had no eyes to see the beauties of the forest and felt no interest in the habits of animals or of birds, but regarded them merely as food. It pleases me to think of the hermit sitting under the walls of his church or by his cell writing the poem which has given me so much pleasure, including in it all the little lives that cams to visit him—the birds and the beasts—enumerating them as carefully as Wordsworth would, and loving them as tenderly. Marban! Could one find a more beautiful name for a hermit? Guaire is the brother's name. Marban and King Guaire. Now, imagine the two brothers meeting for a poetic disputation regarding the value of life, and each speaking from his different point of view! True that Guaire's point of view is only just indicated—he listens to his brother, for a hermit's view of life is more his own than a king's. It pleases me to think that the day the twain met to discourse of life and its mission was the counterpart of the day I spent on the island. My day was full of drifting cloud and sunshine, and the lake lay like a mirror reflecting the red shadow of the island. So you will understand that the reasons Marban gave for living there in preference to living the life of the world seemed valid, and I could not help peering into the bushes, trying to find a rowan-tree—for he speaks of one. The rowan is the mountain-ash. I found several. One tree was covered with red berries, and I broke off a branch and brought it home, thinking that perchance it might have come down to us from one planted by Marban's hand. Of blackthorns there are plenty. The adjective he uses is "dusky." Could he have chosen a more appropriate one? I thought, too, of "the clutch of eggs, the honey and the mast" that God sent him, of "the sweet apples and red whortleberries," and of his dish of "strawberries of good taste and colour."
'It is hard to give in an English translation an idea of the richness of the verse, heavily rhymed and winningly alliterated, but you will see that he enumerates the natural objects with skill. The eternal summer—the same in his day as in ours—he speaks of as "a coloured mantle," and he mentions "the fragrance of the woods." And seeing the crisp leaves—for the summer was waning—I repeated his phrase, "the summer's coloured mantle," and remembered:
"Swarms of bees and chafers, the little musicians of the world— A gentle chorus."
"The wren," he says, "is an active songster among the hazel boughs. Beautifully hooded birds, wood-peckers, fair white birds, herons, sea-gulls, come to visit me." There is no mournful music in his island; and as for loneliness, there is no such thing in
"My lowly little abode, hidden in a mane of green-barked yew-tree. Near is an apple-tree, Big like a hostel; A pretty bush thick as a fist of hazel-nuts, a choice spring and water fit for a Prince to drink. Round it tame swine lie down, Wild swine, grazing deer, A badger's brood, A peaceful troop, a heavy host of denizens of the soil A-trysting at my house. To meet them foxes come. How delightful!"
'The island is about a hundred yards from the shore, and I wondered how the animals crossed from the mainland as I sat under the porch of the ruined church. I suppose the water was shallower than it is now. But why and how the foxes came to meet the wild swine is a matter of little moment; suffice it that he lived in this island aware of its loneliness, "without the din of strife, grateful to the Prince who giveth every good to me in my bower." To which Guaire answered:
'"I would give my glorious kingship With my share of our father's heritage,— To the hour of my death let me forfeit it, So that I may be in thy company, O Marban."
'There are many such beautiful poems in early Irish. I know of another, and I'll send it to you one of these days. In it is a monk who tells how he and his cat sit together, himself puzzling out some literary or historical problem, the cat thinking of hunting mice, and how the catching of each is difficult and requires much patience.
'Ireland attained certainly to a high degree of civilization in the seventh and eighth centuries, and if the Danes had not come, Ireland might have anticipated Italy. The poems I have in mind are the first written in Europe since classical times, and though Italy and France be searched, none will be found to match them.
'I write these things to you because I wish you to remember that, when religion is represented as hard and austere, it is the fault of those who administer religion, and not of religion itself. Religion in Ireland in the seventh and eighth centuries was clearly a homely thing, full of tender joy and hope, and the inspiration not only of poems, but of many churches and much ornament of all kinds, illuminated missals, carven porches. If Ireland had been left to herselfif it had not been for the invasion of the Danes, and the still worse invasion of the English—there is no saying what high place she might not have taken in the history of the world. But I am afraid the halcyon light that paused and passed on in those centuries will never return. We have gotten the after-glow, and the past should incite us; and I am much obliged to you for reminding me that the history of the lake and its castles would make a book. I will try to write this book, and while writing will look forward to the day when I shall send you a copy of the work, if God gives me strength and patience to complete it. Little is ever completed in Ireland.... But I mustn't begin to doubt before I begin the work, and while you and Mr. Poole are studying dry texts, trying to prove that the things that men have believed and loved for centuries are false, I shall be engaged in writing a sympathetic history—the history of natural things and natural love.
'Very sincerely yours,
From Miss Nora Glynn to Father Oliver Gogarty.
'September 3, 19—.
'DEAR FATHER GOGARTY,
'You are a very human person after all, and it was very kind of you to think about my baby and kind of you to write to me about her. My baby is a little girl, and she has reddish hair like mine, and if ever you see her I think you will see me in her. The address of the woman who is looking after her is Mrs. Cust, 25, Henry Street, Guildford. Do go to see her and write me a long letter, telling me what you think of her. I am sure a trip to London will do you a great deal of good. Pack up your portmanteau, Father Gogarty, and go to London at once. Promise me that you will, and write to me about your impressions of London and Father O'Grady, and when you are tired of London come abroad. We are going on to Munich, that is all I know, but I will write again.
'Very sincerely yours,
Father Oliver sat wondering, and then, waking up suddenly, he went about his business, asking himself if she really meant all she said, for why should she wish him to go abroad, for his health or in the hope of meeting him—where? In Munich!
'A riddle, a riddle, which'—he reflected a moment—'which my experience of life is not sufficient to solve.'
On his way to Derrinrush he was met by a man hurrying towards him. 'Sure it is I that am in luck this day, meeting your reverence on the road, for we shall be spared half a mile if you have the sacred elements about you.' So much the peasant blurted out between the gasps, and when his breath came easier the priest learnt that Catherine, the man's wife, was dying. 'Me brother's run for the doctor, but I, being the speedier, came for yourself, and if your reverence has the sacred elements about you, we'll go along together by a short cut over the hill.' 'I'm afraid I have not got the oil and there's nothing for it but to go back to the house.' 'Then I'm afeard that Catherine will be too late to get the Sacrament. But she is a good woman, sorra better, and maybe don't need the oil,' which indeed proved to be a fact, for when they reached the cabin they found the doctor there before them, who rising from his chair by the bedside, said, 'The woman is out of danger, if she ever was in any.' 'All the same,' cried the peasant, 'Catherine wouldn't refuse the Sacrament.' 'But if she be in no danger, of what use would the Sacrament be to her?' the doctor asked; the peasant answering, 'Faith, you must have been a Protestant before you were a Catholic to be talking like that,' and Father Oliver hesitated, and left the cabin sorrowed by the unseemliness of the wrangle. He was not, however, many yards down the road when the dispute regarding the efficacy of the Sacrament administered out of due time was wiped out by a memory of something Nora had told him of herself: she had announced to the monitresses, who were discussing their ambitions, that hers was to be the secretary of a man of letters. 'So it would seem that she had an instinct of her destiny from the beginning, just as I had of mine. But had I? Her path took an odd turn round by Garranard. But she has reached her goal, or nearly. The end may be marriage—with whom? Poole most likely. Be that as it may, she will pass on to middle age; we shall grow older and seas and continents will divide our graves. Why did she come to Garranard?'
From Father Oliver Gogarty to Miss Nora Glynn.
'September 10, 19—.
'DEAR MISS GLYNN,
'I received your letter this morning, written from Antwerp, and it has set me thinking that Mr. Poole's interests in scholarship must have procured for him many acquaintances among Dutch scholars, men with whom he has been in correspondence. You will meet them and hear them pour their vast erudition across dinner-tables. Rubens' great picture, "The Descent from the Cross," is in Antwerp; you will go to see it, and in Munich Mr. Poole will treat you to the works of Wagner and Mozart. You are very happy; everything has gone well with you, and it would ill befit me, who brought so much unhappiness upon you, to complain that you are too happy, too much intent on the things of this world. Yet, if you will allow me to speak candidly, I will tell you what I really think. You are changing; the woman I once knew hardly corresponds with the woman who writes to me. In reading the letters of the English Nora, I perceive many traces here and there of the Irish Nora, for the Irish Nora was not without a sense of duty, of kindness towards others, but the English Nora seems bent upon a life of pleasure, intellectual and worldly adventures. She delights in foreign travel, and no doubt places feelings above ideas, and regards our instincts as our sovereign guides. Now, when we find ourselves delighting to this extent in the visible, we may be sure that our lives have wandered far away from spiritual things. There is ever a divorce between the world of sense and the world of spirit, and the question of how much love we may expend upon external things will always arise, and will always be a cause of perplexity to those who do not choose to abandon themselves to the general drift of sensual life. This question is as difficult as the cognate question of what are our duties toward ourselves and our duties toward others. And your letters raise all these questions. I ponder them in my walks by the lake in the afternoon. In the evening in my house on the hilltop I sit thinking, seeing in imagination the country where I have been born and where I have always lived—the lake winding in and out of headlands, the highroad shaded by sycamores at one spot, a little further on wandering like a gray thread among barren lands, with here and there a village; and I make application of all the suggestions your letters contain to my own case. Every house in Garranard I know, and I see each gable end and each doorway as I sit thinking, and all the faces of my parishioners. I see lights springing up far and near. Wherever there is a light there is a poor family.
'Upon these people I am dependent for my daily bread, and they are dependent upon me for spiritual consolation. I baptize them, I marry them, and I bury them. How they think of me, I know not. I suppose they hardly think at all. When they return home at night they have little time for thinking; their bodies are too fatigued with the labour of the fields. But as I sit thinking of them, I regret to say that my fear often is that I shall never see any human beings but them; and I dream of long rambles in the French country, resting at towns, reading in libraries. A voice whispers, "You could do very well with a little of her life, but you will never know any other life but your present one." A great bitterness comes up, a little madness gathers behind the eyes; I walk about the room and then I sit down, stunned by the sudden conviction that life is, after all, a very squalid thing—something that I would like to kick like an old hat down a road.
'The conflict going on within me goes on within every man, but without this conflict life would be superficial; we shouldn't know the deeper life. Duty has its rewards as well as its pain, and the knowledge that I am passing through a time of probationship sustains me. I know I shall come out of it all a stronger man.
After posting his letter he walked home, congratulating himself that he had made it plain to her that he was not a man she could dupe. Her letter was written plainly, and the more he thought of her letter the clearer did it seem that it was inspired by Poole. But what could Poole's reason be for wishing him to leave Ireland, to go abroad? It was certain that if Poole were in love with Nora he would do all in his power to keep a poor priest (was it thus they spoke of him?) in Ireland. Poole might wish to make a fool of him, but what was her reason for advising him to go abroad? Revenge was too strong a word.
In the course of the evening it suddenly struck him that, after all, she might have written her letter with a view of inducing him to come to Rome. She was so capricious that it was not impossible that she had written quite sincerely, and wished him out there with her. She was so many-sided, and he fell to thinking of her character, without being able to arrive at any clear estimate of it, with this result, however—that he could not drive out the belief that she had written him an insincere letter. Or did she wish to revenge herself? The thought brought him to his feet, for he could never forget how deeply he had wronged her—it was through his fault that she had become Mr. Poole's secretary—maybe his mistress. If he had not preached that sermon, she would be teaching the choir in his parish. But, good heavens! what use was there in going over all that again? He walked to the window and stood there watching the still autumn weather—a dull leaden sky, without a ray of light upon the grass, or a wind in the trees—thinking that these gray days deprived him of all courage. And then he remembered suddenly how a villager's horse coming from market had tripped and fallen by the roadside. Would that he, too, might fall by the roadside, so weary was he. 'If I could only make known my suffering, she would take pity on me; but no one knows another's suffering.' He walked from his window sighing, and a moment after stopped in front of his writing-table. Perhaps it was the writing-table that put the thought into his mind that she might like to read a description of an Irish autumn.
From Father Oliver Gogarty to Miss Nora Glynn.
'You know the wind is hardly ever at rest about the hilltop on which my house stands. Even in summer the wind sighs, a long, gentle little sigh, sometimes not unpleasant to hear. You used to speak of an AEolian harp, and say that I should place one on my window-sill. A doleful instrument it must be—loud wailing sound in winter-time, and in the summer a little sigh. But in these autumn days an AEolian harp would be mute. There is not wind enough to-day on the hillside to cause the faintest vibration. Yesterday I went for a long walk in the woods, and I can find no words that would convey an idea of the stillness. It is easy to speak of a tomb, but it was more than that. The dead are dead, and somnambulism is more mysterious than death. The season seemed to stand on the edge of a precipice, will-less, like a sleep-walker. Now and then the sound of a falling leaf caught my ear, and I shall always remember how a crow, flying high overhead towards the mountains, uttered an ominous "caw"; another crow answered, and there was silence again. The branches dropped, and the leaves hung out at the end of long stems. One could not help pitying the trees, though one knew one's pity was vain.
'As I wandered in Derrinrush, I came suddenly upon some blood-red beech-trees, and the hollow was full of blood-red leaves. You have been to Derrinrush: you know how mystic and melancholy the wood is, full of hazels and Druid stones. After wandering a long while I turned into a path. It led me to a rough western shore, and in front of me stood a great Scotch fir. The trunk has divided, and the two crowns showed against the leaden sky. It has two birch-trees on either side, and their graceful stems and faint foliage, pale like gold, made me think of dancers with sequins in their hair and sleeves. There seemed to be nothing but silence in the wood, silence, and leaves ready to fall. I had not spoken to anyone for a fortnight—I mean I had no conversation with anyone—and my loneliness helped me to perceive the loneliness of the wood, and the absence of birds made me feel it. The lake is never without gulls, but I didn't see one yesterday. "The swallows are gone," I said; "the wild geese will soon be here," and I remembered their doleful cry as I scrambled under some blackthorn bushes, glad to get out of the wood into the fields. Though I knew the field I was in well, I didn't remember the young sycamores growing in one corner of it. Yesterday I could not but notice them, for they seemed to be like children dying of consumption in a hospital ward—girls of twelve or thirteen. You will think the comparison far-fetched and unhealthy, one that could only come out of a morbidly excited imagination. Well, I cannot help that; like you, I must write as I feel.
'Suddenly I heard the sound of an axe, and I can find no words to tell you how impressive its sound was in the still autumn day. "How soon will the tree fall?" I thought; and, desirous of seeing it fall, I walked on, guided by the sound, till I saw at the end of the glade—whom do you think? Do you remember an old man called Patsy Murphy? He had once been a very good carpenter, and had made and saved money. But he is now ninety-five, and I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw him trying to cut down a larch. What his object could be in felling the tree I could not tell, and, feeling some curiosity, I walked forward. He continued to chip away pieces of the bark till his strength failed him, and he had to sit down to rest. Seeing me, he took off his hat—you know the tall hat he wears—a hat given him twenty or thirty years ago by whom? Patsy Murphy's mind is beginning to wander. He tells stories as long as you will listen to him, and it appears now that his daughter-in-law turned him out of his house—the house he had built himself, and that he had lived in for half a century. This, however, is not the greatest wrong she had done him. He could forgive her this wrong, but he cannot forgive her stealing of his sword. "There never was a Murphy," he said, "who hadn't a sword." Whether this sword is an imagination of Patsy's fading brain, I cannot say; perhaps he had some old sword and lost it. The tale he tells to-day differs wholly from the tale he told yesterday and the tale he will tell to-morrow. He told me once he had been obliged to give up all his savings to his son. I went to interview the son, determined to sift the matter to the bottom, and discovered that Patsy had still one hundred and twenty pounds in the bank. Ten pounds had been taken out for—I needn't trouble you with further details. Sufficient has been said to enable you to understand how affecting it was to meet this old man in the red and yellow woods, at the end of a breathless autumn day, trying to fell a young larch. He talked so rapidly, and one story flowed so easily into another, that it was a long time before I could get in a word. At last I was able to get out of him that the Colonel had given him leave to build a house on the shore, where he would be out of everybody's way. "All my old friends are gone, the Colonel's father and his mother. God be merciful to her! she was a good woman, the very best. And all I want now is time to think of them that's gone.... Didn't I know the Colonel's grandfather and his grandmother? They're all buried in the cemetery yonder in Kiltoon, and on a fine evenin' I do like to be sittin' on a stone by the lake, thinking of them all."
'It was at once touching and impressive to see this old man, weak as a child, the only trembling thing in a moveless day, telling these wanderings of an almost insane brain. You will say, "But what matter? They may not be true in fact, but they are his truth, they are himself, they are his age." His ninety-five years are represented in his confused talk, half recollection, half complaints about the present. He knew my father and mother, too, and, peering into my face, he caught sight of a gray hair, and I heard him mutter:
'"Ah! they grow gray quicker now than they used to."
'As I walked home in the darkening light, I bethought myself of the few years left to me to live, though I am still a young man, that in a few years, which would pass like a dream, I should be as frail as Patsy Murphy, who is ninety-five. "Why should I not live as long?" I asked myself, losing my teeth one by one and my wits.'
'I was interrupted in my description of the melancholy season, and I don't know how I should have finished that letter if I had not been interrupted. The truth is that the season was but a pretext. I did not dare to write asking you to forgive me for having returned your letter. I do not do so now. I will merely say that I returned the letter because it annoyed me, and, shameful as the admission may be, I admit that I returned it because I wished to annoy you. I said to myself, "If this be so—if, in return for kind thought—Why shouldn't she suffer? I suffer." One isn't—one cannot be—held responsible for every base thought that enters the mind. How long the mind shall entertain a thought before responsibility is incurred I am not ready to say. One's mood changes. A storm gathers, rages for a while, and disperses; but the traces of the storm remain after the storm has passed away. I am thinking now that perhaps, after all, you were sincere when you asked me to leave Garranard and take my holiday in Rome, and the baseness of which for a moment I deemed you capable was the creation of my own soul. I don't mean that my mind, my soul, is always base. At times we are more or less unworthy. Our tempers are part of ourselves? I have been pondering this question lately. Which self is the true self—the peaceful or the choleric? My wretched temper aggravated my disappointment, and my failure to write the history of the lake and its castles no doubt contributed to produce the nervous depression from which I am suffering. But this is not all; it seems to me that I may point out that your—I hardly know what word to use: "irrelevancy" does not express my meaning; "inconsequences" is nearer, yet it isn't the word I want—well, your inconsequences perplex and distract my thoughts. If you will look through the letter you sent me last you will find that you have written many things that might annoy a man living in the conditions in which I live. You follow the current of your mood, but the transitions you omit, and the reader is left hopelessly conjecturing....'
She seemed so strange, so inconclusive. There seemed to be at least two, if not three, different women in the letters she had written to him, and he sat wondering how a woman with cheeks like hers, and a voice like hers, and laughter like hers, could take an interest in such arid studies. Her very name, Nora Glynn, seemed so unlike the woman who would accompany Mr. Poole into National Libraries, and sit by him surrounded by learned tomes. Moreover a mistress does not read Hebrew in a National Library with her paramour. But what did he know about such women? He had heard of them supping in fashionable restaurants covered with diamonds, and he thought of them with painted faces and dyed hair, and he was sure that Nora did not dye her hair or paint her face. No, she was not Poole's mistress. It was only his ignorance of life that could have led him to think of anything so absurd.... And then, weary of thinking and debating with himself, he took down a book that was lent some months ago, a monograph on a learned woman, a learned philosophical writer and translator of exegetical works from the German. Like Nora, she came from the middle classes, and, like Nora, she transgressed, how often he did not know, but with another woman's husband certainly. A critical writer and exponent of serious literature. Taste for learned studies did not preclude abstinence from those sins which in his ignorance of life he had associated with worldlings! Of course, St. Augustine was such a one. But is a man's truth also woman's truth? Apparently it is, and if he could believe the book he had been reading, Nora might very well be Poole's mistress. Therewith the question came up again, demanding answer: Why did she write declining any correspondence with him, and three weeks afterwards write another letter inveigling him, tempting him, bringing him to this last pitch of unhappiness? Was the letter he returned to her prompted by Mr. Poole and by a spirit of revenge? Three days after he took up his pen and added this paragraph to his unfinished letter:
'I laid aside my pen, fearing I should ask what are your relations with Mr. Poole. I have tried to keep myself from putting this question to you, but the torture of doubt overcomes me, and even if you should never write to me again, I must ask it. Remember that I am responsible to God for the life you lead. Had it not been for me, you would never have known Poole. You must grant to every man his point of view, and, as a Christian, I cannot put my responsibility out of mind. If you lose your soul, I am responsible for it. Should you write that your relations with Mr. Poole are not innocent, I shall not be relieved of my responsibility, but it will be a relief to me to know the truth. I shall pray for you, and you will repent your sins if you are living in sin. Forgive me the question I am putting to you. I have no right to do so whatever. Whatever right I had over you when you were in my parish has passed from me. I exceeded that right, but that is the old story. Maybe I am repeating my very fault again. It is not unlikely, for what do we do all through our lives but to repeat ourselves? You have forgiven me, and, having forgiven me once, maybe you will forgive me again. However this may be, do not delay writing, for every day will be an agony till I hear from you. At the end of an autumn day, when the dusk is sinking into the room, one lacks courage to live. Religion seems to desert one, and I am thinking of the leaves falling, falling in Derrinrush. All night long they will be falling, like my hopes. Forgive me this miserable letter. But if I didn't write it, I should not be able to get through the evening. Write to me. A letter from Italy will cheer me and help me to live. All my letters are not like this one. Not very long ago I wrote to you about a hermit who never wearied of life, though he lived upon an island in this lake. Did you receive that letter? I wonder. It is still following you about maybe. It was a pleasant letter, and I should be sorry if you did not get it. Write to me about Italy—about sunshine, about statues and pictures.
'Ever sincerely yours,
From Father Oliver Gogarty to Miss Nora Glynn.
'October 20, 19—.
'DEAR MISS GLYNN,
'I wrote last week apologizing for troubling you again with a letter, pleading that the melancholy of autumn and the falling of the leaf forced me to write to someone. I wrote asking for a letter, saying that a letter about Italian sunshine would help me to live. I am afraid my letter must have seemed exaggerated. One writes out of a mood. The mood passes, but when it is with one, one is the victim of it. And this letter is written to say I have recovered somewhat from my depression of spirits.... I have found consolation in a book, and I feel that I must send it to you, for even you may one day feel depressed and lonely. Did you ever read "The Imitation of Christ"? There is no book more soothing to the spirit than it; and on the very first page I found some lines which apply marvellously well to your case:
'"If thou didst know the whole Bible outwardly, and the sayings of all the philosophers, what would it all profit thee without charity and the grace of God?"
'Over the page the saint says: "Every man naturally desireth to know; but what doth knowledge avail without the fear of God?"
'"Truly, a lowly rustic that serveth God is better than a proud philosopher who pondereth the course of the stars and neglecteth himself."
'"He that knoweth himself becometh vile to himself, and taketh no delight in the praises of men."
'"If I knew all things that are in the world, and were not in charity, what would it profit me in the sight of God, who will judge according to deeds?"
'"Cease from overweening desire of knowledge, because many distractions are found there, and much delusion."
'I might go on quoting till I reached the end, for on every page I note something that I would have you read. But why quote when I can send you the book? You have lost interest in the sentimental side of religion, but your loss is only momentary. You will never find anyone who will understand you better than this book. You are engaged now in the vain pursuit of knowledge, but some day, when you are weary of knowledge, you will turn to it. I do not ask you to read it now, but promise me that you will keep it. It will be a great consolation to me to know that it is by you.
'Very sincerely yours,
'OLIVER GOGARTY, P.P.'
From Father Oliver Gogarty to Miss Nora Glynn.
'November 3, 19—.
'DEAR MISS GLYNN,
'I sent you—I think it must be a fortnight ago—a copy of "The Imitation of Christ." The copy I sent is one of the original Elizabethan edition, a somewhat rare book and difficult to obtain. I sent you this copy in order to make sure that you would keep it; the English is better than the English of our modern translations. You must not think that I feel hurt because you did not write to thank me at once for having sent you the book. My reason for writing is merely because I should like to know if it reached you. If you have not received it, I think it would be better to make inquiries at once in the post. It would be a pity that a copy of the original Elizabethan edition should be lost. Just write a little short note saying that you have received it.
'Very sincerely yours,
'OLIVER GOGARTY, P.P.'
'The Imitation' dropped on his knees, and he wondered if the spiritual impulse it had awakened in him was exhausted, or if the continual splashing of the rain on the pane had got upon his nerves.
'But it isn't raining in Italy,' he said, getting up from his chair; 'and I am weary of the rain, of myself—I am weary of everything.' And going to the window, he tried to take ant interest in the weather, asking himself if it would clear up about 3 o'clock. It cleared usually late in the afternoon for a short while, and he would be able to go out for half an hour. But where should he go? He foresaw his walk from end to end before he began it: the descent of the hill, the cart-track and the old ruts full of water, the dead reeds on the shore soaking, the dripping trees. But he knew that about 3 o'clock the clouds would lift, and the sunset begin in the gaps in the mountains. He might go as far as the little fields between Derrinrush and the plantations, and from there he could watch the sunset. But the sunset would soon be over, and he would have to return home, for a long evening without a book. Terrible! And he began to feel that he must have an occupation—his book! To write the story of the island castles would pass the time, and wondering how he might write it, whether from oral tradition or from the books and manuscripts which he might find in national libraries, he went out about 3 o'clock and wandered down the old cart-track, getting his feet very wet, till he came to the pine-wood, into which he went, and stood looking across the lake, wondering if he should go out to Castle Island in a boat—there was no boat, but he might borrow one somewhere—and examine what remained of the castle. But he knew every heap of old stones, every brown bush, and the thick ivy that twined round the last corner wall. Castle Hag had an interest Castle Island had not. The cormorants roosted there; and they must be hungry, for the lake had been too windy for fishing this long while. A great gust whirled past, and he stood watching the clouds drifting overhead—the same thick vapour drifting and going out. For nearly a month he was waiting for a space of blue sky, and a great sadness fell upon him, a sick longing for a change; but if he yielded to this longing he would never return to Garranard. There seemed to be no way out of the difficulty—at least, he could see none.
A last ray lit up a distant hillside, his shadow floated on the wet sand. The evening darkened rapidly, and he walked in a vague diffused light, inexpressibly sad to find Moran waiting for him at the end of an old cart-track, where the hawthorns grew out of a tumbled wall. He would keep Moran for supper. Moran was a human being, and—
'I've come to see you, Gogarty; I don't know if I'm welcome.'
'It's joking you are. You'll stay and have some supper with me?'
'Indeed I will, if you give me some drink, for it's drink that I'm after, and not eating. I'd better get the truth out at once and have done with it. I've felt the craving coming on me for the last few days—you know what I mean—and now it's got me by the throat. I must have drink. Come along, Gogarty, and give me some, and then I'll say good-bye to you for ever.'
'Now what are you saying?'
'Don't stand arguing with me, for you can't understand, Gogarty—no one can; I can't myself. But it doesn't matter what anybody understands—I'm done for.'
'We'll have a bit of supper together. It will pass from you.'
'Ah, you little know;' and the priests walked up the hill in silence.
'Gogarty, there's no use talking; I'm done for. Let me go.'
'Come in, will you?' and he took him by the arm. 'Come in. I'm a bigger man than you, Moran; come in!'
'I'm done for,' Father Moran said again.
Father Oliver made a sign of silence, and when they were in the parlour, and the door shut behind them, he said:
'You mustn't talk like that, and Catherine within a step of you.'
'I've told you, Gogarty, I'm done for, and I've just come here to bid you good-bye; but before we part I'd like to hear you say that I haven't been wanting in my duties—that in all the rest, as far as you know, I've been as good a man as another.'
'In all but one thing I know no better man, and I'll not hear that there's no hope.'
'Better waste no time talking. Just let me hear you say again that I've been a good man in everything but one thing.'
'Yes, indeed;' and the priests grasped hands.
And Catherine came into the room to ask if Father Moran was stopping to supper. Father Oliver answered hurriedly: 'Yes, yes, he's staying. Bring in supper as soon as you can;' and she went away, to come back soon after with the cloth. And while she laid it the priests sat looking at each other, not daring to speak, hoping that Catherine did not suspect from their silence and manner that anything was wrong. She seemed to be a long while laying the cloth and bringing in the food; it seemed to them as if she was delaying on purpose. At last the door was closed, and they were alone.
'Now, Moran, sit down and eat a bit, won't you?'
'I can't eat anything. Give me some whisky; that is what I want. Give me some whisky, and I will go away and you'll never see me again. Just a glass to keep me going, and I will go straight out of your parish, so that none of the disgrace will fall upon you; or—what do you think? You could put me up here; no one need know I'm here. All I want are a few bottles of whisky.'
'You mean that I should put you up here and let you get drunk?'
'You know what I mean well enough. I'm like that. And it's well for you who don't want whisky. But if it hadn't been for whisky I should have been in a mad-house long ago. Now, just tell me if you'll give me drink. If you will, I'll stay and talk with you, for I know you're lonely; if not, I'll just be off with myself.'
'Moran, you'll be better when you've had something to eat. It will pass from you. I will give you a glass of beer.'
'A glass of beer! Ah, if I could tell you the truth! We've all our troubles, Gogarty—trouble that none knows but God. I haven't been watching you—I've been too tormented about myself to think much of anyone else—but now and then I've caught sight of a thought passing across your mind. We all suffer, you like another, and when the ache becomes too great to be borne we drink. Whisky is the remedy; there's none better. We drink and forget, and that is the great thing. There are times, Gogarty, when one doesn't want to think, when one's afraid, aren't there?—when one wants to forget that one's alive. You've had that feeling, Gogarty. We all have it. And now I must be off. I must forget everything. I want to drink and to feel the miles passing under my feet.'
And on that he got up from the fire.
'Come, Moran, I won't hear you speak like that.'
'Let me go. It's no use; I'm done for;' and Father Oliver saw his eyes light up.
'I'll not keep you against your will, but I'll go a piece of the road with you.'
'I'd sooner you didn't come, Gogarty.'
Without answering, Father Oliver caught up his hat and followed Father Moran out of the house. They walked without speaking, and when they got to the gate Father Oliver began to wonder which way his unhappy curate would choose for escape. 'Now why does he take the southern road?' And a moment after he guessed that Moran was making for Michael Garvey's public-house, 'and after drinking there,' he said to himself, 'he'll go on to Tinnick.' After a couple of miles, however, Moran turned into a by-road leading through the mountains, and they walked on without saying a word.
And they walked mile after mile through the worn mountain road.
'You've come far enough, Gogarty; go back. Regan's public-house is outside of your parish.'
'If it's outside my parish, it's only the other side of the boundary; and you said, Moran, that you wouldn't touch whisky till to-morrow morning.'
The priests walked on again, and Father Oliver fell to thinking now what might be the end of this adventure. He could see there was no hope of persuading Father Moran from the bottle of whisky.
'What time do you be making it, Gogarty?'
'It isn't ten o'clock yet.'
'Then I'll walk up and down till the stroke of twelve ... I'll keep my promise to you.'
'But they'll all be in bed by twelve. What will you do then?'
Father Moran didn't give Father Gogarty an answer, but started off again, and this time he was walking very fast; and when they got as far as Regan's public-house Father Oliver took his friend by the arm, reminding him again of his promise.
'You promised not to disgrace the parish.'
'I said that.... Well, if it's walking your heart is set upon, you shall have your bellyful of it.'
And he was off again like a man walking for a wager. But Father Oliver, who wouldn't be out-walked, kept pace with him, and they went striding along, walking without speaking.
Full of ruts and broken stones, the road straggled through the hills, and Father Oliver wondered what would happen when they got to the top of the hill. For the sea lay beyond the hill. The road bent round a shoulder of the hill, and when Father Oliver saw the long road before him his heart began to fail him, and a cry of despair rose to his lips; but at that moment Moran stopped.
'You've saved me, Gogarty.'
He did not notice that Father Gogarty was breathless, almost fainting, and he began talking hurriedly, telling Father Oliver how he had committed himself to the resolution of breaking into a run as soon as they got to the top of the hill.
'My throat was on fire then, but now all the fire is out of it; your prayer has been answered. But what's the matter, Gogarty? You're not speaking.'
'What you say is wonderful indeed, Moran, for I was praying for you. I prayed as long as I had breath; one can't pray without breath or speak. We'll talk of this presently.'
The priests turned back, walking very slowly.
'I feel no more wish to drink whisky than I do to drink bog-water. But I'm a bit hot, and I think I'd like a drink, and a drink of water will do me first-rate. Now look here, Gogarty: a miracle has happened, and we should thank God for it. Shall we kneel down?'
The road was very wet, and they thought it would do as well if they leant over the little wall and said some prayers together.
'I've conquered the devil; I know it. But I've been through a terrible time, Gogarty. It's all lifted from me now. I'm sorry I've brought you out for such a walk as this.'
'Never mind the walk, Moran, so long as the temptation has passed from you—that's the principal thing.'
To speak of ordinary things was impossible, for they believed in the miracle, and, thanking God for this act of grace, they walked on until they reached Father Oliver's gate.
'I believe you're right, Moran; I believe that a miracle has happened. You'll go home straight, won't you?'
Father Moran grasped Father Oliver's hand.
'Indeed I will.'
And Father Oliver stood by his gate looking down the road, and he didn't open it and go through until Father Moran had passed out of sight. Pushing it open, he walked up the gravel path, saying to himself, 'A miracle, without doubt. Moran called it a miracle and it seems like one, but will it last? Moran believes himself cured, that is certain;' and Father Oliver thought how his curate had gripped his hand, and felt sure that the grip meant, 'You've done me a great service, one I can never repay.'
It was a pleasure to think that Moran would always think well of him. 'Yes, Moran will always think well of me,' he repeated as he groped his way into the dark and lonely house in search of a box of matches. When his lamp was lighted he threw himself into his armchair so that he might ponder better on what had happened. 'I've been a good friend to him, and it's a great support to a man to think that he's been a good friend to another, that he kept him in the straight path, saved him from himself. Saved himself from himself,' he repeated;' can anybody be saved from himself?' and he began to wonder if Moran would conquer in the end and take pride in his conquest over himself.
There was no sound, only an occasional spit of the lamp, and in the silence Father Oliver asked if it were the end of man's life to trample upon self or to encourage self. 'Nora,' he said, 'would answer that self is all we have, and to destroy it and put in its place conventions and prejudices is to put man's work above God's. But Nora would not answer in these words till she had spoken with Mr. Walter Poole.' The name brought a tightening about his heart, and when Father Oliver stumbled to his feet—he had walked many miles, and was tired—he began to think he must tell Nora of the miracle that had happened about a mile—he thought it was just a mile—beyond Patsy Regan's public-house. The miracle would impress her, and he looked round the room. It was then he caught sight of a letter—her letter. The envelope and foreign stamp told him that before he read the address—her writing! His hand trembled and his cheek paled, for she was telling him the very things he had longed to know. She was in love with Poole! she was not only in love with him—she was his mistress!
The room seemed to tumble about him, and he grasped the end of the chimney-piece. And then, feeling that he must get out into the open air, he thought of Moran. He began to feel he must speak to him. He couldn't remember exactly what he had to say to him, but there was something on his mind which he must speak to Moran about. It seemed to him that he must go away with Moran to some public-house far away and drink. Hadn't Moran said that there were times when we all wanted drink? He tried to collect his thoughts.... Something had gone wrong, but he couldn't remember what had gone wrong or where he was. It seemed to him that somebody had lost her soul. He must seek it. It was his duty. Being a priest, he must go forth and find the soul, and bring it back to God. He remembered no more until he found himself in the midst of a great wood, standing in an open space; about him were dripping trees, and a ghostly sky overhead, and no sound but that of falling leaves. Large leaves floated down, and each interested him till it reached the wet earth.
And then he began to wonder why he was in the wood at night, and why he should be waiting there, looking at the glimmering sky, seeing the oak-leaves falling, remembering suddenly that he was looking for her soul, for her lost soul, and that something had told him he would find the soul he was seeking in the wood; so he was drawn from glade to glade through the underwoods, and through places so thickly overgrown that it seemed impossible to pass through. And then the thorn-bushes gave way before him, for he was no longer alone. She had descended from the trees into his arms, white and cold, and every moment the wood grew dimmer; but when he expected it to disappear, when he thought he was going to escape for ever with her, an opening in the trees discovered the lake, and in fear he turned back into the wood, seeking out paths where there was little light.
Once he was within the wood, the mist seemed to incorporate again; she descended again into his arms, and this time he would have lifted the veil and looked into her face, but she seemed to forbid him to recognize her under penalty of loss. His desire overcame him, and he put out his hand to lift the veil. As he did so his eyes opened, he saw the wet wood, the shining sky, and she sitting by a stone waiting for him. A little later she came to meet him from behind the hawthorns that grew along the cart-track—a tall woman with a little bend in her walk.
He wondered why he was so foolish as to disobey her, and besought her to return to him, and they roamed again in the paths that led round the rocks overgrown with briars, by the great oak-tree where the leaves were falling. And wandering they went, smiling gently on each other, till she began to tell him that he must abide by the shores of the lake—why, he could not understand, for the wood was much more beautiful, and he was more alone with her in the wood than by the lake.
The sympathy was so complete that words were not needed, but they had begun in his ears. He strove to apprehend the dim words sounding in his ears. Not her words, surely, for there was a roughness in the voice, and presently he heard somebody asking him why he was about this time of night, and very slowly he began to understand that one of his parishioners was by him, asking him whither he was going.
'You'll be catching your death at this hour of the night, Father Oliver.'
And the man told Father Oliver he was on his way to a fair, and for a short-cut he had come through the wood. And Father Oliver listened, thinking all the while that he must have been dreaming, for he could remember nothing.
'Now, your reverence, we're at your own door, and the door is open. When you went out you forgot to close it.'
The priest didn't answer.
'I hope no harm will come to your reverence; and you'll be lucky if you haven't caught your death.'
He stopped in his undressing to ponder how Moran had come to tell him that he was going away on a drinking-bout, and all their long walk together to within a mile of Regan's public-house returned to him bit by bit, how Moran knelt down by the roadside to drink bog-water, which he said would take the thirst from him as well as whisky; and after bidding Moran good-night he had fallen into his armchair. It was not till he rose to his feet to go to bed that he had caught sight of the letter. Nora wrote—he could not remember exactly what she wrote, and threw himself into bed. After sleeping for many hours, his eyes at last opened, and he awoke wondering, asking himself where he was. Even the familiar room surprised him. And once more he began the process of picking his way back, but he couldn't recall what had happened from the time he left his house in search of Moran till he was overtaken by Alec in the wood. In some semi-conscious state he must have wandered off to Derrinrush. He must have wandered a long while—two hours, maybe more —through the familiar paths, but unaware that he was choosing them. To escape from the effort of remembrance he was glad to listen to Catherine, who was telling him that Alec was at the door, come up from the village to inquire how the priest was.