"I wonder," he said; "am I dreaming?"
She paused suddenly. She had taken her hat off, and was touching things on the tables with her large fine hands. She turned her head toward him. There was a half smile in her eyes.
"It doesn't seem right."
"That you never saw me before, that you are here in this house after meeting me half an hour ago, and that you can stay here the night?"
"Well, it's true."
She was once more the hostess. It was as if some one had sprung nimbly from a little height to the ground.
"I can't give you any whisky. But I can make you tea. Or have my maid brew you some coffee."
"Is that a Russian samovar?"
"Then I'll have tea."
So queer! Without the wind blustered and the little din of it crept into the room somehow, and within was warmth, and the stillness of still trees. And grace. Beauty moved like an actress on the stage. All her motions were harmonious, could have gone to some music on the violin. Now it was the easy dropping to her knees as she lit the quaint Russian teapot, now an unconscious movement of her hand to push back a braid of her hair, now the firm certain motion of her strong white unringed fingers. Now her large graceful body moved like some heroic statue that had become quick with life. The thought came into his head, somehow, that if he had had a sister he would have liked her to have been like this splendid blond woman....
Yet into this house, where she had settled like some strange bird in an alien land, came ships' masters, reeking with drink, came merchants with their minds full of buying and selling and all the petty meannesses of trade, came dark Latins who hankered for blond women....
"God! I can't understand."
She came toward him frankly....
"Amigo mio, have you a right to understand?"
"No, but—see! You and I have often met. I mean: there is a plane of us, who must be loyal to one another. You understand. And to you, to one of us, I don't want to lie. Only certain persons have a right to ask. A father, a mother, a child, a sister or brother or husband. But our destinies touch only, hardly even that. Will never grip, bind. There is no right you have, beyond what—you buy; and there are things—I don't sell."
"I'm sorry," Shane turned aside. "I was just carried away. But I should go."
"Do you want to go?"
"Then stay. Others stay."
"Are you better than the others? Think."
"No," he thought. "Of course not. Worse perhaps. I know better."
"You are nearly as honest as I am," she laughed. She put her hand out in a great frank gesture.
"If I can smile, surely you can." Her fingers beckoned. "Come, don't be silly."
He caught her hands and laughed with her. He had been acting like a boy in his twenties, and he a man of forty-two....
He had thought somehow that in this affair of Hedda he would find—oh, something: that once more the moon would take on its rippling smile and the sun its sweet low laughter, and the winds be no longer a matter of physics, but strong entities. Quickly, unconsciously, the thought had come to him.... With the wife of his young days had come the magic of romance, and with Claire-Anne of Marseilles had come a sublime storm of passion, and with the Arab lady had come the scheme of an ordered life, good composition and rich color.... They had lasted but little and gone as a rainbow goes.... With Hedda there was nothing.... It was just abominably wrong....
Here he was, young—for his forty-two he was young,—supple, successful in his way, rich if you wanted to put it in that word. And no heart for life; listless. It was wrong.... All he could think of doing was to be intimate with an easy woman. No zest for her great noble frame, her surge of flaxen hair. The veneer of conventional good manners, conventional good taste, only made the actuality of it more appalling ... she with the gifts of life and grace, he with his, and all they could do was be physically intimate.... And she took money with a little smile, contemptuous of herself, contemptuous of him.... They both knew better, yet there you were ... God! Even animals had the excuse of nature's indomitable will!
Yes, this made him face things he had been trying to pass casually by. Forty-two, a touch of gray at the temples, a body like a boy's, hooded eyes like a hawk's, and a feeling in him somehow that an organ—his heart maybe—was dead: not ailing—just unalive. Once he had zest, and he didn't even have despair now. If he could only have despair....
Despair was healthy. It meant revolt. A man might sob, gnash his teeth, batter walls with his bare fists, but that only meant he was alive in every fiber. He might curse the stars, but he was aware of their brilliance. He might curse the earth that would one day take his lifeless body, but he must know its immense fecundity. A man in revolt, in despair, was a healthy man.
But despair was so futile. Ah, there it was! Life's futility. It was the sense of that which had eaten him like a vile leprosy. Mental futility, spiritual futility. Of physical he did not know. All that was left him of his youth was a belief in God. At sea he was too close to the immense mechanism of the stars, on land too close to milling millions, not to believe, not to accept him as an incontrovertible fact.
But the God of degenerate peoples, the antagonistic, furious, implacable God—that was a ridiculous conception. A cheap, a vain one. "As flies to wanton boys, are we to the gods." Wasn't that how Shakspere's blind king had uttered it? "They kill us for their sport." How strangely flattering—to believe that the Immensity that had conceived and wrought the unbelievable universe should deign to consider man, so weak that a stone, a little slug of lead, could kill him, an enemy worth bothering about. Man with his vanity, his broad fallibility, his poor natural functions!
And as to the God of the optimists, how ridiculous, too. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." So pathetic! They never saw that they did want. That for every well-filled body, there were a hundred haggard men. They thought of him as benevolent, firm but benevolent, like Mr. Gladstone. To them he was an infinitely superior vestryman with a tremendous power for dispensing coal and food to the poor. And the poor devils were so patient, so loyal. And so stupid; they thought that much flattery, much fear, would move Him. Their conception never even rose to considering God as a gentleman, despising flattery and loathing fear. Poor, poor devils!
To Shane He existed, though how to think of Him was difficult. Why a man? Why not some strange thing of the air, as a cuttlefish is of the sea? Something tenuous, of immense brain power, of immense will. Something cold. But why even that? Why not, as the cabalists had it, a Figure, arithmetical or geometrical, a Sound.... A Formula of some great undiscoverable indefinable Thought.... He was cold, He was efficient. He had so much brains....
It seemed to Shane that this optimism, this despair were strange mental drugs, going through the mental system as a depressant or a stimulant would go through the physical, creating illusions ... illusions ... and the sane man was one who had no illusions, not the meaning a man uses of the phrase when he has been jilted by a woman or wronged out of money by a friend, but actually, finitely, no illusions.... He was sane, a few other men in the world must be sane, but the rest were drugged for their hell or their Fiddlers' Green....
Fiddlers' Green! Good God! Fiddlers' Green!
His mind flashed back a moment to the shining isle, the green sward, the singing waves, the sunlight on the green jalousies, but strangely his mind could see nothing. He could no longer make a picture for himself. Symbols were barren algebraic formulae. Not enchanters' words. No light. No glamour. Only strange sounds reverberating in the gray caverns of his head.... Once in the dead past he could see the Isle of Pipers—no more! It wasn't his past that was dead. The past lived. It was he was dead, he, his present, his future.
Out of the gray caverns of his head came a thin echo of a word he had known and he a boy. The Valley of the Black Pig. A phrase from some old folk-tale heard on a wintry Antrim coast. Some prophecy of old wives that when the Boar without Bristles would appear in the Valley of the Black Pig, then the end of all things was nigh.... He had a faint memory that somewhere in Roscommon was the Valley of the Black Pig.... But that didn't matter; what mattered was the memory it evoked.... Gray, gray, gray.... Gray hills, gray boulders, gray barren trees, a gray mist sluggishly rising from the ground, and a gray drizzle of rain, falling, so slowly.... And gray rotting leaves beneath his feet.... A little wind that moaned among the boulders, and the cawing of unseen, horrible birds.... Neither was there direction, nor time, nor space.... Everything gray like the grayness of old women's bodies.... There was no sun, and the moon abhorred the valley. In such a place as this wandered the souls of women who had killed their children, of monks who at dark of night had said the Black Mass.... Here were masters who had deserted tall, gallant ships.... Hither witches rode on the bleak east wind, to be flogged by their masters and horribly caressed.... The Valley of the Black Pig.... Here were those who had read the frightful inscription on the altar of the Unknown God ... Gilles de Rais, marshal of France, and Avicenna; Nicolas Flamel and his wife Petronella; Lady Alice Kyteler of Kilkenny, and Gerald of Desmond, the Great Earl; and newer names, Dee and Edward Kelly.... Degraded majesty with soiled beards.... Gray, gray.... And the faint ghosts in cerecloths, and the horrible shapes of the mist.... The drizzle of the rain, and the rustle of the Feet of the Goat.... The cawing of strange birds and the wind among the boulders and souls, weeping, weeping—unhoping, undespairing, weeping, weeping.... The Valley of the Black Pig....
What was it? In God's name what was it that had made him this way, his being suddenly lifeless, like a cow that goes dry, or a field that is mysteriously, suddenly fallow.... And weariness seemed immortal.... What had led him into this dreadful cemetery of the mind? Had he gone too far in thought and emotion and come to a dreadful desert plane within himself ...? Had he eaten of the tree of which the cabalist wrote:
Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Had he blundered on it unwittingly, eaten ignorantly and surely died?... Or was he going mad? Good God! Could that be it? Was there something they hadn't told him—a strange taint in his blood, or his mother's blood.... Would he end his days in a madhouse.... What a fate, what a dreadful fate! A slavering gray-headed man, wandering through the Valley of the Black Pig, forever and forever?
Better to end it now.
Yes, but would that end it? The material envelope of cells and fluids gone, might there not ...? Christ! Worse off yet, if anything were left.... There might be something left; there was the trouble.... One knew so little, so abominably little.... Only material wisdom was certain, and that said: Don't chance it....
Drink? He had his men to think of, his ship.... It might grip him.
But was he forever doomed to this mournful weeping place, place of rain, place of mists, gray boulders, and moaning winds? Must he abide in the Valley of the Black Pig until the Boar without Bristles came lumbering out of the red west, and went grunting, eating ravenously, eating prey of souls, until he lay down in obscene sleep, and the stars one by one guttered like candles, and the sun shot into a vast explosion, and the moon was a handful of peat ashes, and the whole great universe snapped like a gunshot and the debris of all created things fell downward like a shattered wall, faster, faster, faster, to where, where, where?
In the streets now the June snow fell, not the soft and flaky petals of the North, but a bitter steel-like snow, that whirled. And the winds of the pampas hurried like Furies through the sordid streets, and stopped to snarl, as a dog snarls, and now moaned, and now howled sharply, as a wolf howls. There was something cold, malignant, about it all ... Old Irish writers said that hell was cold. An Ait Fuar, they called it, the Cold Place. Ait gan chu gan chat, gan leanbh, ait gan ghean, gan ghaire, a place without a dog, or cat, or child, a place without affection or laughter.... Had sainted Brendan come on Buenos Aires in winter on his voyage to Hy Brazil, and thought in his naivete that here was hell ...? And was he wrong?
Cold of wolves! It must have been like this in ancient Paris when Villon thieved and sang, and the wolves came clamoring at the gates ... and the crusaders in warm Palestine.... Or in Russia—Siberia, a cold name.... Here it was hell, but in Europe ... oh, different there! The heavy flakes, so solid, so wonderful, the laden trees, the great stretch of white. And in the houses the farmers blessing the snow, that would keep the ground warm and fertile for the coming year, that the blue flax might arise, and the fields of corn, with the great pleasance of the clover, and the golden-belted bees.... And the turf fires of Ulster, and Christmas coming, and after that Candlemas, and then March of the plowing, and glossy crows busy in the fields.... Always something to see ahead.... Not in Ireland only, but England, the jingle of bells and the people of ruddy faces.... And in Germany, too, the bluff important burghers having their houses heated by quaint porcelain stoves, huddling themselves in furs, and waddling obesely.... Very pleasant.... And in France, too, in the assommoirs, the tang of wine in the air and the blue hue of smoke, excited Latin voices. "Encore un bock! T'es saoul, mon vieux! Flute! Je suis comme le Pont Neuf!" A raucous voice singing a political skit:
Cordieu, Madame! Que faites-vous ici? Cordieu, Madame! Que faites-vous ici? Je danse le polka avec tous mes amis! Je danse le polka avec tous mes amis!
Buenos Aires, hell!
And the worst was the strange inversion of time. Here winter was, cold streets, steely snow, garbage frozen to stone.... And in Europe was sane June. Purple flower of the heather in Ulster, and white flower of the bogs, and in the little bays of Antrim, men spearing flounders from boats in the long summer evenings. And the bairns hame from school, with a' their wee games, fishing for sticky-backs wi' pins, and the cummers spinning. Eigh, Ulster! And in England, they punting on the Thames, among the water-lilies. Soft Norman days, and in Germany the young folks going to the woods.... In Buenos Aires, hell!
Within the house a cold that the little fire could only gallantly fight against. Without, cold of wolves.
"Hedda, you come from a cold country. Tell me, is it like this in Sweden, any time?"
She was sitting in the candle-light, doing the needlework she took such quietness in. Her firm white hands moving rhythmically, her body steady, her eyes a-dream. It was hard ever to think that she was—what she was. It was hard for him to think the word now, knowing her. She looked up and smiled.
"No, Shane, not like this. It's cold, very cold. But very beautiful. By day the country-side is quiet, white, ascetic, like some young nun. And at night there are lights and jollity. It is like a child's idea of fairy-land. One wishes one were further north, where the reindeer are. One is not enemy to the cold, as you are here. One accepts it. It has dignity. Here it is naked, malevolent. That's the difference."
"Naked, with awful hands.... A cold that seizes...."
"Yes, Shane." She took up her work again. "Sometimes I think long until I get back to Sweden."
"You—you are going back?"
"Of course, Shane."
"Five, six, seven years, unless I die, or am killed. Certainly I shall go back."
"Yes, but in five, six—hum!"
"But what, Shane?"
"I once knew a woman, Hedda. She was—as you are. Just having friends. And she was as handsome as you are, too. She didn't have your head, your poise. She liked beauty, as you do. But this woman looked forward, as I don't think you do. She saw herself always going down. She saw herself in the end like the helmet-maker's daughter, in some archway of the city, seeking a couple of pence.... And she was afraid, horribly afraid...."
"She was a silly woman."
"She didn't know two things. That luck changes; destiny is sometimes as kind as it is cruel. And also, when you are old, the money of the archway will bring you as much joy, a drink, a bed, a meal for the morrow, as do the diamonds of youth. The old don't need much, Shane. They haven't far to go."
"But you, Hedda. Aren't you afraid of—the archway, and the few pence—"
"No, Shane. That will not be my way." The broidery dropped to her lap. Her eyes, blue as winter, looked away, away. "I shall survive it all, barring death of course, and in seven, eight, ten years, I shall drop all this and go back, and be a lady in the land of my birth, a quiet, soft-voiced woman in a little house that has glinting brass in winter and flowers around it in summer. And I shall be very kind to the poor, Shane.... And all young things that are baffled or hurt can come to me, and tell their troubles, and I shall understand. And oftentimes, sitting in the long Northern twilights, I shall think: Is this Froken Hagen, who is all the world's friend, the girl who was once despised in Buenos Aires?... And I shall choke a little, and think: 'God is good!'"
"You are very sure of yourself, Hedda."
"Yes, Shane. I know my own capabilities. I know, too, my own limitations. I know I can always be of service. But I know, too, that there will be no love ever for me, nor any little children of my body, nor any big man to protect me and my house ..."
"This other woman—I killed her to save her from the archway—she dreaded so much ..."
"You were very silly, Shane," she snipped off a thread with the scissors. "People outgrow fear, and it may only have been a passing mood, that would have gone with the moon or the season. You know very little about women, Shane."
He laughed bitterly. "I have been married twice, and once I loved a woman greatly."
"From what you tell me," her voice was calm, "you have never been married. You made a mistake as a boy. And once again you bought a woman, as you might a fine dog, admired her, as you might admire a fine dog, and gave her a little passion, which comes and goes, knocks, passes on—but no trust. And once you were infatuated with a hysterical woman, and it all ended hysterically. No, Shane. I don't think you know much about women."
"You know so many things." He was irritated. "Perhaps you know what is wrong with me."
"Of course I do, Shane. Anybody would know. You are so important to yourself. All the world is in relation to you, not you in relation to the world. And people are not very important, Shane ... I know.... You look for things. You don't make them. You want everything. You give nothing. You haven't a wife, a house. Your father gave poems. But you haven't a house, a child, a wife, a book. You only have a trading-ship."
"But I trade. I do my share of the world's work."
"I handle my ship."
"I brave all the perils of the sea."
"Are you afraid of death?"
"Of course not."
"Hedda, I handle men."
"Any little braggadocio lieutenant...."
His anger rose in hot waves. "So I am not worth anything in life, Hedda. How much are you?"
"O, Shane," she stood up and looked at him seriously, "my calling is the oldest in the world, they say, but to me it's not the least honorable. It is sordid or not just as one makes it. I want you to think of men going to sea, and weary of the voyage, and from me somehow they get a glimpse of home. Are this house and myself more evil than the dram-shop and the gambling-hell? And aren't there women in England and France who would rather have their menfolk with me than leaning on some sodden counter? They might hate the choice, but it's better.... Shane, if you knew how weary men have talked to me of families abroad, their hearts burdened. They cannot talk to men ... and sometimes I exorcise devils, Shane, that young girls may walk safely in the dark.... And sometimes a man is athirst for a flash of beauty.... Think, Shane—you are not small.... Even yourself, Shane, I have helped you. There were times this month when you were close to the river, terribly, terribly close.... I said nothing, but I knew. And I held you. I willed. I prayed even ... Shane, Shane, amigo, when the time came that I had to work I chose this with my eyes open."
"I'm sorry," Campbell lowered his head. "I can only say I'm sorry I said—hinted.... But Hedda, weren't there other things you could have done?"
"A sempstress, maybe. But I think it's more important to ease a man's mind than to cover his back."
"But children. You love children, Hedda. You know so much. Couldn't you have been a governess in some great house?"
"O Shane, Shane mio, when will you understand?" Her calm voice had a note of distress in it. "None can judge of another's life. None can tell. None direct. What do you know of what passed before—I came to a mean house in a mean town? I once opened a door I shouldn't have, and left the lighted room ... for a warm blue darkness.... And I closed the door behind me.... And daylight came. I am not of a breed that sues for mercy. So I went ahead ... through the world. And I never look back, Shane. I am no Lot's wife, to become a pillar of her own salt tears...."
"But Hedda, you are good. And this life—"
"Of course I am good, Shane. There is no man can say I did him wrong in mind or body, or heart, either. And I am a comfort to many.... All I have done is to outrage a convention of property that I don't believe ... Shane, do you know people cover greed with sentimentality and call it virtue?"
"But, Hedda, the women don't see. They scorn you—"
"Do they? Poor souls. Let them! Amigo mio, I have a life. I have to think, gage, act, concentrate. And when I want time of my own, Shane, I have it. The housewife with her frowsy duties, being kissed perfunctorily on the mat, the man who wears a stilted mask to the world, and before her—lets go.... Ugh! And the mondaine with her boredom ... the hatred in wide houses.... Oh, I know. Sometimes I think it's so wonderful, being free....
"O Shane, please don't be absurd, sentimental ... please, I know my way, and find yours.... Tell me, do you know yet what day you sail?"
A sailor in a jersey and reefer caught his arm in the Avenida de Mayo....
"All filled up." Campbell uttered brusquely.
"It was no' that."
Campbell put his hand in his pocket looking for a coin.
"You'll be forgetting the Antrim glens, Shane Campbell." Shane flushed. The coin in his fingers burned him.
"How did I know you were fro' the Antrim glens?"
"You've seen me a few times, though you'd hardly know me. Simon Fraser of Ballycastle. You would no' recognize me, if you knew me, on account of my hair being white. I was lost on the coast of Borneo for four years. When I was lost my hair was black—maybe a wee sprinkle o' gray—but what you might call black; and when I was picked up, and saw myself in a looking-glass, it was white. They did no' know me when I got back to Ballycastle."
"Would you care for a drink, Simon?"
"I don't care much either way, Shane Campbell. And if I wanted a drink bad, I always have the silver for 't. I would no' have you think I stopped you for to cadge a drink. I'm no' that kind of man. But I was wi' your uncle Alan when he died. Or to be exact, I saw him just before he died. I was visiting in Cushendun. I have a half-brither there you might know, Tamas McNeil, Red Tam they ca' him. And whiles I was there, I saw Alan Donn go down."
"My uncle Alan dead! Why, man, you're crazy—"
"Your uncle Alan's a dead man."
"You're mistaken, man. It's some one else."
"Your uncle Alan's a dead man. And what's more: I have a word from him for ye."
"But I'd have heard."
"I cam' out in steam. It went against the grain a bit, but I cam' out in steam. From Belfast.... With a new boat out of Queen's Island ... Alan Donn's a dead man. That's why I stopped you. For to tell you your uncle Alan's gone...."
"Come in, here," Shane said dazedly. He pulled the man into a bar, and sat down in a snug. "Tell me."
"It was about nine in the morning, and an awful gray day it was, wi' a heavy sea running and a nor'easter, and this schooner was getting the timbers pounded out o' her. Her upper gear was gone entirely, and we could no' see how she was below, on account of the high seaway. She was a Frenchman, or a Portuguese. And she was gone. And we were all on shore, wondering why she had no' put into Greenock or Stranraer, or what kind of sailors they were at all, at all.
"Up comes your uncle Alan; and he says: 'Has anybody put out to give those poor bastards a hand?' says he.
"'There's no chance, Alan Donn,' says we.
"And he says: 'How the hell do you know?' says he.
"And we say: 'Can't you see for youself, Alan Donn, wi' the sea that's in it, and the wind that's in it, and the currents, there's no chance to help them?'
"'So you're not going,' says he.
"'Och, Alan Donn, have sense,' says we.
"'If you aren't, then by Jesus, I am.'
"He turns to one of the men there, a fisherman by the name of Rafferty, and he says: 'Hughie, get ready that wee boat o' yours, wi' the spitfire foresail, and the wee trisail.'
"Then we said: 'You're not going, Alan Donn.'
"'Who's to stop me?' says he. All this time we had to shout on account of the great wind was in it.
"'We think too much of you, Alan Donn, to let you go.'
"'If one o' you stinking badgers lays a finger on me to stop me, I'll break his God-damned neck.'
"Says Hughie Rafferty to us—you know Hughie Rafferty, a silent man, a wise man—says he: 'He'll get out fifty yards, a hundred yards from shore and be stuck. And he'll say: "Well, I've done my best. Good-by and to hell with ye, and die like men!" And he'll come back. And if the boat turns over,' says Hughie Rafferty, 'he can swim like a rat, and he'll be back among us cursing, like his ain kind sel', within a wheen o' minutes.'
"Says Hughie Rafferty, says he: 'I'll go wi' your Honor's Lordship, Alan Donn.'
"'You will like hell,' says Alan Donn. 'You'll stay here wi' your childer and the mother o' your childer.'
"Then a wee old man, that was a piper, speaks up. He was bent in two over an ash plant was in his right hand, and his left hand held his back.
"'It's a foolish thing you are doing, Alan Donn,' says he. 'How can you bring off the poor people?'
"'I don't want to bring off the poor people, Shamus-a-Feeba, James of the Pipes. But there's not a rock, a wind, a current, a wave itself of Struth na-Maoile that I don't know. I'm figuring on rigging up some kind of sea-anchor,' says Alan Donn, says he, 'and getting the ignorant foreigners to chop their gear overboard, and riding the storm out. Don't worry yourself, Shamus-a-Feeba.'
"That was the way of your uncle, Alan Donn Campbell. He was very rough with the strong, but he was ay considerate of the old and over-young. He'd be rough with the king of England but he'd be awfu' polite to an ould man."
"God, is Alan Donn dead?" Shane was near tears. "Do people like Alan Donn die?"
"Aye, they die, too," said Simon Fraser. "And rogues live. It's queer.
"The boat was a'ready to be put into the sea, when your uncle sees mysel' on the edge o' the gathering. He comes straight to me. You mind how Alan Donn used to go through a crowd.
"'Are you the sailing man,' says he, 'wha's a half-brither to Red Tam McNeil of the Ten-Acre?'"
"'I am, sir, Alan Donn.'
"'Is it go wi' ye in the boat?' says I. 'I'll go.'
"'No, no,' quo' he. 'It's no' that. So'thin' different. You ken my brither's son, Shane Oge Campbell, wha's a master on the seas?'
"'I've met him once or twice, and I've heard tell.'
"'If you see him, gi'e him a message. I'm sure you'll see him. I'm sure,' says Alan Donn, 'this morn I'm fey.'
"'Tell him,' says Alan Donn, and he puts his hand on my shoulder. 'Tell him this: I've been intending to write him this long time. There's a thought in my head,' says he, 'that all's not well with him.
"'Tell him this: I've been thinking and I've thought: There's great virtue to the place you're born in. Tell him he ought no' stay so long frae the braes o' Ulster. Tell him: The sea's not good for the head. A man's alone wi' himself too long, wi' his ain heid. Tell him that's not good.
"'Tell him,' says he, 'there's great virtue and grand soothin' to the yellow whins and the purple heather. That's a deep fey thing. Tell him to try.'
"'Is that all, sir, Alan Donn,' says I?
"'You might tell him,' says he, 'aye, you might tell him: "'Your uncle Alan was not a coward, and he was a wise man."'
"At that I was puzzled—I tell you without, offense meant—it sounded like boasting. And it was no' like Alan Donn to boast.
"'Can I come along wi' you, sir, Alan Donn?' says I.
"With that he gies me a look would knock you down. 'Did na I tell you to do so'thin' for me?' says he.
"Then I kent he was na coming back.
"'Aye, aye, sir,' said I.
"He goes to the boat on the edge of the water. You could hardly keep your footing with the wind, nor hear your neighbor with the sea. And Alan Donn laughs: 'By Christ, 't is myself that must be fond o' boating,' says he. 'And to-day is the grand day for it, surely. Hi horo, push her off,' says he. 'Horo eile! Horo, heroes, horo eile!' We pushed with the water up to our waists. The keel ground. The sand sucked. We pushed with the water up to our shoulders. Then the trisail caught the wind. And Alan Donn was off.
"And Hughie Rafferty was wrong: Not at fifty, not at a hundred did he turn. Not at half a mile. He must have had the arms of Finn McCool, Alan Donn, and the hands of a woman. He'd take the high waves like a hunter taking a wall. Then you could nearly feel him easing her to the pitch. Apart from the waves themselves you could see the wee fountain of water when the bows slapped. Then he'd come up again. The trisail would belly and again he'd dive.
"And then he came to the ninth wave—tonn a' bhaidhte, the drowning wave. Even away off you could see it rise like a wall, and curl at the top. We were watching. There was the crippled schooner, and Alan Donn, and the great sea. And the wave curled and broke. And then was only the schooner and the great sea....
"And we waited for a minute, although we knew there was no call.
"And after a while an ould one falls to her knees and raises the keening cry:
"'Mavrone! my sorrow! Mavrone dhu! my black sorrow! Mo chead vrone dhu! my hundred black sorrows.
"'Is it gone you are, Alan Donn? Is it gone you are in the cruel sea? My black curse on it. It is between you and the people of your heart, between you and the land of your desire. Och, sea, isn't it cruel you are? Ruined Ireland is this day. The star of Ulster is out. And the little moon of Antrim shines no more. Och, a 'airrge! My sorrow, O sea!
"'Who will be good to us, now, Alan Donn? You were good to the poor. God's gain and our loss. Who will make the young maids flush, and the young men throw back their shoulders, from pride at your having talked to them? Avourneen dherelish, mur nAlan Donn, our Alan! Who will make the men of the South stand back, and you not striding through a gathering, ever, any more? And the dealing men of Scotland will miss you, you they could never get the better of in any fair, night noon or morning. Peader agas Pol, Muire. Padraig agas Brighid! Peter and Paul, Mary, Patrick and St. Bride, let you be coming quickly now, and take up Alan Donn Campbell from the cold sea!
"'Your horse in the stable will miss you, Alan Donn. Poor beastie, he'll miss you sore. Your servant boys will miss you, they that would jump if you but dropped your pipe. The green fairways of Portrush will miss you when spring comes, and you not hitting the ball against the champions of the world. The lambs will miss you, wee lambs of the fields, and the colts. They'll be missing you, but't will be nothing to our missing you. This night your dogs will be crying, and we'll be crying too.
"'Young woman look back of you, and see if the nine glens of Antrim are there. I wouldn't be surprised if they were gone, now Alan Donn's in the bitter sea.'
"Then up comes this woman, and she had a great cloak on—"
"What woman, Simon Fraser?"
"The woman there was talk of Alan Donn marrying. The woman from over the sea."
"'Has anybody seen Mr. Campbell?' And we don't understand.
"It's Alan Donn she means,' says Hughie Rafferty.
"Then the ould one on her knees takes up her keening. And this woman understands. Her face goes white. She sees the schooner being battered by the Moyle.
"'Did he go out to that?' she asks.
"'Yes, ma'am, your Ladyship's Honor.'
"'He didn't get there?'
"'The drowning wave caught Alan Donn,' says Hughie Rafferty.
"For a moment you'd think she hadn't heard. Then—a strange thing—a wee smile came on her face, and suddenly it changed to a queer twist, all over the face of her. Then she stood up proudly and looked out to sea ... and two tears came to the eyes of her and she raised her head higher still.... The tears came in spite of her ... and suddenly she gave a wee gulp like a person who's sick.... And she turned and began to stumble away in the sand.... A couple of the young ones went as if to help her, but she turned.
"'Please,' was all she said. And she went off on her lee lone.
"And then says Hughie Rafferty: 'The tide will bring him to Cushendall.'
"And at Cushendall next day we found the corp. There wasn't a mark on him. Even the things of the deep water had respect for Alan Doon."
"What was this woman like, Simon Fraser? This woman there was talk of Alan Donn marrying?"
"This woman was not a woman of Alan Donn's age. An' she was not a young woman. Her face was showing not the face of a girl but the face of herself. She had a proud face and a brave face. This woman would be around twenty-five.
"She was a brown woman: she had brown eyes and brown hair. She was not an Irishwoman. She was an Englishwoman. She had no Gaelic. And her English was not our English. This woman could ride a horse, though not too well. She would put a horse at a jump, though she was afeared of it.
"This woman had money. She was a niece of the admiral's, and she was on a long visit to the admiral's house.
"I've heard tell a queer thing about this woman. She would play at the piano for hours on a stretch, reading from a book. For hours she would play, all by herself. The people passing the road and the servant girls of the house couldn't make head or tail of her music. But our folk ken nothing of the piano. The pipes, the melodeon, the fiddle, they know that—and a few ould ones have heard the harp. They couldn't tell whether it was good music or bad music was in it.
"There's another queer thing about this woman. When she walked you'd think she was dancing. Not our reels or hornpipes, but queer ould dances you'd be walking to, not stepping. She had wee feet, though she was not a small woman.
"Your uncle Alan's dogs took to this woman, and you ken how Alan's terriers had little liking for any but his ain sel'. I was told also to tell you that she had the dogs, and that they were comfortable, and would be well looked after. So that you need not be worritin' about your uncle Alan's dogs....
"I'm afeared I've given you a poor picture of this woman, Shane Campbell: but it's a queer thing, you'd feel this woman more nor you'd see her. In a great deal of people, you wouldn't note her at all. But were you coming along the road, and a fey feeling come over you, and you say: Around the next corner is something kindly, something brave, something fine; as you turned the corner you'd meet this woman.
"Your uncle Alan liked this woman, liked her fine, but this woman was sick with love for your uncle Alan.
"You'll blame me sore, Shane Campbell, and rightly too; it was very careless of me, me who's got a careful name—it didn't seem to matter, though! The name of this woman is not at me ..."
All the tears in Shane's eyes, all the emptiness in his heart was gone now. A sudden elation seized him. He understood. Alan Donn had done a fine brave thing; Alan Donn had done the strong thing, the right thing, as Alan always did.
He thought: Alan was in love with this woman and this woman with Alan, and Alan had looked ahead sanely, seen, decided. Thirty years difference of age. Dignified strong wisdom and beautiful brave youth, one firm as a great firm rock, the other with the light wings of birds; spiritually never could they mate. Youth spiritual is like a gosling of yellow down, age spiritual is an eagle of great wings.... If the spirit has not died.... Alan would never be an irritated, jealous, paretic old man, nor would he see "this woman" grow stern with repression and ache, and loneliness of heart and spirit....
Ah, he had done it well! A line of Froissart's came to Shane: "They were very noble; they cared nothing for their lives!" He had given her no shattered marriage, no empty explanation that breeds only bitterness and perhaps contempt. He had given her a very gallant memory that would exalt her in the coming days.... The world, the flesh, and the devil had played at cards with Alan Donn, and Alan had won....
He thought: Were it I now, I should have drifted into this, and come to ancient tortured days, and not having strength maybe, should have ended, not before as Alan Donn did, gallantly, but afterward, meanly, leaving bitterness and desolation.... Ah, wise Alan.
And it occurred to him suddenly, wise Alan, fey on the threshold of death, remembering him: There is virtue in the yellow gorse of Ulster, in the purple Ulster heather. Come back to where you were born, and rest, and get strength.... This is a deep thing.... Alan knew something.... The rain and the mist and the wind among the rushes had taught him natural secrets.... Maybe from the ground man drew strength, and maybe strange ground was alien to other than its own ... a motherland—why did they call a place a motherland ...? Antaeus, the Libyan wrestler, was invincible so long as his feet were on mother earth, and Heracles had lifted him into the air and the air had crushed him.... What did the Greek parable mean ...? It meant something ... the purple hills ... the purple heather.... The Moyle purple in the setting sun....
"I'll go back," he decided. Scots superstition welled up in him. "A man seeing death sees more than death. Sees life. The Keepers of the Door maybe anoint his eyes, and if he looks back for an instant, God knows what he sees ... I'll go."
"Can I give you a lift back to Ballycastle, Simon Fraser? Or a lift anywhere you want. It's the least I can do and you coming this long way to tell me news."
"I'm very thankful to you, Shane Campbell, very thankful indeed. It's just the way of you to ask a poor sailor man does he want a lift halfway across the world. But I'll never again see Ballycastle with living eyes."
"And why not, man Simon?"
"It's this way, Shane Campbell. It's this way. When I came back after six years—four years lost on the coast of Borneo—my three fine sons were gone—twenty and nineteen and seventeen they were. Gone they were following the trade of the sea. And herself the woman of the house was gone, too. I didn't mind the childer, for 't is the way of the young to be roving. But herself went off with another man. A great gift of making a home she had, so there was many would have her, in spite of her forty year. Into the dim City of Glasgow she went, and there was no word of her. And she might have waited, Shane Campbell; she might so. Four years lost on the coast of Borneo to come and find your childer scattered, and your wife putting shame on you. That's a hard thing."
"You're a young man, Simon Fraser. You're as young as I am, forty-two. There's a quarter-century ahead of you. Put the past by and begin again. There'd be love at many a young woman for you. And a house, and new bairns."
"I'm a back-thinking man, Alan's kinsman, a long back-thinking man. And I'd always be putting the new beside the old and the new would not seem good to me. The new bairns would never be like the old bairns, and it would na be fair. And as for women, I've had my bellyful of women after her I was kind to, and was true to for one and twenty years, going off with some sweating landsman to a dingy town.... I was ay a good sailor, Shane Oge....
"It's by now, nearly by.... So I'll be going up and down the sea on the chance of meeting one of my new braw bairns. And maybe I'll come across one of them on the water-front, and him needing me most.... And maybe I'll sign articles wi' the one aboard the same ship, and it's the grand cracks we'll have in the horse latitudes.... Or maybe I'll find one of them a young buck officer aboard a ship I'm on; and he'll come for'a'd and say: 'Lay aloft, old-timer, with the rest and be pretty God-damned quick about it.' And I'll say: 'Aye, aye, sir.' And thinks: Wait till you get ashore, and I'll tell you who I am, and give you a tip about your seamanship, too, my grand young fello'.... Life has queerer things nor that, Shane Oge, as maybe you know.... The only thing that bothers me is that I'll never see Ballycastle any more."
"Is there nothing I can do for you, Simon Fraser?"
"There's a wee thing, Shane Campbell; just a wee thing?"
"What is it, man Simon?"
"Maybe you'd think me crazy—"
"Of course not, Simon."
"Well then, when you're home, and looking around you at the whins and purple heather, and the wee gray towns, maybe you'll say: 'Glens of Antrim, I ken a man of Antrim, and he'll never see you again, but he'll never forget you.' Will you do that?"
"I'll do that."
"Maybe you'll be looking at Ballycastle, the town where I was born in."
"You don't have to say it out loud. You can stop and say it low in yourself, so as nobody'll hear you, barring the gray stones of the town. Just remember: 'Ballycastle, Simon Fraser's thinking long ...'"
A cold southerly drove northward from the pole, chopping the muddy waves of the river. Around the floating camolotes, islands of weeds, were little swirls. The poplars and willows of the banks grew more distant, as Maid of the Isles cut eastward under all sail. As he tramped fore and aft, Buenos Aires dropped, dropped, dropped behind her counter, dropped ... became a blur....
Maid of the Isles was only going home, as she had gone home a hundred times before, from different ports, as she had gone home a dozen times from this one. But never before had it seemed significant to Shane.... Back, back the city faded.... If the wind lasted, and Shane thought it would last, by to-morrow they would have left the Plate and be in the open sea. Back, back the city dropped.... It couldn't drop too fast.... It was like a prison from which he was escaping, fleeing.... A great yearning come on him to have it out of sight ... definitely, forever. Once it was gone, he would know for a certain thing, he was free....
He was surprised to be free. As surprised as an all but beaten wrestler is when his opponent's lock weakens unexpectedly, and dazedly he knows he can get up again and spar. A fog had lifted suddenly, as at sea. And he had thought the mist of the Valley of the Black Pig could never lift, would remain, dank and cold and hollow, covering all things like a cerecloth, binding all as chains bind ... and that he must remain with the weeping population, until the Boar without Bristles came ... forever and forever and forever....
But the nearest and dearest had died gallantly, and somehow the fog had lifted. And then he was dazed and weak, but free. Where was he going? What to do? He didn't know, but hope, life itself had come again, like a long awaited moon.
Buenos Aires faded.... Faded the Valley of the Black Pig.... Buenos Aires its symbol ... Buenos Aires with bleak squares, its hovels, its painted trees—timbo and tipa and palo barracho....
He stood aft of the steersman, and suddenly raised his head.
Mo mhallacht go deo leat, a bhaile nan gcrann! 'S mo shlan do gach baile raibh me riamh ann.
"My curse forever on you, O town of the trees," an old song came to him, "and my farewell to every town I was ever in—"
A great nostalgia for Ulster, for the whins and heather, choked him:
"S iomaidh bealach fliuch salach agas boithrin cam—
"There's many a wet muddy highways and crooked half-road, eader mise, between me, eader mise, eader mise—" He had forgotten.
"Between me and the townland that my desire is in," the Oran steersman prompted. "Eader mise agas an baile bhfuil mo dhuil ann!"
"Mind your bloody wheel," Shane warned. "This is a ship, not a poetry society. Look at the way you're letting her come up, you Highland bastard. Keep her off—and lam her!"
"Lam her it is, sir," the steersman grinned....
THE BOLD FENIAN MEN
The worst of it all, Campbell smiled, was this: that life was so immensely healthy now, immensely peaceful, immensely sane. Here he was in the house of his fathers, built from the angle of a turret of King John's time. Here he was by the purple hills, by the purple Moyle. Five springs had come since he had given up the sea. Five times he had seen the little mountain streams swell with the import of the season, hurrying from the summit of the eagles, carrying water on nature's business. Five times had the primrose come, and the cuckoo. The faint delicate blue of early grass turned to green. The heat haze of summer on the silent glens. The Moyle thick with fish. Then autumn, a deep-bosomed grave woman moving through the reddening woods, the turf-cutters with their spades, the pillars of blue smoke from the cottages in the stilly September sky. And the three great moons of autumn, silver as sixpence. Five times the distant trumpeting of the wild swans and winter came, in great galloping winds, and sweeping sheets of sea-rain. And Moyle tossed like a giant troubled in his sleep. And on the mountain-sides the rowan stood up like a proud enemy, and the ash bent humbly, and the dwarf oak crouched under fury. And the wind whistled in the frozen reeds. And with the snow came out the hunted ones unafraid, the red fox, and the badger of dark ways, and the cantering hare.
Without, the wind might roar like cannon, and the sea rise in great engulfing waves. Within the old house with its corner dating from King John's time—so long ago!—was comfort. Here was the library where Robin More—God rest his soul!—had puzzled over the round towers of Ireland and written his monograph on the Phenician colony of the County Down, and bothered about strange quaint old things, comparing the Celtic cross to the sistrum of Egypt, and wondering whether the round towers of Ireland had aught to do with worship of the sun, and writing of Gaelic occultism to Bulwer Lytton, and dreaming of the friend of his youth, Goethe, in the dusk. And down in the gun-room were the cups of Alan Donn, cups for sailing and cups for golf, and ribbons that horses won. And in the drawing-room was the needlework of his mother, the precise beautiful broidery ... so like herself, minute, mathematical, not significant.... And in the kitchen was the red turf, and the flitches of bacon in the eaves, and the thick servant girls hustling impatiently, and the servant boys in their corduroy trousers bound with rushes at the knee ... their heavy brogues, their honest jests of Rabelais ... and in the fold the silent sheep, and great solemn cows warm in their manger....
Five years, going on six now, since he had left the sea, and invested his fortune in a Belfast shipyard, and taken over the homestead of Clan Campbell to run as it had always been run, wisely, sanely, healthily.... There were the servant boys and girls, with a comfortable roof above them. There were the cotter tenants, satisfied, certain of justice. At the shows his shorthorns took ribbons. For local charities, his duty was done.... But there was something, something lacking....
It wasn't peace. Peace he had in plenty. The spring of the heather, the tang of the sea brought peace. The bats of twilight, and the sallow branches, and the trout leaping in the river at the close of day. And the twilight itself, like some shy girl.... Out of all these came an emanation, a cradle-song, that lulled like the song of little waves.... And as for pleasure, there was pleasure in listening to the birds among the trees, to seeing the stooking of barley, to watching the blue banner of the flax, to walking on frosty roads on great nights of stars.... To riding with the hunt, clumsily, as a sailor does, but getting in at the death, as pleased as the huntsman, or the master himself.... To the whir of the reel as the great blue salmon rushed ... Pleasure, and peace, and yet not satisfaction.
He thought, for a while, that what he missed was the ships, and that, subconsciously, there was some nostalgia for the sea on him. He had gone to Belfast thinking that with live timbers beneath his feet, the—the vacuum within him would be filled, but the thought of a ship somehow, when he was there, failed to exalt him. He loved them always, the long live ships, the canvas white as a gull, the delicacy of spars—all the beautiful economy.... But to command one again, to go about the world, aimlessly but for the bartering of cargo, and to return at the voyage's end, with a sum of money—no! no! not enough!
And so he came back to the peace and pleasure of the glens, the purple heather, and the red berries, the chink of pebbles on the strand. To the hunts on frosty mornings, to the salmon-fishing, to the showing of cattle. To peace: to pleasure....
And he suddenly asked himself what had he done to deserve this peace, these pleasant days? What right had he to them? What had he given to life, what achieved for the world, that he should have sanctuary?
The answer put him in a shiver of panic. Nothing!
He had no right, no title to it. Here he was drawing on to fifty, close on forty-eight; and he had done, achieved, nothing. He had no wife, no child; had achieved no valorous unselfish deed. Had not—not even—not even a little song.
Strange thing—it hadn't occurred to him at first; but it did now when he thought over it in the winter evenings—was this: that Alan Donn Campbell, for all that he was dead these six years and more, existed still, was bigger now than he had ever been in life....
Because Shane had hated to see the fine boat drawn up, he had put Righ nam Bradan, the Salmon King, Alan Donn's great thirty-footer, into commission, and raced her at Ballycastle and Kingstown, losing both times. He had ascribed it to sailing luck, the dying of a breeze, the setting of a tide, a lucky tack of an opposing boat. But at Cowes he should have won. Everything was with him. He came in fifth.
"I can't understand," he told one of Alan's old crew.
"Man," the Antrim sailor told him bluntly, "ye have na' the gift."
"But, Feardoracha, I'm a sailor."
"Aye, Shane Campbell, you're that. For five times seven years you've sailed the seven seas. But for racing ye have na' the gift. Alan Donn had it. And 'twas Alan Donn had the gift for the golf, and the gift for the horses. Just the gift. You must not blame yourself, Shane na fairrge, there's few Alan Donns."
And thinking to himself in the lamp-lit room, Shane found what the old man meant. Beneath the bronzed face, the roaring manner of Alan Donn, there was a secret of alchemy. Rhythm, and concentration like white fire. To the most acute tick of the stars he could get a boat over the line with the gun. Something told him where breezes were. By will-power he forced out the knowledge of a better tack. As to horses, where was his equal at putting one over a jump? At the exact hair's-breadth of time, he had changed from human being to spirit. It was no longer Alan Donn and his horse when he dropped his hands on the neck. There was fusion. A centaur sprang.... On the links he remembered him, the smiling mask, the stance, the waggle, the white ball. The face set, the eyes gleamed.... The terrific explosion.... Not a man and a stick and a piece of gutta-percha, but the mind and will performing a miracle with matter.... And Alan Donn was dead six years ... and yet he lived....
He lived because he had been of great use. He was a standard, a great ideal. Children who had seen him would remember him forever, and seek to emulate the fire and strength of him, having him to measure by as the mariner has the star.... In foreign countries they would tell tales of him: There was once a great sportsman in the North of Ireland, Alan Donn Campbell by name....
His father, too, who had been dead so long—mortality had not conquered him. Once in Ballycastle Shane had seen a shawled girl look out to sea with great staring eyes and a wry mouth, and, half whispered, staccato, not quite sung, her fingers twisting her shawl, came a song from her white mouth:
Tiocfaidh an samhradh agas fasfaidh an fear; Agas tiocfaidh an duilleabhar glas do bharr nan gcraobh. Tiocfaidh mo chead gradhle banaghadh an lae, Agas bvailfidh se port ciuin le cumhaidh 'mo dhiaidh.
The summer will come, and the little grass will grow; And there will come a green thickness to the tops of the trees. And my hundred loves will arise with the dawning of the day, And he will strike a soft tune out of loneliness after me.
A queer stitch came in Shane's heart—a song his father made! And following the stitch came a surge of pride. Those songs of his father! The light minor he had heard, and the others—the surge of An Oig-bhean Ruaddh, the Pretty Red Maiden:
"Se, do bheatha is an tir seo".... A welcome before you into this country, O sea-gull more lovely than the queen, than the woman of the West, whom Naesi, son of Usnach, held in the harbor. I could destroy all Ireland, as far as the Southern sea, but in the end I would be destroyed myself, when my eyes would alight on the white swan with the golden crown....
Or the despairing cry of his poem Ig Cathair nan g Ceo: "In the City of the Fogs"—he meant London—
"A athair nan gras tabhair spas o'n eag domh—O Father of the Graces, give me a little respite from death. Let the ax not yet strike my forehead, the way a goat or a pig or a sheep is slain, until I make my humility and my last repentance."
Shane wished to God he had known his father, that the man had been spared a little until he could have loved him.... He had the only picture of him left.... Great throat and pale, liquor-harried face, burning eyes, and black tossing hair.... The bald-headed bankers might shake their heads and say: He was no good ... he was a rake ... he drank ... his relations with women were not reputable.... And old maids purse their thin-blooded lips.... But when the little money of the bankers was scattered through the world, and even their little chapels had forgotten them, and the stiff bones of old maids were crumbling into an unnecessary dust, his father's songs would be sung in Ireland, in Man, in the Scottish Highlands, in the battered Hebrides. So long as sweet Gaelic was spoken and men's hearts surged with feeling, there would be a song of his father's to translate the effervescence into words of cadenced beauty.... He had an irreverent vision of God smiling and talking comfortably to his father while the bald-headed bankers cooled their fat heels and glared at one another outside the picket-gates of heaven.... The world had gained something with the last Gaelic bard....
And he had found out, too, that his other uncle, Robin More, had a great importance in a certain circle. In Dublin he met an old professor, a Jesuit priest, who seemed intensely excited that a nephew of Robin More Campbell's should be present.
"Do you know, by any chance, what your uncle was working on when he died?"
"I'm afraid I do not, sir."
"You know his manuscripts."
"Just casually, sentimentally."
"You don't know much about your uncle's work, then?"
"Not very much."
"Did you know," the old priest said—and his urbanity disappeared; there was pique in his tones—"that your uncle was the man who definitely decided for us that the Highlanders of Scotland migrated from Ireland to Scotland? Did you know that?"
"No, sir, I did not."
"I don't suppose," the old man was sarcastic, "that seems important to you."
"To confess, Dr. Hegan, it does not. Is it?"
"My child," the old priest smiled—it was so queer to be called "my child" at forty-seven—"all knowledge is important. All details of knowledge. We come we know not whence, and we go we hope we know whither. Our history, our motives, our all, is vague. All we have is faith, a great broad river, but knowledge is the little piers ..."
They had all been significant: Alan Donn, his father, even Uncle Robin, whom he had thought only a bookworm in the fading sunshine. The world was better, more mature, for their having lived....
And he had nothing. Here he was, drawing on to fifty, close on forty-eight. And he had done, achieved nothing. He had no wife, no child; had achieved no valorous unselfish deed. Had not—not even—not even a little song....
And then he said to himself: "I am too sensitive. I have always been too sensitive. The stature of my family has dwarfed me in my own esteem. Haven't I got as much right as others to the quiet of the glens?" And again he said: "I sit here and I think. And my thought grows into a maze. And I wander in it, as a man might wander through some old gardener's fancy, having stumbled on it inadvertently, and now being in it, now knowing the secret of exit." But a maze was nonexistent, did a person regard it so, and if one were to walk on nonchalantly a little turn would come, and he find himself in the wide sunshine and smiling flowers. And he said: "Damn the subtleties! A person is born, lives, dies. And what he does is a matter for himself alone." But some inner antagonist said: "You are wrong."
And he said: "Look at the people around me. What more right have they than I to this quiet Ulster dusk?" And the antagonist smiled: "Well, look."
First were the farmers and the fisherfolk. Well, they didn't count. They were natural to the soil, as grass was. They grew there, as the white bog flower grew. An institution of God, like rain. And then there were the summer visitors, honest folk from the cities. Well, they had a right. They spent their winters and autumns and springs in mills and counting-houses, clearing away the commercial garbage of the world. And when the graciousness of summer came, they emerged, blind as moles, peak-faced. And before them stretched the Moyle, a blue miracle. The crisp heather, the thick rushes, the yellow of the buttercups, the black bog waters. And when clouds came before the sun the mountains drew great purple cloths over them. And in the twilight the cricket chirruped. And at night the plover cried out against the vast silence of the moon. And the hearts of the selling people turned from thoughts of who owed them money and who was harrying them for money. And the tight souls opened, just a little perhaps, but even that—Poor garbage men of the world, who would begrudge them a little beauty?
Then there were the country people, the landlords, the owners of the soil. Red-faced, sportsmen, connoisseurs of cattle, a sort of super-farmer, they were as natural to the soil as the fisherfolk or the tillers. Their stock remained from ancient tides of battle, centuries before. The founders of the families had been Norman barons, Highland chiefs, English squires; but the blood had adapted itself, as a plant adapts itself in a strange country. And now they were Ulster squires. Smiling, shy, independent. They had a great feeling for a horse, and a powerful sense of fair play. They were very honest folk. A station had been set them and they lived in it, honestly, uncomplainingly, quite happily. But a meadow was a piece of land to them and a river a place where trout could be caught, and snow was a good thing, because it kept the ground warm. They were a folk whom Shane respected a great deal, and who respected him—but they weren't his folk.
Above all these of his neighbors towered three figures, and the first of these was the admiral.
He had a name. He had a title, too—Baron Fraser of Onabega. But to everybody he was the admiral, and in speech plain "sir." A purple-faced and terrible old man, with bushy white eyebrows and eagle's eyes. Very tall, four inches over six feet, very erect for all his ninety years, with his presence there thundered the guns of Drake, there came to the mind the slash of old Benbow.... He had been a midshipman with Nelson at Cape Trafalgar.
Silent and fierce, about his head clouds of majesty, all his life had been spent with pursed lips and hooded eyes, keeping watch for England ... And never a great battle where he could prove himself the peer of Benbow and Drake and Nelson ... Never a dawn when the fleet rolled down to battle with polished guns and whipping flags ... And a day came when he was too old ... So here he was in the Antrim glens ...
A great life, his, a great and serviceable life, frustrated of glory ... And well he deserved the quiet of Ulster, where he sat and wrote his long letters to archaeological papers, proving, he thought, that the Irish were a lost tribe of Israel and that the Ark of the Covenant was buried on Tara Hill ... And there were none to laugh at him ... All spirit he was; watchful, dogged, indomitable spirit with a little husk of body ... Soon, as he had directed, his old bearded sailormen would take his flag-covered casket out to sea in the night, and the guns would thunder: A British admiral sails by ...
And there was Simon Fowler in his little cottage, who was dying by inches from some tropical malady ... A small chunky man with white hair and wide blue eyes ... He had been a missionary in Africa, in China, in India—not the missionary of sentimental books, but a prophet whose calm voice, whose intrepid eyes, had gained him a hearing everywhere ... "Put fear away," he had preached in Africa; "let darkness flee. I come to tell of the light of the world ... After me will come the sellers of gin and of guns. But I shall give you a great magic against them ... Little children love one another ..." In China his fire had shamed philosophers: "I know your alms-giving. I know your benevolence. It is selfishness. Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I deliver my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Unless ye become as little children ..." And in the sensuous Indian lands, his voice rose in a great shout: "Subtle Greece is dead," he proclaimed, "and razed are the fanes of Ephesus. And the Unknown God slinks only through the midnight streets ..." "Blessed are the pure in heart ..." He had gone like a flame through the pagan places of the world, and here he was dying in the Antrim glens, with the quiet of Christ about him, the droning of God's little bees, and the lowing of the cattle of Bethlehem ... He was a great man. He had only one contempt: for hired clergymen.
There were three folk of heroic stature around him: the admiral, and Simon Fowler, and the woman of Tusa hErin.
A very small townland is Tusa hErin, the smallest in Ireland, it is said. And a very strange name on it: Tusa hErin, the beginning of Ireland. Why it is so called, none know. Possibly because some Highlanders named it this on landing there. Probably because it was a division between the Scottish and Irish clans. So it was called when the Bruce fled to Ireland. So it is called to this day.
Twenty acres or so are in it—a wind and sea lashed little estate, a great gray house and a garden of yew-trees. For ten years it had been untenanted, until a Miss O'Malley had bought it, and opened the great oak doors, and let the sea-air blow through the windows of it, and clipped the garden of the yews. The country people knew little of her, except that she had a great reserve. To the glensmen she was Bean Tusig Erin, the woman of Tusa hErin.
"What kind of a person is she?" Shane asked.
"A strange woman is in it, your Honor; a strange and dark woman."
"An old lady?"
"If she was one of us, she would be an old woman, your Honor, what with the bitter work and the hard ways. But being what she is, she is a young woman, your Honor. I heard tell she said she was thirty-four."
"Is she good-looking?"
"Well, now, your Honor, that would surely be a hard thing to say. A great dark face she has on her, and her head high, the like of a grand horse. Barring her eyes, you might call her a fine woman."
"What's wrong with her eyes?"
"Hard eyes she has, your Honor, hating eyes. She's always looking at you to see if it is an enemy is in it. A queer woman, your Honor; the like of her was never known."
"The talk that's at her, your Honor. The great hatred she bes having of England, and the talk of old Irish times."
"And she a lady?"
"You'd think it was a queen was in it, with the high head of her, and the proud step of a racing horse. You would, your Honor, you would so."
He asked the admiral about her.
"Do you know this Miss O'Malley, sir, of Tusa hErin?"
"I had the honor to meet her twice, Campbell. A very great woman. A great loss, Campbell, a great loss."
"Who is she, sir?"
"Good God! Do you mean to tell me you don't know who Grace O'Malley is?"
"No, sir, I don't."
"One of the greatest Shaksperian actresses, possibly, the English stage ever knew—and you never heard of her. Good God! How abominably ignorant you merchant marine men are!"
"Abominably so, sir ... But please tell me, sir, why does she hate England so much?"
"Oh, these geniuses, Campbell! They must hate something, or love something to excess ... Depths of feeling, I suppose ... Campbell, do you know anything about Ogham writing?"
"Only that it's straight lines on the corners of stones, sir!"
"Well, now, I think I've discovered something important, most terribly important ... You may have heard of the Babylonian cuneiform script ..." and the old gentleman was off full gallop on his hobby ...
From Simon Fowler he extracted a little more information.
"Fowler, do you know Miss O'Malley of Tusa hErin?"
"I do, poor lady."
"Why poor lady?"
"Wouldn't you call any one poor lady who had just been widowed, then lost her two children? Poor lady, I wish I could say something to comfort her."
"You! Fowler! You couldn't say anything?"
"The wisdom of God, Shane, is sometimes very hard to see. Our physical eyes can only see a little horizon, and yet the whole world is behind it. Miss O'Malley is not a case for any of the ministers of God ... but for Himself ..."
"You exaggerate, Fowler. Surely you are wrong ... They say she is young and proud and beautiful."
"I don't know. I never noticed ... She may be young and proud and beautiful ... I only thought of the dark harassed thing—inside all the youth and pride and beauty ..."
He met her for the first time at a neighboring fair ...
Eleven on a hot June morning, and the little town was crowded, like some old-time immigrant ship. Women in plaid shawls and frilled caps, men in somber black as befitted a monthly occasion. Squawking of ducks and hens, trudging of donkeys, creaking of carts, unbelievably stubborn bullocks and heifers being whacked by ash-plants, colts frisking. Girls with baskets of eggs and butter; great carts of hay and straw. Apple-women with bonnets of cabbage-leaves against the sun. Herring-men bawling like auctioneers. Squealing of young pigs. An old clothes dealer hoarse with effort. A ballad singer split the air with an English translation of Bean an Fhir Ruaidh, "The Red-haired Man's Wife."
Ye Muses Nine, Combine, and lend me your aid, Until I raise the praise of a beautiful maid—
The crash of a drover driving home a bargain:
"Hold out your hand now, by God! till I be after making you an offer. Seven pound ten, now. Hell to my soul if I give you another ha' penny. Wait now. I 'll make it seven pound fifteen."
"Is it insulting the fine decent beast you are?"
"Eight pounds five and ten shillings back for a luck-penny?"
"Is it crazy you've gone all of a sudden, dealing man. If the gentle creature was in Dublin town, sure they'd be hanging blue ribbons around her neck until she wilted with the weight of them."
"It's hanging their hats on the bones of her they'd be, and them sticking out the like of branches from a bush."
"Yerra Jasus! Do you hear the man, and her round as a bottle from the fine filling feeding. You could walk your shin-bones off to the knee, and you'd not find a cow as has had the treatment of this cow. Let you be on our way now."
"Look, honest man. Put out your hand, and wait till I spit on my fist—"
Through the doors of Michael Doyle's public house a young farmer walked uncertainly. He gently swung a woman's woolen stocking in his right hand, and in the foot of the stocking was a large round stone:
"I am young Packy McGee of Ballymoyle," he announced, "the son of old Packy McGee of Ballymoyle, a great man in his day, but never the equal of young Packy McGee. I have gone through Scotland and Ireland, Wales, the harvest fields of England, and I have never yet found the equal for murder and riot of young Packy McGee. I am young Packy McGee. I am young Packy McGee of Ballymore, and I don't care who knows it. Is there any decent man in this fair that considers himself the equal of young Packy McGee?" And he walked through the fair, chanting his litany and gently swinging the woman's woolen stocking with the large round stone in the foot of it ...
The penny poet changed from the high grace notes of "The Red-Haired Man's Wife" to the surge of a come-all-ye. There was the undercurrent of a pipe drone to his voice:
Fare-you-well, Enniskillen, fare-you-well for a while, All round the borders of Erin's green isle And when the war 's over return I shall soon, And your arms will be o-o-open for your Enniskillen Dragoon.
In the intervals between verses a black-bearded man with blue spectacles announced solemnly that he was Professor Handley direct from English and German universities, empowered by the Rosicrucian order to distribute a remarkable panacea at the nominal sum of sixpence a bottle ...
Forests of cows' horns and drovers' sticks, clamor of frightened cattle, emphatic slapping of palms. Clouds of dust where the horse fair was carried on. Stands of fruit and cakes. Stalls of religious ornaments, prayer-books, and rosary beads ... A shooting gallery ... A three-card trickster, white and pimpled of face ... A trick-of-the-loop man, with soap-box and greasy string ... A man who sold a gold watch, a sovereign, and some silver for the sum of fifteen shillings ... An old man with the Irish bagpipes, bellows strapped to arm, playing "The Birds Among the Trees," "The Swallow-tail Coat," "The Green Fields of America" ... small boys regarding him curiously ... later young farmers and girls would be dancing sets to his piping ... At the end of the street a ballad-monger declaiming, not singing—his head thrown back, his voice issuing in a measured chant ... "The Lament for the Earl of Lucan":
Patrick Sarsfield, Ireland's wonder! Fought in the field like bolts of thunder! One of Ireland's best commanders! Now is food for the crows of Flanders! Och! Ochone!
A knot of older people had gathered around him, white-headed farmers, bent turf-cutters of the glens, a girl-child with eyes like saucers. A priest stopped to listen ... The crude English of the ballad faded out, until there was nothing but disheveled agony ... rhythm ... a wail ... Somewhere a leaping current of feeling ... There was a woman on the edge of the crowd, a lady ... She came nearer, as though hypnotized ...
The country bard stopped suddenly, exalted, and swung dramatically into Gaelic ... Dropping the alien tongue he seemed to have dropped fetters.... His voice rose to a paean ... he took on stature ... he looked straight in the eye of the sun ... And for Shane the clamor of the drovers ceased ... And there was the plucked note of harpers ... And fires of ancient oak ... and wolf-dogs sleeping on skins of elk ... And there was a wasted place in the twilight, and grass through a split hearthstone ... And a warrior-poet, beaten, thinking bitter under the stars ...
Do threasgar an saoghal agas do thainic an gaoth mar smal— Alastrom, Caesar, 's an mead do bhi da bpairt; Ta an Teamhair na fear agas feach an Traoi mar ta! 'S na Sasanaigh fein, do b' fheidir go bhfaigh dis bas!
A voice spoke excitedly, imperiously to Shane:
"What is he saying? Do you know Gaelic?"
"I'm afraid I've forgotten my Gaelic, but I know this song."
"Then what is it? Please tell me. I must know."
"The world conquers them all. The wind whirls like dust. Alexander, Caesar, and the companies whom they led. Tara is grass, and see how Troy is now! And the English themselves, even they may die."
"How great!" she said. "How very great!" She turned to Shane, and as he saw the dark imperious face, he knew intuitively he was speaking to the Woman of Tusa hErin. She seemed puzzled for an instant. Something in Shane's clothes, his carriage ...
"You don't look as if you understood Gaelic? How is it you can translate this poem?"
"I knew it as a boy. My father was a Gaelic poet."
"Then you are Shane Campbell."
"And you are the woman of Tusa hErin!"
"You know Tusa hErin?"
"I know every blade of grass in the glens."
"If you are ever near Tusa hErin, come and see me."
"I should like to."
"Will you really?"
She left him as abruptly as she spoke to him, going over to the ballad-monger. She left him a little dazed ... He was aware of vitality ... He was like a man on a wintry day who experiences a sudden shaft of warm sun, or somebody in quiet darkness whose eye is caught by the rising of the moon.
As in a story from some old unsubtle book, in passing the gates of Tusa hErin, he had gone into another world, a grave and courteous world, not antique—that was not the word, but just older ... A change of tempo ... A change of atmosphere ... The Bois Dormant, the Sleeping Wood of the French fairy-tale?... Not that, for the Sleeping Wood should be a gray wood, a wood of twilight, with the birds a-drowse in their nests ... And here were clipped rich yew-trees, and turf firm as a putting-green's, and rows of dignified flowers, like pretty gracious ladies; and a little lake where a swan moved, as to music; and the sunshine was rich as wine here ... all golden and green ... But the atmosphere? He thought of the cave of Gearod Oge, the Wizard Earl in the Rath of Mullaghmast, and the story of it ... A farmer man had noticed a light from the old fort, and creeping in he had seen men in armor sleeping with their horses beside them ... And he examined the armor and the saddlery, and cautiously half drew a sword from its sheath ... And the soldier's head rose and: "Bhfuil an trath ann?" his voice cried ... "Has the time come?" "It is not, your Honor," the farmer said in terror, and shoved the sword back and fled ... An old man said for a surety that had the farmer drawn the blade from the scabbard, the Wizard Earl would have awakened, and Ireland been free ... There was great beauty and great Irishness to that story, but there was terror to it, and there was no terror on this sweet place ...
He said: It is a trick of my head, an illusion that this is different. Some shading that comes from the yews, some phenomenon of cliff and water ... But even that did not circumscribe the rich grave look of grounds and house. A song from "The Tempest" came to him:
Full fathom five thy father lies; Of his bones are coral made; Those are pearls that were his eyes: Nothing of him that doth fade But doth suffer a sea-change Into something rich and strange ...
That was it, something rich and strange, like some old cloister into which one might turn from an inquiet and hubbubby street ... A knock at an oaken wicket; a peering shy brother, and one was on green lawns and the shadows of a gabled monastery. Cowled, meditative friars, and the quiet of Christ like spread wings ... But there was a reason for the cloister's glamour: cool thoughts and the rhythm of quiet praying, and the ringing of the little bell of mass, and the cadenced sacramental. All these were sympathetic magic ... But whence came the glamour of Tusa hErin?
And she said: "I am glad you came. I knew somehow you would."
"I am glad, too. I knew Tusa hErin as a boy. It was then a weird old place. The yew-trees were unclipped, the turf riotous, the little lake ungraveled ... It had an eeriness. But now—it is very different."
"Any place is different for being loved, tended."
"I suppose so. One loves but one gets careless toward ... I know Antrim has always had an immense attraction for me ..."
"Yes, of course, Antrim."
"Not all Ireland, then?"
"I never thought of Ireland as all Ireland."
"O Shane Campbell, you've sailed so much and seen so much—China, they tell me, and South America, and the Levant. And in the North, Archangel. I'll warrant you don't know Ireland."
"I never saw much, though, in any place outside Antrim."
"You never saw much in the little towns of the Pale, or gray Dublin, with the Parliament where Grattan spoke now a money-changer's business house, and the bulk of Trinity of Goldsmith and Burke—or the great wide streets where four-in-hands used to go. And Three-Rock Mountain. And Bray. And the beauty of the Boyne Valley. And the little safe harbors of the South. And the mountains of Kerry. And all the kingdom of Connacht. And the great winds of Donegal."
"But it's so eery, deserted, a dead country. All like Tusa hErin was before you took it."
"If one could take it all, and do to it as I've done to Tusa hErin. By the way," she asked suddenly, "is Tusa hErin haunted?"
"No, I never heard. Did you see anything?"
"I think I heard something a few times. A piper piping when the storms rose. A queer little tune—like that thing about McCrimmon."
"Cha till, cha till, cha till McCrimmon."
"Are there words to it?"
"Le cogadh mo sidhe cha till McCrimmon." Never, never, never, will return McCrimmon. With war or peace never will come McCrimmon. For money or spoil never will return McCrimmon. He will come no more till the Day of the Gathering.
"A lamenting tune like that, I heard."
"The drone was just the grinding of the waves, the air the wind among the yews."
"That's possible. But isn't a phantom piper possible, too, in a land of ghosts?"
"A land of ghosts"; the phrase remained with him. And the lighted lamp and the burning peat fire seemed to invoke like some necromantic ritual. How often, and he a young boy, had the names trumpeted through his being. Brian Boru at Clontarf, and the routed red Danes. And with the routing of the Danes, Ireland had come to peaceful days, and gentle white-clothed saints arose and monasteries with tolling bells, and great Celtic crosses.... And gone were the Druids, their cursing stones, their Ogham script.... Gone old Celtic divinities, Angus of the Boyne, and Manannan, son of Lir, god of the sea ... and the peace of Galilee came over the joyous hunting land.... The little people of the hills, with their pygmy horses, their pygmy pipes, cowered, went into exile, under the thunder of Rome.... And the land was meek that it might inherit the kingdom of heaven.... And the English came.... The Earls of Ulster fled into Spain.... And only here and there was a memory of old-time heroes, of Cuchulain of the Red Branch; of Maeve, queen of Connacht, in her fighting chariot, her great red cloak; of Dermot, who abducted Grania from the king of Ireland's camp, and knew nine ways of throwing the spear.... The O'Neils remembered Shane, who brought Queen Elizabeth to her knees with love and terror.... And Owen Roe, the Red.... And the younger Hugh O'Neil, with his hardbitten Ulstermen at Benburb.... They had to bring the greatest general of Europe, Cromwell, the lord protector, to subdue the Ulster clans.... Sullen peace, and the Stuarts came back, and again Ireland was lulled with their suave manners, the scent of the white rose.... The crash of the Boyne Water, and King James running for his life.... And Limerick's siege, and the Treaty, and Patrick Sarsfield and the Wild Geese setting wing for France.... France knew them, Germany, Sweden, even Russia.... Ramillies and the Spaniard knew Lord Clare's Dragoons.... And Fontenoy and the thunder of the Irish Brigade.... And Patrick Sarsfield, Earl of Lucan, dead at the end of the day.... Even to-day Europe knew them: O'Donnel, Duke of Tetuan and grandee of Spain; and Patrice McMahon, Duke of Magenta, who had been made president of the Republic of France—they were of the strain of Lucan's wild Geese....
And again a sullen peace, and Ulster rang to the trumpet of American freedom, and the United Irishmen arose in Belfast.... And Napper Tandy at Napoleon's court, and Hoche with his ships in Bantry Bay.... Wolfe Tone's mangled throat, and Lord Edward Fitzgerald murdered by his captors....
What had made these men, sane men—Ulstermen mostly—risk life and face death so gallantly? What brought out the men of '48 and the men of '67? What was making little Bigger fight so savagely in Parliament, blocking the legislation of the empire? What had got under their skins, into their blood? Surely not for a gray half-deserted city? Surely not for little bays and purple mountains? Surely not for an illiterate peasantry, half crazed by the fear of hell?
He tried to see Ireland as a personality, as one sees England, like the great Britannia on a copper penny, helmeted, full-breasted, great-hipped, with sword and shield, a bourgeois concept of majesty, a ponderous, self-conscious personality:
When Britain first, at Heaven's command Arose from out the azure main,—
Just like that!
And Scotland he could see as a young woman, in kilt and plaid and Glengarry cap, a shrewd young woman though, with a very decisive personality, clinching a bargain as the best of dealers might, a little forward. He could think of her as the young girl whose hand Charles the Young Pretender kissed, and who had said to him directly: "I'd liefer hae a buss for my mou'." "I'd rather have a kiss on my mouth." Scotland knew what she wanted and got it, a pert, a solid, a likable girl.
But Ireland, Ireland of the gray mists, the gray towns. How to see her? The country ballad came to him. The "Shan Van Vocht," the poor old woman, gray, shawled, pitiable, whom her children were seeking to reinstate in her home with many fields:
And where will they have their camp? Says the Shan Van Vocht. And where will they have their camp? Says the Shan Van Vocht. In the Curragh of Klidare, The boys will all be there. With their pikes in good repair, Says the Shan Van Vocht. To the Curragh of Kildare The boys they will repair, And Lord Edward will be there, Says the Shan Van Vocht.
No! Not enough. One might work, sacrifice money, for the Shan Van Vocht—but life, no! He thought again. Poor Mangan's poem flashed into his mind and heart....
O my Dark Rosaleen, Do not sigh, do not weep! The priests are on the ocean green They march along the deep. There's wine from the royal pope Upon the ocean green. And Spanish ale shall give you hope, My dark Rosaleen! My own Rosaleen! Shall glad your heart, shall give you hope, Shall give you health, and help, and hope, My dark Rosaleen!
Ah, that was it! Not pity, but gallant, fiery love. Modern ideals and ancient chivalry.... A young dark woman with a quivering mouth, with eyes bright in tears.... There was an old favorite print that portrayed her, a slim wistful figure resting a pale hand on a mute harp, a great elk-hound at her feet on guard, and back of her the rising sun shone on the antique round tower.... A pretty picture, but was it enough? He tried to envisage her close, concentrated.... There the dog, there the harp, there the slim form.... But the face.... It seemed to elude him. And suddenly it flashed at him with abrupt dark beauty ... the face of the woman of Tusa hErin....
The long Ulster twilight had set in, the twilight of bats, gray-blue, utterly peaceful ... the little chiming of the sea.... Even the wind was still.... All things drowsed, like a dog before the fire, relaxed but not asleep.... Beneath her feet the turf was firm ... beneath that the hush-een-husho of the purple Moyle.... Soon there would be a moon and her servants would saddle Shane's horse for him and he would ride home in the Antrim moonlight, eighteen miles of grim road with the friendly moon above him, and the singing Moyle on his left hand, and on his right the purple glens.... And the shadows ... the delicate tracery of the ash-tree, and the tall rowans, and the massive blue shadows of the cliffs ... a golden and silver land.... A very sweet silence had fallen between them, as if music had ceased and become restful color.... They watched the quiet swan....
"I am a little afraid to leave Tusa hErin," she said suddenly and softly, as though thinking aloud.... "I am like a nun who has been in a convent.... She is lost in the open world.... Will I ever again find a place like Tusa hErin?"
"Granya, are you selling Tusa hErin?"
"I have sold it, Shane."
"I am sorry," was all he could say. A little silence, and he could feel her smiling through the dusk.
"You never ask any questions, Shane?"
"It never occurs to me to ask them, Granya. If any one wants to tell me a thing, I know they will, and if they don't why should I intrude?"
"I should like to tell you why I sold Tusa hErin. But I cannot. It is my own secret."
He nodded in the dusk: "I understand."
She turned to him slowly. Her sweet dark head was like some fragrant shrub.... Her low soft voice had so much life to it....
"I wonder if you know what a friend you are, Shane? If you understand how peaceful it is to have you here? You are such a sweet fact, Shane, like the moon."
"I am a friend, Granya...."
"You are, yes.... And you know so little about me, Shane. And I know all about you.... I know the adventures of your youth.... And of the hard girl of Louth, and the poor harassed woman of Marseilles.... And of the little Syrian wife whom you didn't know you loved until you lost her ... and the gray voyages to the cruel country.... At times I see you like a little boy hunting the leprechawn.... And then I see your face, your eyes, and understand how you commanded men in ships.... You are like some beautiful play, Shane.... I wonder what is the ending?"
"It is already ended, Granya."
"No, Shane. I know, the end hasn't come.... I know you, Shane," she asked abruptly; "what do you know about me?"
"Nothing much, Granya, except that you are you. I heard you were a great actress ... and that you had two babies ... who died...."
"Not a great actress, Shane, a very good one, perhaps. I might have been great one day ... and again, I mighn't. I shall never know.... And I had two babies.... They were very nice little people, Shane. I was very fond of them.... But a physical life is a little thing, I have come to believe, and there is another life, a life of thought and emotion. And that one is so long.... It seems ages since I was an actress and had two pretty babies. It seems in another life.... Shane, I don't think I was alive until my babies died...."
"I don't understand, Granya."
"I mean this, Shane, that things were so casual to me. They came and they went, and I was what I was, and that was all.... When you were a boy, Shane, you had what I never had—wonder. I was the child of actors, Shane, brought up to a mechanical tradition, knowing the business thoroughly—a part was words and directions, and a salary.... That things were mimic meant nothing ... do you see? That there was a life that was unreal, and another life that was real, and then a further life, too subtle, too profound for the value of words ... one sees glimpses ... one feels ... and when you try to fix it, it eludes you. Do you understand? Like your mirage, a little.... That is only a symbol.... Am I talking nonsense, Shane? Anyway, I took things, well, just casually....