George A. Birmingham.

The lost tribes online

. (page 1 of 22)
Online LibraryGeorge A. BirminghamThe lost tribes → online text (page 1 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

1 fltv

, * ^

*> i > '


• \ <'<fi liil. i



1 Ml i III






Jk~* *; -ff/4





>' «</




Copyright, 1914,
By George H. Doran Compant




NATHAN P. DANN does not come into this story.
He died before any of the things which I have to
record happened. And he died, as he had lived, in New
York, while the scene of the story is a small village in
County Galway. It is, however, necessary to write down
a few words about Nathan P. Dann.

He was by birth and descent an Irishman. Very
early in life, at about the age of nineteen, he left Ireland
and went to America. There he prospered and became
very rich. This is an important fact. If Nathan P.
Dann had not left a large fortune, his widow could not
have done or attempted the things she did.

Like most Irishmen, who live anywhere in the world
except Ireland, Nathan P. Dann was patriotic. He did
not, indeed, return to Ireland, or show, at any time of his
life, the smallest desire to live there. The patriotism of
an " Exile from Erin " never takes that form. Generally,
though not in the case of Nathan P. Dann, it expresses
itself in a series of self-denying efforts to help other
people out of Ireland. The Irish Exile pays his friends'
fares from Queenstown to New York. He only pays
his own fare from New York to Queenstown when he
takes a return ticket, and he always uses the second half
of it. Dann did not even take an Irish holiday at any
time during his life. He made two expeditions to
Europe, but on both occasions he spent his time chiefly



in Italy. This was perhaps his wife's fault. She was
fond of art and poetry. Dann himself was not.

Nor did his patriotism lead him to subscribe to the
funds of any " League." Most Irishmen in America
subscribe generously to Leagues whose objects they only
vaguely understand. We may suppose that they find
this the easiest way of quieting their consciences. They
feel that they owe something to the country of their ori-
gin ; so they listen to people who talk beautifully about
Kathleen ni Houlahan, and then write a cheque for five
or ten dollars in support of the cause. Nathan P. Dann
was often asked to subscribe to Ireland, but he never did.
Many people thought that he had no conscience ; but in
this, as appeared after his death, they were mistaken.
The real reason of his refusal was a religious one. He
was born and brought up a Protestant, and he remained
all his life convinced that Kathleen ni Houlahan and the
" Leagues " which supported blameless Members of Par-
liament to plead her cause were deeply touched with the
spirit of the Papacy. He also believed that the Irish
people were descendants of the ten tribes of Israel which
got lost in the time of the Assyrian Empire. At these
two beliefs Nathan P. Dann's religion stopped short.
There was no more of it.

It is true that he built a church, a very handsome one,
for the Reverend Richard Sebright, who was a popular
Baptist minister; but this was not, strictly speaking, a
religious act. He did it to please his wife. Mrs. Se-
bright was Mrs. Dann's first cousin, and the two ladies
were great friends. Nathan P. Dann found it necessary,
for the sake of domestic quiet, to do something for the
Sebrights. It was suggested to him that he should start
a newspaper and present it to Bobby Sebright, the min-
ister's son, who was a journalist. After going into the
figures carefully he came to the conclusion that it would
be cheaper to build a church for the Reverend Richard.


It is not therefore possible to add belief in the doctrines
of the Baptists to the other two articles of Dann's creed.
He disliked the Pope. He thought fondly of the Ten
Lost Tribes. But he never went to hear the Reverend
Richard Sebright preach in the new church.

Nevertheless, Nathan P. Dann had a conscience. This
was made plain when his will was read. He left every-
thing he had to his wife ; and he expressed a wish that
she should search out, and if possible assist, the descend-
ants of his sister, who had married an Irish clergyman
called Mervyn. The Reverend Richard Sebright was of
opinion that Nathan P. Dann showed a Christian spirit
in this request. Bobby was of the same opinion at first.
Mrs. Dann the widow was thrilled. She was a lady of
high romantic nature. The wish which her husband ex-
pressed provided her with a mission. She held Mrs.
Sebright's hand tightly and said that she would devote
her life and her husband's fortune to the children of her
sister-in-law and to dear Ireland. She was an American
of New England descent, but she had no difficulty in
feeling a strong affection for Ireland.

Afterwards Mr. Otto Bernstein, in the course of a
private conversation with Bobby Sebright, threw some
light on the spirit of Nathan P. Dann's will. Otto Bern-
stein was Nathan's partner and his only intimate friend.

" The widow of my partner," he said, " is one d d


" Sure," said Bobby, " but there's points in her favour.
She's a good-natured woman."

" It is that which I meant," said Bernstein, " when I

said d d fool, and my poor friend he knew it. He

knew the money would go-fly."

" That's so," said Bobby, " but there's a lot of it. I
guess it'll last out her time."

" The other woman," said Bernstein, " the sister, is a
still more d d fool. So my poor friend said to me.


The wife, that is the widow now, she did one wise thing.
She married Nathan P. Dann, that is what my poor
friend said to me. ' She did marry me,' he said, 'but
the other one,' — the sister you understand me — ' she
hadn't as much wisdom as that. She married the
d dest fool of all the three.' "

" Pm out after her, or her children, this minute," said
Bobby, " kind of hunting her up in books of reference.
Aunt Sally May — she's not my aunt, you know, but I've
always called her aunt — "

" It will be to your advantage still to do so," said

" I don't deny that it may. But just now she's not
thinking of me. She's dead set on tracking out this
Mervyn man. The lady — so old Nathan seemed to
think — is dead."

" It's the same thing," said Bernstein. " The money
will go. My poor friend he said to me, ' They may do
anything with it.' He meant any fool thing, anything
with no sense in it at all. ' It may be,' he said to me,
' that they will use my money to — ' I have forgot the
word, but it meant to make better the state of his coun-
try, of Ireland."

" Regenerate ? " said Bobby.

" That is it. There is much sadness in the thought.
My friend he did feel the sadness of it. His money that
he made, he and I together in the past time, it will be
used by fools to make better, to regenerate, the state of
Ireland, so my poor friend did say to me."

" Aunt Sally May," said Bob, " will take on the job
of regenerating Ireland right away, as soon as ever it
occurs to her that Ireland wants it."

" It is that," said Bernstein, " which we did foresee."

Mr. Otto Bernstein disappears from our story at this
point. He has served his purpose in reporting to Bobby
Sebright the words of Nathan P. Dann. There is no


doubt that he reported them quite accurately. But it is
possible, even likely, that he conveyed a wrong idea to
the mind of Bobby Sebright. The soul of a clever
Irishman is a very curious thing, and this is peculiarly
true of clever Irishmen who have lived long in England
or America. Bobby Sebright thought he understood.
The dead man was a cynical pessimist who found a kind
of torturing delight in the thought that the money he had
made laboriously would be wasted by a foolish woman in
a singularly foolish manner. But Nathan P. Dann had
one positive belief of a romantic kind. He clung to the
faith that he and his fellow-countrymen were descended
from Ephraim and Manasseh, and he knew that his wife,
though a fool, had a very kind heart. It is possible
that both Otto Bernstein and Bobby Sebright were mis-
taken. Dann may have hoped that his wife would do
some good with his money; that just because she was

what Bernstein called a d d fool she might succeed

where wise people fail. She did not, in fact, do anything
for Ireland, though she tried; but she did accomplish
some tangible good.


IN an upper room of the little rectory Delia Mervyn
stood brushing a coat. It was her father's best coat,
a garment of respectable antiquity. He bought it for
his wedding, and the wedding had taken place twenty-
two years before. Coats very seldom last twenty-two
years, but this one showed no signs of wear. Mr.
Mervyn only put it on once every year, on the occasion
of his bishop's visitation. At all other times it lay in
a drawer, guarded from moths by a piece of camphor.
Mrs. Mervyn watched over it as long as she lived.
When she died Delia, her daughter, took over the care
of the coat, the housekeeping books, and the key of the
storeroom. She brushed it and laid it on the bed with
a sigh. It looked quite decent. There were no thread-
bare patches, no polished surfaces at wrist or elbow, but
Delia sighed. She feared that it was likely to be antique
in shape, altogether different from the coats of younger
men. Her fear was well founded. Mr. Mervyn's coat
had long been a joke amongst his clerical brethren.

Delia looked out of the window and saw her father.
He was in his shirt-sleeves and was harnessing a white
pony. iEneas Sweeny, an incompetent man-of-all-work,
was giving advice and rubbing at the brass mounting of
the harness with a cloth. Delia turned to a cupboard and
took from it a silk hat, carefully wrapped in tissue-paper.
She looked at it sadly. It was old, as old as the coat,
but it still took a fine gloss when she brushed it. But
Delia feared it was old-fashioned and that her father
would look grotesque when he wore it. Delia did not
know what contemporary hats looked like. It is very



hard to keep abreast of the fashion when you live in a
remote village in County Galway. Had she been able
to walk along Bond Street or Piccadilly she would have
been reassured about her father's hat. It was almost ex-
actly the shape most favoured by hatters at the moment.
The silk hat varies within very narrow limits. It gets
higher or lower. Its brim is broad and curly or narrow
and flat. The middle of it, its waist, if we can use the
phrase of a hat, may be compressed, or it may remain
of the same girth from crown to brim. But with these
the possibilities of variety are exhausted. The fashions
in hats and collars work in circles. Keep a hat or a col-
lar long enough and it rides once more on the foremost
wave of the mode. Mr. Mervyn had kept his hat for
twenty-two years. It was a little behind the fashion
when he bought it. It was quite of the newest style
when Delia brushed it.

The pony was harnessed at last. iEneas Sweeny,
dressed in his best clothes, drove it round to the front
of the rectory. Onny, christened Honoria, Donovan,
a servant carefully trained by Delia, stood on the door-
step to watch the departure. Mr. Mervyn put on the
coat and hat. Delia, looking at him doubtfully, followed
him to the door. She patted his coat and pulled at it. It
had fitted him once, but Mr. Mervyn had shrunk of late
years. He was a bigger man, wider round the chest
and thicker in the arm, when the coat was made. Meek
men, and Mr. Mervyn was very meek, seldom grow portly
in later life.

" I hope— I do hope," said Delia, " that she'll be nice."

" I hope so ; I sincerely hope so," said Mr. Mervyn.

He was nervous. The occasion was a great one. He
was to pay his first formal call on his new sister-in-law,
a lady whom he vaguely suspected of being wealthy.

" I wish," he said — " I almost wish that I could take
you with me, Delia."


There was no reason why he should not take Delia.
Yet he shook his head gravely as he expressed the wish.
He failed to realise that Delia had grown up into a young
woman. We meet occasionally elderly country gentle-
men who speak of their elderly sisters, ladies of sixty
years of age, as " the girls." Their lives have been spent
in pleasant monotony. They have failed to note the
passing of time and the coming of grey hairs. Mr.
Mervyn was like them. His days, since the death of his
wife, had flowed calmly. There was nothing in them
to force on him the thought that they were flowing at
all. He still thought of Delia as a child, and Delia her-
self, though she knew she was a woman, still regarded
it as impossible that she should be taken to pay a visit.

Mr. Mervyn fed the pony with two lumps of sugar.
She and he were old and affectionate friends. Her name
was Biddy and she had pulled him about the parish for
many years. Delia looked critically at the phaeton. It
was a very old vehicle, bought originally at an auction
at Druminawona House after the death of the last Lady
Engleby. It could not by any means have been made
to look smart, but ^neas Sweeny had done his best with
it. He had washed it. He had also washed his own
face. He realised fully that the occasion was a great
one. An Irish servant may be, and often is, singularly
inefficient at ordinary times. Routine will paralyse his
energies, but the worst Irish servant will rise brilliantly
to a great occasion. The unaccustomed, which bewilders
the mechanically efficient Englishman, spurs him to heroic
exertions. yEneas Sweeny had rubbed a quantity of soft
soap into his skin although the day was Saturday, not
Sunday. He had also scrubbed the phaeton and polished
the harness. He had groomed Biddy's white coat.

Mr. Mervyn got into the phaeton and waved his hand
to Delia, affecting a cheerfulness which he did not feel.


tineas settled himself on the small perch at the back of
the phaeton. This was another concession to the occa-
sion. /Eneas usually sat beside his master and conversed
with him in a friendly tone. He had not for several
years sat on the perch at the back. Mr. Mervyn looked
round nervously. The phaeton was very old, and /Eneas
had grown heavier of late. He thought it possible that
the perch might break. /Eneas reassured him with a
smile. The little seat was stronger than it looked.
/Eneas folded his arms across his chest, put his chin up
and stared straight in front of him. Mr. Mervyn shook
the reins. Biddy ambled down the drive towards the
road. Delia and Onny Donovan were left standing at
the rectory door.

The Irish gentry of bygone days showed singularly
little imagination in the building of their houses. Xot
one of them in a hundred had any idea beyond four
straight unbroken walls, meeting each other at right-
angles. But they all rejoiced in long avenues. If cir-
cumstances rendered it impossible to place their mansions
a mile or more from the high road, they laid out curved
winding approaches so as to get the longest possible
amount of driving through their own grounds. The
avenue of Druminawona House coiled about among
lime-trees and beeches in a wholly unnecessary way.
Biddy, who was a wise pony, resented the extra toil im-
posed on her and relapsed into a walk. When he came
in sight of the house Mr. Mervyn hit her sharply with
the whip. He had never done such a thing before.
Biddy stopped in sheer amazement. Recovering herself
a little, she turned her head round and looked at Mr.
Mervyn. Her eyes expressed reproach and astonishment.
Mr. Mervyn apologised at once. His apology took the
form of an explanation. He addressed it to /Eneas
Sweeny ; it was really meant to soothe Biddy's feelings.


" I think," he said, " that we ought to trot up to the
door. These Americans, you know, expect — I mean to

What Mr. Mervyn meant to say was that the American
nation had grown great by its devotion to vigorous effi-
ciency, and that it might be regarded as a sign of feeble-
ness if Biddy were allowed to crawl up to the door of the
house. He failed to find words to express this thought ;
but ^neas understood him. He whistled with a view
to encouraging the pony. Biddy also understood and
half accepted the apology. Her face still wore its ex-
pression of shocked amazement, but she changed her walk
for a shambling trot.

Mr. Mervyn had paid several visits to Druminawona
House. It was, so he thought, his duty to call upon
such of the vagrant fishermen as rented it from time to
time in order to catch salmon in the river. On such occa-
sions he was embarrassed by the ceremony of his recep-
tion. A manservant met him at the door and led him
across the broad hall in stately silence. Mr. Mervyn
was a diffident man and unused to the society of butlers.
He always felt awkward and uncomfortable while he
slouched after them. This time he fell into a worse em-
barrassment than any butler could have created. Mrs.
Dann herself met him. The door stood open when he
arrived, and as he stepped out of the phaeton he was
aware that his sister-in-law was running, literally run-
ning, across the hall to greet him. She tinkled as she
ran, because she had a number of metal objects hanging
loose about her. She also made a cooing noise in her
throat. She was a small woman and very slight. Mr.
Mervyn was glad of this because he was very much
afraid that she meant to kiss him. He drew himself up
to his full height as she came near. He was, when he
chose to stretch himself out, fully six feet high. As a
rule he stooped and walked about with rounded shoul-


ders ; but when he saw Mrs. Dann running up to him,
and heard her cooing, he stood bolt upright. Mrs. Dann
could not reach to his face, and of course would not
kiss his hands. She seized them both and shook them
heartily. Mr. Mervyn heard Biddy fidgeting behind him
and felt ashamed of the warmth of his sister-in-law's
greeting. Biddy was staid and elderly. She had spent
all her life in the West of Ireland and was not accus-
tomed to effusive manners.

Mrs. Dann let go his left hand and, holding his right
in both hers, towed him rapidly across the hall. She
ejaculated phrases of welcome. Her cooing between the
phrases got louder. Mr. Mervyn was greatly astonished.
She was a widow, and widows, as he thought, were natu-
rally shrinking creatures, inclined to tears. Mrs. Dann
was full of force and energy. Life bubbled from her.

They reached the large drawing-room, and Mr.
Mervyn, before he had even succeeded in taking off his
hat, was bumped forcibly into a deep armchair. Mrs.
Dann sat down exactly opposite him and began to talk
with great vehemence. She gesticulated with her hands
as she spoke and tinkled repeatedly in a way which be-
wildered Mr. Mervyn very much. At last he managed
to speak.

" I'm very glad to meet you, Mrs. Dann," he said

She burst into smiling indignation.

" Now that won't do anyhow," she said. " We're
brother and sister, aren't we ? That's so. I'm just Sally
May, and I have it all planned out to call you Phil. Just
you call me Sally May right away or else we'll quarrel."

Mr. Mervyn hesitated.

" Say Sally May," she repeated.

" Sarah," said Mr. Mervyn.

Sally was beyond him for the moment. It seemed an
impossibly familiar way of addressing a lady who was a


total stranger to him. Mrs. Dann sat looking at him
for a moment with her head tilted on one side.

" If you think," she said, " that you're going to induce
me to call you Theophilus, you've just got to get the
notion out of your head straight off. I don't say but I
might get round the four syllables of that name if I was
real angry with you ; but for ordinary use Phil's quite
long enough. If you and I are going to be friends you're
Phil, and I'm Sally May."

Mr. Mervyn deliberately shirked the difficulty. He
fell back upon the remark with which he always opened
conversation with the strangers who came to fish.

" I hope," he said, " that you like Druminawona."

The strangers were usually polite enough to say that
they did, though they often added a complaint about the
weather. If they were very enthusiastic fishermen they
said that it did not rain enough. If they were not abso-
lutely absorbed in fishing they said that it rained too
much. Mrs. Dann expressed a passionate delight in the
place such as no one else had ever felt.

" I'm regularly deep down in love with it," she said.
" I felt a kind of thrill all over me the very minute Bobby
Sebright mentioned the name of it to me. ' Bobby,' I
said, ' just you tell me that all over again, and say it slow.
It's a dream, that place, a fairy vision of an Arabian
night.' I made him get the cable right away and I told
him to hold it against an emperor till he'd rung up a
house agent on this side. I had my mind made up the
minute I'd heard the name that if there was a shack in
the place with a roof on it I was bound to get it. Bobby's
a good boy. He's fixed me up all right, and I'll say this,
Phil, that I wouldn't have believed unless I'd seen it
that there could be a mansion anywhere equal to the
name of Druminawona in the matter of poetical dilapi-
dation. But there is, and it's this residence."

Mr. Mervyn's feelings were hurt. Druminawona


House had stood to him for many years as a type of
stately magnificence. It pained him to hear it slighted.
But he did not want to argue with his sister-in-law. He
turned the conversation away from the dilapidation of
the house.

' The name Druminawona," he said, " is Gaelic. It
means — "

" Don't you dare to tell me what it means," said Mrs.
Dann. 'What's meaning anyway? You'll just spoil it
for me if you go reading extracts from a dictionary about
it. What took me was the sound of it. There was a
book I was reading as I came across about a titled lady
on this side who sort of specialised in long-drawn sighs.
I used to read about the way she uttered them, and
every time she did I said to myself ' That's Drumina-
wona.' It's drawn out so that I never seem to get clean
through to the end of it. It fascinates me. There was
a poet man over in New York last fall lecturing. I
didn't go to listen to him myself because Nathan was
always contemptuous of poets, especially Irish ones.
But Emily Sebright had him in to tea and I went to listen
to his talk. I was struck. He orated quite a lot about
the mysticism of the Celt and the solemn glow of the
brown bogs and the majesty of the mist-clad mountains
and the general inarticulate yearnings of the peasant
soul. He roped me in, that young man, and I bought
up all the books of poetry he'd written. But I reckon
he was just a fraud. There wasn't anything in him be-
yond what could be extracted from Druminawona."

" It never struck me exactly in that light," said Mr.
Mervyn, " but no doubt you're right. I've lived too long
in the place to be much impressed by its name."

" Bobby Sebright hunted the directories for me," said
Mrs. Dann, " when I was meditating on Nathan's last re-
quest. He said there were four Mervyns scattered about
your church connection. He wanted me to communicate


with the other three before I fluttered straight off here.
But I said ' No.' I simply wouldn't listen to any talk
about the other men. The one I wanted for a brother
was the one who lived in Druminawona. That's you,
Phil, so I just cabled to say I was starting."

" I got the message," said Mr. Mervyn, " and I wrote
to Queenstown."

" I was dead sure you were the right man," said Mrs.
Dann, " the moment I heard the name of the section
where you lived. Bobby Sebright wasn't so certain, but
then Bobby hadn't had the advantage of hearing the way
Nathan spoke about the man his sister had married.
That's you, Phil. I won't repeat what he said. It might
make you vain. But I gathered a pretty clear impres-
sion that if Nathan's brother-in-law was ever found at
all he'd be living in a place with a name like Drumina-
wona. You couldn't live anywhere else, could you,

Mr. Mervyn sighed. There had been times in his life
when he had hoped for some other sphere of duty, some
place a little less intellectually and morally relaxing than

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryGeorge A. BirminghamThe lost tribes → online text (page 1 of 22)