Copyright
Justin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthy.

The fair Irish maid online

. (page 11 of 20)
Online LibraryJustin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthyThe fair Irish maid → online text (page 11 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Louis the Eighteenth, and how she greatly annoyed
that monarch by displaying some injudicious en-
thusiasm for the Emperor Napoleon, then reigning
reluctantly in obscurity as the Emperor of Elba.
The annoyed king had said to her, with as much
acrimony as it was possible for a restored Bourbon
to display in the presence of a pretty woman, that he
thought all English people disliked Bonaparte.

"Your Majesty/* the girl answered, not in the
least daunted by the royal displeasure, "I am not
English, but Irish, and General Bonaparte prom-
ised to be our friend."

Lady Cloyne, aghast at Crania's audacity, hur-
ried the girl away; but Grania declined to express
any regret for what she had said or to share in
Lady Cloyne's congratulations on the fact that they
were leaving Paris so soon that they could scarcely
be made to feel socially the effects of the king's dis-
pleasure. As a matter of fact, the king's displeasure
would have had little effect as against the wealth of
Grania upon Parisian society. It was in connection
with this incident that Grania first began to show
what afterward proved that she intended to be her
own mistress and not the obedient puppet of my
lady. Thus tempered and molded in the fashions
and the finesses of Dublin and of Paris, Grania was
carried, a perfect work of art, to London, where she

13 181



THE FAIR IRISH MAID

instantly swam into success. That Mr. Heritage
knew as well as Mr. Fenny.

"He will be a fortunate man who marries her,"
Mr. Heritage observed, and mused upon the won-
derful work the manager of a great theater could do
for dramatic art if he were fortunate enough to win
the hand and heart of a lady who commanded such
a fortune. But with all his good opinion of him-
self, Mr. Heritage had no thought of advancing his
claims. Mr. Penny's handsome face displayed no
sign of the regret that he felt that he was not
destined to be the fortunate man.

"Between ourselves," he said, "I think it is pretty
well understood that 'The Fair Irish Maid' is to
marry Lord Cloyne's younger brother, Captain
Curtius."

Mr. Heritage smiled sourly. "A very excellent ar-
rangement," he said, dryly, "for Captain Curtius."

"You suggest " Fenny questioned slily with a
lifted eyebrow.

Heritage shrugged his shoulders. "Captain Cur-
tius," he said, acidly, thinking perhaps how much
better a match he could suggest if there were likely
to be the faintest use in making the suggestion, "is
a fine gentleman with an inordinate share of a fine
gentleman's vices. He is never sober, though he
never seems drunk. He keeps a colony of women
at Bagshot. Were he King Solomon, he would beg-
gar himself at play. If you were a father or brother,
would you chqose him for your daughter or sister ?"
182



THE GREAT MR. HERITAGE

Mr. Fenny burst into a fit of hearty laughter at
the extravagance of morality suddenly manifested
by Mr. Heritage, who was generally understood to
pique himself upon being as thorough a man of the
world as any of the dandies.

"My dear fellow," he said, "you are as moral
as Socrates. I have no daughter, at least in the
sense you mean, and my sisters are frumps, who
might marry the devil for all I care. I am agog
for the marriage, for I get a cool thousand if it
comes off." That was indeed the precise sum
which My Lord Cloyne had promised his young
friend if he refrained from any interference with
his lordship's plans and aided and abetted them as
artfully as he could.

Mr. Heritage laughed. "Really, Mr. Fenny,"
he protested, "I must get one of our authors to
write a modish comedy and put you into the list
of characters. Your cynicism is magnificent."

"It seems so to you, no doubt," Fenny answered,
with suave impertinence; "to me it is just ordinary
intelligence."

Mr. Heritage might have resented the manner
of Mr. Fenny's speech, but at that moment the door
opened and Grania came into the room.



VII

A POSSIBLE CLUE

BOTH men sprang to their feet, and Mr. Heri-
tage made the lady a profound bow. His
theatrical eye appreciated her loveliness again as
he had appreciated it before on the occasion at
Carlton House, appreciated also the beauty of her
attire. He reflected with a mental sigh that he could
not get his actresses to dress as well at that, nor
to carry their wear so becomingly.

"Good-morning, gentlemen," Grania said, as she
advanced down the room with a step as easy over
the velvet carpet as ever over the Kerry grass.
She gave Mr. Heritage her hand, which he kissed
ceremoniously, with the studied grace of one that
was profoundly aware of the importance of deport-
ment. She gave a glance to Fenny, which that in-
telligent gentleman rightly interpreted to intimate
dismissal.

Mr. Fenny quietly rose, quietly disappeared
from the room, and Grania, requesting Mr. Heritage
to be seated again, placed herself opposite to him.

"I am much obliged to you for coming, Mr.
Heritage/' she said. "I hope you did not think
184



A POSSIBLE CLUE

my request very unceremonious; but I earnestly
desired a little private talk with you."

Mr. Heritage noted with approval the clear sweet-
ness of her speech, the gracious ease and simple
dignity of her bearing, the tranquillity which ac-
cepted so readily the state of pomp with which
she was surrounded, and again he found himself
wishing that he could drill some of his player-
women to carry themselves so before the footlights.
He inclined toward her anew in polite salutation.

"Madam," he said, "I am your humble servant
to command, and I can assure you that I am
heartily delighted if I may be of any use to you."

Grania looked at him wistfully. "Do you," she
asked, "know anything of the whereabouts of a
man named Dennis Tirowen ?"

Mr. Heritage shook his head, and it was plain
from the blank expression of his face that Crania's
question stirred no string of his memory. "No,
indeed, madam," he said; "I am sure that I do
not know any one of that name, and I do not think
that I have ever heard the name before."

"Oh, surely, surely," Grania insisted, for she
had pinned her faith to the probability that Mr.
Heritage would be able to afford her a clue to her
lost lover. "Mr. Dennis Tirowen came to London
some time ago from Ireland. I believe that he was
going to get into communication with you, for he
had a play which he wished to submit to the Lon-
don managers, and naturally you would be the
185



THE FAIR IRISH MAID

first he would approach. Do you remember any-
thing of the matter now ?"

Mr. Heritage shook his head. He was touched
and amused by the simplicity implied in Crania's
question. " A play ! my dear madam," he protested,
feeling indeed a little shocked at Crania's mani-
fest ignorance of the possibilities of his office.
"Are you aware that at the Rotundo Theater we
are in the habit of receiving as many as ten or
twelve plays a week ? How could a poor manager
possibly carry in his memory the names of so many
aspirants for laurels ?"

Crania looked very disappointed. "Mr. Tiro-
wen was a friend of mine," she said, sadly, "a very
great friend." Mr. Heritage scented romance, and
his respectful silence sought also to suggest sym-
pathy as Crania continued. "He left Ireland,"
she said, "some months ago to come to London in
the hopes of making his fortune. He had written
a play on which he built great hopes. He had com-
posed some music, too, which was to win him
favor. He went away very hopeful. He was to
have written to me, but he did not write. Since
the day that I said good-by to him I have never
heard either from or of him. When I came to
London I made inquiries, such inquiries as I could,
with the assistance of my lawyer, but so far they
have all come to nothing. Nobody seems to know
anything of my friend. He has vanished com-
pletely, without a sound, without a sign."
186



A POSSIBLE CLUE

Mr. Heritage was touched by the pathos that un-
derlay Crania's speech. "You don't fear," he
began, hesitatingly, "that anything may have hap-
pened to him ?" He stopped for a second, and then
went on in a lowered voice. "You don't apprehend
that he may be dead ?"

"No, no, no," Grania answered, vehemently. " I
am sure he is alive. I should know if he were dead,
and I know he is alive I know it, I know it."

"Then," Mr. Heritage suggested, "he may have
had an accident, he may be sick, lying at this mo-
ment in some hospital."

"We have tried all the hospitals," Grania replied.
"My friend is in no one of them."

" I do not exactly like to suggest it," Mr. Heritage
said, "but perhaps this young gentleman through
no fault of his own, of course, through no fault of his
own may have got into some trouble with the law
which may have had the result of a temporary
seclusion."

Grania interrupted him. "We have tried all the
prisons," she said, composedly. She was too fa-
miliar with the thought of Irishmen as Englishmen's
prisoners to be hurt by Mr. Heritage's suggestion.
"We have tried all likely clues. When I saw you
the other night at Carlton House it suddenly oc-
curred to me that you might be able to help me.
Perhaps I ought to have thought of it sooner."

Mr. Heritage admired dramatically the young
lady of fortune who in her hour of glory could seek
187



THE FAIR IRISH MAID

so eagerly and so persistently for one of the friends
of her days of poverty.

"I wish I could help you," he said, sincerely, "but
I really cannot in the least recall the name you
mention. However, I will make inquiries at the
stage-door and I will ask some of my authors if they
know any one of that name. Let me see, what
exactly was the name ?"

Grania gave him the name Dennis Tirowen
and Mr. Heritage wrote the name down in a note-
book which he carried. When this was done there
was a slight pause and then Mr. Heritage made as
if to take his leave, but Grania suddenly stayed him.

"Wait, please," she said. "If the play had been
sent to you it would probably be in the theater."

"It probably would, madam," Mr. Heritage an-
swered, "if it had not been sent back to the author."

"In that case," said Grania, "it would probably
carry the address of the author."

"It probably would," Mr. Heritage agreed again.
"I will look through some of our recent acquisitions
and see if any one of them carries that name, though
beginners in dramatic authorship very often send us
their wares under a false bill of lading. They
choose to make their first venture under a name
which is not their own, and in that case I might even
have the play in my possession and not be able to
assure myself of the fact."

"In that case," Grania said, eagerly, "it would
help you, would it not, if I were to tell you some-
188



A POSSIBLE CLUE

thing of the subject of the play, with which I happen
to be acquainted ?"

Mr. Heritage nodded sagaciously. "That cer-
tainly would be a help," he said. He was marveling
inwardly to find himself so astonishingly complai-
sant. Had it been foretold to him a few days earlier
that he would really and readily consent at the
request of a stranger to take the trouble to hunt for
a play by an unknown man he would have laughed
the prophecy to scorn. Yet here he was preparing
to do the very thing, only the stranger happened to
be the loveliest, richest, and most popular young
woman in all London.

Hurriedly Grania gave him an account of the
strange and striking story which Dennis Tirowen
had chosen for his play, the story of the ancient city
buried by a spell under the waters of the Irish Sea,
and of the breaking of the spell by the devotion and
daring of a heroic lover. Mr. Heritage, listening
and watching with admiration the animated face
of the narrator, was good enough to assure her that
if the play at all corresponded to her description it
seemed to have some good stuff in it. Therewith
he made again to take his leave, promising to begin
his researches immediately, and to let Grania know
if those researches were rewarded with success.
Again Grania delayed his departure to request that
he would make one at her family dinner party that
evening, when he could let her know the result of his
search. Mr. Heritage begged to be excused. He
189



THE FAIR IRISH MAID

had already a dinner engagement, but if Miss
O'Hara would permit him he would call after dinner
and drink a cup of coffee while he jmade his report.
Permission being gladly given, Mr. Heritage with-
drew.



VIII

MUSIC THE FOOD OF LOVE

THE interview with Mr. Heritage had, for all
it was a short interview, been long enough to
bridge over the transition from the chill February
afternoon to the chill February evening. When
Grania had rung for a servant to conduct Mr. Her-
itage to the hall the light in the great room had
dimmed to a twilight, through which the statues and
pictures loomed ghostly. When Mr. Heritage had
been ushered forth into the square, which was white
with the snow that was still falling, the servant re-
turned, lighted candles, curtained windows, and re-
plenished the waning fire. When he withdrew at
the end of his ministrations the great room glowed
*warm and cheerful in effective contrast with the
snow-white world outside.

When Grania found herself alone she began to
pace the room restlessly. She had been so long
used to the free life in the open air that even still
after her experience of three great cities the restraint
of town ways and houses irked her, and she missed
the liberal exercise that had been her familiar cus-
tom in the days that seemed so far away now. She
191



THE FAIR IRISH MAID

often wished to escape from her strange surround-
ings, from the vast rooms, with their splendid furni-
ture and gleaming marble and glowing canvases,
to the soft green turf and the soft blue skies of her
beloved kingdom of Kerry. It was not that she had
learned actually to dislike the new life, which still
had, in spite of all that she had seen and done, so
much of novelty to offer her. Her youth was ready
to be amused, and amusement in magnificent excess
had been offered to her and still was offered to her
from all sides. With a shrewdness as sharp as that
of the peasants with whom her youth had been
passed, she appreciated very clearly the advantages
wealth had brought to her.

All the processes, the Dublin process, the Paris
process, the London process, that had finished by
making her into a fine lady of the most approved
pattern of a society critical to intolerance, had af-
forded her interest and entertainment. She knew
that she had triumphed, and she enjoyed her
triumph. She was able whimsically to enjoy it two-
fold, in the first place for its own sake and for her
own sake and the straightforward pleasure it gave
her, and in the second place as a spectator of her
own enjoyment and the gradual change in her bear-
ing. But she had now lived in three capitals and
mixed on equal terms in the best society of each, and
the game had lost much of its freshness. Her na-
tive wit had enabled her very clearly to read the
characters of the men and women with whom she
192



MUSIC THE FOOD OF LOVE

came in contact, and she deduced swiftly and ac-
curately the real natures which were hidden by the
smooth and smiling exteriors of polite men and
fashionable women, unmasking, as it were, with a
smile the red savagery, the raw ferocity that pos-
tured so urbanely. She would certainly not have
been willing, had the choice been offered to her to
surrender the wealth which had come to her so
unexpectedly, for it afforded her the means of doing
a vast amount of good works with which this
chronicle has no concern, but she would scarcely
have cared to retain it even with that advantage if
it entailed with it the necessity always to live the
idle, aimless life that she had known since she came
under the care of Lord and Lady Cloyne.

Yet if she was sated she was not resentful. For
the time that idle life had served a useful purpose.
It had helped to relieve her mind from the strain of
its great anxiety and forcibly prevented her from
brooding over her protracted disappointment. It
was with such thoughts as these wistfully reviewing
the past and hoping eagerly for the future that
Grania paced restlessly up and down. She had
given orders that she was not to be disturbed, and
she knew that her evening hour of reserve would
be respected by all in Ashford House. Outside the
wintry wind grew shriller, whipping the great snow-
flakes into drifts that deadened the footsteps of the
few pedestrians, the rumbling of the few carnages
that disturbed the quiet of St. James's Square. In-
193



THE FAIR IRISH MAID

side the fire flamed nobly on the great hearth as on
a very altar to the domestic god of comfort. The
light from great wax candles illuminated the thou-
sand lovelinesses the spacious place contained, and
Grania, loveliest of them all, moving, now swiftly,
now slowly, along the entire length of the room like
some exquisite wild beast imprisoned in a gilded
cage.

All of a sudden Grania stood still, with her hands
upon her breast and her head bent forward eager-
ly. Standing so, she seemed anew like some beau-
tiful wild beast, but this time like some swift hunt-
ing animal stiffened into immobility by some
swiftly discerned presage of chase. And while she
stood so, tense and expectant, the sound that had
struck her unprepared senses swelled in volume,
note following note with piteous insistance of ap-
peal. In the first few seconds of her listening won-
der Grania doubted whether she were dreamer or
waker, asking herself, so far as her startled reason
had time for self-question, whether she really heard
such sounds or only fancied, madly, that she heard
them.

Outside in the quiet of the snow-mufHed square
some one had broken the silence with music, some
one down there was playing on a fiddle a plaintive
air in a minor key. With the first thrills that
quivered from the fiddle-strings all that was about
her, the gorgeous room, the great house, the Lon-
don square, London itself, and all its wonders and
194



MUSIC THE FOOD OF LOVE

splendors and woes and sins, seemed to drift away
like a drifting mist, and in their stead Grania saw
the rich greenness of the Kerry headland and the
whiteness of the high Round Tower, snuffed the
smell of the turf-smoke on the air, heard the lap-
ping of water, the lowing of kine, the laughter of
the village children. There were no fine shoes
upon her feet, no silk stockings upon her legs, no
fine linen next her skin, no fine clothes upon her
body. Her bare feet trod the thick grass, her legs
were bare under her peasant's kirtle, her unfettered
hair was free for the kisses of the Irish wind. And
all this metamorphosis because somebody in the
square was playing a tune on a fiddle.

At the first moment Grania had been too en-
chanted to wonder. She heard the air, and she
surrendered to its spell and welcomed Ireland with
wide arms. She floated, unresisting, on the flood
of memories; she seemed to lie and drift as she had
so often lain and drifted in the cool waters of
Cloyne Bay, yielding herself wholly to the com-
mand of the waves, a willing victim to the influence
of sky and sea.

Then swift upon the surrender came question.
Had her happy ears truly heard those strange, sweet
notes, or was the wasting hunger of her mind cheat-
ing her with a dear hallucination ? She stood very
still, very rigid, her hands pressed against her
bosom, listening intently.

The tune continued, the tune was real, the tune
195



THE FAIR IRISH MAID

was true. The Soul of Erin sang and sobbed and
sighed below there in the hollow formed by the
square of the great houses. The misty gods brooded
over the mountains, and the mighty heroes tramped
and battled in the plains; the chivalry of the
Red Branch rallied around their chief; the wise
and the good, the valiant and the handsome, sat
together in council on the Hill of Tara; the in-
vaders skimmed the seas Dane, Saxon, Norman;
the earth trembled beneath the thunder of bloody
wars; imps and fairies skipped on green and in ring;
the gray banshees wailed for the passing of the
famous; the pooka raced on his unearthly course
with fiery eyes and flowing mane; the leprechaun
hammered away, absorbed in his cobbling; from
the sea the song of the merrow rose like an in-
cantation. All that she had heard before she
heard again: the pulsing of Boyne River running
red with slaughter, the wail of the Wild Geese, the
taunt and threat of "Croppies, Lie Down!" an-
swered by the anguish and the courage of "The
Wearing of the Green." The Soul of Erin, the
Soul of Erin, the Soul of Erin!

It seemed to Grania that she lived long years of
life between the time when she first heard the
sound of the fiddling and the time, some few sec-
onds later, when she knew for certain that her
senses were not cheating her, that there really and
truly was some one in the square that was playing
the air, the some one that could only be the one.
196



MUSIC THE FOOD OF LOVE

Swiftly she ran to the great windows that gave
upon the square, fiercely she pulled apart the
heavy curtains that hid from her the outer world,
eagerly she peered through the glass into the white
darkness of the square below. All the open space
was carpeted with snow, and snow was falling
steadily in great flakes and flying like wild feathers
as it fell before the fretful February wind. The
square seemed deserted except for one figure, show-
ing very black against the pallor of the snow, the
figure of a man that was shuffling slowly across the
drifts and plying his bow and fiddle as he went.
He was moving from west to east, coming toward
Ashford House from the direction of King Street.
By now he was about opposite York Street, and
still his slow course continued, and still his steady
bow rose and fell, discoursing dreams and wonders.
The whole scene made a very vivid picture, strange-
ly pathetic, the gaunt houses making a black pali-
sade around that staring field of snow, and on that
field of snow the solitary figure of the musician.

14



IX

MOODY FOOD

THE playing figure moved slowly, steadily,
through the flying flakes, and the strings of
the fiddle laughed and wailed with the Soul of Erin.
Grania leaned out into the wintry night. " Dennis !"
she cried again and again, "Dennis!" with a passion
of joy, with a passion of entreaty. The riddling
figure moved over the snow at the same pace as be-
fore. If the cry came to his ears it did not quicken
his pace. Then Grania turned from the window,
rushed across the room and out of the door and down
the great staircase at headlong speed. The tall
footmen in the hall, basking sleekly by the com-
fortable fireplace, were astonished out of all de-
corum by the sight of the young lady, their mistress,
dashing past them in all her indoor finery, tugging
the hall door open and plunging into the street.
So greatly were they startled out of all customary
observance that they actually remained seated while
their mistress swept past them, and only rose to their
feet as the chill air streaming through the open
door checked the stupor of their amazement and
permitted them to rise.

198



MOODY FOOD

John looked at Thomas with a questioning gaze,
to which Thomas replied by an answering stare of
blank astonishment. They were too well-bred to
shift from their positions to advance to the open
door and peer after the vanished young lady.
Theirs was a duty, like the duty of the Roman sen-
tinel, to remain at the allotted post. Therefore they
stood, fixed and gigantic, outwardly immovable,
inwardly wondering what had happened and what
would happen next. What did happen was even
more profoundly upheaving, revolutionary, and
destructive to the cosmic order as conceived by foot-
men than what had happened. The young lady,
their mistress, returned through the open door with
the flakes of the February snow melting on her
clothes and the rudeness of the February wind
made evident in her disheveled hair. But she did
not return alone. She was clinging, and clinging
fondly, to the arm of a ragged man, a fellow that
looked like a tramp or a scarecrow, and one, too,
that carried a bow and fiddle sticking from the
pocket of his tattered coat. The man was dirty;
the man was unkempt; he might have been a cross-
ing-sweeper. The austere correctness of John, the
austere correctness of Thomas, judged and summed
him in one word disreputable. But before their
astonished eyes, acting without the slightest appear-
ance of consciousness of their presence or regard for
their shocked feelings, the rich Miss O'Hara clung to
this ragged rascal, and actually led him, tenderly


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryJustin H. (Justin Huntly) McCarthyThe fair Irish maid → online text (page 11 of 20)