HOME AGAIN

The next few weeks were full of the bustle of preparation. When I told
Winifred she was to leave the convent before the end of the term, and,
after a few weeks of travel, to return to Ireland, she seemed fairly
dazed at the unexpected news.

“Her education, of course, will have to be continued,” I thought; “but
hardly in an American convent.”

One May morning Winifred took leave of her teachers and school friends,
and we set out direct for Niagara. When we reached the Falls, she was
for a time wholly lost in wonder. The stupendous mass of falling water
seemed to produce upon the little girl a curious impression of
bewilderment.

“Oh, it is grand, grand!” she said. “This America is a wonderful place.”

Winifred and I had, as it were, a surfeit of beauty; and so by the
afternoon our exclamations of wonder and delight became exhausted, and
we could only look out upon the lovely and varied panorama in silence.
But we were roused to excitement as the afternoon sun began to take a
downward slope and we neared the far-famed Rapids. The passengers braced
themselves as if for certain danger (though in reality there is
comparatively little) as the steamer rushed into the great masses of
foaming water with a lurch and a bound that sent a tingle to every
nerve. Onward she dashed, the speed seeming to become more terrific as
we descended the river in the direction of Montreal. It is a thrilling,
though delightful, experience. As for Winifred, she seemed to enjoy the
situation thoroughly. Not a shade of alarm crossed her face, while many
of the older passengers were visibly agitated. From the steamer’s deck
we took a last glimpse of the city, lying golden in the sunset, with the
figure of Our Lady of Good Help on the tower of Bonsecours church,
stretching wide its arms in benediction over the great river which
Cartier discovered.

At dawn we were nearing Quebec, and rushed out of our cabins for a first
sight of the Gibraltar of America. We flew past Levis, Sillery, and,
rounding Cape Diamond, suddenly beheld the ancient walls, the colossal
rock crowned by the citadel, with Lower Town, squalid if picturesque, at
its feet. Landing, Winifred and I took a _calèche_ to the Chateau
Frontenac, where we breakfasted.

Recrossing the American borders, we made a short trip through the White
Mountain region, exulting in those glorious scenes. At New York we
rested a day or two in our old quarters, and did a good deal of
shopping; for had we not Granny and Niall and Father Owen to think of,
not to speak of Barney and Moira, the landlord of the inn, and other
Wicklow notables? No one was to be forgotten.

After this we went into Pennsylvania, one of the most wonderful of all
the States, and crossed the far-famed Horseshoe bend in the Alleghanies.
Winifred looked fearlessly down into the vast chasm and saw with
composure the end of our train on the other side of the ravine. It was a
sight upon which few could look unmoved. We saw something of the
wonders of the mining and coal districts, and the beauty of the Delaware
and Lehigh.

We continued our breathless journey to Washington, where we remained a
few days to rest. It is a beautiful city, refreshing to mind and body,
though somewhat warm at that season of the year; but its noble
dwellings, its public monuments, surpassed and overtopped by the
Capitol, have a wonderful charm.

One evening we were strolling along in the very shadow of that classic
pile when Winifred said:

“Barney and Moira will think I’ve been in fairyland if I tell them half
of all I have seen; but I love dear Ireland best, after all.”

“We shall sail from New York by the next White Star liner,” I observed
presently; and I thought within myself: “Roderick will be sailing by the
Cunarder. It will be a race which shall reach Liverpool first.”

By an odd coincidence, as I thought thus, Winifred was turning round
upon her finger the ring which Roderick had sent her.

“I should like to have seen him,” she said, pointing to the ring, “and
thanked him for this. I suppose I shall never see him again. I have a
strange fancy that I saw him long ago, and that he is–” she
hesitated–“that he is the dark gentleman who was angry with the lady in
yellow,” she concluded, slowly.

“Dreaming again, Winifred!” I said.

“This is not dreaming,” she corrected; “for sometimes I am almost sure
it is true, and that he is the same one–only I have never seen him
angry.”

“Perhaps the dark gentleman was not so very angry even then,” I
suggested, to divert her thoughts from Roderick.

“Perhaps not,” she said reflectively; “but I think he was.”

“Your father–for the gentleman you speak of was, I suppose, your
father–was devotedly attached to your mother.”

“Was he?” inquired Winifred, simply.

“Yes, indeed: he thought her the most beautiful creature in the world.”

“I’m glad of that,” Winifred said; and, in that fashion of hers which so
constantly reminded me of her father, she turned away from the subject.

On Saturday morning early we were on board the great steamer, in all the
bustle of departure; and after a pleasant voyage we arrived at Liverpool
on schedule time, as the guidebooks say, and installed ourselves for the
night at a comfortable hotel. Next day we set forth to see whatever this
smoky city of industry has to show. We were passing along one of the
smokiest and narrowest of streets when Winifred suddenly pulled my arm.

“Did you see him?” she cried excitedly.

“Who?” I inquired, though I partly guessed–being fully prepared to see
Roderick O’Byrne in Liverpool.

Winifred touched the ring on her finger to show whom she meant.

“It may have been only a chance resemblance,” I observed evasively.

“It was _he_,” she declared decisively, and her eyes sparkled with
excitement. “Oh, I am so glad!” she went on. “We must find him. I want
to thank him for the ring.”

“It will be impossible to find him in this crowd,” I answered.

She pointed to a shop.

“He is in there,” she cried, “and I must see him! If you do not come
with me, I will go myself.”

She was full of her old impetuosity, urging on my reluctant steps.

“One thing that I want to ask him,” she went on, “is whether he knew the
beautiful lady in yellow.”

When we reached the shop door, Roderick stood just inside; and I almost
fancied he had stepped in there to avoid us, knowing that I did not wish
for a premature _dénouement_ of the little plot. However, his face also
wore an eager expression, and it lighted as Winifred confronted him. He
opened the door and came out onto the pavement, looking at me for
directions. I put my finger to my lips, signifying that he must not as
yet disclose himself.

“I want to thank you for this ring, with its lovely green stone,” she
said.

“It’s only a trifle, little one,” Roderick replied lightly.

“I was so sorry when I thought I should never see you again,” Winifred
cried, impetuously.

“Were you?” asked Roderick, with an unsteadiness in his voice which
caused me to give him a warning look.

“Yes, because I was leaving America forever. And one thing I wanted to
ask you so much was, if you remembered the beautiful lady in yellow. I
have been so anxious to know.”

She looked up into his face with her great, starlike eyes; and he gazed
at her in return.

“Do I remember the beautiful lady in yellow?” he repeated. “As I hope
for heaven, yes, and never shall I forget her while I live!”

The answer, however, was given in an undertone, which she did not catch.

“Because if you knew her,” went on Winifred, “I was going to ask if you
were the dark gentleman who slammed the door?”

“I’m afraid I was,” he whispered in my ear. “How our misdeeds do follow
us, and what a memory the little one has! I had had a dispute with some
one very dear to me about going to the old place in Wicklow. She, poor
girl, had no wish to see the ‘ruin,’ as she called it. I lost my temper,
and so came about the little scene Winifred remembers and describes.”

Turning to Winifred, he asked:

“Now, why do you think I could do such a naughty thing as slam a door?”

Winifred was confused. Her natural politeness prevented her from
replying.

“Am I so very fierce-looking or so violent?” Roderick resumed; for he
was in high spirits and ready to carry the mystery further.

“It isn’t that,” answered Winifred; “only you look like him.”

“Look like a gentleman that got angry and slammed a door?” he said in
the same jesting tone. “Now, that is too bad of you altogether.”

His bright, laughing face and sunny manner mystified the child even more
than his words.

“Never mind,” he went on; “I forgive you this time, but you must really
try to get up a better opinion of me. I must go now, but we shall meet
again, and it won’t be over the seas either. I am going to hear more
about that uncivil dark gentleman who frightened a dear little girl.”

“He was cross, too, to the lady,” said Winifred, rather defiantly; for
she was vexed somewhat by his jesting.

“Well, I am sure he was sorry enough for that afterward,” said Roderick,
with a sudden clouding of his face–“as we are always sorry for our fits
of ill-temper. Remember that, my child.”

He waved his hand in farewell, and Winifred stood looking after him.

“I am glad we are going to see him again,” she observed; though, with
the implicit faith of childhood, she did not ask when or where.

When we had got back to the hotel she talked chiefly of Granny and
Niall, of Father Owen, and of her humble friends Barney and Moira; and
could scarcely wait for the night to be over and morning to come that we
might set out for the scenes of her childhood.

The most impatiently longed-for morrow comes at last. It was a gray,
lowering day when we left Liverpool. Before quitting the hotel, a box of
candy was handed to Winifred. When she opened it there was a card upon
which was written:

“From the man that looks like the naughty dark gentleman who slammed the
door.”

It seemed as if it must be a dream when we drove in a hired car from
Dublin once more to the Glen of the Dargle. I had written to the
landlord of the neighboring inn to have our rooms in readiness. And
there he was at his door, stony-visaged and reticent; but the stone was
furrowed by a broad smile as he helped us from the car.

“Welcome back, ma’am! And welcome to you too, Miss Winifred alanna!”

Winifred shook him cordially by the hand; and turned with a cry of joy
to where Moira stood, red in the redness of the dying sun which shone
out through a mist–for the weather had been uncertain all that day; and
red, too, with a new shyness, which caused her to stand plucking at her
apron. Barney kept urging her forward, but was not much more confident
himself.

Winifred’s greeting to them was good to hear. And she wound up by the
flattering assurance:

“You’ll think I’m a real fairy this time when you see my trunks open
to-morrow.”

It was some time, however, before that pair of rustic tongues were
unloosed and they began to chatter away like magpies. After a little
while Winifred proposed a run; and off they all flew, the young
traveler, in spite of the fatigue of her journey, leading in the race.
Her curls, which had grown longer in her absence, formed a cloud about
her head.

“Father Owen bid me tell you he was off for a sick-call, down to
Enniskerry below there; but he’d be back in an hour’s time, and you’ll
see him as quick as he comes,” said the landlord.

“It’s good to get back again,” I said, seating myself on the familiar
bench at the door, and letting my eyes wander over the lovely
scenes–the blossoming trees, the gold of the laburnum, and the whole
sweetened by the pervading fragrance of the hawthorn.

“We’re proud to have you with us, ma’am,” the landlord declared. “We
thought the time long since you left.”

The “we” referred to his better half, who, however, rarely left the
kitchen, and with whom I had not exchanged half a dozen words.

“I don’t think I’ll ever go away, again,” I said; “so you may just as
well arrange my rooms accordingly. And now what of the schoolmaster?”

“They tell me,” he said, speaking in a confidential undertone, “that
Father Owen exorcised him–took off of him some spell that the ‘good
people’ had laid upon him, forcing him to wander night and day–and
scatterin’ his wits.”

“At any rate, Niall of the hills has changed his ways, I hear,” said I.

“Well, so they tell me; though there are them that met him wanderin’
still on the hills. But sure mebbe the poor daft crathure was only
takin’ the air by moonlight.”

“And Granny Meehan?” I inquired.

“Oh, she’s to the fore! And it’s her ould heart that’ll be rejoiced
entirely by your return, not to speak of her colleen.”

At that moment Winifred entered, with Barney and Moira thrown into the
background by Father Owen himself, who held his little favorite by the
hand.




“A hundred thousand welcomes!” cried the priest, extending his
unoccupied hand to me. “So you have brought us back the old Winifred,
with a new varnish upon her that shines from afar. God be praised that
we’re all here to greet you!”

The landlord, with an exclamation at their dilatoriness in serving
supper, entered the inn, while Father Owen and I moved apart for a few
moments. I wanted to tell him that Roderick would arrive in a day or
two.

“Thanks be to God!” he ejaculated. “Oh, what joy you have brought upon
the old house–_you_, under God! It is a privilege thus to make others
happy–the sweetest left us since the fall of Adam. But now I mustn’t
keep you from your supper. We’ll have many a long chat in the days to
come, and I just wanted to welcome you. I suppose you’ll go up this
evening to Granny and Niall?”

“Indeed I will. But is Niall at the castle?” I asked.

“He is. Granny will tell you all,” he answered.

And what a supper that was in the pleasant inn parlor, with the
blossoming trees peeping in at the windows and the Irish robins singing
our welcome! How savory tasted the trout from the stream, fresh-caught;
and the rasher of bacon, with snow-white oaten cake, the freshest of
fresh butter, and thick cream for our tea! What a walk we had up
through the hills that lovely evening! Winifred’s eyes were full of
tears as I recalled to her memory the first time she had brought me to
the castle.

“Isn’t it strange to think of all that has passed since then!” she
whispered, in a voice full of emotion.

But though changes there had been, there were none in the hills. They
preserved their immortal beauty, and the Glen of the Dargle was as
fairy-like as ever in its loveliness. At the castle, too, all was the
same. Granny sat calm and motionless by the great hearth, as though she
were under a spell; and Brown Peter mewed and purred about her as of
old. When we entered the room she rose uncertainly from her chair. Her
voice was plaintive and tremulous with the depth of emotion as she cried
out:

“Winifred alanna, is it yourself that’s in it?”

Presently the child was clasped in her arms; and I stood by, content to
be forgotten. At last I asked:

“Where is Niall?”

“Barney will bring you to him,” said the blind woman.

After a moment he led us to that very hall where the game of chess had
been played on the silver chessboard for the hand of a fair lady. Here
Niall had established himself, and I caught a glimpse of his tall figure
walking up and down. I remained without, and sent Winifred in alone. I
heard one inarticulate cry of joy, and then I walked away to a distant
end of the corridor, leaving the two together for a while. When I
returned and entered the hall, I found Niall seated in a high-backed
armchair, like some king of olden days. Winifred was upon her knees
beside him, leaning her head on his arm. He held out his hand to me, and
I was struck by his altered expression. Scarce a trace of its former
wildness remained; and his face shone with a deep content, a radiating
joy.

“Daughter of the stranger,” he said, “you are one of us forever! Whether
your home be here amongst our hills or the stormy sea divides us, it
matters nothing.”

“It is my intention to stay here,” I announced, “amongst your lovely
scenes, and with you all, who have come so intimately into my lonely
life.”

Continue Reading

LETTERS AT LAST

The letter I had opened was, I knew, from Niall. I remembered the
strange, crabbed characters, almost resembling Arabic, in which he had
written my letter of instruction.

“The hills of Wicklow,” he began, “are streaming with sunlight. Their
spurs are all golden, and the streams are rushing in great gladness, for
they are full of joy. They have been freed from the bondage of winter.

“There is joy in the hills. It is sounding in my ears and in my heart.
Words I dare not speak, daughter of the stranger! I can not put on paper
the thoughts that are burning in my brain. You have found him, the
beloved wanderer; and you have discovered that his heart has never
wandered from us. I knew before now that he was not to blame; and of
that I shall tell you some day, but not now.

“Had I wings, I would fly to Roderick and to my beautiful little lady. I
love him, I love her. My heart has been seared by her absence. Until
your letter came, the hills spoke a strange, new language, and I have
heard no human speech. When your letter reached the village, I was up at
my cabin in the hills, unconscious of good or evil, burning with fever.
The good Samaritan found me out; who he is you can guess. It was long,
long before my senses came back; and he would not read me your letter
until I had grown strong. When I heard its contents, I feared even then
that my brain would turn. For two days I roamed the mountains. I fled
to my cavern of the Phoul-a-Phooka for greater solitude. I could not
speak of my joy–I dared not think of it.

“And now, O daughter of the stranger, heaven-sent from that land afar!
bring her back to my heart, lest it break with the joy of this
knowledge, and with sorrow that the sea still divides me from her, and
that other equally beloved. Oh, what matters education now! Let the
beautiful grow as the flowers grow, as the trees shoot up, clothed in
beauty.

“Come now in all haste; and tell Roderick that on my knees I implore him
to come too, that I may reveal all. Bid him hasten to Niall, the
forlorn.”

He broke off abruptly, with some words in Irish, which, of course, I did
not understand. My own head was swimming; a great joy surged up in my
heart, and I could almost have echoed Niall’s wild rhapsody. When should
I see poor Roderick and tell him–what? I had not yet made up my mind as
to how I should fulfil that delightful task. However, I would write to
him that very day and bid him come to hear the glad news.

I took up the other letter, which was, I doubted not, from Father Owen.
Of course he could add nothing to my great happiness; still, it would be
of the deepest interest to hear every detail relating to this matter of
paramount importance. The letter was just as characteristic as Niall’s
had been; and I seemed to see the priest’s genial face lighted up with
pleasure, as he wrote, and to hear his kindly voice.

“Laus Deo!” began the letter. “What words of joy or praise can I find to
express my own sentiments and those of the faithful hearts whose long
years of waiting have been at last rewarded! I took your letter to Mrs.
Meehan, and I had to use diplomacy–though that was a lost art with me,
so simple are my people and my duties–for fear the shock might be too
great. But I don’t think joy ever kills. I wish you could have seen her
face–so tranquil, so trusting, illumined with the light of happiness.
You can imagine the outburst of her praise rising up to the Creator,
clear and strong as a lark’s at morning. Barney and Moira were only
restrained by my presence from cutting capers, and at last I said to
them: ‘Go out there now, Barney, my man, and you too, Moira, my colleen,
and dance a jig in the courtyard; for I am pretty sure your legs won’t
keep still much longer.’

“And now of poor Niall! When your letter came I went in search of him.
No one had seen him for a good while, and it was supposed he had gone
off on some of his wanderings. None of the people would venture near his
cabin, so I took my stick in my hand, and went there with the letter. I
found the poor fellow in a sad plight–alone, burning with fever,
delirious, and going over all kinds of queer scenes in his raving: now
crying for ‘gold, gold, gold!’ or giving heart-piercing cries for
Winifred. Again, he would be back in the past, with Roderick, a boy, at
his side.

“Well, there was no one to take care of the creature; and, as it fitted
in with my day’s work, I took care of him myself. His gratitude, when he
came to consciousness, was touching; and yet I had only followed the
plainest dictates of humanity. When I thought my patient was strong
enough, I read the letter to him. Bless my soul! it was like a
whirlwind. He nearly took the breath out of me, rushing from the cabin
in a kind of madness, and leaving me sitting there staring at the door
by which he had gone. I did not see him for more than a week, and I
assure you I was anxious. I was afraid he had lost his mind through
excess of joy.

“To make a long story short, when he did come back again I got hold of
him entirely. Joy seems to have changed his nature as sunshine will
purify a noisome spot. He is as gentle and tractable as a lamb; and
better than all, his old faith and piety have come back to him. He goes
to Mass and the sacraments. The light of heaven seemed to flow in on him
with your letter. His sorrow for the past was like that of a child. I
told him not to be disturbed about it, but just go on asking for mercy,
mercy–only that and nothing more. ‘For,’ said I to him, ‘my poor
fellow, there’s the eye of God looking down; and as it sees the noxious
weed and the fairest flower, so it beholds our sins and our waywardness
as well as our virtues. If these weeds of sin are plucked, the flowers
of our virtues are just as fair in His sight.’

“But, O dear lady, how the old man sits and longs for the hour of
reunion! He is out on the hills when their spurs are burnished gold, at
the sunset hour; and he is there at the dawn waiting for the first beam
to light up the Glen of the Dargle; he is out in the moonlight watching
it making strange shapes out of the trees; and all the time with that
one thought in his mind. He looks for gold no more, because he says his
love of it was sinful; and the only treasures he seeks for now are the
faces of his loved ones. Do not keep him long waiting, I entreat.

“Tell my pet, Winifred, the robin is out there now, busy as ever; and
just bursting his breast with the joy of coming spring. I am proud and
glad to hear of her success at the convent and sorry she has to leave it
so soon. Say a prayer sometimes for the old priest in far-off Ireland,
who soon will be slipping away to his rest–but not, he hopes, till he
lays eyes on you again, and thanks you for the happiness you have
brought to him and to the little ones of his flock.”

I sat there for some time going over these letters, alternately, and
delighting in the pictures which their eloquent language evoked. To one
thing I made up my mind; I should go back to Ireland and be present at
the joyful meeting. Indeed, my eye brightened, my cheek glowed at the
thought of seeing again those lovely scenes, and of the pleasant reunion
of hearts at which I was to be present. But it was my turn to write a
letter, or at least a very brief note, asking Roderick to come to me as
soon as possible. That being Saturday, I thought I should have to wait
till Monday for his visit.

Sunday passed in a feverish state of agitation. I was going out to
supper in the evening, at the very same house where I had before met
Roderick, but it was unlikely he would be there again. What was my
surprise to see his tall figure standing near the fire talking to our
hostess! He saluted me gravely. I thought he looked thin and worn; but
at first he did not come near me: and I feared he had resolved to avoid
me. As we were all making a move for supper, I managed to whisper:

“I wrote you a note yesterday. Please promise to comply with the request
I make you in it.”

He turned sharply:

“You wrote to me?” he queried.

“Yes,” I answered.

“May I ask about what?”

Though the words were curt, Roderick’s tone was genial and his face
smiling.

“Merely asking you to come to see me to-morrow evening–but your partner
is waiting, you must go.”

He turned to the young girl beside him, with an apology for his
momentary inattention. If his mind was inclined to wander from her to
the subject of my approaching communication, he was too courteous and
too accomplished a man of the world to let her perceive it. I was almost
sorry I had spoken, lest it should spoil his supper. Several times I saw
him looking at me; but I only smiled and went on talking to my partner,
a brilliant lawyer with a great reputation for wit. Very soon after
supper Roderick came over to me, with his usual almost boyish eagerness.

“What do you want to say to me?” he demanded, smiling yet imperious.

“How do you know I want to say anything?” I retorted, smiling back.

“Of course I know, and I am going to hear what it is, too!” he cried,
seating himself beside me.

“Now, Roderick,” I said, “if I were a charming young lady, such as that
one you have just left, I could never resist that face and that voice.
But as matters are, you’ll just have to wait till I make up my mind to
tell you; for spectacled eyes see without glamor, and gray hairs give us
wisdom.”

He laughed and his face took on a brighter look. I fancy that he knew by
my tone I had good news to tell.

“I won’t go to see you on Monday night,” he declared, “unless you give
me a hint.”

“Well, I will give you a hint, and then you needn’t come to see me.”

“That is unkind.”

“No; it would only be giving you trouble for nothing. The substance of
what I have to say to you is this: that you must take a trip to Ireland
very soon.”

“Alone?”




“Yes, alone.”

“And when I get there?”

“You’ll be glad you went.”

He pondered deeply, for some moments.

“Isn’t this very like a fool’s errand?” he inquired.

“Which is the fool, he who goes or she who sends?” I replied,
mischievously.

“Can you ask?” he laughed. “A man is nearly always a fool when he does a
woman’s errand.”

“But, seriously, you will go?”

He thought a little longer.

“I will,” he answered, “if you will only promise me one thing.”

“What is that?”

“That there will be an end of all this mystification.”

“I promise you that, most solemnly,” I answered. “Once on Irish soil,
you shall know everything.”

“Tell me now,” he said, with sudden eagerness, “how is Winifred,
asthore?”

There was a world of feeling in his voice, though he came out with the
epithet laughingly.

“Well and happy,” I assured him.

“Will you give her something from me?”

“I’m not so sure,” I said, jestingly; “for you’ve quite won her heart
already. She talks of nothing but the ‘dark gentleman.'”

A glow of pleasure lit up his face.

“And now, what is it you want me to give her?”

He took a small box from his waistcoat pocket. It was the prettiest
little ring, with a green stone in the center.

“The color of hope–the color of Ireland,” Roderick observed.

“A good omen,” I said, looking at the gem, where it lay sparkling in the
wadding.

“You will give that to Winifred from her unknown friend,” Roderick
said.

“She will be delighted–though, you know, of course, she will not be
allowed to wear it in the convent.”

“Ah, she is in a convent!” he exclaimed. “But in any case, let her keep
it as a reminder of me.”

I thought as I watched him that if Winifred so closely resembled her
dead mother, she was also like her father. His face was as mobile and
expressive as hers, allowing always for the mask which the years are
sure to put over every human countenance.

“You fancy there is a resemblance in this girl to your dead wife?”

“I know there is a resemblance to Winifred’s dead mother,” he answered.

I was silent though I had little reason for concealment henceforth.

“How cruel you have been all this time,” he exclaimed, as he watched me;
“I think it comes natural to your sex.”

“Don’t revile our sex for the faults of your own,” I answered. “But tell
me more about your dead wife.”

His face changed and softened. Then a look came over it–a look of
tender remembrance, which did him credit.

“She was very beautiful,” he began, “at least I thought so. I met her
when she was only fifteen. She was the image of what Winifred is now,
only her beauty was more pronounced, and she had a haughtier air. I
never forgot her from that moment. When she was eighteen, we were
married. She was only twenty-four when she died, but I remember her
still as vividly–”

He stopped, as though the subject were too painful, and then resumed,
half dreamily:

“I am going to tell you now what will lend an added value to that
little trinket I have given you for Winifred.” He paused again, and drew
a deep breath, looking at me hard. “It belonged to–to my wife, when she
was a child of Winifred’s age. Winifred will prize it, because it
was–her mother’s.”

I stood up, and Roderick, rising also, confronted me.

“Can you deny it?” he asked defiantly.

I was silent.

“Pray what is the object of further secrecy?” he pleaded. “Tell me, is
not Winifred my child, the child of my dead wife?”

I bowed my head in assent. Concealment was neither useful nor desirable
any longer.

The look of triumph, of exaltation, of joy, which swept over his face
was good to see.

“But you will wait?” I pleaded, in my return. “You will go to Ireland,
as agreed, and your child shall be all your own entirely and forever?”

“I will wait,” he answered quietly, “though it is hard.”

And then we shook hands and parted. I felt that I must hurry away: for I
could not go on talking of commonplace subjects, either to Roderick or
to any of the others. As I took leave of our hostess she said,
laughingly:

“You and Mr. O’Byrne were quite melodramatic, standing over there a few
moments ago.”

I laughed, but I did not give her any information. When I got home I
wrote to Niall, telling him that in a month or two at furthest I would
bring Winifred back, but that I wanted to show her a little of the
American continent before taking her home. On my next visit to the
convent, I did not say a word to the child–I was afraid it would
unsettle her for her school-work, but I informed her teachers that it
would be necessary to withdraw her before the expiration of the term.
After the trip which I intended to take with her to Niagara and a few
other points of interest, I determined to cross the ocean once more and
bring Winifred safely back to Niall. I should let Roderick sail by the
Cunard line, while we would take passage by the White Star line, so that
our arrival would be almost simultaneous.

I presented Winifred with her ring, though at the time I did not tell
her it had been her mother’s. She was more than delighted, as I had
foreseen, and put it at once upon her finger. She was vexed, and
indulged in one of her childish outbursts of petulance, when I explained
to her that wearing it was against the rules. She had to be content with
keeping it where she could look at it, very often. She sent a very
pretty message to Roderick.

“Tell him,” she said, “I remember him when the birds sing, when the
organ plays, when the sun shines–whenever there is happiness in my
heart.”

Continue Reading

WINIFRED TELLS HER NAME

Unhappily, the time went by without bringing any news of Niall, and the
suspense became almost intolerable. I met Roderick O’Byrne once or
twice; but he merely gave me a distant bow: I had no conversation with
him whatever. Every morning I eagerly questioned the hotel clerk. The
answer was always the same: “No, there are no letters.”

Then Christmas came. Winifred spent the holidays with me, though I was
in constant fear that she should meet with Roderick. One evening at a
concert I chanced to look toward a side of the hall where a few men were
walking to and fro in the pauses of the music. One who stood near the
wall attracted my attention. It was Roderick O’Byrne, and he had
evidently caught sight of us, and stood now with his eyes intently fixed
upon Winifred’s face. The remaining numbers on the programme fell on
deaf ears, so far as I was concerned. I did not know what any one played
or sang; I could not tell a rondo from a caprice, or if the violinist
was accompanied by a flute or a violoncello. I had but one desire–to
get out of the hall and away. I kept my eyes upon the programme,
avoiding another look.

Presently Winifred touched my arm and whispered:

“Oh, see! he is right over there–the gentleman we met at the hotel.”

She watched him as if fascinated; and I saw that their eyes met,
exchanging a long, long look. Before the concert was over I arose
hurriedly, and, complaining of the heat, told Winifred we must go at
once. To my relief, Roderick made no movement to follow us. His fine
courtesy prevented him from a course of action so obviously distressing
to me. Next day, however, I got a note from him, in which he said:

“The chance meeting of yesterday evening has confirmed me more than ever
in the belief that the child whom you choose to surround with so much
mystery is in some way connected with my life. The sight of her renewed
once more those memories of the past, and filled me with a hope–so
strong, if delusive–that I was misinformed regarding the supposed death
of my daughter. If this child be not my own Winifred, she must be in
some way related to my late wife. I implore you, by our years of
friendship, to end my suspense by telling me whatever you may know of
the girl. You will be doing the greatest possible service to

“Your devoted friend,
“RODERICK O’BYRNE.”

I answered him at once as follows:

“I beg of you in turn, by our friendship, to wait. Give me a month or
two, and I promise to relieve your suspense, or at least to give you
such excellent reasons for my silence that you will no longer doubt the
sincerity of my desire to serve you.”

The note posted, I persecuted the clerk more than ever by my inquiries
for letters, and I grumbled and growled at Niall and at Father Owen.

“Why on earth couldn’t they answer, if it were only a line? What could
they be thinking of? Didn’t they know I must be intolerably anxious?”

This was the sum of my growling, and I continued it during all the
Christmas holidays, when Winifred was with me; though, of course, I
could say nothing to her. One afternoon, when I had been particularly
anxious, I went out with the child, spent a half hour at the cathedral,
which was a daily haunt of mine, and then tried to control my feverish
agitation by getting into a restless crowd of shoppers who thronged the
department stores.

Winifred was delighted. It was a new experience. She never could get
over her wonder, though, at the number of people in New York city.

“Where do they all come from?” she cried; “and where do they live? Are
there houses enough for them all?”

I assured her that most of them were housed, though there was a sad
proportion of them homeless. I brought tears to her eyes with the
account I gave her, as we passed on to the quieter Fifth Avenue, of the
sufferings of the poor in all big cities.

She talked on this subject most of the way home; and when I would have
bought her some choice candies she begged me to give the money instead
to the poor. This we did. I handed her the amount, with a little added
thereto, and advised her to divide it amongst more than one. We met a
blind man, and she gave him an alms; next was a miserable child, and
after that a very old woman.

“There we have the Holy Family complete,” I remarked; and her face
lighted up at the suggestion.

“There are so many poor people here!” she said. “There were plenty of
poor people in Ireland too; but I don’t think they were quite as poor as
these, and the neighbors always helped them.”

“The poverty of a great city is worse, I think,” I assented, “than it
ever is in country places.”

“Except in the famine times,” said Winifred. “Oh, if you heard Niall
tell about the famine in Ireland, and how some bad men and women went
round trying to get the people who were starving to give up their
religion, and they wouldn’t!”

The child’s eyes shone and her whole face was aglow as she cried:

“Rather than give up their religion they died by the road eating grass.
That was just splendid of them.”

“Always keep that fine enthusiasm and that tender heart, dear child,”
said a voice.

We both turned quickly. I had little need to do so, for I knew the
voice. It was Roderick O’Byrne’s. Winifred looked into his face for a
moment, then she held out her hand.

“I don’t often speak to strangers,” she declared, with her princess-like
air, “but I like you.”

Roderick O’Byrne’s handsome face flushed, his lips parted eagerly as if
to speak; but he restrained himself by a visible effort, and said after
a pause:

“I hope some day you will like me better.” Then he turned to me, still
holding Winifred’s hand in his own strong brown one. “Do not be afraid:
I am not going to steal the little one away, and I am going to be
patient and wait. But I was walking behind you and I heard the sweet
voice–the voice so like one I loved very dearly in other days–and it
was too hard to resist: I had to speak.”

His voice took on that tone, half boyish, half pleading; and I felt
compelled to say:

“If you are not patient, I will have to spirit my little one away from
New York.”

“Oh, don’t do that!” he cried. “Let me see her sometimes–let me hear
her voice, and I won’t ask a question. See, I haven’t even asked her
name.”

He had come round to my side, dropping his voice to an earnest whisper.
But the child caught the last words.

“My name is Winifred,” she said in answer to them.

“Good heavens!” exclaimed Roderick, turning deadly pale; while I,
seizing the child firmly by the hand, turned a corner abruptly and
hastened into Broadway, where, as before on a similar occasion, I took a
cable car.

“And yet I have tried to be true to my trust,” I repeated over and over
to myself. “At the risk of losing Roderick’s friendship, I have refused
to answer any questions.”

“Oh, why did you go and leave the gentleman like that?” asked Winifred,
imperiously, as soon as we entered our rooms at the hotel. “It’s a
shame–I tell you it’s a shame!” And she stamped her little foot on the
carpet.




“Winifred!” I said severely. “You must be careful!”

“I don’t care!” she cried. “I won’t be good any more. It was very
impolite to run away from that gentleman; and I wanted to talk to him,
because I think I knew him once, or perhaps only dreamed about him.”

I saw now that the _dénouement_ was coming nearer and nearer. The matter
was indeed being taken out of my hands. I determined, however, that I
would be true to Niall; and that if some news did not soon come from
Ireland, I should remove the child from New York and go with her,
perhaps, to Canada. I rejoiced that the holidays were over and that
to-morrow Winifred must return to school.

“It may not be for long,” I warned her; “and then you may regret the
advantages you have had here. You see, Niall may get too lonesome and
send for you any time.”

“I would love to see him and Granny and Father Owen and the others!” she
exclaimed. “But if we went away to Ireland, I would like the dark
gentleman to come too. Perhaps he would if you asked him.”

“Everything will come right, I hope,” I answered, evasively. “And I am
very glad you like the dark gentleman, because you may see him very
often when you are older.”

“Do you think so?” she asked eagerly. “Oh, I shall like that! But are
you perfectly sure of it?”

“I am almost sure of it,” I replied; and then, telling her that the bell
was about to ring for the departure of visitors, I hurried away, for
fear she might begin to question me too closely.

After that I had many lonely days of anxious waiting as the winter sped
drearily away. February and then March drew their slow lengths along,
and my letters were still unanswered. April was ushered in, more
changeable than ever; mornings of sunshine being followed by afternoons
of rain, and days of almost midsummer heat giving place to the chilliest
of evenings.

One day I was sitting in my room at the hotel, embroidering a little,
and disconsolately watching the throng on Broadway, when there came a
knock at my door. A bell-boy entered with two letters upon a salver. My
heart gave a great throb as I seized them, recognizing on both the Irish
postmark. Broadway, with its throng of people, faded from before me; and
I held the two letters in my hand–reading the address, now on one, now
on the other, and putting off the moment of opening them; for I felt a
curious dread. Suppose Niall should hold me to my promise or sternly
command me to bring Winifred forthwith back to Ireland without even
revealing her identity to Roderick? At last I broke the seal of one of
the letters with a hand that trembled. I had to control a nervous
agitation, which almost prevented me from seeing the characters before
me, as with a pale face, I began to read.

Continue Reading

AT THE CONVENT

I went up to see Winifred next day, and, in the light of my new
discoveries, to talk with her over past, present, and future. She came
into the dimly-lighted convent parlor with something of her former
brightness. Her little figure was particularly graceful and symmetrical
in the somber black of the costume. An attempt had been made to brush
her curls as smooth as the regulations required, but they still broke
out mutinously; her eyes shone; while her complexion, though paler than
before, was clear and healthful. All present in the parlor–for it was
visiting-day–turned to look at her, and I heard more than one whispered
inquiry concerning her in the groups that sat around.

I inquired first about her school-life–her lessons and all those little
details of convent life familiar to girls who have ever been at
boarding-school.

“I am singing in the choir now,” she told me; “and I like that very
much. Did you ever sing in a choir when you were little?”

“No,” I answered; “for the best of all reasons, that I had no voice.”

“Well, we practise a great deal,” she went on; “and that is always nice.
I think my voice sounded best on the hills. Do you remember when I used
to sit on the tree over the Dargle? Well I could raise my voice very
high then.”

“I remember well,” I replied; “and those old ballads you sang suited
your voice. But I am glad you are getting interested in the choir and in
your singing lessons.”

“Yes, and some of my other lessons I like very much. And, then, we are
to have a play, in which I am to take the part of an Indian.”

“You ought to do that well,” I remarked, “because you have lived so much
in the open air.”

I thought as I spoke that she had indeed the free, wild grace of
movement peculiar to the children of Nature.

“That’s what Sister said when she gave me the part,” Winifred assented.
“It is great fun being an Indian. I have to wear feathers on my head and
some paint on my face, and a beaded skirt and a blanket embroidered with
quills and things. Wouldn’t Barney and Moira stare if they saw me!”

And she laughed at the picture she conjured up of their amazement.

“Granny Meehan would stare too, were it possible for her to see you,” I
observed; “though that she could not do even if you stood before her.”

“Poor old Granny!” Winifred said softly. “I wish I could see her. But
there’s no use wishing.”

And she dismissed the subject with that curiously unchildlike composure
and self-control which I had often perceived in her.

“Winifred,” I finally asked, “do you remember your father at all?”

She looked startled, but answered:

“I suppose it was he who shut the door hard when the lady in yellow made
him angry.”

“Yes,” I said: “I suppose it was.”

“He was very dark,” Winifred went on, thoughtfully. “I think it was the
same one who took me away. He was dressed all in black and he looked
very sad. He took me by the hand and we went out of the house and
through some streets, and then he put me before him on a horse and rode
off. He was very kind and not at all angry that day.”

“They say he is living, Winifred my child,” I ventured. “Would you like
to see him again?”

“Oh, yes!” she cried; “though perhaps he would be like a stranger; it is
so very long ago.”

“Niall believes you will see him yet,” I continued; “so you ought to get
accustomed to the idea. I used to know him, and he was noble and good
and kind-hearted.”

“You never told me before that you knew him,” Winifred remarked, looking
at me curiously.

“And yet I did, and he was all that I have said,” I declared.

“But he does not care for me,” said Winifred suddenly, “or he would not
have gone away and left me.”

I was startled and at the same time touched by the deep sadness of her
tone.

“Perhaps he thought you were dead,” I suggested.

“Thought I was dead!” repeated Winifred, in surprise.

Then she burst into a peal of laughter.

“Winifred,” I cried, bending toward her, “think that–think anything
rather than that your father has forgotten you or does not care for
you.”

The tears came into her eyes, but she suddenly turned away from the
subject, as she usually did when deeply moved–a habit which she had in
common with her father.

“You never saw my classroom, did you?” she inquired.

I answered that I had not.

“Then I will ask if I may take you up to see it,” she said, darting away
for the desired permission.

We went up the great, broad stairs and along the shining corridor to a
room with a half glass door and a pair of broad, low windows. Within it
were rows of desks familiar to all convent girls, and a desk for the
teacher standing upon a raised platform. There was a small statue of the
Sacred Heart and one of the Blessed Virgin resting upon brackets, with
flowers before them; and a fine engraving or two of sacred subjects hung
with the maps upon the walls. An immense blackboard occupied one side of
the apartment. The room was empty as regarded occupants; and Winifred,
dancing across the floor to one of the desks which stood near the
window, cried:

“This is mine!”

I went and sat down on the chair, fastened securely to the floor, which
looked out upon the wintry landscape. At that moment a bird came
chirping and twittering about the window-sill, and cocking his bright
little eye as he looked in at us through the pane.

“He comes very often,” said Winifred, regarding the little brown object
with a kindly glance. “Sometimes I feed him with crumbs. He always
reminds me of Father Owen’s robin far away over the sea, and I wonder if
he will ever fly so far.”

I laughed at the idea.

“Perhaps he may go and take a message to that other bird,” I suggested.

“Not until the spring, anyway,” Winifred answered gravely. “But when I
see him out there on cold, stormy days I think how Father Owen said that
the robin did his work in storm or calm and tried to sing and be merry.”

“And I suppose you try to imitate him?” I put in.

“Yes,” she said, “I think I do; but I’m not always merry in the storm,
and my teacher tells me I’m too wayward and unstable: that I’m never two
days the same.”

I said nothing, and she went on:

“All my life people have told me that I’m wayward. I used to be called
Wayward Winifred. Perhaps it’s from living so much on the hills; for you
know they change often. Sometimes they’re beautiful, with the sun
shining like gold on their heads; and again they’re dark and
threatening.”

“Like Niall,” I added.

“Don’t say anything against Niall–O poor, poor Niall!” she interrupted,
almost vehemently.

“Well, that is not exactly against him. But he is rather variable,” I
declared. “But now you are in a place where everything is the same day
after day.”

“I found that hard at first,” Winifred said–“very hard; but now I don’t
mind so much. And I suppose if I stay long enough, I shall come to be
always the same too.”

Inwardly I doubted if such a result were possible, but I did not tell
her that. I asked her to show me what was in her desk, and she began to
take out, one by one, pencils, pens, colored crayons, exercise books, a
slate, a pile of lesson books. She had also her beads and her
prayer-book in there. The latter contained some very pretty lace
pictures, given her by her teachers as rewards of merit, on her birthday
or some other festal occasion. One of the pictures, however, she took
from between the leaves of the book and handed it to me.

“Do you remember the day Father Owen gave me that?” she asked.

“Was that the one he told you to get out of his breviary?” I inquired.

“Yes,” answered Winifred; “and it was on the day that you told me you
were going to bring me to America.”

“Yes, it was that memorable day.”

“I hated you then–oh, so much!” cried Winifred; “and I thought I should
always go on hating you, till we went into the church and Father Owen
began to play the organ.”

“Music has charms,” I quoted, “to soothe–well, I won’t say the savage
breast, but the angry feelings of a certain little girl. I am very glad,
though, that it had that result; for I should not have liked you to go
on hating me. That would never have done; and I’m afraid in that case we
should have had to give up our trip to America.”

She had a mischievous look about the eyes, which made me say:

“Perhaps you think that wouldn’t have been so great a misfortune, after
all, my Wayward Winifred!”

She laughed merrily, and replied:

“Don’t think me ungrateful. I’m glad in some ways I came. ‘Tis a
wonderful country this America; and I have seen such beautiful, strange
things.”

“Not the golden streets,” I observed; “nor the trees with gold leaves
nor the birds with jewelled wings.”

“No,” she agreed; “I haven’t seen anything like that, and I know those
stories weren’t true.”

She sighed, as if for the dream that had vanished, and added:

“But I have seen so many beautiful things, and I am learning a great
deal that I could never have learned with Granny and Niall.”

Her shrewd child’s wit had reached this conclusion unaided.

“And you have been so kind; I am grateful, and I do love you.”

She said this with such pretty fervor and yet with that sweet
condescension that always made me feel as if a little princess were
addressing me.

“You are getting to like the convent too?” I said.

“Oh, yes!” she cried; “it is so quiet and peaceful, like a church; and
every one speaks nicely, and we hear so many things about God and our
Blessed Mother and the saints. I am interested in a lot of things I
never knew before; and my teachers are different from any people I ever
knew before.”

I was well satisfied; and when we returned to the convent parlor I had a
talk with the Religious who presided there, while Winifred went off to
get her wraps–she having obtained permission to accompany me as far as
the gate. The Religious gave a very good account of Winifred. She
declared that her training had made her different from other girls, and
somewhat wayward and hard to control by ordinary means.

“At first,” she said, “the rule and the monotony of convent life seemed
most irksome to her, as well as the indoor existence, accustomed as she
had been in Ireland to spend nearly all her time in the open air.”

I nodded assent.

“Being quite undisciplined, too,” she went on, “she was inclined to a
certain waywardness of character, which it was hard to fight against.”

“I can understand,” I agreed.

“She was a very independent young lady when she first came, I assure
you,” the Religious said, smiling; “but, on the other hand, she is such
a sweet, bright temperament, so wholesome, so generous, so innately
refined–a thorough little lady. And she is so genuinely pious: nothing
sentimental or overstrained in her devotion. She has the faith and
fervor of her country. Altogether, her nature is one susceptible of the
highest training. Her very faults are lovable.”

“I am so glad to hear you say all this!” I declared cordially; “for it
fits in so well with the impression I had formed of her; and, though I
met her as a stranger last summer, I have now the best of reasons for
feeling a particular interest in her.”

“Her intelligence is quite remarkable,” went on the Religious. “Her mind
is in some directions far in advance of her years, and she has really a
fair share of education.”

“You see she had for her teacher,” I observed, “an eccentric but really
learned kinsman.”

“That accounts for it! And she has a good voice. Our music teachers are
quite enthusiastic about it.”

“She has a voice of uncommon sweetness and power,” I assented. “I heard
her singing on the Irish hills. Altogether, I hope the best from her
stay with you.”




We were here interrupted by Winifred herself, who appeared in her hat
and coat. She made a graceful curtsy to the teacher, and together we
went out arm in arm, walking over the crisp snow which had fallen over
night and which sparkled in the sunlight; and looking away into the
distance, where the afternoon was beginning to darken and the gray sky
to take on a warmer glow. When we reached the gate we stood still a few
minutes, Winifred looking wistfully out, as though she would fain have
gone with me.

“It will be study hour when I get back,” she told me; “and we have a lot
of hard things for to-morrow. Did you find globes hard when you were at
school?”

“Indeed I did,” I said, remembering my own bewildered flounderings about
in that particular branch of study.

“Well, we have them, and ancient history and algebra–oh, that awful
algebra!–to-morrow. So I think I must be going.”

“Good-by!” I said; “and, Winifred, don’t forget to say a prayer
sometimes for your father, that you may see him again in this world, and
both be happy together.”

“I won’t forget!” Winifred promised. “I always pray for my mother, who
is dead.”

“That is right, dear; but you must remember the living as well. And now
good-by again!”

“I am going to run all the way back,” she announced.

“Very well; I will stand and watch you. Now for the run! Let us see how
quick you can get up the avenue.”

She was off like a deer darting to cover; and it reminded me of the time
when I had seen her running amongst the hills, springing lightly from
peak to peak and almost horrifying me by her reckless movements.

“I should like her to have had a few years at the convent,” I thought;
“the refined atmosphere there would be just what she needs to tone down
her high spirits and give her the touches she requires. But I suppose
when Niall hears all he will be too impatient for the reunion with those
he loves to wait. Besides, it would be unjust to Roderick. I must
explain everything to him as soon as I get Niall’s permission.”

I pondered thus all the way to town, and wondered how soon I could hear
from Ireland, and how I should pass the intervening time till my letters
arrived. But in New York time flies, and the days seem all too short for
the multitude of affairs; so that week followed week and ran into months
before I realized that my letters remained unanswered.

Continue Reading