ARRIVAL IN NEW YORK

Our voyage to America was a very pleasant one. The weather was
excellent. The warm glow of midsummer was over everything, and the cool
ocean breezes were most grateful as we sat at evening on the deck and
watched the stars burn above our heads in the sky, which always seems so
vast when one is on the face of the water. After the first two or three
days, neither of us was seasick, and Winifred took to the sea at once.
She loved the salt air, the cool spray blowing in her face as she stood
upon the deck, her hair flying about her and her face aglow. Often she
spoke of the dear land she had left and of her dear ones, while her eyes
filled with tears and her voice trembled with emotion.

One afternoon, as we watched the sun glinting on the waves, Winifred
said:

“Just now that same sun is lighting all the hills! That was what made
people call them, in the Irish tongue, the hills of ‘the gilt spurs.'”

“That is a pretty name,” I observed; “and well describes how they look
at this hour of a fine evening.”

“I wish I could see them now,” said Winifred; and then she fell silent,
as if in thought.

She was very shy of the strangers on board the steamer, and rarely
exchanged a word with any of them except at table; though many of them
noticed her and spoke with admiration of her charming face and her
graceful ways.

It was a lovely, calm morning when we steamed into New York Bay. We
both were up early and on deck; and I pointed out to Winifred Staten
Island, lying green and garden-like on the water’s breast; and
Governor’s Island, with its forts; and Bedloe’s Island, with its huge
Liberty statue, the goddess standing with colossal torch at the entrance
to the New World. At last there was New York itself, the Empire City,
the great metropolis; and over it rested a haze, whence emerged the
steeple of Old Trinity, the Custom House, and the tops of various high
buildings, which filled Winifred with wonder; she had never seen
anything like these “sky-scrapers,” as they are called. She talked of
them even after we had landed, and as we drove up Broadway to the hotel
were I had my quarters. This great thoroughfare seemed to bewilder her
altogether.

“The people!” she cried–“all the people! Why, they are thicker together
than trees in a wood,” and she simply stopped her ears against the
noise. “It seems as if there was a thunderstorm going on all the time!”
she exclaimed.

She was much amused also at the swift, gliding motion of the cable-cars,
unlike anything she had yet seen.

“Isn’t it all wonderful!” she would cry. “Oh, if Niall could see this!”

“He has seen just as wonderful sights and far more so,” I reminded her.
“You know how much he has travelled.”

“Well, if Barney and Moira and the other people from home could see this
place, they’d think they were dreaming. I’m not quite sure that I won’t
wake up–only,” she added, with one of her droll looks, “I couldn’t be
asleep in such a noise.”

We had reached the corner of Twenty-third Street, and I saw Madison
Square and the Fifth Avenue Hotel arising on my vision. There was even
an unusual traffic just then. Cars, express wagons, private carriages,
vehicles of all sorts, were crowding and jostling one another to the
imminent risk of those within them, as well as those who attempted to
cross on foot. The carriage in which we sat had to stop for an instant,
and in that instant I saw standing at the corner of the street Roderick
O’Byrne. His face was clouded by care or anxiety of some sort, which
wholly changed its ordinary bright character. He was looking
thoughtfully before him, while he waited a favorable opportunity to make
the crossing.

Suddenly his eyes fell full upon Winifred, who was looking out of the
window with eager interest. He started as if he had been stung. Yet he
could not possibly have recognized the child, who was, happily,
unconscious of his regard. It must have been some resemblance he
discovered in her. Fortunately, he was so absorbed in his study of her
face that he did not perceive me. I shrank back as far as possible in my
corner of the vehicle and waited breathlessly, till next moment the
carriage swept onward, and those two, so closely bound by the tenderest
ties of kindred, were parted in the great vortex.

I felt a sense of relief that Roderick had not glanced in my direction.
Had he done so, he would inevitably have recognized me, and I should
have been confronted at our next meeting with all manner of awkward
inquiries. For I could not tell him that his daughter was in my keeping
and then refuse to let him see or communicate with her.

The hotel seemed a most magnificent place to Winifred; for though we had
been in very comfortable quarters in Dublin, the luxury of a New York
hotel seems quite a different affair. The service in the dining-room,
the table appointments, the variety of the bill of fare, the orchestra
which played sweet strains during all the meal, were dreamlike, almost,
to this child of the hills. The elevator seemed to her as something very
amusing. She would like to have gone up and down in it several times.
She had a charming little room adjoining mine, all done in gray and
pink, and an outlook upon the gay street.

She could scarcely tear herself away from the window in the few days
that elapsed before I had decided upon a school for her and made some
simple preparations. Indeed, I found it rather difficult to decide upon
a school for the child, not because there were no good ones, but for the
opposite reason that there were so many. But to one thing I made up my
mind: she must be out of town. The presence of her father in New York
made that a necessity. Yet, on the other hand, I could not send her too
far away, as I wanted to see her often, mark her progress and the effect
of austere school-life on one who had been accustomed to a free, wild
existence on the beautiful Wicklow hills. It was this circumstance which
finally determined my choice. I must be in easy distance of the child,
so great was my responsibility.

I took her to her new home one evening just as the shadows were
deepening and New York lay like a great map traced out in lights. They
gleamed and glowed through the gathering darkness, and through the smoke
clouds which arose from the countless factories. I felt a curious sense
of desolation, and I was certain that Winifred would suffer from this
when she found herself enclosed in an unfamiliar building, to become a
mere atom, as it were, in a multitude.

The child was grave and quiet, but did not seem to shrink at all from
school-life. In fact, she had rather entered into the prospect of going
there with the enthusiasm of her age, and had begun to plan out the
details of her new existence. She told me after that she had
experienced an awful sense of loneliness when going to bed in a strange
dormitory, with its rows of curtained beds, amongst so many whom she had
never seen before. During the night prayers and the final hymn she had
cried all the time.

These sensations are common enough to all who go into new scenes for the
first time; but for some weeks after Winifred’s arrival at the convent
she reminded me of nothing so much as a bird in a cage. I am sure the
ordinary little restraints of school-life must have been intolerable to
one brought up, as she had been, unrestrained upon the hills. In the
austere convent parlor, with her black dress, and her curls fastened
back from her face with a ribbon, she was like a spirit of her former
self. She told me, in her quaint speech, that she only lived from one
visit of mine to another. Usually she was pale, sad and listless. The
spirit of mischief seemed to have gone out of her, and the Religious who
presided in the parlor told me that she was docile to her teachers and
very diligent in her studies.

“If I study very hard perhaps I will get home sooner,” Winifred
explained to me as we sat hand in hand in the corner of the parlor. “My
heart aches to see Ireland again, and the Dargle and the hills and
Granny and Niall and Father Owen, and every one.”

“It will not be very long till you see them all again,” I observed
soothingly. “Time passes very quickly.”

She heaved a deep sigh, as if to signify that time did not pass so very
quickly for her.

When I rose to go that day I told her that I was going to get
permission, if possible, for her to come down and spend a day with me.

“To spend a day with you in the big city down there!” she cried. “Oh,
it will be lovely! We can see so many things and we can talk about
home.”

That seemed to be indeed her greatest pleasure. The permission was
granted, with even better terms than I had expected; for she was to come
down on the following Tuesday morning and remain with me till the day
after.

“It is a privilege we do not often grant,” the nun said, smiling. “But
in this child’s case we think it is really essential. The change from a
widely different life was so very sudden.”




“So you are to come on Tuesday, and this is Sunday,” I told Winifred.

Her eyes fairly sparkled with delight, as she danced along by my side
with something of her old gaiety. “There is only one day between.
To-morrow I shall study very hard, and say all my lessons and practise
for my singing lesson on Thursday, and do everything well.”

I smiled.

“Father Owen would say you should do that every day,” I reminded her.
“You remember how he pointed out that the robin did his work in storm or
sunshine.”

“Oh, but ’tis much easier to work in sunshine!” Winifred cried out.

“I suppose it is,” laughed I; “but that is no reason why you shouldn’t
try to do what is harder.”

“I do try,” Winifred said earnestly. “I get up the moment the bell rings
in the morning–though I don’t find that as hard as some of the girls
do, for I was often out on the hills at sunrise. Then I’m one of the
first in the chapel; and in class I study my lessons and I hardly ever
talk. At recreation I don’t feel much like playing yet, but perhaps I
shall after a while–when I know some of the girls better.”

“Yes, I am sure you will. How do you like your companions?” I asked.

“I think a good many of them are nice. But it takes me a long time to
know strangers, I suppose because I scarcely ever saw any.”

“And your teachers?” I inquired.

“Oh, they are all very kind, especially to me, because I come from so
far away and have no mother! I like my music teacher best, though. I
wish you knew her.”

“I must make her acquaintance some time,” I remarked; “I want to know
all your friends.”

“The French teacher is the crossest. She isn’t a nun, though, and
doesn’t wear a nun’s dress. She scolds me if I don’t know the verbs or
if I make mistakes in spelling. I told her the other day that I didn’t
want a stranger to speak so to me. The girls all laughed, but she didn’t
understand what I was saying.”

“Just as well in that case.” And I laughed, picturing to myself the
little girl addressing the Frenchwoman with her princess air.

We were standing all this time in the hall, which was not altogether
according to rule, as I well knew; for farewells are usually made in the
parlor. But I had not the heart to send Winifred away, and the presiding
Religious did not appear to notice. I fancy the nuns often strained the
rule a little in her regard, taking the circumstances into
consideration.

“Good-by till Tuesday!” Winifred called after me, as I stepped out into
the porch; “and thank you for all the nice things you have brought me!”

For indeed I never went empty-handed to see the child, remembering my
own school-days. I had visited Maillard’s that afternoon before taking
the cars, and had chosen from the dainty confections which so
temptingly fill the glass cases and adorn the plate-glass windows. I was
told that she always distributed my gifts amongst her companions with a
royal generosity, often keeping but little for herself. While I was
still in the porch I heard her telling a companion:

“I am going to town on Tuesday. Isn’t that splendid!”

“Oh, you lucky girl!” said the other. “I wish I had come from Ireland or
some other place: then I might get out oftener.”

I went homeward, musing on that happy time of life when a day out of
school, a promised holiday, gives a keener delight than anything in
after life.

“Why does youth ever pass away, with its glow and glory?” I thought.
“And how dull its going leaves this prosaic earth!”