IN THE CAPITAL

The August morning which was to see our departure dawned at last. The
leave-taking with old Granny Meehan was very pathetic. The poor woman,
with her deep resignation, her confidence in God’s providence, was a
striking illustration of the best virtues of her race. Calmly she bade
us farewell, praying many a prayer, invoking many a blessing on the
beloved head of her little charge. We left her sitting at her accustomed
seat near the hearth, with Tabby purring against her and the pleasant
sunshine flooding the apartment.

Winifred had been up early, as she said, to bid “good-by!” to every
stick and stone. She called each fowl in the courtyard by name, as she
had done on that other morning when I saw her feeding them; and her
tears fell silently as she bent over them.

When the moment came to say the last farewell, Winifred seized Brown
Peter, the cat, in her arms; and the animal blinked knowingly, and
purred and rubbed its head against her soft cheek. Then Winifred threw
her arms once more around Granny’s neck, and that part of the
leave-taking was over. Barney and Moira set up a howl and followed us
down as far as the inn, where the jaunting-car with the luggage was
waiting for us.

Niall I did not see at all. He had taken leave of Winifred the evening
before, and then, with a wild gesture of despair, had fled to the hills.
He left for me a letter of instructions, recalling all my promises and
the conditions upon which he had allowed the child to go. With the
letter was a sum of money to be used for Winifred’s education. Could I
have seen him I would have begged him to take back this latter; for when
I had proposed taking the girl with me to America and putting her in a
convent, it was, of course, to be at my own expense. I mentally resolved
not to spend a penny of the amount, but to put it at interest for
Winifred.

At the inn we found Father Owen in conversation with the landlord. He
came forward at once to greet us, crying out cheerfully to the child:

“So there you are, my pet, setting out upon your travels to seek your
fortune, like the people in the fairy books!”

Winifred’s grief, which had been of a gentle and restrained character
throughout, and unlike what might have been expected from her impetuous
disposition, broke out again at sight of her beloved friend.

“Tut, tut, my child!” cried the priest. “This isn’t April. Nature is
smiling, and you must smile too. You’re going away to a great, fine
country; and when you’ve seen everything, you’ll be coming back to tell
us all about it.”

Winifred wept silently, her tears falling down upon her gingham frock,
so that she had to wipe them away. Father Owen turned to me, thinking it
better, perhaps, to let the bitter, short-lived grief of childhood take
its course.

“And so you’re leaving Wicklow and Ireland, carrying with you, I hope, a
good impression.”

“That I am,” I responded heartily; “and my most fervent wish is that I
may come back again.”

“To be sure you will, with Winifred here; and I hope, if it be God’s
will, we’ll all be here to receive you.”

“I hope so indeed,” I answered.

“I had a letter a few days ago from Father Brady in New York,” went on
Father Owen. “I was in the seminary with him in France. He knows you
well and is glad I made your acquaintance.”

“I have known Father Brady for many years,” I replied; “he is a great
friend of mine.”

The old priest nodded as if to express his satisfaction. I thought,
perhaps, he had written to make assurance doubly sure as to my fitness
for the care of the child. If so, I could only admire his wisdom.

“Niall is in a bad way,” he whispered; “and will be, I don’t doubt, for
days to come. I met him raging and tearing through the woods like a
maniac. That is his manner of expressing grief. It was useless to argue
with him, so I just had to come away and leave him.”

I told Father Owen how shocked I was to hear this, but he answered:

“Oh, he will get over the worst of it in a few days! How different,
though, from Granny Meehan! I went in to see her yesterday. She’s marked
with grace, is that poor blind woman. ‘It’s God’s will for the child to
go,’ she said; ‘and if I never have her with me again here below, why,
we’ll meet above in glory, and we’ll be the happier for this sorrow.’
Wasn’t that beautiful, my dear lady? didn’t it make me ashamed of my own
shortcomings!”

I assented heartily.

“Yes, Father: she has a fine nature and a beautiful faith.”

Meanwhile Winifred dried her tears, and was trying to soothe her humble
friends, who had accompanied us with lamentations all the way.

“I’ll come back again,” Winifred said to them; “I won’t be _very_ long
away, and I’ll bring each of you something from America.”

Her voice quivered as she made these promises, which caused Moira’s face
to brighten a little through her tears, and Barney to stammer out,
brokenly:

“Och, then, Miss Winifred alanna, if you bring us back yourself, it’s
all we’ll be wantin’!”

His red eyes and tear-stained cheeks gave force and sincerity to his
words.

“Be a man now, Barney,” said Father Owen, “and just tell Miss Winifred
you wish her joy in the fine voyage she’s going to take. Come, Moira my
girl, dry your eyes and say good-by. Look how the sun is shining, and
think how the goodness of God is over those that go and those that stay,
just like yonder blue sky. Hear the thrush and the blackbird in the
hedges giving glory to God whatever comes.”

By this time we were seated in the car. I exchanged a few farewell words
with my landlord, who showed real emotion at our departure.

“God be with you, ma’am!” he cried. “It’s yourself has brightened us all
up for weeks past. And God be with you too, Miss Winifred dear! Sure
we’ll be missin’ your very pranks. Do you mind the day that you led me
astray in the hills above, makin’ b’lieve you were a Will-o’-the-wisp?”

And the landlord forced a laugh, which was not very genuine. I think he
would have continued his reminiscences longer had not Father Owen judged
it best to put an end to the parting scene.

“Don’t be keeping them any longer,” he said; “let them get away before
the heat of the day. And now I’ll give you my last blessing, Winifred my
dear, and your kind friend too.”

Winifred knelt at the old priest’s feet in the morning sunshine. I,
being already seated in the car, bent my head. Father Owen solemnly
raised his hand–the consecrated hand of God’s minister,–looking
upward, while his white hair framed his face like an aureola. Fervently
he invoked the blessing of Heaven upon me and upon the child, upon our
voyage and our arrival. His voice broke as he came to the last words,
and he attempted to say no more; while I made a sign to the driver, who
drove quickly from the door, followed by a parting howl from Barney and
Moira.

I stole a last glance at the lovely Glen of the Dargle, the waterfall in
the distance, and the natural bridge spanning the ravine, on which I had
first seen Winifred. The thought flashed into my mind that I had come
into the paradise of her youth, disturbing its idyllic peace; whether
for better or worse was yet to be seen. I consoled myself with the
assurance that, in any event, I had acted for the best.

We took the Enniskerry road to Dublin, and the drive was delightful. At
one point in the journey we passed between the rude granite sides of
that cleft in the mountains known as “The Scalp.” As I looked up at them
in their stern grandeur I had an uneasy feeling that some of the huge
masses of rock, which appeared to be quite loose, might tumble upon our
heads. Winifred, who was becoming, if not more cheerful, at least more
composed, was greatly interested in “The Scalp,” and told me the legend
of the place.

“The devil,” she said, “was once driving sheep to Dublin, and when he
reached this mountain he couldn’t get through it. So he gave a great
kick with his foot and made the passage for himself and his flocks. And
that, ’tis said, is why it is so wild and strange. But of course it
isn’t true,” Winifred concluded, eying the great rocks above us with
her wistful eyes. “Still, it is different from other mountains.”

“It has an uncouth shape,” I agreed; “and I suppose that’s what put it
into the people’s heads that the devil must have had a hand in its
formation.”

We arrived in Dublin somewhat tired after our drive, which was not,
however, so very long; and found ourselves comfortably lodged by night
in a hotel on Sackville Street, whence we were to set forth again on our
travels in a few days. For I had purposely arranged that we might spend
a little time in the capital of Ireland, so that Winifred might get at
least a bird’s-eye view of it. I could not guess what was passing in her
mind as we went out, after resting a while, to stroll about in the
lighted streets. She had never been in a city before, and must have been
interested in so much that was novel. But she said little: she had not
yet recovered her natural buoyancy.




The following morning, however, we set out specially for sight-seeing.
We went for a walk in the Phoenix Park, and from a vantage-point near
the magazine looked down on the entire city, with its splendid bridges,
its domes and spires. We saw the Nelson Pillar and the Wellington
Monument, and we roamed at will along the verdant banks of the beautiful
Liffey. We saw the Viceregal Lodge and the Corinthian Pillar and the
Royal Hospital of Kilmainham. Then, of course, we had to see the
churches. It would be tedious indeed to set down here all that we did
see.

We were walking along Westmoreland Street one afternoon, just as the sun
was setting. There had been a heavy shower, which had relieved the
sultriness of an August day, and the ground was damp; but the trees were
a brighter green and sent forth a sweeter fragrance for the rain.
Winifred said suddenly:

“I remember this place very well–Dublin, I mean. I was here long ago,
when I was little.”

“Yes? I suppose one’s memory does go back very far,” I observed
thoughtfully. “But can you recall, for instance, where you lived?”

She shook her head.

“It was in a big house,” she answered, “with a good many stairs in it
and a lot of people. Some of them may have been servants. And I remember
a lady in a yellow dress. Perhaps she was my mother.”

She stopped abruptly, as though the subject were painful; then resumed:

“Since I came to this place, I remember a good many things. The lady in
the yellow dress was standing one evening in a great big room, and she
had a flower in her hair. Oh, she was very beautiful! A gentleman came
in. He was tall and dark.”

“With very bright eyes?” I put in eagerly.

“Yes, they were bright,” she assented; “at least I think so. I remember
the lady better than the gentleman. They were talking, and I couldn’t
understand much of what they said; but I am almost sure the gentleman
was angry, for his face got very red. Then the lady laughed, and the
gentleman went away quickly and shut the door hard. The lady laughed
again and said to me: ‘I hope you haven’t your father’s temper, child.
Poor Roderick! he does flare up so quick. He is just raving now because
I don’t want to go to some outlandish place in the hills.'”

The child stopped, but the little drama of the past which she had evoked
told me a great deal. Niall had blamed Roderick for not bringing his
wife to the castle; but the wife–a somewhat hard and cold beauty, as
old Granny Meehan had once described her–would not come. Roderick had
not cared to throw the blame upon her, and so had quarrelled with his
kinsman. Winifred seemed to ponder upon what she had just told me.

“I wonder where he wanted her to go?” she said slowly.

I did not answer; for I knew it would pain her to hear her dear old
castle described as an “outlandish place.”

“And I wonder how he could be angry with her,” the child continued, “she
was so pretty and had on such a lovely dress!”

“Beauty is not the only thing, and fine dress still less,” I urged.

Winifred turned on me with flashing eyes, as though I had cast some
reflection upon the phantom evoked from her youth by the presence of
familiar scenes.

“But that was my mother!” she cried, as if that silenced every
objection. Then she added, more gently: “I am sorry my father was angry
with her.”

“Yet your father has a noble heart,” I declared.

She smiled as if pleased.

“Some day I may see _him_,” she said; “but my mother is dead.”

There was great pathos in that simple remark; and after that Winifred,
in her usual fashion, turned away altogether from the subject. Just then
we came to a point whence we had a distant view of the Wicklow Hills. I
called Winifred’s attention to them. She gazed at them with tear-dimmed
eyes, and I think after that took very little interest in the rest of
the landscape.

“My own hills!” she said. “Oh, I wonder if Niall is abroad on them now,
and if Barney and Moira are leading poor Cusha to the pasture? And
Granny, I suppose, is sitting alone–all alone. She can not go out on
the hills nor see their beauty.”

I tried to divert her thoughts, but for the time being it was useless.
That was our last day in Dublin. Early on the morrow we were to set out
for Liverpool, whence we were to sail for the Land of the Free.

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