A Child of the Glens
by Edward Newenham Hoare
[Frontispiece: THE CLERGYMAN'S VISIT TO TOR BAY.]
A CHILD OF THE GLENS;
PUBLISHED UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE
COMMITTEE OF GENERAL LITERATURE AND EDUCATION,
APPOINTED BY THE SOCIETY FOR PROMOTING
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The clergyman's visit to Tor Bay . . . . . . Frontispiece
A strange waif of the sea
Jim building castles-in-the-air.
A CHILD OF THE GLENS;
Doubtless some of our readers are acquainted with the noble coast
road that skirts round the north-eastern corner of Ireland, extending,
it might almost be said, from Belfast to Londonderry. The
characteristic features of this noble esplanade (for such it is) are
chiefly to be seen between the little town of Larne, where the railway
ends, and Cushendall. Throughout this drive of forty miles you are
never out of sight or sound of the sea. The almost level road is seen
far ahead of the traveller, like a white boundary line between cliff
and wave. You wonder at first if the road was made merely to gladden
the tourist, for it does not seem likely that there could be much
traffic other than that of pleasure-seekers thus along the margin of
the sea. The configuration of this part of the County Antrim, however,
explains the position of the road, and justifies the engineer who was
so happily enabled to combine the utilitarian with the romantic. A
series of deep cut gorges, locally known as The Glens, intersect the
country, running at right angles to the coast-line and thus forming a
succession of gigantic ridges, over which it would be impossible to
drive a road. For this reason it has been found necessary to wind round
the mouths of these romantic valleys, which are guarded and shut off
from each other by a number of formidable and noble headlands, foremost
among which ranks the beautiful Garron Point. Thus a succession of
surprises await the tourist. Having fairly made your way between the
foot of the towering cliff and the inflowing tide, with no prospect in
front but huge and grotesque-shaped rocks, which look bent on opposing
all further advance, you suddenly find that you have doubled the point.
A blue bay opens before you, shut in at its farther side by the next
promontory, at the base of which you can distinctly trace the white
streak of dusty road, that sweeps round the bay in a graceful
semicircle. To your leftor while you are speaking, almost directly
aheadis the wide opening of one of the Glenssweet, retired abodes
of peace, sheltered and happy as they look out forever on the sea. The
barren and rocky highlands, terminated by the wild bluffs that so
courageously plunge themselves into the waves, become gradually
softened and verdure-clad as they slope downward, while the narrow
valley itself is studded with trees and pretty homesteads.
The people of The Glens are peculiar, primitive, and distinct. In
these shut-in retreats the ancient Irish and Roman Catholic element
largely prevails. When, in consequence of frequent rebellions, the
original inhabitants were well-nigh exterminated, and their places
taken by Scotch and English settlers, the natives found a refuge in the
wilder and more remote parts of the country. Thus, here and there in
Ulstergenerally known as Protestant Ulsterwe come upon little
nooks and nests where for two centuries the primitive Irish race has
survived. Naturally, living in the presence of their more pushing and
prosperous Presbyterian neighbours, these last representatives of a
conquered nationality are for the most part of a retiring and
suspicious disposition. In quiet country places there is seldom any
manifestation of open hostility, and intermarriages and neighbourly
feeling have done much to smooth away the edge of bitter memories, but
at bottom there remains a radical difference of sentiment, as of creed,
which constitutes an impassable, though for the most invisible,
Michael McAravey was a good specimen of the old Ulster Roman
Catholic. He was a tall, powerful man, of nearly seventy at the time
when our story opens, while he did not look sixty. His hair was long,
iron-grey, and wiry, and it was only when uncovered that the high,
bald, wrinkled forehead gave indication of his real age. A rebel at
heart, the son of a man who had been out in '98, Michael had gone
through life with a feeling that every man's hand was against him.
Sober, self-reliant, and hard-working, the man was grasping and hard as
flint. By tradition and instinct a bitter enemy to Protestantism, he
was not on that account a friend of the priest, or a particularly
faithful son of the Church. He had his own notions about things, and
though a professed Catholic, his neighbours used to speculate whether
age or sickness would ever have power to bend that proud spirit, and
bring Michael to confession and a humble reception of the last rites
of the Church. Early in life McAravey had married a Presbyterian girl,
and the almost inevitable estrangement that results from a mixed
marriage had cast its shadow over the lives of the pair. The Kanes had
belonged to the small and rigid body of Covenanters, and never a
Sabbath from childhood till her marriage had 'Lisbeth failed to walk
the four rough, up-hill, dreary miles that separated her father's home
from the meeting-house that rose alone, and stern as the Covenant
itself, on the bleak moorland above Glenariff. But her last
Sabbath-day's journey was taken the week before her wedding. Michael
had gloomily announced that no wife of his should be seen going to a
meeting-house, and though he never sought to bring her to mass
(perhaps in part because it might have involved going himself), his
resolution never varied. Nor did his wife contend against it. The habit
once broken, she felt no inclination to undertake those long and
wearisome journeys. But a Covenanter she meant to live and die. Nothing
would have tempted her into the Presbyterian chapel close by. And thus
when there came two children to be baptized the difficulty as to
religion was compromised, and a triumph allowed to neither side, by the
babes being solemnly received into the compassionate and truly Catholic
fold of what was then the Established Church. That both these little
ones had been taken away by death was a misfortune, and tended to
harden even more the somewhat disagreeable and rigid lines that marked
the individuality of both Mr. and Mrs. McAravey.
Not that the home thus early laid desolate was altogether unblessed
by young faces. For many years the McAraveys had had charge of two
little children, who called them father and mother. But, as it was
quite evident that no such relationship as this could exist, so it came
to be generally understood that there was no tie of blood at all. What
connection there might be, or who the children were, was a mystery none
had ever solved, nor was it likely that any inquiriesif such had ever
been ventured uponhad met with much encouragement on the part of
auld Mike or his equally taciturn wife.
Though the Antrim glens had been the scene of such courtship as it
is possible to conceive of between Michael McAravey and Elizabeth Kane,
they had for many years ceased to be the place of their abode. Previous
to the opening of our tale, McAravey had fallen into the tenant-right
and goodwill of a farm held by an elder and unmarried brother, and
hither he had accordingly moved with his wife, now past middle-age, and
the two little ones that called her mother. To find the spot where the
McAraveys now liveda spot yet more retired and more lovely than any
in the glens properly so calledwe must once more return to the great
coast road. Having reached Cushendall, the scenery becomes more
imposing, and the high background almost deserves the name of a
mountain. Here, at length, the rugged and towering coast-line
successfully defies further violation of its lonely majesty.
Accordingly the baffled road bends abruptly to the left, and turning
its back upon the sea proceeds to climb the long, dreary slope of a
flat-topped, uninteresting mountain, and then, having reached the
highest point (which is scarcely to be discerned), descends, till once
more the sea is come upon at the secluded little country town of
Ballycastle. The extreme northeast point of Ireland is thus cut off,
and thus the ordinary tourist is cut off too, from one of Nature's most
fairy-like retreats. On looking back from Ballycastle you at once
perceive the necessity for your bleak and tedious mountain drive. The
eye immediately catches and rests fascinated upon the gigantic and
literally overhanging precipice of Fair Head, as it rears its peculiar
and acute-angled summit against the sky. One look, and you are
convinced that no road could wind its way round the base of that
frowning monster. But let us strive to penetrate this cut-off region
either on foot across the moors, or by the rough mountain road that
suffices for the wants of the few and scattered residents. Standing
(sometimes not without difficulty) on the pitched-up edge of the mighty
headland, and gazing on the remote sea beneath, you feel oppressed by
the sense of Nature's vastness and your own insignificance. Nor does
the dreary extent of rock and pool-dotted moor that stretches inland to
the very horizon afford any relief to such feelings. So you turn away
in search of rest and shelter. Then but a comparatively few downward
steps and you find that the tempestuous wind has ceased to wrangle with
you; already you are beneath the shadow of the great rock. Descending
further, the bleak aspect of Nature is transformed. The heather gives
place to dwarf shrubs; the bare, weather-beaten rocks are clothed with
blackberry bushes, or hidden amid luxurious bracken. Dark hollies
clinging to detached rocks present varied and life-like forms. The air
has suddenly become still. The butterflies hover over the foxgloves.
The wild strawberry is at your feet. The sloeberries ripen around you.
The sea before you might be the Mediterranean, so gently does it ripple
up to the very edge of the hundred tiny plants that force their way
amid the sand. Great rock bastions shut you in on either side, and
behind, the green slope you had descended rises upward till it meets
the blue sky beyond. You might be in the south of England rather than
in the black north of Ireland; and you are struck with the probably
accidental suggestiveness of the nameTor Bay. It was here that
McAravey's lot was cast, and here that Elsie and Jim used in their
leisure hours to gather the strawberries and stain themselves with
Not that Elsie and Jim had many leisure hours. Like all else in the
little household, they had their work to do. McAravey's farm was but
a little patch of ten acres, part of it not even yet quite won back
from rock and bracken. On this he toiled as only a man can toil who
works for himself, and is assured of his interest in the soil on which
he drops his sweat. That he had no grown-up son (as might have been) to
aid his declining strength was a hidden sorrow to the old man. He
worked on, however, and bravely did his uncomplaining wife assist him.
Neither of them had ever known an hour of either ill health or
idleness, and they were guiltless of any conscious or intentional
cruelty when they early and sternly disciplined their young charges to
the same laborious life. The duties of the children were manifold. Jim
herded McAravey's two or three cows, or acted as scarecrow in the
little patch of corn, each precious grain of which was grudged to the
passing birds. Elsie scoured the house, and carried out milk to one or
two somewhat distant neighbours. But the most arduous labour of the
children was one that they shared together. When the weather
suitedafter a stormy night, or when there was a spring tidethey
would stand for hours on the beach, often wet to the waists, dragging
the tempest-tossed sea-weed to the shore with large wooden rakes. This
occupation was not merely arduous but dangerous. More than once had
little Jim, who was of lighter build than the girl, been fairly dragged
off his feet by the force of the receding wave, as it wrestled with him
for the possession of the mass of floating weed which he had hooked in
his rake. The weed thus drawn to shore was subsequently sorted, the
greater part being used for manure, while the rest was burned in one of
those rough kilns that abound along the coast, and reduced to kelp,
which is used in the manufacture of soap and glass, and from which
iodine is extracted. Thus, almost from infancy, the children had been
inured to labour, and alas! for them the sunny hours of idle rambling
amid the tangled foliage of the glen were few and far between. Neither
child had received any education. The only school was nearly four miles
off, up on the open moorland. It was only in summer that the children
could possibly attend, and even then their visits were infrequent and
irregular. On all religious subjects their young minds were dark as
night. Even a few days at school had taught them that such things as
reading and writing existed, and Jim especially had developed in him
vague ideas as to the power and wealth that might be obtained if once
he could master these mysterious subjects. But religion was only known
to them as being provocative of party quarrels and domestic
disagreements. Harsh and brief as was the general style of intercourse
between Mr. and Mrs. McAravey, there was no absolute anger or violence
about it, except when allusion was made to the difference that through
life had separated husband and wife. Even then it seemed strange to the
children that such fierce feelings and such ill words should be excited
by a matter that had absolutely no influence on ordinary life, and
which was never introduced but as a bone of contention. Nor hitherto
had the poor neglected ones any opportunity of learning the blessed
truths of a Father's and a Saviour's love from any other quarter. There
was no place of worship in the glen. The Presbyterian chapel was a mile
away, and even there no Sunday-school was held. As for the Church, into
the fold of which the poor babes had been received, it was scarcely to
be thought of, being fully four miles off, across a rough mountain
district. Here the Rev. Cooper Smith ministered to a congregation that
fluctuated much, but was never very large. The parish was enormous, and
the Church-people dotted over it in a most unmanageable fashion. Yet it
was surprising what a considerable number of people were brought
together on a fine Sunday morning in summer. The clergyman, too,
persevered in keeping together what was at least the nucleus of a
Sunday-school, consisting of some twelve or fifteen children, whom he
and the clerk taught in the church before service. But from this means
of grace Elsie and Jim were cut off by distance, even if, as was more
than doubtful, their foster-parents would have allowed them to attend.
In the glen that sloped down to Tor Bay, there were no Church-people,
and but few children of any sort. Thus spiritual darkness reigned
supreme throughout this beautiful domain. Twice during five years in a
professional capacity (though several times on pic-nics) had the Rev.
Cooper Smith made his way to Tor Bay. The people had received him with
a patronising kindness, that was peculiarly irritating to his sensitive
and somewhat small nature.
Sit down, mon, and rest yeresel' a bit; ye must be tired, said
McAravey, looking over his shoulder as he stalked out of the cottage.
Don't you think you ought to send those children to school, Mrs.
McAravey? asked the clergyman, whose kind heart had been touched, on
the occasion of a recent pic-nic, to see the half-drowned little ones
toiling amid the heaps of wet and writhing sea-wrack.
Maybe ye 'd send yere carriage to fetch them up the brae! remarked
Mrs. McAravey, with a harsh, disagreeable laugh at her own pleasantry.
Well, it is rather far, replied Mr. Smith, somewhat
apologetically; but it grieves me to see them growing up in ignorance,
and without any knowledge of the Saviour.
Thank ye, sir, cried Mrs. McAravey, satirically, but I think ma
mon and mysel' knows our duties, and can teach the wains, too, wi'out
any parson comin' to help us. A pretty thing to tell us we knows
nothing o' the Saviour! I can tell you, mon, I've walked more miles o'
the Sawbath to my place o' worship than some folks as I know walks in a
The clergyman, somewhat taken aback at this outbreak, felt a rising
flush of anger, and could only reply
I think, my good woman, you might remember whom you are speaking
to, and might be civil to a stranger when he comes into your house.
To judge by the response, the second part of this appeal was more
effective than the first. An appeal to authority or respect of persons
is not usually successful in Ulster.
I knows rightly who I 'm speakin' to, and I don't see as it makes
any differ; but I 'm sorry I spoke sharp, seein' ye come so far, only I
can't thole to be towd I 'm na fit to train up a wain in the knowledge
o' the Saviour.
Expressing a hope that Elsie and Jim would come to school when
weather and work permitted, and with a somewhat vague remark about
calling again, the Rev. Cooper Smith beat as graceful a retreat as
His other calls that day were scarcely more satisfactory, for though
he encountered no such actual rudeness, there was everywhere the same
Andrew McAuley, the wealthiest farmer in the glen, invited him to
have a drop o' something, adding, by way of encouragement, Ye
needn't be afeerdthere's plenty iv it in the house.
The only person who seemed to recognise his spiritual office was
widow Spence, who, as the clergyman stood hesitating before leaving the
cottage (he was debating whether he should offer the old woman a
shilling), sympathetically remarked
Maybe, then, ye 'd like to mak' a wee bit o' a prayer afore ye go
Unreasonably, perhaps, the rector felt rebuked and annoyed by this
incident, and he walked home with a heavy heart. What could be done for
Tor Bayso beautiful, yet so barbarousso out of the way in every
sense? His personal efforts did not seem likely to be rewarded with
success, even if he could keepwhich he did not himself believe that
he couldto the often-made resolution to be more frequent and regular
in his visits across the hill. He had been wounded in many points that
day, yet he had not gone away without hearing one note of
encouragement. Many a day and many a night he saw, like Paul, the
figure of one who said to him, Come over . . . and help us. Only the
figure was that of a brown, blushing, merry-eyed girl of nine, who held
by the hand a delicate-looking, white-haired, timid boy. Again and
again he fancied himself walking sadly and dreamily on the pure smooth
sand of the beautiful secluded bay. Again and again he was murmuring
Every prospect pleases,
And only man is vile
when he hears a voice, and turning, sees the half-amused, half-eager
look of Elsie as she had said
Please, Jim says he 'd like to go to school, minister; and I 'd
like too, if it wasn't so far.
The pleading voice was not in vain. After much anxious consideration
the Rev. Cooper Smith resolved to use his efforts to get the aid of a
Scripture-reader for Tor Bay, and other outlying districts of his vast
parish. The munificence of an elderly lady enabled him to bring his
arrangements to a successful issue more rapidly than he had hoped. He
was also fortunate in obtaining a fit and proper person for the post.
Robert Hendrick was by birth and education an Ulster man; but having
been for several years employed in the south-west, he had acquired
something of that geniality, tact, and courtesy which is, perhaps,
deficient in the hard Scotch character of the Northerns. There was
nothing of professional piety or of the professional reader about
Hendrick. A bright, active, smiling little man, he was soon a favourite
in Tor Glen. His visits were made twice a-week, and the inhabitants
soon found him a useful and obliging friend. He executed small
commissions, carried letters from Ballycastle, and acted generally as a
medium of communication with the outer world. But while thus wisely
winning his way by kindly offices, he was not unmindful of that other
world which it was his duty to bring before the minds of the people of
the secluded vale. One evening of the week a homely service, half
Bible-class, half prayer-meeting, was held, to which a considerable
number of the Presbyterians, and even a few Roman Catholics, dropped
in. The other evening was devoted to teaching the few little ones who
could be gathered together. Elsie and Jim were among the earliest
pupils; Jim was actuated by an almost morbid craving for knowledge, and
for Elsie anything novel had sufficient attraction. Mrs. McAravey,
notwithstanding her self-righteous indignation when questioned by the
clergyman, had in her heart a belief that religious instruction was the
proper thing for children. She remembered the stern discipline of her
own early yearsnot, indeed, with any pleasure, but with a firm
conviction that severe spiritual as well as physical labour was good
for the young. That Auld Mike permitted the children to attend the
reader's class was a matter of surprise to many, and that Hendrick had
been able to capture them added not a little to his reputation.
McAravey had, however, been pleased with the frank, obliging address of
the reader; and perhaps, too, there was some softer feeling in his
hard, silent nature than folks gave him credit for. Anyhow he made no
opposition; and though he did not fail to notice their absence every
Friday evening, he asked no questions for conscience sakeor rather
he rested satisfied with the result of his first inquiry.
Where's the wains, 'Lisbeth, I wonder?
How should I know? was the somewhat Jesuitical reply. Maybe they
're gone to the town end; but they 'll be right enough, you may be
sure. And there the matter dropped for many a day.
Meanwhile school-work went on. The precocious Jim made amazing
progress in reading and writingarts from which Elsie's impatient
nature revolted. This distaste was, however, counterbalanced by the
girl's quickness in other respects. By dint of memory, and an excellent
ear, she soon had at her finger ends whole passages of Scripture,
together with a number of psalms and hymns, from one to the other of
which she ran with a vivacity and heedlessness, that often pained her
teacher. She was soon the leader of the little choir, and could sing,
with wonderful correctness, Shall we gather at the river? I think
when I read that sweet story of old, How when Jesus was here among
men. As pants the hart for cooling streams, &c.
Robert Hendrick was deeply interested in his little pupils. Jim
seemed likely to grow up a pattern boy. Punctual and diligent, with
grave, attentive eyes and quiet demeanour, he could not but elicit the
approval of his teacher. Yet Hendrick could not conceal from himself
that Elsie was his favouriteElsie, so reckless and so irreverent, so
headstrong, and at times even violent. He used to tremble for the
child's future, as, attracted by the sweet, true ring of her voice, he
saw the eager, merry eyes wandering all round the room, while the lips
were singing the most sacred words. Those awful and profound truths,
that were to him the only realities, and which animated his every
effort, were apparently to this sweet young singer but as fairy tales,
or even as mere empty words on which to build up the fabric of her
song; and at times he even doubted whether it was right to lay bare the
mysterious agonies of redeeming love to such a careless eye, and to
familiarise such a child with scenes so awful, but which seemed to wake
no note of love or reverence. Yet Robert Hendrick loved and prayed for
the child, content to work on for her, as for so many others in the
glen, in simple faith and loving hope.
With the approach of winter the Friday evening class had to be
discontinued. Most of the children lived at a considerable distance
from the place of meeting; nor was a walk across the moors always
feasible in rough weather. Even for a time the Wednesday service had to
be suspended; so that for a couple of months the glen relapsed into its
former state of spiritual night. Not altogether, however. The good seed
cast upon the waters had found a resting-place in several hearts; and
the opening of spring, and with it the resumption of the
Scripture-reader's visits, were eagerly looked forward to by many, both
young and old.
It was the end of March, when an event occurred which would have
been a more than nine days' wonder even in a busier spot than Tor Bay.
The equinoctial gales had been protracted and severe. For days the sea
off Fair Head, and through the strait that separates the mainland from
Rathlin Island, had run mountains high; and now, though the surface was
smooth and glistening in the bright spring sun, the long, heavy swell,
as it broke in thundering rollers on the shore, bore witness to the
fierceness of the recent conflict. The night had been wild and dark,
but it was succeeded by one of those balmy days that are sent as
harbingers of coming summer. Elsie and Jim had been busy ever since the
return of the tide, about noon, dragging to shore the masses of
sea-wrack that the recent storms had loosened and sent adrift.
The afternoon was now far advanced, and the children were growing
weary of their work. Several heaps of brown, wet, shining weed stood at
intervals along the sands, as monuments of their zeal. They began to
look wistfully towards the hill for father, who had promised to meet
them at the conclusion of the day's work; but again and again they had
looked in vain. It was now growing almost dusk. They had thought of
desisting from their task, when a succession of gigantic rollers, like
the fierce rear-guard of the great army that for so many hours had been
broken to pieces on the sands, was seen approaching.
With a solemn reverberation the first giant toppled over, and swept
a mass of mingled foam and sea-weed up the sands, far past where the
wet and weary little toilers were standing. Knee-deep in the rapidly
returning body of water, they strove with their rakes to arrest some
fragments of the whirling and tangled mass of weeds. But the second
giant was at hand. Checked in its advance by the retreating fragments
of its predecessors, the monster hesitated. And then the two masses of
water clashing together rose up in fierce embrace, while the foam and
spray of their contention was blown by the keen east wind into the
children's faces. But the force of the tide was spent, and the second
wave, though victorious in the wrestle, scarce survived the conflict,
and did not even flow over the children's feet. Elsie, therefore,
sprang forward almost to the spot where the wave had broken, and
brought down her rake into the midst of a huge and tangled mass. The
retiring wave struggled hard to retain its own, so that the child was
fairly drawn out by its force.
Let go, let go! cried Jim, as he caught the girl's dress to help
her resistance; the rake will float in again.
But Elsie was fascinated. She felt at once that the body she held
was solid, though soft and yielding, and so she clung to the long
rake-handle with all her might. The conflict was over in a few moments.
The waters retired defeated, and left upon the sands a dark, limp,
Come away, come away! shrieked the boy, as Elsie was cautiously
advancing towards the mysterious object. The girl stood still, and
hesitated a moment, while a vague dread crept over her. What was it
that lay there in the bleak, cold twilight, so still and shapeless, and
yet with such an awful suggestion of life about it? She was lost in
bewilderment when the boy's voice recalled her
Elsie, Elsie, mind the wave!
She had but a moment in which to spring back, as the third giant,
towering above its predecessors, lifted the inert body on its crest,
and flung it contemptuously high up upon the shore. Then the waters
swept back and left the two children shivering alone on the strand:
behind them were the dull, dead heaps of sea-weed, and at their feet a
black mass of clothing. The children clung together in silent awe.
Neither of them had ever seen a dead body. Hitherto death had been an
abstraction, but now they felt themselves face to face with the
[Illustration: A strange waif of the sea.]
Let's run and look for father, suggested Jim, in a frightened
We can't leave her alone, Jim, responded the girl, now pale and
grave as she had never been before, and looking from the body to the
line of foaming water but a few feet beyond; the tide might turn and
take her away again.
I wish it had not brought her! gasped Jim, through his chattering
Hush, said Elsie; and then, after a pause, if you go fetch some
one, I'll stay here.
Aren't you afraid? I am.
Go, said Elsie, go quick; it's getting dark.
Hesitatingly the boy left her, and walked almost backwards till he
reached the top of the beach; then, with a short cry of fear, he turned
his hack on the sea, and ran up the path towards his home.
Elsie stood alone with the dead. She looked on the heaps of
sea-weeds, and then along the line of breakers, that seemed even now
gathering strength for a return movement. It was a trying ordeal for a
child of ten, but the terrible novelty of the situation seemed to give
her courage. She advanced towards the body, which she now saw was that
of a woman dressed in black. She lay upon her back, the face only
hidden by the tangled hair and sea-weed. Elsie noticed as she gazed,
for what seemed hours, on the still form, that there was a gold chain
round the neck, and two rings on the finger of the hand that rested
upon the beach. As the gloom of the afternoon deepened, a sense of pity
and yearning quite new to her, and which destroyed all fear, crept over
the child. An irresistible longing urged her to draw back the tangled
hair from the face. For a moment she turned away terrified, but then
knelt down, and with trembling hands began to draw out the weeds, and
to smooth back the heavy brown hair from the cold face. She grew
absorbed in her task, and almost fancied the worn, yet beautiful and
gentle features looked pleased and grateful. She even ventured to lift
the heavy arm from the sand, but it fell back so stiffly that the child
was terrified, and stood a little apart, wondering where the poor lady
had come from. She knew not how long she had waited, when she was
aroused by the sound of a voice. Looking up, she beheld Michael
McAravey by her side.
Well, Elsie, lass, what's all this? There 's that wee fool Jim
crying himself into fits, and raving about dead bodies in the sea-weed.
Blessed mother! so it is a dead body, he added, excitedly, as he
caught sight of the object of Elsie's regard. The old man was only
unnerved for a moment; then turning his back to the sea and putting his
hands to his mouth, he gave a loud halloa, which echoed across the
silent bay, but brought no other response.
Now, lass, look sharp and run up the brae, and call some of the
men, or the tide will be in upon us. And we 'll lose the wrack, too,
for the matter of that. Away you go in a moment, he added, sternly, as
the child seemed reluctant to abandon what she held to be her peculiar
Elsie obeyed, and was fortunate enough, just as she was turning into
the by-road that led to the shore, to run against George Hendrick.
What has scared you so, Elsie? he said, kindly, as he stopped the
headlong child; are you in mischief, and running away from anybody?
O Mr. Hendrick, we 've found a drowned lady on the shore, and I 'm
running to tell the people; father's with her.
Where? cried the reader, quickly.
In the sandy cove, where we get the sea-wrack.
Well, Elsie, you run on to McAuley's, and ask him to bring down
some spirits in case she might be alive still; and lose no
timethere's a good girl.
So saying, Hendrick sprang over the low fence and hurried down the
shore. He soon saw through the dusk a tall figure bending over some
object on the sand. It rose as he approached, and he at once recognised
McAravey. The old man was singularly excited and flurriedfar more so
than when he had joined Elsie.
Thank God some one has come! he cried; and you 're the very man I
'd like to see.
Is she quite dead? said Hendrick, kneeling beside the body.
Aye, dead enough and stiff, answered the old man; but see, the
tide is almost on us. Let's fetch her up a bit. I did not like to touch
her till some one came.
Between them they lifted the body into a place of safety, and then
McAravey, whose agitation had not diminished, said, with affected
While we are waiting I 'll just drag up a wee lock of that weed;
there is no use letting the tide fetch it away again. So saying, he
proceeded to lift in his arms the heaps that were nearest the sea, and
to place them beyond the high-water line.
Meanwhile Hendrick had been examining the features of the dead
woman, and was startled to recognise one with whom he had conversed
only the day before. This was the only important point brought out at
the inquest, which took place in a couple of days. Hendrick deposed to
having met a woman dressed like the deceased, as far as he could judge,
walking on the cliffs past Fair Head. She had asked him about a short
cut to Tor Bay by a rocky path which led abruptly down to the shore,
and which, she said, she half-remembered. He had warned her that the
way was a dangerous one, especially in bad weather. She had laughed,
and said she had once been down the Grey Man's Path, and had known the
coast well in childhood. She had not told him her business in Tor Bay,
but had said they might, perhaps, meet there. Had anything else passed?
Yes, he had given her a little tract, as she seemed anxious and
troubled. Anything else? No, except that when parting she had asked him
the correct time in order to set her watch. Did Hendrick see the watch?
No, but he thought she wore a chain, and was certain she had spoken of
setting her watch, which she said had gone down. This matter excited
some interest, because, though the tract given by Hendrick was found in
the pocket of the dress, no watch or chain could be discovered. Had the
unfortunate woman been robbed, and then thrown into the sea? Or had the
watch and chain been stolen by Mike or the children, who first found
the body? Or might they not easily have been lost from the body that
had been so long tossed by the waves? Elsie's examination did not tend
to clear her of suspicion. Her answers to the preliminary questions as
to the nature of an oath were somewhat flippant and unsatisfactory.
As to the chain, she first spoke positively of having seen it, then
hesitatingly, ending by saying she was frightened and knew nothing
McAravey swore positively that he had seen no gold chain, and
therefore had not taken one. Though an ugly suspicion was thus created,
no further steps could be taken, Hendrick declining to vouch for more
than an impression that the deceased wore a chain. Evidence of
identity there was none. The linen was marked E. D, and the mourning
ring, which guarded a plain gold one, had merely the words, In memory,
H. D., 186. The only further evidence was that of a public
car-driver between Cushendall and Ballycastle, who deposed to having
had a passenger who corresponded to the description of the dead woman.
She had no luggage, and walked away when the car stopped. A woman was
also found who had given deceased a night's lodging. She said she had
seemed excited and somewhat flightywas restless at night, and started
off early, having paid a shilling for her lodging and breakfast. This
last witness added to the confusion by saying she saw no chain, and did
not believe her lodger had a watch, since she had several times asked
her the hour, and had annoyed her into saying she ought to have a watch
of her own. This witness's impression was that deceased had replied,
I wish I had, and I wouldn't trouble you. This was absolutely all
that could be ascertained. And accordingly the dead woman was buried by
the Rev. Cooper Smith, in Rossleigh graveyard, which she had told
Hendrick she had known well in her childhood. All the neighbourhood
flocked to the funeral, and even Michael McAravey was for the first
time in his life seen inside the doors of a Protestant church. The old
man seemed much cut up, probably owing to the doubts cast on his
honesty. So sad was the fate of the unknown wanderer, and so great the
interest excited, that it was determined to record the mysterious event
in a simple headstone, erected by subscription. To the surprise of
everybody, McAravey, who had never been known to trouble himself about
any one else's affairs, or to give away a shilling, took the matter up
warmly, and himself subscribed fifteen shillings, which he paid in
three instalments. The stone was erected, bearing this inscription:
OF MRS. E. D. (NAME UNKNOWN),
FOUND DROWNED NEAR TOR POINT
On the 13th of March, 186.
This Stone is Erected by Subscription.
The events narrated in the last chapter were not without lasting
effects on most of the persons immediately concerned in them. Michael
McAravey was an altered man. His proud reserve seemed changing into
petulant self-vindication. He began to look fully his age, and, like
many other men of so-called iron constitution, when his strength began
to give way it collapsed at once. He also conceived a violent antipathy
to George Hendrick. The children were forbidden to attend the class,
which had now been resumed; and although they came twice
surreptitiously, Mr. Hendrick was no sooner aware of this than he felt
obliged to tell them that their first duty was obedience to their
guardians. It was a hard parting both for teacher and pupils. It cost
George Hendrick no slight effort to dismiss his two favourite scholars,
nor could he at once see his duty plain in the matter. As for the
children they were broken-hearted and rebellious; but the quiet,
sympathetic tenderness of their friend at length reconciled them to
their lot. Except on this point, McAravey was far more considerate with
the children than formerly. He was now a good deal in the house, having
become very asthmatic, and often shielded Elsie and Jim from Mrs.
McAravey's harsh tongue.
The effect of what they had gone through was no less evident in the
children, though they were very differently affected. Jim never
recovered the panic of that March day. Nothing could induce him to go
near the shore alone, and the very sight of the sea excited the lad. It
was otherwise with Elsie. That solitary interview with the dead had
sobered her. The dead woman's face was seldom absent from her thoughts.
Elsie had grown to love it, and to regard it as something mysterious
and superhuman. She had never before seen so refined and beautiful a
countenance; and there was something in the rigid aspect of death that
quieted and awed, while it did not the least terrify the child. As the
months went by, and the actual event began to fade in the distance, the
pale sweet face, with the dripping brown hair drawn back from it,
became more and more of an ideal for veneration and love. Thus, while
Jim could never be induced to pass near the sandy cove alone, Elsie
ceased to have any special association with the actual scene of the
occurrence. But in her moments of passion or heedlessness she ever saw
before her the dead facekind, but so calm and firm, that it repressed
in an instant her most impetuous outbursts.
As the autumn drew on it became evident that Michael McAravey was
dying. That he knew it himself was gathered from the fact that more
than once, during the summer, he had walked over to Ballycastle to
attend Mass. There seemed a weight on the old man's mind, which he was
unable or unwilling to shake off. 'Lisbeth, who for years had suffered
severely from rheumatics, and who had made up her mind that she was
to die before the old man, was but an indifferent nurse. Elsie,
however, more than took her place. Michael had become much attached to
the child, and as he daily grew weaker he came to look to her for
Ye 'r a brave wee lass, Elsie, he used to say, and I doubt I 've
not been over kind to ye, but I can't do without ye now.
One gloomy September afternoon, when the blustering winds were again
celebrating the return of the equinox, Michael, who had been sleeping
heavily all day, suddenly started up and astonished his wife by an
eager request that she would send at once for George Hendrick and
I doubt you 're raving, Mike, to send for such a pair. What do you
want with either, not to say both? Nice company they 'd be for each
I tell you I'm dying, and I must see them both, cried her husband,
rising, gaunt and excited, in the bed. I say, Elsie, he continued,
this is Wednesday; run down and see can you find Mr. Hendrick anywhere
Elsie departed at once, while 'Lisbeth tried to soothe the invalid,
muttering all the time, however, her scorn of Readers and hatred of
George Hendrick was easily found, and in a few minutes was sitting
by the old man's side, soothing him with simple, kindly words, and
waiting for an opening through which to approach the inner man.
I 've not treated you fair, my mon, and I didn't wish to die
without tellin' you so. Besides, there 's a thing or two I 've been
thinkin' long to speak about, and now the time's come. I 've sent for
It's far to send and long to wait, Mike; do you not think we can do
as well without him? asked the reader.
I've not sent for him, and ye may be sure I 'll have none o' your
Papish priests coomin' about the house, leastways whiles I 'm in it,
interrupted Mrs. McAravey.
Then you 'd better get out of it, said the old man; I never
interfered with you and your Ranters and Covenanters, and I don't mean
to be interfered with. I tell ye, George Hendrick, I'll die in the
Church of my fathers, even if I 'm
Hush! cried Hendrick, putting his hand to the excited man's mouth;
we 'll send for the priest if you wish. God forbid that I should stand
between you. Young Jim McAuley is going over to Ballycastle, and will
take a message if Elsie gives it him; but he can't be here for three or
four hours at least, so let us be quiet a wee bit now. You said you
wanted to see me, Mike; and perhaps while we are waiting you 'd like to
hear the message of God out of His own bookyou needn't wait to send
to Ballycastle for it.
You may read a bit if ye like, responded McAravey, leaning back on
the bed, quite satisfied now that the priest had been sent for; only
no controversy; it's not fit for a dyin' manor for any man, for the
matter o' that.
No controversy! said Hendrick, smiling; well, will this suit you?
'Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness. God was
manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels,
preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into
glory.' Do you believe that, Mike?
Aye, aye; it's wonderful to think on, murmured the dying man, in
his deep, solemn voice. I doubt I 've been a bit hard sometimes, but I
've always been honest and paid my way. Then after a pause, Ye may go
on with your readin'; I 'm no ways prejudiced. I think Prodestan and
Catholic is pretty much alike with God.
Aye, Mike, alike in this, that 'all have sinned and come
short of the glory of God.' None of us can stand before Him as we are;
but remember what Paul says again, there could be no disputing about,
'This is a true saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus
came into the world to save sinners.'
I believe that, said McAravey; but now I 'd like to sleep a bit;
only don't go away, for if the priest don't come in time, I must
confess to you, George. Ye won't object to hear me and give me
absolution, will you? he added with an effort to smile.
I won't leave you, Mike, and I'll hear what you have to say; and as
for absolution, I 'll try to point you to the great Absolverour
Advocate with the Fatherwho is the propitiation for our sins.
It was after ten o'clock when Father Donnelly arrived. After a short
private interview with the patient, Hendrick was summoned to the room.
There is a part of my confession, said the old man, which, by
your leave, father, I 'd like my friend to hearit will save us the
time of going over the same bit twice.
The priest nodded silently, not, however, looking very pleased at
the somewhat light tone in which McAravey spoke.
It's about the two children, and the poor creature that was found
by them on the sands last spring. It's been heavy on my mind this long
time, and I can't go out of the world without explaining all I know
about the story. And now to begin at the beginning. It's just about
seven years ago, and a couple before we came here, that the children
came to us. We were very hard-up at that time, and 'Lisbeth and I were
down in heart about loosin' our own wains, when one day I was in the
market at Ballymena, and there I met James Kinley. He asked me, would
the missus like to make a trifle by taking charge of a couple of
children? I said I thought she might, and so he brought me to the
hotel, and I saw a young woman as said she and her husband were going
abroad, and wished to leave the two little ones with some respectable
person in the glens. Well, I saw her a second time, and then it was all
settled. She gave us 20 pounds down, and said she would write. I didn't
like to ask questions, thinking, perhaps, it wasn't all on the square
about the bairns, and so I'm not sure I ever even knew the name
rightlyit was Davis, or Davison, or Dawson, or something that way.
Tom Kinley knew all about the parties, and so I did not trouble. And
then when he went to America there was no one to inquire of. Well, we
had one letter about a year after, from some place in Inja, I think,
and in it they said they was going further, and mightn't be able to
write for some time. There was a directed envelope inside, and I sent
off a few lines to say the wains was well. After that we never heard
more, and we always thought the father and mother had got killed in the
strange parts they went to. So we never told the young 'uns anything,
but determined to make the best shift we could for them. Then came the
day they found the body, and this is where my sore trouble began. After
Elsie left me, I was still lookin' at the poor dead thing, when it come
on me like a dream that I had seen the face before. At first I couldn't
think where it was, and then I remembered the lady Kinley had brought
me to see in Ballymena. I stooped down to look at her, and then I
noticed the chain round her neck. There was no watch on it, but a sort
of wee case that opened, and inside there was a picture and a wee bit
o' paper folded. You may be sure Mike McAravey had no thought of
stealing; but when I saw some one comin', I said to myself, 'These
things belong to the wains, and if I leave 'em here they 'll not get
'em unless I tell all I knows.' And my heart bled to think of the
children hearing the first of their mother, when they saw her lying
dead. So I slipt the chain and case into my pocket, just as George
Hendrick came up. Ye remember, perhaps, I was so confused-like I didn't
know what I was doing. Maybe ye thought I was scared. Then, when we
brought up the body, I went and put the chain under the big heap o'
sea-weed. When all the fuss was made at the inquest, I was sorry I had
hid the things, but I daren't tell then. And mind ye, Father Donnelly,
I told no lie, for there was no watch, and the chain wasn't gold at
all, but an old-fashioned silver affair. Even so it was a weight on me,
so I thought the best thing I could do was to sell it, and they gave me
fifteen shillings in Coleraine. And that's how I got the first money
for the monument. The wee casea locket, I believe, they call itI
've kept yet. It's made up in a parcel in the corner of the wee box
under the bed. And now that's all I 've to say; but I knows this
affair, and the way the folk has doubted me has been the cause of my
breaking up. And there 's poor ElsieI believe she swore she didn't
see the chain just to keep me out of trouble, and that cut me most of
all to be the means o' bringin' the poor innocent lass to tell a lie.
I'm sorry you did not tell me all this before, said George
Hendrick, his eyes filling with tears as he gazed on the stern,
deep-lined face of the old man; it might all have been explained.
I'm sorry too, and often thought to do it; but you see I took a
dislike to you, because your mentioning about the watchwhen after all
there was no watchwas the cause of my trouble.
And now you see, Mike, said the priest, the evil results of not
coming to confession; I 've often warned you.
So you have, Father Donnelly, and it's no fault o' yours if I
haven't been a better Catholic; but I 'm punished now, so let us forget
Aye, said the priest, you have suffered for your fault; and now
wouldn't you like to receive the last rites, in case anything might
happen before I come again?
It was not too soon, for when daylight dawned the proud, restless
spirit had taken flight. Long after the priest had left, Hendrick had
sat, Bible in hand, pointing the dying sinner to the Great High Priest
of our profession; and when the struggle was over he started home
across the moors in the bleak morning, cheered and thankful in heart,
believing that his labours that night had not been in vain in the
Michael McAravey's death made a considerable difference in the
position of his family. His widow was unable to retain and work the
land; and though she obtained a considerable sum by way of tenant-right
from McAuley, to whose farm the little patch was now united, she yet
found herself in very straitened circumstances, especially as she
regarded spending her principal as almost a sin. It was a bitter
struggle, and, yet by degrees there crept into her heart a degree of
peace and contentment such as she had never known before. Both she and
Elsie had been deeply affected by the earnest and simple appeals of the
Scripture-reader during that last sad night of watching by the bed of
death. The more so, in all probability, in that the words were not
addressed directly to them, so that there was none of that irritation
which often results when one feels himself being preached at.
Hendrick was now a weekly visitor at Mrs. McAravey's cottage, and he
had at length the gratification of seeing, in this one home at least,
the results of his long-continued and faithful labours. At his
suggestion, Jim, who, especially after the old man's death, could be
made nothing of at home, was sent to a distant relative in Coleraine,
where he had an opportunity of pursuing his studies at the Model
School, with a view to entering some sort of business. This was almost
the only object for which Mrs. McAravey would permit a portion of her
small capital to be touched. For the rest, she and Elsie struggled on
almost in poverty, but helped and, as far as possible, kept in work by
the kindness of the neighbours. In some mysterious way the substance of
McAravey's confession had become public property, and it was known and
suspected by everybody but herself that something had come out to
identify the drowned woman as Elsie's mother. Thus the child found
herself, she knew not why, an object of interest to every member of the
little community. And the remembrance of the dead woman was really like
that of a mother to her. As Mrs. McAravey grew rapidly aged, Elsie
acquired the habit of calling her gran; while the feelings of
tenderness and sympathy that had been first roused in her by the sight
of that poor soiled dead face, with the hair and sea-weed dashed across
it, were cherished and sanctified by the daily call made on them in
consequence of the old woman's increasing infirmities. The child had
even come, strangely enough, to think of and speak to the object of her
dreams as mother. Was it an accident? Was it an instinct? Was it the
result of some overheard expressions which, passing through her
consciousness unnoticed, had yet made a lasting impression on the brain
of the imaginative child? Or was it a providential suggestion sent by
an all-pitying Father to this desolate and wandering lamb?
Thus time slipped by uneventfully, as far as external circumstances
were concerned, but not purposelessly. The hard lot of the poor
suffering old woman was being lighted, and her spirit trained for that
eternity which was now growing large upon her vision, as earthly
affairs shrank into a smaller compass. Elsie, too, who had never yet
crossed the hill that seemed to meet the sky at the top of the glen,
was learning lessons of perseverance and patient endurance, which would
not be lost upon her, whatever the future of the child might be. Jim
was seldom at home, and, alas! but little of the old childish
attachment survived. The boy was ambitious, business-like, and
plodding. His heart was in the town, and he seemed to retain no
affection for the associations of his childhood: some of them were
absolutely abhorrent to him. George Hendrick was profoundly
disappointed in the lad. Not that a word could be said against his
character. He was steady, diligent, and submissive. And when he was
placed in a position where he could earn something, he never failed to
send what he could to the old woman who had sacrificed so much to bring
him on. But there seemed a total absence of feeling or religious
sentiment about the lad. If he was sober and steady, it was merely
because he scorned the weakness and waste consequent upon dissipation.
He was pushing and ambitious, well spoken of and respected, but his old
teacher failed not to see that all his thoughts were of the earth,
When she was nearly fifteen (as far as her ago was known) a new
world was opened up for Elsie. The rector's family were now growing up,
and he was blest enough to find in his children, not a hindrance, but
the greatest comfort and assistance in his arduous and often cheerless
work. Miss Smith and her sister Louisa had recently taken the musical
arrangements of the church in hand, and not before it was needed, were
now busying themselves to select and train a rustic choir. The fame of
Elsie's vocal abilities had been brought to Rossleigh Rectory by
Hendrick, and so one day Mrs. McAravey was surprised by a visit from
two bright, fresh young girls. In her reception of them you could not
recognise the hard, rude woman who had so sorely repulsed their father
on his first visit to the glen.
Mr. Hendrick has been telling us about you and Elsie, began Miss
Smith, and we have only been waiting for the moors to be tolerably dry
to come over and see you. Now we 've once got here, I hope we shall be
Thank ye, miss; thank ye kindly. I shall be glad to see ye, and I
hope ye won't be strangers. It's not often any one passes this way, and
I often think very long when Elsie's out.
We hear Elsie has a very good voice, and we want to know whether
she could not manage to come over and sing in the choir, in summer-time
Aye, the lass has a good voice enough, and a good heart too, God
bless her! She 'll sing her hymns to me here half the night when I'm
kept awake with the pain. But, begging your pardon, young ladies, I
don't care much for these new-fangled hymns; it's the good old psalms
that I likethem's the Lord's work and not man's. And, as for Elsie
singing in the church, it's very kind of you to think of her; but it 'a
a long road, or rather no road at all. But here 's the lass, and she
'll speak for hersel'.
At this moment Elsie entered the cottage, and was delighted at the
invitation, for which, it may be told, George Hendrick had already
prepared her. But how could she leave poor gran? The old woman
thought this could be managed if she was only wanted for the morning.
And so it was finally settled that Elsie should, on fine Sundays, walk
over to Rossleigh in time for the half-past eleven service, remaining
for dinner at the rectory, in order that she might attend the afternoon
Sunday-school, and thence return to Tor Bay at about four in the
afternoon. To all this Mrs. McAravey assented, though probably the
three young girls had no conception of the sacrifice it was to the
invalid thus to consent to her being left alone from ten o'clock of a
Sunday morning till nearly five.
Elsie soon became a favourite at the rectory. Young and
enthusiastic, she thought nothing of the four miles' walk across the
rough moorland; nor did it ever occur either to her or Mrs. McAravey
that, in partaking of the rector's hospitality, she was profiting by
the delicate sympathy of the girls for their hard-worked and ill-fed
Mrs. Cooper Smith was much interested in Elsie, and offered to
procure her a situation, or to take her into her own house as maid for
the younger children. But Elsie, who thankfully received every other
favour, and availed herself of every opportunity for improving herself,
steadily declined to leave poor Mrs. McAravey. The family at the
rectory could not but approve this resolve, and so for the time nothing
further was said on the subject.
The rector had now established a monthly service at Tor Bay, over
which he himself presided. This service, as well as the
Scripture-reader's classes, was held in Mrs. McAravey's cottage, for
which accommodation the old woman was almost compelled to accept a
consideration that went far towards paying her rent. Elsie, from having
been the chief care, had now become the invaluable assistant of the
reader. The population of the neighbourhood had been recently augmented
by the advent of a number of miners, engaged in opening up the numerous
streaks of iron ore that have of recent years begun to be worked in the
Antrim glens. Elsie, who had long since overcome her prejudice against
the arts of reading and writing, was now quite competent to act as Mr.
Hendrick's assistant, or even as his substitute. For this help, too,
she was, after a time, induced to accept a trifling remuneration.
So had the good providence of God opened out a way for this poor
parentless child, that at the age of sixteen or seventeen she found
herself in a position of usefulness and importance that was pleasing to
her. A homely night-school had been established on four evenings of the
week, of which Elsie was the recognised and paid mistress. Her old and
trusty friend George Hendrick came over as of yore on Wednesdays, and
also on Fridays when no school was held, the evening being occupied by
the service, and singing practice which followed.
Elsie's pure and sweet example, and bright and playful manner, were
of priceless value among the somewhat rough and careless mining
population which had now been settled on the moors about the headlands.
The girl was happy in herself, and therefore failed not to inspire
others with something of the innocent sunshine of her own nature. She
still was haunted by the dear, dead face of her whom she had learned to
love as a sort of angelic mother. But she had learnt a better faith
than that of hero-worship, and had come to look to another Presence,
that was human and yet divinely glorious, for guidance, sympathy, and
Thus matters continued for two years. Elsie was now a grown young
woman, and her school was regularly established. Her's was a happy and
Never feeling of unrest
Broke the pleasant dream she dreamed.
Only made to be her nest
All that lovely valley seemed,
No desire of soaring higher
Stirred or flattered in her breast.
Even had she desired to move, the presence of Mrs. McAravey would
have rendered it impossible. Though much softened and improved, the old
woman had scarcely become an agreeable companion. The hard, Covenanting
leaven had moulded her from childhood, and though of late years she had
been touched by a gentler spirit, it was impossible that habits of a
lifetime should be entirely eradicated. She suffered much pain, borne
for the most part uncomplainingly, and was now nearly helpless. Elsie
was not the sort of person to think herself a martyr. Indeed, it never
occurred to her that, in thus watching and consoling the declining
years of this poor, decrepid old body, she was even performing a noble,
and at times fatiguing and painful, duty. She took it all as a matter
of course. It came to her in the order of Providence, and formed an
element and feature in the state of life to which it had pleased God to
call her, and in which she had resolved by the Divine blessing to do
Thus matters might long have held their quiet course had it not been
for Jim. As it has been said, he was very different in disposition from
Elsie. Restless, eager, and full of curiosity, he could not understand
her placid yet cheerful nature. He knew not the secret of her inner
life, and of the way in which that life animated and directed the
outer. The young man saw less and less of Tor Glen, having now obtained
a good situation in a flax store at Ballymena.
Some little time previous Elsie and Jim had both been confirmed; and
since that event the Rev. Cooper Smith and George Hendrick had had
several consultations with regard to them. They were very unwilling to
disturb the minds of the young people, nor had they anything definite
to impart; yet it did not seem right to keep them in ignorance of what
was known or suspected as to their parentage. Jim, moreover, had
displayed a good deal of curiosity on the subject, and had questioned
Hendrick as to the meaning of the reports that had come to his ever
open ears about old McAravey's knowledge of the drowned woman.
At length it was resolved that Elsie and Jim should be invited to
the rectory on a Saturday afternoon, and the whole matter fully
explained. All being assembled on the day named, the rector briefly
repeated what McAravey had said on his death-bed, as it had been told
to him by Hendrick. It appeared that before the old man's death the
locket had been brought out from its place of concealment, and, in
presence of the priest, handed over to Hendrick, who had next day
brought it to the rector. Upon investigation the locket had been found
to contain the portrait of a man, and also a small folded piece of
paper. The face was intelligent and powerful, but by no means pleasing.
The eyes were eager and piercing, the lines about the mouth firm and
deep-cut; the features in general somewhat coarse, and plainly those of
a man in the lower walks of life, and one accustomed to hard toil both
of mind and body. The paper had proved to be the pawn ticket of a watch
pledged in Belfast for the sum of one pound, the name upon it being
Henderson. Mr. Smith had redeemed the watch, which now lay before him
with the locket on the table.
You see, Elsie, he said, turning to the girl, whose eyes were full
of tears, we have but slight evidence to show either that this is your
father's portrait, or that the poor creature who came to so untimely an
end was your mother. It is curious that the name on the ticket is
Henderson, while McAravey said the person who brought you and Jim to
him was called Davison or Davis, or something like that. Of course it
is quite possible the poor creature did not like to give her right name
at a pawn office. What do you think?
I have always felt as if she was my mother, said Elsie; and I
should be glad if it turned out so. It seems very probable.
I'm sure this rough-looking fellow is no father of mine, cried
Jim, who had been sadly disappointed at the unromantic character of the
revelation; but I'll find out the secret of this matter yet. Meantime,
I suppose, sir, the watch is mine. Elsie may take the locket.
Don't you think you are somewhat precipitate, Jim? said the
rector, smiling. This is just one of the points Mr. Hendrick and I
have been considering. Of course it is just possible that some day the
poor drowned woman may be identified, and turn out to have no
connection with you at all. But I am inclined to think she was your
mother, and that that accounts for her coming to Tor Bay. We have
thought it only right, therefore, that you and Elsie should have the
locket and watch, for the present at least. As for the division, you
must arrange that between you.
I think I ought to have the watch, as I said, sir, and Elsie the
Well, perhaps that is the most suitable division, said the rector,
coldly; but I don't think you are quite consistent in claiming the
watch so eagerly, and at the same time scorning the miniature, since,
in all probability, if the watch belonged to your mother, the likeness
is that of your father.
As such I at least shall be glad to keep it, said Elsie.
Jim was somewhat crestfallen at the rector's rebuke, but merely
added, with some pomposity
Now that I have been informed of the circumstances, I shall
probably, by the aid of this watch, be able to unravel the mystery of
He meant it merely as a piece of brag to cover his retreat, and as
such the rector and Hendrick took it, receiving his words with a quiet
I consider that Mr. Smith has acted very wrongly in keeping these
things from us so long, commenced the young man, as he and Elsie
walked home together after ac early dinner at the rectory.
O Jim! how can you say so? Mr. Smith could have had no motive but
consideration for our feelings.
I say nothing against his motives, only that I think he acted
wrongly. Valuable time has been lost; but clergymen are never good men
of business, and Scripture-readers are like them, I suppose.
Jim, I don't like to hear you speak like that; it's ungrateful. And
what you mean by valuable time I can't conceive.
I dare say you don't understand the value of time, leading the sort
of life you do in a place where nobody ever knows the hour, said the
youth, superciliously, as he glanced at his newly-acquired treasure;
but of course I mean time has been lost in investigating our family
I'm quite content to be as I am, said Elsie. If the history was
known, it would probably be neither important nor interesting. I don't
see how the watch will help you, Jim; and you know you won't have the
And she looked into the lad's face with her merry brown eyes. But
Jim was on his high horse, and merely replied
I cannot say what I shall do all at once, but the matter shall be
looked into at an early date.
Elsie smiled, as the rector and Scripture-reader had donenot
visibly, indeed, as they had, yet Jim somehow felt he was being laughed
at, which made him angry.
He is a smart lad that, but I don't like him, said the rector, as
he and Hendrick watched Elsie and Jim going down the avenue. He wants
to be a fine gentleman, and is ashamed of his father's portraitan
ill-looking fellow enough, it must be admitted.
Aye, I didn't like that, said Hendrick; but he is a steady boy,
and may do well when the conceit has been taken out of him a wee bit.
If only a 'wee bit' is taken, there will be what the people call a
good little wee lock left. But I sincerely hope, for his own sake, that
his pride will be taken out of him. He is insufferable.
For the present, at least, Jim was elated with a pardonable pride in
his watch, and, after the manner of youths thus recently set up, he
looked at it again and again during his walk next morning across the
headlands to Ballycastle, where he had to catch the Ballymoney car,
thence to proceed to Ballymena by train. Ho was looking at his watch
for the hundredth time, and half smiling to himself at his rash and
boastful words as to making it the means of discovering his family
history, when a sudden thought occurred to him. He looked long and
eagerly at the watch, while his pale face flushed up. I have it, he
muttered; and if I'm right, I shall take down the minister a bit.
It was a long, tedious journey by foot and car and rail that lay
before him, and his patience was almost exhausted when he reached his
destination. Once arrived, he immediately sat down to write in his
humble lodgings. The watch bore the name of the maker, John Turnwell,
Leeds, 7002. Was it not possible that a record had been preserved,
stating when and to whom the watch had been sold. Ho did not know
whether such was the practice, but at all events he would inquire. A
brief note was soon written and left ready for the morning mail; then
the tired and excited lad went to bed, and dreamed of a beautiful lady
who said she was his mother, and that his father was a lord, and had
been murdered by the repulsive-looking man in the locket; and then a
carriage and pair came thundering up to his lodgings, and his employer
stood in the hall as he passed down, and congratulated him, and called
him my lord. Then he thought he saw the man in the locket looking at
him with hard, cold mouth, and then the face grew smaller till it
shrunk into the locket, and it was open on the breast of the dead woman
as she lay on the sands; and he saw himself and Elsie standing by the
body. In a moment he passed into the little figure, and felt himself
turning to call Mike McAravey, as he had done so long ago. The horror
of that last vision awoke him. It was late, and he had only time to get
his letter posted and to hurry to his office.
But Jim could not rest, till in the course of a few days a letter
arrived with the Leeds post-mark. He trembled as he took it in his
hand, and then as he read a flush mantled up his face, and he burst
into a laugh as he saluted himself in the cheap mirror that adorned the
Aw, mi lord! Glad to make your lordship's acquaintance!
The note ran thus:
WATCH AND CLOCK FACTORY, LEEDS,
August 19, 187.
SIR,In reply to your favour of the 16th inst. we beg to say that
we always keep a register of all watches made or sold by us.
No. 7002, an English lever made by ourselves, appears to have been
purchased by Lady Waterham, of Burnham Park, in this neighbourhood, on
the 21st of October, 185.
We should advise you to communicate at once with her ladyship, who
is now at home.
We remain, Sir, your obedient Servants,
J. TURNWELL &Co.
Mr. J. McARAVEY,
Market Street, Ballymena, Ireland.
It was enough to turn the head of an ambitious boy. Poor Jim, though
generally cautious and reticent, could not contain himself, and, in
strict confidence, revealed his coming splendour to one or two of his
companions. It was soon reported that Jim McAravey had come in for a
fortune of 50,000 pounds, and was the son of a lord. Even his employers
seemed to treat him with new consideration, and, though annoyed that
the affair had got so soon bruited about, he could not feel angry when
he saw himself pointed at in the street, and half jokingly spoken of as
my lord by his fellow-clerks.
[Illustration: Jim building castles-in-the-air.]
Jim's first step was to write a somewhat haughty letter to the Rev.
Cooper Smith, and an excessively gushing and almost affectionate one to
Elsie. Both letters were shown to George Hendrick, the consequence
being that one afternoon on returning home Jim found the
Scripture-reader awaiting him. The young lord (as they called him)
was about to offer a gracious but distant welcome, when Hendrick, who
had heard the town talk, anticipated him by exclaiming
Well, Jim, my boy, I'm afraid you have been making a rare fool of
I would thank you to explain your language, said the young man
with great hauteur.
There, don't be offended, lad, replied the reader, kindly; I only
meant it was a pity you let this thing get talked of before you had
more certainty. I needn't tell you, Jim, how glad we shall all be to
hear of anything really to your advantage.
I'm not aware that the thing has been talked about. I only
mentioned it to one or two personal friends, with a view to obtaining
Your friends have not been discreet, then, said Hendrick; why,
Jim, the whole town is talking about you, and should this come to
nothing, you will have made yourself ridiculous. Had you no truer or
older friends with whom you might have consulted? I 'm sorry for this,
If you mean Mr. Smith and yourself, I must say you did not seem to
take much interest in my welfareand Elsie is not much better, he
added, bitterly. Perhaps it will be different now.
Come, Jim, you don't believe a word of all that. You know well who
your truest friends are, though we don't always encourage all your
notions. But will you not let me see this famous letter?
Hendrick read the letter carefully, and then asked, And what do you
mean to do, Jim?
Why of course go over to see her ladyship as soon as I can arrange
matters here. I shall speak to Messrs. Moore to-morrow, and see whether
they can let me free at onceI should think under the circumstances
My dear Jim, cried the reader, are you mad? You don't seriously
mean to give up, or run the risk of losing, your situation for what may
after all prove a wild goose chase?
This was just what Jim had contemplated, and it was not without
difficulty that good George Hendrick brought him to a sounder judgment.
Unlike Jim's youthful friends, who, partly animated by love of mischief
and partly by youth's natural hopefulness, had encouraged him to
indulge the most glowing fancies, Hendrick showed him gently, but
plainly, how fragile was the foundation on which he had been building.
The watch might have been stolen, or lost, or given away. There might
turn out to be no direct or traceable connection between Lady Waterham
and the unknown woman whose property it had been. Jim was not shaken in
his own private conviction (strengthened as it had been by his dream),
but he was too hard-headed not to admit the reasonableness of Mr.
Hendrick's arguments; and the more he heard of the tales that had been
circulated, the more deeply he regretted his pride and misplaced
confidence. He finally made no objection to Hendrick's proposal that
the matter should be left in the hands of the Rev. Cooper Smith, who
was going to England in the course of ten days, and was willing to make
a slight detour to Leeds. So it was settled. The watch and locket were
entrusted to the rector, who promised to see the watchmaker and Lady
You seem more annoyed than anything else, said Jim crossly to
Elsie, when the final arrangements were being made in the rectory
I cannot say I am pleased, replied the girl. I fear lest you
should be disappointed, Jim; and, on the other hand, I don't want to be
anything but what I am. I have not been brought up a lady, and to find
that I had been born one would be no pleasure. If you could be a lord,
Jim, without affecting me, it would be all right.
Why, Elsie, you have no ambition.
None to be put in a false position, which I could not rightly
What a solemn and mysterious communication, said Lady Waterham,
laughing, as she handed a letter across the breakfast table to her
Pooh! my dear, it is some Irish beggar; you had better not see
him, said his lordship as he rose from the table.
O scarcelyit would be too impertinent.
The letter ran as follows:
The Rev. Cooper Gore Smith presents his compliments to Lady
Waterham, and trusts that she will find it convenient to receive him on
Tuesday morning at about eleven o'clock, when he hopes to have the
honour of waiting on her ladyship.
The Rev. Cooper Gore Smith's reasons for troubling Lady Waterham
can scarcely be explained in a letter. Suffice it that the affair on
which he is engaged is of considerable importance to those chiefly
concerned, and may even prove not to be without interest for her
Railway Hotel, Leeds,
Sept. 3, 187.
This the worthy man flattered himself was in his best style. He was
considerably puffed up by the importance of his mission, and, although
he had the wisdom to keep them secret, his aspirations were nearly as
far-reaching as those of Jim himself. To have been the friend and
patron of two long-lost scions of nobility was an idea too romantic and
agreeable not to be dwelt on, even though he reminded himself again and
again that it had probably no foundation. It was, therefore, with no
little self-importance that the note was penned, and in a similar frame
of mind he started for Burnham Park next morning.
Lady Waterham was sitting in the morning-room with her two daughters
when the clergyman was announced.
Lady Eleanor and Lady Constance More were like each other, being
both agreeable-looking, simple, and yet elegant. They seemed about the
same age, and were certainly past their first youth; still they looked
bright and cheerful, and evidently troubled themselves but little about
the advancing years. Lady Waterham was somewhat frigid in her manner,
and as she slightly rose and pointed Mr. Smith to a chair, he became
conscious that he had forgotten the exact words in which he had
intended to commence the conversation. This led to a slight pause, but
having plenty to say, he soon found a way to begin.
I have ventured to call on your ladyship about two young persons in
whom I am deeply interested, and into whose parentage I am making
inquiries. The story is a romantic one, and will take some little time
to relate He was brought to a sudden pause by the cold, inquiring
look of Lady Waterham.
But I ought to tell your ladyship how I come to call on you.
Thank you, sir, said her ladyship, drilyshe was beginning to
suspect that her husband had been right.
Well, the fact is, continued Mr. Smith, the only clue to identity
which we have is this watch, which it appears was purchased by you some
twenty-three years ago at Mr. Turnwell's in Leeds.
Her ladyship was not like her daughters, and scarcely quite relished
being reminded of what happened twenty-three years ago. She took the
watch coldly, and, after looking at it a moment, said
Really, sir, I think there must be some mistake. I remember nothing
about this watch. I am sure it was never mine, nor have any of us lost
a watch. I am sorry you should have had so much trouble.
Excuse me, your ladyship, but it seems almost certain that the
watch was bought on your account. I have seen the entry in Messrs.
Turnwell's books, from which this is a copy.
This is very strange, said Lady Waterham, as she read the
memorandum. L7 10s. it cost, I see.
When was it, mamma? asked Lady Eleanor, looking up for the first
The 18th of April, 185.
O mamma, I know! It must be the watch we gave to dear Elsie before
she was married. You remember the marriage was in May, and that was the
year I am sure. I was just fourteen.
Fourteen and twenty-three are thirty-seven, said the Rev. Cooper
Smith to himself, as he looked at the still fresh and eager face.
Poor dear Elsie! what has become of her? Do you know her, sir? she
continued, turning to the clergyman.
The girl on whose behalf I am inquiring is called Elsie, and it
seems probable she was your friend's daughter.
I must tell you, sir, who our Elsie was, said her ladyship,
who had caught and did not like the word friend. She had been my
maid; but we found her so conscientious, nice-mannered, and
well-informed, that she almost occupied the position of nursery
governess to the younger children. We were all very much attached to
her, and when she married we gave her a watch, which Lady Eleanor
supposes must be the same as this. The marriage was not a happy one,
and we opposed it as long as we could. After some time she went to
India, and thence I think to China, with her husband. For many years we
have heard nothing of her, though I think we fancied we saw his name
among those lost in a terrible shipwreck some years ago. It was a sad
story altogether. Poor Elsie! Do you remember how anxious we used to be
about her, girls?
It was only the other day I was thinking of her, and wondering what
had become of the little baby. You know I was its god-mother, and she
was called after me.
Yes, indeed, I had forgotten, said Lady Waterham; but perhaps,
sir, you would kindly tell us what you know about our former protégée.
Mr. Smith told the sad tale with which our readers are acquainted as
briefly as he could. At the end there was a pause, and then her
Poor foolish girl! She would not take my advice, and I foresaw that
her end would not be happy.
Our poor dear Elsie! said Lady Constance, her eyes overflowing.
It was a sad day for her when she first saw that horrid man Damer; her
head was quite turned afterwards.
At all events my baby godchild is living, and a credit to me
apparently, said Lady Eleanor.
And the boy? said the clergyman.
There was a pause. The Ladies Constance and Eleanor looked at each
other, and then at their mother.
I have not mentioned the boy, said her ladyship; but that is the
most painful part of the subject. He is not Elsie's brother at all; and
what is worse, it was never exactly known who he was. About four months
after the marriage a poor woman came to the village. She said her name
was Damer, and inquired for Elsie's husband. He was very much put out
by her appearance, but at once took a lodging for her, where the poor
thing had a baby, and died immediately after. Damer said the woman was
his only sister, and accordingly that he must take the child. At the
time Elsie seemed to have no doubts, but every one else talked about
it. Some said the woman was his wife, and othersyou can imagine what
they said. Shortly after that they left the neighbourhood, and we never
saw Elsie again. Her husband, I must tell you, was a mechanical
engineer, and considered an excellent workman. He got a capital
appointment in India after he left Leeds, and Elsie wrote to tell us
she was going with him. It was then I so strongly urged her to stay at
home with the children; but she would not be guided, and merely wrote
to say she had placed them with some people in the north of Ireland,
where, I think, she came from herself.
I fancy, said Lady Eleanor, I have some of her letters still. You
remember, mamma, they were imprisoned in China, with a number of other
English people, for ever so long. It was after they were released that
we had the last letter (which I am sure I kept), saying that she was
coming home. We did not know at the time whether she meant alone
or not; and then when we saw Edgar Damer's name among the people lost
in that vesselI forget its namewe concluded that she must have gone
Thus piecing together the broken memories of the past, the morning
went by. The Rev. Cooper Smith stayed to luncheon, and in the course of
conversation various confirmatory incidents came out. The miniature in
the locket was at once recognised, and it appeared that the locket
itself had been the special gift of little Lady Eleanor. A more careful
comparison of dates proved quite satisfactory, showing, among other
things, that the body had been found at Tor Bay just four months after
the date of the letter which Lady Eleanor had succeeded in finding, and
in which Elsie said she was to start in a few days, and would be nearly
four months on the voyage. My first visit will be to the glens, and
then I shall try to go over and see you. I have so much to tell, and to
ask your kind advice about. I am unhappy and anxious, and feel somehow
as if I would never see either my child or you, though I am writing
about it. It is so long since we have heard of anybody, we seem to have
been dead, as it were.
Having returned to his hotel, the clergyman made some brief notes of
the story that had thus providentially been brought to light. He did
not know whether to feel pleasure or disappointment. He was glad to
have the mystery cleared up; glad, too, to find that Elsie had had so
sweet a mother, and was likely to have such kind and liberal friends.
Yet he could not but feel sorry for the collapse that was awaiting
Jim's castle in the air. It would be a bitter trial for him, and he
knew not how Jim would bear it. Mr. Smith was somewhat puzzled,
moreover, what to do himself. He had promised to write to the expectant
Jim; but now he could not bring himself to do so. His own holiday would
not expire for a fortnight, and he was naturally reluctant to return
home sooner than was necessary. While debating what was best to be
done, a telegram was put into his hand. It was from the irrepressible
and anxious Jim. Please telegraph results obtained immediately. Reply
paid for. The fool! muttered Mr. Smith; and, yielding to a sudden
irritation, he filled up the reply for which the boy was waiting:
All clear enough, but quite unsatisfactory as far as you are
It was a cruel blow, and no sooner was it dealt than he was sorry
for it. He resolved to write to the poor lad, and, finding an
invitation to dine at Burnham Park, which had first to be accepted, he
sat down, well pleased with himself and all the world. The letter to
Jim was kindly. The whole truth was not told, but it was announced that
Jim and Elsie were no connections of the Waterham family. All else was
reserved for verbal explanation.
The dinner at Burnham was pleasant enough. The earl was affable, and
after dinner had several reminiscences of that clever dog Damer to
tell, which did not raise his character in the clergyman's estimation.
When about to leave, Lady Eleanor handed him a note for Elsie, adding
I do wish so she would come over and see us! Of course I should
gladly pay all her expenses.
The Rev. Cooper Smith left Leeds next morning quite satisfied with
himself, and, having written a long letter to Hendrick, giving a
general idea of his discoveries, he went on his tour with a light
Poor Jim! his pride had indeed met with a fall. The rector's letter
was soothing enough, but the winged messenger which he himself had
demanded had arrived full twenty-four hours earlier. Full of the most
ridiculous dreams, that he would have been ashamed to put in words even
to himself, the young man tore open the brown cover. One glance at the
cruelly brief, well-written announcement, and all the top-heavy aerial
erection his vanity had heaped up lay shattered around him. Poor boy!
shall we not pity him? From very childhood, though so silent and
undemonstrative, he had fed himself with extravagant visions and wild
speculations. All this had been merely an amusement, though an
unhealthy one. The dreamer had scarcely entertained the idea of his
dreams possibly proving true. But the train was laid for a future
explosionthe imagination was diseased, and so when the watchmaker's
letter came, all the shadowy fancies of the past seemed to be suddenly
transformed into substantial realities. He fancied ho had always
known that which hitherto he had only amused himself by fancying.
The blow was sharp and decisive, and Jim felt he had brought it on
himself. Curiously enough, however, the sudden stinging pain acted as a
tonic stimulant. The lad summoned up all the latent manliness and force
of his character. He looked the thing in the face, and saw clearly that
he had played the fool. He knew that he would be laughed at, and
resolved to bear it like a man.
Next day came Mr. Smith's letter, and it was as balm to the wounded
spirit. Elsie also wrote a line to say she was glad not to be a lady,
and believed that he would get on all the better for not being a lord.
Thus it came to pass that when the Rev. Cooper Smith arrived at
Ballymena station, the first person he met was Jim McAravey.
I do not know how to thank you, sir, for all the trouble you have
taken; I at least was not worthy of it. But I trust this piece of folly
has been enough for me. I hope I am wiser, but I shall strive not to be
Mr. Smith was as much surprised as pleased at this change in the
young man's character, and he the more regretted having to tell the
whole of the narrative, which was sure to cause further pain to the
lad. However, it had to be done, and Jim, who was no coward, took it
all better than might have been expected.
And so I am only Elsie's half-brother, at bestor shall I say at
worst? said the poor lad, with trembling voice. I'm afraid, sir,
I shall be terribly laughed at here, but I must bear it as best I can.
I have brought it on myself.
Elsie was profoundly thankful for the result of the investigation.
As she had said herself, she did not feel like being a lady, and was
therefore glad to be delivered from what would have been, to her, an
unwelcome fate. At the same time it was a pleasure to obtain definite
information as to her parentage, and also to find that in Lady Eleanor
she had a friend who had known and loved her mother, and who was bound
to herself by a sacred tie. That Jim had proved not to be her brother
was, if the truth be told, a relief. Elsie had often reproached herself
that she did not feel for him that sisterly affection which she
believed it her duty to cultivate. In fact she began to like Jim better
now, partly because he was decidedly improved by the taking down he
had received, and partly because affection was no longer a duty to
which the girl had to school her heart.
Lady Eleanor's letter was kind in the extreme. She told Elsie in
simple language how they had all loved her mother, and enclosed for her
perusal the one or two letters that had been preserved. Although Elsie
could not remember their last meeting, yet they were not strangers,
since Lady Eleanor did not forget that she had held her in her arms at
the baptismal font. Elsie was urged most affectionately to go over to
England, if it were only for a time; and it was suggested that if she
settled there Mrs. McAravey might accompany her. Elsie, however, felt
at once that, even could she bear the journey, it would be a cruelty to
transplant the aged woman from her native soil to a region where she
would find all things alien and strange. Nor would she entertain the
idea of deserting the poor old body, though Mrs. McAravey stoically
offered to give her up.
I won't stand in your way, Elsie, lass, though I can't bear to
think of it; but it's not long I'll be here to trouble anyone, and I'd
like to know you were well provided.
But Elsie would not be persuaded, nor could her new friends do
otherwise than approve her noble resolve. They were disappointed, but
felt that such a girl was worthy of their affection and patronage, and
trusted that time would afford them opportunities of benefiting her.
The winter that ensued was a trying one. The snow lay deep on the
moors, so that Tor Bay was practically shut off from the rest of the
world. The rector was not able to get over, and even George Hendrick's
visits were few and far between. For several weeks Elsie could not go
to church, and when she did the fatigue and wet brought on a cold which
stuck to her all the winter. Old Mrs. McAravey seemed fast approaching
her end; she long had been quite crippled with rheumatism, and now her
mind was at times beginning to give way. It was a sad, dreary time for
Elsie. Scarcely any children were able to come to school; and as she
struggled on day after day at what seemed, in her present low state of
health, a barren and uninteresting task, she could not but have visions
of the comfortable home she might have acquired with her hitherto
unseen friends. Not that she ever regretted her decision; indeed Elsie
was scarcely capable of entertaining a selfish thought. Without any
apparent effort she lived for others, and habitually thought of them
before herself. Yet it was a trying time for the poor young
girlgloomy and disheartening days, succeeded by restless and anxious
nights, and literally not a soul to speak to.
Jim, too, had a bad time of it that winter. So great had been the
ridicule to which he had been subjected in Ballymena, that he was at
length forced to abandon his position. Messrs. Moore accepted his
resignation somewhat coldly. They regretted the loss of a valuable
servant, but Jim had failed to gain the affection of his employers. He
had kept himself to himself with such reserve that no one took much
interest in him, though his good business qualities were fully
appreciated. Messrs. Moore gave him a high character for steadiness and
capacity, but they did not seem inclined to go out of their way to
obtain him employment. Poor Jim was much mortified at the calmness with
which his resignation was received. He knew that he had done his duty
to his employers faithfully, and therefore he felt hurt when they made
no effort to retain him. The poor lad had well-nigh to begin again. He
went to Belfast, and there soon obtained employment, but in a far
inferior position to that which he had occupied at Messrs. Moore's.
Moreover, he soon found that in the great capital of the linen trade
there were numbers of young men as capable, as energetic, and in many
cases better educated than himself. It was a harsh and unpleasant
experience, but Jim had the strength and courage to bear up under it.
He still was full of a laudable confidence in himself, and felt sure
that patience and diligence would have their due reward. It was a hard
struggle, however. Trade was bad, and after a few months the house in
which he was just getting established was compelled to stop payment.
For a few weeks Jim was absolutely without employment. After that time
he obtained another situation, and thus escaped being reduced to actual
poverty; for the first time, however, he was brought face to face with
the possibility of privationof being unable (however willing and
however anxious) to obtain the means of gaining his daily bread.
Thus the winter and spring wore on. Almost the first gleam of
sunshine that came to Elsie with the reviving year was a letter from
Lady Eleanor, in which she said that as Elsie would not come to see
them, they had almost resolved to go and look for her. The earl, her
father, had often spoken of taking them to the Giant's Causeway, and so
they thought of running over before Easter if the weather was fine,
which after so severe a winter they hoped it might be. The hope thus
held out was destined to be gratified. Easter was late that year, and
the weather in March and April beautiful. Jim was astonished one day
early in April by receiving a letter from Elsie, directing him to wait
upon the Earl and Lady Waterham, who were to arrive from Fleetwood next
morning, and would stay a day at the Royal Hotel. Jim blushed as he
recalled the vain dreams of six mouths before, and naturally felt some
embarrassment at the prospect of meeting such exalted personages.
However, he conducted himself so modestly and naturally that he won the
approval of the whole party. Even the earl, who, out of dislike to
Damer, was much prejudiced against the lad, spoke kindly to him, and
expressed a willingness to serve him, if possible, at any time.
Having proceeded to Larne by train, the party posted along the noble
coast road, arriving at the Ballycastle Inn in time for a very late
dinner. Next day the younger ladies, having procured two stout ponies
and a guide, started for Tor Bay, taking the magnificent Fair Head
en route. They were determined to find out Elsie for themselves,
and to take her by surprise in the midst of her ordinary work. It was
one of those glorious spring days that might have belonged to June,
were it not for a keenness in the air that surprised you when the sun
was for a few seconds over-clouded. There was, too, a clearness in the
atmosphere that warm summer days cannot claim, with a suspicion of
frost, as you looked towards the sea. And often did the two ladies look
in that direction during their ride on the lofty headlands. Rathlin
Island lay below them, separated by the few miles of narrow and often
impassable sea, but to-day it was but a silver streak. Far in the
horizon the Scotch coast could be seen all along the line, while the
Mull of Cantyre looked but a few miles away, the very houses and
boundaries being almost distinguishable. Full in front the sun gleamed
on Ailsa Craig, as it rose abrupt and lovely from out of the sea.
Elsie, though familiar with it, had not been insensible to all this
beauty. She had spent almost the entire night at Mrs. McAravey's side,
nor did the old woman fall off to sleep till it was almost time to open
school. It was a weary morning's work; and when the children went home
to dinner the exhausted girl wandered down to the beach (having seen
that Mrs. McAravey still slept) in search of fresh air and quiet before
resuming her duties. Since the arrival of Lady Eleanor's last letter
she had naturally enough been excited and nervous. She knew that in a
few days at latest she should see her mother's friend, and one who
promised to be hers. Would she like her? Would the meeting be a
disappointment, or otherwise? What should she say? Where would they
meet? How should she dress herself? The first meeting with one to whom
we are bound by any ties, whom we have long corresponded with, or are
likely in the future to be much associated with, is always looked
forward to with embarrassment and nervousness. How much was this the
case with a poor, simple orphan girl, who had never been five miles
from home, called upon to encounter a titled lady, who actually claimed
her as her godchild, and to whom she felt bound by so many tender
associations? Filled with thoughts of the approaching interview, Elsie
wandered, she knew not whither, on the beach. Suddenly a shadow seemed
to pass over her, and she became conscious of the bitterness of the
north-east wind that blew upon the shore. Drawing her cloak round her,
she looked up and found that she had come under the shade of the great
cliff that rose at the extremity of Sandy Creek. She stood still a
moment, gazing on the dreary scene, and then a sudden flood of
recollection came over her. The tide was low, and she stood on the very
spot, as it seemed, where, twelve years before, she had caught sight of
the strange black mass that was being tossed on the sand amid the
tangled sea-weed. She saw herself a trembling, ragged child, alone by
the dead body in the fast gathering twilight. And this was the only
time that she had seen her mother. The girl was out of spirits, low in
health, and very weary, and so, for the only time almost in her life,
she gave way to repining thoughts. All the gracious path by which a
kindly Providence had led her was obscured, and she thought of herself
merely as the orphan child of this poor dead thing that lay upon the
sand. The whole history of the past flooded back upon her. She saw
little Jim, so eager to escape from the gruesome sight; then Mike
McAravey approaching through the twilight, and herself as she ran up
against good George Hendrick; then rose up the horrid bewildering scene
at the inquest; and finally she seemed to stand in the bleak wind-blown
moorland churchyard, and before her was the nameless head-stone, In
Memory of E. D. The sense of loneliness was complete as she stood
beneath the overhanging cliff exposed to the biting nor'-east wind.
With an effort she aroused herself, and looking up with tear-filled
eyes to the pale clear blue sky so far away, she resolutely turned back
into the warm sunshine that seemed the more dazzling after its
temporary withdrawal. It was almost school-time, and on the far
hill-side path Elsie's quick eyes caught sight of two or three tiny
little figures, as they trotted down the path towards her
cottage-school. In a moment all sadness was banished, and she felt
Have we not all one Father? she murmured; and have I not One to
love me who has said, 'Inasmuch as ye did it to the least of these, ye
did it unto Me'?
Glancing again to the hill, she perceived that the children had
stopped, and were forming a little group as they looked backward up the
They 'll be late, my little loiterers, said Elsie, with a smile;
I must scold them well. But what is it?
An uncommon sight indeed for Tor Glen, and one that might well
distract the whole school's attention. Two discreet ponies were picking
their way down the zig-zag path, while behind walked a man. But
greatest wonder! on each pony was seated a real lady. Erect and
gracefully, too, did they keep their seats, as the patient beasts let
themselves slip down the gravelly path.
It's early for tourists, thought Elsie, as she quietly walked on
The travellers and their attendant group of urchins had now passed
out of sight behind a screen of the thick foliage, which we have
described as adorning the sheltered bottom of the glen. Elsie thought
no more of the tourists. Their pleasure-seeking was a thing she had
absolutely no experience of, and the sight of her scholars had banished
all other thoughts but practical ones as to the conduct of the
A sudden turn brought the young mistress in front of her school. It
was a humble enough affaira mere shed in fact, built on to the end of
Mrs. McAravey's cottage, and adorned over the door with a plainly
printed sign-board, Tor Glen National School. But the place did not
look uncared for. The school indeed was bare enough, and surrounded by
a brown wilderness, in which the children used to play, but the
adjoining dwelling-house was made green and warm with ivy and fuschia,
while the little garden was neat, and for April almost gay.
To her surprise, Elsie's ear caught no sweet clamour of children at
play; there was indeed a sound of voices, and as she turned the corner
some dozen eager voices cried together, Here she is; here's mistress.
Elsie stepped hastily forward, fearing some mischief, and then
paused as she saw the two strange ladies standing in the midst of an
admiring and wondering group of children, while the guide stood by, a
pony bridle in each hand.
In a moment one of the ladies had pushed through the little circle
and seized the girl's hand.
Elsie Damer! I 'm your godmother, Eleanor More. I 'm so glad.
Poor Elsie knew not where she was, or what it meant, and could find
no better thing to say than Your ladyship!
There, don't talk like that, was the quick reply; I'm so glad
we've met at length. What a sweet little nest this is, hidden away from
the world by these great cliffs. We were fortunate, too, to find you
out so soon, continued Lady Eleanor, who, perceiving that Elsie had
not recovered the sudden shock and embarrassment, considerately gave
rein to her power of speech, which was by no means limited.
We met a nice little fellow on the top of the hill, and I asked him
whether he knew where Elsie Damer lived. I stupidly forgot about the
name, so he answered 'Now.' Then I remembered, and asked about Mrs.
McAravey. 'It's teacher she 's askin' for,' said a little girl who had
come up. Then I saw it was all right, and so we all came tumbling down
the hill together.
I saw you, said Elsie, in the distance, but of course I had no
idea who it was. How very kind you have been to me! and again the
tears were trembling in the nervous eyes of the poor, overwrought girl.
Lady Constance had now joined them, and the children stood around,
all eyes and ears.
Kate, take them in, said the mistress to a tiny monitress, when
she became conscious of the inquiring glances. All were seated demurely
as Elsie and the two ladies entered.
Now, said Lady Constance, do you not think you might give these
little ones a holiday this fine afternoon, so that you and my sister
may have a good chat?
Perhaps I had better, replied Elsie; then turning to the eager
audience, Children, these kind ladies have come all this way to see
me, and have asked me to give you a holiday; what do you say?
Thank you, ma'am, responded the little chorus.
Very well, said the mistress; mind you don't get into any
mischief. No noise, she added quickly, as she perceived that Lady
Eleanor's friend was expanding his lungs, and gathering up his little
bantam-cock-like figure, preparatory to starting a cheer. No noise;
poor gran is very bad to-day, and would not like it. Go quietly.
And so they did, under the generalship of tiny Kate, all defiling
past in silence, save Master Naw, who, being the hero of the school,
thought it necessary to distinguish himself; therefore, being forbidden
to cheer, he stepped forward, and touching his forehead with a bow,
Thank your ladyships both; and then, with a rush to the door,
Now, boys, we'll have a look at the ponies.
He is almost past me, said Elsie, laying her hand on the boy's
shoulder as he darted through the door.
You have them in very good order, I think, said Lady Constance;
but I was sorry to hear you say the old lady was so poorly. Let us go
and see her.
Elsie led the way, and as she lifted the latch they caught Mrs.
McAravey's plaintive voice
I 've been thinking long for you, Elsie, lass, for I heard the
children say as the ladies had come. You won't take her from a poor old
creature, will you, miss? she added, as the visitors came in view; I
won't have long to trouble you.
O no, said Lady Eleanor, kindly; we 've only come to pay you and
Elsie a visit. She is just like her mother, Mrs. McAravey; and now that
you are so weak and low you ought to be glad she has found some of her
mother's friends. We will always take care of her.
The Lord be thanked! murmured the old woman, lying back with
closed eyes; and I bless His name He has brought me to see the day.
Elsie's a good lassnone better, ladies.
Almost immediately she fell off into a broken and uneasy sleep,
while Elsie and her friends whispered together at the door.
We shall gee you again the day after to-morrow, Sunday, said Lady
Eleanor, as they prepared to start. We are going to Ashleigh Church,
and will lunch at Mr. Smith'she says you always stay for
Yes, said Elsie, that is very nice, and I'll be sure to be
outunless gran is too bad, she added, anxiously glancing towards the
Sunday came, and there was quite an excitement at Ashleigh Church
when the clumsy hired carriage from Ballycastle drove up, and the two
The Rev. Cooper Smith, who had been popping his head out of the
vestry door off and on for the last ten minutes, was in readiness to
receive his guests, and then retired to have as much time as possible
for a last look at the specially prepared sermon. Mrs. Cooper Smith was
too anxious about the lunch to go to church, but all the rest of the
family were assembled in full force. Elsie, however, did not put in an
appearance, and the absence of her fine voice left a sad gap in the
somewhat too elaborate service that had been, got up for the occasion.
After service was over the clergyman took his guests to see poor
Elsie Damer's grave. Lady Eleanor suggested that something should be
added to the inscription, setting forth the way in which the name had
been discovered. How this should be done was the subject of
conversation during the walk to the rectory. There they found Elsie
just arrived. Mrs. McAravey had been much worse all Saturday, and Elsie
could not get away in time for church. She had only come now because
the dying woman had expressed a wish to see Mr. Smith. This news cast a
shadow over the party. Elsie remained for luncheon, on Mr. Smith's
promising to be ready to start immediately after, when the returning
carriage could bring them a considerable distance on the way, dropping
them at a point not more than two miles from Tor Bay.
I must say good-bye now, said Lady Eleanor, drawing Elsie aside as
they left the dining-room; I cannot tell you how glad we are to have
found you, and to have found you so like your dear mother too. It is
too bad papa and mamma cannot see you, as we must leave to-morrow; but
we shall meet again soon.
I do not know about that, replied poor Elsie, almost breaking
My dear child, you do not think we are going to let you be lost
again! And this is what I want to say to you, Elsie, dear: will you
promise to come over to us whenI mean if anything happens to Mrs.
McAravey?she cannot live long, poor old body.
Oh, you are too kind! cried Elsie, fairly bursting into tears, and
hiding her face on her new friend's shoulderyou are too kind; but
how can I promise? It sometimes seems my duty to stay here.
Eleanor More was a true woman, and sothough surprised at this
sudden outbreakshe lifted the girl's head between her hands, and
kissing her forehead, said, There, Elsie, child, don't fret, I will
not press you now. God will show you your duty, and make your way plain
before you. They are coming now, and the carriage is at the door.
The summer had waned away; the autumn tints were already on the
trees, and the light of the September afternoon was growing feeble and
uncertain, as a dainty little figure scrambled out of the low carriage
that had drawn up before the neatest and most ideal of English cottage
homes. Lady Eleanor More stood at the garden wicket to receive her
friend, and behind her in the doorway was to be seen a tidy,
white-capped little old woman.
So we have got you at last, Elsie; and here is the prison where you
are to be confined at hard labour, and this is your gaoler, Mrs.
Nugent. How do you like it all?
Elsie was delighted, and could find no words in which to thank her
kind patron. Everything was charming, and everything had been arranged
with that thoughtful consideration which nothing but real affection
The old man and woman with whom Elsie was to be lodged, for the
present at least, were established pensioners of the Waterham family.
They had known and sorrowed for Elsie's mother, who had stayed with
them for a few weeks after her unfortunate marriage. Thus the orphan
felt almost at home, and was rejoiced to find that a little room had
been set apart for her private and special use.
Nor was it designed that Elsie should become a mere dependent.
Fortunately enough a vacancy had recently occurred (by marriage) in the
mistress-ship of a small school situated close to the gate of Burnham
Park, and almost opposite Nugent's cottage. This was the sphere of
labour for which Elsie was destined. The school was a neat,
well-cared-for placethe special hobby of Lady Eleanor, who seldom let
a day pass when at home without visiting it. Here Elsie Damer at once
commenced her labours. The children were bright and clean, and had
evidently been carefully taught by her predecessor. Miss Damer was also
a welcome acquisition to the village choir; and those were among the
happiest moments of her life when she let her rich, clear voice ascend
in songs of praise to the throne of Him who had guided her all her
journey through, while her dear friend and second mother presided at
Elsie's only care was about Jim. She had seen him in Belfast looking
worn and anxious. His letters had never been complaining, nor were his
words so then; yet he could not conceal the fact that his position was
by no means satisfactory. But this cloud too was soon to be cleared
away. The earl had been favourably impressed with the lad, and was
highly amused when he heard from his daughter a somewhat toned down
version of the foolish conduct which had resulted in his resigning his
situation. In the course of a year after Elsie's establishment at
Burnham, a post of some responsibility in the earl's rent office became
vacant, in which we find Jim shortly afterwards comfortably installed.
* * * * * *
And here ends our tale. Elsie Damer's life is after all only
beginning, and doubtless she will have her trials and sorrows. Not for
ever can she be the young girl living in that sweet rose-covered
cottage. Indeed, before we lose sight of Elsie, there is rumour of a
coming change. Mrs. Nugent said, It's a shame to take you from us,
Missie, but every one likes a spot of their own, I suppose; I know I
did in my time. And Robert Everley, the head-gamekeeper's strapping
son, who was settled now in one of the home farms of Burnham, blushed
and looked apologetic as the earl hailed him one day, Hey, Bob! what's
this I hear about you, lad? I wonder what Lady Eleanor will say to it,
stealing her godchild from her.
I couldn't help it, your lordship, replied the embarrassed Bob.
Well, all I say is you are a lucky fellow, and Elsie might have
done worse too.
But whatever lies before our Elsie, she has deep stored within her
that hidden peace that the world knoweth not, and which can smooth
over, as with holy oil, the roughest and most sudden-rising of life's
stormy waves. The discipline of the past had moulded and set, without
unduly hardening, the lines of her simple, cheerful character. Looking
back to the earliest dawn of her recollection, she believed herself
able to trace a golden thread through all. The ideal of calm beauty and
purity which the child's vivid imagination had developed out of the dim
memory of her drowned mother's face had been her good angel, and had
led her, by sweet, insensible gradations, up to Him of whose glory all
earthly beauties are but the far-off reflection. From first to last she
had lived in the consciousness of the Unseen Presence, and no words
better expressed her simple faith for the present and for the future
than those of her favourite hymn
The King of Love my Shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never,
I nothing lack if I am His
And He is mine for ever.
* * * *
And so, through all the length of days,
Thy goodness faileth never;
Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise
Within Thy house for ever.