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Roseen by Mrs. Francis Blundell

 

Peter Rorke stood on the threshold of Monavoe, his big comfortable house, looking round him with the proud air of the proprietor. It is commonly said that the Devil is not so black as he is painted, and in the case of Peter Rorke the proverb would seem to be justified. In appearance and manner there was nothing about the man to bear out his evil reputation. A close observer would indeed detect, in his long narrow face, and particularly in the neighbourhood of his rather small closely-set eyes, certain lines and wrinkles which conveyed an impression of meanness--the one sin which, as some one very truly observes, is apparently found least possible to forgive, particularly, one might add, by Irish folk. But, on the whole, Peter Rorke was not an ill-looking old fellow, and now as he stood basking in the autumn sunlight, while his eyes wandered from one to the other of his possessions, his face wore quite a pleasant expression. In truth, it would have been difficult, even for the most humble of mortals, not to feel a certain exhilaration on gazing at the evidences of prosperity at Monavoe. The house, to begin with, was solid and comfortable, the barns and granaries were full to overflowing; yonder were stables for the six fine cart-horses now toiling at various corners of Peter's domain; adjoining them the cow-houses, where Peter could not only accommodate twelve milch-cows, but fatten in the winter an equal number of "stall-feds"; in the "haggard" to the rear were the innumerable golden stacks and hay-ricks which were, of all his possessions, those most valued by the Master of Monavoe. No one in the country was so clever in selecting time and weather for cutting and carting; no one so cunning in ascertaining the most opportune moments for selling, or so far-seeing with regard to prices. At this very moment Peter Rorke was gazing at an immense rick of "prime old hay" which he had had the prudence to keep back while all his neighbours were selling. His wisdom now appeared; there had been an unexpected failure in the hay crop that season, the prices had gone up accordingly, and Peter looked forward to receiving more than double the sum that his produce was actually worth.

Rousing himself at length from what, to one of his temperament, had been a reverie of long duration, he turned round and called loudly to some one whom he supposed to be within: "Rose, Rose! Are ye there, girl?"

There was no answer, and after a moment's pause he called again impatiently. A very old woman with a white sun-bonnet tilted over her brow came slowly from the back premises. "Where is my granddaughter, Judy?" he asked, with a frown. Judy was no favourite of his.

"She isn't here at all," she observed; and then jerking her thumb over her shoulder in the direction of some outhouses, "she went acrass to the dairy a while ago."

Peter Rorke grunted, and, without another glance at the old woman, began to walk at a rapid pace in the direction she had indicated. As he drew near the partly open door of the dairy, the sound of a girl's voice could be heard merrily lilting a tune; and when Peter entered the owner of the voice turned round, abruptly ceasing her song and gazing at him with a startled look. This was Roseen, a tall and comely lassie of seventeen, in whose pretty, saucy face, however, and clear blue eyes, there still remained much of the child. Her mother had died when she was about fifteen, and, to the astonishment of every one who knew him, Peter Rorke had announced his intention of adopting his grandchild. He had never had any objections to the girl herself, he declared loftily; she was well enough in every way, and his own son's child; he could never put up with the mother, it was true--a common little servant girl that his son had no right to have been speaking to, much less to be goin' an' gettin' married to. Peter would never bring himself to recognise him at all after he had demeaned himself that way, and as long as the wife lived he couldn't be expected to take any notice of the child; but now that she was dead an' gone to her own place, wherever that might be, he wasn't goin' to let his granddaughter go out to sarvice. She was Miss Rorke, and her place was at Monavoe, where all the Rorkes had lived and died for more generations than any one cared to count.

When, however, he had, with a good deal of pompous benevolence, driven up on his outside-car to fetch Miss Rorke from the tumbled-down cabin which had been hitherto the only home she had known, that young lady, instead of being properly grateful, and impressed by her relative's condescension, had displayed a spirit of independence, and indeed stubbornness, which the worthy old gentleman found as bewildering as mortifying. He had never taken any notice of them before, she had averred; he had let her father starve, and her mother work herself to death. Roseen was not going to be beholden to him now--she'd earn her own bread, so she would, an' if he thought shame of his grandchild goin' to sarvice, she was glad of it, so she was, an' she'd make sure an' tell every one the way he was afther thratin' them. Peter had rubbed his lantern-jaw and glanced askance at the determined little maiden who stood facing him, her blue eyes flashing through her tears, and every line of face and figure betokening resolution. First, he had been puzzled, then angry, finally he had had recourse to entreaty, feeling in his heart that he could never look the neighbours in the face again if the story got about that this chit had "got the better of him that way." At length Roseen had suffered herself to be softened, and agreed, after much persuasion, to a compromise. She would condescend to take up her abode under her grandfather's roof on the condition that Judy came too. Judy was one of these appendages so frequently to be seen in Irish cabins, there being, apparently, scarcely any householder so poor that he or she cannot afford to shelter some one poorer still. While there is a roof over their heads, a potato to put into their mouths, the Irish peasants will share with one another. Ever since Roseen could remember, Judy had been an inmate of their home; she had helped in the small household labours, tended Mrs. Rorke after her own fashion when she had been sick, scolded and adored Roseen from babyhood to youth. There was not much else poor Judy could do, except smoke her pipe when, by some lucky chance, a "bit o' baccy" came in her way: she was not only old and lame, but half-witted, very nearly "innocent." What Peter's feelings had been may be guessed when invited to receive this strange-looking old creature into his house; but Roseen had been firm, and he had finally consented.

Whether there had been some dormant family affection in that withered heart of his, which had sprung to life now that poor Mrs. Rorke no longer stood between him and his own flesh and blood, or whether the girl's obstinacy had aroused in him a corresponding desire to carry his point, or whether, as some of the neighbours ill-naturedly said, he thought if the fine little colleen was to go to sarvice at all, she might as well come to him for no wages as to be airnin' from somebody else, remains a mystery; but it is certain that in spite of the unpleasant condition imposed by Roseen, Peter felt a curious glow of pride and pleasure when he assisted Roseen to alight at the door of Monavoe. Since then he had certainly grown fond of her, and was moreover proud of her good looks and winsome ways. He had sent her to a boarding-school, a grand convent establishment for young ladies, where the good nuns had done their best to impart to her all that was deemed essential for Mr. Rorke's granddaughter to learn. Roseen knew already how to read, and could write after a fashion of her own; she now learnt arithmetic, and could, indeed, keep her butter accounts by dint of much counting on slim sunburnt fingers and puckering of her pretty white forehead; but alas! all attempts to attain more elegant accomplishments remained fruitless--Roseen was a thorough little dunce. Much to the relief of all parties, she returned to Monavoe at the end of twelve months, and thereupon devoted her energies to the more homely acquirements in which she had since become an adept. She could do anything with those deft fingers of hers: her butter was proverbial, her bread excellent, she could trim a hat and hem a duster with equal speed and nicety, and as for clear-starching and getting up fine things, she was the wonder of the rustic matrons for ten miles round.

Roseen had been making butter when her grandfather entered, and, turning round, displayed a face rosy with her exertions, and arms bare to the elbow.

"So here ye are," remarked Peter, his grim face relaxing as much as was possible to it; "I've been lookin' for ye everywhere. Do ye know what I am after doin' for you this fine mornin'?"

"What?" asked Roseen, a little apprehensively, while the colour deepened in her cheeks. Peter leaned against the long stone shelf that ran round the dairy wall, and smiled before replying: "I am after makin' the finest match for you that's to be had in all the country side."

The flush mounted to Roseen's very temples and then died away; she paused a moment to steady her voice before venturing on a query. "I seen Mr. Quinn goin' down the road a little while ago--is it him?"

"Ah, you little rogue! you were on the lookout, were ye?" cried Peter jocosely. "Well, you are right; it is him. You are the rale lucky girl, Roseen! You'll be the richest woman in the town-land."

Roseen glanced down, apparently wrestling with some inward emotion, and presently observed in a small, strangled voice: "Sure, he is twenty year older nor me."

"What matter?" said Peter; "he'll be all the better able to take care o' you. It's better to marry a man with sense, nor to go takin' up with some young whipper-snapper that would be thinkin' of nothin' but spendin' money and carryin' on with nonsense."

"He's an ould widower," cried Roseen, wrinkling up her little nose with an expression of disgust.

"Well," said Peter, "an' a good thing too; you'll come in for all the beautiful dresses and jewels and things the first Mrs. Quinn left behind."

"I am not goin' to take her lavin's, then," retorted Roseen with spirit. "Neither her jew'lry, her dresses, nor her husband will I have, so there! That's my answer, an' you may tell him so. He may go make up his match with somebody else for me." With a whisk of her skirts and a stamp of her foot, she returned to her butter.

"Come, come!" said Peter, knitting his brows. "Come, come, come!" he repeated, in warning tones; "this won't do, miss."

Roseen tossed her head, and gave her roll of butter two or three little pats.

"If I bid you take Mr. Quinn, you'll have to take him," said Peter angrily.

"I won't, then," retorted Roseen, and she finished off one little roll and fell to preparing another.

"You owe everything in this wide world to me, I would have you remember," cried Peter, stammering in his wrath; "if I was to turn you out o' doors this minute, ye wouldn't have a place to go to."

"I would soon find a place," said Roseen. "I told ye that before I come here."

Peter, finding the threat of no avail, changed his tactics, and assumed a wheedling tone.

"Listen, Roseen, like a good sensible girl. Sure, ye know very well it's me that holds the place of father an' mother to you now, an' it's my duty to see you are settled an' provided for. Well, now, ye might sarch the world over an' not find such a good man as Mr. Quinn, an' a real gentleman, too, mind you. Sure, it's jumping with joy you ought to be. An' lookit here, Roseen, you are all the descendants I have, an' if you do as I bid you, I'll make me will after ye are married to Mr. Quinn, an' leave the two 'o you this place an' everything in the wide world that I have. There now!"

This tempting prospect was too much for Roseen. She whisked round again so rapidly that she overturned a pan of cream; her cheeks were flaming, her eyes flashing with anger.

"I'll be thankin' ye not to talk to me that way, grandfather," she cried. "I declare it's enough to vex a saint! I won't have Mr. Quinn, an' wouldn't if he gave me a carpet of gould to walk upon. That's me answer, an' he needn't be waitin' for me, for I won't have him."

Peter Rorke shook his head sorrowfully.

"Ye'll be bringin' me white hairs with sorrow to the grave, the same as your father," he remarked, oblivious of the fact that the poor fellow in question had only succeeded in laying low his own curly black ones. "I declare me heart's broke. Ye had a right to have a bit more consideration for me, Roseen, after all I done for ye. Did I ever give ye a cross word, now, since you come here?"

Roseen opened her eyes a little blankly, stricken with sudden remorse. It was true her grandfather had ever treated her kindly since she had come to Monavoe, and indeed, after a certain queer fashion, the two had grown to be rather fond of each other.

"Haven't I always given you everything you wanted?" pursued Peter, in a querulous tone; "everything in reason, anyhow. Look at the beautiful blue tabinet dress I gave you--sure there isn't the like in the place--and the new hat ye have, an' kid gloves an' all! Sure, I never deny you anything! An' you up an' give me them disrespectful answers, an' refuse to do the only thing I ever axed ye!"

Tears were actually twinkling in the old man's narrow eyes, so much aggrieved did he feel himself to be. Roseen began to cry too. "It's me that has me heart broke," she sobbed. "How can I go marryin' Mr. Quinn wid his ugly red face, an' him an ould widower an' cross-eyed into the bargain? Sure, if it was anything else now--" A burst of woe interrupted her utterance.

"Me child," said Peter impressively, "I know more what's for your good nor you do yourself; but don't distress yourself too much, alanna: Mr. Quinn says he does not mind waitin' as long as you like, so we'll say no more about it for a while."

"O--o--o--oh!" groaned Roseen.

Peter prevented further lamentations by assuring her, with various affectionate pats on the arm, that he knew she would never go annoyin' her poor ould grandfather, but they'd say no more about it, for a bit anyhow. He withdrew, leaving Roseen still sobbing amid the fragments of a broken milk-pan, and perhaps the ruins of a castle in the air.

Presently, however, she dried her eyes, and, being a methodical person, set to work to repair the disorder around her. When the broken crockery was removed, the cream wiped up, and the remaining butter rolled into shape, she went out, closing the dairy door after her and, giving a hasty glance to right and to left, made her way swiftly across the "haggard" and down a grassy lane beyond, to a large field, where a man was to be seen leisurely assembling together a troop of cows.

Roseen ran quickly across the grass towards him, stopping as soon as she perceived that he had caught sight of her, and beckoning to him mysteriously.

"Come here, Mike!" she cried softly, as he hastened towards her, "I've something to be tellin' ye."

Mike quickened his pace. He was a tall young fellow, but slender, with an honest, good-humoured face. Without being handsome, there was something attractive about him--an alertness, a vigour in the well-knit limbs, a candour and kindliness in the expression of the open face, a tenderness, moreover, in the blue eyes as they rested on Roseen--which would seem to account for the fact that these former playfellows were now lovers.

Roseen looked piteously at him, as he halted beside her, gazing with alarm at the trace of tears which still remained on her face.

"Me grandfather wants me to get married to Mr. Quinn," she announced briefly.

"God bless us!" ejaculated Mike, his cheeks growing pale beneath their tan. "What did ye say, alanna?"

"I said I wouldn't," answered Roseen.

"That's me brave girl! I declare ye're afther givin' me such a fright, I don't know whether I am on me head or on me heels. Was he goin' to murther ye for that?"

"He was at first," replied the girl, "and then he began sayin'--Oh dear, oh dear, me heart's broke!" She was sobbing now violently.

"Sure, what matther what he says?" cried Mike, much concerned. "Ye have no call to be frettin' that way; let him say what he likes, bad luck to him! Sure, ye won't be havin' Mr. Quinn, Roseen, will ye?"

"N--no," said Roseen. "Me grandfather says I'm bringin' his white hairs with sorrow to the grave."

"Ah, the ould gomeril!" retorted Mike unsympathetically. "Bedad, what hairs he has isn't white at all, but red as carrots! Don't ye be listenin', Roseen, asthore. Sure, ye wouldn't marry ugly Mr. Quinn?" he repeated anxiously.

"I would not," replied Roseen; "but I don't like me grandfather to be talkin' that way. An'--an' his hair isn't that red, Mike," she added reprovingly; "ye have no call to be sayin' it is."

"If I never said worse nor you have said yourself often an' often!" retorted the lad. "Many's the time I heard ye at it."

"That was before I had sense," replied Roseen, a trifle loftily; "ye have no call to be castin' that up at me now. Me an' me grandfather has never fell out since I come here."

"Oh, that indeed," said Mike sarcastically; "ye're gettin' altogether too good an' too grand. Hothen indeed, I may as well make up my mind to it--ye'll be Mrs. Quinn before the year is out. Sure, what chanst has a poor fellow the same as meself, wid the ould wans at home to support as well as meself, when there's such a fine match as Mr. Quinn to the fore! Och bedad! when ye're sittin' along wid him on your side-car, ye'll never offer to throw so much as a look at poor Mike."

At this affecting picture Roseen wept more than ever, and brokenly assured the honest fellow that not for all the Mister Quinns in the world would she ever forget him, and that she would wait for him till she was grey, she would, an' marry nobody else, no matter what might happen.

Thus reassured, Mike could not do less than apologise for his intemperate language, and a reconciliation was in the act of taking place when Mr. Peter Rorke chanced to look over the hedge. It was past milking-time, and he had come to see why his cows had not been driven in as usual. Leaning on his stick and trembling with rage, he apostrophised the young pair in no measured terms.

"Now I understand, miss," he added, after relieving his mind by a burst of eloquence, "now I understand why you thought so bad of Mr. Quinn's kind offer. It was this young schamer ye had in your mind--him that ye should think no more of nor the dirt under your feet."

"Well then, grandfather," cried Roseen hotly, "I may as well tell ye straight out that I won't stand here an' hear Michael Clancy abused. He's all the husband ever I'll have, an' ye may make up your mind to that."

Peter spluttered with fury and brandished his stick. It was perhaps well for the girl that the hedge divided them.

"Get in wid ye into the house this minute out o' me sight," he screamed. "Him your husband! A dirty little beggar's brat that I picked up out o' the gutter for charity!"

"Charity yourself," interrupted Mike, squaring his shoulders. "I've done more work for ye nor ever ye paid me for--now! And the Clancys is as good as the Rorkes, an' an oulder family, though we are down in the world, along wid bad luck an' misfortun'."

"The Clancys is an ould ancient family," chimed in Roseen. Her grandfather turned to her, almost beside himself with exasperation.

"Get in wid ye to the house this instant, as I bid ye, miss; or it'll be the worse for ye. Be off, now, before I come over the hedge to you."

"If you dar' lay a finger," began Mike; but Roseen interrupted him with a little defiant laugh.

"Sure, I am not afeard of him, Mike. I am more afeard of his hurting himself nor me; but I'm goin' now, anyway, an' I am glad ye know the truth, grandfather, so that ye needn't be botherin' me about Mr. Quinn."

She went away, moving slowly and carrying her curly head very high.

Peter watched her till she was out of sight and hearing, and then turned to Mike.

"Now then," he cried, "we'll have this matter settled. You'll go out o' this, me lad, an' so will your father an' mother. They're owin' me a year's rent an' more."

"Didn't I tell ye I would work it off, little by little?" said Mike, who had suddenly become very pale. "It was me poor mother bein' sick last year that thrun us back, an' you said ye would have patience wid us."

"Then ye had a right to behave better," returned Rorke. "How dar' ye go make up to my granddaughter, you young villain? I'd have ye to know that Miss Rorke is not for the likes of you."

All poor Mike's pride and valour seemed to have deserted him since Peter's threat.

"Sure, Roseen an' me was always fond of one another," he said pleadingly. "I couldn't remember a time when we wasn't. Her an' me was ould playfellows, and she used to be as much at our place as at home."

"It won't be your place much longer," retorted Peter curtly. "Out o' this ye may all go, bag an' baggage, the whole pack of yous."

"Me father hasn't stirred out o' that chimley corner for years an' years," urged Mike; "an' me mother, God help her! she's near as bad as him wid the weakness an' the terrible cough she has this while back. It 'ud be the death of her out an' out--sure, where could the cratur's go?"

"Let them go to the poor-house, unless you can make a livin' for them somewhere out o' this. I'll not have ye here, mind. Ye needn't come an' work to-morrow, an' ye may tell your father an' mother to be gettin' ready to march, for they'll be havin' the bailiff in on them as soon as I can get him."

A deep flush replaced Mike's pallor and a shiver of indignation shook him from head to foot.

"Mr. Rorke," he cried, "ye don't mane what ye are sayin'. Ye'd never have the heart to turn them two ould craturs out on the roadside to die?"

"Wouldn't I though?" retorted Peter; "ye'll soon find out for yourselves whether I would or not."

He turned and was hastening homewards, when Mike called after him. The old man faced him, still sneering.

"This will not bring you luck," cried Mike, his young voice quivering, his face working with emotion, his usually merry eyes ablaze with passion. "I tell you it'll bring a curse on you. You'll live to rue the day you turned on us that way--an' maybe it won't be long before ye are sorry."

Peter's only answer was an ironical laugh, and he once more resumed his homeward journey, leaving Mike standing pale and trembling beside the hedge.

Peter entered the house, flushed with triumph, and, calling loudly for Roseen, informed her that he was after sendin' that fine young sweetheart of hers about his business.

"Ye don't mane to say you turned him off!" cried the girl, in dismay. "The poor fellow, how is he to live at all, him that has his old father and mother to keep as well as himself?"

"His father and mother won't be costing him anything much now, I am thinkin'," explained Peter politely. "That grand ancient family of the Clancys will soon be out o' this place, an' living in the greatest aise and comfort at the country's expense in the poorhouse, me dear."

"What do ye mane at all? Indeed Mike will never let them go there. He'll work till the two hands drops off of him, but he will conthrive to keep a roof over their heads."

"Will he now?" said Rorke, still laboriously urbane. "I wonder what roof that'll be?"

Roseen looked up quickly, her parted lips suddenly turning white.

"I am thinking," resumed Peter, "he'll have to make haste an' find a place for them, for they'll be out o' the old one soon enough."

"Grandfather!" cried Roseen, "ye're not going to put them out in airnest, are ye? Sure ye'd never have the heart! The poor old couple is dying on their feet as it is. It'll be the death o' them altogether if ye go do that."

"An' a very good thing too," retorted Peter. "We'll be shut o' the whole of them out-an'-out, that way."

"Ye're a regular hard-hearted old Turk," cried Roseen, "that's what ye are! The whole countryside will cry shame on ye! It is outrageous, so it is! 'Pon me word, ye're as bad as Cromwell."

"Ah, ha," said Peter, "I'll tell ye what it is, Roseen, the more impidence ye give me, the more I'll do on the Clancys. Now! Ye bold little lump! How dar' ye go speak to me that way? I'll teach ye to be carryin' on wid the likes o' that. Not another word out o' ye now, or I'll walk down to the Clancys this minute an' throw them out on the road before dark."

Roseen's fury was replaced by terror.

"Och, grandfather, sure ye wouldn't do the like! I ax your pardon for spakin' disrespectful to ye. Sure ye're not in airnest? Ye won't raly put the poor old man and his wife there out o' their little place? They won't be troublin' you long. A-a-h, grandfather, me own dear grandfather, do lave them where they are an' I'll promise faithful never to give you a crass word again."

But neither the coaxing tone nor the touch of the soft clinging arms, which the girl now wound about him, moved Peter's heart.

"Out o' this them Clancys goes, bag and baggage," he asserted; "if ye'd wanted me to let them stay where they were, an' them owin' me so much rent an' all, ye ought to have behaved different. But on account of this impident young sckamer ye go tellin' me ye won't marry Mr. Quinn, the man I chose for ye, an' I catch ye sweetheartin' an' carryin' on wid that ploughboy there, demanin' yourself altogether. Sure nobody could be expected to stand that. I won't stand it anyhow. Out they go, and off the whole o' them may march."

Roseen was silent for a moment, apparently battling with herself, and at last she said in a very shaky voice:

"It's a poor case if it's me that's bringin' this throuble on them all. Grandfather, if--if I was to give ye me word that I wouldn't spake to Mike in the way of courtin' agin--"

"Wisha!" cried Peter sarcastically, "much good that would do. I know the way ye would keep your promise, me lady; no, no, I'll make sure of this job."

"Oh, grandfather! I'll promise, I promise faithful never so much as to look at Mike!"

But Peter was inexorable; he had been wounded in his tenderest point, bearded by these two impudent young people--set at nought. His pride, moreover, could not brook the proximity of the audacious youth who had dared to aspire to the hand of his granddaughter, and of the parents who had, as he had been reminded that day, ventured to befriend her when he himself had cast her off.

He felt that he must be rid of them without delay. Poor Roseen crept upstairs and sat disconsolately at the window, watching the corner of the haggard where she expected before long to see Mike appear. It had been the custom of the young pair to meet for a few moments every evening, under the shadow of the big hayrick and there converse before Mike returned home. He would surely come, if only to say good-bye. Poor fellow, what would he do? Whither would he go? Big tears rolled down Roseen's cheeks as she thought of his desperate plight.

As she sat watching and waiting--for she dared not venture out too soon lest her grandfather's suspicions should be aroused--a sudden rattling and fumbling at the lock of her own door made her turn round. The door was opened for a moment, a lean hand thrust into the room, the key which had been on the inner side was withdrawn suddenly; then the door quickly closed again, and before Roseen thoroughly realised what had happened, old Peter locked her in.

"Good night, me dear!" he cried ironically through the keyhole; "I think it's as well for ye to stay quiet this evenin' an' not be takin' any more walks, or tirin' or excitin' yourself. Pleasant dreams, dear."

Down the stairs he went, chuckling to himself and leaving the girl furious. She banged at the door with all her might and main, but the lock held fast and no one came to her rescue; then she rushed to the window and threw it open; but the distance from the ground was too great for even a desperate maiden to jump, and she wrung her hands frantically. Mike would think she had given him up; he would fancy her grandfather had got round her, and that she had deserted him in his humiliation and distress. Was there nobody who would help her, no one by whom she could convey at least a message?

As if in answer to her agonised prayer, certain shuffling steps were presently heard below, and old Judy's white sunbonnet appeared round the corner of the house. Roseen clapped her hands: here was one who would do her bidding, a faithful hench-woman who could be trusted to carry out her orders in defiance of old Peter's commands.

"Judy!" cried the girl softly, bending out of the window.

Judy looked up in astonishment. "Is it there ye are?" she cried.

"Oh, Judy, my grandfather has me locked in! Listen now! I want ye to do something for me."

Judy's face clouded over. "I was just stalin' out to have me little pipe," she said. "The masther does be killin' me, when he catches me at it, an' I was makin' me way off while he had his back turned."

"Ah, ye can smoke away as much as ye like," cried Roseen impatiently. "See here, Judy, all I want ye to do is to stand over there, by the corner of the haggard, an' watch till Mike comes, an' tell him me grandfather's afther lockin' me up, an' I can't get out this evenin', but the first chanst I have to-morrow I'll run round. An' tell him"--here her voice faltered--"that no matther what any one says, I'll always be faithful to him. An' I'll never get married to anybody on'y to himself."

Judy's beady black eyes were fixed somewhat vacantly on her mistress's face during this speech, but she nodded at the end, and on being adjured not to forget, informed Roseen, somewhat tartly, that she had no notion of forgettin'. She hobbled off fingering her beloved pipe, and Roseen, sitting by the window, watched the twilight deepen and saw the world grow misty and indistinct, and heard the birds twittering as they went to roost. Then the stars came out one by one, and a pale young moon showed faintly in the sky; it was night now, but Judy had not returned. Was it possible that Mike had failed to appear at the trysting-place.

After what seemed an interminable time, Judy's uncertain footfalls were again heard, and her white bonnet showed indistinctly in the dusk, bobbing up and down as she approached. Roseen craned forward her head eagerly. "What did he say, Judy?"

"I'm afther losin' me lovely pipe," responded the old woman, halting beneath the window. "What in the world will I do? I'm afther losin' it. Oh dear! oh dear!--the on'y bit o' comfort I had."

"Whisht, whisht; ye'll find it to-morrow, when the light comes. Did ye see Mike, Judy? An' what did he say?"

"Ah, don't be botherin' me about Mike," wailed Judy, "I have other things to be thinkin' of, I'm afther losing me beautiful pipe; me heart's broke entirely!"

"Judy, Judy! I'll give ye the loveliest pipe ever ye seen, an' a beautiful roll o' twist, if on'y ye'll tell me. Wasn't Mike in it at all, Judy? Tell me that, for the love of Heaven."

Judy made a desperate effort to collect the scattered remnants of her wits, and presently said doubtfully: "Is it Mike ye are axing about? Sure what 'ud bring Mike to the haggard? I did not see him--an' me pipe is lost on me!"

Roseen fairly stamped her foot. Why had she been such a fool as to count on this poor old idiotic creature? Probably while Judy was hunting for her pipe, Mike had watched and waited in vain for a sign from his love.

Judy shuffled off, lamenting, but Roseen sat still at her open casement, pondering mournfully on the misfortunes which had overwhelmed those she loved, and bewailing her impotence to help them. Soon all was absolutely still; the house was wrapt in slumber, and at last, rising, chilled and weary, the girl prepared to go to rest. As she closed the window her eye was caught by a curious appearance in the sky, immediately above the long line of the regularly shaped stacks in the haggard. The big hayrick particularly was defined with curious clearness against what seemed to be a glow in the sky. As she looked a sudden tongue of flame sprang out from the western corner, and ran leaping up the great dark mass, spreading and widening as it went; then sparks were thrown out, and Roseen suddenly realised that the great rick, composed of tons upon tons of hay, worth at this moment a fortune in itself, was on fire. Screaming she rushed frantically to the door, but owing to Peter's forethought she was locked in. In vain she hammered and shrieked; no one heeded her. Such labourers as remained on the premises at night slept over the stables; the two maid-servants whom Peter employed only came by day. If Judy heard, she had not the sense to heed; and old Peter himself, snuggling into his pillows, merely turned over when the din reached his ears, muttering to himself with righteous indignation that a body would think the girl would know better nor behave that way, but let her shout as much as she liked an' tire herself out, she'd be apt to be a bit quieter in the mornin'. Meanwhile the little flame, which Roseen had first seen, had grown apace. The slight crackling sound which had originally accompanied its progress, was replaced by a sullen roar; volumes of ruddy smoke filled the air; a pungent, peculiar smell penetrated even to Roseen's room, almost suffocating her. Would no one hear, would no one heed? Taking the poker she knocked on the floor, hoping to produce some response from her grandfather, but finding that he did not answer she fell to hammering and battering the lock of her door with such vigour and good-will that at last she succeeded in breaking it. Rushing down stairs, candle in hand, she burst in upon old Peter.

"Get up, grandfather, get up at wanst! the big rick is on fire, and will be burnt to a cinder if you don't make haste." Old Peter sat up, blinking at the light, and at first refusing to believe Roseen; but when the girl flung open the window and he saw and heard for himself that the alarm was only too well founded, he fairly burst out crying like a child.

"Me rick, me beautiful rick! I'm ruined and destroyed entirely! What'll I do at all?"

"Get up!" said Roseen sharply, "and let's get all the help we can. I'll run out an' call Jack an' Barney, an' do you put on your clothes an' fill the stable bucket."

She flew out, and after some trouble succeeded in rousing the men in question, who, however, when they arrived on the scene and saw the extent of the damage which had already been done, gave her little hope of being able to arrest its progress.

"Sure it's all wan sheet of flame, none of us could get near it," cried one, pointing to the rick. "What good would a bucket or two of wather do on that?"

"Well, do something can't yez?" cried Roseen. "There's no good in standin' there, lookin' at it. I'll run off an' fetch Mike Clancy; he has more sense nor the whole o' yez put together."

Off she sped, finding her way easily, even in the dark, along the familiar path; but when she reached the cabin, and after much knocking succeeded in arousing Mrs. Clancy, disappointment awaited her--Mike was nowhere to be found.

The news went round the country next morning, first that old Peter Rorke's famous hayrick and two of the neighbouring cornstacks were burnt to the ground, and secondly that Michael Clancy had mysteriously disappeared. By-and-by certain additional circumstances were reported which caused people to connect the one fact with the other, and to comment thereon in whispers, with divers nods and winks, and mysterious jerks of the thumb. Michael was after havin' words with the ould fellow, it was rumoured, on account of his bein' sweet on Roseen, an' him and his ould father and mother were goin' to be put out o' their little place. Sure no wonder the poor boy--Well, well, he'd have had the time to get far enough off by this, an' it was nobody's business, on'y his own, poor fellow!

It was whispered that Jack McEvoy had seen Mike on the evening before, standing in the corner of the haggard lookin' about him "rale distracted, ye'd say." "What are ye doin' there at all, this time o' night?" said Jack. "Och, nothin' much," says Mike, "just streelin' about." "Well," says Jack, "I'm afeard ye are after gettin' poor Roseen into throuble; there's the great blow-up entirely goin' on beyant there at the house. The masther's murdherin' Roseen for the way the two of yez has been goin' on. He had her crying, the poor little girl," says Jack; "I h'ard her through the windy," says he. "'Oh, grandfather,' she says, 'I'll never spake to Mike agin, I give ye me word,' she says. 'I'll never ax to look at him,' says she. Well," Jack said, "if ye'd seen the look that come over Mike's face! He staggered back, so he did. 'The ould devil,' says he, 'he's afther gettin' round her an' turnin' her agin me.'" "Och, to be sure," says Jack, "he's a rale ould villain! Is it true that he's puttin' yez all out in the road?" "He is," says Mike, "but he'll be sorry for it yet?"

"Mind that now," some one would say, and the nods and the shakings of the heads would become more mysterious than ever, and then the gossips would begin to chuckle over Peter's discomfiture; the universal verdict being that "It sarved him right, the covetious ould blackguard!" Mrs. Clancy had told Roseen, weeping, that Mike was gone off wid himself. He had come in late, very near distracted, the poor boy, an' he had said "good-bye" to his father an' mother, an' had told them he was goin' to England to try an' make a bit o' money at the potato-harvest, the way they wouldn't have to go to the workhouse when Mr. Rorke turned them out.

Gone without a word of farewell to her! Roseen betook herself homewards full of bewildered pain; but kept her own counsel.

When the whispers anent the probable cause of his disappearance reached her ears, she felt a momentary thrill of apprehension, but her faith in her old friend survived this temptation. "Mike never done the like," she said to herself, with a proud little toss of her head; even when by--and--by the lad was openly accused of having been the cause of the disaster, she took his part against all comers, making no secret of her own intention, frustrated by her grandfather, of meeting him in the haggard, and announcing boldly that it was on her account that Mike had come there.

Old Peter, who had behaved like a man distracted while his property was being consumed before his eyes, was the first to connect the disappearance of Mike with this act of destruction, and declared he would leave no stone unturned in his efforts to capture and punish him.

The police were soon on poor Mike's track, and before long he was discovered in the act of embarking for Liverpool, and ignominiously dragged back to the scene of his supposed exploit. In vain he denied all knowledge of the deed, putting forward the same motive for his absence as his mother had done; circumstances were adverse to him, and the evidence against him sufficiently strong to justify the magistrate in committing him for trial at the approaching assizes. In the meantime the unfortunate fellow was despatched to the county gaol.

Peter Rorke remained in a condition of mind bordering upon frenzy; some of his neighbours opined that he was goin' out of his wits altogether, and there were moments when Roseen herself was in terror of him. The old man's excitement took a most unpleasant form, his hatred of Mike and his unfortunate parents being little less than rabid.

Not only were the poor old couple evicted with the least possible delay, but their few "sticks of furniture," precious to themselves and worth absolutely nothing to anybody else, were seized and carried off to Monavoe--there being no bidders at the sale which Peter held in "distraint for rent."

Poor old Pat was helped out of the cabin and insisted on seating himself by the roadside to watch proceedings, though his wife tried anxiously to persuade him to accept at once the hospitality pressed upon them by sympathetic neighbours.

"Lave me alone," he growled, "I'll see this out, so I will. Och, bedad, they are afther liftin' out the bed now--mind it doesn't fall to pieces on yez before yez get it into the cart. Troth, ould Peter himself ought to sleep in that iligant bed; it's the pleasant dhrames he'd have!"

"It doesn't become ye to be talkin' that way, Pat," cried "Herself," flushed and weeping; "that was me mother's bed, so it was. Oh dear, oh dear! that I should live to see it taken off of us that way! And there's me pot that I biled mornin' an' evenin' these years an' years!"

"Och, musha, lave the pot," retorted Pat; "sure what good is the pot to us when we haven't a bit to put in it? Troth, now the ould sckamer beyant has Mike in prison, we may give up altogether. Yourself an' me will soon be undher the Daisy-quilt, never fear. There they have me ould chair, now," he added sardonically; "troth it looks well cocked up there. Mind the china now, Jack McEvoy; herself here thinks there isn't the like in the country,--have ye all now, the two mugs an' the three plates, an' the cups an' saucers, an' the little taypot with the cracked spout? Ah, don't be forgettin' the little jug though, the little weeny jug with a rose on it. Sure, what are ye crying for, woman! Isn't it great grandeur for the little jug to be goin' up to Monavoe? Bedad, ould Peter'll be apt to be puttin' it undher a glass case on the chimley-piece!"

Their friends and neighbours gathering round gazed with puzzled looks at the old man as he sat enthroned on his heap of stones, his knotted trembling hands leaning on a blackthorn stick, his face flushed, and his eyes blazing under their shaggy white brows. They could scarcely understand his stoicism; Mrs. Clancy's lamentations were far more comprehensible to them.

"I won't be in it long," she wailed, "throublin' anybody. Sure, what matther if it's in the poorhouse the two of us ends our days, now poor Mike has been sent to gaol on us! Ah! God bless us! I could never hould up me head agin afther that."

"God help ye!" commented a bystander. "Don't be frettin' that a-way, ma'am; sure even if he's in gaol itself, he'll be out agin before ye know where yez are an' maybe they wouldn't keep him in it at all."

"'Deed then they had a right to let him out at wanst," groaned Mrs. Clancy from beneath her apron. "The Lord knows he never done what they're afther sayin' he done."

"Hothen, indeed, I wouldn't make too sure of that," put in Pat. "Why wouldn't he do it? Bedad, he'ud have done well if he done twice as much. No, but he had a right to have burnt the ould villain in his bed an' got shut of him out-an'-out--the on'y mistake the poor fellow made, was lettin' him off so aisy."

"Whisht, whisht! in the name of goodness! God bless us! what is it ye're sayin' at all? Sure, poor Mike's as innocent as a lamb."

"Heth, he's the fine lamb!" retorted the father sarcastically. "Well, I believe they have everything now, down to the little creepy. Good luck to ye, Jack McEvoy; mind how ye go takin' it up the road--don't be dhroppin' any of it out o' the cart. Give me compliments to Mr. Rorke, and tell him I hope he'll enjoy my iligant furnitur, an' much good may it do him!"

Jack McEvoy, one of Peter's men, climbed into the cart sheepishly enough and drove off. Once more the neighbours pressed round the homeless old pair, quarrelling for the honour of harbouring them.

"It's coming along wid me they are," cried one, "aren't yez now? sure of course they are. Isn't mine the biggest house anywhere in Donoughmor?"

"Ah, but it's that far off," argued another. "Look at the length of time it 'ud take them to be gettin' there, an' the two of them so wake on their legs, God help them! No, but it'll be betther for them step down to my little place that's handy. An' it ud' take them no time at all to get there."

"Good gracious, woman, where would ye put them in that little shebeen--sure there isn't room in it for your own childer. God bless them! the fine childer they are too--but where in the world would you find a corner for Misther and Mrs. Clancy?"

"Troth, I'll find a corner aisy enough; and it wouldn't do a ha'porth of harm to the two little fellows if they were to sleep for a few nights undher the turf stack outside. It's grand warm weather we are havin', Glory be to Goodness, an' they'd sleep as sound as a bell by the side of it."

"Oh, not at all, ma'am," put in Mrs. Clancy, "we wouldn't dhrame to be puttin' ye about that much; the poor little fellows might be gettin' their deaths o' cold on ye. Indeed it doesn't matther where we go; we are a throuble to every wan. I wisht the Lord 'ud take us out of it altogether," she added dismally; "I'd sooner be in the old gully-hole at wanst nor be goin' to the poorhouse, and, dear knows, that's where we'll have to go."

"Not wan bit, then," cried Pat resolutely, "not wan fut will ye iver put in the poorhouse, woman, nor me neither. We'll be back in the ould place here yit, see if we aren't. Nobody 'ud go in it on'y ourselves, an' it'll be there waitin' for us till the poor boy comes out an' puts us back in it."

The neighbours glanced from one to the other, and by common accord decided to humour the old man.

"To be sure ye will, Misther Clancy. The two of yez will be back there before we can turn round, an' Mike will be apt to be gettin' your bits o' things back for yez too. Sure the old rogue up there will have no call to keep them wanst the boy has paid up the bit yez owe him."

"Troth, it'll be no time at all before you're back, Pat, an' ye had a right to lave talkin' that way about the poorhouse, ma'am. There isn't a wan of us that 'ud ever let yez go there, bad luck to it! No, indeed, ma'am."

"Aye, we'll be back yet in the ould little place," repeated Pat with conviction, "we will so; come on out o' that, Mary, an' make up your mind where it is we're goin' this night. Sure the craturs here is fightin' for the honour of havin' us. Stop turnin' your head round now; the place won't run away on ye till we're back in it."

All the neighbours were indeed vying with each other in their anxiety to entertain and comfort the helpless old pair, and prove at once their sympathy with them in their trouble and their indignation with Peter Rorke.

"He done it just out of spite, mind ye," they said one to the other. "Wasn't he afther promisin' Mike to let him work out the thrifle o' rent they were owin?"

"Aye! he is the outrageousest ould villain that ever stepped," was the general verdict. Nevertheless, as in all communities there is generally one ill-conditioned person, even in the little village of Donoughmor there was to be found a time-server who, wishing for reasons of his own to ingratiate himself with Peter Rorke, was base enough to report to him old Pat Clancy's hasty words.

"He's saying he wished Mike had burnt ye in your bed, an' more by token," added Peter's informant, "he's tellin' every wan that it'll be no time at all before he's back in his own place again the same as ever he was, an' that you may do what ye like on him, he doesn't care."

"He says that, does he?" cried Peter, crimson with fury; "I'll soon show him he's makin' a bit of a mistake. 'Pon me word, did ever anybody hear the like o' that?"

"Well, that's what he says," repeated the other. "'I wisht,' he says, 'that Mike had burnt the ould villain in his bed,' says he. That's the very word he said, 'the ould villain' he says; 'an' got shut of him,' says he, 'but it'll be no time at all before herself an' me is back in the ould place,' he says. He did so--it's the truth I'm tellin' ye, that's the very way he said it."

"I'll show him different then," repeated Peter. "I wisht I'd thought of it first off--the way he'd have seen it."

"An' what's that, sir?"

"You'll soon see. 'Pon me word, I wisht I had him there now in his bed, the ould raskil, the way I could do on him what he's wishin' his spalpeen of a son had done on me. Are ye there, Pat?" he cried, raising his voice.

"I am, sir," returned some one from the region of the stables.

"Is Barney there?"

"He is."

"Bring him along wid ye then; an' call Jack McEvoy and a couple more of the boys. Bring a pick wid ye, an' a couple of them hatchets--an' Pat!"

"Sir?" replied Pat, suddenly appearing from behind the stable-wall.

"Run round to the kitchen an' fetch the big bottle of paraffin off o' the long shelf there."

"I will, sir. Where will we be goin' to, sir?"

"I have a little job for yous to do down at Donoughmor," said Peter. "Hurry up now the whole of yous; I don't want to be losin' more time over it nor I can help."

The officious visitor, finding that matters were likely to become more unpleasant than he had anticipated, disappeared while preparations were going forward, and it was only at the head of his own startled and unwilling band of followers that Peter at length sallied forth. Not a word said Peter Rorke until he reached the Clancys' deserted cabin, and with his own hands set fire to the thatch; then falling back a step or two he rubbed his hands and chuckled.

"There, now," he cried, "let us see if I can't make near as good a bonfire as Mike Clancy himself! Throw a sup more paraffin on, you, Pat; now stand back all of yous, an' look at the fine blaze. As soon as we have the roof off of it, you can all set to work an' pull the whole place down. Then we'll see if the Clancys will come to their own again, as the ould blackguard Pat keeps tellin' every one. I don't think it'll be worth his while to step back in it when I've done with it."

The poor little rotten roof, mossgrown as it was, did not burn as rapidly as Peter could have wished, but by dint of much coaxing and a plentiful sprinkling of paraffin, the fire at last gained ground, and a dense smoke began to issue from the smouldering thatch. Peter coughed and choked, and at last calling out to his men that he would be with them again as soon as that part of the job was over, climbed up the rocky hillside, pausing only when he had reached the summit, and turning round with a long gasping breath. The air was clearer there, and it pleased him to look down from this eminence on his destructive work. The smoke of the burning roof hung over the little dwelling as though to hide its degradation; jets of flame leaped through it now and then; from time to time one of his men approached with the bottle of paraffin, but the rest stood together looking on, somewhat sullenly. Farther down the lane a few women and old folks had gathered together; from his altitude Peter watched them, marking their eager gestures and imagining the horror and disgust in their faces. "Let them say what they like," he muttered to himself grimly, "I'll not leave a bit o' the place standin'. Aye! they may curse an' swear as much as they like, it doesn't hurt me."

Suddenly he bethought him how Mike had threatened him before setting fire to his rick; his hard-heartedness would bring a curse upon him, the boy had said. Peter asked himself now, with a dry chuckle, upon whom the curse had fallen most heavily. It was certainly a piece of bad luck to lose his splendid rick, but he had paid the villains well out for it. There was Mike in gaol, the old people living on the charity of their neighbours, with no prospect before them but to end their days in the workhouse; their goods scattered, their cabin razed to the ground--who was the most accursed?

Ha! one of those women down there had fallen on her knees and was raising her hands to heaven; another crone was shaking her fist in his direction. Let them pray and let them threaten--Peter was not afraid of anything or anybody, neither God nor man--not of the devil himself!

A sudden sound of stones falling just behind him made him turn round quickly. He could see nothing, but a curious scraping and rustling were still to be heard. He was standing almost beneath a low stone wall which traversed the summit. The sound appeared to him to come from a spot immediately above his head; he looked up and could see through a fissure in the wall what seemed to be a moving form. His gaze remaining fixed and fascinated on this object, distinguished at last a dark face with two gleaming eyes surmounted by horns. All Peter Rorke's vaunted courage deserted him; conscience-stricken and smitten by sudden agonising fears, he uttered a shrill quavering scream and began to totter down the hill with all the speed he could muster.

The steep path had been rendered more slippery than usual by recent rain, and afforded very insecure footing. Peter, rushing blindly forward, soon lost all control over his limbs, and fell at last, rolling over and over until he dropped on the rocks below.

His men, hastening to his assistance, hardly dared to raise him from the ground, and when they had at last mustered courage to do so, they were under the firm belief that it was the corpse of their master which they were carrying home. But Peter Rorke was not dead yet, and to the surprise of all who had known him, soon demonstrated that he was going to cheat a certain Old Gentleman--who had been considered his intimate friend during his long life--of his company at the close of it. His end in fact was most edifying. He made his peace with both God and man before he departed. To the last he remained persuaded that the horned face, which had peered at him through the ruins of Donoughmor, was that of the devil himself.

The explanation that the McEvoys' goat, which had been tethered on the hill, had broken loose and clambered up the ruined wall did not seem to him to have any bearing on the case. It was his belief that the "Ould Boy" had somewhat prematurely appeared to claim him; and his most anxious endeavour was to cheat him of his due. So Peter accomplished deeds which, under other circumstances, would have been impossible to him. He made his will to begin with, leaving a good deal of money in charity, and the bulk of his fortune to Roseen; he left directions that the Clancys were to be reinstated in their cabin and emphatically announced that he forgave Mike. When this last item, by the way, was reported to Pat, the old man's indignation knew no bounds.

Peter's last hours were not, however, disturbed by any hint as to the Clancys' attitude, and it was with the most peaceful and resigned disposition that he, at last, betook himself to another world, with the full assurance that it would prove a better one.

When Roseen had in some measure recovered from the shock of her grandfather's death, her thoughts turned at once to the Clancys. One of the family indeed had never been absent from them, and it was with surprise and indignation that she learnt that old Peter's forgiveness would in no manner affect Mike's actual position. The crime of which he was accused was so serious in character that he would have to await his trial at the approaching Sessions.

For his parents, however, something could be done, and Roseen, now finding herself mistress of Monavoe and all who dwelt there, proceeded to give orders right and left with an assurance which surprised those who had formerly known her. Injunctions were issued that the Clancys' cottage should be re-roofed and made habitable without delay, and, meanwhile, she announced her intention of taking the old couple to live with her at Monavoe. Many were the jokes and comments made upon this act of hers; a few people of what had now become her own standing in the neighbourhood offered her sage pieces of advice; some of her former cronies laughed and inquired if she were going to set up a home for incurables, as what between ould Judy that had no sense to speak of, an' Pat Clancy with ne'er a sound limb in his body, and his wife, God help her! hardly able to crawl with rheumatics, she would have her hands full up there. Roseen thanked her advisers kindly and laughed with the jokers, and went her own way.

One fine morning, her smart outside car drove up to the hospitable cabin which had sheltered the Clancys, and Pat and his wife were with some difficulty hoisted on to it. Some twenty or thirty neighbours kindly escorted them, "to hould them on for fear they might fall, the craturs!" With a deal of shouting and huzzahing, the little procession halted at length at Monavoe, where Roseen's health was drunk in due form, and then Mike's, and then Pat's, and then Mrs. Clancy's, and then Roseen's again; and at last the escort went reluctantly homewards, and Roseen conveyed her charges to the apartment she destined for them. It was a comfortable room on the ground floor, larger than the whole of the Clancys' former dwelling, which, nevertheless, it resembled oddly in many particulars. For, lo and behold! there in the corner stood their own venerable four-poster, and drawn up by the hearth was Pat's particular elbow-chair; all their possessions were there in fact, Roseen having carefully collected them previous to installing their owners--not even the little creepy-stool was absent.

Pat Clancy, who had maintained a certain dignified reserve all day, not quite liking the notion of being regarded as Roseen's pensioner, and not being certain whether this new move did not involve a sacrifice of independence, was now fairly overcome. "God bless you, me child!" he said brokenly, "ye were always the good little girl, Roseen. Herself and me will be quite at home here."

"Ah then, musha, look at me pot," cried Mrs. Clancy, who had been troubled by no scruples and whose tongue had been wagging freely during the course of their transit to Monavoe. "Look at me own i -dentical pot that has biled for me ever since we got married! I declare I could very near kiss it! I could never fancy any stir-about the same as what come out o' that pot! And there's the dresser an' all me cups and saucers widout so much as a crack on them. Well now, who'd ever fancy anybody that thoughtful? Sure we'll be in clover here--if only we had poor Mike out o' gaol!"

"He'll be out soon, never fear," cried Roseen. "We'll get a grand clever lawyer from Dublin to come an' spake for him, see if we don't. But rest yourself now, Mr. Clancy, ye'll be tired afther the drive. Maybe Mrs. Clancy would like to wet a grain o' tay for ye. Ye'll find plenty there, ma'am, in the little caddy, an' I'll send up Judy with a bit o' griddle cake."

"God bless ye, alanna!" said Mrs. Clancy, with shining eyes; "I'll set on me own little kettle this minute; it's a grand little wan to bile in a hurry, an' I'll make himself a cup of tay in no time."

Roseen withdrew with a bright nod, her innate delicacy prompting her to leave the couple to themselves for a time. Mrs. Clancy's own particular little rusty kettle was soon singing merrily on the hob, and Judy presently appeared with the griddle cake and a roll of butter of Roseen's own making.

"She's afther fetchin' it herself from the dairy," she remarked. "It's herself has the grand hand for butter, God bless her!"

"Ahmin!" said Pat emphatically, "she's the grand little girl altogether, there's not her aiquals in Ireland."

"Aye, indeed," chimed in his wife, "an' lookit how humble she is--no more stuck up now nor she was when she was a little slip of a colleen, leppin' about on the Rock, beyant."

"An' she has the fine fortun', mind ye," said Judy proudly, "the Masther left her a power o' money--'deed an' he did, a power o' money!"

"Bedad, he must have left her a good bit," agreed Pat meditatively, "and she desarves it all. 'Pon me word, I wisht Mike had left that ould rick alone. Sure, it's her that's the loser now. It's into her pocket all that fine money 'ud be comin'."

"Musha," exclaimed "Herself," "I declare I am sick an' tired hearing ye goin' on that way, an' me tellin' ye twenty times a day that it is the last thing poor Mike 'ud do. He would never dhrame o' such a thing, him that wouldn't hurt a fly. Many a time I seen him drivin' home the sheep, an' he'd have his heart scalded wid them runnin' this way an' that, an' he'd niver offer to rise a stick to them, or so much as to peg a stone at them."

"Ah, ha! then, maybe he didn't!" cried Pat triumphantly; "I know me own son as well as ye do, ma'am, an' he has a fine sperrit of his own as quiet as he is. There now! Who done it if he didn't? Tell me that if ye plase."

"Sure them hayricks often and often goes on fire of themselves," retorted Mrs. Clancy, flushed and tearful; "ye know that as well as me, Pat. Weren't they at the loss of a lovely stack down there at McEvoy's, four year ago? No, it was five, I believe--look at that now."

Pat laughed derisively. "'Pon me word, Mary, you have no more sense nor herself there," nodding towards Judy. "Sure, McEvoy's rick took fire because they were afther stackin' it, an' it wet. Whoever heard of a three-year-old rick takin' fire of itself, an' every bit of it as dry as a bone?"

"Troth it was," put in Judy, "powerful dry, ma'am. Sure, when a little spark got on it out o' me pipe it burnt up the same as if it was tindher."

As she spoke she drew her stool up to the table; she was unusually loquacious and sensible that day. The potations in which she, in common with the other members of Roseen's establishment at Monavoe, had indulged having apparently at once loosened her tongue and brightened her wits.

Pat's face suddenly changed; his eyes flashed, and his voice shook when next he spoke, though he endeavoured to assume a casual air.

"An' was it smokin' alongside o' the rick you were, Judy? When was that, agrah?"

"Sure, it was the very night I lost me pipe," replied Judy. "Roseen bid me go out an' watch for Mike an' tell him the Masther had her locked in an' she couldn't get out to spake to him."

The Clancys looked at each other; the old man making an imperative sign to his wife to keep silent.

"That was the very night the rick was burnt down," he observed; "ye didn't see any one go near it, did ye?"

"Aye, indeed, it was the very night," agreed Judy; "I lost me lovely pipe that night too," she added plaintively.

"Did ye, now?" said Pat, adding in a menacing aside to his wife: "Woman, I'll be the death of ye if ye say a word now! Lave her to me. Well, Judy, it was a poor case your losin' your pipe that way. I wonder what become of it at all? Ye didn't see any one comin', did ye, who would be apt to pick it up? Give the woman some tay, Mary, can't ye see she's dhry?"

Mrs. Clancy poured out the tea with a shaking hand, and Judy, spilling some into her saucer, proceeded to blow it vigorously, her hosts with difficulty restraining their impatience the while.

"Beautiful tay, ma'am!" she remarked, after gulping down the first instalment. "Elegant tay now, isn't it? Herself never gives less nor two an' thruppence a pound for it."

"Doesn't she now," cried Pat; "well, an' ye never seen anybody goin' near that rick?"

"Ne'er a wan at all," replied Judy, collecting herself.

"Ye didn't see Mike then?"

"Well, I'll tell ye. I was sittin' wid me back to the rick waitin' for him, an' he didn't come, an' I fell asleep, an' when I woke up I couldn't for the life of me find me bit of a pipe, not a sign of it was in it at all." Here Judy began to weep. "Me heart's broke ever since! I just laid it out o' me hand for a minute, and ne'er a bit o' me could find it since--and--Och! och! Mr. Clancy, ow--wh! Murdher! What are ye doing at all?" For old Pat had struggled from his chair, and hobbling across to where Judy sat, had seized her by the shoulder, the grip of his one sound hand being as the grip of a vice.

"Woman!" he cried, "it's you that's afther bein' the ruination of me boy! It's you that set fire to the rick wid that ould mischeevious pipe o' yours! An' there, ye let him be sent to gaol an' the whole of us be disgraced for what you are afther doin'. 'Pon me word, I could throttle ye this minute."

Mrs. Clancy ran screaming out of the room, bursting in upon Roseen with the announcement in the same breath that "Himself would be the death of ould Judy before he was done wid her," and that "poor Mike must be fetched out o' gaol widout the loss of a minute."

Roseen, rushing to the scene of action, found indeed a prodigious uproar going on. Old Pat, who until then had been thoroughly convinced that his son had accomplished the destruction of Peter Rorke's hayrick, could not now restrain his indignation on learning that he had been wrongfully accused; and in the intervals of proclaiming at the top of his voice more energetically than even "Herself" in the past that "anybody wid a grain o' sense 'ud know poor Mike 'ud be the last one in the world to go disgracing himself that way," was shaking Judy backwards and forwards till, as she subsequently declared, she nearly lost her life.

"'Pon me word," he cried, when with some difficulty and a certain amount of physical force he had been separated from his victim, "that's the ould scut yez ought to be clappin' into gaol! Did anybody ever hear the like? She must go smokin' her dirty ould pipe under the loveliest rick in the country--sure, that rick is worth its weight in gould these times--an' settin' it on fire an' bringin' ruination an' destruction on her misthress as well as on me poor innocent boy! I declare hangin' 'ud be too good for her!"

"Didn't I tell ye," cried Mrs. Clancy triumphantly, "that Mike never went next or nigh that rick?"

"Of course ye did. Anybody 'ud know that. Bedad, Mike 'ud know better nor do anythin' that senseless an' mischeevious. Sure, what good 'ud it do anybody to go burnin' that beautiful hay? 'Pon me word, Roseen, if I was you I'd walk that lady straight off to the magisthrate."

Judy, meanwhile, with shrill wails and much rocking backwards and forwards, was incoherently declaring that she wouldn't sit there to be murdhered, an' she didn't know why they was all shoutin' at her that way, an' that--as the culmination of woe--she'd lost her lovely pipe.

After some time Roseen succeeded in calming the belligerents, and in gathering the sense of their various statements.

Trembling with eagerness and excitement, she led Judy to the stackyard, and there, after much coaxing and persuasion, induced her to describe her position on the fateful night in question.

"I was sittin' here," announced Judy, pointing to a certain spot.

"You had your back to the rick then?" said Roseen, "ye can't see the haggard gate at all from here. No wonder ye didn't see Mike."

"I was tired waitin' for him," said Judy. "I just put me pipe out o' me hand," she added meditatively. "I was thinkin' of goin' to look for him--and when I woke up it was black night an' I couldn't find--"

Suddenly she uttered a shrill scream, and darting forward, stooped over one of the stone supports which had formerly upheld old Peter's beloved rick, eagerly groping in a certain little fissure in the rough stone, almost hidden beneath the horizontal slab which surmounted it.

"Sure, there it is!" she cried triumphantly, producing indeed the grimy little object so dear to her heart. "I have it now! there's me darlin' pipe! I was afther forgettin' I put it there; it was turned upside down in the crack an' all me baccy's spilt on me!"

Roseen could at first scarcely believe her own eyes and ears; this then was the solution of the mystery which had so long baffled them. Poor old Judy, growing sleepy and tired after her long wait, had laid her pipe on one side intending to rise and look for Mike, but, overcome by drowsiness, she had slept instead, and on awaking had forgotten the spot where she had stowed her treasure. The little pipe, slipping downwards in the crack, had turned over, upsetting its contents upon the loose hay beneath the rick, which being, as Judy had related, dry as tinder, quickly caught fire from the smouldering embers. A strong breeze had arisen that night, and the flame had spread to the stack itself with the results which Roseen knew. The pipe that had done all the damage, being snugly stowed away beneath the overhanging slab of stone, had told no tales; but now its evidence was conclusive, and while Judy rapturously embraced and mumbled over it, Roseen fell upon her knees and thanked God.

It was on a bright October morning that Mike was released from prison, but in spite of the joys of regained liberty and the warm congratulations of his friends, the poor fellow looked downcast and bewildered enough when he came forth into the sunshiny world. Roseen had sent her car for him to the prison door, and Mike, releasing himself at length from the handshakes of the friends who awaited him outside, and being anxious to dispense with their escort, had induced the driver, with a hasty whispered word or two, to whip up the fast-trotting mare, which had thereupon started at a break-neck pace down the street, soon leaving the astonished convoy far behind.

"Bedad, ye are in a terrible hurry altogether," remarked Jack McEvoy, who happened to be driving. "I suppose ye are in a hurry to get to Monavoe." He laughed and winked. "Begorrah, if the ould Masther could lift his head out o' the grave, I wonder what he'd say at me goin' to fetch a husband for his granddaughter out o' Mount Kennedy gaol?"

Mike flushed to the roots of his hair and turned his back more completely on his opposite neighbour.

"Sure, ye needn't think shame o' that," went on Jack, quick to perceive that the joke was not appreciated. "If ye burnt the rick itself, there's nobody hereabouts but 'ud say ye done right. But your father's breaking his heart now bekase the loss o' the rick 'ull be out o' your own pocket."

"What call has he to say any such thing at all?" said Mike, glancing round fiercely.

"Och, bedad, doesn't every one know the way it is between the two of yez? Sure, there never was a fellow in such luck as yourself, Mike Clancy! Ye'll be the richest man between this and County Cork, an' let alone the fortun', ye'll be havin' the greatest jewel of a wife. 'Pon me word, if ye was to see the Misthress now of a Sunday!"

"Who's that?" said Mike absently.

"The Misthress--Miss Rorke!"

"Oh, aye, of course, Miss Rorke is the Misthress now," mused Mike to himself.

"Well, if ye was to see her in her black silky dress an' the beautiful feathers in her hat, an' her gould watch and chain an' all--'pon me word, ye'd think it was the Queen."

Clancy did not answer, and McEvoy, more and more anxious to retrieve his former error, waxed eloquent on the subject of Roseen, her beauty, her wealth, and the bounties she lavished all round her.

"Look at the way she whipped off your father and mother there," he remarked at last, "and the comfort she keeps them in! I b'lieve the improvement in them since they went up above there is somethin'"--Jack paused for an adjective and finally selected "outrageous." "Tay, they do be tellin' me, at two and thruppence a pound no less, an' mate wanst and twice in the day, an' a sup o' punch at night the way they'd sleep sound! Sure, it's somethin' altogether"--again a pause--"unmintionable!"

Jack actually leaned across the well of the car to peer into Mike's face, but alas! the more choice and picturesque was his language, the deeper seemed to be the gloom of Michael Clancy. At last, when within a few yards of Donoughmor, Mike abruptly requested to be set down there, and after thanking the man in somewhat tremulous tones, walked away rapidly in the direction of his former home.

"Sure, what's the good of your going there?" shouted McEvoy, "the roof is off of it yet, an' not a soul about. Come on home wid ye, can't ye?"

"No, thank ye," said Mike, without turning his head. The car drove on, and soon Mike stood within his dismantled home. There had been some delay in procuring wood for the new rafters and the poor roofless, smoked-begrimed walls looked very forlorn. Mike glanced round him and groaned aloud; he could have wept, so great was the turmoil in his heart and in his mind. Everything was changed, it seemed to him; everything was gone. Could this poor little place ever be home again? How silent it was now that the old father was not cracking his jokes in the corner! How empty now that the mother's spare form was absent! They were safe and sound at Monavoe, he knew, "well looked after," as the driver had told him, by "Miss Rorke" herself, but for the time being it almost seemed to him as though they were dead. As for Roseen, she was Miss Rorke now, the Mistress, the owner of Monavoe--his Roseen was gone too!

His heart was still sore at the recollection of his bitter disappointment on the fateful evening when the rick was burnt. She had not come to meet him on that night of all nights in the year! He knew, through Jack McEvoy, that she had promised her grandfather never to speak to him again. She had broken faith with him. All through these weary weeks in prison, the anguish of this thought had deadened all his other sufferings and anxieties, but in any case, how could he ever expect her, amid her new grandeurs, to think of him as she used to do? She had the best heart in the world, he knew that, and wouldn't ask to do anything that was not kind; she'd try to make up as well as she could for the "differ of things" by doing all in her power for his father and mother and by befriending him. It had been mainly through her exertions that he had been released, and she had sent her own car to meet him--oh, to be sure she had done that! But as to consenting to be his sweetheart again, sure, goodness knew, Michael could never expect that.

"Afther me bein' in prison an' all!" he said to himself mournfully. "I had a right to be givin' up thinkin' of her altogether."

He left the cabin presently and climbed the hill, entering the ruins and seating himself on the great stone slab on one side of the banqueting-hall. By-and-by, he would have to go to Monavoe to see his parents, but he would wait for a little while first; he shrank from the meeting with Roseen. He intended to convey to her straightway his sense of the distance between them, and his determination to take no advantage of their former intimacy; but it was hard, and Mike, crushed and shaken by the trouble and anxiety of mind which he had recently undergone, suffering in every fibre from an unaccountable sense of desolation, felt that his heart failed him.

But all at once a light foot sounded on the stone steps behind him, and Roseen came quickly forward to the rocky recess. Her face was pale, and there were tears in her eyes; her attire, by no means so magnificent as that which Michael had depicted to himself, was somewhat disordered; she had not even taken the trouble to assume a hat, and her curly hair was blown about her brow, so that she looked very like the little Roseen of old.

"Michael Clancy," she cried, "what did I do to ye that ye wouldn't come to see me?"

Mike rallied all his self-possession.

"Ye never done anything that was not kind, Miss Rorke," he said, standing up and removing his hat, "and I am truly grateful."

Roseen's face quivered. "Why are ye talkin' to me that way, Mike? I'm no more Miss Rorke to you now nor I have ever been. Sure, ye are not angry," she added piteously, "at me not goin' to meet ye on the car? I was afeard that every wan would be talkin' an' tormentin' us."

"Indeed, it wouldn't have become you at all," responded Mike, still standing, hat in hand, and speaking with a kind of aggressive humility, "and it 'ud be far from me to be expectin' such a thing."

Roseen knit her brows and tapped her foot impatiently, the angry tears now standing on her cheeks.

"What is it ye are driving at at all?" she cried; "I can't for the life of me make out what it is ye be up to. It 'ud have become me well enough to go meet ye, if it wasn't for the way people 'ud be goin' on."

"Indeed, of coorse, ye'll have to be mindin' yourself," agreed Mike, with cold politeness. "People's always ready enough to be gossipin' and gabbin' about any young lady."

"Young lady, fiddlesticks!" cried Roseen. "If ye go on that way I'll take ye by the two shoulders an' shake ye--it's all I can do now to keep me hands off o' ye! What in the name of goodness would ye be at? I'm not a young lady no more nor ye are, I am just Roseen, the same as ever I was. It's you that's turned nasty and contrairy."

"Not at all!" replied Mike, still frostily. "I'm only wishful to let ye understand that I know me place, miss, an' would never think of being presumptious."

Roseen suddenly collapsed on the stone slab and began to sob, making a good deal of noise over it and drying her eyes with the corner of her skirt, not being at that moment equipped with an apron.

"Ye're a nasty, bitther, disagree'ble ould fellow," she remarked inarticulately, "an' I hate ye."

Mike had turned his back to her the better to intrench himself in his fortress of reserve, but now he could not help stealing a glance at her from over his shoulder. There sat Roseen, still vigorously sobbing, her feet dangling downward as she sat on her high perch, her shoulders heaving, her ruffled brown head drooping, the tears forcing their way through fingers that were just as sunburnt as of old. Many a time had Mike seen her give way to paroxysms of childish woe, and comforted her with loving words and no less loving kisses. The recollection flashed across him now, and he immediately looked away again, stiffening himself more than ever.

"I thought the day 'ud never come," lamented Roseen, "when ye would be back wid me. I never closed an eye last night countin' the time an' me heart leppin' that much for joy, that the bed shook undher me--an' this is the way ye go trate me when ye do come home!"

Mike turned round quickly. "Ah, Roseen, can't ye whisht?" he cried; "sure it's twice as bad for me as for you. Sure, asthore,"--he couldn't for the life of him prevent that little word from slipping in--"it's only thrying to do me duty I am; it 'ud never do at all for you an' me to be goin' on the same as we used to do, and I wouldn't like yourself nor any wan to be thinkin' I'd be forgettin' the differ there is between the two of us now."

Roseen looked up, her blue eyes still drowned in tears, but just the suspicion of a smile beginning to creep about her mouth.

"Troth!" she said with a toss of her head, "the on'y differ there is in it is that I am the same as ever I was, an' you have turned crabby an' cranky."

"'Deed then, I'm not," rejoined Mike, adding hotly, "I'd have ye remember, Roseen, it's you that changed first. Why didn't ye come to me that evenin' at the haggard gate the way you always did? And me in throuble wi' all an' breaking me heart for a word from ye!"

The dignified hero was gone for the nonce, and look and tone were those of a youthful and offended lover. Roseen immediately fired up too.

"God give me patience!" she cried, "I never come acrass such a contrairy boy in me life! Didn't I nearly lep out o' the windy to come to ye? Sure, me grandfather had me locked in!"

"Oh that, indeed!" said Mike, his face brightening for a moment, but immediately clouding over again, "but a man told me that same night, that he h'ard ye sayin' ye'd never spake to me agin nor so much as look at me."

"He tould you a lie then," said Roseen with flashing eyes; "I never said that--oh, aye, to be sure, I believe I did though, but ye have no call to be castin' that up at me, Mike; if I did itself, I done it for love of you. Now! When me grandfather tould me he was goin' to put your father and mother out on the road I begged and prayed an' done everythin' I could to persuade him to give up the notion, an' at last says I, 'Well, grandfather,' says I, 'I'll promise never to speak to Mike agin,' says I,' nor so much as look at him,' says I, 'if ye'll only let them stop in it.' Sure, whoever it was went carryin' stories to ye must have been hard set to find somethin' to say if they brought up that, an' you had no call to be listenin' to them. I'd soon stop the mouth of any wan that went about makin' out tales about you."

Never had she looked more bewitching than in her anger; her great blue eyes, open to their fullest extent, were flashing with scorn and wrath though the big tears still hung on their long lashes. The little curled upper lip showed glistening white teeth, the colour came and went in the pretty dimpled cheeks--cheeks that looked so soft and inviting. Mike bit his lips and thrust his hands in the depths of his ragged pockets, clenching them in the effort to preserve his self-control. He could not help a flash of joy lighting up his face for a moment, but he turned away to hide it. Wasn't she the jewel of the world altogether, an' how could he ever have been such a gomeril as to doubt her? But all the same he must mind himself. It was not for the likes of him to be thinking of her that way. Sure, what matter if she had been his sweetheart twenty times over in days gone by--she could never be his sweetheart now. Stiffening himself therefore and again resuming his lofty tone, he proceeded: "Indeed I am truly grateful to you, Miss Rorke, for all your goodness an' all ye done for me father and mother. Jack McEvoy's afther tellin' me that they are in the height o' comfort. Indeed I'd never have thought of lookin' for them there at all; I never have expected you to be puttin' yourself about that way for them."

"An' why wouldn't they be with me?" cried Roseen quickly. "Isn't it the right place for them to be? They had a right to be stoppin' there altogether, on'y that they are that fond of their own little place I don't think they 'ud ever contint themselves."

Mike suddenly sat down on the slab, but at a very discreet distance from Roseen. He cleared his throat and looked towards her, but seemed to find a difficulty in speaking. Roseen began to swing one of the little pendant feet and looked away into the blue distance.

"Sure," she resumed in an indifferent tone, after a moment's pause, "when their own house is not ready for them, the best place for them to be in is their son's."

The colour rushed over Mike's cheek and brow; his heart began to beat violently, and his limbs to tremble. There was a long silence, broken only by the old familiar song of the lark sounding jubilantly from above their heads; the rustling of the tall fawn-coloured grasses that grew among the stones, and the distant faint lowing of cattle.

The outline of Roseen's pretty face and head stood out cameo-like against the background of sunlit stone; Mike's gaze fastened itself there and could not detach itself. There was a long pause, then with a great effort he forced himself to speak.

"Roseen, darlint, there's not a ha'porth of good the two of us goin' on this a-way; we may as well talk out plain. Ye're the best-natured an' kindest-hearted little girl in the wide world, God bless ye!--"

Roseen drooped her head a little demurely, the colour mantling in her face now, and dimples coming and going about her mouth.

"But," resumed the young man, steadying his voice, "I wouldn't take advantage of ye, alanna, an' let ye do what ye'd be apt to be sorry for afther a while. It wouldn't do at all for ye to be takin' up wid the likes o' me now. Sure ye'd be the laughingstock of the place, if ye went an' got married to a poor fellow like meself that hasn't a rag to his back nor a penny in his pocket, an' just stepped out o' prison more by token--sure, that alone 'ud make a deal o' differ!"

"Aye, indeed," interrupted Roseen, throwing up her head, "it 'ud make that much differ, Mike, that if a girl was fond of a boy before, she'd be apt to be ten times fonder after. Now lookit here, Mike Clancy, I have had enough of this--'pon me word, isn't it too bad for a poor girl to have to go beggin' an' prayin' a fellow this way! Ye ought to be ashamed of yourself! Saints presarve us, this is the third time I am afther axing ye! I declare I'm out o' patience wid ye altogether. Sure, didn't we have each other bespoke ever since we could say a word at all, an' what matter in the name of goodness, if ye haven't a penny in your pocket? Haven't I plenty for the two of us? And sure, good gracious, if me poor grandfather, God rest him! put ye in gaol for what ye never done, isn't it me that ought to be ashamed an' not yourself? There now, I'll never say another word to ye, good or bad, if ye don't make up your mind at wanst an' lave off talkin' that rubbish!"

Apparently Mike did make up his mind, for he left his particular corner of the stone bench and came close to Roseen, his face aglow with happiness and his arms outstretched. And there they sat and talked among the ruins till the birds flew twittering to roost and the golden light faded from the hill-top: yet, as hand in hand they came down the path and wandered homewards through the dewy grass, it seemed to them that they still were walking in a glorified world.