a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership
Title: Beltarbet's Pride Author: Marjorie Bowen (writing as George R. Preedy) * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1500791h.html Language: English Date first posted: Jul 2015 Most recent update: Jul 2015 This eBook was produced by Paul Moulder and Roy Glashan. Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular paper edition. Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this file. This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html To contact Project Gutenberg of Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au
GO TO Project Gutenberg Australia HOME PAGE
There is tragedy in this stately story of an Irish feud. But
end there is the beauty and the solace of courage and nobility.
"THERE'S Lord Maskell's steward been this hour in the parlor; shall I send him on his road again?"
"And what will Lord Maskell's steward be doing here?" was the impatient answer.
"Nothing that's good, my lord. Shall I put him on his road again?"
The young man to whom this eager question was addressed dismounted from his beautiful horse, hesitated, then said: "No, I'll see him."
The servant, now holding the dark horse's head, protested with a stern anxiety:
"You'll see him? And it's the steward—the gentleman not coming himself?"
Lord Beltarbet paused on the steps of his decayed mansion. The wind was blowing about his hair, the autumn leaves scurried round his feet; it was the earliest hour of a lovely, soft twilight.
"Maybe there's trouble," mused he, smiling wistfully at the servant. "I've heard there'll be more risings in County Clare—maybe in County Wicklow."
"That, my lord," replied the stately servant, with a hard, grim look, "will be no affair of Lord Maskell or his steward."
"They're English," said Beltarbet, with cold bitterness, and he entered his ancient, ill-kept house. He flung off his hat in the shabby hall and still holding his riding whip behind him, entered the parlor where the Englishman waited.
The Englishman introduced himself—Mr. Simon Ware, Lord Maskell's agent; though his manner was respectful, the little neat man conveyed perfectly well that he knew he was one of the conquerors speaking to one of the conquered; his very civility had an air of pity.
To him the dark young man in the worn riding suit was merely a member of a despised and defeated race, the descendant of generations of rebels whose estates and titles were confiscated, and who was only suffered to retain such property and barren honors as he possessed through the charity of the British Government.
Lord Beltarbet had naturally another estimation of himself, and it was one that was shared by thousands of his countrymen. Beltarbet should have been one of the least of his titles and Fournaughts one of the least of his demesnes; he was by right Clare and Thomond, this Murrough O'Brien, one of the most famous names in Ireland.
The O'Briens had been princes in Clare before the Romans entered Britain, and generations of them had fallen on foreign battlefields rather than submit to the English; but Beltarbet's father had come home to die, and through the intercession of kindly folk at St. James' this little parcel of land in Wicklow and this small title of honor had been allowed to the last of the Princes of Clare.
Lord Maskell, whose steward stood near him now, had been granted most of the Clare estate and it was rumored that the young Englishman, who had rendered brilliant service in the field, was soon to be rewarded with a revival in his favor of the ancient titles of Clare and Thomond. Lord Beltarbet, who had grown up with pride and poverty, bitter, reckless, thriftless, trained in nothing but loneliness, hated all the English, and hated more than any other man Lord Maskell, who ruled in Clare and who was on the Lord Lieutenant's staff—definitely one of the conquerors.
The agent was not discomposed by the young man's stormy glance, but came concisely and with no show of hesitation to the heart of his errand.
"Lord Maskell charged me to ask, sir, if you would reconsider your refusal in the matter of Diarmuid, the horse?"
"You've wasted your errand," returned Beltarbet, dryly; "six months ago I told your master that the horse was not for sale."
"Lord Maskell thought," said the Englishman, smoothly, "that possibly you had reconsidered. He is prepared to give even a higher price—he recognizes he is a very beautiful animal."
"There's no finer horse in Ireland," cried Beltarbet, with a flash.
"There'll be no finer price ever paid for a horse, if you take what Lord Maskell offers. It's fifteen thousand pounds, and that"—with a sly glance round the staring poverty of the room—"is a large sum, Lord Beltarbet."
"I'll not sell the horse—the money is nothing to me."
"You said as much before, Lord Beltarbet," the Englishman reminded him, slyly, "in the matter of Earl Sigurd's bowl."
My lord turned his back upon the speaker and struggled for control by tapping the handle of his riding-whip on the worn window-frame; in all his short, unhappy life he had never done anything that he reviewed with such remorse and regret as the selling of Earl Sigurd's bowl, the last treasure of his family, which, according to a lovingly credited tradition, had been taken from the defeated invader by an O'Brien on the fierce and bloody field of Clontarf.
"I sold the bowl to keep the horse," he muttered, "and that's enough."
"Fifteen thousand pounds?" queried Mr. Ware, distantly, casually.
Beltarbet faced him:
"You know my poverty; you do not know, it seems, some other things of me. The horse is not for sale."
"A pity!" The steward seemed to regret the sumptuous foolishness of this young man as well as the disappointment to his master. "Lord Maskell meant to enter him for the races. The Lord Lieutenant is entering Comet, the English horse—"
"And I am entering mine—Diarmuid," said Beltarbet, sternly.
Mr. Simon Ware was definitely surprised. His pursed lips and his raised eyebrows showed that he considered it an ostentatious and ridiculous gesture of defiance for a penniless young Irishman to dare to compete in races which were the diversion of the English gentlemen in Dublin.
"There'll be a good many guineas on him—all that I and my friends can scrape up," said Beltarbet, frowning him down.
"You'd be safer, sir, to take the money that's offered; it is a reckless risk to put all on the hazard of the winning of a race."
"My family," smiled Beltarbet, bitterly, "are used to living at a hazard, sir."
The Englishman rose, took his hat and cane, and smiled agreeably.
"Just one word of warning, sir," he said, with a dry compassion for the dark young man. "It is well for you to have some friend at the viceregal court… The times are difficult for one in your position… Lord Maskell might be able, some day, to do you a service."
"The day when I shall ask Lord Maskell, or any other Englishman, to do me a service will never dawn," replied Beltarbet, quietly. "You may tell your master as much. He has got my estates and will have, I hear, my titles. He has Earl Sigurd's bowl, which was my last treasure. He shall not have the horse. I have no more to say, sir, nor any hospitality to offer you."
The Englishman bowed, by no means discomposed. "There are rumors of trouble," he said, flicking his gloves on his hat. "I live in Dublin. I hear a good deal that, perhaps, does not come to your Lordship's ears in Fournaughts. A Roman Catholic gentleman with Irish sympathies would do well to be very careful during the next few weeks."
"Careful!" cried Beltarbet. "And why should I be careful? I've neither wife nor child; I'm the last of my house; I have nothing to lose. Tell your master that, if he sent this warning."
"And you'll not sell the horse offered for in a fair and friendly fashion?"
"Good-day to you, Mr. Ware!"
Lord Maskell's steward drove away in his neat carriage from the demesne of Fournaughts. Beltarbet came out on to the sunken threshold step and into the sweet windy evening. Luke Tandy, the servant, was waiting there like a sentinel.
"He came to buy the horse," said Beltarbet. "That was his errand, Luke."
"You've sent him away?" asked Tandy, eagerly.
"I've sent him away," smiled Beltarbet. "I am putting Diarmuid into the October races and I'll ride the horse, though all the English in Ireland be there to laugh at me."
"Did he say anything of the troubles?" asked Luke Tandy, keenly scanning his master's face.
"He gave me some manner of warning," replied Beltarbet; "maybe from his master. But what's the matter for that to me. I've nothing in the world to lose—except the horse and you, Luke Tandy."
He smiled into the elder man's eyes.
They stood shoulder to shoulder, the same height, something of the same build; but forty years, and all the difference between royal and peasant blood, between them. They loved each other.
Luke Tandy had twice saved the life of Beltarbet's father in foreign battles; Luke Tandy had brought Beltarbet himself, as a small child, home to the miserable demesne that was all that was left to the heir of Clare. Luke Tandy had taught him all he knew of arms and horsemanship, and brought him up in love and lore of Ireland, the legends and history of it, the tales of the Shee and other unseen folk that haunt the oppressed and desolate land. Luke Tandy had served him, without wage or thought of a wage, for a poor bare living; he had been his close companion, his loving teacher in wood and field, walking by the banks of the Liffey, strolling in the shaded valley of Clara, riding through the haunted hollows of Boyne fields, beneath the tombs of Irish kings, or climbing the noble sides of Slieve Donard, blue in the blue. To Luke Tandy, Beltarbet was a prince of ancient and pure race, and a boy dearer to him than his own two sons whom he had lost in the dreary hardships of long exile.
Beltarbet gazed earnestly at the face of his one friend, companion and servant.
"I had no right to refuse to sell the horse," he said. "There were pride and temper in that, although the animal is my own darling. I should have taken the money, and, maybe, built up the house again, and helped the creatures who starve to pay my rent, and see that you had more comfort and less work, Luke Tandy."
"There is no money could pay for the horse, my lord; haven't you bred him and broken him yourself, with perhaps some help from me? Isn't he famous not only in Ireland but in England? Isn't he like a glory to the house, and an honor and a credit and a pride to you? We have so little—God help us!—for which to take honor and glory and credit."
Beltarbet knew that. The horse stood for beauty and nobility in his life, which was otherwise so thriftless and barren. The animal had always seemed to him of more than mortal grace and power, as if he came from the Shee, or was a descendant of the immortal steeds of fire and wings who had borne the Princes of Clare into a hundred battles.
But Beltarbet shook his head sadly and mocked at himself.
"I paid more than I could afford for the horse. I sold Earl Sigurd's bowl to keep him, and I had no right to refuse the price for him, Luke Tandy. This poverty is breaking the heart in me and I need the money, if it's only to pay for my journey away, so that the English shall not see how I die."
"You'll win the race and make a fortune," consoled the old servant, peering at his master lovingly and wistfully through the increasing azure twilight, so soft, so pure.
"I'll win the race," said Beltarbet, "but who'll put money on an Irish horse whose owner cannot afford to give him a rider but must ride him himself? The Catholic gentlemen have no money, Luke Tandy, and the English will bet on their own animals. But I'll do it, just to beat Maskell's horse—just for once in my life, Luke Tandy, to get the better of Lord Maskell. He's had everything—all of mine and, maybe, God'll not grudge me just that one moment when I ride Diarmuid to the winning-post."
Luke Tandy knew that there was more behind those words than the words themselves. The Englishman had indeed had everything—not only the estates, but the titles, the money, and the honors that should, in happier times for Ireland, have gone to the heir of Clare and Thomond; also the graces and favors of a lovely woman, fit bride for an O'Brien.
In Dublin last winter Beltarbet had allowed his heart to mislead him; proud, somber, galled and outfaced by the English and the Protestant Irish gentry, he had made but a short appearance at the stately court of the amiable Lord Lieutenant. Yet it had been long enough for him to meet in the painted ballroom of Dublin Castle a lady who had caused some dreams to stir in his desolate heart—dreams which might never come again; and he had been blinded enough to believe that she had favored him; but she was English and Protestant, and surrounded by an ambitious family, and, before Beltarbet had left Dublin for the only retreat that his pride and poverty could tolerate, he had learned that the gay and splendid Kitty Archer was betrothed to Lord Maskell.
The only person in the world who knew of this secret and exquisite wound was Luke Tandy, who had stood by for many a steady month and watched the recklessness of grief, humbled pride and thwarted aspirations of the lonely young man; and comforted, strengthened and supported him as best he could—not by words, but by companionship and service, by being there in the midst of his desolation and humiliation—always Luke Tandy, a friend, a servant, a subject of the Princes of Clare.
Something of the poetry and romance of that brief, inarticulate and thwarted passion for the woman had passed into Beltarbet's feelings for the horse, this creature that seemed to have the wonder of all the four elements—the swiftness of the wind, the ardor of fire, the flowing grace of water, and the beauty of glittering earth.
With an instinct to escape from his present distresses he went through the soft, gentle azure twilight down to the stables where Luke Tandy kept Diarmuid with a passion of tender care. Beltarbet leaned in the doorway and looked at the noble creature; he thought that the line and luster of him, the glow and color of him, were like an uprising poem or a swell of music.
The young man caressed the loving creature, who understood both his affection and his pain, and pressed his face against the smooth warm roan coat, and knew in his heart that he ought to have taken the English gold; that winter he and Luke Tandy and the few poor creatures who looked to him might be brought very low.
Beltarbet left the stables. He took a way that he could have found in the moonless dark, through a somber tangle of ashwood, to a little chapel. Here had stayed a great treasure, as safe in the lonely woods as if it had been in a safe in a London bank, for it was the last heirloom of the O'Briens and sacred to all the Irish—Earl Sigurd's bowl of silver gilt, with squares of flashing, angry-seeming, red and orange stone round it and strange lettering that no one had been skillful enough to decipher. Last year Beltarbet had sold this bowl to Lord Maskell in order to make some show in Dublin, without parting with his costly horse.
Beltarbet entered the chapel. A little old man greeted him. He sat down in the dim light, and opened his soul, not for the first time, to the sad thoughtful priest, told him how Lord Maskell's agent had tempted him to sell Diarmuid, and of the arrest of men in Rathdrum, and soldiers in the Vale of Clara, of the peasantry gathering in Ballinalea, and how ill it went with him—a young man and strong, with a great name, to be there corrupting in idleness, and how he would rather die than live as he was living now, which was worse than a captive or an exile, outcast from all, denied everything… with ruin about him, and despair and idleness…
Father Moran listened with loving patience. When Beltarbet had exhausted himself in overflowing speech the priest spoke, and his kind voice was like a shadow and a chill over the bold despairing energy of the other.
"Ireland cannot rise! How can a man who is shackled to the ground struggle to his feet? This will mean but more widows and orphans, more houses like your house, Lord Beltarbet, and churches like mine."
Luke Tandy had said the same; Beltarbet knew these two men, so different in their several ways, had spoken the dreadful truth. No revolt in Ireland could be anything but a desperate convulsion of extreme despair and would be most horribly punished.
"You have a responsibility," urged the priest, gently; "you must lead the people toward peace and submission, not toward a useless and costly striving which can have but one end. When the foot is on the neck and the yoke is on the shoulder, when the chains hang heavy and the prison walls close round, there's nothing left but resignation."
Beltarbet received Father Moran's blessing; then turned and went back through the dark wood to his dark mansion.
The young man picked up the horn lantern in the hall and, holding it above his head, went from room to room, calling for Luke Tandy, to whom he wished to impart his resolution… But a little waiting, and the race, and perhaps a few guineas from it, and then away! and escape from the humiliation of inaction… "Eh, Luke! Luke Tandy!"
No answer, though he searched from desolate chamber to chamber, went to the stables where his darling was safe, then round the whispering wood, he could not find his servant.
He was peering through the bushes with an increasing impatience and a growing dismay when a small, crying, ragged boy ran out from the dark and told him that when he had gone to see the priest the redcoats had ridden up to the house in haste and power, had arrested Luke Tandy and carried him off along the Dublin road…
Beltarbet mounted Diarmuid and pursued the soldiers through the mild warm night. He came up with them when they were halfway to their destination; but little was the satisfaction Beltarbet got from the meeting. The prisoner was a known rebel who had been going about the country and stirring up the people against the government. He would be lodged that night in Dublin Castle…
Lord Beltarbet argued passionately with the British officer that it was a mistake; he could swear to it; his man would have done nothing without his knowledge… Neither he nor Luke Tandy knew anything of the risings. He demanded deliverance of the pinioned prisoner. When he could not get a hearing, and the officer impatiently ignored him, he rode behind the cavalcade to Dublin, and his heart was like to fly out of his bosom with shame and grief.br>
That night Luke Tandy was flung into one of the evil cells in Dublin Castle, whose high-barred windows looked on to the courtyard called the Devil's Acre, from being the scene of floggings, executions and torments. Beltarbet and Diarmuid passed the night in a poor inn which was yet better than he could afford, and where he was treated with princely courtesy because his name was Murrough O'Brien.
The following morning by use of grim patience and black determination Beltarbet forced himself into the presence of the governor of the castle prison.
The interview with Luke Tandy he begged was denied him, but he got this news for his consolation:
Tomorrow the old man would be flogged in the Devil's Acre; he had refused any manner of confession; if he did confess and give the names of his accomplices he would be hanged; if he refused to confess he would be flogged again and, maybe, put to other tortures.
The English governor, a not unkindly man, was something confounded by the sight of Beltarbet's distress, but it was not in his power to grant him the interview, or, indeed, any privilege to any of his prisoners.
"Have you no friend at the court among the English?" he asked, curious, interested, a little sorry.
"A friend—I—an O'Brien?"
"I saw you with Lord Maskell last year; he has some influence, and the lady he is to marry is the commander-in-chief's daughter and high in the friendship of the Lord Lieutenant's wife—you might do something there."
"You send me to the man who has got my estates, will have my titles?" asked Beltarbet, thinking this an insult to his misery.
But the governor had not so intended his advice: "Lord Maskell might consider that an obligation; he is easy and generous—you should try him if you can think of no one else."
Easy and generous! The words beat bitterly in Beltarbet's distracted mind. Since he had come to Dublin he had heard the talk, which had now come to the coffee houses, that Lord Maskell and Brocas would be gazetted Earl of Clare and Thomond that winter…
That night he called at Lord Maskell's fine mansion in Kildare Street and waited, in vain, for a bitter hour. The Englishman was abroad—he had been occupied with the troubles, with his military duties. His distress, sharply increased by the delay, sent Beltarbet to a club in Merrion Square where my lord might be, and there, by chance, he found him with a number of his companions—English noblemen and officers, gay and splendid, animated by the successful crushing of the rebellion, the prospect of a struggle with the French.
Beltarbet sent in his name, and my lord left his gaming and came out to him.
The two men met in the high, elegant chamber, with its painted ceiling and the Italian marble chimney-piece. Beltarbet was in his suit of an outdated fashion, shabby and worn, but brushed and mended by the landlord's daughter; the Englishman was in full regimentals, fair, handsome, confident.
"I have come about my horse, Diarmuid," Beltarbet said, sternly.
"You'll sell him?" asked Lork Maskell, agreeably.
"No, I'll not sell him, but I've come to bargain about him. And that's difficult, sir, for I cannot remember ever in my life having bargained before."
"Nor I," smiled the English officer, haughtily. "What, sir, can we have to bargain about?"
"Very little, as you may suppose," smiled Beltarbet, also grimly. "You have the titles and the estates which should go with the name I hold—it's a queer thing for a Murrough O'Brien to come to an Englishman and talk of bargaining, is it not? There's little indeed I have left to trade with, Lord Maskell—only the horse, and it's desperate the plight I must be in before I talk of parting from him, for in all County Wicklow he's called 'Beltarbet's Pride.'"
"It's a beautiful horse," remarked the Englishman, smoothly; "I have always admired him, and I have offered you what I believe, Lord Beltarbet, is a fair and even a generous price."
"It's not the price I want," replied Murrough O'Brien, desperately. "There's a man of mine—a servant, a friend—in Dublin Castle, under suspicion of being implicated in these risings, and I can do nothing; I am a penniless, landless man with no influence, Lord Maskell; and there's none that'll be listening to me. But, if you lend me your influence for the sake of Luke Tandy, I'll give you the horse."
"A bribe!" murmured Lord Maskell, softly, with his hand on his hip, where his scarlet sash was knotted over his sword hilt.
"It will be in time for the races," added the Irishman. "He's not entered yet, and he'll win you the prize, for you'll have many friends that will put the golden guineas on him. I am offering you a large fortune, Lord Maskell—not that you need it, but money seldom comes amiss to any man."
"And what," asked the English officer, dryly, "precisely do you wish of me?"
Beltarbet told him, standing there in his worn, old-fashioned attire before the marble chimney-piece, his youth and beauty haggard and wasted from days of anxiety and nights of despair.
"Luke Tandy is to be flogged tomorrow in what we call the Devil's Acre; it may be after that he'll be hanged, and maybe he'll be flogged again, and maybe he'll be put to some other torture; and that he's innocent I might take upon my honor; but, innocent or guilty, I'd have you use your influence to get him off, sir."
"I doubt I've influence enough to get a rebel pardoned," remarked Lord Maskell, slowly.
"There's your lady that's to be," suggested Beltarbet, quietly; "she's the daughter of the commander-in-chief—it may be she would say a word. Miss Kitty Archer was ever gentle and kind."
The two men glanced at each other and then away again; a little silence followed the mention of the lady's name. Then Maskell asked: "Who is this Luke Tandy?"
"He's the one friend I've left—the one servant and follower; he thinks of me still as if I were a prince in Clare; he saved my father's life twice abroad and brought me home. He taught me all I know of action, as the priests have taught me all I know of thought. A brave and loyal man, Lord Maskell, he would do nothing to bring trouble on my house or me, knowing I'm deep enough in that already."
"I doubt if I can do anything," said the Englishman.
"You can stop the flogging."
Maskell was silent; his fair composed face was expressionless.
"And if you couldn't stop it," added the Irishman, with a heaving breast and a note of desperate earnestness in his soft voice, "maybe you could do this, Lord Maskell—allow me to stand beside him in the Devil's Acre while he takes his torment."
The Englishman glanced up with narrowed eyes.
"Perhaps I could do that," he conceded. "And you'd give me your horse, for which I have offered fifteen thousand pounds, for so slight a favor?"
"No slight favor to me, Lord Maskell; the O'Briens have always stood by their friends and servants. I've no right to ask anything from you—we're not friends or equals," he added with a flash in eyes and voice, "and there's that between us should make us enemies. It has not been the easiest thing in the world for me to come to you, Lord Maskell; I'll call it a bargain—not the begging of favor."
"And I am to enter your horse," smiled the Englishman, "and win the race with him, and a power of guineas besides, eh? And who's to mount him? I hear you intended to ride him yourself."
"He would give his best with me. With others he's a fine horse, the most splendid animal in Ireland, but with me he's like a thing from the Shee—all wind and flame!" The Irishman lifted his head and his gray eyes gleamed. "I'll tell you this, Lord Maskell, if you'll do what you can for Luke Tandy, I'll ride the horse for you at the races."
"And yet you can have no cause to wish to serve me, Beltarbet."
"I've none! I've the wrongs of a hundred years and more between us. You, and the like of you, Lord Maskell, have made my own country so hateful to me that, until this came upon me, I was going abroad again and taking with me the horse and Luke Tandy and, maybe, the old priest—all of us becoming like the leaves on the road again in a foreign land where my forefathers died."
"And join our enemies?" suggested the Englishman, quietly.
"It may be," said Beltarbet. "What have we ever been but enemies—Irish and English—since the days when Strongbow landed? Conquered and conquerors! And I wish that my father had let me take my lost fortune and stay in exile."
"If you would give up your property and serve the King," remarked Lord Maskell, "you might yet find life desirable. Such an existence as you lead, Beltarbet—idle, lonely—is damning to a man."
"I'll neither leave my faith nor serve the foreigner," replied Murrough O'Brien. "It wasn't to discuss this that I came here—but to ask you to do what you can for Luke Tandy. I have offered you the horse and to ride him for you and win the race—on my honor."
Lord Maskell asked:
"You have no other friend—no other hope?"
"None," replied the Irishman, simply, "or I should never have come to you."
"You hate me, I suppose," mused the Englishman, "because my grandfather had your estates?"
"Hate? I don't know. They say you'll be Clare and Thomond… those are queer titles for a man whose name is Henry Tresham. I'm Murrough O'Brien, and that's all the difference there is between us. Now, will you take my bargain or not?"
"What would you do if I refused?" asked the Englishman, curiously.
"I could stand at the door of your damned gaol tomorrow," flashed Murrough O'Brien, "and hope that Luke Tandy would know that I was there..."
"I'll see what I can do," said Maskell, negligently. "Will you stay and entertain yourself with me and my friends, Beltarbet?"
"Such is not my humor," replied the Irishman, sternly. He gave the address of the miserable hostelry on the Howth road where he was to be found. "I'll be waiting there all night for your news, Lord Maskell."
He left the warmly lit, aristocratic mansion, with its company of gay, laughing officers, gambling, drinking, confident, walked to the poor inn on the flats of the estuary, fetched out Diarmuid, and rode for hours.
"Ah, my darling," he whispered to the horse, "and if Luke Tandy can be saved, I must ride the race with you for another man, and then may never mount you again. If Luke Tandy is not to be saved, if the Englishman will do nothing, then you and I must die, Diarmuid; some way, not daring to live when we were useless at a push like this. We'll gallop into the sea, Diarmuid, my darling, where the Danish ravens went down, and as the surf goes over us maybe Firvanna himself will catch your bridle and lead us to the company of the Shee. Maybe we'll then possess the land, my darling, and ride over it day and night with the English never seeing us."
In the blue dawn he led the beautiful horse to the dingy stable and himself saw to his comfort, then caressed him, and lingered long beside him, for he must hope that he would not soon have to part with him.
In the murky light, for it was not yet full day, he saw Luke Tandy standing eagerly waiting by the rough table in the poor parlor.
"I'm free!" cried Luke Tandy, hoarsely.
Not till after a full five minutes of warm delight and gratitude did Beltarbet consider Diarmuid must go.
"And I'll be the Englishman's jockey in the race!" And he wondered how he should give this news to Luke Tandy, who would not consider himself worth such a price.
The servant caressed his master's hand and talked to him wistfully, eagerly, of their dear project of leaving Ireland and trying some fortune abroad.
"And you've a friend, my lord, who gave me this."
He put a letter into Beltarbet's hand.
The Irishman opened it. It was addressed to "The Earl of Clare and Thomond."
"Why, who calls me this, Luke?—the name that was lost a hundred years ago, and never heard since save in the mouths of foreigners."
He carried the letter to the mean window and in the pale light that entered read the large resolute hand:
Keep your titles, your servant, your horse. Indeed, no man can deprive you of them. I send you with this passports which will see you all safely beyond the seas; for your affairs in Ireland I will be steward. Perhaps we shall meet on the battlefield. I recommend to you, my lord, a life of action. The titles which I now give you shall never be my signature; but I shall always remain,
Your obedient servant, sir,
Maskell and Brocas.
The bitterness of a hundred years lifted from the soul of Beltarbet—he had his horse, his servant, an open port, a generous enemy; as for his purse, the October races would line that very comfortably; for, unless God interfered, Diarmuid could not lose. And after that—a stern but noble fate would beckon him from his present ruin; cause and country were lost, but nothing would make his faith less than inviolate, and in the tumult of a world in arms one more Irishman might find an honorable foreign grave—nay, not so foreign, for it is difficult to discover a spot the blood of the exiles had not hallowed.
The sunshine was very fair and pleasant—the pale tender sunshine of Ireland shining through the pure azure veils on the Wicklow hills melting round Slieve Donard, on the gray-blue waters of Dublin Bay, and penetrating the mean court of a poor inn where two men and a horse set out on a long journey—"With, maybe, the unseen people to guide us," mused Beltarbet, "for I believe Firvanna walks at Diarmuid's head and tells him the Shee goes with us."
This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia