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- No Defense, Volume 1. - 10/13 -
"Michael, Michael!" he said, his voice hoarse, broken. "Don't say such a thing! Are you sure?" Michael nodded.
"I'm sure. I got it from one that's known Erris Boyne and his first wife and girl--one that was a servant to them both in past days. He's been down to Limerick to see Mrs. Llyn and the beautiful daughter. I met him an hour ago, and he told me. He told me more. He told me Mrs. Llyn spoke to him of your friendship with Erris Boyne, and how she meant to tell you who and what he was. She said her daughter didn't even know her father's name. She had been kept in ignorance."
Dyck seated himself on the rough bed of the cell, and stared at Michael, his hands between his knees, his eyes perturbed.
"Michael," he said at last, "if it's true--what you've told me--I don't see my way. Every step in front of me is black. To tell the whole truth is to bring fresh shame upon Mrs. Llyn and her daughter, and not to tell the whole truth is to take away my one chance of getting out of this trouble. I see that!"
"I don't know what you mean, sir, but I'll tell you this--none that knows you would believe you'd murder Erris Boyne or anny other man."
Dyck wiped the sweat from his forehead.
"I suppose you speak the truth, Michael, but it isn't people who've known me that'll try me; and I can't tell all."
"Why not, if it'll help you?"
"I can't--of course I can't. It would be disgrace eternal."
"Why? Tell me why, sir!"
Dyck looked closely, firmly, at the old servant and friend. Should he tell the truth--that Boyne had tried to induce him to sell himself to the French, to invoke his aid against the English government, to share in treason? If he could have told it to anybody, he would have done so to Michael; but if it was true that in his drunken blindness he had killed Boyne, he would not seek to escape by proving Boyne a traitor.
He believed Boyne was a servant of the French; but unless the facts came out in the trial, they should not have sure origin in himself. He would not add to his crime in killing the father of the only girl who had ever touched his heart, the shame of proving that father to be one who should have been shot as a traitor.
He had courage and daring, but not sufficient to carry him through that dark chapter. He would not try to save himself by turning public opinion against Erris Boyne. The man had been killed by some one, perhaps--and the thing ached in his heart--by himself; but that was no reason why the man's death should not be full punishment for all the wrong he had done.
Dyck had a foolish strain in him, after all. Romance was his deadly foe; it made him do a stupid, if chivalrous, thing. Meanwhile he would warn the government at once about the projected French naval raid.
"Michael," said Dyck, rising again, "see my father, but you're not to say I didn't kill Boyne, for, to tell the truth, I don't know. My head"-- he put his hand to it with a gesture of despair--"my head's a mass of contradictions. It seems a thousand years since I entered that tavern! I can't get myself level with all that's happened. That Erris Boyne should be the father of the sweet girl at Limerick shakes me. Don't you see what it means? If I killed him, it spoils everything--everything. If I didn't kill him, I can only help myself by blackening still more the life of one who gave being to--"
"Aye, to a young queen!" interrupted Michael.
"God knows, there's none like her in Ireland, or in any other country at all!"
Suddenly Dyck regained his composure; and it was the composure of one who had opened the door of hell and had realized that in time--perhaps not far off--he also would dwell in the infernal place.
"Michael, I have no money, but I'm my father's heir. My father will not see me starve in prison, nor want for defence, though my attitude shall be 'no defence.' So bring me decent food and some clothes, and send to me here Will McCormick, the lawyer. He's as able a man as there is in Dublin. Listen, Michael, you're not to speak of Mrs. Llyn and Miss Llyn as related to Erris Boyne. What will come of what you and I know and don't know, Heaven only has knowledge; but I'll see it through. I've spoiled as good chances as ever a young man had that wants to make his way; but drink and cards, Michael, and the flare of this damned life at the centre--it got hold of me. It muddled, drowned the best that was in me. It's the witch's kitchen, is Dublin. Ireland's the only place in the world where they make saints of criminals and pray to them; where they lose track of time and think they're in eternity; where emotion is saturnine logic and death is the touchstone of life. Michael, I don't see any way to safety. Those fellows down at the tavern were friends of Erris Boyne. They're against me. They'll hang me if they can!"
"I don't believe they can do it, master. Dublin and Ireland think more of you than they did of Erris Boyne. There's nothing behind you except the wildness of youth--nothing at all. If anny one had said to me at Playmore that you'd do the things you've done with drink and cards since you come to Dublin,
"I'd have swore they were liars. Yet when all's said and done, I'd give my last drop of blood as guarantee you didn't kill Erris Boyne!"
Dyck smiled. "You've a lot of faith in me, Michael--but I'll tell you this--I never was so thirsty in my life. My mouth's like a red-hot iron. Send me some water. Give the warder sixpence, if you've got it, and send me some water. Then go to Will McCormick, and after that to my father."
Michael shook his head dolefully.
"Mr. McCormick's aisy--oh, aisy enough," he said. "He'll lep up at the idea of defendin' you, but I'm not takin' pleasure in goin' to Miles Calhoun, for he's a hard man these days. Aw, Mr. Dyck, he's had a lot of trouble. Things has been goin' wrong with Playmore. 'Pon honour, I don't know whether anny of it'll last as long as Miles Calhoun lasts. There'll be little left for you, Mr. Dyck. That's what troubles me. I tell you it'd break my heart if that place should be lost to your father and you. I was born on it. I'd give the best years of the life that's left me to make sure the old house could stay in the hands of the Calhouns. I say to you that while I live all I am is yours, fair and foul, good and bad." He touched his breast with his right hand. "In here is the soul of Ireland that leps up for the things that matter. There's a song--but never mind about a song; this is no place for songs. It's a prison-house, and you're a prisoner charged--"
"Not charged yet, not charged," interrupted Dyck; "but suspected of and arrested for a crime. I'll fight--before God, I'll fight to the last! Good-bye, Michael; bring me food and clothes, and send me cold water at once."
When the door closed softly behind Michael Clones, Dyck sat down on the bed where many a criminal patriot had lain. He looked round the small room, bare, unfurnished, severe-terribly severe; he looked at the blank walls and the barred window, high up; he looked at the floor--it was discoloured and damp. He reached out and touched it with his hand. He looked at the solitary chair, the basin and pail, and he shuddered.
"How awful--how awful!" he murmured. "But if it was her father, and if I killed him"--his head sank low--"if I killed her father!"
He looked up. It was the guard with a tin of water and a dipper.
MOTHER AND DAUGHTER
"I don't believe he's guilty, mother."
The girl's fine eyes shone with feeling--with protest, indignation, anguish. As she spoke, she thrust her head forward with the vigour of a passionate counsel. Sheila Llyn was a champion who would fight to the last gasp for any cause she loved.
A few moments before, she had found her mother, horror-stricken, gazing at a newspaper paragraph sent from Dublin.
Sheila at once thought this to be the cause of her mother's agitation, and she reached out a hand for it. Her mother hesitated, then handed the clipping to her. Fortunately it contained no statement save the bare facts connected with the killing of Erris Boyne, and no reference to the earlier life of the dead man. It said no more than that Dyck Calhoun must take his trial at the sessions.
It also stated that Dyck, though he pleaded "not guilty," declared frankly, through Will McCormick, the lawyer, that he had no memory of aught that happened after he had drunk wine given him by Erris Boyne. He said that he and Boyne had quarrelled, but had become reconciled again, and that the drink was a pledge of their understanding. From the time he had taken the drink until he waked in the hands of the king's constables, he had no memory; but he was sure he had not killed Boyne. The fact that there was no blood on his sword was evidence. Nevertheless, he had been committed for trial.
Mrs. Llyn was sorely troubled. She knew of her daughter's interest in Dyck Calhoun, and of Dyck's regard for Sheila. She had even looked forward to marriage, and she wished for Sheila no better fate, because nearly all she knew of Dyck was to his credit. She was unaware that his life in Dublin had been dissipated.
If Dyck was guilty--though she could not believe it--there would be an end of romance between him and Sheila, and their friendship must be severed for ever. Her daughter did not know that Erris Boyne was her father, and she must not know--in any case not yet; but if Dyck was condemned, it was almost sure he would be hanged.
She wondered about Boyne's widow, whose name did not appear in the paragraph she had seen. She knew that Noreen was beautiful, but that he had married far beneath him socially. She had imagined Erris Boyne living in suburban quiet, not drawing his wife into his social scheme.
That is what had happened. The woman had lived apart from the daily experiences of her husband's life in Dublin; and it had deepened her bitterness against him. When she had learned that Erris Boyne was no more faithful to her than he had been to his previous wife, she had gone mad; and Dyck Calhoun was paying the price of her madness.
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