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- Peg O' My Heart - 70/72 -


"Jerry, father."

O'Connell took a long breath and sighed.

Jerry! Always Jerry!

"I thried several jokes on him, an' he saw most of 'em."

"I'd like to see this paragon, faith."

"I wish ye could, father. Indade I do. Ye'd be such good friends."

"WE'D be friends? Didn't ye say he was a GINTLEMAN?"

"He sez a GENTLEMAN is a man who wouldn't willingly hurt anybody else. And he sez, as well, that it doesn't matther what anybody was born, if they have that quality in them they're just as much gintleman as the people with ancestors an' breedin'. An' he said that the finest gintleman he ever met was a CABMAN."

"A cabman, Peg?"

"Yes, faith--that's what he said. The cabman couldn't hurt anybody, and so he was a gintlemaa."

"Did he mane it?"

"He meant everything he said--to ME."

"There isn't much the matther with him, I'm thinkin'."

"There's nothin' the matther with him, father."

"Mebbe he is Irish way back. It's just what an Irishman would say--a RALE Irishman."

"There's no nationality in character or art, or sport or letthers or music. They're all of one great commonwealth. They're all one brotherhood, whether they're white or yellow or red or black. There's no nationality about them. The wurrld wants the best, an' they don't care what colour the best man is, so long as he's GREAT."

O'Connell listened amazed.

"An' where might ye have heard that?"

"Jerry towld me. An' it's thrue. I believe it."

They talked far into the night.

He unfolded his plans.

If his book was a success and he made some little money out of it, they would go back to Ireland and live out their lives there. And it was going to be a wonderful Ireland, too, with the best of the old and ceaseless energy of the new.

An Ireland worth living in.

They would make their home there again, and this time they would not leave it.

"But some day we might go to England, father, eh?"

"What for?"

"Just to see it, father."

"I was only there once. It was there yer mother an' me were married. It was there she gave her life into me care."

He became suddenly silent, and the light of memory shone in his eyes, and the sigh of heart-ache broke through his lips.

And his thoughts stretched back through the years, and once again Angela was beside him.

Peg saw the look and knew it. She kept quite still. Then, as of old, when her father was in trouble, she did as she was wont in those old-young days--she slipped her little hand into his and waited for him to break the silence.

After a while he stood up.

"Ye'd betther be goin' to bed, Peg."

"All right, father."

She went to the door. Then she stopped.

"Ye're glad I'm home, father?"

He pressed her closely to him for answer.

"I'll never lave ye again," she whispered.

All through the night Peg lay awake, searching through the past and trying to pierce through the future.

Toward morning she slept and, in a whirling dream she saw a body floating down a stream. She stretched out her hand to grasp it when the eyes met hers, and the eyes were those of a dead man--and the man was Jerry.

She woke trembling with fear and she turned on the light and huddled into a chair and sat chattering with terror until she heard her father moving in his room. She went to the door and asked him to let her go in to him. He opened the door and saw his little Peg wild eyed, pale and terror-stricken, standing on the threshold. The look in her eyes terrified him.

"What is it, Peg, me darlin'? What is it?"

She crept in, and looked up into his face with her startling gaze, and she grasped him with both of her small hands, and in a voice dull and hopeless, cried despairingly:

"I dreamt he was dead! Dead! and I couldn't rache him. An' he went on past me--down the stream--with his face up-turned--" The grasp loosened, and just as she slipped from him, O'Connell caught her in his strong arms and placed her gently on the sofa and tended her until her eyes opened again and looked up at him.

It was the first time his Peg had fainted.

She had indeed come back to him changed.

He reproached himself bitterly.

Why had he insisted on her going?

She had a sorrow at her heart, now, that no hand could heal--not even his.

Time only could soften her grief--time--and--

CHAPTER III

AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR

Those first days following Peg's return found father and child nearer each other than they had been since that famous trip through Ireland, when he lectured from the back of his historical cart.

She became O'Connell's amanuensis. During the day she would go from library to library in New York, verifying data for her father's monumental work. At night he would dictate and she would write. O'Connell took a newer and more vital interest in the book, and it advanced rapidly toward completion.

It was a significant moment to introduce it, since the eyes of the world were turned on the outcome of the new measure for Home Rule for Ireland, that Mr. Asquith's government were introducing, and that appeared to have every chance of becoming law.

The dream of so many Irishmen seemed to be within the bounds of possibility of becoming a forceful reality.

Accordingly O'Connell strained every nerve to complete it. He reviewed the past; he dwelt on the present: he attempted to forecast the future. And with every new page that he completed he felt it was one more step nearer home--the home he was hoping for and building on for Peg--in Ireland.

There the colour would come back to her cheeks, the light to her eyes and the flash of merriment to her tongue. She rarely smiled now, and the pallor was always in her cheeks, and wan circles pencilled around her eyes spoke of hard working days and restless nights.

She no longer spoke of England.

He, wise in his generation, never referred to it. All her interest seemed to be centred in his book.

It was a strange metamorphosis for Peg--this writing at dictation: correcting her orthography; becoming familiar with historical facts and hunting through bookshelves for the actual occurrences during a certain period.

And she found a certain happiness in doing it.

Was it not for her father?

And was she not improving herself?

Already she would not be at such a disadvantage, as a month ago, with people.

The thought gratified her.

She had two letters from Ethel: the first a simple, direct one of gratitude and of regret; gratitude for Peg's kindness and loyalty to her, and regret that Peg had left them. The second told of a trip she was about to make to Norway with some friends.


Peg O' My Heart - 70/72

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