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THE scene had shifted back from the royal city of Potsdam to the little coast town in Connemara. John Castellan was sitting on a corner of his big writing-table swinging his legs to and fro, and looking a little uncomfortable. Leaning against the wall opposite the windows, with her hands folded behind her back, was a girl of about nineteen, an almost perfect incarnation of the Irish girl at her best. Tall, black-haired, black-browed, grey-eyed, perfectly-shaped, and with that indescribable charm of feature which neither the pen nor the camera can do justice to Norah Castellan was facing him, her eyes gleaming and almost black with anger, and her whole body instinct with intense vitality.
"And so Ireland hasn't troubles enough of her own, John, that you must bring new ones upon her, and what for? To realise a dream that was never anything else but a dream, and to satisfy a revenge that is three hundred years old! If that theory of yours about reincarnation is true, you may have been a Spaniard once, but remember that you're an Irishman now; and you're no good Irishman if you sell yourself to these foreigners to do a thing like that, and it's your sister that's telling you."
"And it's your brother, Norah," he replied, his black brows meeting almost in a straight line across his forehead, "who tells you that Ireland is going to have her independence; that the shackles of the Saxon shall be shaken off once and for ever, even if all Europe blazes up with war in the doing of it. I have the power and I will use it. Spaniard or Irishman, what does it matter? I hate England and everything English."
"Hate England, John!" said the girl. "Are you quite sure that it isn't an Englishman that you hate?"
"Well, and what if I do? I hate all Englishmen, and I'm the first Irishman who has ever had the power to put his hatred into acts instead of words and you, an Irish girl, with six generations of Irish blood in your veins, you, to talk to me like this. What are you thinking about, Norah? Is that what you call patriotism?"
"Patriotism!" she echoed, unclasping her hands, and holding her right hand out towards him. "I'm as Irish as you are, and as Spanish, too, for the matter of that, for the same blood is to the veins of both of us. You're a scholar and a genius, and all the rest of it, I grant you; but haven't you learned history enough to know that Ireland never was independent, and never could be? What brought the English here first? Four miserable provinces that called themselves kingdoms, and all fighting against each other, and the king of one of them stole the wife of the king of another of them, and that's how the English came.
"I love Ireland as well as you do, John, but Ireland is not worth setting the world swimming in blood for. You're lighting a match-box to set the world ablaze with. It isn't Ireland only, remember. There are Irish all over the world, millions of them, and remember how the Irish fought in the African War. I don't mean Lynch and his traitors, but the Dublin boys. Who were the first in and the last out Irishmen, but they had the sense to know that they were British first and Irish afterwards. I tell you, you shall be shot for what you've done, and if I wasn't the daughter of your father and mother, I'd inform against you now."
"And if you did, Norah, you would do very little good to the Saxon cause," replied her brother, pointing with his thumb out of one of the windows. "You see that yacht in the bay there. Everything is on board of her. If you went out into the street now, gave me in charge of the constabulary, to those two men in front of the hotel there, it would make no difference. There's nothing to be proved, no, not even if my own sister tried to swear my life and liberty away. It would only be that the Germans and the Russians, and the Austrians, and the rest of them would work out my ideas instead of me working them out, and it might be that they would make a worse use of them. You've half an hour to give me up, if you like."
And then he began to collect the papers that were scattered about the big drawing-table, sorting them out and folding them up and then taking other papers and plans from the drawers and packing them into a little black dispatch box.
"But, John, John," she said, crossing the room, and putting her hand on his shoulder. "Don't tell me that you're going to plunge the world in war just for this. Think of what it means the tens of thousands of lives that will be lost, the thousands of homes that will be made desolate, the women who will be crying for their husbands, and the children for their fathers, the dead men buried in graves that will never have a name on them, and the wounded, broken men coming back to their homes that they will never be able to keep up again, not only here and in England, but all over Europe and perhaps in America as well! Genius you may be; but what are you that you should bring calamity like this upon humanity?"
"I'm an Irishman, and I hate England, and that's enough," he replied sullenly, as he went on packing his papers.
"You hate that Englishman worse than you hate England, John."
"And I wouldn't wonder if you loved that Englishman more than you loved Ireland, Norah," he replied, with a snarl in his voice.
"And if I did," she said, with blazing eyes and flaming checks, "isn't England nearer to Ireland than America?"
"Geographically, perhaps, but in sentiment"
"Sentiment! Yes, when you have finished with this bloody business of yours that you have begun on, go you through Ireland and England and Europe, and ask the widows and the fatherless, and the girls who kissed their lovers 'good-bye,' and never saw them again, what they think of that sentiment! But it's no use arguing with you now; there's your German yacht. You're no brother of mine. You've made me sorry that we had the same father and mother."
As she spoke, she went to the door, opened it and, before he could reply, slammed it behind her, and went to her room to seek and find a woman's usual relief from extreme mental tension.
John Castellan went on packing his papers, his face grey, and his features hard-set. He loved his beautiful sister, but he thought that he loved his country more. When he had finished he went and knocked at her door, and said
"Norah, I'm going. Won't you say 'good-bye?'"
The door was swung open, and she faced him, her face wet with tears, her eyes glistening, and her lips twitching.
"Yes, good-bye, John," she said. "Go to your German friends; but, when all the horrors that you are going to bring upon this country through their help come to pass, remember you have no sister left in Ireland. You've sold yourself, and I have no brother who is a traitor. Good-bye!"
The door swung to and she locked it. John Castellan hesitated for a moment or two, and then with a slow shake of his head he went away down the stairs out into the street, and along to the little jetty where the German yacht's boat was waiting to take him on board.
Norah had thrown herself on her bed in her locked room shedding the first but not the last tear that John Castellan's decision was destined to draw from women's eyes.
About half an hour later the encircling hills of the bay echoed the shriek of a siren. She got up, looked out of the window, and saw the white shape of the German yacht moving out towards the fringe of islands which guard the outward bay.
"And there he goes!" she said in a voice that was almost choked with sobs, "there he goes, my own brother, it may be taking the fate of the world with him yes, and on a German ship, too. He that knows every island and creek and cove and harbour from Cape Wrath to Cape Clear he that's got all those inventions in his head, too, and the son of my own father and mother, sold his country to the foreigner, thinking those dirty Germans will keep their word with him.
"Not they, John, not they. The saints forgive me for thinking it, but for Ireland's sake I hope that ship will never reach Germany. If it does, we'll see the German Eagle floating over Dublin Castle before you'll be able to haul up the Green Flag. Well, well, there it is; it's done now, I suppose, and there's no help for it. God forgive you, John, I don't think man ever will!"
As she said this the white yacht turned the southern point of the inner bay, and disappeared to the southward. Norah bathed her face, brushed out her hair, and coiled it up again; then she put on her hat and jacket, and went out to do a little shopping.
It is perhaps a merciful provision of Providence that in this human life of ours the course of the greatest events shall be interrupted by the most trivial necessities of existence. Were it not for that the inevitable might become the unendurable.
The plain fact was that Norah Castellan had some friends and acquaintances coming to supper that evening. Her brother had left at a few hours' notice from his foreign masters, as she called them, and there would have to be some explanation of his absence, especially as a friend of his, Arthur Lismore, the owner of the finest salmon streams for twenty miles round, and a man who was quite hopelessly in love with herself, was coming to brew the punch after the fashion of his ancestors, and so, of course, it was necessary that there should be nothing wanting.
Moreover, she was beginning to feel the want of some hard physical exercise, and an hour or so in that lovely air of Connemara, which, as those who know, say, is as soft as silk and as bright as champagne. So she went out, and as she turned the corner round the head of the harbour to the left towards the waterfall, almost the first person she met was Arthur Lismore himself a brown-faced, chestnut-haired, blue-eyed, young giant of twenty-eight or so; as goodly a man as God ever put His own seal upon.
His cap came off, his head bowed with that peculiar grace of deference which no one has ever yet been able to copy from an Irishman, and he said in the strong, and yet curiously mellow tone which you only hear in the west of Ireland:
"Good afternoon, Miss Norah. I've heard that you're to be left alone for a time, and that we won't see John to-night."
"Yes," she said, her eyes meeting his, "that is true. He went away in that German yacht that left the bay less than an hour ago."
"A German yacht!" he echoed. "Well now, how stupid of me, I've been trying to think all the afternoon what that flag was she carried when she came in."
"The German Imperial Yacht Club," she said, "that was the ensign she was flying, and John has gone to Germany in her."
"To Germany! John gone to Germany! But what for? Surely now"
"Yes, to Germany, to help the Emperor to set the world on fire."
"You're not saying that, Miss Norah?"
"I am," she said, more gravely than he had ever heard her speak. "Mr Lismore, it's a sick and sorry girl I am this afternoon. You were the first Irishman on the top of Waggon Hill, and you'll understand what I mean. If you have nothing better to do, perhaps you'll walk down to the Fall with me, and I'll tell you."
"I could have nothing better to do, Norah, and it's yourself that knows that as well as I do," he replied.
"I only wish the road was longer. And it's yourself that's sick and sorry, is it? If it wasn't John, I'd like to get the reason out of any other man. That's Irish, but it's true."
He turned, and they walked down the steeply sloping street for several minutes in silence.
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