No Defense - Volume 1

No Defense - Volume 1

NO DEFENSE - VOLUME 1. GILBERT PARKER Volume 1. CONTENTS BOOK I. I. THE TWO MEET II. THE COMING OF A MESSENGER III. THE QUARREL IV. THE DUEL V. THE KILLING OF ERRIS BOYNE VI. DYCK IN PRISON VII. MOTHER AND DAUGHTER VIII. DYCK'S FATHER VISITS HIM IX. A LETTER FROM SHEILA BOOK II X. DYCK CALHOUN ENTERS THE WORLD AGAIN XI. WHITHER NOW? XII. THE HOUR BEFORE THE MUTINY XIII. TO THE WEST INDIES XIV. IN THE NICK OF TIME XV. THE ADMIRAL HAS HIS SAY BOOK III XVI. A LETTER XVII. STRANGERS ARRIVE XVIII. AT SALEM XIX. LORD MALLOW INTERVENES XX. OUT OF THE HANDS OF THE PHILISTINES XXI. THE CLASH OF RACE XXII. SHEILA HAS HER SAY XXIII. THE COMING OF NOREEN XXIV. WITH THE GOVERNOR XXV. THEN WHAT HAPPENED BOOK I CHAPTER I THE TWO MEET "Well good-bye Dyck. I'll meet you at the sessions or before that at the assizes." It was only the impulsive cheery warning exclamation of a wild young Irish spirit to his friend Dyck Calhoun but it had behind it the humour and incongruity of Irish life. The man Dyck Calhoun after whom were sent the daring words about the sessions and the assizes was a year or two older than his friend and as Michael Clones his servant and friend said "the worst and best scamp of them all"--just up to any harmless deviltry. Influenced by no traditions or customs under control of no stern records of society Calhoun had caused some trouble in his time by the harmless deeds of a scapegrace but morally--that is in all relations of life affected by the ten commandments--he was above reproach. Yet he was of the sort who in days of agitation then common in Ireland might possibly commit some act which would bring him to the sessions or the assizes. There never was in Ireland a cheerier braver handsomer fellow nor one with such variety of mind and complexity of purpose. He was the only child of a high-placed gentleman; he spent all the money that came his way and occasionally loaded himself with debt which his angry father paid. Yet there never was a gayer heart a more generous spirit nor an easier-tempered man; though after all he was only twenty-five when the words with which the tale opens were said to him. He had been successful--yet none too successful--at school and Trinity College Dublin. He had taken a pass degree when he might have captured the highest honours. He had interested people of place in the country but he never used promptly the interest he excited. A pretty face a fishing or a shooting expedition a carouse in some secluded tavern were parts of his daily life. At the time the story opens he was a figure of note among those who spent their time in criticizing the government and damning the Irish Parliament. He even became a friend of some young hare-brained rebels of the time; yet no one suspected him of anything except irresponsibility. His record was clean; Dublin Castle was not after him. When his young friend made the remark about the sessions and assizes Calhoun was making his way up the rocky hillside to take the homeward path to his father's place Playmore. With the challenge and the monstrous good-bye a stone came flying up the hill after him and stopped almost at his feet. He made no reply however but waved a hand downhill and in his heart said: "Well maybe he's right. I'm a damned dangerous fellow there's no doubt about that. Perhaps I'll kill a rebel some day and then they'll take me to the sessions and the assizes. Well well there's many a worse fate than that so there is." After a minute he added: "So there is dear lad so there is. But if I ever kill I'd like it to be in open fight on the hills like this--like this under the bright sun in the soft morning with all the moor and valleys still and the larks singing--the larks singing! Hooray but it's a fine day one of the best that ever was!" He laughed and patted his gun gently. "Not a feather not a bird killed not a shot fired; but the looking was the thing--stalking the things that never turned up the white heels we never saw for I'm not killing larks God love you!" He raised his head looking up into the sky at some larks singing above him in the heavens. "Lord love you little dears" he added aloud. "I wish I might die with your singing in my ears but do you know what makes Ireland what it is? Look at it now. Years ago just when the cotton-mills and the linen- mills were doing well they came over with their English legislation and made it hard going. When we begin to get something over the English come and take the something away. What have we done we Irish people that we shouldn't have a chance in our own country? Lord knows we deserve a chance for it's hard paying the duties these days. What with France in revolution and reaching out her hand to Ireland to coax her into rebellion; what with defeat in America and drink in Scotland; what with Fox and Pitt at each other's throats and the lord-lieutenant a danger to the peace; what with poverty and the cow and children and father and mother living all in one room with the chickens roosting in the rafters; what with pointing the potato at the dried fish and gulping it down as if it was fish itself; what with the smell and the dirt and the poverty of Dublin and Derry Limerick and Cork--ah well!" He threw his eyes up again. "Ah well my little love sing on! You're a blessing among a lot of curses; but never mind it's a fine world and Ireland's the best part of it. Heaven knows it--and on this hill how beautiful it is!" He was now on the top of a hill where he could look out towards the bog and in towards the mellow waving hills. He could drink in the yellowish green with here and there in the distance a little house; and about two miles away smoke stealing up from the midst of the plantation where Playmore was--Playmore his father's house--to be his own one day. How good it was! There within his sight was the great escarpment of rock known as the Devil's Ledge and away to the east was the black spot in the combe known as the Cave of Mary. Still farther away towards the south was the great cattle-pasture where as he looked a thousand cattle roamed. Here and there in the wide prospect were plantations where Irish landlords lived and paid a heavy price for living. Men did not pay their rents. Crops were spoiled markets were bad money was scarce yet-- "Please God it will be better next year!" Michael Clones said and there never was a man with a more hopeful heart than Michael Clones. Dyck Calhoun had a soul of character originality and wayward distinction. He had all the impulses and enthusiasms of a poet all the thirst for excitement of the adventurer all the latent patriotism of the true Celt; but his life was undisciplined and he had not ordered his spirit into compartments of faith and hope. He had gifts. They were gifts only to be borne by those who had ambitions. Now as he looked out upon the scene where nature was showing herself at her best some glimmer of a great future came to him. He did not know which way his feet were destined to travel in the business of life. It was too late to join the navy; but there was still time enough to be a soldier or to learn to be a lawyer. As he gazed upon the scene his wonderful deep blue eyes his dark brown hair thick upon his head waving and luxuriant like a fine mattress his tall slender alert figure his bony capable hands which neither sun nor wind ever browned his nervous yet interesting mouth and his long Roman nose set in a complexion rich in its pink-and-cream hardness and health--all this made him a figure good to see. Suddenly as he listened to the lark singing overhead with his face lifted to the sky he heard a human voice singing; and presently there ran up a little declivity to his left a girl--an Irish girl of about seventeen years of age. Her hat was hanging on her arm by a green ribbon. Her head was covered with the most wonderful brown waving hair. She had a broad low forehead Greek in its proportions and lines. The eyes were bluer even than his own and were shaded by lashes of great length which slightly modified the firm lines of the face with its admirable chin and mouth somewhat large with a cupid's bow. In spite of its ardent and luscious look it was the mouth of one who knew her own mind and could sustain her own course. It was open when Dyck first saw it because she was singing little bits of wild lyrics of the hills little tragedies of Celtic life--just bursts of the Celtic soul as it were cheerful yet sad buoyant and passionate eager yet melancholy. She was singing in Irish too. They were the words of songs taught her by her mother's maid. She had been tramping over the hills for a couple of hours virile beautiful and alone. She wore a gown of dark gold with little green ribbons here and there. The gown was short and her ankles showed. In spite of the strong boots she wore they were alert delicate and shapely and all her beauty had the slender fullness of a quail. When she saw Dyck she stopped suddenly her mouth slightly open. She gave him a sidelong glance of wonder interest and speculation. Then she threw her head slightly back and all the curls gathered in a bunch and shook like bronze flowers. It was a head of grace and power of charm and allurement--of danger. Dyck was lost in admiration. He looked at her as one might look at a beautiful thing in a dream. He did not speak; he only smiled as he gazed into her eyes. She was the first to speak. "Well who are you?" she asked with a slightly southern accent in her voice delicate and entrancing. Her head gave a little modest toss her fine white teeth caught her lower lip with a little quirk of humour; for she could see that he was a gentleman and that she was safe from anything that might trouble her. He replied to her question with the words: "My name? Why it's Dyck Calhoun. That's all." Her eyes brightened. "Isn't that enough?" she asked gently. She knew of his family. She was only visiting in the district with her mother but she had lately heard of old Miles Calhoun and his wayward boy Dyck; and here was Dyck with a humour in his eyes and a touch of melancholy at his lips. Somehow her heart went out to him. Presently he said to her: "And what's your name?" "I'm only Sheila Llyn the daughter of my mother a widow visiting at Loyland Towers. Yes I'm only Sheila!" She laughed. "Well just be 'only Sheila"' he answered admiringly and he held out a hand to her. "I wouldn't have you be anything else though it's none of my business." For one swift instant she hesitated; then she laid her hand in his. "There's no reason why we should not" she said. "Your father's respectable." She looked at him again with a sidelong glance and with a whimsical reserved smile at her lips. "Yes he's respectable I agree but he's dull" answered Dyck. "For an Irishman he's dull--and he's a tyrant too. I suppose I deserve that for I'm a handful." "I think you are and a big handful too!" "Which way are you going?" he asked presently. "And you?" "Oh I'm bound for home." He pointed across the valley. "Do you see that smoke coming up from the plantation over there?" "Yes I know" she answered. "I know. That's Playmore your father's place. Loyland Towers is between here and there. Which way were you going there?" "Round to the left" he said puzzled but agreeable. "Then we must say good-bye because I go to the right. That's my nearest way." "Well if that's your nearest way I'm going with you" he said "because--well because--because--" "If you won't talk very much!" she rejoined with a little air of instinctive coquetry. "I don't want to talk. I'd like to listen. Shall we start?" A half-hour later they suddenly came upon an incident of the road. It was alas no uncommon incident. An aged peasant in a sudden fit of weakness had stumbled on the road and in falling had struck his head on a stone and had lost consciousness. He was an old peasant of the usual Irish type coarsely but cleanly dressed. Lying beside him was a leather bag within which were odds and ends of food and some small books of legend and ritual. He was a peasant of a superior class however. In falling he had thrown over on his back and his haggard face was exposed to the sun and sky. At sight of him Dyck and Sheila ran forward. Dyck dropped on one knee and placed a hand on the stricken man's heart. "He's alive all right" Dyck said. "He's a figure in these parts. His name's Christopher Dogan." "Where does he live?" "Live? Well not three hundred yards from here when he's at home but he's generally on the go. He's what the American Indians would call a medicine-man." "He needs his own medicine now." "He's over eighty and he must have gone dizzy stumbled fallen and struck a stone. There's the mark on his temple. He's been lying here unconscious ever since; but his pulse is all right and we'll soon have him fit again." So saying Dyck whipped out a horn containing spirit and while Sheila lifted the injured head he bathed the old man's face with the spirit then opened the mouth and let some liquor trickle down. "He's the cleanest peasant I ever saw" remarked Sheila; "and he's coming to. Look at him!" Yes he was coming to. There was a slight tremor of the eyelids and presently they slowly opened. They were eyes of remarkable poignancy and brightness--black deep-set direct full of native intelligence. For an instant they stared as if they had no knowledge then understanding came to them. "Oh it's you sir" his voice said tremblingly looking at Dyck. "And very kind it is of ye !" Then he looked at Sheila. "I don't know ye" he said whisperingly for his voice seemed suddenly to fail. "I don't know ye" he repeated "but you look all right." "Well I'm Sheila Llyn" the girl said taking her hand from the old man's shoulder. "I'm Sheila Llyn and I'm all right in a way perhaps." The troubled piercing eyes glanced from one to the other. "No relation?" "No--never met till a half-hour ago" remarked Dyck. The old man drew himself to a sitting posture then swayed slightly. The hands of the girl and Dyck went out behind his back. As they touched his back their fingers met and Dyck's covered the girl's. Their eyes met too and the story told by Dyck in that moment was the beginning of a lifetime of experience comedy and tragedy. He thought her fingers were wonderfully soft warm and full of life; and she thought that his was the hand of a master-of a master in the field of human effort. That is if she thought at all for Dyck's warm powerful touch almost hypnotized her. The old peasant understood however. He was standing on his feet now. He was pale and uncertain. He lifted up his bag and threw it over his shoulder. "Well I'm not needing you any more thank God!" he said. "So Heaven's blessing on ye and I bid ye good-bye. You've been kind to me and I won't forget either of ye. If ever I can do ye a good turn I'll do it." "No we're not going to leave you until you're inside your home" said Dyck. The old man looked at Sheila in meditation. He knew her name and her history. Behind the girl's life was a long prospect of mystery. Llyn was her mother's maiden name. Sheila had never known her father. Never to her knowledge had she seen him because when she was yet an infant her mother had divorced him by Act of Parliament against the wishes of her church and had resumed her maiden name. Sheila's father's name was Erris Boyne and he had been debauched drunken and faithless; so at a time of unendurable hurt his wife had freed herself. Then under her maiden name she had brought up her daughter without any knowledge of her father; had made her believe he was dead; had hidden her tragedy with a skilful hand. Only now when Sheila was released from a governess had she moved out of the little wild area of the County Limerick where she lived; only now had she come to visit an uncle whose hospitality she had for so many years denied herself. Sheila was two years old when her father disappeared and fifteen years had gone since then. One on either side of the old man they went with him up the hillside for about three hundred yards to the door of his house which was little more than a cave in a sudden lift of the hill. He swayed as he walked but by the time they reached his cave-house he was alert again. The house had two windows one on either side of the unlocked doorway; and when the old man slowly swung the door open there was shown an interior of humble character but neat and well-ordered. The floor was earth dry and clean. There was a bed to the right also wholesome and dry with horse-blankets for cover. At the back opposite the doorway was a fireplace of some size and in it stood a kettle a pot and a few small pans together with a covered saucepan. On either side of the fireplace was a three-legged stool and about the middle of the left-hand wall of the room was a chair which had been made out of a barrel some of the staves having been sawn away to make a seat. Once inside the house Christopher Dogan laid his bag on the bed and waved his hands in a formula of welcome. "Well I'm honoured" he said "for no one has set foot inside this place that I'd rather have here than the two of ye; and it's wonderful to me Mr. Calhoun that ye've never been inside it before because there's been times when I've had food and drink in plenty. I could have made ye comfortable then and stroked ye all down yer gullet. As for you Miss Llyn you're as welcome as the shining of the stars of a night when there's no moon. I'm glad you're here though I've nothing to give ye not a bite nor sup. Ah yes--but yes" he suddenly cried touching his head. "Faith then I have! I have a drap of somethin' that's as good as annything dhrunk by the ancient kings of Ireland. It's a wee cordial that come from the cellars of the Bishop of Dunlany when I cured his cook of the evil-stone that was killing her. Ah thank God!" He went into a corner on the left of the fireplace opened an old jar thrust his arm down and drew out a squat little bottle of cordial. The bottle was beautifully made. It was round and hunched and of glass with an old label from which the writing had faded. With eyes bright now Christopher uncorked the bottle and smelled the contents. As he did so a smile crinkled his face. "Thank the Lord! There's enough for the two of ye--two fine tablespoonfuls of the cordial that'd do anny man good no matter how bad he was and turn an angel of a woman into an archangel. Bless yer Bowl!" When Christopher turned to lift down two pewter pots Calhoun reached up swiftly and took them from the shelf. He placed them in the hands of the old man who drew a clean towel of coarse linen from a small cupboard in the wall above his head. She and Dyck held the pots for the old man to pour the cordial into them. As he said there was only a good porridge-spoon of liqueur for each. He divided it with anxious care. "There's manny a man" he said "and manny and manny a lady too born in the purple that'd be glad of a dhrink of this cordial from the cellar of the bishop. "Alpha beta gamma delta is the code and with the word delta" he continued "dhrink every drop of it as if it was the last thing you were dhrinking on earth; as if the Lord stooped down to give ye a cup of blessing from His great flagon of eternal happiness. Ye've got two kind ...