His Lordship and Miss O'Callaghan,

A Comedy by Charles Kennett Burrow

Illustrated by Edmund J. Sullivan.

After my engagement to Lucy Vivian I took to working very hard—a man always does that or nothing at all—and the work suited me better than the idleness. I suppose we had been engaged five months, and I was beginning to grow accustomed to it, when one afternoon the amiable peer who had been of such service to me in the affair strolled into my studio. Directly I set eyes on him I knew he had something in the wind, his manner was so absolutely uninterested.

He nodded to me without speaking, crossed over to the fire (it was bitterly cold outside), and stood with his back to it. Then he pulled off his gloves slowly and invited me to come and shake hands.

"You lazy beggar!" I said; "you come here! Can't you see I'm working?"

"Working! you're always working. What's come over you?"

"You forget——"

"Oh, it's Lucy, is it?" he asked. "Well, well! she's a dear child, Phil, I admit."

"Lord St. Alleyne," I said, "you never spoke a truer word."

"Why will you always be throwing that confounded title in my face? I'm only an Irish peer; that title has been a great drawback to me."

"How?" I asked.

"It makes people take twice as long as they should to find out I'm a decent chap."

"It didn't take me long," I said.

"You're different, Phil; it's the women it troubles."

I shrugged my shoulders.

"Well, what do you want?" I asked.

"A cigar," he said.

"You know where they are, don't you?" I replied.

He went to my cigar cabinet and selected one thoughtfully. Then he lit it and drew his favourite armchair up to the hearth. His profile was towards me, and I remarked, as I had done a hundred times before, what a beautiful face it was. The lines were as clear and round as a woman's; the mouth sensitively delicate, but firmly set; the nose straight, with only the slightest indentation below the brows. It was a face of singular purity and candour. After a time he bent forward towards the blaze and looked hard into the fire's heart.

"I believe I'm done for, Phil," he said.

"What do you mean?"

"I won't tell you till you put down those brushes. You know you can't see."

"All right," I said. "If you come here to make me neglect my duty, I suppose I must put up with it."

"Pooh!" he said; "sit down then and don't be an ass."

"I'll sit down, but perhaps I can't help being an ass."

"I daresay you can't, poor dear," he said. Then he lay back in his chair and laughed. "To think of me," he chuckled, "falling in love."

I sat down at the other side of the fire and lit a pipe.

"But you've been in love ever since I knew you."

"The others didn't count; this does."

I begged him to explain.

"Well, it's like this. When I saw her often I wasn't quite sure about it, but now that I can't see her at all the thing's dead certain."

I again begged him to be more explicit. "You talk in the dark," I said.

"Then why don't you light a lamp?"

I did as he suggested and sat down again.

"Is there anything else I can do for you?" I asked.

"Yes," he said, "you're coming over to Ireland with me to-morrow."

"I'll see you hanged first," I said.

"HE LIT IT, AND DREW HIS FAVOURITE ARMCHAIR UP TO THE
HEARTH." "HE LIT IT, AND DREW HIS FAVOURITE ARMCHAIR UP TO THE HEARTH."

"The train leaves Euston at 8.45 p.m."

"It can leave when it likes. I shan't be there."

"By eleven o'clock on Thursday we shall be in Stromore."

"Well?" I said, weakly.

"I knew you'd come!" he said.

"But I won't," I said.

He smiled tenderly upon me.

"And yet," he said, "I endured that dragon Mrs. Vivian for your sake for full ten minutes."

"If you'll explain what it's all about," I said, "I'll do anything I can to help you, but as to—"

He tapped me on the knee with the poker.

"Listen!" he said. "In my opinion, my cousin, Mrs. O'Callaghan, is mad."

"I'm not surprised to hear it," I said.

He tapped me again with the poker.

"My cousin, Mrs. O'Callaghan, has a daughter, and in any decent man's home," he added, "there'd be something to drink Norah's health in."

I got up wearily and produced what was required, and we drank solemnly to Norah O'Callaghan.

"That's better," said St. Alleyne. "Now Mrs. O'Callaghan has her heart set on Norah's going into a convent, and Norah, poor child, thinks she has a leaning towards the religious life, and that before she has seen any other life at all. When I heard of this folly I went over, but never a sight of the girl could I get except with her mother. The old woman never lets her outside the grounds, and there they walk up and down for an hour every day."

I was becoming seriously interested, and St. Alleyne saw it.

"Does Miss O'Callaghan know you care for her?" I asked.

"I suppose any girl knows," he said.

"Did you ever speak to her about it?"

"Not seriously," he said.

"Isn't it possible she thinks you were playing with her and may be playing still; and, granted she cares for you, mayn't that be driving her into the convent?"

His face was suddenly flushed with a kind of pitying shame.

"By Jove!" he said. "It may be so, Phil; I never meant to play with her, I swear that."

"I believe you," I said, "but it looks as though there might be something in what I suggest."

"It does," he answered.

"Have you written to her?"

He tapped me once more with the poker.

"No, and if I did she'd never get the letter. I know my cousin, Mrs. O'Callaghan. She thinks all the St. Alleynes are a bad lot, because, I suppose, my grandfather was a wild devil once. That's where I have to suffer for my name."

"But you could convince her otherwise, I suppose?"

"I'd undertake to do it, if I were sure of Norah."

I knocked the ashes from my pipe and stood up. The situation interested me; my own happiness was so near that I was prepared to do a great deal for my friend.

"Well," I said, "suppose I go over with you, how am I to help?"

He rose and stood by my side, putting his right arm round my shoulder. He was quite his old cheerful self again.

"We'll think of that when we get there," he said. "You must draw Mrs. O'Callaghan off while I talk to the girl somehow. If I have a sure friend at hand the thing can be managed. I knew you'd come, old man. My cousin, Mrs. O'Callaghan," he added, "has burnt her own boats; if she hadn't played me this trick I might never have discovered that I wanted Norah."

"MY FRIEND WAS CONSUMING LARGE CIGARS." "MY FRIEND WAS CONSUMING LARGE CIGARS."

"Oh, yes, you would," I said.

"You know, of course," he said, pinching my ear.

When I awoke the next morning I confess that our project did not look particularly hopeful, but I had undoubted faith in St. Alleyne's ingenuity, and it was a great satisfaction to me to see Lucy, and let her into the secret of our expedition. Her eagerness, indeed, was much greater than mine, and she made me promise to send her a telegram directly there was any good news to communicate.

It was a bitterly cold night in January when St. Alleyne and I crossed, and I am not a particularly good sailor. I remained on deck for the sake of the air, the saloon being hopeless, and made what efforts I could to keep myself warm. Every now and then I looked into the smoking-room, where my friend was consuming large cigars; I envied him his occupation, but rejected all his invitations to join him. After a time he came out and wrapped me up in half a dozen rugs on a seat. By the time we reached Dublin I was numb to the heart, and knew I was in for a violent cold.

However, we made no delay, but caught the mail for the south. The carriage was warmer than the boat, and by a judicious arrangement of rugs I managed to bring back some heat into my blood, and with it came a revived interest in our expedition. St. Alleyne had said nothing about his plan since starting, but as I looked across at him I could see that he was thinking hard. He caught my eye and smiled.

"Feel better?" he asked.

"Much," I said.

"You look a poor starved rat of a man, even now."

"I'm sorry," I said, "that I haven't your terrific constitution."

"It hasn't been much good to me so far," he said, "and I'll thank you, Mr. Mildmay, for one of those excellent cigars of yours."

"I think I could manage one myself," said I, sitting up.

"Bravo! Now we can talk seriously.... I've been thinking, Phil."

"I could see that!"

"You could, could you? Well, I've hit on a plan—a beautiful plan."

"Capital!" I said.

"But the carrying through depends upon you."

"Am I in fit condition?" I asked.

"Faith, you'll be in too good condition presently. It depends on your sickness."

It was always necessary to beg St. Alleyne to explain: I did this forcibly, and he brought his head close to mine.

"I told you, I think," he said, "that in my opinion my cousin, Mrs. O'Callaghan, is mad?"

"You did."

"Well," he said, "she's not so mad, neither. She has some idea of true charity. Now Norah is a great hand with the sick; she has a way with her, as we say over here, and Mrs. O'Callaghan encourages her to visit them; it's all part of the convent scheme."

"I begin to see," I said; "I'm to be sick."

"And who," said he, "would you rather see in your suffering than an angel like Norah?"

"I'd rather see Lucy," I said.

"Well, well, you're a constant creature. I have a little place over here near Stromore, as you know; but you mustn't be ill there; you must go to the hotel." He paused and looked at me.

"Go on," I said.

"And being very low," he continued, very slowly, "you'll speak to Biddy about it."

"Who's Biddy?" I asked.

"Mahony's daughter; he runs the hotel. And you'll say that you'd like to see someone—a woman for choice—as you have something weighing on your mind; and then you might drop Miss O'Callaghan's name. Now Biddy was Norah's maid for a time, and what more natural than that she should suggest bringing her old mistress to the poor sick guest?"

"You're a rogue," I said.

"Then Norah will come to you," he went on, "and I shall be in the next room, and after a time you'll speak of me, and then—"

"We must wait for the rest," I said, "But what will your cousin, Mrs. O'Callaghan, be doing all the time?"

"She'll be talking to Mahony about the price of oats downstairs."

"This is a very charming plan," I said, "but will it work? And do you think me humbug enough to mix myself up in such an affair?"

"You're humbug enough for anything," he said, "but have you the nerve?"

"It doesn't need much nerve," I said.

"You haven't seen Norah," he replied.

"Well, I'll risk it; I came over here to help you, and I may as well do it, little as the job suits me."

"Oh," he laughed, "it'll be grand to see my cousin Mrs. O'Callaghan's face!"

It was important to our plan that St. Alleyne and I should not seem to be together, so he gave me final instructions before we reached Stromore Station. "You must get the bedroom over the door," he said, "because there's a sitting-room next to it, and we must have them both."

"Suppose it's already occupied?" I said.

"WE SWUNG UP THE ROAD FROM THE STATION." "WE SWUNG UP THE ROAD FROM THE STATION."

"You don't know Stromore in the winter," he said; "there won't be a soul in the place, and Mahony will kneel at your feet."

"I hope he won't," I said, "because I might feel inclined to kick him."

"Kick Mahony!" he cried, "the man's six feet two, and as strong as an ox. You'd better begin to be sick almost at once, hadn't you?"

"I feel bad enough," I said.

We shook hands in the carriage as the train pulled up at Stromore; on the platform we did not know each other.

I secured a car at once, and told the man to drive to the St. Alleyne Arms, and as we swung up the road from the station I looked back and saw his lordship coming slowly down the steps.

"Do ye know," asked my driver, "how long his lordship's come for?"

"His lordship!—whose lordship?"

"Lord St. Alleyne," he said, looking at me incredulously.

"What do I know about the man?" I asked. "Where is he?"

"He's there, sure, comin' down the shteps."

"Indeed," I said, and told the man to hurry, as I was cold.

I had no difficulty in securing the two rooms I wanted, and as I took possession of them I felt some of the pangs of a conspirator. I was also, as a matter of fact, quite sufficiently unwell to see things rather gloomily, and as I sat by my window after lunch, and looked out into the grey street, I confess that I wished myself engaged in a less dubious enterprise.

And then, as I sat there, I heard the brisk sound of wheels, and a carriage drove by, and in it there sat a lady of a rather severe aspect and a girl. The girl glanced up at the inn as she passed; from out of a nest of white fur, there looked a face that made me come nearer to forgetting Lucy than anything I could have imagined. "That," said I to myself, "is Norah, and the other is Mrs. O'Callaghan. My dear St. Alleyne, I'll begin my part of the game this minute if it's to help you to win that child."

And indeed there was no time to be lost, for we had arranged that St. Alleyne was to call at eleven o'clock the next morning to see how things were getting on. I accordingly looked for a bell-rope, but, being unable to find one, I opened the door and called downstairs. Biddy came up light as a bird, and with a merry engaging smile on her face.

"THE GIRL GLANCED UP AT THE INN." "THE GIRL GLANCED UP AT THE INN."

"Biddy," I said, "I feel ill, and I think I'll go to bed. I've caught a bad cold, and it may turn to fever with me."

"Lord save us!" she cried, "will I send for the docther?"

"No, I'll see how I am later. And, Biddy, at six o'clock, I might try to eat some dinner."

"To be sure, sorr," she said. "Can I do anythin' for ye now?"

"No," said I, pressing my hand against my forehead, "but if I want anything I'll ring."

"There's no bell," she said, "so you must just knock on the flure, an' I'll hear ye."

With that she departed, and I made up the fire and got slowly into bed. My head did ache a little, but not enough to make me unhappy, and it seemed to me, as I lay in the midst of that apparently dead Irish town, that I was coming perilously near to playing the fool. But my confidence in St. Alleyne was unbounded, and under all his lightness of manner it was plain that he was in deadly earnest; so presently, thinking of him and of the face I had seen, and being horribly tired after the previous night, I fell comfortably asleep.

When I awoke it was dark outside and there was only the red glow of firelight in the room. I got up to light a candle, and felt rather lightheaded and feverish; it gave me some satisfaction to realise that I should not have to altogether act my part. I looked at my watch and found that it was a quarter to six. I lay down again and listened; beyond the slight movement in the house there was not a sound to be heard; I might have been in a lodge in the wilderness.

Presently I heard Biddy's light step on the stairs, and there was a tentative knock at the door.

"Come in," I cried, and she entered with dinner and a lamp.

"Are you betther, sorr?" she asked.

"No," said I, "but worse."

"Will I send for Docther Nolan now?"

"No, Biddy, I'll try to eat some dinner."

"Do, poor soul!" she said. She drew a little table to the bedside, and, having set the food on it, left me. It was not a good dinner; a healthy appetite and an easy conscience might have been satisfied with it, but neither of these was mine at the moment, so I did no more than just play with it. Then I knocked on the floor for Biddy, who came up at once. She was always smiling; she had one of those faces to which only laughter or tears seem natural.

"Have ye done, sorr?" she asked, in undisguised surprise.

"Yes," I said, "I can't eat."

She suggested Doctor Nolan again.

"No, I'm afraid a doctor could do no good until I've got something off my mind."

"Will I sind for a priest, thin?" she asked.

"At present, Biddy, it's not a matter for a priest, but if you knew of some good woman, not a nun, but still in the world—" I paused from sheer inability to go on; I was so unused to this kind of thing that any sign of suspicion on Biddy's part would have meant disaster. But Biddy had a kind heart, and instantly scented a romance.

"Ah," she said, "I see how it is wid ye."

I said nothing, but lay still, watching her face. I tried once or twice to mention Miss O'Callaghan's name, but my lips refused to approach it without a weakness that might have betrayed me. And then, all at once, Biddy did it for me.

"I might ast Miss O'Callaghan to see ye," she said.

My face burned. "And who's Miss O'Callaghan?" I asked.

"A dear, dear heart," said Biddy, "an' just the lady to help ye if it's love you're throubled about. She's had throuble herself," she added, "an' may his lordship be made to pay for it!"

"What do you mean about Miss O'Callaghan and his lordship?"

"Was I her maid for three years and not know her secrets?"

I begged Biddy to explain, which she refused to do; but I gathered enough from her to judge that my surmise had been correct, and that Norah was wholly his lordship's if he could get fair speech with her.

"Biddy," said I, "you're a good girl, and if you can bring Miss O'Callaghan to see me at half-past eleven to-morrow I'll dance at your wedding."

"I'll go to her now," she said; "rest quiet, now, till I come back."

When Biddy had gone I was almost sorry that I had not taken her completely into my confidence, but her interest seemed so deeply engaged on my behalf that I felt sure she would work strongly on Miss O'Callaghan's feelings; and so it proved, for she returned in an hour to say that the lady would come on the following morning. After this piece of news I calmly went to sleep again, and only awoke to find Biddy once more at my bedside with breakfast.

I assured her that I felt somewhat better, and would be ready for Miss O'Callaghan when she came. Just as I had finished breakfast I heard St. Alleyne's voice below. Presently Biddy came up with curiosity shining from her face.

"Why didn't ye tell me," she said, "that ye knew his lordship?"

"Biddy, can I trust you?" I asked.

She tossed her head. "Thrust me," she said, "an' why not, sure?"

"BIDDY, I FEEL ILL, AND I THINK I'LL GO TO BED." "BIDDY, I FEEL ILL, AND I THINK I'LL GO TO BED."

"I knew I could. Well, you'll show Lord St. Alleyne up, and he won't go down again until after Miss O'Callaghan has seen me."

"Lord save us!" cried Biddy.

"I know," I went on, "that you have your late mistress's happiness at heart, and this will make it safe. It depends upon you whether there is to be a great wedding at Stromore, or the convent for Miss O'Callaghan."

"'MISS O'CALLAGHAN TO SEE YE, SORR.'" "'MISS O'CALLAGHAN TO SEE YE, SORR.'"

"Lord save us!" Biddy cried again, between laughter and tears.

"Mrs. O'Callaghan," I said, "is a strange woman, I understand."

"She is that!" Biddy interjected.

"And therefore this interview must be arranged as best it can. On your life, don't say a word to either of them about his lordship being here!"

Biddy's hesitation was only momentary; she promised, and fled from the room.

When St. Alleyne came in I saw he had not had much sleep and that his nerves were on the rack, but his manner was as unperturbed as ever. He sat down on the side of my bed and looked at me curiously.

"How are you?" he asked.

"Perfectly well," I answered; "don't I look it?"

"You look a bit flushed, that's all."

"And with good cause. Miss O'Callaghan will be here in half an hour."

"Thank God!" he said, and walked to the window. He stood silently with his back to me for some time, looking down into the street. Then he said, "How are you going to manage the interview?"

"I don't know; if you worry me I shall make a mess of it."

"I'm not going to worry you, old chap," he said; "you must just do it your own way."

"I saw her yesterday."

He swung round and faced me.

"What did you think of her?" he asked.

"I think," said I, "that you must have been born for each other."

His face lit up with a sudden, boyish smile.

"Thanks," he said, and turned to the window again. A moment later he stepped back quickly.

"There she is," he said, "and my cousin, Mrs. O'Callaghan, with her."

"It was just like you," I cried, "to stand there where the whole street could see you."

"Don't be angry, Phil," he said, humbly, "she didn't look up."

"For heaven's sake get into the next room and shut the door."

He came over to me swiftly and rested his hands on my shoulders.

"Play up, Phil," he whispered, "for the sake of old times." Then he left me, and the door of the sitting-room closed softly behind him.

When I heard footsteps on the stairs and realised that the game had really commenced, the ambiguity of my position overwhelmed me; I wished myself, for a moment, well out of the affair at any price. But the thought of the greater strain upon St. Alleyne, and what it meant to him, restored my composure, and I waited with closed eyes. The door opened, and I heard Biddy's voice say, "Here's Miss O'Callaghan to see ye, sorr." When I looked up, a vision of loveliness greeted my eyes.

Miss O'Callaghan came towards me with a face full of the tenderest solicitude. She was wearing a tailor-made dress that fitted her to perfection, and on her head she had a large hat, from under which tiny tendrils of dark hair had escaped; her skin was of the whiteness of rose petals except where the blood flushed, her eyes had the look of wet violets in spring. My lips murmured incoherent thanks and welcome. I could not force my mind away from the waiting figure in the next room.

"You wished to see me," she said, in a soft voice that had an under-note of sadness. "If I can help you, please be quite free with me. It's to be my life's work to help those who are in trouble."

"Your life's work?" I repeated.

"Yes," she said, "I'm to go into a convent."

"My trouble will seem very small to you, but to me it seems great, and it has to do with so worldly a thing as love."

Her face flushed and paled again before she answered—

"True love can never be small—it is always beautiful."

"That is my thought of it, too," I said; "but however much one wants to do the right thing, it is sometimes terribly hard to decide."

"I know," she said, "I know."

"Now suppose," I said, "that I loved a girl with all my heart—as I do," I added, thinking of Lucy, "but had never told her so; and suppose that her friends, for some foolish reason, did not like me, and wished her to devote her life to a calling which she herself had some leaning to——"

"Yes," she said, breathlessly, and I could see she was applying the case to herself.

"And suppose," I went on, "I had been blind in the past, and perhaps unknowingly allowed the time to go by when I should have spoken: would I be justified in coming into her life again, drawing her away from the peace that this calling might already have given her, and asking her to come back with me into the world where love is?"

For an instant she turned her head aside, and I saw the tears heavy under her eyelids.

"It would be for her to decide," she said; "you should tell her."

"That's just what my friend Lord St. Alleyne thinks," I said.

"You know him?" she cried. The look in her eyes at that moment was certainly not for me.

"He is my very dear friend," I said, "and I have often heard him speak of you. I know him for one of the best men alive."

She slipped down on her knees by the bed, and if I had not already known all about the matter her eyes would have told me.

"I believe he is, I believe he is," she said. "Tell me about him. Is he well? When did you see him last?"

"No longer ago than this morning," I said.

"SHE SPRANG TO HER FEET, AND RAN TO HIM WITH A JOYFUL
CRY." "SHE SPRANG TO HER FEET, AND RAN TO HIM WITH A JOYFUL CRY."

She hid her face and was silent for a time; I could see that she loved him beyond the ordinary love of women, and the sight sent such a wave of content through me that I believe I laughed softly. At any rate she looked up and I could not bear to see her unhappy any longer.

"My dear Miss O'Callaghan," I said, taking into my hand the warm little gloved fingers that lay on the coverlid, "will you forgive me for being a conspirator and a humbug? Remember I did it for the sake of my friend, and I knew he was worth it. I spoke of him and not of myself."

"What do you mean?" she cried. And then, with a hand at her bosom, "Oh, tell me, tell me!"

"St. Alleyne," I said, "loves you, and he's here to tell you himself." And with that I raised my voice and called his name. The door opened instantly—he must have had his hand on the latch the whole time—and there he stood, with his arms stretched out to her and the name, "Norah," on his lips. She sprang to her feet and ran to him with so joyful a cry that I knew my part in the comedy was over, and just as they embraced I turned away and closed my eyes.

Ten minutes later they came back; she was leaning on his shoulder and he had an arm about her waist.

"This conspiracy has been so successful," I said, "that I shall never engage in another. It would never do to spoil my record."

"You have two friends now instead of one," Miss O'Callaghan said.

"Phil," said St. Alleyne, "get up, you old dear, while Norah and I go downstairs to see my cousin, Mrs. O'Callaghan."

They left me once more, and as I dressed I felt so absurdly light-hearted that I had to sing to myself; I forget what the song was, but I know, there was something about lovers' meetings in it. As I reached the foot of the stairs I heard voices in the dining-room; one of them was rather high-pitched and hard, but it sounded pleasant enough as it said, "Well, St. Alleyne, you've beaten me this time, and I suppose I must give in, but it will take you long years to make me believe in your family."

And I concluded it was the voice of his lordship's cousin, Mrs. O'Callaghan.