The Tanist went to the window; he examined the sill, and looked out. Then he left the room, having asked the butler for a lamp. MacFirbis returned to the dog, and knelt on one knee by its side.
‘He is not dead,’ he murmured; ‘I will send for a dog leech.’
A light suddenly shone in the garden. Schliemann crossed to the window, and bending over the sill, saw the Tanist beneath, examining the ground.
‘Are there footmarks?’ he asked.
The Tanist made no answer. He put the lamp on the ground, and measured something below.
‘Ah, you have found traces of the thief!’ exclaimed Schliemann. Presently the young man rose, and came into the house.
‘I have sent for the dog leech, but not for the police,’ the Historian replied.
‘And after that for the police.’
‘No. This is not a matter for policemen to examine,’ the Historian’s eyes flashed. ‘Ollamh Keating honourably warned me of his intention, and this is his first attack.’
‘The books will be stolen,’ said the Tanist, in a tone that showed he had lost patience.
‘I trust that when you receive them from my dying hand,’ the Historian replied, ‘that you will guard them as securely as I have done.’
‘This is medieval, quixotic!’, exclaimed the Tanist.
‘To a modern spirit, but not to those who keep the honourable traditions of the past,’ rebuked MacFirbis.
There was a brief pause; then the Tanist changed his tone.
‘The thief had a duplicate key of the garden gate,’ he said, in a cool, composed voice. ‘He escaped by the window, but he did not get in by it. He must have been secreted in the house, and entered by the dining room.’
‘It is impossible,’ said MacFirbis. ‘Who would have hidden him? Not Cormac. He has been in my service forty years.’
‘Cormac is incorruptible. But we must learn what persons called at the house that day.’
The Professor thought of Geoffrey Keating; he kept silent. He was silent, also, when Cormac gave the names of those persons who had called at the house and omitted that of the officer. ‘Ha!’ thought Schliemann, ‘the old steward has his own reasons for not mentioning young Keating.’
He heard the Tanist ask to be given charge of the books for that night, a request MacFirbis refused. Maelmuire then lit a cigar.
‘As I cannot help,’ he remarked, ‘I will bid you and Sai Schliemann good night, or, as here comes the dawn, good morning.’
He turned away, and a minute later the hall door closed behind him.
In his room, the Professor thought over the occurrence as he prepared for bed. He believed Geoffrey had tried to get the books. Sorcha, perhaps, had helped him. Both looked to time to lessen the Historian’s anger. As he said the word time, he felt again that sudden check, that keen sense of uncertainty as to his own identity and surroundings. Were they made of his own will? Had he not but to leave Ireland to be in his known world again? But the vellums – they must be copied or taken. No wrong, no theft, would be committed under the circumstances, if he brought them to Germany.
The next morning he asked MacFirbis’s permission to remove them from the case; and made the request with an easy conscience. Yet it felt a twinge when he met the friendly and unsuspecting eyes of his host.
‘I shall grant your request with pleasure in a day or two,’ the Historian replied. ‘I am leaving Dungeanain this afternoon for my country seat in Connacht, and it will give me sincere pleasure if you will be my guest there. You would have ample leisure to study the books, which, this morning, I am unfortunately unable to allow you to see.’
The Professor accepted the invitation. Where the vellums went he must go. A minute later Sorcha came into the room. Her father did not speak of the attempted theft, and, from her manner, Schliemann thought she must be ignorant of it. She looked as fresh as a newly opened rose, and was dressed as if to go out. Just as breakfast was over, the Tanist arrived, but he, too, made no allusion to the books.
The Professor had thought that morning of his money. He now asked the Historian if the English coins and notes he carried were the currency of Ireland. When MacFirbis told him that it would be necessary to effect a change, the Tanist politely offered to take him where he could do so.
‘No, no!’, exclaimed Sorcha, with a charming air of having her own way. ‘You, Maelmuire, will change Sai Schliemann’s money. The Sai is coming out with me this morning. Will you not, Sai? I wish to show you the Cathedral, as we are leaving for Muigheo to-day.’
The Professor consented, and the Tanist smiled. ‘So even our German guest must obey you, Sorcha Bán,’ he said. ‘But you tell me news. Are you leaving Dungeanain, Historian?’
‘This afternoon,’ replied MacFirbis.
The Tanist made no comment; he turned to Schliemann. The latter had emptied his purse on the table. There were five sovereigns, some silver, and three banknotes. One, for ten pounds, the Professor resorted to his pocket. He passed the rest to Maelmuire, who having counted the money, formally took charge of it. Soon afterwards he left, having promised to meet the party at the station. He had not been long gone when Sorcha declared her intention of going out; and inviting the Professor to accompany her, the two set forth for the Cathedral.
It was about ten minutes’ walk from the Square. Begun in the reign of Aodh I, it had taken two centuries to complete it. Native artists, and the most skilled workmen the kingdom had produced for eight generations had slowly reared the building. When finished in 1805, it was considered the most perfect structure reared in Europe since the age of the great medieval church builders. Sorcha lingered but a short time in the nave, and led the Professor to Naomh Padraic Chapel, where she pointed out the tomb of Aodh I. It was of porphyry and hammered bronze, the canopy, wrought of the latter, was richly enamelled, and looked as if jewelled. Figures in white marble, finely sculptured, representing Saint Patrick, Saint Columcille, Saint Brigid, and Saint Ciaran, guarded the tomb. The statue of the king was crowned and kneeling, the arms outstretched in the attitude of prayer known to the Irish as cros-figill.
About four or five people were in the chapel, sightseers, who moved about, looking at the carvings, stained windows, and frescoes. One of them was a tall, thin man, with a shaven face, whose dark eyes were brilliant and questioning. He wore a fawn-coloured overcoat of a fashionable cut, and tan gloves on his hands. He touched everything he examined.
As the Professor gazed at the tomb, Geoffrey Keating entered the chapel. He greeted Schliemann as if he had forgotten the angry interview of the previous evening. But the Professor looked at him with disapproval. The attempted theft, he felt, was almost a personal matter. The moral law held for Keating, who was in his own world and natural environment. It was a sin for him to break it. Bluntness of speech was Schliemann’s habit, and had made him some enemies. His kindly disposition was often hidden by a dogged determination to have his own way.
‘Young man,’ he said, sternly, ‘I will say at once that I think you did a foolish and guilty thing.’
Keating looked at him calmly. ‘It is his head, a leanbh,’ he whispered to Sorcha.
‘No!’, said Schliemann, angrily. ‘Flippancy will not avail with me. I am speaking of your attempted theft of the vellums.’
Keating smiled, ‘What theft?’, he asked.
Sorcha touched the Professor’s arm. ‘Are not the books in your room?’, she said, eagerly.
‘They are not. That young man’s attempt to steal them has prevented my seeing them to-day.’
‘Steady, my good Sai,’ said Keating, ‘if it is not your head that makes you that charge, I must ask for an explanation.’
‘Geoffrey, a ghradh, wait.’ Sorcha raised her face to the Professor. ‘You will be our friend, will you not?’, she said. ‘We are in great trouble.’
‘I am acting the unpleasant part this moment of a candid friend. In what other way can I help you?’
‘Help us to get the vellums.’
‘Ach! No, no,” the Professor grew stern again. ‘You wish me to be your accomplice in the theft. Consider for a minute what you two young people propose. You wish to commit an ethical wrong, a moral breach, a sin against religion, a breach of filial duty, and you ask me to share your guilt and connive at the theft of your good father’s property. I tell you I will not.’
‘We do not wish to steal the books,’ her face was winning, her eyes honest and sweet. ‘I would not do such a sin, nor would Geoffrey. But he has a vow to keep. And it is not right to break a vow made in the name of the Trinity and the saints of Erin. We only ask you to give the books to Geoffrey. He will take them to his father, and – then later I shall return them to my father.’
‘But my dear young lady, how do I know that this young man – supposing I gave him the books – would allow you to return them to the Historian. For a lover will make vows which the husband breaks. Also, he may not be able, even if he were willing, to return them to my kind host, your father, for certainly his own father, if he once gets them, will not give them up. He will, no doubt, put them under double locks, and place some wild beast on guard.’
‘You forget, Sai Schliemann,’ said Keating, ‘that even if my father were to guard them, as you say, that the books must pass into my hands at the Ollamh’s death.’
‘But what guarantee do you give that you will return them?’
‘My word, to which you are now witness.’
‘I do not doubt your integrity, my dear young man, or that you would not return them. But I think of the future.’
‘I will give you a document stating that I will return them, and another to Sorcha. I promise you here, on my honour, that I will return the two vellums to the Hereditary Historian of Connacht.’
‘Who may be Maelmuire MacFirbis at the time the opportunity to restore them occurs.’
Keating was silent for a moment. ‘Yes, I will give them to Maelmuire MacFirbis,’ he said.
‘Now,’ said Schliemann, ‘explain what happened last night.’
‘There I am in the dark,’ replied Keating. ‘What happened?’
‘You know. For you broke into the library when we were in the Palace, overthrew the case, and nearly killed Midir, a dog with an interesting mythological name.’
‘You are entirely mistaken,’ exclaimed Keating. ‘I was at the Palace till two o’clock, and then went to Lord Fingall’s house. The Righ-damna was there.’
‘That is why my father made up his mind so quickly to leave Dungeanain,’ said Sorcha. ‘Who could the thief have been?’
‘The evidence points to Captain Keating or his father,’ the Professor replied, emphatically. ‘If it was not the officer, it must have been the Ollamh. You remember we saw a motor car, whose blinds were drawn, leaving the Square.’
‘Yes. But I did not think it was his.’ The girl fell silent, and presently turned away from the tomb. Keating followed her, and the Professor saw them go to the great carved door of the chapel, and pass out. He remained where he was.
He had arrived at a conclusion as to the thief. The elder Keating had made an attempt to secure the vellums. He would certainly make another, and perhaps succeed. The books would then be removed from his (Schliemann’s) reach; and the importance of securing them as soon as possible became urgent.
As his eyes kindled with the thought, the stranger in the fawn-coloured coat, who had been moving slowly round the tomb, stopped by his side.
‘That is an uncomfortable way to offer prayer,’ he remarked, speaking slowly, as if selecting each word.
Schliemann turned a glance upon the speaker. The stranger’s gaze was on the statue of the King. ‘He looks like Moses on the mountain,’ the man went on. ‘He would appear easier if the sculptor had put a pedestal under each elbow.’
‘Ach,’ said Schliemann, ‘that attitude in marble is an interesting sight. To pray with outspread arms was much practised by the ancient Irish. It is the cros-figill, literally the Vigil of the Cross. The King, crowned, robed with the signs of his earthly state, thinks but of his simple humanity as he kneels.’
‘He had grit and brains, and made his kingdom,’ observed the stranger. ‘But, noble sir, may I remark that your Irish is a little difficult to understand. My own is not the best, perhaps, though I studied it for some years.’
‘You are not, then, an Irishman?’ There was a sudden eagerness in the Professor’s tone.
‘No. I come from America, and we have but few Irish in the States. If you can speak English, I would be pleased to converse with you in that language, which is my native tongue.’
‘I know English,’ replied Schliemann, ‘but speak it less fluently than I do Irish. I have devoted thirty years to the study of that language, chiefly Old and Middle Irish.’
‘Then, sir,’ said the stranger, speaking in English, ‘I’d drop into modern talk when conversing with any individual whose education has suffered neglect on the Old and the Middle.’
‘You may know my name,’ said Schliemann, ‘I am the well-known Celticist, Professor Schliemann, of Berlin.’
‘Pleased to make your acquaintance,’ said the stranger, and held out his hand. ‘I guess it is more than likely that you know mine. I am Mr. Amos Moss, of Chicago, billionaire.’
‘I have not heard it,’ said the Professor, with his usual directness of speech.
‘Too busy with the Old and Middle. Well, I take stock in the antique. I have, sir, a palace out there in Chicago full of ancient ware that I or my agents have got. Price never holds me back. I’ve bought up the insides of three Italian palaces. Now I am on the library. I mean that, sir, to be second best to the Vatican. So far my collection of ancient books and manuscripts promises to be the biggest in the States. I have got up the German, Italian, Anglo-Saxon, French, Arabic, and Celtic Rooms, each apartment decorated according to the country’s style of art. I am on the Celtic quest now. There are hundreds of ancient manuscripts in this kingdom, I am told; but the book dealers say they seldom come on the market. Do you happen to know a short, stout man of lively countenance of the name of MacAodha, who belongs to the trade of historian in this country?’
‘I have met him,’ the Professor replied.
‘That party, sir, I got an introduction to, and learning my tastes he offered to show me at a friend’s house two antiques in the way of manuscripts. I saw them, and they are old enough to have moss on their covers. One was written by a pagan king of Ireland at a time when, outside the Roman Empire, the rest of Europe dressed in paint or a wolf-skin. That pagan king was civilised, and could write and jot down his thoughts on vellum, and there’s that book to-day. Now, sir, I want to buy that book and another lichen-covered one that’s with it, and I am ready to pay a handsome sum to their owner.’
‘I know and have seen both books,’ said the Professor in Irish. ‘They belong to the Hereditary Historian of Connacht. And not all the money you own could buy them. He guards them as if they were the most precious heirlooms.’
‘So report says,’ replied the American, in the same language, once more slowly choosing his words. ‘It is true I offered him one hundred thousand gold screpall – fifty thousand eagles – and he took no notice of my offer. I wrote again; then I called. I called every day for a week, but he was never at home. And then it was that MacAodha came to my hotel one day, and told me not to write or call any more, as the Historian was angry. Now, noble sir (duine uasal), I have never failed to get what I want. That has been my secret of success, and I shall take those two books with me when I leave Ireland.’
‘You make your determination known to a stranger,’ said Schliemann. ‘Is that wise?’
‘I see no unwisdom in my words. As to listeners, there are but yourself and the king to hear. I speak freely to you, for we are both men of other countries, and there is a long closed ear on the dead.’
‘I would ask you a question,’ there was a note of marked interest in the Professor’s tone. ‘Does this kingdom strike you as – as unusual, as abnormal?’
‘It is foreign, and, of course, appears strange in some ways to you and me. There is a good deal too much of the communal system here, and they do not allow men with wits to make fortunes in the way we do in the States.’
‘It seems to me as if-,’ the Professor hesitated, ‘that I have been wafted into an unknown land by enchantment. This Ireland I find myself in is unlike the Ireland I was taught about when I was at school. That it was a British Isle, under the English Crown, governed from Westminster, thoroughly Anglicised; the inhabitants having forgotten their language; was nearly depopulated; the remnant of the race sending representatives to the English Parliament, where they clamoured for Home Rule. Were you not also taught these things?’
‘I guess not,’ said the American, in English, ‘or my father would have seen about that teacher being shunted into a lunatic asylum.’
He threw a shrewd glance at the Professor. ‘I must be off now,’ he added, ‘to see a book dealer. Very pleased to have made your acquaintance, sir. If you feel any more of that enchantment I’d see a doctor.’
He raised his hat and turned away. Schliemann’s eyes followed him till the great door closed upon his figure. The stranger seemed to be in his natural environment; he appeared, indeed, to suspect the Professor’s sanity. After a few moments’ thought, Schliemann left the chapel, and going down a side aisle, went out of the Cathedral by the south entrance.
A motor car had drawn up by the steps. It was primrose, with a brown line, its blinds were drawn. One was raised as Schliemann looked at it, and he saw Ollamh Keating seated within. He appeared to expect some one; then, after a swift glance about him, he gave an order to the chauffeur and drove away in the direction of his home.
‘It was he who broke into the Historian’s house, the Professor said to himself.
As he walked down the street, the car whirled past. The blinds were again drawn. The Ollamh had apparently changed his mind, and was not going home just then.