The necessity of living down his first folly, of creating a new idea of himself in the minds of the students, forced him to apply all his intelligence to his studies, and he made extraordinary progress in the first years. The recollection of the ease with which he outdistanced his fellow-students was as pleasant as the breezes about the lake, and his thoughts dwelt on the opinion which he knew was entertained, that for many years no one at Maynooth had shown such aptitude for scholarship. He only had to look at a book to know more about it than his fellow-students would know if they were to spend days over it. He won honours. He could have won greater honours, but his conscience reminded him that the gifts he received from God were not bestowed upon him for the mere purpose of humiliating his fellow-students. He often felt then that if certain talents had been given to him, they were given to him to use for the greater glory of God rather than for his own glorification; and his feeling was that there was nothing more hateful in God’s sight than intellectual, unless perhaps spiritual, pride, and his object during his last years at Maynooth was to exhibit himself to the least advantage.
It is strange how an idea enters the soul and remakes it, and when he left Maynooth he used his influence with his cousin, the Bishop, to get himself appointed to the poorest parish in Connaught. Eliza had to dissemble, but he knew that in her heart she was furious with him. We are all extraordinarily different one from another, and if we seem most different from those whom we are most like, it is because we know nothing at all about strangers. He had gone to Kilronan in spite of Eliza, in spite of everyone, their cousin the Bishop included. He had been very happy in Bridget Clery’s cottage, so happy that he didn’t know himself why he ever consented to leave Kilronan.
No, it was not because he was too happy there. He had to a certain extent outgrown his very delicate conscience.
A breeze rose, the forest murmured, a bird sang, and the sails of the yacht filled. The priest stood watching her pass behind a rocky headland, knowing now that her destination was Kilronan Abbey. But was there water enough in the strait at this season of the year? Hardly enough to float a boat of her size. If she stuck, the picnic-party would get into the small boat, and, thus lightened, the yacht might be floated into the other arm of the lake. ‘A pleasant day indeed for a sail,’ and in imagination he followed the yacht down the lake, past its different castles, Castle Carra and Castle Burke and Church Island, the island on which Marban—Marban, the famous hermit poet, had lived.