’Yours very sincerely,
After reading Father O’Grady’s letter he looked round, fearing lest someone should speak to him. Christy was already some distance away; there was nobody else in sight; and feeling he was safe from interruption, he went towards the wood, thinking of the good priest who had saved her (in saving her Father O’Grady had saved him), and of the waste of despair into which he would have drifted certainly if the news had been that she had killed herself. He stood appalled, looking into the green wood, aware of the mysterious life in the branches; and then lay down to watch the insect life among the grass—a beetle pursuing its little or great destiny. But he was too exalted to remain lying down; the wood seemed to beckon him, and he asked if the madness of the woods had overtaken him. Further on he came upon a chorus of finches singing in some hawthorn-trees, and in Derrinrush he stopped to listen to the silence that had suddenly fallen. A shadow floated by; he looked up: a hawk was passing overhead, ready to attack rat or mouse moving among the young birches and firs that were springing up in the clearance. The light was violent, and the priest shaded his eyes. His feet sank in sand, he tripped over tufts of rough grass, and was glad to get out of this part of the wood into the shade of large trees.
Trees always interested him, and he began to think of their great roots seeking the darkness, and of their branches lifting themselves in love towards the light. He and these trees were one, for there is but one life, one mother, one elemental substance out of which all has come. That was it, and his thoughts paused. Only in union is there happiness, and for many weary months he had been isolated, thrown out; but to-day he had been drawn suddenly into the general life, he had become again part of the general harmony, and that was why he was so happy. No better explanation was forthcoming, and he did not think that a better one was required—at least, not to-day.
He noticed with pleasure that he no longer tried to pass behind a thicket nor into one when he met poor wood-gatherers bent under their heavy loads. He even stopped to speak to a woman out with her children; the three were breaking sticks across their knees, and he encouraged them to talk to him. But without his being aware of it, his thoughts hearkened back, and when it came to his turn to answer he could not answer. He had been thinking of Nora, and, ashamed of his absentmindedness, he left them tying up their bundles and went towards the shore, stopping many times to admire the pale arch of evening sky with never a wind in it, nor any sound but the cries of swallows in full pursuit. ‘A rememberable evening,’ he said, and there was such a lightness in his feet that he believed, or very nearly, that there were wings on his shoulders which he only had to open to float away whither he might wish to go.