The southern road was the shorter, but he wanted to see Moran and to hear when he proposed to begin to roof the abbey. Father Oliver thought, moreover, that he would like to see the abbey for a last time in its green mantle of centuries. The distance was much the same—a couple of miles shorter by the southern road, no doubt, but what are a couple of miles to an old roadster? Moreover, the horse would rest in Jimmy Maguire’s stable whilst he and Moran rambled about the ruin. An hour’s rest would compensate the horse for the two extra miles.
He tapped the glass; there was no danger of rain. For thirty days there had been no change—only a few showers, just enough to keep the country going; and he fell asleep thinking of the drive round the lake from Garranard to Tinnick in the sunlight and from Tinnick to Garranard in the moonlight.
He was out of bed an hour before his usual time, calling to Catherine for hot water. His shaving, always disagreeable, sometimes painful, was a joyous little labour on this day. Stropping his razor, he sang from sheer joy of living. Catherine had never seen him spring on the car with so light a step. And away went the old gray pulling at the bridle, little thinking of the twenty-five Irish miles that lay before him.
The day was the same as yesterday, the meadows drying up for want of rain; and there was a thirsty chirruping of small birds in the hedgerows. Everywhere he saw rooks gaping on the low walls that divided the fields. The farmers were complaining; but they were always complaining—everyone was complaining. He had complained of the dilatoriness of the Board of Works, and now for the first time in his life he sympathized a little with the Board. If it had built the bridge he would not be enjoying this long drive; it would be built by-and-by; he couldn’t feel as if he wished to be robbed of one half-hour of the long day in front of him; and he liked to think it would not end for him till nine o’clock.
‘These summer days are endless,’ he said.
After passing the strait the lake widened out. On the side the priest was driving the shore was empty and barren. On the other side there were pleasant woods and interspaces and castles. Castle Carra appeared, a great ivy-grown ruin showing among thorn-bushes and ash-trees, at the end of a headland. In bygone times the castle must have extended to the water’s edge, for on every side fragments of arches and old walls were discovered hidden away in the thickets. Father Oliver knew the headland well and every part of the old fortress. Many a time he had climbed up the bare wall of the banqueting-hall to where a breach revealed a secret staircase built between the walls, and followed the staircase to a long straight passage, and down another staircase, in the hope of finding matchlock pistols. Many a time he had wandered in the dungeons, and listened to old stories of oubliettes.