“Oh, stow this stuff,” cried my father, and leaping to his feet, he began to curse and swear.
“Stop that accursed bell! Is the fool going to ring for ever? Put out those damnable lights, too. Put them out. Are the devils of hell trying to laugh at me?”
With that, and an oath at himself for his folly, my father strode out of the room.
My mother had heard him. Through the unceiled timbers of the floor between them the words of his rage had reached her. She was ashamed. She felt as if she were a guilty thing, and with a low cry of pain she turned to the wall and fainted.
The old lord died the same night. Somewhere towards the dead reaches of the dawn his wicked spirit went to its reckoning, and a month afterwards the new Lord Raa, a boy in an Eton jacket, came over to take possession of his inheritance.
But long before that my father, scoring out his disappointment like an account that was closed, had got to work with his advocates, bankers and insular councillors on his great schemes for galvanising the old island into new life.
Out of the mist and veil of my own memory, as distinguished from Father Dan’s, there comes first the recollection of a big room containing a big bed, a big wardrobe, a big dressing table, a big praying-stool with an image of Our Lady on the wall above it, and an open window to which a sparrow used to come in the mornings and chirp.
When I came to recognise and to classify I realised that this was my mother’s room, and that the sweet somebody who used to catch me up in her arms when I went tottering on voyages of discovery round the vast place was my mother herself, and that she would comfort me when I fell, and stroke my head with her thin white hand, while she sang softly and rocked me to and fro.
As I have no recollection of ever having seen my mother in any other part of our house, or indeed in any other place except our carriage when we drove out in the sunshine, I conclude that from the time of my birth she had been an invalid.
Certainly the faces which first emerge from the islands of my memory are the cheerful and sunny ones of Doctor Conrad and Father Dan. I recall the soft voice of the one as he used to enter our room after breakfast saying, “How are we this morning ma’am?” And I remember the still softer voice of the other as he said “And how is my daughter to-day?”
I loved both of them, but especially Father Dan, who used to call me his Nanny and say I was the plague and pet of his life, being as full of mischief as a goat. He must have been an old child himself, for I have clear recollection of how, immediately after confessing my mother, he would go down on all fours with me on the floor and play at hide-and-seek around the legs of the big bed, amid squeals and squeaks of laughter. I remember, too, that he wore a long sack coat which buttoned close at the neck and hung loose at the skirts, where there were two large vertical pockets, and that these pockets were my cupboards and drawers, for I put my toys and my doll and even the remnants of my cakes into them to be kept in safe custody until wanted again.