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   Chapter 9 A LETTER FROM SHEILA

No Defense, Volume 1_ By Gilbert Parker Characters: 5584

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:02


The light of the cell was dim, but Dyck managed to read the letter without great difficulty, for the writing was almost as precise as print. The sight of it caught his heart like a warm hand and pressed it. This was the substance of the letter:

MY DEAR FRIEND:

I have wanted to visit you in prison, but my mother has forbidden it, and so, even if I could be let to enter, I must not disobey her. I have not read the papers giving an account of your trial. I only know you are charged with killing a bad man, notorious in Dublin life, and that many think he got his just deserts in being killed.

I saw Christopher Dogan only a week ago, before we came to Dublin. His eyes, as he talked of you, shone like the secret hill-fires where the peasants make illegal drink.

"Look you," he said to me, "I care not what a jury decides. I know my man; and I also know that if the fellow Boyne died by his hand, it was in fair fight. I have read Dyck Calhoun's story in the stars; and I know what his end will be. It will be fair, not foul; good, not bad; great, not low. Tell him that from me, miss," was what he said.

I also will not believe that your fate is an evil one, that the law will grind you between the millstones of guilt and dishonour; but if the law should call you guilty, I still will not believe. Far away I will think of you, and believe in you, dear, masterful, madman friend. Yes, you are a madman, for Michael Clones told me-faith, he loves you well!-that you've been living a gay life in Dublin since you came here, and that the man you are accused of killing was in great part the cause of it.

I think I never saw my mother so troubled in spirit as she is at this time. Of course, she could not feel as I do about you. It isn't that which makes her sad and haggard; it is that we are leaving Ireland behind.

Yes, she and I are saying good-bye to Ireland. That's why I think she might have let me see you before we went; but since it must not be, well, then, it must not. But we shall meet again. In my soul I know that on the hills somewhere far off, as on the first day we met, we shall meet each other once more. Where are we going? Oh, very far! We are going to my Uncle Bryan-Bryan Llyn, in Virginia. A letter has come from him urging us to make our home with him. You see, my friend-

Then followed the story which Bryan Llyn had told her mother and herself, and she wrote of her mother's decision to go out to the new, great home which her uncle had made among the cotton-fields of the South. When she had finished that part of the tale, she went on as follows:

We shall know your fate only through the letters that will follow us, but I will not believe in your bad luck. Listen to me-why don't you come to America also? Oh, think it over! Don't be

lieve the worst will come. When they release you from prison, innocent and acquitted, cross the ocean and set up your tent under the Stars and Stripes. Think of it! Nearly all those men in America who fought under Washington and won were born in these islands. They took with them to that far land the memory and love of these old homes. You and I would have fought for England and with the British troops, because we detest revolution. Here, in Ireland, we have seen its evils; and yet if we had fought for the Union Jack beyond the mountains of Maine and in the lonely woods, we should, I believe, in the end have said that the freedom fought for by the American States was well won.

So keep this matter in your mind, for my mother and I will soon be gone. She would not let me come to you,-I think I have never seen her so disturbed as when I asked her, and she forbade me to write to you; but I disobey her. Well, this is a sad business. I know my mother has suffered. I know her married life was unhappy, and that her husband-my father-died many a year ago, leaving a dark trail of regret behind him; but, you see, I never knew my father. That was all long ago, and it is a hundred times best forgotten.

Our ship sails for Virginia in three days, and I must go. I will keep looking back to the prison where lies, charged with an evil crime, of which he is not guilty, a young man for whom I shall always carry the spirit of good friendship.

Do not believe all will not go well. Let us keep the courage of

our hearts and the faith of our souls-and I hope I always shall!

I believe in you, and, believing, I say good-bye. I say farewell in

the great hope that somehow, somewhere, we shall help each other on

the way of life. God be with you!

I am your friend,

SHEILA LLYN.

P. S.-I beg you to remember that America is a good place for a

young man to live in and succeed.

Dyck read the letter with a wonderful slowness. He realized that by happy accident-it could be nothing else-Mrs. Llyn had been able to keep from her daughter the fact that the man who had been killed in the tavern by the river was her father. It was clear that the girl was kept much to herself, read no newspapers, and saw few people, and that those whom she saw had been careful to hold their peace about her close relationship to Erris Boyne. None but the evil-minded would recall the fact to her.

Sheila's ignorance must not be broken by himself. He had done the right thing-he had held his peace for the girl's sake, and he would hold it to the end. Slowly he folded up the letter, pressed it to his lips, and put it in the pocket over his heart.

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