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A LETTER FROM SHEILA
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--
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 believe
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,
P. S.--I beg you to remember that America is a good place for a
young man to live in and succeed.
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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