THE WORLD PERIL OF 1910
A RACE FOR A WOMAN
In Clifden, the chief coast town of Connemara, there is a house at the end of a triangle which the two streets of the town form, the front windows of which look straight down the beautiful harbour and bay, whose waters stretch out beyond the islands which are scattered along the coast and, with the many submerged reefs, make the entrance so difficult.
In the first-floor double-windowed room of this house, furnished as a bed-sitting room, there was a man sitting at a writing-table—not an ordinary writing-table, but one the dimensions of which were more suited to the needs of an architect or an engineer than to those of a writer. In the middle of the table was a large drawing-desk, and on it was pinned a sheet of cartridge paper, which was almost covered with portions of designs.
In one corner there was what might be the conception of an engine designed for a destroyer or a submarine. In another corner there was a sketch of something that looked like a lighthouse, and over against this the design of what might have been a lantern. The top left-hand corner of the sheet was merely a blur of curved lines and shadings and cross-lines, running at a hundred different angles which no one, save the man who had drawn them, could understand the meaning of.
In the middle of the sheet there was a very carefully-outlined drawing in hard pencil of a craft which was different from anything that had ever sailed upon the waters or below them, or, for the matter of that, above them.
To the right hand there was a rough, but absolutely accurate, copy of this same craft leaving the water and flying into the air, and just underneath this a tiny sketch of a flying fish doing the same thing.
The man sitting before the drawing-board was an Irishman. He was one of those men with the strong, crisp hair, black brows and deep brown eyes, straight, strong nose almost in a line with his forehead, thin, nervous lips and pointed jaw, strong at the angles but weak at the point, which come only from one descent.
Nearly four hundred years before, one of the ships of the great Armada had been wrecked on Achill Island, about twenty miles from where he sat. Half a dozen or so of the crew had been saved, and one of these was a Spanish gentleman, captain of Arquebusiers who, drenched and bedraggled as he was when the half-wild Irish fishermen got him out of the water, still looked what he was, a Hidalgo of Spain. He had been nursed back to health and strength in a miserable mud and turf-walled cottage, and, broken in fortune—for he was one of the many gentlemen of Spain who had risked their all on the fortunes of King Philip and the Great Armada, and lost—he refused to go back to his own country a beaten man.
And meanwhile he had fallen in love with the daughter of his nurse, the wife of the fisherman who had taken him more than half dead out of the raging Atlantic surf.
No man ever knew who he was, save that he was a gentleman, a Spaniard, and a Catholic. But when he returned to the perfection of physical and mental health, and had married the grey-eyed, dark-browed girl, who had seemed to him during his long hours of sickness the guardian angel who had brought him back across the line which marks the frontier between life and death, he developed an extraordinary talent in boat-building, which was the real origin of the wonderful sea-worthiness[Pg 3] of small craft which to this day brave, almost with impunity, the terrible seas which, after an unbroken run of almost two thousand miles, burst upon the rock-bound, island-fenced coast of Connemara.
The man at the table was the descendant in the sixth generation of the unknown Spanish Hidalgo, who nearly four hundred years before had said in reply to a question as to what his name was:
"Juan de Castillano."
As the generations had passed, the name, as usual, had got modified, and this man's name was John Castellan.