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This story, as you have already guessed, is the fruit of a recent holiday spent in County Antrim. The writing of
it has been a great pleasure, for almost every place mentioned in it recalls the goodness of the friends who
received me and made my holiday a happy one. I think of kind people when I write of Dunseveric and
Ballintoy\u2014of hours spent in their company among the Runkerry cliffs, the sandhills, the Skerries, and of the
morning on which I swam, like Neal and Una, into the Rock Pigeons' Cave, I remember a time\ue000full of
interest and delight\ue001spent with you when I mention Donegore, Antrim, and Temple-Patrick. My mind dwells
on an older, a very dear friend and relative, when I tell of Neal's visit to Belfast. And the book is more than
the recollection of a summer holiday. I go back in it to my own country\ue002to places familiar to me in boyhood
as the mountains and bays of Mayo are now; to days very long ago, when I caught cuddings and lithe off the
Black Rock or Rackle Roy and learned to swim in the Blue Pool at Port Ballintrae. Yet I know that I could
not, for all that I remembered of my boyhood or learned during my holiday, have written this story without
your help. You told me what I wanted to know, you corrected, patiently, my manuscript, and you have helped
me to enter into the spirit of the time. For all this I owe you many thanks, and if I have succeeded in writing a
story which interests my readers they, too, will owe you thanks.
of which I chose to write. Most of my characters are purely imaginary. Of the men who really lived and acted
in 1798 only one\ue003James Hope\ue004appears prominently in my story. In his case I have taken pains to
understand what manner of man he was before I wrote of him, and I believe that, feeble though my
presentation of his character may be, you will not find it actually untruthful.
The road which connects Portrush with Ballycastle skirts, so far as any road can and dare, the sea coast.
Sometimes it is driven inland a mile or so by the impossibility of crossing tracts of sandhills. The mounds and
hollows of these dunes are for ever shifting and changing. The loose sand is blown into new fantastic heights
and valleys by the winter gales. No road could be built on such insecure foundation. Elsewhere the road
shrinks back among the shelterless fields for fear of mighty cliffs by which this northern Antrim coast is
defended from the Atlantic. No engineer in the eighteenth century, when the road was made, dared lay his
metal close to the Causeway cliffs or the awful precipice of Pleaskin Head. Still, now and then, in places
where there are no sandhills and the cliffs are not appalling, the road ventures, for a mile or two, to run within
a few hundred yards of the sea, before it is swept, like a cord bent by the wind, further inland. Thus, after
passing the ruins of Dunseveric Castle, the traveller sees close beneath him the white limestone rocks and
broad yellow stretch of Ballintoy Strand. Here, when northerly gales are blowing, he may, if he is not swept
off his feet, cling desperately to his garments and watch the great waves curl their feathered crests as they rush
shorewards. He may listen, awestruck, to the ocean's roar of amazement when it batters in vain the hard north
coast, the rocks and sand which defy even the strength of the Atlantic.
A quarter of a mile back from this piece of road there stood, in 1798, the meeting-house of the Presbyterians and their minister's manse. The house stands on the site of a bare, shelterless hill. It is three storeys high\u2014a narrow, gaunt building, grey walled, black-slated. Its only entrance is at the back, and on the shoreward side. This house has disdained the shelter which might have been found further inland or among its fellow-houses in the street of Ballintoy. It faces due north, preferring an outlook upon the sea to the warmth and light of a southern aspect. It is bare of all architectural ornament. Its windows are few and small. The rooms within are gloomy, even in early summer. Its architect seems to have feared this gloominess, for he planned great bay windows for three rooms, one above the other. He built the bay. It juts out for the whole height of the house, breaking the flatness of the northern wall. But his heart failed him in the end. He dared not put such a window in the house. He walled up the whole flat front of the bay. Only in its sides did he place windows. Through these there is a side view of the sea and a side view of the main wall of the house. They are comparatively safe. The full force of the tempest does not strike them fair.
In one of the gloomy rooms on a bright morning in the middle of May sat the Reverend Micah Ward, the
minister. The sun shone outside on the yellow sand, the green water, and the white rocks; but neither sun nor
sea had tempted Micah Ward from his books. Great leather-covered folios lay at his elbow on the table.
Before him were an open Hebrew Bible, a Septuagint with queer, contracted lettering, and an old
yellow-leaved Vulgate. The subject of his studies was the Book of Amos, who was the ruggedest, the fiercest,
and the most democratic of the Hebrew prophets. Micah Ward's face was clean-shaved and marked with
heavy lines. Thick, bushy brows hung over eyes which were keen and bright in spite of all his studying.
Looking at his face, a man might judge him to be hard, narrow, strong\ue000perhaps fanatical. Near the
window:\ue001one of the slanting windows through which it is tantalising to look\ue002sat a young man, tall beyond
the common, well knit, strong\ue003Neal Ward, the minister's son. He had grown hardy in the keen sea air and
firm of will under his father's rigid discipline. He had never known a mother's care, for Margaret Ward, a
bright-faced woman, ill-mated, so they said, with the minister, never recovered strength after her son's birth.
Now bringing you back...
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