The Macdermots of Ballycloran, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter 11.

Pat Brady.

When Thady reached the end of the avenue, where the fracas had taken place between himself and Keegan, he met Pat Brady.

As I fear that this talented young man must by this time be subject to heavy suspicions; that his faith and honesty must be greatly doubted; and as, even with those who may still look upon him as a trusty servant, it would be impossible to keep up the delusion much longer, I may as well now make his character no longer doubtful, by explaining some passages which had occurred in his life during the last few months.

In the first place, however, we must return for a short time to Mr. Keegan.

It will be remembered that this gentleman was the son-in-law of Larry Macdermot’s creditor, Mr. Flannelly; and it had been arranged between the two worthy relations that if, by some law-craft or other means, Keegan could obtain possession of the estate of Ballycloran in payment of the debt due by the proprietor, it should become his, Keegan’s, property.

Now, this gentleman had long looked forward to the day when he should be able to describe himself as Hyacinth Keegan, Esq., of Ballycloran — having been aware that, after his father-in-law’s death, all right in the property would become his own; but since he had induced the old man to make a gift instead of a legacy of the debt, his passion to become an estated gentleman had hourly increased. An ambitious man in his own way was Hyacinth Keegan: he had first longed to obtain admission into the more decent society of Carrick-on-Shannon — that he had some time since achieved; he then sought to mix among the second-rate country gentlemen; and by making himself useful to them, by plausibility, by some degree of talent, and by great effrontery, he had become sufficiently intimate with many of them to shake hands with them at race-courses and ordinaries, and to talk of them to others as “Blake,” “Brown,” and “Jones.” To some few, who now usually called him “Hyacinth,” and occasionally invited him to drinking parties at their houses, he had lent small sums of money on good security; and now he was looking to obtain the sub-shrievalty of the county, and to be Hyacinth Keegan, Esq., of Ballycloran.

Since the immediate probability of realizing this brilliant vision had occurred to him, he had left nothing undone which could, as he thought, lead to its completion. From the constant business which he had with Thady, he pretty well knew all the difficulties of the Macdermots, and the great poverty of their house; and he had observed how completely Pat Brady was in young Macdermot’s confidence. He also knew that if any direct legal steps were necessary in selling the estate under the mortgage, or if any underhand scheming should be required to drive the Macdermots into further difficulties, Pat Brady could, and probably would — for a consideration — give him his zealous cooperation. There were also other reasons why he desired the assistance of our friend Pat. It was a part of Mr. Keegan’s daily practice to obtain what information he could of the habits of those with whom he was likely to form any connection; and it was generally believed through the county, that he could usually tell those who were, and who were not, guilty of the common crimes of the times — illicit distillation, and secret conspiracies among the poor to injure their superiors, or to redress their fancied wrongs. It was from his accurate information on these points that he was usually employed in their defence when they were brought to trial, and that he had been able to detect and punish those by whom he had himself been attacked. This, moreover, as his character became known, had materially led to his own safety; for the boys knew that he knew everything through the county, and thus had learnt to become afraid of him.

He felt, therefore, that as it was probable that Ballycloran would become his own, Pat Brady’s assured services might be of great utility; and he found but little difficulty in obtaining them. Pat was clever enough to foresee that the days of the Macdermots were over, and that it was necessary for him to ingratiate himself with the probable future “masther;” and though he, of course, made sufficiently good market of his treachery, he felt that in all ways he consulted his own interest best in making himself useful to Keegan. He had dim prospects, too, of great worldly advantages which might accrue from being chief informer to so conspicuous a man as Mr. Keegan was likely to prove himself, and, with no false self-vanity, he felt himself qualified for such a situation. There was considerable danger in being always among people of a wild and savage nature, to entrap and ensnare whom would be his duty, and he felt that he had the requisite courage. Moreover, there was a certain cunning and prudence necessary, and in that also he, with some truth, fancied himself not deficient; and as Mr. Keegan’s scheme opened upon him, the idea of entrapping his young master into the difficulties which lay around, offered not a bad opportunity for the display of his talents.

That such a man as Brady is described to be, should exist and find employment in a country, is a fact which must shock and disgust; but that it is a fact in great parts of Ireland, those who are most conversant with the country will not pretend to deny. It is true, that by paid spies and informers, real criminals may not unfrequently be brought to justice; but those who have observed the working of the system must admit that the treachery which it creates — the feeling of suspicion which it generates — but, above all, the villanies to which it gives and has given rise, in allowing informers, by the prospect of blood-money, to give false informations, and to entrap the unwary into crimes — are by no means atoned for by the occasional detection and punishment of a criminal.

Let the police use such open means as they have — and, God knows, in Ireland they should be effective enough; but I cannot but think the system of secret informers — to which those in positions of inferior authority too often have recourse — has greatly increased crime in many districts of Ireland. I by no means intend to assert that this system is patronised or even recognised by Government. I believe the contrary most fully; but those to whom the execution of the criminal laws in detail are committed, and who look to obtain advancement and character by their activity, do very frequently employ what I must call a most iniquitous system of espionage.

A very few years since I was walking down the street of a small town with a gentleman who was at that time in the immediate employment of the Government. It was a fair day, and we were strolling through the crowd, which was moving slowly hither and thither, as though in absolute idleness. The dusk was fast commencing, and he pointed out to me two or three men, who had come in from the country like the others, telling me that they were waiting till it was dark to speak to him; that they did not dare to speak to him during the light; that they were in his pay; and that they had information to give him respecting illegal societies, and hidden arms. He ridiculed me when I questioned the propriety of his system; in fact he was so accustomed to it that he could not conceive the possibility of going on without it. In the same way I have had men pointed out to me by the officer leading a party of revenue police in quest of illicit stills, who were dressed as policemen though not belonging to the force, and who were brought in that disguise that they might not be known by their neighbours whose haunts they were going to disclose.

The momentary success no doubt reconciles this usage to the officer employing it; but the result must be to create suspicion of each other among the poor, and fearfully to increase instead of diminishing crime.

Now that our friend Brady’s character is perfectly understood, we will return to our story; first, however, explaining that he had witnessed the scene between the attorney and his master, and had determined to make the most of it.

Thady had turned on the road towards the priest’s house without taking any notice of his dependant, but this Pat could not allow.

“Well, Mr. Thady, you’ll live to be even with him yet — the born ruffian! faix and a good sight more nor even; else it’ll be no one’s fault but yer own.”

“Even with who?”

“With who now? why didn’t I see it with my own eyes? — the born thief of the world! Didn’t he knock flashes out of yer shoulther with the shilaleh he had — Mr. Keegan, I main? And if it worn’t that you hadn’t — bad cess to the luck of it! — your own bit of a stick in your hand, wouldn’t you have knocked the life out of him for the name he put on your sisther, Miss Feemy? — the blackguard!”

“And did you hear him, Pat?”

“Shure I did, yer honer.”

“And did you see him?”

“See him, yes, shure; I seed him riz his big stick, and I thought it was nigh kilt you were.”

“And you heard him call your misthress the name he called; and you saw him sthrike at me the way he did, and I having nothing but my fist to help me; and were you so afraid of a man like Keegan, you wouldn’t step forward to strike a blow for me?”

“Afraid of Keegan! No, Masther Thady, I arn’t afraid of him; but you wouldn’t have had me come up, jist to witness that you war the first to strike at him.”

“Nonsense! wasn’t he the first to call my sisther the name he did?”

“Ah! but that warn’t a braich of the pace. You see, Mr. Thady, thim divils of lawyers is so cute; and av I had come to help you, or sthrike a blow, or riz my stick, he’d have had both before old Jonas Brown tomorrow morning; and where’d we’ve been then? But, Mr. Thady, as I said before, you’ll be more nor even with Mr. Keegan yet, any way.”

“How’ll I be even with him, Pat?”

“But where are you going, Mr. Thady? shure an’t it your dinner time at the house? and remimber you’ve to be at the wedding to-night.”

“Oh! d —— n the wedding. Do you think I’d be playing the fool at weddings to-night, afther what just took place? I want to see Father John; and I’ll go and catch him before he goes down to your sisther.”

“What, Mr. Thady! to tell about the blow, and the dishonour the ruffian put on you and Miss Feemy? — shurely you wouldn’t be doing that.”

“And why not? — won’t all Carrick have it before long?”

“That’s no rule why you should be going and telling Father John about it yourself. And won’t he be putting you against revenging yourself; and you wouldn’t, Mr. Thady, with the owld blood in your veins, and in Miss Feemy’s — may the divil’s curse blacken him for the name he give her! — you wouldn’t be putting up quiet and aisy with what he’s done? — and the like of him too!”

By this time Thady had stopped, and was beginning to waver in his determination of going to the priest. He felt that what Brady said was true — that the priest would implore him not to avenge himself, in the manner in which his heart strongly prompted him to do. He felt he could not forego the impulse to inflict personal punishment on Keegan. And after all, what could Father John do for him?

“Besides, Mr. Thady, now I think of it, Father John an’t in it at all, for he was to be at Drumsna before the wedding; and I know he’s to dine with Mrs. McKeon; he does mostly when he’s in Drumsna this time of day, so I’m sure he arn’t in it.”

Satisfied by this, Thady allowed himself to be led back again; and they walked together in silence a little way.

“You’ve only to say the word,” continued Pat, in a low voice, “you’ve only to say the word to them boys as’ll be there to-night, and they’ll see you righted with Keegan.”

“What boys — and how righted?”

“How righted! why how should you be righted afther what he’s afther doing? — and I tell you them’s the boys as will not see your father’s son put upon that way.”

“Which them d’ye main, Pat?”

“Oh! there’s a lot of them up to anything. There’s Jack Byrne and Joe Reynolds is mad to be having a fling at Ussher; you know their brothers is in gaol about the malt they found away at Loch Sheen; and there’s Corney Dolan, and McKeon, and a lot more of them; I knows them all, and it’ll be jist as good to them to be making a job of Keegan, as the other.”

“I wouldn’t have the ruffian murthered, Pat; you don’t think I want to have him murthered?”

“Whist, Mr. Thady; may be the children about in the trees there would hear you. Who says anything of murdher? No, but just give him a bating that would go nigh taching him the taste of being murdhered — and the same for Master Ussher; for I tell ye — may the tongue of the cowardly ruffian be blisthered for putting the name he did on your sisther! — but he was only repating what Ussher has said hisself, and that more nor once nor twice.”

Thady made no reply, but walked on slowly; he gave no assent, but he showed no indignation at the kind of revenge which was proposed to him.

“And what was he saying about the estate — Keegan, I main, Mr. Thady — before you came to be quarrelling that way?”

“He was saying what’ll be thrue enough — that Ballycloran’ll be sold, right away, before next May; and that he himself will be the purchaser — and that we’ll be wandering the road like any other set of beggars.”

“And did he say he’d buy Ballycloran?”

“He did.”

“And turn you all out, Mr. Thady?”

“And he’ll do it too,” said Thady.

“Tunder and ages! man, and would you be letting him come over ye that way? If any blackguard of a lawyer could be selling an estate that way, because money may be a little scarce or so, would there be so many gintlemen in the counthry, enjoying themselves in their own houses, just keeping the right side of the door? Only take care the owld man don’t be showing hisself that way he does be doing on the big steps there; and take care the door is kept shut, instead of right open; and make Biddy understand she an’t to open it for any one at all, at all — except yerself jist, and Father John, or the like, who wouldn’t mind going round to the back door. I tell ye that all the Flannellys and Keegans in Ireland can’t sell Ballycloran, unless they first get hould of the owld man.”

“But can’t they put resavers on every acre of the land, and wouldn’t that be all one as selling it?”

“Oh! let the boys alone for that; stick to them, and they’ll not let a resaver do much among them; faix, I’m thinking I for one wouldn’t like to go resaving rents up to Drumleesh for any one but the Masther hisself. But any way you’ll be coming down to the boys and spaking to them yerself this night — you wouldn’t go, Mr. Thady, not to be at Mary’s wedding?”

“You know that ruffian Ussher’ll be there; and I don’t want to be meeting him.”

“But that’s jist it; don’t let him be there playing what tricks he plazes with Miss Feemy, and you not there to purtect her — and there’s all them boys expect you. You won’t let Keegan run off with land and house, and all without a blow sthrick?”

“They’ll all be up at Ballycloran tomorrow, and I’ll hear what they have to say then.”

“But I tell you, they won’t be there at all tomorrow, unless you come down to them to-night,” answered Pat.

“Do they main to say they refuse out and out to pay the rint?”

“Not at all; but they’ll be getting stiff if they think you’re so thick with him as is their inimy — and isn’t that natural too? It’s only to come down and say a kind word or so to ’em yourself, and you’ll find them all right — and ready to stand by you and yours to the last, Mr. Thady.”

“Well, Pat, I’ll be down there. Father John would think it odd if I weren’t there.”

By this time they had got round to the back of the house, where the outhouse stood; and the young man told Brady to go into the kitchen and get him a coal for his pipe, and to tell the girl to say he wouldn’t be in to dinner.

“And won’t you be wanting your dinner, Mr. Thady?”

“No, Pat; I’ll jist sit and have a smoke in the stable, till it’s time to go down to you. I couldn’t face the owld man and Feemy, afther what jist happened.”

So we will for the present leave him smoking in the stable, and return to the inmates of the house.

It will be remembered that when Father John left Feemy after his morning visit, she remained alone till Mr. Keegan came: and that she was dismissed from the dining-room when they began to talk on business. She then betook herself to dress for the evening amusement; that is, to make herself something decent before she met Ussher; to brush her hair, and to dismiss all the traces of that disenchanting dishabille which I have attempted to describe. Whilst at her toilet Feemy turned over in her mind all that her brother and Father John had said, and firmly resolved not to let the evening pass without telling her lover the comfort it would be to have some decided steps taken as to their engagement: and yet she almost shuddered at the thoughts of doing so; there was a frown which occasionally came over Ussher’s face, which made her dread him; and she couldn’t but feel that if he wished to take any such steps, he would do so without her asking him; in fact, that it would be much better that he should do so unasked. And then, if he got angry — if he should tell her that as she could not wait and trust him, they must part; how could she bear the idea of losing him? What could she say or do, if he answered her sternly? — if he scolded her, or perhaps worse, absolutely quarrelled with her? Poor Feemy began to wish the evening over to which she had looked forward as the source of so much pleasure; she feared to neglect the warnings she had received, and she felt that things could not go on always as they were; but she trembled at the idea of telling this to Ussher.

Her silent dinner was soon over; she made her father’s punch, and sat down to wait for her lover. Larry kept up a continual growl about Thady’s absence, suggesting that Keegan had cozened him off to Carrick, to sign the estate away; accusing him of conspiracy with the attorney, to rob him, his father; wondering why he wouldn’t come to dinner, &c.: to all which Feemy made no reply; she never noticed his grumblings; she sat absorbed in her own thoughts, meditating what she would say to Ussher, till she heard his horse’s feet at the head of the avenue, and then she jumped up to meet him at the hall-door.

“How are you, Myles?” and “Well, Feemy, how’s yourself?” and then, having reached the hall door, he took the fond girl in his arms and kissed her. “Ah; don’t then, Myles; there’s Katty on the stairs; come in then, and take your punch;” and they entered the room where Larry was sitting over the fire.

“How are you this evening, Sir?” said Ussher, “this fine night.”

The old man always brightened up a little when Ussher came in.

“How d’ye do, Captain? — I’m glad to see you. Did the Captain get his dinner then, Feemy? — you don’t ask Captain Ussher whether he got his dinner.”

“Feemy knows she needn’t ask about that; that’s one of the things I always take care of. But where’s Thady, Mr. Macdermot? I wanted to speak to him about Keegan, that sworn friend of his:” and Ussher began to make himself comfortable with the hot water, sugar, &c.

“Thady is it you’re axing afther? ‘Deed then, I don’t know where he is. And as for Keegan — but you don’t make your punch, Captain — as for Keegan, the ruffian, he was here this blessed morning — wanting me, and Feemy, and Thady too, to walk clane out of the place! but I walked him off. The like of him to be buying Ballycloran; and his father a process-server, and his wife’s father that d —— d bricklayer Flannelly!”

“Holloa! Mr. Macdermot; so you’ve had a breeze with the attorney, have you? And was Thady here at the time?”

“He was in it all the time; and divil a word he’d say for himself, or Feemy, or his father, or the owld place either; but just wanted me, Captain, to give it all up to them at once, the ruffians! and when I wouldn’t, he went off with Keegan to Carrick. There’s my own son joined with ’em agin me; and he’ll help to dhrive me out, he will — and Feemy too, poor girl!”

In vain Ussher endeavoured to make him believe that his son had not conspired against him, to deprive him of his property. The old man had taken it into his head that Thady had gone off to Carrick with Keegan, and was determined to make the most of this new grievance, and would not be comforted. He seemed cunning enough in his determination to thwart the attorney in his plan of buying the estate, and explained to Ussher that he had made up his mind not to be taken personally; assuring him, that from that time nothing should induce him to leave his own fireside, or so much as show himself at the hall-door; that he would have the hall-door barricadoed; and, in short, that he would himself take all those precautions which Brady had enumerated to his son, as proper to be put in practice on such an occasion. And from that time, with one sad exception, it was many months before Larry Macdermot was seen to cross his threshold; he strictly adhered to his resolution; and although during that time many attempts to arrest him were made, he eluded them all. He could not, however, be brought to understand that, for the present, this was useless — that no one could arrest him till after Christmas. The dread of losing his property had come upon him, and he would not allow himself even to be seen by any one but those of his own household, and by Ussher.

After listening to his grievances as long as he thought necessary, Ussher followed Feemy into her own room, and here we will leave them, till we meet them again at Denis McGovery’s wedding; merely remarking, that poor Feemy, though more than once she prepared to make her dreaded speech to her lover, each time hesitated and stopped, and at last made up her mind that it would be just as well to put off the evil hour till her pleasure was over; and finally determined to have the conversation on the return home, for she well knew that Ussher would walk back with her to Ballycloran, where his horse would be left.

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:43