The Macdermots of Ballycloran, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter 18.

How Pat Brady and Joe Reynolds Were Eloquent in Vain.

The day after Ussher had obtained Feemy’s consent to go off with him, she passed in the same manner as she had that afternoon — sometimes sitting quiet with her eyes fixed on vacancy — sometimes sobbing and crying, as though she must have fallen into an hysterical fit. Once or twice she attempted to make some slight preparation for her visit to Mrs. McKeon’s, such as looking through her clothes, mending them, &c., but in fact she did nothing. The next day, Sunday, she spent in the same manner; she omitted going to mass, a thing she had not done for years, unless kept at home by very bad weather, or real illness; she never took up a book, nor spoke a word, except such as she could not possibly avoid, to the servant or her father. Of Thady she saw nothing, except at her meals, and then they took no notice of each other. They had not spoken since the night when Thady had upbraided her whilst walking in the lane with Ussher.

On the Monday morning she was obliged to exert herself, for she had to pack the little trunk that was to carry her ball-room finery to Mrs. McKeon’s, and prepare everything that was necessary for her visit.

Biddy, the favourite of the two girls, had once or twice asked her mistress what ailed her, and whether she was ill; but Feemy only answered her crossly that she was bothered with that horrid headache, and the girl could only believe that either this was actually the case, or else that she had quarrelled with her lover; and as it was now three days since he had been at Ballycloran, she at last determined that this was the case.

During these three days, Feemy had frequently made up her mind, or rather she fancied she had made up her mind to give Ussher up — to go and confess it all to Father John, or to tell it to Mrs. McKeon; and if it had not been for the false pride within her, which would not allow her to own that she had been deceived, and that her lover was unworthy, she would have done so. His present coolness, and his cruelty in not coming to see her, though they did not destroy her love, greatly shook it; and had she had one kind word to assist her in the struggle within herself, she might still have prevented much of the misery which her folly was fated to produce.

When Mrs. McKeon and her daughters came for her about one o’clock on Monday, the small exertion necessary for putting up her clothes, had made her somewhat better — something more able to talk than she had been before, and they did not then observe anything particular about her; but she had been but a very short time at Drumsna, before it was evident to Mrs. McKeon, that something was the matter with her. When she questioned her, Feemy gave the same answer — that she had a racking headache; and though this did very well for a time, before the evening was over, the good lady was certain that something more than a headache afflicted her guest.

The next day, according to his promise, Ussher called, but of course at Mrs. McKeon’s house he could not see her alone; that lady and her daughters were present all the time. When he came in, Ussher shook hands with Feemy as he would with anybody else, and began talking gaily to the two other girls. He had regained his presence of mind completely, and however deficient Feemy might be in that respect, he now proved himself a perfect master of hypocrisy. He did not stay long, and as he got up to go away, he merely remarked that he hoped he should meet the ladies that day week on the race-course, and at the ball; and the only thing he said especially to Feemy was, that he should call at Ballycloran on his way to the races, and that when he saw her on the course, he would tell her how her father and brother were; and he remarked that he should not go home that night, as he had been asked to dine and sleep at Brown Hall.

The week passed on, and Feemy remained in the same melancholy desponding way; saying nothing to Mrs. McKeon, and little to the two girls, who, in spite of Feemy’s sin in having a lover, did everything in their power to cheer and enliven her.

Father John usually dined at Mrs. McKeon’s on Sunday, and she came to the determination of having another talk with him about Feemy. So before dinner on that day, she opened her mind to him, telling him the state in which Feemy had been the whole of the week, and that she thought the sooner she could be made to understand that she must give up all thoughts of Ussher, the better.

Feemy had been at mass with the family, and when she met Father John afterwards, she exerted herself to appear before him as she usually did, and to a certain extent she succeeded. Father John was himself usually cheerful, and he spoke to her good humouredly, and she made an effort to answer him in the same strain; this deceived the priest, and when Mrs. McKeon spoke to him about Feemy’s deep melancholy, and suggested the propriety of speaking to her on the subject which they supposed was nearest her heart, he said,

“Better let her alone, Mrs. McKeon; I think you’d better let her alone, and time will cure her. You see Feemy is proud, and perhaps a little too headstrong, and I don’t think she’d bear just as quietly as she ought, any one speaking to her about the man now. It isn’t only the losing him that vexes her; it isn’t only that she has been deceived: but that everyone knows that she has lost him, and has been deceived. It’s this that hurts her pride, and talking to her about it will only make her more fretful. If you’ll take my advice, you’ll just leave her to herself, take no especial notice of her, and let her go to this ball; and when she sees the man paying attention to others — dancing and philandering with them, and neglecting her — her pride will make her feel that she must at any rate appear to be indifferent; and when she has once enabled herself to appear so, she will soon become really so. Just let her go to the races, and the ball; and your kindness and the girls’ society will soon bring her round.”

All Monday Feemy spent in bed, but Mrs. McKeon and her girls took no notice of it, except carefully tending her — offering to read to her, and bring her what she wanted. They soon, however, found that she preferred being left alone; and they consequently allowed her to think over her own gloomy prospects in solitude and silence.

Feemy had, however, declared her intention of going both to the races and to the ball. Ussher had desired her to do so, and she feared to disobey him; besides, at one of these places he had to give her final instructions as to their departure. She was, therefore, dressed for starting on the Tuesday morning, when the other girls were ready; and though her eyes and nose were somewhat red, and her cheeks somewhat pale, and though she did not now deserve the compliment that Fred Brown had paid her, when he told Ussher that he was going to carry off the prettiest girl in County Leitrim, still she did not look unwell, and Mrs. McKeon kindly comforted herself by the reflection, that as she was both able and willing to dress herself for amusement, there could not be much really the matter with her.

In the meantime Thady had been honestly firm to the promise he had made to Father John, not to join the Mulreadyites. His sister’s absence from Ballycloran at the present time had been a relief to him; and on the morning after his visit to the priest he had returned to his work, not certainly with much happiness or satisfaction, but still with his mind made up to struggle on in the best way he could — to do nothing which he knew to be wrong, and come what come might, to leave Reynolds and his associates to their own schemes and villanies. He felt determined, if he could not protect himself and his family from his enemies by honest means, to leave it to circumstances to protect him; and though he could not shake off a deep desponding as to the future, still there was a kind of contentment in the feeling that he knew he had to suffer, and that he had made up his mind to do so firmly and bravely.

On the Saturday morning, Pat Brady had again come to his master, informing him that all the boys were to be on that evening at the whiskey shop, and using all his powers of oratory to induce him to come down; but Thady was firm, and he not only refused to come then, but plainly told Pat that he had entirely altered his mind, and that he did not intend to go down to them at all. He advised Pat also to give them up, hinting that if he did not, they two, viz., Pat Brady and Thady Macdermot, would probably soon have to part company.

This was a threat, however, for which Pat did not much care; for he knew that there was little more to be made by his old master; and, like a wise man, he had already provided himself with a new one, and a more prosperous and wealthy one than him he was going to leave. Rats always leave a falling house, and Brady was a real rat.

Still, however, though he did not expect to get much more from his service with Thady, he was, for his own reasons, anxious that his present master should not be quit of the companions with whom he had been so anxious to join him: and therefore when he found that he could no longer work on his master’s mind by the arguments he had hitherto used, he began to threaten him — telling him of the different perils from the law which he would have to encounter by having joined the party, and various dangers to which he would subject himself by deserting it. But in vain — Thady was firm; and when Pat got violent and inclined to be impertinent on the subject, he told him that he would knock him down with the alpine in his hand if he said another word about it.

On Sunday, Thady went to mass, and afterwards took a walk with his friend the priest, who said everything he could to raise his spirits, and to a certain degree he did so. On the next morning, as he was going to his work, a messenger brought a letter from Keegan to his father. This was a legal notice on Flannelly’s part, that on some day in November, which was named, he — Flannelly — would require not only the payment of the interest money which would then be due, but also the principal; and in this notice was set forth the exact sum to be paid for principal, for interest, for costs; and it further stated that if the sum was not paid on or before that day, writs would be issued for his body — that is the body of poor Larry Macdermot — and latitats, and sheriff’s warrants, and Heaven knows what besides, for selling the property at Ballycloran; and that the mortgage would be immediately foreclosed, and the property itself disposed of for the final settlement of the debt.

This agreeable document was very legibly addressed to Lawrence Macdermot, Esq., &c. &c. &c., Ballycloran; and its unusual dimensions and appearance made Thady at once feel that it was some infernal missile come still further to harass him, and leave him, if possible, more miserable than it found him. However, such as it was, it was necessary that it should be read; so he took it to his father, and having broken the seal, said —

“Here’s a letter from Keegan, Larry; shall I read it you?”

“D——n Keegan,” was the father’s consolatory reply, “I don’t want his letters. I tell you he can’t call for his money before November, and this is October yet.”

“That’s thrue,” said Thady, when he had spelt through the epistle; “that’s thrue, father; but this is to say that he manes to come in ‘arnest, when that time comes.”

“And don’t he always come in ‘arnest? is it in joke he comes, when he axes for a hundred pound every half year? come in ‘arnest! why, d —— n him, he’s always in ‘arnest!”

“But, father, it’s not only the hundred pound now, but the whole debt he demands;” and, at last, Thady succeeded in reading the letter to his father.

Larry at first got into a violent passion, swearing fearfully at Keegan, and hinting that he, Larry, knew well enough how to take care of his own body; and that he, Keegan, might get more than he bargained for, if he came to meddle with it. After that he began to whimper piteously and cry, complaining that it was a most grievous thing that his own son should bring such a letter to him; and he ended by accusing Thady of leaguing with the attorney to turn him out of his own house, and even asked him whether, when they had effected their purpose, he and Keegan intended to live at Ballycloran together.

All this was not comfortable. Thady, however, quietly folded up the letter, put it in the old bureau, left his father to his pipe and his fireside, and went out again to his occupations.

Nothing new occurred at Ballycloran for a few days, and he began to flatter himself that Mrs. Mulready’s boys and their threats would annoy him no more, and he was even thinking of sending Pat down to Drumleesh to notice the tenants again to come up with the rents, if it were only to see what steps they would then take. As he was returning home, however, on Friday evening, across the fields, a little after dusk, he saw the figure of a man standing in a gap through which he had to pass, and when he came close to him, he perceived it was Joe Reynolds.

Thady had been rather surprised that he had not seen Joe before, and had been inclined to think that that worthy gentleman had been intimidated, when he heard of his own defection; but Joe was not a character so easily frightened. The truth was that he had for the last few days left his own cabin at Drumleesh, and had been engaged with others in the mountains which lay between Loch Sheen and Ballinamore, in making potheen in large quantities, and drinking no small portion of what they made. The morning after the wedding, he had been boasting to his comrades there of the success he had had in bringing over his landlord to their ranks; and he had brought down a large party of them from that quarter, all sworn friends, to be present at his proposed initiation — and great was their wrath and loud were their threatenings when they found that Thady would not come. Joe had, however, been obliged to join them again at their business, and though he had heard the ill success of Brady’s second attempt, he had not been able till now to try the effects of his own eloquence.

He had now come down for that purpose, and had been for the greater portion of the evening watching Thady, till he could get a good opportunity of talking to him undisturbed; and he was now determined not to leave him, till he had used every means in his power of inducing him to change the resolution to which he had so suddenly come.

When Thady came close to him he respectfully raised his old battered hat, and said —

“Long life to ye, Mr. Thady; I hope yer honer is finding yerself well this evening.”

“Quite well thank you, Joe,” and Joe walked on with him a few steps.

“Have you the rint ready for me yet?” continued Thady.

“Rint is it? faix then I have not — not a penny; but it wasn’t rint I was wanting to talk to your honer about just now; not but what the rint’ll be coming, and that right soon, Mr. Thady, and plenty too — if you’ll only listen to me.”

“Those ‘d be glorious times, Joe, when the rint came that way,” and Thady walked on faster, for he didn’t want to prolong the conversation beyond what he could help.

“Stop, Mr. Thady; what are ye in sich a hurry for? I’ve come a long way to spake to you — and we’ll both talk pleasanter av’ you’d go a little aisier.”

“Well, Joe, what is it then? I’m in a hurry.”

“In a hurry is it? but why wor ye in sich a hurry to break the promise you made us all, at Mrs. Mehan’s, Thursday night week past. Ah! Mr. Thady, you worn’t in a hurry when you said you’d come down and be one of us at Mohill — ay! and swore it too on the blessed cross; you worn’t in sich a hurry then, and what hurries you now so fast?”

“Now, Reynolds, it’s no use you’re saying more of that. I sent you word by Pat that I wouldn’t come, and I won’t — so there’s an end of it.”

“But that an’t an end of it; no, nor nigh the end of it; I suppose, Mr. Thady,”— and he paused, and, resuming his respectful tone, said, “and didn’t you say you niver had deserted us and niver would, and that you’d always stick to us that you’ve known so long? Shure, Mr. Thady, you’ll not change your mind now.” And Reynolds paused in the little path they were walking in, and Thady was obliged to stand too, for Reynolds had got before him, and he couldn’t pass unless he pushed the man aside. “And shure — do you mane to let Keegan off, and Ussher, the black ruffians, that way; do you intend to put up with everything from the likes of them? Come, Mr. Thady, say the word — only say the word you swore before, and by the holy cross you swore on, before next week is over Keegan shall be put where he’ll never spake another bad word, or do another bad deed.”

“Come, Reynolds, out of this, and let me pass,” said Thady, perceiving that he must now absolutely make the man understand that he was not to be talked over, “out of that, and let me pass. And I’ll tell you what, I’ll not have my neck in danger; and if I hear you threatening murdher, I’ll have you before the magisthrates,” and he pushed by the man, who, however, still walked close behind him.

“And is that the way with you now? Have me before the magisthrates will you? and where’d you be all the time? Why there’s not one of them that was in it, at Mrs. Mehan’s that night, but could have you before the magisthrates, and I’m thinking thim folk would make a deal more of you than they would of me. Av you talk of magisthrates, Mr. Thady, may be you’ll find there’s too many of them in the counthry for yerself.”

Thady walked on fast, but did not answer him, and Reynolds continued —“Come, Mr. Thady, I don’t intend to anger you, or affront you; and av I’ve said anything that way, I axes your pardon; but just answer me — will you come down there only for once, av it wor only becase you swore it afore them all on the holy cross?”

“No, Joe, I will not; av I took any oath at all, I was dhrunk: besides, I said I wouldn’t, and I won’t; so now good night.”

“But, Mr. Thady, av you’d only come there to tell the boys so themselves, it would be all right. Shure you’re not afeard to trust yerself among them.”

“Not a foot, Joe.”

“Well, then, I tell you, you’ll be sorry; not that I’d say a word agin you myself, becase though you’ve ill-trated me now, you wor always a kind landlord, and becase it’s not in your heart to hurt a poor man; but I tell you, and you’ll find it comes thrue enough, there were them there that night at Mrs. Mehan’s as will turn agin you, unless you do as I’m axing you now.”

“Well, Joe, I cant help it if they do, so good night.”

They had now come to a lane, and as Thady was going to jump on the bank to get over, Joe put his hand on his coat.

“One more word, yer honer, may be yet you’ll change your mind.”

“Indeed, I shall not then.”

“May be you will, and I’m thinking when you find Keegan too hard on you it’ll come to that. Well, av you do, let me know, and I’ll make it all right for you. Just tell Corney Dolan, and he’s still at Drumleesh, that you’re wanting me, and I won’t be far off.”

Thady did not answer him, but merely saying, “Good night, Joe,” jumped into the road, and Joe by some devious path, through bogs and bottoms, betook himself to Mrs. Mulready’s, and drowned the feeling of his ill success in whiskey.

Thady went home to his dinner or supper — rather glad that he had had the interview, for the man’s manner was not so insolent as he had expected it would be; and he now felt tolerably confident that he should not again be solicited to keep the unfortunate promise which he had made.

His father, however, was still muttering over the misfortunes which he was doomed to bear from the hands of his own son. Thady took all the pains he could, and all the patience he could muster, to prove to the old man that he was only desirous to do the best he could for him and Feemy. He had even told him that he had absolutely quarrelled and come to blows with the attorney, on the day of his visit; but it was all in vain, and when he got himself to bed he was puzzled to think whether Keegan and Ussher, or his father and Feemy, caused him most trouble and unhappiness.

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