The Macdermots of Ballycloran, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter 20.

How Captain Ussher Succeeded.

Late the next morning, Feemy and the other girls got up; they had slept together to make room in the house for the victorious Bob, but as Father John had prophesied, they were all too tired to be much inconvenienced by this. Immediately after breakfast the car came round, and Feemy, afraid to wish her friends good bye too affectionately lest suspicion should be raised, and promising to come back again in a day or two, returned to Ballycloran.

Thady was out when she got there, but he was expected in to dinner. Her father was glad to see her, and began assuring her that he would do all in his power to protect her from the evil machinations of her brother, and then again took his grog and his pipe. She went into the kitchen, and summoning Biddy, desired her to follow her up to her bedroom. When there, she carefully closed the door, and sitting down on the bed, looked in her attendant’s face and said,

“Biddy, if I told you a secret, you’d never betray me, would you?”

“Is it I, Miss Feemy, that’s known you so long? in course I wouldn’t,” and the girl pricked up her ears, and looked all anxiety. “What is it, Miss? — Shure you know av you tould me to hould my tongue, never a word I’d spake to any mortial about anything.”

“I know you wouldn’t, Biddy; that’s why I’m going to tell you; but you mustn’t whisper it to Katty, for I think she’d be telling Thady.”

“Niver fear, Miss; sorrow a word I’ll whisper it to any one, at all at all.”

“Well, Biddy, did you hear Captain Ussher’s going away from this intirely?”

“What! away from Ballycloran?”

“No, but from Mohill, and from County Leitrim altogether. He’s going a long way off, to a place called Cashel.”

“And what for is he going there, and you living here, Miss Feemy?”

“That’s the secret, Biddy; I’m going with him.”

“My! and is you married in sacret, Miss?” said the girl, coming nearer to her mistress, and opening her eyes as wide as she could.

Feemy blushed up to the roots of her hair, and said, “No, we’re not married yet; we’re to be married in Dublin; we couldn’t be married here you know, because Captain Ussher is a Protestant.”

“Holy Mary! Miss, you’re not a going to lave the ould religion; you’re not a going to turn Prothesthant, is you, Miss Feemy?”

“No, Biddy; why should I turn Protestant? but you see there’s rasons why we couldn’t be married here; we’re to be married in Dublin, tomorrow.”

“To-morrow!” ejaculated Biddy; “what, is you going to-night?”

“This very evening; and now I want you to help me, and when we’re settled, Biddy, if you like to lave this ould place, I mane you to come and live with us.”

“To be shure, Miss; and wouldn’t I go the world round wid you? and why not? for it’s you was always the kind misthress to me. But what’ll I be doing to help you?”

And then Feemy explained to her her plans, and began to pack up the few treasures she could take with her, in a box small enough for Biddy to carry; and the two kneeled down together to the work.

Feemy’s tears dropped quickly on the little things she was packing, and the poor girl soon followed the example her mistress gave her.

“Ochone! ochone! Miss Feemy, alanna, what’ll we be doing widout you?” and she came round and began kissing her mistress’s dress, and hands, and face, “What shall we do widout you at all then? what will the ould man be doing, when you’re not to the fore to mix his punch?”

“Don’t talk that way,” said Feemy. “Shure, won’t I be coming back to see him when I’m married?”

“In course you will; but it’ll be a great miss, when he and Mr. Thady finds you’re gone. What’ll I say at all, when I come back from seeing you off — and they finds that you are gone?”

“But you mustn’t stay to see me off at all. When you’ve put the box in the gig you must go on to Mrs. Mehan’s, and when you come back you can say you’d been down to look for something that was left the day of Mary’s wedding; but mind, Biddy, don’t say a word about it at Mrs. Mehan’s, and above all, don’t mention it to Katty.”

“Not a word, Miss; niver fear: but what’ll I be doing when you’re gone? But I suppose it’s all for the best; may sorrow seize him thin av he don’t make you the good husband.”

It was then settled that Feemy’s bonnet and shawl were to be brought down into the sitting-room opposite the dining-room — that dinner was to be put off as late as possible — that when Larry and Thady were at their punch, Feemy was to escape unobserved. Biddy was enjoined, when she slipped out with the box, to leave the front door ajar, so that her mistress could follow her without making any noise. The girl was also to carry down her mistress’ cloak — so that she might the easier run down the avenue.

When these things were all settled, Biddy returned to the kitchen, big with the secret; but she was too prudent to say or hint anything which could create a suspicion in her colleague’s breast.

Thady came in about the usual dinner-hour, and Feemy spoke good-humouredly to her brother — more so than she had done since the day he had desired her not to walk with Captain Ussher. Thady himself was less gloomy than usual, for he had been rejoiced by hearing that the revenue officer was immediately going to leave the country. He had only been told it that morning at Mohill, as a secret, and he therefore presumed that Feemy did not know it. He thought that he would not distress her by telling her of it now — that he had better leave her to find it out herself after he was gone; but the reflection of the misery it would occasion her when she did know it, gave rise to a feeling of pity for her in his heart, which made him more inclined to be gentle and tender to her than he had felt for a long time.

After sitting over the fire with their father for some time, Thady said,

“Well, Feemy, these are fashionable hours you’ve brought with you from Drumsna. Does Mrs. McKeon always dine as late as this? Why it’s half past six!”

“The stupid girl forgot the potatoes, Thady. You could have them now; but you know, you wouldn’t eat them as hard as stones. I’ll go and hurry her.”

“‘Deed and I’m starving,” said the father. “Why can’t we have dinner then, Feemy dear? Why won’t they bring dinner in?”

And Feemy went out, not to hurry them, but to cause grounds for fresh delay. At last, a little after seven, she allowed dinner to go in, and following it herself, she sat down and made as good a meal as she could, and endeavoured to answer Thady’s questions about the races and the ball with some appearance of having taken interest, at any rate in the latter. If she did not altogether succeed, the attempt was not so futile as to betray her; and the dinner passed over, and the hot water came in, without anything arising especially to excite her alarm. At last she heard the front door open, and she listened with apprehension to every creak the rusty hinges made as Biddy vainly endeavoured to close it without a noise; but the sounds, which, in her fear, seemed so loud and remarkable to her, attracted no notice from her father or brother. Then she mixed their punch. Had Thady been looking at her he might have seen a tear drop into the tumbler as she handed it to him; but his eyes were on the fireplace, and she slipped out of the room without her tell-tale face having been observed.

It was now, as she calculated, about the time that she should start; and with trembling hands she tied on her bonnet. Having thrown her shawl over her shivering shoulders, she opened her book upon the table with a handkerchief upon it — placed her chair by the fire, and leaving the candle alight, slowly crept through the hall-door, down the front steps, and into the avenue leading to the road. She shuddered when she found herself alone in the cold dark air; but soon plucking up her courage, she ran down as quickly as she could to the spot where the old gate always stood open, and leaning against the post, listened intently for the sound of the gig wheels. She stood there, listening for three or four minutes, which seemed to her to be an hour, and then getting cold, she thought she’d walk on to meet Ussher as he had directed her; but before she had gone a dozen yards the darkness frightened her, and she returned. As soon as she had again reached the gateway she heard a man’s footstep on the road a little above; and still more frightened at this, she ran back the avenue towards the house till the footsteps had passed the gate. She did not, however, dare again to stand in sight of the road, though it was so dark, that no one passing could have seen her if she were a few yards up the avenue; so she sat down on the stump of a tree that had been lately felled, and determined to wait till she heard the sound of the gig.

There she remained for what seemed to her a cruelly long time; she became so cold that she could hardly feel the ground beneath her feet; and her teeth shook in her head as she sat there alone in the cold night air of an October night, with no warmer wrapping than a slight shawl thrown over her shoulders. There she sat, listening for every sound — longing to catch the rattle of the wheels that were to carry her away — fancying every moment that she heard footsteps approaching, and dreading lest the awful creak of the house-door opening should reach her ears.

She could not conceive why Ussher did not come — she had absolutely been there half an hour, and she thought it must be past ten — she had long been crying, and was now really suffering with bodily pain from cold and fright; and then the whole of Ussher’s conduct to her since that horrid morning passed through her mind — she saw things now in their true light, which had never struck her so before. What would she not have given to have been safe again at Mrs. McKeon’s; to have been in her own room, of which she could still see the light through the window; in fact, to be anywhere but where she was? She did not dare, however, to return to the house, or even again to walk down the road. Poor, unhappy Feemy! she already felt the wretched fruits of her obstinacy and her pride.

At last she absolutely heard the front-door pushed open, and could plainly see a man’s figure standing on the threshold. It must be Thady! They had discovered her departure, and he was already coming to drag her back! She heard his feet descending the hall steps; but they were as slow and as deliberate as usual; and she could perceive that, instead of coming down the avenue, he turned towards the stables. This was a slight relief to her — it was evident she was not yet missed; but she was dreadfully cold, and what was she to do if Thady heard the noise of the gig, and perceived that it had stopped at their gate?

Ussher had driven over to Mohill early in the morning, and had gotten everything ready for his departure in the manner he had proposed; but when the time for starting came, he had been detained by business connected with his official duties, and it was eight o’clock before he was able to bid adieu to the interesting town of Mohill. He had then, at the risk of his own neck, driven off as fast as Fred Brown’s broken-knee’d horse could take him, and was proceeding at a gallop towards Ballycloran, when he was stopped near Mrs. Mehan’s well-known shop by Biddy, who was standing by the road-side opposite.

He stopped the horse as quick as he could, and Biddy came running to him with Feemy’s bundle.

“Is that yer honer, at last? Glory be to God! but I thought you wor niver coming. The misthress’ll be perished with the could.”

“Never mind — hurry — give me what you’ve got!” And Biddy handed in the bundle and cloak, and Ussher again drove on.

“Musha then, but he’s a niggardly baste!” soliloquised Biddy, “not to give me the sign of a bit of money, after waiting there for him these two hours by the road-side, and me with his sacret and all, that could ruin him if I chose to spake the word, only I wouldn’t for Miss Feemy’s sake. But maybe it was the hurry and all that made him be forgitting, for he was niver the man for a mane action. I wish he may trate her well, that’s all; for he’s a hard man, and it’s bad for her to be leaving the ould place without the priest’s blessing.”

Ussher was at the gateway; but when he got there, he could not see Feemy. He waited about a minute, and then whistled — a minute more, and he whistled again. What should he do? It would be so foolish now for him to go without her! He knew the horse was steady and would stand; so he got out and walked up the avenue till he saw the figure of Feemy, still sitting on the root of the tree where we left her. There was a light colour in her shawl, and the little white collar round her neck enabled him to see her at some distance; and she saw, or at any rate heard him, but she neither moved to or from him.

She had caught, some time since, the sound of the gig wheels; but just as she did so, she again saw the figure of Thady as he came round from the stables; and he evidently had heard it also, for he stood still on the open space before the house. He was smoking, for she caught the smell of the tobacco, and she plainly heard the stones on the pathway rattle as he now and then struck them with the stick in his hand. He didn’t move towards her; but there he stood, as if determined to ascertain whether the vehicle which he must have heard, would pass along the road by the gate.

Then the sound ceased. It was when Biddy was putting in it the cloak and bundle, and again it continued closer and closer. The road came round the little shrubbery through which the avenue passed; the gig was therefore at one time even nearer to Feemy than it would be when it stopped at the avenue gate; and when it passed this place, she fancied she could hear Ussher moving in his seat. She did not dare to stir, however, for there still stood Thady, listening like herself to the sounds within forty yards of her; and had she risen he must have seen her.

And now the gig stopped at the avenue gate. Feemy was all but fainting; what with the cold and her former fear, and the dreadful position in which she found herself, she could not have moved if she had tried; she just preserved her senses sufficiently to torture her, and that was all. Plainly she heard her lover whistle; and plainly Thady heard it too, for he kept his stick completely still, and took the pipe from his mouth: then the second whistle — then she heard Ussher’s foot on the ground — heard him approaching, and saw his figure draw nearer; in vain she endeavoured to make signs to him, in vain she thought she whispered, “keep back;” for when she tried to speak, the words would not come. On he came till he was close to her, and in a low voice he said,

“Feemy, is that you? why don’t you come? what are you here for?” and he put down his hand to raise her. Feemy tried to rise and whisper something, but she was unable, and when Ussher stooped and absolutely lifted her from her seat, she had really fainted. “Come, Feemy,” said he, still unaware of Thady being near, “come; this is nonsense — hurry, there’s a love. Come, Feemy, stand, can’t you?”

When Thady had first come out of the house, it had merely been for the purpose of going into the stable, as was his practice, to see the two farm horses fed; as he returned, he caught the sound of Ussher’s gig; but it was more for the purpose of smoking his pipe in the open air than from any curiosity that he lingered out of doors. When, however, the vehicle stopped at Ballycloran gate, and he heard the whistle twice repeated, his interest was excited, and he thought that something was not right. He then heard Ussher’s footsteps up the avenue, and he fancied he could hear him speak; but he had no idea who he was; nor had he the slightest suspicion that his sister was so near him.

But when Ussher stopped, Thady gently came down the avenue unperceived; he saw him stoop, and lift something in his arms, but still up to this time he had not recognised the voice. It was Thady’s idea that something had been stolen from the yard, which the thief was now removing, under cover of the darkness. By degrees, as he got nearer, he perceived it was a woman’s form that the man was half dragging, half carrying, and then he heard Ussher’s voice say loudly, and somewhat angrily, “This is d —— d nonsense, Feemy! you know you must come now.”

These were the last words he ever uttered. Thady was soon close to him, and with the heavy stick he always carried in his hand, he struck him violently upon the head. Ussher, when he had heard the footsteps immediately behind him, dropped Feemy, who was still insensible, upon the path; but he could not do so quick enough to prevent the stunning blow which brought him on his knees. His hat partially saved him, and he was on the point of rising, when Thady again struck him with all his power; this time the heavy bludgeon came down on his bare temple, and the young man fell, never to rise again. He neither moved nor groaned; the force of the blow, and the great weight of the stick falling on his uncovered head as he was rising, had shattered his brains, and he lay as dead as though he had been struck down by a thunder-bolt from heaven.

Though it was so dark that Thady could not see the blood he had shed, or watch how immovable was the body of the man he had attacked, still he knew that Ussher was no more. He had felt the skull give way beneath the stroke; he had heard the body fall heavily on the earth, and he was sure his enemy was dead.

At first he felt completely paralysed, and unable to do anything; but he was soon aroused by a long sigh from poor Feemy. The cold had revived her, and she now regained her senses. Thady threw his stick upon the ground, and stooping to lift her up, said,

“Oh! Feemy, Feemy, what have you brought upon me!”

When she recognised her brother’s voice, and found that she was in his arms, she said,

“Where am I, Thady? What have you done with him? Where is he?”

“Never mind now. He’s gone — come to the house.”

“Gone! — he’s not gone; don’t I know he would not go without me?” and then escaping from her brother’s arms, she screamed, “Myles, Myles! — what have you done with him? I’ll not stir with you till you tell me where he is!” and then the poor girl shuddered, and added, “Oh! I’m cold, so miserably cold!”

“Come to the house with me, Feemy; — this is no place for you now.”

“I’ll not go with you, Thady. It’s no use, for you shan’t make me; tell me what you’ve done with him — I’ll go nowhere without him.”

Thady paused a minute, thinking what he’d say, and then replied: “You’ll never go with him now, Feemy, for Captain Ussher is dead!”

Feemy only repeated the last word after her brother, and again fell insensible on the ground.

Thady at length succeeded in getting her to the house; and pushing open the front door, which was still unlatched, with his foot, took her into her own room on the left hand side of the passage, and deposited her still insensible on the sofa. He then went into the kitchen, and sent Katty to her assistance.

Pat Brady was sitting over the kitchen fire, smoking. Though this man was still hanging about the place, and had not come to an actual rupture with his master, still there had been no cordiality or confidence between them since Brady had failed to induce Thady to keep his appointment at the widow Mulready’s; and for the last two days not even a single word had passed between them. Now, however, there was no one else but Pat about the place, and Thady felt that he must tell some one of the deed that he had done. It would be useless to consult his father; his sister was already insensible; the two girls would be worse than useless; besides, he could not now conceal the deed; he could not leave the body to lie there on the road.

“Brady,” said he, “come out; I want to spake to you. Is there a lanthern in the place at all?”

“No, Mr. Thady, there is not,” said he, without moving; “what is it you want to-night?”

“Come out, and bring a lighted candle, if you can.”

Brady now saw from his master’s pale face, and fear-struck expression, that something extraordinary had happened, and he followed him with a candle under his hat; but the precaution was useless, the wind blew it out at once.

“Pat,” said Thady, as soon as the two were out before the front door; “Pat,” and he didn’t know how to pronounce the thing he wished to tell.

“Good God! Mr. Thady, what’s the matther? has anything happened the owld man?”

“What owld man?”

“Your father.”

“No, nothing’s happened him; but — but Captain Ussher is dead!”

“Gracious glory — no! why he was laving this for good and all this night. And how did he die?”— and he whispered in his master’s ear —“did the boys do for him?”

“I killed him by myself,” answered Thady, in a whisper.

“You killed him, Mr. Thady ah! now, you’re joking.”

“Stop!” said Thady — for they were now in the avenue —“joking or not, his body is somewhere here; — and he had Feemy here, dragging her along the road, and I struck him with my stick across the head, and now they’ll say I’ve murdhered him.”

Brady soon touched the body with his foot; and the two raised it together, and put it off the path on the grass, and then held a council together, as to what steps had better be taken.

Brady, after his first surprise and awe at hearing of Ussher’s death was over, spoke of it very unconcernedly, and rather as a good thing done than otherwise. He recommended his master to get out of the way; he advised him at once to go down to Drumleesh and find out Joe Reynolds; he assured Thady that the man would even now be willing to befriend him and get him out of harm’s way. He told him that Reynolds and others had places up in the mountains where he might lie concealed, and where the police would never be able to find him; and that if he only got out of the way for a time, it might probably not be found murder by the Coroner, and that in that case he could return quietly to Ballycloran.

Thady listened sadly to Brady’s advice, but he did not know what better to propose to himself. He remembered the last words which Reynolds had said to him, and he made up his mind to go down at once to Corney Dolan’s, who was a tenant of his own, and from him find out where Reynolds was.

“But, Pat,” said Thady, when he had made up his mind to the line of conduct he meant to pursue, “what shall we do with the man’s body? We can’t let it lie here. As I trust in God, I had no thoughts to kill him! and I would not run away, and lave the body here, as though I’d murdhered him.”

“Jist lay him asy among the trees, Mr. Thady, till you’re out of the counthry; and then I’ll find it — by accident in course, and get the police to carry it off. Thim fellows is paid for sich work.”

“No, Pat; that wouldn’t do at all. I won’t have them say I hid the body; every one’ll know ’twas I did it; mind, I don’t ask you to tell a lie about it; and I’ll not have it left here, as though I’d run away the moment afther I struck him. We must take him into the house, Brady.”

“Into the house, yer honer! not a foot of it! why, you’d have Miss Feemy in fits; and the owld man’d be worse still, wid all thim fellows coming from Carrick and sitting on the body, discoursing whether it wor to be murdher or not.”

“Well, then; we’ll take it to Mrs. Mehan’s.”

“Av you do, Mr. Thady, the country’ll have it all in no time. Howsomever, they must take it there if you choose, as it’s a public; but you’d better lave it where it is, and let me send it down by and by — jist to give you an hour’s start or so.”

This Thady absolutely refused, stating that he would not leave the body till he had seen it deposited in some decent and proper place; and the two men took it up between them and carried it away, meaning to take it to Mrs. Mehan’s. But at the avenue gate they found Fred Brown’s horse and gig, exactly where Ussher had left it, excepting that the horse was leisurely employed in browsing the grass from the ditch side.

Brady soon recognised both the horse and gig as belonging to Brown Hall; and he then proposed putting the body of its former occupant in it, and driving it to the station of the police at Carrick-on-Shannon, and restoring at the same time the horse and gig to its proper owner at Brown Hall. To this scheme Thady at last agreed; but he made the man promise him, that when he got to the police at Carrick he would tell them that he, Thady, had desired him to do so; and that, instead of running away, he had not left the body till he had seen it put into the vehicle, to be carried into Carrick-on-Shannon. And with these injunctions Brady departed with his charge.

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