The Macdermots of Ballycloran, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter 24.

The Second Escape.

For four long hours there he remained, seated on the same stool, without moving or speaking; and for the same time there sat Andy on his bed, looking at the fire, and from time to time dragging a few sods from under the bed to throw them upon the ashes and keep up the warmth which seemed to be his only comfort. At length Thady thought it was dark enough, and without saying a word to the old man, he left the cabin and again descended the hill. He would not return by the same path by which he had come for fear he should meet Joe or Corney, or Meg — for he was unwilling that even she should see him escaping from his hiding-place. By the time that he reached Drumshambo it was dark, and it continued so till he got to Cashcarrigan, which he did without meeting any one who either recognised him or spoke to him. From thence he passed back by the two small lakes and the cabin of the poor widow who owed her misery to Ussher’s energy, and across the bog of Drumleesh to the lane which would take him by Ballycloran to Father John’s cottage. But before he reached Ballycloran the moon again rose bright and clear, and as he passed the spot where he more particularly wished to be shrouded by the darkness, it was so light that any one passing could not but recognise him.

He pulled his hat far over his forehead, and passed on quickly; but just as he got to the gateway he met Mary McGovery, who was on the very point of turning up the avenue to the house. The turn in the road, exactly at the spot, had prevented him from seeing her before, and she immediately recognised him.

“Holy Virgin! Mr. Thady,” she said; “and is that yerself?”

“Hist, Mary, don’t spake so loud — not that I care who spakes now; you see it’s me; and I’m going to the Cottage. Is Father John at home?”

“And what would you do with Father John, now? Don’t you know the police is afther you?”

“What matther? it’s not much throuble I’ll be giving thim, looking for me. I’m going to thim myself now.”

“An’ what for would you do that, Mr. Thady? Don’t you know they found it murdher agin you? We all hoped you were out of the counthry afore this. What for would you go to the police? Time enough when they catches you.”

This was the first time that Thady had heard that a verdict of murder had been found against him before the Coroner, and though it was only what he expected, nevertheless the certainty, now that it reached him, almost made him change his mind and return to Aughacashel. The remembrance, however, of that weary day, and the feeling that even though he were there, he would assuredly be ultimately taken, strengthened his resolution, and he said,

“No, Mary, I’ve had enough of running away already. But tell me; how’s Feemy?”

“Why, thin, Mr. Thady, she’s nothing much to boast of; since she was in Carrick, yesterday, she’s been very bad intirely.”

“What is it ails her? It’s — it’s that man’s death, isn’t it, Mary?”

“‘Deed, Mr. Thady, I s’pose that war the first on it. Poor young lady! in course she feels it. — Wouldn’t I feel it, av any one was to knock poor Denis on the head? — not that it’s the same thing, altogether, for the Captain wasn’t her lawful wedded husband. — Not that I’m saying agin you, Mr Thady, for what ye did.”

“Never mind about that, Mary; what I’ve done is my own look out. But would Feemy see me, do you think?”

“See you, Mr. Thady! How could she see you, an’ she in a raging fever in bed at Mrs. McKeon’s? in course she couldn’t see you.”

“Good God! and is she so bad as that?”

“Faith then, she is, very bad intirely; at laste, Docther Blake says so.”

“It’s very well, any way, that she’s at Drumsna, instead of here at Ballycloran. Mrs. McKeon must be a kind woman to take her at such a time as this. And what’s the owld man doing here by himself?”

“He’s very quare in his ways, they do be saying; but I didn’t see him meself yet; I’m going down to mind him, meself, this blessed moment.”

“Why, isn’t the two girls in it still?”

“Yes, they is, Mr. Thady; but they got frighted with the quare ways the owld man brought back with him from Carrick. He’s wake in the head, they say, Mr. Thady, since he war up afore the gintlemen at the inquest; an’ as the two girls wor frighted with ’im, an’ as I am, maybe, a bit sthronger, an’ a thrifle owlder nor they, Father John said I’d better step down an’ mind him a bit; an’ when all was settled, that he would see my expinses war paid.”

“Well, Mary, good night! Be kind and gentle with the owld man, for he’s enough on him jist now to unsettle his mind, av it were sthronger than it iver was; and don’t tell him you see me here, for it would only be making him more onasy.”

“Good night, thin, an’ God bless you, Mr. Thady,” said Mary. “You’ve a peck of throubles on yer head, this night,” she added to herself, as she walked up the avenue, “an’ it’s little you did to desarve ’em, onless working hard night an’ day war a sin. Well, God forgive us! shure you’re betther off still, than the gay man you stretched the other night;” and she went on to commence her new business — that of watching and consoling Larry Macdermot in his idiotcy.

Thady pursued his road to the Cottage, without meeting anyone else, and with some hesitation knocked at the priest’s door. His heart palpitated violently within him as he waited some little time for an answer. It was about eleven, and he knew that at that hour Father John would still be up, if he were at home, though Judy would probably have retired to her slumbers. He was right in his calculation; for in a short time he heard the heavy step of Father John in the hall, and then the rusty door-key grated in the lock. Thady’s knees shook beneath him as he listened to the rising latch. How should he meet Father John’s eyes after what he had done? How should he find words to tell him that he had broken the solemn vow that he had taken on the holy scriptures, and had, in his first difficulty, flown to the disreputable security to be found in the haunts of such men as Joe Reynolds and Dan Kennedy. However, this he would have to tell him; for the door was now open, and there stood the priest, with his eyes fixed on Thady’s sad face and soiled appearance.

Thady had not had his clothes off for the last two nights, and they now bore all the soil and stains of his two midnight walks; his countenance was pale in the extreme, and, never full or healthy, now seemed more thin and wan, than forty-eight hours’ sorrow could possibly have made it. He was much fatigued, for his shoes had become soaked with water in the moist grounds through which he had passed and repassed, and his feet were blistered with his long and unaccustomed walks.

When Father John saw him, his heart melted within him at the sight of the young man’s sad and melancholy figure. We already know that from the moment he had first heard of the catastrophe, he had made excuses in his own heart for Thady; and when he had heard, as he did at the inquest, that his sister had been with Ussher when he lifted his stick against him, he had not only acquitted him in his own estimation, from anything like the crime of murder, but he also felt certain that had he been in the same situation, he would most assuredly have done the same as Thady had done. He had been much surprised at the Coroner’s verdict; he could not think how twelve men on their oath could call Ussher’s death murder, when it so evidently appeared to him that the man stigmatised by that verdict as a murderer, had only been actuated by the praiseworthy purpose of defending his sister from disgrace and violence; and when, moreover, it was so plain that Thady’s presence on the scene at the moment was accidental, and that the attack could not have been premeditated.

The jurors, however, had not been Thady’s friends, as Father John was, nor were they inclined to look upon such a deed with the same lenient eyes. It appeared to them that Ussher was not using any violence to the young lady, who had herself admitted in her evidence, that she was a willing party to Ussher’s proceedings. Doubtless, there might be circumstances, which at the prisoner’s trial would be properly put forward in palliation of the murder, by his counsel; but with that the jury before the Coroner could have nothing to do; and on these considerations, the jurors with very little delay had come to the conclusion which had so surprised and grieved Father John. Still, however, he looked forward with almost absolute certainty to Thady’s acquittal at his trial, and was by far more angry with the young man himself, at his folly in attempting to fly from justice, than he was at the deed which had put him under its power. Now, however, when he saw him pale, fatigued, harassed, and in sorrow at his door, his anger all turned to pity, and the only feeling left in his bosom led him to think how he could assuage his sufferings and comfort him in his afflictions.

Thady was the first to speak — “Father John,” he said, “I’ve come to give myself up; I thought I’d tell you, as I passed the door.”

“Oh my son, my son!” said Father John. “Come in though, Thady, come in-till we think what’s best to do in this sad time;” and they went again into the little parlour, where so short a time ago Thady had made the promise which he now had to confess he had broken.

He then gave the priest, by degrees, the whole history of the affair; he told how the different events had happened; he explained how Feemy’s appearance as she lay fainting in Ussher’s arms, and that man’s words to her, when he declared that she must come with him, had at the moment made him think that she was being dragged away by violence; and that he had had this conviction on his mind when he raised his stick to strike. He then told Father John exactly what he had done since the occurrence, the precautions which he took respecting the body — the visit which he paid to his father and his sister, and lastly, how he had fled for the sake of security, and passed two miserable days among the mountains in Aughacashel.

“Ah! my poor boy,” said Father John, “that’s what I have to blame you for. What made you fly there? what made you fly anywhere? why did you not with an honest face at once place yourself in the hands of the police, from whom you must know you couldn’t have remained concealed?”

“Oh, Father John, av you could feel all I felt when I first knew the man was dead — when my own sisther spurned me — and when my father told me I was a murdherer, you wouldn’t wonder at my flying, av it were only for an hour.”

“That’s true, my boy — that’s very true; and I won’t ask you now where you were, or who were with you — or what folly you may have done whilst there; for I haven’t the heart to blame you for what you’ve done in the extremity of your misery. But now, Thady, we must think of the future; of course you know, that having come to my house, and having seen me, you must at once place yourself in the hands of the police.”

“In course, Father John; I was only on my way to Carrick when I called here. In truth, I wanted a kind word from you before they put me in that horrid place.”

“My poor, dear boy, it’s little comfort I can give you, except to tell you that we all think — that is McKeon and I, and the rest of us — that when the trial comes on they must acquit you — any jury must acquit you; and that till that time comes, you may be sure whatever can be done for you by the warmest friends, shall be done by us. But you know, Thady, till that time does come — till the trial is over, you must remain in prison.”

“But, Father John, do you think they’ll acquit me? do you think — does Mr. McKeon think, they’ll not find it murder?”

“Indeed he does, Thady, and so do I; and so I’m sure does the Coroner, by what he said to the jury. I’m sure he didn’t expect them to find it murder at the inquest.”

“That’s great comfort, Father John; but you always had comfort for me. But tell me, what’s this I hear about Feemy and my father; is it thrue they’re both ill?”

“I’ve little comfort for you in that quarter, I’m afraid; but though Feemy’s ill, I don’t think she’s dangerously so. She will want time to bring her round; but I’ve no doubt time will bring her round. She has had a great deal to try her too; she was very fond of that man, though he was so unworthy of her; and it isn’t easy for a girl like Feemy to get over at once the loss of him she loved so dearly.”

“God send she may recover! I did it all for the best. Larry was long ailing; I fear this has knocked him up intirely; what’ll the tinants do now at all? they’ll have no one over thim but Keegan, I suppose: he’ll be resaving the rints now, Father John; won’t he?”

“Don’t mind that now, my boy; you’ve enough on your heart now without troubling yourself about that.”

“Well, then, I’ll be wishing you good bye; I’ll go on to Carrick.”

“No, Thady, not to-night; stay here to-night. I would not have you go in and give yourself up under cover of the dark. Early tomorrow — as soon as Counsellor Webb will be up, you shall go with me to him. He’ll no doubt commit you; indeed he must do so; but that will be better for you than lying all night in the guard-room at the police station, and being dragged out in the morning, cold, comfortless, and hungry.”

Father John then got him supper and had a bed prepared for him, and early in the morning he sent down to Ballycloran for his linen and clothes that he might appear in a more respectable manner before the magistrate; he had his horse and car ready for them after breakfast, and at about ten they started for Counsellor Webb’s.

They found the magistrate at home, and Father John sent in word to him that Mr. Macdermot having heard the verdict which had been returned at the Coroner’s inquest, had come to surrender himself. Mr. Webb received the two into his study, and having explained to Thady that it was of course his duty immediately to commit him, sent to Carrick for police, in whose charge it would be necessary that the prisoner should be sent from thence.

“I’m very sorry,” said Webb, “that this should be my principal duty, and that I should be obliged to hand you over to the constables; but you must have been aware that I should do so, when you came to me.”

Father John then took Mr. Webb aside, and explained to him all the particulars of the case, which had not come out at the inquest; and at last it was agreed that he, Mr. Webb, should go with them into Carrick — that they would call at the police-office to inform the sergeant there that the prisoner was in custody, and that they should go direct to the gaol, and that Thady should be immediately handed over to the custody of the gaoler. This was accordingly done, and he avoided the disgrace, which he so feared, of being led through the town with handcuffs on his wrists.

Father John did not leave him until he had seen him settled with whatever comfort a prison could afford; but of these things, now that he was there, he seemed to think much less than the priest himself.

When Father John was kindly petitioning with the Governor to allow the prisoner a light in his cell, he said, “What matters? a light won’t make the time pass over quicker.”

The next assizes would not take place till April, six months after the present time; and it was finally agreed that Father John should take on himself all the cares connected with his defence, and should from time to time visit him in his confinement, and give him such news respecting his father, his sister, and the affairs at Ballycloran, as he might have to bring; — and then he took his leave.

When he was gone Thady was once more alone and in solitude; moreover, he felt strongly the gloom of the big cold walls around him — of the huge locks which kept him — the austerity and discomforts of prison discipline, and all the miseries of confinement; but yet even there, in gaol and committed to take his trial for life — though doomed to the monotony of that dull cell for six months — still he felt infinitely less wretched than he had done whilst sitting in Andy McEvoy’s cabin, wondering at the torpidity of its owner. The feeling of suspense, of inactivity, the dread of being found and dragged away, joined to the horror he felt at remaining in so desolate a place, would have driven him mad. Now he knew that he had no daily accident to fear — no new misfortune to dread — and he nerved himself to bear the six long coming months with fortitude and patience. Though the time was long, and his weary days generally unbroken by anything that could interest or enliven them, still, from the hour when Father John first spoke to him at his hall-door, to that in which he was led into the Court-house dock as a prisoner to take his trial for his life, he never once repented that he had quitted Aughacashel and his mountain security, to give himself up as a prisoner to the authorities of Carrick.

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