The Kellys and the O'Kellys, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter XXIII

Doctor Colligan

Doctor Colligan, the Galen of Dunmore, though a practitioner of most unprepossessing appearance and demeanour, was neither ignorant nor careless. Though for many years he had courted the public in vain, his neighbours had at last learned to know and appreciate him; and, at the time of Anty’s illness, the inhabitants of three parishes trusted their corporeal ailments to his care, with comfort to themselves and profit to him. Nevertheless, there were many things about Doctor Colligan not calculated to inspire either respect or confidence. He always seemed a little afraid of his patient, and very much afraid of his patient’s friends: he was always dreading the appearance at Dunmore of one of those young rivals, who had lately established themselves at Tuam on one side, and Hollymount on the other; and, to prevent so fatal a circumstance, was continually trying to be civil and obliging to his customers. He would not put on a blister, or order a black dose, without consulting with the lady of the house, and asking permission of the patient, and consequently had always an air of doubt and indecision. Then, he was excessively dirty in his person and practice: he carried a considerable territory beneath his nails; smelt equally strongly of the laboratory and the stable; would wipe his hands on the patient’s sheets, and wherever he went left horrid marks of his whereabouts: he was very fond of good eating and much drinking, and would neglect the best customer that ever was sick, when tempted by the fascination of a game of loo. He was certainly a bad family-man; for though he worked hard for the support of his wife and children, he was little among them, paid them no attention, and felt no scruple in assuring Mrs C. that he had been obliged to remain up all night with that dreadful Mrs Jones, whose children were always so tedious; or that Mr Blake was so bad after his accident that he could not leave him for a moment; when, to tell the truth, the Doctor had passed the night with the cards in his hands, and a tumbler of punch beside him.

He was a tall, thick-set, heavy man, with short black curly hair; was a little bald at the top of his head; and looked always as though he had shaved himself the day before yesterday, and had not washed since. His face was good-natured, but heavy and unintellectual. He was ignorant of everything but his profession, and the odds on the card-table or the race-course. But to give him his due, on these subjects he was not ignorant; and this was now so generally known that, in dangerous cases, Doctor Colligan had been sent for, many, many miles.

This was the man who attended poor Anty in her illness, and he did as much for her as could be done; but it was a bad case, and Doctor Colligan thought it would be fatal. She had intermittent fever, and was occasionally delirious; but it was her great debility between the attacks which he considered so dangerous.

On the morning after the hunt, he told Martin that he greatly feared she would go off, from exhaustion, in a few days, and that it would be wise to let Barry know the state in which his sister was. There was a consultation on the subject between the two and Martin’s mother, in which it was agreed that the Doctor should go up to Dunmore House, and tell Barry exactly the state of affairs.

‘And good news it’ll be for him,’ said Mrs Kelly; ‘the best he heard since the ould man died. Av he had his will of her, she’d niver rise from the bed where she’s stretched. But, glory be to God, there’s a providence over all, and maybe she’ll live yet to give him the go-by.’

‘How you talk, mother,’ said Martin; ‘and what’s the use? Whatever he wishes won’t harum her; and maybe, now she’s dying, his heart’ll be softened to her. Any way, don’t let him have to say she died here, without his hearing a word how bad she was.’

‘Maybe he’d be afther saying we murdhered her for her money,’ said the widow, with a shudder.

‘He can hardly complain of that, when he’ll be getting all the money himself. But, however, it’s much betther, all ways, that Doctor Colligan should see him.’

‘You know, Mrs Kelly,’ said the Doctor, ‘as a matter of course he’ll be asking to see his sister.’

‘You wouldn’t have him come in here to her, would you? Faix, Doctor Colligan, it’ll be her death out right at once av he does.’

‘It’d not be nathural, to refuse to let him see her,’ said the Doctor; ‘and I don’t think it would do any harm: but I’ll be guided by you, Mrs Kelly, in what I say to him.’

‘Besides,’ said Martin, ‘I know Anty would wish to see him: he is her brother; and there’s only the two of ’em.’

‘Between you be it,’ said the widow; ‘I tell you I don’t like it. You neither of you know Barry Lynch, as well as I do; he’d smother her av it come into his head.’

‘Ah, mother, nonsense now; hould your tongue; you don’t know what you’re saying.’

‘Well; didn’t he try to do as bad before?’

‘It wouldn’t do, I tell you,’ continued Martin, ‘not to let him see her; that is, av Anty wishes it.’

It ended in the widow being sent into Anty’s room, to ask her whether she had any message to send to her brother. The poor girl knew how ill she was, and expected her death; and when the widow told her that Doctor Colligan was going to call on her brother, she said that she hoped she should see Barry once more before all was over.

‘Mother,’ said Martin, as soon as the Doctor’s back was turned, ‘you’ll get yourself in a scrape av you go on saying such things as that about folk before strangers.’

‘Is it about Barry?’

‘Yes; about Barry. How do you know Colligan won’t be repating all them things to him?’

‘Let him, and wilcome. Shure wouldn’t I say as much to Barry Lynch himself? What do I care for the blagguard? only this, I wish I’d niver heard his name, or seen his foot over the sill of the door. I’m sorry I iver heard the name of the Lynches in Dunmore.’

‘You’re not regretting the throuble Anty is to you, mother?’

‘Regretting? I don’t know what you mane by regretting. I don’t know is it regretting to be slaving as much and more for her than I would for my own, and no chance of getting as much as thanks for it.’

‘You’ll be rewarded hereafther, mother; shure won’t it all go for charity?’

‘I’m not so shure of that,’ said the widow. ‘It was your schaming to get her money brought her here, and, like a poor wake woman, as I was, I fell into it; and now we’ve all the throuble and the expinse, and the time lost, and afther all, Barry’ll be getting everything when she’s gone. You’ll see, Martin; we’ll have the wake, and the funeral, and the docthor and all, on us mind my words else. Och musha, musha! what’ll I do at all? Faix, forty pounds won’t clear what this turn is like to come to; an’ all from your dirthy undherhand schaming ways.’

In truth, the widow was perplexed in her inmost soul about Anty; torn and tortured by doubts and anxieties. Her real love of Anty and true charity was in state of battle with her parsimony; and then, avarice was strong within her; and utter, uncontrolled hatred of Barry still stronger. But, opposed to these was dread of some unforeseen evil some tremendous law proceedings: she had a half-formed idea that she was doing what she had no right to do, and that she might some day be walked off to Galway assizes. Then again, she had an absurd pride about it, which often made her declare that she’d never be beat by such a ‘scum of the ‘arth’ as Barry Lynch, and that she’d fight it out with him if it cost her a hundred pounds; though no one understood what the battle was which she was to fight.

Just before Anty’s illness had become so serious, Daly called, and had succeeded in reconciling both Martin and the widow to himself; but he had not quite made them agree to his proposal. The widow, indeed, was much averse to it. She wouldn’t deal with such a Greek as Barry, even in the acceptance of a boon. When she found him willing to compromise, she became more than ever averse to any friendly terms; but now the whole ground was slipping from under her feet. Anty was dying: she would have had her trouble for nothing; and that hated Barry would gain his point, and the whole of his sister’s property, in triumph.

Twenty times the idea of a will had come into her mind, and how comfortable it would be if Anty would leave her property, or at any rate a portion of it, to Martin. But though the thoughts of such a delightful arrangement kept her in a continual whirlwind of anxiety, she never hinted at the subject to Anty. As she said to herself, ‘a Kelly wouldn’t demane herself to ask a brass penny from a Lynch.’ She didn’t even speak to her daughters about it, though the continual twitter she was in made them aware that there was some unusual burthen on her mind.

It was not only to the Kellys that the idea occurred that Anty in her illness might make a will. The thoughts of such a catastrophe had robbed Barry of half the pleasure which the rumours of his sister’s dangerous position had given him. He had not received any direct intimation of Anty’s state, but had heard through the servants that she was ill very ill dangerously ‘not expected,’ as the country people call it; and each fresh rumour gave him new hopes, and new life. He now spurned all idea of connexion with Martin; he would trample on the Kellys for thinking of such a thing: he would show Daly, when in the plenitude of his wealth and power, how he despised the lukewarmness and timidity of his councils. These and other delightful visions were floating through his imagination; when, all of a sudden, like a blow, like a thunderbolt, the idea of a will fell as it were upon him with a ton weight. His heart sunk low within him; he became white, and his jaw dropped. After all, there were victory and triumph, plunder and wealth, his wealth, in the very hands of his enemies! Of course the Kellys would force her to make a will, if she didn’t do it of her own accord; if not, they’d forge one. There was some comfort in that thought: he could at any rate contest the will, and swear that it was a forgery.

He swallowed a dram, and went off, almost weeping to Daly.

‘Oh, Mr Daly, poor Anty’s dying: did you hear, Mr Daly she’s all but gone?’ Yes; Daly had been sorry to hear that Miss Lynch was very ill. ‘What shall I do,’ continued Barry, ‘if they say that she’s left a will?’

‘Go and hear it read. Or, if you don’t like to do that yourself, stay away, and let me hear it.’

‘But they’ll forge one! They’ll make out what they please, and when she’s dying, they’ll make her put her name to it; or they’ll only just put the pen in her hand, when she’s not knowing what she’s doing. They’d do anything now, Daly, to get the money they’ve been fighting for so hard.’

‘It’s my belief,’ answered the attorney, ‘that the Kellys not only won’t do anything dishonest, but that they won’t even take any unfair advantage of you. But at any rate you can do nothing. You must wait patiently; you, at any rate, can take no steps till she’s dead.’

‘But couldn’t she make a will in my favour? I know she’d do it if I asked her if I asked her now now she’s going off, you know. I’m sure she’d do it. Don’t you think she would?’

‘You’re safer, I think, to let it alone,’ said Daly, who could hardly control the ineffable disgust he felt.

‘I don’t know that,’ continued Barry. ‘She’s weak, and’ll do what she’s asked: besides, they’ll make her do it. Fancy if, when she’s gone, I find I have to share everything with those people!’ And he struck his forehead and pushed the hair off his perspiring face, as he literally shook with despair. ‘I must see her, Daly. I’m quite sure she’ll make a will if I beg her; they can’t hinder me seeing my own, only, dying sister; can they, Daly? And when I’m once there, I’ll sit with her, and watch till it’s all over. I’m sure, now she’s ill, I’d do anything for her.’

Daly said nothing, though Barry paused for him to reply. ‘Only about the form,’ continued he, ‘I wouldn’t know what to put. By heavens, Daly! you must come with me. You can be up at the house, and I can have you down at a minute’s warning.’ Daly utterly declined, but Barry continued to press him. ‘But you must, Daly; I tell you I know I’m right. I know her so well she’ll do it at once for the sake for the sake of You know she is my own sister, and all that and she thinks so much of that kind of thing. I’ll tell you what, Daly; upon my honour and soul,’ and he repeated the words in a most solemn tone, ‘if you’ll draw the will, and she signs it, so that I come in for the whole thing and I know she will I’ll make over fifty ay, seventy pounds a year for you for ever and ever. I will, as I live.’

The interview ended by the attorney turning Barry Lynch into the street, and assuring him that if he ever came into his office again, on any business whatsoever, he would unscrupulously kick him out. So ended, also, the connexion between the two; for Daly never got a farthing for his labour. Indeed, after all that had taken place, he thought it as well not to trouble his ‡i-devant client with a bill. Barry went home, and of course got drunk.

When Doctor Colligan called on Lynch, he found that he was not at home. He was at that very moment at Tuam, with the attorney. The doctor repeated his visit later in the afternoon, but Barry had still not returned, and he therefore left word that he would call early after breakfast the following morning. He did so; and, after waiting half an hour in the dining-room, Barry, only half awake and half dressed, and still half drunk, came down to him.

The doctor, with a long face, delivered his message, and explained to him the state in which his sister was lying; assured him that everything in the power of medicine had been and should be done; that, nevertheless, he feared the chance of recovery was remote; and ended by informing him that Miss Lynch was aware of her danger, and had expressed a wish to see him before it might be too late. Could he make it convenient to come over just now in half an hour or say an hour? said the doctor, looking at the red face and unfinished toilet of the distressed brother.

Barry at first scarcely knew what reply to give. On his return from Tuam, he had determined that he would at any rate make his way into his sister’s room, and, as he thought to himself, see what would come of it. In his after-dinner courage he had further determined, that he would treat the widow and her family with a very high hand, if they dared to make objection to his seeing his sister; but now, when the friendly overture came from Anty herself, and was brought by one of the Kelly faction, he felt himself a little confounded, as though he rather dreaded the interview, and would wish to put it off for a day or two.

‘Oh, yes certainly, Doctor Colligan; to be sure that is tell me, doctor, is she really so bad?’

‘Indeed, Mr Lynch, she is very weak.’

‘But, doctor, you don’t think there is any chance I mean, there isn’t any danger, is there, that she’d go off at once?’

‘Why, no, I don’t think there is; indeed, I have no doubt she will hold out a fortnight yet.’

‘Then, perhaps, doctor, I’d better put it off till tomorrow; I’ll tell you why: there’s a person I wish ’

‘Why, Mr Lynch, today would be better. The fever’s periodical, you see, and will be on her again tomorrow ’

‘I beg your pardon, Doctor Colligan,’ said Barry, of a sudden remembering to be civil, ‘but you’ll take a glass of wine?’

‘Not a drop, thank ye, of anything.’

‘Oh, but you will;’ and Barry rang the bell and had the wine brought. ‘And you expect she’ll have another attack tomorrow?’

‘That’s a matter of course, Mr Lynch; the fever’ll come on her again tomorrow. Every attack leaves her weaker and weaker, and we fear she’ll go off, before it leaves her altogether.’

‘Poor thing!’ said Barry, contemplatively.

‘We had her head shaved,’ said the doctor.

‘Did you, indeed!’ answered Barry. ‘She was my favourite sister, Doctor Colligan that is, I had no other.’

‘I believe not,’ said Doctor Colligan, looking sympathetic.

‘Take another glass of wine, doctor? now do,’ and he poured out another bumper.

‘Thank’ee, Mr Lynch, thank’ee; not a drop more. And you’ll be over in an hour then? I’d better go and tell her, that she may be prepared, you know,’ and the doctor returned to the sick room of his patient.

Barry remained standing in the parlour, looking at the glasses and the decanter, as though he were speculating on the manner in which they had been fabricated. ‘She may recover, after all,’ thought he to himself. ‘She’s as strong as a horse I know her better than they do. I know she’ll recover, and then what shall I do? Stand to the offer Daly made to Kelly, I suppose!’ And then he sat down close to the table, with his elbow on it, and his chin resting on his hand; and there he remained, full of thought. To tell the truth, Barry Lynch had never thought more intensely than he did during those ten minutes. At last he jumped up suddenly, as though surprised at what had been passing within himself; he looked hastily at the door and at the window, as though to see that he had not been watched, and then went upstairs to dress himself, preparatory to his visit to the inn.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01