Anty had borne her illness with that patience and endurance which were so particularly inherent in her nature. She had never complained; and had received the untiring attentions and care of her two young friends, with a warmth of affection and gratitude which astonished them, accustomed as they had been in every little illness to give and receive that tender care with which sickness is treated in affectionate families. When ill, they felt they had a right to be petulant, and to complain; to exact, and to he attended to: they had been used to it from each other, and thought it an incidental part of the business. But Anty had hitherto had no one to nurse her, and she looked on Meg and Jane as kind ministering angels, emulous as they were to relieve her wants and ease her sufferings.
Her thin face had become thinner, and was very pale; her head had been shaved close, and there was nothing between the broad white border of her nightcap and her clammy brow and wan cheek. But illness was more becoming to Anty than health; it gave her a melancholy and beautiful expression of resignation, which, under ordinary circumstances, was wanting to her features, though not to her character. Her eyes were brighter than they usually were, and her complexion was clear, colourless, and transparent. I do not mean to say that Anty in her illness was beautiful, but she was no longer plain; and even to the young Kellys, whose feelings and sympathies cannot be supposed to have been of the highest order, she became an object of the most intense interest, and the warmest affection.
‘Well, doctor,’ she said, as Doctor Colligan crept into her room, after the termination of his embassy to Barry; ‘will he come?’
‘Oh, of course he will; why wouldn’t he, and you wishing it? He’ll be here in an hour, Miss Lynch. He wasn’t just ready to come over with me.’
‘I’m glad of that,’ said Anty, who felt that she had to collect her thoughts before she saw him; and then, after a moment, she added, ‘Can’t I take my medicine now, doctor?’
‘Just before he comes you’d better have it, I think. One of the girls will step up and give it you when he’s below. He’ll want to speak a word or so to Mrs Kelly before he comes up.’
‘Spake to me, docthor!’ said the widow, alarmed. ‘What’ll he be spaking to me about? Faix, I had spaking enough with him last time he was here.’
‘You’d better just see him, Mrs Kelly,’ whispered the, doctor. ‘You’ll find him quiet enough, now; just take him fair and asy; keep him downstairs a moment, while Jane gives her the medicine. She’d better take it just before he goes to her, and don’t let him stay long, whatever you do. I’ll be back before the evening’s over; not that I think that she’ll want me to see her, but I’ll just drop in.’
‘Are you going, doctor?’ said Anty, as he stepped up to the bed. He told her he was. ‘You’ve told Mrs Kelly, haven’t you, that I’m to see Barry alone?’
‘Why, I didn’t say so,’ said the doctor, looking at the widow; ‘but I suppose there’ll be no harm eh, Mrs Kelly?’
‘You must let me see him alone, dear Mrs Kelly!’
‘If Doctor Colligan thinks you ought, Anty dear, I wouldn’t stay in the room myself for worlds.’
‘But you won’t keep him here long, Miss Lynch eh? And you won’t excite yourself? indeed, you mustn’t. You’ll allow them fifteen minutes, Mrs Kelly, not more, and then you’ll come up;’ and with these cautions, the doctor withdrew.
‘I wish he was come and gone,’ said the widow to her elder daughter. ‘Well; av I’d known all what was to follow, I’d niver have got out of my warm bed to go and fetch Anty Lynch down here that cowld morning! Well, I’ll be wise another time. Live and lam, they say, and it’s thrue, too.’
‘But, mother, you ain’t wishing poor Anty wasn’t here?’
‘Indeed, but I do; everything to give and nothin to get that’s not the way I have managed to live. But it’s not that altogether, neither. I’m not begrudging Anty anything for herself; but that I’d be dhriven to let that blagguard of a brother of hers into the house, and that as a frind like, is what I didn’t think I’d ever have put upon me!’
Barry made his appearance about an hour after the time at which they had begun to expect him; and as soon as Meg saw him, one of them flew upstairs, to tell Anty and give her her tonic. Barry had made himself quite a dandy to do honour to the occasion of paying probably a parting visit to his sister, whom he had driven out of her own house to die at the inn. He had on his new blue frock-coat, and a buff waistcoat with gilt buttons, over which his watch-chain was gracefully arranged. His pantaloons were strapped clown very tightly over his polished boots; a shining new silk hat was on one side of his head; and in his hand he was dangling an ebony cane. In spite, however, of all these gaudy trappings, he could not muster up an easy air; and, as he knocked, he had that look proverbially attributed to dogs who are going to be hung.
Sally opened the door for him, and the widow, who had come out from the shop, made him a low courtesy in the passage.
‘Oh ah yes Mrs Kelly, I believe?’ said Barry.
‘Yes, Mr Lynch, that’s my name; glory be to God!’
‘My sister, Miss Lynch, is still staying here, I believe?’
‘Why, drat it, man; wasn’t Dr Colligan with you less than an hour ago, telling you you must come here, av you wanted to see her?’
‘You’ll oblige me by sending up the servant to tell Miss Lynch I’m here.’
‘Walk up here a minute, and I’ll do that errand for you myself. Well,’ continued she, muttering to herself ‘for him to ax av she war staying here, as though he didn’t know it! There niver was his ditto for desait, maneness and divilry!’
A minute or two alter the widow had left him, Barry found himself by his sister’s bed-side, but never had he found himself in a position for which he was less fitted, or which was less easy to him. He assumed, however, a long and solemn face, and crawling up to the bed-side, told his sister, in a whining voice, that he was very glad to see her.
‘Sit down, Barry, sit down,’ said Anty, stretching out her thin pale hand, and taking hold of her brother’s.
Barry did as he was told, and sat down. ‘I’m so glad to see you, Barry,’ said she: ‘I’m so very glad to see you once more —’ and then after a pause, ‘and it’ll be the last time, Barry, for I’m dying.’
Barry told her he didn’t think she was, for he didn’t know when he’d seen her looking better.
‘Yes, I am, Barry: Doctor Colligan has said as much; and I should know it well enough myself, even if he’d never said a word. We’re friends now, are we not? Everything’s forgiven and forgotten, isn’t it, Barry?’
Anty had still hold of her brother’s hand, and seemed desirous to keep it. He sat on the edge of his chair, with his knees tucked in against the bed, the very picture of discomfort, both of body and mind.
‘Oh, of course it is, Anty,’ said he; ‘forgive and forget; that was always my motto. I’m sure I never bore any malice indeed I never was so sorry as when you went away, and ’
‘Ah, Barry,’ said Anty; ‘it was better I went then; maybe it’s all better as it is. When the priest has been with me and given me comfort, I won’t fear to die. But there are other things, Barry, I want to spake to you about.’
‘If there’s anything I can do, I’m sure I’d do it: if there’s anything at all you wish done. Would you like to come up to the house again?’
‘Oh no, Barry, not for worlds.’
‘Why, perhaps, just at present, you are too weak to move; only wouldn’t it be more comfortable for you to be in your own house? These people here are all very well, I dare say, but they must be a great bother to you, eh? so interested, you know, in everything they do.’
‘Ah! Barry, you don’t know them.’
Barry remembered that he would be on the wrong tack to abuse the Kellys. ‘I’m sure they’re very nice people,’ said he; ‘indeed I always thought so, and said so but they’re not like your own flesh and blood, are they, Anty? and why shouldn’t you come up and be ’
‘No, Barry,’ said she; ‘I’ll not do that; as they’re so very, very kind as to let me stay here, I’ll remain till till God takes me to himself. But they’re not my flesh and blood’ and she turned round and looked affectionately in the face of her brother ‘there are only the two of us left now; and soon, very soon you’ll be all alone.’ Barry felt very uncomfortable, and wished the interview was over: he tried to say something, but failed, and Anty went on ‘when that time comes, will you remember what I say to you now? When you’re all alone, Barry; when there’s nothing left to trouble you or put you out will you think then of the last time you ever saw your sister, and ’
‘Oh, Anty, sure I’ll be seeing you again!’
‘No, Barry, never again. This is the last time we shall ever meet, and think how much we ought to be to each other! We’ve neither of us father or mother, husband or wife. When I’m gone you’ll be alone: will you think of me then and will you remember, remember every day what I say to you now?’
‘Indeed I will, Anty. I’ll do anything, everything you’d have me. Is there anything you’d wish me to give to any person?’
‘Barry,’ she continued, ‘no good ever came of my father’s will.’ Barry almost jumped off his chair as he heard his sister’s words, so much did they startle him; but he said nothing. ‘The money has done me no good, but the loss of it has blackened your heart, and turned your blood to gall against me. Yes, Barry yes don’t speak now, let me go on; the old man brought you up to look for it, and, alas, he taught you to look for nothing else; it has not been your fault, and I’m not blaming you I’m not maning to blame you, my own brother, for you are my own’ and she turned round in the bed and shed tears upon his hand, and kissed it. ‘But gold, and land, will never make you happy, no, not all the gold of England, nor all the land the old kings ever had could make you happy, av the heart was bad within you. You’ll have it all now, Barry, or mostly all. You’ll have what you think the old man wronged you of; you’ll have it with no one to provide for but yourself, with no one to trouble you, no one to thwart you. But oh, Barry, av it’s in your heart that that can make you happy there’s nothing before you but misery and death and hell.’ Barry shook like a child in the clutches of its master ‘Yes, Barry; misery and death, and all the tortures of the damned. It’s to save you from this, my own brother, to try and turn your heart from that foul love of money, that your sister is now speaking to you from her grave. Oh, Barry! try and cure it. Learn to give to others, and you’ll enjoy what you have yourself. Learn to love others, and then you’ll know what it is to be loved yourself. Try, try to soften that hard heart. Marry at once, Barry, at once, before you’re older and worse to cure; and you’ll have children, and love them; and when you feel, as feel you must, that the money is clinging round your soul, fling it from you, and think of the last words your sister said to you.’
The sweat was now running down the cheeks of the wretched man, for the mixed rebuke and prayer of his sister had come home to him, and touched him; but it was neither with pity, with remorse, nor penitence. No; in that foul heart there was no room, even for remorse; but he trembled with fear as he listened to her words, and, falling on his knees, swore to her that he would do just as she would have him.
‘If I could but think,’ continued she, ‘that you would remember what I am saying ’
‘Oh, I will, Anty: I will indeed, indeed, I will!’
‘If I could believe so, Barry I’d die happy and in comfort, for I love you better than anything on earth;’ and again she pressed his hot red hand ‘but oh, brother! I feel for you: you never kneel before the altar of God you’ve no priest to move the weight of sin from your soul and how heavy that must be! Do you remember, Barry; it’s but a week or two ago and you threatened to kill me for the sake of our father’s money? you wanted to put me in a mad-house; you tried to make me mad with fear and cruelty; me, your sister; and I never harmed or crossed you. God is now doing what you threatened; a kind, good God is now taking me to himself, and you will get what you so longed for without more sin on your conscience; but it’ll never bless you, av you’ve still the same wishes in your heart, the same love of gold the same hatred of a fellow-creature.’
‘Oh, Anty!’ sobbed out Barry, who was now absolutely in tears, ‘I was drunk that night; I was indeed, or I’d never have said or done what I did.’
‘And how often are you so, Barry? isn’t it so with you every night? That’s another thing; for my sake, for your own sake for God’s sake, give up the dhrink. It’s killing you from day to day, and hour to hour. I see it in your eyes, and smell it in your breath, and hear it in your voice; it’s that that makes your heart so black it’s that that gives you over, body and soul, to the devil. I would not have said a word about that night to hurt you now; and, dear Barry, I wouldn’t have said such words as these to you at all, but that I shall never speak to you again. And oh! I pray that you’ll remember them. You’re idle now, always don’t continue so; earn your money, and it will be a blessing to you and to others. But in idleness, and drunkenness, and wickedness, it will only lead you quicker to the devil.’
Barry reiterated his promises; he would take the pledge; he would work at the farm; he would marry and have a family; he would not care the least for money; he would pay his debts; he would go to church, or chapel, if Anty liked it better; at any rate, he’d say his prayers; he would remember every word she had said to the last day of his life; he promised everything or anything, as though his future existence depended on his appeasing his dying sister. But during the whole time, his chief wish, his longing desire, was to finish the interview, and get out of that horrid room. He felt that he was mastered and cowed by the creature whom he had so despised, and he could not account for the feeling. Why did he not dare to answer her? She had told him he would have her money: she had said it would come to him as a matter of course; and it was not the dread of losing that which prevented his saying a word in his own defence. No; she had really frightened him: she had made him really feel that he was a low, wretched, wicked creature, and he longed to escape from her, that he might recover his composure.
‘I have but little more to say to you, Barry,’ she continued, ‘and that little is about the property. You will have it all, but a small sum of money ’
Here Anty was interrupted by a knock at the door, and the entrance of the widow. She came to say that the quarter of an hour allowed by the doctor had been long exceeded, and that really Mr Barry ought to take his leave, as so much talking would be bad for Anty.
This was quite a god-send for Barry, who was only anxious to be off; but Anty begged for a respite.
‘One five minutes longer, dear Mrs Kelly,’ said she, ‘and I shall have done; only five minutes I’m much stronger now, and really it won’t hurt me.’
‘Well, then mind, only five minutes,’ said the widow, and again left them alone.
‘You don’t know, Barry you can never know how good that woman has been to me; indeed all of them and all for nothing. They’ve asked nothing of me, and now that they know I’m dying, I’m sure they expect nothing from me. She has enough; but I wish to leave something to Martin, and the girls;’ and a slight pale blush covered her wan cheeks and forehead as she mentioned Martin’s name. ‘I will leave him five hundred pounds, and them the same between them. It will be nothing to you, Barry, out of the whole; but see and pay it at once, will you?’ and she looked kindly into his face.
He promised vehemently that he would, and told her not to bother herself about a will: they should have the money as certainly as if twenty wills were made. To give Barry his due, at that moment, he meant to be as good as his word. Anty, however, told him that she would make a will; that she would send for a lawyer, and have the matter properly settled.
‘And now,’ she said, ‘dear Barry, may God Almighty bless you may He guide you and preserve you; and may He, above all, take from you that horrid love of the world’s gold and wealth. Good bye,’ and she raised herself up in her bed good bye, for the last time, my own dear brother; and try to remember what I’ve said to you this day. Kiss me before you go, Barry.’
Barry leaned over the bed, and kissed her, and then crept out of the room, and down the stairs, with the tears streaming down his red cheeks; and skulked across the street to his own house, with his hat slouched over his face, and his handkerchief held across his mouth.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14