It will be remembered that the priest left Feemy after his stormy interview in a somewhat irritable mood; she was still chewing the cud of the bitter thoughts to which the events of the last few hours had given rise, and was trying to make herself believe that her brother and Father John and Pat Brady, and all the rest of them, were wrong in their detestable surmises, and that her own Myles was true to her, when another stranger called at Ballycloran; and a perfect stranger he must have been, for he absolutely raised the lion-headed, rusty knocker, and knocked at the door — a ceremony to which the customary visitors of the house never dreamed of having recourse. So unusual was this proceeding, that it frightened the sole remaining domestic, Katty, out of all her decorum. It will be remembered that Mary Brady had absconded with Biddy. Poor Katty did not well know how to act under the trying emergencies of the case; she could not get to the door of Miss Feemy’s parlour, as a strange gentleman was standing in the hall, so she ran round the house, and ascertaining that the intruder was well in the hall, and could not see her, she clambered up to her mistress’s window, and exclaimed,
“Hist! Miss Feemy, there’s a sthranger gintleman a rapping at the big knocker, and I think it’s the fat lawyer from Carrick; what’ll I do thin, Miss?”
“Why, you fool!” whispered Feemy through one of the broken panes of glass, “go and ask him who he wants, and tell him Thady an’t at home.”
So Katty dropped from the window-sill again, and went to receive the gentleman into the house by following him in at the hall door. By the time, however, that she had entered herself, old Larry Macdermot had been aroused out of his lethargy by a third knocking of the stranger; and on opening his own parlour door, was startled to see Mr. Hyacinth Keegan, the attorney from Carrick on Shannon, standing before him.
Mr. Hyacinth Keegan requires some little introduction, as he is one of the principal personages of my tale. As Father Cullen before remarked, his father was a process-server living at a small town called Drumshambo; — that is, he obtained his bread by performing the legal acts to which Irish landlords are so often obliged to have resort in obtaining their rent from their tenants. This process-server was a poor man, and a Roman Catholic, but he had managed to give his son a decent education; he had gotten him a place as an errand boy in an attorney’s office, from whence he had risen to the dignity of clerk, and he was now, not only an attorney himself, but a flourishing one, and a Protestant to boot. His great step in the world had been his marriage with Sally Flannelly — that Sally whom Macdermot had rejected — for from the time of his wedding he had much prospered in all worldly things. He was a hardworking man, and in that consisted his only good quality; he was plausible, a good flatterer, not deficient in that sort of sharpness which made him a successful attorney in a small provincial town, and he could be a jovial companion, when called on to take that part. Principle had never stood much in his way, and he had completely taught himself to believe that what was legal was right; and he knew how to stretch legalities to the utmost. As a convert, Mr. Keegan was very enthusiastically attached to the Protestant religion and the Tory party, for which he had fought tooth and nail at the last county election.
Mr. Keegan boasted a useful kind of courage; he cared but little for the ill name he had acquired by his practice in the country among the poorer classes, and to do him justice, had shown pluck enough in the dangerous duties which he sometimes had to perform; for he acted as agent to the small properties of some absentee landlords, and for a man of his character such duties in County Leitrim were not at that time without risk. He had been shot at, had once been knocked off his horse, and had received various threatening letters; but it always turned out that he discovered the aggressor, and prosecuted and convicted him. One man he had transported for life; in the last case, the man who had shot at him was hung; and consequently the people began to be afraid of Mr. Keegan.
Our friend was fond of popularity, and was consequently a bit of a sportsman, as most Connaught attorneys are. He had the shooting of two or three bogs, kept a good horse or two, went to all the country races, and made a small book on the events of the Curragh. These accomplishments all had their effect, and as I said before, Mr. Keegan was successful. In appearance he was a large, burly man, gradually growing corpulent, with a soft oily face, on which there was generally a smile; and well for him that there was, for though his smile was not prepossessing, and carried the genuine stamp of deceit, it concealed the malice, treachery, and selfishness which his face so plainly bore without it. His eyes were light, large, and bright, but it was that kind of brightness which belongs to an opaque, and not to a transparent body — they never sparkled; his mouth was very large, and his lip heavy, and he carried a huge pair of brick-coloured whiskers. His dress was somewhat dandified, but it usually had not a few of the characteristics of a horse jockey; in age he was about forty-five. His wife was some years his senior; he had married her when she was rather falling into the yellow leaf; and though Mr. Hyacinth Keegan was always on perfectly good and confidential terms with his respected father-in-law, report in Carrick on Shannon declared, that great battles took place beside the attorney’s fireside, as to who was to have dominion in the house. The lady’s temper also might be a little roused by the ill-natured reports which reached her ears, that her handsome Hyacinth lavished more of his attentions and gallantry abroad than at home. Such was the visitor who now came to call at Ballycloran.
Mr. Macdermot was very much surprised, for Mr. Keegan’s business with Ballycloran was never done by personal visits. If money was received, Thady used to call and pay it at Keegan’s office; if other steps were to be taken, he employed one of those messengers, so frequently unwelcome at the houses of the Connaught gentry, and this usually ended in Thady calling at Mr. Keegan’s for a fresh bill for his father to sign. Old Macdermot was therefore so surprised that he knew not how to address his visitor. This, together with his hatred of the man, and his customary inability to do or say anything, made him so perplexed that he could not comprehend Mr. Keegan’s first words, which were not only conciliatory and civil, but almost affectionate.
“Ah! Mr. Macdermot, how do you do — how d’ye do? I’m glad to see you — very glad to see you — looking so well too. Why, what a time it is since I last had the pleasure — but then I’m so tied by the leg — so much business, Mr. Macdermot; indeed, though I was determined to drop in this morning as a friend, still even now I’ve just a word to say on business. You see I must join business and pleasure; so if you are not very much engaged, and could spare a minute or two, why I have a little proposal to make to you — acting for Mr. Flannelly you know — which I think you’ll not be sorry to hear.”
The attorney had been obliged to begin his story thus far in the hall — as the old man had shown no inclination to ask him into the parlour: nor did Larry even now move from the door; and, indeed, he did not look as though he was a fit subject to enter on business with an attorney. He had not shaved, or rather been shaved, since Sunday last; his eyes, though wide open, looked as if they had very lately been asleep, and were not quite awake; his clothes were huddled on him, and hung about him almost in tatters; the slaver was running down from his half open mouth, and his breath smelt very strongly of whiskey.
Keegan, finding that his host did not seem bent on hospitality, was edging himself into the room, when Feemy, who had heard his address to her father, came out to the old man’s relief, and told the visitor that he was not just himself that morning — that Thady was out, but that she would desire him to call at Mr. Keegan’s office the next day.
“Ah! Miss Feemy, and how’s your pretty self this morning? — and is it the fact what we hear down at Carrick, that we are to have a wedding soon at Ballycloran? Ah! well, of course you wouldn’t be after telling me, but I was very glad to hear it; that I was, Miss Feemy. But, Mr. Macdermot — it was your father, Miss Feemy, I was wishing to see this morning, not Mr. Thady — if you could allow me ten minutes or so — just a message from our old friend, Flannelly:"— and by this time Keegan had wedged his way into the room, out of which any one who knew him would be very sure he would not stir, until he had said what he had come to say.
Larry, hobbling back after him, sat himself down in his accustomed chair, and Feemy, as if to protect her father in her brother’s absence, followed him.
“It’s very hard, then, Mr. Keegan, that you should come up here; as if sending your processes, and latitats, and distraining, weren’t enough, but now you must —”
“Ah! my dear Sir, it’s not about such disagreeable business at all — we’re done with all that. It’s not about such business at all. When I’ve disagreeable jobs to do — of course we must have disagreeable jobs sometimes — why, I always send some of my disagreeable fellows to do it; but when I’ve good news, why I like to bring it myself, and that’s why I rode down this morning.”
Larry, stupid as he was, couldn’t be talked round by the attorney so easily.
“If it’s good news you have, why shouldn’t Thady hear it then? I am sure, poor fellow, he hears enough of bad news from you one way or another. And I tell you I can’t understand business today, and Flannelly’s bill doesn’t come round till next month — I know that; and so, if you plaze, Thady can hear what you have to say, at Carrick, on Saturday or Monday, or any day you plaze. Feemy, my darling, get something for Mr. Keegan to eat. I’ll be glad to see you eat a bit, but I can’t talk any more.” And the old man turned himself away, and began groaning over the fire.
“You see, Mr. Keegan, my father can’t go to business this morning. When shall I tell Thady to call down? — But wouldn’t you take a glass of —”
Wine, Feemy was going to say, but she knew she had none to offer.
“Not a taste in life of anything, thank you, Miss Feemy; not a drop, I’m very much obliged to you: but I’m sorry to find your good father so bent on not hearing me, as I have something to propose which he couldn’t but be glad to hear.”
“Well, father, will you listen to what Mr. Keegan has to say?”
“Don’t I tell you, Feemy, that the bill doesn’t come round before November? and it’s very hard he won’t lave me in pace till that time comes.”
“You see,” continued Feemy, “that he won’t hear anything; don’t you think you’d better wait and see Thady down at Carrick?”
Now this was what Mr. Keegan did not want; in fact, his wish was to talk over Larry Macdermot to agree to something to which he feared Thady would object; but he had had no idea the old man would be so obstinate. He, however, was at a loss how to proceed, when Feemy declared that Thady was seen approaching.
“Well, then, Miss Feemy, as your brother is here, and as your father isn’t just himself this morning, I might as well do my business with him; but as it is of some importance, and as Mr. Flannelly wishes to have your father’s answer as soon as possible, he will not object, I hope, to giving his opinion, when he shall have heard what I have to say.”
By this time Thady was before the door, and on Feemy’s calling to him, informing him that Mr. Keegan was in the house, waiting to speak to him, he came up into the parlour.
“How do you do this morning?” said the lawyer, shaking Thady by the hand, “how d’ye do? I’ve just ridden up here to bring a message to your father from Mr. Flannelly about this mortgage he holds; but your father doesn’t seem quite the thing this morning, and therefore it’s as well you came in. Of course what I have to say concerns you as well as him.”
“Of course, Mr. Keegan; I look after the affairs at Ballycloran mostly, now. Don’t you know it’s me you look to for the money? — and I’m sorry you should have to bother my father about it. Just step out of the room, Feemy.”
And the young lady retreated to her own possessions.
“Why, now, Mr. Thady, how you all put your backs up because an unfortunate attorney comes to call on you. What I’m come to say is what I hope and think you’ll both be glad to hear; and I trust you’ve too much good sense to put your father against it merely because it comes from me.”
“You may be sure I shall not put my father against anything which would be good for him or Feemy —”
“Well, Mr. Thady, so far so good; and I’m sure you wouldn’t; besides, what I’ve got to say is greatly to your own advantage.”
“Well, Mr. Keegan, out with it.”
“Why, you see, Mr. Macdermot,”— and the attorney turned to the father, who sat poring over the fire, as if he was determined not to hear a word that passed — “you see, Mr. Macdermot, Mr. Flannelly is thinking how much better it would be to settle the affair of this mortgage out and out. He’s getting very old, Mr. Macdermot. Why, Thady, he’s more than thirty years older than your father; and you see he wants to arrange all his money matters. Between us and the bedpost, by the by, I wish he didn’t think so much of those nephews of his. However, he wishes the matter settled, and I explained to him that after knowing one another so long, it wouldn’t be fair — though, for the matter of that, of course it would be fair, but, in fact, the old man doesn’t exactly wish it himself — that is, you know, to foreclose at once, and sell the estate —”
Here he paused; while Larry merely fidgeted in his chair, and Thady said, “Well, Mr. Keegan?”
“So, you see, he just wishes the affair to be settled amicably. I fear, Mr. Thady, your father hasn’t just got the amount of the principal debt.”
“Oh! you know that of yourself, Mr. Keegan; you know he hasn’t the interest itself, till I screw it out of them poor devils of tenants.”
“Well, Mr. Macdermot, as you haven’t the money to pay the principal debt, of course you can’t clear the estate. Why, you see, the interest amounts to £198 odd shillings a year; and before that’s paid — times is so bad, you see — Mr. Flannelly is obliged — obliged, in his own defence, you see — to run you to great expense. Well, now, perhaps you’d say, if Flannelly wants his money at once, you’d borrow it on another mortgage — that is, sell the mortgage, Mr. Thady; but money’s so scarce these days, and the property is so little improved, and the tenants so bad, that you couldn’t raise the money on it — you couldn’t possibly raise the money on it.”
“Why, Mr. Keegan, father pays Mr. Flannelly £5 per cent., and the property is near to £400 a year, even now.”
“Well, of course, if you think so, I wouldn’t advise you to the contrary; only, if so, Mr. Flannelly must foreclose at once, in which case the property would be sold out and out; but perhaps you could effect a loan in time —”
“Well, Mr. Keegan, what was it you said you had to propose?”
“What Mr. Flannelly proposes, you mean; — of course I’m only his messenger now. What he proposes is this. You see, the property is so unimproved, and bad — why, the house is tumbling down — it’s enough to kill your father, now he’s getting a little infirm.”
“Well, well, Mr. Keegan; what is it Mr. Flannelly wishes to do with us?”
“Wishes to do? — oh, he doesn’t wish anything, of course; the law is open to him to get his own; in fact, the law would give him much more than he wishes to take: but he proposes to buy Ballycloran himself.”
“Buy Ballycloran!” screamed Larry.
“Well, well, father; let’s hear what Mr. Keegan has to say. — Well, Mr. Keegan, does he propose giving anything but what he has got himself already? — or does he propose to take the estate for the mortgage, and cry quits; so that father, and Feemy, and I, can walk out just where we plaze?”
“Of course not, of course not. It’s to make your father what he thinks a fair offer that I’m come up; and it’s what I’m sure you must think is a generous offer.”
“Well, out with it.”
“Well then; what he proposes to do is, to settle an annuity on your father for his life; and give you a sum of money down for yourself and your sister.”
“Let’s hear what he offers,” said Thady.
Larry, whose back was nearly turned to the chair where the attorney was sitting, said nothing; but he gave an ominous look round, which showed that he had heard what had passed. But it did not show that he by any means approved of the proposition.
“I’m coming to that. You see the rent is mostly all swallowed up by this mortgage. Now can you say you’ve £50 a year coming into the house? I’m afraid not, Mr. Thady — I’m afraid not; and then all your time is occupied in collecting it, and scraping it; and if it’s true what I hear — to be plain, I fear you’ll hardly have the interest money this November; and if you like Mr. Flannelly’s proposal, he’ll give in that half year; so that you’d have something in hand to begin. And how comfortable Mr. Macdermot would be in lodgings down at Carrick; you’ve no idea how reasonable he might board there; say at Dargan’s for instance, for about ten shillings a week. And I’m very glad, I can assure you, to hear of the very respectable match your sister is making. Ussher is a very steady nice fellow, knows what’s what, and won’t be less ready to come to the scratch when he knows he’ll have to touch a little ready cash.”
“You’d better let us know what your offer is, and lave my sisther alone. It doesn’t do to bring every old woman’s story in, when we’re talking business; so, if you plaze, we won’t calculate on Feemy’s marriage.”
“Well, well, I didn’t mean anything more than that I just heard that a match was made between them. So, Mr. Macdermot, Mr. Flannelly will settle £50 a year on you, paid as you like; or come, say a pound a week, as you would probably like to pay your lodgings weekly; and he would give £100 each to your son and daughter, ready money down you know, Mr. Thady. What do you say, Mr. Macdermot?” And he got up and walked round so as to stand over the side of Larry’s chair.
“Didn’t I tell you, then, I wouldn’t be bothered with your business? If you must come up here jawing and talking, can’t you have it out with Thady there?”
“Well, Thady, what do you say? You see how much your father’s comfort would be improved; and as I suppose, after all, your sister is to be married, you couldn’t well keep the house up; and I’ll tell you what more Mr. Flannelly proposes for yourself.”
“I don’t want what Mr. Flannelly will do for me; but I’m thinking of the old man, and Feemy there.”
“Well, don’t you see how much more comfortable he must be? — nothing to bother him, you know; no bills coming due; and as for yourself, you should have a lease, say for five years, of any land you liked; say forty acres or so, and with your ready money you know.”
“Sure isn’t the land crowded with tenants already?” said Thady.
“Ah yes; those wretched cabin holders with their half acres. Mr. Flannelly would soon get shut of them: he means to have no whiskey making on the land! Let me alone to eject those fellows. By dad! I’ll soon clear off most of them.”
“What! strip their roofs?”
“Yes, if they wouldn’t go quietly; but they most of them know me now; and I give you my word of honour — indeed, Flannelly said as much — you should have any forty acres you please, at a fair rent. Say what the poor devils are paying now, without any capital you know.”
“No, Mr. Keegan; I wouldn’t have act or part in dhriving off the poor craturs that know me so well; nor would I be safe if I did; nor for the matter of that, could I well bring myself to be one of Mr. Flannelly’s tenants at Ballycloran. But I won’t say I won’t be advising the owld man to take the offer, if you only make it a little fairer. Consider, Mr. Keegan; the whole property — nigh £400 a year, besides the house — and Mr. Flannelly’s debt on it only £200.”
“Ah! £400 a year and the house is very well,” said Keegan; “but did you ever see the £400 — and isn’t the house half falling down already?”
“Whose fault is that — who built it then, Mr. Keegan? — bad luck to it for a house!”
“Well, I don’t know it’s much use going into that now; but you can’t say but what the proposal is a fair one.”
“Ah! Mr. Keegan, £1 a week is too little for the owld man; make it £100 a year for his life, and give Feemy £300, so that she, poor girl, may have some chance of neither begging or starving, if she shouldn’t get married, and I’ll not go against the bargain. I’d get a bit of land somewhere, though I couldn’t be a tenant on Ballycloran. ‘Deed for the matter of that, if we must part it, I don’t care how long it is before I see a sod of it again.”
“Nonsense, Mr. Thady; £100 a year is out of the question; why, your father’s hardly to be called an elderly man yet. I couldn’t think of advising Mr. Flannelly to give more than he has already proposed. — Don’t you think, Mr. Macdermot,”— and he began speaking loudly to the old man; —"£1 a week, regularly paid, you know, would be a nice thing for you, now that your daughter is going to get married, and that Thady here thinks of taking a farm for himself?”
“I towld you before I’d nothing to say about it — and I will say nothing about it; the bill don’t come round till November, and it’s very hard you should be bothering the life out of me this way.”
Keegan turned away, and taking Thady by the collar of his coat, led him to the window; he began to find he could do nothing with Larry.
“You see, Macdermot,” he said in a half whisper, “it is impossible to get your father to listen to me; and therefore the responsibility must rest upon you as to advising him what he’d better do. And now let me put it to you this way: you know that you have not the means of raising the money to pay off this debt, and that Flannelly can sell the estate any day he pleases; well — suppose you drive us to this, and suppose the thing fetches a little over what his claim is, don’t you know there are great expenses attached to such a sale? All would have to come out of the property; and your father’s other creditors would come on the little remainder, and where would you be then? You see, my boy, it’s quite impossible the estate should ever come to you. Now, by what I propose, your father would sell the estate while still he had the power; he would get comfortably settled — and I’d take care to manage the annuity so that the other creditors couldn’t touch it; and you’d get a handful of money to set you up something more decently than the way you’re going on here with your tenants.”
“But my sisther, Mr. Keegan; when the home came to be taken from over her head, what would become of Feemy? She and the owld man could hardly live on a pound a week. And when the owld man should die —”
“Why, nonsense, man! Isn’t your sister as good as married? or if not, a strapping girl like her is sure of a husband. Besides, when she’s a hundred pounds in her pocket, she won’t have to go far to look for a lover. There’s plenty in Carrick would be glad to take her.”
“Take her, Mr. Keegan! Do you think I’d be offering her that way to any huckster in Carrick that wanted a hundred pound; — or that she would put up with the like of that? — Bad as we are, we an’t come to that yet.”
“There you go with your family pride, Thady; but family pride won’t feed you, and the offer I’ve made will; so you’d better bring the old man round to accept it.”
“Make it £80 a year for my father, and £250 for Feemy, and I’ll do the best I can.”
“Not a penny more than I offered. Indeed, Mr. Flannelly would get the property cheaper if he sold it the regular way under the mortgage, so that he doesn’t care about it: only he’d sooner you got the difference than strangers. — Well, you won’t get the old man to take the offer — eh?”
“I can’t advise him to sell his property, and his house, and everything, so for nothing.”
“Then you know we must sell it for him.”
“Will you give me till Monday,” said Thady, “till I ask some friend what I ought to do?”
“Some friend; — what friend do you want to be asking — some attorney? Dolan, I suppose, who of course would tell you not to part with the property, that he might make a penny of it. No, Master Thady, that won’t do; either yes or no — no or yes; I don’t care which; but an answer, if you please, as Flannelly is determined he will do something.”
“It’s no lawyer I want to spake to, Mr. Keegan; I’ve had too much of lawyers; but it’s my friend, Father John.”
“What, the priest! thank ye for nothing; I’ll have no d —— d priest meddling; and to tell you the truth at once, it’s either now or never. And think where your father’ll be if the house is sold over his head, before he has a place to stretch himself in.”
“Oh! you know, and I know, you can’t sell it out of hand, in that way — all at once.”
“‘Deed but we can though; and, by G——d, if you mean to be stiff about it, you shall be out of the place before the May rents become due.”
“Would you want me to go and sell all that’s left in the family, without giving me a day to consider? — without asking my friends what’s best to do for the old man, and for poor Feemy? Surely, Mr. Keegan —”
“Surely, nonsense. You see how it is; I want to give Flannelly an answer; he’s not asking anything of you — he’s offering a provision to you all, which you might go far to look for if the law takes its course — as of course it will do if you oppose his offer. But perhaps you’re thinking we can’t sell the estate; and from the old man’s state, because he’s not compos, you can get Ballycloran into your own hands. If that’s the game you’re playing, you’ll soon find yourself in the wrong box, my lad.”
“It’s not of myself I’m thinking; and it’s only you, and such as you, would be saying so of me. But supposing now, the owld man consinted to this bargain — how would he be sure of his money?”
“Sure of his money! why, wouldn’t it be settled on him? — wouldn’t it be named as one of the conditions of the sale? He’d be a deal surer of that, than he is now of his daily dinner; for that I believe he’s not very sure of as things are going at Ballycloran.”
Thady looked at the attorney as though he longed to answer him in the same strain; but he said nothing of the sort; he remained looking out of the window for a short time, considering what he should do.
“Well, Macdermot, I can’t be waiting here all day you know; what do you say to it?”
“I’ll spake to my father; it’s he must decide you know, at last, and not me. Larry, you heard what Mr. Keegan said, didn’t you?” and he explained to his father the nature of the offer; and tried to make him understand that at any rate Ballycloran must go; and that it would be better to go at once, with some provision to look to, than to stay there, and be driven out, without any; and that Mr. Flannelly would not be content any longer with getting the interest for his money, but that he was determined to get the principal, either by having the property sold, or by taking possession of it himself. It was long before he could make the old man precisely understand what it was that was required of him; during which time Keegan remained at the window, as if he was not hearing a word that passed between the father and son.
“And does he want us to go clane out of it, Thady?”
“Root and branch, father, for iver and iver; and there’ll be the finish of the Macdermots of Ballycloran; but Larry,”— and he put his hand, with more tenderness than seemed to belong to his rough nature, on his father’s arm; —“but Larry, you know you’ll never want for anything then; you’ll be snug enough jist wherever you plaze; and your money coming due and paid every week — you’d be better than in this wretched place; eh Larry?”
“And what’s to become of Feemy?”
“Why, we must get Feemy a husband; till then she’ll stay with you; she’ll have a thrifle of money herself, you know; she’ll be poor enough, though, God knows! — It’s the thought of her that throubles me most.”
“And yourself, Thady, where would you go, till you got Ballycloran again?”
“Got Ballycloran again! why Larry, you’re to sell it outright; clane away altogether. As for me, I must get a bit of land, I suppose, or ‘list, or do something; go to America, perhaps.”
“And was it Keegan wanted to buy Ballycloran?”
“Oh, it’s between them, I suppose; but what does it matter — Keegan or Flannelly?”
“And what did you say, Thady?”
“What did I say! Oh, I could say nothing, you know; it’s for you to do it. But, Larry, I think it’s the best for you, and you may be sure I’ll not be complaining afther; or saying ill of you for what you did, when you could do no other.”
“And you didn’t tell the blackguard ruffian robber to be gone out of that, when he asked you to dhrive your own family out of your own house?”
“Whist, father, whist!”
When Keegan heard old Macdermot break out in this way, he was obliged to turn round: so he walked up to the fire, and said, “Mr. Macdermot, may I ask who you are speaking of?”
Larry was again commencing, when Thady held him down gently, and said,
“It’s not so asy, Mr. Keegan, for an old man to hear for the first time, that he’s to lave his house and his home for iver; where he and his father and his grandfather have lived. You’d better let me talk to him a while.”
“Oh! for the matter of that, I don’t care for his passion; but if he means to come to reason, let him do so at once, for as I said before, I won’t wait here all day.”
“Nobody wants you to wait — nobody wants you to wait!” said the father.
“Whist, Larry, whist! be asy a while.”
“I won’t whist, and I won’t be asy: so, Mr. Keegan, if you want to have my answer, take it, and carry it down to that old bricklayer in Carrick, whose daughter has the divil’s bargain in you; and for the like of that you’re not bad matched. Tell him from me, Larry Macdermot — tell him from me, that I’m not so owld yet, nor so poor, nor so silly, that he can swindle me out of my lands and house that way. So clever as you think yourself, Mr. Keegan, you may walk back to Carrick again, and don’t think to call yourself masther of Ballycloran yet awhile.”
“Very well, Mr. Macdermot; very well, my fine fellow; look to yourself, and mind, I tell you I’ll have a cheaper bargain of the place by this day six months, than I should have now by the terms I’m offering myself.”
“You dirthy mane ruffian — if it was only myself you was wanting to turn out of it — but to be robbing the boy there of his property, that has been working his sowl out these six years for that dirthy owld bricklayer! — And you want the place all to yourself, do you, Mr. Keegan? Faix, and a fine estated gintleman you’d make, any how!”
“Well now; you’ll repent the day you made yourself such a fool. However, good morning, Mr. Macdermot — good morning; I’ll tell them down at Carrick, to keep a warm corner for you in the lane there, where them old beggars sleep at night!”
“Kick him out, Thady: kick him out, will ye? — Have ye none of the owld blood left round your heart, that you’ll not kick him out of the house, for a pettifogging schaming blackguard!” and Larry got up as though he meant to have a kick at the attorney himself.
“Be asy, father, and let him go of himself; he’ll go fast enough now. Sit down awhile; sit down till I come back,” and Thady followed the attorney down the steps on to the gravel road.
“You’ll see, my boy,” said Keegan — and now the benevolent attorney had altogether lost his smile — “you’ll see, my boy, whether I won’t make the two of you pay for this; ay! and the whole family too, for a set of proud, beggarly, starved-out paupers. By G— — I’ll sell every rotten stick of old furniture left in the house, on the 6th of next month; and the three of you shall be tramping in the roads before the winter’s over!”
“You’re worse than the old man with your passion, Mr. Keegan,” said Thady; “ten times worse; you know I did what I could to advise him; and even now, if you’ll lave him to me, I’ll bring him round.”
“Be d —— d to you with your bringing round! I’ll have no more to do with the pack of you.”
“Would you go to remember the passionate words of an owld man that’s lost his senses, Mr. Keegan? for shame on you. If you’ll stick to the offer you made before, I’ll bring the old man round yet.”
“I tell you I’ll do no such thing, Master Thady; but root and branch I’ll have you out of that, and that right soon; a pack of beggars like you! What right have you to be keeping a respectable man out of his money?”
“Respictable indeed! very respictable! — Look at the house, Mr. Keegan, for which you want to take the whole property — tumbling down already; and you call that respictable! And to be threatening to be dhriving an owld man, past his senses, out of his house for a few foolish words; and a poor innocent defenceless girl too!” Thady himself was beginning to get in a passion now — “And since you will have it, the owld man was not far wrong, for it is robbers you are, both of you, and that’s your respictability!”
“Robbers are we? and what are you and your innocent sister? You know, Thady, she can go to Ussher; he says he’ll keep her. She won’t be a huckster’s wife, you say? better that than a captain’s misthress, as all agree she is now.”
As Keegan said this, he seemed to expect that he would be answered by some personal violence. The two were together, standing at the end of the avenue, all but on the public road. Keegan had a stout walking-stick in his hand, and he walked out into the road as he said the last words, turning round as he did so, so as to face Thady.
The young man stood still for a second or two, as if the meaning of the words had hardly reached him, and then rushed at the attorney with his clenched fist; but the man of law was too quick for him, for striking out with his stick, he cried,
“By the Lord of heaven, if you come nearer I’ll brain you!” and, as the young man endeavoured to get within the sweep of the stick, he received a blow on the arm and elbow, which, for the moment, disabled him; and the pain was so sharp, as to prevent him from any further immediate attack.
“Mr. Keegan, by the living Lord, this day’s work shall cost you dear!” and then, indulging that ready profuseness of threats in which the less educated of his countrymen are so prone to indulge, he returned within the gateway of the avenue, and proceeded a short way towards the house. Here he reached a felled tree, lying somewhat across the path, on which he sat down; for he felt that he could not go to the house before he had considered, in his sad heart, what he would say there, and how he would say it.
Keegan, when he found that his antagonist, like a dog cowed by a blow, was not inclined to come again to the fight, turned on his heel, and walked back to the place where he had left his horse.
For some time Thady did not recover from the immediate sharp pain arising from the blow, and during these minutes firm determinations of signal vengeance filled his imagination, damped by no thought of the punishment to which he might thereby be subjecting himself. But the luxury of these resolves — for they had a certain luxury — was soon banished by the thoughts that crowded on his mind, when pain gave him liberty to think. Firstly, his own impotence with regard to retaliating on Keegan; secondly, the horrid charge brought against Feemy, and the conviction that the scurrility of it would not have occurred to Keegan had it not previously been rumoured or suggested by others; and the dreadful doubt — for it was dreadful to Thady — whether there could be any grounds for it: then the recollection of their defenceless state — the certainty that Flannelly would take every legal step against them, and that Keegan’s threat, that they should be turned out to wander through the roads, would be realized:— all these things forced themselves on his recollection, and he could not go up to the house. He could not meet his father, and tell him that, between them, they had destroyed all hopes of conciliation; that they must wander forth as beggars, to starve. He could not ask counsel from Feemy; his inability to protect her made him averse to see her.
In his misery, and half broken-hearted as he was, he all but made up his mind to join the boys, who, he knew, were meeting with some secret plans for proposed deliverance from their superiors. Better, at any rate, join them now, thought he, than be driven to do it when he was no better than them — as would soon be the case; and, if he was to perish, better first strike a blow at those who had pressed him so low! And then it occurred to him that, at any rate, he would first go to his only good counsellor; and he accordingly retraced his steps to the bottom of the avenue, resolved, if he could find him, to tell all his new sorrow to Father John.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14