When Thady entered the room where the party was dancing, the welcomes with which he was greeted by McGovery and his wife prevented him from immediately seeking Pat Brady, as he had intended; for he was obliged to stop to refuse the invitations and offers which he received, that supper should be got for him. And it was well for those that made the offers that he did refuse them; for every vestige of what was eatable in the house had been devoured, and had he acceded to Mary’s reiterated wishes that he would “take jist the laste bit in the world,” it would have puzzled her to make good her offer in the most literal sense of the words.
Luckily, however, Thady declined her hospitality, and was passing through to the inner room when he was stopped by Ussher, who, as we have before said, was standing up to dance with Feemy. The last time the two young men had met was at the priest’s house, when, it will be remembered, Thady had shown a resolution not to be on good terms with the Captain, and subsequent events had not at all mollified his temper; so when Ussher good-humoredly asked him how he was, and told him he wanted to speak to him a word or two as soon as he should have tired Feemy dancing, or, what was more probable, Feemy should have tired him, Thady answered him surlily enough, saying that if Captain Ussher had anything to say to him, he should be within, but that he didn’t mean to stay there all night, and that perhaps Captain Ussher had better say it at once.
“Well, Macdermot, perhaps I had; so, if your sister’ll excuse me, I won’t be a minute. — Just step to the door a moment, will you?” and Thady followed him out.
“Well, Captain Ussher, what is it?”
“I don’t know why it is, Macdermot, but for the last two or three days you seem to want to quarrel with me; if it is so, why don’t you speak out like a man?”
“Is that what you were wanting to say to me?”
“Indeed it was not; for it’s little I care whether you choose to quarrel or let it alone; but I heard something to-night, which, though I don’t wholly believe it, may like enough be partly true; and if you choose to listen, I will tell you what it was; perhaps you can tell me whether it was all false; and if you cannot, what I tell you may keep yourself out of a scrape.”
“McGovery tells me that he thinks some of the boys that are here to-night are come to hold some secret meeting; and that, from the brothers of the two men I arrested the other day being in it, he thinks their purpose is to revenge themselves on me.”
“And if it war so, Captain Ussher, what have I to do with it?”
Ussher looked very hard at Thady’s face, but it was much too dark for him to see anything that was there.
“Probably not much yourself; but I thought that as these men were your father’s tenants, you might feel unwilling that they should turn murderers; and as I am your father’s friend, you might, for his sake, wish to prevent them murdering me.”
“And is it from what such a gaping fool as McGovery says, you have become afraid that men would murder you, who never so much as raised their hand agin any of those who are from day to day crushing and ruining them?”
“If I had been afraid, I should not have come here. Indeed, it was to show them that I am not afraid of coming among them without my own men at my back that I came here. But though I am not afraid, and though it is not what McGovery says I mind — and he is not such a fool as some others — nevertheless I do think, in fact, from different sources, I know, that there is something going on through the country, which will bring the poor into worse troubles than they’ve suffered yet; and if, as I much think, they’ve come here to talk of their plans to-night, and if you know that it is so, you’re foolish to be among them.”
“Is that all you’ve to say to me, Captain Ussher?”
“Not quite; I wanted to ask you, on your honour, as a man and an Irishman, do you know whether there is any conspiracy among them to murder or do any injury to me?” Ussher paused for a moment; and as Thady did not answer him, he went on —“and I wanted to warn you against one who is, I know, trying his best to ruin you and your father.”
“Who is that, Captain Ussher? I believe I know my own friends and my own inimies,” said Thady, who thought the revenue officer alluded to Keegan.
“Answer my question first.”
“And suppose I don’t choose to answer it?”
“Why, if you won’t answer it, I cannot but think you are aware of such a conspiracy, and that you approve of it.”
“Do you mean to say, Captain Ussher, that I have conspired to murdher you?”
“No, I say no such thing; but surely, if you heard of such a scheme, or thought there was such an intention in the country, wouldn’t you tell me, or any one else that was so doomed, that they might be on their guard?”
“You’re very much frightened on a sudden, Captain.”
“That’s not true, Macdermot; you know I’m not frightened; but will you answer the question?”
Thady was puzzled; he did not know what to say exactly. He had not absolutely heard that the men whom he was going to meet that night, and whom he knew he meant to join, intended to murder Ussher; but Brady had told him that they were determined to have a fling at him, and it was by their promise to treat the attorney in the same way, that Thady had been induced to come down to them. It had never struck him that he was going to join a body of men pledged to commit murder — that he was to become a murderer, and that he was to become so that very night. His feeling had been confined to the desire of revenging himself for the gross and palpable injuries with which he had been afflicted, whilst endeavouring to do the best he could for his father, his sister, and his house. But now — confronted with Ussher — asked by him as to the plots of the men whom he was on the point of joining, and directly questioned as to their intentions by the very man he knew they were determined to destroy, Thady felt awed, abashed, and confused.
Then it occurred to him that he had not, at any rate as yet, pledged himself to any such deed, or even in his mind conceived the idea of such a deed; that there was no cause why he should give his surmises respecting what he believed might be the intentions of others to the man whom, of all others — perhaps, not excepting the lawyer — he disliked and hated; and that there could be no reason why he should warn Captain Ussher against danger. Though these things passed through Thady’s mind very quickly, still he paused some time, leaning against the corner of an outhouse, till Ussher said,
“Well, Macdermot, surely you’ll not refuse to answer me such a question as that. Though — God knows why — we mayn’t be friends, you would not wish to have such ill as that happen to me.”
“I don’t know why you should come to me, Captain Ussher, to ask such questions. If you were to ask your own frinds that you consort with, in course they would feel more concerned in answering you than I can. Not that I want to have art or part in your blood, or to have you murdhered — or any one else. But to tell you God’s holy truth, if you were out of the counthry intirely, I would be better plased, as would be many others. And since you are axing me, I’ll tell you, Captain Ussher, that I do think the way you do be going on with the poor in the counthry — dhriving and sazing them, and having spies over them — isn’t such as is likely to make you frinds in the counthry, except with such as Jonas Brown and the like. And though, mind you, I know nothing of plots and conspiracies among the boys, I don’t think you’re over safe whilst staying among thim you have been trating that way; and if they were to shoot you some night, it’s no more than many would expect. To tell you the truth, then, Captain Ussher, I think you’d be safer anywhere than at Mohill.”
Thady considered that he thus made a just compromise between the faith he thought he owed to the men with whom he was going to league himself, and the duty, which he could not but feel he ought to perform, of warning Ussher of the danger in which he was placed.
Ussher felt quite satisfied with what Thady had said. He was not at all surprised at his expressions of personal dislike, and he felt confident, from the manner in which young Macdermot had spoken of his perilous situation, that even if any conspiracy had been formed, of which he was the object, there was no intention to put it into immediate operation, and that, at any rate in Macdermot’s opinion, no concerted plan had yet been made to attack him. A good many reasons also induced Ussher to think that he stood in no danger of any personal assault. In the first place, though the country was in a lawless state — though illicit distillation was carried to a great extent — though many of the tenants refused to pay either rent, tithes, or county cesses till compelled to do so — the disturbances arising from these causes had not lately led to murder or bloodshed. He had carried on his official duties in the same manner for a considerable time without molestation, and custom had begotten the feeling of security. Moreover, he thought the poor were cowed and frightened. He despised them too much to think they would have the spirit to rise up against him. In fact, he made up his mind that Thady’s intention was to frighten him out of the country, if possible, and he resolved that he would not allow anything he had heard on the subject either to disturb his comfort, or actuate his conduct.
“Well, Macdermot, that’s fair and above board — and what I expected, though it’s neither friendly nor flattering; and I am not vexed with you for that; for if you don’t feel friendly to me you shouldn’t speak as if you did, and therefore I’m obliged to you. And I will say that if I am to be shot down, like a dog, whilst performing my duty to the best of my ability, at any rate, I won’t let the fear of such a thing frighten me out of my comfort before it happens. And now if you’ll let me say a word or two to you about yourself —”
“I’m much obliged to you, Captain Ussher, but if you can take care of yourself, so can I of myself.”
“Why how cranky you are, man! If you hate me, hate me in God’s name, but don’t be so absurd as to forget you’re a man, and to act like a child. I listened to you — and why can’t you listen to me?”
“Well, spake on, I’ll listen.”
“Mind, I don’t pretend to know more of your affairs than you would wish me; but, as I am intimate with your father, I cannot but see that you, in managing your father’s concerns, put great confidence in the man within there.”
“What! Pat Brady?”
“Yes, Brady! Now if you only employed him as any other farm servant, he would not, probably, have much power to injure you; but I believe he does more than that — that he collects your rents, and knows the affairs of all your tenants.”
“I have very strong reason to think that he is also in the employment, or at any rate in the pay, of Mr. Keegan, the attorney at Carrick.”
“What makes you think that, Captain Ussher?”
“I could hardly explain the different things which make me think so; but I’m sure of it; and it is for you to judge whether, if such be the case, your confidence will not enable him, under the present state of affairs at Ballycloran, to do you and your father much injury. He is also, to my certain knowledge, joined in whatever societies — all of them illegal — are being formed in the country; and he is a man, therefore, not to be trusted. I may add also that if you listen too much to his advice and counsels, you will be likely to find yourself in worse troubles than even those which your father’s property brings on you.”
“Don’t alarm yourself about me; I don’t be in the habit of taking a servant’s advice about things, Captain Ussher.”
“There’s your back up again; I don’t mean to offend you, I tell you; however, if you remember what I have said to you, it may prevent much trouble to you:"— and Ussher walked into the house.
“Prevent throubles,” soliloquised Thady; “there is no way with me to prevent all manner of throuble — I believe I’ll go in and get a tumbler of punch;"— and determined to adopt this mode of quieting troubles, if he could not prevent them, he followed Ussher.
Ussher was now dancing with Feemy, and the fun had become universal and incessant; there were ten or twelve couple dancing on the earthen floor of Mrs. Mehan’s shop. The piper was playing those provocative Irish tunes, which, like the fiddle in the German tale, compel the hearers to dance whether they wish it or no; and they did dance with a rapidity and energy which showed itself in the streams of perspiration running down from the performers’ faces. Not much to their immediate comfort a huge fire was kept up on the hearth; but the unnecessary heat thus produced was atoned for by the numerous glasses of punch with which they were thereby enabled to regale themselves, when for a moment they relaxed their labours.
This pleasant recreation began also to show its agreeable effects in the increased intimacy of the partners and the spirit of the party. All diffidence in standing up had ceased — and now the only difficulty was for the aspirants to get room on which to make their complicated steps; and oh, the precision, regularity, and energy of those motions! Although the piper played with a rapidity which would have convinced the uninitiated of the impossibility of dancing to the time, every foot in the room fell to the notes of the music as surely as though the movements of the whole set had been regulated by a steam machine. And such movements as they were! Not only did the feet keep time, but every limb and every muscle had each its own work, and twisted, shook and twirled itself in perfect unison and measure, the arms performed their figure with as much accuracy as the legs.
“Take a sup of punch now, Miss Tierney; shure you’re fainting away entirely for the want of a dhrop.” The lady addressed was wiping, with the tail of her gown, a face which showed the labour that had been necessary to perform the feat of dancing down the whole company to the tune of the “wind that shakes the barley,” and was now leaning against the wall, whilst her last partner was offering her punch made on the half and half system: “Take a sup, Miss Tierney, then; shure you’re wanting it.”
“Thank ye, Mr. Kelly, but I am afther taking a little jist now, and the head’s not sthrong with me afther dancing;” she took the tumbler, however. “Faix, Mr. Kelly, but it’s yourself can make a tumbler of punch with any man.”
“‘Deed then there’s no sperrits in it at all — only a thrifle to take the wakeness off the water. Come, Miss Tierney, you didn’t take what’d baptize a babby.”
“It’d be a big babby then; one like yerself may be.”
“Here’s long life to the first you have yerself, any way, Miss Tierney!” and he finished the glass, of which the blushing beauty had drunk half. “Might a boy make a guess who’d be the father of it?”
“Go asy now, masther Morty,”— the swain rejoiced in the name of Mortimer Kelley. “It’ll be some quiet, dacent fellow, that an’t given to chaffing nor too fond of sperrits.”
“By dad, my darling, and an’t that me to a hair’s breadth?”
“Is it you a dacent, asy boy?”
“Shure if it an’t me, where’s sich a one in the counthry at all? And it’s I’d be fond of the child — and the child’s mother more especial,” and he gave her a loving squeeze, which in a less energetic society might have formed good ground for an action for violent assault.
“Ah don’t! Go asy I tell you, Morty. But come, an’t you going to dance instead of wasting your time here all night?” and the pair, reinvigorated by their intellectual and animal refreshment, again commenced their dancing.
Whilst the fun was going on fast and furious among the dancers, those in the inner room were not less busily engaged. Brady was still sitting in the chair which he had occupied during the supper, at the bottom of the table, though he had turned round a little towards the fire. At the further end of it Thady was seated, with a lighted pipe in his mouth, and a tumbler of punch on the shelf over the fireplace. Joe Reynolds was seated a little behind, but between Thady and Pat Brady; and a lot of others were standing around, or squatting on the end of the table — leaning against the fireplace, or sitting two on a chair, wherever two had been lucky enough to secure one between them. They were all drinking, most of them raw spirits — and all of them smoking. At the other end of the room, three or four boys and girls were standing in the door-way, looking at the dancing, and getting cool after their own performances; and Denis McGovery was sitting in the chair which Father John had occupied, with his head on the table, apparently asleep, but more probably intent on listening to what was going on among them at the other end of the room, whom he so strongly suspected of some proposed iniquity. The noise, however, of the music and the dancing, the low tones in which the suspected parties spoke, and the distance at which they sat, must have made Denis’s occupation of eaves-dropping difficult, if not impracticable.
Thady had just been speaking, and it was evident from the thickness of his voice that the whiskey he had drunk was beginning to have its effects on him. Instead of eating his dinner, he had been drinking raw spirits in the morning, to which he was not accustomed; for though when cold, or when pressed by others, he could swallow a glass of raw whiskey with that facility which seems to indicate an iron throttle, he had been too little accustomed to give way to any temptation to become habitually a drunkard. Now, however, he was certainly becoming tipsy, and, therefore, more likely to agree to whatever those around him might propose.
“Asy, Mr. Thady!” said Pat; “there’s that long-eared ruffian, McGovery, listening to every word he can catch. Be spaking now as if you war axing the boys about the rint.”
“And isn’t it about that he is axing?” said Joe. “But how can he get the rint, or we be paying it, unless he gives us his hand to rid the counthry of thim as robs us of our manes, and desthroys him and us, and all thim as should be frinds to him and the owld Masther, and to Ballycloran?”
“You know, all of ye, that I never was hard on you,” continued Thady, “when, God knows, the money was wanted bad enough at Ballycloran. You know I’ve waited longer for what was owed than many a one has done who has never felt what it was to want a pound. Did I ever pull the roof off any of you? And though queer tenants you’ve most of you been, an’t the same set on the land now mostly that there was four years ago? There’s none of you can call me a hard man, I think; and when I’ve stuck to you so long, it isn’t now I’ll break away from you.”
“Long life to you, Mr. Thady!” “Long life to yer honer — and may ye live to see the esthate your own yet, and not owe a shilling!” “It’s thrue for the masther what he says; why should he turn agin his own now? God bless him!” Such were the exclamations with which Thady’s last speech was received.
“And I’ll tell you what it is,” and he now spoke in a low thick whisper, “I’ll tell you what’s on my mind. Those that you hate, I don’t love a bit too well. You all know Hyacinth Keegan, I think?”
“‘Deed we do — may the big devil fetch him home!”
“Well, then, would you like him for your landlord, out and out? such a fine gentleman as he is!”
“Blast him for a gintleman!” said Joe; “I’d sooner have his father; he war an honest man, more by token he war no Protestant; he sarved processes for Richard Peyton, up by Loch Allen.”
“Well then,” continued Thady, “if you don’t like him, boys, I can tell you he don’t like you a bit better; and if he can contrive to call himself masther at Ballycloran, as I can tell you he manes to try, it’s not one of you he’ll lave on the land.”
“Did he tell you that himself, Mr. Thady?” whispered Brady. Now though young Macdermot was nearly drunk — quite drunk enough to have lost what little good sense was left to him, after being fool enough to come at all among those with whom he was at present drinking — still what Ussher had said about his follower was not forgotten, and though he did not absolutely believe that Brady was a creature of Keegan’s, what he had heard prevented his having the same inclination to listen to Pat, or the same confidence in what he said.
“Faith then, he told me so with his own mouth; and it isn’t only the others ‘d be going, but you’d have to walk yourself, masther Pat.”
“And why wouldn’t I? D’ye think I’d be staying at Ballycloran afther you war gone, Mr. Thady?”
“Don’t be making any vows, Pat; maybe you wouldn’t be axed, and maybe, av you war, you wouldn’t refuse to ate yer bread, though it war Keegan paid for it.”
“That the first mouthful may choke me that I ever ate of his paying for!”
“Well, however, boys, Hyacinth Keegan will sthrip the roof off every mother’s son of you if he ever conthrives to put his foot in Ballycloran; but, by God, he never shall! Mind, boys, he can never do that till he can lay his hands on the owld man; and where’ll you all be, I wonder, to let him or any one he sends do that, or take a sod of turf, or a grain of oats off the land either?”
“By dad, you’re right, Mr. Thady,” said one of them. “Shure wouldn’t we have him in a bog-hole, or as many as he’d send; and then they might take away what they could carry in their mouths.”
“I’ll tell you what, Sir,” said Joe Reynolds, and he laid his hand on Thady’s knee, and leant forward till his mouth was near the young man’s ear — so near, that not only could not McGovery overhear his words, but of the whole party round the fire, only Brady and Byrne, besides Thady himself, could catch what he said; “I’ll tell you what, Sir, Keegan shall never harum you or yours, if you’ll be one of us — one of us heart and sowl; and I know you will, and I know it’s not in you to put up with what they’re putting on you; an’ dearly he’ll pay for the blow he strik you, an’ the word he said — surely, Mr. Thady!” And he whispered still lower into his ear, “Let alone the esthate, an’ the house, an’ all that, you’d niver put up with what he has been about this day, paceable an’ in quiet?”
“You’re thrue in that, Joe, by G——d!”
“Well then, won’t we see you righted? Let the bloody ruffian come to Ballycloran, an’ then see the way he’ll go back again to Carrick. Will you say the word, Mr. Thady? Will you join us agin thim that is as much, an’ a deal more, agin you than they are agin us?”
“But what is it you main to do?”
“That’s what you’ll know when you’ve joined us; but you know it isn’t now or here we’d be telling you that which, maybe, would put our necks in your hand. But when you’ve taken the oath we’ve all taken, we’ll be ready then not only to tell you all, but follow you anywhere.”
The young man paused.
“Isn’t it enough for you to know that our inimies is your inimies — that thim you wishes ill to, we wishes ill to? Isn’t Keegan the man you’ve most cause to hate, an’ won’t we right you with him? Don’t we hate that bloody Captain that is this moment playing his villain’s tricks with your own sisther in the next room there? and shure you can’t feel very frindly to him. By the holy Virgin, when you’re one of us, it’s not much longer he shall throuble you. If you can put up with what the likes of them is doing to you — if you can bear all that — why, Mr. Thady, you’re not the man I took you for. But mind, divil a penny of rint’ll ever go to Ballycloran agin from Drumleesh; for the matter’s up now; — you’re either our frind or our inimy. But if, Mr. Thady, you’ve the pluck they all says you have — an’ which I iver see in you, God bless you! — it’s not only one of us you’ll be, but the head of us all; for there isn’t one but’ll go to hell’s gate for your word; an’ then the first tinant on the place that pays as much as a tinpenny to Keegan, or to any but jist yourself — by the cross! he may dig his own grave.”
What Thady immediately said does not much signify; before long he had promised to come over to Mrs. Mulready’s at Mohill with Pat Brady, on an appointed night, there to take the oath of the party to whom he now belonged.
Though it was agreed that the secret determinations of the party were not to be divulged to him until he had joined them there, it nevertheless was pretty clearly declared that their immediate and chief object was the destruction of Ussher, and, if possible, the liberation of the three men who had lately been confined in Ballinamore Bridewell, for the malt that had been seized in the cabin by Loch Sheen. However, to prevent the evil arising from this carelessness in the performance of their duties as conspirators, Thady was requested to swear on a cross made with the handles of two knives, that he would not divulge anything that had occurred or been said in that room that night — with which request he complied.
By the time this was done most of them were drunk, but none were so drunk as poor Macdermot. His intoxication, moreover, was unfortunately not of that sort which was likely to end in quiescence and incapability. It was a sign of the great degradation to which Macdermot had submitted, in joining these men, that in talking over the injuries which Ussher had inflicted on them all, he had quietly heard them canvass Ussher’s conduct to his sister, and that in no measured terms. This had gone much against the grain with him at first, because he could not but strongly feel that, in abusing Ussher, they were equally reproaching Feemy. But the fall of high and fine feelings, when once commenced, is soon accomplished, even when the fall is from a higher dignity than those of Thady’s had ever reached; and though, a few hours since, he would have allowed no one but Father John, even to connect his sister’s name with Ussher, he had soon accustomed himself to hear the poorest tenant on his father’s property speak familiarly on the subject, when urging him to join them in common cause against his enemy. But though he had so far sacrificed his sister’s dignity in his drunken conversation with these men, he was not the less indignant with the man whose name they had so unceremoniously joined with hers; and he got up with the resolution to inform Ussher that the intercourse between him and Feemy must immediately cease. The spirits he had taken gave him a false feeling of confidence that he should find means to carry his resolution into effect without delay.
When he got into the outer room, Ussher and Feemy were not there. The dancing and drinking were going on as fast as ever; Shamuth, the piper, was in the same seat, with probably not the same tumbler of punch beside him, and was fingering away at his pipes as if the feeling of fatigue was unknown to him; and Mary, the bride, was still dancing as though her heart had not been broken all the morning with the work she had had to do. Biddy also, the Ballycloran housemaid, was in the seventh heaven of happiness — for hadn’t she music and punch galore? and though the glory of her once well-starched cap was dimmed, if not totally extinguished by the dust and heat, her heart was now too warm with the fun to grieve for that, especially when such a neat made boy as Barney Egan was dancing foranenst her. It did not, however, add to her happiness, when, after being addressed once or twice in vain, she heard her young master’s voice.
“Biddy — d’ye hear, and be d —— d to you! — is your misthress gone home?”
“‘Deed, Mr. Thady, I think she be.”
“And why the divil, then, a’nt you gone with her? d’you mane to be dancing here all night?”
Now Thady was in general so very unobservant — so little inclined to interfere with, if he could not promote, the amusements of his dependants — moreover, so unaccustomed to scold — that Biddy and the others round her soon saw that something was the matter.
“What are you staring at, you born fool? If Miss Feemy’s gone up to Ballycloran, do you follow her.”
Thady’s thick voice, red face, and sparkling eyes showed that he was intoxicated, and Biddy, if not preparing to obey him — for the temptation to stay was too strong — was preparing to pretend to do so, when Mary McGovery, by way of allaying Macdermot’s wrath, said,
“I don’t believe then, Mr. Thady, that Miss Feemy’s gone home, at all at all. I think she and the Captain is only walked down the lane a bit, jist to cool themselves, for sure it’s hot work dancing —”
Thady did not stop to ask any more questions, but hurried out of the door, and turning away from Ballycloran, walked as fast as his unsteady legs would carry him towards Mohill; and, unfortunately, Ussher and Feemy were strolling down the lane in that direction.
When Pat Brady saw Macdermot hurry out of the house, he said to his sister, “Begad! Mary, you’d better hurry down the lane — if Captain Ussher and Miss Feemy is in it — jist to take care of her; for he and the masther’ll have a great fight of it this night. The masther’s blood’s up, and the two’ll be slating one another afore they’re parted.”
“Goodness gracious!” exclaimed Mary, “why don’t you go yourself, Pat? Mr. Thady’s taken a dhrop, and maybe he’ll be hurting Miss Feemy or the Captain. Denis, dear,”— her husband came in the room just then — “there’s a ruction between the Captain and Mr. Thady; in God’s name go and bring away Miss Feemy!”
Ussher and Feemy had not been out of the house many minutes; it was a beautiful mild moonlight night in October, and as the girl had said, they had come out to cool themselves after the heat and noise and dirt of the room in which they had been dancing. Myles was in one of his best humours; he had persuaded himself that he had no real danger to fear from the men who, as he was told, were so hostile to him. Feemy, too, had looked very pretty and nice, and had not contradicted him; and whereas what Thady had drunk had made him cross, Ussher had only just had enough to make him good-humoured. Feemy too was very happy; she had contrived to forget her brother’s croaking and Father John’s warning, or at least the misery which they had occasioned her, and was very happy in Ussher’s good-humour. It were bootless to repeat their conversation, or to tell how often it was interrupted by some unchided caress on the part of Ussher. Feemy, however, had not forgotten her resolution, and was bringing up all her courage to make some gentle hint to Myles on the subject on which she had promised Father John to speak to him, when her heart sunk within her, on hearing her brother’s voice calling to her from behind.
“Good heaven, Myles, there’s Thady! what can he be wanting here?”
Ussher’s arm fell from the fair girl’s waist as he answered, “Never fear, dear, don’t you speak to him; leave him to me.” By this time, Thady had nearly joined them.
“Is that you, Feemy, here at this hour? What the d —— are you doing there, this time of night? Here, take my arm, and come home; it’s time you had some one to mind you, I’m thinking.”
Feemy saw that her brother was intoxicated, and was frightened; she turned, though she did not take his arm, and Ussher turned too.
“Your sister’s not alone, Macdermot; as I’m with her, I don’t think you have much cause to fear, because she is about a mile from Ballycloran.”
“May be, Captain Ussher, you’re being with her mayn’t make her much safer; at any rate you’ll let me manage my own affairs. I suppose I can take my sisther to her own home without your interference,” and he took hold of his sister’s arm, as if to drag it within his own.
“Good heavens, Thady, what are you afther? shure an’t I walking with you; don’t be dragging me!”
“It appears to me, Macdermot,” said Ussher, “that though your sister was in want of no protector before you came, she is in great want of one now.”
“She wanted it thin, and she wants it now, and will do as long as she’s fool enough to put herself in the way of such as you; but, by G——d, as long as I’m with her, she shall have it!” and he dragged her along by the arm.
“But, Thady,” said the poor girl, afraid both of her brother and her lover, and hardly knowing to which to address herself; “but, Thady, you’re hurting me, and I’ll walk with you quiet enough. I was only getting a little cool afther the dancing, and what’s the great harm in that?”
“Well — there,” and he let her go, “I’m not hurting you now; it’s very tender you’ve got of a sudden, when I touch you. Captain Ussher, if you’ll plaze to go on, or stay behind, I’ll be obliged, for I want to spake to Feemy; and there’s no occasion in life for my throubling you to hear what I’ve to say.”
“You can say what you like, Macdermot, but I shan’t leave you; for though Feemy’s your sister, you’re not fit to guide her, or yourself either, for you’re drunk.”
“And there you lie, Captain Ussher! you lie — that’s what you’re used to! but it’s the last of your lies she’ll hear.”
“Ah! you’re drunk,” replied Ussher, “besides, you know I’d not notice what you’d say before your sister; if, however, you’re not so very drunk as to forget what you’ve called me tomorrow morning, and would then like to repeat it, I’ll thrash you as you deserve.”
“Then, by Jasus, you’ll have your wish! you asked me to-night if I had a mind to quarrel with you, and now I’ll tell you, if I find you at Ballycloran schaming agin, you’ll find me ready and willing enough.”
“That’s where you’ll find me tomorrow morning then, for I’ll certainly come to ask your sister how she is, after the brutal manner you’ve frightened her this night; and then perhaps you’ll have the goodness to tell me what you mean by what you call ‘schaming.’”
“I’ll tell you now, then; it’s schaming to be coming with your lies and your blarney afther a girl like Feemy, only maning to desave her — it’s schaming to go about humbugging a poor silly owld man like my father — and it’s the higth of schaming and blackguardness to pretend to be so frindly to a family, when you know you’re maning them all the harum in your power to do. But you’ll find, my fine Captain, it an’t quite so asy to play your thricks at Ballycloran as you think, though we are so poor.”
Feemy, when the young men had begun to use hard words to one another, had commenced crying, and was now sobbing away at a desperate rate.
“Don’t distress yourself, Feemy,” said Ussher, “your brother’ll be more himself tomorrow morning; he’ll be sorry for what he has said then — and if he is so, I am not the man to remember what any one says when they’ve taken a little too much punch.”
They had now come near enough to Mrs. Mehan’s to see that there were a number of people outside the door. As soon after Thady’s departure as Denis McGovery and the rest had been able to make up their minds what it would be the best to do in the emergency of the case, Denis and his wife sallied forth; the former to carry home whichever of the combatants might be slaughtered in the battle, and Mary to give to Feemy what comfort and assistance might be in her power. Pat Brady prudently thought that under all circumstances it would be safest for himself to remain where he was. The married pair, however, bent on peace if possible, and if not, on assuaging the horrors of war, had barely got into the road, when they encountered Father John returning to the wedding party.
“Oh, and it’s yer riverence is welcome agin this blessed evening. God be praised that sent you, for it’s yerself’ll be wanted, I’m afeard, and that immediately.”
It was some time before the priest could learn what was the matter. At last he discovered that Ussher and Feemy had gone out walking — that Thady had got drunk, and had gone after them; and he was inquiring whether he had gone towards Mohill, or towards Ballycloran, which none of them knew, when the three came in sight.
Father John instantly walked up to them, and if he had learnt it from nothing else, soon discovered from Feemy’s tears, that something was the matter.
“How are you, Thady?” he said, putting out his hand to take the young man’s, which was given with apparent reluctance; “how are you? is there anything wrong, that Feemy is crying so?”
“Oh, you know, Father John, there is a d —— d deal wrong, and I’ve jist told the Captain what it is, that’s all. I’ll not have the girl humbugged any longer, that’s all.”
“There must be a great deal wrong, Thady, when you’d curse that way before me.”
“I can’t be picking my words now, for priest or parson.”
They were now surrounded by the whole crowd out of the house, who were staring and gaping, and absolutely shocked at Thady’s impudence to his friend and priest. Feemy was sobbing, and on Ussher offering her his arm to take her from the crowd, took it.
“By G——d!” exclaimed Thady, “if you touch that ruffian’s arm again, I’ll niver call you sisther, or shall you iver call me brother; so now choose betwixt us.”
Feemy dropped her hand from Ussher’s arm, but turning to the priest, she said, “For heaven’s sake take him away, Father John, he’s drunk!”
“Drunk or sober, you may choose now; it’s either me or him; but if you disgrace yourself, you shall not disgrace me!”
Father John took Feemy’s arm on his, and telling the people to go back to their dancing, laid his hand on Thady’s shoulder, and said,
“At any rate, Thady, come a little out of this; if you must speak to your sister in that way, you don’t wish all the parish to hear what you’re saying.”
“What matthers, Father John; what matthers? Shure they’ve all heard too much already; — don’t they all say she’s the blackguard’s misthress?”
“Oh, Thady, how can you repeat that word of me?” sobbed the poor girl.
“Why did you let them say it? Why don’t you tell the man that’s blackening your name while he’s desaving you, to be laving you now, and not following you through the country like a curse?”
By this time the whole party, consisting of Father John, the two young men, and Feemy, were walking on rapidly towards Ballycloran. Feemy was crying, but saying nothing. Ussher was silent, although Thady was heaping on him every term of abuse he could think of; — and Father John was in vain attempting to moderate his wrath. Thus they continued until they came to the avenue leading up to the house, and on Ussher’s proceeding with them through the gate, Thady put himself in the way, stopping him.
“You’ll not come a step in here, Captain, if I know it; you might follow us along the road, for I couldn’t help it — but, by G——d, you don’t come in here!”
“Nonsense, man; do you think I’ll stop out for a drunken man’s riot? let me pass.”
“Set a foot in here, you blackguard, and I’ll stretch you!”
Thady had an alpine in his hand, and was preparing to strike a blow at the Captain, exactly on the spot where Keegan had struck him, when the priest pushed his burly body in between them. “I’ll have no blows, boys, at any rate while I’m with you; put your stick down, Thady,” and he forced the young man’s stick down; “run up to the house, Feemy, and get to bed; I’ll see you in the morning.” Feemy, however, did not move. “Now, Captain Ussher, I am not saying a word on the matter, one way or other, for I don’t well know how the quarrel began — but do you think it’s well to be forcing your way in here, when the master desires you not?”
“But, Mr. McGrath, I’ve yet to learn that this drunken fellow is master here; besides, I suppose it is not a part of his project to rob me of my horse, which is in his father’s stable.”
Thady was at length persuaded to allow Ussher to go to the stables for his horse, and the Captain, after what had passed, did not now wish to go into the house. He was, however, going up to Feemy to shake hands with her, when the priest caught him by the arm, saying —
“Why would you anger a drunken man, and that too, when the feeling in his heart is right? I’ll tell you what, Captain, if what that young man fears is true, you’re almost as much worse than him as vice is than virtue.”
“Spare me your sermon now, Father John; if I see you tomorrow I’ll hear it in patience,” and he galloped down the avenue.
Thady and Feemy went into the house, and we hope each got to bed without further words; and Father John walked slowly home, thinking of all the misery he saw in store for his parishioners at Ballycloran.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14