The Macdermots of Ballycloran, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter 15.

The M’keons.

When Father John opened the wicket gate leading into the small garden which separated Mrs. McKeon’s house from the street, he saw her husband standing in the open door-way, ruminating. Mr. McKeon was said to be a comfortable man, and he looked to be so; he was something between forty-five and fifty, about six feet two high, with a good-humoured red face. He was inclined to be corpulent, and would no doubt have followed his inclination had he not accustomed himself to continual bodily activity. He was a great eater, and a very great drinker; it is said he could put any man in Connaught under the table, and carry himself to bed sober. At any rate he was never seen drunk, and it was known that he had often taken fifteen tumblers of punch after dinner, and rumour told of certain times when he had made up and exceeded the score.

He was comfortable in means as well as in appearance. Though Mr. McKeon had no property of his own, he was much better off than many around him that had. He had a large farm on a profitable lease; he underlet a good deal of land by conacre, or corn-acre; — few of my English readers will understand the complicated misery to the poorest of the Irish which this accursed word embraces; — he took contracts for making and repairing roads and bridges; and, altogether, he contrived to live very well on his ways and means. Although a very hard-working man he was a bit of a sportsman, and usually kept one or two well-trained horses, which, as he was too heavy to ride them himself, he was always willing, and usually able, to sell at remunerating prices. He was considered a very good hand at a handicap, and understood well — no one better — the dangerous mysteries of “knocking.” He was sure to have some animal to run at the different steeple-chases in the neighbourhood, and it was generally supposed, that even when not winning his race, Tony McKeon seldom lost much by attending the meeting. There was now going to be a steeple-chase at Carrick-on-Shannon in a few days, and McKeon was much intent on bringing his mare, Playful — a wicked devil, within twenty yards of whom no one but himself and groom could come — into the field in fine order and condition. In addition to this, Mr. McKeon was a very hospitable man, his only failing in that respect being his firm determination and usual practice to make every man that dined with him drunk. He was honest in everything, barring horse-flesh; was a good Catholic, and very fond of his daughters — Louey and Lydia. His wife was a kind, good, easy creature, fond of the world and the world’s goods, and yet not selfish or niggardly with those with which she was blessed. She was sufficiently contented with her husband, whose friends never came out of the dining-room after dinner, and therefore did not annoy her; she looked on his foibles with a lenient eye, for she had been accustomed to such all her life; and when she heard he had parted with her car in a handicap, or had lost her two fat pigs in a knock, she bore it with great good-humour. She was always willing to procure amusement for her daughters, and was beginning to feel anxious to get them husbands; she was a good neighbour, and if she had a strong feeling at all, it was her partiality for Father John. Her daughters had nothing very remarkable about them to recommend them to our attention: they were both rather pretty, tolerably well educated, to the extent of a two years’ sojourn in a convent in Sligo; were both very fond of novels, dancing, ribbons and potato cakes; and both thought that to dance at a race-ball with an officer in his regimentals was the most supreme terrestrial blessing of which their lot was susceptible.

We have, however, kept the father too long standing at his own door, while we have been describing his family.

“Well, Father John,” said McKeon, “how are you this morning?”

“Why then, as luckily I didn’t dine with you, Mr. McKeon, I’m pretty much as I usually am — and, thank God, that’s well. I’m told you had those poor fellows that were with you last night, laid on a mattress, and that you sent them home that way to Carrick on a country car, and that they couldn’t move, leaving this at six this morning.”

“Oh, nonsense, Father John! who was telling you them lies?”

“But wasn’t it true? Didn’t they go home on one of the cars off the farm, and young Michael driving them, and they on a mattress?”

“And sure, Father John, you wouldn’t have had me let them walk home to Carrick after dinner?”

“They were little fit for walking, I believe; why they couldn’t so much as sit up in the car. Will you never have done, Mr. McKeon; don’t you know the sin of drunkenness?”

“The sin of drunkenness! me know it! Indeed I don’t then. When did you ever see me drunk? Come, which was a case last, Father John — you or I?”

“God forgive me, but I believe some boys did make me rather tipsy the first day I ever was in France; and my head should have been full of other things; and I believe if you were to swim in punch it wouldn’t hurt you; but you know as well as I can tell you, it’s worse for you to be making others drink so much who can’t bear it as you can, than if you were hurting yourself.”

“And you know, as well as I can tell you, that yourself would be the last man to take the whiskey off the table, as long as the lads that were with you chose to be drinking it; and I think when I sent them boys off to Carrick as comfortably asleep as if they were in bed, so that they wouldn’t be too late at business this morning, I acted by them as I’d wish anybody to act by me if I had an accident; and if that an’t being a good Christian, I don’t know what is. So lave off preaching, Father John, and come round to the stables, till I show you the mare that’ll win at Carrick; at least, it’ll be a very good nag that’ll take the shine out of her.”

“I hope you’ll win, Mr. McKeon, in spite of your villany in making those young fellows drunk. But I’ll not look at the mare just at present; more by token I’m told she’s not very civil to morning visitors.”

“Arrah, nonsense, man! she’s as quiet a mare as ever went over a fence, when she’s well handled.”

“But you see I can’t handle her well; and as I want to see the good woman that owns you, if you please, I’ll go into the house instead of into the stable.”

“Well, every man to his choice; and I’ll see Playful get her gallop. But I tell you what, Father John, if you don’t mind what you’re after with Mrs. McKeon, I’ll treat you a deal worse than I did those two fellows I sent home to Carrick on a mattress.”

So Mr. McKeon walked off to superintend the training of his mare; and the priest, in spite of the marital caution he had received, walked into the dining-room, where he knew that at that hour he should probably find the mother and daughters surrounded by their household cares.

When the usual greetings were over, and the two girls had asked all the particulars of Mary Brady’s wedding, and Mrs. McKeon had got through her usual gossip, Father John warily began the subject respecting which he was so anxious to rouse his friend’s soft sympathies.

Mrs. McKeon had gone so far herself as to ask him whether anything had been settled yet at Ballycloran, about Ussher, and whether he thought that the young man really intended to marry the girl.

The way this question was asked, was a great damper to Father John’s hopes. If there had been any kindly feelings towards poor Feemy at the moment in her breast, she would have called her by her name, and not spoken of her as “the girl;” it showed that Mrs. McKeon was losing, or had lost, whatever good opinion she might ever have had of Feemy: and when Louey ill-naturedly added, “Oh laws! — not he — the man never thought of her,” Father John felt sure that there was a slight feeling of triumph among the female McKeons at the idea of Feemy’s losing the lover of whom, perhaps, she had been somewhat too proud.

Still, however, he did not despair; he knew that if they spoke with ill-nature, it arose from thoughtlessness — and that it was, at any rate with the mother, only necessary to point out to her the benefit she could confer, to arouse a kindly feeling within her.

“I think you’re wrong there, Miss Louey,” said Father John; “I think he not only did think of her — but does think of her; and I’ll tell you what I know, that if Feemy Macdermot had the great blessing which you have, and that is a kind, good, careful mother to the fore, she’d have been married to him before this.”

“But, Father John,” said the kind, good, careful mother, “what is there to prevent them marrying, if he’s ready? I always pitied Feemy being left alone there with her father and brother; but if Captain Ussher is in earnest, I don’t see how twenty mothers would make it a bit easier for her.”

“Don’t you, Mrs. McKeon! — then it’s little you know the advantage your own girls have in yourself. Don’t you think a man would prefer taking a girl from a house where a good mother gave signs that the daughter would make a good wife, than from one where there was no one to mind her but a silly old man, and a young one like Thady? — a very good young man in his way, but not very fit, Mrs. McKeon, to act a mother’s part to a girl like Feemy.”

“That’s true enough; but then why did she make all the world believe he was engaged to her, if he wasn’t? — And if he wasn’t, why did she let him go on as though he was, being at all hours, I’m told, with her at Ballycloran? — and if they are not to be married, why does her brother let him be coming there at all? I know you’re fond of them, Father John, and I’d be sorry to think ill of your friends; but I must say it begins to look odd.”

“You’re right any how, in saying I’m very fond of them; indeed I am, and so is yourself, Mrs. McKeon; and I know, though you speak in that way to me, you wouldn’t say anything that could hurt the poor girl, any where but just among ourselves. If it wasn’t in a kind mother, with such a heart as your own — especially in one she’d known so long — in whom could a poor motherless, friendless girl, like Feemy, expect to find a friend?”

“God forbid I should hurt her, Father John! And indeed I’d befriend her if I knew how; but don’t you think, yourself now, she’s played a foolish game with that young man?”

“Why, as I never was a young lady in love, I can’t exactly say how a young lady in love should behave; but, my dear woman, look at it this way; I suppose there’s no harm in Feemy wishing to get herself married, more than any other young lady?”

“Oh! dear no, Father John; quite right she should.”

“And every one seems to think this Captain Ussher would be a proper match for her.”

“Why, barring that he’s a Protestant, of course he’s a very good match for her.”

“Oh! as to his being a Protestant, we won’t mind that now. Well then, Mrs. McKeon, under these circumstances, what could Feemy do better than encourage this Captain?”

“I never blamed her for encouraging him; only she should not have gone the length she has, unless he downright proposed for her.”

“But he has downright proposed for her.”

“No! Father John,” said Louey.

“Has he though, really!” exclaimed Lyddy.

“Then, why, in the name of the blessed Virgin, don’t he marry her?” said the mother.

“That’s poor Feemy’s difficulty, you see, Mrs. McKeon. Now if any man you approved of were to make off with Miss Lyddy’s heart — and I’m sure she’ll never give it to any one you don’t approve of — why of course he’d naturally come to you or her father, and the matter would be settled; but Feemy has no mother for him to go to, and her father, you know, can’t mind such things now.”

“But she has a brother; in short, if he meant to marry her, it would soon be done. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

“But that’s where it is; you know young men, and what they are, a deal better than I do; and you can understand that a young man may propose to a girl, and be accepted, and afterwards shilly shally about it, and perhaps at last change his mind altogether — merely because the girl’s friends don’t take care that the affair is regularly and properly carried on; now isn’t that so, Mrs. McKeon?”

“Indeed, Father John, it’s all true.”

“Well, that’s just Feemy’s case; may be, after, as you say, having given the young man so much encouragement, she’ll lose him because she has no mother to keep him steady as it were, and fix him; and no blame to her in the matter either, is there, Mrs. McKeon?”

“Why, if you look at it in that way, of course, she’s not so much to blame.”

“Of course not,” said Father John, obliged to be satisfied with this modicum of applause; “of course not; but it’s a pity for the poor girl.”

“You think he’ll jilt her altogether, then?”

“I don’t think he means it yet; but I think he will mean it soon — unless, indeed, Mrs. McKeon, you’d befriend her now.”

“Me, Father John!”

“If you’d take a mother’s part with her for a week or so, it would all be right; and I don’t know a greater charity one Christian could do another this side the grave, than you could do her.”

“What could I do, Father John?” said the good woman — rather frightened, for she would now be called on to take some active part in the matter, which perhaps she might not altogether relish; —“what could I do? You see Ballycloran is three miles out of this, and I couldn’t always be up there when Ussher was coming. And though I believe I’d be bold enough where one of my own girls was concerned, I’d be shy of speaking to a man like Captain Ussher, when it was no business of my own.”

“As for that, I believe you’d never want wit or spirit either, to say what you’d wish to say to any man, and that in the very best manner. It’s true enough, though, you couldn’t be always up at Ballycloran; but why couldn’t Feemy be down at Drumsna?”— Father John paused a minute, and Mrs. McKeon said nothing, but looked very grave. —“Now be a good woman, Mrs. McKeon, and ask the poor girl down here for a fortnight or so; I know Lyddy and Louey are very fond of their friend, and Feemy’d be nice company for them; and then as you are acquainted with Captain Ussher, of course he’d be coming after his sweetheart; and then, when Feemy is under your protection, of course you’d speak to him in your own quiet lady-like way; and then, take my word for it, I’d be marrying them in this very room before Christmas. Wouldn’t we have dancing up stairs, eh, Miss Louey?”— Mrs. McKeon still said nothing. —“And even supposing Ussher did not come down here, and nothing was done, why it would be evident the match was not to take place, and that Ussher was a blackguard; then of course Feemy must give up all thoughts of him. And though, maybe, she’d grieve awhile, it would be better so than going on as she is now up at the old place, with no one to give her any advice, or tell her what she ought to do or say to the man. Any way, you see, it would be doing her a kind service. Come, Mrs. McKeon, make up your mind to be a kind, good neighbour to the poor girl; and do you and the two young ladies go up to Ballycloran, and ask her to come down and spend a week or two with you here.”

“But perhaps,” said Louey, “Feemy won’t like to leave Ballycloran, and come so far from her beau; because she couldn’t see him here as she does there, you know, Father John.”

“Why, Miss Louey, I don’t think you know how she sees him. I believe he goes and calls there, much as you’d like your beau to come and call here, if you had one.”

“Indeed, Father John, when I do have one, I hope I shall manage better than to be talked about as much as she is, any way. I hardly think it would do to ask her at present, mother. You know Mr. Gayner is to be here the night of the race-ball, and we’ve only the one bed.”

“Come, come, Miss Louey, I didn’t expect to hear you say a word against your old friend; why should you be less good-natured than your mother? You see she’s thinking how she can best do what I’m asking.”

“As for old friends,” said Louey, “I and Miss Macdermot were never so very intimate; and as for being ill-natured, I never was told before that I was more ill-natured than mother. But of course mamma will do as she likes, only she can’t very well turn Mr. Gayner out of the house after having asked him to come for the races, that’s all:” and Miss Louey flounced out of the room.

“Come, Mrs. McKeon,” continued Father John, “think of the benefit this would be to Feemy; and you can’t have any real objection; the race-ball is only for one night, and the girls will be too tired after that, to think very much of sleeping together.”

“But you seem to forget — very likely Mr. McKeon wouldn’t like my asking her; you know I couldn’t think of doing it without asking him.”

“Oh! Mrs. McKeon, that’s a good joke! You’ll make me believe, won’t you, that you’re not as much mistress of your own house as any woman in Ireland? As if Mr. McKeon would interfere with your asking any one you pleased to your own house.”

“But you see the girls are against it.”

“I hope they are not against anything that would be charitable and kind in their mother; but if they were, I’m quite sure their mother shouldn’t give way to them. Wouldn’t you be glad to have Miss Feemy here a short time, Miss Lyddy?”

“Indeed, I’d have no objection, if mamma pleases, Father John.”

“There, you see, Mrs. McKeon; — I am afraid I said something rude which set Miss Louey’s back up, but I am sure in her heart she’d be glad of anything that would be of service to Feemy. Come, Mrs. McKeon, will you drive over to Ballycloran this fine morning, and ask her?”

“But suppose she won’t come?”

“Then it won’t be your fault; — you can tell her it’s just for the races and the ball you’re asking her — that she may see Mr. McKeon’s horse win the race, and dance with Ussher at the ball afterwards. Oh! if you mean her to come, she’ll come fast enough; — let you alone for carrying your point when you’re in earnest. I know your way of asking, when you don’t mean to take a refusal; — and to give you your due this day, I never heard you give an invitation you didn’t mean to be accepted.”

“Well, Father John, as you think it will be of so much service to Feemy, and as, as you say, she has no mother, poor girl, of her own, and no female friend that she can look to, I’ll ask her over here. But it mustn’t be for a week or a fortnight, but till the affair of Captain Ussher is finally settled. And if the girl behaves herself as she ought, when once she is here, Tony won’t see her wronged by any man.”

“That’s my own friend!” said Father John with tears in his eyes. “What could any poor priest like me do in a parish, if it wasn’t that there were such women as yourself to help him?”

“But, Father John — whisper here,” and she took him aside into the window, and spoke in a low voice; “you can’t have helped hearing the stories people have been talking about Feemy. As I have heard them, of course you must.”

“Heard them! of course I have — but you know what lies get talked abroad.”

“But they say she walks with him after dark; and goes in and out there at Ballycloran, at all hours, just as she pleases. Of course I can have none of those doings here.”

“Of course not; it is because she has no one there to tell her what is right or wrong that I wish her to be here. Of course you have regular hours here, and you’ll find you’ll have no difficulty with her that way.”

“Well, Father John, I’ve only one more thing to say, and you’ll answer me that as a priest and a Christian. God knows, I wouldn’t believe any ill-natured story against any poor girl situated as Feemy is; but you know, such things will get about:— people say Ussher speaks of her as his mistress, instead of as his wife. Now, Father John, if this unfortunate girl, whom I’m ready and willing to help, has done anything really wrong, you would not be the means of bringing her into the house with my own dear girls! Have you, Father John, told me all you know about her attachment to this man?”

“Indeed then if she was unfit to associate with your girls, Mrs. McKeon, I’d be the last man on earth to ask you to invite her here. If Feemy has been imprudent in going out too much alone with Ussher, it’s the most that with truth can be said against her; and as you ask me to tell you all, I’ll tell you one thing I didn’t wish to mention before the girls.” And Father John told her how Thady had got drunk, and insulted Ussher, telling him not to come to Ballycloran again, and all that: but he did not tell her how strongly he suspected that Thady was right in his fears for his sister, and that his chief object in getting Feemy away from Ballycloran was to remove her as far as possible from Ussher’s influence.

“Well, Father John, I’ll go to Ballycloran, and ask her here; I suppose she’ll hardly be ready to come today, but if she pleases, I’ll drive over again for her after tomorrow. I’ll go now and talk Louey over, for you and she seem to have quarrelled somehow.”

“And God bless you, Mrs. McKeon; it’s yourself is a good woman; and you never did a kinder action than the one you’re going to do this morning!” and Father John took his leave.

The breakfast party at Ballycloran the morning after the wedding was not a very lively one; indeed the meals at Ballycloran seldom were very gay, but this was more than usually sombre.

Larry was brooding over Keegan’s threats, his fears that Thady meant to betray him into the attorney’s hands, and his determination never from that day forth to stir from his fireside, lest the horrid myrmidons of the law should pounce upon him.

Feemy was intent on the insults which had been offered to her lover, and her temper was somewhat soured by the remembrance that she had not effected her purpose of questioning Ussher about his intentions. Thady, however, was the blackest looking of the family. Everything was dark within his breast. He thought of the ruffians with whom he had leagued himself; and though previously he had only considered them as poor, hard used, somewhat lawless characters, they now appeared to him everything that was iniquitous and bad. Secret murder was their object — black, foul, midnight murder — and he was sworn, or soon would be sworn, not only to help them, but to lead them on. What he had already done might hang him. He felt his life to be in the power of each of those blackguards, with whom, in wretched equality, he had been drinking on the previous evening. And what had led him to this? If he had been wronged and injured, why could not he redress himself like other injured men? If revenge were necessary to him, why could he not avenge himself like a man, instead of leaguing with others to commit murder in the dark, like a coward and a felon? And then he thought of his position with Keegan and Ussher. There was something manly in his original disposition; he would have given anything for a stand up fight with the attorney with equal weapons; if it had been sure death to both, he would have fought him to the death; but he had no such opportunity; the dastardly brute had trampled on him when he could not turn against him. And then with rancorous hatred he thought of the blow that Keegan had struck him — of the manner in which he had insulted his father, and worse than all, of the name he had applied to his sister; and, remembering all this, he almost reconciled himself to the only means he had of punishing the wretch that had inflicted all these injuries on him. Then he thought of Ussher, and the scene which had passed between them last night; he knew he had been drunk, and had but a very confused recollection of what he had done or said. He remembered, however, that he had insulted Ussher; this did not annoy him; but he had a faint recollection of having committed his sister’s name, by talking of her in his drunken brawl, and of having done, or said something, he knew not what, to Father John.

Though Thady had never known the refinements of a gentleman, or the comforts of good society, still he felt that the fall, even from his present station to that in which he was going to place himself, would be dreadful. But it was not the privations which he might suffer, but the disgrace, the additional disgrace which he would bring on his family, which afflicted him. How could he now presume to prescribe to Feemy what her conduct should be, or to his father in what way he should act respecting the property? He already felt as though he was unworthy of either of them, and was afraid to look them in the face. After breakfast he wandered forth, striving to attend to his usual work, but the incentives to industry were all gone; he had no longer any hope that industry would be of service to him; he walked along the hedges and ditches, unconsciously planning in his mind the different ways of committing the crimes which he really so abhorred, but in which he was about to pledge himself to join. He thought, if it should be his lot to murder Keegan, how he would accomplish it. Should it be at night? — or in the day? — would he shoot him? — and if he did, would not the powder or the gun be traced home to him? — would not his footsteps in the bog be tracked and known? — if he struck him down on the road, would not the blood be found on his coat, or his shirt be torn in the struggle? — and, above all, would not his own comrades betray him? He had, some short time since, heard the whole of a trial for murder at Carrick assizes, and though he had not then paid particular attention to it, all the horrid detail and circumstances of the case now came vividly before his mind’s eye. He planned and plotted how, had he in that case been the murderer, he would have foreseen and provided against the different things, the untoward accidents, which then came in evidence against the prisoner; he thought how much more wary he would be than the poor wretch who was then tried, and of what benefit the experience he had gained would be to him. Then he remembered that the principal witness in the case was an ill-featured, sullen-looking fellow, who had been called king’s evidence — one who, in answering the tormenting questions put to him, had appeared almost more miserable than the prisoner himself; — that this man had been the friend and assistant of the murderer — the sharer and promoter of all his plans — the man who had led him on to the murder — his sworn friend. He remembered how it had come out on the trial, that the two had for months shared the same bed — tilled in the same field — eat from the same mess — and had sinned together in the same great sin. Yet this man had come forward to hang his friend! — and Thady shuddered coldly as he thought how likely it might be that his associates would betray him. He had not slept, eat, and worked with them — he was not leagued to them by equal rank, equal wants, and equal sufferings. If that wretched witness had been induced to give evidence against the man so strongly bound to him, how much more likely that Byrne or Reynolds should hang him! or Pat Brady! And as Brady’s name occurred to him, he remembered Ussher’s caution respecting that man, and his assurance that he was in Keegan’s pay. If this were true, he had already committed the oversight to guard against which he had calculated that his superior cunning would be sufficient; and then the cold perspiration trickled from his brow, and he abruptly stopped, leaning against a bank, to meditate again on the position in which he stood.

It was not that during this time Thady had been absolutely planning murder. He had not been making any definite scheme, to be carried into immediate execution against any individual. He was not a murderer, even in mind or wish; he would have given anything to have driven the idea from his mind, but he could not; he could not avoid thinking what he would do, if he had resolved to do the deed — how the crime would be most safely perpetrated — how the laws most cunningly evaded. Then he half resolved to have nothing more to do with Reynolds and his followers, and to quiet his conscience while yet he possibly could; but the insolence of Keegan, the injuries of Ussher, and the sure enmity of those whom he had sworn to join, and now scarcely dared to desert, stifled his remorse, and destroyed the resolution before it was half made. He thought of enlisting — but he could not desert his sister; of going to Father John, and confessing all; but would Father John befriend him after his late conduct to him? Thus he wandered on, through the whole long morning. Twice he returned to the house, and creeping in through the back door, got himself a glass of spirits, which he swallowed, and again sallied forth, to find if movement would give him comfort, or his thoughts suggest anything to him in mitigation of his sorrows.

As he was returning, the third time, for the same bad purpose — for the short stimulus of the dram was the only relief he could find to the depression which seemed to weigh him down and make his heart feel like a cold lump within him — and just as he was turning from the avenue to the back of the house, he met Ussher walking down. He did not know what to do; he remembered that the evening before he had defied this man; he even recollected that he had arrogantly declared that he should not again set his foot on Ballycloran; he had forbad him the house, as if he had been the master; and at the present moment he felt as though he did not dare address him, for it seemed to him as if every one now would look down on him, as he looked down on himself — as if every one could see what was in his breast, as plainly as he saw it himself.

This annoyance, however, was of short duration, for Ussher passed him with a slight unembarrassed nod, as if nothing had passed between them on the previous evening — as if they were still good friends, and had met and been talking together but a short time before. Ussher had walked by quickly, and there was a look of satisfaction or rather gratified vanity in his face; he seemed, also, absorbed with the subject of his thoughts; Thady, however, as soon as he had passed, took but little notice of him, but walked on into the kitchen, at the rear of the house.

Here, on a small settle by the fireside, where he had been placed out of the way by Biddy or Katty, sat a ragged bare-legged little boy, known as Patsy, the priest’s gossoon; he was the only assistant Judy had in the management of Father John’s ménage. He ran on errands to Drumsna, and occasionally to Carrick-on-Shannon — fetched the priest’s letters — dug his potatoes — planted his cabbages, and cleaned his horse Paul. He had now come up to Ballycloran with a message to Thady, and having been desired to stay there till he could see him himself, he had been quietly sitting in the kitchen since a little after Thady had first left the house; he now jumped up to give his message.

“Misther Thady, yer honer, Father John says as how he’ll be glad av yer honer’ll come down to dinner with him at six; and he says as how you must come, Mr. Thady, because divil a bit he’ll ate himself, he says, till you’re in it.”

“For shame, Patsy!” interposed Biddy, “putting those words into his riverence’s mouth. I’m sure thin Father John wasn’t cursing that way.”

“Faix thin, ma’am, thim wor his very words —‘Tell Mr. Thady, av he don’t come down to the cottage to his dinner this day, divil a bit will I ate till he does.’”

“Well, to hear the brat!” continued Biddy, shocked at the indecorous language which was put into her priest’s mouth.

“And who’s to be at Father John’s else?” said Thady.

“Sorrow a one av me rightly knows thin, for I wasn’t hearing; all I wor told wor, I warn’t to come out of this widout yer honer.”

“But I can’t go to-night, Patsy.”

“But Father John says you must, Mr. Thady.”

“Tell Father John, Patsy, that I am very much obliged to him, but that I’m not just well enough to come out to-night. I couldn’t go to-night, do you hear; go down and tell him so, or he’ll be waiting dinner.”

“But, Mr. Thady,” said the boy, half sobbing, “Father John said as how I warn’t to come at all widout you.”

“Do as I tell you, you fool; but mind you tell Father John I’m very much obliged to him, only I’m ill.”

“Well,” muttered the boy, at length taking his departure, “I know Father John’ll be very mad, but any way it ain’t my fault.”

Thady was gratified with the priest’s invitation, for it showed that he at least had forgiven him; but he did not dare to face him by accepting it.

He got himself another glass of whiskey, and lighting his pipe, sat down to smoke by the kitchen fire; after he had been some time sitting there, Pat Brady came into the kitchen. Thady, however, took no notice, except muttering something in answer to Pat’s usual salutation. They remained both some time silent, till at last Brady observed that, “They’d all of them had ilegant divarsion last night — most of them stayed a power later nor you, Mr. Thady.”

This allusion to last night was not at present the subject most likely to make Thady talk freely, so he still continued silent. At last Pat said,

“Could I spake to you a moment, Mr. Thady?”

“Spake out — what is it?”

“Oh, it’s business, yer honer; it’s something about money — wouldn’t you step out to the rint-office?”

“Don’t you see I’m just going to dinner; besides, I ain’t well — it’ll keep till tomorrow, I suppose?”

“But it won’t keep, Mr. Thady.”

At this moment, Biddy, who had been taking some smoking viands out of a big black pot and transferring them to a dish, went out of the kitchen with them on her road to the dining-room, and Pat took the opportunity of whispering to his master that, “the boys wor to meet at Mulready’s on the next evening.”

“What of that?” answered Thady; “I suppose some of them meet there mostly every night?”

“But tomorrow’s the night, Mr. Thady, when yer honer’s to be inisheated among us sworn brothers.”

“I shan’t be in it at all tomorrow, then.”

“Not be in it! why you promised; and the boys is all noticed now. Didn’t you take the oath, Mr. Thady?” and he whispered down close to his ear.

“I took no oath about any day. I suppose I needn’t come before I choose?”

Biddy now returned, and Thady got up to go to his dinner; Pat followed him, and renewed the conversation in the passage. Thady, however, would give no definite promise to come tomorrow, or the next day, but said he meant to come some day. Pat observed that the boys would be furious — that they would think themselves deceived and betrayed — then urged the necessity of taking steps to prevent their paying the rent to Keegan — hinted that Ussher had been with Miss Feemy that morning — and at last departed when he found that his master was not in a proper mood to be persuaded, remarking that “he would come up again in the morning, when perhaps his honer would be thinking better of it, and not break his promised word to the boys, as there would be a great ruction among them, av he didn’t go down jist to spake a word to them afther what had passed; besides, Mr. Thady,” he added, “av you wor to go back now, some of thim boys as wor in it last night, would be going to Jonas Brown’s, thinking to get the first word agin you — thinking, you know, as how you would ‘peach agin thim, may be.”

After this threat, Pat took his leave, and Thady, with a sad heart, and low spirits, which even three glasses of whiskey had not raised, went in to dinner. After swallowing a few hasty morsels, without speaking either to his father or his sister, he returned to the kitchen and again sat there smoking, till one of the girls came in, telling him that Father John was on the steps of the hall-door waiting for him — that he couldn’t come in, but that he said he had important business to speak of, and must see Mr. Thady.

“Confound you,” muttered Thady, in a low voice, “why didn’t you say I was out?”

“Shure, you niver told me, Mr. Thady.”

Thady considered a moment, whether he should escape through the back door; at last, however, he plucked up his courage, and went out to meet the priest.

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