It will be remembered that Father John had promised to take upon himself all the trouble attendant upon the preparation for Thady’s trial; and with the view of redeeming this promise he went up to Dublin and spent a week among the lawyers who were to be engaged for the young man’s defence. The chief among these was one Mr. O’Malley, and the priest strove hard to imbue that gentleman with his own views of the whole matter. The day after that on which Father John returned, he saw both Mr. McKeon and the Counsellor, and explained to them as nearly as he could all that had passed between himself and O’Malley. Though they were both greatly interested on Thady’s account, they did not feel the same intense, constant anxiety, which now quite oppressed the priest; and, moreover, trusting more to their own judgment than he did, they were not so inclined to alter their preconceived opinion. They both, therefore, assured Father John that they were still quite sanguine as to Thady’s acquittal. This raised his hopes again a little, but nevertheless, from that time till the trial, he was so absorbed by his strong feeling on the subject, that he was almost totally unable to attend to the usual duties and employment of his life. It was decided that Mr. Webb should use all his endeavours to obtain tidings of Corney Dolan, and ascertain whether, in the event of his being summoned, he would be able to give any evidence respecting the meeting at Mrs. Mehan’s, which would be of use to Thady at the trial. In this he was successful, and he learnt from that respectable individual that he could swear that Ussher’s name was not mentioned at all.
It must be owned that Mr. Dolan’s manner was not such as to inspire the Counsellor with any great admiration for his veracity, and his opinion in this respect was strengthened when the witness added “that by Garra, av his honor thought it’d be any use in life to Mr. Thady, he’d swear as how he was asleep all the time; or for the matther of that, that he was out along wid de gals dancing the livelong night.” It was with difficulty that Mr. Webb made him understand that he was only to swear to what he believed to be the truth, and that if he told a single lie in answer to the numerous questions which would be asked him, he would only be endangering Mr. Macdermot’s life.
Father John undertook the more difficult task of explaining to Feemy what it was she was expected to do at the trial, and of making her understand that her brother’s life depended on her making an effort to give her evidence in the court clearly and firmly. On reaching Drumsna he was much distressed to find that she was no longer at Mrs. McKeon’s. For two days after the conversation which had passed between that lady and her charge, in which she declared her suspicions that Feemy was enceinte, the latter had made a great effort to recover her health, or at any rate the appearance of health. She left her bed earlier in the morning than she had ever done for the last five months; she dressed herself with great care, and — for alas, Mrs. McKeon’s suspicion was but too true — fastened her dress with a most dangerous determination to prove that the charge was unfounded. Patiently she endured all the agonies which this occasioned her during the first day and during the whole evening, till the house was at rest and she was secure from being again visited. On the next morning she went so far as to come down to breakfast, and to undergo Tony’s somewhat rough congratulation as to her convalescence, without betraying her sufferings. After breakfast, when he was gone out, she again opened the subject of her return home, and begged Mrs. McKeon to allow her to have the car to return to Ballycloran. Mrs. McKeon again put her off, telling her that it would be necessary first to consult the doctor, and that he would not be likely to call till the following day. In the afternoon Mrs. McKeon, with Lyddy and Louey, went out for a drive, and as Feemy was apparently so much better, they asked her to accompany them, but this she declined.
“It’s as well for her not to go out before the trial,” whispered Mrs. McKeon to her daughters. “Poor girl; she has a great deal, a great deal, indeed, to go through yet.” Indeed she had a very great deal to go through; a very heavy atonement to pay for her folly and her crime.
As soon as the car was gone from the door, she hurried up stairs, put on her bonnet and cloak, took a letter which she had already prepared, and opening the door of Mrs. McKeon’s own room, put it on the table. She then crept noiselessly down stairs, opened the front door, and passed into the street, without having been seen or heard by either of the servants, who were alone left with her in the house. The following is the letter, which, to her great grief and surprise, Mrs. McKeon found on her table when she returned:—
DEAR MRS. McKEON,
It is because I know you’d never let me go back to Ballycloran, that I’ve now gone away without telling you what I was going to do. Pray don’t be angry with me. Indeed I’m very unhappy; but I should be worse if you were to be angry with me. I’m only a bother and a throuble to you here, and I hav’n’t spirits left even to let you see how very much obliged I am to you for all your throuble; but indeed I am in my heart, my dear Mrs. McKeon, both to you and to dear Lyddy and Louey, who have been so very kind to me. It is a deal better for me to be at home with my father; my heart’s nearly broken with all I’ve gone through; but he’ll bear with me, for he’s used to me. Give my compliments to Doctor Blake. Pray beg him not to come to Ballycloran. I am in his debt a great deal already, and how will I ever pay him? Besides, I’m a deal better now, as you see, in health; it’s only the heart now that ails me. Give my kind love to Lyddy and Louey. I felt their kindness when the sorrow within me wouldn’t let me tell them so. Now good bye, dear Mrs. McKeon; don’t be throubling yourself to come to Ballycloran; it’ll be a poor place now. I’ll send Katty for the things.
I remain, dear Mrs. McKeon, Very, very faithfully yours,
P.S. — Indeed — indeed — it isn’t the case, what you were saying.
When Mrs. McKeon found the letter on her return, she was greatly vexed; but she could do nothing; she couldn’t go to Ballycloran and fetch Feemy by force. The falsehood with which the letter concluded was not altogether disbelieved; but still she felt by no means certain that her former suspicions were not true, and if so, perhaps it was better for all parties that Feemy should be at home. She determined to call at Ballycloran when Feemy might be supposed to have settled herself, and content herself for the present with hearing from the girl who came for the clothes that she had got home safe.
When Father John called on the Saturday, she talked over the subject as fully with him as she could without alluding to the matter respecting which she was so much in doubt. He declared his intention of seeing Feemy on the following Monday, and of speaking to her strongly on the subject of the trial which was so soon coming on; and he begged Mrs. McKeon to do the same afterwards — as perhaps having become latterly used to her interference, Feemy might bear from her what she had to be told, with more patience than she would from himself.
“Indeed I will, Father John, but do you be gentle with her. She’s broken-hearted now; you’ll find her very different from the hot-headed creature she was before her sorrows began.”
“I fear she is — I fear she is; but, Mrs. McKeon, has she ever shown a feeling of regard — a spark of interest, for her noble brother? — it’s that so annoys me in Feemy; I could feel for her — weep for her — and forgive her with all my heart — all but that.”
“Ah, Father John,” answered the lady; “it’s not for me to preach to you; but where would we all be at the last, if our Judge should say to us, ‘I can forgive you all but that?’”
“God forbid I should judge her; God forbid I should limit that to her, which I so much need myself. But isn’t her heart hardened against her brother? Oh, if you could have seen him as I have done this morning — if you could believe how softened is his heart! He had never much false pride in it — it is nearly all gone now! If you could have heard how warmly, how affectionately he asks after the sister that won’t mention his name; if you could know how much more anxious he is on her account and his father’s, than on his own, Feemy’s coldness and repugnance would strike you as it does me. I’m afraid her chief sorrow is still for the robber that would have destroyed her, and has destroyed her brother.”
“Of course it is, Father John — and so it should be. I’m a woman and a mother, and you may take my word respecting a woman’s heart. No wife could love her husband more truly than Feemy loved that man: unworthy as he was, he was all in all to her. Would it not, therefore, show more heartlessness in her to forget him that is now dead, than the brother who killed him? Of course she loved him better than her brother, as every woman loves the man she does love better than all the world. How can she forget him? Be gentle to her, Father John, and I think she will do what you desire.”
Father John promised that he would comply with Mrs. McKeon’s advice, and he was as good as his word.
On reaching the hall-door of Mrs. McKeon’s house Feemy looked cautiously about her, but seeing that no one belonging to the house was in sight, she passed on through the little garden into the street. She pulled her old veil down over her face, and walked on through the village as quickly as she could. She felt that every one’s eye was on her; that all the country was looking at her; but she had made up her mind to go through it all, and she persevered. The last time she had been out of the house was the day she had been taken from Ballycloran to the inquest. That was a horrid day, but the present seemed worse; she had now a greater sorrow than any of which she was then conscious, and she had to bear it alone, unpitied and uncomforted. Indeed, her only rest, her only respite from absolute torture was now to consist in being alone; and yet bad as the present was, there was a worse — she felt that there was a worse in store for her. She already anticipated the tortures of that day, when she would again be dragged out from her resting-place before the eyes of all mankind, and placed in the very middle of the crowd, conspicuous above the rest, to be stared at, bullied, and questioned horridly about that dread subject, which it even racked her mind to remember. Would she be able on that long, long day — days, for what she knew — to conceal her shame from all who would be looking at her, and to bear in patience the agonies which it would be necessary for her to endure? She walked on quickly, and was soon out of Drumsna, and in the lane leading by the cottage to Ballycloran. By the time she had walked half a mile she was in a dreadful heat, although it was still in March, for she was so weak and ill that her exertion, in proportion to her strength, had been immense. She sat down by the side of the road for a time, and then continued; and then again sat down. Her sufferings were soon so great that she was unable to walk above two hundred yards at a time, and she began to fear that she would be utterly unable to get to the house. Once when she was sitting, panting on the bank by the road-side, one of the labouring peasants recognised her — saw she was ill — and offered to get her a country car. Oh, what an agonising struggle she made to answer the man cheerfully, when she assured him that she was quite well — that she was only sitting there for her pleasure — that she required no assistance, and that she should walk home directly. The man well knew that she was not there for her pleasure — that her brother was in gaol, her father on the point of losing his property, and that she was weak and in need of rest; but he saw that she would sooner be alone, and he had the good tact to leave her, without pressing his offer for her accommodation.
At length she reached the avenue, and had to pass the spot where she had sat so long on that fatal night listening for the sound of her lover’s horse, and watching her brother as he stood swinging his stick before the house. She shuddered as she did so, but she did walk by the tree where she had then sat shivering, and at last once more stood on the steps of her father’s house.
The door was fastened inside, and she had to knock for admittance. This she did three times, till she thought she should have fainted on the flags, and at last the window of her own sitting-room was raised, and Mary McGovery’s head was slowly protruded. Feemy was sitting on the low stone wall, which guarded the side of the flags, as she heard Mary say in a sharp voice —
“Who’s that? — and what are ye wanting here? Oh! by the mortials, but av it aint Miss Feemy herself come back I declare!”
And Mary ran round, and began to draw the bolts of the front door. Up jumped Larry at the unwelcome sound, from his accustomed seat by the fire.
“What in the divil’s name are ye afther? What are ye doing? Ye owld hag, will ye be letting the ruffians in on me?” And he caught violently hold of Mary’s gown to drag her back, before she had accomplished the liberation of the rusty bolts.
“Now go in, sir, and sit down,” said Mary. “Go in, sir, will you; I tell you it’s yer own daughter, and no ruffian whatever. Dra —— the owld man, but he’ll have every rag off the back of me! Don’t I tell you, it’s Miss Feemy. Will you be asy now? — do you want to have me stark naked?”
“Come away, woman, I tell you; don’t I know Feemy’s gone off, away from me; she’ll niver, niver come back; it’s Keegan and his hell-hounds you’re letting in on me.”
By this time Mary had accomplished her object of undoing the door in spite of the old man’s exertions, and Feemy entered weary and worn, soiled with the road, and pale and wan in spite of the hectic flush which reddened a portion of her cheek.
“Father,” she said when she saw the old man standing astonished and stupified in the hall, “father, don’t ye know me — won’t ye spake to me?”
“Why thin, Feemy, is it yer own self in arnest come back again? And where’s yer lover? the man ye married, ye know — what war his name? — why don’t ye tell me? Mary, what’s the name of the Captain Feemy married?”
“Asy, sir, asy; come in thin,” and Mary led him into his own room, and Feemy followed in silence with her eyes already filled with tears.
“Where’s yer own husband thin, Feemy dear? Ussher, I main — Captain Ussher — it’s he’d be welcome with you now, my pet,” and he began stroking his daughter’s shoulders and back, for she had still her bonnet on her head. “Thady’s not here now to be brow-beating and teasing him; it’s we’ll be comfortable now the cowld long nights — for the Captain’ll be bringing the whiskey and the groceries with him, won’t he, darling? and Thady the blackguard’s out along wid Keegan, and they can’t get in through the door, for it’s always locked;” and then turning to Mary, he said, “why don’t you put the locks back, you d —— d jade? do you want them to be catching me the first moment I’m seeing my own darling girl here?”
Feemy could not say a word to her father: his absolute idiotcy, and the manner in which he referred to Ussher, quite upset her, and she sat down and wept bitterly.
“What ails you, pet?” continued the old man, “what ails you, alanna? they shan’t touch him, dear — there, you see the big lock’s closed now; he’ll be safe from Thady now, darling.”
“Oh, Miss Feemy,” said Mary, “he’s quite beside himself; asy now, sir, asy, and don’t be talking such nonsense; don’t ye know the Captain got kilt — months ago — last October?”
“Killed — and who dared to kill my darling’s husband? who’d dare to touch him? why wasn’t he here? why wasn’t he inside the big lock?”
“Why, don’t you know,” and Mary gave the old man a violent shake to refresh his memory; “don’t you know Mr. Thady kilt him in the avenue?”
“May his father’s curse blisther him then! May — but I think they wor telling me about that before. Eh, Feemy?” he continued, with a sigh, “it’s a bad time I’ve been having of it with this tipsy woman since you were gone; she don’t lave me a moment’s pace from morning to night; bad ‘cess to her, but I wish she wor well out of the house. I’ll have you to mind me now — and you’ll not be bawling and shaking me as she does; but she’s always dhrunk,” he added in a whisper.
Feemy could bear this no longer; she was obliged to make her escape from the room into her own, in which she found that Mary had taken up her temporary residence during so much of the day as she could spare from bawling at, and shaking, poor Larry. At dinner time, she again went into her father’s room, but he took no farther notice of her, than if she had been there continually for the last four months. He grumbled at his dinner, which consisted of nothing but potatoes, some milk, and an egg, and he scolded Feemy for having no meat; after dinner she mixed him a tumbler of punch, for there was still a little of Tony’s whiskey in the house; and whether it was that she made it stronger for him and better than that which Mary McGovery was in the habit of mixing, or that the action to which he had been for so many years accustomed roused some pleasant memory within him, when he tasted it, he said —
“Heaven’s blessing on you, Feemy, my daughter; may you live many happy years with the man you love.”
Feemy soon left him, and went to bed, and Katty, who had been dispatched to Drumsna, returned with her mistress’s small box, and a kind message from Mrs. McKeon:—“Her kind love to Miss Macdermot; she hoped she had felt the walk of service to her, and she would call some time during the next week.” She had asked no questions of the girl which could lead her to imagine that her mistress’s departure from Drumsna had been unexpected, nor had she said a word to her own servants which could let them suppose that she was surprised at the circumstance.
For five or six days Feemy remained quiet at Ballycloran — spending the greater part of her time in her own room, but taking her meals, such as they were, with her father; she had no books to read, and she was unable to undertake needlework, and she passed the long days much as her father did — sitting from breakfast till dinner over the fire, meditating on the miseries of her condition. There was this difference, however, between them — that the old man felt a degree of triumph at his successful attempt to keep out his foes, whereas Feemy’s thoughts were those of unmixed sorrow. She had great difficulty too in inducing Mary to leave her alone to herself. Had that woman the slightest particle of softness in her composition, anything of the tenderness of a woman about her, Feemy would have made a confidant of her, and her present sufferings would have been immeasurably decreased; but Mary was such an iron creature — so loud, so hard, so equable in her temper, so impenetrable, that Feemy could not bring herself to tell her tale of woe, which otherwise she would have been tempted to disclose. She had, therefore, the additional labour of keeping her secret from Mary’s prying eyes, and Mary was nearly as acute as Mrs. McKeon.
About noon, on Monday, Feemy was horror-struck at being told by Katty that Father John was at the back door asking for her.
“Oh, Katty, tell him to wait awhile; say I’m ill, can’t you — do, dear!”
“Why, Miss, I towld him as how you war up, and betther, thank God, since you war home.”
It was clearly necessary that she should see the priest; but she insisted on his not being shown in till she had dressed herself; and she again submitted herself to those agonies which she trusted, for a time, would hide her disgrace, which at last must become known to all. When this was done, she seated herself on the sofa, and plucked up all her courage to go through the painful conversation which she knew she was to endure. She did not rise as he entered, but remained on the sofa with the hectic tint on her face almost suffused into a blush, and her hands clasping the calico covering of the cushion, as if from that she could get more strength for endurance.
Father John shook hands with her as he seated himself by her; the tears came into his eyes as he observed the sad change which so short a time had made in her. The flesh had fallen from her face, and the skin now hung loose upon her cheek and jaw bones, falling in towards the mouth, giving her that lean and care-worn look which misery so soon produces. Her healthy colour, too, had all fled; part of her face was of a dull leaden paleness, and though there was a bright colour round her eyes, it gave her no appearance of health. She looked ten years older than when he had seen her last. No wonder Mrs. McKeon pitied her so deeply; she appeared even more pitiable than her brother, who was awaiting his doubtful fate in gaol — though with nervous anxiety, still with unflinching courage.
“I am glad to hear you’re better, Feemy. Mrs. McKeon thinks you a great deal better.”
“Thank ye, Father John; I believe I’m well enough now.”
“That’s well, then; but you must take care of yourself, Feemy; no more long walks; you should have waited for the car to come home that day. Mrs. McKeon’s not the least angry; if you are more at ease here than at Drumsna, she’s glad for your sake you’re here now, and she bids me tell you how sorry she is she didn’t give you the car the day you asked for it.”
“Oh, Father John, Mrs. McKeon’s been too kind to me. Indeed I love her dearly, though I could never tell her so. Give her my kind love. I never thought she was so kind a woman.”
“I will, Feemy; indeed I will. She is a kind woman; and it will please her to the heart to hear how you speak of her. She sends you all manner of loves, and Lyddy and Louey too. She is sending up a few things for you too. Patsey’ll bring them, just till affairs are settled a little. She wishes me to tell you she’ll be up herself on Thursday; she wouldn’t come before, for she thought you’d be better pleased to be alone a few days.”
“Tell her not to come here. This is no place for her now. They never open the front door now. This is no place for any one now, but just father and me. But tell her how I love her. I’ll never forget her; no, not in my grave!”
“But I’ve another message for you, Feemy.”
“Is it from her?”
“No, not from her, well as she loves you; it’s from one who loves you better than she does; it is from one who loves you better than any ever did, since your poor mother died.”
Feemy raised her eyes, and clasped her hands, as she listened to Father John’s words, and marked his solemn tones. No thought of Thady entered her mind; but some indefinite, half-conceived idea respecting Ussher — that he had not been killed — that he had come to life again — that some mysterious miracle, such as she had read of in novels, had taken place; and that Father John had come with some blessed news, which might yet restore her to happiness and tranquillity. The illusion was but for a moment, though during that moment it completely took possession of her. It was as speedily dispelled by Father John’s concluding words —
“I mean from your brother.”
Feemy gave a long, long sigh as she heard the word. She wished for no message from her brother; he had robbed her of everything; she could not think of him without horror and shuddering.
“He sends his kindest love to you. I told him you were better, and he was very glad to hear it. Though he has many heavy cares of his own to bear, I have never seen him but he asks after your health with more anxiety than he thinks of his own prospects. Now you are better, Feemy, won’t you send him some message by me? — some kind word, which may comfort him in his sorrow?”
Feemy was no hypocrite; hypocrisy, though she did not know it herself, was distasteful to her. She had no kind feelings for her brother, and she did not know how to make the pretence which might produce kind words; so she remained silent.
“What! not a word, Feemy? you who spoke so well, so properly, so affectionately, but now of that good friend of yours — have you not a word of kindness for a most affectionate brother?”
Feemy still remained silent.
“Why, Feemy, what is this? Don’t you love your own brother?”
She said nothing in reply for a moment or two; and then, bursting into tears, she exclaimed,
“Don’t scold me, Father John! — don’t scold me now, or I shall die! I try to forgive him — I am always trying! But why did he — why did he — why did he —” She was unable to finish her sentence from the violence of her sobs and the difficulty of uttering the words which should have concluded it. She meant to say, “Why did he kill my lover?”
“Don’t agitate yourself, Feemy. I don’t mean to scold you; I don’t mean even to vex you more than I can possibly help; but I must speak to you about your brother. I see the feeling that is in your mind, and I will not blame you for it, for I believe it is natural; but I beseech you to pray that your heart may be softened towards your brother, who instead of repugnance, deserves from you the warmest affection. But though I will not attempt to control your feelings, I must tell you that you will be most wicked if you allow them to interfere with the performance of your duties. You know your brother’s trial is coming on, do you not?”
“Wednesday fortnight next is the day fixed, I believe. You know you will have to be a witness?”
“I believe so, Father John.”
“Certainly you will; and I wish you now to listen to me, that you may know what it is that you will then have to do. In the first place you will be asked, I presume, by one gentleman whether you were willingly eloping with Captain Ussher?” Feemy shuddered as the name was pronounced. “And of course you must answer that truly — that you were doing so. Then another gentleman will ask you whether you were absolutely walking off with him when the blow was struck which killed Captain Ussher; and, Feemy, you must also answer that truly. Now the question is, can you remember what you were doing when the blow was struck? Tell me now, Feemy, can you remember?”
“No, Father John, I remember nothing; from the time when he took me by the arm, as I sat upon the tree, till Thady told me he was dead, I remember nothing. If they kill me, I can tell them nothing.”
“Feemy, dear, don’t sob so! That’s all you’ll have to say. Merely say that — merely say that you were sitting on a tree. Were you waiting for Captain Ussher there?”
“And that whilst you were there you saw Thady; isn’t that so?”
“And Ussher then raised you by the arm, and then you fainted?”
“I don’t know what happened to me; but I heard nothing, and saw nothing, till Thady lifted me from the ground, and told me he was dead.”
“That’s all, Feemy. Surely there’s no great difficulty in saying that — when it’ll save your own brother’s life to say so; and it’s only the truth. You can say as much in court as you’ve just said to me, can’t you? Mrs. McKeon’ll be there with you — and I’ll be there with you. You’ll only have to say in court what you’ve just said to me.”
“I’ll try, Father John. But you don’t know what it is for one like me to be talking with so many horrid faces round one — with the heart dead within — to be asked such horrid questions, and everybody listening. I’ll do as you bid me; I’ll go with them when they fetch me — but I know I’ll die before I’ve said all they will want me to say.”
Father John tried to comfort and strengthen her, but she was in great bodily pain, and he soon saw that he had better leave her; she had at any rate shown him by her answers to his questions, that the evidence she could give would be such as would most tend to Thady’s acquittal; and, moreover, he perceived from her manner, that though the feelings which she entertained towards her brother were of a most painful description, she would, nevertheless, not be actuated by them in any of the answers she might give.
On the Thursday following Mrs. McKeon and one of her daughters called at Ballycloran, and in spite of the bars and bolts with which the front door was barricaded, they contrived to make their way into Feemy’s room. She remembered that Father John had told her that they would call on that day, and she was therefore prepared to receive them. Mrs. McKeon brought her some little comforts from Drumsna, of which she was sadly in want; for there was literally nothing at Ballycloran but what was supplied by the charity of those who pitied them in their misfortunes; and among other things she brought two or three volumes from the library. She was very kind to her, and did and said all in her power that could in any way console the poor girl. Though Father John had been gentle in his manners and had endeavoured to abstain from saying anything hard, still Mrs. McKeon was more successful in her way of explaining to Feemy what it was that she would have to do. She promised, moreover, to come to Ballycloran and fetch her, and to remain with her and support her during the whole of the painful time that she would either be in the court itself, or waiting in the neighbourhood till she should be called on to give her evidence. She did not allude either to the manner in which Feemy had left Drumsna, or to the suspicions which she had formerly expressed. Her whole object now was to relieve as much as possible the despondency and misery so plainly pictured in the poor girl’s face. As she put her arm round her neck and kissed her lips, Feemy’s heart yearned towards her new-found friend with a kind of tenderness she had never before felt. It was as though she for once experienced a mother’s solicitude for her in her sorrows, and she longed to throw herself on her knees, hide her face in her friend’s lap, and confess it all. Had she been alone with her she would have done so; but there sat Louey in the same room, and though her conduct to Feemy had been everything that was kind, she felt that it was not as if she had been absolutely alone with her mother. She could not at the same time confess her disgrace to two.
Mrs. McKeon went away, after having strongly implored Feemy to return with her to Drumsna, and remain there till the trial was over. But this she absolutely refused to do — and at last it was settled that Mrs. McKeon should come for her on the morning on which the trial was to come on, and that she should hold herself ready to attend on any day that she might be called for after the commencement of the assizes.
The time now wore quickly on. When Mrs. McKeon called it had only wanted a fortnight to the first day on which the trial could take place; and as it quickly slipped away, day by day, to that bourn from which no day returns, poor Feemy’s sorrow and agonies became in every way more acute. At last, on the Wednesday — the day before that on which she was to be, or at any rate, might be fetched — she was in such a state that she was unable to support herself in a chair. Mary McGovery would not leave her for a moment. The woman meant kindly, but her presence was only an additional torment. She worried and tortured Feemy the whole day; she talked to her, intending to comfort her, till she was so bewildered, that she could not understand a word that was said; and she kept bringing her food and slops, declaring that there was nothing like eating for a sore heart — that if Ussher was gone, there were still as good fish in the sea as ever were caught — and that even if Thady were condemned, the judge couldn’t do more than transport him, which would only be sending him out to a better country, and “faix the one he’d lave’s bad enough for man and baste.”
About seven in the evening Feemy was so weak that she fainted. Mary, who was in the room at the time, lifted her on the sofa, and when she found that her mistress did not immediately come to herself, she began stripping her for the sake of unlacing her stays, and thus learnt to a certainty poor Feemy’s secret.
Mary had a great deal of shrewd common sense of the coarser kind; she felt that however well inclined she might be to her mistress, she should not keep to herself the circumstance that she had just learnt; she knew it was her duty as a woman to make it known to some one, and she at once determined to go that evening to Mrs. McKeon and tell her what it was she had discovered.
As soon as Feemy had come to herself, she got her into bed, and having performed the same friendly office for the old man, she started off for Drumsna; and having procured a private audience with Mrs. McKeon, told her what had occurred.
Mrs. McKeon was not at all surprised, though she was greatly grieved. She merely said —
“You have done quite right, Mary, to tell me; but don’t mention it yet to any one else; after all this affair is over we’ll see what will be best to do. God help her, poor girl; it were almost better she should die,” and as Mary went down stairs she called her back to her. “Take my silk cloak with you, Mary. Tell Miss Macdermot I’ve sent it, because she’ll be so cold tomorrow — and Mary,” and here she whispered some instruction on the stairs, “and mind I shall come myself for her — but let her be ready, as may be there mayn’t be a minute to spare.”
Father John was certainly right when he said that Mrs. McKeon had a kind heart.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01