The Macdermots of Ballycloran, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter 3.

The Tenantry of Ballycloran.

“Thady,” said old Macdermot, as he sat eating stirabout and thick milk, over a great turf fire, one morning about the beginning of October, “Thady, will you be getting the money out of them born divils this turn, and they owing it, some two, some three years this November, bad cess to them for tenants? Thady, I say,” shouted, or rather screamed, the old man, as his son continued silently eating his breakfast, “Thady, I say; have they the money, at all at all, any of them; or is it stubborn they are? There’s Flannelly and Keegan with their d —— d papers and bills and costs; will you be making out the £142 7s. 6d. before Christmas for the hell-hounds; or it’s them’ll be masters in Ballycloran? Then let the boys see the landlord they’ll have over them, that time!”

“Well, Larry,” said the son (unless in a passion, he always called his father by his baptismal name, or rather by its abbreviation), “what’s the use going on that way before the girls there, and Feemy too.” Feemy, however, was reading the “Mysterious Assassin,” and paying little heed to her father’s lamentations. “When we’re done, and the things is out, we’ll have a look at the rent-book, and send for the boys to come in; and if they haven’t it, why, Pat Brady must go round agin, and see what he can do with the potatoes and oats, and the pigs; but the times, Larry, is very hard on them; too hard entirely, so it is, poor things —”

“Poor things!” said the father, “and aint I a poor thing? and won’t you and Feemy be poor things? Hard times, too! who is the times hardest on? See that sneaking ould robber, Flannelly, that cozened my father — good father for him — with such a house as this, that’s falling this day over his son’s head, and it not hardly fifty years built, bad luck to it for a house! See that ould robber, Flannelly, who has been living and thriving on it for all them years, and a stone or stick not as good as paid for yet; and he getting two hundred a year off the land from the crayturs of tenants.”

True enough it was, that Mr. Joe Flannelly, of Carrick-on-Shannon, whatever might have been the original charge of building the Ballycloran mansion, now claimed £200 a year from that estate, to which his ingenious friend and legal adviser, Mr. Hyacinth Keegan usually managed to add certain mysterious costs and ceremonious expenses, which made each half year’s rent of Larry Macdermot’s own house about £140, before the poor man had managed to scrape it together. To add to this annoyance, Mr. Macdermot had continually before his eyes the time, which he could not but foresee was not distant, when this hated Flannelly would come down on the property itself, insist on being paid his principal, and probably not only sell, but buy, Ballycloran itself. And whither, then, would the Macdermots betake themselves?

Often and often did Larry, in his misfortunes, regret the slighted offers of Sally Flannelly’s charms and cash. Oh, had he but then condescended to have married the builder’s daughter, he would not now have been the builder’s slave. But Sally Flannelly was now Sally Keegan, the wife of Hyacinth Keegan, Esq., Attorney; who, if he had not the same advantages as Larry in birth and blood, had compensation for his inferiority in cash and comforts. When the poor man thought of these things — and he did little else now but think of them — bitterly, though generally in silence, he cursed him whom he looked upon as his oppressor and incubus. It never occurred to him that if Mr. Flannelly built the house he lived in, he should be paid for it. He never reflected that he had lived to the extent of, and above his precarious income, as if his house had been paid for; that, instead of passing his existence in hating the Carrick tradesman, he should have used his industry in finding the means to pay him. He sometimes blamed his father, having an indefinite feeling that he ought not to have permitted Flannelly to have anything to do with Ballycloran, after building it; but himself he never blamed; people never do; it is so much easier to blame others — and so much more comfortable. Mr. Macdermot thus regarded his creditor as a vulgar, low-born blood-sucker, who, having by chicanery obtained an unwarrantable hold over him, was determined, if possible, to crush him. The builder, on the other hand, who had spent a long life of constant industry, but doubtful honesty, in scraping up a decent fortune, looked on his debtor as one who gave himself airs to which his poverty did not entitle him; and was determined to make him feel that though he could not be the father, he could be the master of a “rale gintleman.”

After the short conversation between father and son the breakfast passed over in silence. The father finished his stirabout, and turned round to the blazing turf, to find consolation there. Feemy descended into the kitchen, to scold the girls, give out the dinner — if there was any to give out; and to do those offices, whatever they be, in performing which all Irish ladies, bred, born, and living in moderate country-houses, pass the first two hours after breakfast in the kitchen. Thady took his rent-book and went into an outhouse, which he complimented by the name of his office, at the door of which he was joined by Pat Brady. Now Pat was an appendage, unfortunately very necessary in Ireland to such an estate as Macdermot’s; and his business was not only to assist in collecting the rents, by taking possession of the little crops, and driving the cows, or the pig; but he was, moreover, expected to know who could, and who could not, make out the money; to have obtained, and always have ready, that secret knowledge of the affairs of the estate, which is thought to be, and is so, necessary to the managing of the Irish peasantry in the way they are managed. Pat Brady was all this; moreover, he had as little compunction in driving the cow or the only pig from his neighbour or cousin, and in selling off the oats or potatoes of his uncle or brother-in-law, as if he was doing that which would be quite agreeable to them. But still he was liked on the estate; he had a manner with him which had its charms to them; he was a kind of leader to them in their agrarian feelings and troubles; and though the tenants of Ballycloran half feared, they all liked and courted Pat Brady.

The most remarkable feature in his personal appearance was a broken nose; not a common, ordinary broken nose, such as would give it an apparent partiality to the right or left cheek, nor such as would, by indenting it, give the face that good-natured look which Irish broken noses usually possess. Pat Brady’s broken nose was all but flattened on to his face, as if it had never lifted its head after the fatal blow which had laid it low. He was strong-built, round-shouldered, bow-legged, about five feet six in height, and he had that kind of external respectability about him, which a tolerably decent hat, strong brogues, and worsted stockings give to a man, when those among whom he lives are without such luxuries. When I add to the above particulars that Pat was chief minister, adviser, and confidential manager in young Macdermot’s affairs, I have said all that need be said. The development of his character must be left to disclose itself.

“Well, Pat,” began his master, seating himself on the solitary old chair, which, with a still older looking desk on four shaking legs, comprised the furniture of Macdermot’s rent-office, “what news from Mohill today? was there much in the fair at all?”

“Well, yer honor, then, for them as had money to buy, the fair was good enough; but for them as had money to get, it was as bad as them that wor afore it, and as them as is likely to come afther it.”

“Were the boys in it, Pat?”

“They wor, yer honor, the most of ’em.”

“Well, Pat?”

“Oh, they wor just there, that’s all.”

“Tim Brady should have got the top price for that oats of his, Pat.”

“Maybe he might, Masther Thady.”

“What did he get? there should be twelve barrels there.”

“Eleven, or thereabouts, yer honor.”

“Did he sell it all, yesterday?”

“Divil a grain, then, at all at all, he took to the fair yesterday.”

“Bad manners to him, and why didn’t he? why he owes” (and Thady turned over the old book) “five half years this gale, and there’s no use gammoning; father must get the money off the land, or Flannelly will help himself.”

“I knows, Masther Thady; I knows all about it. Tim has between five and six acres, and he owes twenty-two pound tin; his oats is worth, maybe, five pound fifteen — from that to six pound, and his cow about six pound more; that’s all Tim has, barring the brats and the mother of them. An’ he knows right well, yer honor, if he brings you the price of the oats, you wouldn’t let him off that way; for the cow should folly the oats, as is nathural; the cabin would be saized next; so Tim ses, if you choose to take the corn yourself, you can do so; — well an’ good, and save him the throuble of bringin’ it to Mohill.”

“Did the widow Reynolds sell her pig?”

“She did, yer honor, for two pound tin.”

“And she owes seven pound. And Dan Coulahan —”

“Dan didn’t cut the oats, good or bad.”

“I’ll cut it for him, then. Was ould Tierney there?”

“He war, yer honor; and I was tellin’ him yer honor ‘id be wantin’ the money this week, an’ I axed him to stip up o’ Friday mornin’; an’, sis I, ‘Misthur Tierney’— for since he made out the mare and the ould car, it’s Misthur Tierney he goes by —‘it’s a fine saison any way for the corn,’ sis I, ‘the Lord be praised; an’ the hay all saved on thim illigant bottoms of yours, Misthur Tierney. The masther was glad to hear the cocks was all up afore the heavy rain was come.’ ‘Well, Pat,’ sis he, ‘I’ll be at Ballycloran o’ Friday, plase God, but it’s little I’ll have with me but myself; an’ if the masthur likes the corn an’ the hay, he may just take them av’ it’s plazin’ to him, for the divil a cock or grain will I sell, an’ the prices so bad.’”

“Obstinate ould fool! why, Pat, he must have the money.”

“Money, to be shure he has the money, Misthur Thady; but maybe he’d be the bigger fool if he gave it to your father.”

“Do the boys mane to say they won’t pay the rent at all?”

“They mane to say they can’t; an’ it’s nearly thrue for them.”

“Was Joe Reynolds at the fair, Pat?”

“He wor not; that’s to say, he wor not at the fair, but I seen him in the evening, with the other boys from Drumleesh, at Mrs. Mulready’s.”

“Them boys has always the money when they want a drop of whiskey. By dad, if they go to Mulready’s with the money in their pockets on a Tuesday, where’s the wonder they come here with them empty on a Friday? Fetch me a coal for the pipe, Pat.”

Whilst Pat walked into the kitchen for a lighted piece of turf (Hibernice, coal) to kindle his patron’s pipe, Thady stuck the said pipe in his jaw, and continued poring over the unsatisfactory figures of the Ballycloran rent-book.

“I tell you what it is, Pat,” said he, after finishing the process of blowing, and drawing, and throwing the coal on the earthen floor, and pressing down the hot burning tobacco with the top of his forefinger repeatedly, “Misthur Joe Reynolds will out of that. I told him so last April, and divil a penny of his we’ve seen since; he don’t do the best he can for us; and my belief is, he hinders the others; eh, Brady?” and he looked up into Brady’s face for confirmation or refutation of this opinion. But that gentleman, contrary to his usual wont, seemed to have no opinion on the matter; he continued scratching his head, and swinging one leg, while he stood on the other. Thady, finding that his counsellor said nothing, continued,

“Joe Reynolds will out of that this time, d’you hear? what has he on that bit of land of his?”

“Pratees mostly, Misthur Thady. He had half an acre of whate; he parted that on the ground to ould Tierney; he owed Tierney money.”

“An’ so the tenants buy the crops from one another, and yet won’t pay their own rents. Well, my father’s to blame himself; av he’d put a man like Keegan over them, or have let the land to some rough hand as would make them pay, divil a much he need care for Flannelly this day.”

“An’ you’d be for puttin’ a stranger over thim, Misthur Thady; an’ they that would stand between you an’ all harum, or the masthur, or the old masthur afore him; becaze of the dirthy money, and becaze a blagguard and a black ruffian like Flannelly has an ould paper signed by the masthur, or the like? An’ as for Mr. Hyacinth Keegan — I’m thinking, the first time he goes collectin’ on the lands of Drumleesh, it’s a warm welcome he’ll be gettin’; at any rate, he’d have more recates in his carcass than in his pocket, that day.”

“That’s very fine talk, Pat; but if Keegan had them, he’d tame them, as he has others before; not but I’d be sorry they should be in his hands, the robber, bad as they are. But it’ll come to that, whether or no. How’s my father to get this money for Flannelly?”

“D——n Flannelly!” was Brady’s easy solution of the family difficulties. “Let him take the house he built, and be d —— d to him; and if we can’t build a betther one for the masthur and Miss Feemy and you, without his help, may praties choke me!”

“By dad, if he’d take the house, and leave the ground, he’s my welcome, and ceade mille faltha, Pat. But the land will stick to the house; and mark me, when ould Flannelly dies (an’ the divil die along with him), Mr. Keegan of Carrick will write himself, Hyacinth Keegan, Esquire, of Ballycloran.”

“May I nivir see that day, an’ he an’ I alive, amen,” said Brady, as he crossed himself in sign of the sacred truth of his wish; “but I think, Masthur Thady, when you come to consider of it, you’ll find plenty of manes of keepin’ Mr. Keegan and Mrs. Keegan out of the parlour of Ballycloran. But about Joe Reynolds, yer honor was sayin’—”

“I was saying that divil another potato he should dig in Drumleesh, nor another grain of corn shall he sow or rape; that’s what I was saying.”

“Well, Misthur Thady, you’re the masthur, thank God, an’ if you say so, it must be done. But Joe Reynolds is not that bad either: he was sayin’ tho’ at Mrs. Mulready’s that he expected little from yer honor, but just leave to go where he liked, and lave the cow and the praties behind him.”

“What wor they saying at Mulready’s, Pat?”

“They were only jist passin’ their remarks, yer honor, about how thick you war this time back with Captain Ussher; an’ Miss Feemy too, an’ the masthur; an’ that when the likes of him wor as one of the family, it’s little the likes of them would be gettin’ now from Ballycloran, only hard words, and maybe a help to Carrick Gaol.”

“Because Captain Ussher visits at Ballycloran, is that any reason why he should interfere between my father and his tenants?”

“Sorra a one av me knows then, Misthur Thady; only that the tenants is no good frinds to the Captain; nor why should they, an’ he going through the counthry with a lot of idle blagguards, with arms, an’ guns, sazin’ the poor divils for nothin’ at all, only for thryin’ to make out the rint for yer honor, with a thrifle of potheen? That’s quare friendship; ay, an’ it’s the truth I’m tellin’ you, Misthur Thady, for he’s no frind to you or yours. Shure isn’t Pat Reynolds in Ballinamore Bridewell on his account, an’ two other boys from the mountains behind Drumleesh, becaze they found a thrifle of half malted barley up there among them? an’ be the same token, Joe was sayin’, if the frind of the family war parsecuting them that way, an’ puttin’ his brother in gaol, whilst the masthur wouldn’t rise a finger, barrin’ for the rint, the sooner he an’ his were off the estate, the betther he’d like it; for Joe sed he’d not be fightin’ agin his own masthur, but whin you war not his masthur any more — then let every one look to hisself.”

Whilst Brady was giving this short exposé of the feelings displayed at the little whiskey shop in Mohill on the previous fair day, young Macdermot was pulling hard at the dhudheen, as if trying to hide his embarrassment in smoke. Brady paused for some time, and then added,

“Joe mostly leads those boys up at Drumleesh, an’ hard to lead they are; I’m thinking Captain Ussher, with all his revenue of peelers an’ his guns, may meet his match there yit. They’ll hole him, av he goes on much farthur, as shure as my name’s Pat.”

“They’ll get the worst of that, Brady — not that I care a thrawneen for him and his company. It’s true for you; he is persecuting them too far; what with revenue police, constabulary police, and magistrates’ warrants, they won’t let them walk to mass quietly next. I didn’t care what they did to Master Myles, but they’d have the worst of it in the end.”

“And it’s little you ought to care for the same Captain, Misthur Thady, av you heard all. It’s little he’s making of Miss Feemy’s name with the police captain, and the young gauger, and young James Fitzsimon, when they’re over there at Ballinamore together — and great nights they have of it too; though they all have it in Mohill he’s to marry Miss Feemy. If so, indeed! but then isn’t he a black Protestant, sorrow take them for Protestants! There’s Hyacinth Keegan calls himself a Protestant now; his father warn’t ashamed of the ould religion, when he sarved processes away to Drumshambo.”

“And what wor the gentlemen saying about Feemy, Pat?”

“Oh, yer honor, how could I know what gentlemin is saying over their punch, together? only they do be sayin’ in Ballinamore, that the Captain doesn’t spake that dacently of Miss Feemy, as if they wor to be man and wife: sorrow blister his tongue the day he’d say a bad word of her!”

“Faith he’d better take care of himself, if it’s my sister he’s playing his game with; he’ll find out, though there aint much to be got worth having at Ballycloran now, as long as there’s a Macdermot in it, he may still get the traitment a blackguard desarves, if he plays his tricks with Feemy!”

Pat saw that his object had been gained; he suspected that no warm feelings of friendship existed in his master towards the aforesaid Captain, and he was determined there should be none if he could help it. He was not wrong in his surmises; for, from the constant visits of Myles Ussher to Ballycloran, people had for some time been saying that he meant to marry Feemy. They now began to say that he ought to do so.

While her brother and his minister are discussing that subject, and others — settling who could pay, or who should pay, at the convocation of the tenants to be held on the coming Friday, and who couldn’t, and who should be ejected, and who not — we will obtain a little insight into Captain Ussher’s affairs, and account for the residence of so gallant a gentleman in the little town of Mohill.

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