The Rev. John McGrath was priest of the parish of Drumsna at the time of which we write. This parish contains the post town of Drumsna and the country adjacent, including the town-land and demesne of Ballycloran. At this time the spacious chapel which now stands on the hill about two miles out of Drumsna had not been built, and Father John’s chapel was situated on the road from Drumsna to Ballycloran. Near this he had built himself a small cottage in the quasi-Gothic style, for Father John was a man of taste; he rented also about twenty acres of land, half of this being on the Macdermots’ estate.
The Rev. Mr. McGrath is destined to appear somewhat prominently in this history, and I must therefore be excused in giving a somewhat elaborate description of him.
He had been, like many of the present parish priests in Ireland, educated in France; he had been at college at St. Omer, and afterwards at Paris, and had officiated as a curé there; he had consequently seen more of French manners and society than usually falls to the lot of Irish theological students in that capital. He was, also, which is equally unusual, a man of good family, and from his early avocations was more fitted than is generally the case with those of his order, to mix in society. He possessed also very considerable talents, and much more than ordinary acquirements, great natural bonhommie, and perpetual good temper. He was a thorough French scholar, and had read the better portion of their modern literature. On leaving Paris he had gone to Rome on a begging expedition, to raise funds for building chapels in his own country, and there too he had been well received; and from thence he had returned to take possession of a populous parish in one of the very poorest parts of Ireland.
With all his acquirements, however, in many things Father John was little better than a child. Though his zeal had enabled him to raise money for the church, he could never keep any of his own; he had always his little difficulties, and though he sedulously strove to live within his income, and never really much outstripped it, he was always in want of money. He had built his house, and, unlike his neighbour, had managed to pay for it; but he was always in trouble about it; the rats were in the roof, and his flooring was all warped, and his windows would neither open nor shut, and the damp would get to his books. Therefore, though his cottage was, exteriorly, the prettiest house in his parish, interiorly, it was discomfort personified.
A more hospitable man than Father McGrath never lived even in Connaught; he took a look in at dinner time as a personal favour; and whatever might be the state of his larder, his heart was always full, and the emptiness of the former never troubled him. He had not the slightest shame at asking any one to eat potatoes and cold mutton. They all knew him, and what they were likely to get at his house, and if they did not choose, they need not come. Whoever did come had as good as he had himself. A more temperate man never lived; but he had as much pleasure in seeing another man drink a tumbler of punch, as any one else would in drinking it himself. He kept under his own bed a great stone jar, always, partly at least, full of whiskey of native manufacture; and though, were he alone, the jar would long have remained untouched, as it was, it very often had to be refilled. Tumblers he had only two; when his guests exceeded that, the tea-cups made their appearance, and he would naïvely tell his friends that he meant to buy tumblers when he got any money; but, heaven help them! if he got in debt, the people would never be paid.
His whole domestic arrangements were on a par: his crockery was of a most heterogeneous and scanty description; his furniture of the most common kind, put in bit by bit, as it was found indispensable. In two things only did Father John show his extravagance; in the first, too, his expenditure was only so to be called, in comparison with that of others round him, of the same profession. It was this — he was always dressed like a gentleman; Father John’s black coat was always black, never rusty brown; his waistcoat, his trowsers, his garters, even shoes, the same; and not only did his clothes always look new, but they were always well made, as far as his figure would allow; his hat was neat, and his linen clean; his hands, too, were always clean, and, when he was from home, always gloved; even his steady cob, whom he called Paul (it was rumoured that he had called him St. Paul, but the bishop objected), together with his saddle and bridle, was always neat; this particular was nearly all that the polish of French society had left him, and those who are accustomed to see Irish priests will know that this peculiarity would be striking. His other expensive taste was that of books; he could not resist the temptation to buy books, books of every sort, from voluminous editions of St. Chrysostom to Nicholas Nicklebys and Charles O’Malleys; and consequently he had a great many. But alas! he had no book-shelves, not one; some few volumes, those of every day use, were piled on the top of one another in his little sitting-room; the others were closely packed in great boxes in different parts of the cottage — his bed-room, his little offertory, his parlour, and many in a little drawing-room, as he called it, but in which was neither chair nor table, nor ever appeared the sign of fire! No wonder the poor man complained the damp got to his books.
In all other respects Father John was a fair specimen of the Irish priesthood. He must have been an eloquent man, for he had been sent on different foreign missions to obtain money for building chapels by preaching sermons. But his appearance was anything but dignified; he was very short, and very fat, and had little or no appearance of neck; his face, however was intelligent; he had bright, small black eyes, a fine, high forehead, very white teeth, and short thick, curling, dark hair.
As I am on the subject of the church, I might as well say now that his curate, Father Cullen, was unlike him in everything but his zeal for the church. He was educated at Maynooth, was the son of a little farmer in the neighbourhood, was perfectly illiterate — but chiefly showed his dissimilarity to the parish priest by his dirt and untidiness. He was a violent politician; the Catholic Emancipation had become law, and he therefore had no longer that grievance to complain of; but he still had national grievances, respecting which he zealously declaimed, when he could find a hearer. Repeal of the Union was not, at that time, the common topic, morning and night, at work and at rest, at table and even at the altar, as it afterwards became; but there were, even then, some who maintained that Ireland would never be herself, till the Union was repealed; and among these was Father Cullen. He was as zealous for his religion as for his politics; and he could become tolerable intimate with no Protestant, without thinking he was specially called on to convert him. A disciple less likely to make converts than Father Cullen it would be difficult to imagine, seeing that in language he was most violent and ungrammatical — in appearance most uncouth — in argument most unfair. He was impatient if any one spoke but himself. He relied in all such arguments on his power of proving logically that his own church was the true church, and as his education had been logical, he put all his arguments into syllogisms. If you could not answer him in syllogisms, he conceived that you must be, evidently to yourself, in the wrong, and that obstinacy alone prevented you from owning it. Father Cullen’s redeeming point was his earnestness — his reality; he had no humbug about him; whatever was there, was real; he had no possible appreciation for a joke, and he understood no ridicule. You might gull him, and dupe him for ever, he would never find you out; his heart and mind were full of the Roman Catholic church and of his country’s wrongs; he could neither think nor speak of aught beside.
Ussher was the only Protestant whom this poor man was in the habit of meeting, and he was continually attempting to convert him; in which pursuit Ussher rather encouraged him with the purpose of turning him into ridicule.
Such were the spiritual guides of the inmates of Ballycloran and its neighbourhood.
On the Wednesday morning after the fair, Father John was sitting eating his breakfast in his little parlour, attending much more to a book on the table before him than to the large lumps of bread and butter which he unconsciously swallowed, when the old woman servant, Judy McCan, opened the door and said,
“Father John, plase, there’s Denis McGovery wanting to see yer riverence, below then.”
People in Connaught always call the hall, door, and passage “below,” the parlour, or sitting-room, “above,” though, in nine cases out of ten, they are on the same floor.
“Why, then, Judy,” said Father John, with his mouth full, “bad manners to them; mayn’t I eat a bit of breakfast in peace and quiet? There was I at the widow Byrne’s all night, destroyed with the cold, and nothing the matter with her at last, and now I must lose my breakfast, as well as my sleep.”
“It’s nothing of that sort, I’m thinking, Father John, but Denis McGovery is afther going to get married, I hear.”
“Oh,” exclaimed Father John, “that’s a horse of another colour; going to get married, is he? and why shouldn’t he, and he able to support a wife? let him come in, Judy.”
It will be remembered that the “above” and “below” in the priest’s house were only terms of compliment, and, as Denis McGovery was standing in the hall — that is, at the open door of the very room in which Judy McCan had been announcing his attendance — he, of course, had heard what had passed; therefore, when Father John said “let him come in,” he wanted no further introduction, but, thrusting himself just through the door, and taking hold of a scanty lock of hair on his forehead, by way of reverential salutation, he said, “Iss, yer honor.”
Now, laconic as this was, it was intended to convey, and did convey, a full assent not only to Judy’s assertion that he was “afther going to get married,” but also to the priest’s remark, that there was no good reason on earth why he shouldn’t, seeing that he was able to support a family.
“Iss, yer honor,” said Denis McGovery.
“Well, Denis — that’ll do, Judy,” meaning that Judy need not listen any longer, at any rate within the room —“so you are going to get married, are you?”
“Didn’t Father Cullen say anything to your riverence about it, then?”
“Oh, yes, he did then; I didn’t remember it just at first, when Judy mentioned your name.”
“Iss, yer riverence; if ye plaze, I am going to be married.”
The bridegroom in this case was a man about forty years of age, who seemed, certainly, never to have eaten the bread of idleness, for he was all gristle and muscle; nor had he; he was a smith living in Drumsna, and the reputed best shoer of horses in the neighbourhood; and consequently was, as the priest had said, able to maintain a family: in fact, Denis had the reputation of hoarded wealth, for it was said he had thirty or forty pounds in the Loan Fund Office at Carrick-on-Shannon. He was a hard-working, ill-favoured, saving man; but, as he was able to keep a comfortable home over a wife, he had no difficulty in getting one.
“Oh then it pleases me entirely, because you are the boy that’s both able and willing to pay your clergyman respectably as you should —”
“In course, your riverence, though the likes of a poor boy like me hasn’t much, I wouldn’t not be married dacently, Father John; and in course I couldn’t expect yer riverence to be doing it for nothing.”
“For nothing indeed! Where would I be getting the coat on my back, and the roof over my head? — no, the poor themselves always make out something for me; and you, Denis, that are comfortable, would of course be sorry to set a bad example to those that are not so.”
“Oh then, yer riverence is poking yer fun at me.”
“No fun at all, Denis. If you that have the money don’t pay your priest, who is to, I’d like to know. Fun indeed! no, but it’s good earnest I’m talking; and if you have a character that you wish to support, and to give your children after you, it’s now you should be looking to it.”
Denis McGovery began twirling his hat round in his hand, and bending his knees, as if nonplussed. He had known well enough, beforehand, what the priest would say to him, and the priest too, what answer he would get. The question in these cases is, which would cajole the other the best, and of course the priest would have the best of it. This may seem odd to those who do not know the country; but did he not do so, the Roman Catholic clergyman could not get even the moderate remuneration which he does receive for his laborious services.
“Oh, yer riverence,” continued Denis, attempting a grim smile, “you know it’s the young woman, or her friends, as always pays the priest mostly.”
“And who is the young woman, Denis; Betsy Cane, isn’t it?”
“No, Father John,” said Denis, blushing almost black through his dark skin; “it ain’t Betsy.”
“Not Betsy Cane! why she told me three weeks ago you were to be married to her.”
“And so I was, yer riverence, only ye see for a mistake as happened.”
“A mistake! Was it she made the mistake or you?”
“Why it warn’t exactly herself thin as did it; it war her mother.”
“Her mother made a mistake! What mistake did her mother make?”
“Along of the cow, yer riverence.” Denis seemed very slow of explaining, and Father John began to be impatient.
“What cow, Denis? How did the mother’s making a mistake about the cow prevent your marrying her daughter?”
“Why, yer riverence, then, if you’ll let me, I’ll jist explain the matter. Ould Betsy Cane — that’s her mother you know — promised me the brown cow, yer riverence may know, as is in the little garden behint the cabin, for her dater’s fortin; and says I to her, ‘Well, may be she may be worth four pound tin, Mrs. Cane.’ ‘Four pound tin,’ says she, ‘Mr. McGovery; and you to know no better than that, and she to calve before Christmas! well then, four pound tin indeed,’— jist in that manner, yer riverence. Well then I looks at the cow, and she seemed a purty sort of a cow, and I agreed to the bargain, yer honer, purviding the cow turned out to be with calf. Well, yer honer, now it’s no such thing, but it’s sticking me she was entirely about, the cow: so now she got the cow and her daughter both at home; and likely to for me.”
“And so, Denis, you broke your promise, and refused to marry the girl you were engaged to, because a cow was not in calf?”
“No I didn’t, yer honer; that is, I did refuse to marry the girl; why wouldn’t I? But I didn’t break my promise, becase I only promised, purviding —; and you see, Father John, they was only decaving me.”
“Well, Denis; and who is it after all that you are going to have?”
“Well, then, it’s jist Mary Brady.”
“What! Pat Brady’s sister is it?”
“Iss, yer honer.”
“And is her cow really in the family way?”
“Now yer riverence’ll make a handle of that agin me!”
“Never mind, Denis, how I handle the cow, so long as you handle the calf; but has Mary a cow?”
“No, Father John, she aint got a cow then, as I knows on.”
“Well, Denis, and what fortune are you to get? You are not the man would take a wife unless she brought something with her.”
“Well then, it’s only jist a pair of young pigs and a small thrifle of change.”
“A trifle of change, eh! Then, Mr. McGovery, I take it, it wasn’t only along of the mistake about a cow that you left poor Betsy Cane, but you found you could do better, I suppose.”
“Well then, it might be jist a little of both; but you see, Father John, they war the first to decave me.”
“Well, Denis, and when’s the wedding to be?”
“Oh — then, tomorrow evening, if yer riverence plazes.”
“What! so soon, Denis? Take care; perhaps after all Betsy Cane’s cow may calve; see; would you be too much in a hurry after the pigs?”
“Sorrow to the tongue of me then that I tould yer riverence a word about it!”
“But what are you in such a hurry about? Won’t the pigs do as well at Pat Brady’s as they will down at Drumsna?”
“Why you see, Father John, after tomorrow is Friday, which wouldn’t do for the two legs of mutton Pat brought from Carrick with him yesterday, and the fine ham, yer riverence, Mrs. McKeon, long life to her, has sent us up from Drumsna; and Saturday wouldn’t shute at all, seeing the boys will mostly be dhrunk, which may be yer honer wouldn’t like on the morning of the blessed Sabbath.”
“Nor on any other morning. Can’t they take their fun without getting drunk, like beasts? But drunk they’ll be, of course. And why would not Monday do?”
“Why that’s next week, yer riverence!”
“You’ve remained single all this time, and only jilted poor Betsy Cane last week; and are you so hot after Mary Brady that you can’t wait till next Monday to be married? Or is it the pigs, Denis? Are you afraid Pat may change his mind about the pigs, as you did about the cow?”
“Oh, drat the cow now, Father McGrath! and will ye never be aisy with yer joke agin a poor boy? It was not about the pigs then, nor nothing of the kind, but jist that I heard as how, but —” and Denis began scratching his head —“yer honer’ll be after twisting what I’ll be tellin’ yer, and poking your fun at me.”
“Not I, my boy; out with it. You know nothing goes farther with me.”
“Then it war just this, yer riverence, as makes me so hurried about getting the thing done. I heard tell that Tom Ginty, the pig-jobber, has comed home to Dromod from where he was away tiv’ Athlone; and they do be telling me, he brought a thrifle of money with him; and yer honer knows Mary had half given a promise to Ginty afore he went: and so, yer riverence, lest there be any scrimmage betwixt Ginty and I, ye see it’s as well to get the marriage done off hand.”
“Oh yes, I see; you were afraid Tom Ginty would be taking Mary Brady’s pigs to Athlone. That was it, was it?”
“No, yer honer, I war not afraid of that; but it might be as well there should be no scrimmage betwixt us, as in course there would not be, and we oncet man and wife. But as in course Mary has promised me now, she could not go and act like that.”
“Why no, Denis, not well; unless, you know, she was to find your cow would not have any calf; eh?”
“Oh, bother it for a calf then!”
“No; for not being a calf, Denis.”
“Well then, yer honer, I’ll jist go and spake to Father Cullen. Though he is not so good-humoured like — at least, he don’t be always laughing at a boy.”
“Come back, McGovery, and don’t be a fool. Father Cullen’s gone to Dromod. I think I heard him say Tom Ginty wanted him.”
“Is it Tom Ginty? but shure what would Tom be doing with Father Cullen? wouldn’t he be going to his own priest? Well, what time will yer riverence come up to Pat Brady’s tomorrow?”
“Well, get the mutton done about seven tomorrow evening, and I’ll be with you. But you’ll ask Tom Ginty, eh?”
“Sorrow a foot, then!”
“Nor Betsy Cane, Denis?”
“It ar’nt for me to ax the company, Father John, but if Betsy likes to come up and shake her feet and take her sup, she’s welcome for me.”
“That’s kind of you; and you know you could be asking after the —”
“Well then, Father John, may it be long before I spake another word to you, barring my sins!”
“Well, Denis, I’ve done. But, look ye now you’ve a good supper for the boys, and lots of the stuff, I’ll go bail. Let there be plenty of them in it, and don’t let them come with their pockets empty. By dad, they think their priest can live on the point without the potatoes.”
“Oh, Father John, Pat says there’ll be plenty of them in it, and a great wedding he says he’ll make it: there’s a lot of the boys over from Mohill is to be there.”
“From Mohill, eh? then they’ve my leave to stay away; I don’t care how little I see of the boys from Mohill. Why can’t he get his company from Drumsna and the parish?”
“Oh shure, yer riverence, an’ he’ll do that too; won’t there be all the Ballycloran tenants, and the boys and girls from Drumleesh?”
“Oh, yes, Drumleesh; Drumleesh is as bad as Mohill; I’m thinking it’s those fellows in Drumleesh that make Mohill what it is; but I suppose Pat Brady would tell me he has a right to choose his own company.”
“Oh, Pat would not tell your riverence the like of that.”
“And he’s the boy that would do it, directly. And mind this, McGovery, you’ve the name of a prudent fellow — when you’re once married, the less you see of your brother-in-law the better, and stick to your work in Drumsna.”
“And so I manes. Oh, yer riverence, they won’t be making me be wasting my hard arned wages at Mrs. Mulready’s. Pat wanted me to be there last night of all, as I was coming out of the fair; but, no, says I; if ye’d like to see yer sister respectable, don’t be axing me to go there; if ye’d like her to be on the roads, and me in Carrick Gaol, why that’s the way, I take it.”
“Stick to that, Denis, and you’ll be the better of it. Well, I’ll be down with you tomorrow evening; but mind now, two thirties is the very least; and you should make it more, if you want any luck in your marriage.”
“I’ll spake to Pat, Father John; you know that’s his business; but your riverence, Father John, you’ll not be saying anything up there before the boys and girls about you know — Betsy Cane, you know.”
“Oh! the cow! — only, you see, if you don’t come down with the money as you should, it might be an excuse for your poverty. But, Denis, I’ll take care; and if any one should say anything about the price of cows or the like, I’ll tell them all it isn’t Betsy Cane’s cow, who wouldn’t have the calf, though she was engaged.”
Denis McGovery now hurried off. Father John called for Judy to take away the cold tea, and prepared to sally forth to some of his numerous parochial duties.
But Father McGrath was doomed to still further interruptions. He had not walked above a mile on his road — he was going by Ballycloran — when, coming down the avenue, he saw Pat Brady with his master, Mr. Thady, and of course he didn’t pass without waiting to speak to them.
“Well, Thady,” and “Well, Father John,” as they shook hands; and, “Well, Pat Brady,” and “Well, yer riverence,” as the latter made a motion with his hand towards his hat, was the first salutation.
It will be remembered that Thady and the other had just been talking over affairs in the rent-office, and Thady did not seem as though he were exactly in a good humour.
“So, Pat, your sister is getting married to Denis McGovery. I’ll tell you what — she might do a deal worse.”
“She might do what she plased for me, Father John. But, faix, I was tired enough of her myself; so, you see, Denis is welcome to his bargain.”
“What! are you going to bring a wife of your own home then?”
“Devil a wife, then, axing your riverence’s pardon. What’d I be doing with a wife?”
“Who’ll keep the house over you now, Pat, your sister’s as good as gone?”
“I won’t be axing a woman to keep the house over me; so Mary’s welcome to go; or, she wor welcome to stay, too, for me. I didn’t ax her to have him, and, by the ‘postles, when Denis is tired of his bargain, he’ll be recollecting I wasn’t axing him to have her.”
“Well, Thady, I suppose you and Feemy’ll be at the wedding, eh? and, Pat, you must make them bring Captain Ussher. Mrs. McGovery, as is to be, must have the Captain at her wedding; you’ll be there, Thady?”
“Oh, Pat’s been telling me about it, and I suppose I and Feemy must go down. If Brady chooses to ask the Captain, I’ve nothing to say; it’s not for me to ask him, and, as he’d only be quizzing at all he saw, I think he might as well be away.”
“Ah! Thady, but you never think of your priest; think of the half-crown it would be to me. Never mind, Pat, you ask him; he’ll come anywhere, where Miss Feemy is likely to be; eh, Thady?”
“Then I wish Feemy had never set eyes on him, Father John; and can’t you be doing better than coupling her name with that of his, that way? and he a black ruffian and a Protestant, and filling her head up with nonsense: I thought you had more respect for the family. Well, Pat, jist go down to them boys, and do as I was telling you,”— and Pat walked off.
“And what more respect for the family could I have, Thady, than to wish to see your sister decently married?” and Father John turned round to walk back with young Macdermot the way he was going, “what better respect could I have? If Captain Ussher were not a proper young man in general, your father and you, Thady, wouldn’t be letting him be so much with Feemy; and, now we’re on it, if you did not mean it to be a match, and if you did not mean they should marry, why have you let him be so much at Ballycloran, seeing your father doesn’t meddle much in anything now?”
“That’s just the reason, Father John, I couldn’t be seeing all day who was in it and who was not; besides, Feemy’s grown now; she’s no mother, and must learn to care for herself.”
“No, Thady, she’s no mother; and no father, poor girl, that can do much for her; and isn’t that the reason you should care the more for her? Mind, I’m not blaming you, Thady, for I know you do care for her; and you only want to know how to be a better brother to her; and what could she do better than marry Captain Ussher?”
“But isn’t he a black Protestant, Father John; and don’t the country hate him for the way he’s riding down the poor?”
“He may be Protestant, Thady, and yet not ‘black.’ Mind, I’m not saying I wouldn’t rather see Feemy marry a good Catholic; but if she’s set her heart on a Protestant, I wouldn’t have you be against him for that: that’s not the way to show your religion; it’s only nursing your pride; and sure, mightn’t she make a Catholic of him too?”
“Oh, Father Cullen has tried that.”
“Well, I wouldn’t tell him so, but I think your sister would show more power in converting a young fellow like Ussher than poor Cullen. And then, as to his riding down the poor; you know every one must do his duty, and if the boys will be acting against the laws, why, of course, they must bear the consequences. Not but that I think Captain Ussher is too hard upon them. But, Thady, are you telling me the truth in this? Is it not that you fear the young man won’t marry Feemy, rather than that he will?”
“Why, Father John?”
“I’ll tell you why, Thady: this Captain Ussher has been the intimate friend in your house now for more than six months back; he has been received there willingly by your father, and willingly by yourself, but still more willingly by Feemy; all the country knows this; of course they all said Feemy was to be married to him; and who could say why she shouldn’t, if her father and brother agreed? I always thought it would be a match; and though, as I said before, I would sooner have married Feemy to a good Catholic, I should have thought myself much exceeding my duty as her priest, had I said a word to persuade her against it. Now people begin to say — and you know what they say in the parish always comes to my ears — that Captain Ussher thinks too much of himself to take a wife from Ballycloran, and that he has only been amusing himself with your sister; and I must tell you, Thady, if you didn’t know more of Captain Ussher and his intentions than you seem to do, it isn’t today you should be thinking what you ought to do.”
Thady walked on with his head down, and the priest went on.
“I’ve been meaning to speak to you of this some days back, for your poor father is hardly capable to manage these things now; and it’s the respect I have for the family, and the love I have for Feemy — and, for the matter of that, for you too — that makes me be mentioning it. You aint angry with your priest, are you, Thady, for speaking of the welfare of your sister? If you are, I’ll say no more.”
“Oh no! angry, Father John! in course I aint angry. But what can I do then? Bad luck to the day that Ussher darkened the door of Ballycloran! By dad, if he plays Feemy foul he’ll shortly enter no door, barring that of hell fire!”
“Whisht, Thady, whisht! it’s not cursing’ll do you any good in life, or Feemy either;"— and then continued the priest, seeing that poor Macdermot still appeared miserably doubtful what to say or do, “come in here awhile,” they had just got to the gate of Father John’s Gothic cottage, “just come in here awhile, and we’ll talk over what will be best to do.”
They entered the little parlour in which McGovery had shortly before been discussing his matrimonial engagements, and having closed the door, and, this time, taking care that Judy McCan was not just on the other side of it, and making Macdermot sit down opposite to him, the priest began, in the least disagreeable manner he could, to advise him on the very delicate subject in question.
“You see, Thady, there’s not the least doubt in life poor Feemy’s very fond of him; and how could she not be, poor thing, and she seeing no one else, and mewed up there all day with your father? — no blame to her — and in course she thinks he means all right; only she doesn’t like to be asking him to be naming the day, or talking to you or Larry, or the like, and that’s natural too; but what I fear is, that he’s taking advantage of her ignorance and quietness, you see; and, though I don’t think she would do anything really wrong, nor would he lead her astray altogether —”
“And av he did, Father John, I’d knock the brains out of the scoundrel, though they hung me in Carrick Gaol for it; I would, by G——!”
“Whisht, now, Thady; I don’t mean that at all — but you get so hot — but what I really mean is this; though no actual harm might come of it, it doesn’t give a girl a good name through the country, for her to be carrying on with a young man too long, and that all for nothing; and Feemy’s too pretty and too good, to have a bad word about her. And so, to make a long story short, I think you’d better just speak to her, and tell her, if you like, what I say; and then, you know, if you find things not just as they should be, ask her not to be seeing the Captain any more, except just as she can’t help; and do you tell him that he’s not so welcome at Ballycloran as he was, or ask him at once what he means about your sister. It’s making too little of any girl to be asking a man to marry her, but better that than let her break her heart, and get ill spoken of through the country too.”
“I don’t think they dare do that yet, poor as the Macdermots now are, or, by heaven —”
“There’s your pride — bad pride, again, Thady. Poor or rich, high or low, don’t let your sister leave it to any one to speak bad of her, or put it in any man’s power to hurt her character. At any rate, by following my advice, you’ll find how the land lies.”
“But you see, Father John, she mightn’t exactly mind what I say. Feemy has had so much of her own way, and up to this I haven’t looked after her ways — not so much as I should, perhaps; though, for the matter of that there’s been little need, I believe; but she’s been left to herself, and if she got cross upon me when I spoke of Ussher, it would only be making ill blood between us. I’d sooner a deal be speaking to Captain Ussher.”
“Nonsense, Thady; do you mean to say you are afraid to speak to your sister when you see the necessity? By speaking to Captain Ussher you mean quarrelling with him, and that’s not what’ll do Feemy any good.”
“Well, then, I’m sure, I’ll do anything you tell me, Father John; but if she don’t mind me, will you speak to her?”
“Of course I will, Thady, if you wish it; but go and see her now at once, while it’s on your mind, and though Feemy may be a little headstrong, I think you’ll find her honest with you.”
“I’ll tell you another thing, Father John; father is so taken up with Ussher, and — to out with it at once — he’s trying to borrow a thrifle of money from him; not that that should stand in my way, but the ould man gets obstinate, you know.”
“Oh, then, that’d be very bad, Thady; why doesn’t he go to his natural friends for money, and not to be borrowing it of a false friend and a stranger?”
“Nathural friends! and who is his nathural friends! Is it Flannelly, and Hyacinth Keegan? I tell you what it is, Father John, Feemy and her father and I won’t have the roof over our heads shortly, with such nathural friends as we have. God knows where I’m to make out the money by next November, even let alone what’s to come after.”
“Anything better than borrowing from Ussher, my boy; but sure, bad as the time is, the rints more than pay Flannelly’s interest money, any how.”
“I wish you had to collect them then, Father John, and then you’d see how plentiful they are; besides, little as is spent, or as there is to spend up above there, we can’t live altogether for nothing.”
“No, Thady, the Lord knows we can none of us do that — and, tell the truth now, only I stopped the words in your throat about poor Feemy’s business, weren’t you just going to be dunning me for the bit of rent? out with it now.”
“It’s little heart I have now to be saying to you what I was going to do, for my soul’s sick within me, with all the throubles that are on me. An’ av it warn’t for Feemy then, Father John, bad as I know I’ve been to her, laving her all alone there at Ballycloran, with her novels and her trash — av it warn’t for her, it’s little I’d mind about Ballycloran. There is them still as wouldn’t let the ould man want his stirabout, and his tumbler of punch, bad as they all are to us; and for me, I’d sthrike one blow for the counthry, and then, if I war hung or shot, or murthered any way, devil a care. But I couldn’t bear to see the house taken off her, and she to lose the rispect of the counthry entirely, and the name of Macdermot still on her!”
“Oh, nonsense, Thady, about blows for your country, and getting hung and murthered. You’re very fond of being hung in theory, but wait till you’ve tried it in practice, my boy.”
“May be I may! there be many things to try me.”
“Oh, bother Thady; stop with your nonsense now. Go up to your sister, and have your talk well out with her, and then come down to me. Judy McCan has got the best half of a goose, and there’s as fine a bit of cold ham — or any way there ought to be-as ever frightened a Jew; and when you get a tumbler of punch in you, and have told me all you’ve said to Feemy, and all Feemy’s said to you, why, then you can begin to dun in earnest, and we’ll talk over how we’ll make out the rint.”
“No, Father John, I’d rather not be coming down.”
“But it’s yes, Father John, and I’m not saying what you’d rather do, but showing you your duty; so at five, Thady, you’ll be down, and see what sort of a mess Judy makes of the goose.”
There was no gainsaying this, so Thady started off for Ballycloran, and Father John once more set about performing his parochial duties.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01