At the time that the priest and young Macdermot were talking over Feemy’s affairs at the cottage, she and her lover were together at Ballycloran.
Nothing that her brother or Father John had said about her, either for her or against, would give a fair idea of her character.
She was not naturally what is called strong-minded; but her feelings and courage were strong, and they stood to her in the place of mind.
She would have been a fine creature had she been educated, but she had not been educated, and consequently her ideas were ill-formed, and her abilities were exercised in a wrong direction.
She was by far the most talented of her family, but she did not know how to use what God had given her, and therefore, abused it. Her mother had died before she had grown up, and her grandmother had soon followed her mother. Whatever her feelings were — and for her mother they were strong — the real effect of this was, that she was freed from the restraint and constant scolding of two stupid women at a very early age; consequently she was left alone with her father and her brother, neither of whom were at all fitting guides for so wayward a pupil. By both she was loved more than any other living creature; but their very love prevented them taking that care of her they should have taken.
Her father had become almost like the tables and chairs in the parlour, only much less useful and more difficult to move. What little natural power he had ever had, could not be said to have been impaired by age, for Lawrence Macdermot was not in years an old man — he was not above fifty; but a total want of energy, joined to a despairing apathy, had rendered him by this time little better than an idiot.
Very soon after his coming to his property Flannelly had become a daily and intolerant burthen to him. He had in his prime made some ineffectual fight again this man — he had made some faint attempts rather to parry blows, than overcome his foe; but from the time that Keegan’s cunning had been added to Flannelly’s weight, poor Lawrence Macdermot had, as it were, owned himself thoroughly vanquished for this world. Since that time he had done nothing but complain.
Joined to all this — and no wonder — he had taken to drink — not drinking in the would-bejolly, rollicking, old Irish style, as his father had done before him; but a slow, desperate, solitary, continual melancholy kind of suction, which left him never drunk and never sober. It had come to that, that if he were left throughout the morning without his whiskey and water, he would cry like a child; whatever power he had of endurance would leave him, and he would sit over the fire whining the names of Flannelly and Keegan, and slobbering over his wrongs and persecutions, till he had again drank himself into silence and passive tolerance.
Not only his hair and his whiskers, but his very face had become grey from the effect of the miserable, torpid life he led. He looked as if he were degenerating into the grub even before he died.
The only visible feeling left to him was a kind of stupid family pride, which solely, or chiefly, showed itself in continual complaints that the descendants and the present family of the Macdermots should be harrowed and brought to the ground by such low-born ruffians as Flannelly and Keegan.
It is odd that though Feemy often thwarted him and Thady rarely did — and though Thady was making the best fight he could, poor fellow, for the Macdermots and Ballycloran — the old man always seemed cross to him, and never was so to her. May be he spent more of his time with her, and was more afraid of her; but so it was; and though he certainly loved her better than anything, excepting Ballycloran and his own name, it will be owned that he was no guide for a girl like Feemy, possessed of strong natural powers, stronger passions, and but very indifferent education.
And from circumstances her brother was not much better. He had been called on at a very early age to bear the weight of the family. From the time of his leaving school he had been subjected to constant vexation; on the contrary, his pleasures were very few and far between; his constant occupation for many years had been hunting for money, which was not to be got. If his heart could have been seen, the word “Rent” would have been found engraved on it. Collecting the rent, and managing the few acres of land which the Macdermots kept in their own hands, were his employments, and hard he laboured at them. He was therefore constantly out of the house; and of an evening after his punch, he spent his hours in totting and calculating, adding and subtracting at his old greasy book, till he would turn into bed, to forget another day’s woes, and dream of punctual tenants and unembarrassed properties. Alas! it was only in his dreams he was destined to meet such halcyon things. What could such a man have to say to a young girl that would attract or amuse her? Poor Thady had little to say to any one, except in the way of business, and on that subject Feemy would not listen to him. She constantly heard her father growling about his Carrick foes, and her brother cursing the tenants; but she had so long been used to it, that now she did not think much of it. She knew they were very poor, and that it was with difficulty she now and again got the price of a new dress from her brother; and when she did, it was usually somewhat in this fashion: Pat Kelly owed two years’ rent or so, may be five pounds. Mrs. Brennan, the Mohill haberdasher, took Pat’s pig or his oats in liquidation of the small bill then due to her from Ballycloran, and Feemy’s credit at the shop was good again about to the amount of another pig. It was very rarely ready money found its way to Ballycloran.
On the whole, therefore, she paid little or no attention to the family misfortunes. She had used to confine her desires to occasional visits to Carrick or Mohill; for they still possessed an old car, and sometimes she could take the old mare destined to perform the whole farming work of Ballycloran; and sometimes she coaxed the loan of Paul for a day from Father John; and if she could do that, could always have a novel from Mohill, and see her friends the Miss McKeons at Drumsna two or three times a week, she was tolerably contented and good-humoured. But of late things were altered. Feemy had got a lover. Her novels ceased to interest her; she did not care about going to Carrick, and the Miss McKeons were neglected. It was only quite lately, however, that Feemy had begun to show signs of petulance and ill temper. When her father grumbled she left him to grumble alone, and if her brother asked her to do any ordinary little thing about the house, she would show her displeasure. She did not attend either so closely as she used to do to Biddy and Katty, the two kitchen girls, and consequently the fare at Ballycloran grew worse than ever.
Larry always grumbled, but no one marked his grumbling more than heretofore. Thady had too many causes of real suffering to grumble much at trifles, and usually passed over his sister’s petulance in silence: but the truth was, her lover was sometimes cross to her.
Soon after Father John and young Macdermot had turned their backs on Ballycloran, Pat Brady, who, stood smoking his pipe, and idly leaning against the gate-post from which, even then, the gate was half wrenched, heard the sounds of Captain Ussher’s horse on the road from Mohill. As soon as he came up, Brady very civilly touched his hat: “Well then long life to you, Captain Ussher, and it’s you enjoys a fine horse, and it’d be a pity you shouldn’t have one. You war with the Carrick harriers last Monday, I’ll go bail.”
“No doubt, Mr. Brady, you would go bail for that or anything else; but I was not there.”
“You war not! faix but you war in the wrong then, Captain, for they had fine sport, right away behind Lord Lorton’s new farms — right to Boyle. I wonder yer honer warn’t in it.”
“Seeing you know very well I was arresting prisoners up at Loch Sheen, Mr. Brady, your wonder is wonderful.”
“Sorrow a taste I knew then, Captain. I did hear at the fair poor Paddy Smith was in throuble about a thrifle of sperits, or the like. But I didn’t know yer honer’d been at it yerself. If the boys, ye know, will be going agin the laws, why in course they’d be the worse of it, when they is took.”
“A very true and moral reflection. Was it a note you were taking to Mr. Keegan’s at Carrick from the master, about the money perhaps, on Monday evening?”
“Me in Carrick Monday evening!” said Pat, a little confused; “so I war shure enough, yer honer, jist to buy the mate for the supper as is to be for McGovery’s marriage. You’ve heard in course, Captain, that Mary — that’s my sister — is to be married to Denis McGovery tomorrow night?”
“Why I didn’t see it in the Dublin newspapers.”
“Oh, yer honer; the newspapers indeed! Perhaps, Captain, you’d not think it too much throuble to come down; Miss Feemy of course has promised Mary to be there,”— and Pat attempted a facetious grin.
“I shall be most proud, Mr. Brady,” and the Captain made a mock bow; “but do they sell mutton at Mr. Keegan’s little office door?”
Here Brady again seemed confused, and muttered something about Keegan’s boy and messages: but he was evidently annoyed.
“Shall I take yer honer’s horse round then?” said he; and Ussher dismounted without saying anything further, and ran up the stone steps, at the top of which Feemy opened the hall door for him.
There were two sitting-rooms at Ballycloran, one at each side of the hall; in that on the right as you entered the family breakfasted, dined, and in fact lived; and here also Larry sat throughout the day sipping his grog, and warming his shins over the fire from morning to night. He would every now and again walk to the hall door; and if it were warm, he would slowly creep down the steps, and stand looking at the trees and the lawn till he was cold, when he would creep back again.
The other room seemed to be the exclusive property of Feemy; here she made and mended her clothes, and sometimes even washed and ironed them too; here she read her novels, received the two Miss McKeons, and thought of Captain Ussher; and here also it was, that he would tell her all the soft things which had filled her young heart, and made her dislike Ballycloran.
“Well, Myles,” she said as soon as he was in the room, and before the door was shut, “where were you all this time, since Sunday?” and she stood on tiptoe to give him the kiss which she rather offered than he asked. “Who have you got in Mohill then that keeps you away from Feemy? It’s Mary Cassidy now; what business had you shopping with Mary Cassidy?”
“And was I shopping with Mary Cassidy, Feemy? ‘deed then I forget it. Oh yes, it was fair-day yesterday, and I saw them all in at Brennan’s.”
“And what did you want at Brennan’s, Myles?” said she, playfully shaking his shoulder with her hand; “it’s talking to that pretty girl in the shop you’re after.”
“Oh, of course, Feemy; I was making love to the three Miss Cassidys, and Jane Thompson, and old widow Brennan at once. But why was I there, you say? why then, I was just buying this for Mary Cassidy, and I wanted your opinion, my pet;” and he took from his pocket some article of finery he had bought for his mistress.
“Oh, Myles, how good of you! but why do you be squandering your money; but it is very pretty,” and Feemy put the collar over her shoulders.
“Don’t toss it now, or Mary Cassidy won’t take it from me, and then it would be left on my hands, for Mrs. Brennan wouldn’t take it back anyhow,” and he put out his hand for the article.
“No fear, Myles; no fear,” said the laughing girl, running round the table. “It won’t be left on your hands; I’ll wear it tomorrow at Mary Brady’s wedding.”
“But you won’t keep it from me without paying me, Feemy?”
“Oh, paying you, Captain Ussher; oh, I’ll pay you, bring in your bill;"— and she came round to him, and he took her in his arms and kissed her. Then at least he seemed fondly attached to her.
Her lover was evidently in one of his best humours, and Feemy was quite happy. I won’t further violate their conversation, as it is not essential to the tale, and was much such as those conversations usually are.
Feemy told her lover of the wedding, and he told her that he had already been invited, and had promised to go; and then she was more happy, for Feemy dearly loved a dance, though it was only a jig at a country wedding; but a dance with her lover would be delightful; she had only danced with him twice. On the first of these occasions she had met him at a grand gala party, at Mrs. Cassidy’s, the wife of Lord Birmingham’s agent in Mohill, where first Captain Ussher had made up his mind that Feemy Macdermot was a finer girl than pretty little Mary Cassidy, though perhaps not so well educated; and once again at a little tea-party at Mrs. McKeon’s, which had been got up on purpose by Feemy’s friends, to ask her husband as was to be-when first people said it was a settled thing. Oh! that was a happy night to Feemy, for her friends then all thought that her intimacy with Ussher was as good a thing as could be wished for; and when Feemy danced the whole night with him, the Miss McKeons all thought what a happy girl she was; — and that night she was happy. Then he first told her she should be his wife, and swore that he never had loved, and never would love any but her; and oh, how truly she believed him! Why should she not? was not she happy to love him, and why should not he be as much so to love her? If any one had whispered a word of caution to her, how she would have hated the whisperer! But there was no one to whisper caution to Feemy, and she had given all she had — her heart, her love, her obedience, her very soul — to him, without having any guarantee that she really had aught in return.
It was not because she began to doubt her lover that she was now occasionally fretful and uneasy. No; the idea to doubt him never reached her, but nevertheless she felt that things were not quite as they should be.
He seldom talked of marriage though he said enough of love; and when he did, it was with vague promises, saying how happy they would be when she was his wife, how much more comfortable her home would be, how nicely she would receive her friends in Mohill. These, and little jokes about their future ménage in a married state, were all he had ever said. She never asked him — indeed, she did not dare to ask; she did not like to press him; and Captain Ussher had a frown about him, which, somehow, Feemy had already learnt to fear.
He treated her too a little cavalierly, and her father and brother not a little. He ridiculed openly all that with her, hitherto, had been most sacred — her priest and her religion. She was not angry at this; she was hardly aware of it; and, in fact, was gradually falling into his way of thinking; but the effect upon her was the same — it made her uncomfortable. A girl should never obey her lover till she is married to him; she may comply with his wishes, but she should not allow herself to be told with authority that this or that should be her line of conduct.
Now Feemy had so given herself up to her lover, that she was obedient to him in all things; to him, even in opposition to her brother or her priest, and consequently she was to a degree humiliated even in his eyes. She did not feel the degradation herself, but there was still a feeling within, which she could not define, which usually destroyed her comfort.
Now, however, Myles was in so good a temper, and seemed so kind to her, that that, and her little prospect of pleasure, did make her happy.
She was sitting in this humour on the old sofa close to him, leaning on his arm, which was round her waist, when she heard her brother’s footstep at the hall door.
“Here’s Thady, Myles; sit off a bit.”
Myles got up and walked to the window, and Thady entered with anything but a gay look; he had just left Father John.
“Well, Thady?” said Feemy.
“How are you, Thady, this morning?” said the Captain, offering his hand, which the other reluctantly took.
“Good morning, Captain Ussher.”
“Did you hear, Thady, I caught another of your boys with malt up at Loch Sheen last Monday — Joe Reynolds, or Tim Reynolds, or something? He’s safe in Carrick.”
“I did hear you got a poor boy up there, who was in it by chance, and took him off just for nothing. But he’s no tenant of ours, so I have nothing to do with it; his brother Joe lives on our land.”
“Do you mean to tell me, Thady, you believe all that d —— d nonsense about knowing nothing about it; and he sitting there in the cabin, and the malt hadn’t been in it half an hour?”
“I don’t know what you call d —— d nonsense, Captain Ussher; but I suppose I may believe what I please without going to Carrick Gaol too for it.”
“Believe what you please for me, Master Thady. Why you seem to have got out of bed the wrong side this morning; or have you and Keegan been striking up some new tiff about the ‘rints?’”
“Mr. Keegan’s affairs with me arn’t any affairs of yours, Captain Ussher. When I ask you to set them right, then you can talk to me about them.”
“Hoity toity, Mr. Macdermot; your affairs, and Mr. Keegan’s affairs, and my affairs! Why I suppose you’ll be calling me out next for taking up a d —— d whining thief of a fellow because his brother is a tenant of your father’s, and send me the challenge by Mr. Brady, who invited me to a party at his house just now.”
Thady said nothing to this, but stood with his back to the fire, looking as grim as death.
“Oh, Captain Ussher!” said Feemy, “you wouldn’t be quarrelling with Thady about nothing? You know he has so much to bother him with the rents and things. Will you come to Mary’s wedding tomorrow, Thady?”
“Quarrelling with him! ‘Deed then and I will not, but it seems he wants to quarrel with me.”
“When I do want to quarrel with you, Captain Ussher — that is, should I ever want — you may be quite certain it’s not in a round about way I’ll be telling you of it.”
“No, don’t, my boy, for ten to one I shouldn’t understand what you’d be after. Didn’t you say you’d walk up to Aughermore, Miss Macdermot?”
“I’m sorry to baulk Feemy of her walk, Captain Ussher, if she did say so. It’s not very often I ask her to put herself out for me; but this afternoon, I shall feel obliged to her not to go.”
Captain Ussher stared, and Feemy opened wide her large bright eyes; for what reason could her brother desire her to stay in doors?
“What can you want me in the house for, Thady, this time of day?”
“Well never mind, Feemy; I do want you, and you’ll oblige me by staying.”
Feemy still had on the new collar, and she pulled it off and threw it on the table; she evidently imagined that it had something to do with her brother’s unusual request. She certainly would not have put it on in that loose way, had she thought he would have seen it; but then he so seldom came in there.
“Well, Captain Ussher,” she at last said slowly, “I suppose then I can’t go to Aughermore today.”
Captain Ussher had turned to the window as if not to notice Thady’s request, and now came back into the middle of the room, as if Feemy’s last sentence had been the first he had heard on the subject.
“Oh! you have changed your mind, then,” said he; and his face acquired the look that Feemy dreaded. “Ladies, you know, are at liberty to think twice.”
“But, Thady, I did wish to go to Aughermore particularly today; wouldn’t this evening or tomorrow do?”
“No, Feemy,” and Thady looked still blacker than Myles; “this evening won’t do, nor tomorrow.”
“Well, Captain Ussher, you see we must put it off,” and she looked deprecatingly at her lover.
His answering look gave her no comfort; far from it, but he said, “I see no must about it, but that’s for you to judge; perhaps you should ask your father’s leave to go so far from home.”
This was a cruel cut at all the fallen family, the father’s incapacity, the sister’s helplessness, and the brother’s weak authority. Feemy did not feel it so, she felt nothing to be cruel that came from Ussher; but Thady felt it strongly, he was as indignant as if he had lived all his life among those who thought and felt nobly, but, poor fellow, he could not express his indignation as well.
“My sister, Captain Ussher, has long been left her own misthress to go in and out as she plazes, without lave from father, mother, or brother; better perhaps for her that she had not! God knows I have seldom stopped her wishes, though may be not often able to forward them. If she likes she may go now to Aughermore, but if a brother’s love is anything to her, she’ll stay this day with me.”
Feemy looked from one to the other; she knew well by Myles’ look, that he still expected her to go, and strange as it may be, she hardly dared to disobey him; but then her brother looked determined and sadly resolute, and it was so unusual in him to speak in that way.
“Well, Miss Macdermot,” said Ussher, seeing he could not prevail without causing an absolute break with Thady, “your brother wants you to count the rent for him. I’m glad he has received so much; it must be that, I presume, for he seldom troubles himself on much else, I believe.”
“I do what I have to do, and must do; God knows its throuble enough. Do you go and do the same; even that, bad as it is, is better than amusing my sister by laughing at me.”
“Oh, Thady, how can you be saying such things! you see I am staying for you, and why can’t you be quiet?”
Thady made no reply; the Captain twirled his hat, and ceremoniously bowing to the lady, took his leave.
Thady had screwed his courage to the sticking point while the Captain was the foe with whom he had to contend, and he had carried on the battle manfully while he spoke to Feemy in the Captain’s presence; but to tell the truth, when he heard the clatter of his horse’s feet he almost wished him back again, or that Feemy was away with him to Aughermore. He was puzzled how to begin; he could not think what he was to say; was he to quarrel with his sister for having a lover without telling him? was he to put it on the ground that her lover was a Protestant? That would have been the easiest line, but then Father John had especially barred that! Was he to scold her because her lover would not marry her at once? That seemed unreasonable. It had never occurred to him, in his indignation, to think of these difficulties, and he now stood with his back to the fire, looking awfully black, but saying nothing.
“Well, Thady, what is it I’ll be doing for you, instead of going to Aughermore this morning?” at last said Feemy, the first to begin the disagreeable conversation.
When Thady looked up, thinking what to answer to this plain speech, his eye, luckily for him, fell on the new Mohill collar.
“Where were you getting that collar, Feemy?”
“And are you afther making me stay at home all the blessed day, and sending Captain Ussher all the way back to Mohill, and he having come over here by engagement to walk with me,”— this was a fib of Feemy’s — “and all to ask me where I got a new collar?”
“May be I was, Feemy, and may be I wasn’t; but I suppose there isn’t any harum in my asking the question, or in you answering it?”
“Oh no, not the laist; only it ain’t usual in you to be asking such questions.”
“But if there’s no harum, I ask it now; where were you getting the collar?”
“Well, you’re very queer; but if you must know, Captain Ussher brought it with him from Mohill.”
“And if you wanted a parcel from Mohill, why couldn’t you let Brady bring it, who is in it constantly, instead of that upstart policeman, who’d think it more condescension to bring that from Mohill, than I would to be carrying a sack of potatoes so far.”
“There then you’re wrong; the policeman, as you’re pleased to call him, thinks no such thing.”
“Well, Feemy, but did you bid him bring it, or did he bring it of his own accord?”
Feemy could now shuffle no longer, so blushing slightly, she said, “Well, if you must know then, it was a present; and there’s no such great harm in that, I suppose.”
Here Thady was again bothered; he really did not know whether there was any harm in it or not; a week ago he certainly would have thought not, but he was now inclined to think that there was; but he was not sure, and he sadly wished for Father John to tell him what to do.
“Well, Thady, now what was it you were wanting of me?”— and then after a pause, she added, her courage rising as she saw her brother’s falling: “Was it anything about Captain Ussher?”
“Yes, it was.”
“Is there anything between you and he, Feemy?”
“What do you mean by between us, Thady?” and Feemy made a little fruitless attempt to laugh.
“Well then; you’re in love with him, ain’t you? there now, that’s the long and the short.”
“Supposing I was, why shouldn’t I?”
“Only this, Feemy, he’s not in love with you.”
This put Feemy’s back up, “‘Deed then, it’s little you know about it, for he just is; and I love him too with all my heart, and that’s all about it; and you might have found that out without sending him back to Mohill.”
“I wish then he’d stay at Mohill, and that I might never see him over the door at Ballycloran again!”
“That’s kind of you, Thady, after what I just told you; but don’t tell him so, that’s all.”
“But it’s just what I mane to tell him, and what I shall go over to Mohill on purpose to tell him, tomorrow.”
“Good gracious, Thady! and for why?”
“For why, Feemy! becase I still want to see my father’s daughter an honest woman, though she may be soon a beggar; becase I don’t want to see my sister crouching under a blackguard’s foot; becase I don’t want the worst disgrace that can happen a family to blacken the name of Macdermot!”
Feemy was now really surprised; fear at her brother’s strange words brought out at once what was ever most present in her mind.
“Oh, heavens, Thady! sure we’re to be married.”
It must be remembered that this was not an interview between a fashionable brother and an elegant sister, both highly educated, in which the former had considered himself called upon to remonstrate with the latter for having waltzed too often with the same gentleman, and in which any expression of actual blame would highly offend the delicacy of the lady. Thady and his sister had not been accustomed to delicacy; and though she was much shocked at his violence, she hardly felt the strong imputation against herself, as she had so good an answer for it. She therefore exclaimed,
“Oh heavens, Thady, sure we’re to be married.”
“Well, now, Feemy, jist listen to me. If Captain Ussher manes to marry you, under all circumstances, I don’t know you could do better. I don’t like him, as how should I, for isn’t he a Protestant, and a low-born, impudent ruffian? but you do like him, and I suppose, if he marries you, it’s becase he likes you; if not, why should he do it? And when once married, you’ll have to fight your own battles, and no joke it’ll be for either of you. But if, as I’m thinking, he has no idea on arth of marrying you, no more than he has of Mary Brady, I’ll be d —— d if I let him come here fooling you, though you haven’t sperit enough to prevent it yourself. We’re low enough already, Feemy, but for heaven’s sake don’t be making us lower yet!”
“Well, now, Thady, is that all? and you’re wrong then, as you always are, for Captain Ussher has asked me to have him, just as plain as I’m telling you now; and he’s no ruffian. It is you’re the ruffian to him, snubbing him when he speaks good-naturedly to you. And as for being a Protestant, I suppose he’s none the worse for that, if he’s none the better. I don’t know why you do be hating him so, unless it’s because I love him.”
“I’m not talking about my hating him, or loving him. If he’s honest to you, I’ll neither say nor do anything to cross him. But if he does mane to marry you, it’s time he did it; that’s all. Did he say anything to father about it?”
“What should he be saying to him? Of course, dada would have no objection.”
“And would you then be letting him come here as he likes, and settling nothing, and just maning to marry you or not, as he likes, and you and he talked of over the counthry these four months back, and he talking about you, jist as his misthress, through the counthry?”
Feemy was now regularly roused.
“That’s a lie for you, Thady! and a black lie — about your own sister too, to say he ever spoke a bad word against me! Pat Brady was telling you that perhaps. It’s what he never did, or would do; for he’s as true as you are false; and it’s from jealousy, and just from your hate, because everybody else likes him, makes you say it. And now we are on it, Thady, I’ll just tell you one thing: I’m not to do what you tell me, nor will I, for I’m much more able to manage myself than you are for me. And for all you say about him, I’d attend more to one word from Myles, than to all you say, if you stood talking till night; and talk you may, but I’ll not stand and hear you!” And she bounced out of the room, slamming the door in a manner which made Mr. Flannelly’s building shake to the foundation.
Poor Thady was signally defeated. There he stood with his back to the fire, his old and dirty hat pulled low over his brow, his hands stuck into the pockets of his much worn shooting coat, his strong brogues and the bottoms of his corduroy trowsers covered with dirt and dry mould, with the same heavy discontented look about his face which he always now wore. He certainly appeared but a sorry Mentor for a young lady in a love affair! He felt that his sister despised him, the more from her being accustomed to the comparatively gentleman-like appearance and refined manners of her lover.
There he stood a long time without stirring, and so he stood in absolute silence. He had put his pipe down when first Captain Ussher left the room, and he had not resumed it, now even that he was alone. With Thady this was a sign that his heart was very full indeed; and so it was, full almost to breaking.
He had come there eager with two high feelings, love for his sister, real fond brotherly affection, and love and respect for his family name; he had wished to protect the former from insult and unhappiness, and to sustain the fallen respectability of the latter; and he had only been scoffed at and upbraided by the sister he loved. For he did love her, though little real communication had ever passed between them; he had always supposed that she loved him; he had taken it for granted, and had asked for no demonstrative affection; but her manner and her words now cut him very deep. He was not aware how very uncouth his own manner had been; that instead of reasoning with her gently he had begun by sneering at her lover, that he had taken the very course to offend her self-love, and that therefore Feemy was quite as convinced at the end of the meeting that she had a right to be angry, as he was that he was the injured party.
At any rate, there he stood perfectly baffled. His object had been to advise her, if Captain Ussher did not at once declare his purpose to her family, to put a stop to his further visits; and if she refused to comply with his advice, to tell her that he should himself ask Captain Ussher his intentions, and that if they were not such as he approved, he should inform him that he was no longer welcome at Ballycloran.
This had seemed, though disagreeable, straightforward and easy enough before the meeting; and now that it was over he could not think why he had not said exactly what he had come there to say. To give him his due, he blamed himself as much as he did his sister; he was very unhappy about it all, but he could not think how he had been so very stupid.
Had he lived more in the world, he would have had recourse to the common resort in cases where speech is difficult; he would have written a letter to his sister. But this never occurred to him; even had it done so, Thady’s epistolary powers were very small, and his practice very limited; a memento to the better sort of tenants, as to their “thrifle of rint,” or a few written directions to Pat Brady, about seizing crops and driving pigs, was its extent; and these were written on pieces of coarse paper, which had been ruled for accounts, and were smeared rather than fastened with very much salivated wafers. His writing too was very slow, and his choice of language not extensive; a letter on such a subject from a brother to a sister should be well turned, impressive, terse, sententious: that scheme would never have done for Thady.
What then should he do? if he were to go to Captain Ussher now, and tell him to discontinue his visits, he would only be asked if he had his sister’s authority for doing so, or his father’s. Should he get, or try to get, his father’s authority? The old man he knew was moping over the parlour fire, half drunk, half stupid, and half asleep.
After thinking over it alone there in Feemy’s sitting-room for an hour, he determined that all he could do was to go back again to his only friend, Father John.
When Feemy slammed the door, as she did at the end of her violent oration above given, she betook herself to her bedroom, and began to cry.
Though she had so well assumed the air of an injured person, and had to the best of her abilities vindicated her absent lover, still she was very unhappy at what her brother had said to her. Nor, in truth, was it only because Thady had expressed himself unkindly about Myles, but she also could not but feel that there was something wrong. She never for a moment believed that her lover spoke loosely of her behind her back, for she never for a moment doubted his love; but she did feel that it would be more comfortable if Myles would speak, or let her speak to some of her family, if it were only to her father. Though she knew so little of what was usual in the world, still she felt that even his sanction, stupid, tipsy, unconscious as he was, would give to her attachment a respectability which it wanted now; and if a day for her marriage were fixed, though circumstances might require that it should be ever so distant, she would be able to talk much more satisfactorily of her prospects to Mary Cassidy, and the Miss McKeons. Besides, if she could bring matters to this state, she could so triumphantly prove that Thady was wrong in his unhandsome conjectures, and she determined before she had done thinking on the subject, to give Myles a few hints as to her wishes. The next day he would be sure to come to Ballycloran on his way to McGovery’s wedding, and he would probably ask why Thady had prevented their walk to Aughermore; and then she would have a good opportunity of saying what she wanted.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01