"That's better now, Mr. O'Connor."
Mr. O'Connor, a grey-haired young man, whose face was disfigured by many blotches and pimples, had just brought the tobacco for a cigarette into a shapely cylinder but when spoken to he undid his handiwork meditatively. Then he began to roll the tobacco again meditatively and after a moment's thought decided to lick the paper.
"Did Mr. Tierney say when he'd be back?" he asked in a sky falsetto.
"He didn't say."
Mr. O'Connor put his cigarette into his mouth and began search his pockets. He took out a pack of thin pasteboard cards.
"I'll get you a match," said the old man.
"Never mind, this'll do," said Mr. O'Connor.
He selected one of the cards and read what was printed on it:
MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS ————— ROYAL EXCHANGE WARD —————
Mr. Richard J. Tierney, P.L.G., respectfully solicits the favour of your vote and influence at the coming election in the Royal Exchange Ward.
Mr. O'Connor had been engaged by Tierney's agent to canvass one part of the ward but, as the weather was inclement and his boots let in the wet, he spent a great part of the day sitting by the fire in the Committee Room in Wicklow Street with Jack, the old caretaker. They had been sitting thus since e short day had grown dark. It was the sixth of October, dismal and cold out of doors.
Mr. O'Connor tore a strip off the card and, lighting it, lit his cigarette. As he did so the flame lit up a leaf of dark glossy ivy the lapel of his coat. The old man watched him attentively and then, taking up the piece of cardboard again, began to fan the fire slowly while his companion smoked.
"Ah, yes," he said, continuing, "it's hard to know what way to bring up children. Now who'd think he'd turn out like that! I sent him to the Christian Brothers and I done what I could him, and there he goes boosing about. I tried to make him someway decent."
He replaced the cardboard wearily.
"Only I'm an old man now I'd change his tune for him. I'd take the stick to his back and beat him while I could stand over him—as I done many a time before. The mother, you know, she cocks him up with this and that...."
"That's what ruins children," said Mr. O'Connor.
"To be sure it is," said the old man. "And little thanks you get for it, only impudence. He takes th'upper hand of me whenever he sees I've a sup taken. What's the world coming to when sons speaks that way to their fathers?"
"What age is he?" said Mr. O'Connor.
"Nineteen," said the old man.
"Why don't you put him to something?"
"Sure, amn't I never done at the drunken bowsy ever since he left school? 'I won't keep you,' I says. 'You must get a job for yourself.' But, sure, it's worse whenever he gets a job; he drinks it all."
Mr. O'Connor shook his head in sympathy, and the old man fell silent, gazing into the fire. Someone opened the door of the room and called out:
"Hello! Is this a Freemason's meeting?"
"Who's that?" said the old man.
"What are you doing in the dark?" asked a voice.
"Is that you, Hynes?" asked Mr. O'Connor.
"Yes. What are you doing in the dark?" said Mr. Hynes. advancing into the light of the fire.
He was a tall, slender young man with a light brown moustache. Imminent little drops of rain hung at the brim of his hat and the collar of his jacket-coat was turned up.
"Well, Mat," he said to Mr. O'Connor, "how goes it?"
Mr. O'Connor shook his head. The old man left the hearth and after stumbling about the room returned with two candlesticks which he thrust one after the other into the fire and carried to the table. A denuded room came into view and the fire lost all its cheerful colour. The walls of the room were bare except for a copy of an election address. In the middle of the room was a small table on which papers were heaped.
Mr. Hynes leaned against the mantelpiece and asked:
"Has he paid you yet?"
"Not yet," said Mr. O'Connor. "I hope to God he'll not leave us in the lurch tonight."
Mr. Hynes laughed.
"O, he'll pay you. Never fear," he said.
"I hope he'll look smart about it if he means business," said Mr. O'Connor.
"What do you think, Jack?" said Mr. Hynes satirically to the old man.
The old man returned to his seat by the fire, saying:
"It isn't but he has it, anyway. Not like the other tinker."
"What other tinker?" said Mr. Hynes.
"Colgan," said the old man scornfully.
"It is because Colgan's a working—man you say that? What's the difference between a good honest bricklayer and a publican—eh? Hasn't the working-man as good a right to be in the Corporation as anyone else—ay, and a better right than those shoneens that are always hat in hand before any fellow with a handle to his name? Isn't that so, Mat?" said Mr. Hynes, addressing Mr. O'Connor.
"I think you're right," said Mr. O'Connor.
"One man is a plain honest man with no hunker-sliding about him. He goes in to represent the labour classes. This fellow you're working for only wants to get some job or other."
"Of course, the working-classes should be represented," said the old man.
"The working-man," said Mr. Hynes, "gets all kicks and no halfpence. But it's labour produces everything. The workingman is not looking for fat jobs for his sons and nephews and cousins. The working-man is not going to drag the honour of Dublin in the mud to please a German monarch."
"How's that?" said the old man.
"Don't you know they want to present an address of welcome to Edward Rex if he comes here next year? What do we want kowtowing to a foreign king?"
"Our man won't vote for the address," said Mr. O'Connor. "He goes in on the Nationalist ticket."
"Won't he?" said Mr. Hynes. "Wait till you see whether he will or not. I know him. Is it Tricky Dicky Tierney?"
"By God! perhaps you're right, Joe," said Mr. O'Connor. "Anyway, I wish he'd turn up with the spondulics."
The three men fell silent. The old man began to rake more cinders together. Mr. Hynes took off his hat, shook it and then turned down the collar of his coat, displaying, as he did so, an ivy leaf in the lapel.
"If this man was alive," he said, pointing to the leaf, "we'd have no talk of an address of welcome."
"That's true," said Mr. O'Connor.
"Musha, God be with them times!" said the old man. "There was some life in it then."
The room was silent again. Then a bustling little man with a snuffling nose and very cold ears pushed in the door. He walked over quickly to the fire, rubbing his hands as if he intended to produce a spark from them.
"No money, boys," he said.
"Sit down here, Mr. Henchy," said the old man, offering him his chair.
"O, don't stir, Jack, don't stir," said Mr. Henchy
He nodded curtly to Mr. Hynes and sat down on the chair which the old man vacated.
"Did you serve Aungier Street?" he asked Mr. O'Connor.
"Yes," said Mr. O'Connor, beginning to search his pockets for memoranda.
"Did you call on Grimes?"
"Well? How does he stand?"
"He wouldn't promise. He said: 'I won't tell anyone what way I'm going to vote.' But I think he'll be all right."
"He asked me who the nominators were; and I told him. I mentioned Father Burke's name. I think it'll be all right."
Mr. Henchy began to snuffle and to rub his hands over the fire at a terrific speed. Then he said:
"For the love of God, Jack, bring us a bit of coal. There must be some left."
The old man went out of the room.
"It's no go," said Mr. Henchy, shaking his head. "I asked the little shoeboy, but he said: 'Oh, now, Mr. Henchy, when I see work going on properly I won't forget you, you may be sure.' Mean little tinker! 'Usha, how could he be anything else?"
"What did I tell you, Mat?" said Mr. Hynes. "Tricky Dicky Tierney."
"O, he's as tricky as they make 'em," said Mr. Henchy. "He hasn't got those little pigs' eyes for nothing. Blast his soul! Couldn't he pay up like a man instead of: 'O, now, Mr. Henchy, I must speak to Mr. Fanning.... I've spent a lot of money'? Mean little schoolboy of hell! I suppose he forgets the time his little old father kept the hand-me-down shop in Mary's Lane."
"But is that a fact?" asked Mr. O'Connor.
"God, yes," said Mr. Henchy. "Did you never hear that? And the men used to go in on Sunday morning before the houses were open to buy a waistcoat or a trousers—moya! But Tricky Dicky's little old father always had a tricky little black bottle up in a corner. Do you mind now? That's that. That's where he first saw the light."
The old man returned with a few lumps of coal which he placed here and there on the fire.
"Thats a nice how-do-you-do," said Mr. O'Connor. "How does he expect us to work for him if he won't stump up?"
"I can't help it," said Mr. Henchy. "I expect to find the bailiffs in the hall when I go home."
Mr. Hynes laughed and, shoving himself away from the mantelpiece with the aid of his shoulders, made ready to leave.
"It'll be all right when King Eddie comes," he said. "Well boys, I'm off for the present. See you later. 'Bye, 'bye."
He went out of the room slowly. Neither Mr. Henchy nor the old man said anything, but, just as the door was closing, Mr. O'Connor, who had been staring moodily into the fire, called out suddenly:
Mr. Henchy waited a few moments and then nodded in the direction of the door.
"Tell me," he said across the fire, "what brings our friend in here? What does he want?"
"'Usha, poor Joe!" said Mr. O'Connor, throwing the end of his cigarette into the fire, "he's hard up, like the rest of us."
Mr. Henchy snuffled vigorously and spat so copiously that he nearly put out the fire, which uttered a hissing protest.
"To tell you my private and candid opinion," he said, "I think he's a man from the other camp. He's a spy of Colgan's, if you ask me. Just go round and try and find out how they're getting on. They won't suspect you. Do you twig?"
"Ah, poor Joe is a decent skin," said Mr. O'Connor.
"His father was a decent, respectable man," Mr. Henchy admitted. "Poor old Larry Hynes! Many a good turn he did in his day! But I'm greatly afraid our friend is not nineteen carat. Damn it, I can understand a fellow being hard up, but what I can't understand is a fellow sponging. Couldn't he have some spark of manhood about him?"
"He doesn't get a warm welcome from me when he comes," said the old man. "Let him work for his own side and not come spying around here."
"I don't know," said Mr. O'Connor dubiously, as he took out cigarette-papers and tobacco. "I think Joe Hynes is a straight man. He's a clever chap, too, with the pen. Do you remember that thing he wrote...?"
"Some of these hillsiders and fenians are a bit too clever if ask me," said Mr. Henchy. "Do you know what my private and candid opinion is about some of those little jokers? I believe half of them are in the pay of the Castle."
"There's no knowing," said the old man.
"O, but I know it for a fact," said Mr. Henchy. "They're Castle hacks.... I don't say Hynes.... No, damn it, I think he's a stroke above that.... But there's a certain little nobleman with a cock-eye—you know the patriot I'm alluding to?"
Mr. O'Connor nodded.
"There's a lineal descendant of Major Sirr for you if you like! O, the heart's blood of a patriot! That's a fellow now that'd sell his country for fourpence—ay—and go down on his bended knees and thank the Almighty Christ he had a country to sell."
There was a knock at the door.
"Come in!" said Mr. Henchy.
A person resembling a poor clergyman or a poor actor appeared in the doorway. His black clothes were tightly buttoned on his short body and it was impossible to say whether he wore a clergyman's collar or a layman's, because the collar of his shabby frock-coat, the uncovered buttons of which reflected the candlelight, was turned up about his neck. He wore a round hat of hard black felt. His face, shining with raindrops, had the appearance of damp yellow cheese save where two rosy spots indicated the cheekbones. He opened his very long mouth suddenly to express disappointment and at the same time opened wide his very bright blue eyes to express pleasure and surprise.
"O Father Keon!" said Mr. Henchy, jumping up from his chair. "Is that you? Come in!"
"O, no, no, no!" said Father Keon quickly, pursing his lips as if he were addressing a child.
"Won't you come in and sit down?"
"No, no, no!" said Father Keon, speaking in a discreet, indulgent, velvety voice. "Don't let me disturb you now! I'm just looking for Mr. Fanning...."
"He's round at the Black Eagle," said Mr. Henchy. "But won't you come in and sit down a minute?"
"No, no, thank you. It was just a little business matter," said Father Keon. "Thank you, indeed."
He retreated from the doorway and Mr. Henchy, seizing one of the candlesticks, went to the door to light him downstairs.
"O, don't trouble, I beg!"
"No, but the stairs is so dark."
"No, no, I can see.... Thank you, indeed."
"Are you right now?"
"All right, thanks.... Thanks."
Mr. Henchy returned with the candlestick and put it on the table. He sat down again at the fire. There was silence for a few moments.
"Tell me, John," said Mr. O'Connor, lighting his cigarette with another pasteboard card.
"What he is exactly?"
"Ask me an easier one," said Mr. Henchy.
"Fanning and himself seem to me very thick. They're often in Kavanagh's together. Is he a priest at all?"
"Mmmyes, I believe so.... I think he's what you call black sheep. We haven't many of them, thank God! but we have a few.... He's an unfortunate man of some kind...."
"And how does he knock it out?" asked Mr. O'Connor.
"That's another mystery."
"Is he attached to any chapel or church or institution or—-"
"No," said Mr. Henchy, "I think he's travelling on his own account.... God forgive me," he added, "I thought he was the dozen of stout."
"Is there any chance of a drink itself?" asked Mr. O'Connor.
"I'm dry too," said the old man.
"I asked that little shoeboy three times," said Mr. Henchy, "would he send up a dozen of stout. I asked him again now, but he was leaning on the counter in his shirt-sleeves having a deep goster with Alderman Cowley."
"Why didn't you remind him?" said Mr. O'Connor.
"Well, I couldn't go over while he was talking to Alderman Cowley. I just waited till I caught his eye, and said: 'About that little matter I was speaking to you about....' 'That'll be all right, Mr. H.,' he said. Yerra, sure the little hop-o'-my-thumb has forgotten all about it."
"There's some deal on in that quarter," said Mr. O'Connor thoughtfully. "I saw the three of them hard at it yesterday at Suffolk Street corner."
"I think I know the little game they're at," said Mr. Henchy. "You must owe the City Fathers money nowadays if you want to be made Lord Mayor. Then they'll make you Lord Mayor. By God! I'm thinking seriously of becoming a City Father myself. What do you think? Would I do for the job?"
Mr. O'Connor laughed.
"So far as owing money goes...."
"Driving out of the Mansion House," said Mr. Henchy, "in all my vermin, with Jack here standing up behind me in a powdered wig—eh?"
"And make me your private secretary, John."
"Yes. And I'll make Father Keon my private chaplain. We'll have a family party."
"Faith, Mr. Henchy," said the old man, "you'd keep up better style than some of them. I was talking one day to old Keegan, the porter. 'And how do you like your new master, Pat?' says I to him. 'You haven't much entertaining now,' says I. 'Entertaining!' says he. 'He'd live on the smell of an oil-rag.' And do you know what he told me? Now, I declare to God I didn't believe him."
"What?" said Mr. Henchy and Mr. O'Connor.
"He told me: 'What do you think of a Lord Mayor of Dublin sending out for a pound of chops for his dinner? How's that for high living?' says he. 'Wisha! wisha,' says I. 'A pound of chops,' says he, 'coming into the Mansion House.' 'Wisha!' says I, 'what kind of people is going at all now?"
At this point there was a knock at the door, and a boy put in his head.
"What is it?" said the old man.
"From the Black Eagle," said the boy, walking in sideways and depositing a basket on the floor with a noise of shaken bottles.
The old man helped the boy to transfer the bottles from the basket to the table and counted the full tally. After the transfer the boy put his basket on his arm and asked:
"What bottles?" said the old man.
"Won't you let us drink them first?" said Mr. Henchy.
"I was told to ask for the bottles."
"Come back tomorrow," said the old man.
"Here, boy!" said Mr. Henchy, "will you run over to O'Farrell's and ask him to lend us a corkscrew—for Mr. Henchy, say. Tell him we won't keep it a minute. Leave the basket there."
The boy went out and Mr. Henchy began to rub his hands cheerfully, saying:
"Ah, well, he's not so bad after all. He's as good as his word, anyhow."
"There's no tumblers," said the old man.
"O, don't let that trouble you, Jack," said Mr. Henchy. "Many's the good man before now drank out of the bottle."
"Anyway, it's better than nothing," said Mr. O'Connor.
"He's not a bad sort," said Mr. Henchy, "only Fanning has such a loan of him. He means well, you know, in his own tinpot way."
The boy came back with the corkscrew. The old man opened three bottles and was handing back the corkscrew when Mr. Henchy said to the boy:
"Would you like a drink, boy?"
"If you please, sir," said the boy.
The old man opened another bottle grudgingly, and handed it to the boy.
"What age are you?" he asked.
"Seventeen," said the boy.
As the old man said nothing further, the boy took the bottle and said: "Here's my best respects, sir, to Mr. Henchy," drank the contents, put the bottle back on the table and wiped his mouth with his sleeve. Then he took up the corkscrew and went out of the door sideways, muttering some form of salutation.
"That's the way it begins," said the old man.
"The thin edge of the wedge," said Mr. Henchy.
The old man distributed the three bottles which he had opened and the men drank from them simultaneously. After having drank each placed his bottle on the mantelpiece within hand's reach and drew in a long breath of satisfaction.
"Well, I did a good day's work today," said Mr. Henchy, after a pause.
"That so, John?"
"Yes. I got him one or two sure things in Dawson Street, Crofton and myself. Between ourselves, you know, Crofton (he's a decent chap, of course), but he's not worth a damn as a canvasser. He hasn't a word to throw to a dog. He stands and looks at the people while I do the talking."
Here two men entered the room. One of them was a very fat man whose blue serge clothes seemed to be in danger of falling from his sloping figure. He had a big face which resembled a young ox's face in expression, staring blue eyes and a grizzled moustache. The other man, who was much younger and frailer, had a thin, clean-shaven face. He wore a very high double collar and a wide-brimmed bowler hat.
"Hello, Crofton!" said Mr. Henchy to the fat man. "Talk of the devil..."
"Where did the boose come from?" asked the young man. "Did the cow calve?"
"O, of course, Lyons spots the drink first thing!" said Mr. O'Connor, laughing.
"Is that the way you chaps canvass," said Mr. Lyons, "and Crofton and I out in the cold and rain looking for votes?"
"Why, blast your soul," said Mr. Henchy, "I'd get more votes in five minutes than you two'd get in a week."
"Open two bottles of stout, Jack," said Mr. O'Connor.
"How can I?" said the old man, "when there's no corkscrew?"
"Wait now, wait now!" said Mr. Henchy, getting up quickly. "Did you ever see this little trick?"
He took two bottles from the table and, carrying them to the fire, put them on the hob. Then he sat down again by the fire and took another drink from his bottle. Mr. Lyons sat on the edge of the table, pushed his hat towards the nape of his neck and began to swing his legs.
"Which is my bottle?" he asked.
"This, lad," said Mr. Henchy.
Mr. Crofton sat down on a box and looked fixedly at the other bottle on the hob. He was silent for two reasons. The first reason, sufficient in itself, was that he had nothing to say; the second reason was that he considered his companions beneath him. He had been a canvasser for Wilkins, the Conservative, but when the Conservatives had withdrawn their man and, choosing the lesser of two evils, given their support to the Nationalist candidate, he had been engaged to work for Mr. Tiemey.
In a few minutes an apologetic "Pok!" was heard as the cork flew out of Mr. Lyons' bottle. Mr. Lyons jumped off the table, went to the fire, took his bottle and carried it back to the table.
"I was just telling them, Crofton," said Mr. Henchy, "that we got a good few votes today."
"Who did you get?" asked Mr. Lyons.
"Well, I got Parkes for one, and I got Atkinson for two, and got Ward of Dawson Street. Fine old chap he is, too—regular old toff, old Conservative! 'But isn't your candidate a Nationalist?' said he. 'He's a respectable man,' said I. 'He's in favour of whatever will benefit this country. He's a big ratepayer,' I said. 'He has extensive house property in the city and three places of business and isn't it to his own advantage to keep down the rates? He's a prominent and respected citizen,' said I, 'and a Poor Law Guardian, and he doesn't belong to any party, good, bad, or indifferent.' That's the way to talk to 'em."
"And what about the address to the King?" said Mr. Lyons, after drinking and smacking his lips.
"Listen to me," said Mr. Henchy. "What we want in thus country, as I said to old Ward, is capital. The King's coming here will mean an influx of money into this country. The citizens of Dublin will benefit by it. Look at all the factories down by the quays there, idle! Look at all the money there is in the country if we only worked the old industries, the mills, the ship-building yards and factories. It's capital we want."
"But look here, John," said Mr. O'Connor. "Why should we welcome the King of England? Didn't Parnell himself..."
"Parnell," said Mr. Henchy, "is dead. Now, here's the way I look at it. Here's this chap come to the throne after his old mother keeping him out of it till the man was grey. He's a man of the world, and he means well by us. He's a jolly fine decent fellow, if you ask me, and no damn nonsense about him. He just says to himself: 'The old one never went to see these wild Irish. By Christ, I'll go myself and see what they're like.' And are we going to insult the man when he comes over here on a friendly visit? Eh? Isn't that right, Crofton?"
Mr. Crofton nodded his head.
"But after all now," said Mr. Lyons argumentatively, "King Edward's life, you know, is not the very..."
"Let bygones be bygones," said Mr. Henchy. "I admire the man personally. He's just an ordinary knockabout like you and me. He's fond of his glass of grog and he's a bit of a rake, perhaps, and he's a good sportsman. Damn it, can't we Irish play fair?"
"That's all very fine," said Mr. Lyons. "But look at the case of Parnell now."
"In the name of God," said Mr. Henchy, "where's the analogy between the two cases?"
"What I mean," said Mr. Lyons, "is we have our ideals. Why, now, would we welcome a man like that? Do you think now after what he did Parnell was a fit man to lead us? And why, then, would we do it for Edward the Seventh?"
"This is Parnell's anniversary," said Mr. O'Connor, "and don't let us stir up any bad blood. We all respect him now that he's dead and gone—even the Conservatives," he added, turning to Mr. Crofton.
Pok! The tardy cork flew out of Mr. Crofton's bottle. Mr. Crofton got up from his box and went to the fire. As he returned with his capture he said in a deep voice:
"Our side of the house respects him, because he was a gentleman."
"Right you are, Crofton!" said Mr. Henchy fiercely. "He was the only man that could keep that bag of cats in order. 'Down, ye dogs! Lie down, ye curs!' That's the way he treated them. Come in, Joe! Come in!" he called out, catching sight of Mr. Hynes in the doorway.
Mr. Hynes came in slowly.
"Open another bottle of stout, Jack," said Mr. Henchy. "O, I forgot there's no corkscrew! Here, show me one here and I'll put it at the fire."
The old man handed him another bottle and he placed it on the hob.
"Sit down, Joe," said Mr. O'Connor, "we're just talking about the Chief."
"Ay, ay!" said Mr. Henchy.
Mr. Hynes sat on the side of the table near Mr. Lyons but said nothing.
"There's one of them, anyhow," said Mr. Henchy, "that didn't renege him. By God, I'll say for you, Joe! No, by God, you stuck to him like a man!"
"O, Joe," said Mr. O'Connor suddenly. "Give us that thing you wrote—do you remember? Have you got it on you?"
"O, ay!" said Mr. Henchy. "Give us that. Did you ever hear that. Crofton? Listen to this now: splendid thing."
"Go on," said Mr. O'Connor. "Fire away, Joe."
Mr. Hynes did not seem to remember at once the piece to which they were alluding, but, after reflecting a while, he said:
"O, that thing is it.... Sure, that's old now."
"Out with it, man!" said Mr. O'Connor.
"'Sh, 'sh," said Mr. Henchy. "Now, Joe!"
Mr. Hynes hesitated a little longer. Then amid the silence he took off his hat, laid it on the table and stood up. He seemed to be rehearsing the piece in his mind. After a rather long pause he announced:
THE DEATH OF PARNELL 6th October, 1891
He cleared his throat once or twice and then began to recite:
He is dead. Our Uncrowned King is dead. O, Erin, mourn with grief and woe For he lies dead whom the fell gang Of modern hypocrites laid low. He lies slain by the coward hounds He raised to glory from the mire; And Erin's hopes and Erin's dreams Perish upon her monarch's pyre. In palace, cabin or in cot The Irish heart where'er it be Is bowed with woe—for he is gone Who would have wrought her destiny. He would have had his Erin famed, The green flag gloriously unfurled, Her statesmen, bards and warriors raised Before the nations of the World. He dreamed (alas, 'twas but a dream!) Of Liberty: but as he strove To clutch that idol, treachery Sundered him from the thing he loved. Shame on the coward, caitiff hands That smote their Lord or with a kiss Betrayed him to the rabble-rout Of fawning priests—no friends of his. May everlasting shame consume The memory of those who tried To befoul and smear the exalted name Of one who spurned them in his pride. He fell as fall the mighty ones, Nobly undaunted to the last, And death has now united him With Erin's heroes of the past. No sound of strife disturb his sleep! Calmly he rests: no human pain Or high ambition spurs him now The peaks of glory to attain. They had their way: they laid him low. But Erin, list, his spirit may Rise, like the Phoenix from the flames, When breaks the dawning of the day, The day that brings us Freedom's reign. And on that day may Erin well Pledge in the cup she lifts to Joy One grief—the memory of Parnell.
Mr. Hynes sat down again on the table. When he had finished his recitation there was a silence and then a burst of clapping: even Mr. Lyons clapped. The applause continued for a little time. When it had ceased all the auditors drank from their bottles in silence.
Pok! The cork flew out of Mr. Hynes' bottle, but Mr. Hynes remained sitting flushed and bare-headed on the table. He did not seem to have heard the invitation.
"Good man, Joe!" said Mr. O'Connor, taking out his cigarette papers and pouch the better to hide his emotion.
"What do you think of that, Crofton?" cried Mr. Henchy. "Isn't that fine? What?"
Crofton said that it was a very fine piece of writing.
MR HOLOHAN, assistant secretary of the Eire Abu Society, had been walking up and down Dublin for nearly a month, with his hands and pockets full of dirty pieces of paper, arranging about the series of concerts. He had a game leg and for this his friends called him Hoppy Holohan. He walked up and down constantly, stood by the hour at street corners arguing the point and made notes; but in the end it was Mrs. Kearney who arranged everything.
Miss Devlin had become Mrs. Kearney out of spite. She had been educated in a high-class convent, where she had learned French and music. As she was naturally pale and unbending in manner she made few friends at school. When she came to the age of marriage she was sent out to many houses, where her playing and ivory manners were much admired. She sat amid the chilly circle of her accomplishments, waiting for some suitor to brave it and offer her a brilliant life. But the young men whom she met were ordinary and she gave them no encouragement, trying to console her romantic desires by eating a great deal of Turkish Delight in secret. However, when she drew near the limit and her friends began to loosen their tongues about her, she silenced them by marrying Mr. Kearney, who was a bootmaker on Ormond Quay.
He was much older than she. His conversation, which was serious, took place at intervals in his great brown beard. After the first year of married life, Mrs. Kearney perceived that such a man would wear better than a romantic person, but she never put her own romantic ideas away. He was sober, thrifty and pious; he went to the altar every first Friday, sometimes with her, oftener by himself. But she never weakened in her religion and was a good wife to him. At some party in a strange house when she lifted her eyebrow ever so slightly he stood up to take his leave and, when his cough troubled him, she put the eider-down quilt over his feet and made a strong rum punch. For his part, he was a model father. By paying a small sum every week into a society, he ensured for both his daughters a dowry of one hundred pounds each when they came to the age of twenty-four. He sent the older daughter, Kathleen, to a good convent, where she learned French and music, and afterward paid her fees at the Academy. Every year in the month of July Mrs. Kearney found occasion to say to some friend:
"My good man is packing us off to Skerries for a few weeks."
If it was not Skerries it was Howth or Greystones.
When the Irish Revival began to be appreciable Mrs. Kearney determined to take advantage of her daughter's name and brought an Irish teacher to the house. Kathleen and her sister sent Irish picture postcards to their friends and these friends sent back other Irish picture postcards. On special Sundays, when Mr. Kearney went with his family to the pro-cathedral, a little crowd of people would assemble after mass at the corner of Cathedral Street. They were all friends of the Kearneys—musical friends or Nationalist friends; and, when they had played every little counter of gossip, they shook hands with one another all together, laughing at the crossing of so man hands, and said good-bye to one another in Irish. Soon the name of Miss Kathleen Kearney began to be heard often on people's lips. People said that she was very clever at music and a very nice girl and, moreover, that she was a believer in the language movement. Mrs. Kearney was well content at this. Therefore she was not surprised when one day Mr. Holohan came to her and proposed that her daughter should be the accompanist at a series of four grand concerts which his Society was going to give in the Antient Concert Rooms. She brought him into the drawing-room, made him sit down and brought out the decanter and the silver biscuit-barrel. She entered heart and soul into the details of the enterprise, advised and dissuaded: and finally a contract was drawn up by which Kathleen was to receive eight guineas for her services as accompanist at the four grand concerts.
As Mr. Holohan was a novice in such delicate matters as the wording of bills and the disposing of items for a programme, Mrs. Kearney helped him. She had tact. She knew what artistes should go into capitals and what artistes should go into small type. She knew that the first tenor would not like to come on after Mr. Meade's comic turn. To keep the audience continually diverted she slipped the doubtful items in between the old favourites. Mr. Holohan called to see her every day to have her advice on some point. She was invariably friendly and advising—homely, in fact. She pushed the decanter towards him, saying:
"Now, help yourself, Mr. Holohan!"
And while he was helping himself she said:
"Don't be afraid! Don't be afraid of it!"
Everything went on smoothly. Mrs. Kearney bought some lovely blush-pink charmeuse in Brown Thomas's to let into the front of Kathleen's dress. It cost a pretty penny; but there are occasions when a little expense is justifiable. She took a dozen of two-shilling tickets for the final concert and sent them to those friends who could not be trusted to come otherwise. She forgot nothing, and, thanks to her, everything that was to be done was done.
The concerts were to be on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. When Mrs. Kearney arrived with her daughter at the Antient Concert Rooms on Wednesday night she did not like the look of things. A few young men, wearing bright blue badges in their coats, stood idle in the vestibule; none of them wore evening dress. She passed by with her daughter and a quick glance through the open door of the hall showed her the cause of the stewards' idleness. At first she wondered had she mistaken the hour. No, it was twenty minutes to eight.
In the dressing-room behind the stage she was introduced to the secretary of the Society, Mr. Fitzpatrick. She smiled and shook his hand. He was a little man, with a white, vacant face. She noticed that he wore his soft brown hat carelessly on the side of his head and that his accent was flat. He held a programme in his hand, and, while he was talking to her, he chewed one end of it into a moist pulp. He seemed to bear disappointments lightly. Mr. Holohan came into the dressingroom every few minutes with reports from the box-office. The artistes talked among themselves nervously, glanced from time to time at the mirror and rolled and unrolled their music. When it was nearly half-past eight, the few people in the hall began to express their desire to be entertained. Mr. Fitzpatrick came in, smiled vacantly at the room, and said:
"Well now, ladies and gentlemen. I suppose we'd better open the ball."
Mrs. Kearney rewarded his very flat final syllable with a quick stare of contempt, and then said to her daughter encouragingly:
"Are you ready, dear?"
When she had an opportunity, she called Mr. Holohan aside and asked him to tell her what it meant. Mr. Holohan did not know what it meant. He said that the committee had made a mistake in arranging for four concerts: four was too many.
"And the artistes!" said Mrs. Kearney. "Of course they are doing their best, but really they are not good."
Mr. Holohan admitted that the artistes were no good but the committee, he said, had decided to let the first three concerts go as they pleased and reserve all the talent for Saturday night. Mrs. Kearney said nothing, but, as the mediocre items followed one another on the platform and the few people in the hall grew fewer and fewer, she began to regret that she had put herself to any expense for such a concert. There was something she didn't like in the look of things and Mr. Fitzpatrick's vacant smile irritated her very much. However, she said nothing and waited to see how it would end. The concert expired shortly before ten, and everyone went home quickly.
The concert on Thursday night was better attended, but Mrs. Kearney saw at once that the house was filled with paper. The audience behaved indecorously, as if the concert were an informal dress rehearsal. Mr. Fitzpatrick seemed to enjoy himself; he was quite unconscious that Mrs. Kearney was taking angry note of his conduct. He stood at the edge of the screen, from time to time jutting out his head and exchanging a laugh with two friends in the corner of the balcony. In the course of the evening, Mrs. Kearney learned that the Friday concert was to be abandoned and that the committee was going to move heaven and earth to secure a bumper house on Saturday night. When she heard this, she sought out Mr. Holohan. She buttonholed him as he was limping out quickly with a glass of lemonade for a young lady and asked him was it true. Yes, it was true.
"But, of course, that doesn't alter the contract," she said. "The contract was for four concerts."
Mr. Holohan seemed to be in a hurry; he advised her to speak to Mr. Fitzpatrick. Mrs. Kearney was now beginning to be alarmed. She called Mr. Fitzpatrick away from his screen and told him that her daughter had signed for four concerts and that, of course, according to the terms of the contract, she should receive the sum originally stipulated for, whether the society gave the four concerts or not. Mr. Fitzpatrick, who did not catch the point at issue very quickly, seemed unable to resolve the difficulty and said that he would bring the matter before the committee. Mrs. Kearney's anger began to flutter in her cheek and she had all she could do to keep from asking:
"And who is the Cometty pray?"
But she knew that it would not be ladylike to do that: so she was silent.
Little boys were sent out into the principal streets of Dublin early on Friday morning with bundles of handbills. Special puffs appeared in all the evening papers, reminding the music loving public of the treat which was in store for it on the following evening. Mrs. Kearney was somewhat reassured, but he thought well to tell her husband part of her suspicions. He listened carefully and said that perhaps it would be better if he went with her on Saturday night. She agreed. She respected her husband in the same way as she respected the General Post Office, as something large, secure and fixed; and though she knew the small number of his talents she appreciated his abstract value as a male. She was glad that he had suggested coming with her. She thought her plans over.
The night of the grand concert came. Mrs. Kearney, with her husband and daughter, arrived at the Antient Concert Rooms three-quarters of an hour before the time at which the concert was to begin. By ill luck it was a rainy evening. Mrs. Kearney placed her daughter's clothes and music in charge of her husband and went all over the building looking for Mr. Holohan or Mr. Fitzpatrick. She could find neither. She asked the stewards was any member of the committee in the hall and, after a great deal of trouble, a steward brought out a little woman named Miss Beirne to whom Mrs. Kearney explained that she wanted to see one of the secretaries. Miss Beirne expected them any minute and asked could she do anything. Mrs. Kearney looked searchingly at the oldish face which was screwed into an expression of trustfulness and enthusiasm and answered:
"No, thank you!"
The little woman hoped they would have a good house. She looked out at the rain until the melancholy of the wet street effaced all the trustfulness and enthusiasm from her twisted features. Then she gave a little sigh and said:
"Ah, well! We did our best, the dear knows."
Mrs. Kearney had to go back to the dressing-room.
The artistes were arriving. The bass and the second tenor had already come. The bass, Mr. Duggan, was a slender young man with a scattered black moustache. He was the son of a hall porter in an office in the city and, as a boy, he had sung prolonged bass notes in the resounding hall. From this humble state he had raised himself until he had become a first-rate artiste. He had appeared in grand opera. One night, when an operatic artiste had fallen ill, he had undertaken the part of the king in the opera of Maritana at the Queen's Theatre. He sang his music with great feeling and volume and was warmly welcomed by the gallery; but, unfortunately, he marred the good impression by wiping his nose in his gloved hand once or twice out of thoughtlessness. He was unassuming and spoke little. He said yous so softly that it passed unnoticed and he never drank anything stronger than milk for his voice's sake. Mr. Bell, the second tenor, was a fair-haired little man who competed every year for prizes at the Feis Ceoil. On his fourth trial he had been awarded a bronze medal. He was extremely nervous and extremely jealous of other tenors and he covered his nervous jealousy with an ebullient friendliness. It was his humour to have people know what an ordeal a concert was to him. Therefore when he saw Mr. Duggan he went over to him and asked:
"Are you in it too?"
"Yes," said Mr. Duggan.
Mr. Bell laughed at his fellow-sufferer, held out his hand and said:
Mrs. Kearney passed by these two young men and went to the edge of the screen to view the house. The seats were being filled up rapidly and a pleasant noise circulated in the auditorium. She came back and spoke to her husband privately. Their conversation was evidently about Kathleen for they both glanced at her often as she stood chatting to one of her Nationalist friends, Miss Healy, the contralto. An unknown solitary woman with a pale face walked through the room. The women followed with keen eyes the faded blue dress which was stretched upon a meagre body. Someone said that she was Madam Glynn, the soprano.
"I wonder where did they dig her up," said Kathleen to Miss Healy. "I'm sure I never heard of her."
Miss Healy had to smile. Mr. Holohan limped into the dressing-room at that moment and the two young ladies asked him who was the unknown woman. Mr. Holohan said that she was Madam Glynn from London. Madam Glynn took her stand in a corner of the room, holding a roll of music stiffly before her and from time to time changing the direction of her startled gaze. The shadow took her faded dress into shelter but fell revengefully into the little cup behind her collar-bone. The noise of the hall became more audible. The first tenor and the baritone arrived together. They were both well dressed, stout and complacent and they brought a breath of opulence among the company.
Mrs. Kearney brought her daughter over to them, and talked to them amiably. She wanted to be on good terms with them but, while she strove to be polite, her eyes followed Mr. Holohan in his limping and devious courses. As soon as she could she excused herself and went out after him.
"Mr. Holohan, I want to speak to you for a moment," she said.
They went down to a discreet part of the corridor. Mrs Kearney asked him when was her daughter going to be paid. Mr. Holohan said that Mr. Fitzpatrick had charge of that. Mrs. Kearney said that she didn't know anything about Mr. Fitzpatrick. Her daughter had signed a contract for eight guineas and she would have to be paid. Mr. Holohan said that it wasn't his business.
"Why isn't it your business?" asked Mrs. Kearney. "Didn't you yourself bring her the contract? Anyway, if it's not your business it's my business and I mean to see to it."
"You'd better speak to Mr. Fitzpatrick," said Mr. Holohan distantly.
"I don't know anything about Mr. Fitzpatrick," repeated Mrs. Kearney. "I have my contract, and I intend to see that it is carried out."
When she came back to the dressing-room her cheeks were slightly suffused. The room was lively. Two men in outdoor dress had taken possession of the fireplace and were chatting familiarly with Miss Healy and the baritone. They were the Freeman man and Mr. O'Madden Burke. The Freeman man had come in to say that he could not wait for the concert as he had to report the lecture which an American priest was giving in the Mansion House. He said they were to leave the report for him at the Freeman office and he would see that it went in. He was a grey-haired man, with a plausible voice and careful manners. He held an extinguished cigar in his hand and the aroma of cigar smoke floated near him. He had not intended to stay a moment because concerts and artistes bored him considerably but he remained leaning against the mantelpiece. Miss Healy stood in front of him, talking and laughing. He was old enough to suspect one reason for her politeness but young enough in spirit to turn the moment to account. The warmth, fragrance and colour of her body appealed to his senses. He was pleasantly conscious that the bosom which he saw rise and fall slowly beneath him rose and fell at that moment for him, that the laughter and fragrance and wilful glances were his tribute. When he could stay no longer he took leave of her regretfully.
"O'Madden Burke will write the notice," he explained to Mr. Holohan, "and I'll see it in."
"Thank you very much, Mr. Hendrick," said Mr. Holohan, "you'll see it in, I know. Now, won't you have a little something before you go?"
"I don't mind," said Mr. Hendrick.
The two men went along some tortuous passages and up a dark staircase and came to a secluded room where one of the stewards was uncorking bottles for a few gentlemen. One of these gentlemen was Mr. O'Madden Burke, who had found out the room by instinct. He was a suave, elderly man who balanced his imposing body, when at rest, upon a large silk umbrella. His magniloquent western name was the moral umbrella upon which he balanced the fine problem of his finances. He was widely respected.
While Mr. Holohan was entertaining the Freeman man Mrs. Kearney was speaking so animatedly to her husband that he had to ask her to lower her voice. The conversation of the others in the dressing-room had become strained. Mr. Bell, the first item, stood ready with his music but the accompanist made no sign. Evidently something was wrong. Mr. Kearney looked straight before him, stroking his beard, while Mrs. Kearney spoke into Kathleen's ear with subdued emphasis. From the hall came sounds of encouragement, clapping and stamping of feet. The first tenor and the baritone and Miss Healy stood together, waiting tranquilly, but Mr. Bell's nerves were greatly agitated because he was afraid the audience would think that he had come late.
Mr. Holohan and Mr. O'Madden Burke came into the room In a moment Mr. Holohan perceived the hush. He went over to Mrs. Kearney and spoke with her earnestly. While they were speaking the noise in the hall grew louder. Mr. Holohan became very red and excited. He spoke volubly, but Mrs. Kearney said curtly at intervals:
"She won't go on. She must get her eight guineas."
Mr. Holohan pointed desperately towards the hall where the audience was clapping and stamping. He appealed to Mr Kearney and to Kathleen. But Mr. Kearney continued to stroke his beard and Kathleen looked down, moving the point of her new shoe: it was not her fault. Mrs. Kearney repeated:
"She won't go on without her money."
After a swift struggle of tongues Mr. Holohan hobbled out in haste. The room was silent. When the strain of the silence had become somewhat painful Miss Healy said to the baritone:
"Have you seen Mrs. Pat Campbell this week?"
The baritone had not seen her but he had been told that she was very fine. The conversation went no further. The first tenor bent his head and began to count the links of the gold chain which was extended across his waist, smiling and humming random notes to observe the effect on the frontal sinus. From time to time everyone glanced at Mrs. Kearney.
The noise in the auditorium had risen to a clamour when Mr. Fitzpatrick burst into the room, followed by Mr. Holohan who was panting. The clapping and stamping in the hall were punctuated by whistling. Mr. Fitzpatrick held a few banknotes in his hand. He counted out four into Mrs. Kearney's hand and said she would get the other half at the interval. Mrs. Kearney said:
"This is four shillings short."
But Kathleen gathered in her skirt and said: "Now. Mr. Bell," to the first item, who was shaking like an aspen. The singer and the accompanist went out together. The noise in hall died away. There was a pause of a few seconds: and then the piano was heard.
The first part of the concert was very successful except for Madam Glynn's item. The poor lady sang Killarney in a bodiless gasping voice, with all the old-fashioned mannerisms of intonation and pronunciation which she believed lent elegance to her singing. She looked as if she had been resurrected from an old stage-wardrobe and the cheaper parts of the hall made fun of her high wailing notes. The first tenor and the contralto, however, brought down the house. Kathleen played a selection of Irish airs which was generously applauded. The first part closed with a stirring patriotic recitation delivered by a young lady who arranged amateur theatricals. It was deservedly applauded; and, when it was ended, the men went out for the interval, content.
All this time the dressing-room was a hive of excitement. In one corner were Mr. Holohan, Mr. Fitzpatrick, Miss Beirne, two of the stewards, the baritone, the bass, and Mr. O'Madden Burke. Mr. O'Madden Burke said it was the most scandalous exhibition he had ever witnessed. Miss Kathleen Kearney's musical career was ended in Dublin after that, he said. The baritone was asked what did he think of Mrs. Kearney's conduct. He did not like to say anything. He had been paid his money and wished to be at peace with men. However, he said that Mrs. Kearney might have taken the artistes into consideration. The stewards and the secretaries debated hotly as to what should be done when the interval came.
"I agree with Miss Beirne," said Mr. O'Madden Burke. "Pay her nothing."
In another corner of the room were Mrs. Kearney and he: husband, Mr. Bell, Miss Healy and the young lady who had to recite the patriotic piece. Mrs. Kearney said that the Committee had treated her scandalously. She had spared neither trouble nor expense and this was how she was repaid.
They thought they had only a girl to deal with and that therefore, they could ride roughshod over her. But she would show them their mistake. They wouldn't have dared to have treated her like that if she had been a man. But she would see that her daughter got her rights: she wouldn't be fooled. If they didn't pay her to the last farthing she would make Dublin ring. Of course she was sorry for the sake of the artistes. But what else could she do? She appealed to the second tenor who said he thought she had not been well treated. Then she appealed to Miss Healy. Miss Healy wanted to join the other group but she did not like to do so because she was a great friend of Kathleen's and the Kearneys had often invited her to their house.
As soon as the first part was ended Mr. Fitzpatrick and Mr. Holohan went over to Mrs. Kearney and told her that the other four guineas would be paid after the committee meeting on the following Tuesday and that, in case her daughter did not play for the second part, the committee would consider the contract broken and would pay nothing.
"I haven't seen any committee," said Mrs. Kearney angrily. "My daughter has her contract. She will get four pounds eight into her hand or a foot she won't put on that platform."
"I'm surprised at you, Mrs. Kearney," said Mr. Holohan. "I never thought you would treat us this way."
"And what way did you treat me?" asked Mrs. Kearney.
Her face was inundated with an angry colour and she looked as if she would attack someone with her hands.
"I'm asking for my rights." she said.
"You might have some sense of decency," said Mr. Holohan.
"Might I, indeed?... And when I ask when my daughter is going to be paid I can't get a civil answer."
She tossed her head and assumed a haughty voice:
"You must speak to the secretary. It's not my business. I'm a great fellow fol-the-diddle-I-do."
"I thought you were a lady," said Mr. Holohan, walking away from her abruptly.
After that Mrs. Kearney's conduct was condemned on all hands: everyone approved of what the committee had done. She stood at the door, haggard with rage, arguing with her husband and daughter, gesticulating with them. She waited until it was time for the second part to begin in the hope that the secretaries would approach her. But Miss Healy had kindly consented to play one or two accompaniments. Mrs. Kearney had to stand aside to allow the baritone and his accompanist to pass up to the platform. She stood still for an instant like an angry stone image and, when the first notes of the song struck her ear, she caught up her daughter's cloak and said to her husband:
"Get a cab!"
He went out at once. Mrs. Kearney wrapped the cloak round her daughter and followed him. As she passed through the doorway she stopped and glared into Mr. Holohan's face.
"I'm not done with you yet," she said.
"But I'm done with you," said Mr. Holohan.
Kathleen followed her mother meekly. Mr. Holohan began to pace up and down the room, in order to cool himself for he his skin on fire.
"That's a nice lady!" he said. "O, she's a nice lady!"
"You did the proper thing, Holohan," said Mr. O'Madden Burke, poised upon his umbrella in approval.
TWO GENTLEMEN who were in the lavatory at the time tried to lift him up: but he was quite helpless. He lay curled up at the foot of the stairs down which he had fallen. They succeeded in turning him over. His hat had rolled a few yards away and his clothes were smeared with the filth and ooze of the floor on which he had lain, face downwards. His eyes were closed and he breathed with a grunting noise. A thin stream of blood trickled from the corner of his mouth.
These two gentlemen and one of the curates carried him up the stairs and laid him down again on the floor of the bar. In two minutes he was surrounded by a ring of men. The manager of the bar asked everyone who he was and who was with him. No one knew who he was but one of the curates said he had served the gentleman with a small rum.
"Was he by himself?" asked the manager.
"No, sir. There was two gentlemen with him."
"And where are they?"
No one knew; a voice said:
"Give him air. He's fainted."
The ring of onlookers distended and closed again elastically. A dark medal of blood had formed itself near the man's head on the tessellated floor. The manager, alarmed by the grey pallor of the man's face, sent for a policeman.
His collar was unfastened and his necktie undone. He opened eyes for an instant, sighed and closed them again. One of gentlemen who had carried him upstairs held a dinged silk hat in his hand. The manager asked repeatedly did no one know who the injured man was or where had his friends gone. The door of the bar opened and an immense constable entered. A crowd which had followed him down the laneway collected outside the door, struggling to look in through the glass panels.
The manager at once began to narrate what he knew. The constable, a young man with thick immobile features, listened. He moved his head slowly to right and left and from the manager to the person on the floor, as if he feared to be the victim some delusion. Then he drew off his glove, produced a small book from his waist, licked the lead of his pencil and made ready to indite. He asked in a suspicious provincial accent:
"Who is the man? What's his name and address?"
A young man in a cycling-suit cleared his way through the ring of bystanders. He knelt down promptly beside the injured man and called for water. The constable knelt down also to help. The young man washed the blood from the injured man's mouth and then called for some brandy. The constable repeated the order in an authoritative voice until a curate came running with the glass. The brandy was forced down the man's throat. In a few seconds he opened his eyes and looked about him. He looked at the circle of faces and then, understanding, strove to rise to his feet.
"You're all right now?" asked the young man in the cycling-suit.
"Sha,'s nothing," said the injured man, trying to stand up.
He was helped to his feet. The manager said something about a hospital and some of the bystanders gave advice. The battered silk hat was placed on the man's head. The constable asked:
"Where do you live?"
The man, without answering, began to twirl the ends of his moustache. He made light of his accident. It was nothing, he said: only a little accident. He spoke very thickly.
"Where do you live" repeated the constable.
The man said they were to get a cab for him. While the point was being debated a tall agile gentleman of fair complexion, wearing a long yellow ulster, came from the far end of the bar. Seeing the spectacle, he called out:
"Hallo, Tom, old man! What's the trouble?"
"Sha,'s nothing," said the man.
The new-comer surveyed the deplorable figure before him and then turned to the constable, saying:
"It's all right, constable. I'll see him home."
The constable touched his helmet and answered:
"All right, Mr. Power!"
"Come now, Tom," said Mr. Power, taking his friend by the arm. "No bones broken. What? Can you walk?"
The young man in the cycling-suit took the man by the other arm and the crowd divided.
"How did you get yourself into this mess?" asked Mr. Power.
"The gentleman fell down the stairs," said the young man.
"I' 'ery 'uch o'liged to you, sir," said the injured man.
"Not at all."
"'ant we have a little...?"
"Not now. Not now."
The three men left the bar and the crowd sifted through the doors in to the laneway. The manager brought the constable to the stairs to inspect the scene of the accident. They agreed that the gentleman must have missed his footing. The customers returned to the counter and a curate set about removing the traces of blood from the floor.
When they came out into Grafton Street, Mr. Power whistled for an outsider. The injured man said again as well as he could.
"I' 'ery 'uch o'liged to you, sir. I hope we'll 'eet again. 'y na'e is Kernan."
The shock and the incipient pain had partly sobered him.
"Don't mention it," said the young man.
They shook hands. Mr. Kernan was hoisted on to the car and, while Mr. Power was giving directions to the carman, he expressed his gratitude to the young man and regretted that they could not have a little drink together.
"Another time," said the young man.
The car drove off towards Westmoreland Street. As it passed Ballast Office the clock showed half-past nine. A keen east wind hit them, blowing from the mouth of the river. Mr. Kernan was huddled together with cold. His friend asked him to tell how the accident had happened.
"I'an't 'an," he answered, "'y 'ongue is hurt."
The other leaned over the well of the car and peered into Mr. Kernan's mouth but he could not see. He struck a match and, sheltering it in the shell of his hands, peered again into the mouth which Mr. Kernan opened obediently. The swaying movement of the car brought the match to and from the opened mouth. The lower teeth and gums were covered with clotted blood and a minute piece of the tongue seemed to have been bitten off. The match was blown out.
"That's ugly," said Mr. Power.
"Sha, 's nothing," said Mr. Kernan, closing his mouth and pulling the collar of his filthy coat across his neck.
Mr. Kernan was a commercial traveller of the old school which believed in the dignity of its calling. He had never been seen in the city without a silk hat of some decency and a pair of gaiters. By grace of these two articles of clothing, he said, a man could always pass muster. He carried on the tradition of his Napoleon, the great Blackwhite, whose memory he evoked at times by legend and mimicry. Modern business methods had spared him only so far as to allow him a little office in Crowe Street, on the window blind of which was written the name of his firm with the address—London, E. C. On the mantelpiece of this little office a little leaden battalion of canisters was drawn up and on the table before the window stood four or five china bowls which were usually half full of a black liquid. From these bowls Mr. Kernan tasted tea. He took a mouthful, drew it up, saturated his palate with it and then spat it forth into the grate. Then he paused to judge.
Mr. Power, a much younger man, was employed in the Royal Irish Constabulary Office in Dublin Castle. The arc of his social rise intersected the arc of his friend's decline, but Mr. Kernan's decline was mitigated by the fact that certain of those friends who had known him at his highest point of success still esteemed him as a character. Mr. Power was one of these friends. His inexplicable debts were a byword in his circle; he was a debonair young man.
The car halted before a small house on the Glasnevin road and Mr. Kernan was helped into the house. His wife put him to bed while Mr. Power sat downstairs in the kitchen asking the children where they went to school and what book they were in. The children—two girls and a boy, conscious of their father helplessness and of their mother's absence, began some horseplay with him. He was surprised at their manners and at their accents, and his brow grew thoughtful. After a while Mrs. Kernan entered the kitchen, exclaiming:
"Such a sight! O, he'll do for himself one day and that's the holy alls of it. He's been drinking since Friday."
Mr. Power was careful to explain to her that he was not responsible, that he had come on the scene by the merest accident. Mrs. Kernan, remembering Mr. Power's good offices during domestic quarrels, as well as many small, but opportune loans, said:
"O, you needn't tell me that, Mr. Power. I know you're a friend of his, not like some of the others he does be with. They're all right so long as he has money in his pocket to keep him out from his wife and family. Nice friends! Who was he with tonight, I'd like to know?"
Mr. Power shook his head but said nothing.
"I'm so sorry," she continued, "that I've nothing in the house to offer you. But if you wait a minute I'll send round to Fogarty's, at the corner."
Mr. Power stood up.
"We were waiting for him to come home with the money. He never seems to think he has a home at all."
"O, now, Mrs. Kernan," said Mr. Power, "we'll make him turn over a new leaf. I'll talk to Martin. He's the man. We'll come here one of these nights and talk it over."
She saw him to the door. The carman was stamping up and down the footpath, and swinging his arms to warm himself.
"It's very kind of you to bring him home," she said.
"Not at all," said Mr. Power.
He got up on the car. As it drove off he raised his hat to her gaily.
"We'll make a new man of him," he said. "Good-night, Mrs. Kernan."
Mrs. Kernan's puzzled eyes watched the car till it was out of sight. Then she withdrew them, went into the house and emptied her husband's pockets.
She was an active, practical woman of middle age. Not long before she had celebrated her silver wedding and renewed her intimacy with her husband by waltzing with him to Mr. Power's accompaniment. In her days of courtship, Mr. Kernan had seemed to her a not ungallant figure: and she still hurried to the chapel door whenever a wedding was reported and, seeing the bridal pair, recalled with vivid pleasure how she had passed out of the Star of the Sea Church in Sandymount, leaning on the arm of a jovial well-fed man, who was dressed smartly in a frock-coat and lavender trousers and carried a silk hat gracefully balanced upon his other arm. After three weeks she had found a wife's life irksome and, later on, when she was beginning to find it unbearable, she had become a mother. The part of mother presented to her no insuperable difficulties and for twenty-five years she had kept house shrewdly for her husband. Her two eldest sons were launched. One was in a draper's shop in Glasgow and the other was clerk to a tea-merchant in Belfast. They were good sons, wrote regularly and sometimes sent home money. The other children were still at school.
Mr. Kernan sent a letter to his office next day and remained in bed. She made beef-tea for him and scolded him roundly. She accepted his frequent intemperance as part of the climate, healed him dutifully whenever he was sick and always tried to make him eat a breakfast. There were worse husbands. He had never been violent since the boys had grown up, and she knew that he would walk to the end of Thomas Street and back again to book even a small order.
Two nights after, his friends came to see him. She brought them up to his bedroom, the air of which was impregnated with a personal odour, and gave them chairs at the fire. Mr. Kernan's tongue, the occasional stinging pain of which had made him somewhat irritable during the day, became more polite. He sat propped up in the bed by pillows and the little colour in his puffy cheeks made them resemble warm cinders. He apologised to his guests for the disorder of the room, but at the same time looked at them a little proudly, with a veteran's pride.
He was quite unconscious that he was the victim of a plot which his friends, Mr. Cunningham, Mr. M'Coy and Mr. Power had disclosed to Mrs. Kernan in the parlour. The idea been Mr. Power's, but its development was entrusted to Mr. Cunningham. Mr. Kernan came of Protestant stock and, though he had been converted to the Catholic faith at the time of his marriage, he had not been in the pale of the Church for twenty years. He was fond, moreover, of giving side-thrusts at Catholicism.
Mr. Cunningham was the very man for such a case. He was an elder colleague of Mr. Power. His own domestic life was very happy. People had great sympathy with him, for it was known that he had married an unpresentable woman who was an incurable drunkard. He had set up house for her six times; and each time she had pawned the furniture on him.
Everyone had respect for poor Martin Cunningham. He was a thoroughly sensible man, influential and intelligent. His blade of human knowledge, natural astuteness particularised by long association with cases in the police courts, had been tempered by brief immersions in the waters of general philosophy. He was well informed. His friends bowed to his opinions and considered that his face was like Shakespeare's.
When the plot had been disclosed to her, Mrs. Kernan had said:
"I leave it all in your hands, Mr. Cunningham."
After a quarter of a century of married life, she had very few illusions left. Religion for her was a habit, and she suspected that a man of her husband's age would not change greatly before death. She was tempted to see a curious appropriateness in his accident and, but that she did not wish to seem bloody-minded, would have told the gentlemen that Mr. Kernan's tongue would not suffer by being shortened. However, Mr. Cunningham was a capable man; and religion was religion. The scheme might do good and, at least, it could do no harm. Her beliefs were not extravagant. She believed steadily in the Sacred Heart as the most generally useful of all Catholic devotions and approved of the sacraments. Her faith was bounded by her kitchen, but, if she was put to it, she could believe also in the banshee and in the Holy Ghost.
The gentlemen began to talk of the accident. Mr. Cunningham said that he had once known a similar case. A man of seventy had bitten off a piece of his tongue during an epileptic fit and the tongue had filled in again, so that no one could see a trace of the bite.
"Well, I'm not seventy," said the invalid.
"God forbid," said Mr. Cunningham.
"It doesn't pain you now?" asked Mr. M'Coy.
Mr. M'Coy had been at one time a tenor of some reputation. His wife, who had been a soprano, still taught young children to play the piano at low terms. His line of life had not been the shortest distance between two points and for short periods he had been driven to live by his wits. He had been a clerk in the Midland Railway, a canvasser for advertisements for The Irish Times and for The Freeman's Journal, a town traveller for a coal firm on commission, a private inquiry agent, a clerk in the office of the Sub-Sheriff, and he had recently become secretary to the City Coroner. His new office made him professionally interested in Mr. Kernan's case.
"Pain? Not much," answered Mr. Kernan. "But it's so sickening. I feel as if I wanted to retch off."
"That's the boose," said Mr. Cunningham firmly.
"No," said Mr. Kernan. "I think I caught cold on the car. There's something keeps coming into my throat, phlegm or——"
"Mucus." said Mr. M'Coy.
"It keeps coming like from down in my throat; sickening."
"Yes, yes," said Mr. M'Coy, "that's the thorax."
He looked at Mr. Cunningham and Mr. Power at the same time with an air of challenge. Mr. Cunningham nodded his head rapidly and Mr. Power said:
"Ah, well, all's well that ends well."
"I'm very much obliged to you, old man," said the invalid.
Mr. Power waved his hand.
"Those other two fellows I was with——"
"Who were you with?" asked Mr. Cunningham.
"A chap. I don't know his name. Damn it now, what's his name? Little chap with sandy hair...."
"And who else?"
"Hm," said Mr. Cunningham.
When Mr. Cunningham made that remark, people were silent. It was known that the speaker had secret sources of information. In this case the monosyllable had a moral intention. Mr. Harford sometimes formed one of a little detachment which left the city shortly after noon on Sunday with the purpose of arriving as soon as possible at some public-house on the outskirts of the city where its members duly qualified themselves as bona fide travellers. But his fellow-travellers had never consented to overlook his origin. He had begun life as an obscure financier by lending small sums of money to workmen at usurious interest. Later on he had become the partner of a very fat, short gentleman, Mr. Goldberg, in the Liffey Loan Bank. Though he had never embraced more than the Jewish ethical code, his fellow-Catholics, whenever they had smarted in person or by proxy under his exactions, spoke of him bitterly as an Irish Jew and an illiterate, and saw divine disapproval of usury made manifest through the person of his idiot son. At other times they remembered his good points.
"I wonder where did he go to," said Mr. Kernan.
He wished the details of the incident to remain vague. He wished his friends to think there had been some mistake, that Mr. Harford and he had missed each other. His friends, who knew quite well Mr. Harford's manners in drinking were silent. Mr. Power said again:
"All's well that ends well."
Mr. Kernan changed the subject at once.
"That was a decent young chap, that medical fellow," he said. "Only for him——"
"O, only for him," said Mr. Power, "it might have been a case of seven days, without the option of a fine."
"Yes, yes," said Mr. Kernan, trying to remember. "I remember now there was a policeman. Decent young fellow, he seemed. How did it happen at all?"
"It happened that you were peloothered, Tom," said Mr. Cunningham gravely.
"True bill," said Mr. Kernan, equally gravely.
"I suppose you squared the constable, Jack," said Mr. M'Coy.
Mr. Power did not relish the use of his Christian name. He was not straight-laced, but he could not forget that Mr. M'Coy had recently made a crusade in search of valises and portmanteaus to enable Mrs. M'Coy to fulfil imaginary engagements in the country. More than he resented the fact that he had been victimised he resented such low playing of the game. He answered the question, therefore, as if Mr. Kernan had asked it.
The narrative made Mr. Kernan indignant. He was keenly conscious of his citizenship, wished to live with his city on terms mutually honourable and resented any affront put upon him by those whom he called country bumpkins.
"Is this what we pay rates for?" he asked. "To feed and clothe these ignorant bostooms... and they're nothing else."
Mr. Cunningham laughed. He was a Castle official only during office hours.
"How could they be anything else, Tom?" he said.
He assumed a thick, provincial accent and said in a tone of command:
"65, catch your cabbage!"
Everyone laughed. Mr. M'Coy, who wanted to enter the conversation by any door, pretended that he had never heard the story. Mr. Cunningham said:
"It is supposed—they say, you know—to take place in the depot where they get these thundering big country fellows, omadhauns, you know, to drill. The sergeant makes them stand in a row against the wall and hold up their plates."
He illustrated the story by grotesque gestures.
"At dinner, you know. Then he has a bloody big bowl of cabbage before him on the table and a bloody big spoon like a shovel. He takes up a wad of cabbage on the spoon and pegs it across the room and the poor devils have to try and catch it on their plates: 65, catch your cabbage."
Everyone laughed again: but Mr. Kernan was somewhat indignant still. He talked of writing a letter to the papers.
"These yahoos coming up here," he said, "think they can boss the people. I needn't tell you, Martin, what kind of men they are."
Mr. Cunningham gave a qualified assent.
"It's like everything else in this world," he said. "You get some bad ones and you get some good ones."
"O yes, you get some good ones, I admit," said Mr. Kernan, satisfied.
"It's better to have nothing to say to them," said Mr. M'Coy. "That's my opinion!"
Mrs. Kernan entered the room and, placing a tray on the table, said:
"Help yourselves, gentlemen."
Mr. Power stood up to officiate, offering her his chair. She declined it, saying she was ironing downstairs, and, after having exchanged a nod with Mr. Cunningham behind Mr. Power's back, prepared to leave the room. Her husband called out to her:
"And have you nothing for me, duckie?"
"O, you! The back of my hand to you!" said Mrs. Kernan tartly.
Her husband called after her:
"Nothing for poor little hubby!"
He assumed such a comical face and voice that the distribution of the bottles of stout took place amid general merriment.
The gentlemen drank from their glasses, set the glasses again on the table and paused. Then Mr. Cunningham turned towards Mr. Power and said casually:
"On Thursday night, you said, Jack."
"Thursday, yes," said Mr. Power.
"Righto!" said Mr. Cunningham promptly.
"We can meet in M'Auley's," said Mr. M'Coy. "That'll be the most convenient place."
"But we mustn't be late," said Mr. Power earnestly, "because it is sure to be crammed to the doors."
"We can meet at half-seven," said Mr. M'Coy.
"Righto!" said Mr. Cunningham.
"Half-seven at M'Auley's be it!"
There was a short silence. Mr. Kernan waited to see whether he would be taken into his friends' confidence. Then he asked:
"What's in the wind?"
"O, it's nothing," said Mr. Cunningham. "It's only a little matter that we're arranging about for Thursday."
"The opera, is it?" said Mr. Kernan.
"No, no," said Mr. Cunningham in an evasive tone, "it's just a little... spiritual matter."
"O," said Mr. Kernan.
There was silence again. Then Mr. Power said, point blank:
"To tell you the truth, Tom, we're going to make a retreat."
"Yes, that's it," said Mr. Cunningham, "Jack and I and M'Coy here—we're all going to wash the pot."
He uttered the metaphor with a certain homely energy and, encouraged by his own voice, proceeded:
"You see, we may as well all admit we're a nice collection of scoundrels, one and all. I say, one and all," he added with gruff charity and turning to Mr. Power. "Own up now!"
"I own up," said Mr. Power.
"And I own up," said Mr. M'Coy.
"So we're going to wash the pot together," said Mr. Cunningham.
A thought seemed to strike him. He turned suddenly to the invalid and said:
"D'ye know what, Tom, has just occurred to me? You night join in and we'd have a four-handed reel."
"Good idea," said Mr. Power. "The four of us together."
Mr. Kernan was silent. The proposal conveyed very little meaning to his mind, but, understanding that some spiritual agencies were about to concern themselves on his behalf, he thought he owed it to his dignity to show a stiff neck. He took no part in the conversation for a long while, but listened, with an air of calm enmity, while his friends discussed the Jesuits.
"I haven't such a bad opinion of the Jesuits," he said, intervening at length. "They're an educated order. I believe they mean well, too."
"They're the grandest order in the Church, Tom," said Mr. Cunningham, with enthusiasm. "The General of the Jesuits stands next to the Pope."
"There's no mistake about it," said Mr. M'Coy, "if you want a thing well done and no flies about, you go to a Jesuit. They're the boyos have influence. I'll tell you a case in point...."
"The Jesuits are a fine body of men," said Mr. Power.
"It's a curious thing," said Mr. Cunningham, "about the Jesuit Order. Every other order of the Church had to be reformed at some time or other but the Jesuit Order was never once reformed. It never fell away."
"Is that so?" asked Mr. M'Coy.
"That's a fact," said Mr. Cunningham. "That's history."
"Look at their church, too," said Mr. Power. "Look at the congregation they have."
"The Jesuits cater for the upper classes," said Mr. M'Coy.
"Of course," said Mr. Power.
"Yes," said Mr. Kernan. "That's why I have a feeling for them. It's some of those secular priests, ignorant, bumptious——"
"They're all good men," said Mr. Cunningham, "each in his own way. The Irish priesthood is honoured all the world over."
"O yes," said Mr. Power.
"Not like some of the other priesthoods on the continent," said Mr. M'Coy, "unworthy of the name."
"Perhaps you're right," said Mr. Kernan, relenting.
"Of course I'm right," said Mr. Cunningham. "I haven't been in the world all this time and seen most sides of it without being a judge of character."
The gentlemen drank again, one following another's example. Mr. Kernan seemed to be weighing something in his mind. He was impressed. He had a high opinion of Mr. Cunningham as a judge of character and as a reader of faces. He asked for particulars.
"O, it's just a retreat, you know," said Mr. Cunningham. "Father Purdon is giving it. It's for business men, you know."
"He won't be too hard on us, Tom," said Mr. Power persuasively.
"Father Purdon? Father Purdon?" said the invalid.
"O, you must know him, Tom," said Mr. Cunningham stoutly. "Fine, jolly fellow! He's a man of the world like ourselves."
"Ah,... yes. I think I know him. Rather red face; tall."
"That's the man."
"And tell me, Martin.... Is he a good preacher?"
"Munno.... It's not exactly a sermon, you know. It's just kind of a friendly talk, you know, in a common-sense way."
Mr. Kernan deliberated. Mr. M'Coy said:
"Father Tom Burke, that was the boy!"
"O, Father Tom Burke," said Mr. Cunningham, "that was a born orator. Did you ever hear him, Tom?"
"Did I ever hear him!" said the invalid, nettled. "Rather! I heard him...."
"And yet they say he wasn't much of a theologian," said Mr Cunningham.
"Is that so?" said Mr. M'Coy.
"O, of course, nothing wrong, you know. Only sometimes, they say, he didn't preach what was quite orthodox."
"Ah!... he was a splendid man," said Mr. M'Coy.
"I heard him once," Mr. Kernan continued. "I forget the subject of his discourse now. Crofton and I were in the back of the... pit, you know... the——"
"The body," said Mr. Cunningham.
"Yes, in the back near the door. I forget now what.... O yes, it was on the Pope, the late Pope. I remember it well. Upon my word it was magnificent, the style of the oratory. And his voice! God! hadn't he a voice! The Prisoner of the Vatican, he called him. I remember Crofton saying to me when we came out——"
"But he's an Orangeman, Crofton, isn't he?" said Mr. Power.
"'Course he is," said Mr. Kernan, "and a damned decent Orangeman too. We went into Butler's in Moore Street—faith, was genuinely moved, tell you the God's truth—and I remember well his very words. Kernan, he said, we worship at different altars, he said, but our belief is the same. Struck me as very well put."
"There's a good deal in that," said Mr. Power. "There used always be crowds of Protestants in the chapel where Father Tom was preaching."
"There's not much difference between us," said Mr. M'Coy.
"We both believe in——"
He hesitated for a moment.
"... in the Redeemer. Only they don't believe in the Pope and in the mother of God."
"But, of course," said Mr. Cunningham quietly and effectively, "our religion is the religion, the old, original faith."
"Not a doubt of it," said Mr. Kernan warmly.
Mrs. Kernan came to the door of the bedroom and announced:
"Here's a visitor for you!"
"Who is it?"
"O, come in! come in!"
A pale, oval face came forward into the light. The arch of its fair trailing moustache was repeated in the fair eyebrows looped above pleasantly astonished eyes. Mr. Fogarty was a modest grocer. He had failed in business in a licensed house in the city because his financial condition had constrained him to tie himself to second-class distillers and brewers. He had opened a small shop on Glasnevin Road where, he flattered himself, his manners would ingratiate him with the housewives of the district. He bore himself with a certain grace, complimented little children and spoke with a neat enunciation. He was not without culture.
Mr. Fogarty brought a gift with him, a half-pint of special whisky. He inquired politely for Mr. Kernan, placed his gift on the table and sat down with the company on equal terms. Mr. Kernan appreciated the gift all the more since he was aware that there was a small account for groceries unsettled between him and Mr. Fogarty. He said:
"I wouldn't doubt you, old man. Open that, Jack, will you?"
Mr. Power again officiated. Glasses were rinsed and five small measures of whisky were poured out. This new influence enlivened the conversation. Mr. Fogarty, sitting on a small area of the chair, was specially interested.
"Pope Leo XIII," said Mr. Cunningham, "was one of the lights of the age. His great idea, you know, was the union of the Latin and Greek Churches. That was the aim of his life."
"I often heard he was one of the most intellectual men in Europe," said Mr. Power. "I mean, apart from his being Pope."
"So he was," said Mr. Cunningham, "if not the most so. His motto, you know, as Pope, was Lux upon Lux—Light upon Light."
"No, no," said Mr. Fogarty eagerly. "I think you're wrong there. It was Lux in Tenebris, I think—Light in Darkness."
"O yes," said Mr. M'Coy, "Tenebrae."
"Allow me," said Mr. Cunningham positively, "it was Lux upon Lux. And Pius IX his predecessor's motto was Crux upon Crux—that is, Cross upon Cross—to show the difference between their two pontificates."
The inference was allowed. Mr. Cunningham continued.
"Pope Leo, you know, was a great scholar and a poet."
"He had a strong face," said Mr. Kernan.
"Yes," said Mr. Cunningham. "He wrote Latin poetry."
"Is that so?" said Mr. Fogarty.
Mr. M'Coy tasted his whisky contentedly and shook his head with a double intention, saying:
"That's no joke, I can tell you."
"We didn't learn that, Tom," said Mr. Power, following Mr. M'Coy's example, "when we went to the penny-a-week school."
"There was many a good man went to the penny-a-week school with a sod of turf under his oxter," said Mr. Kernan sententiously. "The old system was the best: plain honest education. None of your modern trumpery...."
"Quite right," said Mr. Power.
"No superfluities," said Mr. Fogarty.
He enunciated the word and then drank gravely.
"I remember reading," said Mr. Cunningham, "that one of Pope Leo's poems was on the invention of the photograph—in Latin, of course."