But the Irish courtesy, praised by Father McCor-mack, prevailed against the general feeling of disappointment. When Mr. Billing ceased speaking there was a moment of doubtful silence. No one quite realised that he had really stopped. He had indeed descended from his chair, and, except for the top of his head, was invisible to most of the audience. But everyone expected him to get up again and start fresh. It seemed quite incredible that a public speaker, with an audience ready found for him, could possibly throw away a valuable opportunity and content himself with a simple five minutes of plain talk. It was not until Father McCormack rose from his chair with a sigh and began to make his way towards his presbytery that the people understood that the meeting was really at an end. Then they cheered quite heartily. Mr. Billing crossed the square and walked over towards the hotel. He smiled and nodded right and left as he went. An outburst of cheering pursued him through the door.
Sergeant Colgan and Constable Moriarty had stood during the speeches in a quiet corner near their barrack. When Father McCormack went home and Mr. Billing entered the hotel, they marched with great dignity up and down through the people. They looked as if they expected someone to start a riot It is the duty of the police in Ireland on all occasions of public meetings to look as if there might be a riot, and as if they are quite prepared to quell it when it breaks out. It is in this way that they justify their existence as a large armed force.
Occasionally Sergeant Colgan spoke a word of kindly advice to anyone who looked as if he had drunk more than two bottles of porter.
"It would be as well for you, Patsy," he would say, "to be getting along home."
Or, "I'm thinking, Timothy John, that you'd be better this minute if you were at home."
There are no stronger believers in the value of the domestic hearth than the police. They always want everyone to go home.
No one, least of all the individuals who received the advice personally, was inclined to leave the square. The meeting might be over, but there was still hope that young Kerrigan would muster the town band again and play "The Bonnie, Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond" once or twice more. He did not do so, but the waiting people were rewarded for their patience by two events of some interest. Mr. Gregg came out of the barrack and crossed the square rapidly. He caught Dr. O'Grady and Major Kent just as they were turning to follow Mr. Billing into the hotel. Mr. Gregg was in uniform, and the determined way in which he took Dr. O'Grady by the arm would have made most people uncomfortable. It is not pleasant, even if your conscience is quite clear, to be grabbed suddenly by a police officer in the middle of the street. But Dr. O'Grady did not seem to mind. He went, though not very willingly, with Mr. Gregg into the police barrack. Major Kent followed them. Several men, perhaps a dozen, drifted across the square towards the barrack door. They had some hope of finding out what Mr. Gregg wanted with the doctor. They were not, however, given the opportunity of peering through the barrack windows. Sergeant Colgan saw them in good time and dispersed them at once.
"Get along home now out of that," he said, "every one of yez."
Then another event of great interest occurred. Mr. Billing backed his large motor-car along the lane which led from Doyle's back yard, and emerged into the square. There the car growled angrily while he shifted the levers and twisted the steering wheel. The people scattered this way and that while the machine, darting backwards and forwards, was gradually turned round. A splendid burst of cheering pursued him when he finally sped down the street and disappeared. It was understood by those who heard his speech that he had gone off at more than twenty miles an hour to ransack the great European libraries for information about General John Regan. Everyone felt that the splendid eagerness of his departure reflected a glory on Ballymoy.
Mr. Gregg led Dr. O'Grady and Major Kent into his office. He shut the door, offered his two guests chairs, and then lit a cigarette.
"It's rather an awkward business," he said, "and perhaps I oughtn't to say anything about it."
"If it hasn't anything to do with me personally," said the Major, "I think I'll leave you and the doctor to settle it together. I want to get home as soon as I can."
"Well, it does affect you more or less," said Mr. Gregg. "But of course you'll regard anything I say to you now as strictly confidential."
"Out with it, Gregg," said Dr. O'Grady. "I know by the look in your eye that you can't possibly keep it to yourself, whatever it is. You're simply bursting to tell it, whatever it is, whether we promise to keep it secret or not."
"All the same," said Gregg, "it wouldn't suit my book to have it generally known that I told you. It wouldn't suit at all. That fellow Ford is a vindictive sort of beast."
"Oh, it's Ford, is it?" said Dr. O'Grady. "I was afraid he might turn nasty. What an ass he is! Why can't he see that we're giving him the chance of his life?"
"He's doing his best to put a spoke in your wheel, O'Grady."
"Has he got anything against the statue?"
"Not exactly the statue."
"Or found out anything discreditable about the General?"
The doctor asked this question a little anxiously.
"No," said Gregg, "I don't think he knows a thing about the General. He asked me this morning who he was."
"Look here, O'Grady," said the Major. "You'd far better drop this whole business. What's the good of going on with it? A joke's a joke all right, but there's no use pushing things too far."
"What Ford's trying to do," said Gregg, "is to crab the Lord-Lieutenant part of the business. I thought I'd better tell you, so that you'd know exactly how things stand."
"You've not told me much, so far," said Dr. O'Grady. "What's Ford's particular line?"
"I expect he has more than one card up his sleeve," said Gregg, "but what he said to me this morning was that you couldn't possibly have the Lord-Lieutenant down here for any kind of public function unless——"
"Can't I?" said Dr. O'Grady. "As it just happens I have a letter in my pocket this minute——. It came by the midday post, just before the meeting, and I haven't shown it to anyone yet. He's coming this day fortnight, and will unveil the statue with the greatest pleasure."
"That settles it," said the Major, "you'll have to drop it now, whether you want to or not. You can't possibly have a statue ready by this day fortnight."
"Ford's point," said Gregg—"and there's something in it, you know—is that the Lord-Lieutenant can't attend a public function unless 'God Save the King' is played when he arrives. He simply must have that tune on account of his position. That's what Ford says, anyhow. And I'm inclined to think he's right. It always is played, I know."
"Well," said Dr. O'Grady, "we'll play it."
"You can't," said the Major. "If you attempt to get the town band to play 'God Save the King'——"
"I don't think you can really," said Gregg. "I know you have a lot of influence with these fellows, but that blackguard Gallagher would get their backs up and——"
"There'll be a riot," said the Major.
"There'll be no riot whatever," said Dr. O'Grady, "if the thing's managed properly."
"It's your affair, of course," said Gregg, "but I don't particularly want to have you going about under police protection, and that's what you'll be doing if Thady Gallagher catches you corrupting the nationalist principles of the people of Ballymoy by teaching the town band to play 'God Save the King.'"
This threat seemed to produce a certain effect on Dr. O'Grady. He sat silent for nearly a minute. Then he asked Gregg for a cigarette, lit it, and smoked thoughtfully.
"I say, Gregg," he said at last. "How many people are there in Ballymoy, do you think, who would recognise 'God Save the King' if it was played suddenly when they weren't expecting it?"
"Oh, lots," said Gregg, "lots."
"You would, I suppose," said Dr. O'Grady, "and the Major would. Ford would, I suppose. Father McCormack might. What about your police?"
"The sergeant might think it was 'Auld Lang Syne,'" said Gregg, "he has no ear whatever. But Moriarty would know it the minute he heard it."
"Moriarty might be made to keep his mouth shut," said Dr. O'Grady. "You could threaten him."
"Your idea," said Gregg, "is to spring it on the town band under some other name and have it played as if——"
"I'd tell them that it was one of Moore's Melodies."
"No good," said Gregg. "Far too many people know it. Even if you shut up Moriarty in a cell between this and then——"
"The thing for you to do, O'Grady," said the Major bitterly, "is to get a version of 'God Save the King 'with variations. I once heard 'Home, Sweet Home,' done that way and it was all I could do to make out what tune it was meant to be."
"That's probably meant to be sarcastic," said Dr. O'Grady, "but it's not at all a bad idea. I've heard 'Home Sweet Home' done that way and I know exactly how it goes. 'Tum—tum——tiddle—adle—diddle—tum—tum—twee— Mid pleasures and palaces—Tiddle—tiddle—tum—tiddle—rat—a ti—tee— too—though we may roam.' Just as you think that you're going to recognise the tune it kind of fades away and you're left with the impression that small dogs are chasing each other up and down the piano. I don't see why something of the same kind mightn't be done with 'God Save the King,' The Lord-Lieutenant would be quite satisfied, because he'd think we were always just going to begin and probably come to the conclusion in the end it was the fault of the band that the tune never quite came off. On the other hand Gallagher, whatever suspicions he might have, couldn't possibly swear that we were playing anything objectionable. I wonder if there's a version of 'God Save the King' with variations to be got anywhere?"
"Never heard of one," said Gregg.
"I'll write to-night," said Dr. O'Grady. "If there isn't such a thing I might work one up myself. It can't be very difficult."
"That will be just what's wanted," said the Major, "to ensure the success of the day. A musical composition of yours, O'Grady, played by our own town band, will be quite likely to distract the Lord-Lieutenant's attention from the fact that here's no statue here for him to unveil."
"You won't mind my using your piano, Major," said Dr. O'Grady. "I haven't got one of my own, and I'll have to strum it out for a bit before I get it into shape for the band."
"It'll be a score off Ford," said Gregg, "if you succeed. But I don't expect you will."
Inflexible determination is one of the qualities which the truly great leader of men shares with the domestic pig; though in the case of the pig it is generally spoken of as obstinacy. But the leader—General, Prime Minister or Captain of Industry—is distinguished from the pig by a certain intellectual suppleness which makes his obstinacy a more effective though less showy thing. The pig, being determined to go his own way, has no better idea than to tug desperately against the rope which is tied round his ankle. He tugs unwaveringly up to the very last moment, but in the end he is beaten because his master, having at command stout sticks and other instruments of torture, is stronger than he is. It is noble and heroic of the pig to persist in refusing to recognise that merely tugging the opposite way is no use to him. The great commander is wiser and in reality no less noble. He realises very early that destiny, armed with whips and goads, has a rope round his leg. He tugs, but when he finds that the rope will not break and that the whip cuts cruelly, he stops tugging and goes about to outwit destiny. Pretending to yield to the pull of the rope, he succeeds at last in getting his own way. Thus a general, faced by a hostile army, securely entrenched on the opposite bank of a deep river, does not make more than one attempt to swim his men across in the face of a concentrated rifle fire. The pig would make several attempts, would go on trying until he had no soldiers left, because he would feel that the only thing really worth doing was to assert himself against the confident foe. But the general, when he has lost enough men to convince him of the impossibility of a frontal attack by swimming, stops trying it and adopts another plan. He sees not only the insolent flags which wave upon the opposite bank, but the far off end of the campaign. He is not less determined than the pig would be to chastise the foe which is thwarting him, but he sees that this can be done quite as effectually by occupying the enemy's capital as by the mere winning of a battle. He understands that it is good to sacrifice the immediate for the sake of the ultimate object. He gives up the idea of fighting his way across and sends out scouts to discover the source of the river. When he finds it he leaves part of his army to watch the enemy while the other part marches round the end of the river and enters the enemy's chief stronghold from the back. Thus he gains his object and establishes his character for determination without losing half his army.
Dr. Lucius O'Grady was a born leader of men. He discovered very soon that in the matter of the performance of "God Save the King" by the town band, fate had a rope round his leg and was likely to scourge him uncomfortably if he pulled against it. The introduction of variations into the tune proved to be a much more difficult matter than he had supposed. He worked hard for six hours on Major Kent's piano, and produced two versions of which he thought well, though neither of them completely satisfied him. He sent for Constable Moriarty and played them over to him. Moriarty sat and listened to the first.
"Would you know what that tune was, Moriarty?" said Dr. O'Grady.
"I would, of course. Anybody would. I don't say but there's bits in it that isn't right, but you have the tune safe enough."
"Would Thady Gallagher know it?"
"He would," said Moriarty, "and what's more he'd be lepping mad when he heard it. And you couldn't wonder. You wouldn't like it yourself, doctor, if somebody was to play a tune at you that you hated worse nor you hate the devil."
Dr. O'Grady was disappointed.
"Are you sure now," he said, "that he wouldn't be taken in by the variations? I don't know whether you quite realise the number of variations there are? Just listen to me again."
He played his composition through once more, touching the notes which gave the tune very softly, hammering hard at the long runs and fiery groups of semi-quavers which he had sandwiched in between the scraps of tune.
"I wouldn't say," said Moriarty, "that you've destroyed it altogether; though it's my opinion that it's better the way it was before you set your hand to it. But anyhow you needn't be uneasy. There isn't a man, woman or child that ever heard the tune but would know what you're aiming at."
Dr. O'Grady felt that Moriarty's judgment in the matter was too decisive and confident to be ignored.
"Very well," he said. "Now listen to this."
He played through the second of his two compositions.
"Now," he said, "what tune is that, Moriarty?"
Moriarty scratched his head and looked inquiringly at the doctor.
"Is it what tune is that that you're asking me?" he said.
"Exactly. What tune is it?"
"It's no tune at all," said Moriarty.
"Do you mean to say you don't recognise it?"
"I do not, and what's more nobody could. For there's no tune in it, only noise."
The doctor hesitated. Moriarty's opinion was in one respect quite satisfactory. Neither Gallagher nor anyone else in Ballymoy was likely to recognise the tune. It might, of course, fail to impress the Lord-Lieutenant as being quite the proper thing. But that was a difficulty which could be got over. The Lord-Lieutenant was not likely to listen very attentively, and if he were told definitely that the band was playing "God Save the King" he might possibly believe it.
"I'm thinking," said Dr. O'Grady, "of teaching that piece of music to the town band."
"It'll fail you to do that," said Moriarty.
"I don't see why."
"You can try it," said Moriarty, "but you'll not be able. Anything those fellows could play, I'd be able to whistle, and if it's what I couldn't whistle they'll not be able to play it."
"You could whistle that all right if you tried."
"I could not. Nor I couldn't play it on an ivy leaf, nor yet on a comb, and if I couldn't there's nobody else could. I'm not saying it isn't good music, doctor, for it may be. But there's neither beginning nor end of it, nor there isn't anything in the middle that a man would be able to catch hold of."
Dr. O'Grady shut the piano with a bang. Constable Moriarty rose from his seat.
"If there's nothing more you'll be wanting with me, doctor," he said, "it might be as well if I was getting back to the barrack. The sergeant's terrible particular these times. Mr. Gregg, the D.I., has him annoyed with finding fault here and there and everywhere. Not that I blame Mr. Gregg, for everybody knows he's a nice quiet kind of a man who'd ask for nothing only to be let alone. But that's what he can't get on account of Mr. Ford."
"Mr. Ford's a public nuisance," said Dr. O'Grady; "but I think we'll be able to get rid of him."
"It would be no great harm if he was dead," said Moriarty.
"The Lord-Lieutenant," said Dr. O'Grady, "is almost sure to promote him. That kind of man who never can let other people's business alone, is just suited to Dublin Castle."
Moriarty got as far as the door of the room and then stopped.
"Will it be all right," he said, "about Mary Ellen? You'll remember, doctor, that I was speaking to you about her, the way she'd be given the chance of speaking to the Lord-Lieutenant."
"I'll settle about her at once," said Dr. O'Grady. "Did you say you were going straight back to the barrack?"
"I am," said Moriarty. "It'll be better for me if I do on account of the way Mr. Ford does be talking to——"
"Are you going so straight that you won't see Mary Ellen on the way?"
"It could be," said Moriarty, "that I might see her."
"Very well, then, do. And tell her to meet me at Mrs. Gregg's house at——" He glanced at his watch.
"Let me see, it's nearly half past two, and I'll have to spend a few minutes pacifying the Major. Suppose you tell her to meet me at Mrs. Gregg's at a quarter past three. Will you be sure to give her that message?"
"I will," said Moriarty.
"And don't you keep the girl late now, Moriarty, with love making in the pig-stye or any nonsense of that kind."
"Is it likely I would?"
"It is very likely. But don't do it."
"It is not likely then, seeing as how I ought to be back in the barrack this minute on account of the way Mr. Gregg has the sergeant annoyed——"
"There's only one thing worse than keeping Mary Ellen late," said Dr. O'Grady, "and that is delaying me. Be off with you at once."
Constable Moriarty marched off towards the barrack, fully determined to call on Mary Ellen on the way. Dr. O'Grady went into the stable yard to look for Major Kent. He found him smoking a pipe and reading the last number of the Connacht Eagle in an empty loose box.
"I thought you'd like to know," said Dr. O'Grady, "that I've finished with the piano, so you can go back into the house again."
"Quite sure you're finished?" said the Major.
"Because if there are any final touches to put to your oratorio, you'd better do them to-day. The piano won't be there to-morrow. I've made up my mind to sell it at once."
"Silly thing to do," said Dr. O'Grady. "You won't get half what it's worth if you sell it in a hurry like that."
"Even if I have to pay someone to take it away," said the Major, "I shall make a good bargain. It's better to lose a little money than to spend the rest of my life in a lunatic asylum."
"You know your own business best, of course, and if you think you can preserve what little intelligence you have by giving Thady Gallagher or some other fellow a present of your piano—"
"I think I can save myself from being turned into a gibbering maniac," said the Major, "by making sure that you'll never have the chance of composing music in my house again. Since eight o'clock this morning you've been at it. I could hear you whenever I went, mixing up hymns and waltzes and things with 'God Save the King.' I tried to get a bit of lunch at half past one, but I had to fly from the house."
"It's over now anyhow," said Dr. O'Grady. "And you needn't sell the piano. I've given up the idea of producing a new version of that tune for the Lord-Lieutenant. I find that the thing can't be done in the time. I'm going to give him 'Rule Britannia' instead."
"No. Quite plain. It'll do him just as well as the other. In fact from his point of view it's rather the more patriotic tune of the two, and there won't be any local objection to it because nobody can possibly recognise it."
It was in this way that Dr. O'Grady showed the true greatness of his mind. A weaker man, daunted by the difficulty of arranging "God Save the King" in such a way as to suit all tastes, might have given up the attempt to provide a musical welcome for the Lord-Lieutenant. A man of narrow obstinacy, the kind of man who is really like a pig, would have persevered, in spite of Constable Moriarty's warning, in trying to teach his variations to the town band. Dr. O'Grady, knowing that the main thing was the success of his general scheme, turned from a tune which presented insuperable difficulties, and fixed upon another, which would, he hoped, be comparatively easy to manage. The Major ought to have admired him; but did not He was in a condition of extreme nervous exasperation which rendered him unfit to admire anything.
"You'll get us all into an infernal mess with your foolery," he said sulkily, "and when you do, you needn't come to me to help you out."
"I won't. But don't forget the committee meeting to-morrow morning. Half past eleven, in Doyle's Hotel."
"Strictly speaking," said Dr. O'Grady, "it's two committees—the Statue Erection Committee and the Lord-Lieutenant Reception Committee—but the same people are on both, so we may as well make one meeting do."
"I'll go," said the Major, "in the hope, utterly vain of course, of keeping you from further excesses."
"Good," said Dr. O'Grady. "And now I must hurry off. I've a lot to do between this and then."
Major Kent was a kind-hearted man. He had suffered intensely during the earlier part of the day and for some hours had been seriously angry with Dr. O'Grady. But his sense of hospitality was stronger than his resentment.
"Stop for half an hour," he said, "and have something to eat Now that you've given up punishing my poor old piano we might have lunch in peace."
"Can't possibly waste time in eating. I've far too much to do. To tell you the truth, Major, I don't expect to sit down to a square meal until I join the Lord-Lieutenant's luncheon party. Till then I must snatch a crust as I can while running from one thing to another."
Dr. O'Grady mounted his bicycle and hurried off. He reached the Greggs' house at twenty minutes past three, Mary Ellen was standing on the step outside the door, smiling in a good-humoured way. Mrs. Gregg, who looked hot and puzzled, was just inside the door.
"Oh, Dr. O'Grady," she said, "I'm so glad you've come. This girl won't go away and I can't make out what she wants."
"It was Constable Moriarty bid me come," said Mary Ellen.
"It's all right," said Dr. O'Grady. "I arranged for her to be here. I'll explain everything in one moment. Is that the only frock you own, Mary Ellen?"
"It is not; but I have another along with it."
"I don't expect the other is much better," said Dr. O'Grady. "Just look at that dress, will you, Mrs. Gregg?"
Mrs. Gregg looked at Mary Ellen's clothes carefully. She did not appear to admire them much.
"There's a long tear in the skirt," she said. "It might be mended, of course, but—and she has only one button on her blouse, and her boots are pretty well worn out, and she's horribly dirty all over."
"In fact," said Dr. O'Grady, "you couldn't very well present her to the Lord-Lieutenant as she is at present."
"The Lord-Lieutenant!" said Mrs. Gregg.
"Perhaps I forgot to mention," said Dr. O'Grady, "that Mary Ellen must be presented. She's the grand niece of General John Regan."
"Are you really?" said Mrs. Gregg.
"It's what the doctor has put out about me," said Mary Ellen.
"It isn't a matter of what I've put out or haven't put out," said Dr. O'Grady. "Mr. Billing has publicly acknowledged her as the grand niece of the General. Didn't he, Mary Ellen?"
"He did," said Mary Ellen.
"And Mr. Billing is the greatest living authority on everything connected with the General. So that settles it. Under those circumstances she must, of course, be presented to the Lord-Lieutenant when he comes down to unveil the statue."
"I wonder what Mrs. Ford will say?" said Mrs. Gregg.
"We'll talk about that afterwards. What I want to get at now is this: Will you undertake to see that Mary Ellen is properly dressed for the ceremony?"
"Oh, I couldn't possibly."
Mrs. Gregg looked at Mary Ellen again as she spoke, looked at her very carefully and then smiled.
Mary Ellen was also smiling. The proper dressing of Mary Ellen was plainly a very difficult task. Mrs. Gregg's smile was at first contemptuous. Mary Ellen's, on the other hand, was purely good-natured, and therefore very attractive, Mrs. Gregg began to relent.
"Won't you come in?" she said to Dr. O'Grady.
"Certainly," he replied. "Mary Ellen, you sit down on that chair in the hall and wait till we call you."
"I don't know can I wait," said Mary Ellen.
"If Moriarty's lurking about for you," said Dr. O'Grady, "let him wait. It'll do him good. It's a great mistake for you to make yourself too cheap. No girl ought to. Moriarty will think a great deal more of you in the end if you keep him waiting every day for half an hour or so."
"It's not him I'm thinking of," said Mary Ellen, "but it's Mr. Doyle."
Dr. O'Grady took no notice of this remark. He did not believe that Mary Ellen was very much afraid of Mr. Doyle. He followed Mrs. Gregg into the dining-room. Mary Ellen sat down.
"She really is rather a pretty girl," said Mrs. Gregg.
"Then you'll undertake the job," said Dr. O'Grady. "You won't have to pay for anything, you know. We'll charge whatever you like to buy against the statue fund."
Mrs. Gregg did not appear to be listening. She was thinking deeply.
"I have an old silk slip," she said, "which might be made down."
"Capital! A silk slip will be the very thing."
Dr. O'Grady had no idea what a silk slip might be. But his enthusiastic welcome of the suggestion passed unnoticed. Mrs. Gregg was still thinking.
"I could get a white muslin," she said, "with an embroidered yoke and a wide collar. It wouldn't cost very much."
"We'd like the thing done well," said Dr. O'Grady, "not extravagantly, of course, but well."
"Shell look quite sweet," said Mrs. Gregg; "but what will Mrs. Ford say?"
"She'll have to be kept in a good temper."
"Kept!" said Mrs. Gregg, giggling delightedly.
She was very much afraid of Mrs. Ford, but she found a fearful joy in entering into a conspiracy against her with Dr. O'Grady for ally.
"Kept!" she repeated, "but she never is."
"My idea," said Dr. O'Grady, "is that you should dress Mary Ellen yourself, according to your own ideas, and at the same time consult with Mrs. Ford, giving her the impression that she's doing the whole thing herself. I should think you ought to be able to manage that."
This did not seem to Mrs. Gregg a very easy thing to do. She hesitated.
"I'm afraid I couldn't," she said at last. "I don't see how I could."
"All that's required," said Dr. O'Grady, "is a little tact. You are always good at tact, Mrs. Gregg. I'm perfectly certain that you'll be able to manage. You must suggest each garment you intend to put on the girl in such a way that Mrs. Ford will think that she suggested it. That ought to be easy enough." Everybody likes being credited with the possession of tact. This is curious, because hardly anyone likes being called a liar; and yet tact is simply a delicate form of lying. So, of course, is politeness of every kind, and nobody considers it wrong to aim at being polite. Mrs. Gregg, who would certainly have resented an accusation of habitual untruthfulness, felt flattered when Dr. O'Grady said she was tactful. She even believed him and allowed herself to be persuaded to undertake the management of Mrs. Ford.
"Good," said Dr. O'Grady. "Then I'll leave the whole business in your hands. I have to be off. But you've no time to lose. You'll have to set about your work at once. I'll send Mary Ellen to you as I go through the hall. You can measure her, and then take her over to see Mrs. Ford. After that you'd better order the new dress. If there's any hitch in the proceedings you can send for me, but I don't see why there should be."
He shook hands with Mrs. Gregg and hurried from the room, without giving her the chance of making any kind of protest or asking any more questions.
He found Mary Ellen seated on an uncomfortable oak chair in the hall.
"Mary Ellen," he said, "would you like a new dress?"
"Then go into the dining-room—the room I've just come out of. You'll find Mrs. Gregg there. Do exactly what she tells you without making any objections or asking questions. If she insists on your washing your face, wash it, without grumbling. If Moriarty is waiting for you anywhere between this and the town—— Is Moriarty waiting for you?"
"Well, if he is, I'll clear him out of the way. You'll be going into the town in a few minutes with Mrs. Ford and Mrs. Gregg. It wouldn't do at all to have him making eyes at you from the side of the road when you're walking with those two ladies. Mrs. Gregg mightn't mind; but Mrs. Ford would be certain to object. She's not the kind of lady who likes to see other people enjoying themselves."
"He wouldn't do the like," said Mary Ellen.
"I wouldn't trust him," said Dr. O'Grady.
Moriarty was, in fact, waiting for Mary Ellen about a hundred yards from the gate of the Greggs' house. Dr. O'Grady rebuked him sharply. Moriarty asserted that he was engaged in patrolling that particular road in simple obedience to the call of duty.
"That may possibly be true," said Dr. O'Grady, "though it doesn't sound likely."
"It was the sergeant gave me my orders," said Moriarty.
"Patrol some other road, then," said Dr. O'Grady. "You're not wanted here."
"What the sergeant said was that it would be better for me to patrol along between Mr. Gregg's house and Mr. Ford's, so that if either the one or the other of them was to see me he'd know that I was patrolling. I wouldn't say a word against Mr. Gregg, who's a nice gentleman enough, and easy pleased. But it's hard to pacify Mr. Ford, and the sergeant thought——"
"I can tell you this," said Dr. O'Grady, "that if Mrs. Ford catches you lying in wait for Mary Ellen on the road outside her house, it will be a jolly sight harder to pacify Mr. Ford than it was before. Surely you can understand that."
Moriarty understood it thoroughly. He was not very well pleased, but he was a young man of considerable prudence, and was filled with a sincere desire to rise in his profession. He spent the rest of the afternoon in patrolling a road at the other end of Ballymoy.
Dr. O'Grady hurried on. His next stop was at the door of Kerrigan's shop. The elder Kerrigan was leaning against the wooden slab on which he was accustomed to cut up joints. He was smoking a pipe.
"Where's your son?" said Dr. O'Grady.
"He's within in the back yard," said Kerrigan.
"Tell him I want to see him."
"I'm not sure can he come to you; for he's taking the skin off a sheep that he's just after slaughtering."
"Let him wash his hands," said Dr. O'Grady. "The sheep can wait."
"I'm not sure will he come," said Kerrigan. "He's not overly much pleased with you this minute, doctor, and that's the truth."
"What's the matter with him?"
"It's on account of your saying that he was thinking of getting married to Mary Ellen."
"It was Gallagher said that. I'd nothing to do with it one way or the other."
"I wouldn't be minding myself what you said," said Kerrigan, "knowing well that you wouldn't be meaning any harm, whatever it was; though the girl's no match for him, and I wouldn't care for him to be carrying on with her, when it's a girl with a fortune he ought to get, and what's more, can get, whenever I choose to ask for her. But I wouldn't pay any attention to what was put out about him and Mary Ellen. I'm only telling you so as you'd know why it is that the boy's mind is riz against you."
"What nonsense! Everybody in the place knows that it's Constable Moriarty who's after the girl."
"It's just that that's troubling the boy. On account of Constable Moriarty being a comrade of his; so that he wouldn't like him to be thinking—— But sure, I'll fetch him for you, if you like."
Young Kerrigan appeared a few minutes later. His father did not come back with him. He may have felt it necessary, in the interests of his business, to go on skinning the sheep. It was evident at once that the young man was in a bad temper, but Dr. O'Grady did not mean to waste time in explanations if he could possibly help it.
"Listen to me, Kerrigan," he said, "do you know this tune?"
He whistled "Rule Britannia" slowly and distinctly.
"I do not know it," said young Kerrigan, "nor I don't want to."
Dr. O'Grady whistled it through again.
"It's a good tune," he said. "It would be a nice one for the band to learn."
"It would not."
"What's the matter with you?" said Dr. O'Grady. "To look at the expression of your face anybody'd think that the sheep in the back yard had been skinning you."
"You know well what's the matter with me."
"If you're nursing a grievance," said Dr. O'Grady, "because Thady Gallagher told the American gentleman that you were married to Mary Ellen and had twins, you ought to have more sense."
It is always very difficult to remain in a bad temper with anyone who insists on being pleasant and cheerful. Young Kerrigan began to give way. He grinned unwillingly.
"That's the first I heard of twins," he said.
"And he only said it to please the American gentleman," said Dr. O'Grady. "Nobody believed him."
"Sure I know well enough," said young Kerrigan, "that there has to be lies told to the likes of that one. How else would you content them? I wouldn't mind myself what was said, knowing it was meant for the best, only that Constable Moriarty——"
"Moriarty doesn't mind a bit," said Dr. O'Grady; "so if it's only his feelings you're thinking of, you may just as well listen to this tune."
He whistled "Rule Britannia" through once more. He threw great spirit into the last few bars.
"It's a good tune enough," said young Kerrigan.
"Could the band learn it?"
"It could, of course, if so be that I had the tune right on the cornet. It would be a queer thing if I couldn't incense the rest of them into doing what had to be done with the other instruments."
"I can't play the cornet myself," said Dr. O'Grady, "but I'll whistle the tune to you as often as you like, or if you prefer it we might get the loan of a piano somewhere, and I'll play it for you. I can't borrow the Major's again for reasons which I'm not in a position to explain to you, but we can easily get the use of another if you think it would help you."
"The whistling will do," said young Kerrigan. "Will you come inside with me now and I'll try can I get it. But, doctor——"
He hesitated and looked doubtfully at Dr. O'Grady. It was plain that he had a favour to ask and was a little afraid of asking it.
"Well," said Dr. O'Grady encouragingly.
"If so be that you were to see Moriarty——" said young Kerrigan.
Then he hesitated again.
"I see far too much of him," said Dr. O'Grady.
"I'd be obliged to you if you'd tell him that I never looked next nor nigh Mary Ellen, nor wouldn't. Even if I wanted the girl I wouldn't go behind Moriarty's back to get her; and I don't want her."
"I'll make that perfectly plain to him. Come along now and learn the tune."
The cornet is of all instruments in an ordinary band the one which produces the most penetrating sounds. While young Kerrigan was practising a new tune on it all the inhabitants of the town of Bally-moy were able to hear him. He was aware of this and sorry for it. He did not, indeed, pity his fellow-citizens. He would not have understood a complaint made by a nervous person who found himself tortured by a long series of efforts to get a note in the middle of a tune right. It would have struck him as mere affectation if anyone had objected to hearing the same tune with the same gasping wheeze in the middle of it played over a hundred or a hundred and fifty times in one evening. Young Kerrigan's dislike of the necessary publicity of his practising was similar to that which other artists feel when members of the public break in and see their work in an incomplete condition. He liked his music to be appreciated. He felt that acknowledgment of the stages by which it came to its ultimate perfection was likely to diminish its glory. But he had no place in which he could practise except the back yard of his father's house, and that, unfortunately, was in the very middle of the town.
In order to get out of his difficulty young Kerrigan adopted the plan of learning new tunes only in autumn and winter, when strong gales were blowing. On a calm summer evening every note of the cornet, whether right or wrong, was heard. Even the sounds which were not quite notes but only painful grunts penetrated open windows and doors. But when a storm was raging most of the notes were blown away, and only occasionally, when there happened to be a lull, did anybody except young Kerrigan himself hear anything. The plan worked out very satisfactorily. Amid the rush and clatter of a tempest people took no notice of such stray wailings of the cornet as reached their ears. But, like many excellent plans, this one was liable to break down in emergencies. It broke down badly when Dr. O'Grady insisted that the band should learn "Rule Britannia" in the middle of August.
Young Kerrigan readily got a grip on the tune. He could whistle it and hum it quite correctly after he had heard it six or seven times. But to reproduce it on the cornet required practise, and the weather was remarkably calm and fine. Kerrigan, in spite of his dislike of being heard, was obliged to devote the evening to it after the doctor left him. Next morning he went at it again, beginning at about eleven o'clock. He got on very well up to the point at which the words declare that "Britons never, never, never shall be slaves." The notes which went to the "nevers" were particularly troublesome. He tried them slowly, one by one, leaving a short interval between them. He tried them fast, running them into each other. He tried beginning the tune again after each mistake, in hope of getting over his difficulty, as a bicyclist sometimes gets up a hill, by running. He was a man of patient disposition, and he was still working hard at one o'clock.
Mr. Thaddeus Gallagher spent the morning transcribing shorthand notes in his office. There had been a singularly interesting meeting of the County Council the day before in the neighbouring town of Dunbeg. Gallagher had written down every word of an acrimonious debate. He wanted to publish a verbatim report of it. As a rule noise of any kind affected him very little, and at first he took no notice whatever of young Kerrigan's cornet. But the continual repetition of the tune gradually beat it into his brain. He found his pencil moving across the paper in a series of short staccato bounds every time young Kerrigan got to "Never, never, never." He became by degrees vaguely uneasy. The tune was one which he had certainly heard before. He could not remember where he had heard it. He could not remember what it was. But he became more and more sure that it was connected in his mind with some unpleasant associations. At last he found it impossible to go on with his work. The most passionate invective of the most furious of the County Councillors failed to move him to any interest. He glanced at his watch. It was just one o'clock. The meeting of the Reception Committee was to take place at half-past one. Gallagher felt that he had just time to investigate thoroughly the disagreeable tune. He got up and left his office.
Constable Moriarty was standing at the door of the barrack listening to young Kerrigan. Being himself a musician, he appreciated the difficulty of playing "Rule Britannia" on a cornet, and enjoyed hearing young Kerrigan's efforts. When he saw Gallagher come out of his office he was greatly pleased, and showed his feeling by grinning broadly. Gallagher saw the grin, and his suspicion that the tune was an offensive one deepened at once. He crossed the road.
"What's that," he said, "that young Kerrigan's playing?"
"It's a new tune," said Moriarty, "and it's hoped that the town band will learn it."
"Where did he get it?"
"I'm after hearing," said Moriarty, "that it was the doctor taught it to him. But I don't know is that true. You can't believe the half of what you hear in this town."
"What tune is it?"
"I don't know that I could put a name to it this minute; but there's no need for you to be uneasy, Mr. Gallagher. It's not what you think it is."
"I'm not thinking about it at all," said Gallagher, very untruthfully.
"I'm glad of that," said Moriarty. "I was afraid from the look of you as you came out of the office that you might be thinking it was 'God Save the King.' But it's not."
"I was thinking no such thing, for young Kerrigan knows and the doctor knows, and you know yourself, Constable Moriarty, that the people of this town is all good Nationalists, and that if the tune you're after naming was to be played in the streets——"
"It's not it, anyway," said Moriarty, "so you may make your mind easy."
Gallagher's mind was very far from being easy, but he saw that he was not likely to get any more information out of Constable Moriarty. He crossed the road and entered the hotel. Doyle was in the commercial room trying to induce Mary Ellen to sweep the floor. It was in the commercial room that the meeting of the Committee was to be held that afternoon. Doyle wanted some, if not all, of the dirt removed from the floor beforehand.
"What tune's that young Kerrigan's playing?" said Gallagher.
"I don't know," said Doyle. "I've more to do than to be listening to tunes. Mary Ellen, can you not see that there's three corks out of porter bottles underneath the table? Will you take them out of it now, like a good girl?"
"I'm not satisfied in my mind about that tune," said Gallagher.
"What harm is there in it?"
"I don't know yet is there any harm, but I don't like it, and I'd be glad if I knew what tune it is. I have it in my mind that it's a tune that ought not to be played."
"Mary Ellen," said Doyle, "what tune is it that young Kerrigan's playing?"
"How would I know?" said Mary Ellen.
"Well, put down that sweeping brush," said Doyle. "For all the good you're doing with it you might as well never have taken it up. I never seen such a girl. Put it down now and run across to Constable Moriarty, who's standing at the door of the barrack——"
"I'd be ashamed," said Mary Ellen, "so I would."
"If you're not ashamed of the state this room's in," said Doyle, "it would take more than Moriarty to shame you. Run along now, when you're bid, and ask him what tune it is that Kerrigan's playing."
Mary Ellen, who hoped that the interruption might put an end to the sweeping once for all, left the room.
"If there's one in the town that knows the tune," said Doyle, "it'll be Moriarty. I'd say myself that he must know pretty near every tune there is in the world."
"He might tell her," said Gallagher, "or he might not. I was talking to him this minute and he wouldn't tell me."
"He'll tell Mary Ellen," said Doyle. "He's always after that girl, and it's my belief he'll tell her anything that she'd ask him. There's some that's took that way. Foolishness I call it."
"It's the way he wouldn't tell me when I asked him," said Gallagher, "that and the grin on his face when he saw me that has me sure that there's some insult intended to the people of this town with that tune. It's what I wouldn't stand, and the doctor and the rest of them may make their minds up to it. It's what I won't stand is to have tunes played here that is against the political convictions of the people."
"Who'd do the like?" said Doyle soothingly.
"What I say is this," said Gallagher, "if there's no reason to be ashamed of the tune, let them say out boldly what tune it is. I have it in the back of my mind that I've heard that tune before now, and it's not the kind of tune that decent men would be listening to."
"Have sense, can't you, Thady. There's nobody wanting to annoy you."
"There may not be," said Gallagher, "but there's more than one in this town that's the enemies of the Irish people and would be glad to see the cup of freedom dashed from the lips of the men that have spent their lives in the struggle for Home Rule and that has it now as good as got."
"Have sense," said Doyle, but he spoke without real energy or much purpose. He had little hope that Gallagher, once embarked on a peroration, would stop until he had used up all the words at his command. He was quite right in his reading of his friend's character. Gallagher went on:
"It isn't the declared enemies of the people that we'd be afraid of," he said. "We'll meet them in the open field as we've always met them and they'll fly before the spectacle of a united people as they've always fled, the tyrants of other days, the blood-sucking landlords——"
"God help the poor Major," said Doyle.
"But the traitors within the camp," said Gallagher, "the men that is occupying positions in the gift of the people of Ireland, that's taking our pay, and at the same time plotting contrivances for the heaping of insults on the dearest convictions of our hearts——"
Mary Ellen entered the room while Gallagher was speaking. Bewildered by the splendour of his eloquence she stopped short just inside the door and gazed at him with her mouth open. Doyle took advantage of a slight hesitation in Gallagher's oration to speak to her.
"What tune is it, Mary Ellen?" he said.
"I couldn't rightly say," said Mary Ellen.
"Didn't I tell you," said Gallagher, "that there was underhand work going on?"
"What tune did Moriarty say it was?" said Doyle.
"He said it was a tune the doctor is after teaching young Kerrigan," said Mary Ellen.
"What did I tell you?" said Gallagher. "Maybe you'll believe me now."
"The best thing for you to do, Thady." said Doyle, "if you're dead set on finding out about that tune is to go and ask young Kerrigan what it is. The boy's a decent boy, and he'll tell you if you speak civil to him."
"I'll do that same," said Gallagher, "and if I discover——"
"You'd better be quick about it then," said Doyle, "for the committee is to meet at half after one and I wouldn't like you'd miss the proceedings."
"Come along with me," said Gallagher. "I wish you to hear the way I mean to talk to young Kerrigan."
Doyle did not want to listen to Gallagher browbeating young Kerrigan, but he realised that he would save time and a long argument if he went at once. He made a last appeal to Mary Ellen to collect at least the corks which were on the floor. Then he went out with Gallagher. In the porch of the hotel they met Major Kent who was a scrupulously punctual man, on his way to the committee meeting.
"You're a bit early, Major," said Doyle. "But if you'll step into the commercial room you won't have long to wait. Thady and I have to cross the street on a matter of business but we'll be back in less than five minutes. The doctor might be here any time and I see Father McCormack coming along from the presbytery."
Doyle was unduly optimistic. He was not back in five minutes. He did not, indeed, get back for nearly half an hour.
Kerrigan, very red in the face, and rather exhausted, was still blowing vigorously into his cornet when Gallagher and Doyle entered the back-yard. Gallagher went straight to business without wasting any time on preliminary politeness.
"Will you stop that blasted noise," he said.
Kerrigan took the cornet from his lips and gazed at Gallagher in extreme surprise.
"Speak civil to the boy," said Doyle.
"What tune is that?" said Gallagher.
"What Mr. Gallagher's meaning to say," said Doyle, "is that party tunes is unsuitable to this locality where the people has always lived in peace and harmony, Protestant and Catholic together, and respected one another. That's what Mr. Gallagher means, and if Constable Moriarty didn't annoy him it's what he'd say."
"It's a tune the doctor taught me," said young Kerrigan, "and it's a fine tune, so it is."
"What's the name of it?" said Gallagher.
"That," said young Kerrigan, "is what I was meaning to ask the doctor next time he happened to be passing but if you're in a hurry to know, Mr. Gallagher, you can ask him yourself. It's likely you'll be seeing him before I do."
Young Kerrigan's words were perfectly civil; but there was a look in his eyes which Gallagher did not like and the tone in which he spoke suggested that he meant to be impudent.
"I'll take no back talk from you," said Gallagher. "What tune is it?"
"I don't know what tune it is," said Kerrigan.
"You're a liar," said Gallagher. "You know well what tune it is."
"Speak civil now, Thady," said Doyle, "speak civil to the boy."
"I may be a liar," said Kerrigan, "but it's the truth I told you this minute. And liar or no liar it's the truth I'll speak now, when I tell you that I'm not near as damned a liar as yourself, Mr. Gallagher. So there's for you. What do you mean by telling the American gentleman that I was married to Mary Ellen and her with twins? Was that a lie now or was it not? Twins! Cock the like of that one up with twins! If I'm a liar I'd tell more sensible lies than that."
"Whisht, now, whisht," said Doyle. "Sure if Mr. Gallagher said that, isn't the girl a cousin of his own, and hadn't he the best right to say it?"
"Come along out of this," said Gallagher.
"The sooner you're gone the better I'll be pleased," said Kerrigan.
"And let me tell you this, Mr. Kerrigan, junior. You'll be sorry for this day's work for the longest day ever you live. When the League boys hear, and they will hear, about the tune that you mean to play——"
"Come along now, Thady," said Doyle. "Come along. You've enough said. We're late for the meeting of the committee already, and we'll be later yet if you don't come on. You wouldn't like to keep Father McCormack waiting on you."
"I've had enough of your committee," said Gallagher. "What's your statue only foolishness?"
"Sure everybody knows that," said Doyle.
"And what's your Lord-Lieutenant only——"
"Come on, now," said Doyle, "isn't it for the benefit of the town we're doing it? And it's yourself that's always to the fore when there's good work to be done."
"I will not go with you," said Gallagher.
They had passed through Kerrigan's shop and reached the street, when Gallagher delivered this ultimatum. Doyle hesitated. He was already late for the committee meeting. If he waited to coax Gallagher out of his bad temper he might miss the meeting altogether. He looked at the door of the hotel. Father McCormack was standing at it, waiting, perhaps, for him and Gallagher.
"Come now, Thady," he said, "have sense. Don't you see Father McCormack waiting for you?"
"I see him," said Gallagher.
"And don't you know well enough that you'll have no luck if you go against the clergy?"
The appeal was a strong one, and had he been in any ordinary temper Gallagher would have yielded to it at once. But he was very angry indeed, far too angry to be influenced by purely religious considerations. He walked straight across the square to his office, entered it, and slammed the door behind him. Doyle followed him as far as the threshold. There he stopped and looked round. He saw Father McCormack go into the hotel. A minute later Mrs. Gregg hurried down the street and went into the hotel. Doyle sighed heavily and entered Gallagher's office. Difficult and unpleasant as his task was likely to be, he felt that he must propitiate Thady Gallagher.
"Thady," he said, "is there a drop of anything to drink in the place?"
"There is not," said Gallagher, "nor I wouldn't drink it if there was."
This confirmed Doyle's view of the extreme seriousness of the situation. That Gallagher should be prepared to defy the clergy was bad enough. That he should adopt an ascetic's attitude towards drink was worse. But Doyle did not quite believe that Gallagher meant what he said. He opened a door at the far end of the office and whistled loudly. A small boy who had been cleaning type in the printing-room, appeared, rubbing his inky hands on his trousers.
"Michael Antony," said Doyle, "will you step across to the hotel and tell Mary Ellen to give you the bottle of whisky that she'll find in the cupboard in my own room? If you can't find Mary Ellen—and it's hardly ever she is to be found when she's wanted—you can fetch the bottle yourself. If you don't know the way to my room you ought to."
Michael Antony, who was very well accustomed to errands of this kind, went off at once. Doyle glanced at Gallagher, who appeared to be absorbed in completing the transcription of his shorthand notes, the task at which he had been interrupted in the morning by young Kerrigan's cornet playing. He seemed to be very busy. Doyle got up and left the room, went into the kitchen which lay beyond the printing-room, and returned with two tumblers and a jug of water. Gallagher looked up from his writing for an instant. Doyle noticed with pleasure the expression of violent anger was fading from his eyes. Michael Antony, who was a brisk and willing boy, returned with a bottle rather more than half full of whisky.
"Mary Ellen was upstairs along with a lady," he said. "But I found the bottle."
"If you were three years older," said Doyle, "I'd give you a drop for your trouble. But it wouldn't be good for you, Michael Antony, and your mother wouldn't be pleased if she heard you were taking it."
"I have the pledge since Christmas, anyway," said Michael Antony.
"Thady," said Doyle, when the boy had left the room, "it's a drink you want to quench the rage that's in you."
Gallagher looked up from his papers. He did not say anything, but Doyle understood exactly what he would have said if his pride had not prevented him from speaking.
"The width of two fingers in the bottom of the tumbler," said Doyle, "with as much water on top of that as would leave you free to say that you weren't drinking it plain."
The amount of water necessary to soothe Gallagher's conscience was very small. Doyle added it from the jug in driblets of about a teaspoonful at a time. At the sound of the third splash Gallagher raised his hand. Doyle laid down the jug at once. Gallagher, without looking up from his papers, stretched out his left hand and felt about until he grasped the tumbler. He raised it to his lips and took a mouthful of whisky.
"Thady," said Doyle, "you've no great liking for Mr. Ford."
"I have not," said Gallagher. "Isn't he always going against me at the Petty Sessions, he and the old Major together, and treating me as if I wasn't a magistrate the same as the best of them?"
"He does that, and it's a crying shame, so it is, that he's allowed to; but sure that's the way things are in this country."
Gallagher took another gulp of whisky and waited. Doyle said nothing more. He appeared to have nothing more to say and to have mentioned Mr. Ford's name merely for the sake of making conversation. But Gallagher wished to develop the subject.
"What about Mr. Ford?" he said, after a long silence.
"He's terrible down on the erection of the statue to General John Regan."
"I'm that myself," said Gallagher.
"Mr. Ford will be pleased when he hears it; for there'll be no statue if you set your face against it. It'll be then that Mr. Ford will be proud of himself. He'll be saying all round the Country that it was him put a stop to it."
"It will not be him that put a stop to it."
"It's what he'll say, anyway," said Doyle.
Gallagher finished his whisky in two large gulps.
"Let him," he said.
"Have another drop," said Doyle. "It's doing you good."
Gallagher pushed his tumbler across the table. Doyle replenished it.
"I'd be sorry," said Doyle, "if Mr. Ford was to be able to say he'd got the better of you, Thady, in a matter of the kind."
"It'll not be me he'll get the better of."
"He'll say it," said Doyle, "and what's more there's them that will believe it. For they'll say, recollecting the speech you made on Tuesday, that you were in favour of the statue, and that only for Mr. Ford you'd have had it."
"If I thought that——" said Gallagher.
"Come along over now to the committee," said Doyle, "and we'll have the statue just in derision of him."
"It isn't the statue that I'm objecting to," said Gallagher, "nor it isn't the notion of a new pier. You know that, Doyle."
"I do, of course."
"And if it's the wish of the people of this locality that there should be a statue——"
"It is the wish," said Doyle. "Didn't you say yourself that the people was unanimous about it after the meeting in the market square?"
Gallagher rose from his chair and pushed his papers back on the table. He crushed his soft hat down on the back of his head and turned to the door.
"Come on," he said.
"I knew well," said Doyle, "that you'd do whatever was right in the latter end. And as for the tune that was troubling you, it's even money that the band will never play it. Father McCormack was telling me yesterday that the big drum's broke on them on account of one of the boys giving it a kind of a slit with the point of a knife. The band will hardly ever be able to play that tune or any other tune when they haven't got a big drum."
Major Kent passed through the narrow hall of the hotel, went up a flight of stairs and entered the commercial room. Mary Ellen was on her hands and knees under the table which stood in the middle of the room. She was collecting the corks which had offended Doyle's eye. There were more than three of them. She had four in her left hand, and was stretching out to grasp two more when the Major entered the room. As soon as she saw him she abandoned the pursuit of the corks, crept out from underneath the table, and stood looking at the Major. She expected him to order a drink of some sort. Most people who entered Doyle's commercial room ordered drinks. The Major was slightly embarrassed. Mary Ellen evidently expected him to say something to her, and he did not know what to say. He did not want a drink, and he could not think of any subject of conversation likely to interest a tousled girl who had just been crawling about the floor on her hands and knees. At last he said "Good morning." Mary Ellen gaped at him and then smiled. The Major, recollecting that it was half-past one o'clock, and therefore no longer morning, said that it was a fine evening. Mary Ellen's smile broadened. The Major expressed a polite hope that she was quite well. He thought of shaking hands with her, and wished that he had brought a pair of gloves with him, Mary Ellen's hands were certainly dirty and they looked hot. But he was not obliged to shake hands. Mary Ellen realised that he was a kind of man new to her, one who did not want a drink. She left the room, came back again almost at once for the broom which she had forgotten, and then left decisively, slamming the door.
The Major crossed the room and looked out of the window. He saw Doyle and Gallagher go into Kerrigan's shop, and wondered vaguely what they wanted there. He saw Constable Moriarty telling a story, evidently of a humorous kind, to Sergeant Colgan, at the door of the police barrack. The story—he judged from Moriarty's gestures—had something to do with Doyle and Gallagher. He wondered, without much real interest, what the story was. There was nothing else of an exciting kind to be seen from the window. The Major turned and walked to the opposite corner of the room. He stood in front of a small square mahogany table. On it was a stuffed fox in a glass case. The Major looked at it carefully from several points of view. It was a very ordinary fox, and appeared to have been stuffed a long time. Moths had eaten the fur off its back in several places, and one of its eyes, which were made of bright brown beads, was hanging from the socket by a thread. The glass of the case was exceedingly dusty. The Major, finding the fox dull and rather disgusting, left it and went over to the fireplace. Over the chimney piece hung a portrait of a very self-satisfied priest who looked as if he had just dined well. A gold Latin cross, attached to a black ribbon watch guard, rested gracefully on the large stomach of the man. The stomach struck the Major as one which was usually distended to its utmost capacity. The portrait was remarkable for that fuzziness of outline which seems to be inevitable in enlarged photographs. The frame was a very handsome one, elaborately carved and gilt.
Next the picture of the priest, unframed and attached to the wall with tacks, was a large coloured supplement, taken from an American paper. It presented a famous boxer stripped to the waist in the act of shaking hands with a dejected-looking opponent. Underneath his large picture was a list of the boxer's most famous conflicts, with date and a note of the number of rounds which each victim had survived. Round the central picture were twelve small ones, in which the hero appeared in the act of felling other fighters, not so heroic or less muscular. The Major, who had done some boxing in his day, looked at the picture with critical interest. Then Father McCormack entered the room.
"I'm in good time after all," he said. "I was afraid, maybe, the meeting might be over when I saw Doyle and Thady Gallagher going into the office of the Connacht Eagle after leaving Kerrigan's shop."
"You're time enough," said the Major. "If you're not more than half-an-hour late it's time enough for any meeting that's held in this town."
"That's true too," said Father McCormack. "As a general rule that's true enough. But I've known meetings that was over and done with before the time when they ought to be beginning. That would be when there might be something to be done at them that some of the members would be objecting to if they were there. I've known that happen, and I shouldn't wonder if you'd been caught that way yourself before now."
"So far as I know," said the Major, "nothing of the sort has happened this time. There's no reason why it should. When anything as silly as this statue business is on hand everybody is sure to be unanimously in favour of it."
"That's true enough. But where's the rest of the committee?"
"Nobody has turned up so far, except myself," said the Major.
"Well," said Father McCormack, "I'm as well pleased. To tell you the truth, Major, I'm glad of the chance of a few minutes quiet talk with you while we have the place to ourselves. I thought it my duty, and you'll understand me that I'm not casting reflections on you nor yet on the doctor, and I'd be sorry to say a word against Doyle, or for the matter of that against Thady Gallagher, though it would be better if he had more sense. But anyway, I thought it my duty to acquaint the bishop with what was going on."
"The statue idea?" said the Major. "Well, what did he say? I don't know your bishop personally, but I suppose a man could hardly be in his position if he was altogether a fool."
"Believe me or not as you like," said Father Mc-Cormack, "but when I got the bishop's answer to my letter, it turned out that he knew no more than myself about General John Regan."
"That doesn't surprise me in the least. I don't believe any one knows who he was."
"What the bishop said was that it might look queer if I was to take no part in the proceedings when the Lord-Lieutenant was coming to unveil the statue."
"That puts you in a safe position anyhow," said the Major. "If it turns out afterwards that there is anything fishy about the General, the bishop and the Lord-Lieutenant will have to share the blame between them."
"What I want to know from you," said Father Mc-Cormack, "is this: Is the Lord-Lieutenant coming or is he not?"
"I've only got the doctor's word for it. He says he is."
"The doctor's a fine man, and there's not many things he'd set his hand to but he'd carry them through at the latter end. But the Lord-Lieutenant! The Lord-Lieutenant is—well now, do you think it likely that the Lord-Lieutenant is coming down here?"
"It's not the least likely," said the Major, "but there's nothing about this whole business that is. It isn't likely in my opinion that there was such a person as General John Regan. It wasn't likely beforehand that we'd subscribe to put up a statue to him. I don't see that the Lord-Lieutenant is any more unlikely than lots of other things that have happened."
"I'm glad to hear you say that," said Father McCormack.
He and Major Kent were standing together at the window while they talked. Neither of them noticed that Mary Ellen had come into the room. She stood for some time near the door, hoping that either the Major or Father McCormack would look round. Neither of them did, so she sidled slowly into the room and stood beside the stuffed fox. She was a very well mannered girl, and most unwilling to interrupt an earnest, possibly an important conversation. When Father McCormack made his last remark she felt that her chance had come. It was evident from the tone in which he spoke, that he and the Major had reached a more or less satisfactory conclusion of their business, She coughed, and then tapped lightly with her knuckles on the glass case of the stuffed fox. Both Father McCormack and the Major looked round.
"There's a lady below," said Mary Ellen.
"A lady!" said Major Kent. "Surely to goodness we're not going to have women on this committee. Things are bad enough without that."
"Who is she?" said Father Mctormack.
"It's Mrs. Gregg," said Mary Ellen, "and it's the doctor she's asking for."
"The doctor's not here," said Father McCormack. "Can't you see that for yourself?"
"If it's Mrs. Gregg," said the Major, "you'd better show her up. You can't leave her standing by herself in the hall till the doctor chooses to come. I wish to goodness he would come. I can't think why he isn't here. This is his show entirely."
Mrs. Gregg came into the room while the Major was speaking. She looked agitated and, in spite of the fact that she had been waiting downstairs for nearly ten minutes, was almost breathless.
"Oh, Major Kent," she said, "where's Dr. O'Grady? Such a dreadful thing has happened. I don't know what to do. Just fancy—Mrs. Ford has written to me——"
"There's no use appealing to me," said the Major. "I can't do anything with Mrs. Ford. She and I are hardly on speaking terms. It's not my fault—at least I don't think it is—but you must see Mrs. Gregg, that I can't interfere about any letter she may have written to you."
Mrs. Gregg shook hands with Father McCormack, but her head was turned away from him as she did so. She had little hope that he could interfere effectually to settle the difficulty created by Mrs. Ford.
"Dr. O'Grady said that I——"
The Major interrupted her.
"You'd far better wait till the doctor comes," he said. "He'll be here in a minute."
"But I can't wait. Mrs. Ford is down at the dress-maker's now. It'll be too late if I wait. What am I to do? It will spoil the whole thing if Mrs. Ford insists——"
Dr. O'Grady came in. He was whistling cheerfully, not "Rule, Britannia," but a harmless Irish jig.
"Hullo!" he said. "You here, Major. Good. And Father McCormack. There's nothing like punctuality. And Mrs. Gregg. How do you do, Mrs. Gregg? Everything going on all right about Mary Ellen's costume?"
"Oh, no, it isn't. But I'm so glad you've come. Mrs. Ford——"
"Excuse me one moment, Mrs. Gregg," said Dr. O'Grady. "I just want to ask Father McCormack one question. Listen now, Father McCormack. Do you know this tune?"
He began to whistle "Rule, Britannia." When he was about half way through Mrs. Gregg interrupted him.
"I can't wait," said Mrs. Gregg. "I really can't. Mrs. Ford is at the dressmaker's and——"
"I'll attend to that in one minute, Mrs. Gregg. But I must get Father McCormack's opinion on this tune first. Doyle and Gallagher may arrive at any moment, and then I shan't be able to go into the question. Now Father McCormack, do you recognise the tune I whistled you?"
"I've heard it," said Father McCormack, "and to the best of my belief it was at a military tournament up in Dublin last year."
"It's 'Rule, Britannia,'" said the Major. "And if it's played in this town there'll be a row."
"There might be," said Father McCormack, "if Thady Gallagher knows what tune it is."
"He won't," said Dr. O'Grady. "You didn't know yourself, Father McCormack, and if you didn't I'm quite satisfied that Thady Gallagher won't. We can count on your keeping your mouth shut, Major, I suppose. Now, Mrs. Gregg, what has Mrs. Ford been doing?"
"She says," said Mrs. Gregg, "that Mary Ellen is to wear a plain dark grey tweed dress, and I had it all planned out——"
"White muslin," said Dr. O'Grady, "with a silk slip. I remember."
"It'd look perfectly sweet," said Mrs. Gregg, "and I took her to the dressmaker yesterday evening just as you told me. I had the whole thing arranged. She was to have a blue sash."
"I was," said Mary Ellen, who was still standing beside the stuffed fox.
"And Mrs. Ford agreed at the time," said Mrs. Gregg, "and now I've just got a note from her saying that a dark grey tweed would be much more suitable because it would be useful afterwards."
"It seems to me," said Dr. O'Grady, "that you haven't managed this business quite as tactfully as I expected you would."
"Mrs. Ford said she was going straight to the dress-maker to order the grey tweed. She's there now, most likely."
Mrs. Gregg's voice had a break in it. It seemed to Dr. O'Grady that she was on the verge of tears. He turned to Mary Ellen.
"Which would you rather have, Mary Ellen, a white muslin frock, or a grey tweed, one that would be useful to you afterwards? Don't be in a hurry to decide. Think it well over."
Mary Ellen seemed very well inclined to take this advice. She stood quite silent with one of her fingers pressed against the corner of her mouth. She was thinking deeply.
"I can't bear to have everything I settled upset by that woman," said Mrs. Gregg. "I wish you'd never made me ask her to help. I wish I'd never——"
"We had to keep her in a good temper," said Dr. O'Grady.
"You'll not be able to do that," said the Major, "nobody could."
"It's nothing but spite makes her do it," said Mrs. Gregg. "It's just because I'm presenting a bouquet and she's not."
"Hang it all!" said Dr. O'Grady. "It can't be that. I told her distinctly that she'd be allowed to hand over the illuminated address. What more can she want?"
"It's all spite and jealousy," said Mrs. Gregg, "and Mary Ellen will look perfectly hideous."
"Mary Ellen," said Dr. O'Grady, "have you made up your mind yet which of those two dresses you'd like?"
"I have," said Mary Ellen.
"She'd like the white muslin, of course," said Mrs. Gregg. "No girl would choose——"
"I'd like the both of them," said Mary Ellen.
"You shall have them," said Dr. O'Grady. "That's the best way I see out of the difficulty. Mrs. Gregg, you get the dress you want for her, privately, without saying a word about it. Agree with everything Mrs. Ford says, and let her order a red flannel petticoat if she likes."
"But which will she wear?" said Mrs. Gregg, "for if she's to be dressed in a ridiculous stuffy grey tweed——"
"She'll wear your one, of course," said Dr. O'Grady. "She'll put it on and stand in the middle of the square just underneath the statue. There'll be a large crowd of people, and it will be too late for Mrs. Ford to do anything. She can't change the girl's clothes in the street."
"Don't count on any delicacy of feeling in Mrs. Ford," said the Major.
"And will I have the both of the dresses after?" said Mary Ellen.
"You will," said Dr. O'Grady, "unless Mrs. Ford manages to drag the grey tweed one away from you."
"She'll be furious," said Mrs. Gregg.
"She may be as furious as she likes then," said Dr. O'Grady. "She won't be able to show it while the Lord-Lieutenant's wife is shaking hands with her out of the motor-car, and it won't matter to us what she does afterwards. The only thing we have to be careful about is to keep her in a good temper——"
"You can't do that," said the Major.
"In as good a temper as possible between this and then. And now, Mrs. Gregg, if you'll excuse my saying so, I think you and Mary Ellen had better trot off to the dressmaker. If any further difficulty arises refer to me at once. But I don't see how anything can. All you've got to do is to let Mrs. Ford have her own way, and give your orders when she's gone home."
Mrs. Gregg did not seem entirely satisfied with this settlement of her difficulty, but she and Mary Ellen went off together to meet Mrs. Ford at the dressmaker's.
"Women," said Dr. O'Grady, "are the devil."
He was not much better satisfied than Mrs. Gregg was with his new plan. He foresaw very serious difficulties in carrying it out.
"You've no one but yourself to thank for all this bother!" said the Major. "There wasn't the slightest necessity to have Mary Ellen in the affair at all, dressed or undressed."
Dr. O'Grady was not listening to a word the Major said. He was thinking deeply. His face lightened suddenly and he rushed across the room to the door.
"Mrs. Gregg!" he shouted. "Mrs. Gregg! Just one moment. I've got a capital suggestion to make, one to which there can be no possible objection from any point of view."
He ran downstairs. Father McCormack went to the door and looked after him. Then he turned and addressed the Major.
"You might go a long journey," he said, "before you'd meet the equal of the doctor."
The Major received this remark in silence. He was of opinion that a man who went a long journey in order to discover a second Dr. O'Grady would be a fool.
"Tell me this," said Father McCormack. "What relation is Mary Ellen to the General?"
"I've never been able to make that out for certain. Sometimes I'm told she's his niece, and sometimes his grand-niece."
Father McCormack looked round him cautiously and sank his voice to a whisper.
"Is she any relation at all?" he said slowly.
"No more than you are to the Sultan of Turkey."
"I was thinking as much myself," said Father McCormack.
Dr. O'Grady, having finished his talk with Mrs. Gregg, entered the room again.
"I've settled that matter satisfactorily anyhow," he said. "It occurred to me just after Mrs. Gregg had left the room, that some sort of fancy dress for the girl would be likely to please the Lord-Lieutenant, and would be a compromise which both ladies could accept without loss of dignity. Mary Ellen is to be rigged out as a traditional Irish colleen, the sort you see on the picture postcards they sell to tourists in Dublin. Mrs. Gregg is delighted, and Mrs. Ford can't possibly say that a crimson flannel skirt won't be useful to her afterwards. She'll look uncommonly well, and the Lord-Lieutenant will be all the more inclined to believe that the General was an Irishman when he sees his niece——"
"Tell me this," said Father McCormack, "is she a niece of the General or is she not?"
"The grand-niece," said Dr. O'Grady.
"She's neither the one nor the other," said the Major.
Dr. O'Grady glanced at Father McCormack. He saw by the look on the priest's face that there was no use trying to prove Mary Ellen's relationship. He laughed good-naturedly, and at once offered a satisfactory explanation of the position.
"Mr. Billing," he said, "insisted on our producing some sort of relative for the dead General. He wouldn't have given that L100 if we hadn't. Now what I say is this——"
"You'd say anything," said the Major.
"I'm not talking to you now, Major. I'm talking to Father McCormack, who's a man of sense, with some knowledge of the world. The way I'm putting it to him is this: Supposing there was a job going a begging, a nice comfortable job under the Government, with no particular duties attached to it, except just to look pleasant and be generally agreeable—there are such jobs."
"Plenty, plenty," said Father McCormack.
"And they're well paid," said the Major.
"And supposing that you were asked to nominate a man for the post——" Dr. O'Grady still addressed himself only to Father McCormack. "You might be, you know. In fact you, and other people in your position often are, though there's always supposed to be a competitive examination."
"Nobody believes in examinations," said the Major.
"That's exactly what I'm saying," said Dr. O'Grady. "Now what would you do in a case of the kind? As a matter of fact what do you do? What did you do when they were appointing a secretary to the Old-Age Pension Committee?"
"I'd look out for some decent poor fellow," said Father McCormack. "One that might be wanting something of the kind, a man that nobody would have anything particular to say against."
"You wouldn't spend a lot of time arguing about whether there ought to be such a secretary or not?"
"I would not, of course," said Father McCormack. "What would be the use? If the job's there and a man's wanted I'd have no business talking about the rights or wrongs of it beyond saying that the salary ought to be a bit larger."
"Exactly," said Dr. O'Grady. "Now that's just what's happened in this case. It isn't exactly a job, under the Government, not under our Government, though it may lead on to something in Bolivia. Here's a dead General that has to be fitted out with a niece——"
"You said a grand-niece a minute ago," said the Major.
"The principle's the same," said Dr. O'Grady. "What I'm trying to get you to see is that Mary Ellen may just as well step into the position as anyone else."
"When you put it that way," said Father McCor-mack, "there's no more to be said. The girl's a decent girl, and I wouldn't stand in the way of her bettering herself."
"She'll be the better by a new dress, anyway!" said the Major. "I don't know that she'll benefit in any other way. But that's something."
"I rather think," said Dr. O'Grady, "that I hear Doyle downstairs. We'll be able to get on with the business of the committee now, whether he has Thady with him or not. We've wasted time enough."
"We'll waste a lot more before we've done," said the Major. "The whole thing's waste of time. There'll never be a statue in Ballymoy either to General John Regan or to anyone else."
Dr. O'Grady had drawn a bundle of papers from his pocket and laid them on the table before him.
"Our first business, gentlemen," he said, "is to settle about the illuminated address which Mrs. Ford has kindly consented to present to the Lord-Lieutenant."
Thady Gallagher glared at Dr. O'Grady savagely. He did not like being interrupted in the middle of a speech.
"Order, gentlemen, order," said Father McCor-mack, nervously tapping the table with his pencil.
"With regard to the illuminated address," said Doyle, "I'm of opinion that the carrying out of it should be given into the hands of a Dublin firm. It's our duty to support Irish manufacture. There's too much money sent over to England that might be far better kept at home. You'll agree with me there, Thady."
"What are you going to say in the address?" said the Major.
"Oh, the usual things," said Dr. O'Grady. "I don't think we need go into that in detail. All addresses are pretty much the same."
"I won't sign my name to anything political," said the Major.
"I'm with you there," said Father McCormack. "It's one of the curses of this country the way politics are dragged into business."
"Nobody wants politics," said Dr. O'Grady. "The address will contain nothing but nice little compliments to the Lord-Lieutenant with a word or two about the value of piers put in at the end."
"If the matter's left in the hands of the firm I have in mind," said Doyle, "it'll be done right. They've illuminated three-quarters of the addresses that have been presented in the country, and whether it's a bank manager or a priest going on a new mission, or a Lord-Lieutenant that the address is for, the firm I mean will know what to put into it. They've had the experience, and experience is what is wanted."
"We'll give him names and dates," said Dr. O'Grady, "and tell him that this is a seaport town with no proper pier. With that information any fool could draw up the text of an illuminated address. I propose that the matter be left in the hands of a subcommittee consisting of Mr. Doyle."
"Are you all agreed on that, gentlemen?" said Father McCormack.
Thady Gallagher rose slowly to his feet.
"With regard to what Mr. Doyle has just laid before the meeting," he said, "and speaking of the duty of supporting Irish manufacture, I'm of opinion that his words do him credit. I'm an out and out supporter of the Industrial Revival, and when I look round about me on the ruined mills that once were hives of industry, and the stream of emigration which is flowing from our shores year after year———"
"I don't think we need spend much time discussing the bouquet," said Dr. O'Grady. "It'll have to be ordered from Dublin too."
"There's no flowers here to make a bouquet of," said Doyle, "unless, maybe, the Major——"
"I've a few Sweet-Williams," said the Major, "and a bed of mixed stocks. If you think they'd be any use to you you're welcome to them."
"We might do worse," said Father McCormack.
"We'll have to do better," said Dr. O'Grady. "You can't offer a lady in the position of a Lord-Lieutenant's wife a bundle of ordinary stocks! What we have to get is lilies and roses."
"It's only right that we should," said Father McCormack, "but I think the thanks of the meeting ought to be given to Major Kent for his generous offer."
"I second that," said Doyle. "The Major was always a good friend to anything that might be for the benefit of the town or the locality."
"The ordering of the bouquet," said Dr. O'Grady, "to be left to the same sub-committee which has charge of the address."
"And it to be sent to the hotel here," said Father McCormack, "on the morning of the ceremony, so as it will be fresh. Are you all agreed on that, gentlemen? What's the next business, doctor?"
"The next business is the statue."
"What's the date of the Lord-Lieutenant's visit?" said the Major.
"Thursday week," said Dr. O'Grady.
"That's ten days from to-day," said the Major. "We may just as well go home at once as sit here talking to each other. There's no time to get a statue."
"We'll do our business before we stir," said Dr. O'Grady.
"What's the use of saying things like that?" said the Major. "You know jolly well, O'Grady, that you can't get a statue in ten days. The thing's impossible. It takes a year at least to make a statue of any size. You can't go into a shop and buy a statue, as if it were a hat or an umbrella."
"There's a good deal in what the Major says," said Father McCormack. "I'm inclined to agree with him. I remember well when they were putting up the monument to Parnell in Dublin it took them years before they had it finished."
"It's a good job for everybody concerned," said the Major, "that we're brought up short. We'd simply have made ourselves publicly ridiculous if we'd gone on with this business."
The Major, Dr. O'Grady, and Doyle, spoke when they did speak, in an easy conversational tone without rising from their chairs. But this was not Gallagher's idea of the proper way of conducting public business. He believed that important discussions ought to be carried on with dignity. When he spoke he stood up and addressed the committee as if he were taking part in a political demonstration, using appropriate gestures to emphasize his words. The difficulty about the statue gave him a great opportunity.
"I stand here to-day," he said, "as the representative of the people of this locality, and what I'm going to say now I'd say if the police spies of Dublin Castle was standing round me taking down the words I utter."
Young Kerrigan had been obliged to stop practising "Rule, Britannia" on the cornet in order to eat his dinner. When he had satisfied his appetite and soothed his nerves with a pipe of tobacco he set to work at the tune again. The hour's rest had not helped him in any way. He made exactly the same mistake as he had been making all the morning. It happened that he took up his cornet again shortly before Gallagher began his speech in which he declared himself a representative of the people of the locality. The noise of the music floated through the open window of the committee room. It had a slightly exasperating effect on Gallagher, but he went on speaking.
"What I say is this," he said, "and it's what I always will say. If it is the unanimous wish of the people of this locality to erect a statue to the memory of the great patriot, who is gone, then a statue ought to be erected. If the Major is right—and he may be right—in saying that it takes a year to make a statue, then we'll take a year. We'll take ten years if necessary. Please God the most of us has years enough before us yet to spare that many for a good work."
Young Kerrigan continued to break down at the "never, never, never," part of the tune. Dr. O'Grady began to fidget nervously in his chair.
"Sit down, Thady," said Doyle. "Don't you know that if we postpone the statue we'll never get the Lord-Lieutenant to open it? Didn't he say in his letter that Thursday week was the only day he could come?"
"As for the so-called Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland," said Gallagher, waving his arm in the air, "we've done without him and the likes of him up to this, and we're well able to do without him for the future."
He brought his fist down with tremendous force as he spoke, striking the table with the pad of flesh underneath his little finger. Dr. O'Grady jumped up.
"Excuse me one moment, gentlemen," he said. "That young fool, Kerrigan, is getting the tune wrong every time, and if I don't stop him he'll never get it right at all."
He walked across to the window as he spoke and looked out. Then he turned round.
"Don't let me interfere with your speech, Thady," he said. "I'm listening all right, and I'm sure Father McCormack and the rest of the committee want to hear every word of it."
But Gallagher, in spite of this encouragement, did not seem inclined to go on. He sat down and scowled ferociously at Doyle. Dr. O'Grady put his head out of the window and shouted.
"Moriarty," he called, "Constable Moriarty, come over here for a minute and stop grinning."
Then he drew in his head and turned round.
"Major," he said, "you're a magistrate. I wish to goodness you'd give orders that Moriarty isn't to grin in that offensive way. It's a danger to the public peace."
"I shan't do anything of the sort," said the Major. "In the first place I can't. I've no authority over the police. They are Gregg's business. In the second place——"
He stopped at this point because Dr. O'Grady was not listening to him. He had stretched his head and shoulders out of the window and was talking in a very loud tone to Moriarty.
"Run over," he said, "and tell young Kerrigan to come here to me for a minute. When you've done that go to bed or dig potatoes or do any other mortal thing except stand at the door of the barrack grinning."
"What tune's that young Kerrigan's after playing?" said Gallagher solemnly.
Father McCormack looked anxiously at Major Kent. The Major fixed his eyes on the stuffed fox in the glass case. It was Doyle who answered Gallagher.
"It's no tune at all the way he's playing it," he said. "Didn't you hear the doctor saying he had it wrong?"
"What tune would it be," said Gallagher, "if so be he had it right?"
"I told you before," said Doyle. "I told you till I'm tired telling you that I don't know the name of it. It's not a tune that ever I heard before."
"I'll find out what tune it is," said Gallagher savagely. "I'll drag it out of you if I have to drag the black liver of you along with it."
"Order, gentlemen, order," said Father McCormack. "That's no language to be using here."
"I was meaning no disrespect to you, Father," said Gallagher. "I'd be the last man in Ireland to raise my hand against the clergy."
"It's the doctor's liver you'll have to drag, Thady, if you drag any liver at all," said Doyle, "for he's the only one that knows what the tune is."
Moriarty appeared to have conveyed the message to young Kerrigan. Dr. O'Grady, still leaning out of the window, spoke again, this time evidently to Kerrigan.
"Don'ts you know you're getting it wrong every time?" he said.
Young Kerrigan's voice, faint and apologetic, reached the members of the committee through the window.
"Sure I know that well enough; but the devil's in it that I can't get it right."
"Listen to me now," said Dr. O'Grady.
He whistled the tune shrilly, beating time with his hand.
"Now, Kerrigan," he said, "try it after me."
He whistled it again slowly. Kerrigan followed him note by note on the cornet. After a very short hesitation he got over the difficult passage. Dr. O'Grady drew in his head and returned to the table with a sigh of relief.
"I think he has it now," he said, "but it's a tough job teaching that fellow anything."
"What tune is it?" said Gallagher.
"It's not a tune that ever you heard before," said Dr. O'Grady.
"I'm of opinion that I did hear it," said Gallagher. "But let you speak out now if you're not ashamed of it, and tell me what tune it is."
"It's the 'Battle March of King Malachi the Brave,'" said Dr. O'Grady, "the same that he played when he was driving the English out of Ireland. And you can't possibly have heard it before because the manuscript of it was only dug up the other day at Tara, and this is the first time it's ever been played publicly in the west of Ireland."
"There now, Thady," said Doyle, "didn't I tell you all along that you'd nothing to do only to ask the doctor?"
"I'm of opinion that I did hear it," said Gallagher. "You may say what you like about the Hill of Tara, but I've heard that tune."
"It's just possible," said Dr. O'Grady, "that Mr. Billing may have whistled it while he was here. I believe the people of Bolivia are fond of it. They learned it, of course, from General John Regan. He may have heard it from his grandmother. It's wonderful how long music survives among the people long after the regular professional musicians have forgotten all about it. But I mustn't interrupt you any more, Thady. You were just making a speech about the Lord-Lieutenant. Perhaps you have finished what you were saying. As well as I recollect we were just settling about the statue."
"Major Kent was after saying," said Father McCor-mack, "that we couldn't get a statue in the time."
"My friend Mr. Doyle," said Dr. O'Grady, "has a proposal to lay before the meeting. Where's that card, Doyle, that you showed me last week?"
Doyle drew a bundle of grimy papers from his breast pocket and went through them slowly. One, which appeared to be a letter written on business paper, he laid on the table in front of him. At the bottom of the bundle he came on a large card. He handed this to Father McCormack. The printing on it was done in Curiously shaped letters, evidently artistic in intention, with a tendency towards the ecclesiastical. Round the outside of the card was a deep border of black, as if the owner of it were in mourning for a near relative.
Father McCormack looked at it dubiously.
"Read it out," said Dr. O'Grady. "I'd like the Major to hear exactly what's on it."
"'Mr. Aloysius Doyle,'" read Father McCormack.
"He's a nephew of my own," said Doyle.
"He would be," said Gallagher. "If he wasn't we'd hear nothing about him."
He was still feeling sore about the "Battle March of King Malachi the Brave," and was anxious to make himself disagreeable to someone. It struck him that it would be easy to annoy Doyle by suggesting that he was trying to do a good turn to his nephew at the expense of the statue fund.
"I needn't tell you, gentlemen," said Doyle, with great dignity, "that it's not on account of his being a nephew of my own that I'm recommending him to the notice of this committee. If he was fifty times my nephew I wouldn't mention his name without I was sure that he was as good a man as any other for the job we have on hand."
No one, of course, believed this, but no one wanted to argue with Doyle about it. Father McCormack went on reading from the black-edged card which he held in his hand.
"Sculptor!" said Dr. O'Grady. "You hear that, Major, don't you? Sculptors are people who make statues."
"Mortuary sculptors, I suppose," said the Major viciously, "make statues of dead men."
"The General's dead anyway," said Doyle, "so that's suitable enough."
"'Address—The Monumental Studio, Michael Angelo House, Great Brunswick. Street, Dublin,'" read Father McCormack. "That'll be where your nephew lives, Mr. Doyle?"
"It's where he has his works," said Doyle. "He lives down near Sandymount."
"'Celtic Crosses, Obelisks and every kind of Monument supplied at the shortest notice,'" said Father McCormack, still reading from the card. "'Family Vaults decorated. Inscriptions Cut. Estimates Free. Low Prices'."
"I don't see that we could possibly do better than that," said Dr. O'Grady.
"Even Doyle's nephew can't make a statue in ten days," said the Major.
"He says 'shortest notice' on his card. You ought to believe the man, Major, until you've some evidence that he's a liar."
"I don't care what he says," said the Major. "He can't make a statue in ten days."
"We'll get to that point in a minute," said Dr. O'Grady. "The first thing we have to decide is whether Mr. Aloysius Doyle is a suitable man to be entrusted with the work."
"There's no other tenders before us," said Father McCormack, "so I suppose we may as well——"
"Excuse my interrupting you, Father," said Doyle, "but before you take the opinion of the meeting on this point, I'd like to say that I'm offering no opinion one way or the other; and what's more I won't give a vote either for or against. I wouldn't like to do it in a case where my own nephew is a candidate."
"You needn't tell us that, Mr. Doyle," said Father McCormack. "We all know that you're not the kind of man who'd be using his public position to further the interests of his relatives. What do you say now, gentlemen? Is Mr. Aloysius Doyle to be given the contract for the statue or not? What do you say, Major?"
"If he can make a full-sized statue of a General in ten days," said the Major, "he's a man who deserves every encouragement we can give him."
"Now, doctor," said Father McCormack, "what's your opinion?"
"I'm for giving him the job," said the Doctor.
"Mr. Doyle won't vote," said Father McCormack.
"I will not," said Doyle firmly.
"So we'd be glad of your opinion, Mr. Gallagher."
"If his price is satisfactory," said Gallagher, "we may as well give him the preference. I'd be in favour of supporting local talent when possible, and although Mr. Aloysius Doyle isn't a resident among us at present, his family belongs to Ballymoy."