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Hyacinth - 1906
by George A. Birmingham
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'And that same,' said his original tormentor, 'would be cheaper than giving you a return ticket to London.'

The audience was immensely tickled. So far the entertainment, if not precisely novel, was better than anything they had hoped for, and everyone had an agreeable conviction that there was still something in the way of a sensation in store. Perhaps it was eagerness for the expected climax which induced them to keep tolerably quiet during the remainder of Mr. O'Rourke's speech. He set forth at some length the glorious achievements of his party in the past, and explained the opportunities of future usefulness which lay to be grasped if only the necessary funds were provided. He sat down to make way, as he assured the audience, for certain tried and trusty soldiers of the cause who were waiting to propose important resolutions. So far as these warriors were concerned, he might as well have remained standing. Their resolutions are to this day unproposed and uncommended—a secret joy, no doubt, to those who framed them, but not endorsed by any popular approval.

Hyacinth Conneally was not admitted to the secret councils of Augusta Goold and her friends. He knew no more than the general public what kind of a coup was meditated, but he gathered from Miss O'Dwyer's nervous excitement and Tim Halloran's air of immense and mysterious importance that something quite out of the common was likely to occur. By arriving an hour and a half before the opening of the meeting he secured a seat near the platform. He enjoyed the discomfiture of O'Rourke, whom he had learnt from the pages of the Croppy to despise as a mere windbag, and to hate as the betrayer of O'Neill. A sudden thrill of excitement went through him when O'Rourke sat down. The whole audience turned their faces from the platform towards the door at the far end of the hall, and Hyacinth, without knowing exactly what he expected, turned too. There was a swaying visible among the crowd near the door, and almost immediately it became clear that someone was trying to force a way through the densely-packed people. Curses were to be heard, and even cries from those who were being trodden on. At last a way was made. Augusta Goold, followed by Grealy, Halloran, and Mary O'Dwyer, came slowly up the hall towards the platform. Those of the audience whose limbs had not been crushed or their feet mangled in preparation for her progress cheered her wildly. Indeed, she made a regal appeal to them. Even amidst a crowd of men her height made her conspicuous, and she had arrayed herself for the occasion in a magnificent violet robe. It flowed from her shoulders in spacious folds, and swept behind her, splendidly contemptuous of the part it played as scavenger amid the accumulated filth of the floor. Her bare arms shone out of the wide sleeves which hung around them. Her neck rose strong and stately over the silver clasp of a cloak which she had thrown back from her shoulders. She wore a hat which seemed to hold her hair captive from falling loose around her. One great tress alone escaped from it, and by some cunning manipulation was made to stand straight out, as if blown by the wind from its fastenings. In comparison her suite looked commonplace and mean. Poor Miss O'Dwyer was arrayed—'gowned,' she would have said herself in reporting the scene—in vesture not wanting in splendour, but which beside Miss Goold's could not catch the eye. Thomas Grealy, awkward and stooped, peered through his glasses at the crowd. Tim Halloran walked jauntily, but his eyes glanced nervously from side to side. He was certainly ill at ease, possibly frightened, at the position in which he found himself.

A hurried consultation took place among the gentlemen on the platform, which ended in Mr. O'Rourke stepping forward with a smile and an outstretched hand to welcome Augusta Goold as she ascended the steps. The expression of his face belied the smile which he had impressed upon his lips. His eyes had the same look of furtive malice as a dog's which wants to bite but fears the stick. Augusta Goold waved aside the proffered hand, and stepped unaided on to the platform. Mr. O'Rourke placed a chair for her, but she ignored it and stood, with her followers behind her, facing the audience. O'Rourke and two of his tried and trusty members of Parliament approached her. They stood between her and the audience, and talked to her for some time, apparently very earnestly. Augusta Goold looked past them, over them, sometimes it seemed through them, while they spoke, but made them no answer whatever. At last Mr. O'Rourke shrugged his shoulders, and withdrew to his chair with a sulky scowl.

'I wish,' said Augusta Goold, 'to ask a simple question of your chairman.'

Mr. O'Rourke rose.

'This meeting,' he said, 'is convened for the purpose of raising funds for the carrying on of the national business in the House of Commons. If Miss Goold's question relates to the business in hand, I shall be most happy to answer it. If not, I am afraid I cannot allow it to be asked here. At another time and in another place I shall be prepared to listen to what Miss Goold has to say, and in the meantime if she will take her seat on the platform she will be heartily welcome.'

'My question,' said Augusta Goold, 'is intimately connected with the business of the meeting. It is simply this: Are you, Mr. O'Rourke, prepared to give any portion of the money entrusted to you by the Irish people to assist the Boers in their struggle for freedom?'

It was manifestly absurd to ask such a question at all. Mr. O'Rourke had no intention of collecting money for the Boers, who seemed to have plenty of their own, and he could not without breach of trust have applied funds subscribed to feed and clothe members of Parliament to arming volunteers. Nevertheless, it was an awkward question to answer in the presence of an audience excited by Augusta Goold's beauty and splendid audacity. A really strong man, like, for instance, O'Rourke's predecessor, John O'Neill, might have faced the situation, and won, if not the immediate cheers, at least the respect of the Irish people. But Mr. O'Rourke was not a strong man, and besides he was out of temper and had lost his nerve. He took perhaps the worst course open to him: he made a speech. He appealed to his past record as a Nationalist, and to his publicly reiterated expressions of sympathy with the Boer cause. He asked the audience to trust him to do what was right, but he neither said Yes nor No to the question he was asked.

Augusta Goold stood calm and impassive while he spoke. A sneer gathered on her lips and indrawn nostrils as he made his appeal for the people's confidence. When he had finished she said, very slowly, and with that extreme distinctness of articulation which women speakers seem to learn so much more easily than men:

'Are you prepared to give any portion of the money entrusted to you by the Irish people to assist the Boers in their struggle for freedom?'

Mr. O'Rourke was goaded into attempting another speech, but the audience was in no mood to listen to him. He was interrupted again and again with shouts of 'Yes or no!' 'Answer the question!' The bantering tone with which they had plied him earlier in the evening with suggestions for a menu had changed now into angry insistence. He passed his hand over his forehead with a gesture of despair, and sat down. At once the tumult ceased, and the people waited breathless for Augusta Goold to speak again.

'Are you prepared'—she seemed to have learnt her question off by heart—'to give any portion of the money entrusted to you by the Irish people to assist the Boers in their struggle for freedom?'

Mr. Shea, a red-headed member of Parliament from Co. Limerick, being himself one of those most deeply interested in the contents of the party's purse, sprang to his feet. It was clear that he was in a condition of almost dangerous excitement, for he stammered, as he shouted to the chairman:

'Sir, is this—this—this woman to be allowed to interrupt the meeting? I demand her immediate removal.'

Augusta Goold smiled at him. It was really a very gracious, almost a tender, smile. One might imagine the divine Theodora in her earlier days smiling with just such an expression on a plebeian lover whose passion she regarded as creditable to him but hopeless.

'I assure you, Mr. Shea, that I shall not interrupt the business for more than a minute. Mr. O'Rourke has only got to say one word—either Yes or No. Are you prepared to give any portion of the funds entrusted to you by the Irish people to assist the Boers in their struggle for freedom?'

Mr. Shea was not at all mollified either by the smile or the politeness of her tone.

'We shall not permit the meeting to be interrupted any more,' he shouted. 'Either you will withdraw at once, or we shall have you removed by force.'

She smiled at him again—a pitying smile, as if she regretted the petulance of his manner, and turned to the chairman.

'Are you prepared to give——'

Then Mr. Shea's feelings became too strong for his self-control. He sprang forward, apparently with the intention of laying violent hands upon Augusta Groold. Hyacinth Conneally started up to protect her, and the same impulse moved a large part of the audience. There was a rush for the platform, and a fierce, threatening yell. Mr. Shea hung back, frightened. Augusta Goold held up her hand, and immediately the rush stopped and the people were silent. She went on with her question, taking it up at the exact word which Mr. Shea had interrupted, in the same level and exquisitely irritating tone.

'—Any of the money entrusted to you by the Irish people to assist the Boers in their struggle for freedom?'

Mr. O'Rourke had sat scowling silently since the failure of his last attempt to explain himself. This final disjointed repetition of the galling question roused him to the necessity of doing something. He was a pitiful sight as he rose and confronted Augusta Goold. There were blotches of purple red and spaces of pallor on his face; his hands twisted together; a sweat had broken out from his neck, and made his collar limp. His words were a stammering mixture of bluster and appeal.

'You mustn't—mustn't—mustn't interrupt the meeting,' So far he tried to assert himself, then, with a glance at the contemptuous face of the woman before him, he relapsed into the tone of a schoolboy who begs off the last strokes of a caning. 'Is this nice conduct? Is it ladylike to come here and attack us like this? Miss Goold, I'm ashamed of you.'

'I am glad to hear,' said Augusta Goold, departing for the first time from her question, 'that there is anything left in the world that Mr. O'Rourke is ashamed of. I didn't think there was.'

It was Mr. Shea and not his leader who resented this last insult. His lips drew apart, leaving his teeth bare in a ghastly grin. He clenched his fists, and stood for a moment trembling from head to foot. Then he leaped forward towards Augusta Goold. The man who stood next Hyacinth lurched suddenly forward, wrenched his right hand free of the crowd round him, and flung it back behind his head. Hyacinth saw that he held a large stone in it.

'You are a cowardly blackguard, Shea,' he yelled—'a damned, cowardly blackguard! Would you strike a woman?'

Shea turned on the instant, saw the hand stretched back to fling the stone. He seized the chair behind him—the very chair which, while an appearance of politeness was still possible, Mr. O'Rourke had offered to Augusta Goold—and flung it with all his force at the man with the stone. One of the legs grazed Hyacinth's cheek, scraping the skin off. The corner of the seat struck the man beside him full across the forehead just above his eyes. The blood poured out, blinding, and then, as he gasped, choking him. He reeled and huddled together helplessly. He could not fall, for the pressure of the crowd round him held him up. Hyacinth felt his hands groping wildly as if for support, and reached out his own to grasp him. But the man wanted no help for himself. As soon as he felt another hand touch his he pressed the stone into it.

'I can't see,' he whispered hoarsely. 'Take it, you, and kill him, kill him, kill him! smash his skull!'

Hyacinth took the stone. The feel of the man's blood warm on it and the fierce yelling and stamping of the crowd filled him with a mad lust of hate against Shea, who stood as if suddenly paralyzed within a few feet of him. He wrenched his hand free, and with a mighty effort flung the stone. He saw it strike Shea fair on the forehead. In spite of the tumult around him, he fancied he heard the dull thud of its impact. He saw Shea fling up his hands and pitch forward. He saw Augusta Goold gather her skirts in her hand, and sweep them swiftly aside lest the man should fall on them. Then the crowd pressing towards the platform swept him off his feet, and he was tossed helplessly forward. A giddy sickness seized him. The pressure slackened for an instant, and he fell. Someone's boot struck him on the head. He felt without any keen regret that he was likely to be trampled to death. Then he lost consciousness.



CHAPTER VI

Next morning the Dublin daily papers laid themselves out to make the most of the sensational fight at the Rotunda. Even the habitually cautious Irish Times felt that the occasion justified the expression of an opinion, and that there would be no serious risk of alienating the sympathies of subscribers and advertisers by condemning the bloodshed. It published an exceedingly dignified and stodgy leading article, drawing the largest and finest words from the dictionary, and weaving them with extraordinary art into sentences which would have been creditable to anyone bent upon imitating the style of Dr. Samuel Johnson. The British Empire and the whole of civilized Europe were called upon to witness the unspeakably deplorable consequences which invariably followed the habitual neglect of the cultivation of the elementary decencies of public life. The paper disclaimed any sympathy with either of the belligerent parties, and pointed out with sorrowful solemnity that if the principles sedulously inculcated upon its readers in its own columns were persistently flouted and contemned by those who claimed the position of national representatives, little else except a repetition at frequent intervals of the painful and humiliating scenes of the night before could possibly be anticipated by reasonable observers of the general trend of democratic institutions. The Daily Express openly exulted over the rioters. Its leading article—the staff may have danced in a ring round the office table while composing it—declared that now at length the Irish had proved to the world that they were all, without a solitary exception, irredeemably vicious corner-boys. Miss Augusta Goold was warmly praised for having demonstrated once for all that 'patriotism' ought to be written 'Pat riotism.' Deep regret was expressed that those who attended the meeting had not been armed with revolvers instead of stones, and that the platform had not been defended with Maxim guns instead of comparatively innocuous wooden chairs. Had modern weapons of precision been used the Daily Express would have been able to congratulate mankind on getting rid of quite a considerable number of Irishmen.

The Freeman's Journal and the Daily Independent were awkwardly situated. Their sympathies were entirely with Mr. O'Rourke, and they were exceedingly angry with Miss Goold for interfering with the collection of funds for the Parliamentary party. At the same time, they felt a difficulty in denouncing her, not for want of suitable language—the Irish Nationalist press has a superb command of words which a self-respecting dictionary would hesitate to recognise—but because they felt that push of the horns of the dilemma on which O'Roun'y-had been impaled, and they were obliged to sand their denunciations between layers of stoutest pro-Boer sentiment.

All four papers contained reports of the proceedings which were practically identical up to a certain point. It was about the commencement of the actual bloodshed that they differed. The Irish Times reporter believed that Mr. Shea had begun the fray by striking Augusta Goold behind the ear with his clenched fist. The Daily Express man claimed to have overheard Mr. O'Rourke urging his friends to brain a member of the audience with a chair. The Freeman's Journal held that Augusta Goold's supporters had come into the hall supplied with huge stones, which, at a given signal, they had flung at the inoffensive members of Parliament who occupied the platform, adding, as a corroborative detail, that the lady who accompanied Augusta Goold had twice kicked the prostrate Mr. Shea in the stomach. The Daily Independent advanced the ingenious theory that the contest had been precipitated by a malevolent student of Trinity College, who had flung an apple of discord—on this occasion a jagged paving-stone of unusual size—into the midst of a group of ladies and gentlemen who were peacefully discussing a slight difference of opinion among themselves. Beyond this point none of the papers gave any account of the proceedings, all four reporters having recognised that, not being retained as war correspondents, they were not called upon to risk their lives on the battlefield. The accounts all closed with the information that the wounded had been carried to Jervis Street Hospital, and were under treatment suitable to their injuries. Hyacinth had suffered a slight concussion of the brain and a flesh wound. Other sufferers were in the same ward, Mr. Shea himself occupying a bed, so that Hyacinth had the satisfaction of seeing him stretched out, a melancholy figure, with a bandage concealing most of his red hair. After the surgeon had finished his rounds for the morning a police official visited the sufferers, and made a careful note of their names and addresses. He inquired in a perfunctory manner whether any of them wished to swear an information. No one, except Mr. Shea, was sufficiently satisfied with his own share of the meeting to wish for more fame than was unavoidable. As no further use was ever made of Mr. Shea's narrative, it may be presumed that the authorities regarded it as wanting in accuracy. No blame, however, ought to be attached to the author for any petty deviation from the truth of which he may have been guilty. No man's mind is perfectly clear on the morning after he has been struck on the head with a stone, and perhaps afterwards kicked twice in the stomach by a lady journalist. Besides, all members of Parliament are, in virtue of their office, 'honourable gentlemen.'

An excited and sympathetic nurse provided Hyacinth with copies of the four morning papers, which he read with interest and a good deal of amusement. Only the account in the Daily Independent caused him any uneasiness. No doubt, as he fully recognised, the suggestion about the Trinity student was nothing but a wild guess on the part of the reporter. It was highly unlikely that anyone would seriously consider a theory so intrinsically improbable. Still, if the faintest suspicion of the part he had played reached the ears of the college authorities, he felt that his career as a divinity student was likely to be an extremely brief one. His chief fear was that a prolonged absence from college would give rise to inquiry, and that his bandages would excite suspicion when he reappeared. Fortunately, the house surgeon decided that he was sufficiently recovered to be allowed to leave the hospital early in the afternoon. The boot which had put an end to his share in the riot had raised its bruise under his hair, so he was able to remove the bandages from his head as soon as he got into the street. There still remained a long strip of plaster meant to keep a dressing of iodoform in its place over the cut on his cheek which Mr. Shea's chair-leg had inflicted. This he could not get off, and thinking it wiser to make his entry into college after nightfall, he sought a refuge in Mary O'Dwyer's rooms.

He found the poetess laid on a sofa and clad in a blue dressing-gown. She stretched a hand of welcome to Hyacinth, and then, before he had time to take it, began to laugh immoderately. The laughing fit ended in sobs, and then tears flowed from her eyes, which she mopped convulsively with an already damp pocket-handkerchief. Before she had recovered sufficient self-possession to speak, she signed to Hyacinth to fetch a bottle of smelling-salts from the chimney-piece. He hastened to obey, and found himself kneeling beside the sofa, holding the bottle to her nose. After a while she recovered sufficiently to tell him that she had not slept at all during the night, and felt extremely unwell and quite unstrung in consequence. Another fit of immoderate and tearful laughter followed, and Hyacinth, embarrassed and alarmed, fetched a tumbler of soda-water from the syphon on the sideboard. The lady refused to swallow any, and, just as he had made up his mind to risk an external application, recovered again. During the lucid interval which followed she informed him that his own conduct had been superb and heroic. What seemed to be an effort to celebrate his achievements in extemporary verse brought on another fit. Hyacinth determined to risk an appearance in the college square in broad daylight rather than continue his ministrations. While he was searching for his hat Miss O'Dwyer became suddenly quite calm, and began to explain to him how immensely the cause of Ireland's independence had benefited by the demonstration in the Rotunda. Hyacinth listened anxiously, waiting for the next explosion, and experienced very great relief when the door opened and Augusta Goold walked in.

Unlike Mary O'Dwyer, she was entirely mistress of herself. Her cheeks were not a shade paler than usual, nor her hand at all less cool and firm. She stretched herself, after her usual fashion, in the largest available chair and lit a cigarette.

'You look excited, my dear Mary,' she said—'a little overexcited, perhaps. Have you had tea? No? Perhaps you will be so kind as to ring the bell, Mr. Conneally.'

Mary O'Dwyer repeated the information she had given Hyacinth about her sleepless night, and complimented Augusta Goold on her nerve.

'As for poor little me,' she went on, 'I'm like a—like a—you remember the kind of thing, don't you?—like a—I'm not sure if I know the name of the thing myself.'

She relapsed into a weak giggle, and Hyacinth stooped for the bottle of smelling-salts, which had rolled under the sofa. Augusta Goold was much less sympathetic. She fixed her with a strong stare of amazement and disgust. Apparently this treatment was the right one, for the giggling stopped almost immediately.

'I see you have got some sticking-plaster on your face, Mr. Conneally,' she said, when Mary O'Dwyer had quieted down.

'Yes,' said Hyacinth, 'and a good-sized bump behind my ear.'

'I suppose this business will be very awkward for you in college. Will they turn you out?'

'I'm sure they will if they find out that I threw that stone at Shea.'

'You made a very good shot,' said Augusta, smiling at the recollection. 'But how on earth did you come to have a stone that size in the hall with you?'

Hyacinth told the story of the man who had been felled by the chair and his murderous bequest.

'That's the proper spirit,' said Augusta. 'I admire that man, and he couldn't have passed his stone on to better hands than yours. Shea went down as if he had been shot. I was afraid of my life he would clutch at my skirts as he fell or squirm up against me after he was down. But he lay quite still. By the way, Mary, I suppose your dress was ruined?'

Mary O'Dwyer was quite subdued.

'It was torn,' she said meekly enough.

'Have you another one?'

'Of course I have. I've three others, besides some old ones.'

'Well, then, you'd better go and put on one of them. An old one will do. It's disgusting to see a woman slopping about in a dressing-gown at this time of day. I'll have tea ready when you come back.'

Miss O'Dwyer obeyed sulkily. She wished very much that Augusta Goold had stopped at home. It would have been a great deal pleasanter to have gone on practising hysterics with Hyacinth as a sympathetic spectator. When the door was shut Augusta Goold turned to Hyacinth again.

'That's the worst of women'—apparently she did not consider herself as one of the sex—'they are all right at the time (nothing could have been better than Mary's behaviour at the meeting), but they collapse afterwards in such idiotic ways. But I want to talk to you about yourself. I owe you a good turn for what you did last night. Only for you, I think Shea would have dared to touch me, and then very likely I should have killed him, and there might have been trouble afterwards.' She spoke quite calmly, but Hyacinth had very little doubt that she meant exactly what she said. 'Grealy of course, was useless. One might have expected him to give utterance to an ancient tribal war-cry, but he didn't even do that. Tim Halloran got frightened when the row began. I noticed him dodging about behind Mary and me, and I mean to let him know what I think about him. It's you I have to thank, and I won't forget it. If you get into trouble over this business in college, come to me, and I will see you straight. In fact, if you like to give up the divinity student business at once, I dare say I can put you in the way of earning an honester livelihood.'

Hyacinth was gratified at the way Augusta Goold spoke to him. Since the evening on which he had given his opinion about the morality of desertion and murder he had been conscious of a coolness in her manner. Now he had apparently reinstated himself in her good graces. Praise, even for an act he was secretly ashamed of, and gratitude, though he by no means recognised that he deserved it, were pleasant to him. He promised to remember the offer of help, but declined for the present to commit his future to the keeping of so bloodthirsty a patroness.

Curiously enough, Hyacinth's reception in college was a great deal more cordial after the Rotunda meeting than it had ever been before. For a while the battle which had been fought at their doors superseded the remoter South African warfare as a topic of conversation among the students. Their sympathies were with Augusta Goold. Even members of the divinity classes suffered themselves to be lured from their habitual worship of respectability so far as to express admiration for the dramatic picturesqueness of the part she played. It is true that the lady herself was called by names universally resented by women, and that the broadest slanders were circulated about her character. Still, a halo of glory hung round her. It was felt that she had done a surprisingly courageous thing when she faced Mr. O'Rourke on his own platform. Also, she had behaved with a certain dignity, neither throwing chairs nor stones at her opponents. Then, she was an undeniably beautiful woman, a fact which made its inevitable appeal to the young men. The mere expression of sympathy with this flamboyant and scandal-smeared heroine brought with it a delightful flavour of gay and worldly vice. It was pretty well known that Hyacinth was a friend of Miss Goold's, and it was rumoured that he had earned his piece of sticking-plaster in her defence. No one knew exactly what he had done or how much he had suffered, but a great many men were anxious to know. Very much to his own surprise, he received a number of visitors in his rooms. Men who had been the foremost of his tormentors came, ostensibly to inquire for his health, in reality to glean details of the fight at the Rotunda. Certain medical students of the kind which glory in any kind of row openly congratulated him on his luck in being present on such an occasion. Men who claimed to be fast, and tried to impress their acquaintances with the belief that they indulged habitually in wild scenes of revelry, courted Hyacinth, and boasted afterwards of their second-hand acquaintance with Miss Goold. It became the fashion to be seen arm-in-arm with him in the quadrangle, and to inquire from him in public for 'Finola.'

This new popularity by no means pleased Hyacinth. He was not at all proud of his share in the Rotunda meeting, and lived in daily dread of being recognised as the assailant of Mr. Shea. He knew, too, that he was making no way with the better class of students. The men whose faces he liked were more than ever shy of making his acquaintance. The sub-lecturers and minor professors in the divinity school were coldly contemptuous in their manner, and it seemed to him that even Dr. Henry was less friendly. He became desperately anxious to get out of a position which he found more intolerable than the original isolation. He applied himself with extreme diligence to his studies, even affecting an interest, unnatural for the most pious, in the expositions given by learned doctors of the Thirty-nine Articles. At lectures on Church history he made notes about the vagaries of heretics so assiduously that the professor began to hope that there existed one student at least who took an interest in the Christological controversies of the sixth century. He never ventured back again to the Wednesday prayer-meeting, but he performed many attendances beyond the required minimum at the college chapel. Morning after morning he dragged himself from his bed and hurried across the dusky quadrangle to take his part in the mutilated matins with which the college authorities see fit to usher in the day. He even went to hear the sermons delivered on Friday afternoons, homilies so painful that the preachers themselves recognise an extraordinary merit in enduring them, and allow that submission of the ears to one of them is to be reckoned as equal to two ordinary acts of devotion.

It is to be hoped that Hyacinth derived some remote benefit from the discipline to which he subjected himself, for the immediate results were not satisfactory. He seemed no nearer winning the respect of the more serious students, and Dr. Henry's manner showed no signs of softening into friendliness. His surfeit of theology bred in him a dislike of the subject. The solemn platitudes which were posed as expositions of the creeds affected his mind much as the expurgated life histories of maiden aunts do the newly-emancipated school-girl. The relentless closing in of argument upon a single previously settled doctrine woke in him a desire to break through at some point and breathe again in the open. He began to fear that he was becoming hopelessly irreligious. His morning devotions in the foggy atmosphere of the chapel did not touch the capacity for enthusiasm within him. The vague splendour of his father's meditations had left him outside, indeed, but sure that within there lay a great reality. But now religion had come to seem an altogether narrower thing, a fenced off, well-ordered garden in which useful vegetables might be cultivated, but very little inspiring to the soul.

The unwelcome attention of the students whose friendship he did not desire, and his increasing dislike for the work he was expected to do, led him to spend more and more of his time with Augusta Goold and her friends. He found in their society that note of enthusiasm which he missed in the religion of the college. He responded warmly to their passionate devotion to the dream of an independent Irish Republic. He felt less conscious of his want of religion in their company. With the exception of Augusta Goold herself, the members of the coterie were professedly Roman Catholics; but this made little or no difference in their intercourse with him. What he found in their ideals was a substitute for religion, a space where his enthusiasm might extend itself. He became, as he realized his own position clearly, very doubtful whether he ought to continue his college course. It did not seem likely that he would in the end be able to take Holy Orders, and to remain in the divinity school without that intention was clearly foolish. On the other hand, he shrank from inflicting what he knew would be a painful disappointment on his father. It happened that before the term ended his connection with the divinity school was cut in a way that saved him from the responsibility of forming a decision.

He was a regular attendant at the lectures of Dr. Spenser, who had never from the first disguised his dislike and contempt for Hyacinth. This gentleman was one day explaining to his class the difference between evidence which leads to a high degree of probability and a demonstration which produces absolute certainty. The subject was a dry one, and quite unsuited to Dr. Spenser, whose heart was set on maintaining a reputation for caustic wit. He cast about for an illustration which would at once make clear the distinction and enliven his lecture. His eye lit upon Hyacinth, upon whose cheek there still burned a long red scar. Dr. Spenser's face brightened.

'For instance, gentlemen,' he said, 'if I should reason from the fact that our friend Mr. Conneally affects the society of certain charming ladies of doubtful reputation, like Miss Goold, to the conclusion that Mr. Conneally is himself a Nationalist, I should only have arrived at a probable conclusion. The degree of probability might be very high; still, I should have no right to regard my conclusion as absolutely certain.'

The class tittered delightedly. Dr. Spenser proceeded without heeding a deep flush on Hyacinth's face, which might have warned a wiser man that an explosion was coming.

'If I should then proceed to reason thus: All Nationalists are rebels and potential murderers—Mr. Conneally is a Nationalist; therefore Mr. Conneally is a rebel and potential murderer—I should, assuming the truth of my minor premise, have arrived at a certainty.'

The syllogism was greeted with loud applause. Hyacinth started to his feet. For a time he could only gasp for breath to utter a reply, and Dr. Spenser, secure in the conviction of his own intellectual and social superiority to the son of a parson from Connemara, determined to pursue his prey.

'Does Mr. Conneally,' he asked with a simper, 'propose to impugn the accuracy of my induction or the logic of my deduction?'

The simper and the number of beautiful long words which Dr. Spenser had succeeded in collecting together into one sentence provoked a sustained clapping of hands and stamping of feet from the class. Hyacinth rapidly regained his self-possession, and was surprised at his own coolness when he replied:

'I should say, sir, that a man who makes an induction holding up a lady to ridicule is probably a cad, and that the cad who makes a deduction confusing patriotism with murder is certainly a fool.'

A report of Hyacinth's speech was handed to Dr. Henry, with a suggestion that expulsion from the divinity school was the only suitable punishment. Hyacinth did not look forward with any pleasure to the interview to which he was summoned. He was agreeably surprised when he entered the professor's room. Dr. Henry offered him a chair.

'I hear,' he said—his tone was severe, but a barely perceptible gleam of humorous appreciation flashed across his eyes as he spoke—'that you have been exceedingly insolent to Dr. Spenser.'

'I don't know, sir, whether you heard the whole story, but if you did you will surely recognise that Dr. Spenser was gratuitously insulting to me.'

'Quite so,' said Dr. Henry. 'I recognise that, but the question is, What am I to do with you now? What would you do if you were in my place? I should like to know your views of the best way out of the situation.'

Hyacinth was silent.

'You see,' Dr. Henry went on, 'we can't have our divinity lecturers called fools and cads before their classes. I should be afraid myself to deliver a lecture in your presence if I thought I was liable to that kind of interruption.'

'I think, sir,' said Hyacinth, 'that the best thing will be for me to leave the divinity school.'

'I think so, too. But leaving our divinity school need not mean that you give up the idea of taking Holy Orders. I have a very high opinion of your abilities, Conneally—so high that I should not like the Church to lose your services. At the same time, you are not at present the kind of man whom I could possibly recommend to any Irish Bishop. Your Nationalist principles are an absolute bar to your working in the Church of Ireland.'

'I wonder, sir, how you can call our Church the Church of Ireland, and in the same breath say that there is no room for a Nationalist in her. Don't the two things contradict each other.'

Dr. Henry's eyes twinkled again. There spread over his mouth a smile of tolerant amusement.

'My dear boy, I'm not going to let you trap me into a discussion of that question. Theoretically, I have no doubt you would make out an excellent case. National Church, National spirit, National politics—Irish Church, Irish nation, Irish ideas. They all go excellently together, don't they? And yet the facts are as I state them. A Nationalist clergyman in the Church of Ireland would be just as impossible as an English Nonconformist in the Court of Louis Quatorze. After all, in this life one has got to steer one's course among facts, and they're sharp things which knock holes in the man who disregards them. Now, what I propose to you is this: Put off your ordination for three years or so. Take up schoolmastaring. I will undertake to get you a post in an English school. Your politics won't matter over there, because no one will in the least understand what you mean. Work hard, think hard, read hard. Mix with the bigger world across the Channel. See England and realize what England is and what her Empire means. Don't be angry with me for saying that, long before the three years are over, you'll have come to see that what you call patriotism is nothing else than parochialism of a particularly narrow and uninstructed kind. Then come back here to me, and I'll arrange for your ordination. You'll do the best of good work when you've grown up a bit, and I'll see you a Bishop before I die.'

'I shall always be grateful to you,' said Hyacinth. 'I shall never forget your kindness, and the way you've treated me; but I can't do what you ask.'

'Oh, I'm not going to take no for an answer,' said Dr. Henry. 'Go home to the West and think it over. Talk to your father about your future. Write to me if you like about your plans, and remember my offer is open six months or a year hence. You'll be the same man then that you are now—I mean, in character. I'm not afraid of your turning out badly. You may think wrong-headedly, but I'm sure you'll not act disgracefully.'



CHAPTER VII

The December afternoon was growing dark when the weary car-horse surmounted the last hill on the road from Clifden and broke into a shambling trot down the long straight stretch into Carrowkeel. Soon, as the distance dwindled, the lights which twinkled here and there in the village became distinguishable. This—Hyacinth recognised it—was the great hanging lamp in the window of Rafferty's shop. That, a softer glow, came from the forge of Killeen, the smith. That, and that, fainter and more uncertain lights, were from fires seen through the open upper section of cottage doors. He could almost tell whose the cabins were where they shone. The scene inside rose to the imagination. A man with ragged clothes and a half-empty pipe is squeezed into the stone nook beside the blazing turf. The kettle, hanging from its hook, swings steaming beside him. The woman of the house, barefooted, sluttish, in torn crimson petticoat and gray bodice pinned across her breast, moves the red cinders from the lid of the pot-oven and peers at the browning cake within. Babies toddle or crawl over the greasy floor. The car rattled into the village street. Men whom he knew stopped it to speak to him. Children playing the last of their games in the fading light paused to stare at him. Father Moran, returning to his presbytery, waved his hand and shouted a greeting. He passed the last house of the village, and could see the fishing-boats, dim and naked-looking, riding at their anchors in the bay. Out beyond them, grim and terrible in the twilight, lay the hulk where the ice for fish-packing was stored. The thick stump of her one remaining mast made a blacker bar against the black sky. The pier was deserted, but he could see the bulky stacks of fish-boxes piled on it, and hear the water lapping against it. Along its utmost edge lay a belt of gray white, where the waves broke as they surged round it. He passed the pier, and there lay before him the long hill that led home. The church and the ruined school stood out clearly on the skyline. Below them, less clearly seen, was the rectory, and Hyacinth noted that the lamp in the kitchen was lit. Then the door was opened, and he saw, plain against the light, a man's figure, his father's. No doubt the old man was watching and listening. Perhaps the sound of the wheels reached him through the evening air, for in a few minutes he came out and walked down the drive. Hyacinth saw him fumble with the fastening of the rickety gate, and at last open it slowly and with difficulty. The car reached a gap in the loose stone wall, a familiar gap, for across it lay a short cut up a steeper part of the hill, which the road went round. Hyacinth jumped down and ran up the path. In another minute the greeting of father and son was accomplished, and the two were walking hand-in-hand towards the house. Hyacinth noticed that his father trembled, and that his feet stumbled uncertainly among the loose stones and stiff weeds.

When they entered the lighted room he saw that his father seemed older—many years older—than when he had said good-bye to him two months before. His skin was very transparent, his lips were tremulous, his eyes, after the first long look at his son, shifted feebly to the fire, the table, and the floor.

'My dear son,' he said, 'I thank God that I have got you safe home again. Indeed, it is good to see you again, Hyacinth, for it has been very lonely while you were away. I have not been able to do very much lately or to go out to the seashore, as I used to. Perhaps it is only that I have not cared to. But I have tried hard to get everything ready for your coming.'

He looked round the room with evident pride as he spoke. Hyacinth followed his gaze, and it was with a sense of deep shame that he found himself noticing the squalor of his home. The table was stained, and the books which littered half of it were thick with dust and grease-spotted. The earthen floor was damp and pitted here and there, so that the chairs stood perilously among its inequalities. The fine white powder of turf ashes lay thick upon the dresser. The whitewash above the fireplace was blackened by the track of the smoke that had blown out of the chimney and climbed up to the still blacker rafters of the roof. Hyacinth remembered how he, and not his father, had been accustomed to clean the room and wash the cups and plates. He wondered how such matters had been managed in his absence, and a great sense of compassion filled his eyes with tears as he thought of the painful struggle which the details of life must have brought upon his father. He noted the evident preparations for his coming. There were two eggs lying in a saucer ready to be boiled, a fresh loaf—and this was not the day they got their bread—and a small tin of cocoa beside his cup. The hearth was piled with glowing turf, and the iron tripod with a saucepan on it stood surrounded with red coals. Some sense of what Hyacinth was feeling passed into his father's mind.

'Isn't it all right, my son? I tried to make it very nice for you. I wanted to get Maggie Cassidy up from the village for the day, but her baby had the chin-cough, and she couldn't come.'

He took Hyacinth's hand and held it while he spoke.

'Perhaps it looks poor to you,' he went on, 'after your college rooms and the houses your friends live in; but it's your own home, son, isn't it?'

Hyacinth made a gulp at the emotion which had brought him near to tears.

'It's splendid, father—simply splendid. And now I'm going to boil those two eggs and make the cocoa, and we'll have a feast. Hallo! you've got some jam—jam and butter and eggs, and this is the month of December, when there's hardly a hen laying or a cow milking in the whole parish!'

He held up the jam-pot as he spoke. It was wrapped in dingy red paper, and had a mouldy damp stain on one side. Hyacinth recognised the mark, and remembered that he had seen the identical pot on the upper shelf of Rafferty's shop for years. Its label bore an inscription only vaguely prophetic of the contents—'Irish Household Jam.'

'That's right, father, you are supporting home manufacture. I declare I wouldn't have tasted it if it had come from England. You see, I'm a greater patriot than ever.'

Old Mr. Gonneally smiled in a feeble, wavering way. He seemed scarcely to understand what was being said to him, but he found a quiet pleasure in the sound of his son's voice. He settled himself in a chair by the fireside and watched contentedly while Hyacinth put the eggs into the saucepan, hung the kettle on its hook, and cut slices of bread. Then the meal was eaten, Hyacinth after his long drive finding a relish even in the household jam. He plied his father with questions, and heard what the old man knew of the gossip of the village—how Thady Durkan had broken his arm, and talked of giving up the fishing; how the police from Letter-frack had found, or said they found, a whisky-still behind the old castle; how a Gaelic League organizer had come round persuading the people to sing and dance at the Galway Feis.

After supper Hyacinth nerved himself to tell the story of his term in college, and his determination to leave the divinity school. More than once he made an effort to begin, but the old man, who brightened a little during their meal, relapsed again into dreaminess, and did not seem to be listening to him. They pulled their chairs near to the fire, and Mr. Conneally sat holding his son's hand fast. Sometimes he stroked or patted it gently, but otherwise he seemed scarcely to recognise that he was not alone. His eyes were fixed on the fire, but they stared strangely, as if they saw something afar off, something not in the room at all. There was no response in them when Hyacinth spoke, and no intelligence. From time to time his lips moved slightly as if they were forming words, but he said nothing. After awhile Hyacinth gave up the attempt to tell his story, and sat silent for so long that in the end he was startled when his father spoke.

'Hyacinth, my son, I have somewhat to say unto you.' Before Hyacinth could reply to him he continued: 'And the young man answered and said unto him, "Say on." And the old man lifted up his voice and said unto his son, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."'

He spoke as if he were reading out of a book some narrative from the Bible. Hyacinth realized suddenly that the communication which was to be made to him had been rehearsed by his father alone, again and again, that statement, question and reply, would follow each other in due sequence from the same lips. He felt that his father was still rehearsing, and had forgotten the real presence of his son. He grasped the hand that held him and shook it, saying sharply:

'Father, father, I am here. Don't you know me?'

'Yes, yes, my son. Surely I know you. There is something I want to tell you. I have wanted to tell it to you for many days. I am glad that you are here now to listen to it.'

He paused, and Hyacinth feared that he would relapse again into dreamy insensibility; but he did not.

'I think,' he said, 'that I should like to pray before I speak to you.'

He knelt down as Hyacinth had seen him kneel a thousand times before, facing the eastward-looking window, now a black, uncurtained square in the whitewashed wall. What he said was almost unintelligible. There was no petition nor even any sequence of ideas which could be traced. He poured forth a series of ejaculations expressive of intense and rapturous delight, very strange to listen to in such a place and from an old man's lips. Then the language he spoke changed from English into Gaelic, and there came a kind of hymn of adoration. His sentences followed each other in metrical balance like the Latin of the old liturgies, and suited themselves naturally to a subdued melody, half chant, half cry, like the mourning of the keeners round a grave. At last, rising from his knees, he spoke, and his voice became wholly unemotional, devoid of fervour or excitement. He told his story as a man might relate some quite commonplace incident of daily life.

'One evening I was sitting here by the fire, just as I always sit. I remember that the lamp was not lit, and that the fire was low, so that there was not much light in the room. It came into my mind that it was just out of such gloom that the Lord called "Samuel, Samuel," and I wished that I was like Samuel, so innocent that I could hear the voice of the Lord. I do not remember what I thought of after that. Perhaps for a time I did not think at all. Then I felt that there were arms about my neck; but not like your arms, Hyacinth, when you were a child and clung to me. These were arms which held me lovingly, strongly, protectingly, like—do you remember, Hyacinth?—"His right hand is under my head; His left hand doth embrace me." I sat quite still, and did not move or speak or even breathe, lest He should go away from me. Then, after a long time—I knew afterwards that the time was long, though then it seemed only a minute for the joy that I had in it—He told me—I do not mean that I heard a voice or any words; I did not hear, I felt Him tell me—the things that are to be. The last great fight, the Armageddon, draweth very near. All that is good is on one side in the fight, and the Captain over all. What is bad is on the other side—all kinds of tyranny and greed and lust. I did not hear these words, but I felt the things, only without any fear, for round me were the everlasting arms. And the battlefield is Ireland, our dear Ireland which we love. All these centuries since the great saints died He has kept Ireland to be His battlefield. I understood then how our people have been saved from riches and from power and from the opportunities of lust, that our soil out of all the world might be fit for the feet of the great Captain, for the marching of His horsemen and His chariots. Not even when I knew all this did I desire to share in the conflict. I am old and feeble, but that is not the reason why there was no desire on me, for strength is in His power to give to whom He wills. I did not desire it, because I was quite happy, being safe with Him.'

For a long time after he ceased speaking there was silence, for Hyacinth had no comment to offer. At last the old man spoke again.

'That is all. I have no other word of revelation. But I have wondered since how men are to be disentangled from their parties and their churches and their nations, and gathered simply into good and bad. Will all men who are good just know the Captain when they see Him and range themselves with Him? But why should we think about such things as these? Doubtless He can order them. But you, Hyacinth—will you be sure to know the good side from the bad, the Captain from the enemy?'

For a long time after he had gone to bed Hyacinth lay awake haunted by his father's prophecy of an Armageddon. There was that in his nature which responded eagerly to such a call to battle. In the presence of enthusiasm like his father's or like Augusta Goold's, Hyacinth caught fire. His mind flamed with the idea of an Independent Ireland resplendent with her ancient glories. He embraced no less eagerly the thought of his father's battle and his own part in it. Groping for points of contact between the two enthusiasms, he caught at the conception of the Roman Church as the Antichrist and her power in Ireland as the point round which the fight must rage. Then with a sudden flash he saw, not Rome, but the British Empire, as the embodiment of the power of darkness. He had learned to think of it as a force, greedy, materialistic, tyrannous, grossly hypocritical. What more was required to satisfy the conception of evil that he sought for? He remembered all that he had ever heard from Augusta Goold and her friends about the shameless trickery of English statesmen, about the insatiable greed of the merchants, about the degraded sensuality of the workers. He recalled the blatant boastfulness with which English demagogues claimed to be the sole possessors of enlightened consciences, and the tales of native races exploited, gin-poisoned, and annihilated by pioneers of civilization advancing with Bibles in their hands.

But with all his capacity for enthusiasm there was a strain of weakness in Hyacinth. More than once after the glories of an Independent Ireland had been preached to him he had found himself growing suddenly cold and dejected, smitten by an east wind of common-sense. At the time when he first recognised the loftiness of his father's religion he had revolted against being called upon to adopt so fantastic a creed. So now, when his mind grew weary with the endeavour to set an Armageddon in array, he began to wish for a life of peaceful monotony, a place to be quiet in, where no high calls or imperious demands would come to threaten him. He ceased to toss to and fro, and gradually sank into a half-conscious sleep. It seemed to him at the time that he was still awake, held back from slumber by the great stillness of the country, that silence which disturbs ears long accustomed to the continuous roar of towns. Suddenly he started into perfect wakefulness, and felt that he was in possession of all his faculties. The room where he lay was quite dark, but he strained his eyes to see something in it. He listened intently, although no sound whatever met his ears. A great overmastering fear laid hold on him. He tried to reason with himself, insisting that there was nothing, and could be nothing, to be afraid of. Still the fear remained. His lips grew stiff and painfully hot, and when he tried to moisten them his tongue was dry and moved across them raspingly. He struggled with the terror that paralyzed him, and by a great effort raised his hand to his forehead. It was damp and cold, and the hair above it was damp. He had no way of knowing how much of the night had passed, or even how long he lay rigid, unable to breathe without a kind of pain; but suddenly as it had come the terror left him, left him without any effort on his part or any reason that he recognised. Then the window of his room shook, and he heard outside the low moan of the rising wind. Some heavy drops of rain struck audibly on the roof, and the first gust of the storm carried to his ears the sound of waves beating on the rocks. His senses strained no more. His eyes closed, and he sank quietly into a long dreamless sleep.

It was late when he woke, so late that the winter sky was fully lit. The wind, whose first gusts had lulled him to sleep, had risen to a gale, and the rain, mixed with salt spray, beat fiercely against his window and on the roof. He listened, expecting to hear his father moving in the room below, but within the house there was no sound. He rose, vaguely anxious, and without waiting to dress went into the kitchen. Everything lay untouched, just as he had left it the night before. The lamp and the remnants of the meal were on the table. The two chairs stood side by side before the hearth, where the fire which he had covered up smouldered feebly. He turned and went to his father's room. He could not have explained how it was, but when he opened the door he was not surprised to see the old man lying quite still, dead, upon the bed. His face was turned upwards, and on it was that strange look of emotionless peace which rests very often on the faces of the dead. It seemed to Hyacinth quite natural that the soul as it departed into unknown beatitude should have printed this for the last expression on the earthly habitation which it left behind. He neither wondered nor, at first, sorrowed very much to see his father dead. His sight was undimmed and his hands steady when he closed the eyes and composed the limbs of the body on the bed. Afterwards it seemed strange to him that he should have dressed quietly, arranged the furniture in the kitchen, and blown the fire into a blaze before he went down into the village to tell his news and seek for help.

They buried AEneas Conneally beside his wife in the wind-swept churchyard. The fishermen carried his coffin into the church and out again to the grave. Father Moran himself stood by bareheaded while the clergyman from Clifden read the prayers and sprinkled the coffin-lid with the clay which symbolized the return of earth to earth and dust to dust. In the presence of death, and, with the recollection of the simple goodness of the man who was gone, priest and people alike forgot for an hour the endless strife between his creed and theirs.



CHAPTER VIII

In Connaught the upper middle classes, clergy, doctors, lawyers, police officers, bank officials, and so forth, are all strangers in the land. Each of them looks forward to a promotion which will enable him to move to some more congenial part of Ireland. A Dublin suburb is the ideal residence; failing that, the next best thing is a country town within easy reach of the metropolis. Most of them sooner or later achieve a promotion, but some of them are so unfortunate as to die in their exile. In either case their furniture and effects are auctioned. No one ever removes his goods from Con-naught, because the cost of getting things to any other part of Ireland is exorbitant, and also because tables and chairs fetch very high prices at auctions. Thus it happens that a certain historic interest attaches to the furniture of most middle-class houses west of the Shannon. The dispensary doctor dines off a table which once graced the parlour of a parish priest. The inspector of police boasts of the price he paid for his easy-chair, recently upholstered, at the auction of a departing bank manager, the same mahogany frame having once supported the portly person of an old-time Protestant Archdeacon. It is to be supposed that the furniture originally imported—no one knows how—into Connaught must have been of superlative quality. Articles whose pedigree, so to speak, can be traced for nearly a hundred years are still in daily use, unimpaired by changes of scene and ownership.

An auction of any importance is a public holiday. Clergy, doctors, lawyers, and police officers gather to the scene, not unlike those beasts of prey of whom we read that they readily devour the remains of a fallen member of their own pack. The natives also collect together—publicans and shopkeepers in search of bargains in china, glass, and house-linen; farmers bent on purchasing such outdoor property as wheelbarrows, scythes, or harness.

When Hyacinth, to use the local expression, 'called an auction' shortly after his father's death, he was favoured with quite the usual crowd of would-be buyers. Almost everyone with either money or credit within a radius of twenty miles came into Carrowkeel for the occasion. The presiding auctioneer had done his duty beforehand by advertising old Mr. Conneally's mouldy furniture as 'magnificently upholstered suites,' and his battered editions of the classics as 'a valuable library of handsomely bound books.' It is not likely that anyone was really deceived by these announcements, or expected to find in the little rectory anything sumptuous or splendid. The people assembled mainly because they were exceedingly curious to see the inside of a house whose doors had never been open to them during the lifetime of the owner. It was always possible, besides, that though the 'magnificently upholstered suites 'existed only in the auctioneer's imagination, treasures of silver spoons or candlesticks plated upon copper might be discovered among the effects of a man who lived as queer a life as Mr. Conneally. When men and women put themselves to a great deal of inconvenience to attend an auction, they do not like to return empty-handed. A day is more obviously wasted if one goes home with nothing to show than if one brings a table or a bedstead purchased at twice its proper value. Thus the bidding at Hyacinth's auction was brisk, and the prices such as gave sincere satisfaction to the auctioneer. Everything was sold except 'the valuable library.' It was in vain that the auctioneer made personal appeals to Father Moran and the Rector of Clifden, as presumably the two most learned gentlemen present. Neither of them wanted the venerable classics. In fact, neither of them could have read a line of the crooked Greek type or construed a page of the Latin authors. Even the Irish books, in spite of the Gaelic revival, found no purchasers. When all was over, Hyacinth wheeled them away in barrowfuls, wondering greatly what he was to do with them.

Indeed, the disposal of his library was not the chief of his perplexities. He wondered also what he was to do with himself. When the auctioneer sent in his cheque, and the London Committee of the Mission had paid over certain arrears of salary, Hyacinth found himself the possessor of nearly two hundred pounds. It seemed to him quite a large fortune, amply sufficient to start life with, if only some suitable way of employing brains, energy, and money would suggest itself. In order to consider the important topic at his leisure, he hired the only lodging in Carrowkeel—the apartment (it was both bed and sitting room) over Mr. Rafferty's public-house. The furniture had suffered during the tenancy of a series of Congested Districts Board officials. An engineer, who went to sleep in the evenings over the fire, had burnt a round hole in the hearthrug. An instructor in fish-curing, a hilarious young man, had cracked the mirror over the mantelpiece, and broken many ornaments, including the fellow of the large china dog which now mourned its mate on the sideboard. Other gentlemen had been responsible for dislocating the legs of two chairs and a disorganization of the handle, which made it impossible to shut the door from the inside. The chief glory of the apartment, however, still remained—a handsomely-framed document, signed by Earl Spencer, then Lord Lieutenant, ordering the arrest of the present Mr. Rafferty's father as a person dangerous to the Commonwealth.

The first thing which brought Hyacinth's meditations to a definite point was a letter he received from Dr. Henry.

'I do not know,' the professor wrote, 'and of course I do not wish to inquire, how you are situated financially; but if, as I suppose is likely, you are obliged in the near future to earn your living, I may perhaps be of some help to you..You have taken your B.A. degree, and are so far qualified either to accept a post as a schoolmaster in an English preparatory school or to seek ordination from some Bishop. As you are probably aware, none of our Irish Bishops will accept a man who has not completed his divinity course. Several English Bishops, however, especially in the northern province, are willing to ordain men who have nothing more than a University degree, always supposing that they pass the required examination. I shall be quite willing to give you a letter of recommendation to one of these Bishops, and I have no doubt that a curacy could be found for you in one of the northern manufacturing towns, where you would have an ample sphere for useful work.'

The letter went on to urge the advisability of Hyacinth's suppressing, disguising, or modifying his political opinions, which, stated nakedly, were likely to beget a certain prejudice in the well-balanced episcopal mind, and in any case would be quite out of place among the operatives of Yorkshire or Lancashire.

Hyacinth recognised and appreciated Dr. Henry's kindness. He even tried to bring himself to consider the offer seriously and carefully, but it was no use. He could not conceive himself as likely to be either useful or happy amid the hustling commercialism of the Manchester streets or the staid proprieties of an Anglican vicarage.

After he had spent about a week in his new lodging, Father Moran called on him. The priest sat beside the fire for more than an hour chatting in a desultory manner. He drank tea and smoked, and it was not until he rose to go that the real object of his visit appeared.

'I don't know what you're thinking of doing, Mr. Conneally, and maybe I've no right to ask.'

'I wouldn't have the least objection to telling you,' said Hyacinth, 'if I knew myself; but I haven't my mind made up.'

The priest put down his hat again, and settled himself with his back to the fire and his hands in his pockets. Hyacinth sat down, and during the pause which followed contemplated the wonderful number and variety of the stains on the black waistcoat in front of him.

'Then you've given up the idea of finishing your divinity course?' said the priest. 'I'm not blaming you in the least. There's men that studying suits, and there's men that it doesn't. I never was much of a one for books myself.'

He sighed heavily, perhaps at the recollection of his own struggles with the mysteries of theology in his Maynooth student days. Then he walked over and closed the door, returned, drew a chair close to Hyacinth, and spoke in the tone of a man who imparts an important secret.

'Did you hear that Thady Durkan's giving up the fishing? Since he broke his arm he declares he'll never step aboard the boat again. You know the St. Bridget. She's not one of the biggest boats, but she's a very lucky one. She made over five hundred pounds last year, besides the share the Board took. She was built at Baltimore, and the Board spent over two hundred pounds on her, nets and gear and all. There's only one year more of instalments to pay off the price of her, and Thady has the rest of the men bought out. There's nobody owns a stick or a net or a sail of her except himself, barring, of course, what's due to the Board.'

Hyacinth was sufficiently acquainted with the system on which the Congested Districts Board provides the Connaught fishermen with boats and nets to understand Father Moran's rather involved statement of Durkan's financial position. He did not yet grasp why all this information should have been conveyed to him in such a solemn and mysterious tone.

'You might have the St. Bridget,' said the priest, 'for one hundred and fifty pounds down.'

He paused to let the full glory of the situation lay hold upon Hyacinth. Perhaps he expected an outburst of delight and surprise, but none came.

'Mind you,' he said, 'there's others looking for her. The men that worked with Thady are thinking of making him an offer, and I dare say the Board would be glad enough to have the boat owned among them; but I can put in a word myself both with Thady and the inspector. Faith, the times is changed since I was a young man. I can remember when a priest was no more thought of than a barefooted gossure out of a bog, and now there isn't a spalpeen of a Government inspector but lifts his hat to me in the street. Oh, a note from me will go a good way with the Board, and you'll not miss the chance for want of my good word—I promise you that.'

'Thank you,' said Hyacinth.

'Mind you, there's a good thing to be made out of her. But sure you know that as well as I do myself, and maybe better. What do you say now?'

'I'll think it over,' said Hyacinth, 'and whatever comes of it I'll be greatly obliged to you.'

'Well, don't be delaying too long. And look you here'—his voice sank almost to a whisper—'don't be talking about what I've said to you. People are queer, and if Father Joyce down in Clifden came to hear that I was working for a Protestant he'd be sure to go talking to the Archbishop, and I'd never get to the end of the fuss that would be made.'

'Indeed, it's very good of you, especially considering who I am—I mean, my father being a convert, and——'

'Say no more,' said the priest—'say no more. Your father was a good man, Catholic or Protestant. I'm not one of these bitter kind of priests, Mr. Con-neally. I can be a good Catholic without hating my neighbours. I don't hold with all this bullyragging in newspapers about "sourfaces" and "saved." Maybe that's the reason that I'm stuck down here at the other end of nowhere all my life, and never got promotion or praise. But what do I care as long as they let me alone to do my work for the people? I'm not afraid to say it to you, Mr. Conneally, for you won't want to get me into trouble, but it's my belief that there's many of our priests would rather have grand churches than contented people. They're fonder of Rome than they are of Ireland.'

'Really, Father Moran,' said Hyacinth, smiling, 'if you go on like this, I shall expect to hear of your turning Protestant.'

'God forbid, Mr. Conneally! I wish you well. I wish you to be here among us, and to be prosperous; but the dearest wish of my heart for you is that I might see you back in the Catholic Church, believing the creed of your forefathers.'

The priest's suggestion attracted Hyacinth a great deal more than Dr. Henry's. He liked the sea and the fishing, and he loved the simple people among whom he had been brought up. His experiences in Dublin had not encouraged him to be ambitious. Life in the great world—it was thus that he thought of the bickerings of the Dublin Nationalists and the schoolboy enthusiasms of college students—was not a very simple thing. There was a complexity and a confusion in affairs which made it difficult to hold to any cause devotedly. It seemed to him, looking back, that Miss Goold's ideals—and she had ideals, as he knew—were somehow vulgarized in their contact with the actual. He had seen something of the joy she found in her conflict with O'Rourke, and it did not seem to him to be pure or ennobling. At one time he was on the verge of deciding to do what the priest wished. Walking day by day along the shore or through the fields, he came to think that life might very well be spent without ambitious or extended hopes in quiet toil and unexciting pleasures. What held him back was the recollection, which never ceased to haunt him, of his father's prophecy. The thought of the great fight, declared to be imminent, stirred in him an emotion so strong that the peace and monotony he half desired became impossible. He never made it clear to himself that he either believed or disbelieved the prediction. He certainly did not expect to see an actual gathering of armed men, or that Ireland was to be the scene of a battle like those in South Africa. But there was in him a conviction that Ireland was awakening out of a long sleep, was stretching her limbs in preparation for activity. He felt the quiver of a national strenuousness which was already shaking loose the knots of the old binding-ropes of prejudice and cowardice. It seemed to him that bone was coming to dry bone, and that sooner or later—very soon, it was likely—one would breathe on these, and they would live. That contest should come out of such a renaissance was inevitable. But what contest? Against whom was the new Ireland to fight, and who was truly on her side? Here was the puzzle, insoluble but insistent. It would not let him rest, recurring to his mind with each fresh recollection of his father's prophecy.

It was while he was wearying himself with this perplexity that he got a letter from Augusta Goold. It was characteristic of her that she had written no word of sympathy when she heard of his father's death, and now, when a letter did come, it contained no allusion to Hyacinth's affairs. She told him with evident delight that she had enlisted no less than ten recruits for the Boer army. She had collected sufficient money to equip them and pay their travelling expenses. It was arranged that they were to proceed to Paris, and there join a body of volunteers organized by a French officer, a certain Pierre de Villeneuve, about whom Miss Goold was enthusiastic. She was in communication with an Irishman who seemed likely to be a suitable captain for her little band, and she wanted Hyacinth back in Dublin to help her.

'You know,' she wrote, 'the people I have round me here. Poor old Grealy is quite impracticable, though he means well. He talks about nothing but the Fianna and Finn McCool, and can't see that my fellows must have riding lessons, and must be got somehow to understand the mechanism of a rifle. Tim Halloran has been in a sulk ever since I told him what I thought of his conduct at the Rotunda. He never comes near me, and Mary O'Dwyer told me the other day that he called my volunteers a "pack of blackguards." I dare say it's perfectly true, but they're a finer kind of blackguard than the sodden loafers the English recruit for their miserable army.'

She went on to describe the series of Boer victories which had come one after another just at Christmas-time. She was confident that the cause of freedom and nationality would ultimately triumph, and she foresaw the intervention of some Continental Power. A great blow would be struck at the already tottering British Empire, and then—the freedom of Ireland.

Hyacinth felt strangely excited as he read her news. The letter seemed the first clear note of the trumpet summoning him to his father's Armageddon. Politics and squabbling at home might be inglorious and degrading, but the actual war which was being waged in South Africa, the struggle of a people for existence and liberty, could be nothing but noble. He saw quite clearly what his own next step was to be, and there was no temptation to hesitate about it. He would place his money at Miss Goold's disposal, and go himself with her ten volunteers to join the brigade of the heroic de Villeneuve.



CHAPTER IX

The prospect of joining Augusta Goold's band of volunteers and going to South Africa to fight afforded Hyacinth great satisfaction. For two days he lived in an atmosphere of day-dreams and delightful anticipations. He had no knowledge whatever of the actual conditions of modern warfare. He understood vaguely that he would be called upon to endure great hardships. He liked to think of these, picturing himself bravely cheerful through long periods of hunger, heat, or cold. He had visions of night watches, of sudden alarms, of heart-stirring skirmishes, of scouting work, and stealthy approaches to the enemy's lines. He thought out the details of critical interviews with commanding officers in which he with some chosen comrade volunteered for incredibly dangerous enterprises. He conceived of himself as wounded, though not fatally, and carried to the rear out of some bullet-swept firing-line. He was just twenty-three years of age. Adventure had its fascination, and the world was still a place full of splendid possibilities.

At the end of his two days of dreaming he returned, flushed with his great purposes, to the realities of life. He went to Father Moran to tell him that he would not buy Durkan's boat. He laughed to himself at the thought of doing such a thing. Was he to spend his life fishing mackerel round the rocky islands of Connemara, when he might be fighting like one of the ancient heroes, giving his strength, perhaps his life, for a great cause? The priest met him at the presbytery door.

'Come in, Mr. Conneally—come in and sit down. I was expecting you these two days. What were you doing at all, walking away there along the rocks by yourself? The people were beginning to say that you were getting to be like your poor father, and that nobody'd ever get any good out of you. But I knew you'd come back to me here. I hope now it's to tell me that you'll buy the boat you've come.'

They entered the house, and the priest opened the door of the little sitting-room. Hyacinth knew it well. There was the dark mahogany table with the marks burnt into it where hot dishes were set down, the shabby arm-chair, the worn cocoanut-matting on the floor, the dozen or so books in the hanging shelf, the tawdry sacred pictures round the wall. He had known it all, and it all seemed unchanged since he was a child.

'Sit you down—sit you down,' said the priest. 'And now about the boat.'

'I'm not going in for her,' said Hyacinth. 'I'm as thankful to you for suggesting it as if I did buy her. I hope you'll understand that, but I'm not going to buy her.'

He found it difficult to speak of his new plan to Father Moran.

'Do you tell me that, now? I'm sorry for it. And why wouldn't you buy her? What's there to hinder you?'

Hyacinth hesitated.

'Well, now,' said the priest, 'I can guess. I thought the auction turned out well for you, but I never heard for certain, and maybe you haven't got the money for the boat. Whisht now, my son, and let me speak. I'm thinking the thing might be managed.'

'But, Father Moran———'

'Ah now, will you be quiet when I bid you? I haven't the money myself. Never a penny have I been able to save all my life, with the calls there are on me in a parish like this. Sure, you know yourself how it is. There's one will have a cow that has died on him, and another will be wanting a lock of potatoes for seed in the springtime; and if it isn't that, it'll be something else. And who would the creatures go to in their trouble but the old priest that christened and married the most of them? But, indeed, thanks be to God, things is improving. The fishing brings in a lot of money to the men, and there's a better breed of cattle in the country now, and the pigs fetch a good price since we had the railway to Clifden, and maybe the last few years I might have saved a little, but I didn't. Indeed, I don't know where it is the money goes at all, but someway it's never at rest in my breeches pockets till it's up and off somewhere. God forgive us! it's more careful we ought to be.'

'But, Father Moran, I don't——'

'Arrah then, will you cease your talking for one minute, and let me get a word in edgeways for your own good? What was I saying? Oh, I was just after telling you I hadn't got the money to help you. But maybe I might manage to get it. The man in the bank in Clifden knows me. I borrowed a few pounds off him two years ago when the Cassidys' house and three more beside it got blown away in the big wind. Father Joyce put his name on the back of the bill along with my own, and trouble enough I had to get him to do it, for he said I ought to put an appeal in the newspapers, and I'd get the money given to me. But I never was one to go begging round the country. I said I'd rather borrow the money and pay it back like a decent man. And so I did, every penny of it. And I think the bank will trust me now, with just your name and mine, more especially as it's to buy a boat we want the money. What do you say to that, now?' He looked at Hyacinth triumphantly.

'Father Moran, you're too good to me—you're too good altogether. What did ever I do to deserve such kindness from you? But you're all wrong. I've got plenty of money.'

'And why in the name of all that's holy didn't you tell me so at once, and not keep me standing here twisting my brains into hard knots with thinking out ways of getting what you don't want? If you've got the money you'll buy the boat. What better could you do with it?'

'But I don't want to buy the boat. I don't want to live here always. I'm going away out into the world. I want to see things and do things.'

'Out into the world! Will you listen to the boy? Is it America you're thinking of? Ah, now, there's enough gone out and left us lonely here. Isn't the best of all the boys and girls going to work for the strangers in the strange land? and why would you be going after them?'

'I'm not going to America. I'm going to South Africa. I'm going to join some young Irishmen to fight for the Boers and for freedom.'

'You're going out to fight—to fight for the Boers! What is it that's in your head at all, Hyacinth Con-neally? Tell me now.'

Again Hyacinth hesitated. Was it possible to give utterance to the thoughts and hopes which filled his mind? Could he tell anyone about the furious fancies of the last few days, or of that weird vision of his father's which lay at the back of what he felt and dreamed? Could he even speak of the enthusiasm which moved him to devote himself to the cause of freedom and a threatened nationality? In the presence of a man of the world the very effort to express himself would have acted as some corrosive acid, and stained with patches of absurdity the whole fabric of his dreams. He looked at Father Moran, and saw the priest's eyes lit with sympathy. He knew that he had a listener who would not scoff, who might, perhaps, even understand. He began to speak, slowly and haltingly at first, then more rapidly. At last he poured out with breathless, incoherent speed the strange story of the Armageddon vision, the hopes that were in him, the fierce enthusiasm, the passionate love for Ireland which burnt in his soul. He was not conscious of the gaping inconsequences of his train of emotion. He did not recognise how ridiculous it was to connect the Boer War with the Apocalyptic battle of the saints, or the utter impossibility of getting either one or the other into any sort of relation with the existing condition of Ireland.

A casual observer might have supposed that Hyacinth had made a mistake in telling his story to Father Moran. A smile, threatening actual laughter, hovered visibly round the priest's mouth. His eyes had a shrewd, searching expression, difficult to interpret. Still, he listened to the rhapsody without interrupting it, till Hyacinth stopped abruptly, smitten with sudden self-consciousness, terrified of imminent ridicule. Nor were the priest's first words reassuring.

'I wouldn't say now, Hyacinth Conneally, but there might be the makings of a fine man in you yet.'

'I might have known,' said Hyacinth angrily, 'that you'd laugh at me. I was a fool to tell you at all. But I'm in earnest about what I'm going to do. Whatever you may think about the rest, there's no laughing at that.'

'Well, you're just wrong then, for I wasn't laughing nor meaning to laugh at all. God forbid that I should laugh at you, and I meant it when I said that there was the makings of a fine man in you. Laugh at you! It's little you know me. Listen now, till I tell you something; but don't you be repeating it. This must be between you and me, and go no further. I was very much of your way of thinking myself once.'

Hyacinth gazed at him in astonishment. The thought of Father Moran, elderly, rotund, kindly; of Father Moran with sugar-stick in his pocket for the school-children and a quaint jest on his lips for their mothers; of Father Moran in his ruffled silk hat and shabby black coat and baggy trousers—of this Father Moran mounted and armed, facing the British infantry in South Africa, was wholly grotesque. He laughed aloud.

'It's yourself that has the bad manners to be laughing now,' said the priest. 'But small blame to you if it was out to the Boers I was thinking of going. The gray goose out there on the road might laugh—and she's the solemnest mortal I know—at the notion of me charging along with maybe a pike in my hand, and the few gray hairs that's left on the sides of my head blowing about in the breeze I'd make as I went prancing to and fro. But that's not what I meant when I said that once upon a time I was something of your way of thinking. And sure enough I was, but it's a long time ago now.'

He sighed, and for a minute or two he said no more. Hyacinth began to wonder what he meant, and whether the promised confidence would be forthcoming at all. Then the priest went on:

'When I was a young man—and it's hard for you to think it, but I was a fine young man; never a better lad at the hurling than I was, me that's a doddering old soggarth now—when I was a boy, as I'm telling you, there was a deal of going to and fro in the country and meetings at night, and drillings too, and plenty of talk of a rising—no less. Little good came of it that ever I saw, but I'm not blaming the men that was in it. They were good men, Hyacinth Conneally—men that would have given the souls out of their bodies for the sake of Ireland. They would, sure, for they loved Ireland well. But I had my own share in the doings. Of course, it was before ever there was a word of my being a priest. That came after. Thanks be to God for His mercies'—the old man crossed himself reverently—'He kept me from harm and the sin that might have been laid on me. But in those days there were great thoughts in me, just as there are in you to-day. Faith! I'm of opinion that my thoughts were greater than yours, for I was all for fighting here in Ireland, for the Poor Old Woman herself, and it's out to some foreign war you'd be going to fight for people that's not friends of yours by so much as one heart's drop. Still, the feeling in you is the same as the feeling that was in me, not a doubt of it. But, indeed, so far as I'm concerned, it's over and gone. I haven't spoken to a mortal soul about such things these thirty years, and I wouldn't be doing it now only just to show you that I'm the last man in Ireland that would laugh at you for what you've told me.'

'I'm glad I told you what's in my heart,' said Hyacinth; 'I'd like to think I had your blessing with me when I go.'

'Well, you won't get it,' said Father Moran, 'so I tell you straight. I'll give you no blessing when you're going away out of the country, just when there's need of every man in it. I tell you this—and you'll remember that I know what I'm talking about—it's not men that 'll fight who will help Ireland to-day, but men that will work.'

'Work!' said Hyacinth—'work! What work is there for a man like me to do in Ireland?'

'Don't I offer you the chance of buying Thady Durkan's boat? Isn't there work enough for any man in her?'

'But that's not the sort of work I ought to be doing. What good would it be to anyone but myself? What good would it be to Ireland if I caught boatloads of mackerel?'

'Don't be making light of the mackerel, now. He's a good fish if you get him fresh, and split him down and fry him with a lump of butter in the pan. There's worse fish than the mackerel, as you'll discover if you go to South Africa, and find yourself living on a bit of some ancient tough beast of an ostrich, or whatever it may happen to be that they eat out there.'

In his exalted mood Hyacinth felt insulted at the praise of the mackerel and the laughter in the priest's eyes when he suggested a dinner off ostrich. He held out his hand, and said good-bye.

'Wait, now—wait,' said the priest; 'don't be in such a tearing hurry. I'll talk as serious as you like, and not hurt your feelings, if you'll stay for a minute or two. Listen, now. Isn't the language dying on the people's lips? They're talking the English, more and more of them every day; and don't you know as well as I do that when they lose their Irish they'll lose half the good that's in them? What sort will the next generation of our people be, with their own language gone from them, and their Irish ways forgotten, and all the old tales and songs and tunes perished away like the froth of the waves that the storm blew up across the fields the night your father died? I'll tell you what they'll be—just sham Englishmen. And the Lord knows the real thing is not the best kind of man in the world, but the copy of an Englishman! sure, that's the poorest creature to be found anywhere on the face of God's good earth. And that's what we'll be, when the Irish is gone from us. Wouldn't there be work enough for you to do, now, if you were to buy Thady Durkan's boat, and stay here and help to keep the people to the old tongue and the old ways?'

Hyacinth shook his head. His mood was altogether too heroic to allow him to think highly of what the priest said to him. He loved the Irish language as his native speech—loved it, too, as a symbol, and something more, perhaps—as an expression of the nationality of Ireland. But it did not seem to him to be a very essential thing, and to spend his life talking it and persuading other people to talk it was an obscure kind of patriotism which made no strong appeal to him—which, indeed, could not stand compared to the glory of drawing the sword.

'You've listened to what I've told you, Father Moran, and you say that you understand what I feel, but I don't think you really do, or else you wouldn't fancy that I could be satisfied to stay here. What is it you ask of me? To spend my time fishing and talking Irish and dancing jigs. Ah! it's well enough I'd like to do it. Don't think that such a life wouldn't be pleasant to me. It would be too pleasant. That's what's the matter with it. It's a temptation, and not a duty, that you're setting before me.'

'Maybe it is now—maybe it is. And if it's that way you think of it, you're right enough to say no to me. But for all that I understand you well enough. Who's this now coming up to the house to see me?' He went over to the window and looked out. 'Isn't it a queer life a priest lives in a place like this, with never a minute of quiet peace from morning to night but somebody will be coming interrupting and destroying it? First it's you, Hyacinth Conneally—not that I grudge the time to you when you're going off so soon—and now it's Michael Kavanagh. Indeed, he's a decent man too, like yourself. Come in, Michael—come in. Don't be standing there pulling at the old door-bell. You know as well as myself it's broken these two years. It's heartbroken the thing is ever since that congested engineer put up the electric bell for me, and little use that was, seeing that Biddy O'Halloran—that's my housekeeper, Mr. Conneally; you remember her—poured a jug of hot water into its inside the way it wouldn't annoy her with ringing so loud. And why the noise of it vexed her I couldn't say, for she's as deaf as a post every time I speak to her. Ah, you're there, Michael, are you? Now, what do you want?'

A young farmer, black-haired, tall and straight, stood in the doorway with his hat in his hand. He had brought a paper for Father Moran's signature. It related to a bull which the Congested Districts Board proposed to lend to the parish, and of which Kavanagh had been chosen to be custodian. A long conversation followed, conducted in Irish. The newly-erected habitation for the animal was discussed; then the best method of bringing him home from Clifden Station; then the kind of beast he was likely to turn out to be, and the suitability of particular breeds of cattle to the coarse, brine-soaked land of Carrowkeel. Kavanagh related a fearful tale of a lot of 'foreign 'fowls which had been planted in the neighbourhood by the Board. They were particularly nice to look at, and settings of their eggs were eagerly booked long beforehand. Then one by one they sickened and died. Some people thought they died out of spite, being angered at the way they had been treated in the train. Kavanagh himself did not think so badly of them. He was of opinion that their spirits were desolated in them with the way the rain came through the roof of their house, and that their feet got sore with walking on the unaccustomed sea-sand. However their death was to be explained, he hoped that the bull would turn out to be hardier. Father Moran, on his part, hoped that the roof of the bull's house would turn out to be sounder. In the end the paper was signed, and Kavanagh departed.

'Now, there,' said the priest, 'is a fine young man. Only for him, I don't know how I'd get on in the parish at all. He's got a head on his shoulders, and a notion of improving himself and his neighbours, and it would do you good to see him dance a jig. But why need I tell you that when you've seen him yourself? He is to be the secretary of the Gaelic League when we get a branch of it started in Carrowkeel. And a good secretary he'll make, for his heart will be in the work. I dare say, now, you've heard of the League when you were up in Dublin. Well, you'll hear more of it. By the time you're back here again—— Now, don't be saying that you'll not come back. I'll give you a year to get sick of fighting for the Boers, and then there'll be a hunger on you for the old place that will bring you back to it in spite of yourself.'

'Good-bye, Father Moran. Whatever happens to me, I'll not forget Carrowkeel nor you either. You've been good to me, and if I don't take your advice and stay where I am, it's not through want of gratitude.'

The priest wrung his hand.

'You'll come back. It may be after I'm dead and gone, but back you'll come. Here or somewhere else in the old country you'll spend your days working for Ireland, because you'll have learnt that working is better than fighting.'



CHAPTER X

When Hyacinth got back to Dublin about the middle of February, the streets were gay with amateur warriors. The fever for volunteering, which laid hold on the middle classes after the series of regrettable incidents of the winter, raged violently among the Irish Loyalists. Nowhere were the recruiting officers more fervently besieged than in Dublin. Youthful squireens who boasted of being admirable snipe shots, and possessed a knowledge of all that pertained to horses, struggled with prim youths out of banks for the privilege of serving as troopers. The sons of plump graziers in the West made up parties with footmen out of their landlords' mansions, and arrived in Dublin hopeful of enlistment. Light-hearted undergraduates of Trinity, drapers' assistants of dubious character, and the crowd of nondescripts whose time is spent in preparing for examinations which they fail to pass, leaped at the opportunity of winning glory and perhaps wealth in South Africa. Those who were fortunate enough to be selected were sent to the Curragh to be broken in to their new profession. They were clothed, to their own intense delight, in that peculiar shade of yellow which is supposed to be a help to the soldier in his efforts not to be shot. Their legs were screwed into putties and breeches incredibly tight round the knees, which expanded rapidly higher up, and hung round their hips in voluminous folds. Their jackets were covered with a multiplicity of quaint little pockets, sewed on in unexpected places, and each provided with a flap which buttoned over it. The name of the artist who designed this costume has perished, nor does there remain any written record of the use which these tightly-secured pocket-covers were supposed to serve. Augusta Goold suggested that perhaps they were meant to prevent the troopers' money from falling out in the event of any commanding officer ordering his men to receive the enemy standing on their heads.' In the light of the intelligence displayed by the English Generals up to the present,' she said, 'the War Office is quite right to be prepared for such a thing happening.'

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