It seemed possible to procure almost any amount of leave from the Curragh, and the yeomen delighted to spend it in promenading the fashionable streets of the metropolis. The tea-shops reaped a rich harvest from the regal way in which they treated their female relatives and friends. Indeed, their presence must have seriously disorganized the occupations by which young women earn their living. It was difficult to imagine that the sick in the hospitals could have been properly looked after, or the letters of solicitors typewritten, so great was the number of damsels who attached themselves to these attractive heroes. The philosophic observer found another curious subject for speculation in the fact that this parade of military splendour took place in a city whose population sympathized intensely with the Boer cause, and was accustomed to receive the news of a British defeat with delight. The Dublin artisan viewed the yeomen much as the French in Paris must have looked upon the allied troops who entered their city after Waterloo. The very name by which they were called had an anti-national sound, and suggested the performance of other amateur horse-soldiers in Wexford a century earlier.
The little band whose writings filled the pages of the Croppy were more than anyone else enraged at the flaunting of Imperialism in their streets. They had rejoiced quite openly after Christmas, and called attention every week in prose and poetry to the moribund condition of the British Empire, even boasting as if they themselves had borne a part in its humiliation. They were still in a position to assert that the Boers were victorious, and that the volunteers were likely to do no more than exhaust the prison accommodation at Pretoria. They could and did compose biting jests, but their very bitterness witnessed to a deep disappointment. It was not possible to deny that the despised English garrison in Ireland was displaying a wholly unlooked-for spirit. No one could have expected that West Britons and 'Seonini' would have wanted to fight. Very likely, when the time came, they would run away; but in the meanwhile here they were, swaggering through the streets of Dublin, outward and visible signs of a force in the country hostile to the hopes of the Croppy, a force that some day Republican Ireland would have to reckon with.
Augusta Goold herself was more tolerant and more philosophic than her friends. She looked at the yeomen with a certain admiration. Their exuberant youthfulness, their strutting, and their obvious belief in themselves, made a strong appeal to her imagination.
'Look at that young man,' she said to Hyacinth, pointing out a volunteer who passed them in the street. 'I happen to know who he is. In fact, I knew his people very well indeed at one time, and spent a fortnight with them once when that young man was a toddler, and sometimes sat on my knee—at least, he may have sat on my knee. There were a good many children, and at this distance of time I can't be certain which of them it was that used to worry me most during the hour before dinner. The father is a landlord in the North, and comes of a fine old family. He's a strong Protestant, and English, of course, in all his sympathies. Well, a hundred years or so ago that boy's great-grandfather was swaggering about these same streets in a uniform, just as his descendant is doing now. He helped to drag a cannon into the Phoenix Park one day with a large placard tied over its muzzle—"Our rights or——" Who do you think he was threatening? Just the same England that this boy is so keen to fight for to-day!'
'Ah,' said Hyacinth, 'you are thinking of the volunteer movement of 1780.'
'Afterwards,' she went on, 'he was one of the incorruptibles. You'll see his name on Jonah Barrington's red list. He stood out to the last against the Union, wouldn't be bribed, and fought two duels with Castlereagh's bravoes. The curious thing is that the present man is quite proud of that ancestor in a queer, inconsistent sort of way. Says the only mark of distinction his family can boast of is that they didn't get a Union peerage. Strange, isn't it?'
'It is strange,' said Hyacinth. 'The Irish gentry of 1782 were men to be proud of; yet look at their descendants to-day.'
'It is very sad. Do you know, I sometimes think that Ireland will never get her freedom till those men take it for her. Almost every struggle that Ireland ever made was captained by her aristocracy. Think of the Geraldines and the O'Neills. Think of Sarsfield and the Wild Geese. Think of the men who wrenched a measure of independence from England in 1782. Think of Lord Edward and Smith O'Brien. No, we may talk and write and agitate, but we'll do nothing till we get the old families with us.'
Hyacinth laughed. It seemed to him that Miss Goold was deliberately talking nonsense, rejoicing in a paradox.
'We are likely to wait, if we wait for them. Look at those.' He waved his hand towards a group of yeomen who were chatting at the street corner. 'They are going to stamp out a nation in South Africa. Is it likely that they will create one here?'
'It is not likely'—she sighed as she spoke—'yet stranger things than that have happened. Have you ever considered what the present English policy in Ireland really is? Do you understand that they are trying to keep us quiet by bribing the priests? They think that the Protestants are powerless, or that they will be loyal no matter what happens. But think: These Protestants have been accustomed for generations to regard themselves as a superior race. They conceive themselves to have a natural right to govern. Now they are being snubbed and insulted. There isn't an English official from their Lord Lieutenant down but thinks he is quite safe in ignoring the Protestants, and is only anxious to make himself agreeable to the priests. That's the beginning. Very soon they'll be bullied as well as snubbed. They will stand a good deal of it, because, like most strong people, they are very stupid and slow at understanding; but do you suppose they will always stand it?'
'They're English, and not Irish,' said Hyacinth. 'I suppose they like what their own people do.'
'It's a lie. They are not English, though they say it themselves. In the end they will find out that they are Irish. Some day a last insult, a particularly barefaced robbery, or an intolerable oppression, will awake them. Then they'll turn on the people that betrayed them. They will discover that Ireland—their Ireland—isn't meant to be a cabbage-garden for Manchester, nor yet a creche for sucking priests. Ah! it will be good to be alive when they find themselves. We shall be within reach of the freedom of Ireland then.'
Hyacinth was amazed at her vehement admiration for the class she was accustomed to anathematize. He turned her words over and over in his mind. They recalled, as so many different things seemed to do, his father's vision of an Armageddon. Amid the confusion of Irish politics this thought of a Protestant and aristocratic revolt was strangely attractive; only it seemed to be wholly impossible. He bewildered himself in the effort to arrange the pieces of the game into some reasonable order. What was to be thought of a priesthood who, contrary to all the traditions of their Church, had nursed a revolution against the rights of property? or of a people, amazingly quick of apprehension, idealistic of temperament, who time after time submitted themselves blindfold to the tyranny of a single leader, worshipped a man, and asked no questions about his policy? How was he to place an aristocracy who refused to lead, and persisted in whining about their wrongs to the inattentive shopkeepers of English towns, gentlemen not wanting in honour and spirit courting a contemptuous bourgeoisie with ridiculous flatteries? In what reasonable scheme of things was it possible to place Protestants, blatant in their boasts about liberty, who hugged subjection to a power which deliberately fostered the growth of an ecclesiastical tyranny? Where amid this crazy dance of self-contradictory fanatics and fools was a sane man to find a place on which to stand? How, above all, was Ireland, a nation, to evolve itself?
He turned with relief from these perplexities to the work that lay before him. However a man might worry and befog himself over the confused issues of politics, it was at all events a straightforward and simple matter to fight, and Hyacinth was going to the front as the eleventh Irish volunteer.
To do Miss Goold justice, she had been extremely unwilling to enrol him, and had refused to take a penny of his money. Her conscience, such as it was after years of patriotic endeavour, rebelled against committing a young man whom she really liked to the companionship of the men she had enlisted and the care of their commander, Captain Albert Quinn.
This gentleman, whom she daily expected in Dublin, belonged to County Mayo. He represented himself as a member of an ancient but impoverished family, boasted of his military experience, and professed to be profoundly skilled in all matters relating to horses. Miss Goold's inquiries elicited the fact that he held an undefined position under his brother, a respectable manufacturer of woollen goods. His military experience had been gathered during the few months he held a commission in the militia battalion of the Connaught Rangers, an honourable position which he had resigned because his brother officers persistently misunderstood his methods of winning money at cards. No one, however, was found to deny that he really did possess a wonderful knowledge of horses. The worst that Miss Goold's correspondents could suggest with regard to this third qualification was that he knew too much. None of these drawbacks to the Captain—he had assumed the title when he accepted the command of the volunteers—weighed with Miss Goold. Indeed, she admitted to Mary O'Dwyer, in a moment of frankness, that if her men weren't more or less blackguards she couldn't expect them to go out to South Africa. She did not speak equally plainly to Hyacinth. She recollected that he had displayed a very inconvenient kind of morality when she first knew him, and she believed him quite capable of breaking away from her influence altogether if he discovered the kind of men she was willing to work with.
She did her best to persuade him to give up the idea of joining the force, by pointing out to him that he was quite unfitted for the work that would have to be done.
'You know nothing about horses,' she said. 'I don't suppose you've ever been on the back of one.'
Hyacinth admitted that this was true. The inhabitants of Carrowkeel rarely ride their shaggy ponies, and when they do it is sitting sideways just above the creatures' tails, with two creels for turf or seaweed in the place where the saddle ought to be.
'And I don't suppose you know much about shooting?'
Hyacinth was depressed, for he had never pulled a trigger in his life. In the West of Ireland a man is not allowed to possess a gun unless a resident magistrate will certify to his loyalty and harmless-ness. Therefore, the inhabitants of villages like Carrowkeel are debarred from shooting either snipe or seals, and the British Empire stands secure.
The difficulty about his horsemanship Hyacinth endeavoured to get over. He arranged with a car-driver of his acquaintance to teach him to groom and harness his horses. The man possessed two quadrupeds, which he described as 'the yellow pony' and 'the little mare.' Hyacinth began with the yellow pony, the oldest and staidest of the two. The little mare, who had a temper of her own, gave him more trouble. She disliked his way of putting the crupper under her tail, and one day, to her owner's great delight, 'rose the divil on them' when her new groom got the shaft of the car stuck through her collar.
The want of experience in shooting was more difficult to get over. Grealy owned an antiquated army rifle, which he lent to Hyacinth. It was, of course, entirely different from the Mauser, and it was impossible to get an opportunity for firing it off. However, there was some comfort to be found in handling the thing, and taking long and careful aim at a distant church spire through a window.
In the face of such enthusiasm, Miss Goold could not refuse her recruit. She talked to him freely about her plans, and was eloquent about the spirit and abilities of M. de Villeneuve, who was to take charge of her soldiers after they joined him in Paris. On the subject of Captain Quinn she was much more reticent, and she refused altogether to introduce Hyacinth to his ten fellow troopers.
'There's not the least necessity,' she said, 'for you to meet them until the time for starting comes. In fact, I may say it is safer for none of you to know each other.'
Hyacinth experienced a thrill of agreeable excitement. He felt that he was engaged in a real conspiracy.
'For fear of informers?' he asked.
'Yes. One never can be quite sure of anyone. Of course, they can every one of them give information against me. You can yourself, if you like. But no one can betray anyone else, and as long as the men are safe, it doesn't matter what happens to me.'
It was one of Miss Goold's weaknesses that she imagined herself to be an object of hatred and dread to the Government, and nothing irritated her more than a suspicion that she was not being taken seriously.
The first glimpse that Hyacinth got of the character of the men among whom he was to serve came to him through Tim Halloran. Tim was still sore from the scolding he had been given for his conduct at the Rotunda meeting, and missed no opportunity of scoffing—not, of course, publicly, but among his friends—at Miss Goold and her volunteers. Hyacinth avoided him as much as possible, but one evening he walked up against him on the narrow footway at the corner of George's Street. Halloran was delighted, and seized him by the arm.
'You're the very man I wanted to see,' he said. 'Have you heard about Doherty?'
Hyacinth knew no one called Doherty. He said so, and tried to escape, but Halloran held him fast.
'Not know Doherty! How's that? I thought you were in all dear Finola's secrets. Faith! I heard you were going out to fight for the Boers yourself. I didn't believe it, of course. You wouldn't be such a fool. But I thought you'd know that Doherty is one of the ten precious recruits, or, rather, was one of them.' He laughed loudly. 'He'll fight on the other side now, if he fights at all.'
'What do you mean>' asked Hyacinth uneasily.
He was not at all sure what view the authorities in Dublin Castle might take of recruiting for the Boer service, and Miss Goold's hints about informers recurred to his mind alarmingly. Perhaps this Doherty was an informer.
'Well,' said Halloran, 'I was in one of the police-courts this morning doing my work for the Evening Star. You know I report the police news for that rag, don't you? Well, I do. My column is called "The Doom of the Disorderly." Rather a good title that for a column of the kind! There didn't appear to be anything particular on, just a few ordinary drunks, until this fellow Doherty was brought in. I thought I recognised him, and when I heard his name I was certain of my man. He hadn't done anything very bad—assaulted a tram-conductor, or some such trifle—and would have got off with a fine. However, a military man turned up and claimed him as a deserter. His real name, it appears, is Johnston. He deserted six weeks ago from the Dublin Fusiliers.'
'How on earth did he impose on Miss Goold?' asked Hyacinth.
Halloran looked at him curiously.
'Oh, I shouldn't say he exactly imposed upon Finola. She's not precisely a fool, you know, and she has pretty accurate information about most of the people she deals with.'
Halloran shrugged his shoulders.
'My dear fellow, I don't want to shatter your ideal, but the beautiful Finola wants to work a revolution, and you can't do that sort of thing without soiling your hands. However, whether he imposed on her or not, there's no doubt about it that he was a deserter. Why, it appeared that the fool was tattooed all over the arms and chest, and the military people had a list of the designs. They had a perfectly plain case, and, indeed, Doherty made no defence.'
'What will they do with him?' said Hyacinth, still uneasy about the possibility of Doherty's volunteering information.
'I don't know,' said Halloran. 'I should think the best punishment would be to send him out to Ladysmith. I dare say the Boers would pass him in if the circumstances were explained to them. By the way, it would be rather funny if he met the other nine out there on a kopje, wouldn't it? He might take them prisoners, or they might capture him. Either way the situation would have its comic possibilities.'
Miss Goold lived that part of her life which was not spent at political meetings or in the office of the Croppy in a villa at Killiney. A house agent would have described it as a most desirable residence, standing in its own grounds, overlooking the sea. Its windows opened upon one of the best of the many beautiful views of Dublin Bay. Its half-acre of pleasure ground—attended to by a jobbing gardener once a week—was trim and flowery. Its brown gate shone with frequently renewed paint, and the drive up to the door was neatly raked. Inside Miss Goold's wants were ministered to by an eminently respectable man-servant, his wife who cooked, and a maid. The married couple were fixtures, and had been with Miss Goold since she started housekeeping. The maids varied. They never quarrelled with their mistress, but they found it impossible to live with their fellow-servants. Mr. and Mrs. Ginty were North of Ireland Protestants of the severest type. Ginty himself was a strong Orangeman, and his wife professed and enforced a strict code of morals. It did not in the least vex Miss Goold to know that her servants' quarters were decorated with portraits of the reigning family in gilt frames, or that King William III. pranced on a white charger above the kitchen range. Nor had she any objection to her butler invoking a nightly malediction on the Pope over his tumbler of whisky-and-water. Unfortunately, her maids—the first three were Roman Catholics—found that their religious convictions were outraged, and left, after stormy scenes. The red-haired Protestant from the North who followed them was indifferent to the eternal destiny of Leo XIII., but declined to be dictated to by Mrs. Ginty about the conduct of her love affairs. Miss Goold, to whom the quarrel was referred, pleaded the damsel's cause, and suggested privately that not even a policeman—she had a low opinion of the force—could be swept away from the path of respectability by a passion for so ugly a girl. Mrs. Ginty pointed out in reply that red hair and freckles were no safeguard when a flirtation is carried on after dark. There seemed no answer to this, and the maid returned indignantly to Ballymena. She was succeeded by an anaemic and wholly incompetent niece of Mrs. Ginty's, who lived in such terror of her aunt that peace settled upon the household. Miss Goold suspected that this girl did little or no work—was, in fact, wholly unfit for her position; but so long as she herself was made comfortable, it did not seem to matter who tidied away her clothes or dusted her bedroom.
Miss Goold, in fact, had so far mastered the philosophy of life as to understand that the only real use of money is to purchase comfort and freedom from minor worries. She had deliberately cut herself adrift from the social set to which she belonged by birth and education, and so had little temptation to spend her substance either in giving parties or enjoying them. The ladies who flutter round the Lord Lieutenant's hospitable court would as soon have thought of calling on a music-hall danseuse as on Miss Goold. Their husbands, brothers, and sons took liberties with her reputation in the smoking-rooms of the Kildare Street Club, and professed to be in possession of private information about her life which placed her outside the charity of even their tolerant morality. The little circle of revolutionary politicians who gathered round the Croppy were not the sort of people who gave dinner-parties; and there is, in spite of the Gospel precept, a certain awkwardness nowadays in continually asking people to dinner who cannot afford a retributive invitation. Occasionally, however, Miss Goold did entertain a few of her friends, and it was generally admitted among them that she not only provided food and drink of great excellence, but arranged the appointments of her feasts luxuriously.
On the very day after his interview with Tim Halloran Hyacinth received an invitation to dinner at the Killiney villa. Captain Quinn, the note informed him, had arrived in Dublin, and was anxious to make the acquaintance of his future comrade-in-arms. It seemed to Hyacinth, thinking over the story of Doherty, unlikely that the whole corps would be asked to meet their Captain round a dinner-table, but he hoped that some of them would be there. Their presence would reconcile him to the awkwardness of not possessing a dress-suit. Grealy, who had occasionally dined at the villa, warned him that a white shirt-front and black trousers would certainly be expected of him, and Hyacinth made an unsuccessful effort to hire garments for the night which would fit him. In the end, since it seemed absurd to purchase even a second-hand suit for a single evening, he brushed his Sunday clothes and bought a pair of patent-leather shoes.
He arrived at the platform of Westland Row Station in good time for the train he meant to catch. He was soon joined by Miss O'Dwyer, who appeared with her head and neck swathed in a fluffy shawl and the train of a silk skirt gathered in her hand. The view of several flounces of nebulous white petticoat confirmed Hyacinth in his conjecture that she was bound for Miss Goold's party. No one who could be supposed to be a member of Captain Quinn's corps appeared on the platform, and Hyacinth became painfully conscious of the shortcomings of his costume. He thought that even Miss O'Dwyer glanced at it with some contempt. He wished that, failing a dress-suit, he could have imitated the Imperial Yeomen who paraded the streets, and donned some kind of uniform. His discomfort reached a climax when Ginty received them at the door, passed Miss O'Dwyer on to the incompetent niece, and solemnly extracted the new shoes from their brown-paper parcel.
Miss Goold stood chatting to Captain Quinn when Hyacinth entered the drawing-room. She moved forward to meet him, radiant and splendid, he thought, beyond imagination. The rustle of her draperies, the faint scent that hung around her, and the glitter of the stones on her throat, bewildered him.
It was not till after he had been presented to his commander that he was able to take his eyes off her. Then, in spite of his embarrassment, he experienced surprise and disappointment. He had formed no clear idea of what he expected Captain Quinn to be like, but he had a vague mental picture of a furiously-moustachioed swashbuckler, a man of immense power and hirsute hands. Instead, there stood before him a slim, small man, clean shaved, with shiny black hair smoothly brushed. His clothes were so well cut and his linen so glossy that he seemed fittingly placed even beside the magnificent Finola. His hand, when Hyacinth shook it, seemed absurdly small, and his feet, in their neat pumps, were more like a woman's than a man's. Then, when he turned to resume his conversation with his hostess, Hyacinth was able to watch his face. He noticed the man's eyes. They were small and quick, like a bird's, and shifted rapidly, never resting long on any object. His mouth was seldom closed, and the lips, like the eyes, moved incessantly, though very slightly. There were strange lines about the cheeks and jaws, which somehow suggested that the man had seen a good deal of the evil of the world, and not altogether unwillingly. His voice was wonderfully soft and clear, and he spoke without a trace of any provincial accent.
During dinner Captain Quinn took the largest share in the conversation. It appeared that he was a man of considerable knowledge of the world. He had been a sailor in his time, and had made two voyages to Melbourne as apprentice in a large sailing-ship. His stories were interesting and humorously told; though they all dealt with experiences of his own, he never allowed himself to figure as anything of a hero. He recounted, for instance, how one night in Melbourne Docks he had run from a half-drunken Swede, armed with a knife, and had spent hours dodging round the deck of a ship and calling for help before he could get his assailant arrested. His career as an officer in the mercantile navy was cut short by a period of imprisonment in a small town in Madagascar. He did not specify his offence, but gave a vivid account of life in the gaol.
'There were twenty of us altogether,' he said—'nineteen niggers and myself. There was no nonsense about discipline or work. We just sat about all day in an open courtyard, with nothing but a big iron gate between us and liberty. All the same, there was very little chance of escape. There were always four black soldiers on guard, truculent scoundrels with curly swords. A sort of missionary man got wind of my being there, and used to come and visit me. One day he gave me a tract called "Gideon." I read the thing because I had absolutely nothing else to read. In the end it turned out an extremely useful tract, for it occurred to me that the old plan for defeating the Midianites might work with the four black soldiers. I organized the other prisoners, and divided them into three bands. We raked up a pretty fair substitute for pitchers and lamps. Then one night we played off the stratagem, and flurried the sentries to such an extent that I got clear away. I rather fancy one or two others got off, too, but I don't know. I got into a rather disagreeable tramp steamer, and volunteered as stoker. It's so difficult to get stokers in the tropics that the captain took his risks and kept me. I must say I was sorry afterwards that I hadn't stayed in the gaol.'
The story was properly appreciated by the audience, and Hyacinth began to feel a liking for the Captain.
'Do you know,' said Miss Goold, when their laughter had subsided, 'I believe I know that identical tract. I once had an evangelical aunt, a dear old lady who went about her house with a bunch of keys in a small basket. She used to give me religious literature. I never was reduced to reading it, but I distinctly remember a picture of Gideon with his mouth open waving a torch on the front page. Could it have been the same?'
'It must have been,' said the Captain. 'Mine had that picture, too. Gideon had nothing on but a sort of nightshirt with a belt to it, and only one sleeve. By the way, if you are up in tracts, perhaps you know one called "The Rock of Horeb "?'
Miss Goold shook her head.
'Ah, well,' said the Captain, after appealing to Mary O'Dwyer and Hyacinth, 'it can't be helped, but I must say I should like to meet someone who had read "The Rock of Horeb." I once sailed from Peru in an exceedingly ill-found little barque loaded with guano. We had a very dull time going through the tropics, and absolutely the only thing to read on board was the first half of "The Rook of Horeb." There were at least two pages missing. I read it until I nearly knew it off by heart, and ever since I've been trying to get a complete copy to see how it ended.'
Some of his stories dealt with more civilized life. He delighted Miss Goold with an account, not at all unfriendly, of the humours of the third battalion of the Connaught Rangers. He quoted one of Mary O'Dwyer's poems to her, and pleased Hyacinth by his enthusiastic admiration of the Connemara scenery. Good food, good wine, and a companion like Captain Quinn, gladden the heart, and the little party was very merry when Ginty deposited coffee and cigarettes and finally departed.
In Miss Goold's house it was not the custom for the ladies to desert the dinner-table by themselves. Very often the hostess was the only lady present, and she had the greatest dislike to leaving a conversation just when it was likely to become really interesting. Moreover, Miss Goold smoked, not because it was a smart or emancipated thing to do, but because she liked it, and—a curious note of femininity about her—she objected to her drawing-room smelling of tobacco.
When Ginty had disappeared, and the serious business of enjoying the food was completed, the talk of the party turned on the South African campaign and the prospects of the Irish volunteers. Captain Quinn displayed a considerable knowledge of the operations both of the Boers and the British Generals. For the latter he expressed what appeared to Hyacinth to be an exaggerated contempt, but the two ladies listened to it with evident enjoyment. He delighted Miss Goold by his extreme eagerness to be off.
'I don't see,' he said, 'why we shouldn't start to-morrow.'
'I'm afraid that's out of the question,' said Augusta Goold. 'M. de Villeneuve arranged to send me a wire when he was ready for our men, and I can't well send them sooner.'
'Ah,' said the Captain, 'but it seems to me the Frenchman is inclined to dawdle. Don't you think that if we went over it might hurry him up a bit?'
She agreed that this was possible, but represented the difficulty of keeping the men suitably employed in Paris for perhaps three weeks or a month.
'You see,' she said, 'they are all right here in Dublin, where I can keep an eye on them. Besides, they have all got some sort of employment here, and I don't have to pay them. I haven't got money enough to keep them in Paris, and they won't get anything from Dr. Leyds until you have them on board the steamer.'
Captain Quinn seemed satisfied, but later on in the evening he returned to the subject.
'I can't help feeling that it would be better for me, at all events, to go over to Paris at once. I shouldn't ask to draw any pay at present. I have enough by me to keep me going for a few weeks.'
'But what about the men? Will you come back for them?'
'No, I think that would be foolish and unnecessary. There is no use in attracting attention to our movements. We can't have a public send-off, with cheers and that sort of thing, in any case, or march through the streets like those ridiculous yeomen. Our fellows have got to slip away quietly in twos and threes. We can't tell whether we're not being watched this minute.'
There was a note of sincerity in the Captain's voice which convinced Hyacinth that he was genuinely frightened at the thought of having a policeman on his track. Miss Goold, too, looked appropriately solemn at the suggestion. As a matter of fact, the authorities in Dublin Castle did occasionally send a detective in plain clothes to walk after her. It is not conceivable that they suspected her of wanting to blow up Nelson's pillar or assassinate a judge. Probably they merely wished to exercise the members of the force, and, in the absence of any actual crime in the country, felt that no harm could come to anyone through the 'shadowing' of Miss Goold. The plan, though the authorities probably did not consider this, had the incidental advantage of gratifying the lady herself. She was perfectly acquainted with most of the officers who were put on her track, and was always in good spirits when she recognised one of them waiting for her in Westland Row Station. Captain Quinn kept a watch on her face with his sharp shifting eyes while he spoke, and he was quick to realize that he had hit on a way of flattering her.
'You are a person, Miss Goold, of whose actions the Government is bound to take cognisance. I dare say they have their suspicions of me, and if you and I are seen together in Dublin during the next week or two there will certainly be inquiries; whereas, if I go over to Paris at once, there will be no reason to watch you or anybody else.'
Augusta Goold hesitated.
'What do you say, Mr. Conneally?' she asked.
Hyacinth was puzzled at this extreme eagerness to be off. A suspicion crossed his mind that the Captain meditated some kind of treachery. He made what appeared to him to be a brilliant suggestion.
'Let me go with Captain Quinn. I can start to-morrow if necessary. I should like to see something of Paris; and you know, Miss Goold, I've plenty of money.'
He thought it likely that the Captain would object to this plan. If he meditated any kind of crooked dealing when he got to Paris, though Hyacinth failed to see any motive for treachery, he would not want to be saddled with a companion. The answer he received surprised him.
'Delightful! I shall be glad to have a friend with me. In the intervals of military preparation we can have a gay time—not too gay, of course, Miss Goold. I shall keep Mr. Conneally out of serious mischief. When we have a little spare cash we may as well enjoy ourselves. We shan't want to carry money about with us in the Transvaal. We mean to live at the expense of the English out there.'
Augusta Goold smiled almost maternally at Hyacinth.
'My dear boy,' she said, 'what seems plenty of money to you won't go very far in Paris. What is it? Let me see, you said two hundred pounds, and you want to buy your outfit out of that. Keep a little by you in case of accident.'
'Well,' said the Captain, 'that's settled. And if we are really to start to-morrow, we ought to get home to-night. Mr. Conneally may be ready to start at a moment's notice, but he must at least pack up his tooth-brush. May we see you safe back to town, Miss O'Dwyer? Remember, we shall expect a valedictory ode in the next number of the Croppy. Write us something that will go to a tune, something with a swing in it, and we'll sing it beside the camp fires on the veldt. Miss Goold'—he held out his hand as he spoke—'I'm a plain fellow'—he did not look in the least as if he thought so—'I've led too rough a life to be any good at making pretty speeches, but I'm glad I've seen you and talked to you. If I'm knocked on the head out there I shall go under satisfied, for I've met a woman fit to be a queen—a woman who is a queen, the queen of the heart of Ireland.'
It is likely that Augusta Goold, though she was certainly not a fool, was a little excited by the homage, for she refused to say good-bye, declaring that she would see the boat off next morning. It was a promise which would cost her something to keep, for the mail steamer leaves at 8 a.m., and Miss Goold was a lady who appreciated the warmth of her bed in the mornings, especially during the early days of March, when the wind is likely to be in the east.
Captain Quinn made himself very agreeable to Mary O'Dwyer during the short journey back to Dublin. At Westland Row he saw her into a cab, which he paid for. His last words were a reminder that he would expect to have her war-song, music and all, sent after him to Paris. Then he turned to Hyacinth.
'That's all right. We've done with her. It was better to pay the cab for her, else she might have scrupled about taking one, and we should have been obliged to go home with her in a beastly tram. Come along. I'm staying at the Gresham. It's always as well to go to a decent place if you have any money. You come with me, and we'll have a drink and a talk.'
There were two priests and a Bishop in earnest conference round the fire in the hall of the hotel when they entered. When he discovered that their talk was of the iniquities of the National Board of Education, and therefore likely to last beyond midnight, Captain Quinn led the way into the smoking-room, which was unoccupied. A sufficient supply of whisky and a syphon of soda-water were set before them. The Captain stretched himself in a comfortable chair, and lit his pipe.
'A fine woman, Miss Goold,' he said meditatively. Hyacinth murmured an assent.
'A very fine woman, and apparently pretty comfortably off. I wonder why on earth she does it.'
He looked at Hyacinth as if he expected some sort of explanation to be forthcoming.
'Does what?' asked Hyacinth at length.
'Oh, all this revolutionary business: the Croppy, seditious speeches, and now this rot about helping the Boers. What does she stand to gain by it? I don't suppose there's any money in the business, and a woman like that might get all the notoriety she wants in her own proper set, without stumping the country and talking rot.'
This way of looking at Augusta Goold's patriotism was new to Hyacinth, and he resented it.
'I suppose she believes in the principles she professes,' he said.
The Captain looked at him curiously, and then took a drink of his whisky-and-soda.
'Well,' he said, 'let's suppose she does. After all, her motives are nothing to us, and she's a damned fine woman, whatever she does it for.'
He drank again.
'It would have been very pleasant, now, if she would have spent the next few weeks with me in Paris. You won't mind my saying that I'd rather have had her than you, Conneally, as a companion in a little burst. However, I saw at once that it wouldn't do. Anyone with an eye in his head could tell at a glance that she wasn't that sort.'
He sighed. Hyacinth was not quite sure that he understood. The suggestion was so calmly made and reasoned on that it seemed impossible that it could be as iniquitous as it appeared.
'There's no one such an utter fool about women,' went on the Captain, 'as your respectable married man, who never does anything wrong himself. I'd heard of Miss Goold, as everybody has, and listened to discussions about her character. You know just as well as I do the sort of things they say about her.'
Hyacinth did know very well, and flared up in defence of his patroness.
'They are vile lies.'
'That's just what I'm saying. Those respectable people who tell the lies are such fools. They think that every woman who doesn't mew about at afternoon parties must be a bad one. Now, anyone with a little experience would know at once that Miss Goold—what's this the other one called her? Oh yes, Finola—that Finola may be a fool, but she's not that.'
He pulled himself together as he spoke. Evidently he plumed himself, on his experience and the faculty for judging it had brought him.
'Now, I'd just as soon have asked my sister-in-law to come to Paris with me for a fortnight as Finola. You don't know Mrs. James Quinn, I think. That's a pity. She's the most domesticated and virtuous haus-frau in the world.'
He paused, and then asked Hyacinth, 'Why are you doing it?'
Again Hyacinth was reduced by sheer surprise to a futility.
'Oh, going out to fight for the Boers. Now, don't, like a good fellow, say you're acting on principle. It's all well enough to give Finola credit for that kind of thing. She is, as we agreed, a splendid woman. But you mustn't ask me to believe in the whole corps in the same way.'
Hyacinth meditated a reply. It was clearly impossible to assert that he wanted to fight for liberty, to give his life to the cause of an oppressed nationality. It would be utterly absurd to tell the story of his father's vision, and say that he looked on the South African War as a skirmish preliminary to the Armageddon. Sitting opposite to this cynical man of the world and listening to his talk, Hyacinth came himself to disbelieve in principle. He felt that there must be some baser motive at the bottom of his desire to fight, only, for the life of him, he could not remember what it was. He could not even imagine a good reason—good in the estimation of his companion—why anyone should do so foolish a thing as go out to the Transvaal. The Captain was not at all impatient. He sat smoking quietly, until there seemed no prospect of Hyacinth answering; then he said:
'Well, if you don't want to tell me, I don't mind. Only I think you're foolish. You see, little accidents happen in these affairs. There are such things as bullets, and one of them might hit you somewhere that would matter. Then it would be my duty to send home your last words to your sorrowing relatives, and it would be easier to do that if I knew exactly what you had done. The death-bed repentance of the prodigal is always most consoling to the elder brother—much more consoling, in fact, than the prodigal's return. Now, how the deuce am I to make up a plausible repentance for you, if I don't know what you've done?'
'But I've not done anything,' said Hyacinth ineffectively.
The Captain ignored him.
'Come, now, it can't be anything very bad at your age. Have you got into a mess with a girl? Or'—he brightened up at the guess—'are you hopelessly enamoured of the beautiful Finola? That would be most suitable. The bold, bad woman sends the minstrel boy to his death, with his wild harp slung behind him. I could draw tears from the stoniest-hearted elder brother over that.'
If he could have thought of a crime at the moment, Hyacinth would probably have confessed it; but he was bewildered, and could hit on nothing better than:
'I have no elder brother—in fact, no relation of any sort.'
'Lucky man! Now, I have a perfect specimen of a brother—James Quinn, Esquire, of Ballymoy. He's a churchwarden. Think of that! If it should be your melancholy duty to send the message home to him—in case that bullet hits me, I mean—tell him——— Oh, there's no false pride about me. Fill your glass again. I don't in the least mind your knowing that I wouldn't go a step to fight for Boer or Briton either if it wasn't for a little affair connected with some horses and a cheque. You see, the War Office people sent down a perfect idiot to buy remounts for the cavalry in Galway and Mayo. He was the sort of idiot that would tempt an Archbishop to swindle him. I rather overdid it, I'm afraid, and now the matter is likely to come out.'
For all his boasted powers of observation, Captain Quinn failed to notice the disgust and alarm on Hyacinth's face.
'I stuck the fool,' he went on, 'with every old screw in the country. I got broken-winded mares from the ploughs. I collected a regular hospital of spavined, knock-kneed beasts, and he took them from me without a word at thirty pounds apiece. It would have been all right if I had gone no further. But, hang it all! I got to the end of my tether. I declare to you I don't believe there was another screw left in the whole county of Mayo, and unless I took to selling him the asses I couldn't go on. Then I heard of this plan of your friend Finola's, and I determined to make a little coup and clear. I altered a cheque. The idiot was on his way to an out-of-the-way corner of Connemara looking for mounted infantry cobs. I knew he wouldn't see his bank-book for at least a week, so I chanced it. That's the reason why I am so uncommonly anxious to get clear at once. If I once get off, it will be next door to impossible to get me back again. General Joubert will hardly give me up. I'm not the least afraid of those ridiculous policemen who walk about after Finola. But I am very much afraid of being tapped on the shoulder for reasons quite non-political. I can tell you I've been on the jump ever since yesterday, when I cashed the cheque, and I shan't feel easy till I've left France behind me. I fancy I'm safe for the present. The idiot is sure to try fifty ways of getting his accounts straight before he lights on my little cheque; and when he does, I've covered my tracks pretty well. My dear brother hasn't the slightest notion what's become of me. I dare say he'll stop making inquiries as soon as the police begin. Poor old chap! He'll feel it about the family name, and so on.'
He smiled at his own reflection in the mirror over the chimneypiece. He was evidently well satisfied with the performance he had narrated. Then at last Hyacinth found himself able to speak. Again, as when he had defeated Dr. Spenser in the college lecture-room, his own coolness surprised him.
'You're an infernal blackguard!' he said.
Captain Quinn looked at him with a surprise that was perfectly genuine. He doubted if he could have heard correctly.
'What did you say?'
'I said,' repeated Hyacinth, 'you are an infernal blackguard!'
'Did you really suppose that I would be going on this fool of an expedition if I wasn't?'
'I shall tell Miss Goold the story you have just told me. I shall tell her to-morrow morning before the boat sails.'
'Very well,' said the Captain; 'but don't suppose for a moment that you'll shock Finola. She doesn't know this particular story about me, but I expect she knows another every bit as bad, and I dare say she will regard the whole thing as a justifiable spoiling of the Egyptians. By the way '—there was a note of anxiety in his voice—'I hope you won't find it necessary to repeat anything I've said about the lady herself. That might irritate her.'
'Is it likely,' said Hyacinth, 'that I would repeat that kind of talk to any woman?'
'Quite so. I admire your attitude. Such things are entirely unfit for repetition. But seriously, now, what on earth do you expect to happen when you tell her? I'm perfectly certain that every single volunteer she's got is just as great a blackguard—your word, my dear fellow—as I am, and Finola knows it perfectly well.'
Hyacinth hesitated. The phrase in Miss Goold's letter in which she had originally described her men as blackguards recurred to his mind. He remembered the story of Doherty. His anger began to give way to a sick feeling of disgust.
'Think, now,' said the Captain: 'is it likely that you could enlist a corps of Sunday-school teachers for this kind of work? I'll give you credit for the highest motives, though I'm blest if I understand them; but how can you suppose that there is anyone else in the whole world that feels the way you feel or wants to act as you are doing?'
'I dare say you are right,' said Hyacinth feebly.
'Of course I'm right—perfectly right.'
Hyacinth tried to lift his glass of whisky-and-water to his lips, but his hand trembled, and he was obliged to put it down. Captain Quinn watched him wipe the spilt liquid off his hand, and then settle down in his chair with his head bowed and his eyes half shut.
'Sit up, man,' he said. 'It's all right. You've done nothing to be ashamed of, at all events. But look here, you ought not to come with us at all.
It's no job for a man like you. You back out of it. Don't turn up to-morrow morning. I'll explain to Finola if she's there, and if not I'll write her a letter that will set you straight with her. I'm really sorry for you, Conneally.'
Hyacinth looked up at him.
'I'm sorry I called you a blackguard,' he said. 'You're not any worse than everyone else in the world.'
'Nonsense,' said Captain Quinn. 'Don't take it like that. From your point of view you were quite right to call me a blackguard. And, mind you, there are plenty of people in the world who aren't blackguards. There's my brother, for instance. He's a bit of a prig—in fact, he's as priggish as he well can be—but he's never done anything but run straight. I don't suppose he could go crooked if he tried.'
Hyacinth got up.
'Good-night,' he said, 'and good-bye. I shan't go with you.'
'Wait a minute,' said Captain Quinn. 'I think I've done you one good turn to-night in stopping you going to South Africa. Now I'll do you another, and one at the same time to that brother of mine. I left him in a hurry. I told you that, but I don't think I mentioned that I was in his employment. He runs a woollen factory down in Mayo. I owned a share in the business once, but that went long ago, and the whole thing belongs to James now. I was a sort of clerk and general agent. I wasn't really the least use, for I never did any work. James was for ever complaining, but I'm bound to say he stuck to me. I'll give you a letter to him, and I dare say you may get the job that I've chucked. It's not much of a thing, but it may suit you for a while. Sit down till I write my letter.'
Hyacinth obeyed. Since his anger evaporated a sort of numbness had crept over his mind. He scarcely understood what was said to him. He had a vague feeling of gratitude towards Captain Quinn, and at the same time a great desire to get away and be alone. He felt that he required to adjust his mind to the new thoughts which had been crowded into it. When he received the letter he put it into his pocket, and rose again to go. The Captain saw him to the door.
'Good-bye.' Hyacinth heard him, but his voice seemed far off, and his words meaningless. 'Take my advice and run down to Ballymoy at once. Don't hang about Finola any more. She's a splendid woman, but she's not for you. If you married her you'd be perfectly miserable. Not that I think she'd ever marry you. Still, she might. Women do such odd things. If by any chance she does, you'll have to be very careful. Give her her head, and take her easy up to the jumps. Don't try to hustle her, and for God's sake don't begin sawing at her mouth. I'd very much like to be here to see you in the character of Mr. Augusta Goold.' He sighed. 'But, of course, I can't. The British Isles will be too hot for me for a while. However, who can tell what might happen if I win a good medal from old Kruger, and capture a few British Generals? I might act best man for you yet, if you'll wait a year or two.'
When Hyacinth got home to his lodgings the first object that met his eye was Grealy's ancient rifle. He tied a label round its barrel addressed to the owner. Then he packed his few belongings carefully and strapped his bag. So far he was sure of himself. He had no doubt whatever that he must leave Dublin at once. He felt that he could not endure an interview with Augusta Goold. She might blame him or might pity him. Either would be intolerable. She might even justify herself to him, might beat him into submission by sheer force of her beauty and her passion, as she had done once before. He would run no such risk. He felt that he could not sacrifice his sense of right and wrong, could not allow himself to be dragged into the moral chaos in which, it seemed to him now, Miss Goold lived. He was unconscious of any Divine leading, or even of any direct reliance on the obligations of honour. He could not himself have told why he clung with such desperate terror to his plan of escaping from his surroundings. Simply he could not do certain things or associate as a friend with people who did them. To get away from Dublin was the first necessity. For a moment it occurred to him that he might go to Dr. Henry, tell him the whole story, and ask for advice and help. But that was impossible. How could he confess the degradation of his ideal? How could he resist the inevitable reminder that he had been warned beforehand? Besides, not even now, after all that he had seen, could he accept Dr. Henry's point of view. He still believed in Ireland, still hoped to serve her, still looked for the coming of his father's captain to lead the saints to the final victory. Miss Goold had failed him, but he was not yet ready to enrol himself a citizen of England.
No, he must leave Dublin. But where to go? His lamp burnt dim and expired as he sat thinking. His fire had long ago gone out. He shivered with cold and misery, while the faint light of the dawn stole into his room. He heard the first twitter of the birds in the convent garden behind his lodging. Then came the noise of the earliest traffic, the unnaturally loud rattle of the dust-carts on their rounds. A steamer hooted far away down the river, and an early bell rang the neighbouring nuns to prayer. Hyacinth grew desperate. Could he go home, back to the fishing-boats and simple people of Carrowkeel? A great desire for the old scenes seized upon him. He fought against it with all his might. He had rejected the offer of the home life once. Now, no doubt, it would be closed against him. The boat that might have been his was sold long ago. He would not go back to confess himself a fool and a failure.
Gradually his mind worked back over the conversation in the hotel with Captain Quinn. The recollection of the latter part of it, which had meant nothing at the time, grew clear. He felt for the letter in his pocket, and drew it out. After all, why should he not offer himself to James Quinn? Ballymoy was remote enough to be a hiding-place. It was in County Mayo, the Captain had said. He had never heard of the place, and it seemed likely that no one else, except its inhabitants, knew of it either. At least, there was no reason that he could see why he should not go there. His brain refused to work any longer, either at planning or remembering. His lips formed the word Ballymoy. He repeated it again and again. He seemed to go on repeating it in the troubled sleep which came to him.
The Irish get credit, even from their enemies, for being a quick-witted, imaginative, and artistic people, yet they display astonishingly little taste or originality in their domestic architecture. In Connaught, where the Celtic genius may be supposed to have the freest opportunity for expressing itself, the towns are all exactly alike, and their resemblance consists in the absence of any beauty which can please the eye. An English country town, although the English bucolic is notoriously as stupid as an ox, has certain features of its own. So has a Swiss cottage or a French village. It is possible to represent these upon Christmas cards or the lids of chocolate-boxes without labelling them English, Swiss, or French. Any moderately well educated young lady will recognise them at once, and exclaim without hesitation, 'How truly English!' or 'How sweetly Swiss!' But no one can depict an Irish town with any hope of having it recognised unless he idealizes boldly, introducing a highly-intelligent pig, or a man in knee-breeches kissing a fancifully-attired colleen. And then, after all, he might as well have labelled it Irish at once in good plain print, and saved himself the trouble of drawing the symbolic figures.
To describe Ballymoy, therefore, mountains, rivers, and such like natural eccentricities being left out of the count, is to describe fifty other West of Ireland towns. There is a railway-station, bleak, gray, and windswept, situated, for the benefit of local car-owners, a mile and a half from the town, and the road which connects the two is execrable. There is a workhouse, in Ballymoy as everywhere else in this lost land the most prominent building. There is a convent, immense and wonderfully white, with rows and rows of staring windows and a far-seen figure of the Blessed Virgin, poised in a niche above the main door. There is a Roman Catholic church, gray-walled, gray-roofed, and unspeakably hideous, but large and, like the workhouse and the convent, obtruding itself upon the eye. It seems as if the inhabitants of the town must all of them be forced, and that at no distant date, either into religion or pauperism, just as small bodies floating in a pond are sucked into connection with one or other of the logs which lie among them. The shops in the one tortuous street block the footpaths in front of their doors with piles of empty packing-cases. The passenger is saluted, here by a buffet in the face from a waterproof coat suspended outside a draper's, there by a hot breath of whisky-laden air. Two shops out of every three are public-houses. These occupy a very beautiful position in the economic life of the town. Their profits go to build the church, to pay the priests, and to fill the coffers of the nuns. The making of the profits fills the workhouse. A little aloof stands the Protestant church, austere to look upon, expressing in all its lines a grim reproach of the people's life. Beyond it, among scanty, stooped trees, is the rectory, gray, as everything else is, wearing, like a decayed lady, the air of having lived through better days.
Such, save for one feature, is Ballymoy, as the traveller sees it, as Hyacinth Conneally saw it when he arrived there one gusty afternoon. The one unusual feature is Mr. James Quinn's woollen mill. It stands, a gaunt and indeed somewhat dilapidated building, at the bottom of the street, in the angle where the river turns sharply to flow under the bridge. The water just above the bridge is swept into a channel and forced to turn the wheel which works some primitive machinery within. In the centre of the mill's front is an archway through which carts pass into the paved square behind. Here is the weighbridge, and here great bundles of heavy-smelling fleeces are unloaded. Off the square is the office where Mr. Quinn sits, pays for the wool, and enters the weight of it in damp ledgers. Here on Saturdays two or three men and a score of girls receive their wages. The business is a peculiar one. You may bring your wool to Mr. Quinn in fleeces, just as you sheer it off the sheep's back. He will pay you for it, more or less, according to the amount of trouble you have taken with your sheep. This is the way the younger generation likes to treat its wool. If you are older, and are blessed with a wife able to card and spin, you deal differently with Mr. Quinn. For many evenings after the shearing your wife sits by the fireside with two carding-combs in her hands, and wipes off them wonderfully soft rolls of wool. Afterwards she fetches the great wheel from its nook, and you watch her pulling out an endless gray thread while she steps back and forwards across the floor. The girls watch her, too, but not, as you do, with sleepy admiration. Their emotion is amused contempt. Nevertheless, your kitchen wall is gradually decorated with bunches of great gray balls. When these have accumulated sufficiently, you take them to Mr. Quinn. A certain number of them become his property. Out of the rest he will weave what you like—coarse yellow flannel, good for bawneens, and, when it is dyed crimson, for petticoats; or blankets—not fluffy like the blankets that are bought in shops, but warm to sleep under when the winter comes; or perhaps frieze, very thick and rough, the one fabric that will resist the winter rain.
This portion of his business Mr. Quinn finds to be decreasing year by year. Fewer and fewer women care to card and spin the wool. The younger men find it more profitable to sell it at once, and to wear, instead of the old bawneens, shirts called flannel which are brought over from cotton-spinning Lancashire, and sold in the shops. The younger women think that they look prettier in gowns made artfully by the local dressmaker out of feeble materials got up to catch the eye. If now and then, for the sake of real warmth, one of them makes a petticoat of the old crimson flannel, it is kept so short that, save in very heavy rain, it can be concealed. Unfortunately, while these old-fashioned profits are vanishing, Mr. Quinn finds it very hard to increase the other branch of his business. The fabrics which he makes are good, so good that he finds it difficult to sell them in the teeth of competition. The country shops are flooded with what he calls 'shoddy.' An army of eager commercial travellers pushes showy goods on the shopkeepers and the public at half his price. Even the farmers in remote districts are beginning to acquire a taste for smartness. Some things in which he used to do a useful trade are now scarcely worth making. There is hardly any demand for the checked head-kerchiefs. The women prefer hats and bonnets, decked with cheap ribbons or artificial flowers; and these bring no trade to Mr. Quinn's mill. Still, he manages to hold on. The Lancashire people, though they have invented flannelette, cannot as yet make a passable imitation of frieze, and there is a Dublin house which buys annually all the blankets he can turn out. It is true that even there, and for the best class of customers, prices have to be cut so as to leave a bare margin of profit. Yet since there is a margin, Mr. Quinn holds on, though not very hopefully.
Hyacinth left the bulk of his luggage—a packing-case containing the books which the auctioneer had failed to dispose of in Carrowkeel—at the station, and walked into Ballymoy carrying his bag. He had little difficulty in making his way to the mill, and found the owner of it in his office. It was difficult at first to believe that James Quinn could be any relation to Captain Albert, the traveller, horse-dealer, soldier, and thief. This man was tall, though he stooped when he stood to receive his visitor. His movements were slow. His fair hair lay thin across his forehead, and was touched above the ears with gray. His blue eyes were very gentle, and had a way of looking long and steadily at what they saw. A glance at his face left the impression that life, perhaps by no very gentle means, had taught him patience.
'This letter will introduce me,' said Hyacinth; 'it is from your brother, Captain, or Mr. Albert, Quinn.'
James Quinn took the letter, and turned it over slowly. Then, without opening it, he laid it on the table in front of him. His eyes travelled from it to Hyacinth's face, and rested there. It was some time before he spoke, and then it was to correct Hyacinth upon a trivial point.
'My half-brother,' he said. 'My father married twice, and Albert is the son of his second wife. You may have noticed that he is a great deal younger than I am.'
'He looks younger, certainly,' said Hyacinth, for the other was waiting for a reply.
'Nearly twenty years younger. Albert is only just thirty.'
The exact age of the Captain was uninteresting and seemed to be beside the purpose of the visit. Hyacinth shifted his chair and fidgeted, uncertain what to do or say next.
'Albert gave you this letter to me. Is he a friend of yours?'
James Quinn looked at him again steadily. It seemed—but this may have been fancy—that there was a kindlier expression in his eyes after the emphatio repudiation of friendship with Albert. At length he took up the letter, and read it through slowly.
'Why did my brother give you this letter?'
The question was a puzzling one. Hyacinth had never thought of trying to understand the Captain's motives. Then the conversation in the hotel recurred to him.
'He said that he wanted to do a good turn to me and to you also.'
'What had you done for him?'
Apparently James Quinn was not in the least vexed at the brevity of the answers he received, or disturbed because his cross-examination was obviously disagreeable to Hyacinth.
'In this letter,' he went on, referring to the document as he spoke, 'he describes you as a young man who is "certainly honest, probably religious, and possibly intelligent." I presume you know my brother, and if you do, you may be surprised to hear that I am quite prepared to take his word for all this. I have very seldom known Albert to tell me lies, and I don't know why he should want to deceive me in this case. Still, I am a little puzzled to account for his giving you the letter. Can you add nothing in the way of explanation to what you have said?'
'I don't know that I can,' said Hyacinth.
'Will you tell me how you met my brother, and what he is doing now, or where he is?'
'I do not think I should be justified in doing so.'
'Ah, well! I can understand that in certain circumstances Albert would be very grateful to a man who would hold his tongue. He might be quite willing to do you a good turn if you undertook to answer no questions about him.'
He smiled as he spoke, a little grimly, but there was laughter lurking in the corners of his eyes. A Puritan will sometimes smile in such a way at the thought of a sinful situation, too solemn to be laughed at openly, but appealing to a not entirely atrophied sense of humour. Hyacinth felt reassured.
'Indeed,' he said, 'I made no promise of silence. It is only that—well, I don't think——'
James Quinn waited patiently for the conclusion of the sentence, but Hyacinth never arrived at it.
'In this letter,' he said at last, 'my brother asks me to give you the place he lately held in my business. Now, I don't want to press you to say anything you don't want to, but before we go further I must ask you this, Were you implicated in the affair yourself?'
'I beg your pardon. I don't quite understand what you mean.'
'Well, I suppose that since my brother is anxious that you should hold your tongue, he has done something that won't bear talking about. Were you implicated in—in whatever the trouble was?'
'Certainly not,' said Hyacinth. 'In fact, it was on account of what you speak of as "trouble" that I declined to have anything more to do with your brother.'
'That is probably very much to your credit, and, in the light of my brother's estimate of your character, I may say that I entirely believe what you say. Am I to understand that you are an applicant for the post in my business which Albert held, and which this letter tells me I may consider vacant?'
'That is what brought me down here,' said Hyacinth.
'Have you any other recommendations or testimonials as to character to show me?'
'No. But there are several people who would answer questions about me if you wrote to them: Dr. Henry, of Trinity College, would, or Miss Augusta Goold, or Father Moran, of Carrowkeel, in County Galway.'
'You have given me the most remarkable list of references I ever came across in my life. I don't suppose anyone ever before was recommended for a post by a Protestant divinity professor, a notoriously violent political agitator, a Roman Catholic priest, and a—well, we won't describe my brother. How do you come to be mixed up with all these people? Who are you?'
'I am the son of AEneas Conneally, Rector of Carrowkeel, who died last Christmas.'
'Well,' said James Quinn, 'I suppose if all these people are prepared to recommend you, your character must be all right. Now, tell me, do you know what the post is you are applying for?'
'No,' said Hyacinth. 'And I may as well say that I have had no experience or business training whatever.'
'So I should suppose from the way you have come to me. Well, my brother was clerk and traveller for my business. He was supposed to help me to keep accounts and to push the sale of my goods among the shopkeepers in Connaught. As a matter of fact, he never did either the one or the other. When he was at home he did nothing. When he was on the road he bought and sold horses. I paid him eighty pounds a year and his travelling expenses. I also promised him a percentage on the profits of the sales he effected. Now, do you think this work would suit you?'
'I might not be able to do it,' said Hyacinth, 'but I should very much like to be allowed to try. I can understand that I shall be very little use at first, and I am willing to work without any salary for a time, perhaps six months, until I have learned something about your business.'
'Come, now, that's a business-like offer. I'll give you a trial, if it was only for the sake of your list of references. I won't keep you six months without paying you if you turn out to be any good at all. And I think there must be something in you, for you've gone about getting this job in the queerest way I ever heard of. Would you like any time to make up your mind finally before accepting the post?'
'No,' said Hyacinth; 'I accept at once.'
They walked together through the mill, and looked at the machines and the workers. The girls smiled when Mr. Quinn stopped to speak to them, and looked with frank curiosity at Hyacinth. The three or four men who did the heavier work stopped and chatted for a few minutes when they came to them. Evidently there was no soreness or distrust here between the employer and the employed. When they had gone through the rooms where the work was going on, they climbed a staircase like a ladder, and came to the loft where the wool was stored. Hyacinth handled it as he was directed, and endeavoured to appreciate the difference between the good and the inferior qualities. They passed by an unglazed window at the back of the mill, and Mr. Quinn pointed out his own house. It stood among trees and shrubs, now for the most part bare, but giving promise of shady privacy in summertime. Long windows opened out on to a lawn stretching down to the watercourse which fed the millwheel. A gravel path skirted one side of the house leading to a bridge, and thence to a doorway in a high wall, beyond which lay the road. As they looked the door opened, and a woman with two little girls came through. They crossed the bridge, and walked up to the house.
'That is my wife,' said Mr. Quinn, 'and my two little girls.'
He stretched out between the bars of the window, and shouted to them. All three looked back. Mrs. Quinn waved her hand, and the two children shouted in reply. Then a light appeared in one of the windows, and Hyacinth caught a glimpse of a trim maid-servant pulling the curtains across it.
'We shall be having tea at half-past six,' said Mr. Quinn. 'Will you come and join us? By the way, where are you staying?'
Hyacinth accepted the invitation, and confessed that he had not as yet looked for any place to lay his head.
'Ah! Better go to the hotel for to-night. It's not much of a place, but you will have to learn to put up with that sort of accommodation. Tomorrow we'll try and find you some decent lodgings.'
The hotel struck even Hyacinth as of inferior quality, though it boasted great things in the timetable advertisements, and called itself 'Imperial' in large gold letters above its door. A smell of whisky and tobacco greeted him as he entered, and a waiter with a greasy coat, in answer to inquiries about a bed, sent him down a dark passage to seek a lady called Miss Sweeney at the bar. Large leather cases with broad straps and waterproof-covered baskets blocked the passage, and Hyacinth stumbled among them for some time before he discovered Miss Sweeney reading a periodical called Spicy Bits among her whisky-bottles. She was a young woman of would-be fashionable appearance, and acted apparently in the double capacity of barmaid and clerk. On hearing that Hyacinth required, not whisky, but a bedroom, she requested him to go forward to the office, indicating a glass case at the far end of the bar counter. Here he repeated his request to her through a small opening in the glass, and received her assurance, given with great condescension, that No. 42 was vacant, and, further, that there was a fire in the commercial room. A boy whom she summoned carried Hyacinth's bag to an extremely dirty and ill-furnished bedroom, and afterwards conducted him to the promised fire. Two other guests were seated at it when he entered, who, after a long stare, made room for him. Apparently there was no one else stopping in the hotel, and the whole mass of cumbrous baggage which blocked the passage to the bar must belong to them. Hyacinth realized, with a feeling of disgust which he could not account for, that these were two members of his new profession—fellow-travellers in the voyages of commerce. He gathered—for they talked loudly, without regarding his presence—that they represented two Manchester firms which were rivals in the wholesale drapery business. Very much of what they said was unintelligible to him, though the words were familiar. He knew that 'lines' could be 'quoted,' but not apparently in the same sense in which they discussed these operations, and it puzzled him to hear of muslins being 'done at one and seven-eighths.' He sat for a time wondering at the waste of money and energy involved in sending these men to remote corners of Ireland to search for customers. Then he left them, and made his way down the muddy street to Mr. Quinn's house.
The room into which he was shown was different from any he had ever seen. It was lit by a single lamp with a dull glass globe and a turf fire which burnt brightly. Two straight-backed, leather-covered chairs stood one on either side of the tiled hearth. Near one stood a little table covered with neatly-arranged books, and, rising from among them, a reading-lamp, as yet unlit. Beyond the other was a work-table strewed with reels and scissors, on which lay a child's frock and some stockings. The table was laid for tea. On it were plates piled up with floury scones, delicate beleek saucers full of butter patted thin into the shapes of shells, and jam in coloured glass dishes cased in silver filigree. A large home-baked loaf of soda bread on a wooden platter stood at one end of the table, and near it a sponge-cake. At the other end was an array of cups and saucers with silver spoons that glittered, a jug of cream, and one of milk. Two of the cups were larger than the others, and had those curious bars across them which are designed to save men from wetting their moustaches when they drink. No room and no preparation for a meal could have offered a more striking contrast to Augusta Goold's dining-room, her groups of wineglasses, multiplicity of heavy-handled knives and forks, and her candles shrouded in silk. Nor was the dainty neatness less remote from the cracked delf and huddled sordidness of his old home.
Long before Hyacinth had realized an impression of the scene before him Mrs. Quinn greeted him, and led him to the fire. Her two little girls, who lay on the hearthrug with a picture-book between them, were bidden to make room for him. When her husband appeared she bustled off, and in a minute or two she and the maid came in bringing toast and tea and hot water hissing in a silver urn.
As the evening passed Hyacinth began to realize that he had entered into a home of peace. He felt that these people were neither greatly anxious to be rich nor much afraid of being poor. They seemed in no way fretted that there were others higher in the social scale, cleverer or more brilliant than they were. He understood that they were both of them religious in a way quite different from any he had known. They neither spoke of mysteries, like his father, nor were eager about disputings, like the men who had been his fellow-students. They were living a very simple life, of which faith and a wide charity formed a part as natural as eating or sleeping. When the children's bedtime came it seemed to him a very wonderful thing that they should kneel in turns beside their father's knee and say their prayers aloud, when he, a stranger, was in the room. It seemed to him less strange, because then he had been two hours longer in the company of the Quinns, that before leaving he, too, should kneel beside his hostess and listen while his new employer repeated the familiar words of some of the old collects he had heard his father read in church.
On Sunday, the third day after his arrival in Ballymoy, Hyacinth went to church. He could hardly have avoided doing so, even if he had wanted to, for Mrs. Quinn invited him to share her pew. There was no real necessity for such hospitality, for the church was never, even under the most favourable circumstances, more than half full. The four front seats were reserved for a Mr. Stack, on whose property the town of Ballymoy stood. But this gentleman preferred to live in Surrey, and even when he came over to Ireland for the shooting rarely honoured the church with his presence. A stone tablet, bearing the name of this magnate's father, a Cork pawnbroker, who had purchased the property for a small sum under the Encumbered Estates Court Act, adorned the wall beside the pulpit. The management of the property was in the hands of a Dublin firm, so the parish was deprived of the privilege of a resident land agent. The doctor, recently appointed to the district, was a Roman Catholic of plebeian antecedents, which reduced the resident gentry of Ballymoy to the Quinns, a bank manager, and the Rector, Canon Beecher. A few farmers, Mr. Stack's gamekeeper, and the landlady of the Imperial Hotel, made up the rest of the congregation.
The service was not of a very attractive or inspiriting kind. Canon Beecher—his title was a purely honorary one, not even involving the duty of preaching in the unpretending building which, in virtue of some forgotten history, was dignified with the name of Killinacoff Cathedral—read slowly with somewhat ponderous emphasis. His thirty years in Holy Orders had slightly hardened an originally luscious Dublin brogue, but there remained a certain gentle aspiration of the d's and t's, and a tendency to omit the labial consonants altogether. He read an immense number of prayers, gathering, as it seemed to Hyacinth, the longest ones from the four corners of the Prayer-Book. At intervals he allowed himself to be interrupted with a hymn, but resumed afterwards the steady flow of supplication. The eldest Miss Beecher—the Canon had altogether two daughters and three sons—played a harmonium. The other girl and the three boys, with the assistance of an uncertain bass from Mr. Quinn, gave utterance to the congregation's praise. Hyacinth tried to join in the first hymn, which happened to be familiar to him, but quavered into silence towards the end of the second verse, discovering that the eyes of Mrs. Beecher from her pew, of the Canon from the reading-desk, of the vocal Miss Beecher and her brothers, were fixed upon him. The sermon proved to be long and uninteresting. It was about Melchizedek, and was so far appropriate to the Priest and King that it had no recognisable beginning and need not apparently have ever had an end. Perhaps no one, unless he were specially trained for the purpose, could have followed right through the quiet meander-ings of the Canon's thought. This kind of sermon, however, has the one advantage that the listener can take it up and drop it again at any point without inconvenience, and Hyacinth was able to give his attention to some sections of it. There was no attempt at eloquence or any kind of learning displayed, but he understood, as he listened, where the Quinns got their religion, or at least how their religion was kept alive. Certain very simple things were reiterated with a quiet earnestness which left no doubt that the preacher believed exactly what he said, and lived by the light of his faith.
One evening shortly afterwards Canon Beecher called upon Hyacinth. The conversation during the visit resolved itself into a kind of catechism, which, curiously enough, was quite inoffensive. The Canon learnt by degrees something of Hyacinth's past life, and his career in Trinity College. He shook his head gravely over the friendship with Augusta Goold, whom he evidently regarded as almost beyond the reach of the grace of God. Hyacinth was forced to admit, with an increasing sense of shame, that he had never signed a temperance pledge, did not read the organ of the Church Missionary Society, was not a member of a Young Men's Christian Association, or even of a Gleaners' Union. He felt, as he made each confession sorrowfully, that he was losing all hope of the Canon's friendship, and was most agreeably surprised when the interview closed with a warm invitation to a mid-day dinner at the Rectory on the following Sunday. Mrs. Quinn, who took a sort of elder sister's interest in his goings out and comings in, was delighted when she heard that he was going to the Rectory, and assured him that he would like both Mrs. Beecher and the girls. She confided afterwards to her husband that the influence of a Christian home was likely to be most beneficial to the 'poor boy.'
The Rectory displayed none of the signs of easy comfort which had charmed Hyacinth in the Quinns' house. The floor of the square hall was covered with a cheap, well-worn oilcloth. Its walls were damp-stained, and the only furniture consisted of a wooden chair and a somewhat rickety table. In the middle of the wall hung a large olive-green card with silver lettering. 'Christ is the unseen Guest in this house,' Hyacinth read, 'the Sharer in every pleasure, the Listener to every conversation.' A fortnight before, he would have turned with disgust from such an advertisement, but now, since he had known the Quinns and listened to the Canon's wandering sermons, he looked at it with different eyes. He felt that the words might actually express a fact, and that a family might live together as if they believed them to be true.
'Yes,' said the Canon, who had come in with him, and saw him gaze at it, 'these motto-cards are very nice. I bought several of them last time I was in Dublin, and I think I have a spare one left which I can give you if you like. It has silver letters like that one, but printed on a crimson ground.'
Evidently the design and the colouring were what struck him as noticeable. The motto itself was a commonplace of Christian living, the expression of a basal fact, quite naturally hung where it would catch the eye of chance visitors.
In the drawing-room Mrs. Beecher and her two daughters, still in their hats and gloves, stood round a turf fire. They made a place at once for Hyacinth, and one of the girls drew forward a rickety basket-work chair, covered with faded cretonne. He was formally introduced to them. Miss Beecher and Miss Elsie Beecher had both, the latter very recently, reached the dignity of young womanhood, and wore long dresses. The three boys, who were younger, were made known afterwards.
When they went into the dining-room the Canon selected the soundest of a miscellaneous collection of chairs for Hyacinth, and seated him beside Mrs. Beecher. Then the elder girl—Miss Beecher's name, he learnt, was Marion—entered in a long apron carrying a boiled leg of mutton followed by her sister with dishes of potatoes and mashed parsnips.
'You see,' said Mrs. Beecher, and there was no note of apology in her voice as she made the explanation, 'my girls are accustomed to do a good deal of the house-work. We have only one servant, and she is not very presentable when she has just cooked the dinner.'
Hyacinth glanced at Marion Beecher, who smiled at him with frank friendliness, as she took her seat beside her father. He saw suddenly that the girl was beautiful. He had not noticed this in church. There he had no opportunity of observing the subtle grace with which she moved, and the half-light left unrevealed the lustrous purity of her complexion, the radiant red and white which only the warm damp of the western seaboard can give or preserve. Her eyes he had seen even in the church, but now first he realized what unfathomable gentleness and what a wonder of frank innocence were in them. The Canon looked round the table at his children, and there was a humorous twinkle in his eye when he turned to Hyacinth and quoted:
'"Your sons shall grow up as young plants, and your daughters shall be as the polished corners of the temple."'
Perhaps nine-tenths of civilized mankind would regard five children as five misfortunes under any circumstances, as quite overwhelming when they have been showered on a man with a very small income, who is obliged to live in a remote corner of Ireland. Apparently the Canon did not look upon himself as an afflicted man at all. There was an unmistakable sincerity about the way in which he completed his quotation:
'"Lo! thus shall the man be blessed that feareth the Lord."'
It dawned on Hyacinth that quite possibly the Canon's view of the situation might be the right one. It was certainly wonderfully pleasant to see the girls move through the room, and it seemed to him that they actually realized the almost forgotten ideal of serviceable womanhood. The talk at dinner turned first on the ailments of an old woman who was accustomed to clean the church, but was now suspected of being past her work; then, by an abrupt transition, on the new hat which the bank-manager's wife had brought home from Dublin; and, finally, the connection of thought being again far from obvious, on the hymns which had been sung that morning. It was at this point that Hyacinth was included in the conversation. Marion Beecher announced that one of the hymns was a special favourite of hers, because she remembered her mother singing the younger children to sleep with it when they were babies. She caught Hyacinth looking at her while she spoke, and said to him:
'Do you sing, Mr. Conneally?'
'I do a little.'
'Oh, then you must come and help us in the choir.' 'Choir' seemed a grandiose name for the four Beechers and Mr. Quinn, but Marion, who had little experience of anything better, had no misgivings. 'I hope you sing tenor. I always long to have a tenor in my choir. Why, we might have one of Barnby's anthems at Easter, and we haven't been able to sing one since Mr. Nash left the bank.'
Hyacinth had never sung a part in his life, and could not read music, but he grew bold, and, professing to have an excellent ear, said he was willing to learn. The prospect of a long series of choir practices conducted by Marion Beecher seemed to him just then an extremely pleasant one.
After dinner, while the two girls cleared away the plates and dishes, Canon Beecher invited Hyacinth to smoke.
'I never learnt the habit myself,' he said. 'It wasn't so much the fashion in my young days as it is now, but I have no objection whatever to the smell.'
Hyacinth lit a cigarette apologetically. It seemed to him almost a wicked thing to do, but his host evidently wished him to be comfortable. Their talk after the girls had left the room turned on politics. Hyacinth's confession of his friendship with Augusta Goold had impressed the Canon, and he delivered himself of a very kindly little lecture on the duty of loyalty and the sinfulness of contention with the powers that be. His way of putting the matter neither irritated Hyacinth, like the flamboyant Imperialism of the Trinity students, nor drove him into self-assertion, like Dr. Henry's contemptuous reasonableness. Still, he felt bound to make some sort of defence of the opinions which were still his own.
'Surely,' he said, 'there must be some limit to the duty of loyalty. If a Government has no constitutional right to rule, is a man bound to be loyal toit?'
'I think,' said the Canon, 'that the question is decided for us. Is it not, Mr. Conneally? "Render unto Caesar"—you remember the verse. Even if the Government were as unconstitutional as you appear to think, it would not be more so than the Roman Government of Judaea when these words were spoken.'
Hyacinth pondered this answer. It opened up to him an entirely new way of looking at the subject, and he could see that it might be necessary for a Christian to acquiesce without an attempt at resistance in any Government which happened to exist.
He remembered other verses in the New Testament which could be quoted even more conclusively in favour of this passive obedience. Yet he felt that there must be a fallacy lurking somewhere. It was, on the face of it, an obvious absurdity to think that a man, because he happened to be a Christian, was therefore bound to submit to any form of tyranny or oppression.
'Suppose,' he said—'I only say suppose—that a Government did immoral things, that it robbed or allowed evil-disposed people to rob, would it still be right to be loyal?'
'I think so,' said the Canon quietly.
Hyacinth looked at him in astonishment.
'Do you mean to say that you yourself would be loyal under such circumstances?'
'I prefer not to discuss the question in that personal way, but the Church to which you and I belong is loyal still, although the Government has robbed us of our property and our position, and although it is now allowing our people to be robbed still further.'
'You mean by the Disestablishment and the Land Acts?'
'Yes. I think it is our great glory that our loyalty is imperishable, that it survives even such treatment as we have received and are receiving.'
'That is very beautiful,' said Hyacinth slowly. 'I see that there is a great nobility in such loyalty, although I do not even wish to share it myself. You see, I am an Irishman, and I want to see my country great and free.'
'I suppose,' said the Canon, 'that it is very natural that we should love the spot on earth in which we live. I think that I love Ireland too. But we must remember that our citizenship is in heaven, and it seems to me that any departure from the laws of the King of that country dishonours us, and even dishonours the earthly country which we call our own.'
Hyacinth said nothing. There flashed across him a recollection of Augusta Goold's hope that some final insult would one day goad the Irish Protestants into disloyalty. Clearly, if Canon Beecher was to be regarded as a type, she had no conception of the religious spirit of the Church of Ireland. But was there anyone else like this clergyman? He did not know, but he guessed that his friends the Quinns would think of the matter in somewhat the same way. It seemed to him quite possible that in scattered and remote parishes this strangely unreasonable conception of Christianity might survive. After a pause the Canon went on:
'You must not think that I do not love Ireland too. I look forward to seeing her free some day, but with the freedom of the Gospel. It will not be in my time, I know, but surely it will come to pass. Our people have still the simple faith of the early ages, and they have many very beautiful virtues. They only want the dawn of the Dayspring from on high to shine on them, and then Ireland will be once more the Island of Saints—insula sanctorum.' He dwelt tenderly on the two words. 'I do not think it will matter much then what earthly Government bears rule over us. But come, I see that you have finished your smoke, and I must go to my study to think over my sermon.'
When Hyacinth entered the drawing-room the girls surrounded him, asking him for answers to a printed list of questions. It appeared that the committee of a bazaar for some charity in which it was right to be interested had issued a sort of examination-paper, and promised a prize to the best answerer. The questions were all of one kind: 'What is the Modern Athens—the Eternal City—the City of the Tribes? Who was the Wizard of the North—the Bulwark of the Protestant Faith? The earlier names on the list presented little difficulty to Hyacinth. Marion took down his answers, whilst Elsie murmured a pleasant chorus of astonishment at his cleverness. Suddenly he came to a dead stop. 'Who was the Martyr of Melanesia?'