GENERAL JOHN REGAN
By George A. Birmingham
Copyright, 1913 By George H. Doran Company
TO CHARLES H. HAWTREY who has allowed me to offer this story to him in memory of times that were very pleasant to me. July 1913
The Irish police barrack is invariably clean, occasionally picturesque, but it is never comfortable. The living-room, in which the men spend their spare time, is furnished with rigid simplicity. There is a table, sometimes two tables, but they have iron legs. There are benches to sit on, very narrow, and these also have iron legs. Iron is, of course, harder than wood. Men who are forced to look at it and rub their legs against it at meal times are likely to obtain a stern, martial spirit. Wood, even oak, might in the long run have an enervating effect on their minds. The Government knows this, and if it were possible to have tables and benches with iron tops as well as iron legs police barracks in Ireland would be furnished with them. On the walls of the living-room are stands for arms. Here are ranged the short carbines with which, in extreme emergencies, the police shoot at the other inhabitants of Ireland. The sight of these weapons serves to remind the men that they form a military force.
Near the carbines hang a few pairs of handcuffs, unobtrusively, because no one wants to emphasize the fact that the police in Ireland have to deal with ordinary wrong doers as well as with turbulent mobs. Ornament of every kind is rigorously excluded from these rooms. It is all very well to aim at the development of the aesthetic faculty for children by putting pictures and scraggy geraniums in pots into schoolrooms. No one wants a policeman to be artistic. But the love of the beautiful breaks out occasionally, even in policemen who live in barracks. Constable Moriarty, for instance, had a passion for music. He whistled better than any man in Ballymoy, and spent much of his leisure in working up thrilling variations of popular tunes.
Being confined by the call of duty to the living-room of the barrack in Ballymoy for a whole morning, he had accomplished a series of runs and trills through which the air of "The Minstrel Boy" seemed to struggle for expression. His attention was fixed on this composition, and not at all on the newspaper which lay across his knees.
At twelve o'clock he rose from the bench on which he was sitting and allowed the newspaper to fall in a crumpled heap on the floor at his feet. He stretched himself and yawned. Then he glanced round the barrack-room with an air of weariness. Sergeant Colgan, his tunic unbuttoned, his grey flannel shirt open at the neck, dozed uncomfortably in a corner. Moriarty looked at him enviously. The sergeant was much the older man of the two, and was besides of portly figure. Sleep came easily to him under the most unpromising circumstances. Moriarty was not more than twenty four years of age. He was mentally and physically an active man. Before he went to work on "The Minstrel Boy" he had wooed sleep in vain. Even a three days' old copy of the Weekly Freeman had brought him no more than a series of stupefying yawns. If a man cannot go to sleep over a back number of a weekly paper there is no use his trying to go to sleep at all. He may as well whistle tunes.
Moriarty left the living-room in which the sergeant slept and went out to the door of the barrack. He stared across the market square. The sun shone pitilessly. Except for a fat white dog, which lay asleep in the gutter opposite the shop of Kerrigan, the butcher, no living thing was to be seen. Hot days are so rare in west of Ireland towns that the people succumb to them at once. Business, unless it happens to be market day, absolutely ceases in a town like Ballymoy when the thermometer registers anything over eighty degrees. Moriarty stretched himself again and yawned. He looked at the illustrated poster which hung on a board beside the barrack door. It proclaimed the attractiveness of service in the British army. It moved him to no interest, because he had seen it every day since he first came to Ballymoy. The gaudy uniforms depicted on it excited no envy in his mind. His own uniform was of sober colouring, but it taught him all he wanted to know about the discomfort of such clothes in hot weather. His eyes wandered from the poster and remained fixed for some time on the front of the office of the Connacht Advocate. The door was shut and the window blind was pulled down. An imaginative man might have pictured Mr. Thaddeus Gallagher, the editor, penning ferocious attacks upon landlords at his desk inside, or demonstrating, in spite of the high temperature, the desperate wickedness of all critics of the Irish Party. But Moriarty was by temperament a realist. He suspected that Thaddeus Gallagher, divested of his coat and waistcoat, was asleep, with his feet on the office table. Next to the newspaper office was the Imperial Hotel, owned and managed by Mr. Doyle. Its door was open, so that any one with sufficient energy for such activity might go in and get a drink at the bar. Moriarty gazed at the front of the hotel for a long time, so long that the glare of light reflected from its whitewashed walls brought water to his eyes. Then he turned and looked into the barrack again. Beside him, just outside the door of the living-room, hung a small framed notice, which stated that Constable Moriarty was on guard. He looked at it. Then he peeped into the living-room and satisfied himself that the sergeant was still sound asleep. It was exceedingly unlikely that Mr. Gregg, the District Inspector of the Police, would visit the barrack on such a very hot day. Moriarty buttoned his tunic, put his forage cap on his head, and stepped out of the barrack.
He crossed the square towards Doyle's Hotel. A hostile critic of the Royal Irish Constabulary—and there are such critics even of this excellent body of men—might have suspected Moriarty of adventuring in search of a drink. The great heat of the day and the extreme dulness of keeping guard over a barrack which no one ever attacks might have excused a longing for bottled porter. It would have been unfair to blame Moriarty if he had entered the bar of the hotel and wakened Mr. Doyle. But he did no more than glance through the open door. He satisfied himself that Mr. Doyle, like the sergeant and Mr. Thaddeus Gallagher, was sound asleep. Then he passed on and turned down a narrow laneway at the side of the hotel.
This led him into the yard at the back of the hotel. A man of delicate sensibilities would have shrunk from entering Mr. Doyle's yard on a hot day. It was exceedingly dirty, and there were a great many decaying things all over it, besides a manure heap in one corner and a pig-stye in another. But Constable Moriarty had no objection to bad smells. He sat down on the low wall of the pig-stye and whistled "Kathleen Mavourneen." He worked through the tune twice creditably, but without attempting variations. He was just beginning it a third time when a door at the back of the hotel opened and a girl came out. Moriarty stopped whistling and grinned at her amiably. She was a very pretty girl, but she was nearly as dirty as the yard. Her short skirt was spotted and stained from waist-band to the ragged fringe where there had once been a hem. Her boots were caked with dry mud. They were several sizes too large for her and seemed likely to fall off when she lifted her feet from the ground. A pink cotton blouse was untidily fastened at her neck with a brass safety pin. Her hair hung in a thick pig-tail down her back. In the higher ranks of society in Connacht, as elsewhere, girls are generally anxious to pose as young women at the earliest possible moment. They roll up their hair and fasten it with hairpins as soon as their mothers allow them. But girls of the peasant class in the west of Ireland put off the advance of womanhood as long as they can. Wiser than their more fashionable sisters, they dread the cares and responsibilities of adult life. Up to the age of twenty, twenty-one, or twenty-two, they still wear their hair in pig-tails and keep their skirts above their ankles.
"Is that you, Mary Ellen?" said Constable Moriarty.
The girl stood still. She was carrying a bucket full of a thick yellow liquid in her right hand. She allowed it to rest against her leg. A small portion of its contents slopped over and still further stained her skirt. She looked at Constable Moriarty out of the corners of her eyes for a moment. Then she went on again towards the pig-stye. She had large brown eyes with thick lashes. Her hair was still in a pig-tail, and her skirt was far from covering the tops of her boots; but she had a precocious understanding of the art of looking at a man out of the corners of her eyes. Moriarty was agreeably thrilled by her glance.
"Is it the pig you're going to feed?" he asked.
"It is," said Mary Ellen.
A very chivalrous man, or one trained in the conventions of what is called polite society, might have left his seat on the wall and helped the girl to carry the bucket across the yard. Moriarty did neither the one nor the other. Mary Ellen did not expect that he would. It was her business and not his to feed the pigs. Besides, the bucket was very full. That its contents should stain her dress did not matter. It would have been a much more serious thing if any of the yellow slop had trickled down Constable Moriarty's beautiful trousers.
She reached the pig-stye, lifted the bucket, and tipped the contents into a wooden trough. Constable Moriarty, still seated on the wall, watched her admiringly. Her sleeves were rolled up above the elbows. She had very well-shaped, plump, brown arms.
"There's many a man," he said, "might be glad enough to be that pig."
Mary Ellen looked up at him with an air of innocent astonishment.
"Why would he then?" she said.
"The way he'd have you bringing his dinner to him," said Moriarty.
This compliment must have been very gratifying to Mary Ellen, but she made no reply to it. She set down the empty bucket on the ground and rubbed her hands slowly on the sides of her skirt Moriarty probably felt that he had done as much as could be expected of him in the way of pretty speeches. He whistled "Kathleen Mavourneen" through once while Mary Ellen wiped her hands dry. She picked up her bucket again and turned to go away.
"Tell me this now," said Moriarty. "Did ever you have your fortune told?"
"I did not," she said.
"It's what I'm good at," said Moriarty, "is telling fortunes. There was an aunt of mine one time that was terrible skilful at it. It was her taught me."
"It's a pity she had no more sense."
"If you was to sit up on the wall beside me," said Moriarty, "and if you was to lend me the loan of your hand for one minute——"
"Get out," said Mary Ellen.
"You'd be surprised, so you would," said Moriarty, "at the things I'd tell you."
"But I won't be," said Mary Ellen, "for I've more to do than to be listening to you."
"Where's the hurry?" said Moriarty. "Sure the day's long."
The affair might have ended in a manner pleasant to Moriarty and interesting to the pig. The attraction of the occult would in all probability have overcome Mary Ellen's maidenly suspicions. She might not have sat upon the wall. She would have almost certainly have yielded her sticky hand if a sudden sound had not startled Moriarty. A motor-car hooted at the far end of the village street. Moriarty jumped off the wall.
"There's one of them motor-cars," he said, "and the fellow that's in her will be stopping at the barrack for to ask his way to somewhere. It's a curious thing, so it is, that them motor drivers never knows the way to the place they're going to, and it's always the police they ask, as if the police had nothing to do but to attend to them. I'll have to be off."
He left the yard, hurried down the narrow lane, and crossed the road to the barrack. Just as he reached it the car, a large, opulent-looking vehicle, stopped outside Doyle's Hotel. Moriarty went into the barrack and wakened the sergeant. He had a keen sense of his duty towards his superior officer. It would not have been kind or right to allow the sergeant to sleep through an event so unusual as the stopping of a handsome motor outside the door of the Imperial Hotel.
The car was a large one, but it carried only a single traveller. He was a lean, sharp-faced man, clean shaven, with very piercing hard grey eyes. He blew three blasts on the horn of his motor. Then Mr. Doyle came out of the door. He blinked irritably at the stranger. The strong sunlight affected his eyes, and the rude way in which he had been awakened from his sleep overcame for a moment the natural instinct of the hotel keeper. All hotel keepers are civil to possible guests. Otherwise they would not succeed in their business. Mr. Doyle knew this, but he scarcely realised at first that the gentleman in the motor-car might be a guest. His was not a tourist's hotel and he had been very sound asleep.
"Say," said the stranger, "are you the proprietor?"
"I am," said Doyle.
"Can I register?" said the motorist.
The word was strange to Doyle, Guests at his hotel were very few. A commercial traveller stopped a night with him occasionally, trying to push the sale of drapery goods or boots in Ballymoy. An official of a minor kind, an instructor in agriculture, or a young lady sent out to better the lot of domestic fowls, was stranded now and then in Ballymoy and therefore obliged to spend the night in Doyle's hotel. But such chance strangers merely asked for rooms and food. They did not want to "register."
"Can you what?" said Doyle.
"Register," said the stranger.
"I don't know can you," said Doyle. "This is a backward place, but you might try them at the police barrack. The sergeant's an obliging man, and if the thing can be done I wouldn't doubt but he'd do it for you."
"You don't kind of catch on to my meaning," said the stranger. "What I want is to stop a day or two in your hotel."
Doyle suddenly realised the possibilities of the situation.
"You can do that of course," he said, "and welcome. I'd be glad if we had a gentleman like yourself every day of the week."
He turned as he spoke and shouted for Mary Ellen.
"Business pretty stagnant?" said the stranger.
"You may say that. Mary Ellen, Mary Ellen! Come here, I say."
The stranger got out of his car. He looked up and down the empty street.
"Guess," he said, "since I travelled in this slumbrous old country of yours I've seen considerable stagnation, but this licks the worst I've struck yet. Your town pretty well fathoms the depths. Are the folks here alive at all?"
"They are, of course."
Doyle looked round him as he spoke. He saw a good deal that the stranger missed. Sergeant Colgan and Constable Moriarty standing well back inside the barrack door, were visible, dim figures in the shadow, keenly alert, surveying the stranger. Young Kerrigan, the butcher's son, crouched, half concealed, behind the body of a dead sheep which hung from a hook outside the door of his father's shop. He too was watching. One side of the window blind of the Connacht Eagle office was pulled aside. Thaddeus Gallagher was without doubt peering at the motor-car through a corner of the window. Three small boys were lurking among the packing cases which stood outside a shop further down the street. Doyle felt justified in repeating his statement that many of the inhabitants of Ballymoy were alive.
"There is," he said, "many a one that's alive enough, though I don't say but that business might be brighter. Mary Ellen, I say, come here."
Mary Ellen appeared at the door of the hotel. She had improved her appearance slightly by putting on an apron. But she had not found time to wash her face. This was not her fault. Washing is a serious business. In Mary Ellen's case it would have taken a long time if it were to be in the least effective. Doyle's call was urgent.
"Why didn't you come when you heard me calling you?" he said.
Mary Ellen looked at him with a gentle tolerant smile. She belonged to a race which had discovered the folly of being in a hurry about anything. She knew that Doyle was not really in a hurry, though he pretended to be.
"Amn't I coming?" she said.
Then she looked at the stranger. He, being a stranger and apparently a man of some other nation, might perhaps really be in a hurry. Such people sometimes are. But his eccentricities in no way mattered to Mary Ellen. The wisdom of the ages was hers. The Irish have it. So have eastern peoples. They will survive when the fussy races have worn themselves out. She gave the stranger one glance of half contemptuous pity and then looked at the motorcar.
"Now that you are here," said Doyle severely, "will you make yourself useful?"
Mary Ellen stared at the motor-car. Her beautiful brown eyes opened very wide. Her mouth opened slightly and expanded in a smile. A long line of the black transferred from the kitchen kettle to her cheek reached from her ear to the point of her chin. It was broken as her smile broadened and finally part of it was lost in the hollow of a dimple which appeared. Mary Ellen had never before seen so splendid a motor.
"Will you stop grinning," said Doyle, "and take the gentleman's things into the house?"
"My name," said the stranger, "is Billing, Horace P. Billing."
"Do you hear that now?" said Doyle to Mary Ellen.
She approached the motor-car cautiously, still smiling. Mr. Billing handed out two bags and then a photographic camera with tripod legs, strapped together. Doyle took one of the bags. Mary Ellen took the other. Mr. Billing himself carried the camera.
"It occurs to me," said Mr. Billing, "that this town kind of cries out to be wakened up a bit."
"I wouldn't say," said Doyle, "but it might be the better of it."
Mary Ellen turned round and looked at Mr. Billing. She felt that he was likely, if he were really bent on waking up the town, to begin with her. It did not please her to be wakened up. She looked at Mr. Billing anxiously. She wanted to know whether he were the kind of man who would be able to rouse her to unusual activity.
"Where I come from," said Mr. Billing, "I'm reckoned to hustle quite considerable. I'd rather like to try if I could get a move on your folks."'
"You can try," said Doyle. "I'd be glad if you'd try, for the place wants it."
No harm could possibly come of the effort; and it was likely to occupy Mr. Billing for several days. The prospect was gratifying to Doyle. A guest who travelled in a very large motor-car might be made to pay heavily for his rooms and his meals.
Five small boys came out of different houses up and down the street. When Mr. Billing, Doyle and Mary Ellen entered the hotel the boys drifted together towards the motor-car. They walked all round it. They peered cautiously into it. The boldest of them prodded the tyres with his fingers. The window of the office of the Connacht Eagle was opened, and Mr. Thaddeus Gallagher looked out Young Kerrigan emerged from the shelter of the body of the dead sheep and stood outside the shop. His father joined him. Both of them stared at the motor-car. Sergeant Colgan, followed by Constable Moriarty, stepped out of the police barrack and stalked majestically across the street. The sergeant frowned heavily at the small boys.
"Be off out of that, every one of yez," he said.
The small boys retreated at once. The law, in spite of all that is said to the contrary, is greatly respected in the west of Ireland. Sergeant Colgan would have made it respected anywhere. His appearance was far more impressive than that of any judge in his robes of office. Constable Moriarty, who was more than six feet high, was impressive too.
"That's a fine car," said the sergeant.
"It is," said Moriarty, "as fine a one as ever I seen."
"The man that owns it will be a high up man," said the sergeant.
"He will," said Moriarty.
The sergeant looked into the car. He gazed at the steering-wheel with interest. He glanced intelligently at the levers. His eyes rested finally on a speedometer.
"The like of that," he said, pointing it out to Moriarty, "is what I never seen before."
"I've heard of them," said Moriarty.
"There's a clock along with it," said the sergeant.
"The man that owns it," said Moriarty, "must have a power of money."
Doyle came out of the hotel. He joined the sergeant and Moriarty at the motor-car.
"Good-morning, sergeant," he said. "It's a fine day, thanks be to God. The people will only have themselves to thank if they don't get their hay saved this weather."
"What I'm after saying to Constable Moriarty," said the sergeant, "is that that's a fine car."
"You may say that," said Doyle.
"It'll be some high up gentleman that owns it," said the sergeant.
He paused. It was plainly the duty of Doyle to give some information about his guest. But Doyle remained silent.
"He'll have a power of money, whoever he is," said Moriarty.
He and the sergeant looked at Doyle and waited. Doyle still remained silent. The door of the office of the Connacht Eagle opened and Thaddeus Gallagher shambled along the street. He was a tall, grizzled man, exceedingly lean and ill-shaven. His clothes, which were shabby, hung round him in desponding folds. His appearance would have led a stranger to suppose that the Connacht Eagle was not a paying property. He greeted Sergeant Colgan and Moriarty with friendly warmth. When he had nothing else to write leading articles about he usually denounced the police, accusing them of various crimes, from the simple swearing away of the liberties of innocent men to the debauching of the morals of the young women of Ballymoy. But this civic zeal did not prevent his being on perfectly friendly terms with the members of the force. Nor did his strong writing rouse any feeling of resentment in the mind of the sergeant. He and Moriarty welcomed the editor warmly and invited him to inspect the car.
Thaddeus Gallagher looked at the car critically. He rubbed his hand along the dusty mud guard, opened and shut one of the doors, stroked the bulb of the horn cautiously, and then turned to Doyle.
"Is it the Lord-Lieutenant you have within in the hotel?" he asked.
He spoke with a fine suggestion of scorn in his voice. As a prominent local politician Thaddeus Gallagher was obliged to be contemptuous of Lords-Lieutenant. Doyle looked offended and at first made no reply. Sergeant Colgan, acting as peacemaker, spoke in a noncommittal, but soothing tone.
"It might be," he said, "it very well might be."
"It is not then," said Doyle. "Nor it's not the Chief Secretary."
"If it's not," said Gallagher, "it's some other of them fellows out of Dublin Castle."
"It's a high up gentleman surely," said Sergeant Colgan.
"And one that has money to spare," added Constable Moriarty. "It could be that he's one of the bosses of the Congested Districts Board. Them ones is well paid and has motors kept for them along with their salaries, so they tell me anyway."
Then Mary Ellen came out of the hotel. She stood at a little distance and smiled pleasantly at Constable Moriarty. Doyle turned on her.
"What is it that you want now, Mary Ellen?" he said. "Why aren't you within attending on the gentleman?"
"Sure I am," said Mary Ellen.
"You are not," said Doyle. "Don't I see you standing there grinning at Constable Moriarty?"
"He's after asking for his dinner," said Mary Ellen.
She referred of course to Mr. Billing. The suggestion that she was grinning at Moriarty was unworthy of her notice.
"And if he is," said Doyle, "why don't you give it to him?"
"What'll I give him?"
"Give him chops," said Doyle. "And if there's no chops in the house—and there may not be—run across to Kerrigan the butcher and ask him for a couple. It'll be quicker than killing a chicken; but that's what you'll have to do in the latter end if Kerrigan has no chops."
"It was only this morning," said Sergeant Colgan hopefully, "that Kerrigan killed a sheep."
Mary Ellen crossed the street towards Kerrigan's shop. Constable Moriarty winked at her as she passed. Mary Ellen was a good girl. She took no notice of the wink. The sergeant, unfortunately, did.
"Come along out of this, Constable Moriarty," he said. "Have you no duties to perform that you can afford to be standing there all day making faces at Mary Ellen? Come along now if you don't want me to report you."
Sergeant Colgan, though Gallagher insinuated evil things about him, was a man with a strict sense of propriety. He must have wanted very much to hear something more about Doyle's guest, but he marched off up the street followed by Moriarty. Doyle and Gallagher watched them until they were out of sight. Then Gallagher spoke again.
"If he isn't the Lord-Lieutenant," he said, "and if he isn't the Chief Secretary, will you tell me who he is?"
"It's my opinion," said Doyle, "that he's a Yank."
"I don't know that I've much of an opinion of Yanks," said Gallagher. "It's in my mind that the country would be better if there was fewer of them came back to us. What I say is this: What good are they? What do they do, only upset the minds of the people, teaching them to be disrespectful to the clergy and to use language the like of which decent people ought not to use?"
"It's my opinion that he is a Yank anyway," said Doyle.
Mary Ellen returned from Kerrigan's shop. She carried a small parcel, wrapped in newspaper. It contained two chops for Mr. Billing's dinner.
"Mary Ellen," said Doyle, "is it your opinion that the gentleman within is a Yank?"
"He might be," said Mary Ellen.
"Go you on in then," said Doyle, "and be cooking them chops for him. Why would you keep him waiting for his dinner and him maybe faint with the hunger?"
"And why would you say he was a Yank?" said Gallagher.
"Why would I say it? You'd say it yourself, Thady Gallagher if so be you'd heard the way he was talking. 'Is there a live man in the place at all?' says he, meaning Ballymoy. 'It's waking up you want.' says he."
"Did he? The devil take him," said Gallagher.
"'And I've a good mind to try and wake you up myself,' said he. 'I'm reckoned middling good at waking people up where I come from,' says he."
"Let him try," said Gallagher. "Let him try if it pleases him. We'll teach him."
Gallagher spoke with an impressive display of truculent self-confidence. He had at the moment no doubt whatever that he could subdue Mr. Billing or any other insolent American. His opportunity came almost at once. Mr. Billing appeared at the door of the hotel. He looked extraordinarily cool and competent. He also looked rather severe. His forehead was puckered to a frown. It seemed that he was slightly annoyed about something. Gallagher feared that his last remark might have been overheard. He shrank back a little, putting Doyle between him and Mr. Billing.
"Say," said Mr. Billing, "is there any way of getting a move on that hired girl of yours? It'll be time for breakfast to-morrow morning before she brings my lunch if some one doesn't hustle her a bit."
"Mary Ellen," shouted Doyle. "Mary Ellen, will you hurry up now and cook the gentleman's dinner?" Then he sank his voice. "She's frying the chops this minute," he said. "If you was to stand at the kitchen door you'd hear them in the pan."
Thaddeus Gallagher, reassured and confident that Mr. Billing had not overheard his threat, stepped forward and stood bowing, his hat in his hands. Wealthy Americans may be objectionable, but they are rare in the west of Ireland. Gallagher felt that he would like to know Mr. Billing. Doyle introduced him.
"This is Mr. Gallagher," he said. "Mr. Thaddeus Gallagher, J. P."
Mr. Billing bowed courteously and shook hands with Mr. Gallagher.
"Proud to meet you, sir," he said. "Proud to meet any prominent citizen of this section."
"Mr. Thady Gallagher," said Doyle, "is the proprietor of the Connacht Eagle, our principal newspaper."
The Connacht Eagle was, in fact, the only newspaper in Ballymoy. It was the only newspaper published within a radius of forty miles from Ballymoy.
It could therefore be quite truthfully called the principal one. Mr. Billing shook Thady Gallagher's hand again.
"I'm a newspaper man myself," he said. "I control two-thirds of the press in the state where I belong."
Thady Gallagher seemed greatly impressed by this statement. Doyle felt more than ever that his new guest was a man who ought to be treated with all possible consideration.
"It could be," he said, "that them chops would be ready for you now, and if you'll tell the girl what it is you'd like to drink——"
"When I've finished my lunch," said Mr. Billing, "I'd like to take a stroll round this section. There are some things I want to see. Perhaps Mr. Gallagher will come with me, if he can spare the time."
"Thady Gallagher will be pleased," said Doyle. "And as for sparing the time, he has plenty of that. You'll go with the gentleman, won't you, Thady?"
"I will, of course," said Gallagher.
"And there's no man knows the neighbourhood better," said Doyle. "There isn't one in it, man, woman, or child, that he isn't acquainted with, and anything there might be to tell about their fathers or mothers before them, Thady Gallagher is well fit to tell it to you.".
"What I'd like to be shown first," said Mr. Billing, "is the statue to the memory of General John Regan."
Doyle looked at Gallagher doubtfully. Gallagher edged away a little. He seemed inclined to take shelter again behind Doyle.
"The statue?" said Doyle.
"Statue or other memorial," said Mr. Billing.
"With regard to the statue——" said Doyle slowly.
Then he turned round and caught Gallagher by the arm.
"Speak up, Thady Gallagher," he said, "and tell the gentleman about the statue."
"With reference to the statue——" said Gallagher.
"Yes," said Mr. Billing encouragingly, "the statue to General John Regan."
"With reference to the statue of the deceased general," said Gallagher.
"What he's wanting to say," said Doyle, "is that at the present time there's no statue to the General, not in Ballymoy, anyway."
"You surprise me some," said Mr. Billing.
"It's what there ought to be," said Doyle, "and that's a fact."
"Is Ballymoy such a nursery of heroes," said Mr. Billing, "that you can afford to neglect the memory of the great General, the patriot statesman, the deliverer of Bolivia?"
"Speak up, Thady," said Doyle, "and tell the gentleman why there's no statue to the General in Ballymoy."
Gallagher cleared his throat and began to speak. At first his words came to him slowly; but as he warmed to his subject he became fluent and even eloquent.
"It's on account of the way we find ourselves situated in this country at the present time," he said. "It's not the hearts of the people that's at fault. There isn't one, not the poorest man among us, that wouldn't be willing to do honour to the memory of the great men of the past that died on the scaffold in defence of the liberty of the people. It's the cursed system of Castle Government and the tyranny of the landlords, and the way the people is driven off their farms by the rack-renting flunkeys of the rent office. How is the country to prosper, and how is statues to be erected to them that deserve statues, so long as the people isn't able to call their souls their own? But, glory be to God, it won't be so for long! We have Home Rule as good as got, and when we have it——"
Gallagher might have gone on speaking for a long time. He was a man of tried and practised eloquence. He had arrived without much effort at his favourite subject. Fragments of old speeches, glowing periods, oft-repeated perorations thronged confusedly on his memory. Mr. Billing seemed to be listening with sympathy and admiration. It might be a long time before such a favourable opportunity for making a speech came to Gallagher again. Unfortunately he was interrupted. Mary Ellen had come, unperceived, out of the hotel. She was at Mr. Billing's elbow just when Gallagher reached his prophecy about Home Rule. She spoke without the slightest regard for the orator's feelings.
"The chops is fried," she said.
Doyle had often heard his friend make speeches before. He had no wish to be subjected to unnecessary oratory on a very hot day. He supported Mary Ellen's appeal.
"It would be as well for you," he said, "to go and eat them, the way they won't be getting cold on you."
Mr. Billing saw the wisdom of this advice at once. He turned to go into the hotel. But he evidently wanted to hear more of Thady Gallagher's speech.
"When I've finished my lunch," he said, "I shall look forward to a long talk with Mr. Gallagher. I want to gather together all the local traditions which survive about the boyhood of the great General. I'm writing his biography, gentlemen. I need say no more."
"Mary Ellen," said Doyle, "whatever the gentleman fancies in the way of a drink, will you see that he gets it?"
Mary Ellen, smiling pleasantly, walked in front of Mr. Billing and conducted him to the small ill-lighted room which Doyle called the Commercial Room of his hotel. There, on a very dirty table cloth, were a knife and fork, a plate which held two chops with a quantity of grease round them, and a dish with five pallid potatoes in it. The meal was not appetising. On a very hot day it was almost repulsive. But Mr. Billing was either really hungry or he was a man of unusual determination. He sat down to his chops with a smile.
"I guess," he said, "that whisky is the drink you're most likely to have in this hotel?"
"There's porter," said Mary Ellen, "and there's minerals, and there's ginger cordial."
"If I'm here for a week," said Mr. Billing, "I'll put you wise in the matter of making cocktails. A Saratoga cocktail is a drink——"
"Is it whisky I'll bring you now?" said Mary Ellen.
She was a girl of sense and wisdom. She was no more inclined to listen to Mr. Billing's panegyric of the Saratoga cocktail than to Thady Gallagher's patriotic denunciation of the flunkeys of the rent office. Without waiting for an answer she went away and brought Mr. Billing the usual quantity of Irish whisky in the bottom of a tumbler with a bottle of soda water.
Doyle and Thady Gallagher, left alone in the street, stared at each other in silence. It was Doyle who spoke first:
"What you want, Thady," he said, "is a drop of something to drink, to revive the courage in you."
"What sort of a fellow is that at all?" said Thady hoarsely.
"A pint of porter, now," said Doyle, "or a drop of spirits. You want it this minute, and you'll want it more before, you're through with the job that you have on hand."
He led the way into the bar and provided Thady with a satisfying draught. Thady emptied the tumbler without drawing breath. Then he took his pipe from his pocket and lit it.
"Mr. Doyle," he said, "you're a man I've a liking for and always had. What's more, you're a man I respect, and it isn't everyone that I would say that to."
"The same to you," said Doyle, "and may you live long to enjoy it. Will you have another drop?"
"I don't mind if I do," said Thady.
Doyle filled up the empty tumbler. As he did so Gallagher spoke with serious deliberation.
"Seeing that you're a man I've every confidence in, I'd be glad if you'd tell me this. Who was General John Regan? For I never heard tell of him."
"It'll be better for you, Thady, to know something about him be the same more or less, before the gentleman within has finished his dinner. He'll be asking questions of you the whole of the rest of the day."
"Let him ask."
"And you'll have to be answering him, for he'll not rest contented without you do."
"There's no Regans here," said Gallagher, "and what's more there never was."
"There's no statue anyway," said Doyle, "nor there won't be."
"I don't know that there'd be any harm in a statue," said Gallagher. "What has me bothered is who the General was."
"There'll be no statue," said Doyle. "It's all very well to be talking, but the rates is too high already without an extra penny in the pound for a statue that nobody wants."
"I wouldn't be in favour of a statue myself," said Gallagher, "unless, of course, the gentleman was to pay for it himself, and he might."
"Of course if he was to pay for it, it would be different. By the look of the motor-car he came in I'd say he'd plenty of money."
The idea that Mr. Billing could pay for a statue was a pleasant one, and it was always possible that he might do so. He appeared to be very anxious that there should be a statue.
"There's some men," said Doyle hopefully, "that has no sense in the way they spend what money they've got."
Mr. Gallagher admitted with a sigh that there are such men. He himself had no money, or very little. If, as he hoped, he succeeded in becoming a Member of Parliament, he would have money, large quantities of it, a full L400 a year. He would have more sense than to spend any of it in erecting statues. Doyle, on the other hand, had money. He lent it freely, at a high rate of interest, to the other inhabitants of Ballymoy. This was his idea of the proper use of money. To spend it on works of public utility or sentimental value, struck him as very foolish.
"I'd be glad, all the same," said Gallagher, "if I knew who the General was that he's talking about."
"It could be," said Doyle hopefully, "that he was one of them ones that fought against the Government at the time of Wolfe Tone."
"He might, of course. But the gentleman was saying something about Bolivia."
"Where's that at all?" said Doyle.
Thady Gallagher did not know. Editors of newspapers are supposed to know everything and have succeeded in impressing the public with the idea that they do, but there are probably a few things about which even the ablest editor has to refer to encyclopedias; and Gallagher was not by any means at the top of his profession. The Connacht Eagle was indeed a paper which exercised a very great influence on the minds of those who read it, more influence, perhaps, than even The Times has on its subscribers. For the readers of Gallagher's leading articles and columns of news were still in that primitive stage of culture in which every statement made in print is accepted as certainly true, whereas the subscribers to The Times have been educated into an unworthy kind of scepticism. Also the readers of the Connacht Eagle read little or nothing else, while those who read The Times usually glance at one or two other papers as well, and even waste their time and unsettle their minds by dipping into books. Thus, in spite of the fact that The Times appears every day, and the Connacht Eagle only once a week, it is likely that the Irish paper exercises more real influence than the English one—produces, that is to say, more definite effect upon the opinions of men who have votes. The editor of The Times would perhaps scarcely recognise Thady Gallagher as a fellow journalist. He may know—would probably in any case be ashamed to admit that he did not know—where Bolivia is. Thady Gallagher did not know, and was prepared to confess his ignorance in private to his friend. Yet Gallagher was in reality the more important man of the two.
"I know as much about Bolivia," he said, "as I do about the General, and that's nothing at all."
"I'm glad it's you and not me," said Doyle, "that he took the fancy to go out walking with."
"I suppose now," said Gallagher, "that you wouldn't come along with us."
"I will not," said Doyle, "so you may make your mind easy about that."
"I don't see what harm it would do you."
"I've things to look after," said Doyle, "and anyway I don't fancy spending my time talking about a dead General that nobody ever heard of."
"It's what I feel myself," said Gallagher.
"You may feel it," said Doyle, "but you'll have to go with him. It was you he asked and not me."
Dr. Lucius O'Grady is the only medical man in Ballymoy. Whatever money there is to be won by the practice of the art of healing in the neighbourhood, Dr. O'Grady wins and has all to himself. Unfortunately it is not nearly sufficient for his needs. He is not married and so cannot plead a wife and family as excuses for getting into debt. But he is a man of imaginative mind with an optimistic outlook upon life. Men of this kind hardly ever live within their incomes, however large their incomes are; and Dr. O'Grady's was really small. The dullard does not want things which the man of lively imagination feels that he must have. The sour man of gloomy disposition is forever haunted by the possibility of misfortune. He hoards whatever pittance he may earn. Dr. O'Grady had good spirits and a delightful confidence in life. He spent all, and more than all he had, feeling sure that the near future held some great good fortune for him—a deadly epidemic perhaps, which would send all the people of Ballymoy flocking to his surgery, or a post under the new Insurance Act The very qualities of mind which made him improvident made him also immensely popular. Everybody liked him. Even his creditors found it hard to speak harshly to him. He owed money to Doyle; but Doyle, though as keen as any man living on getting what was due to him, refrained from hurrying Dr. O'Grady over much. He grumbled a great deal, but he allowed the account in the shop attached to the hotel to run on. He even advanced sums of hard cash when some distant creditor, a Dublin tailor, for instance, who did not appreciate the doctor's personal charm, became importunate. Between what was due in the shop for tea, sugar, whisky, tobacco, and other necessaries, and the money actually lent, Dr. O'Grady owed Doyle rather more than L60. He owed Gallagher more than L1, being five years' subscription to the Connacht Eagle. He owed a substantial sum to Kerrigan, the butcher. He owed something to every other shopkeeper in Ballymoy. The only people to whom he did not owe money were Major Kent, Mr. Gregg, the District Inspector of Police, and Mr. Ford, the stipendiary magistrate. No one could have owed money to Mr. Ford because he was a hard and suspicious man who never lent anything. Nobody could have borrowed from Mr. Gregg, because Mr. Gregg, who had just got married, had no money to lend. Major Kent had a little money and would have lent it to Dr. O'Grady, would, in fact, have given it to him without any hope of ever getting it back again, but the doctor refused to borrow from him. He had a conscientious objection to victimising his personal friends. Doyle, so he explained, lived very largely by lending money, and therefore offered himself as fair game to the impecunious borrower. The shopkeepers throve on a system of credit. They were fair game too. Major Kent was in a different case. To borrow from him was to take a mean advantage of the good nature of a simple, unprofessional man.
Major Kent and Dr. O'Grady walked into Ballymoy together at about half past two on the day of Mr. Billing's arrival. They had lunched at Portsmouth Lodge, the Major's house. Dr. O'Grady had given his opinion of a new filly which the Major had bought a few days before. It was a very unfavourable opinion, and the Major, who had the greatest confidence in the doctor's judgment, was duly depressed.
"If I were you, Major," said the doctor, "I'd sell that one at once. She's no good."
"I'd sell her fast enough," said the Major gloomily, "if I could find a buyer."
"It was L30 you gave for her in the fair?" said the doctor.
"It was; and if you're right about her she's not worth the half of it. She's not worth L12."
"I happen to know that fellow Geraghty," said the doctor. "The man who stuck you with her. He's a patient of mine. I pulled him through his last attack of d. t.'s so I know all there is to know about him. He'd stick an archangel. If he happened to be selling him a pair of wings it would turn out afterwards that the feathers were dropping out."
"If you know him," said the Major, "you know a blackguard."
"After sticking you with the filly," said the doctor, "he spent the evening drinking in the hotel."
"And the more he drank the bigger the price was that he said he got from you. When Doyle turned him out in the end he was saying that he had your cheque for L60 in his pocket. I don't suppose Doyle believed that. Nobody would. But he probably thinks you gave L40 or L45."
"All I gave was L30. But I don't see that it matters what Doyle believes."
"It does matter," said Dr. O'Grady. "If Doyle believes you gave L40 for the filly, and if you were to offer her to him for L35 he'd think he was getting a bargain and he'd jump at it. Doyle's just the kind of fool who thinks he knows all about horses and so he's quite an easy man to stick. Come on now, and we'll try."
Major Kent was in all ordinary affairs of life a strictly honourable man. But horses are not ordinary affairs. It is on record that a bishop, an Irishman and therefore intensely religious, once sold a thoroughly unsound horse to an archdeacon for a large price. The archdeacon had a high opinion of the bishop beforehand, regarding him as a saintly man of childlike simplicity. He had a much higher opinion of him after he understood the failings of the animal he had bought. He then respected the bishop for his shrewdness. Horse-dealing is a thing apart from all other buying and selling. Honesty, in the common sense of the word, does not enter into it. Therefore, Major Kent was quite ready to defraud Doyle if he could. He and Dr. O'Grady walked into Ballymoy together for the purpose.
They reached the corner of the market square and caught sight of Mr. Billing's large motor-car standing outside the hotel. Doyle and Gallagher, who had stopped drinking, were standing near it.
"If Doyle's bought that motor," said the Major, "he won't look at the filly."
"He hasn't," said the doctor. "What would he do with the motor if he had it? All the same it's queer. I don't know what it's doing there. Nobody with money enough to own a car like that could possibly be stopping at Doyle's Hotel. Come along and let's find out about it."
They hurried across the square and greeted Doyle and Gallagher.
"Whose is the big motor?" said Dr. O'Grady.
"It belongs to an American gentleman," said Doyle, "who's within in the hotel. We're waiting for him this minute. He's getting his camera, and when he has it got he's going round with Thady Gallagher to photograph the town."
Gallagher took Major Kent by the arm and drew him apart.
"Major," he said, "can you tell me who was General John Regan?"
"Never heard of him," said the Major, "but if he owns that car he must be a middling well-off man."
"Look here, Doyle," said Dr. O'Grady, "you know that filly the Major bought at the fair."
"I've heard of her," said Doyle.
"Well, as it happens," said Dr. O'Grady, "she turns out to be a bit too good for what he wants. His idea was to get something to do a bit of carting, and it turns out that this one is—well, she has breeding. Now, look here, Doyle———"
He led Doyle apart just out of earshot of the Major and Gallagher.
"I owe you a trifle, don't I, Doyle?"
"As near as I can go to it without looking at my books," said Doyle, "you owe me L60, and I'd be thankful if so be that it's quite convenient to you——"
"It isn't a bit convenient," said Dr. O'Grady, "but I quite admit that I owe the money. Now what I suggest is this. I've persuaded the Major to let you have that filly cheap, dirt cheap. It will be found money to you, Doyle, if you get her at the price the Major's going to name, and you may be able to knock a pound or two off that. Under these circumstances and seeing that I'm putting the chance in your way—it isn't everyone that could, but I'm a friend of the Major's and he trusts me—I think you ought to stop talking about the trifle I owe you. I'm sick of the subject."
"You're not near as sick of it as I am," said Doyle, "and I don't know that I want the filly."
"You do want her," said Dr. O'Grady. "You want anything that you can make money out of. Hullo! Who's that?"
Mr. Billing, carrying his camera, appeared at the door of the hotel.
"It's the American gentleman that owns the motorcar," said Doyle. "Tell me this now, doctor. Did ever you hear of General John Regan?"
"Of course I did," said Dr. O'Grady. "He's a well-known millionaire, just the sort of man to be touring the country in a big motor. Go you off now and settle with the Major about the filly. I'll entertain the General for you."
"For God's sake, doctor, be careful what you say," said Doyle in a whisper. "The General's dead this twenty years and it's a statue there ought to be to his memory. So that fellow's after saying, any way."
"Oh, all right," said Dr. O'Grady. "It's just the same thing. I'll manage. You go and settle with the Major."
He approached Mr. Billing jauntily.
"Delighted to meet you, sir," he said. "Delighted to welcome you to Ballymoy. You'll find it a most interesting locality. My name is O'Grady, Lucius O'Grady, M.D."
Mr. Billing took off his hat, laid down his camera, and shook hands with the doctor.
"Mine is Billing," he said. "Horace P. Billing. I come from America. My object in visiting Ballymoy——"
"The poor old General, of course," said Dr. O'Grady. "We thought you'd be sure to come sooner or later. Your uncle, wasn't he, or great uncle? I forget."
Mr. Billing seemed surprised, very much surprised. He dropped Dr. O'Grady's hand abruptly and stared at him. Then he recovered himself with an effort.
"I can't claim relationship with that great man," he said.
"That's a pity," said Dr. O'Grady.
"I'm his biographer," said Mr. Billing. "I'm engaged in writing the first complete life of the founder of the Bolivian Republic. I have come to Ballymoy——"
"You couldn't possibly have come to a better place."
Dr. O'Grady was not a literary man, but he had an idea that people who write books seek out quiet places in which they are not likely to be over excited while engaged in their trying work. Ballymoy seemed to him a suitable place for anyone engaged in writing a biography.
"It surprises me some," said Mr. Billing, "to find that you've no statue erected to the memory of the General. I'd have thought——"
"The matter is under discussion," said Dr. O'Grady. "Our Urban District Council is alive to its duty in the matter. At the last meeting—let me see now, was it the last meeting? Gallagher! Thady Gallagher! Come here for a minute."
Thady Gallagher, who had been acting as umpire in an animated wrangle between Doyle and Major Kent, shambled across to the door of the hotel where Dr. O'Grady and Mr. Billing were standing.
"Was it the last meeting of the Urban District Council," said Dr. O'Grady, "or was it the last but one, that you were discussing the erection of a statue to General John Regan?"
He did not venture to wink as he asked the question, but Gallagher was quite quick-witted enough to give the proper answer.
"It was the last meeting," he said.
"There was a slight difference of opinion among the members," said Dr. O'Grady, "as to the form which the memorial was to take. Some of them wanted a life-size statue in white marble. Mr. Gallagher here was more in favour of a drinking fountain. It was you who wanted the fountain wasn't it, Thady?"
"It was," said Gallagher.
"As a cheaper form of memorial," said Dr. O'Grady, "so as to spare the rates as far as possible."
"That's right," said Gallagher.
"If you will allow me to say so," said Mr. Billing, "the question of expense ought not to be allowed to stand in your way. I myself will gladly promise——"
Mr. Billing hesitated for a moment. It was not clear whether he meant to promise a handsome subscription or merely to say that he would help in collecting the necessary money. Dr. O'Grady thought it well to assume at once that a subscription had been promised.
"Good," he said, "take note of that, Thady, and announce it to the Urban District Council at the next meeting. Mr. Billing will hand over his subscription to the treasurer as soon as one is appointed. You can arrange about a proper vote of thanks being passed."
Mr. Billing seemed quite pleased at this interpretation of his unfinished sentence. He went on to make another promise.
"And I think I may safely guarantee," he said, "on behalf of the people of Bolivia——they can never forget——"
"They oughtn't to," said the doctor. "After all he did more for them than he ever did for us."
"He was born here," said Mr. Billing, "and that's something to be proud of."
"And we are proud of it. Thady Gallagher is having an article in his paper next week saying how much we appreciate the dear old General. Aren't you, Thady?"
"I am, of course," said Gallagher.
Then, lest he should be committed any further, Gallagher slipped away and joined Major Kent and Doyle. They were standing together near the motorcar in high debate as to whether the price of the filly was to be L30 or L34. The Major had abated one pound of the price he asked at first. Doyle had, so far, resisted every effort to induce him to make an advance upon his original offer. They were both enjoying themselves greatly. But Gallagher interrupted them.
"The doctor knows all about him," he said, "thanks be to God he's——"
"She's a filly," said Doyle, "and I know as much about her as the doctor does."
He had for the moment forgotten his American guest, and was thinking only of the animal which Major Kent was trying to sell him.
"It's the General I'm talking about," said Gallagher in an aggrieved tone, "and the doctor says there's to be an article on the paper about him next week. But if there is the doctor may write it himself. It'll be easy for him seeing he knows who the General was."
"He does not know any more than the rest of us," said Doyle. "Didn't he say a minute ago he was a well-known millionaire?"
"He knows now, anyway," said Gallagher, "and what's more he says that the Urban District Council has been talking about erecting a statue to him."
"Erecting a statue to who?" said the Major.
"To General John Regan, of course," said Gallagher.
"But sure there was no such talk," said Doyle, "not that I heard of, anyway."
"There was not," said Gallagher, "but there will be now; and there might have been. There's no denying that there might have been."
"Doyle," said the Major anxiously. "We must finish settling the price of the filly later on. I'm nervous, I'm confoundedly nervous about what the doctor may be doing. You never know what wild idea he may take into his head, or what he may let us all in for."
"He's all right," said Gallagher. "Don't I tell you he's arranging with the American gentleman?"
"He may be getting us all into some mess or other. You never know what the doctor will be at. He's so infernally imaginative."
Mr. Billing and Dr. O'Grady had left the door of the hotel. They were standing together in the middle of the square almost opposite the police barrack. Major Kent hurried towards them. Doyle and Gallagher followed him slowly.
"What's this talk about a statue?" said Doyle. "Didn't I tell you before that I'd agree to no statue? Isn't the rates high enough already without that? And don't I have to pay more of them than any other man in the town?"
"There'll be no addition to the rates," said Gallagher. "The way the doctor was fixing it up it'll be the American gentleman that'll pay for the statue. He's just after saying he will, and the Urban District Council is to pass a vote of thanks to him, which is what they'll be glad to do, and I'll draw it up myself."
"Of course," said Doyle, slightly mollified, "if he pays the cost of it there'll be no objection to the statue. But are you sure now that he's fit? Statues cost a deal."
"Look at the motor-car he came in," said Gallagher.
The motor seemed conclusive evidence. It was a very splendid vehicle. Doyle hurried forward. A stranger who proposed to spend large sums of money in the town deserved to be treated with every kind of politeness and respect. A statue still struck Doyle as an exceedingly useless thing; but he was not without hope that Mr. Billing might be persuaded to give his money, if he really wanted to give money, to some more sensible object.
Dr. O'Grady introduced Major Kent to Mr. Billing.
"Our principal resident gentleman," he said, "a J. P. and a strong Unionist. Gallagher, of course, is a Home Ruler. But these little political differences of opinion don't really matter. They're both equally keen on doing their duty to the memory of the great General."
"What's that?" said the Major. "What General are you talking about?"
"General John Regan," said Dr. O'Grady.
"Who? What?" said the Major.
"Don't give yourself away now, Major," said Dr. O'Grady, in a whisper. "Don't let Mr. Billing find out that you've never heard of the General. You ought to have heard of him. The Major," he said aloud, "isn't as well up in the General's history as he might be. He hasn't studied the details of his campaigns; but he quite agrees with the rest of us that there ought to be a statue to his memory."
"Dr. O'Grady has just informed me," said Mr. Billing, "that the centre of this square is the site that has been selected by your Urban District Council."
"The very spot we're standing on at the present moment," said Dr. O'Grady. "The Major has promised L5, which shows how keen he is on the project. Don't say you haven't, Major. We all know that you're a modest man, doing good by stealth and blushing to find it known. But a public subscription can't be kept secret. Sooner or later the list of subscribers will have to be published. Doyle," he looked round as he spoke and saw Doyle and Gallagher standing near him. "Doyle has promised another L5. He ought to be giving more, and I daresay he will in the end. He's a much richer man than the Major, though he doesn't look it. Gallagher is good for another pound. It doesn't sound much from a newspaper editor, but it's as much as he can afford. Half the advertisements in his paper aren't paid for at all. Father McCormack—he's the parish priest, and we haven't asked him yet, but he'll put down his name for L10 at least. He always supports every kind of good work liberally."
"Gentlemen," said Mr. Billing, "you may put me down for five hundred dollars."
Doyle and Gallagher drew pieces of paper and pencils from their pockets. They did sums rapidly, Doyle on the back of an old envelope, Gallagher on a sheet of paper already covered with shorthand notes. Dr. O'Grady worked his sum in his head. He arrived at his answer first.
"A hundred pounds!" he said. "A generous subscription!"
"It's more than a hundred," said Doyle. "What do you make it, Thady?"
"Counting 4s. 2d. to the dollar," said Gallagher, "it comes to———"
"There's a halfpenny along with that," said Doyle, "as often as not."
"Anyway," said Gallagher, "it won't be less than L104 3s. 4d."
"The Urban District Council," said Doyle, "will take a delight in passing that vote of thanks to Mr. Billing at its next meeting, and it'll be a good strong vote, won't it, Thady?"
"As strong as ever any one that was passed about the landlords," said Gallagher, "only different, of course, mighty different."
"Look here, O'Grady," said Major Kent. "What do you mean by saying that I'm going to subscribe L5? Who is this General you're all talking about?"
"Do shut up, Major," said Dr. O'Grady. "Everything's all right if you'll only keep quiet. As you've got a camera with you, Mr. Billing," he went on, "you might like to take a photograph of that house opposite you. It was there that the great General——"
"Glory be to God," said Gallagher, "it's the police barrack!"
"The birthplace of the great General?" said Mr. Billing, taking off his hat.
"Not exactly," said Dr. O'Grady. "Thady Gallagher will show you his birthplace this afternoon. This is the house in which he spent his early youth, up to the age of eleven years."
"Excuse me," said Mr. Billing. "I'll just get my camera. A view of that house will be most interesting. I certainly ought to have it for my biography."
He crossed the road to the hotel and picked up his camera. He carried it to the middle of the square and set up the tripod legs. Then he screwed the camera into its place.
"O'Grady," said Major Kent, angrily. "I don't want to make a public exposure of you before a total stranger, but if you don't stop trying to make fools of us all———"
"I don't know what you're talking about, Major," said the doctor. "I'm not making a fool of anyone. I'm helping to persuade Mr. Billing to erect a statue in this town. You can't deny that a statue would be an improvement to the place."
"A statue!" said the Major. "Who to?"
"Good Heavens!" said Dr. O'Grady, "haven't you grasped that yet? To General John Regan."
Mr. Billing had his head under a black cloth. He was screwing the lens of his camera backwards and forwards and appeared to be entirely absorbed in his photography.
"Tell me now, doctor," said Doyle, "before we go further into the matter—— Mind you, I'm not saying a word against what you're doing, but I'd be glad to know who was General John Regan."
"If I'm to show the American gentleman the birthplace of the General," said Gallagher, "I'll need to know where it is. Will you tell me this now, doctor, where was the General born?"
"I haven't time," said Dr. O'Grady, "to give you all elementary lectures on modern history; and I certainly haven't the temper to spend all day hammering into your heads simple facts which——"
"Facts!" said the Major.
"Go home, Major," said Dr. O'Grady. "You've no tact, and in an affair of this kind where the highest kind of diplomacy is necessary, you're not only useless, you're actually dangerous. Now, Doyle, do you or do you not want to have the handling of that American gentleman's L100? You do, of course. Very well then. Leave the matter in my hands and don't annoy me by asking frivolous questions. Thady, the birthplace of the General is one of those ruined cottages—it doesn't in the least matter which—on the grass farm where Doyle has his cattle ever since you and your League prevented anyone else taking the place. You ought to have known that without bothering me. Good Heavens! Here's the police sergeant coming to ask questions now."
Sergeant Colgan and Constable Moriarty were approaching at a rapid walk.
"Begging your pardon, doctor," said the sergeant, "but is that a camera that the gentleman has, and is he thinking of taking a picture of the barrack?"
"He is," said the doctor, "but he's not photographing it as a barrack at all. He's doing it in an entirely different spirit. So there's no necessity for you to start any theory about his being a German spy, or to raise stupid objections."
"I wasn't thinking of objecting," said the sergeant. "It makes no matter to me what notion he has in his head. But what Constable Moriarty was saying to me this minute——" he hesitated, and then added, "speak up now, Moriarty."
"What the sergeant said to me," said Moriarty, "as soon as ever he seen the gentleman with the camera——"
"It wasn't me passed the remark," said the sergeant, "but yourself. I'll not have it put out that I was the one——"
Mr. Billing, standing bare-headed beside his camera, squeezed a yellow bulb and clicked the shutter of his lens. He turned smiling.
"A successful photograph, I hope, gentlemen," he said. "The people of Bolivia will be interested to see it. It will adorn the first volume of the General's life."
"There!" said Dr. O'Grady to Sergeant Colgan. "That comes of not speaking out promptly. The photograph is taken now and whatever remark it was that you or Moriarty made will be entirely wasted."
"It's a pity, so it is," said the sergeant, "for what Constable Moriarty was after saying——"
"What the sergeant said," said Moriarty, "is that he'd be glad if the gentleman would take him along with the barrack."
"It's not often," said the sergeant, "that we have anyone taking photographs round in these parts, and Constable Moriarty would have been pleased to be took on account of being able to send the photo after to a young lady that he is acquainted with up in Dublin."
"There's no young lady up in Dublin," said Moriarty sulkily.
Dr. O'Grady was a man of quick sympathy and a kind heart. He realised at once that both Sergeant Colgan and Constable Moriarty wanted to have their photographs taken.
"Go over to the door of the barrack," he said, "and arrange yourselves in such a way as to look as ornamental as possible. I'll try to get the gentleman to take another photograph."
Mr. Billing had slipped his dark slide into his pocket, and was unscrewing his camera from its stand. Dr. O'Grady called to him.
"I'm afraid," he said, "that you got your photograph wrong."
"Mistake about the house," said Mr. Billing. "Well, it can't be helped. Which is the right one?"
"Not exactly that," said Dr. O'Grady. "You've got the proper house, but the Major has just reminded me——"
"I did not," said Major Kent.
"Well, if it wasn't you it was Thady. Thady Gallagher has just reminded me that the top storey wasn't built when the General lived there. The Government added it afterwards when the place was bought for a police barrack. What you ought to do if you want to get the thing absolutely right is to take another photograph and make sure that the top storey doesn't come into it."
"I'm greatly obliged to you," said Mr. Billing. "I'll expose a second plate."
He arranged his camera again. Sergeant Colgan and Moriarty settled themselves in stiff attitudes, one on each side of the barrack door.
"Am I to take the two policemen as well?" said Mr. Billing, looking out from beneath his black cloth.
"You may as well," said Dr. O'Grady. "It will interest the Bolivians to see how this country is overrun with what Thady Gallagher calls the armed forces of an alien power."
"What I say is this," said Thady Gallagher, grasping at his opportunity, "so long as the people of this country is kept in subjection and the cursed system of landlordism is supported——"
"Look here, O'Grady," said Major Kent, angrily, "I can't be expected to stand this."
"It's all right, Major," said Dr. O'Grady. "It's only poor old Thady. You know jolly well he doesn't mean a word of it."
"As long as the sacredness of our homes is invaded," said Gallagher, "and the virtues of our families corrupted by the overfed minions of the landlord class——"
"Oh, do shut up, Thady," said the doctor. "We all know that stuff off by heart, and you must try to recollect that the Major's a Unionist. He can't be expected to listen to you peaceably; and if we don't run this statue business on strictly non-political lines we'll never be able to carry it through."
"Whisht now, Thady, whisht," said Doyle soothingly; "sure the sergeant is doing you no harm."
Mr. Billing clicked his shutter again. Sergeant Colgan and Constable Moriarty relapsed from their strained attitudes and breathed freely.
"Got the lower storey all right?" said Dr. O'Grady. "Good. I daresay now you'd like to toddle around with Thady Gallagher and see the General's birthplace. I'm sorry I can't go with you myself, but I happen to be rather busy. There are two old women with rheumatism expecting bottles from me in the course of the afternoon."
"I'll fold up the camera," said Mr. Billing, "and start at once."
"Doctor," said Gallagher anxiously, "what'll I do when he starts asking me questions about the General?"
"Answer him, of course," said Dr. O'Grady.
"How can I, when I never heard tell of the General till to-day. For the love of God, doctor dear, will you tell me who he was?"
"Thady," said the doctor, "I'm ashamed of you. Aren't you a politician? You are, and well you know it. Aren't you a newspaper editor? You are, there's no use denying it. Don't you spend your whole life either talking or writing on subjects that you know nothing about? You do. And what on earth's the use of your pretending now that you can't answer a few simple questions about General John Regan? There now, he's got his camera folded up and he's waiting for you. Be off at once."
Motor-cars are even yet far from common in the west of Ireland. They are not, for instance, used in elections as they are in England. There very seldom are elections in the west of Ireland; but even if these entertainments were, as frequent as elsewhere motor-cars would not be used in them. This is partly because the Irish voter is recognised as incorruptible, not the kind of man who would allow his vote to be influenced by a ride in an unaccustomed vehicle; partly because the west of Ireland candidate for Parliament is not rich enough to keep a motor-car himself, and has no friends or supporters who could lend him anything more expensive than a horse. Therefore motor drives are an unknown luxury to most Connacht men. Thady Gallagher, though he was a newspaper editor, had never travelled even in the side car of a motor-cycle. When Mr. Billing made it clear that he meant to go to the General's birth-place in his large car everybody felt slightly envious of Gallagher, and Doyle wished that he had not refused to join the expedition. Gallagher himself was not elated by his good fortune. He was embarrassed and depressed. He cast an appealing glance at Doyle.
"What am I to do, at all?" he said. "What am I to say to him when——?"
"If you've any sense," said Doyle, "you'll take a good long drive now you have the chance. He doesn't know the way. What's to hinder you from taking him round every road within ten miles of the town?"
But the prospect did not cheer Gallagher. He tried to grasp Dr. O'Grady's arm as he passed him. But the doctor shook him off impatiently. He even attempted an appeal to Major Kent, quite vainly. The Major was still smarting under the rhetorical denunciation of landlords. He would not at that moment have gone a step out of his way to rescue Gallagher from drowning.
The moment the motor-car was out of sight Major Kent and Doyle turned hotly on Dr. O'Grady.
"What the devil do you mean, O'Grady," said the Major, "by talking in this absurd way? You know perfectly well——"
Doyle spoke at the same time.
"It's a curious thing, so it is, doctor," he said. "It's a curious thing that you'd be letting me in for L5 when you know the loss I'm in on account of you already. I'd have thought——"
Dr. O'Grady interrupted them both.
"Suppose you agree to split the difference," he said, "and say L32 10s. for the filly. It's a pity to see two men like you losing your tempers over a bargain."
"It's not the bargain," said Doyle, "that has my temper riz. It's——"
"Doyle can have the filly if he likes," said the Major, "at L32 10s. I don't want to go on wrangling about that. What I want to know——"
"I'll take her," said Doyle.
Major Kent smiled faintly. He was getting out of what threatened to be a very bad bargain with an actual gain of L2 10s. He began to recover command of his temper. Doyle also smiled. He believed that he was buying for L32 10s. an animal for which Major Kent had paid L40 three days before. He felt kindly disposed towards Dr. O'Grady, who had put the chance of such a bargain in his way.
"Now, Major," said the doctor, "you trot along to my house while I speak a word or two to Doyle. I'll be round with you in about ten minutes, and give you some tea."
"But about that General?" said the Major, "I'd rather like to know——"
He still wanted to know about General John Regan. But the tone in which he asked for information had changed. He no longer seemed to threaten.
"I'll explain all that to you if you'll only do as I tell you," said Dr. O'Grady. "At present I can't because I'm going to explain it to Doyle."
"Why can't you explain it to both of us at once?" said the Major. "That is to say if there is any explanation of the way you've been going on."
"There are two explanations," said Dr. O'Grady, "one for you and one for Doyle. I can't give them both at once, because they're different. I should have thought you'd have seen that for yourself."
"I don't see how there can be two explanations," said the Major, "not two true ones. But of course they're neither of them that."
"They're both quite true," said Dr. O'Grady, "but they're different, of course, because you and Doyle look at everything from such different points of view. Now do trot along, Major, and don't interrupt me any more. That American may be back at any moment. I don't believe Gallagher will be able to keep him in play for very long."
He took Major Kent by the shoulders as he spoke and pushed him some little way along the street. Then he returned to Doyle.
"Now then, Doyle," he said, "you've done pretty well over that filly. Strictly speaking, you owe me L7 10s. But I'm not going to say a word about that."
"Seeing that you owe me L60," said Doyle, "it'll maybe be as well for you not."
"What I do want to talk about," said Dr. O'Grady, "is General John Regan."
"If you tell me who he was," said Doyle, "I'll be content."
"I don't see that it matters in the least to you who he was. Look here now, Doyle. You're a business man, and among other things you sell whisky. Now suppose someone was to walk into your hotel and tell you to forward ten dozen bottles of whisky—the best you had—to his aunt, and supposing that he told his aunt's name was Regan, would you go questioning and cross-questioning every man you met as to whether there really was an old lady called Miss Regan at the address he gave you?"
"I would not," said Doyle. "So long as I got my money I wouldn't care whether the fellow ever had an aunt, or what sort of a name there might be to her if he had."
"Well, this is exactly the same sort of case. Here's a man who wants a statue for a dead General, and is perfectly willing to pay for it. Why should you bother your head about who the statue is supposed to represent? L100 is L100, I suppose, even if there never was a Regan in the world; and there have been, plenty of them."
"I see that," said Doyle. "I see that, now you put it to me. And I don't deny but there's a lot in what you say. But what I don't see is this: I'd make something out of the whisky for the gentleman's aunt, but I don't understand how I'm to make a penny out of the statue."
"You'll be treasurer of the fund," said Dr. O'Grady, "and I needn't tell you that in all these cases the treasurer—well, there might be a little balance in hand at the end. There often is. Nobody ever inquires about those balances. If the treasurers are fools they lie in the banks and nobody ever gets any good of them. But you're not a fool, Doyle."
"I am not; and of course, there has been balances of the kind you speak of before now. I wouldn't say but—looking at the matter in that way—and besides there'd be a commission from the fellow that got the contract for the statue. And with regard to the L5 that my name's down for——"
"Come now, Doyle. Don't pretend to be stupider than you are. You know perfectly well that every public fund has to be started by somebody with a respectable looking subscription. I put it to you now as a business man, did you ever hear of a case in which a subscription of that kind was actually paid? It appears in the published list and it encourages other people, but——"
"Say no more, doctor," said Doyle. "Say no more."
"I shall count on you then, Doyle, to help me in every way you possibly can. It's all for your own good. And you won't be doing anybody any harm."
"There's just one thing more," said Doyle.
"Out with it. And be as quick as you can. I've still got to soothe the Major's scruples."
"If you don't mind my asking the question," said Doyle, "what are you going to make out of it yourself?"
"That's a delicate point. I might tell you I'm going into the business for the fun of the thing; but you wouldn't believe that."
"I would not," said Doyle, winking slowly.
"I was afraid you wouldn't. It's true, as it happens. That's just exactly why I am running this statue. It offers me a little excitement and variety. But as you won't believe it I'll have to make up some sort of a lie that you will believe. I owe you about L60, don't I?"
"You do, doctor, but I'd be the last man in Ireland to press you for the money if——"
"Very well. If I put L20 into your pocket over this statue, in addition to the L7 10s. you're making on the filly, I'll expect you to stop talking about what I owe you for the next six months. You see some sense in that, don't you?"
"And it satisfies you as a reason for my taking all the trouble that I'm going to take."
"It does, of course. Why wouldn't it?"
"Very well. Believe it. But if the matter ever comes up again you'll remember, Doyle, that I offered you the truth and you wouldn't have it. I didn't attempt to impose on you with that lie until you insisted that I should."
Doyle grinned. He did not for a moment believe that Dr. O'Grady was going to give himself a great deal of trouble in the matter of General John Regan's statue without gaining something by it. But he admired the way in which the doctor, even when apparently cornered, succeeded in keeping up appearances.
"If Gallagher gets tangled up in any difficulty," said Dr. O'Grady, as he said good-bye to Doyle, "send him straight round to me. Don't you attempt to extricate him or you'll make matters worse. I shall be at home for the next two hours. It will take me that time at least to talk sense into the Major."
When he got back to his own house Dr. O'Grady found his friend in a state of badly repressed impatience.
"That seems to have been a pretty long explanation which you gave to Doyle," said the Major. "I hope mine will turn out to be a bit shorter."
"That," said Dr. O'Grady, "will entirely depend on yourself, Major. If you were a really intelligent man no explanation whatever would be necessary. You'd grasp the situation for yourself. If you were even fairly intelligent a short explanation would be quite sufficient. If, as I fear, you are downright stupid I may have to spend an hour or two talking to you."
"I don't see the slightest necessity for that," said the Major. "You've only got to give a simple answer to a perfectly plain question. Who was General John Regan? You answer that, and no further explanation will be necessary."
"I'm afraid it will," said Dr. O'Grady. "Even if I tell you all I know about the General you'll still want to heckle me and generally upset my plans."
"No, I won't, O'Grady. I promise you I won't. Just tell me all you know about this General and I won't say another word."
"Very well," said Dr. O'Grady. "I don't know anything at all about the General. I never heard of him in my life until to-day."
Major Kent gasped. Then he grew suddenly red in the face. Then he spluttered explosively. Then he burst into violent speech.
"And what the devil do you mean, O'Grady, by ——? I'm hanged if I ever heard of such——"
"There you are," said Dr. O'Grady. "I knew you wouldn't be satisfied. I've told you all I know about the General, and so far from saying nothing more, you begin to curse in the most frightful way."
"That's all very well," said the Major, "but if there's no such person as that General——"
"I didn't say that. I said I knew nothing about him. I'm a well educated man, Major, far better educated than you are. But there are thousands and thousands of quite eminent people still alive whose names I've never heard, and when it comes to dead people there are probably millions, scattered up and down through history books, whom I know nothing about. They may all be quite famous in their own localities and may thoroughly deserve statues. It's not their fault that I know nothing about them."
"But we don't any of us know anything about this General. I don't. Doyle doesn't. You don't. Why on earth should we put up a statue to him?"
"Why shouldn't we allow that American—Billing or whatever his name is—to put up a statue if he likes? He wants to. Why shouldn't he?"
"Why should he put it up here?" said the Major. "What brings him to Ballymoy?"
"I expect," said Dr. O'Grady—"mind, I don't know for certain—but I expect that he's come to the wrong place, mixed up Ballymoy with some other town, with the town in which Regan was really born. This General of his was evidently a pretty big pot in his way, and if he had been born in Ballymoy some of us would have heard of him."
"In that case," said the Major, "we ought to tell Billing of his mistake."
"Certainly not. In the first place that would be a very unkind thing to do. Nobody likes being told of their mistakes, especially when they're as full of bounce and self-confidence as this fellow Billing. It's not right to be maliciously and wantonly unkind, Major, even to dumb animals; and I can't imagine anything more cruel than to tell Billing that he's made a mistake. In the next place, why on earth should we miss the chance of getting a statue in Ballymoy? We haven't got one at present, and a good statue—we'll get quite a respectable one for Billing's L100, even if we don't subscribe a penny ourselves—will be a great ornament to the town. You may not care for statues, Major, but all really cultivated people love them. Look at Dublin! It's a city with two universities in it, and the consequence is that it's simply spotted all over with statues. Look at ancient Athens, the most cultured city the world has ever seen. The number of statues the Athenians had would surprise you. Why shouldn't we have one? It'll do us all good."
"I call it a fraud," said the Major. "It's getting money out of this fool of an American under false pretences. If this General of his wasn't born here——"
"Now do you suppose, Major, that the General himself, the original John Regan, cares a pin where his statue is?"
"Of course he doesn't. The one thing we do know about him is that he's dead. Why should he care?"
"Quite so. Then there's no fraud so far as he's concerned."
"I wasn't talking about him. I was talking about the American."
"I'm just coming to him. Billing wants a statue to the General. He wants it so much that he's prepared to pay L100 for it. He also believes that the General was born here. I think myself that he's mistaken about that; but there's no doubt he believes it. He'll be quite satisfied if we have the statue here. If we don't he'll have to go to a lot of trouble and expense looking up another birthplace for the General. When he finds one the people there may not be as civil and obliging as we are. Or they may have as many statues as they want already. I cannot for the life of me see that we're committing any kind of fraud when we're saving Billing a lot of expense, possibly a great disappointment, and allowing him to do exactly what he wants."
Major Kent sighed hopelessly.
"It's no use arguing with you," he said, "but you'll get us all into trouble before you've done. You're absolutely certain to be found out."
"Now you're beginning to talk sense," said Dr. O'Grady. "There is a certain risk of being found out. I don't deny that. What we have to do is to minimise it as far as possible. We must take care not to commit ourselves to any statement about the General's public career until we've found out all we can about him. I intend to write to Dublin to-night for every book there is about Bolivia, which is the country he liberated. In the meanwhile we're fairly safe in working up any kind of local tradition we can think of. If that sort of thing is well done there's practically no risk of discovery. Even if the stories don't exactly fit in with what's known about the General's later life, it doesn't matter. The things that are told about the boyhood of great men are all invented afterwards. Nobody expects them to be true; but biographers have to put them in to satisfy the curiosity of the public. There must be a chapter headed 'Early Days,' or 'Home Life,' or something of that kind in every biography. That's the stuff Billing expects us to supply in exchange for the statue. At the same time men like Gallagher and Doyle are appallingly stupid, and I can't say you're exactly brilliant, Major. Any of you may, in an unguarded moment——"
"I shan't," said the Major, "because I'm going straight home and don't mean to leave the house again till this whole business is over."
"I wish that were possible," said Dr. O'Grady. "I should be much easier in my mind if you weren't here at all. But unfortunately we must have you. You give an air of solid respectability to the proceedings. You inspire confidence. We can't do without you. I'll get Gregg, the District Inspector, dragged into it too, and Ford, the Resident Magistrate, if I can."
"You won't get him. He has too much sense."
"I'll get his wife anyway. She loves a fuss of any kind."
"Some of them will give you away," said the Major. "You'll be found out."
"If Gallagher gets through this afternoon," said Dr. O'Grady, "I shall feel pretty safe. I wish I hadn't been obliged to send Gallagher off alone with Billing. Poor Thady is such an ass. But what could I do? I couldn't go myself because I had to explain the situation to you and Doyle. I shall feel deeply thankful when Thady is safely home again."
"By the way," said the Major, "what was the explanation that you gave to Doyle? It was different from my one I know. I'd rather like to hear it."
"Poor Doyle!" said Dr. O'Grady. "Do you know I felt quite sorry for him about that filly. He probably won't find out what's wrong with her for about a fortnight or three weeks. He'll be so busy over this General John Regan business that he won't have time to do anything with her. But when he does find out——"
"He'll not be the first man in Ireland," said the Major, "who's been let in over a horse, and I don't pity him."
"I do," said Dr. O'Grady, "I pitied you, Major, when you were stuck and I helped you to get out I don't see why I shouldn't pity Doyle too."
"How do you mean to get him out?" said the Major. "Perhaps you intend to palm off that filly on your American."
"Not at all," said Dr. O'Grady. "My idea is to get Doyle's money back for him out of the statue."
The Major thought this statement over and gradually came to suspect that O'Grady contemplated some dishonourable use of public money. He was just beginning to make a violent protest when the door of the room in which they were sitting opened, and Gallagher came in.
"Doctor," he said, "will you oblige me by coming over to the hotel at once and pacifying the American gentleman?"
"I thought as much," said Dr. O'Grady, jumping up. "You've muddled things somehow, Thady."
"I did the best I could," said Gallagher, "but he wouldn't rest content with young Kerrigan's wife."
"Good heavens!" said Dr. O'Grady, "what on earth have you said? Young Kerrigan hasn't got a wife."
"Sure I know that. But what was I to do? What I said was for the best. But anyway you'd better come round to the hotel, till you see for yourself the way we're in."
"Come along, Major," said Dr. O'Grady. "You'll enjoy watching us get out of this entanglement, whatever it is."
"I'm not going with you," said the Major. "I don't see any fun in standing still and listening to you telling lies to that American. It's not my idea of spending a pleasant afternoon."
"Come along," said Dr. O'Grady, taking him by the arm. "I may want you. I can't tell yet whether I shall or not, for I don't know yet what's happened. But I may."
The Major hung back.
"I'm not going," he said.
"If you don't," said Dr. O'Grady in a whisper, "I'll tell Doyle about the filly, all about her, and as you haven't got the money for her yet—well, you know what Doyle is. He's not the kind of man I'd care to trust very far when he finds out that—Oh, do come on."
It may have been this threat which overcame Major Kent's reluctance. It may have been a natural curiosity to find out what trouble Gallagher had got into with Mr. Billing: It may simply have been Dr. O'Grady's force of character which vanquished him. He allowed himself to be led away.
"Now Thady," said Dr. O'Grady, "tell me exactly what happened and what the trouble is."
"It was on account of my mentioning young Kerrigan's wife," said Gallagher.
"Young Kerrigan hasn't got a wife," said the Major.
"Better begin at the beginning," said Dr. O'Grady. "If we knew how you arrived at whatever statement you made about young Kerrigan's wife we'd be in a better position to judge what has to be done about it, Start off now at the moment when you went away in the motor-car. You went to Doyle's farm, I suppose, as I told you, so as to show Mr. Billing the General's birthplace."
"In the latter end we got there," said Gallagher, "but at the first go off I took him along the road past the workhouse."
"That wasn't quite the shortest route," said Dr. O'Grady. "In fact you began by going in exactly the opposite direction."
"After that we went round by Barney's Hill," said Gallagher, "and along the bohireen by the side of the bog, me telling him the turns he ought to take."
"What on earth did you go there for," said the Major, "if you wanted to get to Doyle's farm?"
"When we'd passed the bog," said Gallagher, "we took a twist round, like as we might be trying to cut across to the Dunbeg Road."
"You seem to have gone pretty well all around the town," said Dr. O'Grady. "I suppose you enjoyed driving about in a large motor. Was that it?"
"It was not," said Gallagher, "but I was in dread to take him to Doyle's farm not knowing what questions he might be asking about the General when we got there. I'd be glad now, doctor, if you'd tell me who the General was, for it's troublesome not knowing."
"There isn't time," said Dr. O'Grady, "to go into long explanations simply to satisfy your morbid curiosity. Go on with your story. What happened when you did get to the place? I suppose you got there in the end?"
"We did of course," said Gallagher, "and I showed him the ruin of the little houseen, the same as you told me to. 'And was it there,' says he, 'that the great General, the immortal founder of the liberties of Bolivia, first saw the light?' 'It was,' says I. So he took a leap out of the motor-car and stood in front of the old house with his hat in his hand. So I told him about the way the landlords had treated the people of this country in times past, and the way we are meaning to serve them out as soon as we have Home Rule, which is as good as got, only for the blackguards of Orangemen up in the North. I told him——"
"I'm sure you did," said Dr. O'Grady, "but you needn't go over all that to us, particularly as the Major hates that kind of talk."
"Nobody," said Gallagher, "would want to say a word that was displeasing to the Major, who is well liked in this locality and always was. If only the rest of the landlords was like him, instead of——"
"Go on about the American," said Dr. O'Grady, "did he throw stones at you while you were making that speech about Home Rule?"
"He did not," said Gallagher, "but he stood there looking at the houseen with the tears rolling down the cheeks of him——"
"What?" said Dr. O'Grady, "do you mean to tell me he cried?"
"It was like as if he was going to," said Gallagher, "and 'the patriot statesman,' says he, 'the mighty warrior,' says he, and more to that, the same as if he might be making a speech about the land and the league boys cheering him."
"I'm rather bothered about that American in some ways," said Dr. O'Grady. "Are you telling me the truth now, Thady, about what he said?"
"I am," said Gallagher. "I'd take my oath to every word of it."
"Either he's a much greater fool than he looks," said Dr. O'Grady, "or else—but I'll find that out afterwards. Go on with your story, Thady. What happened next?"
"Well, after he'd cried about a saucerful——"
"I thought you said he didn't actually cry?"
"It was like as if he was going to cry. I told you that before."
"Come on, O'Grady," said the Major. "What's the use of listening to this sort of stuff?"
"Be quiet, Major," said Dr. O'Grady. "We're just coming to the point. Go ahead, Thady. You'd just got to the saucerful of tears. When he'd emptied that out, what did he do?"
"He asked me," said Gallagher, "was there any relatives or friends of the General surviving in the locality? He had me beat there."
"I hope you told him there were several," said Dr. O'Grady.
"I did, of course. Is it likely I'd disappoint the gentleman, and him set on finding someone belonging to the General? 'Who are they?' said he. 'Tell me their names,' Well, it was there I made the mistake."
"It was a bit awkward," said Dr. O'Grady, "when you didn't know who the General was."
"What I thought to myself," said Gallagher, "was this. There might be many a one in the locality that would be glad enough to be a cousin of the General's, even if there was no money to be got out of it, and it could be that there would. But, not knowing much about the General, I wasn't easy in my mind for fear that anybody I named might be terrible angry with me after for giving them a cousin that might be some sort of a disgrace to the family——"
"I see now," said Dr. O'Grady. "You thought it safer to name somebody who didn't exist. But what made you think of a wife for young Kerrigan?"