THE UNTILLED FIELD
I. IN THE CLAY II. SOME PARISHIONERS III. THE EXILE IV. HOME SICKNESS V. A LETTER TO ROME VI. JULIA CAHILL'S CURSE VII. A PLAYHOUSE IN THE WASTE VIII. THE WEDDING-GOWN IX. THE CLERK'S QUEST X. "ALMS-GIVING" XI. SO ON HE FARES XII. THE WILD GOOSE XIII. THE WAY BACK
IN THE CLAY
It was a beautiful summer morning, and Rodney was out of his bed at six o'clock. He usually went for a walk before going to his studio, and this morning his walk had been a very pleasant one, for yesterday's work had gone well with him. But as he turned into the mews in which his studio was situated he saw the woman whom he employed to light his fire standing in the middle of the roadway. He had never seen her standing in the middle of the roadway before and his doors wide open, and he instantly divined a misfortune, and thought of the Virgin and Child he had just finished. There was nothing else in his studio that he, cared much about. A few busts, done long ago, and a few sketches; no work of importance, nothing that he cared about or that could not be replaced if it were broken.
He hastened his steps and he would have run if he had not been ashamed to betray his fears to the char-woman.
"I'm afraid someone has been into the studio last night. The hasp was off the door when I came this morning. Some of the things are broken."
Rodney heard no more. He stood on the threshold looking round the wrecked studio. Three or four casts had been smashed, the floor was covered with broken plaster, and the lay figure was overthrown, Rodney saw none of these things, he only saw that his Virgin and Child was not on the modelling stool, and not seeing it there, he hoped that the group had been stolen, anything were better than that it should have been destroyed. But this is what had happened: the group, now a mere lump of clay, lay on the floor, and the modelling stand lay beside it.
"I cannot think," said the charwoman, "who has done this. It was a wicked thing to do. Oh, sir, they have broken this beautiful statue that you had in the Exhibition last year," and she picked up the broken fragments of a sleeping girl.
"That doesn't matter," said Rodney. "My group is gone."
"But that, sir, was only in the clay. May I be helping you to pick it up, sir? It is not broken altogether perhaps."
Rodney waved her aside. He was pale and he could not speak, and was trembling. He had not the courage to untie the cloths, for he knew there was nothing underneath but clay, and his manner was so strange that the charwoman was frightened. He stood like one dazed by a dream. He could not believe in reality, it was too mad, too discordant, too much like a nightmare. He had only finished the group yesterday!
He still called it his Virgin and Child, but it had never been a Virgin and Child in the sense suggested by the capital letters, for he had not yet put on the drapery that would convert a naked girl and her baby into the Virgin and Child. He had of course modelled his group in the nude first, and Harding, who had been with him the night before last, had liked it much better than anything he had done, Harding had said that he must not cover it with draperies, that he must keep it for himself, a naked girl playing with a baby, a piece of paganism. The girl's head was not modelled when Harding had seen it. It was the conventional Virgin's head, but Harding had said that he must send for his model and put his model's head upon it. He had taken Harding's advice and had sent for Lucy, and had put her pretty, quaint little head upon it. He had done a portrait of Lucy. If this terrible accident had not happened last night, the caster would have come to cast it to-morrow, and then, following Harding's advice always, he would have taken a "squeeze," and when he got it back to the clay again he was going to put on a conventional head, and add the conventional draperies, and make the group into the conventional Virgin and Child, suitable to Father McCabe's cathedral.
This was the last statue he would do in Ireland. He was leaving Ireland. On this point his mind was made up, and the money he was going to receive for this statue was the money that was going to take him away. He had had enough of a country where there had never been any sculpture or any painting, nor any architecture to signify. They were talking about reviving the Gothic, but Rodney did not believe in their resurrections or in their renaissance or in their anything. "The Gael has had his day. The Gael is passing." Only the night before he and Harding had had a long talk about the Gael, and he had told Harding that he had given up the School of Art, that he was leaving Ireland, and Harding had thought that this was an extreme step, but Rodney had said that he did not want to die, that no one wanted to die less than he did, but he thought he would sooner die than go on teaching. He had made some reputation and had orders that would carry him on for some years, and he was going where he could execute them, to where there were models, to where there was art, to where there was the joy of life, out of a damp religious atmosphere in which nothing flourished but the religious vocation.
"Good Heavens! How happy I was yesterday, full of hope and happiness, my statue finished, and I had arranged to meet Harding in Rome. The blow had fallen in the night. Who had done this? Who had destroyed it?"
He fell into a chair, and sat helpless like his own lay figure. He sat there like one on whom some stupor had fallen, and he was as white as one of the casts; the charwoman had never seen anyone give way like that before, and she withdrew very quietly.
In a little while he got up and mechanically kicked the broken pieces of plaster aside. The charwoman was right, they had broken his sleeping girl: that did not matter much, but the beautiful slenderness, the grace he had caught from Lucy's figure—those slendernesses, those flowing rhythms, all these were gone; the lovely knees were ugly clay. Yes, there was the ruin, the ignoble ruin, and he could not believe in it; he still hoped he would wake and find he had been dreaming, so difficult is it to believe that the living have turned to clay.
In front of him there was the cheval glass, and overcome though he was by misfortune he noticed that he was a small, pale, wiry, and very dark little man, with a large bony forehead. He had seen, strangely enough, such a bumpy forehead, and such narrow eyes in a Florentine bust, and it was some satisfaction to him to see that he was the typical Italian.
"If I had lived three hundred years ago," he said, "I should have been one of Cellini's apprentices."
And yet he was the son of a Dublin builder! His father had never himself thought to draw, but he had always taken an interest in sculpture and painting, and he had said before Rodney was born that he would like to have a son a sculptor. And he waited for the little boy to show some signs of artistic aptitude. He pondered every scribble the boy made, and scribbles that any child at the same age could have done filled him with admiration. But when Rodney was fourteen he remodelled some leaves that had failed to please an important customer; and his father was overcome with joy, and felt that his hopes were about to be realised. For the customer, who professed a certain artistic knowledge, praised the leaves that Rodney had designed, and soon after Rodney gave a still further proof of his desire for art by telling his mother he did not care to go to Mass, that Mass depressed him and made him feel unhappy, and he had begged to be allowed to stay at home and do some modelling. His father excused his son's want of religious feeling on the ground that no one can think of two things at once, and John was now bent on doing sculpture. He had converted a little loft into a studio, and was at work there from dusk to dusk, and his father used to steal up the ladder from time to time to watch his son's progress. He used to say there was no doubt that he had been forewarned, and his wife had to admit that it did seem as if he had had some pre-vision of his son's genius: how else explain the fact that he had said he would like to have a son a sculptor three months before the child was born?
Rodney said he would like to go to the School of Art, and his father kept him there for two years, though he sorely wanted him to help in the business. There was no sacrifice that the elder Rodney would not have made for his son. But Rodney knew that he could not always count upon his father's help, and one day he realised quite clearly that the only way for him to become a sculptor was by winning scholarships. There were two waiting to be won by him, and he felt that he would have no difficulty in winning them. That year there was a scholarship for twenty-five pounds, and there was another scholarship that he might win in the following year, and he thought of nothing else but these scholarships until he had won them; then he started for Paris with fifty pounds in his pocket, and a resolve in his heart that he would live for a year and pay his fees out of this sum of money. Those were hard days, but they were likewise great days. He had been talking to Harding about those days in Paris the night before last, and he had told him of the room at the top of the house for which he paid thirty francs a month. There was a policeman on one side and there was a footman on the other. It was a bare little room, and he lived principally on bread. In those days his only regret was that he had not the necessary threepence to go to the cafe. "One can't go to the cafe without threepence to pay for the harmless bock, and if one has threepence one can sit in the cafe discussing Carpeaux, Rodin, and the mysteries, until two in the morning, when one is at last ejected by an exhausted proprietor at the head of numerous waiters."
Rodney's resolutions were not broken; he had managed to live for nearly a year in Paris upon fifty pounds, and when he came to the end of his money he went to London in search of work. He found himself in London with two pounds, but he had got work from a sculptor, a pupil of Dalous: "a clever man," Rodney said, "a good sculptor; it is a pity he died." At this time Garvier was in fairly good health and had plenty of orders, and besides Rodney he employed three Italian carvers, and from these Italians Rodney learned Italian, and he spent two years in London earning three pounds a week. But the time came when the sculptor had no more work for Rodney, and one day he told him that he would not require him that week, there was no work for him, nor was there the next week or the next, and Rodney kicked his heels and pondered Elgin marbles for a month. Then he got a letter from the sculptor saying he had some work for him to do; and it was a good job of work, and Rodney remained with Garvier for two months, knowing very well that his three pounds a week was precarious fortune. Some time after, the sculptor's health began to fail him and he had to leave London. Rodney received news of his death two years afterwards. He was then teaching sculpture in the art schools of Northampton, and he wondered whether, if Garvier had lived, he would have succeeded in doing better work than he had done.
From Northampton he went to Edinburgh, he wandered even as far as Inverness. From Inverness he had been called back to Dublin, and for seven years he had taught in the School of Art, saving money every year, putting by a small sum of money out of the two hundred pounds that he received from the Government, and all the money he got for commissions. He accepted any commission, he had executed bas-reliefs from photographs. He was determined to purchase his freedom, and a sculptor requires money more than any other artist.
Rodney had always looked upon Dublin as a place to escape from. He had always desired a country where there was sunshine and sculpture. The day his father took him to the School of Art he had left his father talking to the head-master, and had wandered away to look at a Florentine bust, and this first glimpse of Italy had convinced him that he must go to Italy and study Michael Angelo and Donatello. Only twice had he relaxed the severity of his rule of life and spent his holidays in Italy. He had gone there with forty pounds in his pocket, and had studied art where art had grown up naturally, independent of Government grants and mechanical instruction, in a mountain town like Perugia; and his natural home had seemed to him those narrow, white streets streaked with blue shadows. "Oh, how blue the shadows are there in the morning," he had said the other night to Harding, "and the magnificent sculpture and painting! In the afternoon the sun is too hot, but at evening one stands at the walls of the town and sees sunsets folding and unfolding over Italy. I am at home amid those Southern people, and a splendid pagan life is always before one's eyes, ready to one's hand. Beautiful girls and boys are always knocking at one's doors. Beautiful nakedness abounds. Sculpture is native to the orange zone—the embers of the renaissance smoulder under orange-trees."
He had never believed in any Celtic renaissance, and all the talk he had heard about stained glass and the revivals did not deceive him. "Let the Gael disappear," he said. "He is doing it very nicely. Do not interfere with his instinct. His instinct is to disappear in America. Since Cormac's Chapel he has built nothing but mud cabins. Since the Cross of Cong he has imported Virgins from Germany. However, if they want sculpture in this last hour I will do some for them."
And Rodney had designed several altars and had done some religious sculpture, or, as he put it to himself, he had done some sculpture on religious themes. There was no such thing as religious sculpture, and could not be. The moment art, especially sculpture, passes out of the domain of the folk tale it becomes pagan.
One of Rodney's principal patrons was a certain Father McCabe, who had begun life by making an ancient abbey ridiculous by adding a modern steeple. He had ruined two parishes by putting up churches so large that his parishioners could not afford to keep them in repair. All this was many years ago, and the current story was that a great deal of difficulty had been experienced in settling Father McCabe's debts, and that the Bishop had threatened to suspend him if he built any more. However this may be, nothing was heard of Father McCabe for fifteen years. He retired entirely into private life, but at his Bishop's death he was heard of in the newspapers as the propounder of a scheme for the revival of Irish Romanesque. He had been to America, and had collected a large sum of money, and had got permission from his Bishop to set an example of what Ireland could do "in the line" of Cormac's Chapel.
Rodney had designed an altar for him, and he had also given Rodney a commission for a statue of the Virgin. There were no models in Dublin. There was no nakedness worth a sculptor's while. One of the two fat unfortunate women that the artists of Dublin had been living upon for the last seven years was in child, the other had gone to England, and the memory of them filled Rodney with loathing and contempt and an extraordinary eagerness for Italy. He had been on the point of telling Father McCabe that he could not undertake to do the Virgin and Child because there were no models. He had just stopped in time. He had suddenly remembered that the priest did not know that sculptors use models; that he did not know, at all events, that a nude model would be required to model a Virgin from, and he had replied ambiguously, making no promise to do this group before he left Ireland. "If I can get a model here I will do it," he had said to himself. "If not, the ecclesiastic will have to wait until I get to Italy."
Rodney no more believed in finding a good model in Dublin than he believed in Christianity. But the unexpected had happened. He had discovered in Dublin the most delicious model that had ever enchanted a sculptor's eyes, and this extraordinary good fortune had happened in the simplest way. He had gone to a solicitor's office to sign an agreement for one of Father McCabe's altars, and as he came in he saw a girl rise from her typewriting machine. There was a strange idle rhythm in her walk as she crossed the office, and Rodney, as he stood watching her, divined long tapering legs and a sinuous back. He did not know what her face was like. Before she had time to turn round, Mr. Lawrence had called him into his office, and he had been let out by a private door. Rodney had been dreaming of a good model, of the true proportions and delicate articulations that in Paris and Italy are knocking at your door all day, and this was the very model he wanted for his girl feeding chickens and for his Virgin, and he thought of several other things he might do from her. But he might as well wish for a star out of heaven, for if he were to ask that girl to sit to him she would probably scream with horror; she would run to her confessor, and the clergy would be up in arms. Rodney had put the girl out of his head, and had gone on with his design for an altar. But luck had followed him for this long while, and a few days afterwards he had met the pretty clerk in a tea-room. He had not seen her face before, and he did not know who it was until she turned to go, and as she was paying for her tea at the desk he asked her if Mr. Lawrence were in town. He could see that she was pleased at being spoken to. Her eyes were alert, and she told him that she knew he was doing altars for Father McCabe, and Father McCabe was a cousin of hers, and her father had a cheese-monger's shop, and their back windows overlooked the mews in which Rodney had his studio.
"How late you work! Sometimes your light does not go out until twelve o'clock at night."
Henceforth he met her at tea in the afternoons, and they went to the museum together, and she promised to try to get leave from her father and mother to sit to him for a bust. But she could only sit to him for an hour or two before she went to Mr. Lawrence, and Rodney said that she would be doing him an extraordinary favour if she would get up some hours earlier and sit to him from eight till ten. It was amusing to do the bust, but the bust was only a pretext. What he wanted her to do was to sit for the nude, and he could not help trying to persuade her, though he did not believe for a moment that he would succeed. He took her to the museum and he showed her the nude, and told her how great ladies sat for painters in the old times. He prepared the way very carefully, and when the bust was finished he told her suddenly that he must go to a country where he could get models. He could see she was disappointed at losing him, and he asked her if she would sit.
"You don't want a nude model for Our Blessed Lady. Do you?"
There was a look, half of hesitation, half of pleasure, and he knew that she would sit to him, and he guessed she would have sat to him long ago if he had asked her. No doubt his long delay in asking her to sit had made her fear he did not think her figure a good one. He had never had such a model before, not in France or in Italy, and had done the best piece of work he had ever done in his life. Harding had seen it, and had said that it was the best piece that he had done. Harding had said that he would buy it from him if he got rid of the conventional head, and when Harding had left him he had lain awake all night thinking how he should model Lucy's head, and he was up and ready for her at eight, and had done the best head he had ever done in his life.
Good God! that head was now flattened out, and the child was probably thrown back over the shoulders. Nothing remained of his statue. He had not the strength to do or to think. He was like a lay figure, without strength for anything, and if he were to hear that an earthquake was shaking Dublin into ruins he would not care. "Shake the whole town into the sea," he would have said.
The charwoman had closed the door, and he did not hear Lucy until she was in the studio.
"I have come to tell you that I cannot sit again. But what has happened?"
Rodney got up, and she could see that his misfortune was greater than her's.
"Who has done this?" she said. "Your casts are all broken."
"Who, indeed, has done this?"
"Who broke them? What has happened? Tell me. They have broken the bust you did of me. And the statue of the Virgin—has anything happened to that?"
"The statue of the Virgin is a lump of clay. Oh, don't look at it. I am out of my mind."
She took two or three steps forward.
"There it is," he said. "Don't speak about it, don't touch it."
"Something may be left."
"No, nothing is left. Don't look at me that way. I tell you nothing is left. It is a lump of clay, and I cannot do it again. I feel as if I never could do a piece of sculpture again, as if I never wanted to. But what are you thinking of? You said just now that you could not sit to me again. Tell me, Lucy, and tell me quickly. I can see you know something about this. You suspect someone."
"No, I suspect no one. It is very strange."
"You were going to tell me something when you came in. You said you could not sit to me again. Why is that?"
"Because they have found out everything at home, that I sat for you, for the Virgin."
"But they don't know that—"
"Yes, they do. They know everything. Father McCabe came in last night, just after we had closed the shop. It was I who let him in, and mother was sorry. She knew he had come to ask father for a subscription to his church. But I had said that father and mother were at home, and when I brought him upstairs and we got into the light, he stood looking at me. He had not seen me for some years, and I thought at first it was because he saw me grown up. He sat down, and began to talk to father and mother about his church, and the altars he had ordered for it, and the statues, and then he said that you were doing a statue for him, and mother said that she knew you very well, and that you sometimes came to spend an evening with us, and that I sat to you. It was then that I saw him give a start. Unfortunately, I was sitting under a lamp reading a book, and the light was full upon my face, and he had a good view of it. I could see that he recognised me at once. You must have shown him the statue. It was yesterday you changed the head."
"You had not gone an hour when he called, and I had not covered up the group. Now I am beginning to see light. He came here anxious to discuss every sort of thing with me, the Irish Romanesque, the Celtic renaissance, stained glass, the possibility of rebuilding another Cormac's Chapel. He sat warming his shins before the stove, and I thought he would have gone on for ever arguing about the possibility of returning to origins of art. I had to stop him, he was wasting all my day, and I brought over that table to show him my design for the altar. He said it was not large enough, and he took hours to explain how much room the priest would require for his book and his chalice. I thought I should never have got rid of him. He wanted to know about the statue of the Virgin, and he was not satisfied when I told him it was not finished. He prowled about the studio, looking into everything. I had sent him a sketch for the Virgin and Child, and he recognised the pose as the same, and he began to argue. I told him that sculptors always used models, and that even a draped figure had to be done from the nude first, and that the drapery went on afterwards. It was foolish to tell him these things, but one is tempted to tread on their ignorance, their bigotry; all they say and do is based on hatred of life. Iconoclast and peasant! He sent some religion-besotted slave to break my statue."
"I don't think Father McCabe would have done that; he has got me into a great deal of trouble, but you are wronging him. He would not get a ruffian to break into your studio."
Rodney and Lucy stood looking at each other, and she had spoken with such conviction that he felt she might be right.
"But who else could do it except the priest? No one had any interest in having it done except the priest. He as much as told me that he would never get any pleasure from the statue now that he knew it had been done from a naked woman. He went away thinking it out. Ireland is emptying before them. By God, it must have been he. Now it all comes back to me. He has as much as said that something of the temptation of the naked woman would transpire through the draperies. He said that. He said that it would be a very awful thing if the temptations of the flesh were to transpire through the draperies of the Virgin. From the beginning they have looked upon women as unclean things. They have hated woman. Woman have to cover up their heads before they go into the churches. Everything is impure in their eyes, in their impure eyes, whereas I saw nothing in you but loveliness. He was shocked by those round tapering legs; and would have liked to curse them; and the dainty design of the hips, the beautiful little hips, and the breasts curved like shells, that I modelled so well. It is he who blasphemes. They blaspheme against Life.... My God, what a vile thing is the religious mind. And all the love and veneration that went into that statue! There it is: only a lump of clay."
"I am sure you are wronging Father Tom; he has his faults, but he would not do such a thing as that."
"Yes," said Rodney, "he would. I know them better than you. I know the creed. But you did not finish your story. Tell me what happened when he began to suspect that you sat for the statue."
"He asked me if I had seen the statue of the Virgin in your studio. I grew red all over. I could not answer him, and mother said, 'Why don't you answer Father Tom?' I could see from his manner that he knew that I had sat for the statue. And then he said he wanted to speak to father and mother. Mother said I had read enough, that I had better go to bed."
"And you went out of the room knowing what the priest was going to say?" said Rodney, melting into sympathy for the first time. "And then?"
"I waited on the stairs for a little while, long enough to make sure that he was telling them that I had sat for the statue. I heard the door open, father came out, they talked on the landing. I fled into my room and locked the door, and just as I locked the door I heard father say, 'My daughter! you're insulting my daughter!' You know father is suffering from stone, and mother said, 'If you don't stop I shall be up with you all night,' and so she was. All the night I heard father moaning, and to-day he is so ill the doctor is with him, and he has been taken to the hospital, and mother says when he leaves the hospital he will turn me out of the house."
"Well," said Rodney, "great misfortunes have happened us both. It was a cruel thing of the priest to tell your father that you sat for me. But to pay someone to wreck my studio!"
Lucy begged of him not to believe too easily that Father McCabe had done this. He must wait a little while, and he had better communicate with the police. They would be able to find out who had done it.
"Now," she said, "I must go."
He glanced at the rags that had once covered his statue, but he had not the courage to undo them. If his statue had been cast the ruin would not be so irreparable. It could be put together in some sort of way.
Who would have done it but the priest? It was difficult to believe that a priest could do such a thing, that anyone could do such a thing, it was an inhuman thing to do. He might go to the police as Lucy had suggested, and the police would inquire the matter out. But would that be of any satisfaction; a wretched fine, a few days' imprisonment. Of one thing he was sure, that nowhere except in Ireland could such a thing happen. Thank God he was going! There was at least satisfaction in knowing that only twelve hours of Ireland remained. To-morrow evening he would be in Paris. He would leave the studio as it was. Maybe he might take a few busts and sketches, a few books, and a few pictures; he must take some of them with him, and he tried to formulate some plan. But he could not collect his thoughts sufficiently to think out the details. Would there be time to have a case made, or should he leave them to be sold, or should he give orders that they should be sent after him?
At that moment his eyes went towards the lump of clay, and he wished that he had asked the charwoman to take it out of his studio. He thought of it as one thinks of a corpse, and he took down a few books and tied them up with a string, and then forgot what he was doing. He and his country were two thousand years apart, and would always be two thousand years apart, and then growing superstitious, he wondered if his country had punished him for his contempt. There was something extraordinarily fateful in the accident that had happened to him. Such an accident had never happened to anyone before. A most singular accident! He stood looking through the studio unable to go on with his packing, thinking of what Harding and he had been saying to each other. The "Celtic renaissance!" Harding believed, or was inclined to believe, that the Gael was not destined to disappear, that in making the Cross of Cong he had not got as far as he was intended to get. But even Harding had admitted that no race had taken to religion quite so seriously as the Celt. The Druids had put aside the oak leaves and put on the biretta. There had never been a religious revolution in Ireland. In the fifth and sixth centuries all the intelligence of Ireland had gone into religion. "Ireland is immersed in the religious vocation, and there can be no renaissance without a religious revolt." The door of the studio opened. It was Lucy; and he wondered what she had come back for.
"It wasn't Father Tom. I knew it wasn't," she said.
"Do you know who it was then?"
"Yes, my brothers, Pat and Taigdh."
"Pat and Taigdh broke my statue! But what did they do that for? What did I ever do to them?"
"I saw them whispering together. I could see they had a secret, something inspired me, and when Taigdh went out I got Pat by himself and I coaxed him and I frightened him. I told him that things had been broken in your studio, and that the police were making inquiries. I saw at once that he knew all about it. He got frightened and he told me that last night when I went to my room he and Taigdh came out of their room and had listened on the stairs. They did not understand everything that was said, they only understood that I had sat for a statue, and that the priest did not wish to put it up in his church, and that perhaps he would have to pay for it, and if he did not the Bishop would suspend him—you know there has always been talk about Father Tom's debts. They got talking, and Taigdh said he would like to see the statue, and he persuaded Pat to follow him, and they climbed along the wall and dropped into the mews, and got the hasp off the door with the kitchen poker."
"But why did they break the statue?" said Rodney.
"I don't think they know why themselves. I tried to get Pat to tell me, but all he could tell me was that he had bumped against a woman with a cloak on."
"My lay figure."
"And in trying to get out of the studio they had knocked down a bust, and after they had done that Taigdh said: 'We had better have down this one. The priest does not like it, and if we have it down he won't have to pay for it.'"
"They must have heard the priest saying that he did not want the statue."
"Very likely they did, but I am sure the priest never said that he wanted the statue broken."
"Oh, it is a great muddle," said Rodney. "But there it is. My statue is broken. Two little boys have broken it. Two little boys who overheard a priest talking nonsense, and did not quite understand. I am going away to-night."
"Then I shall not see you again,... and you said I was a good model."
Her meaning was clear to him. He remembered how he had stood in the midst of his sculpture asking himself what a man is to do when a girl, walking with a walk at once idle and rhythmical, stops suddenly and puts her hand on his shoulder and looks up in his face. He had sworn he would not kiss her again and he had broken his oath, but the desire of her as a model had overborne every other desire. Now he was going away for ever, and his heart told him that she was as sweet a thing as he would find all the world over. But if he took her with him he would have to look after her till the end of his life. This was not his vocation. His hesitation endured but a moment, if he hesitated at all.
"You'd like to go away with me, but what should I do with you. I'm thirty-five and you're sixteen." He could see that the difference of age did not strike her—she was not looking into the remote future.
"I don't think, Lucy, your destiny is to watch me making statues. Your destiny is a gayer one than that. You want to play the piano, don't you?"
"I should have to go to Germany to study, and I have no money. Well," she said, "I must go back now. I just came to tell you who had wrecked your studio. Good-bye. It has all been an unlucky business for both of us."
"A beautiful model," Rodney said to himself, as he watched her going up the mews. "But there are other girls just as good in Paris and in Rome." And he remembered one who had sat to him in Paris, and this gave him courage. "So it was two little boys," he said, "who wrecked my studio. Two stupid little boys; two little boys who have been taught their Catechism, and will one day aspire to the priesthood." And that it should be two stupid little boys who had broken his statue seemed significant. "Oh, the ignorance, the crass, the patent ignorance! I am going. This is no place for a sculptor to live in. It is no country for an educated man. It won't be fit for a man to live in for another hundred years. It is an unwashed country, that is what it is!"
The way before him was plain enough, yet his uncle's apathy and constitutional infirmity of purpose seemed at times to thwart him. Some two or three days ago, he had come running down from Kilmore with the news that a baby had been born out of wedlock, and Father Stafford had shown no desire that his curate should denounce the girl from the altar.
"The greatest saints," he said, "have been kind, and have found excuses for the sins of others."
And a few days later, when Father Maguire told his uncle that the Salvationists had come to Kilmore, and that he had walked up the village street and slit their drum with a carving knife, his uncle had not approved of his conduct, and what had especially annoyed Father Tom was that his uncle seemed to deplore the slitting of the drum in the same way as he deplored that the Kavanaghs had a barrel of porter in every Saturday, namely, as one of those regrettable excesses to which human nature is liable. On being pressed he had agreed with his nephew that dancing and drinking were no preparation for the Sabbath, but he would not agree that evil could be suppressed by force. He had even hinted that too strict a rule brought about a revolt against the rule, and when Father Tom had expressed his disbelief at any revolt against the authority of the priest, Father Stafford said:—
"They may just leave you, they may just go to America."
"Then you think that it is our condemnation of sin that is driving the people to America."
"My dear Tom, you told me the other day that you met a lad and a lass walking along the roadside, and that you drove them home. You told me you were sure they were talking about things they should not talk about; you have no right to assume these things. You're asking of the people an abstinence you don't practice yourself. Sometimes your friends are women."
Father Tom's anger prevented him from finding an adequate argument. Father Stafford pushed the tobacco bowl towards his nephew.
"You're not smoking, Tom."
"Your point is that a certain amount of vice is inherent in human nature, and that if we raise the standard of virtuous living our people will escape from us to New York or London."
"The sexes mix freely everywhere in western Europe; only in Ireland and Turkey is there any attempt made to separate them."
Later in the evening Father Tom insisted that the measure of responsibility was always the same.
"I should be sorry," said his uncle, "to say that those who inherit drunkenness bear the same burden of responsibility as those who come of parents who are quite sane—"
"You cannot deny, uncle John, that free will and predestination—"
"My dear Tom, I really must go to bed. It is after midnight."
As he walked home, Father Maguire thought of the great change he perceived in his uncle. Father Stafford liked to go to bed at eleven, the very name of St. Thomas seemed to bore him; fifteen years ago he would sit up till morning. Father Maguire remembered the theological debates, sometimes prolonged till after three o'clock, and the passionate scholiast of Maynooth seemed to him unrecognisable in the esurient Vicar-General, only occasionally interested in theology, at certain hours and when he felt particularly well. He could not reconcile the two ages, his mind not being sufficiently acute to see that after all no one can discuss theology for more than five-and-twenty years without wearying of the subject.
The moon was shining among the hills and the mystery of the landscape seemed to aggravate his sensibility, and he asked himself if the guardians of the people should not fling themselves into the forefront of the battle. Men came to preach heresy in his parish—was he not justified in slitting their drum?
He had recourse to prayer, and he prayed for strength and for guidance. He had accepted the Church, and in the Church he saw only apathy, neglect, and bad administration on the part of his superiors.... He had read that great virtues are, like large sums of money, deposited in the bank, whereas humility is like the pence, always at hand, always current. Obedience to our superiors is the sure path. He could not persuade himself that it was right for him to allow the Kavanaghs to continue a dissolute life of drinking and dancing. They were the talk of the parish; and he would have spoken against them from the altar, but his uncle had advised him not to do so. Perhaps his uncle was right; he might be right regarding the Kavanaghs. In the main he disagreed with his uncle, but in this particular instance it might be well to wait and pray that matters might improve.
Father Tom believed Ned Kavanagh to be a good boy. Ned was going to marry Mary Byrne, and Father Tom had made up this marriage. The Byrnes did not care for the marriage—they were prejudiced against Ned on account of his family. But he was not going to allow them to break off the marriage. He was sure of Ned, but in order to make quite sure he would get him to take the pledge. Next morning when the priest had done his breakfast, and was about to unfold his newspaper, his servant opened the door, and told him that Ned Kavanagh was outside and wanted to see him.
It was a pleasure to look at this nice, clean boy, with his winning smile, and the priest thought that Mary could not wish for a better husband. Ned's smile seemed a little fainter than usual, and his face was paler; the priest wondered, and presently Ned told the priest that he had come to confession, and going down on his knees, he told the priest that he had been drunk last Saturday night, and that he had come to take the pledge. He would never do any good while he was at home, and one of the reasons he gave for wishing to marry Mary Byrne was his desire to leave home. The priest asked him if matters were mending, and if his sister showed any signs of wishing to be married.
"Sorra sign," said Ned.
"That's bad news you're bringing me," said the priest, and he walked up and down the room, and they talked over Kate's wilful character.
"From the beginning she did not like living at home," said the priest.
"I don't care about living at home," said Ned.
"But for a different reason," remarked the priest. "You want to leave home to get married, and have a wife and children, if God is pleased to give you children."
Kate had been in numerous services, and the priest sat thinking of the stories he had heard. He had heard that Kate had come back from her last situation in a cab, wrapped up in blankets, saying she was ill. On inquiry it was found that she had only been three or four days in her situation; three weeks had to be accounted for. He had questioned her himself regarding this interval, but had not been able to get any clear and definite answer from her.
"She and mother never stop quarrelling about Pat Connex."
"It appears," said the priest, "that your mother went out with a jug of porter under her apron, and offered a sup of it to Pat Connex, who was talking with Peter M'Shane, and now he is up at your cabin every Saturday."
"That's it," said Ned.
"Mrs. Connex was here the other day, and I can tell you that if Pat marries your sister he will find himself cut off with a shilling."
"She's been agin us all the while," said Ned. "Her money has made her proud, but I don't blame her. If I had the fine house she has, maybe I would be as proud as she."
"Maybe you would," said the priest. "But what I am thinking of is your sister Kate. She will never get Pat Connex. Pat will never go against his mother."
"Well, you see he comes up and plays the melodion on Saturday night," said Ned, "and she can't stop him from doing that."
"Then you think," said the priest, "that Pat will marry your sister?"
"I don't think she wants to marry him."
"If she doesn't want to marry him, what's all this talk about?"
"She likes to meet Pat in the evenings and go for a walk with him, and she likes him to put his arm round her waist and kiss her, saving your reverence's pardon."
"It is strange that you should be so unlike. You come here and ask me to speak to Mary Byrne's parents for you, and that I'll do, Ned, and it will be all right. You will make a good husband, and though you were drunk last night, you have taken the pledge to-day, and I will make a good marriage for Kate, too, if she'll listen to me."
"And who may your reverence be thinking of?"
"I'm thinking of Peter M'Shane. He gets as much as six shillings a week and his keep on Murphy's farm, and his mother has got a bit of money, and they have a nice, clean cabin. Now listen to me. There is a poultry lecture at the school-house to-night. Do you think you could bring your sister with you?"
"We used to keep a great many hens at home, and Kate had the feeding of them, and now she's turned agin them, and she wants to live in town, and she even tells Pat Connex she would not marry a farmer, however much he was worth."
"But if you tell her that Pat Connex will be at the lecture will she come?"
"Yes, your reverence, if she believes me."
"Then do as I bid you," said the priest; "you can tell her that Pat Connex will be there."
After leaving the priest Ned crossed over the road to avoid the public-house. He went for a walk on the hills, and it was about five when he turned towards the village. On his way there he met his father, and Ned told him that he had been to see the priest, and that he was going to take Mary to the lecture.
Michael Kavanagh wished his son God-speed. He was very tired; and he thought it was pretty hard to come home after a long day's work to find his wife and daughter quarrelling.
"I am sorry your dinner is not ready, father, but it won't be long now. I'll cut the bacon."
"I met Ned on the road," said her father. "He has gone to fetch Mary. He is going to take her to the lecture on poultry-keeping at the school-house."
"Ah, he has been to the priest, has he?" said Kate, and her mother asked her why she said that, and the wrangle began again.
Ned was the peacemaker; there was generally quiet in the cabin when he was there. He came in with Mary, a small, fair girl, and a good girl, who would keep his cabin tidy. His mother and sisters were broad-shouldered women with blue-black hair and red cheeks, and it was said that he had said he would like to bring a little fair hair into the family.
"We've just come in for a minute," said Mary. "Ned said that perhaps you'd be coming with us."
"All the boys in the village will be there to-night," said Ned. "You had better come with us." And pretending he wanted to get a coal of fire to light his pipe, Ned whispered to Kate as he passed her, "Pat Connex will be there."
She looked at the striped sunshade she has brought back from the dressmaker's—she had once been apprenticed to a dressmaker—but Ned said that a storm was blowing and she had better leave the sunshade behind.
The rain beat in their faces and the wind came sweeping down the mountain and made them stagger. Sometimes the road went straight on, sometimes it turned suddenly and went up-hill. After walking for a mile they came to the school-house. A number of men were waiting outside, and one of the boys told them that the priest had said they were to keep a look out for the lecturer, and Ned said that he had better stay with them, that his lantern would be useful to show her the way. They went into a long, smoky room. The women had collected into one corner, and the priest was walking up and down, his hands thrust into the pockets of his overcoat. Now he stopped in his walk to scold two children who were trying to light a peat fire in a tumbled down grate.
"Don't be tired, go on blowing," he said. "You are the laziest child I have seen this long while."
Ned came in and blew out his lantern, but the lady he had mistaken for the lecturer was a lady who had come to live in the neighbourhood lately, and the priest said:—
"You must be very much interested in poultry, ma'am, to come out on such a night as this."
The lady stood shaking her waterproof.
"Now, then, Lizzie, run to your mother and get the lady a chair."
And when the child came back with the chair, and the lady was seated by the fire, he said:—
"I'm thinking there will be no lecturer here to-night, and that it would be kind of you if you were to give the lecture yourself. You have read some books about poultry, I am sure?"
"Well, a little—but—"
"Oh, that doesn't matter," said the priest. "I'm sure the book you have read is full of instruction."
He walked up the room towards a group of men and told them they must cease talking, and coming back to the young woman, he said:—
"We shall be much obliged if you will say a few words about poultry. Just say what you have in your mind about the different breeds."
The young woman again protested, but the priest said:—
"You will do it very nicely." And he spoke like one who is not accustomed to being disobeyed. "We will give the lecturer five minutes more."
"Is there no farmer's wife who could speak," the young lady said in a fluttering voice. "She would know much more than I. I see Biddy M'Hale there. She has done very well with her poultry."
"I daresay she has," said the priest, "but the people would pay no attention to her. She is one of themselves. It would be no amusement to them to hear her."
The young lady asked if she might have five minutes to scribble a few notes. The priest said he would wait a few minutes, but it did not matter much what she said.
"But couldn't some one dance or sing," said the young lady.
"Dancing and singing!" said the priest. "No!"
And the young lady hurriedly scribbled a few notes about fowls for laying, fowls for fattening, regular feeding, warm houses, and something about a percentage of mineral matter. She had not half finished when the priest said:—
"Now will you stand over there near the harmonium. Whom shall I announce?"
The young woman told him her name, and he led her to the harmonium and left her talking, addressing most of her instruction to Biddy M'Hale, a long, thin, pale-faced woman, with wistful eyes.
"This won't do," said the priest, interrupting the lecturer,—"I'm not speaking to you, miss, but to my people. I don't see one of you taking notes, not even you, Biddy M'Hale, though you have made a fortune out of your hins. Didn't I tell you from the pulpit that you were to bring pencil and paper and write down all you heard. If you had known years ago all this young lady is going to tell you you would be rolling in your carriages to-day."
Then the priest asked the lecturer to go on, and the lady explained that to get hens to lay about Christmas time, when eggs fetched the best price, you must bring on your pullets early.
"You must," she said, "set your eggs in January."
"You hear that," said the priest. "Is there anyone who has got anything to say about that? Why is it that you don't set your eggs in January?"
No one answered, and the lecturer went on to tell of the advantages that would come to the poultry-keeper whose eggs were hatched in December.
As she said this, the priest's eyes fell upon Biddy M'Hale, and, seeing that she was smiling, he asked her if there was any reason why eggs could not be hatched in the beginning of January.
"Now, Biddy, you must know all about this, and I insist on your telling us. We are here to learn."
Biddy did not answer.
"Then what were you smiling at?"
"I wasn't smiling, your reverence."
"Yes; I saw you smiling. Is it because you think there isn't a brooding hin in January?"
It had not occurred to the lecturer that hens might not be brooding so early in the year, and she waited anxiously. At last Biddy said:—
"Well, your reverence, it isn't because there are no hins brooding. You'll get brooding hins at every time in the year; but, you see, you can't rear chickens earlier than March. The end of February is the earliest I have ever seen. But, of course, if you could rear them in January, all that the young lady said would be quite right. I have nothing to say agin it. I have no fault to find with anything she says, your reverence."
"Only that it can't be done." said the priest. "Well, you ought to know, Biddy."
The villagers were laughing.
"That will do," said the priest. "I don't mind your having a bit of amusement, but you're here to learn."
And as he looked round the room, quieting the villagers into silence, his eyes fell on Kate. "That's all right," he thought, and he looked for the others, and spied Pat Connex and Peter M'Shane near the door. "They're here, too," he thought. "When the lecture is over I will see them and bring them all together. Kate Kavanagh won't go home until she promises to marry Peter. I have had enough of her goings on in my parish."
But Kate had caught sight of Peter. She would get no walk home with Pat that night, and she suspected her brother of having done this for a purpose. She got up to go.
"I don't want anyone to leave this room," said the priest. "Kate Kavanagh, why are you going? Sit down till the lecture is over."
And as Kate had not strength to defy the priest she sat down, and the lecturer continued for a little while longer. The priest could see that the lecturer had said nearly all she had to say, and he had begun to wonder how the evening's amusement was to be prolonged. It would not do to let the people go home until Michael Dunne had closed his public-house, and the priest looked round the audience thinking which one he might call upon to say a few words on the subject of poultry-keeping.
From one of the back rows a voice was heard:—
"What about the pump, your reverence?"
"Well, indeed, you may ask," said the priest.
And immediately he began to speak of the wrong they had suffered by not having a pump in the village. The fact that Almighty God had endowed Kilmore with a hundred mountain streams did not release the authorities from the obligation of supplying the village with a pump. Had not the authorities put up one in the neighbouring village?
"You should come out," he said, "and fight for your rights. You should take off your coats like men, and if you do I'll see that you get your rights," and he looked round for someone to speak.
There was a landlord among the audience, and as he was a Catholic the priest called upon him to speak. He said that he agreed with the priest in the main. They should have their pump, if they wanted a pump; if they didn't, he would suggest that they asked for something else. Farmer Byrne said he did not want a pump, and then everyone spoke his mind, and things got mixed. The Catholic landlord regretted that Father Maguire was against allowing a poultry-yard to the patients in the lunatic asylum. If, instead of supplying a pump, the Government would sell them eggs for hatching at a low price, something might be gained. If the Government would not do this, the Government might be induced to supply books on poultry free of charge. It took the Catholic landlord half an hour to express his ideas regarding the asylum, the pump, and the duties of the Government, and in this way the priest succeeded in delaying the departure of the audience till after closing time. "However fast they walk," he said to himself, "they won't get to Michael Dunne's public-house in ten minutes, and he will be shut by then." It devolved upon him to bring the evening's amusement to a close with a few remarks, and he said:—
"Now, the last words I have to say to you I'll address to the women. Now listen to me. If you pay more attention to your poultry you'll never be short of half a sovereign to lend your husbands, your sons, or your brothers."
These last words produced an approving shuffling of feet in one corner of the room, and seeing that nothing more was going to happen, the villagers got up and they went out very slowly, the women curtseying and the men lifting their caps to the priest as they passed him.
He had signed to Ned and Mary that he wished to speak to them, and after he had spoken to Ned he called Kate and reminded her that he had not seen her at confession lately.
"Pat Connex and Peter M'Shane, now don't you be going. I will have a word with you presently." And while Kate tried to find an excuse to account for her absence from confession, the priest called to Ned and Mary, who were talking at a little distance. He told them he would be waiting for them in church tomorrow, and he said he had never made a marriage that gave him more pleasure. He alluded to the fact that they had come to him. He was responsible for this match, and he accepted the responsibility gladly. His uncle, the Vicar-General, had delegated all the work of the parish to him.
"Father Stafford," he said abruptly, "will be very glad to hear of your marriage, Kate Kavanagh."
"My marriage," said Kate .... "I don't think I shall ever be married."
"Now, why do you say that?" said the priest. Kate did not know why she had said that she would never be married. However, she had to give some reason, and she said:—
"I don't think, your reverence, anyone would have me."
"You are not speaking your mind," said the priest, a little sternly. "It is said that you don't want to be married, that you like courting better."
"I'd like to be married well enough," said Kate.
"Those who wish to make safe, reliable marriages consult their parents and they consult the priest. I have made your brother's marriage for him. Why don't you come to me and ask me to make up a marriage for you?"
"I think a girl should make her own marriage, your reverence."
"And what way do you go about making up a marriage? Walking about the roads in the evening, and going into public-houses, and leaving your situations. It seems to me, Kate Kavanagh, you have been a long time making up this marriage."
"Now, Pat Connex, I've got a word with you. You're a good boy, and I know you don't mean any harm by it; but I have been hearing tales about you. You've been up to Dublin with Kate Kavanagh. Your mother came up to speak to me about this matter yesterday, and she said: 'Not a penny of my money will he ever get if he marries her,' meaning the girl before you. Your mother said; 'I've got nothing to say against her, but I've got a right to choose my own daughter-in-law.' These are your mother's very words, Pat, so you had better listen to reason. Do you hear me, Kate?"
"I hear your reverence."
"And if you hear me, what have you got to say to that?"
"He's free to go after the girl he chooses, your reverence," said Kate.
"There's been courting enough," the priest said. "If you aren't going to be married you must give up keeping company. I see Paddy Boyle outside the door. Go home with him. Do you hear what I'm saying, Pat? Go straight home, and no stopping about the roads. Just do as I bid you; go straight home to your mother."
Pat did not move at the bidding of the priest. He stood watching Kate as if he were waiting for a sign from her, but Kate did not look at him.
"Do you hear what I'm saying to you?" said the priest.
"Yes, I hear," said Pat.
"And aren't you going?" said the priest.
Everyone was afraid Pat would raise his hand against the priest, and they looked such strong men, both of them, that everyone wondered which would get the better of the other.
"You won't go home when I tell you to do so. We will see if I can't put you out of the door then."
"If you weren't a priest," said Pat, "the devil a bit of you would put me out of the door."
"If I weren't a priest I would break every bone in your body for talking to me like that. Now out you go," he said, taking him by the collar, and he put him out.
"And now, Kate Kavanagh," said the priest, coming back from the door, "you said you didn't marry because no man would have you. Peter has been waiting for you ever since you were a girl of sixteen years old, and I may say it for him, since he doesn't say much himself, that you have nearly broken his heart."
"I'm sure I never meant it. I like Peter."
"You acted out of recklessness without knowing what you were doing."
A continual smile floated round Peter's moustache, and he looked like a man to whom rebuffs made no difference. His eyes were patient and docile; and whether it was the presence of this great and true love by her side, or whether it was the presence of the priest, Kate did not know, but a great change came over her, and she said:—
"I know that Peter has been very good, that he has cared for me this long while .... If he wishes to make me his wife—"
When Kate gave him her hand there was a mist in his eyes, and he stood trembling before her.
Next morning, as Father Maguire was leaving the house, his servant handed him a letter. It was from an architect who had been down to examine the walls of the church. The envelope that Father Maguire was tearing open contained his report, and Father Maguire read that it would require two hundred pounds to make the walls secure. Father Maguire was going round to the church to marry Mary Byrne and Ned Kavanagh, and he continued to read the report until he arrived at the church. The wedding party was waiting, but the architect's report was much more important than a wedding, and he wandered round the old walls examining the cracks as he went. He could see they were crumbling, and he believed the architect was right, and that it would be better to build a new church. But to build a new church three or four thousand pounds would be required, and the architect might as well suggest that he should collect three or four millions.
And Ned and Mary noticed the dark look between the priest's eyes as he came out of the sacristy, and Ned regretted that his reverence should be out of his humour that morning, for he had spent three out of the five pounds he had saved to pay the priest for marrying him. He had cherished hopes that the priest would understand that he had had to buy some new clothes, but the priest looked so cross that it was with difficulty he summoned courage to tell him that he had only two pounds left.
"I want two hundred pounds to make the walls of the church safe. Where is the money to come from? All the money in Kilmore goes into drink," he added bitterly, "into blue trousers. No, I won't marry you for two pounds. I won't marry you for less than five. I will marry you for nothing or I will marry you for five pounds," he added, and Ned looked round the wedding guests; he knew that none had five shillings in his pocket, and he did not dare to take the priest at his word and let him marry him for nothing.
Father Maguire felt that his temper had got the better of him, but it was too late to go back on what he said. Marry them for two pounds with the architect's letter in the pocket of his cassock! And if he were to accept two pounds, who would pay five to be married? If he did not stand out for his dues the marriage fee would be reduced from five pounds to one pound ... And if he accepted Ned's two pounds his authority would be weakened; he would not be able to get them to subscribe to have the church made safe. On the whole he thought he had done right, and his servant was of the same opinion.
"They'd have the cassock off your back, your reverence, if they could get it."
"And the architect writing to me that the walls can't be made safe under two hundred pounds, and the whole lot of them not earning less than thirty shillings a week, and they can't pay the priest five pounds for marrying them."
In the course of the day he went to Dublin to see the architect; and next morning it occurred to him that he might have to go to America to get the money to build a new church, and as he sat thinking the door was opened and the servant said that Biddy M'Hale wanted to see his reverence.
She came in curtseying, and before saying a word she took ten sovereigns out of her pocket and put them upon the table. The priest thought she had heard of the architect's report, and he said:—
"Now, Biddy, I am glad to see you. I suppose you have brought me this for my church. You have heard of the money it will cost to make the walls safe."
"No, your reverence, I did not hear any more than that there were cracks in the walls."
"But you have brought me this money to have the cracks mended?"
"Well, no, your reverence. I have been thinking a long time of doing something for the church, and I thought I should like to have a window put up in the church with coloured glass in it."
Father Maguire was touched by Biddy's desire to do something for the church, and he thought he would have no difficulty in persuading her. He could get this money for the repairs, and he told her that her name would be put on the top of the subscription list.
"A subscription from Miss M'Hale—L10. A subscription from Miss M'Hale."
Biddy did not answer, and the priest could see that it would give her no pleasure whatever to subscribe to mending the walls of his church, and it annoyed him to see her sitting in his own chair stretching out her hands to take the money back. He could see that her wish to benefit the church was merely a pretext for the glorification of herself, and the priest began to argue with the old woman. But he might have spared himself the trouble of explaining that it was necessary to have a new church before you could have a window. She understood well enough it was useless to put a window up in a church that was going to fall down. But her idea still was St. Joseph in a red cloak and the Virgin in blue with a crown of gold on her head, and forgetful of everything else, she asked him whether her window in the new church should be put over the high altar, or if it should be a window lighting a side altar.
"But, my good woman, ten pounds will not pay for a window. You couldn't get anything to speak of in the way of a window for less than fifty pounds."
He had expected to astonish Biddy, but she did not seem astonished. She said that although fifty pounds was a great deal of money she would not mind spending all that money if she were to have her window all to herself. She had thought at first of only putting in part of the window, a round piece at the top of the window, and she had thought that that could be bought for ten pounds. The priest could see that she had been thinking a good deal of this window, and she seemed to know more about it than he expected. "It is extraordinary," he said to himself, "how a desire of immortality persecutes these second-class souls. A desire of temporal immortality," he said, fearing he had been guilty of a heresy.
"If I could have the whole window to myself, I would give you fifty pounds, your reverence."
The priest had no idea she had saved as much money as that.
"The hins have been very good to me, your reverence, and I would like to put up the window in the new church better than in the old church."
"But I've got no money, my good woman, to build the church."
"Ah, won't your reverence go to America and get the money. Aren't our own kith and kin over there, and aren't they always willing to give us money for our churches."
The priest spoke to her about statues, and suggested that perhaps a statue would be a more permanent gift, but the old woman knew that stained glass was more permanent, and that it could be secured from breakage by means of wire netting.
"Do you know, Biddy, it will require three or four thousand pounds to build a new church. If I go to America and do my best to get the money, how much will you help me with?"
"Does your reverence mean for the window?"
"No, Biddy, I was thinking of the church itself."
And Biddy said that she would give him five pounds to help to build the church and fifty pounds for her window, and, she added, "If the best gilding and paint costs a little more I would be sorry to see the church short."
"Well, you say, Biddy, you will give five pounds towards the church. Now, let us think how much money I could get in this parish."
He had a taste for gossip, and he liked to hear everyone's domestic details. She began by telling him she had met Kate Kavanagh on the road, and Kate had told her that there had been great dancing last night.
"But there was no wedding," said the priest.
"I only know, your reverence, what Kate Kavanagh told me. There had been great dancing last night. The supper was ordered at Michael Dunne's, and the cars were ordered, and they went to Enniskerry and back."
"But Michael Dunne would not dare to serve supper to people who were not married," said the priest.
"The supper had been ordered, and they would have to pay for it whether they ate it or not. There was a pig's head, and the cake cost eighteen shillings, and it was iced."
"Never mind the food," said the priest, "tell me what happened."
"Kate said that after coming back from Enniskerry, Michael Dunne said: 'Is this the wedding party?' and that Ned jumped off the car, and said: 'To be sure. Amn't I the wedded man.' And they had half a barrel of porter."
"Never mind the drink," said the priest, "what then?"
"There was dancing first and fighting after. Pat Connex and Peter M'Shane were both there. You know Pat plays the melodion, and he asked Peter to sing, and Peter can't sing a bit, and he was laughed at. So he grabbed a bit of stick and hit Pat on the head, and hit him badly, too. I hear the doctor had to be sent for."
"That is always the end of their dancing and drinking," said the priest. "And what happened then, what happened? After that they went home?"
"Yes, your reverence, they went home."
"Mary Byrne went home with her own people, I suppose, and Ned went back to his home."
"I don't know, your reverence, what they did."
"Well, what else did Kate Kavanagh tell you?"
"She had just left her brother and Mary, and they were going towards the Peak. That is what Kate told me when I met her on the road."
"Mary Byrne would not go to live with a man to whom she was not married. But you told me that Kate said she had just left Mary Byrne and her brother."
"Yes, they were just coming out of the cabin," said Biddy. "She passed them on the road."
"Out of whose cabin?" said the priest.
"Out of Ned's cabin. I know it must have been out of Ned's cabin, because she said she met them at the cross roads."
He questioned the old woman, but she grew less and less explicit.
"I don't like to think this of Mary Byrne, but after so much dancing and drinking, it is impossible to say what might not have happened."
"I suppose they forgot your reverence didn't marry them."
"Forgot!" said the priest. "A sin has been committed, and through my fault."
"They will come to your reverence to-morrow when they are feeling a little better."
The priest did not answer, and Biddy said:—
"Am I to take away my money, or will your reverence keep it for the stained glass window."
"The church is tumbling down, and before it is built up you want me to put up statues."
"I'd like a window as well or better."
"I've got other things to think of now."
"Your reverence is very busy. If I had known it I would not have come disturbing you. But I'll take my money with me."
"Yes, take your money," he said. "Go home quietly, and say nothing about what you have told me. I must think over what is best to be done."
Biddy hurried away gathering her shawl about her, and this great strong man who had taken Pat Connex by the collar and could have thrown him out of the school-room, fell on his knees and prayed that God might forgive him the avarice and anger that had caused him to refuse to marry Ned Kavanagh and Mary Byrne.
"Oh! my God, oh! my God," he said, "Thou knowest that it was not for myself that I wanted the money, it was to build up Thine Own House."
He remembered that his uncle had warned him again and again aginst the sin of anger. He had thought lightly of his uncle's counsels, and he had not practised the virtue of humility, which, as St. Teresa said, was the surest virtue to seek in this treacherous world.
"Oh, my God, give me strength to conquer anger."
The servant opened the door, but seeing the priest upon his knees, she closed it quietly, and the priest prayed that if sin had been committed he might bear the punishment.
And on rising from his knees he felt that his duty was to seek out the sinful couple. But how to speak to them of their sins? The sin was not their's. He was the original wrong-doer. If Ned Kavanagh and Mary Byrne were to die and lose their immortal souls, how could the man who had been the cause of the loss of two immortal souls, save his own, and the consequences of his refusal to marry Ned Kavanagh and Mary Byrne seemed to reach to the very ends of Eternity.
He walked to his uncle's with great swift steps, hardly seeing his parishioners as he passed them on the road.
"Is Father Stafford in?"
"Yes, your reverence."
"Uncle John, I have come to consult you."
The priest sat huddled in his arm-chair over the fire, and Father Maguire noticed that his cassock was covered with snuff, and he noticed the fringe of reddish hair about the great bald head, and he noticed the fat inert hands. And he noticed these things more explicitly than he had ever noticed them before, and he wondered why he noticed them so explicitly, for his mind was intent on a matter of great spiritual importance.
"I have come to ask you," Father Tom said, "regarding the blame attaching to a priest who refuses to marry a young man and a young woman, there being no impediment of consanguinity or other."
"But have you refused to marry anyone because they couldn't pay you your dues?"
"Listen, the church is falling."
"My dear Tom, you should not have refused to marry them," he said, as soon as his soul-stricken curate had laid the matter before him.
"Nothing can justify my action in refusing to marry them," said Father Tom, "nothing. Uncle John, I know that you can extenuate, that you are kind, but I do not see it is possible to look at it from any other side."
"My dear Tom, you are not sure they remained together; the only knowledge you have of the circumstances you obtained from that old woman, Biddy M'Hale, who cannot tell a story properly. An old gossip, who manufactures stories out of the slightest materials ... but who sells excellent eggs; her eggs are always fresh. I had two this morning."
"Uncle John, I did not come here to be laughed at."
"I am not laughing at you, my dear Tom; but really you know very little about this matter."
"I know well enough that they remained together last night. I examined the old woman carefully, and she had just met Kate Kavanagh on the road. There can be no doubt about it," he said.
"But," said Father John, "they intended to be married; the intention was there."
"Yes, but the intention is no use. We are not living in a country where the edicts of the Council of Trent have not been promulgated."
"That's true," said Father John. "But how can I help you? What am I to do?"
"Are you feeling well enough for a walk this morning? Could you come up to Kilmore?"
"But it is two miles—I really—"
"The walk will do you good. If you do this for me, Uncle John—"
"My dear Tom, I am, as you say, not feeling very well this morning, but—"
He looked at his nephew, and seeing that he was suffering, he said:—
"I know what these scruples of conscience are; they are worse than physical suffering."
But before he decided to go with his nephew to seek the sinners out, he could not help reading him a little lecture.
"I don't feel as sure as you do that a sin has been committed, but admitting that a sin has been committed, I think you ought to admit that you set your face against the pleasure of these poor people too resolutely."
"Pleasure," said Father Tom. "Drinking and dancing, hugging and kissing each other about the lanes."
"You said dancing—now, I can see no harm in it."
"There is no harm in dancing, but it leads to harm. If they only went back with their parents after the dance, but they linger in the lanes."
"It was raining the other night, and I felt sorry, and I said, 'Well, the boys and girls will have to stop at home to-night, there will be no courting to-night.' If you do not let them walk about the lanes and make their own marriages, they marry for money. These walks at eventide represent all the aspiration that may come into their lives. After they get married, the work of the world grinds all the poetry out of them."
"Walking under the moon," said Father Tom, "with their arms round each other's waists, sitting for hours saying stupid things to each other—that isn't my idea of poetry. The Irish find poetry in other things except sex."
"Mankind," said Father John, "is the same all the world over. The Irish are not different from other races; do not think it. Woman represents all the poetry that the ordinary man is capable of appreciating."
"And what about ourselves?"
"We are different. We have put this interest aside. I have never regretted it, and you have not regretted it either."
"Celibacy has never been a trouble to me."
"But, Tom, your own temperament should not prevent you from sympathy with others. You are not the whole of human nature; you should try to get a little outside yourself."
"Can one ever do this?" said Father Tom.
"Well, you see what a difficulty your narrow-mindedness has brought you into."
"I know all that," said Father Tom. "It is no use insisting upon it. Now will you come with me? They must be married this morning. Will you come with me? I want you to talk to them. You are kinder than I am. You sympathise with them more than I do, and it wasn't you who refused to marry them."
Father John got out of his arm-chair and staggered about the room on his short fat legs, trying to find his hat. Father Tom said:—
"Here it is. You don't want your umbrella. There's no sign of rain."
"No," said his uncle, "but it will be very hot presently. My dear Tom, I can't walk fast."
"I am sorry, I didn't know I was walking fast."
"You are walking at the rate of four miles an hour at the least."
"I am sorry, I will walk slower."
At the cross rods inquiry was made, and the priests were told that the cabin Ned Kavanagh had taken was the last one.
"That's just another half-mile," remarked Father John.
"If we don't hasten we shall be late."
"We might rest here," said Father John, "for a moment," and he leaned against a gate. "My dear Tom, it seems to me you're agitating yourself a little unnecessarily about Ned Kavanagh and his wife—I mean the girl he is going to marry."
"I am quite sure. Ned Kavanagh brought Mary back to his cabin. There can be no doubt."
"Even so," said Father John. "He may have thought he was married."
"How could he have thought he was married unless he was drunk, and that cannot be put forward as an excuse. No, my dear uncle, you are inclined for subtleties this morning."
"He may have thought he was married. Moreover, he intended to be married, and if through forgetfulness—"
"Forgetfulness!" cried Father Maguire. "A pretty large measure of forgetfulness!"
"I shouldn't say that a mortal sin has been committed; a venial one .... If he intended to be married—"
"Oh, my dear uncle, we shall be late, we shall be late!"
Father Stafford repressed the smile that gathered in the corner of his lips, and he remembered how Father Tom had kept him out of bed till two o'clock in the morning, talking to him about St. Thomas Aquinas.
"If they're to be married to-day we must be getting on." And Father Maguire's stride grew more impatient. "I'll walk on in front."
At last he spied a woman in a field, and she told him that the married couple had gone towards the Peak. Most of them had gone for a walk, but Pat Connex was in bed, and the doctor had to be sent for.
"I've heard," said Father Tom, "of last night's drunkenness. Half a barrel of porter; there's what remains," he said, pointing to some stains on the roadway. "They were too drunk to turn off the tap."
"I heard your reverence wouldn't marry them," the woman said.
"I am going to bring them down to the church at once."
"Well, if you do," said the woman, "you won't be a penny the poorer; you will have your money at the end of the week. And how do you do, your reverence." The woman dropped a curtsey to Father Stafford. "It's seldom we see you up here."
"They have gone towards the Peak," said Father Tom, for he saw his uncle would take advantage of the occasion to gossip. "We shall catch them up there."
"I am afraid I am not equal to it, Tom. I'd like to do this for you, but I am afraid I am not equal to another half-mile up-hill."
Father Maguire strove to hypnotize his parish priest.
"Uncle John, you are called upon to make this effort. I cannot speak to these people as I should like to."
"If you spoke to them as you would like to, you would only make matters worse," said Father John.
"Very likely, I'm not in a humour to contest these things with you. But I beseech you to come with me. Come," he said, "take my arm."
They went a few hundred yards up the road, then there was another stoppage, and Father Maguire had again to exercise his power of will, and he was so successful that the last half-mile of the road was accomplished almost without a stop.
At Michael Dunne's, the priests learned that the wedding party had been there, and Father Stafford called for a lemonade.
"Don't fail me now, Uncle John. They are within a few hundred yards of us. I couldn't meet them without you. Think of it. If they were to tell me that I had refused to marry them for two pounds, my authority would be gone for ever. I should have to leave the parish."
"My dear Tom, I would do it if I could, but I am completely exhausted."
At that moment sounds of voices were heard.
"Listen to them, Uncle John." And the curate took the glass from Father John. "They are not as far as I thought, they are sitting under these trees. Come," he said.
They walked some twenty yards, till they reached a spot where the light came pouring through the young leaves, and all the brown leaves of last year were spotted with light. There were light shadows amid the rocks and pleasant mosses, and the sounds of leaves and water, and from the top of a rock Kate listened while Peter told her they would rebuild his house.
"The priests are after us," she said.
And she gave a low whistle, and the men and boys looked round, and seeing the priests coming, they dispersed, taking several paths, and none but Ned and Mary were left behind. Ned was dozing, Mary was sitting beside him fanning herself with her hat; they had not heard Kate's whistle, and they did not see the priests until they were by them.
"Now, Tom, don't lose your head, be quiet with them."
"Will you speak to them, or shall I?" said Father Tom.
In the excitement of the moment he forgot his own imperfections and desired to admonish them.
"I think you had better let me speak to them," said Father John. "You are Ned Kavanagh," he said, "and you are Mary Byrne, I believe. Now, I don't know you all, for I am getting an old man, and I don't often come up this way. But notwithstanding my age, and the heat of the day, I have come up, for I have heard that you have not acted as good Catholics should. I don't doubt for a moment that you intended to get married, but you have, I fear, been guilty of a great sin, and you've set a bad example."
"We were on our way to your reverence now," said Mary. "I mean to his reverence."
"Well," said Father Tom, "you are certainly taking your time over it, lying here half asleep under the trees."
"We hadn't the money," said Mary, "it wasn't our fault."
"Didn't I say I'd marry you for nothing?"
"But sure, your reverence, that's only a way of speaking."
"There's no use lingering here," said Father Tom. "Ned, you took the pledge the day before yesterday, and yesterday you were tipsy."
"I may have had a drop of drink in me, your reverence. Pat Connex passed me the mug of porter and I forgot myself."
"And once," said the priest, "you tasted the porter you thought you could go on taking it."
Ned did not answer, and the priests whispered together.
"We are half way now," said Father Tom, "we can get there before twelve o'clock."
"I don't think I'm equal to it," said Father John. "I really don't think—"
The sounds of wheels were heard, and a peasant driving a donkey cart came up the road.
"You see it is all up-hill," said Father John. "See how the road ascends. I never could manage it."
"The road is pretty flat at the top of the hill once you get to the top of the hill, and the cart will take you to the top."
It seemed undignified to get into the donkey cart, but his nephew's conscience was at stake, and the Vicar-General got in, and Father Tom said to the unmarried couple:—
"Now walk on in front of us, and step out as quickly as you can."
And on the way to the church Father Tom remembered that he had caught sight of Kate standing at the top of the rock talking to Peter M'Shane. In a few days they would come to him to be married, and he hoped that Peter and Kate's marriage would make amends for this miserable patchwork, for Ned Kavanagh and Mary Byrne's marriage was no better than patchwork.
Mrs. Connex promised the priest to keep Pat at home out of Kate's way, and the neighbours knew it was the priest's wish that they should do all they could to help him to bring about this marriage, and everywhere Kate went she heard nothing talked of but her marriage.
The dress that Kate was to be married in was a nice grey silk. It had been bought at a rummage sale, and she was told that it suited her. But Kate had begun to feel that she was being driven into a trap. In the week before her marriage she tried to escape. She went to Dublin to look for a situation; but she did not find one. She had not seen Pat since the poultry lecture, and his neglect angered her. She did not care what became of her.
On the morning of her wedding she turned round and asked her sister if she thought she ought to marry Peter, and Julia said it would be a pity if she didn't. Six cars had been engaged, and, feeling she was done for, she went to the church, hoping it would fall down on her. Well, the priest had his way, and Kate felt she hated him and Mrs. M'Shane, who stood on the edge of the road. The fat were distributed alongside of the lean, and the bridal party drove away, and there was a great waving of hands, and Mrs. M'Shane waited until the last car was out of sight.
Her husband had been dead many years, and she lived with her son in a two-roomed cabin. She was one of those simple, kindly natures that everyone likes and that everyone despises, and she returned home like a lonely goose, waddling slowly, a little overcome by the thought of the happiness that awaited her son. There would be no more lonely evenings in the cabin; Kate would be with him now, and later on there would be some children, and she waddled home thinking of the cradle and the joy it would be to her to take her grandchildren upon her knee. When she returned to the cottage she sat down, so that she might dream over her happiness a little longer. But she had not been sitting long when she remembered there was a great deal of work to be done. The cabin would have to be cleaned from end to end, there was the supper to be cooked, and she did not pause in her work until everything was ready. At five the pig's head was on the table, and the sheep's tongues; the bread was baked; the barrel of porter had come, and she was expecting the piper every minute. As she stood with her arms akimbo looking at the table, thinking of the great evening it would be, she thought how her old friend, Annie Connex, had refused to come to Peter's wedding. Wasn't all the village saying that Kate would not have married Peter if she had not been driven to it by the priest and by her mother.
"Poor boy," she thought, "his heart is so set upon her that he has no ears for any word against her."
She could not understand why people should talk ill of a girl on her wedding day. "Why shouldn't a girl be given a chance?" she asked herself. "Why should Annie Connex prevent her son from coming to the dance? If she were to go to her now and ask her if she would come? and if she would not come herself, if she would let Pat come round for an hour? If Annie would do this all the gossips would have their tongues tied. Anyhow she could try to persuade her." And she locked her door and walked up the road and knocked at Mrs. Connex's.
Prosperity in the shapes of pig styes and stables had collected round Annie's door, and Mrs. M'Shane was proud to be a visitor in such a house.
"I came round, Annie, to tell you they're married."
"Well, come in, Mary," she said, "if you have the time."
The first part of the sentence was prompted by the news that Kate was safely married and out of Pat's way; and the second half of the sentence, "if you have the time," was prompted by a wish that Mary should see that she need not come again for some time at least.
To Annie Connex the Kavanagh family was abomination. The father got eighteen shillings a week for doing a bit of gardening. Ned had been a quarryman, now he was out of work and did odd jobs. The Kavanaghs took in a baby, and they got five or six shillings a week for that. Mrs. Kavanagh sold geraniums at more than their value, and she got more than the market value for her chickens—she sold them to charitable folk who were anxious to encourage poultry farming; and now Julia, the second daughter, had gone in for lace making, and she made a lace that looked as if it were cut out of paper, and sold it for three times its market value.
And to sell above market value was abominable to Annie Connex. Her idea of life was order and administration, and the village she lived in was thriftless and idle. The Kavanaghs received out-door relief; they got two shillings a week off the rates, though every Saturday evening they bought a quarter barrel of porter, and Annie Connex could not believe in the future of a country that would tolerate such a thing. If her son had married a Kavanagh her life would have come to an end, and the twenty years she had worked for him would have been wasted years. Thank God, Kate was out of her son's way, and on seeing Mary she resolved that Pat should never cross the M'Shane's threshold.
Mrs. M'Shane looked round the comfortable kitchen, with sides of bacon, and home-cured hams hanging from the rafters. She had not got on in life as well as Mrs. Connex, and she knew she would never have a beautiful closed range, but an open hearth till the end of her days. She could never have a nice dresser with a pretty carved top. The dresser in her kitchen was deal, and had no nice shining brass knobs on it. She would never have a parlour, and this parlour had in it a mahogany table and a grandfather's clock that would show you the moon on it just the same as it was in the sky, and there was a glass over the fireplace. This was Annie Connex's own parlour. The parlour on the other side of the house was even better furnished, for in the summer months Mrs. Connex bedded and boarded her lodgers for one pound or one pound five shillings a week.
"So she was married to-day, and Father Maguire married her after all. I never thought he would have brought her to it. Well, I'm glad she's married." It rose to Mary's lips to say, "you are glad she didn't marry your son," but she put back the words. "It comes upon me as a bit of surprise, for sure and all I could never see her settling down in the parish."
"Them that are the wildest before marriage are often the best after, and I think it will be like that with Kate."
"I hope so," said Annie. "And there is reason why it should be like that. She must have liked Peter better than we thought; you will never get me to believe that it was the priest's will or anybody's will that brought Kate to do what she did."
"I hope she'll make my boy a good wife."
"I hope so, too," said Annie, and the women sat over the fire thinking it out.
Annie Connex wore an apron, and a black straw hat; and her eyes were young, and kind, and laughing, but Mrs. M'Shane, who had known her for twenty years, often wondered what Annie would have been like if she had not got a kind husband, and if good luck had not attended her all through life.
"We never had anyone like her before in the parish. I hear she turned round to her sister Julia, who was dressing her, and said, 'Now am I to marry him, or shall I go to America?' And she was putting on her grey dress at the time."
"She looked well in that grey dress; there was lace on the front of it, and everyone said that a handsomer girl hasn't been married in the parish for years. There isn't a man in the parish that would not be in Peter's place to-day if he only dared."
"I don't catch your meaning, Mary."
"Well, perhaps I oughtn't to have said it now that she's my own daughter, but I think many would have been a bit afraid of her after what she said to the priest three days ago."
"She did have her tongue on him. People are telling all ends of stories."
"Tis said that Father Maguire was up at the Kavanagh's three days ago, and I heard that she hunted him. She called him a policeman, and a tax collector, and a landlord, and if she said this she said more to a priest than anyone ever said before. 'There are plenty of people in the parish,' she said, 'who believe he could turn them into rabbits if he liked.' As for the rabbits she isn't far from the truth, though I don't take it on myself to say if it be a truth or a lie. But I know for a fact that Patsy Rogan was going to vote for the Unionist to please his landlord, but the priest had been to see his wife, who was going to be confined, and didn't he tell her that if Patsy voted for the wrong man there would be horns on the new baby, and Mrs. Rogan was so frightened that she wouldn't let her husband go when he came in that night till he had promised to vote as the priest wished."
"Patsy Rogan is an ignorant man," said Annie, "there are many like him even here."
"Ah, sure there will be always some like him. Don't we like to believe the priest can do all things."
"But Kate doesn't believe the priest can do these things. Anyhow she's married, and there will be an end to all the work that has been going on."
"That's true for you, Annie, and that's just what I came to talk to you about. I think now she's married we ought to give her a chance. Every girl ought to get her chance, and the way to put an end to all this talk about her will be for you to come round to the dance to-night."
"I don't know that I can do that. I am not friends with the Kavanaghs, though I always bid them the time of day when I meet them on the road."
"If you come in for a few minutes, or if Pat were to come in for a few minutes. If Peter and Pat aren't friends they'll be enemies."
"Maybe they'd be worse enemies if I don't keep Pat out of Kate's way. She's married Peter; but her mind is not settled yet."
"Yes, Annie, I've thought of all that; but they'll be meeting on the road, and, if they aren't friends, there will be quarrelling, and some bad deed may be done."
Annie did not answer, and, thinking to convince her, Mary said:—
"You wouldn't like to see a corpse right over your window."
"It ill becomes you, Mary, to speak of corpses after the blow that Peter gave Pat with his stick at Ned Kavanagh's wedding. No; I must stand by my son, and I must keep him out of the low Irish, and he won't be safe until I get him a good wife."
"The low Irish! indeed, Annie, it ill becomes you to talk that way of your neighbours. Is it because none of us have brass knockers on our doors? I have seen this pride growing up in you, Annie Connex, this long while. There isn't one in the village now that you've any respect for except the grocer, that black Protestant, who sits behind his counter and makes money, and knows no enjoyment in life at all."
"That's your way of looking at it; but it isn't mine. I set my face against my son marrying Kate Kavanagh, and you should have done the same."
"Something will happen to you for the cruel words you have spoken to me this day."
"Mary, you came to ask me to your son's wedding, and I had to tell you—"
"Yes, and you've told me that you won't come, and that you hate the Kavanaghs, and you've said all you could against them. I should not have listened to all you said; if I did, it is because we have known each other these twenty years. Don't I remember well the rags you had on your back when you came to this village. It ill becomes—"
Mrs. M'Shane got up and went out and Annie followed her to the gate.
The sounds of wheels and hoofs were heard, and the wedding party passed by, and on the first car whom should they see but Kate sitting between Pat and Peter.
"Good-bye, Annie. I see that Pat's coming to our dance after all. I must hurry down the road to open the door to him."
And she laughed as she waddled down the road, and she could not speak for want of breath when she got to the door. They were all there, Pat and the piper and Kate and Peter and all their friends; and she could not speak? and hadn't the strength to find the key. She could only think of the black look that had come over Annie's face when she saw Pat sitting by Kate on the car. She had told Annie that she would be punished, and Mrs. M'Shane laughed as she searched for the key, thinking how quickly her punishment had come.
She searched for the key, and all the while they were telling her how they had met Pat at Michael Dunne's.
"When he saw us he tried to sneak into the yard; but I went after him. And don't you think I did right?" Kate said, as they went into the house. And when they were all inside, she said: "Now I'll get the biggest jug of porter, and one shall drink one half and the other the other."
Peter was fond of jugs, and had large and small; some were white and brown, and some were gilt, with pink flowers. At last she chose the great brown one.
"Now, Peter, you'll say something nice."
"I'll say, then," said Peter, "this is the happiest day of my life, as it should be, indeed; for haven't I got the girl that I wanted, and hasn't Pat forgiven me for the blow I struck him? For he knows well I wouldn't hurt a hair of his head. Weren't we boys together? But I had a cross drop in me at the time, and that was how it was."
Catching sight of Kate's black hair and rosy cheeks, which were all the world to him, he stopped speaking and stood looking at her, unheedful of everything; and he looked so good and foolish at that time that more than one woman thought it would be a weary thing to live with him.
"Now, Pat, you must make a speech, too," said Kate.
"I haven't any speech in me," he said. "I'm glad enough to be here; but I'm sore afraid my mother saw me sitting on the car, and I think I had better be going home and letting you finish this marriage."
"What's that you're saying?" said Kate. "You won't go out of this house till you've danced a reel with me, and now sit down at the table next to me; and, Peter, you sit on the other side of him, so that he won't run away to his mother."