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Irish Portraits: 14 Short Stories by Liam O’Flaherty 

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The Painted Woman

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One lone star was following a little half-grown moon across an open space in the dark sky. All round, the firmament was full of sagging clouds. Some were black with hanging tails of rain that fell in far-off lands. Others were pale with the light of waning day. The stark earth was swept by a bitter wind. The dying light of the hidden sun lay brown upon its back, like the shroud upon a corpse.

Yet birds were singing in the wintry dusk. They smelt some tender current in the bitter air, telling them that spring was coming with sunlight and with flowers; as if a strange spirit passed upon the wind over the bleak rocks and the naked fields, whispering:

“Soon. Soon now. Lambs are kicking in the womb.”

Already people were preparing the ground for the sowing of their crops. Since an hour before dawn, Martin Bruty and his brother Patrick had been carrying seaweed on their mare to a field where they were going to plant potatoes. Now they were coming home, exhausted and drenched to the skin by the showers of hail that had fallen. Their hands were numb. Their sodden clothes were stained with the congealed slime of the weeds.

The mare walked quickly, with her neck stretched forward, shivering. Her hair was as smooth as a seal’s fur. She was straddled. A long piece of canvas stuffed with straw lay on her back from tail to mane, with a basket hung on either side from the two pegs in a wooden yoke. Wisps of straw from the straddle’s packing trailed under her belly.

Martin Bruty sat sideways on her haunches, reclining on the canvas as on a couch, his left forearm encircling the wooden yoke. He was forty years old, tall, lean, ungainly, with big muscular limbs and a beautiful face. His eyes were soft and wistful like those of a child. His countenance was pure, like that of a young virgin. His hair was grey at the temples. He looked at the sky, at the dim, stark land, at the horse and at passing birds with wonder and awe. Whenever a bird sang, he looked towards the spot whence the sweet sound came and his lips parted. He looked simple, kind, gentle, without care.

Patrick walked behind the mare, stepping very quickly in order to keep pace with her. He was five years older than his brother, yet he looked much younger. He was small and stout, with very short legs. He walked nervously, taking tiny steps and looking in all directions without noticing anything. He frowned and sniffed. There was a greedy look in his little blue eyes. His large white eyebrows moved up and down and he twitched his forehead when he sniffed. His cheeks were as red as beetroots. His cap was stuck at the back of his round skull, showing a bald patch over his forehead. He looked restless, unhappy, unpleasant, completely out of harmony with nature that was whispering of spring, young buds, sunshine and happiness.

He carried two pitchforks on his left shoulder. In his right hand he had a can of milk. They walked in silence. The canvas of the straddle creaked against its wooden yoke. The horse’s hoofs rang against the loose stones of the road. The wind whistled. The sea moaned in the distance. There were sounds of other horses, afar off, coming home and of people calling, in the village, at the top of the winding road that was bound by grey stone fences, ascending. The village was dimly visible at the summit of the hill, on the border of a wide barren crag. People were lighting their lamps and fowls were cackling as they waddled home from the pond.

Near the village, they overtook a woman who was walking with a little boy. She answered their salutation in a gay voice. They passed on. When they had rounded a corner, Patrick leaned against the fence and said to his brother:

“I’ll be up after you. Bring the horse to the field. I’ll light the fire and have tea ready when you come back.”

“All right,” said Martin, without looking at his brother.

He rode on. After a few yards, he suddenly sat erect, struck the horse in the flank with his foot and urged her on with an oath. She broke into a quick trot. His face darkened. He rode into the village at a gallop.

Huddled together, surrounded by stone fences, the houses were coloured like the savage wilderness about them, grey and bleak. In the dusk, their thatch and their whitewashed walls, drenched with rain that dripped from their eaves, looked as grey and desolate as the stones. The wind howled among them, sweeping across the naked crags from the cliffs beyond. To left and right, the rocky land rose in terraces to the black horizons. There was a smell of peat on the wind, acrid, making the scene still more melancholy.

Yet there was peace there and birds sang upon the gables of the houses, singing of golden, mellow summer dusks.

He rode the mare, through a gap in the fence, into the yard of a house in the centre of the village. The mare halted at the closed door of a barn on the left side of the yard. She shuddered and began to munch at wisps of straw that lay on the ground. Martin dismounted, opened the barn door, brought out a dish of raw potatoes and gave them to her. She whinnied and began to gobble them up, gripping them with difficulty between her soft, thick lips. He uncovered her. She spread out her four legs, shook herself and cleared her nostrils with a loud noise. Then he rubbed her from head to foot with a bunch of straw. Where the straddle had lain, her hide was hot and moist with perspiration. There was a big bay patch there. The rest of her hide was dark with rain. Everywhere he touched her hide, rubbing her, the hide trembled violently.

Now and again, while he worked, he glanced over his shoulder down the road. Each time his face darkened and he muttered an oath. Then again, as he turned to the mare, his face grew tender and he spoke to her as he rubbed her.

He bound up the straddle with a rope, hung the baskets on pegs in the barn wall, put the straddle into the barn, closed the door, mounted the mare and rode away. Now the mare snorted, straining at the halter, trying to break into a gallop. He brought her to a field among the hills, a mile from the house. It was pitch-dark when he returned.

There was a light in the house. Smoke rose from the chimney. Smoke also issued in gusts through the door, buffeted by a contrary wind. The house looked dreary. There were no curtains on the windows. The yard was wild, muddy, overgrown with weeds. The walls were almost black for want of whitewash.

When Martin entered, Patrick was on his knees on the hearth, blowing at a newly-made peat fire, over which a kettle was hanging from an iron hook. Little red flames ran to and fro among the sods of peat when he blew. When his breath died away, the flames vanished and a cloud of smoke arose from the fire. He did not look up when Martin entered.

“This fire is enough to break the heart in a stone,” he said. “The rain must have come in on it in the barn. Strain the milk.”

“Isn’t the kettle boiled yet, then?” said Martin. “Is it only now you’re lighting the fire?”

“How could I have it lit?” said Patrick angrily, without looking up. “I’m only just after coming in.”

“What kept you then?”

“I had business.”

“Blood an’ouns.”

Martin strode to the dresser and seized the can of milk violently. His eyes were flashing.

“You had business,” he muttered. “A fine business you had. The parish is talking about you.”

Patrick went on blowing the fire.

“Throw a little paraffin on that,” said Martin, as he poured the milk through a cloth into another can.

“No,” said Patrick, jumping to his feet. “I’ll go out to the barn and chip a few slices of that plank we got from the wreck last year. It’s no use wasting paraffin.”

Martin looked after him angrily as he went out. He muttered to himself:

“We could buy a lot of paraffin with all the money he spends on drink and chasing after every strip of a woman in the parish.”

When Patrick returned with the chips, he said:

“This is no life, returning hungry to an empty house.”

“I’ve heard you say that often enough,” said Martin. “We weren’t put on this earth to enjoy ourselves, but to save our souls.”

“Ach!” said Patrick sourly, as he stooped over the fire with the chips. “A man would be better dead than listening to your grumbling.”

“Who is doing the grumbling?” said Martin.

“That’s enough of it,” said Patrick. “That’s enough now. Be putting the things on the table.”

“I’ll take off my wet things first,” said Martin. “’Twill be years before that kettle boils.”

He began to strip off his clothes.

The fire blazed up, making a brighter light than the tin paraffin lamp that hung on a nail in the wall. The delft on the dresser shone. Now there was no smoke. Patrick shut the door. Then he too began to strip.

“These three years since mother died,” he said, “are worse than all the hardship I ever had in my life. A house without a woman is worse than hell.”

“Say Lord have mercy on her, when you speak of her,” said Martin.

“Every damn thing I say, you pick me up,” shouted Patrick. “What have you against me? Eh?”

Naked, Martin walked to the hearth and took dry clothes from a line that stretched across the chimney.

“Mind that kettle,” he said. “It’s going to boil.”

They both dressed in dry clothes and hung their wet ones on the line. They laid the table for a meal of tea and bread and butter. Patrick made tea. They sat down to eat. The table was without a cloth. The cups had no saucers. The loaf lay on the naked board. The butter was also lying on the board, with a bedraggled thin paper about it. The milk lay in the three-quart can into which it had been strained.

They ate hurriedly, in silence. Then Patrick went on to the hearth to refill his cup from the teapot. At the fire he said:

“I’m not going to stick this any longer. One of us has to stir.”

“Pour some into this,” said Martin, reaching over his cup.

Patrick returned to the table and continued to eat. He kept glancing at his brother furtively, his white eyebrows moving up and down.

“What did you say?” he muttered after some time.

“Me?” said Martin. “I said nothing.”

“Didn’t you hear what I said?”

“What did you say?’

“I said it was time for one of us to get married.”

Martin pushed away his empty cup, put the can of milk to his head and drank a large quantity of the milk. He wiped his mouth, crossed himself and went to the fire.

“You have something on your mind,” he said. “Out with it.”

He took a piece of tobacco from his waistcoat pocket and bit it. Patrick also drank some of the milk, crossed himself, put on his cap and came to the fire. He lit his pipe with a coal. They both sat in silence, on stools, one smoking his pipe, the other chewing.

“Well!” said Martin at length, spitting into the fire. “Out with it.”

“Well!” said Patrick. “I have this on my mind. It’s time for one of us to bring in a woman here. A man would be better dead than living this way. There’s nobody to clean or wash or get a meal ready for us after the day’s work. We haven’t had a pig this last year. There’s money lost. Potatoes are going to rot in the barn. I’d rather let them rot than sell them for the few shillings they give for them in the shops. We could feed ten pigs in the year. Sheep too. We can’t keep a sheep because we have no time to run after them over the rocks. We’re losing money, along with the loneliness and misery of an empty house.”

“Money!” said Martin. “You can’t bring it to the grave with you. Haven’t we enough to eat? But you may do as you please. You’ve been driving at this a long time and I’d rather have anything than hearing all the tongues in the parish jeering at our name on account of your blackguarding.”

“What blackguarding?” said Patrick angrily.

“You and Kate Tully,” said Martin in a loud voice. “You follow her wherever she goes.”

“Well!” said Patrick. “I’ll follow her no longer. And less of your tongue, I’m telling you. You don’t know what you’re saying.”

“How?”

“How? This is how. I asked her coming up the road and she agreed.”

Martin spat his chew into the fire, looked at his brother with open mouth and then said:

“Tare an’ ouns! You asked Kate Tully to marry you?”

“I did. What about it?”

Martin’s face suddenly lost its angry look. His eyes became sad and weary. His jaw dropped.

“Eh?” said Patrick. “What’s the matter? Were ye … were ye thinking of asking her yerself?”

“Me?” said Martin, flushing and raising his head. “I’d rather lie with a dog than with the woman,” he added fiercely.

“Be careful of what you are saying,” said Patrick in a low voice.

“I’ll say what’s in my mind,” said Martin. “Now is the time to say it, isn’t it? She’s been fifteen years in America without tale or tidings of her. Then she returned last year with a boy and no husband.”

“Her husband is dead,” said Patrick angrily. “What are you driving at?”

“Maybe he is,” said Martin. “A woman doesn’t go about here with a painted face, though, if she is right. What for does she paint her face and lips and terrify every decent man with her language and her free ways, unless …”

“Unless what?”

Martin shuddered and became silent. Patrick was watching him with glittering eyes.

“God knows,” said Martin sadly, “it’s hard to think badly of her, after what she was before she went away. Ye’d stand in the snow looking at her lovely face and she was so shy and modest that she blushed when a man bid her the time of day. Now she is…. Ach!”

“Now, listen to me here,” said Fatrick. “I’ve had enough of this. Remember what I’m saying. I’m going to marry Kate Tully. If you don’t like it, there’s the door. You can take your share of the land and money and get a wife for yourself.”

“You’re not marrying her,” said Martin. “You’re marrying her fortune of three hundred pounds.”

“Well, there you are now,” said Patrick. “Think over it. I’ll have no argument. I’ve wasted the best of my life, each of us watching the other. You always had a sour mouth whenever I thought of a woman. But I’ll wait no longer.”

“Marry her then,” said Martin, jumping to his feet. “Marry her. But I’ll stay here. This is my father’s house. You can’t put me out of it. Marry her and the devil take you and her.”

He strode to the door. Patrick jumped up and shouted:

“Where are you going? Take back what you said.”

Martin turned back and looked at his brother gloomily. Then he shuddered, bent his head and murmured sadly:

“I’m sorry, Paddy. I… I… Tomorrow we can … I’ll go out for a bit.”

He went out. Patrick sat down again by the fire and smoked. His face twitched. Then he also jumped to his feet and left the house. He visited his uncle. He returned at midnight and went to bed. Martin had not yet returned. At two o’clock in the morning he was awakened by hearing Martin come into the room.

“Where were you till this hour?” he said.

“I was over to the cliffs to see was there any wreckage,” said Martin.

“How could you see in the dark, man alive?”

“Never mind,” said Martin. “I was listening to the sound of the sea.”

“Ugh!” said Patrick, turning towards the wall. “You’re out of your head.”

“Maybe I am,” said Martin.

He got into bed beside his brother, but he lay awake all night, thinking.

Next day, while they were at the seashore loading seaweed on the mare, Martin said to his brother:

“Have you still got a mind to do what you were talking of last night?”

“I have,” said Patrick.

Martin brought the loaded mare to the field, dropped the load and returned. Then he said:

“Very well. We better go home at noon and dress ourselves. A settlement has to be made

“We’ll do that,” said Patrick, “in the name of God.”

“I hope God will bless it,” said Martin gloomily.

In the afternoon, Patrick went on the mare to the town and returned with a bottle of whisky. After dark, they went with their uncle and another man to the house where Kate Tully lived with her married brother. They made the match. Martin agreed to everything they said. He appeared to be quite satisfied. It was decided to have the marriage in a week’s time. Next day they went to the parish priest to sign the agreement.

There were thirty acres of land, a horse, a cow, a bullock, a yearling calf, the house and furniture and a boat. Martin gave his share of all this property to his brother, excepting his share of the boat. The boat was to be owned in common by the two of them. In return, Patrick gave Martin his share of their common savings, which amounted to four hundred pounds. It was arranged that Martin should go on living in the house until he married. He was to receive one-fifth of the house’s earnings, in return for his work.

The priest tried to point out to them that this arrangement might cause some difficulty later on and that it was better that Martin should at once set about making a home of his own, but Martin refused to hear of it. He said he was now too old to marry.

Kate Tully also had a clause inserted in the agreement to the effect that, in case of her death, her son Charles should inherit the property equally with any children she might have by Patrick. Patrick agreed to this after some argument.

After they had signed the agreement, they went to celebrate in the town, but Martin refused to accompany them. Neither did he give any assistance in the preparation for the wedding. He went about his ordinary work.

Patrick, on the other hand, went about in his best clothes, talking loudly, drinking, superintending the preparations, treating all his friends with the extravagance of a mean man carried away by a sudden passion. He hardly slept at all.

“Why don’t you drink with me?” he said to Martin. “Why are you gloomy? Have you anything against me?”

“This is not a time for drinking and merrymaking,” said Martin. “It’s your prayers you should be saying approaching a sacrament, instead of leering at the thought of your marriage bed.”

“Pruth!” said Patrick. “Bloody woes! What a monk you are!”

Martin heard the people whispering and mocking at his brother, because he was going to marry a withered woman, who already had a child. Children, as is the custom when there is a marriage in a house, used to call after him, shouting: “Kate Tully.” Instead of paying no attention to this harmless teasing, he was deeply mortified,

Patrick spent money freely on the preparations. His uncle’s wife and two other women were brought in. They scoured out the house, whitewashed it, put curtains on the windows, delft on the dresser, new sheets on the beds. whiskey, porter, wine and a large quantity of food was purchased. A sack of flour was baked into bread.

The whole countryside came to the wedding. The kitchen and the two bedrooms were packed with people. Only a few had room to sit in the kitchen. The rest stood, row behind row, around the little space in the centre where couples were dancing. A man sat on a chair near the fire playing an accordion. Three men went round serving whiskey and porter. Out in the yard there was a group of young men, drinking heavily, boasting and discussing feats of strength. In the bigger bedroom, where the marriage bed was prepared, people were eating in relays. Women passed back and forth, carrying teapots from the kitchen fire. Other women hustled guests to the table. Patrick went around shouting, already quite drunk, urging everybody to be merry. There was an air of reckless savagery and haste about the whole thing, and the older people noticed a lack of decency and of respect. They where whispering to one another.

Martin, sitting gloomily in a corner of the hearth, noticed that people had no respect for the house or for the marriage. He heard the whispering. He felt terribly ashamed and angry. He thought it was about him they were whispering, that they were jeering at him. So he refused to eat or drink. He sat without movement, with his eyes on the fire. He wanted to get up, leave the house and stand on the cliffs, looking out at the sea; but he would not move, lest they might jeer still more at him for running away. And yet it was a torture to stay. He was aware of the little boy, Kate’s son, who was sitting in the opposite corner of the hearth. He was aware of Kate herself, who sat in triumph near the musician. He hated them all. Henceforth they would all be in the house with him. He would stand naked before the people, a butt for people’s scorn. So he thought.

Every time Kate spoke in her loud, gay, rasping voice, he shuddered. And yet he could hardly restrain himself from looking at her.

Everybody was watching her and she seemed partly to enjoy the attention she attracted and partly to resent it. She sat with her legs crossed. Her dress was so short that a red garter showed on her thigh above the knee. She kept tapping her foot on the floor and pulling down her skirt that refused to go any farther than the brink of her knee. Her legs were beautiful. She wore silk stockings. Her dress was gaudy. It was red. Her cheeks and lips were painted. She was very slim and she had an exquisite figure. But her broad shoulders were bony. Her chest was flat. Her hair was dyed a yellowish colour. Her face bore the remains of great beauty. But her eyes were hard and her mouth was coarse. Although she was only thirty-five years of age she looked old. All that was left of her youthful beauty was a skeleton. She had, however, that power of attraction which comes of knowledge. The coolness of her manner, the cynical, brusque way in which she spoke, the glitter in her strange eyes were more exciting than the freshness of young beauty. She kept smiling. Her smile was contemptuous. With her mouth she enjoyed her triumph. But her eyes sometimes had a look of fear in them.

Her son was even more strange than she. He was six years old, pale, delicate and shy. He looked alien. His skin was yellow. His ears were large and strangely fashioned. His neck was long and thin. He had hardly a chin. His wrists were like spindles. His thin legs bent inwards at the knees. His upper teeth protruded. He kept eating sweets from a paper bag and looking casually at the dancers, without any excitement.

Patrick kept going up to his wife and putting his arm around her and saying:

“I have you now.”

Then he got so drunk that they put him lying on the marriage bed in the big bedroom. Then Kate danced with the young men and drank punch in the little bedroom with the women.

When it was nearly dawn, Patrick awoke from his drunken sleep, drank some whiskey and came into the kitchen. He went up to his wife and began to caress her passionately in front of the people, mumbling:

“I have you now.”

The guests began to leave. Martin heard them laugh as they went away, shouting: “I have you now.”

Before they had all left the house, Patrick dragged his wife into the bedroom and locked the door. The little boy lay asleep in the corner of the hearth, forgotten. The uncle was the last to leave. He said to Martin:

“Where is little Charley going to sleep?”

“His bed is in his mother’s room,” said Martin.

The uncle tittered drunkenly and said:

“You had better take him into your bed tonight, Martin, in the little room. It’s not right to disturb a couple on their marriage night.”

Then the uncle went away. It was daylight. Martin took the little fellow in his arms and carried him into the little bedroom. The boy woke up and started on finding himself in a stranger’s arms. He began to call for his mother. He struck at Martin’s chest with his little fists. Martin put him into his own bed without undressing him. Then he lay on the bed, soothing the child. The child fell asleep.

Then Martin went into the kitchen and sat by the fire. He heard Patrick snoring. He jumped to his feet and dashed out of the house, leaving the door open. He went up to the cliffs and wandered around there. He came back to the house, took the can and milked the cow. When he returned with the milk, Kate had arisen. She was busy tidying the house and getting breakfast ready.

“Hello!” she said gaily. “You didn’t go to bed?”

She was full of energy and yet she looked horrible, like an old woman. There was no paint on her face. Her cheeks were hollow. Her lips were cracked and yellow like those of a corpse. She was wearing a loose wrap, belted at the waist. She wore slippers without heels on her bare feet. Her hair was bedraggled, streaming around her neck. He looked at her in amazement and said nothing. Then he sat in the corner of the hearth, waiting for his breakfast.

She took no notice of him. She hummed a tune as she worked and she worked at great speed, deftly. She gave him his breakfast and brought tea into bed to her husband. Martin heard his brother growl when she wakened him. Then his brother called out:

“Martin.”

“What?”

“Start cutting potato seeds. We’ll begin sowing tomorrow.”

Martin said nothing. But he thought:

“He orders me like a servant before her.”

He became inflamed with anger. He left his breakfast and went out. He stood outside the door, trying to rebel against his brother, but it was alien to his nature. He could not do so. The child awoke and began to cry.

“What the devil is the matter with that child?” grumbled Patrick.

“I’ll run in and see,” said Kate. “He probably finds himself strange.”

Martin walked away. He entered the barn and began to cut potato seeds. Later, Patrick joined him. They worked together in silence. Neither referred to the wedding. Patrick looked cross and discontented. The child came out of the house and began to play in the yard, uttering loud cries and calling his mother to look at things which he found strange.

“He won’t live,” said Patrick. “What do you think?”

Martin said nothing.

“No. He won’t live,” said Patrick. “His father was a foreigner. They have bad blood in them.”

At dinner the child was cranky and refused the food that was given to him. His mother suddenly lost her temper and beat the boy. The boy went into hysterics. Patrick jumped up, cursed and left the house.

“Tare an’ ouns,” Martin called after him. “Have ye no more nature in you than to curse a child?”

“Mind your own business,” shouted Patrick from the yard.

Martin took the boy in his arms and began to soothe him.

“Don’t spoil him,” said Kate. “It’s just temper.”

Martin looked at her angrily. She dropped her eyes, caught the child from his arms and began to kiss it. Then she sat down and burst into tears, rocking the child and murmuring:

“You poor little orphan. I don’t know what to do with you.”

Martin went out. That evening, when the child was being put to bed, Patrick said:

“Hadn’t you better put his little bed into Martin’s room?”

“Why so?” said Martin.

“Nothing,” said Patrick. “Only … only I thought he might keep you company. You never liked being alone at night.”

Martin looked at his brother savagely.

“Do what you like,” he said. “You’re master here.”

They put the child into Martin’s room. That night, when he came in after visiting in a neighbour’s house, he stood for a long time over the little bed, in the dark, listening to the child’s breathing. He pitied the child and at the same time hated his brother. He realized that his brother was jealous of the child.

A few days later, while they were working in the field sowing potatoes, Patrick said:

“You’re spoiling that child. You had better not be coddling him. He’s nothing to us anyway. His father was a foreigner.”

“Every child was made by God,” said Martin. “Kindness won’t spoil anything.”

“It’s time you were thinking of getting a wife for yourself, then,” said Patrick, “as you’re so fond of children.”

The Spring came. The dark earth became a paradise. It was good to smell the wind that was scented with the perfume of growth. Bird music was triumphant. The cold sunlight glittered on the black earth uprooted by the sowers. Each dawn was wild with the cries of living things going forth to labour. Each dusk was full of tender murmurs, as tired men happily sought their beds and cows lowed for their milkers and sheep bleated over their new-born lambs. All evil passions were silenced by man’s frenzied efforts to satisfy the energy born of the earth’s awakening.

Yet it was a false peace that fell upon the house. The silence grew as menacing as a dark cloud that hangs in the sky on a sultry day, foretelling thunder.

A great change came over Kate. She no longer put paint upon her cheeks and lips. She cast aside her foreign clothes and dressed in the manner of a peasant. She did the housework with enthusiasm and skill. She left nothing undone. She dropped her brusque, gay manner. She becam


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e serious. She no longer talked of anything but of the house, the crops, the cattle. She no longer looked alien. She became a peasant woman again. She grew bold in the house and spoke curtly to her husband. She put on flesh. Her eyes lost their strange, lascivious look. Instead, they became avaricious. Her cheeks, that had been hollow and yellow like the cheeks of a corpse beneath the paint, now filled out and became tanned brown by the healthy air and wind. Her lips and fingers no longer twitched nervously. She was no longer taken by hysterical bursts of passion. She became like a rock in which there is neither softness nor passion. Now she did not inspire desire. Although her attraction still remained great, she reacted differently on men. Women of the village began to speak well of her.

She treated both men with equal coldness, as if neither were her husband. And in the evening, when they had returned from work and were sitting by the fire before going to bed, she talked to her child instead of talking to them.

Neither did the child become friendly with either of them. He still remained an alien. He improved in health and became bold, playing about the house as if he had been born there; but whenever he looked at the brothers there was a vacant stare in his eyes, as if they were strangers to him. When Patrick scowled at him, he sighed and went to his mother. When Martin tried to play with him or gave him toys which he had whittled with a knife, he remained silent and as lifeless as a girl with a man whom she does not love.

Yet Martin was not offended by the boy’s manner. His kindness to the boy pleased him because it irritated his brother. He was pleased also with the change that had taken place in Kate. He was pleased with her coldness towards her husband. He was pleased with the gloomy, discontented look that had settled on his brother’s countenance. He had become bitter. He no longer found pleasure in the sea, nor in the singing of birds, nor in watching the starry sky at night. A mocking, malicious spirit had taken possession of his mind, driving out all other pleasures but that of making his brother unhappy.

Spring passed. Now warm breezes sang among the swaying fields of corn. People became idle watching the growth of their crops. It was good to lie in a glen in the sunlight among the wild, sweet flowers.

The brothers stayed about the house, drawn irresistibly towards the cause of the bitter enmity that was growing in their minds.

One morning, Martin was making a top for the little boy by the fire. The boy stood near, watching. Patrick sat in the corner of the hearth, smoking. Kate was out in the yard, attending to young pigs they had just bought.

Suddenly Patrick said to the child:

“Hey, Charley, did you have a top in America?”

“Yes, I had,” said the child. “I had three.”

“Who made them for you?” said Patrick. “Your father?”

“No. Mammy bought them in a shop.”

“Didn’t your daddy make any tops for you?”

“No,” said the child. “I don’t remember my daddy.”

“Leave the child alone,” said Martin angrily.

Patrick’s little eyes gleamed. He sniffed and moved his white eyebrows up and down.

“What was your daddy’s name?” he continued.

“My daddy’s name was John.”

“John what? What was his other name?”

“John Smith,” said the boy.

“Bloody woes,” said Patrick. “That’s a handy name to have. Where was he from?”

“Leave the child alone,” shouted Martin.

“What’s up now?” cried Kate from the yard.

“Wasn’t your daddy called Martin?” continued Patrick.

The child began to cry. He ran out into the yard to his mother. Martin jumped to his feet and cried:

“You leave that child alone. Do you hear?”

Patrick jumped up and shouted:

“Whose house is this? Clear out if you don’t like it. I’ll have none of your impudence.”

Kate came in, holding the boy by the hand.

“What’s this?” she cried. “What were you doing to the child?”

“I asked him a civil question about his father,” shouted Patrick. “Haven’t I a right to know the brat’s father was, seeing I’m keeping him?”

Kate ran to the hearth and picked up the tongs.

“I’ll brain you with this,” she hissed, “if you say another word.”

Martin caught her.

“Don’t you hit him,” he cried. “Let me deal with him.”

“So that’s it, is it?” cried Patrick. “You’ve changed your mind about her since the night you said you’d rather lie with a dog than with her.”

“Liar,” shouted Martin, turning pale.

“You can have her now, then,” said Patrick. “She’s a dry bag. I’ve been sold a blind pup. There was nothing in her womb but that sick vermin that doesn’t know his own father. My curse on the house.”

He rushed out. As he passed the child he made a kick at it. The child screamed. Kate dropped on to a chair, put her fingers between her teeth and bit them. Martin stood before the hearth, trembling. Then he cursed, took his tobacco from his pocket and bit at it. He began to chew. Kate began to tremble. Then she began to sob hysterically.

“Look here,” said Martin to her angrily. “I did you wrong. He said the truth. I said what you heard just now. But don’t you be afraid. I’ll do right by you now. That savage won’t raise a hand to your child while I’m here,”

He left the house.

All that day, Patrick went among the neighbours, complaining that his wife treated him with cruelty, that she was barren, that there was a scar on her stomach, that her womb had been extracted in an hospital, that she favoured his brother, that she was robbing him in the interests of her child. He returned late at night. His wife was waiting for him. She received him as if nothing had happened and gave him his supper.

Martin returned from a visit while Patrick was having his supper. He glanced with hatred at his brother and immediately went into his room.

Patrick called after him:

“We’ll begin tomorrow making a field of that crag beyond the Red Meadow. There is going to be no one eating the bread of idleness in this house.”

“All right,” said Martin calmly from his room.

Then he stood near the bed of the sleeping child, listening to the child’s breath, in the darkness. His face broke into a smile and his eyes glittered. When he got into bed he kept laughing to himself. He kept waking through the night and listening to the child’s breathing and laughing to himself.

Next day they brought crowbars and a sledge and they went to the crag beyond the Red Meadow. They began to quarry the rocks. They worked savagely, excited by their hatred of one another. Patrick ordered his brother about, treating him like a servant. Martin obeyed meekly and smiled in a strange manner at his brother’s oaths.

That evening, while they were having supper, he said suddenly to Kate:

“I’ve been thinking, this while back, that I should make a will. No man knows when his hour is going to come and it’s best to put things in a way that there’ll be no quarrel over my few pounds after I’m gone.”

Patrick looked up suspiciously. His little eyes flashed. His neck became florid. His white eyebrows moved up and down. Then he said:

“It’s not of your death you should be thinking, but of getting a wife. If you had the guts of a man you’d look for a wife.”

Martin smiled faintly and went on talking to Kate. Kate’s eyes became small. She watched Martin like a bird.

“I’ve been thinking,” he said, “this while back, that little Charley has been a great comfort to me since he came into the house. I’d like to think that maybe when he grew up and I’m gone he’d have something to think well of me for. So, I’m thinking of making a will.”

Then he arose from the table and went out. Kate put her apron to her eye, as if to wipe away a tear. But her eyes were dry and her face was flushed.

Patrick looked at the table with his mouth open. Then he caught up a piece of the bread that Kate had baked, crushed it between his fingers and growled:

“Do you call that bread? It’s like putty. I wouldn’t give it to a dog.”

He threw the bread at the child and said:

“Here. Catch that.”

Then he cursed and went out of the house. Kate showed no sign of resentment in her cold, hawk-like countenance.

Next day, while they were digging out the stones from the crag, Patrick said to his brother:

“Wake up, you fool Don’t loaf around. Is it thinking of your will you are? Did you make that will yet?”

“I’m thinking about it,” said Martin calmly. “I want to put it in a way that nobody can touch my money but the child. I have to think about it.”

“The curse of God on you,” said Patrick with great violence.

He dropped his crowbar and left the crag, He came home and shouted at his wife:

“Give me some money.”

She gave him a pound note.

“I want more,” he said.

“That’s all there is in the house,” she said quietly.

“I’ll have a look then,” he said.

He rushed into the bedroom and tried to open her trunk. She ran in after him and said:

“Leave that alone.”

“What have you in it?” he cried. “Why do you keep it locked?”

“It’s none of your business,” she said. “I gave you three hundred pounds when I came into the house. That’s all you bargained for.”

“Ha!” he cried. “You have money in it. You kept money from me. You are stealing the money of the house for your bastard child. You have taken my land. You got around my fool of a brother to leave you his money and now you -”

“Shut up,” she hissed at him, “or I’ll brain you.”

He rushed at her and felled her with a blow of his fist. Then he became terrified and fled from the house. When Martin returned from the crag, Kate was going about her work calmly. He noticed that she had a black bruise on her cheek. He asked her what had happened. She told him.

He smiled strangely and said:

“I’m going into the town.”

When he returned in the evening, he handed her a document.

“That’s the will,” he said. “In case God sends for me, Charley will have every penny I own. Look after that.”

She kissed his hand and brought the will to her trunk. Putting it in, her eyes glittered and she sat for a long time before the open trunk, sucking her lips and smiling.

Patrick returned drunk that night, but he went to bed quietly. Next day, when they were working on the crag, Martin said to him:

“I didn’t see you in the town yesterday.”

Patrick looked at him and said nothing.

“I went in to make that will I was talking about,” said Martin calmly.

Patrick remained silent.

“It’s all settled now,” continued Martin quietly, “so my mind is at peace.”

“Listen,” whispered Patrick savagely.

Martin looked at him.

“Watch yourself,” whispered Patrick.

They glared at one another. Their faces were white with hatred.

“I’m satisfied,” whispered Martin through his teeth.

After that they became silent and avoided each other. Kate assumed complete charge of the house. She ordered them about.

“The horse needs water,” she would say. “One of you go and bring her to the well.”

Again she would say:

“The cow is starving in that field. Change her, one of you, to the Red Meadow.”

She never called either of them by name, but spoke to them in common, as if they were strangers. It was she who treated with neighbours about cases of trespass and she paid the rates and the rent that came due in summer.

Neither of the brothers paid any attention to her. They watched one another ceaselessly. Their eyes became fixed.

Suddenly a wild hurricane came raging over the ocean. The sun, moon and stars were hidden day and night behind a wall of black clouds that belched rain upon the earth and clashing in their flight from the shrieking gale, set the firmament on fire and shook the cliffs with the thunderous echoes of their bursting. The sea rose to the summits of the cliffs and its foam was carried on the wind far into the land. Even the wild seagulls fled into the village and stood upon the gables of the houses and screamed in horror.

For three days the storm lasted. Then the wind died. The sun appeared. The sky grew clear. The waves began to fall, heaving like wounded animals, into the sea’s back. Rafts of curdled foam and torn weeds, speckled with jetsam, floundered to the shore. People came to look for wreckage.

In the evening Patrick said to his brother:

“Be ready at dawn. We are going in the boat to look for wreckage.”

Martin answered him:

“I’m satisfied.”

They both went to bed. Neither slept. Each kept rising in the night and going to the window to see if dawn had yet broken. Kate also lay awake. A cock crew an hour before dawn. At once both brothers began to put on their clothes hurriedly. Kate also arose and threw a coat over her nightdress:

Martin was the first to get to the kitchen. He cried in a loud voice:

“Are you ready now?”

Patrick came into the kitchen, followed by Kate.

“You had better take some bread, one of you,” she said. “You’ll be hungry before you get back.”

“We won’t need bread,” said Patrick. “Get the rope, you. Where is the rope?”

“I’ll get it,” said Martin, going out to the barn,

Patrick began to fumble in the pockets of his waistcoat.

“Why have you on your new waistcoat?” she said. “You have your new cap on too.”

“Mind your business,” he said. “Give me my old waistcoat.”

She brought it to him. He took it aside and took a knife from its pocket. He put it furtively into the pocket of the waistcoat he was wearing. She saw him, but said nothing. Her eyes became fixed.

Martin came in, carrying a coil of rope on his arm.

“Are you ready now?” he said.

Without speaking Patrick moved to the door.

“Wait,” said Kate, “till I sprinkle the Holy Water on you.”

They both went out without answering her. She picked up a little cruet of Holy Water that hung on a nail in the wall by the window. She ran out into the yard after them and shook Holy water on each of them with her forefinger. Neither of them blessed himself.

Then she returned to the house, went into the child’s room and stood by his little bed, watching him and listening to his breathing.

The brothers walked in silence through the village and along the rocky road over the crags to the shore. Their boat lay bottom upwards within a fence of stones above the mound of boulders that lined the shore. They knocked down the fence at the prow and at the stern. Then they raised the prow. Martin crawled under the boat, raised it higher and rested his shoulders against the front seat. Patrick crawled in astern, put his shoulders against the third seat and straightened himself.

“Go ahead,” he said.

They moved off, carrying the boat on their shoulders. Its black, canvas-covered hulk, with their legs sticking from beneath, moving slowly over the rocks, made it look like a beetle. They brought it to the brink of the tide and stepping into the water, they laid it, mouth upwards, with a splashing sound, upon the waves. Patrick held it to the shore while Martin brought the oars and the rope. They put the oars on the thole-pins and threw the rope into the stern.

“Keep your hand on her,” said Patrick, about to step aboard.

“You hold her,” said Martin. “I’m going in the prow same as I always do.”

“No,” said Patrick in a whisper. “I’m going in the prow today.”

They looked at one another coldly. Their eyes were fixed.

“Go ahead,” said Martin. “It’s all the same to me.”

“Why so?” said Patrick through his teeth.

“Go ahead,” said Martin, “seeing you want to go in the prow.”

“It’s all the same to me too,” said Patrick softly. “I’ll go in the stern as I always do.”

“You’ll go where you said you’d go,” said Martin, “or I’ll stay on the rock.”

They glared at one another again. Then Patrick stepped into the boat, sat on the front seat and seized the oars. Martin pushed off the boat and jumped aboard. They began to row eastwards towards the cliffs.

The sea was still disturbed. Although its dark surface was unbroken, there were deep hollows between the waves that came rolling quickly to the shore. The light coracle bounded from wave to wave, bobbing like a little bird in flight against the wind.

The sun began to rise as they turned a promontory. The sea glittered. They rowed close to the cliffs that rose above them precipitously. There was a loud sound of birds coming forth to fish from their caverns. Seagulls soared about them. The sea was littered with refuse. Now and again, the fin of a shark cut the surface. Gannets swooped from on high and fell like bullets, with a thud, into the floating rafts of weeds.

Masses of weeds, shining in the sunlight, lay among the broken rocks at the base of the cliffs.

They rowed quickly, searching the sea and the shore for wreckage. They had rowed three miles when at last they saw a great beam floating near the shore in a raft of weeds.

“There’s a beam,” said Patrick. “Put a noose on the rope.”

Martin shipped his oars and made a noose with the end of the rope. He tied the other end to the central seat. They rowed towards the beam. The beam rushed back and forth, on the ebbing tide. There was a heavy swell. The great piece of timber sometimes raised its head aloft from the mass of floating weeds, like a great sea monster nosing at the air. They rowed around it, seeking a chance to encircle its snout with the noose as it rose upon a wave.

Martin hurled the noose three times without success. Then at last the beam came rushing at them, carried on a great receding wave and as Patrick wheeled the boat to avoid its crashing into them, it passed close to their quarter, with its barnacled snout raised up. Martin threw the noose. It caught. Patrick groaned and lay on his oars. The rope went taut. The boat shivered. The beam swung round, held by the taut noose and turned its snout to the boat’s stern. Martin caught his oars and began to row. They turned towards home, followed by the wallowing beam.

Its great weight swung the boat from side to side when the heavy swell came against it. Again it came rushing with upraised snout at the boat when the swell came with it. Rowing with all their force, they had to tack to and fro to avoid its crashing into them. The rope, tied to the vacant seat amidships, passed under Martin’s seat, and ran through a notch in the stern to the log, rasping against the wood. Now it lay buried in the water, slack, as the log was hurtled towards them by the sea. Now it hung taut above the waves, dripping with brine.

Now there were many fins of sharks following the boat, keeping pace. Overhead, seagulls soared on still wings, looking down, cackling.

Patrick watched the fins of the sharks with fixed eyes. His lips were drawn back from his clenched teeth. His white eyebrows were raised up on his wrinkled forehead. Suddenly he dropped his oars, took his knife from his pocket and opened it.

Martin’s back quivered. He dropped his oars and stood up, uttering a strange, wild shriek. He turned on his brother. Patrick was crouching in the prow, gripping the open knife. They rushed at one another. The boat swung round. The beam, carried on a tall wave, came crashing into it.

The brothers, just as they were about to grapple with one another, saw the beam, with upraised snout, looming over them. They raised their hands and uttered a cry of horror. The knife dropped from Patrick’s hands into the sea. They threw their arms around one another in an embrace, as the log fell, smashing them and the boat beneath its weight.

Clasped in one another’s arms, they began to sink.

The sharks’ fins came rushing through the water towards the wreck. Then they dived.

The brothers rose once, still clasping one another in a tight embrace. Then they were tugged sharply downwards and they rose no more.

A mass of weeds gathered around the wrecked boat, with the log, snout upwards, astride it, while seagulls soared all round, screaming.

Your Honour

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Mr. Patrick Gilhooley came out of Sinnott’s riding-school in Park Gate Street at four o’clock in the afternoon. He had just taken his first lesson in horsemanship. He felt numb all over the body. Although he walked as usual, by pitching his flat feet out sideways like a motherly old cow, he felt sure that he walked like a cavalry officer, Therefore, in spite of his soreness and the memory of the smile he had seen on an impudent stable-boy’s face during the lesson, he felt very proud of himself. His yellow top-boots had creases above the ankles. His brown riding-breeches were made of the most expensive cord. His jazz pull-over was in the latest fashion. His smart bowler hat was perched at a daring angle. Phew! He felt a very fine and dashing fellow.

To the onlooker, of course, he looked perfectly ridiculous, with his flat feet and his undulating paunch, coming along like an advertisement for a cinema theatre.

Formerly he had been a small shopkeeper in a country village. His shop was a failure commercially because he spent all his time in political agitation. He was chairman of the local Rural District Council, and secretary to three different political organizations. At last, however, his hour struck. His second cousin, Mr. Christopher Mulligan, the solicitor, was appointed by the government as Commissioner to administrate the affairs of a public body, suppressed for corruption. Immediately Mr. Mulligan appointed all his cousins to fill subsidiary posts under the new, incorruptible administration. Mr. Gilhooley became Assistant Deputy Commissioner.

Before Mr. Gilhooley had walked fifty yards from the riding-school gate, he was accosted by a ruffian called the Cadger Byrne. Byrne was a very tiny man. He had a round, sallow face. His eyes were small, sharp and grey. His ears were diminutive and they protruded from the sides of his head instead of sloping in the usual manner. He was dressed in riding-breeches and gaiters. He had the manner and appearance of a disreputable racecourse tout. Exactly what he was.

“Pardon me, yer honour,” said Byrne, standing in front of Mr. Gilhooley, and touching his cap.

“Eh?” said Mr. Gilhooley, starting and halting abruptly.

Here it must be stated that the title “your honour” is the property of a certain class of persons, now becoming defunct, i.e. Irish country gentlemen. In his youth Mr. Gilhooley had been in the habit of touching his cap and saying “Good morning, yer honour,” when the local landowner rode into the village mounted on an enormous hunter stallion. The landowner was in the habit of reining in his stallion, calling to Mr. Gilhooley’s father, then proprietor of the village shop, and without taking the trouble to dismount or to look at Mr. Gilhooley’s father, he ordered perhaps a box of matches to be sent at once to Ballyhooley Manor. Recently Mr. Gilhooley loathed the title “Your honour.” All his political agitation had been directed against the class of persons who held that title. But now when he heard himself addressed by that title for the first time in his life, an extraordinary thrill of pleasure permeated his whole fat body.

The thrill of pleasure passed in a moment, giving way to a suspicion that he was being insulted. A sense of inferiority passed over him, causing a little shiver down his spine and a lump in his throat, just as when he committed some faux pas  in the drawing-rooms to which he had recently been invited on account of his new position. He looked at Byrne shrewdly.

But Byrne’s upraised and expectant face was perfectly respectful. It bore that subservient smile which Mr. Gilhooley recognized and understood very well, formerly of course. Mr. Gilhooley became reassured. Undoubtedly the fellow mistook him, Mr. Gilhooley, for one of the old caste.

“What do you want?” said Mr. Gilhooley, stretching out his right boot with the toe upraised and staring at the toe, with a serious expression on his face.

He spoke sourly and rather arrogantly, but he was really very pleased.

“Would yer honour put in a good word for me?” said Byrne in a very fawning voice.

“How do you mean?” said Mr. Gilhooley, staring again. Since the man wanted something he had ceased to be pleased. “Where could I put in a good word for you?”

“In the stables, o’course, yer honour,” said Byrne, edging closer and looking at Mr. Gilhooley with an almost impertinent smile of intimacy on his face.

“What have I got to do with stables?” cried Mr. Gilhooley indignantly. He nodded his head backwards towards the riding-school and added ferociously: “D’ye think I’m employed in there?”

Byrne waggled his head from side to side knowingly and the smile on his face broadened.

“Now, yer honour,” he said, “sure ye know very well I didn’t mane that? Don’t I know a gentleman when I see wan? But, yer honour, what I’d be grateful to ye for is if ye’d put in a good word for me in yer own stables, yer honour.”

“Huh!” said Mr. Gilhooley, now smiling broadly and swelling with a consciousness of a new dignity. “I’ve got no stables.”

“Ah! That’s all right, yer honour,” said Byrne in a tone that clearly indicated he didn’t believe a word of it.

“Ho!” said Mr. Gilhooley again. “Did ye ever hear the like of it!”

He now looked at Byrne in a cheerful, friendly, patronizing manner, and he really felt that he had been a landowner and a horseowner all his life. Not only that, but he suddenly developed a suspicion, a momentary one, of course, that his ancestors had really been noble and that he was only coming into his own again. Ha! An aristocrat, by Jove! As good as the best of them and better.

“Now, yer honour,” continued Byrne, “I hope ye don’t take it bad of me accostin’ ye this way, but I’ve been out of work for six months through victimization. An’ if his honour Sir John Corcoran was alive today ’tisn’t here I’d be.”

“Oh! ho!” said Mr. Gilhooley.

He felt as if he had been a landlord and horse-owner all his life. Very pleasant sensation this; being solicited by a deserving poor fellow down on his luck. He mentally decided that Sir John Corcoran was the best of fellows, although he had never heard the name before. All this happened within Mr. Gilhooley’s mind during one second while Byrne prepared to continue his story.

The story was a long one, but Byrne told it rapidly, hinting at things and giving names of horses and calling public men by their nicknames. Mr. Gilhooley kept nodding his head until Byrne had finished.

“I’m very sorry,” he said, “but I’m afraid I can do nothing for you at the moment. Very sorry.”

“Thanks, yer honour,” said Byrne. “I know yer honour would if he could. But if he have any loose change to help a poor fellow along I wouldn’t mind mesel’ but the children. An’ indeed, yer honour, if Sir Joseph Corcoran was alive … thanks, yer honour, thanks…..”

Byrne uttered these thanks in anticipation, for he had seen Mr. Gilhooley’s hand moving slowly towards his right trousers pocket. The word of thanks hastened the movement of the hand. The hand entered the pocket and emerged with half a crown, which it dropped into Byrne’s outstretched hand.

“Another one to make a pair, yer honour,” cried Byrne. “Yer honour’ll never miss it, and a fine gentleman like yer honour needs only to be asked, I know. Sir John Corcoran, God rest his sowl, never drew less than half a golden sovereign out of his pocket to tip a man. He was the elegant gentleman, yer honour. Thanks, yer honour, thanks.”

Again Mr. Gilhooley’s hand entered his pocket. This time Mr. Gilhooley’s mind had again begun to grow suspicious, and he experienced the sensation of slowly recovering from a fit of drunkenness during which he had imagined himself a millionaire and had been flinging his money about. He dropped the second coin - it was a florin - into Byrne’s hand. Then he shrugged himself as if he had caught a chill, and set off at a smart pace. As he walked away he felt a shiver down his spine and knew that he had made a fool of himself.

Byrne did not look after him. He just spat on both coins, hitched up his clothes, winked one eye and said in a curious, melancholy voice:

“Jay, that fellah was an easy mark.”

The Fall of Joseph Timmins

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It was Sunday evening. Mr. Joseph Timmins sat by his wife’s bedside. His wife, Louisa, who had become a confirmed invalid of late, was lying flat in bed, with her shoulders propped against pillows. She was reading aloud an article from The Irish Rosary.  The article dealt with the “Persecution of the Church in Mexico.”

Although it was cold outside it was very stuffy in the room. The window was shut and there was a fire. Mrs. Timmins required a warm room for her ailment. It was the heat that first began to make Mr. Timmins discontented as he sat listening. Then the tiresome crackling of the fire made him feel bored and his winter underclothing, which he had just begun to wear, irritated his flesh. Finall


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y he became aware of his wife’s rasping and sanctimonious voice and his heart poured out all its rebellious hatred against her.

He stole a glance at her lean, withered, spectacled face, at her clammy yellow hands, at her sunken undeveloped breasts, shaped like a flat board against the bedclothes and he realized acutely that he was fifty years old, without ever having been loved. So a pained dissatisfied expression came into his nervous face and he began to think of her with hatred. Until then he had listened to her reading without grasping the meaning of the words. Now he heard them acutely and hated them, their meaning and the persecuted Church, which represented his unhappiness. The Church was his wife, with her unsexed body and the spectacles on her nose and her horror of the marriage bed.

The sudden upheaval in his mind was all the more violent because it terrified his conscience and he was too weak either to act upon it or to repress it. Indeed he called weakly upon the Blessed Virgin to save him from this sin, but the devil of unrest and concupiscence held his paltry personality with in strong chains, so that he heard his thoughts actually shouting in his mind and he sat listening to them, incapable of resistance.

Indecent memories made him flush, and yet they made him hate her all the more and feel ashamed of his cowardice. He remembered how in the first year of their marriage, she had terrified him by her modesty. Yes, she had lain, twenty-five years ago, in that very same bed, their marriage bed. She had turned all the holy pictures to the walls, sprinkled him with holy water and begun to make an act of contrition when the marriage was about to be consummated. It was like being married to a nun or setting up house in a church.

And all these barren years, without children and even without sin…. The devil now suggested to his mind, shouted it out, that even sin, strong lustful sin, would have fertilized the arid desert of his life. It would have freed him from her clammy hands and her undeveloped breasts that were shaped against the bedclothes like a flat board.

And he himself … what was he? What did he look like in the mirror, one day after his bath, when he saw himself naked? A puny thin man with a beard streaked with grey, a nervous pale face twitching, eyes that had a monk’s woman-fear in them and bony thighs like an old man.

Word by word, slowly, she enumerated the tortures they were suffering, the bishops and priests of Mexico and her dry lips seemed to find pleasure in the recital of their suffering, in the laceration of their whipped flesh. For their loins had never known a woman. And he, listening, rejoiced wickedly, for those atheists were crashing through the walls of steel that had bound his cowardice and with imaginary bullets he slew hordes of bishops and dashed their gourds of holy water into cesspools and smashed the holy pictures with hammers and spat upon the tablets of contrition. He heard cries of lust and triumph and he mingled with the conquering atheistic soldiers, gouging the eyes of monks and violating nuns.

It was horrible. His irritated skin grew hot and moist with perspiration. He made a sound with his lips, like a hiss of pain. He clenched his hands together and stretched them downwards stiffly towards his thighs.

Suddenly his wife stopped reading, put the magazine on the bed and looked at him. She looked at him down her nose over her spectacles. Her eyes, shining through the fire-brightened glasses, were cold and cruel like the eyes of a miser. They had in them all the meanness and the cruelty and the aridity of perverted sanctity, the joylessness of the woman who has killed her mother instinct, the hatred of the parasitic soul that withers the sap of nature with its clammy touch.

“Joseph,” she said, in her dry, harsh, old-maid’s voice, “is it too much for you, dear?”

Her voice made him start, but he did not look at her. He merely relaxed his hands and let his body go limp. Her voice silenced the devilish voice of rebellion in his mind. Like an automatic machine his conscience registered a mortal sin, the sin of taking pleasure in obscene thoughts, Her voice made him feel conscious of her power over him and of his own weakness. Just as a schoolboy when he hears the voice of the Dean of Studies, remembers his lessons with fear; so Mr. Timmins remembered his work as a director of an insurance company and also the religious societies to which he belonged, especially the one for saving street women “from the scarlet sin of their unhappy life” as his wife called it. These labours and duties rose up before his mind, big and perpetually unfinished and it became obvious to him that life should mean nothing to him beyond these labours, for which he would be rewarded in the next world.

“Yes,” he said, in a childish feminine voice, “it’s rather horrible, what people … I mean … things are turning out rather… it’s unrest, I suppose and… science.”

Then he found courage to look at her, because, with a sudden twist, his mind had become like hers, a mind hostile to rebellion and to the desires of the flesh, only with the difference that his mind was more violent and passionate than hers and it would now like to gouge out the eyes of the atheistic soldiers and burn all Protestants and heretics in a big fire. Whereas her mind, behind the cruel cold eyes, watched suffering and torment without movement and saw that they were good.

Her eyes turned wearily and contemptuously from her husband’s nervous twitching face. She sighed and said wearily:

“Science, thy name is sin. No, Joseph, it’s not science, but the coming of Antichrist. I can feel it in the growing generation. It’s truly horrible, but I can even see signs in your nephew that he is becoming a prey to the immoral teachings of the College of Science. He laughs immoderately and yawns when I talk to him of his religious duties. He makes too free with the servants.”

His eyes wandered from her face as she spoke. They rested on her undeveloped breasts that were like a flat board against the bedclothes. In a flash he smelt the sun-baked plains of Mexico and saw bronzed horsemen galloping with screaming nuns on the pommels of their gaudy saddles. “The curse of the cinema,” she had said. The hot voluptuous sun and the stretching long-grassed golden plains made his flesh throb where the new underclothing grated against it. He shuddered and said almost angrily:

“I am at the end of my patience. Unless he mends his ways…. Well, it’s hard … my dead brother’s son … and we … God didn’t bless us with children, but … nothing but ruin can come of the company he keeps … his drinking and if what I hear is true… women.”

“Women,” said Mrs. Timmins, “you haven’t told me anything about…”

“My dear,” said Mr. Timmins, “I didn’t want to disturb … I’m not certain and in your condition …”

“Joseph,” said Mrs. Timmins. “You must put your foot down. At once. It’s your weakness that’s responsible. He must leave the college at once. Take him into your office.”

Mr. Timmins began to speak, but he became inarticulate and he wrung his hands. His face became crimson. He was trying very hard to feel violent against his nephew, but all the time he felt the impact of hot voluptuous sunrays against his irritated flesh and he had visions of wild lawless men in rolling golden plains, herding women.

There was a knock at the door. Then the parlourmaid entered.

“Dinner is served, sir,” she said. “Will you have your beef-tea now, ma’am?”

“Yes,” said Mrs. Timmins. “And I think I’ll try a little chicken, Kitty. A little breast.”

“Yes, ma’am. Do you want some more coal on the fire?”

“Do.”

While the maid was at the coal-scuttle, Mr. Timmins got up and kissed his wife reverently on the forehead. Her skin was yellow and clammy. His lips quivered as they touched her skin. She called him back from the door, waited until the parlourmaid had left the room and then said in a very severe tone:

“You must speak to him. Don’t let me have to do it.”

Then Mr. Timmins went out hurriedly. He hurried without being aware of it, fondling the tip of his little thin beard and moving his lips. When he turned the corner and came to the stairhead he realized the cause of his hurried movements. The parlourmaid was tripping down in front of him. Immediately he flushed and thought of the golden rolling plains, the swishing of the long grass and the flying hoofs of the sweating horses. Everything hot under the boiling sun. His lips grew dry as he went down the stairs in the wake of the comely silken legs and saw, resisting, conscience striken, the curve of her body and the undulating glossy hair rising from her soft white neck. And he saw that she was young and soft and round and fresh, like a young flower wet with dew, opening out its honeyed cup to a wandering bee.

The maid went off across the hallway towards the kitchen. It was dim there where she disappeared and her tall straight figure, swaying voluptuously at the hips, became alluring among the shadows. When she disappeared something began to burn in his chest, for a few moments only, a pang of mingled joy and sadness. It was queer, both unpleasant and violently intoxicating.

He passed the dining-room door and went into the drawing-room to look for his nephew. The drawing-room was empty. He went through to the dining-room. His nephew was standing at the sideboard and he put down something hurriedly that clinked. Mr. Timmins flared up at once.

“Drinking?” he said, in a low tense voice.

The nephew turned round, calmly sticking a coloured handkerchief into his outside breast pocket. He was a young man of twenty, low-sized and powerfully built. His face had already become slightly coarse. His strong neck, his curly dark hair and the contemptuous expression of his grey eyes made him attractive, in the way that stupid, strong men are attractive.

“Hello, Unce Joe,” he said carelessly in a deep bass voice. “What’s the matter? Everybody takes a pick-me-up before dinner now. I don’t feel up to scratch. That match yesterday was a bit tough.”

“I have a few words to say to you, Reggie,” said Mr. Timmins.

“What about?” said the nephew.

The parlourmaid entered with the soup. They took their seats, facing one another across the table. Mr. Timmins watched his nephew’s eyes. The nephew smiled slyly at the parlourmaid and he looked at Mr. Timmins with a vacant stare and fiddled with his napkin. As the parlourmaid leaned over his shoulder with his soup, Mr Timmins again felt that sensation of something burning in his chest. The maid left the room. Mr Timmins put down his spoon and began to speak furiously.

“She insists on your leaving the College of Science,” he said, “and I must own … well, I quite agree with her. For your father’s sake, Reggie … Well, I tried my best to … give you your own way and to … What return do you make? What’s going to become of you, I say? Twice during the past week I have been approached by friends. Yes. Mrs. Turnbull stopped me in the street, waved her umbrella in my face and accused you of dragging her Andrew into the ways of the devil. Do you think I hear nothing? I’m told everything, even about your champagne dinner at Jammet’s with a common bookmaker.”

The nephew broke bread and said calmly:

“That was on a bet, uncle. Ye can’t expect a man …”

“A man,” said Mr. Timmins. “You call yourself a man. I would forgive you for squandering my money if it was for a good purpose. I’m not mean. Your father left me a sacred trust. Lord have mercy on him, his ways were not mine and he died penniless. But I’m not mean. God didn’t bless us with children. What I have is yours. But it’s a hopeless and miserable end to a life of labour and … and self-denial to think that … Eh? What’s going to become of you? She says I’m weak and it’s time. What can I do? Have you no conscience? Football, drink and bad company are no fitting preparation for the … Do you or do you not want to?”

The nephew pushed away his empty plate and put his arms on the table.

“Listen, Uncle Joe,” he said calmly.

“Sit properly in my presence,” said Mr. Timmins angrily.

“Oh, all right,” said the nephew, “ye might let us have a meal in peace. There’s something I wanted to ask you about only I’ll wait till afterwards. Ye know it’s bad for yer digestion talking during meals. I heard Dr …”

“Silence!” shouted Mr. Timmins.

“Very well, only …”

“Silence,” whispered Mr. Timmins, blushing and shaking his fist. He heard the maid’s footsteps. Mr. Timmins did not look towards the maid. Neither did he think of her. He answered her severely when she asked him if his untouched soup had not been to his liking. He felt a meaningless anger that he had not experienced for years. Hosts of things contributed to produce this anger, trivial things like his new underwear and his wife’s yellow skin, weighty things like the consciousness of his own arid years that had never known the softness and subtle passion of love. And he wanted revenge, violent and immediate, a breaking forth that would shatter everything, even his own life and his hope of Paradise.

His appetite was gone, but he wanted to drink. He wanted to go to the sideboard, put a decanter to his lips and spill it down his throat. But he was afraid of his nephew. The young brute. Just like his dead father, who had got drunk on the night after his young wife’s funeral and had to be brought home from an improper house.

“He has something to say to me,” thought Mr. Timmins. “Very well. Nothing he can say will alter my determination to get even with this young ruffian. He’s laughing at me. Upon my soul he is.”

Not a word was spoken for the remainder of the meal. The nephew ate ravenously, utterly indifferent to the twitching, angry countenance of his uncle sitting opposite him. Mr. Timmins made a pretence of eating, but each mouthful stuck in his throat. The sound of the maid’s footsteps excited him now, just as the contour of her figure had done in the hallway. And under cover of the new silent anger that had hardened his soul, he conceived an extraordinary and intoxicating desire to … Each time she bent over him he thought of it with a most diabolical pleasure. There was a soft sweet scent from her hair and even from her white apron when she bent over him. The starched apron crinkled, pressed out of shape by her bending supple figure. He was acutely conscious of every sound and movement she made and of her shape, even though he didn’t look at her. When they were finished their coffee, Mr. Timmins said:

“You may leave the table. I’ll hear what you have to say in the drawing-room,”

The nephew grunted and went out. Mr. Timmins looked about him stealthily and fondled the tip of his beard. Then he drank two large glasses of port in rapid succession. His head became giddy for a moment. Then he grew exalted. A melancholy sensation that was very pleasant overcame him. Walking very erect, with his hands clasped beneath his shoulder-blades, he went into the drawing-room. The nephew was standing by the fire, leaning his arm on the mantelpiece, with his head bent. He tapped the fender with his toe.

“Well,” said Mr. Timmins.

The nephew looked up and folded his arms.

“I owe some money,” he said. “It’s got to be paid or I’m ruined.”

“Money,” said Mr. Timmins.

“Yes,” said the nephew in a hoarse voice. “A Jew. He won’t wait. I put him off for two months. It’s fifty quid.”

Mr. Timmins walked backwards into a chair and sat down.

“Not a cent,” he said, in a calm voice through his teeth. “Not one penny of my money are you going to get. Do you hear?”

“Very well,” said the nephew, shrugging his shoulders. “Only he’ll come down on you.”

“Not a penny,” repeated Mr. Timmins.

Suddenly the nephew thrust his head forward and muttered angrily:

“D’ye think it’s any pleasure to me to spend yer rotten money or to live in this deadhouse? Why didn’t ye let a fellah have a bit o’ fun in the house? Where am I to go except to a pub when I want to talk to the lads? There never was anything here only the lives of the saints and novenas to the Holy Ghost an’ castin’ my father’s name at me. God damn the two of ye. Take it or leave it. I know the dodge. But ye’re not gettin’ me into yer office. I’d rather go to Liverpool and work as a navvy and fry a steak on a shovel. I’ve got my strength an’ I’m not dependin’ on you for my lodging.”

Beating his broad chest with his clenched fists and muttering something under his breath, he walked heavily out of the room and banged the door after him.

For a long time after he had gone, Mr. Timmins sat with his mouth open, without thought. Still without thinking he went into the dining-room and went to the sideboard. He poured out a measure of brandy and tossed it off. He paused, shivered and filled out another measure rather unsteadily. As he was slowly raising it to his lips the maid entered to clear the table. He started and looked her boldly in the face.

Although she had been in the house for six months, this was the first time that he had looked her in the face. The liquor had lent him new eyes and they saw that her face was willing and as bold as his own turbulent desires. She had a handsome face with a skin the colour of milk. Her eyes were quick and passionate. They did not flinch or get excited under his gaze. They were not innocent. Her lips were avaricious. He could bargain with them. He saw and understood all this, because it seemed that the devil had lent him a new brain with the new eyes. He smiled on her. She answered him with another smile and then she said respectfully, as she put a tray on the table:

“I’m afraid you didn’t find the dinner to your liking this evening, sir.”

Mr. Timmins fluttered his fingers a trifle drunkenly.

“That doesn’t matter a bit. Funny, I don’t know your name.”

“Kitty, sir.”

“Kitty. Ahem! Yes. Kitty. Isn’t there a song Oh, Kitty, will you marry me?’ I think I heard it somewhere.”

The parlourmaid bent her head, shot a glance at him from under her dropping lashes and laughed slyly. Mr. Timmins flushed and tried to laugh also, but his lips were dry. His head became full of hot vapour and his limbs became loose. Without knowing what he was doing, he went towards her and held out his hand. Without looking, she caught his hand and put it away gently from her waist. He left the dining-room, raising his feet high off the floor. He staggered into the armchair by the fire in the drawing-room and stared into the fire, contemplating in ecstasy the fantastic visions that swam into his mind through clouds of vapour.

As if to conceal the lovely, sinful visions from his wife, he suddenly became enraged with God and with his neighbours and with the societies of which he was a member. He showered unuttered blasphemies and curses on them all and sneered contemptuously on all the monkish men and skinny women that lived around him in smug, silent houses. He cursed the folly of his past life, his unspent departed youth and the misery of a Heaven in such company. With glee he shattered with a wish all that he had fought to gain in the hereafter, by penance and the curbing of his nature.

And in this mood he became cunning and laughed slyly to himself, seeing the cunning profligacy of his nephew, as a cunning predatory bee, stealing the honey that fools had gathered and left untouched. And he decided to do likewise, to be cunning also, without belief, a hypocrite, a profligate.

As he rose unsteadily to his feet, he heard a voice say within him:

“My age does not matter. Nor my bony thighs. I have money, I can buy her. Lots of she things. They gave girls to old Solomon.”

He walked to the door leading into the dining-room on tiptoe and saw her bending over the empty tablecloth with a crumb-brush. He made a sound with his lips. She looked up. He smiled. She glanced towards the door that led into the hallway and then looked coldly into his face. He beckoned to her. She did not move and her face looked indignant, but his new cunning saw something in her eyes and lips that made him hurry forward to her round the table. He put his arm round her motionless body and began to whisper into her ear. She kept saying something to which he did not listen, and then he began to shower kisses on her neck, her forehead and her hair. With his trembling hands he pressed her to him, crushing her against the table. And she murmured, struggling to free herself:

“Not here, sir. We’ll be seen.”

The door banged. She gasped and broke loose. Dazed, with his arms stretched out, Mr. Timmins looked up. His nephew was standing at the door. The maid was hurrying out the other door into the hallway. The nephew’s eyes followed her. Then they turned to Mr. Timmins. Mr. Timmins saw them change slowly from wonder to mocking glee.

In a flash the vapours vanished from his brain and he felt a lassitude in all his limbs. He felt old and weak and helpless and ugly; withered and poor.

“Excuse me, Uncle Joe,” said the nephew. “I came in to…”

“Yes,” interrupted Mr, Timmins, sinking into a chair. “You came for that money. How much was it, did you say?”

The Terrorist

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Louis Quigley crouched over the balustrade of the Upper Circle, shivering in his thin overcoat.

Overhead there was a continual pattering of feet and occasional loud thuds, as the poor people crowded into the gallery, shuffling and talking noisily, jumping along the wide tiers of wooden seats. A respectable stream of shabby genteel people filtered through the Upper Circle seeking their seats rapidly. Below in the Stalls, in the Dress Circle and in the Boxes, sombrely clad men entered slowly, with rigid hips and bored faces, inattentively glancing for their sumptuous seats. The bare powdered bosoms of their women sparkled with jewels. They dropped their luxurious wraps and sank wearily into their seats.

Quigley, leaning against his curved left arm that lay along the red velvet covering of the Upper Circle balustrade, glanced downwards at the rich who entered, with intense hatred in his feverish eyes.

“Drones!” he muttered. “Drones soured by their own luxury!”

The theatre filled, noisily above him, respectfully about him, boredly below him. It was very warm in the theatre. You could smell the artificial heat coming in waves through the brilliantly lighted hall. But Quigley shivered in his thin overcoat.

He had been waiting for two hours at the door in order to get a front seat behind the balustrade. And it had been a cold winter’s night outside; a clear, frosty, starlit sky, overarching the windy streets through which the ill-clad poor went crouching.

His overcoat was buttoned about his throat, enveloping his meagre frame looselv like a bag. A shabby grey cap covered his skull, down over his forehead and pressing his ears outwards. His ears were blue with the cold. His face was small, thin and pale; but there was a fever in his large, blue eyes that illuminated the paltry face and made it terrifying. The face was fixed and the vertical grooves in the skin gathered between the eyes did not twitch. His whole being was transfixed, contemplating the idea in his brain.

The idea had been with him for six days, since he first contemplated the act, in the darkness of his room at night, clutching his knees in bed, thinking. The desire to commit the act had entered his brain suddenly without his knowing it or expecting it. When it came, he had sprung out of bed in terror. He had stood for a long time in his bare feet on the floor, stooping forward, listening. Listening he had become very tired. He had sighed. He had entered his bed again slowly, utterly exhausted. He had fallen asleep almost immediately. But in the morning he awoke to find the idea fixed in his brain; as securely fixed there as if he had been born to commit the act. All the other ideas had gone. He had no further interest in them. He read no more. He spent the six days making preparations for the act.

Watching the people enter he was quite cool. But the tips of the fingers of his left hand were embedded in the soft red velvet of the balustrade covering. And the knuckles of his left hand were white. He waited tensely until the appointed moment should come, without thinking. It seemed to him that his head was made of iron, it felt so strong. It also seemed to him that he was really sitting alone, an immeasurable distance from everybody; that he was enveloped by a cloud; and that he would hurl a thunderbolt out of that cloud, down upon the drones. An avenging God!

Before he hurled the bomb he would utter aloud his prophecy. It would go forth to all the world as a clarion call. The tocsin would be sounded that night. “The blare of trumpets at dawn on the banks of the Po, as the squadrons of Hasdrubal’s Nubian horsemen….” Prophets immolate themselves. His right hand was thrust into his right breast-pocket, between the second and third buttons of his overcoat.

The theatre was full. Now a dull murmur rose as thousands of words mingled in the heated air without form or meaning. People murmuring. Broken waves seething white on a rocky shore, thought Quigley.

The sound pleased him. He fancied that there below, beneath the cloud in which his body was hidden, a concourse of people babbled expectantly, waiting for his word and the sacrifice of blood. “Somewhere and by some one that sacrifice will be made; even by one man armed with a stone.” A bomb was more fitting than a stone, because the reverberation of its explosion would resound through the earth to awake the sleepers, to urge on the tired ones; all, all marching with the prophecy on their lips. His body grew still colder and salty moisture exuded from the corners of his eyes. His eyes blurred and he could see nothing below him. People had sat on either side of him closely. That was all right. Behind him, around him and above him were his own people. Below him were the drones.

Crash! He started violently and then his body relaxed, trembling, as the soft sounds of music rose from the orchestra, the jingle-jingle of the cymbals tintillating, tintil-lating, the weird, melancholy, comic sound of the saxophone, the alternating boom of the drums and the choleric brasses pounding the air; all in harmony mingling. It was the mad laughter of the elements heralding the act.

He was carried away by the sound. His miserable frame collapsed with a loose palsied movement of his weak muscles; rendered incapable by the feverish exaltation of his mind to remain fixed and taut. The crude anger of his idea now changed. It became enveloped with a maniacal joy that transcended it. Lo! The whole theatre was transformed before his eyes. Lo! There in that box to the left of the stage two women had entered, while two men, hidden from his view, seated them. He could see the white hands of the men, with jewels shimmering on their fingers, gestidilating; while the women disposed their dresses and sat upright, laughing backwards at their men. Two tipsy courtesans. One, dark, with firm jaws and rounded, firm breasts, smiled stupidly, while her black eyes ogled her man. The other, with hair the light golden colour of ripe corn, the fecund colour of the fruitful earth, drooped languidly, a beautiful fawn beast exulting in her savage beauty. His blurred eyes gloated over her long stately limbs, loosened with wine and sensuality. Lo! This was not anger but an exulting joy, the slaughter of drones; society had laid before him the most gross and yet exquisite manifestation of its lordly vice so that his act might go forth….

Br-r-r-r. Suddenly the drums of his ears began to hum, deafening him. His cheeks flushed a rosy colour. He half rose from his seat, trembling violently. They made a startled movement about him, shrinking away and looking in awe at his frenzied eyes. Half risen, he smiled and tried to pull forth the bomb to hurl it at the fawn beast, but…

In a moment the humming stopped in his ears. He became aware of the movement about him. This unbalanced him and he fell back into his seat. He wanted to look around him and say something to reassure HIS people. But he was incapable of any action but one, i.e. to hurl the bomb. Already nobody else existed in the world but himself and “the horned spectres of the Revelations” down below. His stomach was becoming ill and all his members were revolting in terror from any movement. And his brain began to be afraid; afraid of the extraordinary and unexpected conduct of his stomach, which was now assuming the mastery over his brain, starting some devilry of its own, expanding and throbbing, as if at the next instant it would explode and annihilate him. Plump! He sat down, closed his eyes and held his breath.

There was a murmur about him now, about him and behind him. He heard it but he took no notice. His consciousness was impervious now to sound. Sound had become formless and meaningless to his ears. The music still continued. Down below people were swaying to its rhythm. But he no longer heard the rhythm. In the box, a man had planted his left foot on the fawn beast’s lap. With a languid gesture she cast it off and made a sensual movement downwards from her loins. No, not there. His eyes were also out of control. T


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hey wandered from the box along the Dress Circle, and there they suddenly became fixed once more.

There was a row of black-clothed youths like mummies sitting erect, with stiff necks and thoughtless pallid faces, gazing inanely at the stage. His ecstasy changed once more into anger. The fever left him and he became rigid. Here, here was the most foul iniquity. Not debauch nor luxury, but young humanity drained of its intelligence, an insult to the divinity of man; “the headless clowns sitting on the throne of wealth to sign the edicts of ghoulish fiends that trample the starving millions.”

Now he was completely in a state of unconsciousness. There was some excited movement about him and people were talking loudly and calling, but it meant nothing to him. Because the idea had repossessed him with terrific power. It had expanded in his brain until his whole entity had vanished and he had become purely an amorphous idea, crying: “Now, now.”

He arose slowly like an automaton, with curious stilted movements. He raised his left hand. Abruptly he pulled forth the bomb. He raised his eyes to the ceiling, he cried out:

“Man has conquered the earth. He now marches triumphantly to the conquest of the Universe. The drones stand in the way. Death to …”

His voice ended in a choking murmur as several big men pounced on him. He felt numb immediately, and then … he floated away, lying, he thought, on a soft fleecy cloud, soaring over the void of the wrecked universe.

The Bladder

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The schoolmaster was a disagreeable man. He was always interfering in other people’s business and giving advice about things of which he knew nothing. So that, although he was an excellent teacher, he was disliked in the island of Inverara. Somehow or other everything he said or did was aggressive and insulting. He walked with his head thrown back on his fat, red neck, that bulged in little waves over the collar of his coat, and with his brown beard thrusting out in front of his face. He always wore grey tweeds and a little grey cap that was pulled so far down over his forehead that a little patch of his baldness could be seen at the rear of his skull. Then when he spoke to any one he kept one hand in his pocket, jingling his money, and stroked his beard with the other. He had a great deep voice, slow and pompous. “Haw,” he would say, somewhere down in his throat, “what did I tell you? Why didn’t you take my advice?”

At lunch time he walked up and down the road in front of his school with his lunch on his right palm on a piece of newspaper, and a clasp-knife in the other hand, eating bread and cheese. The cheese was always very high, and he had a horrid way of putting a piece between his thick red lips and then making a sucking sound. And he did that, he told the police sergeant, to persuade the islanders that bread and cheese was the healthiest and cheapest diet for a midday meal.

He was always telling the peasants that they didn’t till the land properly or look after their cattle properly, and the fishermen that their nets were not the correct depth or length. In the same manner he inveighed against the unhealthy food the people used - tea, poor American flour, potatoes, and salt fish. When John Feeney’s son Brian had the influenza the schoolmaster met John one night and said, “What are you feeding your son with?” Feeney scratched his head and said, “Faith, I’m giving him the best o’ nourishment. Pancakes.” “You’re a fool, Feeney,” said the schoolmaster in his bass voice; “give him oatmeal porridge, man.” Then young Feeney’s influenza turned into consumption, and the boy died. At the funeral the schoolmaster caught Feeney by the shoulder and bawled into his ear, “What did I tell you? Why didn’t you take my advice?”

After his wife died of the delirium tremens he began a campaign against intoxicating liquor. He would talk for hours in front of the church on Sunday after Mass, reading statistics to show how drink beggared the country and filled the lunatic asylums. “And tobacco is nearly as bad,” he would say. “Fancy a sane man making a chimney of his mouth and setting fire to his purse.”

Then one December he bought a heifer from Jim Delaney, and, since he had no land, he sent the heifer to graze on Michael Derrane’s land at so much a month. The heifer was in calf when he bought her, and she was a good-looking, healthy beast of a dark red colour with a white patch underneath her stomach. “Now we’ll see how he gets on,” said the peasants, winking at one another.

The cow spent the winter in those fields Derrane had beneath the road half a mile west of the church and all through the winter she was the main topic of conversation among the peasants in the west of the island. People were always leaning over the fence on the roadside, looking at her. Every evening after closing the school the schoolmaster went to visit her. He drove her around the field, examined her droppings and the water-tub. Then he would stoop down and look at her udder to see if she was beginning to gather milk, fully three months before she was due to calve. He became unbearable in his conversation, boasting about the cow. “Look at her,” he would say. “I am a schoolmaster. I grow my own potatoes, cabbages, onions, and parsnips in my garden. Now I’m going to have my own milk. That’s what comes of being educated and being able to use the brains that the Lord gave me.” And he spent an amount of money on agricultural periodicals dealing with the breeding and treatment of cattle.

When the cow was due to calve he had relays of the schoolchildren watching her day by day, and he hired Tom Finnigan, the labourer, to watch her at night. Every evening he gave the cow a hot drink. “Phew,” said the peasants, “be Saint Michael that cow will beggar him. it’s a true story. Put a beggar on horseback.”

The cow went twelve days over her time, and then on a Friday night just before dawn she had a speckled calf. Tom Finnigan and the schoolmaster were there, and the schoolmaster was as proud as if the calf were his firstborn child instead of a little speckled beast that sprawled about on the grass, trying to stand up. “You wait, Tom,” said the schoolmaster, “that will be the best bullock in the island in two years’ time.” Then he went home to mix another drink for the cow and left Tom to watch her.

But in their excitement they had forgotten to empty the water-tub. Tom Finnigan had been up three nights, and overcome with weariness he fell asleep sitting under the fence, and in that condition the schoolmaster found him on his return. When Torn opened his eyes there was the schoolmaster showering blows on him and yelling like a madman. “Scoundrel, scoundrel, I’ll have the law on you.” “Yer honour,” began Tom, jumping to his feet. Then he stopped and opened his mouth. The cow was standing in the middle of the field with her neck stretched low to the ground and her open mouth in the air. One side of her was flat and the other side swollen like a bladder. She had emptied the watertub.

In a short while a crowd gathered and men offered advice, but the schoolmaster paid no heed to anyone. He kept roaring, “Scoundrel, scoundrel!” and in his shirt sleeves, with froth on his beard, he rubbed and rubbed at the cow’s expanded side until the red hair was coming off in handfuls. For all that, he might as well be rubbing a mountain in the hope of flattening it out. The cow began to bellow and stagger about.

At last the peasants got mad with him and said that if he didn’t let them treat the cow in the proper manner they would flay him within an inch of his life. “What good can you do her, you scoundrels?” yelled the schoomaster. “Give her whiskey,” roared the peasants. The schoolmaster was terrified out of his wits and told them to go and get whiskey. A lad brought a pint. They seized the cow and poured it down her throat. Soon she began to toss her head and run about breaking wind. That evening she was as well as ever.

But the schoolmaster sold her ard the calf a month later to Mick Grealish the blacksmith. Since then he never talks of cattle or farming. Neither does he give anybody advice. But the peasants have nicknamed him “The Bladder.”

Mackerel For Sale

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There was a dark rim round the white disc of the sun. The sky was white, covered with a pale gauze. The sea was white, reflecting the colour of the sky. It was very hot and perfectly still.

The white water of the bay was spotless, except for a round black dot formed by a row-boat. The round, black row-boat lay still, casting no shadow. Not a bird. Not a ripple broke on the low shores, girdled with yellow sand and with grey-black rocks that looked sallow in all this whiteness. Beyond the shore the torrid earth was still, a silent mass of black earth covered with faded, yellow grass, grey rocks, grey stone fences, gleaming granite boulders strewn sparsely, white in the sun.

The tiny fishing-town of Bailenaleice lay in the angle of the bay, facing the bay with its back to the sun. Its hundred houses were scattered round the little square that ended at the pier. To the left of the pier there were a number of fishing hookers, moored side by side, high and dry, with sea grime on their black dry sides.

Ech! The little town was very idle. There had been no fish for a month. What weather!

It was just on the stroke of noon. A small crowd was loafing round the monument, watching the row-boat in silence. They were all drowsy with the heat and their enforced idleness. Here in the square they were at peace, away from their wives who nagged them for their idleness. At a distance, here and there, drowsy voices could be heard, talking aimlessly. Stray dogs rambled about, gambolling in a subdued manner.

There was absolutely no sign of life in the town. The courthouse, the post office, the police barracks, the tiny rail-head where a solitary goods waggon was perched on an eminence like a derelict, the drapery shop, the parochial house, where the priest was sitting in his library with his feet on a table reading G. B. Shaw’s plays, were all closed, silent and weatherbeaten. In the square itself, the door of the yellow-painted Grand Hotel was closed, and the proprietress, Mrs. Timoney, was leaning on her bare fat elbows at the window of an upper room. The only open door was that of the public-house and grocery shop owned by Mr. Mullally. In the open doorway, Mr. Mullally was sitting on the stone threshold, with his blue waistcoat open on his rotund stomach, half asleep.

Suddenly an enormous man marched down the town towards the pier, striking the earth fiercely with his heavy boots and swinging his arms in an exaggerated manner. The loafers round the monument jerked their heads around to look at him. Mr. Mullally also tried to turn his head, but his neck was so fat that he could not do so. He grunted and dropped his chin once more. The enormous man approached, shouting as he did so.

“Now ye divil ye,” whispered one of the loafers in a tired voice, “what ails the fellah?”

The man who approached was Bartly Tight, a farmer. He was dressed in grey frieze from head to foot. His limbs were enormous, but in spite of their size his coat and trousers were too large for him. His coat hung loose about his body and reached down his thighs. His trousers were wide and doubled up two or three times at the bottoms. He wore a very small grey cap at the top of his skull. His head was large, square and beautifully shaped. His complexion was tanned dark brown, so that he was almost the same colour as the grey land about him. A wonderfully handsome giant; so handsome that all the women in the little town and in the surrounding districts were madly in love with him.

But Bartly Tight was a fanatic and paid no heed to women. He was a socialist. He had lately returned to the district from America, after his father’s death. Since then he had been trying to convert the inhabitants to the socialist religion.

“Hey!” he cried, when he reached the square and caught sight of the loafers. “Here’s a damn’ story for you fellahs. Call yourselves Christians, do ye? Why, I’m the only damn’ Christian in this blasted town, and I’m an atheist. Search me, fellahs, there’s a lot o’ bums in this town. Yeh. Know what I’m goin’ to tell ye? Ye go to Mass every Sunday an’ then rob one another for the rest o’ the week.”

“Tell them the old, old story,” cried a loafer, in a singsong voice, imitating a street preacher.

The others laughed in low voices. Mullally suddenly woke up and he began to giggle. He was so fat and good-natured that he shook all over when he giggled. His little humorous eyes were almost completely hidden behind the layers of flesh on his cheeks. It was very good to look at him laughing. He made no sound. And his great mass of jet black hair shook when he laughed. Tight saw him laughing. He clenched his fist and menaced Mullally with it.

“Yeh,” he cried. “You can laugh, Mr. Mullally, But you can’t put anything over on me. I got your number.”

“Hey, Bartly,” cried a lean man, with a black wart on his face, “what did ye swally for breakfast that’s gone agin yer breath?”

There was another laugh. Bartly looked at the lean man angrily.

The lean man stared very solemnly at Bartly. The tail of his ragged black coat was immersed in the water of the horse trough, on the edge of which he was sitting. Somebody had told him about it an hour before, but he was too lazy to remove it.

“Yeh!” said Bartly to the lean man. “You’re a helluva wit, aren’t ye, Micky Degatty. But yer house needs a roof an’ ye haven’t done a stroke o’ work for a year, an’ yer wife is-”

“Aw! What odds, Bartly?” yawned Micky Degatty. “Won’t we be all dead some day?”

“You put yer finger on the trigger that time all right,” said a dapper little man with a pointed beard, who was leaning his buttocks on a stick. “Yes. Heh. There’s a long rest in the grave for us so we … heh … we might as well get used to resting. Eh?”

“That be damned,” said Bartly Tight, stamping on the road. “It’s idleness is … but that’s another story. What I want to know is this. Who knocked the gap in the wall o’ my clover field? There’s been two donkeys feedin’ there all night. ’Twas done deliberate. Who done it?”

“Ha!” said somebody. “That was a dirty trick.”

“Aw! Begob! A clover field. Was it the red meadow?”

“Ate to the ground,” bellowed Bartly Tight. “There’s Christians for ye. It’s not an accident. It’s an old gag in this town. Takin’ their cattle around in the middle o’ the night to feed on their neighbour’s land. What? Christians!”

He spat with great vehemence. Everybody began to discuss the matter with some heat, deprecating the conduct of the culprit, or culprits, whoever he or they were. But they soon tired of their interest. The day was too hot.

“Well,” said an old man at last. “It’s ate now anyway. What’s the use talkin’ about it? That won’t make the grass grow again.”

“There ye are again!” cried Tight, waving his arms. “What’s the use? What’s the use? That’s all ye can say. Let everything go slide. Idleness, ignorance, immorality. That’s what lets ye be a prey to the whole gang of idle parasites is drinkin’ yer body’s blood. Priests, gombeen men, shopkeepers, police, lawyers. Yah. Why the hell don’t ye wake up and take some interest in social affairs?”

Nobody answered. A dog yawned. Mr. Mullally, for the first time, uttered an audible sound. Tight turned towards him. Mullally was laughing with tears flowing down his fat cheeks. Everybody began to titter.

“Hah!” yelled Tight. “There he is. The pug-nosed badger. It’s easy for him to laugh. He came here a few years ago from God knows where, with his few pounds o’ tay in a bag, leavin’ them at people’s door-steps. A tay man. Then he buys a little house an’ sets up a shop. Now he’s got ye all in his debt. He’s got money in the bank, He’s livin’ on ye. What’s he done for the town? Nothing. He ain’t a producer. Laugh away, dam ye. Foo!”

Tight was exhausted and he sat down. Nobody took any notice of him. Mullally just went on laughing. When Tight came to the town first after his return, people got vexed when he ranted like this. But a few daring fellows, who took umbrage at his words and fought him, got such a drubbing from the giant that now nobody dared to contradict him or answer him back. And, anyway, he was a gay, humorous fellow, industrious, clean-living, and the best of good companions, except on occasions like this, when a little indiscretion on the part of a thieving neighbour “got his goat.”

He sat down. He took out his pipe. He filled it with tobacco from his pouch. He noticed the row-boat, which was now moving hurriedly towards the pier, after having been motionless for at least four hours.

“Who’s that?” he grumbled, waving his tobacco pouch towards the boat.

“That’s Tameen Maloney,” murmured a listless voice.

“What’s he been doin’?” grumbled Tight.

“Fishin’,” said another listless voice.

Somebody cleared his throat. The dog yawned again and then snapped at a flea. A man who was sitting with wide open mouth suddenly shut his mouth and sat up. He began to cough violently. A fly had entered his wide open mouth.

“Fishin’!” cried Bartly Tight. “Ha! What’s he fishin’ for?”

“Mackerel,” said a fat man in a blue sweater, getting to his feet and stretching his hands above his head. “Give us a pipe-full, Bartly.”

“Go to hell,” said Tight, putting his tobacco in his pocket. “Go an’ earn it. Yer always cadging something. I don’t believe in charity. Tobacco is a luxury. I’ll give ye a meal if yer hungry, but tobacco -”

“Aw! For God’s sake …” grumbled the fat man as he shuffled along towards Mullally’s shop. “Hey! Mr. Mullally,” he cried to the shopkeeper in a sullen voice, “give us a chew.”

Bartly looked angrily at Mr. Mullally. Mr. Mullally glanced at Tight, as he took a knife and a square block of tobacco from his pocket. He cut off a piece of the tobacco and handed it to the fat man.

“There ye are!” cried Tight. “I suppose ye think now ye’re a decent fellah. Eh? But ye-know yer robbin’ that man of his sense of decency. He’s just a hanger-on. Bribery an’ corruption. That’s how ye get them in yer clutches. Put that down on the slate now, Mr. Mullally.”

Mullally giggled again. Suddenly Bartly Tight struck his thigh a violent blow and began to laugh himself.

“Well! I’ll be damned,” he cried. “We’re all fools. Eh? It’s a funny world. Search me if it ain’t. An’… after all… what were we put into this world for anyway?”

“To save our immortal souls,” said the dapper little man, who was leaning on the stick.

Tight looked at the man keenly, with a merry twinkle in his eyes. The others laughed, knowing that Tight was a bitter opponent of the Church, and expecting him to say something bitter. But Tight just laughed. The heat was overcoming him and with the heat, the laziness engendered by it and the peace of nature, his sense of humour was becoming acute.

“Well,” said another man, “they say Julius Caesar, God rest his soul if he had one, couldn’t whistle an’ chew meal at the same time. So …”

“So what?” said Tight.

“I forgot,” said the man, with a long yawn.

They lapsed into silence again, watching the incoming boat. After a while Bartly Tight spoke again.

“That fellah Tameen Maloney ud make his fortune in a civilized country. Out all mornin’ on a day like this. An’ all you bums loafin’. Social energy fellah. Eh? That man is a good citizen. Christ! I hope he catches something. I been eatin’ salt hash for a month. Not a bite o’ fresh stuff in the town, only rotten mutton. Give my two eyes for a roast mackerel off the tongs,”

“Foo!” said the dapper man, sucking his lips and moving towards the pier. “I can hear the salt cracklin’ off its back. My eyes are waterin’ for it already.”

“Lashins o’ butter on it,” said another man, getting to his feet, “an’ it’s food for a bishop.”

“To hell with the bishops,” said Tight, also getting to his feet. “They should be fed on bad poison.”

They all laughed. Everybody strolled down to the pier. Even Mullally got to his feet and ambled down to the pier. Now it was obvious that he had once been a policeman, because of the way he walked and his splendid black moustaches, that reached out like long thorns on either side of his mouth.

They hailed the boat while it was still a long way off. The boatman did not reply. They watched his bobbing poll, as it rose and fell with the movements of his measured rowing, flush, trup, r-rip, flush. Then he turned round his head and they saw Tameen Maloney’s drunken face, all yellow creases, with smuts of grease on the sallow cheeks and shaving scars on his thin jaws. He grounded his boat on the sand to the left of the pier and they saw fish in the boat.

“Bravo, Tameen!” they cried. “Ye got them.”

“Yuh,” grunted Tameen, getting to his feet in the boat, “I-I-uh-go-gogotalittle-a-uh-fe-fe-few.”

It was almost impossible to understand a word he said on account of the stoppage in his speech. He had the fish in a little basket, and without mooring the boat he slung the basket on his shoulder and walked up the sand with it hurriedly, on to the pier. Some small boys hauled up the boat for him.

On the pier he went up to Mr. Mullally with the fish.

“Uh-Uh-a-uh-hunerd,” he mumbled.

“Right,” said Mr. Mullally, curtly, “come along.”

Mr. Mullally had suddenly become a very energetic man. His face had hardened. He was twirling the tips of his moustaches with his fingers and watching the fish greedily.

“Hold on there now,” said Tight, gripping Maloney by the shoulder. “Lay down that basket. D’ye want to sell yer fish? Eh? If ye do we’ll buy it from ye. We don’t want any middleman to conduct a transaction.”

“Let him go,” cried Mullally, seizing Maloney by the other shoulder. “Who’s talking about a transaction? The fish is sold to me.”

Little Tameen Maloney began to stutter. The poor, dirty, ragged, little fellow, gripped by the two giants, was trembling and looked very pitiful. Tight loosed his hold with an oath. Then a very interesting state of affairs was disclosed to the crowd.

It appeared that Tameen Maloney had recently been receiving an occasional drink on credit from Mullally, on the understanding that whatever fish he caught would be handed over to Mullally and that Mullally was to pay whatever he thought fit. Maloney was a confirmed tippler, and he would sell his soul for money if he could find a buyer for it.

It was a very fraudulent arrangement, because Maloney was absolutely penniless, half-starved, and living in deplorable conditions. But the crowd looked upon it as a very trivial affair. They laughed.. Tight was the only one who became enraged.

“Well, what did I say?” he cried. “Look at this barefaced robbery. Christians! Oh! Lord! Ough!”

He spat and walked away, swinging his arms ferociously. Mr. Mullally walked up to his shop with Tameen Maloney. The crowd dispersed, in order to warn their wives that fresh mackerel were to be on sale at Mullally’s. The square became quite still.

Presently Mr. Mullally hung up a notice on a piece of cardboard outside his shop. On it was written in scrawling letters: “Mackerel for Sale. A Penny each. Fine fresh Mackerel.”

Women came rushing from all sides towards the shop to buy the mackerel. The town came to life in an extraordinary fashion. People were running in all directions. The demand was so great that after ten minutes Mr. Mullally came out and changed “A Penny” to “Tuppence.” After twenty minutes, when there were only twenty mackerel left, he came out and changed “Tuppence” to “Three Pence.” The townspeople began to grumble, but such was the demand for the fish that they paid three pence each for them.

All this time Bartly Tight roamed about his own yard cursing violently. But at last his desire for fresh mackerel got the better of his principles, and he sent his young son down to the shop to buy six mackerel. The little boy got the last six of the fish.

The whole town was frying mackerel. A delicious odour permeated the silent air. Not a soul moved about. Everything was perfectly still. Mr. Mullally was again sitting in his doorway, cutting cheese sandwiches for himself with a large clasp knife. That was his lunch. He was smiling. He had bought the mackerel for two shillings, and he had sold them for nineteen shillings and three pence.

Half an hour passed. Then a stream of sated men strolled into the square once more, their faces red, their stomachs thrust out. They had dined deliciously. They sank wearily to the base of the monument. The same lean man with a black wart on his face sat on the edge of the horse trough and allowed the tail of his ragged coat to become immersed in the water once more. Even Bartly Tight appeared, tamed somewhat by his healthy meal. He also sat down. Nobody spoke. Some closed their eyes and fell asleep. Not a sound was heard, except an occasional grunt and an occasional snore. Mr. Mullally had finished his cheese sandwiches, and he was wearily reading the piece of newspaper in which he had held them.

Then suddenly an extraordinary noise was heard. It came from within Mr. Mullally’s public-house. It was almost an inhuman sound, a loud, piercing yell. Strangely enough the crowd of idlers round the monument took very little interest in it. They just glanced towards the shop and smiled. Mr. Mullally himself struggled to his feet and entered his shop, rather hurriedly but not very hurriedly.

“Now ye divil ye,” said a man who was stretched at the base of the monument, “ye’ll see some fun or I’m a liar.”

“Ah!” growled Bartly Tight, staring into the white, still sea, savagely, “is there such a thing as pity or are the cannibals right after all? Eh? Are we all cannibals only we don’t…”

“Ug-ug-g-g… r.r.r.r…. ya-ah-ah.”

The piercing yell came again and the body of Tameen Maloney was hurled into the yard of Mr. Mullally’s public-house. Tameen fell on the yard and writhed there. Mr. Mullally appeared at his door, rubbing one palm against the other.

“He’s got em again, the devil,” laughed a man near the monument.

Bartly Tight shuddered, and got to his feet. He spat.

“Blast it,” he said. “I can’t stick this.”

He strode down towards the shore, savagely swinging his arms. It was very hot and still.

Tameen Maloney suddenly jumped to his feet, and began to dance wildly round in a circle, jabbering inarticulately. He had the delirium tremens. He had swallowed two shillingsworth of illicit whisky in the public-house, and then fallen into a stupor. When he awoke from the stupor he was quite mad, temporarily insane. This was quite a usual thing with him. The people laughed.

“Be off now!” shouted Mr. Mullally,

Tameen suddenly frothed at the mouth and ripped a large stone from the coping of the fence. Mr. Mullally rushed out. Tameen dropped the stone and rushed away. He dived into a little shed farther down. The people got excited. They had never seen him as bad as this. The tremendous heat of the day had evidently intensified his madness. Mr. Mullally got nervous. He retreated hurriedly to his door, shouting as he did so:

“Go for the Civic Guards, Mary Ellen,”

He entered the house and closed the door. The crowd moved over rapidly in the direction in which Tameen had gone. They heard another yell and Tameen appeared with a boat-hook in his hands. He was frothing at the mouth.

“The … the … the … r-r-robber,” he cried. “Uh-uh-I’ll… uh …”

He rushed at the door and began to batter at it with the boat-hook. The crowd watched, in silence.

In a few seconds two Civic Guards came rushing down the road. They seized Tameen and dragged him up the road to the police barracks. Then the crowd moved away again towards the monument, talking in low voices. The shop door opened again and Mr. Mullally came out to sit on his threshold. For a while there was loud murmuring in various parts of the town. Then the murmuring died down. It was very still and hot.

Down at the point of the long wall that ran into the sea on the western side of the bay, Bartly Tight was sitting, with his bare feet immersed in the smoothly-rolling white waves,

The white water of the bay was spotless and perfectly still.

The Inquisition

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There was perfect silence in the study. Twenty-seven postulants were stooping over their high desk, writing and reading, their pens moving over the exercise books with the cumbersome stupidity of boyhood, their heads held between their hands as they repeated over and over again the conjugation of some Latin or Greek noun and tried to retain it in their racked memories. In the rear desk, three auxiliary prefects wearing black soutanes worked and conversed in whispers, dis


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obeying the law of silence which they imposed on the younger postulants. For, even in religious orders, officials disobey their own laws.

It was past six o’clock. The angelus had been said. It was still an hour before the first auxiliary would bang his desk. Then they would all go on their knees and recite the prayer before leaving the study for the refectory and supper.

A terrible hour, thought Francis Cleary. He sat in the second desk to the left of the passage, and although he had his Euripides open on his desk, he was not reading it. He was listening to every sound with beating heart, thinking that the very next moment there would be a heavy step outside the door. Then the door would open slowly and the father director’s large red melancholy face would appear. Holding his biretta in his hand, he would advance slowly down the study, picking his steps, with difficulty on account of his corns. He would pause at Cleary’s desk and he would tip Cleary’s right shoulder gently, Then without a word he would go back again to the door and Cleary would have to follow him.

Cleary kept going over this routine of movement in his mind, and every time he came to the gentle tip on the shoulder, he started and a flow of blood went to his head that made him flush and tremble. It was terrible waiting like this. He had expected the priest every moment since five o’clock, when they had entered the study from the recreation ground. Why had he not come? Why was he torturing him like this?

There were three other boys guilty and they also were waiting, but they all knew Cleary would be first. Why? Just with that instinct of boyhood and the peculiar cunning that life in a religious seminary engenders, where life is so closely scrutinized and public that each knows the others better than brothers and sisters know one another in a large family. So Cleary was known to be the most religious and devout boy in the scholasticate. The father director paid most attention to him. There were great hopes of his ultimate sanctity. Therefore he would be first. It would be through him that the guilt of the others would be made known or concealed. The others knew that. Cleary knew it and he trembled, because he felt that he would never have the courage to hold back information from Fr. Harty. Already he heard the boys hissing “spy” at him.

At last the ominous sound came. The auxiliaries stopped whispering. Cleary became absolutely numb with terror. The door opened. Cleary did not look up. He heard the slow irregular heavy footsteps approach. He felt the gentle tip on his shoulder and he heard the priest’s asthmatic breathing over him. He rose immediately, and as he followed the priest’s broad black back, he cast a hurried glance around him. The three faces were watching him, with terror in their eyes, but also with a peculiar warning look, as much as to say: “You know what you’re going to get if you tell.”

The father director’s room was across the passage. Cleary was always terrified of that dark door that seemed to lead to a tunnel. On Saturday nights they all waited outside the door and entered into its lamplit gloom to kneel at the little prayer stool beside which Fr. Harty sat, hidden in darkness, hearing their confessions. Now it would be another sort of confession, a more terrible one.

Fr. Harty never spoke until he had lit the lamp and sunk into his easy chair by the fire. Then he put his head between his hands and rubbed his face from the temples to the chin with the peculiar melancholy movement that was customary with him. Cleary standing erect by the door felt pity and love for him. He was tender and kind to him, that priest. Why was he now afraid of hirn? But it seemed now that some other being was sitting in the chair instead of the good priest, who had once been a great athlete and a heavy drinker. This middle-aged man with the red face and the terrible mental suffering stamped on his red face was like an extraordinary and terrible being, merciless, insane, overpowered by a monstrous fanaticism that licked all tenderness and understanding out of his consciousness like a devilish flame licking up the tender moisture of humanity, leaving only the crusted charred bones of the dogmas that had brought that constant suffering into his face. This was not Fr. Harty but a terrible fanatic.

Cleary was only sixteen. He had not yet begun to think out his own experience. Until now he had assimilated without question all the precepts that were offered to his mind, in. the lecture rooms, in the chapel and in the study, where Fr. Harty gave sermons on personal conduct and the lives of the saints. Cleary’s mind was hitherto just a receptacle for all these precepts and he had shrunk away in terror from any personal thought, lest it might lead him into doubt and sin. But now his consciousness had been completely roused by his terror and this first questioning of the justice of the situation in which he was placed. His superiors were not just, something suggested to him. And almost immediately his mind had begun to think independently and he doubted the wisdom of his superiors. And then a little wall had thrust itself in front of his own personality, and for the first time in his life he found himself standing behind this wall, ready to fight his superior. This was an enemy sitting in that chair. Not Fr. Harty whom he loved but this embodiment of the terrible dogmas that made men do such cruel things, as this terrible torture of a youth, this fanatic. That was his enemy. With the extraordinary instinct of youthful persons whose judgments are not deflected and obscured by elaborate reasonings he could see this difference as clearly as if there were two people sitting in the chair instead of one. And from that moment, when this difference became manifest to him, Cleary had ceased to believe in God with his whole soul as he had hitherto done. He no longer loved God as an omnipotent friend and father. He now feared him.

“Well,” said the priest heavily, without looking at Cleary, “this is terrible.”

There was a short silence. Cleary’s legs trembled and his head seemed to go round and round. The sacred pictures on the walls, the gleaming gilt backs of the books on the shelves, the dark polished wainscotting, the oilcloth on the floor, all seemed occult and terrifying, to his eyes wandering about, seeking some point to which to attach themselves instead of to the recumbent heavy figure of the priest.

“How did this happen?” continued the priest sadly. “How did this terrible craze grow within you? If you had been lukewarm and … and casual in your devotions I could perhaps understand your giving way to this temptation. But I had placed such faith in your purity. I had such hopes of you. Perhaps I encouraged you too much. Conceit is a terrible danger. Francis, tell me everything.”

Cleary’s lips began to tremble and tears came to his eyes, but he could not speak. The gentle sadness of the priest’s voice knocked down that wall of defence at one blow and Cleary felt himself an utter miscreant. The enormity of his sin appeared so frightful that he abandoned all hope and he was ready to do anything, anything, in order to lighten the grief of the priest. And yet, at the same time, his overwhelmed mind simmered with revolt against this appeal to his heart. He could not speak and he was glad that he could not speak.

“Tell me, Francis. Open your mind to me. Then this demon of temptation will be overcome. I am certain that you have been led astray by your companions. I have no doubt of it. I could not be so mistaken in your character. Others older and less pure in mind than yourself have been the cause of this. Speak, Francis.”

“I can’t speak, Father,” blubbered Cleary, bursting into tears. “I have done nothing. I have done nothing.”

“But, my child, I have just spent an hour with the Fr. Superior. An hour. And I tell you it was very hard on me. Very hard. You went to the dentist this morning to the town and Fr. Moran saw you coming out of a tobacconist’s shop. He stopped you to ask what you had bought and found a packet of cigarettes in your pocket. Do you call that nothing?”

Cleary wept, and weeping he found relief from the load of grief and terror that oppressed his heart. It seemed, too, that all his pity for the priest had been washed away with the tears. And when the father director mentioned Fr. Moran the superior, Cleary knew immediately that he loathed the Fr. Superior with a terrible loathing, his paunch, his fat hands, his fat red neck, his little ferret-like eyes and the syrupy tone of his voice, like the soft loathsome voice of some reptile, hissing and snakelike. And this terrible hatred, so new to his soul, made him hard and cold, so that his mind became clear and active again.

“They were not for myself,” he said. “I don’t smoke.”

“I am glad, Francis,” said the priest. “I am very glad. But you must tell me now who they were for. It is your duty to tell me.”

The priest sat up erect suddenly and his face hardened.

“That would not be honourable,” muttered Cleary.

“Honourable!” cried the priest. “My God! Where have you been hearing these words? In religious life there is nothing honourable but the love of God and obedience to his holy rules. Do you think it’s honourable to shield the sinful acts of your fellow-postulants? My child, I command you to tell me who those cigarettes were for. As your director, I command you. You know what disobedience of my order means to your soul.”

The priest had stood up suddenly. Standing he looked enormous in the gloom. Cleary shrank away in terror. In his terror he thought that the priest was God himself, the terrible avenging God of the Old Testament, who cried: “Spare neither women nor children.” His terror had become physical and he thought that he would be immediately struck dead if he did not speak. But even in that moment of terror when his lips were going to utter the words that would kill all love in his soul, his mind exulted, for it had become relieved of fear. Henceforth it would be free to exult in thought, free and hidden from observation, with a wall around it, formed by cunning and deceit, to protect it from these terrible exponents of dogmas that were now its enemies.

“They were for Michael O’Connor and John Hourigan and Paddy O’Kelly,” cried Cleary, almost in a scream.

“Michael O’Connor, John Hourigan and Paddy O’Kelly,” repeated the priest slowly, as he sat down again in his chair, groaning as he sat.

Then he placed his hands again on his temples and rubbed them slowly down over his face, as if he were erasing some picture from his memory. A phantom.

Cleary’s eyes now shone wildly. His body was rigid and he was ready to jump, he thought. His face twitched. But he felt a great relief. He had come to a decision. Nothing mattered to him now. He felt a great strength in his jaws where they joined the muscles of his neck and he didn’t have to blink his eyes, as he was in the habit of doing. His eyes remained wide open without effort and the lids seemed to be very cold and rigid.

The priest’s attitude changed again. He began to lecture.

Cleary thoughtlessly repeated the words of the lecture to himself after the priest, while his newly functioning mind planned other things.

“In the first place, it’s against the rules to go into a shop. Secondly, it’s a grave sin to procure the means of sin for another soul. Thirdly, ’tis a …”

And his mind exulted, ravenously devouring all sorts of new ideas, let loose into the whole cosmos of things without restraint. Free now and cunning and deceitful and securely hidden behind a thick wall of deceit, through which nothing could pierce. Free and alone and hating everything. Free to found a new cosmos, to fashion a new order of thought and a new God. Through hatred to a new love. Through terrible suffering in loneliness to a new light. Through agony to a new peace. The man was growing in him.

The priest ceased. Then he said:

“Send Michael O’Connor in to me. I will speak to you later about your penance.”

Cleary bowed and left the room. He was no longer afraid entering the study. He went to the auxiliary desk and asked permission to speak to Michael O’Connor. He went to O’Connor and said: “Fr. Harty wants you.” He paid no heed to the threat that O’Connor uttered, He went to his desk and, covering his face with his hands, he smiled.

In the morning he would run away, he thought.

The Outcast

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“I am the Good Shepherd” (JESUS CHRIST)

The parish priest returned to the parochial house at Drom-ullen, after a two months’ holiday at the seaside resort of Lisdoonvarna.

He returned fatter than he went, with immense red gills and crimson flakes on his undulating cheeks, with pale blue eyes scowling behind mountainous barricades of darkening flesh and a paunch that would have done credit to a Roman emperor.

He sank into the old easy chair in the library with a sumptuous groan. He was tired after the journey. He filled the chair and overflowed it. His head sank into his neck as he leaned back and the neck-flesh eddied turbulently over the collar of his black coat, toppling down behind in three neat billowing waves. He felt the elbow-rests with his fat white palms caressingly. Great chair! It had borne his weight for ten years without a creak. Great chair! Great priest!

His housekeeper stood timorously on the other side of the table, with her hands clasped in front of her black skirt, a lean, sickly woman with a kind white face, She had followed him in. But she was afraid to disturb the great man so soon after his arrival.

He sighed, grunted, groaned, and made a rumbling internal noise from his throat to his midriff. Then he said “Ha!” and shifted his weight slightly. He suddenly raised his eyebrows. His little eyes rested on the housekeeper’s twitching hands. They shot upwards to her pale face. His mouth fell open slightly.

“Well?” he grunted in a deep, pompous voice. “Trouble again? What is it?”

“Kitty Manion wants to see ye, Father?” whispered the housekeeper.

“Foo!” said the priest. He made a noise in his mouth as if he were chewing something soft. He grunted. “I heard about her,” he continued in a tone of oppressed majesty. “I heard about the slut…. Yes, indeed…. Ough!… Show her in.”

The housekeeper curtsied and disappeared. The door closed without a sound. The white handle rolled backwards with a faint squeak. There was silence in the library. The priest clasped his paunch with both hands. His paunch rose and fell as he breathed. He kept nodding his head at the ground. Two minutes passed.

The door opened again without a sound. The housekeeper pushed Kitty Manion gently into the library. Then the door closed again. The white handle squeaked. There was a tense pause. The parish priest raised his eyes. Kitty Manion stood in front of him, at the other side of the table, two paces within the door.

She had a month-old male child at her breast. His head emerged from the thick, heavy cashmere shawl that enveloped his mother. His blue eyes stared impassively, contentedly. The mother’s eyes were distended and bloodshot. Her cheeks were feverishly red. Her shawl had fallen back on to her shoulders like a cowl, as she shifted it from one hand to another in order to rearrange her child. Her great mass of black hair was disordered, bound loosely on the nape of her neck. Her neck was long, full, and white. Her tall, slim figure shivered. These shivers passed down her spine, along her black-stockinged, tapering calves and disappeared into her high-heeled little shoes. She looked very beautiful and innocent as only a young mother can look.

The priest stared at her menacingly. She stared back at him helplessly. Then she suddenly lost control of herself and sank to her knees.

“Have pity on me, Father.” she cried. “Have pity on me child.”

She began to sob…. The priest did not speak. A minute passed. Then she rose to her feet once more. The priest spoke.

“You are a housemaid at Mr. Burke’s, the solicitor.”

“I was, Father. But he dismissed me this morning. I have no place to go to. No shelter for me child. They’re afraid to take me in in the village for fear ye might… Oh! Father, I don’t mind about mesef, but me child. It…”

“Silence!” cried the priest sternly. “A loose tongue is an ill omen. How did this happen?’

She began to tremble violently. She kept silent.

“Who is the father of yer child, woman?” said the priest slowly, lowering his voice and leaning forward on his elbows.

Her lips quivered. She looked at the ground. Tears rolled down her cheeks. She did not speak.

“Ha!” he cried arrogantly. “I thought so. Obstinate slut. I have noticed you this long while. I knew where you were drifting. Ough! The menace to my parish that a serpent like you … Out with it!” he roared, striking the table. “Let me know who has aided you in your sin. Who is he? Name him. Name the father of your child.”

She blubbered, but she did not speak.

“For the sake of your immortal soul,” he thundered, “I command you to name the father of your child.”

“I can’t,” she moaned hysterically. “I can’t, Father. There was more than one man. I don’t know who…”

“Stop, wretch,” screamed the priest, seizing his head with both hands. “Silence! Silence, I command you. Oh my! Oh! Oh!”

The child began to whimper.

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,” muttered the girl in a quiet whisper.

The priest’s face was livid. His eyes were bloodshot. His paunch trembled. He drew in a deep breath to regain control of himself. Then he stretched his right hand to the door with the forefinger pointed.

“Go!” he thundered, in a melancholy voice. “Begone from me, accursed one. Begone with the child of your abomination. Begone.”

She turned slowly, on swaying hips, to the door, with the foot movements of one sinking in a quagmire. She threw back her head helplessly on her neck and seized the doorhandle. The handle jingled noisily. The door swung open and struck her knee. She tottered into the hall.

“Away with you,” he thundered. “Begone from me, accursed one.”

The housekeeper opened the hall door. She was thrusting something into the girl’s hands, but the girl did not see her. As soon as she saw the open air through the doorway, she darted forward with a wild cry. She sprang down the drive and out into the road.

She paused for a moment in the roadway. To the right, the road led to the village. To the left, it led to the mountains. She darted away to the left, trotting on her toes, throwing her feet out sideways and swaying from her hips.

It was an August day. The sun was falling away towards the west. A heat mist hung high up in the heavens, around the dark spurs of the mountains.

She trotted a long way. Then she broke into a walk as the road began to rise. It turned and twisted upwards steeply towards the mountains, a narrow white crust of bruised limestone curling through the soft bog-land. The mountains loomed up close on either side…. There were black shadows on the grey granite rocks and on the purple heather. Overhanging peaks made gloomy caverns that cast long spikes of blackness out from them. Here and there the mountains sucked their sides inwards in sumptuous curves, like seashell mouths. Long black fences raced majestically up the mountain sides and disappeared on far horizons over their peaks, with ferocious speed. The melancholy silence of a dead world filled the air.

The melancholy silence soothed the girl. It numbed her. She sat down to rest on the stunted grass by the roadside. She cast one glance at the valley behind her, She shuddered. Then she hugged her baby fiercely and traversed its tiny face with kisses. The baby began to cry. She fed him. Then he fell asleep. She arose and walked on.

She was among the peaks, walking along a level, winding stretch of road that led to the lake, the Lake of Black Cahir. A great dull weariness possessed her being. Her limbs trembled as she walked. Her heart began to throb with fear. Her forehead wrinkled and quick tremors made her shiver now and again. But she walked fiercely on, driven forward towards the lake in spite of her terror.

She reached the entrance to the valley where the lake was. She saw the lake suddenly, nestling cunningly behind an overhanging mossy-faced cliff, a flat white dot with dark edges. She stood still and stared at it for a long time. She was delirious. Her eyes glistened with a strange light.

Then she shivered and walked slowly downwards towards the lake bank, stopping many times to kiss her sleeping child. When she reached the rocky bank and saw the deep dark waters, she uttered a cry and darted away. The child awoke and began to cry She sat down and fondled him. He ceased crying and beat the air feebly with his hands. She kissed him and called to him strange words in a mumbling voice

She took off her shawl, spread it on a flat, smooth rock, and placed the child in it. Then she tied the shawl into a bundle about the child. She placed the bundle carefully against another rock and knelt before it. Clasping her hands to her breast, she turned her face to the sky and prayed silently.

She prayed for two minutes, and then tears trickled down her cheeks, and she remained for a long time staring at the sky without thinking or praying. Finally she rose to her feet and walked to the lake bank quickly, without looking at her baby. When she reached the brink, she joined her hands above her head, closed her eyes, and swayed forward stiffly.

But she drew backwards again with a gasp.

Her child had crowed. She whirled about and rushed to him. She caught him up in her arms and began to kiss him joyously, laughing wildly as she did so.

Laughing madly, wildly, loudly, she rushed to the bank.

She threw back her head. She put the child’s face close against her white throat, and jumped headlong into the lake.

Selling Pigs

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Mrs. Derrane was banging a sod of turf vigorously on the hearthstone. The sod was very hard, and when at last it broke one piece flew up in the air, hit the pot-hooks that hung on the chimney hanger and then descended on the half-baked cake that lay in the griddle.

“My soul from the devil,” said Mrs. Derrane angrily, picking it out of the griddle, “everything is upside down in this house. Poverty, poverty, poverty. Get out of that, you child of misfortune,” she cried, hitting the black cat that lay curled in the ashes with the piece of turf.

The cat me-owed, darted to the dresser, and looked at her viciously while he licked his paw. Then he shook his paw and fled out of the door.

“Phew!” said Mrs. Derrane’s husband, “we are in a temper this morning. Phew! You have a bad heart, my girl. By all the oaths in the Holy Book you have.” “Oh, you lazy lout of a man!” cried the woman, jumping to her feet and arranging her hair furiously. “It’s a pity ye didn’t find that out the day you married me. Troth it is. I wish to God it was on some other finger you put your threepenny-halfpenny ring!”

“Now, Mary-”

“Oh, hold yer tongue, Michael Derrane.”

Mary bustled around the kitchen doing nothing, dusting the dresser, rattling the milk can, throwing clothes about, banging the shovel that stood at the back door. Then she went to the door and stood with her arms akimbo, looking out. She was a handsome young woman, black-haired, red-cheeked and with high cheek-bones. Her dark eyes were flashing like a young colt’s. She wore a check apron over her red petticoat.

Her husband sat by the fire watching her and stroking his brown beard. Now and again he giggled, and his brown eyes sparkled with merriment. He, too, was handsome, and as he giggled his splendid muscles moved rhythmically beneath his blue sweater. Then he jumped to his feet and laughed. His wife took no notice of him, but kept looking out of the door, twitching her shoulders. “Mary, I say.” Mary did not reply. He moved up to her, smiling, and put his arm about her waist. “Go away from me,” she said, bending her head and at the same time turning around to him.

“Yerra, where can I go, Mary?” said Michael, crushing her to his bosom. “Amn’t I tied to you for life; oh, pulse of my heart?”

Mary raised her lips to his and they kissed passionately. The smile faded from his face and he looked into hers tenderly.

“What’s the trouble, my white love?” he said. “Oh, come in from the door,’ said Mary coyly, “the whole village will see us, and we six months married. Oh, Michael.”

He lifted her in his arms and sat on the hearth stool with her in his lap.

“Was it about the pigs, Mary?”

“Yes,” she gasped, fiddling with the breast of his jersey. “You know well I have nothing in the house, and I want to go to the mainland to buy a chair for the room and a warm blanket for the winter, and a stone of wool to make the frieze, and lots of things. And it’s time to sell them, Michael. They say prices are going to fall next week.”

“Well, well, now, and why didn’t you tell me that? Sure I thought it was how you were getting tired of me.”

They both laughed childishly. They were really a foolish couple and a disgrace to Inverara, where people never carry on like that after being married six months.

“Will ye sell them today, Michael?” murmured Mary, and her voice came up from somewhere in his chest.

“Yerra, I’d sell my soul to please you. Although they’d be in better condition in another month, But what the devil is the difference? Get up, you lazy girl, and boil the kettle. We better wash them right away. The jobber, I heard, is on his way over from Kilmurrage. Come on; move, lazybones !”

Michael, holding on to her apron-strings, began to caper around the kitchen.

“Let me go, you fool,” laughed Mary, “how can I do anything while you are hanging on to me? Go on and fix the fire, while I strain the milk. Kiss me first.”

They prepared a tub of hot water and went to the sty at the back of the cabin to wash the pigs. The sty was a little square hut covered with a sloping roof of zinc with a little square yard in front, floored with concrete and surrounded by a high double stone fence. As soon as they entered the yard, three pigs rushed out grunting, with their snouts in the air smelling. Mary emptied a pail of mashed potatoes and sour milk in the trough in the middle of the yard, and the pigs dived into it biting one another. Then she and her husband began to wash them with soapy water.

“They are three fine pigs, God bless them,” said Michael.

“How much are you going to ask for them?” said Mary. The tender tone had left her voice now. It had a businesslike ring.

Michael scratched his beard.

“It would be a mortal sin to take a penny less than sixteen pounds.”

“Say fifteen pounds ten, Michael. He’d never give more than that.”

“I won’t cross yer word, Mary. Fifteen pound ten it is.”

They finished washing the pigs and came back to the cabin. Mary hurried about, sweeping the earthen floor and the hearth, polishing the dresser and tidying the pots that lay against the back door.

Suddenly Michael, who was standing at the door, looking out, said: “Hist, here he is up the road,” “Lord save us,” said Mary. “You better go and have a look at the sheep. It’s always best to pretend not to expect him. Stay away an hour.” She bundled him out of the cabin hurriedly and then sat on a stool by the dresser, knitting.

Presently the pig-jobber came up the yard, shouting loudly to somebody, who was a long way off, about the weather. He walked very fast and with an air of being rushing around all the time, oppressed with business. He was a small man, with grey chin whiskers, a crooked red nose, with a great red knob stuck between his two eyes, on account of a fall from a cliff. His left leg had been broken in the same fall, and it bent outwards in a semicircle as he walked. “God save all here,” he said, coming into the cabin.

“And you, too,” said Mary. “Ye’re welcome, Peter Mullen. Take a seat by the fire here. Well, now, and how’s your family?”

“Splendid, Mrs. Derrane, and how’s Michael?”

“Oh, sure there’s no use complaining, but I’m glad to see ye.”

The jobber sat by the hearth and began lighting his pipe while Mary bustled, filling the kettle with water. When the jobber saw her approaching the fire with it he expostulated.

“Now, Mary, don’t offer me anything, I -”

“Oh, will ye hold yer whist; sure ye wouldn’t think of leaving my house without tasting something, if it were only a mouthful of tea.”

“Well, well, now,” said the jobber with a laugh, “it is kind mother for you to be hospitable.”

There was silence for a minute, while Mary began to lay the table.

“Where is Michael?” said the jobber, at length.

“Oh, he is out somewhere,” said Mary casually. “Ye didn’t want him, did ye?”

“No-o,” said the jobber, heaving a sigh. “I was just passing, so I thought I might look at his slips of pigs. I might need a few shortly. Though your pigs are ver


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y young, I hear.”

“Well, we aren’t thinking of selling them for another month or so, but sure you can have a look at them. Or maybe ye’d rather wait for himself. He’ll be in any minute.”

The jobber tapped nervously with his stick, obviously anxious to get away, but Mary kept chattering unconcernedly about everything. The kettle boiled. The tea was made. The jobber supped his tea hurriedly and swallowed an egg and ate some griddle cake. Still there was no sign of Michael.

“I’m afraid I must be going,” he said.

“Oh, sit down, man,” said Mary, “he’ll be in any minute. Sure it’s not afraid you are that he’d think you were courting me.”

They both laughed and the jobber sat down again, and Mary kept chattering, until at last Michael, who had been sitting in a neighbouring cottage, came in.

“Ha, my soul from the devil!” he cried, “I’m glad to see you Peter Mullen.”

“I thought I’d see how your slips of pigs are getting on,” said the jobber.

“Slips d’ye call them, Peter?” cried Michael. “I’ll lay my oath there aren’t three better pigs in the island. But I’m not selling them yet, for all that. But sure you can have a look at them.”

The three of them went out to the pigsty and enterd the yard. The pigs were lying on their sides in the sun. They grunted, but did not rise. The jobber beat them with his stick and they struggled to their feet.

“They’re not bad slips, God bless them,” said the jobber. He walked around them several times. Then he measured the girth of each with his arms. Then he felt their hips, their flanks, their ears, pulled their tails, and laid his stick along their backs measuring them. Then he stood with his arms folded, looking at the ground.

“Well,” said Michael, “what do you think of them?”

The jobber shook his head, took his pipe from his pocket and stuck his finger down the bowl. Then he tapped the ground three times with his stick and then leaned on it.

It was a habit he had.

“There is no fall to their flank,” he said.

“No fall to their flank!” cried Michael, curling his nether lip outwards and wrinkling his forehead.

“Why, where did you ever see a flank like that? And look at their thighs. Why, man, you could take shelter on a rainy day under their thighs. Look at that clear skin. Did you ever see an ear like that, as transparent as running water. There’s a snout for you, as well moulded as a blood mare’s nostrils. Why, man, they are -”

“Now don’t be talking,” interrupted the jobber. “A pig is a pig and weight is weight. Where is their weight, will ye tell me?”

“Is it their weight that’s troubling ye? Well, now, I am surprised that a knowledgeable man like yerself would talk that way. Sure ye’re not thinking that a sloppy, grease-swilling pig would weigh as heavy as a tight, well-balanced pig that’s fed with the hand on the cleanest sour milk and the best of potatoes and the best bran that could be bought for money. Listen to what I’m going to tell ye. There isn’t a loose inch in one of them three pigs. Their flesh is so packed that you couldn’t drive a spear through it What man? Is it out of your senses you are?”

“Oh, hold yer whist, will ye, Michael Derrane,” said the jobber, moving out towards the door of the yard.

“Don’t try to tell me anything about a pig.” He rushed back and hit one of the pigs on the hind hoof with his stick. “D’ye see that hoof?” he cried. “But ye’re young yet. Ye’re young, and ye have a lot to learn.”

“What’s the matter with that hoof?” cried Michael and Mary together.

“That’s the surest sign of a pig’s weight,” said the jobber, leaning learnedly on his stick with his crooked leg thrust out. “If a hoof is not spread, there is no weight in the pig.”

“Arrah, go away with ye,” said Michael.

“If he doesn’t like them, why doesn’t he leave them?” cried Mary. “I hope ye’re not thinking of selling them, Michael. Take care, would you. The bran will last another month.”

“Listen here,” said Michael, striking his right fist into his left palm, “listen here.”

“Now, wait a minute,” said the jobber, seizing his beard in his hand and looking at Michael, “I am a man of one word. Is fifteen pounds the price of the pigs as they stand or is it not?”

“It isn’t,” said Michael shortly. “I wouldn’t sell them for a penny less than sixteen pounds, if I were so long without bread that I’d mistake a dogfish for a wheaten loaf.”

“Well, now, that settles it,” said the jobber, spitting on the crutch of his stick and setting off out of the yard in an awful hurry

Mary and Michael followed him out of the yard, and as they were shutting the door Mary whispered to Michael: “Don’t let him go.” Michael looked at her and smiled. The jobber paused half-way down the yard and turned about.

“I’m telling ye, Michael Derrane,” he said, “you’ll be sorry to turn down my offer. There isn’t another jobber in the county will give ye within one pound of the money a week from today. And yer pigs show no signs that they are going to improve.”

“There is nothing in that but fool’s talk,” Michael called out. “Why not be a man and give the sixteen pounds?”

The jobber walked back hurriedly. He spat on his right hand and held it out to Michael

“Are you going to break a gentleman’s word?” he said loudly. “Say fifteen pounds -”

Michael turned away from the outstretched hand and shook his head. The jobber waved his stick and turned to Mary.

“My good woman,” he said, “I have done my best, what more can I do? Although I would hate to think I would leave your mother’s daughter’s house without buying them.”

“Oh, wait now,” said Mary, smiling coquettishly, “sure, as the men can’t arrange the bargain, maybe a woman could step in and settle the difference. Don’t go back on a woman’s word and split the difference.”

“Spoken like a woman,” cried the jobber, stamping on the ground with his foot. “I was never a man to go against a word from the lips of a beautiful woman. Split it is as far as I am concerned. Are you satisfied, Michael?”

“Put it there,” cried Michael, holding out his hand.

“The bargain is made. Fifteen pound ten it is.”

The three of them went into the pigsty again and the jobber put his mark on the pigs’ backs with his scissors. Then he hurried away waving his stick, glad he had got the pigs for ten shillings less than he had intended to give. Michael and Mary entered the cabin.

“Oh, Michael,” said Mary, “now we can go to town on Thursday and I’ll get everything we want and we’ll have a great time, won’t we? Now what’s the matter, Michael? What is it you’re thinking about?”

Michael was looking at the ground with his hands behind his back. He was scowling at the floor.

“It’s nothing,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “I was wondering whether Peter Mullen would have given another ten shillings if I had held out a little longer. I’d hate to have it said that he bested me. But, sure, the ten shillings won’t matter, Mary. Give me ten kisses instead.”

The Fireman’s Death

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Eight bells tolled slowly in the engine room. He marched down the iron ladder into the stokehold. The others marched rapidly in front of him, their light-shod feet pattering, their covered left hands rushing along the hot rails with a slipping sound. His feet stumbled heavily down. His hand trembled on the rail.

He was sick. He should be in bed. But he had been a fireman for twelve years without missing a watch. His pride said: “Die before your fires rather than let a fellow-worker shed his body’s sweat for you.”

When he landed in the stokehold the hot fumes struck him in the chest. He gasped, caught his eyes with his fists and staggered. His stomach muscles contracted. They crowded around him in pity, urging him to go back to his bunk. He straightened himself fiercely and thrust them away with a swinging movement of his arms. “I’d die sooner than that,” he growled.

He marched to the fires. His thin outward-curving calves were visible passing the bright glow from the ashpits of the furnaces. His tall, slim body and his bony head were hidden in the gloom.

The retiring watch went up the ladder to the deck. Their faces were black. Their eyes were white. Their sodden trousers clung to their sweating thighs. They went up the ladder groaning curses on the sea, the fires, God, and the rich men who make slaves toil in the bowels of ships.

It was very dark. Ashes and coal-dust floated in a thick mass through the sluggish air. The electric lights glimmered like dim candles. The bulky forms of the boilers loomed out of the darkness. The engines thudded. A dull volcanic murmur came from the hidden fires.

He stripped before his fires and put his sweat-rag in his belt. Then he seized the long swaying rake to clean his low fire. He opened his furnace door. His body flashed into the firelight. He was naked to the waist. The ribs rose in ridges on his fleshless breast. The skin lay taut along his protruding jaws. His eye sockets were black. His biceps were rugged knots interlaced with sickly blue veins.

He stooped forward and thrust in the rake. A wave of heat emerged, striking him in the face. He reeled before it for a moment. Then he made a great effort and stood erect. A cold sweat poured out all over his body. That terrified him. Had the others seen? He looked cautiously. They were working furiously. They had not seen. Good.

He swore a blasphemous oath and muttered to himself: “I am not going to give in.” He hauled out the red-hot ashes and the jagged cakes of spent coal that clung like glue to the fire-bars. He finished one side. He changed over the live coals from the other side. He cleaned the other side. All finished. He handed the shovel to the trimmer to coal the bars. Then he walked stiffly to the ventilator.

God! Not a breath of wind came down the dusty gaping tube from the sun-baked deck. His lungs strained like inflated bladders to catch the hot air that struggled down his parched throat slowly.

And there was a great inward heaving of his sides like the panting of a tired horse.

His whole body murmured: “Water, water, water.” But his fierce mind would not listen to the cry. He must feed the fires.

Suddenly his head seemed to swirl round and round. Madness seized him. He wrinkled up his mouth and nose. Then he laughed harshly. Rasping sounds filled the stokehold, furnace doors opening, shovels grating along the iron deck, black coal being shot in among the licking flames. It was the madness of conflict. His weakness vanished. He dashed at his shovel, seized it, spat and opened the door of his right-hand fire. “Give it to her, boys,” yelled the potbellied engineer, as he rushed into the stokehold, “Steam is falling. Steam is falling. Give her a shake.”

The great fires roared and shot out whirling shafts of yellow flame to meet each shovelful of black coal that was hurled into them. He talked wildly to the fires as he hurled in the coal. He called them foul names and put out his tongue at them. He glared at them and hurled himself at them savagely. They had been his enemies for twelve years. He piled coal on them, more, more, until he smothered them under a black glistening mound. Their vast roar was submerged beneath the already reddening black mound. Then he dropped his shovel again and stepped away.

Ha! There was strength in him still.

But what was this? He could not hear. Not a sound. And everything was dim. Somebody was standing in front of him making a noise. He gripped his eyes and peered. He saw a mouth wide open and moving, spitting black coal-dust from its blood-red tongue as it spoke. That was the bloody Irishman from the starboard boiler. Telling him he looked like a corpse and should go on deck. By the slippery heels of the bald-headed Chilian deck-swabber! He ground his teeth and mustered all his strength. “Leave me alone,” he yelled. “I’m a Glasgow fireman and I never give in. And I NEVER will. Leave me alone.”

His voice ended in a shriek.

He groped for the slice. His hands clawed at it blindly, for he could see nothing in the gloom. The long thick iron bar swung towards him as he pulled at it. It pushed against his shoulder and he staggered back three paces. “Steady on,” he muttered. He crouched and raised it, trembling all over. Then he groped to the fires. He opened the door and thrust the wedge-shaped point of the slice at the base of the mound. He ran it along the bars to the very end. Then he drew himself together. He must lift that mound and break it in the middle, in order to give air to the flames. He jumped with a loud gasp and landed crosswise, face downwards, on the slice, his two hands clenching the slice against his hollowed stomach. He almost lost consciousness. A terrific pain ran from his stomach to his head, making all his body numb. But his brain still thought of the fire and the mound that must be broken. It was not broken. The slice had not left the bars. It had merely bent slightly downwards from the middle to the end, under the impact of his body. His feet reached for the deck. He stood erect. He moved backwards two paces slowly, crouching low, all his sinews rigid, his eyeballs protruding.

Then uttering a savage yell, he jumped again on the slice. He landed once more upon it crosswise, his two hands clenching it against his hollowed stomach. The slice rose by the head. The mound broke. A huge scar appeared. Then flames shot out. With a roar they covered the mound and whirled about the door, licking the air and darting out along the slice towards the hanging body of the fireman.

He did not move. His body hung limply across the slice. His toes almost tipped the deck. His eyes were fixed. His lips were white. He was dead.

The Doctor’s Visit

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Maurice Dowling lay flat on his back in his little narrow bed. He gripped the bedclothes in his two hands and held his hands up under his chin. He lay so flat and he was so slim that his figure was barely outlined against the bedclothes. But his feet stuck up at the end of the bed because the blankets were too short. His feet, covered by a rather soiled white cotton sheet, pressed against the black iron support. A yellow quilt lay sideways across his body, all crumpled up in the middle. The hospital attendant had arranged it several times during the night and warned Dowling each time not to touch it again, but Dowling always kicked it away from his chest. He wouldn’t touch it with his hands to throw it away and he wouldn’t endure having it near his mouth. He had an idea that the quilt was full of fleas.

His head, half buried in the white pillow, was very thin. His hair was black and cropped close. But even though it was cropped close, it was not stiff and bristly as close-cropped hair usually is. It lay matted on his skull in little ringletty waves. His face was deadly pale and his high cheekbones protruded in an ugly fashion from his hollow cheeks. His large blue eyes kept darting hither and thither restlessly, never stopping for a moment. And his large mouth also moved restlessly.

Dowling was terribly afraid of the patients who were with him in the hospital ward. He had just come in the previous midnight. This was his first morning in the ward. All the patients were awake now waiting for the doctor’s visit at ten o’clock. Ever since it became light and he could see their faces he became seized with a great horror of them. During the night he had heard queer sounds, wild laughter, whisperings and bestial articulations, but he thought he was merely suffering from the usual nightmares and noises in his head. Now, however, that he could see them he knew that it could not be a freak of the imagination. There were about forty of them there. His own bed was in the centre of the ward, near a large black stove that was surrounded by wire netting on all sides. Then both sides of the ward were lined with low iron bedsteads, little narrow beds with yellow quilts on them. All the beds were occupied except two by the glass door in the middle of the left-hand side of the ward, the door leading on to the recreation lawn. And the two patients who slept in those two beds were sitting in their grey dressing gowns at a little bamboo table playing chess. At one end of the ward there was a large folding door and the other end was covered by a window through which the sun was shining brightly. Through the window, trees and the roofs of houses could be seen. Beyond that again, against the blue sky line, there were mountain tops.

Suddenly a patient began to cough and a silence fell on all the other patients. Tim Delaney had begun his usual bout of coughing preparatory to the doctor’s visit. He did it every morning. The other patients enjoyed the performance. But Dowling was horrified by it. It gave him a nauseous feeling in his bowels, listening to the coughing. Tim Delaney was sitting up in bed, his spine propped against the pillow and all the bedclothes gathered up around his huddled body. He wore a white nightshirt with a square yellow patch between the shoulder-blades. His bed was only five yards away from Dowling on the right-hand side and Dowling could see his face distinctly. The face skin was yellow. The skull was perfectly bald. The eyes were blue and red around the rims on the insides. The whole head was square and bony like a bust of Julius Caesar’s head. When he coughed he contorted and made a movement as if he were trying to hurl himself forward and downward by the mouth. His cough was hard and dry. Delaney had an idea that he was a cow and that he had picked up a piece of glass while eating a bunch of clover. According to himself the piece of glass had stuck in his throat and he could not swallow any solid food on that account. “That fellow must be mad,” thought Dowling, as he looked at the queer way Delaney opened his jaws and bared his yellow teeth when he coughed. Dowling experienced the sensation of being gradually surrounded by black waves that presently crowded up over his head and shut out everything. A buzzing sound started in his ears and he forgot Delaney. He stared at his upright feet without blinking. A fixed resolution came into his head to tell the doctor everything. He decided that it was positively no use trying any longer to keep up the pretence of being ill. He was better off outside even if he died of starvation. He could not possibly endure the horror of being in such an environment. He had schemed to get into hospital in order to get something to eat and now that he was in hospital he could not eat. But then he had not expected to get into such a hospital, among these terrible wild-eyed people, these narrow sordid-looking beds, this dreary bare ward, with a big fat man in a blue uniform and a peaked laced cap, continually walking up and down, shaking a bunch of keys behind his back and curling his black moustache. And the food was so coarse. He had been given a tin mug full of sickly half-cold tea and a hunk of coarse bread without butter for breakfast. Naturally he couldn’t touch it, desperate as his circumstances had been for the past six months. Instead of that he had expected to get into a hospital where there were pretty nurses, who smiled at a man and whose touch was soothing and gentle. He had expected quiet, rest, sleep, delicate food, treatment for the heaviness behind his eyes and his insomnia and the noises he heard in his ears. It was cruel torture to suffer from hunger, to starve in his tenement room, alone and without anybody to whom he could talk when he felt ill at night. But anything was better than this. He would endure anything if he could only be alone again. So he thought, looking at his feet.

Then the attendant came up to Delaney’s bed and shook his keys in Delaney’s face. Delaney stopped coughing. The attendant clasped his hands behind his back and marched slowly up the ward towards the folding door through which the doctor would enter at any moment. All the patients cast suspicious and lowering glances at the attendant as he passed them. The attendant examined each bed with a melancholy and fierce expression in his blue eyes. He seemed to be totally unconscious of the malicious glances directed towards him. In silence he would point a finger at a tousled sheet or a blanket or a piece of paper lying on a coverlet. The patient in question would tidy the place pointed at with jerky eagerness. Not a word was spoken. A deadly silence reigned in the ward. There was an air of suspense.

Suddenly the silence was broken by the sound of loud laughter coming from the outside of the folding door through which the doctor was to enter. Then the two wings of the door swung open simultaneously. The doctor and his attendant nurse appeared, each inviting the other to enter first. The nurse, a tall, slim, pretty, red-haired young woman of twenty-six, with a devilishly merry twinkle in her blue eyes, held her case sheets in a bundle under her right arm, while she held the door open with her left hand. The doctor, Francis O’Connor, was a middle-sized, middle-aged fat man, dressed in a grey tweed suit, with a gold watch-chain across the top button of his waistcoat. He waved his stethoscope at the nurse with his left hand, while the short fat white fingers of his right hand pushed back his side of the door. His jovial fat face was creased with laughter and little tears glistened in his grey eyes.

“Miss Kelly,” he gasped, between fits of apoplectic laughter that shook his fat girth, “upon my soul there isn’t a word of a lie in it. Go ahead. Ladies first.”

Then he himself entered first, still laughing. The nurse followed him, coughed, took up the fountain pen that hung from her waistband and dabbed at her hair with the end of it. The attendant came up at a smart pace, saluted and whispered something to the doctor. The doctor’s face became serious for a moment. He glanced in Bowling’s direction. Then he began to smile again, rubbed his palms together and looked at the ceiling, at the floor, at the walls, at the windows, smelling everywhere.

“Upon my soul,” he said at last, turning to the nurse “does my old nose - sniff, sniff, - deceive me or can I smell roses?”

The nurse nodded, swallowing her breath modestly. She pointed to the glass door that led to the recreation lawn. “It’s from that bush that grows by the wall,” she murmured, “I saw three there last night.”

“Hm” said the doctor and he walked over to the first bed, throwing out his feet sideways without moving the middle of his body.

Dowling’s heart had begun to beat wildly when the doctor entered the ward. He was delighted and relieved, for the moment, of all anxiety. Now everything would be all right. He could transfer all his worries to that jolly man, with the kind fat face. And what a pretty nurse! Though her face was rather hard. Dowling began feverishly to prepare his confessions. He would explain everything. Then they would discharge him immediately. And in all probability the doctor would take an interest in his case and find him employment suitable to an educated man of good family. He became absorbed in the contemplation of what would happen after that. With his pale cheeks flushed and the extremities of his limbs throbbing with excitement, his mind soared off into a day dream, building castles in the air.

The doctor pulled the clothes back off the first patient’s chest. He put his stethoscope to his ears and bent down to listen without looking at the man’s face. The patient, formerly a peasant farmer named John Coonan, lay perfectly still with his hands lying flat on his abdomen. He stared at the ceiling through little fiery grey eyes that were set close together with a little pointed yellow nose between them. He imagined himself to be hatching twelve eggs in his stomach and he insisted on lying perfectly still, lest he should disturb the formation of the birds.

The doctor’s face gradually lost its merry creases as he listened here and there and tapped here and there. His eyes became sharp. Then they began to blink. Then his whole face looked cross and he straightened himself and cleared his throat. “Now my man…” he began absent-mindedly and then he stopped, puffing out his cheeks. He turned to the nurse and whispered to her, holding her arm as he walked to the next bed: “Now how can ye explain that? That man was getting better yesterday and today he’s a foregone conclusion. Well, well. It’s very queer.” He went up to the next bed.

The patients in the ward had been silent and attentive until then, but suddenly they seemed unable to concentrate any longer on the doctor’s presence. They began to practise with voice and limb the grotesque imitations of whatever their crazed imaginations conjectured themselves to be. Dowling was startled out of his reverie by the gradual renewal of insane sounds about him. Again the true fact of his environment became real to him. He began to tremble violently. The doctor was proceeding rapidly down the ward, casually examining the fairly healthy patients. Dowling could catch the doctor looking at himself now and again. Whenever he caught the doctor’s eyes looking at him, the doctor turned away hurriedly. “He’ll soon be here,” thought Dowling excitedly, “and I can see he’s interested in me already. He sees I’m different from the rest. Now how am I going to commence to talk to him?”

The doctor paused to look at the two old patients who were playing chess. The players never took any notice. Their gaze was concentrated on the board intently. One old fellow had his fingers on a black queen, making tentative excursions in all directions, and then coming back again to his starting point. He had his lips sucked far into his toothless mouth. The other man, clasping his dressing-gown about his withered body, looked on murmuring endlessly: “Five minutes’ pleasure and I have to suffer a lifetime for it. Five minutes’ pleasure and I…” The doctor walked away, followed by the nurse and the attendant.

They passed Dowling without looking at him. This irritated Dowling. He felt slighted. He ceased to tremble and his face darkened. The doctor went to the end of the ward and then came back rapidly up the other side. When he was just at the far side of Dowling’s bed, he stood at the distance of a yard behind Dowling’s head. He began to laugh and told the nurse a funny story about a greengrocer named Flanagan who had made a large fortune through contracts for the new government, in which he had relatives. This fellow Flanagan, a lean, stingy, mean, ignorant peasant, according to the doctor, went off from Harcourt Street Station every Sunday morning with his golf sticks, to play on his, Dr O’Connor’s club links. He was a great joke, this fellow Flanagan. The doctor went on telling anecdotes about Flanagan, laughing violently in a subdued tone while he talked. But all the while he kept examining Dowling’s head while he talked and laughed. Dowling’s body was twitching in the bed with vexation.

The doctor finished his story and again he moved on and passed Dowling’s bed without looking at Dowling. Dowling saw him pass and could restrain himself no longer. He called out angrily: “I say, doctor, I want to speak to you.” The doctor turned about sharply and looked at Dowling seriously. The attendant came up to Dowling and whispered in his low passionless voice: “You must wait your turn.” Then the doctor moved away again from bed to bed, talking, answering questions, examining the patients and joking with the nurse. Dowling watched him, boiling with rage. He decided that he would tell the doctor nothing. He wanted to kill somebody. Why should they persecute him like this? Could nobody in the world be kind to him?

At last the doctor reached the end of the ward and turned back. He came down towards Dowling hurriedly, his face creased in a smile. When he was within five yards of Dowling he held out his right hand and called out: “How are you, Mr. Dowling? Now I can attend to you.” Dowling immediately became soft and good humoured and smiled, a wan smile. The doctor sat down on the bed, still holding Dowling’s hot thin right hand in his own fat two hands. He was looking into Dowling’s wild, strained, big blue eyes with his own little half serious, half merry, half sharp eyes. A mist came before Dowling’s eyes. He swallowed his breath and then he began to talk rapidly, pouring a volume of words out without stopping for breath.

“This is how it happened,” he began. The doctor bent down his head, he kept fondling Dowling’s hand and listened. Dowling described how his mother died young while he was in his last year at college studying for the Indian Civil Service. His mother, a government official’s widow, had an annuity that expired with her death. So Dowling, who had no other means of support, had to leave college and get employment as a newspaper reporter. That was eighteen months ago.

“I tell you,” whispered Dowling, lowering his voice and almost shutting his eyes, ’that what got on my nerves was … er … a queer thing and it may appear silly but … you know I couldn’t give expression to something that was in me … somehow … I don’t know how to t


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ell you … of course I’m not a genius … but every man you know … of a certain class, of course, doctor … I don’t know your name … every man has some creative power … and reporting work is awful … telling lies and rubbish day after day … and nobody understood me … everybody seemed to think that I was cocky and thought myself, on account of my family and that sort of thing, you know, better than the others … so that I chucked it six months ago and knocked about since … and then, desperate, I pretended to be ill so that I could get into hospital….”

He had been talking at a terrific pace and stopped suddenly to draw breath. Speaking rapidly, the doctor interrupted him in the same jerky low tone. “And then, of course, you went to kill the editor, fust to make people believe you were ill,” murmured the doctor.

Dowling suddenly stiffened in bed. He dragged his hand from the doctor’s two hands. He held his two hands clenched in front of his face. His face contorted into a demoniacal grin. His eyes distended and then narrowed to slits. His body began to tremble. Gibbering, he began to mutter. Then he became articulate.

“I’ll kill the bastard yet,” he screamed, “I’ll kill him. Where is he? Where is he?”

Screaming he tried to jump out of bed, but the attendant’s giant hands were about him. He felt himself pressed down into the bed, flat on his back. Gibbering, he lay there trembling. Then another fit overcame him and he roared. The ward became filled with sound. All the other patients began to scream and cry and babble.

“Padded cell,” murmured the doctor to the attendant. Then he sighed and walked away to the door.

The Struggle

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The sea was dead calm. There was no wind. The sun stood high in the heavens. Seamus O’Toole and Michael Halloran were coming from Kilmurrage to Rooruch in a new boat they had just bought. The fresh tar on the boat’s canvas sides glistened in the sun, and the polished wooden lathes of the frame emitted a strong smell of pine. The two men were singing snatches of coarse songs as they rowed. They had drunk a lot of whiskey in Kilmurrage. They were both strong young men. Seamus O’Toole rowed in the prow. His cap resting crookedly on the back of his head, showed his white forehead above a ruddy face. His blue eyes were glassy with drink and there was a slight froth around the corners of his thick lips. Michael Halloran rowed in the stern. His bare head was shaped like a cone, shorn to the bone all round with a short glib hanging over the narrow forehead. Sweat discoloured the knees of his white frieze trousers. His shoulder blades twitched convulsively under his grey shirt as he lay forward over the oars and he kept hanging his head sideways, as if he were trying to hit his left knee.

They were passing Coillnamhan harbour about a mile from the shore, when O’Toole stopped rowing suddenly and said, “Let us have a drink.” “I’m satisfied,” said Halloran, letting go his oars. The boat flopped ahead with a lapping sound on the eddies of her wake, O’Toole picked up a pint bottle of whiskey that rested on his waistcoat in the prow. He uncorked it and took a swig. The whiskey gurgled going down his throat. Then his lips left the neck of the bottle with a gasp and he passed it in silence to Halloran. Halloran took a long draught and passed it back. “That’s enough for us,” he said thickly. “Go to the devil,” said O’Toole with a rough laugh and put the bottle to his lips again. Halloran turned round in his seat and snatched the bottle. O’Toole’s teeth rasped against the rim as the bottle was wrenched from his mouth. Halloran swallowed his breath hurriedly and tried to put the bottle to his lips with his right hand. He was leaning backwards, his face to the sun, his left hand on the starboard gunwale.

O’Toole cursed, drew in a deep breath, and struck at Halloran’s upturned face with his right fist. His upper lip contorted as he struck. He struck Halloran between the eyes. The bottle fell to the bottom of the boat, hit a round granite stone that lay there and broke into pieces. Halloran’s head hit the bottom of the boat with a hollow thud and rebounded as he clawed with his hands and legs. His bloodshot eyes glared and he shrieked as he struggled to his feet. O’Toole with his jaws wide open jumped to his feet too and snatched at his waistcoat. He pulled a knife from the pocket. He was opening it when he dropped it suddenly and whirled about. Halloran had yelled again. He was standing athwart his seat, the round stone in his left hand. He drew back his arm to take aim when the boat rolled to port, and he slipped. His right shin struck against the seat. In seizing the gunwales with both hands to steady himself the stone dropped into the sea. Its splash sounded loud in the silence. Hissing, they both stood upright, swaying gracefully with the rocking boat, as agile as acrobats in their drunken madness. They stared into one another’s eyes for several seconds, their bodies twitching, their thighs taut. Each felt the other’s breath hot on his face. Their breathing was loud. Each stood astride his seat.

Then the boat stopped rocking. With a roar they rushed at one another’s throats. They met between the two seats, their feet against the sides, each clasping the other’s throat. They stood cheek to cheek, breast to breast. They had moved so lightly that the boat did not rock. The two of them close together looked like a mast. They stood still.

Then O’Toole raised his left leg and hit Halloran in the stomach. Halloran yelled and doubled up, The boat rocked as O’Toole pressed forward and the two of them tumbled across the second seat, Halloran beneath, O’Toole sprawling on top, his hands still gripping Halloran’s throat. Then Halloran heaved and struggled sideways to his knees. He threw O’Toole’s legs over the port gunwale. The boat canted ominously to port. The port gunwale was almost under water. They both shrieked. Halloran’s body bounded off the boat’s bottom as he wrenched himself to starboard and wound his legs about the seat. The boat rocked from side to side madly. Then O’Toole tried to lift his legs on board. They were almost on board when Halloran grasped at his head and seized his ears. They swung out again with a swish. The boat rolled with them, paused for a moment with the gunwale at the water’s edge and then it toppled over with a swoop. There was a muffled yell as the two men disappeared beneath the black dome of tarred canvas, Halloran’s legs clinging like a vice to the seat, O’Toole’s hands gripping Halloran’s throat.

For half a minute the boat hopped restlessly. There was a rustling noise of something splashing in water. Then all was still. The sun glistened on the tarred bottom of the boat. A cap floated near.

Then the upturned boat began to drift slowly westwards.

At The Forge

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An old farmer called Sutton was the first to arrive at the forge. He was a big man, with a black beard shaped like the head of a shovel. He was dragging a limping plough-horse by the halter. He brought the horse into the little yard off the road, and saw that the door of the forge was still locked and barred.

“Well, be the …” cried Sutton, uttering a long string of oaths, “nine o’clock in the morning, an’ still no sign of him. Holy Moses!”

Although the door of the forge was locked and barred with a heavy iron crowbar, it was quite easy to enter it through an enormous hole in the wall to the right of the door. Through this hole, three men could enter abreast. Tinkers and tramps passed in and out there regularly at night. Still the smith locked and barred the door scrupulously every evening.

Sutton tied his horse to the stone fence, looked in through the hole and saw nothing. He growled again, sat down and waited patiently for half an hour until Joe Tierney, who kept the “Mountain Tavern,” five miles away the other side of the bog, arrived with his pony and trap.

“Morra, Joe,” said Sutton.

“Morra,” said Tierney. “Where’s Keegan?”

“The divil a bit o’ me knows,” said Sutton. “He’s not here, anyway, where he should be at this hour o’ the morn-in’.”

“God! Isn’t he an awful man,” said Tierney, getting out of his trap and going towards the hole in the wall. “Look at that, will ye? The door is locked an’ God Almighty could walk in an’out through this hole. Wha’?”

Sutton said nothing, thinking angrily of his ploughing and of the rating his wife would give him for not being back in time. Tierney struck his lean, wrinkled face in through the hole and peered about the dark forge, smelling the rank odour of charcoal and twitching his nose. Then he came over to Sutton and sat down.

“Why doesn’t he get a cottage near here?” said Tierney, “and then he’d be in time every mornin’.”

“Huh!” said Sutton. “That wouldn’t suit him at all. The nearest public-house is in the village below in the glen, so he’d rather live there and walk the three miles back and forth every mornin’ so as to be near his pint.”

“Me curse on him, anyway,” said Tierney. “I have to be in the town at eleven o’clock an’ it’s six miles hard goin’. She’d never be able to do it with her two hind shoes off, not to mind that ould woman that’s always on the road, watchin’ for cruelty to animals. It’s ten to one that I’d be had up for the Court unless I get shoes on her first. Where’s this Keegan from, anyway? He’s not a local man.”

“No. He’s a Co. Carlow man,” said Sutton. “Livin’ in sin this twenty years with Mary Karney, ould Ned Kar-ney’s widow.”

“Lord! Oh, Lord!” said Tierney. “It should be put a stop to, so it should. I wouldn’t mind if he did his work, but when a man is livin’ in sin, ye might say, though Ned is dead this twenty years, livin’ in sin with another man’s wife, it’s the least he might do is to mind his work. Wha’? They should be made get married. Wha’!”

“So they should,” said Sutton, “but … hech, hech … don’t ye see the joke? If she marries him she loses her lodge that she has for nothin’ from old Lord Marley on account of old Ned bein’ his honour’s coachman. Hech, hech, hech.”

“Aw! Be the hokey!” said Tierney. “Did ye ever hear the likes o’ that maneness?”

“Hech, hech, hech,” laughed Sutton in his enormous beard.

“An’ he’s a strappin’ young fellah, too,” said Tiernev.

“Hech, hech, hech,” gurgled Sutton.

Laughing, the two old men forgot their irritation and their hurry. They launched forth into one of those interminable and senseless conversations in which mountaineers love to indulge on the most pressing occasions to the detriment of their work, and of everything else, about everything under the sun except the business in hand. Happily, with the eagerness of old women discussing a scandal, they discussed the drought, the change of government, the decline of Lord Marley’s fortunes, the fact that he had now only one riding horse, and only paid his coachman thirty shillings a week, although his wife paid two pound ten a week to the man that looked after her poodles (shockin’, shockin’). Their faces beamed and they were very happy.

Then suddenly they were brought back to the realization of the smith’s continued absence by the arrival of Bridget Timmins with her donkey at a quarter-past ten o’clock. The donkey also had his two hind shoes off.

“Murdher! Murdher!” said Bridget Timmins. “Isn’t he here yet?”

’No, then, he isn’t,” said Tierney. “Are you too afther his blood?”

“I am, in troth,” said she. “Two hind shoes off an’ his poor old hoofs are as thin as a sheet o’ paper, trampin’ the roads for a month without ’em. But sure it’s like this every Monday mornin’. I bet it’s lying in bed he is yet; an’ sure it’s no wonder after last night.”

“How’s that?” said Sutton excitedly.

“I wasn’t there,” said Bridget, in a low, confiding tone, “but I heard Joe Gleeson, the carpenter, tell Mrs. Roddy that ye never saw such skin an’ hair flyin’ in all yer born life.”

Bridget Timmins stopped for breath and the old men gathered themselves together to listen, with their mouths open.

“It was how a charrybank full o’ navvies and their girls came on an excursion from Dublin an’ they all got drunk in Mahon’s an’ started to fight. Then Mahon called the Civic Guards, but sure ye might as well have brought five lame hens as them five policemen for a mob like that. It was nothin’ but screamin’ an’ bottles flyin’ an’ people fallin’ in all directions. Then out comes Keegan in his shirt an’ trousers.”

“Aw! Lord! Oh, Lord!” said Tierney.

“Boys! Oh, boys!” said Sutton, licking his lips.

Mrs. Timmins bent down and, raising her two hands, palms outwards, to her face, she flung them out with a dramatic gesture, as she said with great violence:

“He cleared the street in ten minutes with the handle of a spade.”

“Bravo!” cried Tierney, slapping his thighs.

“God be with him,” yelled Sutton.

At that moment a young farmer’s son named Crow arrived with a broken plough on a cart. He had more definite news of the fight. Standing on his cart, with a hand on his hip, he began immediately to describe it with great vehemence. Another man came on a bicycle with a hoe that needed mending. A young woman stopped on her way to the village for groceries. The postman passed with the letters. He halted to listen. At eleven o’clock there was a crowd in front of the forge, all talking excitedly, boasting, swearing, laughing and cheering for Keegan.

And then somebody shouted: “Here he comes. Here’s himself.”

Everybody looked. He came around the corner, dressed in a blue sweater, with his coat thrown over his shoulder, his cap perched at the back of his curly, black head, swinging his arms, with his enormous chest expanded, his red face grinning humorously.

“Hurrah!” they cried. “Hurrah for Keegan!”

Blackmail

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Brunton was waiting in the select bar. There was nobody else there. It was early afternoon and the sun was streaming yellowishly through the muffed windows. Only the lower parts of the windows were muffed. But the upper parts were covered with half-lowered yellow blinds to keep out the glare of the sun. Still, it was very hot in the bar and there was a heavy odour of heat and of alcohol fumes.

In spite of the heat Brunton was wearing a heavy Burberry coat that was buttoned closely about him. It was very soiled and it gave the impression that he wore it in order to hide the shabbiness of his other clothes. Only his cap, his collar and tie, the ends of his trousers and his boots could be seen. They were all shabby, though the boots were meticulously clean and polished. He was a thickset fellow and the coat seemed to be full of wind, on account of the manner in which his full rounded flesh bulged beneath it, even down along the spine, where a coat is usually hollow.

He sat brooding, with his hands in his overcoat pockets, staring at the glass of whiskey which an attendant had placed in front of him five minutes before but which he had not yet touched. His round face was very blotched. There were red flakes on the cheeks, and between the flakes tiny red veins ran through the pallid, puffed flesh. He had thick white eyebrows. His eyes were round and soft, with an expression of mute suffering in them. There was no harm in his eyes. But it seemed that another will, any evil will other than his own weak, mute will, could make those eyes cruel and callous sentinels that would cunningly watch the performance of an evil deed. And they were aware that evil deeds had been performed under their gaze. They were so mournful and reproachful; staring, faded, blue, round, liquid eyes behind the upward-heaving flesh of his flabby cheeks. His nose was thick and ill-developed, like a bulbous root grown in rocky soil. And his hopeless mouth, with drooping, thick, purple lips, looked sad; an ill-used mouth.

Three months before Brunton had been dismissed from the army. He had been a lieutenant. But he had been merely an officer out of consideration for his past services to the revolutionary movement that had put the present government in power. He was in no way fitted for the job of commanding men and doing the other silly chores that form the duties of an officer in peace-time. During the war against the British and during the Civil War he had been invaluable; a dour, silent, unthinking gunman. But now these people had no further use for him. Afterwards … governments and politicians become respectable, no matter what their origin and the methods by which they rose to power. They dropped him silently. They wanted smart young men. This Brunton knew too much. He was too fond of drink. He had become insolent and contemptuous of authority, under the influence of his old lawless pursuits. He would not parade. He would not salute his superiors. He got drunk often, and drunk he talked abusively of the “b - s that were robbing the country which he and the likes of him had won for them.”

For three months he went around Dublin drinking the money they had given him and swearing to his boon companions that they would not get rid of him as easily as they thought. He knew too much about some of them. He wasn’t going to keep his mouth shut very long unless they came across with the money. They had ruined his life, but now he was up for auction and the highest bidder could have him. As there were many more like him going about the public-houses with the same story, nobody took any notice of his talk. But Brunton had become desperate and there was one politician who was really in his power. He was now waiting for that man. He had sent a message into his office that morning.

At twenty minutes past three, Mr. Matthew Kenneally, the politician for whom Brunton was waiting, walked into the select bar. He hardly made any noise entering, pushing the swing door inwards gently, and then pausing, with his gloved hand on the door and half his figure within it. He looked around the room casually and saw Brunton, When he saw Brunton, he raised his eyelids and creased his forehead but showed no emotion, either of surprise or of fear, in his face. Then he nodded slightly, and entering fully, closed the door behind him.

Brunton coughed and shuffled his body on his chair but did not speak. Mr. Kenneally advanced up the room slowly without speaking.

Mr. Kenneally was a tall, slim man with a very long, sallow face and a narrow skull that tapered at the rear to a point. There was nothing extraordinary or remarkable about his face, except the fact that it aroused no interest whatsoever when one looked at it. It was impossible to fix on any one feature, because all the features struck one at the same time, and the only impression that one received was an impression of sallowness and length. The face was more grey than sallow because the grey eyes diffused their own limpid light over all the features. His figure, however, and his clothes made a very acute impression, but an unpleasant one. His figure was so long and slim that he looked like an eel, but not like an eel after all, because an eel moves rapidly, whereas Mr. Kenneally was never in a hurry and all his movements were slow and measured, noiseless, as if his joints were greased. His hands were remarkably long and he was always biting his finger-nails, as if to draw attention to the length of his fingers, or perhaps because he was ashamed of their length and couldn’t help playing with them. His clothes, too, were always in tone with the colour of his face. Not grey, as one might expect, but a shade of brown, with greyish spots in it. And lastly, he had no shoulders to speak of, so that he always had his hands in his pockets in order to support their length, and he twisted himself along in a curious way, without any apparent assistance from his hands or shoulders, but simply propelling himself by a twisting movement of the hips.

Mr. Kenneally was now forty-five years of age. Recently he had become a “made man”; but everybody still remembers the time when he was “a Sunday man,” a curious type of person that is unknown outside Dublin, a man who never pays his debts and goes abroad only on Sundays, when writs cannot be served. In those days he had an office on the quays, a lawyer’s office, with a name written on a nameplate in a dark hallway and a small room up three flights of stairs, where there was only a roll-top desk and a chair and where no business was done, as far as anybody could see. How he had wriggled himself into respectability and affluence nobody knows, but in times of social upheaval these characters seem to be best fitted by nature to come to the surface and lead better types. They blossom forth for a time and then wither away, leaving no trace whatever. They are neither representative of their race nor of their time; but rather an indication of the obscene instruments which humanity uses now and again to propel itself forward.

Mr. Kenneally advanced along the room to the little square hole in the wall, through which the attendant served drinks. As he advanced he kept his eyes on Brunton’s face and Brunton returned the look. The two of them looked casually at one another, both hiding their thoughts, making their faces masks, lest either might give an advantage to the other for the coming struggle, by the slightest indication of emotion. Mr. Kenneally rung the bell, still looking at Brunton. Presently the wooden slide went up, somebody put his hand on the sill and Mr. Kenneally said: “Scotch.” And the attendant said: “Scotch, Mr. Kenneally.” Then there was a pause until the attendant returned with the drink. And during this time the two men still stared at one another. Then Mr. Kenneally took his drink, paid for it, the slide slipped down and Mr. Kenneally slipped along the floor to the table where Brunton was sitting. He still stared, coldly, with lowered eyelids.

“Ye needn’t keep yer eye on me, Matt,” said Brunton suddenly. “I ain’t goin’ to shoot ye. It’s not my game an’ I sold me gun. If I wanted to plug ye it’s not here I’d do it. Ye needn’t bother lookin’ at me.”

Brunton’s voice was soft and thick. The words just rolled out from his lips without any effort and almost without any movement of the mouth. He seemed to have no interest in what he was saying, so that one expected him to stop speaking at any moment, after the second word or in the middle of a sentence. There was absolutely no emotion in his voice, just like the voice of a man whose job it is to deliver verbal messages, in which he has no interest whatever.

Mr. Kenneally sat down, and then, drawing his mouth together, he rubbed the two forefingers of his right hand along his face, from the temple to the jaw, still looking at Brunton, dispassionately. When he finished rubbing his face, he sniffed three times and then shrugged himself. Then he uttered a little dry laugh and put his whiskey to his lips.

“Here’s luck, Mick,” he said very sarcastically.

Brunton watched him drink. He drank very little and rolled it around his palate before swallowing it, sucking his cheeks inwards as he did so. Then he slowly took a cigarette-case from his pocket, extracted a cigarette, lit it and flicked away the match, still looking at Brunton between the eyes. Then he blew out a cloud of cigarette smoke, and leaning his chin on his doubled fists, he twisted around his lips.

“Well,” he said at last. He seemed to talk through his nose, with a sniffing sound. “I got your message. What’s the important business we’re going to discuss?”

“Ye know very well what it is,” Brunton said.

“I’m not God,” said Mr. Kenneally. “How should I know unless I’m told.”

“No, yer not God,” said Brunton with sudden ferocity.

Then he frowned, and seizing his glass of whiskey suddenly, he emptied it. Then he leaned forward, with an expression of fear in his face.

“Yer not God,” he said, “but I think yer the devil.”

“Wish I were,” said Mr. Kenneally, biting his fingernails.

“Well, I’m going to tell ye what I want,” said Brunton. “I want money.”

“Everybody does nowadays,” sighed Mr. Kenneally. “But most people have to work for it.”

“Now none o’ yer coddin’,” said Brunton. “Matt, I want five hundred quid down or I’m goin’ to the Minister for Justice with this.”

He pulled out a large envelope from his breast-pocket, tapped it and then put it back again hurriedly.

“What’s that?” sniffed Mr. Kenneally.

“There’s more than enough in that to get you hung,” said Brunton fiercely. “That’s an account of a job I done for ye.”

“What job is that?” said Mr. Kenneally in a whisper, glancing towards the aperture in the wall as he spoke.

Brunton did not reply for a few moments. They stared at one another. In spite of himself, Mr. Kenneally’s face had become an ashen colour, but his eyes did not shrink from Brunton’s stare.

“Ha!” said Brunton. “I see in yer rotten face that ye remember it. That man is dead and the curse o’ God on ye for it. Look here, Matt.”

Brunton suddenly got excited and his eyes had a fearful look in them. They got big and fixed.

“I never did another dirty job but that,” he whispered. “ ’Twas you made me do it. See? Anything else I done was for me country. I’m not sorry and I’m not ashamed of it. But I can see that man yet. I gave him one in the head an’ he lyin’ on the ground, with -”

“Shut up,” snapped Mr. Kenneally, suddenly seizing Brunton by the wrist.

“Let go me wrist,” said Brunton, again speaking calmly.

Mr. Kenneally dropped the wrist and leaned back. Brunton also leaned back. Both their bodies relaxed and they both sighed, like two men who have been suddenly startled and are recovering from their fright. They both glanced around the room and did not look at one another again for several moments. When their eyes met again they both looked afraid, as if they had looked at a spectre. But almost as soon as their eyes had met, anger took the place of fear in both their faces.

“You’re trying your hand at blackmail now,” said Mr. Kenneally.

“I don’t give a damn what I try my hand at,” said Brunton. “I’m desperate. I’m fit for nothing. My life is ruined. I don’t give a damn what I do. I know I’ll swing for this job as well as you if I make my statement. But you’ll swing with me, you b -.”

“What about your oath?” whispered Mr. Kenneally.

“Damn my oath,” said Brunton. “What about your oath? You promised to get me a job and a pension but you never lifted a hand.”

“I did my very best,” said Mr. Kenneally.

“Well, ye got to do more,” said Brunton with a hoarse laugh. “I want money or I’m marchin’ off with this. Look here. I’m not goin’ to waste time talkin’ to ye. I want five hundred quid now. Out with the money.”

“And supposing I don’t give it?” whispered Mr. Kenneally.

“The evidence is here,” murmured Brunton, tapping his breast.

“Go to the devil,” hissed Mr. Kenneally, with trembling lips.

Brunton started up and his hand went to his left breastpocket in a flash. Mr. Kenneally also darted his hand towards his breast-pocket, but Brunton’s hand came away before it reached his pocket. “God!” he said. His gun was not there, of course. Their bodies again relaxed. Brunton laughed dryly.

“Hech!” he said, half rising to his feet. He rested his palms on the corner of the table and leaned on them, half standing. He looked at Mr. Kenneally with a curious gleam of pleasure in his eyes. “What good is the money to me, anyway? Eh? What could I do with it - only drink it? What good is it to me to go on living like this? Where is my home - only in the streets and the pubs and the dosshouses, an’ you livin’ in the lap o’ luxury? Sure it’s no vengeance for me to take yer money, a few mangy pounds that won’t make a woodpecker’s hole in yer bank account. Yah! It’s not money I’ll take, but vengeance. Man, man, I’ll make ye swing with me. The two of us will swing together, Matt, and we’ll both go to hell together, for it’s not money I’ll take but vengeance.”

He stood erect and his face lit up with a mad light. Mr. Kenneally began to tremble. He fumbled in his breastpocket and he muttered: “Sit down, Mick. Sit down. Listen to me a moment.”

“No,” said Brunton. “I’m a man yet an’ you’re only a rat. Isn’t it better for me to -”

“Here, here,” cried Mr. Kenneally, spreading a chequebook on the table. “Listen. Sit down and listen.”

Brunton had stopped, seeing the cheque-book. The light faded from his face and his lips fell loose, with an expression of greed in them. His face worked, as if he were fighting this expression of greed in his lips. Then he fell on to his chair and stared at the cheque-book. Mr. Kenneally watched him closely with his under-lip protruding. Then he winked his right eye slowly and took his pen from his pocket. He rapidly wrote out a cheque, tore it off, and passed it along the table to Brunton. Brunton’s hand went out to it and seized it rapidly.

“That’s a hundred,” said Mr. K


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enneally. “I’ll let you have the rest in monthly instalments. It’s no good giving you the lot together. Now hand me that paper in your pocket.”

“What for?” said Brunton.

Mr. Kenneally shrugged his shoulders.

“Supposing anything happened to you with that on your person?”

Brunton looked at him suspiciously.

“How do ye mean, if anything happened to me?” he said softly.

“Why,” said Mr. Kenneally, raising his eyebrows, “couldn’t you drop dead in the street same as anybody else, or meet with an accident or …”

“How d’ye mean … eh? … meet with an accident?” said Brunton.

“Look here,” said Mr. Kenneally with a show of anger, “hand me back that cheque. I’m not going to argue with you. A bargain is a bargain, isn’t it?”

Brunton drew the cheque closer to him and thought for a moment. Then he looked at Mr. Kenneally closely again and pursed up his lips.

“Now I warn ye,” he said, “not to try any o’ them accidents on me. I got friends yet. Ye can get me, maybe, but they’ll get you. Don’t forget that. Here. Ye can have the paper. After all… I’m not an informer, even though you’re a rat. Here. May they burn ye. Ye’ll burn anyway later on.”

He threw the envelope across the table. Mr. Kenneally grabbed it. Brunton put the cheque into his pocket. He rose to his feet.

“One a month’ll suit me all right,” he said. “Where?”

“Here,” said Mr. Kenneally in a low voice, as he stowed away the envelope.

“Well! I’m going,” said Brunton.

“Good-bye,” said Mr. Kenneally.

They stared at one another for a few moments and then Brunton moved off. Mr. Kenneally raised his glass and had another sip. When he was near the door, Brunton suddenly stopped and came back a few steps rapidly. He thrust out his clenched fist towards Mr. Kenneally and nodding his head he muttered:

“Mind what I told ye about tryin’ on any o’ them accidents.”

Mr. Kenneally rolled his whiskey around his palate and then swallowed it. Brunton turned and rushed out of the bar. Mr. Kenneally stared at the door through which he had disappeared. Then he leaned his chin on his doubled fists and stared at the table. After sitting motionless for over a minute that way, he sighed and shrugged himself.

“Have to get rid of him … somehow,” he muttered.

Colic

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It was Saturday afternoon in the village of Cregg. There had been a little pig fair that morning and everybody was drinking his neighbour’s health. It was a June day and very hot. From end to end of the Main Street people were standing outside the doors of the public-houses, with pint glasses full of black cold porter clutched in their strong red hands. There was loud laughter, hearty oaths and the smacking of thirsty lips. Here and there a man was drunk and singing some ridiculous song as his wife tried to bring him home.

The only two thirsty and unhappy men in the village of Cregg were Tom Hanrahan and his friend Mick Finnigan. They had no money. Their credit was valueless because of their liquor debts. None of the farmers would treat them, since neither of them had any land and were therefore people of no account. Hanrahan was a kind of botch carpenter and Finnigan always acted as his labourer.

They leaned against the fence outside Mrs. Curran’s public-house. Hanrahan had his hands in the pockets of his ragged old dungaree overalls. He wore an old blue coat, very shiny at the elbows and with a big tear, unmended, over the right pocket. The uppers of his light unpolished shoes were level with the ground on the outside of each heel and the inside of each heel was almost as high as when it was bought. So that when he walked he had to lift his feet up high, like a Chinaman wearing slippers without heels on a cobbled street. His shoulders slouched and he had a slight hump, less by nature than because of his habit, when he cracked a joke, of bunching himself together with his mouth wide open and his elbows dug into his sides as if he were hugging himself. He was a short, thin man with little blue eyes, a sharp, long nose, a big mouth and a sallow complexion.

Finnigan, on the other hand, was a huge heavy man, with a rosy, fat face, sleepy blue eyes and a sandy moustache. He never smiled. He hardly ever spoke, and when he stood still anywhere he always crossed his arms on his massive chest. He once drank four pints of Guinness’s porter without drawing breath.

Suddenly Hanrahan clapped his hands together, opened his mouth wide and began to laugh without making any noise. Tears began to glitter in his little eyes. Finnigan looked at him stupidly with his mouth open.

“What’s up?” said Finnigan.

“I know how we can get drinks,” gasped Hanrahan at last. Tears had begun to run down his sallow cheeks with laughter. Then he was seized with another fit and doubled up against the fence, mumbling: “Oh, my side, I’m afraid I laughed too much, oh, my side.”

“Foo,” said Finnigan, shifting his back to get a more comfortable stone in the fence for the support of his shoulder blades. Then he opened his mouth again to speak, but forgot what he was going to say before he could say it, owing to laziness and the heat of the day. He subsided against the fence in silence, like a bladder out of which the wind is escaping slowly. He crossed his legs and dropped his chin on his neck.

Then Hanrahan suddenly became serious. He came over to Finnigan. Putting one hand on Finnigan’s chest and the other hand on the fence he reached up and began to whisper in Finnigan’s ear. He was whispering a long time rapidly. When he had finished Finnigan shook his head several times, scowled and said “No,” with great emphasis. “Now look here,” said Hanrahan in an irritated tone, “listen to me.” He began to whisper again. Gradually the look on Finnigan’s face changed. The scowl vanished. The fat, red cheeks, with little white flakes on them from sunburn, broke into creases. He opened his mouth and guffawed three times, just like this: “Haw,” then a gasp and then again “Haw.”

“D’ye see?” said Hanrahan, digging him in the ribs with his elbow.

“Yes,” blubbered Finnigan, laughing down in his chest heavily. “I… I see what ye mean now.”

“Well, are ye game to do it?” said Hanrahan.

“Would I get arrested?” asked Finnigan, with his forehead wrinkled and a suspicious look in his eyes.

“Devil a fear of ye,” said Hanrahan. “Who’s to know the difference.”

They were both silent for a long time, almost a minute. Hanrahan was watching Finnigan’s face anxiously. Finnigan was looking at the ground, his forehead wrinkled, his mouth open, his eyes staring vacantly at something to the left of him. At last he looked up and said, “All right I’ll do it. Where?”

“Here. Here where ye stand,” cried Hanrahan excitedly “Now mind what I told ye. Just do what I told ye. Now go ahead. It’s dead easy. Leave the rest to me. Just do what I told ye. Hurry. Go ahead, man.”

Finnigan cast a suspicious glance about him and then he let himself fall heavily down by the side of the fence. He made a terrific, crumbling, brushing, dull noise falling. He was wearing grey heavy frieze trousers, a navy blue jersey and heavy hob-nailed boots that were white with caked mud and dust. He lay in a cumbersome soft mass on the ground, lying on his stomach. He gripped his stomach and began to yell. He bellowed like a bullock. Hanrahan rushed over to him, tried to turn him on his back, shook him and then jumped to his feet.

He ran out into the middle of the road, waved his hat into the air and began to shout: “Help, help. A doctor, or he’s dead. Help, help,” People rushed out of Mrs. Curran’s public-house crying: “What’s the matter, what’s the matter?”

“He’s got the colic,” shouted Hanrahan, rushing over to Finnigan and going down on his knees. “He’s got the colic. My God, if I had only a drop of brandy for him.” He began to rub Finnigan’s stomach furiously. Finnigan writhed and bellowed with monotonous regularity.

“What is it?” cried Mrs. Curran, a short, stout woman in a black dress, with a silver watch hanging on her right bosom from a black satin strap. Her son had become a General in the Free State Army and she gave herself “airs,” as the people said. She pushed up through the crowd until she faced Hanrahan and Finnigan.

“Mrs. Curran,” cried Hanrahan pathetically, as he took off his hat. The crown of his head was completely bald. Some half-drunken man in the crowd giggled and cried: “Oh sweet Virgin, isn’t the full moon out early this quarter.” “Mrs. Curran,” continued Hanrahan, holding his hat in his hand, “may yer soul rest in Heaven and save his life with a drop of brandy. An’ didn’t he soldier under yer son General Curran an -”

“Mary,” called Mrs. Curran shrilly, “bring out a noggin o’ brandy, quick.”

Hanrahan raised his hands and eyes to Heaven and murmured a blessing on Mrs. Curran. At the same time he nudged Finnigan with his right knee. Finnigan bellowed and began to kick the ground with his heels. He made a noise like an earthen floor being beaten with a heavy hammer. The same half-drunken man who had remarked on Hanrahan’s baldness began to laugh, but somebody else told him to shut up and asked him whether he was a Turk or what. A quarrel started and the greater part of the crowd surged away down the road after the two men who had begun to quarrel.

Then the girl came running out with a noggin of brandy in a tumbler. Hanrahan grasped the tumbler. Holding the tumbler in his hand he began to thank Mrs. Curran again. But the sight of the brandy was too much for Finnigan. He stopped bellowing and gripping his stomach. He sat up suddenly.

“I must drink yer own sweet health, Mrs. Curran, first -” Hanrahan was saying, when Finnigan reached out over his shoulder and grasped the tumbler. A few drops of the brandy spilled as Finnigan wrenched the tumbler from Han-rahan’s hand. Then at one gulp he swallowed it, every drop of it.

“Scoundrel,” yelled Hanrahan, gripping Finnigan about the body and biting at him with his teeth all over the chest. “Son of a wanton,” he hissed between bites, “robber, may yer bones be sucked dry in hell by hungry little devils, you -”

But Finnigan jerked himself up and swung Hanrahan aside against the fence. He rose to his feet slowly and ponderously with Hanrahan hanging to his jersey. He looked around him foolishly.

“I’ll have ye arrested, the two of you,” cried Mrs. Curran, beside herself with rage at the trick that had been played on her. The crowd was laughing.

Finnigan, as soon as he heard the word “arrested,” opened his eyes and his mouth, looked about him wildly, struck at Hanrahan blindly and missed him. Then he yelled and started off at a bound through the crowd, headed westwards towards the road leading to his native village four miles away. He left a large strip of his blue jersey and of his cotton shirt in Hanrahan’s bony fingers. He ran up the road, the hobnailed soles of his boots almost hitting him in the broad back as he ran, his back all ripped open and naked in parts, with remnants of his clothes slithering about his body. The people yelled with laughter. Even Hanrahan forgot his anger and laughed.

But Mrs. Curran did not laugh. She kept shaking her fist at Hanrahan and shouted: “I’ll have ye arrested for fraud unless ye pay me for that noggin of brandy. So I will.”

“Yerrah, is it out of yer mind ye are, woman?” cried a fat farmer, with white side-whiskers. “Is it a mangy drop o’ brandy ye’d put in front of a good laugh. Here an’ be damned to ye is the price of yer whiskey. Come on,” he added to Hanrahan, “begob, yer worth a drink for that.” And he burst out laughing again.

“Begob an’ he’s worth another from me,” cried another farmer. “Have one on me too, the curse o’ God on ye for a humorous cratur, Hanrahan.”

Laughing, shouting, cheering, Hanrahan was led off to another public-house by the delighted farmers. As he was going away he turned on the retreating and discomfited Mrs. Curran and cried: “To hell with the upstart General Curran and up the Republic.”


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