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Title: My Lady of the Chimney Corner
Author: Irvine, Alexander, 1863-1941
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "My Lady of the Chimney Corner" ***

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MY LADY OF THE
CHIMNEY CORNER


BY
ALEXANDER IRVINE



AUTHOR OF "FROM THE BOTTOM UP," ETC.


NEW YORK
THE CENTURY CO.
1914



Copyright, 1913, by
THE CENTURY CO.
_Published, August, 1913_



TO
LADY GREGORY
AND
THE PLAYERS OF THE ABBEY THEATRE
DUBLIN



FOREWORD


This book is the torn manuscript of the most beautiful life I ever knew.
I have merely pieced and patched it together, and have not even changed
or disguised the names of the little group of neighbors who lived with
us, at "the bottom of the world."                                  A. I.



CONTENTS


CHAPTER                                    PAGE

   I LOVE IS ENOUGH                           3

  II THE WOLF AND THE CARPENTER              21

 III REHEARSING FOR THE SHOW                 38

  IV SUNDAY IN POGUE'S ENTRY                 63

   V HIS ARM IS NOT SHORTENED                85

  VI THE APOTHEOSIS OF HUGHIE THORNTON      110

 VII IN THE GLOW OF A PEAT FIRE             133

VIII THE WIND BLOWETH WHERE IT LISTETH      153

  IX "BEYOND TH' MEADOWS AN' TH' CLOUDS"    171

   X THE EMPTY CORNER                       198



MY LADY OF THE CHIMNEY-CORNER

A STORY OF LOVE AND POVERTY IN
IRISH PEASANT LIFE



CHAPTER I

LOVE IS ENOUGH


"Anna's purty, an' she's good as well as purty, but th' beauty an'
goodness that's hers is short lived, I'm thinkin'," said old Bridget
McGrady to her neighbor Mrs. Tierney, as Mrs. Gilmore passed the door,
leading her five-year-old girl, Anna, by the hand. The old women were
sitting on the doorstep as the worshipers came down the lane from early
mass on a summer morning.

"Thrue for you, Bridget, for th' do say that th' Virgin takes all sich
childther before they're ten."

"Musha, but Mrs. Gilmore'll take on terrible," continued Mrs. Tierney,
"but th' will of God must be done."

Anna was dressed in a dainty pink dress. A wide blue ribbon kept her
wealth of jet black hair in order as it hung down her back and the
squeaking of her little shoes drew attention to the fact that they were
new and in the fashion.

"It's a mortal pity she's a girl," said Bridget, "bekase she might hev
been an althar boy before she goes."

"Aye, but if she was a bhoy shure there's no tellin' what divilmint
she'd get into; so maybe it's just as well."

The Gilmores lived on a small farm near Crumlin in County Antrim. They
were not considered "well to do," neither were they poor. They worked
hard and by dint of economy managed to keep their children at school.
Anna was a favorite child. Her quiet demeanor and gentle disposition
drew to her many considerations denied the rest of the family. She was a
favorite in the community. By the old women she was considered "too good
to live"; she took "kindly" to the house of God. Her teacher said, "Anna
has a great head for learning." This expression, oft repeated, gave the
Gilmores an ambition to prepare Anna for teaching. Despite the schedule
arranged for her she was confirmed in the parish chapel at the age of
ten. At fifteen she had exhausted the educational facilities of the
community and set her heart on institutions of higher learning in the
larger cities. While her parents were figuring that way the boys of the
parish were figuring in a different direction. Before Anna was seventeen
there was scarcely a boy living within miles who had not at one time or
another lingered around the gate of the Gilmore garden. Mrs. Gilmore
watched Anna carefully. She warned her against the danger of an
alliance with a boy of a lower station. The girl was devoted to the
Church. She knew her Book of Devotions as few of the older people knew
it, and before she was twelve she had read the Lives of the Saints. None
of these things made her an ascetic. She could laugh heartily and had a
keen sense of humor.

The old women revised their prophecies. They now spoke of her "takin'
th' veil." Some said she would make "a gey good schoolmisthress," for
she was fond of children.

While waiting the completion of arrangements to continue her schooling,
she helped her mother with the household work. She spent a good deal of
her time, too, in helping the old and disabled of the village. She
carried water to them from the village well and tidied up their cottages
at least once a week.

The village well was the point of departure in many a romance. There
the boys and girls met several times a day. Many a boy's first act of
chivalry was to take the girl's place under the hoop that kept the cans
apart and carry home the supply of water.

Half a century after the incident that played havoc with the dreams and
visions of which she was the central figure, Anna said to me:

"I was fillin' my cans at th' well. He was standin' there lukin' at me.

"'Wud ye mind,' says he, 'if I helped ye?'

"'Deed no, not at all,' says I. So he filled my cans an' then says he:
'I would give you a nice wee cow if I cud carry thim home fur ye.'

"'It's not home I'm goin',' says I, 'but to an' oul neighbor who can't
carry it herself.'

"'So much th' betther fur me,' says he, an' off he walked between the
cans. At Mary McKinstry's doore that afthernoon we stood till the
shadows began t' fall."

From the accounts rendered, old Mary did not lack for water-carriers for
months after that. One evening Mary made tea for the water-carriers and
after tea she "tossed th' cups" for them.

"Here's two roads, dear," she said to Anna, "an' wan day ye'll haave t'
choose betwixt thim. On wan road there's love an' clane teeth (poverty),
an' on t'other riches an' hell on earth."

"What else do you see on the roads, Mary?" Anna asked.

"Plenty ov childther on th' road t' clane teeth, an' dogs an' cats on
th' road t' good livin'."

"What haave ye fur me, Mary?" Jamie Irvine, Anna's friend, asked. She
took his cup, gave it a shake, looked wise and said: "Begorra, I see a
big cup, me bhoy--it's a cup o' grief I'm thinkin' it is."

"Oul Mary was jist bletherin'," he said, as they walked down the road
in the gloaming, hand in hand.

"A cup of sorrow isn't so bad, Jamie, when there's two to drink it,"
Anna said. He pressed her hand tighter and replied:

"Aye, that's thrue, fur then it's only half a cup."

Jamie was a shoemaker's apprentice. His parents were very poor. The
struggle for existence left time for nothing else. As the children
reached the age of eight or nine they entered the struggle. Jamie began
when he was eight. He had never spent a day at school. His family
considered him fortunate, however, that he could be an apprentice.

The cup that old Mary saw in the tea leaves seemed something more than
"blether" when it was noised abroad that Anna and Jamie were to be
married.

The Gilmores strenuously objected. They objected because they had
another career mapped out for Anna. Jamie was illiterate, too, and she
was well educated. He was a Protestant and she an ardent Catholic.
Illiteracy was common enough and might be overlooked, but a mixed
marriage was unthinkable.

The Irvines, on the other hand, although very poor, could see nothing
but disaster in marriage with a Catholic, even though she was as "pure
and beautiful as the Virgin."

"It's a shame an' a scandal," others said, "that a young fella who can't
read his own name shud marry sich a nice girl wi' sich larnin'."

Jamie made some defense but it wasn't convincing.

"Doesn't the Bible say maan an' wife are wan?" he asked Mrs. Gilmore in
discussing the question with her.

"Aye."

"Well, when Anna an' me are wan won't she haave a thrade an' won't I
haave an education?"

"That's wan way ov lukin' at a vexed question, but you're th' only wan
that luks at it that way!"

"There's two," Anna said. "That's how I see it."

When Jamie became a journeyman shoemaker, the priest was asked to
perform the marriage ceremony. He refused and there was nothing left to
do but get a man who would give love as big a place as religion, and
they were married by the vicar of the parish church.

Not in the memory of man in that community had a wedding created so
little interest in one way and so much in another. They were both
"turncoats," the people said, and they were shunned by both sides. So
they drank their first big draft of the "cup o' grief" on their
wedding-day.

"Sufferin' will be yer portion in this world," Anna's mother told her,
"an' in th' world t' come separation from yer maan."

Anna kissed her mother and said:

"I've made my choice, mother, I've made it before God, and as for
Jamie's welfare in the next world, I'm sure that love like his would
turn either Limbo, Purgatory or Hell into a very nice place to live in!"

A few days after the wedding the young couple went out to the four
cross-roads. Jamie stood his staff on end and said:

"Are ye ready, dear?"

"Aye, I'm ready, but don't tip it in the direction of your preference!"
He was inclined toward Dublin, she toward Belfast. They laughed. Jamie
suddenly took his hand from the staff and it fell, neither toward
Belfast nor Dublin, but toward the town of Antrim, and toward Antrim
they set out on foot. It was a distance of less than ten miles, but it
was the longest journey she ever took--and the shortest, for she had all
the world beside her, and so had Jamie. It was in June, and they had all
the time there was. There was no hurry. They were as care-free as
children and utilized their freedom in full. Between Moira and Antrim
they came to Willie Withero's stone pile. Willie was Antrim's most noted
stone-breaker in those days. He was one of the town's news centers. At
his stone-pile he got the news going and coming. He was a strange
mixture of philosophy and cynicism. He had a rough exterior and spoke in
short, curt, snappish sentences, but behind it all he had a big heart
full of kindly human feeling.

"Anthrim's a purty good place fur pigs an' sich to live in," he told the
travelers. "Ye see, pigs is naither Fenians nor Orangemen. I get along
purty well m'self bekase I sit on both sides ov th' fence at th' same
time."

"How do you do it, Misther Withero?" Anna asked demurely.

"Don't call me 'Misther,'" Willie said; "only quality calls me 'Misther'
an' I don't like it--it doesn't fit an honest stone breaker." The
question was repeated and he said: "I wear a green ribbon on Pathrick's
Day an' an orange cockade on th' Twelfth ov July, an' if th' ax m' why,
I tell thim t' go t' h--l! That's Withero fur ye an' wan ov 'im is
enough fur Anthrim, that's why I niver married, an' that'll save ye the
throuble ov axin' me whither I've got a wife or no!"

"What church d'ye attend, Willie?" Jamie asked.

"Church is it, ye're axin' about? Luk here, me bhoy, step over th'
stile." Willie led the way over into the field.

"Step over here, me girl." Anna followed. A few yards from the hedge
there was an ant-hill.

"See thim ants?"

"Aye."

"Now if Withero thought thim ants hated aych other like th' men ov
Anthrim d'ye know what I'd do?"

"What?"

"I'd pour a kittle ov boilin' wather on thim an' roast th' hides off
ivery mother's son ov thim. Aye, that's what I'd do, shure as gun's
iron!"

"That would be a sure and speedy cure," Anna said, smiling.

"What's this world but an ant-hill?" he asked. "Jist a big ant-hill an'
we're ants begorra an' uncles, but instead ov workin' like these wee
fellas do--help aych other an' shouldther aych other's burdens, an'
build up th' town, an' forage fur fodder, begobs we cut aych other's
throats over th' color ov ribbon or th' kind ov a church we attind! Ugh,
what balderdash!"

The stone-breaker dropped on his knees beside the ant-hill and eyed the
manoeuvering of the ants.

"Luk here!" he said.

They looked in the direction of his pointed finger and observed an ant
dragging a dead fly over the hill.

"Jist watch that wee fella!" They watched. The ant had a big job, but
it pulled and pushed the big awkward carcass over the side of the hill.
A second ant came along, sized up the situation, and took a hand. "Ha,
ha!" he chortled, "that's th' ticket, now kape yez eye on him!"

The ants dragged the fly over the top of the hill and stuffed it down a
hole.

"Now," said Withero, "if a fella in Anthrim wanted a han' th' other
fellah wud say: 'Where d'ye hing yer hat up on Sunday?' or some other
sich fool question!"

"He wud that."

"Now mind ye, I'm not huffed at th' churches, aither Orange or Green, or
th' praychers aither--tho 'pon m' sowl ivery time I luk at wan o' thim I
think ov God as a first class journeyman tailor! But I get more good
switherin' over an ant-hill than whin wan o' thim wee praychers thry t'
make me feel as miserable as th' divil!"

"There's somethin' in that," Jamie said.

"Aye, ye kin bate a pair ov oul boots there is!"

"What will th' ants do wi' th' fly?" Jamie asked.

"Huh!" he grunted with an air of authority, "they'll haave rump steaks
fur tay and fly broth fur breakvist th' morra!"

"Th' don't need praychers down there, do th', Willie?"

"Don't need thim up here!" he said. "They're sign-boards t' point th'
way that iverybody knows as well as th' nose on his face!"

"Good-by," Anna said, as they prepared to leave.

"Good-by, an' God save ye both kindly," were Willie's parting words. He
adjusted the wire protectors to his eyes and the sojourners went on down
the road.

They found a mossy bank and unpacked their dinner.

"Quare, isn't he?" Jamie said.

"He has more sense than any of our people."

"That's no compliment t' Withero, Anna, but I was jist thinkin' about
our case; we've got t' decide somethin' an' we might as well decide it
here as aanywhere."

"About religion, Jamie?"

"Aye."

"I've decided."

"When?"

"At the ant-hill."

"Ye cudn't be Withero?"

"No, dear, Willie sees only half th' world. There's love in it that's
bigger than color of ribbon or creed of church. We've proven that,
Jamie, haven't we?"

"But what haave ye decided?"

"That love is bigger than religion. That two things are sure. One is
love of God. He loves all His children and gets huffed at none. The
other is that the love we have for each other is of the same warp and
woof as His for us, and _love is enough_, Jamie."

"Aye, love is shure enough an' enough's as good as a faste, but what
about childther if th' come, Anna?"

"We don't cross a stile till we come to it, do we?"

"That's right, that's right, acushla; now we're as rich as lords, aren't
we, but I'm th' richest, amn't I? I've got you an' you've only got me."

"I've got book learning, but you've got love and a trade, what more do I
want? You've got more love than any man that ever wooed a woman--so I'm
richer, amn't I?"

"Oh, God," Jamie said, "but isn't this th' lovely world, eh, Anna?"

Within a mile of Antrim they saw a cottage, perched on a high bluff by
the roadside. It was reached by stone steps. They climbed the steps to
ask for a drink of water. They were kindly received. The owner was a
follower of Wesley and his conversation at the well was in sharp
contrast to the philosophy at the stone-pile. The young journeyman and
his wife were profoundly impressed with the place. The stone cottage was
vine-clad. There were beautiful trees and a garden. The June flowers
were in bloom and a cow grazed in the pasture near by.

"Some day we'll haave a home like this," Jamie said as they descended
the steps. Anna named it "The Mount of Temptation," for it was the
nearest she had ever been to the sin of envy. A one-armed Crimean
pensioner named Steele occupied it during my youth. It could be seen
from Pogue's entry and Anna used to point it out and tell the story of
that memorable journey. In days when clouds were heavy and low and the
gaunt wolf stood at the door she would say: "Do you mind the journey to
Antrim, Jamie?"

"Aye," he would say with a sigh, "an' we've been in love ever since,
haven't we, Anna?"



CHAPTER II

THE WOLF AND THE CARPENTER


For a year after their arrival in Antrim they lived in the home of the
master-shoemaker for whom Jamie worked as journeyman. It was a great
hardship, for there was no privacy and their daily walk and
conversation, in front of strangers, was of the "yea, yea" and "nay,
nay" order. In the summer time they spent their Sundays on the banks of
Lough Neagh, taking whatever food they needed and cooking it on the
sand. They continued their courting in that way. They watched the
water-fowl on the great wide marsh, they waded in the water and played
as children play. In more serious moods she read to him Moore's poems
and went over the later lessons of her school life. Even with but part
of a day in each week together they were very happy. The world was full
of sunshine for them then. There were no clouds, no regrets, no fears.
It was a period--a brief period--that for the rest of their lives they
looked back upon as a time when they really lived. I am not sure, but I
am of the impression that the chief reason she could not be persuaded to
visit the Lough in later life was because she wanted to remember it as
she had seen it in that first year of their married life.

Their first child was two years of age when the famine came--the famine
that swept over Ireland like a plague, leaving in its wake over a
million new-made graves. They had been in their own house for over a
year. It was scantily furnished, but it was _home_. As the ravages of
the famine spread, nearly every family in the town mourned the absence
of some member. Men and women met on the street one day, were gone the
next. Jamie put his bench to one side and sought work at anything he
could get to do. Prices ran up beyond the possibilities of the poor. The
potato crop only failed. The other crops were reaped and the proceeds
sent to England as rent and interest, and the reapers having sent the
last farthing, lay down with their wives and children and died. Of the
million who died four hundred thousand were able-bodied men. The wolf
stood at every door. The carpenter alone was busy. Of course it was the
poor who died--the poor only. In her three years of married life Anna
realized in a measure that the future held little change for her or her
husband, but she saw a ray of hope for the boy in the cradle. When the
foodless days came and the child was not getting food enough to survive,
she gave vent to her feelings of despair. Jamie did not quite understand
when she spoke of the death of hope.

"Spake what's in yer heart plainly, Anna!" he said plaintively.

"Jamie, we must not blame each other for anything, but we must face the
fact--we live at the bottom of the world where every hope has a
headstone--a headstone that only waits for the name."

"Aye, dear, God help us, I know, I know what ye mane."

"Above and beyond us," she continued, "there is a world of nice
things--books, furniture, pictures--a world where people and things can
be kept clean, but it's a world we could never reach. But I had hope"--

She buried her face in her hands and was silent.

"Aye, aye, acushla, I know yer hope's in the boy, but don't give up.
We'll fight it out together if th' worst comes to th' worst. The boy'll
live, shure he will!"

He could not bear the agony on her face. It distracted him. He went out
and sought solitude on a pile of stones back of the house. There was no
solitude there, nor could he have remained long if there had been. He
returned and drawing a stool up close beside her he sat down and put an
arm tenderly over her shoulder.

"Cheer up, wee girl," he said, "our ship's comin' in soon."

"If we can only save him!" she said, pointing to the cradle.

"Well, we won't cry over spilt milk, dear--not at laste until it's
spilt."

"Ah," she exclaimed, "I had such hopes for him!"

"Aye, so haave I, but thin again I've thought t' myself, suppose th' wee
fella did get t' be kind-a quality like, wudn't he be ashamed ov me an'
you maybe, an' shure an ingrate that's somethin' is worse than nothin'!"

"A child born in pure love couldn't be an ingrate, Jamie; that isn't
possible, dear."

"Ah, who knows what a chile will be, Anna?"

The child awoke and began to cry. It was a cry for food. There was
nothing in the house; there had been nothing all that day. They looked
at each other. Jamie turned away his face. He arose and left the house.
He went aimlessly down the street wondering where he should try for
something to eat for the child. There were several old friends whom he
supposed were in the same predicament, but to whom he had not appealed.
It was getting to be an old story. A score of as good children as his
had been buried. Everybody was polite, full of sympathy, but the child
was losing his vitality, so was the mother. Something desperate must be
done and done at once. For the third time he importuned a grocer at
whose shop he had spent much money. The grocer was just putting up the
window shutters for the night.

"If ye cud jist spare us a ha'p'orth ov milk to keep th' life in th'
chile fur th' night?" he pleaded.

"It wudn't be a thimbleful if I had it, Jamie, but I haven't--we haave
childther ov our own, ye know, an' life is life!"

"Aye, aye," he said, "I know, I know," and shuffled out again. Back to
the house he went. He lifted the latch gently and tiptoed in. Anna was
rocking the child to sleep. He went softly to the table and took up a
tin can and turned again toward the door.

Anna divined his stealthy movement. She was beside him in an instant.

"Where are you going, Jamie?" He hesitated. She forced an answer.

"Jamie," she said in a tone new to her, "there's been nothing but truth
and love between us; I must know."

"I'm goin' out wi' that can to get somethin' fur that chile, Anna, if I
haave t' swing fur it. That's what's in my mind an' God help me!"

"God help us both," she said.

He moved toward the street. She planted herself between him and the
door.

"No, we must stand together. They'll put you in jail and then the child
and I will die anyway. Let's wait another day!"

They sat down together in the corner. It was dark now and they had no
candle. The last handful of turf was on the fire. They watched the
sparks play and the fitful spurts of flame light up for an instant at a
time the darkened home. It was a picture of despair--the first of a long
series that ran down the years with them. They sat in silence for a long
time. Then they whispered to each other with many a break the words they
had spoken in what now seemed to them the long ago. The fire died out.
They retired, but not to sleep. They were too hungry. There was an
insatiable gnawing at their vitals that made sleep impossible. It was
like a cancer with excruciating pain added. Sheer exhaustion only,
stilled the cries of the starving child. There were no more tears in
their eyes, but anguish has by-valves more keen, poignant and subtle.

In agony they lay in silence and counted time by the repercussion of
pain until the welcome dawn came with its new supply of hope. The scream
of a frenzied mother who had lost a child in the night was the prelude
to a tragic day. Anna dressed quickly and in a few minutes stood by the
side of the woman. There was nothing to say. Nothing to do. It was her
turn. It would be Anna's next. All over the town the specter hovered.
Every day the reaper garnered a new harvest of human sheaves. Every day
the wolf barked. Every day the carpenter came.

When Anna returned Jamie had gone. She took her station by the child.
Jamie took the tin can and went out along the Gray-stone road for about
a mile and entered a pasture where three cows were grazing. He was weak
and nervous. His eyes were bloodshot and his hands trembled. He had
never milked a cow. He had no idea of the difficulty involved in
catching a cow and milking her in a pasture. There was the milk and
yonder his child, who without it would not survive the day. Desperation
dominated and directed every movement.

The cows walked away as he approached. He followed. He drove them into a
corner of the field and managed to get his hand on one. He tried to pet
her, but the jingling of the can frightened her and off they went--all
of them--on a fast trot along the side of the field. He became cautious
as he cornered them a second time. This time he succeeded in reaching an
udder. He got a tit in his hand. He lowered himself to his haunches and
proceeded to tug vigorously. His hand was waxy and stuck as if glued to
the flesh. Before there was any sign of milk the cow gave him a swift
kick that sent him flat on his back. By the time he pulled himself
together again the cows were galloping to the other end of the pasture.

"God!" he muttered as he mopped the sweat from his face with his
sleeve, "if ye've got aany pity or kindly feelin' giv me a sup ov that
milk fur m' chile! Come on!"

His legs trembled so that he could scarcely stand. Again he approached.
The cows eyed him with sullen concern. They were thoroughly scared now
and he couldn't get near enough to lay a hand on any of them. He stood
in despair, trembling from head to foot. He realized that what he would
do he must do quickly.

The morning had swift wings--it was flying away. Some one would be out
for the cows ere long and his last chance would be gone. He dropped the
can and ran to the farm-house. There was a stack-yard in the rear. He
entered and took a rope from a stack. It was a long rope--too long for
his use, but he did not want to destroy its usefulness. He dragged it
through the hedge after him. This time with care and caution he got near
enough to throw the rope over the horns of a cow. Leading her to a
fence he tied her to it and began again. It came slowly. His strength
was almost gone. He went from one side to the other--now at one tit, now
at another. From his haunches he went to his knees and from that
position he stretched out his legs and sat flat on the grass. He no
sooner had a good position than the cow would change hers. She trampled
on his legs and swerved from side to side, but he held on. It was a life
and death struggle. The little milk at the bottom of the can gave him
strength and courage. As he literally pulled it out of her his strength
increased. When the can was half full he turned the cow loose and made
for the gap in the hedge. Within a yard of it he heard the loud report
of a gun and the can dropped to the ground. The ball had plowed through
both lugs of the can disconnecting the wire handle. Not much of the milk
was lost. He picked up the can and started down the road as fast as his
legs could take him. He had only gone a hundred yards when a man stepped
out into the road and leveled a gun at him.

"Another yard an' I'll blow yer brains out!" the man said.

"Is this yer milk?" Jamie asked.

"Aye, an' well ye know it's m' milk!"

Jamie put the can down on the road and stood silent. The farmer
delivered himself of a volume of profane abuse. Jamie did not reply. He
stood with his head bowed and to all appearances in a mood of penitence.

When the man finished his threats and abuse he stooped to pick up the
can. Before his hand touched it Jamie sprang at him with the ferocity of
a panther. There was a life and death tussle for a few seconds and both
men went down on the road--Jamie on top. Sitting on the man's chest he
took a wrist in each hand and pinned him to the ground.

"Ye think I'm a thief," he said to the man as he looked at him with eyes
that burned like live coals. "I'm not, I'm an honest maan, but I haave a
chile dying wi' hunger--now it's your life or his, by ---- an' ye'll
decide!"

"I think yer a liar as well as a thief," the man said, "but if we can
prove what ye say I'm yer friend."

"Will ye go with me?"

"Aye."

"D'ye mane it?"

"Aye, I do!"

"I'll carry th' gun."

"Ye may, there's nothin' in it."

"There's enough in th' butt t' batther a maan's brains out."

Jamie seized the gun and the can and the man got up.

They walked down the road in silence, each watching the other out of the
corners of his eyes.

"D'ye believe in God?" Jamie asked abruptly. The farmer hesitated
before answering.

"Why d'ye ask?"

"I'd like t' see a maan in these times that believed wi' his heart
insted ov his mouth!"

"Wud he let other people milk his cows?" asked the man, sneeringly.

"He mightn't haave cows t' milk," Jamie said. "But he'd be kind and not
a glutton!"

They arrived at the house. The man went in first. He stopped near the
door and Jamie instinctively and in fear shot past him. What he saw
dazed him. "Ah, God!" he exclaimed. "She's dead!"

Anna lay on her back on the floor and the boy was asleep by the hearth
with his head in the ashes. The neighbors were alarmed and came to
assist. The farmer felt Anna's pulse. It was feebly fluttering.

"She's not dead," he said. "Get some cold wather quickly!" They dashed
the water in her face and brought her back to consciousness. When she
looked around she said:

"Who 's this kind man come in to help, Jamie?"

"He's a farmer," Jamie said, "an' he's brot ye a pint ov nice fresh
milk!" The man had filled a cup with milk and put it to Anna's lips. She
refused. "He's dying," she said, pointing to the boy, who lay limp on
the lap of a neighbor. The child was drowsy and listless. They gave him
the cup of milk. He had scarcely enough strength to drink. Anna drank
what was left, which was very little.

"God bless you!" Anna said as she held out her hand to the farmer.

"God save you kindly," he answered as he took her hand and bowed his
head.

"I've a wife an' wains myself," he continued, "but we're not s' bad off
on a farm." Turning to Jamie he said: "Yer a Protestant!"

"Aye."

"An' I'm a Fenian, but we're in t' face ov bigger things!"

He extended his hand. Jamie clasped it, the men looked into each other's
faces and understood.

That night in the dusk, the Fenian farmer brought a sack of potatoes and
a quart of fresh milk and the spark of life was prolonged.



CHAPTER III

REHEARSING FOR THE SHOW


Famine not only carried off a million of the living, but it claimed also
the unborn. Anna's second child was born a few months after the siege
was broken, but the child had been starved in its mother's womb and
lived only three months. There was no wake. Wakes are for older people.
There were no candles to burn, no extra sheet to put over the old
dresser, and no clock to stop at the moment of death.

The little wasted thing lay in its undressed pine coffin on the table
and the neighbors came in and had a look. Custom said it should be kept
the allotted time and the tyrant was obeyed. A dozen of those to whom a
wake was a means of change and recreation came late and planted
themselves for the night.

"Ye didn't haave a hard time wi' th' second, did ye, Anna?" asked Mrs.
Mulholland.

"No," Anna said quietly.

"Th' hard times play'd th' divil wi' it before it was born, I'll be
bound," said a second.

A third averred that the child was "the very spit out of its father's
mouth." Ghost stories, stories of the famine, of hard luck, of hunger,
of pain and the thousand and one aspects of social and personal sorrow
had the changes rung on them.

Anna sat in the corner. She had to listen, she had to answer when
directly addressed and the prevailing idea of politeness made her the
center of every story and the object of every moral!

The refreshments were all distributed and diplomatically the mourners
were informed that there was nothing more; nevertheless they stayed on
and on. Nerve-racked and unstrung, Anna staggered to her feet and took
Jamie to the door.

"I'll go mad, dear, if I have to stand it all night!"

They dared not be discourteous. A reputation for heartlessness would
have followed Anna to the grave if she had gone to bed while the dead
child lay there.

Withero had been at old William Farren's wake and was going home when he
saw Anna and Jamie at the door. They explained the situation.

"Take a dandther down toward th' church," he said, "an' then come back."

Willie entered the house in an apparently breathless condition.

"Yer takin' it purty aisy here," he said, "whin 'Jowler' Hainey's
killin' his wife an' wreckin' th' house!"

In about two minutes he was alone. He put a coal in his pipe and smoked
for a minute. Then he went over to the little coffin. He took his pipe
out of his mouth, laid it on the mantel-shelf and returned. The little
hands were folded. He unclasped them, took one of them in his rough
calloused palm.

"Poore wee thing," he said in an undertone, "poore wee thing." He put
the hands as he found them. Still looking at the little baby face he
added:

"Heigho, heigho, it's bad, purty bad, but it's worse where there isn't
even a dead wan!"

When Anna returned she lay down on her bed, dressed as she was, and
Jamie and Withero kept the vigil--with the door barred. Next morning at
the earliest respectable hour Withero carried the little coffin under
his arm and Jamie walked beside him to the graveyard.

During the fifteen years that followed the burial of "the famine child"
they buried three others and saved three--four living and four dead.

I was the ninth child. Anna gave me a Greek name which means "Helper of
men."

Shortly after my arrival in Scott's entry, they moved to Pogue's entry.
The stone cabin was thatch-covered and measured about twelve by sixteen
feet. The space comprised three apartments. One, a bedroom; over the
bedroom and beneath the thatch a little loft that served as a bedroom to
those of climbing age. The rest of it was workshop, dining-room,
sitting-room, parlor and general community news center. The old folks
slept in a bed, the rest of us slept on the floor and beneath the
thatch. Between the bedroom door and the open fireplace was the
chimney-corner. Near the door stood an old pine table and some dressers.
They stood against the wall and were filled with crockery. We never
owned a chair. There were several pine stools, a few creepies (small
stools), and a long bench that ran along the bedroom wall, from the
chimney corner to the bedroom door. The mud floor never had the luxury
of a covering, nor did a picture ever adorn the bare walls. When the
floor needed patching, Jamie went to somebody's garden, brought a
shovelful of earth, mixed it and filled the holes. The stools and
creepies were scrubbed once a week, the table once a day. I could draw
an outline of that old table now and accurately mark every dent and
crack in it. I do not know where it came from, but each of us had a
_hope_ that one day we should possess a pig. We built around the hope a
sty and placed it against the end of the cabin. The pig never turned up,
but the hope lived there throughout a generation!

We owned a goat once. In three months it reduced the smooth kindly
feeling in Pogue's entry to the point of total eclipse. We sold it and
spent a year in winning back old friends. We had a garden. It measured
thirty-six by sixteen inches, and was just outside the front window. At
one end was a small currant bush and in the rest of the space Anna grew
an annual crop of nasturtiums.

Once we were prosperous. That was when two older brothers worked with my
father at shoemaking. I remember them, on winter nights, sitting around
the big candlestick--one of the three always singing folk-songs as he
worked. As they worked near the window, Anna sat in her corner and by
the light of a candle in her little sconce made waxed ends for the men.
I browsed among the lasts, clipping, cutting and scratching old leather
parings and dreaming of the wonderful days beyond when I too could make
a boot and sing "Black-eyed Susan."

Then the news came--news of a revolution.

"They're making boots by machinery now," Anna said one day.

"It's dotin' ye are, Anna," Jamie replied. She read the account.

"How cud a machine make a boot, Anna?" he asked in bewilderment.

"I don't know, dear."

Barney McQuillan was the village authority on such things. When he told
Jamie, he looked aghast and said, "How quare!"

Then makers became menders--shoemakers became cobblers. There was
something of magic and romance in the news that a machine could turn out
as much work as twenty-five men, but when my brothers moved away to
other parts of the world to find work, the romance was rubbed off.

"Maybe we can get a machine?" Jamie said.

"Aye, but shure ye'd have to get a factory to put it in!"

"Is that so?"

"Aye, an' we find it hard enough t' pay fur what we're in now!"

Barney McQuillan was the master-shoe-maker in our town who was best
able to readjust himself to changed conditions. He became a
master-cobbler and doled out what he took in to men like Jamie. He kept
a dozen men at work, making a little off each, just as the owner of the
machine did in the factory. In each case the need of skill vanished and
the power of capital advanced. Jamie dumbly took what was left--cobbling
for Barney. To Anna the whole thing meant merely the death of a few more
hopes. For over twenty years she had fought a good fight, a fight in
which she played a losing part, though she was never wholly defeated.

Her first fight was against slang and slovenly speech. She started early
in their married life to correct Jamie. He tried hard and often, but he
found it difficult to speak one language to his wife and another to his
customers. From the lips of Anna, it sounded all right, but the same
pronunciation by Jamie seemed affected and his customers gaped at him.

Then she directed her efforts anew to the children. One after another
she corrected their grammar and pronunciation, corrected them every day
and every hour of the day that they were in her presence. Here again she
was doomed to failure. The children lived on the street and spoke its
language. It seemed a hopeless task. She never whined over it. She was
too busy cleaning, cooking, sewing and at odd times helping Jamie, but
night after night for nearly a generation she took stock of a life's
effort and each milestone on the way spelt failure. She could see no
light--not a glimmer. Not only had she failed to impress her language
upon others, but she found herself gradually succumbing to her
environment and actually lapsing into vulgar forms herself. There was a
larger and more vital conflict than the one she had lost. It was the
fight against dirt. In such small quarters, with so many children and
such activity in work she fought against great odds. Bathing facilities
were almost impossible: water had to be brought from the town well,
except what fell on the roof, and that was saved for washing clothes.
Whatever bathing there was, was done in the tub in which Jamie steeped
his leather. We children were suspicious that when Jamie bathed Anna had
a hand in it. They had a joke between them that could only be explained
on that basis. She called it "grooming the elephant."

"Jist wait, m' boy," she would say in a spirit of kindly banter, "till
the elephant has to be groomed, and I'll bring ye down a peg or two."

There was a difference of opinion among them as to the training of
children.

"No chile iver thrived on saft words," he said; "a wet welt is
betther."

"Aye, yer wet welt stings th' flesh, Jamie, but it niver gets at a
chile's mind."

"Thrue for you, but who th' ---- kin get at a chile's mind?"

One day I was chased into the house by a bigger boy. I had found a
farthing. He said it was his. The money was handed over and the boy left
with his tongue in his cheek. I was ordered to strip. When ready he laid
me across his knee and applied the "wet welt."

An hour later it was discovered that a week had elapsed between the
losing and finding of the farthing. No sane person would believe that a
farthing could lie for a whole week on the streets of Antrim.

"Well," he said, "ye need a warmin' like that ivery day, an' ye had nown
yestherday, did ye?"

On another occasion I found a ball, one that had never been lost. A boy,
hoping to get me in front of my father, claimed the ball. My mother on
this occasion sat in judgment.

"Where did _you_ get the ball?" she asked the boy. He couldn't remember.
She probed for the truth, but neither of us would give in. When all
efforts failed she cut the ball in half and gave each a piece!

"Nixt time I'll tell yer Dah," the boy said when he got outside, "he
makes you squeal like a pig."

When times were good--when work and wages got a little ahead of hunger,
which was seldom, Anna baked her own bread. Three kinds of bread she
baked. "Soda,"--common flour bread, never in the shape of a loaf, but
bread that lay flat on the griddle; "pirta oaten"--made of flour and
oatmeal; and "fadge"--potato bread. She always sung while baking and she
sang the most melancholy and plaintive airs. As she baked and sang I
stood beside her on a creepie watching the process and awaiting the
end, for at the close of each batch of bread I always had my
"duragh"--an extra piece.

When hunger got ahead of wages the family bread was bought at Sam
Johnson's bakery. The journey to Sam's was full of temptation to me.
Hungry and with a vested interest in the loaf on my arm, I was not over
punctilious in details of the moral law. Anna pointed out the
opportunities of such a journey. It was a chance to try my mettle with
the arch tempter. It was a mental gymnasium in which moral muscle got
strength. There wasn't in all Ireland a mile of highway so well paved
with good intentions. I used to start out, well keyed up morally and
humming over and over the order of the day. When, on the home stretch, I
had made a dent in Sam's architecture, I would lay the loaf down on the
table, good side toward my mother. While I was doing that she had read
the story of the fall on my face. I could feel her penetrating gaze.

"So he got ye, did he?"

"Aye," I would say in a voice too low to be heard by my father.

The order at Sam's was usually a sixpenny loaf, three ha'pence worth of
tea and sugar and half an ounce of tobacco.

There were times when Barney had no work for my father, and on such
occasions I came home empty-handed. Then Jamie would go out to find work
as a day laborer. Periods like these were glossed over by Anna's humor
and wit. As they sat around the table, eating "stir-about" without milk,
or bread without tea, Jamie would grunt and complain.

"Aye, faith," Anna would say, "it's purty bad, but it's worse where
there's none at all!"

When the wolf lingered long at the door I went foraging--foraging as
forages a hungry dog and in the same places. Around the hovels of the
poor where dogs have clean teeth a boy has little chance. One day,
having exhausted the ordinary channels of relief without success, I
betook myself to the old swimming-hole on the mill race. The boys had a
custom of taking a "shiverin' bite" when they went bathing. It was on a
Sunday afternoon in July and quite a crowd sat around the hole. I
neither needed nor wanted a bath--I wanted a bite. No one offered a
share of his crust. A big boy named Healy was telling of his prowess as
a fighter.

"I'll fight ye fur a penny!" said I.

"Where's yer penny?" said Healy.

"I'll get it th' morra."

A man seeing the difficulty and willing to invest in a scrap advanced
the wager. I was utterly outclassed and beaten. Peeling my clothes off I
went into the race for a swim and to wash the blood off. When I came out
Healy had hidden my trousers. I searched for hours in vain. The man who
paid the wager gave me an extra penny and I went home holding my jacket
in front of my legs. The penny saved me from a "warming," but Anna,
feeling that some extra discipline was necessary, made me a pair of
trousers out of an old potato sack.

"That's sackcloth, dear," she said, "an' ye can aither sit in th' ashes
in them or wear them in earning another pair! Hold fast t' yer penny!"

In this penitential outfit I had to sell my papers. Every fiber of my
being tingled with shame and humiliation. I didn't complain of the
penance, but I swore vengeance on Healy. She worked the desire for
vengeance out of my system in her chimney-corner by reading to me often
enough, so that I memorized the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah. Miss
McGee, the postmistress, gave me sixpence for the accomplishment and
that went toward a new pair of trousers. Concerning Healy, Anna said:
"Bate 'im with a betther brain, dear!"

Despite my fistic encounters, my dents in the family loaves, my shinny,
my marbles and the various signs of total or at least partial depravity,
Anna clung to the hope that out of this thing might finally come what
she was looking, praying and hoping for.

An item on the credit side of my ledger was that I was born in a caul--a
thin filmy veil that covered me at birth. Of her twelve I was the only
one born in "luck." In a little purse she kept the caul, and on special
occasions she would exhibit it and enumerate the benefits and privileges
that went with it. Persons born in a caul were immune from being hung,
drawn and quartered, burned to death or lost at sea.

It was on the basis of the caul I was rented to old Mary McDonagh. My
duty was to meet her every Monday morning. The meeting insured her luck
for the week. Mary was a huckster. She carried her shop on her arm--a
wicker basket in which she had thread, needles, ribbons and other things
which she sold to the farmers and folks away from the shopping center.
No one is lucky while bare-footed. Having no shoes I clattered down
Sandy Somerville's entry in my father's. At the first clatter, she came
out, basket on arm, and said:

"Morra, bhoy, God's blessin' on ye!"

"Morra, Mary, an' good luck t' ye," was my answer.

I used to express my wonder that I couldn't turn this luck of a
dead-sure variety into a pair of shoes for myself.

Anna said: "Yer luck, dear, isn't in what ye can get, but in what ye can
give!"

When Antrim opened its first flower show I was a boy of all work at old
Mrs. Chaine's. The gardener was pleased with my work and gave me a
hothouse plant to put in competition. I carried it home proudly and
laid it down beside her in the chimney-corner.

"The gerd'ner says it'll bate th' brains out on aany geranium in the
show!" I said.

"Throth it will that, dear," she said, "but sure ye couldn't take a
prize fur it!"

"Why?" I growled.

"Ah, honey, shure everybody would know that ye didn't grow it--forby
they know that th' smoke in here would kill it in a few days."

I sulked and protested.

"That's a nice way t' throw cowld wather on th' chile," Jamie said. "Why
don't ye let 'im go on an' take his chances at the show?"

A pained look overspread her features. It was as if he had struck her
with his fist. Her eyes filled with tears and she said huskily:

"The whole world's a show, Jamie, an' this is the only place the wee
fella has to rehearse in."

I sat down beside her and laid my head in her lap. She stroked it in
silence for a minute or two. I couldn't quite see, however, how I could
miss that show! She saw that after all I was determined to enter the
lists. She offered to put a card on it for me so that they would know
the name of the owner. This is what she wrote on the card:

"This plant is lent for decorative purposes."

That night there was an unusual atmosphere in her corner. She had a
newly tallied cap on her head and her little Sunday shawl over her
shoulders. Her candle was burning and the hearthstones had an extra coat
of whitewash. She drew me up close beside her and told me a story.

"Once, a long, long time ago, God, feelin' tired, went to sleep an' had
a nice wee nap on His throne. His head was in His han's an' a wee white
cloud came down an' covered him up. Purty soon He wakes up an' says He:

"'Where's Michael?'

"'Here I am, Father!' said Michael.

"'Michael, me boy,' says God, 'I want a chariot and a charioteer!'

"'Right ye are!' says he. Up comes the purtiest chariot in the city of
Heaven an' finest charioteer.

"'Me boy,' says God, 'take a million tons ov th' choicest seeds of th'
flowers of Heaven an' take a trip around th' world wi' them. Scatther
them,' says He, 'be th' roadsides an' th' wild places of th' earth where
my poor live.'

"'Aye,' says the charioteer, 'that's jist like ye, Father. It's th'
purtiest job of m' afther-life an' I'll do it finely.'

"'It's jist come t' Me in a dream,' says th' Father, 'that th' rich have
all the flowers down there and th' poor haave nown at all. If a million
tons isn't enough take a billion tons!'"

At this point I got in some questions about God's language and the kind
of flowers.

"Well, dear," she said, "He spakes Irish t' Irish people and the
charioteer was an Irishman."

"Maybe it was a wuman!" I ventured.

"Aye, but there's no difference up there."

"Th' flowers," she said, "were primroses, butthercups an' daisies an'
th' flowers that be handy t' th' poor, an' from that day to this there's
been flowers a-plenty for all of us everywhere!"

"Now you go to-morra an' gether a basketful an' we'll fix them up in th'
shape of th' Pryamid of Egypt an' maybe ye'll get a prize."

I spent the whole of the following day, from dawn to dark, roaming over
the wild places near Antrim gathering the flowers of the poor. My
mother arranged them in a novel bouquet--a bouquet of wild flowers, the
base of it yellow primroses, the apex of pink shepherd's sundials, and
between the base and the apex one of the greatest variety of wild
flowers ever gotten together in that part of the world.

It created a sensation and took first prize. At the close of the
exhibition Mrs. James Chaine distributed the prizes. When my name was
called I went forward slowly, blushing in my rags, and received a
twenty-four piece set of china! It gave me a fit! I took it home, put it
in her lap and danced. We held open house for a week, so that every man,
woman and child in the community could come in and "handle" it.

Withero said we ought to save up and build a house to keep it in!

She thought that a propitious time to explain the inscription she put on
the card.

"Ah, thin," I said, "shure it's thrue what ye always say."

"What's that, dear?"

"It's nice t' be nice."



CHAPTER IV

SUNDAY IN POGUE'S ENTRY


Jamie and Anna kept the Sabbath. It was a habit with them and the
children got it, one after another, as they came along. When the town
clock struck twelve on Saturday night the week's work was done. The
customers were given fair warning that at the hour of midnight the bench
would be put away until Monday morning. There was nothing theological
about the observance. It was a custom, not a code. Anna looked upon it
as an over-punctilious notion. More than once she was heard to say: "The
Sabbath was made for maan, Jamie, and not maan for th' Sabbath." His
answer had brevity and point. "I don't care a damn what it was made
for, Anna, I'll quit at twelve." And he quit.

Sometimes Anna would take an unfinished job and finish it herself. There
were things in cobbling she could do as well as Jamie. Her defense of
doing it in the early hours of the Sabbath was: "Sure God has more
important work to do than to sit up late to watch us mend the boots of
the poor; forby it's better to haave ye're boots mended an' go to church
than to sit in th' ashes on Sunday an' swallow the smoke of bad turf!"

"Aye," Jamie would say, "it's jist wondtherful what we can do if we
haave th' right kind ov a conscience!"

Jamie's first duty on Sunday was to clean out the thrush's cage. He was
very proud of Dicky and gave him a bath every morning and a house
cleaning on Sunday. We children loved Sunday. On that day Anna reigned.
She wore her little shawl over her shoulders and her hair was enclosed
in a newly tallied white cap. She smoked little, but on Sundays after
dinner she always had her "dhraw" with Jamie. Anna's Sunday chore was to
whitewash the hearthstones and clean the house. When the table was laid
for Sunday breakfast and the kettle hung on the chain singing and Anna
was in her glory of white linen, the children were supremely happy. In
their wildest dreams there was nothing quite as beautiful as that.
Whatever hunger, disappointment, or petty quarrel happened during the
week it was forgotten on Sunday. It was a day of supreme peace.

Sunday breakfast was what she called a "puttiby," something light to
tide them over until dinner time. Dinner was the big meal of the week.
At every meal I sat beside my mother. If we had stir-about, I was
favored, but not enough to arouse jealousy: I scraped the pot. If it was
"tay," I got a few bits of the crust of Anna's bread. We called it
"scroof."

About ten o'clock the preparations for the big dinner began. We had meat
once a week. At least it was the plan to have it so often. Of course
there were times when the plan didn't work, but when it did Sunday was
meat day. The word "meat" was never used. It was "kitchen" or "beef."
Both words meant the same thing, and bacon might be meant by either of
them.

In nine cases out of ten, Sunday "kitchen" was a cow's head, a "calf's
head and pluck," a pair of cow's feet, a few sheep's "trotters" or a
quart of sheep's blood. Sometimes it was the entrails of a pig. Only
when there was no money for "kitchen" did we have blood. It was at first
fried and then made part of the broth.

The broth-pot on Sunday was the center. The economic status of a family
could be as easily gaged by tasting their broth as by counting the
weekly income. Big money, good broth; little money, thin broth. The
slimmer the resource the fewer the ingredients. The pot was an index to
every condition and the talisman of every family. It was an opportunity
to show off. When Jamie donned a "dickey" once to attend a funeral and
came home with it in his pocket, no comment was made; but if Anna made
poor broth it was the talk of the entry for a week.

Good broth consisted of "kitchen," barley, greens and lithing. Next to
"kitchen" barley was the most expensive ingredient. Folks in Pogue's
entry didn't always have it, but there were a number of cheap
substitutes, such as hard peas or horse beans. Amongst half a dozen
families in and around the entry there was a broth exchange. Each family
made a few extra quarts and exchanged them. They were distributed in
quart tin cans. Each can was emptied, washed, refilled and returned. Ann
O'Hare, the chimneysweep's wife, was usually first on hand. She had the
unenviable reputation of being the "dhirtiest craither" in the
community. Jamie called her "Sooty Ann."

"There's a gey good smell from yer pot, Anna," she said; "what haave ye
in it th' day?"

"Oh, jist a few sheep's throtters and a wheen of nettles."

"Who gethered th' nettles?"

Anna pointed to me.

"Did th' sting bad, me baughal?"

"Ded no, not aany," I said.

"Did ye squeeze thim tight?"

"I put m' Dah's socks on m' han's."

"Aye, that's a good thrick."

Anna had a mouth that looked like a torn pocket. She could pucker it
into the queerest shapes. She smacked her thin blue lips, puckered her
mouth a number of times while Anna emptied and refilled the can.

"If this is as good as it smells," she said as she went out, "I'll jist
sup it myself and let oul Billy go chase himself!"

Jamie was the family connoisseur in matters relating to broth. He tasted
Ann's. The family waited for the verdict.

"Purty good barley an' lithin'," he said, "but it smells like Billy's
oul boots."

"Shame on ye, Jamie," Anna said.

"Well, give us your highfalutin' opinion ov it!" Anna sipped a spoonful
and remarked: "It might be worse."

"Aye, it's worse where there's nown, but on yer oath now d'ye think
Sooty Ann washed her han's?"

"Good clane dhirt will poison no one, Jamie."

"Thrue, but this isn't clane dhirt, it's soot--bitther soot!"

It was agreed to pass the O'Hare delection. When it cooled I quietly
gave it to my friend Rover--Mrs. Lorimer's dog.

Hen Cassidy came next. Hen's mother was a widow who lived on the edge of
want. Hen and I did a little barter and exchange on the side, while Anna
emptied and refilled his can. He had scarcely gone when the verdict was
rendered:

"Bacon an' nettles," Jamie said, "she's as hard up as we are, this
week!"

"Poor craither," Anna said; "I wondther if she's got aanything besides
broth?" Nobody knew. Anna thought she knew a way to find out.

"Haave ye aany marbles, dear?" she asked me.

"Aye, a wheen."

"Wud ye give a wheen to me?"

"Aye, are ye goin' t' shoot awhile? If ye are I'll give ye half an'
shoot ye fur thim!" I said.

"No, I jist want t' borra some." I handed out a handful of marbles.

"Now don't glunch, dear, when I tell ye what I want thim fur." I
promised.

"Whistle fur Hen," she said, "and give him that han'ful of marbles if
he'll tell ye what his mother haas fur dinner th' day."

I whistled and Hen responded.

"I'll bate ye two chanies, Hen, that I know what ye've got fur dinner!"

"I'll bate ye!" said Hen, "show yer chanies!"

"Show yours!" said I.

Hen had none, but I volunteered to trust him.

"Go on now, guess!" said he.

"Pirtas an' broth!" said I.

"Yer blinked, ye cabbage head, we've got two yards ov thripe forby!"

I carried two quarts to as many neighbors. Mary carried three. As they
were settling down to dinner Arthur Gainer arrived with his mother's
contribution. Jamie sampled it and laughed outright.

"An oul cow put 'er feet in it," he said. Anna took a taste.

"She didn't keep it in long aither," was her comment.

"D'ye iver mind seein' barley in Gainer's broth?" Jamie asked.

"I haave no recollection."

"If there isn't a kink in m' power of remembrance," Jamie said, "they've
had nothin' but bacon an' nettles since th' big famine."

"What did th' haave before that?" Anna asked.

"Bacon an' nettles," he said.

"Did ye ever think, Jamie, how like folks are to th' broth they make?"

"No," he said, "but there's no raisin why people should sting jist
because they've got nothin' but nettles in their broth!"

The potatoes were emptied out of the pot on the bare table, my father
encircling it with his arms to prevent them from rolling off. A little
pile of salt was placed beside each person and each had a big bowl full
of broth. The different kinds had lost their identity in the common pot.

In the midst of the meal came visitors.

"Much good may it do ye!" said Billy Baxter as he walked in with his
hands in his pockets.

"Thank ye, Billy, haave a good bowl of broth?"

"Thank ye, thank ye," he said. "I don't mind a good bowl ov broth, Anna,
but I'd prefer a bowl--jist a bowl of good broth!"

"Ye've had larks for breakvist surely, haaven't ye, Billy?" Anna said.

"No, I didn't, but there's a famine of good broth these days. When I was
young we had the rale McKie!" Billy took a bowl, nevertheless, and went
to Jamie's bench to "sup" it.

Eliza Wallace, the fish woman, came in.

"Much good may it do ye," she said.

"Thank ye kindly, 'Liza, sit down an' haave a bowl of broth!" It was
baled out and Eliza sat down on the floor near the window.

McGrath, the rag man, "dhrapped in." "Much good may it do ye!" he said.

"Thank ye kindly, Tom," Anna said, "ye'll surely have a bowl ov broth."

"Jist wan spoonful," McGrath said. I emptied my bowl at a nod from Anna,
rinsed it out at the tub and filled it with broth. McGrath sat on the
doorstep.

After the dinner Anna read a story from the _Weekly Budget_ and the
family and guests sat around and listened. Then came the weekly
function, over which there invariably arose an altercation amongst the
children. It was the Sunday visit of the Methodist tract
distributor--Miss Clarke. It was not an unmixed dread, for sometimes she
brought a good story and the family enjoyed it. The usual row took place
as to who should go to the door and return the tract. It was finally
decided that I should face the ordeal. My preparation was to wash my
feet, rake my hair into order and soap it down, cover up a few holes and
await the gentle knock on the doorpost. It came and I bounded to the
door, tract in hand.

"Good afternoon," she began, "did your mother read the tract this week?"

"Yis, mem, an' she says it's fine."

"Do you remember the name of it?"

"'Get yer own Cherries,'" said I.

"_B-u-y_," came the correction in clear tones from behind the partition.

"'_Buy_ yer own Cherries,' it is, mem."

"That's better," the lady said. "Some people _get_ cherries, other people
_buy_ them."

"Aye."

I never bought any. I knew every wild-cherry tree within twenty miles of
Antrim. The lady saw an opening and went in. "Did you ever get caught?"
she asked. I hung my head. Then followed a brief lecture on private
property--brief, for it was cut short by Anna, who, without any apology
or introduction, said as she confronted the slum evangel:

"Is God our Father?"

"Yes, indeed," the lady answered.

"An' we are all His childther?"

"Assuredly."

"Would ye starve yer brother Tom?"

"Of course not."

"But ye don't mind s' much th' starvation of all yer other wee brothers
an' sisters on th' streets, do ye?"

There was a commotion behind the paper partition. The group stood in
breathless silence until the hunger question was put, then they
"dunched" each other and made faces. My father took a handful of my
hair, and gave it a good-natured but vigorous tug to prevent an
explosion.

"Oh, Anna!" she said, "you are mistaken; I would starve nobody--and far
be it from me to accuse--"

"Accuse," said Anna, raising her gentle voice. "Why, acushla, nobody
needs t' accuse th' poor; th' guilty need no accuser. We're convicted by
bein' poor, by bein' born poor an' dying poor, aren't we now?"

"With the Lord there is neither rich nor poor, Anna."

"Aye, an' that's no news to me, but with good folks like you it's
different."

"No, indeed, I assure you I think that exactly."

"Well, now, if it makes no diff'rence, dear, why do ye come down Pogue's
entry like a bailiff or a process-sarver?"

"I didn't, I just hinted--"

"Aye, ye hinted an' a wink's as good as a nod to a blind horse. Now tell
me truly an' cross yer heart--wud ye go to Ballycraigie doore an' talk
t' wee Willie Chaine as ye talked t' my bhoy jist now?"

"No--"

"No, 'deed ye wudn't for th' wudn't let ye, but because we've no choice
ye come down here like a petty sessions-magistrate an' make my bhoy feel
like a thief because he goes like a crow an' picks a wild cherry or a
sloe that wud rot on the tree. D'ye know Luke thirteen an' nineteen?"

The lady opened her Bible, but before she found the passage Anna was
reading from her old yellow backless Bible about the birds that lodged
in the branches of the trees.

"Did they pay aany rent?" she asked as she closed the book. "Did th'
foxes have leases fur their holes?"

"No."

"No, indeed, an' d'ye think He cares less fur boys than birds?"

"Oh, no."

"Oh, no, an' ye know rightly that everything aroun' Antrim is jist a
demesne full o' pheasants an' rabbits for them quality t' shoot, an' we
git thransported if we get a male whin we're hungry!"

The lady was tender-hearted and full of sympathy, but she hadn't
traveled along the same road as Anna and didn't know. Behind the screen
the group was jubilant, but when they saw the sympathy on the tract
woman's face they sobered and looked sad.

"I must go," she said, "and God bless you, Anna," and Anna replied, "God
bless you kindly, dear."

When Anna went behind the screen Jamie grabbed her and pressed her
closely to him. "Ye're a match for John Rae any day, ye are that,
woman!"

The kettle was lowered to the burning turf and there was a round of tea.
The children and visitors sat on the floor.

"Now that ye're in sich fine fettle, Anna," Jamie said, "jist toss th'
cups for us!"

She took her own cup, gave it a peculiar twist and placed it mouth down
on the saucer. Then she took it up and examined it quizzically. The
leaves straggled hieroglyphically over the inside. The group got their
heads together and looked with serious faces at the cup.

"There's a ship comin' across th' sea--an' I see a letther!"

"It's for me, I'll bate," Jamie said.

"No, dear, it's fur me."

"Take it," Jamie said, "it's maybe a dispossess from oul Savage th'
landlord!"

She took Jamie's cup.

"There's a wee bit of a garden wi' a fence aroun' it."

"Wud that be Savage givin' us a bit of groun' next year t' raise
pirtas?"

"Maybe."

"Maybe we're goin' t' flit, where there's a perch or two wi' th' house!"

A low whistle outside attracted my attention and I stole quietly away.
It was Sonny Johnson, the baker's son, and he had a little bundle under
his arm. We boys were discussing a very serious proposition when Anna
appeared on the scene.

"Morra, Sonny!"

"Morra, Anna!"

"Aany day but Sunday he may go, dear, but not th' day."

That was all that was needed. Sonny wanted me to take him bird-nesting.
He had the price in the bundle.

"If I give ye this _now_," he said, "will ye come some other day fur
nothin'?"

"Aye."

In the bundle was a "bap"--a diamond-shaped, flat, penny piece of bread.
I rejoined the cup-tossers.

Another whistle. "That's Arthur," Anna said. "No shinny th' day, mind
ye."

I joined Arthur and we sat on the wall of Gainer's pigsty. We hadn't
been there long when "Chisty" McDowell, the superintendent of the
Methodist Sunday School, was seen over in Scott's garden rounding up his
scholars. We were in his line of vision and he made for us. We saw him
coming and hid in the inner sanctum of the sty. The pig was in the
little outer yard. "Chisty" was a wiry little man of great zeal but
little humor. It was his minor talent that came into play on this
occasion, however.

"Come, boys, come," he said, "I know ye're in there. We've got a
beautiful lesson to-day." We crouched in a corner, still silent.

"Come, boys," he urged, "don't keep me waiting. The lesson is about the
Prodigal Son."

"Say somethin', Arthur," I urged. He did.

"T' hell wi' the Prodigal Son!" he said, whereupon the little man jumped
the low wall into the outer yard and drove the big, grunting, wallowing
sow in on top of us! Our yells could be heard a mile away. We came out
and were collared and taken off to Sunday School.

When I returned, the cups were all tossed and the visitors had gone, but
Willie Withero had dropped in and was invited to "stap" for tea. He was
our most welcome visitor and there was but one house where he felt at
home.

"Tay" that evening consisted of "stir-about," Sonny Johnson's unearned
bap and buttermilk. Willie made more noise "suppin'" his stir-about than
Jamie did, and I said:

"Did ye iver hear ov th' cow that got her foot stuck in a bog, Willie?"

"No, boy, what did she do?"

"She got it out!" A stern look from Jamie prevented the application.

"Tell me, Willie," Anna said, "is it thrue that ye can blink a cow so
that she can give no milk at all?"

"It's jist a hoax, Anna, some oul bitch said it an' th' others cackle it
from doore to doore. I've naither wife nor wain, chick nor chile, I ate
th' bread ov loneliness an' keep m' own company an' jist bekase I don't
blether wi' th' gossoons th' think I'm uncanny. Isn't that it, Jamie,
eh!"

"Aye, ye're right, Willie, it's quare what bletherin' fools there are in
this town!"

Willie held his full spoon in front of his mouth while he replied:

"It's you that's the dacent maan, Jamie, 'deed it is."

"The crocks are empty, dear," Anna said to me. After "tay," to the town
well I went for the night's supply of water. When I returned the dishes
were washed and on the dresser. The floor was swept and the family were
swappin' stories with Withero. Sunday was ever the day of Broth and
Romance. Anna made the best broth and told the best stories. No Sunday
was complete without a good story. On the doorstep that night she told
one of her best. As she finished the church bell tolled the curfew. Then
the days of the month were tolled off.

"Sammy's arm is gey shtrong th' night," Willie said.

"Aye," Jamie said, "an' th' oul bell's got a fine ring."



CHAPTER V

HIS ARM IS NOT SHORTENED


When Anna had to choose between love and religion--the religion of an
institution--she chose love. Her faith in God remained unshaken, but her
methods of approach were the forms of love rather than the symbols or
ceremonies of a sect. Twelve times in a quarter of a century she
appeared publicly in the parish church. Each time it was to lay on the
altar of religion the fruit of her love. Nine-tenths of those twelve
congregations would not have known her if they had met her on the
street. One-tenth were those who occupied the charity pews.

Religion in our town had arrayed the inhabitants into two hostile camps.
She never had any sympathy with the fight. She was neutral. She pointed
out to the fanatics around her that the basis of religion was love and
that religion that expressed itself in faction fights must have hate at
the bottom of it, not love. She had a philosophy of religion that
_worked_. To the sects it would have been rank heresy, but the sects
didn't know she existed and those who were benefited by her quaint and
unique application of religion to life were almost as obscure as she
was. I was the first to discover her "heresy" and oppose it. She lived
to see me repent of my folly.

In a town of two thousand people less than two hundred were familiar
with her face, and half of them knew her because at one time or another
they had been to "Jamie's" to have their shoes made or mended, or
because they lived in our immediate vicinity. Of the hundred who knew
her face, less than half of them were familiar enough to call her
"Anna." Of all the people who had lived in Antrim as long as she had,
she was the least known.

No feast or function could budge her out of her corner. There came a
time when her family became as accustomed to her refusal as she had to
her environment and we ceased to coax or urge her. She never attended a
picnic, a soirée or a dance in Antrim. One big opportunity for social
intercourse amongst the poor is a wake--she never attended a wake. She
often took entire charge of a wake for a neighbor, but she directed the
affair from her corner.

She had a slim sort of acquaintance with three intellectual men. They
were John Galt, William Green and John Gordon Holmes, vicars in that
order of the parish of Antrim. They visited her once a year and at
funerals--the funerals of her own dead. None of them knew her. They
hadn't time, but there were members of our own family who knew as little
of her mind as they did.

She did not seek obscurity. It seemed to have sought and found her. One
avenue of escape after another was closed and she settled down at last
to her lot in the chimney-corner. Her hopes, beliefs and aspirations
were expressed in what she did rather than in what she said, though she
said much, much that is still treasured, long after she has passed away.

Henry Lecky was a young fisherman on Lough Neagh. He was a great
favorite with the children of the entries. He loved to bring us a small
trout each when he returned after a long fishing trip. He died suddenly,
and Eliza, his mother, came at once for help to the chimney corner.

"He's gone, Anna, he's gone!" she said as she dropped on the floor
beside Anna.

"An' ye want me t' do for yer dead what ye'd do for mine, 'Liza?"

"Aye, aye, Anna, yer God's angel to yer frien's."

"Go an' fetch 'Liza Conlon, Jane Burrows and Marget Houston!" was Anna's
order to Jamie.

The women came at once. The plan was outlined, the labor apportioned and
they went to work. Jamie went for the carpenter and hired William Gainer
to dig the grave. Eliza Conlon made the shroud, Jane Burrows and Anna
washed and laid out the corpse, and Mrs. Houston kept Eliza in Anna's
bed until the preliminaries for the wake were completed.

"Ye can go now, Mrs. Houston," Anna said, "an' I'll mind 'Liza."

"The light's gone out o' m' home an' darkness fills m' heart, Anna, an'
it's the sun that'll shine for m' no more! Ochone, ochone!"

"'Liza dear, I've been where ye are now, too often not t' know that
aanything that aanybody says is jist like spittin' at a burnin' house t'
put it out. Yer boy's gone--we can't bring 'im back. Fate's cut yer
heart in two an' oul Docther Time an' the care of God are about the only
shure cures goin'."

"Cudn't the ministher help a little if he was here, Anna?"

"If ye think so I'll get him, 'Liza!"

"He might put th' love of God in me!"

"Puttin' th' love of God in ye isn't like stuffin' yer mouth with a
pirta, 'Liza!"

"That's so, it is, but he might thry, Anna!"

"Well, ye'll haave 'im."

Mr. Green came and gave 'Liza what consolation he could. He read the
appropriate prayer, repeated the customary words. He did it all in a
tender tone and departed.

"Ye feel fine afther that, don't ye, 'Liza?"

"Aye, but Henry's dead an' will no come back!"

"Did ye expect Mr. Green t' bring 'im?"

"No."

"What did ye expect, 'Liza?"

"I dunno."

"Shure ye don't. Ye didn't expect aanything an' ye got jist what ye
expected. Ah, wuman, God isn't a printed book t' be carried aroun' b' a
man in fine clothes, nor a gold cross t' be danglin' at the watch chain
ov a priest."

"What is he, Anna, yer wiser nor me; tell a poor craither in throuble,
do!"

"If ye'll lie very quiet, 'Liza--jist cross yer hands and listen--if ye
do, I'll thry!"

"Aye, bless ye, I'll blirt no more; go on!"

"Wee Henry is over there in his shroud, isn't he?"

"Aye, God rest his soul."

"He'll rest Henry's, 'Liza, but He'll haave the divil's own job wi'
yours if ye don't help 'im."

"Och, aye, thin I'll be at pace."

"As I was sayin', Henry's body is jist as it was yesterday, han's, legs,
heart an' head, aren't they?"

"Aye, 'cept cold an' stiff."

"What's missin' then?"

"His blessed soul, God love it."

"That's right. Now when the spirit laves th' body we say th' body's
dead, but it's jist a partnership gone broke, wan goes up an' wan goes
down. I've always thot that kissin' a corpse was like kissin' a cage
whin the bird's dead--_there's nothin' in it_. Now answer me this, 'Liza
Lecky: Is Henry a livin' spirit or a dead body?"

"A livin' spirit, God prosper it."

"Aye, an' God is th' same kind, but Henry's can be at but wan point at
once, while God's is everywhere at once. He's so big He can cover the
world an' so small He can get in be a crack in th' glass or a kayhole."

"I've got four panes broke, Anna!"

"Well, they're jist like four doores."

"Feeries can come in that way too."

"Aye, but feeries can't sew up a broken heart, acushla."

"Where's Henry's soul, Anna?" Eliza asked, as if the said soul was a
naavy over whom Anna stood as gaffer.

"It may be here at yer bedhead now, but yer more in need of knowin'
where God's Spirit is, 'Liza."

Jamie entered with a cup of tea.

"For a throubled heart," he said, "there's nothin' in this world like a
rale good cup o' tay."

"God bless ye kindly, Jamie, I've a sore heart an' I'm as dhry as a
whistle."

"Now Jamie, put th' cups down on th' bed," Anna said, "an' then get out,
like a good bhoy!"

"I want a crack wi' Anna, Jamie," Eliza said.

"Well, ye'll go farther an' fare worse--she's a buffer at that!"

Eliza sat up in bed while she drank the tea. When she drained her cup
she handed it over to Anna.

"Toss it, Anna, maybe there's good luck in it fur me."

"No, dear, it's a hoax at best; jist now it wud be pure blasphemy. Ye
don't need luck, ye need at this minute th' help of God."

"Och, aye, ye're right; jist talk t' me ov Him."

"I was talkin' about His Spirit when Jamie came in."

"Aye."

"It comes in as many ways as there's need fur its comin', an' that's
quite a wheen."

"God knows."

"Ye'll haave t' be calm, dear, before He'd come t' ye in aany way."

"Aye, but I'm at pace now, Anna, amn't I?"

"Well, now, get out here an' get down on th' floor on yer bare knees
and haave a talk wi' 'im."

Eliza obeyed implicitly. Anna knelt beside her.

"I don't know what t' say."

"Say afther me," and Anna told of an empty home and a sore heart. When
she paused, Eliza groaned.

"Now tell 'im to lay 'is hand on yer tired head in token that He's wi'
ye in yer disthress!"

Even to a dull intellect like Eliza's the suggestion was startling.

"Wud He do it, Anna?"

"Well, jist ask 'im an' then wait an' see!"

In faltering tones Eliza made her request and waited. As gently as falls
an autumn leaf Anna laid her hand on Eliza's head, held it there for a
moment and removed it.

"Oh, oh, oh, He's done it, Anna, He's done it, glory be t' God, He's
done it!"

"Rise up, dear," Anna said, "an' tell me about it."

"There was a nice feelin' went down through me, Anna, an' th' han' was
jist like yours!"

"The han' was mine, but it was God's too."

Anna wiped her spectacles and took Eliza over close to the window while
she read a text of the Bible. "Listen, dear," Anna said, "God's arm is
not shortened."

"Did ye think that an arm could be stretched from beyont th' clouds t'
Pogue's entry?"

"Aye."

"No, dear, but God takes a han' where ever He can find it and jist diz
what He likes wi' it. Sometimes He takes a bishop's and lays it on a
child's head in benediction, then He takes the han' of a dochter t'
relieve pain, th' han' of a mother t' guide her chile, an' sometimes He
takes th' han' of an aul craither like me t' give a bit comfort to a
neighbor. But they're all han's touch't be His Spirit, an' His Spirit is
everywhere lukin' fur han's to use."

Eliza looked at her open-mouthed for a moment.

"Tell me, Anna," she said, as she put her hands on her shoulders, "was
th' han' that bro't home trouts fur th' childther God's han' too?"

"Aye, 'deed it was."

"Oh, glory be t' God--thin I'm at pace--isn't it gran' t' think
on--isn't it now?"

Eliza Conlon abruptly terminated the conversation by announcing that all
was ready for the wake.

"Ah, but it's the purty corpse he is," she said, "--luks jist like
life!" The three women went over to the Lecky home. It was a one-room
place. The big bed stood in the corner. The corpse was "laid out" with
the hands clasped.

The moment Eliza entered she rushed to the bed and fell on her knees
beside it. She was quiet, however, and after a moment's pause she raised
her head and laying a hand on the folded hands said: "Ah, han's ov God
t' be so cold an' still!"

Anna stood beside her until she thought she had stayed long enough, then
led her gently away. From that moment Anna directed the wake and the
funeral from her chimney-corner.

"Here's a basket ov flowers for Henry, Anna, the childther gethered thim
th' day," Maggie McKinstry said as she laid them down on the
hearthstones beside Anna.

"Ye've got some time, Maggie?"

"Oh, aye."

"Make a chain ov them an' let it go all th' way aroun' th' body, they'll
look purty that way, don't ye think so?"

"Illigant, indeed, to be shure! 'Deed I'll do it." And it was done.

To Eliza Conlon was given the task of providing refreshments. I say
"task," for after the carpenter was paid for the coffin and Jamie Scott
for the hearse there was only six shillings left.

"Get whey for th' childther," Anna said, and "childther" in this catalog
ran up into the twenties.

For the older "childther" there was something from Mrs. Lorimer's public
house--something that was kept under cover and passed around late, and
later still diluted and passed around again. Concerning this item Anna
said: "Wather it well, dear, an' save their wits; they've got little
enough now, God save us all!"

"Anna," said Sam Johnson, "I am told you have charge of Henry's wake. Is
there anything I can do?"

Sam was the tall, imperious precentor of the Mill Row meeting-house. He
was also the chief baker of the town and "looked up to" in matters
relating to morals as well as loaves.

"Mister Gwynn has promised t' read a chapther, Mister Johnson. He'll
read, maybe, the fourteenth of John. If he diz, tell him t' go aisy over
th' twelth verse an' explain that th' works He did can be done in Antrim
by any poor craither who's got th' Spirit."

Sam straightened up to his full height and in measured words said:

"Ye know, no doubt, Anna, that Misther Gwynn is a Churchman an' I'm a
Presbyterian. He wouldn't take kindly to a hint from a Mill Row maan, I
fear, especially on a disputed text."

"Well, dear knows if there's aanything this oul world needs more than
another it's an undisputed text. Couldn't ye find us wan, Misther
Johnson?"

"All texts are disputed," he said, "but there are texts not in dispute."

"I think I could name wan at laste, Mister Johnson."

"Maybe."

"'Deed no, not maybe at all, but _sure-be_. Jamie dear, get m' th' Bible
if ye plaze."

While Jamie got the Bible she wiped her glasses and complained in a
gentle voice about the "mortal pity of it" that texts were pins for
Christians to stick in each other's flesh.

"Here it is," she said, "'Th' poor ye haave always with ye.'"

"Aye," Sam said, "an' how true it is."

"'Deed it's true, but who did He mane by 'ye'?"

"Th' world, I suppose."

"Not all th' world, by a spoonful, but a wheen of thim like Sandy
Somerville, who's got a signboard in front of his back that tells he
ates too much while the rest of us haave backbones that could as aisily
be felt before as behine!"

"So that's what you call an _undisputed_ text?"

She looked over the rim of her spectacles at him for a moment in
silence, and then said, slowly:

"Ochane--w-e-l-l--tell Mister Gwynn t' read what he likes, it'll mane
th' same aanyway."

Kitty Coyle came in. Henry and she were engaged. They had known each
other since childhood. Her eyes were red with weeping. Henry's mother
led her by the arm.

"Anna, dear," Eliza said, "she needs ye as much as me. Give 'er a bit ov
comfort."

They went into the little bedroom and the door was shut. Jamie stood as
sentry.

When they came out young Johnny Murdock, Henry's chum, was sitting on
Jamie's workbench.

"I want ye t' take good care of Kitty th' night, Johnny. Keep close t'
'er and when th' moon comes out take 'er down the garden t' get fresh
air. It'll be stuffy wi' all th' people an' the corpse in Lecky's."

"Aye," he said, "I'll do all I can." To Kitty she said, "I've asked
Johnny t' keep gey close t' ye till it's all over, Kitty. Ye'll
understand."

"Aye," Kitty said, "Henry loved 'im more'n aany maan on th' Lough!"

"Had tay yit?" Willie Withero asked as he blundered in on the scene.

"No, Willie, 'deed we haaven't thought ov it!"

"Well, t' haave yer bowels think yer throat's cut isn't sauncy!" he
said.

The fire was low and the kettle cold.

"Here, Johnny," Withero said, "jist run over t' Farren's for a ha'p'orth
ov turf an' we'll haave a cup o' tay fur these folks who're workin'
overtime palaverin' about th' dead! Moses alive, wan corpse is enough
fur a week or two--don't kill us all entirely!"

Shortly after midnight Anna went over to see how things were at the
wake. They told her of the singing of the children, of the beautiful
chapther by Misther Gwynn, and the "feelin'" by Graham Shannon. The whey
was sufficient and nearly everybody had "a dhrap o' th' craither" and a
bite of fadge.

"Ah, Anna dear," Eliza said, "shure it's yerself that knows how t' make
a moi'ty go th' longest distance over dhry throats an' empty stomachs!
'Deed it was a revival an' a faste in wan, an' th' only pity is that
poor Henry cudn't enjoy it!"

The candles were burned low in the sconces, the flowers around the
corpse had faded, a few tongues, loosened by stimulation, were still
wagging, but the laughter had died down and the stories were all told.
There had been a hair-raising ghost story that had sent a dozen home
before the _respectable_ time of departure. The empty stools had been
carried outside and were largely occupied by lovers.

Anna drew Eliza's head to her breast and pressing it gently to her said,
"I'm proud of ye, dear, ye've borne up bravely! Now I'm goin' t' haave
a few winks in th' corner, for there'll be much to do th' morra."

Scarcely had the words died on her lips when Kitty Coyle gave vent to a
scream of terror that brought the mourners to the door and terrified
those outside.

"What ails ye, in th' name of God?" Anna asked. She was too terrified to
speak at once. The mourners crowded closely together.

"Watch!" Kitty said as she pointed with her finger toward Conlon's
pigsty. Johnny Murdock had his arm around Kitty's waist to keep her
steady and assure her of protection. They watched and waited. It was a
bright moonlight night, and save for the deep shadows of the houses and
hedges as clear as day. Tensely nerve-strung, open-mouthed and wild-eyed
stood the group for what seemed to them hours. In a few minutes a white
figure was seen emerging from the pigsty. The watchers were transfixed
in terror. Most of them clutched at each other nervously. Old Mrs.
Houston, the midwife who had told the ghost story at the wake, dropped
in a heap. Peter Hannen and Jamie Wilson carried her indoors.

The white figure stood on the pathway leading through the gardens for a
moment and then returned to the sty. Most of the watchers fled to their
homes. Some didn't move because they had lost the power to do so. Others
just stood.

"It's a hoax an' a joke," Anna said. "Now wan of you men go down there
an' see!"

No one moved. Every eye was fixed on the pigsty. A long-drawn-out,
mournful cry was heard. It was all that tradition had described as the
cry of the Banshee.

"The Banshee it is! Ah, merciful God, which ov us is t' b' tuk, I
wondther?" It was Eliza who spoke, and she continued, directing her
talk to Anna, "An' it's th' long arm ov th' Almighty it is raychin' down
t' give us a warnin', don't ye think so now, Anna?"

"If it's wan arm of God, I know where th' other is, 'Liza!" Addressing
the terror-stricken watchers, Anna said:

"Stand here, don't budge, wan of ye!"

Along the sides of the houses in the deep shadow Anna walked until she
got to the end of the row; just around the corner stood the sty. In the
shadow she stood with her back to the wall and waited. The watchers were
breathless and what they saw a minute later gave them a syncope of the
heart that they never forgot. They saw the white figure emerge again and
they saw Anna stealthily approach and enter into what they thought was a
struggle with it. They gasped when they saw her a moment later bring the
white figure along with her. As she came nearer it looked limp and
pliable, for it hung over her arm.

"It's that divil, Ben Green!" she said as she threw a white sheet at
their feet.

"Hell roast 'im on a brandther!" said one.

"The divil gut 'im like a herrin'!" said another. Four of the younger
men, having been shamed by their own cowardice, made a raid on the sty,
and next day when Ben came to the funeral he looked very much the worse
for wear.

Ben was a friend of Henry's and a good deal of a practical joker. Anna
heard of what happened and she directed that he be one of the four men
to lower the coffin into the grave, as a moiety of consolation. Johnny
Murdock made strenuous objections to this.

"Why?" Anna asked.

"Bekase," he said, "shure th' divil nearly kilt Kitty be th' fright!"

"But she was purty comfortable th' rest of th' time?"

"Oh, aye."

"Ye lifted a gey big burden from 'er heart last night, didn't ye,
Johnny?"

"Aye; an' if ye won't let on I'll tell ye, Anna." He came close and
whispered into her ear: "Am goin' t' thry danged hard t' take th' heart
as well as th' throuble!"

"What diz Kitty think?"

"She's switherin'."



CHAPTER VI

THE APOTHEOSIS OF HUGHIE THORNTON


Anna was an epistle to Pogue's entry and my only excuse for dragging
Hughie Thornton into this narrative is that he was a commentary on Anna.
He was only once in our house, but that was an "occasion," and for many
years we dated things that happened about that time as "about," "before"
or "after" "the night Hughie stayed in the pigsty."

We lived in the social cellar; Hughie led a precarious existence in the
_sub-cellar_. He was the beggar-man of several towns, of which Antrim
was the largest. He was a short, thick-set man with a pock-marked face,
eyes like a mouse, eyebrows that looked like well-worn scrubbing
brushes, and a beard cropped close with scissors or a knife. He wore two
coats, two pairs of trousers and several waistcoats--all at the same
time, winter and summer. His old battered hat looked like a crow's nest.
His wardrobe was so elaborately patched that practically nothing at all
of the originals remained; even then patches of his old, withered skin
could be seen at various angles. The thing that attracted my attention
more than anything else about him was his pockets. He had dozens of them
and they were always full of bread crusts, scraps of meat and cooking
utensils, for like a snail he carried his domicile on his back. His
boots looked as if a blacksmith had made them, and for whangs (laces) he
used strong wire.

He was preëminently a citizen of the world. He had not lived in a house
in half a century. A haystack in summer and a pigsty in winter sufficed
him. He had a deep graphophone voice and when he spoke the sound was
like the creaking of a barn door on rusty hinges. When he came to town
he was to us what a circus is to boys of more highly favored
communities. There were several interpretations of Hughie. One was that
he was a "sent back." That is, he had gone to the gates of a less
cumbersome life and Peter or the porter at the other gate had sent him
back to perform some unfulfilled task. Another was that he was a
nobleman of an ancient line who was wandering over the earth in disguise
in search of the Grail. A third, and the most popular one, was that he
was just a common beggar and an unmitigated liar. The second
interpretation was made more plausible by the fact that he rather
enjoyed his reputation as a liar, for wise ones said: "He's jist lettin'
on."

On one of his semi-annual visits to Antrim, Hughie got into a barrel of
trouble. He was charged--rumor charged him--with having blinked a
widow's cow. It was noised abroad that he had been caught in the act of
"skellyin'" at her. The story gathered in volume as it went from mouth
to mouth until it crystallized as a crime in the minds of half a dozen
of our toughest citizens--boys who hankered for excitement as a hungry
stomach hankers for food. He was finally rounded up in a field adjoining
the Mill Row meeting-house and pelted with stones. I was of the
"gallery" that watched the fun. I watched until a track of blood
streaked down Hughie's pock-marked face. Then I ran home and told Anna.

"Ma!" I yelled breathlessly, "they're killin' Hughie Thornton!"

Jamie threw his work down and accompanied Anna over the little garden
patches to the wall that protected the field. Through the gap they went
and found poor Hughie in bad shape. He was crying and he cried like a
brass band. His head and face had been cut in several places and his
face and clothes were red.

They brought him home. A crowd followed and filled Pogue's entry, a
crowd that was about equally divided in sentiment against Hughie and
against the toughs.

I borrowed a can of water from Mrs. McGrath and another from the Gainers
and Anna washed old Hughie's wounds in Jamie's tub. It was a great
operation. Hughie of course refused to divest himself of any clothing,
and as she said afterwards it was like "dhressin' th' woonds of a
haystack."

One of my older brothers came home and cleared the entry, and we sat
down to our stir-about and buttermilk. An extra cup of good hot strong
tea was the finishing touch to the Samaritan act. Jamie had scant
sympathy with the beggar-man. He had always called him hard names in
language not lawful to utter, and even in this critical exigency was not
over tender. Anna saw a human need and tried to supply it.

"Did ye blink th' cow?" Jamie asked as we sat around the candle after
supper.

"Divil a blink," said Hughie.

"What did th' raise a hue-an'-cry fur?" was the next question.

"I was fixin' m' galluses, over Crawford's hedge, whin a gomeral luked
over an' says, says he:

"'Morra, Hughie!'

"'Morra, bhoy!' says I.

"'Luks like snow,' says he (it was in July).

"'Aye,' says I, 'we're goin' t' haave more weather; th' sky's in a bad
art'" (direction).

Anna arose, put her little Sunday shawl around her shoulders, tightened
the strings of her cap under her chin and went out. We gasped with
astonishment! What on earth could she be going out for? She never went
out at night. Everybody came to her. There was something so mysterious
in that sudden exit that we just looked at our guest without
understanding a word he said.

Jamie opened up another line of inquiry.

"Th' say yer a terrible liar, Hughie."

"I am that," Hughie said without the slightest hesitation. "I'm th'
champ'yun liar ov County Anthrim."

"How did ye get th' belt?"

"Aisy, as aisy as tellin' th' thruth."

"That's harder nor ye think."

"So's lyin', Jamie!"

"Tell us how ye won th' champ'yunship."

"Whin I finish this dhraw."

He took a live coal and stoked up the bowl of his old cutty-pipe. The
smacking of his lips could have been heard at the mouth of Pogue's
entry. We waited with breathless interest. When he had finished he
knocked the ashes out on the toe of his brogue and talked for nearly an
hour of the great event in which he covered himself with glory.

It was a fierce encounter according to Hughie, the then champion being a
Ballymena man by the name of Jack Rooney. Jack and a bunch of vagabonds
sat on a stone pile near Ballyclare when Hughie hove in sight. The
beggar-man was at once challenged to divest himself of half his clothes
or enter the contest. He entered, with the result that Ballymena lost
the championship! The concluding round as Hughie recited it was as
follows:

"I dhruv a nail throo th' moon wanst," said Jack.

"Ye did, did ye," said Hughie, "but did ye iver hear ov the maan that
climbed up over th' clouds wid a hammer in his han' an' clinched it on
th' other side?"

"No," said the champion.

"I'm him!" said Hughie.

"I'm bate!" said Jack Rooney, "an' begobs if I wor St. Peether I'd kape
ye outside th' gate till ye tuk it out agin!"

Anna returned with a blanket rolled up under her arm. She gave Hughie
his choice between sleeping in Jamie's corner among the lasts or
occupying the pigsty. He chose the pigsty, but before he retired I
begged Anna to ask him about the Banshee.

"Did ye ever really see a Banshee, Hughie?"

"Is there aanythin' a champ'yun liar haasn't seen?" Jamie interrupted.

"Aye," Hughie said, "'deed there is, he niver seen a maan who'd believe
'im even whin he was tellin' th' thruth!"

"That's broth for your noggin', Jamie," Anna said. Encouraged by Anna,
Hughie came back with a thrust that increased Jamie's sympathy for him.

"I'm undther yer roof an' beholdin' t' yer kindness, but I'd like t' ax
ye a civil quest'yun if I may be so bowld."

"Aye, go on."

"Did ye blow a farmer's brains out in th' famine fur a pint ov milk?"

"It's a lie!" Jamie said, indignantly.

"Well, me bhoy, there must b' quite a wheen, thrainin' fur me belt in
Anthrim!"

"There's something in that, Hughie!"

"Aye, somethin' Hughie Thornton didn't put in it!"

We youngsters were irritated and impatient over what seemed to us
useless palaver about minor details. We wanted the story and wanted it
at once, for we understood that Hughie went to bed with the crows and we
stood in terror lest this huge bundle of pockets with its unearthly
voice should vanish into thin air.

"D'ye know McShane?" he asked.

"Aye, middlin'."

"Ax 'im what Hughie Thornton towld 'im wan night be th' hour ov midnight
an' afther. Ax 'im, I say, an' he'll swear be th' Holy Virgin an' St.
Peether t' it!"

"Jist tell us aanyway, Hughie," Anna urged and the beggar-man proceeded.

"I was be th' oul Quaker graveyard be Moylena wan night whin th' shadows
fell an' bein' more tired than most I slipt in an' lay down be th' big
wall t' slape. I cros't m'self seven times an' says I--'God rest th'
sowls ov all here, an' God prosper th' sowl ov Hughie Thornton.' I wint
t' slape an' slept th' slape ov th' just till twelve be th' clock. I was
shuk out ov slape be a screech that waked th' dead!

"Och, be th' powers, Jamie, me hair stud like th' brisels on O'Hara's
hog. I lukt and what m' eyes lukt upon froze me blood like icicles
hingin' frum th' thatch. It was a woman in a white shift, young an'
beautiful, wid hair stramin' down her back. She sat on th' wall wid her
head in her han's keenin' an' moanin': 'Ochone, ochone!' I thried to
spake but m' tongue cluv t' th' roof ov m' mouth. I thried t' move a
han' but it wudn't budge. M' legs an' feet wor as stiff and shtrait as
th' legs ov thim tongs in yer chimley. Och, but it's th' prackus I was
frum top t' toe! Dead intirely was I but fur th' eyes an' th' wit behint
thim. She ariz an' walked up an' down, back an' fort', up an' down, back
an' fort', keenin' an' cryin' an' wringin' her han's! Maan alive, didn't
she carry on terrible! Purty soon wid a yell she lept into the
graveyard, thin she lept on th' wall, thin I heerd her on th' road,
keenin'; an' iverywhere she wint wor long bars of light like sunbames
streamin' throo th' holes in a barn. Th' keenin' become waker an' waker
till it died down like the cheep ov a willy-wag-tail far off be the ind
ov th' road.

"I got up an' ran like a red shank t' McShane's house. I dundthered at
his doore till he opened it, thin I towld him I'd seen th' Banshee!

"'That bates Bannagher!' says he.

"'It bates th' divil,' says I. 'But whose fur above th' night is what
I'd like t' know.'

"'Oul Misther Chaine,' says he, 'as sure as gun's iron!'"

The narrative stopped abruptly, stopped at McShane's door.

"Did oul Misther Chaine die that night?" Anna asked.

"Ax McShane!" was all the answer he gave and we were sent off to bed.

Hughie was escorted to the pigsty with his blanket and candle. What
Jamie saw on the way to the pigsty made the perspiration stand in big
beads on his furrowed brow. Silhouetted against the sky were several
figures. Some were within a dozen yards, others were farther away. Two
sat on a low wall that divided the Adair and Mulholland gardens. They
were silent and motionless, but there was no mistake about it. He
directed Anna's attention to them and she made light of it. When they
returned to the house Jamie expressed fear for the life of the
beggar-man. Anna whispered something into his ear, for she knew that we
were wide-awake. They went into their room conversing in an undertone.

The thing was so uncanny to me that it was three o'clock next morning
before I went to sleep. As early as six there was an unusual shuffling
and clattering of feet over the cobblestones in Pogue's entry. We knew
everybody in the entry by the sound of their footfall. The clatter was
by the feet of strangers.

I "dunched" my brother, who lay beside me, with my elbow.

"Go an' see if oul Hughie's livin' or dead," I said.

"Ye cudn't kill 'im," he said.

"How d'ye know?"

"I heerd a quare story about 'im last night!"

"Where?"

"In th' barber's shop."

"Is he a feerie?"

"No."

"What is he?"

"Close yer thrap an' lie still!"

Somebody opened the door and walked in.

I slid into my clothes and climbed down. It was Withero. He shook Anna
and Jamie in their bed and asked in a loud voice:

"What's all this palaver about an' oul throllop what niver earned salt
t' 'is pirtas?"

"Go on t' yer stone pile, Willie," Anna said, as she sat up in bed;
"what ye don't know will save docther's bills."

"If I catch m'self thinkin' aanythin' sauncy ov that aul haythen baste
I'll change m' name!" he said, as he turned and left in high dudgeon.

When I got to the pigsty there were several early callers lounging
around. "Jowler" Hainey sat on a big stone near the slit. Mary
McConnaughy stood with her arms akimbo, within a yard of the door, and
Tommy Wilson was peeping into the sty through a knot-hole on the side. I
took my turn at the hole. Hughie had evidently been awakened early. He
was sitting arranging his pockets. Con Mulholland came down the entry
with his gun over his shoulder. He had just returned from his vigil as
night watchman at the Greens and was going the longest way around to his
home.

He leaned his gun against the house side and lit his pipe. Then he
opened the sty door, softly, and said:

"Morra, Hughie."

"Morra, Con," came the answer, in calliope tones from our guest.

"Haave ye a good stock ov tubacca?" Con asked Hughie.

"I cud shtart a pipe shap, Con, fur be th' first strake ov dawn I found
five new pipes an' five half ounces ov tubacca inside th' doore ov th'
sty!"

"Take this bit too. Avic, ye don't come ofen," and he gave him a small
package and took his departure.

Eliza Conlon brought a cup of tea. Without even looking in, she pushed
the little door ajar, laid it just inside, and went away without a word.
Mulholland and Hainey seemed supremely concerned about the weather. From
all they said it was quite evident that each of them had "jist dhrapped
aroun' t' find out what Jamie thought ov th' prospects fur a fine day!"
Old Sandy Somerville came hatless and in his shirt-sleeves, his hands
deep in his pockets and his big watchchain dangling across what Anna
called the "front of his back." Sandy was some quality, too, and owned
three houses.

"Did aany o' ye see my big orange cat?" he asked the callers. Without
waiting for an answer he opened the door of the pigsty and peeped in.

By the time Hughie scrambled out there were a dozen men, women and boys
around the sty. As the beggar-man struggled up through his freight to
his feet the eyes of the crowd were scrutinizing him. Sandy shook hands
with him and wished him a pleasant journey.

Hainey hoped he would live long and prosper. As he expressed the hope he
furtively stuffed into one of Hughie's pockets a small package.

Anna came out and led Hughie into the house for breakfast. The little
crowd moved toward the door. On the doorstep she turned around and said:
"Hughie's goin' t' haave a cup an' a slice an' go. Ye can all see him in
a few minutes. Excuse me if I shut the doore, but Jamie's givin' the
thrush its mornin' bath an' it might fly out."

She gently closed the door and we were again alone with the guest.

"The luck ov God is m' portion here," he said, looking at Anna.

Nothing was more evident. His pockets were taxed to their full capacity
and those who gathered around the table that morning wished that the
"luck of God" would spread a little.

"Th' feeries must haave been t' see ye," Jamie said, eyeing his pockets.

"Aye, gey sauncy feeries, too!"

"Did ye see aany, Hughie?" Anna asked.

"No, but I had a wondtherful dhrame." The announcement was a
disappointment to us. We had dreams of our own and to have right at our
fireside the one man in all the world who _saw_ things and get merely a
dream from him was, to say the least, discouraging.

"I thocht I heer'd th' rat, tap; rat, tap, ov th' Lepracaun--th' feerie
shoemaker.

"'Is that th' Lepracaun?' says I. 'If it is I want m' three wishes.'
'Get thim out,' says he, 'fur I'm gey busy th' night.'

"'Soun' slape th' night an' safe journey th' morra,' says I.

"'Get yer third out or I'm gone,' says he.

"I scratched m' head an' swithered, but divil a third cud I think ov.
Jist as he was goin', 'Oh,' says I, 'I want a pig fur this sty!'

"'Ye'll git him!' says he, an' off he wint."

Here was something, after all, that gave us more excitement than a
Banshee story. We had a sty. We had hoped for years for a pig. We had
been forced often to use some of the sty for fuel, but in good times
Jamie had always replaced the boards. This was a real vision and we were
satisfied. Jamie's faith in Hughie soared high at the time, but a few
months later it fell to zero. Anna with a twinkle in her eye would
remind us of Hughie's prophecy. One day he wiped the vision off the
slate.

"T' h--l wi' Hughie!" he said. "Some night he'll come back an' slape
there, thin we'll haave a pig in th' sty shure!"

As he left our house that morning he was greeted in a most unusual
manner by a score of people who crowded the entry. Men and women
gathered around him. They inspected the wounds. They gave their blessing
in as many varieties as there were people present. The new attitude
toward the beggar baffled us. Generally he was considered a good deal of
a nuisance and something of a fraud, but that morning he was looked upon
as a saint--as one inspired, as one capable of bestowing benedictions on
the young and giving "luck" to the old. Out of their penury and want
they brought gifts of food, tobacco, cloth for patches and needles and
thread. He was overwhelmed and over-burdened, and as his mission of
gathering food for a few weeks was accomplished, he made for the town
head when he left the entry.

The small crowd grew into a big one and he was the center of a throng
as he made his way north. When he reached the town well, Maggie
McKinstry had several small children in waiting and Hughie was asked to
give them a blessing. It was a new atmosphere to him, but he bungled
through it. The more unintelligible his jabbering, the more assured were
the recipients of his power to bless. One of the boys who stoned him was
brought by his father to ask forgiveness.

"God save ye kindly," Hughie said to him. "Th' woonds ye made haave been
turned into blessin's galore!" He came in despised. He went out a saint.

It proved to be Hughie's last visit to Antrim. His going out of life was
a mystery, and as the years went by tradition accorded him an exit not
unlike that of Moses. I was amongst those the current of whose lives
were supposed to have been changed by the touch of his hand on that last
visit. Anna alone knew the secret of his alleged sainthood. She was the
author and publisher of it. That night when she left us with Hughie she
gathered together in 'Liza Conlon's a few "hand-picked" people whose
minds were as an open book to her. She told them that the beggar-man was
of an ancient line, wandering the earth in search of the Holy Grail, but
that as he wandered he was recording in a secret book the deeds of the
poor. She knew exactly how the news would travel and where. One
superstition stoned him and another canonized him.

"Dear," she said to me, many, many years afterwards. "A good thought
will thravel as fast an' as far as a bad wan if it gets th' right
start!"



CHAPTER VII

IN THE GLOW OF A PEAT FIRE


"It's a quare world," Jamie said one night as we sat in the glow of a
peat fire.

"Aye, 'deed yer right, Jamie," Anna replied as she gazed into the
smokeless flames.

He took his short black pipe out of his mouth, spat into the burning
sods and added: "I wondther if it's as quare t' everybody, Anna?"

"Ochane," she replied, "it's quare t' poor craithers who haave naither
mate, money nor marbles, nor chalk t' make th' ring."

There had been but one job that day--a pair of McGuckin's boots. They
had been half-soled and heeled and my sister had taken them home, with
orders what to bring home for supper.

The last handful of peat had been put on the fire. The cobbler's bench
had been put aside for the night and we gathered closely around the
hearth.

The town clock struck eight.

"What th' h--l's kapin' th' hussy!" Jamie said petulantly.

"Hugh's at a Fenian meeting more 'n likely an' it's worth a black eye
for th' wife t' handle money when he's gone," Anna suggested.

"More likely he's sleepin' off a dhrunk," he said.

"No, Jamie, he laves that t' the craithers who give 'im a livin'."

"Yer no judge o' human naiture, Anna. A squint out o' th' tail o' yer
eye at what McGuckin carries in front ov 'im wud tell ye betther if ye
had th' wits to obsarve."

Over the fire hung a pot on the chain and close to the turf coals sat
the kettle singing. Nothing of that far-off life has left a more
lasting impression than the singing of the kettle. It sang a dirge that
night, but it usually sang of hope. It was ever the harbinger of the
thing that was most indispensable in that home of want--a cup of tea.
Often it was tea without milk, sometimes without sugar, but always tea.
If it came to a choice between tea and bread, we went without bread.

Anna did not relish the reflection on her judgment and remained silent.

There was a loud noise at the door.

"Jazus!" Jamie exclaimed, "it's snowin'." Some one was kicking the snow
off against the door-post. The latch was lifted and in walked Felix
Boyle the bogman.

"What th' blazes are ye in th' dark fur?" Felix asked in a deep, hoarse
voice. His old rabbit-skin cap was pulled down over his ears, his head
and shoulders were covered with snow. As he shook it off we shivered.
We were in debt to Felix for a load of turf and we suspected he had
called for the money. Anna lit the candle she was saving for
supper-time. The bogman threw his cap and overcoat over in the corner on
the lasts and sat down.

"I'm frozen t' death!" he said as he proceeded to take off his brogues.
As he came up close to the coals, we were smitten with his foul breath
and in consequence gave him a wider berth. He had been drinking.

"Where's th' mare?" Anna asked.

"Gone home, th' bitch o' h--l," he said, "an' she's got m' load o' turf
wid 'er, bad cess t' 'er dhirty sowl!"

The town clock struck nine.

Felix removed his socks, pushed his stool aside and sat down on the mud
floor. A few minutes later he was flat on his back, fast asleep and
snoring loudly.

The fire grew smaller. Anna husbanded the diminishing embers by keeping
them closely together with the long tongs. The wind howled and
screamed. The window rattled, the door creaked on its hinges and every
few minutes a gust of wind came down the chimney and blew the ashes into
our faces. We huddled nearer the fire.

"Can't ye fix up that oul craither's head a bit?" Jamie asked. I brought
over the bogman's coat. Anna made a pillow of it and placed it under his
head. He turned over on his side. As he did so a handful of small change
rolled out of his pocket.

"Think of that now," Jamie said as he gathered it up and stuffed it back
where it belonged, "an oul dhrunken turf dhriver wi' money t' waste
while we're starvin'."

From that moment we were acutely hungry.

This new incident rendered the condition poignant.

"Maybe Mrs. Boyle an' th' wains are as hungry as we are," Anna
remarked.

"Wi' a bogful o' turf at th' doore?"

"Th' can't eat turf, Jamie!"

"Th' can warm their shins, that's more'n we can do, in a minute or
two."

The rapidly diminishing coals were arranged once more. They were a mere
handful now and the house was cold.

There were two big holes in the chimney where Jamie kept old pipes, pipe
cleaners, bits of rags and scraps of tobacco. He liked to hide a scrap
or two there and in times of scarcity make himself believe he _found_
them. His last puff of smoke had gone up the chimney hours ago. He
searched both holes without success. A bright idea struck him. He
searched for Boyle's pipe. He searched in vain.

"Holy Moses!" he exclaimed, "what a breath; a pint ov that wud make a
mule dhrunk!"

"Thry it, Jamie," Anna said, laughing.

"Thry it yerself,--yer a good dale more ov a judge!" he said
snappishly.

A wild gust of wind came down the chimney and blew the loose ashes off
the hearth. Jamie ensconced himself in his corner--a picture of despair.

"I wondther if Billy O'Hare's in bed?" he said.

"Ye'd need fumigatin' afther smokin' Billy's tobacco, Jamie!"

"I'd smoke tobacco scraped out o' the breeches-pocket ov th' oul divil
in hell!" he replied.

He arose, put on his muffler and made ready to visit the sweep. On the
way to the door another idea turned him back. He put on the bogman's
overcoat and rabbit-skin cap. Anna, divining his intention, said:

"That's th' first sign of sense I've see in you for a month of Sundays."

"Ye cudn't see it in a month ov Easther Sundays, aanyway," he retorted
with a superior toss of his head.

Anna kept up a rapid fire of witty remarks. She injected humor into the
situation and laughed like a girl, and although she felt the pangs more
keenly than any of us, her laughter was genuine and natural.

Jamie had his empty pipe in his mouth and by force of habit he picked up
in the tongs a little bit of live coal to light it. We all tittered.

"Th' h--l!" he muttered, as he made for the door. Before he reached it
my sister walked in. McGuckin wasn't at home. His wife couldn't pay. We
saw the whole story on her face, every pang of it. Her eyes were red and
swollen. Before she got out a sentence of the tale of woe, she noticed
the old man in Boyle's clothing and burst out laughing. So hearty and
boisterous was it that we all again caught the contagion and laughed
with her. Sorrow was deep-seated. It had its roots away down at the
bottom of things, but laughter was always up near the surface and could
be tapped on the slightest provocation. It was a by-valve--a way of
escape for the overflow. There were times when sorrow was too deep for
tears. But there never was a time when we couldn't laugh!

People in our town who expected visitors to knock provided a knocker.
The knocker was a distinct line of social demarcation. We lived below
the line. The minister and the tract distributor were the only persons
who ever knocked at our door.

Scarcely had our laughter died away when the door opened and there
entered in the sweep of a blizzard's tail Billy O'Hare. The gust of cold
winter wind made us shiver again and we drew up closer to the dying
fire--so small now as to be seen with difficulty.

"Be th' seven crosses ov Arbow, Jamie," he said, "I'm glad yer awake, me
bhoy, if ye hadn't I'd haave pulled ye out be th' tail ov yer shirt!"

"I was jist within an ace ov goin' over an' pullin' ye out be th' heels
myself."

The chimney-sweep stepped forward and, tapping Jamie on the forehead,
said:

"Two great minds workin' on th' same thought shud projuce wondtherful
results, Jamie; lend me a chew ov tobacco!"

"Ye've had larks for supper, Billy; yer jokin'!" Jamie said.

"Larks be damned," Billy said, "m' tongue's stickin' t' th' roof ov me
mouth!"

Again we laughed, while the two men stood looking at each
other--speechless.

"Ye can do switherin' as easy sittin' as standin'," Anna said, and Billy
sat down. The bogman's story was repeated in minutest detail. The sweep
scratched his sooty head and looked wise.

"It's gone!" Anna said quietly, and we all looked toward the fire. It
was dead. The last spark had been extinguished. We shivered.

"We don't need so many stools aanyway," Jamie said. "I'll get a hatchet
an' we'll haave a fire in no time."

"T' be freezin' t' death wi a bogman goin' t' waste is unchristian, t'
say th' laste," Billy ventured.

"Every time we get to th' end of th' tether God appears!" Anna said
reassuringly, as she pinned her shawl closer around her neck.

"There's nothin' but empty bowels and empty pipes in our house," the
sweep said, "but we've got half a dozen good turf left!"

"Well, it's a long lane that's got no turnin'--ye might lend us thim,"
Jamie suggested.

"If ye'll excuse m' fur a minit, I'll warm this house, an' may the
Virgin choke m' in th' nixt chimley I sweep if I don't!"

In a few minutes he returned with six black turf. The fire was rebuilt
and we basked in its warm white glow. The bogman snored on. Billy
inquired about the amount of his change. Then he became solicitous
about his comfort on the floor. Each suggestion was a furtive flank
movement on Boyle's loose change.

Anna saw the bent of his mind and tried to divert his attention.

"Did ye ever hear, Billy," she said, "that if we stand a dhrunk maan on
his head it sobers him?"

"Be the powers, no."

"They say," she said with a twinkle in her eyes, "that it empties him of
his contents."

"Aye," sighed the sweep, "there's something in that, Anna; let's thry it
on Boyle."

There was an element of excitement in the suggestion and we youngsters
hoped it would be carried out. Billy made a move to suit the action to
the thought, but Anna pushed him gently back. "Jamie's mouth is as
wathry as yours, Billy, but we'll take no short cuts, we'll go th' long
way around."

That seemed a death-blow to hope. My sisters began to whimper and
sniffle. We had many devices for diverting hunger. The one always used
as a last resort was the stories of the "great famine." We were
particularly helped by one about a family half of whom died around a pot
of stir-about that had come too late. When we heard Jamie say, "Things
are purty bad, but they're not as bad as they might be," we knew a
famine story was on the way.

"Hould yer horses there a minute!" Billy O'Hare broke in. He took the
step-ladder and before we knew what he was about he had taken a bunch of
dried rosemary from the roof-beams and was rubbing it in his hands as a
substitute for tobacco.

After rubbing it between his hands he filled his pipe and began to puff
vigorously.

"Wud ye luk at 'im!" Jamie exclaimed.

"I've lived with th' mother ov invintion since I was th' size ov a
mushroom," he said between the puffs, "an begorra she's betther nor a
wife." The odor filled the house. It was like the sweet incense of a
censer. The men laughed and joked over the discovery. The sweep indulged
himself in some extravagant, self-laudatory statements, one of which
became a household word with us.

"Jamie," he said as he removed his pipe and looked seriously at my
father, "who was that poltroon that discovered tobacco?" Anna informed
him.

"What'll become ov 'im whin compared wid O'Hare, th' inventor of th'
rosemary delection? I ax ye, Jamie, bekase ye're an honest maan."

"Heaven knows, Billy."

"Aye, heaven only knows, fur I'll hand down t' m' future ancestors the
O'Hara brand ov rosemary tobacco!"

"Wondtherful, wondtherful!" Jamie said, in mock solemnity.

"Aye, t' think," Anna said, "that ye invinted it in our house!"

We forgot our hunger pangs in the excitement. Jamie filled his pipe and
the two men smoked for a few minutes. Then a fly appeared in the
precious ointment. My father took his pipe out of his mouth and looked
inquisitively at Billy.

"M' head's spinnin' 'round like a peerie!" he exclaimed.

"Whin did ye ate aanything?" asked the sweep.

"Yestherday."

"Aye, well, it's th' mate ye haaven't in yer bowels that's makin' ye
feel quare."

"What's th' matther wi th' invintor?" Anna asked.

Billy had removed his pipe and was staring vacantly into space.

"I'm seein' things two at a time, b' Jazus!" he answered.

"We've got plenty of nothin' but wather, maybe ye'd like a good dhrink,
Billy?"

Before he could reply the bogman raised himself to a half-sitting
posture, and yelled with all the power of his lungs:

"Whoa! back, ye dhirty baste, back!" The wild yell chilled the blood in
our veins.

He sat up, looked at the black figure of the sweep for a moment, then
made a spring at Billy, and before any one could interfere poor Billy
had been felled to the floor with a terrible smash on the jaw. Then he
jumped on him. We youngsters raised a howl that awoke the sleepers in
Pogue's entry. Jamie and Billy soon overpowered Boyle. When the
neighbors arrived they found O'Hare sitting on Boyle's neck and Jamie on
his legs.

"Where am I?" Boyle asked.

"In the home of friends," Anna answered.

"Wud th' frien's donate a mouthful ov breath?"

He was let up. The story of the night was told to him. He listened
attentively. When the story was told he thrust his hand into his pocket
and brought forth some change.

"Hould yer han' out, ye black imp o' hell," he said to O'Hare. The sweep
obeyed, but remarked that the town clock had already struck twelve. "I
don't care a damn if it's thirteen!" he said. "That's fur bread, that's
fur tay, that's fur tobacco an' that's fur somethin' that runs down yer
throat like a rasp, _fur me_. Now don't let th' grass grow undther yer
flat feet, ye divil."

After some minor instructions from Anna, the sweep went off on his
midnight errand. The neighbors were sent home. The kettle replaced the
pot on the chain, and we gathered full of ecstasy close to the fire.

"Whisht!" Anna said. We listened. Above the roar of the wind and the
rattling of the casement we heard a loud noise.

"It's Billy thunderin' at Marget Hurll's doore," Jamie said.

O'Hare arrived with a bang! He put his bundles down on the table and
vigorously swung his arms like flails around him to thaw himself out.
Anna arranged the table and prepared the meal. Billy and Jamie went at
the tobacco. Boyle took the whiskey and said:

"I thank my God an' the holy angels that I'm in th' house ov timperance
payple!" Then looking at Jamie, he said:

"Here's t' ye, Jamie, an' ye, Anna, an' th' scoundthrel O'Hare, an'
here's t' th' three that niver bred, th' priest, th' pope, an' th'
mule!"

Then at a draft he emptied the bottle and threw it behind the fire,
grunting his satisfaction.

"Wudn't that make a corpse turn 'round in his coffin?" Billy said.

"Keep yer eye on that loaf, Billy, or he'll be dhrinkin' our health in
it!" Jamie remarked humorously.

Boyle stretched himself on the floor and yawned. The little table was
brought near the fire, the loaf was cut in slices and divided. It was a
scene that brought us to the edge of tears--tears of joy. Anna's face
particularly beamed. She talked as she prepared, and her talk was of
God's appearance at the end of every tether, and of the silver lining on
the edge of every cloud. She had a penchant for mottoes, but she never
used them in a siege. It was when the siege was broken she poured them
in and they found a welcome. As she spoke of God bringing relief, Boyle
got up on his haunches.

"Anna," he said, "if aanybody brot me here th' night it was th' oul
divil in hell."

"'Deed yer mistaken, Felix," she answered sweetly. "When God sends a
maan aanywhere he always gets there, even if he has to be taken there by
th' divil."

When all was ready we gathered around the table. "How I wish we could
sing!" she said as she looked at us. The answer was on every face.
Hunger would not wait on ceremony. We were awed into stillness and
silence, however, when she raised her hand in benediction. We bowed our
heads. Boyle crossed himself.

"Father," she said, "we thank Thee for sendin' our friend Felix here th'
night. Bless his wife an' wains, bless them in basket an' store an' take
good care of his oul mare. Amen!"



CHAPTER VIII

THE WIND BLOWETH WHERE IT LISTETH


I sat on a fence in a potato field, whittling an alder stick into a
pea-blower one afternoon in the early autumn when I noticed at the other
end of the field the well-known figure of "the master." He was dressed
as usual in light gray and as usual rode a fine horse. I dropped off the
fence as if I had been shot. He urged the horse to a gallop. I pushed
the clumps of red hair under my cap and pressed it down tightly on my
head. Then I adjusted the string that served as a suspender. On came the
galloping horse. A few more lightning touches to what covered my
nakedness and he reined up in front of me! I straightened up like a
piece of whalebone!

"What are you doing?" he asked in that far-off imperious voice of his.

"Kapin' th' crows off th' pirtas, yer honor!"

"You need a new shirt!" he said. The blood rushed to my face. I tried to
answer, but the attempt seemed to choke me.

"You need a new shirt!" he almost yelled at me. I saw a smile playing
about the corners of his fine large eyes. It gave me courage.

"Aye, yer honor, 'deed that's thrue."

"Why don't you get one?" The answer left my mind and traveled like a
flash to the glottis, but that part of the machinery was out of order
and the answer hung fire. I paused, drew a long breath that strained the
string. Then matching his thin smile with a thick grin I replied:

"Did yer honor iver work fur four shillin's a week and share it wid nine
others?"

"No!" he said and the imprisoned smile was released.

"Well, if ye iver do, shure ye'll be lucky to haave skin, let alone
shirt!"

"You consider yourself lucky, then?"

"Aye, middlin'."

He galloped away and I lay down flat on my back, wiped the sweat from my
brow with the sleeve of my jacket, turned the hair loose and eased up
the string.

That night at the first sound of the farm-yard bell I took to my heels
through the fields, through the yard and down the Belfast road to
Withero's stone-pile. Willie was just quitting for the day. I was almost
breathless, but I blurted out what then seemed to me the most important
happening in my life.

Willie took his eye-protectors off and looked at me.

"So ye had a crack wi' the masther, did ye?"

"Aye, quite a crack."

"He mistuk ye fur a horse!" he said. This damper on my enthusiasm drew
an instant reply.

"'Deed no, nor an ass naither."

Willie bundled up his hammers and prepared to go home. He took out his
flint and steel. Over the flint he laid a piece of brown paper,
chemically treated, then he struck the flint a sharp blow with the
steel, a spark was produced, the spark ignited the paper, it began to
burn in a smoldering, blazeless way, he stuffed the paper into the bowl
of his pipe, and began the smoke that was to carry him over the journey
home. I shouldered some of his hammers and we trudged along the road
toward Antrim.

"Throth, I know yer no ass, me bhoy, though Jamie's a good dale ov a
mule, but yer Ma's got wit enough fur the family. That answer ye gave
Misther Chaine was frum yer Ma. It was gey cute an'll git ye a job, I'll
bate."

I had something else to tell him, but I dreaded his critical mind. When
we got to the railway bridge he laid his hammers on the wall while he
relit his pipe. I saw my last opportunity and seized it.

"Say, Willie, did ye iver haave a feelin' that made ye feel fine all
over and--and--made ye pray?"

"I niver pray," he said. "These wathery-mouthed gossoons who pray air
jist like oul Hughie Thornton wi' his pockets bulgin' wi' scroof
(crusts). They're naggin at God from Aysther t' Christmas t' fill their
pockets! A good day's stone breakin's my prayer. At night I jist say,
'Thank ye, Father!' In th' mornin' I say 'Morra, Father, how's all up
aroun' th' throne this mornin'?'"

"An' does He spake t' ye back?"

"Ov coorse, d'ye think He's got worse manners nor me? He says, 'Hello,
Willie,' says He. 'How's it wi' ye this fine mornin'?' 'Purty fine,
Father, purty fine,' says I. But tell me, bhoy, was there a girl aroun'
whin that feelin' struck ye?"

"Divil a girl, at all!"

"Them feelin's sometimes comes frum a girl, ye know. I had wan wanst,
but that's a long story, heigh ho; aye, that's a long story!"

"Did she die, Willie?"

"Never mind her. That feelin' may haave been from God. Yer Ma hes a
quare notion that wan chile o' her'n will be inclined that way. She's
dhrawn eleven blanks, maybe she's dhrawn a prize, afther all; who
knows."

Old McCabe, the road mender, overtook us and for the rest of the journey
I was seen but not heard.

That night I sat by her side in the chimney-corner and recited the
events of the day. It had been full of magic, mystery and meaning to me.
The meaning was a little clearer to me after the recital.

"Withero sometimes talks like a ha'penny book wi' no laves in it," she
said. "But most of the time he's nearer the facts than most of us. It
isn't all blether, dear."

We sat up late, long after the others had gone to sleep. She read softly
a chapter of "Pilgrim's Progress," the chapter in which he is relieved
of his burden. I see now that woodcut of a gate and over the gate the
words: "Knock and it shall be opened unto you." She had read it before.
I was familiar with it, but in the light of that day's experience it had
a new meaning. She warned me, however, that my name was neither Pilgrim
nor Withero, and in elucidating her meaning she explained the phrase,
"The wind bloweth where it listeth." I learned to listen for the sound
thereof and I wondered from whence it came, not only the wind of the
heavens, but the spirit that moved men in so many directions.

The last act of that memorable night was the making of a picture. It
took many years to find out its meaning, but every stroke of the brush
is as plain to me now as they were then.

"Ye'll do somethin' for me?"

"Aye, aanything in th' world."

"Ye won't glunch nor ask questions?"

"Not a question."

"Shut yer eyes an' stan' close t' th' table." I obeyed. She put into
each hand a smooth stick with which Jamie had smoothed the soles of
shoes.

"Jist for th' now these are the handles of a plow. Keep yer eyes shut
tight. Ye've seen a maan plowin' a field?"

"Aye."

"Think that ye see a long, long field. Ye're plowin' it. The other end
is so far away ye can't see it. Ye see a wee bit of the furrow, jist a
wee bit. Squeeze th' plow handles." I squeezed.

"D'ye see th' trees yonder?"

"Aye."

"An' th' birds pickin' in th' furrow?"

"Ay-e."

She took the sticks away and gently pushed me on a stool and told me I
might open my eyes.

"That's quare," I said.

"Listen, dear, ye've put yer han' t' th' plow; ye must niver, niver take
it away. All through life ye'll haave thim plow handles in yer han's an'
ye'll be goin' down th' furrow. Ye'll crack a stone here and there, th'
plow'll stick often an' things'll be out of gear, but yer in th' furrow
all the time. Ye'll change horses, ye'll change clothes, ye'll change
yerself, but ye'll always be in the furrow, plowin', plowin', plowin'!
I'll go a bit of th' way, Jamie'll go a bit, yer brothers an' sisters a
bit, but we'll dhrap out wan b' wan. Ye're God's plowmaan."

As I stood to say good-night she put her hand on my head and muttered
something that was not intended for me to hear. Then she kissed me good
night and I climbed to my pallet under the thatch.

I was afraid to sleep, lest the "feelin'" should take wings. When I was
convinced that some of it, at least, would remain, I tried to sleep and
couldn't. The mingled ecstasy and excitement was too intense. I heard
the town clock strike the hours far into the morning.

Before she awoke next morning I had exhausted every agency in the house
that would coördinate flesh and spirit. When I was ready I tiptoed to
her bedside and touched her on the cheek. Instantly she awoke and sat
upright. I put my hands on my hips and danced before her. It was a
noiseless dance with bare feet on the mud floor.

Her long thin arms shot out toward me and I buried myself in them. "So
it stayed," she whispered in my ear.

"Aye, an' there's more of it."

She arose and dressed quickly. A live coal was scraped out of the ashes
and a turf fire built around it. My feet were winged as I flew to the
town well for water. When I returned she had several slices of toast
ready. Toast was a luxury. Of course there was always--or nearly
always--bread, and often there was butter, but toast to the very poor in
those days wasn't merely a matter of bread and butter, fire and time! It
was more often inclination that turned the balance for or against it,
and inclination always came on the back of some emotion, chance or
circumstance. Here all the elements met and the result was toast.

I took a mouthful of her tea out of her cup; she reciprocated. We were
like children. Maybe we were. Love tipped our tongues, winged our feet,
opened our hearts and hands and permeated every thought and act. She
stood at the mouth of the entry until I disappeared at the town head.
While I was yet within sight I looked back half a dozen times and we
waved our hands.

It was nearly a year before a dark line entered this spiritual spectrum.
It was inevitable that such a mental condition--ever in search of a
larger expression--should gravitate toward the Church. It has seemed
also that it was just as inevitable that the best thought of which the
Church has been the custodian should be crystallized into a creed. I was
promoted to the "big house." There, of course, I was overhauled and put
in touch with the fittings and furniture. As a flunkey I had my first
dose of boiled linen and I liked it.

I was enabled now to attend church and Sunday School. Indeed, I would
have gone there, religion or no religion, for where else could I have
sported a white shirt and collar? With my boiled linen and my brain
stuffed with texts I gradually drew away from the chimney-corner and
never again did I help Willie Withero to carry his hammers. Ah, if one
could only go back over life and correct the mistakes.

Gradually I lost the warm human feeling and substituted for it a
theology. I began to look upon my mother as one about whose salvation
there was some doubt. I urged her to attend church. Forms and ceremonies
became the all-important things and the life and the spirit were
proportionately unimportant. I became mildewed with the blight of
respectability. I became the possessor of a hard hat that I might ape
the respectables. I walked home every night from Ballycraigie with Jamie
Wallace, and Jamie was the best-dressed working man in the town. I was
treading a well-worn pathway. I was "getting on." A good slice of my new
religion consisted in excellency of service to my employers--my
"betters." Preacher, priest and peasant thought alike on these topics.
Anna was pleased to see me in a new garb, but she noticed and I noticed
that I had grown away from the corner. In the light of my new adjustment
I saw _duties_ plainer, but duty may become a hammer by which affection
may be beaten to death.

I imagined the plow was going nicely in the furrow, for I wasn't
conscious of striking any snags or stones, but Anna said:

"A plowman who skims th' surface of th' sod strikes no stones, dear, but
it's because he isn't plowin' _deep_!"

I have plowed deep enough since, but too late to go back and compare
notes.

She was pained, but tried to hide it. If she was on the point of tears
she would tell a funny story.

"Acushla," she said to me one night after a theological discussion,
"sure ye remind me of a ducklin' hatched by a hen."

"Why?"

"We're at home in conthrary elements. Ye use texts t' fight with an' I
use thim to get pace of heart!"

"Are you wiser nor Mr. Holmes, an' William Brennan an' Miss McGee?" I
asked. "Them's th' ones that think as I do--I mane I think as they do!"

"No, 'deed I'm not as wise as aany of thim, but standin' outside a wee
bit I can see things that can't be seen inside. Forby they haave no
special pathway t' God that's shut t' me, nor yer oul father nor Willie
Withero!"

Sometimes Jamie took a hand. Once when he thought Anna was going to cry,
in an argument, he wheeled around in his seat and delivered himself.

"I'll tell ye, Anna, that whelp needs a good argyment wi' th' tongs!
Jist take thim an' hit 'im a skite on the jaw wi' thim an' I'll say,
'Amen.'"

"That's no clinch to an argyment," I said, "an thruth is thruth!"

"Aye, an' tongs is tongs! An' some o' ye young upstarts whin ye get a
dickey on an' a choke-me-tight collar think yer jist ready t' sit down
t' tay wi' God!"

Anna explained and gave me more credit than was due me. So Jamie ended
the colloquy by the usual cap to his every climax.

"Well, what th' ---- do I know about thim things, aanyway. Let's haave a
good cup o' tay an' say no more about it!"

The more texts I knew the more fanatical I became. And the more of a
fanatic I was the wider grew the chasm that divided me from my mother. I
talked as if I knew "every saint in heaven and every divil in hell."

She was more than patient with me, though my spiritual conceit must have
given her many a pang. Antrim was just beginning to get accustomed to my
new habiliments of boots, boiled linen and hat when I left to "push my
fortune" in other parts. My enthusiasm had its good qualities too, and
she was quick to recognize them, quicker than to notice its blemishes.
My last hours in the town--on the eve of my first departure--I spent
with her. "I feel about you, dear," she said, laughing, "as Micky Free
did about the soul of his father in Purgatory. He had been payin' for
masses for what seemed to him an uncommonly long time. 'How's th' oul
bhoy gettin' on?' Micky asked the priest. 'Purty well, Micky, his head
is out.' 'Begorra, thin, I know th' rist ov 'im will be out soon--I'll
pay for no more masses!' Your head is up and out from the bottom of th'
world, and I haave faith that ye'll purty soon be all out, an' some day
ye'll get the larger view, for ye'll be in a larger place an' ye'll
haave seen more of people an' more of the world."

I have two letters of that period. One I wrote her from Jerusalem in the
year 1884. As I read the yellow, childish epistle I am stung with
remorse that it is full of the narrow sectarianism that still held me in
its grip. The other is dated Antrim, July, 1884, and is her answer to my
sectarian appeal.

"Dear boy," she says, "Antrim has had many soldier sons in far-off
lands, but you are the first, I think, to have the privilege of visiting
the Holy Land. Jamie and I are proud of you. All the old friends have
read your letter. They can hardly believe it. Don't worry about our
souls. When we come one by one in the twilight of life, each of us,
Jamie and I, will have our sheaves. They will be little ones, but we are
little people. I want no glory here or hereafter that Jamie cannot
share. I gave God a plowman, but your father says I must chalk half of
that to his account. Hold tight the handles and plow deep. We watch the
candle and every wee spark thrills our hearts, for we know it's a letter
from you.

"Your loving mother."



CHAPTER IX

"BEYOND TH' MEADOWS AN' TH' CLOUDS"


When the bill-boards announced that I was to deliver a lecture on
"England in the Soudan" in the only hall in the town, Antrim turned out
to satisfy its curiosity. "How doth this man know, not having learned,"
the wise ones said, for when I shook the dust of its blessed streets
from my brogues seven years previously I was an illiterate.

Anna could have told them, but none of the wise knew her, for curiously
enough to those who knew of her existence, but had never seen her, she
was known as "Jamie's wife." Butchers and bakers and candlestick makers
were there; several ministers, some quality, near quality, the
inhabitants of the entries in the "Scotch quarter" and all the newsboys
in town. The fact that I personally bribed the newsboys accounted for
their presence. I bought them out and reserved the front seats for them.
It was in the way of a class reunion with me. Billy O'Hare had gone
beyond--where there are no chimneys, and Ann where she could keep clean:
they were both dead. Many of the old familiar faces were absent, they
too had gone--some to other lands, some to another world. Jamie was
there. He sat between Willie Withero and Ben Baxter. He heard little of
what was said and understood less of what he heard. The vicar, Mr.
Holmes, presided. There was a vote of thanks, followed by the customary
seconding by public men, then "God save the Queen," and I went home to
tell Anna about it.

Jamie took one arm and Withero clung to the other.

"Jamie!" shouted Withero in a voice that could be heard by the crowd
that followed us, "d'ye mind th' first time I seen ye wi' Anna?"

"Aye, 'deed I do!"

"Ye didn't know it was in 'er, did ye, Jamie?"

"Yer a liar, Willie; I know'd frum th' minute I clapped eyes on 'er that
she was th' finest wuman on God's futstool!"

"Ye can haave whativer benefit ov th' doubt there is, Jamie, but jist
th' same any oul throllop can be a father, but by G-- it takes a rale
wuman t' be th' mother ov a rale maan! Put that in yer pipe an' smoke
it."

"He seems t' think," said Jamie, appealing to me, "that only quality can
projuce fine childther!"

"Yer spakin' ov clothes, Jamie; I'm spakin' ov mind, an' ye wor behind
th' doore whin th' wor givin' it out, but begorra, Anna was at th' head
ov th' class, an' that's no feerie story, naither, is it, me bhoy?"

At the head of Pogue's entry, Bob Dougherty, Tommy Wilson, Sam
Manderson, Lucinda Gordon and a dozen others stopped for a "partin'
crack."

The kettle was boiling on the chain. The hearth had been swept and a new
coat of whitening applied. There was a candle burning in her sconce and
the thin yellow rays lit up the glory on her face--a glory that was
encased in a newly tallied white cap. My sister sat on one side of the
fireplace and she on the other--in her corner. I did not wonder, I did
not ask why they did not make a supreme effort to attend the lecture--I
knew. They were more supremely interested than I was. They had never
heard a member of the family or a relative speak in public, and their
last chance had passed by. There they were, in the light of a peat fire
and the tallow dip, supremely happy.

The neighbors came in for a word with Anna. They filled the space. The
stools and creepies were all occupied.

"Sit down, Willie," my father said. "Take a nice cushioned chair an' be
at home." Withero was leaning against the table. He saw and was equal to
the joke.

"Whin nature put a pilla on maan, it was intinded fur t' sit on th'
groun', Jamie!" And down he sat on the mud floor.

"It's th' proud wuman ye shud be th' night," Marget Hurll said, "an
Misther Armstrong it was that said it was proud th' town shud be t' turn
out a boy like him!"

Withero took his pipe out of his mouth and spat in the ashes--as a
preface to a few remarks.

"Aye," he grunted, "I cocked m' ears up an' dunched oul Jamie whin
Armshtrong said that. Jamie cudn't hear it, so I whispered t' m'self,
'Begorra, if a wee fella turns _up_ whin Anthrim turns 'im out it's
little credit t' Anthrim I'm thinkin'!'"

Anna laughed and Jamie, putting his hand behind his ear, asked:

"What's that--what's that?"

The name and remarks of the gentleman who seconded the vote of thanks
were repeated to him.

"Ha, ha, ha!" he laughed as he slapped me on the knee. "Well, well,
well, if that wudn't make a brass monkey laugh!"

"Say," he said to me, "d'ye mind th' night ye come home covered wi'
clabber--"

"Whisht!" I said, as I put my mouth to his ear. "I only want to mind
that he had three very beautiful daughters!"

"Did ye iver spake t' aany o' thim?" Jamie asked.

"Yes."

"Whin?"

"When I sold them papers."

"Ha, ha, a ha'penny connection, eh?"

"It's betther t' mind three fine things about a maan than wan mean
thing, Jamie," Anna said.

"If both o' ye's on me I'm bate," he said.

"Stop yer palaver an' let's haave a story ov th' war wi' th' naygars in
Egypt," Mrs. Hurll said.

"Aye, that's right," one of the Gainer boys said. "Tell us what th'
queen give ye a medal fur!"

They wanted a story of blood, so I smeared the tale red. When I finished
Anna said, "Now tell thim, dear, what ye tuk th' shillin' fur!"

"You tell them, mother."

"Ye tuk it t' fight ignorance an' not naygars, didn't ye?"

"Yes, but that fight continues."

"Aye, with you, but--"

"Ah, never mind, mother, I have taken it up where you laid it down, and
long after--" that was far as I got, for Jamie exploded just then and
said:

"Now get t' h--l home, ivery wan o' ye, an' give 's a minute wi' 'im
jist for ourselves, will ye?"

He said it with laughter in his voice and it sounded in the ears of
those present as polite and pleasing as anything in the domain of their
amenities.

They arose as one, all except Withero, and he couldn't, for Jamie
gripped him by a leg and held him on the floor just as he sat.

In their good-night expressions the neighbors unconsciously revealed
what the lecture and the story meant to them. Summed up it meant, "Sure
it's jist wondtherful ye warn't shot!"

When we were alone, alone with Withero, Mary "wet" a pot of tea and
warmed up a few farrels of fadges! and we commenced. Little was said,
but feeling ran high. It was like a midnight mass. Anna was silent, but
there were tears, and as I held her in my arms and kissed them away
Jamie was saying to Withero:

"Ye might take 'im fur a dandther out where ye broke whin we first met
ye, Willie!"

"Aye," Willie said, "I'm m' own gaffer, I will that."

I slept at Jamie Wallace's that night, and next morning took the
"dandther" with Withero up the Dublin road, past "The Mount of
Temptation" to the old stone-pile that was no longer a pile, but a hole
in the side of the road. It was a sentimental journey that gave Willie a
chance to say some things I knew he wanted to say.

"D'ye mind the pirta sack throusers Anna made ye onct?"

"Yes, what of them?"

"Did ye iver think ye cud git used t' aanything if ye wor forced t'
haave nothin' else fur a while?"

"What's the point, Willie?"

"Sit down here awhile an' I'll tell ye."

We sat down on the bank of the roadside. He took out his pipe, steel and
flint, filled his pipe and talked as he filled.

"Me an' Jamie wor pirta sack people, purty damned rough, too, but yer Ma
was a piece ov fine linen frum th' day she walked down this road wi' yer
Dah till this minit whin she's waitin' fur ye in the corner. Ivery
Sunday I've gone in jist t' hai a crack wi' 'er an' d' ye know, bhoy, I
got out o' that crack somethin' good fur th' week. She was i' hell on
sayin' words purcisely, but me an' Jamie wor too thick, an' begorra she
got used t' pirta sack words herself, but she was i' fine linen jist th'
same.

"Wan day she says t' me, 'Willie,' says she, 'ye see people through
dirty specs.' 'How's that?' says I. 'I don't know,' says she, 'fur I
don't wear yer specs, but I think it's jist a poor habit ov yer mind.
Aych poor craither is made up ov some good an' much that isn't s' good,
an' ye see only what isn't s' good!'

"Thin she towld m' somethin' which she niver towld aanyone else, 'cept
yer Dah, ov coorse. 'Willie,' says she, 'fur twenty years I've seen th'
Son ov Maan ivery day ov m' life!'

"'How's that?' says I.

"'I've more'n seen 'm. I've made tay fur 'im, an' broth on Sunday. I've
mended 'is oul duds, washed 'is dhirty clothes, shuk 'is han', stroked
'is hair an' said kind words to 'im!'

"'God Almighty!' says I, 'yer goin' mad, Anna!' She tuk her oul Bible
an' read t' me these words; I mind thim well:

"'Whin ye do it t' wan o' these craithers ye do it t' me!'

"Well, me bhoy, I thunk an' I thunk over thim words an' wud ye believe
it--I begun t' clane m' specs. Wan day th' 'Dummy' came along t' m'
stone-pile. Ye mind 'er, don't ye?" (The Dummy was a harlot, who lived
in the woods up the Dublin road in summer, and Heaven only knows where
in winter.)

"Th' Dummy," Willie continued, "came over t' th' pile an' acted purty
gay, but says I, 'Dummy, if there's anythin' I kin give ye I'll give it,
but there's nothin' ye kin give me!'

"'Ye break stones fur a livin',' says she.

"'Aye,' says I.

"'What wud ye do if ye wor a lone wuman an' cudn't get nothin' at all t'
do?'

"'I dunno,' says I.

"'I don't want to argufy or palaver wi' a dacent maan,' says she, 'but
I'm terrible hungry.'

"'Luk here,' says I, 'I've got a dozen pirtas I'm goin' t' roast fur m'
dinner. I'll roast thim down there be that gate, an' I'll lave ye six
an' a dhrink ov butthermilk. Whin ye see m' lave th' gate ye'll know yer
dinner's ready.'

"'God save ye,' says she, 'may yer meal barrel niver run empty an' may
yer bread foriver be roughcasted wi' butther!'

"I begun t' swither whin she left. Says I, 'Withero, is yer specs clane?
Kin ye see th' Son ov Maan in th' Dummy?' 'Begorra, I dunno,' says I t'
m'self. I scratched m' head an' swithered till I thought m' brains wud
turn t' stone.

"Says I t' m'self at last, 'Aye, 'deed there must be th' spark there
what Anna talks about!' Jist then I heard yer mother's voice as plain as
I hear m' own now at this minute--an' what d'ye think Anna says?"

"I don't know, Willie."

"'So ye haave th' Son ov Maan t' dinner th' day?' 'Aye,' says I.

"'An' givin' 'im yer lavins!'

"It was like a piece ov stone cuttin' the ball ov m' eye. It cut deep!

"I ran down th' road an' says I t' th' Dummy, 'I'll tie a rag on a stick
an' whin ye see m' wavin' it come an' take yer dinner an' I'll take
what's left!'

"I didn't wait fur no answer, but went and did what I shud.

"That summer whin she was hungry she hung an oul rag on th' thorn hedge
down be the wee plantain where she camped, and I answered be a rag on a
stick that she cud share mine and take hers first. One day I towld 'er
yer mother's story about th' Son ov Maan. It was th' only time I ever
talked wi' 'er. That winther she died in th' poorhouse and before she
died she sint me this." He pulled out of an inside pocket a piece of
paper yellow with age and so scuffed with handling that the scrawl was
scarcely legible:


_M Withero_
  Stone breaker
    Dublin Road
      Antrim

"I seen Him in the ward last night and I'm content to go now. God save
you kindly.
                                                 THE DUMMY."


Withero having unburdened, we dandered down the road, through Masserene
and home.

I proposed to Anna a little trip to Lough Neagh in a jaunting car.

"No, dear, it's no use; I want to mind it jist as Jamie and I saw it
years an' years ago. I see it here in th' corner jist as plain as I saw
it then; forby Antrim wud never get over th' shock of seein' me in a
jauntin' car."

"Then I'll tell you of a shorter journey. You have never seen the
Steeple. It's the most perfect of all the Round Towers in Ireland and
just one mile from this corner. Now don't deny me the joy of taking you
there. I'll guide you over the strand and away back of the poorhouse,
out at the station, and then it's just a hundred yards or so!"

It took the combined efforts of Jamie, Withero, Mary and me to persuade
her, but she was finally persuaded, and dressed in a borrowed black
knitted cap and her wee Sunday shawl, she set out with us.

"This is like a weddin'," Jamie said, as he tied the ribbons under her
chin.

"Oh, it's worse, dear. It's a circus an' wake in wan, fur I'm about dead
an' he's turned clown for a while." In five minutes everybody in Pogue's
entry heard the news. They stood at the door waiting to have a look.

Matty McGrath came in to see if there was "aanythin'" she could do.

"Aye," Anna said, smiling, "ye can go over an' tell oul Ann Agnew where
I'm goin' so she won't worry herself t' death findin' out!"

"She won't see ye," Jamie said.

"She'd see a fly if it lit within a hundred yards of her!"

We went down the Kill entry and over the rivulet we called "the strand."
There were stepping stones in the water and the passage was easy. As we
crossed she said:

"Right here was th' first place ye ever came t' see th' sun dance on th'
water on Easter Sunday mornin'."

We turned to the right and walked by the old burying ground of the
Unitarian meeting-house and past Mr. Smith's garden. Next to Smith's
garden was the garden of a cooper--I think his name was Farren. "Right
here," I said, "is where I commited my first crime!"

"What was it?" she asked.

"Stealing apples!"

"Aye, what a townful of criminals we had then!"

We reached the back of the poorhouse. James Gardner was the master of
it, and "goin' t' Jamie Gardner" was understood as the last march of
many of the inhabitants of Antrim, beginning with "Totther Jack Welch,"
who was a sort of pauper _primus inter pares_ of the town.

As we passed the little graveyard, we stood and looked over the fence at
the little boards, all of one size and one pattern, that marked each
grave.

"God in Heaven!" she exclaimed, "isn't it fearful not to git rid of
poverty even in death!" I saw a shudder pass over her face and I turned
mine away.

Ten minutes later we emerged from the fields at the railway station.

"You've never seen Mr. McKillop, the station master, have you?" I asked.

"No."

"Let us wait here for a minute, we may see him."

"Oh, no, let's hurry on t' th' Steeple!" So on we hurried.

It took a good deal of courage to enter when we got there, for the
far-famed Round Tower of Antrim is _private property_. Around it is a
stone wall enclosing the grounds of an estate. The Tower stands near the
house of the owner, and it takes temerity in the poor to enter. They
seldom do enter, as a matter of fact, for they are not particularly
interested in archeology.

We timidly entered and walked up to the Tower.

"So that's th' Steeple!"

"Isn't it fine?"

"Aye, it's wondtherful, but wudn't it be nice t' take our boots off an'
jist walk aroun' on this soft nice grass on our bare feet?"

The lawn was closely clipped and as level as a billiard table. The trees
were dressed in their best summer clothing. Away in the distance we
caught glimpses of an abundance of flowers. The air was full of the
perfume of honeysuckle and sweet clover. Anna drank in the scenery with
almost childish delight.

"D'ye think heaven will be as nice?" she asked.

"Maybe."

"If it is, we will take our boots off an' sit down, won't we?" And she
laughed like a girl.

"If there are boots in the next world," I said, "there will be cobblers,
and you wouldn't want our old man to be a cobbler to all eternity?"

"You're right," she said, "nor afther spending seventy-five years here
without bein' able to take my boots off an' walk on a nice lawn like
this wud I care to spend eternity without that joy!"

"Do we miss what we've never had?"

"Aye, 'deed we do. I miss most what I've never had!"

"What, for instance?"

"Oh, I'll tell ye th' night when we're alone!"

We walked around the Tower and ventured once beneath the branches of a
big tree.

"If we lived here, d'ye know what I'd like t' do?"

"No."

"Jist take our boots off an' play hide and go seek--wudn't it be fun?"

I laughed loudly.

"Whisht!" she said. "They'll catch us if you make a noise!"

"You seem bent on getting your boots off!" I said laughingly. Her reply
struck me dumb.

"Honey," she said, so softly and looking into my eyes, "do ye realize
that I have never stood on a patch of lawn in my life before?"

Hand in hand we walked toward the gate, taking an occasional, wistful
glance back at the glory of the few, and thinking, both of us, of the
millions of tired feet that never felt the softness of a smooth green
sward.

At eight o'clock that night the door was shut _and barred_.

Jamie tacked several copies of the _Weekly Budget_ over the window and
we were alone.

We talked of old times. We brought back the dead and smiled or sighed
over them. Old tales, of the winter nights of long ago, were retold with
a new interest.

The town clock struck nine.

We sat in silence as we used to sit, while another sexton tolled off the
days of the month after the ringing of the curfew.

"Many's th' time ye've helter-skeltered home at th' sound of that bell!"
she said.

"Yes, because the sound of the bell was always accompanied by a vision
of a wet welt hanging over the edge of the tub!"

Jamie laughed and became reminiscent.

"D'ye mind what ye said wan time whin I bate ye wi' th' stirrup?"

"No, but I used to think a good deal more than I said."

"Aye, but wan time I laid ye across m' knee an' give ye a good
shtrappin', then stud ye up an' says I, 'It hurts me worse than it hurts
ye, ye divil!'

"'Aye,' says you, 'but it dizn't hurt ye in th' same place!'

"I don't remember, but from time immemorial boys have thought and said
the same thing."

"D'ye mind when _I_ bate ye?" Anna asked with a smile.

"Yes, I remember you solemnly promised Jamie you would punish me and
when he went down to Barney's you took a long straw and lashed me
fearfully with it!"

The town clock struck ten.

Mary, who had sat silent all evening, kissed us all good night and went
to bed.

I was at the point of departure for the New World. Jamie wanted to know
what I was going to do. I outlined an ambition, but its outworking was a
problem. It was beyond his ken. He could not take in the scope of it.
Anna could, for she had it from the day she first felt the movement of
life in me. It was unpretentious--nothing the world would call great.

"Och, maan, but that wud be th' proud day fur Anna if ye cud do it."

When the town clock struck eleven, Anna trembled.

"Yer cowld, Anna," he said. "I'll put on a few more turf."

"There's plenty on, dear; I'm not cold in my body."

"Acushla, m' oul hide's like a buffalo's or I'd see that ye want 'im t'
yerself. I'm off t' bed!"

We sat in silence gazing into the peat fire. Memory led me back down the
road to yesterday. She was out in the future and wandering in an unknown
continent with only hope to guide her. Yet we must get together, and
that quickly.

"Minutes are like fine gold now," she said, "an' my tongue seems glued,
but I jist must spake."

"We have plenty of time, mother."

"Plenty!" she exclaimed. "Every clang of th' town clock is a knife
cuttin' th' cords--wan afther another--that bind me t' ye."

"I want to know about your hope, your outlook, your religion," I said.

"Th' biggest hope I've ever had was t' bear a chile that would love
everybody as yer father loved me!"

"A sort of John-three-sixteen in miniature."

"Aye."

"The aim is high enough to begin with!"

"Not too high!"

"And your religion?"

"All in all, it's bein' kind an' lovin' kindness. _That_ takes in God
an' maan an' Pogue's entry an' th' world."

The town clock struck twelve. Each clang "a knife cutting a cord" and
each heavier and sharper than the last. Each one vibrating, tingling,
jarring along every nerve, sinew and muscle. A feeling of numbness crept
over me.

"That's the end of life for me," she said slowly. There was a pause,
longer and more intense than all the others.

"Maybe ye'll get rich an' forget."

"Yes, I shall be rich. I shall be a millionaire--a millionaire of love,
but no one shall ever take your place, dear!"

My overcoat served as a pillow. An old quilt made a pallet on the hard
floor. I found myself being pressed gently down from the low creepie to
the floor. I pretended to sleep. Her hot tears fell on my face. Her dear
toil-worn fingers were run gently through my hair. She was on her knees
by my side. The tender mysticism of her youth came back and expressed
itself in prayer. It was interspersed with tears and "Ave Maria!"

When the first streak of dawn penetrated the old window we had our last
cup of tea together and later, when I held her in a long, lingering
embrace, there were no tears--we had shed them all in the silence of
the last vigil. When I was ready to go, she stood with her arm on the
old yellow mantel-shelf. She was rigid and pale as death, but around her
eyes and her mouth there played a smile. There was a look ineffable of
maternal love.

"We shall meet again, mother," I said.

"Aye, dearie, I know rightly we'll meet, but ochanee, it'll be out there
beyond th' meadows an' th' clouds."



CHAPTER X

THE EMPTY CORNER


When I walked into Pogue's entry about fifteen years later, it seemed
like walking into another world--I was a foreigner.

"How quare ye spake!" Jamie said, and Mary added demurely:

"Is it quality ye are that ye spake like it?"

"No, faith, not at all," I said, "but it's the quality of America that
makes me!"

"Think of that, now," she exclaimed.

The neighbors came, new neighbors--a new generation, to most of whom I
was a tradition. Other boys and girls had left Antrim for America,
scores of them in the course of the years. There was a popular
supposition that we all knew each other.

"Ye see th' Wilson bhoys ivery day, I'll bate," Mrs. Hainey said.

"No, I have never seen any of them."

"Saints alive, how's that?"

"Because we live three thousand miles apart."

"Aye, well, shure that 'ud be quite a dandther!"

"It didn't take ye long t' git a fortune, did it?" another asked.

"I never acquired a fortune such as you are thinking of."

"Anna said ye wor rich!"

"Anna was right, I am rich, but I was the richest boy in Antrim when I
lived here."

They looked dumbfounded.

"How's that?" Mrs. Conner queried.

"Because Anna was my mother."

I didn't want to discuss Anna at that time or to that gathering, so I
gave the conversation a sudden turn and diplomatically led them in
another direction. I explained how much easier it was for a policeman
than a minister to make a "fortune" and most Irishmen in America had a
special bias toward law! Jamie had grown so deaf that he could only hear
when I shouted into his ear. Visitors kept on coming, until the little
house was uncomfortably full.

"Wouldn't it be fine," I shouted into Jamie's ear, "if Billy O'Hare or
Withero could just drop in now?"

"God save us all," he said, "th' oul days an' oul faces are gone
foriver." After some hours of entertainment the uninvited guests were
invited to go home.

I pulled Jamie's old tub out into the center of the floor and, taking my
coat off, said gently: "Now, good neighbors, I have traveled a long
distance and need a bath, and if you don't mind I'll have one at once!"

They took it quite seriously and went home quickly. As soon as the house
was cleared I shut and barred the door and Mary and I proceeded to
prepare the evening meal.

I brought over the table and put it in its place near the fire. In
looking over the old dresser I noticed several additions to the
inventory I knew. The same old plates were there, many of them broken
and arranged to appear whole. All holes, gashes, dents and cracks were
turned back or down to deceive the beholder. There were few whole pieces
on the dresser.

"Great guns, Mary," I exclaimed, "here are two new plates and a new cup!
Well, well, and you never said a word in any of your letters about
them."

"Ye needn't get huffed if we don't tell ye all the startlin' things!"
Mary said.

"Ah!" I exclaimed, "there's _her_ cup!" I took the precious thing from
the shelf. The handle was gone, there was a gash at the lip and a few
new cracks circling around the one I was familiar with twenty years
previously.

What visions of the past came to me in front of that old dresser! How
often in the long ago she had pushed that old cup gently toward me along
the edge of the table--gently, to escape notice and avoid jealousy.
Always at the bottom of it a teaspoonful of _her_ tea and beneath the
tea a bird's-eye-full of sugar. Each fairy picture of straggling tea
leaves was our moving picture show of those old days. We all had tea
leaves, but she had imagination. How we laughed and sighed and swithered
over the fortunes spread out all over the inner surface of that cup!

"If ye stand there affrontin' our poor oul delf all night we won't haave
aany tea at all!" Mary said. The humor had gone from my face and speech
from my tongue. I felt as one feels when he looks for the last time upon
the face of his best friend. Mary laughed when I laid the old cup on a
comparatively new saucer at my place. There was another laugh when I
laid it out for customs inspection in the port of New York. I had a set
of rather delicate after-dinner coffee cups. One bore the arms of
Coventry in colors; another had the seal of St. John's College, Oxford;
one was from Edinburgh and another from Paris. They looked aristocratic.
I laid them out in a row and at the end of the row sat the proletarian,
forlorn and battered--Anna's old tea-cup.

"What did you pay for this?" asked the inspector as he touched it
contemptuously with his official toe.

"Never mind what I paid for it," I replied, "it's valued at a million
dollars!" The officer laughed and I think the other cups laughed also,
but they were not contemptuous; they were simply jealous.

Leisurely I went over the dresser, noting the new chips and cracks,
handling them, maybe fondling some of them and putting them as I found
them.

"I'll jist take a cup o' tay," Jamie said, "I'm not feelin' fine."

I had less appetite than he had, and Mary had less than either of us. So
we sipped our tea for awhile in silence.

"She didn't stay long afther ye left," Jamie said, without looking up.
Turning to Mary he continued, "How long was it, aanyway, Mary?"

"Jist a wee while."

"Aye, I know it wasn't long."

"Did she suffer much?" I asked.

"She didn't suffer aany at all," he said, "she jist withered like th'
laves on th' threes."

"She jist hankered t' go," Mary added.

"Wan night whin Mary was asleep," Jamie continued, "she read over again
yer letther--th' wan where ye wor spakin' so much about fishin'."

"Aye," I said, "I had just been appointed missionary to a place called
the Bowery, in New York, and I wrote her that I was no longer her
plowman, but her _fisher of men_."

"Och, maan, if ye cud haave heard her laugh over th' different kinds ov
fishes ye wor catchin'! Iv'ry day for weeks she read it an' laughed an'
cried over it. That night she says t' me, 'Jamie,' says she, 'I don't
care s' much fur fishers ov men as I do for th' plowman.' 'Why?' says I.

"'Because,' says she, 'a gey good voice an' nice clothes will catch men,
an' wimen too, but it takes brains t' plow up th' superstitions ov th'
ignorant.'

"'There's somethin' in that,' says I.

"'Tell 'im whin he comes,' says she, 'that I put th' handles ov a plow
in his han's an' he's t' let go ov thim only in death.'

"'I'll tell 'm,' says I, 'but it's yerself that'll be here whin he
comes,' says I. She smiled like an' says she, 'What ye don't know,
Jamie, wud make a pretty big library.' 'Aye,' says I, 'I haaven't aany
doubt ov that, Anna.'"

"There was a loud knock at the door."

"Let thim dundther," Mary said. He put his hand behind his ear and asked
eagerly:

"What is 't?"

"Somebody's dundtherin'."

"Let thim go t' h----," he said angrily.

"Th' tuk 'im frum Anna last time, th' won't take 'im frum me an' you,
Mary."

Another and louder knock.

"It's Misthress Healy," came a voice. Again his hand was behind his ear.
The name was repeated to him.

"Misthress Healy, is it; well, I don't care a d--n if it was Misthress
Toe-y!"

For a quarter of a century my sister has occupied my mother's
chimney-corner, but it was vacant that night. She sat on my father's
side of the fire. He and I sat opposite each other at the table--I on
the same spot, on the same stool where I used to sit when her cup
toward the close of the meal came traveling along the edge of the table
and where her hand with a crust in it would sometimes blindly grope for
mine.

But she was not there. In all my life I have never seen a space so
empty!

My father was a peasant, with all the mental and physical
characteristics of his class. My sister is a peasant woman who has been
cursed with the same grinding poverty that cursed my mother's life.
About my mother there was a subtlety of intellect and a spiritual
quality that even in my ignorance was fascinating to me. I returned
equipped to appreciate it and she was gone. Gone, and a wide gulf lay
between those left behind, a gulf bridged by the relation we have to the
absent one more than by the relation we bore to each other.

We felt as keenly as others the kinship of the flesh, but there are
kinships transcendentally higher, nobler and of a purer nature than the
nexus of the flesh. There were things to say that had to be left unsaid.
They had not traveled that way. The language of my experience would have
been a foreign tongue to them. _She_ would have understood.

"Wan night be th' fire here," Jamie said, taking the pipe out of his
mouth, "she says t' me, 'Jamie,' says she, 'I'm clane done, jist clane
done, an' I won't be long here.'

"'Och, don't spake s' downmouth'd, Anna,' says I. 'Shure ye'll feel fine
in th' mornin'.'

"'Don't palaver,' says she, an' she lukt terrible serious.

"'My God, Anna,' says I, 'ye wudn't be lavin' me alone,' says I, 'I
can't thole it.'

"'Yer more strong,' says she, 'an' ye'll live till he comes back--thin
we'll be t'gether.'"

He stopped there. He could go no farther for several minutes.

"I hate a maan that gowls, but--"

"Go on," I said, "have a good one and Mary and I will wash the cups and
saucers."

"D'ye know what he wants t' help me fur?" Mary asked, with her mouth
close to his ear.

"No."

"He wants t' dhry thim so he can kiss _her_ cup whin he wipes it! Kiss
her _cup_, ye mind; and right content with that!"

"I don't blame 'im," said he, "I'd kiss th' very groun' she walked on!"

As we proceeded to wash the cups, Mary asked:

"Diz th' ministhers in America wash dishes?"

"Some of them."

"What kind?"

"My kind."

"What do th' others do?"

"The big ones lay corner-stones and the little ones lay foundations."

"Saints alive," she said, "an' what do th' hens do?"

"They clock" (hatch).

"Pavin' stones?"

"I didn't say pavin' stones!"

"Oh, aye," she laughed loudly.

"Luk here," Jamie said, "I want t' laugh too. Now what th' ---- is't yer
gigglin' at?"

I explained.

He smiled and said:

"Jazus, bhoy, that reminds me ov Anna, she cud say more funny things
than aany wan I iver know'd."

"And that reminds me," I said, "that the word you have just misused
_she_ always pronounced with a caress!"

"Aye, I know rightly, but ye know I mane no harm, don't ye?"

"I know, but you remember when _she_ used that word every letter in it
was dressed in its best Sunday clothes, wasn't it?"

"Och, aye, an' I'd thravel twinty miles jist t' hear aany wan say it
like Anna!"

"Well, I have traveled tens of thousands of miles and I have heard the
greatest preachers of the age, but I never heard any one pronounce it so
beautifully!"

"But as I was a-sayin' bhoy, I haaven't had a rale good laugh since she
died; haave I, Mary?"

"I haaven't naither," Mary said.

"Aye, but ye've had double throuble, dear."

"We never let trouble rob us of laughter when I was here."

"Because whin ye wor here she was here too. In thim days whin throuble
came she'd tear it t' pieces an' make fun ov aych piece, begorra. Ye
might glour an' glunch, but ye'd haave t' laugh before th' finish--shure
ye wud!"

The neighbors began to knock again. Some of the knocks were vocal and as
plain as language. Some of the more familiar gaped in the window.

"Hes he hed 'is bath yit?" asked McGrath, the ragman.

We opened the door and in marched the inhabitants of our vicinity for
the second "crack."

This right of mine own people to come and go as they pleased suggested
to me the thought that if I wanted to have a private conversation with
my father I would have to take him to another town.

The following day we went to the churchyard together--Jamie and I. Over
her grave he had dragged a rough boulder and on it in a straggling,
unsteady, amateur hand were painted her initials and below them his own.
He was unable to speak there, and maybe it was just as well. I knew
everything he wanted to say. It was written on his deeply furrowed face.
I took his arm and led him away.

Our next call was at Willie Withero's stone-pile. There, when I
remembered the nights that I passed in my new world of starched linen,
too good to shoulder a bundle of his old hammers, I was filled with
remorse. I uncovered my head and in an undertone muttered, "God forgive
me."

"Great oul bhoy was Willie," he said.

"Aye."

"Och, thim wor purty nice times whin he'd come in o' nights an' him an'
Anna wud argie; but they're gone, clane gone, an' I'll soon be wi'
thim."

I bade farewell to Mary and took him to Belfast--for a private talk.
Every day for a week we went out to the Cave hill--to a wild and lonely
spot where I had a radius of a mile for the sound of my voice. The thing
of all things that I wanted him to know was that in America I had been
engaged in the same fight with poverty that they were familiar with at
home. It was hard for him to think of a wolf of hunger at the door of
any home beyond the sea. It was astounding to him to learn that around
me always there were thousands of ragged, starving people. He just gaped
and exclaimed:

"It's quare, isn't it?"

We sat on the grass on the hillside, conscious each of us that we were
saying the things one wants to say on the edge of the grave.

"She speyed I'd live t' see ye," he said.

"She speyed well," I answered.

"Th' night she died somethin' wontherful happened t' me. I wasn't as
deef as I am now, but I was purty deef. D'ye know, that night I cud
hear th' aisiest whisper frum her lips--I cud that. She groped fur m'
han; 'Jamie,' says she, 'it's nearly over, dear.'

"'God love ye,' says I.

"'Aye,' says she, 'if He'll jist love me as ye've done it'll be fine.'
Knowin' what a rough maan I'd been, I cudn't thole it.

"'Th' road's been gey rocky an' we've made many mistakes.'

"'Aye,' I said, 'we've barged (scolded) a lot, Anna, but we didn't mane
it.'

"'No,' says she, 'our crock ov love was niver dhrained.'

"I brot a candle in an' stuck it in th' sconce so 's I cud see 'er
face."

"'We might haave done betther,' says she, 'but sich a wee house, so many
childther an' so little money.'

"'We war i' hard up,' says I.

"'We wor niver hard up in love, wor we?'

"'No, Anna,' says I, 'but love dizn't boil th' kittle.'

"'Wud ye rather haave a boilin' kittle than love if ye had t' choose?'

"'Och, no, not at all, ye know rightly I wudn't.'

"'Forby, Jamie, we've given Antrim more'n such men as Lord Massarene.'

"'What's that?' says I.

"'A maan that loves th' poorest craithers on earth an' serves thim.'

"She had a gey good sleep afther that."

"'Jamie,' says she whin she awoke, 'was I ravin'?'

"'Deed no, Anna,' says I.

"'I'm not ravin' now, am I?'

"'Acushla, why do ye ask sich a question?'

"'Tell 'im I didn't like "fisher ov men" as well as "th' plowman." It's
aisy t' catch thim fish, it's hard t' plow up ignorance an'
superstition--tell 'im that fur me, Jamie?'

"'Aye, I'll tell 'im, dear.'

"'Ye mind what I say'd t' ye on th' road t' Antrim, Jamie? That "love is
Enough"?'

"'Aye.'

"'I tell ye again wi' my dyin' breath.'

"I leaned over an' kiss't 'er an' she smiled at me. Ah, bhoy, if ye
could haave seen that luk on 'er face, it was like a picture ov th'
Virgin, it was that.

"'Tell th' childther there's only wan kind ov poverty, Jamie, an' that's
t' haave no love in th' heart,' says she.

"'Aye, I'll tell thim, Anna,' says I."

He choked up. The next thought that suggested itself for expression
failed of utterance. The deep furrows on his face grew deeper. His lips
trembled. When he could speak, he said:

"My God, bhoy, we had to beg a coffin t' bury 'er in!"

"If I had died at the same time," I said, "they would have had to do the
same for me!"

"How quare!" he said.

I persuaded him to accompany me to one of the largest churches in
Belfast. I was to preach there. That was more than he expected and the
joy of it was overpowering.

I do not remember the text, nor could I give at this distance of time an
outline of the discourse: it was one of those occasions when a man
stands on the borderland of another world. I felt distinctly the
spiritual guidance of an unseen hand. I took her theme and spoke more
for her approval than for the approval of the crowd.

He could not hear, but he listened with his eyes. On the street, after
the service, he became oblivious of time and place and people. He threw
his long lean arms around my neck and kissed me before a crowd. He hoped
Anna was around listening. I told him she was and he said he would like
to be "happed up" beside her, as he had nothing further to hope for in
life.

In fear and trembling he crossed the Channel with me. In fear lest he
should die in Scotland and they would not bury him in Antrim churchyard
beside Anna. We visited my brothers and sisters for several days. Every
day we took long walks along the country roads. These walks were full of
questionings. Big vital questions of life and death and immorality.
They were quaintly put:

"There's a lot of balderdash about another world, bhoy. On yer oath now,
d'ye think there is wan?"

"I do."

"If there is wud He keep me frum Anna jist because I've been kinda
rough?"

"I am sure He wouldn't!"

"He wudn't be s' d--d niggardly, wud He?"

"Never! God is love and love doesn't work that way!"

At the railway station he was still pouring in his questions.

"D'ye believe in prayer?"

"Aye."

"Well, jist ax sometimes that Anna an' me be together, will ye?"

"Aye."

A little group of curious bystanders stood on the platform watching the
little trembling old man clinging to me as the tendril of a vine clings
to the trunk of a tree.

"We have just one minute, Father!"

"Aye, aye, wan minute--my God, why cudn't ye stay?"

"There are so many voices calling me over the sea."

"Aye, that's thrue."

He saw them watching him and he feebly dragged me away from the crowd.
He kissed me passionately, again and again, on the lips. The whistle
blew.

"All aboard!" the guard shouted. He clutched me tightly and clung to me
with the clutch of a drowning man. I had to extricate myself and spring
on board. I caught a glimpse of him as the train moved out; despair and
a picture of death was on his face. His lips were trembling and his eyes
were full of tears.

       *     *     *     *     *

A few months later they lowered him to rest beside my mother. I want to
go back some day and cover them with a slab of marble, on which their
names will be cut, and these words:


"Love is Enough."



THE END



 +-----------------------------------+
 |Transcriber's Note:                |
 |Inconsistent hyphenization retained|
 +-----------------------------------+





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