Part 3 out of 8
thought of her and her big bamboo-cane. When she slapped the children,
the corners of her mouth went down and her large lips tightened and a
cruel glint came into her eyes!...
It was only during the reading half-hour that his mind was at ease in
school that week, for then he could let his thoughts roam from
Ballyards to Belfast, and fill his eyes with visions of Maggie. The
droning voices of the children, reading "Jack has got a cart and can
draw sand and clay in it," were almost soothing, and it was sufficient
for supervision, if now and then, he would call out, "Next!" The child
who was reading would instantly stop, and the child next to her would
It seemed to him that he had the clearest impressions of Maggie
Carmichael, and yet had also the vaguest impressions of her. He
remembered very distinctly that she had bright, laughing eyes, and that
her hair was fair, and that she had pretty teeth: white and even. He
had often read in books of the beauty of a woman's teeth, but he had
never paid much attention to them. After all, what was the purpose of
teeth? To bite. It was ridiculous, he had told himself, to talk and
write of beauty in teeth when all that mattered was whether they could
bite well or not.... But now, remembering the beauty of Maggie
Carmichael's mouth, he saw that the writers had done well when they
insisted on the beauty of teeth. Any sort of a good tooth would do for
biting and chewing, but there was something more than that to be said
for good, white, even teeth. If teeth were of no value otherwise than
for biting and chewing, false teeth were better than natural teeth!...
And false teeth were so hideous to look at; so smug, so self-conscious.
Aggie Logan had false teeth. So had Teeshie McBratney and Sadie
Cochrane. Things with pale gums!...
He had wanted to kiss Maggie Carmichael's teeth, so beautiful were
they. Just her teeth. It had been splendid to kiss her lips, but then
one always kissed lips. Men, according to the books, even kissed hair
and ears and eyes. He had read recently of a man who kissed a woman on
the neck, just behind the ear; and at the time he had thought that this
was a very queer thing to do. Love, he supposed, was responsible for a
thing like that. He could not account for it in any other way. He
understood _now_, of course. When a man loved a woman, every part
of her was very dear and beautiful to him, and to kiss her neck just
behind the ear was as exquisite as to kiss her lips. No one, in any of
the books he had read, had wished to kiss a woman's teeth. There were
still hidden joys in kissing ... and he had discovered one of them. He
would kiss Maggie's teeth on Saturday. He would kiss her lips, too, of
course, and her hair and her eyes and ears and the part of her neck
that was just behind her ear, but most of all he would kiss her
He thought that it was very strange that he should think so ardently of
kissing Maggie. He could have kissed Aggie Logan dozens of times, but
he had never had the slightest desire to kiss her. He remembered how
foolish he had thought her that night at the soiree when someone
proposed that they should play Postman's Knock. Aggie Logan had called
him out to the lobby. There was a letter for him, she said, with three
stamps on it. Three stamps! Did anyone ever hear the like of that? And
he was to go into the lobby and give her three kisses, one after the
other ... peck, peck, peck ... and then it would be his turn to call
for someone, and Aggie would expect him to call for her! ... Willie
Logan had called for a girl. He had a letter for her with fifty stamps
on it ... A great roar of laughter had gone up from the others when
they heard of the amount of the postage, and Willie was thought to be a
daring, desperate fellow ... until the superintendent of the Sunday
School said that there must be reason in all things and proposed a
limit of three stamps on each letter ... no person to be called for
more than twice in succession. Willie, boisterous and very amorous,
whispered to John that he did not care what limit they made ... no one
could tell how many extra stamps you put on your letter out in the
John had not answered Aggie's call. He had contrived to get out of the
school-room without being observed, and Aggie had been obliged to call
for someone else. Kissing!... Kiss her!... Three stamps!... Peck, peck,
Wednesday dragged itself out slowly and very reluctantly; Thursday was
worse than Wednesday; and Friday was only saved from being as bad as
Thursday by its nearness to Saturday. On the morrow, he would see
Maggie again. Many times during the week, he had debated with himself
as to whether he should write to her or not, but the difficulty of
knowing what to say to her, except that he loved her and was longing
for the advent of Saturday, prevented him front doing so. In any case,
it would be difficult to write to her without questions from his
mother, and if Maggie were to reply to him, there would be no end to
the talk from her. After all, a week was only a week. On Monday, a week
had seemed to be an interminable period of time, but on Friday, it had
resumed the normal aspect of a week, a thing with a definite and
reachable end. It was odd to observe how, as the week drew to its
close, the intolerable things became tolerable. Miss Gebbie seemed to
be a little less inhuman on Friday than she had been on Monday, and
Lizzie Turley marvellously recovered her power to add two and one
together and get the correct result. Beyond all doubt, he was in love.
There could not be any other explanation of his behaviour and his
peculiar impatience. That any man should conduct himself as he had done
during the week now ending, for any other reason than that he was in
love, was impossible. Why, he woke up in the morning, thinking of
Maggie, and he went to sleep at night, thinking of Maggie. He thought
of her when he was at school, and he thought of her in the street, in
the shop, in the kitchen, even in his Uncle Matthew's room. When it was
his turn to sit by Uncle Matthew's side, his mind, for more than half
the time, was in Belfast with Maggie. He had read more than a hundred
pages of _Willie Reilly_ to his Uncle, but he had not comprehended
one of them. He had been thinking exclusively of Maggie.
He wondered whether he would always be in this state of absorption.
Other people fell in love, as he knew, but they seemed to be able to
think of other things besides their love. Perhaps they were not so much
in love as he was! He began to see difficulties arising from this great
devotion of his to Maggie. It would be very hard to concentrate his
mind on a story if it were full of thoughts of her. He would probably
spoil any work he attempted to do, because his mind would not be on it,
but away with Maggie. In none of the books he had read, had he seen any
account of the length of time a pair of lovers took in which to get
used to each other and to adjust their affections to the ordinary needs
of life. He would never cease to love Maggie, of course, but he
wondered how long it would be before his mind would become capable of
thinking of Maggie and of something else at the same time ... or even
of thinking of something else without thinking of Maggie at all....
His mother had looked dubiously at him when he talked of going to
Belfast on Saturday. She said that he ought not to leave home while his
Uncle Matthew was so ill, but Dr. Dobbs had given a more optimistic
opinion on the sick man's condition, and so, after they had argued over
the matter, she withdrew her objection. Uncle William had insisted that
John ought to go up to the city for the sake of the change. The lad had
had a hard week, what with his school work and his writing and his
attention to Uncle Matthew, and the change would be good for him. "Only
don't miss the train this time," he added to John.
Maggie met him outside the theatre. He had not long to wait for her,
and his heart thrilled at the sight of her as she came round Arthur's
"So you have come," she said to him, as she shook hands with him.
"Did you think I wouldn't?" he answered.
"Oh, well," she replied, "you never know with fellows! Some of them
makes an appointment to meet you, and you'd think from the way they
talk about it that they were dying to meet you; and then when the time
comes, you might stand at the corner 'til your feet were frozen to the
ground, but not a bit of them would turn up. I'd never forgive a boy
that treated me that way!"
"I'm not the sort that treats a girl that way," said John.
"Oh, indeed you could break your word as well as the next! Many's a
time I've give my word to a fellow and broke it myself, just because I
didn't feel like keeping it. But it's different for a girl nor it is
for a fellow. There's no harm in a girl disappointing a fellow. I hear
this piece at the Royal is awfully good this week. It's about a girl
that nearly gets torn to pieces by a mad lion. I don't know whether I
like that sort of piece or not. It seems terrible silly, and it would
be awful if the hero come on a minute or two late and the girl was ate
up fornent your eyes!"
John laughed. "There's not much danger of that," he replied.
There were very few people waiting outside the Pit Door, and so they
were able to secure good seats with ease. "The best of coming in the
daytime," John said, "is you have a better chance of the front row than
you have at night!"
She nodded her head. "But it's better at night," she answered. "A piece
never seems real to me in the daylight."
"Where'll we go to-night?" he said to her.
"Oh, I can't go with you to-night again," she exclaimed, taking a
chocolate from the box which he had bought for her.
"I have another appointment!..."
"Break it," he commanded.
"I couldn't do that!..."
"Oh, yes, you could," he insisted. "You told me yourself you'd
disappointed fellows many's a time!"
"I daresay I did, but I can't break this one," she retorted.
Suspicion entered his mind. "Is it with another fellow?" he asked.
"Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies," she said.
"Is it?" he demanded.
"And what if it is?"
"I don't want you to go out with anybody else but me!"
She ate another chocolate. "Have one?" she said, passing the box to
him. He shook his head moodily. "Are you going to do what I ask or are
you not?" he said.
"Don't be childish," she replied. "I've promised a friend to go to a
concert to-night, and I'll have to go. That's all about it!"
"Is it a fellow?"
"Mebbe it is and mebbe it's not!" she teased.
"You know I'm in love with you!" She laughed lightly, and he bent his
head closer to her. "Listen, Maggie," he went on, "I know I only met
you for the first time last Saturday, but I'm terrible in love with
you. Listen! I want to marry you, Maggie!..."
She burst out laughing.
"Don't make a mock of me," he pleaded.
She turned to look at him. "What age are you?" she demanded.
"I'm near nineteen," he answered.
"And I'm twenty-two," she retorted. "Twenty-two past, I am. Four years
older nor you!..."
"That doesn't matter," he insisted.
"It wouldn't if the ages was the other way round ... you twenty-two and
"It doesn't matter what way they are. It's not age that matters: it's
"You'll feel different, mebbe, when you're a bit older. What would
people say if I was to marry you now, after meeting you a couple of
times, and you four years younger nor me?"
"It doesn't matter what they'd say," he replied. "Sure, people are
always saying something!"
She ruminated! "I like going out with you well enough, and you're a
queer, nice wee fellow, but it's foolish talk to be talking of getting
married. What trade are you at?"
"I'm a monitor," he answered. "I'm in my last year!..."
"You're still at the school," she said.
"I'm a monitor," he replied, insisting on his status.
"Och, sure that's only learning. When in the earthly world would you be
able to keep a wife?"
"I'm going to write books!..."
"What sort of books?"
"Story books," he said.
"Have you writ any yet?"
"No, but I wrote a short story once!"
She looked at him admiringly. "How much did you get for it?" she asked.
"I didn't get anything for it," he replied. "They wouldn't take it!"
She remained silent for a few moments. Then she said, "Your prospects
aren't very bright!"
"But they'll get brighter," he said. "They will. I tell you they will!"
"When?" she asked.
"Some day," he answered.
"Some day may be a long day in coming," she went on. "I might have to
wait a good while before you were able to marry me. Five or six years,
mebbe, and then I'd be getting on to thirty, John. You'd better be
looking out for a younger girl nor me!"
"I don't want anybody else but you," he replied.
When the play was over, they walked arm in arm towards the restaurant
where she was employed. "I promised Mrs. Bothwell we'd have our tea
there," Maggie said to John. "It put her in a sweet temper, the thought
of having two customers for certain. She'll mebbe give up that place.
It's not paying her well. She wasn't going to give me the time off at
first, but I told you were my cousin up from the country for the
"But I'm not your cousin," John objected.
"That doesn't matter. Sure, you have to tell a wee bit of a lie now and
again, or you'd never get your way at all. And it saves bother and
They crossed High Street and were soon at the foot of the stairs
leading up to Bothwell's Restaurant. "Mind," said Maggie in a whisper,
"you're my cousin!"
He did not speak, but followed her up the stairs and into the
restaurant where she introduced him to a plain, stoutly-built, but
cheerless woman who came from the small room into the large one as they
entered it. There was one customer in the room, but he finished his tea
and departed soon after Maggie and John arrived. In a little while, she
and he were eating their meal. John politely asked Mrs. Bothwell to
join them, but she declined.
She sat at a neighbouring table and talked to them of the play.
"I don't know when I was last at a theatre," she said, "and I don't
know when I'll go again. I always say to myself when I come away,
'Well, that's over and my money's spent and what satisfaction have I
got for it?' And when I think it all out, there doesn't seem to be any
satisfaction. You've spent your money, and the play's over, and that's
all. It seems a poor sort of return!'"
"You might say that about anything," John said. "A football match
or ... or one of these nice wee cookies of yours!"
"Oh, indeed, you might," Mrs. Bothwell admitted. "Sure, there's no
pleasure in the world that's lasting, and mebbe if there were we
wouldn't like it. You pay your good money for a thing, and you have it
a wee while, and then it's all over, and you have to pay more money for
something else. Or mebbe you have it a long while, only you're not
content with it. That's the way it always is. There's very little
satisfaction to be got out of anything. Look at the Albert Memorial!
That looks solid enough, but there's people says it'll tumble to the
ground one of these days with the running water that's beneath it!"
Maggie took a big bite from a cookie. "Oh, now, there's satisfaction in
everything," she said, "if you only go the right way about getting it
and don't expect too much. I always say you get as much in this world
as you're able to take ... and it's true enough. I know I take all in
the way of enjoyment that I can put my two hands on. There's no use in
being miserable, and it's nicer to be happy!"
"You're mebbe right." said Mrs. Bothwell. "But you can't just be
miserable or happy when you like. I can't anyway!"
"You should try," said Maggie.
Mrs. Bothwell went to the small room and did not return. John was glad
that her dissatisfaction with the universe did not make her oblivious
of the fact that Maggie and he were content enough with each other's
company and did not require the presence of a third party.
He leant across the table and took hold of one of Maggie's hands.
"You've not answered my question yet?" he said.
"What question?" she said.
"About going out with me," he replied.
"I'll go to the Royal with you next Saturday," she said.
"Ah, but for good! I mean it when I say I want to marry you!..."
"You're an awful wee fool," she exclaimed, drawing her hand from his
and slapping him playfully.
"Yes. I thought at first you were having me on, but I think now you're
only a wee fool. But I like you all the same!"
"Am I a fool for loving you?" he demanded.
"Oh, no, not for that, but for knowing so little!"
"Marry me, Maggie," he pleaded.
"Wheesht," she said, "Mrs. Bothwell will hear you!..."
"I don't care who hears!..."
"But I do," she interrupted. "You're an awful one for not caring.
You've said that more nor once to-day!" She glanced at the clock. "I'll
have to be going soon," she said.
"No, not yet awhile!..."
"But I will. I'll be late if I stop!..."
She began to draw on her gloves as she spoke.
"Well, when will I see you again?" he asked.
"Next Saturday if you like!..."
"Can I not see you before? I could come up to Belfast on Wednesday!..."
"I'm engaged on Wednesday," she said.
"Och, quit butting," she retorted. "I'll see you on Saturday and no
sooner. Pay Mrs. Bothwell and come on!..."
She insisted on leaving him at the Junction, and he moodily watched her
climbing into a tram. She waved her hand to him as the tram drove off,
and he waved his in reply. And then she was gone, and he had a sense of
loss and depression. He stared gloomily about him. What should he do
now? He might go to the Opera House or to one of the music-halls or he
might just walk about the streets....
He thought of what Mrs. Bothwell had said earlier in the day. "There's
very little satisfaction in anything!"
"There's a lot in that," he said to himself. "I'll go home," he
continued. "There's no pleasure in mouching round the town by
He got into a tram and was soon at the railway station. On the
platform, a little way in front of him, he saw Willie Logan, flushed
and excited, with two girls, one on either side of him. Willie had an
arm round each girl's waist.
"That fellow's getting plenty of fun anyway," John said, as he climbed
into an empty carriage. He did not wish to join Willie's party. He knew
too well what Willie was like: a noisy, demonstrative fellow,
indiscriminately amorous. "Nearly every girl's worth kissing," Willie
had said to him on one occasion. "If you can't get your bit of fun with
one woman, sure you can get it with another!"
Willie, in the carriage, would kiss one girl, John knew, and then would
turn and kiss the other, "just to show there's no ill will." He might
even invite John to kiss them in turn ... so that John might not feel
uncomfortable and "out of it." He would lie back in the carriage, his
big face flushed and his eyes bright with pleasure, an arm round each
of his companions, and when he was not kissing them, he would be
bawling out some song, or, at stations, hanging half out of the window
to chaff the porters and the station-master. "Get all you can," he
would say, "and do without the rest!"
But John was not a promiscuist: he was a monopolist. He put the whole
of his strength into his love for one woman, and he demanded a similar
singleness of devotion from her. His mind was full of Maggie, but he
felt that she had cast him out of her mind the moment that the tram
bore her out of his sight.
"I'll make her want me," he said, tightening his fists. "I'll make her
want me 'til she's heartsore with wanting!"
THE FIFTH CHAPTER
Uncle Matthew died three days later. He slipped out of life without
ostentation or murmur. "The MacDermotts are not afeard to die," he had
said to John at the beginning of his illness, and in that spirit he had
died. In the morning, he had asked Mrs. MacDermott to look for _Don
Quixote_ in the attic and bring it to him, and she had done so. He
had tried to read the book, but it was too heavy for him--his strength
was swiftly going from him--and it had fallen from his hands on to the
quilt and then had rolled on to the floor.
"I can't hold it," he murmured.
"Will I read it to you?" she said to him.
"Yes, if you please!" he said.
It was a badly-bound book, printed in small, eye-tormenting type,
and it was difficult to hold; but she made no complaint of these
things, and for an hour or so, she read to Uncle Matthew. She put
the book down when his breathing denoted that he was asleep, but
she did not immediately go from the room. She sat for a time, looking
at the delicate face on the pillow, and then she picked the book
up again and began to examine it, turning the pages over slowly,
reading here and reading there, and examining the illustrations closely.
There was a puzzled look on her face, and the flesh, between her
eyebrows was puckered and deeply lined. She put the book down on
her lap and looked intently in front of her, as if she were considering
some problem. She picked the book up again, and once more turned over
the pages and examined the pictures; but she did not appear to find
any solution of her problem as she did so, for she put the book down
on the dressing-table and left it there. She bent over the sleeping
man for a few moments, listening to his breathing, and then she went
out of the room leaving the door ajar.
And while she was downstairs, Uncle Matthew died. He had not wakened
from his sleep. He seemed to be exactly in the same position as he was
when she left the room. He was not breathing ... that was all. She
called to Uncle William, and he came quickly up the stairs.
"Is anything wrong?" he said anxiously.
"Matt's dead!" she replied.
He stood still.
"Shut the shop," she said, "and send for John and the doctor!"
He did not move.
She touched him on the shoulder. "Do you hear me, William?"
He started. "Aye," he said, "I hear you right enough!"
But he still remained in the room, gazing blindly at his brother. Then
he went over to the bed and sat down and cried.
"Poor William!" said Mrs. MacDermott, putting her arms around him.
John wrote to Maggie Carmichael to tell her of his Uncle's death. It
would not be possible for him to keep his engagement with her on the
following Saturday. She sent a thinly-written note of sympathy to him,
telling him that she would not expect to see him for a while because of
his bereavement. "_You'll not be in the mood for enjoying yourself at
present,_" she wrote, "_and I daresay you would prefer to stay at
home at present. I expect you'll miss your Uncle terribly!--_"
Indeed, he did miss his Uncle terribly!
There was a strange quietness in the house before the day of the
burial, which was natural, but it was maintained after Uncle Matthew
had been put in the grave where John's father lay. Uncle William's
quick, loud voice became hushed and slow and sometimes inaudible, and
Mrs. MacDermott went about her work with few words to anyone. John had
come on her, an hour or two before the coffin lid was screwed down,
putting a book in Uncle Matthew's hands. He saw the title of it ...
_Don Quixote_ ... and he said to her, "What are you doing, ma?"
She looked up quickly and hesitated. "Nothing!" she answered, and
suddenly aware that she did not wish to be observed, he went away and
left her alone. It seemed to him afterwards that she resented his
knowledge of what she had done ... that she looked at him sometimes as
if she were forbidding him ever to speak of it ... but she did not talk
of it. She spoke as seldom as Uncle William did, and it seemed to John
that the voice had been carried out of the house when Uncle Matthew had
been carried to the graveyard. He felt that he could not endure the
oppression of this silence any longer, that he must, speak to someone,
and, in his search for comfort, his mind wandered in search of Maggie
Carmichael with intenser devotion than he had ever experienced before.
If only Uncle Matthew were alive, John could talk to him of Maggie.
Uncle Matthew would listen to him. Uncle Matthew always had listened to
him. He had never shown any impatience when John had talked to him of
this scheme and that scheme, and he would not have mocked his love for
Maggie. How queer a thing it was that Uncle Matthew who had seemed to
be the least important person in the house should have so ... so
stifled the rest of them by his death!
Uncle William, who bore the whole burden of maintaining the family,
mourned for Uncle Matthew as if he had lost his support; and Mrs.
MacDermott began to talk, when she talked at all, of the things that
Matt had liked. Matt liked this and Matt liked that ... and yet she had
seemed not merely to disregard Uncle Matthew when he was alive, but
actually to dislike him. Uncle Matthew must have had a stronger place
in the house than any of them had imagined. John could not bear to go
to the attic now, although he wished to turn over the books which were
now his. It was in the attic that Uncle Matthew had found most of his
happiness, in the company of uncomplaining, unreproachful books, and
the memory of that happiness had drawn John to the attic one day when
he most missed his Uncle. He had handled the books very fondly, turning
over pages and pausing now and then to read a passage or two ... and
while he had turned the pages of an old book with faded, yellow leaves,
he had found a cutting from a Belfast newspaper. It contained a report
of the police proceedings against Uncle Matthew, and it was headed,
STRANGE BEHAVIOUR OF A BALLYARDS MAN!... John hurriedly put the book
down and went out of the room. He had not shed a tear over Uncle
Matthew. He did not wish to cry over him. He felt that Uncle Matthew
would like his mourners to have dry eyes ... but it was hard not to cry
when one read that bare, uncomprehending account of Uncle Matthew's
chivalrous act. _Strange_ behaviour, the reporter named it, when
every instinct in John demanded that it should be called _noble_
behaviour. Was a man to be called a fool because his heart compelled
him to perform an act of simple loyalty?... _Strange behaviour_!
John seized the cutting and crumpled it in his hand. Then he
straightened it out again and tore it in pieces. Were people so poor in
faith and devotion that they could not recognise the nobility of what
Uncle Matthew had done? And for that act of goodness, Uncle Matthew had
gone to his grave under stigma. "Poor sowl," they said in Ballyards,
"it's a merciful release for him. He was always quare in the head!"
John could not stay in the house with his memories of Uncle Matthew,
and so he went for walks along the shores of the Lough, to Cubbinferry
and Kirklea or turning coastwards, towards Millreagh and Holmesport;
but there was no comfort to be found in these walks. He returned from
them, tired in body, but unrested in mind. He tried to write another
story, but he had to put the pen and ink and paper away again, and he
told himself that he had no ability to write a story. Wherever he went
and whatever he did, the loss of Uncle Matthew pressed upon him and
left him with a sense of impotence, until at last, his nature, weary of
its own dejection, turned and demanded relief. And so he set his
thoughts again on Maggie Carmichael, and each day he found himself,
more and more, thinking of her until, after a while, he began to think
only of her. He had written to her a second time, but she had not
answered his letter. He remembered that she had protested against her
incompetence as a correspondent. "I'm a poor hand at letter-writing,"
she had said laughingly. She could talk easily enough, but she never
knew what to put in a letter, and anyhow it was a terrible bother to
write one. A letter would be a poor substitute for her, he told
himself. He must see her soon. Mourning or no mourning, he would go to
Belfast on the next Saturday and would see her. It would not be
possible for him to take her to a theatre, but she and he could go for
a long walk or they could sit together in the restaurant and talk to
each other. This loneliness and silence was becoming unendurable: he
must get away from the atmosphere of loss and mourning into an
atmosphere of life and love. Uncle Matthew would wish him to do that.
He felt certain that Uncle Matthew would wish him to do that. Uncle
Matthew would hate to think of his nephew prowling along the roads in
misery and suffering when his whole desire had been that he should have
opportunity and satisfaction. He had bequeathed his property and his
money "to my beloved nephew John MacDermott," and John had been deeply
moved by the affection that glowed through the legal phraseology of the
will. It was not yet known how much money there would be, for Mr.
McGonigal, the solicitor, had not completed his account of Uncle
Matthew's affairs; but the amount of it could not be very large. That
was immaterial to John. What mattered to him was that his Uncle's love
for him had never flickered for a moment, but had shone steadily and
surely until the day of his death.
"I never told anyone but him about Maggie," John thought. "I'm glad I
told him ... and I know he'd want me to go to her now!"
And so, late on Friday evening, he resolved that he would go to Belfast
on the following day. He sent a short note to Maggie, addressing it to
the restaurant, in which he told her that he would call for her on
Saturday. He begged that she would go for a walk with him. "_We might
go to the Cave Hill_," he wrote, "_and be back in plenty of time
He crossed the Lagan in the ferry-boat, so impatient was he to get
quickly to Maggie, but when he reached the restaurant, Maggie was not
there. He stood in the doorway, looking about the large room, but there
was no one present, for it was too early yet for mid-day meals. Maggie
was probably engaged in the small room at the back of the restaurant
and would presently appear. It was Mrs. Bothwell who came to answer his
"Oh, good morning!" he said, trying to keep the note of disappointment
out of his voice.
"Good morning," she answered.
"It's a brave day!"
"It's not so bad," she grudgingly admitted.
"Is ... is Maggie in?" he asked.
"In!" she exclaimed, looking at him with astonishment plain on her
"Yes. Isn't she in? She's not sick or anything, is she?" he replied
"Oh, dear bless you, no! She's not sick," Mrs. Bothwell said. "Do you
mean to say you don't know where she is?"
"No, I ... I don't, Mrs. Bothwell!" There was a note of apprehension in
his voice. "I thought, she'd be here!"
"But haven't you been to the house?"
"No," he answered. "I've just arrived from Ballyards this minute.
What's wrong, Mrs. Bothwell!"
"There's nothing wrong that I know of. Only I don't understand you not
knowing about it. Why aren't you at the church?"
"Aye. Sure, I'd be there myself only I can't leave the shop. I'm glad
she's getting a fine day for it anyway!"
John touched her on the arm. "I don't understand what you're talking
about, Mrs. Bothwell," he said. "What's happening!"
"Didn't you know she's being married the day on a policeman?..."
"Married!" he exclaimed incredulously.
"Aye. She's been going with him this long while back, and now that he's
been promoted ... they've made him a sergeant ... they've got married.
She's done well for herself. How is it you didn't know about it, and
you and her such chums together?"
"Did I hear you saying she's getting married the day?" he murmured,
gazing at her in a stupefied fashion.
"That's what. I keep on telling you," she replied, "only you don't pay
no heed to me. I thought you were her cousin!..."
"No, I'm not her cousin," he answered. "I was ... I was going with her.
That's all. I'm sorry to have bothered you, Mrs. Bothwell!"
"Oh, it's no bother at all. She must have been having you on, for the
banns was up at St. George's this three weeks!..."
"St. George's!" he repeated.
"Aye, these three weeks. She had a fancy to be married in St. George's
Church, for all it's a ritualistic place, and people says they're going
fast to Popery there. But I don't wonder at her, for it's quare and
nice to see the wee boys in their surplices, singing the hymns!..."
He interrupted her. "Three weeks ago," he said, as if calculating.
"That must have been soon after I met her for the first time. I met her
here in this room, Mrs. Bothwell. I'd been to the Royal to see a play,
and I came in here for my tea, and I struck up to her for I liked her
"Oh, she's a nice enough looking girl is Maggie, though looks is not
everything," Mrs. Bothwell interjected.
"She never told me!..."
"Oh, well, if it comes to that, you never told her anything about
yourself, did you?" Mrs. Bothwell demanded. "I suppose she thought you
were just a fellow out for a bit of fun, and she might as well have a
bit of fun, too!"
"But I wasn't out for fun," he exclaimed. "I was in earnest!"
"That's where you made your mistake," said Mrs. Bothwell. "I'm sorry
for you, but sure you're young enough not to take a thing like that to
heart, and she's not the only girl in the world by a long chalk. By the
time you're her age, she'll have a child or two, and'll mebbe be
feeling very sorry for herself ... and you'll have the world fornent
you still! A young fellow like you isn't going to let a wee thing like
that upset you?"
"It isn't a wee thing, Mrs. Bothwell. It's a big thing," he insisted.
"Och, sure, everything's big looking 'til you see something bigger. One
of these days you'll be wondering what in the earthly world made you
think twice about her!"
He turned away from her and moved towards the door, but suddenly he
remembered the letter which he had written to Maggie on the previous
"Did a letter for her come this morning?" he said, turning again to
Mrs. Bothwell. "I wrote to her last night to tell her I was coming up
"One did come," she answered. "I put it in the kitchen, intending to
re-address it when I had a minute to spare. I'll go and get it. I
suppose you don't want it sent on to her now?"
"No, I don't. It was only to tell her I'd meet her here!"
"Well, I'll bring it to you then." She went into the kitchen and
presently returned, carrying John's letter in her hand. "Is this it?"
she said. "It's got the Ballyards postmark on it."
He took it from her. "Yes, that's it," he replied, tearing it in
pieces. "Could I trouble you to put it in the fire," he said, handing
the torn paper to her.
"It's no trouble at all," she answered, taking the pieces from him.
"Good morning, Mrs. Bothwell!" he said.
"Well, good morning to you!"
He opened the door and was about to pass out of the restaurant when she
spoke to him again.
"I wouldn't let a thing like that upset me if I was you," she said.
"Sure, what's one girl more nor another girl! You'll get your pick and
choice before long. A fine fellow like you'll not go begging for
"I'm not letting it upset me," he said, "but it'll be the queer girl
that'll make a fool of me in a hurry!"
"That's the spirit,'"' said Mrs. Bothwell.
He walked down the stairs and into the street in a state of fury. He
had been treated as if he were a corner-boy.
Willie Logan, who was any girl's boy, could not have been treated so
contemptuously as he, who had never cared for any other girl, had been
treated. She had married a policeman ... _a peeler!_ She might as
well have married a soldier or a militia-man. A MacDermott had been
rejected in favour of a peeler! She had gone straight from his embraces
to the embraces of a policeman ... a common policeman. She had refused
to meet him on a Wednesday, he remembered, because, probably, she had
engaged to meet the peeler on that evening. He would be off duty then!
While she was yielding her lips to John, she was actually engaged to be
married to ... to a policeman! By heaven!...
What a good and fortunate thing it was that he had not spoken of her to
anyone except to Uncle Matthew! If anyone were to know that a
MacDermott had fallen in love with a girl who had preferred to marry a
peeler ... _a peeler_, mind you! ... they would split their sides
laughing. What a humiliation! What an insufferable thing to have
happened to him! That was your love for you! That was your romance for
you! ... Och! Och, och!! This was a lesson for him, indeed. No more
love or romance for him. Willie Logan could run after girls until the
soles dropped off his boots, but John MacDermott would let the girls do
the running after him in future. No girl would ever get the chance
again to throw him over for ... for a _peeler!_ If that was their
love, they could keep their love!...
He walked about the town until, after a while, he found himself at the
Theatre Royal. Still raging against Maggie, he paid for a seat in the
pit. He had forgotten that he was in mourning, and he remembered only
that he was a jilted lover, a MacDermott cast aside for a policeman. He
sat through the first act of the play, without much comprehension of
its theme. Then in the middle of the second act, he heard the heroine
vowing that she loved the hero, and he got up and walked out of the
"I could write a better play than that with one hand tied behind my
back," he said to himself. "Her and her love!"
He walked rapidly from the theatre, conscious of hunger, for he had
omitted to get a meal before going into the theatre, but he was
unwilling to forego the pleasure of starving himself as a sign of his
humiliation. He made his way towards Smithfield and stopped in front of
a bookstall. A couple of loutish lads were fingering a red-bound book
as he approached the stall, and he heard them tittering in a sneaky,
furtive fashion as he drew near. The owner of the stall emerged from
the back of his premises, and when they saw him, they hurriedly put the
book down and walked away. John glanced at it and read the title on the
cover: The Art of Love by Ovid.
"Love!" he exclaimed aloud. "Ooo-oo-oo!"
The streets were full of young men and women intent on an evening's
pleasure, and as he hurried away from Smithfield Market towards the
railway station, he received bright glances from girls who were willing
to make friends with him. He scowled heavily at them, and when they
looked away to other men, he filled his mind with sneers and bitter
thoughts. A few hours before, these young girls would have seemed to
him to be very beautiful and innocent, but now they appeared to him to
be deceitful and wicked. Each evening, he told himself, these girls
came out of their houses in search of "boys" whom they lured into
love-making, teasing and tormenting them, until at last they tired of them
and sent them empty away. That was your love for you! Uncle Matthew had
dreamed of romantic love, and John had set out to find it, and behold,
what was it! A girl's frolic, a piece of feminine sport, in which the
girl had the fun and the boy had the humiliation and pain. Maggie could
go from him, her lips still warm with his kisses, to her policeman ...
and take kisses from him! There might be other hoaxed lovers ... if she
had one, why not have two or three or four ... and his kisses might
have meant no more to her than the kisses of half-a-dozen other men.
Well, he had learned his lesson! No more love for him....
He crossed the Queen's Bridge, and when he reached the station, he came
upon Willie Logan, moodily gazing at the barriers which were not yet
open. John, undesirous of society, nodded to him and would have gone
away, but Willie suddenly caught hold of his arm.
"I want to speak to you a minute, John!" he said thickly.
The smell of drink drifted from him.
"What about?" John answered sourly.
"Come over here 'til a quiet place," Willie said, still holding John's
arm, and drawing him to a seat at the other end of the station. "Sit
here 'til the gates is open," he added, as he sat down.
"Is there anything up?" John demanded.
"Aye," Willie replied in a bewildered voice. "John, man, I'm in
"Sore disgrace, John. I don't know what my da and ma'll say to me at
all when they hear about it. Such a thing!..."
"Well, what is it?"
"Do you know a wee girl called Jennie Roak?" John shook his head. "Her
aunt lives in Ballyards ... Mrs. Cleeland!..."
"Oh, yes. Is that her aunt?"
"Aye. Well, me an' her has been going out together for a wee while
past, and she says now she's goin' to have a child!"
John burst into laughter.
"What the hell are you laughing at?" Willie demanded angrily.
"I was thinking it doesn't matter whether it's one girl or a dozen
you're after, you'll get into bother just the same!"
"Aye, but what am I to do, John? I'll have to tell the oul' fella, and
he'll be raging mad when he hears about it. He's terrible against that
sort of thing, and dear knows I'm an awful one for slipping into
trouble. I can not keep away from girls, John, and that's the God's
truth of it. And I've been brought up as respectable as anybody.
Jennie's in an awful state about it!"
"I daresay," said John.
"She says I'll have to marry her over the head of it, but sure I don't
want to get married at all ... not yet, anyway. I don't know what to
do. I'll have to tell the oul' lad and he'll have me scalded with his
tongue. I suppose I'll have to marry her. It's a quare thing a fella
can't go out with a girl without getting into bother. I wish to my
goodness I had as much control over myself as you have!"
"Control!" said John.
"Aye. You'll never get into no bother!"
"Huh!" said John.
The barriers were opened, and Willie and John passed through on to the
platform, and presently seated themselves in a carriage.
"This'll be a lesson to me," said Willie, lying back against the
cushions of the carriage. "Not to be running after so many girls in
John did not make any answer to him. He let his thoughts wander out of
the carriage. He had loved Maggie Carmichael deeply, and she had served
him badly; and Willie Logan, who treated girls in a light fashion, was
complaining now because one girl had loved him too well. And that was
your love for you! That was the high romantical thing of which Uncle
Matthew had so often spoken and dreamed...
He came out of his thoughts suddenly, for Willie Logan was shaking him.
There was a glint in Willie Logan's eye!...
"I say, John," he said, "come on into the next carriage! There's two
quare nice wee girls just got in!"
"No," said John.
"Ah, come on," Willie coaxed.
"No," John almost shouted.
"Well, stay behind then. I'll have the two to myself," Willie
exclaimed, climbing out of the carriage as he spoke.
"That lad deserves all he gets," John thought.
His mother called to him as he passed through the kitchen on his way to
the attic where his Uncle Matthew's books were stored.
"Your Uncle William's wanting a talk with you," she said. "Mr.
McGonigal's been here about the will!"
"I'll be down in a wee while," John replied as he climbed the stairs.
He wished to sit in some quiet place until he had composed his mind
which was still disturbed. He had hoped to have the railway compartment
to himself after Willie Logan had left it, but two drovers had
hurriedly entered it as the train was moving out of the station, and
their noisy half-drunken talk had prevented him from thinking with
composure. Willie Logan's loud laughter, accompanied by giggles and the
sound of scuffling, penetrated from the next compartment....
In the attic, there would be quietness.
He entered the room and stood among the disordered piles of books that
lay about the floor. A mania for rearrangement had seized hold of him
one day, but he had done no more than take the books from their shelves
and leave them in confused heaps. He had promised that he would make
the attic tidy again, when his mother complained of the room's
disarray. His mind would become quiet, perhaps, if he were to spend a
little time now in replacing the books on the shelves in the order in
which he wished them to be. He sat down on the floor and contemplated
them. Most of these volumes, new and old, were concerned with the love
of men for women. It seemed impossible to escape from the knowledge of
this passion in any book that one might read. Love made intrusions even
into the history books, and bloody wars had been fought and many men
had been slain because of a woman's beauty or to gratify her whim. Even
in the Bible!...
He remembered that Uncle Matthew had told him that the Song of Solomon
was a real love song or series of songs, and not, as the headlines to
the chapters insisted, an allegorical description of Christ's love for
the Church. There was a Bible lying near to his hand, and he picked it
up and turned the pages until he reached the Song of Songs which is
called Solomon's, and he hurriedly read through it as if he were
searching for sentences.
_I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the
lilies. Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem,
terrible as an army with banners!_
So the woman sang. Then the man, less abstract than the woman, sang in
_How beautiful are thy feet with shoes, O Prince's daughter: the
joints of thy thighs are like jewels, the work of the hands of a
cunning workman. Thy navel is like a round goblet which wanted not
liquor: thy belly is like an heap of wheat set about with lilies. Thy
two breasts are like two young roes that are twins!..._
John glanced at the headline to this song. "It's a queer thing to call
that 'a further description of the church's graces'," he said to
himself, and then his eye searched through the verses of the song until
he reached the line,
_How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights!_...
"I daresay," he murmured to himself. "I daresay! But there's a terrible
lot of misery in it, too!"
He read the whole of the last song.
_Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for
love is strong as death: jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals
thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame. Many
waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it_....
"That's true," he said. "That's very true! I love her just the same,
for all she's treated me so bad! _Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can the floods drown it._ Oh, I wish to my God I could
forget things as easy as Willie Logan forgets them!"
He closed the Bible and put it down on the floor beside him, and sat
with his hands clutching hold of his ankles. He would have to go away
from Ballyards. He would not be able to rest contentedly near Belfast
where Maggie lived ... with her peeler! He must go away from home, and
the further away he went, the better it would be. Then he might forget
about her. Perhaps, after all, it was not true that "_many waters
cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it_." Poets had a
terrible habit of exaggerating things, and perhaps he would forget his
love for Maggie in some distant place!...
There was a copy of _Romeo and Juliet_ perched on top of a pile of
books. "That was the cause of all my trouble," he said, pushing it so
that it fell off the pile on to the floor at his feet. He picked it up
and opened it, and as he did so, his eyes rested on Mercutio's speech,
_If love be rough with you, be rough with love_.
Comfort instantly came into his mind.
"I will," he said, rising from the floor.
His Uncle William was in the kitchen when he descended the stairs from
"Mr. McGonigal was here this morning after you went up to Belfast," he
said, as John entered the kitchen. "Everything's settled up. Your Uncle
Matthew left you L180 and his books. It's more nor I imagined he had,
though I knew well he hardly spent a copper on himself, beyond the
books he bought. He was inclined to be an extravagant man like the rest
of us before that bother he got into in Belfast over the head of the
oul' Queen, but he changed greatly after. The money'll be useful to
you, boy, when you start off in life!"
"I'll come into the shop with you, Uncle William," John said, glancing
towards the scullery where his mother was. "I want to have a word or
two with you!"
"Very good," Uncle William replied, leading the way into the shop.
They sat down together in the little counting-house while John told his
Uncle of his desire to go away from home.
"And where in the earthly world do you want to go to?" Uncle William
"Anywhere. London, mebbe! I'm near in the mind to go to America. Mebbe,
I'll just travel the world!"
"A hundred and eighty pounds'll not carry you far," Uncle William
"It'll take me a good piece of the way, and if I can't earn enough to
take me the rest of it, sure, what good am I?"
Uncle William shrugged his shoulders. "You must do as you please, I
suppose, but I'll miss you sore when you do go. It'll be poor pleasure
for me to live on here, with you gone and your Uncle Matthew dead!"
"I'll come back every now and then to see you," John promised. "I'm not
going to cut myself off from you altogether. You know that rightly. I
just want to see a bit of the world. I ... I want to find out things!"
"What things, John?"
"Oh ... everything! Whatever there is to find out!"
"I sometimes think," said Uncle William, "you can find out all there is
to find out at home, if you have enough gumption in you to find out
anything at all. Have you told your ma yet?"
John shook his head.
"It'll want a bit of telling," Uncle William prophesied.
"I daresay, but she'll have plenty of time to get used to it. I'm not
going this minute. I'm going to try and do some writing at home first,
'til I get my hand in. Then when I think I know something about the
job, I'll go and see what I can make out of it."
Uncle William sat in silence for a few moments, tapping noiselessly on
the desk with his fingers.
"It's a pity you've no notion of the grocery," he said. "This shop'll
be yours one of these days!"
"I haven't any fancy for it," John replied.
"I know you haven't. It's a pity all the same. I suppose, when I'm
dead, you'll sell the shop!"
"You're in no notion of dying yet awhile, Uncle William. A hearty man
like you'll outlive us all!"
"Mebbe, but that's not the point, John. The MacDermotts have owned this
shop a powerful while, as your ma tells you many's a time. When I'm
dead, you'll be the last of us ... and you'll want to give up the shop.
That's what I think's a pity. I'm with your ma over that. I suppose,
though, the whole history of the world is just one record of change and
alteration, and it's no use complaining. The shop'll have to go, and
the MacDermotts, too!..." He did not speak for a few moments, and then,
in a brisker tone, he said, "Mebbe, one of the assistants'll buy it
from you. Henry Blackwood has money saved, I know, and by the time you
want to sell it, he'll mebbe have a good bit past him. I'll drop a wee
hint to him that you'll be wanting to sell, so's to prepare him!"
"Very well, Uncle!" John said.
"If you do sell the shop, make whoever buys it change the name over the
door. If the MacDermott family is not to be in control of it, then I'd
like well for the name to be painted out altogether and the new name
put in its place. I'd hate to think of anyone pretending the
MacDermotts was still here, carrying on their old trade, and them mebbe
not giving as good value as we gave. The MacDermotts have queer pride,
"I know they have, Uncle William. I have, too!"
"And they wouldn't lie content in their graves if they thought their
names was associated with bad value!"
"You're taking it for granted, Uncle, I'll want to sell the shop.
Mebbe, I won't. I'll mebbe not be good at anything else but the
grocery. I'm talking big now about writing books, but who knows whether
I'll ever write one!"
"Oh, you'll write one, John. You'll write plenty. You'll do it because
you want to do it. You've got your da's nature. When he wanted a thing,
he got it, no matter who had it!"
"There was one thing he wanted, Uncle William, and wanted bad, but
"What was that, son?" Uncle William demanded.
"He wanted to live, but he wasn't let," John answered.
Uncle William considered for a few moments. "Of course," he said,
"there's some things that even a MacDermott can't do!"
John left his Uncle in the shop and went into the kitchen to tell his
mother of his decision. He felt certain that she would oppose him, and
he braced himself to resist her appeals that he should change his mind.
But she took his announcement very quietly.
"I've made up my mind to go to London, ma!" he said to her.
She did not look up immediately. Then she turned towards him, and said,
"Oh, yes, John!"
He paused, nonplussed by her manner, as if he were waiting for her to
proceed, but finding that she did not say any more, he continued. "I
daresay it'll upset you," he said.
"I'm used to being upset," she replied, "and I expected it. When will
you be going?"
"I don't know yet. In a wee while. I'll have to speak to Mr. Cairnduff
first about quitting the school, and then I'll stay at home for a bit,
writing 'til I'm the master of it. After that I'll go to London ... or
mebbe to America!"
She sat quite still in the armchair beneath the window that overlooked
the yard. He felt that he ought to say more to her, that she ought to
say more to him, but he could not think of anything to say to her,
because she had said so little to him.
"I hope you're not upset about it," he said.
"Upset!" she exclaimed, with a sound of bitterness in her tone.
"Yes. I know you never approved of the idea!"
"It doesn't make any difference whether I approve or not, does it?..."
"That's not a fair way to put it, ma!"
"But it amounts to that all the same," she retorted. "No, John, I'm
not upset. What would be the good? I had other hopes for you, but
they weren't your hopes, and I daresay you're right. I daresay you
are. After all, we ... we have to ... to do the best we can for
ourselves ... haven't we?"
"And if you think you can do better in London ... or America nor you
can in Ballyards ... well, you're right to ... to go, aren't you?"
"That's what I think, ma!" John answered.
She did not say any more, and he sat at the table, tapping on it with a
pencil. There was no sound in the kitchen but the ticking of the clock
and the noise of the water boiling in the kettle and the little tap,
tap ... tap, tap ... tap, tap, tap ... of his pencil on the table. Mrs.
MacDermott had been hemming a handkerchief when John entered the
kitchen, and as he glanced at her now, he saw that her head was bent
over it again. He looked at her for a long while, it seemed to him, but
she did not raise her head to return his look. If she would only rebuke
him for wishing to go ... but this awful silence!...
He looked about the kitchen, as if he were assuring himself that the
old, familiar things were still in their places. He would be glad, of
course, to go away from home, because he wished to adventure into
bigger things ... but he would be sorry to go, too. There was something
very dear and friendly about the house. He had experienced much love
and care in it, and had had much happiness here. Nevertheless, he would
be glad to go. He needed a change, he wished to have things happening
to him. He remembered very vividly something that his Uncle Matthew had
said to him in this very room. "Sure, what does it matter whether
you're happy and contented or not, so long as things are happening to
That was the right spirit. Uncle Matthew had known all the time what
was the right life for a man to lead, even although he had never gone
out into the world himself. What if Maggie Carmichael _had_
treated him badly? _If love be rough with you, be rough with
love!_ Who was Maggie Carmichael anyway? One woman in a world full
of women! She was only Maggie Carmichael ... or Maggie whatever the
policeman's name was! _If love be rough with you, be rough with
love!_ ... Oh, he would, he would! There were finer women in the
world than Maggie Carmichael, and what was to prevent him from getting
the finest woman amongst them if he wanted her. Had it not been said of
his father that he could have taken a queen from a king's bed, lifted
her clean out of a palace in face of the whole court and taken her to
his home, a happy and contented woman?... Well, then, what one
MacDermott could do, another MacDermott could do....
His mother got up from her chair and, putting down her hemmed
handkerchief, said, "It's time I wet the tea!"
He watched her as she went about the kitchen, making preparations for
the meal, and he wondered why it was that she did not look at him. Very
carefully she averted her eyes from him as she passed from the
fireplace to the scullery; and when she had to approach the place where
he was sitting, she did so with downcast gaze. Suddenly he knew why she
would not look at him. He knew that if she were to do so, she would
cry, and as the knowledge came to him, a great tenderness for her arose
in his heart, and he stood up and putting out his hands drew her to him
and kissed her. And then she cried. Her body shook with sobs as she
clung to him, her face thrust tightly against his breast. But she did
not speak. Uncle William, coming from the shop, looked into the kitchen
for a moment, but, observing his sister's grief, went hurriedly back to
"Don't, ma!" John pleaded, holding her as if she were a distressed
"I can't help it, John," she cried. "I'll be all right in a wee while,
but I can't help it yet!"
After a time, she gained control of herself, and gradually her sobs
subsided, and then they ceased.
"I didn't mean to cry," she said.
"But I couldn't control myself any longer. I'll not give way again,
She went to the scullery and returned with cups and saucers which she
put on the table.
"Would you like some soda-bread or wheaten farls?" she asked.
"I'll have them both," he answered. He paused for a moment, and then,
before she had time to go to the pantry, he went on. "You know, ma,
I ... I _have_ to go. I mean I ... I _have_ to go!"
"_Have_ to go, John?"
"Yes. I ... I _have_ to go. I was friends with a girl!..."
She came quickly to his side, and put her arms round his neck. The
misery had suddenly gone from her face, and there was a look of
anxiety, mingled with gratification, in her eyes.
"That's it, is it?" she said. "Oh, I thought you were tired of your
home. Poor son, poor son, did she not treat you well?"
"She was married this morning on a peeler, ma!"
"And you in love with her?" she exclaimed indignantly.
"The woman's a fool," said Mrs. MacDermott. "You're well rid of
He saw now that there would be no further objection made by his mother
against his going from home. As clearly as if she had said so, he
understood that she now regarded his departure from home as a
pilgrimage from which in due time he would return, purged of his grief.
And she was content.
"A woman that would marry a peeler when she might marry a MacDermott,
is not fit to marry a MacDermott," she said, almost to herself.
And so, when three months later, he decided to go to London, she did
not try to hold him back. He had worked hard on a bitter novel that
would, he imagined, fill men with amazement and women with shame, and
when he had completed it, he bound the long, loose sheets of foolscap
together and announced that he was now ready to go to London. Mr.
Cairnduff told him of lodgings in Brixton, where an old friend of his,
an Ulsterman and a journalist, was living, and Mr. McCaughan gave him a
very vivid account of the perils of London life. "Bad women!" he said,
ominously, "are a terrible temptation to a young fellow all by himself
in a big town!" and then, brightening a little, he remarked that he
need not tell so sensible a lad as John how to take care of himself.
John had only to remember that he was a MacDermott!...
But Mrs. MacDermott did not offer any advice to him. She packed his
trunk and his bag on the day he was to leave Ballyards, taking care to
put a Bible at the bottom of the trunk, and told him that they were
ready for him. He was to travel by the night boat from Belfast to
Liverpool, and it was not necessary for him to leave Ballyards until
the evening, nor did he wish to spend more time in Belfast than was
absolutely necessary. His Uncle and his mother were to accompany him to
the boat: Mr. McCaughan and Mr. Cairnduff would say good-bye to him at
Ballyards station. Willie Logan, now safely married to his Jennie and a
little dashed in consequence of the limitations imposed upon him by
marriage, had volunteered to come to the station "and see the last of"
him. There was to be a gathering of friends on the platform ... but he
wished in his heart they would allow him to go away in peace and
It was strange, he thought, that his mother did not talk to him about
his journey to London. He had imagined that she would have a great deal
to say about it, but it was not until the day of his departure that she
spoke of it to him.
She came to him, after she had packed his trunk and bag, and said,
"Come into the return room a wee minute!" and, obediently, he followed
"I want to show you something," she said in explanation. "Shut the door
"Is there anything wrong, ma?" he asked, puzzled by the mystery in her
"No," she answered, "only I don't want the whole world to see us!"
She went to the cupboard and took out a bottle of whiskey.
"Sit down," she said.
"Is that whiskey?" he asked as he seated himself.
She nodded her head and returned to the table.
"You're not thinking of giving me a drop, are you?" he exclaimed
There was a look in her eyes that checked laughter.
"If I had my way," she said with great bitterness, "I'd take the men
that make this stuff and I'd drown them in it. I'd pour it down their
throats 'til they choked!..." She poured a little of the whiskey into a
saucer. "Give me a light," she demanded.
He went to the mantel-shelf and brought the box of matches from it.
"Strike one," she said, and added when he had done so, "Set fire to the
He succeeded in making the spirit burn, and for a little while she and
he stood by the table while the cold blue flames curled out of the
saucer, wavering and spurting, until the spirit was consumed and the
flame flickered and expired.
"That's what a drunkard's inside is like," said Mrs. MacDermott,
picking up the saucer and carrying it downstairs to the scullery to be
washed. He heard the water splashing in the sink, and when he had put
the bottle of whiskey back in the cupboard, he went downstairs and
waited until she had finished. She returned to the kitchen, carrying
the washed saucer, and when she had placed it on the dresser, she took
up a Bible and brought it to him.
"I want you to swear to me," she said, "that you'll never taste a drop
of drink as long as you live!"
"That's easy enough," he answered. "I don't like it!"
She looked up at him in alarm. "Have you tasted it already, then?" she
"Yes. How would I know I didn't like it if I hadn't tasted it? The
smell of it is enough to knock you down!"
She put the Bible back on the dresser. "It doesn't matter," she said
when he held out his hand for it. "Mebbe you have enough strength of
your own to resist it. I ... I don't always understand you, John, and
I'm fearful sometimes to see you so sure of yourself." She came to him
suddenly and swiftly, and clasped him close to her. "I love you with
the whole of my heart, son," she said, "and I'm desperate anxious about
"You needn't be anxious about me, ma!" he answered. "I'm all right!"
The minister said, "God bless you, boy!" and patted him on the
shoulder, and the schoolmaster wished him well and begged that now and
then John would write to him. Willie Logan, hot and in a hurry, entered
the station, eager to say good-bye to him, but the stern and
disapproving eye of the minister caused him to keep in the background
until John, understanding what was in his mind, went up to him.
"I'm sure I wish you all you can wish yourself," Willie said very
heartily. "I wish to my God I was going with you, but sure, I'm one of
the unlucky ones. Aggie sent her love to you, but I couldn't persuade
her to come and give it to you herself!"
"Thank you, Willie. You might tell her I'm obliged to her."
"You never had no notion of her, John?"
"I had not, Willie. How's Jennie keeping?"
"Och, she's well enough," he answered sulkily, "Look at the minister
there, glaring at me as I was dirt. Sure, didn't I marry the girl, and
got intil a hell of a row over it with the oul' fella! And what's he
got to glare at? There's no need to be giving _you_ good advice
about weemen, John, for you're well able to take care of yourself as
far as I can see, but all the same, mind what you're doing when you get
into their company or you'll mebbe get landed the same as me!..."
"Don't you like being married, then?"
"Ah, quit codding," said Willie.
* * * * *
THE SECOND BOOK OF THE FOOLISH LOVERS
Whoever loved that loved not at first sight.
"Love is a perfect fever of the mind. I question if any man has been
more tormented with it than myself."
JAMES BOSWELL, _in a letter to the Rev. W. J. Temple._
THE FIRST CHAPTER
Mr. Cairnduff's friend, George Hinde, met John at Euston Station. He
was a stoutly-built, red-haired man, with an Ulster accent that had not
been impaired in any degree by twenty years of association with
Cocknies. "How're you!" he said, going up to John and seizing hold of
"Rightly, thank you! How did you know me?" John replied, laughing and
"That's a question and a half to ask!" Hinde exclaimed. "Wouldn't an
Ulsterman know another Ulsterman the minute he clapped his eyes on him?
Boys O, but it's grand to listen to a Belfast voice again. Here you,"
he said, turning quickly to a porter, "come here, I want you. Get this
gentleman's luggage, and bring it to that hansom there. Do you hear
"Yessir," the porter replied.
"What have you got with you?" he went on, turning to John.
"A trunk and a bag," John answered. "They have my name on them. John
"Mac what, sir?" the porter asked.
"MacDermott. John MacDermott. Passenger from Ballyards to London, via
Belfast and Liverpool!"
"It's no good telling him about Ballyards," Hinde interrupted. "The
people of this place are ignorant: they've never heard of Ballyards. Go
on, now," he said to the porter, "and get the stuff and bring it here!"
The porter hurried off to the luggage-van. "Ill only just be able to
put you in the hansom," said Hinde to John, "and start you off home,
I've got to go north, tonight to write a special report of a
"What sort of a meeting?" John enquired.
"Political. An address to Mugs by a Humbug. That's what it ought to be
called. I was looking forward to having a good crack with you the
night, but sure a newspaper man need never hope to have ten minutes to
himself. I've given Miss Squibb orders to have a good warm supper ready
for you. That's a thing the English people never think of having on a
Sunday night. They're afraid God 'ud send them to hell if they didn't
have cold beef for their Sunday supper. But there'll be a hot supper
for you, anyway. A man that's been travelling all night and all day
wants something better nor cold beef in his inside on a cold night!"
"It's very kind of you!..."
"Ah, what's kind about? Aren't you an Ulsterman? You've a great accent!
Man, dear, but you've a great accent! If ever you lose it I'll never
own you for a friend, and I'll get you the sack from any place you're
working in. I'll blacken your character!..."
"You're a terrible cod," said John, laughing at him.
"Damn the cod there's about it! You listen to these Cockney fellows
talking, and then you'll understand me. It's worse nor the Dublin
adenoids voice. There's no people in the earthly world talks as fine as
the Ulster people. Here's the man with your luggage!" The porter
wheeled a truck, bearing John's trunk and bag, up to them as he spoke.
"Is that all you have?"
"Aye," said John.
"And enough, too! What anybody wants with more, I never can make out,
unless they're demented with the mania of owning things! That's a bit
out of Walt Whitman. Ever read any of him?"
"No," said John.
"It's about time you begun then. Put this stuff in the hansom, will
you?" he went on to the porter, and while the porter did so, he
continued his conversation with John. "Miss Squibb ... that's the name
of the landlady ... comic name, isn't it? ... like a name out of
Dickens ... and she's a comic-looking woman, too ... hasn't got a spare
sitting-room to let you have, but you can share mine 'til she has. My
bedroom's on the same floor as the sitting-room, but yours is on the
floor above. We're a rum crew in that house. There's a music-hall man
and his wife on the ground-floor ... a great character altogether ...
Cream is their name ... and a Mr. and Mrs. Tarpey ... but you'll see
them all for yourself. I'll be back on Tuesday night. Give this porter
sixpence, and the cabman's fare'll be three and sixpence, but you'd
better give him four bob. If he tries to charge you more nor that,
because you're a stranger, take his number. Good-bye, now, and don't
forget I'll be back on Tuesday night!"
He helped John into the hansom, and after giving instructions to the
cabman, stood back on the pavement, smiling and waving his hand, while
the cab, with a flourish of whip from the driver and a jingle of
harness, drove out of the station.
"I like that man," said John to himself, as he lay back against the
cushions and gave himself up to the joy of riding in a hansom cab.
The house to which John was carried was in the Brixton Road, near to
the White House public-house. Fifty years ago it had been a rich
merchant's home and was almost a country house, but now, like many
similar houses, it had fallen to a dingy estate: it was, without
embroidery of description, a lodging-house. Miss Squibb, who opened the
door to him, had a look of settled depression on her face that was not,
as he at first imagined, due to disapproval of him, but, as he speedily
discovered, to a deeply-rooted conviction that the rest of humanity was
engaged in a conspiracy to defraud her. She eyed the cabman with so
much suspicion that he became uneasy in his mind and deposited the
trunk and the bag in the hall in silence, nor did he make any comment
on the amount of his fare.
Miss Squibb helped John to carry the luggage to his room. Her niece,
Lizzie, who usually performed such work, was spending the week-end with
another aunt in North London, so Miss Squibb said, and she was due to
return before midnight, but Miss Squibb would expect her when she saw
her. It would not surprise her to find that Lizzie did not return to
her home until Monday evening. Nothing would surprise Miss Squibb. Miss
Squibb had long since ceased to be surprised at anything. No one had
had more cause to feel surprised than Miss Squibb had had in the course
of her life, but now she never felt surprised at anything. She
prophesied that a time would come when John would cease to feel
surprise at things....
She stood in the centre of his bedroom in a bent attitude, with her
hands folded across her flat chest, and regarded him with large,
protruding eyes. "You're Irish, aren't you?" she said, accusingly.
"Yes, Miss Squibb," he said, using her name with difficulty, because it
created in him a desire to laugh.
"Like Mr. 'Inde?"
"Inde!" he repeated blankly, and then comprehension came to him. "Oh,
Mr. Hinde! Yes! Oh, yes, yes!"
"I thought so," she continued. "You have the syme sort of talk. Funny
talk, I calls it. Wot time du want your breakfis?"
"Eight o'clock," he said.
"I s'pose you'll do syme as Mr. 'Inde ... leave it to me to get the
things for you, an' charge it up?"
"Oh, yes," John replied. "I'll do just what Mr. Hinde does!"
He looked around the dingy room, and as he did so, he felt depression
coming over him; but Miss Squibb misjudged his appraising glance.
"It's a nice room," she said, as if she were confirming his judgment on
"Yes," he said dubiously, glancing at the bed and the table and the
ricketty washstand. There were pictures and framed mottoes on the
walls. Over his bed was a large motto-card, framed in stained deal,
bearing the word: ETERNITY; and on the opposite wall, placed so that he
should see it immediately he awoke, was a coloured picture of Daniel in
the Lions' Den, in which the lions seemed to be more dejected than
"A gentleman wot used to be a lodger 'ere done that," said Miss Squibb
when she saw that he was looking at the picture. "'E couldn't py 'is
rent an' 'e offered to pynt the bath-room, but we 'aven't got a bath-room
so 'e pynted that instead. It used to be a plyne picture 'til 'e
pynted it. 'E sort of livened it up a bit. Very nice gentleman 'e was,
only 'e did get so 'orribly drunk. Of course, 'e was artistic!"
The drawing was out of perspective, and John remarked upon the fact,
but Miss Squibb, fixing him with her protruding eyes, said that she
could not see that there was anything wrong with the picture. It was
true, as she admitted, that if you were to look closely at the lion on
the extreme right of the picture, you would find he had two tails, or
rather, one tail and the remnant of another which the artist had not
completely obliterated. But that was a trifle.
"Pictures ain't meant to be looked at close," said Miss Squibb, "an'
any'ow you can't expect to 'ave everythink in this world. Some people's
never satisfied without they're finding fault in things!"
John, feeling that her final sentence was a direct rebuke to himself,
hurriedly looked away from the picture.
"There's a good view from the window," he said to console her for his
depreciation of the picture.
"That's wot I often says myself," she replied. "People says it's 'igh
up 'ere an' a long way to climb, but wot I says is, it's 'ealthy when
you get 'ere, _and_ you 'ave a view. I'll leave you now," she
concluded. "When you've 'ad a wash, your supper'll be waitin' for you.
in Mr. 'Inde's sitting-room. I expect you'll be glad to 'ave it!"
"I shall," he replied. "I'm hungry!"
"Yes, I expect so," she said, closing the door.
He sat down on the bed and again looked about the room, and the
dreariness of it filled him with nostalgia. He had not yet unpacked his
trunk or his bag, and he felt that he must immediately carry them down
the stairs again, that he must call for a cabman and have his luggage
and himself carried back to Euston Station so that he might return to
his home. The clean air of Ballyards and the bright sunlit bedroom over
the shop seemed incomparably lovely when he looked about the dingy
Brixton bedroom. If this was the beginning of adventure!... He gazed at
the picture of Daniel in the Lions' Den, and wished that a lion would
eat Daniel or that Daniel would eat a lion!...
Then he went to the washstand and washed his face and hands, and when
he had done so, he went downstairs and ate his supper.
In the morning, there was a thump on his bedroom door, and before he
had had time to consider what he should do, the door opened and a girl
entered, carrying a tray. "Eight o'clock," she said, "an' 'ere's your
breakfast! Aunt said you'd better 'ave it in bed 'smornin', after your
She set the tray down on the table so carelessly that she spilled some
of the contents of the coffee-pot.
"Aunt forgot to ask would you have tea or coffee, so she sent up
coffee. Mr. 'Inde always 'as coffee, so she thought you would, too! An'
there's a 'addick. Mr. 'Inde likes 'addick. It ain't a bad fish!"
John looked at her as she arranged the table. Her abrupt entry into the
room, while he was in bed, startled him. No woman, except his mother,
had ever been in his bedroom before, and it horrified him to think that
this strange young woman could see him sitting in his nightshirt in
bed. He had never in his life seen so untidy a woman as this. Her hair
had been hastily pinned together in a shapeless lump on the top of her
head, and loose ends straggled from it. Her dress was _on_ her ...
that was certain ... but _how_ it was on her was more than he
could understand. She seemed to bristle with safety-pins!...
Her total lack of shame, in the presence of a man, undressed and in
bed, caused him to wonder whether she was one of the Bad Women against
whom Mr. McCaughan had so solemnly warned him. If she, were, the
warning was hardly necessary!...
"I think you got everythink?" she said briskly, glancing over the table
to see that nothing was missing.
He saw now that, she bore some facial resemblance to Miss Squibb. She
was not, as that lady was, ashen-hued, but her eyes, though less
prominently, bulged. This must be Lizzie!...
"Who are you?" he asked, as she turned to leave the room. "Eih?"
"What's your name? I've not seen you before!"
"Naow," she exclaimed, "I've been awy! I'm Lizzie. 'Er niece!"
She nodded her head towards the door, and he interpreted this to mean
"Oh, yes," he said. "She told me about you. Were you very late last
She laughed. "Naow," she replied, "I was very early this mornin'!"
She stood with her hand on the knob of the door. "If you want anythink
else," she said, "just 'oller down, the stairs for it. An' you needn't
'urry to get up. I know wot travellin's like. I've travelled a bit
myself in my time. That 'addick ain't as niffy as it smells!..."
She closed the door behind her and he could hear her quick steps all
the way down the stairs to the ground floor.
"That's a queer sort of woman," he said to himself.
As he ate his breakfast, he wondered at Lizzie's lack of embarrassment
as she stood in his bedroom and saw him lying in bed. She had behaved
as coolly as if she had been in a dining-room and he had been
completely clothed. What would his mother say if she knew that a girl
had entered his bedroom as unconcernedly as if she were entering a
tramcar? Never in all his life had such a thing happened to him before.
He had been very conscious of his bare neck, for the collar of his
night-shirt had come unfastened. He had tried to fasten it again, but
in his desire to do so without drawing Lizzie's attention to his state,
he had merely fumbled with it, and had, finally, to abandon the
attempt. What astonished him was that Lizzie appeared to be totally
unaware of anything unusual in the fact that she was in the bedroom of
a strange man. She did not look like a Bad Woman ... and surely Mr.
Hinde would not live in a house where Bad Women lived!... Perhaps
Englishwomen were not so particular about things as Irishwomen!...
Anyhow the haddock was good and the coffee tasted nice enough, although
he would much rather have had tea.
He finished his meal, and then dressed himself and went downstairs to
the sitting-room which he was to share with Hinde. It was less dreary
than the bedroom from which he had just emerged, but what brightness it
had was not due to any furnishing provided by Miss Squibb, but to a
great case full of books which occupied one side of the room. "He's as
great a man for books as my Uncle Matthew," John thought, examining a
volume here and a volume there. He opened a book of poems by Walt
Whitman. "That's the man he was telling me about last night," he said
to himself, as he turned the pages. He read a passage aloud:
_Come, Muse, migrate--from Greece and Ionia,
Cross out, please, those immensely overpaid accounts,
That matter of Troy and Achilles' wrath, and Aeneas',
Placard "Removed" and "To Let" on the rocks of your snowy
Repeat at Jerusalem, place the notice high on Jaffa's gate and
on Mount Moriah,
The same on the walls of your German, French and Spanish castles,
and Italian collections,
For know a better, fresher, busier sphere, a wide, untried domain
awaits, demands you_.
"That's strange poetry," he murmured, turning over more of the pages.
"Queer stuff! I never read poetry like that before!" He began to read
"The Song of the Broad Axe," at first to himself, and then aloud:
_What do you think endures?
Do you think a great city endures?
Or a teeming manufacturing State? or a prepared Constitution? or
the best built steamships?
Or hotels of granite and iron? or any chefs d'oeuvre of engineering,
Away! these are not to be cherished for themselves,
They fill their hour, the dancers dance, the musicians play for them,
The show passes, all does well, of course,
All does very well till one flash of defiance.
A great city is that which has the greatest men and women,
If it be a few ragged huts, it is still the greatest city in the world.
How beggarly appear arguments before a defiant deed!
How the floridness of the materials of cities shrivels before a man's
or woman's look!_
He re-read aloud the last four lines, and then closed the book and
replaced it on the shelf. "That man must have been terribly angry," he
said to himself.
Lizzie came into the room. "I 'eard you," she said, "syin' poetry to
yourself. You're as bad as Mr. 'Inde, you are. 'E's an' awful one for
syin' poetry. Why down't you go out for a walk? You 'aven't seen
nothink of London yet, an' 'ere you are wystin' the mornin' syin'
poetry. If I was you, now, I'd go and see the Tahr of London where they
used to be'ead people. An' the Monument, too! You can go up that for
thruppence. An' the view you get! Miles an' miles an' miles! Well, you
can see the Crystal Palace anywy! I do like a view! Or if you down't
like the Tahr of London, you could go to the Zoo. Ow, the monkeys! Ow,
dear! They're so yooman, I felt quite uncomfortable. Any'ow, I should
go out if I was you, an' 'ave a look at London. Wot's the good of
comin' to London if you don't 'ave a look at it!"
"I think I will," said John.
"I should," Lizzie added emphatically. "I don't suppose we'll see you
until dinner time. Seven o'clock, we 'ave it!"
"I always had my dinner in the middle of the day at home," John
"Ow, yes, in Ireland," said Lizzie tolerantly. "But this is London.
London's different from Ireland, you know. You'll find things very
diff'rent 'ere from wot they are in Ireland. I've 'eard a lot about
Ireland. Mr. 'Inde ... 'e does go on about it. Anybody would think to
'ear 'im there wasn't any other plyce in the world!..." She changed the
subject abruptly, speaking in a more hurried tone. "I ought reely to be
dustin' this room ... only of course you're in it!"
John apologised to her. "I'm interfering with your work," he murmured
"Ow, no you ain't. It don't matter if it's dusted or not ... reely.
Only Aunt goes on about it. Mr. 'Inde wouldn't notice if it was never
dusted. I think he likes dust reely. I suppose you're goin' to do some
work now you're 'ere, or are you a writer, too, like Mr. 'Inde?"
"I want to be a writer," John shyly answered.
"Well, there's no 'arm in it," Lizzie said, "But it ain't reg'lar. I
believe in reg'lar work myself. Of course, there's no 'arm in bein' a
writer, but you'd be much better with a tryde or a nice business, I
should think. Reely!"
"Oh, yes," John murmured. "Well, I think I'll go out now!"
"Are you goin' to the Tahr, then?" "No," he answered. "No, I hadn't
thought of that. I want to see Fleet Street!..."
"Fleet Street!" Lizzie exclaimed. "Wotever is there to see there."
"Oh, I don't know. I want to see it. That's all!"
"You 'ave got funny tyste. I should, 'ave thought you'd go to see the
Tahr reely!..." She broke off as she observed him moving to the door.
"Mind, be back at seven sharp. I 'ate the dinner kep' 'angin' about. I
don't get no time to myself if people aren't punctual. Mr. 'Inde's
awful, 'e is. 'E don't care about no one else, 'e don't. Comes in any
time, 'e does, an' expects a 'ot dinner just the syme. Never thinks
nobody else never wants to go nowhere!..."
"I'll be back in time," said John, hurrying from the room.
"Well, mind you are," she called after him.
In the street, he remembered that he had forgotten to ask Lizzie to
tell him how to find Fleet Street, but her capacity for conversation
prevented him from returning to the house to ask her. The number of
trams and 'buses of different colours bewildered him, as he stood
opposite to the White Horse, and watched them go by: and the accents of
the conductors, when they called out their destinations, were
unintelligible to him. He heard a man shouting "Beng, Beng, Beng, Beng,
Beng, BENGK!" in a voice that sounded like a quick-firing gun, but the
noise had no meaning for him. He saw names of places that were familiar
to him through his reading or his talk with Uncle Matthew, painted on
the side of the trams and buses, but he could not see the name of Fleet
Street among them. He turned to a policeman and asked for advice, and
the policeman put him in the care of a 'bus-conductor.
"You 'op on top, an' I'll tell you where to git off," the 'bus
conductor said, and John did as he was bid.
He took a seat in the front of the 'bus, just behind the driver, for he
had often heard stories of the witty sayings of London 'busmen and he
was anxious to hear a 'bus-driver's wit being uttered.
"That's a nice day," he said, when the 'bus had gone some distance.
The driver, red-faced, obese and sleepy-eyed, slowly turned and
regarded John, and having done so, nodded his head, and turned away
"Nice pair of horses you have," John continued affably.
"Yes," the driver grunted, without looking around.
John felt dashed by the morose manner of the driver and he remained
silent for a few moments, but he leant forward again and said, "I
expect you see a good deal of life on this 'bus?"
"Eih?" said the driver, glancing sharply at him. "Wot you sy?"
"I suppose you've seen a good many queer things from that seat?" John
"'Ow you mean ... queer things?"
"Well, strange things!..."
The driver turned away and whipped up the horses.
"I've never seen anythink strynge in my life," he said. "Kimmup there!
"But I thought that 'bus-drivers always saw romantic things!"
"I dunno wot you're talkin' abaht. Look 'ere, young feller, are you a
reporter, or wot are you?"
"Yus. One of these 'ere noospyper chaps?"
"Well, anybody'd think you was, you ast so many questions!"
John's face coloured. "I beg your pardon," he said in confusion. "I
didn't mean to be inquisitive!"
"That's awright. No need to 'pologise. I can see you down't mean no
'arm!" His manner relaxed a little, as if he would atone to John for
his former surliness. "That's the 'Orns," he said, pointing to a large
public-house. "Well-known 'ouse, that is. Best known 'ouse in Sahth
London, that is. Bert ... that's the conductor ... 'e says the White
'Orse at Brixton is better-known, an' I know a chep wot says the
Elephant an' Castle is!..."
"It's mentioned in Shakespeare," John eagerly interrupted.