On meeting a countryman out with his dogs he tried to inquire about the state of the road.
’I wouldn’t be saying, your reverence, that you mightn’t get the car through by keeping close to the wall; but Christy mustn’t let the horse out of a walk.’
The countryman said he would go a piece of the road with them, and tell Christy the spots he’d have to look out for.
‘But your work?’
‘There’s no work doing now to speak of, your reverence.’
The three of them together just managed to remove a fallen tree, which seemed the most serious obstacle, and the countryman said once they were over the top of the hill they would be all right; the road wasn’t so bad after that.
Half a mile further on Father Oliver found himself in sight of the main road, and of the cottage that his sister Mary had lived in before she joined Eliza in the convent.
To have persuaded Mary to take this step proved Eliza’s superiority more completely than anything else she had done, so Father Oliver often said, adding that he didn’t know what mightn’t have happened to poor Mary if she had remained in the world. For her life up to the time she entered the convent was little else than a series of failures. She was a shop-assistant, but standing behind the counter gave her varicose veins; and she went to Dublin as nursery-governess. Father Oliver had heard of musical studies: she used to play the guitar. But the instrument was not popular in Dublin, so she gave it up, and returned to Tinnick with the intention of starting a rabbit and poultry farm. Who put this idea into her head was her secret, and when he received Eliza’s letter telling him of this last experiment, he remembered throwing up his hands. Of course, it could only end in failure, in a loss of money; and when he read that she was going to take the pretty cottage on the road to Tinnick, he had become suddenly sad.
’Why should she have selected that cottage, the only pretty one in the county? Wouldn’t any other do just as well for her foolish experiment?’
The flowered cottage on the road to Tinnick stood in the midst of trees, on a knoll some few feet above the roadway, and Father Oliver, when he was a boy, often walked out by himself from Tinnick to see the hollyhocks and the sunflowers; they overtopped the palings, the sunflowers looking like saucy country girls and the hollyhocks like grand ladies, delicate and refined, in pink muslin dresses. He used to stand by the gate looking into the garden, delighted by its luxuriance, for there were clumps of sweet pea and beds of red carnations and roses everywhere, and he always remembered the violets and pansies he saw before he went away to Maynooth. He never remembered seeing the garden in bloom again. He was seven years at Maynooth, and when he came home for his vacations it was too late or too early in the season. He was interested in other things; and during his curacy at Kilronan he rarely went to Tinnick, and when he did, he took the other road, so that he might see Father Peter.