Among the children that came to that remarkable academy on the hill was little Mary Kinneth, a thin, delicate child, with mild blue eyes, flaxen hair, a peach complexion, and the blue veins on her temples that are so often the sign of delicacy of organization and the presage of early death. Mike Kinneth,—her father, was a drinking Irishman, a good-hearted fellow when sober, but pugnacious and disposed to beat his wife when drunk. The poor woman came over to see me one day. She had been crying, and there was an ugly bruise on her cheek.
“Your riverence will excuse me,” she said, curtseying, “but I wish you would come over and spake a word to me husband. Mike’s a kind, good craythur except when he is dhrinking, but then he is the very Satan himself.”
“Did he give you that bruise on your face, Mrs. Kinneth?”
“Yis; he came home last night mad with the whisky, and was breaking ivery thing in the house. I tried to stop him, and thin he bate me—O! he never did that before! My heart is broke!”
Here the poor woman broke down and cried, hiding her face in her apron.
“Little Mary was asleep, and she waked up frightened and crying to see her father in such a way. Seeing the child seemed to sober him a little, and he stumbled on to the bed, and fell asleep. He was always kind to the child, dhrunk or sober. And there is a good heart in him if he will only stay away from the dhrink.”
“Would he let me talk to him?”
“Yis; we belong to the old Church, but there is no priest here now, and the kindness your lady has shown to little Mary has softened his heart to ye both. And I think he feels a little sick and ashamed this mornin’, and he will listen to kind words now if iver.”
I went to see Mike, and found him half-sick and in a penitent mood. He called me “Father Fitzgerald,” and treated me with the utmost politeness and deference. I talked to him about little Mary, and his warm Irish heart opened to me at once.
“She is a good child, your riverence, and shame on the father that would hurt or disgrace her!”
The tears stood in Mike’s eyes as he spoke the words.
“All the trouble comes from the whisky. Why not give it up?”
“By the help of God I will!” said Mike, grasping my hand with energy.
And he did. I confess that the result of my visit exceeded my hopes. Mike kept away from the saloons, worked steadily, little Mary had no lack of new shoes and neat frocks, and the Kinneth family were happy in a humble way. Mike always seemed glad to see me, and greeted me warmly.
One morning about the last of November there was a knock at the door of the little parsonage. Opening the door, there stood Mrs. Kinneth with a turkey under her arm.
“Christmas will soon be coming, and I’ve brought ye a turkey for your kindness to little Mary and your good talk to Mike. He has not touched a dhrop since the blissed day ye spake to him. Will ye take the turkey, and my thanks wid it?”