He had drifted westward as an unconsidered, unresisting item in that vast flight of the famine years. Others whom he rubbed against in that melancholy exodus, and deemed of much greater promise than himself, had done badly. Somehow he did well. He learned the wheelwright’s trade, and really that seemed all there was to tell. The rest had been calm and sequent progression—steady employment as a journeyman first; then marriage and a house and lot; the modest start as a master; the move to Octavius and cheap lumber; the growth of his business, always marked of late years stupendous—all following naturally, easily, one thing out of another. Jeremiah encountered the idea among his fellows, now and again, that he was entitled to feel proud of all this. He smiled to himself at the thought, and then sent a sigh after the smile. What was it all but empty and transient vanity? The score of other Connemara boys he had known—none very fortunate, several broken tragically in prison or the gutter, nearly all now gone the way of flesh—were as good as he. He could not have it in his heart to take credit for his success; it would have been like sneering over their poor graves.
Jeremiah Madden was now fifty-three—a little man of a reddened, weather-worn skin and a meditative, almost saddened, aspect. He had blue eyes, but his scanty iron-gray hair showed raven black in its shadows. The width and prominence of his cheek-bones dominated all one’s recollections of his face. The long vertical upper-lip and irregular teeth made, in repose, an unshapely mouth; its smile, though, sweetened the whole countenance. He wore a fringe of stiff, steel-colored beard, passing from ear to ear under his chin. His week-day clothes were as simple as his workaday manners, fitting his short black pipe and his steadfast devotion to his business. On Sundays he dressed with a certain rigor of respectability, all in black, and laid aside tobacco, at least to the public view. He never missed going to the early Low Mass, quite alone. His family always came later, at the ten o’clock High Mass.
There had been, at one time or another, a good many members of this family. Two wives had borne Jeremiah Madden a total of over a dozen children. Of these there survived now only two of the first Mrs. Madden’s offspring—Michael and Celia—and a son of the present wife, who had been baptized Terence, but called himself Theodore. This minority of the family inhabited the great new house on Main Street. Jeremiah went every Sunday afternoon by himself to kneel in the presence of the majority, there where they lay in Saint Agnes’ consecrated ground. If the weather was good, he generally extended his walk through the fields to an old deserted Catholic burial-field, which had been used only in the first years after the famine invasion, and now was clean forgotten. The old wagon-maker liked to look over the primitive, neglected stones which marked the graves