There were no crowds and bands of music waiting for us when Tommy brought us ashore, and after leaving Martin with his broken limb in his mother’s arms at the gate of Sunny Lodge, he took me over to the Presbytery in order that Father Dan might carry me home and so stand between me and my father’s wrath and Aunt Bridget’s birch.
Unhappily there was no need for this precaution. The Big House, when we reached it, was in great confusion. My mother had broken a blood vessel.
During the fortnight in which my mother was confined to bed I was her constant companion and attendant. With the mighty eagerness of a child who knew nothing of what the solemn time foreboded I flew about the house on tiptoe, fetching my mother’s medicine and her milk and the ice to cool it, and always praising myself for my industry and thinking I was quite indispensable.
“You couldn’t do without your little Mally, could you, mammy?” I would say, and my mother would smooth my hair lovingly with her thin white hand and answer:
“No, indeed, I couldn’t do without my little Mally.” And then my little bird-like beak would rise proudly in the air.
All this time I saw nothing of Martin, and only heard through Doctor Conrad in his conversations with my mother, that the boy’s broken arm had been set, and that as soon as it was better, he was to be sent to King George’s College, which was at the other end of Ellan. What was to be done with myself I never inquired, being so satisfied that my mother could not get on without me.
I was partly aware that big letters, bearing foreign postage-stamps and seals and coats of arms, with pictures of crosses and hearts, were coming to our house. I was also aware that at intervals, while my mother was in bed, there was the sound of voices, as if in eager and sometimes heated conference, in the room below, and that my mother would raise her pale face from her pillow and stop my chattering with “Hush!” when my father’s voice was louder and sterner than usual. But it never occurred to me to connect these incidents with myself, until the afternoon of the day on which my mother got up for the first time.
She was sitting before the fire, for autumn was stealing on, and I was bustling about her, fixing the rug about her knees and telling her if she wanted anything she was to be sure and call her little Mally, when a timid knock came to the door and Father Dan entered the room. I can see his fair head and short figure still, and hear his soft Irish voice, as he stepped forward and said:
“Now don’t worry, my daughter. Above all, don’t worry.”
By long experience my mother knew this for a sign of the dear Father’s own perturbation, and I saw her lower lip tremble as she asked:
“Hadn’t Mary better run down to the garden?”
“No! Oh no!” said Father Dan. “It is about Mary I come to speak, so our little pet may as well remain.”