We stayed two eternal days at Port Said while the vessel was taking coal for the rest of the voyage, and almost at the moment of sailing a letter arrived from Ellan, which, falling into O’Sullivan’s hands first, sent him flying through the steamer and shouting at the top of his voice:
The passengers gave room for him, and told me afterwards of his beaming face. And when he burst into my cabin I too felt sure he had brought me good news, which he had, though it was not all that I wanted.
“The way I was sure there would be a letter for you soon, and by the holy St. Patrick and St. Thomas, here it is,” he cried.
The letter was from my father, and I had to brace myself before I could read it.
It was full of fatherly love, motherly love, too, and the extravagant pride my dear good old people had of me ("everybody’s talking of you, my boy, and there’s nothing else in the newspapers"); but not a word about my Mary—or only one, and that seemed worse than none at all.
“You must have heard of the trouble at Castle Raa. Very sad, but this happy hour is not the time to say anything about it.”
Nothing more! Only reams and reams of sweet parental chatter which (God forgive me!) I would have gladly given over and over again for one plain sentence about my darling.
Being now more than ever sure that some kind of catastrophe had overtaken my poor little woman, I telegraphed to her again, this time (without knowing what mischief I was making) at the house of Daniel O’Neill—telling myself that, though the man was a brute who had sacrificed his daughter to his lust of rank and power and all the rest of his rotten aspirations, he was her father, and, if her reprobate of a husband had turned her out, he must surely have taken her in.
“Cable reply to Malta. Altogether too bad not hearing from you,” I said.
A blind, hasty, cruel telegram, but thank God she never received it!
[END OF MARTIN CONRAD’S MEMORANDUM]
Day by day it became more and more difficult for me to throw dust in my own eyes about the Olivers.
One evening on reaching their house a little after six, as usual, I found the front door open, the kitchen empty save for baby, who, sitting up in her cot, was holding quiet converse with her toes, and the two Olivers talking loudly (probably by pre-arrangement) in the room upstairs.
The talk was about baby, which was “a noosance,” interfering with a man’s sleep by night and driving him out of his home by day. And how much did they get for it? Nothing, in a manner of speaking. What did the woman (meaning me) think the “bleedin’ place” was—“a philanthropic institooshun” or a “charity orginisation gime”?
After this I heard the bricklayer thunder downstairs in his heavy boots and go out of the house without coming into the kitchen, leaving his wife (moral coward that he was) to settle his account with me.