That seemed to be enough for all of them. Even old Daniel O’Neill (the only man in the house who had an ounce of fight in him) dropped his head back in his chair, with his mouth wide open and his broken teeth showing behind his discoloured lips.
I thought Father Dan would have been waiting for me under the trammon on “the street,” but he had gone back to the Presbytery and sent Tommy the Mate to lead me through the mist and the by-lanes to the main road.
The old salt seemed to have a “skute” into the bad business which had brought out the Bishop and the lawyer at that late hour, and on parting from me at the gate of Sunny Lodge he said:
“Lord-a-massy me, what for hasn’t ould Tom Dug a fortune coming to him?”
And when I asked him what he would do with a fortune if he had one he answered:
“Do? Have a tunderin’ [thundering] good law-shoot and sattle some o’ them big fellas.”
Going to bed in the “Plough” that night, I had an ugly vision of the scene being enacted in the cottage on the curragh (a scene not without precedent in the history of the world, though the priesthood as a whole is so pure and noble)—the midnight marriage of a man dying in unnatural hatred of his own daughter (and she the sweetest woman in the world) while the priest and the prostitute divided the spoils.
[END OF MARTIN CONRAD’S MEMORANDUM]
JULY 25. The old doctor brought me such sad and startling news to-day. My poor father is dead—died yesterday, after an operation which he had deferred too long, refusing to believe it necessary.
The dreadful fact has hitherto been kept secret not only from me but from everybody, out of fear of legal proceedings arising from the failure of banks, &c., which has brought the whole island to the verge of bankruptcy.
He was buried this morning at old St. Mary’s—very early, almost before daybreak, to suit the convenience of the Bishop, who wished to catch the first steamer en route for Rome.
As a consequence of these strange arrangements, and the secrecy that has surrounded my father’s life of late, people are saying that he is not dead at all, that in order to avoid prosecution he has escaped from the island (going off with the Bishop in a sort of disguise), and that the coffin put into the grave this morning did not contain a human body.
“But that’s all wrong,” said the old doctor. “Your father is really dead and buried, and the strange man who went away with the Bishop was the London surgeon who performed the operation.”
I can hardly realise it—that the strong, stalwart being, the stern old lion whose heavy foot, tramping through my poor mother’s room, used to make the very house shake, is gone.
He died as he had lived, it seems. To the last self-centred, inflexible, domineering—a peasant yet a great man (if greatness is to be measured by power), ranking, I think, in his own little scene of life with the tragic figures of history.