Shiana/Chapter 13

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

CHAPTER XIII.

SIVE'S NEW TACTICS.

Sheila.—Well now, Peg, how nicely Short Mary behaved after all!
Peg.—Why, what did she do, Sheila?
Sheila.—She promised Shiana that she would keep his secret, and she didn't keep it. She told it to Hannah, and she had no right to tell it to anybody. She was as much bound to keep it as a priest would be to keep a secret that he heard in confession.
Peg.—I think, Sheila, that it was for Shiana's good she told the secret to Hannah, so that Hannah should have the more respect for him.
Sheila.—All very fine! But it wasn't for his good; it was for her own. When that confusion left her mind she began to be ashamed to think that she had sent Hannah to Shiana to ask him to marry her, and she wanted to tell the whole story to Hannah so that Hannah mightn't blame her.
Peg.—Well, Sheila, if that was why she did it, I suppose Shiana himself wouldn't blame her for it.
Sheila.—He told it to her as a secret. What good is a secret unless it is kept? She ought to have left the thing as it was, and not to have talked any more about it to any living being. Shiana wouldn't blame her, do you say? All very well I That is not the way to keep a secret. I declare to you, Peg, I didn't think she would have told it, even to Hannah.
Peg.—It was well for her, Sheila, that you were not there when she was telling it to Hannah.
Sheila.—You may say so! I promise you I would have said something to her that Hannah didn't say. "Have no fear, Shiana," said she, "I will keep your secret." She kept it nicely too! Blabbing it out as soon as she began to talk to Hannah! If any other woman than Short Mary had done it, I wouldn't be half so much surprised; but she that I thought would not let out a secret if she were to be torn between horses!
Nora.—Upon my word, Sheila, there are many people who wouldn't let a secret escape if they were to be torn between horses, and yet would let it go from them when nobody was asking them for it.
Sheila.—If so, those are not people like Short Mary.
Kate.—But listen, Sheila, she had told Hannah as great a secret as that already, and what harm was it to tell her another secret as well?
Sheila.—That one was her own. There was nothing to hinder her doing what she liked with her own secret, but it is not the same with another person's secret.
Peg.—You are right, Sheila; but understand this: a good secret and a bad secret are not the same thing. The secret that would have injured Shiana, he never told at all. The secret he told to Short Mary was one that she was not bound, in that strict sense, to keep, when she knew that it would be of more service than injury to Shiana if she told it to Hannah—especially as Hannah already knew Mary's own secret.
Abbie.—Tell me, Peg. Surely the priest did not know Shiana's secret.
Peg.—Who said he did?
Abbie.—Why, one would imagine, by the way he spoke, that he knew as much about it as the barefooted woman did.
Peg.—How so?
Abbie.—The priest said Shiana was trampling down his own heart for the Saviour's sake, and I think the barefooted woman said the same words when he saw her on the mountain. How could they say the same thing unless they both knew the same secret?
Peg.—I dare say the woman knew the secret. She was one of the three to whom he gave the alms for the Saviour's sake, and she was not an earthly woman. With the priest it was different. He had no knowledge of the secret, and he had no means of getting any such knowledge.
Abbie.—Then what made him say the same thing?
Peg.—I really don't know, Abbie, what made him say the same thing. When I first heard the story myself, I didn't ask that question. What I thought in my own mind was that the priest supposed that Shiana was married already, secretly.
Kate.—Why, what else? Isn't that what anybody would think?
Abbie.—But then, why should the priest praise him for that? Great credit to him, indeed, for not marrying a woman when he was married already!
Kate.—How well the Yellow Pensioner married when he was married already.
Abbie.—The rascal! Remember what happened to him, though.
Sheila.—What happened to him, Abbie?
Kate.—The thing he deserved, Sheila. He was transported.
Abbie.—I heard he was very near being hanged.
Kate.—Yes, because it was said that he was married three times, and that he had killed the first wife, but he was not convicted of it.
Sheila.—Why, he couldn't be married three times and the three wives be living.
Abbie.—Couldn't he pretend to each of them that he was married to nobody but herself?
Sheila.—Oh, the thief! Wouldn't it be a great wrong and a great lie for him to do such a thing?
Abbie.—I dare say such a man as he would think little of telling a great lie, and he would think lightly of doing a heavy wrong.
Kate.—It's no great harm that he's gone over the water.
Abbie.—No; and it's no great harm that he left very few of his sort behind him.
Sheila.—But listen, Peg; I wonder what power there was in that jewel that the barefooted woman gave to Shiana, so that the great grief left him so suddenly. What a pity that everybody who is in trouble has not one like it.
Peg.—So far as I understand the thing, Sheila dear, I think there are a great many people who do possess that jewel, and that it does soften and soothe grief for them.
Sheila.—How is that, Peg?
Peg.—One who crushes down his own desire, and gives up his own will for God's sake, or for the Saviour's sake, or for justice and right's sake, will have the remembrance of that act in his heart; and when grief comes upon him it will not take a strong grip of his heart.
Abbie.—And I suppose, the greater the desire, the greater the act.
Peg.—Yes. And that was why the woman said that Shiana had done that day the noblest act that had been done in Ireland for many a day before it "to put away from his heart the best woman in Ireland rather than do her so great a wrong."
Nora.—I think it was a great pity that they were parted from one another.
Kate.—Hush, Nora! Wouldn't it have been a much greater pity if they had married, seeing how things stood?
Nora.—Well, Kate, indeed I suppose it is true for you. Things were in a sad state, one way or the other. It was a terrible pity that he didn't look before him.
Kate.—Stop a moment, Nora. I wouldn't say things were quite so bad as that. Shiana had got that jewel, and the great grief had gone away out of his heart. He was humming away as gaily as ever. Even if the thirteen years were passing along at a hand-gallop, he had one consolation; when the final day came no one would suffer but himself. And as for Short Mary, I think she came out of it very well. How would it have been with her if Shiana had done as the Yellow Pensioner would have done? He did not do so. And when he told her that he was bound before God never to marry, it put her in double the heart. One would think that she too had been presented with some wondrous jewel. She had just admitted to Hannah that her heart was being wrung with grief. That wringing of the heart had left her. I think myself that nothing better could have happened to those two than that they should be parted as they were. I feel sure that it was no good influence that was drawing them together, and that whatever it was that was putting them apart, it was working for their good.
Abbie.—There was nothing putting them apart except that Shiana wouldn't do what was wrong.
Kate.—What put it into his heart not to do what was wrong? He need not have told any one living whether he had a secret or not. There was nothing to hinder him from marrying her; nothing to prevent him saying to himself: "Who knows if I shall live even the thirteen years? Who knows if that Black Man will ever come, after the fright he got the time he gave that extraordinary roar?" I think some good influence was moving him, otherwise he would not have resisted the making of the match so firmly and so resolutely. Then there is another thing. While the match was being made there was nothing but worry and trouble of mind for everyone who had any hand in it, and especially for Shiana and Short Mary themselves. But as soon as it was completely set aside, Mary had twice as much heart as before, and Shiana returned to his humming. I think it was a very good thing for them that it was not allowed to go on.
Sheila.—It was no thanks to Michael that it didn't go on.
Abbie.—Just hear her! After her saying a little while ago that it was Michael and his blundering that had caused the match to be broken off.
Sheila.—I said he was no good at matchmaking, and I say it again now; but it doesn't follow from that that he didn't do his best at it. It failed them all completely. I wonder what Sive said when she heard that Short Mary's match was broken off as well as her own.

Peg.—She said a queer thing, indeed. She said it was she herself who had broken it, and that whatever match might be made for Shiana she would break off in the same way, since he would not marry her.

Kate.—The hateful thing!—but I mustn't abuse her.—It would have been a good thing if she had had the misfortune of his marrying her.
Nora.—I bet you he would not do a wrong to her any more than he would to Short Mary.
Abbie.—Hush, Nora. You needn't bet about that. No fear for her. I don't think the Yellow Pensioner himself would do that wrong to Sive!
Kate.—If he did, I think he'd suffer for it. Sive would be worse to him than the law.
Abbie.—I guess he'd be in a hurry to go over the water to escape from her.
Kate.—What a fright the man with the horns would give her!
Abbie.—Upon my word, Kate, it is my opinion that she wouldn't allow him much odds. If he gave her a fright, she would give him a fright. If she got hold of him by the horn, or by his goatee beard, I fancy he would be better pleased to be rid of her.
Nora.—And what would the tail be doing? If she were to get a prod or two from that claw, I think she would give a screech.
Abbie.—Oh, Nora, you will soon outdo me! I never thought of the claw. I was thinking that perhaps she might pitch hot water at him, straight in the eyes.
Nora.—Why, what would he care for hot water, after the heat of the place he came from?
Kate.—She has beaten you, Abbie.
Abbie.—She has, clean. I'll say no more.
Sheila.—That's a good thing. I'd soon be getting frightened. Poor Shiana was much to be pitied with such a prospect before him.
Abbie.—How do you know, Sheila, that the prospect would be a certainty?
Sheila.—What do you mean, Abbie?
Abbie.—How do you know that he ever came?
Sheila.—Why, wasn't it just upon that he made the bargain?
Abbie.—Perhaps, as Kate said just now, he got too great a fright the time that roar was forced from him, and that he wouldn't come again to claim the fulfilment of his bargain, for fear that another roar might be forced from him.
Sheila.—Hear her! Did he come, Peg?
Peg.—Wait a while, Sheila dear, and you will hear the whole story exactly as it happened.