Shiana/Chapter 15

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CHAPTER XV.

CONSULTATIONS AND A SURPRISE.

John Kittach went away home, and as soon as he found an opportunity, he introduced the subject.

"It is wonderful, Mary," said he, "what an amount of good Shiana is doing all about the country. I don't know in the world how his money holds out. I don't believe there is one, or hardly one, poor person in the parish now who has not received something from him."

"No, father, there isn't," said she, "nor if you said in the seven parishes next to it. I often wonder very much too, when I hear the people talking, how it is that he has not gone bankrupt long ago. It is not in shillings nor in pounds the money is going from him, but in scores and in hundreds of pounds."

"I often think," said John, "that it is very surprising that he should let it go from him like that. Why, a man could do good, and give alms, and distribute charity, without wronging himself to such an extent. What many people say is, that he is out of his mind."

"Out of his mind!" said she. "It is hard to escape their tongues. If he were a mean-spirited, good-for-nothing fellow they would find fault with him; they would say he was making his money by avarice and stinginess. Now, when he can't be accused of avarice or of meanness, nothing will do but to say he is out of his mind. It is well for him that he cares very little for what they say. Whatever object he has in doing so much good, I dare say he knows his own mind."

"There are some who hint that it is trouble of mind that is affecting him," said he, "some great trouble: that he took some bond or promise, or something of that sort upon him, some obligation which he did not rightly understand in time. And then, when he understood what he had done, instead of making any effort to free himself, that he just fell into despair altogether."

Mary was silent; she did not pretend to notice anything in her father's words; but she was very much astonished.

"Surely it cannot be," said she to herself, "that the widow has let out the secret!"

"I should think," said John, "that if there were anything of that sort on his mind he would have told it to you that day, though certainly he gave himself very little time to tell you much at all."

"Indeed I should think so too," said she, indifferently. "I suppose," she went on, "that if there had been anything of that sort troubling him, he would have given himself time to tell it, and since he didn't give himself time, that it is a pretty sure sign that there wasn't." She had a stocking of her father's in her hand, and she was darning it, and vou would think, to look at her, that her mind was more intent upon the stocking than upon the talk.

It was John's turn to be astonished then. "He never told it to her!" he said to himself. "Well, I suppose you are right," he said to her. "If it had been troubling him, he would have given himself time to tell it."

"Here," said she. "Put this on now, and let me see if it will hurt you."

Sheila.—Upon my word it was well for her that she didn't let it out! I would never have had the same respect for her again, as long as she lived, and longer! Oh, the rogue! Hadn't she the stocking handy? Oh, Mary, you were never at a loss!
Abbie.—What did John do then, Peg?

Peg.—As soon as he had an opportunity he walked east to the priest's house.

"Well, Father," said he, "I am more in the dark now about this matter than ever I was."

"How so?" said the priest.

"Whatever he said to Mary the day he came west, he never spoke to her of any contract or promise of marriage."

Hardly were the words out of his mouth when they heard a step coming to the door. Into the room walked—Grey Dermot himself!

"Good morrow, Dermot," said the priest.

"Long may you live!" said Dermot. "How are you, John?"

"Well, thank you," said John.

They talked a little, none of them taking much interest in the talk.

At last Dermot said, "If you please, Father, I should like to speak to you for a moment."

"Would you mind staying here for a little while, John?" said the priest.

"Very well, Father," said John. "Don't trouble about me."

They went into another room.

A little while passed, and a great while passed after it. At last Dermot went away and the priest returned. He had a very comical look on his face.

"Well, John," said he, "your question is solved, at all events."

"How is that, Father?" said he.

"Sive is going to be married," said the priest.

"How well I knew!" said John. "Wasn't I sure she had a hard and fast grip of him, and that she would never let him go!"

"It is not to Shiana she is to be married," said the priest.

John stood still, and his eyes opened wide.

"Not to Shiana, do you say?" said he.

"No," said the priest. "I cannot make out who the man is. Dermot says he is a gentleman, and that he comes from some place near Dublin, and that it is amazing what an amount of gold and silver and riches he has. He says they will be married in Dublin. He only wanted leave from me for the priest there to marry them. I make him a present of them most willingly, I assure you. I am not sorry to have no hand in the business. I am afraid it is a bad business. I asked him to put the thing off for a few days till I should have time to enquire about the place down there, and to make out who this great gentleman is who has all this wealth, and what is the reason why he couldn't find a wife down in his own country, and not come so far from home to look for one. The poor man himself is not very well pleased with the thing, but he says that Sive and the gentleman have settled the whole business."

"'Turning of horses brings change of tidings,' said John. "I no more expected such a thing to happen than I would expect the sky above us to fall down. Whatever may be the end of this business, there is an end to Sive's talk about her having any claim on Shiana. Whether she had until now any hold upon him by a promise or not, she cannot pretend any longer that she has, or that she ever had. It's an ill wind that blows nobody good."

"Don't be too sure of that, John," said the priest.

"You don't know Sive thoroughly. She is the most barefaced woman I ever met. It would not surprise me in the least—if it should happen that this business didn't succeed with her, and if this gentleman were to back out and leave her—to see her come before the whole country again as bold as ever she was, trying to persuade us all that Shiana was bound to marry her."

"And who would believe her, Father?" said John.

"I dare say," said the priest, "that nobody who looked into the thing would believe her, but people generally accept a story of that sort without much examination. I myself never believed, from what anyone said, that he had made her any promise, until you persuaded me of it that last day that we were talking about it. And now I am sure that you were mistaken. I am quite sure, whatever it is that is preventing Shiana from marrying your daughter, that it has nothing to do with Sive, and that Sive has nothing to do with it, good, bad or indifferent."

"I hope," said John, "that this gentleman will marry her, whoever he is. I wouldn't grudge her to him. If he carried her off with him to Dublin it would bring great peace to the country."

"I am afraid, John," said the priest, "that it is not for that poor gentleman's good you say that."

"Like the cat, Father," said John. "'It's for his own good the cat purrs.'"

"But, for all that," said the priest, "it is hard to know which of the two, Sive or the gentleman, will be the greater gainer or loser by the marriage, if it takes place. If he is really a gentleman, it is a long time since one came from Dublin who was such a perfect fool as he. That is the lady that will teach him the commandments of his religion before he has been long married to her! If he is an impostor, he won't be allowed much odds. If he imagines that he will be able to keep Sive in order, the poor man is making the greatest mistake he ever made in his life. Sive was not curbed in time. Her mother died before she was quite a year old. Dermot let her have her own way until it was too late, and she had got altogether out of control."

"I don't think it is a question of control, Father," said John. "I lost my Eileen when little Mary was only two years old. I never kept that child in any sort of subjection. She was allowed to have her own way, if ever a child was allowed it. Nobody ever did so much as raise their voice to her, not to speak of using an angry word to her, or striking her. And see how things are with us. Why, as sure as you are sitting there, she thinks of everything I want before I think of it myself."

"Certainly, John," said the priest, "there is a grace in some people more than in others, and there is a 'good drop' in some people more than in others—or a 'bad drop.' But, nevertheless, so far as the generality of people are concerned, the proverb is true, and it can't be beaten, 'There is no luck or grace where there is no discipline.'"

So they went on talking and discussing, John Kittach very well satisfied in his mind and very grateful to the gentleman who had come so far to meet Sive; and the priest very ill-satisfied in his mind for fear that the affair of Sive and the strange gentleman might come to no good end.