Shiana/Chapter 21

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Peg.—Whatever it was that put her eye out, the woman who came to Dermot was blind of one eye. And if the eye that was gone was as piercing as the eye she still had, it was well for Dermot that she had not the two eyes when she looked at him, or she might have given him a relapse. The poor man was not able to eat a morsel of food for the rest of that day, for thinking of that one eye, and of the hen, and of the "sruv, srov!" and of the bad company that his daughter had met with; so that Poll went out and called some of the neighbours, and they came in, and they said the priest ought to be sent for before nightfall for fear the man might get bad, and that they would have to call the priest in the middle of the night.

The priest was sent for and he came. When he heard from Dermot about the fortune-teller he laughed.

"I know that rogue of a woman well," said he. "She was never in Ulster, nor one-half the distance from home. I know where she was born and reared, and a bad rearing she was. She has no trade or way of living but to be going from place to place pretending that she has this supernatural knowledge, which, of course, she has not, any more than that hob has. If people would have sense and not be giving her money she would soon have to take up some other calling. But though the people are often told so, they will not take advice, and my talk is useless. It is no good for me to be at them."

"And, Father," said Dermot, "how did she find out that there was a hen crowing in this house? Or how did she find out that Sive was from home? Or how did she find out that I was myself in danger?"

"Nonsense, Dermot!" said the priest. "There is nothing easier than to find out things of that sort when one makes up one's mind to do so. Did not the whole country know the terrible work that was done here on the fair day? Did not the whole country know that Sive was from home, and that you were down with a fever? God bless the hearers! What was to prevent her from going here and there among the people and finding out everything about you? It is a fine easy way of making money."

"But how would she find out that there was a hen crowing in the house, Father?" said Dermot.

"I suppose," said the priest, "if there was a hen crowing in the house, there was nothing to prevent her getting that much information any more than getting all the rest."

"If there was a hen crowing in the house!" said Dermot. "Surely, Father, it there had not been she would not have said it."

"It is all the same whether or no," said the priest. "It is childish to take any notice of such a thing, but I should like to know whether anybody else heard this hen crowing."

"I did not hear her myself," said Dermot. "And there is no fear that Poll heard her, because she is as deaf as a bittle; and indeed I did not hear anybody else say that she was heard."

"So I thought," said the priest. "I suppose that woman must have heard something of this rumour that is afloat concerning Sive; that she did not stop until she went down to the very city of Dublin. Then that she sent a hunt and a pursuit and a search after that thief, so that he was caught and hanged. And that the King gave Sive the three hundred pounds that had been taken from her and another three hundred along with it."

"Stop! stop! Father," said Dermot. "What is that you are saying, Father? How could that poor girl go to Dublin and find her way through the city? A little girl that was never more than twenty miles from home!"

"I am only telling what the rumour is that I heard," said the priest. "I dare say that woman who pretends to tell fortunes, and can't, must have heard the same rumour, and that she thought if she had the first of the story for you she would get a 'hand-reach' of money out of you, which I dare say she did."

"She did not get much, Father," said Dermot. "But what sort of rumour is it? or what set it going?"

"Well, I was coming over myself to tell you what was going on, when I met the messenger who said some of the neighbours were afraid you would get a relapse."

"They needn't have done that!" said Dermot, "I never saw them any other way than that. If anyone were asking them to do it they would not be so ready! Running to give a priest a journey without any necessity! To think of it!"

"It does not matter a pin," said the priest. "I would have come in any case, to see whether you had any news from Sive, or whether there was any foundation for this rumour that is afloat."

"I did not hear a single word of it until that woman came and said that Sive had met a bad companion, or something to that effect," said Dermot.

"Who was the bad companion she said Sive had met?" said the priest.

"She did not tell us who he was. She did not give us any account of him, and that is what is sending me out of my senses," said Dermot.

"At that rate," said the priest, "I dare say she heard the rest, too, just as I heard it. Some carmen brought it as a great wonder and as a topic of conversation between them, that Nosey Cormac was in Dublin also, and that he and Sive worked the business together to get the thief caught; that they both played their cards so well and so cleverly that the King's people were astonished, and so was the King, at their doing the work so well. Then, when Sive got six hundred pounds instead of the three hundred that had been taken from her, that a match was settled between her and Cormac, and that the pair are married by this time, or about to be married."

"Well, well!" said Dermot. "Think of that! Did anyone ever hear the like of it? I did not think she would have married him if he had had all the wealth in Ireland. It is a strange world! That is a most extraordinary business if it be true. But it is more likely that there is no foundation for it. There could not be, of course."

"I don't know in the world," said the priest. "I suppose time will tell, and that soon. Time always tells best. I would not be at all surprised myself if there turned out to be a spice of truth in the rumour."

"Why, Father, dear," said Dermot, "what is that you are saying? There are no two in the parish more unfit for each other than that pair. Sive might do very well if she were married to some even-tempered, firm, well-balanced man, such as Shiana there above. Perhaps Cormac might do well if he were married to some silent, patient woman, who would give him his own way in every possible manner. But that pair! If they are married it will be red war with them as long as they live."

"I don't know in the world, Dermot," said the priest. "To tell you the truth, I fancy that perhaps matters may get on with them better than that. Certainly Cormac is a rough-tempered, headstrong man. I don't say that she would give him much odds in those points. Still, notwithstanding all that, you see, perhaps if they were married it might happen that they would get on better with each other than either of them would get on with anybody else. I have seen the like of it before."

"You have seen a great deal, Father, without a doubt in the world, but you do not know Sive thoroughly. It is not I that should say it; but there is no use in saying anything but what is right, and the truth is the best. I don't think there is a man living this day on the dry land of Ireland who could manage Sive."

"With the exception of one man I don't think there is," said the priest. "And there is another thing about it, there is not a woman living to-day on the dry land of Ireland (nor, I might say, in the next land to it) who could manage Cormac if Sive doesn't manage him; which she will. Cut off my ear if she doesn't."

"Why, Father," said Dermot, "anyone would imagine by the way you speak that you see some truth or foundation in this rumour."

"Well, the fact is, the carmen have the ins and outs of the story so exactly, and they all tell it so much in the same words, that it is hard to say that there is not some truth in it," said the priest.

"I never had the remotest idea that such a thing would happen," said Dermot. "I thought Sive would no more marry him than she would drown herself. And I thought he would not look at the side of the road that Sive was on, no, not if there wasn't another woman in Ireland. What I used to hear her saying was that there was not a man in Ireland she detested more than him, and that there was not an uglier man in Ireland than he. If the pair are married it beats all I ever saw."

"Perhaps," said the priest, "if she got all this consideration, as they say she did, from the King's people and from the King himself, on account of doing the work so well, and getting that thief arrested, and if she got six hundred pounds as a reward for it, Cormac mav have said to himself that it would be worth his while to look at the side of the road she would be on, and in fact that it would be better worth his while to look on that side than on the other. And perhaps when Sive would see Cormac in that frame of mind she might not be at all disinclined to say in her own mind that there are men to be found who are uglier than he."

"Ha! ha! ha!" said Dermot. "Well, what a joke, Father!" said he. "Who knows but that things may be better than we imagined them to be? 'The thing a man would regret more than his death, he does not know but it may be the very best thing for him.'"

With that, who should walk in at the door to them but the big tinker.