Shiana/Chapter 26

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The time was fixed. Before the King's men were gone out of the place they were told that the day was fixed, and what day it was. When they went home they told it to the King. The King sent off a messenger at once with a present of wine for the wedding, and with a ring for Sive. The messenger made good haste. He arrived just on the morning of the day of the marriage, after spending the week on the road, both day and night almost. He had a horse and cart, and there was enough of a load for the horse. There was a basket in the cart, a fine big basket made of white peeled rods, and it was full to the top of bottles of wine. There were, I think, a hundred dozen bottles of wine in it. If it was not more than that, it was not less. And there was plenty of straw packed round the bottles lest they should be broken. Not one of the bottles got broken, and the messenger did not open a single one of them. He didn't, really. He didn't need to. He had full and plenty of food and drink without them. Beside the basket and the bottles there was a large barrel of wine in the cart. There were not less than six score gallons of wine in that barrel. I promise you there was enough of a load for the horse.

The messenger had a gold ring for Sive, a ring which the King himself gave him to take to her, her wedding ring. There was a precious stone in that ring, as big AS a hare's eye, you would think, and that stone would make light for you in the dark, as phosphorus would. When Sive saw that ring and the stone in it, she was almost out of her mind with joy and delight and pride.

"Oh! Dad," said she, "look at that!"

"I see it, my dear," said Dermot. "If I were you," said he, "I would not show that ring to everybody. There are people in the world, Sive, my daughter, who would not value a human life at a pin's worth compared with getting hold of a thing of that sort. I would put it under lock and key if I were in your place."

"I think I will take your advice, Dad," said she. "I have enough of other rings." And she took his advice. She put it back again into the little box in which it came, and she shut the box again firmly and locked it up. She had plenty of other rings.

The evening was coming, and the people who had been asked to the wedding were coming also. John Kittach and his daughter came. The Maid of the Liss and her people came. Nora of the Causeway and her two brothers came, the two best dancers in the country. Nora herself was the best girl dancer in the country. The man of the colt came, and when someone asked him "where was the rest of his beard?"—"She pulled a beard that was better than my beard," said he; "and it is well for you and me that she did. If she hadn't done it, things would be in a bad way with us. I should be without my colt, and you would be without your money. You got more money by the beard Sive pulled than you would get for your horse if you had him now."

"Ach, I did not," said the other man. "There was no better horse than he at the fair that day."

"I would say you were right in that, if I were to hear the buyers saying it. But anyhow, his goodness would be little good to you, but for the act Sive did."

"You may say so!" said the other man.

The big tinker came to the wedding, and he was very sunny and smiling and gracious and bright-eyed, ready and quick-witted and well-spoken. The company was in no danger of finding the conversation lag into silence or dulness while he was present. He was never without something to say that would stir people up, and make them laugh, and set them talking, without their dreaming that it was anyone but themselves that had started the conversation. But when he had had one or two good drinks of the King's Spanish wine there were no bounds to him. One thing that was better than all his other good qualities was that it was impossible to make him angry; and if he saw two people on the point of falling out with each other, before he would have said two words between them the anger would be all gone, and they would be laughing.

Shiana was there, silent, and breathing slowly as usual, with his mouth closed and his eyes wide open, looking far away, so that you would think he could see into the other world. He spent most of the night sitting above near the priest and John Kittach. He did not speak much of his own accord, but when he was spoken to there was no fear but he would hold his own with anyone.

And if you will believe me, Michael was there, and Michael's mother.

Kate.—No! And after his calling Sive a jade!
Abbie.—You are wrong, Kate. He didn't call her a jade. But he was sorry that he hadn't called her so.
Kate.—He called her a worse name than that. He called her a "brazen thing," and said she was old—and he was near paying for it.

Peg.—When Sive came home from the city the first thing Poll told her was that Michael's mother had been coming, and that she often spent the night in the house taking care of the sick man, while the nurse took a sleep. Bad as Sive was, that touched her heart. Before anyone had been invited she walked west to the widow's house and told her that she must come. "And," said she, "if you and Michael won't come to us, we won't have any wedding feast at all. I shall make out that my father is too weak as yet. I feel sure that but for you and John Kittach's daughter, he would be under the clay to-day. I have never put any trust in nurses. Many a time a bad nurse has let a sick person fall into a relapse, on purpose to keep good board and lodging for herself a little while longer. Will you come?" said she.

"Indeed I will, to be sure," said the other woman. "Why should I not?"

"Will Michael come?" said Sive.

"He will, never fear," said the widow.

So they came.

Dermot was full of wonder and amazement when he saw Michael making himself useful, and Sive ordering him about and calling him by his name, saying "Michael, do this; Michael, do that. Come here, Michael, and lift this with me," here, there, and everywhere.

"Praise be for ever to God!" said Dermot in his own mind. "There is no knowing what will happen to us next!"

There was a great gathering at the wedding, but even so, there was more than full and plenty of food and drink provided. Sive and her father did the thing without any stinginess, but hospitably and generously, and nobody present was neglected in any way, you may be sure. When the table was laid you would be delighted to look at it. It was a big, long, broad table, but it was not really one table, but two, placed end to end. At the head of the table, in front of the priest, there was a piece of beef as big and as broad as a half-barrel. As for the dish that was under that piece of meat, there was nothing causing greater wonder to the big tinker than how it could hold such a load without breaking. At the other end of the table, before the curate, there was a quarter of mutton, bigger than many a quarter of beef might be. On each side of the table, up and down, there was every sort of dish crowded one against another, with every sort of meat upon them, bacon, and lamb, and veal, and ducks, and geese, and kids, and hares, and grouse, and snipe, and chickens.

Forty-four people sat down to table together in the first set. Michael counted them. And yet the company had to take turns, there were so many people at the wedding feast. According as one got up another sat down in the place he had left. But there was no fear that the last person would be badly off; when all were satisfied there was enough left for as many more.

Great as were the numbers at that wedding feast that night, both men and women, and young and old, they all had one thought in their mind. That thought was in their mind, clear and distinct. Good as was the food and the drink, and great as was the wit and the fun that there was over the food and drink, and great as was the entertainment and noise that was going on, they all had that thought in secret, although not one of them said one tittle about it to any of the others. The thought was: how little notion any one of those present had had, after all the matches that were in the making during the time that had gone before, and after all the reports that had been going round, about Shiana, and Short Mary, and Nora of the Causeway, and the Maid of the Liss, that it would be Nosey Cormac they would be marrying in the end! Their minds were full of it, full of it, full of it. But I promise you there was no fear that any of them let out a single hint of it.

It was of that Michael was thinking when someone asked him for a knife, and he brought him a plate of bacon. It was of that the Maid of the Liss was thinking when she said she "had quite finished," while she held out her plate for more meat. It was of that Nora of the Causeway was thinking, when someone asked her if he should pour her out a glass of wine, and she said "How should I know?" so that everybody burst out laughing. Probably it was also of that that even Short Mary was thinking, when she asked the owner of the colt "how much he got for his horse on the fair-day."

There was one person in the company, however, to whom that thought never occurred in any way, good, bad, or indifferent, during the night. That person was Cormac himself. He had no idea that such a thought was in the mind of anyone present.

Beggars and cripples and tramps from every side of the country were collected out on the road and all round the house, and of course it was a long time before people were able to attend to them, or give them anything to eat and drink. They also had that same thought in their minds. They kept it there until the delay went to great length, and their hunger, and their thirst for the wine, increased. Then their patience gave way, and they began to discuss the point, and good hands they were at doing it. But later on, when they found that the food and the drink were good and strong and substantial and fine-flavoured, they did not pretend to have ever mentioned any such thing—the rascals!

It was getting on into the night. The company within had eaten and drunk enough, and so had those of the broken legs and the back-biting tongues outside. The priest looked at Dermot. Dermot looked at Sive. Sive looked at Cormac. Cormac looked about him. The company rose to their feet. Sive went out. She returned again immediately, wearing the red cloak, and you would think the golden drops on the cape were lighted candles.

Then the couple went up before the priest, and he married them.

When they were married and the blessing of the Church read over them, John Kittach took up a clean plate and he put a gold guinea on the plate. Shiana put a guinea on the plate. Short Mary put a guinea from herself upon it. So with them all round. There was no one who did not put some money upon it. When they had all been gone over, Cormac came and put three guineas on the plate, and, well became Sive! she put three guineas from herself upon it.

"Indeed, Father," said the big tinker, "I think it is a good thing for your reverence that it is not in the 'City-far-away' that this marriage has been performed."

"Indeed, Patrick," said the priest, "I think so, too, and that it is no less a good thing for all those who are here to-night. And I also think that the least we all may do is to ask the God of glory, praise be to Him! to give a long happy life to Cormac and Sive, and if they are well off to-night in the grace of God and of the world, that they may be seven times better off this night next year, and if not better off, may they not be worse off! Grandchildren to your grandchildren, Dermot!"

"Amen, O Lord!" said the company, again and again.

While that "amen" was going on, the married couple slipped out. The two horses and the coach were ready outside the door, and the driver sitting up in his own place. The beggars saw the coach and gathered round it. When Cormac was getting into the coach he threw a handful of small money among the beggars. You would think they would tear the throats out of each other striving to get at the money. While they were clawing and crushing and pushing each other the coach drove off. When the beggars found the coach going off they raised a shout. It was a loud shout—a powerful, vigorous shout, that would make your ears sing. But from that night to this, no one has been able to make out rightly whether that shout was a shout of derision or a shout of praise.

But it did not matter. Sive did not care which. The man of the colt, or any other man or any woman, could not now say that anyone married her without a fortune. If the shout was a shout of derision she did not grudge them their shouting until morning if it was any satisfaction to their minds. If it was a shout of praise, it was praise thrown away. She set no more value upon the praise than she did upon the wind blowing. As for Cormac, he did not think of derision or of praise in the matter. As was usual with him, he took it all very seriously. The coach drove on along the road to the north-east and no further remembrance remained with Sive or with Cormac of derision or of praise.

Cormac was contented. He knew that through the act Sive had done, and through the benefit she had conferred upon the King, there was no fear but that her husband would get friendship and favour from the King. Sive was contented. At length and at last she did not care what matches might be broken or mended. "He was a stubborn man, but even if he was," she thought, "what was to be done but to give him his own way! He would be the very mischief if that would not satisfy him." Grey Dermot was contented. And it was he himself that knew best why. All the neighbours were very well contented. I suppose they also knew the reason why.

When Sive was going she gave the keys to her father. But she did not leave much wealth stored behind the locks. As she was going out she called Michael's mother aside.

"It would be as well for you to stay here," said she, "and to take care of this place. Michael could mind the shop and sell the leather. This poor man is too old. Whenever it is God's will to call him away there will be no one to come between you and this house. I know there is no fear that you will wrong my father. As long as he lives I will support him. Whatever money the sale of the leather will make, you and Michael may have. Will you take the place?"

"Indeed I will, of course," said the widow. "Well! will I take it? What a question! Indeed I will take the place, and I will let my own little house to my brother's wife. She is leaving the house in which she is now. And then, if it should happen that you would want this house back again I can get my own house back again in the same way."

"Very good," said Sive. "There is some money for you which will do until I send you more."

Michael was astonished by and by when his mother told him to go west and bring his clothes, and her own clothes, and to lock the door after him, as they would not be going home at all.

"What is coming over you, mother? "said Michael, "or why will we not be going home? Surely there isn't any other claim on the place? Cormac could not be coming now to demand possession from us. I think he has got something else to mind now."

"There is not, my boy," said she, "any claim on the place, nor any person coming to demand possession from us." And she told him the arrangement Sive had made.

Michael looked about him. "And does this house belong to us now?" said he.

"It does, my boy," said she, "provided that we take good care of Dermot."

"It is a fine big roomy house," said he. "Little I thought that I and my mother would come to live in it! What a change in the world!"

"Go along now, my boy," said she, " and look after the people, and don't let anyone be neglected, and let nobody be thirsty or hungry during the night. They will be all dancing directly, and the dancing will make them thirsty. Look after them, Michael, and let them have the drink and the food before they have time to ask for it."

"Very good, mother," said he.