When the men went home, each to his own lodging, I promise you there was a great tale to tell in every house. The neighbours came in to spend the evening. Each shoemaker gave his own version of Dermot's visit and of Shiana's answer. Each neighbour carried home with him his own way of repeating the story. There never was such fun over anything, before or since, about the place. By the time Sunday came there was not a person, old or young, in the three congregations that had not the whole story, and three times as much more added to it. You would see the people on the roads, in threes, or fours, or tens, telling the story or asking about it, and staggering on their feet with fun and laughter. Dermot was right. The whole country was making game of the pair.
Short Mary and Nora of the Causeway and the Maid of the Liss were all very thankful and well pleased in their minds at their having escaped so well. They would not have escaped but for Dermot's visit being so absurd as it was, and Dermot himself having the reputation of being so very sharp-witted.
When people had had enough of the fun about Dermot and Sive, they had another thing to discuss. All the men had heard Shiana say that he had no notion of marrying, and would not have, yet awhile. Not one of them made a change of a word in that part of the story. Short Mary heard it. Nora of the Causeway heard it. The Maid of the Liss heard it. Everybody heard it, and there was not one of those who heard it that did not remember it correctly. That was the question among them. That was the difficulty. What made Shiana say that he had no notion of marrying, and would not have for a while?
There would not be a batch of men working in a field, nor a few people walking on the road, nor a little gathering going to a neighbour's house in the evening, nor a company going to have a drink, but that the first question that would start up among them would be, "Man, did you hear what Grey Dermot did? Oh, upon my word and credit, he walked straight up to Shiana' s house, and he wanted, right or wrong, to bring Shiana down with him by the poll of his head and marry him there and then, to Sive, in spite of his back teeth! Did anyone ever see the like?"
Then, by-and-bye, somebody else would say, "And what did Shiana say?" He would get as an answer, "Shiana told him to go home and have sense, that he had no notion of marrying, and that he wouldn't have, yet awhile."
Then the question would arise, "What made Shiana say such a thing, while matches were being made for him all over the country as thick as gravel? "
When Shiana himself said the words, he let out more of his mind than he wished to let out, but he was angry, and Dermot had done the thing in such a blundering way that he could not keep patience with him. When they were all gone home for the night, and he was alone, sitting in the soogaun chair, the whole affair was running through his mind in this way:—
"In the mouth of the three congregations! It wasn't I that put it into the mouth of the three congregations. The old fool! He will be in the mouth of the three congregations now—himself and Sive. Humph!—I am sorry there should have been any mention of Short Mary's name. But how can I help it? Now I think of it, I wonder why she is called Short Mary, when she is as tall as any woman coming to the congregation. It is no wonder she should be. John Kittach himself is a fine big powerful man. He has the name of being the strongest man of his race, and the MacCarthys are strong men. She is a handsome woman! It is no mistake to call her a quiet, sensible girl. Three years ago there was no fear of her name being mentioned together with mine.
"It would be a queer thing for me to do, to marry, when I have only ten years now. They were not long going, those three years. There won't be much delay in three years more to follow them. There's half the time gone then. 'Won't it be soon enough for you to ask that question,' said he, 'when we are starting?' What good would it be for me to ask it then? He made me swear by the virtue of the Holy Things. I suppose there is no escape for me. Things are in a queer way for me. I working and making money as thick as gravel, and what am I getting by it? To many a poor man have I given help. Their gratitude is great—on their lips. I don't know if there is much of it in their hearts. I wonder if they are any the better of what I have given them. There are some of them of whom I think that it would have been better for them if they had never seen a halfpenny of it. There are some of them who, if the time were past and I were gone, would not grieve for me long. They would think then that it was certain that they need never pay. That is their gratitude.
"Whoever gets her will have a good wife. I often heard that a wife was better than a fortune There is both wife and fortune there.—It would be a queer thing for me to do, to marry, having only ten years now. She would be in a nice way then—and her children, if she had any. Bad manners to it for money and for a purse and for a bargain! I had an easy mind until they came my way."
That is the way he spent the night. He went out at daybreak, and up the hill. He sat for a while on the top of a big rock called the Gamblers' Rock. When the day cleared and the sun rose, and he looked round him at the beautiful view to be seen from the rock, the gloom rose from his heart and a great peace came upon his mind.
Peg.—Well, you see, he didn't. But I dare say if he had got a second chance he would have taken it. He did not get a second chance. He had made his bargain. He had made it by the virtue of the Holy Things, and he had to stand to it. He knew right well that as soon as the last day of the thirteen years should come, the claimant would come, and that there would be no chance of hiding from him.
When he had spent a good while sitting on the Gamblers' Rock, looking about him at the beautiful view, he continued his reflections:—
"How much my case was troubling him! He heard me say that I was 'without food or drink or money.' Many a one beside me has been without food or drink or money, and how well he let them go by him!'—The bargain is not made yet,' said he. 'Let it be a bargain,' said I. He wouldn't be satisfied with that. He must needs make the bonds very tight. 'By the virtue of the Holy Things!' said he. 'By the virtue of the Holy Things,' said I. There is no doubt but I said it. I can't get out of it. But indeed I wouldn't have said it but for the way he lured me. I never saw with my eyes a more beautiful colour than there was on that handful of gold that he showed me. An intense desire for it came upon me. He gave me a hundred pounds in exchange for a single shilling. 'I would give you that,' said he, 'and seven hundred, if I could only destroy the good done by that shilling.' He admitted that its good could not be destroyed, because I had given it for the Saviour's sake. Destroy the good of it! Why destroy it? Where was the use? If he had failed to destroy the good of that shilling, ought not I to be able to do further good which he would be unable to destroy? I have the purse. It would be great fun to use his own money to provoke and annoy him. By the deer, that is just what I'll do! He would give seven hundred pounds to destroy the good of a single shilling. I have ten years. Many a shilling and penny and pound I shall be able to give for the Saviour's sake in the course of ten years. He will have hard work trying to spoil all the good. So now! I shall have the upper hand of him in that matter at least. I'll get music out of the purse yet, even if it is not in the way in which I thought of doing it at first. The rascal of a thief!"
It was getting well on in the morning when he had finished his reflections and had made up his mind. He stood up and looked round him at the beautiful prospect.
"I have ten years at all events," said he, and he turned his face homeward.