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- The Untilled Field - 10/57 -
leaves and water, and from the top of a rock Kate listened while Peter told her they would rebuild his house.
"The priests are after us," she said.
And she gave a low whistle, and the men and boys looked round, and seeing the priests coming, they dispersed, taking several paths, and none but Ned and Mary were left behind. Ned was dozing, Mary was sitting beside him fanning herself with her hat; they had not heard Kate's whistle, and they did not see the priests until they were by them.
"Now, Tom, don't lose your head, be quiet with them."
"Will you speak to them, or shall I?" said Father Tom.
In the excitement of the moment he forgot his own imperfections and desired to admonish them.
"I think you had better let me speak to them," said Father John. "You are Ned Kavanagh," he said, "and you are Mary Byrne, I believe. Now, I don't know you all, for I am getting an old man, and I don't often come up this way. But notwithstanding my age, and the heat of the day, I have come up, for I have heard that you have not acted as good Catholics should. I don't doubt for a moment that you intended to get married, but you have, I fear, been guilty of a great sin, and you've set a bad example."
"We were on our way to your reverence now," said Mary. "I mean to his reverence."
"Well," said Father Tom, "you are certainly taking your time over it, lying here half asleep under the trees."
"We hadn't the money," said Mary, "it wasn't our fault."
"Didn't I say I'd marry you for nothing?"
"But sure, your reverence, that's only a way of speaking."
"There's no use lingering here," said Father Tom. "Ned, you took the pledge the day before yesterday, and yesterday you were tipsy."
"I may have had a drop of drink in me, your reverence. Pat Connex passed me the mug of porter and I forgot myself."
"And once," said the priest, "you tasted the porter you thought you could go on taking it."
Ned did not answer, and the priests whispered together.
"We are half way now," said Father Tom, "we can get there before twelve o'clock."
"I don't think I'm equal to it," said Father John. "I really don't think--"
The sounds of wheels were heard, and a peasant driving a donkey cart came up the road.
"You see it is all up-hill," said Father John. "See how the road ascends. I never could manage it."
"The road is pretty flat at the top of the hill once you get to the top of the hill, and the cart will take you to the top."
It seemed undignified to get into the donkey cart, but his nephew's conscience was at stake, and the Vicar-General got in, and Father Tom said to the unmarried couple:--
"Now walk on in front of us, and step out as quickly as you can."
And on the way to the church Father Tom remembered that he had caught sight of Kate standing at the top of the rock talking to Peter M'Shane. In a few days they would come to him to be married, and he hoped that Peter and Kate's marriage would make amends for this miserable patchwork, for Ned Kavanagh and Mary Byrne's marriage was no better than patchwork.
Mrs. Connex promised the priest to keep Pat at home out of Kate's way, and the neighbours knew it was the priest's wish that they should do all they could to help him to bring about this marriage, and everywhere Kate went she heard nothing talked of but her marriage.
The dress that Kate was to be married in was a nice grey silk. It had been bought at a rummage sale, and she was told that it suited her. But Kate had begun to feel that she was being driven into a trap. In the week before her marriage she tried to escape. She went to Dublin to look for a situation; but she did not find one. She had not seen Pat since the poultry lecture, and his neglect angered her. She did not care what became of her.
On the morning of her wedding she turned round and asked her sister if she thought she ought to marry Peter, and Julia said it would be a pity if she didn't. Six cars had been engaged, and, feeling she was done for, she went to the church, hoping it would fall down on her. Well, the priest had his way, and Kate felt she hated him and Mrs. M'Shane, who stood on the edge of the road. The fat were distributed alongside of the lean, and the bridal party drove away, and there was a great waving of hands, and Mrs. M'Shane waited until the last car was out of sight.
Her husband had been dead many years, and she lived with her son in a two-roomed cabin. She was one of those simple, kindly natures that everyone likes and that everyone despises, and she returned home like a lonely goose, waddling slowly, a little overcome by the thought of the happiness that awaited her son. There would be no more lonely evenings in the cabin; Kate would be with him now, and later on there would be some children, and she waddled home thinking of the cradle and the joy it would be to her to take her grandchildren upon her knee. When she returned to the cottage she sat down, so that she might dream over her happiness a little longer. But she had not been sitting long when she remembered there was a great deal of work to be done. The cabin would have to be cleaned from end to end, there was the supper to be cooked, and she did not pause in her work until everything was ready. At five the pig's head was on the table, and the sheep's tongues; the bread was baked; the barrel of porter had come, and she was expecting the piper every minute. As she stood with her arms akimbo looking at the table, thinking of the great evening it would be, she thought how her old friend, Annie Connex, had refused to come to Peter's wedding. Wasn't all the village saying that Kate would not have married Peter if she had not been driven to it by the priest and by her mother.
"Poor boy," she thought, "his heart is so set upon her that he has no ears for any word against her."
She could not understand why people should talk ill of a girl on her wedding day. "Why shouldn't a girl be given a chance?" she asked herself. "Why should Annie Connex prevent her son from coming to the dance? If she were to go to her now and ask her if she would come? and if she would not come herself, if she would let Pat come round for an hour? If Annie would do this all the gossips would have their tongues tied. Anyhow she could try to persuade her." And she locked her door and walked up the road and knocked at Mrs. Connex's.
Prosperity in the shapes of pig styes and stables had collected round Annie's door, and Mrs. M'Shane was proud to be a visitor in such a house.
"I came round, Annie, to tell you they're married."
"Well, come in, Mary," she said, "if you have the time."
The first part of the sentence was prompted by the news that Kate was safely married and out of Pat's way; and the second half of the sentence, "if you have the time," was prompted by a wish that Mary should see that she need not come again for some time at least.
To Annie Connex the Kavanagh family was abomination. The father got eighteen shillings a week for doing a bit of gardening. Ned had been a quarryman, now he was out of work and did odd jobs. The Kavanaghs took in a baby, and they got five or six shillings a week for that. Mrs. Kavanagh sold geraniums at more than their value, and she got more than the market value for her chickens-- she sold them to charitable folk who were anxious to encourage poultry farming; and now Julia, the second daughter, had gone in for lace making, and she made a lace that looked as if it were cut out of paper, and sold it for three times its market value.
And to sell above market value was abominable to Annie Connex. Her idea of life was order and administration, and the village she lived in was thriftless and idle. The Kavanaghs received out-door relief; they got two shillings a week off the rates, though every Saturday evening they bought a quarter barrel of porter, and Annie Connex could not believe in the future of a country that would tolerate such a thing. If her son had married a Kavanagh her life would have come to an end, and the twenty years she had worked for him would have been wasted years. Thank God, Kate was out of her son's way, and on seeing Mary she resolved that Pat should never cross the M'Shane's threshold.
Mrs. M'Shane looked round the comfortable kitchen, with sides of bacon, and home-cured hams hanging from the rafters. She had not got on in life as well as Mrs. Connex, and she knew she would never have a beautiful closed range, but an open hearth till the end of her days. She could never have a nice dresser with a pretty carved top. The dresser in her kitchen was deal, and had no nice shining brass knobs on it. She would never have a parlour, and this parlour had in it a mahogany table and a grandfather's clock that would show you the moon on it just the same as it was in the sky, and there was a glass over the fireplace. This was Annie Connex's own parlour. The parlour on the other side of the house was even better furnished, for in the summer months Mrs. Connex bedded and boarded her lodgers for one pound or one pound five shillings a week.
"So she was married to-day, and Father Maguire married her after all. I never thought he would have brought her to it. Well, I'm glad she's married." It rose to Mary's lips to say, "you are glad she didn't marry your son," but she put back the words. "It comes upon me as a bit of surprise, for sure and all I could never see
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