TWO GENTLEMEN who were in the lavatory at the time tried to
lift him up: but he was quite helpless. He lay curled up at the foot
of the stairs down which he had fallen. They succeeded in turning
him over. His hat had rolled a few yards away and his clothes were
smeared with the filth and ooze of the floor on which he had lain,
face downwards. His eyes were closed and he breathed with a
grunting noise. A thin stream of blood trickled from the corner of
These two gentlemen and one of the curates carried him up the
stairs and laid him down again on the floor of the bar. In two
minutes he was surrounded by a ring of men. The manager of the
bar asked everyone who he was and who was with him. No one
knew who he was but one of the curates said he had served the
gentleman with a small rum.
"Was he by himself?" asked the manager.
"No, sir. There was two gentlemen with him."
"And where are they?"
No one knew; a voice said:
"Give him air. He's fainted."
The ring of onlookers distended and closed again elastically. A
dark medal of blood had formed itself near the man's head on the
tessellated floor. The manager, alarmed by the grey pallor of the
man's face, sent for a policeman.
His collar was unfastened and his necktie undone. He opened eyes
for an instant, sighed and closed them again. One of gentlemen
who had carried him upstairs held a dinged silk hat in his hand.
The manager asked repeatedly did no one know who the injured
man was or where had his friends gone. The door of the bar
opened and an immense constable entered. A crowd which had
followed him down the laneway collected outside the door,
struggling to look in through the glass panels.
The manager at once began to narrate what he knew. The costable,
a young man with thick immobile features, listened. He moved his
head slowly to right and left and from the manager to the person
on the floor, as if he feared to be the victim some delusion. Then
he drew off his glove, produced a small book from his waist,
licked the lead of his pencil and made ready to indite. He asked in
a suspicious provincial accent:
"Who is the man? What's his name and address?"
A young man in a cycling-suit cleared his way through the ring of
bystanders. He knelt down promptly beside the injured man and
called for water. The constable knelt down also to help. The young
man washed the blood from the injured man's mouth and then
called for some brandy. The constable repeated the order in an
authoritative voice until a curate came running with the glass. The
brandy was forced down the man's throat. In a few seconds he
opened his eyes and looked about him. He looked at the circle of
faces and then, understanding, strove to rise to his feet.
"You're all right now?" asked the young man in the cycling- suit.
"Sha,'s nothing," said the injured man, trying to stand up.
He was helped to his feet. The manager said something about a
hospital and some of the bystanders gave advice. The battered silk
hat was placed on the man's head. The constable asked:
"Where do you live?"
The man, without answering, began to twirl the ends of his
moustache. He made light of his accident. It was nothing, he said:
only a little accident. He spoke very thickly.
"Where do you live" repeated the constable.
The man said they were to get a cab for him. While the point was
being debated a tall agile gentleman of fair complexion, wearing a
long yellow ulster, came from the far end of the bar. Seeing the
spectacle, he called out:
"Hallo, Tom, old man! What's the trouble?"
"Sha,'s nothing," said the man.
The new-comer surveyed the deplorable figure before him and
then turned to the constable, saying:
"It's all right, constable. I'll see him home."
The constable touched his helmet and answered:
"All right, Mr. Power!"
"Come now, Tom," said Mr. Power, taking his friend by the arm.
"No bones broken. What? Can you walk?"
The young man in the cycling-suit took the man by the other arm
and the crowd divided.
"How did you get yourself into this mess?" asked Mr. Power.
"The gentleman fell down the stairs," said the young man.
"I' 'ery 'uch o'liged to you, sir," said the injured man.
"Not at all."
"'ant we have a little...?"
"Not now. Not now."
The three men left the bar and the crowd sifted through the doors
in to the laneway. The manager brought the constable to the stairs
to inspect the scene of the accident. They agreed that the
gentleman must have missed his footing. The customers returned
to the counter and a curate set about removing the traces of blood
from the floor.
When they came out into Grafton Street, Mr. Power whistled for
an outsider. The injured man said again as well as he could.
"I' 'ery 'uch o'liged to you, sir. I hope we'll 'eet again. 'y na'e is
The shock and the incipient pain had partly sobered him.
"Don't mention it," said the young man.
They shook hands. Mr. Kernan was hoisted on to the car and,
while Mr. Power was giving directions to the carman, he expressed
his gratitude to the young man and regretted that they could not
have a little drink together.
"Another time," said the young man.
The car drove off towards Westmoreland Street. As it passed
Ballast Office the clock showed half-past nine. A keen east wind
hit them, blowing from the mouth of the river. Mr. Kernan was
huddled together with cold. His friend asked him to tell how the
accident had happened.
"I'an't 'an," he answered, "'y 'ongue is hurt."
The other leaned over the well of the car and peered into Mr.
Kernan's mouth but he could not see. He struck a match and,
sheltering it in the shell of his hands, peered again into the mouth
which Mr. Kernan opened obediently. The swaying movement of
the car brought the match to and from the opened mouth. The
lower teeth and gums were covered with clotted blood and a
minute piece of the tongue seemed to have been bitten off. The
match was blown out.
"That's ugly," said Mr. Power.
"Sha, 's nothing," said Mr. Kernan, closing his mouth and pulling
the collar of his filthy coat across his neck.
Mr. Kernan was a commercial traveller of the old school which
believed in the dignity of its calling. He had never been seen in the
city without a silk hat of some decency and a pair of gaiters. By
grace of these two articles of clothing, he said, a man could always
pass muster. He carried on the tradition of his Napoleon, the great
Blackwhite, whose memory he evoked at times by legend and
mimicry. Modern business methods had spared him only so far as
to allow him a little office in Crowe Street, on the window blind of
which was written the name of his firm with the address--London,
E. C. On the mantelpiece of this little office a little leaden
battalion of canisters was drawn up and on the table before the
window stood four or five china bowls which were usually half
full of a black liquid. From these bowls Mr. Kernan tasted tea. He
took a mouthful, drew it up, saturated his palate with it and then
spat it forth into the grate. Then he paused to judge.
Mr. Power, a much younger man, was employed in the Royal Irish
Constabulary Office in Dublin Castle. The arc of his social rise
intersected the arc of his friend's decline, but Mr. Kernan's decline
was mitigated by the fact that certain of those friends who had
known him at his highest point of success still esteemed him as a
character. Mr. Power was one of these friends. His inexplicable
debts were a byword in his circle; he was a debonair young man.
The car halted before a small house on the Glasnevin road and Mr.
Kernan was helped into the house. His wife put him to bed while
Mr. Power sat downstairs in the kitchen asking the children where
they went to school and what book they were in. The children--
two girls and a boy, conscious of their father helplessness and of
their mother's absence, began some horseplay with him. He was
surprised at their manners and at their accents, and his brow grew
thoughtful. After a while Mrs. Kernan entered the kitchen,
"Such a sight! O, he'll do for himself one day and that's the holy
alls of it. He's been drinking since Friday."
Mr. Power was careful to explain to her that he was not
responsible, that he had come on the scene by the merest accident.
Mrs. Kernan, remembering Mr. Power's good offices during
domestic quarrels, as well as many small, but opportune loans,
"O, you needn't tell me that, Mr. Power. I know you're a friend of
his, not like some of the others he does be with. They're all right so
long as he has money in his pocket to keep him out from his wife
and family. Nice friends! Who was he with tonight, I'd like to
Mr. Power shook his head but said nothing.
"I'm so sorry," she continued, "that I've nothing in the house to
offer you. But if you wait a minute I'll send round to Fogarty's, at
Mr. Power stood up.
"We were waiting for him to come home with the money. He
never seems to think he has a home at all."
"O, now, Mrs. Kernan," said Mr. Power, "we'll make him turn over
a new leaf. I'll talk to Martin. He's the man. We'll come here one of
these nights and talk it over."
She saw him to the door. The carman was stamping up and down
the footpath, and swinging his arms to warm himself.
"It's very kind of you to bring him home," she said.
"Not at all," said Mr. Power.
He got up on the car. As it drove off he raised his hat to her gaily.
"We'll make a new man of him," he said. "Good-night, Mrs.
Mrs. Kernan's puzzled eyes watched the car till it was out of sight.
Then she withdrew them, went into the house and emptied her
She was an active, practical woman of middle age. Not long before
she had celebrated her silver wedding and renewed her intimacy
with her husband by waltzing with him to Mr. Power's
accompaniment. In her days of courtship, Mr. Kernan had seemed
to her a not ungallant figure: and she still hurried to the chapel
door whenever a wedding was reported and, seeing the bridal pair,
recalled with vivid pleasure how she had passed out of the Star of
the Sea Church in Sandymount, leaning on the arm of a jovial
well-fed man, who was dressed smartly in a frock-coat and
lavender trousers and carried a silk hat gracefully balanced upon
his other arm. After three weeks she had found a wife's life
irksome and, later on, when she was beginning to find it
unbearable, she had become a mother. The part of mother
presented to her no insuperable difficulties and for twenty-five
years she had kept house shrewdly for her husband. Her two eldest
sons were launched. One was in a draper's shop in Glasgow and
the other was clerk to a tea- merchant in Belfast. They were good
sons, wrote regularly and sometimes sent home money. The other
children were still at school.
Mr. Kernan sent a letter to his office next day and remained in bed.
She made beef-tea for him and scolded him roundly. She accepted
his frequent intemperance as part of the climate, healed him
dutifully whenever he was sick and always tried to make him eat a
breakfast. There were worse husbands. He had never been violent
since the boys had grown up, and she knew that he would walk to
the end of Thomas Street and back again to book even a small
Two nights after, his friends came to see him. She brought them up
to his bedroom, the air of which was impregnated with a personal
odour, and gave them chairs at the fire. Mr. Kernan's tongue, the
occasional stinging pain of which had made him somewhat
irritable during the day, became more polite. He sat propped up in
the bed by pillows and the little colour in his puffy cheeks made
them resemble warm cinders. He apologised to his guests for the
disorder of the room, but at the same time looked at them a little
proudly, with a veteran's pride.
He was quite unconscious that he was the victim of a plot which
his friends, Mr. Cunningham, Mr. M'Coy and Mr. Power had
disclosed to Mrs. Kernan in the parlour. The idea been Mr.
Power's, but its development was entrusted to Mr. Cunningham.
Mr. Kernan came of Protestant stock and, though he had been
converted to the Catholic faith at the time of his marriage, he had
not been in the pale of the Church for twenty years. He was fond,
moreover, of giving side-thrusts at Catholicism.
Mr. Cunningham was the very man for such a case. He was an
elder colleague of Mr. Power. His own domestic life was very
happy. People had great sympathy with him, for it was known that
he had married an unpresentable woman who was an incurable
drunkard. He had set up house for her six times; and each time she
had pawned the furniture on him.
Everyone had respect for poor Martin Cunningham. He was a
thoroughly sensible man, influential and intelligent. His blade of
human knowledge, natural astuteness particularised by long
association with cases in the police courts, had been tempered by
brief immersions in the waters of general philosophy. He was well
informed. His friends bowed to his opinions and considered that
his face was like Shakespeare's.
When the plot had been disclosed to her, Mrs. Kernan had said:
"I leave it all in your hands, Mr. Cunningham."
After a quarter of a century of married life, she had very few
illusions left. Religion for her was a habit, and she suspected that a
man of her husband's age would not change greatly before death.
She was tempted to see a curious appropriateness in his accident
and, but that she did not wish to seem bloody-minded, would have
told the gentlemen that Mr. Kernan's tongue would not suffer by
being shortened. However, Mr. Cunningham was a capable man;
and religion was religion. The scheme might do good and, at least,
it could do no harm. Her beliefs were not extravagant. She
believed steadily in the Sacred Heart as the most generally useful
of all Catholic devotions and approved of the sacraments. Her faith
was bounded by her kitchen, but, if she was put to it, she could
believe also in the banshee and in the Holy Ghost.
The gentlemen began to talk of the accident. Mr. Cunningham said
that he had once known a similar case. A man of seventy had
bitten off a piece of his tongue during an epileptic fit and the
tongue had filled in again, so that no one could see a trace of the
"Well, I'm not seventy," said the invalid.
"God forbid," said Mr. Cunningham.
"It doesn't pain you now?" asked Mr. M'Coy.
Mr. M'Coy had been at one time a tenor of some reputation. His
wife, who had been a soprano, still taught young children to play
the piano at low terms. His line of life had not been the shortest
distance between two points and for short periods he had been
driven to live by his wits. He had been a clerk in the Midland
Railway, a canvasser for advertisements for The Irish Times and
for The Freeman's Journal, a town traveller for a coal firm on
commission, a private inquiry agent, a clerk in the office of the
Sub-Sheriff, and he had recently become secretary to the City
Coroner. His new office made him professionally interested in Mr.
"Pain? Not much," answered Mr. Kernan. "But it's so sickening. I
feel as if I wanted to retch off."
"That's the boose," said Mr. Cunningham firmly.
"No," said Mr. Kernan. "I think I caught cold on the car. There's
something keeps coming into my throat, phlegm or----"
"Mucus." said Mr. M'Coy.
"It keeps coming like from down in my throat; sickening."
"Yes, yes," said Mr. M'Coy, "that's the thorax."
He looked at Mr. Cunningham and Mr. Power at the same time
with an air of challenge. Mr. Cunningham nodded his head rapidly
and Mr. Power said:
"Ah, well, all's well that ends well."
"I'm very much obliged to you, old man," said the invalid.
Mr. Power waved his hand.
"Those other two fellows I was with----"
"Who were you with?" asked Mr. Cunningham.
"A chap. I don't know his name. Damn it now, what's his name?
Little chap with sandy hair...."
"And who else?"
"Hm," said Mr. Cunningham.
When Mr. Cunningham made that remark, people were silent. It
was known that the speaker had secret sources of information. In
this case the monosyllable had a moral intention. Mr. Harford
sometimes formed one of a little detachment which left the city
shortly after noon on Sunday with the purpose of arriving as soon
as possible at some public-house on the outskirts of the city where
its members duly qualified themselves as bona fide travellers. But
his fellow-travellers had never consented to overlook his origin.
He had begun life as an obscure financier by lending small sums of
money to workmen at usurious interest. Later on he had become
the partner of a very fat, short gentleman, Mr. Goldberg, in the
Liffey Loan Bank. Though he had never embraced more than the
Jewish ethical code, his fellow-Catholics, whenever they had
smarted in person or by proxy under his exactions, spoke of him
bitterly as an Irish Jew and an illiterate, and saw divine
disapproval of usury made manifest through the person of his idiot
son. At other times they remembered his good points.
"I wonder where did he go to," said Mr. Kernan.
He wished the details of the incident to remain vague. He wished
his friends to think there had been some mistake, that Mr. Harford
and he had missed each other. His friends, who knew quite well
Mr. Harford's manners in drinking were silent. Mr. Power said
"All's well that ends well."
Mr. Kernan changed the subject at once.
"That was a decent young chap, that medical fellow," he said.
"Only for him----"
"O, only for him," said Mr. Power, "it might have been a case of
seven days, without the option of a fine."
"Yes, yes," said Mr. Kernan, trying to remember. "I remember now
there was a policeman. Decent young fellow, he seemed. How did
it happen at all?"
"It happened that you were peloothered, Tom," said Mr.
"True bill," said Mr. Kernan, equally gravely.
"I suppose you squared the constable, Jack," said Mr. M'Coy.
Mr. Power did not relish the use of his Christian name. He was not
straight-laced, but he could not forget that Mr. M'Coy had recently
made a crusade in search of valises and portmanteaus to enable
Mrs. M'Coy to fulfil imaginary engagements in the country. More
than he resented the fact that he had been victimised he resented
such low playing of the game. He answered the question,
therefore, as if Mr. Kernan had asked it.
The narrative made Mr. Kernan indignant. He was keenly
conscious of his citizenship, wished to live with his city on terms
mutually honourable and resented any affront put upon him by
those whom he called country bumpkins.
"Is this what we pay rates for?" he asked. "To feed and clothe these
ignorant bostooms... and they're nothing else."
Mr. Cunningham laughed. He was a Castle official only during
"How could they be anything else, Tom?" he said.
He assumed a thick, provincial accent and said in a tone of
"65, catch your cabbage!"
Everyone laughed. Mr. M'Coy, who wanted to enter the
conversation by any door, pretended that he had never heard the
story. Mr. Cunningham said:
"It is supposed--they say, you know--to take place in the depot
where they get these thundering big country fellows, omadhauns,
you know, to drill. The sergeant makes them stand in a row against
the wall and hold up their plates."
He illustrated the story by grotesque gestures.
"At dinner, you know. Then he has a bloody big bowl of cabbage
before him on the table and a bloody big spoon like a shovel. He
takes up a wad of cabbage on the spoon and pegs it across the
room and the poor devils have to try and catch it on their plates:
65, catch your cabbage."
Everyone laughed again: but Mr. Kernan was somewhat indignant
still. He talked of writing a letter to the papers.
"These yahoos coming up here," he said, "think they can boss the
people. I needn't tell you, Martin, what kind of men they are."
Mr. Cunningham gave a qualified assent.
"It's like everything else in this world," he said. "You get some bad
ones and you get some good ones."
"O yes, you get some good ones, I admit," said Mr. Kernan,
"It's better to have nothing to say to them," said Mr. M'Coy. "That's
Mrs. Kernan entered the room and, placing a tray on the table,
"Help yourselves, gentlemen."
Mr. Power stood up to officiate, offering her his chair. She
declined it, saying she was ironing downstairs, and, after having
exchanged a nod with Mr. Cunningham behind Mr. Power's back,
prepared to leave the room. Her husband called out to her:
"And have you nothing for me, duckie?"
"O, you! The back of my hand to you!" said Mrs. Kernan tartly.
Her husband called after her:
"Nothing for poor little hubby!"
He assumed such a comical face and voice that the distribution of
the bottles of stout took place amid general merriment.
The gentlemen drank from their glasses, set the glasses again on
the table and paused. Then Mr. Cunningham turned towards Mr.
Power and said casually:
"On Thursday night, you said, Jack "
"Thursday, yes," said Mr. Power.
"Righto!" said Mr. Cunningham promptly.
"We can meet in M'Auley's," said Mr. M'Coy. "That'll be the most
"But we mustn't be late," said Mr. Power earnestly, "because it is
sure to be crammed to the doors."
"We can meet at half-seven," said Mr. M'Coy.
"Righto!" said Mr. Cunningham.
"Half-seven at M'Auley's be it!"
There was a short silence. Mr. Kernan waited to see whether he
would be taken into his friends' confidence. Then he asked:
"What's in the wind?"
"O, it's nothing," said Mr. Cunningham. "It's only a little matter
that we're arranging about for Thursday."
"The opera, is it?" said Mr. Kernan.
"No, no," said Mr. Cunningham in an evasive tone, "it's just a
little... spiritual matter."
"0," said Mr. Kernan.
There was silence again. Then Mr. Power said, point blank:
"To tell you the truth, Tom, we're going to make a retreat."
"Yes, that's it," said Mr. Cunningham, "Jack and I and M'Coy here
--we're all going to wash the pot."
He uttered the metaphor with a certain homely energy and,
encouraged by his own voice, proceeded:
"You see, we may as well all admit we're a nice collection of
scoundrels, one and all. I say, one and all," he added with gruff
charity and turning to Mr. Power. "Own up now!"
"I own up," said Mr. Power.
"And I own up," said Mr. M'Coy.
"So we're going to wash the pot together," said Mr. Cunningham.
A thought seemed to strike him. He turned suddenly to the invalid
"D'ye know what, Tom, has just occurred to me? You night join in
and we'd have a four-handed reel."
"Good idea," said Mr. Power. "The four of us together."
Mr. Kernan was silent. The proposal conveyed very little meaning
to his mind, but, understanding that some spiritual agencies were
about to concern themselves on his behalf, he thought he owed it
to his dignity to show a stiff neck. He took no part in the
conversation for a long while, but listened, with an air of calm
enmity, while his friends discussed the Jesuits.
"I haven't such a bad opinion of the Jesuits," he said, intervening at
length. "They're an educated order. I believe they mean well, too."
"They're the grandest order in the Church, Tom," said Mr.
Cunningham, with enthusiasm. "The General of the Jesuits stands
next to the Pope."
"There's no mistake about it," said Mr. M'Coy, "if you want a thing
well done and no flies about, you go to a Jesuit. They're the boyos
have influence. I'll tell you a case in point...."
"The Jesuits are a fine body of men," said Mr. Power.
"It's a curious thing," said Mr. Cunningham, "about the Jesuit
Order. Every other order of the Church had to be reformed at some
time or other but the Jesuit Order was never once reformed. It
never fell away."
"Is that so?" asked Mr. M'Coy.
"That's a fact," said Mr. Cunningham. "That's history."
"Look at their church, too," said Mr. Power. "Look at the
congregation they have."
"The Jesuits cater for the upper classes," said Mr. M'Coy.
"Of course," said Mr. Power.
"Yes," said Mr. Kernan. "That's why I have a feeling for them. It's
some of those secular priests, ignorant, bumptious----"
"They're all good men," said Mr. Cunningham, "each in his own
way. The Irish priesthood is honoured all the world over."
"O yes," said Mr. Power.
"Not like some of the other priesthoods on the continent," said Mr.
M'Coy, "unworthy of the name."
"Perhaps you're right," said Mr. Kernan, relenting.
"Of course I'm right," said Mr. Cunningham. "I haven't been in the
world all this time and seen most sides of it without being a judge
The gentlemen drank again, one following another's example. Mr.
Kernan seemed to be weighing something in his mind. He was
impressed. He had a high opinion of Mr. Cunningham as a judge
of character and as a reader of faces. He asked for particulars.
"O, it's just a retreat, you know," said Mr. Cunningham. "Father
Purdon is giving it. It's for business men, you know."
"He won't be too hard on us, Tom," said Mr. Power persuasively.
"Father Purdon? Father Purdon?" said the invalid.
"O, you must know him, Tom," said Mr. Cunningham stoutly.
"Fine, jolly fellow! He's a man of the world like ourselves."
"Ah,... yes. I think I know him. Rather red face; tall."
"That's the man."
"And tell me, Martin.... Is he a good preacher?"
"Munno.... It's not exactly a sermon, you know. It's just kind of a
friendly talk, you know, in a common-sense way."
Mr. Kernan deliberated. Mr. M'Coy said:
"Father Tom Burke, that was the boy!"
"O, Father Tom Burke," said Mr. Cunningham, "that was a born
orator. Did you ever hear him, Tom?"
"Did I ever hear him!" said the invalid, nettled. "Rather! I heard
"And yet they say he wasn't much of a theologian," said Mr
"Is that so?" said Mr. M'Coy.
"O, of course, nothing wrong, you know. Only sometimes, they
say, he didn't preach what was quite orthodox."
"Ah!... he was a splendid man," said Mr. M'Coy.
"I heard him once," Mr. Kernan continued. "I forget the subject of
his discourse now. Crofton and I were in the back of the... pit, you
"The body," said Mr. Cunningham.
"Yes, in the back near the door. I forget now what.... O yes, it was
on the Pope, the late Pope. I remember it well. Upon my word it
was magnificent, the style of the oratory. And his voice! God!
hadn't he a voice! The Prisoner of the Vatican, he called him. I
remember Crofton saying to me when we came out----"
"But he's an Orangeman, Crofton, isn't he?" said Mr. Power.
"'Course he is," said Mr. Kernan, "and a damned decent
Orangeman too. We went into Butler's in Moore Street--faith, was
genuinely moved, tell you the God's truth--and I remember well
his very words. Kernan, he said, we worship at different altars, he
said, but our belief is the same. Struck me as very well put."
"There's a good deal in that," said Mr. Power. "There used always
be crowds of Protestants in the chapel where Father Tom was
"There's not much difference between us," said Mr. M'Coy.
"We both believe in----"
He hesitated for a moment.
"... in the Redeemer. Only they don't believe in the Pope and in the
mother of God."
"But, of course," said Mr. Cunningham quietly and effectively,
"our religion is the religion, the old, original faith."
"Not a doubt of it," said Mr. Kernan warmly.
Mrs. Kernan came to the door of the bedroom and announced:
"Here's a visitor for you!"
"Who is it?"
"O, come in! come in!"
A pale, oval face came forward into the light. The arch of its fair
trailing moustache was repeated in the fair eyebrows looped above
pleasantly astonished eyes. Mr. Fogarty was a modest grocer. He
had failed in business in a licensed house in the city because his
financial condition had constrained him to tie himself to
second-class distillers and brewers. He had opened a small shop on
Glasnevin Road where, he flattered himself, his manners would
ingratiate him with the housewives of the district. He bore himself
with a certain grace, complimented little children and spoke with a
neat enunciation. He was not without culture.
Mr. Fogarty brought a gift with him, a half-pint of special whisky.
He inquired politely for Mr. Kernan, placed his gift on the table
and sat down with the company on equal terms. Mr. Kernan
appreciated the gift all the more since he was aware that there was
a small account for groceries unsettled between him and Mr.
Fogarty. He said:
"I wouldn't doubt you, old man. Open that, Jack, will you?"
Mr. Power again officiated. Glasses were rinsed and five small
measures of whisky were poured out. This new influence
enlivened the conversation. Mr. Fogarty, sitting on a small area of
the chair, was specially interested.
"Pope Leo XIII," said Mr. Cunningham, "was one of the lights of
the age. His great idea, you know, was the union of the Latin and
Greek Churches. That was the aim of his life."
"I often heard he was one of the most intellectual men in Europe,"
said Mr. Power. "I mean, apart from his being Pope."
"So he was," said Mr. Cunningham, "if not the most so. His motto,
you know, as Pope, was Lux upon Lux--Light upon Light."
"No, no," said Mr. Fogarty eagerly. "I think you're wrong there. It
was Lux in Tenebris, I think--Light in Darkness."
"O yes," said Mr. M'Coy, "Tenebrae."
"Allow me," said Mr. Cunningham positively, "it was Lux upon
Lux. And Pius IX his predecessor's motto was Crux upon Crux--
that is, Cross upon Cross--to show the difference between their
The inference was allowed. Mr. Cunningham continued.
"Pope Leo, you know, was a great scholar and a poet."
"He had a strong face," said Mr. Kernan.
"Yes," said Mr. Cunningham. "He wrote Latin poetry."
"Is that so?" said Mr. Fogarty.
Mr. M'Coy tasted his whisky contentedly and shook his head with
a double intention, saying:
"That's no joke, I can tell you."
"We didn't learn that, Tom," said Mr. Power, following Mr.
M'Coy's example, "when we went to the penny-a-week school."
"There was many a good man went to the penny-a-week school
with a sod of turf under his oxter," said Mr. Kernan sententiously.
"The old system was the best: plain honest education. None of
your modern trumpery...."
"Quite right," said Mr. Power.
"No superfluities," said Mr. Fogarty.
He enunciated the word and then drank gravely.
"I remember reading," said Mr. Cunningham, "that one of Pope
Leo's poems was on the invention of the photograph--in Latin, of
"On the photograph!" exclaimed Mr. Kernan.
"Yes," said Mr. Cunningham.
He also drank from his glass.
"Well, you know," said Mr. M'Coy, "isn't the photograph
wonderful when you come to think of it?"
"O, of course," said Mr. Power, "great minds can see things."
"As the poet says: Great minds are very near to madness," said Mr.
Mr. Kernan seemed to be troubled in mind. He made an effort to
recall the Protestant theology on some thorny points and in the end
addressed Mr. Cunningham.
"Tell me, Martin," he said. "Weren't some of the popes--of
course, not our present man, or his predecessor, but some of the
old popes--not exactly ... you know... up to the knocker?"
There was a silence. Mr. Cunningham said
"O, of course, there were some bad lots... But the astonishing thing
is this. Not one of them, not the biggest drunkard, not the most...
out-and-out ruffian, not one of them ever preached ex cathedra a
word of false doctrine. Now isn't that an astonishing thing?"
"That is," said Mr. Kernan.
"Yes, because when the Pope speaks ex cathedra," Mr. Fogarty
explained, "he is infallible."
"Yes," said Mr. Cunningham.
"O, I know about the infallibility of the Pope. I remember I was
younger then.... Or was it that----?"
Mr. Fogarty interrupted. He took up the bottle and helped the
others to a little more. Mr. M'Coy, seeing that there was not
enough to go round, pleaded that he had not finished his first
measure. The others accepted under protest. The light music of
whisky falling into glasses made an agreeable interlude.
"What's that you were saying, Tom?" asked Mr. M'Coy.
"Papal infallibility," said Mr. Cunningham, "that was the greatest
scene in the whole history of the Church."
"How was that, Martin?" asked Mr. Power.
Mr. Cunningham held up two thick fingers.
"In the sacred college, you know, of cardinals and archbishops and
bishops there were two men who held out against it while the
others were all for it. The whole conclave except these two was
unanimous. No! They wouldn't have it!"
"Ha!" said Mr. M'Coy.
"And they were a German cardinal by the name of Dolling... or
"Dowling was no German, and that's a sure five," said Mr. Power,
"Well, this great German cardinal, whatever his name was, was
one; and the other was John MacHale."
"What?" cried Mr. Kernan. "Is it John of Tuam?"
"Are you sure of that now?" asked Mr. Fogarty dubiously. "I
thought it was some Italian or American."
"John of Tuam," repeated Mr. Cunningham, "was the man."
He drank and the other gentlemen followed his lead. Then he
"There they were at it, all the cardinals and bishops and
archbishops from all the ends of the earth and these two fighting
dog and devil until at last the Pope himself stood up and declared
infallibility a dogma of the Church ex cathedra. On the very
moment John MacHale, who had been arguing and arguing against
it, stood up and shouted out with the voice of a lion: 'Credo!'"
"I believe!" said Mr. Fogarty.
"Credo!" said Mr. Cunningham "That showed the faith he had. He
submitted the moment the Pope spoke."
"And what about Dowling?" asked Mr. M'Coy.
"The German cardinal wouldn't submit. He left the church."
Mr. Cunningham's words had built up the vast image of the church
in the minds of his hearers. His deep, raucous voice had thrilled
them as it uttered the word of belief and submission. When Mrs.
Kernan came into the room, drying her hands she came into a
solemn company. She did not disturb the silence, but leaned over
the rail at the foot of the bed.
"I once saw John MacHale," said Mr. Kernan, "and I'll never forget
it as long as I live."
He turned towards his wife to be confirmed.
"I often told you that?"
Mrs. Kernan nodded.
"It was at the unveiling of Sir John Gray's statue. Edmund Dwyer
Gray was speaking, blathering away, and here was this old fellow,
crabbed-looking old chap, looking at him from under his bushy
Mr. Kernan knitted his brows and, lowering his head like an angry
bull, glared at his wife.
"God!" he exclaimed, resuming his natural face, "I never saw such
an eye in a man's head. It was as much as to say: I have you
properly taped, my lad. He had an eye like a hawk."
"None of the Grays was any good," said Mr. Power.
There was a pause again. Mr. Power turned to Mrs. Kernan and
said with abrupt joviality:
"Well, Mrs. Kernan, we're going to make your man here a good
holy pious and God-fearing Roman Catholic."
He swept his arm round the company inclusively.
"We're all going to make a retreat together and confess our sins--
and God knows we want it badly."
"I don't mind," said Mr. Kernan, smiling a little nervously.
Mrs. Kernan thought it would be wiser to conceal her satisfaction.
So she said:
"I pity the poor priest that has to listen to your tale."
Mr. Kernan's expression changed.
"If he doesn't like it," he said bluntly, "he can... do the other thing.
I'll just tell him my little tale of woe. I'm not such a bad fellow----"
Mr. Cunningham intervened promptly.
"We'll all renounce the devil," he said, "together, not forgetting his
works and pomps."
"Get behind me, Satan!" said Mr. Fogarty, laughing and looking at
Mr. Power said nothing. He felt completely out-generalled. But a
pleased expression flickered across his face.
"All we have to do," said Mr. Cunningham, "is to stand up with
lighted candles in our hands and renew our baptismal vows."
"O, don't forget the candle, Tom," said Mr. M'Coy, "whatever you
"What?" said Mr. Kernan. "Must I have a candle?"
"O yes," said Mr. Cunningham.
"No, damn it all," said Mr. Kernan sensibly, "I draw the line there.
I'll do the job right enough. I'll do the retreat business and
confession, and... all that business. But... no candles! No, damn it
all, I bar the candles!"
He shook his head with farcical gravity.
"Listen to that!" said his wife.
"I bar the candles," said Mr. Kernan, conscious of having created
an effect on his audience and continuing to shake his head to and
fro. "I bar the magic-lantern business."
Everyone laughed heartily.
"There's a nice Catholic for you!" said his wife.
"No candles!" repeated Mr. Kernan obdurately. "That's off!"
The transept of the Jesuit Church in Gardiner Street was almost
full; and still at every moment gentlemen entered from the side
door and, directed by the lay-brother, walked on tiptoe along the
aisles until they found seating accommodation. The gentlemen
were all well dressed and orderly. The light of the lamps of the
church fell upon an assembly of black clothes and white collars,
relieved here and there by tweeds, on dark mottled pillars of green
marble and on lugubrious canvases. The gentlemen sat in the
benches, having hitched their trousers slightly above their knees
and laid their hats in security. They sat well back and gazed
formally at the distant speck of red light which was suspended
before the high altar.
In one of the benches near the pulpit sat Mr. Cunningham and Mr.
Kernan. In the bench behind sat Mr. M'Coy alone: and in the bench
behind him sat Mr. Power and Mr. Fogarty. Mr. M'Coy had tried
unsuccessfully to find a place in the bench with the others, and,
when the party had settled down in the form of a quincunx, he had
tried unsuccessfully to make comic remarks. As these had not been
well received, he had desisted. Even he was sensible of the
decorous atmosphere and even he began to respond to the religious
stimulus. In a whisper, Mr. Cunningham drew Mr. Kernan's
attention to Mr. Harford, the moneylender, who sat some distance
off, and to Mr. Fanning, the registration agent and mayor maker of
the city, who was sitting immediately under the pulpit beside one
of the newly elected councillors of the ward. To the right sat old
Michael Grimes, the owner of three pawnbroker's shops, and Dan
Hogan's nephew, who was up for the job in the Town Clerk's
office. Farther in front sat Mr. Hendrick, the chief reporter of The
Freeman's Journal, and poor O'Carroll, an old friend of Mr.
Kernan's, who had been at one time a considerable commercial
figure. Gradually, as he recognised familiar faces, Mr. Kernan
began to feel more at home. His hat, which had been rehabilitated
by his wife, rested upon his knees. Once or twice he pulled down
his cuffs with one hand while he held the brim of his hat lightly,
but firmly, with the other hand.
A powerful-looking figure, the upper part of which was draped
with a white surplice, was observed to be struggling into the pulpit.
Simultaneously the congregation unsettled, produced
handkerchiefs and knelt upon them with care. Mr. Kernan
followed the general example. The priest's figure now stood
upright in the pulpit, two-thirds of its bulk, crowned by a massive
red face, appearing above the balustrade.
Father Purdon knelt down, turned towards the red speck of light
and, covering his face with his hands, prayed. After an interval, he
uncovered his face and rose. The congregation rose also and
settled again on its benches. Mr. Kernan restored his hat to its
original position on his knee and presented an attentive face to the
preacher. The preacher turned back each wide sleeve of his
surplice with an elaborate large gesture and slowly surveyed the
array of faces. Then he said:
"For the children of this world are wiser in their generation than
the children of light. Wherefore make unto yourselves friends out
of the mammon of iniquity so that when you die they may receive
you into everlasting dwellings."
Father Purdon developed the text with resonant assurance. It was
one of the most difficult texts in all the Scriptures, he said, to
interpret properly. It was a text which might seem to the casual
observer at variance with the lofty morality elsewhere preached by
Jesus Christ. But, he told his hearers, the text had seemed to him
specially adapted for the guidance of those whose lot it was to lead
the life of the world and who yet wished to lead that life not in the
manner of worldlings. It was a text for business men and
professional men. Jesus Christ with His divine understanding of
every cranny of our human nature, understood that all men were
not called to the religious life, that by far the vast majority were
forced to live in the world, and, to a certain extent, for the world:
and in this sentence He designed to give them a word of counsel,
setting before them as exemplars in the religious life those very
worshippers of Mammon who were of all men the least solicitous
in matters religious.
He told his hearers that he was there that evening for no terrifying,
no extravagant purpose; but as a man of the world speaking to his
fellow-men. He came to speak to business men and he would
speak to them in a businesslike way. If he might use the metaphor,
he said, he was their spiritual accountant; and he wished each and
every one of his hearers to open his books, the books of his
spiritual life, and see if they tallied accurately with conscience.
Jesus Christ was not a hard taskmaster. He understood our little
failings, understood the weakness of our poor fallen nature,
understood the temptations of this life. We might have had, we all
had from time to time, our temptations: we might have, we all had,
our failings. But one thing only, he said, he would ask of his
hearers. And that was: to be straight and manly with God. If their
accounts tallied in every point to say:
"Well, I have verified my accounts. I find all well."
But if, as might happen, there were some discrepancies, to admit
the truth, to be frank and say like a man:
"Well, I have looked into my accounts. I find this wrong and this
wrong. But, with God's grace, I will rectify this and this. I will set
right my accounts."