Part III

May to August

Chapter X

YET SHE did not after this seek him out, or try to make their relations closer in any way. On the contrary, it was a few days later that the first serious quarrel of their lives occurred. Murdough had not been near her for over a fortnight. She did not even know where he was, for he had got into the habit of being continually away on the mainland, no one knew where or for what. Late one afternoon, however, he came and beckoned mysteriously to her to come out on the platform and speak to him. He was evidently—for the moment, at all events—as sober as a judge.

    She went. There was a worn, dragged look about her face, due partly to watching, partly to anger, partly to ihe cross-flre at war within her. She was longing to quarrel fiercely with him; to have it all out; to rage and storm at him ; to startle him, if she could, with her anger; and then—and then— to tell him that she loved him better than all the world besides; that she would do anything he liked; that she did not care how he behaved, not even how often he got drunk, if only he would not leave her always alone, if only he would care for her a little, a very little, more. The recollection of that evening in the boat still clung and clung to her very heart-strings. The sun was setting as she came out upon the platform; a warm wind swept round the rocks; the little tansies and saxifrages were all bathed in the dusky yellowish light.

    Murdough had something important to say, however, and, therefore, wasted no time in useless and quite unaccustomed preliminaries.

    ‘Then I would not have called you out, Grania, for I know you do not like to be called, and that is why I have kept away so much, so it is,’ he said, with his customary air of ingenuousness. ‘But to-day it is in a little bit of difficulty I am again, a little bit of trouble and difficulty, so it is to you I have come.’

    She put her back against her old friend, the boulder, and waited to learn what she was to do.

    ‘It is just a little bit more of the money that I want you to give me, that is what it is; yes, indeed, nothing more,’ he went on, with the same air of ingenuousness, smoothing down his hair as he spoke. His eyes looked as clear that evening, the rascal, his whole aspect as fresh, vigorous, and wholesome as though he had never tasted anything stronger in his life than buttermilk.

    Thirty shillings it is this time, and it is to Micky Sulivan of Allyhaloo that I owe it, and he is a hard man, is Micky Sulivan! My God, yes, a very hard man, everyone knows that, a real nigger. He will not wait one week for his money, he says; no, nor a single day.’

    An angry light was beginning to awaken in Grania’s eyes.

    ‘And why should I give you thirty shillings for Micky Sulivan, Murdough Blake?’ she said, in a tone that had a suggestion of distant thunder in it. ‘It is a great deal of money I have given you this quarter already, so I have—a great deal of money!’

    Murdough looked hurt. There was every reason why she should give it in his opinion. She had it, and he wanted it. What better reason could there be?

    ‘Then I did not think you would speak so to me, Grania O’Malley, I did not,’ he answered in a tone of natural indignation. ‘And for “a great deal,” you have given me money three times, but not much at any one time, my God, no, not much at all! Fifteen shillings it was once, and seventeen shillings another time, and twenty-two shillings another. That is not much, even when you put it all together, not much at all. There is young Macdara O’Flaherty, he will spend two, three, four, pounds, real gold pounds, right off and think nothing of it. I did not think you would speak so, Grania O’Malley, when all the world knows that we two are to be married shortly, and you such a rich girl.’

    The angry light in Grania’s eyes grew stronger. She set her back squarely against her old friend. She was going to have her turn for once.

    ‘It is not the rich girl I would be, not the rich girl, but the beggar; yes, the beggar, and nothing else, out upon the cold, naked rocks, fhat is what I should be, if I were to marry you, Murdough Blake, so it is! ‘ she exclaimed, striking the stone beside her, anger upon the subject she did not greatly care about breaking loose because anger upon the subject that she did care about must perforce be kept hidden away. Once begun, however, it was easy enough to go on upon this topic.

    ‘For it is the shame and the talk and the disgrace of the world you are getting to be There is not a man, nor a woman, nor a child, down to the youngest on Inishmaan, but knows you, and knows that it is the truth! Drinking and drinking, and making a heathen beast and fool of yourself, gadding about the town from morning till night, always drinking, drinking, drinking! Is it to make a baulyore of myself that I would be giving you my money and be marrying you? then I will not do it, so do not think it. I will not make a baulyore of myself for any man that ever was born. Do you think it is the wife of a man like Shan Daly that I want to be? to be working and working for ever, and him drinking the whole world dry, and spending the money faster than I could make it if I had six hands, and more? No, indeed, that is not the sort of man I will marry, so I will not! It is a good man, and a sober man, and a decent man I will have, and no other will serve me, not if he were the only man in the whole world and the king of it, so you need not think it! And that is my last word to you, so it is, Murdough Blake, my very last word, God help me, therefore you may believe me.’

    She stopped short, hot and panting. The words had rushed out with a fluency quite unlike her usual utterances. They were driven by that fierce current behind them. They came in this form simply because they were longing, but forbidden. to come in quite another one.

    Murdougli was genuinely astonished. Those secret currents, pent up, longing and struggling madly to find an exit, were invisible to him, and quite unsuspected, but that Grania would dream of changing her mind about marrying him had never so much as dawned upon his imagination. If his notions about love and all that belonged to it were of the dimmest, his notions about himself and all that belonged to himself, including his obvious desirability as a husband, were of the clearest and most definite character. Grania belonged, too, to him, always had belonged to him, no one else had ever pretended to rival him in her eyes. Her admiration of him, and of his various gifts and graces, had been patent to all men; she had never concealed it, or attempted to conceal it. All Inishmaan knew that in her eyes there was no one like him either on the island or off the island, and that a mere occasional lapse from sobriety, a mere occasional demand for a little extra ready money, that trifles of this sort could seriously be held a reason for giving him up was too ridiculous an idea to find entry readily into his mind.

    He cast about for a minute how to answer. What did she mean? What was she driving at? Who had been putting notions into her mind? Was it Honor, or who?‘That his wisest course, would, have been to be a little affectionate to her; to have, appealed to her affection for him; to have put his arms round her; nay, if so wild, so utterly unprecedented a course had proved necessary, to have actually gone so far as to kiss her; that this was what she wished, what she was waiting for, he did not know in the least. It was a great pity there was no one at hand to tell him so, for he was really an exceedlingly intelligent young man, quick to take a hint, and would doubtless have essayed even this unpractical method of argument had he known it to be the one most likely to succeed under the circumstances. He was by this time very much in earnest, and had no idea of being in his turn made a baulyore of, as she had said, and a laughing-.stock before all Inishmaan. He did not know it, however, and the result was that natural annoyance prompted him to take up quite a different line, one not nearly so well calculated to be successful. It was an error of judgment, but to such errors even intelligent people are occasionally liable.

    ‘Begorra, this is grand news you have for mne this evening, Grania O’Malley, so it is!’ he exclaimed, with a loud laugh, though his face was red, and an angry look in his eyes betrayed some lack of indifference. ‘Grand news, glory be to God, and ‘tis myself is obliged to you for telling it to me! And who is it that you’re going to take up with, now. you’ve given me the go-by, if you’ll be so polite as to tell me? ‘Tis some rich gentleman over from the Continent, I’ll be bound, that you have been putting your comether upon, or, may be, a lord from Dublin? Gorra, ‘tis the proud place Inishmaan will be when it sees him coming to carry you off! my faith, yes; the proud place and the proud people we’ll be, every one of us! Sure, how could a poor young fellow like myself have any chance with you, so grand and so proud as you’ll be? Musha, it’s not Irish will do you then to speak, I suppose, but the best of fine scholar’s English, and a grand house with a slate roof on it you’ll have no doubt to live in, and a servant, please God, or maybe two to wait on you. Och, glory! glory! it will be the great day for Inishmaan when Grania O’Malley is seen sailing off with her new husband the lord from Dublin! Wurrah! Wurrah! the grand day, please God, and no mistake.’

    The jeering tone, the laughter, the sting of all this from Murdough, Murdough, of all people in the world, lashed Grania to madness. She looked wildly round her for a weapon— physical or otherwise it mattered little—blind, helpless anger possessing her. Suddenly the remembrance of her thoughts a few nights before—of her momentary notion about Teige O’Shaughnessy—returned to her mind, and she seized upon it. It was a poor weapon, as she probably knew, but it was the only one visible upon the spur of the moment.

    ‘Then it is no gentleman I am going to marry, so it is not! no gentleman at all, for it is enough of fine, idle gentlemen I have had, God knows, and that is the sort I am tired of!’ she exclaimed. ‘It is a quiet boy, and a decent boy, and a poor boy that I am going to marry, one that will work hard, and not drink, drink, drink, day and night, till he doesn’t know his one hand from the other, or the floor from the roof over his head, or the sun from the moon, or the grass from the stones, or God’s green earth from the salt black bottom of the sea! It is a good man and a faithful man, and a man that will love me, and care me, that is the, sort of man that I want and that I am going to be married to, so I am. And if you wish to know the, name of him, it is Teige O’Shaughnessy, and that is the man I have chosen, and whom I am going to marry, so it is, Murdough Blake; the very same, no other!’

    Murdough stared at her for a moment in open-eyed astonishment. Then he burst into a still louder laugh, a laugh that might have been heard right across the island. This time it was quite a genuine one. His vanity, which would have been touched to the quick if Grania had thrown him over for someone whom he could by any possibility have looked upon as a rival, was left untouched, was even gratified, by the mention of Teige O’Shaughnessy, between whom and himself no such rivalry was in his eyes possible; nay, the very juxtaposition of their images was a sort of indirect compliment to himself. His sense, therefore, of the ridiculous was genuinely tickled. Besides, to do him justice, he did not believe her in the least.

    ‘Auch! then, glory, glory ! Glory to God! and more power to you, Grania O’Malley, but it is the grand man, sure enough, you have chosen, so it is! The grand man, the handsome man, and the rich man, glory be to God! Och! but it is the right sight and show you will be when you and Teige O’Shaughnessy are married! Glory to God! the right sight and show, and the fine, straight, handsome husband it is you will have, bedad! Arrah! will you be so obliging as to tell me was it the handsome, straight legs of him, or the beautiful spotty face of him, or the fine colour of his hair that first took the fancy to? Or maybe it was the beautiful big house he has to give you on top of the rocks yonder? or the nice, sweet-tempered aunt he keeps in it, that will be such pleasant company to talk to when you are sitting there by yourself? My faith and word, Grania O'Malley, it is myself will laugh to see you and Teige O'Shaughnessy when you are man and wife! Gorra, I will tell you now what I will do—then I will, please God!—I will go out in a curragh, and will bring with me every bouchaleen upon Inishmaan, and we will all go out together on to the sea, and will follow you to watch and look at you, when you are on your way to Aranmore to be married to Teige O’Shaughnessy. Glory be to God! Glory be to God! it is the match you have got hold of, sure enough! my faith and word, the match! Och! ‘tis killed I’ll be with the laughing!’ And he rolled to and fro upon the rocks.

    Grania’s face was scarlet. She sprang forward till she was within half a foot of him. Blind rage possessed her. She shook from head to foot, and clenched her fists in his face. A little more and she would have pummelled him soundly with them.

    ‘Out of this! Out of this! Out of it with you this very minute!’ she cried. ‘Get off this ground, and get off this rock, and go laugh somewhere else, for it is not here you shall laugh, so it is not! It is not here you shall come’ ever again, for I do not want to have you, and I do not want to see you, and I do not want to hear you, nor to have anything to do with you!—never again, so long as I live—never, so help me! And for my money, which is all you come for, and all you want, you need not be asking me for any of it again—not for Micky Sulivan, or anyone else—for I will not give y0u one thraneen more of my money, so I will not—I will throw it into the sea first. I will not do anything for you, and I will not see you, and for marrying you, I would not marry you, not if you were made of solid gold from head to foot, and were crowned King of all Ireland or the world itself! For it is not such a husband as you I want, and so I tell you!’

    She was back into the cabin and had shut the door before Murdough the fluent could utter another word. He stood for a minute or two longer upon the platform, then walked away rather soberly, scratching his chin as he went. In his sense of the intense, the delightful, the utterly convulsive absurdity of any comparison between himself and Teige O’Shaughnessy he had momentarily forgotten the rather‘important errand upon which he had come to speak to Grania. He remembered it now, and it was with an uneasy sense that he had not perhaps managed his interview quite as judiciously as he might have done. It is all very well to be excessively witty and brilliantly sarcastic, but, then, it interferes sometimes rather seriously with business.