Johnny’s mother had brushed and brushed his clothes, had darned some holes in his stockings, had bought him a cheap pair of yellow shoes, had fixed a new white collar round his neck, had spit a lot on his hair, calling the spit goboil, and brushed his hair till the skin on his skull stung, had put a tiny square of well washed rag, carefully hemmed, into his pocket, warning him to use it whenever he felt the need to snuffle, planted his sailor’s cap tastefully on his head, had slipped a dee into his pocket, telling him not to buy anything foolish with it, adding that pennies weren’t easily come by, and, standing a little distance away from him, had said, I think you’ll do all right now. The night before she had made him wash himself all over from hot water in a basin, so that he would be clean and presentable when his Uncle Tom came to bring him to see Kilmainham jail.
—Your Uncle Tom’s Crimean comrade has said that he may bring you with him, an’ it’s a chance that you won’t get again in a lifetime to see the jail.
His Uncle Tom had come to time, and after promising Johnny’s mother that he wouldn’t let the boy see anything that might keep him awake at night, had taken the boy’s hand, and led him forth to see the sight of a jail where men who did wickedly were kept safe away from the temptation of doing anything worse than they had done before.
Johnny was proud of his uncle because he had fought in the Crimea war where a sabre cut had sliced an arm from the shoulder to the elbow, where often, after a night’s sleep beside his horse, his uncle’s hair had been frozen to the ground, and Nurse Nightingale had bandaged the wound up with her own hand in the hospital at Scutari. Ay, an’ his uncle, too, was a member of the Purple Lodge of the Orange Ordher, a great thing to be, though his Ma said his Da said that it was just as foolish to duck your head before a picture of King Billy as to duck it before the picture of a saint.
Johnny thrust his chest out, and walked swift beside the lanky figure of his uncle, glancing now and again at the soft dark brown eyes, the wide mouth sthretchin’ nearly from ear to ear, and the snow-white hair tumbling over his ears and falling over his forehead.
Away in a tram from Nelson’s Pillar they went for miles an’ miles, having first managed Cork Hill where the two tram horses were helped by another, called a pulley-up, that waited there to link itself in front of any tram wanting to mount the Hill; along Thomas Street, Uncle Tom pointing out St. Catherine’s church, where, he said, Robert Emmett had been hung, drawn, and quartered for rebellion against England.
—Is it a Roman Catholic church? asked Johnny.
—No, no; said Uncle Tom; it’s a Protestant one.
—You’d think they’d hang a Roman Catholic rebel outside a Roman Catholic church, said Johnny.
—But poor Emmett was a Protestant, J ohnny.
—Now, that’s funny, said Johnny, for I remember the night of the illuminations, the conductor of the thram we were in singing about someone called Wolfe Tone, an’ me Ma told me he was a Protestant, too.
—Ay was he, said Uncle Tom, an’ Parnell an’ Grattan an’ Napper Tandy, too.
—They all seemed to have been Protestants, murmured Johnny, relapsing into thoughtful silence for some moments. What’s dhrawn an’ quarthered? he asked, suddenly.
—Oh, said his uncle, when a man’s hanged, they cut off his head and divide him up into four parts.
—An’ was that what was done to poor Robert Emmett?
—It musta been when he was sentenced to it.
—Why was Robert Emmett a rebel, Uncle?
—Oh, I suppose he didn’t like to have the English here.
—What English, Uncle? I’ve never seen any English knockin’ about.
—The soldiers, Johnny, the English soldiers.
—What, is it Tom an’ Mick you mean?
—No, no; not Tom or Mick; they’re not English—they’re Irish.
—But they’re soldiers, aren’t they?
—Yes, yes; I know they’re soldiers.
—They’re Irish soldiers, then Uncle, that’s what they are. Aren’t they, Uncle? Same as you were when you fought in the Crimea,
—No, no, no; not Irish soldiers.
—Well, what sort of soldiers are they?
—English, English soldiers, really.
—Then Emmett musta wanted to get them outa the coun-thry, as well as the others, if they’re English soldiers. But Mick an’ Tom an’ you are Irish, so how could you be English soldiers?
—We’re Irish, but we join the army to fight for England, see?
—But, why fight for England, Uncle?
—Simply because England’s our counthry, that’s all.
—Me Ma says me Da said it isn’t, but that Ireland’s our counthry, an’ he was a scholar, an’ knew nearly, nearly everything, almost; so it isn’t, you see.
Uncle Tom stroked his chin, glanced at Johnny with his big soft eyes, and looked puzzled.
—Isn’t what, what isn’t what? he asked.
—That England’s not our counthry at all, an’ that everyone here’s Irish.
—Well, so they are, said Uncle Tom.
—Well, went on Johnny, if Mick an’ Tom are Irish, how can they be English soldiers?
—Because they fight for England, can’t you understand?
—But why do they, an’ why did you fight for England, Uncle? —I had to, hadn’t I ? —How had you?
—Because I was in the English army, amn’t I afther tellin you! said his uncle, a little impatiently. —Yes, but who made you, Uncle? —Who made me what? —Fight for England?
—Good God, boy, don’t you know your Bible? And Uncle Tom took a fat-headed pipe from his pocket, and was about to stick it in his mouth when he remembered he couldn’t smoke in a tram, so he put it back again. Johnny felt that his uncle was puzzled, and a little cross because he was puzzled. So he sat silent, and for a few moments looked out of the tram window, thinking how hard it was to get anything out of the grown-up unless they had a book in their hand. He wanted to know these things; he felt he must know. He glanced at his uncle’s kind face. He had heard that long ago, and Tom a young man, that he had been a policeman, wearing comical clothes, sky-blue cutaway coat, top hat, and white duck trousers; that he hated pulling anyone; that when he did, and they came near the station, his uncle would push the prisoner from him, and say, for God’s sake go home, and have a rest, and come out again when you’ve had a sound sleep; and that all the oul’ fellas an’ oul’ ones called out after him when he passed, God bless you, God bless Mr. Hall who wouldn’t harm anybody, so that in the end he had to leave the police.
—Where in the Bible does it say, Uncle, that the Irish must fight for the English?
—In the seventeenth verse o’ the second chapter o’ the first o’ Pether, it says, fear God, honour the king, so there you are, Johnny; we can’t get out of it. Me father before me learned it; I learned it; and you’re learning it now.
—An’ whoever doesn’t is a very wicked person, and is bound to go to hell, isn’t he?
—Very wicked and bound to go to hell, echoed Uncle Tom.
Johnny thought for a moment, watching the horses’ heads nodding as they strained forward to pull the heavy tram along.
—Me Ma says me Da said that Parnell was anything but a wicked man, Uncle.
—Parnell a wicked man? ‘Course he wasn’t. Who said he was?
—Why doesn’t he fight for England, Uncle, then?
The fat-headed pipe came again out of Uncle Tom’s pocket, who looked at it longingly, then put it back again.
—What are you goin’ to buy with the penny your mother gave you, when we get outa the thram? he asked Johnny.
—Oh, just jawsticker or a sponge cake or something—why didn’t he, Uncle?
—Why didn’t he who?
—Why didn’t Parnell fight for England an’ not go again’ the Queen?
—I wouldn’t say that Parnell went again’ her.
—Oh, yes, he did, said Johnny deliberately; for me Ma heard me Da sayin’ once that Parnell paid no regard to the Queen, and would sooner rot in jail than obey any law made be her, an’ that he worked, night an’ day, to circumvent them because, he said, English law was robbery. An’ Georgie Middleton told me he had a terrible row with his father because Georgie stuck up for Parnell, and his oul’ fella was afraid of him, and slunk out to get dhrunk and came home cry in’.
—Georgie shouldn’t go against his father be sticking up for Parnell.
—But why shouldn’t he stick up for him, Uncle, when you say that Parnell wasn’t a wicked man?
—Because Georgie Middleton’s a Protestant, that’s the why, Johnny.
—Yes, but Parnell you said was a Protestant, too, so why shouldn’t a Protestant stick up for another Protestant? —Oh, you’re too young yet to understand things, replied Uncle Tom, with a little irritation. When you’re older, you’ll know what’s right and what’s wrong.
—Grown up, like you, Uncle?
—Grown up, like me, Johnny.
—When I’m like you, I’ll understand everything, won’t I? —Yes, yes; then these things won’t be a bother to you any more.
—But he was grown up, wasn’t he? —He, who?
—Parnell an’ the Queen, and all them who went about arguing the toss, an’ they didn’t know, for when I was ever so little, I heard some of them shoutin’ at me Da on accounta what he was sayin’, an’ he laughin’ at them, an’ makin’ them more angry an’ shout louder than ever.
Uncle Tom looked out of a side window to see rightly where they were.
—We’re just there, he said; an’ looka here, Johnny, while we’re in the jail, say nothin’ about Parnell, nor anything you think your poor Da used to say either.—Oh, there’s no why about it—you’ve just got to do what you’re told. Here we are, he added, as the tram slowed down amid a bright jingle of bells swinging from the horses’ necks.
—The jail—right ahead, isn’t it? he asked the conductor.
—Right ahead an’ a little to the left, said the conductor; is the young fella’s father one o’ the boys?
—No, no, no; not anything like that, said Uncle Tom, as he swung off the tram and helped Johnny down, though Johnny didn’t want his help, for he could spring off the tram a far sight sprightlier than stiff oul’ Uncle Tom.
They hurried up Bow Lane into the heart of Kilmainham where everything made the place look as if it were doing a ragged and middle-aged minuet.
—There, said Johnny’s uncle, pointing a thumb to the right, is Swift’s hospital that the Dean o’ St, Pathrick’s got built for the lunatics; and there to the right again, when they had got a little further on, is the Royal Hospital, where hundhreds of oul’ men who fought for Queen an’ counthry are kept safe in perfect peace; and, soon, we’ll see the jail. So, when you’re talkin’ to your friends, you’ll be able to boast about the wonderful things you’ve seen today. There it was.
A great, sombre, silent stone building, sitting like a toad watching the place doing its ragged middle-aged minuet. A city of cells. A place where silence is a piercing wail; where discipline is an urgent order from heaven; where a word of goodwill is as far away as the right hand of God; where the wildest wind never blows a withered leaf over the wall; where a black sky is as kind as a blue sky; where a handclasp would be low treason; where a warder’s vanished frown creates a carnival; where there’s a place for everything, and everything in its improper place; where a haphazard song can never be sung; where the bread of life is always stale; where God is worshiped warily; and where loneliness is a frightened hunted thing.
His uncle pulled his coat open, showing the Crimea medal shining on his waistcoat, with two bars striding across the coloured ribbon. They went through the iron gateway leading to the main, door of the jail, the ready way in and the tardy way out, a heavy thick iron gate set desperately deep into solid stone, with a panel of five scorpions wriggling round each other carved out of the stone that formed the fanlight that gave no light to the poisoned city of Sion inside. As Johnny and his uncle came near, the heavy thing swung open, and a warder stood there, with the Crimea medal glittering on his breast, and a hand stretched out to greet Tom, who seized it and held it for a long time.
—Come along in, Tom, me son, and your young friend, said the warder. You’re welcome, he’s welcome, you’re both as welcome as the rooty call blowing for dinner.
They went inside to the courtyard, the heavy thing swung back again, and Johnny was installed as a free man among the prisoners and captives.
They went into the central hall, and, standing on the flagged floor, gazed at the three tiers of cells, with narrow railed lobbies on the first and second floors, and a narrow steel stairway leading to each of them.
—It’s a great sight, said the warder, to see the prisoners coming in, in single file, step be step, hands straight be their sides, over a hundhred of them, quiet an’ meek, marching right, left, right, left, each turning into his own little shanty when he comes to it, with half a dozen warders standing on the alert, and the sound of the steel doors clanging to, like the sound of waves on a frozen sea, all shut up safely for the night, to read their Bible or stretch themselves down and count the days to come before the Governor dismisses them and wishes them godspeed. Here, me lad, he said, opening a cell door, have a decko at the nice little home we provide for them who can’t keep their hands from pickin’ an’ stealin’, or think by the gathering together of the froward, they can overcome the submission they owe to our Sovereign Lady, forgetting that they have to reckon with the goodness of God who will always weaken the hands, blast the designs, and defeat the entherprises of her enemies. Go on in, me lad—no fear o’ the door closing on them who are the friends of those sent by the Queen for the punishment of evildoers.
Johnny went a little way into the cell, with his heart beating. It was spick and span, the little stool scrubbed till it was shining like a dull diamond, and the floor spotless. A slop-pail stood to attention in a corner, over it a tiny shelf holding a piece of yellow soap and a black-covered Bible, showing that cleanliness was next to godliness, and a tiny grating to the side of the door, letting the air through to keep the cell fresh and wholesome, all, in the night, lighted up by a baby-tongued flicker of gas in a corner, the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the jail, the captive’s little pillar of fire, the prisoner’s light of the world, a light to them that sit in darkness, with this light, needing no light from the sun, lead kindly light, amid the encircling gloom, lead thou me on till the day break and the shadows flee away.
Johnny stepped back out of the cell, for he could hardly breathe in it, and he felt a warm sweat dewing his forehead. Stone and steel surrounding loneliness, pressing loneliness in on itself, with a black-coated Bible to keep it company, and the light like a jaundiced eye looking out of the darkness. , . . They peeped into the chapel with its plain benches in the nave for the jailbirds and the seats on the side for the guards; and dimly, in the distance, shrinking into an archway, the althar, with two candles, one on each side of a crucifix that stood on the top of a little domed cabinet where, the warder said, the priest kept his God all the secular days of the week and took him out for exercise on Sunday.
—Here’s something to see, said the warder, showing a fair-sized room, lighted with two arched windows, for this is the room where Parnell was kept when we had him prisoner here. A man, he went on, if ever there was one, a sowl man. The least little thing you done for him, it was always thank you, thank you, from him even when you opened the door before you locked him up for the night. A sowl man, I’m tellin you, Tom. An honour to do anything for him, he was that mannerly, even to us, mind you, that you’d fall over yourself in thryin’ to please him, and never the icy glint in his eye, unless the name of some big bug in the opposite camp was mentioned, oh, be Jasus, then the flame in his eye ud freeze you; ay, man, an’ shook hands when he was leaving, too, imagine that, Tom; shook hands with us that was busy holdin’ him down, though no one in this world, ay, or in the next, either, could really hold Parnell down, for even in here he was more dangerous than he was roamin’ about outside, a deal more dangerous, for, with Parnell a prisoner, the Irish ud stop at nothin’, ay, an’ well he knew it—an’ one of us, too, Tom, me boy.
—How one of us? asked Uncle Tom.
—Why a Protestant, man, makin’ him fair an’ equally one of ourselves. Not fit to do anything for themselves, the Roman Catholics must have a Protestant to lead them. Looka at them now, an’ Parnell gonel Gulpin’ down the sacrament while they’re tryin’ to get at each other’s throats; furiously tetherin’ themselves to the roar o’ ruin; twistin’ into a tangle everything that poor Parnell had straightened out, with the hope of ever standing up against a single law that England likes to make gone forever!
Johnny edged over to a window, and looked out: there they were, a big gang of them, some with hand barrows, carrying stones, some with wheelbarrows, wheeling them away, and others, with great hammers, smiting huge stones into little pieces, each hammerer gruntin’ as he brought his sledge down with a welt on the obstinate stone; while two warders, with carbines, watched well from a corner.
Earnest lookin’, evil lookin’, ugly lookin’ lookin’ dials on the whole o’ them, thought Johnny to himself.
—There, said their guide, pointing to a steel door opposite to Parnell’s room, is the cell that Carey, the informer, lived in, afther he had turned Queen’s evidence till he was taken down to Kingstown be three different journeys in three different cabs, an’ put on board the liner, only to be shot dead when he came in sight of Port Elizabeth. But come on, now, an’ see the best sight of all.
Tom’s warder friend stopped by a cell door away be itself in a quiet part of the prison. He opened it, stepped back, stayed silent for a moment or two, then, bending over, said almost in a whisper, gentlemen, the condemned cell.
Uncle Tom took off his hat, and when Johnny saw that, he took off his, too, and they both tiptoed a little way into the condemned and silent cell: a little less like a cell, a little more like a room with its silent stool, silent table, little bigger than the stool, a cold fireplace, and a cold hearth.
—If only the walls could speak, murmured Uncle Tom, looking around and nodding his head wisely.
Johnny felt his heart tighten, and he wished he was well away out of it all; at play with Kelly or Burke or Shea; or tryin’ to say something nice to Jennie Clitheroe. He’d look, an’ wouldn’t see; he’d listen, an’ wouldn’t hear; but would keep his mind fixed on pretty little Jennie Clitheroe. She had gone down to the counthry for a week. Wasn’t it well for her! He had never been to the counthry yet. He had never been in a train—only watched them go by leaning over the railway bridge in Dorset Street. Jennie was bringing back with her a bundle of yarrow stalks, and she’d give him some of them. He an Jennie were to put nine of them under their pillows, and throw one over their left shoulders so that he’d dream of his future wife and she’d dream of her future husband. He knew who his future wife ud be, so he did, well: her name began with a J. And when he was throwin’ the yarrow stalk over his shoulder, he’d say, sing-song like:
Good morrow, good morrow, fair yarrow, Thrice good morrow to thee! I hope, before this time tomorrow, You’ll show my thrue love to me.
—He sat there on that very stool, the warder was saying, sayin’ nothin’, only murmurin’ here as he did on his way to the gallows, poor oul’ Ireland, poor oul’ Ireland. Brady, the best an’ bravest of the Invincibles, never losin’ an’ ounce o’ weight the whole time, waitin’ for the day, for the hour, for the last minute to come, forever murmurin’, poor oul’ Ireland, poor oul’ Ireland. Underneath the flags outside, in one big grave lie the five of them, goin’ to the grave without a word of who did it or how it was all done.
—A sinisther commination on any poor man’s life, said Uncle Tom, sadly.
—’Tis an’ all, replied the warder, just as sadly, but fair in the square of a respectable life we’ve got to go, if we want to come to a faithful an’ diminishin’ end.
—Anywhere here, said Uncle Tom, suddenly, in a loud whisper to his friend, where we could thrance the youngster, an’ go for a dhrink?
The warder hurried them down a corridor, the end of which was a door. He opened this, and they all went into a room where there was a fire, with a bare-headed warder sitting beside it, smoking, with his feet inside the fender. In the centre was a dirty-looking table, some hard chairs; a frying-pan, saucepan, kettle, and teapot stood on the hobs. On a rack along the wall hung some warders’ caps, and two carbines and some batons were hanging from hooks in the rack.
The warder, seated by the fire, turned and looked, then turned away again, and went on smoking.
—We’re leafin’ the kidger here for a few seconds, said Tom’s friend; he’ll just sit quiet, an’ be in nobody’s way.
—He’s welcome, said the warder seated by the fire, and went on smoking.
Tom’s friend settled a chair by the fire for Johnny, and when he was seated, hurried away with Uncle Tom. The bare-headed warder sat still, never once glancing at the boy, but went on smoking, smoking, and gazing into the fire.
Johnny sat tight in his chair, wishing that his uncle would come to bring him home. He’d force himself to forget seeing the condemned cell, and think, only think of going home again, home, going home again, homeward bound.
Homeward once more, homeward once more, The good ship is speeding for old Erin’s shore; The exile’s returning, no longer to roam, But to end his career in his own native home.
The bareheaded warder sat on silently, staring into the fire. Johnny began to lilt softly, very softly, to himself:
His counthry he loved, an’ for Ireland he bled, For which he was sentenced to hang until dead; The sentence was not carried out, if you please, Instead he was sentenced for years ‘cross the seas. For twenty long years, the prime of his life, He was banish’d from children, his kindred, and wife. Oh, how his heart yearns as he stands on the shore, Awaiting the steamer bound homeward once morel
The bareheaded warder turned, suddenly, to stare at Johnny.
—If I was you, he said, I wouldn’t sing a song like that here.
Johnny hushed his murmuring song, and gazed at the staring warder, puffing fiercely at his pipe, and staring straight at him.
—No, me boy, he went on, such a song doesn’t sound decent in such a place as this.
Then he turned his head away, and stared again straight into the fire, as if he had been sentenced to staring for the rest of his life.
—I’m an old bird alone, he said, after a long pause, an’ just waiting for what we all must meet. My own an’ only son did three years, an’ then had to fly the counthry. He was a Fenian, an’ I never knew. Then the missus died. Three long years me own an’ only son did in jail, an’ then had to fly the counthry.
Johnny’s heart went out to the old man. How bitther it musta been to have had a son who done three years in jail.
—Maybe, he said, your son, in the counthry he’s gone to, ‘ill do away with the disgrace he brought on yous all.
The bareheaded warder sat and sat silent for a long time staring away into the fire, an’ puffing his pipe.
—I’m proud of me son, he said slowly, proud of him, an’ ashamed of me son’s father. I’m tellin that to you, young boy, because you haven’t yet been fortified be the world against the things good men do. He took the pipe out of his mouth, and jerked the stem over his shoulder towards the door. Say nothin’ to them two dismissioners when they come back of what I said to you, young boy. He slapped the mouth of his pipe against the palm of his hand to loosen up the tobacco in it. I was in the Crimea, meself, but I never wear me medal; never since the day me boy was sentenced to three years penal servitude. Mind you, I’m only saying that there’s a lot lyin’ soft undher an althar no nearer heaven than a lot of others lyin’ hard undher the flagstones of a prison yard.
Johnny sat still, thinking, for he didn’t quite know what the oul’ fella meant. The ould head had sunk down deep into the breast, and the pipe was shakin’ in the oul’ mouth. Johnny watched it tremblin’, give an upward jerk as the lips tried to close upon it, then slide down the breast of the blue coat, and fall, scattering the silken ashes over the hearth, while the old warder slumbered on, and the fire began to sink down into a dull glow.
Johnny glanced over again at the batons hanging from the hooks in the wall, like dried up little dead men, the batons that battered the bowseys, There must be a lot o’ bowseys in Ireland, for his Ma told him his Da had said that the police were never tired of batonin’ the people. It was the only way that God could bless Ireland, for God moves in a mysterious way His wondhers to perform. Yet the sleepin’ warder looked a kindly oul’ man. Maybe, he was too ould to use a baton properly any longer. Maybe, this was the very man who had brought food to the Invincibles while they were wait-in’ for to go to the gallows. Only a few steps away, five of them, Brady, Curley, Fagan, Caffrey, and the boy, Kelly, were lyin’ low, dead arms round each other, in one common grave, the warders an’ convicts walkin’ over them, day afther day. Johnny shuddered, and drew his chair a little nearer to the dying fire. The Invincibles, the Invincibles.
The dusk was falling, the fire was burning low, and the old warder slept on, sunk back in his hard chair, his hoary old head bent down deep in the hard breast of his trim blue coat.
Johnny remembered the cross cut deep in the path a long way up the road from the main gate of the park an’ the mounted constabulary, a constant glint of silver an’ black, goin’ up, goin’ down the road ever since the time of the killin’, the shinin’ steel of the harness tinklin’ to the gentle throt o’ the horses, watchin’ an’ waitin’, with carbine an’ sabre, for the worst to happen. But the great we are the Invincibles had been there before them. The cab crawling about, holding men with revolvers itching their hands. A jaunting-car waiting, waiting some distance away, the driver flicking the mare with a whip to keep her warm and taut, the day Burke jumped off his car to join Lord Cavendish walking his way to the Vice Regal Lodge, full of plans to circumvent Parnell, putting his foot down firmly on foreign soil, his fine head full of the fact that he would do unto Ireland as he would that Ireland should do unto him, fresh from England, with a fresh heart and a fresh mind eager to plant and to sow and to reap and to mow and to be a firmer boyoy oy, to show how things could be done and should be done and must be done if the four parts of the United Kingdom were to go hand in hand through this vale of tears, strong and hopeful, firm and faithful, fond and free, bringing a new era to Eire, a push afoot, a push ahead, and who will seperrarebit? None. Forever. Trio juncta in-aequalitas.
There the two of them strolled along together, he and him, English and Irish, Lord and commoner, boss temporary and servant permanent, Protestant and Catholic, warm-hearted Cavendish, cold-hearted Burke, open-faced Cavendish, dark-kissered Burke, the follower in front of the leader, follow me up to Carlow, listen to me, listen me lord, a firm hand for Charlie for Parnell is his name, me lord, Ireland is his station, Wicklow is his dwellin’-place, an’ the jail his destination, that’s the plan, that’s the plan of campaign me Lord.
The sun was setting redly while the cab crawled about, the jaunting-car waited, and the selected Invincibles were slowly nearing the man in grey, the butler who polished John Bull’s silver in the back yard, who made a wheel from Ireland’s harp to break her bones, the Irish Catholic bodach was coming nearer to the Invincibles holding their knives hidden, untarnished by a tear of dew, nearer to the herculean Joe Brady and his companions, beside them, now, and their knives are deep in the man in grey who has suddenly left Ireland forever. A second more, and Cavendish lay along him as sad and as still as the bonnie Earl o’ Murray, his handsome head half-hidden in the grass, lying quiet there till a coffin came to carry him home, beside the man in grey he lay, a memory now, covered soberly by a stately purple pall that the setting sun was slowly spreading over the sky high above the rat and the lion as they lay in a desperate sleep together.
Johnny made a clatther by striking the fender with the toe of his boot, but the hoary-headed oul’ fool slept on, his head bent down deep in the dark of his trim blue coat. He was sure that strange things strolled about in the dead of night in this queer place. The air was scorched with the thoughts of those who had suffered here. He knew that, for he couldn’t keep Jennie in his mind for two solid seconds. Something was dragging his mind to dwell on things that had happened before he was born. Had he been a Roman Catholic, he’d ha’ made the sign of the cross, but all he could say was Jasus. Ay, Jasus help the Invincibles and the two men they slew, that were lying stretched out on the grass in the park and the cold night dew fallin’, while Skin the goat was dhrivin’ the cab as hard as the horse ud go out through the north circular road gate, and the car went gallopin’, gallopin’, gallopin’ down the road through the fifteen acres, out through Chapel-izod, scattherin’ the kids into wanton fear as they were playin’ on the road, out into the thick of the counthry, galloping out, gallopin’ on past hedges of hazel an’ holly, past woodbines and bramblebushes, gallopin’ still, goin’ a long and roundabout way to the dark little torturin’ room in Dublin Castle where they were bullied and borne about in bewilderment first to the Inns of Quay police court, on to Kilmainham, then through the condemned cell to the last minute’s walk before they were finished, an’ Mr. Mallon, justice o’ the peace an’ commissioner o’ police, just to show there was no ill-feelin’, shook each one of them be the hand, an’ wished them well on their way to the land o’ the leal, feelin’ fit from what he had done to preserve truth an’ justice, religion an’ piety in the land where the Queen’s writ ran, while Marwood, the hangman, Ireland’s only guardian angel, danced round Brady, crowing that it was the grandest execution of the nineteenth century, with the eye o’ the world watchin’, while the big man stepped on, no flicker in his eye, no tremour in his limbs, no signal of fear in his face, no ear for the murmurin’ of the prayers for the dyin’, no crack in his voice as he went on through a gauntlet o’ carbines, muttering the creed of the felon, poor oul’ Ireland, poor oul’ Ireland that was fadin’ fast away from him, for it was time to be goin’, goin’ out of this sad place, goin’ home before the heavy darkness came, an’ he alone with the sleepin’ warder who looked for all the world as if he, too, was sleepin’ the sleep of the dead, seemin’ to say in his stillness that this was the only sleep that had rest in a place like this is Tom’s voice callin’ in the corridor for me to come, and Johnny rose up and hurried out, leaving the hoary-headed oul’ man asleep by the dying fire in the dusk, his head bent down deep in the dark of his trim blue coat.