“ WHAT’S keepin’ yer sister?”
Granny’s querulous old voice came clear and thin out of the shadows by the stove; but Bridget, though she lifted her head and her scribbling pencil, did not hear. She was listening to other voices.
The windows of the tenement looked out to the west, and Bridget’s head, with the uplifted face, the straining chin, the tender, delicate profile, the half-open, wondering, expectant mouth, was etched against the saffron of an October sunset.
“Do you want to know what you look like, Bridget ?” chuckled the old woman by the stove. “You look like a chicken with the pip.”
This time the words, though not their meaning, reached the girl. She turned absently.
“Was it you spoke, Granny?”
“I begun to think I did n’t, with you not hearin’. Queer things happens on All Hallows,” grumbled the old woman.
“In Ireland,” assented Bridget; “but there’s nothing queer would happen in America.”
“I don’t know that. I don’t know that.”Granny’s head shook on her old neck, a tremulous negative, and her mouth was grim in the corners. “All day I been a-sittin’ here alone with the stillness. ‘Am I deef ?’ I says. And I threw the stove-lid acrost the room to see if I’d hear it. I did. And so did Mrs. Maloney. She come a-cursin ’ me for wakin’ up her baby. But I never heard the like of the stillness I’ve listened to this day. Don t tell me there ain’t nothin’ queer into it.”
“It’s the cars that ain’t runnin’; that’s what,” explained the girl.
“But it’s not what I’m not hearin’ only; it’s what I’m seein’,” fretted the old woman. “Not once did I open the stove door to mend the fire, but I seen a sign of sorrow in the coals. There’ll somethin’ go wrong before midnight. It’s not for nothin’I was born in Ireland.”
“It’s the loneliness that takes hold on you, with me an’ Kathleen away to work all day,” said Bridget soothingly; but the words only stirred another grievance.
“The loneliness is it!” retorted her grandmother. “ And do you think you ’re anny more company for a body when you’re sittin’ with your mouth open and niver a word for me, for all I might talk to you till my throat cracked ? What’s that you ’re so secret over, with the pencil and paper, mutterin’ to yourself ? What’s it you’re writin’ annyhow ?”
Bridget hesitated, and when she spoke her voice was reluctant and troubled.
“I think — it’s poetry,” she said.
“You think ?” mocked the old woman, but pride and rough kindliness lurked beneath the mocking. “And have n’t you learned the signs by this ? ”
“It feels like it in my head,” acknowledged Bridget. “ But I don ’t know if it ’ll look like it written down.”
“Sure, it’s the feel of it inside that counts,” the old woman affirmed dogmatically. “Black marks on a white paper is only the shadows of it. There was your grandfather could n’t read nor write, but was niver a soul in County Clare doubted he’d got the inspiration, only to look at him when the fit was on him, and to hear the words come tumblin’ out of his mouth; sich singin’ words! Oh, but I know the signs! Poetry is it ? Say it to me, till I tell you.”
Again there was a pause, and Bridget got up uneasily and came into the middle of the room.
“I’ll say you the one I made while I was doin’ collars to the laundry to-day,”she said at last. “It’s about the strike.
“Divil take the strike!” snapped the old woman. “I ain’t a motorman, nor I don’t ride in them cars three times in a year. You ’ll say me the one you ’re writin’ on the paper.”
The girl stood, unwilling, hesitant.
“Ah, you would n’t refuse your poor Granny, now would you, Bridget darlin’?” wheedled the teasing old voice. “It’s few is the joys that is left to an old woman like me, come out to die in a strange country. When I hear you sayin’ out the thoughts of your heart, Bridget my dear, I’ve only to shut my eyes and I see your grandfather a-sittin’ in the chimney, and the room blue with the peatsmoke. And the sound of his voice, — it comes to me the way it was when the inflooence was on him.”
“This that I’m makin’ now is not the same as them others I’ve made,” faltered the girl. “ It’s dearer to me. Do you promise me never to tell nobody about it ?”
“And who would I be tellin’ ? ” Granny’s protest bristled with virtuous indignation.
Bridget laughed lightly. “It’s who would n’t you be tellin’, if you got good and ready,” she answered.
“ Take shame to yourself, slanderin’ your own kin!” cried the old woman, but she chuckled appreciatively.
“If ever you tell it to anybody, I don’t care who,” Bridget warned her harshly, “I’ll not say you another I make, so long as I live. I never will.”
“ Come over to me, till I can hear you, was Granny’s response. And the girl went over and sat down on the floor beside the stove, her hands clasped about her knees, her face thrust forward a little and uplifted. There was a dull after-glow in the west, and twilight out of doors, but in the room a brown dusk. The caressing Irish voice spoke softly, in a chanting monotone : —
I have never gone hungry for bread.
For all there ’s a hunger looks out of ray eyes,
My body is fed.
Never will I put it in writing, for man or
woman to read it.
But God knows: it ’s Him that says to me,
‘ Sure Bridget,
You don’t need it.’
But if I took it there ’s a heart would break.
What. for would I be breaking hearts, and me
a Christian ?
I ’d liefer mine would ache.
any kind of pain !
It’s joyful I am for the pain at the heart of
O Mary ! O Mary’s Son, out of your humanity,
Give me strength ! Comfort me! ”
There was silence, then a soft little moan from Granny as she pressed a wrinkled finger into the corners of her eyes and wiped them on her apron. Then suddenly the dry old voice said: —
“How much longer will that fool, Tim Riley, be cornin’ round here after your sister?”
Bridget got to her feet and moved away from her grandmother, her arms clasped behind her head.
“I wish I never had told you that poetry,”she said bitterly. “I wish I never.”
“I’m thinkin’ that’s where she is this minute,” continued the old woman, “a-gallivantin’ about the streets with that good-lookin’ young fool, instead of cornin’ home from her work like anny decent girl. And on All Hallows, when who knows what ghosts is walkin’.”
“It’s the strike, Granny, that keeps her,” Bridget explained patiently, and taking the lid off the stew-pot that simmered on the stove, she poured in more water. “There ain’t no cars runnin’ and she’ll be over an hour walkin’ it.” And she added with spirit: “Tim Riley’s honest and sober, and no fool. If she’s walkin’ with him she’s in good company. But
she’d ought to be here soon now. I’ll put on supper and make the tea.”
“I seen strange things in the tea leaves this noon,” droned the old woman mysteriously. “I always do on the Eve of All Hallows.”
Bridget welcomed the new topic with relief. “What was it you seen? Tell it to me, Granny darlin’. My, but it must be grand to know the signs and portents! I wisht I was born in Ireland, to know how. What did you see, Granny, tell me that?”
“I seen you and Tim Riley and Kathleen,” Granny began, with a gleam of malice in her eye.
“Oh, but you’re the tormentin’ old woman!” exclaimed Bridget, going to the door. “Hush now, I think it’s Kathleen comin’,” and she went out on the landing.
“Ah, well! " shouted Granny, lifting her voice to be heard through the open door, it ’ll keep. I’ll tell it you after supper.”
“Yes, it’ll keep!” retorted Bridget, coming back into the room. “It’s made up out of whole cloth, that’s what it is; cloth of your own weavin’, and not a word of truth in it.”
And then Kathleen came up the stairs, flushed, and dragging her feet, but flashing energy from her eyes and her gay smile.
“Scrappin’ are you?” she said cheerfully. “I heard you down to the second floor. It sounds awful common, jawin’ with the door open, Bridget. You’d ought to keep it shut, or your mouth; one or the other.”
“If there’s ever a scrap amongst the lot of us, it’s yourself that’s at the bottom of it, Kathleen Moran! ” cried the old woman. “Me and Bridget would niver have a word from week’s end to week’s end but for you.”
“Oh, Bridget’s the pet, I know!” acquiesced Kathleen, unpinning her large hat. “What is it I’ve done now ?”
And Bridget, lighting the lamp, said peacefully, “It was your bein’ late. She forgets the strike; she’s that old.”
“I bet she would n’t forget the strike if she’d walked five miles to get to her work and back,” Kathleen replied goodnaturedly. Her voice was louder than Bridget’s, the strident voice of the Irish girl who in childhood has yelled at play in American streets. She was younger than Bridget, handsomer, better dressed.
“Some of the girls did n’t get in to-day till ten o’clock,” she continued. “They looked like they’d drop. And what do you think that old brute Atchison, the floor-walker, said to them? ‘Well, you know’d the cars was n’t runnin’,’he says; ‘why did n’t you get out of bed an hour earlier ? ’ he says. And was n’t they docked half an hour, every one ? Shameful. I call it!”
“You’d ought to have a union,” said Bridget, “then you could hold up your end. The boss ’ud think twice before he ’d dock any of us laundry workers that lives three miles from the laundry a time like this.”
“A union is it?” sniffed Kathleen. “Look what the union’s done for the motormen! Look what it’s done for Tim Riley, walkin’ the streets and all his savin’s like to be swallowed up. I’ll bet if you was keepin’ company with a man that was out on strike you would n’t be so dead stuck on the unions.”
“But the men’s in the right of it,” said Bridget. “Even the newspapers says they are.”
“And if they are,” her sister retorted, “Tim’s out of a job just the same.” She drew a chair up to the table noisily and sat down with emphasis.
“Will you be moved to the table, Granny darlin’, or will you have your tea by the stove, in the warm corner ? ” Bridget asked.
“Bring it to me here,” sighed the old woman, “and for the Lord’s sake talk about somethin’ cheerful. Here have I been alone all day, watchin’ the spirits of the dead gather out of the stillness to make a night of it — and now " —
“What’s she talkin’ about?” interrupted Kathleen.
“It’s to-morrow’s All Saints,” began Bridget.
“Oh, sure!” exclaimed her sister. “It’s Hallowe’en to-day. You’d ought to see the candy stores; they’re grand! They’re all full of brownies and cute little Jack-o’-lantern candy boxes. I wanted one awful bad. I’d pull Tim for one, only he’s so down in the mouth about the strike I ain’t got the heart to ask him.”
“Candy and jacky lanterns, is it?” cried the old woman. “ I ’ll tell you there’s more to All Hallows than them things.” She was shaking the tea leaves in the bottom of her cup, and peering down at them solemnly. “If you could see what I’m seein’!”
Kathleen started up from the table eagerly. “What’s it you’re seein’ in the cup, Granny?” she exclaimed. “Is it money ?”
“It’s nothin’ but some of her foolishness,” said Bridget. “Here, give me the cup, Granny, till I pour you some fresh.”
“No, it’s not money,” replied the old woman, clinging obstinately to her cup. “I see three gifts.”
There was a strange noise in the street. Bridget lifted her head, listening intently.
“What’s that?” cried Kathleen, hurrying to the window.
“I see three gifts,” droned the old woman.
“It’s a car!” shouted Kathleen. “It’s an electric! Do you hear it?”
The whirring noise swelled louder, coming nearer.
“ They said the Company was goin to try to run them with scabs in the rush hours!” Kathleen cried again, between awe and exultation.
“There’ll be trouble,” said Bridget. “Oh, listen!”
Something was coming with the car; a sound of many voices, an angry, growling sound. The old woman heard it, and lifted her eyes from the cup.
“They’re comin’! They’re comin’!" Kathleen exulted, lifting her hand to the window-catch.
“Don’t you open the window! screamed the old woman. “Don’t you open the window, I tell you! There’ll be guns in the mob. Don’t you do it!”
“ Leave it down!" said Bridget, pressing on the window as her sister pushed up. “Can’t you see she’s near out of her mind with the fright?”
And then the car and the people swept by in the street below, with a trampling rush of many feet and a terrible, angry roaring; swept by, and suddenly, with a crash, stopped, and the voice of the mob rose in a thirsty howl, wolfish, snarling.
“There’s death in it,” said the old woman in a frightened whisper. “I know the sound. I heard it once’t in Ireland. It means death.”
What do you see ? What do you see ? ” gasped Kathleen, her own face pressed against the window-pane.
“The electric light’s in my eyes,” Bridget panted, “I can’t see!”
And then a stillness fell, more dreadful than any sound.
“ It means death,” Granny whispered.
“I hope to God Tim ain’t in it!” said Bridget involuntarily.
“Tim ?” Kathleen’s eyes shone. “I’ll bet he is, though! Tim’ll always be on hand for a fight, every time! He’s the boy!”
“It means death!” said the old woman.
“Shut up!” cried Kathleen.
“Listen!” Bridget warned them.
Somebody was coming upstairs, running very fast, and yet not noisily. There was something uncanny in the swift and cautious footsteps. They sped upward without pause.
“Mother of God, save him!” whispered Bridget. And the door flew open.
A big man stood in the doorway. His eyes were wild and staring; there was a gray pallor under his rough, weatherbeaten skin; little beads of sweat stood out on his forehead; but his big, quivering mouth smiled foolishly.
“O Tim!” screamed Kathleen. “How you scairt me!”
“Good-evenin’ to you,” he said, and turned his head backward over his shoulder, and looked into the dark hall, listening.
“It’s like you to know we’d be wonderin’ what was the row, Tim,” said Bridget’s quiet voice; and the man turned his face back again into the room, the listening look still in his eyes.
“It’s like you,” Bridget repeated, “to run and tell us before we ’d begin to be afraid.”
She had come near to him and was looking gently, steadily, into his face. A moment her eyes held his, and then he, as one who has been preoccupied and comes to himself, laughed awkwardly, and putting one hand behind him, shoved to the door.
“Sure!” he said. “That was why I come!”
“I knew you was in it!” laughed Kathleen.
“Well, I was n’t, then!” he contradicted almost fiercely. “I tell you there’s nobody can prove nothin’ by me. I was on the edge of the crowd from the beginnin to the end; all the time the rocks was flyin’.”
“Was anybody hurt?” asked Bridget.
Tim looked at her, and then away, over her head. “ I heard them say the motorman was dead,”he answered. The grayness spread again suddenly over his face, and he turned his back on the two girls, and went and warmed his hands against the stove pipe.
Granny peered up at him from under her grizzled eyebrows stealthily. “Did you see who threw the rock that done for him ?” she asked.
“And if he did?” Bridget interposed quickly. “Do you think Tim’s the one would tell? And him a union man in good standin’?”
“You’re right I would n’t!” said Tim, and threw back his head and laughed, over-loud, hysterically.
“He was nothin’ but a dirty scab, anyhow!" cried Kathleen. “He got what was comin’ to him — and served him right.”
“That ’s straight!” assented Tim. He had stopped laughing, and his voice was gloomy.
“How’d it take him?” continued Kathleen, intent on details. “ Did it take him ’side the head?”
“Yes; it took him ’side the head.”
“Did you see him drop, Tim?”
“Yes — I seen him drop.”
“My! don’t I wisht I’d seen it! And I would, only Bridget held the window down.”
“What for did you hold the window down?” Tim turned roughly upon Bridget.
“Granny was afraid there would be shootin’.”
“How much did you see?” he questioned.
“We did n’t see nothin’. What with the window-glass and the dark, and the electric light down to the corner makin’ shadows ” — There was a soothing note in Bridget’s voice, as if she were reassuring him about something.
“’T was n’t fit for women,” he mumbled in apology for his roughness.
“I don’t care, I wisht I ’d seen it all the same,” reiterated Kathleen. “We was seared to death only hearin’ the noise; it was worse not seein’ nothin’. Oh , Tim, you ’d ought to been here! We was eatin supper and talkin’ about Hallowe’en ; and I was tellin’ them about the Jack-o’lantern candy boxes in Huyler’s window. Have you seen them, Tim? They’re awful cute.”
She waited a moment, but Tim was not listening. He left the stove, and going over to the window shaded the sides of his face with his hands and peered out into the street. Kathleen made a face at him behind his back, and then caught Bridget’s disapproving eye, and laughed.
“ No go, was it ? ” she said.
“What’s that ?” asked Tim.
“Oh, just somethin’ I was sayin’ to Bridget. You don’t care what I say.”
“Yes, I do,” he protested. “I heard what you said; you was talkin’ about what you was doin’ before the shindy, — and it’s Hallowe’en, you said.”
“The dead walks on Hallowe’en,” murmured Granny, and Tim shivered and drew away from the window.
“There’s one will ride, to-night,” laughed Kathleen. “The ambulance is comin’, do you hear ? ” And this time she flung up the window and leaned out.
“Sit down to the table, Tim,” urged Bridget. “I don’t believe you’ve had a bite to eat. You look wore out with all this worry. Sit down till I pour you out a cup of tea. We ain’t done yet, ourselves.” She pushed him into her own chair by the table, and carried a cup over to the teapot on the stove.
“ I can’t see nothin’,” complained Kathleen, speaking out of the window, and kicking the mopboard with her toes.
“Come in and shut that window!” Bridget called. “You’re givin’ Granny her death. Come in and put some of the stew on a plate for Tim.”
“What for do you want to be lookin’ after a stiff, when you can sit down to table with a fine live man like me ? ” Tim asked, with an attempt at jocularity, burying his nose in his cup.
Kathleen had banged the window down, but his words restored her good humor. “ Ain’t he got the conceit!” she laughed, and boxed his ears playfully. “Pour me a fresh cup, will you, Bridget! — And, oh, I ’ll tell you what! We ’ll listen to Granny read the tea leaves.”
“Oh, we ’ll listen to Granny read the tea leaves, will we?” mimicked the old woman. “Now that we ain’t no mobs, nor murdered men to look at, — now that we ain’t got nothin’ better to do, we’ll make a show of our poor old Granny from Ireland, the queer place it is!”
Nevertheless, she shook her cup and bent over it.
“Oh, my Lord!” exclaimed Kathleen. “I put my foot in it, sure, that time! Bridget, you ask her; she ’ll never say no to you.”
“No, I won’t ask her,”said Bridget. “Leave her be! She’s tired.
“It ain’t me that’s tired, it’s Bridget that ’s afraid of what I ’ll be readin’,” chuckled the old woman. “She afraid I ’ll be givin’ away the name of her young man.”
“Her young man!” shouted Kathleen. “Bridget’s young man! — I’ll believe it when I see him!" And she laughed noisily.
“And maybe you think you ’re the only one that’s got a young man,” retorted Granny. “But you may look well to it. I could tell you things that’s hid in this teacup.”
“Lies, they are, every one of them,” said Bridget calmly. She was standing over her grandmother, and there was a hint of a threat in her attitude. “Give me the cup, Granny!”
“I ’m not done with the cup,” fretted the old woman. “Stand out of my light, till I see!" And leaning over, she peered into the teacup and began muttering, with now and again a teasing glance at her grand-daughter. Once she paused to look up and say, grinning: “While I’m a-gatherin’ my wits, you might say your poetry to Tim,” and she chuckled at the ominous light in Bridget’s eyes.
“What poetry?” asked Kathleen; for although she could not see her sister’s face she felt that the moment was tense.
“Granny!" said Bridget; and her voice, like her eyes, was ominous.
“Oh, ’t is a piece she’s made about the strike. It’s fine, she told me. But if she won’t say it, she won’t. She’s that stubborn. And shaking and chuckling, Granny once more bent over her teacup.
“S’s’h!” whispered Kathleen at the table, laying her hand on Tim’s arm. “She ’s goin’ to! That’s the way she begun before the car come, — shakin’ the tea leaves and starin’, solemn. ‘Is it money, Granny?’ I says to her. ‘No,’ she says, ‘ I see three gifts,’ she says. And then the car come racin’ by.”
“I see three gifts! ” murmured the old woman by the stove. And Bridget sighed helplessly, and crouched down on the floor beside her.
“I see three gifts, — a gift of words, and a gift of deeds, and a gift of a true lover.”
“You can give that last to Kathleen, Granny,” said Tim, squeezing his sweetheart’s hand, “and keep the rest.”
Kathleen giggled and blushed. “ You ’re awful sure I ’ll take it,” she answered pertly.
Granny paid no attention. “I lay the gift of deeds on the man,” she said in a hoarse, monotonous voice. “I lay the gift of deeds on Tim Riley.”
“And what ’ll I do with it?” he asked, but uneasily. The solemn voice had sobered him.
Granny reverted unexpectedly to her customary cracked, sarcastic tones. “ How can I tell?” she quavered. “You know best what deeds you’ve done. You know best what you’re like to do.”
“What do you mean by that?” he demanded harshly, bending forward the better to see her, and clutching the edge of the table with the hand that had caressed Kathleen.
But Granny had resumed her prophetic rôle. “I see a gift of words!” she said.
“ That’ll be for Bridget, sure!” interrupted Kathleen. She tried to laugh, but her voice shook. The old woman’s manner awed her against her will. “That’ll be for Bridget,” she repeated. “It’s Bridget that makes the poetry. There’s a copy-book she has full of writin’, Tim, and she hides it for fear I ’ll try” —
“It’s the gift of the gab I lay on Kathleen Moran!” cried the old woman, lifting her voice shrilly above Kathleen’s prattle. “Sure, she’s provin’ it out of her own mouth; you’ve only to listen.”
Bridget laughed out musically. They all laughed, and there was relief in the sound.
“Then there’s but one gift left, Granny,” said Bridget, in her quiet way. “You can lay that on me, if you like. I ’ll be the true lover.”
“Be!" mocked Kathleen. “It’s havin’ the true lover that’s the gift.”
‘It ’s bein’ — if I’d rather,” said Bridget, and she took Granny’s two hands in hers and laid her head against Granny’s knee. “Now, don’t you go for to be the contrairy old woman,” she said softly.
And Granny, sitting very still, looked down on Bridget’s bright hair. “I lay the gift to be a true lover on Bridget Moran! ” she said presently. “And the Lord help her! ”
Kathleen tossed her head, scornful of a situation to which she had no clue. “Bridget’s too much for me!” she sneered.
“Humph!” grunted her grandmother. “But I’ll go bail, you think you can see through Tim there, for all he’s so deep.”
“Deep!” shouted Kathleen. “Will you listen to the old woman with her blarney, Tim! — My Lord. I know Tim like a book. Don’t I, Tim ?”
“And if you do,” Granny retorted, “it ain’t sayin’ much. I’ll see the sky fall the day you take a book in your hand. Bridget’s the one as knows the books.”
“Say, what makes you so down on me, Mrs. Moran ?” asked Tim, half in reproach, half in defiance. “It’s been the same since the first day I commenced keepin’ company with Kathleen. What’s it you’ve got against me ?”
“And what would I be havin’ against you,” replied the old woman, with elaborate sarcasm, “but only that you’re too good for the likes of us. Maybe it’s because to-night is All Hallows’ Eve, but do you know who I ’minded me of when you come a-runnin’ up them stairs awhile back, Tim ? — Sure, it was one of the blessed saints; that’s who.”
Kathleen shrieked with laughter, and Tim looked foolish.
“I ’minded me of St. Columbkille,”continued the old woman, “that time he’d killed a man and was runnin’ for his life” —
“My God!” cried Tim, leaping to his feet. “You old” —
“Don’t you listen to her, Timmie dear!” exclaimed Kathleen, catching his arm, but still laughing. “She’d die if she did n’t have her fun. Don’t you listen to her!”
“I’m thinkin’ it was just so he was runnin’!” Granny finished calmly.
“If Tim killed a man he’d never run away,” said Bridget’s quiet voice.
“Tim kill a man! The old softy!” giggled Kathleen, and shook her lover’s arm fondly. But Tim was looking at Bridget with gloomy eyes.
“And it’s you that should take shame to yourself for slanderin’ the saints,” Kathleen added, turning merrily upon her grandmother.
“Who will I be slanderin’?” asked Granny. “Is it Tim, or St. Columbkille ? Sure, I think St. Columbkille can take care of himself. And the tale’s a true one, for my mother told it to me, and she was a North of Ireland woman. He’d a divil of a temper, St. Columbkille had, when he was a young man. But he was in the right of it in the quarrel, — bein’ a saint, — for all the other man died. Then St. Columbkille, he kilted his cassock about his knees, and run for it. And as he run, the grass bein’ long it tripped him; and you know for yourself how riled you are when you stub your toe. So it was with St. Columbkille, — and him not in the best of tempers to begin with. And he put a curse on the grass. ‘ Lay down! ’ he says. ‘And niver get up!’ he says. And will you believe me, the grass in that county it lays along the ground ever since, as if the scythe had mowed it. And that’s the truth, for it was a woman out of that county told my mother. But there was n t no grass growin’ under your feet when you climbed them stairs, was there, Tim ?”
Tim had been sitting, bent double, staring at the floor, with his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands. Now he lifted his head, and giving no heed to the words of the old woman, spoke to Bridget.
“What makes you think I would n’t run away ?” he asked watchfully. “I ain’t no different from other men.
“ ’T would be late in the day for you to turn coward, Tim.”
“You bet he ain’t no coward,” said Kathleen with pride.
“But if it was a scab was killed ?” He paused and regarded Bridget thoughtfully, fearfully. “A scab that done me dirt — that stole my job ? — Why would n’t I run away? ” He drew a heavy breath. “Do you think that man that killed the scab motorman had ought to let the cops run him in ?—A strike’s war, Bridget.”
“ That scab knew he done what he done at his own risk! ” exclaimed Kathleen. “You’re right, it’s war!”
But Tim, without looking at his sweetheart, put out his hand and drew her to him. “Leave us hear your sister!” he said.
And Bridget, with pity in her eyes and pleading in her voice, began to speak.
“I’ll not deny it’s war,” she said, “but a new kind. It’s the side that suffers most that’ll win out — in this war.”
Kathleen, as always when she did not understand, looked her contempt. Tim waited, troubled, his eyes fixed hopelessly on some vision of doom the others might not see.
“I ’ll tell you how it is I feel,” Bridget continued. And now she looked beyond Tim, and there spread and shone over her face as she talked a lovely light of selfforgetfulness and exaltation. “I’ll tell you how I feel. I say, ’t is the saints and their ways that conquers the world. The saints is the only ones that has got the world under their feet. We’ve got to do the way they done, if the unions is to stand. We can’t afford no violence. We can’t afford to throw no rocks, nor shoot no guns. We’ve got just to let up on the scabs, I say. When the public is with us solid, do you think there’ll be any scabs ? Not much! The public’ll be on to them too quick. It’s seein’ the blood of martyrs flow that takes the public. It must n’t be the scabs that’s the martyrs, Tim. If the unions is God’s truth, then we ’re called to suffer for it.”
“And don’t we suffer?” Tim cried. “ Is there any other name for it?”
“But not the way the blessed saints suffered, Tim. We’ve got to come to that before we’ll win. Do you think one of them would ever have thrown the rock at that motorman?”
“ There was St. Columbkille,” Tim answered, but there was no hope in his dogged voice.
“Ah, yes; but he was a young man when he done that; and he lived to see things different. Some says it was for the sake of his sins he went out of Ireland, — him that loved Ireland so dear! Why could n’t he say, ‘Let the thing I’ve done be covered up; I’m sorry for it, God knows. But Ireland needs me, and I’ll stay by her.’ Why could n’t he say that ? But he saw different. He said: ‘God’ll send the right man to help Ireland; sure, I ain’t the one if I get on the rampage like this. It’s up to me to do penance in Iona, and to save souls to make up for them I’ve slain.’ He went away, Tim, into the long exile. He gave himself up to the law of the land.”
“Yes,” said Tim, in a strange, low, clear voice. “But if the one that done for the motorman gives himself up to the law of the land, do you know what’ll come of it? They’ll make an example of him. He’ll swing. Do you think — do you think — Where’d be the good ?” It was not a question; it was the pleading of one who asks to be defended against his own conscience.
Bridget grew suddenly white, and began to clasp and unclasp her hands, wringing them together till the knuckles stood out bloodless, like polished ivory. When she spoke, her voice was low and clear as his own, but with a hush in it.
“I did n’t think you would be askin’ me that, Tim, — the good Catholic you are. Where ’d be the good of the Cross? And the Son of Mary had n’t sinned no sin — even for the sake of savin’ the world.”
Kathleen moved restlessly, and turned from one to the other of the speakers.
“I don’t see what that’s to do with it,”she said impatiently. “Nor I don ’t see what for you and Tim are doin’ this song and dance. Tim could n’t give away the man that done it. You said that yourself, Bridget. He would n’t never be the sneak to give away another union man. What’s it you ’re after ? ”
Tim stood up, still holding his sweetheart’s hand.
“There’s something I’ll have to tell you,” he said; and he looked at Kathleen and at Granny, and his eyes came back to Bridget. “There’s something I ’ll have to tell you. And then I’ll go. It was me that threw the rock that done for that scab. It was me that killed him.”
“Yes, Tim; I know,” said Bridget simply.
Kathleen gasped, and stared at him a moment. “You!” she screamed. “You done that ?” And then she had flung her arms about his neck, and was clinging to him, laughing and talking, with the tears running down her cheeks. “ And what do I care if you did! I’m proud of you! You didn’t think I’d care, did you, Tim? What difference could it make to me, lovin’ you ? He was a dirty scab, and good riddance!”
Tim held her close to him, hungrily, but something in his silence made her look up into his face.
“It was war, Tim!” she cried; but now there was a note of terror in her voice. “ Don’t you be listenin’ to Bridget ! Her and Granny’s cracked on the saints. It ’s just their talk. There ain’t nothin’ in it. They’d never give you away, Tim.” She drew one arm from around his neck and turned his face to meet hers. “Timmie darlin’,” she pleaded, “anybody might have throwed that stone. You could n’t know it was goin’ to hit.”
“But I wanted it to hit!” said Tim. “I wanted to kill him — till I saw him drop! — O my God ! ” — he covered his eyes.
“There was more stones than your’n. Don’t you believe it, darlin’ ; it was n’t your’n.”
“It was mine,” he contradicted wearily. “I can’t take my mind off it. It was mine. Let me go. Good-by all. Good-by, Kathleen, my dear!”
“Where are you goin’ ? ” she screamed, clinging to him. “Nobody knows but us, Tim. The man was a scab. He took his life in his own hands when he run that car. It’s the company that’s responsible, not you. And the men are in the right, this strike, Tim. Everybody’s sayin’ the men are in the right.”
“Yes, but now I ’ve gone and put them in the wrong. Don’t you see? I know’d it when I seen him drop. I must pay. Bridget’s right.”
Kathleen swung round upon her sister furiously, with uplifted arm.
“Oh, oh!” she screamed. “Look what you’ve done now! What call had you to meddle? He’s none of yours! He’s mine! Look what you’ve done! — He’s mine! — And you ’re the murderer, Bridget Moran, with the lying tongue and the cold heart of you! Oh, may your heart, be broken for the man you love — and a bad end to him!”
She whirled back to Tim, and flung herself sobbing on his breast. Granny, in her corner, made the sign of the cross. Bridget only stood with locked hands, gazing dumbly, pitifully at Tim and her sister. He, with one arm around Kathleen, took his cap softly from the table and put it on. Then he kissed his sweetheart and unwound her arms from his neck. Bridget leaned toward him, humbly, her hands always clasped tight before her.
“If you could say one word to me before you go, Tim!” she faltered.
His hand was on the door. “God bless you, Bridget!” he said, and went out down the stairs with a loud, determined tread.
Kathleen fell down by the door, weeping and moaning. But Bridget went over to the corner by the stove, and laid her head on her grandmother’s knees.
“Sure, and it’s the proud girl you should be, the night, Bridget Moran,” said the old woman very gently, laying her two hands on her grand-daughter’s head. “For ’t is to you is given, not one gift only, but all the three gifts are yours.”
Then Bridget’s tears came. “Oh, Granny, he’s gone! — He’s gone to give himself up!” she sobbed.
“But ’t. was yourself that sent him, my dear, my darlin’,” said the old woman. “That’ll be the comfort to you, always.”