I was almost twelve years old now, and it was time for me to be sent to school. But my father was hardset to keep us all clothed and fed on the income he had, let alone sending me to a boarding school.
"When you go up to Dublin for the synod, tell the bishop our boys have to be educated," said my mother. "And tell him if he'd left us in Dublin instead of making us promises he hasn't kept, we could send them to a day-school like Saint Andrew's, which would cost us next to nothing."
When my father went up to Dublin for the synod, my mother went with him. She said she was going to talk to the bishop herself.
Before they left, Mary got a letter from Con Delaney in Philadelphia, telling her to come to the States, and he had a fine job for her and they could get married. My mother wanted Mary to wait till after she and my father got back from Dublin, but the letter said Mary must be in Philadelphia by the end of the month if she was to get the job.
We were all upset about her going away. Mary was too, on account of leaving Jehoiakim alone in the house with all the crockery. Mary said the safest thing to do would be to lock up all the good delft that was left to us in my father's study, so we did, and Mary drove to the station in Nenagh with my mother and father and went as far as Portarlington with them, where she got on the train for Wexford to say goodbye to her family before taking the boat at Queenstown.
My brother and I stayed in Borrisokane with Jehoiakim, and Bill Hogan was left in charge.
They had been gone only three days when a big wind that tore up trees by the roots swept Ireland. For a week after it you had to hurdle trees and telegraph poles that lay across the road if you tried to go anywhere. Bill Hogan said it blew the horns off a cow in Roscrea. It started one night around ten o'clock and, what with the lightning and the noise of the rain and the thunder and the trees falling, you would have thought the Boers were trying to take Borrisokane. Around midnight there was an extra loud crash that shook the walls and the floor. I thought the roof was coming down on us, but it stayed where it was. After the crash there was a scream, and then the thunder seemed to settle right on top of our house. I stuck my head out from under the bedclothes and there was a woman in the doorway with her hair all down around her and her hands pressed to her ears. She had a white garment on her, like a nightdress, and her feet were bare. For a moment I thought it was a ghost or the Banshee, but just then sheet lightning lit up the landing behind her and I could see all of her through the nightdress, and it was no Banshee, but Jehoiakim. She let out another shriek and rushed over to my bed and got in with me. She was crying like mad and grabbed hold of me, and every time there was a clap of thunder she screamed and held me tighter and kept crying and praying. It gave me a very pleasant feeling to have her next to me like that, so I let her go on crying and praying and held her too, but she did not notice it, with her legs around me as well as her arms, as if I was a rock she was hanging onto for dear life. And she kept on sobbing and saying prayers, and as the thunder got farther away she had cried so much she got a hiccough and gradually sobbed and prayed herself to sleep. And then I must have gone to sleep myself, for when I woke daylight was coming in through the windows and it was raining and she was going out through the door.
When I got up I found out what had made the crash. A chimney stack had fallen through the roof of the study and smashed all the crockery we had put there to save it from her.
At breakfast Jehoiakim served my brother and me without raising her eyes, and hardly answered when I bid her goodmorning. Later on I went down to the kitchen and tried to be friendly with her, but when I spoke to her she only answered with her back turned to me. Then I put my arm around her waist and she dropped a plate, so I thought I had better leave or there would be nothing left for us to eat off.
It rained all that day. I stayed in the house and helped Bill Hogan clean up the study and board up the roof where the chimney stack had broken through. Outside of the roof and the crockery there was not much damage, only a lot of water on the carpet. Bill said we might as well have left the crockery to Jehoiakim as she could not have smashed it all at once.
I went to bed early that night and prayed hard to God for another storm, but though I stayed awake a long time it only rained, and at last I gave up hope and went to sleep.
When my parents got back from Dublin I learned that we were going to move. The rector of Kinnetty, a parish on the border of Tipperary and the King's County, was leaving for the Bahama Islands, and the bishop had given my father the living.
I hated to leave Captain Saunders and Father Maher and Norah, whom I had got to know quite well. But I was very excited about moving. The parish of Kinnetty was bigger than Borrisokane and the rector's income was one hundred and fifty pounds a year more. If he had known in time, I think Captain Saunders would have raised his subscription to the sustentation fund so that we could have stayed on in Borrisokane and I could have gone to school too; for he was a very lonely man, and, in a way, having me around made him think of the times he had with his own sons who were grown up now and hardly ever came to Borrisokane.
He had given me Lady. But just before we went away Mike put her at a fence without knowing what was on the other side of it, which was marsh, and Lady broke a leg. I was glad to hear she broke Mike's nose when she fell on him. The hard thing was that it was Lady they had to shoot.
The parish of Kinnetty was divided into two factions: The Frenches, and the Biddulphs—and the partisans of both. Assheton 'Biddy' Biddulph was Master of the King's County Fox Hounds. He was a kind irascible man with a high blood pressure complexion and a white scrubb of mustache and mutton-chop whiskers on his face. He wore white spats in church, and when he carried around the collection plate at morning service he made a noise breathing that put you in mind of a horse with a tube in. He was a generous man, and once, when a cow of ours caught the milkfever and died, sent us another cow as a present. His wife was a small chirrupy woman with black hair brushed straight back and fixed in a knot. Along with her children—four girls and a boy—she followed the hounds, so there were always people at the meets outside of the master and the whips.
One day Mrs. French said to Captain French:
"Caufield, tell Biddy I saw a couple of his hounds eating one of our pheasants this morning, and, you know, the keepers laid poison last week. It's a good thing it wasn't that they were eating."
So Captain French happened to tell a friend to tell Biddy if he saw him. And the friend said to Biddy :
"French says your hounds are eating his pheasants, so his gamekeeper has laid poison for them."
Biddy said that was a dirty trick; but, anyway, his hounds never ate pheasants.
"Oh, yes, they were seen eating one," the friend said.
"You tell French I said whoever said they saw my hounds eating one of his pheasants is a bloody liar," Biddy said.
So the friend did. And though this happened years before we came to Kinnetty, the Frenches and Biddulphs had not spoken since.
Like Captain Saunders, Captain French was an old cavalry officer who had served in India. When he and Mrs. French came to call on us I showed him my saddle and told him about Lady. He said he had a fine black mare that Mrs. French used to ride before she put on weight; and any time I wanted a mount all I had to do was come along and bring my saddle; and if my girths were too short, Ned Purcell, his groom, would change them for me. He said, too, they had a river at Castle Bernard that was alive with trout. But for some reason I never had much luck with trout. I liked spearing eels much better, though I always had a tangle of gut around my cap with most of the flies popular with Tipperary trout on it, from a Hare's Ear to an Orange Grouse.
The next most important people in the parish were the Droughts of Lettybrook. Captain Drought walked with his toes turned in and read the lessons in church. Everyone spoke of him as 'Tommy A'. He had a beard and always wore the same suit of clothes. His wife had blond hair and varicose veins, and did not seem to like him very much. Because she knew it gave Tommy A. a lot of pleasure to read the lessons in church she tried to get my father to put a stop to it. Victor and Gerald Drought often came to the rectory with their sister, Dorris. I liked Dorris very much, and we saw a lot of each other until Bertie Biddulph, who was a year older than me, came back from school in England. After that Dorris and Bertie took their morning rides together. I would have liked to have joined them, but I always had to stay with old Ned Purcell, the groom. However, the satisfaction of knowing I was on a horse, while Dorris and Bertie only rode ponies, was some consolation. I said this to Dorris once and she said:
"Oh, that reminds me! Bertie said he saw someone out riding with the Frenches' groom yesterday that looked like a sack tied on a horse. He was wondering if it was you."
I never felt the same toward Dorris after that.
My own school days were now about to begin and, excepting the Christmas, Easter and summer holidays, I was slated to pass up the joys of home life in the country for a long time to come.