Sporty, the black breeches and leather puttees, the whiteuppered, buttoned shoes with bulldog toes, the angle of Corona-Corona; clerical, the collar and vest; Semitic, the ruddy features above them. But the little quizzical eyes are Irish. We have with us the Reverend J. 'Mezzim' O'Sullivan, late of the County Clare. He is treading the old sod again after treading the sidewalks of New York and Brooklyn going on two years,—his Holy Orders are the American brand. He is here to settle down for a while as crosseyed Father Slattery's curate, in the parish of Kinnetty, in the diocese of Killaloe. Father Slattery crosseyes askance these suede-uppered shoes, this jaunty derby and Corona-Corona. But to them Mezzim sticks, rather, as he puts it, than in the mud of tradition. He gets away with it, too, for he is the owner of oysterbeds off the Clare coast, and the Most Catholic Bishop of Killaloe has a weakness for oysters. Nor is Father Slattery himself averse to sampling a dozen or so when the weekly icepacked consigns reach Kinnetty by way of Roscrea of a Saturday.
Noondays and evenings Mezzim occupies the bench outside the widow Hart's shop along with the widow's twin brother. Round as the widow herself, Tom Redmond, who has passed ten unsuccessful years in the United States, to return, like Mezzim, more American than Americans. Unsuccessful, I say, for one day American citizen Tom Redmond shows me ten Lincoln pennies—each cent a year, each cent the symbol of twelve months passed in the land of the brave and wouldbe free. Copper nails in the staff of life, Mezzim calls them.
"No place like home, if that's all you got to show for ten years abroad," he remarks.
"Their value is sentimental," says Tom reflectively, "purely sentimental." He sighs.
"Cents are okay if you've enough of them. But give me crisp yellowbacks," says the priest.
Tom sighs again.
"Connelly," he says, as a rangy roan lopes bronco-fashion from the dust of the Cadamstown road. Astride of her and a cowpuncher saddle is a bronzed young man, Stetson hat and 'shoulder-supremacy' his satorialtyping error in original. marks of distinction.
Presently he joins us. Back from Green River, Wyoming, he has come to find himself an Irish wife.
"Howdy, Father?" he calls.
"Where you think you are anyway? This ain't Wyoming. What you doing with Colonel Cody's saddle on that Galway mare?" Mezzim greets back.
"Breaking her in."
"Great help she'll be to anyone but yourself after you're through with her."
Gravely Connelly hitches up the mare, and, as he seats himself, hitches up his pegtop pants, that these tan cowpuncher boots and Mexican spurs from Sears Roebuck by mail order may be missed by none. Off come the brass studded leather cuffs, and we are introduced. Gravely he takes my hand. Pleased to know me he is sure, I am assured. His grip is firm, his eyes unflinching. From the post office and the company of portly John and fertile Mary Roche, postmaster and postmistress, and from the company of eight snot-nosed little Roches comes Mr. Foley, in his hand a letter that bears the stamps of the Argentine Republic where he has been learning them Waps to build railroads and bridges and roads through the Pampas going on fifteen years, and talking Ireland to them. Home again now, it is South America he is talking to the Irish.
And there you have them, from New York, Brooklyn, Green River and the Pampas, hailing. And I, the fifth, whose destiny they are to shape, seated there, mornings and evenings, on the widow Hart's bench, below her shop window with its square panes and glass jars of peggysleg and peppermint bullseyes and barley sugarsticks.
There on that bench are sown in me the first seeds of unrest, the first germs of wanderlust. The longing to see far-off lands and the men who tread the soil of them, and the women too. On that bench I read my first New York Sunday papers and, through them and Mezzim and Tom Redmond, make the acquaintance of the Gibson Girl and the Harrison Fisher Girl, and learn about the Y.M.C.A., and about icecream sodas and chewing-gum and the Bowery and the Tub of Blood. And about Chinatown and Chuck Connors and Steve Brodie and Teddy Roosevelt and Phoebe Snow. And from Mezzim and the department store ads I get the yen for shoes with bulldog toes, and from Connelly and the mailorder ads, the yen for suits with shoulder-supremacy and pegtop pants, and for a Stetson hat and cowpuncher boots and Mexican spurs to set them off. And on that bench Tom Redmond tells me about the Brooklyn Navy Yards and the Brooklyn Bridge, and The Brooklyn Eagle and the Brooklyn Elevated that takes you to Coney Island and sideshows and popcorn and hotdogs; and about the Spooner Stock Company and the Vitagraph Company in Flatbush and about other institutions for which Brooklyn was celebrated in those days.
And later on Connelly learns me how to ride like they ride in Wyoming. And he tries to learn me how to throw a lasso, and fire from the hip on the draw with a brace of Colts, and how to pick a Stetson off the ground riding at a gallop, hanging onto the pommel of your saddle.
And later on Mr. Foley gives me Spanish lessons, and, being a good republican, the first words he teaches me are: La Libertad es uno de los mas preciosos dones que los cielos dieron a los hombres. And he tells me about the Bocca in Buenos Aires where the women of all nations are to be found, and about the white slave traffic, and about South American revolutions and Irishmen who took part in them, and about the Pampas and the great estancias with their maté-drinking gauchos and thousands of head of cattle and fullbosomed whitetoothed oliveskinned 'Chinas', and, as that French song puts it, about 'autres choses aussi que je n'ose-e pas dire-e'.