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DYCK CALHOUN ENTERS THE WORLD AGAIN
"Is it near the time?" asked Michael Clones of his friend, as they stood
in front of the prison.
His companion, who was seated on a stone, wrapped in dark-green coverings
faded and worn, and looking pinched with cold in the dour November day,
said, without lifting his head:
"Seven minutes, an' he'll be out, God bless him!"
"And save him and protect him!" said Michael. "He deserved punishment no
more than I did, and it's broke him. I've seen the grey gather at his
temples, though he's only been in prison four years. He was condemned to
eight, but they've let him free, I don't know why. Perhaps it was
because of what he told the government about the French navy. I've seen
the joy of life sob itself down to the sour earth. When I took him the
news of his father's death, and told him the creditors were swallowing
what was left of Playmore, what do you think he did?"
Old Christopher Dogan smiled; his eyes twinkled with a mirth which had
more pain than gaiety. "God love you, I know what he did. He flung out
his hands, and said: 'Let it go! It's nothing to me.' Michael, have I
"Almost his very words you've used, and he flung out his hands, as you
"Aye, he'll be changed; but they've kept the clothes he had when he went
to prison, and he'll come out in them, I'm thinking--"
"Ah, no!" interrupted Michael. "That can't be, for his clothes was stole.
Only a week ago he sent to me for a suit of my own. I wouldn't have him
wear my clothes--he a gentleman! It wasn't fitting. So I sent him a suit
I bought from a shop, but he wouldn't have it. He would leave prison a
poor man, as a peasant in peasant's clothes. So he wrote to me. Here is
the letter." He drew from his pocket a sheet of paper, and spread it out.
"See-read it. Ah, well, never mind," he added, as old Christopher shook
his head. "Never mind, I'll read it to you!" Thereupon he read the note,
and added: "We'll see him of the Calhouns risin' high beyant poverty and
misfortune some day."
Old Christopher nodded.
"I'm glad Miles Calhoun was buried on the hilltop above Playmore. He had
his day; he lived his life. Things went wrong with him, and he paid the
price we all must pay for work ill-done."
"There you're right, Christopher Dogan, and I remember the day the
downfall began. It was when him that's now Lord Mallow, Governor of
Jamaica, came to summon Miles Calhoun to Dublin. Things were never the
same after that; but I well remember one talk I had with Miles Calhoun
just before his death. 'Michael,' he said to me, 'my family have had many
ups and downs, and some that bear my name have been in prison before
this, but never for killing a man out of fair fight.' 'One of your name
may be in prison, sir,' said I, 'but not for killing a man out of fair
fight. If you believe he did, there's no death bad enough for you!' He
was silent for a while; then at last he whispered Mr. Dyck's name, and
said to me: 'Tell him that as a Calhoun I love him, and as his father I
love him ten times more. For look you, Michael, though we never ran
together, but quarrelled and took our own paths, yet we are both
Calhouns, and my heart is warm to him. If my son were a thousand times a
criminal, nevertheless I would ache to take him by the hand.'"
"Hush! Look at the prison gate," said his companion, and stood up.
As the gates of the prison opened, the sun broke through the clouds and
gave a brilliant phase to the scene. Out of the gates there came slowly,
yet firmly, dressed in peasant clothes, the stalwart but faded figure of
Terribly changed he was. He had entered prison with the flush upon his
cheek, the lilt of young manhood in his eyes, with hair black and hands
slender and handsome. There was no look of youth in his face now. It was
the face of a middle-aged man from which the dew of youth had vanished,
into which life's storms had come and gone. Though the body was held
erect, yet the head was thrust slightly forward, and the heavy eyebrows
were like a pent-house. The eyes were slightly feverish, and round the
mouth there crept a smile, half-cynical but a little happy. All freshness
was gone from his hands. One hung at his side, listless, corded; the
other doffed his hat in reply to the salute of his two humble friends.
As the gates closed behind him he looked gravely at the two men, who were
standing not a foot apart. There swept slowly into his eyes, enlarging,
brightening them, the glamour of the Celtic soul. Of all Ireland, or all
who had ever known him, these two were the only ones welcoming him into
the world again! Michael Clones, with his oval red face, big nose, steely
eye, and steadfast bearing, had in him the soul of great kings. His hat
was set firmly on his head. His knee-breeches were neat, if coarse; his
stockings were clean. His feet were well shod, his coat worn, and he had
still the look that belongs to the well-to-do peasant. He was a figure of
courage and endurance. Dyck's hand went out to him, and a warm smile
crept to his lips.
A moisture came to Michael's eyes. He did not speak as he clasped the
hand Dyck offered him. Presently Dyck turned to old Christopher with a
"Well, old friend! You, too, come to see the stag set loose again? You're
not many, that's sure." A grim, hard look came into his face, but both
hands went out and caught the old man's shoulders affectionately. "This
is no day for you to be waiting at prison's gates, Christopher; but there
are two men who believe in me--two in all the world. It isn't the
killing," he added after a moment's silence--"it isn't the killing that
hurts so. If it's true that I killed Erris Boyne, what hurts most is the
reason why I killed him."
"One way or another--does it matter now?" asked Christopher gently.
"Is it that you think nothing matters since I've paid the price, sunk
myself in shame, lost my friends, and come out with not a penny left?"
asked Dyck. "But yes," he added with a smile, wry and twisted, "yes, I
have a little left!"
He drew from his pocket four small pieces of gold, and gazed ironically
at them in his palm.
"Look at them!" He held out his hand, so that the two men could see the
little coins. "Those were taken from me when I entered prison. They've
been in the hands of the head of the jail ever since. They give them to
me now--all that's left of what I was."
"No, not all, sir," declared Michael. "There's something left from
Playmore--there's ninety pounds, and it's in my pocket. It was got from
the sale of your sporting-kit. There was the boat upon the lake, the gun,
and all kinds of riffraff stuff not sold with Playmore."
Dyck nodded and smiled. "Good Michael!"
Then he drew himself up stiffly, and blew in and out his breath as if
with the joy of living. For four hard years he had been denied the free
air of free men. Even when walking in the prison-yard, on cold or fair
days, when the air was like a knife or when it had the sun of summer in
it, it still had seemed to choke him.
In prison he had read, thought, and worked much. They had at least done
that for him. The Attorney-General had given him freedom to work with his
hands, and to slave in the workshop like one whose living depended on it.
Some philanthropic official had started the idea of a workshop, and the
officials had given the best of the prisoners a chance to learn trades
and make a little money before they went out into the world. All that
Dyck had earned went to purchase things he needed, and to help his fellow
prisoners or their families.
Where was he now? The gap between the old life of nonchalance, frivolity,
fantasy, and excitement was as great as that between heaven and hell.
Here he was, after four years of prison, walking the highway with two of
the humblest creatures of Ireland, and yet, as his soul said, two of the
Stalking along in thought, he suddenly became conscious that Michael and
Christopher had fallen behind. He turned round.
"Come on. Come on with me." But the two shook their heads.
"It's not fitting, you a Calhoun of Playmore!" Christopher answered.
"Well, then, list to me," said Dyck, for he saw the men could not bear
his new democracy. "I'm hungry. In four years I haven't had a meal that
came from the right place or went to the right spot. Is the little
tavern, the Hen and Chickens, on the Liffeyside, still going? I mean the
place where the seamen and the merchant-ship officers visit."
"Well, look you, Michael--get you both there, and order me as good a meal
of fish and chops and baked pudding as can be bought for money. Aye, and
I'll have a bottle of red French wine, and you two will have what you
like best. Mark me, we'll sit together there, for we're one of a kind.
I've got to take to a life that fits me, an ex-jailbird, a man that's
been in prison for killing!"
"There's the king's army," said Michael. "They make good officers in it."
A strange, half-sore smile came to Dyck's thin lips.
"Michael," said he, "give up these vain illusions. I was condemned for
killing a man not in fair fight.
"I can't enter the army as an officer, and you should know it. The king
himself could set me up again; but the distance between him and me is ten
times round the world and back again!" But then Dyck nodded kindly. It
was as if suddenly the martyr spirit had lifted him out of rigid, painful
isolation, and he was speaking from a hilltop. "No, my friends, what is
in my mind now is that I'm hungry. For four years I've eaten the bread of
prison, and it's soured my mouth and galled my belly. Go you to that inn
and make ready a good meal."
The two men started to leave, but old Christopher turned and stretched a
hand up and out.
"Son of Ireland, bright and black and black and bright may be the picture
of your life, but I see for you brightness and sweet faces, and music and
song. It's not Irish music, and it's not Irish song, but the soul of the
thing is Irish. Grim things await you, but you will conquer where the
eagle sways to the shore, where the white mist flees from the hills,
where heroes meet, where the hand of Moira stirs the blue and the witches
flee from the voice of God. There is honour coming to you in the world."
Having said his say, with hand outstretched, having thrilled the air with
the voice of one who had the soul of a prophet, the old man turned. Head
bent forward, he shuffled away with Michael Clones along the stony
Dyck watched them go, his heart beating hard, his spirit overwhelmed.
It was not far to the Castle, yet every footstep had a history. Now and
again he met people who knew him. Some bowed a little too profoundly,
some nodded; but not one stopped to speak to him, though a few among them
were people he had known well in days gone by. Was it the clothes he
wore, or was it that his star had sunk so low that none could keep it
company? He laughed to himself in scorn, and yet there kept ringing
through his brain all the time the bells of St. Anselm's, which he was
"Oh, God, who is the sinner's friend,
Make clean my soul once more!"
"No, I won't go in. I won't try to see him," he said at last. "God, how
strange Ireland is to me! The soil of it, the trees of it, the grass of
it, are dearer than ever, but--I'll have no more of Ireland. I'll ask for
nothing. I'll get to England. What's Ireland to me? I must make my way
somewhere. There's one in there"--he nodded towards the Castle--"that
owes me money at cards. He should open his pockets to me, and see me safe
on a ship for Australia; but I've had my fill of every one in Ireland.
There's nothing here for me but shame. Well, back I'll go to the Hen and
Chickens, to find a good dinner there."
He turned and went back slowly along the streets by which he had come,
looking not to right nor left, thinking only of where he should go and
what he should do outside of Ireland.
At the door of the inn he sniffed the dinner Michael had ordered.
"Man alive!" he said as he entered the place and saw the two men with
their hands against the bright fire. "There's only one way to live, and
that's the way I'm going to try."
"Well, you'll not try it alone, sir, if you please," said Michael. "I'll
be with you, if I may."
"And I'll bless you as you go," said Christopher Dogan.
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