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THE KILLING OF ERRIS BOYNE
"There's many a government has made a mess of things in Ireland," said
Erris Boyne; "but since the day of Cromwell the Accursed this is the
worst. Is there a man in Ireland that believes in it, or trusts it? There
are men that support it, that are served by it, that fill their pockets
out of it; but by Joseph and by Mary, there's none thinks there couldn't
be a better! Have a little more marsala, Calhoun?"
With these words, Boyne filled up the long glass out of which Dyck
Calhoun had been drinking--drinking too much. Shortly before Dyck had
lost all his cash at the card-table. He had turned from it penniless and
discomfited to see Boyne, smiling, and gay with wine, in front of him.
Boyne took him by the arm.
"Come with me," said he. "There's no luck for you at the tables to-day.
Let's go where we can forget the world, where we can lift the banner of
freedom and beat the drums of purpose. Come along, lad!"
Boyne had ceased to have his earlier allurement for Dyck Calhoun, but his
smile was friendly, his manner was hospitable, and he was on the spot.
The time was critical for Dyck--critical and dangerous. He had lost money
heavily; he had even exhausted his mother's legacy.
Of late he had seen little of his father, and the little he had seen was
not fortunate. They had quarrelled over Dyck's wayward doings. Miles
Calhoun had said some hard things to him, and Dyck had replied that he
would cut out his own course, trim his own path, walk his own way. He had
angered his father terribly, and Miles, in a burst of temper, had
disclosed the fact that his own property was in peril. They had been,
estranged ever since; but the time had come when Dyck must at least
secure the credit of his father's name at his bank to find the means of
It was with this staring him in the face that Erris Boyne's company
seemed to offer at least a recovery of his good spirits. Dissipated as
Boyne's look was, he had a natural handsomeness which, with good care of
himself personally, well-appointed clothes, a cheerful manner, and witty
talk, made him palatable to careless-living Dublin.
This Dublin knew little of Boyne's present domestic life. It did not know
that he had injured his second wife as badly as he had wronged his
first--with this difference, however, that his first wife was a lady,
while his second wife, Noreen, was a beautiful, quick-tempered, lovable
eighteen-year-old girl, a graduate of the kitchen and dairy, when he took
her to himself. He had married her in a mad moment after his first
wife--Mrs. Llyn, as she was now called--had divorced him; and after the
first thrill of married life was over, nothing remained with Boyne except
regret that he had sold his freedom for what he might, perhaps, have had
Then began a process of domestic torture which alienated Noreen from him,
and roused in her the worst passions of human nature. She came to know of
his infidelities, and they maddened her. They had no children, and in the
end he had threatened her with desertion. When she had retorted in strong
words, he slapped her face, and left her with an ugly smile.
The house where they lived was outside Dublin, in a secluded spot, yet
not far from stores and shops. There was this to be said for Noreen--that
she kept her home spotlessly clean, even with two indifferent servants.
She had a gift for housewifery, which, at its best, was as good as
anything in the world, and far better than could be found in most parts
Of visitors they had few, if any, and the young wife was left alone to
brood upon her wrongs. Erris Boyne had slapped her face on the morning of
the day when he met Dyck Calhoun in the hour of his bad luck. He did not
see the look in her face as he left the house.
Ruthless as he was, he realized the time had come when by bold effort he
might get young Calhoun wholly into his power. He began by getting Dyck
into the street. Then he took him by an indirect route to what was,
reputedly, a tavern of consequence. There choice spirits met on occasion,
and dark souls, like Boyne, planned adventures. Outwardly it was a tavern
of the old class, superficially sedate, and called the Harp and Crown.
None save a very few conspirators knew how great a part it played in the
plan to break the government of Ireland and to ruin England's position in
The entrance was by two doors--one the ordinary public entrance, the
other at the side of the house, which was on a corner. This could be
opened by a skeleton key owned by Erris Boyne.
He and Dyck entered, however, by the general entrance, because Boyne had
forgotten his key. They passed through the bar-parlour, nodding to one or
two habitues, and presently were bestowed in a room, not large, but well
furnished. It was quiet and alluring on this day when the world seemed
disconcerting. So pleasantly did the place affect Dyck's spirits that, as
he sat down in the room which had often housed worse men than himself, he
gave a sigh of relief.
They played cards, and Dyck won. He won five times what he had lost at
the club. This made him companionable.
"It's a poor business-cards," he said at last. "It puts one up in the
clouds and down in the ditch all at the same time. I tell you this,
Boyne--I'm going to stop. No man ought to play cards who hasn't a
fortune; and my fortune, I'm sorry to say, is only my face!" He laughed
"And your sword--you've forgotten that, Calhoun. You've a lot of luck in
"Well, I've made no money out of it so far," Dyck retorted cynically.
"Yet you've put men with reputations out of the running, men like
"Oh, that was a bit of luck and a few tricks I've learned. I can't start
a banking-account on that."
"But you can put yourself in the way of winning what can't be bought."
"No--no English army for me, thank you--if that's what you mean."
"It isn't what I mean. In the English army a man's a slave. He can
neither eat, nor drink, nor sleep without being under command. He has to
do a lot of dirty work without having voice in the policy. He's a child
of discipline and order."
"And a damned good thing that would be for most of us!" retorted Dyck.
"But I'm not one of the most."
"I know that. Try a little more of this marsala, Calhoun. It's the best
in the place, and it's got a lot of good stuff. I've been coming to the
Harp and Crown for many years, and I've never had a bad drink all that
time. The old landlord is a genius. He doesn't put on airs. He's a good
man, is old Swinton, and there's nothing good in the drink of France that
you can't get here."
"Well, if that's true, how does it happen?" asked Dyck, with a little
flash of interest. "Why should this little twopenny, one-horse place--I
mean in size and furnishments--have such luck as to get the best there is
in France? It means a lot of trouble, eh?"
"It means some trouble. But let me tell you"--he leaned over the table
and laid a hand on Dyck's, which was a little nervous--"let me speak as
an old friend to you, if I may. Here are the facts. For many a year, you
know as well as I do, ships have been coming from France to Ireland with
the very best wines and liquors, and taking back the very best
wool--smuggled, of course. Well, our little landlord here is the
damnedest rogue of all. The customs never touch him. From the coast the
stuff comes up to Dublin without a check, and, as he's a special
favourite, he gets the best to be had in la belle France."
"Why is he such a favourite?" asked Dyck.
Erris Boyne laughed, not loudly, but suggestively. "When a lady kisses a
man on the lips, of her own free will, and puts her arm around his neck,
is it done, do you think, because it's her duty to do it or die? No, it's
because she likes the man; because the man is a good friend to her;
because it's money in her pocket. That's the case with old Swinton.
France kisses him, as it were, because"--he paused, as though debating
what to say--"because France knows he'd rather be under her own
revolutionary government than under the monarchy of England."
His voice had resonance, and, as he said these words, it had insistence.
"Do you know, Calhoun, I think old Swinton is right. We suffer here
because monarchy, with its cruel hand of iron, mistrusts us, brutalizes
He did not see enlightenment come into the half-drunken eyes of Dyck. He
only realized that Dyck was very still, and strangely, deeply interested.
"I tell you, Calhoun, we need in Ireland something of the spirit that's
alive in France to-day. They've cleaned out the kings--Louis's and
Marie's heads have dropped into the basket. They're sweeping the dirt out
of France; they're cleaning the dark places; they're whitewashing
Versailles and sawdusting the Tuileries; they're purging the aristocratic
guts of France; they're starting for the world a reformation which will
make it clean. Not America alone, but England, and all Europe, will
"England?" asked Dyck in a low, penetrating voice. "Aye, England, through
Ireland. Ireland will come first, then Wales, Scotland, and England. Dear
lad, the great day is come--the greatest the world has ever known.
France, the spirit of it, is alive. It will purge and cleanse the
The suspicious, alert look passed from Dyck's eyes, but his face had
become flushed. He reached out and poured himself another glass of wine.
"What you say may be true, Boyne. It may be true, but I wouldn't put
faith in it--not for one icy minute. I don't want to see here in Ireland
the horrors and savagery of France. I don't want to see the guillotine up
on St. Stephen's Green."
Boyne felt that he must march carefully. He was sure of his game; but
there were difficulties, and he must not throw his chances away. Dyck was
in a position where, with his inflammable nature, he could be captured.
"Well, I'll tell you, Calhoun. I don't know which is worse--Ireland
bloody with shootings and hangings, Ulster up in the north and Cork in
the south, from the Giant's Causeway to Tralee; no two sets of feet
dancing alike, with the bloody hand of England stretching out over the
Irish Parliament like death itself; or France ruling us. How does the
English government live here? Only by bribery and purchases. It buys its
way. Isn't that true?"
Dyck nodded. "Yes, it's true in a way," he replied. "It's so, because
we're what we are. We've never been properly put in our places. The heel
on our necks--that's the way to do it."
Boyne looked at the flushed, angry face. In spite of Dyck's words, he
felt that his medicine was working well.
"Listen to me, Calhoun," he said softly. "You've got to do something.
You're living an idle life. You're in debt. You've ruined your
independent fortune at the tables. There are but two courses open to you.
One is to join the British forces--to be a lieutenant, a captain, a
major, a colonel, or a general, in time; to shoot and cut and hang and
quarter, and rule with a heavy rod. That's one way."
"So you think I'm fit for nothing but the sword, eh?" asked Dyck with
irony. "You think I've got no brains for anything except the army."
Boyne laughed. "Have another drink, Calhoun." He poured out more wine.
"Oh, no, not the army alone; there's the navy--and there's the French
navy! It's the best navy in the world, the freest and the greatest, and
with Bonaparte going at us, England will have enough to do--too much, I'm
thinking. So there's a career in the French navy open. And listen--before
you and I are two months older, the French navy will be in the harbours
of Ireland, and the French army will land here." He reached out and
grasped Dyck's arm. "There's no liberty of freedom under the Union Jack.
What do you think of the tricolour? It's a great flag, and under it the
world is going to be ruled--England, Spain, Italy, Holland, Prussia,
Austria, and Russia--all of them. The time is ripe. You've got your
chance. Take it on, dear lad, take it on."
Dyck did not raise his head. He was leaning forward with both arms on the
table, supporting himself firmly; his head was bowed as though with deep
interest in what Boyne said. And, indeed, his interest was great--so
great that all his manhood, vigour, all his citizenship, were vitally
alive. Yet he did not lift his head.
"What's that you say about French ships in the harbours of Ireland?" he
said in a tone that showed interest. "Of course, I know there's been a
lot of talk of a French raid on Ireland, but I didn't know it was to be
"Oh, it's near enough! It's all been arranged," replied Boyne. "There'll
be ships-war-ships, commanded by Hoche. They'll have orders to land on
the coast, to join the Irish patriots, to take control of the operations,
and then to march on--"
He was going to say "march on Dublin," but he stopped. He was playing a
daring game. If he had not been sure of his man, he would not have been
so frank and fearless.
He did not, however, mislead Dyck greatly. Dyck had been drinking a good
deal, but this knowledge of a French invasion, and a sense of what Boyne
was trying to do, steadied his shaken emotions; held him firmly in the
grip of practical common sense. He laughed, hiccuped a little, as though
he was very drunk, and said:
"Of course the French would like to come to Ireland; they'd like to seize
it and hold it. Why, of course they would! Don't we know all that's been
and gone? Aren't Irishmen in France grown rich in industry there after
having lost every penny of their property here? Aren't there Irishmen
there, always conniving to put England at defiance here by breaking her
laws, cheating her officers, seducing her patriots? Of course; but what
astounds me is that a man of your standing should believe the French are
coming here now to Ireland. No, no, Boyne; I'm not taking your word for
any of these things. You're a gossip; you're a damned, pertinacious,
preposterous gossip, and I'll say it as often as you like."
"So it's proof you want, is it? Well, then, here it is."
Boyne drew from his pocket a small leather-bound case and took from it a
letter, which he laid on the table in front of Dyck.
Dyck looked at the document, then said:
"Ah, that's what you are, eh?--a captain in the French artillery! Well,
that'd be a surprise in Ireland if it were told."
"It isn't going to be told unless you tell it, Calhoun, and you're too
much of a sportsman for that. Besides:
"Why shouldn't you have one of these if you want it--if you want it!"
"What'd be the good of my wanting it? I could get a commission here in
the army of George III, if I wanted it, but I don't want it; and any man
that offers it to me, I'll hand it back with thanks and be damned to
"Listen to me, then, Calhoun," remarked Boyne, reaching out a hand to lay
it on Dyck's arm.
Dyck saw the motion, however, and carefully drew back in his chair. "I'm
not an adventurer," he said; "but if I were, what would there be in it
Boyne misunderstood the look on Dyck's face. He did not grasp the meaning
behind the words, and he said to him:
"Oh, a good salary--as good as that of a general, with a commission and
the spoils of war! That's the thing in the French army that counts for so
much--spoils of war. When they're out on a country like this, they let
their officers loose--their officers and men. Did you ever hear tell of a
French army being pinched for fodder, or going thirsty for drink, or
losing its head for poverty or indigence?"
"No, I never did."
"Well, then, take the advice of an officer of the French army resident
now in Dublin," continued Boyne, laughing, "who has the honour of being
received as the friend of Mr. Dyck Calhoun of Playmore! Take your hand in
the game that's going on! For a man as young as you, with brains and
ambition, there's no height he mightn't reach in this country. Think of
it--Ireland free from English control; Ireland, with all her dreams,
living her own life, fearless, independent, as it was in days of yore.
Why, what's to prevent you, Dyck Calhoun, from being president of the
Irish Republic? You have brains, looks, skill, and a wonderful tongue.
None but a young man could take on the job, for it will require boldness,
skill, and the recklessness of perfect courage. Isn't it good enough for
"What's the way to do it?" asked Dyck, still holding on to his old self
grimly. "How is it to be done?" He spoke a little thickly, for, in spite
of himself, the wine was clogging his senses. It had been artistically
drugged by Boyne.
"Listen to me, Calhoun," continued Boyne. "I've known you now some time.
We've come in and gone out together. This day was inevitable. You were
bound to come to it one way or another. Man, you have a heart of iron;
you have the courage of Caesar or Alexander; you have the chance of doing
what no Englishman could ever do--Cromwell, or any other. Well, then,
don't you see the fateful moment has come in Irish life and history?
Strife everywhere! Alone, what can we do? Alone, if we try to shake off
the yoke that binds us we shall be shattered, and our last end be worse
than our first. But with French ships, French officers and soldiers,
French guns and ammunition, with the trained men of the French army to
take control here, what amelioration of our weakness, what confidence and
skill on our side! Can you doubt what the end will be? Answer me, man,
don't you see it all? Isn't it clear to you? Doesn't such a cause enlist
With a sudden burst of primitive anger, Dyck got to his feet, staggering
a little, but grasping the fatal meaning of the whole thing. He looked
Erris Boyne in the eyes. His own were bloodshot and dissipated, but there
was a look in them of which Boyne might well take heed.
Boyne had not counted on Dyck's refusal; or, if it had occurred to him,
the remedy, an ancient one, was ready to his fingers. The wine was
drugged. He had watched the decline of Dyck's fortunes with an eye of
appreciation; he had seen the clouds of poverty and anxiety closing in.
He had known of old Miles Calhoun's financial difficulties. He had
observed Dyck's wayside loitering with revolutionists, and he had taken
it with too much seriousness. He knew the condition of Dyck's purse.
He was not prepared for Dyck's indignant outburst.
"I tell you this, Erris Boyne, there's none has ever tried me as you have
done! What do you think I am--a thing of the dirty street-corner,
something to be swept up and cast into the furnace of treason? Look you,
after to-day you and I will never break bread or drink wine together.
No--by Heaven, no! I don't know whether you've told me the truth or not,
but I think you have. There's this to say--I shall go from this place to
Dublin Castle, and shall tell them there--without mentioning your
name--what you've told about the French raid. Now, by God, you're a
traitor! You oughtn't to live, and if you'll send your seconds to me I'll
try and do with you as I did with Leonard Mallow. Only mark me, Erris
Boyne, I'll put my sword into your heart. You understand--into your
At that moment the door of the room opened, and a face looked in for an
instant-the face of old Swinton, the landlord of the Harp and Crown.
Suddenly Boyne's look changed. He burst into a laugh, and brought his
fists down on the table between them with a bang.
"By Joseph and by Mary, but you're a patriot, Calhoun! I was trying to
test you. I was searching to find the innermost soul of you. The French
fleet, my commission in the French army, and my story about the landlord
are all bosh. If I meant what I told you, do you think I'd have been so
mad as to tell you so much, damn it? Have you no sense, man? I wanted to
find out exactly how you stood-faithful or unfaithful to the crown--and
I've found out. Sit down, sit down, Calhoun, dear lad. Take your hand off
your sword. Remember, these are terrible days. Everything I said about
Ireland is true. What I said about France is false. Sit down, man, and if
you're going to join the king's army--as I hope and trust you will--then
here's something to help you face the time between." He threw on the
table a packet of notes. "They're good and healthy, and will buy you what
you need. There's not much. There's only a hundred pounds, but I give it
to you with all my heart, and you can pay it back when the king's money
comes to you, or when you marry a rich woman."
He said it all with a smile on his face. It was done so cleverly, with so
much simulated sincerity, that Dyck, in his state of semi-drunkenness,
could not, at the instant, place him in his true light. Besides, there
was something handsome and virile in Boyne's face--and untrue; but the
untruth Dyck did not at the moment see.
Never in his life had Boyne performed such prodigies of dissimulation. He
was suddenly like a schoolboy disclosing the deeds of some adventurous
knight. He realized to the full the dangers he had run in disclosing the
truth; for it was the truth that he had told.
So serious was the situation, to his mind, that one thing seemed
inevitable. Dyck must be kidnapped at once and carried out of Ireland. It
would be simple. A little more drugged wine, and he would be asleep and
powerless--it had already tugged at him. With the help of his confreres
in the tavern, Dyck could be carried out, put on a lugger, and sent away
There was nothing else to do. Boyne had said truly that the French fleet
meant to come soon. Dyck must not be able to give the thing away before
it happened. The chief thing now was to prime him with the drugged wine
till he lost consciousness, and then carry him away to the land of the
guillotine. Dyck's tempestuous nature, the poetry and imagination of him,
would quickly respond to French culture, to the new orders of the new day
in France. Meanwhile, he must be soaked in drugged drink.
Already the wine had played havoc with him; already stupefaction was
coming over his senses. With a good-natured, ribald laugh, Boyne poured
out another glass of marsala and pushed it gently over to Dyck's fingers.
"My gin to your marsala," he said, and he raised his own glass of gin,
looking playfully over the top to Dyck.
With a sudden loosening of all the fibres of his nature, Dyck raised the
glass of marsala to his lips and drained it off almost at a gulp.
"You're a prodigious liar, Boyne," he said. "I didn't think any one could
lie so completely."
"I'll teach you how, Calhoun. It's not hard. I'll teach you how."
He passed a long cigar over the table to Dyck, who, however, did not
light it, but held it in his fingers. Boyne struck a light and held it
out across the small table. Dyck leaned forward, but, as he did so, the
wine took possession of his senses. His head fell forward in sleep, and
the cigar dropped from his fingers.
"Ah, well--ah, well, we must do some business now!" remarked Boyne. He
leaned over Dyck for a moment. "Yes, sound asleep," he said, and laughed
scornfully to himself. "Well, when it's dark we must get him away. He'll
sleep for four or five hours, and by that time he'll be out on the way to
France, and the rest is easy."
He was about to go to the door that led into the business part of the
house, when the door leading into the street opened softly, and a woman
stepped inside. She had used the key which Boyne had forgotten at his
At first he did not hear her. Then, when he did turn round, it was too
late. The knife she carried under her skirt flashed out and into Boyne's
heart. He collapsed on the floor without a sound, save only a deep sigh.
Stooping over, Noreen drew the knife out with a little gurgling cry--a
smothered exclamation. Then she opened the door again--the side-door
leading into the street-closed it softly, and was gone.
Two hours afterwards the landlord opened the door. Erris Boyne lay in his
silence, stark and still. At the table, with his head sunk in his arms,
sat Dyck Calhoun, snoring stertorously, his drawn sword by his side.
With a cry the old man knelt on the floor beside the body of Erris Boyne.
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