`Mucus,' said Mr M'Coy.

`It keeps coming like from down in my throat; sickening thing.'

`Yes, yes,' said Mr M'Coy, `that's the thorax.'

He looked at Mr Cunningham and Mr Power at the same time with an air of challenge. Mr Cunningham nodded his head rapidly and Mr Power said:

`Ah well, all's well that ends well.'

`I'm very much obliged to you, old man,' said the invalid.

Mr Power waved his hand.

`Those other two fellows I was with—'

`Who were you with?' asked Mr Cunningham.

`A chap. I don't know his name. Damn it now, what's his name? Little chap with sandy hair... '

`And who else?'


`Hm,' said Mr Cunningham.

When Mr Cunningham made that remark, people were silent. It was known that the speaker had secret sources of information. In this case the monosyllable had a moral intention. Mr Harford sometimes formed one of a little detachment which left the city shortly after noon on Sunday with the purpose of arriving as soon as possible at some public-house on the outskirts of the city where its members duly qualified themselves as bona- fide travellers. But his fellow-travellers had never consented to overlook his origin. He had begun life as an obscure financier by lending small sums of money to workmen at usurious interest. Later on he had become the partner of a very fat, short gentleman, Mr Goldberg, in the Liffey Loan Bank. Though he had never embraced more than the Jewish ethical code, his fellow-Catholics, whenever they had smarted in person or by proxy under his exactions, spoke of him bitterly as an Irish Jew and an illiterate, and saw divine disapproval of usury made manifest through the person of his idiot son. At other times they remembered his good points.

`I wonder where did he go to,' said Mr Kernan.

He wished the details of the incident to remain vague. He wished his friends to think there had been some mistake, that Mr Harford and he had missed each other. His friends, who knew quite well Mr Harford's manners in drinking, were silent. Mr Power said again:

`All's well that ends well.'

Mr Kernan changed the subject at once.

`That was a decent young chap, that medical fellow,' he said. `Only for him—'

`O, only for him,' said Mr Power, `it might have been a case of seven days, without the option of a fine.'

`Yes, yes,' said Mr Kernan, trying to remember. `I remember now there was a policeman. Decent young fellow, he seemed. How did it happen at all?'

`It happened that you were peloothered, Tom,' said Mr Cunningham gravely.

`True bill,' said Mr Kernan, equally gravely.

`I suppose you squared the constable, Jack,' said Mr M'Coy.

Mr Power did not relish the use of his Christian name. He was not strait-laced, but he could not forget that Mr M'Coy had recently made a crusade in search of valises and portmanteaux to enable Mrs M'Coy to fulfil imaginary engagements in the country. More than he resented the fact that he had been victimized, he resented such low playing of the game. He answered the question, therefore, as if Mr Kernan had asked it.

The narrative made Mr Kernan indignant. He was keenly conscious of his citizenship, wished to live with his city on terms mutually honourable and resented any affront put upon him by those whom he called country bumpkins.

`Is this what we pay rates for?' he asked. `To feed and clothe these ignorant bostooms... and they're nothing else.'

Mr Cunningham laughed. He was a Castle official only during office hours.

`How could they be anything else, Tom?' he said.

He assumed a thick, provincial accent and said in a tone of command:

`65, catch your cabbage!'

Everyone laughed. Mr M'Coy, who wanted to enter the conversation by any door, pretended that he had never heard the story; Mr Cunningham said:

`It is supposed — they say, you know — to take place in the depot where they get these thundering big country fellows, omadhauns, you know, to drill. The sergeant makes them stand in a row against the wall and hold up their plates.' He illustrated the story by grotesque gestures.

`At dinner, you know. Then he has a bloody big bowl of cabbage before him on the table and a bloody big spoon like a shovel. He takes up a wad of cabbage on the spoon and pegs it across the room and the poor devils have to try and catch it on their plates: 65, catch your cabbage.'

Everyone laughed again: but Mr Kernan was somewhat indignant still. He talked of writing a letter to the papers.

`These yahoos coming up here,' he said, `think they can boss the people. I needn't tell you, Martin, what kind of men they are.'

Mr Cunningham gave a qualified assent.

`It's like everything else in this world,' he said. `You get some bad ones and you get some good ones.'

`O yes, you get some good ones, I admit,' said Mr Kernan, satisfied.

`It's better to have nothing to say to them,' said Mr M'Coy. `That's my opinion!'

Mrs Kernan entered the room and, placing a tray on the table, said:

`Help yourselves, gentlemen.'

Mr Power stood up to officiate, offering her his chair. She declined it, saying she was ironing downstairs, and, after having exchanged a nod with Mr Cunningham behind Mr Power's back, prepared to leave the room. Her husband called out to her:

`And have you nothing for me, duckie?'

`O, you! The back of my hand to you!' said Mrs Kernan tartly.

Her husband called after her:

`Nothing for poor little hubby!'

He assumed such a comical face and voice that the distribution of the bottles of stout took place amid general merriment.

The gentlemen drank from their glasses, set the glasses again on the table and paused. Then Mr Cunningham turned towards Mr Power and said casually:

`On Thursday night, you said, Jack?'

`Thursday, yes,' said Mr Power.

`Righto!' said Mr Cunningham promptly.

`We can meet in M'Auley's,' said Mr M'Coy. `That'll be the most convenient place.'

`But we mustn't be late,' said Mr Power earnestly, `because it is sure to be crammed to the doors.'

`We can meet at half-seven,' said Mr M'Coy.

`Righto!' said Mr Cunningham.

`Half-seven at M'Auley's be it!'

There was a short silence. Mr Kernan waited to see whether he would be taken into his friends' confidence. Then he asked:

`What's in the wind?'

`O, it's nothing,' said Mr Cunningham. `It's only a little matter that we're arranging about for Thursday.'

`The opera, is it?' said Mr Kernan.

`No, no,' said Mr Cunningham in an evasive tone, `it's just a little... spiritual matter.'

`O,' said Mr Kernan.

There was silence again. Then Mr Power said, point-blank:

`To tell you the truth, Tom, we're going to make a retreat.'

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