"Wud yeh be tellin' me this now," said old Mr Madigan, after due formalities of greeting, remarks on the weather, and wise analysis of crop prospects; "am I or am I not properly instructed an' informed in the aims an' objects of this man, Valeery?"
Old Mr Madigan - Terry Madigan to his cronies -- white-haired and still stalwart, would be a retired farmer if only he would consent to retire. But he considers seventy-eight far too youthful an age for slippered ease; so he continues in active management of his rather extensive farm, and deems a working day of ten or twelve hours easy going for "a any man" (as he described himself) in the prime of life.
"'Tis gettin' so that I misdoubt me own convictions," he continued. "But you, wid yer mensuration, an' yer writin' bits an' scraps in the papers, wud be havin' the knowledge of the world at yer finger's end. So its come to yourself I am, daicint an' open-minded, to have me thrubbles set at rest.
"'Twas the black Injin hawker beyant who began it, up yonder at the farm. Him it is that do be comin' wance every so long wid his thrinkets an' his knick-knacks an' draperies, an' often as not I buy a thrifle off him to aise him along, the poor haythen.
"But this day I wanted nothin'; an' a dark mood was on me. So I bade him be takin' himself off, for little I cared to be dailin' wid furriners. An' wid that he opened his mouth (for he has the gift) an' the talk of him tuk the breath from me entirely.
"'Furriners is ut?' sez he. 'An' who are you to be callin' any daicint man a furriner? In the Vale of Kashmir beyant,' sez he, 'I was born an' bred a thrue British subject of the King; an' so, plaze Allah, I remain. But if yer own man, Valeery yonder, has his will, 'tis yourself will me the d'hirty furriner and an alien among yer own neighbors. Putt that in yer ould drudeen,' sez he - or words similar. An' wid that he tuk himself off.
"An' now," pleaded old Mr Madigan. "'Tis the thrue word I'd be havin' from yerself who knows the ins an' outs of the wide world; for 'tis mortal onsisy I am in me own mind."
As fairly as I could, and from such facts my own reading had supplied, I told the old man of recent development in Ireland, and of possibilities that might arise, both there and here, should Mr de Valera swing matters all his own way.
As I proceeded, the red began to creep up in the old man's neck and ears, then over his face in which his clear blue eyes blazed angrily. His thick, white hair seemed almost to bristle. As I finished, he smote the table mightily with a huge and still formidable fist, and delivered judgment.
"I'm agin ut!" he roared. "To the last dhrop an' the last breath, I'm agin ut! An' who, I ask yeh, is this man Valeery to be tellin' me I must be a furriner? Bitther agin England, am I? Well, so I am, an' so I always have been since I come to this country fifty year ago an' ever since. I was born wid a grayvanse agin England, an' so was me own father an' his before him. Isn't it the sacred right an' perogative of evey daicint Irishman to be bitter agin England, aiven tho' he mis-remembers these long years what he's bein' bitter about?
"What right has this man Valeery to be dictatin' to the likes of me? Me, that has gathered friends about me - most of thim Irish, thank God; but manny that has been denied the blessin'. An' is it the likes of these who wud be shakin' their heads at me in sorra an' namin' me a furriner?
"Is it me neighbour, Jack Taylor beyant, from Yorkshire, who tuk me in his arms, gentle as a woman, five mile down this mountain when I had the mortal sickness on me? Is it me other neighbour, Sandy McFee, him that borrys me ploughs an' me harras free-handed as anny Scotsman - him that come to me, whin the drought year of 1890 near had me rooned entirely, an' put three hundred pounds on me kitchen table? 'I've a lut putt by,' sez he, 'Yeh'll pay me back, Madigan,' sez he, 'whin an' how yeh can!' An' wid that he tramps out of me house an' will hear no word of thanks or refusal.
"Is it the likes of him will be pintin' the finger of scorn at Madigan, the furriner?
"I'm agin ut, I'm tellin' yeh! An' yeh can tell the wide world in yer peaper. I'll not have ten Valeerys -- no nor a hundred - makin' anny dhirty furriner out of me. Lave him go back to his bull-fightin'!"
And with that stout old Terry stamped out of the house and down the garden, his thick stick thumping the path as he went.
It seemed to me he left no doubt behind him that he was definitely and unequivocally "agin ut".
|Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2002|