(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

A young guerrilla leader leaves his headquarters in the city to investigate the recent inactivity of a battalion out in the countryside from which his parents had moved when he was a young boy. As he sets off, nostalgic images of that place occupy him, and he anticipates a period of freedom from the tension of his underground life in the city. His pleasure in the sights and sounds of the countryside is mixed with his ambivalent childhood impressions of a legendary Anglo-Irish gentleman, Alec Henn, who “lived by the things of the body—women, wine, hunting, fishing, shooting.” This “madman” and his mansion, the “Red House,” are associated with images of ogres from fairy tales, but the narrator now reflects on what may have become of him after so many years. He wonders if the old Don Juan of Henn Hall is still alive, or if he is, what female company he could have; perhaps he has been reduced to finding a woman of the passing tinkers. This thought of the humiliation of Henn and of the end of a once prosperous Anglo-Irish family pleases John, for he has “nothing in my heart for him but hate” because Henn is a member of the establishment class against whose interests and their allegiance with English power in Ireland the revolution is directed.

As the narrator draws near Henn Hall, where his comrade Stevey Long will secretly accommodate him, he is confronted in the semidarkness by a woman, Gypsy Gammle, who mistakes him for Stevey. From her anxious questions, he discovers that she is having a love affair with Stevey. She forces John to admit that Stevey may have another girlfriend, and she vows not to marry him. The narrator is reluctant to become involved in this “unpleasant, real life,” and when he sees Gypsy and Stevey embracing without inhibition in the kitchen of the hall, he is angry. As “investigator of Stevey’s shortcomings,” he has realized that Stevey’s energy and attention have been going into this affair rather than into the revolution, but he is also jealous of Stevey’s personal freedom in the countryside.

Henn now appears, a rather infirm and heavy-drinking old man who confronts the narrator with “I suppose you’re another one of our new patriots.” In spite of...

(The entire section is 912 words.)