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Hangman's House Summary

(Masterpieces of British Fiction)

Dermot McDermot lived in the most pleasant homestead in the County of Dublin. He was a serious, slight man of twenty-five years, taking after his Quaker mother more than his Irish soldier father except in his intense love of Ireland and everything Irish.

Dermot’s nearest neighbors were James O’Brien, Lord Glenmalure, and his daughter Connaught. They lived in a rather forbidding-looking house that the country people insisted on calling Jimmy the Hangman’s House. James O’Brien had been a violent rebel in his youth, but he had found it to his advantage to make his peace with the English. Becoming Lord Chief Justice of Ireland, he was responsible for the hanging of many Fenians.

When Glenmalure was stricken on the bench, he was forced to retire. When his condition became worse, he called in doctors from Dublin and then England. One doctor told him that he would live a month, certainly no more than five weeks. Then he secretly sent off a letter to John D’Arcy, Dermot’s cousin, son of an old friend called Tricky Mick. Dermot thought D’Arcy a twister; Connaught’s father said he had merely made a youngster’s mistake. Glenmalure knew John D’Arcy was devious but ambitious; he also knew that he might make his way in politics with Connaught’s money and Hangman Jimmy’s backing. In his remaining weeks, Glenmalure made contacts for D’Arcy and married him to Connaught. Glenmalure knew Dermot wanted to marry Connaught but would not leave his homestead; he thought Connaught, strong-willed as she was, could guide D’Arcy to a place in the world where she might even get a title.

Glenmalure had been a rebel of the old days, but there were still plenty of young men ready for a war for freedom if the word were given. Those who directed the movement decided there must be no war. They sent back to Ireland the Citizen, a commander of cavalry in the French army, but also the son of old Dinny Hogan the Irreconcilable, who had fled from Ireland and gone to live in France after the last uprising. The Citizen was to spend a year in Ireland, to make sure the young men would keep in line.

He had another reason for going to Ireland. John D’Arcy had married and then deserted his sister Maeve. Her shame caused her death and her son’s, and their deaths brought on Dinny Hogan’s. Dinny’s son was out for revenge.

Glenmalure died the night of Connaught’s wedding. She and D’Arcy returned from their honeymoon immediately.

Dermot saw them at the Tara Hunt, one of the best in the country. The Citizen also turned up at the hunt and approached D’Arcy to ask if he had been in Paris in ’95. D’Arcy, after swearing that he had never been in Paris, went to the police to expose the Citizen. Connaught could not understand why D’Arcy had lied about being in Paris; she was furious when she heard that he had informed on a hunted man.

Dermot knew D’Arcy feared the Citizen but could not understand why. He also heard that things were not going well at Glenmalure and that Connaught kept a woman relative with her constantly, while D’Arcy spent his time gambling with people who would never have dared enter the house during Glenmalure’s lifetime. D’Arcy’s backers in politics had reneged after Glenmalure died, and D’Arcy was at loose ends.

On St. Stephen’s Day, the first steeplechase of the year was held at the Hannastown races. Connaught’s Bard of Armagh was entered. Dermot heard that long odds were being placed on him, although the horse should have been considered the best in the field. One of the bookmakers told him that D’Arcy had placed a large bet against the Bard but that there were many small bets on him that would spell disaster to the poor people if the Bard did not run. On the day of the race, Connaught’s jockey did not show up. Dermot rode the Bard and won. He and Connaught found D’Arcy sobbing afterward because he had lost heavily. Then Dermot knew his cousin was a weakling. That night, D’Arcy killed the Bard.

(The entire section is 1,228 words.)