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.
Connaught left home, and even the gamblers refused to play with a man who had killed a horse. Connaught, meanwhile, was miserable in England. Dermot looked for D’Arcy to straighten him out and to offer him money to go away if that seemed best. D’Arcy told him that he had married Maeve. Thinking D’Arcy had been married to Maeve when he married Connaught, Dermot thrashed him and would probably have killed him if an innkeeper had not interfered. Dermot gave D’Arcy money and told him to leave the country.
Connaught came home a short time later to a house of bitterness and gloom. After she and Dermot finally admitted they loved each other, Dermot sought out the Citizen to see if they might not work out some way to keep the shame of D’Arcy’s conduct from staining Connaught and yet dissolve that marriage so that he and Connaught could be married. The Citizen told Dermot that Maeve had actually died before D’Arcy married Connaught, although D’Arcy could not have known it at that time. Dermot’s hands were tied.
Hearing that Maeve was dead, D’Arcy came back to Glenmalure, and Connaught sought refuge with Dermot and his mother. Finding her there, D’Arcy accused Connaught and Dermot of being lovers. When they admitted their feelings, he threatened to hale them into court, but Dermot’s mother prevented him. Connaught went again to England.
Knowing that Connaught would do nothing to him, D’Arcy began to sell off all the possessions in the house. Dermot made arrangements in Dublin to be informed whenever these possessions came on the market, and he bought up all of them. One night, Dermot decided to pick some of Connaught’s own roses and send them to her. As he went toward the house, Glenmalure looked empty and forbidding. At the gate, he met the Citizen, bent on killing D’Arcy. Dermot, not wishing the Citizen to be soiled with the murder of a twister like D’Arcy, tried to persuade him to go away. The Citizen, however, was determined. Dermot was afraid to let him go in alone.
Inside they found D’Arcy dressed for travel. The house had been stripped, and there was a smell of oil in it. Instead of killing D’Arcy outright, the Citizen allowed himself to be persuaded to a duel with pistols. D’Arcy shot before the signal had been given and wounded the Citizen. Then he smashed a lamp on the floor and dashed upstairs. The lamp started a sheet of fire that swept through the house as Dermot and the Citizen fought their way outside. D’Arcy caught his foot while jumping from a window and was dead when he hit the ground.
Dermot’s mother went to Connaught for awhile. Dermot had the walls of Glenmalure torn down and a neat cottage built in its place. The Citizen, recovered from his wound, went back to his regiment. Then Connaught came home.
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