Shabbily dressed, Francis McPhillip comes to the door of the public lodging house. With the caution born of necessity, he waits in the doorway until he is sure he is not being followed, keeping his hand inside his raincoat to feel the reassuring butt of his pistol. For six months, he has been a hunted man, hiding out in the wild mountains.
In October, Francis had killed the secretary of the Farmers’ Union. His orders from the revolutionary organization were to use his gun only if necessary; after the killing, the organization disavowed his act and expelled him. A lone fugitive since then, he is back in Dublin to see his family.
Francis searches among the public rooms crowded with Dublin’s poor. In the dining room, he finds the man he wants to see: Gypo Nolan. Gypo is eating from a huge plate of cabbage and bacon he stole from a locker. Francis sits down and inquires hoarsely of Gypo if the police are still watching his parents’ house. At first, Gypo only grunts in response, then he says he thinks the coast is clear. After eating voraciously from Gypo’s plate, Francis slips away.
Gypo thinks stolidly of his former companion in the organization, then he reflects bitterly on his empty pockets and on the fact that he cannot buy a bed that night. He tries to link up the two facts, but Gypo thinks only with great difficulty. He was Francis’s companion at the time of the murder, and the organization expelled him, too. Without Francis and his agile brain, Gypo is unable to make plans. Now, finally, an idea comes to him. He goes to the police station and tells the officers where they can find Francis. He receives twenty pounds for his information. Shortly afterward, when police officers surround his father’s house, Francis shoots himself.
In a public house, Gypo meets Katie Fox, a prostitute who takes care of him occasionally when he is destitute. He buys her a few glasses of gin and tells her he has no need of her bed that night. She is suspicious because he has money and accuses him of robbing a church. During the quarrel, she accidentally lets drop the word “informer.” Gypo is startled. He is glad to leave her and go out in the night.
To keep up appearances, Gypo goes to the McPhillip house. He quarrels with Francis’s father, who blames him for the wild life his son led, but Francis’s mother and his sister, Mary, praise Gypo for his visit of sympathy. As he leaves, he gives Mrs. McPhillip four silver coins.
Bartly, an organization member sent out to bring Gypo in, follows him. When he makes a taunting reference to the coins Gypo gave Francis’s mother, Gypo chokes Bartly, who is saved only by the arrival of a friend who is armed. By dint of threats and persuasion, Gypo is led to the organization headquarters, where he meets Dan Gallagher, the revolutionists’ feared and respected leader.
Because of his stupidity and his great strength, Gypo has no fear of men or guns, but Dan is intelligent and soon overcomes Gypo’s hostility. If Gypo can give them a lead on the person who informed the police of Francis’s return, he will be taken back into the organization. Dan brings out a bottle and gives Gypo several drinks. Under the influence of the liquor, Gypo concocts a story that Rat Mulligan had a grudge against Francis for betraying his sister and that he saw Rat following Francis away from the lodging house. Dan is skeptical but sends for Rat and orders Gypo to appear for the hearing that night at one-thirty.
Followed by Bartly, his shadow, Gypo goes out confidently. In a street fight, he knocks out a policeman from sheer exuberance. Trailed by an admiring rabble, he goes to a lunch stand and buys food for all of his admirers. In the confusion, he slips away from Bartly.
Gypo is elated. He has money, he is safe, and he will be back in the organization. He goes to a superior brothel and spends money recklessly. A well-dressed woman with a scar on her face stays aloof. She refuses Gypo’s advances, saying she is the wife...
(The entire section is 1,205 words.)