Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 755
Delia Carty, until the age of nineteen, had always been a “respectable” girl, but working as a maid for the O’Gradys proved to be her ruin, mainly because of the bad example they set for her. Within six months she was smoking and within a year she acquired a young lover named Tom Flynn, the son of farmer Ned Flynn. The narrator says that Tom is no great catch, being a big, uncouth galoot who loves to drink and chase the girls. After a two-year love affair, Delia becomes pregnant.
This is very bad news for Tom, who knows that his father “would first beat hell out of him and then throw him out and leave the farm to his nephews”; in this section of Ireland, no laborer’s daughter is considered suitable for a farmer’s son. Delia has to tell her mother, who persuades their parish priest, Father Corcoran, to talk to Tom’s father about a possible marriage. As expected, however, Ned Flynn will not hear of it; in fact, he will not even agree to a small financial arrangement. This leads the narrator to remark, “Then, of course, the fun began.”
When Delia Carty’s father is told, he beats his daughter. Then he broods and grows angry about this blemish to his family name. He says, “Justice is what I want,” so he brings Delia to Jackie Canty, the solicitor in town. Delia, although reluctant about bringing any kind of legal action against the man she loves, tells Canty that she has nothing in writing from Tom. She is upset when Canty informs her that Tom and his father will certainly claim that someone else is the father. Delia maintains that “Tom could never say that,” but she is wrong. This is exactly the charge that Tom and his father decide to levy during the court case.
After Delia’s baby is born, the court action begins. The Flynns’ solicitor, Peter Humphreys, does not like the case at all, remembering “when law was about land, not love.” He arranges for the Flynns to have as their council “Roarer” Cooper, a man who would normally rather fight than settle and one who has the reputation of always commanding attention—even as a first-class variety act.
On the day of the hearing, the court is crowded in order that the townspeople might hear whatever gossip is to be gained. Delia’s council, Michael Ivers, approaches Roarer Cooper, asking for a settlement. Although Cooper is prepared to decline, he is sympathetic to the plight of poor Delia. After all, as Ivers knows, Cooper has daughters of his own. Ivers assures Cooper that Delia has never slept with anyone else because she was too much in love with Tom. Ivers also tells Cooper that it is the two respectable fathers that are behind this court action, not Delia. As Ivers says, “The trouble about marriage in this country, Dan Cooper, is that the fathers always insist on doing the courting.” Cooper then asks why the priest did not make Flynn marry Delia. Ivers responds, “When the Catholic Church can make a farmer marry a laborer’s daughter the Kingdom of God will be at hand.”
Ivers is asking for a high cash settlement: _250. Cooper agrees to tell the Flynns to settle that amount on Delia, hoping that when she has that much money Ned Flynn will agree to Tom’s marrying her. After lying about the judge, Cooper persuades Flynn to settle. He then acts as marriage broker, telling Ned Flynn that he would be a fool to let all that money get out of the family. When asked by Cooper, Tom says of Delia, “Oh, begod, the girl is all right.” Making his way over to Delia, Cooper learns that she still loves Tom and asks her if she wants to marry him. With tears in her eyes, “as she thought of the poor broken china of an idol that was being offered her now,” Delia says yes. Cooper tells her she “might make a man of him yet.”
The two lawyers, Cooper and Ivers, make the match themselves in Johnny Desmond’s pub; Desmond later remarks that the proceedings resembled a church mission, with Cooper threatening hellfire on everyone concerned and Ivers “piping away about the joys of Heaven.” So the marriage is settled. The narrator, however, humorously observes, “Of course it was a terrible comedown for a true Roarer, and Cooper’s reputation has never been the same since then.”
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