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Last Updated on August 9, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 530

In Mary Levin's classic Irish short story, Lally Conroy returns home from Dublin to mourn her mother's death with her three siblings. The story opens in the family home, as the siblings discuss their mother’s plans for her estate. Lally, the wayward Conroy sister, is notably absent from the beneficiaries of her late mother's assets, so her siblings offer to sacrifice some of the money intended for them so that she might have some. However, Lally refuses to take any money out of respect for her mother’s wishes. 

It becomes clear as the story progresses that Lally was intentionally left out of the will as punishment for her choices, which her mother and siblings believe disgraced the family. Her older sister, Kate, mentions that the last time their mother spoke of Lally, she angrily muttered about blue feathers underneath her breath, implying that their mother died still bearing a grudge. Lally knows that this remark referenced the two blue feathers she pinned to spruce up the old hat she wore the day she married a low-class man her mother disproved of and began her unconventional life. 

After getting married and moving to Dublin, Lally began to run a boarding house. This, too, is an example of her shameful ways; Matthew, the oldest of the brothers, is tasked by his siblings with telling Lally that she should consider not hosting any more boarders back in Dublin because it brings shame to the family. Lally laughs at the suggestion, as the business is her means of sustaining her family. Kate and Nonny join in with criticisms that echo their late mother's. They argue that Lally degrades herself and her family by hosting disreputable characters at the boarding house and allowing her children to attend free schools. Matthew even suggests that Lally should run a hotel instead, for being employed as a hotelier seems far more respectable than her current role as a landlady. Again, the siblings offer her money to set up this hotel; again, Lally refuses.

When her siblings try to persuade Lally to stay the night, she declines, even though Nonny has already reserved and prepared a room for her at a hotel in town. Lally eventually runs out the door, leaving it open as she goes. Lally is distraught over the judgmental treatment she received from her siblings, even though she expected it. As she walks to the train station, Lally decides to stop and see the parish priest. Bursting in the doors and disrupting him at dinner, she asks that he hold morning Masses in her name and promises to mail him money in the morning. Lally knows that her mother never forgave her. The realization is tragic, but her priority is her mother, for she worries that this grudge may affect the fate of her mother's eternal soul. 

After this impromptu visit, Lally boards the train for Dublin. On the trip, she thinks about spending what little money she has—after deducting weekly food expenses for her children—on arranging Masses for her departed mother's soul at a local church. As the story ends, Lally weeps and begins praying fervently, emphasizing her charitable, pious spirit.

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