Mr. McQueen Makes Up his Mind
Michael sang with the others. And when the song was ended, he said, " 'T is a true word, Mr. Maguire, that there 's no place like old Ireland; and you 'll not find an Irishman anywhere in America that would n't put the man down that said a word against her. But what with the landlords taking every shilling you can scrape together and charging you higher rent whenever you make a bit of an improvement on your farm, there 's no chance at all to get on in the world. And with the children, God bless them, coming along by sixes and dozens, and little for them to do at home, and no place to put them when they grow up, sure, it 's well to go where they 've a better chance.
"Look at the schools now! If you could see the school that my Patrick goes to, you 'd never rest at all until your children had the same! Sure, the schoolhouses are like palaces over there, and as for learning, the children pick it up as a hen does corn!"
"And are there no faults with America, whatever?" Mr. McQueen said to Michael.
"There do be faults with her," Michael answered, "and I 'll never be the man to say otherwise. There 's plenty of things to be said about America that would leave you thinking 't is a long way this side of Heaven. But whatever it is that 's wrong, 't is the people themselves that make it so, and by the same token it is themselves that can cure the trouble when they 're so minded. It 's not like having your troubles put down on you by the people that 's above you, and that you can't reach at all for to be correcting them! All I say is there 's a better chance over there for yourself and the children."
The Twins and Dennis and the other young people were getting tired of sitting still by this time, and when Michael stopped talking about America they jumped up. The children ran outdoors and played tag around Grannie's house, and the older people stayed inside.
By and by Grannie came to the door and called them. "Come in, every one of you," she cried, "and have a fine bit of cake with currants in it! Sure, Michael brought the currants and all the things for to make it yesterday, thinking maybe there 'd be neighbors in. And maybe 't is the last bit of cake I 'll be making for you at all, for 't is but two weeks now until we start across the water. She wiped her eyes on her apron.
Mr. McQueen was very quiet as he walked home with Mrs. McQueen and the Twins. And that evening, after the children were in bed, he sat for a long time silent, with his pipe in his mouth. His pipe went out and he did not notice it. By and by he said to Mrs. McQueen, "I 've made up my mind—"
"The Lord save us! To what?" said Mrs. McQueen.
"To go to America," said Mr. McQueen.
Mrs. McQueen hid her face in her hands and rocked back and forth and cried. "To be leaving the place I was born, and where my father and mother were born before me, and all the neighbors, and this old house that 's been home since ever I married you—'t will break the heart in my body," she said.
"I like that part of it no better than yourself," said Mr. McQueen, "but when I think of the years to come, and Larry and Eileen growing up to work as hard as we have worked without getting much at all, and think of the better chance altogether they 'll have over there, sure, I can't be thinking of the pain, but only of the hope there is in it for them."
"I 've seen this coming ever since the children told us about Grannie Malone's letter," said Mrs. McQueen. " 'T is Michael has put this in your head."
" 'T is not Michael alone," said Mr. McQueen; " 't is also other things. To-morrow I pay Conroy the rent money. And it will take all that the pig brought and all I 've been able to rake and scrape myself, and nothing left over at all. And there 's but ourselves and the Twins, and the year has not been a bad one. We have had the pig, which we would n't be having another year. And what would it be like if there were more of us to feed, and no more pigs to be found in the bog like manna from Heaven, to be helping us out?"
"Sure, if it 's for the children," sobbed Mrs. McQueen, "I'd go anywhere in the world, and that you know well."
"I do know it," said Mr. McQueen. "And since we 're going at all, let it be soon. We 'll go with Grannie and Michael."
"In two weeks' time?" cried Mrs. McQueen.
"We will so," said Mr. McQueen. "I 've no debts behind me, and we can sell the cows and hens, and take with us whatever we need from the house. Michael Malone will lend me the money and find me a job when we get there. The likes of this chance will never befall us again, and faith, we 'll take it."
"Did he tell you so?" asked Mrs. McQueen.
"He did, indeed."
"Well, then, I 've no other word to say, and if it must be done, the sooner the better," said Mrs. McQueen.
That night she lay awake a long time. She was planning just what they should take with them to their new home, and trying to think what the new home would be like.