Gateway to the Classics: The Irish Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins
The Irish Twins by  Lucy Fitch Perkins

Mr. McQueen Pays the Rent

The next morning Mr. McQueen went to Mr. Conroy and paid the rent. Then he said, "This is the last rent I'll be paying you, Mr. Conroy!"

Mr. Conroy was surprised. "What do you mean by that?" he said.

"I mean that I 'm going to leave old Ireland," said Mr. McQueen.

"Well, now!" cried Mr. Conroy. "To think of a sensible man like yourself leaving a good farm to go off, dear knows where! And you not knowing what you 'll do when you get there as like as any way! I thought you had better sense, McQueen."


"It 's because of my better sense that I 'm going," said Mr. McQueen. "Faith, do you think I 'd be showing the judgment of an old goat to stay where every penny I can get out of the land I have to pay back in rent? I 'm going to America where there 'll be a chance for myself."

"I thought Michael Malone would be sowing the seeds of discontent in this parish, with his silk hats and his grand talk," said Mr. Conroy angrily, "but I did n't think you were the fish to be caught with fine words!"

"If the seeds of discontent have been sown in this parish, Terence Conroy," said Mr. McQueen, " 't is you and the likes of you that have plowed and harrowed the ground ready for them! Do you think we 're wishful to be leaving our old homes and all our friends? But 't is you that makes it too hard entirely for people to stay. And I can tell you that if you keep on with others as you have with me, raising the rent when any work is done to improve the farm, you 'll be left in time with no tenants at all. And then where will you be yourself, Terence Conroy?"

Mr. Conroy's face was red with anger, but he said, "While I 'm not needing you to teach me my duty, I will say this, McQueen. You 're a good farmer, and I hate to see you do a foolish thing for yourself. If you 'll stay on the farm, I 'll not raise the rent on you."

"You 're too late, altogether," said Mr. McQueen; "and as you said yourself I 'm not the fish to be caught with fine words. I know better than to believe you. I 'll be sailing from Queenstown in two weeks' time."

And with that he stalked out of the room and slammed the door, leaving Mr. Conroy in a very bad state of mind.

All that Larry and Eileen could remember of the next two weeks was a queer jumble of tears and good-byes, of good wishes and blessings, and strange, strange feelings they had never had before. Their Mother went about with a white face and red eyes, and their Father was very silent as he packed the few household belongings they were to take with them to their new home.

At last the great day came. The McQueens got up very early that morning, ate their potatoes and drank their tea from a few cracked and broken dishes which were to be left behind. Then, when they had tidied up the hearth and put on their wraps ready to go, Mrs. McQueen brought some water to quench the fire on the hearth. She might almost have quenched it with her tears. And as she poured the water upon the ashes she crooned this little song sadly to herself:—

"Vein of my heart, from the lone mountain

The smoke of the turf will die.

And the stream that sang to the young children

Run down alone from the sky—

On the doorstone, grass—and the

Cloud lying

Where they lie

In the old country."


Mr. McQueen and the Twins stood still with their bundles in their hands until she had finished and risen from her knees, then they went quietly out the door, all four together, and closed it after them.

Mrs. McQueen stooped to gather a little bunch of shamrock leaves which grew by the doorstone, and then the McQueen family was quite, quite ready for the long journey.

Mr. Maguire had bought Colleen and the cows, and he was to have the few hens that were left for taking the McQueen family to the train.

Larry and Eileen saw him coming up the road. "Here comes Mr. Maguire with the cart!" they cried, "and Dennis is driving the jaunting-car with Michael and Grannie on it."

They soon reached the little group by the roadside, and then the luggage was loaded into the cart. Mrs. McQueen got up with Grannie on one side of the jaunting-car and Eileen sat between them. Michael and Mr. McQueen were on the other side with Larry. The small bags and bundles were put in the well of the jaunting-car.

"Get up!" cried Dennis, and off they started. Mrs. McQueen looked back at the old house, and cried into her new shawl. Grannie was crying, too. But Michael said, "Wait until you see your new home, and sure, you 'll be crying to think you were n't in it before!" And that cheered them up again, and soon a turn in the road hid the old house from their sight forever.


The luggage was heavy, and Colleen was slow. So it took several hours to reach the railroad. It took longer, too, because all the people in the village ran out of their houses to say good-bye. When they passed the schoolhouse, the Master gave the children leave to say good-bye to the Twins. He even came out to the road himself and shook hands with everybody.

But for all that, when the train came rattling into the station, there they all were on the platform in a row ready to get on board. When it stopped, the guard jumped down and opened the door of a compartment. He put Grannie in first, then Mrs. McQueen and the Twins. They were dreadfully afraid the train would start before Mr. McQueen and Michael and all the luggage were on board.


It was the first time Grannie had ever seen a train, or the Twins either. But at last they were all in, and the guard locked the door. Larry and Eileen looked out of the window and waved their hands to Mr. Maguire and Dennis. The engine whistled, the wheels began to turn, and above the noise the Twins heard Dennis call out to them, "Sure, I 'll be coming along to America myself some day."

"We 'll be watching for you," Eileen called back.

Then they passed the station, and were soon racing along over the open fields at what seemed to poor Grannie a fearful rate of speed.

"Murder! murder!" she screamed. "Is it for this I left my cabin? To be broken in bits on the track like a piece of old crockery! Wirra, wirra, why did I ever let myself be persuaded at all? Ochanee, but it is Himself has the soothering tongue in his mouth to coax his old Mother away for to destroy her entirely!"

Michael laughed and patted her arm, and "Whist now," he said, "sure, I 'd never bring you where harm would come to you, and that you know well. Look out of the window, for 't is the last you 'll be seeing of old Ireland."

Grannie dried her eyes, but still she clung to Michael's arm, and when the train went around a curve she crossed herself and told her beads as fast as she could.

The Twins were not frightened. They were busy seeing things. And besides, Larry had Grannie's piece of coal in his pocket. From the window they caught glimpses of distant blue hills, and of lakes still more blue. They passed by many a brown bog, and many a green field with farmers and farmers' wives working in them. The hillsides were blue with blossoming flax, and once they passed a field all spread with white linen bleaching in the sun.

They flew by little towns with queer names, like Ballygrady and Ballylough, and once when they were quite near Cork they saw the towers of Blarney Castle.


At last the train rattled into a great station. There was so much noise from puffing engines and rumbling trucks and shouting men, that the Twins could only take hold of their Mother's hands and keep close behind their Father as he followed Michael, with Grannie clinging to him, to another train. Then there were more flying fields, and a city and more fields still, until they reached Queenstown.

The next thing they knew they were walking across a gangplank and on to a boat. The Twins had never seen anything larger than a rowboat before, and this one looked very big to them, though it was only a lighter. This lighter was to carry luggage and passengers from the dock to the great steamer lying outside the harbor in the deep water of the main channel.

When they were all safely on board the lighter, and Michael had counted their bundles to be sure they had not lost anything, the Twins and their Father and Mother, with Michael and Grannie, stood by the deck rail and looked back at the dock. It was crowded with people running to and fro. There were groups of other emigrants like themselves, surrounded by great piles of luggage—waiting for the next lighter, for one boat would not carry all who wanted to go.

There were many good-byes being said and many tears falling, and in the midst of all the noise and confusion the sailors were loading tons of barrels and bags and boxes and trunks on board the ship.

There was no friend to see them off, but when they saw people crying all about them, the Twins cried a little, too, for sympathy, and even Mr. McQueen's eyes were red along the rims.

At last the gangplanks were drawn in, and the cables thrown off. The screws began to churn the green water into white foam, and the boat moved slowly out of the harbor.

The Twins and their Father and Mother, with Grannie and Michael, stood by the rail for a long time, and watched the crowd on the pier until it grew smaller and smaller, and at last disappeared entirely from sight around a bend in the Channel.

They stood there until the lighter reached the great ship that was waiting to take them across the water to a new world.

And when at last they were safely on board, and the lighters had gone back empty into the harbor, they stood on the wide deck of the ship, with their faces turned toward Ireland, until all they could see of it in the gathering dusk was a strip of dark blue against the eastern sky, with little lights in cottage windows twinkling from it like tiny stars.

Then they turned their faces toward the bright western sky.


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