"Is that so?" said Mr. Fogarty.
Mr. M'Coy tasted his whisky contentedly and shook his head with a double intention, saying:
"That's no joke, I can tell you."
"We didn't learn that, Tom," said Mr. Power, following Mr. M'Coy's example, "when we went to the penny-a-week school."
"There was many a good man went to the penny-a-week school with a sod of turf under his oxter," said Mr. Kernan sententiously. "The old system was the best: plain honest education. None of your modern trumpery . . . ."
"Quite right," said Mr. Power.
"No superfluities," said Mr. Fogarty.
He enunciated the word and then drank gravely.
"I remember reading," said Mr. Cunningham, "that one of Pope Leo's poems was on the invention of the photograph — in Latin, of course."
"On the photograph!" exclaimed Mr. Kernan.
"Yes," said Mr. Cunningham.
He also drank from his glass.
"Well, you know," said Mr. M'Coy, "isn't the photograph wonderful when you come to think of it?"
"O, of course," said Mr. Power, "great minds can see things."
"As the poet says: Great minds are very near to madness," said Mr. Fogarty.
Mr. Kernan seemed to be troubled in mind. He made an effort to recall the Protestant theology on some thorny points and in the end addressed Mr. Cunningham.
"Tell me, Martin," he said. "Weren't some of the popes — of course, not our present man, or his predecessor, but some of the old popes — not exactly . . . you know . . . up to the knocker?"
There was a silence. Mr. Cunningham said
"O, of course, there were some bad lots . . . But the astonishing thing is this. Not one of them, not the biggest drunkard, not the most . . . out-and-out ruffian, not one of them ever preached ex cathedra a word of false doctrine. Now isn't that an astonishing thing?"
"That is," said Mr. Kernan.
"Yes, because when the Pope speaks ex cathedra," Mr. Fogarty explained, "he is infallible."
"Yes," said Mr. Cunningham.
"O, I know about the infallibility of the Pope. I remember I was younger then . . . . Or was it that — — ?"
Mr. Fogarty interrupted. He took up the bottle and helped the others to a little more. Mr. M'Coy, seeing that there was not enough to go round, pleaded that he had not finished his first measure. The others accepted under protest. The light music of whisky falling into glasses made an agreeable interlude.
"What's that you were saying, Tom?" asked Mr. M'Coy.
"Papal infallibility," said Mr. Cunningham, "that was the greatest scene in the whole history of the Church."
"How was that, Martin?" asked Mr. Power.
Mr. Cunningham held up two thick fingers.
"In the sacred college, you know, of cardinals and archbishops and bishops there were two men who held out against it while the others were all for it. The whole conclave except these two was unanimous. No! They wouldn't have it!"
"Ha!" said Mr. M'Coy.
"And they were a German cardinal by the name of Dolling . . . or Dowling . . . or — — "
"Dowling was no German, and that's a sure five," said Mr. Power, laughing.
"Well, this great German cardinal, whatever his name was, was one; and the other was John MacHale."
"What?" cried Mr. Kernan. "Is it John of Tuam?"
"Are you sure of that now?" asked Mr. Fogarty dubiously. "I thought it was some Italian or American."
"John of Tuam," repeated Mr. Cunningham, "was the man."
He drank and the other gentlemen followed his lead. Then he resumed:
"There they were at it, all the cardinals and bishops and archbishops from all the ends of the earth and these two fighting dog and devil until at last the Pope himself stood up and declared infallibility a dogma of the Church ex cathedra. On the very moment John MacHale, who had been arguing and arguing against it, stood up and shouted out with the voice of a lion: 'Credo!'"
"I believe!" said Mr. Fogarty.
"Credo!" said Mr. Cunningham "That showed the faith he had. He submitted the moment the Pope spoke."
"And what about Dowling?" asked Mr. M'Coy.
"The German cardinal wouldn't submit. He left the church."
Mr. Cunningham's words had built up the vast image of the church in the minds of his hearers. His deep, raucous voice had thrilled them as it uttered the word of belief and submission. When Mrs. Kernan came into the room, drying her hands she came into a solemn company. She did not disturb the silence, but leaned over the rail at the foot of the bed.
"I once saw John MacHale," said Mr. Kernan, "and I'll never forget it as long as I live."
He turned towards his wife to be confirmed.
"I often told you that?"
Mrs. Kernan nodded.
"It was at the unveiling of Sir John Gray's statue. Edmund Dwyer Gray was speaking, blathering away, and here was this old fellow, crabbed-looking old chap, looking at him from under his bushy eyebrows."
Mr. Kernan knitted his brows and, lowering his head like an angry bull, glared at his wife.
"God!" he exclaimed, resuming his natural face, "I never saw such an eye in a man's head. It was as much as to say: I have you properly taped, my lad. He had an eye like a hawk."
"None of the Grays was any good," said Mr. Power.
There was a pause again. Mr. Power turned to Mrs. Kernan and said with abrupt joviality:
"Well, Mrs. Kernan, we're going to make your man here a good holy pious and God-fearing Roman Catholic."