"I don't know," said Mr. O'Connor dubiously, as he took out cigarette-papers and tobacco. "I think Joe Hynes is a straight man. He's a clever chap, too, with the pen. Do you remember that thing he wrote . . . ?"
"Some of these hillsiders and fenians are a bit too clever if ask me," said Mr. Henchy. "Do you know what my private and candid opinion is about some of those little jokers? I believe half of them are in the pay of the Castle."
"There's no knowing," said the old man.
"O, but I know it for a fact," said Mr. Henchy. "They're Castle hacks . . . . I don't say Hynes . . . . No, damn it, I think he's a stroke above that . . . . But there's a certain little nobleman with a cock-eye — you know the patriot I'm alluding to?"
Mr. O'Connor nodded.
"There's a lineal descendant of Major Sirr for you if you like! O, the heart's blood of a patriot! That's a fellow now that'd sell his country for fourpence — ay — and go down on his bended knees and thank the Almighty Christ he had a country to sell."
There was a knock at the door.
"Come in!" said Mr. Henchy.
A person resembling a poor clergyman or a poor actor appeared in the doorway. His black clothes were tightly buttoned on his short body and it was impossible to say whether he wore a clergyman's collar or a layman's, because the collar of his shabby frock-coat, the uncovered buttons of which reflected the candlelight, was turned up about his neck. He wore a round hat of hard black felt. His face, shining with raindrops, had the appearance of damp yellow cheese save where two rosy spots indicated the cheekbones. He opened his very long mouth suddenly to express disappointment and at the same time opened wide his very bright blue eyes to express pleasure and surprise.
"O Father Keon!" said Mr. Henchy, jumping up from his chair. "Is that you? Come in!"
"O, no, no, no!" said Father Keon quickly, pursing his lips as if he were addressing a child.
"Won't you come in and sit down?"
"No, no, no!" said Father Keon, speaking in a discreet, indulgent, velvety voice. "Don't let me disturb you now! I'm just looking for Mr. Fanning . . . ."
"He's round at the Black Eagle," said Mr. Henchy. "But won't you come in and sit down a minute?"
"No, no, thank you. It was just a little business matter," said Father Keon. "Thank you, indeed."
He retreated from the doorway and Mr. Henchy, seizing one of the candlesticks, went to the door to light him downstairs.
"O, don't trouble, I beg!"
"No, but the stairs is so dark."
"No, no, I can see . . . . Thank you, indeed."
"Are you right now?"
"All right, thanks . . . . Thanks."
Mr. Henchy returned with the candlestick and put it on the table. He sat down again at the fire. There was silence for a few moments.
"Tell me, John," said Mr. O'Connor, lighting his cigarette with another pasteboard card.
"What he is exactly?"
"Ask me an easier one," said Mr. Henchy.
"Fanning and himself seem to me very thick. They're often in Kavanagh's together. Is he a priest at all?"
"Mmmyes, I believe so . . . . I think he's what you call black sheep. We haven't many of them, thank God! but we have a few . . . . He's an unfortunate man of some kind . . . ."
"And how does he knock it out?" asked Mr. O'Connor.
"That's another mystery."
"Is he attached to any chapel or church or institution or — -"
"No," said Mr. Henchy, "I think he's travelling on his own account . . . . God forgive me," he added, "I thought he was the dozen of stout."
"Is there any chance of a drink itself?" asked Mr. O'Connor.
"I'm dry too," said the old man.
"I asked that little shoeboy three times," said Mr. Henchy, "would he send up a dozen of stout. I asked him again now, but he was leaning on the counter in his shirt-sleeves having a deep goster with Alderman Cowley."
"Why didn't you remind him?" said Mr. O'Connor.
"Well, I couldn't go over while he was talking to Alderman Cowley. I just waited till I caught his eye, and said: 'About that little matter I was speaking to you about . . . .' 'That'll be all right, Mr. H.,' he said. Yerra, sure the little hop-o'- my-thumb has forgotten all about it."
"There's some deal on in that quarter," said Mr. O'Connor thoughtfully. "I saw the three of them hard at it yesterday at Suffolk Street corner."
"I think I know the little game they're at," said Mr. Henchy. "You must owe the City Fathers money nowadays if you want to be made Lord Mayor. Then they'll make you Lord Mayor. By God! I'm thinking seriously of becoming a City Father myself. What do you think? Would I do for the job?"
Mr. O'Connor laughed.
"So far as owing money goes . . . ."
"Driving out of the Mansion House," said Mr. Henchy, "in all my vermin, with Jack here standing up behind me in a powdered wig — eh?"
"And make me your private secretary, John."
"Yes. And I'll make Father Keon my private chaplain. We'll have a family party."
"Faith, Mr. Henchy," said the old man, "you'd keep up better style than some of them. I was talking one day to old Keegan, the porter. 'And how do you like your new master, Pat?' says I to him. 'You haven't much entertaining now,' says I. 'Entertaining!' says he. 'He'd live on the smell of an oil- rag.' And do you know what he told me? Now, I declare to God I didn't believe him."
"What?" said Mr. Henchy and Mr. O'Connor.
"He told me: 'What do you think of a Lord Mayor of Dublin sending out for a pound of chops for his dinner? How's that for high living?' says he. 'Wisha! wisha,' says I. 'A pound of chops,' says he, 'coming into the Mansion House.' 'Wisha!' says I, 'what kind of people is going at all now?"