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  ― 221 ―

Mrs. McSweeney at Home

“Thry a ginger nut,” said Mrs. McSweeney.

“Thank you, my dear, I will,” said Mrs. Tacitus, helping herself to a handful of ginger-nuts, as she wondered where Mrs. McSweeney had got the new d'oyley.

“'Tis an age since I saw ye,” remarked Mrs. McSweeney, fanning herself with a serviette. “And I've been that worried wid me domestic and social jooties that I'm loike one av me own twins, and don't know whether I'm meself or some other person. 'Twas last Monday was a fortnight since I wint into a dhraper's shop to buy a box of hair-curlers, and to thry to match the loinin' of a new dhress I was makin' out of the one that got shpoiled on me thrip to the Hawkesbury, when who should be there but Mrs. Delaney, whose husband is working at the gas works - buyin' a couple of yards of Torchon.

“‘Good day to you,’ says she, ‘and how's the twins?’

“‘They are as well as can be,’ says I, ‘barrin' that one has a slight influenzy, and the other has


  ― 222 ―
a black eye through fightin' young Moloney. I haven't sane ye for an age,’ says I.

“‘Why don't ye come on me day at home?’ says she, and she gave me a card on which was printed: -

   
MRS. DELANEY 
AT HOME 
The Last Friday in the Month 

“I promised I would, and she bade me good-day. Now, this set me thinkin', and as one moight as well be out of the wurruld as out of the fashion, I made up me moind that I'd have me day at home, too. So I got some cards printed, which said as follows: -

    
MRS. McSWEENEY 
AT HOME 
The First Wednesday in the Wake 
R.S.V.P. IF YOU PLAZE 




  ― 223 ―

“So the first Wednesday in last wake I prepared to resave me guests. Not havin' a gurrl nor a lady help, I got Mrs. O'Reilly to come round for the afthernoon. I wanted to manage the thing properly, for I knew that some of me friends would only come to see phwat they could see, and to pick holes in me arrangements; and so I made some tay, and some sandwiches, and got some cake and biscuits, and a couple of pounds of jam roll and some ice crame, and a little dhrop of spirits in a decanther in the dinin'-room in case anybody should fale inclined to “take a little wine for their stomachs' ache,’ as the prophet says. I dhressed meself in me new o-de-neel muslin, wid the puffed slaves, and a pink belt wid a large silver buckle, wid yellow gloves, and takin' me fan in one hand and me shmall cambric handkerchief in the other, I tuk me sate about two o'clock, and dhrapin' me skirt to the best advantage, I waited fer me visitors.

“I had arranged wid Mrs. O'Reilly to look afther the things in the kitchen, and to admit me visitors. Mrs. Jackson ran over before dinner and did me hair, and tould me I looked charmin', and that no one would take me to be the mother of twins. I sat waitin' for about three-quarters of an hour, till me arrums and legs were that cramped that me


  ― 224 ―
carves seemed to be tied in a knot, and me not likin' to move for fear I'd shpoil the dhrapin' of me dhress, whin a ring comes to me door. I was all pins and needles as I sat listenin' for Mrs. O'Reilly to come and open the door, and she clatherin' the things about in the kitchen, and takin' no notice of the bell, through bein' deaf in one ear and not hearin' very well with the other. Then the bell rang again, and I felt as if I was sittin' on a hants' nest, until I heard her comin' along the hall. She poked her head into the door and said: -

“‘Have anybody come yet?’

“‘There's been somebody ringin' the bell this half-hour,’ says I. ‘Woipe that black off yer nose and open the door, and show them in, and be careful to denounce them in the way I tould ye.’ So she opened the door, and sthranin' me ears to listen I heard somebody say,

“‘Do ye want a noice load of wood?’

“She said we didn't, and shut the door.

“‘Mrs. O'Reilly,’ says I, ‘Would ye moind sittin' in the doinin'-room until the visitors have all arrived, so that you can hear the bell?’

“She said, ‘Very well, mum,’ and she wint and sat in the doinin'-room, which is separated from the dhrawin-room by a pair of damascus curtains. The furst to arrive was Mrs. Jackson,


  ― 225 ―
and soon aftherwards came fat Mrs. O'Grady and her two daughters. Mrs. O'Reilly opened the door and denounced thim, and we chatted about the weather, and the children, and our husbands, and the neighbours, and things. Afther we had exhausted all the usual thropics of the day, I was fidgetted by seein' Mrs. O'Reilly pokin' her head through the curtains, and makin' faces as if she was thryin' to say somethin' widout makin' a noise. Not wishin' to move for fear of spoilin' me pose, and she not takin' any notice of me frownin' at her, and thinkin' somethin' might be wrong wid the twins, I said at last wid as much composion as I could ashume, ‘Do ye want to shpake to me, Mrs. O'Reilly?’

“‘I do,’ says she, ‘but I don't want everybody to hear. Where do you kape the lump sugar?’

“Now, I didn't want the O'Grady's to know that I didn't kape a servant regular, and that was the rayson why I was afther buyin' Mrs. O'Reilly a cap wid muslin sthrings, and so I said, ‘Shure, you ought to know. It's on the cheffoneer in the doinin'-room, behind the silver tay sit.’ There was no silver tay sit, but I said it to make Mrs. O'Grady woild, for she had never been in me doinin'-room and would know no bether, so I said ‘Behind the silver tay sit,’ in a low voice


  ― 226 ―
that I knew Mrs. O'Reilly wouldn't hear; thin I added in a louder voice, ‘We'll wait and say if any more ladies come before we serve the collation.’ Includin' Mrs. Jackson, that you could hardly call a visitor, we had only four, and two of thim was bits of gurls, and I had provided for twinty. Well, we sat and yawned and looked at one another until me limbs was jumpin' agin through sittin' shtill, so I resolved to wait no longer.

“‘Bring up the collation, Mrs. O'Reilly,’ says I.

“Afther waitin' some toime and gettin' no response, I called again; and still, afther waitin' a long toime and listenin', I got no reply, so thryin' to divert the oppressive silence that was hangin' loike a wet blanket about us, I said, ‘Would either of you loike a taste of spirits?’

“‘It's no use sayin' one thing and manin' another,’ said Mrs. Jackson, ‘I would.’

“‘And so would I,’ says Mrs. O'Grady, wid a sigh of relafe.

“So raisin' me voice to its highest pitch, I shouted, ‘Mrs. O'Reilly!’ Shtill I could get no answer, and not bein' able to shtand sittin' in one position any longer, I jumped up at risk of shpoilin' me pose, and dashed into the doinin' room loike a volcano. The soight that met me gaze I'll never forget as long as I remimber. There, fer-


  ― 229 ―
ninst me on the table, was the decanter full of nothin' but emptiness. By the side of it was a glass and a sugar basin, and Mrs. O'Reilly not to be sane, except the chair that she'd been sittin' in, and the two legs of her a-shtickin' out from underneath the table. I pulled her out and propped her up wid her back agin the chimbley-pace, and her hair hangin' down over her face, and her muslin cap hangin' down loike a bib, when she blinked her eyes, and says: -

“‘Spasms! Mrs. McSweeney. Spasms!’

“‘Git up out av that, ye drunken baste!’ says I, ‘And git out av me house this minute, if not sooner!’

“She thried to get on her fate, and to assist her risin' she caught the table-cloth, and before I could shtop it, away it came, and down, wid a crash, wint me decanter, the glass, the sugar basin, and a case of stuffed birds wid a glass shade that Pat won in a heart union, valued at twinty-foive shillins'; and Mrs. O'Reilly fell on her back, wid a stuffed parrakeet perched on her nose. Just at that very moment, whin I thought that the cup of me degradation was full up to its last gasp, and that it would burst me bosom, I seen Mrs. O'Grady poke her head through the cartains, and she says in a swate tone of bitter sarcasm, ‘Don't bother, Mrs. McSweeney, we must be goin' now,


  ― 230 ―
as we have to call and pass the toime of day wid Mrs. Moloney.’ I sat down and cried till you could have rung the tears from me o-de-neel, and whin I wint to change there was that vampire, Mrs. Moloney, biddin' Mrs. O'Grady an' her two daughters good-bye, and the whole of thim lookin' over at me house and laughin' as if they'd bust. On me nixt day at home I shall go to the gardens or somewhere to be out of the way. Mrs. O'Reilly niver darkens me door again.”

Mrs. McSweeney sighed, and Mrs. Tacitus sighed in sympathy.

Mrs. McSweeney ran out to see if the kettle was boiling over, and Mrs. Tacitus lifted a flower-pot that stood on the table, and was gratified to find that her suspicions were correct. It had been placed there to cover a hole in the table-cover.

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