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Authors: Dorothy Salisbury Davis

Men of No Property

BOOK: Men of No Property
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PRAISE FOR THE WRITING OF DOROTHY SALISBURY DAVIS

“Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Josephine Tey … Dorothy Salisbury Davis belongs in the same company. She writes with great insight into the psychological motivations of all her characters.” —
The Denver Post

“Dorothy Salisbury Davis may very well be the best mystery novelist around.” —
The Miami Herald

“Davis has few equals in setting up a puzzle, complete with misdirection and surprises.” —
The New York Times Book Review

“Davis is one of the truly distinguished writers in the medium; what may be more important, she is one of the few who can build suspense to a sonic peak.” —Dorothy B. Hughes,
Los Angeles Times

“A joyous and unqualified success.” —
The New York Times
on
Death of an Old Sinner

“An intelligent, well-written thriller.” —
Daily Mirror
(London) on
Death of an Old Sinner

“At once gentle and suspenseful, warmly humorous and tensely perplexing.” —
The New York Times
on
A Gentleman Called

“Superbly developed, gruesomely upsetting.” —
Chicago Tribune
on
A Gentleman Called

“An excellent, well-controlled piece of work.” —
The New Yorker
on
The Judas Cat

“A book to be long remembered.” —
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
on
A Town of Masks

“Mrs. Davis has belied the old publishing saying that an author’s second novel is usually less good than the first. Since her first ranked among last year’s best, what more need be said?” —
The New York Times
on
The Clay Hand

“Ingeniously plotted … A story of a young woman discovering what is real in life and in herself.” —
The New York Times
on
A Death in the Life

“Davis brings together all the elements needed for a good suspense story to make this, her fourth Julie Hayes, her best.” —
Library Journal
on
The Habit of Fear

“Mrs. Davis is one of the admired writers of American mystery fiction, and
Shock Wave
is up to her best. She has a cultured style, handles dialogue with a sure ear, and understands people better than most of her colleagues.” —
The New York Times Book Review
on
Shock Wave

Men of No Property
Dorothy Salisbury Davis

TO THE MEMORY OF MY MOTHER,

MARGARET GREER SALISBURY

“Our independence must be had at all hazards. If the men of property will not support us, they must fall; we can support ourselves by the aid of that numerous and respectable class of the community, the men of no property.”

W
OLFE
T
ONE

CONTENTS

PART I

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

PART II

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

PART III

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

PART IV

1

2

3

PART V

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

21

PART VI

1

2

3

4

PART VII

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

PART VIII

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

PART IX

1

2

3

4

5

About the Author

PART I
1

T
HERE WAS A MUTE
companionability amongst the people who waited on the dock, an unspoken sympathy for each other lest the pity of it be turned, by each upon himself, a voyager halted and his journey scarcely begun. Fear nibbled at their quiet, almost itself a sound. For all of them there was time, and for some of them the means yet to turn back to Ireland. Margaret Hickey would not so much as cast her eyes upon her sister, fearing to start the word from Norah’s lips. She prayed for a quick distraction. Could none of them sing? Was here to be a packetload of Irishmen and not a story-teller amongst them? Not a fiddler? Ah, but there was a priest, fair comfort that to some. Gone aboard but an hour before, he’d not shown himself since, but neither had he taken his leave, and Peg wondered in her bitter way if he wasn’t coaxed on to lull the Irish until sailing, or sure maybe no priest at all, for there was something queer in the fit of the cassock and the way he wore it—like an Irish recruit in a redcoat. There was never a priest she knew at home didn’t wear it like his skin.

She watched then as a man came striding along toward the dock, his boots clacking on the cobbles in the noontime quiet. No emigrant he, the girl thought, though he took the emigrants’ measure as if he expected their company. He put down his dinner box at the side of a capstan and was there intercepted by a lad whose like Peg had often seen on the streets at home. He was plying his trade a last time this side of the Atlantic. She strolled the distance by which she might watch him at work, for the beggars of Dublin were artists!

“Give us a ha’penny, yer honor.”

The man pulled the tail of his coat from the clutches of the small beggar, the boy no taller than his waist but with the big round eyes of an owl and the same look of age about him, and the same mute show of cunning. He was puffed up like the bird, too, stuffed with the nothing of hunger.

“What do you want with a ha’penny?” the man said. “Aren’t you off today to America?”

“The oul’ lady won’t give us from the packet t’eat. Give us the ha’penny.”

The man hunched down to be nearer the boy’s level. “And why won’t she give you from the packet?”

“She’s savin’ it for the crossin’. Give us the penny, yer honor.”

“So now it’s a penny, is it? You’re getting in practice for the swells of New York. Christ, what a parcel of creepers we’re exporting from Ireland this year of our Lord! Put your chin in the air, lad, and look a man in the face. How old are you? Eight? Ten?”

“Thirteen and yous can kiss my arse.”

The man started back as he might from the snarl of a dog. He gave a great laugh and fetched a purse from the tail of his coat. “That earns you tuppence, my lad. Give them that in New York and you’ll prosper.” He moved down then, the man with the generous purse, upon the emigrants where they lolled amongst their belongings. He looked from them to their ship. The workers were at it again with their hammers and tar.
“The Valiant,”
he said derisively, “well named for exporting the Irish.” A spate of blasphemy came from the emigrant men, a dribble of prayer from the women. Lying in a Liverpool dock
The Valiant
had sprung a leak. On the wild Atlantic she might as soon split asunder.

“God save Ireland!” the man cried.

Ah, that was it, Peg thought, a Young Irelander. And sure enough, he began coaxing and abusing the men, trying to push them back to Ireland.

“No man who is a man has the right to leave Ireland,” he cried.

In this year of our Lord, Peg thought, in this year of our Lord, 1848, no man who is a man has the right to leave Ireland. But who had the choice of staying? Didn’t he know Young Ireland itself was scattered? Its revolution no more than a whisper in the wind? Oh, the rights of Irishmen were many, the right to starve and the right to beg, the right to toil in the fields from the skriek of dawn till the drag of night and to own not so much of the soil they tilled as the scrapings of it from the soles of their feet; the right to load ships near to sinking with the harvest their sweat nurtured, and to unload the last harvest before it coming home again with the sweet stamp of charity on it…a few months too late for a hundred thousand or so dead who plainly did have the right to leave Ireland. Let him bag his own bones and take them back to Ireland, Peg thought, for the women were setting up a lamentation that would curdle the marrow in your spine. A rising, he was talking now, a rising that was, and another to follow.

A great handsome lad grown out of his clothes stood up then amongst the emigrants. “How the hell could you have a risin’ and not a ha’porth of yeast in any of yous?”

Go it, Peg thought, go it! and added her voice to the men’s approval until her sister hushed her. The English seamen laid off their deck work, and even the priest came to the rail. The emigrant shrugged his shoulders as though to cast off timidity.

“Young Ireland, is it?” he said.

“It is, and proud I am of it,” the agitator answered.

“And is it that walk into Tipperary you’re callin’ a risin’? Were you there, man?”

“Would God I had been and died there,” the agitator cried.

“Amen to that, I’m thinkin’,” said the emigrant, and Peg realized he was more a man than the fit of his coat described him. “Oh, what an army of yous died there. The marvel of it was how all them dead bodies could get up and run.”

“Look up to your ship now and see why it failed!” The agitator shook his finger at the priest who had turned from the rail and bowed his head, clouding his eyes with his hand. “’Tis not the first time the clergy has turned their backs on us. You spoke of Tipperary, young one. Let me tell you true what happened there. The people came out with pikes to join us, pikes, pitchforks and gentlemen even with their fowling pieces. They swore with us an everlasting fealty to Ireland, a fight from ditch to cave. And then came on your holy men. Midwives you’d think they’d be to Irish freedom. But nay, my friend. They turned the people from us. Dry nurses they are, I tell you, with empty paps! They’re suckling Ireland to her death!”

The women wailed out in horror and the men groped through their possessions while the emigrant spokesman let fly a great spit in the face of the agitator. All of them then gave something to his banishment: if they had but two shoes, one of them was aimed at his head, pipes, pots burned black with stirabout, jugs, pitchers which were to hold their first milk in America. And through it, Young Ireland stood, his eyes streaming, until one iron pan felled him. The constabulary came for him then, and the sailors leapt from the deck on the mate’s whistle, and with ropes and billysticks herded the emigrants up the plank and down into the ship’s hold, each one blessing his reverence as they hurtled by him. Peg hung back as long as she could as did the boy who got tuppence, having but half eaten his loaf.

On the dock the agitator found his own legs and shook off the support of the constabulary. “Oh, mother England,” he wailed out, “you could never hurt me like this!” He limped off while the police gave him a cheer. At a safe distance, he picked up his lunch box, turned, and thumbed his nose at them. He did not see the one salute given him in honor, Peg thought, the priest, whoever he was, touching his fingers ever so gently to his forehead.

Farewell, Young Ireland.

2

A
S SOON AS THE
tug-steamers sounded their approach, the hatch was closed and fastened upon the emigrants. It was not that the captain was a cruel man. He was merely honest. He had been paid by the head for his human cargo—his other cargo was pig-iron and pottery—twelve pounds for each adult and six for an infant, and in his long experience with the Irish emigrant, he had seen more than one of them pitch himself into the sea after a few uneasy hours in
The Valiant
’s groaning belly. Starting with two hundred and sixty head, he would bring that number into the Atlantic at least, and with fair winds and a generous sky he would bring two hundred into the New York harbor. The rest would have died on land or sea. He, at least, could give them a clean burial and a deep grave.

BOOK: Men of No Property
12.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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