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Authors: Alex Haley

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    as the flax was hackled and scutched, and the peasant women toiled over

    great steaming kettles boiling the spun thread to purify it. They went

    to the annual Ballybay Fair together, and reveled in the fun of it, the

    tinkers and fiddlers, and the increasingly drunken peasants dancing

    increasingly drunken gigs. They giggled at the man with the shillelagh

    and long tailcoat who earned his living by challenging stalwarts to "step

    on his coat" and fight with him. They watched the races, dazzled by the

    bright colors of the silks the jockeys wore, and cheered the winners

    until their throats were sore, and, at the subsequent auction, pretended

    to bid for horses they could not afford.

    When they grew older, and Jamie's father took a mistress, Sarah Black,

    who lived in Carrickmacross, it was Sean who taught Jamie about girls,

    and the great mysteries of sex, and it was Sean who first introduced

    Jamie to the wonders of beer and poteen, for the boy could not understand

    his father's faithlessness to the memory of his dead mother.

    In all things they were as brothers, but although their ages were

    similar, it was Sean who led and Jamie who followed. They bridged, with

    the easy bond of youth, the many chasms that their different positions

    in society created for them, and they nurtured each other in spite of

    these differences, and drew strength from them. Once Jamie had Maureen

    crop his hair short, in the peasant-boy manner, the more to identify with

    his sunshine friend. When he went home, his father whipped him,

8 ALEX HALEY'S QUEEN

 

and forbade him to leave the house until his hair had grown out, and Jamie

kept his hair long after that.

    So Jamie grew up with an appreciation of the life and hardships of the

    mass of the people. His other world of his father's ambition, and of

    class and privilege, bored Jamie, and made him long to be back with his

    peasant friends. Yet he could not avoid that other life.

 

Much of Ballybay was owned by the Leslie family, impoverished minor

English aristocracy, who, lacking funds, were happy to accept the sometime

friendship and occasional loans of James Jackson, whom otherwise they

regarded as a man of 'trade and not of their social quality. For a while

they were prepared to consider the possibility of an acquaintance between

James Jackson's children and their own, and invited Jamie and Washington

to spend an afternoon with their own children. Dressed in their best and

sworn to good behavior by Jugs, they were driven by old Quinn, the

hostler, in a fine gig with handsome horses.

    Jamie and Washington took a stiffly formal tea with the Leslie boy and

    girl, attended by their governess, whose manners were as starched as her

    dress and high collar. Afterward, they were taken outside to play in the

    formal gardens of the small castle. They strolled politely through the

    grounds until they came to a fence that bordered a cow pasture. Young Ja-

    mie, the devil in him, dared the Leslie girl to run through the pasture

    with him. She accepted.

    The governess, furious, raced after them, calling on her charge to watch

    her step, but it was too late. The girl slipped on a cow pat and fell to

    the ground. When Jamie went to help her up, he slipped too, in the same

    pat. The girl began to cry, and the governess berated Jamie for what he

    had done. He was suitably contrite at first, but the sight of the primped

    girl covered in cow dung was too much for him, and he started to laugh.

    This infuriated the victim.

    "Go away, you bloody Irish ass!" she cried. The governess boxed her ears

    for her language but not her sentiments, dragged her away, and told Jamie

    he was a horrid little boy, who was never to come near them again.

Old Quinn drove the boys home, his nose wrinkling at the

    BLOODLINES 9

 

smell of cow manure coming from the seat behind him, but his eyes

twinkling with delight at the cheek of his young master. Washington was

in awe of his slightly older brother, and Jamie could not wait to tell

Sean.

    That afternoon caused something of a change in Jamie's relationship with

    old Quinn. Previously, the stable master had regarded him as a bit of a

    nuisance, a bothersome boy who had to be taught to ride, and whose

    presence in the stables distracted Quinn from his true passion, and

    disturbed his precious Thoroughbred mares. Following the incident at the

    Leslies', Quinn, who detested everything British except racing stock,

    took more time with Jamie, and found in him a natural talent for riding.

    He encouraged Jamie's interest in horses, and astonished the boy with the

    breadth of his knowledge. He could recount the bloodline of every horse

    in his stable, their ages, sires, and dams, back through several

    generations. He instructed the boy in their care and management, he

    advised him of the potential of any new colt, and by the time Jamie was

    a young man, he had acquired much of Quinn's knowledge, as well as his

    passion. All the animals were divided into separate stables, the racing

    horses in one, the riding horses in another, and the workhorses in a

    third, because, Quinn insisted, the bloodlines could not be mixed.

 

Jamie's father, James, was often away, on business in Belfast or Dublin,

but sometimes Jamie was allowed to accompany him to races in which a

Jackson horse was entered. Then his father was a different man to him.

Free of the burden of being a parent, free to indulge his love of the

track, James Jackson was attentive to his son, and taught him something

of the ownership of racehorses, and the special skills that racing re-

quired. If his horse won, which his favorite, Crazy Jane, often did, James

was expansive and bought his son gifts. If their horse was not placed,

father and son traveled home in mutual, depressed silence.

    Occasionally, his father would entertain, and the breakfast for the hunt

    club would be held at the mansion. These social events were used by James

    to extend and develop his social and business connections with the ruling

    class, with the Leslies and especially Dacre Hamilton.

10 ALEX HALEY'S QUEEN

 

    Hamilton was the major English presence in the county of Monaghan, and

    served as sheriff. He was a strict Protestant, with no sympathy for

    Catholics. He took pleasure in rigidly enforcing all the penal laws

    against the peasants, whom he regarded as illiterate idolaters. These

    laws, instituted after the British victory at the Battle of the Boyne,

    were used to keep the defeated Catholics out of money, land, and power.

    The laws encouraged religious conversion and informing on neighbors-and

    even families, for only a Protestant in a Catholic family could inherit

    the land.

    James expected his children to attend these functions, which they did

    unwillingly, for Dacre Hamilton was not loved by any of them. He had once

    briefly imprisoned their brother and sister, John and Eleanor, for some

    youthful high jinks. John had defended a hedge-school teacher against an

    irate landlord, and Eleanor had announced in public that she thought the

    religious persecution of the Catholics was obscene. Dacre Hamilton also

    protested to James Jackson, and warned him to exercise greater control

    over his children's opinions and actions. James had taken a riding crop

    to John, and locked Eieanor in her room for three days. It was this that

    persuaded John to emigrate to America and Eleanor to move to Dublin. The

    other Jackson children were wary of Hamilton, and while they enjoyed the

    sport of the hunt, they disliked the overweening sycophancy to England

    of the hunters. Encouraged by Sean, Jamie began to believe that most of

    the club would rather be in pursuit of Irish peasants than foxes or

    hares.

 

Nothing was more indicative of the social gap that existed between Jamie

and Sean than the manner of their formal education. A tutor was engaged

for Jamie: Jimmy Hanna, an impoverished young man of good leaming, from

Dublin, who had recently graduated from Trinity College and was looking

to make his way in an unfair world. The classroom was the music room of

the Jackson house, and they would sit together in isolate splendor, the

teacher and his only student, and Jamie was introduced to the classical

world of Latin and Greek, of mathematics and history. As he got to know

his student better, and trusted him more, Jimmy introduced him to the

glories of Irish literature. Jamie loved the beautiful words, and the

    BLOODLINES 11

 

worlds they evoked of rain-washed fields and white-walled cottages, of

lowering skies and breaking sunlight. Of heroes and rainbows.

    With poetry as a foundation, Jimmy gently led his student to Ireland's

    present troubles, gave him a clear appreciation of the battle that lay

    ahead to rid their country of foreign rule, and taught him that freedom

    was the most precious word in any language.

    Sean's school was behind a hedge. The British authorities were fearful

    of education for the peasants. History, presented in the wrong light,

    could lead to sedition, and many of the hedge-school teachers were deeply

    involved in the liberation movements. The teachers taught where they

    could, in ditches and behind hedgerows, with some lucky few having access

    to a shed or shack. They were paid in kind, with peat for their fires,

    or food for their stomachs-small stabs of bacon, or some potatoes, a bag

    of meal, a pound of butter or a few eggs. Textbooks were few, and those

    the teachers did have they had usually copied themselves, from printed

    books they could not afford to buy. Often a young man of the village

    would be posted as lookout, for many landlords kicked teachers off their

    properties, and burned their precious books, or charged them with

    sedition.

    Sean's classes lasted only two or three hours, and he could go at all

    only when Maureen had something to give the teacher, but Jamie studied

    morning and afternoon. His older sister Sara was a frequent visitor to

    his classroom, for she was smitten by the tutor.

    Jimmy Hanna had come to them through a family connection. The Irish

    Protestants were few in number, and even fewer owed their first

    allegiance to Ireland rather than England. Jimmy's brother Hugh was a

    friend of their sister Martha, who was completing her studies in Dublin.

    Both brothers were handsome, educated men, dedicated to the Irish cause,

    and both sisters, Martha and Sara, were headstrong and willful. Lacking

    parental affection and guidance, they longed for love, and followed the

    example of their older sister, the firebrand Eleanor, by challenging

    their father and all he stood for, if only to try.to make him appreciate

    them more, or at least play some active role in their lives. Their

    patriotism was genuine,

12 ALEX HALEY'S QUEEN

 

and deeply felt, and they saw in their own lives the greater cause. Like

Ireland, they were unloved by him who governed them and had dominion over

them, so they identified with the larger community, and dedicated

themselves to its well-being, for at core they were deeply lonely. When

a handsome young man who shared her convictions rode into Ballybay and

into her life, and encouraged her to have faith in herself, Sara fell

hopelessly in love. She would sit for hours in the classroom watching him

teach, learning from him herself, and about him.

    It worked to Jamie's advantage, for sometimes, on a dreary, drizzly

    afternoon or a pretty spring day, Jimmy, anxious to be alone with Sara,

    would curtail the lessons, and Sara's eyes would sparkle. She would send

    Jamie off to old Quinn in the stables, or to Jugs for some food, or to

    play with his croppy friend Sean. Then she would sit with Jimmy and hold

    hands with him, or sometimes they would kiss, and the warmth and

    reassurance of his presence, the strong beliefs that they shared, and the

    generosity of his nature persuaded Sara that she was loved.

    When she found out that Sarah Black had become more than a friend to her

    father, although less than a wife, Sara was bitterly hurt. She could not

    understand why her father would not marry the woman, and bring her to his

    house so she could fulfill some of the functions of mother-or older woman

    friend at least. In her distress, she turned to Jimmy for comfort, and,

    lacking any moral conviction or example, she surrendered herself to him.

    They took their pleasure secretly, covertly, in places where they thought

    they would not be discovered, but they were not discreet enough. Jamie,

    returning to the house one day because Sean was sick, saw them coupling

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