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The Drunkard
by [?]

“God help us!” moaned one, looking pityingly at me, “isn’t it the likes of them would be fathers?”

“Mick,” said the publican in alarm, spraying sawdust on my tracks, “that child isn’t supposed to be in here at all. You’d better take him home quick in case a bobby would see him.”

“Merciful God!” whimpered Father, raising his eyes to heaven and clapping his hands silently as he only did when distraught, “What misfortune was on me? Or what will his mother say? If women might stop at home and look after their children themselves!” he added in a snarl for the benefit of the shawlies. “Are them carriages all gone, Bill?”

“The carriages are finished long ago, Mick,” replied the publican.

“I’ll take him home,” Father said despairingly. “I’ll never bring you out again,” he threatened me. “Here,” he added, giving me the clean handkerchief from his breast pocket, “put that over your eye.”

The blood on the handkerchief was the first indication I got that I was cut, and instantly my temple began to throb and I set up another howl.

“Whisht, whisht, whisht!” Father said testily, steering me out the door. “One’d think you were killed. That’s nothing. We’ll wash it when we get home.”

“Steady now, old scout!” Crowley said, taking the other side of me. “You’ll be all right in a minute.”

I never met two men who knew less about the effects of drink. The first breath of fresh air and the warmth of the sun made me groggier than ever and I pitched and rolled between wind and tide till Father started to whimper again.

“God Almighty, and the whole ro
ad out! What misfortune was on me didn’t stop at my work! Can’t you walk straight?”

I couldn’t. I saw plain enough that, coaxed by the sunlight, every woman old and young in Blarney Lane was leaning over her half-door or sitting on her doorstep. They all stopped gabbling to gape at the strange spectacle of two sober, middle-aged men bringing home a drunken small boy with a cut over his eye. Father, torn between the shamefast desire to get me home as quick as he could, and the neighbourly need to explain that it wasn’t his fault, finally halted outside Mrs. Roche’s. There was a gang of old women outside a door at the opposite side of the road. I didn’t like the look of them from the first. They seemed altogether too interested in me. I leaned against the wall of Mrs. Roche’s cottage with my hands in my trousers pockets, thinking mournfully of poor Mr. Dooley in his cold grave on the Curragh, who would never walk down the road again, and, with great feeling, I began to sing a favorite song of Father’s.

Though lost to Mononia and cold in the grave
He returns to Kincora no more.

“Wisha, the poor child!” Mrs. Roche said. “Haven’t he a lovely voice, God bless him!”

That was what I thought myself, so I was the more surprised when Father said “Whisht!” and raised a threatening finger at me. He didn’t seem to realize the appropriateness of the song, so I sang louder than ever.

“Whisht, I tell you!” he snapped, and then tried to work up a smile for Mrs. Roche’s benefit. “We’re nearly home now. I’ll carry you the rest of the way.”

But, drunk and all as I was, I knew better than to be carried home ignominiously like that.

“Now,” I said severely, “can’t you leave me alone? I can walk all right. “Tis only my head. All I want is a rest.”

“But you can rest at home in bed,” he said viciously, trying to pick me up, and I knew by the flush on his face that he was very vexed.