Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.


MAX BRAND
[FREDERICK FAUST]

JUST IRISH

Cover

RGL e-Book Cover


Ex Libris

First published in Argosy Weekly, 19 June 1937

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2020
Version Date: 2020-01-24
Produced by Gary Meller, Matthias Kaether and Roy Glashan

All content added by RGL is proprietary and protected by copyright.

Click here for more books by this author


Cover Image

Argosy Weekly, 19 June 1937, with "Just Irish"



Illustration

Tommy O'Toole hauled out his gun and began to fire wildly... aimlessly.



THE police are all right if you get to know them but the only one of them I can afford to know is Tim Flannery. Tim is making his way up in the world, now, putting out a bow wave of prosperity in front of him and getting a little red in the jowls. Any day he'll be made a sergeant and I make a point of stopping for a word when I meet him on my way to the office. It's partly because I like Tim and partly because I think a man might as well have an anchor to windward, these days. I was having a word with Tim one morning when a big blue sedan with nothing but the price mark taken off its newness slowed up towards the curb. At the wheel was a fine-looking young fellow with his black hair whipped back to a high polish. He leaned across the pretty girl beside him and sang out:

"Hi, Tim!"

"Hi, Tommy!" said Tim. That gave me a chance to note the pair of little ones in the back seat beside an old woman with big red rings in her ears and a swarthy face. The car drove on and left a big smile on Tim's face. "Friends?" I asked.

"Sure. That's Tommy O'Toole," said Tim Flannery.

"Seems like I've heard of him," I said. "In the papers?"

"Why not?" asked Tim. "He's the secretary of the Red Feet and he's getting into the fight-promoting. But whatever you heard, you didn't hear the half."

"No?" said I.

"No," said he.

"Why would O'Toole want to hire a ninety-year-old squaw off a reservation for a nurse to his kids?" I asked.

"That's the point," said Tim.

"The point of what?" said I.

"Well, I'm going to tell you," said Tim, "while I wait to see if that wall-eyed rat of a Milligan shows up to pay me back that five dollars that he borrowed last Saturday. Can you remember back to the prohibition days?"

"Without shutting my eyes I can see those days, and I can taste them, too," said I.

"All right, said Tim, you think your way back into those days and stay there for a while till I've told you about Tommy O'Toole and his big idea. I hand it to the boys that get hold of the bright ideas; the only one I've ever had was my nightstick. The funny part is that Tommy begun to rise in the world by standing on a street corner and crying. Here I was coming off my beat and found Mike Dulvaney and Jack Terris and a couple more of the force standing around the mouth of an alley, and there in the alley was a black-headed kid peeling off his coat and throwing it down on the cobbles, and sobbing, and calling out:

"What kind of a town is this? What kind of a country is it, neither, when the whole police force can't lick O'Toole?"

I saw the lad had had a bit to drink. Dulvaney gave me the wink. "Just a crazy Irish kid," he said. "There's no harm in him. Tim."

"Sure there's no harm in him," said I. "I never seen more Irish in any one picture. You'll be disturbing the peace, Tommy," I said to the kid. "I'll take you home."

"Oh jeepers," said Tommy O'Toole, "isn't that what I been waiting for? For somebody to take me! You come and try to take me, you big stuffed bologna. The whole lot of you come to take me, will you? There's not enough cops in the whole of New York to pinch poor Tommy O'Toole!"

And he began to cry again, while we all laughed at one another, except Mike Dulvaney. He began to take off things and hand them to me.

"Here's my badge and my coat and my cap and my gun." said Dulvaney.

"You can't hit the kid when he's boiled like that and doing nobody no harm in the world," said I.

"He's asking for it, ain't he?" asked Dulvaney. "I hate to smack him down but he's gotta be handled before a crowd gathers and we have to run him in."

I could see the point of that as plain as the flat of my hand. Dulvaney walked up to him and the kid says, "I'll wait for the rest of 'em. As sure as my name's Tommy O'Toole I wouldn't be hitting a poor, lone man."

"Take this, then," said Dulvaney, and popped him in the chin and flattened him so that his head bounced when it hit the pavement. For Dulvaney was our middleweight champion and a fine cut of a lad.

"I shouldn't of given it to him so hard," said Dulvaney, reaching to pick him up, but the kid slipped away from his hand like a cat from the jaws of a dog and came to his feet fighting.


MIND you, I had seen Dulvaney fight but never had I seen him take it like that. For thirty seconds the fists of Tommy O'Toole did a tap dance on the face of Dulvaney from his eyes to his chin, before our man could hit him away and down.

It was a fine fight, for their faces were soon wet and the red flew when their fists smacked home and as often as Dulvaney knocked him down Tommy bounced up again. We stood around, the rest of us, with our hands held out to stop the fight and our tongues in spite of us saying, "Go it, Mike! ... Go it, Tommy!" until Dulvaney hit right on the button that puts out the lights for the best of us, and poor Tommy fell on his face.

I picked him up and he was a loose thing falling out of my hands. "You've killed him, Mike," I said, "and him not ten days from the Old Country."

"If I've killed one of him, there's eight more to come back to life and fight again," said Dulvaney. "And me and my face dated up with my girl for this night!" In fact there was a mark or two on him that only time would rub out.

We put Tommy O'Toole in a taxi and sure enough, when he got his eyes open a crack he wanted to fight again; but he'd sweated out some of the Irish through his skin and at last we made him hear reason. He gave us his address and we took him home.

One Annie O'Rourke was the landlady to him and when she opened the door to our ring she sang out, "They've murdered our Tommy...! I'll have the uniform off your back and the law on it instead. Is there a law that cares for the poor, homeless and innocent? You black-hearted bullies, you."

By this we could see that Annie was a good woman, so we left Tommy in her hands and went away.

It was not many days after this before Tommy O'Toole stepped up to me on my beat and I made myself ready for trouble, but he put out his hand and smiled on me.

"I've come to thank you for seeing me home, Mr. Flannery," he said.

While I was taking his hand, up came Dulvaney and stopped with a look of alarm but the lad gave him the hand in turn and said, "Till the other evening the prettiest thing that I ever seen was a yearling filly at the Limerick fair, but a sweeter creature by far was the straight left you pulled out of your sleeve that night, Mr. Dulvaney."

"Was it?" Dulvaney said; and to me he said, "There's no more than a shadow or two on the face of him. Is it Indian rubber you're made of, Tommy? And what are you doing for yourself in New York?"

"It's only what is New York doing to me?" asked Tommy. "And how many Dulvaneys are there in the land?" he said, feeling his face with his hand.

So we all began laughing.

"How would you like to join the police force?" asked Dulvaney.

"How would I rate a fine man's position like that?" asked Tommy. "And I haven't been in the country that long."

"If I have an eye in my head," said I, "I remember you well in Jamaica."

"I was never on that island, sir," said Tommy.

"Long Island, you fool," said Dulvaney, "which is the hind part of Brooklyn."

"Now that I think of it," said Tommy O'Toole, "can it be that I was born there?"

"Where else would you have seen the light of day?" said I.

"Nowhere whatever," said Tommy, "if it's the same to you."

"Can you read and write? And do you know arithmetic?"

"Up to the part where the algebra gets thick in the head," said he.

"Algebra? We'll be adding a scholar to the force," said Dulvaney.


NOT long after that, when I had no uniform onto my back, I took Tommy O'Toole around to Danny O'Flynn's saloon. There was no shadow of a speakeasy about it but all open to the sun because the place had the right kind of protection. It was a good, honest saloon with no needle in the beer, and the drunks were few in it because when a man could not say, "Irish whisky" without lisping, Danny turned him out at once.

I took Danny O'Flynn aside and said, "Danny, you know the powers that be."

"I do that," said Danny, "and they know me, and my money, may they all—"

"Whisht, Danny," said I. "Don't be wishing a bad wish, man. But put an eye on my young friend Tommy O'Toole that I've known since he was getting and giving black eyes in the kindergarten. The making of an engineer is in him, his head is that full of algebra, and geometry, and that sort of stuff. But his mother lost her money—a good Brooklyn woman—and his rich uncle was cleaned out in Wall Street by those black robbers, and it's this for Tommy—the police force or the prize ring."

"Is he that good?" asked Danny. "He looks to have the spark in him."

"It's a spark that set Dulvaney on fire," said I.

"Did it so?" said Danny.

"It did so," said I. "And if you were to name his name in the right places, he has the learning and the muscles to pass the examinations and he soon would be one of us."

"There are no ears in New York except they're opened with money," said Danny, "and where would I get it back?"

"What would keep Tommy O'Toole from being assigned to this beat—and then would you have protection or would you not?"

"Ay, ay," said Danny. "And homemade protection is the best kind, though that's not true of beer."

So before the year was gray-headed, there was Tommy O'Toole in his uniform and all; and taking his beer once a day in the family room of Danny's saloon.

A couple of weeks later, no more he struck a patch of real luck. I mean, there were two mobs in that precinct. Jacopo Jacone ran one of them and Battista Moro ran the other. Battista had the beer racket, and Jacopo the laundries and cleaner and dyers, and all that, so they got along pretty friendly till Moro wanted the whole works. Then a war started.

Mostly the best way is to let a pair of gangs fight it out, as I see it. It saves the district attorney's office, it saves the police, and it saves the public money. It's a sort of a game and you have to know the way it's played but when newspapers get hold of a thing they never let go; and reporters have no sense of humor. The only games they recognize are tennis and baseball, you might say. Anyway, the papers howled till the Police Commissioner began to lose sleep and the word went out that action was wanted.

I guess we were all worried about the new orders, in that precinct, except Tommy O'Toole, that was too young to know trouble. So it came his way. He was strolling down the street with nothing on his mind but the fine weather and the growth of his bank account, when here comes Battista Moro taking the air in his automobile and two of his best men along, which were Tony Lombardo and Leon Manzuoli. And now look at this for coincidence! Around the next corner comes an automobile with Jacone in it, along with a couple of his right-hand men, Lefty Joe Hennessey and Bastiano Floriani. When they saw one another, they opened up with machine guns. But Floriani was killed at the wheel of Jacopo's car and it ran bang into Moro's machine. It was like tying wildcats together, and the boys started in clawing each other to death.

Jacone's bunch went down, two dead and Hennessey next to dead, and Moro is the only man of his outfit-able to sit up. He backs his car away and is about to clear out when Tommy O'Toole, who has been taking his time to see what's happening, hauls out his gun and fires. He cant hit anything. I've seen him on the practice range hitting nothing but the side of the target; but his first shot smashes the windshield of Moro's car and fills Moro's face with glass and blinds him.

You see what happens?

The newspapers carried it in three columns on the front pages with pictures of the dead men, and the living hero. Three men dead, three wounded and captured by Officer Thomas O'Toole!


EVERYBODY seemed to take it for granted that Tommy had done all the shooting, that is, everybody that was not in the know. Tommy didn't lie about it. He wanted to tell the truth, but that only convinced the reporters that he was a modest hero, and they got wilder and wilder with their typewriters. As a matter of fact it was such a funny break that even Moro wasn't sore about it, and he sent out word to his boys to leave the kid alone. That was decent of Battista.

So Tommy became a newspaper hero and wasn't put on the spot. I never heard of such luck. The force was lined up, one day, and the chief made a speech, and pinned a medal on Tommy's chest, and talked as though he were trying to be elected mayor. But that was all right. We kept our faces straight while we passed the wink around, and the one that winked loudest was Tommy himself. He used to laugh about his heroism, and so we never held it against him; he was about the most popular kid on the force and never stuck out his chest at all.

But he got ambitious, just the same. He'd come so far up in the world that he was beginning to squint his eyes at the top of the ladder, and the top of the ladder in that precinct was John Coppersmith O'Riley. He had millions they said, but he'd made his coin in the precinct and he kept right on living in the old house, never putting on any dog except in dressing up his girl, Mary. He had the money and she had the looks, and she was an only child. O'Riley himself was a tiger, but Mary had those deep blue Irish eyes and the softest voice that ever took a man's heart over the jumps.

Everybody had tried to get the eye of Mary, and everybody had failed, because it seemed as though she couldn't see anything but the wrinkled mahogany of her father's face. However, when Tommy O'Toole came through the door there was a difference. He looked like something and he was a public hero and a good kid, besides. She was dizzy in no time about Tommy, but old O'Riley said:

"I don't give a damn about money. I've got plenty to keep you and Mary. But I won't let her marry anybody that hasn't lived long enough and worked hard enough and used enough brains to get a hundred thousand dollar bank account."

Tommy came and saw me and told me about it. I admitted that it was tough. "And you but a step from the O'Riley millions!" said I.

"Damn the millions," said Tommy. "It's Mary that I'm thinking about."

"Are you far gone about her?" I asked.

"The whole of Limerick County comes over me out of her eyes," said he.

"A hundred thousand," said I, thinking it out, "is a lot of money. Why wouldn't you steal away with the girl, and the old man would soon make peace with you both?"

"Since I came to New York," says he, "I've done such things as my mother would blush for the seeing of them. And I'll have Mary," he says, "as her father wants me to have her, or I won't have her at all. He's a kind man, for one that doesn't drink, and I'm fond of him."

"How will you make a hundred thousand?" I asked.

Tommy said, "There's no beat in this precinct with that kind of money in it. I'm going to get a leave of absence."

He got a leave of absence for a month and at the end of that time he came back on crutches with a plaster on one side of his head. There had been a hunting accident, people learned.

It was hunting, all right, but it wasn't an accident. It was hunting a way to get a thousand ton cargo of fine old Scotch from Rum Row to the Long Island shore, and Tommy found a way in, but not before he'd been shot through the leg and had another slug bounce off his tough head.

He was pretty badly used up but his smile was the broadest that I ever saw. He had a good deal over a hundred grand for his month's work.

"I wouldn't do it again, Tim," he said to me, "but the beauty of it is that I won't have to do it again."


HE resigned from the force, naturally, and he was married to little Mary O'Riley as soon as he could walk down the aisle of the church without crutches. It was a big wedding. Old O'Riley turned loose his money and himself and there was enough liquor poured to wet down all the lawns in Van Cortlandt Park. O'Riley himself got plastered, and that was not so much fun, because he had a bad heart and had been off the stuff for years. He got ginned up and he stayed ginned up; and you'll see the results of it pretty soon.

Well, there's Tommy O'Toole that started a fight at the mouth of an alley, now right up to the top of the ladder, married in a silk hat and a cathedral! That's America, for you; that's what a democracy means.

He was right up there at the top of everything, looking around to see where he should put his foot next in the blue of the sky, when vicissitudes came and climbed all over him.

Now listen to what happened to Tommy!

About three days after the marriage, Tommy came to see me, in a complete stew.

"What's the matter, Tommy? Is the price of steam yachts gone up?"

"Wait a minute," says Tommy. "Give me a drink. No, I'll pour it myself. Here's how."

He brimmed the glass and poured it down; he handled his liquor like a real Irishman.

"Now I can talk," said Tommy.

"You can till the smoke of that drink rises to your eyes," I told him. "Go on and say it fast."

"I can't say it fast," said Tommy O'Toole. "If I say it all in a lump it'll choke me."

"Is it man, woman, or money that's bothering you?" I asked.

"Why was love ever put in the world to burn the heart out of a man?" said he.

"Have you met a new girl?" I asked

"Damn the new!" said he.

"What have you bumped into?" said I.

"Schweinstein," said he.

"What stein?" I asked.

"Schweinstein," he repeated.

"Is it the name of a Rhine wine?" said I.

"It's Mary's name." said he. "She's not Mary, either. She's Martha. Martha Schweinstein. That means pig-stone. Martha pig- stone. Martha Schweinstein."

"You can count me out, Tommy," said I. "What are you talking about?"

"She's not his daughter at all!" said he. "O'Riley's old woman adopted her years ago. Got her from a German widower that wanted a new wife that didn't want a stepdaughter. Schweinstein was his name. Pig-stone! That's a peach of a name. Oh, jeepers, what a beautiful name!"

I was shocked a little, but I said, "Don't drink any more of that stuff or it'll burn your tongue off."

"My tongue is burned off already saying that name," says he.

"It's not her name any more," I remarked. "Her name is not Martha Schweinstein nor Mary O'Riley, either. It's Mary O'Toole."

"Never mind what her real name is," said he, pouring a third jolt and spilling some of it on the floor.

I looked down at the carpet, waiting to see the color fade, and went on, "Where did you learn all of this? From O'Riley?"

"O'Riley's boiled," said Tommy O'Toole. "He's so boiled that he can't even sing Irish songs any more. He just sits and thinks them and drinks them. O'Riley didn't tell me anything, and Mary didn't tell me anything. She never does say anything, except when I'm tight."

"Does that bother her a lot?" I asked.

"It bothers Martha Schweinstein a hell of a lot," said Tommy. "She doesn't have to smell my breath, either. She can read liquor in my mind a block away. She had a long training in the good old days before the doctors stopped O'Riley from being himself for a while."


TOMMY took another drink. "It's a funny thing, Tim," he said. "Marriage is like a mirror. The front side shows you yourself and everything bright and happy. The back side don't show you a thing. Not a damn thing."

"I've been married fifteen years Tommy," said I. "It just takes time."

"To get married?" said he.

"No, to get used to it," said I. "Who told you about the Schweinstein business?"

"Why," said Tommy, "a big four-legged Swede of a Dutch barber showed up the other day and asked me, was his face familiar?"

Tommy sighed. "I looked back down all the gutters and the speakeasies that I had ever known in my life, but I couldn't spot that fat mug. I said so.

"'I am her brother!' says he.

"'Who is her?' said I.

"'Her—Martha—Mary, I mean,' says he.

"'Whose Mary?' said I.

"'Your Mary—my Mary,' says he. I stood up and grabbed the piano stool.

"'If you're collecting piano stools,' said I, 'you can have this in the face, you walleyed piece of cold boiled ham, you!'

"He wasn't upset. No, he just laughed a little. I never saw a finer face to sock with a beer bottle. But there was something about the blue of his eyes that set me thinking and I called in Mary. I was pretty mad but I controlled myself fine. I just said, 'Do you own any shares in this cabbage soup?' And then she said that it was her brother. That bum acted as though it filled his hand out with aces and he stood up and sort of triumphed over me and laughed a good deal. I never saw such a mug. I asked Mary what she meant by hiding such a knife up her sleeve and she said that she never held back anything when it was asked about. How would I know to ask her about brothers and sisters when she was the only child of O'Riley?

"The mug says he will let me down easy and nobody will have to know that I'd married a Schweinstein if I come across with five grand. I took a good look at him. It was kind of a happy moment to blackmail me."

"Did you sock him, you Irish mick?" said I.

"Did I sock him. Tim?" says the kid, looking down thoughtfully at his knuckles. "I took three short, quick steps forward and did a broad jump into his face. I knocked him flat, and put him down twice more in the hall, and then kicked him off the doorstep and listened to him squash on the pavement."

"Names don't bother as much as all that," said I.

The kid got quiet all over; and he looked ahead of him at nothing and seemed to see a lot between him and the wall. It made me feel kind of funny seeing that dynamo shut down for the first time and sit there still and all alone with himself. It was like having all the clocks in the world stop ticking at the same time.

"Now lookit," said I. "You love Martha, all right."

"Yeah. I love her," said Tommy to himself and nobody else.

"It's gunna be all right," I told him.

"Tim, you been a friend to me," said he.

"Yeah, and what have you been to me?" I asked. "If I had to pay back all the money you—"

"Will you quit it?" he asked. I quit it.

When Tommy does a favor, he doesn't seem to want it to be remembered. He's that way. After a while he said:

"You ever live with a lie?"

"Everybody has gotta put a good face on bad things now and then," I told him.

"I mean, to live with a lie. Most lies you put on and take off like your hat. But when you gotta live inside of a lie like it was inside your skin..."

It surprised me. I saw all at once that Tommy had a conscience and a lot of things I'd never suspected. I saw that talking would do no good. I gave him a couple of more drinks and then watched him weave out of the room. At the door he stopped and looked back at me and laughed.

"It'll be pretty good when I get home," says he. "She don't like drinking. How do I look?"

"You look boiled, because you are boiled," said I.

"That's right. I wanta be boiled," said Tommy.

"You're just Irish," said I.

He began to laugh and he was still laughing when he got out of the house.

"The Irish gotta have wars," said I to myself.


IT was about midnight when my wife woke me up and said the telephone was ringing.

"You're batty," says I. "Jacone's dead and Moro's in the can. The telephone can't be ringing."

"Take the cotton-wool out of your brain and listen for yourself, will you?" says she.

The bell was ringing, all right. I hate a telephone bell that rings after dark in a lonely house. I walked down the hall thinking of ghosts and took the receiver off the hook.

"Is this Tim?" says a girl's voice.

"Yes," says I, soft and careful. "Who might this be?"

"This is Mary O'Riley O'Toole," says she. "I wish that you'd come right over." The soft, still voice of her went to my heart.

"I'll come jumping," said I. I got into my clothes in two steps.

"What's the matter?" says my wife.

"Tommy has slugged his wife or something," says I. "I dunno what."

"She couldn't keep him interested," says my wife. "Every angel face is a dummy. Poor Tommy!" Nobody is mean the way women can be.

I hoofed it over to Tommy's place and Mrs. Tommy let me in. There were no bumps on her face. She was in a blue dressing gown that matched her eyes. Back in the apartment, I hear snoring, deep and hearty. "What's the matter?" says I.

She looks up at me, soft and still. "Tommy's drunk," she says, at last.

"That's all right," says I. "It's not the first time, is it?"

"No, but it's the last time," says she. "Perhaps there may be one more time; but that is all." I listened to her voice. I couldn't believe the words any more than I can reach the high notes in The Star Spangled Banner.

"I want you to arrest him," says she.

I laughed but not very much. "What would I arrest him for?" I asked her.

"For breaking the law," says she.

"What law?" says I.

"He's drunk," says she. I took a think. After all, it was breaking the law to drink in those days. But—

"Look, Mary," said I. "You're hysterical."

"Perhaps I am," says she, "but I'll be calmer when he's in jail."

"D'you know what you're saying?" said I.

"I think I do," said Mary O'Toole.

"Has he been acting up? Has he been tough?" said I. "Manhandled you, Mary?"

She looked surprised. "No, he didn't try to manhandle me," says she. "Will you arrest him?"

"Listen to me, Martha," said I. "You're talking of a boy that cares about you in a big way."

"I think he does," she answered, as calm as stone, "and that's why I'm going to trouble him in a big way."

"Why, it's a joke," said I. "Nobody ever heard of a wife wanting her husband arrested."

"If I can't get a cop to do it in this precinct," says she, "I'll go get one another place."


I WAS socked between the eyes. I saw that she meant what she said. I began to remember something about still waters running deep and all at once Tommy seemed just a poor little Irish kid all alone in the big world. What could I do? Reason with her?

Well, you can't argue with a person that never lifts his voice. And she never lifted hers. I went and got Tommy waked up which wasn't too easy. He was cooked, all right. By the time I got his shoes on his feet and hat on his head, she met me in the hall, all dressed up. "Are you coming along?" said I.

"Yes," said she, "because I might have to swear to the complaint."

I figured on taking Tommy over to my place till he was sober but that didn't work and Mary O'Toole rode all the way with me to the station house. Tommy was sober enough to realize what was happening then, and he got pretty violent. But some of the boys managed to get him into a cell. You could hear him blocks away and mostly he was talking about Mary in a way to make your cars burn. But she didn't blush. She just stood and listened, very quiet and thoughtful, till I came and took her back home.

I tried to talk on that return trip but I couldn't. There was no way of opening her up and she sat back behind a polite little smile of attention that was harder to break through than tool- proof steel.

Of course Tommy was out in the morning. He came to see me to tell me that what he thought about me was more than he could put into words but he found plenty of words, too. He gave me all the Irish off his tongue and kept drinking my liquor at the same time. The booze softened him, finally, and he said:

"I had to talk to somebody. I can't talk to Mary. Nobody can talk to her. I tell you, Tim, she's gunna drive me crazy. She looks like water but she's pure white mule."

"Don't get so excited," I said. "Don't be so Irish, Tommy, and you'll get along with her all right. She's a pretty thing."

"Schweinstein!" says he, and then leaves me.

He barged off on a five or six day party and traveled so fast that I could hardly keep track of him. I was on the phone five times a day to keep Tommy out of the can and I began to get worried. Booze is all right and a little party doesn't hurt anybody, now and then, but parties ought not to last more than two days. More than that hurts the eyes.

Well, before Tommy got back to earth a whole lot had happened.

Life's funny like that—have you noticed? Things can roll along as calm as you please for months, even years at a stretch. And then in just a couple of days something can come along, take your life up by the roots, pull it and twist it and tear it to bits.

Speaking of parties, old O'Riley had been boiled ever since the day of the marriage but nobody cared much because he had to die some day and he might as well die happy. But now he steps down town one day and marries his cook, which was as Irish as him, and after he draws up his new will he takes another drink and drops dead, leaving Mary unmentioned and every bean to the widow.

It happened the second day of Tommy's party and I rang up Mary. She didn't sound a bit upset. She talked not about her father but about Tommy and wanted to know where he was.

"He has to go into the country," says she. "He hasn't enough money to entertain New York. And please tell Tommy that I must see him at once. I have someone waiting for him."

Her voice was low and solemn.

"What sort of a one?" I asked.

"Someone who's just come off a boat," said she.

"Important?" I asked. "She is. To him," said Martha. "You can tell him that for me."


WHEN she rang off, I'm sorry to say that I forgot all about telling Tommy of the person who had just come off a boat and was waiting for him. I was too worried by her talk of getting Tommy away from town and out into the country. Why, Tommy O'Toole was made for our precinct. It fitted him like a glove.

The funeral was the next day. We tried to catch Tommy for it but he'd disappeared in New Jersey. You never can find nothing in New Jersey. It was a kind of a scandal, Tommy not being on deck for the funeral and only Mary there, sitting in black as quiet as a stone.

Well, the funeral was over and still there were three days before Tommy came back. He telephoned to me, and his voice was a surprise because there was nothing on his tongue. He told me to come and come running, so over I went and found him walking around in the empty rooms of his apartment.

When I say empty, I mean that there wasn't even a shade left on a window; there was only a scrap of paper that Tommy waved in one hand while he walked. He read it aloud to me.


Dearest Tommy,

I have moved out to Briar Ridge, number eighteen Tompkins Lane. I know That you'll love it here and besides I have a wonderful surprise for you.

Hurry home, darling.

Your Mary.


Tommy couldn't get over the finish of that letter. He kept repeating it over and over: "'Hurry home, darling!' Schweinstein!" he would add. "'Hurry home, darling!'"

It was a kind of a funny position and I stood around feeling a little empty handed and watching Tommy. He was all bull terrier. I figured nothing but the Irish could take what he'd taken for six whole days and still be able to walk. But he was sober, now, though a little ashy in the face. He was so mad that all the booze burned out of him.

"I just wanted you over to see it," says he to me. "I wanted you to know, that's all. Now I'm gunna go and get her! I'm gunna hurry home."

"Whacha gunna do, Tommy?" said I.

"Me? I'm gunna hurry home, darling. That's all I'm gunna do."

I said, "Tommy, the gurl is terrible fond of you though she takes a queer way of showing it."

"Sure she's fond of me and I of her, and there's the devil of it," said he.

"What you mean?" I asked. He wasn't making any sense at all.

"Two 'no's' make a 'yes'," said Tommy, "but two lies don't make any part of the truth."

"What are you trying to talk about?" said I.

"Something she'll understand," said he. He laughed. It scared me the way he laughed.

I thought how fierce and terrible he looked for a kid so young. But he wasn't a kid any more—and that was really the devil of it.

"You look here," said I. "I've got my car downstairs, and I know the road to Briar Ridge like the mustache on my face. I'm gunna drive you out."

He hesitated, looking down at the floor. But then he said, "That's all right, too. You come along, Tim. I want you here to see it because it's gunna be worth seeing."

I was afraid to give him any advice until we were almost out at Briar Ridge and by that time I hoped that the wind would have blown some of the whisky and the Irish out of him; but nothing could cool him off. He was still burning when I said:

"Whatever you do, you wouldn't put a hand on her, would you, Tommy?"

He looked at me and his black eyes turned green in his head. "There's gotta be one master in every house," says he. "In my house, I'm gunna be the man and the master. I'm gunna start mastering today. I'm hurrying home, darling."


WHAT could you do? I was scared and there was a cold feeling in the pit of my stomach when we turned off the slick and shine of the boulevard into Tomkins Lane and wound away into the green and the quiet until we came to a little white house with a red roof sticking up among trees.

There was Mary O'Toole's cat sitting on top of the gate post, and off in a little arbor beside the house was Mary sitting in sun and shadow, sewing. She was so doggone sweet to look at that I wondered how Tommy could help forgiving her on the spot. But Tommy was too burned up.

He stepped out of the car and reached the gate, and as the cat stood up and purred and waited to be petted, he fetched a whack at it that would have knocked it twenty feet if his hand hadn't hit the post instead.

The cat went up the side of the house with a screech and stood on top of the chimney with its tail as big as a baseball bat.

And Tommy started on towards Mary, just giving his hat one tug down over his eyes. The blood was leaking from his torn hand. I got sicker and sicker because I saw that I would have to interfere and I knew that I was too old for that kind of a job. But Mary, she lifted up her head and waited for her husband with the softest, kindest smile you ever saw.

Somehow, I had a picture in my brain of how that golden little head would be jerked sidewise and the eyes turn glassy when Tommy rapped her with his fist. I kind of fell out of the car and started after him. I saw I would be too late.

I was through the gate when the front door of the house opened, and there in the doorway stood a big barrel-shaped woman with a swarthy skin, and a black shawl over her head. Tommy did not go past her. He just stood there.

She held out her hands to Tommy O'Toole and cried out, "Oh, Tomaso! Dio buono, Dio santo! Oh, 'Maso mio—caro Tomaso!"

What does Tommy do? Why, the hat is lifted right off his head by his hair raising and all at once he throws out his arms, and cries, "Mama!" and then they clinch.

I was pretty weak, but I got back to the car, and felt my way into it, and started away; and when I looked back, I could see the pair of Eyetalians still hugging each other, and kind of weaving back and forth. And the last thing that I saw was the quiet little smile on the face of Martha Schweinstein. She was not watching the scene; she had started her sewing again.

There was trust in that smile—and a deep confidence, not in herself and not in him but in what the two of them, together, added up to. Something grabbed me tight by the throat and shook all the breath out of me.

* * * * *

"WHICH is why I got a stand-in with Tommy, still," said Tim Flannery. "If he gets tough I ask him what his real name is and it gets him kind of confused. So I don't pay for baseball games and prize-fights any more. But I don't see him much. Nobody does. He's only out on Friday nights."

"If he was just over from Italy," said I, "how did he speak English so well at the start?"

"Oh, he'd been in San Francisco for ten years with his father," said Flannery, "till it seemed to him that the Irish had the inside track in the land and he decided to make a little change after his old man died."

"You never found out his real name?" I asked.

"Sure. I got him a little warm with Irish whisky one night and asked him why he was so terrible burned up when he found out the real name of his wife and he says quietly:

"'Suppose you think you're hitched to a nice little name like O'Riley and all at once find your blood all clogged up with a Martha Schweinstein when you know that your own real name is Tomaso Angelino Lucchesino. Isn't that sort of like drawing to a pair of deuces?'"

"But little Martha still runs the roost. I guess," said I. "That's why Tommy is on the upgrade, now?"

"The roost is run from the back seat of that car, brother," said Flannery, "and don't you forget it. The reason that Tommy O'Toole is climbing right up is because he's just the right kind of Irish."

"Wait a minute!" said I. "You told me that he was an—"

"No matter what I told you," said Flannery. "And no matter what you call a diamond, you can tell the real thing by the way it shines."


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
Go to Home Page
This work is out of copyright in countries with a copyright
period of 70 years or less, after the year of the author's death.
If it is under copyright in your country of residence,
do not download or redistribute this file.
Original content added by RGL (e.g., introductions, notes,
RGL covers) is proprietary and protected by copyright.