County Dublin, Ireland
September 25, 1845
A misty rain drew Jonathan Rutherford’s attention away from his work to the window and beyond it to the docks in Kingstown. The masts of a ship reached up, barely visible in the mist: The Phoebe being loaded with provisions and female prisoners. Morbid curiosity always ran high among the crowd at the sailing of a convict ship. What an odd entertainment, Jonathan thought. He hoped that part of the interest stemmed from the fact that people may know one of the prisoners. Talk of the convicts, their reasons for deportation, and the filthy living conditions always left him feeling depressed.
“What joy do people get in seeing their fellow citizens banished to the other side of the world? And for what? Stealing bread? Prostitution? Stealing money? Sedition?” he asked.
“All crimes,” Michael Slattery said.
“These convict ships and their sailings are becoming commonplace now.” Jonathan turned to see his coworker crossing the office of Marlow and Son’s to join him. Slattery was tall and broad; his body took up the entire window.
“The street is very crowded.” His eyes squinted through his glasses.
“In July, we stood here and watched the Emily II set sail,” Jonathan said. “Less than twelve weeks later, here we are again. The same scene is unfolding.”
Slattery shook his head and continued staring at the ship. “The streets are being cleaned up, crime is dropping, the city is safer,” he said. “You can’t argue with those statistics.”
“I suppose you can’t. Why are people pushed to immorality in the first place?” he said.
“Some people are prone to it, I suppose.” Slattery shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know really.”
Jonathan shook his head. “Maybe they are forced into that way of life.” The rain splattered against the window now, and the massive downpour began obscuring their view.
Slattery sat at his desk. “Forced into it?” he asked. “In what way?”
Jonathan thought for a moment and then did a gentle double knuckle tap on the windowpane. “The window tax,” he said. “What a cruel joke that is: Who can afford a window tax when there’s not enough money for clothing or food?”
Slattery sorted through the stack of papers on his desk. “Come on now, Jonathan. The English pay that tax too.”
Keeping the Irish in the dark about their future, Jonathan thought.
“It’s best to leave that debate to the politicians, Jonathan.” Slattery sounded as if he was giving him a warning, not advice. “What are you working on?” he asked, his tone shifting the mood to a lighter place.
Jonathan stood and shuffled the papers scattered across his desk. “The O’Higgins’ Ascendancy Case,” he said. “Another reason why the Irish are forced into a life of crime.” He looked up when he heard Slattery’s exasperated sigh. “What’s the matter?”
“Just do your job,” Slattery said. “I don’t want to discuss the rights and wrongs of Ireland. I just want to do my job, get paid and go home. That’s all.”
“I’m entitled to my opinion.”
“Not in here,” Slattery’s voice was now stern. “Blazes man! You do not suit the law.” He shook his head and stared at Jonathan. “Your temperament is wrong for it.”
Jonathan sat down at his desk. His face reddened.
“I hope that flush is from embarrassment and not anger,” Slattery said and returned to his labor.
In the long silence that followed, Jonathan reminded himself he was Slattery’s junior. Slattery was the reason Jonathan got this job. That deserved respect. He took long deep breaths and tried to focus on the paperwork before him.
“You should have pursued medicine, like your old man,” Slattery said, trying to ease the mounting tension between them. “There’s room for passion in medicine. Not in the law. Lose the passion, at least in here, for your own good.”
Again, silence filled the room. Jonathan poured over his desk, getting lost in the nuances of how the law protected Protestant interests. Maybe Slattery was right, he thought. Best he keep his opinions to himself while at the office.
The rain eased off, and Jonathan looked out at The Phoebe weighed down with her provisions and female convicts. The ship was moving away from the docks, beginning it's one hundred and twelve-day journey to Hobart. When would all of this end? When the Irish were on the other side of the world, he imagined. Jonathan looked at Slattery, busy transcribing now. Jonathan pushed away all thoughts of the convict ship and set to work on his case.
“The Phoebe has set sail!”
The joyous call from the hallway broke their attention. Slattery and Jonathan sat upright. Mister James Warlow, round and rosy, stood in the doorway, smiling from ear to ear.
“Let the plebs have their spirits, and I will have my fine wine.” Holding an unopened bottle of Clos de Vougeot, Warlow seemed deliriously happy that The Phoebe was taking women to a country on the other side of the world. Or maybe he was glad that his “man on the dock” had managed the impossible task of securing the wine for a small sum of money, Jonathan thought.
After a brief struggle to remove the cork, Warlow poured himself a glass of his fine light French wine. He raised the glass to his nose and sniffed the contents. “Exceptional, opulent, succulent, and smooth,” he said. He sat down at his desk and held his glass up and examined the light filtering through the pale yellow-gold liquid, tilting the glass right and left.
“Fewer paupers the better, that’s what I say.” He sipped, swallowed and belched. “Better off rid of the filth. Clean up the streets.”
“We were just saying the same thing, sir,” Slattery said and shot a look over the wire frame of his glasses at Jonathan.
Jonathan said nothing. He shuffled the parchment directly in front of him, and dipped the quill in the ink jar to his right. The ink smelled exotic mixing with the dampness from the open window and the burning peat aroma saturating the office, emanating a strong earthy smell. If he looked absorbed in his work then he could avoid this discussion with Warlow, so he remained with head bowed.
“How goes the grind, gentlemen?” Warlow asked.
“The transcription is almost complete, sir. It will be finished by this evening,” Slattery said.
Warlow unfolded his newspaper. “And the O’Higgins’ Ascendancy case?”
“That is almost done, sir,” Jonathan said.
“Good, good. O’Higgins will get everything now that he has become a Protestant.” Warlow looked over the top of his paper at Slattery. “Clever decision, I’d say?”
“Indeed it is, sir.” He lowered his head and returned to work.
Warlow drank his second glass of wine at a more leisurely pace. “Mister Slattery, I had my meeting with your man, James Fitzgerald, yesterday.”
“Ah, good to hear it, sir,” Slattery said. “I’m glad you’ve connected with him at last.”
Jonathan looked at Slattery. “Mister Fitzgerald?” Was Fitzgerald going to be his replacement? Had Slattery said something to Warlow? “Is he another solicitor?”
“No,” Slattery said. “Fitzgerald is the top man over at the Portobello Gardens. I went to Clongowes School with him.” He looked at Warlow, now distracted with his newspaper, then smiled at Jonathan and batted his eyelids. It was an exaggerated and comical feminine look for a man as broad faced as Slattery to wear. “Danny O’Connell was in our graduating class,” he said giving a sexy wink.
Jonathan knew where this was going. The tension between the two men was over. O’Connell was a name he knew well. “Was that the father or the son, Mary?” Jonathan asked, suggesting all who attended Clongowes were sodomites.
“Actually, Mary,” Slattery shot back, “it was the son.” He gave a haughty nod, adjusted his eyeglasses on the bridge of his nose, and blew a kiss across the room. Both men muffled their laughter.
“What was that?” Mister Warlow’s heavy eyelids peered over the top of the pages. He looked as if he would fall asleep if given a chance.
“Mister Fitzgerald, sir,” Slattery said. “The man I suggested you talk to about the greenhouses. I was explaining to Mary here that I know him from Clongowes School.”
Warlow diverted by impending sleep and trying hard to focus his vision on the paper, failed to notice Slattery’s jeer. “Indeed,” he said. “He knows a thing or two about greenhouses as well. Thinking of getting one myself, don’t you know.” He turned the pages of his Gardener’s Chronicle and narrated the titles of the articles on each page as he searched, his voice sounding sleepy: “Arrival of Dutch Bulbs. Roses in Bloom. Immense Stock of Geraniums.” He looked up at Jonathan and Slattery. “They don’t call it The Gardener’s Chronicle without good reason, do they?” He laughed. “Hot Water Tank for Horticulturalists.” Ah yes, that’s what I need.” Warlow read to himself for awhile as Jonathan and Slattery continued quietly with their registers. When Warlow spoke again, Jonathan looked up from his parchment.
“What did you say, sir?”
“Potato blight in Ireland,” Warlow said. “What the dickens?” His expression changed. He placed the paper down in front of him.
“What does it say, sir?” Jonathan asked. Slattery had stopped working now as well and was watching Warlow over the wire rim frame of his glasses.
Warlow’s voice was alert and severe as he read aloud. ““We stop the press with great regret, to announce that the Potato Murrain has unequivocally declared itself in Ireland. The crops about Dublin are suddenly perishing.”” He looked up. “Perishing?”
Jonathan’s thoughts raced to Portumna and his parents. What would happen if this blight reached that far west? He heard Warlow finish with, ““for where would Ireland be, in the event of a universal potato rot?””
Jonathan remembered his friend John Mitchell mentioning only last year in The Nation newspaper that a potato blight in Ireland could be used as a catalyst for revolution. Jonathan wrote “Agent Hunger” on his blotting paper. That was precisely what Mitchell had called it, he remembered. Mitchell suggested that starvation could be used to control people. Indeed, it could, Jonathan thought. God, what would they do in rural Ireland? In the West where the land was bad, the tenant farmers grew mixed crops for their landlords, but their own crop was the potato. That plant was easy to grow and thrived year after year. They survived solely on it.
“Four weeks ago that blight infected the potatoes on the Isle of Wight,” Slattery said. “And only two weeks ago the potatoes completely rotted on the Isle of Wight.”
But Jonathan’s mind was still on the west coast of Ireland. What would the people do if the potato crop failed?
Warlow looked up over his newspaper. “Blight has come.”
Slattery nodded absentmindedly. “Indeed, sir. It has.”
“Where would Ireland be, in the event of a universal potato rot?” Jonathan repeated the article’s words and stared off into the distance.
Warlow huffed at him. “Where would the landlords be more to the point, Mister Rutherford?”
Slattery gave Jonathan a discreet eyebrow flash that said; Remember where you are and who you are talking to. Jonathan gathered his thoughts. Slattery was correct. This was not the place to ruminate on the poor Irish, and Warlow was not a man to feel sympathy for them.
“Bad news indeed, sir. For the landlords, I mean,” Jonathan said and nodded in Slattery’s direction.
“Landlords are our clients, Mister Rutherford,” Warlow said. “Their laborers survive on potatoes, for sure. However, they work and provide for the landlord. It is he who is our concern! For he is our money.”
Slattery finished Warlow’s sentence for him: “No potatoes, no laborers, and no landlords.”
“And no clients,” Warlow added. He left the newspaper spread out on his desk and stood up. “No clients. No business. No work. No money.” Warlow dithered on and shook his head with disgust. “How’s that for a day’s pay? Damnation to this blight anyhow!”
“Bad news indeed, sir,” Jonathan said. He watched Warlow staring out the window.
“Maybe the blight will not be as bad here in Ireland,” Slattery said.
“Let’s hope so, Mister Slattery. Let’s hope so.”
Warlow lit his bone pipe and did a few quick sucks to get the tobacco burning. He shook his head as he exhaled, staring out onto Kingstown. Jonathan stood up, trying to get a better glimpse of the newspaper lying on Warlow’s desk. Slattery gave a quick cough as Warlow turned and looked around the office as if all he owned would disappear before his eyes.
“Bad suss to it all,” Warlow said. He walked back to his desk and handed an extensive collection of envelopes across to Jonathan. “When you are finished transcribing the O’Higgins case, take these and post them,” he said. “Do it on your way home. You are near the General Post Office, aren’t you? It won’t be closed by then.” Handing him coins, he counted “one, two, three. That’s enough.”
“Yes, Mister Warlow.” Jonathan took the mail from him. “When you are finished with your copy of The Gardener’s Chronicle, may I have it please, sir?” Jonathan asked.
“Take it. I want that article about the hot water tanks, though.” Warlow tore out the article, folded the newspaper and gave it to Jonathan. “That is blasted news about the blight.”
“Thank you, Mister Warlow.” Jonathan held the newspaper up. “Thank you,” and returned to his work.
Warlow poured himself a third glass of wine. “Let us hope this damned blight won’t disrupt business. Bad suss to it anyhow,” and drank the wine down in one swallow.
“Let’s hope it won’t, sir,” Slattery said. “Headlines have been wrong before.”
Finished with his work for the day, Jonathan gathered his papers and the mail for Mister Warlow and put them into his leather satchel. The article he’d written for The Nation was already stored securely inside, away from prying eyes at work. He walked along Harbor Road in a heavy downpour, toward Kingstown Railway Station. On the train he sat in second class and read the article about the potato blight. Fifteen minutes later, the train pulled into Westland Row. It was still raining. He hailed a horse-drawn carriage on Cumberland Street. “The GPO, please,” he said and climbed inside. As they crossed over Carlisle Bridge, spanning the Liffey in three arches, the rain stopped and the sun emerged. The river looked peaceful in the amber sunset.
The carriage rolled on until it reached the broad thoroughfare of Sackville Street. Sprawling retail shops served as a reminder that Dublin was indeed divided in its wealth. The General Post Office appeared through the carriage window on his left. It was a splendid building. The six marble pillars of the portico gave it opulence to rival Dublin Castle. On top of the three-storied building stood the statues of Mercury, Fidelity and in between them, Hibernia, with her harp in one hand and her spear in the other. The British flag by her side wafted lazily in the fading light. Hibernia’s spear always reminded him of the statue of Lady Justice on top of Dublin Castle, holding her sword and scales. He laughed as he recalled the poem the locals invented in her honor. The Statue of Justice, mark well her station, her face to the castle and her arse to the nation!
The carriage pulled to a complete stop in front of the General Post Office’s portico.
Jonathan paid the driver and watched the carriage disappear down Sackville Street, revealing Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson standing on his one hundred and twelve-foot roost. Granite and concrete: the mark of the British Empire. This city is becoming a tribute to wars and death. No escaping Imperialism here in Dublin, he thought and turned his back on Nelson. He entered the General Post Office.
Inside, the spacious Common Hall the atmosphere, similar to a party, was cheerful. Beautiful clothes, feathered hats, and perfume. A woman’s laughter erupted from the other end of the room followed by startled giggles. Life went on as usual for people with money. He wondered if they’d even heard the news about the potato blight.
Jonathan pushed open the door to his left and entered the penny post office. He mailed Warlow’s correspondence and invoices and then returned to the street. The natural light was fading now as dusk began to fall. He heard his mother’s voice in his head. “The evenings are drawing in,” she would say every autumn, sounding sad.
A lamplighter climbed a ladder leaning against a gaslight pole directly opposite the General Post Office. Jonathan observed as the lamplighter opened the hinged glass door and reached inside. The ignited flame lit up the man’s face, and he withdrew his hand quickly, closed the door, and came back down the ladder. He carried it to the next gaslight to do the same thing all over again.
Being in the heart of the city reminded Jonathan how much he missed the West of Ireland. In Portumna the air was fresher, the people friendlier, and life moved at a slower pace. An ornate horse-drawn carriage was a rare thing to see at home, but here in Dublin, on Sackville Street in late September, there were so many he wondered if horses outnumbered people. The smell was horrendous. It could be bad at times at home too, but there was a difference. The city trapped all smells, and there was no breeze to move the stench away. The fermentation of stagnant excrement and old perfume hung veil-like in the air. There was no peace here in the city either. The constant disharmony of garbled chattering, clopping hooves, and clattering wooden wheels over the dung-smeared cobblestones vibrated in his ears.
Jonathan walked back to D'Olier Street, his handkerchief covering his nose and mouth. The tavern near his lodgings always served hot food at seven o’clock. He sat down on the bench nearest the window and looked out at the building across the way. He could see John Blake Dillon and Charles Gavan Duffy standing outside the door of The Nation’s headquarters. Jonathan left his table and went outside to greet the two men.
“Good to see you, gentlemen,” he said and reached out to shake hands with Duffy first.
Duffy removed his top hat and tucked it beneath his left arm. “Jonathan, my dear boy,” he said, his thick lips curved up into a smile.
“I was sorry to hear about your wife Emily, sir,” Jonathan said, remembering he hadn’t seen Duffy since her death. “Very sorry indeed, sir.”
“It’s been…” Duffy waved his white-gloved right hand in the air as if blocking all memories of her flooding his mind. Then he shook his head and said, “It’s been a challenging year. But thank you, dear boy. Thank you for that.” At twenty-nine, only four years older than Jonathan, Duffy seemed older. The difficult year showed on his haggard face.
Dillon waited for his turn and then extended his right hand towards Jonathan. “May we join you inside?” he asked. Dillon’s sideburns grew down his jawline and stopped short of being a full beard, revealing the dimple in his solid, broad chin. His eyebrows, sharply pointed arches, gave him the look of being in constant demonic astonishment.
“You look different, Mister Dillon, since I last saw you that is.” Jonathan stroked his own bare face.
Dillon rubbed at his left sideburn. “I’m trying to look younger,” he said and then leaned closer to Duffy. “Or maybe…” He stared at Duffy, “I’m incognito?” Jonathan could tell that the men were close; they’d known each other for a long time.
“God knows we should be incognito!” Duffy said. He laughed and clapped Dillon on the back. “That’s why I keep him around. Cheers me up no end.”
“Shall we go inside, gentlemen?” Jonathan said, leading the way to their table. Duffy took the seat closest to the window, so he could look out onto D’Olier Street, Dillon sat beside him, and Jonathan opposite.
“Will you pay tribute to Mister Davis in the next edition?” Jonathan asked.
Dillon nodded. “Poor Thomas. I thought he was depressed because of losing the debate to O’Connell.” He puckered his lips and shook his head. “He looked so very pale and thin last time we met.”
“The last time I saw him was at that debate, actually,” Jonathan said. “But we never spoke to each other that night.”
“He...” Dillon leaned across the table, closer to Jonathan, and whispered. “He cried after the debate.” He sat back and nodded a couple of times while scratching his sideburns. “Cried. That’s how upset he was about losing to O’Connell.”
Duffy’s face looked sad, and then he sat taller in his seat. “No, no,” he said. “It wasn’t losing the debate to O’Connell—not at all. The dear boy was prone to emotional tears now and again. That is just how he was. Davis was emotional because he was always emotional. It was the Scarlatina that finished the dear boy.”
“Scarlatina? When did he get that?” Jonathan asked.
“Oh! He was cursed with it multiple times.”
“He never said anything to me,” Dillon said. “Not a single word.”
Duffy released a long sigh. “He wanted to push on, but the Scarlatina had weakened his heart. It has been a bad year for losing good people.”
“It has indeed,” Dillon said.
Jonathan watched as Dillon allowed his friend a few moments to collect his thoughts.
“We will pay tribute to Davis tonight,” Dillon said at last. “In fact, O’Brien and Meagher are also attending this evening’s meeting and printing.”
“Oh!” Jonathan said. “I’m looking forward to that.”
“Two good men,” said Duffy a little more cheerily. “Young Irelanders through and through. What a great speaker that Meagher is!” He looked directly at Jonathan. “Have you ever heard him speak?” Jonathan shook his head. “Meagher should have debated O’Connell. He’d have won!” Duffy said.
“Where the devil is the dash?” Dillon said. “Have you ever met Meagher and O’Brien, Jonathan?” he asked, looking around the tavern for someone to take their food order.
“My…” Jonathan stopped himself before he said the word brother, “…friend met both William Smith O’Brien and Thomas Francis Meagher at the Monster Meeting in Tara.”
That was enough information, for now, he thought. He would not reveal the truth.
Duffy’s voice broke into Jonathan’s thoughts. “I said, who is your friend, dear boy?”
“Lord Robert Mountbellew.”
Dillon stopped scanning the tavern for a server. “Lord Robert Mountbellew? Isn’t he in America now? The castle burned to the ground by the Ribbonmen, or something like that I’d heard?”
“Yes,” Jonathan said. “Robert Mountbellew is in Connecticut now, Mister Dillon. You are correct.”
Duffy lowered his jaw to his chest, making his chin double, and his lips look small and tight. “I cannot condone that type of violence. Honestly, I cannot. Horrendous behavior. Horrendous.”
“It totally goes against the mission of the Young Irelanders,” Dillon said. “Mountbellew senior was a scoundrel, for sure. I never liked the man. Just a scoundrel. But Robert was a good and kindly landlord, by all accounts.”
“Yes, Mister Dillon,” Jonathan said. “Robert Mountbellew is still a good man.” Jonathan wanted to tell them Robert was a good brother too, but he thought of the shame his mother would feel. The public embarrassment of having people know she was raped and had given birth to him, the living reminder of that rape, would cause her anxiety and pain. He was illegitimate; he was a bastard. People would look down on him if the truth were revealed.
Dillon’s eyebrows relaxed but Jonathan sensed him staring.
“How do you know Robert Mounbellew?” Dillon asked.
“I am from Portumna,” Jonathan said. “It is in County Galway, where his Irish estate is.”
“They burned his estate in Ireland to the ground because Robert Mountbellew is Protestant?” Duffy asked. “Was that the reason?”
“Yes sir,” Jonathan said. Dillon was still gaping at him and had now added a slow, clarity-dawning nod to his examination of his features. Jonathan felt uncomfortable.
“When you meet O’Brien and Meagher tonight,” Duffy said, now looking across the street, “You’ll understand that the Young Irelanders’ revolution is a cultural and political one, not religious at all. I don’t care if you are Catholic or Protestant,” Duffy continued. “You’re Irish, and we share a common national heritage that unites us. That is our cause.”
Dillon nodded at Jonathan and smiled. “Is Lord Robert Mountbellew inclined to this line of thinking?” he asked. “Do you know? Are you in contact with him, by any chance? He is your friend, as you say.” He stretched the word friend longer, giving it more attention.
Jonathan shrugged and wished he could stop the redness flushing in his cheeks. Did Dillon suspect something? Did he know the truth already?
“I’ve met Robert a few times, you know.” Dillon looked over at Duffy.
“Have you, by Jove!” Duffy said.
Dillon smirked, his lips pulled up to one side. “I have, by Jove!” he mimicked. “I must say,” he looked back at Jonathan. “You two could be mistaken for brothers. The resemblance is uncanny.”
Jonathan closed his eyes and swallowed hard. What should he do? Deny it? Call it a coincidence? Reveal his past, his mother’s past? Disgracing her and him? Jonathan looked up. Dillon and Duffy were clearly enjoying themselves with this little game of guess who.
“You could be taken as brothers, for sure,” Duffy continued. “And what a wonderful connection to have, if indeed it were true,” he said. “Another sympathizer in America would be beneficial to the Young Irelanders. Fundraising efforts increased, etcetera. You understand my meaning, don’t you?”
“Are you brothers?” Dillon asked briskly.
Jonathan sat upright, pushing his back into the hard wooden bench behind him. They couldn’t possibly know that he and Robert were brothers. Could they?
Duffy spoke quietly across the table to him now. “When I call the deceased senior Mountbellew a scoundrel, I do not mean he cheated at Whist, Jonathan.”
“His reputation for having an eye for the ladies was well known.” Dillon said. He wasn’t staring hard at Jonathan anymore. The jeering look had vanished. “No one’s judging you,” he said, and as if he was reading Jonathan’s mind, “or your dear mother, for that matter. If indeed you have this close of a connection with Lord Robert Mountbellew, and if he feels the same way about Ireland as you do, we could use a powerful supporter like that in America.”
Johnathan nodded. “It remains here,” he said. “Your knowledge of my illegitimacy stays here. I’ll use my connection with Robert, but my mother would be destroyed if she knew that you were aware of my true lineage.”
Both Dillon and Duffy bowed their heads and remained silent.
“The only true father I will ever recognize is the man who raised me as his son. Doctor Rutherford.”
“We will take this knowledge to the grave with us,” Duffy said. “Rest assured of our confidentiality.”
“But, of course,” said Dillon shaking his head. “We shall never cause any embarrassment by mentioning it again.”
A small cough drew their attention. Jonathan smiled up at the girl now standing beside their table. Her auburn hair was tied up in a bun, and her bust was trying hard to burst out of her brown dress. She blushed, and Jonathan realized he was taking too much time.
“Hello, gentlemen. You’re back again, Jonathan?” she said.
“Finally, a dash has materialized!” Duffy said. “Yes, he’s back again—and brought his hungry old friends with him.”
“A vegetable stew today?” she asked, playing with a stray tendril next to her left ear.
“No beef stew?” Dillon said.
“Not today. And not for another long while either, I would say. There’s a shortage of beef.”
Duffy looked up at her, then over at Dillon and laughed. “What a funny world we live in. No beef! In Ireland!”
“Sorry, sir?” she said. “I don’t understand.”
Dillon shook his head. Jonathan watched his eyebrows arch even higher, the look of an astonished demon returning.
“A country whose prime industry is agriculture, and yet there is a beef shortage?” Dillon waited for her response. She looked at him, wide-eyed. “There is no shortage,” he said matter-of-factly. “You’ll find the best of Irish beef on boats to England and Europe, my dear girl.”
She swayed back and forth gently on her heels, twirling the loose tendril of hair and repeated, “Just the vegetable stew today, gentlemen.”
“Vegetable stew it is then,” Jonathan said, giving in.
After she’d left, Dillon cupped his hands over his mouth, pretended to scream into his hands, and shook his head in disbelief.
Duffy clapped him on the back. “There, there, dear boy. Let’s talk about the next edition of The Nation instead. It will cheer you up.”
“Yes, let us discuss the next edition,” Dillon said. “It will divert my attention from this shortage of beef.”
“Do you know what Denny Lane said about Thomas Davis,” Duffy asked and Dillon looked up. Jonathan sensed the mood at the table changing.
“Domhnall na Glanna?” Jonathan asked.
“One and the same, good for you,” Dillon said. “Denny Lane and Domhnall na Glanna are one and the same.”
“Do you know what Denny said?” Duffy’s eyes grew large waiting for a response.
“I do not know, Charles. What did Denny Lane say about Thomas Davis,” Dillon asked.
“He said Davis was the man who gave Ireland a soul.”
“I like that,” Jonathan said. “The man who gave Ireland a soul. You should use it in your written tribute to him in the next edition.”
“We’ll see,” Duffy said. “You mentioned Domhnall na Glanna, Jonathan. Have you a pen-name for yourself yet?”
He was about to answer when the waitress appeared carrying bowls of vegetable stew on a wooden tray. She bent over and placed a steaming bowl in front of each man, along with three large spoons. Jonathan eyed her bulging breasts as she leaned in front of him. When he looked up, Dillon was watching him and grinning.
“Ale?” Dillon said as he looked at the young girl who was back to twiddling with the stray curl again.
“Three ales?” she asked. She was looking at him, not at Dillon or Duffy. Jonathan smirked.
“Yes. Three ales,” Dillon nodded. “Thank you.” He began spooning up his vegetable stew. “Not too bad.” He looked up at Jonathan. “And I am referring to the vegetable stew.”
“Not bad at all,” Duffy said. “Now, back to your pen-name dear boy. Have you decided on one yet? We cannot use your real name. And a pen-name will, of course, give you the freedom to write without censure or fear of discovery.”
“I have chosen Náisiúnaithe,” Jonathan said.
“It’s Irish?” Duffy asked. Jonathan nodded. “Say it again?”
Jonathan said it slowly, “Náisiúnaithe,” enunciating each syllable for him.
“Nashoonta,” Dillon said. “I like it. What does it mean?”
Jonathan said, “It means nationalist.”
“Well then,” Dillon said, eyeing Jonathan over a heaping hot spoon of vegetable stew. “If Mary Ann Kelly can be Eve of the Nation, and Lady Jane Wilde can be Speranza, then you, by all means, are Nashoonta,” he said.
“What about your article?” Duffy asked.
As Jonathan reached into his leather satchel to retrieve his article, “Abolition’s Interference with Repeal,” he felt the newspaper touch his fingertips and pulled out The Gardener’s Chronicle.
“Gentlemen, have you heard this news?”
“What news?” Dillon asked.
“Potato blight in Ireland,” Jonathan said.
Editor’s Note: Loretto Leary’s forthcoming novel Stained Glass chronicles the years leading up to the Young Ireland Rebellion of 1848. The situation in Ireland is dire. Stealing clothes to keep warm, or food to satiate your hunger might land you on a convict ship bound for Van Diemen’s Land on the opposite end of the world. The novel follows the lives of three half-brothers: Jonathan, the middle brother, works as a barrister in a law office in Dublin. He is a member of The Young Irelanders. His brother William, the youngest, inherits Essex Estate in England through Ascendancy Law, leaving his Catholic brothers to inherit nothing. Robert, the eldest, smuggles weapons from America to assist with the rebellion in Ireland. The novel also follows the life of Mairead, Robert’s wife, who misses Ireland and finds her new life in Connecticut difficult.