What the Wind Knows (Page 30)
Maybe the difference between the “real” Anne Gallagher and me was that Brigid was her mother-in-law and Brigid was my great-great-grandmother. Brigid’s blood ran in my veins. She was part of me—how big a part, only my DNA would tell, but she belonged to me, and I wanted to know her. The first Anne might not have felt the same sense of belonging.
Thomas went to Dublin for a few days in the middle of August. He wanted to bring me along, and Eoin too, but changed his mind in the end. He seemed reluctant to leave and anxious to go, but he made me promise, as he stuck his medical bag and a small suitcase in the back seat of his Model T, that I would still be at Garvagh Glebe when he returned.
“Don’t leave, Anne,” he said, his hat in his hands, fear in his eyes. “Promise me you’ll stay close. Promise me so I can do what I need to do in Dublin without my head running back here.”
I had nodded with only a flicker of fear. If I hadn’t gone home yet, it was doubtful I ever would again. Maybe Thomas saw the flicker in my eyes, faint as it was, for he pulled in a sigh and held it, weighing it, considering it, before he released it with a gust of submission.
“I won’t go,” he said. “I’ll wait a bit longer.”
“Thomas, go. I’ll be here when you get back. I promise.”
He looked for a moment at my mouth, as if he wanted to kiss it, to taste it for the truth, but Eoin rushed out of the house and threw himself at Thomas, demanding affection and wheedling a prize from Dublin if he was very good while Thomas was away. Thomas lifted him easily and hugged him close before extracting his own promises.
“I’ll bring you back a present if you mind your nana and look after your mother. And don’t let her go near the lough,” he said to Eoin, raising his pale-blue eyes to mine as he set the boy back on the ground.
My heart lurched, and a memory flooded back, bringing with it an odd sense of déjà vu and a line tripping through my mind.
“Don’t go near the water, love, the lough will take you far from me,” I murmured, and Thomas cocked his head.
“What?” he asked.
“Nothing. Just something I read once.”
“Why can’t Mother go near the lough?” Eoin asked, confused. “We go there all the time. We walk on the shore and skip rocks. Mother showed me how.”
Eoin had taught me how to skip rocks, once upon a time. Yet another dizzying circle of what came first.
Thomas frowned, ignoring Eoin’s question, and sighed again, as if his head and stomach were at war with one another.
“Thomas, go. All will be well while you are gone,” I said firmly.
22 August 1921
I drove to Dublin with both hands on the wheel and my heart in my throat. I’d had little contact with Mick since de Valera had returned and Lord French had been replaced as general governor. I wasn’t much help to Mick in the scheme of things. I was nothing but a sounding board. A friend. A financial backer and a secret keeper who did what I could, where I could. But still, I’d been away too long, and despite the truce, I was worried.
I met Mick and Joe O’Reilly, Mick’s personal assistant, at Devlin’s Pub. They were huddled in the back room Mick had been given for an office. The door was left ajar so he could see trouble coming. The rear exit provided a quick escape. Mick was at Devlin’s more than he was at his own apartment. He rarely stayed in one place too long, and if it weren’t for the loyalty of average citizens, who knew exactly who he was and never said a word despite the reward on his head, he would have been captured long ago. His reputation had grown to epic proportions, and I was afraid much of the rub with the president of the Dáil was due to Mick’s popularity. I became alarmed when he told me Dev (de Valera) was considering sending him to America to “get him out of the fight.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Mick is the fight, and I told him as much. Without him, our Irish rebellion is all symbolism and suffering with no results—just like every other Irish rebellion over the last several hundred years has been.
Joe O’Reilly agreed with me, and I wondered for the first time how old Joe O’Reilly was. Young. He had to be younger than me. But the man was worn thin. Mick was too. His stomach had been bothering him, the pain so intense I suspected ulcers and made him promise to adjust his diet.
“Dev won’t send me away—he can’t get any support for it. But he might send me to London, Doc. He’s making noise about sending me to negotiate the terms of a treaty,” Mick said.
I told Mick I thought that was good news, until he told me de Valera wanted to stay behind, in Dublin.
Mick said, “He’s been meeting with Lloyd George for months over the truce, yet now he wants to stand back when it’s time to negotiate a treaty? Dev isn’t stupid. He’s wily. He’s playing puppet master.”
“So you’re the scapegoat.” It wasn’t a hard conclusion to arrive at.
“I am. He wants me to take the fall when it fails. We won’t get everything we want. We might not get anything we want. And we sure as hell won’t get an Irish Republic with no partition between the north and south. Dev knows this. He knows England has the power to crush us in a head-to-head conflict. We have three, maybe four thousand fighting men. That’s it. He knows nothing about the strategy we’ve engaged in.”
Mick’s heels dug into the floor with agitation, and I could only listen as he paced and talked through his fears. “We’ve fought dirty and we’ve fought lean. We’ve relied on the Irish people to hide us, to shelter us, to feed us, and to keep their mouths shut. And they have. Goddammit, they have! Even when farms were burned in Cork last year, and businesses were torched in every county. When reprisals were being carried out in Sligo and priests were being shot in the head by Auxies for refusing to point fingers at their parishioners. When young men who had nothing to do with Bloody Sunday were being tortured and hung because someone had to pay, nobody talked, nobody turned.”
Mick fell into a chair and took a deep swallow of the stout in front of him, wiping at his mouth before he continued.
“All we’re asking—all we’ve been asking for centuries—is for them to leave. To let us govern ourselves. Lloyd George knows that to declare all-out war on the Irish people will not go over well in the world court. The Catholic Church has made a statement of condemnation against Britain’s tactics. They’ve begged George to consider an Irish solution. America has even gotten involved. And that is our linchpin. But we can’t continue on this way. Ireland can’t.”
Ireland can’t. And Mick can’t. Joe O’Reilly can’t either. Something has to give.
“Will you go?” I asked Mick, and he nodded.
“I don’t see any other way. I’ll do my best. Whatever that is. I’m not a statesman.”
“Thank God for that,” Joe O’Reilly said, clapping him on the back.
“Dev’s surely not sending you alone. You know Lloyd George will have a team of lawyers and negotiators,” I worried.
“He wants to send Arthur too. He belongs there, and he’ll represent us well. There will be a few more, I’m sure.”
“I’ll be there too. In London. If you need me,” I said. “They won’t let me sit at the negotiating table, but you’ll have my ear if you need it.”
He nodded and sighed heavily, as if talking through it had already helped. His eyes were clearer, his posture less agitated. And he suddenly smiled, a wicked twist of his lips that put me immediately on edge.
“I heard through my network of spies that you have a woman living in your house, Doc. A beautiful woman you’ve made no mention of in your letters. Is she the reason you’ve stayed away from Dublin so long? Has the mighty Thomas Smith been smitten at last?”
When I told him it was Anne—Declan’s Anne—his mouth fell open, and he had nothing to say for a good stretch. Joe hadn’t known Declan or Anne and sipped his stout quietly, waiting for me to explain, though he probably welcomed the silence. I didn’t suppose Joe or Mick ever sat for long. Joe rode his bike all over Dublin, delivering Mick’s dispatches and keeping the cogs oiled.
“She’s been alive all this time . . . and she never sent word?” Mick whispered.
I told him how I’d found her in the lough, a gunshot wound in her side, and he stared at me, dumbfounded.
“Oh, Tommy. Be careful, my friend. Be very, very careful. There are forces at work you can’t even begin to understand. Spies come in all shapes and sizes. You don’t know where she’s been or who’s gotten to her. I don’t like the sound of this at all.”
I nodded wordlessly, knowing he was right. I’ve been telling myself the very same things from the moment I pulled her from the water. I didn’t tell Mick she knew about the truce before it even happened. And I didn’t tell him that I’m already in love with her.
I did the dragon’s will until you came
Because I had fancied love a casual
Improvisation, or a settled game.
And then you stood among the dragon-rings.
I mocked, being crazy, but you mastered it