The Collar

The Collar by Frank O'Connor Read Free Book Online

Book: The Collar by Frank O'Connor Read Free Book Online
Authors: Frank O'Connor
that,’ protested Father Michael in his deep, sombre voice. ‘They have their little ways, and we have ours, and if we both knew more about one another we’d like one another better.’
    Then, to illustrate what he meant, he told her the story of old Father Dan Murphy, a Tipperary priest who had spent his life on the mission, and the Bishop. The Bishop was a decent, honourable little man, but quite unable to understand the ways of his Irish priests. One evening old Father Dan had called on Father Michael to tell him he would have to go home. The old man was terribly shaken. He had just received a letter from the Bishop, a terrible letter, a letter so bad that he couldn’t even show it. It wasn’t so much what the Bishop had said as the way he put it! And when Father Michael had pressed him the old man had whispered that the Bishop had begun his letter: ‘Dear Murphy’.
    â€˜Oh!’ cried Sister Margaret, clapping her hand to her mouth. ‘He didn’t, Father Michael?’
    So, seeing that she didn’t understand the situation any more than Father Dan had done, Father Michael explained that this was how an Englishman would address anyone except a particular friend. It was a convention; nothing more.
    â€˜Oh, I wouldn’t say that at all,’ Sister Margaret exclaimed indignantly. ‘“Dear Murphy”? Oh, I’m surprised at you, Father Michael! What way is that to write to a priest? How can they expect people to have respect for religion when they show no respect for it themselves? Oh, that’s the English all out! Listen, I have it every day of my life from them. I don’t know how anyone can stand them.’
    Sister Margaret was his best friend in the community; he knew the other nuns relied on him to handle her, and it was a genuine worry to him to see her getting into this unreasonable state.
    â€˜Oh, come! Come!’ he said reproachfully. ‘How well Sister Teresa and Sister Bonaventura get on with them!’
    â€˜I suppose I shouldn’t say it,’ she replied in a low, brooding voice, ‘but, God forgive me, I can’t help it. I’m afraid Sister Teresa and Sister Bonaventura are not genuine .’
    â€˜Now, you’re not being fair,’ he said gravely.
    â€˜Oh, now, it’s no good you talking,’ she cried, waving her hand petulantly. ‘They’re not genuine, and you know they’re not genuine. They’re lickspittles. They give in to the English nuns in everything. Oh, they have no independence! You wouldn’t believe it.’
    â€˜We all have to give in to things for the sake of charity,’ he said.
    â€˜I don’t call that charity at all, father,’ she replied obstinately. ‘I call that moral cowardice. Why should the English have it all their own way? Even in religion they go on as if they owned the earth. They tell me I’m disloyal and a pro-German, and I say to them: “What did you ever do to make me anything else?” Then they pretend that we were savages, and they came over and civilised us! Did you ever in all your life hear such impudence? People that couldn’t even keep their religion when they had it, and now they have to send for us to teach it to them again.’
    â€˜Well, of course, that’s all true enough,’ he said, ‘but we must remember what they’re going through.’
    â€˜And what did we have to go through?’ she asked shortly. ‘Oh, now, father, it’s all very well to be talking, but I don’t see why we should have to make all the sacrifices. Why don’t they think of all the terrible things they did to us? And all because we were true to our religion when they weren’t! I’m after sending home for an Irish history, father, and, mark my words, the next time one of them begins picking at me, I’ll give her her answer. The impudence!’
    Suddenly Father Michael stopped and

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