'Darcy and O'Mara' is a novel by Arthur Cronin.
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Thursday, February 15, 2007


The garden is showing signs of life again. I cut the grass recently. It seems a shame to be cutting things as soon as they start growing. Some people would say there's a lesson on life in that. But the grass keeps growing despite being cut, and I have to keep cutting it. There's a more depressing lesson on life in that.

My cousin Charlotte was always looking for a chance to practise her match-making skills, and a friend of hers, Denise, provided the perfect opportunity. Denise had seventeen rabbits. She put an ad in the lonely hearts section of the newspaper once, and everyone knew it was her because the man she was looking for 'must like French films and seventeen rabbits'.

The ad didn't work. Charlotte knew a man who was looking for someone too, and she decided to bring them together, but she knew they'd be too nervous if she told them the outcome she had in mind (she wouldn't have actually told Denise anyway -- she'd have just let the rabbits demonstrate it). So she decided to put them in a room and let nature take its course.

After a lot of careful manouvering and prodding, she got them alone together, but all nature did was to make them argue about New Zealand. The next time Denise met Charlotte she kept complaining about him. Martin complained about her too. Charlotte thought there was hope for them yet because at least they felt something for each other, even though they both would have been happy seeing the other one being bitten by a wild animal who might have an infectious disease that can be passed on to humans, but after tests and weeks of worry it's found that the animal doesn't have this disease.

The next time they met, they argued again, and their dislike of each other grew to the point at which they hoped the animal would have the disease.

Charlotte thought she could still save the situation if she could just find something they have in common. There was no obvious connection. He didn't like French films and he was indifferent towards rabbits. She interviewed both of them individually. Neither realised they were being interviewed. They assumed she was genuinely interested in how much jam they use every week, or what their favourite tree was. But she couldn't find anything between the two of them.

Charlotte decided to get the help of a woman called Maria who was always falling in love. Almost every time Charlotte saw her she one of the two players in a passionate embrace/gaze with a man who previously had passionate affairs with women in Swiss mountain villas. She had an extraordinary ability to find that sort of man in a town full of the sort of men who argued and fought over how many rats they'd shot.

The last time they met, Charlotte said something about the weather and Maria said, "He was an artist. We fell in love. He painted me on the hills and he said I was his wild flower. And now he's gone."

Every 'we fell in love' was inevitably followed by an 'and now he's gone', which was once followed by a 'to Russia to recover his fortune'. An ability to fall in love so frequently must be must be accompanied by a disposition for emotional goodbyes in the middle of the night, standing in the rain. But her expertise in love was the important thing. Martin would never leave Denise because his half-brother was thrown off a train by a European aristocrat.

So Charlotte went to see Maria and told her about Denise and Martin. Maria went to see Martin and said, "Come with me."

She led him away by the hand, and he let her because he didn't know how to object to a woman like Maria.

She took him to Denise. She let go of Martin's hand and she whispered something to Denise, who smiled at Martin.

Maria said to him, "You must take her to dinner. You must descend with her into the sad beauty of life or rise above to see the streetlights below, sparkling points of light in a distant night time land. You must cry."

He tried to look as if he knew what he was doing. "You must come to dinner with me," he said, and he tried to sound like the sort of man who'd challenge European aristocrats to duels. He didn't quite reach that level, but it was good enough to make Denise weak in the knees. That sort of man didn't normally talk to women who had seventeen rabbits.

They walked away. Charlotte asked Maria what she had whispered. She said, "I told her he once shot a man who laughed when a woman dropped her glove."

"I'd never have thought of something like that."

"Could you do a favour for me?"

"Just name it."

"I need you to visit a man. Every time I see him it ends in tears. I want you to tell him I'm dying inside, and when I'm dead inside I'll be able to see him and say, 'Ah, Alexander, we were young once. Once we were young and foolish and we lived where the golden evening sun starts fires in the edges of the white clouds after a day of rain. They didn't understand. They didn't know. No one knew. And in the end they were right.'"

"I should probably write this down."

Maria also gave her a small box to give to Alexander. On the way to his house, Charlotte opened the box, and there was an engagement ring inside.

He lived in an old house just outside the town. He was knocking down an interior wall with a hammer when Charlotte got there. She gave him the ring and passed on the general gist of the message. He put the ring on a writing desk. From a drawer in the desk he took a Polaroid camera, and from another drawer he took a revolver. He pointed the camera at his face and the revolver at the side of his head. Charlotte froze in shock. She didn't know if he was going to take a photo or pull the trigger. She nearly fainted when she heard a click, but it was just the camera. He put the gun on the desk, and he gave the photo to Charlotte. "Give this to her," he said.

When Maria saw the photo she said, "Poor, stupid Alexander."

"He seemed nice," Charlotte said. "Isn't there any way you could marry him?"

"My heart says yes but my head says no. I've been through this often enough to know my head is always right."

Charlotte wanted to bring them together, but she didn't know how to do it. She didn't think there was anything she could whisper about shooting people that would make Maria see him in a different light.

She said, "What exactly is your head's objection to Alexander?"

"We're just too different. We'd only be the same in the way we drift apart."

"The photo suggests he has no intention of drifting away from you."

"Feelings seize him. They take control and make him reckless, and then they fade and let him drift away."

"You have so much more in common with him than you have with someone like Martin."

"Men like Martin are too good for women like me. Their intangible beauty will always remain a mystery."

"Too good? So your head would approve of someone like Martin?"

"My head and heart would be anchored to his immediate vicinity for evermore."

A plan was forming in Charlotte's head. That night she sat in her car on the street where Denise lived. She saw Denise and Martin return from their date. They kissed briefly, and then Denise went inside. Martin walked away with a smile on his face. As he passed Charlotte's car, she leant across and opened the door on the passenger's side. "Get in the car," she said.

She was the third woman to issue with a command in the space of a few hours. He was glad he had obeyed 'come with me' and 'kiss me', so he was happy to obey Charlotte.

She took him to Maria's house. She rang the doorbell and she said to Martin, "Just tell her a bit about yourself."

When Maria opened the door, Charlotte pushed him in and said, "He's all yours."

When he said the word 'The' he was the perfect mix of mystery and intangible beauty in Maria's mind, but by the time he finished the sentence with the words 'so that's why I shouldn't put things up my nose' he was something else entirely, something her head strongly disapproved of. Her brain's policy u-turn with regard to men like Martin was reflected in the reversal of her attitude to men like Alexander. She went straight to Alexander's house. He dropped the hammer and they embraced. They cried.

Charlotte was delighted. She hadn't directly brought about the union of Denise and Martin, but she could take full responsibility for Maria and Alexander's engagement, and that felt like catching a shark when she'd only been fishing for mackeral.

The moose's head over the fireplace likes traditional music, so we often play some for him in the evenings. I don't know where he stands on Irish dancing. His lack of legs would hinder any sort of a stance, especially one regarding dancing. The wife's uncle says he knew a one-legged man who was a great Irish dancer. He used to hit his head with his wooden leg while he danced.