The Quiet Man
This is from the short story by Maurice Walsh that inspired the John Ford movie starring Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne.
Big Liam was no fool. He knew exactly how far he could go. There was no use, at this juncture, in crushing the runt under a great fist. There was some force in the little fellow that defied dragooning. Whatever people might think of Kelvin, public opinion would be dead against himself.
Worse, his inward vision saw eyes leering in derision, mouths open in laughter. The scandal on his name would not be surrounded by the four seas of Erin. He must change his stance while he had time. These thoughts passed through his mind while he thudded the ground three times with iron-shod heel. Now he threw up his head and bellowed his laugh.
“You fool! I was only making fun of you. What are your dirty few pounds to the likes of me? Stay where you are.” He turned, strode furiously away, and disappeared through the arch.
Shawn Kelvin was left alone in that wide ring of men. The hands had come down off the ricks and thresher to see closer. Now they moved back and aside, looked at one another, lifted eyebrows, looked at Shawn Kelvin, frowned and shook their heads. They knew Big Liam. They knew that, yielding up the money, his savagery would break out into something little short of killing. They waited most of them, to prevent that savagery going too far.
Shawn Kelvin did not look at anyone. He stood still as a rock, his hands deep in his pockets; one shoulder hunched forward, his eyes on the ground and his face strangely calm. He seemed the least perturbed man here. Matt Tobin held Ellen’s arm in a steadying grip and whispered in her ear: “God is good, tell you.”
Big Liam was back in two minutes. He strode straight to Shawn and halted within a pace of him. “Look, Shawneen!” In his raised hand was a crumpled bundle of greasy bank notes. “Here is your money. Take it, and then see what will happen to you. Take it!” He thrust it into Shawn’s hand. “Count it. Make sure you have it all-and then I will kick you out of this haggard – and look” he thrust forward a hairy fist “if ever I see your face again, I will drive that through it! Count it, you spawn!”
Shawn did not count it. Instead he crumpled it into a ball in his strong fingers. Then he turned on his heel and walked, with surprising slowness, to the face of the engine. He gestured with one hand to Matt Tobin, but it was Ellen, quick as a flash, who obeyed the gesture. Though the hot bar scorched her hand, she jerked open the door of the firebox and the leaping peat flames whispered out at her. And forthwith, Shawn Kelvin, with one easy sweep, threw the crumpled ball of notes into the heart of the flame. The whisper lifted one tone and one scrap of burned paper floated out of the funnel top. That was all the fuss the fire made of its work. But there was fuss enough outside.
Big Liam O’Grady gave one mighty shout. No, it was more an anguished scream then a shout: “My money! My good money!” He gave two furious bounds forward, his great arms raised to crush and kill. But his hands never touched the small man.