The mother did not answer this question directly. She began talking in a way that did not seem to have anything to do with the rent, though it really had something to do with it, in her own mind, and perhaps in her son's mind too.
"It's over-tired that you are with your hard day's work, Shaun," she said, "and that and seeing Kitty so tired, too, has maybe made you look at things a little worse than they are. We've never been so bad off as many of our neighbors; you know that. And yet I know it's been worse of late and harder for you than it might have been, and you can't remember the better times that our family had, and that's why you forget that the times were ever better. No, you wasn't born then, but the time was when good luck seemed to follow your father and me everywhere and always. Yes, and the good luck has not all left us yet, though we had the bad luck to lose your father so long ago. We could not hope to be rich or happy while the whole country was in such distress as it's been sometimes, yet there were always many that were worse off than we, and when I think of those days of '47 and '48 it makes the sorrows seem light that we're suffering now. And I always know that whatever comes, there'll be some good for me and mine while I live. I've told you how I know that, but you always forget, and I must tell you again."
They had not forgotten. They knew the story that was coming by heart, but they knew that the old woman liked to tell it, so they let her go on and said not a word.
For a little while, too, the old woman said not a word. She sat with her eyes closed, and smiling, as if she were in a dream. Then she began to speak softly, as if she were still only just waking out of a dream. "Blessed days there were," she said—"blessed days for Ireland once—long ago—many hundreds of years. O'Donoghue—it was he was the good King, and happy were his people. A fierce warrior he was to guard them from their enemies, and a just ruler to those who minded his laws.