A classic tale by one of America's most beloved storytellers.
High in the cold skies above China, Daniel Farrell flew alone, a spy pilot on secret surveillance. It was to be his last mission. . . .
When the news of his loss was reported to his family, the rich and influential Farrells of Chicago, they mourned him and let the years bury what was too painful to face . . . until a granddaughter's innocent school assignment threatened to expose the family's hidden skeletons.
The Farrells had worked their way up from poverty to become the owners of a Chicago construction empire. But behind the façade of piety and public service, the family hid a shocking private scandal. There was a reason they had never insisted on a full investigation of the disappearance of Danny Farrell. . . .
With a master storyteller's skill, Andrew M. Greeley disentangles the web of deception to reveal the souls of men and women ravaged by love and hate and the struggle for success.
About the Author
Priest, sociologist, author, and journalist, Father Andrew M. Greeley (1928-2013) was the author of over 50 bestselling novels and more than 100 works of nonfiction. His novels include the Bishop Blackie Ryan series, including The Archbishop in Andalusia; the Nuala Anne McGrail series, including Irish Tweed; the O’Malley Family Saga, including A Midwinter’s Tale; and standalones such as Home for Christmas and The Cardinal Sins.
A leading spokesperson for generations of Catholics, Father Greeley unflinchingly urged his beloved Church to become more responsive to believers’ evolving concerns. He chronicled his service to the Church in two autobiographies, Confessions of a Parish Priest and Furthermore!
Read an Excerpt
Lord of the Dance
By Andrew M. Greeley
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 1984 Andrew Greeley Enterprises, Ltd.
All rights reserved.
Tomorrow shall be my dancing day,
I would my true love did so chance
To see the legend of my play,
To call my true love to my dance
Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love
"My Dancing Day"
A Medieval Good Friday Carol
Glowing in the distance, cool, firm, confident, the Himalayas reminded him of Irene. Irish male breast fixation, she would say with an amused little smile. He would reply that at least he had good taste in his fixations. And she would blush with delight, limitless in her capacity to absorb compliments.
He had made the prescribed sweeping turn over the Sinkiang plateau at a point a hundred miles short of the Russian border. At least his sextant, a dubious instrument at best, assured him that Russia was still a hundred miles away.
Halfway home. The sun now at his back. The prevailing winds, too. May the wind be at your back. A long way from the old neighborhood, where that was a wedding toast.
And may you be in heaven a half hour before the devil knows you're dead. ... He grinned. No toast yet for him. Jackie would have to give it when he got back. ... No, not the ruggedly handsome young priest, better the intellectual — Roger. Something more elaborate than an old Irish American cliché. ... Damn. He missed them both. Too much of their father, Clancy, in them. Still, they were mostly Brigid's kids. ...
Six more hours. The station chief had told him it was the less important half of the trip, not that you could believe anything they said there. He was stiff and uncomfortable in his pressure suit. This giant blackbird, for all its soaring grace, was more cranky than the others. It needed careful nursing every mile.
You flew over the Himalayas because they were there — and on the way to his destination in northern Thailand. They made him think of Irene again.
Was her ability to forgive as great as her passion? He thought it might be. Lord knows she would have to forgive him for the rest of their lives.
The sun turned the mountains red, reminding him of another haunting image: his uncle Clancy at the foot of the stairs, blood pouring from his head, all that anger snuffed out, looking like a broken Christmas toy.
And then more blood: a young woman's face. Not Irene. Someone else. His mother, probably. She and Irene were often confused in his dreams.
What had really happened to his mother on that day? Did he remember it? Or did he merely remember the stories he had heard when he was older?
A beautiful young face, smashed bloody like Uncle Clancy's. And he was responsible both times.
He would not let it happen to Irene.
Another year and a half on his contract. What could the Chinese be doing down there that was so interesting? In a year they would have spy satellites and they wouldn't need the great blackbirds, half jet and half sailplane.
They would find some use for them, though. And for the kooks who flew them.
They traded the Russians for Gary Powers. No trades with the Chinese.
God, I need Irene. Okay, God, since I brought you up, you know how much I need her.
And she needs me. She'll never survive them without me.
Irene leaning over him on the beach, her long hair touching his motionless body, tantalizing him until he thought he would lose his mind; then the edge of her fingernails ...
And her blunt warning that he would have to grow up. Their last day together and their last fight.
He hardly noticed the flameout; there was only a change in the sound and an ever so slight downward tilt of the bird. It had happened before. Let her float a few thousand feet and start it over.
He tried at 60,000, 55,000, 50,000. No dice. The Chinese MIGs could make it no higher than 45,000 — that's what they told him.
The bird floated lower. 30,000 and still no MIGs. 25,000. Time to jettison, destroy the plane, walk out of Sinkiang.
Where to? Russia?
He pushed the eject button. No reaction. Sixty seconds and the plane would blow up. He pushed the button again. Still no ejection.
Something was beginning to smell. He watched the second hand sweep on his watch: thirty, twenty, ten ...
Forgive me, I love —
No explosion. Something badly wrong.
Then the MIGs, dancing up to him like angry mosquitoes. The little puffs of light from their tracers. Shoot first, little Chinese friends, ask questions later.
Put the plane into a dive, evade them, try the motor again. It wouldn't start. A MIG following him down. More tracers.
A kaleidoscope of faces. His mother, eyes open and staring; Brigid, her white lace gown torn and covered with blood; Clancy, blood pouring from his head; John, the self-satisfied young priest; Roger, the faintly supercilious intellectual; Irene ...
UNE INFANTE DÉFUNTE
"A slow, processional type of dance, often combined with a galliard, and later with the saraband and the gigue, and occasionally a hornpipe, into the classical suite."
"What was Uncle Danny REALLY like?" Noele Farrell handed her uncle an old newspaper clipping, her green eyes flashing dangerously.
Monsignor John Farrell regretted that he had scheduled this interview with his niece on Saturday morning. Jim Mortimer would be along shortly, and he should be planning a strategy for dealing with the cardinal's emissary instead of dodging questions about the Farrell family past. And there was a month of parish records to catch up on before confessions this afternoon. In the old days curates had done that sort of work.
"He really wasn't your uncle, Noele," he said wearily, "even though he and your father and I were raised together. He was our cousin and not our younger brother."
Noele made an impatient face, a princess displeased. "I know that," she said, dismissing his passion for precision. "It's easier for me to think of him as an uncle than as a cousin. Right?" CHICAGO PILOT REPORTED MISSING OVER CHINA, said the black headline from the Chicago Tribune of seventeen years ago. John Farrell did not need to reread the story: The Chinese government reported that People's Liberation Army jets had shot down an American spy plane over Sinkiang, the vast and unpopulated steppe in western China, and that a CIA spy, Daniel X. Farrell of Chicago, was killed in the crash. The American government denied any knowledge of the plane or of Daniel X. Farrell. The Farrell family said through a spokesman that Daniel Farrell, a graduate of Annapolis, had left the United States Navy the previous year after three years of active service and was understood to be working in a secret government job. "The son of the late Commander and Mrs. Martin Farrell and the nephew of the late Clarence 'Clancy' Farrell, president of Farrell & Sons Construction Company, Daniel Farrell was a member of one of Chicago's most politically powerful families, a family that has been dogged by tragedy. ..."
"Why is it necessary to understand Danny?" John asked. "As a matter of fact, why is it necessary to write a term paper about our family history?"
Noele smiled, flashing two rows of flawless white teeth. "It is necessary to do the term paper, Uncle Monsignor, because S'ter Amanda assigned it, and it's necessary to understand Uncle Danny because he is part of my heritage."
"Don't try to glamorize him, Noele." He placed the newspaper clipping on the carefully polished oak of the rectory office desk and straightened the edges of the red leather blotter. "Danny was a charming, witty, gifted child on his way to wasting his life. He was thrown out of the Navy for telling off a commanding officer. Then he took a crazy job with the CIA because he wanted to make a lot of money in a hurry. He thought he was going to be a writer or something of that sort. And he drank too much. If he hadn't died in that plane crash, he would probably be an incurable alcoholic by now. I think God did all of us a favor, including Danny, when he called him home early in life.
"Let the dead bury their dead," he continued heavily. "You're almost seventeen now, Noele. Soon you'll be an adult with adult responsibilities. It's time for you to discover what life is all about, to become serious and mature. ..."
"Yuksville." Noele's lips dismissed maturity with quick contempt.
Trying to tame Noele, John realized, was like riding a spring storm. Yet she had to be tamed if she was to be prevented from doing herself great harm.
And everyone else in the family too.
"It's true," he continued, trying to sound relentless. "And wasting your time daydreaming about Dan Farrell, dead for all these years, is simply not mature behavior."
A cloud seemed to appear in Noele's glowing green eyes, a cloud, perhaps, of shrewd suspicion. John stirred uneasily and wished the phone at his elbow would ring. One moment she was a giggly, gum-chewing sixteen-year-old, talking the strange teenage version of English, and the next moment an all-knowing, ageless witch.
"You sound like you didn't like him very much, Uncle," she said softly. "And why don't you want me poking around in the family past?"
John tried not to gasp in surprise. Once again Noele, without apparently noticing what she was doing, had responded not to what he'd said but to what he'd thought.
She was not a lush, full-bodied Venus like her mother, but rather a lithe, slender Diana, a dancer and a gymnast with the graceful movements of a ballerina or an Italian policeman directing traffic or a hypnotist conjuring up miracles. You almost did not notice her trim body and finely carved facial features because you were so startled by the colors of her beauty. She was a Celtic goddess in the nineteenth-century illustrations of Irish folklore books, strange, unreal, almost unearthly. Her long, bright red hair, contrasting sharply with her pale, buttermilk skin, swept across the room after her like moving fire. Her green eyes absorbed you as if you were a glass of iced tea on a hot summer evening; they were neither soft green nor cat green, but shamrock green, kelly green. She seemed a pre-Christian deity, a visitor from the many-colored lands of Irish antiquity.
"On the contrary, Noele, I liked him enormously; so did everyone." He hoped he sounded sincere. The words were at least partially true. "Danny was one of the most charming and delightful men I have ever known, with a fantastic sense of humor. ... You never knew what crazy trick Danny would do next."
"It must have been hard on you and Dad and Grams when he was killed so soon after Grandpa Clancy died."
John wet his lips nervously. How much did she know about Clancy's death?
"It was very hard on your grandmother, Noele. She loved Danny like a son. In fact, your father and I, we used to kid her that he was her favorite son." They never would have dared say that. Brigid's fury was often much greater than her husband's because she could be angry cold sober. Only Danny dared defy her. John occasionally wondered if Brigid had had a love affair with Martin, her brother-in-law and Danny's father, long ago. She was capable of it, God knows. That might explain her delight in Danny and her grief when Danny died.
Damn him. And damn Brigid, too. A notorious and public sinner.
"And she was only a few years older than your mother is now," John continued. "Awfully young to lose a husband. And especially because he was, well, moderately drunk, something that didn't happen to Dad very often. But you know Grams. She pulled herself together and took charge of everything."
Noele was looking at a photograph of Danny in his white naval aviator's uniform that she had taken from a folder full of clippings, notes, and family pictures. "I wonder what he would have been like if he had lived. Maybe he would have surprised us all. He sure was cute. ... Is the CIA certain he was killed?"
"The CIA never admitted to us that he was working for them. But Congressman Burns, the father of our present Congressman Burns ..."
"I know all about the Burns family, Uncle," Noele said complacently. "I mean, like totally, right?"
"Oh, yes, I forgot that our next Congressman Burns is a special friend of yours."
"Jaimie is going to be a senator," Noele announced with the timeless confidence of an Irish woman who has planned her man's life for him. "At least if he listens to me he is. ANYWAY, what did his grandfather find out from the CIA?"
"The man who came to visit him in Washington wouldn't admit he was with the CIA but said that the Chinese didn't have the antiaircraft guns to shoot down a U-2. They had learned the plane had crashed because of some mechanical failure, and Danny survived the crash but died later, either because of injuries or because the Chinese executed him. That's all we were told."
Noele shook her head sadly. "Poor Danny. ... Well, Uncle Monsignor, you've looked at your watch five times in the last two minutes, so I'd better gather up my notes and go home and start to write the paper — after I watch Jaimie beat Miami on TV." Noele bounded up from her chair, scattering the folder of family photographs on the plush carpet of the rectory office. With pantherlike grace she was on the floor scooping them up before John Farrell could move from his custom-made executive's chair.
"Hey, this relative is totally gorgeous. Notre Dame sweatshirt, too; they haven't changed much, have they? Which one is she, Uncle?"
"That's a picture of Flossie Carey, Danny's mother, before she married my Uncle Martin."
"Did they ever have funny hairstyles in those days."
Poor Flossie. She had indeed been gorgeous. Should have stayed away from the Farrells.
How many bitter fights with her son, Daniel. And good times, too. Great fun ditching Roger. John had hated Danny Farrell's guts, and at the same time adored him. When he thought he was in love that summer at Grand Beach, it was Danny who persuaded him to return to the seminary. Said the girl was worthless. Then fell for her himself. ...
All the Farrells in Noele's dossier are dead. ...
"I know they're dead," Noele said, responding to his thought again, "but they're part of me. And I have to know who I am."
The rectory doorbell chimed as he opened the office door for her, an office carefully designed to create an atmosphere of solid, dark brown warmth. He checked his reflection in a mirror in the hallway to make sure his razor-cut, stylishly long hair was properly arranged and his clerical suit as trimly fitting as it ought to be.
The housekeeper, somewhat awed, was admitting Monsignor James Mortimer.
John introduced Noele to Monsignor Mortimer with a touch of pride. Balloonhead would not have a niece like her. She favored the cardinal's errand boy with a smile and her warmest "Hi, Monsignor." Balloonhead hardly acknowledged her existence, save for a vague grimace of disapproval at Noele's green Notre Dame warm-up suit. ... Emissaries of the cardinal had no time for teenagers, especially when they were dressed inappropriately for a rectory office.
"Thank you, Uncle John. Do you have skeletons in your family closet, Monsignor Mortimer?"
"Only the rich Irish can afford to have skeletons, Miss Farrell," Balloonhead replied solemnly.
"I opened a closet the other day and five skeletons fell on me." Noele pecked at her uncle's cheek and then bounded down the stairs into the golden October sunlight, turning to wave merrily at him just as he closed the rectory door.
She's not going to let go of it, John Farrell decided. When I get rid of Mortimer I will have to call Irene and warn her. There are too many things that could go wrong, especially if her father is dumb enough to decide to run for governor.
"Come on upstairs, Jim," he said to Mortimer. "Mix you a drink?"
Balloonhead blundered up the staircase like a hippo coming out of a tropical river, his idea of the way a man weighed down with the problems of the church would walk. "I never drink before lunch," he announced at the top of his voice.
Even sounded like a bull hippo.
Noele wore her new green and gold Notre Dame warm-up suit, which matched her eyes, when she went to the rectory neither to impress her uncle nor Father Ace, whom she knew she would see at the Courts after she left the rectory.
Noele wore her warm up suit and tied a green ribbon around her hair because there might be boys at the Courts. Though she was in love with Jaimie Burns, she was certainly not about to forget her image when there was a possibility that there might be cute boys around.
The trees on the curving streets of the Neighborhood, which Noele thought was the most totally cool place in the world, were turning red, reminding her of the vestments the priests wore at Mass on Pentecost. And the big oaks around the Courts were pure gold, making the sun-drenched asphalt look like a grove. Noele, who loved Latin and was upset that the nuns didn't teach Greek anymore, insisted that the Courts were sacred. They were the center of the parish. When the kids said, "Let's go over to Saint Prax's," they meant not the church but the Courts.
Excerpted from Lord of the Dance by Andrew M. Greeley. Copyright © 1984 Andrew Greeley Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Farrell Family Tree,
First Dance: Valse Triste,
Dance Two: Pavane,
Dance Three: Galliard,
Dance Four: Saraband,
Dance Five: Allemande,
Dance Six: Gigue,
Dance Seven: Bolero,
Dance Eight: Ragtime,
Dance Nine: Dance Macabre,
Dance Ten: Boogaloo,
Other Books by Andrew M. Greeley,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews