It is 1895 in Dublin, Ireland when an unnamed boy comes down to supper one evening. Family friend Old Cotter is telling the boy's aunt and uncle that the boy's mentor, Father James Flynn, has passed away after a third stroke. The two men share the opinion that spending time with Father Flynn was unhealthy for the boy, who should have been playing "with young lads of his own age." In bed later, the boy tries to understand why Old Cotter and his uncle would not want him to associate with Father Flynn; then he imagines or dreams about the priest trying to confess something to him.
The following morning, the boy visits Father Flynn's house and finds a card displayed outside announcing the man's death, but he does not knock on the door. He feels less sad than he would have expected; in fact, the boy experiences "a sensation of freedom" as a result of his mentor's death. That evening, the boy's aunt takes him on a formal visit to the house of mourning. He sees the body of Father Flynn lying in an open casket, after which the boy's aunt and the priest's two sisters converse cryptically about the deceased, implying that he was mentally unstable for some time before dying and that he may have been involved in some scandal or other.
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