Abbildungen der Seite
[ocr errors]

over Murtagh at this sight. If it had like the clapper of a mill. All through trundled itself towards him across the the spring and early summer her theme water's face, the portent would have had constantly been what a pity it was seemed scarcely more startling and to see

al fine young man like Murt astounding. Perhaps, indeed, he had wasting his time in such a poor, backactually learned enough from his ward place as Barnadrum, where the school-books to know that such a most he could do was scarce worth his thing could be explained scientifically; victuals; and thence she had gradually but this did not alter its bewildering proceeded to how far better would be novelty in his own personal experience, his chances if he were working on her or diminish his dismay. “The sun to cousins' farm in the county Louth, be risin' itself up wrongways out of where they wanted another hand, the say in place of goin' down. Saw since the last brother went to the you ever the like of that?" he pro- States, and where they would a deal tested to his lonely self. “Och, but liefer employ somebody belonging to it's the unnathural place altogether. respectable people than a stranger, Stoppin' in it is what I won't be for who might turn out a rogue on them man or mortal. Sure if Herself knew for aught they could tell. In this the quareness of it, she wouldn't ax view Lizzie was supported, half-heartme, sorra bit of her would. And the edly, by her husband, whom she aprest of them may say what they plase. praised as "a big, soft gub of good naThe fine fool I was to be mindin' them, ture," and volubly by all her own troth was I."

kin, who were numerous among the He turned his back abruptly on the neighbors. But the little old woman misplaced sun, which began to pursue who sat in the chimney-corner never him with quivering ruddy shafts, and added a word to the chorus of exhortabefore he had traversed the short lane tion, and Lizzie was not slow to perhe had firmly made up his mind that ceive that as long as his mother kept he would start for Barnadrum without silence, Murtagh would be urged in delay. The promptness of his resolve vain. Lizzie, indeed, seldom was slow much favored the chances of his act- about perceiving things into which it ing on it, as the lapse of a few days behooved her to pry, and she had suffiwould probably have wrought a melan- cient reasons, mere fact being by no choly acquiescence in his lot, whence means indispensable, when she soon he might have lacked energy to emerge. adopted a habit of expatiating much His first steps would now cost him but to her mother-in-law on the wonderlittle trouble, the end of them was ful fancy that Murt had taken for what bothered him, and that it well Andy Loughlin's youngest daughter, migbt do so could be easily understood Biddy. Old Mrs. Gilligan had occa by any one acquainted with the cir- sionally expressed a wish that Murt cumstances in which he had left home. might find a good wife before she her

Ere that came to pass there had self got her death with the rheumatism been an incredible amount of argument and asthma, which made her health about it and about in the little dwell- precarious. But a vague and invisible ing huddled below Knocknagee. A good wife was one thing, and that redlarge share of the talk had been done headed girl of ould Andy Loughlin's hy Lizzie, the rather newly-married quite another. Who were the Loughwife of Murtagh's elder brother, lins, bedad? cock them up-and she Christy. She was one of the Aherns, never had any liking for that Biddy at who had the name of possessing tongues all. So Murtagh presently learned.

[ocr errors]

with grief, that his mother had come much wrath and ridicule awaited bim round to everybody else's opinion about at Barnadrum. the advisability of his departure.

Though all this did not now avail to And the worst of it was that he dissolve the purpose which had crystalknew how right they were, in a way. lized so swiftly as he stood by the red There really was not employment for dening sea, it did modify his proceedtwo men on the shred of a holding, ings, for it disposed him to travel now mostly mountainy land, fit only slowly. Speed was, it is true, pat ont for sheep, since Lawson the grazier of his power by the fact that bis sense had somehow come by their two best of honor impelled him to make his fields on their father's death. Christy hosts, the MacFarlanes, the utmost could easily get on without him, and amends he could, lest they should have he would be far more use away earn- been caused any expense or inconvening and saving up money to buy a bit ience by his change of plans Murof stock, than stopping in it, and eat- tagh's desire ever was to be what ing the worth of every hand's turn he his Gaelic-speaking neighbors called did. Besides that he might be able to flahool in all his dealings, and he send home many an odd trifle that handed over his one-pound note to Herself was at a loss for in the win- old Peter MacFarlane with an air ter. He had said something of this which conveyed the impression that to Lizzie, when he was beginning to such things grew like leaves on the face the dreadful enterprise, where- trees at Barnadrum, and that he only upon she had drawn such a picture of regretted not having happened to bring the comfort in which his mother would more of them along with him. But as abide during his absence, and the years in truth it represented considerably which he would thus add to her life, more than half his cash in hand, the that it had gone far towards evicting transaction strictly limited his choice him. Moreover, Lizzie in a jocular, of the means by which he would regood-humored way threw out hints cross Ireland, and quite excluded railabout the charms of Biddy Loughlin, Ways. Still there were, of course, which no doubt made it hard for him possibilities of loitering on foot. Then, to think of lea ving; and these again as at the first sizable town into which gave him, as the jester intended, a he tramped he provided himself with strong shove in the same direction. a pound of the dearest tea for his So he had at length set forth desper- mother, the number of his shillings ately from an excited village, for his was reduced very seriously, considerlong hesitation had been watched with ing the ways and days that lay before interest by the neighbors. Some of Lim. This seemed to prescribe haste. them predicted his speedy return, not- and he did make the first stages of his withstanding that the price of three journey in immensely long forced sheep at Ballynaughton fair had been marches, though less from dread of laid out upon his travelling expenses. failing supplies than from a wish to The consideration of that pecuniary get as quickly as might be out of that sacrifice weighed less heavily with him doleful region, with its strange-spoken than the sense that he was fulfilling people, and deplorable lack of bog. those prophecies; the foreknowledge of lands, or anything you could give the how folk would "rise the laugh on name of a hill. him,” while Lizzie would account with intolerable facetiousness for bis

By the time that Murtagh came once timely reappearance. Undoubtedly more among reassuring turf-stacks his


[ocr errors]


brown, Spanish-looking visage had travagant views of the splendid things grown pinched and peaked, from, in a which would be coming for her by parmeasure, much exercise and scanty cel post to Clonbeg office while he was fare, but chiefly from the workings of away, and the others which he would an anxious mind. Often it kept him return bearing one of these days. It waking distressfully as he passed the was impossible for him to say how night in the shelter of some dyke or much she might be counting apon rick, where he would have been well those promises, the fulfilment of which enough content, had not concern about had now dwindled into a packet of the future driven away his dreams. tea. And even this was doomed to For while the smell of the turf-smoke disaster by his foolish precipitancy in on the air, and the gradually more burdening himself with it at such an home-like aspect of the country-side, early stage of his journey. seemed to whet the edge of his longing One morning as he was coming near for Barnadrum, they also made him a small village, where he intended to forecast more vividly the details of his get his breakfast, be passed an old reception there. He

himself country woman in a large black cloak walking up the steep boreen, which with a wide-frilled white cap under the runs between high furzy banks into a hood, and two or three brilliant little little settlement of cabins called the fringed shawls above it. A moment Town. He heard somebody shout: afterwards she laid a band on his arm. "Here's Murt Gilligan comin' along," “You're sowin' your tay, good lad," and knew that every half-door in view she said, and, sure enough, all along would forthwith frame an amazed be- the path he had come by lay a thin, holder of his approach, and that he black line of his precious parched would have to answer as best he might leaves. A rent in the blue paper bag the awkward questions, and meet with had been made by a sharp stone on what spirit he could uster the more which he had unwarily laid down his or less friendly Sallies of the neigh- bundle over night, in the shed a mile bors.

a way; and an unlucky hole in the red That would be disagreeable enough, cotton covering had let the tea trickle but graver far were the troubles he through so steadily that only a few foreboded at home, where amazement good-for-nothing grains were left. His and amusement would anon give place home-coming was bereft of its one poor to wrath, not unreasonable, consider- triumph. ing “the sum of money he was after All these vexations disposed Murtagh as good as throwing behind the fire on to da wele on his road as long as he them"- thus Lizzie would word it, and could supply his wants, which were (hristy would back her up with in- few and compressible. He was folarticulate sounds of contempt. About lowing the hay-harvest westward to his mother's reception of him he was districts whither it came later and less clear. Glad to see him he very later. Every now and then he stopped well knew that she would be; vet he to do a day's mowing or rick-building, had reason to apprehend an underly. whereby he earned what paid his way ing regret in her gladness.

Keen was

on a further tramp. By the time he his recollection of how on his last (lay was almost on the borders of his own at home, when she had wrung his country, however, where he began to heart by wistful, belated hints that recognize objects familiar not only in he might yet change his mind, he had kind but as individuals, meadows had triet to cheer themselves up with ex- grown rare, and the demand for labor

rafters, though their thatch had all been snatched away by the winds; and the sites of others were marked out by walls more or less weathered down. sunken deep in weeds. Years had not yet washed off or lichened over the black traces of household fires.

But all around, the furrows where potatoes and oats had grown in streaks of rich peaty soil were covered with green sward. Their wave-like swell suggested a tide that had rolled in to submerge the inmates of this deserted hamlet; a kindlier fate, perhaps, thau what had really befallen them, as they had in fact been "put out of it" to make room for sheep.

Thrust forth shelterless as wild birds

tribe unnumbered, That no men heed, Since their master willed the fields

their hearthstones cumbered His flock should feed.


ers proportionately small. Nevertheless as he plodded, lag-foot, up and down hill, with a sound of jibes and reproaches yet unuttered tingling in his ears, he formed a plan the carrying out of which hinged upon the possibility of his finding field-work. He would take up his quarters, he thought, in one of the old ruined shanties away at the back of Knockna gee, with a good long step between him and home, still not so far off but that he might with a little contriving get a glimpse occasionally, unbeknownst, to satisfy him "what way Herself was"; for that particular anxiety now predominated over all the rest. The shillings remaining to him would procure bim potatoes for some weeks, he calculated, while, as the season advanced, he might make short excursions out into the country, and pick up jobs at the reaping and binding. In this manner he would be able to maintain himself ipart, yet not completely severed from liis family, until the weather waxed "entirely too sevare," when he might openly return, with possibly a bit of money in his pocket, and certainly, after an absence which could be de. scribed as "going on for six months," in a position to put a much better face on his conduct than if he had just come ignominiously bundling back before they had well got rid of him.

Up among the grassy breadths and creases of the long hill-range there was solitude as profound as it can have been ere the days of Partholanus. It was not disturbed even by sheep, since the grazier, whose for the time being were the green herbs on a thousand acres, had removed his flocks, pending a dispute with his landlord, and the pastures lay derelict. Signs, however, clearly showed that a different state of things had existed there not so very long ago.

The ruined cabin wherein Murtagh established himself was one of several that still possessed skeleton


But Murtagh, sitting in a with no other company than a precarious furze-fed flame, did not feel “very lonesome whatever," because he kner himself to be within about an hour's quick trot of Lorcan's Lep, a point on the road

the moor between Barnadrum and Loughmeena, whither folk went to Mass. Lorcan's Lepis a sharp spur of crag jutting out from a high steep bank, and overhanging the road. A tangle of thorns, briars and bracken cover it with a shaggy thicket in which a man might lurk unseen to look down on the passers-by. Amongst these every Sunday morning came the Helys' car, which for many a year bad been wont to pick up old Mrs. Gilligan at Finny's Cross, whenever she could walk so far. And next day would be Sunday. Consequently Murtaghi was looking forward to setting eyes on his mother before another sun went down-rightly into the sea. That sight would be vastly consoling and encouraging, and would set bis heart at rest for a week to come.

Good care he took to be on the spot stead of covering the frilled white cap betimes, and the car did not fail to on his mother's head, was drawn over come by, but it did fail to bring what the tall peak of Lizzie's fashionable he desired. For in his mother's seat bonnet, "with a hijjis big clump of sat merely his sister-in-law, Lizzie pink roses stuck on the top of it." Ahern-cock her up—“looking as if she Now this capacious heavy cloth cloak thought there wasn't her match in was old Mrs. Gilligan's most cherished three parishes, and she with as ugly possession. She had inherited it from an appearance on her as you'd aisy her mother, after several generations' find anywheres, if she did but know wear, and it would descend in due it." Though he had warned himself course to her own married daughter. beforehand that there was only a Meanwhile she would as soon have chance of his mother, and though, had thought of lending anybody the hair he not hoped for something better, he off her head; to do so would seem a would have rejoiced at a sight of Liz- sort of breach of trust. As Murtagh zie's familiar face, his bitter disap- was quite aware of her feelings about pointment at first blinded him to all the heirloom, the sight of Lizzie envelmitigating circumstances. When, af- oped in its folds filled him with a dister a while, he began to make the best may which coldly extinguished kindling of it, he admitted that Herself was wrath. Never, he reasoned, while she noways very likely to come out on such had health and strength to hinder it, a dull, soft sort of day, and that if would his mother have allowed Lizzie nobody from home had been on the -one of the Aherns--to go trapesing oft car he might have thought bad of it, to Mass in the O'Carrolls' good hooded but he well knew Lizzie wouldn't leave cloak, that he knew as well as be his mother if anything much ailed her knew his own name. And yet if ber -most likely she just had a touch of mother-in-law had been taken very her old enemy the

bone-sickness. bad, Lizzie wouldn't start off and Moreover as Corpus Christi Day very leave the crathur, he would say that luckily fell in the middle of that week, for her. Hence he drew the concluhe would not have long to wait for an- sion that something still worse than other opportunity of seeing the car go any sickness must have happened, setby, it might be with the passenger he ting Lizzie free to go whither she wanted.

pleased, arrayed in any garment she On the holiday morning, therefore, could lay her hands on. At that inhe came punctually to Lorcan's Lep. ference a billow of despair reared itIt was grand weather, as fine as could self up ready to devastate his world, be, save for a few brief dashes of rain and he could oppose its onset only by from the quick-sailing white clouds; the alternative conjecture that Lizzie and Murtagh's hopes had risen high. and Christy, having suddenly become But they were toppled over by a dis- most base, had taken advantage of his appointment much more serious than absence to put upon his mother.

In Sunday's had been. It was aggra- this case it might well bave happened vated, too, very cruelly by a mocking that both cloak and seat on the car delusion. As the car trotted into had been grabbed against her will, and view, Murtagh caught sight of the that she was now fretting and grievlonged-for black cloak, and said to ing at home, without a soul to take her himself with a sigh of joyful relief: part. The picture thus conjured up “ 'Tis Herself, glory be to God"; only enjoined some prompt action, but bis to see next moment that the hood, in- first panic-stricken pause had let the






« ZurückWeiter »