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Grania, The Story of an Island; vol. 2/2

Grania, The Story of an Island; vol. 2/2
Title: Grania, The Story of an Island; vol. 2/2
Release Date: 2018-12-09
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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By the same Author

HURRISH: a Study
IRELAND (Story of the Nations Series)





[All rights reserved]





Thus the weeks went on, one week after the other, all exactly alike, andno new light came to aid Grania in her investigations about the stolenturf. What was hardly less important, however, the depredationsthemselves ceased. From the night on which she had pursued the thiefthrough the gully and lost him at the mouth of it, no fresh inroads, sofar as she could discover, had been made in the stack, and, this beingthe case, she was content for the present to let the matter be. She hada kindly feeling{2} towards poor Pete Durane, and if he were the culpritwould have been sorry to have been forced to bring the guilt home tohim. If, on the other hand, it was Shan Daly—the only other person shecould think of as likely to be guilty—though she hated that miscreantas she hated no other person in the world, still, there was his wretchedwife to be thought of, and his equally wretched family. As well, too,hope to extract blood from flints as get any satisfaction orcompensation out of Shan Daly, and, as for the mere vindictive pleasureof punishment, the ties of kinship and acquaintanceship are far tooclosely drawn in so limited a community as Inishmaan for that sort ofpleasure to be often resorted to. If we were on visiting terms with thefamilies of our pick-pockets and burglars, those artists would be evenless interrupted in the exercise of their vocations than they are atpresent.{3}

Meanwhile the work of the year had to be gone on with. Grania wasfeeding up a calf, as well as two pigs, to be sold at the Galway springfair. The freight charges from Inishmaan to Galway were serious—notless than half a crown for every calf and a shilling apiece for thepigs; whereas the freight charges to Ennistimon were much less; but,then, the chances of a good sale at the Galway fair were considerablygreater, and, on the whole, therefore, she had decided to send themthere.

Her other work was now lighter, for there was nothing to be done to thepotatoes till autumn, and she had hardly any oats. In the Aran isles theland is divided into townlands, every townland containing so many‘quarters,’ every quarters so many ‘croggeries,’ every croggery so manyacres. Inishmaan possesses but two townlands, containing six quarterseach, with sixteen crog{4}geries to every quarter, and sixteen acres toevery croggery. Grania and Honor held a little over one croggery, sixacres of which was pure stone, leaving some ten or eleven to be reckonedupon. Of these, half were laid down in potatoes, while the remainderserved as pasturage, eked out, of course, with a good deal ofsurreptitious aid from the bent-grass below.

As for the weather, it seemed to be getting daily worse. So wet andmiserable a spring had rarely been experienced, even upon Inishmaan. Torain in moderation, nay, something more than moderation, no Aranite, asexplained, objects, but, even of the best thing, it is just possible tohave too much, and such incessant deluges as followed day after day, andnight after night, were this year beyond the recollection of the oldestinhabitant. If the destiny of the islands was sooner or later to bewashed away and to{5} vanish from sight in the sea, it seemed as if nowwas the time that destiny was likely to be fulfilled. The rain came downin literal sheets, and in sheets it swept over the surface. There beingno earth for it to dry into, it poured over the level slabs, sweepingfrom slab to slab almost as the sea swept over the rocks between thetide-marks. Watching it at such moments, it would have seemed to you asif the whole island would shortly become one great waterfall, orscarcely perceptible reef for the Atlantic to roll over, the water, asit descended upon the slabs, falling into the troughs or tunnels laidready for it, and out of them again until it found rest in the finaltrough awaiting it at the bottom.

About a fortnight after her visit to the Duranes, Grania was standingone evening at the door of the cabin looking down the track towards thesea. It had been raining heavily{6} all day, and had now come on to blowhard. Across the nearest sound and above the cliffs of Clare the skywore a greenish look, especially where it showed between dark rovingpatches of cloud. At the base of the island the cooses and small bays onthe west and north-west were astir with the hissing of waves. The risingwind tore and whistled its way noisily through the sparsehawthorn-bushes and ragged growth of brambles and hemlocks. The night,clearly, was going to be a nasty one.

The girl leaned against the shelter of the doorway and looked outtowards the ‘Old Sea.’ It was growing dark, but there was a palesplinter of white light far away, almost lost on the horizon—a sinisterlight, like a broken war-arrow. Everywhere else the plain was one massof leaden-coloured waves, solid and unillumined. The sense of a vastcrowd, coming steadily onward, struggling together{7} by fits and starts,with many side-battles and cross-currents, but on the whole bearingsteadily down upon some devoted foe, pressed upon the mind as you lookedout seaward.

Nearer, the prospect was not much more cheerful. The wind howledviciously, tearing off fragments of scaly stone from the rocks andflinging them against the windows and over the roof like so many forestleaves. Little Phelim Daly was in the O’Malleys’ cabin. He had come, ashe often did, to share their evening meal, and Grania had decided tokeep him, finding the night so wild, and had run across in the teeth ofthe rising gale to tell his mother so. He was not exactly an enliveningguest, and this evening seemed to be even more nerve-ridden than usual.After finishing his share of the potatoes and milk, he sat for some timehunched up, with his knees and his chin together, close{8} to the fire. Asthe storm rose louder and the gust came faster and faster down thewidely-gaping chimney, he grew uneasy, looked furtively round the walls,then up at the narrow slip of sky visible through the small pane ofglass, shaking from head to foot as he did so, and seeming to seesomething out there that he dreaded, something that he was unable toresist staring at, but which scared him with the utterly unreasoningfear of an animal in presence of that which arouses all its latenthereditary terrors.

Glancing round from her post beside the doorway, Grania saw him staringthus, with parted lips and glassy eyes, agonising fear written in everylineament. Suddenly, as she watched him, a great shiver ran through hiswhole body, his very shadow thrown by the firelight against the oppositewall vibrating violently as a leaf vibrates in a sudden storm.{9}

‘Why, then! Why, then!—God look down on the child!—what ails himto-night?’ she asked in a tone of astonishment. ‘What is it,Phelim—what do you see out there, sonny, at all, at all?’ she added,going over and stooping down beside him upon the hearth.

For all answer the boy only shivered the harder, clutching her at thesame time, and holding her petticoat tight in his two hands, as if tohinder himself from being forcibly dragged away by someone.

Tis in his bed he should be at this hour, the creature!’ Honor saidfrom her own corner, where her pale face showed extremely like aghost’s, framed as it was on two sides by the smoke-stained chocolatewalls. ‘It is not a night for anyone to be looking about them, either inor out of the house, so it is not,’ she added, crossing herselffervently. ‘Shut the door, Grania, and put on another sod of the turf.God save us!{10} but it is the wild weather! There is no end to the badweather this year, so there is not. Glory be to Him that sent it, wet orfine!’

Grania obeyed, shut the door and heaped on an additional armful of turf;then stood for awhile beside the fireplace, listening to the wind as itroared down the unprotected chimney.

It was indeed a night to set even sober brains afloat with nervousterrors. The little house seemed to be an atom lost in the hungry vortexof the storm and oncoming darkness. A sense of vast, uncurtainedspace—of tossing, interminable vastness—of an aërial ocean withoutbourne or limits, seemed to press upon the mind as you sat and listened.They were as lonely, those three, as though they had been the onlyoccupants of some star or planet set in the hollow void of space. Eventhe yellow cat, who was rarely or never friendly, seemed to feel theinfluence{11} of the weather, and came of her own accord close up toGrania, rubbing against her as if glad to increase the sense of home andshelter by touching someone.

As Honor had said, the only thing, clearly, to do with Phelim was to puthim to bed. Grania accordingly made him lie down close to the wall, uponthe sort of make-shift of a bed which filled the corner where sheherself slept, telling him, as she did so, to turn his head well awayfrom the light, and to cover his ears close up with her old flannelpetticoat, so as not to hear the storm. This done, she returned to herformer place beside the fireplace.{12}


She drew up her own particular creepy stool, and sat down, staring atthe tongues of red flame as they were blown in towards her, every nowand then, by a fresh gust from above.

Her thoughts and the night seemed to her to match one another. She hadseen little or nothing of Murdough Blake for the last fortnight, onereason being that he had been away from Inishmaan at Ballyvaughan, incompany with Shan Daly and other kindred spirits, sharing in a sort ofrude regatta, got up by the hooker and curragh owners of theneighbourhood. A report had come to her through a friendly neighbourthat he had{13} been all this time drinking hard—nay, had been seen bysomeone lying dead drunk in the Ballyvaughan street. Whether this wasthe case or not, she knew that he was spending money, for the only timeshe had seen him had been late one evening, when he had come up to begfor a loan—not for the first or the third time either that year. Shehad given him the money, it being for a debt, he said, and she having alittle that she could spare, and had not even reproached him, beyondtelling him that it must positively be for the last time.

Grania suffered as strong people suffer. Not patiently, nor yet with anyparticular inclination to complain, but with a suffering that was a sortof fire in her veins. She would have liked to have taken the matter,then and there, into her own strong hands; to have beaten ShanDaly—recognised aider and abettor in every misdeed—soundly with{14} herown two fists; to have dragged Murdough by force out of this ditch whichhis own folly was slowly digging below him. Yet, what could she do?There was only one way of getting any more hold on him, and that was bymarrying him. That, however, was at present impossible. Apart fromHonor’s increasing illness there was no place ready for them, exceptingthis cabin, and

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