Shiana/Chapter 30

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CHAPTER XXX.

AWAITING THE END.

When he came out of that sleep the sun was shining upon him from the east, and it was nice and comfortable, without too much heat in it. The sky was cloudless and the ground was clear of mist, and you would think there was a hive of bees, with a swarm rising out of it, somewhere near the place, the humming of the bees was so vigorous and so lively in the heather round about. Shiana had a view of the country for twenty miles, eastward and southward and westward. There to the east was Knock Raheen,[1] and Little Mushera,[2] and Big Mushera,[3] and Moul na hornan,[4] and Muine Fliuch,[5] and Derryliah,[6] and Cabarach. There to the south-east was Carriganyilla,[7] and further to the south-east Sleeveen,[8] near Macroom, and twenty miles east from that the mist over the city of Cork. There in front of him, due south, were Dun da ryarc,[9] and Kilmurry, and Magh Shanaglish,[10] and the districts of Ross Carbery, and a great deal of beautiful land on the sea-coast. There to the west were Sheha[11] and Neoin and the rest of them, as the poet said:—

"Ugly Iveragh of the grey churls,
Glen Cara where neither corn nor food grows,
Those high ugly hills of Desmond to the west,
Places to which Patrick never gave a blessing."

Or, as the other poet said in reply to that one:

"Beautiful Iveragh of the freehearted and
generous men,
Glen Cara, where corn and food grow.
Those fine high mountains of Desmond in the
West,
Places which Patrick left it to God to bless."

He was looking around at them for a while, recognising them and naming them, and thinking that there could hardly be under the sun another view so beautiful as that view which was spread out before his own eyes on that summer morning. Then it was that the events of the night and the words of the barefooted woman suddenly recurred to his mind. He thought at first that he had been dreaming. He stuck his hand into his pocket. True enough, the shilling was there in his pocket, the pocket into which he had put it when the woman gave it to him in the night. There was something in the business that was not a dream. The whole matter rushed to his mind at once; the woman's words, and the shilling, and the enemy, and the instructions he had been given regarding the chair. He sprang up. There was his house yonder. He turned his back to it and went along the hill westward. He went west to the top of Knock na nullaun,[12] and west along the top of Carrig na Modry,[13] and over Ballan Vauma,[14] and west by the top of Coom a' Ghyair.[15]

The day was getting warm, and he began to feel thirsty. He went into a house and asked for a drink. The woman of the house knew him. She had a good right to know him. Many a time before had he given her a good "hand-reach" of money. But for him there would be very little heard of her in the place. She brought him a jug of goats' milk and a big piece of bread and a roll of butter. He ate the food, and they talked. She knew, as everybody knew, that he was burdened with some great trouble of his own. She perceived it at that moment more plainly than ever. She did not pretend, though, that she noticed anything. He got up and walked out, and where should he face but straight up Mullach an Esh.[16] She looked after him, and I can tell you she was surprised when she saw him facing the mountain. She did not know what she ought to do. What she did was to turn in home and to spend part of the day crying. She felt sure that something harmful was coming over him. She threw herself on her knees and began to pray for him, beseeching God to keep him safe from all evil.

He went on up the mountain until he was on the fine wide platform which is up on the summit. If it was a large view he had in the morning from the moss-plot, still larger was the view he had now, but the view now was not more beautiful, because the sky was clearer in the morning. He had a view to the west of Claedach, and of the Paps, and of Mangerton, and of the Killarney lakes,[17] and of Coraun Tuohill,[18] and of the rest of the Black Reeks. When he was tired of looking at them he moved backward and forward on the summit, picking the monadauns[19] and eating them. When he had spent a while at that he went eastward along the brow of the mountain until he was on the top of Knock Lickascaw,[20] where he had a view of Clara to the north, and of the great Galtees, far away off to the north-east. When the sun was falling toward the west he turned westward again to the top of Mullach an Esh. He picked some more of the monadauns, and then he turned down to the house where he had got the morning's meal. The woman was surprised and delighted when she saw him coming into her house. She did not know where he had spent the day, but she did not care, when she saw him coming again safe and sound. She did nothing, however, but welcome him and give him a cheery salutation, showing no surprise and not appearing to notice anything. But I can assure you that she heartily thanked God in her own mind.

"Sit down there for a while, Shiana," said she, "and I'll engage to make you a treat that perhaps hasn't been made for you this long time."

He sat down.

She went out into the haggart to the best stack that was there, and pulled two good sheaves out of the middle of the stack. She brought the two sheaves in with her. She swept the flag of the fireplace, and she washed it, and dried it. Then she lighted a splinter of bog-deal, and she burned the two sheaves on the flag. But only the straw and the chaff were burnt; the grain was not burnt, but it was beautifully dried, far better than it would be dried on the flag of the mill. Then she gathered up the dried corn and took it out, and she let the wind through it, so that all the ashes of the straw and chaff were cleared out of it completely. When she had it nice and clean she brought it in, and put it in the quern and ground it. Then she put it through a coarse sieve and afterwards through a fine sieve, so that not a particle of chaff remained in it. Then she put the meal in a wooden bowl, and mixed some young cream with the meal, and put a spoon in the bowl, and gave it to Shiana. He ate it, and he thought he had never eaten, and never tasted, better food, it was so wholesome and so substantial and so strong.

When he had eaten the food he handed the bowl to her. "I declare solemnly, Nance Casey," said he, "you are right! It is the nicest food I have ever tasted. You take the palm. You may well say you have given me a treat, a delicacy the like of which was never given me until to-day. And see what a very short time it is since it was out in the stack, and there I have eaten it!"

"Its own straw and chaff dry it," said she, "better far than the flag of the mill does."

The sun was setting when Shiana was leaving that house. By the time he was at the moss-plot it was nightfall. By the time he was at home some of the early part of the night was already gone. He lit one of the night-work candles. He took the soogaun chair and placed it standing exactly in the place where it was the day it was stuck to the ground at that spot. He put the shilling in under it in the centre, as he had been told to do. He threw a little dust down upon the shilling so that it could not be seen. Then he sat in his work-seat and began to work. When he had been working for a while he thought the hour of midnight could not be far off. He thought no trial he had ever suffered had been hard compared with staying there waiting and watching to see when the Evil One would come. If he had not had the work on hand he could never have endured the waiting. It was as much as he could do to stand it, although he was working as hard as his arms could draw the thread. When he used to think an hour should be spent, he would look at what he had done, and it would be only half an hour's work. He would keep on putting in the stitches as fast as he was able to drive the awl. Byand-by he would think that two hours should be gone. He would look at the work done, and it would be only as much as a man would do within a quarter of an hour, working at his ease. At last the disturbance and oppression and strain that were weighing upon his mind put the watching of the time out of his head in some way, so that the time rushed on unknown to him. He had no idea that the time was spent when he suddenly felt as if there were some one in the room. He raised his head. The Black Man was standing there facing him!

  1. Cnoc Ráiṫín, "the hill of the little rath."
  2. Muisire Beag.
  3. Muisire Mór.
  4. Meall na h-Órnan, "the knoll of the barley."
  5. An Muine Fluiċ, "the wet moor."
  6. An Doire Liaṫ, "the grey oak-wood."
  7. Caraig an Ġiolla, "the gillie's rock."
  8. An Sléiḃín, "the little mountain."
  9. Dún dá Raḋarc, "the fort (or hill) with two prospects.
  10. Máġ Seanaglais, "the plain of the old church."
  11. Seiṫe. as a common noun=a hide; skin.
  12. Cnoc na n-Ulán, a corruption of cnoc na ngollán, "the hill of the pillar-stones."
  13. Caraig na Madraí, "the Dogs' Rock."
  14. Beul an Ṁáma, "the mouth of the Pass."
  15. Cúm an Ġaḋair, "the Hound's Hollow."
  16. Mullaċ an Ois, "the Fawn's Peak."
  17. Loċ Léin
  18. Corán Tuaṫai.
  19. Mónadán, a little crimson berry, found on the high parts of mountains.
  20. Cnoc Lice Sgáṫ, "the hill of the stone of shadow."