Seamus O’Kelly, “The Weaver’s Grave”

Part I Part II
Part III Part IV
Part V Notes

Pt. I
Mortimer Hehir, the weaver, had died and they had come in search, of his grave to Cloon na Morav, the Meadow of the Dead. Meehaul Lynskey , the nail-maker, was first across the stile. There was excitement in his face. His long warped body moved in a shuffle over the ground. Following him came Cahir Bowes, the stone-breaker, who was so beaten down from the hips forward, that his back was horizontal as the back of an animal. His right hand held a stick which propped him up in front, his left hand clutched his coat behind, just above the small of the back. By these devices kept himself from toppling head over heels as he walked. Mother earth was [drawing down] the brow of Cahir Bowes by magnetic force, and Cahir Bowes was resisting her fatal kiss to the last. And just now there was animation in the face he raised from its customary contemplation of the ground. Both old men had the air of those who had been unexpectedly let loose. For a long time they had lurked somewhere in the shadows of life, the world having no business for them, and now, suddenly, they had been remembered and called forth to perform an office which nobody else on earth could perform. The excitement in their faces as they crossed over the stile into Cloon na Morav expressed a vehemence in their belated usefulness. Hot on their heels came two dark, handsome, stoutly built men, alike even to the cord that tied their corduroy trousers under their knees, and, being grave-diggers, they carried flashing spades. Last of all, and after a little delay, a firm white hand was, laid on the stile, a dark figure followed, the figure of a woman, whose palely sad face was picturesquely, almost dramatically, framed in a black shawl which hung from the crown of the head. She was the widow of Mortimer Hehir, the weaver, and she followed the others into Cloon na Morav, the Meadow of the Dead.
  To glance at Cloon na Morav as you went by on the hilly road [182], was to get an impression of a very old burial-ground; to pause on the road and look at Cloon na Morav was to become conscious of its quiet situation, of winds singing down from the hills in a chant for the dead; to walk over to the wall and look at the mounds inside was to provoke quotations from Gray’s “Elegy”; to make the sign of the cross, lean over the wall, observe the gloomy lichened background of the wall opposite, and mark the things that seemed to stray about, like yellow snakes in the grass, was to think of Hamlet moralizing at the graveside of Ophelia, and hear them establish the identity of Yorick. To get over the stile and stumble about inside, was to forget all these things and to know Cloon na Morav for itself. Who could tell the age of Cloon na Morav? The mind could only swoon away into mythology, paddle about in the dotage of paganism, the toothless infancy of Christianity. How many generations, how many septs, how many clans, how many families, how many people, had gone into Cloon na Morav? The mind could only take wing on the romances of mathematics. The ground was billowy, grotesque. Several partially suppressed insurrections - a great thirsting, worming, pushing and shouldering under the sod - had given it character. A long tough growth of grass wired it from end to end. Nature, by this effort, endeavouring to control the strivings of the more daring of the insurgents of Cloon na Morav. No path here; no plan or map or register existed; if there ever had been one or the other it had been lost. Invasions and wars and famines and feuds had swept the ground and left it. All claims to interment had been based on powerful traditional rights. These rights had years ago come to an end - all save in a few outstanding cases, the rounding up of a spent generation. The overflow from Cloon na Morav had already set a new cemetery on its legs a mile away, a cemetery in which limestone headstones and Celtic crosses were springing up like mushrooms, advertising the triviality of a civilization of men and women, who, according to their own epitaphs, had done exactly the two things they could riot very well avoid doing: they had all, their obituary notices said, been born and they had all died. Obscure quotations from Scripture were sometimes added by way of apology. There was an almost unanimous expression of forgiveness to the Lord for what had happened to the deceased. None of this lack of humour in Cloon na Morav. Its monuments were comparatively few, and such of them as it had not swallowed were well within the general atmosphere. [183] No obituary notice in the place was complete; all were either wholly or partially eaten up by the teeth of time. The monuments, that had made a stout battle for existence were pathetic in their futility. The vanity of the fashionable of dim ages made one weep. Who on earth could have brought in the white marble slab to Cloon na Morav? It had grown green with shame. Perhaps the lettering, once readable upon it, had been conscientiously picked out in gold. The shrieking winds and the fierce rains of the hills alone could tell. Plain heavy stones, their shoulders rounded with a chisel, presumably to give them some off-handed resemblance to humanity, now swooned at fantastic angles from their settings, as if the people to whose memory they had been dedicated had shouldered them away as an impertinence. Other slabs lay in fragments on the ground, filling the mind with thoughts of Moses descending from Mount Sinai and, waxing angry at sight of his followers dancing about false gods, casting the stone tables containing the Commandments to the ground, breaking them in pieces - the most tragic destruction of a first edition that the world has known. Still other heavy square dark slabs, surely creatures of a pagan imagination, were laid flat down on numerous short legs, looking sometimes like representations of monstrous black cockroaches, and again like tables at which the guests of Cloon na Morav might sit down, goblin-like, in the moonlight, when nobody was looking. Most of the legs had given way and the tables lay overturned, as if there had been a quarrel at cards the night before. Those that had kept their legs exhibited great cracks or fissures across their backs like slabs of dark ice breaking up. Over by the wall, draped in its pattern of dark green lichen, certain families of dim ages had made an effort to keep up the traditions of the Eastern sepulchres. They had showed an aristocratic reluctance to take to the common clay in Cloon na Morav. They had built low casket-shaped houses against the gloomy wall, putting an enormously heavy iron do with ponderous iron rings - like the rings on a pier by the sea - at one end, a tremendous lock-one wondered what Goliath. kept the key - finally cementing the whole thing up and surrounding it with spiked iron railings. In these contraptions very aristocratic families locked up their dead as if they were dangerous wild animals. But these ancient vanities only heightened the general democracy of the ground. To prove a traditional right to a place in its community was to have the bond of your pedigree sealed. The act of burial in [184] Cloon na Morav was in itself an epitaph. And it was amazing to think that there were two people still over the sod who had such a right - one Mortimer Hehir, the weaver, just passed away, the other Malachi Roohan, a cooper, still breathing. When these two survivors of a great generation got tucked under the sward of Cloon na Morav its terrific history would, for all practical purposes, have ended.
  Part II
Meehaul Lynskey, the nailer, hitched forward his bony shoulders and cast his eyes over the ground-eyes that were small and sharp, but unaccustomed to range over wide spaces. The width and the wealth of Cloon na Morav were baffling to him. He had spent his long life on the look-out for one small object so that he might hit it. The colour that he loved was the golden glowing end of a stick of burning iron; wherever he saw that he seized it in a small sconce at the end of a long handle, wrenched it off by a twitch of the wrist, hit it with a flat hammer several deft taps, dropped it into a vessel of water, out of which it came a cool and perfect nail. To do this thing several hundred times six days in the week, and pull the chain of a bellows at short intervals, Meehaul Lynskey had developed an extraordinary dexterity of sight and touch, a swiftness of business that no mortal man could exceed, and so long as he had been pitted against nail-makers of flesh and blood he had more than held his own; he had, indeed, even put up a tremendous but an unequal struggle against the competition of nail-making machinery. Accustomed as he was to concentrate on a single, glowing, definite object, the complexity and disorder of Cloon na Morav unnerved him. But he was not going to betray any of these professional defects to Cahir Bowes, the stonebreaker. He had been sent there as an ambassador by the caretaker of Cloon na Morav, picked out for his great age, his local knowledge, and his good character, and it was his business to point out to the twin grave-diggers, sons of the caretaker, the weaver’s grave, so that it might be opened to receive him. Meehaul Lynskey had a knowledge of the place, and was quite certain as to a great number of grave sites, while the caretaker, being an official without records, had a profound ignorance of the whole place.
  Cahir Bowes followed the drifting figure of the nail-maker over [185] the ground, his face hitched up between his shoulders, his eyes keen and grey, glint-like as the mountains of stones he had in his day broken up as road material. Cahir, no less than Meehaul, had his knowledge of Cloon na Morav and some of his own people were buried here. His sharp, clear eyes took in the various mounds with the eye of a prospector. He, too, had been sent there as an ambassador, and as between himself and Meehaul Lynskey he did not think there could be any two opinions; his knowledge was superior to the knowledge of the nailer. Whenever Cahir Bowes met a loose stone on the grass quite instinctively he turned it over with his stick, his sharp old eyes judging its grain with a profession swiftness, then cracking at it with his stick. If the stick were hammer the stone, attacked on its most vulnerable spot, would fall to pieces like glass. In stones Cahir Bowes saw not sermons but seams. Even the headstones he tapped significantly with the ferrule of his stick, for Cahir Bowes had an artist’s passion for his art though his art was far from creative. He was one of the grey destroyers, the reducers, the makers of chaos, a powerful and remorseless critic of the Stone Age.
  The two old men wandered about Cloon na Morav, in no hurry whatever to get through with their business. After all they had had a long time pensioned off, forgotten, neglected, by the world. The renewed sensation of usefulness was precious to them. They knew that when this business was over they were not likely to be request for anything in this world again. They were ready to oblige the world, but the world would have to allow them their own time. The world, made up of the two grave-diggers and the widow of weaver, gathered all this without any vocal proclamation. Slowly, mechanically as it were, they followed the two ancients about Cloon na Morav. And the two ancients wandered about with the labour of age and the hearts of children. They separated, wandered about silently as if they were picking up old acquaintances, stumbling upon forgotten things, gathering up the threads of days that were over, reviving their memories, and then drew together beginning to talk slowly, almost casually, and all their talk was of the dead, of the people who lay in the ground about them. They warmed to it, airing their knowledge, calling up names a complications of family relationships, telling stories, reviving virtues, whispering at past vices, past vices that did not sound like vices at all, for the long years are great mitigators and run in [186] splendid harness with the coyest of all the virtues, Charity. The whispered scandals of Cloon na Morav were seen by the twin grave-diggers and the widow of the weaver through such a haze of antiquity that they were no longer scandals but romances. The rake and the drab, seen a good way down the avenue, merely look picturesque. The grave-diggers rested their spades in the ground, leaning on the handles in exactly the same graveyard pose, and the pale widow stood in the background, silent, apart, patient, and, like all dark, tragic looking women, a little mysterious.
  The stonebreaker pointed with his quivering stick at the graves of the people whom he spoke about. Every time he raised that forward support one instinctively looked, anxious and fearful, to see if the
 clutch were secure on the small of the back. Cahir Bowes had the sort of shape that made one eternally fearful for his equilibrium. The nailer, who, like his friend the stonebreaker, wheezed a good
 deal, made short, sharp gestures, and always with the right hand; the fingers were hooked in such a way, and he shot out the arm in such a manner, that they gave the illusion that he held a hammer
 and that it was struck out over a very hot fire. Every time Meehaul Lynskey made this gesture one expected to see sparks flying.
  ‘Where are we to bury the weaver?’, one of the grave-diggers asked at last.
  Both old men laboured around to see where the interruption, the impertinence, had come from. They looked from one twin to the other, with gravity, indeed anxiety, for they were not sure which was which, or if there was not some illusion in the resemblance, some trick of youth to baffle age.
  ‘Where are we to bury the weaver?’ the other twin repeated, and the strained look on the old men’s faces deepened. They were trying to fix in their minds which of the twins had interrupted first and which last. The eyes of Meehaul Lynskey fixed on one twin with the instinct of his trade, while Cahir Bowes ranged both and eventually wandered to the figure of the widow in the background, silently Accusing her of impatience in a matter in which it would be indelicate for her to show haste.
  ‘We can’t stay here for ever’, said the first twin.
  It was the twin upon whom Meehaul Lynskey had fastened his small eyes, and, sure of his man this time, Meehaul Lynskey hit him.
  ‘There’s many a better man than you’, said Meehaul Lynskey, [187] ‘that will stay here for ever.’ He swept Cloon na Morav with the hooked fingers.
  ‘Them that stays in Cloon na Morav for ever’, said Cahir Bowes with a wheezing energy, ‘have nothing to be ashamed of - nothing to be ashamed of. Remember that, young fellow.’
  Meehaul Lynskey did not seem to like the intervention, the help, of Cahir Bowes. It was a sort of implication that he had not - he , mind you - had not hit the nail properly on the head.
  ‘Well, where are we to bury him, anyway?’ said the twin, hoping to profit by the chagrin of the nailer-the nailer who, by implication, had failed to nail.
  ‘You’ll bury him’, said Meehaul Lynskey , ‘where all belonging to him is buried.’
  ‘We come’, said the other twin, ‘with some sort of intention of that kind.’ He drawled out the words, in imitation of the old men. The skin relaxed on his handsome dark face and then bunched in puckers of humour about the eyes; Meehaul Lynskey ’s gaze, wandering for once, went to the handsome dark face of the other twin and the skin relaxed and then bunched in puckers of humour about his eyes, so that Meehaul Lynskey had an unnerving sensation that these young grave-diggers were purposely confusing him.
  ‘You’ll bury him’, he began with some vehemence, and was amazed to again find Cahir Bowes taking the words out of his mouth, snatching the hammer out of his hand, so to speak, ‘where you’re told to bury him’, Cahir Bowes finished for him.
  Meehaul Lynskey was so hurt that his long slanting figure move away down the graveyard, then stopped suddenly. He had determined to do a dreadful thing. He had determined to do a thin that was worse than kicking a crutch from under a cripple’ shoulder; that was like stealing the holy water out of a room when a man lay dying. He had determined to ruin the last day’s amusement on this earth for Cahir Bowes and himself by prematurely and basely disclosing the weaver’s grave!
  ‘Here’, called back Meehaul Lynskey, ‘is the weaver’s grave, an here you will bury him.’
  All moved down to the spot, Cahir Bowes going with extraordinary spirit, the ferrule of his terrible stick cracking on stones he met on the way.
  ‘Between these two mounds’, said Meehaul Lynskey, and already [188] the twins raised their twin spades in a sinister movement, like swords of lancers flashing at a drill.
  ‘Between these two mounds’, said Meehaul Lynskey ‘is the grave of Mortimer Hehir.’
  ‘Hold on!’ cried Cahir Bowes. He was so eager, so excited, that he struck one of the grave-diggers a whack of his stick on the back. Both grave-diggers swung about to him as if both had been hurt by the one blow.
  ‘Easy there’, said the first twin.
  ‘Easy there’, said the second twin.
  ‘Easy yourselves’, cried Cahir Bowes. He wheeled about his now quivering face on Meehaul Lynskey.
  ‘What is it you’re saying about the spot between the mounds?’ he demanded.
  ‘I’m saying’, said Meehaul Lynskey vehemently, ‘that it’s the weaver’s grave.’
  ‘What weaver?’ asked Cahir Bowes.
  ‘Mortimer Hehir’, replied Meehaul Lynskey. ‘There’s no other weaver in it.’
  ‘Was Julia Rafferty a weaver?’
  ‘What Julia Rafferty?’
  ‘The midwife, God rest her.’
  ‘How could she be a weaver if she was a midwife?’
  ‘Not a one of me knows. But I’ll tell you what I do know and know rightly: that it’s Julia Rafferty is in that place and no weaver at all.’
  ‘Amn’t I telling you it’s the weaver’s grave?’
  ‘And amn’t I telling you that it’s not?’
  ‘That I may be as dead as my father but the weaver was buried there.’
  ‘A bone of a weaver was never sunk in it as long as weavers was weavers. Full of Raffertys it is.’
  ‘Alive with weavers it is.’
  ‘Heavenly Father, was the like ever heard: to say that a grave was Alive with dead weavers.’
  ‘It’s full of them - full as a tick.’
  ‘And the clean grave that Mortimer Hehir was never done boasting about - dry and sweet and deep and no way bulging at all. Did you see the burial of his father ever?’
  ‘I did, in troth, see the burial of his father - forty years ago if it’s a day.’ [189]
  ‘Forty year ago - it’s fifty-one year come the sixteenth of May. It’s well I remember and it’s well I have occasion to remember it, for it was the day after that again that myself ran away to join the soldiers, my aunt hot foot after me, she to be buying me out the week after, I a high-spirited fellow morebetoken.’
  ‘Leave the soldiers out of it and leave your aunt out of it and stick to the weaver’s grave. Here in this place was the last weaver buried, and I’ll tell you what’s more. In a straight line with it is the grave of -’
  ‘A straight line, indeed! Who but yourself, Meehaul Lynskey, ever heard of a straight line in Cloon na Morav? No such thing was ever wanted or ever allowed in it.’
  ‘In a straight direct line, measured with a rule -’
  ‘Measured with crooked, stumbling feet, maybe feet half reeling in drink.’
  ‘Can’t you listen to me now?’
  ‘I was always a bad warrant to listen to anything except sense. Yourself ought to be the last man in the world to talk about straight lines, you with the sight scattered in your head, with the divil of sparks flying under your eyes.’
  ‘Don’t mind me sparks now, nor me sight neither, for in a straight measured line with the weaver’s grave was the grave of the Cassidys.’
  ‘What Cassidys?’
  ‘The Cassidys that herded for the O’Sheas.’
  ‘Which O’Sheas?’
  ‘O’Shea Ruadh of Cappakelly. Don’t you know any one at all, or is it gone entirely your memory is?’
  ‘Cappakelly inagh ! And who cares a whistle about O’Shea Ruadh, he or his seed, breed and generations? It’s a rotten lot of landgrabbers they were.’
  ‘Me hand to you on that. Striving ever they were to put their red paws on this bit of grass and that perch of meadow.’
  ‘Hungry in themselves even for the cutaway bog.’
  ‘And Mortimer Hehir a decent weaver, respecting every man’s wool.’
  ‘His forehead pallid with honesty over the yarn and the loom.’
  ‘If a bit broad-spoken when he came to the door for a smoke of the pipe.’ [190]
  ‘Well, there won’t be a mouthful of clay between himself and O’Shea Ruadh now.’
  ‘In the end what did O’Shea Ruadh get after all his striving?’
  ‘I’ll tell you that. He got what land suits a blind fiddler.’
  ‘Enough to pad the crown of the head and tap the sole of the foot! Now you’re talking.’
  ‘And the devil a word out of him now no more than any one else in Cloon na Morav.’
  ‘It’s easy talking to us all about land when we’re packed up in our timber boxes.’
  ‘As the weaver was when he got sprinkled with the holy water in that place.’
  ‘As Julia Rafferty was when they read the prayers over her in that place, she a fine, buxom, cheerful woman in her day, with great skill in her business.’
  ‘Skill or no skill, I’m telling you she’s not there, wherever she is.’
  ‘I suppose you want me to take her up in my arms and show her to you?’
  ‘Well then, indeed, Cahir, I do not. ’Tisn’t a very handsome pair you would make at all, you not able to stand much more hardship than Julia herself.’
  From this there developed a slow, laboured, aged dispute between the two authorities. They moved from grave to grave, pitting memory against memory, story against story, knocking down reminiscence with reminiscence, arguing in a powerful intimate obscurity that no outsider could hope to follow, blasting knowledge with knowledge, until the whole place seemed strewn with the corpses of their arguments. The two grave-diggers followed them about in a grim silence; impatience in their movements, their glances; the widow keeping track of the grand tour with a miserable feeling, a feeling, as site after site was rejected, that the tremendous exclusiveness of Cloon na Morav would altogether push her dead man, the weaver, out of his privilege. The dispute ended, like all epics, where it began. Nothing was established, nothing settled. But the two old men were quite exhausted, Meehaul Lynskey sitting down on the back of one of the monstrous cockroaches, Cahir Bowes leaning against a tombstone that was half-submerged, its end up like the stern of a derelict at sea. Here they sat glaring at each other like a pair of grim vultures.
  The two grave-diggers grew restive. Their business had to be [191] done. The weaver would have to be buried. Time pressed. They held a consultation apart. It broke up after a brief exchange of views, a little laughter.
  ‘Meehaul Lynskey is right’, said one of the twins.
  Meehaul Lynskey ’s face lit up. Cahir Bowes looked as if he had been slapped on the cheeks. He moved out from his tombstone.
  ‘Meehaul Lynskey is right’, repeated the other twin. They had decided to break up the dispute by taking sides. They raised their spades and moved to the site which Meehaul Lynskey had urged upon them.
  ‘Don’t touch that place’, Cahir Bowes cried, raising his stick. He was measuring the back of the grave-digger again when the man spun round upon him, menace in his handsome dark face.
  ‘Touch me with that stick’, he cried, ‘and I’ll -’
  Some movement in the background, some agitation in the widow’s shawl, caused the grave-digger’s menace to dissolve, the words to die in his mouth, a swift flush mounting the man’s face. A faint smile of gratitude swept the widow’s face like a flash. It was as if she had cried out, ‘Ah, don’t touch the poor old cranky fellow! you might hurt him.’ And it was as if the grave-digger had cried back: ‘He has annoyed me greatly, but I don’t intend to hurt him. And since you say so with your eyes I won’t even threaten him.’
  Under pressure of the half threat, Cahir Bowes shuffled back a little way, striking an attitude of feeble dignity, leaning out on his stick while the grave-diggers got to work.
  ‘It’s the weaver’s grave, surely’, said Meehaul Lynskey.
  ‘If it is’, said Cahir Bowes, ‘remember his father was buried down seven feet.’ You gave into that this morning.’
  ‘There was no giving in about it’, said Meehaul Lynskey. ‘We all know that one of the wonders of Cloon na Morav was the burial of the last weaver seven feet, he having left it as an injunction on his family. The world knows he went down the seven feet.’
  ‘And remember this’, said Cahir Bowes, ‘that Julia Rafferty was buried no seven feet. If she is down three feet it’s as much as she went.’
  Sure enough, the grave-diggers had not dug down more than three feet of ground when one of the spades struck hollowly on unhealthy timber. The sound was unmistakable and ominous. There was silence for a moment. Then Cahir Bowes made a sudden short spurt up a mound beside him, as if he were some sort of [192] mechanical animal wound up, his horizontal back quivering. On the mound he made a superhuman effort to straighten himself. He got his ears and his blunt nose into a considerable elevation. He had not been so upright for twenty years. And raising his weird countenance, he broke into a cackle that was certainly meant to be a crow. He glared at Meehaul Lynskey, his emotion so great that his eyes swam in a watery triumph.
  Meehaul Lynskey had his eyes, as was his custom, upon one thing, and that thing was the grave, and especially the spot on the grave where the spade had struck the coffin. He looked stunned and fearful. His eyes slowly withdrew their gimlet-like scrutiny from the spot, and sought the triumphant crowing figure of Cahir Bowes on the mound.
  Meehaul Lynskey looked as if he would like to say something, but no words came. Instead he ambled away, retired froth the battle, and standing apart, rubbed one leg against the other, above the back of the ankles, like some great insect. His hooked fingers at the same time stroked the bridge of his nose. He was beaten.
  ‘I suppose it’s not the weaver’s grave’, said one of the gravediggers. Both of them looked at Cahir Bowes.
  ‘Well, you know it’s not’, said the stonebreaker. ‘It’s Julia Rafferty you struck. She helped many a one into the world in her day, and it’s poor recompense to her to say she can’t be at rest when she left it.’ He turned to the remote figure of Meehaul Lynskey and cried: ‘Ah-ha, well you may rub your ignorant legs. And I’m hoping Julia will forgive you this day’s ugly work.’
  In silence, quickly, with reverence, the twins scooped back the clay over the spot. The widow looked on with the same quiet, patient, mysterious silence. One of the grave-diggers turned on Cahir Bowes.
  ‘I suppose you know where the weaver’s grave is?’ he asked.
  Cahir Bowes looked at him with an ancient tartness, then said:
  ‘You suppose!’
  ‘Of course, you know where it is.’
  Cahir Bowes looked as if he knew where the gates of heaven were, and that he might---or might not-enlighten an ignorant world. It all depended! His eyes wandered knowingly out over the meadows beyond the graveyard. He said:
  ‘I do know where the weaver’s grave is.’
  ‘We’ll be very much obliged to you if you show it to us.’ [193]
  ‘Very much obliged’, endorsed the other twin.
  The stonebreaker, thus flattered, led the way to a new site, one nearer to the wall, where were the plagiarisms of the Eastern sepulchres. Cahir Bowes made little journeys about, measuring so many steps from one place to another, mumbling strange an unintelligible information to himself, going through an extraordinary geometrical emotion, striking the ground hard taps with his stick.
  ‘Glory be to the Lord’, cried Meehaul Lynskey , ‘he’s like the man they had driving the water for the well in the quarry field, he whacking the ground with his magic hazel wand.’
  Cahir Bowes made no reply. He was too absorbed in his own emotion. A little steam was beginning to ascend from his brow. He was moving about the ground like some grotesque spider weaving an invisible web.
  ‘I suppose now’, said Meehaul Lynskey , addressing the marble monument, ‘that as soon as Cahir hits the right spot one of the weavers will turn out below. Or maybe he expects one of them to whistle up at him out of the ground. That’s it; devil a other! When we hear the whistle we’ll all know for certain where to bury the weaver.’
  Cahir Bowes was contracting his movements, so that he was no circling about the one spot, like a dog going to lie down.
  Meehaul Lynskey drew a little closer, watching eagerly, his grim yellow face, seared with yellow marks from the fires of his workshop, tightened up in a sceptical pucker. His half-muttered words were bitter with an aged sarcasm. He cried:
  ‘Say nothing; he’ll get it yet, will the man of knowledge, the know-all, Cahir Bowes! Give him time. Give him until this day twelve month. Look at that for a right-about-turn on the left heel. Isn’t the nimbleness of that young fellow a treat to see? Are the whistling to you from below, Cahir? Is it dancing to the weaver’s music you are? That’s it, devil a other.’
  Cahir Bowes was mapping out a space on the grass with his stick. Gradually it took, more or less, the outline of a grave site. He too off his hat and mopped his steaming brow with a red handkerchief saying:
  ‘There is the weaver’s grave.’
  ‘God in Heaven’, cried Meehaul Lynskey , ‘will you look at what he calls the weaver’s grave? I’ll say nothing at all. I’ll hold my [194] tongue. I’ll shut up. Not one word will I say about Alick Finlay, the
 mildest man that ever lived, a man full of religion, never at the end of his prayers! But, sure, it’s the saints of God that get the worst of it in this world, and if Alick escaped during life, faith he’s in for
 it now, with the pirates and the body-snatchers of Cloon na Morav on top of him.’
 A corncrake began to sing in the nearby meadow, and his rasping notes sounded like a queer accompaniment to the words of Meehaul Lynskey. The grave-diggers, who had gone to work on the
 Cahir Bowes site, laughed a little, one of them looking for a moment at Meehaul Lynskey , saying:
 ‘Listen to that damned old corncrake in the meadow! I’d like to put a sod in his mouth.’
  The man’s eye went to the widow. She showed no emotion one way or the other, and the grave-digger got back to his work. Meehaul Lynskey , however, wore the cap. He said:
  ‘To be sure! I’m to sing dumb. I’m not to have a word out of me at all. Others can rattle away as they like in this place, as if they owned it. The ancient good old stock is to be nowhere and the scruff of the hills let rampage as they will. That’s it, devil a other. Castles falling and dunghills rising! Well, God be with the good old times and the good old mannerly people that used to be in it, and God be with Alick Finlay, the holiest -’
 A sod of earth came through the air from the direction of the grave, and, skimming Meehaul Lynskey ’s head, dropped somewhere behind. The corncrake stopped his notes in the meadow, and
 Meehaul Lynskey stood statuesque in a mute protest, and silence reigned in the place while the clay sang up in a swinging rhythm from the grave.
  Cahir Bowes, watching the operations with intensity, said: ‘It was nearly going astray on me.’
  Meehaul Lynskey gave a little snort. He asked: ‘What was?’
  ‘The weaver’s grave.’
  ‘Remember this: the last weaver is down seven feet. And remember this: Alick Finlay is down less than Julia Rafferty.’
  He had no sooner spoken when a fearful thing happened. Suddenly out of the soft cutting of the earth a spade sounded harsh on tinware, there was a crash, less harsh, but painfully distinct, as if rotten boards were falling together, then a distinct subsidence of the [195] earth. The work stopped at once. A moment’s fearful silence followed. It was broken by a short, dry laugh from Meehaul Lynskey. He said:
  ‘God be merciful to us all! That’s the latter end of Alick Finlay.’
  The two grave-diggers looked at each other. The shawl of the widow in the background was agitated. One twin said to the other:
  ‘This can’t be the weaver’s grave.’
  The other agreed. They all turned their eyes upon Cahir Bowes. He was hanging forward in a pained strain, his head quaking, his fingers twitching on his stick. Meehaul Lynskey turned to the marble monument and said with venom:
  ‘If I was guilty I’d go down on my knees and beg God’s pardon. If I didn’t know the ghost of Alick Finlay, saint as he was, would leap upon me and guzzle me - for what right would I have to set anybody at him with driving spades when he was long years in his grave?’
  Cahir Bowes took no notice. He was looking at the ground, searching about, and slowly, painfully, began his web-spinning again. The grave-diggers covered in the ground without a word. Cahir Bowes appeared to get lost in some fearful maze of his own making. A little whimper broke from him now and again. The steam from his brow thickened in the air, and eventually he settled down on the end of a headstone, having got the worst of it. Meehaul Lynskey sat on another stone facing him, and they glared, sinister and grotesque, at each other.
  ‘Cahir Bowes’, said Meehaul Lynskey, ‘I’ll tell you what you are, and, then you can tell me what I am.’
  ‘Have it whatever way you like’, said Cahir Bowes. ‘What is it that I am?’
  ‘You’re a gentleman, a grand oul’ stonebreaking gentleman. That’s what you are, devil a other!’
  The wrinkles on the withered face of Cahir Bowes contracted, his eyes stared across at Meehaul Lynskey, and two yellow teeth showed between his lips. He wheezed:
  ‘And do you know what you are?’
  ‘I don’t.’
  ‘You’re a nailer, that’s what you are, a damned nailer.’
  They glared at each other in a quaking, grim silence.
  And it was at this moment of collapse, of deadlock, that the widow spoke for the first time. At the first sound of her voice one of [196] the twins perked his head, his eyes going to her face. She said in a tone as quiet as her whole behaviour:
  ‘Maybe I ought to go up to the Tunnel Road and ask Malachi Roohan where the grave is.’
  They had all forgotten the oldest man of them all, Malachi Roohan. He would be the last mortal man to enter Cloon na Morav. He had been the great friend of Mortimer Hehir, the weaver, in the days that were over, and the whole world knew that Mortimer Hehir’s knowledge of Cloon na Morav was perfect. Maybe Malachi Roohan would have learned a great deal from him. And Malachi Roohan, the cooper, was so long bed-ridden that those who remembered him at all thought of him as a man who had died a long time ago.
  ‘There’s nothing else for it’, said one of the twins, leaving down his spade, and immediately the other twin laid his spade beside it.
  The two ancients on the headstones said nothing. Not even they could raise a voice against the possibilities of Malachi Roohan, the cooper. By their terrible aged silence they gave consent, and the widow turned to walk out of Cloon na Morav. One of the gravediggers took out his pipe. The eyes of the other followed the widow, he hesitated, then walked after her. She became conscious of the man’s step behind her as she got upon the stile, and turned her palely sad face upon him. He stood awkwardly, his eyes wandering, then said:
  ‘Ask Malachi Roohan where the grave is, the exact place.’
  It was to do this the widow was leaving Cloon na Morav; she had just announced that she was going to ask Malachi Roohan where the grave was. Yet the man’s tone was that of one who was giving her extraordinarily acute advice. There was a little half-embarrassed note of confidence in his tone. In a dim way the widow thought that, maybe, he had accompanied her to the stile in a little awkward impulse of sympathy. Men were very curious in their ways sometimes. The widow was a very well-mannered woman, and she tried to look as if she had received a very valuable direction. She said:
  ‘I will. I’ll put that question to Malachi Roohan.’
  And then she passed out over the stile. [197]

[ Continued ]

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