NORA (in a low voice). Where is she?
CATHLEEN. Shes lying down, God help her, and may be sleeping, if shes able.
(Nora comes in softly, and takes a bundle from under her shawl.)
CATHLEEN (spinning the wheel rapidly). What is it you have?
NORA. The young priest is after bringing them. Its a shirt and a plain stocking were got off a drowned man in Donegal. (Cathleen stops her wheel with a sudden movement, and leans out to listen.)
NORA. Were to find out if its Michaels they are, some time herself will be down looking by the sea.
CATHLEEN. How would they be Michaels, Nora. How would he go the length of that way to the far north?
NORA. The young priest says hes known the like of it. If its Michaels they are, says he, you can tell herself hes got a clean burial by the grace of God, and if theyre not his, let no one say a word about them, for shell be getting her death, says he, with crying and lamenting.
(The door which Nora half closed is blown open by a gust of wind.)
CATHLEEN (looking out anxiously). Did you ask him would he stop Bartley going this day with the horses to the Galway fair?
NORA. I wont stop him, says he, but let you not be afraid. Herself does be saying prayers half through the night, and the Almighty God wont leave her destitute, says he, with no son living.
CATHLEEN. Is the sea bad by the white rocks, Nora?
NORA. Middling bad, God help us. Theres a great roaring in the west, and its worse itll be getting when the tides turned to the wind. (She goes over to the table with the bundle.) Shall I open it now?
CATHLEEN. Maybe shed wake up on us, and come in before wed done. (Coming to the table.) Its a long time well be, and the two of us crying.
NORA (goes to the inner door and listens). Shes moving about on the bed. Shell be coming in a minute.
CATHLEEN. Give me the ladder, and Ill put them up in the turf-loft, the way she wont know of them at all, and maybe when the tide turns shell be going down to see would he be floating from the east. (They put the ladder against the gable of the chimney; Cathleen goes up a few steps and hides the bundle in the turf-loft. Maurya comes from the inner room.)
MAURYA (looking up at Cathleen and speaking querulously). Isnt it turf enough you have for this day and evening?
CATHLEEN. Theres a cake baking at the fire for a short space (throwing down the turf) and Bartley will want it when the tide turns if he goes to Connemara. (Nora picks up the turf and puts it round the pot-oven.)
MAURYA (sitting down on a stool at the fire). He wont go this day with the wind rising from the south and west. He wont go this day, for the young priest will stop him surely.
NORA. Hell not stop him, mother, and I heard Eamon Simon and Stephen Pheety and Colum Shawn saying he would go.
MAURYA. Where is he itself?
NORA. He went down to see would there be another boat sailing in the week, and Im thinking it wont be long till hes here now, for the tides turning at the green head, and the hookers tacking from the east.
CATHLEEN. I hear some one passing the big stones.
NORA (looking out). Hes coming now, and he in a hurry.
BARTLEY (comes in and looks round the room. Speaking sadly and quietly). Where is the bit of new rope, Cathleen, was bought in Connemara?
CATHLEEN (coming down). Give it to him, Nora; its on a nail by the white boards. I hung it up this morning, for the pig with the black feet was eating it.
NORA (giving him a rope). Is that it, Bartley?
MAURYA. Youd do right to leave that rope, Bartley, hanging by the boards. (Bartley takes the rope.) It will be wanting in this place, Im telling
you, if Michael is washed up to- morrow morning, or the next morning, or any morning in the week, for its a deep grave well make him by the grace of God.
BARTLEY. (beginning to work with the rope). Ive no halter the way I can ride down on the mare, and I must go now quickly. This is the one boat going for two weeks or beyond it, and the fair will be a good fair for horses I heard them saying below.
MAURYA. Its a hard thing theyll be saying below if the body is washed up and theres no man in it to make the coffin, and I after giving a big price for the finest white boards youd find in Connemara. (She looks round at the boards.)
BARTLEY. How would it be washed up, and we after looking each day for nine days, and a strong wind blowing a while back from the west and south?
MAURYA. If it wasnt found itself, that wind is raising the sea, and there was a star up against the moon, and it rising in the night. If it was a hundred horses, or a thousand horses you had itself, what is the price of a thousand horses against a son where there is one son only?
BARTLEY (working at the halter, to Cathleen). Let you go down each day, and see the sheep arent jumping in on the rye, and if the jobber comes you can sell the pig with the black feet if there is a good price going.
MAURYA. How would the like of her get a good price for a pig?
BARTLEY (to Cathleen). If the west wind holds with the last bit of the moon let you and Nora get up weed enough for another cock for the kelp. Its hard set well be from this day with no one in it but one man to work.
MAURYA. Its hard set well be surely the day youre drowndd with the rest. What way will I live and the girls with me, and I an old woman looking for the grave? (Bartley lays down the halter, takes off his old coat, and puts on a newer one of the same flannel.)
BARTLEY (to Nora). Is she coming to the pier?
NORA (looking out). Shes passing the green head and letting fall her sails.
BARTLEY (getting his purse and tobacco). Ill have half an hour to go down, and youll see me coming again in two days, or in three days, or maybe in four days if the wind is bad.
MAURYA (turning round to the fire, and putting her shawl over her head). Isnt it a hard and cruel man wont hear a word from an old woman, and she holding him from the sea?
CATHLEEN. Its the life of a young man to be going on the sea, and who would listen to an old woman with one thing and she saying it over?
BARTLEY (taking the halter). I must go now quickly. Ill ride down on the red mare, and the gray ponyll run behind me .... The blessing of God on you. (He goes out.)
MAURYA (crying out as he is in the door). Hes gone now, God spare us, and well not see him again. Hes gone now, and when the black night is falling Ill have no son left me in the world.
CATHLEEN. why wouldnt you give him your blessing and he looking round in the door? Isnt it sorrow enough is on every one in this house without your sending him out with an unlucky word behind him, and a hard word in his ear? (Maurya takes up the tongs and begins raking the fire aimlessly without looking round.)
NORA (turning towards her). Youre taking away the turf from the cake.
CATHLEEN (crying out). The Son of God forgive us, Nora, were after forgetting his bit of bread. (She comes over to the fire.)
NORA. And its destroyed hell be going till dark night, and he after eating nothing since the sun went up.
CATHLEEN (turning the cake out of the oven). Its destroyed hell be, surely. Theres no sense left on any person in a house where an old woman will be talking for ever. (Maurya sways herself on her stool.)
CATHLEEN (cutting off some of the bread and rolling it in a cloth; to Maurya). Let you go down now to the spring well and give him this and he passing. Youll see him then and the dark word will be broken, and you can say God speed you, the way hell be easy in his mind.
MAURYA (taking the bread). Will I be in it as soon as himself?
CATHLEEN. If you go now quickly.
MAURYA (standing up unsteadily). Its hard set I am to walk.
CATHLEEN (looking at her anxiously). Give her the stick, Nora, or maybe shell slip on the big stones.
NORA. what stick?
CATHLEEN. The stick Michael brought from Connemara.
MAURYA (taking a stick Nora gives her). In the big world the old people do be leaving things after them for their sons and children, but in this place it is the young men do be leaving things behind for them that do be old. (She goes out slowly. Nora goes over to the ladder.)
CATHLEEN. Wait, Nora, maybe shed turn back quickly. Shes that Sorry, God help her, you wou)dnt know the thing shed do.
NORA. Is she gone round by the bush?
CATHLEEN (looking out). Shes gone now. Throw it down quickly, for the Lord knows when shell be out of it again.
NORA (getting the bundle from the loft). The young priest said hed be passing to-morrow, and we might go down and speak to him below if its Michaels they are surely.
CATHLEEN (taking the bundle). Did he say what way they were found?
NORA (coming down). There were two men, says he, and they rowing round with poteen before the cocks crowed, and the oar of one of them caught the body, and they passing the black cliffs of the north.
CATHLEEN (trying to open the bundle). Give me a knife, Nora, the strings perished with the salt water, and theres a black knot on it you wouldnt loosen in a week.
NORA (giving her a knife). Ive heard tell it was a long way to Donegal.
CATHLEEN (cutting the string.) It is surely. There was a man in here a while agothe man sold us that knifeand he said if you set off walking from the rocks beyond, it would be seven days youd be in Donegal.
NORA. And what time would a man take, and he floating?
(Cathleen opens the bundle and takes out a bit of a stocking. They look at them eagerly.)
CATHLEEN (in a low voice). The Lord spare us, Nora! isnt it a queer hard thing to say if its his they are surely?
NORA. Ill get his shirt off the hook the way we can put the one flannel on the other. (She looks through some clothes hanging in the corner.) Its
not with them, Cathleen, and where will it be?
CATHLEEN. Im thinking Bartley put it on him in the morning, for his own shirt was heavy with the salt in it (pointing to the corner). Theres a bit of a sleeve was of the same stuff. Give me that and it will do. (Nora brings it to her and they compare the flannel.)
CATHLEEN. Its the same stuff, Nora; but if it is itself arent there great rolls of it in the shops of Galway, and isnt it many another man may have a shirt of it as well as Michael himself?
NORA (who has taken up the stocking and counted the stitches, crying out). Its Michael, Cathleen, its Michael; God spare his soul, and what will herself say when she hears this story, and Bartley on the sea?
CATHLEEN (taking the stocking). Its a plain stocking.
NORA. Its the second one of the third pair I knitted, and I put up three score stitches, and I dropped four of them.
CATHLEEN (counts the stitches). Its that number is in it (crying out). Ah, Nora, isnt it a bitter thing to think of him floating that way to the far north, and no one to keen him but the black hags that do be flying on the sea?
NORA (swinging herself round, and throwing out her arms on the clothes). And isnt it a pitiful thing when is nothing left of a man who was a great rower and fisher, but a bit of an old shirt and a plain stocking?
CATHLEEN. (after an instant) Tell me is herself coming, Nora? I hear a little sound on the path.
NORA (looking out). She is, Cathleen. Shes coming up to the door.
CATHLEEN. Put these things away before shell come in. Maybe its easier shell be after giving her blessing to Bartley, and we wont let on
weve heard anything the time hes on the sea.
NORA (helping Cathleen to close the bundle). Well put them here in the corner.
(They put them into a hole in the chimney corner. Cathleen goes back to the spinning-wheel.)
NORA. Will she see it was crying I was?
CATHLEEN. Keep your back to the door the way the lightll not be on you. (Nora sits down at the chimney corner, with her back to the door. Maurya comes in very slowly, without looking at the girls, and goes over to her stool at the other side of the fire. The cloth with the bread is still in her hand. The girls look at each other, and Nora points to the bundle of bread.)
CATHLEEN (after spinning for a moment). You didnt give him his bit of bread? (Maurya begins to keen softly, without turning round.)
CATHLEEN. Did you see him riding down? (Maurya goes on keening.)
CATHLEEN (a little impatiently). God forgive you; isnt it a better thing to raise your voice and tell what you seen, than to be making lamentation for a thing thats done? Did you see Bartley, Im saying to you.
MAURYA (with a weak voice). My hearts broken from this day.
CATHLEEN (as before). Did you see Bartley?
MAURYA. I seen the fearfulest thing.
CATHLEEN (leaves her wheel and looks out). God forgive you ; hes riding the mare now over the green head, and the gray pony behind him.
MAURYA (starts, so that her shawl falls back from her head and shows her white tossed hair. With a frightened voice). The gray pony behind him.
CATHLEEN (coming to the fire). What is it ails you, at all?
MAURYA (speaking very slowly). Ive seen the fearfulest thing any person has seen, since the day Bride Dara seen the dead man with the child in his arms.
CATHLEEN AND NORA. Uah. (They crouch down in front of the old woman at the fire.)
NORA. Tell us what it is you seen.
MAURYA. I went down to the spring well, and I stood there saying a prayer to myself. Then Bartley came along, and he riding on the red mare with the gray pony behind him. (She puts up her hands, as if to hide something from her eyes.) The Son of God spare us, Nora!
CATHLEEN. What is it you seen.
MAURYA. I seen Michael himself.
CATHLEEN (speaking softly). You did not, mother; It wasnt Michael you seen, for his body is after being found in the far north, and hes got a clean burial by the grace of God.
MAURYA (a little defiantly). Im after seeing him this day, and he riding and galloping. Bartley came first on the red mare; and I tried to say God speed you, but something choked the words in my throat. He went by quickly; and the blessing of God on you, says he, and I could say nothing. I looked up then, and I crying, at the gray pony, and there was Michael upon itwith fine clothes on him, and new shoes on his feet.
CATHLEEN (begins to keen). Its destroyed we are from this day. Its destroyed, surely.
NORA. Didnt the young priest say the Almighty God wouldnt leave her destitute with no son living?
MAURYA (in a low voice, but clearly). Its little the like of him knows of the sea. ... Bartley will be lost now, and let you call in Eamon and make me a good coffin out of the white boards, for I wont live after them. Ive had a husband, and a husbands father, and six sons in this housesix fine men, though it was a hard birth I had with every one of them and they coming to the worldand some of them were found and some of them were not found, but theyre gone now the lot of them....There were Stephen, and Shawn, were lost in the great wind, and found after in the Bay of Gregory of the Golden Mouth, and carried up the two of them on the one plank, and in by that door. (She pauses for a moment, the girls start as if they heard something through the door that is half open behind them.)
NORA (in a whisper). Did you hear that, Cathleen? Did you hear a noise in the north-east?
CATHLEEN (in a whisper). Theres some one after crying out by the seashore.
MAURYA (continues without hearing anything). There was Sheamus and his father, and his own father again, were lost in a dark night, and not a stick or sign was seen of them when the sun went up. There was Patch after was drowned out of a curagh that turned over. Iwas sitting here with Bartley, and he a baby, lying on my two knees, and I seen two women, and three women, and four women coming in, and they crossing themselves, and not saying a word. I looked out then, and there were men coming after them, and they holding a thing in the half of a red sail, and water dripping out of itit was a dry day, Noraand leaving a track to the door. (She pauses again with her hand stretched out towards the door. 1t opens softly and old women begin to come in, crossing themselves on the threshold, and kneeling down in front of the stage with red petticoats over their heads.)
MAURYA (half in a dream, to Cathleen). Is it Patch, or Michael, or what is it at all?
CATHLEEN. Michael is after being found in the far north, and when he is found there how could he be here in this place?
MAURYA. There does be a power of young men floating round in the sea, and what way would they know if it was Michael they had, or another man like him, for when a man is nine days in the sea, and the wind blowing, its hard set his own mother would be to say what man was it.
CATHLEEN. Its Michael, God spare him, for theyre after sending us a bit of his clothes from the far north. (She reaches out and hands Maurya the clothes that -belonged to Michael. Maurya stands up slowly and takes them in her hands. Nora looks out.)
NORA. Theyre carrying a thing among them and theres Water dripping Out of it and leaving a track by the big stones.
CATHLEEN (in a whisper to the women who have come in). Is it Bartley it is?
ONE OF THE WOMEN. It is surely, God rest his soul. (Two younger women come in and pull out the table. Then men carry in the body of Bartley, laid on a plank, with a bit of a sail over it, and lay it on the table. )
CATHLEEN (to the women, as they are doing so). What way was he drowned?
ONE OF THE WOMEN. The gray pony knocked him into the sea, and he was washed out where there is a great surf on the white rocks. (Maurya has gone over and knelt down at the head of the table. The women are keening softly and swaying themselves with a slow movement. Cathleen and Nora kneel at the other end of the table. The men kneel near the door.)
MAURYA (raising her head and speaking as if she did not see the people around her). Theyre all gone now, and there isnt anything more the sea can do to me. ...Ill have no call now to be up crying and praying when the wind breaks from the south, and you can hear the surf is in the east, and the surf is in the west, making a great stir with the two noises, and they hitting one on the other. Ill have no call now to be going down and getting Holy Water in the dark nights after Samhain, and I wont care what way the sea is when the other women will be keening. (To Nora.) Give me the Holy Water, Nora, theres a small sup still on the dresser. (Nora gives it to her.)
MAURYA (drops Michaels clothes across Bartleys feet, and sprinkles the Holy Water over him). It isnt that I havent prayed for you, Bartley, to the Almighty God. It isnt that I havent said prayers in the dark night till you wouldnt know what Ild be saying; but its a great rest Ill have now, and its time surely. Its a great rest Ill have now, and great sleeping in the long nights after Samhain, if its only a bit of wet flour we do have to eat, and maybe a fish that would be stinking. (She kneels down again, crossing herself, and saying prayers under her breath.)
CATHLEEN (to an old man). Maybe yourself and Eamon would make a coffin when the sun rises. We have fine white boards herself bought, God help her, thinking Michael would be found, and I have a new cake you can eat while youll be working.
THE OLD MAN (looking at the boards). Are there nails with them?
CATHLEEN. There are not, Colum; we didnt think of the nails.
ANOTHER MAN. Its a great wonder she wouldnt think of the nails, and all the coffins shes seen made already.
CATHLEEN. Its getting old she is, and broken. (Maurya stands up again very slowly and spreads out the pieces of Michaels clothes beside the body, sprinkling them with the last of the Holy Water.)
NORA (in a whisper to Cathleen). Shes quiet now and easy; but the day Michael was drowned you could hear her crying out from this to the spring well. Its fonder she was of Michael, and would any one have thought that?
CATHLEEN (slowly and clearly). An old woman will be soon tired with anything she will do, and isnt it nine days herself is after crying and keening, and making great sorrow in the house?
MAURYA (puts the empty cup mouth downwards on the table, and lays her hands together on Bartleys feet). Theyre all together this time, and the end is come. May the Almighty God have mercy on Bartleys soul, and on Michaels soul, and on the souls of Sheamus and Patch, and Stephen and Shawn (bending her head); and may He have mercy on my soul, Nora, and on the soul of every one is left living in the world. (She pauses, and the keen rises a little more loudly from the women, then sinks away.)
MAURYA (continuing). Michael has a clean burial in the far north, by the grace of the Almighty God. Bartley will have a fine coffin out of the white boards, and a deep grave surely. What more can we want than that? No man at all can be living for ever, and we must be satisfied. (She kneels down again and the curtain fails slowly.)