Garret MacEniry (4), A Tale of the Munster Peasantry

Patrick Weston Joyce

One evening when Garret returned from work somewhat earlier than usual, intending to look after a few sheep which he had on the mountain, he found Mary alone: she was more silent than usual, and he thought she looked ill.

"Mary acushla," said he, "is there anything amiss with you?—I think you don't look well this evenin."

"Why thin indeed Garret," she replied, "to tell the thruth, I didn't feel too well these couple o' days, but I didn't like to tell you afore, for fear you might be throubled. I don't know how it is, but there's something quare comin' over me that I never felt afore, an' there's a weight here on my heart I can't get rid of. The Lord sind, Garret avourneen," said she doubtingly, "that it wouldn't be anything bad."

"Mary agragal you're takin' id too much to heart," said he, "you wor never used to sickness, and a little thing frightens you; but you'll see there's no danger. Wait till to-morrow, an' I'll engage with the help of God you'll be as well as ever you wor."

"Well, God is good, glory be to His holy name. I hope it may turn out as you're sayin'. But sure Garret avourneen, 'tis afore us all, praise be to God, an' His will must be done anyway."

This delicate allusion to the possibility of real danger caused a thrill of anguish to shoot through his breast. Suppressing his emotion however he again assumed his former cheerful encouraging tone, and replied—

"Mary, a sullish machree, you're too much downhearted; indeed I can't bear to hear you spakin' in that way, for id goes through my heart, so id does. I'll stay wid you all this evenin', an' I'll engage you'll see, please God 'tis only a little fit of cowld or some other thriflin' thing."

Her presentiments proved to be too true. That evening she was obliged to take to bed, and next morning her illness had increased to an alarming extent: symptoms of fever set in, and her mind occasionally wandered. All this soon became known to their neighbours, who heard it with real concern, and the cottage was never without visitors. For several days she lingered, but her strength gradually sank, and now all hopes of her recovery were relinquished. She requested that Father Quinlan might be sent for; he came, and she received the last rites of the church. Garret was in a state of utter despondency; he neglected everything, and was with difficulty prevailed upon to taste a morsel of food; but he never wept, and he spoke but little. He spent his whole time either in sitting by the bed-side or in walking silently about his little farm. He wandered from place to place, stopping with clasped hands and gazing at every object with which the memory of Mary was in any way associated.

There was a little green at a short distance behind the house, with a seat made of sods at the upper end of it; it was a pretty nook, cut as it were out of the forest. The trees completely overshadowed it, and except when the morning sun peeped in beneath the branches it was screened from his beams. Long ago, Garret and Mary loved to sit together on this little bank and listen to the song of the birds in the trees over them; and when their children grew up, the whole family often left the house on a Sunday morning to enjoy themselves in this spot, the hearts of the parents overflowing with happiness, as under the laughing beams of the morning sun their little ones gambolled on the green before them. Garret now haunted this spot continually; he ended every walk by seating himself for a short time on that little bank, where he had spent so many happy hours.