Garret MacEniry (5), A Tale of the Munster Peasantry

Patrick Weston Joyce

On the evening of the fourth day several persons sat in the cottage, some of Garret's old acquaintances, and several Palatines; he himself sat by the bedside. They were all silent, or only talked occasionally in hushed whispers, for they sat by a death bed. Mary had nearly lost all consciousness of those around her, and her mind wandered in a bewildered and perplexed chaos. She spoke at intervals in a low voice; her words wandered wildly without connection, over the events of her past life; and she spoke of each as if it were of recent or present occurrence. Quick as lightning her mind darted after every new flash of thought, until she uttered a word, or perhaps her eye accidentally caught some external object that awoke some long slumbering association, and turned her thoughts into a new channel.

The aged man bent silently over her, catching every word and watching anxiously for a gleam of returning consciousness. Occasionally she paused, looking perplexed, and seemed as if she endeavoured to recollect herself; then uttered a few words, or asked a question, that seemed to indicate the momentary return of sanity. Here he would speak to her, reminding her of his presence and asking in a low voice if she knew him, in a most gentle and affectionate manner; but again her eyes assumed their meaningless vacancy, and her scattered replies showed that the faint gleam of returning reason was again lost in the gloom of disordered imagination. In the intervals of her speaking she occasionally moved her right hand lightly over the bed-clothes, as if feeling for something; then she would catch them in her fingers, lifting and arranging them, in that childish way that throws such a sickening chill on the heart of anyone who witnesses a death bed.

"Yes Garret, there it is comin' home—there is the little lamb you was lookin' for; the poor little crathur is almost dead with the hunger. And look, Garret—oh, look! little Jimmy is dhrivin' her. Sure I knew it was Jimmy. Come here, Jimmy alanna an' kiss your poor mother that's a long time lookin' for you and cryin' afther you. But—no! this isn't my darlin' boy wid the two blue eyes—no, this isn't Jimmy—(a pause) * * * But och; sure I'm ravin'—this burnin', this burnin' (putting her hand to her forehead) is sindin' me mad. Jimmy alanna bawn, sure you're sleepin' undher the whitethorn bush near the ould wall in Ardpatrick. I heard the clay soundin' on your little coffin, an' I saw your father cryin' afther you unknown to everyone. But I saw him when he purtended to turn his head to look for the cow;------poor Bawneen! I reared her wid my own two hands. Garret, Bawneen isn't milked yet—dhrive the crathur in an' cut some—* * * Oh! this burnin'. God above gi' me a little relief * * * Garret, avourneen, Garret?" "What do you want, Mary darlin'; don't you know me; sure here I am at the bed near you." "Garret, I'm sick, very sick, but I didn't like to tell you afore, for I knew you'd be throubled. But I can't keep it any longer. I'm sick—I'm going to die—to go to heaven to see our poor little Jimmy an' Mary, and all our poor little crathurs and to see my poor father an' mother too. * * * Don't be cryin' so much, mother dear, sure I'll come to see you often, an' Garret will come wid me, whin we'll be livin' in our own nice cottage. An' father, little Eileen will comb your white hair instead o' me. * * * Look, Garret, look! how nice they look in their new dresses, the blessed little darlins. Garret, I'm very------I'd be very happy—only for this—this—terrible burnin'."

Here she paused—her face contracted, and her body writhed, as if she suffered intensely. For a considerable time after this she remained apparently insensible; at length she began to speak again, but her words were more detached, and her voice was scarcely audible, tho' Garret bent his face close to hers.

"Garret, the night is comin' on. I see it growin' dark—I'm going to see—to sleep with little Jimmy—poor little fellow—I'd like to sleep wid him under the old whitethorn bush * * * I'm goin'—Garret—I'm lavin' you—for ever. An' I know—you'll be lonesome —when I'm gone * * * I'm goin' to see—our little crathurs—but—Garret—Garret avourneen—I'd like—to stay wid you—a little—a little longer."

She ceased—closed her eyes—breathed one long sigh—and her spirit winged its way to heaven.