afterwards he helped them all carry the chests, while Paddy guided Moses and kept him calm.
The journey home was a long and tiring one. According to the children, the ground was more awkward than ever, and there were pains in their backs and wings and shoulders. They often stopped to catch their breath. Peig hit her on the ground a few times and said she couldn't walk another step, and started crying. Daniel joked with her. What a lame old man like Moses would do, he said, a young pony like herself would not fail to do.
It took them a long time to reach the house of the Collins family. The young Driscolls said goodbye to their friends and moved on. The last half mile was the worst. Michael's hands were bleeding as he tried to hold on to the heaviest basket. The claplight was there by the time they reached home.
The large basket was to be left by the fire, but the rest of the peat was thrown by the side of the house. There was only a small clamp at all. They couldn’t help but think of the great steel their father would make when there was a better life, a steel you could stand on, almost as high as the gable of the house.
They pushed the door open for them. Her mother was sleeping soundly in the cover and little Brigid was in her bosom. The mother looked tired, and they recognized that she had been crying.
Making no noise, they reheated an oatmeal mash. They were all overwhelmed, wanting only to fall into bed. With all the pain in their bones, they barely felt the groaning in their empty guts before they fell asleep.
Sometime during the night they felt her mother crying softly to herself, while Brigid was coughing and trying to catch her breath. Micheál came to lie in bed with the girls. They shook hands and began to pray. They said every prayer we ever learned.
“God bless us! Help us, we implore you, God! ” on them.
No one slept soundly. It was early in the morning before the coughing stopped. Suddenly there was silence. The mother was kissing the baby's face and all her fingers one after the other.
"May God raise the sun soon and end this sad night," said the children.
They suddenly realized that her mother was not a smid. They got up and went over to her. The big tears were flowing with her.
"She is OK. My own little sweetheart is gone! ”
Peig started to cry. "I want Brigid back," she said. "I need her."
"It's all right, darling," said the mother. "It simply came to our notice then. Look at her. Isn't she the perfect girl toddler, now that she's relaxed. ”
The baby was just as if she were asleep. The mother told them to kiss her, and they came face to face that the little sister had kissed dearly whom they barely knew.
The mother looked very quiet, strangely enough, and she ordered them to go back to bed. “As soon as the day dawns, Michael, you must run up to Daniel Collins' house and ask him to call Father O'Doyle. I'll sit here for another while watching my baby growl. ”
Soon Micheál set off. His face was white and his eyes red from crying. The cold morning air shook him and he squeezed his light coat around him.
The mother had some heated water and she washed Brigid carefully with a rag, and repeatedly brushed her soft curly blond hair. Eibhlín pulled the old wooden chest out from under her parents' bed. She opened it, as she was told. It must have been, and she did not hesitate to find the lace baptismal dress made by her great-grandmother long ago. The lace was yellow with age. It had been ten months since Brigid had already worn the dress, but her little body was so worn that it was still big enough for her. She was like a bright little angel wearing that dress, but she reminded Evelyn of French porcelain dolls she had once seen in a shop window in town. The doll stood upright stiff under her white lace dress and a small starched undercoat underneath, with long curly hair down to her. She loved to have that doll of her own and squeeze it with her heart. Now she had the same feeling, but stronger. She had a terrible desire to squeeze Brigid with her heart and never release her.
The wind stood still. The drying weather was great. Dónall Ó Coileáin had sent word to them that he would take them to the bog that morning. Peig was bouncing from foot to foot and she was excited to go. Since the time when hunger and illness came to life, children have been hanging around the hut most of the time. Her mother wanted them to be on the sidelines. From their own door, the Driscoll family saw the smoke rising from every chimney in Downing. It was a beautiful place. The neighbors were very kind, but there was little visiting at present. The people were ashamed of how poor they were, and preferred to hide the news from their neighbors. And in any case, few people had the energy or the courage to engage in music or dance or storytelling.
But today Eibhlín and Peig and Micheál were going to the bog! They said goodbye to their mother, whose face was white and she looked a little anxious. Little Brigid was still very ill. She was asleep most of the time, and she only cried when her mother laid her down.
They each had a basket for the turf. They also had a can of fresh water, and some potato skins and a baked crust to satisfy their hunger.
Paddy and his father were waiting for them. Dónall Ó Coileáin was a big man, with a curly blond top of hair, and merry eyes dancing in his head when he was in a good mood. Most of the time he was out in the open, and knew all the places where berries or berries or mushrooms would grow. The old man, Moses, was with him, with the big pardons empty on his back.
"I'm ashamed of you, as a young group, for delaying us on a great day like this!" said Daniel mockingly, throwing their baskets on the donkey's back. "Go ahead now, and Moses and I will come up with you later." The donkey was old, slow, and not good at speeding.
The children had plenty of time to play and play while they collected the dry sods and put them in neat little piles. Peig was busy picking up her mother's milkshake.
Eventually Daniel arrived, and they started filling the baskets with as much peat as they could carry, and that was a big deal. Moss himself would only bear half a load these days.
They were soon sweating, and thirsty. They sat down and swallowed the cold water and ate the food they ate. Daniel had a sip of tea and a bite to eat, and
she picked up the jars and raised the lids on them to see what was in them. Eventually she found the one she wanted, smelled it, and handed it to Eibhlín.
"And tell your mother I'll want that jar back."
"Will it heal Brigid?" said Peig. Eibhlín was amazed at how brave her little sister, when she was only seven years old, spoke.
Kate's face grew gloomy. "I do not know, my dear. There are so many diseases going on in these worlds — and strange diseases. I can only do my best. ”
With that Kate headed to the door to go out in the sun again. She was just outside the door when she searched in the pocket of her apron that pulled out an apple. It was a smeared old man. She gave him a tear. The girls did not want to look, but with great circumstances she presented it to Peggy.
Two big eyes came to Peggy. Eibhlín was taken aback.
"Thank you… we couldn't take it from you… thank you… but it wouldn't be right," said Eibhlín.
"It's green, and it's as hard as a slab of hell," said Kate with a laugh, exposing her gnarled teeth. "In fact, I won't eat it!"
The girls smiled and Peig carried the apple home as carefully as if it were a jewel, to be shared with the household.
That night they had yellow flour for supper and melted lard through it as well as a handful of garlic which the mother threw in to hide the bad taste. Four portions of the apple were made and eaten deliciously, the ones that were a little hard, and sour with its side.
"It's been two weeks since your father went to work on the roads, and he hasn't heard from him yet," said the mother. Eibhlín knew that her mother was worried about Bríd becoming ill and consuming the bag of yellow flour in the corner every day.
"I don't know what will happen to us, or what we will do," said the mother, shaking her head. "It is said that the great house itself is about to close and the master and his people are waiting to return to the whole of England."
Micheál acknowledged the despair in his voice and he exclaimed, “I have good news! Wait and hear this, Mum. ”
There were times when you would not believe he was only nine years old. He wore a curly black top of hair like his father had, and his mother 's blue eyes and the same gentle soft look in them. He didn't want her to be sad.
“Páid and I were up on the bog. We went a little further than usual, and came to a place that had not yet been sown. Paddy's father is going up with him tomorrow to cut and stratify some turf, and he says that if this wind and drying lasts we could have our share of it just by bringing it home ourselves. Isn't that great? ”
The mother smiled. "Dónall Ó Coileáin is a good man, and that's the real word."
She let herself back in the chair and released some of her anxiety. Eibhlín knelt beside her, and Peig sat in her bosom.
Eibhlín tucked herself into Peggy's back and soon she became warm. She was asleep and fell asleep again.
“Eibhlín! Eibhlín! Are you going to get up? ” said Peig in a whisper.
The girls took off their shears and after a while they took off their blankets. Eibhlín went over to the fire and put a sod of peat on the rash. The peat basket was almost empty. There was work there for Michael.
The two girls went out into the yard. The morning sun was shining. There was dew on the grass. They didn't delay at all because it was cold outside and they were only wearing their shirts. When they came in again her mother was still asleep, with little Brigid moaning beside her.
"Is there any food in the house?"
"Ah, Michael, it's easy to recognize that you're sitting," said Eibhlín mockingly.
“Come away, Eibhlín. See if there is anything, please, ”said Micheál.
"Go out and wash that dust off your face and then we'll look," said Eibhlín.
A ray of sunshine was coming in through the open door. According to Eibhlín, the hut was full of dust and dirt.
The baby coughed and woke up. Eibhlín lifted her in her arms and sat down on a chair in the cover while her mother waved around. There were three potatoes left from yesterday before and they were gray in color. The mother cut these into slices and filled out a milk drink from a large jug. It was quite scarce, as a meal. No one spoke, but they ate with them, each with his own thoughts.
Micheál started talking… asking… but changed his mind. He had learned a lesson for a while.
The first few times he asked for more, his father or mother lifted the wooden spoon and struck it on the palm of his hand. Afterwards, as he was pleading with them, his father looked into a sad look and his mother broke down in tears. He couldn't stand that, let alone his two sisters alternately plucking a lemon and a plug. It would be better not to say anything.
By noon things had improved. There was warmth in the sun and a soft breath of wind. Micheál walked up the road to meet his friend Páid. They would walk the couple of miles together to the bog to see if they could find a chest full of peat.
Brigid had a small snoring, but she slept with her. That gave the mother courage, and she collected the shirts and a few other garments for her washing, and then she spread them on the ground outside to dry. She shook the blankets well and hung them on the stone fence.
Peggy had long brown hair, no weave, just down to her in dirty streaks. The mother bent over Peggy and started washing her hair with water from a bucket, scrubbing and rubbing the skin at the same time. Peig was all screaming, but the scream was even worse when the mother sent her the gentle comb that began to pull her through the long tangled hair, scrutinizing it hard to see if there was snow or lice. Eibhlín was laughing, because the same trick had been done to her just two weeks earlier and she knew she was safe this time.
Later, the mother sent the two of them up to the house of Cáit Mhór Uí Chonmhaí to see if she could find a goose extract that she would rub on Brigid's chest. Kate had medicine and she helped people who were sick or worried.
She had a thick hedge around the hut to give some privacy to those who would visit her.
The old woman was sitting on a stool outside in the sun.
"My soul, if you are not the right girls," said Cáit with a laugh. "What do you want, sweethearts?"
"My mother gave me a goose extract for the baby," said Eibhlín.
"My pity is the same child," said Kate. "If it's not the time to come to life!"
She got up from the stool and motioned for the girls to follow her. Peig fell back and grabbed Eibhlín's dress. She had heard stories about the old woman and was a little afraid of her.
The hut was dark, with an old smell. Cáit walked lamely over to the old wooden dresser, which was full of bottles and jars. She began to monologue to herself and
The cold air was damp when Eibhlín turned in bed trying to pull the edge of her thighs over her shoulders. She felt her little sister Peig moving beside her. Peig was snoring again, as she would whenever she had a cold.
The fire was almost out. The redness of the rash was tingling in the dark hut.
Her mother was humming low to the baby. Little Brigid had her eyes closed, and her face looked whiter than ever as she wrapped in her mother's shawl, with a tight grip on a lock of her long brown hair.
Brigid was ill - they all knew it. Inside that shawl, her body was too big, and her skin was white, and it was too hot or too cold under your hand. The mother squeezed her day and night as if trying to instill some of her own strength into her gleaming baby.
Eibhlín felt the tears in her eyes. Sometimes she thought the whole thing was a dream, and she would wake up without delay and laugh at it, but the hunger in her appetite and the sadness in her heart were enough to confirm that it was true. She closed her eyes and remembered.
It was hard to believe that it was only a little over a year since they had been sitting in the old school house when Tadhg Ó Ceallaigh ran in to meet his brother Seán, and told them all to get home alive and help their family. , as the black had found the potatoes rotting in the ground.
They were all waiting for the master to raise his stick and let out a shout to Tadhg: Go away, you bastard, and don't interrupt the lesson. They were not surprised when the master closed the book and told them to hurry home. "Don't delay," he said. "Go home and lend a helping hand to your family." And they got out of it so thick that a ray of semen came into them, and they were quite worried about what would happen to them at home.
Eibhlín remembered it. Her father was sitting on the stone wall with his head between his hands. Her mother was on her knees in the field, her hands and apron covered with clay as she pulled the potatoes out of the ground, and the air around her smelled heavy. And such a smell - a foul, ugly smell, going up in your nose, into your nostrils, into your mouth. The foul smell of the disease.
Across the valley the men were cursing and the women were praying to God for relief. Every field ever, the potatoes were withered and rotting in the ground. The top was spoiled, and they were beside it as food. The children closed their eyes in horror, as they, along with someone, recognized that they were hungry.