Part IV

September Again

Chapter IV

THAT SHROUD was whiter and more encompassing than ever as she made her way back to the cabin. Its effect upon her was not, however, now to excite, but to deaden and subdue. The long struggle with Murdough; the failure of her appeal to him; her own, even to herself, unexpected and unaccountable behaviour at the end of their meeting; the dismay with which he had received that behaviour; all these had combined to produce a reaction. She felt thoroughly beaten down now, thoroughly sobered and ashamed. No one on Inishmaan, no girl, possibly anywhere, had ever behaved in such a manner before, no one certainly within the range of her experience had ever been so lost to all propriety and decency. A sense of being a sort of pariah was strong upon her as she crept back with difficulty over the fog-filled fissures, and stole noiselessly into the cabin, wishing only to hide herself there from all eyes. Her new self-mistrust even went so far as to include a belief that her impression about Honor’s danger had probably been quite wrong, that she would prove to be no worse than usual, and that it would therefore do perfectly well to think about getting the priest for her in the morning when the fog should have dispersed. That, as Murdough said, was the decent thing to do, and no doubt Honor would do whatever was most decent and most proper.

    Unfortunately, so valuable a lesson as to the advantages of being always perfectly decent and reasonable was not destined to be enforced that evening. On the contrary, Grania had no sooner opened the cabin door, and cast her eyes upon the bed, than she saw that a great change for the worse had taken place during her absence. Honor was sittting upright, propped by every movable thing in the house—propped, too, by Molly Muldoon’s willing arms—but panting, white, and exhausted, apparently all but gone, so nearly gone, indeed, that it seemed to Grania, as she stood there upon the threshold, that each of these hardly-won breaths must be the last, that the end had positively come. She caught her own breath and sank instinctively upon her knees with a feeling of the imminence of that end.

    But Honor had seen her. For a moment a gleam of intense hope lit up her face. She looked behind her eagerly towards the door, expecting evidently to see a black figure following her, that figure for whose coming her whole soul had for hours back been going out in an agony of petition, for whose coming she was struggling so desperately to keep alive. There was no black figure following, however, and after a minute a new look, first of intense disappointment, then of an agonised effort at submission, came into her face, and she beckoned her sister over to her, speaking in a low gasping whisper.

    ‘Arrah, Grania child, don’t be destroying yourself . . . breaking the heart in your body with trying to do what you . . . can't do. Sure 'tis killing yourself I see you are! The fog . . . yes, I know . . . Molly Muldoon told me! Arrah, can’t I see with my own eyes how the house is filled with it . . . in at all the cracks and down the chimney! Saints in glory, ‘tis terrible wicked-looking weather, and how could Father Torn come out such an evening if you did get to . . . Aranmore itself?’ She paused, breathless and panting. ‘The Holy Mother will stand between me and . . . and all harm,’ she then whispered painfully. 'She'll know it wasn’t my . . . fault. She’ll know ‘twas the fog. . . and the men afeard as . . . who could blame them? She’ll speak the word for me . . . I know she will . . . she’ll . . . speak . . . the .. . word for me.’

    Again she paused. Suddenly her eyes turned upon Grania.

    ‘Arrah, my bird, don’t be fretting yourself,’ she murmured tenderly. ‘Don’t I know you would have got him for me if you could?’ Then, with another great effort, ‘Take heart, my bird, take heart; ‘tisn’t long I’ll be in it, you know, to be disappointed, and whether or not—sure I can bear it, honey sweet; I can bear it, I tell you; bear it . . . easy.’ But a fresh impulse had now seized hold of Grania. Her momentary apathy was gone. A new determination was setting her eyes ablaze.

    ‘You shall have him, Honor, and he shall come to you, if I have to bring him swimming through the water after me, so he shall,’ she exclaimed fiercely. ‘Don’t be afraid, dear; keep up your poor heart a little, a very little longer, sister darling, and he’ll be with you.’

    She kissed her hastily, and dashed out of the door again, turning this tim in the direction of the O’Shaughnessys’ cabin. Maybe Teige would be back, after all. Most probably, almost certainly, he would be back by this time. Anyhow, with Teige or without Teige, to Aranmore and to Father Tom that night somehow or other she would get.