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    Part II

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    Chapter 3
    Previous Chapter
    THE evening before I returned to the west I wrote to Michael--who
    had left the islands to earn his living on the mainland--to tell him
    that I would call at the house where he lodged the next morning,
    which was a Sunday.

    A young girl with fine western features, and little English, came
    out when I knocked at the door. She seemed to have heard all about
    me, and was so filled with the importance of her message that she
    could hardly speak it intelligibly.

    'She got your letter,' she said, confusing the pronouns, as is often
    done in the west, 'she is gone to Mass, and she'll be in the square
    after that. Let your honour go now and sit in the square, and Michael
    will find you.'

    As I was returning up the main street I met Michael wandering down
    to meet me, as he had got tired of waiting.

    He seemed to have grown a powerful man since I had seen him, and was
    now dressed in the heavy brown flannels of the Connaught labourer.
    After a little talk we turned back together and went out on the
    sandhills above the town. Meeting him here a little beyond the
    threshold of my hotel I was singularly struck with the refinement of
    his nature, which has hardly been influenced by his new life, and
    the townsmen and sailors he has met with.

    'I do often come outside the town on Sunday,' he said while we were
    talking, 'for what is there to do in a town in the middle of all the
    people when you are not at your work?'

    A little later another Irish-speaking labourer--a friend of
    Michael's--joined us, and we lay for hours talking and arguing on
    the grass. The day was unbearably sultry, and the sand and the sea
    near us were crowded with half-naked women, but neither of the young
    men seemed to be aware of their presence. Before we went back to the
    town a man came out to ring a young horse on the sand close to where
    we were lying, and then the interest of my companions was intense.

    Late in the evening I met Michael again, and we wandered round the
    bay, which was still filled with bathing women, until it was quite
    dark, I shall not see him again before my return from the islands,
    as he is busy to-morrow, and on Tuesday I go out with the steamer.

    I returned to the middle island this morning, in the steamer to
    Kilronan, and on here in a curagh that had gone over with salt fish.
    As I came up from the slip the doorways in the village filled with
    women and children, and several came down on the roadway to shake
    hands and bid me a thousand welcomes.

    Old Pat Dirane is dead, and several of my friends have gone to
    America; that is all the news they have to give me after an absence
    of many months.

    When I arrived at the cottage I was welcomed by the old people, and
    great excitement was made by some little presents I had bought
    them--a pair of folding scissors for the old woman, a strop for her
    husband, and some other trifles.

    Then the youngest son, Columb, who is still at home, went into the
    inner room and brought out the alarm clock I sent them last year
    when I went away.

    'I am very fond of this clock,' he said, patting it on the back; 'it
    will ring for me any morning when I want to go out fishing. Bedad,
    there are no two clocks in the island that would be equal to it.'

    I had some photographs to show them that I took here last year, and
    while I was sitting on a little stool near the door of the kitchen,
    showing them to the family, a beautiful young woman I had spoken to
    a few times last year slipped in, and after a wonderfully simple and
    cordial speech of welcome, she sat down on the floor beside me to
    look on also.

    The complete absence of shyness or self-consciousness in most of
    these people gives them a peculiar charm, and when this young and
    beautiful woman leaned across my knees to look nearer at some
    photograph that pleased her, I felt more than ever the strange
    simplicity of the island life.

    Last year when I came here everything was new, and the people were a
    little strange with me, but now I am familiar with them and their
    way of life, so that their qualities strike me more forcibly than
    before.

    When my photographs of this island had been examined with immense
    delight, and every person in them had been identified--even those
    who only showed a hand or a leg--I brought out some I had taken in
    County Wicklow. Most of them were fragments, showing fairs in
    Rathdrum or Aughrim, men cutting turf on the hills, or other scenes
    of inland life, yet they gave the greatest delight to these people
    who are wearied of the sea.

    This year I see a darker side of life in the islands. The sun seldom
    shines, and day after day a cold south-western wind blows over the
    cliffs, bringing up showers of hail and dense masses of cloud.

    The sons who are at home stay out fishing whenever it is tolerably
    calm, from about three in the morning till after nightfall, yet they
    earn little, as fish are not plentiful.

    The old man fishes also with a long rod and ground-bait, but as a
    rule has even smaller success.

    When the weather breaks completely, fishing is abandoned, and they
    both go down and dig potatoes in the rain. The women sometimes help
    them, but their usual work is to look after the calves and do their
    spinning in the house.

    There is a vague depression over the family this year, because of
    the two sons who have gone away, Michael to the mainland, and
    another son, who was working in Kilronan last year, to the United
    States.

    A letter came yesterday from Michael to his mother. It was written
    in English, as he is the only one of the family who can read or
    write in Irish, and I heard it being slowly spelled out and
    translated as I sat in my room. A little later the old woman brought
    it in for me to read.

    He told her first about his work, and the wages he is getting. Then
    he said that one night he had been walking in the town, and had
    looked up among the streets, and thought to himself what a grand
    night it would be on the Sandy Head of this island--not, he added,
    that he was feeling lonely or sad. At the end he gave an account,
    with the dramatic emphasis of the folk-tale, of how he had met me on
    the Sunday morning, and, 'believe me,' he said, 'it was the fine
    talk we had for two hours or three.' He told them also of a knife I
    had given him that was so fine, no one on the island 'had ever seen
    the like of her.'

    Another day a letter came from the son who is in America, to say
    that he had had a slight accident to one of his arms, but was well
    again, and that he was leaving New York and going a few hundred
    miles up the country.

    All the evening afterwards the old woman sat on her stool at the
    corner of the fire with her shawl over her head, keening piteously
    to herself. America appeared far away, yet she seems to have felt
    that, after all, it was only the other edge of the Atlantic, and now
    when she hears them talking of railroads and inland cities where
    there is no sea, things she cannot understand, it comes home to her
    that her son is gone for ever. She often tells me how she used to
    sit on the wall behind the house last year and watch the hooker he
    worked in coming out of Kilronan and beating up the sound, and what
    company it used to be to her the time they'd all be out.

    The maternal feeling is so powerful on these islands that it gives a
    life of torment to the women. Their sons grow up to be banished as
    soon as they are of age, or to live here in continual danger on the
    sea; their daughters go away also, or are worn out in their youth
    with bearing children that grow up to harass them in their own turn
    a little later.

    There has been a storm for the last twenty-four hours, and I have
    been wandering on the cliffs till my hair is stiff with salt.
    Immense masses of spray were flying up from the base of the cliff,
    and were caught at times by the wind and whirled away to fall at
    some distance from the shore. When one of these happened to fall on
    me, I had to crouch down for an instant, wrapped and blinded by a
    white hail of foam.

    The waves were so enormous that when I saw one more than usually
    large coming towards me, I turned instinctively to hide myself, as
    one blinks when struck upon the eyes.

    After a few hours the mind grows bewildered with the endless change
    and struggle of the sea, and an utter despondency replaces the first
    moment of exhilaration.

    At the south-west corner of the island I came upon a number of
    people gathering the seaweed that is now thick on the rocks. It was
    raked from the surf by the men, and then carried up to the brow of
    the cliff by a party of young girls.

    In addition to their ordinary clothing these girls wore a raw
    sheepskin on their shoulders, to catch the oozing sea-water, and
    they looked strangely wild and seal-like with the salt caked upon
    their lips and wreaths of seaweed in their hair.

    For the rest of my walk I saw no living thing but one flock of
    curlews, and a few pipits hiding among the stones.

    About the sunset the clouds broke and the storm turned to a
    hurricane. Bars of purple cloud stretched across the sound where
    immense waves were rolling from the west, wreathed with snowy
    phantasies of spray. Then there was the bay full of green delirium,
    and the Twelve Pins touched with mauve and scarlet in the east.

    The suggestion from this world of inarticulate power was immense,
    and now at midnight, when the wind is abating, I am still trembling
    and flushed with exultation.

    I have been walking through the wet lanes in my pampooties in spite
    of the rain, and I have brought on a feverish cold.

    The wind is terrific. If anything serious should happen to me I
    might die here and be nailed in my box, and shoved down into a wet
    crevice in the graveyard before any one could know it on the
    mainland.

    Two days ago a curagh passed from the south island--they can go out
    when we are weather-bound because of a sheltered cove in their
    island--it was thought in search of the Doctor. It became too rough
    afterwards to make the return journey, and it was only this morning
    we saw them repassing towards the south-east in a terrible sea.

    A four-oared curagh with two men in her besides the rowers--
    probably the Priest and the Doctor--went first, followed by the
    three-oared curagh from the south island, which ran more danger.
    Often when they go for the Doctor in weather like this, they bring
    the Priest also, as they do not know if it will be possible to go
    for him if he is needed later.

    As a rule there is little illness, and the women often manage their
    confinements among themselves without any trained assistance. In
    most cases all goes well, but at times a curagh is sent off in
    desperate haste for the Priest and the Doctor when it is too late.

    The baby that spent some days here last year is now established in
    the house; I suppose the old woman has adopted him to console
    herself for the loss of her own sons.

    He is now a well-grown child, though not yet able to say more than a
    few words of Gaelic. His favourite amusement is to stand behind the
    door with a stick, waiting for any wandering pig or hen that may
    chance to come in, and then to dash out and pursue them. There are
    two young kittens in the kitchen also, which he ill-treats, without
    meaning to do them harm.

    Whenever the old woman comes into my room with turf for the fire, he
    walks in solemnly behind her with a sod under each arm, deposits
    them on the back of the fire with great care, and then flies off
    round the corner with his long petticoats trailing behind him.

    He has not yet received any official name on the island, as he has
    not left the fireside, but in the house they usually speak of him as
    'Michaeleen beug' (i.e. 'little small-Michael').

    Now and then he is slapped, but for the most part the old woman
    keeps him in order with stories of 'the long-toothed hag,' that
    lives in the Dun and eats children who are not good. He spends half
    his day eating cold potatoes and drinking very strong tea, yet seems
    in perfect health.

    An Irish letter has come to me from Michael. I will translate it
    literally.

    DEAR NOBLE PERSON,--I write this letter with joy and pride that you
    found the way to the house of my father the day you were on the
    steamship. I am thinking there will not be loneliness on you, for
    there will be the fine beautiful Gaelic League and you will be
    learning powerfully.

    I am thinking there is no one in life walking with you now but your
    own self from morning till night, and great is the pity.

    What way are my mother and my three brothers and my sisters, and do
    not forget white Michael, and the poor little child and the old grey
    woman, and Rory. I am getting a forgetfulness on all my friends and
    kindred.--I am your friend ...

    It is curious how he accuses himself of forgetfulness after asking
    for all his family by name. I suppose the first home-sickness is
    wearing away and he looks on his independent wellbeing as a treason
    towards his kindred.

    One of his friends was in the kitchen when the letter was brought to
    me, and, by the old man's wish, he read it out loud as soon as I had
    finished it. When he came to the last sentence he hesitated for a
    moment, and then omitted it altogether.

    This young man had come up to bring me a copy of the 'Love Songs of
    Connaught,' which he possesses, and I persuaded him to read, or
    rather chant me some of them. When he had read a couple I found that
    the old woman knew many of them from her childhood, though her
    version was often not the same as what was in the book. She was
    rocking herself on a stool in the chimney corner beside a pot of
    indigo, in which she was dyeing wool, and several times when the
    young man finished a poem she took it up again and recited the
    verses with exquisite musical intonation, putting a wistfulness and
    passion into her voice that seemed to give it all the cadences that
    are sought in the profoundest poetry.

    The lamp had burned low, and another terrible gale was howling and
    shrieking over the island. It seemed like a dream that I should be
    sitting here among these men and women listening to this rude and
    beautiful poetry that is filled with the oldest passions of the
    world.

    The horses have been coming back for the last few days from their
    summer's grazing in Connemara. They are landed at the sandy beach
    where the cattle were shipped last year, and I went down early this
    morning to watch their arrival through the waves. The hooker was
    anchored at some distance from the shore, but I could see a horse
    standing at the gunnel surrounded by men shouting and flipping at it
    with bits of rope. In a moment it jumped over into the sea, and some
    men, who were waiting for it in a curagh, caught it by the halter
    and towed it to within twenty yards of the surf. Then the curagh
    turned back to the hooker, and the horse was left to make its own
    way to the land.

    As I was standing about a man came up to me and asked after the
    usual salutations:--

    'Is there any war in the world at this time, noble person?' I told
    him something of the excitement in the Transvaal, and then another
    horse came near the waves and I passed on and left him.

    Afterwards I walked round the edge of the sea to the pier, where a
    quantity of turf has recently been brought in. It is usually left
    for some time stacked on the sandhills, and then carried up to the
    cottages in panniers slung on donkeys or any horses that are on the
    island.

    They have been busy with it the last few weeks, and the track from
    the village to the pier has been filled with lines of
    red-petticoated boys driving their donkeys before them, or cantering
    down on their backs when the panniers are empty.

    In some ways these men and women seem strangely far away from me.
    They have the same emotions that I have, and the animals have, yet I
    cannot talk to them when there is much to say, more than to the dog
    that whines beside me in a mountain fog.

    There is hardly an hour I am with them that I do not feel the shock
    of some inconceivable idea, and then again the shock of some vague
    emotion that is familiar to them and to me. On some days I feel this
    island as a perfect home and resting place; on other days I feel
    that I am a waif among the people. I can feel more with them than
    they can feel with me, and while I wander among them, they like me
    sometimes, and laugh at me sometimes, yet never know what I am
    doing.

    In the evenings I sometimes meet with a girl who is not yet half
    through her teens, yet seems in some ways more consciously developed
    than any one else that I have met here. She has passed part of her
    life on the mainland, and the disillusion she found in Galway has
    coloured her imagination.

    As we sit on stools on either side of the fire I hear her voice
    going backwards and forwards in the same sentence from the gaiety of
    a child to the plaintive intonation of an old race that is worn with
    sorrow. At one moment she is a simple peasant, at another she seems
    to be looking out at the world with a sense of prehistoric
    disillusion and to sum up in the expression of her grey-blue eyes
    the whole external despondency of the clouds and sea.

    Our conversation is usually disjointed. One evening we talked of a
    town on the mainland.

    'Ah, it's a queer place,' she said: 'I wouldn't choose to live in
    it. It's a queer place, and indeed I don't know the place that
    isn't.'

    Another evening we talked of the people who live on the island or
    come to visit it.

    'Father is gone,' she said; 'he was a kind man but a queer man.
    Priests is queer people, and I don't know who isn't.'

    Then after a long pause she told me with seriousness, as if speaking
    of a thing that surprised herself, and should surprise me, that she
    was very fond of the boys.

    In our talk, which is sometimes full of the innocent realism of
    childhood, she is always pathetically eager to say the right thing
    and be engaging.

    One evening I found her trying to light a fire in the little side
    room of her cottage, where there is an ordinary fireplace. I went in
    to help her and showed her how to hold up a paper before the mouth
    of the chimney to make a draught, a method she had never seen. Then
    I told her of men who live alone in Paris and make their own fires
    that they may have no one to bother them. She was sitting in a heap
    on the floor staring into the turf, and as I finished she looked up
    with surprise.

    'They're like me so,' she said; 'would anyone have thought that!'

    Below the sympathy we feel there is still a chasm between us.

    'Musha,' she muttered as I was leaving her this evening, 'I think
    it's to hell you'll be going by and by.'

    Occasionally I meet her also in the kitchen where young men go to
    play cards after dark and a few girls slip in to share the
    amusement. At such times her eyes shine in the light of the candles,
    and her cheeks flush with the first tumult of youth, till she hardly
    seems the same girl who sits every evening droning to herself over
    the turf.

    A branch of the Gaelic League has been started here since my last
    visit, and every Sunday afternoon three little girls walk through
    the village ringing a shrill hand-bell, as a signal that the women's
    meeting is to be held,--here it would be useless to fix an hour, as
    the hours are not recognized.

    Soon afterwards bands of girls--of all ages from five to
    twenty-five--begin to troop down to the schoolhouse in their reddest
    Sunday petticoats. It is remarkable that these young women are
    willing to spend their one afternoon of freedom in laborious studies
    of orthography for no reason but a vague reverence for the Gaelic.
    It is true that they owe this reverence, or most of it, to the
    influence of some recent visitors, yet the fact that they feel such
    an influence so keenly is itself of interest.

    In the older generation that did not come under the influence of the
    recent language movement, I do not see any particular affection for
    Gaelic. Whenever they are able, they speak English to their
    children, to render them more capable of making their way in life.
    Even the young men sometimes say to me--

    'There's very hard English on you, and I wish to God I had the like
    of it.'

    The women are the great conservative force in this matter of the
    language. They learn a little English in school and from their
    parents, but they rarely have occasion to speak with any one who is
    not a native of the islands, so their knowledge of the foreign
    tongue remains rudimentary. In my cottage I have never heard a word
    of English from the women except when they were speaking to the pigs
    or to the dogs, or when the girl was reading a letter in English.
    Women, however, with a more assertive temperament, who have had,
    apparently, the same opportunities, often attain a considerable
    fluency, as is the case with one, a relative of the old woman of the
    house, who often visits here.

    In the boys' school, where I sometimes look in, the children
    surprise me by their knowledge of English, though they always speak
    in Irish among themselves. The school itself is a comfortless
    building in a terribly bleak position. In cold weather the children
    arrive in the morning with a sod of turf tied up with their books, a
    simple toll which keeps the fire well supplied, yet, I believe, a
    more modern method is soon to be introduced.

    I am in the north island again, looking out with a singular
    sensation to the cliffs across the sound. It is hard to believe that
    those hovels I can just see in the south are filled with people
    whose lives have the strange quality that is found in the oldest
    poetry and legend. Compared with them the falling off that has come
    with the increased prosperity of this island is full of
    discouragement. The charm which the people over there share with the
    birds and flowers has been replaced here by the anxiety of men who
    are eager for gain. The eyes and expression are different, though
    the faces are the same, and even the children here seem to have an
    indefinable modern quality that is absent from the men of Inishmaan.

    My voyage from the middle island was wild. The morning was so
    stormy, that in ordinary circumstances I would not have attempted
    the passage, but as I had arranged to travel with a curagh that was
    coming over for the Parish Priest--who is to hold stations on
    Inishmaan--I did not like to draw back.

    I went out in the morning and walked up the cliffs as usual. Several
    men I fell in with shook their heads when I told them I was going
    away, and said they doubted if a curagh could cross the sound with
    the sea that was in it.

    When I went back to the cottage I found the Curate had just come
    across from the south island, and had had a worse passage than any
    he had yet experienced.

    The tide was to turn at two o'clock, and after that it was thought
    the sea would be calmer, as the wind and the waves would be running
    from the same point. We sat about in the kitchen all the morning,
    with men coming in every few minutes to give their opinion whether
    the passage should be attempted, and at what points the sea was
    likely to be at its worst.

    At last it was decided we should go, and I started for the pier in a
    wild shower of rain with the wind howling in the walls. The
    schoolmaster and a priest who was to have gone with me came out as I
    was passing through the village and advised me not to make the
    passage; but my crew had gone on towards the sea, and I thought it
    better to go after them. The eldest son of the family was coming
    with me, and I considered that the old man, who knew the waves
    better than I did, would not send out his son if there was more than
    reasonable danger.

    I found my crew waiting for me under a high wall below the village,
    and we went on together. The island had never seemed so desolate.
    Looking out over the black limestone through the driving rain to the
    gulf of struggling waves, an indescribable feeling of dejection came
    over me.

    The old man gave me his view of the use of fear.

    'A man who is not afraid of the sea will soon be drowned,' he said,
    'for he will be going out on a day he shouldn't. But we do be afraid
    of the sea, and we do only be drownded now and again.'

    A little crowd of neighbours had collected lower down to see me off,
    and as we crossed the sandhills we had to shout to each other to be
    heard above the wind.

    The crew carried down the curagh and then stood under the lee of the
    pier tying on their hats with strings and drawing on their oilskins.

    They tested the braces of the oars, and the oarpins, and everything
    in the curagh with a care I had not seen them give to anything, then
    my bag was lifted in, and we were ready. Besides the four men of the
    crew a man was going with us who wanted a passage to this island. As
    he was scrambling into the bow, an old man stood forward from the
    crowd.

    'Don't take that man with you,' he said. 'Last week they were taking
    him to Clare and the whole lot of them were near drownded. Another
    day he went to Inisheer and they broke three ribs of the curagh, and
    they coming back. There is not the like of him for ill-luck in the
    three islands.'

    'The divil choke your old gob,' said the man, 'you will be talking.'

    We set off. It was a four-oared curagh, and I was given the last
    seat so as to leave the stern for the man who was steering with an
    oar, worked at right angles to the others by an extra thole-pin in
    the stern gunnel.

    When we had gone about a hundred yards they ran up a bit of a sail
    in the bow and the pace became extraordinarily rapid.

    The shower had passed over and the wind had fallen, but large,
    magnificently brilliant waves were rolling down on us at right
    angles to our course.

    Every instant the steersman whirled us round with a sudden stroke of
    his oar, the prow reared up and then fell into the next furrow with
    a crash, throwing up masses of spray. As it did so, the stern in its
    turn was thrown up, and both the steersman, who let go his oar and
    clung with both hands to the gunnel, and myself, were lifted high up
    above the sea.

    The wave passed, we regained our course and rowed violently for a
    few yards, then the same manoeuvre had to be repeated. As we worked
    out into the sound we began to meet another class of waves, that
    could be seen for some distance towering above the rest.

    When one of these came in sight, the first effort was to get beyond
    its reach. The steersman began crying out in Gaelic, 'Siubhal,
    siubhal' ('Run, run'), and sometimes, when the mass was gliding
    towards us with horrible speed, his voice rose to a shriek. Then the
    rowers themselves took up the cry, and the curagh seemed to leap and
    quiver with the frantic terror of a beast till the wave passed
    behind it or fell with a crash beside the stern.

    It was in this racing with the waves that our chief danger lay. If
    the wave could be avoided, it was better to do so, but if it
    overtook us while we were trying to escape, and caught us on the
    broadside, our destruction was certain. I could see the steersman
    quivering with the excitement of his task, for any error in his
    judgment would have swamped us.

    We had one narrow escape. A wave appeared high above the rest, and
    there was the usual moment of intense exertion. It was of no use,
    and in an instant the wave seemed to be hurling itself upon us. With
    a yell of rage the steersman struggled with his oar to bring our
    prow to meet it. He had almost succeeded, when there was a crash and
    rush of water round us. I felt as if I had been struck upon the back
    with knotted ropes. White foam gurgled round my knees and eyes. The
    curagh reared up, swaying and trembling for a moment, and then fell
    safely into the furrow.

    This was our worst moment, though more than once, when several waves
    came so closely together that we had no time to regain control of
    the canoe between them, we had some dangerous work. Our lives
    depended upon the skill and courage of the men, as the life of the
    rider or swimmer is often in his own hands, and the excitement was
    too great to allow time for fear.

    I enjoyed the passage. Down in this shallow trough of canvas that
    bent and trembled with the motion of the men, I had a far more
    intimate feeling of the glory and power of the waves than I have
    ever known in a steamer.

    Old Mourteen is keeping me company again, and I am now able to
    understand the greater part of his Irish.

    He took me out to-day to show me the remains of some cloghauns, or
    beehive dwellings, that are left near the central ridge of the
    island. After I had looked at them we lay down in the corner of a
    little field, filled with the autumn sunshine and the odour of
    withering flowers, while he told me a long folk-tale which took more
    than an hour to narrate.

    He is so blind that I can gaze at him without discourtesy, and after
    a while the expression of his face made me forget to listen, and I
    lay dreamily in the sunshine letting the antique formulas of the
    story blend with the suggestions from the prehistoric masonry I lay
    on. The glow of childish transport that came over him when he
    reached the nonsense ending--so common in these tales--recalled me
    to myself, and I listened attentively while he gabbled with
    delighted haste: 'They found the path and I found the puddle. They
    were drowned and I was found. If it's all one to me tonight, it
    wasn't all one to them the next night. Yet, if it wasn't itself, not
    a thing did they lose but an old back tooth '--or some such
    gibberish.

    As I led him home through the paths he described to me--it is thus
    we get along--lifting him at times over the low walls he is too
    shaky to climb, he brought the conversation to the topic they are
    never weary of--my views on marriage.

    He stopped as we reached the summit of the island, with the stretch
    of the Atlantic just visible behind him.

    'Whisper, noble person,' he began, 'do you never be thinking on the
    young girls? The time I was a young man, the devil a one of them
    could I look on without wishing to marry her.'

    'Ah, Mourteen,' I answered, 'it's a great wonder you'd be asking me.
    What at all do you think of me yourself?'

    'Bedad, noble person, I'm thinking it's soon you'll be getting
    married. Listen to what I'm telling you: a man who is not married is
    no better than an old jackass. He goes into his sister's house, and
    into his brother's house; he eats a bit in this place and a bit in
    another place, but he has no home for himself like an old jackass
    straying on the rocks.'

    I have left Aran. The steamer had a more than usually heavy cargo,
    and it was after four o'clock when we sailed from Kilronan.

    Again I saw the three low rocks sink down into the sea with a moment
    of inconceivable distress. It was a clear evening, and as we came
    out into the bay the sun stood like an aureole behind the cliffs of
    Inishmaan. A little later a brilliant glow came over the sky,
    throwing out the blue of the sea and of the hills of Connemara.

    When it was quite dark, the cold became intense, and I wandered
    about the lonely vessel that seemed to be making her own way across
    the sea. I was the only passenger, and all the crew, except one boy
    who was steering, were huddled together in the warmth of the
    engine-room.

    Three hours passed, and no one stirred. The slowness of the vessel
    and the lamentation of the cold sea about her sides became almost
    unendurable. Then the lights of Galway came in sight, and the crew
    appeared as we beat up slowly to the quay.

    Once on shore I had some difficulty in finding any one to carry my
    baggage to the railway. When I found a man in the darkness and got
    my bag on his shoulders, he turned out to be drunk, and I had
    trouble to keep him from rolling from the wharf with all my
    possessions. He professed to be taking me by a short cut into the
    town, but when we were in the middle of a waste of broken buildings
    and skeletons of ships he threw my bag on the ground and sat down on
    it.

    'It's real heavy she is, your honour,' he said; 'I'm thinking it's
    gold there will be in it.'

    'Divil a hap'worth is there in it at all but books,' I answered him
    in Gaelic.

    'Bedad, is mor an truaghe' ('It's a big pity'), he said; 'if it was
    gold was in it it's the thundering spree we'd have together this
    night in Galway.'

    In about half an hour I got my luggage once more on his back, and we
    made our way into the city.

    Later in the evening I went down towards the quay to look for
    Michael. As I turned into the narrow street where he lodges, some
    one seemed to be following me in the shadow, and when I stopped to
    find the number of his house I heard the 'Failte' (Welcome) of
    Inishmaan pronounced close to me.

    It was Michael.

    'I saw you in the street,' he said, 'but I was ashamed to speak to
    you in the middle of the people, so I followed you the way I'd see
    if you'd remember me.'

    We turned back together and walked about the town till he had to go
    to his lodgings. He was still just the same, with all his old
    simplicity and shrewdness; but the work he has here does not agree
    with him, and he is not contented.

    It was the eve of the Parnell celebration in Dublin, and the town
    was full of excursionists waiting for a train which was to start at
    midnight. When Michael left me I spent some time in an hotel, and
    then wandered down to the railway.

    A wild crowd was on the platform, surging round the train in every
    stage of intoxication. It gave me a better instance than I had yet
    seen of the half-savage temperament of Connaught. The tension of
    human excitement seemed greater in this insignificant crowd than
    anything I have felt among enormous mobs in Rome or Paris.

    There were a few people from the islands on the platform, and I got
    in along with them to a third-class carriage. One of the women of
    the party had her niece with her, a young girl from Connaught who
    was put beside me; at the other end of the carriage there were some
    old men who were talking Irish, and a young man who had been a
    sailor.

    When the train started there were wild cheers and cries on the
    platform, and in the train itself the noise was intense; men and
    women shrieking and singing and beating their sticks on the
    partitions. At several stations there was a rush to the bar, so the
    excitement increased as we proceeded.

    At Ballinasloe there were some soldiers on the platform looking for
    places. The sailor in our compartment had a dispute with one of
    them, and in an instant the door was flung open and the compartment
    was filled with reeling uniforms and sticks. Peace was made after a
    moment of uproar and the soldiers got out, but as they did so a pack
    of their women followers thrust their bare heads and arms into the
    doorway, cursing and blaspheming with extraordinary rage.

    As the train moved away a moment later, these women set up a frantic
    lamentation. I looked out and caught a glimpse of the wildest heads
    and figures I have ever seen, shrieking and screaming and waving
    their naked arms in the light of the lanterns.

    As the night went on girls began crying out in the carriage next us,
    and I could hear the words of obscene songs when the train stopped
    at a station.

    In our own compartment the sailor would allow no one to sleep, and
    talked all night with sometimes a touch of wit or brutality and
    always with a beautiful fluency with wild temperament behind it.

    The old men in the corner, dressed in black coats that had something
    of the antiquity of heirlooms, talked all night among themselves in
    Gaelic. The young girl beside me lost her shyness after a while, and
    let me point out the features of the country that were beginning to
    appear through the dawn as we drew nearer Dublin. She was delighted
    with the shadows of the trees--trees are rare in Connaught--and
    with the canal, which was beginning to reflect the morning light.
    Every time I showed her some new shadow she cried out with naive
    excitement--

    'Oh, it's lovely, but I can't see it.'

    This presence at my side contrasted curiously with the brutality
    that shook the barrier behind us. The whole spirit of the west of
    Ireland, with its strange wildness and reserve, seemed moving in
    this single train to pay a last homage to the dead statesman of the
    east.
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