Festus Clasby wiped the perspiration from his forehead. He stumbled out of the yard, sat up on a ditch, and looked across the silent, peaceful, innocent country. How good it was! How lovely were the beasts grazing, fattening, in the fields! His soft velvety eyes were suddenly flooded with a bitter emotion and he wept.
The loaves of bread were under the shawl of the woman who had supported Festus Clasby when he stumbled; the bacon was under another bright shawl; the tobacco and flour fell to the lot of her whose yellow breast showed the play of much sun and many winds; the tea and sugar and the nutmeg and caraway seeds were under the wing of the wife of the Son of the Bard in the Can with the Diamond Notch.
Mrs. Donohoe marked the clearness of the sky, the number and brightness of the stars.
“There will be a share of frost to-night, Denis,” she said.
Denis Donohoe, her son, adjusted a primitive bolt on the stable door, then sniffed at the air, his broad nostrils quivering sensitively as he raised his head.
“There is ice in the wind,” he said.
“Make a start with the turf to the market to-morrow,” his mother advised. “People in town will be wanting fires now.”
Denis Donohoe walked over to the dim stack of brown turf piled at the back of the stable. It was there since the early fall, the dry earth cut from the bog, the turf that would make bright and pleasant fires in the open grates of Connacht for the winter months. Away from it spread the level bogland, a sweep of country that had, they said, in the infancy of the earth been a great oak forest, across which in later times had roved packs of hungry wolves, and which could at this day claim the most primitive form of industry in Western Europe. Out into this bogland in the summer had come from their cabins the peasantry, men and women, Denis Donohoe among them; they had dug up slices of the spongy, wet sod, cut it into pieces rather larger than bricks, licked it into shape by stamping upon it with their bare feet, stacked it about in little rows to dry in the sun, one sod leaning against the other, looking in the moonlight like a great host of wee brown fairies grouped in couples for a midnight dance on the carpet of purple heather. Now the time had come to convert it into such money as it would fetch.
Denis Donohoe whistled merrily that night as he piled the donkey cart, or “creel,” with the sods of turf. Long before daybreak next morning he was about, his movements quick like one who had great business on hands. The kitchen of the cabin was illuminated by a rushlight, the rays of which did not go much beyond a small deal table, scrubbed white, where he sat at his breakfast, an unusually good repast, for he had tea, home-made bread and a boiled egg. His mother moved about the dim kitchen, waiting on him, her bare feet almost noiseless on the black earthen floor. He ate heartily and silently, making the Sign of the Cross when he had finished. His mother followed him out on the dark road to bid him good luck, standing beside the creel of turf.