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‘The Roads’ Pádraic H. Pearse


The Roads

Rossnageeragh will mind till death the night the Dublin Man gave us the feast in the schoolhouse of Turlagh Beg. We had no name or surname for that same man ever but the “Dublin Man.” Peatin Pharaig would say to us that he was a man who wrote for the newspapers. Peatin would read the Gaelic paper the mistress got every week, and it's a small thing he hadn't knowledge of, for there was discourse in that paper on the doings of the Western World and on the goings-on of the Eastern World, and there would be no bounds to the information Peatin would have to give us every Sunday at the chapel gate. He would say to us that the Dublin Man had a stack of money, for two hundred pounds in the year were coming to him out of the heart of that paper he wrote for every week.

The Dublin Man would pay a fortnight's or a month's visit to Turlagh every year. This very year he sent out word calling poor and naked to a feast he was gathering for us in the schoolhouse. He announced that there would be music and dancing and Gaelic speeches in it; that there would be a piper there from Carrowroe; that Brigid ni Mhainin would be there to give Conntae Mhuigheó; that Martin the Fisherman would tell a Fenian story; that old Una ni Greelis would recite a poem if the creature wouldn't have the asthma; and that Marcuseen Mhichil Ruaidh would do a bout of dancing unless the rheumatic pains would be too bad on him. Nobody ever knew Marcuseen to have the rheumatics but when he'd be asked to dance. “Bedam, but I'm dead with the pains for a week,” he'd always say when a dance would be hinted. But no sooner would the piper start on Tatter Jack Walsh, than Marcuseen would throw his old hat in the air, “hup!” he'd say, and take the floor.

The family of Col Labhras were drinking tea the evening of the feast.

“Will we go to the schoolhouse to-night daddy?” says Cuimin Col to his father.

“We will. Father Ronan said he'd like all the people to go.”

“Won't we have the spree!” says Cuimin.

“You'll stay at home, Nora,” says the mother, “ to mind the child.”

Nora put a lip on herself, but she didn't speak.

After tea Col and his wife went into the room to ready themselves for the road.

“My sorrow that it's not a boy God made me,” says Nora to her brother.

“Muise, why?” says Cuimin.

“For one reason better than another,” says Nora. With that she gave a little slap to the child that was half-asleep and half-awake in the cradle. The child let a howl out of him.

“Ara, listen to the child,” says Cuimin. “If my mother hears him crying, she'll take the ear off you.”

“I don't care if she takes the two ears off me,” says Nora.

“What's up with you?” Cuimin was washing himself, and he stopped to look over his shoulder at his sister, and the water streaming from his face.

“Tired of being made a little ass of by my mother and by everybody, I am,” says Nora. “I working from morning till night, and ye at your ease. Ye going to the spree to-night, and I sitting here nursing this child. “You'll stay at home, Nora, to mind the child,” says my mother. That's always the way. It's a pity it's not a boy God made me.”

Cuimin was drying his face meanwhile, and “s-s-s-s-s” coming out of him like a person would be grooming a horse.

“It's a pity, right enough,” says he, when he was able to speak.

He threw the towel from him, he put his head to one side, and looked complacently at himself in the glass was hanging on the wall.

“A parting in my hair now,” says he, “and I'll be first-class.”

“Are you ready, Cuimin?” says his father, coming out of the roorm.

“I am.”

“We'll be stirring on then.”

The mother came out.

“If he there is crying, Nora,” says she, “give him a drink of milk out of the bottle.”

Nora didn't say a word. She remained sitting on the stool beside the cradle, and her  chin laid in her two hands and her two elbows stuck on her knees. She heard her father and her mother and Cuimin going out the door and across the street; she knew by their voices that they were going down the bohereen. The voices died away, and she understood that they were after taking the road.

Nora began making fancy pictures in her mind. She saw, she thought, the fine, level road and it white under the moonlight. The people were in groups making for the schoolhouse. The Rossnageeragh folk were coming out the road, and the Garumna folk journeying round by the mistress's house, and the Kilbrickan folk crowding down the hill, and the Turlagh Beg's crowding likewise; there was a band from Turlagh, and an odd sprinkling from Glencaha, and one or two out of Inver coming in the road. She imagined her own people were at the school gate by now. They were going up the path. They were entering in the door. The schoolhouse was well-nigh full, and still no end to the coming of the people. There were lamps hung on the walls, and the house as bright as it would be in the middle of day. Father Ronan was there, and he going from person to person and bidding welcome to everybody. The Dublin Man was there, and he as nice and friendly-like as ever. The mistress was there, and the master and mistress from Gortmore, and the lace-instructress. The schoolgirls sitting together on the front benches. Weren't they to sing a song? She saw, she thought, Maire Sean Mor, and Maire Pheatin Johnny, and Babeen Col Marcus, and the Boatman's Brigid, and her red head on her, and Brigid Caitin ni Fhiannachta, with her mouth open as usual. The girls were looking round and nudging one another, and asking one another where was Nora Col Labhras. The schoolhouse was packed to the door now. Father Ronan was striking his two hands together. They were stopping from talk and from whispering. Father Ronan was speaking to them. He was speaking comically. Everybody was laughing. He was calling on the schoolgirls to give their song. They were getting up and going to the head of the room and bowing to the people.

“My sorrow, that I'm not there,” says poor Nora to herself, and she laid her face in her palms and began crying.

She stopped crying, suddenly. She hung her head, and rubbed a palm to her eyes.

It wasn't right, says she in her own mind. It wasn't right, just, or decent. Why should she be kept at home? Why should they always keep her at home? If she was a boy she'd be let out. Since she was only a girl they would keep her at home. She was, as she had said to Cuimin that evening, only a little ass of a girl. She wouldn't put up with it any longer. She would have her own way. She would be as free as any boy that came or went. It's often before that she set her mind to the deed. She would do the deed that night.

It's often Nora thought that it would be a fine life to be going like a flying hawk, independent of everybody. The roads of Ireland before her, and her face on them; the back of her head to home and hardship and the vexation of her people. She going from village to village, and from glen to glen. The fine, level road before her, fields on both sides of her, little, well-sheltered houses on the slopes of the hills. If she'd get tired she could stretch back by the side of a ditch, or she could go into some house and ask the good woman for a drink of milk and a seat by the fire. To make the night's sleep in some wood under the shadow of trees, and to rise early in the morning and stretch out again under the lovely fresh air. If she wanted food (and it's likely she would want it), she would do a day's work here and a day's work there, and she would be full-satisfied if she got a cup of tea and a crumb of bread in payment for it. Wouldn't it be a fine life that, besides being a little ass of a girl at home, feeding the hens and minding the child!

It's not as a girl she'd go, but as a boy. No one in life would know that it's not a boy was in it. When she'd cut her hair and put on herself a suit of Cuimin's bawneens, who would know that it's a girl she was?

It's often Nora took that counsel to herself, but the fear would never let her put it in practice. She never had right leave for it. Her mother would always be in the house, and no sooner would she be gone than she'd feel wanted. But she had leave now. None of them would be back in the house for another hour of the clock, at the least. She'd have a power of time to change her clothes, and to go off unbeknown to the world. She would meet nobody on the road, for all the people were gathered in the schoolhouse. She would have time to go as far as Ellery to-night and to sleep in the wood. She would rise early on the morrow morning, and she would take the road before anybody would be astir.

She jumped from the stool. There were scissors in the drawer of the dresser. It wasn't long till she had a hold of them, and snip! snap! She cut off her back hair, and the fringe that was on her brow, and each ringleted tress that was on her, in one attack. She looked at herself in the glass. A inghean O! isn't it bald and bare she looked. She gathered the curls of hair from the floor, and she hid them in an old box. Over with her then to the place where a clean suit of bawneens belonging to Cuimin was hanging on a nail. Down with her on her knees searching for a shirt of Cuimin's that was in a lower drawer of the dresser. She threw the clothes on the floor beside the fire.

Here she is now taking off her own share of clothes in a hurry. She threw her dress and her little blouse and her shift into a chest that was under the table. She put Cuimin's shirt on herself. She stuck her legs into the breeches, and she pulled them up on herself. She minded then that she had neither belt nor gallowses. She'd have to make a belt out of an old piece of cord. She put the jacket on herself. She looked in the glass, and she started. It's how she thought Cuimin was before her! She looked over her shoulder, but she didn't see anybody. It's then she minded that it's her own self was looking at her, and she laughed. But if she did itself, she was a little scared. If she'd a cap now she'd be ready for the road. Yes, she knew where there was an old cap of Cuimin's. She got it, and put it on her head. Farewell for ever now to the old life, and a hundred welcomes to the new!

When she was at the door she turned back and she crept over to the cradle. The child was sound asleep. She bent down and she gave a kiss to the baby, a little, little, light kiss in on his forehead. She stole on the tips of her toes to the door, opened it gently, went out on the street, and shut the door quietly after her. Across the street with her, and down the bohereen. It was short till she took the road to herself. She pressed on then towards Turlagh Beg.

It was short till she saw the schoolhouse by the side of the road. There was a fine light burning through the windows. She heard a noise, as if they'd be laughing and clapping hands within. Over across the fence with her, and up the school path. She went round to the back of the house. The windows were high enough, but she raised herself up till she'd a view of what was going on inside. Father Ronan was speaking. He stopped, and O, Lord! — the people began getting up. It was plain that the fun was over, and that they were about to separate to go home. What would she do, if she'd be seen?

She threw a leap from the window. Her foot slipped from her, coming down on the ground, and she got a drop. She very nearly screamed out, but she minded herself in time. Her knee was a little hurt, she thought. The people were out on the school yard by that. She must stay in hiding till they were all gone. She moved into the wall as close as she could. She heard the people talking and laughing, and she knew that they were scattering after one another.

What was that? The voices of people coming towards her; the sound of a footstep on the path beside her! It's then she minded that there was a short-cut across the back of the house, and that there might be some people going the short-cut. Likely, her own people would be going that way, for it was a little shorter than round by the high road. A little knot came towards her; she recognized by their voices that they were Peatin Johnny's people. They passed. Another little knot; the Boatman's family. They drew that close to her that Eamonn trod on her poor, bare, little foot. She almost let a cry out of her the second time, but she didn't—she only squeezed herself tighter to the wall. Another crowd was coming: O, Great God, her own people! Cuimin was saying, “Wasn't it wonderful, Marcuseen's dancing!” Her mother's dress brushed Nora's cheek going by: she didn't draw her breath all that time. A company or two more went past. She listened for a spell. Nobody else was coming. It's how they were all gone, said she to herself. Out with her from her hiding-place, and she tore across the path. Plimp! She ran against somebody. Two big hands were about her. She heard a man's voice. She recognized the voice. The priest that was in it.

“Who have I?” says Father Ronan.

She told a lie. What else had she to say?

“Cuimin Col Labhras, Father,” says she.

He laid a hand on each shoulder of her, and looked down on her. She had her head bent.

“I thought you went home with your father and mother,” says he.

“I did, Father, but I lost my cap and I came back looking for it.”

“Isn't your cap on your head?”

“I found it on the path.”

“Aren't your father and mother gone the short-cut?”

“They are, Father, but I am going the road so that I'll be with the other boys.”

“Off with you, then, or the ghosts'll catch you!” With that Father Ronan let her go from him.

“May God give you good-night, Father,” says she. She didn't mind to take off her cap, but it's how she curtseyed to the priest after the manner of girls! If the priest took notice of that much he hadn't time to say a word, for she was gone in the turning of your hand.

Her two cheeks were red-hot with shame, and she giving face on the road. She was after telling four big lies to the priest! She was afraid that those lies were a terrible sin on her soul. She was afraid going that lonesome road in the darkness of the night, and that burthen on her heart. The night was very black. There was a little brightening on her right hand. The lake of Turlagh Beg that was in it. There rose some bird, a curlew or a snipe, from the brink of the lake, letting mournful cries out of it. Nora started when she heard the bird's voice, that suddenly, and the drumming of its wings. She hurried on, and her heart beating against her breast. She left Turlagh Beg behind her, and faced the long, straight road that leads to the Crosses of Kilbrickan. It's with trouble she recognized the shape of the houses on the hill when she reached the Crosses. There was a light in the house of Peadar O Neachtain, and she heard voices from the side of Snamh-Bo. She followed on, drawing on Turlagh. When she reached the Bog Hill the moon came out, and she saw from her the scar of the hills. There came a great cloud across the face of the moon, and it seemed to her that it's double dark the night was then. Terror seized her, for she minded that Cnoc-a'-Leachta (the Hill of the Grave) wasn't far off, and that the graveyard would be on her right hand then. It's often she heard that was an evil place in the middle of the night. She sharpened her pace; she began running. She thought that she was being followed; that there was a bare-footed woman treading almost on her heels; that there was a thin, black man travelling alongside her; that there was a child, and a white shirt on him, going the road before her. She opened her mouth to let a screech out of her, but there didn't come a sound from her. She was in a cold sweat. Her legs were bending under her. She nearly fell in a heap on the road. She was at Cnoc-a'-Leachta about that time. It seemed to her that Cill Eoin was full of ghosts. She minded the word the priest said “Have a care, or the ghosts'll catch you.” They were on her! She heard, she thought, the “plub-plab” of naked feet on the road. She turned to her left hand and she gave a leap over the ditch. She went near to being drowned in a deal-hole that was between her and the wood, unbeknown to her. She twisted her foot trying to save herself, and she felt pain. On with her, reeling. She was in the fields of Ellery then. She saw the lamp of the lake through the branches. A tree-root took a stumble out of her, and she fell. She lost her senses.

After a very long time she imagined that the place was filled with a sort of half-light, a light that was between the light of the sun and the light of the moon. She saw, very clearly, the feet of the trees, and them dark against a yellowish-green sky. She never saw a sky of that colour before, and it was beautiful to her. She heard a footstep, and she understood that there was someone coming towards her up from the lake. She knew in some manner that a prodigious miracle was about to be shown her, and that someone was to suffer there some awful passion. She hadn't long to wait till she saw a young man struggling wearily through the tangle of the wood. He had his head bent, and the appearance of great sorrow on him. Nora recognised him. The Son of Mary that was in it, and she knew that He was journeying all alone to His death.

The Man threw himself on His knees, and He began praying. Nora didn't hear one word from Him, but she understood in her heart what He was saying. He was asking His Eternal Father to send someone to Him who would side with Him against His enemies, and who would bear half of His burthen. Nora wished to rise and to go to Him, but she couldn't stir out of the place she was in.

She heard a noise, and the place was filled with armed men. She saw dark, devilish faces and grey swords and edged weapons. The gentle Man was seized outrageously, and His share of clothes torn from Him, and He was scourged with scourges there till His body was in a bloody mass and in an everlasting wound from His head to the soles of His feet. A thorny crown was put then on His gentle head, and a cross was laid on His shoulders, and He went before Him, heavy-footed, pitifully, the sorrowful way of His journey to Calvary. The chain that was tying Nora's tongue and limbs till that broke, and she cried aloud:

“Let me go with You, Jesus, and carry Your cross for You!”

She felt a hand on her shoulder. She looked up. She saw her father's face.

“What's on my little girl, or why did she go from us?” says her father's voice.

He lifted her in his arms and he brought her home. She lay on her bed till the end of a month after that. She was out of her mind for half of that time, and she thought at times that she was going the road, like a lone, wild-goose, and asking knowledge of the way of people; and she thought at other times that she was lying in under a tree in Ellery, and that she was watching again the passion of that gentle Man, and she trying to help Him, but without power to help him. That wandering went out of her mind at long last, and she understood she was at home again. And when she recognised her mother's face her heart was filled with consolation, and she asked her to put the child into the bed with her, and when he was put into the bed she kissed him lovingly.

“Oh, mameen,” says she,“I thought I wouldn't see you or my father or Cuimin or the child ever again. Were ye here all that time?”

“We were, white lamb,” says her mother.

“I'll stay in the place where ye are,” says she. “Oh, mameen, heart, the roads were very dark … And I'll never strike the child again,” —and she gave him another little kiss.

The child put his arm about her neck, and he curled himself up in the bed at his full ease.


Padraic (or Patrick) Pearse (1879-1916) was an Irish nationalist leader, poet and educator. As well as his role as a commander in chief of the Irish forces in the Easter Rising, he became a director of the Gaelic League which was founded to help preserve the Gaelic language. His desire to protect his native language are seen in his literary works.


  1. How does the poem give a distinct sense of Ireland and its landscape?
  2. How is gender and the different roles of men and women explored through the story? What role does appearance play? How does it change?
  3. Do you think this is a ghost story? Why, why not?

Other Gaelic Literature:

  1. Open Door as Gaeilge by Airgead Nua Seanairgead
  2. Popular Tales of the West Highlands by John Francis Campbell
  3. The Celtic Dragon Myth by John Francis Campbell
  4. Graveyard Clay by Máirtín Ó Cadhaines

Now why not discover The Roads in its original language

Na Bóithre

Beidh cuimhne i Ros na gCaorach go héag ar an oíche thug Fear Bhaile Átha Cliath an fhleadh dúinn i dteach scoile an Turlaigh Bhig. Ní raibh d'ainm ná de shloinneadh againn ar an bhfear céanna riamh ach ‘Fear Bhaile Átha Cliath’. Sé adeireadh Peaitín Pháraic linn gurbh fhear scríofa páipéir nuachta é.

Do léadh Peaitín an páipéar Gaeilge a thagadh go dtí an mháistreás gach seachtain, agus is beag ní nach raibh ar eolas aige, mar bhíodh cur-síos ar an bpáipéar sin ar imeachtaibh an Domhan Thiar agus ar imeachtaibh an Domhan Thoir, agus ní bhíodh teora leis an méid feasa a bhíodh ag Peaitín le tabhairt dúinn gach Domhnach ag geata an tséipéil.

Deireadh sé linn go raibh an-chuimse airgid ag Fear Bhaile Átha Cliath, mar go raibh dhá chéad punt sa mbliain ag dul dó as ucht an páipéar sin do scríobhadh gach uile seachtain.

Thugadh Fear Bhaile Átha Cliath cuairt coicís nó míosa ar an Turlach gach bliain. An bhliain áirithe seo chuir sé gairm scoile amach ag glaoch bocht agus nocht chun fleidhe agus féasta a bí sé a chomóradh dhúinn i dteach na scoile.

D'fhógair sé go mbeadh ceol agus damhsa agus óráideacha Gaeilge ann; go mbeadh píobaire

ann ón gCeathrúin Ruaidh; go mbeadh Brighid Ní Mhainnín ann chun Contae Mhuigheo do thabhairt uaithi; go n-inseodh Máirtín Iascaire scéal fiannaíochta; go n-aithriseodh sean-Úna Ní Ghriallghais dán muna mbeadh piachán ar an gcréatúir; agus go ndéanfadh Marcaisín Mhichíl Ruaidh dreas damhsa muna mbeadh na scoilteacha go ró-dhona air.

Níorbh eol d'éinne na scoilteacha a bheith ar Mharcaisín riamh ach nuair do hiarrtaí air damhsa do dhéanamh.

‘Bedam but tá mé marbh ag na scoilteacha le seachtain,’ adeireadh sé i gcónaí nuair do luafaí damhsa.

Ach ní túisce a thosnaíodh an píobaire ar Tatther Jack Walsh ná do chaitheadh Marcaisín a cháibín san aer. ‘Hup!’ adeireadh sé, agus do fágtaí an t-urlár faoi.

Do bhí comhluadar Chóil Labhráis ag ól tae tráthnóna na fleidhe.

‘An rachaimid chuig teach na scoile anocht, a dheaide?’ arsa Cuimín Chóil lena athair.
‘Gabhfaidh. Dúirt an tAthair Rónán go mba mhaith leis an pobal uilig a dhul ann.’
‘Nach againn bheas an spraoi!’ arsa Cuimín.
‘Fanfaidh tusa sa mbaile, a Nóra,’ adeir an mháthair, ‘le aire a thabhairt don pháiste.’
Do chuir Nóra pus uirthi féin ach níor labhair sí.

Tar éis tae chuaigh Cól agus a bhean siar sa seomra le hiad féin do ghléasadh chun bóthair.
‘Mo léan nach gasúr fir a rinne Dia dhíom,’ adeir Nóra lena deartháir.

‘Maise, tuige?’ arsa Cuimín.

‘'Chuile tuige níos fearr ná a chéile,’ arsa Nóra. Leis sin thug sí bosóg bheag don leanbh a bhí idir bheith ina chodladh is ina dhúiseacht sa gcliabhán. Do chuir an leanbh béic as.

‘Ara, éist leis an bpáiste,’ arsa Cuimín. ‘Má chloiseann mo mháthair ag béicíl é, bainfidh sí an chluas díot.’
‘Is cuma liom má bhaineann sí an dá chluais díom,’ arsa Nóra.
‘Céard tá ort?’ do bhí Cuimín ghá ní féin agus do stad sé agus d'amharc anonn thar ghualainn ar a dheirfír, agus an t-uisce ag sileadh lena éadan.
‘Tuirseach de bheith i mo asailín ag mo mháthair agus ag 'chuile duine atáim,’ arsa Nóra. ‘ag obair ó mhaidin go hoíche dhom agus sibh-se ar bhur suaimhneas. Sibh-se ag dul ag an spraoi anocht, agus mise i mo shuí anseo i mo bhanaltra don pháiste seo. ‘Fanfaidh tusa sa mbaile, a Nóra, le aire a thabhairt don pháiste,’ adeir mo mháthair. Sin í an chaoi i gcónaí. Is trua nach gasúr fir a rinne Dia dhíom.’
Do bhí Cuimín ag tirimiú a éadain fán am sin, agus ‘s-s-s-s-s’ ar bun aige ar nós duine a bheadh ag deasú capaill.
‘Is trua, 'd eile,’ ar seisean, nuair d'fhéad sé labhairt.

Do chaith sé uaidh an tuáille, do chuir a cheann ar leataoibh, agus d'fhéach go sásta air féin sa scáthán a bí ar crochadh ar an mballa.

‘Scoilt a dhéanamh i mo chuid gruaige anois,’ ar seisean, ‘agus beidh mé ar fheabhas.’

‘Bhfuil tú réidh, a Chuimín?’ adeir a athair ag teacht aniar as an seomra.


‘Beimid ag bogadh linn.’

Tháinig an mháthair aniar.

‘Má bhíonn sé siúd ag caoineachán, a Nóra,’ ar sise, ‘tabhair deoch bhainne dhó as an mbuidéal.’

Ní dúirt Nóra focal. D'fhan sí ina suí ar an suístín in aice an chliabháin agus a smig leagtha ar a dhá láimh, agus a dhá huillinn leagtha ar a glúnaibh. Chuala sí a hathair agus a máthair agus Cuimín ag dul amach an doras agus trasna na sráide; d'aithin sí ar a nglórthaibh go rabhdar ag dul síos an bóithrín. Chuaigh na

glórtha in éag agus thuig sí go rabhdar tar éis an bóthar a thabhairt orthu féin.

Do ghabh Nóra ag cumadh pictiúirí bréige ina haigne. Chonaic sí, dar léi, an bóthar breá réidh agus é geal fá sholas gealaí. Bhí na daoine ina mion-scataíbh ag déanamh ar teach na scoile. Bhí muintir Ros na gCaorach ag teacht amach an bóthar, agus muintir Ghairbhtheanaí ag triall thart le teach na máistreása, agus muintir Chill Bhriocáin ag bailiú aníos an Cnocán, agus muintir an Turlaigh Bhig cruinnithe cheana.

Bhí dream ón Turlach agus corr-scata ó Ghleann Chatha, agus duine nó beirt as Inbhear, ag teacht isteach an bóthar.

Do samhlaíodh di go raibh a muintir féin ag geata na scoile anois. Bhíodar ag dul suas an casán. Bhíodar ag beannú isteach an doras. Bhí teach na scoile beagnach lán, agus gan deireadh le teacht na ndaoine fós. Bhí lampaí crochta ar na ballaíbh agus an teach chom geal is a bheadh i lár an lae.

Bhí an tAthair Rónán ansin agus é ag dul ó dhuine go duine agus ag cur fáilte roimh gach éinne. Bhí Fear Bhaile Átha Cliath ann agus é go lách mar ba dhual dó. Bhí an mháistreás ann, agus máistir agus máistreás an Ghoirt Mhóir, agus Bean na Lásaí. Bhí gearrchailí na scoile ina suí le chéile ar na suíochánaibh tosaigh. Nach rabhdar le amhrán a rá?

Chonaic sí, dar léi, Máire Sheáin Mhóir, agus Máire Pheaitín Johnny, agus Baibín Chóil Mharcais, agus Brighid an Bhádóra agus a

cloigeann rua uirthi, agus Brighid Cháitín Ní Fhiannachta, agus a béal oscailte aici mar ba ghnáthach léi.

Bhí na gearrchailí ag féachaint thart agus ag tabhairt uilleann dá chéile agus ag fiafraí dá chéile cá raibh Nóra Cóil Labhráis.

Bhí teach na scoile lán go doras anois. Bhí an tAthair Rónán ag bualadh a dhá bhos le chéile. Bhítheas ag stad den chaint agus den chogarnach. Bhí an tAthair Rónán ag labhairt leo. Bhí sé ag labhairt go greannmhar. Bhí gach éinne ag gáirí. Bhí sé ag glaoch ar ghearrchailíbh na scoile chun an amhráin a thabhairt uathu. Bhíodar siúd ag éirí ina seasamh agus ag siúl go dtí ceann an tseomra agus ag umhlú don phobal.

‘Mo léan gan mé ann,’ arsa Nóra bhocht léi féin, agus do leag a héadan ar a bosaibh agus do thosnaigh ag gol.

Do stad sí den ghol go hobann. Do chroch a ceann agus do chimil bos dá súilibh.
Ní raibh sé ceart, ar sise ina haigne féin. Ní raibh sé ceart, cóir, ná feiliúnach. Cad chuige ar coinníodh sa mbaile í? Cad chuige a gcoinnítí sa mbaile i gcónaí í? Dá mba gasúr fir í do ligfí amach í. Ó nach raibh inti ach gasúr mná do coinnítí sa mbaile í.

Ní raibh inti, mar adúirt sí le Cuimín an tráthnóna sin, ach asailín beag gearrchaile. Ní chuirfeadh sí suas leis a thuilleadh. Bheadh cead a cinn aici. Bheadh sí chomh saor le gasúr fir ar bith dá dtáinig nó dá dtiocfadh. Ba mhinic roimhe sin a chuimhnigh sí an gníomh. Dhéanfadh sí an gníomh úd anocht.

Ba mhinic do shíl Nóra go mba bhreá an saol bheith ag imeacht roimpi ina seabhac siúil gan beann aici ar dhuine ar bith—bóithre na hÉireann roimpi agus a haghaidh orthu; cúl a cinn leis an mbaile agus le cruatan agus le crostacht a muintire; í ag siúl ó bhaile go baile agus ó ghleann go gleann. An bóthar breá réidh roimpi, glasra ar gach taoibh de, tithe beaga cluthara ar sleasaibh na gcnocán.

Dá n-éiríodh sí tuirseach d'fhéadfadh sí síneadh siar cois chlaí, nó d'fhéadfadh sí dul isteach i dteach éigin agus deoch bhainne agus suí chois tine d'iarraidh ar mhnaoi an tí. D'fhéadfadh sí codladh na hoíche do dhéanamh i gcoill éigin fá scáth crann, agus éirí i moch na maidne, agus síneadh roimpi arís fán aer úr-aoibhinn.

Dá dteastaíodh bia uaithi (agus is dócha go dteastódh) dhéanfadh sí obair lae anseo agus obair lae ansiúd, agus bheadh sí lán-tsásta dá bhfaigheadh sí cupán tae agus blúire aráin i ndíolaíocht a hoibre. Nár bhreá an saol é sin seachas bheith ina hasailín beag gearrchaile sa mbaile ag beathú na gcearc agus ag tabhairt aire don naíonán!

Ní ina cailín d'imeodh sí roimpi ach ina malrach. Ní bheadh a fhios ag duine ar bith nach malrach a bheadh inti. Nuair a ghearrfadh sí a cuid gruaige, agus culaith bháiníní le Cuimín a chur uirthi féin, cé d'aithneodh gun gearrchaile í?

Ba mhinic a cheap Nóra an chomhairle sin di féin, ach níor lig an faitíos riamh di a chur i ngníomh. Ní raibh fáil cheart aici riamh air.

Bhíodh a máthair sa teach i gcónaí agus ní túisce a bheadh sí imithe ná do haireofaí ar iarraidh í.

Ach bhí fáil aici anois air. Ní bheadh éinne acu thar ais sa teach go ceann uaire a' chloig ar a laghad. Bheadh neart ama aici chum a cuid éadaigh d'athrú agus imeacht i gan fhios don tsaol. Ní chasfaí éinne uirthi ar an mbóthar ó bhí an pobal uile cruinnithe i dteach na scoile. Bheadh am aici dul chomh fada le hEileabhrach anocht agus codladh do dhéanamh sa gcoill. D'éireodh sí go moch maidin lá arna mhárach agus bhuailfeadh bóthar sar a mbeadh éinne ina shuí.

Do phreab sí den suístín. Bhí siosúr i ndrár an drisiúir. Níorbh fhada go raibh sí i ngreim sa siosúr agus—snip sneap!—do ghearr sí dhi a cúl gruaige, agus an ghlib a bhí ar a malainn, agus gach dual fáinneach dá raibh uirthi, in aon ionsaí amháin.

Dhearc sí uirthi féin sa scáthán. A iníon ó! nach maol lom d'fhéach sí! Bhailigh sí na fáinní gruaige den urlár agus do chuir i bhfolach i sean-bhosca iad. Anonn léi ansin go dtí an áit a raibh culaith ghlan báiníní le Cuimín ar crochadh ar thairne. Síos léi ar a glúnaibh ag cuardach léine le Cuimín a bí i ndrár íochtair an drisiúir. Chaith sí an méid sin éadaigh ar an urlár in aice na tine.

Seo anois í ag baint di a cuid éadaigh féin go deifreach. Chaith sí a gúna agus a cóitín beag agus a léine isteach i gcomhrainn a bhí fán mbord. Chuir sí léine Cuimín uirthi féin. Sháigh sí a cosa isteach sa mbríste agus do tharraing

aníos uirthi féin é. Chuimhnigh sí ansin nach raibh gealas ná crios aici. B'éigean di crios a dhéanamh as sean-phíosa córda. Chuir sí an chasóg uirthi féin.

D'fhéach sí sa scáthán agus gheit sí. Is amhlaidh a shíl sí go raibh Cuimín os a comhair! D'fhéach sí thar a gualainn ach ní fhaca sí éinne. Is ansin chuimhnigh sí gurbh í féin a bhí ag féachaint uirthi féin agus rinne sí gáire. Ach má rinne féin bhí sí beagán scanraithe. Dá mbeadh caipín aici anois bhí sí réidh chun bóthair. Sea, bhí a fhios aici cá raibh sean-chaipín le Cuimín. Fuair sí é agus chuir sí ar a ceann é. Slán beo anois leis an sean-tsaol agus céad fáilte roimh an saol nua!

Nuair a bí sí ag an doras d'iontaigh sí ar ais agus do théalaigh anonn go dtí an cliabhán. Bhí an leanbh ina shámh-chodladh. Chrom sí agus thug póg don naíonán, póigín beag éadrom isteach ar a mhalainn.

Théalaigh sí ar barraíbh a cos go dtí an doras, d'oscail go ciúin é, do chuaigh amach ar an tsráid, agus do dhún an doras go socair ina

diaidh. Trasna na sráide léi, agus síos an bóithrín. Ba ghairid go dtug sí an bóthar uirthi féin. Do lasc léi ansin fá dhéin an Turlaigh Bhig.

Ba ghairid go bhfaca sí teach ná scoite ar thaoibh an bhóthair. Bhí solas breá ag scalladh trí na fuinneogaibh. Chuala sí torann mar bheifí ag gáirí agus ag bualadh bos istigh. Anonn thar claí léi agus suas casán na scoile. Chuaigh sí thart go tóin an tí. Bhí na fuinneoga ard go maith ach d'éirigh léi í féin d'ardú suas go raibh radharc aici ar a raibh ar siúl taobh istigh.

Bhí an tAthair Rónán ag labhairt. Stad sé, agus a thiarna! thosnaigh na daoine ag éirí ina seasamh. Ba léir go raibh an siamsa thart agus go rabhthas chun scarúna le dul abhaile. Céard do dhéanfadh sí dá bhfeictí í?

Do chaith sí léim ón bhfuinneoig. Sciorr a cos uaithi ag teacht anuas ar an talamh di agus baineadh leagan aisti. Is beag nár scread sí os ard, ach chuimhnigh sí uirthi féin in am. Do bhí a glún beagán gortaithe shíl sí.

Bhí na daoine amach ar shráid na scoile anois. Chaithfeadh sí fanacht i bhfolach go mbeidís ar fad imithe. Dhruid sí isteach leis an mballa chomh dlúth agus d'fhéad sí. Chuala sí na daoine ag caint agus ag gáirí, agus d'aithin sí go rabhadar ag scaipeadh i ndiaidh a chéile.

Céard é sin? Glórtha daoine ag teacht chuici; fuaim coiscéim ar an gcasán ina haice! Is ansin a chuimhnigh sí go raibh aithghiorra thart le cúl an tí agus go mbeadh roinn daoine ag dul an t-aithghiorra. B'fhéidir go mbeadh a

muintir féin ag dul an bealach sin, mar bhí sé beagán níos giorra ná thart le bóthar.

Tháinig scata beag cuici: d'aithnigh sí ar a nglórthaibh gurbh iad muintir Pheaitín Johnny iad. Chuadar thart. Scata beag eile: muintir an Bhádóra. Thángadar chomh gar sin di gur shatail Éamonn ar a coisín bocht nochtaithe. Is beag nár lig sí scread aisti an dara huair, ach ní dhearna ach í féin do bhrú níos gaire don bhalla.

Do bhí scata eile ag teacht i leith: a Dhia mhóir, a muintir féin! Bhí Cuimín ag rá ‘Nárbh iontach an spórt Marcaisín ag damhsa!’

Chuimil gúna a máthar le leacain Nóra ag dul thart dóibh: níor tharraing sí a hanál ar feadh an ama sin.

Do chuaigh dream nó dhó eile thart. D'éist sí ar feadh tamaill. Ní raibh éinne eile ag teacht. Is amhlaidh a bhíodar ar fad imithe, adúirt sí léi féin. Amach léi as a hionad folaigh agus do lasc léi thart an casán.

Plump! Rith sí in aghaidh duine éigin. Bhí dhá láimh mhóra timpeall uirthi. Chuala sí glór fir. D'aithnigh sí an glór. An sagart a bhí ann!

‘Cé tá agam?’ adeir an tAthair Rónán. D'innis sí bréag. Céard eile a bhí lena insint aici?
‘Cuimín Cóil Labhráis, a Athair,’ ar sise.

Do leag sé lámh ar gach gualainn léi agus d'fhéach anuas uirthi. Bhí an ceann cromtha aici.
‘Shíl mé gur imigh tú abhaile le do athair agus le do mháthair,’ ar seisean.

‘D'imigh, a athair, ach chaill mé mo chaipín agus tháinig mé ar ais dhá iarraidh.’

‘Nach bhfuil do chaipín ort?’

‘Fuair mé ar an gcasán é.’

‘Nach bhfuil d'athair agus do mháthair imithe an t-aithghiorra?’

‘Tá, a Athair, ach tá mise ag dul an bóthar ionas go mbeidh mé leis na gasúir eile.’

‘Gread leat mar sin, nó béarfaidh na taibhsí ort.’ Leis sin do lig an tAthair Rónán uaidh í.

‘Go dtuga Dia oíche mhaith dhuit, a Athair,’ ar sise. Níor chuimhnigh sí ar a caipín a bhaint di ach is amhlaidh d'umhlaigh sí don tsagart ar nós cailín! Má thug an sagart an méid sin fá deara ní raibh am aige focal do rá, mar bhí sí imithe ar iompó do bhoise.

Bhí a dhá grua ar dearg-lasadh le náire agus í ag tabhairt aighthe ar an mbóthar. Bhí sí tar éis ceithre bréaga móra a dhéanamh leis an sagart! Dob eagal léi gur peacadh uafásach ar a hanam na bréaga sin. Bhí faitíos uirthi ag dul an bóthar uaigneach úd fá dhorchadas na hoíche agus an t-ualach mór sin ar a croí.

Bhí an oíche an-dubh. Bhí gealadh beag ar thaoibh a láimhe deise. Lochán an Turlaigh Bhig a bhí ann. D'éirigh éan éigin, crothach nó naoscach, de bhruach an locha agus do lig scread bhrónach as. Do baineadh geit as Nóra nuair a chuala sí glór an éin chomh hobann sin agus siabhrán a sciathán.

Do lean uirthi agus a croí ag bualadh in aghaidh a huchta. D'fhág sí an Turlach Beag ina

diaidh agus thug aghaidh ar an mbóthar fada díreach a théas go cros-bhóthar Chill Bhriocáin.

Is ar éigean d'aithnigh sí cuma na dtithe ar an ardán nuair a shroich sí an cros-bhóthar. Bhí solas i dteach Pheadair Uí Neachtain, agus chuala sí glórtha ó thaoibh Snámh Bó.

Do lean uirthi ag tarraing ar an Turlach. Nuair a shroich sí Cnocán na Móna tháinig an ghealach amach, agus chonaic sí uaithi mothar na gcnoc.

Tháinig scamall mór trasna ar aghaidh na gealaí agus chonacthas di gur dhuibhe fá dhó a bhí an oíche anois. Do ghabh imeagla í, óir chuimhnigh sí nach raibh Cnoc an Leachta i bhfad uaithi, agus go mbeadh an reilig ar thaoibh a láimhe deise ansin. Is minic a chuala sí gur dhroch-áit é sin i lár oíche.

Do ghéaraigh sí ar a himeacht; thosnaigh sí ag rith. Do chonacthas di go rabhthas ar a tóir; go raibh bean cnos-nochtaithe ag satailt beagnach ar a sálaibh; go raibh fear caol dubh ag gluaiseacht lena taoibh; go raibh páiste agus léine bhán air ag imeacht an bóthar roimpi.

D'oscail sí a béal le scread do ligean aisti, ach ní tháinig aon ghlór uaithi. Bhí fuar-allas léi. Bhí a cosa ag lúbadh fúithi. Is beag nár thit sí ina cnap ar an mbóthar.

Bhí sí ag Cnoc an Leachta anois. Chonacthas di go raibh Cill Eoin lán de thaibhsíbh. Chuimhnigh sí ar an bhfocal a dúirt an sagart. ‘Fainic an mbéarfadh na taibhsí ort.’ Bhíothas chuici! Chuala sí, dar léi, plub plab cosnochtaithe ar an mbóthar.

D'iontaigh sí ar thaoibh a láimhe clé agus chaith sí léim thar claí. Is beag nach ndeachaigh sí dá báthadh i dtóin-ar-bhogadh a bhí i gan fhios di idir í féin agus an choill. Chas sí a cos ag iarraidh í féin a shábháil, agus mhothaigh sí pian. Ar aghaidh léi go fuadrach. Bhí sí ar thaltaibh Eileabhrach anois. Chonaic sí lóchrann an locha tríd an gcraobhaigh. Bhain préamh chrainn tuisle aisti, agus leagadh í. Chaill sí a mothú.

Tar éis tamaill an-fhada do samhlaíodh di gur líonadh an áit de chineál leath-sholais, solas a bhí idir solas gréine agus solas gealaí. Chonaic sí go han-tsoiléir buin na gcrann agus iad dorcha in aghaidh spéire buí-uaithne. Ní fhaca sí spéir ar an dath sin riamh roimhe, agus dob álainn léi í. Chuala sí an choiscéim, agus thuig sí go raibh duine éigin ag teacht chuici aníos ón loch. Bhí a fhios aici ar mhodh éigin go raibh míorúilt ábhal-mhór ar tí a taispeána di agus go raibh páis uafásach éigin le fulaing ansin ag Duine éigin.

Níorbh fhada di ag fanúint go bhfaca sí Mac Óg ag triall go tuirseach trí aimhréidhe na coille. Bhí a cheann cromtha aige agus cuma mór-bhróin Air. D'aithnigh Nóra é. Dob é Mac Muire a bhí ann, agus bhí a fhios ag Nóra go raibh sé ag triall ina aonar chun a pháise.

Do chaith an Mac é féin ar a ghlúnaibh agus do ghabh ag guidhe. Ní chuala Nóra aon fhocal Uaidh, ach thuig sí ina croí cad a bhí Sé a rá. Bhí sé ag a iarraidh ar A Athair síorraí duine a chur Chuige a sheasfadh lenA thaoibh i láthair

A namhad agus d'iompródh leath A ualaigh. Ba mhian le Nóra éirí agus dul Chuige, ach níor fhéad sí corraí as an áit ina raibh sí.

Do chuala sí gleo, agus do líonadh an áit de lucht airm. Chonaic sí aighthe dorcha diabhlaí, agus laí lann, agus airm faobhair. Rugadh go naimhdeach ar an Mac mánla agus do stracadh A chuid éadaigh de agus do gabhadh de sciúirsíbh ann go raibh A cholann ina cosair chró agus ina bith-ghoin ó mhalainn go bonn troighe. Do cuireadh coróin spíonta ar A mhullach mhodhúil ansin agus do leagadh croch ar A ghuaillibh agus d'imigh roimhe go troigh-mhall truánta bealach brónach a thurais chun Calbhairí.

Bhris an slabhra a bhí ag ceangal teangan agus ball Nóra go dtí sin agus scread sí os ard.
‘Lig dom dul leat, a Íosa, agus an chroch d'iompar duit!’ ar sise.

Mhothaigh sí lámh ar a gualainn. D'fhéach sí suas. Chonaic sí éadan a hathar.
‘Céard atá ar mo chailín beag, nó tuige ar imigh sí uainn?’ arsa guth a hathar.

Thóg sé ina bhaclainn í agus thug abhaile í. Luigh sí ar a leaba go ceann míosa nia dhiaidh sin. Bhí sí ag rámhailleacht leath an ama sin.

Shíl sí ar uairibh go raibh sí ag siúl na mbóthar ina cadhan aonraic, agus ag iarraidh eolais an bhealaigh ar dhaoinibh, agus shíl sí ar uairibh eile go raibh sí ina luí fán gcrann istigh in Eileabhrach agus go raibh sí ag féachaint arís ar pháis an

Mhic mhánla agus í ag iarraidh teacht do chúnamh Air ach gan é ar a cumas.

D'imigh an mearbhall sin as a haigne i ndiaidh a chéile agus thuig sí sa deireadh go raibh sí sa mbaile arís. Agus nuair d'aithnigh sí éadan a máthar do líonadh a croí de shólás, agus d'iarr sí uirthi an naíonán a chur isteach sa leaba chuici, agus nuair do cuireadh isteach sa leaba é phóg sí go dil é.

‘A Mhaimín,’ ar sise, ‘shíl mé nach bhfeicfinn tusa ná m'athair ná Cuimín ná an páiste arís go brách. An raibh sibh anseo ar feadh na haimsire?’
‘Bhí, a uain ghil,’ adeir a máthair.
‘Fanfaidh mé san áit a bhfuil sibh-se,’ ar sise. ‘a Mhaimín chroí, bhí na bóithre an-dorcha. . . . Agus ní bhuailfidh mé go deo arís thú’ ar sise leis an leanbh agus í ag tabhairt póigín eile dhó.

Do chuir an leanbh a lámh timpeall a muiníl agus rinne sí lúb di féin ar an leaba ar a lán-tsástacht.

With credit to:

Original text =

Translated by Pádraig Bambury =

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