Chapter One Oh, Kelsha is a distant place, over the mountains from everywhere. You go over the mountains to get there, and eventually, through dreams. *** I can picture the two children in their coats arriving. It is the start of the summer and all the customs of winter and spring are behind us. Not that those customs are tended to now, much. My grand-nephew and grand-niece, titles that sound like the children of a Russian tsar. My crab-apple tree seems to watch over their coming, like a poor man forever waiting for alms with cap in hand. There is a soughing in the beech trees and the ash, and the small music of the hens. Shep prances about like a child at a dance with his extra coat of bog muck and the yellow effluents that leak into yards where dogs like to lie. The children's coats are very nice coats, city coats. Their mother does not neglect the matter of coats, whatever else I could say about her. But they are too nice for a farmyard existence. We will wrap them in old brown paper and put them in the small blue cupboard in their room, and keep the moths from them as best we can. I herd the children like little calves through the lower leaf of the half-door and into the beautiful glooms of the kitchen. The big sandwiches lie on the scrubbed table, poised like buckled planks on blue and white plates. Words are spoken and I sense the great respect Sarah has for their father Trevor, my fine nephew, magnificent in his Bohemian green suit, his odd, English-sounding name, his big red beard and his sleeked black hair like a Parisian intellectual, good-looking, with deep brown angry eyes. He is handing her some notes of money, to help bring the children through the summer. I am proud of her regard for him and proud of him, because in the old days of my sister's madness I reared him. My poor sister Maud, that in the end could do little but gabble nonsense. The great enterprise now, with Trevor and the children's mother, is to cross the sea to London and see what can be done. There are ony stagnant pools of things to tempt him here in his own country, there is nothing. He has trained himself up by a scholarship and I can smell the smell of hope in him, the young man's coat. But his hope is proficient and true. I have no doubt but that he will find himself and his care a place to lodge, and fetch about him, and gain employment. He has his grandfather's wholeness of purpose, who rose from a common police recruit to be the chief superintendant of B Division in Dublin, the capital of the whole country. His father, Matt, Maud's husband, who as good as threw me from the house when finally she died, may drag his polished boots every morning from that rented house in Donnybrook to the savage margins of Ringsend, where he teaches painting and drawing to children who would as much like to learn them as to eat earwigs. Back and forth on that black bike with his winter lamp and ineffectual bell, thinking only of the summer when he can paint the midgy beauties of Wicklow, cursing his fate. But Trevor has the strength and purpose of another generation, with his red beard. He is kissing the children's heads now and saying goodbye, be good, see you in a few months. "Every day I will write to you," says the little boy, which is comical since he is too young to know his writing. But the father is not listening to the son, he is staring away into nowhere, distracted no doubt by all the things he has to do, the arrangements, the tickets, the prayers that I think will rise up unbidden, though I know he professes to be a Godless man, one of those modern types that would make me fearful if it was not him. "Every day, every day," says the boy emphatically. "I am going to press flowers for you all summer in my autograph album," says the little girl. "There won't be anyone to write their names in it down here." "Look after yourselves in London," I say to him. "And you need not for a moment worry about the children. You will have enough to do setting yourselves up." "As soon as everything's in place, we'll send for them," Trevor says. "Thank you, Aunty Annie. It's an enormous help." 'It's no trouble, God knows. We are lucky to have them" "Don't spoil them," he says. "We will not. But we will look after them, certainly." "Good," Trevor says, and kisses my cheek, and away with him out into the paltry sunlight. He doesn't look back, though the children rush to the door.
Copyright © 2003 by Sebastian Barry. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.