A fulmination of sound rushed on him as he ran toward the lake: the susurration of his heels gliding along the grass, the thudding of heartbeat pounding in his ears, the ceaseless rushing of breath flowing in and out as his chest rose and fell—everything agitated and everything distressed him, andhe whipped the high grass from his path, his arms flailing, his feet kicking, his voice crying out in an excruciating sob, flurning at the ground and disdaining the sky, hating everything and everybody, wanting the whole world to collapse on itself before his could collapse further on him. He reached the lake, where sat his curragh bobbing along the water. He sloshed into the water and scrambled into his boat, and cried in an agony of spirits, distraught over having seen his father so helpless, in dismay over having seen his mother so depressed, feeling more distraught over being so powerless to alleviate anybody’s fears or improve the general situation. His father was going to relinquish himself to disability and forgetfulness, and the whole family must shore up for the champion they were about to forever lose. The guiding star of the Donnegal house was being extinguished, the great farmer and lauded father was enduring his last coruscation, and there was nothing he could do to capture and covet such brilliancy. He must resign his hold on his father—they all must in time—he must bid farewell and expect to be seen as a stranger by him in time, and Cabhrin bent his head and wept uncontrollably, pressing his forehead to his knees, never minding the increasing cold or greying skies, never minding the wind cutting over his back, never minding the wrasse pobbling in and around the water, never minding even the sound of someone slowly approaching him.
There was a slight splash, the curragh moved, a weight suddenly pressed down on his shoulders. Cabhrin peered up from between his folded arms, he saw his father’s coat was being draped over his back and arms, and looking higher, he saw his father’s aspect smiling down at him.
“Da?” said Cabhrin, furiously wiping away his tears. His father’s features came further into view, and his spirits mounted. “Da, is that you?”
“No, Cabh,” said his father. “It’s me.”
The form belonging to his father sat beside him in the curragh, and after blinking away the last few tears, Cabhrin’s vision cleared, the image grew more precise, colours were stored and outlines refined, and he was now aware of the blunder he had made: it was Breigh sitting beside him and not his father. The likeness which had been beginning to take form in late adolescence was now so like that of the one whose features would comfort him most that they were hard to distinguish. Breigh had grown so like their father in height and build, air and address that it was becoming too easy to mistake one for the other, barring the difference of years in one and poor health in the other. Cabhrin chided and checked himself: he was sure that his father had been there a moment before, but his eyes had played an unfortunate trick, the youthful features belonging to his brother were become clearer, and there could be no room for farther error now. Breigh was beside him, he was wrapping his arms around his shoulders, he was pressing him against chest, and with a gentle “It’s o’ right, Cabh. You just have it out,” Cabhrin cried on his brother, sobbing out his sundry of woes, covering his face with his hands as though he could bear the thought of the future no more than he could suffer to accept the present. The loss of his father was imminent and inexorable, but one who reminded him so much of him would forever be there to console him: the splendid comfort of an older brother’s embrace, the compassion and leniency afforded, the succour and superior latitude shown would never be equal to anything else. Breigh would be the guardian of his comfort, the soother of every sorrow, and the memory of his father’s coat and the consolation of having a shoulder to cry upon called back his thoughts, taking him from painful reverie to present despondence, and Cabhrin was with Jaicobh again. He was in his arms, he was under his coat, he was crying on his shoulder, and Cabhrin knew not whether to be mortified at having succumbed to such misery on a man whom he had just begun to know, or be relieved at his being there.