Thursday, April 05, 2012

It was 2 AM and Grace had been lying down for only half an hour when there was a rap on the door. A constable handed her a letter from the governor. Grace Plunkett was now permitted to see her husband.

The word suprised and delighted her.


She whispered it over and over as the car sped through the quiet streets, and as she went through the small entrance gate, into the reception area, and up the steps to cell no. 88.

“Ten minutes, ma’am.”

On entering the jail, she had noticed the sky lightening. No dawn would ever be the same again.

But only ten minutes? And in a small cell with an NCO and several soldiers with fixed bayonets crowded round the door?

The sergeant examined his watch as if to time a race.

The only light was a candle.

Grace picked out a plank for a bed with one blanket, a tin basin with gruel but no spoon.

Joe beckoned her to sit down on the stool and he knelt over her like a penitent confessing. This was to be their only honeymoon. The newly-weds who had so much to say to each other and so little time to say it were tongue-tied.

Perplexed by this meaningless cruelty, the best Grace could do was try and fix every detail in her mind : what he looked like, said, wanted to say but left unsaid, the candlelight reflected in his eyes. She caught a whiff of wood-smoke on his clothes, in his hair.

She had to be brave for his sake. But who understands the human heart ? Would it help him if she cried or make it harder? For tears are words to those in love. Those few precious minutes seemed first like hours and then like only seconds.

The soldiers were sleepy-eyed. Most of the faces were Irish faces. Some were downy, had never shaved; they were younger even than she and Joe. Would they really break up a marriage so recent? Would they kill a dying man, not any dying man but her Joseph who was only twenty-nine years old?

Their uniform provided them with absolution, turned murder into mere killing. They were doing a job, like a corporation employee clearing a drain or chopping up a tree that blocked the road.

Yes, without hate they would do this hateful thing.

--- Grace Plunkett’s last thoughts with Joe Plunkett, shortly before his execution, “Rebels – The Irish Rising of 1916” by Peter De Rosa

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