“Perhaps you could sing us a song,” said Emma to Saul.
Saul frowned and stared at the girl.
“Saul’s work is the needle, child,” said Will.
“I’ve a right to sing in my own house, William of Parsh,” said Saul.
“And in mine, for all that it matters,” said Perrill under his breath.
“No need, Saul,” began Anna.
“Need or not, I’ll sing if the girl wants me to,” Saul interjected.
They sat quiet around the table while the needleman stood and breathed loudly and deeply, eyes shut tightly. Will shared a look with Anna, who simply shrugged and poked at the cooling stew-filled crust in front of her.
After more time than was strictly comfortable, Saul ceased his preparations.
“I should tell you – “, he began.
“Bad manners to explain a dinner-song,” said Perrill.
“Right you are.”
In the merry month of May, From my home I started,
Left the girls of Tuam, Nearly broken hearted,
Saluted father dear, Kissed my darlin’ mother,
Drank a pint of beer, My grief and tears to smother,
Then off to reap the corn, And leave where I was born,
I cut a stout blackthorn, To banish ghost and goblin,
In a brand new pair of brogues, I rattled o’er the bogs,
And frightened all the dogs, On the rocky road to Dublin.
One, two, three, four five,
Hunt the hare and turn her –
“A chorus-song without a chorus’s not fit for offering, Saul,” said Anna, stopping her husband with a gentle touch, glancing round with a weak grin to her guests.
“Even I know that!” said Emma.
Saul sat and stared at the table, his face reddening.
“You didn’t give me time to join in,” said Perrill.
Saul looked up again, his expression guarded.
“Start again, Saul. I was a bit slow that time, but I’ll get in there this time. Here, I’ll start so you don’t have to wait for me.”
Perrill sang in a voice well-aged and well-kept.
Saul joined in with an uneven warble. Somehow Perrill’s voice seemed to wrap around it, to give it strength and lend it, if not exactly beauty, at least a kind of handsome quality.
Hunt the hare and turn her
Down the rocky road
And all the ways to Dublin,
“A fine choice, for all that this crowd don’t appreciate it,” said Perrill, and popped a stew-laden wedge of bread to his mouth.
They all smiled in spite of themselves, and soon the air was thick with the crunching of crusts.