The Dressmaker’s Child, by William Trevor
Oh William Trevor, OH! “The Dressmaker’s Child” in this week’s New Yorker is sublime. Sublime! He’s sort of raised the bar. Given us something to strive for.
What a bleak story and a beautiful one. Cahal lies to his dad and does not tell the truth to the Spanish couple who want to see the weeping virgin of Pouldearg (which is not a miracle, after all. Just condensation from the trees above). He brings the couple (and the woman is one he feels lust for—her lips, her hair, her teeth in his rearview mirror) to see the tilting statue and on the way back does—or doesn’t—hit the dressmaker’s child with his car (a girl who is obsessed with the road is this child–she throws rocks at cars, runs into them–as if willing herself to be hit. She seems to know her fate). He drives on. Turns out the dressmaker’s child is found dead several days later and the awful truth of how she came to be (according to village gossip she was her grandfather’s daughter) is revealed.
Cahal cannot escape what he’s done—even though no one knows that he was involved or questions the child’s death as her mother was neglectful—because the dressmaker knows and has covered his tracks. She has redeemed him, then. She is his weeping virgin. Her daughter died for both their sins and so they are drawn to each other and in the end this is the one thing Cahal knows for sure.
Wow, what a story. We need more stories like this one. Oh yes we do.