Part 1 out of 3
J. S. LE FANU'S GHOSTLY TALES, VOLUME 4
Ghost Stories of Chapelizod (1851)
The Drunkard's Dream (1838)
The Ghost and the Bone-setter (1838)
The Mysterious Lodger (1850)
Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
GHOST STORIES OF CHAPELIZOD
Take my word for it, there is no such thing as an ancient village,
especially if it has seen better days, unillustrated by its legends of
terror. You might as well expect to find a decayed cheese without mites,
or an old house without rats, as an antique and dilapidated town without
an authentic population of goblins. Now, although this class of
inhabitants are in nowise amenable to the police authorities, yet, as
their demeanor directly affects the comforts of her Majesty's subjects, I
cannot but regard it as a grave omission that the public have hitherto
been left without any statistical returns of their numbers, activity,
etc., etc. And I am persuaded that a Commission to inquire into and
report upon the numerical strength, habits, haunts, etc., etc., of
supernatural agents resident in Ireland, would be a great deal more
innocent and entertaining than half the Commissions for which the country
pays, and at least as instructive. This I say, more from a sense of duty,
and to deliver my mind of a grave truth, than with any hope of seeing the
suggestion adopted. But, I am sure, my readers will deplore with me that
the comprehensive powers of belief, and apparently illimitable leisure,
possessed by parliamentary commissions of inquiry, should never have been
applied to the subject I have named, and that the collection of that
species of information should be confided to the gratuitous and desultory
labours of individuals, who, like myself, have other occupations to
attend to. This, however, by the way.
Among the village outposts of Dublin, Chapelizod once held a
considerable, if not a foremost rank. Without mentioning its connexion
with the history of the great Kilmainham Preceptory of the Knights of St.
John, it will be enough to remind the reader of its ancient and
celebrated Castle, not one vestige of which now remains, and of the fact
that it was for, we believe, some centuries, the summer residence of the
Viceroys of Ireland. The circumstance of its being up, we believe, to the
period at which that corps was disbanded, the headquarters of the Royal
Irish Artillery, gave it also a consequence of an humbler, but not less
substantial kind. With these advantages in its favour, it is not
wonderful that the town exhibited at one time an air of substantial and
semi-aristocratic prosperity unknown to Irish villages in modern times.
A broad street, with a well-paved footpath, and houses as lofty as were
at that time to be found in the fashionable streets of Dublin; a goodly
stone-fronted barrack; an ancient church, vaulted beneath, and with a
tower clothed from its summit to its base with the richest ivy; an humble
Roman Catholic chapel; a steep bridge spanning the Liffey, and a great
old mill at the near end of it, were the principal features of the town.
These, or at least most of them, remain still, but the greater part in a
very changed and forlorn condition. Some of them indeed are superseded,
though not obliterated by modern erections, such as the bridge, the
chapel, and the church in part; the rest forsaken by the order who
originally raised them, and delivered up to poverty, and in some cases to
The village lies in the lap of the rich and wooded valley of the Liffey,
and is overlooked by the high grounds of the beautiful Phoenix Park on
the one side, and by the ridge of the Palmerstown hills on the other. Its
situation, therefore, is eminently picturesque; and factory-fronts and
chimneys notwithstanding, it has, I think, even in its decay, a sort of
melancholy picturesqueness of its own. Be that as it may, I mean to
relate two or three stories of that sort which may be read with very good
effect by a blazing fire on a shrewd winter's night, and are all directly
connected with the altered and somewhat melancholy little town I have
named. The first I shall relate concerns
The Village Bully
About thirty years ago there lived in the town of Chapelizod an
ill-conditioned fellow of herculean strength, well known throughout the
neighbourhood by the title of Bully Larkin. In addition to his remarkable
physical superiority, this fellow had acquired a degree of skill as a
pugilist which alone would have made him formidable. As it was, he was
the autocrat of the village, and carried not the sceptre in vain.
Conscious of his superiority, and perfectly secure of impunity, he lorded
it over his fellows in a spirit of cowardly and brutal insolence, which
made him hated even more profoundly than he was feared.
Upon more than one occasion he had deliberately forced quarrels upon men
whom he had singled out for the exhibition of his savage prowess; and in
every encounter his over-matched antagonist had received an amount of
"punishment" which edified and appalled the spectators, and in some
instances left ineffaceable scars and lasting injuries after it.
Bully Larkin's pluck had never been fairly tried. For, owing to his
prodigious superiority in weight, strength, and skill, his victories had
always been certain and easy; and in proportion to the facility with
which he uniformly smashed an antagonist, his pugnacity and insolence
were inflamed. He thus became an odious nuisance in the neighbourhood,
and the terror of every mother who had a son, and of every wife who had a
husband who possessed a spirit to resent insult, or the smallest
confidence in his own pugilistic capabilities.
Now it happened that there was a young fellow named Ned Moran--better
known by the soubriquet of "Long Ned," from his slender, lathy
proportions--at that time living in the town. He was, in truth, a mere
lad, nineteen years of age, and fully twelve years younger than the
stalwart bully. This, however, as the reader will see, secured for him no
exemption from the dastardly provocations of the ill-conditioned
pugilist. Long Ned, in an evil hour, had thrown eyes of affection upon a
certain buxom damsel, who, notwithstanding Bully Larkin's amorous
rivalry, inclined to reciprocate them.
I need not say how easily the spark of jealousy, once kindled, is blown
into a flame, and how naturally, in a coarse and ungoverned nature, it
explodes in acts of violence and outrage.
"The bully" watched his opportunity, and contrived to provoke Ned Moran,
while drinking in a public-house with a party of friends, into an
altercation, in the course of which he failed not to put such insults
upon his rival as manhood could not tolerate. Long Ned, though a simple,
good-natured sort of fellow, was by no means deficient in spirit, and
retorted in a tone of defiance which edified the more timid, and gave his
opponent the opportunity he secretly coveted.
Bully Larkin challenged the heroic youth, whose pretty face he had
privately consigned to the mangling and bloody discipline he was himself
so capable of administering. The quarrel, which he had himself contrived
to get up, to a certain degree covered the ill blood and malignant
premeditation which inspired his proceedings, and Long Ned, being full of
generous ire and whiskey punch, accepted the gauge of battle on the
instant. The whole party, accompanied by a mob of idle men and boys, and
in short by all who could snatch a moment from the calls of business,
proceeded in slow procession through the old gate into the Phoenix Park,
and mounting the hill overlooking the town, selected near its summit a
level spot on which to decide the quarrel.
The combatants stripped, and a child might have seen in the contrast
presented by the slight, lank form and limbs of the lad, and the muscular
and massive build of his veteran antagonist, how desperate was the chance
of poor Ned Moran.
"Seconds" and "bottle-holders"--selected of course for their love of the
game--were appointed, and "the fight" commenced.
I will not shock my readers with a description of the cool-blooded
butchery that followed. The result of the combat was what anybody might
have predicted. At the eleventh round, poor Ned refused to "give in"; the
brawny pugilist, unhurt, in good wind, and pale with concentrated and as
yet unslaked revenge, had the gratification of seeing his opponent seated
upon his second's knee, unable to hold up his head, his left arm
disabled; his face a bloody, swollen, and shapeless mass; his breast
scarred and bloody, and his whole body panting and quivering with rage
"Give in, Ned, my boy," cried more than one of the bystanders.
"Never, never," shrieked he, with a voice hoarse and choking.
Time being "up," his second placed him on his feet again. Blinded with
his own blood, panting and staggering, he presented but a helpless mark
for the blows of his stalwart opponent. It was plain that a touch would
have been sufficient to throw him to the earth. But Larkin had no notion
of letting him off so easily. He closed with him without striking a blow
(the effect of which, prematurely dealt, would have been to bring him at
once to the ground, and so put an end to the combat), and getting his
battered and almost senseless head under his arm, fast in that peculiar
"fix" known to the fancy pleasantly by the name of "chancery," he held
him firmly, while with monotonous and brutal strokes he beat his fist, as
it seemed, almost into his face. A cry of "shame" broke from the crowd,
for it was plain that the beaten man was now insensible, and supported
only by the herculean arm of the bully. The round and the fight ended by
his hurling him upon the ground, falling upon him at the same time with
his knee upon his chest.
The bully rose, wiping the perspiration from his white face with his
blood-stained hands, but Ned lay stretched and motionless upon the grass.
It was impossible to get him upon his legs for another round. So he was
carried down, just as he was, to the pond which then lay close to the old
Park gate, and his head and body were washed beside it. Contrary to the
belief of all he was not dead. He was carried home, and after some months
to a certain extent recovered. But he never held up his head again, and
before the year was over he had died of consumption. Nobody could doubt
how the disease had been induced, but there was no actual proof to
connect the cause and effect, and the ruffian Larkin escaped the
vengeance of the law. A strange retribution, however, awaited him.
After the death of Long Ned, he became less quarrelsome than before, but
more sullen and reserved. Some said "he took it to heart," and others,
that his conscience was not at ease about it. Be this as it may, however,
his health did not suffer by reason of his presumed agitations, nor was
his worldly prosperity marred by the blasting curses with which poor
Moran's enraged mother pursued him; on the contrary he had rather risen
in the world, and obtained regular and well-remunerated employment from
the Chief Secretary's gardener, at the other side of the Park. He still
lived in Chapelizod, whither, on the close of his day's work, he used to
return across the Fifteen Acres.
It was about three years after the catastrophe we have mentioned, and
late in the autumn, when, one night, contrary to his habit, he did not
appear at the house where he lodged, neither had he been seen anywhere,
during the evening, in the village. His hours of return had been so very
regular, that his absence excited considerable surprise, though, of
course, no actual alarm; and, at the usual hour, the house was closed for
the night, and the absent lodger consigned to the mercy of the elements,
and the care of his presiding star. Early in the morning, however, he was
found lying in a state of utter helplessness upon the slope immediately
overlooking the Chapelizod gate. He had been smitten with a paralytic
stroke: his right side was dead; and it was many weeks before he had
recovered his speech sufficiently to make himself at all understood.
He then made the following relation:--He had been detained, it appeared,
later than usual, and darkness had closed before he commenced his
homeward walk across the Park. It was a moonlit night, but masses of
ragged clouds were slowly drifting across the heavens. He had not
encountered a human figure, and no sounds but the softened rush of the
wind sweeping through bushes and hollows met his ear. These wild and
monotonous sounds, and the utter solitude which surrounded him, did not,
however, excite any of those uneasy sensations which are ascribed to
superstition, although he said he did feel depressed, or, in his own
phraseology, "lonesome." Just as he crossed the brow of the hill which
shelters the town of Chapelizod, the moon shone out for some moments
with unclouded lustre, and his eye, which happened to wander by the
shadowy enclosures which lay at the foot of the slope, was arrested by
the sight of a human figure climbing, with all the haste of one pursued,
over the churchyard wall, and running up the steep ascent directly
towards him. Stories of "resurrectionists" crossed his recollection, as
he observed this suspicious-looking figure. But he began, momentarily,
to be aware with a sort of fearful instinct which he could not explain,
that the running figure was directing his steps, with a sinister
purpose, towards himself.
The form was that of a man with a loose coat about him, which, as he ran,
he disengaged, and as well as Larkin could see, for the moon was again
wading in clouds, threw from him. The figure thus advanced until within
some two score yards of him, it arrested its speed, and approached with a
loose, swaggering gait. The moon again shone out bright and clear, and,
gracious God! what was the spectacle before him? He saw as distinctly as
if he had been presented there in the flesh, Ned Moran, himself, stripped
naked from the waist upward, as if for pugilistic combat, and drawing
towards him in silence. Larkin would have shouted, prayed, cursed, fled
across the Park, but he was absolutely powerless; the apparition stopped
within a few steps, and leered on him with a ghastly mimicry of the
defiant stare with which pugilists strive to cow one another before
combat. For a time, which he could not so much as conjecture, he was held
in the fascination of that unearthly gaze, and at last the thing,
whatever it was, on a sudden swaggered close up to him with extended
palms. With an impulse of horror, Larkin put out his hand to keep the
figure off, and their palms touched--at least, so he believed--for a
thrill of unspeakable agony, running through his arm, pervaded his entire
frame, and he fell senseless to the earth.
Though Larkin lived for many years after, his punishment was terrible. He
was incurably maimed; and being unable to work, he was forced, for
existence, to beg alms of those who had once feared and flattered him. He
suffered, too, increasingly, under his own horrible interpretation of the
preternatural encounter which was the beginning of all his miseries. It
was vain to endeavour to shake his faith in the reality of the
apparition, and equally vain, as some compassionately did, to try to
persuade him that the greeting with which his vision closed was intended,
while inflicting a temporary trial, to signify a compensating
"No, no," he used to say, "all won't do. I know the meaning of it well
enough; it is a challenge to meet him in the other world--in Hell, where
I am going--that's what it means, and nothing else."
And so, miserable and refusing comfort, he lived on for some years, and
then died, and was buried in the same narrow churchyard which contains
the remains of his victim.
I need hardly say, how absolute was the faith of the honest inhabitants,
at the time when I heard the story, in the reality of the preternatural
summons which, through the portals of terror, sickness, and misery, had
summoned Bully Larkin to his long, last home, and that, too, upon the
very ground on which he had signalised the guiltiest triumph of his
violent and vindictive career.
I recollect another story of the preternatural sort, which made no small
sensation, some five-and-thirty years ago, among the good gossips of the
town; and, with your leave, courteous reader, I shall relate it.
The Sexton's Adventure
Those who remember Chapelizod a quarter of a century ago, or more, may
possibly recollect the parish sexton. Bob Martin was held much in awe by
truant boys who sauntered into the churchyard on Sundays, to read the
tombstones, or play leap frog over them, or climb the ivy in search of
bats or sparrows' nests, or peep into the mysterious aperture under the
eastern window, which opened a dim perspective of descending steps
losing themselves among profounder darkness, where lidless coffins gaped
horribly among tattered velvet, bones, and dust, which time and
mortality had strewn there. Of such horribly curious, and otherwise
enterprising juveniles, Bob was, of course, the special scourge and
terror. But terrible as was the official aspect of the sexton, and
repugnant as his lank form, clothed in rusty, sable vesture, his small,
frosty visage, suspicious grey eyes, and rusty, brown scratch-wig, might
appear to all notions of genial frailty; it was yet true, that Bob
Martin's severe morality sometimes nodded, and that Bacchus did not
always solicit him in vain.
Bob had a curious mind, a memory well stored with "merry tales," and
tales of terror. His profession familiarized him with graves and goblins,
and his tastes with weddings, wassail, and sly frolics of all sorts. And
as his personal recollections ran back nearly three score years into the
perspective of the village history, his fund of local anecdote was
copious, accurate, and edifying.
As his ecclesiastical revenues were by no means considerable, he was not
unfrequently obliged, for the indulgence of his tastes, to arts which
were, at the best, undignified.
He frequently invited himself when his entertainers had forgotten to do
so; he dropped in accidentally upon small drinking parties of his
acquaintance in public houses, and entertained them with stories, queer
or terrible, from his inexhaustible reservoir, never scrupling to accept
an acknowledgment in the shape of hot whiskey-punch, or whatever else
There was at that time a certain atrabilious publican, called Philip
Slaney, established in a shop nearly opposite the old turnpike. This man
was not, when left to himself, immoderately given to drinking; but being
naturally of a saturnine complexion, and his spirits constantly requiring
a fillip, he acquired a prodigious liking for Bob Martin's company. The
sexton's society, in fact, gradually became the solace of his existence,
and he seemed to lose his constitutional melancholy in the fascination of
his sly jokes and marvellous stories.
This intimacy did not redound to the prosperity or reputation of the
convivial allies. Bob Martin drank a good deal more punch than was good
for his health, or consistent with the character of an ecclesiastical
functionary. Philip Slaney, too, was drawn into similar indulgences, for
it was hard to resist the genial seductions of his gifted companion; and
as he was obliged to pay for both, his purse was believed to have
suffered even more than his head and liver.
Be this as it may, Bob Martin had the credit of having made a drunkard of
"black Phil Slaney"--for by this cognomen was he distinguished; and Phil
Slaney had also the reputation of having made the sexton, if possible, a
"bigger bliggard" than ever. Under these circumstances, the accounts of
the concern opposite the turnpike became somewhat entangled; and it came
to pass one drowsy summer morning, the weather being at once sultry and
cloudy, that Phil Slaney went into a small back parlour, where he kept
his books, and which commanded, through its dirty window-panes, a full
view of a dead wall, and having bolted the door, he took a loaded pistol,
and clapping the muzzle in his mouth, blew the upper part of his skull
through the ceiling.
This horrid catastrophe shocked Bob Martin extremely; and partly on this
account, and partly because having been, on several late occasions, found
at night in a state of abstraction, bordering on insensibility, upon the
high road, he had been threatened with dismissal; and, as some said,
partly also because of the difficulty of finding anybody to "treat" him
as poor Phil Slaney used to do, he for a time forswore alcohol in all its
combinations, and became an eminent example of temperance and sobriety.
Bob observed his good resolutions, greatly to the comfort of his wife,
and the edification of the neighbourhood, with tolerable punctuality. He
was seldom tipsy, and never drunk, and was greeted by the better part of
society with all the honours of the prodigal son.
Now it happened, about a year after the grisly event we have mentioned,
that the curate having received, by the post, due notice of a funeral to
be consummated in the churchyard of Chapelizod, with certain instructions
respecting the site of the grave, despatched a summons for Bob Martin,
with a view to communicate to that functionary these official details.
It was a lowering autumn night: piles of lurid thunder-clouds, slowly
rising from the earth, had loaded the sky with a solemn and boding canopy
of storm. The growl of the distant thunder was heard afar off upon the
dull, still air, and all nature seemed, as it were, hushed and cowering
under the oppressive influence of the approaching tempest.
It was past nine o'clock when Bob, putting on his official coat of seedy
black, prepared to attend his professional superior.
"Bobby, darlin'," said his wife, before she delivered the hat she held in
her hand to his keeping, "sure you won't, Bobby, darlin'--you won't--you
"I _don't_ know what," he retorted, smartly, grasping at his hat.
"You won't be throwing up the little finger, Bobby, acushla?" she said,
evading his grasp.
"Arrah, why would I, woman? there, give me my hat, will you?"
"But won't you promise me, Bobby darlin'--won't you, alanna?"
"Ay, ay, to be sure I will--why not?--there, give me my hat, and
let me go."
"Ay, but you're not promisin', Bobby, mavourneen; you're not promisin'
all the time."
"Well, divil carry me if I drink a drop till I come back again," said the
sexton, angrily; "will that do you? And _now_ will you give me my hat?"
"Here it is, darlin'," she said, "and God send you safe back."
And with this parting blessing she closed the door upon his retreating
figure, for it was now quite dark, and resumed her knitting till his
return, very much relieved; for she thought he had of late been oftener
tipsy than was consistent with his thorough reformation, and feared the
allurements of the half dozen "publics" which he had at that time to pass
on his way to the other end of the town.
They were still open, and exhaled a delicious reek of whiskey, as Bob
glided wistfully by them; but he stuck his hands in his pockets and
looked the other way, whistling resolutely, and filling his mind with the
image of the curate and anticipations of his coming fee. Thus he steered
his morality safely through these rocks of offence, and reached the
curate's lodging in safety.
He had, however, an unexpected sick call to attend, and was not at home,
so that Bob Martin had to sit in the hall and amuse himself with the
devil's tattoo until his return. This, unfortunately, was very long
delayed, and it must have been fully twelve o'clock when Bob Martin set
out upon his homeward way. By this time the storm had gathered to a
pitchy darkness, the bellowing thunder was heard among the rocks and
hollows of the Dublin mountains, and the pale, blue lightning shone upon
the staring fronts of the houses.
By this time, too, every door was closed; but as Bob trudged homeward,
his eye mechanically sought the public-house which had once belonged to
Phil Slaney. A faint light was making its way through the shutters and
the glass panes over the doorway, which made a sort of dull, foggy halo
about the front of the house.
As Bob's eyes had become accustomed to the obscurity by this time, the
light in question was quite sufficient to enable him to see a man in a
sort of loose riding-coat seated upon a bench which, at that time, was
fixed under the window of the house. He wore his hat very much over his
eyes, and was smoking a long pipe. The outline of a glass and a quart
bottle were also dimly traceable beside him; and a large horse saddled,
but faintly discernible, was patiently awaiting his master's leisure.
There was something odd, no doubt, in the appearance of a traveller
refreshing himself at such an hour in the open street; but the sexton
accounted for it easily by supposing that, on the closing of the house
for the night, he had taken what remained of his refection to the place
where he was now discussing it al fresco.
At another time Bob might have saluted the stranger as he passed with a
friendly "good night"; but, somehow, he was out of humour and in no
genial mood, and was about passing without any courtesy of the sort,
when the stranger, without taking the pipe from his mouth, raised the
bottle, and with it beckoned him familiarly, while, with a sort of lurch
of the head and shoulders, and at the same time shifting his seat to the
end of the bench, he pantomimically invited him to share his seat and
his cheer. There was a divine fragrance of whiskey about the spot, and
Bob half relented; but he remembered his promise just as he began to
waver, and said:
"No, I thank you, sir, I can't stop to-night."
The stranger beckoned with vehement welcome, and pointed to the vacant
space on the seat beside him.
"I thank you for your polite offer," said Bob, "but it's what I'm too
late as it is, and haven't time to spare, so I wish you a good night."
The traveller jingled the glass against the neck of the bottle, as if to
intimate that he might at least swallow a dram without losing time. Bob
was mentally quite of the same opinion; but, though his mouth watered, he
remembered his promise, and shaking his head with incorruptible
resolution, walked on.
The stranger, pipe in mouth, rose from his bench, the bottle in one hand,
and the glass in the other, and followed at the sexton's heels, his dusky
horse keeping close in his wake.
There was something suspicious and unaccountable in this importunity.
Bob quickened his pace, but the stranger followed close. The sexton began
to feel queer, and turned about. His pursuer was behind, and still
inviting him with impatient gestures to taste his liquor.
"I told you before," said Bob, who was both angry and frightened, "that I
would not taste it, and that's enough. I don't want to have anything to
say to you or your bottle; and in God's name," he added, more vehemently,
observing that he was approaching still closer, "fall back and don't be
tormenting me this way."
These words, as it seemed, incensed the stranger, for he shook the bottle
with violent menace at Bob Martin; but, notwithstanding this gesture of
defiance, he suffered the distance between them to increase. Bob,
however, beheld him dogging him still in the distance, for his pipe shed
a wonderful red glow, which duskily illuminated his entire figure like
the lurid atmosphere of a meteor.
"I wish the devil had his own, my boy," muttered the excited sexton, "and
I know well enough where you'd be."
The next time he looked over his shoulder, to his dismay he observed the
importunate stranger as close as ever upon his track.
"Confound you," cried the man of skulls and shovels, almost beside
himself with rage and horror, "what is it you want of me?"
The stranger appeared more confident, and kept wagging his head and
extending both glass and bottle toward him as he drew near, and Bob
Martin heard the horse snorting as it followed in the dark.
"Keep it to yourself, whatever it is, for there is neither grace nor
luck about you," cried Bob Martin, freezing with terror; "leave me
alone, will you."
And he fumbled in vain among the seething confusion of his ideas for a
prayer or an exorcism. He quickened his pace almost to a run; he was now
close to his own door, under the impending bank by the river side.
"Let me in, let me in, for God's sake; Molly, open the door," he cried,
as he ran to the threshold, and leant his back against the plank. His
pursuer confronted him upon the road; the pipe was no longer in his
mouth, but the dusky red glow still lingered round him. He uttered some
inarticulate cavernous sounds, which were wolfish and indescribable,
while he seemed employed in pouring out a glass from the bottle.
The sexton kicked with all his force against the door, and cried at the
same time with a despairing voice.
"In the name of God Almighty, once for all, leave me alone."
His pursuer furiously flung the contents of the bottle at Bob Martin;
but instead of fluid it issued out in a stream of flame, which expanded
and whirled round them, and for a moment they were both enveloped in a
faint blaze; at the same instant a sudden gust whisked off the
stranger's hat, and the sexton beheld that his skull was roofless. For
an instant he beheld the gaping aperture, black and shattered, and then
he fell senseless into his own doorway, which his affrighted wife had
I need hardly give my reader the key to this most intelligible and
authentic narrative. The traveller was acknowledged by all to have been
the spectre of the suicide, called up by the Evil One to tempt the
convivial sexton into a violation of his promise, sealed, as it was, by
an imprecation. Had he succeeded, no doubt the dusky steed, which Bob had
seen saddled in attendance, was destined to have carried back a double
burden to the place from whence he came.
As an attestation of the reality of this visitation, the old thorn tree
which overhung the doorway was found in the morning to have been blasted
with the infernal fires which had issued from the bottle, just as if a
thunder-bolt had scorched it.
The moral of the above tale is upon the surface, apparent, and, so to
speak, _self-acting_--a circumstance which happily obviates the
necessity of our discussing it together. Taking our leave, therefore, of
honest Bob Martin, who now sleeps soundly in the same solemn dormitory
where, in his day, he made so many beds for others, I come to a legend
of the Royal Irish Artillery, whose headquarters were for so long a time
in the town of Chapelizod. I don't mean to say that I cannot tell a
great many more stories, equally authentic and marvellous, touching this
old town; but as I may possibly have to perform a like office for other
localities, and as Anthony Poplar is known, like Atropos, to carry a
shears, wherewith to snip across all "yarns" which exceed reasonable
bounds, I consider it, on the whole, safer to despatch the traditions of
Chapelizod with one tale more.
Let me, however, first give it a name; for an author can no more despatch
a tale without a title, than an apothecary can deliver his physic without
a label. We shall, therefore, call it--
The Spectre Lovers
There lived some fifteen years since in a small and ruinous house, little
better than a hovel, an old woman who was reported to have considerably
exceeded her eightieth year, and who rejoiced in the name of Alice, or
popularly, Ally Moran. Her society was not much courted, for she was
neither rich, nor, as the reader may suppose, beautiful. In addition to a
lean cur and a cat she had one human companion, her grandson, Peter
Brien, whom, with laudable good nature, she had supported from the period
of his orphanage down to that of my story, which finds him in his
twentieth year. Peter was a good-natured slob of a fellow, much more
addicted to wrestling, dancing, and love-making, than to hard work, and
fonder of whiskey-punch than good advice. His grandmother had a high
opinion of his accomplishments, which indeed was but natural, and also of
his genius, for Peter had of late years begun to apply his mind to
politics; and as it was plain that he had a mortal hatred of honest
labour, his grandmother predicted, like a true fortuneteller, that he was
born to marry an heiress, and Peter himself (who had no mind to forego
his freedom even on such terms) that he was destined to find a pot of
gold. Upon one point both agreed, that being unfitted by the peculiar
bias of his genius for work, he was to acquire the immense fortune to
which his merits entitled him by means of a pure run of good luck. This
solution of Peter's future had the double effect of reconciling both
himself and his grandmother to his idle courses, and also of maintaining
that even flow of hilarious spirits which made him everywhere welcome,
and which was in truth the natural result of his consciousness of
It happened one night that Peter had enjoyed himself to a very late hour
with two or three choice spirits near Palmerstown. They had talked
politics and love, sung songs, and told stories, and, above all, had
swallowed, in the chastened disguise of punch, at least a pint of good
whiskey, every man.
It was considerably past one o'clock when Peter bid his companions
goodbye, with a sigh and a hiccough, and lighting his pipe set forth on
his solitary homeward way.
The bridge of Chapelizod was pretty nearly the midway point of his night
march, and from one cause or another his progress was rather slow, and it
was past two o'clock by the time he found himself leaning over its old
battlements, and looking up the river, over whose winding current and
wooded banks the soft moonlight was falling.
The cold breeze that blew lightly down the stream was grateful to him. It
cooled his throbbing head, and he drank it in at his hot lips. The scene,
too, had, without his being well sensible of it, a secret fascination.
The village was sunk in the profoundest slumber, not a mortal stirring,
not a sound afloat, a soft haze covered it all, and the fairy moonlight
hovered over the entire landscape.
In a state between rumination and rapture, Peter continued to lean over
the battlements of the old bridge, and as he did so he saw, or fancied he
saw, emerging one after another along the river bank in the little
gardens and enclosures in the rear of the street of Chapelizod, the
queerest little white-washed huts and cabins he had ever seen there
before. They had not been there that evening when he passed the bridge on
the way to his merry tryst. But the most remarkable thing about it was
the odd way in which these quaint little cabins showed themselves. First
he saw one or two of them just with the corner of his eye, and when he
looked full at them, strange to say, they faded away and disappeared.
Then another and another came in view, but all in the same coy way, just
appearing and gone again before he could well fix his gaze upon them; in
a little while, however, they began to bear a fuller gaze, and he found,
as it seemed to himself, that he was able by an effort of attention to
fix the vision for a longer and a longer time, and when they waxed faint
and nearly vanished, he had the power of recalling them into light and
substance, until at last their vacillating indistinctness became less and
less, and they assumed a permanent place in the moonlit landscape.
"Be the hokey," said Peter, lost in amazement, and dropping his pipe into
the river unconsciously, "them is the quarist bits iv mud cabins I ever
seen, growing up like musharoons in the dew of an evening, and poppin' up
here and down again there, and up again in another place, like so many
white rabbits in a warren; and there they stand at last as firm and fast
as if they were there from the Deluge; bedad it's enough to make a man
a'most believe in the fairies."
This latter was a large concession from Peter, who was a bit of a
free-thinker, and spoke contemptuously in his ordinary conversation of
that class of agencies.
Having treated himself to a long last stare at these mysterious fabrics,
Peter prepared to pursue his homeward way; having crossed the bridge and
passed the mill, he arrived at the corner of the main-street of the
little town, and casting a careless look up the Dublin road, his eye was
arrested by a most unexpected spectacle.
This was no other than a column of foot soldiers, marching with perfect
regularity towards the village, and headed by an officer on horseback.
They were at the far side of the turnpike, which was closed; but much to
his perplexity he perceived that they marched on through it without
appearing to sustain the least check from that barrier.
On they came at a slow march; and what was most singular in the matter
was, that they were drawing several cannons along with them; some held
ropes, others spoked the wheels, and others again marched in front of the
guns and behind them, with muskets shouldered, giving a stately character
of parade and regularity to this, as it seemed to Peter, most unmilitary
It was owing either to some temporary defect in Peter's vision, or to
some illusion attendant upon mist and moonlight, or perhaps to some other
cause, that the whole procession had a certain waving and vapoury
character which perplexed and tasked his eyes not a little. It was like
the pictured pageant of a phantasmagoria reflected upon smoke. It was as
if every breath disturbed it; sometimes it was blurred, sometimes
obliterated; now here, now there. Sometimes, while the upper part was
quite distinct, the legs of the column would nearly fade away or vanish
outright, and then again they would come out into clear relief, marching
on with measured tread, while the cocked hats and shoulders grew, as it
were, transparent, and all but disappeared.
Notwithstanding these strange optical fluctuations, however, the column
continued steadily to advance. Peter crossed the street from the corner
near the old bridge, running on tip-toe, and with his body stooped to
avoid observation, and took up a position upon the raised footpath in the
shadow of the houses, where, as the soldiers kept the middle of the road,
he calculated that he might, himself undetected, see them distinctly
enough as they passed.
"What the div--, what on airth," he muttered, checking the irreligious
ejaculation with which he was about to start, for certain queer
misgivings were hovering about his heart, notwithstanding the factitious
courage of the whiskey bottle. "What on airth is the manin' of all this?
is it the French that's landed at last to give us a hand and help us in
airnest to this blessed repale? If it is not them, I simply ask who the
div--, I mane who on airth are they, for such sogers as them I never
seen before in my born days?"
By this time the foremost of them were quite near, and truth to say they
were the queerest soldiers he had ever seen in the course of his life.
They wore long gaiters and leather breeches, three-cornered hats, bound
with silver lace, long blue coats, with scarlet facings and linings,
which latter were shewn by a fastening which held together the two
opposite corners of the skirt behind; and in front the breasts were in
like manner connected at a single point, where and below which they
sloped back, disclosing a long-flapped waistcoat of snowy whiteness; they
had very large, long cross-belts, and wore enormous pouches of white
leather hung extraordinarily low, and on each of which a little silver
star was glittering. But what struck him as most grotesque and outlandish
in their costume was their extraordinary display of shirt-frill in front,
and of ruffle about their wrists, and the strange manner in which their
hair was frizzled out and powdered under their hats, and clubbed up into
great rolls behind. But one of the party was mounted. He rode a tall
white horse, with high action and arching neck; he had a snow-white
feather in his three-cornered hat, and his coat was shimmering all over
with a profusion of silver lace. From these circumstances Peter concluded
that he must be the commander of the detachment, and examined him as he
passed attentively. He was a slight, tall man, whose legs did not half
fill his leather breeches, and he appeared to be at the wrong side of
sixty. He had a shrunken, weather-beaten, mulberry-coloured face, carried
a large black patch over one eye, and turned neither to the right nor to
the left, but rode on at the head of his men, with a grim, military
The countenances of these soldiers, officers as well as men, seemed all
full of trouble, and, so to speak, scared and wild. He watched in vain
for a single contented or comely face. They had, one and all, a
melancholy and hang-dog look; and as they passed by, Peter fancied that
the air grew cold and thrilling.
He had seated himself upon a stone bench, from which, staring with all
his might, he gazed upon the grotesque and noiseless procession as it
filed by him. Noiseless it was; he could neither hear the jingle of
accoutrements, the tread of feet, nor the rumble of the wheels; and when
the old colonel turned his horse a little, and made as though he were
giving the word of command, and a trumpeter, with a swollen blue nose and
white feather fringe round his hat, who was walking beside him, turned
about and put his bugle to his lips, still Peter heard nothing, although
it was plain the sound had reached the soldiers, for they instantly
changed their front to three abreast.
"Botheration!" muttered Peter, "is it deaf I'm growing?"
But that could not be, for he heard the sighing of the breeze and the
rush of the neighbouring Liffey plain enough.
"Well," said he, in the same cautious key, "by the piper, this bangs
Banagher fairly! It's either the Frinch army that's in it, come to take
the town iv Chapelizod by surprise, an' makin' no noise for feard iv
wakenin' the inhabitants; or else it's--it's--what it's--somethin' else.
But, tundher-an-ouns, what's gone wid Fitzpatrick's shop across the way?"
The brown, dingy stone building at the opposite side of the street looked
newer and cleaner than he had been used to see it; the front door of it
stood open, and a sentry, in the same grotesque uniform, with shouldered
musket, was pacing noiselessly to and fro before it. At the angle of this
building, in like manner, a wide gate (of which Peter had no recollection
whatever) stood open, before which, also, a similar sentry was gliding,
and into this gateway the whole column gradually passed, and Peter
finally lost sight of it.
"I'm not asleep; I'm not dhramin'," said he, rubbing his eyes, and
stamping slightly on the pavement, to assure himself that he was wide
awake. "It is a quare business, whatever it is; an' it's not alone that,
but everything about town looks strange to me. There's Tresham's house
new painted, bedad, an' them flowers in the windies! An' Delany's house,
too, that had not a whole pane of glass in it this morning, and scarce a
slate on the roof of it! It is not possible it's what it's dhrunk I am.
Sure there's the big tree, and not a leaf of it changed since I passed,
and the stars overhead, all right. I don't think it is in my eyes it is."
And so looking about him, and every moment finding or fancying new food
for wonder, he walked along the pavement, intending, without further
delay, to make his way home.
But his adventures for the night were not concluded. He had nearly
reached the angle of the short land that leads up to the church, when for
the first time he perceived that an officer, in the uniform he had just
seen, was walking before, only a few yards in advance of him.
The officer was walking along at an easy, swinging gait, and carried
his sword under his arm, and was looking down on the pavement with an
air of reverie.
In the very fact that he seemed unconscious of Peter's presence, and
disposed to keep his reflections to himself, there was something
reassuring. Besides, the reader must please to remember that our hero had
a quantum sufficit of good punch before his adventure commenced, and was
thus fortified against those qualms and terrors under which, in a more
reasonable state of mind, he might not impossibly have sunk.
The idea of the French invasion revived in full power in Peter's fuddled
imagination, as he pursued the nonchalant swagger of the officer.
"Be the powers iv Moll Kelly, I'll ax him what it is," said Peter, with a
sudden accession of rashness. "He may tell me or not, as he plases, but
he can't be offinded, anyhow."
With this reflection having inspired himself, Peter cleared his voice
"Captain!" said he, "I ax your pardon, captain, an' maybe you'd be so
condescindin' to my ignorance as to tell me, if it's plasin' to yer
honour, whether your honour is not a Frinchman, if it's plasin' to you."
This he asked, not thinking that, had it been as he suspected, not one
word of his question in all probability would have been intelligible to
the person he addressed. He was, however, understood, for the officer
answered him in English, at the same time slackening his pace and moving
a little to the side of the pathway, as if to invite his interrogator to
take his place beside him.
"No; I am an Irishman," he answered.
"I humbly thank your honour," said Peter, drawing nearer--for the
affability and the nativity of the officer encouraged him--"but maybe
your honour is in the _sarvice_ of the King of France?"
"I serve the same King as you do," he answered, with a sorrowful
significance which Peter did not comprehend at the time; and,
interrogating in turn, he asked, "But what calls you forth at this hour
of the day?"
"The _day,_ your honour!--the night, you mane."
"It was always our way to turn night into day, and we keep to it still,"
remarked the soldier. "But, no matter, come up here to my house; I have a
job for you, if you wish to earn some money easily. I live here."
As he said this, he beckoned authoritatively to Peter, who followed
almost mechanically at his heels, and they turned up a little lane near
the old Roman Catholic chapel, at the end of which stood, in Peter's
time, the ruins of a tall, stone-built house.
Like everything else in the town, it had suffered a metamorphosis. The
stained and ragged walls were now erect, perfect, and covered with
pebble-dash; window-panes glittered coldly in every window; the green
hall-door had a bright brass knocker on it. Peter did not know whether to
believe his previous or his present impressions; seeing is believing, and
Peter could not dispute the reality of the scene. All the records of his
memory seemed but the images of a tipsy dream. In a trance of
astonishment and perplexity, therefore, he submitted himself to the
chances of his adventure.
The door opened, the officer beckoned with a melancholy air of authority
to Peter, and entered. Our hero followed him into a sort of hall, which
was very dark, but he was guided by the steps of the soldier, and, in
silence, they ascended the stairs. The moonlight, which shone in at the
lobbies, showed an old, dark wainscoting, and a heavy, oak banister. They
passed by closed doors at different landing-places, but all was dark and
silent as, indeed, became that late hour of the night.
Now they ascended to the topmost floor. The captain paused for a minute
at the nearest door, and, with a heavy groan, pushing it open, entered
the room. Peter remained at the threshold. A slight female form in a
sort of loose, white robe, and with a great deal of dark hair hanging
loosely about her, was standing in the middle of the floor, with her
back towards them.
The soldier stopped short before he reached her, and said, in a voice of
great anguish, "Still the same, sweet bird--sweet bird! still the same."
Whereupon, she turned suddenly, and threw her arms about the neck of the
officer, with a gesture of fondness and despair, and her frame was
agitated as if by a burst of sobs. He held her close to his breast in
silence; and honest Peter felt a strange terror creep over him, as he
witnessed these mysterious sorrows and endearments.
"To-night, to-night--and then ten years more--ten long years--another
The officer and the lady seemed to speak these words together; her voice
mingled with his in a musical and fearful wail, like a distant summer
wind, in the dead hour of night, wandering through ruins. Then he heard
the officer say, alone, in a voice of anguish--
"Upon me be it all, for ever, sweet birdie, upon me."
And again they seemed to mourn together in the same soft and desolate
wail, like sounds of grief heard from a great distance.
Peter was thrilled with horror, but he was also under a strange
fascination; and an intense and dreadful curiosity held him fast.
The moon was shining obliquely into the room, and through the window
Peter saw the familiar slopes of the Park, sleeping mistily under its
shimmer. He could also see the furniture of the room with tolerable
distinctness--the old balloon-backed chairs, a four-post bed in a sort of
recess, and a rack against the wall, from which hung some military
clothes and accoutrements; and the sight of all these homely objects
reassured him somewhat, and he could not help feeling unspeakably curious
to see the face of the girl whose long hair was streaming over the
Peter, accordingly, coughed, at first slightly, and afterward more
loudly, to recall her from her reverie of grief; and, apparently, he
succeeded; for she turned round, as did her companion, and both, standing
hand in hand, gazed upon him fixedly. He thought he had never seen such
large, strange eyes in all his life; and their gaze seemed to chill the
very air around him, and arrest the pulses of his heart. An eternity of
misery and remorse was in the shadowy faces that looked upon him.
If Peter had taken less whisky by a single thimbleful, it is probable
that he would have lost heart altogether before these figures, which
seemed every moment to assume a more marked and fearful, though hardly
definable, contrast to ordinary human shapes.
"What is it you want with me?" he stammered.
"To bring my lost treasure to the churchyard," replied the lady, in a
silvery voice of more than mortal desolation.
The word "treasure" revived the resolution of Peter, although a cold
sweat was covering him, and his hair was bristling with horror; he
believed, however, that he was on the brink of fortune, if he could but
command nerve to brave the interview to its close.
"And where," he gasped, "is it hid--where will I find it?"
They both pointed to the sill of the window, through which the moon was
shining at the far end of the room, and the soldier said--
"Under that stone."
Peter drew a long breath, and wiped the cold dew from his face,
preparatory to passing to the window, where he expected to secure the
reward of his protracted terrors. But looking steadfastly at the window,
he saw the faint image of a new-born child sitting upon the sill in the
moonlight, with its little arms stretched toward him, and a smile so
heavenly as he never beheld before.
At sight of this, strange to say, his heart entirely failed him, he
looked on the figures that stood near, and beheld them gazing on the
infantine form with a smile so guilty and distorted, that he felt as if
he were entering alive among the scenery of hell, and shuddering, he
cried in an irrepressible agony of horror--
"I'll have nothing to say with you, and nothing to do with you; I don't
know what yez are or what yez want iv me, but let me go this minute,
every one of yez, in the name of God."
With these words there came a strange rumbling and sighing about
Peter's ears; he lost sight of everything, and felt that peculiar and
not unpleasant sensation of falling softly, that sometimes supervenes
in sleep, ending in a dull shock. After that he had neither dream nor
consciousness till he wakened, chill and stiff, stretched between two
piles of old rubbish, among the black and roofless walls of the
We need hardly mention that the village had put on its wonted air of
neglect and decay, or that Peter looked around him in vain for traces of
those novelties which had so puzzled and distracted him upon the
"Ay, ay," said his grandmother, removing her pipe, as he ended his
description of the view from the bridge, "sure enough I remember myself,
when I was a slip of a girl, these little white cabins among the gardens
by the river side. The artillery sogers that was married, or had not room
in the barracks, used to be in them, but they're all gone long ago.
"The Lord be merciful to us!" she resumed, when he had described the
military procession, "It's often I seen the regiment marchin' into the
town, jist as you saw it last night, acushla. Oh, voch, but it makes my
heart sore to think iv them days; they were pleasant times, sure enough;
but is not it terrible, avick, to think it's what it was the ghost of the
rigiment you seen? The Lord betune us an' harm, for it was nothing else,
as sure as I'm sittin' here."
When he mentioned the peculiar physiognomy and figure of the old officer
who rode at the head of the regiment--
"That," said the old crone, dogmatically, "was ould Colonel Grimshaw, the
Lord presarve us! he's buried in the churchyard iv Chapelizod, and well I
remember him, when I was a young thing, an' a cross ould floggin' fellow
he was wid the men, an' a devil's boy among the girls--rest his soul!"
"Amen!" said Peter; "it's often I read his tombstone myself; but he's a
long time dead."
"Sure, I tell you he died when I was no more nor a slip iv a girl--the
Lord betune us and harm!"
"I'm afeard it is what I'm not long for this world myself, afther seeing
such a sight as that," said Peter, fearfully.
"Nonsinse, avourneen," retorted his grandmother, indignantly, though she
had herself misgivings on the subject; "sure there was Phil Doolan, the
ferryman, that seen black Ann Scanlan in his own boat, and what harm ever
kem of it?"
Peter proceeded with his narrative, but when he came to the description
of the house, in which his adventure had had so sinister a conclusion,
the old woman was at fault.
"I know the house and the ould walls well, an' I can remember the time
there was a roof on it, and the doors an' windows in it, but it had a bad
name about being haunted, but by who, or for what, I forget intirely."
"Did you ever hear was there goold or silver there?" he inquired.
"No, no, avick, don't be thinking about the likes; take a fool's advice,
and never go next to near them ugly black walls again the longest day you
have to live; an' I'd take my davy, it's what it's the same word the
priest himself id be afther sayin' to you if you wor to ax his raverence
consarnin' it, for it's plain to be seen it was nothing good you seen
there, and there's neither luck nor grace about it."
Peter's adventure made no little noise in the neighbourhood, as the
reader may well suppose; and a few evenings after it, being on an errand
to old Major Vandeleur, who lived in a snug old-fashioned house, close by
the river, under a perfect bower of ancient trees, he was called on to
relate the story in the parlour.
The Major was, as I have said, an old man; he was small, lean, and
upright, with a mahogany complexion, and a wooden inflexibility of face;
he was a man, besides, of few words, and if _he_ was old, it follows
plainly that his mother was older still. Nobody could guess or tell _how_
old, but it was admitted that her own generation had long passed away,
and that she had not a competitor left. She had French blood in her
veins, and although she did not retain her charms quite so well as Ninon
de l'Enclos, she was in full possession of all her mental activity, and
talked quite enough for herself and the Major.
"So, Peter," she said, "you have seen the dear, old Royal Irish again in
the streets of Chapelizod. Make him a tumbler of punch, Frank; and Peter,
sit down, and while you take it let us have the story."
Peter accordingly, seated, near the door, with a tumbler of the nectarian
stimulant steaming beside him, proceeded with marvellous courage,
considering they had no light but the uncertain glare of the fire, to
relate with minute particularity his awful adventure. The old lady
listened at first with a smile of good-natured incredulity; her
cross-examination touching the drinking-bout at Palmerstown had been
teazing, but as the narrative proceeded she became attentive, and at
length absorbed, and once or twice she uttered ejaculations of pity or
awe. When it was over, the old lady looked with a somewhat sad and stern
abstraction on the table, patting her cat assiduously meanwhile, and then
suddenly looking upon her son, the Major, she said--
"Frank, as sure as I live he has seen the wicked Captain Devereux."
The Major uttered an inarticulate expression of wonder.
"The house was precisely that he has described. I have told you the story
often, as I heard it from your dear grandmother, about the poor young
lady he ruined, and the dreadful suspicion about the little baby. _She_,
poor thing, died in that house heart-broken, and you know he was shot
shortly after in a duel."
This was the only light that Peter ever received respecting his
adventure. It was supposed, however, that he still clung to the hope that
treasure of some sort was hidden about the old house, for he was often
seen lurking about its walls, and at last his fate overtook him, poor
fellow, in the pursuit; for climbing near the summit one day, his holding
gave way, and he fell upon the hard uneven ground, fracturing a leg and a
rib, and after a short interval died, and he, like the other heroes of
these true tales, lies buried in the little churchyard of Chapelizod.
* * * * *
THE DRUNKARD'S DREAM
_Being a Fourth Extract from the Legacy of the Late F. Purcell, P. P. of
"All this _he_ told with some confusion and
Dismay, the usual consequence of dreams
Of the unpleasant kind, with none at hand
To expound their vain and visionary gleams.
I've known some odd ones which seemed really planned
Prophetically, as that which one deems
'A strange coincidence,' to use a phrase
By which such things are settled now-a-days."
Dreams--What age, or what country of the world has not felt and
acknowledged the mystery of their origin and end? I have thought not a
little upon the subject, seeing it is one which has been often forced
upon my attention, and sometimes strangely enough; and yet I have never
arrived at any thing which at all appeared a satisfactory conclusion. It
does appear that a mental phenomenon so extraordinary cannot be wholly
without its use. We know, indeed, that in the olden times it has been
made the organ of communication between the Deity and his creatures; and
when, as I have seen, a dream produces upon a mind, to all appearance
hopelessly reprobate and depraved, an effect so powerful and so lasting
as to break down the inveterate habits, and to reform the life of an
abandoned sinner. We see in the result, in the reformation of morals,
which appeared incorrigible in the reclamation of a human soul which
seemed to be irretrievably lost, something more than could be produced by
a mere chimaera of the slumbering fancy, something more than could arise
from the capricious images of a terrified imagination; but once
prevented, we behold in all these things, in the tremendous and
mysterious results, the operation of the hand of God. And while Reason
rejects as absurd the superstition which will read a prophecy in every
dream, she may, without violence to herself, recognize, even in the
wildest and most incongruous of the wanderings of a slumbering intellect,
the evidences and the fragments of a language which may be spoken, which
_has_ been spoken to terrify, to warn, and to command. We have reason to
believe too, by the promptness of action, which in the age of the
prophets, followed all intimations of this kind, and by the strength of
conviction and strange permanence of the effects resulting from certain
dreams in latter times, which effects ourselves may have witnessed, that
when this medium of communication has been employed by the Deity, the
evidences of his presence have been unequivocal. My thoughts were
directed to this subject, in a manner to leave a lasting impression upon
my mind, by the events which I shall now relate, the statement of which,
however extraordinary, is nevertheless _accurately correct_.
About the year l7-- having been appointed to the living of C----h, I
rented a small house in the town, which bears the same name: one morning,
in the month of November, I was awakened before my usual time, by my
servant, who bustled into my bedroom for the purpose of announcing a sick
call. As the Catholic Church holds her last rites to be totally
indispensable to the safety of the departing sinner, no conscientious
clergyman can afford a moment's unnecessary delay, and in little more
than five minutes I stood ready cloaked and booted for the road in the
small front parlour, in which the messenger, who was to act as my guide,
awaited my coming. I found a poor little girl crying piteously near the
door, and after some slight difficulty I ascertained that her father was
either dead, or just dying.
"And what may be your father's name, my poor child?" said I. She held
down her head, as if ashamed. I repeated the question, and the wretched
little creature burst into floods of tears, still more bitter than she
had shed before. At length, almost provoked by conduct which appeared to
me so unreasonable, I began to lose patience, spite of the pity which I
could not help feeling towards her, and I said rather harshly, "If you
will not tell me the name of the person to whom you would lead me, your
silence can arise from no good motive, and I might be justified in
refusing to go with you at all."
"Oh! don't say that, don't say that," cried she. "Oh! sir, it was that I
was afeard of when I would not tell you--I was afeard when you heard his
name you would not come with me; but it is no use hidin' it now--it's Pat
Connell, the carpenter, your honour."
She looked in my face with the most earnest anxiety, as if her very
existence depended upon what she should read there; but I relieved her at
once. The name, indeed, was most unpleasantly familiar to me; but,
however fruitless my visits and advice might have been at another time,
the present was too fearful an occasion to suffer my doubts of their
utility as my reluctance to re-attempting what appeared a hopeless task
to weigh even against the lightest chance, that a consciousness of his
imminent danger might produce in him a more docile and tractable
disposition. Accordingly I told the child to lead the way, and followed
her in silence. She hurried rapidly through the long narrow street which
forms the great thoroughfare of the town. The darkness of the hour,
rendered still deeper by the close approach of the old fashioned houses,
which lowered in tall obscurity on either side of the way; the damp
dreary chill which renders the advance of morning peculiarly cheerless,
combined with the object of my walk, to visit the death-bed of a
presumptuous sinner, to endeavour, almost against my own conviction, to
infuse a hope into the heart of a dying reprobate--a drunkard, but too
probably perishing under the consequences of some mad fit of
intoxication; all these circumstances united served to enhance the gloom
and solemnity of my feelings, as I silently followed my little guide, who
with quick steps traversed the uneven pavement of the main street. After
a walk of about five minutes she turned off into a narrow lane, of that
obscure and comfortless class which are to be found in almost all small
old fashioned towns, chill without ventilation, reeking with all manner
of offensive effluviae, dingy, smoky, sickly and pent-up buildings,
frequently not only in a wretched but in a dangerous condition.
"Your father has changed his abode since I last visited him, and, I am
afraid, much for the worse," said I.
"Indeed he has, sir, but we must not complain," replied she; "we have to
thank God that we have lodging and food, though it's poor enough, it is,
Poor child! thought I, how many an older head might learn wisdom from
thee--how many a luxurious philosopher, who is skilled to preach but not
to suffer, might not thy patient words put to the blush! The manner and
language of this child were alike above her years and station; and,
indeed, in all cases in which the cares and sorrows of life have
anticipated their usual date, and have fallen, as they sometimes do, with
melancholy prematurity to the lot of childhood, I have observed the
result to have proved uniformly the same. A young mind, to which joy and
indulgence have been strangers, and to which suffering and self-denial
have been familiarised from the first, acquires a solidity and an
elevation which no other discipline could have bestowed, and which, in
the present case, communicated a striking but mournful peculiarity to the
manners, even to the voice of the child. We paused before a narrow, crazy
door, which she opened by means of a latch, and we forthwith began to
ascend the steep and broken stairs, which led upwards to the sick man's
room. As we mounted flight after flight towards the garret floor, I heard
more and more distinctly the hurried talking of many voices. I could also
distinguish the low sobbing of a female. On arriving upon the uppermost
lobby, these sounds became fully audible.
"This way, your honor," said my little conductress, at the same time
pushing open a door of patched and half rotten plank, she admitted me
into the squalid chamber of death and misery. But one candle, held in the
fingers of a scared and haggard-looking child, was burning in the room,
and that so dim that all was twilight or darkness except within its
immediate influence. The general obscurity, however, served to throw into
prominent and startling relief the death-bed and its occupant. The light
was nearly approximated to, and fell with horrible clearness upon, the
blue and swollen features of the drunkard. I did not think it possible
that a human countenance could look so terrific. The lips were black and
drawn apart--the teeth were firmly set--the eyes a little unclosed, and
nothing but the whites appearing--every feature was fixed and livid, and
the whole face wore a ghastly and rigid expression of despairing terror
such as I never saw equalled; his hands were crossed upon his breast, and
firmly clenched, while, as if to add to the corpse-like effect of the
whole, some white cloths, dipped in water, were wound about the forehead
and temples. As soon as I could remove my eyes from this horrible
spectacle, I observed my friend Dr. D----, one of the most humane of a
humane profession, standing by the bedside. He had been attempting, but
unsuccessfully, to bleed the patient, and had now applied his finger to
"Is there any hope?" I inquired in a whisper.
A shake of the head was the reply. There was a pause while he continued
to hold the wrist; but he waited in vain for the throb of life, it was
not there, and when he let go the hand it fell stiffly back into its
former position upon the other.
"The man is dead," said the physician, as he turned from the bed where
the terrible figure lay.
Dead! thought I, scarcely venturing to look upon the tremendous and
revolting spectacle--dead! without an hour for repentance, even a
moment for reflection--dead! without the rites which even the best
should have. Is there a hope for him? The glaring eyeball, the grinning
mouth, the distorted brow--that unutterable look in which a painter
would have sought to embody the fixed despair of the nethermost
hell--these were my answer.
The poor wife sat at a little distance, crying as if her heart would
break--the younger children clustered round the bed, looking, with
wondering curiosity, upon the form of death, never seen before. When the
first tumult of uncontrollable sorrow had passed away, availing myself of
the solemnity and impressiveness of the scene, I desired the
heart-stricken family to accompany me in prayer, and all knelt down,
while I solemnly and fervently repeated some of those prayers which
appeared most applicable to the occasion. I employed myself thus in a
manner which, I trusted, was not unprofitable, at least to the living,
for about ten minutes, and having accomplished my task, I was the first
to arise. I looked upon the poor, sobbing, helpless creatures who knelt
so humbly around me, and my heart bled for them. With a natural
transition, I turned my eyes from them to the bed in which the body lay,
and, great God! what was the revulsion, the horror which I experienced on
seeing the corpse-like, terrific thing seated half upright before me--the
white cloths, which had been wound about the head, had now partly slipped
from their position, and were hanging in grotesque festoons about the
face and shoulders, while the distorted eyes leered from amid them--
"A sight to dream of, not to tell."
I stood actually rivetted to the spot. The figure nodded its head and
lifted its arm, I thought with a menacing gesture. A thousand confused
and horrible thoughts at once rushed upon my mind. I had often read that
the body of a presumptuous sinner, who, during life, had been the willing
creature of every satanic impulse, after the human tenant had deserted
it, had been known to become the horrible sport of demoniac possession. I
was roused from the stupefaction of terror in which I stood, by the
piercing scream of the mother, who now, for the first time, perceived the
change which had taken place. She rushed towards the bed, but, stunned by
the shock and overcome by the conflict of violent emotions, before she
reached it, she fell prostrate upon the floor. I am perfectly convinced
that had I not been startled from the torpidity of horror in which I was
bound, by some powerful and arousing stimulant, I should have gazed upon
this unearthly apparition until I had fairly lost my senses. As it was,
however, the spell was broken, superstition gave way to reason: the man
whom all believed to have been actually dead, was living! Dr. D---- was
instantly standing by the bedside, and, upon examination, he found that a
sudden and copious flow of blood had taken place from the wound which the
lancet had left, and this, no doubt, had effected his sudden and almost
preternatural restoration to an existence from which all thought he had
been for ever removed. The man was still speechless, but he seemed to
understand the physician when he forbid his repeating the painful and
fruitless attempts which he made to articulate, and he at once resigned
himself quietly into his hands.
I left the patient with leeches upon his temples, and bleeding
freely--apparently with little of the drowsiness which accompanies
apoplexy; indeed, Dr. D---- told me that he had never before witnessed a
seizure which seemed to combine the symptoms of so many kinds, and yet
which belonged to none of the recognized classes; it certainly was not
apoplexy, catalepsy, _nor delirium tremens_, and yet it seemed, in some
degree, to partake of the properties of all--it was strange, but stranger
things are coming.
During two or three days Dr. D---- would not allow his patient to
converse in a manner which could excite or exhaust him, with any one; he
suffered him merely, as briefly as possible, to express his immediate
wants, and it was not until the fourth day after my early visit, the
particulars of which I have just detailed, that it was thought expedient
that I should see him, and then only because it appeared that his extreme
importunity and impatience were likely to retard his recovery more than
the mere exhaustion attendant upon a short conversation could possibly
do; perhaps, too, my friend entertained some hope that if by holy
confession his patient's bosom were eased of the perilous stuff, which no
doubt, oppressed it, his recovery would be more assured and rapid. It
was, then, as I have said, upon the fourth day after my first
professional call, that I found myself once more in the dreary chamber of
want and sickness. The man was in bed, and appeared low and restless. On
my entering the room he raised himself in the bed, and muttered twice or
thrice--"Thank God! thank God." I signed to those of his family who stood
by, to leave the room, and took a chair beside the bed. So soon as we
were alone, he said, rather doggedly--"There's no use now in telling me
of the sinfulness of bad ways--I know it all--I know where they lead
to--I seen everything about it with my own eyesight, as plain as I see
you." He rolled himself in the bed, as if to hide his face in the
clothes, and then suddenly raising himself, he exclaimed with startling
vehemence--"Look, sir, there is no use in mincing the matter; I'm blasted
with the fires of hell; I have been in hell; what do you think of
that?--in hell--I'm lost for ever--I have not a chance--I am damned
already--damned--damned--." The end of this sentence he actually
shouted; his vehemence was perfectly terrific; he threw himself back, and
laughed, and sobbed hysterically. I poured some water into a tea-cup, and
gave it to him. After he had swallowed it, I told him if he had anything
to communicate, to do so as briefly as he could, and in a manner as
little agitating to himself as possible; threatening at the same time,
though I had no intention of doing so, to leave him at once, in case he
again gave way to such passionate excitement. "It's only foolishness," he
continued, "for me to try to thank you for coming to such a villain as
myself at all; it's no use for me to wish good to you, or to bless you;
for such as me has no blessings to give." I told him that I had but done
my duty, and urged him to proceed to the matter which weighed upon his
mind; he then spoke nearly as follows:--"I came in drunk on Friday night
last, and got to my bed here, I don't remember how; sometime in the
night, it seemed to me, I wakened, and feeling unasy in myself, I got up
out of the bed. I wanted the fresh air, but I would not make a noise to
open the window, for fear I'd waken the crathurs. It was very dark, and
throublesome to find the door; but at last I did get it, and I groped my
way out, and went down as asy as I could. I felt quite sober, and I
counted the steps one after another, as I was going down, that I might
not stumble at the bottom. When I came to the first landing-place, God be
about us always! the floor of it sunk under me, and I went down, down,
down, till the senses almost left me. I do not know how long I was
falling, but it seemed to me a great while. When I came rightly to myself
at last, I was sitting at a great table, near the top of it; and I could
not see the end of it, if it had any, it was so far off; and there was
men beyond reckoning, sitting down, all along by it, at each side, as far
as I could see at all. I did not know at first was it in the open air;
but there was a close smothering feel in it, that was not natural, and
there was a kind of light that my eyesight never saw before, red and
unsteady, and I did not see for a long time where it was coming from,
until I looked straight up, and then I seen that it came from great balls
of blood-coloured fire, that were rolling high over head with a sort of
rushing, trembling sound, and I perceived that they shone on the ribs of
a great roof of rock that was arched overhead instead of the sky. When I
seen this, scarce knowing what I did, I got up, and I said, 'I have no
right to be here; I must go,' and the man that was sitting at my left
hand, only smiled, and said, 'sit down again, you can _never_ leave this
place,' and his voice was weaker than any child's voice I ever heerd, and
when he was done speaking he smiled again. Then I spoke out very loud and
bold, and I said--'in the name of God, let me out of this bad place.' And
there was a great man, that I did not see before, sitting at the end of
the table that I was near, and he was taller than twelve men, and his
face was very proud and terrible to look at, and he stood up and
stretched out his hand before him, and when he stood up, all that was
there, great and small, bowed down with a sighing sound, and a dread came
on my heart, and he looked at me, and I could not speak. I felt I was his
own, to do what he liked with, for I knew at once who he was, and he
said, 'if you promise to return, you may depart for a season'; and the
voice he spoke with was terrible and mournful, and the echoes of it went
rolling and swelling down the endless cave, and mixing with the trembling
of the fire overhead; so that, when he sate down, there was a sound after
him, all through the place like the roaring of a furnace, and I said,
with all the strength I had, 'I promise to come back; in God's name let
me go,' and with that I lost the sight and the hearing of all that was
there, and when my senses came to me again, I was sitting in the bed with
the blood all over me, and you and the rest praying around the room."
Here he paused and wiped away the chill drops of horror which hung upon
I remained silent for some moments. The vision which he had just
described struck my imagination not a little, for this was long before
Vathek and the "Hall of Iblis" had delighted the world; and the
description which he gave had, as I received it, all the attractions of
novelty beside the impressiveness which always belongs to the narration
of an _eye-witness_, whether in the body or in the spirit, of the scenes
which he describes. There was something, too, in the stern horror with
which the man related these things, and in the incongruity of his
description, with the vulgarly received notions of the great place of
punishment, and of its presiding spirit, which struck my mind with awe,
almost with fear. At length he said, with an expression of horrible,
imploring earnestness, which I shall never forget--"Well, sir, is there
any hope; is there any chance at all? or, is my soul pledged and promised
away for ever? is it gone out of my power? must I go back to the place?"
In answering him I had no easy task to perform; for however clear might
be my internal conviction of the groundlessness of his fears, and however
strong my scepticism respecting the reality of what he had described, I
nevertheless felt that his impression to the contrary, and his humility
and terror resulting from it, might be made available as no mean engines
in the work of his conversion from profligacy, and of his restoration to
decent habits, and to religious feeling. I therefore told him that he was
to regard his dream rather in the light of a warning than in that of a
prophecy; that our salvation depended not upon the word or deed of a
moment, but upon the habits of a life; that, in fine, if he at once
discarded his idle companions and evil habits, and firmly adhered to a
sober, industrious, and religious course of life, the powers of darkness
might claim his soul in vain, for that there were higher and firmer
pledges than human tongue could utter, which promised salvation to him
who should repent and lead a new life.
I left him much comforted, and with a promise to return upon the next
day. I did so, and found him much more cheerful, and without any remains
of the dogged sullenness which I suppose had arisen from his despair.
His promises of amendment were given in that tone of deliberate
earnestness, which belongs to deep and solemn determination; and it was
with no small delight that I observed, after repeated visits, that his
good resolutions, so far from failing, did but gather strength by time;
and when I saw that man shake off the idle and debauched companions,
whose society had for years formed alike his amusement and his ruin, and
revive his long discarded habits of industry and sobriety, I said within
myself, there is something more in all this than the operation of an
idle dream. One day, sometime after his perfect restoration to health, I
was surprised on ascending the stairs, for the purpose of visiting this
man, to find him busily employed in nailing down some planks upon the
landing place, through which, at the commencement of his mysterious
vision, it seemed to him that he had sunk. I perceived at once that he
was strengthening the floor with a view to securing himself against such
a catastrophe, and could scarcely forbear a smile as I bid "God bless
He perceived my thoughts, I suppose, for he immediately said,
"I can never pass over that floor without trembling. I'd leave this
house if I could, but I can't find another lodging in the town so cheap,
and I'll not take a better till I've paid off all my debts, please God;
but I could not be asy in my mind till I made it as safe as I could.
You'll hardly believe me, your honor, that while I'm working, maybe a
mile away, my heart is in a flutter the whole way back, with the bare
thoughts of the two little steps I have to walk upon this bit of a
floor. So it's no wonder, sir, I'd thry to make it sound and firm with
any idle timber I have."
I applauded his resolution to pay off his debts, and the steadiness with
which he pursued his plans of conscientious economy, and passed on.
Many months elapsed, and still there appeared no alteration in his
resolutions of amendment. He was a good workman, and with his better
habits he recovered his former extensive and profitable employment. Every
thing seemed to promise comfort and respectability. I have little more to
add, and that shall be told quickly. I had one evening met Pat Connell,
as he returned from his work, and as usual, after a mutual, and on his
side respectful salutation, I spoke a few words of encouragement and
approval. I left him industrious, active, healthy--when next I saw him,
not three days after, he was a corpse. The circumstances which marked the
event of his death were somewhat strange--I might say fearful. The
unfortunate man had accidentally met an early friend, just returned,
after a long absence, and in a moment of excitement, forgetting
everything in the warmth of his joy, he yielded to his urgent invitation
to accompany him into a public house, which lay close by the spot where
the encounter had taken place. Connell, however, previously to entering
the room, had announced his determination to take nothing more than the
strictest temperance would warrant. But oh! who can describe the
inveterate tenacity with which a drunkard's habits cling to him through
life. He may repent--he may reform--he may look with actual abhorrence
upon his past profligacy; but amid all this reformation and compunction,
who can tell the moment in which the base and ruinous propensity may not
recur, triumphing over resolution, remorse, shame, everything, and
prostrating its victim once more in all that is destructive and revolting
in that fatal vice.
The wretched man left the place in a state of utter intoxication. He was
brought home nearly insensible, and placed in his bed, where he lay in
the deep calm lethargy of drunkenness. The younger part of the family
retired to rest much after their usual hour; but the poor wife remained
up sitting by the fire, too much grieved and shocked at the recurrence of
what she had so little expected, to settle to rest; fatigue, however, at
length overcame her, and she sunk gradually into an uneasy slumber. She
could not tell how long she had remained in this state, when she
awakened, and immediately on opening her eyes, she perceived by the faint
red light of the smouldering turf embers, two persons, one of whom she
recognized as her husband noiselessly gliding out of the room.
"Pat, darling, where are you going?" said she. There was no answer--the
door closed after them; but in a moment she was startled and terrified by
a loud and heavy crash, as if some ponderous body had been hurled down
the stair. Much alarmed, she started up, and going to the head of the
staircase, she called repeatedly upon her husband, but in vain. She
returned to the room, and with the assistance of her daughter, whom I had
occasion to mention before, she succeeded in finding and lighting a
candle, with which she hurried again to the head of the staircase. At the
bottom lay what seemed to be a bundle of clothes, heaped together,
motionless, lifeless--it was her husband. In going down the stairs, for
what purpose can never now be known, he had fallen helplessly and
violently to the bottom, and coming head foremost, the spine at the neck
had been dislocated by the shock, and instant death must have ensued. The
body lay upon that landing-place to which his dream had referred. It is
scarcely worth endeavouring to clear up a single point in a narrative
where all is mystery; yet I could not help suspecting that the second
figure which had been seen in the room by Connell's wife on the night of
his death, might have been no other than his own shadow. I suggested this
solution of the difficulty; but she told me that the unknown person had
been considerably in advance of the other, and on reaching the door, had
turned back as if to communicate something to his companion--it was then
a mystery. Was the dream verified?--whither had the disembodied spirit
sped?--who can say? We know not. But I left the house of death that day
in a state of horror which I could not describe. It seemed to me that I
was scarce awake. I heard and saw everything as if under the spell of a
nightmare. The coincidence was terrible.
* * * * *
THE GHOST AND THE BONE-SETTER
In looking over the papers of my late valued and respected friend,
Francis Purcell, who for nearly fifty years discharged the arduous duties
of a parish priest in the south of Ireland, I met with the following
document. It is one of many such, for he was a curious and industrious
collector of old local traditions--a commodity in which the quarter where
he resided mightily abounded. The collection and arrangement of such
legends was, as long as I can remember him, his _hobby_; but I had never
learned that his love of the marvellous and whimsical had carried him so
far as to prompt him to commit the results of his enquiries to writing,
until, in the character of _residuary legatee_, his will put me in
possession of all his manuscript papers. To such as may think the
composing of such productions as these inconsistent with the character
and habits of a country priest, it is necessary to observe, that there
did exist a race of priests--those of the old school, a race now nearly
extinct--whose habits were from many causes more refined, and whose
tastes more literary than are those of the alumni of Maynooth.
It is perhaps necessary to add that the superstition illustrated by the
following story, namely, that the corpse last buried is obliged, during
his juniority of interment, to supply his brother tenants of the
churchyard in which he lies, with fresh water to allay the burning thirst
of purgatory, is prevalent throughout the south of Ireland. The writer
can vouch for a case in which a respectable and wealthy farmer, on the
borders of Tipperary, in tenderness to the corns of his departed
helpmate, enclosed in her coffin two pair of brogues, a light and a
heavy, the one for dry, the other for sloppy weather; seeking thus to
mitigate the fatigues of her inevitable perambulations in procuring
water, and administering it to the thirsty souls of purgatory. Fierce and
desperate conflicts have ensued in the case of two funeral parties
approaching the same churchyard together, each endeavouring to secure to
his own dead priority of sepulture, and a consequent immunity from the
tax levied upon the pedestrian powers of the last comer. An instance not
long since occurred, in which one of two such parties, through fear of
losing to their deceased friend this inestimable advantage, made their
way to the churchyard by a _short cut_, and in violation of one of their
strongest prejudices, actually threw the coffin over the wall, lest time
should be lost in making their entrance through the gate. Innumerable
instances of the same kind might be quoted, all tending to show how
strongly, among the peasantry of the south, this superstition is
entertained. However, I shall not detain the reader further, by any
prefatory remarks, but shall proceed to lay before him the following:--
_Extract from the Ms. Papers of the Late Rev. Francis Purcell, of
"I tell the following particulars, as nearly as I can recollect them,
in the words of the narrator. It may be necessary to observe that he
was what is termed a _well-spoken_ man, having for a considerable time
instructed the ingenious youth of his native parish in such of the
liberal arts and sciences as he found it convenient to profess--a
circumstance which may account for the occurrence of several big
words, in the course of this narrative, more distinguished for
euphonious effect, than for correctness of application. I proceed
then, without further preface, to lay before you the wonderful
adventures of Terry Neil.
"Why, thin, 'tis a quare story, an' as thrue as you're sittin' there; and
I'd make bould to say there isn't a boy in the seven parishes could tell
it better nor crickther than myself, for 'twas my father himself it
happened to, an' many's the time I heerd it out iv his own mouth; an' I
can say, an' I'm proud av that same, my father's word was as incredible
as any squire's oath in the counthry; and so signs an' if a poor man got
into any unlucky throuble, he was the boy id go into the court an' prove;
but that dosen't signify--he was as honest and as sober a man, barrin' he
was a little bit too partial to the glass, as you'd find in a day's walk;
an' there wasn't the likes of him in the counthry round for nate
labourin' an' _baan_ diggin'; and he was mighty handy entirely for
carpenther's work, and mendin' ould spudethrees, an' the likes i' that.
An' so he tuck up with bone-setting, as was most nathural, for none of
them could come up to him in mendin' the leg iv a stool or a table; an'
sure, there never was a bone-setter got so much custom--man an' child,
young an' ould--there never was such breakin' and mendin' of bones known
in the memory of man. Well, Terry Neil, for that was my father's name,
began to feel his heart growin' light and his purse heavy; an' he took a
bit iv a farm in Squire Phalim's ground, just undher the ould castle, an'
a pleasant little spot it was; an' day an' mornin', poor crathurs not
able to put a foot to the ground, with broken arms and broken legs, id be
comin' ramblin' in from all quarters to have their bones spliced up.
Well, yer honour, all this was as well as well could be; but it was
customary when Sir Phelim id go any where out iv the country, for some iv
the tinants to sit up to watch in the ould castle, just for a kind of a
compliment to the ould family--an' a mighty unpleasant compliment it was
for the tinants, for there wasn't a man of them but knew there was some
thing quare about the ould castle. The neighbours had it, that the
squire's ould grandfather, as good a gintleman, God be with him, as I
heer'd as ever stood in shoe leather, used to keep walkin' about in the
middle iv the night, ever sinst he bursted a blood vessel pullin' out a
cork out iv a bottle, as you or I might be doin', and will too, plase
God; but that dosen't signify. So, as I was sayin', the ould squire used
to come down out of the frame, where his picthur was hung up, and to
brake the bottles and glasses, God be marciful to us all, an' dhrink all
he could come at--an' small blame to him for that same; and then if any
of the family id be comin' in, he id be up again in his place, looking as
quite an' innocent as if he didn't know any thing about it--the
mischievous ould chap.
"Well, your honour, as I was sayin', one time the family up at the
castle was stayin' in Dublin for a week or two; and so as usual, some of
the tenants had to sit up in the castle, and the third night it kem to
my father's turn. 'Oh, tare an ouns,' says he unto himself, 'an' must I
sit up all night, and that ould vagabond of a sperit, glory be to God,'
says he, 'serenading through the house, an' doin' all sorts iv
mischief.' However, there was no gettin' aff, and so he put a bould face
on it, an' he went up at nightfall with a bottle of pottieen, and
another of holy wather.
"It was rainin' smart enough, an' the evenin' was darksome and gloomy,
when my father got in, and the holy wather he sprinkled on himself, it
wasn't long till he had to swallee a cup iv the pottieen, to keep the
cowld out iv his heart. It was the ould steward, Lawrence Connor, that
opened the door--and he an' my father wor always very great. So when he
seen who it was, an' my father tould him how it was his turn to watch in
the castle, he offered to sit up along with him; and you may be sure my
father wasn't sorry for that same. So says Larry,
"'We'll have a bit iv fire in the parlour,' says he.
"'An' why not in the hall?' says my father, for he knew that the squire's
picthur was hung in the parlour.
"'No fire can be lit in the hall,' says Lawrence, 'for there's an ould
jackdaw's nest in the chimney.'
"'Oh thin,' says my father, 'let us stop in the kitchen, for it's very
umproper for the likes iv me to be sittin' in the parlour,' says he.
"'Oh, Terry, that can't be,' says Lawrence; 'if we keep up the ould
custom at all, we may as well keep it up properly,' says he.
"'Divil sweep the ould custom,' says my father--to himself, do ye mind,
for he didn't like to let Lawrence see that he was more afeard himself.
"'Oh, very well,' says he. 'I'm agreeable, Lawrence,' says he; and so
down they both went to the kitchen, until the fire id be lit in the
parlour--an' that same wasn't long doin'.
"Well, your honour, they soon wint up again, an' sat down mighty
comfortable by the parlour fire, and they beginn'd to talk, an' to smoke,
an' to dhrink a small taste iv the pottieen; and, moreover, they had a
good rousing fire of bogwood and turf, to warm their shins over.
"Well, sir, as I was sayin' they kep convarsin' and smokin' together
most agreeable, until Lawrence beginn'd to get sleepy, as was but
nathural for him, for he was an ould sarvint man, and was used to a
great dale iv sleep.
"'Sure it's impossible,' says my father, 'it's gettin' sleepy you are?'
"'Oh, divil a taste,' says Larry, 'I'm only shuttin' my eyes,' says he,
'to keep out the parfume of the tibacky smoke, that's makin' them
wather,' says he. 'So don't you mind other people's business,' says he
stiff enough (for he had a mighty high stomach av his own, rest his
sowl), 'and go on,' says he, 'with your story, for I'm listenin',' says
he, shuttin' down his eyes.
"Well, when my father seen spakin' was no use, he went on with his
story.--By the same token, it was the story of Jim Soolivan and his ould
goat he was tellin'--an' a pleasant story it is--an' there was so much
divarsion in it, that it was enough to waken a dormouse, let alone to
pervint a Christian goin' asleep. But, faix, the way my father tould it,
I believe there never was the likes heerd sinst nor before for he bawled
out every word av it, as if the life was fairly leavin' him thrying to
keep ould Larry awake; but, faix, it was no use, for the hoorsness came
an him, an' before he kem to the end of his story, Larry O'Connor
beginned to snore like a bagpipes.
"'Oh, blur an' agres,' says my father, 'isn't this a hard case,' says
he, 'that ould villain, lettin' on to be my friend, and to go asleep
this way, an' us both in the very room with a sperit,' says he. 'The
crass o' Christ about us,' says he; and with that he was goin' to shake
Lawrence to waken him, but he just remimbered if he roused him, that
he'd surely go off to his bed, an lave him completely alone, an' that id
be by far worse.
"'Oh thin,' says my father, 'I'll not disturb the poor boy. It id be
neither friendly nor good-nathured,' says he, 'to tormint him while he is
asleep,' says he; 'only I wish I was the same way myself,' says he.
"An' with that he beginned to walk up an' down, an' sayin' his prayers,
until he worked himself into a sweat, savin' your presence. But it was
all no good; so he dhrunk about a pint of sperits, to compose his mind.
"'Oh,' says he, 'I wish to the Lord I was as asy in my mind as Larry
there. Maybe,' says he, 'if I thried I could go asleep'; an' with that he
pulled a big arm-chair close beside Lawrence, an' settled himself in it
as well as he could.
"But there was one quare thing I forgot to tell you. He couldn't help, in
spite av himself, lookin' now an' thin at the picthur, an' he immediately
observed that the eyes av it was follyin' him about, an' starin' at him,
an' winkin' at him, wherever he wint. 'Oh,' says he, when he seen that,
'it's a poor chance I have,' says he; 'an' bad luck was with me the day I
kem into this unforthunate place,' says he; 'but any way there's no use
in bein' freckened now,' says he; 'for if I am to die, I may as well
parspire undaunted,' says he.
"Well, your honour, he thried to keep himself quite an' asy, an' he
thought two or three times he might have wint asleep, but for the way the
storm was groanin' and creekin' through the great heavy branches outside,
an' whistlin' through the ould chimnies iv the castle. Well, afther one
great roarin' blast iv the wind, you'd think the walls iv the castle was
just goin' to fall, quite an' clane, with the shakin' iv it. All av a
suddint the storm stopt, as silent an' as quite as if it was a July
evenin'. Well, your honour, it wasn't stopped blowin' for three minnites,
before he thought he hard a sort iv a noise over the chimney-piece; an'
with that my father just opened his eyes the smallest taste in life, an'
sure enough he seen the ould squire gettin' out iv the picthur, for all
the world as if he was throwin' aff his ridin' coat, until he stept out
clane an' complate, out av the chimly-piece, an' thrun himself down an
the floor. Well, the slieveen ould chap--an' my father thought it was the
dirtiest turn iv all--before he beginned to do anything out iv the way,
he stopped, for a while, to listen wor they both asleep; an' as soon as
he thought all was quite, he put out his hand, and tuck hould iv the
whiskey bottle, an' dhrank at laste a pint iv it. Well, your honour, when
he tuck his turn out iv it, he settled it back mighty cute intirely, in
the very same spot it was in before. An' he beginn'd to walk up an' down
the room, lookin' as sober an' as solid as if he never done the likes at
all. An' whinever he went apast my father, he thought he felt a great
scent of brimstone, an' it was that that freckened him entirely; for he
knew it was brimstone that was burned in hell, savin' your presence. At
any rate, he often heer'd it from Father Murphy, an' he had a right to
know what belonged to it--he's dead since, God rest him. Well, your
honour, my father was asy enough until the sperit kem past him; so close,
God be marciful to us all, that the smell iv the sulphur tuck the breath
clane out iv him; an' with that he tuck such a fit iv coughin', that it
al-a-most shuck him out iv the chair he was sittin' in.
"'Ho, ho!' says the squire, stoppin' short about two steps aff, and
turnin' round facin' my father, 'is it you that's in it?--an' how's all
with you, Terry Neil?'
"'At your honour's sarvice,' says my father (as well as the fright id let
him, for he was more dead than alive), 'an' it's proud I am to see your
honour to-night,' says he.
"'Terence,' says the squire, 'you're a respectable man (an' it was thrue
for him), an industhrious, sober man, an' an example of inebriety to the
whole parish,' says he.
"'Thank your honour,' says my father, gettin' courage, 'you were always a
civil spoken gintleman, God rest your honour.'
"'Rest my honour,' says the sperit (fairly gettin' red in the face with
the madness), 'Rest my honour?' says he. 'Why, you ignorant spalpeen,'
says he, 'you mane, niggarly ignoramush,' says he, 'where did you lave
your manners?' says he. 'If I _am_ dead, it's no fault iv mine,' says he;
'an' it's not to be thrun in my teeth at every hand's turn, by the likes
iv you,' says he, stampin' his foot an the flure, that you'd think the
boords id smash undher him.
"'Oh,' says my father, 'I'm only a foolish, ignorant, poor man,' says he.
"'You're nothing else,' says the squire; 'but any way,' says he, 'it's
not to be listenin' to your gosther, nor convarsin' with the likes iv
you, that I came _up_--down I mane,' says he--(an' as little as the
mistake was, my father tuck notice iv it). 'Listen to me now, Terence
Neil,' says he, 'I was always a good masther to Pathrick Neil, your
grandfather,' says he.
"'Tis thrue for your honour,' says my father.
"'And, moreover, I think I was always a sober, riglar gintleman,' says
"'That's your name, sure enough,' says my father (though it was a big lie
for him, but he could not help it).
"'Well,' says the sperit, 'although I was as sober as most men--at laste
as most gintlemen'--says he; 'an' though I was at different pariods a
most extempory Christian, and most charitable and inhuman to the poor,'
says he; 'for all that I'm not as asy where I am now,' says he, 'as I had
a right to expect,' says he.
"'An' more's the pity,' says my father; 'maybe your honour id wish to
have a word with Father Murphy?'
"'Hould your tongue, you misherable bliggard,' says the squire; 'it's
not iv my sowl I'm thinkin'--an' I wondher you'd have the impitence to
talk to a gintleman consarnin' his sowl;--and when I want _that_ fixed,'
says he, slappin' his thigh, 'I'll go to them that knows what belongs to
the likes,' says he. 'It's not my sowl,' says he, sittin' down opposite
my father; 'it's not my sowl that's annoyin' me most--I'm unasy on my
right leg,' says he, 'that I bruck at Glenvarloch cover the day I killed
"(My father found out afther, it was a favourite horse that fell undher
him, afther leapin' the big fince that runs along by the glen.)
"'I hope,' says my father, 'your honour's not unasy about the
killin' iv him?
"'Hould your tongue, ye fool,' said the squire, 'an' I'll tell you why
I'm anasy an my leg,' says he. 'In the place, where I spend most iv my
time,' says he, 'except the little leisure I have for lookin' about me
here,' says he, 'I have to walk a great dale more than I was ever used
to,' says he, 'and by far more than is good for me either,' says he; 'for
I must tell you,' says he, 'the people where I am is ancommonly fond iv
could wather, for there is nothin' betther to be had; an', moreover, the
weather is hotter than is altogether plisint,' says he; 'and I'm
appinted,' says he, 'to assist in carryin' the wather, an' gets a mighty
poor share iv it myself,' says he, 'an' a mighty throublesome, warin' job
it is, I can tell you,' says he; 'for they're all iv them surprisingly
dhry, an' dhrinks it as fast as my legs can carry it,' says he; 'but what
kills me intirely,' says he, 'is the wakeness in my leg,' says he, 'an' I
want you to give it a pull or two to bring it to shape,' says he, 'and
that's the long an' the short iv it,' says he.
"'Oh, plase your honour,' says my father (for he didn't like to handle
the sperit at all), 'I wouldn't have the impitence to do the likes to
your honour,' says he; 'it's only to poor crathurs like myself I'd do it
to,' says he.
"'None iv your blarney,' says the squire, 'here's my leg,' says he,
cockin' it up to him, 'pull it for the bare life,' says he; 'an' if you
don't, by the immortial powers I'll not lave a bone in your carcish I'll
not powdher,' says he.
"'When my father heerd that, he seen there was no use in purtendin', so
he tuck hould iv the leg, an' he kept pullin' an' pullin', till the
sweat, God bless us, beginned to pour down his face.
"'Pull, you divil', says the squire.
"'At your sarvice, your honour,' says my father.
"'Pull harder,' says the squire.
"My father pulled like the divil.
"'I'll take a little sup,' says the squire, rachin' over his hand to the
bottle, 'to keep up my courage,' says he, lettin' an to be very wake in
himself intirely. But, as cute as he was, he was out here, for he tuck
the wrong one. 'Here's to your good health, Terence,' says he, 'an' now
pull like the very divil,' 'an' with that he lifted the bottle of holy
wather, but it was hardly to his mouth, whin he let a screech out, you'd
think the room id fairly split with it, an' made one chuck that sent the
leg clane aff his body in my father's hands; down wint the squire over
the table, an' bang wint my father half way across the room on his back,
upon the flure. Whin he kem to himself the cheerful mornin' sun was
shinin' through the windy shutthers, an' he was lying flat an his back,
with the leg iv one of the great ould chairs pulled clane out iv the
socket an' tight in his hand, pintin' up to the ceilin', an' ould Larry
fast asleep, an' snorin' as loud as ever. My father wint that mornin' to
Father Murphy, an' from that to the day of his death, he never neglected
confission nor mass, an' what he tould was betther believed that he spake
av it but seldom. An', as for the squire, that is the sperit, whether it
was that he did not like his liquor, or by rason iv the loss iv his leg,
he was never known to walk again."
* * * * *
THE MYSTERIOUS LODGER
About the year 1822 I resided in a comfortable and roomy old house, the
exact locality of which I need not particularise, further than to say
that it was not very far from Old Brompton, in the immediate
neighbourhood, or rather continuity (as even my Connemara readers
perfectly well know), of the renowned city of London.
Though this house was roomy and comfortable, as I have said, it was not,
by any means, a handsome one. It was composed of dark red brick, with
small windows, and thick white sashes; a porch, too--none of your flimsy
trellis-work, but a solid projection of the same vermillion
masonry--surmounted by a leaded balcony, with heavy, half-rotten
balustrades, darkened the hall-door with a perennial gloom. The mansion
itself stood in a walled enclosure, which had, perhaps, from the date of
the erection itself, been devoted to shrubs and flowers. Some of the
former had grown there almost to the dignity of trees; and two dark
little yews stood at each side of the porch, like swart and inauspicious
dwarfs, guarding the entrance of an enchanted castle. Not that my
domicile in any respect deserved the comparison: it had no reputation as
a haunted house; if it ever had any ghosts, nobody remembered them. Its
history was not known to me: it may have witnessed plots, cabals, and
forgeries, bloody suicides and cruel murders. It was certainly old enough
to have become acquainted with iniquity; a small stone slab, under the
balustrade, and over the arch of the porch I mentioned, had the date
1672, and a half-effaced coat of arms, which I might have deciphered any
day, had I taken the trouble to get a ladder, but always put it off. All
I can say for the house is, that it was well stricken in years, with a
certain air of sombre comfort about it; contained a vast number of rooms
and closets; and, what was of far greater importance, was got by me a
Its individuality attracted me. I grew fond of it for itself, and for its
associations, until other associations of a hateful kind first disturbed,
and then destroyed, their charm. I forgave its dull red brick, and
pinched white windows, for the sake of the beloved and cheerful faces
within: its ugliness was softened by its age; and its sombre evergreens,
and moss-grown stone flower-pots, were relieved by the brilliant hues of
a thousand gay and graceful flowers that peeped among them, or nodded
over the grass.
Within that old house lay my life's treasure! I had a darling little
girl of nine, and another little darling--a boy--just four years of age;
and dearer, unspeakably, than either--a wife--the prettiest, gayest,
best little wife in all London. When I tell you that our income was
scarcely L380 a-year, you will perceive that our establishment cannot
have been a magnificent one; yet, I do assure you, we were more
comfortable than a great many lords, and happier, I dare say, than the
whole peerage put together.
This happiness was not, however, what it ought to have been. The reader
will understand at once, and save me a world of moralising
circumlocution, when he learns, bluntly and nakedly, that, among all my
comforts and blessings, I was an infidel.
I had not been without religious training; on the contrary, more than
average pains had been bestowed upon my religious instruction from my
earliest childhood. My father, a good, plain, country clergyman, had
worked hard to make me as good as himself; and had succeeded, at least,
in training me in godly habits. He died, however, when I was but twelve
years of age; and fate had long before deprived me of the gentle care of
a mother. A boarding-school, followed by a college life, where nobody
having any very direct interest in realising in my behalf the ancient
blessing, that in fulness of time I should "die a good old man," I was
left very much to my own devices, which, in truth, were none of the best.
Among these were the study of Voltaire, Tom Paine, Hume, Shelley, and the
whole school of infidels, poetical as well as prose. This pursuit, and
the all but blasphemous vehemence with which I gave myself up to it, was,
perhaps, partly reactionary. A somewhat injudicious austerity and
precision had indissolubly associated in my childish days the ideas of
restraint and gloom with religion. I bore it a grudge; and so, when I
became thus early my own master, I set about paying off, after my own
fashion, the old score I owed it. I was besides, like every other young
infidel whom it has been my fate to meet, a conceited coxcomb. A
smattering of literature, without any real knowledge, and a great
assortment of all the cut-and-dry flippancies of the school I had
embraced, constituted my intellectual stock in trade. I was, like most of
my school of philosophy, very proud of being an unbeliever; and fancied
myself, in the complacency of my wretched ignorance, at an immeasurable
elevation above the church-going, Bible-reading herd, whom I treated with
a good-humoured superciliousness which I thought vastly indulgent.
My wife was an excellent little creature and truly pious. She had married
me in the full confidence that my levity was merely put on, and would at
once give way before the influence she hoped to exert upon my mind. Poor
little thing! she deceived herself. I allowed her, indeed, to do entirely
as she pleased; but for myself, I carried my infidelity to the length of
an absolute superstition. I made an ostentation of it. I would rather
have been in a "hell" than in a church on Sunday; and though I did not
prevent my wife's instilling her own principles into the minds of our
children, I, in turn, took especial care to deliver mine upon all
occasions in their hearing, by which means I trusted to sow the seeds of
that unprejudiced scepticism in which I prided myself, at least as early
as my good little partner dropped those of her own gentle "superstition"
into their infant minds. Had I had my own absurd and impious will in this
matter, my children should have had absolutely no religious education
whatsoever, and been left wholly unshackled to choose for themselves
among all existing systems, infidelity included, precisely as chance,
fancy, or interest might hereafter determine.
It is not to be supposed that such a state of things did not afford her