W. B. Yeats, ed. & sel., Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry (1888) [5]

[See Contents, supra.]



The Pooka, recte Púca, seems essentially an animal spirit. Some derive his name from poc, a he-goat; and speculative persons consider him the forefather of Shakespeare’s “Puck”. On solitary mountains and among old ruins he lives, “grown monstrous with much solitude,” and is of the race of the nightmare. “In the MS. story, called ‘Mac-na-Michomhairle’, of uncertain authorship,” writes me Mr. Douglas Hyde, “we read that ‘out of a certain hill in Leinster, there used to emerge as far as his middle, a plump, sleek, terrible steed, and speak in human voice to each person about November-day, and he was accustomed to give intelligent and proper answers to such as consulted him concerning all that would befall them until the November of next year. And the people used to leave gifts and presents at the hill until the coming of Patrick and the holy clergy.’ This tradition appears to be a cognate one with that of the Púca.” Yes! unless it were merely an augh-ishka [each-uisgé], or Water-horse. For these, we are told, were common once, and used to come out of the water to gallop on the sands and in the fields, and people would often go between them and the marge and bridle them, and they would make the finest of horses if only you could keep them away from the sight of the water; but if once they saw a glimpse of the water, they would plunge in with their rider, and tear him to pieces at the bottom. It being a November spirit, however, tells in favour of the Pooka, for November-day is sacred to the Pooka. It is hard to realise that wild, staring phantom grown sleek and civil.
  He has many shapes — is now a horse, now an ass, now a bull, now a goat, now an eagle. Like all spirits, he is only half in the world of form.



The Piper and the Puca
Douglas Hyde
[Translated literally from the Irish of the Leabhar Sgeulaigheachta.

 In the old times, there was a half fool living in Dunmore, in the county Galway, and although he was excessively fond of music, he was unable to learn more than one tune, and that was the “Black Rogue.” He used to get a good deal of money from the gentlemen, for they used to get sport out of him. One night the piper was coming home from a house where there had been a dance, and he half drunk. When he came to a little bridge that was up by his mother’s house, he squeezed the pipes on, and began playing the “Black Rogue” (an rógaire dubh). The Púca came behind him, and flung him up on his own back. There were long horns on the Púca, and the piper got a good grip of them, and then he said —
 “Destruction on you, you nasty beast, let me home. I have a ten-penny piece in my pocket for my mother, and she wants snuff.”
 “Never mind your mother,” said the Púca, “but keep your hold. If you fall, you will break your neck and your pipes.” Then the Púca said to him, “Play up for me the ‘Shan Van Vocht’ (an t-seann-bhean bhocht).”
 “I don’t know it,” said the piper.
 “Never mind whether you do or you don’t,” said the Púca. “Play up, and I’ll make you know.”
 The piper put wind in his bag, and he played such music as made himself wonder.
 “Upon my word, you’re a fine music-master,” says the piper then; “but tell me where you’re for bringing me.”
 “There’s a great feast in the house of the Banshee, on the top of Croagh Patric tonight,” says the Púca, “and I’m for bringing you there to play music, and, take my word, you’ll get the price of your trouble.”
 “By my word, you’ll save me a journey, then,” says the {96} piper, “for Father William put a journey to Croagh Patric on me, because I stole the white gander from him last Martinmas.”
 The Púca rushed him across hills and bogs and rough places, till he brought him to the top of Croagh Patric. Then the Púca struck three blows with his foot, and a great door opened, and they passed in together, into a fine room.
 The piper saw a golden table in the middle of the room, and hundreds of old women (cailleacha) sitting round about it. The old woman rose up, and said, “A hundred thousand welcomes to you, you Púca of November (na Samhna). Who is this you have brought with you?”
 “The best piper in Ireland,” says the Púca.
 One of the old women struck a blow on the ground, and a door opened in the side of the wall, and what should the piper see coming out but the white gander which he had stolen from Father William.
 “By my conscience, then,” says the piper, “myself and my mother ate every taste of that gander, only one wing, and I gave that to Moy-rua (Red Mary), and it’s she told the priest I stole his gander.”
 The gander cleaned the table, and carried it away, and the Púca said, “Play up music for these ladies.”
 The piper played up, and the old women began dancing, and they were dancing till they were tired. Then the Púca said to pay the piper, and every old woman drew out a gold piece, and gave it to him.
 “By the tooth of Patric,” said he, “I’m as rich as the son of a lord.”
 “Come with me,” says the Púca, “and I’ll bring you home.”
 They went out then, and just as he was going to ride on the Púca, the gander came up to him, and gave him a new set of pipes. The Púca was not long until he brought him to Dunmore, and he threw the piper off at the little bridge, and then he told him to go home, and says to him, “You have two things now that you never had before — you have sense and music (ciall agus ceól). {97}
 The piper went home, and he knocked at his mother’s door, saying, “Let me in, I’m as rich as a lord, and I’m the best piper in Ireland.”
 “You’re drunk,” said the mother.
 “No, indeed,” says the piper, “I haven’t drunk a drop.”
 The mother let him in, and he gave her the gold pieces, and, “Wait now,” says he, “till you hear the music, I’ll play.”
 He buckled on the pipes, but instead of music, there came a sound as if all the geese and ganders in Ireland were screeching together. He awakened the neighbours and they all were mocking him, until he put on the old pipes, and then he played melodious music for them; and after that he told them all he had gone through that night.
 The next morning, when his mother went to look at the gold pieces, there was nothing there but the leaves of a plant.
 The piper went to the priest, and told him his story, but the priest would not believe a word from him, until he put the pipes on him, and then the screeching of the ganders and geese began.
 “Leave my sight, you thief,” said the priest.
 But nothing would do the piper till he would put the old pipes on him to show the priest that his story was true.
 He buckled on the old pipes, and he played melodious music, and from that day till the day of his death, there was never a piper in the county Galway was as good as he was.


Daniel O’Rourke
T. Crofton Croker

People may have heard of the renowned adventures of Daniel O’Rourke, but how few are there who know that the cause of all his perils, above and below, was neither more nor less than having slept under the walls of the Pooka’s {98} tower. I knew the man well. He lived at the bottom of Hungry Hill, just at the right-hand side of the road as you go towards Bantry. An old man was he, at the time he told me the story, with grey hair and a red nose; and it was on the 25th of June 1813 that I heard it from his own lips, as he sat smoking his pipe under the old poplar tree, on as fine an evening as ever shone from the sky. I was going to visit the caves in Dursey Island, having spent the morning at Glengariff.
 “I am often axed to tell it, sir,” said he, “so that this is not the first time. The master’s son, you see, had come from beyond foreign parts in France and Spain, as young gentlemen used to go before Buonaparte or any such was heard of; and sure enough there was a dinner given to all the people on the ground, gentle and simple, high and low, rich and poor. The ould gentlemen were the gentlemen after all, saving your honour’s presence. They’d swear at a body a little, to be sure, and, may be, give one a cut of a whip now and then, but we were no losers by it in the end; and they were so easy and civil, and kept such rattling houses, and thousands of welcomes; and there was no grinding for rent, and there was hardly a tenant on the estate that did not taste of his landlord’s bounty often and often in a year; but now it’s another thing. No matter for that, sir, for I’d better be telling you my story.
 “Well, we had everything of the best, and plenty of it; and we ate, and we drank, and we danced, and the young master by the same token danced with Peggy Barry, from the Bohereen — a lovely young couple they were, though they are both low enough now. To make a long story short, I got, as a body may say, the same thing as tipsy almost, for I can’t remember ever at all, no ways, how it was I left the place; only I did leave it, that’s certain. Well, I thought, for all that, in myself, I’d just step to Molly Cronohan’s, the fairy woman, to speak a word about the bracket heifer that was bewitched; and so as I was crossing the steppingstones of the ford of Ballyashenogh, and was looking up at the stars and blessing myself — for why? it was {99} Lady-day — I missed my foot, and souse I fell into the water. ‘Death alive!’ thought I, ‘I’ll be drowned now!’ However, I began swimming, swimming away for the dear life, till at last I got ashore, somehow or other, but never the one of me can tell how, upon a dissolute island.
 “I wandered and wandered about there, without knowing where I wandered, until at last I got into a big bog. The moon was shining as bright as day, or your fair lady’s eyes, sir (with your pardon for mentioning her), and I looked east and west, and north and south, and every way, and nothing did I see but bog, bog, bog — I could never find out how I got into it; and my heart grew cold with fear, for sure and certain I was that it would be my berrin place. So I sat down upon a stone which, as good luck would have it, was close by me, and I began to scratch my head, and sing the Ullagone — when all of a sudden the moon grew black, and I looked up, and saw something for all the world as if it was moving down between me and it, and I could not tell what it was. Down it came with a pounce, and looked at me full in the face; and what was it but an eagle? as fine a one as ever flew from the kingdom of Kerry. So he looked at me in the face, and says he to me, ‘Daniel O’Rourke,’ says he, ‘how do you do?’ ‘Very well, I thank you, sir,’ says I; ‘I hope you’re well;’ wondering out of my senses all the time how an eagle came to speak like a Christian. ‘What brings you here, Dan,’ says he. ‘Nothing at all, sir,’ says I; ‘only I wish I was safe home again.’ ‘Is it out of the island you want to go, Dan?’ says he. ‘’Tis, sir, says I: so I up and told him how I had taken a drop too much, and fell into the water; how I swam to the island; and how I got into the bog and did not know my way out of it. ‘Dan,’ says he, after a minute’s thought, ‘though it is very improper for you to get drunk on Lady-day, yet as you are a decent sober man, who ‘tends mass well, and never fling stones at me or mine, nor cries out after us in the fields — my life for yours,’ says he; ‘so get up on my back, and grip me well for fear you’d fall off, and I’ll fly you out of the bog.’ ‘I am afraid,’ says I, ‘your honour’s making game {100} of me; for who ever heard of riding a horseback on an eagle before?’ ‘’Pon the honour of a gentleman,’ says he, putting his right foot on his breast, ‘I am quite in earnest: and so now either take my offer or starve in the bog — besides, I see that your weight is sinking the stone.’
 “It was true enough as he said, for I found the stone every minute going from under me. I had no choice; so thinks I to myself, faint heart never won fair lady, and this is fair persuadance. ‘I thank your honour,’ says I, ‘for the loan of your civility; and I’ll take your kind offer.’ I therefore mounted upon the back of the eagle, and held him tight enough by the throat, and up he flew in the air like a lark. Little I knew the trick he was going to serve me. Up-up-up, God knows how far up he flew. ‘Why then,’ said I to him — thinking he did not know the right road home — very civilly, because why? I was in his power entirely; ‘sir,’ says I, ‘please your honour’s glory, and with humble submission to your better judgment, if you’d fly down a bit, you’re now just over my cabin, and I could be put down there, and many thanks to your worship.’
 “‘Arrah, Dan,’ said he, ‘do you think me a fool? Look down in the next field, and don’t you see two men and a gun? By my word it would be no joke to be shot this way, to oblige a drunken blackguard that I picked up off of a could stone in a bog.’ ‘Bother you,’ said I to myself, but I did not speak out, for where was the use? Well, sir, up he kept, flying, flying, and I asking him every minute to fly down, and all to no use. ‘Where in the world are you going, sir?’ says I to him. ‘Hold your tongue, Dan,’ says he: ‘mind your own business, and don’t be interfering with the business of other people.’ ‘Faith, this is my business I think,’ says I. ‘Be quiet, Dan,’ says he: so I said no more.
 “At last where should we come to, but to the moon itself. Now you can’t see it from this, but there is, or there was in my time, a reaping-hook sticking out of the side of the moon, this way (drawing the figure thus on the ground with the end of his stick).
 “‘Dan,’ said the eagle, ‘I’m tired with this long fly; I {101} had no notion ’twas so far.’ ‘And my lord, sir,’ said I, ‘who in the world axed you to fly so far — was it I? did not I beg and pray and beseech you to stop half an hour ago?’ ‘There’s no use talking, Dan,’ said he; ‘I’m tired bad enough, so you must get off, and sit down on the moon until I rest myself.’ ‘Is it sit down on the moon?’ said I; ‘is it upon that little round thing, then? why, then, sure I’d fall off in a minute, and be kilt and spilt, and smashed all to bits; you are a vile deceiver — so you are.’ ‘Not at all, Dan,’ said he; ‘you can catch fast hold of the reaping-hook that’s sticking out of the side of the moon, and ’twill keep you up.’ ‘I won’t then,’ said I. ‘May be not,’ said he, quite quiet. ‘If you don’t, my man, I shall just give you a shake, and one slap of my wing, and send you down to the ground, where every bone in your body will be smashed as small as a drop of dew on a cabbage in the morning.’ ‘Why, then, I’m in a fine way,’ said I to myself, ‘ever to have come along with the likes of you;’ and so giving him a hearty curse in Irish, for fear he’d know what I said, I got off his back with a heavy heart, took hold of the reaping-hook, and sat down upon the moon, and a mighty cold seat it was, I can tell you that.
 “When he had me there fairly landed, he turned about on me, and said, ‘Good morning to you, Daniel O’Rourke,’ said be; ‘I think I’ve nicked you fairly now. You robbed my nest last year’ (’twas true enough for him, but how he found out is hard to say), ‘and in return you are freely welcome to cool your heels dangling upon the moon like a cockthrow.’
 “‘Is that all, and is this the way you leave me, you brute, you,’ says I. ‘You ugly unnatural baste, and is this the way you serve me at last? Bad luck to yourself, with your hook’d nose, and to all your breed, you blackguard.’ ‘Twas all to no manner of use; he spread out his great big wings, burst out a laughing, and flew away like lightning. I bawled after him to stop; but I might have called and bawled for ever, without his minding me. Away he went, and I never saw him from that day to this — sorrow fly away with him! You {102} may be sure I was in a disconsolate condition and kept roaring out for the bare grief, when all at once a door opened right in the middle of the moon, creaking on its hinges as if it had not been opened for a month before, I suppose they never thought of greasing ’em, and out there walks — who do you think but the man in the moon himself? I knew him by his bush.
 “‘Good morrow to you, Daniel O’Rourke,’ said he; ‘how do you do?’ ‘Very well, thank your honour,’ said I. ‘I hope your honour’s well.’ ‘What brought you here, Dan?’ said he. So I told him how I was a little overtaken in liquor at the master’s, and how I was cast on a dissolute island, and how I lost my way in the bog, and how the thief of an eagle promised to fly me out of it, and how, instead of that, he had fled me up to the moon.
 “‘Dan,’ said the man in the moon, taking a pinch of snuff when I was done, ‘you must not stay here.’ ‘Indeed, sir,’ says I, ‘’tis much against my will I’m here at all; but how am I to go back?’ ‘That’s your business,’ said he; ‘Dan, mine is to tell you that here you must not stay; so be off in less than no time.’ ‘I’m doing no harm,’ says I, ‘only holding on hard by the reaping-hook, lest I fall off.’ ‘That’s what you must not do, Dan,’ says he. ‘Pray, sir,’ says I, ‘may I ask how many you are in family, that you would not give a poor traveller lodging: I’m sure ’tis not often you’re troubled with strangers coming to see you, for ’tis a long way.’ ‘I’m by myself, Dan,’ says he; ‘but you’d better let go the reaping-hook.’ ‘Faith, and with your leave,’ says I, ‘I’ll not let go the grip, and the more you bids me, the more I won’t let go; —so I will.’ ‘You had better, Dan,’ says he again. ‘Why, then, my little fellow,’ says I, taking the whole weight of him with my eye from head to foot, ‘there are two words to that bargain; and I’ll not budge, but you may if you like.’ ‘We’ll see how that is to be,’ says he; and back he went, giving the door such a great bang after him (for it was plain he was huffed) that I thought the moon and all would fall down with it.
 “Well, I was preparing myself to try strength with him, {103} when back again he comes, with the kitchen cleaver in his hand, and, without saying a word, he gives two bangs to the handle of the reaping-hook that was keeping me up, and whap! it came in two. ‘Good morning to you, Dan,’ says the spiteful little old blackguard, when he saw me cleanly falling down with a bit of the handle in my hand; ‘I thank you for your visit, and fair weather after you, Daniel.’ I had not time to make any answer to him, for I was tumbling over and over, and rolling and rolling, at the rate of a fox-hunt. ‘God help me!’ says I, ‘but this is a pretty pickle for a decent man to be seen in at this time of night: I am now sold fairly.’ The word was not out of my mouth when whiz! what should fly by close to my ear but a flock of wild geese, all the way from my own bog of Ballyasheenogh, else how should they know me? The ould gander, who was their general, turning about his head, cried out to me, ‘Is that you, Dan? ‘The same,’ said I, not a bit daunted now at what he said, for I was by this time used to all kinds of bedevilment, and, besides, I knew him of ould. ‘Good morrow to you,’ says he, ‘Daniel O’Rourke, how are you in health this morning?’ ‘Very well, sir,’ says I, ‘I thank you kindly,’ drawing my breath, for I was mightily in want of some. ‘I hope your honour’s the same.’ ‘I think ’tis falling you are, Daniel,’ says he. ‘You may say that, sir,’ says I. ‘And where are you going all the way so fast?’ said the gander. So I told him how I had taken the drop, and how I came on the island, and how I lost my way in the bog, and how the thief of an eagle flew me up to the moon, and how the man in the moon turned me out. ‘Dan,’ said he, ‘I’ll save you: put out your hand and catch me by the leg, and I’ll fly you home.’ ‘Sweet is your hand in a pitcher of honey, my jewel,’ says I, though all the time I thought within my self that I don’t much trust you; but there was no help, so I caught the gander by the leg, and away I and the other geese flew after him as fast as hops.
 “We flew, and we flew, and we flew, until we came right over the wide ocean. I knew it well, for I saw Cape Clear to my right hand, sticking up out of the water. ‘Ah, my {104} lord,’ said I to the goose, for I thought it best to keep a civil tongue in my head any way, ‘fly to land if you please.’ ‘It is impossible, you see, Dan,’ said he, ‘for a while, because you see we are going to Arabia.’ ‘To Arabia!’ said I; ‘that’s surely some place in foreign parts, far away. Oh! Mr. Goose: why then, to be sure, I’m a man to be pitied among you.’ ‘Whist, whist, you fool,’ said he, ‘hold your tongue; I tell you Arabia is a very decent sort of place, as like West Carbery as one egg is like another, only there is a little more sand there.’
 “Just as we were talking, a ship hove in sight, scudding so beautiful before the wind. ‘Ah! then, sir, said I, ‘will you drop me on the ship, if you please?’ ‘We are not fair over it,’ said he; ‘if I dropped you now you would go splash into the sea.’ ‘I would not,’ says I; ‘I know better than that, for it is just clean under us, so let me drop now at once.’
 “‘If you must, you must,’ said he; ‘there, take your own way;’ and he opened his claw, and faith he was right — sure enough I came down plump into the very bottom of the salt sea! Down to the very bottom I went, and I gave myself up then for ever, when a whale walked up to me, scratching himself after his night’s sleep, and he looked me full in the face, and never the word did he say, but lifting up his tail, he splashed me all over again with the cold salt water till there wasn’t a dry stitch upon my whole carcass! and I heard somebody saying — ’twas a voice I knew, too — ‘Get up you drunken brute, off o’ that’; and with that I woke up, and there was Judy with a tub full of water, which she was splashing all over me — for, rest her soul! though she was a good wife, she never could bear to see me in drink, and had a bitter hand of her own.
 “‘Get up,’ said she again: ‘and of all places in the parish would no place sarve your turn to lie down upon but under the ould walls of Carrigapooka? an uneasy resting I am sure you had of it.’ And sure enough I had: for I was fairly bothered out of my senses with eagles, and men of the moons, and flying ganders, and whales, driving me {105} through bogs, and up to the moon, and down to the bottom of the green ocean. If I was in drink ten times over, long would it be before I’d lie down in the same spot again, I know that.”


“The Kildare Pooka” 13
Patrick Kennedy

Mr. H— R—, when he was alive, used to live a good deal in Dublin, and he was once a great while out of the country on account of the “ninety-eight” business. But the servants kept on in the big house at Rath— all the same as if the family was at home. Well, they used to be frightened out of their lives after going to their beds with the banging of the kitchen-door, and the clattering of fire-irons, and the pots and plates and dishes. One evening they sat up ever so long, keeping one another in heart with telling stories about ghosts and fetches, and that when — what would you have it? — the little scullery boy that used to be sleeping over the horses, and could not get room at the fire, crept into the hot hearth, and when he got tired listening to the stories, sorra fear him, but he fell dead asleep.
 Well and good, after they were all gone and the kitchen fire raked up, he was woke with the noise of the kitchen door opening, and the trampling of an ass on the kitchen floor. He peeped out, and what should he see but a big ass, sure enough, sitting on his curabingo and yawning before the fire. After a little he looked about him, and began scratching his ears as if he was quite tired, and says he, “I may as well begin first as last.” The poor boy’s teeth began to chatter in his head, for says he, “Now he’s goin’ to ate me;” but the fellow with the long ears and tail on him had something else to do. He stirred the fire, and then he brought in a pail of water from the pump, and filled {106}  a big pot that he put on the fire before he went out. He then put in his hand-foot, I mean — into the hot hearth, and pulled out the little boy. He let a roar out of him with the fright, but the pooka only looked at him, and thrust out his lower lip to show how little he valued him, and then he pitched him into his pew again.
 Well, he then lay down before the fire till he heard the boil coming on the water, and maybe there wasn’t a plate, or a dish, or a spoon on the dresser that he didn’t fetch and put into the pot, and wash and dry the whole bilin’ of ’em as well as e’er a kitchen-maid from that to Dublin town. He then put all of them up on their places on the shelves; and if he didn’t give a good sweepin’ to the kitchen, leave it till again. Then he comes and sits fornent the boy, let down one of his ears, and cocked up the other, and gave a grin. The poor fellow strove to roar out, but not a dheeg ’ud come out of the throat. The last thing the pooka done was to rake up the fire, and walk out, giving such a slap o’ the door, that the boy thought the house couldn’t help tumbling down.
 Well, to be sure if there wasn’t a hullabullo, next morning when the poor fellow told his story! They could talk of nothing else the whole day. One said one thing, another said another, but a fat, lazy scullery girl said the wittiest thing of all. “Musha!” says she, “if the pooka does be cleaning up everything that way when we are asleep, what should we be slaving ourselves for doing his work?” “Shu gu dheine,” [14] says another; “them’s the wisest words you ever said, Kauth; it’s meeself won’t contradict you.”
 So said, so done. Not a bit of a plate or dish saw a drop of water that evening, and not a besom was laid on the floor, and every one went to bed soon after sundown. Next morning everything was as fine as fine in the kitchen, and the lord mayor might eat his dinner off the flags. It was great case to the lazy servants, you may depend, and everything went on well till a foolhardy gag of a boy said he would stay up one night and have a chat with the pooka. {107}
 He was a little daunted when the door was thrown open and the ass marched up to the fire. “An’ then, sir,” says he, at last, picking up courage, “if it isn’t taking a liberty, might I ax who you are, and why you are so kind as to do half of the day’s work for the girls every night?”
 “No liberty at all,” says the pooka, says he: “I’ll tell you, and welcome. I was a servant in the time of Squire R.—’s father, and was the laziest rogue that ever was clothed and fed, and done nothing for it. When my time came for the other world, this is the punishment was laid on me

— to come here and do all this labour every night, and then go out in the cold. It isn’t so bad in the fine weather; but if you only knew what it is to stand with your head between your legs, facing the storm, from midnight to sunrise, on a bleak winter night.”
 “And could we do anything for your comfort, my poor fellow?” says the boy.
 “Musha, I don’t know,” says the pooka; “but I think a good quilted frieze coat would help to keep the life in me them long nights.”
 “Why then, in troth, we’d be the ungratefullest of people if we didn’t feel for you.”
 To make a long story short, the next night but two the boy was there again; and if he didn’t delight the poor pooka holding up a fine warm coat before him, it’s no mather! Betune the pooka and the man, his legs was got into the four arms of it, and it was buttoned down the breast and the belly, and he was so pleased he walked up to the glass to see how he looked.
 “Well,” says he, “it’s a long lane that has no turning. I am much obliged to you and your fellow-servants. You have made me happy at last. Good-night to you.”
 So he was walking out, but the other cried, “Och! sure your going too soon. What about the washing and sweeping?”
 “Ah, you may tell the girls that they must now get their turn. My punishment was to last till I was thought worthy of a reward for the way I done my duty. You’ll see me no more.”
 And no more they did, and right sorry they were for having been in such a hurry to reward the ungrateful pooka.





[The banshee (from ban [bean], a woman, and shee [sidhe], a fairy) is an attendant fairy that follows the old families, and none but them, and wails before a death. Many have seen her as she goes wailing and clapping her hands. The keen [caoine], the funeral cry of the peasantry, is said to be an imitation of her cry. When more than one banshee is present, and they wail and sing in chorus, it is for the death of some holy or great one. An omen that sometimes accompanies the banshee is the coach-a-bower (cóiste-bodhar) — an immense black coach, mounted by a coffin, and drawn by headless horses driven by a Dullahan. It will go rumbling to your door, and if you open it, according to Croker, a basin of blood will be thrown in your face. These headless phantoms are found elsewhere than in Ireland. In 1807 two of the sentries stationed outside St. James’s Park died of fright. A headless woman, the upper part of her body naked, used to pass at midnight and scale the railings. After a time the sentries were stationed no longer at the haunted spot. In Norway the heads of corpses were cut off to make their ghosts feeble. Thus came into existence the Dullahans, perhaps; unless, indeed, they are descended from that Irish giant who swam across the Channel with his head in his teeth. — Ed.]



“How Thomas Connolly Met the Banshee”
J. Todhunter

Aw, the banshee, sir? Well, sir, as I was striving to tell ye I was going home from work one day, from Mr. Cassidy’s that I tould ye of, in the dusk o’ the evening. I had more {109}  nor a mile — aye, it was nearer two mile — to thrack to, where I was lodgin’ with a dacent widdy woman I knew, Biddy Maguire be name, so as to be near me work.
 It was the first week in November, an’ a lonesome road I had to travel, an’ dark enough, wid threes above it; an’ about half-ways there was a bit of a brudge I had to cross, over one o’ them little sthrames that runs into the Doddher. I walked on in the middle iv the road, for there was no toe-path at that time, Misther Harry, nor for many a long day afther that; but, as I was sayin’, I walked along till I come nigh upon the brudge, where the road was a bit open, an’ there, right enough, I seen the hog’s back o’ the ould-fashioned brudge that used to be there till it was pulled down, an’ a white mist steamin’ up out o’ the wather all around it.
 Well, now, Misther Harry, often as I’d passed by the place before, that night it seemed sthrange to me, an’ like a place ye might see in a dhrame; an’ as I come up to it I began to feel a cowld wind blowin’ through the hollow o’ me heart. “Musha Thomas,” sez I to meself, “is it yerself that’s in it?” sez I; “or, if it is, what’s the matter wid ye at all, at all?” sez I; so I put a bould face on it, an’ I made a sthruggle to set one leg afore the other, ontil I came to the rise o’ the brudge. And there, God be good to us! in a cantle o’ the wall I seen an ould woman, as I thought, sittin’ on her hunkers, all crouched together, an’ her head bowed down, seemin’ly in the greatest affliction.
 Well, sir, I pitied the ould craythur, an thought I wasn’t worth a thraneen, for the mortial fright I was in, I up an’ sez to her, “That’s a cowld lodgin’ for ye, ma’am.” Well, the sorra ha’porth she sez to that, nor tuk no more notice o’ me than if I hadn’t let a word out o’ me, but kep’ rockin’ herself to an’ fro, as if her heart was breakin’; so I sez to her again, “Eh, ma’am, is there anythin’ the matther wid ye?” An’ I made for to touch her on the shouldher, on’y somethin’ stopt me, for as I looked closer at her I saw she was no more an ould woman nor she was an ould cat. The first thing I tuk notice to, Misther Harry, was her hair, that {110} was sthreelin’ down over her showldhers, an’ a good yard on the ground on aich side of her. O, be the hoky farmer, but that was the hair! The likes of it I never seen on mortial woman, young or ould, before nor sense. It grew as sthrong out of her as out of e’er a young slip of a girl ye could see; but the colour of it was a misthery to describe. The first squint I got of it I thought it was silvery grey, like an ould crone’s; but when I got up beside her I saw, be the glance o’ the sky, it was a soart iv an Iscariot colour, an’ a shine out of it like floss silk. It ran over her showldhers and the two shapely arms she was lanin’ her head on, for all the world like Mary Magdalen’s in a picther; and then I persaved that the grey cloak and the green gownd undhernaith it was made of no earthly matarial I ever laid eyes on. Now, I needn’t tell ye, sir, that I seen all this in the twinkle of a bed-post-long as I take to make the narration of it. So I made a step back from her, an’ “The Lord be betune us an’ harm!” sez I, out loud, an’ wid that I blessed meself. Well, Misther Harry, the word wasn’t out o’ me mouth afore she turned her face on me. Aw, Misther Harry, but ’twas that was the awfullest apparation ever I seen, the face of her as she looked up at me! God forgive me for sayin’ it, but ’twas more like the face of the “Axy Homo” beyand in Marlboro Sthreet Chapel nor like any face I could mintion — as pale as a corpse, an’ a most o’ freckles on it, like the freckles on a turkey’s egg; an’ the two eyes sewn in wid thread, from the terrible power o’ crying the’ had to do; an’ such a pair iv eyes as the’ wor, Misther Harry, as blue as two forget-me-nots, an’ as cowld as the moon in a bog-hole of a frosty night, an’ a dead-an’-live look in them that sent a cowld shiver through the marra o’ me bones. Be the mortial! ye could ha’ rung a tay cupful o’ cowld paspiration out o’ the hair o’ me head that minute, so ye could. Well, I thought the life ’ud lave me intirely when she riz up from her hunkers, till, bedad! she looked mostly as tall as Nelson’s Pillar; an’ wid the two eyes gazin’ back at me, an’ her two arms stretched out before hor, an’ a keine out of her that riz the hair o’ me {111} scalp till it was as stiff as the hog’s bristles in a new hearth broom, away she glides — glides round the angle o’ the brudge, an’ down with her into the sthrame that ran undhernaith it. ’Twas then I began to suspect what she was. “Wisha, Thomas!” says I to meself, sez I; an’ I made a great struggle to get me two legs into a throt, in spite o’ the spavin o’ fright the pair o’ them wor in; an’ how I brought meself home that same night the Lord in heaven only knows, for I never could tell; but I must ha’ tumbled agin the door, and shot in head foremost into the middle o’ the flure, where I lay in a dead swoon for mostly an hour; and the first I knew was Mrs. Maguire stannin’ over me with a jorum o’ punch she was pourin’ down me throath [throat], to bring back the life into me, an’ me head in a pool of cowld wather she dashed over me in her first fright. “Arrah, Mister Connolly,” shashee, “what ails ye?” shashee, “to put the scare on a lone woman like that?” shashee. “Am I in this world or the next?” sez I. “Musha! where else would ye be on’y here in my kitchen?” shashee. “O, glory be to God!” sez I, “but I thought I was in Purgathory at the laste, not to mintion an uglier place,” sez I, “only it’s too cowld I find meself, an’ not too hot,” sez I. “Faix, an’ maybe ye wor more nor half-ways there, on’y for me, shashee; “but what’s come to you at all, at all? Is it your fetch ye seen, Mister Connolly?” “Aw, naboclish!” [15] sez I. “Never mind what I seen,” sez I. So be degrees I began to come to a little; an’ that’s the way I met the banshee, Misther Harry! “But how did you know it really was the banshee after all, Thomas?” “Begor, sir, I knew the apparation of her well enough; but ’twas confirmed by a sarcumstance that occurred the same time. There was a Misther O’Nales was come on a visit, ye must know, to a place in the neighbourhood — one o’ the ould O’Nales iv the county Tyrone, a rale ould Irish family — an’ the banshee was heard keening round the house that same night, be more then one that was in it; {112} an’ sure enough, Misther Harry, he was found dead in his bed the next mornin’. So if it wasn’t the banshee I seen that time, I’d like to know what else it could a’ been.”


“A Lamentation for the Death of Sir Maurice Fitzgerald, Knight, of Kerry, who was killed in Flanders, 1642.”
From the Irish, by Clarence Mangan

There was lifted up one voice of woe,
One lament of more than mortal grief,
Through the wide South to and fro,
        For a fallen Chief.
In the dead of night that cry thrilled
  through me,
I looked out upon the midnight air?
My own soul was all as gloomy,
As I knelt in prayer.

O’er Loch Gur, that night, once-twice —
  yea, thrice —
Passed a wail of anguish for the Brave
That half curled into ice
Its moon-mirroring wave.
Then uprose a many-toned wild hymn in
Choral swell from Ogra’s dark ravine,
And Mogeely’s Phantom Women
Mourned the Geraldine!

Far on Carah Mona’s emerald plains
Shrieks and sighs were blended many hours,
And Fermoy in fitful strains
Answered from her towers.
Youghal, Keenalmeaky, Eemokilly,
Mourned in concert, and their piercing keen
Woke wondering life the stilly
Glens of Inchiqueen. {113}

From Loughmoe to yellow Dunanore
There was fear; the traders of Tralee
Gathered up their golden store,
And prepared to flee;
For, in ship and hall from night till morning,
Showed the first faint beamings of the sun,
All the foreigners heard the warning
Of the Dreaded One!

“This,” they spake, “portendeth death to us,
If we fly not swiftly from our fate!”
Self-conceited idiots! thus
        Ravingly to prate!
Not for base-born higgling Saxon trucksters
Ring laments like those by shore and sea!
Not for churls with souls like hucksters
Waileth our Banshee!

For the high Milesian race alone
Ever flows the music of her woe!
For slain heir to bygone throne,
And for Chief laid low!
Hark! ... Again, methinks, I hear her weeping
Yonder! is she near me now, as then?
Or was but the night-wind sweeping
Down the hollow glen?


The Banshee of the MacCarthys
T. Crofton Croker

Charles MacCarthy was, in the year 1749, the only surviving son of a very numerous family. His father died when he was little more than twenty, leaving him the MacCarthy {114} estate, not much encumbered, considering that it was an Irish one. Charles was gay, handsome, unfettered either by poverty, a father, or guardians, and therefore was not, at the age of one-and-twenty, a pattern of regularity and virtue. In plain terms, he was an exceedingly dissipated-I fear I may say debauched, young man. His companions were, as may be supposed, of the higher classes of the youth in his neighbourhood, and, in general, of those whose fortunes were larger than his own, whose dispositions to pleasure were, therefore, under still less restrictions, and in whose example he found at once an incentive and an apology for his irregularities. Besides, Ireland, a place to this day not very remarkable for the coolness and steadiness of its youth, was then one of the cheapest countries in the world in most of those articles which money supplies for the indulgence of the passions. The odious exciseman, — with his portentous book in one hand, his unrelenting pen held in the other, or stuck beneath his hat-band, and the inkbottle (“black emblem of the informer”) dangling from his waistcoat-button — went not then from ale-house to ale-house, denouncing all those patriotic dealers in spirits, who preferred selling whiskey, which had nothing to do with English laws (but to elude them), to retailing that poisonous liquor, which derived its name from the British “Parliament” that compelled its circulation among a reluctant people. Or if the gauger — recording angel of the law — wrote down the peccadillo of a publican, he dropped a tear upon the word, and blotted it out for ever! For, welcome to the tables of their hospitable neighbours, the guardians of the excise, where they existed at all, scrupled to abridge those luxuries which they freely shared; and thus the competition in the market between the smuggler, who incurred little hazard, and the personage ycleped fair trader, who enjoyed little protection, made Ireland a land flowing, not merely with milk and honey, but with whiskey and wine.
  In the enjoyments supplied by these, and in the many kindred pleasures to which frail youth is but too prone, Charles MacCarthy indulged to such a degree, that just about the time {115} when he had completed his four-and-twentieth year, after a week of great excesses, he was seized with a violent fever, which, from its malignity, and the weakness of his frame, left scarcely a hope of his recovery. His mother, who had at first made many efforts to check his vices, and at last had been obliged to look on at his rapid progress to ruin in silent despair, watched day and night at his pillow. The anguish of parental feeling was blended with that still deeper misery which those only know who have striven hard to rear in virtue and piety a beloved and favourite child; have found him grow up all that their hearts could desire, until he reached manhood; and then, when their pride was highest, and their hopes almost ended in the fulfilment of their fondest expectations, have seen this idol of their affections plunge headlong into a course of reckless profligacy, and, after a rapid career of vice, hang upon the verge of eternity, without the leisure or the power of repentance. Fervently she prayed that, if his life could not be spared, at least the delirium, which continued with increasing violence from the first few hours of his disorder, might vanish before death, and leave enough of light and of calm for making his peace with offended Heaven.
 After several days, however, nature seemed quite exhausted, and he sunk into a state too like death to be mistaken for the repose of sleep. His face had that pale, glossy, marble look, which is in general so sure a symptom that life has left its tenement of clay. His eyes were closed and sunk; the lids having that compressed and stiffened appearance which seemed to indicate that some friendly hand had done its last office. The lips, half closed and perfectly ashy, discovered just so much of the teeth as to give to the features of death their most ghastly, but most impressive look. He lay upon his back, with his hands stretched beside him, quite motionless; and his distracted mother, after repeated trials, could discover not the least symptom of animation. The medical man who attended, having tried the usual modes for ascertaining the presence of life, declared at last his opinion that it was flown, and prepared to depart from the house of mourning. His horse {116} was seen to come to the door. A crowd of people who were collected before the windows, or scattered in groups on the lawn in front, gathered around when the door opened. These were tenants, fosterers, and poor relations of the family, with others attracted by affection, or by that interest which partakes of curiosity, but is something more, and which collects the lower ranks round a house where a human being is in his passage to another world. They saw the professional man come out from the hall door and approach his horse; and while slowly, and with a melancholy air, he prepared to mount, they clustered round him with inquiring and wistful looks. Not a word was spoken, but their meaning could not be misunderstood; and the physician, when he had got into his saddle, and while the servant was still holding the bridle as if to delay him, and was looking anxiously at his face as if expecting that he would relieve the general suspense, shook his head, and said in a low voice, “It’s all over, James;” and moved slowly away.
 The moment he had spoken, the women present, who were very numerous, uttered a shrill cry, which, having been sustained for about half a minute, fell suddenly into a full, loud, continued, and discordant but plaintive wailing, above which occasionally were heard the deep sounds of a man’s voice, sometimes in deep sobs, sometimes in more distinct exclamations of sorrow. This was Charles’s foster-brother, who moved about the crowd, now clapping his hands, now rubbing them together in an agony of grief. The poor fellow had been Charles’s playmate and companion when a boy, and afterwards his servant; had always been distinguished by his peculiar regard, and loved his young master as much, at least, as he did his own life.
 When Mrs. MacCarthy became convinced that the blow was indeed struck, and that her beloved son was sent to his last account, even in the blossoms of his sin, she remained for some time gazing with fixedness upon his cold features; then, as if something had suddenly touched the string of her tenderest affections, tear after tear trickled down {117} her checks, pale with anxiety and watching. Still she continued looking at her son, apparently unconscious that she was weeping, without once lifting her handkerchief to her eyes, until reminded of the sad duties which the custom of the country imposed upon her, by the crowd of females belonging to the better class of the peasantry, she now, crying audibly, nearly filled the apartment. She then withdrew, to give directions for the ceremony of waking, and for supplying the numerous visitors of all ranks with the refreshments usual on these melancholy occasions. Though her voice was scarcely heard, and though no one saw her but the servants and one or two old followers of the family, who assisted her in the necessary arrangements, everything was conducted with the greatest regularity; and though she made no effort to check her sorrows they never once suspended her attention, now more than ever required to preserve order in her household, which, in this season of calamity, but for her would have been all confusion.
 The night was pretty far advanced; the boisterous lamentations which had prevailed during part of the day in and about the house had given place to a solemn and mournful stillness; and Mrs. MacCarthy, whose heart, notwithstanding her long fatigue and watching, was yet too sore for sloop, was kneeling in fervent prayer m a chamber adjoining that of her son. Suddenly her devotions were disturbed by an unusual noise, proceeding from the persons who were watching round the body. First there was a low murmur, then all was silent, as if the movements of those in the chamber were checked by a sudden panic, and then a loud cry of terror burst from all within. The door of the chamber was thrown open, and all who were not overturned in the press rushed wildly into the passage which led to the stairs, and into which Mrs. MacCarthy’s room opened. Mrs. MacCarthy made her way through the crowd into her son’s chamber, where she found him sitting up in the bed, and looking vacantly around, like one risen from the grave. The glare thrown upon his sunk features and thin lathy frame gave an unearthy horror to his whole aspect. Mrs. {118} MacCarthy was a woman of some firmness; but she was a woman, and not quite free from the superstitions of her country. She dropped on her knees, and, clasping her hands, began to pray aloud. The form before her moved only its lips, and barely uttered “Mother”; but though the pale lips moved, as if there was a design to finish the sentence, the tongue refused its office. Mrs. MacCarthy sprung forward, and catching the arms of her son, exclaimed, “Speak I in the name of God and His saints, speak! are you alive?”
 He turned to her slowly, and said, speaking still with apparent difficulty, “Yes, my mother, alive, and — but sit down and collect yourself; I have that to tell which will astonish you still more than what you have seen.” He leaned back upon his pillow, and while his mother remained kneeling by the bedside, holding one of his hands clasped in hers, and gazing on him with the look of one who distrusted all her senses, he proceeded: “Do not interrupt me until I have done. I wish to speak while the excitement of returning life is upon me, as I know I shall soon need much repose. Of the commencement of my illness I have only a confused recollection; but within the last twelve hours I have been before the judgment-seat of God. Do not stare incredulously on me — ’tis as true as have been my crimes, and as, I trust, shall be repentance. I saw the awful judge arrayed in all the terrors which invest him when mercy gives place to justice. The dreadful pomp of offended omnipotence, I saw — I remember. It is fixed here; printed on my brain in characters indelible; but it passeth human language. What I can describe I will — I may speak it briefly. It is enough to say, I was weighed in the balance, and found wanting. The irrevocable sentence was upon the point of being pronounced; the eye of my Almighty Judge, which had already glanced upon me, half spoke my doom; when I observed the guardian saint, to whom you so often directed my prayers when I was a child, looking at me with an expression of benevolence and compassion. I stretched forth my hands to him, and besought {119} his intercession. I implored that one year, one month, might be given to me on earth to do penance and atonement for my transgressions. He threw himself at the feet of my Judge, and supplicated for mercy. Oh! never — not if I should pass through ten thousand successive states of being — never, for eternity, shall I forget the horrors of that moment, when my fate hung suspended — when an instant was to decide whether torments unutterable were to be my portion for endless ages! But Justice suspended its decree, and Mercy spoke in accents of firmness, but mildness, ‘Return to that world in which thou hast lived but to outrage the laws of Him who made that world and thee. Three years are given thee for repentance; when these are ended, thou shalt again stand here, to be saved or lost for ever.’ I heard no more; I saw no more, until I awoke to life, the moment before you entered.”
 Charles’s strength continued just long enough to finish these last words, and on uttering them he closed his eyes, and lay quite exhausted. His mother, though, as was before said, somewhat disposed to give credit to supernatural visitations, yet hesitated whether or not she should believe that although awakened from a swoon which might have been the crisis of his disease, he was still under the influence of delirium. Repose, however, was at all events necessary, and she took immediate measures that he should enjoy it undisturbed. After some hours’ sleep, he awoke refreshed, and thenceforward gradually but steadily recovered.
 Still he persisted in his account of the vision, as he had at first related it; and his persuasion of its reality had an obvious and decided influence on his habits and conduct. He did not altogether abandon the society of his former associates, for his temper was not soured by his reformation; but he never joined in their excesses, and often endeavoured to reclaim them. How his pious exertions succeeded, I have never learnt; but of himself it is recorded that he was religious without ostentation, and temperate without austerity; giving a practical proof that vice may be {120} exchanged for virtue, without the loss of respectability, popularity, or happiness.
 Time rolled on, and long before the three years were ended the story of his vision was forgotten, or, when spoken of, was usually mentioned as an instance proving the folly of believing in such things. Charles’s health, from the temperance and regularity of his habits, became more robust than ever. His friends, indeed, had often occasion to rally him upon a seriousness and abstractedness of demeanour, which grew upon him as he approached the completion of his seven-and-twentieth year, but for the most part his manner exhibited the same animation and cheerfulness for which he had always been remarkable. In company he evaded every endeavour to draw from him a distinct opinion on the subject of the supposed prediction; but among his own family it was well known that he still firmly believed it. However, when the day had nearly arrived on which the prophecy was, if at all, to be fulfilled, his whole appearance gave such promise of a long and healthy life, that he was persuaded by his friends to ask a large party to an entertainment at Spring House, to celebrate his birthday. But the occasion of this party, and the circumstances which attended it, will be best learned from a perusal of the following letters, which have been carefully preserved by some relations of his family. The first is from Mrs. MacCarthy to a lady, a very near connection and valued friend of her’s who lived in the county of Cork, at about fifty miles’ distance from Spring House.

         Spring House, Tuesday morning,
         October 15th, 1752

My Dearest Mary,
 I am afraid I am going to put your affection for your old friend and kinswoman to a severe trial. A two days’ journey at this season, over bad roads and through a troubled country, it will indeed require friendship such as {121} yours to persuade a sober woman to encounter. But the truth is, I have, or fancy I have, more than usual cause for wishing you near me. You know my son’s story. I can’t tell you how it is, but as next Sunday approaches, when the prediction of his dream, or vision, will be proved false or true, I feel a sickening of the heart, which I cannot suppress, but which your presence, my dear Mary, will soften, as it has done so many of my sorrows. My nephew, James Ryan, is to be married to Jane Osborne (who, you know, is my son’s ward), and the bridal entertainment will take place here on Sunday next, though Charles pleaded hard to have it postponed for a day or two longer. Would to God — but no more of this till we meet. Do prevail upon yourself to leave your good man for one week, if his farming concerns will not admit of his accompanying you; and come to us, with the girls, as soon before Sunday as you can.

          Ever my dear Mary’s attached cousin and friend,
                                             Ann MacCarthy.

 Although this letter reached Castle Barry early on Wednesday, the messenger having travelled on foot over bog and moor, by paths impassable to horse or carriage, Mrs. Barry, who at once determined on going, had so many arrangements to make for the regulation of her domestic affairs (which, in Ireland, among the middle orders of the gentry, fall soon into confusion when the mistress of the family is away), that she and her two young daughters were unable to leave until late on the morning of Friday. The eldest daughter remained to keep her father company, and superintend the concerns of the household. As the travellers were to journey in an open one-horse vehicle, called a jaunting-car (still used in Ireland), and as the roads, bad at all times, were rendered still worse by the heavy rains, it was their design to make two easy stages-to stop about midway the first night, and reach Spring House early on Saturday evening. This arrangement was now altered, as they found that from the lateness of their departure they {122} could proceed, at the utmost, no farther than twenty miles on the first day; and they, therefore, purposed sleeping at the house of a Mr. Bourke, a friend of theirs, who lived at somewhat less than that distance from Castle Barry. They reached Mr. Bourke’s in safety after a rather disagreeable ride. What befell them on their journey the next day to Spring House, and after their arrival there, is fully recounted in a letter from the second Miss Barry to her eldest sister.

         Spring House, Sunday evening,
         20th October, 1752.

Dear Ellen,
 As my mother’s letter, which encloses this, will announce to you briefly the sad intelligence which I shall here relate more fully, I think it better to go regularly through the recital of the extraordinary events of the last two days.
 The Bourkes kept us up so late on Friday night that yesterday was pretty far advanced before we could begin our journey, and the day closed when we were nearly fifteen miles distant from this place. The roads were excessively deep, from the heavy rains of the last week, and we proceeded so slowly that, at last, my mother resolved on passing the night at the house of Mr. Bourke’s brother (who lives about a quarter-of-a-mile off the road), and coming here to breakfast in the morning. The day had been windy and showery, and the sky looked fitful, gloomy, and uncertain. The moon was fun, and at times shone clear and bright; at others it was wholly concealed behind the thick, black, and rugged masses of clouds that rolled rapidly along, and were every moment becoming larger, and collecting together as if gathering strength for a coming storm. The wind, which blew in our faces, whistled bleakly along the low hedges of the narrow road, on which we proceeded with difficulty from the number of deep sloughs, and which afforded not the least shelter, no plantation being within some miles of us. My mother, therefore, asked Leary, who drove the jaunting-car, how far we were from Mr. {123} Bourke’s? ‘’Tis about ten spades from this to the cross, and we have then only to turn to the left into the avenue, ma’am.’ ‘Very well, Leary; turn up to Mr. Bourke’s as soon as you reach the cross roads.’
 My mother had scarcely spoken these words, when a shriek, that made us thrill as if our very hearts were pierced by it, burst from the hedge to the right of our way. If it resembled anything earthly it seemed the cry of a female, struck by a sudden and mortal blow, and giving out her life in one long deep pang of expiring agony. ’Heaven defend us!’ exclaimed my mother. ‘Go you over the hedge, Leary, and save that woman, if she is not yet dead, while we run back to the hut we have just passed, and alarm the village near it.’ ‘Woman!’ said Leary, beating the horse violently, while his voice trembled, ‘that’s no woman; the sooner we get on, ma’am, the better’; and he continued his efforts to quicken the horse’s pace. We saw nothing. The moon was hid. It was quite dark, and we had been for some time expecting a heavy fall of rain. But just as Leary had spoken, and had succeeded in making the horse trot briskly forward, we distinctly heard a loud clapping of hands, followed by a succession of screams, that seemed to denote the last excess of despair and anguish, and to issue from a person running forward inside the hedge, to keep pace with our progress. Still we saw nothing; until, when we were within about ten yards of the place where an avenue branched off to Mr. Bourke’s to the left, and the road turned to Spring House on the right, the moon started suddenly from behind a cloud, and enabled us to see, as plainly as I now see this paper, the figure of a tall, thin woman, with uncovered head, and long hair that floated round her shoulders, attired in something which seemed either a loose white cloak or a sheet thrown hastily about her. She stood on the corner hedge, where the road on which we were met that which leads to Spring House, with her face towards us, her left hand pointing to this place, and her right arm waving rapidly and violently as if to draw us on in that direction.
 The horse had stopped, apparently {124} frightened at the sudden presence of the figure, which stood in the manner I have described, still uttering the same piercing cries, for about half a minute. It then leaped upon the road, disappeared from our view for one instant, and the next was seen standing upon a high wall a little way up the avenue on which we purposed going, still pointing towards the road to Spring House, but in an attitude of defiance and command, as if prepared to oppose our passage up the avenue. The figure was now quite silent, and its garments, which had been flown loosely in the wind, were closely wrapped around it. ‘Go on, Leary, to Spring House, in God’s name!’ said my mother; ‘whatever world it belongs to, we will provoke it no longer.’ ‘’Tis the Banshee, ma’am,’ said Leary; ‘and I would not, for what my life is worth, go anywhere this blessed night but to Spring House. But I’m afraid there’s something bad going forward, or she would not send us there.’ So saying, he drove forward; and as we turned on the road to the right, the moon suddenly withdrew its light, and we saw the apparition no more; but we heard plainly a prolonged clapping of hands, gradually dying away, as if it issued from a person rapidly retreating.
 We proceeded as quickly as the badness of the roads and the fatigue of the poor animal that drew us would allow, and arrived here about eleven o’clock last night. The scene which awaited us you have learned from my mother’s letter. To explain it fully, I must recount to you some of the transactions which took place here during the last week.
 You are aware that Jane Osborne was to have been married this day to James Ryan, and that they and their friends have been here for the last week. On Tuesday last, the very day on the morning of which cousin MacCarthy despatched the letter inviting us here, the whole of the company were walking about the grounds a little before dinner. It seems that an unfortunate creature, who had been seduced by James Ryan, was seen prowling in the neighbourhood in a moody, melancholy state for some days previous. He had separated from her several months, {125} and, they say, had provided for her rather handsomely; but she had been seduced by the promise of his marrying her; and the shame of her unhappy condition, uniting with disappointment and jealousy, had disordered her intellects. During the whole forenoon of this Tuesday she had been walking in the plantations near Spring House, with her cloak folded tight round her, the hood nearly covering her face; and she had avoided conversing with or even meeting any of the family.
 Charles MacCarthy, at the time I mentioned, was walking between James Ryan and another, at a little distance from the rest, on a gravel path, skirting a shrubbery. The whole party was thrown into the utmost consternation by the report of a pistol, fired from a thickly-planted part of the shrubbery which Charles and his companions had just passed. He fell instantly, and it was found that he had been wounded in the leg. One of the party was a medical man. His assistance was immediately given, and, on examining, he declared that the injury was very slight, that no bone was broken, it was merely a flesh wound, and that it would certainly be well in a few days. ’We shall know more by Sunday,’ said Charles, as he was carried to his chamber. His wound was immediately dressed, and so slight was the inconvenience which it gave that several of his friends spent a portion of the evening in his apartment.
 On inquiry, it was found that the unlucky shot was fired by the poor girl I just mentioned. It was also manifest that she had aimed, not at Charles, but at the destroyer of her innocence and happiness, who was walking beside him. After a fruitless search for her through the grounds, she walked into the house of her own accord, laughing and dancing, and singing wildly, and every moment exclaiming that she had at last killed Mr. Ryan. When she heard that it was Charles, and not Mr. Ryan, who was shot, she fell into a violent fit, out of which, after working convulsively for some time, she sprung to the door, escaped from the crowd that pursued her, and could never be taken until last {126} night, when she was brought here, perfectly frantic, a little before our arrival.
 Charles’s wound was thought of such little consequence that the preparations went forward, as usual, for the wedding entertainment on Sunday. But on Friday night he grew restless and feverish, and on Saturday (yesterday) morning felt so ill that it was deemed necessary to obtain additional medical advice. Two physicians and a surgeon met in consultation about twelve o’clock in the day, and the dreadful intelligence was announced, that unless a change, hardly hoped for, took place before night, death must happen within twenty-four hours after. The wound, it seems, had been too tightly bandaged, and otherwise injudiciously treated. The physicians were right in their anticipations. No favourable symptom appeared, and long before we reached Spring House every ray of hope had vanished.
 The scene we witnessed on our arrival would have wrung the heart of a demon. We heard briefly at the gate that Mr. Charles was upon his death-bed. When we reached the house, the information was confirmed by the servant who opened the door. But just as we entered we were horrified by the most appalling screams issuing from the staircase. My mother thought she heard the voice of poor Mrs. MacCarthy, and sprung forward. We followed, and on ascending a few steps of the stairs, we found a young woman, in a state of frantic passion, struggling furiously with two men-servants, whose united strength was hardly sufficient to prevent her rushing upstairs over the body of Mrs. MacCarthy, who was lying in strong hysterics upon the steps. This, I afterwards discovered, was the unhappy girl I before described, who was attempting to gain access to Charles’s mom, to ‘get his forgiveness’, as she said, ‘before he went away to accuse her for having killed him’. This wild idea was mingled with another, which seemed to dispute with the former possession of her mind. In one sentence she called on Charles to forgive her, in the next she would denounce James Ryan as the murderer, both of Charles and her. At length she was torn {127} away; and the last words I heard her scream were, ‘James Ryan, ’twas you killed him, and not I — ’twas you killed him, and not I — ’twas you killed him, and not I.’
 Mrs. MacCarthy, on recovering, fell into the arms of my mother, whose presence seemed a great relief to her. She wept the first tears, I was told, that she had shed since the fatal accident. She conducted us to Charles’s room, who, she said, had desired to see us the moment of our arrival, as he found his end approaching, and wished to devote the last hours of his existence to uninterrupted prayer and meditation. We found him perfectly calm, resigned, and even cheerful. He spoke of the awful event which was at hand with courage and confidence, and treated it as a doom for which he had been preparing ever since his former remarkable illness, and which he never once doubted was truly foretold to him. He bade us farewell with the air of one who was about to travel a short and easy journey; and we left him with impressions which, notwithstanding all their anguish, will, I trust, never entirely forsake us.
 Poor Mrs. MacCarthy — but I am just called away. There seems a slight stir in the family; perhaps ...

The above letter was never finished. The enclosure to which it more than once alludes told the sequel briefly, and it is all that I have further learned of the family of MacCarthy. Before the sun had gone down upon Charles’s seven-and-twentieth birthday, his soul had gone to render its last account to its Creator.


13. From Legendary Fictions, Macmillan.
14. Meant for seadh go deimhin — i.e., yes, indeed.
15. Na bac leis — i.e., don’t mind it.

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