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An excerpt from “Myths and Folklore of Ireland”

Once upon a time, it was the custom with Fin MacCumhail and the Fenians of Erin, when a stranger from any part of the world came to their castle, not to ask him a question for a year and a day.
On a time, a champion came to Fin and his men, and remained with them. He was not at all pleasant or agreeable.

At last Fin and his men took counsel together; they were much annoyed because their guest was so dull and morose, never saying a word, always silent.

While discussing what kind of man he was, Diarmuid Duivne offered to try him; so one evening when they were eating together, Diarmuid came and snatched from his mouth the hind-quarter of a bullock, which he was picking.

Diarmuid pulled at one part of the quarter, – pulled with all his strength, but only took the part that he seized, while the other kept the part he held. All laughed; the stranger laughed too, as heartily as any. It was the first laugh they had heard from him.
The strange champion saw all their feats of arms and practised with them, till the year and a day were over. Then he said to Fin and his men:
“I have spent a pleasant year in your company; you gave me good treatment, and the least I can do now is to give you a feast at my own castle.”

No one had asked what his name was up to that time. Fin now asked his name. He answered:
“My name is Fear Dubh, of Alba.”

Fin accepted the invitation; and they appointed the day for the feast, which was to be in Erin, since Fear Dubh did not wish to trouble them to go to Alban. He took leave of his host and started for home.

When the day for the feast came, Fin and the chief men of the Fenians of Erin set out for the castle of Fear Dubh.
They went, a glen at a step, a hill at a leap, and thirty-two miles at a running leap, till they came to the grand castle where the feast was to be given.

They went in; everything was ready, seats at the table, and every man’s name at his seat in the same order as at Fin’s castle. Diarmuid, who was always very sportive, – fond of hunting, and paying court to women, was not with them; he had gone to the mountains with his dogs.

All sat down, except Conan Maol MacMorna (never a man spoke well of him); no seat was ready for him, for he used to lie on the flat of his back on the floor, at Fin’s castle.

When all were seated the door of the castle closed of itself. Fin then asked the man nearest the door, to rise and open it. The man tried to rise; he pulled this way and that, over and hither, but he couldn’t get up. Then the next man tried, and the next, and so on, till the turn came to Fin himself, who tried in vain.

Now, whenever Fin and his men were in trouble and great danger it was their custom to raise a cry of distress (a voice of howling), heard all over Erin. Then all men knew that they were in peril of death; for they never raised this cry except in the last extremity.
Fin’s son, Fialan, who was three years old and in the cradle, heard the cry, was roused, and jumped up.

“Get me a sword! “ said he to the nurse. “My father and his men are in distress; I must go to aid them.”
“What could you do, poor little child.”
Fialan looked around, saw an old rusty sword-blade laid aside for ages. He took it down, gave it a snap; it sprang up so as to hit his arm, and all the rust dropped off; the blade was pure as shining silver.

“This will do,” said he; and then he set out towards the place where he heard the cry, going a glen at a step, a hill at a leap, and thirty-two miles at a running leap, till he came to the door of the castle, and cried out.
Fin answered from inside, “Is that you, my child?”
“It is,” said Fialan.
“Why did you come?”
“I heard your cry, and how could I stay at home, hearing the cry of my father and the Fenians of Erin!”
“Oh, my child, you cannot help us much.”

Fialan struck the door powerfully with his sword, but no use. Then, one of the men inside asked Fin to chew his thumb, to know what was keeping them in, and why they were bound.
Fin chewed his thumb, from skin to blood, from blood to bone, from bone to marrow, and discovered that Fear Dubh had built the castle by magic, and that he was coming himself with a great force to cut the head off each one of them. (These men from Alba had always a grudge against the champions of Erin.)

Said Fin to Fialan: “Do you go now, and stand at the ford near the castle, and meet Fear Dubh.”

Fialan went and stood in the middle of the ford. He wasn’t long there when he saw Fear Dubh coming with a great army.
“Leave the ford, my child,” said Fear Dubh, who knew him at once. “I have not come to harm your father. I spent a pleasant year at his castle. I’ve only come to show him honour.”

“I know why you have come,” answered Fialan. You’ve come to destroy my father and all his men, and I’ll not leave this ford while I can hold it.”

“Leave the ford; I don’t want to harm your father, I want to do him honour. If you don’t let us pass my men will kill you,” said Fear Dubh.

“I will not let you pass so long as I ‘m alive before you,” said Fialan.

The men faced him; and if they did Fialan kept his place, and a battle commenced, the like of which was never seen before that day. Fialan went through the army as a hawk through a flock of sparrows on a March morning, till he killed every man except Fear Dubh. Fear Dubh told him again to leave the ford, he didn’t want to harm his father.

“Oh!” said Fialan, “I know well what you want.”
“If you don’t leave that place I’ll make you leave it” said Fear Dubh. Then they closed in combat; and such a combat was never seen before between any two warriors. They made springs to rise through the centre of hard gray rocks, cows to cast their calves whether they had them or not. All the horses of the country were racing about and neighing in dread and fear, and all created things were terrified at the sound and clamour of the fight till the weapons of Fear Dubh went to pieces in the struggle, and Fialan made two halves of his own sword.

Now they closed in wrestling. In the first round Fialan put Fear Dubh to his knees in the hard bottom of the river; the second round he put him to his hips, and the third, to his shoulders.
“Now,” said he, “I have you,” giving him a stroke of the half of his sword, which cut the head off him.

Then Fialan went to the door of the castle and told his father what he had done.

Fin chewed his thumb again, and knew what other danger was coming. “My son,” said he to Fialan, “Fear Dubh has a younger brother more powerful than he was; that brother is coming against us now with greater forces than those which you have destroyed.”

As soon as Fialan heard these words he hurried to the ford, and waited till the second army came up. He destroyed this army as he had the other, and closed with the second brother in a fight fiercer and more terrible than the first; but at last he thrust him to his armpits in the hard bottom of the river and cut off his head.
Then he went to the castle, and told his father what he had done. A third time Fin chewed his thumb, and said: “My son, a third army more to be dreaded than the other two is coming now to destroy us, and at the head of it is the youngest brother of Fear Dubh, the most desperate and powerful of the three.”

Again Fialan rushed off to the ford; and, though the work was greater than before, he left not a man of the army alive. Then he closed with the youngest brother of Fear Dubh, and if the first and second battles were terrible this was more terrible by far; but at last he planted the youngest brother up to his armpits in the hard bottom of the river, and swept the head off him.

Now, after the heat and struggle of combat Fialan was in such a rage that he lost his mind from fury, not having any one to fight against; and if the whole world had been there before him he would have gone through it and conquered it all.

But having no one to face him he rushed along the river-bank, tearing the flesh from his own body. Never had such madness been seen in any created being before that day.

Diarmuid came now and knocked at the door of the castle, having the dog Bran with him, and asked Fin what had caused him to raise the cry of distress.

“Oh, Diarmuid,” said Fin, “we are all fastened in here to be killed. Fialan has destroyed three armies and Fear Dubh with his two brothers. He is raging now along the bank of the river; you must not go near him, for he would tear you limb from limb. At this moment he wouldn’t spare me, his own father; but after a while he will cease from raging and die down; then you can go. The mother of Fear Dubh is coming, and will soon be at the ford. She is more violent, more venomous, more to be dreaded, a greater warrior than her sons. The chief weapon she has are the nails on her fingers; each nail is seven perches long, of the hardest steel on earth. She is coming in the air at this moment with the speed of a hawk, and she has a kŭŕan (a small vessel), with liquor in it, which has such power that if she puts three drops of it on the mouths of her sons they will rise up as well as ever; and if she brings them to life there is nothing to save us.

Go to the ford; she will be hovering over the corpses of the three armies to know can she find her sons, and as soon as she sees them she will dart down and give them the liquor. You must rise with a mighty bound upon her, dash the kŭŕan out of her hand and spill the liquor.

“If you can kill her save her blood, for nothing in the world can free us from this place and open the door of the castle but the blood of the old hag. I’m in dread you’ll not succeed, for she is far more terrible than all her sons together. Go now; Fialan is dying away, and the old woman is coming; make no delay.”

Diarmuid hurried to the ford, stood watching a while; then he saw high in the air something no larger than a hawk. As it came nearer and nearer he saw it was the old woman. She hovered high in the air over the ford. At last she saw her sons, and was swooping down, when Diarmuid rose with a bound into the air and struck the vial a league out of her hand.

The old hag gave a shriek that was heard to the eastern world, and screamed: “Who has dared to interfere with me or my sons?”
“I,” answered Diarmuid; “and you’ll not go further till I do to you what has been done to your sons.”

The fight began; and if there ever was a fight, before or since, it could not he more terrible than this one; but great as was the power of Diarmuid he never could have conquered but for Bran the dog.

The old woman with her nails stripped the skin and flesh from Diarmuid almost to the vitals. But Bran tore the skin and flesh off the old woman’s back from her head to her heels.
From the dint of blood-loss and fighting, Diarmuid was growing faint. Despair came on him, and he was on the point of giving way, when a little robin flew near to him, and sitting on a bush, spoke, saying:

“Oh, Diarmuid, take strength; rise and sweep the head off the old hag, or Fin and the Fenians of Erin are no more.”
Diarmuid took courage, and with his last strength made one great effort, swept the head off the old hag and caught her blood in a vessel. He rubbed some on his own wounds, – they were cured; then he cured Bran.

Straightway he took the blood to the castle, rubbed drops of it on the door, which opened, and he went in.
All laughed with joy at the rescue. He freed Fin and his men by rubbing the blood on the chairs; hut when he came as far as Conan Maol the blood gave out.

All were going away. “Why should you leave me here after you;” cried Conan Maol, “I would rather die at once than stay here for a lingering death. Why don’t you, Oscar, and you, Gol MacMorna, come and tear me out of this place; anyhow you’ll be able to drag the arms out of me and kill me at once; better that than leave me to die alone.”
Oscar and Gol took each a hand, braced their feet against his feet, put forth all their strength and brought him standing; but if they did, he left all the skin and much of the flesh from the back of his head to his heels on the floor behind him. He was covered with blood, and by all accounts was in a terrible condition, bleeding and wounded.

Now there were sheep grazing near the castle. The Fenians ran out, killed and skinned the largest and best of the flock, and clapped the fresh skin on Conan’s back; and such was the healing power in the sheep, and the wound very fresh, that Conan’s back healed, and he marched home with the rest of the men, and soon got well; and if he did, they sheared off his back wool enough every year to make a pair of stockings for each one of the Fenians of Erin, and for Fin himself.

And that was a great thing to do and useful, for wool was scarce in Erin in those days. Fin and his men lived pleasantly and joyously for some time; and if they didn’t, may we.
——————
URL: http://www.abelapublishing.com/myths-and-folklore-of-ireland_p23332640.htm
ISBN: 978-1-907256-08-0

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NOTE: This tale was recorded in the field by Samuel Lover. It has been recorded verbatim, or in the vulgate i.e. Samuel Lover recorded the words exactly as they were said. He did this in order to retain the local manner and flavour of the tale. Now, enough from me. Read on……

 

Beside the River Liffey stands the picturesque ruins of a mill, overshadowed by some noble trees, that grow in great luxuriance at the water’s edge. Here, one day, I was accosted by a silver-haired old man that for some time had been observing me, and who, when I was about to leave the spot, approached me and said: “I suppose it’s after takin’ off the ould mill you’d be, sir?”

 

I answered in the affirmative.

 

“Maybe your honour id let me get a sight iv it,” said he.

 

“With pleasure,” said I, as I untied the strings of my portfolio, and drawing the sketch from amongst its companions, presented it to him. He considered it attentively for some time, and at length exclaimed:

 

“Throth, there it is, to the life–the broken roof and the wather-coorse; ay, even to the very spot where the gudgeon of the wheel was wanst, let alone the big stone at the corner, that was laid the first by himself;” and he gave the last word with mysterious emphasis, and handed the drawing back to me with a “thankee, sir!” of most respectful acknowledgment.

 

“And who was ‘himself,” said I, “that laid that stone?” feigning ignorance, and desiring to “draw him out,” as the phrase is.

 

“Oh, then, maybe it’s what you’d be a stranger here?” said he

 

“Almost,” said I.

 

“And you never hear tell of L–‘s mill,” said he, “and how it was built?”

 

“Never,” was my answer.

 

“Throth, then, I thought young and ould, rich and poor, knew that–far and near.”

 

“I don’t, for one,” said I; “but perhaps,” I added, bringing forth some little preparation for a lunch that I had about me, and producing a small flask of whisky–” perhaps you will be so good as to tell me, and take a slice of ham, and drink my health,” offering him a dram from my flask, and seating myself on the sod beside the river.

 

“Thank you kindly, sir,” says he; and so, after “warming his heart,” as be said himself, he proceeded to give an account of the mill in question.

 

“You see, sir, there was a man wanst, in times back, that owned a power of land about here – but God keep us, they said he didn’t come by it honestly, but did a crooked turn whenever ’twas to sarve himself–and sure he sould the pass, and what luck or grace could he havw afther that?”

 

“How do you mean be sold the pass?” said I.

 

“Oh, sure your honour must have head how the pass was sould, and he bethrayed his king and counthry.”

 

“No, indeed,” said I.

 

“Och, well,” answered my old informant, with a shake of the head, which he meant, like Lord Burleigh in the Critic, to be very significant, “it’s no matther now, and I don’t care talkin’ about it; and laist said is soonest mended–howsomever, he got a power of money for that same, and lands and what not; but the more he got, the more he craved, and there was no ind to his sthrivin’ for goold evermore, and thirstin’ for the lucre of gain.

 

“Well, at last, the story goes, the divil (God bless us!) kem to him, and promised him hapes o’ money, and all his heart could desire, and more too, if he’d sell his soul in exchange.”

 

“Surely he did not consent to such a dreadful bargain as that?” said I.

 

“Oh, no, sir,” said the old man, with a slight play of muscle about the corners of his mouth, which, but that the awfulness of the subject suppressed it, would have amounted to a bitter smile–” oh, no, he was too cunnin’ for that, bad as he was–and he was bad enough, God knows–he had some regard for his poor sinful sowl, and he would not give himself up to the divil, all out; but the villian, he thought he might make a bargain with the ould chap, and get all he wanted, and keep himself out of harm’s way still; for he was mighty cute–and throth, he was able for Ould Nick any day.

 

“Well, the bargain was struck, and it was this-a-way: The divil was to give him all the goold ever he’d ask for, and was to let him alone as long as he could; and the timpter promised him a long day, and said ‘twould be a great while before he’d want him, at all, at all; and whin that time kem, he was to keep his hands aff him, as long as the other could give him some work be couldn’t do.

 

“So when the bargain was made, ‘Now,’ says ‘the Colonel to the divil, ‘give me all the money I want.’

 

“As much as you like,’ says Ouid Nick. ‘How much will you have?’

 

“You must fill me that room,’ says he, pointin’ into a murtherin’ big room, that he emptied out on purpose–‘you must fill me that room,’ says be, ‘up to the very ceilin’ with goolden guineas.’

 

“‘And welkim,’ says the divil.

 

“With that, sir, he began to shovel in the guineas into the room like mad; and the Colonel towld him, that as soon as he was done, to come to him in his own parlour below, and that he would then go up and see if, the divil was as good as his word, and had filled the room with the goolden guineas. So the Colonel went downstairs, and the ould fellow worked away as busy as a nailer,  shovellin’ in the guineas by hundherds and thousands.

 

“Well, he worked away for an hour and more, and at last he began to get tired; and he thought it mighty odd that the room wasn’t fillin’ fasther. Well, afther restin’ for a while, he began agin, and he put his shouIdher to the work in airnest; but still the room was no fuller, at all, at all.

 

“‘Och! bad luck to me,’ says the divil; ‘but the likes of this I never seen,’ says he, ‘far and near, up and down–the dickens a room I ever kem across afore,’ says he, ‘I couldn’t cram while a cook would be crammin’ a turkey, till now; and here I am,’ says he ‘losin’ my whole day, and I with such a power o’ work an my hands yit, and this room no fuller than if I began five minutes ago.’

 

“By gor, while he was spakin’, be seen the hape o’ guineas in the middle of the flure growing littler and littler every minit; and at last they wor disappearing, for all the world, like corn in the hopper of a mill.

 

“Ho! ho!’ says Ould Nick, ‘is that the way wid you,’ says he; and with that he run over to the hape of goold–and what would you think, but it was runnin’ down through a great big hole in the flure that the Colonel made through the ceilin’ in the room below; and that was the work he was at afther he left the divil, though he purtended he was only waitin’ for him in his parlour; and there the divil, when he looked down through the hole in the flure, seen the Colonel, not content with the two rooms full of guineas, but with a big shovel throwin’ them into a closet a one side of him as fast as they fell down. So putting his head through the hole, he called down to the Colonel:

 

“‘Hillo! neighbour,’ says he.

 

“The Colonel look up, and grew as white as a sheet when he seen he was found out, and the red eyes starin’ down at him through the hole.

 

“‘Musha, bad luck to your impudence!’ says Ould Nick; ‘is It sthrivin’ to chate me you are,’ says he, ‘you villain?’

 

“Oh! forgive me this wanst,’ says the Colonel, ‘and upon the honour of a gintleman,’ says he, ‘I’ll never–‘

 

“‘Whisht! whisht! you thievin’ rogue,’ says the divil, ‘I’m not angry with you, at all, at all; but only like you the betther, bekase you’re so cute. Lave off slaving yourself there,’ says he, ‘you have got goold enough for this time; and whenever you want more, you have only to say the word, and it shall be yours at command.’

 

“So, with that the divil and he parted for that time; and myself doesn’t know whether they used to meet often afther or not; but the Colonel never wanted money, anyhow, but went on prosperous in the world–and as the saying is, if he took the dirt out o’ the road, it id turn to money wid him; and so, in coorse of time, he bought great estates, and was a great man entirely–not a greater in Ireland, throth.”

 

Fearing here a digression on landed interest, I interrupted him to ask how he and the fiend settled their accounts at last?

 

“Oh, sir, you’ll hear that all in good time. Sure enough it’s terrible, and wondherful it is at the ind, and mighty improvin’ – glory be to God!”

 

“Is that what you say,” said I, in surprise, ” because a wicked and deluded man lost his soul to the tempter?”

 

“Oh, the Lord forbid, your honour! but don’t be impatient, and you’ll hear all. They say, at last, after many years of prosperity, that the old Colonel got stricken in years, and he began to have misgivin’s in his conscience for his wicked doin’s, and his heart was heavy as the fear of death came upon him; and sure enough, while he had such mournful thoughts, the dlvii kern to him, and tould him he should go meld hiss.

 

“Well to be sure the ould man was frekened, but he plucked up his courage and his cuteness, and towld the divil, in a bantherin’ way, jokin’ like, that he had partic’lar business thin, that he was goin’ to a party, and hoped an ould friend wouldn’t inconvaynience him, that a-way–”

 

“Well,” said I, laughing at the “put off” of going to a party, “the devil, of course would take no excuse, and carried him off in a flash of fire?”

 

“Oh, no, sir,” answered the old man, in something of a reproving, or, at least, offended tone – ” that’s the finish, I know very well, of many a story such as we’re talkin’ of, but that’s not the way of this, which is thruth every word, what I tell you.”

 

“I beg your pardon for the interruption,” said I.

 

“No offince in life, sir,” said the venerable chronicler, who was now deep in his story, and would not be stopped.

 

“Well, sir,” continued he, “the divil said he’d call the next day, and that he must be ready; and sure enough, in the evenin’ he kem to him; and when the Colonel seen him, he reminded him of his bargain that as long as he could give him some work he couldn’t do, he wasn’t obleeged to go.

 

“‘That’s thrue,’ says the divil.

 

“‘I’m glad you’re as good as your word, anyhow,’ says the Colonel.

 

“‘I never bruk my word yit,’ says the ould chap, cocking up his horns consaitedly–‘ honour bright,’ says he.

 

“‘Well, then,’ says the Colonel, ‘build me a mill, down there by the river,’ says he, ‘and let me have it finished by to-morrow mornin’.’

 

“‘Your will is my pleasure,’ says the ould chap, and away he wint; and the Colonel thought he had nick’d Ould Nick at last, and wint to bed quite aisy in his mind.

 

“But, jewel machree, sure the first thing he heerd the next mornin’ was, that the whole counthry round was runnin’ to see a fine bran-new mill, that was an the riverside, where, the evenin’ before, not a thing at all, at all but rushes was standin’, and all, of coorse, woudherin’ what brought it there; and some sayin ’twas not lucky, and many more throubled in their mind, but one and all agreein’ it was no good; and that’s the very mill forniust you, that you were takin’ aff and the stone that I noticed is a remarkable one–a big coign-stone–that they say the divil himself laid first, and has the mark of four fingers and a thumb an it, to this day.

 

“But when the Colonel heerd it, he was more throubled than any, of coorse, and began to conthrive what else he could think iv, to keep himself out iv the claws of the ould one. Well he often heerd tell that there was one thing the divil never could do, and I dar say you beard it too, sir–that is, that he couldn’t make a rope out of the sands of the sae; and so when the ould one kem to him the next day and said his job was done, and that now the mill was built, he must either tell him somethin’ else he wanted done, or come away wid him.

 

“So the Colonel said he saw it was all over wid him; ‘but,’ says he,’ I wouldn’t like to go wid you alive, and sure, it’s all the same to you, alive or dead?’

 

“‘Oh, that won’t do,’ says his frind; ‘I can’t wait no more,’ says he.

 

“‘I don’t want you to wait, my dear frind,’ says the Colonel; “all I want is, that you’ll be plazed to kill me before you take me away.’

 

“‘With pleasure,” says Ould Nick.

 

“‘But will you promise me my choice of dyin’ one partic’lar way?’ says the Colonel.

 

“‘Half a dozen ways, if it plazes you,’ says he.

 

“‘You’re mighty obleegin’, says the Colonel; ‘and so,’ says he, ‘I’d rather die by bein’ hanged with a rope made out of the sands of the sae,’ says he, lookin’ mighty knowin’ at the ould fellow.

 

‘I’ve always one about me,’ says the divil, ‘to obleege my frinds,’ says he; and with that he pull out a rope made of sand, sure enough.

 

“‘Oh, it’s game you’re makin’,’ says the Colonel, growin’ as white as a sheet.

 

“‘The game is mine, sure enough,’ says the ould fellow, grinnn’, with a terrible laugh.

 

“‘That’s not a sand-rope at all,’ says the Colonel.

 

“‘Isn’t it?’ says the divil, hittin’ him acrass the face with the ind iv the rope, and the sand (for it was made of sand, sure enough) went into one of his eyes, and made the tears come with the pain.

 

“‘That bates all I ever seen or heerd,’ says the Colonel, sthrivin’ to rally, and make another offer–‘ is there anything you can’t do?’

 

“‘Nothin’ you can tell me,’ says the divil,’ ‘so you may as well lay, off your palaverin’, and come along at wanst.’

 

“‘Will you give me one more offer?’ says the Colonel.

 

“‘You don’t deserve it,’ says the divil, ‘but I don’t care if I do;’ for you see, sir, be was only playin’ wid him, and tantalising the ould sinner.

 

“‘All fair,’ says the Colonel, and with that he ax’d him could he stop a woman’s tongue.

 

“‘Thry me,’ says Ould Nick.

 

“‘Well, then,’ says the Colonel, ‘make my lady’s tongue be quiet for the next month, and I’ll thank you.’

 

“‘She’ll never throuble you agin,’ says Ould Nick; and with that the Colonel heerd roarin’ and cryin’, and the door of his room was throwin’ open, and in ran his daughter, and fell down at his feet, telling him her mother had just dhropped dead.

 

“The minit the door opened, the divil runs and hides himself behind a big elbow-chair; and the Colonel was frekened almost out of his siven sinses, by raison of the sudden death of his poor lady, let alone the jeopardy he was in himself, seein’ how the divil had forestall’d him every way; and after ringin’ his bell, and callin’ to his servants, and recoverin’ his daughter out of her faint, he was goin’ away wid her out o’ the room, whin the divil caught hould of him by the skirt of the coat, and the Colonel was obleeged to let his daughter be carried out by the servants, and shut the door afther them.

 

“‘Well,’ says the divil, and he grinn’d and wagg’d his tail, and all as one as a dog when he’s plaz’d–‘ what do you say now?’ says he.

 

“‘Oh,’ says the Colonel, ‘only lave me alone antil I bury my poor wife,’ says he, ‘and I’ll go with you then, you villian,’ says he.

 

“‘Don’t call names,’ says the divil; ‘you had better keep a civil tongue in your head,’ says he; ‘and it doesn’t become a gintleman to forget good manners.’

 

“Well, sir, to make a long story short, the divil purtended to let him off, out of kindness, for three days, antil his wife was buried; but the raison of it was this, that when the lady, his daughter, fainted, be loosened the clothes about her throat, and in pulling some of her dhrees away, he tuk off a gould chain that was an her neck, and put it in his pocket, and the chain had a diamond crass on it, the Lord be praised! and the divil darn’t touch him while he had the sign of the crass about him.

 

“Well, the poor Colonel, God forgive him! was grieved for the loss of his lady, and she had an iligant berrin, and they say that when the prayers was readin’ over the dead, the ould Colonel took it to heart like anything, and the word o’ God kem home to his poor sinful sowl at last.

 

“Well,’ sir, to make a long story short, the ind if it was that for the three days o’ grace that was given to him the poor deluded ould sinner did nothin’ at all but read the Bible from mornin’ till night, and bit or sup didn’t pass his lips all the time, he was so intint upon the holy Book, but sat up in an ould room in the far ind of the house, and bid no one disturb him an no account, and struv to make his heart bould with the words iv life; and sure it was somethin’ strinthened him at last, though as the time drew nigh that the inimy was to come, he didn’t feel aisy. And no wondher! And, by dad! the three days was past and gone in no time, and the story goes that at the dead hour o’ the night, when the poor sinner was readin’ away as fast as he could, my jew’l! his heart jumped up to his mouth at gettin’ a tap on the shoulder.

 

“‘Oh, murther!’ says he. ‘Who’s there?’ for he was afeard to look up.

 

“‘It’s me,’ says the ould one, and he stood right forninst him, and his eyes like coals o’ fire lookin’ him through, and he said, with a voice that a’most split his ould heart: ‘Come!’ says he.

 

“‘Another day!’ cried out the poor Colonel.

 

“‘Not another hour,’ says Sat’n.

 

“‘Half an hour?’

 

“‘Not a quarther,’ says the divil, grinnin’, ‘with a bitther laugh. ‘Give over your readin’, I bid you,’ says he, ‘and come away wid me.’

 

“‘Only gi’ me a few minits,’ says he.

 

“‘Lave aff your palavering, you snakin’ ould sinner,’ says Sat’n. ‘You know you’re bought and sould to me, and a purty bargain I have o’ you, you ould baste,’ says he, ‘so come along at wanst,’ and he put out his claw to ketch him; but the Colonel tuk a fast hould o’ the Bible,’ and begg’d hard that he’d let him alone, and wouldn’t harm him antil the bit o’ candle that was just blinkin’ in the socket before him was burned out.

 

“‘Well, have it so, you dirty coward!’ says Ould Nick, and with that he spit an him.

 

“But the poor ould Colonel didn’t lose a minit–for he was cunnin’ to the ind–but snatched the little taste o’ candle that was forninst him out o’ the candlestick, and puttin’ it an the holy Book before him, he shut down the cover of it and quinched the light. With that the divil gave a roar like, a bull, and vanished in a flash o’ fire, and the poor Colonel fainted away in his chair; but the sarvants heerd the noise–for the divil tore aff the roof o’ the house when he left it–and run into the room, and brought their master to himself agin. And from that day out he was an althered man, and used to have the Bible read to him every day, for be couldn’t read himself any more, by raison of losin’ his eyesight when the divil hit him with the rope of sand in the face, and afther spit an him–for the sand wint into one eye, and he lost the other that-away, savin’ your presence.

 

“So you see, sir, afther all, the Colonel, undher heaven, was “too able for the divil, and by readin’ the good Book his sowl was saved, and, glory be to God! isn’t that mighty improvin’?

———————-

From Legends and Stories of Ireland – compiled and edited by Samuel Lover

ISBN: 978-1-907256-01-1

URL: http://www.abelapublishing.com/cg_lsi.html

 

 

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