Tom Foley's Ghost
THERE was a man Tom Foley, a farmer who lived at Castle-main, near the Leann River; he had a brother John, who lived eight miles beyond Tralee, on a farm of his own he had there. The Leann is a great river for fishing; above all, when the weather is favourable.
Tom Foley went fishing once on a cloudy day when it was raining a little. There was a great rise of fish in the river, and Tom was killing a power of them that turn.
The place where Tom was fishing was about seven fields from his house without being in sight of it. The main road was very near the river, and Tom wasn't above an hour killing fish when a man came the way on horseback, and when he saw Foley on the bank he made toward him.
"Is your name Tom Foley?" asked the man.
"It is," said Tom.
"Have you a brother named John?"
"Well, your brother is dead; he got a sudden death yesterday. I am his servant man, and I was sent by John's wife to say that you are wanted at the house without delay."
"You'd better not go back to-day," said Tom to the man. "There is a great rise of fish in this river; I haven't seen the like since I was born. Stop fishing here after me; you'll have time enough for the funeral to-morrow."
"Leave your overcoat with me," said the man, "and I'll stop." Tom gave his overcoat to the man and said, "I'll no mind going home. The clothes I have on will do very well, and do you take what fish I killed and what you'll kill yourself to my house: you'll find the road to it easily."
Tom mounted his horse and rode off. The servant man, who was of Tom's size, put on the coat and was fishing away for a few hours, when, whatever way it happened, he fell into the river and was drowned.
There were two other fishermen on the bank of the river at a distance from Tom. They didn't see the horse coming nor the servant man changing places with Foley, and they thought it was Tom was in it all the time. After a while they looked again, but if they did, they got no sight of a man on the bank.
"It seems Tom has gone home," said one of the men; "there is no rise of fish here, and I'll go fishing the river down before me."
He went down till he came to where Foley's bag of fish was. He knew then that it was not home he went. So he looked into the water, and what should he see but the body at the bottom of the river and Tom Foley's coat on it. He screeched out to the other man then, saying that Tom Foley was drowned.
The other man came and stayed in the place, while the first went with an account to the house and told Tom's wife, Mary, that her husband was drowned in the river. Mary began to screech and lament in a way you'd think the life would leave her. The man ran and collected the neighbours, and went with them and Mary Foley to bring home the corpse.
When the people raised the body from the river, they found the face all eaten by eels: no one could know that it was Tom Foley was in it but for the coat.
Mary began to moan and lament now at sight of the body. "Oh," cried she, "Tom aghraghil, you're gone from me; how can I live without you now? Oh, Tom, my darling, why did you leave me?"
It would bring the tears to any man's eyes to look at poor Mary Foley, and her heart nearly breaking. The neighbours took the body home, and there was a great wake in the Foleys' house that night. The neighbouring women comforted Mary the best way they could.
"Don't be flying in the face of God, my dear," said one old woman; "sure nothing happens in the whole world without the will of the Almighty. It was the Lord took your husband, and you should bear the loss and be resigned; the Lord will reward you."
Next day there was a great funeral, for Tom had many friends and relations. The parish priest himself went to the funeral; he didn't send the curate.
The graveyard was four miles from Tom's village, and on the road home Mary Foley and her three brothers stopped at a public-house, half-way. They were tired, hungry, and dry; in need of refreshment. Mary's brothers had a friend of theirs with them, a man who lived two villages away--a fine, able, strong fellow, and he sat down with the company.
When they had eaten a bite and taken some drink for themselves, Mary was complaining of her lonely condition, and the tears coming out of her eyes. "How am I to live without Tom?" asked she. "Sure everybody will be robbing me. I'll be beggared unless ye do something to help me."
"Yerra, woman, how are we to help you?" said the oldest brother. "We have all we can do to mind our own families."
"That's true for you," said the second brother, "but still and all we can mend the trouble. There is no way for you, Mary," said he, turning to the sister, "but to many, and the sooner you marry the better. Servant-men will neglect your work; they'll only be taking your money, and eating and drinking all before them. It's not long you'll have a roof over your head, if it's depending on servant-men you'll be. You must marry, and the sooner the better."
With that the company had another glass.
"Now, Mary," said the brother, "here is the man for you to marry--John Garvey, a friend of mine, and you couldn't find a better husband if you were to wait ten years for him."
Mary started up against the brother, and wasn't it a shame for him, she said, to be scandalising her with his talk, and wouldn't it be fitter for him to have some respect for his only sister. The other brothers helped this one now, and the end of the whole matter was that before they left the public-house the match was made between John Garvey and Mary.
"Follow my advice, Mary," said the eldest brother; "go straight to the priest's house and be married offhand; sure there's no good in waiting."
"Wouldn't it be a shame before all the neighbours for me to marry on the day of my first husband's funeral?"
"Sure the neighbours needn't know that you are married. Let them think that John is in service with you."
"The priest wouldn't many us," said Mary, "if we asked him."
"Believe me, he'll marry you if you pay him well," said the brother.
Whether in her heart Mary was willing or not, no one knew, but she consented. "Have no fear," said the brothers; "no one will know anything of the marriage but the priest and ourselves."
They went to the priest's house, and when all were inside, the servant-girl went up to the priest and said that Mrs. Foley was below in the kitchen. The priest came. He said he was very sorry for her loss, and asked what could he do for her? what was it brought her?
"Oh, father," said she, "I am in a very bad way as I am. Every one will be striving to rob me, and nobody to do my work. My brothers tell me that if I'll be said by them I'll marry, and I'm thinking to follow their advice, and it's that that brought me."
"Oh, you villain of a woman, to many a second time on the day of your first husband's funeral!"
"Don't blame me, father," said Mary; "maybe you'd have another mind from what you have if you were in my place. Sure no one need be the wiser. Many me to this man here, John Garvey, and I'll give you three pounds."
"I will not take it from you," said the priest.
"Well, father, I'll give you all the money I have in my pocket: I'll give you five pounds."
"I'll not marry you," said the priest.
With that, one of the brothers took Mary aside and said: "Say that you'll give him the big pig you have as well as the money."
"Well, father," said Mary, "with the five pounds I'll give you a fat pig that'll keep you in bacon for a twelvemonth."
Now one of the brothers spoke up: "There is no need of publishing the marriage at present. People will think that John Garvey is in service with my sister."
The priest wanted to refuse, and was opening his mouth, but the first word wasn't out when the curate took him aside and said:
"Why not marry the poor woman? Marry her. No one will be the worse for it, and no one the wiser; and, besides, you'll have a supply of fine bacon."
The priest consented at last. One of the brothers and the priest's own servant-girl were the witnesses, and nobody knew a word of what happened. Mary Foley that was--she was Mary Garvey now--paid the five pounds, left good health with the priest, and was thankful to him. Herself and her new husband went home and the brothers went to their own houses. There was no one before the young couple but the servant-girl and Tom Foley's mother. The old woman was surprised when she saw John Garvey, and wondered what brought him on the evening of Tom's funeral.
Mary sent the servant-girl about a mile away on an errand, and when the girl was gone she turned to Garvey and said:
"Well, John, bring your sister to-morrow to work for me, and I'll not delay you any longer."
With that John turned away and Mary went with Foley's mother to an outhouse. While they were gone, Garvey went back, walked into his wife's room, shut the door, and stopped inside. After a time the servant girl came home and went to bed in her own place, and the poor old mother was left alone at the hearth, lamenting and mourning for her son dead and buried.
When the light was out and all was still and quiet, about ten o'clock, Tom Foley came home, after burying his brother. He tried to open the door. It was bolted; he knocked. The mother went to the door, and when she heard Tom's voice she was frightened and asked what was troubling his soul, that he'd come back from the other world after being buried that day.
"Oh, mother," said Foley, "open the door and leave me in."
"I will not," said the mother. "You cannot come in, my son; but tell me what is troubling your soul. I'll have masses said for you and give alms."
Foley was very tired after the journey, and couldn't stop at the door any longer. He went to the barn; there was a large heap of straw in one end of it, and four or five pigs with the big pig at the other end. Foley lay down in the straw and soon he was asleep.
During the evening the parish priest began to be in dread that the woman might change her mind; now that she was married she might put the pig aside and he'd be left without his bacon. So he called his servant-boy and told him to bring the big pig from Mrs. Foley's.
The boy took a whip and went to Tom's house for the pig. He knew well where was the barn and where was the pig. When he came to the barn he went in and stirred up the pigs; they began to screech and make a great noise. The big pig being so bulky and strong, wouldn't go out, and Foley woke up with the screeching. He looked around to know what was troubling the pigs, and saw the boy striving to take the big one away with him. Tom was in very bad humour, so he made after the boy and gave him a good blow in the back with a wattle, and asked, is it stealing he was at that hour of the night?
The boy was knocked, but if he was, he rose quickly and away with him like the wind. He didn't get another blow, though he had three or four falls from fright before he reached the priest's house, thinking that Foley was after him. When he went in there was terror in his heart. The priest asked, did he bring the pig so soon? He said he didn't bring the pig, and he couldn't, for Tom Foley was minding the place as well as if he wasn't buried at all.
"What's that you tell me?" asked the priest.
"Oh, father, sure when I went to bring the pig Tom Foley was inside in the straw. The pigs made a noise, and he ran after me with a big wattle and asked why was I disturbing his pigs at that hour of the night. He gave me a blow in the back and knocked me on the road. I got three or four other falls from fright before I came home."
"Yerra, go, my boy, and bring me the pig. It's some stranger that's in it; it's thieving he is. If you don't bring the pig to-night, maybe we won't have him to bring on Monday."
"Whatever you do, father, or whatever will happen to the pig, I won't face Foley a second time," said the boy.
The priest called a small boy that he had herding, and said, "Go you and bring the big pig from Foley's."
"I'll go if somebody goes with me."
"Oh, I'll go with him," said the curate's brother, who happened to be visiting him. "I know the place, and I knew Tom Foley."
The two went off together, and the curate's brother stopped a couple of fields away from Foley's house. The boy went on, and when he began to drive out the big pig, the pig made a noise that woke Foley a second time, and he went after this boy more venomously than after the first one. The boy ran for his life to the field where the curate's brother was. Foley had to turn back, and didn't catch him. The curate's brother saw Foley hunting the boy, and knew that 'twas no lie for the first boy, that the ghost was in it. The two hurried home with what strength was in their legs.
"Oh, then, Foley's ghost is there as sure as I am standing before you," said the brother to the curate in presence of the priest.
On the following morning Foley rose out of the barn drowsy and queer after the night. The door of his house was closed and he had no chance of going in. "I will go to first mass," thought Tom, "with the clothes I have on; Mary will be up before me when I come home. I can sleep the remainder of the day and take a good rest."
Whenever a man going the way saw Foley he left the road to him and ran through the field. Foley didn't know why people were leaving the road to him. When he went into the chapel all made a rush towards the altar. The priest, who came out at the moment, asked the people what ailed them.
"Oh, God between us and harm," said one, "Tom Foley is here from the other world."
The priest called Foley by name, and asked, was he there?
"Why shouldn't I be here, father? Don't you see me?"
"Tell me, in the name of God, where did you come from?" asked the priest.
"Where would I come from," said Foley, "but from my own house?"
"Sure the whole parish knows that you were drowned," said the priest, "and buried yesterday. Wasn't I at your funeral myself?"
"Well, then, you and the whole parish were mistaken," said Foley. "I buried my brother John yesterday eight miles beyond Tralee."
"And who was the man that was drowned?" asked the priest.
"I left my brother's servant-man here fishing instead of myself. Maybe he was drowned and the people buried him. I know well that they didn't bury me."
The priest stepped out and called the curate, and told him that Foley wasn't dead at all. "Do you hurry now to Tom's house," said he, "and tell John Garvey to be off with himself, that Foley is alive and will be home very soon, and when Garvey is gone tell Mrs. Foley that I'll come with Tom after first mass, and to be ready for him."
The curate hurried away, and the priest went in to Foley. "Your wife may not believe that you are not dead," said he. "I will go with you after mass and tell her that you are not dead at all."
"I knew," said Tom, "that there was something wrong. It was late last night when I came home. My wife was in bed, no one up before me but my mother, and she wouldn't open the door for me, but began to ask what was troubling my soul. She said to tell her, and she would give alms and have mass said for me. Now I know why this was."
"It will be the same with her to-day," said the priest. "I'll go to the house with you."
The two went to the house after mass. When Mary Foley saw Tom she dropped on the bench and looked as though she'd die from fright.
"Don't be afraid," said the priest. "It wasn't Tom that was buried but his brother's servant-man."
Tom told the wife how he gave the loan of his coat to the servant-man and went to bury his brother John. The wife was satisfied now. The priest took her aside, and told her to have no trouble of mind on account of what she had done by getting married.
"You meant no harm," said he, "but no one in the world must know a word about it. You and I will keep our own--do you keep the big pig and I'll keep my five pounds."