THE HARVEST DINNER
The following tales are some of those which we contributed to the Irish Fairy Legends. Subjoined is a selection from the verses which we have written on various occasions, chiefly to oblige our lady-friends. They are inserted merely to show that the writer could compose well-rimed stanzas, while he lays no claim whatever to the title of poet.
The Harvest Dinner
It was Monday, and a fine October morning. The sun had been some time above the mountains, and the hoar frost and the dew-tops on the gossamers [a] were glittering in the light, when Thady Byrne, on coming in to get his breakfast, saw his neighbour Paddy Cavenagh, who lived on the other side of the road, at his own door tying his brogues.
"A good morrow to you, Paddy, honey," said Thady Byrne.
"Good morrow, kindly, Thady," said Paddy."
Why, thin, Paddy, avick, it isn't your airly risin', anyhow, that 'ill do you any harm this mornin'."
"It's thrue enough for you, Thady Byrne," answered Paddy, casting a look up at the sky; "for I b'leeve it 'a purty late in the day. But I was up, you see, murdherin' late last night."
"To be shure, thin, Paddy, it was up at the great dinner, yisterday, above at the big house you wor."
"Ay was it; an' a rattlin' fine dinner we had uv it too."
"Why, thin, Paddy, agrah, what's to all you now, but you'd jist sit yourself down here on this piece o' green sod, an' tell us all about it from beginnin' to ind."
"Niver say the word twist, man; I'll give you the whole full an' thrue account uv it, an' welcome."
They sat down on the roadside, and Paddy thus began.
"Well, you see, Thady, we'd a powerful great harvist uv it, you know, this year, an' the min all worked like jewels, as they are; an' the masther was in great sperits, an' he promis'd he'd give us all a grand dinner whin the dhrawin'-in was over, an' the corn all safe in the haggard. So this last week, you see, crown'd the business; an' on Satherday night the last shafe was nately tied an' sint in to the misthress, an' everything was flnisht, all to the tatchin' o' the ricks. Well, you see, jist as Larry Toole was come down from headin' the last rick, an' we war takin' away the laddher, out comes the misthress herself--long life to her--by the light o' the moon; an', 'Boys,' sez she, 'yez hav' flnish'd the harvist bravely, an' I invite yez all to dinner here to-morrow; an' if yez come airly, yez 'ill git mass in the big hall, widout the throuble o' goin' up all the ways to the chapel for it.'"
"Why, thin, did she raally say so, Paddy?"
"That she did--the divil the word o' lie in it."
"Well, go on."
"Well, if we didn't set up a shout for her, it 's no matther!"
"Ay, an' a good right yez had too, Paddy, avick."
"Well, you see, yistherday mornin'--which, God be praised, was as fine a day as iver come out of the sky--whin I tuk the beard off o' me, Tom Conner an' I set off together for the big house. An' I don't know, Thady, whether it was the fineness o' the day, or the thoughts o' the good dinner we wor to have, or the kindness o' the misthress, that med my heart so light, but I filt, anyhow, as gay as any skylark. Well, whin we got up to the house, there was every one o' the people that 's in the work, min, women and childher, all come together in the yard; an' a purty sight it was to luk upon, Thady: they wor all so nate an so clane, an' so happy."
"Thrue 'for you, Paddy, agrah; an' a fine thing it is, too, to work wid a raal gintleman like the masther. But till us, avick, how was it the misthress conthrived to get the mass for yez: shure Father Miley himself, or the codjuthor, didn't come over."
"No, in troth didn't they, but the misthress managed it betther nor all that. You see, Thady, there 'a a priest, an ould friend o' the family's, one Father Mulhall's on a visit, this fortnight past, up at the big house. He's as gay a little man as iver spoke, only he 's a little too fond o' the dhrop,--the more 'a the pity,--an' it's whispered about among the sarvints that by manes uv it he lost a parish he had down the counthry; an' he was an his way up to Dublin, whin he stopt to spind a few days wid his ould finds the masther an' misthress.
"Well, you see, the misthress on Satherday, widout sayin' a single word uv it to any livin' sowl, writes a letther wid her own hand, an' sinds Tom Freen off wid it to Father Miley, to ax him for a loan o' the vistmints. Father Miley, you know 's a mighty ginteel man intirely, and one that likes to obleege the quolity in anything that doesn't go agin' his juty; an' glad he was to hav' it in his power to sarve the misthress; an' he sint off the vistmints wid all his heart an' sowl an' as civil a letther, Tommy Freen says, for he hard the misthress readin' it, as ivir was pinned."
"Well, there was an alther, you see, got up in the big hall, jist bechune the two doors--if ivir you wor in it--ladin' into the store-room, an' the room the childher sleep in; and whin iviry thing was ready we all come in, an' the priest gev' us as good mass iviry taste as if we wor up at the chapel for it. The misthress an' all the family attinded thimsilves, an' they stud jist widinside o' the parlour-door; and it was raaly surprisin', Thady, to see how dacently they behaved thimsilves. If they wor all their lives goin' to chapel they cudn't have behaved thimsilves betther nor they did."
"Ay, Paddy, mavourneen; I'll be bail they didn't skit and laugh the way some people would be doin'."
"Laugh! not thimsilves, indeed. They'd more manners, if nothin' else, nor to do that. Well, to go an 'aid my story: whin the mass was ovir we whit sthrollin' about the lawn an' place tilt three o'clock come, an' thin you see the big bell rung out for dinner, an' may be it wasn't we that wor glad to hear it. So away wid us to the long barn where the dinner was laid out; an' 'pon my conscience, Thady Byrne, there's not one word o' lie in what I'm goin' to tell you; but at the sight o' so much vittles iviry taste uv appetite in the world lift me, an' I thought I'd ha' fainted down an the ground that was undher me. There was, you see, two rows o' long tables laid the whole Iinth o' the barn, an' table cloths spred upon iviry inch o' them; an' there was rounds o' beef, an' romps o' beef, an' ribs o' beef; both biled an' roast, an' there was ligs o' mootton, and han's o' pork, and pieces o' fine bacon, an' there was cabbage an' pratees to no ind, an'a knife an' fork laid for ivirybody; an' barrils o' beer an' porther, with the cocks in iviry one o' them, an' moogs an' porringirs in hapes. In all my born days, Thady dear, I nivir laid eyes on sich a load o' vittles."
"By the powers o' dilph! Paddy, ahaygar, an' it was a grand sight shure enough. Tare an' ayjirs! what ill loock I had not to be in the work this year! But go on, agra."
"Well, you see, the masther himself stud up at the ind uv one o' the tables, an' coot up a fine piece o' the beef for us; and right forenint him at the other ind, sot ould Paddy Byrne, for, though you know he is a farmer himself, yet the misthress is so fond uv him--he is sich a mighty dacint man--that she would by all manner o' manes hav' him there. Then the priest was at the head o' th' other table, an' said grace for us, an' thin fill to slashin' up another piece o' the beef for us: and forenint him sot Jim Murray the stchewart; an' shure enough, Thady, it was oursilves that played away in grand style at the beef an' the mootton, an' the cabbage, an' all th' other fine things. An' there was Tom Free; and all th' other sarvints waitin' upon us an' handin' us dhrink, jist as if we wor so many grand gintlemin that wor dinin' wid the masther. Well, you see, whin we wor about half doon, in walks the misthress hursilf, an' the young masther, an' the young ladies, an' the ladies from Dublin that 'a down on a visit wid the misthress, jist, as she said, to see that we wor happy and merry ovir our dinner; an' thin, Thady, you see, widout anybody sayin' a single word, we all stud up like one man, an' iviry man an' boy wid his full porringer o' porther in his hand dhrank long life an' success to the misthress and masther an' iviry one o' the family. I don't know for others, Thady, but for mysilf; I nivir said a prayer in all my life more from the heart; and a good right I had, shure, and iviry one that was there, too; for, to say nothin' o' the dinner, is there the likes uv her in the whole side o' the counthry for goodness to the poor, whethir they're sick or they're well. Wouldn't I mysilf. if it worn't but for her, be a lone an' desolate man this blissed day?"
"It's thrue for you, avick, for she brought Judy through it betther nor any docther o' thim all."
"Well, to make a long story short, we et, an' we dhrank, an' we laughed, an' we talked, till we wor tirt, an' as soon as it grew dusk; we wor all called agin into the hail: an' there, you see, the mnisthress had got ovir Tim Connel, the blind piper, an' had sint for all the women that could come, an' the cook had tay for thim down below in the kitchen; an' they come up to the hail, an' there was chairs set round it for us all to sit upon, an' the misthress come out o' the parlour, an' 'Boys,' says she, 'I hope yez med a good dinnir, an' I 'ye bin thinkin' uv yez, you see, an' I 'ye got yez plinty o' partnirs, an' it's your own faults if yes don't spind a pleasint evinin'.' So wid that we set up another shout for the misthress, an' Tim sthruck up, an' the masther tuk out Nilly Mooney into the middle of the flure to dance a jig, and it was they that futted it nately. Thin the masther called out Dinny Moran, an' dhragged him up to one o' the Dublin young ladies, an' bid Dinny be stout an' ax her out to dance wid him. So Dinny, you see, though he was ashamed to make so free wid the lady, still he was afeard not to do as the masther bid him; so, by my conscience, he bowled up to her manfully, an' hild out the fist an' axed her out to dance wid him, an' she gev' him her hand in a crack, an' Dinny whipt her out into the middle o' the hail, forenint us all, an' pulled up his breeches an' called out to Tim to blow up 'The Rocks of Cashel' for thim. An' thin my jewil if you wor but to see thim! Dinny flingin' the Jigs about as if they 'd fly from off him, an' the lady now here, now there, jist for all the world as if she was a spent, for not a taste o' n'ise did she make on the flure that ivir was hard; and Dinny callin' out to Tim to play it up fasther an' fasther, an' Tim almost workin' his elbow through the bag, till at last the lady was fairly tirt, an' Dinny thin clapt his hands an' up jumpt Piggy Reilly, an' she attacked him bouldly, an' danced down Dinny an' thin up got Johnny Regan an' put her down complately. An' sence the world was a world, I b'leeve there nivir was such dancin' seen."
"The sarra the doubt uv it, avick I 'm sartin'; they 're all o' thim sich rael fine dancers. An' only to think o' the lady dancin' wid the likes o' Dinny!"
"Well, you see, poor ould Paddy Byrne, whin he hears that the womin wor all to be there, in he goes into the parlor to the misthress, an' axes her if he might make so bould as to go home and fetch his woman.~So the misthress, you see, though you know Katty Byrne 's no great favourite wid hur, was glad ta obleege Paddy, an' so Katty Byrne was there too. An' thin ould Hugh Carr axt hur out to move a minnet wid him, an' there was Hugh, as stiff as if he dined on one o' the spits, wid his black wig an' his long brown coat, an' his blue stockin's, movin' about wid his hat in his hand, an' ladin' Katty about, an' lukin' so soft upon her; an' Katty, in her stiff mob-cap, wid the ears pinned down undher her chin, an' hum little black hat on the top uv her head; an' she at one corner curcheyin' to Hugh, an' Hugh at another bowin' to her, an' iviry body wundhenin' at thim, they moved it so iligantly."
"Troth, Paady, avourneen, that was well worth goin' a mile o' ground to see."
"Well, you see; whin the dancin' was ovir they tuk to the singin', an' Bill Carey gev' the 'Wounded Hussar,' an' the' Poor but Honest So'dger,' in sich style that yi'd have h'ard him up on the top o' Slee Roo; an' Dinny Moran an' ould Tom Freen gev' us the best songs they had, an' the priest sung the 'Cruiskeen Laun' for us gaily, an' one o' the young ladies played an' sung upon a thing widin in the parlor, like a table, that was purtier nor any pipes to listen to."
"An' didn't Bill giv' yes 'As down by Banns's Banks I sthrayed?' Shune that's one o' the best songs he has."
"An' that he did, till he med the very sates shake undher us; but a body can't remimber iviry thing, you know. Well, where was I? Oh, ay! You see, my dear, the poor little priest was all the night long goin' backwards an' forwards, iviry minit, bechune the parlor an' the hal; an' the sperits, you see, was lyin' opin on the sideboord, an' the dear little man he cudn't, for the life uv him, keep himself from it, so he kipt helpin' himself to a dhrop now an' a dhrop thin, till at last he got all as one as tipsy. So thin he comes out into the hall among us, an' goes about whispenin' to us to go home, an' not to be keepin' the family out o' their bids. But the misthress she saw what he was at, an' she stud up, an' she spoke out an' she said,' Good people,' sez she, 'nivir mind what the priest says to yez; yez are my company, an' not his, an' yes are heartily welcum to stay as long as yez like.' So whin he found he cud get no good uv us at all, he rowled off wid himself to his bid; an' his head, you see, was so bothered wid the liquor he'd bin taken', that he nivir once thought o' takin' off his boots, but tumbled into bed wid thim upon him, Tommy Freen tould us, whin he wint into the room to luk afther him; and divil be in Tim, when he h'ard it but he lilts up the 'Priest in his Boots;' and, God forgive us, we all burst out laughin', for shure who could hilp it, if it was the bishop himself? "
"Troth, it was a shame for yez, anyhow. But Paddy, agrah, did yez come away at all?"
"Why at last we did, afther another round o' the punch to the glory an' success o' the family. And now, Thady, comes the most surprisintest part o' the whole story. I was all alone, you see, for my woman, you know, cudn't lave the childher to come to the
dance; so, as it was a fine moonshiny night, nothim' 'ud sarve me but I must go out into the paddock, to luk afther poor Rainbow the plough bullock, that 's got a bad shouldher, and so by that manes, you see, I misst o' the cumpany, an' had to go home all alone by myself. Well, you see, it was out by the back gate I come, an' it was thin about twelve in the night, as well as I cud jidge by the Plough, an' the moon was shinin' as bright as a silver dish, and there wasn't a sound to be hard, barrin' the screechin' o' the ould owl down in the ivy-wall; an' I filt it all very pleasant, for I was sumhow rather hearty, you see, wid the dhrink I'd bin takin'; for you know, Thady Byrne, I'm a sober man."
"That's no lie for you, Paddy, avick. A little, as they say, goes a great way wid you."
"Well, you see, an I wint whistlin' to mysilf some o' the chunes they wor singin', and thinkin' uv any thin, shure, but the good people; whin jist as I come to the corner o the plantation, an' got a sight o' the big bush, I thought, faith, I seen sum things movin' backwards an' for'ards, an' dancin' like, up in the bush. I was quite sartin it was the fairies that, you know, resort to it, for I cud see, I thought, their little red caps an' green jackits quite plain. Well, I was thinkin', at first, o' goin' back an' gittin' home through the fields; but, says I to myself; says I, what sh'uld I be afeard uv? I'm an honest man that does nobody any harm; an' I h'ard mass this mornin'; an' it 's neither Holly eve nor St. John's eve, nor any other o' their great days, an' they can do me no harm, I 'm sartin. So I med the sign o' the crass, an' an I went in God's name, till I come right undher the bush; and what do you think they wor, Thady, afther all?"
"Arrah, how can I till? But you wor a stout man anyhow, Paddy, agrah!"
"Why, thin, what was it but the green laves o' the ould bush, an' the rid bunches o' the haves that war wavin' and shakin' in the moonlight. Well on I goes till I come to the cornir o' the Crab road, whin I happined to cast my eyes ovir tow'st the little moat in the Moatfield, an' there, by my sowl! (God forgive me for swaerin',) I seen the fairies in rael airnist."
"You did, thin, did you?"
"Ay, by my faith, did I, an' a mighty purty sight it was to see, too, I can tell you, Thady. The side o' the moat, you see, that luks into the field was opin, and out uv it there come the darlintest little calvacade o' the purtiest little fellows you ivir laid your eyes upon. They wor all dhrest in green huntin' frocks, wid nice little rid caps on their heads, an' they wor all mounted on purty little, long-tailed, white ponies, not so big as young kids, an they rode two and two so nicely. Well, you see, they tuk right acrass the field, jist abuv the san'pit, an' I was wundherin' in myself what they d do whim they come to the big ditch, thinkin' they 'd nivir get over it. But I'll tell you what it is, Thady. Misther Tom and the brown mare, though they. 're both o' thim gay good at either ditch or wall, they're not to be talked uv in the same day wid thim. They tuk the ditch, you see, big as it is, in full sthroke; not a man o' thim was shuk in his sate, nor lost his rank; it was pop, pop, pop, ovir wid thim; and thin, hurra, away wid them like shot acrass the High Field, in the direction o' the ould church. Well, my dear, while I was sthrainin' my eyes lukin' afther them, I hears a great rumblin' noise cumin' out o' the moat, an' whim I turned about to luk at it, what did I see but a great ould family coach-an'-six comin' out o' the moat, and makin' direct for the gate where I was stannin'. Well, says I, I 'in a lost man now, anyhow. There was no use at all, you see, in thinkin' to run for it, for they wor dhrivin' at the rate uv a hunt; so down I got into the gripe o' the ditch, thinkin' to snake off wid mysilf while they war op'nin' the gate. But, be the laws, the gate flew open widout a sowl layin' a finger to it, the very instant minuet they come up to it, an' they wheeled down the road jist close to the spot where I was hidin', an' I seen thin as plain as I now see you; an' a quare sight it was, too, to see; for not a morsel uv head that ivir was, was there upon one o' the horses, nor on the coachman neither, and yet, for all that, Thady, the Lord Lef'nint's coach cudn't ha' med a handier nor a shorter turn nor they med out o' the gate; an' the blind thief uv a coachman, jist as they wor makin' the wheel, was near takin' the eye out o' me wid the lash uv his long whip, as he was cuttin' up the horses to show off his dhrivin'. I've my doubts that the schamer knew I was there well enough, and that he did it all a purpose. Well, as it passed by me, I peept in at the quolity widinside, an' not a head, no not as big as the head uv a pin, was there among the whole kit o' them, an' four fine futmin that war stannin' behind the coach war jist like the rest o' thim."
"Well, to be shure, but it was a quare sight."
"Well, away they wint tattherim' along the road, makin' the fire fly out o' the stones at no rate. So when I seen they 'd no eyes, I knew it was onpossible they could ivir see me, so up I got out o' the ditch, and afther them wid me along the road as fast as ivir l culd lay fut to ground. But whin I got to the rise o' the hill I seen they wor a great ways a-head o' me, an' they 'd taken to the fields, an' war makin' off for the ould church too. I thought they might have some business o' their own there, an' that it might not be safe for sthrangers to be goin' afther thim; so as I was by this time near my own house, I wint in and got quietly to bid, widout sayin' anyt'hing to the woman about it; an' long enough it was before I cud get to sleep for thinkin' o' them, an' that's the raison, Thady, I was up so late this mornin'. But wasn't it a sthrange thing, Thady?"
"Faith, an' shure it was, Paddy ahayger, as sthrange a thing as ivir was. But are you quite sartin an' shure that you seen thim?"
"Am I sartin an' shure I seen thim? Am I sartin an' shure I see the nose there on your face? What was to ail me not to see thim? Wasn't the moon shinin' as bright as day I An' didn't they pass widin a yard o' me? And did ivir any one see me dhrunk, or hear me tell a lie?"
"It 's thrue for you, Paddy, no one ivir did, and myself doesn't rightly know what to say to it?" [b]
[a] As we have above given an etymon of cobweb, we will here repeat our note on the word gossamer in the Fairy Legends.
"Gossamers, Johnson says, are the long white cobwebs which fly in the air in calm sunny weather, and be derives the word from the Low Latin gossapium. This is altogether unsatisfactory. The gossamers are the cobwebs which may be seen, particularly of a still autumnal morning, in such numbers in the furze-bushes, and which are raised by the wind and floated through the air, as thus exquisitely pictured by Browne in his Britannia's Pastorals (ii. 2),
The milk-white gossamers not upwards snowed.
Every lover of nature must have observed and admired the beautiful appearance of the gossamers in the early morning, when covered with dew-drops, which, like prisms, separate the rays of light, and shoot the blue, red, yellow, and other colours of the spectrum, in brilliant confusion. Of King Oberon we are told--
A fiche mantle be did wear,
Made of tinsel gossamer,
Bestrew'd over with a few
Diamond drops of morning dew.
A much wore probable origin of gossamer than that proposed by Johnson is suggested by what baa been now stated. Gossamer is, we think, a corruption of gorse, or gois samyt, i. e. the samyt, or finely-woven silken web that lies on the gorse or furze. Voss, in a note on his Luise (iii. 17), says that the popular belief in Germany is, that the gossamers are woven by the Dwarfs.
[b] In the notes on this story Mr. Croker gives the following letter:--
"The accuracy of the following story I can vouch for, having heard it told several times by the person who saw the circumstances.
"About twenty years back, William Cody, churn-boy to a person near Cork, had, after finishing his day's work, to go through six or eight fields to his own house, about twelve o'clock at night. He was passing alongside of the ditch of a large field, and coming near a quarry, he heard a great cracking of whips on the other side. He went on to a gap in the same ditch, and out rode a little horseman, dressed in green, and mounted in the best manner, who put a whip to his breast, and made him stop until several hundred horsemen, all dressed alike, rode out of the gap at full speed, and swept round a glen. When the last horseman was clear off, the sentinel clapt spurs to his horse, gave three cracks of his whip, and was out of sight in a second.
"The person would swear to the truth of the above, as he was quite sober and sensible at the time. The place had always before the name of being very airy [the Scottish eirie].
"Royal Cork Institution, P. BATH. June 3, 1825."