Thady and Grace Connor lived on the borders of a large turf bog, in the parish of Clondevaddock, where they could hear the Atlantic surges thunder in on the shore, and see the wild storms of winter sweep over the Muckish mountain, and his rugged neighbours. Even in summer the cabin by the bog was dull and dreary enough.
Thady Connor worked in the fields, and Grace made a livelihood as a pedlar, carrying a basket of remnants of cloth, calico, drugget, and frieze about the country. The people rarely visited any large town, and found it convenient to buy from Grace, who was welcomed in many a lonely house, where a table was hastily cleared, that she might display her wares. Being considered a very honest woman, she was frequently entrusted with commissions to the shops in Letterkenny and Ramelton. As she set out towards home, her basket was generally laden with little gifts for her children.
"Grace, dear," would one of the kind housewives say, "here's a farrel of oaten cake, with a taste of butter on it; take it with you for the weans;" or, "Here's half-a-dozen of eggs; you have a big family to support."
Small Connors of all ages crowded round the weary mother, to rifle her basket of these gifts. But her thrifty, hard life came suddenly to an end. She died after an illness of a few hours.
Thady was in bed the night after the funeral, and the fire still burned brightly, when he saw his departed wife across the room and bend over the cradle. Terrified, he covered his face with the blanket; and on looking up again the appearance was gone.
Next night he lifted the infant out of the cradle, and laid it behind him in the bed, hoping thus to escape his ghostly visitor; but Grace appeared in the room, and stretching over him to wrap up her child. Shrinking and shuddering, the poor man exclaimed, "Grace, woman, what brings you back? What is it you want with me?"
"I want nothing from you, Thady, but to put that baby back in her cradle," replied the spectre. "You're too afraid of me, but my sister Rose will not be – tell her to meet me tomorrow evening in the old wallsteads."
Rose lived with her mother about a mile off, but she obeyed her sister's summons without the least fear, and kept the strange tryste in due time.
"Rose, dear," she her departed sister as she appeared before her in the old wallsteads, "my mind's uneasy about the two red shawls in the basket. Matty Hunter and Jane Taggart paid me for them, and I bought them with their money, Friday was eight days. Give them the shawls tomorrow. And old Mosey M'Corkell gave me money for a wiley coat; it's in under the other things in the basket. And now farewell; I can get to my rest."
"Grace, Grace, wait a minute," cried the faithful sister, as the dear voice grew fainter, and the dear face began to fade – "Grace, darling! Thady? The children? One word more!" but neither cries nor tears could further detain the spirit hastening to its rest.
❋ The key is to put matters straight and have very little unsettled business before departing.
There was a woman in Connemara, the wife of a fisherman; as he had always good luck, she had plenty of fish at all times stored away in the house ready for market. But, to her great annoyance, she found that a great fox used to come in at night and devour all the best and finest fish. So she kept a big stick by her, and determined to watch.
One day, as she and a woman were spinning together, the house suddenly became quite dark; and the door was burst open as if by the blast of the tempest, when in walked a huge red fox, who went straight up to the fire, then turned round and growled at them.
"Why, surely this is foxy," said a young girl, who was by, sorting fish.
"I will teach you reverence," said the fox; and, jumping at her, he scratched her arm till the blood came. "There, now," he said, "you will be more civil another time when a gentleman comes to see you." And with that he walked over to the door and shut it close, to prevent any of them going out, for the poor young girl, while crying loudly from fright and pain, had made a desperate rush to get away.
Just then a man was going by, and hearing the cries, he pushed open the door and tried to get in; but the fox stood on the threshold, and would let no one pass. On this the man attacked him with his stick, and gave him a sound blow. The fox, however, was more than a match in the fight, for it flew at him and tore his face and hands so badly that the man at last took to his heels and ran away as fast as he could.
"Now, it's time for my dinner," said the fox, going up to examine the fish that was laid out on the tables. "I hope the fish is good today. Now, don't disturb me, nor make a fuss; I can help myself."
With that he jumped up, and began to devour all the best fish, while he growled at the woman.
"Away, out of this, you furry beast," she cried, giving it a blow with the tongs.
But the fox only grinned, and went on tearing and spoiling and devouring the fish, evidently not a bit the worse for the blow. On this, both the women attacked it with sticks, and struck hard blow, they thought. But the fox glared at them and, making a leap, tore their heads and arms till the blood came, and the frightened women rushed shrieking from the house.
But the mistress returned, carrying with her a bottle of druid water. Looking in, she saw the fox still devouring the fish, and not minding. So she crept over quietly and threw druid water on it without a word. No sooner was this done than a dense black smoke filled the place. Nothing was seen but the two eyes of the fox, and they were burning like coals of fire. But when the smoke gradually cleared and disappeared, the fox had run away.
From that time the fish remained untouched and safe from harm, and the greedy fox was seen no more.