The Quare Gander
Being a Twelfth Extract from the Legacy of the late Francis Purcell, P.P. of Drumcoolagh.
As I rode at a slow walk, one soft autumn evening, from the once noted and noticeable town of Emly, now a squalid village, towards the no less remarkable town of Tipperary, I fell into a meditative mood.
My eye wandered over a glorious landscape; a broad sea of corn-fields, that might have gladdened even a golden age, was waving before me; groups of little cabins, with their poplars, osiers, and light mountain ashes, clustered shelteringly around them, were scattered over the plain; the thin blue smoke arose floating through their boughs in the still evening air. And far away with all their broad lights and shades, softened with the haze of approaching twilight, stood the bold wild Galties.
As I gazed on this scene, whose richness was deepened by the melancholy glow of the setting sun, the tears rose to my eyes, and I said:
'Alas, my country! what a mournful beauty is thine. Dressed in loveliness and laughter, there is mortal decay at thy heart: sorrow, sin, and shame have mingled thy cup of misery. Strange rulers have bruised thee, and laughed thee to scorn, and they have made all thy sweetness bitter. Thy shames and sins are the austere fruits of thy miseries, and thy miseries have been poured out upon thee by foreign hands. Alas, my stricken country! clothed with this most pity-moving smile, with this most unutterably mournful loveliness, thou sore-grieved, thou desperately-beloved! Is there for thee, my country, a resurrection?'
I know not how long I might have continued to rhapsodize in this strain, had not my wandering thoughts been suddenly recalled to my own immediate neighbourhood by the monotonous clatter of a horse's hoofs upon the road, evidently moving, at that peculiar pace which is neither a walk nor a trot, and yet partakes of both, so much in vogue among the southern farmers.
In a moment my pursuer was up with me, and checking his steed into a walk he saluted me with much respect. The cavalier was a light-built fellow, with good-humoured sun-burnt features, a shrewd and lively black eye, and a head covered with a crop of close curly black hair, and surmounted with a turf-coloured caubeen, in the pack-thread band of which was stuck a short pipe, which had evidently seen much service.
My companion was a dealer in all kinds of local lore, and soon took occasion to let me see that he was so.
After two or three short stories, in which the scandalous and supernatural were happily blended, we happened to arrive at a narrow road or bohreen leading to a snug-looking farm-house.
'That's a comfortable bit iv a farm,' observed my comrade, pointing towards the dwelling with his thumb; 'a shnug spot, and belongs to the Mooneys this long time. 'Tis a noted place for what happened wid the famous gandher there in former times.'
'And what was that?' inquired I.
'What was it happened wid the gandher!' ejaculated my companion in a tone of indignant surprise; 'the gandher iv Ballymacrucker, the gandher! Your raverance must be a stranger in these parts. Sure every fool knows all about the gandher, and Terence Mooney, that was, rest his sowl. Begorra, 'tis surprisin' to me how in the world you didn't hear iv the gandher; and may be it's funnin me ye are, your raverance.'
I assured him to the contrary, and conjured him to narrate to me the facts, an unacquaintance with which was sufficient it appeared to stamp me as an ignoramus of the first magnitude.
It did not require much entreaty to induce my communicative friend to relate the circumstance, in nearly the following words:
'Terence Mooney was an honest boy and well to do; an' he rinted the biggest farm on this side iv the Galties; an' bein' mighty cute an' a sevare worker, it was small wonder he turned a good penny every harvest. But unluckily he was blessed with an ilegant large family iv daughters, an' iv coorse his heart was allamost bruck, striving to make up fortunes for the whole of them. An' there wasn't a conthrivance iv any soart or description for makin' money out iv the farm, but he was up to.
'Well, among the other ways he had iv gettin' up in the world, he always kep a power iv turkeys, and all soarts iv poultrey; an' he was out iv all rason partial to geese—an' small blame to him for that same—for twice't a year you can pluck them as bare as my hand—an' get a fine price for the feathers, an' plenty of rale sizable eggs—an' when they are too ould to lay any more, you can kill them, an' sell them to the gintlemen for goslings, d'ye see, let alone that a goose is the most manly bird that is out.
'Well, it happened in the coorse iv time that one ould gandher tuck a wondherful likin' to Terence, an' divil a place he could go serenadin' about the farm, or lookin' afther the men, but the gandher id be at his heels, an' rubbin' himself agin his legs, an' lookin' up in his face jist like any other Christian id do; an' begorra, the likes iv it was never seen—Terence Mooney an' the gandher wor so great.
'An' at last the bird was so engagin' that Terence would not allow it to be plucked any more, an' kep it from that time out for love an' affection—just all as one like one iv his childer.
'But happiness in perfection never lasts long, an' the neighbours begin'd to suspect the nathur an' intentions iv the gandher, an' some iv them said it was the divil, an' more iv them that it was a fairy.
'Well, Terence could not but hear something of what was sayin', an' you may be sure he was not altogether asy in his mind about it, an' from one day to another he was gettin' more ancomfortable in himself, until he detarmined to sind for Jer Garvan, the fairy docthor in Garryowen, an' it's he was the ilegant hand at the business, an' divil a sperit id say a crass word to him, no more nor a priest. An' moreover he was very great wid ould Terence Mooney— this man's father that' was.
'So without more about it he was sint for, an' sure enough the divil a long he was about it, for he kem back that very evenin' along wid the boy that was sint for him, an' as soon as he was there, an' tuck his supper, an' was done talkin' for a while, he begined of coorse to look into the gandher.
'Well, he turned it this away an' that away, to the right an' to the left, an' straight-ways an' upside-down, an' when he was tired handlin' it, says he to Terence Mooney:
' "Terence," says he, "you must remove the bird into the next room," says he, "an' put a petticoat," says he, "or anny other convaynience round his head," says he.
' "An' why so?" says Terence.
' "Becase," says Jer, says he.
' "Becase what?" says Terence.
' "Becase," says Jer, "if it isn't done you'll never be asy again," says he, "or pusilanimous in your mind," says he; "so ax no more questions, but do my biddin'," says he.
' "Well," says Terence, "have your own way," says he.
'An' wid that he tuck the ould gandher, an' giv' it to one iv the gossoons.
' "An' take care," says he, "don't smother the crathur," says he.
'Well, as soon as the bird was gone, says Jer Garvan says he:
' "Do you know what that ould gandher IS, Terence Mooney?"
' "Divil a taste," says Terence.
' "Well then," says Jer, "the gandher is your own father," says he.
' "It's jokin' you are," says Terence, turnin' mighty pale; "how can an ould gandher be my father?" says he.
' "I'm not funnin' you at all," says Jer; "it's thrue what I tell you, it's your father's wandhrin' sowl," says he, "that's naturally tuck pissession iv the ould gandher's body," says he. "I know him many ways, and I wondher," says he, "you do not know the cock iv his eye yourself," says he.
' "Oh blur an' ages!" says Terence, "what the divil will I ever do at all at all," says he; "it's all over wid me, for I plucked him twelve times at the laste," says he.
' "That can't be helped now," says Jer; "it was a sevare act surely," says he, "but it's too late to lamint for it now," says he; "the only way to prevint what's past," says he, "is to put a stop to it before it happens," says he.
' "Thrue for you," says Terence, "but how the divil did you come to the knowledge iv my father's sowl," says he, "bein' in the owld gandher," says he.
' "If I tould you," says Jer, "you would not undherstand me," says he, "without book-larnin' an' gasthronomy," says he; "so ax me no questions," says he, "an' I'll tell you no lies. But blieve me in this much," says he, "it's your father that's in it," says he; "an' if I don't make him spake to-morrow mornin'," says he, "I'll give you lave to call me a fool," says he.
' "Say no more," says Terence, "that settles the business," says he; "an' oh! blur and ages is it not a quare thing," says he, "for a dacent respictable man," says he, "to be walkin' about the counthry in the shape iv an ould gandher," says he; "and oh, murdher, murdher! is not it often I plucked him," says he, "an' tundher and ouns might not I have ate him," says he; and wid that he fell into a could parspiration, savin' your prisince, an was on the pint iv faintin' wid the bare notions iv it.
'Well, whin he was come to himself agin, says Jerry to him quite an' asy:
' "Terence," says he, "don't be aggravatin' yourself," says he; "for I have a plan composed that 'ill make him spake out," says he, "an' tell what it is in the world he's wantin'," says he; "an' mind an' don't be comin' in wid your gosther, an' to say agin anything I tell you," says he, "but jist purtind, as soon as the bird is brought back," says he, "how that we're goin' to sind him to-morrow mornin' to market," says he. "An' if he don't spake to-night," says he, "or gother himself out iv the place," says he, "put him into the hamper airly, and sind him in the cart," says he, "straight to Tipperary, to be sould for ating," says he, "along wid the two gossoons," says he, "an' my name isn't Jer Garvan," says he, "if he doesn't spake out before he's half-way," says he. "An' mind," says he, "as soon as iver he says the first word," says he, "that very minute bring him aff to Father Crotty," says he; "an' if his raverince doesn't make him ratire," says he, "like the rest iv his parishioners, glory be to God," says he, "into the siclusion iv the flames iv purgathory," says he, "there's no vartue in my charums," says he.
'Well, wid that the ould gandher was let into the room agin, an' they all bigined to talk iv sindin' him the nixt mornin' to be sould for roastin' in Tipperary, jist as if it was a thing andoubtingly settled. But divil a notice the gandher tuck, no more nor if they wor spaking iv the Lord-Liftinant; an' Terence desired the boys to get ready the kish for the poulthry, an' to "settle it out wid hay soft an' shnug," says he, "for it's the last jauntin' the poor ould gandher 'ill get in this world," says he.
'Well, as the night was gettin' late, Terence was growin' mighty sorrowful an' down-hearted in himself entirely wid the notions iv what was goin' to happen. An' as soon as the wife an' the crathurs war fairly in bed, he brought out some illigint potteen, an' himself an' Jer Garvan sot down to it; an' begorra, the more anasy Terence got, the more he dhrank, and himself and Jer Garvan finished a quart betune them. It wasn't an imparial though, an' more's the pity, for them wasn't anvinted antil short since; but divil a much matther it signifies any longer if a pint could hould two quarts, let alone what it does, sinst Father Mathew—the Lord purloin his raverence —begin'd to give the pledge, an' wid the blessin' iv timperance to deginerate Ireland.
'An' begorra, I have the medle myself; an' it's proud I am iv that same, for abstamiousness is a fine thing, although it's mighty dhry.
'Well, whin Terence finished his pint, he thought he might as well stop; "for enough is as good as a faste," says he; "an' I pity the vagabond," says he, "that is not able to conthroul his licquor," says he, "an' to keep constantly inside iv a pint measure," said he; an' wid that he wished Jer Garvan a good-night, an' walked out iv the room.
'But he wint out the wrong door, bein' a thrifle hearty in himself, an' not rightly knowin' whether he was standin' on his head or his heels, or both iv them at the same time, an' in place iv gettin' into bed, where did he thrun himself but into the poulthry hamper, that the boys had settled out ready for the gandher in the mornin'. An' sure enough he sunk down soft an' complate through the hay to the bottom; an' wid the turnin' and roulin' about in the night, the divil a bit iv him but was covered up as shnug as a lumper in a pittaty furrow before mornin'.
'So wid the first light, up gets the two boys, that war to take the sperit, as they consaved, to Tipperary; an' they cotched the ould gandher, an' put him in the hamper, and clapped a good wisp iv hay an' the top iv him, and tied it down sthrong wid a bit iv a coard, and med the sign iv the crass over him, in dhread iv any harum, an' put the hamper up an the car, wontherin' all the while what in the world was makin' the ould burd so surprisin' heavy.
'Well, they wint along quite anasy towards Tipperary, wishin' every minute that some iv the neighbours bound the same way id happen to fall in with them, for they didn't half like the notions iv havin' no company but the bewitched gandher, an' small blame to them for that same.
'But although they wor shaking in their skhins in dhread iv the ould bird beginnin' to convarse them every minute, they did not let an' to one another, bud kep singin' an' whistlin' like mad, to keep the dread out iv their hearts.
'Well, afther they war on the road betther nor half an hour, they kem to the bad bit close by Father Crotty's, an' there was one divil of a rut three feet deep at the laste; an' the car got sich a wondherful chuck goin' through it, that it wakened Terence widin in the basket.
' "Bad luck to ye," says he, "my bones is bruck wid yer thricks; what the divil are ye doin' wid me?"
' "Did ye hear anything quare, Thady?" says the boy that was next to the car, turnin' as white as the top iv a musharoon; "did ye hear anything quare soundin' out iv the hamper?" says he.
' "No, nor you,' says Thady, turnin' as pale as himself, "it's the ould gandher that's gruntin' wid the shakin' he's gettin'," says he.
' "Where the divil have ye put me into," says Terence inside, "bad luck to your sowls," says he, "let me out, or I'll be smothered this minute," says he.
' "There's no use in purtending," says the boy, "the gandher's spakin', glory be to God," says he.
' "Let me out, you murdherers," says Terence.
' "In the name iv the blessed Vargin," says Thady, "an' iv all the holy saints, hould yer tongue, you unnatheral gandher," says he.
' "Who's that, that dar to call me nick-names?" says Terence inside, roaring wid the fair passion, "let me out, you blasphamious infiddles," says he, "or by this crass I'll stretch ye," says he.
' "In the name iv all the blessed saints in heaven," says Thady, "who the divil are ye?"
' "Who the divil would I be, but Terence Mooney," says he. "It's myself that's in it, you unmerciful bliggards," says he, "let me out, or by the holy, I'll get out in spite iv yes," says he, "an' by jaburs, I'll wallop yes in arnest," says he.
' "It's ould Terence, sure enough," says Thady, "isn't it cute the fairy docthor found him out," says he.
' "I'm an the pint iv snuffication," says Terence, "let me out, I tell you, an' wait till I get at ye," says he, "for begorra, the divil a bone in your body but I'll powdher,' says he.
'An' wid that, he biginned kickin' and flingin' inside in the hamper, and dhrivin his legs agin the sides iv it, that it was a wonder he did not knock it to pieces.
'Well, as soon as the boys seen that, they skelped the ould horse into a gallop as hard as he could peg towards the priest's house, through the ruts, an' over the stones; an' you'd see the hamper fairly flyin' three feet up in the air with the joultin'; glory be to God.
'So it was small wondher, by the time they got to his Raverince's door, the breath was fairly knocked out of poor Terence, so that he was lyin' speechless in the bottom iv the hamper.
'Well, whin his Raverince kem down, they up an' they tould him all that happened, an' how they put the gandher into the hamper, an' how he beginned to spake, an' how he confissed that he was ould Terence Mooney; an' they axed his honour to advise them how to get rid iv the spirit for good an' all.
'So says his Raverince, says he:
' "I'll take my booke," says he, "an' I'll read some rale sthrong holy bits out iv it," says he, "an' do you get a rope and put it round the hamper," says he, "an' let it swing over the runnin' wather at the bridge," says he, "an' it's no matther if I don't make the spirit come out iv it," says he.
'Well, wid that, the priest got his horse, and tuck his booke in undher his arum, an' the boys follied his Raverince, ladin' the horse down to the bridge, an' divil a word out iv Terence all the way, for he seen it was no use spakin', an' he was afeard if he med any noise they might thrait him to another gallop an finish him intirely.
'Well, as soon as they war all come to the bridge, the boys tuck the rope they had with them, an' med it fast to the top iv the hamper an' swung it fairly over the bridge, lettin' it hang in the air about twelve feet out iv the wather.
'An' his Raverince rode down to the bank of the river, close by, an' beginned to read mighty loud and bould intirely.
'An' when he was goin' on about five minutes, all at onst the bottom iv the hamper kem out, an' down wint Terence, falling splash dash into the water, an' the ould gandher a-top iv him. Down they both went to the bottom, wid a souse you'd hear half a mile off.
'An' before they had time to rise agin, his Raverince, wid the fair astonishment, giv his horse one dig iv the spurs, an' before he knew where he was, in he went, horse an' all, a-top iv them, an' down to the bottom.
'Up they all kem agin together, gaspin' and puffin', an' off down wid the current wid them, like shot in under the arch iv the bridge till they kem to the shallow wather.
'The ould gandher was the first out, and the priest and Terence kem next, pantin' an' blowin' an' more than half dhrounded, an' his Raverince was so freckened wid the droundin' he got, and wid the sight iv the sperit, as he consaved, that he wasn't the better of it for a month.
'An' as soon as Terence could spake, he swore he'd have the life of the two gossoons; but Father Crotty would not give him his will. An' as soon as he was got quiter, they all endivoured to explain it; but Terence consaved he went raly to bed the night before, and his wife said the same to shilter him from the suspicion for havin' th' dthrop taken. An' his Raverince said it was a mysthery, an' swore if he cotched anyone laughin' at the accident, he'd lay the horsewhip across their shouldhers.
'An' Terence grew fonder an' fonder iv the gandher every day, until at last he died in a wondherful old age, lavin' the gandher afther him an' a large family iv childher.
'An' to this day the farm is rinted by one iv Terence Mooney's lenial and legitimate postariors.'