How Thomas Connolly Met the Banshee
Ah, the Banshee, sir? Well sir, as I was striving to tell ye, I was going home from work one day, from Mr. Cassidy’s that I told ye of, in the dusk o’ the evening. I had more nor a mile – aye, it was nearer two mile – to thrack to where I was lodgin’ with a decent widdy woman I knew, Biddy Maguire by name, so as to be near me work.
It was the first week in November, an’ a lonesome road I had to travel, an’ dark enough, wid threes above it; an about halfways along there was a bit of a bridge I had to cross, over one o’ them little sthrames that runs into the Doddher.
I walked on in the middle iv the road, for there was no toe-path at that time. Nor for many a long day after that. But as I was sayin’, I walked along ‘til I came nigh upon the bridge, where the road was a bit open, an’ there, right enough, I seen the hog’s back o’ the old-fashioned bridge that used to be there ‘til it was pulled down, an’ a white mist steamin’ up out o’ the wather all around it.
Well now Mr. Harry, often as I’d passed by the place before, that night it seemed sthrange to me, an’ like a place ye might see in a dhrame. An’ as I come up to it I began to feel a cowld wind blowin’ through the hollow o’ me heart.
“Musha Thomas,” sez I to meself, “is it yourself that’s in it?” sez I, “or, if it is, what’s the matter wid ye at al at all?” sez I.
So I put a bold face on it, an I made a sthruggle to set one leg afore the other, until I came to the rise o’ the bridge. And there… God be good to us! In a cantle o’ the wall I seen an ould woman, as I thought, sittin’ on her hunkers, all crouched together, an’ her head bowed down, seemingly in the greatest affliction.
Well sir, I pitied the ould craythur, an though I wasn’t worth a thraneen, for the mortal fright I was in, I up an sez to her, “That’s a cowld lodgin’ for ye, ma’am”
Well, the sorra ha’porth she sez to that, nor tuk no more notice o’ me than if I hadn’t let a word out o’ me, but kep’ rockin’ herself to an ‘ fro, as if her heart was breaking’.
SI sez to her again, “Eh, ma’am, is there anythin’ the matther wid ye?” An’ I made for to touch her on the showlder, on’y somethin’ stopped me, for as I looked closer at her I saw she was no more an ould woman nor she was an ould cat. The first thing I tuk notice to, Misther Harry, was her hair, that was sthreelin’ down over her shoulders a good yard on the ground on aich side of her. O, be the hoky farmer, but that was the hair! The likes of which I never seen on mortial woman, young or old, before nor sense. It grew as sthrong out of her as out of e’er a young slip of a girl ye could see; but the colour of it was a misthery to describe. The first squint I got of it
I thought it was silvery grey, like an ould crone’s; but when I got up beside her I saw, be the glance of the sky, it was a soart iv an Iscariot colour, an’ a shine out of it like floss silk. It ran over her showlders and the two shapely arms she was lanin’ her head on, for all the world like Mary Magdalen’s in a pitcher; and the I persaved that the grey cloak and the green gownd undernaith it was made of no earthly material I ever laid eyes on.
Now, I needn’t tell ye, sir, that I seen all this in a twinkle of a bedpost – long as I take to make the narration of it. So I made a step back from her, an’ “The Lord be betune us an’ harm!” sez I, out loud, an’ wid that I blessed meself. Well, Misther Harry, the word wasn’t out o’ me mouth afore she turned her face on me. Aw, Misther Harry, but ‘twas that was the awfullest apparition ever I seen, the face of her as she looked up at me! God forgive me for sayin’ it, but ‘twas more like the face of the ‘Axy Homo’ beyond in Marlboro Sthyreet Chapel nor like any face I could mintion – as pale as a corpse, an’ a most o’ freckles on it, like the freckles on a turkey’s egg; an’ the two eyes sewn in wid thread, from the terrible power o’ cryin’ the’ had to do; an’ such a pair iv eyes as the’ wor, Mister Harry, as blue as two forget-me-nots, an’ as cowld as the moon in a bog-hole of a frosty night, an’ a dead-an’-alive look in them that sent a cold shiver through the marra o’ me bones. . Be the mortial! Ye could ha’ rung a tay cupful o’ cowld perspiration out o’ me head that minute so ye could. Well, I thought the life ‘ud lave me intirely when she riz up from her hunkers, till, bedad! She looked mostly as tall as Nelson’s Pillar; an’ wid the two eyes gazin’ back at me, an’ her two arms stretched out before hor, an’ a keine out o’ her that riz the hair o’ me scalp ’til it was as stiff as the hog’s bristles in a new hearth broom, away she glides – glides! Round the angle o’ the bridge, an down wit’ her into the sthrame that ran indernaith it. “’Twas then I began to suspect what she was.
“Wisha, Thomas!” sez I to meself, sez I; an’ I made a great struggle to get me two legs into a throt, in spite o’ the spavin o’ fright the pair o’ them wor in; an’ how I brought meself home that night the Lord in heaven only knows, for I never could tell; but I must ha’ tumbled agin the door, and shot in head foremost into the middle o’ the flure, where I lay in a dead swoon for mostly an hour; and the first I knew was Mrs. Maguire stannin’ over me with a jorum of punch she was pourin’ down me throath, to bring the life into me, an’ me head in a pool of cowld wather she dashed over me in her first fright.
“Arrah, Mister Connolly,” shasee, “what ails ye?” sha see, “to put a scare on a lone woman like that?” shasee.
“Am I in this world or the next?” sez I.
“Musha! Where else would ye be on’y here in my kitchen?” shasee.
“O, glory be to God!” sez I, “but I thought I was in Purgathory at the last, not to mintion an uglier place,” sez I, on’y it’s too cowld I find meself, an’ not too hot,” sez I.
“Faix, an’ maybe ye wor more nor half-ways there, on’y for me,” shasee, “but what’s come to ye at all, at all? Is it yur fetch ye seen, Misther Connolly”
“Aw, naboclish, never mind it,” sez I. “Never mind what I seen,” sez I. So be degrees I begun to come around a little an’ that’s the way I met the Banshee, Misther Harry!!”
“But how did you know it was really the Banshee after all, Thomas?”
“Begor, sir, I knew the apparition of her well enough, but ‘twas confirmed by a sarcumstance that occurred the same time. There was a Misther O’Nales was come on a visit, ye must know, to a place in the neighborhood – one o’ the ould O’Nales iv the county Tyrone, a rale ould Irish family – an the banshee was heard keening round the house that same night; be more then one that was in it; an’ sure enough, Mister Harry, he was found dead in his bed the next mornin’. So if it wasn’t the banshee that time, I’d like to know what else it could h=ha’ been”
John Todhunter (December 30, 1839 – October 25, 1916) was an Irish poet and playwright who wrote seven volumes of poetry, and several plays.