Tom Daly and the Nut-Eating Ghost
THE value of the next story (which was told by the blind man), apart from the comic in its form and contents, is the fact that nuts are buried for the godfather to cat after death. This is an interesting survival of primitive Gaelic belief.
Tom Daly lived between Kenmare and Sneem, but nearer to Kenmare, and had an only son, who was called Tom, after the father. When the son was eighteen years old Tom Daly died, leaving a widow and this son. The wife was paralysed two years before Tom's death, and could rise out of the bed only as she was taken out, but as the fire was near the bed she could push a piece of turf into it if the turf was left at hand.
Tom Daly while alive was in the employ of a gentleman living at Drummond Castle. Young Tom got the father's place, and he looked on his godfather as he would on his own father, for the father and godfather had been great friends always, and Tom's mother was as fond of the godfather as she was of her own husband. Four years after old Tom died the godfather followed him. He was very fond of chestnuts, and when he came to die he asked his friends to put a big wooden dish of them in his coffin, so he might come at the nuts in the next world.
They carried out the man's wishes. The godfather was buried, and the bed-ridden widow mourned for him as much as for her own husband. The young man continued to work for the gentleman at Drummond Castle, and in the winter it was often late in the evening before he could come home. There was a short cut from the gentleman's place through a grove and past the graveyard. Young Tom was going home one winter night; the moon was shining very brightly. While passing the graveyard he saw a man on a big tomb that was in it, and he cracking nuts. Young Daly saw that it was on his godfather's tomb the man was, and when he remembered the nuts that were buried with him he believed in one minute that it was the godfather who was before him. He was greatly in dread then, and ran off as fast as ever his legs could carry him. When he reached home he was out of breath and panting.
"What is on you," asked the mother, "and to be choking for breath?"
"Sure I saw my godfather sitting on the tomb and he eating the nuts that were buried with him."
"Bad luck to you," said the mother; "don't be belying the dead, for it is as great a sin to tell one lie on the dead as ten on the living."
"God knows," said Tom, "that I'd not belie my godfather, and 'tis he that is in it; and hadn't I enough time to know him before he died?"
"Do you say in truth, Tom, that 'tis your godfather?"
"As sure as you are my mother there before me 'tis my godfather that's in the graveyard cracking nuts."
"Bring me to him, for the mercy of God, till I ask him about your own father in the other world."
"I'll not do that," said Tom. 'What a queer thing it would be to bring you to the dead."
"Isn't it better to go, Tom dear, and speak to him? Ask about your father, and know is he suffering in the other world. If he is we can relieve him with masses for his soul."
Tom agreed at last, and, as the mother was a cripple, all he could do was to put a sheet around her and take her on his back. He went then towards the graveyard.
There was a great thief living not far from Kenmare, and he came that night towards the estate of the gentleman where Tom was working. The gentleman had a couple of hundred fat sheep that were grazing. The thief made up his mind to have one of the sheep, and he sent an apprentice boy that he had to catch one, and said that he'd keep watch on the top of the tomb. As he had some nuts in his pockets, the thief began to crack them. The boy went for the sheep, but before he came back the thief saw Tom Daly, with his mother on his back. Thinking that it was his apprentice with the sheep, he called out, "Is she fat?"
Tom Daly, thinking it was the ghost asking about the mother, dropped her and said, "Begor, then, she is, and heavy!" Away with him, then, as fast as ever his two legs could carry him, leaving the mother behind. She, forgetting her husband and thinking the ghost would kill and eat her, jumped up, ran home like a deer, and was there as soon as her son.
"God spare you, mother, how could you come!" cried Tom, "and be here as soon as myself?"
"Sure I moved like a blast of March wind," said the old woman; "tis the luckiest ride I had in my life, for out of the fright the good Lord gave me my legs again."