The Dead Mother
THE next two tales were told by the blind man whom I have mentioned in connection with fairy tales told at Ventry Strand.
It is not out of place to refer here to a certain popular error. It is supposed by many persons that women are the chief depositories of tales touching fairies and other extra-human characters, but they are not. It is a rare thing to find a woman in possession of wonderful tales of the best quality. During researches extending over a number of years, I have found among Indians in the United States only one woman who could be classed with the very best tale-tellers. In Ireland I have found few women who can tell tales at all, and none who can compare with the best men. I believe this is so in all countries.
The two following stories testify to a perfect communication at times between this world and another.
There was a girl in Cloghane whose name was Mary Shea. She married and had three children, one son and two daughters. Her husband died; then his people turned against her and began to quarrel with the widow. Mary was a quiet, good woman, and didn't like trouble. So she told her brother-in-law that if he would give her money to go to America with her two girls she would give up the bit of land that she had and leave the little boy with himself till she would send for him.
The brother-in-law and the other friends made up the money, and she went away and was doing well in America for about twelve months, and then she took a fever and died.
The very same week that the mother died the girls sent money home for their brother. They wanted to send it while the mother was sick, but they waited to know would she get better. But she died and was buried.
About two weeks after the woman's death a girl in Cloghane was going one evening to Castlegregory for sea-moss. Walking along, she saw a woman ahead, and hurried on to have company and shorten the road for herself. The woman ahead seemed in no hurry and waited.
The girl spoke, and as they walked along the woman asked where was she going, and she told her. "Do you know me?" asked the woman.
"I do not," said the girl, "but I think I have seen you."
"Didn't you know Mary Fitzgerald?"
"Oh, I did; and when did you come home?"
"About two weeks ago."
"Isn't it the wonder that your mother in Cloghane doesn't know you are here?"
"I was in Cloghane," said she, "and saw them all, and 'tis badly they are treating my little boy, but 'twill not be long that way; he will go to his sisters in America. I died two weeks ago, but don't be in dread of me, for I'll do you no harm. I wanted you to speak to me, so I could tell you what to do. When you go home tomorrow go to my mother and tell her that I died in America, and that you saw me on this strand, that I am walking back and forth perishing with the cold. Tell her to buy a pair of shoes and stockings and give them to some poor person in my name, for God's sake."
Mary was talking a long time to the girl, and the girl promised to go to the mother.
It seems that whatever Mary's son did his uncle whipped him, and the boy was crying in the daytime and crying at night in bed, the night that Mary came first to Cloghane. Everybody in the house was silent except the boy, and he was crying. The mother walked in, bent over him, laid her hand on his shoulder and said, "Don't be crying, my poor little boy, you'll be with your sisters very soon. You'll not see your mother any more, but you'll be happy without her."
He sat up in the bed, knew her, and grasping at her let such a screech out of him that it roused the uncle and grandmother, and he told them what he'd seen.
Next day a letter came from America with news of the mother's death. Just after the girl came to the house and was telling about the shoes, the letter was brought in.
The mother bought a pair of shoes and gave them to a poor woman, for God's sake and the good of Mary's soul, and Mary was seen on the strand no more after that.