Teigue Of The Lee

★ Teigue Of The Lee Story  :

I can’t stop in the house–I won’t stop in it for all the money that is buried in the old castle of Carrigrohan. If ever there was such a thing in the world!–to be abused to my face night and day, and nobody to the fore doing it! and then, if I’m angry, to be laughed at with a great roaring ho, ho, ho! I won’t stay in the house after to-night, if there was not another place in the country to put my head under.’ This angry soliloquy was pronounced in the hall of the old manor-house of Carrigrohan by John Sheehan. John was a new servant; he had been only three days in the house, which had the character of being haunted, and in that short space of time he had been abused and laughed at by a voice which sounded as if a man spoke with his head in a cask; nor could he discover who was the speaker, or from whence the voice came. ‘I’ll not stop here,’ said John; ‘and that ends the matter.’

‘Ho, ho, ho! be quiet, John Sheehan, or else worse will happen to you.’

John instantly ran to the hall window, as the words were evidently spoken by a person immediately outside, but no one was visible. He had scarcely placed his face at the pane of glass when he heard another loud ‘Ho, ho, ho!’ as if behind him in the hall; as quick as lightning he turned his head, but no living thing was to be seen.

‘Ho, ho, ho, John!’ shouted a voice that appeared to come from the lawn before the house: ‘do you think you’ll see Teigue?–oh, never! as long as you live! so leave alone looking after him, and mind your business; there’s plenty of company to dinner from Cork to be here to-day, and ’tis time you had the cloth laid.’

‘Lord bless us! there’s more of it!–I’ll never stay another day here,’ repeated John.

‘Hold your tongue, and stay where you are quietly, and play no tricks on Mr. Pratt, as you did on Mr. Jervois about the spoons.’

John Sheehan was confounded by this address from his invisible persecutor, but nevertheless he mustered courage enough to say, ‘Who are you? come here, and let me see you, if you are a man’; but he received in reply only a laugh of unearthly derision, which was followed by a ‘Good-bye–I’ll watch you at dinner, John!’

‘Lord between us and harm! this beats all! I’ll watch you at dinner! maybe you will! ’tis the broad daylight, so ’tis no ghost; but this is a terrible place, and this is the last day I’ll stay in it. How does he know about the spoons? if he tells it I’m a ruined man! there was no living soul could tell it to him but Tim Barrett, and he’s far enough off in the wilds of Botany Bay now, so how could he know it? I can’t tell for the world! But what’s that I see there at the corner of the wall! ’tis not a man! oh, what a fool I am! ’tis only the old stump of a tree! But this is a shocking place–I’ll never stop in it, for I’ll leave the house to-morrow; the very look of it is enough to frighten any one.’

The mansion had certainly an air of desolation; it was situated in a lawn, which had nothing to break its uniform level save a few tufts of narcissuses and a couple of old trees coeval with the building. The house stood at a short distance from the road, it was upwards of a century old, and Time was doing his work upon it; its walls were weather-stained in all colours, its roof showed various white patches, it had no look of comfort; all was dim and dingy without, and within there was an air of gloom, of departed and departing greatness, which harmonised well with the exterior.

It required all the exuberance of youth and of gaiety to remove the impression, almost amounting to awe, with which you trod the huge square hall, paced along the gallery which surrounded the hall, or explored the long rambling passages below stairs. The ballroom, as the large drawing-room was called, and several other apartments, were in a state of decay; the walls were stained with damp, and I remember well the sensation of awe which I felt creeping over me when, boy as I was, and full of boyish life and wild and ardent spirits, I descended to the vaults; all without and within me became chilled beneath their dampness and gloom–their extent, too, terrified me; nor could the merriment of my two schoolfellows, whose father, a respectable clergyman, rented the dwelling for a time, dispel the feelings of a romantic imagination until I once again ascended to the upper regions.

John had pretty well recovered himself as the dinner-hour approached, and several guests arrived. They were all seated at the table, and had begun to enjoy the excellent repast, when a voice was heard in the lawn.

‘Ho, ho, ho! Mr. Pratt, won’t you give poor Teigue some dinner? ho, ho! a fine company you have there, and plenty of everything that’s good; sure you won’t forget poor Teigue?’

John dropped the glass he had in his hand.

‘Who is that?’ said Mr. Pratt’s brother, an officer of the artillery.

‘That is Teigue,’ said Mr. Pratt, laughing, ‘whom you must often have heard me mention.’

‘And pray, Mr. Pratt,’ inquired another gentleman, ‘who is Teigue?’

‘That,’ he replied, ‘is more than I can tell. No one has ever been able to catch even a glimpse of him. I have been on the watch for a whole evening with three of my sons, yet, although his voice sometimes sounded almost in my ear, I could not see him. I fancied, indeed, that I saw a man in a white frieze jacket pass into the door from the garden to the lawn, but it could be only fancy, for I found the door locked, while the fellow, whoever he is, was laughing at our trouble. He visits us occasionally, and sometimes a long interval passes between his visits, as in the present case; it is now nearly two years since we heard that hollow voice outside the window. He has never done any injury that we know of, and once when he broke a plate, he brought one back exactly like it.’

‘It is very extraordinary,’ exclaimed several of the company.

‘But,’ remarked a gentleman to young Mr. Pratt, ‘your father said he broke a plate; how did he get it without your seeing him?’

‘When he asks for some dinner we put it outside the window and go away; whilst we watch he will not take it, but no sooner have we withdrawn than it is gone.’

‘How does he know that you are watching?’

‘That’s more than I can tell, but he either knows or suspects. One day my brothers Robert and James with myself were in our back parlour, which has a window into the garden, when he came outside and said, “Ho, ho, ho! Master James and Robert and Henry, give poor Teigue a glass of whisky.” James went out of the room, filled a glass with whisky, vinegar, and salt, and brought it to him. “Here, Teigue,” said he, “come for it now.”–“Well, put it down, then, on the step outside the window.” This was done, and we stood looking at it. “There, now, go away,” he shouted. We retired, but still watched it. “Ho, ho! you are watching Teigue! go out of the room, now, or I won’t take it.” We went outside the door and returned, the glass was gone, and a moment after we heard him roaring and cursing frightfully. He took away the glass, but the next day it was on the stone step under the window, and there were crumbs of bread in the inside, as if he had put it in his pocket; from that time he has not been heard till to-day.’

‘Oh,’ said the colonel, ‘I’ll get a sight of him; you are not used to these things; an old soldier has the best chance, and as I shall finish my dinner with this wing, I’ll be ready for him when he speaks next–Mr. Bell, will you take a glass of wine with me?’

‘Ho, ho! Mr. Bell,’ shouted Teigue. ‘Ho, ho! Mr. Bell, you were a Quaker long ago. Ho, ho! Mr. Bell, you’re a pretty boy! a pretty Quaker you were; and now you’re no Quaker, nor anything else: ho, ho! Mr. Bell. And there’s Mr. Parkes: to be sure, Mr. Parkes looks mighty fine to-day, with his powdered head, and his grand silk stockings and his bran-new rakish-red waistcoat. And there’s Mr. Cole: did you ever see such a fellow? A pretty company you’ve brought together, Mr. Pratt: kiln-dried Quakers, butter-buying buckeens from Mallow Lane, and a drinking exciseman from the Coal Quay, to meet the great thundering artillery general that is come out of the Indies, and is the biggest dust of them all.’

‘You scoundrel!’ exclaimed the colonel, ‘I’ll make you show yourself’; and snatching up his sword from a corner of the room, he sprang out of the window upon the lawn. In a moment a shout of laughter, so hollow, so unlike any human sound, made him stop, as well as Mr. Bell, who with a huge oak stick was close at the colonel’s heels; others of the party followed to the lawn, and the remainder rose and went to the windows. ‘Come on, colonel,’ said Mr. Bell; ‘let us catch this impudent rascal.’

‘Ho, ho! Mr. Bell, here I am–here’s Teigue–why don’t you catch him? Ho, ho! Colonel Pratt, what a pretty soldier you are to draw your sword upon poor Teigue, that never did anybody harm.’

‘Let us see your face, you scoundrel,’ said the colonel.

‘Ho, ho, ho!–look at me–look at me: do you see the wind, Colonel Pratt? you’ll see Teigue as soon; so go in and finish your dinner.’

‘If you’re upon the earth, I’ll find you, you villain!’ said the colonel, whilst the same unearthly shout of derision seemed to come from behind an angle of the building. ‘He’s round that corner,’ said Mr. Bell, ‘run, run.’

They followed the sound, which was continued at intervals along the garden wall, but could discover no human being; at last both stopped to draw breath, and in an instant, almost at their ears, sounded the shout–

‘Ho, ho, ho! Colonel Pratt, do you see Teigue now? do you hear him? Ho, ho, ho! you’re a fine colonel to follow the wind.’

‘Not that way, Mr. Bell–not that way; come here,’ said the colonel.

‘Ho, ho, ho! what a fool you are; do you think Teigue is going to show himself to you in the field, there? But, colonel, follow me if you can: you a soldier! ho, ho, ho!’ The colonel was enraged: he followed the voice over hedge and ditch, alternately laughed at and taunted by the unseen object of his pursuit (Mr. Bell, who was heavy, was soon thrown out); until at length, after being led a weary chase, he found himself at the top of the cliff, over that part of the river Lee, which, from its great depth, and the blackness of its water, has received the name of Hell-hole.

Here, on the edge of the cliff, stood the colonel out of breath, and mopping his forehead with his handkerchief, while the voice, which seemed close at his feet, exclaimed, ‘Now, Colonel Pratt, now, if you’re a soldier, here’s a leap for you! Now look at Teigue–why don’t you look at him? Ho, ho, ho! Come along; you’re warm, I’m sure, Colonel Pratt, so come in and cool yourself; Teigue is going to have a swim!’ The voice seemed as if descending amongst the trailing ivy and brushwood which clothes this picturesque cliff nearly from top to bottom, yet it was impossible that any human being could have found footing. ‘Now, colonel, have you courage to take the leap? Ho, ho, ho! what a pretty soldier you are. Good-bye; I’ll see you again in ten minutes above, at the house–look at your watch, colonel: there’s a dive for you’; and a heavy plunge into the water was heard. The colonel stood still, but no sound followed, and he walked slowly back to the house, not quite half a mile from the Crag.

‘Well, did you see Teigue?’ said his brother, whilst his nephews, scarcely able to smother their laughter, stood by.

‘Give me some wine,’ said the colonel. ‘I never was led such a dance in my life; the fellow carried me all round and round till he brought me to the edge of the cliff, and then down he went into Hell-hole, telling me he’d be here in ten minutes; ’tis more than that now, but he’s not come.’

‘Ho, ho, ho! colonel, isn’t he here? Teigue never told a lie in his life: but, Mr. Pratt, give me a drink and my dinner, and then good-night to you all, for I’m tired; and that’s the colonel’s doing.’ A plate of food was ordered; it was placed by John, with fear and trembling, on the lawn under the window. Every one kept on the watch, and the plate remained undisturbed for some time.

‘Ah! Mr. Pratt, will you starve poor Teigue? Make every one go away from the windows, and Master Henry out of the tree, and Master Richard off the garden wall.’

The eyes of the company were turned to the tree and the garden wall; the two boys’ attention was occupied in getting down; the visitors were looking at them; and ‘Ho, ho, ho!–good luck to you, Mr. Pratt! ’tis a good dinner, and there’s the plate, ladies and gentlemen. Good-bye to you, colonel!–good-bye, Mr. Bell! good-bye to you all!’ brought their attention back, when they saw the empty plate lying on the grass; and Teigue’s voice was heard no more for that evening. Many visits were afterwards paid by Teigue; but never was he seen, nor was any discovery ever made of his person or character.

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