McCarthy of Connacht by B. Hunt
From “Folk Tales of Breffny.”
There was a fine young gentleman the name of
M‘Carthy. He had a most beautiful countenance, and for
strength and prowess there was none to equal him in the
baronies of Connacht. But he began to dwine away,
and no person knew what ailed him. He used no food
at all and he became greatly reduced, the way he was
not able to rise from his bed and he letting horrid groans
and lamentations out of him. His father sent for three
skilled doctors to come and find out what sort of disease
it might be, and a big reward was promised for the cure.
Three noted doctors came on the one day and they
searched every vein in young M‘Carthy’s body, but
they could put no name on the sickness nor think of a
remedy to relieve it. They came down from the room
and reported that the disease had them baffled entirely.
“Am I to be at the loss of a son who is the finest boy
in all Ireland?” says the father.
Now one of the doctors had a man with him who
was a very soft-spoken person, and he up and says:
“Maybe your honours would be giving me permission
to visit the young gentleman. I have a tongue on me
is that sweet I do be drawing the secrets of the world
out of men and women and little children.”
Well, they brought him up to the room and they left
him alone with M‘Carthy. He sat down beside the bed
and began for to flatter him. The like of such conversation
was never heard before.
At long last he says, “Let your Lordship’s honour
be telling—What is it ails you at all?”
“You will never let on to a living soul?” asks
“Is it that I’d be lodging an information against a
noble person like yourself?” says the man.
With that, the young gentleman began telling the
secrets of his heart.
“It is no disease is on me,” says he, “but a terrible
“’Tis heart scalded I am that you have either a sorrow
or a sickness, and you grand to look on and better to
listen to,” says the other.
“It is in love I am,” says M‘Carthy.
“And how would that be a misfortune to a fine lad
like yourself?” asks the man.
“Let you never let on!” says M‘Carthy. “The way
of it is this: I am lamenting for no lady who is walking
the world, nor for one who is dead that I could be
following to the grave. I have a little statue which has
the most beautiful countenance on it that was ever
seen, and it is destroyed with grief I am that it will never
be speaking to me at all.”
With that he brought the image out from under his
pillow, and the loveliness of it made the man lep off
“I’d be stealing the wee statue from your honour
if I stopped in this place,” says he. “But let you take
valour into your heart, for that is the likeness of a lady
who is living in the world, and you will be finding her
With that he went down to the three doctors and the
old man who were waiting below. For all his promises
to young M‘Carthy, he told the lot of them all he was
after hearing. The doctors allowed that if the
gentleman’s life was to be saved he must be got out of
his bed and sent away on his travels.
“For a time he will be hopeful of finding her,”
says the oldest doctor. “Then the whole notion
will pass off him, and he seeing strange lands and great
wonders to divert him.”
The father was that anxious for the son’s recovery
that he agreed to sell the place and give him a big handful
of money for the journey.
“It is little I’ll be needing for myself from this out,
and I an old man near ripe for the grave,” says he.
So they all went up to the room and told young
M‘Carthy to rise from his bed and eat a good dinner,
for the grandest arrangements out were made for his
future and he’d surely meet the lady. When he seen that
no person was mocking him he got into the best of
humour, and he came down and feasted with them.
Not a long time afterwards he took the big handful
of money and set out on his travels, bringing the statue
with him. He went over the provinces of Ireland,
then he took sea to England, and wandered it entirely,
away to France with him next, and from that to every
art and part of the world. He had the strangest
adventures, and he seen more wonders than could ever
be told or remembered. At the latter end he came
back to the old country again, with no more nor a coin
or two left of the whole great fortune of money. The
whole time he never seen a lady who was the least like
the wee statue; and the words of the old doctor were
only a deceit for he didn’t quit thinking of her at all.
M‘Carthy was a handsome young gentleman, and if
it was small heed he had for any person he met it was
great notice was taken of him. Sure it was a queen,
no less, and five or six princesses were thinking long
thoughts on himself.
The hope was near dead in his heart, and the sickness
of grief was on him again when he came home to Ireland.
Soon after he landed from the ship he chanced to come
on a gentleman’s place, and it a fine, big house he never
had seen before. He went up and inquired of the
servants if he would get leave to rest there. He was given
a most honourable reception, and the master of the house
was well pleased to be entertaining such an agreeable
guest. Now himself happened to be a Jew, and that is
the why he did not ask M‘Carthy to eat at his table,
but had his dinner set out for him in a separate room.
The servants remarked on the small share of food he
was using, it was scarcely what would keep the life in
a young child; but he asked them not to make any
observation of the sort. At first they obeyed him, yet
when he used no meat at all on the third day, didn’t
they speak with their master.
“What is the cause of it at all?” he says to M‘Carthy.
“Is the food in this place not to your liking? Let
you name any dish you have a craving for, and the cook
will prepare it.”
“There was never better refreshment set before an
emperor,” says M‘Carthy.
“It is civility makes you that flattering,” answers
the Jew. “How would you be satisfied with the meat
which is set before you when you are not able to use any
portion of it at all?”
“I doubt I have a sickness on me will be the means
of my death,” says M‘Carthy. “I had best be moving
on from this place, the way I’ll not be rewarding your
kindness with the botheration of a corpse.”
With that the master of the house began for to speak
in praise of a doctor who was in those parts.
“I see I must be telling you what is in it,” says
M‘Carthy. “Doctors have no relief for the sort of
tribulation is destroying me.”
He brought out the statue, and he went over the whole
story from start to finish. How he set off on his travels
and was hopeful for a while; and how despair got hold of
“Let you be rejoicing now,” says the Jew, “for it
is near that lady you are this day. She comes down to
a stream which is convenient to this place, and six
waiting maids along with her, bringing a rod and line for
to fish. And it is always at the one hour she is in it.”
Well, M‘Carthy was lepping wild with delight to
hear tell of the lady.
“Let you do all I’m saying,” the Jew advises him.
“I’ll provide you with the best of fishing tackle, and do
you go down to the stream for to fish in it, too. Whatever
comes to your line let you give to the lady. But say
nothing which might scare her at all, and don’t follow
after her if she turns to go home.”
The next day M‘Carthy went out for to fish; not a
long time was he at the stream before the lady came
down and the six waiting maids along with her. Sure
enough she was the picture of the statue, and she had the
loveliest golden hair ever seen.
M‘Carthy had the luck to catch a noble trout, and he
took it off the hook, rolled it in leaves, and brought it
to the lady, according to the advice of the Jew. She was
pleased to accept the gift of it, but didn’t she turn home
at once and the six waiting maids along with her. When
she went into her own house she took the fish to her
“There was a noble person at the stream this day,”
she says, “and he made me a present of the trout.”
Next morning M‘Carthy went to fish again, and he
seen the lady coming and her six waiting maids walking
behind her. He caught a splendid fine trout and brought
it over to her; with that she turned home at once.
“Father,” says she, when she went in, “the gentleman
is after giving me a fish which is bigger and better nor
the one I brought back yesterday. If the like happens
at the next time I go to the stream I will be inviting the
noble person to partake of refreshment in this place.”
“Let you do as best pleases yourself,” says her father.
Well, sure enough, M‘Carthy got the biggest trout
of all the third time. The lady was in the height of
humour, and she asked would he go up to the house
with her that day. She walked with M‘Carthy beside
her, and the six waiting maids behind them. They
conversed very pleasantly together, and at last he found
courage for to tell her of how he travelled the world
to seek no person less than herself.
“I’m fearing you’ll need to set out on a second journey,
the way you will be coming in with some other one,”
says she. “I have an old father who is after refusing
two score of suitors who were asking me off him. I
do be thinking I’ll not be joining the world at all, unless
a king would be persuading himself of the advancement
there is in having a son-in-law wearing a golden crown
upon his head. The whole time it is great freedom I
have, and I walking where it pleases me with six waiting
maids along with me. The old man has a notion they’d
inform him if I was up to any diversion, but that is not
the way of it at all.”
“It is funning you are, surely,” says M‘Carthy.
“If himself is that uneasy about you how would it be
possible you’d bring me to the house to be speaking
“He is a kindly man and reasonable,” says she,
“and it is a good reception you’ll be getting. Only
let you not be speaking of marriage with me, for he
cannot endure to hear tell of the like.”
Well, the old man made M‘Carthy welcome, and he
had no suspicion the two were in notion of each other.
But didn’t they arrange all unbeknownt to him, and plan
out an elopement.
M‘Carthy went back to the Jew, and he told him all.
“But,” says he, “I am after spending my whole great
fortune of money travelling the territory of the world.
I must be finding a good situation the way I’ll make
suitable provision for herself.”
“Don’t be in the least distress,” says the Jew. “I
did not befriend you this far to be leaving you in a bad
case at the latter end. I’ll oblige you with the loan of
what money will start you in a fine place. You will
be making repayment at the end of three years when
you have made your profit on the business.”
The young gentleman accepted the offer, and he fair
wild with delight. Moreover, the Jew gave himself
and the lady grand assistance at the elopement, the way
they got safe out of it and escaped from her father,
who was raging in pursuit.
M‘Carthy was rejoicing surely, and he married to a
wife who was the picture of the statue. Herself was in
the best of humour, too, for it was small delight she
had in her own place, roaming the fields or stopping
within and six waiting maids along with her. A fine,
handsome husband was the right company for her like.
They bought a lovely house and farm of land with the
money which was lent by the Jew; and they fixed all
the grandest ever was seen. After a while M‘Carthy
got a good commission to be an officer, the way nothing
more in the world was needful to their happiness.
M‘Carthy and his lady had a fine life of it, they lacking
for no comfort or splendour at all. The officer’s
commission he had brought himself over to England
from time to time, and the lady M‘Carthy would mind
all until he was home. He saved up what money was
superfluous, and all was gathered to repay the loan
to the Jew only for a few pounds.
Well, it happened that M‘Carthy went to England,
and there he fell in with a droll sort of a man, who was
the best company. They played cards together and they
drank a great power of wine. In the latter end a dispute
came about between them, for they both claimed to have
the best woman.
“I have a lady beyond in Ireland,” says M‘Carthy,
“and she is an ornament to the roads when she is passing
alone. But no person gets seeing her these times, and
that is a big misfortune to the world.”
“What’s the cause?” asks the Englishman.
“I’d have a grief on me to think another man might
be looking on her and I not standing by,” says M‘Carthy.
“So she gives me that satisfaction on her promised word:
all the time I do be away she never quits the house,
and no man body is allowed within.”
The Englishman let a great laugh out of him at the
“You are simple enough!” says he. “Don’t
you know rightly when you are not in it, herself will be
feasting and entertaining and going on with every
M‘Carthy was raging at the impertinence of him,
and he offered for to fight.
“What would that be proving?” says the Englishman.
“Let you make a powerful big bet with myself that I
will not be able for to bring you a token from your
lady and a full description of her appearance.”
“I’ll be winning the money off you, surely!” says
“Not at all,” says the Englishman. “I’m not in
the least uneasy about it, for I’m full sure it’s the truth
I’m after speaking of how she does be playing herself
in your absence.”
“You’ll find me in this place and you coming back.”
says M‘Carthy. “Let you be prepared with the money
to have along with you.”
The Englishman took ship to Ireland, and he came
to the house of the lady M‘Carthy. Herself was in the
kitchen making a cake, and she seen the man walking
up to the door. Away she run to the parlour, and in
the hurry she forgot the lovely pearl ring she took off
her finger when she began at the cooking. Well, he
found the door standing open, and he seen the ring
on the kitchen table. It was easy knowing it was no
common article would be in the possession of any one
but the mistress of the house. What did the lad do,
only slip in and put it in his pocket. With that the
waiting maid came and asked his business, the lady
M‘Carthy was after sending her down.
“Oh, no business at all,” says he. “But I am weary
travelling and I thought I might rest at this place.”
He began for to flatter the girl and to offer her bribes,
and in the latter end he got her to speak. She told him
all what the mistress of the house was like; how she
had a mole under her right arm, and one on her left
knee. Moreover she gave him a few long golden hairs
she got out of the lady’s comb.
The Englishman went back to M‘Carthy, brought
him the tokens, and demanded the payment of the bet.
And that is the way the poor gentleman spent the money
he had saved up for the Jew.
M‘Carthy sent word to his wife that he was coming
home, and for her to meet him on the ship. She put
her grandest raiment upon her and started away at once.
She went out to the ship and got up on the deck where
she seen her husband standing. When she went over
to him he never said a word at all, but he swept her aside
with his arm the way she fell into the water. Then he
went on shore full sure he had her drowned.
But there was another ship coming in, and a miller
that was on her seen the lady struggling in the sea. He
was an aged man, yet he ventured in after her and he
saved the poor creature’s life.
Well, the miller was a good sort of a man and he had
great compassion for herself when she told him her
story. She had no knowledge of the cause of her
husband being vexed with her, and she thought it hard
to believe the evidence of her senses that he was after
striving to make away with her. The miller advised
the lady M‘Carthy to go on with the ship, which was
sailing to another port, for maybe if she went home
after the man he would be destroying her.
When the ship came into the harbour the news was
going of a great lawsuit.
The miller heard all, and he brought word to the lady
that M‘Carthy was in danger of death.
“There are three charges against him,” says the
miller. “Your father has him impeached for stealing
you away, and you not wishful to be with him: that is
the first crime.”
“That is a false charge,” says she, “for I helped for
to plan the whole elopement. My father is surely
saying all in good faith, but it is a lie the whole time.”
“A Jew has him accused for a sum of money he
borrowed, and it was due for repayment: that is the
second crime,” says the miller.
“The money was all gathered up for to pay the debt,”
says the lady. “Where can it be if M‘Carthy will not
“The law has him committed for the murder of
yourself: and that is the third crime,” says the miller.
“And a false charge, too, seeing you saved me in that
ill hour. I am thinking I’d do well to be giving evidence
in a court of law, for it’s maybe an inglorious death
they’ll be giving him,” says she.
“Isn’t that what he laid out for yourself?” asks the
“It is surely, whatever madness came on him. But
I have a good wish for him the whole time.”
“If that is the way of it we had best be setting out,”
The lady and the miller travelled overland, it being
a shorter journey nor the one they were after coming
by sea. When they got to the court of law wasn’t the
judge after condemning M‘Carthy; and it was little
the poor gentleman cared for the sentence of death was
passed on him.
“My life is bitter and poisoned on me,” says he;
“maybe the grave is the best place.”
With that the lady M‘Carthy stood up in the court
and gave out that she had not been destroyed at all,
for the miller saved her from the sea.
They began the whole trial over again, and herself
told how she planned the elopement, and her father
had no case at all. She could not tell why M‘Carthy
was wishful to destroy her, and he had kept all to himself
at the first trial. But by degrees all was brought to
light: the villainy of the Englishman and the deceit
was practised on them by him and the servant girl.
It was decreed that the money was to be restored
by that villain, and the Jew was to get his payment out
The lady M‘Carthy’s father was in such rejoicement
to see his daughter, and she alive, that he forgave herself
and the husband for the elopement. Didn’t the three
of them go away home together and they the happiest
people who were ever heard tell of in the world.