The Quare Gander by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

From “The Purcell Papers.”

Terence Mooney was an honest boy and well-to-do—an’ he rinted the biggest farm on this side iv the Galties, an’ bein’ mighty cute an’ a sevare worker, it was small wonder he turned a good penny every harvest; but, unluckily, he was blessed with an ilegant large family iv daughters, an’ iv coorse his heart was allamost bruck, strivin’ to make up fortunes for the whole of them—an’ there wasn’t a conthrivance iv any sort of description for makin’ money out iv the farm but he was up to. Well, among the other ways he had iv gettin’ up in the world, he always kep’ a power iv turkies, and all soarts iv poultry; an’ he was out iv all raison partial to geese—an’ small blame to him for that same—for twiste a year you can pluck them as bare as my hand—an’ get a fine price for the feathers, and plenty of rale sizeable eggs—an’ when they are too ould to lay any more, you can kill them, an’ sell them to the gintlemen for goslings, d’ye see,—let alone that a goose is the most manly bird that is out. Well, it happened in the coorse iv time, that one ould gandher tuck a wondherful likin’ to Terence, an’ sorra a place he could go serenadin’ about the farm, or lookin’ afther the men, but the gandher id be at his heels, an’ rubbin’ himself agin his legs, and lookin’ up in his face just like any other Christian id do; and the likes iv it was never seen, Terence Mooney an’ the gandher wor so great. An’ at last the bird was  so engagin’ that Terence would not allow it to be plucked any more; an’ kept it from that time out for love an’ affection; just all as one like one iv his children. But happiness in perfection never lasts long; an’ the neighbours begin’d to suspect the nathur and intentions iv the gandher; an’ some iv them said it was the divil, and more iv them that it was a fairy. Well Terence could not but hear something of what was sayin’, and you may be sure he was not altogether aisy in his mind about it, an’ from one day to another he was gettin’ more ancomfortable in himself, until he detarmined to sind for Jer Garvan, the fairy docthor in Garryowen, an’ it’s he was the ilegant hand at the business, and sorra a sperit id say a crass word to him, no more nor a priest; an’ moreover, he was very great wid ould Terence Mooney, this man’s father that was. So without more about it, he was sent for; an’ sure enough, not long he was about it, for he kem back that very evening along wid the boy that was sint for him; an’ as soon as he was there, an’ tuk his supper, an’ was done talkin’ for a while, he bigined, of coorse, to look into the gandher. Well, he turned it this way an’ that way, to the right and to the left, an’ straight-ways, an’ upside down, an’ when he was tired handlin’ it, says he to Terence Mooney:

“Terence,” says he, “you must remove the bird into the next room,” says he, “an’ put a petticoat,” says he, “or any other convaynience round his head,” says he.

“An’ why so?” says Terence.

“Becase,” says Jer, says he.

“Becase what?” says Terence.

“Becase,” says Jer, “if it isn’t done—you’ll never be aisy agin,” says he, “or pusilanimous in your mind,”  says he; “so ax no more questions, but do my biddin,” says he.

“Well,” says Terence, “have your own way,” says he.

An’ wid that he tuk the ould gandher, and giv’ it to one iv the gossoons.

“An’ take care,” says he, “don’t smother the crathur,” says he.

Well, as soon as the bird was gone, says Jer Garvan, says he, “Do you know what that ould gandher is, Terence Mooney?”

“Sorra a taste,” says Terence.

“Well, then,” says Jer, “the gandher is your own father,” says he.

“It’s jokin’ you are,” says Terence, turnin’ mighty pale; “how can an ould gandher be my father?” says he.

“I’m not funnin’ you at all,” says Jer, “it’s thrue what I tell you—it’s your father’s wandherin’ sowl,” says he, “that’s naturally tuk pissession iv the ould gandher’s body,” says he; “I know him many ways, and I wondher,” says he, “you do not know the cock iv his eye yourself,” says he.

“Oh!” says Terence, “what will I ever do, at all, at all,” says he; “it’s all over wid me, for I plucked him twelve times at the laste,” says he.

“That can’t be helped now,” says Jer, “it was a sevare act, surely,” says he, “but it’s too late to lamint for it now,” says he; “the only way to prevint what’s past,” says he, “is to put a stop to it before it happens,” says he.

“Thrue for you,” says Terence, “but how did you come to the knowledge iv my father’s sowl,” says he, “bein’ in the ould gandher?” says he.

“If I tould you,” says Jer, “you would not understand me,” says he, “without book-larnin’ an’ gasthronomy,” says he; “so ax me no questions,” says he, “an I’ll tell you no lies; but b’lieve me in this much,” says he, “it’s your father that’s in it,” says he, “an’ if I don’t make him spake to-morrow mornin’,” says he, “I’ll give you lave to call me a fool,” says he.

“Say no more,” says Terence, “that settles the business,” says he; “an’ oh! is it not a quare thing,” says he, “for a dacent, respictable man,” says he, “to be walkin’ about the counthry in the shape iv an ould gandher,” says he; “and, oh, murdher, murdher! is it not often I plucked him,” says he, “an’ tundher and turf, might not I have ate him,” says he; and wid that he fell into a could parspiration, savin’ your prisince, an’ was on the pint iv faintin’ wid the bare notions iv it.

Well, whin he was come to himself agin, says Jerry, to him, quite an aisy—“Terence,” says he, “don’t be aggravatin’ yourself,” says he, “for I have a plan composed that’ll make him spake out,” says he, “an’ tell what it is in the world he’s wantin’,” says he; “an’ mind an’ don’t be comin’ in wid your gosther an’ to say agin anything I tell you,” says he, “but jist purtind, as soon as the bird is brought back,” says he, “how that we’re goin’ to sind him to-morrow mornin’ to market,” says he; “an’ if he don’t spake to-night,” says he, “or gother himself out iv the place,” says he, “put him into the hamper airly, and sind him in the cart,” says he, “straight to Tipperary, to be sould for aitin’,” says he, “along wid the two gossoons,” says he; “an’ my name isn’t Jer Garvan,” says he, “if he doesn’t spake out before he’s half way,” says he; “an’ mind,” says he, “as soon as ever he says the first word,” says he,  “that very minute bring him off to Father Crotty,” says he, “an’ if his Raverance doesn’t make him ratire,” says he, “into the flames of Purgathory,” says he, “there’s no vartue in my charms,” says he.

Well, wid that the ould gandher was let into the room agin, an’ they all begined to talk iv sindin’ him the nixt mornin’ to be sould for roastin’ in Tipperary, jist as if it was a thing andoubtingly settled; but not a notice the gandher tuk, no more nor if they wor spaking iv the Lord Liftenant; an’ Terence desired the boy to get ready the kish for the poulthry “an’ to settle it out wid hay soft and shnug,” says he, “for it’s the last jauntin’ the poor ould gandher ‘ill get in this world,” says he.

Well, as the night was getting late, Terence was growin’ mighty sorrowful an’ down-hearted in himself entirely wid the notions iv what was going to happen. An’ as soon as the wife an’ the crathurs war fairly in bed, he brought out some illigant potteen, an’ himself and Jer Garvan sot down to it, an’ the more anasy Terence got, the more he dhrank, and himself and Jer Garvan finished a quart betune them: it wasn’t an imparial though, an’ more’s the pity, for them wasn’t anvinted antil short since; but sorra a much matther it signifies any longer if a pint could hould two quarts, let alone what it does, sinst Father Mathew begin’d to give the pledge, an’ wid the blessin’ iv timperance to deginerate Ireland. An’ sure I have the medle myself; an’ it’s proud I am iv that same, for abstamiousness is a fine thing, although it’s mighty dhry.

Well, whin Terence finished his pint, he thought he might as well stop, “for enough is as good as a faste,” says he, “an’ I pity the vagabone,” says he, “that is  not able to conthroul his liquor,” says he, “an’ to keep constantly inside iv a pint measure,” says he, an’ wid that he wished Jer Garvan a good night, an’ walked out iv the room. But he wint out the wrong door, being a trifle hearty in himself, an’ not rightly knowin’ whether he was standin’ on his head or his heels, or both iv them at the same time, an’ in place iv gettin’ into bed, where did he thrun himself but into the poulthry hamper, that the boys had settled out ready for the gandher in the mornin’; an’, sure enough, he sunk down snug an’ complate through the hay to the bottom; an’ wid the turnin’ an’ roulin’ about in the night, not a bit iv him but was covered up as snug as a lumper in a pittaty furrow before mornin’.

So wid the first light, up gets the two boys that war to take the sperit, as they consaved, to Tipperary; an’ they cotched the ould gandher, an’ put him in the hamper and clapped a good whisp iv hay on the top iv him, and tied it down sthrong wid a bit iv a coard, an med the sign iv the crass over him, in dhread iv any harum, an’ put the hamper up on the car, wontherin’ all the while what in the world was makin’ the ould burd so surprisin’ heavy.

Well, they wint along on the road towards Tipperary, wishin’ every minute that some iv the neighbours bound the same way id happen to fall in with them, for they didn’t half like the notions iv havin’ no company but the bewitched gandher, an’ small blame to them for that same. But, although they wor shakin’ in their skins in dhread iv the ould bird beginin’ to convarse them every minute, they did not let on to one another, bud kep’ singin’ and whistlin’, like mad to keep the dhread out iv their hearts. Well, afther they wor on the road  betther nor half an hour, they kem to the bad bit close by Father Crotty’s, an’ there was one rut three feet deep at the laste; an’ the car got sich a wondherful chuck goin’ through it, that wakened Terence within the basket.

“Oh!” says he, “my bones is bruck wid yer thricks, what are ye doin’ wid me?”

“Did ye hear anything quare, Thady?” says the boy that was next to the car, turnin’ as white as the top iv a musharoon; “did ye hear anything quare soundin’ out iv the hamper?” says he.

“No, nor you,” says Thady, turnin’ as pale as himself, “it’s the ould gandher that’s gruntin’ wid the shakin’ he’s gettin’,” says he.

“Where have ye put me into,” says Terence, inside; “let me out,” says he, “or I’ll be smothered this minute,” says he.

“There’s no use in purtending,” says the boy; “the gandher’s spakin’, glory be to God!” says he.

“Let me out, you murdherers,” says Terence.

“In the name iv all the holy saints,” says Thady, “hould yer tongue, you unnatheral gandher,” says he.

“Who’s that, that dar call me nicknames,” says Terence inside, roaring wid the fair passion; “let me out, you blasphamious infiddles,” says he, “or by this crass, I’ll stretch ye,” says he.

“Who are ye?” says Thady.

“Who would I be but Terence Mooney,” says he, “It’s myself that’s in it, you unmerciful bliggards,” says he; “let me out, or I’ll get out in spite iv yez,” says he, “an’ I’ll wallop yez in arnest,” says he.

“It’s ould Terence, sure enough,” says Thady; “isn’t it cute the fairy docthor found him out,” says he.

“I’m on the p’int iv suffication,” says Terence;  “let me out, I tell ye, an’ wait till I get at ye,” says he, “for sorra a bone in your body but I’ll powdher,” says he; an’ wid that he bigined kickin’ and flingin’ in the hamper, and drivin’ his legs agin the sides iv it, that it was a wondher he did not knock it to pieces. Well, as the boys seen that, they skelped the ould horse into a gallop as hard as he could peg towards the priest’s house, through the ruts, an’ over the stones; an’ you’d see the hamper fairly flyin’ three feet in the air with the joultin’; so it was small wondher, by the time they got to his Raverance’s door, the breath was fairly knocked out iv poor Terence; so that he was lyin’ speechless in the bottom iv the hamper. Well, whin his Raverance kem down, they up an’ they tould him all that happened, an’ how they put the gandher into the hamper, an’ how he begined to spake, an’ how he confissed that he was ould Terence Mooney; and they axed his honour to advise them how to get rid iv the sperit for good an’ all. So says his Raverance, says he:

“I’ll take my booke,” says he, “an’ I’ll read some rale sthrong holy bits out iv it,” says he, “an’ do you get a rope and put it round the hamper,” says he, “an’ let it swing over the runnin’ wather at the bridge,” says he, “an’ it’s no matther if I don’t make the sperit come out iv it,” says he.

Well, wid that, the priest got his horse, an’ tuk his booke in undher his arum, an’ the boys follied his Raverance, ladin’ the horse, and Terence houldin’ his whisht, for he seen it was no use spakin’, an’ he was afeard if he med any noise they might thrait him to another gallop an’ finish him intirely. Well, as soon as they wur all come to the bridge the boys tuk the rope they had with them, an’ med it fast to the top iv the hamper an’ swung it fairly over the bridge; lettin’  it hang in the air about twelve feet out iv the wather; and his Raverance rode down to the bank iv the river, close by, an’ begined to read mighty loud and bould intirely.

An’ when he was goin’ on about five minutes, all at onst the bottom iv the hamper kem out, an’ down wint Terence, falling splash dash into the wather, an’ the ould gandher a-top iv him; down they both wint to the bottom wid a souse you’d hear half-a-mile off; an’ before they had time to rise agin, his Raverance, wid a fair astonishment, giv his horse one dig iv the spurs, an’ before he knew where he was, in he went, horse and all, a-top iv them, an’ down to the bottom. Up they all kem agin together, gaspin’ an puffin’, an’ off down the current with them like shot, in undher the arch iv the bridge, till they kem to the shallow wather. The ould gandher was the first out, an’ the priest and Terence kem next, pantin’ an’ blowin’ an’ more than half dhrounded: an’ his Raverance was so freckened wid the dhroundin’ he got, and wid the sight iv the sperit, as he consaved, that he wasn’t the better iv it for a month. An’ as soon as Terence could spake, he said he’d have the life iv the two gossoons; but Father Crotty would not give him his will; an’ as soon as he got quieter they all endeavoured to explain it, but Terence consayved he went raly to bed the night before, an’ his Raverance said it was a mysthery, an’ swore if he cotched anyone laughin’ at the accident, he’d lay the horsewhip across their shoulders; an’ Terence grew fonder an’ fonder iv the gandher every day, until at last he died in a wondherful ould age, lavin’ the gandher afther him an’ a large family iv childer; an’ to this day the farm is rinted by one iv Terence Mooney’s lineal legitimate postariors.