Me and My Ghost Ship by Anonymous

About a month after the cant at The Beg of all the goods that was in it,—the particulars of which Father Killala was telling me, as you heard while ago, when he was sent for by Johnny O'Rourke,—the large creditors that had claims on the land, and the house itself, made up their minds to follow the example set them by the small fry, who had paid themselves out o' the sale o' the furniture, and things o' that kind,—the goods and chattels I mane;—and news came that the whole domain would soon be publicly put up, and sould to the best bidder. Such tidings as this couldn't but grieve me,—I'll say that much for myself; for I didn't know into what hands the fine ould place might fall. And what would it matter to me, a poor ould cripple as I am, living here in a cabin,—you'll ask,—who had it, since I'd no call to it?—Why, then, I'll tell you; and if you laugh at me for loving The Beg, so be it, and you're welcome. It's in the small room, to the left, as you go up the back staircase, just above what's called the Oratory, and over-right the chamber where there's a portrait of William the Third, the long-nosed Orangeman, one side o' the chimney, and a picture of poor Jimmy Stuart, the king, on the other—it's there where I drew my first breath; and it's there, too, on the same day and hour, my mother drew her last. My father lived with the Veoghs, and so did his father before him; and, it's said, we once was owners of The Beg ourselves, and should be so still, if right ruled the roast. There's a pedigree of our forefathers drawn out upon parchment, in the form of a tree, stuck up against one o' the walls, by which it seems we were fine fellows long ago:—but that doesn't matter a ha'p'orth to me now; for I'd rather find a guinea without an owner, than have it proved that my grandfather was king of ten countries, and I could lay claim to the title as his heir, if it was nothing but the bare name I got by it. Not but what if I was a fine fellow myself, I must own, I'd rather have fine fellows than vagabonds for my forefathers; but as I'm but a fisherman, or next kin to it, I'd as soon have fishermen as King Ferguses for my ancestors;—and rather, too, may be: for while, in the one case, the honour of those I sprung from might make me strive to be great and honourable myself; that same honour, in the other, might make me draw comparisons, and be discontented with my own lot, and so neglect doing what I might, and go to the dogs,—don't you see?

The night I heard of The Beg's being sould, I was sitting alone here in my cabin, brooding over the bad news, when whose voice should I hear, outside my door, but that of Corney Carolan, the wooden-legged piper and rhymester of Drogheda?—You'll know more of Corney, if you'll just listen to the story I'll tell you, by-and-by, about Luke Sweeney; that is—Fogarty, I should say; for the piper's cousin—that's Luke himself—don't like to be called by his own name, which, to spake the truth, is Sweeney, and nothing else: however, I'll tell you a trifle about the piper now, and especially what happened him the night I sat mumchance here, making myself sick, at what, if I was wiser, may be, I'd know shouldn't concern me. Corney was bound 'prentice to a brogue-maker, in his native place—which is Drogheda; but, as he tells us, he was too much the lad o' wax to stick to his last, and left a good home, to seek his fortune on the wide ocean. But there's many of us have done as bad: so we shouldn't cry out upon Corney, you know;—should we, now?—The sea is the sole and only thing in the world that an English, Irish, Scotch, or Welch boy, ever feels truly and deeply in love with. The lad that's one day or other to have his name mentioned with Nelson and Collingwood,—or to be the hero of the forecastle, if he comes of poor parents,—may be fond of a toy, or a sugar-plum, or his little cousin Kitty, or thousands of things besides, before he tumbles into his teens; but—mark what I say, if you plaze—the sea alone is the darling he doats on; and no man alive ever fell into a more consuming passion for a beautiful young woman, than many a boy has for the fine ould ocean. It's the hereditary love such numbers of us have, when young, for the beautiful billows, that makes us masters of the main. In other countries, as I've heard, neither whips nor words will persuade lads to take to the sea; in these, stone walls themselves will but barely keep them from it: and bad luck to him, I say, that ever, by word or deed, does a ha'p'orth to blight our national fondness for the waters, which keeps our country afloat.—Hurrah!

The rhymester of Drogheda has made a song of what happened him at sea;—and a mighty queer song it is, as you'll hear, for I think I can give you a sample. After Corney has noticed all he saw and suffered, for four or five years, aboard a man-o'-war, he says,—or rather sings,—

     "We met the French one day,
     Near what the Nile they call,
     And axed them would they play
     A friendly game of ball?—
     Isn't it grape they shoot?
     Away my leg they blew;
     And the two-pound note to boot,
     I'd hid inside my shoe."

After that, Corney retired upon a wooden leg and a pension; and, turning his sword into an awl, he transmogrified the corner of an ould stable into a new cobbler's stall. "And you'd think I'd do well," says he, in his song; "for," he continues,

     "Of customers soon I got—
     Ould friends they were—a score;
     But wouldn't I go to pot
     Without as many more?
     Musha! bad luck for me!—
     Attend to this, I beg,—
     They all had been to sea,
     And each o' them lost a leg!"

Going on at that rate wouldn't suit Corney at all: he found the wolf was getting every day nearer his door; so, at last, he thought he'd try what sort of a trade begging was. It wasn't long before he'd the model of a ship, built and rigged by himself, fastened to his skull-cap; and for many's the year he carried it about to and fro, here and there and everywhere, until he and his pipes—and, by all accounts, he's one o' the finest hands at them you ever heard—were as well known as the bridge of Waterford. For the first time in my life,—the night he looked in upon me, when I was bothering myself about The Beg's being sould,—I saw Corney without his ship.

"Arrah! Corney," says I, "who've you struck your flag to?"

"To the captain of the Dutch merchantman," says he.

"Well, but how happened it, Corney?" says I.

"Why, then," says he, "I'll tell you:—About an hour ago upon my arrival at my cousin Fogarty's, after being away since Sunday se'nnight, I heard the whole story about the Dutch vessel being blown ashore, and took a half-a-pint, or so, of the fine hollands my cousin had got from her captain. After that, I was tould how he'd given every soul in the place from one to three quarts of it, for the kindness that had been shewn him, in getting his ship off without damage. And, says Luke Fogarty,— roaring like a bull in my ear,—'He's just bid us good b'ye; for his vessel's under weigh again, and himself going on board as soon as he gets to the beach.' Very well, thinks I; wooden-legged as I am, I'll see if I can't overtake the Dutchman, and coax him out of a keg, or a bottle at least: for, to tell the truth, hollands is delicious; and I never tasted a sup of any thing drinkable so fine as the hollands the Dutch captain left at Luke Fogarty's. Away I wint; and, in less time than you'd dance down a lame woman at a jig-house, as the night was bright as day itself, I hove up within sight of the Dutchman.

"Making all the sail I could, I soon ran down his hull; but the moment I hailed him, and he took a view of me, he walked away like a race-horse. I followed, as fast as I well could, and a jolly chace we had of it. I'll tell you beforehand that I came up with him at last: and, from one of his boat's crew, who spoke English, I found out what he thought of me, while I was crowding all I could upon his track. He'd often laughed at the stories that was tould him of the phantom ship off the Cape; but no sooner had he set eyes on the little model I wore on my head, than he thought he saw the thing itself: and he looked upon it as a special punishment upon him for being an unbeliever, to have the ship not only sent after him there from her own seas, but for her to follow him ashore, and make the air her ocean! The slender cordage rattled with the sea-breeze,—blowing as it was, and the little sails flapped about the spars, as he tacked to get away from me, and I tacked to overtake him; and, no doubt he thought they made more noise than a seventy-four in a gale o' wind. And the fears that were upon him, likely enough, magnified my little boat into a large craft. But what do you think he thought, when I struck up a time upon my pipes?—music to which he,—poor ignorant soul! until then was a stranger! He cast a hasty glance over his left shoulder at the sound; and, the moon then gleaming full upon me, he caught a glimpse of my face; which, as he said, he took at once to be that of the big ugly fiend o' the storm. I hailed him, but he wouldn't answer me; I swore in Irish, and he began to pray in Dutch: and, at last, when he found he couldn't get away from me, he fell down upon his knees, and began to attack a bottle he had in his pocket, as though no one loved hollands but himself. In a few seconds he was under my fore-foot; and, of course, I clutched the bottle out of his hand: but if you'd seen the look he gave at me and my ghost-ship, while I was drinking, you'd never forget it while you lived. I've no call to find fault with him, though; for, as soon as he found out I was flesh and blood, he used me well, and gave me the two trifles of hollands I have, slung at each side of me here, and more than a trifle of money, to boot, for my ship; which, to tell no lies, I was going to hang up for ever tomorrow; for she was getting too much for me, or I was getting too ould for her, I don't know which. Besides, I'm now able to do well enough without her,—thanks to my pipes,—and the trifles of songs I've made myself and stole from better men. It wasn't without a groan or two though, that I saw the Dutchman, when he'd bought her, tie a stone to my poor ship's waist, and drown her as spitefully as though she'd been a cur that had bit him."