The Purcell Papers, by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Jim Sulivan’s Adventures in the Great Snow.

Being a Ninth Extract from the Legacy of the late Francis Purcell, P.P. of Drumcoolagh.

Jim Sulivan was a dacent, honest boy as you’d find in the seven parishes, an’ he was a beautiful singer, an’ an illegant dancer intirely, an’ a mighty plisant boy in himself; but he had the divil’s bad luck, for he married for love, an ‘av coorse he niver had an asy minute afther.

Nell Gorman was the girl he fancied, an’ a beautiful slip of a girl she was, jist twinty to the minute when he married her. She was as round an’ as complate in all her shapes as a firkin, you’d think, an’ her two cheeks was as fat an’ as red, it id open your heart to look at them.

But beauty is not the thing all through, an’ as beautiful as she was she had the divil’s tongue, an’ the divil’s timper, an’ the divil’s behaviour all out; an’ it was impossible for him to be in the house with her for while you’d count tin without havin’ an argymint, an’ as sure as she riz an argymint with him she’d hit him a wipe iv a skillet or whatever lay next to her hand.

Well, this wasn’t at all plasin’ to Jim Sulivan you may be sure, an’ there was scarce a week that his head wasn’t plasthered up, or his back bint double, or his nose swelled as big as a pittaty, with the vilence iv her timper, an’ his heart was scalded everlastin’ly with her tongue; so he had no pace or quietness in body or soul at all at all, with the way she was goin’ an.

Well, your honour, one cowld snowin’ evenin’ he kim in afther his day’s work regulatin’ the men in the farm, an’ he sat down very quite by the fire, for he had a scrimmidge with her in the mornin’, an’ all he wanted was an air iv the fire in pace; so divil a word he said but dhrew a stool an’ sat down close to the fire. Well, as soon as the woman saw him,

‘Move aff,’ says she, ‘an’ don’t be inthrudin’ an the fire,’ says she.

Well, he kept never mindin’, an’ didn’t let an’ to hear a word she was sayin’, so she kim over an’ she had a spoon in her hand, an’ she took jist the smallest taste in life iv the boilin’ wather out iv the pot, an’ she dhropped it down an his shins, an’ with that he let a roar you’d think the roof id fly aff iv the house.

‘Hould your tongue, you barbarrian,’ says she; ‘you’ll waken the child,’ says she.

‘An’ if I done right,’ says he, for the spoonful of boilin’ wather riz him entirely, ‘I’d take yourself,’ says he, ‘an’ I’d stuff you into the pot an the fire, an’ boil you.’ says he, ‘into castor oil,’ says he.

‘That’s purty behavour,’ says she; ‘it’s fine usage you’re givin’ me, isn’t it?’ says she, gettin’ wickeder every minute; ‘but before I’m boiled,’ says she, ‘thry how you like THAT,’ says she; an’, sure enough, before he had time to put up his guard, she hot him a rale terrible clink iv the iron spoon acrass the jaw.

‘Hould me, some iv ye, or I’ll murdher her,’ says he.

‘Will you?’ says she, an’ with that she hot him another tin times as good as the first.

‘By jabers,’ says he, slappin’ himself behind, ‘that’s the last salute you’ll ever give me,’ says he; ‘so take my last blessin’,’ says he, ‘you ungovernable baste!’ says he — an’ with that he pulled an his hat an’ walked out iv the door.

Well, she never minded a word he said, for he used to say the same thing all as one every time she dhrew blood; an’ she had no expectation at all but he’d come back by the time supper id be ready; but faix the story didn’t go quite so simple this time, for while he was walkin’, lonesome enough, down the borheen, with his heart almost broke with the pain, for his shins an’ his jaw was mighty troublesome, av course, with the thratement he got, who did he see but Mick Hanlon, his uncle’s sarvint by, ridin’ down, quite an asy, an the ould black horse, with a halter as long as himself.

‘Is that Mr. Soolivan?’ says the by. says he, as soon as he saw him a good bit aff.

‘To be sure it is, ye spalpeen, you,’ says Jim, roarin’ out; ‘what do you want wid me this time a-day?’ says he.

‘Don’t you know me?’ says the gossoon, ‘it’s Mick Hanlon that’s in it,’ says he.

‘Oh, blur an agers, thin, it’s welcome you are, Micky asthore,’ says Jim; ‘how is all wid the man an’ the woman beyant?’ says he.

‘Oh!’ says Micky, ‘bad enough,’ says he; ‘the ould man’s jist aff, an’ if you don’t hurry like shot,’ says he, ‘he’ll be in glory before you get there,’ says he.

‘It’s jokin’ ye are,’ says Jim, sorrowful enough, for he was mighty partial to his uncle intirely.

‘Oh, not in the smallest taste,’ says Micky; ‘the breath was jist out iv him,’ says he, ‘when I left the farm. “An’,” says he, “take the ould black horse,” says he, “for he’s shure-footed for the road,” says he, “an’ bring, Jim Soolivan here,” says he, “for I think I’d die asy af I could see him onst,’ says he.’

‘Well,’ says Jim, ‘will I have time,’ says he, ‘to go back to the house, for it would be a consolation,’ says he, ‘to tell the bad news to the woman?’ says he.

‘It’s too late you are already,’ says Micky, ‘so come up behind me, for God’s sake,’ says he, ‘an’ don’t waste time;’ an’ with that he brought the horse up beside the ditch, an’ Jim Soolivan mounted up behind Micky, an’ they rode off; an’ tin good miles it was iv a road, an’ at the other side iv Keeper intirely; an’ it was snowin’ so fast that the ould baste could hardly go an at all at all, an’ the two bys an his back was jist like a snowball all as one, an’ almost fruz an’ smothered at the same time, your honour; an’ they wor both mighty sorrowful intirely, an’ their toes almost dhroppin’ aff wid the could.

And when Jim got to the farm his uncle was gettin’ an illegantly, an’ he was sittin’ up sthrong an’ warm in the bed, an’ improvin’ every minute, an’ no signs av dyin’ an him at all at all; so he had all his throuble for nothin’.

But this wasn’t all, for the snow kem so thick that it was impassible to get along the roads at all at all; an’ faix, instead iv gettin’ betther, next mornin’ it was only tin times worse; so Jim had jist to take it asy, an’ stay wid his uncle antil such times as the snow id melt.

Well, your honour, the evenin’ Jim Soolivan wint away, whin the dark was closin’ in, Nell Gorman, his wife, beginned to get mighty anasy in herself whin she didn’t see him comin’ back at all; an’ she was gettin’ more an’ more frightful in herself every minute till the dark kem an, an’ divil a taste iv her husband was coming at all at all.

‘Oh!’ says she, ‘there’s no use in purtendin’, I know he’s kilt himself; he has committed infantycide an himself,’ says she, ‘like a dissipated bliggard as he always was,’ says she, ‘God rest his soul. Oh, thin, isn’t it me an’ not you, Jim Soolivan, that’s the unforthunate woman,’ says she, ‘for ain’t I cryin’ here, an’ isn’t he in heaven, the bliggard,’ says she. ‘Oh, voh, voh, it’s not at home comfortable with your wife an’ family that you are, Jim Soolivan,’ says she, ‘but in the other world, you aumathaun, in glory wid the saints I hope,’ says she. ‘It’s I that’s the unforthunate famale,’ says she, ‘an’ not yourself, Jim Soolivan,’ says she.

An’ this way she kep’ an till mornin’, cryin’ and lamintin; an’ wid the first light she called up all the sarvint bys, an’ she tould them to go out an’ to sarch every inch iv ground to find the corpse, ‘for I’m sure,’ says she, ‘it’s not to go hide himself he would,’ says she.

Well, they went as well as they could, rummagin’ through the snow, antil, at last, what should they come to, sure enough, but the corpse of a poor thravelling man, that fell over the quarry the night before by rason of the snow and some liquor he had, maybe; but, at any rate, he was as dead as a herrin’, an’ his face was knocked all to pieces jist like an over-boiled pitaty, glory be to God; an’ divil a taste iv a nose or a chin, or a hill or a hollow from one end av his face to the other but was all as flat as a pancake. An’ he was about Jim Soolivan’s size, an’ dhressed out exactly the same, wid a ridin’ coat an’ new corderhoys; so they carried him home, an’ they were all as sure as daylight it was Jim Soolivan himself, an’ they were wondhering he’d do sich a dirty turn as to go kill himself for spite.

Well, your honour, they waked him as well as they could, with what neighbours they could git togither, but by rason iv the snow, there wasn’t enough gothered to make much divarsion; however it was a plisint wake enough, an’ the churchyard an’ the priest bein’ convanient, as soon as the youngsthers had their bit iv fun and divarsion out iv the corpse, they burried it without a great dale iv throuble; an’ about three days afther the berrin, ould Jim Mallowney, from th’other side iv the little hill, her own cousin by the mother’s side — he had a snug bit iv a farm an’ a house close by, by the same token — kem walkin’ in to see how she was in her health, an’ he dhrew a chair, an’ he sot down an’ beginned to convarse her about one thing an’ another, antil he got her quite an’ asy into middlin’ good humour, an’ as soon as he seen it was time:

‘I’m wondherin’, says he, ‘Nell Gorman, sich a handsome, likely girl, id be thinkin’ iv nothin’ but lamintin’ an’ the likes,’ says he, ‘an’ lingerin’ away her days without any consolation, or gettin’ a husband,’ says he.

‘Oh,’ says she, ‘isn’t it only three days since I burried the poor man,’ says she, ‘an’ isn’t it rather soon to be talkin iv marryin’ agin?’

‘Divil a taste,’ says he, ‘three days is jist the time to a minute for cryin’ afther a husband, an’ there’s no occasion in life to be keepin’ it up,’ says he; ‘an’ besides all that,’ says he, ‘Shrovetide is almost over, an’ if you don’t be sturrin’ yourself an’ lookin’ about you, you’ll be late,’ says he, ‘for this year at any rate, an’ that’s twelve months lost; an’ who’s to look afther the farm all that time,’ says he, ‘an’ to keep the men to their work?’ says he.

‘It’s thrue for you, Jim Mallowney,’ says she, ‘but I’m afeard the neighbours will be all talkin’ about it,’ says she.

‘Divil’s cure to the word,’ says he.

‘An’ who would you advise?’ says she.

‘Young Andy Curtis is the boy,’ says he.

‘He’s a likely boy in himself,’ says she.

‘An’ as handy a gossoon as is out,’ says he.

‘Well, thin, Jim Mallowney,’ says she, ‘here’s my hand, an’ you may be talkin’ to Andy Curtis, an’ if he’s willin’ I’m agreeble — is that enough?’ says she.

So with that he made off with himself straight to Andy Curtis; an’ before three days more was past, the weddin’ kem an, an’ Nell Gorman an’ Andy Curtis was married as complate as possible; an’ if the wake was plisint the weddin’ was tin times as agreeble, an’ all the neighbours that could make their way to it was there, an’ there was three fiddlers an’ lots iv pipers, an’ ould Connor Shamus6 the piper himself was in it — by the same token it was the last weddin’ he ever played music at, for the next mornin’, whin he was goin’ home, bein’ mighty hearty an’ plisint in himself, he was smothered in the snow, undher the ould castle; an’ by my sowl he was a sore loss to the bys an’ girls twenty miles round, for he was the illigantest piper, barrin’ the liquor alone, that ever worked a bellas.

6 Literally, Cornelius James — the last name employed as a patronymic. Connor is commonly used. Corney, pronounced Kurny, is just as much used in the South, as the short name for Cornelius.

Well, a week passed over smart enough, an’ Nell an’ her new husband was mighty well continted with one another, for it was too soon for her to begin to regulate him the way she used with poor Jim Soolivan, so they wor comfortable enough; but this was too good to last, for the thaw kem an, an’ you may be sure Jim Soolivan didn’t lose a minute’s time as soon as the heavy dhrift iv snow was melted enough between him and home to let him pass, for he didn’t hear a word iv news from home sinst he lift it, by rason that no one, good nor bad, could thravel at all, with the way the snow was dhrifted.

So one night, when Nell Gorman an’ her new husband, Andy Curtis, was snug an’ warm in bed, an’ fast asleep, an’ everything quite, who should come to the door, sure enough, but Jim Soolivan himself, an’ he beginned flakin’ the door wid a big blackthorn stick he had, an’ roarin’ out like the divil to open the door, for he had a dhrop taken.

‘What the divil’s the matther?’ says Andy Curtis, wakenin’ out iv his sleep.

‘Who’s batin’ the door?’ says Nell; ‘what’s all the noise for?’ says she.

‘Who’s in it?’ says Andy.

‘It’s me,’ says Jim.

‘Who are you?’ says Andy; ‘what’s your name?’

‘Jim Soolivan,’ says he.

‘By jabers, you lie,’ says Andy.

‘Wait till I get at you,’ says Jim, hittin’ the door a lick iv the wattle you’d hear half a mile off.

‘It’s him, sure enough,’ says Nell; ‘I know his speech; it’s his wandherin’ sowl that can’t get rest, the crass o’ Christ betune us an’ harm.’

‘Let me in,’ says Jim, ‘or I’ll dhrive the door in a top iv yis.’

‘Jim Soolivan — Jim Soolivan,’ says Nell, sittin’ up in the bed, an’ gropin’ for a quart bottle iv holy wather she used to hang by the back iv the bed, ‘don’t come in, darlin’ — there’s holy wather here,’ says she; ‘but tell me from where you are is there anything that’s throublin’ your poor sinful sowl?’ says she. ‘An’ tell me how many masses ‘ill make you asy, an’ by this crass, I’ll buy you as many as you want,’ says she.

‘I don’t know what the divil you mane,’ says Jim.

‘Go back,’ says she, ‘go back to glory, for God’s sake,’ says she.

‘Divil’s cure to the bit iv me ‘ill go back to glory, or anywhere else,’ says he, ‘this blessed night; so open the door at onst’ an’ let me in,’ says he.

‘The Lord forbid,’ says she.

‘By jabers, you’d betther,’ says he, ‘or it ‘ill be the worse for you,’ says he; an’ wid that he fell to wallopin’ the door till he was fairly tired, an’ Andy an’ his wife crassin’ themselves an’ sayin’ their prayers for the bare life all the time.

‘Jim Soolivan,’ says she, as soon as he was done, ‘go back, for God’s sake, an’ don’t be freakenin’ me an’ your poor fatherless childhren,’ says she.

‘Why, you bosthoon, you,’ says Jim, ‘won’t you let your husband in,’ says he, ‘to his own house?’ says he.

‘You WOR my husband, sure enough,’ says she, ‘but it’s well you know, Jim Soolivan, you’re not my husband NOW,’ says she.

‘You’re as dhrunk as can be consaved, says Jim.

‘Go back, in God’s name, pacibly to your grave,’ says Nell.

‘By my sowl, it’s to my grave you’ll sind me, sure enough,’ says he, ‘you hard-hearted bain’, for I’m jist aff wid the cowld,’ says he.

‘Jim Sulivan,’ says she, ‘it’s in your dacent coffin you should be, you unforthunate sperit,’ says she; ‘what is it’s annoyin’ your sowl, in the wide world, at all?’ says she; ‘hadn’t you everything complate?’ says she, ‘the oil, an’ the wake, an’ the berrin’?’ says she.

‘Och, by the hoky,’ says Jim, ‘it’s too long I’m makin’ a fool iv mysilf, gostherin’ wid you outside iv my own door,’ says he, ‘for it’s plain to be seen,’ says he, ‘you don’t know what your’re sayin’, an’ no one ELSE knows what you mane, you unforthunate fool,’ says he; ‘so, onst for all, open the door quietly,’ says he, ‘or, by my sowkins, I’ll not lave a splinther together,’ says he.

Well, whin Nell an’ Andy seen he was getting vexed, they beginned to bawl out their prayers, with the fright, as if the life was lavin’ them; an’ the more he bate the door, the louder they prayed, until at last Jim was fairly tired out.

‘Bad luck to you,’ says he; ‘for a rale divil av a woman,’ says he. I ‘can’t get any advantage av you, any way; but wait till I get hould iv you, that’s all,’ says he. An’ he turned aff from the door, an’ wint round to the cow-house, an’ settled himself as well as he could, in the sthraw; an’ he was tired enough wid the thravellin’ he had in the day-time, an’ a good dale bothered with what liquor he had taken; so he was purty sure of sleepin’ wherever he thrun himself.

But, by my sowl, it wasn’t the same way with the man an’ the woman in the house — for divil a wink iv sleep, good or bad, could they get at all, wid the fright iv the sperit, as they supposed; an’ with the first light they sint a little gossoon, as fast as he could wag, straight off, like a shot, to the priest, an’ to desire him, for the love o’ God, to come to them an the minute, an’ to bring, if it was plasin’ to his raverence, all the little things he had for sayin’ mass, an’ savin’ sowls, an’ banishin’ sperits, an’ freakenin’ the divil, an’ the likes iv that. An’ it wasn’t long till his raverence kem down, sure enough, on the ould grey mare, wid the little mass-boy behind him, an’ the prayer-books an’ Bibles, an’ all the other mystarious articles that was wantin’, along wid him; an’ as soon as he kem in, ‘God save all here,’ says he.

‘God save ye, kindly, your raverence,’ says they.

‘An’ what’s gone wrong wid ye?’ says he; ‘ye must be very bad,’ says he,’ entirely, to disturb my devotions,’ says he, ‘this way, jist at breakfast-time,’ says he.

‘By my sowkins,’ says Nell, ‘it’s bad enough we are, your raverence,’ says she, ‘for it’s poor Jim’s sperit,’ says she; ‘God rest his sowl, wherever it is,’ says she, ‘that was wandherin’ up an’ down, opossite the door all night,’ says she, ‘in the way it was no use at all, thryin’ to get a wink iv sleep,’ says she.

‘It’s to lay it, you want me, I suppose,’ says the priest.

‘If your raverence ‘id do that same, it ‘id be plasin’ to us,’ says Andy.

‘It’ll be rather expinsive,’ says the priest.

‘We’ll not differ about the price, your raverence,’ says Andy.

‘Did the sperit stop long?’ says the priest.

‘Most part iv the night,’ says Nell, ‘the Lord be merciful to us all!’ says she.

‘That’ll make it more costly than I thought,’ says he. ‘An’ did it make much noise?’ says he.

‘By my sowl, it’s it that did,’ says Andy; ‘leatherin’ the door wid sticks and stones,’ says he, ‘antil I fairly thought every minute,’ says he, ‘the ould boords id smash, an’ the sperit id be in an top iv us — God bless us,’ says he.

‘Phiew!’ says the priest; ‘it’ll cost a power iv money.’

‘Well, your raverence,’ says Andy, ‘take whatever you like,’ says he; ‘only make sure it won’t annoy us any more,’ says he.

‘Oh! by my sowkins,’ says the priest, ‘it’ll be the quarest ghost in the siven parishes,’ says he, ‘if it has the courage to come back,’ says he, ‘afther what I’ll do this mornin’, plase God,’ says he; ‘so we’ll say twelve pounds; an’ God knows it’s chape enough,’ says he, ‘considherin’ all the sarcumstances,’ says he.

Well, there wasn’t a second word to the bargain; so they paid him the money down, an’ he sot the table doun like an althar, before the door, an’ he settled it out vid all the things he had wid him; an’ he lit a bit iv a holy candle, an’ he scathered his holy wather right an’ left; an’ he took up a big book, an’ he wint an readin’ for half an hour, good; an’ whin he kem to the end, he tuck hould iv his little bell, and he beginned to ring it for the bare life; an’, by my sowl, he rung it so well, that he wakened Jim Sulivan in the cow-house, where he was sleepin’, an’ up he jumped, widout a minute’s delay, an’ med right for the house, where all the family, an’ the priest, an’ the little mass-boy was assimbled, layin’ the ghost; an’ as soon as his raverence seen him comin’ in at the door, wid the fair fright, he flung the bell at his head, an’ hot him sich a lick iv it in the forehead, that he sthretched him on the floor; but fain; he didn’t wait to ax any questions, but he cut round the table as if the divil was afther him, an’ out at the door, an’ didn’t stop even as much as to mount an his mare, but leathered away down the borheen as fast as his legs could carry him, though the mud was up to his knees, savin’ your presence.

Well, by the time Jim kem to himself, the family persaved the mistake, an’ Andy wint home, lavin’ Nell to make the explanation. An’ as soon as Jim heerd it all, he said he was quite contint to lave her to Andy, entirely; but the priest would not hear iv it; an’ he jist med him marry his wife over again, an’ a merry weddin’ it was, an’ a fine collection for his raverence. An’ Andy was there along wid the rest, an’ the priest put a small pinnance upon him, for bein’ in too great a hurry to marry a widdy.

An’ bad luck to the word he’d allow anyone to say an the business, ever after, at all, at all; so, av coorse, no one offinded his raverence, by spakin’ iv the twelve pounds he got for layin’ the sperit.

An’ the neighbours wor all mighty well plased, to be sure, for gettin’ all the divarsion of a wake, an’ two weddin’s for nothin’

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Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 16:49