Cauth Morrisy looking for Service

Patrick Kennedy
1891 (2nd Edition)

The narrator of the following travelling sketch was a half-witted woman, who, although she had heard it from some one else, was under the impression that she had undergone part of the adventures in some form or other. She was a very honest, inoffensive creature, and would do any work assigned to her carefully enough; but she had a certain district of the country under her supervision, and it was essential to her well-being that she should perambulate (serenade was her term) this portion about once in the year. She went by the name of Cauth (Catherine) Morrisy, and this is the style in which she related her juvenile experience:—


Well, neighbours, when I was a thuckeen (young girl) about fifteen years of age, and it was time to be doing something for myself, I set off one fine day in spring along the yalla high-road; and if anybody axed me where I was goin' I'd make a joke about it, and say I was goin' out of Ireland to live in the Roer.[1] Well, I travelled all day, and dickens a bit o' me was the nearer to get a sarvice; and when the dark hour come I got a lodging in a little house by the side of the road, where they were drying flax over a roaring turf fire. I'll never belie the vanithee her goodness. She give me a good quarter of well-baked barley bread, with butter on it, and made me sit on the big griddle over the ash-pit in the corner; but what would you have of it? I held the bread to the fire to melt the butter, and bedad the butter fell on the lighted turf, and there it blazed up like vengeance, and set the flax afire, and the flax set the tatch afire, and maybe they didn't get a fright. "Oh, musha, vanithee," says they, "wasn't it the divel bewitched you to let that omadhan of a girl burn us out of house and home this way? Be off, you torment, and purshuin' to you!" Well, if they didn't hunt me out, and throw potsticks, and tongses, and sods o' fire after me, lave it till again; and I run, and I run, till I run head foremost into a cabin by the side of the road.

The woman o' the house was sitting at the fire, and she got frightened to see me run in that way. "Oh, musha, ma'am," says I, "will you give me shelter?" and so I up and told her my misfortunes. "Poor colleen," says she, "my husband is out, and if he catches a stranger here he'll go mad and break things. But I'll let you get up on the hurdle over the room, and for your life don't budge." "I won't," says I, "and thank you, ma'am." Well, I was hardly in bed when her crooked disciple of a man kem in with a sheep on his back he was afther stealing. "Is everything ready?" says he. "It is," says she. So with that he skinned the sheep, and popped a piece down into the biling pot, and went out and hid the skin, and buried the rest o' the mate in a hole in the flure, and covered it with the griddle, and covered the griddle again with some o' the clay he removed from the flure. Well, when he made his supper on the mutton he says to his wife, "I hope no one got lodging while I was away." "Arrah, who'd get it?" says she. "That's not the answer I want," says he. "Who did you give shelter to?" "Och, it was only to a little slip of a girl that's as fast as the knocker of Newgate since eleven o'clock, on the hurdle." "Molly," says he, "I'll hang for you some day, so I will. But first and foremost I'll put the stranger out o' pain." When I hear him talk I slip down, and was out o' the door in a jiffy; but he was as stiff as I was stout, and he fling the hatchet after me, and cut off a piece of my heel. "Them is the tricks of a clown," says I to myself, and I making away at the ling of my life; but as luck would have it, I got shelter in another cabin, where a nice old man was sitting over the fire, reading a book. "What's the matter, poor girl?" says he, and I up and told him what happened me. "Never fear," says he; "the man o' the mutton won't follow you here. I suppose you'd like your supper." Well, sure enough, the fright, and the run, and the cut heel, and that, made me hungry, and I didn't refuse a good plate o' stirabout.

"Colleen," says the man," I can't go to sleep early in the night; maybe you'd tell a body a story." "Musha, an the dickens a story meself has," says I. "That's bad," says he; " the fire is getting low: take that booran [2] out to the clamp, and bring in the full of it of turf." "I will, sir," says I. But when I took a turf out of the end of the clamp 500 sods tumbled down on me, head and pluck; and I thought the breath was squeezed out of me. "If that's the way," says I, "let the old gentleman himself come out, and bring in his firing."

So I went in, and had like to faint when I came to the fire. "What ails you, little girl?" says he. "The clamp that fell on me," says I. "Oh, but it's meself that's sorry," says he. "Did you think of e'er another story while you were at the clamp?" "Indeed an I didn't." "Well, it can't be helped. I suppose you're tired. Take that rushlight into the barn, but don't set it on fire. You'll find plenty of dry straw for a bed, and come into your breakfast early." Well, I bade him good-night, and when I came into the barn, sure enough, there was no scarcity of straw. I said my prayers, but the first bundle I took out of the heap I thought all the straw in the barn was down on my poor bones. "O vuya, vuya, Cauth," says I to myself, "if your poor father and mother knew the state you're in, wouldn't they have the heart-scald." But I crept out and sat down on a bundle, and began to cry.

I wasn't after cryin' a second dhrass when I heard steps outside the door, and I hid myself again under the straw, leaving a little peep-hole. In came three as ugly-looking fellows as you'd find in a kish o' brogues, with a coffin on their shoulders. They wondered at the candle, but they said nothing till they put the coffin down, and began to play cards on it with the dirtiest deck (pack) I ever see before or since. Well, they cheated, and scolded, and whacked one another, and in two minutes they were as great as pickpockets [3] again.

At last says one, "It's time to be goin'; lift the corpse." "It's easy say lift," says another. "You two have the front, and I must bear up all the hind part —I won't put a hand to it." "Won't you?" says the others; "sure there's little Cauth Morrisy under the straw to help you." "Oh, Lord, gentlemen, I'm not in it at all," says myself; but it was all no use. I had to get under one corner, and there we trudged on in the dark, through knocs, and ploughed fields, and bogs, till I thought the life would leave me.

At last at the flight of night, one of them says, "Stop here, and Cauth Morrisy will mind the corpse till we come back. Cauth, if you let anything happen to the honest man inside you'll sup sorrow—mind what I say." So they left me, and lonesome and frightened I was, you may depend.

But wasn't I frightened in earnest when I heard the corpse's knuckles tapping inside o' the led. "O, sir, honey," says I, "what's troubling you?" "It's air I want," says he; "lift up the led a little." I lifted up a corner. "That won't do," says he; "I'm stifling. Throw off the led, body and bones." I did so, and there was a wicked-looking old fellow inside, with a beard on him a week old. "Thankee, ma'am," says he: "I think I'll be the easier for that. This is a lonesome place them thieves left me in. Would you please to join me in a game of spoil-five?" "Oh, musha, sir," says I, "isn't it thinking of making your sowl you ought to be?" "I don't want your advice," says he; "maybe I haven't a soul at all. There's the cards. I deal—you cut."

Well, I was so afeard that I took a hand with him; but the dirty divel, he done nothing the whole time but cursin', and swearin', and cheatin'. At last says I to myself, "I can't be safe in such company." So I threw down the cards, though I was within three of the game, and walked off. "Come back and finish the game, Cauth Morrisy," says he, shouting out, "or I'll make it the bad game for you." But I didn't let on to hear him, and walked away. "Won't you come back, Cauth?" says he; "then here goes." Well, the life had like to leave me, for I heard him tearing after me in his coffin, every bounce it gave striking terror into my heart. I run, and I bawled, and he bawling after me, and the coffin smashing against the stones. At last, where did I find myself but at the old gentleman's door, and if I didn't spring in and fasten the bolt, leave it till again.

"Ah, is that you, my little colleen? I thought you were asleep. Maybe you have a story for me now." "Indeed an' I have, sir," says I, an' I told him all that happen me since I saw him last. "You suffered a good deal," says he. "If you told me that story before, all your trouble i'd be spared to you." "But how could I tell it, sir," says I, "before it happened? " "That's true," says he, and he began to scratch his wig. I was getting drowsy, and I didn't remember anything more till I woke next morning in the dry gripe of the ditch with a bochyeen (dried cow-dung), under my head. So—

"There was a tree at the end of the house, and it was bending, bending,
And my story is ending, ending."

End of this Story

A dream romance of the same kind will be found in Crofton Croker's collection. Our authorities are Owen Jourdan of the Duffrey, as well as the woman called here Cauth Morrisy. O. J.'s version differed a little from that given, as he had to adapt the adventures to a male character. All are slightly related to the Story Teller at Fault of Gerald Griffin.


[1] A district in Kilkenny, not far from the bridge of Ferry Mount-garret. Consequential Wexford folk regarded it in matters of learning and politeness, as the Athenians did Boeotia in ancient times.

[2] A domestic article, shaped like an overgrown tambourine.

[3] On the most friendly terms.