Barry of Cairn Thierna - Fairy Legends of Ireland

ERMOY, though now so pretty and so clean a town, was once as poor and as dirty a village as any in Ireland. It had neither great barracks, grand church, nor buzzing schools. Two-storied houses were but few: its street—for it had but one—was chiefly formed of miserable mud cabins; nor was the fine scenery around sufficient to induce the traveller to tarry in its paltry inn beyond the limits actually required.

In those days it happened that a regiment of foot was proceeding from Dublin to Cork. One company, which left Caher in the morning, had, with "toilsome march," passed through Mitchelstown, tramped across the Kilworth mountains, and, late of an October evening, tired and hungry, reached Fermoy, the last stage but one of their quarters. No barracks were then built to receive them; and every voice was raised, calling to the gaping villagers for the name and residence of the billet-master.

"Why, then, can't you be easy now, and let a body tell you?" said one. "Sure, then, how can I answer you all at once?" said another. "Anan!" cried a third, affecting not to understand the sergeant who addressed him. "Is it Mr. Consadine you want?" replied a fourth, answering one question by asking another. "Bad luck to the whole breed of sogers!" muttered a fifth villager: "it's come to eat poor people that work for their bread out of house and home you are." "Whisht, Teigue, can't you now?" said his neighbour, jogging the last speaker; "there's the house, gentlemen—you see it there yonder forenent you, at the bottom of the street, with the light in the window; or stay, myself would think little of running down with you, poor creatures! for 'tis tired and weary you must be after the road." "That's an honest fellow," said several of the dust-covered soldiers; and away scampered Ned Flynn, with all the men of war following close at his heels.

Mr. Consadine, the billet-master, was, as may be supposed, a person of some, and on such occasions as the present, of great consideration in Fermoy. He was of a portly build, and of a grave and slow movement, suited at once to his importance and his size. Three inches of fair linen were at all times visible between his waistband and waistcoat. His breeches-pockets were never buttoned; and, scorning to conceal the bull-like proportions of his chest and neck, his collar was generally open, as he wore no cravat. A flaxen bob-wig commonly sat fairly on his head and squarely on his forehead, and an ex-officio pen was stuck behind his ear. Such was Mr. Consadine, billet-master-general, barony sub-constable, and deputy-clerk of the sessions, who was now just getting near the end of his eighth tumbler in company with the proctor, who at that moment had begun to talk of coming to something like a fair settlement about his tithes, when Ned Flynn knocked.

"See who's at the door, Nelly," said the eldest Miss Consadine, raising her voice, and calling to the barefooted servant-girl.

" 'Tis the sogers, sir, is come!" cried Nelly, running back into the room without opening the door; "I hear the jinketing of their swords and bagnets on the paving-stones."

"Never welcome them at this hour of the night," said Mr. Consadine, taking up the candle, and moving off to the room on the opposite side of the hall which served him for an office.

Mr. Consadine's own pen and that of his son Tom were now in full employment. The officers were sent to the inn; the sergeants, corporals, etc., were billeted on those who were on indifferent terms with Mr. Consadine; for, like a worthy man, he leaned as light as he could on his friends.

The soldiers had nearly all departed for their quarters, when one poor fellow, who had fallen asleep leaning on his musket against the wall, was awakened by the silence, and starting up, he went over to the table at which Mr. Consadine was seated, hoping his worship would give him a good billet.

"A good billet, my lad," said the billet-master-general, barony sub-constable and deputy-clerk of the sessions, "that you shall have, and on the biggest house in the place. Do you hear, Tom! make out a billet for this man upon Mr. Barry of Cairn Thierna."

"On Mr. Barry of Cairn Thierna!" said Tom with surprise.

"Yes; on Mr. Barry of Cairn Thierna—the great Barry!" replied his father, giving a nod, and closing his right eye slowly, with a semi-drunken wink. "Is not he said to keep the grandest house in this part of the country?—or stay, Tom, just hand me over the paper, and I'll write the billet myself."

The billet was made out accordingly; the sand glittered on the signature and broad flourishes of Mr. Consadine, and the weary grenadier received it with becoming gratitude and thanks. Taking up his knapsack and firelock, he left the office, and Mr. Consadine waddled back to the proctor to chuckle over the trick that he played the soldier, and to laugh at the idea of his search after Barry of Cairn Thierna's house.

Truly had he said no house could vie in capacity with Mr. Barry's; for, like Allan-a-Dale's, its roof was

"The blue vault of heaven, with its crescent so pale."

Barry of Cairn Thierna was one of the chieftains who of old lorded it over the barony of Barrymore, and for some reason or other he had become enchanted on the mountain of Cairn Thierna, where he was known to live in great state, and was often seen by the belated peasant.

Mr. Consadine had informed the soldier that Mr. Barry lived a little way out of the town, on the Cork road; so the poor fellow trudged for some time, with eyes right and eyes left, looking for the great house; but nothing could he see, only the dark mountain of Cairn Thierna before him, and an odd cabin or two on the road-side. At last he met a man, of whom he asked the way to Mr. Barry's.

"To Mr. Barry's!" said the man; "what Barry is it you want?"

"I can't say exactly in the dark," returned the soldier. "Mr. What's-his-name, the billet-master, has given me the direction on my billet; but he said it was a large house, and I think he called him the great Mr. Barry."

"Why, sure, it wouldn't be the great Barry of Cairn Thierna you are asking about?"

"Ay," said the soldier, "Cairn Thierna—that's the very place: can you tell me where it is?"

"Cairn Thierna," repeated the man; "Barry of Cairn Thierna—I'll show you the way and welcome; but it's the first time in all my born days that ever I heard of a soldier being billeted on Barry of Cairn Thierna. 'Tis surely a queer thing for old Dick Consadine to be after sending you there," continued he; "but you see that big mountain before you— that's Cairn Thierna. Any one will show you Mr. Barry's when you get to the top of it, up to the big heap of stones."

The weary soldier gave a sigh as he walked forward toward the mountain; but he had not proceeded far when he heard the clatter of a horse coming along the road after him, and turning his head round he saw a dark figure rapidly approaching him. A tall gentleman, richly dressed, and mounted on a noble grey horse, was soon at his side, when the rider pulled up, and the soldier repeated his inquiry after Mr. Barry's of Cairn Thierna.

"I'm Barry of Cairn Thierna," said the gentleman; "what is your business with me, friend?"

"I've got a billet on your house, sir," replied the soldier, "from the billet-master of Fermoy."

"Have you, indeed?" said Mr. Barry; "well, then, it is not very far off; follow me, and you shall be well taken care of."

He turned off the road, and led his horse up the steep side of the mountain, followed by the soldier, who was astonished at seeing the horse proceed with so little difficulty, where he was obliged to scramble up, and could hardly find or keep his footing. When they got to the top, there was a house sure enough, far beyond any house in Fermoy. It was three stories high, with fine windows, and all lighted up within as if it was full of grand company. There was a hall door too, with a flight of stone steps before it, at which Mr. Barry dismounted, and the door was opened to him by a servant man, who took his horse round to the stable.

Mr. Barry, as he stood at the door, desired the soldier to walk in; and instead of sending him down to the kitchen, as any other gentleman would have done, brought him into the parlour, and desired to see his billet.

"Ay," said Mr. Barry, looking at it and smiling, "I know Dick Consadine well—he's a merry fellow, and has got some excellent cows on the Inch field of Carrickabrick; a sirloin of good beef is no bad thing for supper."

Mr. Barry then called out to some of his attendants, and desired them to lay the cloth, and make all ready, which was no sooner done than a smoking sirloin of beef was placed before them.

"Sit down now, my honest fellow," said Mr. Barry; "you must be hungry after your long day's march."

The soldier, with a profusion of thanks for such hospitality, and acknowledgments for such condescension, sat down, and made, as might be expected, an excellent supper; Mr. Barry never letting his jaws rest for want of helping until he was fairly done. Then the boiling water was brought in, and such a jug of whisky-punch was made, there was no faulting it.

They sat together a long time, talking over the punch, and the fire was so bright, and Mr. Barry himself was so good a gentleman, and had such fine converse about everything in the world, far or near, that the soldier never felt the night going over him. At last Mr. Barry stood up, saying, it was a rule with him that every one:n his house should be in bed by twelve o'clock; "and," said he, pointing to a bundle which lay in one corner of the room, "take that to bed with you, it's the hide of the cow which I had killed for your supper; give it to the billet-master when you go back to Fermoy in the morning, and tell him that Barry of Cairn Thierna sent it to him. He will soon understand what it means, I promise you; so good-night, my brave fellow; I wish you a comfortable sleep, and every good fortune; but I must be off and away out of this long before you are stirring."

The soldier gratefully returned his host's goodnight and good wishes, and went off to the room which was shown him, without claiming, as every one knows he had a right to do, the secord-best bed in the house.

Next morning the sun awoke him. He was lying on the broad of his back, and the skylark was singing over him in the beautiful blue sky, and the bee was humming close to his ear among the heath. He rubbed his eyes; nothing did he see but the clear sky, with two or three light morning clouds floating away. Mr. Barry's fine house and soft feather-bed had melted into air, and he found himself stretched on the side of Cairn Thierna buried in the heath, with the cow-hide which had been given him rolled up under his head for a pillow.

"Well," said he, "this beats cock-fighting! Didn't I spend the pleasantest night I ever spent in my life with Mr. Barry last night? And what in the world has become of the house, and the hall door with the steps, and the very bed that was under me?"

He stood up. Not a vestige of a house or anything like one, but the rude heap of stones on the top of the mountain, could he see, and ever so far off lay the Blackwater, glittering with the morning sun, and the little quiet village of Fermoy on its banks, from whose chimneys white wreaths of smoke were beginning to rise upwards into the sky.

Throwing the cow-hide over his shoulder, he descended, not without some difficulty, the steep side of the mountain up which Mr. Barry had led his horse the preceding night with so much ease, and he proceeded along the road, pondering on what had befallen him.

When he reached Fermoy, he went straight to Mr. Consadine's, and asked to see him.

"Well, my gay fellow," said the official Mr. Consadine, recognizing at a glance the soldier, "what sort of entertainment did you meet with from Barry of Cairn Thierna?"

"The best treatment, sir," replied the soldier; "and well did he speak of you, and he desired me to give you this cow-hide as a token to remember him by."

"Many thanks to Mr. Barry for his generosity," said the billet-master, making a bow in mock solemnity; "many thanks, indeed, and a right good skin it is, wherever he got it."

Mr. Consadine had scarcely finished the sentence when he saw his cow-boy running up the street, shouting and crying aloud that the best cow in the Inch field was lost and gone, and nobody knew what had become of her, or could give the least tidings of her.

The soldier had flung the skin on the ground, and the cow-boy looking at it exclaimed,—

"That is her hide, wherever she is! I'd take my Bible oath to the two small white spots, with the glossy black about them, and there's the very place where she rubbed the hair off her shoulder last Martinmas." Then, clapping his hands together, he literally sung, to "the tune the old cow died of,"

And oh my black cow—oh my cow,

Oh my black cow, a thousand times dear to me;

And oh my black cow—alas, alas!

My darling black cow, why did you leave me?

This lamentation was stopped short by Mr. Consadine.

"There is no manner of doubt of it," said he. "It was Barry who killed my best cow, and all he has left me is the hide of the poor beast to comfort myself with; but it will be a warning to Dick Consadine for the rest of his life never again to play off his tricks upon travellers."