Scath-a-Legaune - Fairy Legends of Ireland

ELL, for sure and certain, there must be something in it," said Johnny Curtin, as he awoke and stretched himself one fine morning; "for certain there must be something in it, or he'd never have come the third time.

Troth and faith, as I can't do it myself without help, I'll just speak to the master about it, for half a loaf is better than no bread any day in the year."

Johnny Curtin was a poor scholar; he had been stopping for the last week at the house of Dick Cassidy, a snug farmer, who lived not far from the fine old abbey of Holy Cross, in the county of Tipperary. Mr. Cassidy was a hearty man, and loved a story in his soul: and Johnny Curtin had as good a budget of old songs, and stories of every kind and sort, as any poor scholar that ever carried an ink-bottle dangling at his breast, or a well-thumbed book and a slate under his arm. He was, moreover, as good a man in a hay-field, for a boy of his years, as need to be, so that no one was a more welcome guest to Dick Cassidy in harvest time than Johnny Curtin.

The third night after Johnny had taken up his quarters at Cassidy's farmhouse, after sitting up very late, and telling his most wonderful stories to Dick and the children, Johnny went to sleep on a shake-down (of straw) in a corner, and there he dreamed a dream. For he thought that an old man, with fine long beard, and dressed from head to foot in the real old ancient Irish fashion, came and stood beside him, and called him by his name.

"Johnny Curtin, my child," said the old man, "do you know where you are?"

"I do, sir," said Johnny, though great was his surprise. "I do, sir," said he; "I am at Dick Cassidy's."

"John, do you know," says he, "that this land belonged, in the good old times, to your own people?"

"Oh, I'm sure," says Johnny, "it's little myself knows about my own people, beyond my father and my mother, who, when one would catch the fish, the other would sell it; but this I know, if 'tis as your honour says, and not doubting your word in the least, that I wish my own people had kept their land, that I might have got the larning without begging for it from door to door through the country." "John," said the old man, "there's a treasure not far from this that belonged to the family, and if you get it, it will make you, and fifty like you, as rich as kings. Now, mind my words, John Curtin, for I have come to put you in the right way. You know the height above the abbey—the blessed spot where the piece of the holy cross fell from its concealment at the sweet sound of the abbey bells, and where the good woman met her son, after his having travelled to Jerusalem for it? You know the old bush that is standing there—Scath-a-Legaune—in the bleak situation, close to the road, upon the little bank of earth and stones? Dig just six feet from it, in a line with the tower of the old abbey: the work must be done in the dead hour of the night, and not a word must be spoken to living man."

When Johnny woke next morning he recollected every part of his dream well, but he gave no great heed to it. The next night he dreamed that the same old man came to him again, and spoke the very same words; and in the course of the day following, he could not help going up to Scath-a-Legaune, to take a look at the old bush and the little bank of stones and earth, but still he thought it all nonsense going digging there. At last, when the old man came to him in his sleep a third time, and seemed rather angry with him, he resolved to broach the matter to Dick after breakfast, and see if he would join him in the search. Now Dick Cassidy, like many wiser men, was a firm believer in dreams; and Dick was also a prudent man, and willing to better himself and his family in any honest way, so he gave at once into Johnny's proposal, that they should both go the next night and dig under the bush. When Cassidy mentioned this scheme to Peggy, his wife, she being a religious woman was much against it, and wanted Dick not to go, and tried to persuade him to take neither hand, nor act, nor part in it; but Dick was too sensible a man, and too fond of his own way, to be gainsaid by any foolish woman: so it was settled that at twelve o'clock he and Johnny Curtin should take spade, pickaxe, and crowbar with them, and set out for the bush, having agreed to divide fairly between them whatever they should get.

After a good supper, and a stiff jug of punch to keep their hearts up, Mr. Cassidy and Johnny Curtin, regardless of the admonitions of Peggy, set out. They had to pass close under the walls of the old abbey, and the wind, which was rather high, kept flapping the branches of the ash and ivy backwards and forwards, and now and then some of the old stones would tumble down, and the boughs would move and creak with a sound just like the voice of some Christian that was in pain.

Dick and Johnny, with all their courage, were not much assured at hearing this; but they did not remain very long to listen, and crossing the bridge with all convenient speed, directed their steps towards Scath-a-Legaune. When they got to the old bush, Dick, without a moment's delay, threw off his coat, stepped the six feet of ground from the little bank towards the tower of the abbey, and began to turn up the sod, and then to dig hard and fast. Johnny all the time stood by, praying to himself, and making pious signs on his forehead and breast. When Dick had dug for better than an hour, he found his spade strike against something hard. He cleared out the loose earth from the hole he had made, and then found that he had come to a great broad flagstone which was lying quite flat: he saw plainly that he and Johnny could no more lift it than they could fling the rock of Cashel back again into the Devil's Bit; so he got up out of the hole and made motions to Johnny Curtin, minding well not to speak a word; and they threw in part of the clay to cover up the flag, and went home to bed planning to get more help against the next night, and fully convinced of success.

The next day Cassidy pitched on three of his best and stoutest men, and in the evening early took them down to the sign of the Saint (Patrick), kept by one Mullowney in the village, and proposed the job to them, after giving each a rummer of Roscrea (whisky). They hesitated at the first, saying it was not lucky, and they never heard of good that came out of money that was got at through the means of dreams, and so on, until Dick ordered a second rummer for every man; then he made Johnny tell them his dream over again from beginning to end, and he asked them if they could see any reason upon earth to doubt what Johnny Curtin told them, or that the old man came to him through his sleep, and he able to mention every pin's worth of his dress. Dick argued with them in this manner, saying a thousand things more of the same kind, until they made an end of their drink, and then he made an offer of giving them a fair share of whatever money was under the flag-stone.

The men at last were over-persuaded; and between eleven and twelve they set out, provided with spades, shovels, and good crowbars. When they came to the rise of the height, Johnny stopped, and again told them that all their work was sure to fail if any one spoke a word; and he said that silence must be kept, let what would happen, otherwise there was no chance of making out the treasure that beyond all doubt was lying there buried down in the ground.

They cleared away the earth from off the stone and got the crowbars under it. The first prise they gave they thought they heard a rumbling noise below: they stopped and listened for a minute or more, but all was silent as the grave. Again they heaved, and there was a noise like as if a door was clapped to violently. The men hesitated, but Dick Cassidy and Johnny, by signs, encouraged them to go on. They then made a great effort and raised the stone a little, while Johnny and Tom Doyle wedged in the handles of their spades, and with their united strength the flag was canted fairly over.

Beneath there was a long flight of steps, so they lit a piece of candle which they had brought with them, and down the steps they went, one after the other. The steps, when they got to the end of them, led into a long passage, that went some way, and there they would have been stopped by a strong door, only it was half open. They went in boldly, and saw another door to the left, which was shut. There was a little grate in this door, and Dick Cassidy held up the light while Ned Flaherty looked in.

"Hurra!" cried Ned, the minute he put his eye to the bars, and straightways making a blow at the door with the crowbar in his hand; "Hurra, boys!" says he; "by Noonan's ghost, we are all made men!"

The words had hardly passed his lips when there was a tremendous crashing noise, just as if the whole place was falling in, and then came a screeching wind from the inner room that whisked out the light, and threw them all on the ground flat on their faces. When they recovered themselves they hardly remembered where they were, or what had happened, and they had lost all the geography of the place. They groped and tumbled about for a long time, and at last they got, with falling and roaring, to the door where they had come in at, and made their way up the steps into the field. On looking towards the abbey, there was a bright flame on the top of its tower, and Bill Dunn would have sworn he saw a figure of something, he could not rightly make out what, in the middle of it, dancing up and down.

Frightened enough they were at the sight, for they plainly perceived something was going on which they could not understand, so they made the best of their way home; but it was little any of them could sleep, as may well be supposed, after what had happened.

Next morning they all held a council about what was further to be done—Mr. Cassidy and Johnny Curtin, Tom Doyle, and Bill Dunn, and Ned Flaherty. whose tongue was the reason of their not being all rich men. Some were for giving the business up entirely, but more were for trying it again; and at last Dick Cassidy said he was resolved to go to it the third time, since he was now certain the coin was there; for Ned Flaherty swore he saw a mint of money, besides gold and silver vessels in heaps, and other grand things that he could not tell the use of It was settled, however, to do nothing the next night.

In the middle of the day Dick took Johnny with him, and walked over to look at the place where they had been digging; but what was their astonishment to find the ground as smooth and as even as if there had not been a spade put into it since the days of Brian Boro! Not a morsel of clay was to be seen, and the white daisies and the glossy yellow buttercups were growing up through the green grass as gaily as if nothing had ever happened to disturb them.

That night Johnny Curtin had another dream. The very same old man came to him, and looked dark and angry at him for not having followed his directions; and told Johnny that he had no right to think, and that if his larning made him think he was better without it, he had now lost all chance of growing rich, and would be a poor scholar to the end of his days; for the place was now shut up for another hundred years, and it would be dangerous for him or any one else to go digging there until that time was out.