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FERMOY, 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 barracks, nor church, nor school, nor anything to admire. 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, dirty 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 to their quarters. No barracks, as we have said, were then built there to relieve them; and every voice was raised, calling to the gaping villagers for the name and residence of the billet-master.
"Why, thin, can't ye be aisy, now, and let a body tell you," said one. "Shure, thin, how can I answer you all at onst," 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, à l' Irlandaise, the question, by asking another. "Bad luck to the whole breed and seed of the sogers!" muttered a fifth villager, between his teeth. "It 'a come to ate poor people that work for their bread, out of house and home, yez are?' "Whisht, Teigue, can't you, now?" said his neighbour, jogging the last speaker; "there 'a the house, gintlemen. You see it there, yondher, forenint you, at the bottom of the sthreet, wid the light in the winddy; or, stay, shure it 'a mysilf id think little of runnin' down 'odd you, poor crathurs! for 'tis tirt and wairy yez must be afther 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 no small consideration in such a place as Fermoy. He was of a portly build, and of a grave and slow movement, suited at once to his importance and to 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 shirt-collar was generally open, as he wore no cravat; and a flaxen bob-wig commonly sat fairly on his head, and squarely on his forehead. Such, then, was Mr. Consadine, billet-master-general and barony sub-constable, who was now just getting to 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, Nilly," 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 jinketin' of their swoords and bagnets on the pavin' -stones."--"Divil welcome them at this hour o' the night," said Mr. Consadine, taking up the candle, and moving off to the room on the opposite side of the hail, 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 as he was, 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, "that you shall have, and on the biggest house in the whole place. Do you hear, Tom! make out a billet for this honest man upon Mr. Barry of Cairn Thierna." "On Mr. Barry of Cairn Thierna!" said Tom, with a look of amazement. "Yes, to be sure, on Mr. Barry of Cairn Thierna--the great Barry!" replied his father, giving a nod. "Isn't he said to keep the grandest house in this part of the counthry?--or stay, Tom, jist 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 he had played on 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 along 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 're asking after?" "Aye," said the soldier, "Cairn Thierna--that 's the 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 h'ard of a soger bein' billeted on Barry of Cairn Thierna. 'Tis a quare thing, anyhow, for ould Dick Consadin to be sindin' you up 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 hape of stones."
The weary soldier gave a sigh as he walked forwards toward the mountain; but he had not proceeded far when he heard the clatter of a horse coming along the road alter him, and, turning his head round, he saw a dark figure rapidly approaching. A tall gentleman, richly dressed, and mounted on a noble gray horse, was soon at his side, when the rider pulled up, and the soldier repeated his inquiry after Mr. Barry of Cairn Thierna. "Why, I'm Barry of Cairn Thierna, myself," said the gentleman, "and pray what 's your business with me, friend." "I have got a billet on your house, sir," replied the soldier, "from the billet-master of Fermoy." "Did you, indeed," said Mr. Barry; "well, then, it is not very far off; follow me and you shall be well taken care of, depend upon it."
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 corn-party. 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, no doubt, and, if I mistake not, has got some capital good cows down on the inch-field of Carrickabrick; a sirloin of beef would be no bad thing for supper, my man, eh?"
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 unable to eat more. Then the boiling water was brought in, and such a jug of whiskey punch as was made! Take my word for it,--it did not, like honest Robin Craig's, require to be hung out on the bush to let the water drain out of it.
They sat together a long time, talking over the punch, and the fire was so good, and Mr. Barry himself was so free a gentleman, and had such fine conversation 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 in 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 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 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 second 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 cowhide which had been given him, rolled up under his head for a pillow.*
"Well," said he, "this bates cockfighting, anyhow! Didn't I spind the plisantest night I iver spint in my life with Mr. Barry last night? And what in the world has becom' of the house, and the hall door with the steps, and the very bed that was undher me?" He stood up. Not a vestige of a house or any thing 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 cowhide 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, recognising, at a glance, the soldier; "what sort of an entertainment did you meet with from Barry of Cairn Thierna?" "The best of good thratement, sir," replied the soldier; "and well did he spake of you, and he disired me to give you this cowhide as a token to remimber him by." "Many thanks to Mr. Barry for his generosity," said the billet-master, making a low 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 spread out the skin on the ground for Mr. Consadine to see it; 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 thim; and there's the very place where she rubbed the hair off her shouldher last Martinmas." Then clapping his hands together, he literally sang "the tune the old cow died of." This lamentation warn stopped short by Mr. Consadine: "There is no manner of doubt about it," said he. "It was Barry that kilt my best cow, and all he has left me is the hide o' the poor baste to comfort myself with; but it will be a warnin' to Dick Consadine, for the rest of his life, nivir again to play off his thricks upon thravellers."
* It is not very likely that the inventor of this legend knew anything about the Amadigi of B. Tasso, yet in that poem we meet this circumstance more than once. In c. ii., when night falls on the young knight Alidoro, in the open country, he finds a pavilion pitched beside a fountain, with lights in it, and hears a voice which invites him to enter it. He there sups and goes to sleep in a rich bed, and on awaking in the morning (iii. 38) finds himself lying in the open air. Another time (c. viii) be comes to a fair inn, in a wild region, where he is entertained and his wounds are dressed by a gentle damsel, and on awaking in the morning he finds himself lying under a tree. The tent and inn were the work of his protectress, the Fairy Silvana. Another Fairy, Argea, entertains (c. xxxiii.) a king, queen, knight and ladies, in a stately palace. At night they retire to magnificent chambers, and in the morning they find themselves lying in a mead, some under trees, others on the sides of a stream, with more of the beauties of the ladies displayed than they could have desired.

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