When the women of the village heard the story of the boys some of them went to the widow and said:
"'Tis your fault that your husband's ghost is roaming around in nakedness. You didn't give away his clothes."
"I did, indeed," said the wife. "I did my part, but it must be that the man I gave them to didn't wear them to mass, and that is why my poor husband is naked in the other world."
Now she went straight to the relative and neighbour who got the clothes. As she entered the man was sitting down to breakfast.
"Bad luck to you, you heathen!" said she. "I did not think you the man to leave my poor John naked in the other world. You neither went to mass in the clothes I gave you nor sprinkled holy water on them."
"I did, indeed. This is the third Sunday since John died, and I went to mass this morning for the third time. Sure I'd be a heathen to keep a relative naked in the other world. It wasn't your husband that the boys saw at all."
She went home then, satisfied that everything had been done as it should be.
An uncle of John Connors lived in the same village. He was a rich farmer and kept a servant girl and a servant boy. The turf bog was not far away, and all the turf at the house being burned, the servant girl was told to go down to the reek* and bring home a creel of turf. She went to the reek and was filling her creel, when she happened to look towards the far end of the reek, and there she saw a man sticking his head out from behind the turf, and he with a sheet on him. She looked a second time and saw John Connors. The girl screamed, threw down the creel, and ran away, falling every few steps from terror. It was to the reek that Connors had gone, to wait there in hiding till dark. After that he could go to his own house without any one seeing him.
* A long pile of turf. Basket.
The servant girl fell senseless across the farmer's threshold, and when she recovered she said: "John Connors is below in the bog behind the reek of turf, and nothing but a sheet on him."
The farmer and the servant boy laughed at her and said: "This is the way with you always when there's work to do."
The boy started off to bring the turf himself, but as he was coming near the reek John Connors thrust his head out, and the boy ran home screeching worse than the girl. Nobody would go near the creek now, and the report went out that John Connors was below in the bog minding the turf. Early that evening John Connors' wife made her children go on their knees and offer up the rosary for the repose of their father's soul. After the rosary they went to bed in a room together, but were not long in it when there was a rap at the door. The poor woman asked who was outside. John Connors answered that it was himself.
"May the Almighty God and His blessed Mother give rest to your soul!" cried the wife, and the children crossed themselves and covered their heads with the bedclothes. They were in dread he'd come in through the keyhole; they knew a ghost could do that if it wished.
John went to the window of two panes of glass and was tapping at that. The poor woman looked out, and there she saw her husband's face. She began to pray again for the repose of his soul, but he called out:
"Bad luck to you, won't you open the door to me or throw out some clothes? I am perishing from cold."
This only convinced the woman more surely. John didn't like to break the door, and as it was strong, it wouldn't be easy for him to break it, so he left the house and went to his uncle's. When he came to the door all the family were on their knees repeating the rosary for the soul of John Connors. He knocked, and the servant girl rose up to see who was outside. She unbolted and unlatched the door, opened it a bit, but seeing Connors, she came near cutting his nose off, she shut it that quickly in his face. She bolted the door then and began to scream: "John Connors' ghost is haunting me! Not another day or night will I stay in the house if I live to see morning!"
All the family fastened themselves in in a room and threw themselves into bed, forgetting to undress or to finish their prayers. John Connors began to kick the door, but nobody would open it; then he tapped at the window and begged the uncle to let him in or put out some clothes to him, but the uncle and children were out of their wits with fear.
The doctor's house was the next one, and Connors thought to himself, "I might as well go to the doctor and tell all to him; tell him that the village is gone mad."
So he made his way to the doctor's, but the servant boy there roared and screeched from terror when he saw him, ran to his master, and said, "John Connors' ghost is below at the door, and not a thing but a sheet on him."
"You were always a fool," said the doctor. "There is never a ghost in this world."
"God knows, then, the ghost of John Connors is at the door," said the boy.
To convince the boy, the master raised the upper window. He looked out and saw the ghost sure enough. Down went the window with a slap.
"Don't open the door!" cried the doctor. "He is below; there is some mystery in this."
Since the doctor wouldn't let him in any more than the others, John Connors was cursing and swearing terribly.
"God be good to us," said the doctor. "His soul must be damned, for if his soul was in purgatory it is not cursing and swearing he'd be, but praying. Surely, 'tis damned he is, and the Lord have mercy on the people of this village; but I won't stay another day in it; I'll move to the town to-morrow morning."
Now John left the doctor's house and went to the priest, thinking that he could make all clear to the priest, for everybody else had gone mad. He knocked at the priest's door and the housekeeper opened it. She screamed and ran away, but left the door open behind her. As she was running towards the stairs she fell, and the priest, hearing the fall, hurried out to see what the matter was.
"Oh, father," cried the housekeeper, "John Connors' ghost is below in the kitchen, and he with only a sheet on him !"
"Not true," said the priest. "There is never a person seen after parting with this world."
The words were barely out of his mouth when the ghost was there before him.
"In the name of God," said the priest, "are you dead or alive? You must be dead, for I said mass in your house, and you a corpse on the table, and I was at your funeral."
"How can you be foolish like the people of the village? I'm alive. Who would kill me? "
"God, who kills everybody, and but for your being dead, how was I to be asked to your funeral? "
"'Tis all a mistake," said John. "If it's dead. I was it isn't here I'd be talking to you to-night."
"If you are alive, where are your clothes?"
"I don't know where they are or how they went from me, but I haven't them, sure enough."
"Go into the kitchen," said the priest. "I'll bring you clothes, and then you must tell me what happened to you."
When John had the clothes on he told the priest the day the child was born he went to Beaufort for sponsors, and, being late, he met a gentleman, who sent him back and forth on the road and then took him to his house. "I went to bed," said John, "and slept till he waked me. My clothes were gone from me then, and I had nothing to wear but an old sheet. More than this I don't know: but everybody runs from me, and my wife won't let me into the house."
"Oh, then, it's Daniel O'Donohue, King of Lochlein, that played the trick on you," said the priest. "Why didn't you get sponsors at home in this parish for your son as you did for your daughters? For the remainder of your life show no partiality to son or daughter among your children. It would be a just punishment if more trouble came to you. You were not content with the will of God, though it is the duty of every man to take what God gives him. Three weeks ago your supposed body was buried and all thought you dead through your own pride and wilfulness."
"That is why my wife wouldn't let me in. Now, your Reverence, come with me and convince my wife, or she will not open the door."
The priest and John Connors went to the house and knocked, but the answer they got was a prayer for the repose of John Connors' soul. The priest went to the window then and called out to open the door.
Mrs. Connors opened the door, and seeing her husband behind the priest she screamed and fell: a little girl that was with her at the door dropped speechless on the floor. When the woman recovered, the priest began to persuade her that her husband was living, but she wouldn't believe that he was alive till she took hold of his hand: then she felt of his face and hair and was convinced.
When the priest had explained everything he went away home.
No matter how large his family was in after years, John Connors never went from home to find sponsors.