There was a farmer, fourteen miles from Tralee, named Fitzgerald, who, by sly management and being a spy on his neighbours, became a great friend of the landlord. He carried matters that far that at last he got small tenants enough ejected to give him the grass of forty cows. Within his bounds was a sub-tenant of the name of Tim Sheehy, and Fitzgerald was very anxious to have this man ejected. He made complaints to the landlord. He said Sheehy was poaching and destroying game, and said this and that of him.
The landlord didn't believe these complaints, for Sheehy and his father before him were honest men, who paid their rent always. At last, by some chance, Fitzgerald's cow-house was burned down one night and ten cows were destroyed in the fire. A great many suspected Tim Sheehy. What they said was that Tim owed Fitzgerald a spite, and sure who else would be burning the cowhouse? Fitzgerald was only too willing to take up the story and spread it.
There was a woman in the village by the name of Kate Pendy, who had her own opinion, and she gave it:
"Wisha, then, a ghraghil,"* said she to a friend. "Tim Sheehy is as clear of that as God Himself. There is no fear that that poor, honest man burned the cowhouse."
This was Saturday, and Tim Sheehy was in Tralee on some business that he had, and he didn't come home till the following morning. When he was nearing the chapel and Mass just over, crowds were around, and he heard a man say: "There goes Tim Sheehy, who burned Fitzgerald's cow-house and ran away: I wonder what's bringing him back? "
"Sure, 'tis the finger of God," said a second man. "The Lord wouldn't let another be punished in place of him."
Sheehy hung his head and was cut to the heart at these words. He went home, and whether it was from grief or sickness that he died, 'twas unknown, but he died that very day. When he was washed and ready to be laid on the table the wife sent to a neighbouring woman, a cousin of Fitzgerald, for the loan of sheets to hang over the table and the corpse. The woman refused to lend the sheets. "I'll not give them," said she; "the divil mend Sheehy, he [ruined my poor cousin."
* Gradhghil, voc. of gradhgeal, white love, darling.
The boy went home without the sheets, and Mrs. Sheehy found them at another house. A deal of people met at the wake-house; they sat down and began to smoke and tell stories, as people do always at wakes. What was their surprise at midnight when Tim Sheehy sat up on the table and began to speak to them.
"Friends and neighbours," said he, "ye needn't be in dread of me; I'll not harm any person here present. It wasn't I that burned the cow-house. The man who did that is beyond the mountain at this time. People broke my heart, killed me with false accusations, but I got leave to return and tell you of my innocence and take the stain from my children." Sheehy was talking on, and would have said a deal more but for an old woman, Nancy Brady, who was sitting in the corner, and a wide raffled white cap on her. She rose up. "Tim, my darling," said she, "did you see my mother?"
Sheehy looked at her fiercely. "Bad luck to you, you hag," said he, "I did, and she is now what she was in life, a tale-bearing disturber, and dishonest. She goes about milking the neighbours' cows when she thinks nobody is looking at her, just as she used to do in this world." Tim Sheehy turned then to the people: "I can say no more, as I was interrupted by this woman."
With that he dropped back dead and speechless.
All the people in it were cursing Nancy Brady because she wouldn't stop quiet till they could hear what Tim Sheehy had to tell about the other world.