In the olden time there was once a man named William O’Rooney, living near Clare-Galway. He was a farmer. One day the landlord came to him and said: “I have three years’ rent on you, and unless you have it for me within a week I’ll throw you out on the side of the road.”
“I’m going to Galway with a load of wheat to-morrow,” said Leeam (William), “and when I get the price of it I’ll pay you.”
Next morning he put a load of wheat on the cart, and was going to Galway with it. When he was gone a couple of miles from the house a gentleman met him and asked him: “Is it wheat you’ve got on the cart?”
“It is,” says Leeam; “I’m going to sell it to pay my rent.”
“How much is there in it?” said the gentleman.
“There’s a ton, honest, in it,” said Leeam.
“I’ll buy it from you,” said the gentleman, “and I’ll give you the biggest price that’s going in the market. When you’ll go as far as the cart boreen (little road) that’s on your left hand, turn down, and be going till you come to a big house in the valley. I’ll be before you there to give you your money.”
When Leeam came to the boreen he turned in, and was going until he came as far as the big house. Leeam wondered when he came as far as the big house, for he was born and raised (i.e., reared) in the neighbourhood, and yet he had never seen the big house before, though he thought he knew every house within five miles of him.
When Leeam came near the barn that was close to the big house, a little lad came out and said: “A hundred thousand welcomes to you, William O’Rooney,” put a sack on his back and went in with it. Another little lad came out and welcomed Leeam, put a sack on his back, and went in with it. Lads were coming welcoming Leeam, and putting the sacks on their backs and carrying them in, until the ton of wheat was all gone. Then the whole of the lads came round him, and Leeam said; “Ye all know me, and I don’t know ye!” Then they said to him: “Go in and eat your dinner; the master’s waiting for you.”
Leeam went in and sat down at table; but he had not the second mouthful taken till a heavy sleep came on him, and he fell down under the table. Then the enchanter made a false man like William, and sent him home to William’s wife with the horse and cart. When the false man came to Leeam’s house, he went into the room, lay down on the bed and died.
It was not long till the cry went out that Leeam O’Rooney was dead. The wife put down water, and when it was hot she washed the body and put it over the board (i.e., laid it out). The neighbours came, and they keened sorrowfully over the body, and there was great pity for the poor wife, but there was not much grief on herself, for Leeam was old and she was young. The day on the morrow the body was buried, and there was no more remembrance of Leeam.
Leeam’s wife had a servant boy, and she said to him: “You ought to marry me, and to take Leeam’s place.”
“It’s too early yet, after there being a death in the house,” said the boy; “wait till Leeam is a week buried.”
When Leeam was seven days and seven nights asleep, a little boy came to him and awoke him, and said: “You’ve been asleep for a week; but we sent your horse and cart home. Here’s your money, and go.”
Leeam came home, and as it was late at night nobody saw him. On the morning of that same day Leeam’s wife and the servant lad went to the priest and asked him to marry them.
“Have you the marriage money?” said the priest.
“No,” said the wife; “but I have a sturk of a pig at home, and you can have her in place of money.”
The priest married them, and said: “I’ll send for the pig to-morrow.”
When Leeam came to his own door, he struck a blow on it. The wife and the servant boy were going to bed, and they asked: “Who’s there?”
“It’s I,” said Leeam; “open the door for me.”
When they heard the voice, they knew that it was Leeam who was in it, and the wife said: “I can’t let you in, and it’s a great shame, you to be coming back again, after being seven days in your grave.”
“Is it mad you are?” said Leeam.
“I’m not mad,” said the wife; “doesn’t every person in the parish know that you are dead, and that I buried you decently. Go back to your grave, and I’ll have a mass read for your poor soul to-morrow.”
“Wait till daylight comes,” said Leeam, “and I’ll give you the price of your joking!”
Then he went into the stable, where his horse and the pig were, stretched himself in the straw, and fell asleep.
Early on the morning of the next day, the priest said to a little lad that he had: “Get up, and go to Leeam O’Rooney’s house, and the woman that I married yesterday will give you a pig to bring home with you.”
The boy came to the door of the house, and began knocking at it with a stick. The wife was afraid to open the door, but she asked: “Who’s there?”
“I,” said the boy; “the priest sent me to get a pig from you.”
“She’s out in the stable,” said the wife; “you can get her for yourself, and drive her back with you.”
The lad went into the stable, and began driving out the pig, when Leeam rose up and said: “Where are you going with my pig?”
When the boy saw Leeam he never stopped to look again, but out with him as hard as he could, and he never stopped till he came back to the priest, and his heart coming out of his mouth with terror.
“What’s on you?” says the priest.
The lad told him that Leeam O’Rooney was in the stable, and would not let him drive out the pig.
“Hold your tongue, you liar!” said the priest; “Leeam O’Rooney’s dead and in the grave this week.”
“If he was in the grave this seven years, I saw him in the stable two moments ago; and if you don’t believe me, come yourself, and you’ll see him.”
The priest and the boy then went together to the door of the stable, and the priest said: “Go in and turn me out that pig.”
“I wouldn’t go in for all ever you’re worth,” said the boy.
The priest went in, and began driving out the pig, when Leeam rose up out of the straw and said: “Where are you going with my pig, Father Patrick?”
When the priest saw Leeam, off and away with him, and he crying out: “In the name of God, I order you back to your grave, William O’Rooney.”
Leeam began running after the priest, and saying, “Father Patrick, Father Patrick, are you mad? Wait and speak to me.”
The priest would not wait for him, but made off home as fast as his feet could carry him, and when he got into the house, he shut the door. Leeam was knocking at the door till he was tired, but the priest would not let him in. At last, he put his head out of a window in the top of the house, and said: “William O’Rooney, go back to your grave.”
“You’re mad, Father Patrick! I’m not dead, and never was in a grave since I was born,” said Leeam.
“I saw you dead,” said the priest; “you died suddenly, and I was present when you were put into the grave, and made a fine sermon over you.”
“The devil from me, but, as sure as I’m alive, you’re mad!” said Leeam.
“Go out of my sight now,” said the priest, “and I’ll read a mass for you, to-morrow.”
Leeam went home then, and knocked at his own door, but his wife would not let him in. Then he said to himself: “I may as well go and pay my rent now.” On his way to the landlord’s house every one who saw Leeam was running before him, for they thought he was dead. When the landlord heard that Leeam O’Rooney was coming, he shut the doors and would not let him in. Leeam began knocking at the hall-door till the lord thought he’d break it in. He came to a window in the top of the house, put out his head, and asked: “What are you wanting?”
“I’m come to pay my rent like an honest man,” said Leeam.
“Go back to your grave, and I’ll forgive you your rent,” said the lord.
“I won’t leave this,” said Leeam, “till I get a writing from you that I’m paid up clean till next May.”
The lord gave him the writing, and he came home and knocked at his own door, but the wife would not let him in. She said that Leeam O’Rooney was dead and buried, and that the man at the door was only a deceiver.
“I’m no deceiver,” said William; “I’m after paying my master three years’ rent, and I’ll have possession of my own house, or else I’ll know why.”
He went to the barn and got a big bar of iron, and it wasn’t long till he broke in the door. There was great fear on the wife, and the newly married husband. They thought they were in the time of the General Resurrection, and that the end of the world was coming.
“Why did you think I was dead?” said Leeam.
“Doesn’t everybody in the parish know you’re dead?” said the wife.
“Your body from the devil,” said Leeam, “you’re humbugging me long enough, and get me something to eat.”
The poor woman was greatly afraid, and she dressed him some meat, and when she saw him eating and drinking, she said: “It’s a miracle.”
Then Leeam told her his story from first to last, and she told him each thing that happened, and then he said:
“I’ll go to the grave to-morrow, till I see the behoonuch ye buried in my place.”
The day on the morrow Leeam brought a lot of men with him to the churchyard, and they dug open the grave, and were lifting up the coffin, when a big black dog jumped out of it, and made off, and Leeam and the men after it. They were following it till they saw it going into the house in which Leeam had been asleep, and then the ground opened, and the house went down, and nobody ever saw it from that out; but the big hole is to be seen till this day.
When Leeam and the men went home, they told everything to the priest of the parish, and he dissolved the marriage that was between Leeam’s wife and the servant boy.
Leeam lived for years after that, and he left great wealth behind him, and they remember him in Clare-Galway still, and will remember him if this story goes down from the old people to the young.