Andrew Coffey





My grandfather, Andrew Coffey, was known to the whole barony as a

quiet, decent man. And if the whole barony knew him, he knew the whole

barony, every inch, hill and dale, bog and pasture, field and covert.

Fancy his surprise one evening, when he found himself in a part of the

demesne he couldn't recognise a bit. He and his good horse were always

stumbling up against some tree or stumbling down into some bog-hole

that by rights didn't ought to be there. On the top of all this the

rain came pelting down wherever there was a clearing, and the cold

March wind tore through the trees. Glad he was when he saw a light in

the distance, and drawing near found a cabin, though for the life of

him he couldn't think how it came there. However, in he walked, after

tying up his horse, and right welcome was the brushwood fire blazing

on the hearth. And there stood a chair right and tight, that seemed to

say, "Come, sit down in me." There wasn't a soul else in the room.

Well, he did sit, and got a little warm and cheered after his

drenching. But all the while he was wondering and wondering.



"Andrew Coffey! Andrew Coffey!"



Good heavens! who was calling him, and not a soul in sight? Look

around as he might, indoors and out, he could find no creature with

two legs or four, for his horse was gone.



"Andrew Coffey! Andrew Coffey! Tell me a story."



It was louder this time, and it was nearer. And then what a thing to

ask for! It was bad enough not to be let sit by the fire and dry

oneself, without being bothered for a story.



"Andrew Coffey! Andrew Coffey! Tell me a story, or it'll be the worse

for you."



My poor grandfather was so dumfounded that he could only stand and

stare.



"Andrew Coffey! Andrew Coffey! I told you it'd be the worse for you."



And with that, out there bounced from a cupboard that Andrew Coffey

had never noticed before, a man. And the man was in a towering rage.

But it wasn't that. And he carried as fine a blackthorn as you'd wish

to crack a man's head with. But it wasn't that either. But when my

grandfather clapped eyes on him, he knew him for Patrick Rooney, and

all the world knew he'd gone overboard, fishing one night, long

years before.



Andrew Coffey would neither stop nor stay, but he took to his heels

and was out of the house as hard as he could. He ran and he ran,

taking little thought of what was before till at last he ran up

against a big tree. And then he sat down to rest.



He hadn't sat for a moment when he heard voices.



"It's heavy he is the vagabond." "Steady now, we'll rest when we get

under the big tree yonder." Now that happened to be the tree under

which Andrew Coffey was sitting. At least he thought so, for seeing a

branch handy he swung himself up by it, and was soon snugly hidden

away. Better see than be seen, thought he.



The rain had stopped and the wind fallen. The night was blacker than

ever, but Andrew Coffey could see four men, and they were carrying

between them a long box. Under the tree they came, set the box down,

opened it, and who should they bring out but--Patrick Rooney. Never a

word did he say, and he looked as pale as old snow.



Well, one gathered brushwood, and another took out tinder and flint,

and they soon had a big fire roaring, and my grandfather could see

Patrick plainly enough. If he had kept still before, he kept stiller

now. Soon they had four poles up and a pole across, right over the

fire, for all the world like a spit, and on to the pole they slung

Patrick Rooney.



"He'll do well enough," said one; "but who's to mind him whilst we're

away, who'll turn the fire, who'll see that he doesn't burn?"



With that Patrick opened his lips: "Andrew Coffey!" said he.



"Andrew Coffey! Andrew Coffey! Andrew Coffey! Andrew Coffey!"



"I'm much obliged to you, gentlemen," said Andrew Coffey, "but indeed

I know nothing about the business."



"You'd better come down, Andrew Coffey," said Patrick. It was the

second time he spoke, and Andrew Coffey decided he would come down.

The four men went off, and he was left all alone with Patrick.



Then he sat and he kept the fire even, and he kept the spit turning,

and all the while Patrick looked at him.



Poor Andrew Coffey couldn't make it all out, at all, at all, and he

stared at Patrick and at the fire, and he thought of the little house

in the wood, till he felt quite dazed.



"Ah, but it's burning me, ye are!" says Patrick, very short and sharp.



"I'm sure I beg your pardon," said my grandfather, "but might I ask

you a question?"



"If you want a crooked answer," said Patrick; "turn away, or it'll be

the worse for you."



But my grandfather couldn't get it out of his head, hadn't everybody,

far and near, said Patrick had fallen overboard. There was enough to

think about, and my grandfather did think.



"Andrew Coffey! Andrew Coffey! It's burning me ye are."



Sorry enough my grandfather was, and he vowed he wouldn't do so again.



"You'd better not," said Patrick, and he gave him a cock of his eye,

and a grin of his teeth, that just sent a shiver down Andrew Coffey's

back. Well, it was odd, that here he should be in a thick wood he had

never set eyes upon, turning Patrick Rooney upon a spit. You can't

wonder at my grandfather thinking and thinking and not minding the

fire.



"Andrew Coffey! Andrew Coffey! It's the death of you I'll be."



And with that what did my grandfather see, but Patrick unslinging

himself from the spit, and his eyes glared and his teeth glistened.






It was neither stop nor stay my grandfather made, but out he ran into

the night of the wood. It seemed to him there wasn't a stone but was

for his stumbling, not a branch but beat his face, not a bramble but

tore his skin. And wherever it was clear the rain pelted down and the

cold March wind howled along.



Glad was he to see a light, and a minute after he was kneeling, dazed,

drenched, and bedraggled by the hearth side. The brushwood flamed, and

the brushwood crackled, and soon my grandfather began to feel a little

warm and dry and easy in his mind.



"Andrew Coffey! Andrew Coffey!"



It's hard for a man to jump when he has been through all my

grandfather had, but jump he did. And when he looked around, where

should he find himself but in the very cabin he had first met Patrick

in.



"Andrew Coffey, Andrew Coffey, tell me a story."



"Is it a story you want?" said my grandfather as bold as may be, for

he was just tired of being frightened. "Well, if you can tell me the

rights of this one, I'll be thankful."



And he told the tale of what had befallen him from first to last that

night. The tale was long, and maybe Andrew Coffey was weary. It's

asleep he must have fallen, for when he awoke he lay on the hill-side

under the open heavens, and his horse grazed at his side.





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