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My grandfather, Andrew Coffey, was known to every one in the region about his home as a quiet decent man. He was fond of rambling and riding, and was familiar with every hill and dale, bog and pasture, field and covert in that part of the country.
Then fancy his surprise, while riding only a few miles from home, one evening, to find ‘himself in a vicinity that he did not recognize at all. His good horse was constantly stumbling against some tree or into some boghole that by rights ought not to be there. To make matters worse, a cold March wind was blowing, and rain began to pelt down.
Soon he was gladdened by the sight of a light among the trees in the distance, and when he drew near he found a cabin, though for the life of him he couldn’t think how it came there. However, after tying his horse, in he walked. A fire was blazing on the hearth, and near it was a comfortable chair. But not a soul was there in the room.
He sat down and got a little warm and cheered after his drenching, but all the while he was wondering and wondering. He was still puzzling over his experiences when he heard a voice.
“Andrew Coffey! Andrew Coffey!” it said.
Good heavens! who was calling him, and not a soul in sight? Look around as he might, he could find no one indoors or out. To add to his other worries, his horse was gone. Again he heard the voice.
“Andrew Coffey! Andrew Coffey! tell me a story,” it said, and it spoke louder than before.
What a thing to ask for! It was bad enough not to be left in peace seated by the fire drying oneself, without being bothered for a story. A third time the voice spoke, and louder than ever.
“ANDREW COFFEY! ANDREW COFFEY! tell me a story or it will be the worse for you,” it said.
My poor grandfather was so dumbfounded that he could only stand and stare. For a fourth time the voice spoke.
“ANDREW COFFEY! ANDREW COFFEY ! “it shouted, “I told you it would be the worse for you.”
Then a man bounced out from a cupboard that Andrew Coffey had not noticed before. He was in a towering rage, and he carried as fine a blackthorn club as was ever used to crack a man’s head. When my grandfather clapped eyes on him he knew him for Patrick Rooney who had gone overboard one day in a sudden storm while fishing on the sea long years ago.
Andrew Coffey did not stop to visit, but took to his heels and got out of the house as quickly as he could. He ran and he ran taking little thought of where he went till at last he ran against a tree. Then he sat down to rest.
But he had been there only a few moments when he heard voices. “the vagabond is heavy.”
Another said, “Steady now, lads.”
A third said, “I’ve lugged him as far as I care to.”
A fourth said, “We’ll stop when we get to the big tree yonder.”
That happened to be the tree under which Andrew Coffey was sitting. “Better see than be seen,” he thought. Then he swung himself up by a branch and was soon snugly hidden away in the tree.
The rain and wind had ceased and there was light enough for Andrew Coffey to see four men carrying a long box. They brought it under the tree, set it down, and opened it. Then, what should they take out but Patrick Rooney? Never a word did he say, and he was as pale as new-fallen snow.
The men gathered brushwood and soon had a fire burning. Then they stuck two stakes into the ground on each side of the fire, laid a pole across on the tops of them, and on to the pole they slung Patrick Rooney.
“He’s all fixed now,” one said, “but who’s to take care of the fire while we’re away?”
With that Patrick opened his lips. “Andrew Coffey,” he said.
Then the four men, each speaking the name once, called out, “Andrew Coffey! Andrew Coffey! Andrew Coffey! Andrew Coffey!”
“Gentlemen, I’d be glad to oblige you,” Andrew Coffey said, “but I know nothing about this sort of roasting.”
“You’d better come down, Andrew Coffey,” Patrick said.
It was the second time he spoke, and Andrew Coffey decided he would come down. The four men went off, and he was left alone with Patrick. He sat down by the fire and kept it even, and all the while Patrick looked at him.
Poor Andrew Coffey couldn’t understand the situation at all, and he stared at Patrick and at the fire, and thought of the cabin in the wood till he felt quite dazed.
“Ah, you’re burning me!” Patrick said, very short and sharp.
“I beg your pardon,” my grandfather said, and hastened to fix the fire.
He couldn’t get the notion out of his head that something was wrong. Hadn’t everybody, near and far, said that Patrick had fallen overboard?
“Andrew Coffey! Andrew Coffey! you’re burning me!” Patrick exclaimed.
My grandfather was sorry enough, and he vowed he wouldn’t do so again.
“You’d better not,” Patrick grumbled, and he gave him a cock of his eye, and a grin of his teeth that sent a shiver down Andrew Coffey’s back. It certainly was odd that Andrew Coffey should be there in a thick wood that he had never set eyes on before, roasting Patrick Rooney. You can’t wonder that my grandfather thought and thought and forgot the fire.
“Andrew Coffey! Andrew Coffey! I’ll punish you for the way you’re neglecting me!” Patrick Rooney cried.
He was unslinging himself from the pole now, and his eyes glared and his teeth glistened. My grandfather got up in haste and ran off into the gloomy wood. He stumbled over stones, the brambles tore his clothes, the branches beat his face.
Presently he saw a light and was glad. A minute later he was kneeling by a hearthside, dazed and bedraggled. The flames leaped and crackled, and he was beginning to get warm and feel a little easy in his mind when he heard a voice shouting, “Andrew Coffey! Andrew Coffey!”
It’s hard for a man to jump after going through all my grandfather had, but jump he did. When he looked around, where should he find himself but in the very cabin in which he had first met Patrick.
“Andrew Coffey! Andrew Coffey! tell me a story, “the voice said.
“Is it a story you want?” my grandfather said, as bold as could be, for he was tired of being frightened. “Well then, here’s one.” And he told the tale of what had befallen him from first to last that night. The tale was long and he was weary. He must have fallen asleep, for when he awoke he lay on a hillside under the open heavens, and his horse grazed at his side.