Gateway to the Classics: In Chimney Corners by Seumas MacManus
In Chimney Corners by  Seumas MacManus

Rory the Robber

Rory was the greatest robber in that whole country, and there was a great gentleman lived there who owned a great estate in a distant part of the country. But he never got any good of the estate, for whoever he sent to lift the rents was always sure to be robbed by Rory in the mountains coming home again, and maybe killed into the bargain. So the gentleman found it was no use trying to lift the rents, and for the past five years he gave up lifting them altogether. Then there was a boy named Billy come to the gentleman looking to be hired, and the gentleman axed what he could do; and Billy said he could do anything, and then the gentleman engaged him. And when that time of year came, says Billy, says he, to his masther, "Masther," says he, "are ye sendin' no one to lift your rents this year?" "No, Billy," says the masther, "for it is no use. Rory would only rob them, and maybe murder them into the bargain on the way back." Says Billy, says he, "I'll try." Well and good the master consinted, and told Billy to harness the best horse in the stable, so that he might have a chance of escaping from Rory. "No," says Billy, "but give me the very worst horse." And the worst horse Billy saddled, and went off. And when he was going through the mountains he enquired for Rory, and finding him out, he told him, says he, "I'm Billy, the masther's boy, and I'm going to such a place" (mentioning the name of where the estate was), says he, "to collect his rents; and if you're here when I'm coming back, I'll hand the money over to you." Rory thanked him for nothing, and said he would be there right enough to take the rents from him. So, when Billy got to the estate and collected the rents in gold and notes, he had it all sewed into the lining of his coat, all except ten pounds that he changed into coppers and tied up in a bag, and put on the saddle before him. And when he reached the mountains on his way back, there he met Rory waiting for him. Then, says Billy, "I want to purtend to my masther that I made a hard fight before I gev up the money, so do you," says he, holding out his coat, "shoot your pistols through that coat, that I can be able to show him the marks." Then Rory shot all his pistols through Billy's coat, making a number of holes in it. Then Billy threw the bag of coppers on the road, and says he, "There's the rints," and when Rory got down off his horse to lift the bag, Billy jumped up on it, and away off, and it was one of the swiftest horses in the country, so that Rory couldn't overtake him, and he couldn't fire after him, because Billy was so cute as to make him empty all his pistols into his coat.

When Billy got home to his masther, and gev him up the rints, and told him the whole story of how he had tricked Rory, his masther was proud of him, and couldn't make too much of him. "But then," says the masther, "it was a bad thing to take his horse, for he'll never rest contented now till he's revenged on me." They agreed it was best to leave back the horse with Rory, and so Billy started, and when he fell in with the robber and gev him up his horse, Rory said he was a clever fellow and no mistake, and he would like Billy would join his band. Billy said well and good, he would. Off they went, then, to the cave in the mountains where the robbers had their den, and when they came there Rory introduced Billy to his brother robbers, and they proposed to welcome him with a big supper. So one of their cleverest hands was sent away to steal a sheep that they might make a fine roast. He was a long time away and they begun to chat about what was keeping him. "I'll bet you fifty pounds," says Billy to Rory, "that I steal the sheep from him." "Done," says Rory. Then Billy started away, and taking off a pair of splendid big top boots he had on him, he dropped one of them about a mile from the cave in the path the robber would take coming home with the sheep, and then travelling on about half a mile further he dropped the other, after rubbing it well with soft mud to make it right dirty. Then, when, not long afther, the robber comes along with the sheep, and comes up to this boot, he looks at it and says "It's a fine top-boot, but, bad luck to it," says he, "it's too dirty entirely to carry, and where's the use of it anyhow when I haven't its fellow?" On he went then himself and the sheep till he come to the next boot, and when he seen it "Bad scran to me," says he, "but there is its fellow, and I was unlucky I didn't take it." So he took and tied the sheep to a stump of a bush that was bye, and started away back to get the other top-boot. In the meantime Billy loosed the sheep and took it to the cave, and got his bet from Rory. Soon the robber come then to the cave with the pair of top-boots in his hand, and told how he tied the sheep to the stump of a bush till he'd go back and look for the other top-boot, and how, when he come back, the sheep was broke away, and he couldn't get her. Then Rory ordered him to go back and steal another sheep; "And now," says he to Billy, when he was gone, "I'll hold ye a hundred pound ye don't steal this sheep from him." "Done," says Billy, and started off after him. When Billy got to the place he had stole the first sheep he hid close by, and waited till the robber come up with the next; and when he come up Billy commenced bleatin' like a sheep and "Bad luck be off me," says the robber, says he, "but there's the sheep I lost." And with that he tied the sheep he had with him now to the very same tree stump, and went over the ditches looking for the other sheep. Billy stole round, and loosed the sheep, and away to the cave with it, and won that hundred pounds too. Rory had to confess that Billy was by far the cleverest thief he ever met, and even cleverer than himself. "I'll tell you what," says he to Billy, "there's one thing I want stolen, and I have been after it for the last five years and couldn't succeed—but maybe you'd come better speed than me; it's the King of Connaught's black mare, the grandest and swiftest in the world, that never was beaten yet, or never will be beaten; if I only had her, I would defy the whole country, for none could catch me. I'll give you, Billy," says he, "four hundred pounds in goold if ye can succeed in stealing her for me. But it's a very difficult job," says he, "for there's always a guard of soldiers on the stable, and a man sitting on the back of the black mare, night and day, for fear of me stealing her." "Well," says Billy, "if I had only a good harper to come with me I'd steal her." "Well," says Rory, "you have that here, for I'm reckoned a first-class player on the harp, and my father before me was harper to the Chieftain of Knockree." Well and good, then, Billy made him disguise as a blind harper, and they both of them set off, and the harp with them, for the King of Connaught's castle, and Billy put Rory to play the harp before the castle windows where there was a lot of high-up folk being entertained. And when the King of Connaught saw the blind harper he made him be brought in to amuse the company, and then, of course, a dance was started, and every one was taken up with the fun, the captain of the guards along with every one else. Then, when Billy found the spree at its height, he went and got a jar of whiskey and drugged it with sleeping drops, and then went into the courtyard and lay down close by the stables, like a drunken man fallen asleep, with the drugged jar beside him. The guards soon saw the jar, and smelled it, and saying to themselves that there was no watch over them this night, when everybody was too taken on with the fun, and that it would be no harm to taste just a little of it, they passed the jar round, and every man of them fell fast asleep; and the man that was on the horse's back dropped off it, asleep with the drink, too; and Billy got up and went into the stable, and taking out the black mare, started off with her to the mountains. And when Rory arrived he was a proud man to find the King of Connaught's black mare there before him. He counted down to Billy four hundred yellow, shining sovereigns, and Billy went home with his five hundred and fifty pounds, and lived an honest and happy man ever after.

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