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The Good O'donoghue

Scary Books: The Haunters & The Haunted
: Irish Folk Tales

In an age so distant that the precise period is unknown, a chieftain

named O'Donoghue ruled over the country which surrounds the romantic

Lough Lean, now called the Lake of Killarney. Wisdom, beneficence, and

justice distinguished his reign, and the prosperity and happiness of his

subjects were their natural results. He is said to have been as renowned

for his warlike exploits as for his pacific virtues; and as a proof that
r /> his domestic administration was not the less rigorous because it was

mild, a rocky island is pointed out to strangers, called "O'Donoghue's

Prison," in which this prince once confined his own son for some act of

disorder and disobedience.

His end--for it cannot correctly be called his death--was singular and

mysterious. At one of those splendid feasts for which his court was

celebrated, surrounded by the most distinguished of his subjects, he was

engaged in a prophetic relation of the events which were to happen in

ages yet to come. His auditors listened, now rapt in wonder, now fired

with indignation, burning with shame, or melted into sorrow, as he

faithfully detailed the heroism, the injuries, the crimes, and the

miseries of their descendants. In the midst of his predictions he rose

slowly from his seat, advanced with a solemn, measured, and majestic

tread to the shore of the lake, and walked forward composedly upon its

unyielding surface. When he had nearly reached the centre he paused for

a moment, then, turning slowly round, looked toward his friends, and

waving his arms to them with the cheerful air of one taking a short

farewell, disappeared from their view.

The memory of the good O'Donoghue has been cherished by successive

generations with affectionate reverence; and it is believed that at

sunrise, on every May-day morning, the anniversary of his departure, he

revisits his ancient domains: a favoured few only are in general

permitted to see him, and this distinction is always an omen of good

fortune to the beholders; when it is granted to many it is a sure token

of an abundant harvest--a blessing, the want of which during this

prince's reign was never felt by his people.

Some years have elapsed since the last appearance of O'Donoghue. The

April of that year had been remarkably wild and stormy; but on

May-morning the fury of the elements had altogether subsided. The air

was hushed and still; and the sky, which was reflected in the serene

lake, resembled a beautiful but deceitful countenance, whose smiles,

after the most tempestuous emotions, tempt the stranger to believe that

it belongs to a soul which no passion has ever ruffled.

The first beams of the rising sun were just gilding the lofty summit of

Glenaa, when the waters near the eastern shore of the lake became

suddenly and violently agitated, though all the rest of its surface lay

smooth and still as a tomb of polished marble, the next morning a

foaming wave darted forward, and, like a proud high-crested war-horse,

exulting in his strength, rushed across the lake toward Toomies

mountain. Behind this wave appeared a stately warrior fully armed,

mounted upon a milk-white steed; his snowy plume waved gracefully from a

helmet of polished steel, and at his back fluttered a light blue scarf.

The horse, apparently exulting in his noble burden, sprung after the

wave along the water, which bore him up like firm earth, while showers

of spray that glittered brightly in the morning sun were dashed up at

every bound.

The warrior was O'Donoghue; he was followed by numberless youths and

maidens, who moved lightly and unconstrained over the watery plain, as

the moonlight fairies glide through the fields of air; they were linked

together by garlands of delicious spring flowers, and they timed their

movements to strains of enchanting melody. When O'Donoghue had nearly

reached the western side of the lake, he suddenly turned his steed, and

directed his course along the wood-fringed shore of Glenaa, preceded by

the huge wave that curled and foamed up as high as the horse's neck,

whose fiery nostrils snorted above it. The long train of attendants

followed with playful deviations the track of their leader, and moved on

with unabated fleetness to their celestial music, till gradually, as

they entered the narrow strait between Glenaa and Dinis, they became

involved in the mists which still partially floated over the lake, and

faded from the view of the wondering beholders: but the sound of their

music still fell upon the ear, and echo, catching up the harmonious

strains, fondly repeated and prolonged them in soft and softer tones,

till the last faint repetition died away, and the hearers awoke as from

a dream of bliss.