I wrote all this years ago, out of what were even then old memories. I was in Roughley the other day, and found it much like other desolate places. I may have been thinking of Moughorow, a much wilder place, for the memories of one’s childhood are brittle things to lean upon.
A sea captain when he stands upon the bridge, or looks out from his deck-house, thinks much about God and about the world. Away in the valley yonder among the corn and the poppies men may well forget all things except the warmth of the sun upon the face, and the kind shadow under the hedge; but he who journeys through storm and darkness must needs think and think. One July a couple of years ago I took my supper with a Captain Moran on board the S.S. Margaret, that had put into a western river from I know not where. I found him a man of many notions all flavoured with his personality, as is the way with sailors. He talked in his queer sea manner of God and the world, and up through all his words broke the hard energy of his calling.
“Sur,” said he, “did you ever hear tell of the sea captain’s prayer?”
“No,” said I; “what is it?”
“It is,” he replied, “‘O Lord, give me a stiff upper lip.’”
“And what does that mean?”
“It means,” he said, “that when they come to me some night and wake me up, and say, ‘Captain, we’re going down,’ that I won’t make a fool o’ meself. Why, sur, we war in mid Atlantic, and I standin’ on the bridge, when the third mate comes up to me looking mortial bad. Says he, ‘Captain, all’s up with us.’ Says I, ’Didn’t you know when you joined that a certain percentage go down every year?’ ‘Yes, sur,’ says he; and says I, ‘Arn’t you paid to go down?’ ‘Yes, sur,’ says he; and says I, ‘Then go down like a man, and be damned to you!"’
In Ireland this world and the world we go to after death are not far apart. I have heard of a ghost that was many years in a tree and many years in the archway of a bridge, and my old Mayo woman says, “There is a bush up at my own place, and the people do be saying that there are two souls doing their penance under it. When the wind blows one way the one has shelter, and when it blows from the north the other has the shelter. It is twisted over with the way they be rooting under it for shelter. I don’t believe it, but there is many a one would not pass by it at night.” Indeed there are times when the worlds are so near together that it seems as if our earthly chattels were no more than the shadows of things beyond. A lady I knew once saw a village child running about with a long trailing petticoat upon her, and asked the creature why she did not have it cut short. “It was my grandmother’s,”