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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Sir Condy’s Wake
By Maria Edgeworth (1768–1849)
 
From ‘Castle Rackrent’

WHEN they were made sensible that Sir Condy was going to leave Castle Rackrent for good and all, they set up a whillaluh that could be heard to the farthest end of the street; and one fine boy he was, that my master had given an apple to that morning, cried the loudest; but they all were the same sorry, for Sir Condy was greatly beloved among the childher, for letting them go a-nutting in the demesne without saying a word to them, though my lady objected to them. The people in the town, who were the most of them standing at their doors, hearing the childher cry, would know the reason of it; and when the report was made known the people one and all gathered in great anger against my son Jason, and terror at the notion of his coming to be landlord over them, and they cried, “No Jason! no Jason! Sir Condy! Sir Condy! Sir Condy Rackrent forever!” and the mob grew so great and so loud I was frightened, and made my way back to the house to warn my son to make his escape or hide himself, for fear of the consequences. Jason would not believe me till they came all round the house and to the windows with great shouts; then he grew quite pale, and asked Sir Condy what had he best do? “I’ll tell you what you’d best do,” said Sir Condy, who was laughing to see his fright: “finish your glass first; then let’s go to the window and show ourselves, and I’ll tell ’em, or you shall if you please, that I’m going to the lodge for change of air for my health, and by my own desire, for the rest of my days.” “Do so,” said Jason who never meant it should have been so, but could not refuse him the lodge at this unseasonable time. Accordingly Sir Condy threw up the sash and explained matters, and thanked all his friends, and bid ’em look in at the punch-bowl, and observe that Jason and he had been sitting over it very good friends; so the mob was content, and he sent ’em out some whisky to drink his health, and that was the last time his Honor’s health was ever drunk at Castle Rackrent.  1
  The very next day, being too proud, as he said to me, to stay an hour longer in a house that did not belong to him, he sets off to the lodge, and I along with him not many hours after. And there was great bemoaning through all O’Shaughlin’s Town, which I stayed to witness, and gave my poor master a full account of when I got to the lodge. He was very low and in his bed when I got there, and complained of a great pain about his heart; but I guessed it was only trouble, and all the business, let alone vexation, he had gone through of late; and knowing the nature of him from a boy, I took my pipe, and while smoking it by the chimney, began telling him how he was beloved and regretted in the county, and it did him a deal of good to hear it. “Your Honor has a great many friends yet, that you don’t know of, rich and poor in the country,” says I; “for as I was coming along the road, I met two gentlemen in their own carriages, who asked after you, knowing me, and wanted to know where you was, and all about you, and even how old I was: think of that!” Then he wakened out of his doze, and began questioning me who the gentlemen were. And the next morning it came into my head to go, unknown to anybody, with my master’s compliments, round to many of the gentlemen’s houses where he and my lady used to visit, and people that I knew were his great friends, and would go to Cork to serve him any day in the year, and I made bold to try to borrow a trifle of cash from them. They all treated me very civil for the most part, and asked a great many questions very kind about my lady and Sir Condy and all the family, and were greatly surprised to learn from me Castle Rackrent was sold, and my master at the lodge for health; and they all pitied him greatly, and he had their good wishes, if that would do, but money was a thing they unfortunately had not any of them at this time to spare. I had my journey for my pains, and I, not used to walking, nor supple as formerly, was greatly tired, but had the satisfaction of telling my master, when I got to the lodge, all the civil things said by high and low.  2
  “Thady,” says he, “all you’ve been telling me brings a strange thought into my head: I’ve a notion I shall not be long for this world anyhow, and I’ve a great fancy to see my own funeral afore I die.” I was greatly shocked at the first speaking, to hear him speak so light about his funeral, and he to all appearances in good health, but recollecting myself answered:—“To be sure it would be as fine a sight as one could see, I dared to say, and one I should be proud to witness; and I did not doubt his Honor’s would be as great a funeral as ever Sir Patrick O’Shaughlin’s was, and such a one as that had never been known in the county before or since.” But I never thought he was in earnest about seeing his own funeral himself, till the next day he returns to it again. “Thady,” says he, “as far as the wake goes, sure I might without any great trouble have the satisfaction of seeing a bit of my own funeral.” “Well, since your Honor’s Honor’s so bent upon it,” says I, not willing to cross him, and he in trouble, “we must see what we can do.” So he fell into a sort of a sham disorder, which was easy done, as he kept his bed and no one to see him; and I got my shister, who was an old woman very handy about the sick, and very skillful, to come up to the lodge to nurse him; and we gave out, she knowing no better, that he was just at his latter end, and it answered beyond anything; and there was a great throng of people, men, women, and children, and there being only two rooms at the lodge, except what was locked up full of Jason’s furniture and things, the house was soon as full and fuller than it could hold, and the heat and smoke and noise wonderful great; and standing among them that were near the bed, but not thinking at all of the dead, I was startled by the sound of my master’s voice from under the greatcoats that had been thrown all at top, and I went close up, no one noticing. “Thady,” says he, “I’ve had enough of this; I’m smothering, and can’t hear a word of all they’re saying of the deceased.” “God bless you, and lie still and quiet,” says I, “a bit longer; for my shister’s afraid of ghosts and would die on the spot with fright, was she to see you come to life all on a sudden this way without the least preparation.” So he lays him still, though well-nigh stifled, and I made all haste to tell the secret of the joke, whispering to one and t’other, and there was a great surprise, but not so great as we had laid out it would. “And aren’t we to have the pipes and tobacco, after coming so far to-night?” said some; but they were all well enough pleased when his Honor got up to drink with them, and sent for more spirits from a shebean-house, where they very civilly let him have it upon credit. So the night passed off very merrily, but to my mind Sir Condy was rather upon the sad order in the midst of it all, not finding there had been such a great talk about himself after his death as he had always expected to hear.  3
 
 
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