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Main > Irish folktales > Fairy tale "A Year and a Day"

A Year and a Day

Then John came to believe that Kathleen was dead. He told his mother this and she answered: "Kathleen is not dead."

"And how do you know that, mother?" John said. "You always say that the Good People took her away, but that might be true, and still she might be dead by now. And the Good People might not have taken her at all. How do you know?"

"I don't know that the Good People took her," she answered, "though I think they did; but I am sure she is not dead."

"And how are you sure, mother?"

"Kathleen could never die," Mrs. O'Brien said, "without I'ld hear the banshee."

"The banshee?" said John. "There's no banshee here. There's banshees only in Ireland."

"Our banshee is here," his mother answered. "I know she is here. You've heard me tell of her. She's the sad, mourning woman of the Good People that weeps and wails about the house when anybody of the family is to die, anywhere in the world. It's true, as you say, that the banshees mostly stay in Ireland, though they are heard to cry and moan for those of the family who are to die in any part of the world. But sometimes the banshee leaves Ireland with the family that she belongs to, and so did ours. Wouldn't I know her voice? Didn't I hear her wail and scream before your father died, so many, many years ago? Oh, I'ld never forget it. I'ld know her voice."

"Then why didn't you hear her," John asked "before Kitty died, and why didn't you know before that she was to die?"

"I did hear the banshee that time," his mother answered, "but I couldn't tell that it was Kitty that was to die. It was the night before she died. I heard a little moan, that was more like the wind than anything else, and then it grew louder, and it was a sob and a soft wail. It did not grow very loud. Then I could hear that it was like the keen that the women cry over the dead at home. I knew that it was the banshee. No, I could not be wrong about her; I had heard her before. But I never thought of Kitty then. I thought: 'I'm an old woman—an old woman—though I would never let them say so; and now my time has come.

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