Short Stories

Kitty The Orphan


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Tis a quare tale I have for you tonight that’ll make you stop in your tracks and think twice about any hardship you might ever have brought on another poor soul, begannies, and you might think twice about being the cause of another’s misfortune going forwards, faith.

Our story takes place in a big old manor that used to sit on the road on the way into Youghal in the County Cork. The house used to be a workhouse back in the olden days, before the new people took it over and turned it into an orphanage, awonomsa. And many a poor child who had been left all alone in this world passed through its corridors, and in all their time there, not a comforting arm was ever put around their shoulders, or a warm kiss placed on their heads, such was the cruel nature of the owners. It was said they only took the children in for the money that the government would give them, and that the children lived off scraps while they made life as comfortable as ever they could for themselves.

One night, in the middle of March, wasn’t there a knock on the door just after all the children had been put down in their quarters for the night. The owner, one Hubert Jackson, answered the door with a big scowl on his face, for he was just after starting into his nightly fill of sherry. There standing on the doorstep in front of him was the skinniest rake of a boy you ever saw in your life, imbeersa, and the rain and it dripping down his gaunt little face. His bones were shivering as he said in the weakest of voices, “Please, can I come in.” Hubert Jackson looked him up and down, and for the moment he thought about turning him away but then in the back of his drunken mind he remembered the money, and he shouted for his wife, Alice Jackson, to bring him a towel.

“Come in, boy,” says Hubert Jackson, “and dry yourself.”

Alice Jackson handed the boy the towel and the pair of rascals stood looking him up and down. “What’s your name?” the woman of the house asked, and the boy replied, “William Moore.”

The boy explained that both his parents were dead, and that he had been wandering hills and fields for months on end, and had no idea from where it was he had come at all. The Jacksons ushered him up the stairs into a spare bed that was in the big dormitory where all the other children slept. They gave the boy a dry pair of pyjamas, and told him to get some sleep and they would talk to him in the morning, mossa fain.

The next morning they found the boy sitting at the end of the long dinner table, with an empty bowl in front of him. And Alice Jackson lumped a big bowl of porridge down in front of him and told him to eat up and go straight to Mr. Jackson’s office, where they had a few questions for him to answer. The young lad gobbled down the food like a starved animal, and made his way into the office where Hubert Jackson was sitting with some paperwork in front of him.

“How old are you, lad?” he asked him, and young William told him he was just ten years of age. “We lived for a long while in Cork City, sir, but my parents took to the road and we have been living in different places ever since. One day I woke up and the two of them were gone. A man told me that they were both dead and if I had any sense to run away before the big men came and took me. And that’s what I did, and then a few days ago I was sleeping in a ditch when a kind stranger came along and told me if I needed a bed, that this was the place to come to.”

Hubert Jackson sat back in his chair and muttered to himself that the whole situation was very suspicious, and that he would have to report the boy’s name to the police in Cork City.

“What were your parents’ names,” he asked, and the boy said Paddy and Betty Moore. Hubert Jackson scribbled their names into his book, and told the boy to go wash himself and then report to Mrs Jackson, who would have some chores for him to busy himself with.

The Jacksons had three children themselves living in the manor, and the youngest of them, Samuel, was the same age as the mysterious orphan who had entered their lives. And young Samuel wasn’t a bad child by any means, imbeersa, and he even went and tried to befriend William Moore by inviting him to play with his toys, but his invitation was turned down, and William just shied away even more from the other children.

On the third night after he had arrived at their front door, something happened that put a scare down the very throats of the Jacksons. It was the middle of the night, just after 3.00 a.m., the witching hour, when Alice Jackson woke up with a start in the bed. “Hubert,” says she and she grabbing the arm of her sleeping husband. “Can you hear one of the children crying.” And Hubert Jackson jumped out of the bed, for he could hear his son Samuel and he screaming out his daddy’s name, imbeersa.

And down through the shadows of the dimly lit corridor the pair of them ran and into Samuel’s bedroom, for he had a small room all to himself. And there, standing over the bed was William Moore with his two hands around poor Samuel’s neck.

Hubert Jackson grabbed the boy and pulled him off his son, and started shaking him.

“What do you think you are doing?” he screamed at the young lad, but then he realised that William Moore was in a kind of a trance.

“He’s sleepwalking,” Alice Jackson cried out, and she comforting her Samuel, trying to stop him from sobbing.

And Hubert Jackson took William by the hand and led him back to his bed. But when he got back to Samuel’s bedroom, his son begged him to make William Moore go away, and that he had had a bad feeling about him every since he arrived in their home.

And the next day, the police from Cork City got in touch, telling the Jacksons that they had no record of the boy or his parents ever living in Cork. There were a few William Moores to be sure, but none of them fitted the description of the orphan who had come into their lives. And the police told them to pack the child a bag and that they would come and collect him the next day, for he needed further investigation.

And the Jacksons were only too happy to get rid of the orphaned boy, for a black shadow had come into their lives since his arrival.

That night they put William Moore to bed, and Hubert said he would keep a nightwatch up and down the corridor outside his door.

All was going quiet that night until a few minutes after midnight, mossa, when Hubert Jackson was starting to doze off in an armchair that he had dragged into the corridor, didn’t he smell something burning from down stairs. And he ran to the bottom of the stairs and threw open the kitchen door, but he was thrown back against the wall by an explosion of flames that danced out around him.

“Fire, fire,” he screamed, and ran up the stairs to wake his wife, and family and all the sleeping orphans. And down the stairs and out the front door they ran one by one until they were all safely standing at the far end of the garden. But when he looked in William Moore’s bed, he was nowhere to be found.

Hubert Jackson, and he coughing and spluttering from all the smoke he was after inhaling, ran out of the burning house; he ran to his wife who was calming down all the screaming children and she had the look of someone who had seen a ghost as she pointed into the distance.

Standing next to an old cracked stone in a makeshift graveyard that was in the field next to the manor, was William Moore. But he didn’t look human anymore. His two eyes were burning in this head and when he opened his mouth, there were no teeth nor tongue, and he growled in a voice that came from the Otherworld.

“Hubert Jackson’s great-uncle was my parents’ landlord during the Famine and he cruelly evicted them from their home, leaving them to die in a ditch. And when they perished after giving every bite of food they had to me, so I would survive, I was taken and put into this workhouse. They worked me like a slave everyday, until my poor body could take no more, and I caught consumption and died. They buried me in this grave you see right here. Well now you can watch your home burn in flames, and see what it’s like to have something taken away from you. And may you never know a peaceful night’s sleep for I will be back to take more…remember my words.”

And the orphan turned and walked into the burning flames until his body disappeared into ashes. Hubert Jackson ran over to the stone where the boy had been standing. And scraping away the moss, it read. Here lies William Moore, born January 21st, 1839, died of consumption,  March 17th, 1849. Rest in Peace. And that’s my story for you tonight imbeersa, and I hope we all take a lesson away from it that we look out for each other, and be kind to those who need it, mossa, for we never know when the tide will turn on any of us, God bless the