CELT document E870000-010

Sir Dominick's Bargain

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Sir Dominick's Bargain

Sir Dominick's Bargain


A Legend of Dunoran

In the early autumn of the year 1838, business called me to the south of Ireland. The weather was delightful, the scenery and people were new to me, and sending my luggage on by the mail-coach route in charge of a servant, I hired a serviceable nag at a posting-house, and, full of the curiosity of an explorer, I commenced a leisurely journey of five-and-twenty miles on horseback, by sequestered cross-roads, to my place of destination. By bog and hill, by plain and ruined castle, and many a winding stream, my picturesque road led me.

I had started late, and having made little more than half my journey, I was thinking of making a short halt at the next convenient place, and letting my horse have a rest and a feed, and making some provision also for the comforts of his rider.


It was about four o'clock when the road, ascending a gradual steep, found a passage through a rocky gorge between the abrupt termination of a range of mountain to my left and a rocky hill, that rose dark and sudden at my right. Below me lay a little thatched village, under a long line of gigantic beech-trees, through the boughs of which the lowly chimneys sent up their thin turf-smoke. To my left, stretched away for miles, ascending the mountain range I have mentioned, a wild park, through whose sward and ferns the rock broke, time-worn and lichen-stained. This park was studded with straggling wood, which thickened to something like a forest, behind and beyond the little village I was approaching, clothing the irregular ascent of the hillsides with beautiful, and in some places discoloured foliage.

As you descend, the road winds slightly, with the grey park-wall, built of loose stone, and mantled here and there with ivy, at its left, and crosses a shallow ford; and as I approached the village, through breaks in the woodlands, I caught glimpses of the long front of an old ruined house, placed among the trees, about half-way up the picturesque mountain-side.

The solitude and melancholy of this ruin piqued my curiosity, and when I had reached the rude thatched public-house, with the sign of St. Columbkill, with robes, mitre, and crozier, displayed over its lintel, having seen to my horse and made a good meal myself on a rasher and eggs, I began to think again of the wooded park and the ruinous house, and resolved on a ramble of half an hour among its sylvan solitudes.

The name of the place, I found, was Dunoran; and beside the gate a stile admitted to the grounds, through which, with a pensive enjoyment, I began to saunter thowards the dilapidated mansion.


A long grass-grown road, with many turns and windings, leg up to the old house, under the shadow of the wood.

The road, as it approached the house skirted the edge of a precipitous glen, clothed with hazel, dwarf-oak, and thorn, and the silent house stood with its wide-open hall-door facing this dark ravine, the further edge of which was crowned with towering forest; and great trees stood about the house and its deserted court-yard and stables.

I walked in and looked about me, through passages overgrown with nettles and weeds; from room to room with ceilings rotted, and here and there a great beam dark and worn, with tendrils of ivy trailing over it. The tall walls with rotten plaster were stained and mouldy, and in some rooms the remains of decayed wainscoting crazily swung to and fro. The almost sashless windows were darkened also with ivy, and about the tall chimneys the jackdaws were wheeling, while from the huge trees that overhung the glen in sombre masses at the other side, the rooks kept up a ceaseless cawing.

As I walked through these melancholy passages—pepping only into some of the rooms, for the flooring was quite gone in the middle, and bowed down toward the centre, and the house was very nearly un-roofed, a state of things which made the exploration a little critical—I began to wonder why so grand a house, in the midst of scenery so picturesque, had been permitted to go to decay; I dreamed of the hospitalities of which it had long ago been the rallying place, and I thought what a scene of Redgauntlet revelries it might disclose at midnight.

The great staircase was of oak, which had stood the weather wonderfully, and I sat down upon its steps, musing vaguely on the transitoriness of all things under the sun.


Except for the hoarse and distant clamour of the rooks, hardly audible where I sat, no sound broke the profound stillness of the spot. Such a sense of solitude I have seldom experienced before. The air was stirless, there was not even the rustle of a withered leaf along the passage. It was oppressive. The tall trees that stood close about the building darkened it, and added something of awe to the melancholy of the scene.

In this mood I heard, with an unpleasant surprise, close to me, a voice that was drawling, and, I fancied, sneering, repeat the words: “Food for worms, dead and rotten; God over all.”

There was a small window in the wall, here very thick, which had been built up, and in the dark recess of this, deep in the shadow, I now saw a sharp-featured man, sitting with his feet dangling. His keen eyes were fixed on me, and he was smiling cynically, and before I had well recovered my surprise, he repeated the distich:

  1. If death was a thing that money could buy,
    The rich they would live, and the poor they would die.

“It was a grand house in its day, sir,” he continued, “Dunoran House, and the Sarsfields. Sir Dominick Sarsfield was the last of the old stock. He lost his life not six foot away from where you are sitting.”

As he thus spoke he let himself down, with a little jump, on to the ground.

He was a dark-faced, sharp-featured, little hunchback, and had a walking-stick in his hand, with the end of which he pointed to a rusty stain in the plaster of the wall.

“Do you mind that mark, sir?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said, standing up, and looking at it, with a curious anticipation of something worth hearing.

“That's about seven or eight feet from the ground, sir, and you'll not guess what it is.”


“I dare say not,” said I, “unless it is a stain from the weather.”

“'Tis nothing so lucky, sir,” he answered, with the same cynical smile and a wag of his head, still pointing at the mark with his stick. “That's a splash of brains and blood. It's there this hundhred years; and it will never leave it while the wall stands.”

“He was murdered, then?”

“Worse than that, sir,” he answered.

“He killed himself, perhaps?”

“Worse than that, itself, this cross between us and harm! I'm oulder than I look, sir; you wouldn't guess my years.”

He became silent, and looked at me, evidently inviting a guess.

“Well, I should guess you to about five-and-fifty.”

He laughed, and took a pinch of snuff, and said:

“I'm that, your honour, and something to the back of it. I was seventy last Candlemas. You world not a' thought that, to look at me.”

“Upon my word I should not; I can hardly believe it even now. Still, you don't remember Sir Dominick Sarsfield's death?” I said, glancing up at the ominous stain on the wall.

“No, sir, that was a long while before I was born. But my grandfather was butler here long ago, and many a time I heard tell how Sir Dominick came by his death. There was no masther in the great house ever sinst that happened. But there was two sarvants in care of it, and my aunt was one o' them; and she kep' me here wid her till I was nine year old, and she was lavin' the place to go to Dublin; and from that time it was let to go down. The wind sthript the roof, and the rain rotted the timber, and little by little, in sixty years' time, it kem to what  p.186 you see. But I have a likin' for it still, for the sake of ould times; and I never come this way but I take a look in. I don't think it's many more times I'll be turnin' to see the ould place, for I'll be undher the sod myself before long.”

“You'll outlive younger people,” I said.

And, quitting that trite subject, I ran on: “I don't wonder that you like this old place; it is a beautiful spot, such noble trees.”

“I wish ye seen the glin when the nuts is ripe; they're the sweetest nuts in all Ireland, I think,” he rejoined, with a practical sense of the picturesque. “You'd fill your pockets while you'd be lookin' about you.”

“These are very fine old woods,” I remarked. “I have not seen any in Ireland I thought so beautiful.”

“Eiah! Your honour, the woods about here is nothing to what they wor. All the mountains along here was wood when my father was a gossoon1, and Murroa Wood was the grandest of them all. All oak mostly, and all cut down as bare as the road. Not one left here that's fit to compare with them. Which way did your honour come hither—from Limerick?”

“No. Killaloe.”

“Well, then, you passed the ground where Murroa Wood was in former times. You kem undher Lisnavourra, the steep knob of a hill about a mile above the village here. 'Twas near that Murroa Wood was, and 'twas there Sir Dominick Sarsfield first met the devil, the Lord between us and harm, and a bad meeting it was for him and his.”

I had become interested in the adventure which has occurred in the very scenery which had so greatly attracted me, and my new acquaintance, the little hunchback, was easily entreated to tell me the story, and spoke thus, so soon as we had each resumed his seat:


“It was a fine estate when Sir Dominick came into it; and grand doings there was entirely, feasting and fiddling, free quarters for all the pipes in the counthry round, and a welcome for every one that liked to come. There was wine, by the hogshead, for the quality; and potteen2 enough to set a town a-fire, and beer and cidher enough to float a navy, for the boys and girls, and the likes o' me. It was kep' up the best part of a month, till the weather broke, and the rain spoilt the sod for the moneen jigs, and the fair of Allybally Killudeen comin' on they wor obliged to give over the divarsion, and attind to the pigs.”

But Sir Dominick was only beginnin' when they wor lavin' off. There was no way of gettin' rid of his money and estates he did not try—what with drinkin', dicin', racin', cards, and all soarts, it was not many years before the estates wor in debt, and Sir Dominick a distressed man. He showed a bold front to the world as long as he could; and then he sould off his dogs, and most of his horses, and gev out he was going to thravel in France, and the like; and so off with him for awhile; and no one in these parts heard tale or tidings of him for two or three years. Till at last quite unexpected, one night there comes a rapping at the big kitchen window. It was past ten o'clock, and old Connor Hanlon, the butler, my grandfather, was sittin' by the fire alone, warming his shins over it. There was keen east wind blowing along the mountains that night, and whistling cowld enough, through the tops of the trees, and soundin' lonesome through the long chimneys.

(And the story-teller glanced up at the nearest stack visible from his seat.)

So he wasn't quite sure of the knockin' at the window, and up he gets, and sees his master's face.


My grandfather was glad to see him safe, for it was a long time since there was any news of him; but he was sorry, too, for it was a changed place and only himself and old Juggy Broadrick in charge of the house, and a man in the stables, and it was a poor thing to see him comin' back to his own like that.

He shook Con by the hand, and says he:

“I came here to say a word to you. I left my horse with Dick in the stable; I may want him again before morning, or I may never want him.”

And with that he turns into the big kitchen, and draws a stool, and sits down to take an air of the fire.

“Sit down, Connor, opposite me, and listen to what I tell you, and don't be afeard to say what you think.”

He spoke all the time lookin' into the fire, with his hands stretched over it, and a tired man he looked.

“An' why should I be afeard, Masther Dominick?” says my grandfather. “Yourself was a good masther to me, and so was your father, rest his sould, before you, and I'll say the truth, and dar' the devil, and more than that, for any Sarsfield of Dunoran, much less yourself, and a good right I'd have.”

“It's all over with me, Con,” says Sir Dominick.

“Heaven forbid!” says my grandfather.

“'Tis past praying for,” says Sir Dominick. “The last guinea's gone; the ould place will follow it. It must be sold, and I'm come here, I don't know why, like a ghost to have a last look round me, and go off in the dark again.”

And with that he tould him to be sure, in case he should hear of his death, to give the oak box, in the closet off his room, to his cousin, Pat Sarsfield, in Dublin, and the sword and pistols his grandfather carried in Aughrim, and two or three thrifling things of the kind.


And says he, “Con, they say if the divil gives you money overnight, you'll find nothing but a bagful of pebbles, and chips, and nutshells, in the morning. If I thought he played fair, I'm in the humour to make a bargain with him to-night.”

“Lord forbid!” says my grandfather, standing up, with a start, and crossing himself.

“They say the country's full of men, listin' sogers for the King o' France. If I light on one o' them, I'll not refuse his offer. How contrary things goes! How long is it since me an Captain Waller fought the jewel at New Castle?”

“Six years, Masther Dominick, and ye broke his thigh with the bullet the first shot.”

“I did, Con,” says he, “and I wish, instead, he had shot me through the heart. Have you any whisky?”

My grandfather took it out of the buffet, and the masther pours out some into a bowl, and drank it off.

“I'll go out and have a look at my horse,” says he, standing up. There was a sort of a stare in his eyes, as he pulled his riding-cloak about him, as if there was something bad in his thoughts.

“Sure, I won't be a minute running out myself to the stable, and looking after the horse for you myself,” says my grandfather.

“I'm not goin' to the stable,” says Sir Dominick; “I may as well tell you, for I see you found it out already—I'm goin' across the deer-park; if I come back you'll see me in an hour's time. But, anyhow, you'd better not follow me, for if you do I'll shoot you, and that 'id be a bad ending to our friendship.”

And with that he walks down this passage here, and turns the key in the side door at that end of it, and out wid him on the sod into the moonlight and the cowld  p.190 wind; and my grandfather seen him walkin' hard towards the park-wall, and then he comes in and closes the door with a heavy heart.

Sir Dominick stopped to think when he got to the middle of the deer-park, for he had not made up his mind, when he left the house, and the whisky did not clear his head, only it gev him courage.

He did not feel the cowld wind now, nor fear death, nor think much of anything but the shame and fall of the old family.

And he made up his mind, if no better thought came to him between that and there, so soon as he came to Murroa Wood, he'd hang himself from one of the oak branches with his cravat.

It was a bright moonlight night, there was just a bit of a cloud driving across the moon now and then, but, only for that, as light a'most as day.

Down he goes, right for the wood of Murroa. It seemed to him every step he took was as long as three, and it was no time till he was among the big oak-trees with their roots spreading from one to another, and their branches stretching overhead like the timbers of a naked roof, and the moon shining down through them, and casting their shadows thick and twist abroad on the ground as black as my shoe.

He was sobering a bit by this time, and he slacked his pace, and he thought 'twould be better to list in the French king's army, and thry what that might do for him, for he knew a man might take his own life any time, but it would puzzle him to take it back again when he liked.

Just as he made up his mind not to make away with himself, what should he hear but a step clinkin' along the dry ground under the trees, and soon he sees a grand gentleman right before him comin' up to meet him.


He was a handsome young man like himself, and he wore a cocked-hat with gold-lace round it, such as officers wear on their coats, and he had on a dress the same as French officers wore in them times.

He stopped opposite Sir Dominick, and he cum to a standstill also.

The two gentlemen took off their hats to one another, and says the stranger:

“I am recruiting, sir,” says he, “for my sovereign, and you'll find my money won't turn into pebbles, chips, and nutshells, by tomorrow.”

At the same time he pulls out a big purse full of gold.

The minute he set eyes on that gentleman, Sir Dominick had his own opinion of him; and at those words he felt the very hair standing up on his head.

“Don't be afraid,” says he, “the money won't burn you. If it proves honest gold, and if it prospers with you, I'm willing to make a bargain. This is the last day of February,” says he; “I'll serve you seven years, and at the end of that time you shall serve me, and I'll come for you when the seven years is over, when the clock turns the minute between February and March; and the first of March ye'll come away with me, or never. You'll not find me a bad master, any more than a bad servant. I love my own; and I command all the pleasures and the glory of the world. The bargain dates from this day, and the lease is out at midnight on the last day I told you; and in the year”—he told him the year, it was easy reckoned, but I forget it—“and if you'd rather wait,” he says, “for eight months and twenty eight days, before you sign the writin', you may, if you meet me here. But I can't do a great deal for you in the mean time; and if you don't sign then, all you get from me, up to that time, will vanish away, and you'll be just as you are  p.192 to-night, and ready to hang yourself on the first tree you meet.”

Well, the end of it was, Sir Dominick chose to wait, and he came back to the house with a big bag full of money, as round as your hat a'most.

My grandfather was glad enough, you may be sure, to see the master safe and sound again so soon. Into the kitchen he bangs again, and swings the bag o' money on the table; and he stands up straight, and heaves up his shoulders like a man that has just got shut of a load; and he looks at the bag, and my grandfather looks at him, and from him to it, and back again. Sir Dominick looked as white as a sheet, and says he:

“I don't know, Con, what's in it; it's the heaviest load I ever carried.”

He seemed shy of openin' the bag; and he made my grandfather heap up a roaring fire of turf and wood, and then, at last, he opens it, and, sure enough, 'twas stuffed full o' golden guineas, bright and new, as if they were only that minute out o' the Mint.

Sir Dominick made my grandfather sit at his elbow while he counted every guinea in the bag.

When he was done countin', and it wasn't far from daylight when that time came, Sir Dominick made my grandfather swear not to tell a word about it. And a close secret it was for many a day after.

When the eight months and twenty-eight days were pretty near spent and ended, Sir Dominick returned to the house here with a troubled mind, in doubt what was best to be done, and no one alive but my grandfather knew anything about the matter, and he not half what had happened.

As the day drew near, towards the end of October, Sir Dominick grew only more and more troubled in mind.


One time he made up his mind to have no more to say to such things, nor to speak again with the like of them he met with in the wood of Murroa. Then, again, his heart failed him when he thought of his debts, and he not knowing where to turn. Then, only a week before the day, everything began to go wrong with him. One man wrote from London to say that Sir Dominick paid three thousand pounds to the wrong man, and must pay it over again; another demanded a debt he never heard of before; and another, in Dublin, denied the payment of a thundherin' big bill, and Sir Dominick could nowhere find the receipt, and so on, wid fifty other things as bad.

Well, by the time the night of the 28th of October came round, he was a'most ready to lose his senses with all the demands that was risin' up again him on all sides, and nothing to meet them but the help of the one dhreadful friend he had to depind on at night in the oak-wood down there below.

So there was nothing for it but to go through with the business that was begun already, and about the same hour as he went last, he takes off the little crucifix he wore round his neck, for he was a Catholic, and his gospel, and his bit o' the thrue cross that he had in a locket, for since he took the money from the Evil One he was growin' frightful in himself, and got all he could to guard him from the power of the devil. But to-night, for his life, he daren't take them with him. So he gives them into my grandfather's hands without a word, only he looked as white as a sheet o' paper; and he takes his hat and sword, and telling my grandfather to watch for him, away he goes, to try what would come of it.

It was a fine still night, and the moon—not so bright, though, now as the first time—was shinin' over heath and rock, and down on the lonesome oak-wood below him.


His heart beat thick as he drew near it. There was not a sound, not even the distant bark of a dog from the village behind him. There was not a lonesomer spot in the country round, and if it wasn't for his debts and losses that was drivin' him on half mad, in spite of his fears for his soul and his hopes of paradise, and all his good angel was whisperin' in his ear, he would a' turned back, and sent for his clargy, and made his confession and his penance, and changed his ways, and led a good life, for he was frightened enough to have done a great dale.

Softer and slower he stept as he got, once more, in undher the big branches of the oak-threes; and when he got in a bit, near where he met with the bad spirit before, he stopped and looked round him, and felt himself, every bit, turning as cowld as a dead man, and you may be sure he did not feel much betther when he seen the same man steppin' from behind the big tree that was touchin' his elbow a'most.

“You found the money good,” says he, “but it was not enough. No matter, you shall have enough and to spare. I'll see after your luck, and I'll give you a hint whenever it can serve you; and any time you want to see me you have only to come down here, and call my face to mind, and wish me present. You shan't owe a shilling by the end of the year, and you shall never miss the right card, the best throw, and the winning horse. Are you willing?”

The young gentleman's voice almost stuck in his throat, and his hair was rising on his head, but he did get out a word or two to signify that he consented; and with that the Evil One handed him a needle, and bid him give him three drops of blood from his arm; and he took them in the cup of an acorn, and gave him a pen, and bid him write some words that he repeated, and that Sir Dominick  p.195 did not understand, on two thin slips of parchment. He took one himself and the other he sunk in Sir Dominick's arm at the place where he drew the blood, and he closed the flesh over it. And that's as true as you're sittin' there!

Well, Sir Dominick went home. He was a frightened man, and well he might be. But in a little time he began to grow aisier in his mind. Anyhow, he got out of debt very quick, and money came tumbling in to make him richer, and everything he took in hand prospered, and he never made a wager, or played a game, but he won; and for all that, there was not a poor man on the estate that was not happier than Sir Dominick.

So he took again to his old ways; for, when the money came back, all came back, and there were hounds and horses, and wine galore 3, and no end of company, and grand doin's, and divarsion, up here at the great house. And some said Sir Dominick was thinkin' of gettin' married; and more said he wasn't. But, anyhow, there was somethin' troublin' him more than common, and so one night, unknownst to all, away he goes to the lonesome oak-wood. It was something, maybe, my grandfather thought was troublin' him about a beautiful young lady he was jealous of, and mad in love with her. But that was only guess.

Well, when Sir Dominick got into the wood this time, he grew more in dread than ever; and he was on the point of turnin' and lavin' the place, when who should he see, close beside him, but my gentleman, seated on a big stone undher one of the trees. In place of looking the fine young gentleman in goold lace and grand clothes he appeared before, he was now in rags, he looked twice the size he had been, and his face smutted with soot, and he had a murtherin' big steel hammer, as heavy as a half-hundred,  p.196 with a handle a yard long, across his knees. It was so dark under the tree, he did not see him quite clear for some time.

He stood up, and he looked awful tall entirely. And what passed between them in that discourse my grandfather never heered. But Sir Dominick was as black as night afterwards, and hadn't a laugh for anything nor a word a'most for any one, and he only grew worse and worse, and darker and darker. And now this thing, whatever it was, used to come to him of its own accord, whether he wanted it or no; sometimes in one shape, and sometimes in another, in lonesome places, and sometimes at his side by night when he'd be ridin' home alone, until at last he lost heart altogether and sent for the priest.

The priest was with him a long time, and when he heered the whole story, he rode off all the way for the bishop, and the bishop came here to the great house next day, and gev Sir Dominick a good advice. He toult him he must give over dicin' and swearin', and drinkin', and all bad company, and live a vartuous steady life until the seven years' bargain was out, and if the divil didn't come for him the minute afther the stroke of twelve the first morning of the month of March, he was safe out of the bargain. There was not more than eight or ten months to run now before the seven years wor out, and he lived all the time according to the bishop's advice, as strict as if he was “in retreat.”

Well, you may guess he felt quare enough when the mornin' of the 28th of February came.

The priest came up by appointment, and Sir Dominick and his raverence wor together in the room you see there, and kep' up their prayers together till the clock struck twelve, and a good hour after, and not a sign of a disturbance,  p.197 nor nothing came near them, and the priest slep' that night in the house in the room next Sir Dominick's, and all went over as comfortable as could be, and they shook hands and kissed like two comrades after winning a battle.

So, now, Sir Dominick thought he might as well have a pleasant evening, after all his fastin' and praying; and he sent round to half a dozen of the neighbouring gentlemen to come and dine with him, and his raverence stayed and dined also, and a roarin' bowl o' punch they had, and no end o' wine, and the swearin' and dice, and cards and guineas changing hands, and songs and stories, that wouldn't do any one good to hear, and the priest slipped away, when he seen the turn things was takin', and it was not far from the stroke of twelve when Sir Dominick, sitting at the head of his table, swears, “this is the best first of March I ever sat down to with my friends.”

“It ain't the first o'March,” says Mr. Hiffernan of Ballyvoreen. He was a scholard, and always kep' an almanack.

“What is it, then?” says Sir Dominick, startin' up and dhroppin' the ladle into the bowl, and starin' at him as if he had two heads.

“'Tis the twenty-ninth of February, leap year,” says he. And just as they were talkin', the clock strikes twelve; and my grandfather, who was half asleep in a chair by the fire in the hall, openin' his eyes, sees a short square fellow with a cloak on, and long black hair bushin' out from under his hat, standin' just there where you see the bit o' light shinin' again' the wall.

(My hunchbacked friend pointed with his stick to a little patch of red sunset light that relieved the deepening shadow of the passage.)

“Tell you master,” says he, in an awful voice, like the  p.198 growl of a baist, “that I'm here by appointment, and expect him down-stairs this minute.”

Up goes my grandfather, by these very steps you are sittin' on.

“Tell him I can't come down yet,” says Sir Dominick, and he turns to the company in the room, and says he with a cold sweat shinin' on his face, “for God's sake, gentlemen, will any of you jump from the window and bring the priest here?” One looked at another and no one knew what to make of it, and in the mean time, up comes my grandfather again, and says he, tremblin', “He says, sir, unless you go down to him, he'll come up to you.”

“I don't understand this, gentlemen, I'll see what it means,” says Sir Dominick, trying to put a face on it, and walkin' out o' the room like a man through the press-room, with the hangman waitin' for him outside. Down the stairs he comes, and two or three of the gentlemen peeping over the banisters, to see. My grandfather was walking six or eight steps behind him, and he seen the stranger take a stride out to meet Sir Dominick, and catch him up in his arms, and whirl his head against the wall, and wi' that the hall-doore flies open, and out goes the candles, and the turf and wood-ashes flyin' with the wind out o' the hall-fire, ran in a drift o' sparks along the floore by his feet.

Down runs the gintlemen. Bang goes the hall-doore. Some comes runnin' up, and more runnin' down, with lights. It was all over with Sir Dominick. They lifted up the corpse, and put its shoulders again' the wall; but there was not a gasp left in him. He was cowld and stiffenin' already.

Pat Donovan was comin' up to the great house late that night and after he passed the little brook, that the carriage track up to the house crosses, and about fifty  p.199 steps to this side of it, his dog, that was by his side, makes a sudden wheel, and springs over the wall, and sets up a yowlin' inside you'd hear a mile away; and that minute two men passed him by in silence, goin' down from the house, one of them short and square, and the other like Sir Dominick in shape, but there was little light under the trees where he was, and they looked only like shadows; and as they passed him by he could not hear the sound of their feet and he drew back to the wall frightened; and when he got up to the great house, he found all in confusion, and the master's body, with the head smashed to pieces, lying just on that spot.

The narrator stood up and indicated with the point of his stick the exact site of the body, and, as I looked, the shadow deepened, the red stain of sunlight vanished from the wall, and the sun had gone down behind the distant hill of New Castle, leaving the haunted scene in the deep grey of darkening twilight.

So I and the story-teller parted, not without good wishes on both sides, and a little “tip”, which seemed not unwelcome, from me.

It was dusk and the moon up by the time I reached the village, remounted my nag, and looked my last on the scene of the terrible legend of Dunoran.

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Title (uniform): Sir Dominick's Bargain

Author: Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Funded by: University College, Cork and Writers of Ireland II Project

Responsibility statement

Electronic edition compiled by: Beatrix Färber

Edition statement

2. Second draft

Extent: 7370 words

Publication statement

Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College, Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland—http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2006

Date: 2010

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: E870000-010

Availability: Available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of academic research and teaching only.

Notes statement

Sir Dominick's Bargain was first published anonymously in 1872 in All the Year Round. It is a variation on a theme Le Fanu used first in 1838, in The Fortunes of Sir Robert Ardagh, published in the Dublin University Magazine. The story was reprinted in 1880 in The Purcell Papers. The theme reappears in 1871, in The Haunted Baronet.

Source description


  1. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Madam Crowl's Ghost and other Tales of Mystery, collected and edited by M.R. James, London: G. Bell & Sons Limited, 1923.
  2. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Mr Justice Harbottle and Others, Ghost Stories 1870–73, with an Introduction by Jim Rockhill, Ash-Tree Press: Ashcroft, British Columbia 2005.
  3. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Sir Dominick's Bargain, The collected works of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, 3 volumes; introduction by Sir Devendra P. Varma, New York: Arno Press 1977. [Facsimile reprint of 1871 edition.]


  1. W. S. Trench, Realities of Irish Life, London 1869.
  2. [Anon.], The late J. Sheridan Le Fanu, Irish Builder 15 (February 1873) 50.
  3. [Anon.], Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Dublin University Magazine 81 (March 1873) 319–320.
  4. William Richard Le Fanu, Seventy Years of Irish Life, London 1893.
  5. [Anon.], Memoirs of Father Healy of Little Bray, London 1895.
  6. S. M. Ellis, Bibliography of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Irish Book Lover 8 (October–November 1916) 30–33.
  7. Thomas Philip Le Fanu, Memoir of the Le Fanu Family, Manchester [1924].
  8. Edna Kenton, A Forgotten Creator of Ghosts: Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. Possible Inspirer of the Brontes, Bookman (July 1929).
  9. S. M. Ellis, Wilkie Collins, Le Fanu, and others, London 1931.
  10. V. S. Pritchett, The living novel, London: Chatto and Windus 1946.
  11. Elizabeth Bowen, Collected Impressions, London 1950.
  12. Nelson Browne, Sheridan Le Fanu, English Novelists Series, London 1951.
  13. Michael Sadleir, XIX Century Fiction: A Bibliographical Record based on his own Collection, 2 volumes, London 1951.
  14. A. B. Wright, The Life and Novels of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, unpubl. B.A. thesis, Trinity College, Dublin 1952.
  15. Peter Penzoldt, The Supernatural in Fiction, New York: Humanities Press 1952.
  16. Walter E. Houghton, The Victorian Frame of Mind 1830–1870, New Haven, London 1957.
  17. Walter Allen, The English Novel: a Short Critical History, Harmondsworth 1958.
  18. Thomas Flanagan, The Irish Novelists 1800–1850, New York 1959.
  19. György Lukács (Georg Lukacs), The historical novel. Translated from the German by Hannah and Stanley Mitchell. Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: Humanities 1962.
  20. Patrick Diskin, Poe, Le Fanu and the Sealed Room Mystery, Notes and Queries (new. ser.) 13 (Sept. 1966) 337–339.
  21. Wilbur J. Smith, 'Le Fanu's Ghost Stories Dublin 1851, Book Collector 17 (1968) 78.
  22. Michael H. Begnal, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Irish Writers Series, Bucknell University Press 1971.
  23. Malcolm Brown, The Politics of Irish Literature from Thomas Davis to W. B. Yeats, London 1972.
  24. Patrick F. Byrne, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu: a Centenary Memoir, Dublin Historical Record, 26/3 (June 1973) 80–92.
  25. W. J. McCormack, 'Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu and the Fiction of the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy of the Nineteenth Century', unpubl. D. Phil. thesis, University of Ulster 1974.
  26. E. F. Bleiler, 'Introduction' to J.S. Le Fanu: Ghost Stories and Mysteries, New York 1975, v–ix.
  27. J. C. Beckett, The Anglo-Irish Tradition, London 1976.
  28. Julia Briggs, Night Visitors: The Rise and Fall of the English Ghost Story, London: Faber 1977.
  29. Jack Sullivan, Elegant Nightmares: The English Ghost Story from Le Fanu to Blackwood. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press 1978.
  30. W. J. McCormack, Sheridan Le Fanu and Victorian England, Oxford, Clarendon Press 1980. [repr. 1997 as 'Sheridan Le Fanu'.]
  31. Joseph Browne, 'Ghosts and Ghouls and Le Fanu', Canadian Journal of Irish Studies 8 (1982) 5-15.
  32. W. J. McCormack, Dissolute Characters: Irish Literary History through Balzac, Sheridan Le Fanu, Yeats, and Bowen. Manchester University Press, 1983.
  33. Ivan Melada, Sheridan Le Fanu, Twayne English Authors Series, Twayne 1987.
  34. Jolanta Nałwcz-Wojtczak, 'Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu and New Dimensions for the English Ghost Story', in: Wolfgang Zach and Heinz Kosok (eds.), Literary Interrelations: Ireland, England and the World, vol. 2, Tübingen: Günter Narr 1987.
  35. Victor Sage, Horror Fiction in the Protestant Tradition, London: Macmillan 1988.
  36. Patricia Coughlan, 'Doubles, Shadows, Sedan-Chairs and the Past: The Ghost Stories of J.S. Le Fanu', in: Michael Allen and Angela Wilcox (eds.), Critical Approaches to Anglo-Irish Literature, Gerrards Cross, Bucks. 1989.
  37. Gary William Crawford, J. Sheridan Le Fanu: A Bio-Bibliography, Bio-Bibliographies in World Literature Series, Greenwood Press, Westport, CT 1995.
  38. Marie Mulvey-Roberts (ed.), The handbook to Gothic literature, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan 1998.
  39. Margot Gayle Backus, The Gothic family romance: heterosexuality, child sacrifice, and the Anglo-Irish colonial order. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1999.
  40. Victor Sage, 'Resurrecting the Regency: Horror and Eighteenth Century Comedy in Le Fanu's Fiction' in: Ruth Robbins and Julian Wolfreys (eds.), Victorian Gothic: Literature and Cultural Manifestations in the Nineteenth Century. Palgrave Macmillan 2000: 12–30.
  41. Michael Charlesworth (ed.), The Gothic revival, 1720–1870: literary sources & documents. 3 Volumes. The Banks, Mountfield, East Sussex, U.K.: Helm Information, 2002.
  42. Victor Sage, Le Fanu's Gothic: the rhetoric of darkness. New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2003.
  43. Françoise Dupeyron-Lafay, La Paysage dans quelques oeuvres de J. S. Le Fanu, in: Imaginaires: Revue du Centre de Recherche sur l'Imaginaire dans les Littératures de Langue Anglaise 5 (2000) 67–78.

The edition used in the digital edition

Fanu, Joseph Sheridan Le (1923). 1 volume; viii + 277pp. London: G. Bell & Sons Limited.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  UNKNOWN 	 = {title},
  author 	 = {Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu},
  edition 	 = {0},
  note 	 = {1 volume; viii + 277pp},
  publisher 	 = {G. Bell \& Sons Limited},
  address 	 = {London},
  date 	 = {1923}


Encoding description

Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

Sampling declarations

The electronic edition covers pp 181–199.

Editorial declarations

Correction: Text has been proofed twice at CELT.

Normalization: The electronic text represents the edited text. Obvious typographical errors of the hardcopy edition are corrected silently. Where inconsistencies within the text are regularized, the tag reg is used; the form used by Le Fanu is retained in its orig attribute.

Quotation: Direct speech is rendered q.

Hyphenation: When a hyphenated word (and subsequent punctuation mark) crosses a line break, the break is marked after the completion of the hyphenated word.

Segmentation: div0=the whole text; div1=the section. Page-breaks are marked pb n="".

Interpretation: Words and phrases from languages other than English are marked.

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A canonical reference to a location in this text should be made using “section”, eg section .

Profile description

Creation: By J. S. Le Fanu

Date: 1872

Language usage

  • The text is in English. (en)
  • Some words are in Irish, but rendered in English spelling. (ga)

Keywords: literary; prose; supernatural; 19c; story

Revision description

(Most recent first)

  1. 2010-03-26: Header modified, new wordcount made, file re-parsed. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2008-08-28: File validated. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2008-08-02: Keywords added. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  4. 2006-12-09: Header created; file proofed (1, 2); structural and content markup added; file parsed; SGML and HTML file created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  5. 2006-12-01: Text scanned. (ed. Beatrix Färber)

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  1. From Munster Ir. garsún, 'boy'. 🢀

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