FAIRIES AND FOLK
WILLIAM HENRY FROST
ILLUSTRATED BY SYDNEY RICHMOND BURLEIGH
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
COPYRIGHT, 1900, BY
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
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Jane Grey Allen and Elizabeth Allen
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II. THE BIG POOR PEOPLE
III. THE LITTLE GOOD PEOPLE
IV. THE CLEVERNESS OF MORTALS
V. THE TIME FOR NAGGENEEN'S PLAN
VI. LITTLE KATHLEEN AND LITTLE TERENCE
VII. A CHAPTER THAT YOU CAN SKIP
VIII. THE STARS IN THE WATER
IX. A YEAR AND A DAY
X. THE IRON CRUCIFIX
XI. THE OLD KING COMES BACK
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
"'IS IT TIME?' THE WARRIOR SAID" Frontispiece
"THROUGH THE FLYING WATER I SAW THE OLD KING"
"'BLESSED DAYS THERE WERE.' SHE SAID"
"THEY WERE CHANGED INTO FOUR BEAUTIFUL WHITE SWANS"
"WILL YOU HAVE A LIGHT FOR YOUR PIPE, YOUR MAJESTY?"
"I WAS SITTIN' THERE, WID A SPIGGOT OVER ME SHOULDER"
"THE HORSE WAS NOTHING BUT THE BEAM OF A PLOUGH"
"WHERE ARE YOU BOUND IN THAT SHIP?"
"HERE'S THE POPE'S BULL FOR THAT SAME"
"SHE KNEW THAT THERE WERE GOOD PEOPLE HERE"
"'PAT,' SAYS HE, 'BRING ME A PIPE'"
"PLUMP DOWN HE FELL THROUGH THE QUILT"
"AND THEN DONALD WENT HOME"
"THERE'S A BLESSING ON THIS SAME SACK"
"THERE WAS A WOMAN LYING ON A GOLD COUCH"
"HE FORGOT THE PSALM THAT HE HAD BEEN READING"
"HOLD THE SPEAR STRAIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU"
"THE NET WAS PULLED AWAY FROM HIM"
"HE SAYS THAT I AM NEVER TO BE AFRAID OF THEM"
* * * * *
"SHOULD YOU ASK ME, WHENCE THESE STORIES?"
The story which runs through and makes up the bulk of this book is my own. The intention has been, however, to make it conform to the laws governing certain beings commonly regarded in this country as mythical, as those laws are revealed in the folk-lore of many peoples, and particularly of the Irish people. Almost every incident in which the fairies are concerned might occur, and very many of them do actually occur, in Irish folk-lore. But in a real folk-tale there are usually only two or three, or, at any rate, only a few, of the characteristic incidents, while this story attempts to combine many of them.
The shorter stories wherewith the main story is interspersed are all, to the best of my information and belief, genuine Irish folk-tales. I have told them in my own way, of course. I have sometimes condensed and sometimes elaborated them, but I have seldom, if ever, I think, materially changed their substance. I have never had the opportunity to collect such stories as these for myself, and if I had, I should probably find that I had not the ability. I have therefore had to turn for the substance of these tales to collections made by others—men whose patient and affectionate care and labor have preserved a great mass of the beautiful Irish legends, which, without them, might have died.
It seems hardly right to give to any one of these collectors a preference over the others by naming him first. But when I count up my indebtedness, I find that the book to which I owe more stories than to any other is Patrick Kennedy's "Legendary Fictions of the Irish Celts." From this book I have borrowed, as to their substance, the story of Earl Gerald, in Chapter II. of my own book; the story of the children of Lir, in the same chapter; the account of the changeling who was tempted by the bagpipes, which Naggeneen tells of himself, in Chapter V.; the changeling story which Mrs. O'Brien tells, in Chapter VI.; and the most of the story of Oisin, in Chapter IX., besides part of the story of the fairies' tune, in Chapter VII. With respect to Oisin I got a little help from an article on "The Neo-Latin Fay," by Henry Charles Coote, in "The Folk-Lore Record," Vol. II. The story of the fairies' tune is in part derived from T. Crofton Croker's "Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland." This delightful book as well deserves the first place in my list as does Kennedy's, for it gave me one of my most important stories, that of O'Donoghue, in Chapter I., and it gave me Naggeneen. Him I first saw, with Mr. Croker's help, sitting on the cask of port in the cellar of old MacCarthy of Ballinacarthy, as he himself describes in Chapter III. It is not enough to say that after that he came readily into my story; he simply could not be kept out of it. The tale of the fairies who wanted to question a priest, in Chapter X., is also from Croker. Mrs. O'Brien's method of getting rid of a changeling is founded on one of Croker's stories, and a story almost exactly like it is told by Grimm. There is also a form of it in Brittany. Two books by W.B. Yeats have been of much value—"Irish Fairy and Folk Tales" and "The Celtic Twilight." Of the former Mr. Yeats is the editor, rather than, in a strict sense, the author, though it contains some of his own work, and his introduction, notes, and other comments are of great interest. From this book I have the story of Hudden, Dudden, and Donald, in Chapter VII. Mr. Yeats reproduces it from an old chap-book. A version of it is also found in Samuel Lover's "Legends and Stories of Ireland." Those who like to compare the stories which they find in various places will not fail to note its likeness to Hans Christian Andersen's "Big Claus and Little Claus." The story of the monk and the bird, in Chapter IX., Mr. Yeats reproduces from Croker, though not from the work of his which has already been mentioned. I could not resist the temptation to better the story, as I thought, by the addition of an incident from a German version of it, and everybody will remember the beautiful form in which it appears in Longfellow's "The Golden Legend." From Mr. Yeats's "The Celtic Twilight" I have the little story of the conversation between the diver and the conger, in Chapter II. It is a pleasure to refer to two such fine and scholarly works as Dr. Douglas Hyde's "Beside the Fire" and William Larminie's "West Irish Folk-Tales and Romances." From the former of these I have borrowed the substance of the story of Guleesh na Guss Dhu, in Chapter IV., and from the latter that of the ghost and his wives, in Chapter VII.
Having thus confessed my indebtedness, it would seem that my next duty was to pay it. I fear that I can pay it only with thanks. I have not taken a story from the work of any living collector without his permission. It thus becomes my pleasure, no less than my duty, to express my gratitude to Mr. Yeats for permission to use the stories in "Irish Fairy and Folk Tales" and "The Celtic Twilight;" to Dr. Hyde for his permission to take what I chose from "Beside the Fire," and to Mr. Larminie and his publisher, Elliott Stock, for the same permission with regard to his "West Irish Folk-Tales and Romances." My thanks are equally due to Macmillan & Co., Limited, for permission to take stories from Kennedy's "Legendary Fictions of the Irish Celts," the rights to which they own. I wish to say also that in each of these cases the permission asked has been given with a readiness and a cordiality no less pleasing than the permission itself.
I have learned much concerning the ways of Irish fairies from Lady Wilde's "Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland" and "Ancient Cures, Charms, and Usages of Ireland," and I have gained not a little from the books of William Carleton, especially his "Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry," but from none of these have I taken any considerable part of a story. Indeed I have found help, greater or less, in more books than I can name here.
It may seem by this time that I am like the lawyer who conceded this and that to his opponent till the judge said: "Do not concede any more; you conceded your whole case long ago." But I have not conceded my whole case. I have used the threads which others have spun, but I have done my own weaving. The shorter stories have been told before, but they have never been put together in this way before, and, as I said at first, the main story is my own.
NEW YORK, September 1, 1900.
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FAIRIES AND FOLK OF IRELAND
It was in a poor little cabin somewhere in Ireland. It does not matter where. The walls were of rough stone, the roof was of thatch, and the floor was the hard earth. There was very little furniture. Poor as it was, the whole place was clean. It is right to tell this, because, unhappily, a good many cabins in Ireland are not clean. What furniture there was had been rubbed smooth and spotless, and the few dishes that there were fairly shone. The floor was as carefully swept as if the Queen were expected.
The three persons who lived in the cabin had eaten their supper of potatoes and milk and were sitting before the turf fire. It had been a poor supper, yet a little of it that was left—a few potatoes, a little milk, and a dish of fresh water—had been placed on a bench outside the door. There was no light except that of the fire. There was no need of any other, and there was no money to spend on candles that were not needed.
The three who sat before the fire, and needed no other light, were a young man, a young woman, and an elderly woman. She did not like to be called old, for she said, and quite truly, that sixty was not old for anybody who felt as young as she did. This woman was Mrs. O'Brien. The young man was her son, John, and the young-woman was his wife, Kitty.
"Kitty," said John, "it's not well you're lookin' to-night. Are ye feelin' anyways worse than common?"
"It's only a bit tired I am," said Kitty, "wid the work I was afther doin' all day. I'll be as well as ever in the morning."
"It's a shame, that it is," said John, "that ye have to be workin' that way, day afther day, and you not sthrong at all. It's a shame that I can't do enough for the three of us, and the more, maybe, that there'll be, but you must be at it, too, all the time."
"What nonsinse ye're talkin', John," Kitty answered. "What would I be doin', settin' up here like a lady, doin' nothin', and you and mother workin' away like you was my servants? Did you think it was a duchess or the daughter of the Lord Lieutenant ye was marryin', that ye're talkin' that way?"
"And it'll be worse a long time before it's betther," John went on. "Wid the three of us workin' all the time, we just barely get along. And it's the end of the summer now. What we'll do at all when the winter comes, I dunno."
The older woman listened to the others and said nothing. Perhaps she had heard such talk as this so many times that she did not care to join in it again, or perhaps she was waiting to be asked to speak. For it was to her that these younger people always turned when they were in trouble. It was her advice and her opinion that they always asked when they felt that they needed a better opinion than their own. The three sat silent now for a time, and then John broke out, as if the talk had been going on in his mind all the while: "What's the good of us tryin' to live at all?" he said. "Is livin' any use to us? We do nothin' but work all day, and eat a little to give us the strength to work the next day, and then we sleep all night, if we can sleep. And it's that and nothing else all the year through. Are we any better when the year ends than we were when it began? If we've paid the rent, we've done well. We never do more."
"John," the old woman answered, "it's not for us to say why we're here or what for we're living. It's God that put us here, and He'll keep us here till it's our time to go. He has made it the way of all His creatures to provide for themselves and for their own, and to keep themselves alive while they can. When He's ready for us to die, we die. That's all we know. The rest is with Him."
"I know all that's true, mother," said John; "but what is there for us to hope for, that we'ld wish to live? It's nothing but work to keep the roof over us. We don't even eat for any pleasure that's in it—only so that we can work. If we rested for a day, we'ld be driven out of our house. If we rested for another day, we'ld starve. Is there any good to be hoped for such as us? Will there ever be any good times for Ireland? I mean for all the people in it."
"There will," the old woman said. "Everything has an end, and so these troubles of ours will end, and all the troubles of Ireland will end, too."
"And why should we believe that?" John asked again. "Wasn't Ireland always the poor, unhappy country, and all the people in it, only the landlords and the agents, and why should we think it will ever be better?"
"Everything has an end," the old woman repeated. "Ireland was not always the unhappy country. It was happy once and it will be happy again. It's not you, John O'Brien, that ought to be forgetting the good days of Ireland, long ago though they were. For you yourself are the descendant of King Brian Boru, and you know well, for it's many times I've told you, how in his days the country was happy and peaceful and blessed. He drove out the heathen and saved the country for his people. He had strict laws, and the people obeyed them. In his days a lovely girl, dressed all in fine silk and gold and jewels, walked alone the length of Ireland, and there was no one to rob her or to harm her, because of the good King and the love the people had for him and for his laws. And you, that are descended from King Brian, ask if Ireland wasn't always the poor, unhappy country."
"But all that was so long ago," said John; "near a thousand years, was it not? Since then it's been nothing but sorrow for the country and for the people. What good is it to us that the country was happy in King Brian's time? Will that help us pay the rent? And how we'll pay the rent when the winter comes, I dunno, and if we don't pay it we'll be evicted."
"Shaun," said his mother, calling him by the Irish name that she used sometimes—"Shaun, we'll not be evicted; never fear that. Things are bad, and they may be worse, but take my word, whatever comes, we'll not be evicted."
"Mother," said the young man, "you never spoke the word, so far as I know, that wasn't true, but I dunno how it'll be this time. We've been workin' all we can and we only just manage to pay the rent and live, and here's the summer over and the winter coming, and how will we pay the rent then?"
The mother did not answer this question directly. She began talking in a way that did not seem to have anything to do with the rent, though it really had something to do with it, in her own mind, and perhaps in her son's mind too.
"It's over-tired that you are with your hard day's work, Shaun," she said, "and that and seeing Kitty so tired, too, has maybe made you look at things a little worse than they are. We've never been so bad off as many of our neighbors; you know that. And yet I know it's been worse of late and harder for you than it might have been, and you can't remember the better times that our family had, and that's why you forget that the times were ever better. No, you wasn't born then, but the time was when good luck seemed to follow your father and me everywhere and always. Yes, and the good luck has not all left us yet, though we had the bad luck to lose your father so long ago. We could not hope to be rich or happy while the whole country was in such distress as it's been sometimes, yet there were always many that were worse off than we, and when I think of those days of '47 and '48 it makes the sorrows seem light that we're suffering now. And I always know that whatever comes, there'll be some good for me and mine while I live. I've told you how I know that, but you always forget, and I must tell you again."
They had not forgotten. They knew the story that was coming by heart, but they knew that the old woman liked to tell it, so they let her go on and said not a word.
For a little while, too, the old woman said not a word. She sat with her eyes closed, and smiling, as if she were in a dream. Then she began to speak softly, as if she were still only just waking out of a dream. "Blessed days there were," she said—"blessed days for Ireland once—long ago—many hundreds of years. O'Donoghue—it was he was the good King, and happy were his people. A fierce warrior he was to guard them from their enemies, and a just ruler to those who minded his laws. It was in the West that he ruled, by the beautiful Lakes of Killarney. The rich and the poor among his people were alike in one thing—they all had justice. He punished even his own son when he did wrong, as if he had been a poor man and a stranger.
"He gave grand feasts to his friends, and the greatest and the best men of all Erin came to sit at his table and to hear the wise words that he spoke. And the greatest bards of all Erin came to sing before him and his guests of the brave deeds of the heroes of old days and of the greatness and the goodness of O'Donoghue himself. At one of these feasts, after a bard had been singing of the noble days of Erin long ago, O'Donoghue began to speak of the years that were to come for Ireland. He told of much good and of much evil. He told how true and brave and noble men would live and work and fight and die for their country, and how cowards would betray her. He told of glory and he told of shame. He spoke of riches and honor, and poetry and beauty; he spoke of want and disgrace, and degradation and sorrow.
"Those who sat at his table listened to him in wonder. Sometimes their hearts swelled with pride at the noble lives and deeds of those who were to come after them, sometimes they wept at the sufferings that their children were to feel, and sometimes they hid their faces from each other in shame at the tales of cowardice and of treachery.
"As he finished speaking he rose from the table, crossed the hall, and walked out at the door and down to the shore of the lake. The others followed him and watched him, full of wonder. They saw him go to the edge of the lake and then walk out upon it, as if the water had been firm ground under his feet. He walked far and far out on the bright lake as they stood and gazed at him. Then he turned toward them, he waved his hand in farewell, and he was gone. They saw him no more."
The old woman paused for a moment and the dreaming look came back to her face. Then she went on. "They saw him no more—but others saw him—and I have seen him. Every year, on the 1st of May, just as the sun is rising, he rides across the lake on his beautiful white horse. He is not always seen, but sometimes a few can see him. And it always brings good luck to see O'Donoghue riding across the lake on May morning. And I saw him."
Again there was a pause, but she had no look of dreaming now. Her eyes were open and she seemed to be looking at something wonderful and beautiful that was far off. Slowly and softly she began speaking again. "I was a girl then. My father lived by the Lakes of Killarney. On that May morning I was standing at the door as the sun was rising. I was looking out upon the lake, far away to the east. The first that I saw was that the water, far off toward the sun, was ruffled, and then all at once a great, white-crested wave rose, as if a strong wind had struck the water, only all the air was still, and no wind ever raises such a wave as that on the lake. The wave came swiftly toward me, and I drew back, in a kind of dread, though I knew that it could not reach me where I stood. But still I looked—and then I saw him.
"Through the flying water and foam and mist I saw the old King, on his white horse, following the great wave across the lake. The sun made all his armor gleam like the silver of the lake itself, and the plume of his helmet streamed away behind him like the spray that a strong wind blows back from the crest of a breaker. After him came a train of glowing, beautiful forms—spirits of the lake or of the air, or some of the Good People—I do not know. They wore soft, flowing garments, that were like the morning mists; they carried chains of pearls and they scattered other pearls about them, that glistened like the drops of a shower when the sun is shining through it. They had garlands of flowers, and they plucked the flowers out and threw them high in the air, so that they fell before the King. They looked like flecks of foam from the waves, turned rosy and violet by the rising sun, but they were flowers. And there was a sound of sweet, soft music, like harps and mellow horns.
"The King and his train came nearer and I saw them plainer, and the music sounded louder. Then they passed me and moved far away again on the lake. The sight of them grew dim and the music grew faint, and I strained my eyes and my ears for the last of them, and they were gone. Then I could move and speak and breathe again, for it had seemed to me that I could not do any one of these things while the King was passing, and I knew that I had seen O'Donoghue."
The old woman stopped, as if the story were ended, but the younger people did not speak, for they knew that she had something else to tell. "O'Donoghue had passed and was gone," she said, "but he always leaves good luck behind him, and he left the good luck with me. That summer some rich young ladies came from Dublin to see the Lakes of Killarney. They heard the story of O'Donoghue, and the people told them that I was the last who had seen him. They came to my father's house and asked me to tell them what I had seen. They seemed pleased with what I told them, or with something that they saw in me, and they asked my father to let them take me back to the city with them, for a lady's maid. He did not like to let me go, but they said that they would pay me well and would have me taught better than I could be at home. He was poor, there were others at home who needed all that he could earn, I wished to go, and at last he said I might.
"So I went to Dublin and lived in a grand house, among grand people. I tried to do my duties well, and they were kind to me. They kept the promise that they had made to my father. They gave me books and allowed me time to study them, and they helped me in things that I could not well have learned by myself, even with the books. I was quick at study, and in the little time that I had, I learned all that I could. Three times they took me to London with them, and I saw still grander people and grander life.
"Those were happy days, but happier came. Your father came, Shaun. He was a servant of the family, like myself—a coachman. But he was wiser than I, and he talked with me and showed me that there was something better for us than to be servants always. We saved all the money that we could, and when we had enough we came here, where your father had lived before, and took a little farm. The luck of O'Donoghue was always with us. We had a good landlord, who asked a fair rent. We both worked hard, we saved more money and took more land, and all our neighbors thought that we were prosperous, and so we were.
"Then came '47. Nobody could be prosperous then. Nobody that had a heart in him at all could even keep what he had saved then. What we had and what our neighbors had belonged to all, and little enough there was of it. It is well for you young people to talk of these times being hard. Harder than some they may be, but good and easy compared with those days of '47 and '48. You talk of injustice and wrong to Ireland! What think you of those times, when every day great ships sailed away from Ireland loaded down with food—corn and bacon, and beef and butter—and Ireland's own people left without the bit of food to keep the life in them? All summer long was the horrible wet weather, and the potatoes rotting in the ground before they'ld be ripe, and never fit to eat. To add to all that was the fever, that killed its thousands, and then the cold. And when the days came again that the crops would grow, many and many of the people were so weak with the hunger and the sickness that they could not work in the fields. Ah! and you call these hard times!
"Those were the bad days for Ireland, those days of '47. Not even the luck of O'Donoghue could make us prosper or give us comforts then. But we lived through the time, as many others did. The poor helped those who were poorer than themselves; the sick tended those who were sicker; the cold gave clothes and fire to those who were colder. The little money that we had saved helped us and some of our neighbors. And we lived through it all.
"Better times came, though never again so good as the old. We worked again and we saved a trifle. Then you were born to us, John. We had a worse landlord now. He was of the kind that cared nothing for his tenants and nothing for his land, but to get the last penny off it. The rent was raised, and we never could have paid it but for the care and the skill and the hard work of your father. And then, John, you know that when you were hardly old enough to take his place with the work, let alone knowing how to work as well as he, he died and left us—Heaven rest his soul!"
For a long time the old woman said no more, and neither of the others spoke. Then she said: "John, the country is in trouble enough and the times are hard enough for you and for Kitty, here, and for all of us, I know. But don't be cast down. There have been worse days than these; there have been better days, too, and there will be better again."
THE BIG POOR PEOPLE
There was a knock at the door, and John opened it. "God save all here except the cat!" said a voice outside.
"God save you kindly!" John answered.
A young man and a young woman came in. They were neighbors—Peter Sullivan and his wife, Ellen. "Good avenin' to you, Pether," said John; "you're lookin' fine and hearty, and it's like a rose you're lookin', Ellen."
"It's more like nettles than roses we're feelin'," Ellen answered, "but something with prickles anyway, wid the bother we have every day and all day."
"Thrue for you, it's hard times," said John; "we was speaking about them just the minute before you came in; but we all have to bear them. It's not you ought to complain, as long as you've good health; now here's Kitty—I dunno how—"
"It's not the hard times I'm speakin' of now," said Ellen; "they're bad enough, goodness knows; but it's the bother we have all the time, and we can't tell how or why. Half the time the cow gives no milk, and when she does, you can make no butther wid it. The pig, the crathur, won't get fat; he ates everything he can reach, and still he looks like a basket wid a skin over it. The smoke of the fire comes down the chimney, the dishes are thrown on the floor, wid nobody near them, and such noises are goin' on all night long that never a wink of sleep can a body get. What we'll do at all if it goes on, I dunno."
"By all the books that ever was opened and shut," Peter added, "it's all thrue what she says, and more. What wid all that and what wid the throubles that's on the whole counthry, if I only had the money saved to do it, I'ld lave it all to-morrow and go to the States—I would so."
"Leave off the things you do that make you all these troubles," said the older Mrs. O'Brien, "and you'll have no more need to go to the States than others."
"What things are them that we do?" Ellen asked.
"Haven't I told you before this," said Mrs. O'Brien, "that it's the Good People that trouble you? If you'ld treat them well, as we do, they'ld never bother you. If you'ld even take good care never to harm them, it's likely they'ld never come near you."
"It's the fairies you're speakin' of," said Peter. "Sure I don't believe in them at all. It's old woman's nonsense that your head's full of, savin' your presence, Mrs. O'Brien. There's no fairies at all. Don't talk to me."
"You'ld better be more respectful to them, Peter," Mrs. O'Brien answered. "Say less about not believing in them and don't call them by that name, that they don't like. Call them 'the Good People' or 'the gentry.' They don't like the name that you called them, any more than they like those who disbelieve in them or those who try to know too much about them. Speak well about them and treat them well, as we do, and they'll not trouble you; maybe they'll even help you. Didn't you see, as you came in, how we left something for them to eat and drink outside the door there? We've not much, but they like fresh milk and clean water, and we always give them these, and they hold nothing but friendliness for us. Look and see now if they've taken what we left there for them after supper."
Peter went to the door and looked. "There's nothing in the dishes there," he said; "but how do we know it wasn't the pig that ate it, or some poor dog, maybe?"
"You don't know," said Mrs. O'Brien, "only as I tell you, and you'ld better be attending to them that know more than yourself. If you did chance to give a meal to some poor dog, instead of to the Good People, there'ld be no great harm done, but it's the Good People that get what we put there. We always leave it for them and they always come and take it, and it's that makes them friendly, and so they would be to you, if you did the same. But you do nothing for them, because you say you don't believe in them, and you do worse than nothing. Didn't I see Ellen the other evening throwing out some dirty water and never saying 'Take care of the water?'"
"And what if I did?" said Ellen. "Can't I throw out wather when I plase, widout talkin' about it?"
"You can if you like," said the old woman, "but when you throw out water without warning, it's as likely as not some of the Good People may be passing, and they don't like dirty water to be thrown on them; and so after that your cow gives no milk, your pig is thin, and your dishes are thrown around the room. Do as you like with your water, or with anything else, but if you anger the Good People, be sure they'll do you harm."
"It's superstitious you are. Mrs. O'Brien," said Peter; "I dunno what it is that's throubling us, but there's no fairies at all."
"Superstitious, is it?" said the old woman. "And so you're not superstitious at all, and you don't believe in the Good People! Now tell me, Peter Sullivan, when you came to that door just now and said 'God save all here,' like a decent man, why did you add 'except the cat?' What did you mean by those words 'except the cat?' Tell me that now."
"Why, sure, Mrs. O'Brien," Peter answered, just a bit confused, "sure, we're told that cats is avil spirits, so we mustn't put blessings on them, and when we say 'God save all here,' we add onto it 'except the cat,' so as not to be calling down a blessing on an avil spirit."
"Ah!" said Mrs. O'Brien, "it's not the likes of you that's superstitious. You can't put a blessing on the poor cat, when you're blessing everybody and everything else in the house, for fear you'ld be putting it on an evil spirit; but you're not superstitions, and so you throw dirty water on the Good People as they're passing, and you call them by names that they don't like, and then you wonder what it is that's troubling you."
"No, Mrs. O'Brien," said Peter, again, "I dunno what it is at all. It may be the avil spirits themselves, for what I know, and whatever it is. I'ld go away and leave it and leave the country, if I had the money to get to the States. I heard once of a man that was druv out of the counthry by a monsther that I suppose was maybe something like the fairies—like them in making trouble for the man, anyway. It was a great conger that lived in a hole in the Sligo River, and I suppose he was ten yards long, and the man was a diver. He was gettin' stones out of the bottom of the river, and the conger says to him, 'What are you afther there?' says he. 'Stones, sor,' says the diver. 'Hadn't you betther be goin?' says the conger. 'I think so, sor,' says the diver, and afther that he never stopped goin' till he got to the States."
"That's you, Peter," said the old woman; "you don't believe in the Good People or strange monsters or anything of the sort, but you want to run away from them."
If Peter had been quite honest about it, he could scarcely have said, even to himself, whether he believed that there were any fairies or not; but he was really afraid of them, though he put on such a bold front and said that he did not believe in them, to make people think that he was uncommonly knowing. "Mrs. O'Brien," he said, "do you think it's true, what they say, that in the States you can pick up goold everywhere in the streets?"
"What good would it do you if it was true?" she asked.
"What good would it do me? Are ye askin' what good would goold do me? Sure, then, wouldn't I pick up all of it I could carry, and wouldn't I take land wid it and pay rent and buy stock for a big farm and grow as rich as Damer? What good would goold be? Ha! Ha! What couldn't you do in a country where ye could be pickin' up goold in the street?"
"There's no gold to be picked up in the streets there, any more than here," said the old woman, "and if there was, it would be no use to you. Only suppose, now, that you had picked up all the gold you could carry, and that you wanted to buy a loaf of bread with it. And suppose you went into a baker's shop and chose even the smallest loaf of bread you could find, and threw down a whole gold sovereign for it—aye, or a hundred gold sovereigns. Would the baker sell you the bread for your gold, do you think? Wouldn't he say to you: 'Go on out of this, for the silly Irishman that you are! What for would I be giving you good bread for that gold of yours, when I can pick up as much and as good as that any minute here before my own door and keep my bread as well?' If you could find gold in the street, it would be worth no more than the stones that you find there."
"I don't know how that is, Mrs. O'Brien," said Peter, "but I can't see why goold wouldn't be goold, wherever you could find it."
"It's not sensible," said John, "to be talkin' of findin' gold in the streets, but there's a deal in what Peter says, for all that, and it's often I've thought, too, that I'ld go to the States and be away from all these throubles, if only we could save up the money to take us all there. It's not any gold or any riches I'm thinkin' about, but what I want to know, mother, is this: Could a man in the States, if he was strong and if he worked hard—and if he didn't drink a great deal—could he make enough to keep himself and his wife both, so that she needn't work too hard—not so that she would sit idle, I don't mean, but so that she needn't be doin' hard work and doin' it all the time—could he do that?"
"That's the sensible and the honest talk," said his mother; "he could do that. Those that do nothing get nothing, in the States the same as anywhere else. But I've talked with them that know, and they tell me that in the States those that will work are paid for their work, and those that are strong and industrious and honest can keep their families from want, and that's more than some can do here, God help them!"
"It would be a great thing," said John, speaking slowly, as if he were trying to make himself believe this dream of a land where a man's work could make his wife and his children sure of a home and food—"a great thing. And do you think, mother—but no, no—I suppose not—do you think, if we was once there—do you think that I could work enough to make it so that it would be easier for you and for Kitty both? Could one do enough for three?"
"It would be easier than here, maybe," was all that the old woman said in answer to this. She had heard this talk of America many times before, and she did not like it. She would rather believe, and make others believe, that better times were coming for Ireland. She was not so young as the others and not so ready to leave her old home, yet lately she had seen how it was growing harder and harder to stay, and there seemed to be little left of the good luck of which she boasted.
She was thinking of all this now, and John knew her thoughts, though she did not speak them, and he said: "You always tell us that there's betther times comin', mother, and I've learned to know that all you say is true. She was sayin' it just before you came in, Pether. But how can we believe in the betther times? They don't come. They get worse and worse. How do we know they'll ever come?"
Again Mrs. O'Brien seemed lost in deep thought, or in a dream, just as when, a little while before, she had told them of O'Donoghue. What she told them now was a sort of answer to John's question, but perhaps she told it quite as much to draw their thoughts away from America. She was silent for a little while, and they all waited for her to speak.
"Good times for Ireland there will be again," she said, "when Earl Gerald comes back. It was hundreds of years ago that Earl Gerald lived in his great castle of Mullaghmast. He was a strong warrior and he fought many a good fight for his people against their foes. More than that, he was powerful in magic. He could work mighty charms and he could change himself into any form he liked.
"His wife knew that he could do this, but he had never shown himself to her in any form but his own. She often begged him to let her see what his magic could do, and to change himself to some other form for her. But he knew there was danger in it, and he put her off with one reason and another. But at last, she asked him so many times, he told her that if she took any fright at all while he was in any form but his own he could never live in the world again in his own form till all the people of the country had passed away many times. 'I'ld not be a fit wife for you,' she said, 'if I'ld be easily frightened.'
"'You might not be easily frightened,' he said, 'but you might have great cause, and if you were only a little frightened you would never see me like myself again.'
"Then one day, as they were sitting together, the Earl turned away his head and muttered some words which his wife could not understand, and that instant he was gone, and instead of him sitting beside her she saw a little goldfinch flying around the room. The goldfinch flew out at the window into the garden; then it flew back and sat on the lady's shoulder and on her hand and on her head, and it sang to her, and so they played together for a time. Then it flew out into the open air once more, but in a second it darted back through the window and straight into the lady's bosom. The next instant she saw a wild hawk, that was chasing the little bird and was coming straight through the window after it. She put both her hands over her bosom, to save her husband's life, but she was frightened and she gave one scream as the hawk darted into the room, dashed itself against a table, and was killed. Then she looked where the little bird had been, and it was gone. She never saw Earl Gerald again.
"But Earl Gerald was not dead, and he is not dead, though all this was hundreds of years ago. He is sleeping, down under the ground, just beneath where his old castle used to stand. His warriors are there with him. They are in a great hall. The Earl sits at the head of a long table and the men sit down the sides. All rest their heads upon the table and all are asleep. Against the wall there are rows of stalls, and behind each man, in one of the stalls, is his horse.
"Once in every seven years Earl Gerald wakes at night. He rises and mounts his horse. A door of the hall opens. He rides out into the free air. He rides around the Curragh of Kildare and then back into the cave, to sleep again for seven years.
"While he is out the door is open. Once, long ago, a horse-dealer was going home late, and he had been drinking a little. He saw the door in the hill open and he walked in. And there he found himself in a hall, dim and high. A row of dim lamps hung along the hall, and he saw the smoke of them rise up to the roof, where many old banners, faded and torn, stirred a little in the light breeze that came in by the open door. And the light of the lamps shone down and glistened on the bright armor of rows of men who sat with their steel helmets bowed upon the table, and behind them were rows of horses, with their saddles and their bridles on, ready for their riders.
"There was no sound in the cave but the shuffle of his own foot, and the stillness and the sight that he saw made him afraid. His hand trembled, and a bridle that he had fell upon the floor. The noise echoed and echoed through the cave, and the warrior who sat nearest to the poor man raised his head. 'Is it time?' the warrior said.
"'Not yet, but soon will be,' the man answered, and the warrior's head sank again upon the table. The man went out of the cave as quickly as he could, and he never could find the door of it again.
"They say that Earl Gerald's horse has silver shoes. They were half an inch thick when the Earl's sleep began. When they are worn as thin as a cat's ear it will be time. Then a miller's son, who will have six fingers on each hand, will blow a trumpet, and Earl Gerald and all his warriors will come out of the cave. They will fight a great battle and will conquer the enemies of Ireland. Then the country will be peaceful and prosperous and happy, and Gerald will be its King for forty years."
Peter's mind could not be set at rest by any such stories as this to-night. "What's the good of all thim old tales to us?" he asked, "Can we pay our rint wid the knowledge that Earl Gerald will be King of Ireland for forty years? They do be all the time fortellin' and prophesyin' and predictin' this thing and that thing and the other thing in thim old tales, and nothin' ever comes o' thim. Did you ever know, now, Mrs. O'Brien—I ask you—will you tell me this—did ye ever know of any of the prophecies in any of thim old woman's tales comin' thrue?"
"It's surprised I am," said the old woman, "to hear you, Peter Sullivan, talking that way—you, that had a decent man for your father, and that's a decent man yourself, all but knowing nothing—you, that have heard the stories of your people. Tell me now, did you ever hear what was foretold of the children of Lir, and did you ever hear if it came true or not?"
Perhaps Peter had never heard about the children of Lir, or perhaps he had heard and did not like to say so, because the story would be proof that a prophecy had come true. At any rate, he said nothing. But the old woman seemed resolved that if he had never heard about the children of Lir he should hear about them now.
"Lir was a powerful man in the old days of Ireland," she said, "He had three sons and one daughter, and their mother was dead. The names of the sons were Hugh, Fiachra, and Conn, and the name of the daughter was Fair-shoulder, and beautiful and good children were they all. Lir was visiting once at the castle of Bogha Derg, the King of Conacht, and he saw the daughter of the King, and he fell in love with her and married her.
"For a time they were happy, and then the new wife began to be jealous of the love of her husband for his four children. It troubled her so much that she began to lose her beauty and her health, and at last she took to her bed and did not leave it for a year. And after that time there came a great Druid to visit her. You know who and what the Druids were, I think. They were the priests of the old religion of Ireland, before St. Patrick came and made the people Christians. They were powerful in magic; they could bring storms and could drive them away; they could foretell the future; they could work powerful enchantments on people and beasts, and trees and stones, and they could do many other marvellous things.
"This Druid talked with the wife of Lir for a long time alone. He made her tell him all that troubled her, and then he told her what she could do to be rid of her husband's children. He gave her a magic wand and went on his way.
"Then she rose from her bed and took the four children with her in her chariot and set out for her father's castle. On the way she ordered the driver of the chariot to kill the children, but he refused. Then they passed near a lake, and the step-mother told the children to go into the water and bathe. But Fair-shoulder believed that she meant them some harm, and she refused to go, and begged her brothers not to go. So the step-mother called her men, and she and they forced the children out of the chariot and pushed them into the water. Then she touched each of them on the head with the Druid's wand, and they were changed into four beautiful white swans.
"After she had done that, she went on to her father's castle. When her father had welcomed her, he said, 'Where are your husband's children?'
"'They are at home,' she answered, 'in their father's castle.'
"'And are they well?'
"'They are well.'
"Now the King himself was a Druid, and more powerful than the one who had given his daughter the wand. More than that, he was a good man, and the other was a wicked one. He did not believe what his daughter told him about the children, and so he put her into a magic sleep. When she was asleep he said to her, 'Where are your husband's children?'
"And she answered, 'They are in the lake which we passed by the way as we came here.'
"'And what did you do to them?'
"'I changed them into white swans.'
"'Why did you do that?'
"'Because my husband loved them more than he loved me.'
"He woke her out of the magic sleep and called all his people together. Before them all he told her that she should be punished for her wickedness, and then he changed her, by his Druidic power, into a gray vulture. Then he said to the people: 'This creature that was my daughter has laid a wicked enchantment on her husband's children. She has changed them into swans. They must keep that shape for many hundreds of years; they must swim in the lakes and the seas and fly over the land, and they must travel far and must suffer much. But there is a hope for them. Many, many hundred years will pass away—so many that even the Druid's eye can scarcely see what is at the end of them. But at last there shall come strange men across the sea to Erin—men with shaven heads. They shall build houses and shall set up tables in the east ends of their houses, and they shall ring bells. And when the swans that were the children of Lir shall hear the first sound of these bells, they shall have their human shape again, and then they shall be happy forever. But she—the gray vulture—she shall fly in the sky, where it is stormy and cold. Where there are thick clouds and where the rain is made, there shall be her home. She shall not fly where the heaven is blue and where the sun shines warm. The bells of the good men from over the sea shall bring her no peace. Her way shall be with the wind and the hail. If she has any rest it shall be on the peak of some wet crag, where the snow whirls around her, or the fog drives past her, or the sleet cuts against her, or the cold spray of the sea dashes over her. And it shall be so with her till the Day of Doom.'
"When the King had finished speaking the gray vulture flew away, and she was never seen again. But the King and all the court rode in chariots to the lake where the white swans were, and Lir and all his people came there, too, when they heard what had been done. And there they all stood and listened to the singing of the four swans. So beautiful was the song that those who listened could think of nothing else while they heard it. They left their horses and their chariots and stood on the shore of the lake and listened to the enchanting music, and never thought of food, or of drink, or of sleep. Even the horses listened to the song as the people did. Day and night they stood there, and many days and nights, and no hunger came upon them, and they felt no cold and no heat, and no wind and no wet.
"But the time came when the enchantment that was upon them compelled the four white swans to leave the place. They rose up into the air and flew away and out of sight into the sky. Then the King and his people, and Lir and his people, went back to their castles, and they never saw the four white swans again.
"The four white swans flew to Loch Derg, and there for many years they swam on the lake, and fed and slept among the rushes along the shores. In the summer the lake was pleasant and cool, the air was clear and mild, the sky was blue, and the sun was bright and beautiful. Then Fair-shoulder and her brothers forgot that they were unhappy. They sang songs to one another and scarcely remembered that they had ever been anything but swans, swimming on this peaceful water. But when the winter came and the ice was all around, and the wind from the north blew the snow against them, so that it froze among their feathers and they could scarcely move, they were so stiff and so cold—then they remembered how happy they had been in their father's castle. They could not sing now—not even sad songs. They only longed to have their human shape again and to be back in their old home.
"But after many, many years more had passed they ceased to wish for home. They had been swans so long now that it did not seem to them that they had ever been anything else. When the winter came again and again and again, and the days of chilling storm and the nights of freezing darkness were upon them, the poor brothers longed for nothing but the end of it all. The thought of the old castle hall, with its bright fires and its feasts and its music of minstrels and its dances and its games, was only another pain to them, and they wished only to die and to leave their sorrows.
"Then they crowded close together, to be as warm as they could, and Fair-shoulder tried to spread her wings over her brothers, to keep the storm from them. She tried to comfort them, and she told them again and again the story that she had heard from the people who stood by the lake to hear them sing, the story that the King had told, that, after many hundreds of years, strange men should come across the sea to Erin—men with shaven heads; that they should build houses and set up tables in the east ends of their houses, and that they should ring bells; and when the swans should hear the first sound of those bells they should have their human shape again, and then they should be happy forever.
"For three hundred years they were at Loch Derg, and then, by the power of their enchantment, they were compelled to leave it. They flew to the sea of Moyle, and there they stayed, through the summer's heat and the winter's cold, for three hundred years more. Still the sister told her brothers of the strange men who were to come to Erin and of the bells that were to free them. But they could not be comforted. The strange men were too long in coming.
"When the three hundred years were past they had to fly away again to another sea. As they flew, they passed over the spot where their father's castle had stood and where they had been happy children together. Not a stone of the beautiful castle could they see. It had all crumbled down, and the grass had grown over it for many a year. They saw the fox that had its hole where their father's bright hearth fire had been, and they saw the ditch of dirty water where their father used to welcome kings and bards and wise men at his gate. They kept their way through the air and saw no more; yet they had seen all that there was to see. It gave the poor swans only a little ache at the heart, for they were past hope now. They had suffered too much to believe anything or to think of anything but the suffering that was past and the more suffering that was to come.
"The end of their journey came and they swam in a new sea. Again the sister tried to cheer her brothers, but they could not be cheered. The strange men with the shaven heads would never come, they thought. They had waited for them too long.
"But the hundreds of years that had passed had done more than to bring sorrow to the poor swans. In lands far away a new faith had grown up, not like the Druids' faith. And at last across the sea to Erin came the holy St. Patrick. He brought monks with him, and they had shaven heads. They went about the island and preached, and built chapels. In the east end of each chapel they set up an altar, and they said masses and rang bells. And they built a chapel on the island that has since been called the Isle of Glory.
"And so, one bright morning, Fair-shoulder and her brothers were swimming near the Isle of Glory, when, of a sudden, there came to them from the shore the sweet sound of a bell. Then Fair-shoulder called to her brothers, and they all swam to the shore. And as soon as they were on shore their form of swans was gone. Fair-shoulder was a beautiful young girl again, and the brothers were strong, beautiful boys. They walked up to the little chapel together, and there a monk baptized them.
"And as soon as they were baptized they were young and strong no longer. Fair-shoulder was an old, old woman, and her brothers were old, old men. They were so weak with the age of a thousand years that they fell upon the floor of the chapel. The monks took them up and cared for them for a few days, and then they died. And so the word of the Druid came to pass, that when the strange men should ring their bells the children of Lir should be swans no longer, and should be happy forever."
They all waited for a few minutes, to be sure that there was no more of the story, and then John said: "Mother, it's easy for you to be tellin' us them tales, and they may be all thrue enough, and I'm not sayin' they're not. But what good are they to us? The word of the Druid came thrue, but how long was it in comin' thrue? A thousand years?"
"A thousand years or more," said his mother; "but the stories can teach us to be patient, if they can do nothing else."
"They may do that," said John; "the blessed Lord He knows you've been patient, and He knows the rest of us have tried to be. But what does it all come to? We can't wait a thousand years for the betther times. Pether, here, is right. The States would be a betther place for all of us. If we had the money I'ld say that we ought to go there."
"It's not the bad times alone that's in it," said Peter. "As I told you before, I could stand them. It's the bother that we're put to all the time. It's that would make us go to the States this minute, if we had the chance. But I suppose your mother could never be leavin' Ireland now, John; she's gettin' so old now, maybe she couldn't stand the journey."
"Have no fear about that," John answered; "mother's not so old as you'ld make out, and she's likely to live longer now than some others that's here this minute."
As he said this John felt Kitty's hand suddenly holding his closer, and he knew that he ought not to have said it. "Don't mind what I'm sayin'," he said to her in a whisper; "I dunno what I'm talkin' about, but I didn't mean you at all, darlin', nor anybody particular. It'll all come right somehow, and we'll soon see the roses back in your cheek, and the smile on your lips, and the light in your eyes. Don't mind what I said."
"But what's the use talkin' of it at all?" said Peter. "You've no money and we've less. We might as well be talkin' of goin' to the moon as to the States."
The old woman did not seem to be paying any attention to what the others were saying, and now nobody at all said anything for a little while. Then Mrs. O'Brien began: "John and Kitty, I think sometimes it's true I'm getting old and foolish. I don't know what has made me talk the way I have to-night I've seen it coming—oh, I've seen it coming all along—yes, longer than any one of you has seen it—and I knew I couldn't stand in the way. And yet to be leaving the old places—the old fields and hills and paths—the old streams and trees and rocks—the old places where your father and I walked and sat and talked so often together, where you were born and where he lies—I couldn't bear to think of it. It's old and weak and foolish I'm getting, and I couldn't bear to think of it. And so I've tried to make you think of other things and to make you think that it would be better somehow, some time. Maybe I've said too much, and maybe I've kept you from going when you ought to have gone, but you'll know that it was because I couldn't bear to think of leaving all the dear places, and you'll forgive me; John and Kitty, you'll forgive me. I can say no more. If I couldn't think of it, yet I must do it. It is right that we should go, and we will go."
"And why should you be talkin' that way, mother?" said John. "Was it what you said that kept us from goin' to the States long ago? Sure, if you had said nothing at all, we hadn't the money to go, and so what difference was it what you said?"
"Listen to me, John," said his mother; "it was all through me that you didn't leave this land of sorrow long ago. It was because it had been a land of joy as well to me that we all stayed here; and now, since you're sure that it's right and best for you to go, it's not the want of money that shall stand in your way. It's yourself knows, John, that your father—Heaven be his bed!—was always the careful and the saving man, and I always tried to help him the best I could. The times got a little better with us, as you know, after those worst ones in '47 and '48, and we saved a little again—it was not much, but it was something. Your father left it with me before he died, and he said: 'Keep it always by you till you need it most. Don't use it till the time comes when you can say, "I shall never need this money more than I need it now."' So I have always kept it, and I have it now. That was why I told you not to fear about the winter. It would have paid our rent if all else had failed, and it would have taken us all through the winter. But it's better that it should take us to the States. If we stayed here and used the money, we'ld be as bad off in another year. Kitty will be getting strong again there, and it'll be better for all of us. The time that your father said has come; I'm sure we'll never be needing the money that he left more than we're needing it now. There's no more to be said; we'll go."
For a little while no more was said. John and Kitty gazed at the old woman in wonder. The thing that they had thought about for so long, and wished for as a happiness that could never be, was come to them. And now it scarcely seemed a happiness; it was half a sorrow. Then Ellen spoke: "Oh, Mrs. O'Brien, it was always you was the good neighbor to us! It was always you was with us in joy and in sorrow! What'll we ever do at all when you're gone and we're left here alone, with none to be so kind to us as you've always been?"
And Peter said: "I was thinkin' that same. The Lord go wid you and keep you, wherever you go, but it'll be the sad day for us when you go away."
"Peter and Ellen," said the old woman "how could you think that we'ld do a thing like that? You may be a fool sometimes, Peter, but you're your father's son. Do you know what your father did for us, Peter? When my John was dying with the fever, he sat and watched with him, and brought him the water and the whey all night, and night after night, when I was so worn out that I could watch no longer. He might have taken the fever himself, and he might have died with it, and he did take it, but the Lord spared his life for a while after that, Heaven rest his soul! And another thing that John said to me before he died was this: 'As long as you have a bit to eat or a drop to drink or a penny to buy, never let Tom Sullivan or any of his want more than you want yourself.'
"And so, Peter and Ellen, when we go to the States, you'll both go too. There's enough of the money to take us all there. If you're ever able to pay it back, you can do it, if you like; but if not, we'll never ask you for it. If we went away from here without you, my husband would look down from Heaven and see me doing what he told me, with his dying breath, never to do. He would come to me at night and he would say: 'Mary, you are deserting in their sorrow the children of them that never deserted us in our sorrow.' Do you think that I could bear that? Do you think that I would do that?"
* * * * *
Now I have told you all the talk that went on in the O'Briens' house that night. Perhaps you think that I have been a good while in doing it. If you will forgive me, I will try to get on with the story a little faster after this. Only one word more about this talk: you must not think that this was the first time that these five people had ever gone over and over this subject of America, or "the States," as they called it. They had talked of it many times, but Mrs. O'Brien had never given the word that they should go. The rest of them talked on and on of what they wished. But when she spoke, they all knew that she spoke of what was to be. They knew now that they should never talk of going again, but they should go.
THE LITTLE GOOD PEOPLE
There was a good deal of commotion that night in the rath near where the O'Briens and the Sullivans lived. Do you know what a rath is? I suppose not. It is hard work to tell stories to you, you are so ignorant. I will tell you what a rath is. First I will tell you what it looks like. It looks like a mound of earth, in the shape of a ring, covered with turf, and perhaps with bushes. They are found all over Ireland. Some people, who have studied so much that they have lost all track of what they know and of what they don't know, say that these raths were made by the people who lived in Ireland many hundreds of years ago, and that they were strongholds to guard themselves and their sheep and their cattle from their enemies or from wild beasts. But people who know as much as Mrs. O'Brien, know that they are the places where the fairies live, or the Good People, as she would call them.
On this night that I have been telling you about, the Good People inside the rath were eating and drinking and dancing and making merry generally, as they do, you know, the most of the time. Perhaps you would like to have me tell you how the inside of the rath looked too. I will do the best I can. In the first place, the walls were all of silver and the floor was all of gold. Perhaps you don't know—no, I suppose you don't know—still you may happen to have heard of this before: the fairies know just where to find pretty much all the gold and silver and precious stones that there are in the world, if they happen to want them. They don't want much of them, of course—only just enough to make the walls and the roofs and the floors of their houses of, and to put all over their clothes and to make all their furniture and dishes of, and all their carriages and their boats, and a few other things—but they know where to find plenty of gold and silver, if they want it.
Now I think that I had better give you a little science. I believe that a book which children are to read, always ought to teach something, so I mean to teach you as much as I can. You must know, then, that gold is one of the heaviest things in the world. Now you know that the earth is always whirling round and round, so that the things that it is made of naturally get shaken up more or less. Besides that, it was once a good deal softer than it is now, so that the things that it is made of could move about more than they can now. And so the most of the gold, being, as I said, one of the heaviest things, got sifted down toward the bottom—that is, toward the centre of the earth. Only a little of it was left near the top, compared with what went to the bottom. It would not be at all surprising if the middle of the earth were a solid lump of gold, a thousand miles thick. But we poor men cannot dig down very deep into the earth. We can only scratch a little dirt off the top, and if we happen to grub up a few pounds of gold we think that we are rich, and the rest of the world thinks so too.
But the fairies laugh at us. They know how to go as deep into the earth as they choose, and so any fairy who chooses can give away gold all his life, and still have more of it in his dust-bin all the time than all the kings in the world have in their treasuries. And the other fairies don't call him rich.
But now we will go back to the rath. Of course it was all under the ground, so that there was no daylight. At the time we are talking about, there would not have been any anyway, for it was night. The place was lighted up with thousands of diamonds and rubies and emeralds, which were set all over the ceiling and shone like lamps. Now I won't call you ignorant just because you say that you don't understand how diamonds could light up anything, for I don't understand it myself. Let us talk about it together and try to decide. Suppose you try the experiment. Some night, after dark, take all the diamonds you have—every one of them—and carry them into a dark room and spread them out, and see if they light up the room at all. I am sure that you will find that they do not. On the contrary, if you let go of them, you will have to go and get a light to hunt for them by. But I suppose the fairies have some other kind of diamonds than ours, or else they know some other way of using the same kind. Sometimes they use fireflies, caught in spider-web nets, but these are generally for out of doors. To light up their houses they almost always use diamonds.
There were two tiny bits of turf fire in the rath. One of them was at one end of the hall, where the King sat, for the King to light his pipe by, and the other was at the other end, for the other fairy men to light their pipes by. Fairies do not like fire, as a rule, and they would never have any more of it about than they could help. But I know that they must have had some, for I know that Irish fairies smoke pipes, and how could they light them unless they kept a little fire on hand?
Now, I know what you will say to that. You will say: "If they could light a room with diamonds, why couldn't they light pipes with them?" Well, that is not very easy to answer, but I feel sure that even a fairy would never think of lighting a pipe with a diamond. I have owned up already that I don't know exactly how they light rooms with them, but it is easier for me to imagine a diamond giving light than giving heat. Isn't it for you? Now, be honest about it.
At one end of the hall sat the King and the Queen, on their thrones. Near them were half a dozen fairy men who were playing on pipes and fiddles. All over the floor there were dozens and scores of fairies, men and women, dancing to the music. All around the walls stood or sat many more of them, looking at the dancers, and now and then applauding and shouting at particular ones, or talking together, or simply smoking their pipes.
Suddenly two fairies rushed into the hall, with a little sound like the noise of a humming-bird's wings when it passes close to you. From the lower end of the hall, where they came in, they went straight through the crowd to where the King and Queen sat. They dropped on their knees before them for an instant, and then rose and spoke to them. In a moment the King clapped his hands, with a sign for the pipers and the fiddlers to stop playing. The instant that they stopped, everybody in the hall was still.
The King stood up and said to them: "Will ye be still now and listen, all of ye, to the news that's come to me this minute, and then will ye help me to think what we're to do about it at all? Here's these two that's just come in, and they're just afther tellin' me that they've been at the O'Briens' house this evenin', and there they heard talk betune the O'Briens and the Sullivans, and it's all decided that both the O'Briens and the Sullivans is goin' to the States. And it's sorry I'll be to see the O'Briens lavin' the counthry. I don't care so much for the Sullivans."
"It was the O'Briens," said the Queen, "that always put the bit and sup outside the door for us, and what we'll be doin' widout the milk and the pertaties and the fresh wather, I dunno."
"Ye needn't be throubled about that," the King answered; "haven't we always enough to eat and drink of our own, whatever happens?"
"Thrue for you," said the Queen, "we have our own food and drink, but it's not the same that we get from human people. Ye know that same yourself, and it's you as much as any that'll be missin' them things when the O'Briens is gone."
"That's the thrue word too," said the King; "it'll be the bad day for us all out, when they go. What for are they lavin' the counthry at all?"
"If ye plase, Your Majesty," said one of the fairies who had brought the news, "we heard all that too. It's the hard times that's in it. It's that makes them all want to go, and then, more than that, it's the bother the Sullivans are put to all the time, wid the cow givin' no milk and the pig not gettin' fat, and all that, and they're bound that they'll go away and stand it no longer."
"Is that it?" said the King. "It's that divil Naggeneen that's in it. I told him he could bother them a little if he liked, but not to bother them too much, and now he's drivin' them and their neighbors out of the counthry, and we all have to suffer for it. He'll make it up to us in some way, if they go, or I'll take it out of him. Come here, Naggeneen! What are ye doin' down there by yourself? Come up here and stand forninst me, till I give ye a piece of me mind. Now, what's all this about the O'Briens and the Sullivans lavin' the counthry? What have ye been about wid them?"
A fairy who had not been in the hall before had just come in at the far end from the King, who had caught sight of him. He was smoking a pipe. He had his hands in the pockets of his little green breeches, he wore a red jacket, and on his head was a red cap. He came slowly up the hall, when the King called him, and stood before the throne. "Take off your cap, ye worthless vagabone," said the King, "when you speak to me."
"I wasn't spakin' to you," said Naggeneen; "it was you that spoke to me. You called me, and here I am to the fore, though I don't belong to your pitiful little thribe, and I needn't come when you call, if I don't like."
"Oh, needn't ye?" said the King. "Take off your cap now, or it'll be taken off for ye."
Naggeneen took off his cap.
"Now," said the King, "what have ye been doin' to the Sullivans, that they're lavin' the counthry and persuadin' the O'Briens to go wid them?"
"I've been doin' nothin'," said Naggeneen, "but what you said I might do."
"Oh, haven't ye?" said the King. "And what was that?"
"Oh," said Naggeneen, "I just took all the cream and the most of the milk from their cow, and you yourself had a share of it, as you know well; and I put a charm on their pig, so that it wouldn't get fat, no matter how much it 'uld be atin'; and then I druv the smoke of their fire down the chimney, and I threw the dishes and the pans around in the night, just so they wouldn't get lazy wid restin' too well, and a few more little things like that."
"Was that all ye did?" said the King. "And how long have ye been at it that way?"
"Ever since the day that Mrs. Sullivan threw the dirthy wather on me, as I was passin' the house. But I'm not the only one that's in it. Some of your own people here have helped me, and good they are at divilment too."
"And those things was all you did, was they?" said the King. "And didn't I tell ye ye could bother them a little, but not too much? What would ye have done if I had told ye to do what ye liked wid them?"
"What would I have done then? Oh, I'ld have shown ye the real fun then. What would I have done then? I'ld have pinched them and stuck pins in them all day and all night. I'ld have put charms on themselves, so that they'ld grow thinner than the pig. I'ld have took the pertaties out of the creel when they were put to drain at the door. If they went away from home I'ld make them think that they saw their house burning up, and so I'ld scare them to death. What would I do if you gave me leave? What wouldn't I do?"
"Well, you've done enough as it is," said the King, "to get the whole of us into throuble, and now let's hear what you're goin' to do to get us out of it. Here they are lavin' the counthry and takin' the O'Briens wid them, that was always the good neighbors to us, and they themselves were sometimes useful in their own way, in spite of themselves. And now I ask ye, Naggeneen, what are ye goin' to do to get us out of the throuble ye've got us into?"
"I'm in no throuble meself," Naggeneen answered, "and I dunno what I have to do wid any throuble that you may be in."
"You're in no throuble yourself? Haven't ye been as good as livin' on the Sullivans all this time? And now what are ye goin' to do widout them?"
"I'm goin' to do nothin' widout them; I'm goin' wid them."
"Goin' wid them! Goin' wid them!"
"Them was me words; you and your silly little thribe can do what ye like; I'm goin' wid them. It's a stuffy little place, this rath of yours, and I've a notion thravellin' would be good for me health, any way."
"But how can ye go wid them?"
"It's not hard at all," said Naggeneen, "and it's been done before this. I was near doin' it meself once. I don't suppose ye remember me old friend MacCarthy."
"MacCarthy of Ballinacarthy?" the King asked.
"The same," said Naggeneen, "and it was he was the good friend to mortal or fairy. It was he kept the good house and the good table and the good cellar—more especially the good cellar. That was not so many years ago—a hundred and odd, maybe. A fine man he was; we don't see his like now. I lived wid him the most of the time—in the cellar. And the strange thing about him was that, though nobody ever had a bad word for him, though all his servants said that he was the kindest and the best masther that ever stepped, he could get nobody to stay in the place of butler. It was all well enough wid the rest—cooks, maids, hostlers, stable boys—but the first time ever a new butler went into that beautiful wine cellar for wine, back he'ld come in a hurry and say that he'ld lave his place the next day, and nothing on earth would keep him in it. Now, wasn't that strange?"
"Did you say you lived in that cellar?" the King asked.
"The most of the time," said Naggeneen.
"Then it was not strange," said the King.
"Any way, strange or not strange," Naggeneen went on, "it was the truth. Never a butler could he keep in his service. A new butler would come and he'ld think he was a made man, old MacCarthy was that well known and that well liked all over the counthry. He'ld wait once at dinner and then down he'ld go to the cellar for wine. Sometimes he'ld come back wid the wine and oftener he'ld come back widout it, but every time he'ld say: 'Mr. MacCarthy, sir, it's much obliged to you I am for all your kindness, but I'll have to be lavin' your service to-morrow.' And nobody could see the why of it.
"And at long last there was young Jack Leary, that had been all his life in old MacCarthy's stable, and he knew how the old man was bad off for a butler, and he made bold to ask for the place. 'If I make ye me butler,' says the old man, 'will ye go into the cellar and bring the wine when I ask ye, and make no throuble about it?'
"'Is that all?' says Jack; 'sure, yer honor, I'ld be glad to spend all me time, day and night, in the cellar, only ye might be wantin' me somewhere else now and then.'
"'Then look sharp,' says old MacCarthy, 'for there's gintlemin comin' to dinner to-day. Wait on the table the best ye know how, and at the end of it, when I ring the bell three times, do ye go to the cellar and bring plenty of wine, and let's have no more nonsinse about it.'
"'Niver say it twice,' says Jack; 'yer honor can depind on me.'
"Well, ye may belave I was listenin' to all this, for I wasn't in the cellar all the time. 'His honor may say it twice,' says I to meself, 'or as many times as he likes, but you'll never go into that cellar twice, Jack, me fine boy.'
"So Jack went about his work, and the dinner went all well enough, till late in the evenin', when old MacCarthy rang the bell three times, and off started Jack for the cellar, wid a basket to bring back the wine. 'It's the silly lot they war,' says he to himself, 'thim butlers, that they'ld be afraid to go to the cellar and bring back a bit of a basket full of wine. The only thing I don't like about it is that I can't bring it back in me skin instead of in the basket.'
"He was thinkin' like this in his mind as he went down the long, dark stairs wid his candle, and you may depend I was ready for him, by the time he got to the bottom. So no sooner did he touch the key to the lock than I give him a sort of a laugh and a scream that set the empty wine bottles that stood outside the door a-dancin' together. Jack was a good bold boy, sure enough, and he got the key into the lock and turned it. Wid that I swung the door open for him, so hard that it crashed against the wall and near shook the house down. And then me fine boy saw all the casks and the hogsheads in the cellar a-swingin' and a-rockin' and a-whirlin' around, as if all the wine had been in him instead of in them.
"You may be sure he didn't wait long afther that, but he just dropped his basket and fell all the way up the stairs and into the room where the gintlemin was waitin' for their wine. Well, it was then that old MacCarthy was in the towerin' rage. Never a word could Jack say to tell where he'd been or how he came back, or why.
"'Gintlemin,' says MacCarthy, 'ye'll get your wine, if I have to go to the cellar for it meself. But this I tell ye: I'll live no longer in this house, where I can't get servants to serve me. I'll be lavin' it to-morrow, and no later. The next time ye find me at home, ye'll find me in a place where I can keep a butler and have him do his work.'
"Wid that he took the lantern and started for the cellar himself. Ye'll guess that I was in the dining-room as soon as Jack and heard all this, and I was back in the cellar, too, before MacCarthy got there. I was sittin' on a cask of port, when he came in and saw me be the light of the lantern. I was sittin' there, wid a spiggot over me shoulder. 'Are ye there?' says MacCarthy. 'Who are ye, anyway, and what are ye doin' there?'
"'Sure, your honor,' says I, 'a'n't we goin' to move to-morrow, and it's not the likes of a kind man like you that would be wishin' to lave poor little Naggeneen behind.'
"'Is that the way of it?' says MacCarthy. 'Well, if you're agoin' to move wid us, I see no use in movin' at all. If I'm to have you in me cellar, wherever it is, it may as well be at Ballinacarthy as anywhere.'
"And from that day till the day of his death me and old MacCarthy was the best of friends. And he always brought all his wine from the cellar himself."
"And what has all that to do wid us?" said the King.
"What has it to do wid ye?" said Naggeneen. "It has nothin' to do wid ye, unless ye want to make it, and never a care I care whether ye do or not. But it has a good deal to do wid me. It shows, doesn't it, that I was ready to go wid old MacCarthy, and him runnin' away from me; and just so I'm ready to go wid the Sullivans, now that they're runnin' away from me. I've given ye a good hint. Ye can do as ye plase."
"It's glad I'ld be," said the Queen, "if we could be rid of the Sullivans and Naggeneen both at once, but I dunno what we'll do at all if the O'Briens go away."
"I'm not over-fond of Naggeneen meself," said the King, "but it's a sharp bit of a boy he is, and I'm thinkin' he may not be far from right this time. It might be that a new counthry would be as good for us as for the O'Briens or the Sullivans, and, anyway, we'ld still be near to them."
"Do ye mean," the Queen said, "that ye think we might all go to the States along wid the O'Briens and the Sullivans and Naggeneen?"
"If Naggeneen goes," the King replied, "he'll go along wid us; we'll not go wid him; but it was just that same that I was thinkin'. And yet we couldn't do a thing like that widout the lave of the King of All Ireland."
When the King spoke of the King of All Ireland, of course he meant the King of all the fairies in Ireland. He was himself only the King of this rath. Of course you know that the people of Ireland have no kings of their own any more.
"Naggeneen, me boy," said the King, "just take your fut in your hand and go to the King of All Ireland. Give him me compliments and ask him would he think there was anything against the whole of us goin' to the States."
"Is it me that would be runnin' arrants to the King of All Ireland," Naggeneen answered: "me, that don't belong to your thribe at all, and forty lazy spalpeens around here wearin' their legs off wid dancin' or rustin' them off wid doin' nothin' at all?"
"It's thrue you don't belong to me thribe," said the King, "and glad I am of that same. But while ye stay in me rath ye'll do what I bid ye. Why would I kape a dog and bark meself? Go on, now, and do what I tell ye, or ye know what I'll do to ye. Be off now!"
Naggeneen was off.
Now, while Naggeneen is gone with his message to the King of All Ireland, I will just take a minute to say something that I have felt like saying for quite a little while. He will not be gone much more than a minute. What I have to say is this: Nearly all the people in this story, mortals and fairies, too, had the way of speaking that most Irish people have, which we call a brogue. Mrs. O'Brien had only a little of it—just the bit of a soft brogue that comes from Dublin, where she had lived for a long time. The most of the others had a good deal more. But as I go on with the story from here, I see no use in trying to write the brogue. It is hard to spell and confusing to read. If you do not know what a good Irish brogue is, you would never learn from any attempt of mine to spell it out for you; and if you do know what it is, you can put it in for yourself. I may have to try to write a little of it now and then, for there is some Irish that does not look like Irish when it is written in English, but I shall use as little of it after this as I can. Naggeneen is back by this time.
Naggeneen sauntered into the hall where the King and the Queen and all the company were waiting for him, with his hands in his pockets, quite as if he had been out for a quiet stroll and had come back because he was tired of it. "Well," said the King, "did you see the King of All Ireland?"
"I saw him with my good-looking eyes," Naggeneen answered.
"And what did he say?"
"He said he'ld come here and talk to you himself, and, by the look of him, I think it's a pleasant time he'll be giving you."
"Then why is he not here as soon as you?" the King asked.
"Oh, nothing would do for him," said Naggeneen, "but that he and his men must come on horseback. They can come no faster that way, but they think it's due to their dignity. They had to wait for the horses to be ready, and so I beat them."
Naggeneen had scarcely said this when the door flew open at the end of the hall, and, with a rush and a whirl, in came a great troupe of fairies on horseback—the King of All Ireland and his men. They all leaped down from their horses, and instantly every horse turned into a green rush, such as grows beside the bogs. The King of All Ireland walked quickly up to the King of the rath and stood before him, with an awful frown on his face. The King of the rath was plainly nervous. "Will you have a light for your pipe, Your Majesty?" he asked.
"Never mind my pipe now," said the King of All Ireland. "Tell me first of all, who is this messenger that you sent to me?" The King of All Ireland had only a little bit of brogue—the Dublin kind.
"Sure," said the King of the rath, "that's only poor Naggeneen."
"Only poor Naggeneen!" cried the King of All Ireland. "And what are you doing with him? Do you see the red jacket he has on? Why doesn't he wear a green jacket, like your people? You know what his red jacket means as well as I. He belongs to the fairies who live by themselves, not to those who live together honestly in a rath. Why do you have him with your honest green jackets?"
"Sure, Your Majesty," said the King of the rath, "I thought it was no harm. He said he was tired of being by himself, and you know how handy he is with the fiddle or the pipes. If he'd been a fir darrig, that's always playing tricks and making trouble everywhere, why, then, of course—but he was only a poor cluricaun—"
"Yes," the King of All Ireland interrupted, "only a poor cluricaun, that does nothing but rob gentlemen's wine cellars and keep himself so drunk that he's of no use when he's wanted for any good. And hasn't he made you as much trouble as any fir darrig could do?"
"I was a lepracaun, too, once, Your Majesty," Naggeneen said.
"A lepracaun, were you? What did you do then? And when was it and how did it happen that a lazy lump like you was ever a lepracaun?"
"It was a long time ago," said Naggeneen, ready enough to talk about anything to draw the King's thoughts away from the trouble that he had made. "After old MacCarthy, of Ballinacarthy, died, those that came after him did not keep up his cellar well, and I felt lonely and sad, and I didn't care to drink any more—"
"Lonely and sad you must have been," said the King of All Ireland; "but you did drink still, did you not, though you didn't care for it?"
"True for you, Your Majesty," said Naggeneen, "I did a little, just for my health. But I was so lonely and so falling to pieces with idleness—"
"Falling to pieces with idleness!" the King interrupted again. "If idleness could make you fall to pieces, there wouldn't have been a piece of you left big enough to make trouble in a fly's eye, these last seven hundred years."
"As you say, Your Majesty," Naggeneen went on, "but, anyway, I was a lepracaun, and I did what any other lepracaun does: I sat in the field or under a tree and made brogues. But it was sorry work and people was always trying to catch me, to make me show them the gold they thought I had. And one time a great brute of a spalpeen did catch me, and he nearly broke me in two with the squeeze he gave me, so that I wouldn't get away till I'd showed him the gold. And I nearly had to show it to him, but I made him look away for a second, and then of course I was off. And after that my friend the King here let me come and live in the rath, just for company—not that I belong to his little tribe at all."
"And now you see," said the King of All Ireland, turning from Naggeneen to the King of the rath, "what trouble comes to you from taking those into your rath that have no right there. He's sending people out of Ireland that might be of use to you and to all of us. He wants to go with them, and that is no loss, but you want to go, too and to take all your people. That might be a loss, though I don't know that it would."
"We think it's best that we should go, Your Majesty," the King of the rath answered, meekly, "if you see no reason why not."
"I see reasons enough why not," said the King of All Ireland. "You don't know where you are going, nor what you'll find there. You don't know how you're to live, nor whether it'll be any fit place to live. You don't know whether the people there will help you or hinder you."
"Wherever the O'Briens go, they'll help us," the King of the rath answered. "We don't like to have them leave us here."
"You've gone contrary to the law enough already," said the King of All Ireland, "in taking in this fellow with the red coat. Now you may take all the consequences of it and go where you like. I don't care where you go and I think nobody cares, only I think it may be best for all the Good People in Ireland to have you out of it. Mount your horses," he shouted to his men, "and we'll be off out of this!"
He took one of the little green rushes from the floor and sat astride it, as a little boy rides on his father's cane. "Borram, borram, borram!" he said, and instantly the rush was a beautiful white horse. Every one of his men did the same. Each one took one of the rushes and sat astride of it and said, "Borram, borram, borram!" and every one of the rushes grew into a horse. There was a little whirring sound, like that of a swarm of bees, and they were all gone.
Everybody in the rath was silent for a few minutes. The King and the Queen looked at each other and were much troubled. Naggeneen, without making a bit of noise, scuttled down to the farthest corner of the hall. The others seemed not to know where to look or what to do or to think. Then the King turned toward them and said; "It's all over; we couldn't stay here now. Wherever has Naggeneen got to?"
The fairies who were nearest to Naggeneen hustled him forward and he stood before the King again. "Naggeneen," said the King, "it's trouble enough you've made for all of us, and it's ballyragging enough you and all the rest of us have got for it, and we don't know, as His Majesty said, what more is to come. So now do the only thing you was ever good for and give us a tune out of the fiddle."
It was the only thing that Naggeneen was good for, and the only thing that was not mischief that he liked to do. He took a fiddle from one of the fairies who had been playing for the dancing before all the confusion began. He held the fiddle under his chin for a moment, while everybody waited, and then he began to play.
He played first some old tunes that every fairy in Ireland knows well. But not every fairy in Ireland can play them as Naggeneen did. They were tunes which everybody listening in that rath had known for hundreds of years. There were wild and strange airs that made them remember days when Ireland was a strange country, even to them; then the music was full of wonder and mystery, like the spells of the old Druids; then it was strong and free and fierce, and they thought of Finn McCool and the Fenians, and the days when Erin had heroes to guard her from her foes. The fiddle was telling them the story of their own lives and of all that they had ever seen and known. Now it was a strange music, which they could not understand—which the player could understand as little as the rest—but it was soft and sweet, and yet deep and bold, and the fairies trembled as they remembered the holy Patrick and a mighty power in the worlds of the seen and of the unseen. This passed away and the music came with the stir and the swing of marching men, and the fairies were again in the days of King Brian Boru, with Ireland free and brave and strong. It grew sad; it gushed out like sobs from a broken heart; then it was quieter, but still full of a softer sorrow; now it was merry and reckless. It made the fairies remember all that they had ever seen in the lives of the people whom they had known so long—the cruel hardship, war, sickness, hunger, and then, besides, the faith, the kindliness, the light-heartedness that had saved them through it all. There were tunes that every man and woman in Ireland knows—tunes that you know—old airs that every Irish fiddler or piper or singer learns from the older ones, that the oldest ones of all learned, they say, from the fairies. And under all the music, whether grave or gay, there went a strain of grief, sometimes almost harsh and sometimes scarcely heard, and as the fairies listened to it they grew pale at the thought that now they were to go away from all that they had known, to find something which they did not know. While they were thinking of this the music changed again. It was a soft murmur, like the sound of the sea that is kept forever in a sea-shell. Then it grew loud and rough, with the rush of winds and the crash of waves. The fairies were filled with fright, and before they knew that they were afraid, the music was singing a song of hope, and then, all at once, it grew as merry as if there had never been a sad thought in the world.
For a moment the fairies listened to it and all their feet began to stir restlessly on the floor. One of the fairy men caught the hand of a fairy girl—a fairy girl with cheeks like the tiny petals in the heart of a rose, with a white gown like a mist, and hair like fine sunbeams falling on the mist; he threw his arm about her waist, and they danced away down the hall. In an instant all the rest were dancing, too, alone, in pairs, and in rings. Naggeneen looked on and laughed till he could scarcely play. All this time his music had moved him less than anybody else who heard it. He did not feel what he had made the others feel, but he knew how to pour it all out of his fiddle.
The King made a sign for him to stop. All the dancers were still in an instant. The lights in the hall went out. The next minute, if you had been outside the rath and had laid your ear down on the turf which covered it, you would have heard nothing more than you might hear under the turf at any other time or in any other place.
THE CLEVERNESS OF MORTALS
If you live in the city of New York, or if you have ever been in the city of New York for any long time, you know how disheartening, how terrible, and how altogether unreasonable the climate can be at times. But you also know how heavenly it can be on an autumn day, when the sky and the air and the water are all in a good humor. To see and to feel the best of it, you must be down in the Narrows, or somewhere near there. The fierce heat has gone out of the air, but there is a gentle warmth left in it. All the shores near you are turning from green to brown and yellow, with here and there a dash of red. The sun makes every sail in the bay a gleaming spot of white. Far up the bay you see just an end of the city, with the tall buildings standing so close that it looks like one great castle, built all over a hill that slopes steeply down to the water on both sides. The Bridge looks like a spider's web, spun across to the other shore. Beyond it all the hills look purple, through the thin mist. If, instead of having seen all this often, you saw it for the first time—if you were coming from a far country, where you had always been poor—if you had toiled all your life to pay your rent, never expecting to do more—then perhaps you would look, more than anything else, at the giant woman standing before you and holding her torch high into the sky to light the world.
It was on such a day as this that the O'Briens and the Sullivans saw New York first. It was on the same day that the fairies who had left the rath and followed them saw it too. The O'Briens and the Sullivans had left their old home and gone to Queenstown, and the fairies had followed them. Cork and Queenstown had rather alarmed the fairies. They did not like the look of a city. It looked cold and stony and uncomfortable. It did not look like a good place to dance out of doors at night. They almost wished that they had stayed at home and let the O'Briens and the Sullivans go where they liked without them. Some of them even wanted to go back, but Naggeneen laughed at them, and fairies can stand being laughed at even less than human beings. But they all hoped that when the O'Briens and the Sullivans got wherever they were going, it would not prove to be in a city.
Then the O'Briens and the Sullivans went on board a ship and were stowed away in a place forward, with many other people, which the fairies did not think roomy or airy or pleasant in any way. But they were not obliged to stay in it. They found better places on the ship. Nobody could see them, so they went where they liked. They went out on the bow, where the lookout stood, and watched with him for sails and for tiny puffs of smoke by day and for little glimmers of light by night. They ran about the bridge and swarmed up the rigging. They even danced on the deck, as if they were in a field at home; and the deck was dewy at night, just like the field. They fluttered and whirled in circles around the red light on the one side of the ship and the green light on the other side, and they reminded them of the rubies and the emeralds that had helped to light their own rath.
One day they saw swimming in the water beside the ship an ugly creature, like a man, with a red nose, tangled green hair, green teeth, and fingers with webs between them, like a duck's foot. There was another creature, like a woman, very beautiful, but with green hair, like the man. These were merrows—sea fairies.
"Where are you bound in that ship?" the merrows called to them.
"Where would we be bound at all," the King answered, "but to the States, where the ship's bound?"
"And what are ye goin' there for?" the merrows asked again.
"Sure," said Naggeneen, "it's followin' the O'Briens and the Sullivans we are, and it's the long way they're takin' us."
"Could you tell us what the States is like at all?" asked the King. "Is it like Cork?"
"There's parts of them," said the man merrow, "that's more like Cork than Cork itself, and there's other parts of them that's no more like Cork than the sea here is like Cork Harbor."