The Crock of Gold
Part 1 out of 4
The Crock of Gold
by James Stephens
BOOK I THE COMING OF PAN
BOOK II THE PHILOSOPHER'S JOURNEY
BOOK III THE TWO GODS
BOOK IV THE PHILOSOPHER'S RETURN
BOOK V THE POLICEMEN
BOOK VI THE THIN WOMAN'S JOURNEY AND THE HAPPY MARCH
IN the centre of the pine wood called Coilla Doraca there
lived not long ago two Philosophers. They were wiser
than anything else in the world except the Salmon who
lies in the pool of Glyn Cagny into which the nuts of
knowledge fall from the hazel bush on its bank. He, of
course, is the most profound of living creatures, but the
two Philosophers are next to him in wisdom. Their
faces looked as though they were made of parchment,
there was ink under their nails, and every difficulty that
was submitted to them, even by women, they were able
to instantly resolve. The Grey Woman of Dun Gortin
and the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath asked them the
three questions which nobody had ever been able to an-
swer, and they were able to answer them. That was
how they obtained the enmity of these two women which
is more valuable than the friendship of angels. The
Grey Woman and the Thin Woman were so incensed at
being answered that they married the two Philosophers
in order to be able to pinch them in bed, but the skins of
the Philosophers were so thick that they did not know
they were being pinched. They repaid the fury of the
women with such tender affection that these vicious crea-
tures almost expired of chagrin, and once, in a very ec-
stacy of exasperation, after having been kissed by their
husbands, they uttered the fourteen hundred maledic-
tions which comprised their wisdom, and these were
learned by the Philosophers who thus became even wiser
In due process of time two children were born of these
marriages. They were born on the same day and in the
same hour, and they were only different in this, that one
of them was a boy and the other one was a girl. No-
body was able to tell how this had happened, and, for
the first time in their lives, the Philosophers were forced
to admire an event which they had been unable to prog-
nosticate; but having proved by many different methods
that the children were really children, that what must be
must be, that a fact cannot be controverted, and that
what has happened once may happen twice, they described
the occurrence as extraordinary but not unnatural, and
submitted peacefully to a Providence even wiser than
The Philosopher who had the boy was very pleased
because, he said, there were too many women in the
world, and the Philosopher who had the girl was very
pleased also because, he said, you cannot have too much
of a good thing: the Grey Woman and the Thin Woman,
however, were not in the least softened by maternity--
they said that they had not bargained for it, that the
children were gotten under false presences, that they
were respectable married women, and that, as a protest
against their wrongs, they would not cook any more food
for the Philosophers. This was pleasant news for their
husbands, who disliked the women's cooking very much,
but they did not say so, for the women would certainly
have insisted on their rights to cook had they imagined
their husbands disliked the results: therefore, the Philos-
ophers besought their wives every day to cook one of
their lovely dinners again, and this the women always
refused to do.
They all lived together in a small house in the very
centre of a dark pine wood. Into this place the sun
never shone because the shade was too deep, and no
wind ever came there either, because the boughs were
too thick, so that it was the most solitary and quiet place
in the world, and the Philosophers were able to hear
each other thinking all day long, or making speeches to
each other, and these were the pleasantest sounds they
knew of. To them there were only two kinds of sounds
anywhere--these were conversation and noise: they liked
the first very much indeed, but they spoke of the second
with stern disapproval, and, even when it was made by
a bird, a breeze, or a shower of rain, they grew angry
and demanded that it should be abolished. Their wives
seldom spoke at all and yet they were never silent: they
communicated with each other by a kind of physical
telegraphy which they had learned among the Shee--
they cracked their finger-joints quickly or slowly and so
were able to communicate with each other over immense
distances, for by dint of long practice they could make
great explosive sounds which were nearly like thunder,
and gentler sounds like the tapping of grey ashes on a
hearthstone. The Thin Woman hated her own child,
but she loved the Grey Woman's baby, and the Grey
Woman loved the Thin Woman's infant but could not
abide her own. A compromise may put an end to the
most perplexing of situations, and, consequently, the two
women swapped children, and at once became the most
tender and amiable mothers imaginable, and the families
were able to live together in a more perfect amity than
could be found anywhere else.
The children grew in grace and comeliness. At first
the little boy was short and fat and the little girl was
long and thin, then the little girl became round and
chubby while the little boy grew lanky and wiry. This
was because the little girl used to sit very quiet and be
good and the little boy used not.
They lived for many years in the deep seclusion of the
pine wood wherein a perpetual twilight reigned, and here
they were wont to play their childish games, flitting
among the shadowy trees like little quick shadows. At
times their mothers, the Grey Woman and the Thin
Woman, played with them, but this was seldom, and some-
times their fathers, the two Philosophers, came out and
looked at them through spectacles which were very round
and very glassy, and had immense circles of horn all
round the edges. They had, however, other playmates
with whom they could romp all day long. There were
hundreds of rabbits running about in the brushwood; they
were full of fun and were very fond of playing with the
children. There were squirrels who joined cheerfully
in their games, and some goats, having one day strayed
in from the big world, were made so welcome that they
always came again whenever they got the chance. There
were birds also, crows and blackbirds and willy-wagtails,
who were well acquainted with the youngsters, and visited
them as frequently as their busy lives permitted.
At a short distance from their home there was a clear-
ing in the wood about ten feet square; through this clear-
ing, as through a funnel, the sun for a few hours in the
summer time blazed down. It was the boy who first dis-
covered the strange radiant shaft in the wood. One day
he had been sent out to collect pine cones for the fire.
As these were gathered daily the supply immediately near
the house was scanty, therefore he had, while searching
for more, wandered further from his home than usual.
The first sight of the extraordinary blaze astonished him.
He had never seen anything like it before, and the steady,
unwinking glare aroused his fear and curiosity equally.
Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will;
indeed, it has led many people into dangers which mere
physical courage would shudder away from, for hunger
and love and curiosity are the great impelling forces of
life. When the little boy found that the light did not
move he drew closer to it, and at last, emboldened by
curiosity, he stepped right into it and found that it was
not a thing at all. The instant that he stepped into the
light he found it was hot, and this so frightened him that
he jumped out of it again and ran behind a tree. Then he
jumped into it for a moment and out of it again, and for
nearly half an hour he played a splendid game of tip
and tig with the sunlight. At last he grew quite bold and
stood in it and found that it did not burn him at all, but
he did not like to remain in it, fearing that he might be
cooked. When he went home with the pine cones he
said nothing to the Grey Woman of Dun Gortin or to
the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath or to the two Philos-
ophers, but he told the little girl all about it when they
went to bed, and every day afterwards they used to go
and play with the sunlight, and the rabbits and the squir-
rels would follow them there and join in their games with
twice the interest they had shown before.
To the lonely house in the pine wood people sometimes
came for advice on subjects too recondite for even those
extremes of elucidation, the parish priest and the tavern.
These people were always well received, and their per-
plexities were attended to instantly, for the Philosophers
liked being wise and they were not ashamed to put their
learning to the proof, nor were they, as so many wise
people are, fearful lest they should become poor or less
respected by giving away their knowledge. These were
favourite maxims with them:
You must be fit to give before you can be fit to receive.
Knowledge becomes lumber in a week, therefore, get
rid of it.
The box must be emptied before it can be refilled.
Refilling is progress.
A sword, a spade, and a thought should never be al-
lowed to rust.
The Grey Woman and the Thin Woman, however,
held opinions quite contrary to these, and their maxims
also were different:
A secret is a weapon and a friend.
Man is God's secret, Power is man's secret, Sex is
By having much you are fitted to have more.
There is always room in the box.
The art of packing is the last lecture of wisdom.
The scalp of your enemy is progress.
Holding these opposed views it seemed likely that
visitors seeking for advice from the Philosophers might
be astonished and captured by their wives; but the
women were true to their own doctrines and refused to
part with information to any persons saving only those
of high rank, such as policemen, gombeen men, and dis-
trict and county councillors; but even to these they
charged high prices for their information, and a bonus
on any gains which accrued through the following of
their advices. It is unnecessary to state that their fol-
lowing was small when compared with those who sought
the assistance of their husbands, for scarcely a week
passed but some person came through the pine wood with
his brows in a tangle of perplexity.
In these people the children were deeply interested.
They used to go apart afterwards and talk about them,
and would try to remember what they looked like, how
they talked, and their manner of walking or taking snuff.
After a time they became interested in the problems
which these people submitted to their parents and the
replies or instructions wherewith the latter relieved them.
Long training had made the children able to sit perfectly
quiet, so that when the talk came to the interesting part
they were entirely forgotten, and ideas which might
otherwise have been spared their youth became the com-
monplaces of their conversation.
When the children were ten years of age one of the
Philosophers died. He called the household together
and announced that the time had come when he must bid
them all good-bye, and that his intention was to die as
quickly as might be. It was, he continued, an unfortu-
nate thing that his health was at the moment more robust
than it had been for a long time, but that, of course, was
no obstacle to his resolution, for death did not depend
upon ill-health but upon a multitude of other factors with
the details whereof he would not trouble them.
His wife, the Grey Woman of Dun Gortin, ap-
plauded this resolution and added as an amendment that
it was high time he did something, that the life he had
been leading was an arid and unprofitable one, that he
had stolen her fourteen hundred maledictions for which
he had no use and presented her with a child for which
she had none, and that, all things concerned, the sooner
he did die and stop talking the sooner everybody con-
cerned would be made happy.
The other Philosopher replied mildly as he lit his pipe:
"Brother, the greatest of all virtues is curiosity, and
the end of all desire is wisdom; tell us, therefore, by
what steps you have arrived at this commendable reso-
To this the Philosopher replied:
"I have attained to all the wisdom which I am fitted
to bear. In the space of one week no new truth has
come to me. All that I have read lately I knew before;
all that I have thought has been but a recapitulation of
old and wearisome ideas. There is no longer an horizon
before my eves. Space has narrowed to the petty dimen-
sions of my thumb. Time is the tick of a clock. Good
and evil are two peas in the one pod. My wife's face
is the same for ever. I want to play with the children, and
yet I do not want to. Your conversation with me,
brother, is like the droning of a bee in a dark cell. The
pine trees take root and grow and die.--It's all bosh.
His friend replied:
"Brother, these are weighty reflections, and I do clearly perceive that the time has come for you to stop. I might observe, not in order to combat your views, but merely to continue an interesting conversation, that there
are still some knowledges which you have not assimilated --you do not yet know how to play the tambourine, nor how to be nice to your wife, nor how to get up first in the morning and cook the breakfast. Have you learned how to
smoke strong tobacco as I do? or can you dance in the moonlight with a
woman of the Shee? To understand the theory which underlies all things
is not sufficient. It has occurred to me, brother, that wisdom may not
be the end of everything. Goodness and kindliness are, perhaps, beyond
wisdom. Is it not possible that the ultimate end is gaiety and music
and a dance of joy? Wisdom is the oldest of all things. Wisdom is all
head and no heart. Behold, brother, you are being crushed under the
weight of your head. You are dying of old age while you are yet a
"Brother," replied the other Philosopher, "your voice is like the
droning of a bee in a dark cell. If in my latter days I am reduced to
playing on the tambourine and running after a hag in the moonlight, and
cooking your breakfast in the grey morning, then it is indeed time that
I should die. Good-bye, brother."
So saying, the Philosopher arose and removed all the furniture to the
sides of the room so that there was a clear space left in the centre.
He then took off his boots and his coat, and standing on his toes he
commenced to gyrate with extraordinary rapidity. In a few moments his
movements became steady and swift, and a sound came from him like the
humming of a swift saw; this sound grew deeper and deeper, and at last
continuous, so that the room was filled with a thrilling noise. In a
quarter of an hour the movement began to noticeably slacken. In another
three minutes it was quite slow. In two more minutes he grew visible
again as a body, and then he wobbled to and fro, and at last dropped in
a heap on the floor. He was quite dead, and on his face was an
expression of serene beatitude.
"God be with you, brother," said the remaining Philosopher, and he lit
his pipe, focused his vision on the extreme tip of his nose, and began
to meditate profoundly on the aphorism whether the good is the all or
the all is the good. In another moment he would have become oblivious
of the room, the company, and the corpse, but the Grey Woman of
Dun Gortin shattered his meditation by a demand for advice as to what
should next be done. The Philosopher, with an effort, detached
his eyes from his nose and his mind from his maxim.
"Chaos," said he, "is the first condition. Order is the
first law. Continuity is the first reflection. Quietude is
the first happiness. Our brother is dead--bury him."
So saying, he returned his eyes to his nose, and his mind
to his maxim, and lapsed to a profound reflection wherein
nothing sat perched on insubstantiality, and the Spirit of
Artifice goggled at the puzzle.
The Grey Woman of Dun Gortin took a pinch of
snuff from her box and raised the keen over her husband:
"You were my husband and you are dead.
It is wisdom that has killed you.
If you had listened to my wisdom instead of to your
own you would still be a trouble to me and I
would still be happy.
Women are stronger than men--they do not die of
They are better than men because they do not seek
They are wiser than men because they know less
and understand more.
I had fourteen hundred maledictions, my little store,
and by a trick you stole them and left me empty.
You stole my wisdom and it has broken your neck.
I lost my knowledge and I am yet alive raising the
keen over your body, but it was too heavy for you, my little knowledge.
You will never go out into the pine wood in the
morning, or wander abroad on a night of stars.
You will not sit in the chimney-corner on the hard
nights, or go to bed, or rise again, or do anything
at all from this day out.
Who will gather pine cones now when the fire is
going down, or call my name in the empty house,
or be angry when the kettle is not boiling?
Now I am desolate indeed. I have no knowledge,
I have no husband, I have no more to say."
"If I had anything better you should have it," said she
politely to the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath.
"Thank you," said the Thin Woman, "it was very nice.
Shall I begin now? My husband is meditating and we
may be able to annoy him."
"Don't trouble yourself," replied the other, "I am past
enjoyment and am, moreover, a respectable woman."
"That is no more than the truth, indeed."
"I have always done the right thing at the right time."
"I'd be the last body in the world to deny that," was
the warm response.
"Very well, then," said the Grey Woman, and she
commenced to take off her boots. She stood in the cen-
tre of the room and balanced herself on her toe.
"You are a decent, respectable lady," said the Thin
Woman of Inis Magrath, and then the Grey Woman be-
gan to gyrate rapidly and more rapidly until she was a
very fervour of motion, and in three-quarters of an hour
(for she was very tough) she began to slacken, grew
visible, wobbled, and fell beside her dead husband, and
on her face was a beatitude almost surpassing his.
The Thin Woman of Inis Magrath smacked the chil-
dren and put them to bed, next she buried the two bodies
under the hearthstone, and then, with some trouble, de-
tached her husband from his meditations. When he
became capable of ordinary occurrences she detailed all
that had happened, and said that he alone was to blame
for the sad bereavement. He replied:
"The toxin generates the anti-toxin. The end lies
concealed in the beginning. All bodies grow around a
skeleton. Life is a petticoat about death. I will not go
ON the day following this melancholy occurrence Mee-
hawl MacMurrachu, a small farmer in the neighbour-
hood, came through the pine trees with tangled brows.
At the door of the little house he said, "God be with all
here," and marched in.
The Philosopher removed his pipe from his lips--
"God be with yourself," said he, and he replaced his
Meehawl MacMurrachu crooked his thumb at space-
"Where is the other one?" said he.
"Ah!" said the Philosopher.
"He might be outside, maybe?"
"He might, indeed," said the Philosopher gravely.
"Well, it doesn't matter," said the visitor, "for you
have enough knowledge by yourself to stock a shop. The
reason I came here to-day was to ask your honoured ad-
vice about my wife's washing-board. She only has it a
couple of years, and the last time she used it was when
she washed out my Sunday shirt and her black skirt with
the red things on it--you know the one?"
"I do not," said the Philosopher.
"Well, anyhow, the washboard is gone, and my wife
says it was either taken by the fairies or by Bessie Han-
nigan--you know Bessie Hannigan? She has whiskers
like a goat and a lame leg!"-
"I do not," said the Philosopher.
"No matter," said Meehawl MacMurrachu. "She
didn't take it, because my wife got her out yesterday and
kept her talking for two hours while I went through
everything in her bit of a house--the washboard wasn't
"It wouldn't be," said the Philosopher.
"Maybe your honour could tell a body where it is
"Maybe I could," said the Philosopher; "are you
"I am," said Meehawl MacMurrachu.
The Philosopher drew his chair closer to the visitor
until their knees were jammed together. He laid both
his hands on Meehawl MacMurrachu's knees-
"Washing is an extraordinary custom," said he. "We
are washed both on coming into the world and on going
out of it, and we take no pleasure from the first wash-
ing nor any profit from the last."
"True for you, sir," said Meehawl MacMurrachu.
"Many people consider that scourings supplementary
to these are only due to habit. Now, habit is continuity
of action, it is a most detestable thing and is very diffi-
cult to get away from. A proverb will run where a writ
will not, and the follies of our forefathers are of greater
importance to us than is the well-being of our posterity."
"I wouldn't say a word against that, sir," said Mee-
"Cats are a philosophic and thoughtful race, but they
do not admit the efficacy of either water or soap, and yet
it is usually conceded that they are cleanly folk. There
are exceptions to every rule, and I once knew a cat who
lusted after water and bathed daily: he was an unnatural
brute and died ultimately of the head staggers. Chil-
dren are nearly as wise as cats. It is true that they will
utilize water in a variety of ways, for instance, the de-
struction of a tablecloth or a pinafore, and I have ob-
served them greasing a ladder with soap, showing in the
process a great knowledge of the properties of this
"Why shouldn't they, to be sure?" said Meehawl
MacMurrachu. "Have you got a match, sir?"
"I have not," said the Philosopher. "Sparrows, again,
are a highly acute and reasonable folk. They use water
to quench thirst, but when they are dirty they take a dust
bath and are at once cleansed. Of course, birds are often
seen in the water, but they go there to catch fish and not
to wash. I have often fancied that fish are a dirty, sly,
and unintelligent people--this is due to their staying so
much in the water, and it has been observed that on being
removed from this element they at once expire through
sheer ecstasy at escaping from their prolonged wash-
"I have seen them doing it myself," said Meehawl.
"Did you ever hear, sir, about the fish that Paudeen
MacLoughlin caught in the policeman's hat."
"I did not," said the Philosopher. "The first person
who washed was possibly a person seeking a cheap no-
toriety. Any fool can wash himself, but every wise man
knows that it is an unnecessary labour,for nature will
quickly reduce him to a natural and healthy dirtiness
again. We should seek, therefore, not how to make our-
selves clean, but how to attain a more unique and splendid
dirtiness, and perhaps the accumulated layers of matter
might, by ordinary geologic compulsion, become incorpo-
rated with the human cuticle and so render clothing un-
"About that washboard," said Meehawl, "I was just
going to say--"
"It doesn't matter," said the Philosopher. "In its
proper place I admit the necessity for water. As a
thing to sail a ship on it can scarcely be surpassed (not,
you will understand, that I entirely approve of ships,
they tend to create and perpetuate international curiosity
and the smaller vermin of different latitudes). As an
element wherewith to put out a fire, or brew tea, or make
a slide in winter it is useful, but in a tin basin it has a
repulsive and meagre aspect.--Now as to your wife's
"Good luck to your honour," said Meehawl.
"Your wife says that either the fairies or a woman
with a goat's leg has it."
"It's her whiskers," said Meehawl.
"They are lame," said the Philosopher sternly.
"Have it your own way, sir, I'm not certain now how
the creature is afflicted."
"You say that this unhealthy woman has not got your
wife's washboard. It remains, therefore, that the fairies
"It looks that way," said Meehawl.
"There are six clans of fairies living in this neighbour-
hood; but the process of elimination, which has shaped
the world to a globe, the ant to its environment, and man
to the captaincy of the vertebrates, will not fail in this
"Did you ever see anything like the way wasps have
increased this season?" said Meehawl; "faith, you can't
sit down anywhere but your breeches--"
"I did not," said the Philosopher. "Did you leave out
a pan of milk on last Tuesday?"
"I did then."
"Do you take off your hat when you meet a dust
"I wouldn't neglect that," said Meehawl.
"Did you cut down a thorn bush recently?"
"I'd sooner cut my eye out," said Meehawl, "and go
about as wall-eyed as Lorcan O'Nualain's ass: I would
that. Did you ever see his ass, sir? It--"
"I did not," said the Philosopher. "Did you kill a
"Never,'" said Meehawl. "By the pipers," he added,
"that old skinny cat of mine caught a bird on the roof
"Hah!'' cried the Philosopher, moving, if it were pos-
sible, even closer to his client, "now we have it. It is the
Leprecauns of Gort na Cloca Mora took your wash-
board. Go to the Gort at once. There is a hole under a
tree in the south-east of the field. Try what you will
find in that hole."
"I'll do that," said Meehawl. "Did you ever-"
"I did not," said the Philosopher.
So Meehawl MacMurrachu went away and did as he
had been bidden, and underneath the tree of Gort na
Cloca Mora he found a little crock of gold.
"There's a power of washboards in that," said he.
By reason of this incident the fame of the Philosopher
became even greater than it had been before, and also by
reason of it many singular events were to happen with
which you shall duly become acquainted.
IT SO happened that the Leprecauns of Gort na Cloca
Mora were not thankful to the Philosopher for having
sent Meehawl MacMurrachu to their field. In stealing
Meehawl's property they were quite within their rights
because their bird had undoubtedly been slain by his cat.
Not alone, therefore, was their righteous vengeance
nullified, but the crock of gold which had taken their
community many thousands of years to amass was stolen.
A Leprecaun without a pot of gold is like a rose without
perfume, a bird without a wing, or an inside without an
outside. They considered that the Philosopher had
treated them badly, that his action was mischievous and
unneighbourly, and that until they were adequately con-
pensated for their loss both of treasure and dignity, no
conditions other than those of enmity could exist between
their people and the little house in the pine wood.
Furthermore, for them the situation was cruelly com-
plicated. They were unable to organise a direct, per-
sonal hostility against their new enemy, because the Thin
Woman of Inis Magrath would certainly protect her
husband. She belonged to the Shee of Croghan Cong-
haile, who had relatives in every fairy fort in Ireland,
and were also strongly represented in the forts and duns
of their immediate neighbours. They could, of course,
have called an extraordinary meeting of the Sheogs,
Leprecauns, and Cluricauns, and presented their case
with a claim for damages against the Shee of Croghan
Conghaile, but that Clann would assuredly repudiate any
liability on the ground that no member of their fraternity
was responsible for the outrage, as it was the Philo-
sopher, and not the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath, who
had done the deed. Notwithstanding this they were un-
willing to let the matter rest, and the fact that justice was
out of reach only added fury to their anger.
One of their number was sent to interview the Thin
Woman of Inis Magrath, and the others concentrated
nightly about the dwelling of Meehawl MacMurrachu
in an endeavour to recapture the treasure which they
were quite satisfied was hopeless. They found that
Meehawl, who understood the customs of the Earth
Folk very well, had buried the crock of gold beneath a
thorn bush, thereby placing it under the protection of
every fairy in the world--the Leprecauns themselves in-
cluded, and until it was removed from this place by hu-
man hands they were bound to respect its hiding-place,
and even guarantee its safety with their blood.
They afflicted Meehawl with an extraordinary attack
of rheumatism and his wife with an equally virulent
sciatica, but they got no lasting pleasure from their
The Leprecaun, who had been detailed to visit the
Thin Woman of Inis Magrath, duly arrived at the cot-
tage in the pine wood and made his complaint. The little
man wept as he told the story, and the two children wept
out of sympathy for him. The Thin Woman said she
was desperately grieved by the whole unpleasant trans-
action, and that all her sympathies were with Gort na
Cloca Mora, but that she must disassociate herself from
any responsibility in the matter as it was her husband
who was the culpable person, and that she had no control
over his mental processes, which, she concluded, was one
of the seven curious things in the world.
As her husband was away in a distant part of the wood
nothing further could be done at that time, so the Lepre-
caun returned again to his fellows without any good news,
but he promised to come back early on the following day.
When the Philosopher come home late that night the
Thin Woman was waiting up for him.
"Woman," said the Philosopher, "you ought to be in
"Ought I indeed?" said the Thin Woman. "I'd have
you know that I'll go to bed when I like and get up when
I like without asking your or any one else's permission."
"That is not true," said the Philosopher. "You get
sleepy whether you like it or not, and you awaken again
without your permission being asked. Like many other
customs such as singing, dancing, music, and acting, sleep
has crept into popular favour as part of a religious cere-
monial. Nowhere can one go to sleep more easily than
in a church."
"Do you know," said the Thin Woman, "that a Lep-
recaun came here to-day?"
"I do not," said the Philosopher, "and notwithstand-
ing the innumerable centuries which have elapsed since
that first sleeper (probably with extreme difficulty) sank
into his religious trance, we can to-day sleep through a
religious ceremony with an ease which would have been
a source of wealth and fame to that prehistoric wor-
shipper and his acolytes."
"Are you going to listen to what I am telling you about
the Leprecaun?" said the Thin Woman.
"I am not," said the Philosopher. "It has been sug-
gested that we go to sleep at night because it is then too
dark to do anything else; but owls, who are a venerably
sagacious folk, do not sleep in the night time. Bats, also,
are a very clear-minded race; they sleep in the broadest
day, and they do it in a charming manner. They clutch
the branch of a tree with their toes and hang head down-
wards--a position which I consider singularly happy, for
the rush of blood to the head consequent on this inverted
position should engender a drowsiness and a certain im-
becility of mind which must either sleep or explode."
"Will you never be done talking?" shouted the Thin
"I will not," said the Philosopher. "In certain ways
sleep is useful. It is an excellent way of listening to an
opera or seeing pictures on a bioscope. As a medium
for day-dreams I know of nothing that can equal it. As
an accomplishment it is graceful, but as a means of spend-
ing a night it is intolerably ridiculous. If you were going
to say anything, my love, please say it now, but you
should always remember to think before you speak. A
woman should be seen seldom but never heard. Quiet-
ness is the beginning of virtue. To be silent is to be beau-
tiful. Stars do not make a noise. Children should al-
ways be in bed. These are serious truths, which cannot
be controverted; therefore, silence is fitting as regards
"Your stirabout is on the hob," said the Thin Woman.
"You can get it for yourself. I would not move the
breadth of my nail if you were dying of hunger. I hope
there's lumps in it. A Leprecaun from Gort na Cloca
Mora was here to-day. They'll give it to you for rob-
bing their pot of gold. You old thief, you! you lob-
eared, crock-kneed fat-eye!"
The Thin Woman whizzed suddenly from where she
stood and leaped into bed. From beneath the blanket
she turned a vivid, furious eye on her husband. She was
trying to give him rheumatism and toothache and lock-
jaw all at once. If she had been satisfied to concentrate
her attention on one only of these torments she might
have succeeded in afflicting her husband according to her
wish, but she was not able to do that.
"Finality is death. Perfection is finality. Nothing is
perfect. There are lumps in it," said the Philosopher.
WHEN the Leprecaun came through the pine wood on
the following day he met two children at a little distance
from the house. He raised his open right hand above
his head (this is both the fairy and the Gaelic form of
salutation), and would have passed on but that a thought
brought him to a halt. Sitting down before the two
children he stared at them for a long time, and they
stared back at him. At last he said to the boy:
"What is your name, a vic vig O?"
"Seumas Beg, sir," the boy replied.
"It's a little name," said the Leprecaun.
"It's what my mother calls me, sir," returned the boy.
"What does your father call you," was the next ques-
"Seumas Eoghan Maelduin O'Carbhail Mac an
"It's a big name," said the Leprecaun, and he turned
to the little girl. "What is your name, a cailin vig O?"
"Brigid Beg, sir."
"And what does your father call you?"
"He never calls me at all, sir."
"Well, Seumaseen and Breedeen, you are good little
children, and I like you very much. Health be with you
until I come to see you again."
And then the Leprecaun went back the way he had
come. As he went he made little jumps and cracked his
fingers, and sometimes he rubbed one leg against the
"That's a nice Leprecaun," said Seumas.
"I like him too," said Brigid.
"Listen," said Seumas, "let me be the Leprecaun, and
you be the two children, and I will ask you our names."
So they did that.
The next day the Leprecaun came again. He sat
down beside the children and, as before, he was silent for
a little time.
"Are you not going to ask us our names, sir?" said
His sister smoothed out her dress shyly. "My name,
sir, is Brigid Beg," said she.
"Did you ever play Jackstones?" said the Leprecaun.
"No, sir," replied Seumas.
"I'll teach you how to play Jackstones," said the Lep-
recaun, and he picked up some pine cones and taught the
children that game.
"Did you ever play Ball in the Decker?"
"No, sir," said Seumas.
"Did you ever play 'I can make a nail with my ree-ro-
raddy-O, I can make a nail with my ree-ro-ray'?"
"No, sir," replied Seumas.
"It's a nice game," said the Leprecaun, "and so is Cap-
on-the-back, and Twenty-four yards on the Billy-goat's
Tail, and Towns, and Relievo, and Leap-frog. I'll teach
you all these games," said the Leprecaun, "and I'll teach
you how to play Knifey, and Hole-and-taw, and Horneys
"Leap-frog is the best one to start with, so I'll teach
it to you at once. Let you bend down like this, Breedeen,
and you bend down like that a good distance away, Seu-
mas. Now I jump over Breedeen's back, and then I
run and jump over Seumaseen's back like this, and then
I run ahead again and I bend down. Now, Breedeen,
you jump over your brother, and then you jump over me,
and run a good bit on and bend down again. Now, Seu-
mas, it's your turn; you jump over me and then over
your sister, and then you run on and bend down again
and I jump."
"This is a fine game, sir," said Seumas.
"It is, a vic vig,--keep in your head," said the Lepre-
caun. "That's a good jump, you couldn't beat that jump,
"I can jump better than Brigid already," replied Seu-
mas, "and I'll jump as well as you do when I get more
practice--keep in your head, sir."
Almost without noticing it they had passed through
the edge of the wood, and were playing into a rough field
which was cumbered with big, grey rocks. It was the
very last field in sight, and behind it the rough, heather-
packed mountain sloped distantly away to the skyline.
There was a raggedy blackberry hedge all round the
field, and there were long, tough, haggard-looking plants
growing in clumps here and there. Near a corner of this
field there was a broad, low tree, and as they played they
came near and nearer to it. The Leprecaun gave a back
very close to the tree. Seumas ran and jumped and slid
down a hole at the side of the tree. Then Brigid ran and
jumped and slid down the same hole.
"Dear me!" said Brigid, and she flashed out of sight.
The Leprecaun cracked his fingers and rubbed one leg
against the other, and then he also dived into the hole
and disappeared from view.
When the time at which the children usually went
home had passed, the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath
became a little anxious. She had never known them to
be late for dinner before. There was one of the chil-
dren whom she hated; it was her own child, but as she
had forgotten which of them was hers, and as she loved
one of them, she was compelled to love both for fear of
making a mistake and chastising the child for whom her
heart secretly yearned. Therefore, she was equally con-
cerned about both of them.
Dmner time passed and supper time arrived, but the
children did not. Again and again the Thin Woman
went out through the dark pine trees and called until she
was so hoarse that she could not even hear herself when
she roared. The evening wore on to the night, and while
she waited for the Philosopher to come in she reviewed
the situation. Her husband had not come in, the chil-
ren had not come in, the Leprecaun had not returned as
arranged.... A light flashed upon her. The Lepre-
caun nad kidnapped her children! She announced a
vengeance against the Leprecauns which would stagger
humanity. While in the extreme centre of her ecstasy
the Philosopher came through the trees and entered the
The Thin Woman flew to him--
"Husband," said she, "the Leprecauns of Gort na
Cloca Mora have kidnapped our children."
The Philosopher gazed at her for a moment.
"Kidnapping," said he, "has been for many centuries
a favourite occupation of fairies, gypsies, and the brig-
ands of the East. The usual procedure is to attach a
person and hold it to ransom. If the ransom is not paid
an ear or a finger may be cut from the captive and des-
patched to those interested, with the statement that an
arm or a leg will follow in a week unless suitable arrange-
ments are entered into."
"Do you understand," said the Thin Woman passion-
atelv, "that it is your own children who have been kid-
"I do not," said the Philosopher. "This course, how-
ever, is rarely followed by the fairy people: they do not
ordinarily steal for ransom, but for love of thieving, or
from some other obscure and possibly functional causes,
and the victim is retained in their forts or duns until by
the effluxion of time they forget their origin and become
peaceable citizens of the fairy state. Kidnapping is not
by any means confined to either humanity or the fairy
"Monster," said the Thin Woman in a deep voice,
"will you listen to me?"
"I will not," said the Philosopher. "Many of the in-
sectivora also practice this custom. Ants, for example,
are a respectable race living in well-ordered communities.
They have attained to a most complex and artificial
civilization, and will frequently adventure far afield on
colonising or other expeditions from whence they return
with a rich booty of aphides and other stock, who thence-
forward become the servants and domestic creatures of
the republic. As they neither kill nor eat their captives,
this practice will be termed kidnapping. The same may
be said of bees, a hardy and industrious race living in
hexagonal cells which are very difficult to make. Some-
times, on lacking a queen of their own, they have been
observed to abduct one from a less powerful neighbour,
and use her for their own purposes without shame, mercy,
"Will you not understand?" screamed the Thin
"I will not," said the Philosopher. "Semi-tropical
apes have been rumoured to kidnap children, and are re-
ported to use them very tenderly indeed, sharing their
coconuts, yams, plantains, and other equatorial provender
with the largest generosity, and conveying their delicate
captives from tree to tree (often at great distances from
each other and from the ground) with the most guarded
solicitude and benevolence."
"I am going to bed," said the Thin Woman, "your
stirabout is on the hob."
"Are there lumps in it, my dear?" said the Philoso-
"I hope there are," replied the Thin Woman, and she
leaped into bed.
That night the Philosopher was afflicted with the most
extraordinary attack of rheumatism he had ever known,
nor did he get any ease until the grey morning wearied his
lady into a reluctant slumber.
THE Thin Woman of Inis Magrath slept very late that
morning, but when she did awaken her impatience was so
urgent that she could scarcely delay to eat her breakfast.
Immediately after she had eaten she put on her bonnet
and shawl and went through the pine wood in the direc-
tion of Gort na Cloca Mora. In a short time she reached
the rocky field, and, walking over to the tree in the south-
east corner, she picked up a small stone and hammered
loudly against the trunk of the tree. She hammered in
a peculiar fashion, giving two knocks and then three
knocks, and then one knock. A voice came up from the
"Who is that, please?" said the voice.
"Ban na Droid of Inis Magrath, and well you know
it," was her reply.
"I am coming up, Noble Woman," said the voice, and
in another moment the Leprecaun leaped out of the hole.
"Where are Seumas and Brigid Beg?" said the Thin
"How would I know where they are?" replied the
Leprecaun. "Wouldn't they be at home now?"
"If they were at home I wouldn't have come here
looking for them," was her reply. "It is my belief that
you have them."
"Search me," said the Leprecaun, opening his waist-
"They are down there in your little house," said the
Thin Woman angrily, "and the sooner you let them up
the better it will be for yourself and your five brothers."
"Noble Woman," said the Leprecaun, "you can go
down yourself into our little house and look. I can't
say fairer than that."
"I wouldn't fit down there," said she. "I'm too big."
"You know the way for making yourself little," re-
plied the Leprecaun.
"But I mightn't be able to make myself big again,"
said the Thin Woman, "and then you and your dirty
brothers would have it all your own way. If you don't
let the children up," she continued, "I'll raise the Shee
of Croghan Conghaile against you. You know what
happened to the Cluricauns of Oilean na Glas when they
stole the Queen's baby--It will be a worse thing than
that for you. If the children are not back in my house
before moonrise this night, I'll go round to my people.
Just tell that to your five ugly brothers. Health with
you," she added, and strode away.
"Health with yourself, Noble Woman," said the Lep-
recaun, and he stood on one leg until she was out of
sight and then he slid down into the hole again.
When the Thin Woman was going back through the
pine wood she saw Meehawl MacMurrachu travelling
in the same direction and his brows were in a tangle of
"God be with you, Meehawl MacMurrachu," said
"God and Mary be with you, ma'am," he replied, "I
am in great trouble this day."
"Why wouldn't you be?" said the Thin Woman.
"I came up to have a talk with your husband about a
"If it's talk you want you have come to a good house,
"He's a powerful man right enough," said Meehawl.
After a few minutes the Thin Woman spoke again.
"I can get the reek of his pipe from here. Let you
go right in to him now and I'll stay outside for a while,
for the sound of your two voices would give me a pain
in my head."
"Whatever will please you will please me, ma'am,"
said her companion, and he went into the little house.
Meehawl MacMurrachu had good reason to be per-
plexed. He was the father of one child only, and she
was the most beautiful girl in the whole world. The
pity of it was that no one at all knew she was beautiful,
and she did not even know it herself. At times when
she bathed in the eddy of a mountain stream and saw
her reflection looking up from the placid water she
thought that she looked very nice, and then a great sad-
ness would come upon her, for what is the use of looking
nice if there is nobody to see one's beauty? Beauty, also,
is usefulness. The arts as well as the crafts, the graces
equally with the utilities must stand up in the market-
place and be judged by the gombeen men.
The only house near to her father's was that occupied
by Bessie Hannigan. The other few houses were scat-
tered widely with long, quiet miles of hill and bog be-
tween them, so that she had hardly seen more than a
couple of men beside her father since she was born. She
helped her father and mother in all the small businesses
of their house, and every day also she drove their three
cows and two goats to pasture on the mountain slopes.
Here through the sunny days the years had passed in a
slow, warm thoughtlessness wherein, without thinking,
many thoughts had entered into her mind and many pic-
tures hung for a moment like birds in the thin air. At
first, and for a long time, she had been happy enough;
there were many things in which a child might be inter-
ested: the spacious heavens which never wore the same
beauty on any day; the innumerable little creatures liv-
ing among the grasses or in the heather; the steep swing
of a bird down from the mountain to the infinite plains
below; the little flowers which were so contented each in
its peaceful place; the bees gathering food for their
houses, and the stout beetles who are always losing their
way in the dusk. These things, and many others, inter-
ested her. The three cows after they had grazed for a
long time would come and lie by her side and look at
her as they chewed their cud, and the goats would prance
from the bracken to push their heads against her breast
because they loved her.
Indeed, everything in her quiet world loved this girl:
but very slowly there was growing in her consciousness
an unrest, a disquietude to which she had hitherto been
a stranger. Sometimes an infinite weariness oppressed
her to the earth. A thought was born in her mind and it
had no name. It was growing and could not be ex-
pressed. She had no words wherewith to meet it, to ex-
orcise or greet this stranger who, more and more insist-
ently and pleadingly, tapped upon her doors and begged
to be spoken to, admitted and caressed and nourished.
A thought is a real thing and words are only its raiment,
but a thought is as shy as a virgin; unless it is fittingly
apparelled we may not look on its shadowy nakedness:
it will fly from us and only return again in the darkness
crying in a thin, childish voice which we may not com-
prehend until, with aching minds, listening and divining,
we at last fashion for it those symbols which are its pro-
tection and its banner. So she could not understand the
touch that came to her from afar and yet how intimately,
the whisper so aloof and yet so thrillingly personal. The
standard of either language or experience was not hers;
she could listen but not think, she could feel but not
know, her eyes looked forward and did not see, her hands
groped in the sunlight and felt nothing. It was like the
edge of a little wind which stirred her tresses but could
not lift them, or the first white peep of the dawn which
is neither light nor darkness. But she listened, not with
her ears but with her blood. The fingers of her soul
stretched out to clasp a stranger's hand, and her dis-
quietude was quickened through with an eagerness which
was neither physical nor mental, for neither her body
nor her mind was definitely interested. Some dim re-
gion between these grew alarmed and watched and
waited and did not sleep or grow weary at all.
One morning she lay among the long, warm grasses.
She watched a bird who soared and sang for a little time,
and then it sped swiftly away down the steep air and out
of sight in the blue distance. Even when it was gone the
song seemed to ring in her ears. It seemed to linger with
her as a faint, sweet echo, coming fitfully, with little
pauses as though a wind disturbed it, and careless, dis-
tant eddies. After a few moments she knew it was not
a bird. No bird's song had that consecutive melody, for
their themes are as careless as their wings. She sat up
and looked about her, but there was nothing in sight:
the mountains sloped gently above her and away to the
clear sky; around her the scattered clumps of heather
were drowsing in the sunlight; far below she could see
her father's house, a little grey patch near some trees--
and then the music stopped and left her wondering.
She could not find her goats anywhere although for a
long time she searched. They came to her at last of
their own accord from behind a fold in the hills, and
they were more wildly excited than she had ever seen
them before. Even the cows forsook their solemnity
and broke into awkward gambols around her. As she
walked home that evening a strange elation taught her
feet to dance. Hither and thither she flitted in front of
the beasts and behind them. Her feet tripped to a way-
ward measure. There was a tune in her ears and she
danced to it, throwing her arms out and above her head
and swaying and bending as she went. The full freedom
of her body was hers now: the lightness and poise and
certainty of her limbs delighted her, and the strength
that did not tire delighted her also. The evening was
full of peace and quietude, the mellow, dusky sunlight
made a path for her feet, and everywhere through the
wide fields birds were flashing and singing, and she sang
with them a song that had no words and wanted none.
The following day she heard the music again, faint
and thin, wonderfully sweet and as wild as the song of a
bird, but it was a melody which no bird would adhere to.
A theme was repeated again and again. In the middle
of trills, grace-notes, runs and catches it recurred with a
strange, almost holy, solemnity,--a hushing, slender
melody full of austerity and aloofness. There was some-
thing in it to set her heart beating. She yearned to it
with her ears and her lips. Was it joy, menace, careless-
ness? She did not know, but this she did know, that
however terrible it was personal to her. It was her un-
born thought strangely audible and felt rather than
On that day she did not see anybody either. She drove
her charges home in the evening listlessly and the beasts
also were very quiet.
When the music came again she made no effort to dis-
cover where it came from. She only listened, and when
the tune was ended she saw a figure rise from the fold
of a little hill. The sunlight was gleaming from his arms
and shoulders but the rest of his body was hidden by the
bracken, and he did not look at her as he went away
playing softly on a double pipe.
The next day he did look at her. He stood waist-
deep in greenery fronting her squarely. She had never
seen so strange a face before. Her eyes almost died on
him as she gazed and he returned her look for a long
minute with an intent, expressionless regard. His hair
was a cluster of brown curls, his nose was little and
straight, and his wide mouth drooped sadly at the cor-
ners. His eyes were wide and most mournful, and his
forehead was very broad and white. His sad eyes and
mouth almost made her weep.
When he turned away he smiled at her, and it was as
though the sun had shone suddenly in a dark place, ban-
ishing all sadness and gloom. Then he went mincingly
away. As he went he lifted the slender double reed to
his lips and blew a few careless notes.
The next day he fronted her as before, looking down
to her eyes from a short distance. He played for only
a few moments, and fitfully, and then he came to her.
When he left the bracken the girl suddenly clapped her
hands against her eyes affrighted. There was something
different, terrible about him. The upper part of his
body was beautiful, but the lower part.... She dared
not look at him again. She would have risen and fled
away but she feared he might pursue her, and the thought
of such a chase and the inevitable capture froze her blood.
The thought of anything behind us is always terrible.
The sound of pursuing feet is worse than the murder
from which we fly--So she sat still and waited but noth-
ing happened. At last, desperately, she dropped her
hands. He was sitting on the ground a few paces from
her. He was not looking at her but far away sidewards
across the spreading hill. His legs were crossed; they
were shaggy and hoofed like the legs of a goat: but she
would not look at these because of his wonderful, sad,
grotesque face. Gaiety is good to look upon and an inno-
cent face is delightful to our souls, but no woman can re-
sist sadness or weakness, and ugliness she dare not re-
sist. Her nature leaps to be the comforter. It is her
reason. It exalts her to an ecstasy wherein nothing but
the sacrifice of herself has any proportion. Men are
not fathers by instinct but by chance, but women are
mothers beyond thought, beyond instinct which is the
father of thought. Motherliness, pity, self-sacrifice
--these are the charges of her primal cell, and not
even the discovery that men are comedians, liars, and
egotists will wean her from this. As she looked at the
pathos of his face she repudiated the hideousness of his
body. The beast which is in all men is glossed by women;
it is his childishness, the destructive energy inseparable
from youth and high spirits, and it is always forgiven by
women, often forgotten, sometimes, and not rarely, cher-
ished and fostered.
After a few moments of this silence he placed the reed
to his lips and played a plaintive little air, and then he
spoke to her in a strange voice, coming like a wind from
"What is your name, Shepherd Girl?" said he.
"Caitilin, Ingin Ni Murrachu," she whispered.
"Daughter of Murrachu," said he, "I have come from
a far place where there are high hills. The men and
maidens who follow their flocks in that place know me
and love me for I am the Master of the Shepherds.
They sing and dance and are glad when I come to them
in the sunlight; but in this country no people have done
any reverence to me. The shepherds fly away when they
hear my pipes in the pastures; the maidens scream in
fear when I dance to them in the meadows. I am very
lonely in this strange country. You also, although you
danced to the music of my pipes, have covered your
face against me and made no reverence."
"I will do whatever you say if it is right," said she.
"You must not do anything because it is right, but
because it is your wish. Right is a word and Wrong is
a word, but the sun shines in the morning and the dew
falls in the dusk without thinking of these words which
have no meaning. The bee flies to the flower and the
seed goes abroad and is happy. Is that right, Shepherd
Girl?--it is wrong also. I come to you because the bee
goes to the flower--it is wrong! If I did not come to
you to whom would I go? There is no right and no
wrong but only the will of the gods."
"I am afraid of you," said the girl.
"You fear me because my legs are shaggy like the legs
of a goat. Look at them well, O Maiden, and know that
they are indeed the legs of a beast and then you will not
be afraid any more. Do you not love beasts? Surely
you should love them for they yearn to you humbly or
fiercely, craving your hand upon their heads as I do. If
I were not fashioned thus I would not come to you be-
cause I would not need you. Man is a god and a brute.
He aspires to the stars with his head but his feet are con-
tented in the grasses of the field, and when he forsakes
the brute upon which he stands then there will be no
more men and no more women and the immortal gods
will blow this world away like smoke."
"I don't know what you want me to do," said the girl.
"I want you to want me. I want you to forget right
and wrong; to be as happy as the beasts, as careless as
the flowers and the birds. To live to the depths of your
nature as well as to the heights. Truly there are stars
in the heights and they will be a garland for your fore-
head. But the depths are equal to the heights. Won-
drous deep are the depths, very fertile is the lowest deep.
There are stars there also, brighter than the stars on
high. The name of the heights is Wisdom and the name
of the depths is Love. How shall they come together
and be fruitful if you do not plunge deeply and fear-
lessly? Wisdom is the spirit and the wings of the spirit,
Love is the shaggy beast that goes down. Gallantly he
dives, below thought, beyond Wisdom, to rise again as
high above these as he had first descended. Wisdom is
righteous and clean, but Love is unclean and holy. I
sing of the beast and the descent: the great unclean
purging itself in fire: the thought that is not born in the
measure or the ice or the head, but in the feet and the
hot blood and the pulse of fury. The Crown of Life is
not lodged in the sun: the wise gods have buried it deeply
where the thoughtful will not find it, nor the good: but
the Gay Ones, the Adventurous Ones, the Careless
Plungers, they will bring it to the wise and astonish them.
All things are seen in the light--How shall we value that
which is easy to see? But the precious things which are
hidden, they will be more precious for our search: they
will be beautiful with our sorrow: they will be noble be-
cause of our desire for them. Come away with me,
Shepherd Girl, through the fields, and we will be care-
less and happy, and we will leave thought to find us when
it can, for that is the duty of thought, and it is more
anxious to discover us than we are to be found."
So Caitilin Ni Murrachu arose and went with him
through the fields, and she did not go with him because
of love, nor because his words had been understood by
her, but only because he was naked and unashamed.
IT was on account of his daughter that Meehawl Mac-
Murrachu had come to visit the Philosopher. He did
not know what had become of her, and the facts he had
to lay before his adviser were very few.
He left the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath taking
snuff under a pine tree and went into the house.
"God be with all here," said he as he entered.
"God be with yourself, Meehawl MacMurrachu," said
"I am in great trouble this day, sir," said Meehawl,
"and if you would give me an advice I'd be greatly be-
holden to you."
"I can give you that," replied the Philosopher.
"None better than your honour and no trouble to you
either. It was a powerful advice you gave me about the
washboard, and if I didn't come here to thank you before
this it was not because I didn't want to come, but that I
couldn't move hand or foot by dint of the cruel rheuma-
tism put upon me by the Leprecauns of Gort na Cloca
Mora, bad cess to them for ever: twisted I was the way
you'd get a squint in your eye if you only looked at me,
and the pain I suffered would astonish you."
"It would not," said the Philosopher.
"No matter," said Meehawl. "What I came about
was my young daughter Caitilin. Sight or light of her
I haven't had for three days. My wife said first, that it
was the fairies had taken her, and then she said it was a
travelling man that had a musical instrument she went
away with, and after that she said, that maybe the girl
was lying dead in the butt of a ditch with her eyes wide
open, and she staring broadly at the moon in the night
time and the sun in the day until the crows would be
finding her out."
The Philosopher drew his chair closer to Meehawl.
"Daughters," said he, "have been a cause of anxiety
to their parents ever since they were instituted. The
flightiness of the female temperament is very evident in
those who have not arrived at the years which teach how
to hide faults and frailties, and, therefore, indiscretions
bristle from a young girl the way branches do from a
"The person who would deny that--" said Mee-
"Female children, however, have the particular sanc-
tion of nature. They are produced in astonishing excess
over males, and may, accordingly, be admitted as domi-
nant to the male; but the well-proven law that the minor-
ity shall always control the majority will relieve our
minds from a fear which might otherwise become intol-
"It's true enough," said Meehawl. "Have you no-
ticed, sir, that in a litter of pups--"
"I have not," said the Philosopher. "Certain trades
and professions, it is curious to note, tend to be perpet-
uated in the female line. The sovereign profession
among bees and ants is always female, and publicans also
descend on the distaff side. You will have noticed that
every publican has three daughters of extraordinary
charms. Lacking these signs we would do well to look
askance at such a man's liquor, divining that in his brew
there will be an undue percentage of water, for if his pri-
mogeniture is infected how shall his honesty escape?"
"It would take a wise head to answer that," said
"It would not," said the Philosopher. "Throughout
nature the female tends to polygamy."
"If," said Meehawl, "that unfortunate daughter of
mine is lying dead in a ditch--"
"It doesn't matter," said the Philosopher. "Many
races have endeavoured to place some limits to this in-
crease in females. Certain Oriental peoples have con-
ferred the titles of divinity on crocodiles, serpents, and
tigers of the jungle, and have fed these with their sur-
plusage of daughters. In China, likewise, such sacrifices
are defended as honourable and economic practices. But,
broadly speaking, if daughters have to be curtailed I pre-
fer your method of losing them rather than the religio-
hysterical compromises of the Orient."
"I give you my word, sir," said Meehawl, "that I
don't know what you are talking about at all."
"That," said the Philosopher, "may be accounted for
in three ways--firstly, there is a lack of cerebral con-
tinuity: that is, faulty attention; secondly, it might be
due to a local peculiarity in the conformation of the skull,
or, perhaps, a superficial instead of a deep indenting of
the cerebral coil; and thirdly--"
"Did you ever hear," said Meehawl, "of the man that
had the scalp of his head blown off by a gun, and they
soldered the bottom of a tin dish to the top of his skull
the way you could hear his brains ticking inside of it for
all the world like a Waterbury watch?"
"I did not," said the Philosopher. "Thirdly, it
"It's my daughter, Caitilin, sir," said Meehawl hum-
bly. "Maybe she is lying in the butt of a ditch and the
crows picking her eyes out."
"What did she die of?" said the Philosopher.
"My wife only put it that maybe she was dead, and
that maybe she was taken by the fairies, and that maybe
she went away with the travelling man that had the
musical instrument. She said it was a concertina, but I
think myself it was a flute he had."
"Who was this traveller?"
"I never saw him," said Meehawl, "but one day I
went a few perches up the hill and I heard him playing
--thin, squeaky music it was like you'd be blowing out
of a tin whistle. I looked about for him everywhere,
but not a bit of him could I see."
"Eh?" said the Philosopher.
"I looked about--" said Meehawl.
"I know," said the Philosopher. "Did you happen to
look at your goats?"
"I couldn't well help doing that," said Meehawl.
"What were they doing?" said the Philosopher
"They were pucking each other across the field, and
standing on their hind legs and cutting such capers that
I laughed till I had a pain in my stomach at the gait of
"This is very interesting," said the Philosopher.
"Do you tell me so?" said Meehawl.
"I do," said the Philosopher, "and for this reason--
most of the races of the world have at one time or
"It's my little daughter, Caitilin, sir," said Meehawl.
"I'm attending to her," the Philosopher replied.
"I thank you kindly," returned Meehawl.
The Philosopher continued-
"Most of the races of the world have at one time or
another been visited by this deity, whose title is the
'Great God Pan,' but there is no record of his ever hav-
ing journeyed to Ireland, and, certainly within historic
times, he has not set foot on these shores. He lived for
a great number of years in Egypt, Persia, and Greece,
and although his empire is supposed to be world-wide,
this universal sway has always been, and always will be,
contested; but nevertheless, however sharply his empire
may be curtailed, he will never be without a kingdom
wherein his exercise of sovereign rights will be gladly and
"Is he one of the old gods, sir?" said Meehawl.
"He is," replied the Philosopher, "and his coming in-
tends no good to this country. Have you any idea why
he should have captured your daughter?"
"Not an idea in the world."
"Is your daughter beautiful?"
"I couldn't tell you, because I never thought of look-
ing at her that way. But she is a good milker, and as
strong as a man. She can lift a bag of meal under her
arm easier than I can; but she's a timid creature for all
"Whatever the reason is I am certain that he has the
girl, and I am inclined to think that he was directed to
her by the Leprecauns of the Gort. You know they are
at feud with you ever since their bird was killed?"
"I am not likely to forget it, and they racking me day
and night with torments."
"You may be sure," said the Philosopher, "that if he's
anywhere at all it's at Gort na Cloca Mora he is, for,
being a stranger, he wouldn't know where to go unless
he was directed, and they know every hole and corner
of this countryside since ancient times. I'd go up my-
self and have a talk with him, but it wouldn't be a bit
of good, and it wouldn't be any use your going either.
He has power over all grown people so that they either
go and get drunk or else they fall in love with every per-
son they meet, and commit assaults and things I wouldn't
like to be telling you about. The only folk who can go
near him at all are little children, because he has no
power over them until they grow to the sensual age, and
then he exercises lordship over them as over every one
else. I'll send my two children with a message to him
to say that he isn't doing the decent thing, and that if he
doesn't let the girl alone and go back to his own country
we'll send for Angus Og."
"He'd make short work of him, I'm thinking."
"He might surely; but he may take the girl for him-
self all the same."
"Well, I'd sooner he had her than the other one, for
he's one of ourselves anyhow, and the devil you know is
better than the devil you don't know."
"Angus Og is a god," said the Philosopher severely.
"I know that, sir," replied Meehawl; "it's only a way
of talking I have. But how will your honour get at An-
gus? for I heard say that he hadn't been seen for a hun-
dred years, except one night only when he talked to a
man for half an hour on Kilmasheogue."
"I'll find him, sure enough," replied the Philosopher.
"I'll warrant you will," replied Meehawl heartily as
he stood up. "Long life and good health to your
honour," said he as he turned away.
The Philosopher lit his pipe.
"We live as long as we are let," said he, "and we get
the health we deserve. Your salutation embodies a re-
flection on death which is not philosophic. We must
acquiesce in all logical progressions. The merging of
opposites is completion. Life runs to death as to its
goal, and we should go towards that next stage of experi-
ence either carelessly as to what must be, or with a good,
honest curiosity as to what may be."
"There's not much fun in being dead, sir," said Mee-
"How do you know?" said the Philosopher.
"I know well enough," replied Meehawl.
WHEN the children leaped into the hole at the foot of
the tree they found themselves sliding down a dark, nar-
row slant which dropped them softly enough into a little
room. This room was hollowed out immediately under
the tree, and great care had been taken not to disturb any
of the roots which ran here and there through the cham-
ber in the strangest criss-cross, twisted fashion. To get
across such a place one had to walk round, and jump
over, and duck under perpetually. Some of the roots
had formed themselves very conveniently into low seats
and narrow, uneven tables, and at the bottom all the
roots ran into the floor and away again in the direction
required by their business. After the clear air outside
this place was very dark to the children's eyes, so that
they could not see anything for a few minutes, but after
a little time their eyes became accustomed to the semi-
obscurity and they were able to see quite well. The first
things they became aware of were six small men who
were seated on low roots. They were all dressed in tight
green clothes and little leathern aprons, and they wore
tall green hats which wobbled when they moved. They
were all busily engaged making shoes. One was drawing
out wax ends on his knee, another was softening pieces of
leather in a bucket of water, another was polishing the
instep of a shoe with a piece of curved bone, another was
paring down a heel with a short broad-bladed knife, and
another was hammering wooden pegs into a sole. He
had all the pegs in his mouth, which gave him a wide-
faced, jolly expression, and according as a peg was
wanted he blew it into his hand and hit it twice with his
hammer, and then he blew another peg, and he always
blew the peg with the right end uppermost, and never
had to hit it more than twice. He was a person well
The children had slid down so unexpectedly that they
almost forgot their good manners, but as soon as Seumas
Beg discovered that he was really in a room he removed
his cap and stood up.
"God be with all here," said he.
The Leprecaun who had brought them lifted Brigid
from the floor to which amazement still constrained her.
"Sit down on that little root, child of my heart," said
he, "and you can knit stockings for us."
"Yes, sir," said Brigid meekly.
The Leprecaun took four knitting needles and a ball
of green wool from the top of a high, horizontal root.
He had to climb over one, go round three and climb up
two roots to get at it, and he did this so easily that it did
not seem a bit of trouble. He gave the needles and wool
to Brigid Beg.
"Do you know how to turn the heel, Brigid Beg?" said
"No, sir," said Brigid.
"Well, I'll show you how when you come to it."
The other six Leprecauns had ceased work and were
looking at the children. Seumas turned to them.
"God bless the work," said he politely.
One of the Leprecauns, who had a grey, puckered face
and a thin fringe of grey whisker very far under his
chin, then spoke.
"Come over here, Seumas Beg," said he, "and I'll
measure you for a pair of shoes. Put your foot up on
The boy did so, and the Leprecaun took the measure
of his foot with a wooden rule.
"Now, Brigid Beg, show me your foot," and he meas-
ured her also. "They'll be ready for you in the morn-
"Do you never do anything else but make shoes, sir?"
"We do not," replied the Leprecaun, "except when
we want new clothes, and then we have to make them,
but we grudge every minute spent making anything else
except shoes, because that is the proper work for a Lep-
recaun. In the night time we go about the country
into people's houses and we clip little pieces off their
money, and so, bit by bit, we get a crock of gold together,
because, do you see, a Leprecaun has to have a crock of
gold so that if he's captured by men folk he may be able
to ransom himself. But that seldom happens, because
it's a great disgrace altogether to be captured by a man,
and we've practiced so long dodging among the roots
here that we can easily get away from them. Of course,
now and again we are caught; but men are fools, and we
always escape without having to pay the ransom at all.
We wear green clothes because it's the colour of the
grass and the leaves, and when we sit down under a bush
or lie in the grass they just walk by without noticing us."
"Will you let me see your crock of gold?" said Seu-
The Leprecaun looked at him fixedly for a moment.
"Do you like griddle bread and milk?" said he.
"I like it well," Seumas answered.
"Then you had better have some," and the Leprecaun
took a piece of griddle bread from the shelf and filled
two saucers with milk.
While the children were eating the Leprecauns asked
them many questions-
"What time do you get up in the morning?"
"Seven o'clock," replied Seumas.
"And what do you have for breakfast?"
"Stirabout and milk," he replied.
"It's good food," said the Leprecaun. "What do you
have for dinner?"
"Potatoes and milk," said Seumas.
"It's not bad at all," said the Leprecaun. "And what
do you have for supper?"
Brigid answered this time because her brother's mouth
"Bread and milk, sir," said she.
"There's nothing better," said the Leprecaun.
"And then we go to bed," continued Brigid.
"Why wouldn't you?" said the Leprecaun.
It was at this point the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath knocked on the tree
trunk and demanded that the children should be returned to her.
When she had gone away the Leprecauns held a consultation, whereat it
was decided that they could not afford to anger the Thin Woman and the Shee of Croghan Conghaile, so they shook hands with the children and bade them
good-bye. The Leprecaun who had enticed them away from home brought
them back again, and on parting he begged the children to visit Gort na Cloca Mora whenever they felt inclined.
"There's always a bit of griddle bread or potato cake, and a noggin of
milk for a friend," said he.
"You are very kind, sir," replied Seumas, and his sister said the same
As the Leprecaun walked away they stood watching him.
"Do you remember," said Seumas, "the way he hopped and waggled his leg
the last time he was here?"
"I do so," replied Brigid.
"Well, he isn't hopping or doing anything at all this time," said
"He's not in good humour to-night," said Brigid, "but I like him."
"So do I," said Seumas.
When they went into the house the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath was very
glad to see them, and she baked a cake with currants in it, and also gave them both stir-about and potatoes; but the Philosopher did not notice that they had
been away at all. He said at last that "talking was bad wit, that women were always making a fuss, that children should be fed, but not fattened, and that bedswere meant to be slept in." The Thin Woman replied "that he was a
grisly old man without bowels, that she did not know what she had married him for, that he was three times her age, and that no one would believe what she had to put up with."
PURSUANT to his arrangement with Meehawl MacMurrachu, the Philosopher
sent the children in search of Pan. He gave them the fullest instructions as to how they should address the Sylvan Deity, and then, having received the
admonishments of the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath, the children departed
in the early morning.
When they reached the clearing in the pine wood, through which the sun
was blazing, they sat down for a little while to rest in the heat. Birds were continually darting down this leafy shaft, and diving away into the dark wood. These birds always had something in their beaks. One would have a worm, or a
snail, or a grasshopper, or a little piece of wool torn off a sheep, or a scrap of cloth, or a piece of hay; and when they had put these things in a certain place they flew up the sun-shaft again and looked for something else to bring
home. On seeing the children each of the birds waggled his wings, and made a particular sound. They said "caw" and "chip" and "twit" and "tut" and "what" and "pit"; and one, whom the youngsters liked very much, always said "tit-tit-
tit-tit-tit." The children were fond of him because he was so all-of-a-
sudden. They never knew where he was going to fly next, and they did not believe he knew himself. He would fly backwards and forwards, and up and down, and
sideways and bawways--all, so to speak, in the one breath. He did this
because he was curious to see what was happening everywhere, and, as something is always happening everywhere, he was never able to fly in a straight line
for more than the littlest distance. He was a cowardly bird too, and
continually fancied that some person was going to throw a stone at him from behind a bush, or a wall, or a tree, and these imaginary dangers tended to make his journeyings still more wayward and erratic. He never flew where he
wanted to go himself, but only where God directed him, and so he did not fare at all badly.
The children knew each of the birds by their sounds, and always said
these words to them when they came near. For a little time they had difficulty in saying the right word to the right bird, and sometimes said "chip" when the
salutation should have been "tut." The birds always resented this, and
would scold them angrily, but after a little practice they never made any mistakes at all. There was one bird, a big, black fellow, who loved to be talked to. He used to sit on the ground beside the children, and say "caw" as long as
they would repeat it after him. He often wasted a whole morning in talk, but none of the other birds remained for more than a few minutes at a time. They
were always busy in the morning, but in the evening they had more leisure, and would stay and chat as long as the children wanted them. The awkward thing was that in the evening all the birds wanted to talk at the same moment, so that the youngsters never knew which of them to answer. Seumas Beg got out of that
difficulty for a while by learning to whistle their notes, but, even so, they spoke with such rapidity that he could not by any means keep pace with them. Brigid could only whistle one note; it was a little flat "whoo" sound, which
the birds all laughed at, and after a few trials she refused to whistle any more.
While they were sitting two rabbits came to play about in the brush.
They ran round and round in a circle, and all their movements were very quick and twisty. Sometimes they jumped over each other six or seven times in
succession, and every now and then they sat upright on their hind legs,
and washed their faces with their paws. At other times they picked up a blade of grass, which they ate with great deliberation, pretending all the time that it was a complicated banquet of cabbage leaves and lettuce.
While the children were playing with the rabbits an ancient, stalwart
he-goat came prancing through the bracken. He was an old acquaintance of theirs, and he enjoyed lying beside them to have his forehead scratched with a piece of
sharp stick. His forehead was hard as rock, and the hair grew there as
sparse as grass does on a wall, or rather the way moss grows on a wall--it was a mat instead of a crop. His horns were long and very sharp, and brilliantly
polished. On this day the he-goat had two chains around his neck--one was made of butter-cups and the other was made of daisies, and the children wondered to
each other who it was could have woven these so carefully. They asked the he-goat this question, but he only looked at them and did not say a word. The
children liked examining this goat's eyes; they were very big, and of
the queerest light-gray colour. They had a strange steadfast look, and had also at times a look of queer, deep intelligence, and at other times they had a
fatherly and benevolent expression, and at other times again, especially when he looked sidewards, they had a mischievous, light-and-airy, daring, mocking, inviting and terrifying look; but he always looked brave and
unconcerned. When the he-goat's forehead had been scratched as much as
he desired he arose from between the children and went pacing away lightly through the wood. The children ran after him and each caught hold of one of
his horns, and he ambled and reared between them while they danced
along on his either side singing snatches of bird songs, and scraps of old tunes which the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath had learned among the people of the
In a little time they came to Gort na Cloca Mora, but here the he-goat
did not stop. They went past the big tree of the Leprecauns, through a broken part of the hedge and into another rough field. The sun was shining gloriously. There was scarcely a wind at all to stir the harsh grasses. Far and near was
silence and warmth, an immense, cheerful peace. Across the sky a few light clouds sailed gently on a blue so vast that the eye failed before that horizon. A few bees sounded their deep chant, and now and again a wasp rasped hastily
on his journey. Than these there was no sound of any kind. So peaceful,
innocent and safe did everything appear that it might have been the childhood of the world as it was of the morning.
The children, still clinging to the friendly goat, came near the edge
of the field, which here sloped more steeply to the mountain top. Great boulders, slightly covered with lichen and moss, were strewn about, and around them the bracken and gorse were growing, and in every crevice of these rocks
there were plants whose little, tight-fisted roots gripped a desperate, adventurous habitation in a soil scarcely more than half an inch deep. At some time these rocks had been smitten so fiercely that the solid granite surfaces had shattered into fragments. At one place a sheer wall of stone, ragged and battered, looked harshly out from the thin vegetation. To this rocky wall the he-goat danced. At one place there was a hole in the wall covered by a thick
brush. The goat pushed his way behind this growth and disappeared. Then the children, curious to see where he had gone, pushed through also. Behind the
bush they found a high, narrow opening, and when they had rubbed their
legs, which smarted from the stings of nettles, thistles and gorse prickles, they went into the hole which they thought was a place the goat had for sleeping
in on cold, wet nights. After a few paces they found the passage was
quite comfortably big, and then they saw a light, and in another moment they were blinking at the god Pan and Caitilin Ni Murrachu.
Caitilin knew them at once and came forward with welcome.
"O, Seumas Beg," she cried reproachfully, "how dirty you have let your
feet get. Why don't you walk in the grassy places? And you, Brigid, have a right to be ashamed of yourself to have your hands the way they are. Come over
here at once."
Every child knows that every grown female person in the~world has
authority to wash children and to give them food;that is what grown people were made for, consequently Seumas and Brigid Beg submitted to the scouring for which
Caitilin made instant preparation. When they were cleaned she pointed
to a couple of flat stones against the wall ofthe cave and bade them sit down and be good, and this the children did, fixing their eyes on Pan with the cheerful gravity and curiosity which good-natured youngsters always give to a
Pan, who had been lying on a couch of dried grass, sat up and bent an
equally cheerful regard on the children.
"Shepherd Girl," said he, "who are those children?"
"They are the children of the Philosophers of Coilla Doraca; the Grey
Woman of Dun Gortin and the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath are their mothers, and they are decent, poor children, God bless them."
"What have they come here for?"
"You will have to ask themselves that."
Pan looked at them smilingly.
"What have you come here for, little children?" said he.
The children questioned one another with their eyes to see which of
them would reply, and then Seumas Beg answered:
"My father sent me to see you, sir, and to say that you
were not doing a good thing in keeping Caitilin Ni Mur-
rachu away from her own place."
Brigid Beg turned to Caitilin--
"Your father came to see our father, and he said that
he didn't know what had become of you at all, and that
maybe you were lying flat in a ditch with the black crows
picking at your flesh."
"And what," said Pan, "did your father say to that?"
"He told us to come and ask her to go home."
"Do you love your father, little child?" said Pan.
Brigid Beg thought for a moment. "I don't know,
sir," she replied.
"He doesn't mind us at all," broke in Seumas Beg,
"and so we don't know whether we love him or not."
"I like Caitilin," said Brigid, "and I like you."
"So do I," said Seumas.
"I like you also, little children," said Pan. "Come
over here and sit beside me, and we will talk."
So the two children went over to Pan and sat down
one each side of him, and he put his arms about them.
"Daughter of Murrachu," said he, "is there no food
in the house for guests?"
"There is a cake of bread, a little goat's milk and some
cheese," she replied, and she set about getting these
"I never ate cheese," said Seumas. "Is it good?"
"Surely it is," replied Pan. "The cheese that is made
from goat's milk is rather strong, and it is good to be
eaten by people who live in the open air, but not by those
who live in houses, for such people do not have any appe-
tite. They are poor creatures whom I do not like."
"I like eating," said Seumas.
"So do I," said Pan. "All good people like eating.
Every person who is hungry is a good person, and every
Back to Full Books