The Crock of Gold
Part 3 out of 4
rosy as the dawn and as radiant and lovely as a cloud.
She shed warmth and beauty about her as she leaned for-
"You are wrong," she whispered, "because he does
love me; but he does not know it yet. He is young and
full of fury, and has no time to look at women, but he
looked at me. My heart knows it and my head knows
it, but I am impatient and yearn for him to look at me
again. His heart will remember me to-morrow, and he
will come searching for me with prayers and tears, with
shouts and threats. I will be very hard to find to-morrow
when he holds out his arms to the air and the sky, and is
astonished and frightened to find me nowhere. I will
hide from him to-morrow, and frown at him when he
speaks, and turn aside when he follows me: until the day
after to-morrow when he will frighten me with his anger,
and hold me with his furious hands, and make me look
Saying this the girl arose and prepared to go away.
"He is in that house," said she, "and I would not let
him see me here for anything in the world."
"You have wasted all my time," said the Philosopher,
"What else is time for?" said the girl, and she kissed
the Philosopher and ran swiftly down the road.
She had been gone but a few moments when a man
came out of the grey house and walked quickly across the
grass. When he reached the hedge separating the field
from the road he tossed his two arms in the air, swung
them down, and jumped over the hedge into the road-
way. He was a short, dark youth, and so swift and
sudden were his movements that he seemed to look on
every side at the one moment although he bore furiously
to his own direction.
The Philosopher addressed him mildly.
"That was a good jump," said he.
The young man spun around from where he stood,
and was by the Philosopher's side in an instant.
"It would be a good jump for other men," said he,
"but it is only a little jump for me. You are very dusty,
sir; you must have travelled a long distance to-day."
"A long distance," replied the Philosopher. "Sit
down here, my friend, and keep me company for a little
"I do not like sitting down," said the young man, "but
I always consent to a request, and I always accept friend-
ship." And, so saying, he threw himself down on the
"Do you work in that big house?" said the Philoso-
"I do," he replied. "I train the hounds for a fat,
jovial man, full of laughter and insolence."
"I think you do not like your master."
"Believe, sir, that I do not like any master; but this
man I hate. I have been a week in his service, and he
has not once looked on me as on a friend. This very
day, in the kennel, he passed me as though I were a tree
or a stone. I almost leaped to catch him by the throat
and say: 'Dog, do you not salute your fellow-man?' But
I looked after him and let him go, for it would be an un-
pleasant thing to strangle a fat person."
"If you are displeased with your master should you not
look for another occupation?" said the Philosopher.
"I was thinking of that, and I was thinking whether
I ought to kill him or marry his daughter. She would
have passed me by as her father did, but I would not let
a woman do that to me: no man would."
"What did you do to her?" said the Philosopher.
The young man chuckled-
"I did not look at her the first time, and when she
came near me the second time I looked another way, and
on the third day she spoke to me, and while she stood I
looked over her shoulder distantly. She said she hoped
I would be happy in my new home, and she made her
voice sound pleasant while she said it; but I thanked
her and turned away carelessly."
"Is the girl beautiful?" said the Philosopher.
"I do not know," he replied; "I have not looked at
her yet, although now I see her everywhere. I think she
is a woman who would annoy me if I married her."
"If you haven't seen her, how can you think that?"
"She has tame feet," said the youth. "I looked at
them and they got frightened. Where have you travelled
"I will tell you that," said the Philosopher, "if you
will tell me your name."
"It is easily told," he answered; "my name is Mac-
"When I came last night," said the Philosopher, "from
the place of Angus Og in the cave of the Sleepers of
Erinn I was bidden say to a man named MacCulain that
The Grey of Macha had neighed in his sleep and the
sword of Laeg clashed on the floor as he turned in his
The young man leaped from the grass.
"Sir," said he in a strained voice, "I do not understand
your words, but they make my heart to dance and sing
within me like a bird."
"If you listen to your heart," said the Philosopher,
"you will learn every good thing, for the heart is the
fountain of wisdom tossing its thoughts up to the brain
which gives them form,"--and, so saying, he saluted the
youth and went again on his way by the curving road.
Now the day had advanced, noon was long past, and
the strong sunlight blazed ceaselessly on the world. His
path was still on the high mountains, running on for a
short distance and twisting perpetually to the right hand
and to the left. One might scarcely call it a path, it grew
so narrow. Sometimes, indeed, it almost ceased to be a
path, for the grass had stolen forward inch by inch to
cover up the tracks of man. There were no hedges but
rough, tumbled ground only, which was patched by trail-
ing bushes and stretched away in mounds and hummocks
beyond the far horizon. There was a deep silence every-
where, not painful, for where the sun shines there is no
sorrow: the only sound to be heard was the swish of long
grasses against his feet as he trod, and the buzz of an
occasional bee that came and was gone in an instant.
The Philosopher was very hungry, and he looked about
on all sides to see if there was anything he might eat.
"If I were a goat or a cow," said he, "I could eat this
grass and be nourished. If I were a donkey I could crop
the hard thistles which are growing on every hand, or if
I were a bird I could feed on the caterpillars and creep-
ing things which stir innumerably everywhere. But a
man may not eat even in the midst of plenty, because he
has departed from nature, and lives by crafty and twisted
Speaking in this manner he chanced to lift his eyes
from the ground and saw, far away, a solitary figure
which melted into the folding earth and reappeared again
in a different place. So peculiar and erratic were the
movements of this figure that the Philosopher had great
difficulty in following it, and, indeed, would have been
unable to follow, but that the other chanced in his direc-
tion. When they came nearer he saw it was a young boy,
who was dancing hither and thither in any and every
direction. A bushy mound hid him for an instant, and
the next they were standing face to face staring at each
other. After a moment's silence the boy, who was about
twelve years of age, and as beautiful as the morning,
saluted the Philosopher.
"Have you lost your way, sir?" said he.
"All paths," the Philosopher replied, "are on the
earth, and so one can never be lost--but I have lost my
The boy commenced to laugh.
"What are you laughing at, my son?" said the Philo-
"Because," he replied, "I am bringing you your din-
ner. I wondered what sent me out in this direction, for
I generally go more to the east."
"Have you got my dinner?" said the Philosopher anx-
"I have," said the boy: "I ate my own dinner at home,
and I put your dinner in my pocket. I thought," he ex-
plained, "that I might be hungry if I went far away."
"The gods directed you," said the Philosopher.
"They often do," said the boy, and he pulled a small
parcel from his pocket.
The Philosopher instantly sat down, and the boy
handed him the parcel. He opened this and found bread
"It's a good dinner," said he, and commenced to eat.
"Would you not like a piece also, my son?"
"I would like a little piece," said the boy, and he sat
down before the Philosopher, and they ate together
When they had finished the Philosopher praised the
gods, and then said, more to himself than to the boy:
"If I had a little drink of water I would want nothing
"There is a stream four paces from here," said his
companion. "I will get some water in my cap," and he
In a few moments he came back holding his cap ten-
derly, and the Philosopher took this and drank the water.
"I want nothing more in the world," said he, "except
to talk with you. The sun is shining, the wind is pleas-
ant, and the grass is soft. Sit down beside me again for
a little time."
So the boy sat down, and the Philosopher lit his pipe.
"Do you live far from here?" said he.
"Not far," said the boy. "You could see my mother's
house from this place if you were as tall as a tree, and
even from the ground you can see a shape of smoke yon-
der that floats over our cottage."
The Philosopher looked but could see nothing.
"My eyes are not as good as yours are," said he, "be-
cause I am getting old."
"What does it feel like to be old?" said the boy.
"It feels stiff like," said the Philosopher.
"Is that all?" said the boy.
"I don't know," the Philosopher replied after a few
moments' silence. "Can you tell me what it looks like
to be young?"
"Why not?" said the boy, and then a slight look of
perplexity crossed his face, and he continued, "I don't
think I can."
"Young people," said the Philosopher, "do not know
what age is, and old people forget what youth was.
When you begin to grow old always think deeply of your
youth, for an old man without memories is a wasted life,
and nothing is worth remembering but our childhood. I
will tell you some of the differences between being old
and young, and then you can ask me questions, and so we
will get at both sides of the matter. First, an old man
gets tired quicker than a boy."
The boy thought for a moment, and then replied:
"That is not a great difference, for a boy does get very
The Philosopher continued:
"An old man does not want to eat as often as a boy."
"That is not a great difference either," the boy replied,
"for they both do eat. Tell me the big difference."
"I do not know it, my son; but I have always thought
there was a big difference. Perhaps it is that an old man
has memories of things which a boy cannot even guess
"But they both have memories," said the boy, laugh-
ing, "and so it is not a big difference."
"That is true," said the Philosopher. "Maybe there
is not so much difference after all. Tell me things you
do, and we will see if I can do them also."
"But I don't know what I do," he replied.
"You must know the things you do," said the Philoso-
pher, "but you may not understand how to put them in
order. The great trouble about any kind of examination
is to know where to begin, but there are always two
places in everything with which we can commence--they
are the beginning and the end. From either of these
points a view may be had which comprehends the entire
period. So we will begin with the things you did this
"I am satisfied with that," said the boy.
The Philosopher then continued:
"When you awakened this morning and went out of
the house what was the first thing you did?"
The boy thought-
"I went out, then I picked up a stone and threw it into
the field as far as I could."
"What then?" said the Philosopher.
"Then I ran after the stone to see could I catch up on
it before it hit the ground."
"Yes," said the Philosopher.
"I ran so fast that I tumbled over myself into the
"What did you do after that?"
"I lay where I fell and plucked handfuls of the grass
with both hands and threw them on my back."
"Did you get up then?"
"No, I pressed my face into the grass and shouted a
lot of times with my mouth against the ground, and then
I sat up and did not move for a long time."
"Were you thinking?" said the Philosopher.
"No, I was not thinking or doing anything."
"Why did you do all these things?" said the Philoso-
"For no reason at all," said the boy.
"That," said the Philosopher triumphantly, "is the dif-
ference between age and youth. Boys do things for no
reason, and old people do not. I wonder do we get old
because we do things by reason instead of instinct?"
"I don't know," said the boy, "everything gets old.
Have you travelled very far to-day, sir?"
"I will tell you that if you will tell me your name."
"My name," said the boy, "is MacCushin."
"When I came last night," said the Philosopher, "from
the place of Angus Og in the Caste of the Sleepers I was
bidden say to one named MacCushin that a son would
be born to Angus Og and his wife, Caitilin, and that the
sleepers of Erinn had turned in their slumbers."
The boy regarded him steadfastly.
"I know," said he, "why Angus Og sent me that mes-
sage. He wants me to make a poem to the people of
Erinn, so that when the Sleepers arise they will meet with
"The Sleepers have arisen," said the Philosopher.
"They are about us on every side. They are walking
now, but they have forgotten their names and the mean-
ings of their names. You are to tell them their names
and their lineage, for I am an old man, and my work is
"I will make a poem some day," said the boy, "and
every man will shout when he hears it."
"God be with you, my son," said the Philosopher, and
he embraced the boy and went forward on his journey.
About half an hour's easy travelling brought him to
a point from which he could see far down below to the
pine trees of Coille Doraca. The shadowy evening had
crept over the world ere he reached the wood, and when
he entered the little house the darkness had already de-
The Thin Woman of Inis Magrath met him as he
entered, and was about to speak harshly of his long ab-
sence, but the Philosopher kissed her with such unac-
customed tenderness, and spoke so mildly to her, that,
first, astonishment enchained her tongue, and then de-
light set it free in a direction to which it had long been
"Wife," said the Philosopher, "I cannot say how joy-
ful I am to see your good face again."
The Thin Woman was unable at first to reply to this
salutation, but, with incredible speed, she put on a pot
of stirabout, began to bake a cake, and tried to roast
potatoes. After a little while she wept loudly, and pro-
claimed that the world did not contain the equal of her
husband for comeliness and goodness, and that she was
herself a sinful person unworthy of the kindness of the
gods or of such a mate.
But while the Philosopher was embracing Seumas and
Brigid Beg, the door was suddenly burst open with a great
noise, four policemen entered the little room, and after
one dumbfoundered minute they retreated again bearing
the Philosopher with them to answer a charge of murder.
SOME distance down the road the policemen halted. The
night had fallen before they effected their capture, and
now, in the gathering darkness, they were not at ease.
In the first place, they knew that the occupation upon
which they were employed was not a creditable one to
a man whatever it might be to a policeman. The seizure
of a criminal may be justified by certain arguments as to
the health of society and the preservation of property,
but no person wishes under any circumstances to hale a
wise man to prison. They were further distressed by the
knowledge that they were in the very centre of a populous
fairy country, and that on every side the elemental hosts
might be ranging, ready to fall upon them with the
terrors of war or the still more awful scourge of their
humour. The path leading to their station was a long
one, winding through great alleys of trees, which in some
places overhung the road so thickly that even the full
moon could not search out that deep blackness. In the
daylight these men would have arrested an Archangel
and, if necessary, bludgeoned him, but in the night-time
a thousand fears afflicted and a multitude of sounds
shocked them from every quarter.
Two men were holding the Philosopher, one on either
side; the other two walked one before and one behind
him. In this order they were proceeding when just in
front through the dim light they saw the road swallowed
up by one of these groves already spoken of. When they
came nigh they halted irresolutely: the man who was in
front (a silent and perturbed sergeant) turned fiercely
to the others-
"Come on, can't you?" said he; "what the devil are
you waiting for?" and he strode forward into the black
"Keep a good hold of that man," said the one behind.
"Don't be talking out of you," replied he on the right.
"Haven't we got a good grip of him, and isn't he an old
man into the bargain?"
"Well, keep a good tight grip of him, anyhow, for if
he gave you the slip in there he'd vanish like a weasel
in a bush. Them old fellows do be slippery customers.
Look here, mister," said he to the Philosopher, "if you
try to run away from us I'll give you a clout on the head
with my baton; do you mind me now!"
They had taken only a few paces forward when the
sound of hasty footsteps brought them again to a halt,
and in a moment the sergeant came striding back. He
"Are you going to stay there the whole night, or what
are you going to do at all?" said he.
"Let you be quiet now," said another; "we were only
settling with the man here the way he wouldn't try to
give us the slip in a dark place."
"Is it thinking of giving us the slip he is?" said the
sergeant. "Take your baton in your hand, Shawn, and
if he turns his head to one side of him hit him on that
"I'll do that," said Shawn, and he pulled out his
The Philosopher had been dazed by the suddenness
of these occurrences, and the enforced rapidity of his
movements prevented him from either thinking or speak-
ing, but during this brief stoppage his scattered wits be-
gan to return to their allegiance. First, bewilderment
at his enforcement had seized him, and the four men,
who were continually running round him and speaking
all at once, and each pulling him in a different direction,
gave him the impression that he was surrounded by a
great rabble of people, but he could not discover what
they wanted. After a time he found that there were only
four men, and gathered from their remarks that he was
being arrested for murder--this precipitated him into
another and a deeper gulf of bewilderment. He was un-
able to conceive why they should arrest him for murder
when he had not committed any; and, following this, he
"I will not go another step," said he, "unless you tell
me where you are bringing me and what I am accused
"Tell me," said the sergeant, "what did you kill them
with? for it's a miracle how they came to their ends with-
out as much as a mark on their skins or a broken tooth
"Who are you talking about?" the Philosopher de-
"It's mighty innocent you are," he replied. "Who
would I be talking about but the man and woman that
used to be living with you beyond in the little house? Is
it poison you gave them now, or what was it? Take a
hold of your note-book, Shawn."
"Can't you have sense, man?" said Shawn. "How
would I be writing in the middle of a dark place and me
without as much as a pencil, let alone a book?"
"Well, we'll take it down at the station, and himself
can tell us all about it as we go along. Move on now,
for this is no place to be conversing in."
They paced on again, and in another moment they
were swallowed up by the darkness. When they had
proceeded for a little distance there came a peculiar
sound in front like the breathing of some enormous ani-
mal, and also a kind of shuffling noise, and so they again
"There's a queer kind of a thing in front of us," said
one of the men in a low voice.
"If I had a match itself," said another.
The sergeant had also halted.
"Draw well into the side of the road," said he, "and
poke your batons in front of you. Keep a tight hold of
that man, Shawn."
"I'll do that," said Shawn.
Just then one of them found a few matches in his
pocket, and he struck a light; there was no wind, so that
it blazed easily enough, and they all peered in front.
A big black cart-horse was lying in the middle of the
road having a gentle sleep, and when the light shone it
scrambled to its feet and went thundering away in a
"Isn't that enough to put the heart crossways in you?"
said one of the men, with a great sigh.
"Ay," said another; "if you stepped on that beast in
the darkness you wouldn't know what to be thinking."
"I don't quite remember the way about here," said
the sergeant after a while, "but I think we should take
the first turn to the right. I wonder have we passed the
turn yet; these criss-cross kinds of roads are the devil,
and it dark as well. Do any of you men know the way?"
"I don't," said one voice; "I'm a Cavan man myself."
"Roscommon," said another, "is my country, and I
wish I was there now, so I do."
"Well, if we walk straight on we're bound to get some-
where, so step it out. Have you got a good hold of that
"I have so," said Shawn.
The Philosopher's voice came pealing through the
"There is no need to pinch me, sir," said he.
"I'm not pinching you at all," said the man.
"You are so," returned the Philosopher. "You have
a big lump of skin doubled up in the sleeve of my coat,
and unless you instantly release it I will sit down in the
"Is that any better?" said the man, relaxing his hold
"You have only let out half of it," replied the Philo-
sopher. "That's better now," he continued, and they
resumed their journey.
After a few minutes of silence the Philosopher began
"I do not see any necessity in nature for policemen,"
said he, "nor do I understand how the custom first
originated. Dogs and cats do not employ these extra-
ordinary mercenaries, and yet their polity is progressive
and orderly. Crows are a gregarious race with settled
habitations and an organized commonwealth. They
usually congregate in a ruined tower or on the top of a
church, and their civilization is based on mutual aid and
tolerance for each other's idiosyncrasies. Their exceed-
ing mobility and hardiness renders them dangerous to
attack, and thus they are free to devote themselves to the
development of their domestic laws and customs. If
policemen were necessary to a civilization crows would
certainly have evolved them, but I triumphantly insist
that they have not got any policemen in their repub-
"I don't understand a word you are saying," said the
"It doesn't matter," said the Philosopher. "Ants and
bees also live in specialized communities and have an
extreme complexity both of function and occupation.
Their experience in governmental matters is enormous,
and yet they have never discovered that a police force is
at all essential to their wellbeing--"
"Do you know," said the sergeant, "that whatever you
say now will be used in evidence against you later on?"
"I do not," said the Philosopher. "It may be said
that these races are free from crime, that such vices as
they have are organized and communal instead of in-
dividua1 and anarchistic, and that, consequently, there is
no necessity for policecraft, but I cannot believe that
these large aggregations of people could have attained
their present high culture without an interval of both na-
tional and individual dishonesty--"
"Tell me now, as you are talking," said the sergeant,
"did you buy the poison at a chemist's shop, or did you
smother the pair of them with a pillow?"
"I did not," said the Philosopher. "If crime is a con-
dition precedent to the evolution of policemen, then I
will submit that jackdaws are a very thievish clan--they
are somewhat larger than a blackbird, and will steal
wool off a sheep's back to line their nests with; they have,
furthermore, been known to abstract one shilling in cop-
per and secrete this booty so ingeniously that it has never
since been recovered--"
"I had a jackdaw myself," said one of the men. "I
got it from a woman that came to the door with a basket
for fourpence. My mother stood on its back one day,
and she getting out of bed. I split its tongue with a
threepenny bit the way it would talk, but devil the word
it ever said for me. It used to hop around letting on it
had a lame leg, and then it would steal your socks."
"Shut up!" roared the sergeant.
"If," said the Philosopher, "these people steal both
from from sheep and from men, if their peculations range
from wool to money, I do not see how they can avoid
stealing from each other, and consequently, if anywhere,
it is amongst jackdaws one should look for the growth
of a police force, but there is no such force in existence.
The real reason is that they are a witty and thoughtful
race who look temperately on what is known as crime and
evil--one eats, one steals; it is all in the order of things,
and therefore not to be quarrelled with. There is no
other view possible to a philosophical people--"
"What the devil is he talking about?" said the ser-
"Monkeys are gregarious and thievish and semi-hu-
man. They inhabit the equatorial latitudes and eat
"Do you know what he is saying, Shawn?"
"I do not," said Shawn.
"--they ought to have evolved professional thief-
takers, but it is common knowledge that they have not
done so. Fishes, squirrels, rats, beavers, and bison have
also abstained from this singular growth--therefore,
when I insist that I see no necessity for policemen and
object to their presence, I base that objection on logic
and facts, and not on any immediate petty prejudice."
"Shawn," said the sergeant, "have you got a good grip
on that man?"
"I have," said Shawn.
"Well, if he talks any more hit him with your baton."
"I will so," said Shawn.
"There's a speck of light down yonder, and, maybe,
it's a candle in a window--we'll ask the way at that
In about three minutes they came to a small house
which was overhung by trees. If the light had not been
visible they would undoubtedly have passed it in the dark-
ness. As they approached the door the sound of a female
voice came to them scoldingly.
"There's somebody up anyhow," said the sergeant,
and he tapped at the door.
The scolding voice ceased instantly. After a few sec-
onds he tapped again; then a voice was heard from just
behind the door.
"Tomas," said the voice, "go and bring up the two
dogs with you before I take the door off the chain."
The door was then opened a few inches and a face
"What would you be wanting at this hour of the
night?" said the woman.
"Not much, ma'am," said the sergeant; "only a little
direction about the road, for we are not sure whether
we've gone too far or not far enough."
The woman noticed their uniforms.
"Is it policemen ye are? There's no harm in your
coming in, I suppose, and if a drink of milk is any good to
ye I have plenty of it."
"Milk's better than nothing," said the sergeant with
"I've a little sup of spirits," said she, "but it wouldn't
be enough to go around."
"Ah, well," said he, looking sternly at his comrades,
"everybody has to take their chance in this world," and
he stepped into the house followed by his men.
The women gave him a little sup of whisky from a
bottle, and to each of the other men she gave a cup of
"It'll wash the dust out of our gullets, anyhow," said
one of them.
There were two chairs, a bed, and a table in the room.
The Philosopher and his attendants sat on the bed. The
sergeant sat on the table, the fourth man took a chair,
and the woman dropped wearily into the remaining chair
from which she looked with pity at the prisoner.
"What are you taking the poor man away for?" she
"He's a bad one, ma'am," said the sergeant. "He
killed a man and a woman that were staying with him
and he buried their corpses underneath the hearthstone
of his house. He's a real malefactor, mind you."
"Is it hanging him you'll be, God help us?"
"You never know, and I wouldn't be a bit surprised
if it came to that. But you were in trouble yourself,
ma'am, for we heard your voice lamenting about some-
thing as we came along the road."
"I was, indeed," she replied, "for the person that has
a son in her house has a trouble in her heart."
"Do you tell me now--What did he do on you?" and
the sergeant bent a look of grave reprobation on a young
lad who was standing against the wall between two dogs.
"He's a good boy enough in some ways," said she,
"but he's too fond of beasts. He'll go and lie in the
kennel along with them two dogs for hours at a time,
petting them and making a lot of them, but if I try to
give him a kiss, or to hug him for a couple of minutes
when I do be tired after the work, he'll wriggle like an
eel till I let him out--it would make a body hate him, so
it would. Sure, there's no nature in him, sir, and I'm his
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself, you young
whelp," said the sergeant very severely.
"And then there's the horse," she continued. "Maybe
you met it down the road a while ago?"
"We did, ma'am," said the sergeant.
"Well, when he came in Tomas went to tie him up,
for he's a caution at getting out and wandering about the
road, the way you'd break your neck over him if you
weren't minding. After a while I told the boy to come
in, but he didn't come, so I went out myself, and there
was himself and the horse with their arms round each
other's necks looking as if they were moonstruck."
"Faith, he's the queer lad!" said the sergeant. "What
do you be making love to the horse for, Tomas?"
"It was all I could do to make him come in," she con-
tinued, "and then I said to him, 'Sit down alongside of
me here, Tomas, and keep me company for a little while'
--for I do be lonely in the night-time--but he wouldn't
stay quiet at all. One minute he'd say, 'Mother, there's
a moth flying round the candle and it'll be burnt,' and
then, 'There was a fly going into the spider's web in the
corner,' and he'd have to save it, and after that, 'There's
a daddy-long-legs hurting himself on the window-pane,'
and he'd have to let it out; but when I try to kiss him he
pushes me away. My heart is tormented, so it is, for
what have I in the world but him?"
"Is his father dead, ma'am?" said the sergeant kindly.
"I'll tell the truth," said she. "I don't know whether
he is or not, for a long time ago, when we used to live
in the city of Bla' Cliah, he lost his work one time and he
never came back to me again. He was ashamed to come
home I'm thinking, the poor man, because he had no
money; as if I would have minded whether he had any
money or not--sure, he was very fond of me, sir, and we
could have pulled along somehow. After that I came
back to my father's place here; the rest of the children
died on me, and then my father died, and I'm doing the
best I can by myself. It's only that I'm a little bit
troubled with the boy now and again."
"It's a hard case, ma'am," said the sergeant, "but
maybe the boy is only a bit wild not having his father
over him, and maybe it's just that he's used to yourself,
for there isn't a child at all that doesn't love his mother.
Let you behave yourself now, Tomas; attend to your
mother, and leave the beasts and the insects alone, like
a decent boy, for there's no insect in the world will ever
like you as well as she does. Could you tell me, ma'am,
if we have passed the first turn on this road, or is it in
front of us still, for we are lost altogether in the dark-
"It's in front of you still," she replied, "about ten
minutes down the road; you can't miss it, for you'll see
the sky where there is a gap in the trees, and that gap is
the turn you want."
"Thank you, ma'am," said the sergeant; "we'd better
be moving on, for there's a long tramp in front of us
before we get to sleep this night."
He stood up and the men rose to follow him when,
suddenly, the boy spoke in a whisper.
"Mother," said he, "they are going to hang the man,"
and he burst into tears.
"Oh, hush, hush," said the woman, "sure, the men
can't help it." She dropped quickly on her knees and
opened her arms, "Come over to your mother, my dar-
The boy ran to her.
"They are going to hang him," he cried in a high,
thin voice, and he plucked at her arm violently.
"Now, then, my young boy-o," said the sergeant,
"none of that violence."
The boy turned suddenly and flew at him with aston-
ishing ferocity. He hurled himself against the sergeant's
legs and bit, and kicked, and struck at him. So furiously
sudden was his attack that the man went staggering back
against the wall, then he plucked at the boy and whirled
him across the room. In an instant the two dogs leaped
at him snarling with rage--one of these he kicked into
a corner, from which it rebounded again bristling and
red-eyed; the other dog was caught by the woman, and
after a few frantic seconds she gripped the first dog also.
To a horrible chorus of howls and snapping teeth the
men hustled outside and slammed the door.
"Shawn," the sergeant bawled, "have you got a good
grip of that man?"
"I have so," said Shawn.
"If he gets away I'll kick the belly out of you; mind
that now! Come along with you and no more of your
They marched down the road in a tingling silence.
"Dogs," said the Philosopher, "are a most intelligent
race of people--"
"People, my granny!" said the sergeant.
"From the earliest ages their intelligence has been ob-
served and recorded, so that ancient literatures are bulky
with references to their sagacity and fidelity--"
"Will you shut your old jaw?" said the sergeant.
"I will not," said the Philosopher. "Elephants also
are credited with an extreme intelligence and devotion
to their masters, and they will build a wall or nurse a
baby with equal skill and happiness. Horses have re-
ceived high recommendations in this respect, but croco-
diles, hens, beetles, armadillos, and fish do not evince
any remarkable partiality for man--"
"I wish," said the sergeant bitterly, "that all them
beasts were stuffed down your throttle the way you'd
have to hold your prate."
"It doesn't matter," said the Philosopher. "I do not
know why these animals should attach themselves to
men with gentleness and love and yet be able to preserve
intact their initial bloodthirstiness, so that while they will
allow their masters to misuse them in any way they will
yet fight most willingly with each other, and are never
really happy saving in the conduct of some private and
nonsensical battle of their own. I do not believe that it
is fear which tames these creatures into mildness, but that
the most savage animal has a capacity for love which has
not been sufficiently noted, and which, if more intelligent
attention had been directed upon it, would have raised
them to the status of intellectual animals as against in-
telligent ones, and, perhaps, have opened to us a corre-
spondence which could not have been other than bene-
"Keep your eyes out for that gap in the trees, Shawn,"
said the sergeant.
"I'm doing that," said Shawn.
The Philosopher continued:
"Why can I not exchange ideas with a cow? I am
amazed at the incompleteness of my growth when I and
a fellow-creature stand dumbly before each other without
one glimmer of comprehension, locked and barred from
all friendship and intercourse--"
"Shawn," cried the sergeant.
"Don't interrupt," said the Philosopher; "you are al-
ways talking.--The lower animals, as they are foolishly
called, have abilities at which we can only wonder. The
mind of an ant is one to which I would readily go to
school. Birds have atmospheric and levitational in-
formation which millions of years will not render accessi-
ble to us; who that has seen a spider weaving his laby-
rinth, or a bee voyaging safely in the trackless air, can
refuse to credit that a vivid, trained intelligence animates
these small enigmas? and the commonest earthworm is
the heir to a culture before which I bow with the pro-
"Shawn," said the sergeant, "say something for good-
ness' sake to take the sound of that man's clack out of
"I wouldn't know what to be talking about," said
Shawn, "for I never was much of a hand at conversation,
and, barring my prayers, I got no education--I think my-
self that he was making a remark about a dog. Did you ever own a dog,
"You are doing very well, Shawn," said the sergeant, "keep it up now."
"I knew a man had a dog would count up to a hun-
dred for you. He won lots of money in bets about it,
and he'd have made a fortune, only that I noticed one
day he used to be winking at the dog, and when he'd
stop winking the dog would stop counting. We made
him turn his back after that, and got the dog to count
sixpence, but he barked for more than five shillings, he
did so, and he would have counted up to a pound, maybe,
only that his master turned round and hit him a kick.
Every person that ever paid him a bet said they wanted
their money back, but the man went away to America in
the night, and I expect he's doing well there for he took
the dog with him. It was a wire-haired terrier bitch,
and it was the devil for having pups."
"It is astonishing," said the Philosopher, "on what slender compulsion
people will go to America--"
"Keep it up, Shawn," said the sergeant, "you are doing me a favour."
"I will so," said Shawn. "I had a cat one time and it used to have
kittens every two months."
The Philosopher's voice arose:
"If there was any periodicity about these migrations one could
understand them. Birds, for example, migrate from
their homes in the late autumn and seek abroad the sustenance and
warmth which the winter would withhold if they
remained in their native lands. The salmon also, a dignified fish with
a pink skin, emigrates from the Atlantic Ocean, and betakes himself inland to the streams and lakes, where he recuperates for a season, and is
often surprised by net, angle, or spear--"
"Cut in now, Shawn," said the sergeant anxiously.
Shawn began to gabble with amazing speed and in a mighty voice:
"Cats sometimes eat their kittens, and sometimes they don't. A cat that
eats its kittens is a heartless brute. I knew a cat used to eat its kittens--it had four legs and a long tail, and it used to get the head-staggers every time it had eaten its kittens. I killed it myself one day with a hammer for I
couldn't stand the smell it made, so I couldn't--"
"Shawn," said the sergeant, "can't you talk about something else
besides cats and dogs?"
"Sure, I don't know what to talk about," said Shawn. "I'm sweating this
minute trying to please you, so I arm. If you'll
tell me what to talk about I'll do my endeavours."
"You're a fool," said the sergeant sorrowfully; "you'll never make a
constable. I'm thinking that I would sooner listen
to the man himself than to you. Have you got a good hold of him now?"
"I have so," said Shawn.
"Well, step out and maybe we'll reach the barracks this night, unless
this is a road that there isn't any end to at all. What was that? Did you hear a noise?"
"I didn't hear a thing," said Shawn.
"I thought," said another man, "that I heard something moving in the
hedge at the side of the road."
"That's what I heard," said the sergeant. "Maybe
it was a weasel. I wish to the devil that we were out of
this place where you can't see as much as your own nose.
Now did you hear it, Shawn?"
"I did so," said Shawn; "there's some one in the hedge,
for a weasel would make a different kind of a noise if it
made any at all."
"Keep together, men," said the sergeant, "and march
on; if there's anybody about they've no business with
He had scarcely spoken when there came a sudden
pattering of feet, and immediately the four men were
surrounded and were being struck at on every side with
sticks and hands and feet.
"Draw your batons," the sergeant roared; "keep a
good grip of that man, Shawn."
"I will so," said Shawn.
"Stand round him, you other men, and hit anything
that comes near you."
There was no sound of voices from the assailants, only
a rapid scuffle of feet, the whistle of sticks as they swung
through the air or slapped smartly against a body or
clashed upon each other, and the quick breathing of
many people; but from the four policemen there came
noise and to spare as they struck wildly on every side,
cursing the darkness and their opposers with fierce en-
"Let out," cried Shawn suddenly. "Let out or I'll
smash your nut for you. There's some one pulling at
the prisoner, and I've dropped my baton."
The truncheons of the policemen had been so fero-
ciously exercised that their antagonists departed as
swiftly and as mysteriously as they came. It was just
two minutes of frantic, aimless conflict, and then the
silent night was round them again, without any sound
but the slow creaking of branches, the swish of leaves as
they swung and poised, and the quiet croon of the wind
along the road.
"Come on, men," said the sergeant, "we'd better be
getting out of this place as quick as we can. Are any
of ye hurted?"
"I've got one of the enemy," said Shawn, panting.
"You've got what?" said the sergeant.
"I've got one of them, and he is wriggling like an eel
on a pan."
"Hold him tight," said the sergeant excitedly.
"I will so," said Shawn. "It's a little one by the feel
of it. If one of ye would hold the prisoner, I'd get a
better grip on this one. Aren't they dangerous villains
Another man took hold of the Philosopher's arm, and
Shawn got both hands on his captive.
"Keep quiet, I'm telling you," said he, "or I'll throttle
you, I will so. Faith, it seems like a little boy by the feel
"A little boy!" said the sergeant.
"Yes, he doesn't reach up to my waist."
"It must be the young brat from the cottage that set
the dogs on us, the one that loves beasts. Now then,
boy, what do you mean by this kind of thing? You'll
find yourself in gaol for this, my young buck-o. Who
was with you, eh? Tell me that now?" and the sergeant
"Hold up your head, sonny, and talk to the sergeant,"
said Shawn. "Oh!" he roared, and suddenly he made a
little rush forward. "I've got him," he gasped; "he
nearly got away. It isn't a boy at all, sergeant; there's
whiskers on it!"
"What do you say?" said the sergeant.
"I put my hand under its chin and there's whiskers on
it. I nearly let him out with the surprise, I did so."
"Try again," said the sergeant in a low voice; "you are
making a mistake."
"I don't like touching them," said Shawn. "It's a
soft whisker like a billy-goat's. Maybe you'd try your-
self, sergeant, for I tell you I'm frightened of it."
"Hold him over here," said the sergeant, "and keep
a good grip of him."
"I'll do that," said Shawn, and he hauled some re-
luctant object towards his superior.
The sergeant put out his hand and touched a head.
"It's only a boy's size to be sure," said he, then he slid
his hand down the face and withdrew it quickly.
"There are whiskers on it," said he soberly. "What
the devil can it be? I never met whiskers so near the
ground before. Maybe they are false ones, and it's just
the boy yonder trying to disguise himself." He put out
his hand again with an effort, felt his way to the chin, and
Instantly there came a yell, so loud, so sudden, that
every man of them jumped in a panic.
"They are real whiskers," said the sergeant with a
sigh. "I wish I knew what it is. His voice is big enough
for two men, and that's a fact. Have you got another
match on you?"
"I have two more in my waistcoat pocket," said one
of the men.
"Give me one of them," said the sergeant; "I'll strike
He groped about until he found the hand with the
"Be sure and hold him tight, Shawn, the way we can
have a good look at him, for this is like to be a queer
miracle of a thing."
"I'm holding him by the two arms," said Shawn, "he
can't stir anything but his head, and I've got my chest
The sergeant struck the match, shading it for a mo-
ment with his hand, then he turned it on their new pris-
They saw a little man dressed in tight green clothes;
he had a broad pale face with staring eyes, and there was
a thin fringe of grey whisker under his chin--then the
match went out.
"It's a Leprecaun," said the sergeant.
The men were silent for a full couple of minutes--
at last Shawn spoke.
"Do you tell me so?" said he in a musing voice; "that's
a queer miracle altogether."
"I do," said the sergeant. "Doesn't it stand to reason
that it can't be anything else? You saw it yourself."
Shawn plumped down on his knees before his captive.
"Tell me where the money is?" he hissed. "Tell me
where the money is or I'll twist your neck off."
The other men also gathered eagerly around, shout-
ing threats and commands at the Leprecaun.
"Hold your whist," said Shawn fiercely to them. "He
can't answer the lot of you, can he?" and he turned again
to the Leprecaun and shook him until his teeth chattered.
"If you don't tell me where the money is at once I'll
kill you, I will so."
"I haven't got any money at all, sir," said the Lepre-
"None of your lies," roared Shawn. "Tell the truth
now or it'll be worse for you."
"I haven't got any money," said the Leprecaun, "for
Meehawl MacMurrachu of the Hill stole our crock a
while back, and he buried it under a thorn bush. I can
bring you to the place if you don't believe me."
"Very good," said Shawn. "Come on with me now,
and I'll clout you if you as much as wriggle; do you mind
"What would I wriggle for?" said the Leprecaun:
"sure I like being with you."
Hereupon the sergeant roared at the top of his voice.
"Attention," said he, and the men leaped to position
"What is it you are going to do with your prisoner,
Shawn?" said he sarcastically. "Don't you think we've
had enough tramping of these roads for one night, now?
Bring up that Leprecaun to the barracks or it'll be the
worse for you--do you hear me talking to you?"
"But the gold, sergeant," said Shawn sulkily.
"If there's any gold it'll be treasure trove, and belong
to the Crown. What kind of a constable are you at all,
Shawn? Mind what you are about now, my man, and
no back answers. Step along there. Bring that mur-
derer up at once, whichever of you has him."
There came a gasp from the darkness.
"Oh, Oh, Oh!" said a voice of horror.
"What's wrong with you?" said the sergeant: "are
"The prisoner!" he gasped, "he, he's got away!"
"Got away?" and the sergeant's voice was a blare of
"While we were looking at the Leprecaun," said the
voice of woe, "I must have forgotten about the other
one--I, I haven't got him--"
"You gawm!" gritted the sergeant.
"Is it my prisoner that's gone?" said Shawn in a deep
voice. He leaped forward with a curse and smote his
negligent comrade so terrible a blow in the face, that the
man went flying backwards, and the thud of his head on
the road could have been heard anywhere.
"Get up," said Shawn, "get up till I give you another
"That will do," said the sergeant, "we'll go home.
We're the laughing-stock of the world. I'll pay you out
for this some time, every damn man of ye. Bring that
Leprecaun along with you, and quick march."
"Oh!" said Shawn in a strangled tone.
"What is it now?" said the sergeant testily.
"Nothing," replied Shawn.
"What did you say 'Oh!' for then, you block-head?"
"It's the Leprecaun, sergeant," said Shawn in a whis-
per--"he's got away--when I was hitting the man there
I forgot all about the Leprecaun: he must have run into
the hedge. Oh, sergeant, dear, don't say anything to
"Quick march," said the sergeant, and the four men
moved on through the darkness in a silence, which was
only skin deep.
BY reason of the many years which he had spent in the
gloomy pine wood, the Philosopher could see a little in
the darkness, and when he found there was no longer any
hold on his coat he continued his journey quietly, march-
ing along with his head sunken on his breast in a deep
abstraction. He was meditating on the word "Me,"
and endeavouring to pursue it through all its changes and
adventures. The fact of "me-ness" was one which
startled him. He was amazed at his own being. He
knew that the hand which he held up and pinched with
another hand was not him and the endeavour to find out
what was him was one which had frequently exercised
his leisure. He had not gone far when there came a
tug at his sleeve and looking down he found one of the
Leprecauns of the Gort trotting by his side.
"Noble Sir," said the Leprecaun, "you are terrible
hard to get into conversation with. I have been talking
to you for the last long time and you won't listen."
"I am listening now," replied the Philosopher.
"You are, indeed," said the Leprecaun heartily. "My
brothers are on the other side of the road over there be-
yond the hedge, and they want to talk to you: will you
come with me, Noble Sir?"
"Why wouldn't I go with you?" said the Philosopher,
and he turned aside with the Leprecaun.
They pushed softly through a gap in the hedge and
into a field beyond.
"Come this way, sir," said his guide, and the Philo-
sopher followed him across the field. In a few minutes
they came to a thick bush among the leaves of which the
other Leprecauns were hiding. They thronged out to
meet the Philosopher's approach and welcomed him with
every appearance of joy. With them was the Thin
Woman of Inis Magrath, who embraced her husband
tenderly and gave thanks for his escape.
"The night is young yet," remarked one of the Lepre-
cauns. "Let us sit down here and talk about what should
"I am tired enough," said the Philosopher, "for I
have been travelling all yesterday, and all this day and
the whole of this night I have been going also, so I would
be glad to sit down anywhere."
They sat down under the bush and the Philosopher lit
his pipe. In the open space where they were there was
just light enough to see the smoke coming from his pipe,
but scarcely more. One recognized a figure as a deeper
shadow than the surrounding darkness; but as the ground
was dry and the air just touched with a pleasant chill,
there was no discomfort. After the Philosopher had
drawn a few mouthfuls of smoke he passed his pipe on
to the next person, and in this way his pipe made the cir-
cuit of the party.
"When I put the children to bed," said the Thin
Woman, "I came down the road in your wake with a
basin of stirabout, for you had no time to take your food,
God help you! and I was thinking you must have been
"That is so," said the Philosopher in a very anxious
voice: "but I don't blame you, my dear, for letting the
basin fall on the road--"
"While I was going along," she continued, "I met
these good people and when I told them what happened
they came with me to see if anything could be done. The
time they ran out of the hedge to fight the policemen I
wanted to go with them, but I was afraid the stirabout
would be spilt."
The Philosopher licked his lips.
"I am listening to you, my love," said he.
"So I had to stay where I was with the stirabout under
"Did you slip then, dear wife?"
"I did not, indeed," she replied: "I have the stirabout
with me this minute. It's rather cold, I'm thinking, but
it is better than nothing at all," and she placed the bowl
in his hands.
"I put sugar in it," said she shyly, "and currants, and
I have a spoon in my pocket."
"It tastes well," said the Philosopher, and he cleaned
the basin so speedily that his wife wept because of his
By this time the pipe had come round to him again
and it was welcomed.
"Now we can talk," said he, and he blew a great cloud
of smoke into the darkness and sighed happily.
"We were thinking," said the Thin Woman, "that
you won't be able to come back to our house for a while
yet: the policemen will be peeping about Coille Doraca
for a long time, to be sure; for isn't it true that if there
is a good thing coming to a person, nobody takes much
trouble to find him, but if there is a bad thing or a punish-
ment in store for a man, then the whole world will be
searched until he be found?"
"It is a true statement," said the Philosopher.
"So what we arranged was this--that you should go
to live with these little men in their house under the yew
tree of the Gort. There is not a policeman in the world
would find you there; or if you went by night to the
Brugh of the Boyne, Angus Og himself would give you a
One of the Leprecauns here interposed.
"Noble Sir," said he, "there isn't much room in our
house but there's no stint of welcome in it. You would
have a good time with us travelling on moonlit nights
and seeing strange things, for we often go to visit the
Shee of the Hills and they come to see us; there is al-
ways something to talk about, and we have dances in the
caves and on the tops of the hills. Don't be imagining
now that we have a poor life for there is fun and plenty
with us and the Brugh of Angus Mac an Og is hard to be
"I would like to dance, indeed," returned the Philoso-
pher, "for I do believe that dancing is the first and last
duty of man. If we cannot be gay what can we be? Life
is not any use at all unless we find a laugh here and there
--but this time, decent men of the Gort, I cannot go with
you, for it is laid on me to give myself up to the police."
"You would not do that," exclaimed the Thin Woman
pitifully: "You wouldn't think of doing that now!"
"An innocent man," said he, "cannot be oppressed, for
he is fortified by his mind and his heart cheers him. It
is only on a guilty person that the rigour of punishment
can fall, for he punishes himself. This is what I think,
that a man should always obey the law with his body and
always disobey it with his mind. I have been arrested,
the men of the law had me in their hands, and I will have
to go back to them so that they may do whatever they
have to do."
The Philosopher resumed his pipe, and although the
others reasoned with him for a long time they could not
by any means remove him from his purpose. So, when
the pale glimmer of dawn had stolen over the sky, they
arose and went downwards to the cross-roads and so
to the Police Station.
Outside the village the Leprecauns bade him farewell
and the Thin Woman also took her leave of him, saying
she would visit Angus Og and implore his assistance on
behalf of her husband, and then the Leprecauns and the
Thin Woman returned again the way they came, and
the Philosopher walked on to the barracks.
WHEN he knocked at the barracks door it was opened
by a man with tousled, red hair, who looked as though
he had just awakened from sleep.
"What do you want at this hour of the night?" said
"I want to give myself up," said the Philosopher.
The policeman looked at him-
"A man as old as you are," said he, "oughtn't to be
a fool. Go home now, I advise you, and don't say a word
to any one whether you did it or not. Tell me this now,
was it found out, or are you only making a clean breast
"Sure I must give myself up," said the Philosopher.
"If you must, you must, and that's an end of it. Wipe
your feet on the rail there and come in--I'll take your
"I have no deposition for you," said the Philosopher,
"for I didn't do a thing at all."
The policeman stared at him again.
"If that's so," said he, "you needn't come in at all, and
you needn't have wakened me out of my sleep either.
Maybe, tho', you are the man that fought the badger on
the Naas Road--Eh?"
"I am not," replied the Philosopher: "but I was ar-
rested for killing my brother and his wife, although I
never touched them."
"Is that who you are?" said the policeman; and then,
briskly, "You're as welcome as the cuckoo, you are so.
Come in and make yourself comfortable till the men
awaken, and they are the lads that'll be glad to see you.
I couldn't make head or tail of what they said when they
came in last night, and no one else either, for they did
nothing but fight each other and curse the banshees and
cluricauns of Leinster. Sit down there on the settle by
the fire and, maybe, you'll be able to get a sleep; you look
as if you were tired, and the mud of every county in Ire-
land is on your boots."
The Philosopher thanked him and stretched out on the
settle. In a short time, for he was very weary, he fell
Many hours later he was awakened by the sound of
voices, and found on rising, that the men who had cap-
tured him on the previous evening were standing by the
bed. The sergeant's face beamed with joy. He was
dressed only in his trousers and shirt. His hair was
sticking up in some places and sticking out in others which
gave a certain wild look to him, and his feet were bare.
He took the Philosopher's two hands in his own and
swore if ever there was anything he could do to comfort
him he would do that and more. Shawn, in a similar state
of unclothedness, greeted the Philosopher and proclaimed
himself his friend and follower for ever. Shawn further
announced that he did not believe the Philosopher had
killed the two people, that if he had killed them they must
have richly deserved it, and that if he was hung he would
plant flowers on his grave; for a decenter, quieter, and
wiser man he had never met and never would meet in the
These professions of esteem comforted the Philo-
sopher, and he replied to them in terms which made the
red-haired policeman gape in astonishment and approval.
He was given a breakfast of bread and cocoa which
he ate with his guardians, and then, as they had to take
up their outdoor duties, he was conducted to the back-
yard and informed he could walk about there and that
he might smoke until he was black in the face. The po-
licemen severally presented him with a pipe, a tin of
tobacco, two boxes of matches and a dictionary, and then
they withdrew, leaving him to his own devices.
The garden was about twelve feet square, having high,
smooth walls on every side, and into it there came neither
sun nor wind. In one corner a clump of rusty-looking
sweet-pea was climbing up the wall--every leaf of this
plant was riddled with holes, and there were no flowers
on it. Another corner was occupied by dwarf nastur-
tiums, and on this plant, in despite of every discourage-
ment, two flowers were blooming, but its leaves also were
tattered and dejected. A mass of ivy clung to the third
corner, its leaves were big and glossy at the top, but near
the ground there was only grey, naked stalks laced to-
gether by cobwebs. The fourth wall was clothed in a
loose Virginia creeper every leaf of which looked like
an insect that could crawl if it wanted to. The centre
of this small plot had used every possible artifice to
cover itself with grass, and in some places it had wonder-
fully succeeded, but the pieces of broken bottles,
shattered jampots, and sections of crockery were so
numerous that no attempt at growth could be other than
tentative and unpassioned.
Here, for a long time, the Philosopher marched up
and down. At one moment he examined the sweet-pea
and mourned with it on a wretched existence. Again he
congratulated the nasturtium on its two bright children;
but he thought of the gardens wherein they might have
bloomed and the remembrance of that spacious, sunny
freedom saddened him.
"Indeed, poor creatures!" said he, "ye also are in
The blank, soundless yard troubled him so much that
at last he called to the red-haired policeman and begged
to be put into a cell in preference; and to the common cell
he was, accordingly, conducted.
This place was a small cellar built beneath the level of
the ground. An iron grating at the top of the wall ad-
mitted one blanched wink of light, but the place was
bathed in obscurity. A wooden ladder led down to the
cell from a hole in the ceiling, and this hole also gave a
spark of brightness and some little air to the room. The
walls were of stone covered with plaster, but the plaster
had fallen away in many places leaving the rough stones
visible at every turn of the eye.
There were two men in the cell, and these the Philo-
sopher saluted; but they did not reply, nor did they
speak to each other. There was a low, wooden form
fixed to the wall, running quite round the room, and on
this, far apart from each other, the two men were seated,
with their elbows resting on their knees, their heads
propped upon their hands, and each of them with an un-
wavering gaze fixed on the floor between his feet.
The Philosopher walked for a time up and down the
little cell, but soon he also sat down on the low form,
propped his head on his hands and lapsed to a melan-
So the day passed. Twice a policeman came down the
ladder bearing three portions of food, bread and cocoa;
and by imperceptible gradations the light faded away
from the grating and the darkness came. After a great
interval the policeman again approached carrying three
mattresses and three rough blankets, and these he bundled
through the hole. Each of the men took a mattress and
a blanket and spread them on the floor, and the Philo-
sopher took his share also.
By this time they could not see each other and all
their operations were conducted by the sense of touch
alone. They laid themselves down on the beds and a
terrible, dark silence brooded over the room.
But the Philosopher could not sleep, he kept his eyes
shut, for the darkness under his eyelids was not so dense
as that which surrounded him; indeed, he could at will
illuminate his own darkness and order around him the
sunny roads or the sparkling sky. While his eyes were
closed he had the mastery of all pictures of light and
colour and warmth, but an irresistible fascination com-
pelled him every few minutes to reopen them, and in the
sad space around he could not create any happiness. The
darkness weighed very sadly upon him so that in a short
time it did creep under his eyelids and drowned his happy
pictures until a blackness possessed him both within and
"Can one's mind go to prison as well as one's body?"
He strove desperately to regain his intellectual free-
dom, but he could not. He could conjure up no visions
but those of fear. The creatures of the dark invaded
him, fantastic terrors were thronging on every side: they
came from the darkness into his eyes and beyond into
himself, so that his mind as well as his fancy was cap-
tured, and he knew he was, indeed, in gaol.
It was with a great start that he heard a voice speak-
ing from the silence--a harsh, yet cultivated voice, but
he could not imagine which of his companions was speak-
ing. He had a vision of that man tormented by the
mental imprisonment of the darkness, trying to get away
from his ghosts and slimy enemies, goaded into speech
in his own despite lest he should be submerged and finally
possessed by the abysmal demons. For a while the voice
spoke of the strangeness of life and the cruelty of men
to each other--disconnected sentences, odd words of self-
pity and self-encouragement, and then the matter became
more connected and a story grew in the dark cell-
"I knew a man," said the voice, "and he was a clerk.
He had thirty shillings a week, and for five years he had
never missed a day going to his work. He was a careful
man, but a person with a wife and four children cannot
save much out of thirty shillings a week. The rent of a
house is high, a wife and children must be fed, and they
have to get boots and clothes, so that at the end of each
week that man's thirty shillings used to be all gone. But
they managed to get along somehow--the man and his
wife and the four children were fed and clothed and edu-
cated, and the man often wondered how so much could
be done with so little money; but the reason was that his
wife was a careful woman . . . and then the man got
sick. A poor person cannot afford to get sick, and a
married man cannot leave his work. If he is sick he has
to be sick; but he must go to his work all the same, for
if he stayed away who would pay the wages and feed his
family? and when he went back to work he might find
that there was nothing for him to do. This man fell
sick, but he made no change in his way of life: he got
up at the same time and went to the office as usual, and
he got through the day somehow without attracting his
employer's attention. He didn't know what was wrong
with him: he only knew that he was sick. Sometimes he
had sharp, swift pains in his head, and again there would
be long hours of languor when he could scarcely bear to
change his position or lift a pen. He would commence
a letter with the words 'Dear Sir,' forming the letter
'D' with painful, accurate slowness, elaborating and
thickening the up and down strokes, and being troubled
when he had to leave that letter for the next one; he
built the next letter by hair strokes and would start on
the third with hatred. The end of a word seemed to
that man like the conclusion of an event--it was a sur-
prising, isolated, individual thing, having no reference
to anything else in the world, and on starting a new
word he seemed bound, in order to preserve its individ-
uality, to write it in a different handwriting. He would
sit with his shoulders hunched up and his pen resting
on the paper, staring at a letter until he was nearly mes-
merized, and then come to himself with a sense of fear,
which started him working like a madman, so that he
might not be behind with his business. The day seemed
to be so long. It rolled on rusty hinges that could scarcely
move. Each hour was like a great circle swollen with
heavy air, and it droned and buzzed into an eternity. It
seemed to the man that his hand in particular wanted to
rest. It was luxury not to work with it. It was good
to lay it down on a sheet of paper with the pen sloping
against his finger, and then watch his hand going to sleep
--it seemed to the man that it was his hand and not him-
self wanted to sleep, but it always awakened when the
pen slipped. There was an instinct in him somewhere
not to let the pen slip, and every time the pen moved his
hand awakened, and began to work languidly. When
he went home at night he lay down at once and stared
for hours at a fly on the wall or a crack on the ceiling.
When his wife spoke to him he heard her speaking as
from a great distance, and he answered her dully as
though he was replying through a cloud. He only
wanted to be let alone, to be allowed to stare at the fly
on the wall, or the crack on the ceiling.
"One morning he found that he couldn't get up, or
rather, that he didn't want to get up. When his wife
called him he made no reply, and she seemed to call him
every ten seconds--the words, 'get up, get up,' were
crackling all round him; they were bursting like bombs
on the right hand and on the left of him: they were scat-
tering from above and all around him, bursting upwards
from the floor, swirling, swaying, and jostling each other.
Then the sounds ceased, and one voice only said to him
'You are late!' He saw these words like a blur hanging
in the air, just beyond his eyelids, and he stared at the
blur until he fell asleep."
The voice in the cell ceased speaking for a few min-
utes, and then it went on again.
"For three weeks the man did not leave his bed--he
lived faintly in a kind of trance, wherein great forms
moved about slowly and immense words were drumming
gently for ever. When he began to take notice again
everything in the house was different. Most of the furni-
ture, paid for so hardly, was gone. He missed a thing
everywhere--chairs, a mirror, a table: wherever he
looked he missed something; and downstairs was worse
--there, everything was gone. His wife had sold all
her furniture to pay for doctors, for medicine, for food
and rent. And she was changed too: good things had
gone from her face; she was gaunt, sharp-featured,
miserable--but she was comforted to think he was going
back to work soon.
"There was a flurry in his head when he went to his
office. He didn't know what his employer would say
for stopping away. He might blame him for being sick
--he wondered would his employer pay him for the weeks
he was absent. When he stood at the door he was fright-
ened. Suddenly the thought of his master's eye grew
terrible to him: it was a steady, cold, glassy eye; but he
opened the door and went in. His master was there with
another man and he tried to say 'Good morning, sir,' in
a natural and calm voice; but he knew that the strange
man had been engaged instead of himself, and this knowl-
edge posted itself between his tongue and his thought.
He heard himself stammering, he felt that his whole
bearing had become drooping and abject. His master
was talking swiftly and the other man was looking at him
in an embarrassed, stealthy, and pleading manner: his
eyes seemed to be apologising for having supplanted him
--so he mumbled 'Good day, sir,' and stumbled out.
"When he got outside he could not think where to go.
After a while he went in the direction of the little park
in the centre of the city. It was quite near and he sat
down on an iron bench facing a pond. There were chil-
dren walking up and down by the water giving pieces of
bread to the swans. Now and again a labouring man or
a messenger went by quickly; now and again a middle-
aged, slovenly-dressed man drooped past aimlessly:
sometimes a tattered, self-intent woman with a badgered
face flopped by him. When he looked at these dull peo-
ple the thought came to him that they were not walking
there at all; they were trailing through hell, and their
desperate eyes saw none but devils around them. He
saw himself joining these battered strollers . . . and
he could not think what he would tell his wife when he
went home. He rehearsed to himself the terms of his
dismissal a hundred times. How his master looked, what
he had said: and then the fine, ironical things he had said
to his master. He sat in the park all day, and when eve-
ning fell he went home at his accustomed hour.
"His wife asked him questions as to how he had got
on, and wanted to know was there any chance of being
paid for the weeks of absence; the man answered her
volubly, ate his supper and went to bed: but he did not
tell his wife that he had been dismissed and that there
would be no money at the end of the week. He tried to
tell her, but when he met her eye he found that he could
not say the words--he was afraid of the look that might
come into her face when she heard it--she, standing ter-
rified in those dismantled rooms . . . !
"In the morning he ate his breakfast and went out
again--to work, his wife thought. She bid him ask the
master about the three weeks' wages, or to try and get
an advance on the present week's wages, for they were
hardly put to it to buy food. He said he would do his
best, but he went straight to the park and sat looking
at the pond, looking at the passers-by and dreaming. In
the middle of the day he started up in a panic and went
about the city asking for work in offices, shops, ware-
houses, everywhere, but he could not get any. He trailed
back heavy-footed again to the park and sat down.
"He told his wife more lies about his work that night
and what his master had said when he asked for an ad-
vance. He couldn't bear the children to touch him.
After a little time he sneaked away to his bed.
"A week went that way. He didn't look for work
any more. He sat in the park, dreaming, with his head
bowed into his hands. The next day would be the day
he should have been paid his wages. The next day!
What would his wife say when he told her he had no
money? She would stare at him and flush and say--
'Didn't you go out every day to work?'--How would
he tell her then so that she could understand quickly and
spare him words?
"Morning came and the man ate his breakfast silently.
There was no butter on the bread, and his wife seemed
to be apologising to him for not having any. She said,
'We'll be able to start fair from to-morrow,' and when
he snapped at her angrily she thought it was because he
had to eat dry bread.
"He went to the park and sat there for hours. Now
and again he got up and walked into a neighbouring
street, but always, after half an hour or so, he came
back. Six o'clock in the evening was his hour for going
home. When six o'clock came he did not move, he still
sat opposite the pond with his head bowed down into
his arms. Seven o'clock passed. At nine o'clock a bell
was rung and every one had to leave. He went also. He
stood outside the gates looking on this side and on that.
Which way would he go? All roads were alike to him,
so he turned at last and walked somewhere. He did not
go home that night. He never went home again. He
never was heard of again anywhere in the wide world."
The voice ceased speaking and silence swung down
again upon the little cell. The Philosopher had been
listening intently to this story, and after a few minutes
"When you go up this road there is a turn to the left
and all the path along is bordered with trees--there are
birds in the trees, Glory be to God! There is only one
house on that road, and the woman in it gave us milk to
drink. She has but one son, a good boy, and she said the
other children were dead; she was speaking of a husband
who went away and left her--'Why should he have been
afraid to come home?' said she--'sure, I loved him.'"
After a little interval the voice spoke again-
"I don't know what became of the man I was speaking
of. I am a thief, and I'm well known to the police every-
where. I don't think that man would get a welcome at
the house up here, for why should he?"
Another, a different, querulous kind of voice came from
"If I knew a place where there was a welcome I'd go
there as quickly as I could, but I don't know a place and
I never will, for what good would a man of my age be
to any person? I am a thief also. The first thing I stole
was a hen out of a little yard. I roasted it in a ditch
and ate it, and then I stole another one and ate it, and
after that I stole everything I could lay my hands on. I
suppose I will steal as long as I live, and I'll die in a ditch
at the heel of the hunt. There was a time, not long ago,
and if any one had told me then that I would rob, even for
hunger, I'd have been insulted: but what does it matter
now? And the reason I am a thief is because I got old
without noticing it. Other people noticed it, but I did
not. I suppose age comes on one so gradually that it is
seldom observed. If there are wrinkles on one's face
we do not remember when they were not there: we put
down all kind of little infirmities to sedentary living, and
you will see plenty of young people bald. If a man has
no occasion to tell any one his age, and if he never thinks
of it himself, he won't see ten years' difference between
his youth and his age, for we live in slow, quiet times,
and nothing ever happens to mark the years as they go
by, one after the other, and all the same.
"I lodged in a house for a great many years, and a
little girl grew up there, the daughter of my landlady.
She used to slide down the bannisters very well, and she
used to play the piano very badly. These two things
worried me many a time. She used to bring me my meals
in the morning and the evening, and often enough she'd
stop to talk with me while I was eating. She was a very
chatty girl and I was a talkative person myself. When
she was about eighteen years of age I got so used to her
that if her mother came with the food I would be wor-
ried for the rest of the day. Her face was as bright as
a sunbeam, and her lazy, careless ways, big, free move-
ments, and girlish chatter were pleasant to a man whose
loneliness was only beginning to be apparent to him
through her company. I've thought of it often since, and
I suppose that's how it began. She used to listen to all
my opinions and she'd agree with them because she had
none of her own yet. She was a good girl, but lazy in
her mind and body; childish, in fact. Her talk was as
involved as her actions: she always seemed to be sliding
down mental bannisters; she thought in kinks and spoke
in spasms, hopped mentally from one subject to another
without the slightest difficulty, and could use a lot of
language in saying nothing at all. I could see all that
at the time, but I suppose I was too pleased with my own
sharp business brains, and sick enough, although I did
not know it, of my sharp-brained, business companions
--dear Lord! I remember them well. It's easy enough
to have brains as they call it, but it is not so easy to have
a little gaiety or carelessness or childishness or what-
ever it was she had. It is good, too, to feel superior to
some one, even a girl.
"One day this thought came to me--'It is time that I
settled down.' I don't know where the idea came from;
one hears it often enough and it always seems to apply
to some one else, but I don't know what brought it to
roost with me. I was foolish, too: I bought ties and
differently shaped collars, and took to creasing my
trousers by folding them under the bed and lying on them
all night--It never struck me that I was more than three
times her age. I brought home sweets for her and she
was delighted. She said she adored sweets, and she used
to insist on my eating some of them with her; she liked
to compare notes as to how they tasted while eating them.
I used to get a toothache from them, but I bore with it
although at that time I hated toothache almost as much
as I hated sweets. Then I asked her to come out with
me for a walk. She was willing enough and it was a
novel experience for me. Indeed, it was rather exciting.
le went out together often after that, and sometimes
we'd meet people I knew, young men from my office or
from other offices. I used to be shy when some of these
people winked at me as they saluted. It was pleasant,
too, telling the girl who they were, their business and
their salaries: for there was little I didn't know. I used
to tell her of my own position in the office and what the
chief said to me through the day. Sometimes we talked
of the things that had appeared in the evening papers.
A murder perhaps, some phase of a divorce case, the
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