The Crock of Gold
James Stephens

Part 4 out of 4

speech a political person had made, or the price of stock.
She was interested in anything so long as it was talk.
And her own share in the conversation was good to hear.
Every lady that passed us had a hat that stirred her to
the top of rapture or the other pinnacle of disgust. She
told me what ladies were frights and what were ducks.
Under her scampering tongue I began to learn some-
thing of humanity, even though she saw most people as
delightfully funny clowns or superb, majestical princes,
but I noticed that she never said a bad word of a man,
although many of the men she looked after were ordi-
nary enough. Until I went walking with her I never
knew what a shop window was. A jeweller's window
especially: there were curious things in it. She told me
how a tiara should be worn, and a pendant, and she ex-
plained the kind of studs I should wear myself; they
were made of gold and had red stones in them; she
showed me the ropes of pearl or diamonds that she
thought would look pretty on herself: and one day she
said that she liked me very much. I was pleased and
excited that day, but I was a business man and I said
very little in reply. I never liked a pig in a poke.

"She used to go out two nights in the week, Monday
and Thursday, dressed in her best clothes. I didn't
know where she went, and I didn't ask--I thought she
visited an acquaintance, a girl friend or some such. The
time went by and I made up my mind to ask her to marry
me. I had watched her long enough and she was always
kind and bright. I liked the way she smiled, and I liked
her obedient, mannerly bearing. There was something
else I liked, which I did not recognise then, something
surrounding all her movements, a graciousness, a spa-
ciousness: I did not analyse it; but I know now that it
was her youth. I remember that when we were out to-
gether she walked slowly, but in the house she would
leap up and down the stairs--she moved furiously, but
I didn't.

"One evening she dressed to go out as usual, and she
called at my door to know had I everything I wanted. I
said I had something to tell her when she came home,
something important. She promised to come in early to
hear it, and I laughed at her and she laughed back and
went sliding down the bannisters. I don't think I have
had any reason to laugh since that night. A letter came
for me after she had gone, and I knew by the shape and
the handwriting that it was from the office. It puzzled
me to think why I should be written to. I didn't like
opening it somehow.... It was my dismissal on ac-
count of advancing age, and it hoped for my future wel-
fare politely enough. It was signed by the Senior. I
didn't grip it at first, and then I thought it was a hoax.
For a long time I sat in my room with an empty mind.
I was watching my mind: there were immense distances
in it that drowsed and buzzed; large, soft movements
seemed to be made in my mind, and although I was look-
ing at the letter in my hand I was really trying to focus
those great, swinging spaces in my brain, and my ears
were listening for a movement of some kind. I can see
back to that time plainly. I went walking up and down
the room. There was a dull, subterranean anger in me.
I remember muttering once or twice, 'Shameful!' and
again I said, 'Ridiculous!' At the idea of age I looked
at my face in the glass, but I was looking at my mind,
and it seemed to go grey, there was a heaviness there
also. I seemed to be peering from beneath a weight at
something strange. I had a feeling that I had let go a
grip which I had held tightly for a long time, and I had
a feeling that the letting go was a grave disaster . . .
that strange face in the glass! how wrinkled it was!
there were only a few hairs on the head and they were
grey ones. There was a constant twitching of the lips
and the eyes were deep-set, little and dull. I left the
glass and sat down by the window, looking out. I saw
nothing in the street: I just looked into a blackness. My
mind was as blank as the night and as soundless. There
was a swirl outside the window, rain tossed by the wind;
without noticing, I saw it, and my brain swung with the
rain until it heaved in circles, and then a feeling of faint-
ness awakened me to myself. I did not allow my mind
to think, but now and again a word swooped from im-
mense distances through my brain, swinging like a comet
across a sky and jarring terribly when it struck: 'Sacked'
was one word, 'Old' was another word.

"I don't know how long I sat watching the flight of
these dreadful words and listening to their clanking im-
pact, but a movement in the street aroused me. Two
people, the girl and a young, slender man, were coming
slowly up to the house. The rain was falling heavily,
but they did not seem to mind it. There was a big puddle
of water close to the kerb, and the girl, stepping daintily
as a cat, went round this, but the young man stood for
a moment beyond it. He raised both arms, clenched his
fists, swung them, and jumped over the puddle. Then
he and the girl stood looking at the water, apparently
measuring the jump. I could see them plainly by a
street lamp. They were bidding each other good-bye.
The girl put her hand to his neck and settled the collar
of his coat, and while her hand rested on him the young
man suddenly and violently flung his arms about her and
hugged her; then they kissed and moved apart. The
man walked to the rain puddle and stood there with his
face turned back laughing at her, and then he jumped
straight into the middle of the puddle and began to
dance up and down in it, the muddy water splashing up
to his knees. She ran over to him crying 'Stop, silly!'
When she came into the house, I bolted my door and I
gave no answer to her knock.

"In a few months the money I had saved was spent.
Icouldn't get any work, I was too old; they put it that
they wanted a younger man. I couldn't pay my rent. I
went out into the world again, like a baby, an old baby
in a new world. I stole food, food, food anywhere and
everywhere. At first I was always caught. Often I was
sent to gaol; sometimes I was let go; sometimes I was
kicked; but I learned to live like a wolf at last. I am not
often caught now when I steal food. But there is some-
thing happening every day, whether it is going to gaol or
planning how to steal a hen or a loaf of bread. I find
that it is a good life, much better than the one I lived for
nearly sixty years, and I have time to think over every
sort of thing. . . ."

When the morning came the Philosopher was taken
on a car to the big City in order that he might be put
on his trial and hanged. It was the custom.




THE ability of the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath for
anger was unbounded. She was not one of those limited
creatures who are swept clean by a gust of wrath and left
placid and smiling after its passing. She could store
her anger in those caverns of eternity which open into
every soul, and which are filled with rage and violence
until the time comes when they may be stored with wis-
dom and love; for, in the genesis of life, love is at the
beginning and the end of things. First, like a laughing
child, love came to labour minutely in the rocks and sands
of the heart, opening the first of those roads which lead
inwards for ever, and then, the labour of his day being
done, love fled away and was forgotten. Following
came the fierce winds of hate to work like giants and
gnomes among the prodigious debris, quarrying the rocks
and levelling the roads which soar inwards; but when
that work is completed love will come radiantly again to
live for ever in the human heart, which is Eternity.

Before the Thin Woman could undertake the redemp-
tion of her husband by wrath, it was necessary that she
should be purified by the performance of that sacrifice
which is called the Forgiveness of Enemies, and this she
did by embracing the Leprecauns of the Gort and in the
presence of the sun and the wind remitting their crime
against her husband. Thus she became free to devote
her malice against the State of Punishment, while for-
giving the individuals who had but acted in obedience to
the pressure of their infernal environment, which pres-
sure is Sin.

This done she set about baking the three cakes against
her journey to Angus Og.

While she was baking the cakes, the children, Seumas
and Brigid Beg, slipped away into the wood to speak to
each other and to wonder over this extraordinary occur-

At first their movements were very careful, for they
could not be quite sure that the policemen had really
gone away, or whether they were hiding in dark places
waiting to pounce on them and carry them away to cap-
tivity. The word "murder" was almost unknown to
them, and its strangeness was rendered still more strange
by reason of the nearness of their father to the term.
It was a terrible word and its terror was magnified by
their father's unthinkable implication. What had he
done? Almost all his actions and habits were so familiar
to them as to be commonplace, and yet, there was a dark
something to which he was a party and which dashed
before them as terrible and ungraspable as a lightning-
flash. They understood that it had something to do with
that other father and mother whose bodies had been
snatched from beneath the hearthstone, but they knew
the Philosopher had done nothing in that instance, and,
so, they saw murder as a terrible, occult affair which was
quite beyond their mental horizons.

No one jumped out on them from behind the trees,
so in a little time their confidence returned and they
walked less carefully. When they reached the edge of
the pine wood the brilliant sunshine invited them to go
farther, and after a little hesitation they did so. The
good spaces and the sweet air dissipated their melancholy
thoughts, and very soon they were racing each other to
this point and to that. Their wayward flights had car-
ried them in the direction of Meehawl MacMurrachu's
cottage, and here, breathlessly, they threw themselves
under a small tree to rest. It was a thorn bush, and as
they sat beneath it the cessation of movement gave them
opportunity to again consider the terrible position of
their father. With children thought cannot be sepa-
rated from action for very long. They think as much
with their hands as with their heads. They have to do
the thing they speak of in order to visualise the idea,
and, consequently, Seumas Beg was soon reconstructing
the earlier visit of the policemen to their house in grand
pantomime. The ground beneath the thorn bush be-
came the hearthstone of their cottage; he and Brigid
became four policemen, and in a moment he was digging
furiously with a broad piece of wood to find the two hid-
den bodies. He had digged for only a few minutes when
the piece of wood struck against something hard. A
very little time sufficed to throw the soil off this, and
their delight was great when they unearthed a beautiful
little earthen crock filled to the brim with shining, yellow
dust. When they lifted this they were astonished at its
great weight. They played for a long time with it, let-
ting the heavy, yellow shower slip through their fingers
and watching it glisten in the sunshine. After they tired
of this they decided to bring the crock home, but by the
time they reached the Gort na Cloca Mora they were
so tired that they could not carry it any farther, and they
decided to leave it with their friends the Leprecauns.
Seumas Beg gave the taps on the tree trunk which they
had learned, and in a moment the Leprecaun whom they
knew came up.

"We have brought this, sir," said Seumas. But he
got no further, for the instant the Leprecaun saw the
crock he threw his arms around it and wept in so loud
a voice that his comrades swarmed up to see what had
happened to him, and they added their laughter and
tears to his, to which chorus the children subjoined their
sympathetic clamour, so that a noise of great complexity
rang through all the Gort.

But the Leprecauns' surrender to this happy passion
was short. Hard on their gladness came remembrance
and consternation; and then repentance, that dismal vir-
tue, wailed in their ears and their hearts. How could
they thank the children whose father and protector they
had delivered to the unilluminated justice of humanity?
that justice which demands not atonement but punish-
ment; which is learned in the Book of Enmity but not in
the Book of Friendship; which calls hatred Nature, and
Love a conspiracy; whose law is an iron chain and whose
mercy is debility and chagrin; the blind fiend who would
impose his own blindness; that unfruitful loin which
curses fertility; that stony heart which would petrify the
generations of man; before whom life withers away
appalled and death would shudder again to its tomb.
Repentance! they wiped the inadequate ooze from their
eyes and danced joyfully for spite. They could do no
more, so they fed the children lovingly and carried them

The Thin Woman had baked three cakes. One of
these she gave to each of the children and one she kept
herself, whereupon they set out upon their journey to
Angus Og.

It was well after midday when they started. The
fresh gaiety of the morning was gone, and a tyrannous
sun, whose majesty was almost insupportable, forded
it over the world. There was but little shade for the
travellers, and, after a time, they became hot and weary
and thirsty--that is, the children did, but the Thin
Woman, by reason of her thinness, was proof against
every elemental rigour, except hunger, from which no
creature is free.

She strode in the centre of the road, a very volcano
of silence, thinking twenty different thoughts at the one
moment, so that the urgency of her desire for utterance
kept her terribly quiet; but against this crust of quietude
there was accumulating a mass of speech which must at
the last explode or petrify. From this congestion of
thought there arose the first deep rumblings, precursors
of uproar, and another moment would have heard the
thunder of her varied malediction, but that Brigid Beg
began to cry: for, indeed, the poor child was both tired
and parched to distraction, and Seumas had no barrier
against a similar surrender, but two minutes' worth of
boyish pride. This discovery withdrew the Thin Woman
from her fiery contemplations, and in comforting the
children she forgot her own hardships.

It became necessary to find water quickly: no difficult
thing, for the Thin Woman, being a Natural, was like
all other creatures able to sense the whereabouts of
water, and so she at once led the children in a slightly
different direction. In a few minutes they reached a well
by the road-side, and here the children drank deeply and
were comforted. There was a wide, leafy tree growing
hard by the well, and in the shade of this tree they sat
down and ate their cakes.

While they rested the Thin Woman advised the chil-
dren on many important matters. She never addressed
her discourse to both of them at once, but spoke first to
Seumas on one subject and then to Brigid on another sub-
ject; for, as she said, the things which a boy must learn
are not those which are necessary to a girl. It is partic-
ularly important that a man should understand how
to circumvent women, for this and the capture of food
forms the basis of masculine wisdom, and on this subject
she spoke to Seumas. It is, however, equally urgent that
a woman should be skilled to keep a man in his proper
place, and to this thesis Brigid gave an undivided atten-

She taught that a man must hate all women before he
is able to love a woman, but that he is at liberty, or rather
he is under express command, to love all men because
they are of his kind. Women also should love all other
women as themselves, and they should hate all men but
one man only, and him they should seek to turn into a
woman, because women, by the order of their beings,
must be either tyrants or slaves, and it is better they
should be tyrants than slaves. She explained that be-
tween men and women there exists a state of unremitting
warfare, and that the endeavour of each sex is to bring
the other to subjection; but that women are possessed by
a demon called Pity which severely handicaps their bat-
tle and perpetually gives victory to the male, who is thus
constantly rescued on the very ridges of defeat. She said
to Seumas that his fatal day would dawn when he loved
a woman, because he would sacrifice his destiny to her
caprice, and she begged him for love of her to beware of
all that twisty sex. To Brigid she revealed that a
woman's terrible day is upon her when she knows that a
man loves her, for a man in love submits only to a woman,
a partial, individual and temporary submission, but a
woman who is loved surrenders more fully to the very
god of love himself, and so she becomes a slave, and is
not alone deprived of her personal liberty, but is even in-
fected in her mental processes by this crafty obsession.
The fates work for man, and therefore, she averred,
woman must be victorious, for those who dare to war
against the gods are already assured of victory: this be-
ing the law of life, that only the weak shall conquer.
The limit of strength is petrifaction and immobility, but
there is no limit to weakness, and cunning or fluidity is
its counsellor. For these reasons, and in order that life
might not cease, women should seek to turn their hus-
bands into women; then they would be tyrants and their
husbands would be slaves, and life would be renewed
for a further period.

As the Thin Woman proceeded with this lesson it be-
came at last so extremely complicated that she was
brought to a stand by the knots, so she decided to resume
their journey and disentangle her argument when the
weather became cooler.

They were repacking the cakes in their wallets when
they observed a stout, comely female coming towards
the well. This woman, when she drew near, saluted the
Thin Woman, and her the Thin Woman saluted again,
whereupon the stranger sat down.

"It's hot weather, surely," said she, "and I'm think-
ing it's as much as a body's life is worth to be travelling
this day and the sun the way it is. Did you come far,
now, ma'am, or is it that you are used to going the roads
and don't mind it?"

"Not far," said the Thin Woman.

"Far or near," said the stranger, "a perch is as much
as I'd like to travel this time of the year. That's a fine
pair of children you have with you now, ma'am."

"They are," said the Thin Woman.

"I've ten of them myself," the other continued, "and
I often wondered where they came from. It's queer to
think of one woman making ten new creatures and she
not getting a penny for it, nor any thanks itself."

"It is," said the Thin Woman.

"Do you ever talk more than two words at the one
time, ma'am?" said the stranger.

"I do," said the Thin Woman.

"I'd give a penny to hear you," replied the other an-
grily, "for a more bad-natured, cross-grained, cantanker-
ous person than yourself I never met among womankind.
It's what I said to a man only yesterday, that thin ones
are bad ones, and there isn't any one could be thinner
than you are yourself."

"The reason you say that," said the Thin Woman
calmly, "is because you are fat and you have to tell lies
to yourself to hide your misfortune, and let on that you
like it. There is no one in the world could like to be
fat, and there I leave you, ma'am. You can poke your
finger in your own eye, but you may keep it out of mine
if you please, and, so, good-bye to you; and if I wasn't a
quiet woman I'd pull you by the hair of the head up a
hill and down a hill for two hours, and now there's an
end of it. I've given you more than two words; let you
take care or I'll give you two more that will put blisters
on your body for ever. Come along with me now, chil-
dren, and if ever you see a woman like that woman you'll
know that she eats until she can't stand, and drinks until
she can't sit, and sleeps until she is stupid; and if that
sort of person ever talks to you remember that two words
are all that's due to her, and let them be short ones, for
a woman like that would be a traitor and a thief, only
that she's too lazy to be anything but a sot, God help her I
and, so, good-bye."

Thereupon the Thin Woman and the children arose,
and having saluted the stranger they went down the
wide path; but the other woman stayed where she was
sitting, and she did not say a word even to herself.

As she strode along the Thin Woman lapsed again to
her anger, and became so distant in her aspect that the
children could get no companionship from her; so, after
a while, they ceased to consider her at all and addressed
themselves to their play. They danced before and be-
hind and around her. They ran and doubled, shouted
and laughed and sang. Sometimes they pretended they
were husband and wife, and then they plodded quietly
side by side, making wise, occasional remarks on the
weather, or the condition of their health, or the state of
the fields of rye. Sometimes one was a horse and the
other was a driver, and then they stamped along the road
with loud, fierce snortings and louder and fiercer com-
mands. At another moment one was a cow being driven
with great difficulty to market by a driver whose temper
had given way hours before; or they both became goats
and with their heads jammed together they pushed and
squealed viciously; and these changes lapsed into one an-
other so easily that at no moment were they unoccupied.
But as the day wore on to evening the immense surround-
ing quietude began to weigh heavily upon them. Saving
for their own shrill voices there was no sound, and this
unending, wide silence at last commanded them to a
corresponding quietness. Little by little they ceased their
play. The scamper became a trot, each run was more
and more curtailed in its length, the race back became
swifter than the run forth, and, shortly, they were pacing
soberly enough one on either side of the Thin Woman
sending back and forth a few quiet sentences. Soon even
these sentences trailed away into the vast surrounding
stillness. Then Brigid Beg clutched the Thin Woman's
right hand, and not long after Seumas gently clasped her
left hand, and these mute appeals for protection and com-
fort again released her from the valleys of fury through
which she had been so fiercely careering.

As they went gently along they saw a cow lying in a
field, and, seeing this animal, the Thin Woman stopped

"Everything," said she, "belongs to the wayfarer,"
and she crossed into the field and milked the cow into a
vessel which she had.

"I wonder," said Seumas, "who owns that cow."

"Maybe," said Brigid Beg, "nobody owns her at all."

"The cow owns herself," said the Thin Woman, "for
nobody can own a thing that is alive. I am sure she gives
her milk to us with great goodwill, for we are modest,
temperate people without greed or pretension."

On being released the cow lay down again in the grass
and resumed its interrupted cud. As the evening had
grown chill the Thin Woman and the children huddled
close to the warm animal. They drew pieces of cake
from their wallets, and ate these and drank happily from
the vessel of milk. Now and then the cow looked be-
nignantly over its shoulder bidding them a welcome to
its hospitable flanks. It had a mild, motherly eye, and
it was very fond of children. The youngsters continually
deserted their meal in order to put their arms about the
cow's neck to thank and praise her for her goodness, and
to draw each other's attention to various excellences in
its appearance.

"Cow," said Brigid Beg in an ecstasy, "I love you."

"So do I," said Seumas. "Do you notice the kind of
eyes it has?"

"Why does a cow have horns?" said Brigid.

So they asked the cow that question, but it only smiled
and said nothing.

"If a cow talked to you," said Brigid, "what would it

"Let us be cows," replied Seumas, "and then, maybe,
we will find out."

So they became cows and ate a few blades of grass,
but they found that when they were cows they did not
want to say anything but "moo," and they decided that
cows did not want to say anything more than that either,
and they became interested in the reflection that, perhaps,
nothing else was worth saying.

A long, thin, yellow-coloured fly was going in that
direction on a journey, and he stopped to rest himself on
the cow's nose.

"You are welcome," said the cow.

"It's a great night for travelling," said the fly, "but
one gets tired alone. Have you seen any of my people

"No," replied the cow, "no one but beetles to-night,
and they seldom stop for a talk. You've rather a good
kind of life, I suppose, flying about and enjoying your-

"We all have our troubles," said the fly in a melan-
choly voice, and he commenced to clean his right wing
with his leg.

"Does any one ever lie against your back the way these
people are lying against mine, or do they steal your

"There are too many spiders about," said the fly.

"No corner is safe from them; they squat in the grass
and pounce on you. I've got a twist, my eye trying to
watch them. They are ugly, voracious people without
manners or neighbourliness, terrible, terrible creatures."

"I have seen them," said the cow, "but they never done
me any harm. Move up a little bit please, I want to lick
my nose: it's queer how itchy my nose gets"--the fly
moved up a bit. "If," the cow continued, "you had
stayed there, and if my tongue had hit you, I don't sup-
pose you would ever have recovered."

"Your tongue couldn't have hit me," said the by. "I
move very quickly you know."

Hereupon the cow slily whacked her tongue across her
nose. She did not see the fly move, but it was hovering
safely half an inch over her nose.

"You see," said the fly.

"I do," replied the cow, and she bellowed so sudden
and furious a snort of laughter that the fly was blown
far away by that gust and never came back again.

This amused the cow exceedingly, and she chuckled
and sniggered to herself for a long time. The children
had listened with great interest to the conversation, and
they also laughed delightedly, and the Thin Woman ad-
mitted that the fly had got the worse of it; but, after a
while, she said that the part of the cow's back against
which she was resting was bonier than anything she had
ever leaned upon before, and that while thinness was a
virtue no one had any right to be thin in lumps, and that
on this count the cow was not to be commended. On
hearing this the cow arose, and without another look at
them it walked away into the dusky field. The Thin
Woman told the children afterwards that she was sorry
she had said anything, but she was unable to bring her
self to apologise to the cow, and so they were forced to
resume their journey in order to keep themselves warm.

There was a sickle moon in the sky, a tender sword
whose radiance stayed in its own high places and did not
at all illumine the heavy world below; the glimmer of in-
frequent stars could also be seen with spacious, dark soli-
tudes between them; but on the earth the darkness
gathered in fold on fold of misty veiling, through which
the trees uttered an earnest whisper, and the grasses
lifted their little voices, and the wind crooned its thrilling,
stern lament.

As the travellers walked on, their eyes, flinching from
the darkness, rested joyfully on the gracious moon, but
that joy lasted only for a little time. The Thin Woman
spoke to them curiously about the moon, and, indeed, she
might speak with assurance on that subject, for her an-
cestors had sported in the cold beam through countless
dim generations.

"It is not known," said she, "that the fairies seldom
dance for joy, but for sadness that they have been ex-
pelled from the sweet dawn, and therefore their mid-
night revels are only ceremonies to remind them of their
happy state in the morning of the world before thought-
ful curiosity and self-righteous moralities drove them
from the kind face of the sun to the dark exile of mid-
night. It is strange that we may not be angry while
looking on the moon. Indeed, no mere appetite or pas-
sion of any kind dare become imperative in the presence
of the Shining One; and this, in a more limited degree,
is true also of every form of beauty; for there is some-
thing in an absolute beauty to chide away the desires of
materiality and yet to dissolve the spirit in ecstasies of
fear and sadness. Beauty has no liking for Thought, but
will send terror and sorrow on those who look upon her
with intelligent eyes. We may neither be angry nor gay
in the presence of the moon, nor may we dare to think
in her bailiwick, or the Jealous One will surely afflict us.
I think that she is not benevolent but malign, and that
her mildness is a cloak for many shy infamies. I think
that beauty tends to become frightful as it becomes per-
fect, and that, if we could see it comprehendingly, the
extreme of beauty is a desolating hideousness, and that
the name of ultimate, absolute beauty is Madness.
Therefore men should seek loveliness rather than beauty,
and so they would always have a friend to go beside
them, to understand and to comfort them, for that is the
business of loveliness: but the business of beauty--there
is no person at all knows what that is. Beauty is the
extreme which has not yet swung to and become merged
in its opposite. The poets have sung of this beauty and
the philosophers have prophesied of it, thinking that the
beauty which passes all understanding is also the peace
which passeth understanding; but I think that whatever
passes understanding, which is imagination, is terrible,
standing aloof from humanity and from kindness, and
that this is the sin against the Holy Ghost, the great
Artist. An isolated perfection is a symbol of terror and
pride, and it is followed only by the head of man, but
the heart winces from it aghast, cleaving to that love-
liness which is modesty and righteousness. Every ex-
treme is bad, in order that it may swing to and fertilize
its equally horrible opposite."

Thus, speaking more to herself than to the children,
the Thin Woman beguiled the way. The moon had
brightened as she spoke, and on either side of the path,
wherever there was a tree or a rise in the ground, a
black shadow was crouching tensely watchful, seeming
as if it might spring into terrible life at a bound. Of
these shadows the children became so fearful that the
Thin Woman forsook the path and adventured on the
open hillside, so that in a short time the road was left
behind and around them stretched the quiet slopes in the
full shining of the moon.

When they had walked for a long time the children
became sleepy; they were unused to being awake in the
night, and as there was no place where they could rest,
and as it was evident that they could not walk much
further, the Thin Woman grew anxious. Already
Brigid had made a tiny, whimpering sound, and Seumas
had followed this with a sigh, the slightest prolongation
of which might have trailed into a sob, and when chil-
dren are overtaken by tears they do not understand how
to escape from them until they are simply bored by much

When they topped a slight incline they saw a light
shining some distance away, and toward this the Thin
Woman hurried. As they drew near she saw it was a
small fire, and around this some figures were seated. In
a few minutes she came into the circle of the firelight,
and here she halted suddenly. She would have turned
and fled, but fear loosened her knees so that they would
not obey her will; also the people by the fire had ob-
served her, and a great voice commanded that she should
draw near.

The fire was made of branches of heather, and beside
it three figures sat. The Thin Woman, hiding her per-
turbation as well as she could, came nigh and sat down
by the fire. After a low word of greeting she gave some
of her cake to the children, drew them close to her,
wrapped her shawl about their heads and bade them sleep.
Then, shrinkingly, she looked at her hosts.

They were quite naked, and each of them gazed on
her with intent earnestness. The first was so beautiful
that the eye failed upon him, flinching aside as from a
great brightness. He was of mighty stature, and yet so
nobly proportioned, so exquisitely slender and graceful,
that no idea of gravity or bulk went with his height. His
face was kingly and youthful and of a terrifying serenity.
The second man was of equal height, but broad to won-
derment. So broad was he that his great height seemed
diminished. The tense arm on which he leaned was
knotted and ridged with muscle, and his hand gripped
deeply into the ground. His face seemed as though it
had been hammered from hard rock, a massive, blunt
face as rigid as his arm. The third man can scarcely be
described. He was neither short nor tall. He was
muscled as heavily as the second man. As he sat he
looked like a colossal toad squatting with his arms about
his knees, and upon these his chin rested. He had no
shape nor swiftness, and his head was flattened down
and was scarcely wider than his neck. He had a pro-
truding dog-like mouth that twitched occasionally, and
from his little eyes there glinted a horrible intelligence.
Before this man the soul of the Thin Woman grovelled.
She felt herself crawling to him. The last terrible abase-
ment of which humanity is capable came upon her: a
fascination which would have drawn her to him in scream-
ing adoration. Hardly could she look away from him,
but her arms were about the children, and love, mightiest
of the powers, stirred fiercely in her heart.

The first man spoke to her.

"Woman," said he, "for what purpose do you go
abroad on this night and on this hill?"

"I travel, sir," said the Thin Woman, "searching for
the Brugh of Angus the son of the Dagda Mor."

"We are all children of the Great Father," said he.
"Do you know who we are?"

"I do not know that," said she.

"We are the Three Absolutes, the Three Redeemers,
the three Alembics--the Most Beautiful Man, the
Strongest Man and the Ugliest Man. In the midst of
every strife we go unhurt. We count the slain and the
victors and pass on laughing, and to us in the eternal
order come all the peoples of the world to be regenerated
for ever. Why have you called to us?"

"I did not call to you, indeed," said the Thin Woman;
"but why do you sit in the path so that travellers to the
House of the Dagda are halted on their journey?"

"There are no paths closed to us," he replied; "even
the gods seek us, for they grow weary in their splendid
desolation--saving Him who liveth in all things and in
us; Him we serve and before His awful front we abase
ourselves. You, O Woman, who are walking in the
valleys of anger, have called to us in your heart, there-
fore we are waiting for you on the side of the hill.
Choose now one of us to be your mate, and do not fear
to choose, for our kingdoms are equal and our powers
are equal."

"Why would I choose one of you," replied the Thin
Woman, "when I am well married already to the best
man in the world?"

"Beyond us there is no best man," said he, "for we are
the best in beauty, and the best in strength, and the best
in ugliness; there is no excellence which is not contained
in us three. If you are married what does that matter
to us who are free from the pettiness of jealousy and
fear, being at one with ourselves and with every mani-
festation of nature."

"If," she replied, "you are the Absolute and are above
all pettiness, can you not be superior to me also and let
me pass quietly on my road to the Dagda!"

"We are what all humanity desire," quoth he, "and
we desire all humanity. There is nothing, small or great,
disdained by our immortal appetites. It is not lawful,
even for the Absolute, to outgrow Desire, which is the
breath of God quick in his creatures and not to be bounded
or surmounted by any perfection."

During this conversation the other great figures had
leaned forward listening intently but saying nothing.
The Thin Woman could feel the children like little, terri-
fied birds pressing closely and very quietly to her sides.

"Sir," said she, "tell me what is Beauty and what is
Strength and what is Ugliness? for, although I can see
these things, I do not know what they are."

"I will tell you that," he replied--"Beauty is Thought
and Strength is Love and Ugliness is Generation. The
home of Beauty is the head of man. The home of
Strength is the heart of man, and in the loins Ugliness
keeps his dreadful state. If you come with me you shall
know all delight. You shall live unharmed in the flame
of the spirit, and nothing that is gross shall bind your
limbs or hinder your thought. You shall move as a
queen amongst all raging passions without torment or
despair. Never shall you be driven or ashamed, but al-
ways you will choose your own paths and walk with me
in freedom and contentment and beauty."

"All things," said the Thin Woman, "must act ac-
cording to the order of their being, and so I say to
Thought, if you hold me against my will presently I will
bind you against your will, for the holder of an unwilling
mate becomes the guardian and the slave of his captive."

"That is true," said he, "and against a thing that is
true I cannot contend; therefore, you are free from me,
but from my brethren you are not free."

The Thin Woman turned to the second man.

"You are Strength?" said she.

"I am Strength and Love," he boomed, "and with me
there is safety and peace; my days have honour and my
nights quietness. There is no evil thing walks near my
lands, nor is any sound heard but the lowing of my cattle,
the songs of my birds and the laughter of my happy chil-
dren. Come then to me who gives protection and happi-
ness and peace, and does not fail or grow weary at any

"I will not go with you," said the Thin Woman, "for
I am a mother and my strength cannot be increased; I
am a mother and my love cannot be added to. What
have I further to desire from thee, thou great man?"

"You are free of me," said the second man, "but from
my brother you are not free."

Then to the third man the Thin Woman addressed
herself in terror, for to that hideous one something
cringed within her in an ecstasy of loathing. That repul-
sion which at its strongest becomes attraction gripped
her. A shiver, a plunge, and she had gone, but the hands
of the children withheld her while in woe she abased
herself before him.

He spoke, and his voice came clogged and painful as
though it urged from the matted pores of the earth it-

"There is none left to whom you may go but me only.
Do not be afraid, but come to me and I will give you
these wild delights which have been long forgotten. All
things which are crude and riotous, all that is gross and
without limit is mine. You shall not think and suffer any
longer; but you shall feel so surely that the heat of the
sun will be happiness: the taste of food, the wind that
blows upon you, the ripe ease of your body--these things
will amaze you who have forgotten them. My great
arms about you will make you furious and young again;
you shall leap on the hillside like a young goat and sing
for joy as the birds sing. Leave this crabbed humanity
that is barred and chained away from joy and come with
me, to whose ancient quietude at the last both Strength
and Beauty will come like children tired in the evening,
returning to the freedom of the brutes and the birds,
with bodies sufficient for their pleasure and with no care
for Thought or foolish curiosity."

But the Thin Woman drew back from his hand, say-

"It is not lawful to turn again when the journey is
commenced, but to go forward to whatever is appointed;
nor may we return to your meadows and trees and sunny
places who have once departed from them. The tor-
ments of the mind may not be renounced for any ease-
ment of the body until the smoke that blinds us is blown
away, and the tormenting flame has fitted us for that im-
mortal ecstasy which is the bosom of God. Nor is it
lawful that ye great ones should beset the path of travel-
lers, seeking to lure them away with cunning promises.
It is only at the cross-roads ye may sit where the traveller
will hesitate and be in doubt, but on the highway ye have
no power."

"You are free of me," said the third man, "until you
are ready to come to me again, for I only of all things
am steadfast and patient, and to me all return in their
seasons. There are brightnesses in my secret places in
the woods, and lamps in my gardens beneath the hills,
tended by the angels of God, and behind my face there is
another face not hated by the Bright Ones."

So the three Absolutes arose and strode mightily
away; and as they went their thunderous speech to each
other boomed against the clouds and the earth like a
gusty wind, and, even when they had disappeared, that
great rumble could be heard dying gently away in the
moonlit distances.

The Thin Woman and the children went slowly for-
ward on the rugged, sloping way. Far beyond, near the
distant summit of the hill there was a light gleaming.

"Yonder," said the Thin Woman, "is the Brugh of
Angus Mac an Og, the son of the Dagda Mor," and
toward this light she assisted the weary children.

In a little she was in the presence of the god and by
him refreshed and comforted. She told him all that had
happened to her husband and implored his assistance.
This was readily accorded, for the chief business of the
gods is to give protection and assistance to such of their
people as require it; but (and this is their limitation)
they cannot give any help until it is demanded, the free-
will of mankind being the most jealously guarded and
holy principle in life; therefore, the interference of the
loving gods comes only on an equally loving summons.


CAITILIN NI MURRACHU sat alone in the Brugh of An-
gus much as she had sat on the hillside and in the cave of
Pan, and again she was thinking. She was happy now.
There was nothing more she could desire, for all that
the earth contained or the mind could describe was hers.
Her thoughts were no longer those shy, subterranean
gropings which elude the hand and the understanding.
Each thought was a thing or a person, visible in its own
radiant personal life, and to be seen or felt, welcomed or
repulsed, as was its due. But she had discovered that
happiness is not laughter or satisfaction, and that no
person can be happy for themselves alone. So she
had come to understand the terrible sadness of the gods,
and why Angus wept in secret; for often in the night she
had heard him weeping, and she knew that his tears were
for those others who were unhappy, and that he could
not be comforted while there was a woeful person or an
evil deed hiding in the world. Her own happiness also
had become infected with this alien misery, until she
knew that nothing was alien to her, and that in truth all
persons and all things were her brothers and sisters and
that they were living and dying in distress; and at the
last she knew that there was not any man but mankind,
nor any human being but only humanity. Never again
could the gratification of a desire give her pleasure for
her sense of oneness was destroyed--she was not an m-
dividual only; she was also part of a mighty organism
ordained, through whatever stress, to achieve its oneness,
and this great being was threefold, comprising in its
mighty units God and Man and Nature--the immortal
trinity. The duty of life is the sacrifice of self: it is to
renounce the little ego that the mighty ego may be freed;
and, knowing this, she found at last that she knew Happi-
ness, that divine discontent which cannot rest nor be at
ease until its bourne is attained and the knowledge of a
man is added to the gaiety of a child. Angus had told
her that beyond this there lay the great ecstasy which is
Love and God and the beginning and the end of all
things; for everything must come from the Liberty into
the Bondage, that it may return again to the Liberty
comprehending all things and fitted for that fiery enjoy-
ment. This cannot be until there are no more fools liv-
ing, for until the last fool has grown wise wisdom will
totter and freedom will still be invisible. Growth is not
by years but by multitudes, and until there is a common
eye no one person can see God, for the eye of all nature
will scarcely be great enough to look upon that majesty.
We shall greet Happiness by multitudes, but we can only
greet Him by starry systems and a universal love.

She was so thinking when Angus Og came to her from
the fields. The god was very radiant, smiling like the
young morn when the buds awake, and to his lips song
came instead of speech.

"My beloved," said he, "we will go on a journey to-

"My delight is where you go," said Caitilin.

"We will go down to the world of men--from our
quiet dwelling among the hills to the noisy city and the
multitude of people. This will be our first journey, but
on a time not distant we will go to them again, and we
will not return from that journey, for we will live among
our people and be at peace."

"May the day come soon," said she.

"When thy son is a man he will go before us on that
journey," said Angus, and Caitilin shivered with a great
delight, knowing that a son would be born to her.

Then Angus Og put upon his bride glorious raiment,
and they went out to the sunlight. It was the early
morning, the sun had just risen and the dew was spark-
ling on the heather and the grass. There was a keen stir
in the air that stung the blood to joy, so that Caitilin
danced in uncontrollable gaiety, and Angus, with a merry
voice, chanted to the sky and danced also. About his
shining head the birds were flying; for every kiss he gave
to Caitilin became a bird, the messengers of love and
wisdom, and they also burst into triumphant melody, so
that the quiet place rang with their glee. Constantly
from the circling birds one would go flying with great
speed to all quarters of space. These were his mes-
sengers flying to every fort and dun, every rath and glen
and valley of Eire to raise the Sluaige Shee (the Fairy
Host). They were birds of love that flew, for this was
a hosting of happiness, and, therefore the Shee would
not bring weapons with them.

It was towards Kilmasheogue their happy steps were
directed, and soon they came to the mountain.

After the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath had left the
god she visited all the fairy forts of Kilmasheogue, and
directed the Shee who lived there to be in waiting at the
dawn on the summit of the mountain; consequently, when
Angus and Caitilin came up the hill, they found the six
clans coming to receive them, and with these were the
people of the younger Shee, members of the Tuatha da
Danaan, tall and beautiful men and women who had de-
scended to the quiet underworld when the pressure of the
sons of Milith forced them with their kind enchantments
and invincible velour to the country of the gods.

Of those who came were Aine Ni Eogail of Cnoc Aine
and Ivil of Craglea, the queens of North and South
Munster, and Una the queen of Ormond; these, with
their hosts, sang upon the summit of the hill welcoming
the god. There came the five guardians of Ulster, the
fomentors of combat:--Brier Mac Belgan of Dromona-
Breg, Redg Rotbill from the slopes of Magh-Itar, Tin-
nel the son of Boclacthna of Slieve Edlicon, Grici of
Cruachan-Aigle, a goodly name, and Gulban Glas Mac
Grici, whose dun is in the Ben of Gulban. These five,
matchless in combat, marched up the hill with their tribes,
shouting as they went. From north and south they came,
and from east and west, bright and happy beings, a multi-
tude, without fear, without distraction, so that soon the
hill was gay with their voices and their noble raiment.

Among them came the people of the Lupra, the ancient
Leprecauns of the world, leaping like goats among the
knees of the heroes. They were headed by their king
Udan Mac Audain and Beg Mac Beg his tanist, and, fol-
lowing behind, was Glomhar O'Glomrach of the sea, the
strongest man of their people, dressed in the skin of a
weasel; and there were also the chief men of that clan,
well known of old, Conan Mac Rihid, Gaerku Mac
Gairid, Mether Mac Mintan and Esirt Mac Beg, the son
of Bueyen, born in a victory. This king was that same
Udan the chief of the Lupra who had been placed under
bonds to taste the porridge in the great cauldron of
Emania, into which pot he fell, and was taken captive
with his wife, and held for five weary years, until he
surrendered that which he most valued in the world, even
his boots: the people of the hills laugh still at the story,
and the Leprecauns may still be mortified by it.

There came Bove Derg, the Fiery, seldom seen, and
his harper the son of Trogain, whose music heals the
sick and makes the sad heart merry; Eochy Mac Elathan,
Dagda Mor, the Father of Stars, and his daughter from
the Cave of Cruachan; Credh Mac Aedh of Raghery and
Cas Corach son of the great Ollav; Mananaan Mac Lir
came from his wide waters shouting louder than the wind,
with his daughters Cliona and Aoife and Etain Fair-
Hair; and Coll and Cecht and Mac Greina, the Plough,
the Hazel, and the Sun came with their wives, whose
names are not forgotten, even Banba and Fodla and
Eire, names of glory. Lugh of the Long-Hand, filled
with mysterious wisdom, was not absent, whose father
was sadly avenged on the sons of Turann--these with
their hosts.

And one came also to whom the hosts shouted with
mighty love, even the Serene One, Dana, the Mother of
the gods, steadfast for ever. Her breath is on the morn-
ing, her smile is summer. From her hand the birds of
the air take their food. The mild ox is her friend, and
the wolf trots by her friendly side; at her voice the daisy
peeps from her cave and the nettle couches his lance.
The rose arrays herself in innocence, scattering abroad
her sweetness with the dew, and the oak tree laughs to
her in the air. Thou beautiful! the lambs follow thy
footsteps, they crop thy bounty in the meadows and are
not thwarted: the weary men cling to thy bosom ever-
lasting. Through thee all actions and the deeds of men,
through thee all voices come to us, even the Divine
Promise and the breath of the Almighty from afar laden
with goodness.

With wonder, with delight, the daughter of Murrachu
watched the hosting of the Shee. Sometimes her eyes
were dazzled as a jewelled forehead blazed in the sun,
or a shoulder-torque of broad gold flamed like a torch.
On fair hair and dark the sun gleamed: white arms tossed
and glanced a moment and sank and reappeared. The
eyes of those who did not hesitate nor compute looked
into her eyes, not appraising, not questioning, but mild
and unafraid. The voices of free people spoke in her
ears and the laughter of happy hearts, unthoughtful of
sin or shame, released from the hard bondage of self-
hood. For these people, though many, were one. Each
spoke to the other as to himself, without reservation or
subterfuge. They moved freely each in his personal
whim, and they moved also with the unity of one being:
for when they shouted to the Mother of the gods they
shouted with one voice, and they bowed to her as one
man bows. Through the many minds there went also
one mind, correcting, commanding, so that in a moment
the interchangeable and fluid became locked, and organic
with a simultaneous understanding, a collective action--
which was freedom.

While she looked the dancing ceased, and they turned
their faces with one accord down the mountain. Those
in the front leaped forward, and behind them the others
went leaping in orderly progression.

Then Angus Og ran to where she stood, his bride of

"Come, my beloved," said he, and hand in hand they
raced among the others, laughing as they ran.

Here there was no green thing growing; a carpet of
brown turf spread to the edge of sight on the sloping
plain and away to where another mountain soared in
the air. They came to this and descended. In the dis-
tance, groves of trees could be seen, and, very far away,
the roofs and towers and spires of the Town of the Ford
of Hurdles, and the little roads that wandered every-
where; but on this height there was only prickly furze
growing softly in the sunlight; the bee droned his loud
song, the birds flew and sang occasionally, and the little
streams grew heavy with their falling waters. A little
further and the bushes were green and beautiful, waving
their gentle leaves in the quietude, and beyond again,
wrapped in sunshine and peace, the trees looked on the
world from their calm heights, having no complaint to
make of anything.

In a little they reached the grass land and the dance
began. Hand sought for hand, feet moved companion-
ably as though they loved each other; quietly intimate
they tripped without faltering, and, then, the loud song
arose--they sang to the lovers of gaiety and peace, long

"Come to us, ye who do not know where ye are--ye
who live among strangers in the house of dismay and
self-righteousness. Poor, awkward ones! How be-
wildered and bedevilled ye go! Amazed ye look and
do not comprehend, for your eyes are set upon a star
and your feet move in the blessed kingdoms of the Shee
Innocents! in what prisons are ye flung? To what lowli-
ness are ye bowed? How are ye ground between the laws
and the customs? The dark people of the Fomor have
ye in thrall; and upon your minds they have fastened a
band of lead, your hearts are hung with iron, and about
your loins a cincture of brass impressed, woeful! Be-
lieve it, that the sun does shine, the flowers grow, and
the birds sing pleasantly in the trees. The free winds
are everywhere, the water tumbles on the hills, the eagle
calls aloud through the solitude, and his mate comes
speedily. The bees are gathering honey in the sunlight,
the midges dance together, and the great bull bellows
across the river. The crow says a word to his brethren,
and the wren snuggles her young in the hedge....
Come to us, ye lovers of life and happiness. Hold out
thy hand--a brother shall seize it from afar. Leave the
plough and the cart for a little time: put aside the needle
and the awl--Is leather thy brother, O man? . . . Come
away! come away! from the loom and the desk, from
the shop where the carcasses are hung, from the place
where raiment is sold and the place where it is sewn in
darkness: O bad treachery! Is it for joy you sit in the
broker's den, thou pale man? Has the attorney en-
chanted thee? . . . Come away! for the dance has be-
gun lightly, the wind is sounding over the hill, the sun
laughs down into the valley, and the sea leaps upon the
shingle, panting for joy, dancing, dancing, dancing for
joy. . . ."

They swept through the goat tracks and the little
boreens and the curving roads. Down to the city they
went dancing and singing; among the streets and the
shops telling their sunny tale; not heeding the malignant
eyes and the cold brows as the sons of Balor looked side-
wards. And they took the Philosopher from his prison,
even the Intellect of Man they took from the hands of
the doctors and lawyers, from the sly priests, from the
professors whose mouths are gorged with sawdust, and
the merchants who sell blades of grass--the awful peo-
ple of the Fomor . . . and then they returned again,
dancing and singing, to the country of the gods....


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